A Minnesota Fall Bucket List

Although I am not ready for summer to end I know according the calendar today is the last day of that glorious sunny season. Fall is here whether I want it to be or not so I’ll keep myself moving forward with a fall bucket list.
Fall Foliage in Wisconsin

Photo Cred: Autumn Tee XIX

Fall foliage
One of the only parts I enjoy of the seasonal change is the beautiful color of the tree line. Thankfully we already have a little excursion planned to Bayfield, WI which means plenty of hilly back roads surrounded by miles of changing tress. Best of all, according to the fall foliage watch the leaves haven’t turned there yet and we should be perfectly timed for the reds, yellows, and oranges to be out on full display.
Pie
I have a nostalgic love for pie – pretty much all pie (except strawberry rhubarb), but I digress. Fall seems like the perfect season for pie. The days are getting cooler so having the oven on all day isn’t as big of a hassle, but it isn’t such a heavy dessert so it still feels a little lighter like summer. Fruit pies are my favorite and as long as we’ve lived in MN I’ve heard so many opinions about where to get the best pie. I think it is time for a pie crawl!
Open since 1979 this little gem in Northeast has been a quiet powerhouse when it comes to baked sweets – especially pie. I’ve heard amazing things about their fruit pies specifically their Harvest Apple Pie.
This was one of the first places I was told to eat when I moved to MN. Yes, ten years later I still haven’t eaten there so I think it is time to rectify the situation. This place has been open since 1957 so I have a feeling I can’t go wrong with whatever slice of heaven I choose. Maybe a slice of 5 Later Butterscotch, Chocolate Banana,  Apple Strawberry Crunch,  and Bumbleberry . . . Two Harbors, MN here I come!
The best part about pies from this Lowertown gem? Personal sized pies – I don’t have to share!
Apple picking – recommendations?
I love apples! I don’t think one day has gone by in twenty years that I haven’t had an apple. There is just something special about an apple orchard and walking away with five-pound bags of freshly picked apples. And if a little apple cider (or pie) makes its way into the car with us, well even better.
Haunted House
Minnesota is home to the “Halloween Capital of the World” for gosh sake and I haven’t even been there. I adore Halloween and have a penchant for horror movies and I haven’t been to a haunted house in close to 20 years.  I think my hubby owes me a scary fun evening. I’m thinking Haunted Basement or is that to much for the first time back?!?
I think this list should get me through fall . . . winter on the other hand, I’m gonna need a bigger list!

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Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie

August Coffee Chat

Where did summer go? I’m not quite ready for cooler weather and sweaters, but it like everything else in life it will come regardless.
Don’t you just hate that though! That those things you wish you could drag out forever always seem to come to an end before you are ready. Yet, the things that you want to change right away seem to take their sweet time. In fact, there is one thing in my life that I know I need to change, my therapist told me I need to change, and my family says I would be happier if I changed. But of course it is the one thing I can’t seem to change.
So instead I cope and try to distract myself . . . that was really the theme for August.
Food
When something is bothering me or not going my way I often turn to food. I am not an emotional eater, but I am an emotional cooker. Give me a day in the kitchen to knead, mix, and bake my way out of my own head and I’m much happier. So this month I clocked more time in the kitchen than I have in a long time. The family got to enjoy the fruits of my labor of course 😃
Cinnamon Rolls
Frozen Peanut Butter Chocolate Pie
Parmesan Zucchini Tots
Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Zucchini Bread
(If you didn’t notice we had an abundance of monster zucchinis in our garden.)
Exploring
The other activity that helps put me at ease is travel. In August we didn’t travel far from home, but even a little local exploration was enough. We took our first camping trip as a family of four!
Happy campers Littlest hiker
Father daughter hike
Lebanon Hills is a gorgeous park about 20 minutes from our house with walking trails and full hook-up campsites. Yep, camping for this family means a camper with running water 😃 Hey, we still cooked over an open fire and went hiking with an infant and a five-year-old.
Family
Speaking of infants, our little man turned one on August 1! Where did the time go?! How did we get from the NICU to finger foods and crawling so quickly?
But here we are with an adventurous, flirty, and ornery little gentleman in our lives.
First birthday

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National Ice Cream Day: 5 at home and 5 for the road

There is no denying it is officially summer in Minnesota. The time of year when everyone becomes an avid runner or biker, patio furniture makes its much-lauded return, and my love for ice cream is on full display.

