Neighborhood News

Hi friends, I know things have been quiet over here for a while. Summer has a way of getting away from us, doesn't it? I have been busy as of late with weekend trips and weddings, but wanted to pop in with a few neighborhood news-worthy items for your first week of September! 

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  1. A new tenant was just announced for the recently vacant 3 Tiers spot on 34th Avenue! I'm so excited to hear that a new restaurant will be going into the space. The woman behind Sassy Spoon Food Truck is opening her first bricks-and-mortar location, promising whole foods (looks like mostly gluten-free?), beer and wine, and brunch. An opening date hasn't been set, but it sounds like later this fall is the goal. I can't wait to check it out! 
  2. A new vintage shop has found its home in south Minneapolis! I have loved checking out all the vintage shops along Minnehaha Avenue, and was happy to see another pop up even closer to home. Found on East 54th Street opened up just a month or two ago at the corner of 43rd Avenue and E 54th Street. She woman running the shop told me she used to have a vintage shop in St. Paul years ago and is now open again in Minneapolis after a 6-year hiatus. Jason and I walked out with a great vintage cast iron birdbath at a great price!
  3. On a more personal note, Jason's sister is getting married at Minnehaha Park this weekend! I have never been to a wedding at the park (but have stumbled upon a couple!), so am definitely excited. Did you know there are three sites at the park where you can get married? 

Anything else I have missed? As much as I love summer, I have to admit I'm excited for changing leaves and quieter days around the falls and the creek. 

A Thrifter's Guide to Art Fairs

Jason and I like to joke about the sheer number of festivals that happen in the Twin Cities in the summertime. Just last weekend, Powderhorn Park, Loring Park, and Uptown hosted their annual art fairs. 

Art fairs boast so many fantastic, diverse options, better prices than galleries, an opportunity to interact with the artist, a chance at bargaining, and the opportunity to support local artists and the local economy. All good reasons to buy art at an art fair! (Not to mention the people watching and the food on sticks

I love art and art fairs, but if you're anything like me, you're naturally thrifty, generally poor at impulse-buying, and not super comfortable buying art. So, what's a thrifter to do at an art fair, where you're not sure what you're going to see going into it, but have a limited opportunity to buy?

Hippies at Powderhorn Park

Hippies at Powderhorn Park

Solution: You collect the business cards of artists whose wares you love. 

Many artists have an Etsy shop, or at least a website or email address for contacting them. So, you visit their Etsy shops. Mark their shop as a favorite. If they don't have an Etsy shop, visit their website and bookmark it or Pin an image of a piece you love or think represents their work (giving appropriate credit in the Pin description, of course). 

Mull over artists and their pieces. Check back often for new pieces and sales. Think about if a piece is something you really really want, have a place for, or that would make the perfect gift. 

When it comes time to buy:

  • Make your purchase online.
  • If the artist doesn't have much of an online presence, contact the artist directly - I'm willing to bet they would be more than happy to make the sale and ship it, or you could likely visit their studio (if you saw them at an art fair, they are probably local, after all).  
  • Check for future shows where the artist will be participating and make it a point to go. You wouldn't think twice about seeing your favorite band in concert multiple times, would you?  
Minnie, the Loch Ness Monster visiting Powderhorn Lake this summer. 

Minnie, the Loch Ness Monster visiting Powderhorn Lake this summer. 

If you're still hesitant, take my litmus test: if you're still thinking about it after a month, or a year, (and it's in your budget) buy it! Jason and I literally bought a photograph from an artist whose business card I've been using as a bookmark for the last year, since I first saw his stuff at Powderhorn Art Fair 2013. 

Still feeling shy about making a big art purchase?

  • Buy the greeting card version of your favorite print. Frame it with a big mat to make it feel like the real deal. 
  • Some artists will also release a calendar - a great option for experiencing a variety of their work at a reasonable price point.
  • Inquire with the artist about alternative options! Many artists will be more than happy to accommodate a special request, like a smaller print size or an unframed version. 

What are your tips and tricks for buying art at art fairs? Any upcoming fairs you'll be attending? This pottery tour is on my list! 

