Eating at the World Street Kitchen

The Best-Good Friend always has brilliant ideas. It was a crisp winter day when she suggested lunch at the World Street Kitchen, one of the best restaurants in Minneapolis. Featuring a seasonal menu that is inspired by the food served in street carts around the world, their lunch took me on a culinary vacation – my favorite kind of dining experience.

We both decided on the Yum Yum Rice Bowls. I had the Crispy Marinated Tofu charred squash, shiitake mushrooms and Chinese Broccoli (I requested it vegan):tofu rice bowl


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Day Five: Dog Treat Cookies

On the fifth day of Christmas Cookie recipes, my doggie gave to me… a big wet kiss in return for the homemade dog cookie!

This year when The Annual Cookie Bake Extravaganza yielded 11 different kinds of cookies to share with friends and family, I decided their dogs needed a treat too. How can you forget woman’s best friend during the holiday season? I looked through several doggie treat recipes and finally landed on this household favorite. Feedback from pet parents was unanimous that their dogs LOVED these homemade Carrot Apple Oatmeal Flax dog treats :
dog treats

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Day Three: Bourbon Balls

On the third day of Christmas Cookie recipes, my friend Emily gave to me… her family’s favorite recipe for Bourbon Balls!
bourbon balls

Emily’s grandma was a military wife and this recipe originally came from the Officer’s Wives Club of Okinawa. Emily said that her family waits for these treats every year – her dad talks about them for at least six months leading up to the holiday. That must be some cookie!

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Day Two: Crockpot Christmas Crack

On the second day of Christmas Cookie recipes, Just a Pinch Recipes gave to me… the most amazing recipe for Crockpot Fudge!
crockpot fudge

This recipe wasn’t kidding when it said it serves “a LOT,” next year I will attempt a half batch. Even with three of us making it, we quickly decided that dropping the fudge by spoonfuls on waxed paper would take too long. Instead, we lined two cookie sheets with wax paper and poured the fudge in, spreading it with a knife to fit the pans. Once cooled, we dropped the cookie sheets on a hard surface to loosen and then broke the fudge into pieces.

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A Christmas Carol

Father Christmas: Charles Dickens

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”  – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

One of the most widely recognized Christmas stories of all time, A Christmas Carol was an instant success upon its publication December 17, 1843. While Charles Dickens was already a famous author, he had set out to create a mainstream success that would not only bring him some much needed cash, but would draw attention to the plight of the working poor in Victorian England. In addition to doing all of this, he also succeeded in creating many of the Christmas traditions that we now know today.

Christmas celebrations had declined in England in the 17th century, the result of the Puritan suppression of celebrating Yuletide. While some held to the traditions of the past, the lavish Yuletide celebrations of yesteryear were rarely seen during the Industrial Revolution. Dickens used his ghostly tale to show readers how they could adapt historic holiday traditions to one-day parties within their homes – emphasizing the importance of spending time with family over greed and consumerism, regardless of household income or social status.

Haunted himself by the conditions of the working poor in England, Dickens walked the city streets at night while writing. He “wept and laughed, and wept again as he walked about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed.” A great sympathizer of the poor, his own father was sent to debtors’ prison when Dickens was 12 years old. Forced to leave school to work in a boot blackening factory, that experience that left a mark on Dickens for the rest of his life. He used A Christmas Carol to show readers that the holiday season should inspire goodwill and generosity to all.

Charles Dickens wrote his “little Christmas book” in six weeks. Its initial printing sold out in three days and eight stage adaptations were in production within months of its release. Quite possibly the most well-known work of his career, his public readings of the book were also tremendously popular. The New York Times reported that “Mr. Dickens here showed a remarkable and peculiar power. Old Scrooge seemed present; every muscle of his face, and every tone of his harsh and domineering voice revealed his character.”

