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.

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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.

Daisy

Hiking

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!

Garden

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

An apology and “Celebrity” judging at the Uptown Art Fair…

Okay friends, I gotta say, I have completely gone off the rails…food-blogging wise.  My last post was at the end of August and the calendar page just flipped to the beginning of November.  I am so sorry!  I owe you three new Beer for a Year blog posts, a post about our first family camping trip & this post!  I have no excuse other than the need to prioritize my life so that I was working on “income-producing” activities. As much as I love this blog, unfortunately, a girls gotta pay the bills!  Speaking of jobs, this week I learned that the part-time position I currently hold, at a local hotel in the Sales department is becoming full-time.  While some may see that as a positive, it is not in my case.  I can only work the part-time, 24 hours a week I had been doing, allowing me the other half of the work week to handle my gift basket orders.  It has been a perfect balance of my time for the past two & a half years, but they need more & I am ready to do more with my Basket business.  So it’s a good thing, but scary at the same time.  All the questions I was afraid to confront, now have to be asked & answered.  This past year has been so amazing for me personally & professionally.  I feel as though the universe is working to help me achieve the type of life I want to live.  More time for family, friends, eating/drinking/food-blogging, all while doing what I am passionate about and making a decent living in the process.  Isn’t that what we all want?  So if I have any advice to you, it’s to DO IT.  Stop waiting, stop thinking “tomorrow”…Don’t be afraid to walk that edge, jump off that safe boat and make the life you dream about happen NOW!

I recently posted this Steve Jobs quote on my personal Facebook account, which I think I got off Pinterest….

That says it all really.  Unfortunately, we all need money to survive.  Why not make it by doing what you love instead of wasting your life in a job that is slowly killing you, day by day.  Do it people!  Okay, enough of that, lets talk about “Celebrity” judging, at the Uptown Art Fair this past summer!

The first weekend in August, brought the inaugural 2012 Kitchen Window Culinary Arts Competition put on by the Uptown Art Fair and sponsored in part by Kitchen Window.  The phrase “Celebrity” judging was given by one of my favorite foodie friends and fellow judge Emily Sue Anderson of The Broccoli Stalker.  We laugh about the title because it left many of us food blogger friends who participated asking ourselves, how are we “celebrities”?  (okay, there are at least a couple of you, reading this that are celebrities in my eyes : ) Pretty cool, but my guess is the real celebrities weren’t available!  Anyway, I had a blast!  The picture above is of myself along with the two other judges I had the honor of hanging with all day.  Amanda Rettke & Melissa Hoepner.  I’ve hyperlinked their food blogs so you can check them out!  These girls are the best…I miss you both!  The competition was held over Friday, Saturday & Sunday.  The 1st & 2nd place winners (most points) from each days competitions would move on to the semi-finals on Sunday.  Each local Chef contestant was paired with an Uptown Art Fair Artist and they were charged with putting together a dish, and a piece of visual art.  The teams were given thirty minutes and the food was made using three required ingredients- beer from Schell’s Brewing, artisan chocolates from local chocolatier B.T. McElrath and rice from Gourmet House®  Rice.  In addition to that, one secret ingredient, unveiled to them just minutes before competition time.  They had use of a full pantry of items sponsored by Whole Foods and the artists pretty much could do what they wanted, as long as it somehow tied into the Chef’s dish.  I saw some very creative things come out of this competition!

The first round I helped judge was Saturday morning, August 4, 2012 at 11:00am.  The secret ingredient for this round…Corn, which both chefs used creatively in their respective dishes.

 

First up,  Chef Tim Draughn from Old Chicago & Artist Paul Lundquist – Photographer.  Chocolate & Coffee encrusted Beef Tenderloin and a picture as gorgeous to match in which he used both the B.T. McElrath chocolates & whole coffee beans…

…vs. Chef Annette Colon from Sunstreet Breads & Tim Foster – Oil/Pastel.  Yes, those are luscious eggs on top of her dish (you know I am egg-obsessed) and Tim’s oil painting…oh my…let’s just say, there was a bit of a discussion after the competition of just where that painting would make it’s final home!

And the winner is….

Chef Tim Draughn & Artist Paul Lundquist!!

Next round, at 1:00pm found Cherries as our secret ingredient…

This round found Chef Josh Boge from Urban Eatery & Artist Michele Combs – Painter.  Another painting we loved and a gorgeously plated dish by Josh, was almost too pretty to eat!

…up against Chef Ben Mauk from Birdhouse & Artist Paul Gill – Sculpture.  Paul’s sculpture was made mostly of chocolate and if I remember correctly, he had beer in the center. It’s hard to see what that was, that Chef Ben made…so let me tell you, it was the most delicious chocolate-cherry rice pudding; not too sweet, a bit of heat…oh my!

And the winner is…

Chef Ben Mauk & Artist Paul Gil!

And the final round of the day, 3:00pm brought Mushrooms as our secret ingredient.

This final round had Chef Sarah Master from Barbette & teammate Artist Rebecca Phan-Tretter, Photographer up against…

Chef Tammy Wong from Rainbow Chinese and teammate Artist Bill Wolfson-Painter.

With this being the last round, we had a better handle on the whole point scoring process.  It sounds like an awesome job to have, but with so many categories and food/art perspectives to keep in mind, it truly was a difficult challenge for us judges!  Chef Sarah made a perfectly cooked & delicious piece of Pork Loin, with Chocolate-Beer Mustard sauce and an Arugula salad with puffed Wild Rice.  Chef Tammy’s dish had many things going on, from stir-fried beef & mushrooms, a chocolate fruit salad and an asian slaw that had crunchy, barely cooked bits of Wild Rice.  She took full advantage of the Whole Foods pantry for sure!  The artists creations this round were unique as well, with Artist Bill Wolfson’s gorgeous painting taking cues from Rainbow Chinese’s color palette & incorporating her dish into the final design.  I was completely in awe of Artist Rebecca Phan-Tretter rendition of the Stone Arch Bridge, incorporating the beer & Chef Sarah’s dish into the final design construction.  And in the end, the winner was…

Chef Sarah Master & Artist Rebecca Phan-Tretter!

They ended up winning it all on Sunday, congrats to them both!  You can enjoy her winning recipes by clicking on this link.

I plan to use a couple of her recipes for my belated Beer for a Year blog posts, so stay tuned on that.

My thanks to the Uptown Art Fair & Kitchen Window for allowing me to participate in this year’s competition!  I hope they’ll ask me again next year! 🙂

And to you my faithful readers, I am getting back on that darn wagon/train and promise you delicious future posts, more often!

Until then, cheers!

Shawn