My March Madness…

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

Augie Dogie

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…

MPIMN 3-19-14

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!


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!

Corned Beef

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? 🙂

Frank's Kraut

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!


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….


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!


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…


We had plenty of “coffee talk” time…


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



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.


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!

Veggie Pie

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….

Wine for Dummies

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!

IMG_7663 IMG_7676

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

Brine that bird Baby!


(the above picture was from my #summerofsalads post on Chicken salad but it’s a good representation of what your Brine will look like once you’ve placed in the bird)

Hey there!  It’s the week before the big feast and I am sure alot of you are starting to think about how you’ll prepare your bird this year.  I say Brine it first baby! 🙂

I started along the Brining path, this past year, in an effort to tenderize the little hens we were getting from our friends who’ve been raising chickens the past couple of years.  This summer, we still had a HUGE Turkey in the freezer from last Thanksgiving and I decided I wanted to try and Brine it before I Smoked it.  People, let me tell you….it was SO juicy and delicious!  And typically, I don’t really like Turkey!  Now, if you can Brine it and then Smoke it, great, but if not, it’s still going to be amazing!


(the above picture was also from my #summerofsalads post on Chicken salad)

I was at the grocery store over the weekend and saw a woman and her husband talking about Brining their Turkey.  The husband didn’t want to deal with it, but she had always wanted to.  I saw her in the next aisle and told her to do it!  I haven’t ever used a bag to do so (which is what they were looking at) and wouldn’t trust it not to break open, so I say, grab the biggest container you have and get at it!  If the temperatures are right, you can carefully leave the container (covered) in the garage for the Brining process.  Disclaimer:  just be sure the liquid stays cold enough the whole time, 38 degrees or less.  You don’t want to make everyone sick on Thanksgiving.

I did a little research for you; I use a big pickle bucket my hubby brought home from work and then place the whole thing in my garage fridge.  (do you have a neighbor with a garage fridge you could borrow a bit of space from?) You can purchase the same type of container, from Home Depot for less than $3.00!  Then you’ll have it for years to come, you can call it “Homers Brining Bucket” because trust me, once you Brine that bird, you’ll never go back! 🙂

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So, you’ll first need to thaw out your bird like you normally do….I like to Brine for at least 24 hours, so plan one extra day in the process.  Grab your big container and add the following to it:


(Makes one gallon of brine; you’ll probably need two at least…)

3 lemons, cut in half

1 cup kosher salt  (I used pickling salt the last time!)

3/4 cup brown sugar

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

3 (I used roasted) Jalapeños seeds removed

fresh herbs…sage, thyme, oregano, chives etc.

(if fresh is not available, use at least 1 tablespoon of dried basil, oregano & thyme)

1 gallon cold water

Mix everything up together, careful to dissolve the salt & sugar before adding your bird.  Remove your bird from the wrapper and take out the giblets.  (you can save them in a bowl in the fridge to add back into the bird if you want when you bake it)  Rinse the Turkey, inside & out.  Then carefully submerge the bird in the Brining liquid.  It may try to float back up on you, and if so, you can place a heavy sauce pan on top of it to keep it down under the water.  About halfways through the Brining period, grab a long utensil and stir the liquid around the bird.

Over the weekend, I saw a local news channel posted the process of Brining a bird and used a bit different ingredients in their Brine.  As of this blog post, they still haven’t posted the recipe, but you can watch the video here.

Snoopy Thanksgiving

Now we are at T-day; carefully remove the bird from it’s bath, and place inside a clean sink.  Rinse the entire thing with cold water to remove the salt water and excess herbs etc.  I’ve even seen suggestions to soak the bird in cold water for a half hour or so, to help remove some of the salt.  That way your gravy won’t be too salty.  Place into your roasting pan, and bake at 350 degrees, for approximately 3 hours.  Follow this process for a bird weighing 16-22 pounds.  After the first hour, baste regularly (every half hour or so) and once the breast meat has reached a temp of 165 degrees, take it out.  Be sure to let it rest before slicing into it.  If you feel, during the process, your skin is getting too dark, cover it with a bit of aluminum foil.  You can also start with it covered, say for the first hour, then remove it for the remaining time.  I didn’t talk about seasoning the bird, hoping that you’ll have that covered okay…but definitely reach out if you need some suggestions.

Braised Potatoes

Looking for a few different ideas of sides etc. to have with your feast?  Check out my post from last year; it contains some great ideas on twists & new classics.  Also, I recently became obsessed with braising Potatoes….what?!?! Yep, they totally rock!  If you want to divert from the traditional mashed potato action, try these.  I got the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen and you can find it here.  (you’ll have to register to gain access to the recipe, but it’s worth it, trust me!)

