Making Tamales & memories…

November 2015

Greetings fellow foodie friends!

It’s mid-November here in Minnesota and we’ve yet to really see any Winter, which is just fine by me! But, my body-clock knows it’s almost here, because I am craving soups, macaroni & cheese, any pasta dish for that matter and bread and cheese. Oof! I’ve decided that instead of being all proud of myself for knowing how to whip up a creamy béchamel sauce, that it’s actually a curse to know. At any given moment, there are at least five different types of cheese in my refrigerator and freezer, just hanging out, waiting patiently, to get all melty and gooey in a pan of hot pasta. I can have a pan of the creamy devil ready in about 10 minutes…

September 2015-blog post

The real estate market is going to end 2015 on a positive note, across the country really. Here in Minnesota, many people must have took the month of September off, because we had quite a dip in activity over that time period. A couple of my sellers have chosen to take their homes off the market until next Spring, hoping to do some nice updates to their homes over the Winter. If this past Spring is any indication of what this coming one will be, it’s going to be BUSY! And I am taking advantage of this quiet time to get myself ready for that!

Gabs & Dom

These two… ❤ This fall I had one kid start Junior High and the other started Senior High. They have both been doing really well, even with having to be out the door by 7:15am everyday! Although I despise getting out of bed that early, I do manage to have a very productive day, starting that early!  Both are taking Culinary classes this year, so there is alot of talk about Food around our house!

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One of the things I try to do with my kids, is create food-memories.  I love to make things most people wouldn’t even attempt.  And hope someday, they’ll look back and appreciate that.  A couple months ago, my daughter had a friend come over and we made Tamales together. I have always wanted to try to make them and they turned out surprisingly well! You can actually take a class locally, at El Burrito Mercado, Tamalada, that teaches you how and then you get to leave with a bunch.  Both classes for 2015 sold out already, but they have plans for bigger classes in 2016.  And you can always just buy Tamales (and LOTS more) in their Deli!  Find out more HERE.  We took a field trip there that day, for lunch & inspiration and some last minute ingredients for our recipe.

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We made two different kinds of Tamales that day; Chicken & Cheese. The Cheese ones had Havarti cheese & pickled Jalapeños in them…have you ever had those before?! I am not much for super spicy foods, but I love these and find myself putting them on burgers, sandwiches etc. all the time!

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I think if I do them again, I will steam them flat, instead of standing on the ends like you see in the picture. Doing them that way, was okay, but some of the filling started to fall out of the corn husks as the batter expanded.

chicken

We used a Rotisserie Chicken, which made the process go alot quicker!  Costco now even sells pulled Rotisserie Chicken for you!  Can it get much easier than that?!  There are a million recipes out there on how to make Tamales.  I found a great one, and a video showing me exactly how online.  Click HERE for the video, and HERE for a link to the recipe.  I did use Lard, and wish I would have used a better broth, so don’t skip that part either.

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To go with the Tamales, I made a Tomatillo Salsa, or as she called, Green Salsa.  The girls hadn’t ever touched a Tomatillo before, so the sticky parts inside of the husk was a surprise to them!  You’ll see that salsa and those jalapeño pickles find their way onto a burger shortly after that 🙂

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My family and I are anxiously awaiting our annual trip to the North Shore for Thanksgiving…I will share some pictures while there on my Instagram feed, but mostly hope to really unplug and cuddle and eat and spend time with my sweet family.  We are still narrowing down our menu, and I’ve been relying on my Pinterest Board-Get your Gobble On, for ideas!  Looking forward to fireside chats…brisk hikes…eating…drinking wine…I can’t wait!!! ❤

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And if you are a Minnesotan and haven’t ever been up to Duluth for the annual Bentleyville Tour of  Lights event, get it on your calendar for this year!  It runs from November 21st-December 27th and you can find out more info HERE.

Bentlyville

Wishing you all, a warm, relaxing & delicious Thanksgiving with family & friends!

Cheers! ~Shawn

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National Corn Fritters Day~

Welcome to MN sign

Greetings food-lovin’ friends!

