Life is busy…

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It’s been just over a year since I last wrote here…that’s terrible!  2016 was a business & family focused year…and honestly, I’ve missed playing with my food!  😜 I didn’t spend much time trying new recipes either, but instead just kept plugging along with our usual favorites.  Sometimes that’s just the easiest route, you know?  This year however, I have decided we need to thin out the freezer storage, so I have been making inventory lists and planning out our meals in advance.  That can be somewhat tricky, because you have to make sure someone is checking that calendar BEFORE you head to the grocery store!  And you know, sometimes you just don’t feel like what you had planned for that night, so the plan gets ditched.  But the last time I looked at our deep freeze, I could actually see parts of the bottom, so we have definitely made some progress!

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One of the things I really want to start doing is cooking from the cookbooks crowding my shelves at home.  Last year I added too many to that collection, with great finds at the thrift store, etc.  Who can resist a bag of cookbooks for $3.00!?  So I may implement a day once or twice a month where we pick something from a cookbook and give it a try.  Then I can share it here with you! Win-win!

2017 dawned as the year I would FINALLY lose those 15 stupid pounds I have been dragging around with me since my babies were born.  I decided in December that I needed to stop convincing myself I “wasn’t a runner” and just give it a try.  We have a treadmill just collecting dust, like many of you I am sure!  So, I started slow…and am still taking it slow, but I am trying to at least run five days a week, for a minimum of 30 minutes each time. Now, don’t be thinking I am running that whole time…oh no, I am not there yet.  I walk a bit in between but try to run as long as I can go.  My goal is a 5K in April, so if I can at least get myself to be able to run that far without keeling over, I will feel successful!

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I have also stopped drinking alcohol. during the week and cut way back on my carb intake.  I thought both of those would be hard to do, but it’s been a lot easier than I thought it would be.  The cutting back on carbs is easy, because I have always enjoyed protein, so I just make sure I am getting enough of that and I don’t feel deprived. The no-vino part…well, it depends on the day.  lol!  So far I have lost about five pounds, so for a bit over a month, that’s pretty good.  And helps to keep me encouraged and motivated.  I can’t wait until I can run outside…treadmill running is so boring!!! And I really think I will be able to lose the final amount quickly at that point.

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Are you starting to make your menu for the “Big Game” this coming Sunday? I have come across a few things we might try this year.  We’ll have the usual Chicken Wings, because my son can’t live without those. And I am ALWAYS craving Chicken Nachos…so there’s that.  But I did come across this recipe collection and these Loaded Nacho Skins look pretty delish, right?!  And I shared these adorable Baby Blooming Onions on Facebook today…wouldn’t they be fun to make?!  I will have to run for like an hour that morning just to counter-balance the calories I am sure I will be ingesting! But a little splurge now and then is a-okay!  All good things in moderation! 😍

I promise to not stay away so long next time…until then, Cheers! ❤️

 

 

Silver linings…

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Once upon a time, there was a girl that really didn’t know how to cook.  She met a boy, who did and decided she wanted to try to impress him, with her cooking prowess. She failed, miserably.

Read on…

As a kid, I learned how to “feed” myself & my little brother, out of necessity basically.  My Mom was a nurse and would often works nights and long shifts.  We did a lot of fending for ourselves.  Mac & Cheese was a staple, as was Chicken Noodle & Tomato soup.  And scrambled eggs.  I remember the day my Mom bought us a electric griddle and I learned how to make really super cheesy grilled cheese sandwiches.  I was even able to make Sloppy Joes in that thing!  And Hamburgers…that I sometimes covered with the Chicken Noodle soup.  Don’t knock it until you try it! Yeah, I know, very gourmet. To this day however, nothing says comfort to me, than a big bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese. Oh and I could make perfect Chocolate Chip cookies!  At least they were perfect to me.  And they are still one of my favorite things to make! ❤

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Fast forward a decade or so and I met my future husband.  He grew up around many fantastic family cooks, spending weekends with his grandparents cooking & gardening. His food career began at the ripe age of 15 working in the kitchen of a neighborhood restaurant, just about an hour outside of Philadelphia.  One day, a couple of years after we had been dating, I decided I wanted to make something really special for dinner.  By now my cooking skills had improved slightly. I could make pasta, rice, potatoes… you know all the good cheap carbs a busy young girl could whip up, quick & easy.  I loved me anything you could make from a box, as well.  You know the ones, Pasta Roni, Rice-a-Roni, and yes…even Hamburger Helper.  How did I ever survive those days! 🙂

I don’t even know where I found this recipe, but it just sounded so “gourmet” and delicious.  I wanted to prove to myself, that I could make something really great.  Maybe I was also trying to win his permanent affection.  Good thing I didn’t place too much stock on that first “gourmet” meal.  It didn’t end well…the dinner, that is.