The 6 Best Drinks for Summer

I'm all about eating foods that are in season: asparagus in the spring, fresh berries and zucchini in the summer, squash and pumpkin in the fall, potatoes and carrots in the winter - but what about drinking in season? While I sometimes buy food that's not seasonally appropriate, I'm more consistently inclined to choose a beverage that suits the season, to be honest. Now that we're in the dog days of summer, I'm loving crisp beers and pink rosés. Here are a few of my favorites, if you're looking for inspiration: 

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Cocktails

  • Gin & Tonic: My favorite combination for this essentially summer beverage is traditionally Tanqueray, diet tonic and freshly-squeezed lime. A dear friend recently gifted me Duluth-based Vikre gin, and I can't wait to give it a try! This cocktail is best enjoyed on a boat or at an outdoor wedding reception. 
  • Mojitos: Mojitos are one of the best vehicles for using up that mint growing in your backyard herb garden. You can't go wrong with a bit of lime, sugar (or simple syrup) and mint muddled at the bottom of a glass, topped with ice, then doused with white rum + soda. Garnish with more mint and lime! 
  • Pimm's Cup: Ginger beer makes everything better, right? Make use of your summer cuke harvest with a classic Pimm's cup. Pimm's liqueur, ginger beer + cucumber slices over ice; ta-da! 

Wine + Beer

  • Rosé Wine: I can't recall what turned me onto rosé wine, but ever since I discovered this refreshing summer wine option, I haven't looked back. If you've never tried a crisp, dry rosé, know that it's not the white zin or Boone's farm you might imagine - it's perfect for sipping from a chic enamelware tumbler on a backyard deck at sunset.
  • White Wine: Another classic wine option for summer, my favorites being pino grigio and vino verde. Perfect for the heat of the summer, you know you're doing it right if your glass is sweating. 
  • Summer Beers: These days, my favorite beers for summer are Schell's Goosetown, Lift Bridge Farm Girl Saison and Bell's Oberon. These beers are perfect for rewarding yourself after mowing the lawn, helping you topple the king in Kubb, or monitoring charcoal readiness at the grill.  

Don't drink? Check out mineral water like La Croix Pamplemousse or try your hand at infused H20 (lime + mint or lemon + basil are my current favorites!). 

4th of July Desserts + Life Lessons

Do you have a special, annual 4th of July dessert? My dear friend always makes a flag cake consisting of yellow sheet cake, whipped cream on top, and strawberries all lined up as red stripes and blueberries making a square of stars. My dream 4th of July dessert is a tie between a similarly berry-bedecked flag fruit pizza and strawberry + blueberry shortcake. 

4th of July cupcakes

This year, my friends and I bumped up our annual 4th of July lake trip a couple of weeks, and Independence Day cupcakes were in order. Wanting to keep things (baking, in particular) as simple as possible while the lake beckoned, I picked up a box cake mix and little tub of frosting at the store before we left. I must admit, it has been quite some time since I made a baked treat from a box, but they are dead-simple, right? 

Birch lake sunset

Wrong. 

I thought the batter seemed rather thick as I mixed up the dough and spooned it into star-spangled cupcake liners.

After my friend's initial taste test, I asked "how are they?" She replied with a shrug and said "I'm not a big fan of white cake." 

A few more questions flew back and forth, a few more of us sampled the dense, dry cupcakes, and in a fit of confusion I pulled the box from the recycling.

I FORGOT TO ADD WATER.

There are THREE ingredients to add to the mix. In this case, two out of three WAS bad. 

Lesson learned: even the most seasoned cooks make mistakes sometimes. Mistakes are all a part of cooking. You don't quit because you've made a mistake, you chalk it up to experience and try again. Baking lessons... or life lessons? 

Photos in this post courtesy of my friend Carly

So Crafty Lately

Some may find it strange that I don't consider myself very crafty these days, considering I spent hours upon hours during my college days drawing, singing, throwing pots, dancing, and analyzing color theory.

I recently went through a crafty jag like none other, however, with two easy, high-impact crafty projects that I can't help but share with you!

