July 23, 2014

Making Mondays

Lola has been loving to help me "make" stuff in the kitchen lately, so I thought I'd be planful about the two of us doing at least one cooking or baking project together each Monday. Because then we can use alliteration. And call it Making Mondays.

(Side note: Mondays are really no good for this other than for the alliteration part. My house is clean-ish on Mondays. Later in the week would be more ideal and help me be cool(er) with the mess.)


This week, we kicked off Making Mondays with strawberry cucumber lemonade popsicles. Not too complex, plus it was a bazillion degrees out on Monday. So, during her nap, I prepped our ingredients: strawberries that we had picked a few weeks ago that were in the freezer, cucumbers, and lemonade. I've found that prepping everything ahead is key because once we start, Lola just wants to keep adding and doing "MORE!" She has no patience for me peeling cucumbers or trying to open a new jug of lemonade.

When she woke up, I laid out a dishtowel on the floor and put her equipment on it (a plastic immersion blender cup, a spoon, and her first ingredient). Our kitchen is way too small for a learning tower or whatever they call those things. I think she'd love one. But working on the floor works better in our house. And it cracks me up watching her get comfortable to do her work.

She started by happily transporting the cucumbers into the cup with the spoon.

Then did the same with the strawberries, which she proved to enjoy just as much and take just as seriously as the cucumbers. Me? I tried to not care about the juicy strawberries falling onto my mostly white dishtowel during transportation. These making adventures are a real test in patience and letting go for me. But I'm trying my best, and I didn't say anything about the spillage. Because after all, this kid is 2. And her little hand helping hold the strawberries onto the spoon was too freaking cute.

She poured (rather, quickly dumped) the lemonade in, gave everything a good old stir, and then wanted to pour the whole mixture back into the glass measuring cup that had made its way to her work space.

But that wasn't how I was going to do it!

Without thinking, without restraint, I said "Oh, we're done with this part. Now Mommy has to blend it up."

Ha. Right. Lola wasn't done.

I let her pour this whole concoction back and forth between the two vessels for a while, and eventually couldn't take it anymore.

So, I confiscated our popsicle mixture.

I averted crisis and allowed Making Monday to continue by quickly giving her some water, extra cucumber, and chopped scallions to play around with. And Lola created her own making project. And I happily finished the freezing portion of our project.

Thanks to Zoku, we were eating our pops within 5 minutes.

I'm loving that Lola seemingly loves something that I love, and I'm excited to try to foster it. While getting lots of practice in relinquishing control. :)

Good luck, Sarah.

July 13, 2014

Expectations and a Trip to the A to Z Pizza Farm

I get these grand visions in my head of how things will go down. I like to plan fun excursions. Then I envision perfect weather, only cooperation from the other members of my clan (particularly from my two year old), and general smooth sailing.

Things don't always go the way I envision.

Like last weekend, when we went strawberry picking. I'd been looking forward to it for a while, and thought it would be a super fun family outing. I envisioned the three of us driving out to the country, riding a tractor to the fields, and all happily picking strawberries together.

Well, we ended up driving out to the country. We also rode a tractor, but had to bribe Lola with iPhone videos to sit there before it even left the loading area. We got to the fields, were assigned our row to pick, and then I was left standing there alone while Lola decided the pipe that ran along the field was most interesting. I was left there alone, with my pregnant belly, to pick EIGHT pounds of strawberries. On the ground. On my hands and knees. In the hot sun. By myself.

Because Lola had shown signs of trouble on the tractor ride (and because I have to pee every half hour right now), I felt a huge sense of urgency to get those berries picked as quickly as possible. So I scrambled. And tried to stay ahead of Lola, who kept swiping from my stash. (Mo staw-bees?)

I persevered, Lola ate about 100 strawberries, and Zach managed to get some good photos of the whole thing. It actually ended up being a good outing and we avoided any major meltdowns, but it didn't go exactly as I had envisioned it would. Because I have a two year old, obvi. I forget this sometimes. (How two year olds are, not that I have one.)

So, this week we had planned to go to the A to Z Pizza Farm in Stockholm, WI. Coming off of the strawberry picking trip, I had reigned in my expectations a bit.

The pizza farm excursion required some careful planning and impeccable execution. They're only open on Tuesdays. It's a good 1:45 drive from Minneapolis. And you have to get there early to avoid waiting 2 hours for your pizza, according to their website. (This required Zach to leave work early which was a huge hurdle in itself.) But we all got in the car on time. Lola hung in there for the drive. We only made one wrong turn and quickly corrected our course. We got there before there were swarms of people.