The rest of my family could (and does) eat ice cream even when the snow is flying and the temperatures dip well below zero, but for me to really enjoy the icy cold treat it has to be sunshine and shorts type of weather. That is when the ice cream maker makes its triumphant return from the bowels of the pantry and ice cream cones earn a spot on the weekly grocery list.

Here are five easy homemade ice cream recipes to help you enjoy the summer season:

  • Coffee Ice Cream from Baked by an Introvert : A few chopped chocolate covered espresso beans and whipped topping make this a real treat.
  • Chocolate Ice Cream from Ashlee Marie: This is our go-to ice cream recipe and it never disappoints!
  • Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream – Joy Filled Eats: This is great for when you’re on dairy overload, but still want a little ice cream treat.
  • Strawberry Ice Cream by A Latte Food: Strawberry is secretly my favorite flavor of ice cream and this one reminds me of the homemade ice cream we made with my grandparents as kids.
  • Rocky Road Ice Cream by Barefeet in the Kitchen: Rocky Road is probably my second favorite flavor because it reminds me of my other favorite summer treat – S’mores!

Of course, if you buy all the ingredients, tell your kids there will be ice cream post dinner, but forgot to put the ice cream maker insert back in the freezer (really who would do that! J) there are always these great sweet shops to hit up for a dip or two.

  • Sebastian Joe’s  This ice cream brand has sort of found its way all over the Twin Cities. It can be found in restaurants and shops on both sides of the river, but heading to one of the two scoop shops is still the best way to enjoy the unique flavors the team has to offer.

Flavor recommendations: Pavoratti, Salty Caramel, Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Nicollet Avenue      Pothole, and Joe’s Brrr Bars

Edina Creamery: Smore’s and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

  • Edina Creamery  We love this little shop with red topped tables and there is plenty of window shopping in the area if you want to take your treat to go.

Flavor recommendations: S’mores, strawberry, chocolate milkshake, and peanut butter     chocolate

  • Izzy’s You can find pints of Izzy’s in some stores around the Twin Cities, but we still love going to one of the shops to get that cute little Izzy scoop up on top.

Flavor recommendations: Peppermint Bon Bon, Vanilla Bean, Church Elderberry, and Peace    Coffee

  • Peterson’s This popcorn and ice cream shop has been around since 1977, but only recently moved it’s location to just down the street from us. Not only is it an after dinner walk away, but their homemade ice cream is fantastic.

Flavor recommendations: Black Hills Gold, Mocha Chip, Butterscotch Sundae, and Blueberry cheesecake

  • Grand Ole Creamery Grand Avenue is a great place to spend the afternoon wandering and this is the perfect spot to grab a quick treat. If you are going to make a meal occasion out of it head over to Punch pizza before satisfying your sweet tooth at this cute little shop.

Flavor recommendations: North country crunch, Coconut chip, Maple nut, and Marshmallow Man

Now the only question is cone or cup?

Got another scoop we should try? Please let us know 🙂

 

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View of Bayfield from the ferry

Madeline Island and the glorious staycation 2017

I love to travel to far off lands and experience things outside my norm, but this past week I was reminded of the fun and beauty that exists right outside our front door.
For the long 4th of July weekend we hadn’t planned on taking more than the two extra days off, but things have been a little crazy lately. What is a few more days off? So for the first time in years we went to the Northwoods for a whole week.
Sometimes a staycation isn’t the only thing you can do, it is the best thing to do.
Cabin fun 2017
Between lots of fresh air on the lake, s’mores by the campfire, and runs on country roads, we squeezed in an excursion to possibly one of my new favorite places – Madeline Island.
View of Bayfield from the ferry

