Archive | May, 2011

Rhubarb Crisp Muffins

31 May

To me, spring in Minnesota means venturing out to farmer’s markets to pick up fresh, seasonal produce and chat with local growers. Saturday we went to the Richfield Farmer’s Market for the first time. I highly recommend this market, especially for families – live music, plenty of picnic tables for snacks, restrooms nearby and a fantastic playground. It’s early in the season and offerings are slim, but we walked away with a big bunch of fresh rhubarb.

Rhubarb reminds me of my grandparents. Several rhubarb plants grew on the side of their garage. No matter where I am, if I eat rhubarb, I’m right back in South Fargo at a family picnic eating rhubarb crisp.

I made rhubarb crisp muffins and had enough leftover to freeze for another recipe.

Rhubarb Crisp Muffins

2 1/2 C flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 C packed brown sugar [NOTE: use 1 1/2 cups for the batter and reserve 1/2 cup for the crumble on top]

2/3 C vegetable oil [I use Canola oil]

1 C whole milk

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 C chopped rhubarb

1 C plain quick oats

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly grease two 12-cup muffin tins or use cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl combine 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar, oil, milk, egg and vanilla. Mix well. Stir the flour mixture into the batter and fold in the chopped rhubarb. Fill prepared muffin cups about 3/4 full.

Rhubarb crisp muffin batter

In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/2 cup packed brown sugar with about 1 cup of oats. Sprinkle the crumble generously over each muffin cup. Bake at 325° for 35 minutes.  The recipe yields 24 muffins.

Crumble topping added and ready to go in the oven

These muffins were perfect right out of the oven for brunch. Tart, sweet and delicious.

Rhubarb crisp muffins

For variations on the recipe, you can substitute buttermilk for the whole milk. My mom suggests keeping a can of powdered buttermilk in the pantry for the odd recipe that requires buttermilk. You can also vary the crumble mixture. Instead of oats, mix brown sugar, butter and toasted slivered almonds for the topping.

Quick tip: If you run out of batter and wonder what to do with the empty cups, simply fill them half full with water to ensure the batch of muffins cooks evenly.

Enjoy!

Caribe Bistro and DOLE Told Me to Go Bananas

27 May

I don’t get out often. I no longer live on the 21st floor of a swanky downtown Minneapolis apartment building, nor do I live in my shabby-chic bungalow in St. Louis Park. I am living the suburban dream with my family of four and two cats. I like love my life, but like I said, I don’t get out much. So, when invited to “go bananas” at Caribe Bistro for a DOLE bananas dinner, my answer was, “Yes!” and “How soon can the sitter get here!”

DOLE’s “Go Bananas After Dark” tour, featured at Caribe Bistro, aims to prove bananas’ worth as more than breakfast fare. Like my family, most Americans eat bananas for breakfast and lunch. Chef Tony Panelli proved bananas deserve an honored spot on the dinner menu.

I’m still glowing from the festive experience. Fresh air, banana grilling demonstration, cocktails, friendly atmosphere and inventive banana-inspired dishes cured my Winter blues. This mama needed a night out and last night’s hosts – Caribe Bistro, Shaina Olmanson, and DOLE Bananas – delivered the goods.

Wacky hats at Caribe Bistro

@daniamiwa and @foodstoned celebrate bananas with champagne

Our banana menu included:

- Grilled bananas dipped in chocolate sauce and served with a ginger cookie

Banana grilling demonstration

Grilled banana dipped in chocolate

- Blushing Banana Sangria

- Phenomena Banana Spritzer (banana soda and pineapple wine)

- Chickpea curry over fried bread, topped with banana ketchup

You had me at banana ketchup - Chickpea curry over fried bread, topped with banana ketchup

- Crab cake topped with grilled banana aioli

Crab cake topped with grilled banana aioli

- Grilled 5-spice rubbed Frenched lamb chops topped with banana-mango chutney and served with coconut curry bananas and jasmine rice.

Frenched lamb chops with banana-mango chutney and jasmine rice

- Banana coconut rum crème brûlée.

Star of the show - Banana Coconut Rum Crème Brûlée

At the risk of gushing, Panelli balanced sweet and savory flavors in every dish and I didn’t get tired of bananas. Everything was spot on, but a few dishes definitely caught my attention.

My most memorable moments of last night’s bananarama extravaganza:

Phenomena banana spritzer made with banana soda and pineapple wine. This cocktail put me in a relaxing tropical mood immediately. I must recreate for a tropical party, or just happy hour on our deck with my neighbors. Why not?

Banana ketchup on the curried chickpeas added a sweet element to the savory bite.

The biologist in me enjoyed Ale Jail’s Adam Schulte’s beer recommendations to accompany the banana dishes. He recommended pairing Weihenstephaner Hefeweiss with the curried chickpea and crab cake dishes, and suggested La Trappe Quadrupel for the lamb chops and dessert. Apparently, beer fermentation releases isoamyl acetate – otherwise known as banana oil – and brings out banana flavors when paired with food. I didn’t sample the beers, but I trust the recommendation.

