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MaK and Cheese at the NFL’s Taste of the Vikings

When you’re a former U of M fullback and your wife is a food blogger, and you get a chance to combine your respective loves of food and football, you jump on that date night opportunity, stat. The NFL’s Taste of the Vikings 2015 was held at the Depot in Minneapolis on October 12th. (Not to be mistake for October 10th… because we totally did that and showed up Saturday night due to a calendar snafu. I guess God thought we needed two dates in three days. But I digress.) The goal of the event is to fight hunger, and this year all proceeds went to Second Harvest Heartland, a wonderful local organization helping to provide meals to local children in need. Of course, the draw for me was all the fantastic Minneapolis-St.Paul area restaurants featuring signature dishes, all competing to be named “Top Restaurant” of Taste of the Vikings 2015. There were twenty restaurants total, and we tried just about everything, so we drove home borderline uncomfortable, but it was well worth it.   So without further adieu, here are my thoughts and critiques on some of the notable things we tried: Lobster Mac and Cheese – Bloomington Chophouse Again, let’s set the precedent here that our family just returned from at trip to Maine, so anything with lobster is going to be highly scrutinized. Mr. MaK’s not a seafood fan, but this was one of his favorites. I thought their cheddar was nice, not too sharp, not too salty, and they had some nice sized lobster chunks. But the thing about any mac and cheese is that it’s hard to... read more

A Very Sweet “Sour” Experience – A Sour Beer and Wine Dinner by Salt Cellar and Schell’s Brewery

A Sour Beer and Wine Dinner by Salt Cellar and Schell’s Brewery Ever have that friend that just “gets” you? For me that’s my friend Marsh. Marsh is good friends with Jace Marti of Schell’s Brewery. Proud of her college buddy’s success, she follows the brewery’s happenings and supports it wherever she can, so when she heard about this dinner through social media she knew she wanted to attend — and that she had a very eligible dinner companion in Yours Truly. So on a cool autumn Thursday, we shuffled into the back room of the   St. Paul restaurant, the Salt Cellar, to meet a wonderful group of new people and experience a plethora of amazing new flavors. Speaking of those people, I have to say what a pleasure it was to meet not only Jace, but some other notable names on the Twin Cities food and drink scene, such as Certified Cicerone Micheal Agnew of the Perfect Pint, Leslee Miller of Amusee Wine, and David of Midnight Rosewater. To manage expectations on this post – I love beer. And I love wine. And I’m pretty courageous, so I had no qualms about pairing wine and sour beers with some delicious culinary counterparts. But you might be new here, so this is my disclaimer to any craft beer hounds or wine-o’s out who may happen to be reading: I’m all about the food. Between all six food items and the two sour beer and wine pairing for each, we’d have a lot of ground to cover, so I’m going to give you my highlights of the evening. Fried Oyster... read more

Simple Grilled Lasagna

Grilled lasagna? I know, I know. Sounds weird. But if you’re stuck between your love of noodles and summer grilling, this is nirvana. I’d love to give credit to wherever I picked up this idea, but I completely forget. I saw it in a magazine (Food Network maybe?) a few years ago, and like most recipes, simply skimmed it, then headed into my kitchen to make it my own. Here’s what happened. INGREDIENTS: 1 Package of Lasagna Noodles 1 Cooked Chicken Breast (Or pieces of rotisserie chicken, or ground beef or turkey — or no meat at all if you’re out or a vegetarian. You make the rules.) 1 Ripe Tomato, Sliced 1 Bunch Fresh Basil Leaves 1 Package Fresh Mozzarella (Shredded also works nicely, but I love how gooey fresh mozz gets!) 1 Container Ricotta Cheese 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil -AND/OR- 1/2 Cup of Pasta Sauce (Your choice. Homemade freezer tomato sauce is awesome on this, but if you’ve got a jar of alfredo laying around, whatever works!) DIRECTIONS: Gentleman, start your grills. (Especially if you have a charcoal grill. Those sons o’ Bs turn out delicious food, but they take forever to heat up.) Cook your lasagna noodles as directed, but cut about 1-2 minutes of your cook time so they’re just under al dente (remember these are going on the grill, so they’ll cook some more) Drain and rinse the noodles with cold water, and set aside. Then lay out your aluminum foil. Cut your noodles in halves or thirds (depends how big you want your portions), then brush your foil with olive oil and... read more

