Sunday, December 29, 2013

Just Lazy. Not Gone Forever.

Hi, friends! It has been a long, long time. I've been baking and going on outings but have been terrible about documenting it all. I'm planning to take some time to get back on track, blogwise, early in the new year. For now, I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mulberry and Currant Italian Cream Soda

Beautiful red currants! They are quite tart but are wonderful as a garnish.

I got a bunch of berries a couple weekends ago  - some from the farmer's market and mulberries from my parents' neighbors' tree. Mulberries are sweeter than raspberries so they pair well with the tart red currants. Originally, I was going to make a pie but we just went through a horrible heat wave. This drink with its homemade syrup is a perfect way to use those berries or other fruits when it is just too hot to bake.

Italian Cream Soda

Mulberry Currant Syrup
Sparking Water (Lemon-flavored La Croix in this case) 
Heavy Cream Or Half and Half

To make the syrup: 
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
About 2 cups of berries

Boil sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved. Add berries and boil for another ten minutes or so. Turn down the heat and let them simmer for another 15 minutes or so. Take off heat and strain to remove the berries. You can either continue to boil to reduce to a thicker, more concentrated syrup OR you can cool and use as is (you might want to use a little more syrup in your drink)

To make the drink:
Pour syrup in tall glass  - fill about a third of the way up. Next pour your sparkling water. Last pour your cream or half and half. After admiring, stir to combine well.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Surprise in the Garden

Look what I found popping up in my gnome garden the other day - toadstools! Aren't they cute? Like most mushrooms, they didn't last long but it made me smile to see them there. Especially surprising since the gnome garden is located in a screened-in porch. I guess the spores were in the soil?

Also, I wanted to post this beautiful pic of the flower bouquet that my sister got as part of her flower and herb CSA from Humble Pie Farm.  Even though I think of it as a weed, I still love Queen Anne's Lace.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Dessert at W.A. Frost

“Kit Kat Bar” with maldon sea salt caramel, hazelnut praline, house made Chai ice cream.

Over the weekend, I went to brunch at W.A. Frost in Saint Paul. My friend and I sat out on their beautiful patio. It really is one of the best patio dining experiences in the Twin Cities (Side note: Black Forest Inn in Minneapolis is another beautiful patio, although smaller). We decided to be extra indulgent and get dessert!

It was definitely worth it. So many restaurants - even really fancy places - have boring desserts. W.A. Frost obviously puts some thought and effort into the dessert course (they also have an extensive offering of cheeses for a cheese course, if that's your thing). Both of these had a balance  - the crunch praline or nougatine, the smooth and creamy ice cream, a good balance of salt and sweet, and lovely flavor combinations.

 Green Tea and Lemon Roulade Raspberry Blossom Honey, Almond Nougatine, Ginger Ice Cream

Here are the links to the restaurant's website and photos of the patio. You can read all about the history of the building and restaurant on their website, too.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

This is Northfield

I visited Northfield a couple weeks ago for my college reunion. I had a great time! While I was there, I noticed these posters (above) up all over the campus. They're part of Northfield's new marketing campaign. The posters are not avialable for purchase yet but I'm told it is in the works.

You can see better images of the "This is Northfield" posters on their website. It also lays out all the different attractions in an easy-to-navigate way:

Lyman Lakes at Carleton College in Northfield

Historic Archer House on Division Street

Goodbye Blue Monday Coffee House - an institution in Northfield. 

The clock tower on Willis Hall (Carleton Campus)

First National Bank in Northfield. This is the one that the James Gang robbed.

The Chapel at Carleton College

Sunday, June 30, 2013

State Fair Food Preview!

Here are some highlights (and some possible lowlights) of the new foods at the fair this year. I'll let you figure out what is what.

Comet Corn:
A futuristic caramel corn made with liquid nitrogen. This icy-cold popcorn is crispy, crunchy, sweet & salty and leaves a trail of comet dust when exhaled out of the nose and mouth, creating a tingly, bubbly feeling.
Mini Donut Batter Crunch Ice Cream:
 Features a sweet cream base folded with mini donut batter and a hint of nutmeg in a sugar spice crunch. Made by Minnesota’s own Izzy's Ice Cream.