Re-covered vintage chairs
  • I re-covered some chairs. I find re-covering chairs to be so satisfying. It's so easy to take some hand-me-down, thrifted, (or in this case, sidewalk sale) chairs and give them new life. I actually scored these beauties for $6 a pop at a Forage Modern Workshop sidewalk sale! The fabric was a pea green/yellow tweed that would coordinate better with some shag carpet than anything in my living room. After living with these tweedy chairs for months and months, I finally found the perfect fabric at Digs in south Minneapolis, enlisted the help of Jason, and went to town one rainy Sunday afternoon.  

    If you've never re-covered chairs before, I'll leave you to Google for step-by-step instructions, but basically all you need is some sturdy fabric, a scissors, a staple gun, and a screwdriver to remove the seat from the chair frame and replace it. Just cut your fabric large enough to staple on the underside of the seat, and you're golden! I have always taken the easy route of just putting the new fabric over the old stuff.
felt ball mobile
re-covered vintage chair
  • I made a mobile! I know a lot of lovely ladies who are expecting right now, so am always on the hunt for a good baby shower gift. I love the look of artsy mobiles to hang in a nursery or over a crib, but they can definitely get expensive. I pinned a felt ball mobile a while back, but when I got invited to a baby shower for my friend Grace (who is not only resourceful but crafty in her own right) I thought she might appreciate a mobile such as this one. If you make a mobile like this, I suggest trying to find a source for bulk felt balls (such as Etsy), because all I found at my local Michael's were small bags, so I ended up buying multiple small bags. 

Have you attempted any DIY projects lately? I'd love suggestions for more easy, high-impact crafty projects - I'm always collecting ideas on my Pinterest board

Killer Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad

It's patio season here in MSP! While I'm all about dining and drinking al fresco, sometimes the annual late-spring stampede to the patio, with its long wait times and crowded umbrellas, makes me itchy like I've been bitten by the first mosquito of the year. 

Solution? Grilling at home! 

(Suggesting staying home instead of going out...do I sound geriatric yet?) 

If you're fortunate enough to have a deck, terrace, or even just a concrete slab to use for a couple of hours, fire up the grill, crack open a beer, and have your own patio party. This has been happening a lot more frequently at my house lately, so I'm trying to come up with ways to mix up our regular brats/burgers rotation. 

Enter: Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. 

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My first experience with grilled lettuce happened at the old Chambers Kitchen restaurant in the Chambers Hotel downtown Minneapolis (before it became D'Amico Kitchen or Marin Restaurant). My mother and I both ordered the grilled chicken Caesar salad, and while she found the grilled lettuce to be unappetizingly wilty, I loved the idea. 

When it comes to Caesar salads, I'm kind of a purist. I want anchovies in my dressing, generous amounts of Parmesan cheese, and croutons that come from the oven, not a bag. This philosophy, coupled with my good memories of the grilled Caesar from hotel restaurants past, made me particularly excited to see Kimberly Hasselbrink's recent recipe on her blog. The only changes I made were to add chicken and croutons and swap the Manchego cheese for parm. 

Ingredients:  

3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts

Salad ingredients from Kimberly's recipe

 

 

Method: 

- Sprinkle chicken breasts all over with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning, trying your best to season not only the skin, but the meat under it, too. Grill until done. 

- Follow Kimberly's recipe for the dressing and salad

- Make homemade croutons by cutting stale sandwich bread into cubes, drizzling them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and baking in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes . (Keep an eye on them and flip once.) 

- After the chicken and lettuce come off of the grill, remove the chicken meat from the bone and cut/shred into pieces. Top lettuce with parm, croutons, chicken, and any additional dressing. I chose to chop the lettuce, too, because it's easier to eat that way! 

Enjoy! 

Am I Nuts? I Did a Cleanse

I have never been one to do a "detox," "fast" or "cleanse." I like to chew my food, thankyouverymuch, and I'd like to think I eat a generally healthy diet most of the time as it is, so I don't feel it's necessary to make drastic changes to break from a steady stream of junk. Plus, I like to leave fad diets to people who follow fads. 

