Handle With Care

I can’t believe this happened. Again. After the last time, I promised that I would be better… but here I sit. You were there for me when I needed comfort and when I needed joy. I like to think you brought out the best in me, always flattering my every movement. It broke my heart to see you there, shrunken… tiny… I pressed my hands to my ears trying to block out the scream “NOOOOOOOOO!” that echoed loudly in my head. But I had been careless, it was my fault alone  and now nothing can bring you back. You have been lost forever, a one of a kind find at discount prices that these thoughtless hands destroyed with one washing. You are truly irreplaceable.

So farewell, I won’t forget you. I can only hope that this time I’ve finally learned my lesson. A care label is to be respected, it is not a mere suggestion; ignoring it will leave you with a sweater only slightly larger than a Cabbage Patch Kid.

A Lowbrow Breakfast

The Lowbrow in South Minneapolis is one of my favorite restaurants. Not only do they have a bright and cheery space, their menu has a bunch of interesting vegetarian options to choose from. With all those choices, however, I always get the Fried Tofu Sandwich because it’s one of my all time favorite meals (see it here). So color me ecstatic when we showed up for an impromptu breakfast and there were Tofu Breakfast Tacos on the menu! Served with guacamole and roasted potatoes, they were the perfect way to start the day:

tofu tacos

My Tofu Breakfast Tacos: Seasoned, fried tofu with spinach and scallions; topped with salsa and guacamole, served with oven roasted potatoes (vegan)

The Husband doesn’t like a lot going on with his eggs, he likes them simple. The Bacon Scallion Scramble was just the ticket:

egg scramble

The Husband’s Bacon Scallion Scramble: Scrambled eggs topped‎ with bacon, scallions and cheddar. Served with potatoes and toast

We had to ask what the HEY! COFFEE CAKE flavor was and the blueberry we ordered was definitely the “brunch time must” they promised it would be:

blueberry coffee cake

Blueberry Coffee Cake

The Lowbrow is all about comfort food made using locally farmed and sustainably grown ingredients. With so many gluten-free and vegetarian options, there is something for everyone. Go lowbrow with your next meal and head to Lowbrow. 🙂

The Song of Hiawatha

I recently learned that April is National Poetry Month and that the American Academy of Poets designated April 24 as “National Poem in Your Pocket Day.” Their idea is simple, pick a favorite poem and carry it in your pocket to share with others. I liked it. But then I had another idea. There is an epic poem that had significant impact in my corner of Minneapolis (and the United States) in the 1800s, I would share that too. My poem is The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The epic poem takes place on the southern shores of Lake Superior and tells the story of the birth of Hiawatha, his falling in love with Minnehaha, and eventually his acceptance of Christianity when missionaries finally arrive by canoe.

Tourism to south Minneapolis increased significantly when the poem was published in 1855. And the poem left such a mark, this statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha by Jacob Fjelde stands at the top of the falls to this day:

hiawath and minnehaha sculpture

Fjelde was born in Norway and moved to Minneapolis in 1887. He was a prolific portraitist and the creator of public monuments, several of which can be found in Minneapolis today.

Near the park stands the historic Longfellow House. A house that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow never lived in or saw, but was a 2/3 scale replica of his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

longfellow house

Robert “Fish” Jones built the Longfellow House and had a zoo near Minnehaha Creek. In 1907, he opened the Longfellow Zoological Gardens. He lived in the house for 23 years, eventually closing the zoo due to complaints from neighbors. Since then, the house has been a library, a haunted mansion and now is an interpretive center.

And just beyond the Longfellow House off the beaten path is a statue of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow himself. More than 100 years old, it stands alone in what is now a prairie restoration area:

longfellow statue

Robert “Fish” Jones erected this statue in 1908 as part of a garden area of his property. It was originally ringed with small stone busts of Native Americans, but there is no longer any sign of them. The statue by sculptor A.A. Gewoni.

All of these remnants of Longfellow, yet I can’t seem to find any indication that he was ever in Minnesota. He relied heavily on the writings of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (an ethnographer and United States Indian agent who was inconsistent in his documentation, justifying both the rewriting and censoring of his subjects). Longfellow also based his work on visits with Ojibwe Chief Kahge-ga-gah-bowh; Black Hawk and other Sac and Fox Indians. While controversy surrounded the poem, it was tremendously popular at the time and it appears that Longfellow felt he was sharing Native American legend, but one must consider this poem American Romantic literature and nothing more.

