Bleu, Take Two

Dave and I gave my brother Tyler a gift certificate to Bleu for his birthday, and we felt it was only right to be the ones to take him. (Okay, we really just wanted an excuse to go again without feeling guilty about the expense).

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Though last time’s experience was three out of five stars, this one was five out of five. (Though the food was equally amazing both times). The restaurant was full when we arrived at 7:30, but not wall to wall packed like last time. We waited only a few minutes to be seated after the four of us met up. Also, we were seated at a nicer, smaller table facing the kitchen–score!

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Seeing fresh ingredients and spices on the kitchen is a great sign. I started the night off with a dirty Tanqueray martini but requested the special bleu cheese olives.

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It wasn’t dirty enough for me at first, so I had the bartender add a little more juice. It was really cool to see him freshly squeeze the creamy bleu cheese into the olives.

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So good.

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We spent a few minutes drooling over the menu before we ordered. Dave and I ordered three small plates and one medium plate to share, while Ty and Nicole ordered two appetizers and a regular entree each.

004 I like the mix and match of the menu with small, medium, and large plates. Perfect for tasting.

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Nicole just got back from a week-long cruise for a wedding, so we got to hear all her tales about it. Oh, to be near the sea.

For my second drink, I ordered Bleu’s Berry Mojito, which was made with rum, muddled lime and fresh mint, fresh blueberries, and club soda.

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It was very fresh and summery tasting without being too sweet.

Tyler and Nicole’s appetizers came first and they offered us a piece of the delicious Mushroom Flatbread in exchange for a piece of the Margarita Flatbread.

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This flatbread is so amazing. I could eat it for dinner every night for a week and be happy. It’s creamy, salty, and savory with a lovely blast of freshness from the arugula. I can tell the truffle oil they use is high quality.

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Because Dave loves raw oysters, we french kissed the ocean again with these Well Fleet ones.

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I really love the tangy addition of cocktail sauce and lemon juice even if it’s not “purist”–it lends a lovely contrast to the mellowness of the raw oysters.

The shrimp cocktail we ordered wasn’t a cocktail at all–I’m not sure if this is how they usually serve the dish or if they had run out of martini glasses, but it arrived disassembled (though still displayed quite nicely).

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These grilled shrimp were plump…buttery…juicy…amazing. Cocktail schmocktail; I’d take a plate of these shrimp again any day.

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The sliders. Oh, the sliders. These were angus beef with bleu cheese, onion, pecan wood smoked bacon, and homemade ketchup. They were served with a side of fresh chips which we later found out were parsnip, beet, and carrot. I didn’t think I liked beets, but the beet chips were my favorite.

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This was the most perfect burger I have ever eaten. The combination of flavors was spot on, and I think the choice of bleu cheese just sent it over the top. Plus, you can never go wrong with adding bacon.

The only dish I wasn’t over the moon for was the Margarita Flatbread.

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The tomato sauce was very smooth and creamy and reminded me of ravioli sauce. I would have preferred a lot more basil or a small sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top to balance the mildness of the fresh mozzarella. This one had nothing on the Mushroom Flatbread, so I probably wouldn’t order it again.

Ty and Nicole made great choices, too (although if there is a “bad” choice, I haven’t met it yet). Ty ordered the Ultimate Club, which our server informed him was “huge.”

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She was right: they didn’t skimp on anything here. This was the equivalent of three decently sized sandwiches split into four parts, served with the same delicious chips as our sliders. It was made with brioche bread, thick chunks of turkey (more like Thanksgiving turkey than thinly sliced deli turkey), pecan wood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, and black pepper mayo.

Nicole ordered the seasonal vegetarian creation, which was a Mushroom and Squash Quinoa with feta and balsamic glaze. It was a great combination of flavors, but it was probably the only meal that I would outright say is overpriced for the size. It’s hard ordering vegetarian in any fancy restaurant and getting your money’s worth, though.

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We all shared tastes at the table and agreed that everything was phenomenal. I wanted to save room for dessert, but it just wasn’t in the cards tonight. Instead, we headed to a bar for a few after-dinner cocktails.