Wine Thanksgiving 2012

Please share this post with family & friends…I would be so “thankful” if you would!

I am hoping that you enjoy a delicious, relaxing holiday with those you love.  If you are headed out on Black Friday, be careful. 🙂

Cheers,  Shawn

Doing what you love, sometimes means…


Missing you…

Hey, hi there…have you missed me?

I didn’t mean to be away so long, but I’ve had to prioritize lately….

1.) Family, 2.) Real Estate, 3.) Social Media Consulting, 4.) Holiday Baskets…volunteer work…cats…eat….sleep…repeat…

B & W Barn

Yeah, it’s that time of the year.  The world switches into hyper-drive; what’s that about “falling back”?  Does that work for you?  Me, most days I feel like there’s not enough minutes in the day to get it all done.  But I’ve gotten really good at lists…and prioritizing…and not getting distracted.  It’s hard, with the majority of my businesses being online.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ ….all things I help my clients navigate through, all things I have to stay away from myself, for fear of falling down the rabbit hole and next thing I know, I’ve wasted an hour (or more!) of my life.  Do you feel this way somedays?  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do!  I wouldn’t change any of it, not for a minute!  Oh, expect for maybe getting to do more of this…cooking & sharing with you!  We LOVE this recipe and I hope you will too!  Oh and please forgive the crappy iPhone pictures…I had just barely enough time to take them at all!

Chicken & Cabbage Panade

So,  back when I was younger, alot, and without kids, and not married, I worked at the most wonderful Bed & Breakfast in the upper Midwest.  If you haven’t been, you must go….it’s called The Rosewood Inn, in Hastings, Minnesota.  I’ve stayed in many of the rooms, and cleaned all of them at one time or another.  When you work at a B & B, you end up doing many different tasks, something I’ve always enjoyed.  I learned to clean rooms (and almost every one of them had a fireplace-wood burning and a jacuzzi, so I got a really good at cleaning both!) do laundry, and not everyday, but many, I would find myself at the end of my shift, helping to prep the welcome snack (fresh baked cookies) and sometime’s the evening’s meals.  If my shift started early enough, I would get to make breakfast…and oh, how I loved those breakfast’s!!! Swiss Biscuit Eggs… Popover Pancakes…Minnesota Wild Rice Quiche…Caramel Apple Bread Pudding…oh my!

But dinner is where I fell in love, with the recipes that I still make today.  I learned my love of Spinach Salad with Strawberries, fresh Parmesan topped with a sweet & sour Poppy seed dressing.  I sautéed my first Shallots there…made my first ever Mushroom Pate which I placed gently inside my first ever Beef Wellingtons.  Oh. My. Gosh.  We used to make this crazy dish called Pasta Torte; it was a spaghetti dish, mixed with lots of other delicious things (herbs, cheese, including cottage cheese etc.) and baked in a springform pan.  I’ve never actually made it at home, but have the recipe if you want to give it a shot!  I just might have to now that I am thinking about it…give my pans another use besides cheesecake!

But let’s talk about this dish.  It’s a take on the French Onion Soup.  Baked at the Inn, in large soup tureens.  But it also has cabbage…lots of it…and carrots…and onions.  And Chicken and bread and cheese, oh my!  I’ve used fresh cut green cabbage and sometimes I’ve cheated and grabbed a bag or two of the Coleslaw mix you find in the salad section at the grocery store.  Here’s what you need:

Chicken Cabbage Panade:

Green Cabbage, diced as small as you like it

Carrots, thinly sliced

(or as stated above, grab a bag of coleslaw mix from the salad section at the grocery store!)

one medium yellow (sweet) onion, diced

2 tablespoons butter

2 +/- tablespoons of Olive Oil

Chicken…yes, whatever kind you want, however much you want!  (don’t freak out…the original recipe called for the meat off of one whole bone-in chicken breast, but if you’ve been following along this blog for awhile, you’ll remember that I prefer Thighs over Breasts, so I used two nicely sized Thighs, skin-on, that I baked, cooled, removed the meat from and chopped beforehand and oh yeah, I chopped up that crispy skin in small pieces and used that too!)