And from there out, the excursion not only lived up to my expectations, but exceeded them. Whoa.

Sometimes, everything actually goes perfectly.

The weather was fantastic--warm but not hot, clear, dry.

And it's beautiful out there--have you been?

The pizza wait was only 30 minutes, which we easily killed by watching the cows and making sure Lola didn't touch any electrical fences.

There were enough people to make it feel really festive, but not too many that it felt crowded.

There were no bugs. (How?)

The strawberry shortcake I made and brought along was divine.

And Lola nicely sat on the picnic blanket the whole time we ate. (Again, how?)

It was complete perfection. And I wish we could go every Tuesday. So does Lola. She just asked today after lunch about the "peet-a arm."

Details: A to Z Pizza Farm. Only Tuesdays, through the Fall, from 4:30-8. Stockholm, WI (about 1 hr 45 from SW Mpls). BYO everything except pizza and alcohol, which you can get there. Take all of your garbage home. Cash or check.

June 6, 2014

I Got Nothin'

I've had all sorts of grand plans for the blog for the past few months; they just haven't come to fruition.

I had a pre-pregnancy bucket list going that focused mostly on food (the new champs bar at The Graves, taking Zach to the Rookery and not having to ask about all sorts of dietary restrictions, cocktails at LBV...) but then I got pregnant and well, that put an end to that before it even started.

I went to San Francisco and ate all sorts of good things (obviously did not get to drink), but the first trimester had me feeling like I was going to puke every time we got out of a cab. So, most of the food I ate on that trip no longer sounded good after I got back (nor did the cookbooks I picked out on that trip from the cookbook store I dreamed about visiting for so long). So, that blog post didn't happen.

Then I just got so tired. And took 2 hour naps every afternoon when Lola did. And did pretty much no housework or cooking, let alone blogging.

Then, around 12 wks pregnant, I took an early glucose test because my fasting glucose number was 2 points higher than normal last summer (and I proactively / stupidly told me OB about it). Failed the 1 hour test by a marginal amount and had to go on to the 3 hour test. By that point, I was sure that I was doomed. When I went in for my 3 hour test, they took my fasting glucose again, and again I was 2 points over what I supposed to be at (at a lower threshold than last summer though b/c of pregnancy). But I passed the 3 blood draws after drinking the glucola and officially passed my test.

I was pretty freaking excited and ate a lot of things I shouldn't have that weekend. It's actually too embarrassing to type out.

But it's good I did it. Because the next Monday, my OB came across my results, and decided she didn't like that my fasting number was 2 points too high. SO, off I went to a diabetes educator even though I didn't have gestational diabetes.

I was pretty sure my diet was going to suck. As I would soon learn, glucose levels are not only dictated by sugar (which I had assumed) but by all carbs. And a lot of things that don't sound carb-y, are in fact carbs. Like FRUIT. When I thought I was going to have to limit my fruit intake drastically, I started to get really sad. And confused. Isn't fruit good for me and my baby?

But I went to my appointment, learned how to prick my finger 4 times a day to test my levels (happily learned I could do so without passing out), learned how to monitor my pee every am for keytones, and was sent home with a gestational diabetes diet even though...I didn't have gestational diabetes.

I adhered to the diet for the first couple of weeks. I ate a ton of protein as instructed with just about every meal and snack. I ate a lot of peanut butter. Because you can't eat cheese and meat all day, right? Because won't that give me high cholesterol?

I ate my bedtime snacks which was a new thing for me. I'm not hungry at night. And um, I thought eating after dinner was bad. But, I was instructed to eat 2 carbs and 1 protein for each bedtime snack. So, like a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter (again) and a 1/2 banana. Some nights I was choking down that snack. Other nights, I ended up delighted with my creations. I actually got to have full-fat ice cream a few nights because my diabetes educator told me that was actually a good snack for regulating overnight blood sugars. While that delighted me and while I certainly tried it out, I knew in my heart that wasn't the best bedtime snack.

I watched my post-meal blood sugars stay way under the limits consistently. I started pushing the limits on what I could eat beyond what I was told and still stayed way under the limits. (My fasting glucose still gets close to the limit occasionally, but has stayed where it needs to.)

I started to get a false sense of security about what I could eat. I started to think that as long as my glucose levels were in check that I could eat whatever I wanted.

