July coffee chat

Agra Culture coffeeBefore having kids, coffee chats were a weekly part of my life. I worked for myself in a business that was heavily based on networking so I really challenged myself to set-up time with people on a regular basis. Groups make me anxious, but one-on-one over a cup of coffee I blossom.

Even though I often had to talk myself into getting into the car and going, I loved it once it was done. And now that I work full-time and have two little kids I really miss these coffee chats. So I will just make do with my virtual coffee chat. I’ll sip my cold press (yes, it is the middle of the afternoon and I’m still caffeinating) and chat away to all of you about what has been on my mind, what new things I’ve tried that I’m excited for you to try too, and what is keeping me going for the future.

Me time

As a mom, really as a woman, we all seem to be pretty bad at taking time for ourselves and fulfilling our own needs while constantly worrying about those around us. Getting back to this blog is one way I’ve taken time for myself, but July was also a time to regroup about what I need from life. So trying new restaurants, spending time with friends, and working out have found their way onto my calendar in permanent ink.

Fried Chicken Revival St Paul

When a friend and I got together after months of both being super busy we caught up over fried chicken, mac ‘n cheese, and beers. Classy, I know! But this was one classy and amazing meal at Revival in St. Paul. It is a bright space that feels like a group of friends got together on someone’s porch down South for some good home cooking and chatter.

Thankfully, I’ve also been able to squeeze in more consistent workouts along with the extra restaurant trips. Back up to five mile runs!!!! That only took a year and a half, but really who is keeping track?

Exploring

I love being home and we have been slowing making updates to make our space our own little cocoon away from the world, but I have that need because I also love exploring. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this blog is a way for me to keep exploring – through food, new places and experiences, and meeting new people.

July was a month full of cabin visits that included some excursions to places that even after ten years of visiting the region I hadn’t been to. Over the 4th of July we went to Madeline Island for a gorgeous picnic lunch. Then a few weeks later we headed to Hayward for the World Lumberjack Championships. I didn’t even know this was a thing still, but after seeing these men and women compete I was in awe. I mean, how do you even get into these sports?! And what would possess you to climb a 90 foot pole and then pretty much free fall to see who can get down faster? Or stand on a piece of wood and swing an axe between your feet until you cut all the way through? It is impressive and crazy what these competitors from all over the world did and you can tell that they have worked their butts off getting there.

Our taste buds also did a little exploring in July when we tried two new Minnesota made products. First, Maddy & Maize popcorn. We had been seeing it on Instagram and were so excited when we saw that it was coming to our local Hyvee. The first day it was in stock we grabbed a bag of the Bourbon Barbecue popcorn and oh my god it is amazing. It surprised me with a spicy kick, but it is so good. I think Apple Pie a la Mode is the next on the list.

Thumbs Cookies

To go with our something a little spicy, we tried out Thumbs Cookies when Robyn (the owner and baker) offered a limited edition S’more flavor. I had the pleasure of picking them up in person and meeting Robyn at Agra Culture which I love because it was an opportunity to be face-to-face with someone doing what they are passionate about. The hardest part was I picked the cookies up in the morning and wanted to try them as a family so I had the box on my desk at work all day. Talk about will power! The cookies were a hit at our house and we are looking forward to trying the Peanut Butter Sea Salt ones next.

Even though July was a busy month and it wasn’t all good change, I am choosing to keep the blessings and adventures in mind as I move forward to the end of summer, my baby’s first birthday, and our oldest’s journey to kindergarten in September. Cheers to August and a lot more coffee.

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CoffeeBars: A cup of coffee in every bar

Photo credit: newgroundsfood.com

Photo credit: newgroundsfood.com

Who hasn’t rolled out of bed on a busy day only to realize you don’t have time for breakfast or coffee? That is exactly what inspired two Northeastern University students to create a caffeinated bar to kick them into gear for an 8am class.

Three years later and their creation is keeping more than college students awake for the important stuff in life. As soon as I came across it CoffeeBars on Undiscovered Kitchen’s online artisan food shop I knew I needed to give them a try. A mother working full time with more than a few extracurricular activities – I can use a little more caffeine, especially when that inevitable afternoon slouch occurs.

And best of all they are made of all natural ingredients. Oats, nuts, dates, organic coconut, vegan chocolate chips, and fair trade coffee – 100% organic, vegan, and gluten-free. New Grounds Food is certainly well on its way to making products that “keep you healthy and energized for all of life’s adventures”.

Photo credit: newgroundsfood.com

Photo credit: newgroundsfood.com

The bars come in three different flavors: Caramel Macchiato, Coconut Mocha, and Mocha Latte. So far we have re-energized with the Caramel Macchiato and the Coconut Mocha and enjoyed both equally. We’ll keep you posted on the Mocha Latte, but you should definitely give them a try for yourself. coffee bar

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Producer Storytime: Butter Me Up!

If there was a Peanut Butter Anonymous group I would be in the running for their most prominent member. In fact, my biggest fear when my daughter started eating solids wasn’t choking or getting spit up on. No, it was that she was going to have a severe peanut allergy and I would never be able to have my creamy crunchy delight again.

Butter me up with a spoon

Thankfully she isn’t allergic to it so my morning ritual can continue. This love for peanut butter (and nut butters in general) is probably what gets me giddy when I see a new brand or variety. I moved on from the sugary junk of my early years to the real nut butters a long time ago . . . those college years when to our parents’ chagrin everything old is put into question. What still gets my tummy growling is finding small batch spreads, interesting flavors (not loaded with unexplainable ingredients), and new ways to enjoy it.

That is why when I saw the Butter Me Up! tent at the Des Moines farmer’s market on a recent trip I had to sample and purchase some of the good stuff. After coming home and having Olivia beg for it by the spoonful – she literally walked around the house eating just a spoon of it (definitely no nut allergy!) – I decided I had to know more about who lovingly made this for my family to enjoy.

That question led me to Butter Me Up! owner Tracey Norman – a mother, nurse, and now nut butter expert. a spoonful of peanut butter
Like many of us Tracey wants to make sure her family gets the best food that she can provide so after searching for fresh ground nut butters in her corner of Iowa and coming up empty handed she decided she could do it better. So in June 2013 she launched Butter Me Up! at a farmer’s market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with two flavors – Honey Roasted Peanut Butter and Almond Butter. We peanut butter lovers are wide spread and obviously loyal because Tracey has grown her company to produce eight flavors available at local farmer’s markets, food co-ops, grocery stores and will hopefully soon be expanding outside of Iowa for all of us to enjoy. Even with all of this growth the nut butters are made with love and care for a product we can all feel comfortable giving to even our smallest family members.

Butter Me Up cappuccinoAfter picking Tracey’s brain for some ideas for using her nut butters on things outside my breakfast toast I have a list of items to make after I stock up again – burgers with peanut butter, fondue, Asian sauces, and Tracey’s personal indulgence dark chocolate peanut butter melted over a banana. After getting to know a little more about Butter Me Up! and Tracey I am inspired by more than the culinary possibilities. She has grown a business she loves while being present in the lives of her young daughters and reminded me that self-investment pays off for everyone connected to you.

Although Tracey’s search for a local provider of healthy nut spreads came up empty handed she was inspired by all of the things she did find being made in her local community. I am glad I had my eyes open for small local producers when I stumbled on Butter Me Up! and I can’t wait to stock up on some more cappuccino peanut butter, dark chocolate peanut butter, cashew butter . . . oh heck, I should probably just buy one of each!

Tracey’s local restaurant recommendation: Dos Rios Cantina and Tequila Lounge . . . give the guacamole made table side a try!

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