Sunday Fun-Day: Farmer’s Markets, Pumpkin Patches and Tasty Treats

Call me crazy, but there’s a part of me that enjoys waking up tired after having a great weekend. The Husband would say that I try to jam something into every free moment of the day and he’s right. But my approach makes for the most epic of Sunday Fun-Days.

We started the day with Friends in Minneapolis at the last Kingfield Market of the season. The air was crisp and fresh. I love that Minnesotans will still go to the farmer’s market in winter jackets, hats and gloves – it was 35 degrees when we left the house. The selection was impressive and I couldn’t stop staring at this vendor’s preserves:

preserves

I considered squeezing some canning into my day but knew it would only end in tears.

The four of us picked breakfasts from three different places (Gai Gai Thai, Chef Shack and Foxy Falafel), reconvening to eat:

foxy-omelette

My Foxy Falafel Breakfast Omelet (vegetarian). YUM!

thai-bowl

The Friend’s Gai Gai Thai Bowl. Two thumbs up, or so I hear!

breakfast-hash

The Friend’s Husband’s Breakfast Hash from Chef Shack. Mm-mmmm chorizo.

walleye-sandwich

The Husband’s non-traditional breakfast, a Walleye Sandwich from Chef Shack. A Minnesota classic.

Every good breakfast deserves dessert. These donuts from Bogart Loves were just what every morning needs:

donuts

Why have one donut when you can have two?

We got home in time to make a last minute batch of Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies for the party we were going to Monday night.* The Husband gave these cookies a 7 out of 10 on the cookie rating scale (that’s pretty good!):

cookie dough

The Mother arrived promptly at 1pm for our Pumpkin Carving Party. We missed The Mom-In-Law but hopefully this post will fill her in on all the excitement she missed.

When you’re having a Pumpkin Carving Party, you need pumpkins. We tried our luck at a nearby orchard called Pine Tree Apple Orchard (fyi – no dogs allowed). With the weather being so nice (by this point it was nearly 60), it seems everyone had the same idea. The pumpkins were picked over and the place was a mob scene, so we just walked around and took in the landscape:

minnesota-scenery

Fall colors.

corn-stalks

There were several “Children of the Corn” references on this walk. OUTLANDER!

We headed back to Minneapolis by way of Stillwater and found a charming pumpkin patch along the way. Doesn’t this look like the perfect scene for a fall, pumpkin-hunting day? We had a great time at Axdahl’s Farm:

barn

pumpkins

This was only a portion of the selection, there were pumpkins everywhere!

It took a while before we found the pumpkins that would become these:

jack-o-lanterns

Boo!

And these:

pumpkin-seeds

Perfect pumpkin seeds.

Perfect Pumpkin Seeds Recipe:  Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Rinse pumpkin seeds with water. I put mine in a colander and swirl my fingers around in them while running water over them, helps catch the last of the pumpkin goop. Place seeds on a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and stir to coat. Bake for approximately an hour until golden brown and crunchy, stirring seeds every 15 minutes to prevent burning.

Definitely a Sunday Fun-Day indeed. Can’t wait until next weekend….

* Update post-party: The cookies were a huge hit, they were eaten with gusto. I highly recommend this simple recipe, it is obviously a crowd-pleaser.

Date Night (for One): Knitting Books and Vodka Tasting

I find that Date Nights without The Husband call for indulgent behavior. This week it would include perusing my new knitting book and sampling my homemade vodka infusions to see if they were ready for bottling. It turned out to be great fun until the next morning. Use care when sampling infused vodka, my friends, there’s a hangover creeping in every sip which is why this post is late this week.

vodka sampling

Vodkas from left to right: Sugarless Grape, Grape with Sugar, and Apple-Cinnamon-Clove

Last year I started an experiment with The Neighbor’s grapes. After two years of failed grape jam-making attempts (see my blog post on Tomato Preserving), I decided that there had to be an easier way. I did a little Googling, asked The Mother how she made Raspberry Liqueur, bought gallons of Phillips vodka and tried my first batch of infused grape vodka. What I learned from that test run was that if you let fruit infuse in cheap vodka long enough, eventually you end up with a smooth beverage that everyone ends up sipping with a raised eyebrow asking, “What is this exactly?” Then they request a recipe.

This year, I took the experiment further. Not only would I try a slightly higher quality vodka, I would actually take notes so I could try to recreate the tasty beverage. I also decided to throw in some different fruits to see what tasted the best infused into vodka.