Then I got weighed earlier this week and found out I had gained 5 lbs in 4 wks (1 lb more than I should have). I blamed my gestational diabetes diet and those freaking bedtime snacks. Even though I've had my fair share of birthday cakes, birthday donuts, Mother's Day treats, and all sorts of other good things too. :)

So, where does this leave me?

Just kind of weary. I'm sick of thinking about what I'm eating so much. I'm sick of worrying about the ramifications of not thinking about it. I'm trying to figure out if I actually have a glucose issue or if this was a very super precautionary thing (b/c my OB, while I LOVE her, is...super precautionary).

So, for now, I'm planning on trying to just be reasonable. How's that for original?

And I have grand plans of going back to my serious running / working out days from way back when after this baby is here (which of course sounds like a great plan for now, when I can't do anything about it). Also super original of me, right?

But enough of the pity party.

I'm having a baby! A BOY baby! A seemingly healthy boy baby! When I'm not complaining about my current food situation, I'm slowly trying to figure out the world of boys: ordering lots of blue and grey striped duds, looking for prints for our nursery to replace the girly ones, asking myself if the turquoise mirror in there is boy enough, thinking about how we're going to have to seriously baby-proof in case this next one is more mischievous than our first one. Also top of mind right now is figuring out how we keep Lola from telling everyone the baby's name (since she knows it and can say it well). :) Things like that.

My food life is a little dicey right now.

But the rest of my life? Awesome!

March 6, 2014

Random Faves

Our computer has been all out of sorts lately because I overloaded it with a gazillion pictures of Lola (shocker). So, the other day we cleaned it up a bit so that it was at least functional again. And instead of relishing in its working order again, I uploaded months and months of pictures off of my iPhone (which also has been filled to the brim as of late). Toddlers take up a lot of space in all areas of life, it turns out.

But I realized that I have a lot of unshared new(ish) food favorites that I haven't captured on the blog. Why haven't I captured them on the blog? Mostly because I don't take as many pictures when out to eat as I used to. It started to feel like work to lug my DSLR around. I got self conscious about people watching me snap away with my camera in the middle of a crowded restaurant. And after hearing a friend tell me she doesn't capture every moment with her phone because she actually tries to live in the moment instead, I thought she was on to something. I'm working on this. Very slowly, but surely. 

So, what that leaves me with is a few mediocre Instagram shots. Mostly with poor lighting. But I hope you'll look past it.

So, without further adieu, some of my currently Minneapolis food faves.

Sonora Grill: I've always loved Sonora Grill, but really almost never went when they were just in Midtown Global Market. I was super excited when they opened up their new sit-down location. Awesome tacos (especially the chicken one!), good coconut rice, a good kid-friendly option. Open a place over here in SW, please!

Terzo Wine Bar: This was a fabulous addition to the Fulton neighborhood. A totally refreshing new venture from the Broders. Cool wine bar with great cheese and prosciutto boards, great wines, fun daily $1 skewers, great service. Perfect balance of neighborhood hang out and special occasion place. This is a date night keeper.

Hello Pizza: How has this place not ended up on the blog yet? Totally unacceptable. We have seemingly dumped Pizzeria Lola for this place (only because it's just easier and quicker for us with our Lola in tow). Turns out this place is Lola's happy place. So much so that I actually suggested to Zach that we do our family photo shoot there. Favorites: the Spinach Artichoke Pizza, the Adobo Chicken Pie, Smokey Greens salad, and the Korean Cowboy sub. And now they deliver!

The Rookery: So, my friend and I went to try this out a few weeks ago. The waiter said he'd recommend that we try everything on the menu and that it wouldn't be too much for the two of us. "Are you sure," we asked. "Oh yea," he reassured. Bullshi*. We ordered almost everything, skipping out on maybe 5 plates. We were stuffed. Well, back up. I was stuffed. My poor friend was ready to curl up and die she was so full. But another amazing Minneapolis (well, Robbinsdale) resto! Favorites included: the leeks, the tofu, and the brussels. Oh, AND the vodka grapefruit drink. Date night worthy in a big way.

Sun Street's Monday Pizza Night: I was going to say that I wish Sun Street did pizza night every night, but then it might not seem so special. Pizza night at Sun Street is simple (just a few pizzas to choose from, just a few different wines, and beers, maybe a salad or two) but so good. I've had a few different pizzas on Monday nights there now, and they have all been great. This is a great cozy winter night dinner out.

