Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Random thoughts on this last day of April:

Wondering how bad my driver's license picture will turn out. Tried to change my name, I have been Kristi Hanson Pohl since I got married, on everything from my social security card, to my checking account, to my retirement accounts, but apparently you need a court document that says that you legally changed your name before they will change it on your driver's license. So if I ever end up in jail, it will be because of my "assumed" name. Please come and visit me there, and bring me treats.

HUGE DAY in my life on Tuesday, Mike went with me to Ikea and we decided on our new kitchen cabinets and countertop. Some of you may know that I have wanted to remodel our kitchen since we moved in here 16 years ago. Well, it is FINALLY going to happen! Mike wanted to do the whole thing for $4000. Then he kind of fell for this lovely granite countertop, and after that, nothing else would do. So the budget has gone up, and he has decided he will install the cabinets himself. (luckily, the high price of the countertop does include measuring, delivery, and installation, and it is still far cheaper than other places.) He even felt we needed to get a new faucet! And I figure, if he can build a simulator for Lockheed Martin, he can install Ikea cabinets. On top of that, we know someone who works at Ikea, and ran into him while we were there, and he said he would be happy to help if we had any questions. cool.

I am starting to feel like a grown up!

For those of you who still have younger children, here is something to look forward to. I have been noticing it more and more this year, but haven't really wanted to voice it out loud, thinking that perhaps it would then go away. Now that Charlie is 10, and pretty much manages himself after school and at night (other than homework reminders, and pushing him into the shower), I have WAY more time for myself! Tuesday night after dinner, he and Mike went across the street to play catch, and then he found some other neighbor kids to play with, and Mike went to the garage to work on his cycle. So I had until bedtime to do something just for me! Hey, maybe I can actually do some more of those projects that are sitting around here unfinished. Or write the great American novel. Or start exercising......

The lovely month of May is on it's way, and I love it for so many reasons: lilacs bursting into bloom, the smell of the newly dug dirt in my garden, all of those birthdays, Mother's Day, winding down to the end of school, longer days spent outside, dinner al fresco before the mosquitos come out, those first nights of sitting on the patio by candlelight and drinking wine-wrapped in a blanket, and all of the million shades of green that explode from the trees as the new leaves reach toward the sun. And the Plant Sale, and Memorial Day weekend, and May baskets, and making a birthday cake for Mike, and filling all of the window boxes with heady blooms. GOODBYE APRIL!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Yes, I know I told you I put away all of my cold weather recipes, but dangit, it's cold again. So last night I made one of our favorites-Ina Garten's Chicken Stew with Biscuits. You can find it here:,,FOOD_9936_23471,00.html

I went to Widmers and got fresh chicken breasts and roasted them like she says too, they made the house smell delish. But I took a couple of shortcuts-using frozen chopped onions (because I love how much time they save me) and using Grands Biscuits instead of making my own, because I just wasn't in the mood for biscuit rollin' yesterday. It still turned out:

So we each had a hearty helpin' of home cookin'. And it warmed our tummies as well as my heart. And since I had the oven on anyway, and I had an extra puff pastry crust left over from the weekend's cooking extravaganza, I whipped up this:

Almond Pear Tart

1 sheet thawed puff pastry

1/3 c. sliced almonds

3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar

3 med size firm ripe pears

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold

Preheat oven to 400, roll pastry out on a lightly greased baking sheet into a 12" square. Fold over the edges 1/2" to form a border, prick pastry with fork, and stick it in the freezer for a bit. In a food processor or blender, combine the nuts and brown sugar until fine. Sprinkle half the mixture over the pastry crust. Combine the rest of the mix with the cold butter, and reserve. Slice the pears thinly, and arrange in overlapping rows to cover the pastry. Sprinkle the reserved nut mixture over the top, throw it in the oven for 20 min or so until it is golden, puffy, and the pears are tender. Serve warm, with a little vanilla bean ice cream or fresh whip cream You can substitute apples for the pears, if you are so inclined. Totally yummy.

Sorry, we ate it too fast to take a picture....

Monday, April 28, 2008

looking back

My favorite month is just days away, and I am not even going to talk about the fact that it was snowing as I walked Charlie to the bus stop.

This post is inspired by something I read in MORE magazine-for those of you who aren't familiar with it, it is a publication aimed at women over 40. And since some of my dear friends will be hitting that milestone this year, let me just tell you it is a wonderful magazine, and I probably get more out of that issue every month than all of my other magazines combined. It is not just about hot flashes and wrinkles. Not to say that I started reading it the minute I turned 40, it took a little while to adjust to that age, and to be proud of it. Remember, 50 is the new 30.

Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Twenty Year Old Self:

1. 125 pounds is not fat, and you do not need to go on a diet.