The secret to these vodka infusions (at least that I’ve found) is regular stirring and tasting. My grape infusions have been steeping since September 24 and have been slowly improving in flavor. The first few weeks they usually taste like bad vodka with a hint of fruit. Leave them long enough and they become incredibly smooth and full of fruity body. Don’t be in a rush when you do this experiment.

I began my tasting with the newest experiment, the Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Vodka. I must have imagined writing my notes on a Post-It, because there isn’t one on the lid of the jar. OOPS. But for now, this one has not been infusing as long as the others, has cinnamon and cloves for seasoning and it is good. The flavors are strong, it is easy to finish. The color is beautiful. I imagine it will make a fantastic Hot Toddy this winter.

apple vodka infusion

Apple-Cinnamon-Clove infused vodka – great for fall nights.

The two grape infusions were started four days apart and one has sugar added while the other does not. The vodka without the sugar (that is four days younger) has a much more vibrant color while the older fruit with sugar is smoother and went down easier. I expect all of the infusions could be ready to filter in a week or two but we’ll see. It’s all according to taste and how long you want to deal with stirring and tasting, but overall it is a low-maintenance process. Last year I had the grapes infusing for nearly two months before filtering and bottling.

grape infused vodka

Grape infused vodka, with no sugar.

grape vodka

Grape infused vodka with sugar.

I’ve also made rhubarb infused vodka that is great and is such a pretty pink! That is The Neighbor’s favorite and she is planning on making cases of it next season. Rhubarb definitely requires the shortest amount of time infusing, I gave it about 3-4 weeks. Again, I seem to have misplaced that Post-It, so I will have to try again next summer. It appears that my goals of documentation were better in concept than execution – but what can you do? I made the rhubarb infusion when rhubarb was in season, so that was not on the tasting menu tonight.

As for the knitting patterns, this new book (One + One: Scarves, Shawls & Shrugs) might be my new favorite pattern book ever. I think it’s time to turn on the electric fireplace, pour another sampling of Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Vodka and see what yarn I need to shop for tomorrow. Date Night’s (for One) aren’t so bad if a girl has a good plan in place, especially if it includes a little knitting and vodka. Cheers!

Vodka Infusion Guidelines
Lots of fruit (I have 8 cups of grapes in my container)
10 cups of vodka (3-4 inches of vodka should cover the fruit)
Optional: 4 TBS sugar

** You can infuse in smaller quantities. My process is fairly relaxed, approximately 2 parts fruit to 3 parts vodka. Adding sugar is optional. Cover the jar and stir regularly. When you think it’s ready, strain the mixture through a coffee filter, bottle and serve.

A Cozy Dinner for Two

With the weather getting cold again, I couldn’t wait to try a new soup recipe. I’ve been jonesing for some lentils but as I’ve mentioned before, The Husband is “not as into the bean” as I am – and sadly, that includes the lentil. A quick phone call to The Mother and I not only had a dinner date, she was offering to make her Never Fail Popovers. Sounded like a great deal to me!

The soup recipe that I basically made (it goes against my nature to follow directions) was the Very Green Lentil Soup recipe from EatingWell. My modifications included:

  • Rainbow chard instead of green chard
  • Ground cumin in place of toasted cumin seeds
  • Parsley in place of cilantro (cilantro tastes like soap to The Mother, thank goodness I don’t have that problem)
  • Skipped the fresh lemon juice and drizzle of oil at serving (because I was lazy)

The verdict? DELICIOUS. And it’s a good thing too, because I’ve got a whole lot of it to eat!

popover and soup

Adding feta when serving makes puts it over the top – keep extra close by!

For The Mother’s Never Fail Popover* recipe, it turns out we have William-Sonoma to thank for their Perfect Popover! For your own Cozy Dinner for Two, The Mother has scaled their recipe back to make 2 popovers. Here are her measurements for ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 C. milk
  • 1/3 C. flour
  • A dash or two of salt
  • 2/3 tbsp. butter

Follow the directions from William-Sonoma, but use two glass ramekins to bake instead of popover pans. VOILA!

* Be advised that it is possible to fail at the Never Fail Popover recipe. While I am incredibly cavalier in the kitchen with substitutions, I can tell you from personal experience that you should not make substitutions with this recipe. Especially do not use whole wheat flour to try adding nutritional value because the popovers will not “pop,” they will become flat little dough bricks which aren’t terrible, but definitely are not the light and airy delight that these Never Fail Popovers will be if you follow the instructions from The Mother and William-Sonoma.

Eating Well and Getting Crafty

There were no trips to Los Angeles this weekend, but my visit with California Girl left me inspired to eat well and get crafty.