Sebastian Joe's Nicollet Ave Pothole ice cream: What I want to know is how no one ever told me about this ice cream. I mean, the second I tasted it, I claimed it my favorite ice cream of all time. And I've been eating some good ice cream lately. Chocolatey and gooey (from drizzly salted caramel), with little crunchy bits from Heath bars and chocolate candy. I mean, seriously people. Salty, sweet, gooey, creamy, crunchy. This is a game-changer. I don't have ANY picture of this one because I'm totally in a zone when eating this stuff.

Consider yourself mostly caught up!

January 24, 2014

Lentils and Yogurt

My mom and I were talking about the best way to organize cookbooks yesterday.

She brought it up, but it was coincidental, because I've been feeling like my collection could use some sort of system lately.

I usually have an idea of what I'm looking for when I go browse through them--something sweet to take to a crafting party, a weeknight dinner recipe, a muffin recipe for Lola's snacks. But since they aren't organized at all, I spend a lot of time scanning them all. And then I get on major tangents, and remind myself for the hundredth time that I really have been wanting to make homemade pop tarts and that rose cream pastry from Laduree.

My mom was asking how I'd organize them and I threw out a few categories that would be helpful for me: Baking (Tartine, Baked, Dorie's Baking book), No Frills Weeknight Super Quick in Case Your Toddler Decides to Hang on You While You Cook (Keepers, Weelicious), Weekend (Ad Hoc, 660 Curries), Seasonal (Canal House, David Tanis), Comfort / Classics (Ina, Food 52, Smitten Kitchen). And then I said I'd want a lentil and yogurt category.

Because lentils and yogurt are my obsession right now.

Last night, I found myself asking Zach if I was making too many "lentil-y, yogurt-y things."

His reply: "I like what you've been making, but I wouldn't find any more recipes like that. I think we have enough."

Ha. But I had just found a recipe for Crispy Lamb with Lentils that was calling me.

I don't know exactly how this little craze started but I do know it was around the time I realized Lola liked lentils. Coincidentally, it was also around the time that I realized she probably wasn't going to ever start drinking milk again and was feeling the pressure to load her up with calcium in other ways (hence the yogurt).

Before Lola, lentils really weren't in our repertoire. We rarely ate at home, and when we did, it just wasn't lentils. Or yogurt sauces.

This is a very positive way in which this kid has changed our eating. Next time I am feeling sorry for myself that we don't get to go out to eat as much as we used to, I'll remind myself that Lola introduced me to the world of lentils and yogurt sauces.

For the past several months, this Mujuddara with Spiced Yogurt has become a dinner staple. We've also made our way through a huge batch of dal with cilantro yogurt.

We've eaten lentils sans yogurt too--in many batches of Ina's Warm French Lentils (that Lola and I eat as lunch or that I serve as dinner with sausages).

And we've eaten yogurt on a lot. A lot of Indian food, particularly. We've eaten raita next to our biryani. We've eaten a mint yogurt sauce on Afghan dumplings. And we've eaten it on pasta, mixed with caramelized onions. And...

This Mujuddara is the kind of thing I'm so happy to feed the three of us for dinner. It's super satisfying and super healthy (it'd be even healthier with some brown rice subbed in). It's simple but somehow so delicious: jasmine rice, tiny green French lentils, crispy onions, and a spiced but bright yogurt sauce (with lemon, cumin, cinnamon, mint, and coriander). And the leftovers are even better. If you're making it for a toddler, I recommend dicing the onions instead of slicing.

Just in case your toddler doesn't like strings of onions like mine. :)

January 14, 2014

The Magic That is the Smoothie

I am thankful every afternoon for the blessed smoothie.

Every afternoon, after Lola wakes up from her nap, we make a smoothie. I always make a big, big glass thinking we'll share, but only sometimes do I get any of it. I have stopped pouring mine until she is finished in order to avoid the rage that occurs when there is no more smoothie following her sweet little"mo" (with the sign "more" also, to make sure I know she really means it!).

What is magical about smoothies for a parent of a toddler is that you can put just about whatever you think your kid is needing in their diet into it.

Lola eats a good variety of fruit, so the fruit servings she gets in a smoothie are just bonus points. But, I've been relying on them to get more dairy in her (b/c she has never gone back to milk post-bottles). I also rely on them to get more veggies in her, which she eats very little of. And if I think she could use a little boost of whole grains that day, I'll throw in some of those too.