Minnepumpkin Pie
An individual deep fried pumpkin pie with cinnamon and sugar-dusted flaky crust and served with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream.

Cocoa Cheese Bites
Wisconsin cheddar cheese nuggets breaded with cocoa puffs, fried and served with a chocolate dipping sauce

Fried Pickles 'n' Chocolate:
Preferred Pickles' popular deep fried pickles dusted with powdered sugar and served with a side of chocolate for dipping.

Here's the link for the pictures and other new foods:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Brown Sugar Rhuberry Bars

It's time, folks. Rhubarb Time! I love baking with rhubarb and it's one of the very first things that pops up in the farmers markets here in Minnesota.

Strawberry season is still a ways off, I think. It's dang cold out still. We are stubbornly refusing to turn the heat back on but the house is chilly. The cats are earning their keep as lap-warmers.

I made these bars from the recipe at the link below. The only changes I made were to replace 1/2 cup of flour in the crust with almond flour, to up the cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon and add about 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries.

The bottom shortbread layer is delicious and buttery. The strawberries, blueberries, and rhubarb balance very nicely , and the orange zest is a nice addition. The recipe is a little fiddly. You have to refrigerate the shortbread crust and refrigerate the crisp topping. Once the bars are baked they have to be completely cooled before cutting. I would say it's worth it, though. They were delicious!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Hangin' with My Gnomies: Gnome Gardens.

I know that gnome and fairy gardens are all the rage these days. Seriously, Pinterest is chock full of miniature cottages -  gnome houses made of stick and stones, acorns and pinecones.  I like to think of my gnome gardens as just that - gardens. My gnomey friends don't live there. They're just puttering around the garden. They don't have names yet. Any suggestions?
I wanted this round garden to have a magical, otherworldly feel so I filled it with "weird" plants. Plants include: Artemisia "silver mound", Cellosia, Corkscrew Rush, Delosperma (the one with the fat vines - in theory it blooms with purple flowers if we ever get any sunny days)

Plants in the window box garden: Artemesia (silver mound) and Dusty Miller on the gnome side. Bonanza Yellow Marigold, Variegated Vinca and more Dusty Miller on the cat's side. Isn't this cat figurine kinda creepy cute?

Another bonus of these gnome gardens is that I got to display my rock collection. I have a habit of collecting rocks on every camping trip. I never have anything to do with them,though, so they sit on shelves, in jars, and in boxes around the house. Boy, does my sister love my rock collection when it's moving time. Ha!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Container Gardening in Minnesota

I managed to make it over to the garden center over Memorial Day weekend. What a crazy scene! I didn't want to wait, though. It's been such a long wait for warmer weather and it's time to grow some flowers, dammit.

This container includes: Coleus, Scarlet Begonia, Asparagus Fern, Variegated Vinca. I don't know the name of the bright green trailing plant. I wanted a sweet potato vine but none were to be had at the garden center. I'm sure they are available at the farmer's market but I was too lazy to trek downtown. All of these plants are supposed to grow well in partial sun so I hope they work out. There is a big maple in the front yard so these containers get filtered sunlight.

I used the "thriller, filler, spiller" method to plan these out. More info to be found here:

The gnome was purchased at Target last year. He used to live in rather bedraggled houseplant. However, someone forgot to water said plant for, oh, I don't know....six weeks or so. He likes his new digs much better than the shriveled, dessicated remains of a philodendren.


For the other container: more Coleus, more Scarlet Begonia, and an unidentified trailing plant with purple flowers.

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Much like Beyonce, Simon didn't want this picture displayed on the internet. It's not the most flattering. but isn't it funny how his tongue makes him look like has big fat lips? Simon, this is punishment for focusing on eating grass when I told you to act cute for your photoshoot. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

An Early Spring Walk and a Sidewalk Poem

There are poems stamped into the sidewalk around my neighborhood. I've walked around the neighborhood dozens of times but somehow have never read the poem below. You can find more about the sidewalk poetry around Saint Paul here:

Here's what the poem below says:

"What hurt you today
was taken out of your heart
by the meadowlark
who slipped the silver needle
of her song
in and out of the grey day
and mended what was torn."

