Real Simple Chickpea Pasta

This quick dinner recipe comes together in less than 20 minutes, who could ask for more after a busy day? My version was even quicker because I made a single serving for myself with gluten-free ramen noodles that cook in 4 minutes. Real Simple’s Chickpea Pasta with Almonds and Parmesan is easy to customize for any taste:

Here’s how they do it:

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
7 cups low-sodium vegetable (or chicken broth for non-vegetarians)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
kosher salt
1 pound angel hair pasta
1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

– Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
– Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth, crushed red pepper, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil.
– Add the pasta and cook, stirring, until the broth is nearly absorbed and the pasta is al dente, about 6 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and parsley.
– Divide among individual bowls and top with the almonds and Parmesan.

This recipe is easy to make for one person and you can use any kind of pasta you like. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

The Great Minnesota Get Together

Minnesotans love a fair. The first official state fair was organized in 1859 after Minnesota became a state, but territorial fairs had already been held for four years.
state fair sign

Eventually known as “The Great Minnesota Get Together,” the Minnesota State Fair moved from location to location in the early years. The first celebration was near the area that is now downtown Minneapolis. After that it traveled to Rochester, Red Wing, St. Paul, Winona and Owatonna.cheese curds

After the extensive efforts of civic groups, the Minnesota State Fair finally found its permanent home in 1885. Its current space was donated by the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners and has grown from a 210-acre farm to 320 acres.sheep

In its long history, there have only been five years when it hasn’t been held: 1861 and 1862 due to the Civil War and Dakota Indian Conflict, in 1893 because of scheduling conflicts with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1945 because of the fuel shortages during WWII, and in 1946 due to a polio epidemic. The Minnesota State Fair is now one of the largest state fairs in the United States by attendance, attracting nearly 1.8 million guests annually.
fair crowd

The Minnesota State Fair was a primary source used in this blog post.


Breakfast at Birchwood

Located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis, The Birchwood Cafe was recently renovated and we finally got there to to see how it had shaped up. I’m happy to report that it was a success and the food was just as good as ever!

We stopped in for breakfast on a busy Saturday morning and I couldn’t wait to dig into the Beans & Rice. The cumin lime black bean puree, tomato cilantro brown rice, poached egg, heirloom tomato, avocado puree, grilled corn tortillas, scallion curls and salsa roja was a gluten free dream. I’m not exaggerating either, the man at the table next to me asked what I was eating and said he’d have to get it on his next visit:beans and rice

The Husband went for the classic Bacon & Egg Sandwich. The Birchwood’s features an open-faced housemade English muffin with sunny-side up egg, bacon, dijon aioli, cheddar and mustard greens:
egg sandwich

With generous pots of tea on the side, The Birchwood Cafe started our Saturday off on the right foot. I can’t wait for seconds.

Remembering A Snowy Owl

Sad news came a few days ago when it was announced that a well-known Snowy Owl had been found dead in Minnesota. Last January, this owl had been hit by a bus in Washington, D.C. and was brought to the Minnesota Raptor Center for care and rehabilitation. I watched with rapt attention as the bird underwent a feather transplant:

And then I watched her triumphant release:

I was devastated to learn she had been found dead. The assumption is that she had been hit by a car but based on her condition, had been living a healthy life hunting until the accident.

The Husband and I spent a day looking for these beautiful birds last January during the 2014 Snowy Owl Irruption. They were a breathtaking sight:
snowy owl

This loss is a moving reminder of the fragility of nature.

The Breakfast of Champions

I’m about to make a very bold statement because I have had been to a lot of restaurants this summer. My favorite meal at a new restaurant in Minneapolis this summer was at Tiny Diner.* A lot of restaurants have fed me some really amazing meals, but the one that stands out in my mind is Tiny Diner’s Macro Bowl. Could their breakfast be as good? It just might be better.

When I looked at the menu, a few things jumped out at me. I was disappointed that they were out of the House Made Granola
(hemp, flax , nuts, dried fruit, organic yogurt, or choice of milk) so I scrapped my initial plan of having that with the Bruled Grapefruit. The disappointment was soon forgotten when my second choice arrived. The Tofu Scramble:

marinated tofu, seasonal vegetables, toast (vegetarian)

marinated tofu, seasonal vegetables, toast (vegetarian)

The Husband wanted a little of everything so The Breakfast of Champions was the perfect choice. The pancakes were gooooooood.

three eggs, short stack, hashbrowns, maple sausage, toast

three eggs, short stack, hashbrowns, maple sausage, toast

The Tiny Diner and Farm call itself a small place with big ideas. Their menus made with local food and the stuff they grow themselves is worth a visit every time of day.

