Archive | March, 2012

Favorite Minneapolis Spots

8 Mar

Everyone needs some places to go that just make your day better. For some it’s a coffee place, others, their favorite shoe store. I’m still discovering what my favorite places are to go in Minneapolis but here are a few that I encourage anyone in the area to visit. These are purely my own opinion about local spots that make me smile:

Punch Pizza: I cannot express enough how fantastic this pizza is. It’s authentic Italian pizza and just the smell of this place reminds me of Italy. Nothing beats the Margherita Extra pizza (don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pepperoni pizza…but this pizza is by far the best ever), but I’ve never tasted anything bad from their menu. Punch has a quite a few locations around the Twin Cities, and thankfully one of those is within a mile of my apartment. Next time you’re craving pizza, this is the spot to go!

Patina: This is the best store if you’re in the mood to just wander and window shop (or purchase!). If I  need a pick-me-up, this is one of the first spots I go. For anyone who enjoys unique home decor, bath accessories, cards and stationery, fun kitchen gadgets, (when in season) Christmas ornaments, coffee table books, gift ideas etc. – Patina has it all! I discovered one near campus while I was a student at the University of Minnesota and luckily, have one close to my apartment in Uptown now too. There are a few locations scattered around the Twin Cities and one even in Golden Valley. I promise you’ll love it!

yum!: Yes, this is the name of an actual place and it lives up to its name! This bakery and restaurant is on the outside cusp of Uptown and is one of a my favorite spots to eat out. I even went here on my birthday last year, when I was out celebrating with my lovely parental units. This place has delicious food – just check out the online menu for a peek. There’s wine and beer that are suggested as pairings for each main dish from the restaurant side as well. I have yet to try anything from the bakery but that is NOT because it doesn’t all look fabulous. I just don’t trust myself to stop after one of the delicious-looking sweets! If you’re looking for a unique, local spot to eat next time you’re in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, check this place out. They have just about anything you could be craving, so you’re bound to leave with a full, happy stomach. Great for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner…or even just dessert!

Mara Mi: This is not technically in the Twin Cities, but in Stillwater, MN. I found this place while on a mother/daughter weekend with my mama in early February. We were out stopping in all the fun antiques and boutiques on the main street in Stillwater, and then stumbled into this place. It’s hard to really describe the fun shop they have, but it’s part cafe (paninis, pizza, cupcakes, coffee etc.) and part store. Their store sells uniquely designed stationary as well as other fun accessories – desk/office supplies, home decor, home organization/travel accessories and more! There’s so much color in this store and great patterns everywhere, it’s hard to not be inspired. The really neat part is, the design studio for the company is just upstairs – where they design all their stationary/patterns! What a fantastic job – design, sell and bake. Love it!

I have many more spots I could list, but these are some favorites. I love to support local spots that are a unique piece of what makes Minneapolis and the Twin Cities overall such a great place to live. If you’re ever in town to visit or if you’re a local like me, I encourage you to stop by one of these spots!

I’m always looking for new spots around the area, so if there are any favorites among any of the readers out there – please share!

Earring Chain

6 Mar

So this was an idea I came across at some point in the last few months, I believe it was pinterest (do you sense a theme here?). Super simple idea for those of us who have a problem with having too many earrings and having no idea how to store them. I’ve tried different boxes for different types, arranging on a plate etc. None of these methods seem to work too well so I was up for trying something new…an earring chain!

I am a bit concerned that when taking a pair off, others will also fall. A few attempts I made this week while packing for work (I travel for work and usually pack 3-4 different earrings…one must accessorize each outfit!) caused some others to fall. I’ll have to see if it’s just me learning to take them off the chain, or perhaps the chain needs to be farther away from the wall to avoid that problem? I’ll continue the experiment and see.

All you need for this craft is a metal chain. I got mine at Home Depot and had the guy helping me cut off about two feet. I hung it with two nails, but I’d imagine hooks would work too. It may be more stable and allow you more room between the chain and wall for your earrings to ‘dangle’ instead of be ‘pinned’ between the wall and chain, like mine. I will forewarn, the more of a ‘U’ you have, the more the earrings will sag together. I think it’s more fun to see all the earrings you have, so aiming for more of a line vs. a ‘U’ shape should help with that.