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The recipe was called “Vegetable Stuffed Cannelloni with a Sherry Cream Sauce”… or something like that.  I did find a recipe on Epicurious that was very similar.  The original recipe was destroyed…on purpose…after the failed meal.  You can see that recipe here.

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I went shopping for ingredients, some of which I had never bought before (eggplant, zucchini) and then spent hours (or at least it felt that way) chopping, cooking and prepping the meal.  Carefully stuffed the pasta…poured that insanely delicious cream sauce over the whole bit and popped it into the oven.  I had some leftover sauce in a pan on the stove, that I saved in case I needed more once it was done baking.  Once the timer on the oven went off, I carefully removed that bubbling, incredible smelling masterpiece and placed it on the stove top…on the burner that was keeping that leftover sauce warm.

Those of you that have been through this kind of nightmare before, you probably know exactly where I am going…  Within seconds, the entire glass baking dish, containing that masterpiece I had spent most of the day toiling over, exploded into tiny shards of glass, all over my stovetop, counters and kitchen floor.  I was both shocked & scared and didn’t know what to do, other than fall to ground and proceed to cry like a three year old.  Apparently, you aren’t supposed to put any glass baking dishes on direct heat sources.  It was insane.  There wasn’t even one spoonful we could salvage, for just a bite to see how it tasted! 😦

My sweet future husband just crouched down next to me, telling me it was okay, that I meant well and it was just an accident.  I was devastated.  I didn’t cook anything “gourmet” for quite some time after that.

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Fast forward to about a month ago, I saw a post on Instagram from Dana Cowin, the Editor of Food & Wine magazine, promoting her new cookbook, “Mastering My Mistakes In The Kitchen”.  She was asking for people to share their biggest kitchen fail and of course, I had to share this story.  I have thought about that dish many times since, and have learned to become a much better cook…not to mention, learning that very hard lesson, that you should not EVER put a glass baking on anything hot or cold!

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A day or so later, I see a notification that I won a copy of her new cookbook!  My sad story has a silver lining!  As I sat there, excited for my luck, I thought “Shawn, you should find that recipe and make it again!”  And, this time, make it with Homemade Ricotta cheese…if you haven’t made that yet, DO IT!  SO creamy & insanely delicious!

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My hubby is returning from another fabulous work trip, this time to Brazil, so I thought I would make this for his welcome home meal.  I am also excited to start cooking from Dana Cowin’s new cookbook.  I plan to try the recipe for Sweet Potato, Coconut + Five Spice Gratin and the Chili of Forgiveness.  Oh and the Halibut with Red Coconut Curry. And the Pimento-Cheese Grits…and possibly the Pear + Brown Sugar Upside-Down Cake.  Oh my! ❤

This was a fun post…reminicing about my food journey!  I’ve come along way!  Do you have a similar kitchen failure story?  I would love to hear about it!

Until next time, Cheers! ~Shawn

 

Summer Favorites…

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Hello lovelies!  I’ve missed you!  I have been busy with Real Estate and with the end of the school year, which for some reason, is always nuts.  Is it that way at your house?  It’s the last week of school here, and for one kid, it’s all play…the other kid, all tests!

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After the Winter that we had, Spring finally arrived with brilliant blue skies & delicate blossoms everywhere!  Things heated up quick, making the need for Summer to arrive, stronger than ever!  I actually love having the kids home in the Summer.  I know alot of parents dread the break, but for me, I enjoy it, because I get to spend more time, especially time not rushed, with my kids.  Hanging out on the hammock, going to the beach & the park…hiking, biking, camping and just slowing things down.

Gets me thinking about all the things I love about Summer!

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Fresh Herbs and the Garden springing to life!

