Where’s Waldo?

Where's Wally scene

A favorite book series to many, the story of Waldo (known to the rest of the world as “Wally”), lost in a sea of people & things.  Your challenge, is to find him.  Always dressed in a red & white striped shirt, with goofy glasses & hat.  Can you find him?

I’ve been feeling a bit like Waldo this past month.  This time of year always kicks my a**.  It’s the end of the school year and I am gearing up for a manageable summer with the kids & two jobs.  It’s a juggling act for three months, but, I am looking forward to spending more time with my kids.  Last summer, I was still working at the hotel so they were on their own for the better part of the day, four days a week.  It broke my heart everyday, leaving them.  I want to get them out this summer; to the park, museums, the beach etc. but know I have to balance that with work.  And this blog!  I am super excited to share my two summer blog series with you; “Summer of Salads” #summerofsalads & “Summer Sippers” #summersippers, hopefully both will begin this week!  Today, I just wanted to share some delicious & fun things I have squeezed in the past month or so.  Enjoy!

Tucci Benecch  Homemade Ricotta in the making!

Homemade Ricotta with Balsamic Syrup  Chef Donald & Chef J.D.

Oh my gosh, people, have you ever made your own Ricotta Cheese?  It’s ridiculous!!!!  Both in taste & ease!  (see top right pic) I’ve been seeing posts for the past year about homemade Ricotta cheese and kept telling myself to try it.  Then one night, after watching Chef Donald Gonzalez (shown bottom row, right, with JD Fratzke of the Strip Club in St. Paul) from Forepaugh’s Restaurant, (owned by the company my hubby works for, Taher Inc.) win the Minnesota Monthly Local Chef Challenge (and the $10k prize!), we decided to get dinner at our favorite MOA restaurant, Tucci Benucch.  We had this Ricotta cheese appetizer that was TO DIE FOR.  (see pic top left) It had lemon & fried Rosemary (um, yum!) and was served with these delicious little toast points.  Sadly, it was a seasonal appetizer, so don’t get mad at me when you go and they don’t have it.  But keep an eye out for it and be sure to go on a Sunday or Monday night, for  half-priced bottles of wine!  Yea!  And then go home and make your own Ricotta cheese!  Do you want me to post a recipe/how-to on it?  It’s super easy, but I certainly can, along with some great ideas of how to use your fresh Ricotta.  Tell me in the comments below!

Hummus!  Hummus Kawarma2

Speaking of my husbands employer, every year, they send the Taher Chef Council, (a group of chefs from within the company) on a trip somewhere in the world.  Yes, he’s very lucky, and no, I don’t get to go along.  This year was Jerusalem and he came back eager to make Hummus & this incredible dish shown on the right, Hummus Kawarma.  O M G…make it!!!  Find the recipe in the cookbook Jerusalem.  I checked out a copy at my local library but you can buy one here on Amazon.  Do you like to make your own Hummus?

Treats from Cat  Cat Cora cooking demo

And speaking of chefs, I was excited to meet Iron Chef Cat Cora at Byerly’s earlier this month.  (she was so tiny & awesome!) I joined my blogging lovelies, Kate from Kate in the Kitchen and Rachel and her very own adorable Cora, from The Realistic Housewife. Chef Cora did a cooking demo, highlighting her new product line called Cat Cora’s Kitchen.  Hey Byerly’s, where’s that recipe for her Olive Oil cake?  I did bring home some of her olive tapenade, in addition to her new cookbook and had that one day on my homemade Ricotta, obviously. (see picture above with Ricotta) YUM!  🙂

Stuffing for Pork Chops  Stuffed Pork Chops

I have been obsessing about Pine Nuts lately.  Yeah, why can’t it be with a less expensive nut…anyway, I’ve been bored with our typical Pork Chop preparations lately so one day, I decided to stuff them.  The recipe has herbs, cheese, zest, garlic, pine nuts & golden raisins in it, and was from Fine Cooking.  You can find the recipe here.  Have a good Pork Chop recipe?  Share it below!

Chai BellaVitano  Radisson Blu Social Media event  Turkey Tetrazzini

A few other random fun things…I finally found the Chai BellaVitano cheese from Sartori.  I LOVE Sartori cheeses, especially the BellaVitano line and this one was as good as the rest!  A new food blogger friend Chris,  who writes the blog, Wedge in the Round,  just returned from cheese-making with Sartori.  LUCKY!  Read about his adventure here.  My favorite Sartori cheese is a tie between the MontAmoré and the Espresso BellaVitano, but this Chai variety had such a great flavor of the spice blends in Chai.  Find it!  Try it!  Also shown above, some delicious nosh I enjoyed at the Radisson Blu Mall of America recently.  I was invited to attend a Social Media special event there and in addition to the delicious food & drinks.  Those little new potatoes were stuffed with creme fraiche and topped with caviar!  I was also given a great tour of this incredible new hotel.  The rooms are amazing & they even have a salt water pool!  I am staying there at the end of the month, for my first board retreat with MPI MN.  Can’t wait!  And last, I made Turkey (Mushroom) Tetrazzini.  Yep.  Never made it before.  Super easy, super delish!

Bacon Pancakes!

And last, I made Bacon Pancakes on Mother’s day.  With chocolate chips.  For myself.  Then later, the hubby made me Eggs Benedict for dinner.  It was all about breakfast that day!  YUM!  If you are a Mom, I hope you had a delicious day as well.  My kids made me the CUTEST things as well.  I have to share!