* Please note all the clarifications in this statement. 🙂

Happy Campers

I wasn’t the only one ready to play in the woods last weekend:

It seems like the more eager you are to get out of town, the more time you spend waiting. Sometimes it feels like you have to wait forever:

It was worth it:

We felt like we could lose ourselves in Paul Bunyon State Forest:

Or on the trails in Itasca State Park:

We even made a few friends along the way:

Having so much fun was exhausting:

Campfire Flavor: Foil Packets

This recipe is for all the campers out there, whether your version of camping is in the wilderness or in your backyard. This is a favorite meal for the fire pit and you won’t have any dishes to wash when you’re done!

Foil packet dinners (aka Hobo Packets) are popular with campers not only because they are so easy but because they are so flavorful. Have everyone make their own and you’re sure to have happy campers with clean “plates.”

The Husband’s Steak Packet:

Sirloin steak, potatoes, carrots and sliced onions.

Cubed sirloin steak, potatoes, carrots and sliced onions.

My Veggie Lovers Packet (vegetarian):

Tofu, napa cabbage, carrots, onion, fresh parsley

Tofu, napa cabbage, carrots, onion, fresh parsley

HOW:  Select your favorite vegetables, make sure they are cut to similar sizes. Add a protein, if desired. Toss with oil to coat, season with your favorite herbs, salt and/or pepper. Optional but strongly suggested, add a few pats of butter to make this really flavorful. The final step is sealing your tinfoil packet tight  and throwing it in the fire to cook for 20-30 minutes.

NOTE:  To avoid mushy, overcooked veggies, put tender vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus in foil packs together for shorter cook times. Hardier vegetables like carrots and potatoes do best on the fire longer.

You don’t have to wait to go camping to make these either. If you don’t have a fire pit in your yard, try throwing these on your grill instead! Imagine how easy cleanup could be at your next dinner party. 😉

The Mississippi River Headwaters: Itasca

The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world. The search for its headwaters was not easy for early non-native explorers; in a region with such subtle changes in topography, it proved confusing. But for Native Americans who had been in the area for 8,000 years, the source was clear and they ultimately helped Henry Rowe Schoolcraft identify it in 1832.

headwaters sign

One might assume that the word Itasca comes from a Native American word, but it is actually a combination of the Latin words “truth” and “head” (verITAS CAput) meaning “true head” coined by Schoolcraft. It was originally known as Elk Lake by Indians and traders.

The journey was fraught with "voracious, long-billed, and dyspeptic musketoes"

The journey was fraught with “voracious, long-billed, and dyspeptic musketoes”

While Schoolcraft had identified Lake Itasca as the source of the Mississippi, it was still debated in the late 1800s and Jacob V. Brower came to the park region to settle the dispute. A historian, anthropologist and land surveyor, he recognized the danger logging posed to the area and sought to preserve it. Through his efforts, the state legislature established Itasca as a Minnesota State Park on April 20, 1891, by a margin of only one vote. It became the first state park in the state.lake itasca

The channel as it emerges from the lake was made by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930s to enhance the visitor experience. The surrounding swamp was drained, a new channel was dug and the man-made rock rapids were made. This is still popular with visitors today.
rock bridge

Date Night with The Boys: Al Vento!

When The Boys asked if I had plans for dinner, I couldn’t resist. There’s nothing like lounging on a patio in the summer with good friends, add some great food and the evening is complete. We headed down the street to South Minneapolis favorite Al Vento for some great Italian cooking.

We started with the Brushetta Sampler but were so ready to sample, I forgot to take a picture. Oops! Fortunately we didn’t stop there. To keep our dinners healthy, we shared a salad. This was the Roasted Peach with Mississippi Greens, Radish, Almond and Cherry Vinaigrette:

My third of the delicious salad.

My third of the delicious salad.

When having Italian food, two dishes seem to be the natural choices: pizza and spaghetti. We had both!

House Made Fennel Sausage with Roma Tomato and Herb Goat Cheese Pizza:pizza

Spaghetti with Mother Sauce and House Made Meatballs:spaghetti

My Neapolitan with Tomato Sauce, Fresh Basil and House Made Mozzarella (vegetarian):pizza

Not only does Al Vento have great food, they have great specials so you can make every night date night!