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…

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

Rueben's

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!

Rueben's

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

Whew…well that was fun!

Gotta love the Charlie...

Today is 12-21-12 and I am thankful to be alive.  Not just because I woke up today…(Mayan Calendar and all) but because I have survived the past two weeks!  For those of you that don’t know, my “day job” finds me running, the White Bear Gift Basket Company.  As you can imagine, I’ve been busy with holiday basket orders.  And not just busy, but so busy I barely had time to eat, shower, breathe most days this past week.  I’m not complaining (very much) don’t get me wrong, I am THANKFUL for every single order I had this year!  I just got my butt kicked…in the nicest way possible 🙂  So this post isn’t really food-related, but more of a peek inside my world the past couple of weeks, with a sprinkling of food throughout!

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A little background on the past two months of my life; previous to November 28th, I was working a part time job at a hotel in St. Paul as a Sales Manager.  This part time job was to become full time in the New Year, which I wasn’t able to do, so I decided it was time to quit & plunge myself back into full time baskets.  I’ve been promoting my business quite a bit these past 6+ months so I think that helped with my holiday business levels.  At the time I left that job, I was preparing for holiday orders…ordering product, getting organized etc. I decided to set a sales goal for myself.  I set this goal pretty high, because what’s the point of setting a goal that’s easy to achieve, right?  So, needless to say, (secretly), even I didn’t believe it to be possible.

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Boy was I wrong!  In the past two and a half weeks, I have shipped out (at least 100+ gift packages this year!) and locally delivered 261 total baskets, of every shape, size & cost, to destinations like Canada, Germany, the Netherlands…and many states in the good ol’ USA.

A little taste of Minneasota(1)

Our most popular design this holiday, surprisingly, was our most popular gift year-round, the Little Taste of Minnesota.  Popular add-on’s to that gift were Minnesota themed playing cards, our Minnesota Passport & several “UFF DA” themed gift items!

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We had fun with lots of custom designs this holiday, including a few that ordered custom logo ribbon which always add a great look to any gift!

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And basket-making craziness aside, who can’t forget the snowstorm we got this month…15.5 inches of the gorgeous white stuff came to our house!  It definitely made getting product from my vendors a bit delayed, and getting to and from the Post Office & my courier’s warehouse a bit more tricky.  But we all wanted a white Christmas!  Enjoy it Minnesotans!  😉

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I did manage to continue to eat (and obviously drink) pretty well, although I admit I might have sampled a few too many Knudsen Caramels, Pearson’s Nut Goodies and other treats in a desperate attempt to stave off hunger for a couple hours.  Living for a couple weeks on mass quantities of sugar & caffeine is okay once in awhile, isn’t it?  Thank goodness I had stock-piled leftovers in the freezer for quick lunches and my darling husband made his way into the kitchen many nights to create nourishing & comforting food to keep me fueled.  And we treated ourselves to a Carpet Picnic night last weekend…Pate, SalamiCaramelized Onions, roasted Tomatoes, roasted Garlic etc….always a favorite night at our house!  I managed to relax a little while watching a movie (Elf of course!) with the family.  (not pictured-gobs of cheese, Brie & Camembert and a giant loaf of Ciabatta!)

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A couple other fun things that happened during the past couple of weeks…I got a new iPhone 4S…it was totally on sale and no, I didn’t think the iPhone 5 was worth the extra money and my hubby had just bought me a really cool Pad & Quill iPhone holder that I wanted to use for awhile.  Seriously though, what ever did I do without Siri & navigation!!!  Love that phone.

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And, I won CHEESE!!  Yea, perfect for us, right!?!  Sartori Cheese had a contest (during their 12 days of Christmas Facebook promo) one night and I won nine different cheeses!  My husband insisted I stop what I was doing and enter.  So, we can thank him for that!  I love Sartori Cheese and if you haven’t had it yet, GO!

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My favorite has always been the BellaVitano® Espresso, but I got a sample of the MontAmore when I was at Kowalski’s buying the BellaVitano® Cognac I’ve been dying to try, and I really like that!  Speaking of the BellaVitano® Cognac, it’s just a mear $75 a pound that cheese….and they only make a very limited amount each year.  It’s aged for at least 18 months and then soaked for 7-10 days in Rémy Martin Cognac.  Who would have thought…Cognac & Cheese…a decadent & delicious splurge indeed!

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And we won’t ever forget the horrible tragedy the families & our nation faced last week in Connecticut…

That day, I was so consumed with myself and getting my work done.  I had to cancel the kids piano lessons because I was stuck in Minneapolis at a client’s office helping get her holiday order shipped out.  I was annoyed about having to drive home, the third day in a row, in rush hour traffic.  And then, on my way home, my husband on the phone told me what had been unfolding that day…it was almost too terrible to believe.  I got home, turned on the TV and sat there, crying.  So sick & senseless.  I am sure I am not alone, when I say that I took a close look that weekend at my family & how I treat each day I have with them.  I have always tried to live each day to the fullest, letting everyone I care about know how much they mean to me.  Life is a gift.  But, as I settle down on Christmas Eve with my family, I will remember those who have presents under a tree that won’t be opened by their child this year, or any, ever again.  My heart goes out to them…may they be surrounded by friends, family, love & support and know as a nation, we mourn with them.

Holiday Tree

Happiest of Holidays to all of you!  This weekend I will get my Christmas on, by baking….& wrapping…watching some White Christmas and listening to some Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and maybe a little Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas Island.  I will be sleeping in, wearing my pj’s maybe all day if I want to…drinking egg nog…and even possibly enjoying a cocktail during the day…just straight up kickin’ it with my family is all I wish for this weekend!  I wish for you to have a delicious & wonderful Holiday as well!  I will check back in before the New Year….

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