2. Going blonde with Sun-In will not suit you, at all.

3. Your nine year old little sister will become your best friend, help her through life.

4. Don't wear tube tops in public.

5. When you get your first big job, and they offer a company match for retirement, sign up for the maximum you can, right away.

6. Do not keep a balance on your credit cards.

7. Mike really does want to spend the rest of his life with you, it will just take him a few more years to commit. And it will be so worth the wait.

8. Your mom knows way more than you think she does.

9. Some of the close friends you have now will not be the same friends you have 5, 10, or even 20 years from now. And that is okay. You need different friends for every stage of your life.

10. Don't give up on your dreams, ever.

Friday, April 25, 2008

when did I get elected princess?

-because that is what I feel like today. I am heading out for yet another 3 day weekend with females. Am I spoiled? Most definitely. Just lucky? for sure. And what are the chances that my treasured time away with other women would happen to land a week apart on the calendar?

I shall stop obsessing about the fortuitousness of it all and just go with it.

I am heading to Wisconsin to my dear friend Kari's cabin, along with our new BFF Joanne. She has three children, Noah is in Charlie and Riley's class, Kylie is in first grade, and Shea will be in kindergarten this year. And she has NEVER HAD A GIRL'S WEEKEND AWAY. So Kari and I will show her how it is done.

It is supposed to rain/snow all weekend, and be really nasty (I feel another letter to Mother Nature coming on) so we plan to bead, and make paper crafts, and cook, and eat, and shop, and read cookbooks, and watch movies. We may even drink some wine along the way.

And when I come home again on Sunday night, my guys will give me big hugs, and tell me how glad they are that I am home, and life will be good. As I will be happy to be home again, and refreshed and renewed, and ready to get back to life.

Chicks rule!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

biker boots and muddy trails

I am a dirt biker mom/wife. Wonder what political demographic that puts me in?

Mike renewed his love for the sport when he hit 39. He got a new dirt bike, and started competing in enduros, as he had when he was in high school. A 39 year old body isn't quite ready for the punishment that riding trails through the woods imposes, so Mike began a vigorous work-out routine that he has maintained for several years. It truly helps his performance, and I love grabbing his bicep and feeling nothing but muscle. Such a nice contrast to my own flappy chicken arms. But I digress...

Charlie has never shown a lot of interest in the sport, and Mike hasn't pushed the idea at all. Last summer, when we were coming back from an enduro (Mike dropped us in Bemidji while he competed near Akeley) Charlie said, "hey dad? I think I would like to ride a dirt bike". He had brought his regular bike and had spent the weekend riding through the trees in my parents large back yard, and decided riding a dirt bike would give him a similar experience. The grin on Mike's face lasted all the way home.

Rather than head out the next day to buy Charlie a dirt bike, Mike waited, to see if it came up again. He wanted to make sure Charlie was serious, and not just exhilerated from his biking freedom he had experienced in Bemidji. Weeks went by, and when Charlie did ask again, Mike said, "Let's go out with the Maki boys and you can try it out." Mike's riding buddy Bob has two young boys who have been riding since they could walk, and Mike thought it wise for Charlie to see if he really liked it before making a purchase.

He loved it, and the bike purchase soon followed. Along with a helmet, boots, and all of the other required gear.

Here they are, just this last weekend, before riding the trails near Mankato. How cute are they?
Yes, that is my child, on a machine, riding through the woods.

He looks really natural!

He even goes through water!

And up hills!

oops. Now, this is when I am glad I am not out there watching. He wasn't seriously injured. Although it is a clear and distinct possiblity. Shall we start a pool to see when the first emergency room visit occurs?

Mike is such a patient, encouraging instructor. Charlie listens really well, and is becoming a very good rider because of it. So maybe he won't get hurt.

A mom can dream...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


gid·dy -Having a reeling, lightheaded sensation; dizzy. adj. gid·di·er, gid·di·est

I would like to propose that we rename the season that comes after winter, GIDDY.

Because that is what folks have been like around here lately. We have hit 70 degrees, for more than one day in a row, and honestly, I am thinking we need one big giant street party to celebrate the end of 6 months of winter and drab.

The rain last night? What a wonderful sound to hear those drops drumming on the roof! And the smell in the air when it first started was about enough to knock you over, it was so sweet, and earthy, and smelled what I imagine the color green smells like.

Speaking of green, the grass is so green today it nearly hurts your eyes. Like we should be wearing some kind of special eye protection, the kind they tell you to wear when you are watching a solor eclipse. Is it just because our rods and cones haven't seen that natural color in so long, that they can't quite identify it yet?

If you listen very closely, you can almost hear the grass growing in the Cretin field across the street from our house. I think they give it special winter food, because the first nice day comes along and it looks gorgeous. Not like the sad little grass in my yard, that is so bravely trying to emerge from all of the winter gunk. Of course, the field actually gets some sun, which I have heard makes a big difference in growing things.