I wanted some place dark but comfortable so my brother suggested Nicky’s Lionhead Tavern. We were hoping to catch a glimpse of my cousin Jake, who’s a chef there, but he had left for the night.

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I started off with a Louie’s Demise, which is brewed in Milwaukee.

030This brew is malty and has a bit of a bite, but it has a nice smooth finish.

Another friend came to join us for a brewski.

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I think it was the discussion of grumpy cat that inspired Adam’s face in this picture. For some reason, we ended up covering all the taboo topics at Nicky’s: religion, sex, and politics. Passion was flying!

I ordered a Blue Moon for my second beer.

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I always order Blue Moon when I don’t know what to order. It never disappoints. Plus, you get a free appetizer–orange slice!

We got home late (again)–this has been quite the weekend already. It was really fun having two “foursome nights” instead of a big party night, though. I really enjoy small groups once in awhile for some good one-on-one conversation.

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I’ll once again recommend Bleu to anyone living or traveling to Green Bay. I think it’s safe to say it’s my favorite restaurant in Green Bay now (though I still have a few to try).

What’s your favorite restaurant? What kind of cuisine do they serve?

 

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Easy Friday

Last night’s dinner was quick & easy–subs from Jimmy John’s. My dad was telling me that he’s been trying out all the sub shops lately and Jimmy John’s has topped the list as his favorite. One of his reasons: “The staff always looks really happy when you go in.” Good enough for me!

When we do get subs, they’re usually from Subway which is closer to our apartment, but the recent talk with my dad had me wanting to try Jimmy John’s again.

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I ordered the Vegetarian which is made with provolone, avocado spread, sliced cucumber, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. I got it without mayo (saving me 193 calories!) and added a little deli mustard at home instead. I don’t like mayo that much and certainly not enough to waste 193 calories on. Mustard is more my game.

I ordered the Vito for Dave–Italian sub with Genoa salami, provolone, capicola, onion, lettuce, tomato and Italian vinaigrette. I was going to get him the Pepe, but they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Dave had actually had an idea on the way home to grill out before he found out I got subs for dinner. Kind of a bummer since it would have been a lovely day to grill out. It’s finally starting to feel like spring around here: plenty of sunshine, melting snow, and highs in the upper 40s.

Still, the sub was a wonderful decision. It was very fresh and delicious, and I especially love the addition of avocado. I vaguely remember them serving sprouts on this sub before, though–am I wrong?

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Instead of picking up chips at the sub place, I tried Popchips for the first time at home. I loved them! I got the Salt & Vinegar kind, which were very tangy. Popchips are “popped” instead of baked and fried, and they’re made without fake colors, flavors, or preservatives. One serving, which is a perfectly decent size, is only 120 calories. I would definitely buy these again; I’d love to try the other flavors.

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I’ve been trying to limit the amount of sugar I eat lately, so I haven’t had anything sweet all week except for a handful of Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips. I decided for the time being to save my sweet treats for the weekend, so I was more than ready for something sweet on Friday.

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Like brownies.

Dave gave me the idea for banana brownies, which I later realized would have been executed better with banana extract, but they were just what I needed. I followed my ‘No Pudge Brownie’ recipe, substituting the banana for yogurt.

No-Pudge Brownie Clones 

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup stevia
  • 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup & 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond coconut milk
  • Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips for topping

Mix all dry ingredients. Stir in yogurt and milk. Spray a 9X13 pan with cooking spray and spread batter evenly (the batter will be very thick). Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool and sift powdered sugar over the top.

*****

They turned out a little more cake-like than fudge-like, so if I make them again, I think I’ll underbake them or add an egg.

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But the addition of the rest of those Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips?

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Perfection.

I’ve got a hoppin’ Saturday planned complete with spring cleaning, grocery shopping, a trip to the bank, and dinner at Bleu (the second time this month…). I’m excited!

Any fun weekend plans?