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Summer salads of all kinds…my favs…fresh Caprese…Roasted Beet salad with Goat Cheese, fresh Chives & a Balsamic syrup (Trader Joe’s-get yourself some quick!).

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Mojitos & Margarita’s of many flavors…Sangria, Pisco Lemonade (with fresh Basil!), Sun Tea…and cold, crisp Wine on hot days!

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Garden harvesting!

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Grilled anything! (yes, that’s Watermelon…try it!)

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Zucchini everything!

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And probably every Minnesotan’s favorite…SWEET CORN!

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Oh and more cold drinks… 🙂

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What are some of your favorite Summer delights?

So here’s to hoping the week will go by fast, the Sun will stay out and you’ll get lots of your version of “hammock time” in soon! I am going to try and add more posts over the Summer to my “Summer of Salads” and “Summer Sippers” series, so stay tuned for that!  Until then, ❤ ~Shawn

 

My March Madness…

Happy Spring foodie friends!  Yes, I know, if you live in Minnesota, it isn’t feeling much like it yet…

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Even Augie says “I’m outta here!”   You know it’s been bad when the cats want to migrate south….

It’s been a crazy ‘mad’ month for me… the hubby flew out of town twice this month…it’s tax time, as you know…which always makes me a little psychotic!

Oh and this is happening at the end of the month…

Store closing announcement!

Yep, ten+ years of basket-making, all coming to an end on March 31st.  Don’t be sad for me; in fact, that reaction is so strange to me!  I am THRILLED and excited and optimistic and THANKFUL that I have been able to do it for so long!  Last year, after getting my license as a Realtor® I decided the time had come, to say goodbye to that chapter and to move on to the next!  I am totally loving Real Estate and decided it was time to devote my full attention to it.  Now, if the snow would just melt already…

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I have had a little fun this month; one of the association’s I am on the board of, MPI MN, hosted it’s monthly lunch meeting at the Hilton Minneapolis-Bloomington last week and the lunch was amazing!  The room was a gorgeous Spring setting, the meal was completely gluten, dairy & nut free!  The dessert was my favorite…Coconut & Kiwi Panna Cotta…oh my!  It is quite the challenge to undertake, for an entire meal and they killed it!  They brought their A-game, just when they needed to, for a crowd full of Meeting Planners who, I bet, will be looking to book events there very soon!  But my favorite part, was a video the hotel had made, a parody on one of my favorite songs “Don’t Stop Believing”…I will edit this post and include a link to it when I get access to it.  It was GREAT!  I love it when organizations think totally outside the box for getting their message out into the noisy world.  And people, if you haven’t figured it out yet, VIDEO IS KING in marketing right now!

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As you know, the other big fun in the month of March is St. Patrick’s Day.  I am Irish, yes, so I feel obligated to join in the fun, although I will admit to not having a green beer for quite some time, happily.  And yes, I know, Rueben’s are not necessarily eaten in Ireland, but it’s the tradition my family loves.  The first day, we have our Corned Beef, Cabbage, Carrots & Potatoes…it’s really hard not to polish off the entire hunk of meat!  Day two, brings the Rueben…ahhh, I just love this sandwich!

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The hubby has to help me slice it thin…he’s way better at that then I am!  And I love watching him cut things…is that weird? 🙂

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Oh, and don’t skimp on good Kraut.  Frank’s is always the one we grab…not just for Rueben’s, but for Hunkie Ribs as well.

Homemade 1000 Island Dressing

I also like to make my own 1000 Island Dressing.  We hardly ever eat that kind of dressing, so if we buy it, it literally will sit in the fridge for an entire year.  Gross.  Making your own is SUPER easy, and you probably have all the ingredients on hand.

Homemade 1000 Island Dressing:

1/4 c. Mayo

1 T. Ketchup

Splash of Worchestshire Sauce

Pickles, chopped (as small as you want)

1/2 t. Sugar (or more to taste)

Optional:  dijon mustard, garlic powder, salt & pepper

Mix all ingredients together and adjust to taste.  We also make the Rueben’s and then put the dressing on the side…just easier to eat that way.  This time, we decided to have Onion Rings with our Rueben’s 🙂  They were Alexia brand, and SUPER tasty!