Then, one day, post-vacation, Jason said he was going to do a cleanse. I laughed -  we often joke about unlikely scenarios (for example, "What should we do tonight? How about we hit up the club, go dancing, and get our drink on.") When I saw the grocery list he had written, I asked him about this "cleanse." Apparently he was serious! (whoops.) So I said, if you're doing a cleanse, I'm doing it, too. There was no way I was going to be cooking normal meals for myself while he blended away at smoothies for 3 days. Plus, I had just come home from a vacation where I ate mostly bread, cheese, processed meats and chocolate and drank mostly beer and wine. So maybe it was time to press reset. 

The details: we did Dr. Oz's 3-Day Detox Cleanse, in which you drink fruit- and vegetable-based smoothies for three days, along with supplements and green tea in the morning. 

photo by rsms | cc

photo by rsms | cc

The experience:

  • We spent a bunch of money at Target for the groceries. Could we have saved money by buying the produce elsewhere? Yes, but we were lazy. Plus, I figure heart disease is more expensive than a 3-day juice cleanse. We didn't buy organic produce. We bought some items frozen, and even canned pineapple.  We had some of the ingredients on hand already, which helped, and those we didn't have and bought more of than we needed for the cleanse, we'll use up in time after the cleanse is over. 
  • Making the smoothies ahead of time was kind of fun, in the beginning. We made breakfast and lunch smoothies ahead of time to minimize early-morning blending time. It was a team effort of chopping, measuring, blending, and pouring into jars. Usually I work solo in the kitchen, so I thought it was fun to work together. Eventually, however, we felt like all we ever did was drink and blend smoothies. 

Day 1: Starting the "cleanse" felt like a fun adventure. Hunger levels were mostly minimal, and the breakfast smoothie was actually delicious! The lunch smoothie? Not so much. All was going well until I followed the plan's recommendation to take an epsom salt bath and got sick shortly after stepping out of the tub. I'm swearing off epsom salt baths forever!

Day 2: Advertisements for food start looking unreasonably delicious. For the lunch smoothie, we ate the celery separately, which made the smoothie nominally more palatable. 

Day 3: I could. not. wait. to chew meals again! We decided to eat all the lunch smoothie ingredients whole, separately, rather than blending them into a smoothie. (Skipped out on the coconut oil and kale) We couldn't take choking down that green smoothie anymore! 

A few things I learned: 

  • It's amazing what a little coconut oil can do. The green lunch smoothie was thick and big and a little hard to get down, but the tablespoon of coconut oil included in the recipe really did wonders for making it seem smoother, and adding another dimension to the taste. 
  • Almond butter isn't really all it's cracked up to be. I read a lot of food blogs, and it seems everyone is NUTS about almond butter (oops, pun!). I'd never really tried it until we bought some for the cleanse, but I was expecting it to be amazing considering all the buzz and the fact that it's generally about 50% more expensive than peanut butter. Not so. It's good, it's fine, but I don't think it's worth the extra cost! Part of my issue could be that I'm a Jif Natural Peanut Butter devotee, so I'm used to a little salt in my nut butter. 
  • It gets boring eating (drinking) the same thing for 3 days. I like variety! But, it was kind of nice not to have to think about what to have for lunch and dinner every day. 
  • Epsom salt baths are not my friend. When you're eating a reduced diet like this, you really want to keep it all inside. 
  • Eating only fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds for three days did make me feel less bloated than I do on a regular basis, not to mention I felt I had more steady/consistent energy levels. I was also more intensely tired in the evenings/mornings. 
  • It IS really boring to only drink blended food all the time. Chewing different textures of food has become more satisfying than it was already!  
  • Going into this cleanse, I was concerned that I would feel super hungry and/or light headed. I like to eat a little something every few hours and think I tend toward the hypo-glycemia/iron deficiency end of the spectrum, so was a little nervous. I'm happy to report that I survived, never felt faint, and generally didn't feel starved! 
Disclaimer: I am not endorsing this program or any particular eating program or diet. In fact, I suggest you do NOT complete this cleanse. Food and diet are very personal matters, and I am simply sharing my opinions about my limited experience. Overall, I encourage people to make their own choices about eating healthy and respect the choices of others.