Give Fish a Chance

Ever since I became a humaneitarian, fish has become a constant presence on my plate. I have always loved the flavor, and it’s no secret that fish is awesome for your body: swapping fish for red meat just twice a week can reduce your chances of getting heart disease, lower blood pressure, increase mental function, and improve your skin and hair (maybe that’s why mine’s been growing so fast!).

Salmon is one of my go-to fishes, shrimp is one of my good-day ‘splurges’ because even though it’s more expensive, it’s extremely low in calories and fat (and very tasty), and frozen haddock or pollock is always in our freezer with tuna in the cupboard. Our cats Athena and Artemis are huge fans of tuna, as well; they come running when they hear me open a can. Fortunately, they’re not as fond of pickled herring as Dave and me, though—more for us!

But there’s another fish that’s always in our cupboard, one most likely to produce ‘ewwws’ from a majority of the population: sardines. I wish more people would give sardines a chance, because they are a nutritional powerhouse in the food world.

Relatively low in calories, they are full of protein and those omega-3 fatty acids you always hear about. Most people hear ‘fatty acids’ and think “horrible for you” but the opposite is true in this case. Also, sardines are low on the oceanic food chain with low amounts of mercury–so even if you’re pregnant and have to skip the sushi, you can have your fish….and eat it too!

Some other reasons to eat sardines: they are inexpensive, sustainably fished, and for fish lovers out there: they actually taste like fish. Unlike commercially packaged fish sticks or pre-seasoned fish determined to cloud your tastebuds with salt.

Some good ways to eat sardines: mashed with avocado on toast, straight out of the can as part of a European dinner (usually the kind packed in mustard), and in a sardine grilled cheese sandwich. This may be the safest way to try it if you don’t think you like sardines, because you get to mix it with ooey, gooey delicious cheese.

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Mmm…tasty. I have finally mastered the art of the grilled cheese sandwich. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was never really good at making a basic grilled cheese sandwich. Either the toast was perfect but the cheese not melted or the toast burned. So to make a quick grilled cheese, I used to toast my bread in the toaster, add the cheese and microwave for about fifteen seconds to melt. Some cook, eh?

Luckily, I’ve found a solution, courtesy of the wonderful Alton Brown! Heat two cast iron pans over medium to medium high heat for five minutes. Turn off the heat and move the larger cast iron pan to a cool burner. Spray with nonstick cooking spray, and put in your prepared grilled cheese sandwich. Spray nonstick cooking spray on the top of the bread, then put the second cast iron pan on top of your sandwich. Walk away.

After about five minutes, you’ll hear a sizzle of cheese and see this beauty:

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This sandwich consisted of sprouted rye bread (a new favorite), a can of sardines, sharp cheddar cheese, and dijon mustard.

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I served my sardine sandwich with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts seasoned with truffle and sage olive oil, smoked paprika, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. (Also, did you see how bright my photo is? Natural light, baby!).

Sardines, for the win.

Are you a sardine lover or hater?

25 Things You Don’t Know About Me

1.  I  once made $40 by jumping into Lake Michigan in April.

My Dad loves to bet my siblings and I money to do things, but we have become so accustomed to taking the bets that he has pretty much stopped asking.

2.  I was fourth runner-up in a regional spelling bee when I was 11.

I used to be a wicked good speller when I was younger and won quite a few trophies. Unfortunately, my talent came from reading a lot and I eventually started going up against kids who studied the dictionary, thus ending my “career.”

3. I’ve never been on an airplane.

My family used to go backpacking and canoeing for vacations which were mostly local, but the two times we went to Virginia Beach, we drove sixteen hours to get there. Now, I hate long car rides, so I bet that has something do with it.

4. My husband and I met in a Creative Fiction writing class in college.

This is only unusual because he was a history major, and hardly anyone besides English majors ever took writing classes. He was brave!

5. I hate talking on the phone.

In fact, I keep my cellphone on silent most of the time, which I’m sure drives people who are trying to reach me nuts. I prefer writing to speaking, so I’m much more of a texter. Or a ‘see you in person to talk’-er.