The weekend started with a scrumptious breakfast at Café Maude’s in Southwest Minneapolis. If you haven’t been, go. The Mom-in-Law and The Husband agreed that it set the perfect tone for the weekend though mimosas would have put it over the top. None of us had time for a nap after breakfast, so we stuck to fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee and black tea.

Eggs and Sauteed Spinach

My Sautéed Spinach with a Fried Egg served over rice.

Huevos Rancheros

The Husband’s Huevos Rancheros.

Classic Egg Breakfast

The Mom-in-Law’s very classic breakfast, known as “The Armatage” at Café Maude’s.

The “getting crafty” portion of the weekend was easier said than done. After several failed sewing attempts, I gave up for the moment and switched to cookie baking. This Spiced Pumpkin Cookie recipe has been on my list for a month and the rain outside was the perfect excuse to get baking. They were good, but I think they’d be better with vanilla ice cream:

pumpkin cookies

This was neither crafty nor eating well, but did involve Spiced Pumpkin Cookie delivery. Danny and I went visiting and gave The Grandma her monthly pedicure. They were having such a nice visit, I had to sneak a picture with my phone. The Grandma would never forgive me if I posted a picture of her with her feet in the pedi spa – so here is Danny with The Grandma’s hand petting him:

danny

I was still itching to get some sewing in but after the failed attempts earlier, I took the easy way out and busted out the serger to make new napkins. My desire to make my own clothes after finding The Perfect Dress in Los Angeles at Matrushka might be my latest pipedream…. But check out my newest set of napkins in this adorable bee fabric from my stash:

napkins

All in all, a great weekend:

tea and biscuits

Back to Nature: My Last Day in LA

The last day of my visit, we woke up to some inspiration to climb a mountain:

wonder-woman

Always listen to Wonder Woman.

Well, not a mountain because this Midwest girl prefers flatter terrains, but we decided to head to Griffith Park to climb parts of hills. Trouble is, when we got to the car there was motivation to go back to bed:

sleeping cats

After my first visit to LA, I finally understood Bob Barker’s passion about the pet population.

Still, we couldn’t let Wonder Woman down so we got to the park and started our hike. It was a beautiful day:

griffith park

Until I saw this. Was I the only one who saw True Grit? I got a little worried:

rattlesnake-sign

California Girl assured me that she hardly ever sees rattlesnakes. And the views were spectacular:

griffith park

I love the Griffith Observatory:

Griffith Observatory

We even saw more wildlife, several deer:

deer

And a fearless kitty:

cat

Listen to Bob Barker, have your pets spayed and neutered.

And a lot of cactus:

cactus

This is where the rattlesnakes live.

It was the perfect conclusion to a great weekend away in a spectacular city:

Los Angeles

Until next time, Los Angeles!

Day Two: Los Angeles

what-is-perfect

Café Gratitude

Well, I can’t complain about Day Two in Los Angeles.

We found ourselves at Café Gratitude for a raw, vegan lunch. I’m neither raw nor vegan, but this lunch was delicious.

veggie-wrap

The “HAPPY:” Mediterranean wrap with raw falafels, zucchini cilantro hummus, spinach, red onion, tomato, cucumber, harissa sauce and garlic tahini dressing on dehydrated sun-dried tomato bread

noodle-salad

The “TERRIFIC:” Kelp noodles tossed with basil hempseed pesto, cashew ricotta cheese, heirloom cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, green and Kalamata olives and finished with almond parmesan and chopped basil

The plants at the nursery were AMAZING and could the weather be more perfect?

Sunset Nursery

Sunset Nursery

I can’t imagine anything more perfect than the amazing handmade dress I found at Matrushka that fits like it was made for me:

perfect-dress

All fabrics are locally sourced by Matrushka’s owner, Laura Howe.

And look at these, do I have to say more? The only thing that makes dessert more perfect is sharing it with a friend.

dessert

Great names for these Café Gratitude desserts: IRRESISTIBLE (Coconut Cream Pie with chocolate swirl & dark chocolate crust) and AWAKENING (Key Lime Pie)

California Adventures: Day One

The first time I came to LA was with my dad and he surprised me by pulling a giant bag of candy out of his suitcase when we got to the hotel. The only thing better than that, is coming to see California Girl. She is the perfect reminder that everything is better when you do it with a friend.

Every weekend with California Girl involves at least one visit to a fabric store, and Michael Levine’s is the mother of them all:

fabric-store

All of that creative inspiration made us hungry, so we hit up the most appropriate place for two hungry girls to eat, The Homegirl Café.