It’s late-July…did you notice? I don’t know about you, but this summer has been flying by! Between a busy Real Estate market (know someone needing my help?) and trying to squeeze in fun with the family, it’s been a master juggling act! I think we are fairing pretty well, having just come off of two short but fun camping trips; one with the kids and the other without! Yes, I know, awesome! We hardly ever go anywhere without them; they are always so much fun to be with, that it’s hard for us to leave them behind.

Interstate Park MN

Our first camping trip, with the kids, was to Interstate State Park, in the quaint little town of Taylors Falls, Minnesota. It’s just a short drive from where we live, so we go there often just to hike. Our campsite was riverside, as the park resides along the St. Croix River. We didn’t have the greatest view though, compared to some of the other sites next to us. But that was okay, as all of our hiking allowed us plenty of river views.  One of the fun things about Taylors Falls, are the daily boat tours! (pictured above)

The following week, the hubby and I went up to Wild River State Park. Again, nestled along the St. Croix River, this gem of a state park was just what we needed! Quiet, remote, with lots of hiking opportunities! Oh and another awesome benefit to no kids…we got to eat what WE wanted! Yep, we definitely pigged out.

Dinner night 1

In addition to this steak, mushrooms, onions & herbs, corn and potato packet meal, we had stuffed french toast…and the best meal (at least to me) was the Carpet Picnic! I can’t remember if I’ve ever talked to you about our Carpet Picnic’s…in fact, that might be a fun thing to blog about! Basically we roast up some Roma tomatoes, caramelize a sweet onion-sliced very thin, roast a big head of garlic, buy a good salami, a loaf of crusty french bread (ciabbata works great too) and cheese…usually it’s Brie or Camembert when at home, warmed in the oven so it’s gooey. But this time we splurged and got a Triple Cream Brie and a creamy Blue, neither needing warming so they were good choices for camping. We also sautéed some Kale from our garden and instead of the roasted garlic, we bought some fermented black garlic from Trader Joes. It was SO good!

Camping Carpet Picnic

Anyway, the hubby is back at work and I am back trying to get into a routine that works for the rest of the summer. One of the things I miss, is this blog! I miss writing and talking about food with you! So, I’ve challenged myself to blog one recipe, each week, for the rest of 2014! Help hold me accountable, if you go without seeing something from me each week, going forward!  I have all the recipes picked out, from my overflowing collection of things I’ve been wanting to make.  That should make it easier…hopefully!

Food Fest 365

This weeks recipe was found in a great little book I picked up at a garage sale earlier this summer, called Food Fest 365!  July 16th is National Corn Fritters Day and with the sweet corn season underway here in Minnesota, I thought this would be a fantastic recipe to share! One note though, the recipe calls for canned corn, so I substituted fresh, roasted then cooled corn, as you’ll see in the directions.

Corn Fritters

Sweet Corn Fritters with creamy Basil-Lime dipping sauce:

Oil for pan-frying
2 eggs
salt, pepper & seasonings*
fresh herbs**
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
sea salt (for sprinkling on fritters once cooked)
2 cups of fresh roasted corn, removed from the cob (don’t forget to juice it!)

Basil-Lime Dipping Sauce

Basil-Lime Dipping Sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1-2 tablespoons of milk
zest & juice of a half of a lime
Basil, chiffonade
seasonings of your choice (I used Cajun!)

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and chill until ready to use.  (use any leftover dip on sandwiches or as a dressing for your next salad!)

Roasted Corn

First step for this recipe is to roast your corn. (Ideally, this would be done on the grill, but you could also boil or steam them in the microwave) Take the first layer of husks off your corn and remove the tassel from the top. Place on a medium high grill and roast for about a half hour, turning every ten minutes or so, a quarter turn each time. Your corn will be done when, you can smell it & when the husks have dried and turned brown to black in color. Let the corn cool until you can easily touch it.

Then, using a sharp knife, place the cob on the cutting board, vertically. Remove the kernels from the cob, starting at one, sliding away from you towards the cutting board. Once you’ve removed the kernels, flip the knife over, using the back of it and “juice” the cob. Trust me, you don’t want any of that fresh corn to go to waste! Set your corn kernels and juice aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine your eggs, salt, pepper and seasonings. Then sift in your flour (sifting it in, helps it incorporate better, so you don’t have chunks of flour floating about) and then add your corn and fresh herbs. Let the batter sit while you heat your oil.