6. I whistle both in and out.

I didn’t know it was customary for people only to whistle one way until I was about fifteen.

7. My underwear and bra always match.

It drives me crazy if they don’t.

8. My nose and navel are pierced.

My navel ring is a four-leaf clover, and I haven’t changed it for about four years (though I do clean it!).

9. I can twist my tongue into a three-leaf clover.

It would be much luckier if it was a four-leaf clover.

10. I have only broken one bone in my body–my left elbow.

This is a miracle considering how clumsy I am, but I have plenty of nontraditional painful stories (like going to the hospital for getting a stick up my nose–I fell on it in the snow when I was about nine).

11. I have mixed up cumin and cinnamon several times while cooking, which has resulted in very weird tasting apple crisp and hummus.

Always smell your spices before using!

12. I fell into a fire when I was two years old, resulting in a tiny scar on my hand and a larger one on my back.

Neither is a map of the London Underground. Sigh.

13. My last meal would be homemade bread, cheese, and red wine. Maybe some smoked salmon, too. And sushi. A piece of really decadent chocolate cake. Roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts. Drunken risotto. And some gelato.

14. I have never really “dated.” I went from one serious relationship to another, the second of which resulted in marriage to someone I think is the bee’s knees.

I never felt like I was missing much.

15. I have hyperextended elbows.

Most people call this double-jointed, but what it really means is that I can twist my arm almost all the way around and freak people out. 😀

16. Neither Dave nor I owned cats before we got Athena and Artemis.

My family used to have a dog, birds, mice, and a rabbit, and Dave’s family used to have a dog. Both of our mothers claim not to be fond of cats, but I call shenanigans. Our kitties are cuddly, soft, and incredibly entertaining.

17. I can type over 100 words a minute.

In high school, my highest recorded wpm was 120, but the last time I was tested, three years ago, I was at a much more reasonable 100 wpm. I love the way my fingers feel flying over the keyboard. It’s a weird little high for me.

18. I have a huge extended family.

My Dad had nine siblings and my Mom had six so with their spouses, kids, and grandkids, our family gatherings are astronomical compared to most.

19. I hate horror movies and TV shows.

I have an incredibly overactive imagination so watching any type of horror movie gives me terrible nightmares. I have learned to stay away. Horror movies usually have terrible plots, anyway, so they rarely intruigue me.

20. I was named after the character Chelsea Thayer Wayne from On Golden Pond.

Chelsea is English for “the place where chalk and limestone meet.” Romantic, huh?

21. Octopi freak me out.

I appreciate that all creatures are beautiful in their own unique way, but they’re just…tentacly and weird, and I shudder whenever I think of them. Dave and I sometimes get Octupus salad with our sushi, but I have to close my eyes when I take a bite.

22. The first cd I bought was Staind: Break the Cycle.

It certainly has been awhile.

23. I hate the book The Scarlet Letter.

Classic, schmassic. Overly symbolic plot, unrealistic characters, just…ugh.

24. I used to have a dolphin collection.

Everyone thought I loved dolphins when I was younger, so they kept buying me dolphin things. (For the record, I think dolphins are pretty cool, I just didn’t really have an obsession with them). My brother bought me a dolphin necklace for Christmas one year when I was about twelve, which I thought was incredible for a thirteen year-old-boy, so the memory of that makes me like dolphins even more. But I don’t have a dolphin collection anymore. So you don’t have to buy me anything–really.

25. I believe in magic.

What’s one thing I don’t know about you?

Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

Remember how much I hated running? I miss it. I swear, I will run without complaint as soon as Mother Nature provides me with a nice springy outdoor play area. (Wait, what did I just agree to?) As soon as it gets warm enough, the first thing I’m going to do is hit my favorite trail.

I have been passing the cold, snowy-rainy months by reading heaps and watching more TV than I care to admit. And I’m tired of it. Until I find a new hobby to keep me busy, the only thing I seem to have enough energy for is trying new recipes. And reading my food magazines to find more.