Taco Sampler

California Girl’s Taco Sampler

Veggie Grilled Cheese

My Veggie Grilled Cheese

We saw a little local wildlife:

dragonfly

And then needed some dessert. I scream, you scream, we all scream for raw, vegan ice cream? We did and sampled some Kind Kreme, it was delicious.

vegan-icecream

Eventually we made it back to the California Girl B&B where I was served tea and biscuits (actually a tasty homemade gluten-free muffin) while she pretended to work for a little bit:

Tea Time

And before long, we tucked in for a little television and dinner. I like to think that I changed California Girl’s life by introducing her to ONCE UPON A TIME.

chips-guacamole

Lentil Soup and Homemade Guacamole

All in all, the perfect Date Night (for One): Girlfriends Edition.

Delusions of Marathoning

TC Marathon RunnersToday was the Twin Cities Marathon, always a fun time on our block since we’re right on the route – the 14 mile mark, to be exact. It’s a great location for cheering and admiring the athletes. They still seem fresh and to be enjoying themselves. Some have the hard stares of focus and determination, but I cheer anyway and dance in place to the music blaring from the volunteer station. Approximately an hour into the cheering, I started to experience a contact high from the runners and began to wonder if I could run a marathon.

This is the point that I should back up and explain that not only am I the slowest runner in the world, I actually enjoy running on a treadmill. It took a while to get there, but I had the determination and desire to watch as much television guilt-free as possible and the treadmill seemed the best way to achieve that dream. That’s right, I see my morning treadmill runs as the opportunity to wield the remote with enthusiastic abandon, there is no guilt. Just me and all of the TV series that I have grown to love and obsess over now that I have the time to watch them. I’ll run hills and intervals, I do a “long run” on weekends which would probably give most avid runners cause to chuckle, but I love it and that’s all that matters, right? And now as I watched the runners, I started to think that if I could stream the right sequence of Netflix episodes to my cellphone, I just might be able to run a marathon. How could I test the theory? Should I try binge watching “Break Bad” from start to finish while on the treadmill to see how long I could run for? Would the series hold my attention as well as it did the first time now that I knew the bitter ending of Walter White? I considered….

Nearing the third hour of the race (the second hour of cheering), people started to look less enthusiastic. They were still plugging away and looking alright, but several had the expression of “I’m only HOW far?!” I started to think that perhaps “The Walking Dead” might be a better option for a marathon-running distraction. That show has almost caused accidents for me while watching on the treadmill, it might have the intensity that I needed for 26 miles.

That’s when the stream of runners started to thin out and I saw my first limper. She was hobbling along the route, favoring her knee. She stopped at the volunteer station and then pushed bravely on. Then it started to rain. The Mom and I sat under umbrellas continuing to cheer on the valiant runners at the end of the pack. I assume they were the first timers and while they didn’t necessarily look happy to be there, they looked determined and certainly appreciated our little cheering section that still remained. Many passing by thanked us for staying to cheer them on. I felt bad that they still had another 12 miles to go in the cold rain when I could go home now for a hot cup of tea. It also made me realize that if I decided to run a marathon, I would need a lot more than good television to get me to the finish line.

Chewie

Best in Show.

It Was Wrong, But Felt So Right

sorry-smallI have to make a public apology to The Husband. I’m sorry, but I finished the ice cream last night. It was the Pralines & Cream from Grand Ole Creamery that I know you like. When I took it out of the freezer, I only meant to take a bite but it tasted so good, I couldn’t stop. Okay, I’m not being honest. When I took it out of the freezer, my sole purpose was to finish it. Kind of like when I steal the Reese’s Peanut Butter eggs out of your Easter basket every year… but I couldn’t help myself, it was so good. Next to their Black Hills Gold, the Pralines & Cream is my favorite. It felt like destiny when The Mom-In-Law brought it, I could hardly contain myself. All week I’ve eaten the sorbet, trying to pretend like I didn’t want the thick and creamy vanilla with pralines and caramel swirled throughout, but who was I kidding? Certainly not myself. And when I opened the freezer tonight, the container was sitting right there. Staring at me. I had to do it. Just like I have to eat all of the holiday edition Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that find their way into our house. Something compels me and I can’t be held accountable for my own actions.

So, I am sorry. To make it up to you, I thought I’d try the new recipe I found for Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie this weekend. …let’s just forget for the moment that I can’t be held accountable for my actions where pumpkin is concerned either.