How to Roast Garlic

How to Roast Garlic Ever go to Sam’s Club, Costco (or any other warehouse store filled with bulk goodies), see one of these bad boys and think, “Yes! I love garlic! And it lasts forever, so I’ll totally use that much!” …then several weeks fly by, you don’t get to cooking like you thought you might, and you wind up with a mesh bag full of feathery paper and soft, rotten bulbs. Boo. My answer to this dilemma? Roast the hell out of that garlic. That’s right, today we’re talking how to roast garlic. It’s a wonderful magic trick, super quick and easy, & does a lot of cool things like: 1.) Roasting garlic gives it a soft, creamy, spreadable texture (which is great healthy alternative to mayo or other calorie-heavy dressings or spreads) 2.) Roasted garlic tastes SO different than raw garlic; there’s no bite – it’s sweet and creamy, with a smokey quality. 3.) Best of all, roasting garlic cuts down on waste because you typically use it faster and it lasts a long time in the fridge. I usually roast at least 6-8 bulbs as soon as I buy a package so I’ve got it handy right away! INGREDIENTS + GEAR: Whole Garlic Bulbs (As many as you want) Olive oil -OR- Coconut Oil Tin foil DIRECTIONS Preheat your oven to 400° Pour your oil (if you’re using coconut you will have to melt it first) out into a bowl — or ridged plate if you want to do this mass-production style Slice the entire bulb horizontally, so about 1/4 of the top is removed, exposing most of the individual cloves (if you... read more

Baked Tortellini and Sausage

Baked Tortellini with Sausauge Who makes baked pasta in August? Me, because I’m a crazy person and when I want carbs I make carbs, even if it’s hot as [meat]balls out. (Though I then proceed to have dinner in my air conditioned icebox of a basement.) I’ll be honest, sausage is typically not my go-to meat, but paired with cheese-filled pasta and a nice red sauce to cut the fattiness of the meat? It’s perfect. Oh, and you can work ahead of time by prepping the sauce on a different night if you’d like. Per usual, I did the sauce on a Sunday meal prep session and assembled Wednesday night. INGREDIENTS: Olive Oil or Coconut Oil 1 Package Italian Seasoned Ground Sausage 1 Onion, chopped 3 Cloves Minced Garlic 1 Cup Chopped Fresh Spinach 1 Bunch Fresh Basil 1 Can Crushed Tomatoes 1/4 Cup Red Wine (Best use of a bottle you might have opened & forgot about, or didn’t like!) 1 Package Cheese Tortellini (I used fresh from Costco. Frozen works too!) 1 Cup Fresh Shredded Parmesan Cheese THE SAUCE: In a deep skillet on medium heat, add your sausage. When it starts to brown, add your onions and garlic. Once the meat is browned and the onions are sauteed enough to be soft/translucent, add spinach, basil, and crushed tomatoes. (But you know what else I do sometimes? Tomato puree. Or jarred marinara. This one’s shortcut friendly.) Turn down your heat a tad and let it simmer for a few minutes…toss in your wine and let it simmer some more. *Tip on cooking with wine: Unless specifically directed,... read more