View of Bayfield, WI from the Madeline Island ferry

Located just off the shore from Bayfield, WI, Madeline is the southern most island of the Apostle Islands. Getting there is a fun experience all its own. During the summer you can take the Madeline Island Ferry across and witness floatplanes landing in the water near the dock. We haven’t been in the winter yet, but we hear that crossing can be even more interesting as you cross on an ice road when the lake is frozen over and on the Windsled Taxi – part sled, part boat – when the lake isn’t completely frozen solid. But until then we enjoyed the warm breeze and sunshine of our summertime visit.
Although there are several dining options we planned ahead for a picnic lunch and carried over some supplies with us. After disembarking along with the dozens of other visitors we headed down the street to Joni’s beach. This quiet little area is right on the water front with a play area for the kids, shaded picnic tables, and bathrooms. The perfect spot for a little waterview al fresco lunch.
Besides great views and outdoor activities, the island is known for the many artisans that have set up shop there. The main street is dotted with galleries and local stores. Lots of pottery, weaving, woodwork, and small batch foods could have made their way home with us. Thankfully, we showed restraint and only indulged with a new handmade coffee cup and ceramic soap dish from Deena’s Pottery Studio and a beautiful hand made candle from Madeline Island Candles.
All that walking, shopping, and sunshine really worked up an appetite. So off to Grampa Tony’s for some pre-ferry ice cream we went – next time we will be trying the pizza. We gathered with a group of other visitors in the grassy spot next to the building; lounging in Adirondacks and at picnic tables in the shade of old trees. It was the perfect peaceful end to our day.
ice cream at Grampa Tony's

Strawberry cheesecake ice cream from Grampa Tony’s

We never even made it to the historic sites or the Madeline Island School of the Arts . . . there is always next time 🙂

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November Round-up: Jerky, coffee, and lights

November is over?! It definitely doesn’t feel like this time of year around here. We are just getting snow and temps have been at a comfortable 35-50 degrees.

Well, I guess it is time to admit that another month is gone. So, here are a few things we’ve been enjoying, coveting, and anticipating over the last month.

November

Krave Jerky

As the second year of grad school has worn on, I’ve grown tired of the normal pack-n-go meals. I have plenty of ideas for tasty meals, but lack the time in the kitchen to prepare them. I still like to eat healhty, good tasting food though so I’ve gotten a little creative with options. New favorite is Krave Basil Citrus Jerky. Pair it with some fresh veggies and a pretzels and you’ve got a great meal on-the-go.

Dancing Goat Coffee Shop

I love my neighborhood Caribou because the people who work there and the patrons who you can always count on sitting in their specific seats make it special. But I love coffee and trying new places so occasionally we drive a little farther for our weekend cup of joe. This time we tried Dancing Goat Coffee Shop in the Dayton Bluff neighborhood of Saint Paul. The fresh beans and knowledgable baristas reminded me how much I want to take a tasting class to learn about the different beans, flavors, and aromas of quality coffee. Maybe next month!

Bentleyville

This was our second year attending America’s largets walk through free light display. The set-up was the same as last year, but it was still an amazing sight and it just puts you in the holiday mood. Just a few tips: use one of the shuttle buses rather than waiting in the line of cars trying to pay to park at the site, it is free because of donations from visitors so if you can give a little please do so, and there are lots of places to enjoy a pre or post walk meal but we highly recommend the Canal Park Brewery. 

Travelers Box

We have travelled a lot over seas and as much as we enjoy a few momentos, we hate coming home with lots of foreign currency that we might not ever use again. So I was excited to hear about these new, easy-to-use boxes in airports. You put your extra change in and get gift cards for international brands back. Brands such as Banana Republic, Barns & Noble, Groupon, PayPal and many more. Right now they are only available in Europe, but hopefully we will see them all over the world soon. 

Anything you think I should check out or try next month? Just drop me a note and maybe you will see it in the December round-up. 