Set a plate, lined with a paper towel, next to your frying pan.

Fritters be a fryin

In a large skillet pan, add oil 1/4” deep and heat to medium-high. You are ready to start cooking once the oil begins to smoke. Using a large spoon, CAREFULLY drop a spoonful of the batter into the pan, continuing until you have four or so fritters, with plenty of room for the oil to get around each one. You are going to cook these for about two minutes on each side, but carefully check them, as you may want them lighter in color. *PLEASE NOTE that you are frying wet ingredients in very hot oil, and with corn, you can have flying missiles of hot oil, so if you have some sort of metal screen or vendable lid, I would use it. I went it to flip mine the first time out and got splattered in about five different places from my face to my belly 😦

Fantastic Fritters!

Once you’ve cooked both sides of the fritters, remove to your lined plate and sprinkle immediately with sea salt (or plain salt if you have only that).  Serve with your Basil-Lime dipping sauce and enjoy! ❤

Panaroma of St. Croix River

I’ll be working on my next blog post soon, S’mores Brownies, so stay tuned for more deliciousness soon!

Let me know if you make these Sweet Corn Fritters, and what you think of them!

xoxo Shawn

 

 

Notes from the North Shore…

One of my favorite places on Earth is northern Minnesota.  From the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, up the coast to the border of Canada.  This summer, we decided to take the kids up a little farther than we’ve traveled with them in the past, to Grand Marais, MN.  Our plan, was to kick around Grand Marais for the day, then head south a bit to Temperance River State Park and camp for two nights.  On the way home, a quick stop in Two Harbors for a hike around Split Rock Lighthouse, and another quick stop at Gooseberry Falls State Park before finally on to Duluth & an overnight at the Hampton in Canal Park (thank you employee discount-I sure will miss you…).

Growing up in southeastern Minnesota, I’ve done my fair share of camping over the years.  I love to camp.  But, I’ve come to realize that I don’t much care for the “rustic” part of it anymore, which you could totally get from how the back of my van looked the day we set off.  Uff-da.  Anyway, my kids hadn’t been “real” camping yet (only cabin & such at Girl Scout camp) and we’ve wanted to do this for the past several summers.  I don’t know who was more excited, them or me!

I began preparing for this trip, but reserving our campsite online.  I was able to secure a site, for two days, that “overlooked” the lake.  It was close to the shower/bathroom area as well, which I was a bit worried about….smell, noise etc.  Next planning step, what are we going to eat?!?!  Yes, of course I had to plan our menu!!  And NO, we were not going to eat hot dogs/hamburgers etc.  We were going to have fun camping food!  Okay, hot dogs & hamburgers are fun, don’t get me wrong, but I am always challenging myself with food, why wouldn’t that apply to camping?

So out came the recipes I have accumulated from my days of being a Girl Scout Leader, not too long ago.  A definite on my menu, Girl Scout Gumbo.  And Walkin’ Tacos.  And Snickers Salad…and Puppy Chow, and S’mores, and Raspberry Pancakes….oh gosh.  I can’t pack the refrigerator so I had better settle down.

When the date finally arrived, and we had the van & kids loaded (and I mean loaded…it was like we were going on a two-week vacation…thank goodness I have a “mommy-van”) a quick check of the forecast of the North Shore said we’d be in for perfectly hot camping weather!  Normally, the North Shore in July sees highs in the 70’s that time of year, but just our luck had them in the middle of a heat wave.  Yes, we camped in almost 90-degree weather…record breaking heat for that area!  No cooling off at night for us…

We arrived in Grand Marais, parked the van and headed out on the shoreline to stretch out our legs after the long ride.  First thing I noticed, the beach was all rocks.  No sand, just tiny, shiny, gorgeous little rocks!  Walking a little further, we happened upon this cool rock…totally meant to be.  And then we started seeing these rock sculptures.