I had no idea so many people actually lived in my neighborhood. The bikes, the Big Wheels, the scooters, the trikes, and the strollers are out in full force. Lots of pasty, pale skin yearning for Vitamin D. Love the sound of the flip flops as they walk past my open window. Not a sound you hear in January. And all of the houses that have been for sale in the neighborhood, are now mostly sporting SOLD signs. A very good sign, I think.

Another noticable sign of warmer weather? More teeth. People are actually smiling more. And they are kinder to each other. "No, really, I only have a couple of items, you go ahead and go in front of me". Well, I haven't actually experienced that yet, but I remain hopeful.

Longer days, the kids can play outside. You can hear the 'ping' of the ball as the metal bat knocks a run far out into the field. I love how Charlie's hair smells after he has been running around in the field all night-playing soccer, or a pick-up baseball game with neighbor kids, or tossing around the football with his dad. I am guessing when he is 13 it won't smell quite as sweet.

And of course, there is the food. Because everything in life ALWAYS comes back to the food. I am pulling out all of my warm weather recipes and putting the stews, the casseroles, the all-day-in-the-oven recipes to the back of the box. It's time for a good old tuna salad. We grilled for the first time. And yes, we were positively GIDDY over the taste of a perfectly grilled steak.

How do YOU plan to welcome giddy?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

healthy food that's good

I had a fun post today of my guys on their dirt bikes, but there is a problem downloading pic with blogspot today, so I will save that one for another day. Because the pictures are really key to the whole deal.

So instead, I will talk about food!

Tried two new recipes last night, they were huge hits. I love when I spend lots of time in the kitchen and am rewarded with big smiles and moans of delight at the dinner table. I am going to attempt to link to them here, so I don't have to type them out.

First off, Ellie Krieger's Oven Fried Chicken.,,FOOD_9936_35751,00.html
I picked up some really fresh chicken breasts at Thielen's meat market in Little Falls on my way home, they were gigantic, and perfect for this recipe. And it made enough that we have lots of leftovers, I am thinking they would be great in a salad tomorrow night, or on a bun with some fresh spinach and a little olive oil mayo.

Next, Nigella Lawson's New Orlean's Coleslaw.,,FOOD_9936_78741,00.html
Mike loves coleslaw, I usually just buy the preshredded stuff, dice up a green apple, and mix it together with some celery seed and a bottle of coleslaw dresssing. But this sounded so good, I thought it would be worth the effort. And it really was. I ended up using Napa cabbage for it, as Super Target didn't have the Savoy cabbage I wanted to use, but it still worked out. The dressing is creamy and yummy, with the hint of maple in it. I used reduced fat mayo with olive oil in it, and only two of the scallions it called for. I served the pecans on the side, as Charlie isn't a fan of nuts in his food. It was a great combo with the 'fried' chicken.

And then I splurged and bought corn on the cob to complete the meal, as it just seemed to need that. And if I wasn't trying to save some calories, I would have served honey butter biscuits on the side with apple pie for dessert! But we were all full anyway, so we didn't notice that we needed anything else.

I have had the best luck with recipes from the Food Network site, it is a great resource if you are looking for something new to try. As Julia would say:

Bon Apetit!

Monday, April 21, 2008

trying to maintain that zen-like state

Here they are, prior to their massages, manicures, and pedicures. Don't they look happy? Although my mom does appear to be a trifle was the first massage ever for both of them, they loved it! And I loved being able to share it with them.

It was a wonderful weekend of pampering, shopping, relaxing, and really good food. And can I just say that the Grand View Lodge is the most incredible place to stay? Since it wasn't very busy, they upgraded us from a one bedroom suite on the golf course, to a 3 bedroom cabin with full kitchen on the lake! We each had our own bathroom too, and there was a 2 person jacuzzi. The cabin we were in could have comfortably slept 14 people, so we were pretty much in heaven. They don't mess around, really nice furniture and bedding, everything is spotless, they don't miss a single detail. The breakfast each morning (included in our package) was spectacular, really tasty, and great service.

We have already booked the same weekend for next year, and have decided this will be an annual outing for us from now on. It's so important to stay connected with the women in your life, without any other distractions!

My boys had a great weekend too, I will post some very fun photos of that tomorrow.
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Friday, April 18, 2008

down time

It's 6 am, and I am all packed to head out for three days away from my guys.

Exhileration abounds! My bag holds books, and comfy clothes, and a whole stash of beading supplies. Oh, and of course, some fine cheeses and quality snacks, maybe even a bottle of wine or two!

Meeting my dear sis and mum up north, we are spending the weekend at Grandview Lodge. Today we are going to really treat ourselves and spend the afternoon at the spa (it will be my mom's first time doing something like this, I can't wait to see her reaction!) The Glacial Waters spa is simply gorgeous, and is one of the best I have been to. Go to to check it out in case you want to schedule some time away!