This short extract is the most familiar portion of the poem:

 By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

Call me a romantic but my favorite part is the chapter on the wooing of Minnehaha, titled “Hiawatha’s Wooing,” these are a few short excerpts:

minnehaha and hiawatha

Hand in hand they went together, Through the woodland and the meadow….

Hiawatha found Minnehaha living with her father and the Dakota people near Minnehaha Falls. He fell in love with her, taking her back to the shores of Lake Superior:

From the sky the sun benignant
Looked upon them through the branches,
Saying to them, “O my children,
Love is sunshine, hate is shadow,
Life is checkered shade and sunshine,
Rule by love, O Hiawatha!”
From the sky the moon looked at them,
Filled the lodge with mystic splendors,
Whispered to them, “O my children,
Day is restless, night is quiet,
Man imperious, woman feeble;
Half is mine, although I follow;
Rule by patience, Laughing Water!”
Thus it was they journeyed homeward;
Thus it was that Hiawatha
To the lodge of old Nokomis
Brought the moonlight, starlight, firelight,
Brought the sunshine of his people,
Minnehaha, Laughing Water,
Handsomest of all the women
In the land of the Dacotahs,
In the land of handsome women.

Heard the Falls of Minnehaha Calling to them from the distance, Crying to them from afar off, “Fare thee well, O Minnehaha!”

Personally, I think a poem is best when read aloud and highly recommend the free LibriVox recording by Peter Yearsley. What poem will you put in your pocket today?

Morning in a French Meadow

I love a good breakfast, it’s pretty much my favorite meal of the day. I love breakfast so much I’ll eat it morning, noon and night. Do you get the idea? And when I find a favorite food, I want to eat it all the time. So it will come as no surprise when I say that I haven’t stopped thinking about my Breakfast Quesadilla last January at The French Meadow Bakery & Cafe in Minneapolis. Despite my love of this quesadilla and my inability to forget it, I hadn’t been back to The French Meadow because there are so many great places to eat and so little time.

You can imagine my childlike glee when I learned that a new French Meadow had opened in St. Paul, what a perfect excuse to eat there again! I made a rule for myself, however, I had to try something new. After a great deal of soul searching, I landed on the “Zone” Omelette. It was good, but it was no Breakfast Quesadilla. The Husband really liked his selection. He mentioned a few things about the fresh flavors and the salmon, but I secretly think he liked the meal because he could slather cream cheese all over everything. He had the Eggs & Smoked Salmon. And because we didn’t know how long it would be until we’d be back, we made sure to save room for a scone.

A Green… Quesadilla?

What happens when a girl only has half the ingredients for her favorite dinner? Magic. My latest creation is inspired by two of my favorite recipes, the Green Goddess and Green Pizza. Meet their love child, The Squeaky Green Quesadilla:


So what did I do? I slathered some pesto on a tortilla, added lightly steamed broccoli florets, topped with sliced Havarti and covered with a second tortilla. After five or so minutes in the Griddler, it was golden brown and ready to eat.

Was the experiment a success? Yes, but it wasn’t quite perfect. Using sautéed or roasted broccoli would enhance its flavor, but if you’re looking for a quick and easy meal in less than 15 minutes you can’t go wrong with this one.

A Juicy What?

A great rivalry exists in Minneapolis, a rivalry over a delicacy that I’m not sure is known outside the Twin Cities. It is a debate over the best Juicy Lucy (also known as a “Jucy Lucy”). What is a Juicy Lucy? It’s a cheeseburger made with the cheese on the INSIDE of the burger. When it’s brought out to you, the server warns to beware of your first bite because the hot cheese oozes out like molten lava.

Being the vegetarian that I am, I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting one of these burgers, but the debate over the best one stirs great passion in the connoisseur. Most often one hears the best is at Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club, both establishments are in South Minneapolis and claim this brilliant concoction of ground beef and cheese as their own. While there is no doubt that the burger was born at one of these restaurants in the 1950s, new versions have sprung up since then on the other side of the Mississippi River. Restaurants in St. Paul have their own twist; some have gone Cajun with jalapenos and pepper jack cheese, some use bleu cheese and garlic, and others throw in fried bacon. I was pleased to find an entire article on Wikipedia dedicated to this topic!