The first few, lined up along the shore.  We continued walking, into an area called the Artists Point.  And they were everywhere!!  How cool is that!

   

The kids loved walking around them, looking at them for design ideas and I knew, for the next few days, they’d be looking for rocks to build their own.  I however, was ready to eat.  Did I tell you that a restaurant I’ve known about for years is in Grand Marais?  Yep, Angry Trout Cafe, here I come!!

We did make a quick pit-stop for the kids to have a slice of pizza at a place in Grand Marais called Sven & Ole’s pizza.  They had bottles of incredible Buddy’s soda from the New Ulm Beverage Company/August Schell Brewing Company.  The Orange soda…oh my gosh…so, SO good!!  It was almost like a melted orange popsicle…get your hands on a bottle SOON!

     

Okay, focus Shawn.  Let’s talk Fish & Chips at the Angry Trout Cafe!  First, a little background on the restaurant itself-taken from their website.  “Open “seasonally” (May-October) the Angry Trout Cafe is a small indoor/outdoor restaurant, cobbled together out of an old commercial fishing shanty that clings to the edge of Grand Marais Harbor. From this beautiful setting we offer a menu based on the bounty of Lake Superior and the surrounding region – locally-grown produce, hand-harvested wild rice, and of course, our specialty, fresh Lake Superior fish.”

     

It was busy that day, even for a weekday, but the wait was short and we wanted to brave the heat and sit on the deck overlooking the gorgeous Lake Superior views.  While eating, we even got to watch a boat-plane take off, right next to the restaurant.  Pretty cool for my nine-year old!  We only managed to eat the Fish & Chips, as everyone was eager to get to our “home” for the next two days/nights.  I had the fried Cod and the hubby had the fried Whitefish.  But the one thing I couldn’t get off my mind, was the Tarter Sauce…it was off the hook!  I tried to re-create it when I made my version of Fish & Chips, but I don’t know if it was the environment, or a missing ingredient, It was much better there.  I literally wanted to eat it with a spoon, it was that good!

Home-sweet-home…..for the next two days anyway.  Our campsite at Temperance River State Park proved to be pretty nice, on the corner of a walkway & the road thru the campground-but not too noisy.  We were downhill from the latrines and our view, well, you can see it above.  Not super awesome, but we spent so much time hiking and away from camp, it didn’t really matter.  However, my daughter and I went on an exploratory walk one afternoon and found LOTS better sites, sprinkled throughout the campground.  If you are interested in the lot number of those, send me a note as I would be happy to share that with you!  One thing that made those other sites so much more appealing…the fact they all had great tree coverage.  Our site had us exposed from all sides really, and that week, with the almost 90-degree weather, we would have loved to have more shade.  But alas, we made the most of it!

After setting up camp, we headed out to explore the park; if you ever get the chance to go there, do it!  It was so gorgeous!  They have lots of trails where you can hike and take in gorgeous waterfalls & views that are breathtaking.  It was truly a picture-perfect place!

After all that walking, we needed to eat!  We must have walked twenty miles, mostly up and over the rocky shoreline, over the course of those three days!  One cool thing that Minnesota State Parks do, that we didn’t know until we were getting firewood at the office, is that you can check out activity bags to use while you are camping.  We checked one out and my son read to us as the rest of us prepared our feast!

As I mentioned before, Girl Scout Gumbo was on the menu, as was Snickers Salad.  And of course, no camping trip is complete without S’mores!  Here is a quick list on how to make both items….

Girl Scout Gumbo–  the amounts depend somewhat on how many people you are feeding.  The recipe that follows should feed 12-18 people, so adjust as necessary.

You’ll need: {2 pounds ground beef} + {1 tablespoon of dehydrated onion/onion powder or 1/2 minced onion}  +  {4 cans vegetable soup, condensed if you can deal with it}  +  {1 cup of water}  +  {salt, pepper, garlic to taste}  +  {2 cups grated cheese}  +  {corn or tortilla chips}

Instructions-  brown ground beef, add onions and cook until tender.  Add soup & water and cook 10 minutes longer.  Pour over corn or tortilla chips to eat and sprinkle with cheese.  Enjoy!