 

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Du Nord Craft Spirits: Behind the scenes

I have certainly had my fair share of beer and wine, but at heart I will always be a spirits girl. There is something about the vast array of scents, flavors, and mouth feel that excites and hypnotizes me. Which is why I am so excited to see a craft spirits movement blooming in Minnesota. People who are passionate about what they are doing draw me in like a magnet and if they have a bottle of vodka to sip while we talk all the better.

It was one of these magnetic stories that drew me in this past weekend. My husband and I found ourselves without a toddler in tow so I decided it was time for an actual adult excursion. With a little searching I came across the Du Nord Craft Spirits Distillery tour and Cocktail Room. The story behind how people came to do what they do and the history of a product have always fascinated me. This tour did not disappoint.menu

We arrived a little before our 3:00pm tour time at a rather non-descript building in an underdeveloped area of Minneapolis. Located just off of Hiawatha and the light rail line I had been past this block hundreds of times and had no idea this was here. Of course, in my defense the cocktail room only opened in January 2015 after Minnesota law changed to allow distilleries to offer more to drink on-site than just tastings. So we partook of the rewards of the law change with a couple of pre-tour cocktails. Both the Bee’s Knees and Du Nord Salty Dog were phenomenal – beautiful color and fantastic balance of flavor.

drinks

With our cocktails in hand we joined a small group of fellow spirits lovers for a behind the scenes look at this small operation. Started by a husband and wife team they are keeping it completely Minnesotan. The name Du Nord comes from the state motto, L’Etoile du Nord (The Star of the North). They are a grain to glass operation – all of the grain comes from Minnesota growers (directly from the farmer when possible), is distilled in house, and bottled for sale at local liquor stores. As our guide Ed told us, you will never see a Du Nord Rum because Minnesota cannot grow sugar cane.

Really keeping it Minnesotan they call the big copper one in the back Zelda - F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife :)

Really keeping it Minnesotan they call the big copper one in the back Zelda – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife 🙂

So they have started with Gin and Vodka and are working on adding Whiskey and Bourbon (takes 2-3 years). The process of how science and art come together to create these elixirs was fascinating. I guarantee after learning about where and how they make the cuts, how good distilleries don’t strip away the flavor, and what goes into creating a unique formula you will have a whole new appreciation for quality spirits and the amazing things being done locally.

Aged barrels ready for their Whiskey and Bourbon . . .

Aged barrels ready for their Whiskey and Bourbon . . .

I am very excited to keep on eye on what Du Nord is up to since they are coming out with a few new formulas, including a new world flavor Gin (will have no juniper) that people will be able to vote on to pick which gets bottled and distributed, that whiskey and bourbon that will be sitting in the aged barrels, and as part of the Minnesota Distillers Guild working with the MN legislature to pass a bill that would allow on-site bottle sales similar to what you can currently do at wineries.

Until then, I will just have to head out to my favorite liquor store and pick up a bottle of L’Etoile Vodka and Fitzgerald Gin (named after famous Minnesotan F. Scott Fitzgerald). Or I can organize a group of friends for a bottling party where I get an even closer look behind the scenes when we get to help bottle the spirits and we walk away with a parting gift of our own. And of course there is always the Cocktail Room with great atmosphere, big windows to look in on the distillery, and even a food truck on-site for some Italian nibbles – happy hour here we come!

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Craft Beer and Kitchen: A first impression

The restaurant scene is always changing, which is part of what makes living in a culinary playground so much fun. However, I am always heartbroken to see establishments close, especially ones that have been around for years and been enjoyed by generations (or the ones on my restaurant dream list that close before I get to them). The past few months have seen the closing of some favorites such as Pracna on Main, Spill the Wine, and Nye’s Polonaise.

The only thing that offsets the sadness of one closing is visiting a new restaurant and being reminded that new favorites will open, chefs will continue to hone their skills, and we will keep sharing meals and memories with friends and family. A recent visit to the new Craft Beer & Kitchen in Woodbury, MN got us excited about exploring new places again.