I never measure, but here is roughly the formula I use:

Half of a BANANA (always, for sweetness)


Handful of frozen or fresh FRUIT, such as:



Some VEGGIES, such as:

1 kale leaf
Handful of spinach
Half of an avocado
Carrot juice
Cooked beets (a little goes a long way!)
Sweet potato (I haven't tried this yet, but keep meaning to)


About a half cup of YOGURT (I usually use Greek for the added protein boost)


About 1 cup of MILK (or calcium-fortified oj)


WHOLE GRAINS, such as:

1-2 tbsp wheat germ
Small handful oats


A delicious, super nutritious, well-balanced snack for both of us.

January 7, 2014

Feeling Closer to Friends Through Food

One of my very best friends moved late this Fall. She was the latest in a string of a few good friends who moved out of state this year. It has sucked. I keep my close friends so close that it's a big blow when they leave me. It kind of crushes me.

This friend happens to be Indian and has made us delicious Indian feasts on multiple occasions. She even bestowed upon me her freezer stash of homemade samosas before she moved (the only highlight of this terrible event).

Before she moved, I was watching her son one night and ended up feeding him leftover Indian food that they had in their fridge for dinner. It smelled so good, and I instantly had this aha moment that I needed to start cooking Indian food myself (well, the three of us).

So for the last couple of months, I've been making biryanis once in a while. I love Indian food, was feeling the need to try something new in the kitchen, and I've had Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries for a couple of years. But I think what really has been driving me to make Indian food is that it makes me feel closer to her while she's far away.

Is this starting to sound rather weepy? I should clarify a bit here. I didn't lose my friend. She'll always be a close friend no matter where she is. I've even gotten to see her a few times already since she has moved. She's moving back here in a couple of years! And if anyone printed our texts, they would probably stretch all the way from MN to AZ, where she lives now. So, she's still very much in my life. Just not for "Hey, I need to get out tonight. Want to get a drink?" or "Want to take the babies for a walk?" And I miss that.

But moving on...

I had made one recipe out of 660 Curries initially when I bought it and then put it away for a while. I think I was intimidated by the steps (making garlic paste, ginger paste, onion paste, spice mixtures, etc) and ingredient lists. But once you dig in, it's not rocket science. Just make sure you have everything prepped and ready to go before you start.

I've found my little niche for now with the biryanis, layered meat and rice dishes baked in the oven. My favorite one doesn't even require that the meat be seared or cooked before it goes in the oven. Which is good because I hate searing meat.

I've created a few shortcuts for myself with this recipe. Instead of making the ginger and garlic pastes like Iyer lays out, I simply grate the ginger and garlic with my microplane and have had great results. And once you make the Punjabi garam masala (if you make it from scratch, which I reco, you'll have enough to make the recipe a handful of times over.

I also like to use the bulk spice bins at Whole Foods for the spices to save money.

So anyway. If you have an Indian friend who moved who you miss terribly, make this, and serve it with naan and raita. You'll feel better.

Yogurt-Marinated Lamb with Rice, Saffron, and Mint, Adapted slightly from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries
Serves 6 (barely :))

For the lamb:

1 lb boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 c plain yogurt
1/2 c fresh mint, chopped
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp grated garlic
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Punjabi garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric

For the rice:

1 c basmati rice
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 green cardamom pods
2 dried bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp saffron threads
Scant 1 tsp salt

Vegetable oil

Marinate the lamb by combining all of the lamb ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

An hour before assembling the dish, put the rice in a medium sized bowl and cover by a few inches with cold water. Scrub the grains of rice with your fingers to wash off the rice. Drain using a fine mesh sieve. Repeat 4-5 times with fresh water, until the water drains clear after rinsing process. Then, cover rice with cold water and let sit for 1 hour to soften.

After an hour, heat the butter in a medium sized sauce pan over medium-high heat. Toss in the cumin seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Stir and let cook until they start to smell nutty, about 20 seconds. Add onion and cook until they get light brown around the edges, about 3-5 minutes. Add the saffron and stir for a few seconds. Then add the drained rice and stir. Add 1 c cold water, along with the salt, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat a bit, and cook until there is no more water on the surface and craters start appearing on the top surface of the rice (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly oil a medium-sized covered casserole dish with vegetable oil.

Pour the lamb into the casserole dish, including any leftover marinade, creating an even layer. Then add the rice and spread it evenly over the lamb.

Cover and bake for 1 hour.