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As I write this, the birds are heavily chirping away in my backyard.  I hope it’s a sun-chant.  Poor things, they have got to wonder what is going on!  The weather forecast calls for warmer temps by the weekend…keeping my fingers crossed for that!  Think Spring – Think Spring – Think Spring!

See you next time lovelies!

❤ Shawn

Christmas past….

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What the heck happened to January?  Although, with the craziness happening in my family & the weather issues we’ve had this month, it feels like it was three months long.  I once again fell off the blogging train, not being here since Thanksgiving, and am sorry for that.  As per usual, one of my goals this year is to post more often…we will see how that goes!  This post, is more about fun & memories, than food & recipes…but there is always food in our memories, so I guess it’s all of the above!

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After another crazy busy holiday basket season, we decided that we would take a surprise trip out East, to see my husbands side of the family for Christmas.  We only told one person, everyone else, we just surprised.  It was great, but in hindsight, we should have told a couple more people, just so we could have seen everyone and spent more time with others…

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We had plenty of “coffee talk” time…

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And we were able to help prep for the big feast on Christmas Eve…we are “shrimpin” in the above pic…

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And that big feast…oh there was a little of everything….Shrimps done three ways, Baccala, Scallops & other fish dishes, Minaste, white spaghetti’s & spaghetti with sausages, appetizers & dips, a giant pan of ridiculously awesome potatoes that were perfect with the Prime Rib, which was in the other room…  Over thirty people, eating, drinking, having a perfect Christmas Eve!

We even brought a little snow out for everyone…beautiful isn’t it?

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(photo above courtesy of Visit Philadelphia)

There are certain requirements food-wise, for us when we visit our family out East.  Dunkin’ Donuts (but did you hear, they are coming to Minnesota!) & Wawa… but number one of the list; Cheesesteaks & Hoagies…from Ice House in Pottstown.  One year we went out East and did a little taste test between the two most famous Cheesesteak places in Philly, Pat’s & Geno’s.  We had a favorite between those two, but hands down, Ice House, is the place to go for a great Cheesesteaks & Hoagies.  Like em’ on Facebook here to see all the deliciousness that happens in their joint.

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Second food requirement on our list; Tomato Pie.  People, this is the stuff.  Served at room temperature, it’s not pizza, but a soft crust, topped with a tomato (paste almost consistency) sauce and Romano cheese…It’s addictive and so delicious.  The only place to get them is Corropolese (we went to the location in Douglassville).  They have them stacked up, ready to go, and they go.  We went in to get bread for the big feast and the lines were incredible!  I chatted with some of the other people in line and they come from counties around for the bread & Tomato pie.  It’s that good!

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They make other versions too, and this time we tried a Sweet Pepper Pie as well.  It was really good, but my heart lies with Tomato Pie.  Now, if I could just figure out how to make it at home….

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There were so many other great memories that week, that this post would be twenty pages long if I went on about them all.  Of course we visited the local wine shop when we first got in…and this wine caught my eye.  Have you seen this anywhere?  I tell you what, just about anybody can make wine nowadays, can’t they….and no, I didn’t buy any.  🙂

This last day of January, is also the Chinese New Year, year of the Horse.  There are some pretty interesting predictions for the year…read them here if you are curious!

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I made these beautiful cookies last year for the Chinese New Year and kicked myself last night when I realized it was today…hmmm…maybe I have everything to make at least one of the recipes…

Are you watching the ‘big game‘ this weekend?  We are, but not really rooting for either team…but the kids want to eat like we are having a party, so we’ll try a few things like this recipe for Chicken Ranch Nachos, um yes!  And my son would love this Pizza Nachos recipe.  Or this recipe for Artichoke & Asiago Poppers …or maybe even these adorable individual Seven-Layer Dips….I love these kid friendly Mini Corn Dogs and my kids would love these Coconut Crunch Chicken Strips with creamy Honey-Mango dipping sauce.  The possibilities are ENDLESS!

What are you making?

Thanks for reading along, stay warm my Minnesota friends and have a great weekend!

Cheers, Shawn

Where have I been…?

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Hello lovelies!

I am SO sorry I’ve been away…fallen off the blogging train…but I have really good reasons why, the biggest of which I can’t share with you yet!  It’s a big Career/Life change for me and I have to wait until the timing is right, to share/announce it to the world, so I hope you’ll hang in there on that!  And I know I promised you a summer filled with “sippers” and salads…and sadly, I had to put that on the back burner for now.  Hopefully I will get to share at least a couple more posts, with some of the salads & sippers I have enjoyed over the summer, so stay tuned and thank you for your understanding!