I have been lucky enough to sneak away for some me time every now and then-the first time I left Charlie I went away to Cannon Falls and stayed at a bed and breakfast, all by myself. Mike's parents came to help out, Charlie was at least 2 or 3, so it wasn't like Mike couldn't handle it. People have strange reactions when they hear you are going away, alone. "Is everything okay? Are you and Mike having problems?" NO! Just need to get away from it all.

Mostly I go with my girl friends. There is something about hanging out with someone who shares similar interests and female DNA. I used to plan meals, clean the whole house, and wash all of the laundry before I left town. I got over that.

Mike and Charlie are planning to get out their dirt bikes and get them ready for the season, then spend the weekend riding them. They will have a great time! And I won't have to see all of their dirty gear come through the house.

The best part about going away, is coming back. I will be refreshed, and renewed, and ready to be a mom/wife/housekeeper/business owner again. And my guys will be so glad to see me (I hope!) And not just for a good hot meal.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

a staple of Minnesota baking:

Bars. Or as we say in Bemidji-barrrrssss.

They are like magic in a pan. They usually don't take much time to whip up, don't require multiple baking sheets and an hour in the kitchen, and many times you already have the ingredients on hand. Not to mention, they make enough to feed a crowd.

Having a baby shower? Bars. The church called and needs something for a funeral? Bars. Graduation party? Bars. Cub Scout pot luck? Bars.

The varieties are endless, so you can always bring something different. And most any cookie recipe can be converted to a bar. (except for Chocolate Malt Sandwiches....that would be tricky.)

This year Charlie's group, the Webelos, was selected to bring dessert, so I whipped up some caramel Rice Krispie bars for the kids, and am making my standard, most requested, easy yet very yummy bars for the grown ups. And the next time you need some bars, you can make these too. They are from a Pillsbury bake-off from years ago. It wasn't the winner, but still made it into one of their little grocery store endcap cookbooks. I have modified it some.

French Caramel Pecan Bars
3/4 c butter, melted
1 Pkg French Vanilla cake mix (or Butter Recipe, or just Yellow)
1 egg
2 1/2 c quick-cooking oats
1 can Caramel frosting (or Coconut Pecan, unless you are Tracy M)
1/4 to 1/2 c. Caramel ice cream topping
1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Heat the oven to 350, grease a 15 x 10 baking pan. Reserve 3 Tbsp. of the cake mix, combine rest of cake mix with the melted butter in a large bowl. Add egg, mix well, then stir in oats. Press 2/3 of the cake mixture (about 2 1/2 c) into the baking pan. Put the frosting in a bowl and microwave on high 1 minute to melt, add reserved cake mix and stir until big lumps disappear. Drizzle 2/3 of the frosting mixture over the the cake mix in the pan. Sprinkle the choc. chips and pecans over that, then drizzle the ice cream topping over that. Make sure to lick your fingers, but for heavens sake, wash them before this last hands on bit. Crumble the rest of the cake mixture over the top, and bake about 30 min. You can tell they are done when the top is golden brown and it is all bubbly around the edges. Cool completely before trying to cut them.

And you will want to try them before they are cool, it's just kind of a fact of life. But just cut along the edges, because you aren't going to bring the edges out in public anyway, are you? At least, that is how I was many rules.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

another foible

Since I left corporate America to stay home with Charlie, and then start our own corporation, it has become very important to change how things look inside the house. On a seasonal basis. Since my home is my office is the place I spend the majority of my life.

So it's time for spring! Here is a not very great shot of the living room (where is that good photo light, Mike?):
I switched out the upholstered chairs for some wicker, made new curtains (hey, is that SUNLIGHT coming through those windows?) put a different rug on the floor, changed out my lamps, and made new pillow covers. Hello spring!

Here is a close up of the new doo dads on the fireplace mantel, I found these little metal birds at Bibelot, they remind me of the sparrows that build a nest in the clematis over Charlie's bedroom window every year, and try to build a nest under our air conditioner in our bedroom. The fun bowls are from Patina-love the colors!This is a glimpse of changes in the dining room, I love having so many surfaces to play with. The block lights are from Ikea, I put new papers on them probably 6 times a year. Now, I will admit, that is just a little weird. But hey, it is just one of my things...along with decorating with fresh fruit.More dining room stuff, here is that groovy 1920's buffet I picked up at Gypsy Moon, all decked out with the fresh herbs I have going so that by the time they get planted in the herb garden they will be good to go. Love how the mirrors reflect everything.