Snicker Salad-  so there are a couple of different ways to make this.  We made it the pudding mix way, but I think when I had it before, it was with Cool Whip.  So, if you want to try the latter version, just substitute it instead of the pudding & milk.

You’ll need:  {1 box of french vanilla pudding} + {1 cup, or more of milk} + {2 granny smith apples} + {2-3 Snickers bars}

Instructions:  mix pudding & milk together in a bowl and set aside.  Carefully chop the apples and Snickers bars.  Once pudding has set, fold in apples & Snickers.  Enjoy!

I don’t need to tell you how to make S’mores…do I?  Just kidding 🙂  If you don’t have long-handled s’mores (or hot dog) sticks, I found some great, inexpensive ones at Walmart!

What a great vacation we had!  Ahh…so many great shots…so hard to pick the ones to share with you!

So for now, I hope you’ll curl up with someone special, in front of a glowing fireplace and dream of all the awesome photos you’ll take when you get out next summer and explore the gorgeous Minnesota State Parks!  I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful area!  Thanks for hanging in there with this extremely looonnnngggg post!  Ha!  Until next time, Shawn

Chronicles of a crazy 20 days!

Wow, it’s been a CRAZY month so far and it’s only the 20th of June!  I constantly complain about the months of May & June, as every year, they completely derail me with field trips, the end of school, parties etc.  This year, I threw in a couple extra new events, just to challenge my strength…or because I am crazy.  I know the days have been ticking by, still no post since last month….and now that I’ve had the chance to catch my breath, I thought it would be fun to, instead of the usual post, do a little recap of my activities!  Yea!  Hope you enjoy the ride…….

June 2, 2012#TECHmunch, an event I had been anxiously waiting to attend.  It is a one-day conference for food bloggers, sponsored by BakeSpace.com and was held at Studio 514 in Minneapolis.  You can read more about it here.  Because I have never learned the art of “sitting on my hands” (like they used to say in Girl Scouts so you wouldn’t volunteer for everything!) I decided to volunteer to help with set-up the day before and during the event!  All kidding aside, let me just share one piece of advise I have learned over the years…if you really want to make the most of an event you plan to attend, volunteer to help.  It exposes you to (work, which oddly enough, I actually enjoy-so be prepared if signing on in this capacity) many more people than if you just came as an attendee.  I met & got to know better, some really great people (Babette, Tammy, Lisa, Brenda, Meghan, Emily, Joy, Cathy, Stephanie, Scott, Molly & anyone I forgot (so sorry!) and all the food-famous speakers & panelists!) that hopefully over time, I will become better friends with!  I helped with the manual labor part of set-up the day before, something of which after my years of banquet management/service I am very familiar with.  The next day, I was assigned to help with AV.  That stands for Audio-Visual….yeah, for those of you who know me, not exactly my forte. Ha!  I managed through and the only real glitch of the day ended up not even being my fault!

The day consisted of seven different topics:  Eating your way to the top; a Fireside chat with Andrew Zimmern & Jason DeRusha, Mastering your Story, with Daniel Klein of the Perennial Plate.  SEO for food writing; with experts in the field of SEO Lee Odden, Joshua Unseth & Erik Deutsch.  A panel discussion on creating, distributing and syndicating mouth-watering content with Shaina Olmanson, Zoe Francois, Amanda Rettke & Brenda Score.  Design & Page Optimization with the Geek Girls, Meghan Wilker & Nancy Lyons.  Lessons in partnerships & monetization with Babette Pepaj and Erik Deustch. And finally, a session titled, How to get on a Food Editor’s Radar, with Stephanie March, Lee Dean, Rachel Hutton & Joy Summers.   It was a GREAT event and I was thrilled to have been able to attend.