But aside from that, I have also been busy with family stuff…my Dad turned 70 last week and we had an intimate little gathering at his new house, not too far from where I live.  My family life is complicated (isn’t everyone’s?) and with that said, the nicest part of his celebration was having ALL five of his children (two of which flew in from Portland – all from three different marriages – ranging in age 7 up to 45…there’s the complicated part!) here to celebrate with him!  He said it was one of the best times of his life, so I know we did a good job!  My Dad is a pretty simple guy, he loves to eat (something we obviously have in common!) he loves to relax & listen to music, and when asked what he wanted for his birthday, his response was pajamas!

And a band…and a keg…and cake.

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(sorry about the bad picture quality…it was getting dark & I didn’t want to blind him with my flash!)

I found my Dad some fun pj’s, as he wished, with super heroes on them. I thought it was  appropriate for all he’s been going through lately.  And how fun is for him to feel like Superman when he’s 70?!?!  🙂  One of the best parts of the evening, besides the ridiculous (as in good) cake he made me make him…(it was a homemade chocolate cake-which you’ll never believe, I’ve never made before) was the entertainment my Dad hired himself. (see above) His name is Loren Wolfe and you have to consider him for your next event!  He does a lot of music from Willie Nelson & Johnny Cash, two of my Dads favorites.  We had a very small group, so he just set himself up on a bar stool and sang whatever we asked him to!  He changed into different costumes throughout the night as well!  It was a perfect thing for our small group and something my Dad will never forget!  Thank you Loren! ❤

The cake

Oh, and that first-time-ever-made cake…it also had homemade chocolate fudge frosting, you know, the kind you cook and it hardens after you’ve frosted the cake.  But he just didn’t want that particular frosting, it also had to be a minimum of an inch thick!  Let’s just say, the cake was amazing, but we all groaned afterwards from the sweetness of it all!  And, I think he’s put on five pounds in the past week just trying to finish it before it goes bad!  If you are interested in the cake recipe, you can find it here.  The frosting is a keeper and both of my kids favorite part.  You can find the frosting recipe here.

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Hiking

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Beyond the birthday boys celebration, we’ve tried to grab ahold of summer as tight as we can and enjoy every beautiful summer day, of which we’ve been blessed with many, this summer.  We’ve done tons of hiking, exploring the gorgeous Minnesota State Parks we are fortunate to live close to.  I’ve grilled & smoked as often as possible and have discovered a few new favorite dishes I hope to share soon.  (like Watermelon Pickles!) And I think I figured out what the heck I’ve been doing wrong with my fresh Ricotta cheese…sorry to those I’ve had to practice on.

Watermelon Pickles

Oh and a few cocktails have been had…can you say Watermelon & Malibu Black Mojitos? 🙂

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We spent a fun day watching our local parade for the 4th of July, just before that, got to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and than after, grilling out with family and sneaking off the watch the fireworks in a favorite spot.  Things have started to cool off a bit, which I am kind of bummed about…there’s just something about the hot, hot heat…the kind that heats you to your core, that I love about summer.  Our garden has been kicking out kale, radishes, beets, yellow beans, and zucchini.  With this colder weather, I am worried about our tomatoes, peppers and so far, it looks like we’ll actually get Fennel & Corn this year!  I am not ready for jeans & sweatshirt weather, so get it together Mother Nature!

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Okay, some other exciting news……

I’ve been approached lately, asking to volunteer on some really great events, most of which I’ve had to say no, for now.  With all that I am juggling, I just don’t think I can do the job right, so sadly, I’ve passed on some really fun things!  One of those, was to help judge the Uptown Art Fair’s Culinary Arts Competition again this year.  It’s happening right now, this weekend and if you’ve never been, GO!  Lot’s of my Fortify friends will be there, so be sure to stop and say hi to those lucky food bloggers, photographers & media peeps helping crown another champion this year!  You can read more about my adventure from last year here.  (oh & in case you are wondering, the picture is Chocolate-Beer Risotto…with grapes…yep.)