Dominic - Mother's Day 2013

This was from my son…please note that I am “Fabulous” and that he likes my hair because “it’s curly & fresh” OMG, I died!

Gabby - Mother's Day 2013

And my daughter made me a video, which I posted on my Vine account.  You can watch here.  Again, the cuteness!

Until next time,

Cheers!  Shawn

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Last minute Thanksgiving favorites…

Well, I don’t know about you, but good ol’ Turkey day sure snuck up on me!  It’s not a stressful holiday for me, but it’s more of a final breathing point.  I try to remember to relax…breathe…enjoy.  After that, it’s all baskets & shred & bubble wrap…oh my!  I am hoping this year’s holiday orders are off the hook!  If you are interested, check out my Holiday Gift collection & let me know if I can help you this holiday season!

Okay, enough self promotion!  We typically spend the day at my brother & sister-in-law’s house, and I am usually charged with bringing one of my delicious Cheesecakes!  But that does leave me missing some of my favorites side dishes…and this year’s Thanksgiving recipe suggestions from friends & favorite sites, has left me drooling and thinking that for Christmas, I just might make a bunch of sides and skip the big main course!

So, if you haven’t made your final dish list yet, and are looking for a few suggestions, here you go!  Some of these, tried & true, are my favorite sides that would be great for Thanksgiving.  Others look amazing and will hopefully grace my Christmas table!

Potato Fennel Gratin~  probably my all-time favorite potato dish!  An Ina Garten recipe…aka The Barefoot Contessa.  Every time I make this, we clean the dish…no leftovers, so if that’s what you want for Turkey Day, don’t make this 🙂  She has lots of other great ideas on her website, so be sure to click on the link and check them out!

Zucchini Fritters~  another favorite recipe, this would be a great appetizer to tide everyone over while you finish off the big feast.  I originally found this recipe in a copy of my favorite food magazine, Saveur.  Taking a quick peek at their website I see lots of other delicious recipes for the big day!  Sauce isn’t needed for these, but if you wanted, you could whip up a quick Horseradish sauce or even a tomato Tarter sauce.  The picture above was a recipe I found on the Home to Homestead blog, written by the gorgeous Elizabeth Ries of Twin Cities Live, and has the added deliciousness of corn & fresh herbs!  She made a quick sour cream sauce that looks delish!

Baked Risotto with Grilled Asparagus~  wait, what?  Baked Risotto?  Yes, I know, it doesn’t make sense.  But I’ve tried it!  It’s very good, not as creamy as the traditional method of making Risotto (and great biceps at the same time!) but good nonetheless.  I found this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website.  They have great recipes there!  Have you ever been to a store?  I LOVE that place!!  And now the hubby has a Professional Chef discount, so I can spend more!  Sorry, focus Shawn…. So if you are looking for an easy & delicious rice side dish that doesn’t involve alot of hassle or time, this is the dish for you!  And Asparagus, while know to grace the Easter or Spring table, can be just as good in the late fall!

Apple-Raisin Stuffing with Sausage~  my co-worker, Nikki, brought some of this in as her lunch one day after Thanksgiving last year.  It smelled so good I begged for a bite.  Her brilliant husband added Sausage (he used Jimmy Dean, but use whatever you like) which made this sweet, salty, savory & perfect!!!  Sometimes that Turkey table can get too full of salty side dishes, so adding this mixes it up a bit!  YUM!

Braised Kale & Chickpeas in Coconut Milk~  My sweet fellow food blogger friend Kate posted this dish on her website last December.  I was just falling in love with Coconut Milk at the time and also beginning my love affair with greens…KaleSwiss ChardCollards.  People, if you haven’t discovered these, you MUST!  They are SO good for you!  We grew Rainbow Chard this summer & along with how beautiful they were, they grew like crazy!!  When I made this dish the first time, I added Bacon (uh duh) but it’s not required, as without it, it’s just as good!  And I would encourage you to use curry paste.  You can get small jars of it in the ethnic section of most grocery stores.  I love Thai Kitchens- Green Curry Paste.  Give it a try!  Oh yeah, and while you are there, check out her recipe for Boursin Spinach Gratin – I’ve wanted to make that for a long time now & might make another great side dish!

Red Cabbage Braised in Cider & Beer~  I recently made this dish in one of my Beer for a Year posts and man, it’s amazing!  It will bring a gorgeous color to your table!  When I made it, I included the beer & bacon, but if you want, you can omit both and use apple cider, which I have done.  Either way, it will become a new favorite in your house and not just on Thanksgiving!

Deviled Mushrooms~  so I am not totally sure where I came across this recipe.  As a mushroom lover, it appealed to me for a few reasons; first, it seemed really easy!  It also looks delicious, with those plump mustard seeds and the silky sauce coating each mushroom.  I think this would be great on your table, at Thanksgiving and anytime!  I am linking you to the Amazon page where the cookbook this recipe is in, can be purchased.  But I did make a copy of the recipe and am attaching that as a PDF File for you to print off yourself!

So, that’s my list!  Of course I could go on & on…..and there’s always desserts I could share…maybe next year!  I do plan on doing a holiday baking list of some of my favorites, so stay tuned for that!

And as we join together this coming Thursday, I want you to know that I am truly thankful for you!  It’s been an amazing year and I feel so honored you have taken the time from your busy lives to read my blog posts!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!  ox Shawn