I recommend hanging your heaviest pairs in the middle and the more dainty on the outside. This helps keep the slight ‘U’ shape while avoiding anything dainty being smashed or hidden by heavier pairs.

Good luck and happy earring hanging!

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread

6 Mar

So, I preface this post with this – I’m not a great baker. I for some reason have more success with the ‘cooking’ end than the ‘baking’ end of culinary abilities. Nonetheless, I’m determined to change that! I’ve dabbled in cakes and cookies but one thing I want, no DESIRE to become good at is bread making. Maybe it’s the kneading thing or that it’s just fun to watch rise. Or that it smells divine when it’s baking. I even loved play-doh as a kid (ask my mom!) and I think it’s all about me, deep down, wanting to be a master of bread.

Ok, that’s a bit extreme. Either way, I’m trying to attempt some variations of breads to see what I like, what’s fun to make etc. This past weekend, while I had the lasagna simmering on the stove, I attempted to make Rosemary bread. I found this recipe on pinterest.com which took me to the recipe I used on a great blog: A Hint of Honey. I can’t wait to peruse the blog for other tasty recipes!

This was a great bread recipe for a newbie like me – not a lot of steps but still kneading fun involved. 🙂 I modified the recipe a bit, but see A Hint of Honey for the original recipe and other delicious ideas.

Rosemary Olive Oil Bread:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water (not scalding hot but fairly warm)
  • 1 Tbsp. cane sugar
  • 2 tsp. active dry yeast (if you’re like me and get the packets, you’ll have a bit left over, 1/4 tsp to be exact)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped or 2 tsp. dried (I only had dried, but LOVE rosemary and decided to use 2 Tbsp anyway. Up to you!)
  • 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (or pinch of each ground garlic, dried oregano, and dried basil) (I went with her suggested concoction and it turned out great, as an FYI)
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (I used normal whole wheat flour, again, up to you!)
  • 1/2 cup bread flour + extra for kneading
  • 1 egg, whisked + 1 Tbsp. water, for egg wash
  • dried rosemary, for sprinkling

How to Make:

In a large bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. To a new bread maker, this process allows the yeast to ‘proof’. For those that know all about breads, I’m sorry I didn’t know about this term. I’m now more educated.

Stir in the salt, rosemary, seasonings, olive oil, and whole wheat flour. I didn’t mix it all the way in, just enough to have the flour and liquid start to mix together. Then, add in the bread flour and stir until it starts to come together. Mine came together in many little balls but it’s supposed to come together in one larger ball. Either way, now it’s time for FUN! Let’s knead…

Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes. Yes, I know, you want to knead for 10 minutes. I too had to cut myself off from kneading. You’ll survive. If the dough becomes sticky, add in more flour to the dough or your heads, or both! It shouldn’t be sticky, but smooth when you’re all done.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl; cover (I used a clean kitchen towel for this); and let rise until (about) doubled in size. This step takes about an hour. If you’re making the lovely lasagna from my post a few days ago, this gives you time to continue work on that. Or drink a glass of wine. Or watch some Netflix. I may have done all three.

Now, more kneading fun, well, just punching. Punch down the dough and form it into a round loaf. I  then placed my load on a pizza pan sprinkled with bread flour. The original recipe also states you can place the dough on a flour dusted pizza peel or parchment paper. Whatever is in your kitchen should be able to work. Again, cover that baby up and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes this time around

At this time, hopefully your lasagna (or other items in the oven, if there are any) are out and you can turn the head to 400 F. The recipe suggests to preheat and bake on a pizza stone, an item lacking in my kitchen. I simply warmed up my pizza pan (moved the dough to a new, floured spot while this preheat was happening.) Once the dough has risen, brush that baby with the egg wash and with a hearty helping of dried rosemary.

Bake on preheated stone (or for those with less cooking items at their fingertips, a preheated pizza pan) for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. I did not tap mine, but it was golden brown and looked/tasted done to me.

This recipe makes one, lovely, round load of glorious smelling bread. It also goes FABULOUSLY with lasagna. Just saying.

Enjoy!

Lasagna (like you’ve never had it…)

4 Mar

Realizing there’s been an extensive hiatus since my blog creation and first post, I have finally found the time to post about a recipe I truly love.