This is a close-up of the telephone nook in our dining room, again with the birds and fruit! I love the saying on the clay tile (If you can't read it, it says "Life is not measured byt the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.") A handly little reminder, now and then. I picked it up at a wonderful pottery place near Hayward, Wisconsin.And clearly Claude likes the change, you can find him in a wicker chair most mornings.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

spring fever

Snow pile alert-the one on the north side of our house, on the boulevard, which is usually the last pile of snow in all of St. Paul, is nearly gone! And with predicted temps of 66 today, it may just vanish. I think my little letter to Mother Nature must have had some impact! I want to go out and wash all my windows, and clean out my window boxes. But I'm not going to do it quite yet, as I fear that would jinx it. Maybe next week.

Yesterday I posted that I was cooking Shrimp Alfredo last night, which I ended up not doing, as Mike ended up having to work, so Charlie and I enjoyed dinner at Vina instead. (Very yummy Vietnamese restaurant right in the village, run by a family from Charlie's school, their son Don is one of Charlie's classmates.)

So I am going to share the recipe with you today, as it is a wonderful way to welcome in the advent of warmer weather! The recipe is an old one from Byerly's (one of the little recipe cards that I picked up in the store back in 1995) and it is delightful:

Shrimp Alfredo
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 red pepper, cut into strips
1 c. sliced mushrooms (I like baby portobellos)
1/4 lb. fresh pea pods
1 lb. medium cooked shrimp
1 jar Alfredo sauce
1 9 oz. pkg. fresh fettucini (you can use dried, just start it earlier)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
In wok or large skillet, heat oil over med. heat. Stir in garlic and red pepper, stir fry about 2 min. until crisp-tender. Stir in mushrooms and pea pods, stir fry 1 min. Add shrimp and continue cooking until pea pods are tender (1-2 min). Meanwhile, in med. saucepan, heat Alfredo sauce. Remove vegetables and shrimp from wok with slotted spoon, stir into Alfredo sauce. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to pkg directions with 1/2 tsp salt, drain. Gently toss shrimp mixture with pasta, sprinkle with Parmesan, serve immediately. Serves 4.

You can make this lower in fat by making your own light version of Alfredo sauce-it will take a little longer, but will save you some calories. This one is from Cooking Light:

Lighter Alfredo Sauce
1 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. flour
1 1/3 c. skim milk
1 c. fresh grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. whipped light cream cheese
Melt butter in pan over med. heat, add garlic and saute 1 min. Stir in flour, gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended, cook until thick and bubbly, about 8 min, stirring constantly. Add Parmesan, stir constantly until cheese melts.

Think we will have a salad and a crusty baguette to top off the meal-maybe even open a Pinot Noir to wash it all down. Or a giant pitcher of iced tea.

Oh great, now I am hungry. Think I better have a big bowl of high fiber cereal and go for a walk....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

feeling a little swarmy....

On Sat. night, we were fortunate enough to attend our 100th Swarm game of the year!

Okay, it really isn't 100, because they haven't even had that many home games.

But if you have never seen it, going to a professional lacrosse game is WAY BETTER than sitting home and watching Star Wars for the 47th time and knitting a sweater. Or just about anything else that is available to us in January, February, March, and April.

Charlie's teacher works for the Wild, (on the side, can you imagine? the poor woman must not sleep much....) who also own the Swarm, so she works their home games too. And since they are busy building a fan base, they so very kindly donate tickets to our school. So we just pay for parking and tasty treats, and it's a very reasonable, delightful family outing. Especially in the late winter, which has lasted for a year. (see Friday's complaint post) It gives us something fun to do since we can't go boating, or play baseball, or sit on the patio and drink wine. And they DO sell wine at the X. But I digress...

Mike decided to bring his camera last night, as he keeps meaning to, and so I pulled up the pictures to put in my blog.

They were mostly of the cheerleaders. Or what I believe they call the "dance team" in shiny blue lycra. whatever. I am not going to waste my time and yours showing you a picture of their perfectly flat abs. Have a cheeseburger! (oh, did that sound kind of bitter?)

Anyhoo, I just love going and hanging out with my friends, and seeing Charlie have so much fun, as he really gets into the game. Who knew lacrosse could be such a blast!

So an official thank you to the Swarm, and Mrs. K, for so kindly sharing with all of us oh-so-very-lucky Horace Mann families.

And if you decide to try it out this Saturday night-it's 70's night, so get those bell bottoms out of the closet and dig out those Angel Flight leisure suits! Or maybe a lovely Gunne Sax dress, with Farah Fawcett hair!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Dear Mother Nature-

Or maybe that isn't even your real name. Maybe it's an alias, and you are really a man.

Just a note to inform you that all of us here in Minnesota have pretty much had it up to here with your really warped notion of 'spring'. Never mind that winter started way too early this year, you have decided to extend the gray, barren, bone chilling view we have outside our window nearly EVERY SINGLE DAY well into April. Which should actually be warming up by now, just a little bit.

Is it asking too much to have some sunshine, and a temperature above 50 degrees?