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Birthday Cake with Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

As I've mentioned, spring got a really late start around these parts (we are catching up in a hurry, though. I'll post some photos soon!) We celebrated one of my sister's birthday on May 5th and there was nary a leaf in site. The grass was still brown and sad. We had measurable snow only days before.

Anywho, I was determined to make a nice spring cake for our celebration. This party was somewhat hastily thrown together, though.  I made this "topper" by cutting pictures of flowers from magazines and gluing them to cardstock. I attached them to wooden skewers and stuck them in the cake to make a bouquet. Yes, jokes were made about lighting the flowers on fire. No, the flowers did not catch fire when we lit the candles (as I knew they would not. Take that, Ye Who Doubted Me)

The cake was a banana cake with cinnamon brown butter frosting. It is sprinkled liberally with toffee pieces (Skor, I think?). The banana cake recipe was okay but not great. You can use any banana bread or cake recipe that you like. The frosting was the real star here, though. The brown butter and cinnamon is a delicious combination

Cinnamon Brown Butter Frosting

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (no need to soften)
1/2 stick brown butter (directions below)
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1.  Brown the butter by melting in a pot or skillet. When the butter starts to have little brown flecks in it and a nutty smell, take it off the heat and pour it the bowl of a stand mixer or medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add butter to the mixing bowl and beat the two butters together  - slowly at first then faster as the cold butter starts to melt. Beat until the butter is very fluffy. You can't really overbeat it. You could go read a few pages of your book or spend the time cleaning up the kitchen a little. Don't go overboard, though - five minutes should definitely be enough time.
  3. Add about half the powdered sugar and mix on low until well combined.
  4. Now you can add the salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract and the other half of the powdered sugar. Start mixing on low (to prevent the dreaded Powdered Sugar Cloud of Mess) then turn mixer to medium to finish the frosting. It should be pretty fluffy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chocolate Cake with Fudgy Frosting and Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

For this cake, I used Betty Crocker's gluten-free chocolate cake mix. I had to work all day on Saturday and make this cake for Mother's Day on Sunday. I didn't have time to mess around so I used a mix. One of sisters is gluten-free and I wanted her to be able to partake but you could really use any chocolate cake mix (or from scratch, of course!)  

The stars of this cake are the fudgy frosting and the chocolate-covered strawberries. The key to making chocolate-covered strawberries (or any fruit) is to dry the berries thoroughly after washing. This is key - moisture is chocolate's enemy and will cause the chocolate to seize (become chunky and gross). Melting the chocolate in a double-boiler or in a bowl set over a pot of hot water works well for dipping. I melted some white chocolate chips in the microwave for drizzling. White chocolate chips scorch easily so it's important to heat in increments of 10-15 seconds and then stir to finish melting. 

 Easy Fudgy Frosting
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Ghirardelli)
1 stick unsalted butter (softened)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

  1.  Melt chocolate chips over a hot water bath. You can use this chocolate to dip the strawberries.
  2. Combine melted chocolate, butter and salt in mixing bowl. Mix on low until butter is melted and combined.
  3. Add powdered sugar. Mix on low until combined then beat on high for a minute or so.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

MayDay Parade 2013

 Bearded man wearing a tutu? Check. Little dog wearing a tutu? Check. Dreads everywhere, tie-dyed everything, hacky-sack, tall bikes, and giant puppets and community activism at its best? Check, check, check, check, check, and major check.

The MayDay parade is always one big lovefest and this year was no exception. The Heart of the Beast Puppet Theatre holds workshops every year and the whole community gets together to create this amazing event. This year was the 39th year for the festival!

The weather cooperated (we had snow just two days prior!) and it was a beautiful day for a parade. I'm grateful to all the volunteers and people who work so hard to put this awesome event together every year.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Caturday - The Phantom Meow-ness

 May the Fourth be with you! It's Star Wars day so I bring you this special Caturday post. Originally, I thought there was something jedi-like about this picture of Simon. Now I'm thinking it's a little more Jabba the Hut, with all of the blanket folds. What do you think?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Caturday - Spring Edition

This is my sister's kitty, Lion-o. He loves coconut water. Apparently he also loves coconut ice milk but he's not getting any today. For humans only.