Breakfast in Munich

On the first leg of our recent trip to Germany, we visited Munich, staying with my friend Dani and her boyfriend. Dani lived with my family as a foreign exchange student when I was 15. It was great to see her again (I had seen her a few times since she lived with my family, but a few years had passed). I also loved seeing where she lives and meeting her boyfriend! 

I like to collect quotes when I'm travelling with friends - a habit that started in college, when it seemed everyone was always saying something funny. On this trip, the first quote I collected was from Dani, who said "I'll put pretzels in the oven so you have bread for breakfast." She would be out of the house when we woke up in the morning, so was letting us know what we could have for breakfast. This struck me as funny and delightful - needing to have bread hot out of the oven for our breakfast. I love the chewy, salty pretzels you find everywhere in Germany, and I love European-style breakfasts. 

I was too busy scarfing my breakfasts in Munich to take pictures, so this photo is actually from Strasbourg, France. 

I was too busy scarfing my breakfasts in Munich to take pictures, so this photo is actually from Strasbourg, France. 

So, while staying with my German friends in Munich, we ate the following for breakfast: 

  • chewy, salty, big pretzels, hot out of the oven
  • a variety of cheeses, including brie!
  • a variety of meats, including salami, bologna, and liverwurst 
  • green grapes
  • cherry tomatoes
  • hot, strong black coffee
  • sparkling water

I love breakfasts like this - hearty and filling, mix-and-match, where each bite might be different. They reminded me of breakfasts I'd eat while travelling in Norway years ago, minus the salmon and cucumber. My favorite way to eat this breakfast was to slather brie or liverwurst on each bite of pretzel, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and sop up any remaining tomato juices with the pretzel. 

Would you eat this for breakfast? Do you like liverwurst as much as I do? 

Beautiful Germany

Sorry for the radio silence around these parts, friends.

One week ago, Jason and I returned from our 10-day trip to Germany. It was a wonderful, relaxing, adventure-filled trip filled with conversations with old friends, lots of delicious meats, cheeses, and bier, and beautiful countryside views of the Moselle River valley. I've got more stories come, but for now, Happy Monday! 

Arugula Radish-Top Pesto

I bought a big bag of arugula at Trader Joe's recently, and after stirring it into hot pasta with ricotta, lemon and peas and throwing it on top of every sandwich and taco I made, I found myself with half the bag remaining and a need to do something with it, stat. Enter: arugula pesto.

At the same time, I had the dilemma of a bunch of radishes languishing in my crisper. Every spring, I get excited and buy a bunch of radishes, only to remember that I don't particularly like them. Not being one to waste food if I can help it, I quickly remembered a time I made radish greens soup. Yes, you read that right. I had recently come off my stint in a full-time, year-long volunteer program, so my resourcefulness was still firing at all cylinders. Although the soup ended up tasting fine, it wasn't about to win any beauty contests (are any greens-based soups?)

radishesandgreens

Have you ever read An Everlasting Meal? I've been slowly working my way through it, and although I've had mixed feelings about the book, it has really helped remind me that most of what we consider the "cast-off" parts of the food we eat can actually (and should) be leveraged for something delicious. Pesto is a great vehicle for making this happen. 

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arugulapesto

Arugula Radish-Top Pesto

Inspired by Shutterbean

Ingredients: 

1 clove garlic

1.5 cups arugula (approximate)

top leaves from 1 bunch radishes, washed well and thick stems discarded 

1/2 C roasted, salted sunflower seeds

1/4 C olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste

grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

salt + pepper, to taste

any bits of other tender, leafy herbs you have lying around, like flat-leaf parsley and/or basil

 

Method: 

- Whirl the garlic in a food processor until chopped.

- Next, add your greens and process until minced. (If you have a small food processor like me, you can do this in batches.)

- Add the nuts, oil, lemon juice and Parmesan and continue processing until the mixture starts coming together, scraping down the sides of the food processor, as needed.

- Season with salt and pepper, mix again, and taste. Adjust ingredients to your liking.

- Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for two weeks.