Oh sure, you have taunted us with I think four days above 48 degrees, and yes, we are grateful. But our gratitude is quickly fading, with every sheet of sleet that falls on the bare tree branches, and ices up the sidewalks and roadways.

Come on, I just want to wear some sandals!

I have tried to remain optimistic, encouraging my friends to curl up and read a good book, or cook up another pot of soup. But this has gone too far. We just want to grill a hamburger, for crying out loud!

Please, just end this horrific winter insanity now. If you do, I promise we will toast you with nicely chilled glasses of wine, while watching the sun set from my patio. Maybe we will even frolic through the newly green grass, and sing your praises.

And I solemnly swear, right here and now, not to complain about the nasty humidity you will throw at us in July.


A fed up St. Paul girl who didn't get a warm vacation

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Trader Joe's is a comin'

I may never be able to move. Not now, not when they are going to start building a new Trader Joe's less than a mile from my house.

My first experience with Trader Joe's was when they opened in St. Louis Park. It was an adventure going there, horrible parking. But worth a trip every now and then. Now that we have one in Woodbury, I regularly make jaunts out there with my friends (car pooling saves gas, you know). I keep a running list on my fridge of the things I will need on my next trip. Here are a few of my favorites:

Forget the pricey Aveda products! ( I know, blasphemy.) Who knew a grocery store would have great skin care? I tried these, on a whim, and I am completely sold. And the best part? I got ALL THREE of these products for less than $10 TOTAL. The Citrus body wash is just the right amount of fragrance, without being overwhelming. The Citrus body lotion is the same fragrance, creating a light layer without being too heavy. And the tangerine sugar scrub? I don't even have words to describe what it does to your skin in the shower. Just be careful, the floor gets a little slippery...

On to frozen friend Kari clued me in to this wonderful combo. Mike and Charlie LOVE it-one bag almost isn't enough for all of us. Great on a night when you need something relatively quick.
Then we have other frozen delights, who knew there were so many kinds of frozen risotto? To heck with standing over the stove for half an hour, stirring liquid into your orzo-just rip open a bag of these goodies. You will hardly notice the difference in taste.

Charlie is a huge fan of the potato gnocchi, filled with pesto. Just boil them up and serve with a little melted butter or olive oil, and some grape tomatoes on the side. yummm

Trader Joe's has fresh pizza dough. Both regular and whole wheat. And you can freeze it, then just thaw it out, roll it out, and top it with their fabulous pizza sauce. And if you have never experienced the joy of using peeled garlic, you have not lived.
My hubby makes dinner every now and then, okay, he makes spaghetti every now and then. It is his 'specialty'. And he prefers the really long spaghetti noodles, which used to be easy to find. Not any more. But Trader Giotto's has come to the rescue! And their prosciutio is half the price of any other store.
Then there are the dairy products. The Vanana yogurt is like eating dessert. The European butter makes fresh veggies sing, and it's taste on corn on the cob will make you weep. Charlie is a huge fan of the chocolate cocoa yogurt. And it's good for you!

I stock up on their chicken broth whenever I am there, I seem to go through a lot of it. LOVE their chutney-so good with a little marscapone or cream cheese on a cracker. And speaking of crackers, these multiseed snacks won't make you feel one bit guilty.And my all time favorite item at Trader Joe's-Fig Bars. They are my standard breakfast when I am in a hurry to get out the door, and to pick me up around 3 pm with a cup of coffee. mmmmm

I also love to buy their fresh flowers, an inexpensive pick me up. Their produce is so good, and organic, if that matters to you. And did I mention that they have a wine shop?

Can you see why I am a little obsessed with Trader Joe's? If you have never had the pleasure, make a little trip to the cities and have an adventure!

And bring a cooler....

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

random bits

Random is Charlie's favorite new word. Don't know where it came from, but he finds an opportunity to use it on a regular basis. "wow mom, THAT was random". I guess it is his version of when I used "groovy" a lot after watching too much Partridge Family or Brady Bunch.

Charlie has become a sports fanatic this year-he reads the Sports section in the paper, which works out dandy since neither Mike or I ever read it. Except for the weather report on the back. And it is pretty darn exciting around St. Paul, because the WILD ARE IN THE PLAYOFFS! Our school is heading over to the X (that's how you say it when you are in the know) this afternoon to put Wild towels on the back of every seat, yup, all 18000 +, and then they give our PTA a lovely donation for helping out. We will do it for every home game, so root for the wild so we can fill the PTA coffers!

The "Hannah Montana" bill is in the legislature right now, it would make it illegal for those nasty ticket companies to buy up huge blocks of tickets and then resell them at ridiculous prices. While I am not a fan of more laws, this one seems to me to be a no brainer. Just yesterday I was trying to get tickets for "The Swell Season" concert (the duo from the movie "Once") and it was completely sold out, but there were gobs of tickets available at ticket resources on line. For too much money. And I refuse to support that kind of gouging, so I will just sit in my back yard on May 7th, with a glass of wine, and listen to the soundtrack. And anyone who feels the same way is welcome to join me.