I got a little caught up in champagne at this point in the evening, so I missed Chef Panelli’s explanation of pique – beautiful bottles of hot pickled pepper vinegar. Normally I’m a little shy with spicy sauces, but I added pique to the lamb chops and enjoyed the flavorful heat. Next time I dine at Caribe I plan to ask how he prepares the vinegar.

@foodstoned and @thymeinrkitchen listening to Tony explain pique

Banana coconut rum crème brûlée was the star of the show. Crackly, carmelized crust and a satisfying break with a spoon? CHECK. A melt-in-your-mouth, creamy custard? CHECK. I’m not kidding when I say guests licked the ramekin clean. This dish made me swoon and made me wish for a second helping.  Have I mentioned my husband proposed to me over my vanilla crème brûlée? Maybe if I get him to Caribe Bistro for their version I’ll get a second honeymoon?!

@anna_r and @cafecyan enjoy the banana extravaganza

If you are looking for a new flavor to add brightness to your summer, try bananas. And, I highly recommend Caribe Bistro for a relaxing and intimate dining adventure.  In closing, please go bananas and I’m going to go for a run to burn off the extra calories.

PS: My apologies to Tony for calling him Chef. I know he prefers Grand Poo-Bah, I was just trying to be classy in my first formal restaurant review.

Gluten-Free Menu Options in a Restaurant

20 May

I will be sampling a Minneapolis restaurant’s new gluten-free menu options in a couple of weeks. I’m curious to know what you readers look for in a restaurant’s gluten-free menu choices. Please vote in this poll:

I want to know what you think, especially questions you would like me to ask the chef.

As background, I am not currently gluten-free, but I did follow a gluten-free diet several years ago for health reasons. And, several of my friends and family members are celiacs. This is an issue close to my heart. Tell me what you think!

Fancy Friday Tea Parties

20 May
Every friday is Fancy Friday in our house. I dress the girls in dresses from grandma and we run errands in fancy skirts, tutus, whatever we want.
For my mom’s birthday last year I decided to give her memories. I created a tea party extravaganza. I made over-the-top hats, decked us out with feather boas, and amped up the fancy factor with my grandmother’s tea cups. Sometimes the best gifts are memories.
Our tea party rules:
Everyone must wear a hat.
Grandma opens the tea party with, “Happy tea party everyone!” and a flourish of her wand.
Pink clothes are encouraged, but not required.
Grandma closes the tea party with, “I now declare the tea party over!” and a flourish of her wand.

Tea party joy

Great grandma's tablecloth and china cups

I have always adored my grandma Emily’s tablecloth and mismatched tea cups. It’s special to use them at tea parties and remember her.

Fancy ladiesBirthday hat, boa, wand

Fancy hats for grandma's birthday

I found all the supplies for our hats at Michaels. If you want to make your own you will need the following supplies:
- Straw hats
- Glue gun and glue sticks
- Ribbon
- Silk and paper flowers
- Fray check for the ends of the ribbons
Babies are fancy too
We are fancy yes we are, we are fancy, how ’bout you!?
Toddler using a china tea-cup? Yep!

Happy Fancy Friday from our girly girl house!

Why Color Bubbles Fail and Old School Bubbles Rock

17 May

I bought Crayola Color Wonder bubbles for my daughters (ages 3 and 16 months) for messy, summer fun. I had a coupon and I’m always looking for spiffy outdoor toys for TV-free entertainment.

I liked the concept and I knew they would be messy, but I didn’t expect epic mess. As soon as I opened the bottles the mess began in earnest. The brightly colored soap started running down my fingers and hands. It wasn’t long before my preschooler caught on and used the wand to paint herself, me, and her baby sister.

The color bubbles are basically finger paint.  We had fun and the paint washed off the girls pretty quickly, but I tossed them in the trash ASAP for staining our deck.

Color My Deck Splotchy

These are fun, but I prefer old school bubbles. Not just for the mess, but the color bubbles are heavy and not as bubbly. Plus, traditional bubbles catch the light on a sunny day and show off a rainbow of colors.
Now, (in hindsight) I see Crayola does a very thorough job of cautioning parents on just how messy color bubbles can get: wear shabby clothes, play on the grass (not on a driveway or deck), and (duh!) never use at a wedding or other fancy event where folks are not prepared for a gentler version of paintball.  I believe the color will eventually wash off our deck, so I am not complaining so much as warning parents of the color explosion. I echo Crayola’s cautionary statements, and I suggest additional preparations. Keep  towels handy and clean water to hose down the ragamuffins. Take all necessary steps to prevent any drippy child from entering your home. And, I probably wouldn’t break these out right before picture day at school.
In closing, I will add that the baby ate some of the bubbles. I tried to stop her, but it’s nearly impossible to prevent her from mouthing random items. I changed her diaper this morning and noticed the color wonder even extends that far. I will leave you with that and spare you further details.
Even the baby got hit by the color bubbles

 Happy summer, everyone!