Of course a food blogger conference isn’t complete without amazing food, which you see a bit of above.  We had beautiful pastries donated by Patisserie 46 and gorgeous berries from Driscoll’s Berries.  Fresh squeezed juices  were provided by Whole Foods, Joia Life donated some of their amazing natural sodas, Bull Run coffee helped us all stay fueled up and I cannot forget that Sangria…made by Scott Pampugh.  A backyard picnic lunch was catered by Tastebud Catering and included Chicken & fresh Corn off the grill (with a couple of amazing butters to spread), two awesome salads (a carrot slaw I NEED the recipe for!) and a refreshing Basil Lemonade that I am totally recreating at home!  Dessert, decadent chocolate brownie like confections was sponsored by (and eaten early by many of us standing in line for lunch!) Bogart Loves.  An afternoon nosh, consisting of pita breads, hummus, olives, cheese and roasted veggies was provided by Whole Foods and served along with more of that magical Sangria.  We had swag bags donated by and filled with nourishing snack bars, natural produce bags and awesome coupons from Land O’ Lakes &. others.  (sorry I didn’t link any of those….& hopefully I am not missing anyone but holy crap we had a lot of great sponsors that day!!!)

A geeky moment of the day, pictured below, is where I asked the legendary Scott Pampugh (who was also volunteering that day) to take a picture with me.  We are both from Winona, MN (that automatically makes us kindred spirits right? Although he was a Cotter boy…I won’t hold that against him!) and if you don’t know much about Scott, he’s out to change the landscape of food as we know it.  Read more about him here.  The day finished off at Fulton Brewery, where attendees got to tour the facility, dine on Hola Arepa & Anchor Fish & Chips food trucks, conveniently parking outside and of course drink beer!!  There’s gonna be a #TECHmunch in Philadelphia in October…hmmm maybe I need to plan a trip out to see the Pennsylvania relative contingency!

   

I got a day to rest up, (although I spent most of it standing in my kitchen prepping for dinner the next night!) after being on my feet at that event for 13 hours, before my Dad and his family, packed into their new RV, rolled into town.  We got him for one night, and he requested his Mother’s Rhubarb Pie.

 Oh that pie.  What did I ever do before that pie… Want to make this pie?  Check out my previous post with recipe here.  And this time I made it with homemade pie crust, another first for me.  He said “his Mother never made it better” which I guess means he liked it.  🙂

This is my almost 7th grader, just after finding out she tied for first place in overall books read for the year with her class.  When I look at this picture I just want to wail…she is growing TOO damn fast.  It truly takes my breath away.  The kids last day of school was June 7th and took the day off to hang out with them.  They both had carnivals, and my daughter had a 6th grade graduation picnic that I helped with.  It was bittersweet watching her with her classmates.  I know that next year I won’t be able to volunteer like I had this past year, going on field trips etc.  I also know that Junior High is tough, not like grade school.  At the beginning of this year I felt like there was no way she would be ready to take on the challenges of 7th grade, but now, I feel differently.  My baby, growing up so fast

   

On Sunday June 10th, we went to our first ever Minnesota Twins game.  Yeah, I know, lame.  Lame that we hadn’t gone in the last two years!  I had bought tickets through the kids school and as luck would have it, ended up sitting right next to our close friends and their kids!  It was a HOT day and I worried about us actually making it through the whole game (at one point I looked over at my daughter, and if you have kids, you’ll know the look she gave me…something between “I am about to puke or I am about to pass out”)  It was a bit terrifying, but we persevered and made it through the game!  The pictures above are of my first ever Big Ginger a delicious drink made with 2 Gingers Whiskey & Ginger Ale (again lame, that I work at the hotel, connected to The Liffey and haven’t had one yet!) and the Nacho Helmet helped!  (seriously $14 well spent!)
  

June 12th brought another day I had been looking forward to for a long time, my #OinkOutings trip!  I had been so looking forward to my Oink Outing, not only because I love pigs…(loved them since Wilbur & love to eat them, in any form), but also because I had never been on a pig farm. I had no idea how pigs were birthed, raised etc. I’m happy to tell you that my expectations were met! I was well-educated that day & although it wasn’t the life I pictured, (Wilbur) I was happy to see the care taken by the Bode family both towards their pigs and staff that tends to them, 365 days a year. They are meticulous about the safety of those pigs, so that the end result, that bacon or pork loin you are cooking for your family is the best quality & safest it can be. Technology has changed pig farming; helping farmers raise pigs that are lean & delicious. Something dictated by consumer desire for leaner meat while still preserving the flavor.