Dickens’ final public appearance was a reading of A Christmas Carol. According to The Telegraph, he closed by saying, “From these garish lights, I vanish now for evermore, with a heartfelt, grateful, respectful, and affectionate farewell.” He raised his hands to his lips in an affectionate kiss, tears running down his face and exited. He died three months later at age 58, but has hardly vanished. The next time you hear a hearty “Merry Christmas!” or sit down to a Christmas dinner, thank him for the celebration of Christmas he revived in Victorian England that spread around the globe.

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!” – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Primary sources:

Best Waffle: The Lowry

I blogged about my visit to the The Lowry in July, but I have to post again. In my mind, the primary reason to go there for breakfast is to indulge in this:
peanut butter waffle

The Peanut Butter Waffle is the closest thing to culinary perfection that I have ever tasted. The light and tender waffle is served with crunchy Skippy, vanilla custard, and candied peanuts. Your first impulse is to skip adding the maple syrup, but that is a mistake; adding maple syrup to this delectable feast only enhances each of its flavors. It simply has to be the best waffle in Minneapolis.

I’ve been to The Lowry for breakfast several times since that first visit in July and while all of the food is spectacular, it’s the Peanut Butter Waffle that keeps me going back. I have introduced it to friends and watched their eyes widen in pleasure after that first tentative bite. Then they dig in with gusto, trying to isolate the secret to this wondrous waffle. Trust me. Try the Peanut Butter Waffle and let me know what you think.

Christmas Lights on Winter Walks

The title of this blog post feels dishonest because it doesn’t feel like winter in Minnesota at all. With temperatures in the 50s over the weekend, our snow has melted and the streets are a sloppy mess. Most people seem thrilled by this turn of events, I am not. I love the snow. I love  bundling up in my homemade knitwear, hearing the crunch of snow under my feet, and feeling like I have the  world to myself on cold winter days. I love the fresh blanket of white that changes the world and how my dog eats it whenever he gets a chance, like the world is his personal snow cone.

A holiday season without snow feels incomplete. Neighborhoods have been transformed with lights and decorations, but the holidays are missing a primary ingredient. While I wait for Santa to bring me some magic snow to make my holiday season brighter, I will continue enjoying the new world that Christmas lights have created for our evening walks. Hopefully Santa doesn’t wait too long to make my Christmas wish come true.

christmas lights

A Basic Baked Ziti Recipe

The Husband and I have been watching The Sopranos lately. Aside from being a brilliant show, each episode has one thing in common – amazing food. I decided to channel my inner Carmela Soprano and try my hand at a Baked Ziti recipe.

baked ziti

Carol’s Recipe for Baked Ziti from All Recipes was delicious. Super simple and full of basic ingredients, I’m sure that Carmela Soprano would shake her head in disappointment, but we loved it and have moved this recipe to my “Favorites” list. I halved the recipe and served with sauteed spinach and a ciabatta roll.

Here’s Carol’s recipe with my notes:

1 (16 ounce) package ziti pasta (our little grocery store didn’t have ziti so we used a penne style pasta)
1 egg, lightly beaten (I used a whole egg even though I halved the recipe)
1 (15 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 (28 ounce) jar meatless spaghetti sauce, divided (I used Newman’s Own Marinara)
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.

2. Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Stir in ziti pasta and return to a boil. Cook pasta, stirring occasionally, until cooked through but still firm to the bite, about 11 minutes; drain.

3. Combine egg, ricotta cheese, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese in a bowl. Spread 1/3 the spaghetti sauce in prepared baking dish. Top with 1/2 the pasta, 1/2 the ricotta mixture, 1/3 the spaghetti sauce, 1/2 the mozzarella cheese, and 1/2 the Parmesan cheese; repeat layers. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce and Parmesan cheese; cover baking dish with aluminum foil.

4. Bake in preheated oven until heated through, 45 to 50 minutes. I removed the aluminum foil halfway through the baking process so the cheese would get golden brown on top.

Does your television influence the food you eat?