In Business news, Kathee Tesija was just named Executive VP of Merchandising at Target. Love the story, she started there in 1986 as a Merchandise Analyst (just like me!) and rose through the ranks. She basically will be doing what Steinhafel was doing, once he becomes CEO on May 1st when Ulrich retires. I never worked with her, but remember that the people who did had good things to say about her. I wish her luck! Chicks rule!

Joe Soucheray talked about urban turkeys today, and how they have lately become a problem since it is mating season. Mail carriers in Madison have taken to using water pistols to fend them off. Here is my favorite line from the story: "Fighting a turkey with a squirt gun? Please. That's like trying to fend off Jesse Ventura with a fact."

Signs of spring! Ummmmm, they have been pretty hard to find lately. Just ask my sister up in Bemidji, she got over two feet of snow at her new house. And she couldn't find her boots. We have the everlasting snow pile on our boulevard, it should finally be gone by the end of May. And they are predicting a nasty weather weekend. Ho hum. Just another excuse to make a pot of chili, do another jigsaw puzzle, and snuggle in for a good movie. Because you know if it was nice out we would feel the need to do yard work. So maybe this weather is just God's little way of saying that we need to hibernate, just a little bit longer.

And as Denny Crane says, "Ah well, que saran saran."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bon Appetit !

This week the Food Network is running their Chefography series, each night is a biography of a famous chef. Last night it was about Julia Child, who I consider the goddess of all good food.I have several of her cookbooks (still need to track down Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1). I have Volume Two, an old copy I picked up at a yard sale. I have read several books about her life, she had quite an interesting one! Born in Pasadena, she was pretty much a party girl until the war came along, when she joined the OSS (precursor to the CIA) because she was too tall to get into either the WACS or the WAVS. She traveled the world, and met her soon to be husband in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). They eventually settled in Paris, where she learned to cook. Her husband was an early foodie, and she knew that cooking was a skill she needed to perfect. She enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu, and the rest is history.

She was delightful, and funny, and what you saw was what you got. Here is an excerpt from "The Way to Cook" in the Omelette section: "A fresh green salad, a glass of white wine, and an omelette make a lunch worth waiting the 30 seconds it takes to make one, and I say fie to the oenophilic spoilsports who insist that wine goes with neither eggs nor salads. Wine is essential with anything!" I couldn't agree more.

Another thing I learned from her, that I have tried to adopt in my own life, is to NEVER apologize for the food you make. Even if you overcooked it, or the new recipe you tried wasn't the tastiest thing you ever served your family, you should not apologize. You took the time to make the food in front of your family or guests, and that should be enough.

Someday I plan to go to Washington DC, and see her complete kitchen on display at the Smithsonian, and leave a pound of butter in homage to her. (That comes from the book "Julie on Julia" by Julie Powell, in which Julie attempts to make every single recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year, and the result. It is a great read if you are interested in cooking, or Julia, or just some really funny writing.)

And all of those folks who tell us that eating too much fat, and drinking too much wine, isn't good for us should just take a look at Julia, who lived to the ripe old age of 91, and died peacefully in her sleep. I am guessing after a fabulous meal with a really good glass of wine.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Three Hour Cookies

Also known as Chocolate Malt Sandwiches from Martha Stewarts new Cookie cookbook. If you got to and type in Chocolate Malt Sandwiches under the recipe search, it will pop right up.

I am borrowing a format from my favorite blogger of all time-the pioneer woman. Whenever she posts a recipe, she assembles her 'cast of characters" and photographs every step of the recipe. Charlie and I did this together, it was great fun, and hard not to get cookie batter no the camera....I have a lot of practicing to do!

Okay, here we go with the ingredients:

I decided to take this after we had already started baking, hence the cocoa powder covered counter. FYI-my mother claims I am the world's messiest cook. I am proud of that. You will see that the recipe calls for creme fraiche, which they did not have at Korte's or SuperTarget, and I wasn't going to make another trip. But I found out Marscapone cheese is an acceptable substitute, so I used that. Don't ask me why I had that in my fridge already....

Charlie was in charge of mixing the dough. I love my kitchen-aid mixer.
Ice cream scoops are a must for cookie baking-I have three different sizes. And parchment paper is handy (since I don't have Silpats).