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One opportunity I just couldn’t pass up, was to work with the Minnesota Farm Bureau in helping to spread the word about some of the exciting things that will be happening at the Minnesota State Fair this year.  Briefly, there will be live author readings and everyday from 9:00am-9:00pm. They will have Minnesota farmers from across the state available to answer questions consumers may have regarding farm life and food topics. There will also be the Ag Cab Lab–which gives kids the opportunity to sit in a real combine and virtually drive the equipment!

Minnesota CARE

Be sure to “like” the Minnesota Farmers CARE Facebook Page and stay tuned here on my blog, for more information as we lead up to the “Great Minnesota Get-Together”!

Next post coming at you soon……until then, have a great weekend food-lovin’ friends!

Cheers, Shawn

Summer Sippers, Beer…

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What’s more American than Beer? Okay, well maybe not…

According to Wikipedia, “Ale is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to at least the 5th millennium BC and recorded in the written history of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.  Beer was part of the daily diet of Egyptian Pharaohs over 5,000 years ago. Then, it was made from baked barley bread, and was also used in religious practices.  Beer was one of the most common drinks during the Middle Ages.  Today, the brewing industry is a huge global business, consisting of several multinational companies, and many thousands of smaller producers ranging from brewpubs to regional breweries.”

But we American’s do love a frosty cold one, on a hot summer’s day, don’t we?!?!  I’m usually a wine girl myself but lately we’ve been drinking more beer…helping to beat the heat wave that is slightly giving us a reprieve this week.  All in time for the 4th of July!  So I thought what a better time to highlight cocktails made with beer than this week!

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Surprisingly, this post was harder to do than expected…we need more cocktails made with beer people!  Although, as I said before, not much is better on a hot summer’s day, then a cold frosty one, noting the picture above, it was a hot day and these Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss were floating in an icy cold bath!  I originally planned on sharing a recipe for a Dark & Stormy, but as you’ll read below…it’s not really a beer cocktail!  So, sadly I didn’t have time to do a separate recipe myself this week.  I wanted to be able to get this out before the 4th of July this week!

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I did however find this GREAT recipe for Dad’s Killer Beergarita’s, as shown in the picture above, and being an Iowa girl myself, I can totally get behind this drink!  Be sure to visit Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats for the recipe and 25 Fresh 4th of July recipes!  I am loving her blog!

As I said before, I had planned on making a Dark & Stormy for you this week, as I have been dreaming about it for quite some time!  So I was surprised to learn that Ginger Beer isn’t actually Beer, and thought about not including it here in this post, but it’s so prevalent when you search for “cocktails made with beer” that I wanted to include it, but giving you the information that I learned along the way…

Wikipedia noted on this page that “The ginger beer soft drink may be mixed with beer (usually a British ale of some sort) to make one type of shandy, or with dark rum to make a drink, originally from Bermuda, called a Dark ‘N’ Stormy. It is the main ingredient in the Moscow Mule cocktail (although in some cases ginger ale is used as an alternative, where ginger beer is not available). Another variation is a mix of three bar shots of Canadian (rye) whisky to four parts Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger beer, to make a cocktail called The Angry Teacher. This drink originated in Canada in the early twenty-first century.”

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So there.  You’ve been schooled in Ginger Beer! 🙂

If you want to try one for yourself, this one from Nutmeg Nanny includes a Lime Bitters and looks delish!  She’s also got her own series going, The Boozy Days of Summer with some great cocktail ideas!

The Irish in me loves a Guinness and the thought of putting anything other than another Irish beer to make a Black & Tan, into it, makes me feel like I am violating the Irish rule of beer drinking…but this Pineapple Mint Beer Cocktail made with Guinness by Food Fashion and Fun looks ridiculous!

Here is a link to a couple of beer drink ideas, the Briar Patch and the White Plume both from the Chilled Magazine site.

One thing I am constantly craving is a good Bloody Mary, (you know, the kind with a meat stick, cheese, olives…a salad on the side almost!) and this Michelada on Food52 looks just as delicious without the fuss of a beer on the side!  This post also walks you through the process of making it!

And oh, this Pear Ginger Beer Cocktail and the pictures that go with the post on Use Real Butter looks SO delish!

Wishing you & yours a wonderful, hot eats, cool drinks and a safe & happy 4th of July!

Cheers, Shawn