First, I must tell you, I am a huge Pioneer Woman fan. I mean huge. I love her humor, her witty blog and most of all, her recipes. If you haven’t heard of her (which would baffle me) or haven’t read her blog – check her out: http://thepioneerwoman.com/ Her lasagna recipe is the feature of my post today. This recipe is featured both on her website and in her cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks. (I must put this out – she has no idea who I am or that I love her food. I just love her and her recipes. That’s it.)

Now even for those who aren’t huge fans of lasagna, I guarantee you’ll think it’s delicious. I can make that claim as I was once you. After making this the first time, I am now a lasagna lover.

It’s a simple recipe, but has multiple steps. I need to learn to master multi-tasking kitchen tasks, but perhaps you’re more equipped with this trait than I.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pound Ground Beef
  • 1 pound Hot Breakfast Sausage (I used a combination of mild breakfast sausage leftover in my freezer and regular breakfast sausage, as it was all Target had available)
  • 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 cans (14.5 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes
  • 2 cans (6 Ounce) Tomato Paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley (or fresh if you have it)
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Basil (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 cups Low fat Cottage Cheese (small or large curd)
  • 2 whole Beaten Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Dried Parsley (yes…you’ll use this twice…again, this can be fresh if you have it.)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt (needed twice too)
  • 1 pound Sliced Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1 package (10 Ounce) Lasagna Noodles (I used whole wheat noodles, but any type will do)
  • (add 1/2 Teaspoon Salt And 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil To Pasta Water)
*Note…none of the cheeses or eggs are present in the picture above because I’m a moron. But they were used in this recipe.

How to make:

Preheat the oven to 350. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding the olive oil and a pinch of salt.

(Here’s where the kitchen multi-tasking begins) In a large skillet (the largest you have would be best), throw in your meat – ground beef and sausage. Also, add in your chopped garlic. Over medium-high heat, brown it up. This starts to smell fantastic. If you’re going for a slim version, you can drain the fat (about half is suggested). I like the rich, fatty taste of the meat and I leave it in. Judge me if you must.

Once everything is all brown, turn the skillet down to low and add in your whole tomatoes (including the juice), tomato paste, 2 Tbsps of parsley and 2 Tbsps of basil and 1 tsp of salt. Let simmer for about 45 minutes. Don’t be like me and realize your burner has been off for the first 10 minutes. I was not pleased with myself. However, it tastes delicious and if you’re as impatient as me…I suggest sneaking a spoonful of this from the pan. Yum!

While this is simmering, stir occasionally to get things heated evenly. Now you have time to complete another task – creation of the cottage cheese mixture. Mix your cottage cheese, the beaten eggs, grated Parmesan, the other 2 Tbsps of parsley and 1 teaspoon of salt. Mix it all up. I set mine in the refrigerator for a bit as I was overzealous and mixed this when there was still much more simmering needing to happen to my meat/tomato mixture. But, it should be fine to have this sit at room temperature for a bit.

Your pasta water should be bubbling by now – add in your lasagna noodles. Just cook until they’re al dente, no more. (You’ll need approximately 8 noodles, depending on the size of the dish you’re using.)

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, your meat/tomato mixture is done simmering (and smells like heaven) and the cottage cheese mixture is ready, grab the mozzarella. It’s assemblage time!

Layer lasagna noodles in the bottom of your dish, about four overlapping should do the trick. Pour half of the cottage cheese mixture on top, spreading it around evenly. Next, layer your slices of mozzarella. Finally, spoon about half of the meat mixture on top. Repeat all four steps once more – noodles, cottage cheese, mozzarella and then ALL the rest of the meat on top. If you’re really into Parmesan cheese, this goes well sprinkled on top. But it’s delicious without too.

Now, you can throw in the oven and bake it, or freeze it to bake later. (I did both! Splitting mine into two small square pans and baked one and froze the other.) You can also refrigerate it for up to 2 days. Your choice!

Bake the lasagna for 20-30 minutes. The top should be ‘hot and bubbly’ as the Pioneer Woman says. Your kitchen should also smell pretty lovely at this point. This recipe serves 12, but those are 12 large helpings. I personally eat mini-helpings and made this into 24 between my two square pans.

Slice it up and ENJOY!

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