Here they are, hot out of the oven. It took every last bit of patience not to eat one.While the cookies are baking, you make the filling. Here is my double boiler set up, I used chocolate chips instead of breaking up a whole bar. Because that is what was in the cupboard.After you mix the filling it has to sit in the fridge for half an hour, then you have to whip it up. Doesn't it look yummy?Charlie helped fill them. Mini offset spatulas work perfect for this. Every time we filled one, we had to lick our fingers and wash our hands again. Because the filling is like, chocolate heaven....And three hours later, we had cookies! The recipe made about 18 cookies, they were SO RICH. Eating one was like eating an entire cake. I found they tasted even better the next day, right out of the fridge. I don't even want to know the nutrional info on these babies, because when they have awesome ingredients, and take so long to make, it really doesn't matter!

Friday, April 4, 2008

food passion

Thanks to a kind friend for taking me to see Lynn Rosetto Kasper last night at the Fitzgerald Theater ! I have always loved listening to her program on MPR (when I remember to turn it on). I love her voice, and her passion for food. Clearly everyone there last night felt the same way.
She had excerpts from previous radio shows, including an interview with Julia Child. Jane and Michael Stern were here guests, as they are on her radio show. So delightful!
My husband would never be called a "foodie", in any sense of the word. While he appreciates a nice meal, he would never get too excited about it. As he loves to say "I eat to live, I don't live to eat." How very sad for him.
My dear Charlie, on the other hand, has been groomed to be a foodie from his first bite of solid food. I have taught him to appreciate not only the taste, but the textures, and the joy of preparing food. He has been a willing apprentice.
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Who knows, perhaps someday he will be a famous chef, and will lovingly thank his mother for her love and support in the kitchen while accepting his James Beard award for Top Chef.
A mother can dream....
(my apologies for the stilted appearance of this blog today, for some reason things are wonky and it won't let me correct it!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

the verdict is in

Three thumbs up! The house smelled yummy all day, the meat literally melted off the bones, and the sauce was the perfect combination of sweet and spice, definitely saucy! It was one of those dishes, that we just kept spooning right out of the bowl, long after our first, and second portions, were finished. I cooked up a couple pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes with three cloves of peeled garlic thrown in, then mashed them all up with a couple tablespoons of light cream cheese, a couple tablespoons of butter, a tsp. or so of onion salt, and maybe 1/2 c. of milk. Heaven in a bowl. And the recipe made a ton, so tonight we will have sandwiches on big crusty rolls, and I think I will pick up some potato salad for along the side. Delish!

Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

crockpot day

Everything seems a little off this week, what with the giant snow, and spring break. Finally got it together to figure out something for dinner, I find my crockpot rescuing me on days like this!

Here is what I am making, it is a new recipe, so I will review it tomorrow to let you know whether it is worth making or not. In the interest of time, and the fact that I am lazy, I had to find a recipe that didn't require me to pre-cook the ribs before throwing them in the pot.

Saucy BBQ Ribs (from the Southern Living Slow Cooker Cookbook)

4 lbs. country style ribs, trimmed
2 tsp salt, divided
1 md onion, chopped
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 c apple butter
1 c ketchup
1/2 c lemon juice
1/2 c orange juice
1 Tbsp steak sauce ( I used A1)
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
Cut ribs apart, sprinkle with 1 tsp of the salt. Mix together rest of ingredients, pour half in crockpot. Place ribs on top of sauce, pour rest of sauce over. Cook on HIGH 6-7 hours.

What could be easier than that?

I am going to serve them with some crunchy fresh green beans and garlic mashed potatoes, maybe some biscuits if I feel ambitious later on today. Charlie picked a recipe out of Martha Stewart's new cookie cookbook (which I HIGHLY recommend, if I haven't done so already)-Chocolate Malt Sandwiches. I just may have to whip those up later today. mmmmm

Quite obviously, I would rather be baking than working...

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

not funny

Mother Nature decided to play a huge joke on all of us Minnesotans yesterday. Just in case we haven't been completely sick of winter since the first week of January. Or just wanted to drag that shovel out one more time.

But at 4 this afternoon, the sun has been shining all day, and things are melting quite nicely. And since Charlie doesn't have school, he has been having a ball outside. Perfect snowball snow.

I got to see my niece Savana play hockey last weekend! She has been playing for a couple of years, but since we don't get up to Bemidji much in the winter I never had a chance to see her play.

She had been selected to play on an All Star team, representing the Northern part of the state, and the tournament was held in Plymouth. She ROCKED! I was so proud.

Sure wish they had girls hockey when I was growing up. My mom had enrolled me in figure skating lessons when I was young. Not being terribly graceful, the instructor recommended to my parents that perhaps I find something else to do. Hockey would have been perfect! My dad made a rink for us by flooding the back yard, and Kelly and I used to skate out there all of the time. But my pretty white figure skates really didn't work so great for tearing down the rink and checking him into the clothesline pole. Ah well, I will just live that little dream through my niece. Since Charlie has zero interest in even learning how to skate.

Since I started this post with what we HOPE will be the last blast of winter, here is looking forward to warm days outside:


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