Crayola Color Bubbles Gone Messy

YoYo Donuts – Delicious Decadence

17 May

A hearty thank you to @JoelECarlson for holding a networking meeting at YoYo Donuts and Coffee Bar in Minnetonka.  I try to stay away from donuts, because those delicious fat bombs will be my undoing. I am on a mission to lose weight. To quote my friend, Amber, “It’s hard to blame the extra pounds on the baby after a year.”

But, life is too short to forbid myself from enjoying an artisan donut.

Yummy YoYo Donuts

 YoYo Donuts is a great place for a weekday morning meeting.  Gluttons rejoice and dieters beware because the shop is ironically nestled in between a Snap Fitness and Seattle Suttons. Whoopsie daisy – sorry diet!  Cheerful and clean, the shop features pop art on the walls and a sparkly display case showcasing the treats. The free wi-fi and lunch menu (pizza, sandwiches, etc.) are nice additions and ensure YoYo is not a one-trick pony.

YoYo Donuts on Display

 

I decided on two mini bismarcks, one chocolate with custard and the other a creamy key lime. Oh my goodness, I adore the key lime donut. Fresh, bright and delectable. As advertised, the coffee is right on the money and served in arty cups and saucers.

Chris walked me through YoYo’s donut variety. Fritters, bismarcks, cake donuts, long johns. Yum! I know my daughters would flip over the cake donuts festooned with froot loops cereal and silly gummy worms. These treats would be fantastic at a kid’s birthday party.

Chris at YoYo Donuts

The bakery is gaining a following of parents of children with peanut allergies. All YoYo products are peanut and tree-nut free. Crunchy graham crackers replace peanut crumble. Clever!

YoYo uses authentic Maine blueberries in place of blueberry chips and takes pride in their wheat, potato and barley flour to make their donuts flavorful and light. I can attest to the flavor and airiness of their donuts.

If you crave a donut, you must go to YoYo. I restrained myself and only bought one donut to take home to my family. Because I love my husband, I am gifting him a bacon-topped maple long john. 

bacon Bacon BACON
Bacon Donut from YoYo Donuts

 

He might just propose all over again.

Happy snacking!

Grow Mushrooms in Your Kitchen – Sustainable, Fun and Simple

13 May
I am not a mushroom person. I will eat them on a supreme pizza, but you will never find me chomping into a grilled Portobello. My modus operandi is to pick them out of dishes. I try to be sneaky about it, especially if I’m a guest, but occasionally I get busted. Knowing this, you might be surprised gobsmacked that this post is all about mushrooms. Specifically oyster mushrooms.
 
Yesterday, Kellee Magee told me about a DIY mushroom kit. I about fell out of my mushroom avoiding chair. How cool is this!? I may not love the ‘shroom, but I know plenty of people who do.  And, Back to the Root’s innovative product is so intriguing, it turned me into a fan and (gasp!) possibly a consumer. 
 
Their site explains it all, so I will summarize:
 
- Buy a cute mushroom kit in a box.
- The mushrooms grow on coffee grounds diverted from landfills.
- Grow a pound of gourmet oyster mushrooms in 10 days … right from a little, tiny box.
- Then, grow more. One box can sustain as many as four crops.
- The box is post-consumer cardboard and soy ink printing.
- Compost the kit when you harvested all your adorable mushrooms.
 
I love what this company stands for, I love their innovative closed-loop system, and I can’t wait to get one so I can show my daughters how mushrooms grow.
 
Kellee took a picture of her mushroom kit, purchased at Otten Bros. in Long Lake.  Darling, no?
 
 
Box O’ Oyster Mushrooms – Growing right in Kellee’s kitchen

Because I am not a mushroom fan, Kellee sent me her testimonial.

“Amy, I know you aren’t a mushroom person, but I definitely am and can end up spending a small fortune on them! At first I was skeptical, but now I am thrilled to be able to grow mushrooms in my kitchen. They are delicious and super easy to grow – just spritz with water a few times a day. Just a note, for the first six days the box just sat there and I wondered if I did it wrong. Then it gets so cool to watch them grow. We ate the first crop in the photo in a pasta dish two nights ago. YUM!  I’m now wishing I had a second box so I don’t have to wait another ten days for the next crop from this box.”

 
So, buy a couple kits (online, at Otten Bros., or at Whole Foods) and find all sorts of great recipes on the mushroom kit site.
 
NOTE: I am not a paid blogger. I received no compensation to review this product. Don’t get me wrong, I am absolutely open to that (hint hint), but this post is totally legit and driven from my crush on this cutie-patootie product.
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