Opening in the old Sunsets location the new look is modern and inviting with low lighting and dark wooden accents. The menu also received a bit of an upgrade with some interesting twists on old classics. The thing that really made this trip stand out, however, was the excellent service.

Today wait staff doesn’t tend to make that big of an impression on me since it is high turnover and often people who don’t enjoy what they do. The waitress we had the night we visited Craft was phenomenal. My daughter started to feel like she might be running a temp so my husband left to run across the street to CVS for some fever reducer. The waitress was kind enough to hold his meal in the kitchen and then she was so attentive she saw him come back in and she had his food out to the table seconds after he sat down.Cheese curds

The food is of course what we were there for and it didn’t disappoint. We started with breaded cheese curds and char wings. They were beautifully presented on a wooden board with delicious dips – honey mustard for the cheese curds and blue cheese for the wings. I’m not a big fried food or cheese curd person, but the cheese curds tasted like light and fluffy mozzarella sticks and were gone in moments. Between the six of us we had a hard time narrowing down entrees, but each settled on something different.

The jerk burger was well balanced with a little kick after the fact. The tree hugger grilled cheese was light years beyond any American cheese sandwich made at home.

Pumpkin ravioli

The pumpkin ravioli were little clouds of pasta sprinkled with chunks of savory sausage nestled into a light creamy sauce.

chicken sandwichThe open-faced chicken rotisserie chicken sandwich was piled atop perfect ciabatta bread with a layer of tart cherry chutney aioli keeping everything balanced.

The food and service will have us returning soon and we wish the team at Craft good luck!

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Minnesota fall bounty

Fall is one of those seasons in Minnesota that if you blink you might miss it. But if you do catch it, it is a beautiful time of year. A time of bright reds, oranges, and yellows. Friends around the fire. Sweaters and boots. Pumpkins, cider, and apple picking.

Fall foliage MN

So before the snow invaded the fall bliss we headed out to a few orchards and pumpkin patches near the Twin Cities and ended up with a delicious meal from our local bounty.

The first stop was Country Sun Farms in Stillwater, MN. This fun location was a little dead on a weekday, but it offers so much – pumpkins, fall décor, corn maze, hayrides, silly string tag (think laser tag with silly string), and lots of animals to pet. Here we nabbed some goat saliva, pumpkins for Halloween, and a beautiful acorn squash. After riding the mini carousel and lots of hand sanitizer we headed to our next stop.

Aamodt’s Apple Farm is a beautiful orchard, shop, and tasting room. Unfortunately, we were there when the tasting room wasn’t open, but it will make a perfect date day next spring. Even without the tasting room the farm is a charming experience and full of great products to enjoy. We tried a new apple, Pazazz, which to me tasted like a mix between a Pink Lady and a McIntosh – loved them! And everyone in the house loved them too because my five apples only lasted two days. Honeycrisp apple salsa

While we were browsing the local products we also walked away with apple oatmeal cookies and some amazing Honeycrisp Apple Salsa. In fact, this salsa is what gave me the inspiration to rework one of my favorite recipes for a delicious fall meal.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
6 servings

3 acorn squash ( ¾ – 1 pound each)
1 small red onion, chopped
½ medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 cup Honeyscrisp Apple Salsa
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I used Red Barn 3 year aged cheddar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut the acorn squash in half horizontally. Scoop out the seeds and place the squash cut side down on the cookie sheet. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, toss the onion, bell pepper, garlic, beans, and salsa in a large bowl. Set aside until ready to use.

When the squash is tender remove from the oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. On your cookie sheet carefully flip the squash over so you have a edible bowl to fill. Fill eat squash half with some of the filling mixture. Top each with cheese as desired.

Return to the oven and bake until the filling is heated through and the cheese is melted – 8 to 10 minutes.

Stuffed acorn squashEnjoy!

P.S. I will tell you all about the Red Barn cheese in a future blog post . . . some of the best cheese I have EVER had!

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