Loaf of French Bread, sliced and lightly toasted on both sides

Swiss Cheese, finely shredded, 1/2 cup +/-

Parmesan Cheese, finely shredded, 1/4 cup +/-

Chicken Stock/Broth, 3 cups +/-

salt, pepper, fresh chopped garlic

Saute Cabbage & Carrots-Add Chicken

Once you’ve chopped everything up, heat up a deep sauté pan, and add the butter & olive oil.  Once hot, add the onions and sauté until they start to turn translucent.  Then add the carrots.  Sauté this a bit, maybe five or so minutes and then add the cabbage.  I like to cook this awhile, until everything is tender.  It will cook a bit more in the oven, but I like most of the work to be done in the pan first.  Season with salt, pepper & chopped garlic.  Remove from heat.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toast Bread-Place one layer in bottom of Casserole dish

While you are sautéing the veggies, you can toast your bread, either in the toaster if you prefer, or placed on a pizza/cookie sheet and under the broiler.  Get both sides golden brown…this just helps to add flavor and keep the bread from getting too soggy and disintegrate in the dish.  Take a casserole dish and place a layer of toast in the bottom.

1st layer, top with bread, then cheese

On top of the first layer of toasts, add a layer of the cabbage/carrot/onion mixture.  Then another layer of toasts, and sprinkle some of both cheeses over this.

Finish layering, top with cheese, pour stock over

Continue this process, until you’ve reached the top of the casserole dish and hopefully run out of ingredients!  (oh, also, I like to be sure the very top has a couple pieces of toast, so they get topped with cheese)  Take the chicken stock/broth and pour slowly over the dish, attempting to get all of the dish somewhat saturated.  It shouldn’t be too “soupy” if that makes any sense.  You  want moisture, but not soupy…got it?  Pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.

After the first twenty minutes, carefully pull out and place more cheese on top, if you have any left….so you are making a second crispy layer of cheesy goodness! 🙂  Pop back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Plated Chicken & Cabbage Panade

You’ll know it’s done, when its bubbly and the cheese is a gorgeous golden color.  Remove from oven and let cool for ten minutes or so.  It will be easier to remove from the dish if you wait a bit.

Some of my other fall favorites I want to share with you…….

Are you looking for a new twist on the traditional Chili?  Then you have to try The Realistic Housewife’s Apple, Squash & Sausage Chili…  It’s SO good!

And if you haven’t had your fill of Pumpkin recipes yet, be sure to give Ambitious Kitchen’s Spicy Black Bean Chicken Enchiladas with a Pumpkin Sour Cream Sauce a whirl.  Fall with a Mexican spin!

Fall always gets me craving anything with (red) Cabbage and I blogged about Red Cabbage braised in Cider & Beer for one of my Beer for a Year posts last year.  More cabbage = fall deliciousness!

I am looking forward to trying these Crispy Risotto Balls with Truffle Honey this holiday season! I’ve pinned it to my “Small BitesPinterest Board, which has lots of other great “small bites” ideas!


The above picture is one I have on my Social Recipes Pinterest Board…it’s been repined over a hundred times!  I’d love to have you follow me on my Your Social Recipes blog as well!  I love pictures with quotes…

Well lovelies, until next time…not sure when that will be…but hopefully soon!

Cheers, Shawn

It’s Minnesota State Fair time…visiting with a farmer & more!

MN State Fair Logo

Hello food-lovin’ friends!  I have finally emerged from the “rabbit hole” this week (more on that later…) and am happy to celebrate the start of our beloved Minnesota State Fair!  And, as most of us can appreciate, the temperatures are making their way back up into the high 80’s & low 90’s just in time for the Fair!  Come on, you know you love the great Minnesota “sweat-together”…. the packed streets of the Fair when it’s hot & muggy….the constant barrage of smells from the food stands, mixing in with the earthy (= sweaty) farm animals, filling the air.  Corn dogs & Pronto Pups…mini donuts & funnel cakes…French fries & chocolate chip cookies in buckets (although not together…hmmm, but that might be good!!!)…fresh roasted Corn and more things on a stick, than, well, you can shake a stick at!  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself 🙂

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And of course, everyone is always excited when the New Fair Foods list is unveiled…this year, surprisingly there is only one thing on that list I am going to be sure to get; the Pork Belly Sliders at O’Gara’s…along with an order of Blarney Beans (above…can you guess what they are?) and likely a cold Finnegan’s at the same time!