Turkey and Coconut Curry Stuffed Peppers

Turkey and Coconut Curry Stuffed Peppers Last night I was staring into the colorful abyss that was all of the leftovers and uneaten groceries in my refrigerator. (If you follow my posts you’ll get to learn that I hate, hate, hate wasting food, so I’m always trying to find ways to repurpose leftovers or salvage something about to go bad.) I had two big bags of bell peppers from Costco and three large tupperware containers full of leftover roast turkey I made for a get together the weekend before. Also, we’ve been eating like crap for weeks. Time to make something that A) wouldn’t fill me with regret, and B) Future MaK would thank me for down the road when she comes home from full day of traffic, or kid-related craziness. So here you are: Turkey and Coconut Curry Stuffed Peppers4-6 Bell Peppers, any color. (We don’t discriminate.) 1 Large Onion (I used yellow, but whatever you have works) 2-3 Cups Shredded Turkey (Or chicken. Or whatever meat you have on hand.) 1 Tsp Turmeric (Bonus: This gorgeous orange spice is also a known anti-inflammatory) 1 Tbsp Yellow Curry Powder (I use yellow because I’m a weenie. Spice it up if you wish.) 1 Tsp Cumin 1 Tsp Oregano 1 Tsp Parsley (Dried works, but use fresh if you’ve got it.) 1 Tsp Salt (Skip it if you’re trying to cut down on sodium. The curry does the work here.) 1 Can Coconut Milk (Check ingredients when buying. Lots of generic brands add stuff I can’t even pronounce. How freaking hard is it to put coconut milk in coconut milk?)... read more

Fresh and Healthy Quinoa Salad

Fresh and Healthy Quinoa Salad I’m a HUGE carb gal, so give me a side dish that’s light and healthy, but actually hearty enough to replace a side of rice or potatoes? Big win. This fresh and healthy quinoa salad is a side dish originally made by my lovely sister, but we’ve both reinvented a few times over depending upon what we had in the fridge. That’s the great thing about it — it’s versatile, so you don’t need to make a grocery store run for if you happen to be missing a veggie or two. I typically cook up at least 2-4 cups of quinoa every Sunday as part of my food prep for the week; it’s a great healthy meal option because it’s easy to serve hot or cold, & it has a ton of protein. Also, this recipe makes a BIG salad, so if you’re just testing it out, you can always start with 1 cup of quinoa and slowly add your veggies in to a ratio you like. SALAD INGREDIENTS: 2 Cups Cooked Quinoa (You could also use couscous!) 1/2 Cup Red Onion, Finely Chopped 1 Red Bell Pepper, Chopped 1 Bunch Spinach Leaves, Chopped (Or Kale. Or Arugula. Whatever leafy green you’ve got) 1 Cup Hearts of Palm, Chopped (You can buy whole & chop them) 1 Can Baby Corn, Chopped 1 Ripe Tomato, Diced 1/2 Cup Artichoke Hearts 1/4 Cup Feta Cheese (I also love shredded Parmesan in this) DRESSING INGREDIENT: 1 Clove Chopped Garlic 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice 2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar 2 Tablespoons Liquid Aminos or Soy Sauce 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil 1 Teaspoon Sesame... read more

Oh, Sole Mio Woodbury – An Italian Restaurant Review

Sole Mio Restaurant Review Last weekend, we stumbled on a suburban gem. And I’m still excited about it. After spending a couple of hours on Lake Calhoun with some good friends, we decided we’d continue our quest of car shopping for Mr. MaK. (His vehicle went belly-up about three weeks ago, and we’ve still been borrowing spare cars from family members and ride sharing. Oy.) We wound up in the car dealership district of White Bear Lake and decided to head for home as we had no real luck, and it was past the Bug’s bedtime. Then it hit is. We were starving. Any normal, logical young couple dressed in scrubby beach clothes would have realized their fate and simply crossed their fingers that they would breeze through a Golden Arches drive-thru before their tired 9-month-old turned into a pumpkin. Not us. We had a real hunger…that could only be satisfied with real food. (And let’s get real, we were car shopping with an infant. We needed a drink.) I began fervently searching on my phone and mentioned the Italian place that popped up as we were about to go through Woodbury. It didn’t look too fancy, but this was no Sbarro either, so we immediately became self conscious of our swim suits covered in t-shirts and cutoff shorts. Oh, and our footie-pajama’d baby. Did I mention she was already in her pajamas? We were greeted as if we were dressed in business-casual and promptly granted our request to be seated on the patio. Our server, Cynthia, recommended a $6 glass of Italian white wine, which was actually pretty... read more

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