It was a great day, getting to know everyone involved that advocates daily for the Pork producers of Minnesota. We started at Brackett’s Crossing where I met Chef Bryan who had cooked us delicious Pork Carnitas which we then had in that gorgeous taco shell pictured above.  From there we set out to Rebco Pork, the Bode family farm. Stay tuned for a post later this month, where I share more pictures of our adventure along with some great recipes using my favorite meat, pork!  We made a pit stop on our way down at Schmidt’s Meat Market were we toured their smoking facilities, sampled their delicious summer sausage & were treated to their award-winning Raspberry-Chipotle Bacon as a take home gift!  Stay tuned for a post later this month, where I share more pictures of our adventure along with some great recipes using my favorite meat, pork!

June 15th brought yet another birthday for me…sigh.  I am thirty-six this year.  LOL!  Really though, birthday’s aren’t a big deal for me.  I don’t expect to be lavished with gifts, but I do like to spend the day doing something I enjoy.  And, if you know me, that’s eating, drinking & shopping!  I decided We haven’t been to Stillwater in quite some time, so I thought, because it worked out that the hubby was on vacation that day, we were free!  I knew for quite some time that I wanted to check out a place called Swirl Wine Bar.  It is located in the sleepy and gorgeous little town of Afton, MN  So, that was stop number one.  There I purchased my first birthday present, a Redneck Wine Glass.  Yea, I know….don’t judge me.  I LOVE using jam jars to drink out of.  We were doing that before it was cool.  We also ordered a couple of glasses of wine, and three delicious appetizers which were devoured by the four of us.  I HIGHLY recommend making the trip and be sure to order the Grape & Brie Flatbread & the Truffle Fries…DELISH!
We then moved on to Stillwater, ducking into a few shops after strolling along the river.  One store we visited for another birthday treat was the Stillwater Olive Oil Co.  I love how these little shops have popped up all over and hadn’t actually been in one until that day!  They had many different varieties of Olive Oils, some infused and Vinegars-rich, syrupy aged Balsamic’s and a great variety of flavored white Balsamic’s.  We chose a bottle of Persian Lime infused Olive Oil and Sicilian Lemon white Balsamic vinegar.  The vinegar just exploded the second it hit my tongue… I thought it would be fun to start a hashtag to chronicle my day; you can find my posts by searching for #BirthdayNosh and the picture collage above was some of the deliciousness of the day!

Gorgeous Strawberries!  Ever since I was young, I wanted to learn to can.  It’s been one of those things on my food bucket list, that I have been scared to try.  All it really takes is patience and organization.  The Strawberry Jam I made this weekend was SO good!  Stay tuned for a future post on canning.  I plan to do a Rhubarb Beer Jam for my next ‘Beer for a Year‘ post, and just last week, we signed up for a CSA share from Natura Farms and they have Currents and Elderberries, so hopefully I will get the opportunity to use those in future canning endeavors.  I also plan this summer to make Chow-Chow; a pickled vegetable deliciousness I had back in Pennsylvania Amish country.  Again posts to follow…..

And finally, June 17th, Father’s Day…..

The hubby loves ribs, so I decided that I would break out the smoker and attempt to make a scrumptious dinner for him.  The weather forecasters said “a gorgeous day is on tap for Sunday” and guess what?  It rained on and off ALL day!  The picture above was taken by my daughter, as she came out laughing at me standing there with the umbrella.  Yes, I could have let it go, but seriously at one point it rained for over an hour.  I know this because I stood there that long…and for the first time ever, I was maintaining a consistent temp on the smoker and didn’t want to ruin that!  The things we do for love…..

Oh yeah, his present?  The gorgeous cookbookVolt Ink” written by brothers Michael & Bryan Voltaggio of Top Chef fame.  It was really a win-win gift. 🙂

So, there it is people.  The last crazy 20 days of my life.…hope you enjoyed following along.  I promise to get back on my regular schedule of posts, none of which hopefully will be this long!

Until then,

Shawn