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, how can a vegetarian tell me where to find the best Juicy Lucy? Well, I live with an impassioned eater of these burgers, and his vote is for The Juicy Nookie at The Nook in St. Paul:

A seasoned professional at eating his Juicy Nookie, he patiently approaches his burger, giving it several minutes to cool before he goes in for the first careful bite:

I love The Nook too. The wait staff sport t-shirts that say, “Meat is murder, delicious, delicious murder” but they are kind enough to offer the choice of TWO veggie burgers on their menu and quip “You’re in the wrong place for this, but if you must….” And they are really good, especially the Black Bean Burger. I’m not sure what I like better, the burger or the fresh cut fries. Good thing I don’t have to decide:

And now it’s your turn. Where is your favorite Juicy Lucy? And who is ready to try making a veggie option?

Minnesota Thaws

It’s hard to believe that just a month ago, Minnehaha Falls looked like this:
minnehaha falls

A quick stop over the weekend proved that spring really was here even though I was back in my winter jacket:
minnehaha falls

There was a cold wind was blowing, so I didn’t linger long:
minnehaha falls

But I had to get one last shot, can you see the buds on the trees?
minnehaha falls

Minnehaha Falls is fed by Minnehaha Creek, my favorite stomping ground:
minnehaha creek

We found this gentleman fishing. Great Blue Herons always make me think of little old men when they stand like this:

We kept moving, and found ourselves at Lake Hiawatha, there was still ice on the lake:
lake hiawatha

After a few minutes of shivering in the strong winds, we realized that we weren’t alone:
bald eagle

And neither was he:
juvenile bald eagle

Not-So-Traditional Pad Thai

Our recent Thai dinner had me wondering, could I make Thai food at home? Turns out that we still don’t know for sure because I ran out of time this week, but I can make this American version of vegetarian pad thai!

This recipe from Mom Always Finds Out was simple and came together quickly with few ingredients. I followed it to the letter with one exception, I threw my veggies into the noodle water for a few minutes to warm and brighten them up. As you can see, I also added tofu. This is raw, extra firm cut into cubes. The Husband roasted a boneless chicken to have on his.

The verdict? This is an easy recipe took less than 30 minutes to make (there was wine involved and a little dancing in the kitchen, so I wasn’t quite as quick as Mom Always Finds Out who considers this a 15 Minute Vegetarian Pad Thai). Next time I hope to try a more traditional recipe but will save this for nights when I need something quick and easy. I will thin out the peanut sauce with a little more liquid and add more veggies along with some spice for heat.

The Littlest Comeback King

I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed our daily outings until my little Energizer Bunny couldn’t walk anymore. Mornings and evenings, rain or shine, we could usually be found pounding the pavement for a little exercise and fresh air. At times this was a chore to me. While I love my dog, sometimes the last thing you want to do is go for a walk; especially in the rain or on a cold winter night, which trust me, we’ve done.

We will never know for sure how he injured his leg, but we know how long the road to recovery has been. At first, I welcomed the break, there is always so much to do in a day and I could use some extra time. As months passed, however, I started to wonder if we would ever get to walk again. Watching him limp around the single block he was allowed, carrying him up steps, therapeutic stretching – it felt as though he was never going to get better. Now I watch him sprint down the street as we slowly add one block at a time, and I find myself smiling as I follow his little chicken legs down the sidewalk. My boy is making a comeback.

Our walks have changed now. I know that I’m projecting when I say that my dog is even more excited to go now than before. It is unlikely that he associated his injury with the months of confinement, and even more unlikely that he gave his injury any thought at all. I also know that it isn’t realistic to think that he’s trying to make the most of every outing because he never knows when a walk will be his last. But I look at them that way. Now his obnoxious insistence that we go, go, GO! brings a smile to my face. When he stops to smell every tree, I let him even though it’s slowing us down and making me late. For now I have my best friend back and I want to make the most of every moment. You never know how many walks you’ll get.