Collins Family Farms logo

This year however, I have a couple new stops on my list of must do’s, and one of those is to meet up with a local farmer who will be at the Minnesota Farm Bureaus’s building, the day my family & I visit the Fair.  His name is Nathan Collins and along with his brother Sean, they operate Collins Family Farms, located in Murdock, Minnesota.  I love sharing little peeks into the lives of those I meet, and emailed Nathan a few questions I thought my readers would like to know more about.  He very quickly agreed, and provided me with some really great insight & honestly, into all things Minnesota family farming.  Here’s our interview:

Me:  How long have you been on (working) the farm and was it something you always (knew) wanted to do?
Nathan:  I grew up on the site where the farm is currently located. I did not have a passion for the farm growing up but came to appreciate what it offered when I was in college and decided at that time to go home and farm.   I have been farming now for 10 years with my brother and our family .
Me:  On your website, the farm is referred to as a “family owned, cash crop operation” can you tell me what that means?
Nathan:  My brother and I own the farm and we raise crops, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and cattle, that we sell on the open market. My brother and I operate the farm but it is a true family business as other siblings and parents are also involved.
Me:  Tell me a bit about what you grow/raise….
Nathan:  On our farm we raise corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and cattle. The corn and soybeans are sold locally and then shipped to other markets. The corn is sold to ethanol plants, feedlots, a local dairy and foreign markets. The cattle we have are used for breeding and the meat market.  The sugar beets are sent to the cooperative where they’re converted into sugar and other byproducts that are used to feed cattle and other livestock.
Me:  Tell me something you want my readers to know about Collins Family Farm…
Nathan:  We are a family run farm that is very committed to promoting agriculture while growing our business to provide a future for the next generations to come . Farmers are some of the best conservationist in the world because we need the land to live on. Therefore we take the best care of everything we have because our life depends on it.
Me:  There’s all this talk about GMO’s and for the average home cook, it’s hard to wrap your head around that and make educated decisions regarding the food we buy for our families.  Can you simplify that for us and tell us where you stand on it?
Nathan:  GMO’s have been around for centuries. If it were not for GMO’s there be a lot of starving people in this world. They have allowed us to produce more with less and that is a very common theme you’ll find with most any farm. I also would not grow anything that I would not feed to my own children. They enjoy walking through the fields with me as do my brothers children. There is no way we would grow anything that would harm them. Since I have started farming we have produced more with less year after year and will continue to do the same to provide the lowest priced high quality food of anywhere in the world.
Unloading Cows-Collins Family Farms
Nathan:  If you look on our About Us page on the website you’ll see our mission statement. We are committed to God and our family. We feel very blessed to be able to raise our children in the best place on earth, teach them work ethic and provide a living for ourselves and those that work with us on the farm everyday. I haven’t worked a day in 10 years because I love what I do and have a passion to provide and enhance the business of Agriculture to those in the general public.
Me:  Thank you Nathan for letting us get to know you & your family farm!  I look forward to meeting you on Tuesday, August 27th, at the Fair!
Side note:  if you are interested in learning more about GMO’s you can visit a new website dedicated to answering questions about just that:
MN Farm Bureau at the Fair
In addition to being able to meet Nathan and other great Minnesota Farmers, the MN Farm Bureau is excited to announce the return of the Ag Cab Lab Virtual Tractor and Combine!  
The Minnesota Farm Bureau (MFB) Foundation has brought back the chance to virtually cultivate, plant and harvest a field at the Minnesota State Fair with the Ag Cab Lab. The Ag Cab Lab – Combine is located in the Farm Bureau building and the Ag Cab Lab – Tractor is located in the CHS Miracle of Birth Center, giving kids and adults two chances to sit inside a real tractor or combine cab and learn about farming today.  Both the CHS Miracle of Birth Center and the Farm Bureau building are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for kids and adults to visit the Ag Cab Lab during the 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair, August 22-September 2.
Whistling Well Farm Levi's Lost Calf
And also exciting for the kiddos is The Great Minnesota Book Bonanza!  It’s a free activity for kids, (held weekdays) where Minnesota children’s book authors will read at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm in the Minnesota Farm Bureau building.  Great books include:  Levi’s Lost Calf  will be featured on August 22nd and 23rd, Emmy of Whistling Well Farm will be featured the 27th and 28th and If I Were a Farmer is on the 29th and 30th.  They are hoping to have a few readings of Little House on the Prairie mixed in as well.  Be sure to “like” Minnesota Farmers CARE on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all the happenings at the Fair!
As always, thanks for reading along and if you see me at the Fair, be sure to say hello!  And I will share a little peek into what’s been happening in my life real soon, I promise!

Where have I been…?

Dad's 70th

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.


photo2 photo

(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.



Declaration reading

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? 🙂

Watermelon Mojitos Malibu Black Mojitos

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!


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.)

Gorgeous painting... DSCN5520IMG_9934IMG_9906

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…


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!


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!


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.”

ginger beer photo

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