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How about some Gnocchi with Bacon and Brussels Sprouts?

  • 7 oz bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp butter
  • 1 (16oz) package gnocchi
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Asiago cheese, shredded

In a medium frying pan over medium-low heat, cook bacon until crisp but not fully cooked; drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt and baking soda. Add Brussels sprouts along with 2 tablespoons butter and cook for 3 to 4 minutes; drain and shock sprouts in ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.

Prepare gnocchi according to directions on package. Once cooked and drained, immediately transfer gnocchi to a large frying pan over medium-high heat with remaining 2 teaspoons butter and olive oil. Sear for 2 to 3 minutes and add cooked Brussels sprouts, bacon, broth, wine, and garlic. Cook for 1 minute, then remove from heat. To serve, sprinkle with cheese.

Recipe adapted from: The Fresh Market

*****

I should have gone with my gut instinct and roasted the Brussels sprouts instead of boiling them. In my opinion, there is no flavor match for roasted vegetables–crispy, crunchy, slightly caramelized; I’m certain they would have added a nice contrasting texture to the already tender gnocchi. Alas, I usually like to follow a recipe completely once before making alterations, so I boiled them before sauteing.

Boiling the Brussels sprouts did make the recipe go pretty lickety split; it only took about thirty minutes start to finish for this dish. So if you like the texture of boiled Brussels sprouts and want a quick meal, go for it!

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Anyways, I can’t say I was disappointed. This dish is bursting with a multitude of colors and flavors, and we all know bacon adds a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to pretty much every dish. The Parmesan cheese was the icing on the cake to the mild gnocchi, springy sprouts, and salty bacon.

I served mine on a bed of arugula for a little extra green.

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What is the first thing you’ll do when spring arrives?

Just Another Weekend

with the Leahy-Dowe’s.

Pizza is a frequent guest in our place on the weekends. And if you’re a friend of ours who happens to show up around pizza time, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’ll get put to work in the kitchen.

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Shredding cheese.

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Stretching dough.

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I got off easy by making the white sauce (greek yogurt, lemon juice, ground dill seed, dry mustard, salt and pepper) and being the food photographer.

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On Saturday night, Dave was our taskmaster for two pizzas: a salmon pizza with artichokes, peppers, grape tomatoes, capers, mozzarella, and parmesan with a white sauce.

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And a deep dish sausage pizza with peppers, muenster, parmesan, and tomato sauce.

The pizzas baked while we played the shortest game of Clue in history. It was John’s first time playing the game. Fifteen minutes and I had pinned down Colonel Mustard in the Lounge with a Lead Pipe. How could you, Colonel?

Perfect timing for pizza-fying.

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I’ve made several salmon pizzas before, but I was a huge fan of the addition of artichokes on this pizza. Fish pizza may sound weird, but it is awfully delicious.

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And I haven’t met a Dave-style deep dish pizza I didn’t like. We ate our pizza while watching Clue, because after playing the game, John said he had never seen the movie, either. It was a must. True to form, Dave and I fell asleep before our guests left; apparently cooking is much more exhausting than we thought.

Sunday was a lazy day spent with the family. In the summer, Sundays are almost always cookout days at my parent’s or the beach, and I think we all want summer to get here just a little faster.

We spent the day at my parents talking, snacking, and playing a few games, but mostly just watching Aurelia.

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I don’t know what we did before Aurelia was born, but she is certainly a fine form of entertainment now.

 

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And cute to boot!

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She hasn’t started walking yet, but she’s getting oh-so close. She’s pretty small for her age so it might be a bit yet. Dad pulled out his baby book to show me that it took him awhile, too. Grandma had written “Tim was seventeen months old before he walked. Sure was slow.”

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She’s certainly an excellent crawler, though!

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And she loves to eat! She’s definitely part Leahy.

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Dad and Dave went outdoors to grill while the girls stayed in for the most part with Clue, cards, iced tea and wine. We’ve had enough of this cold winter crap.

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Dinner was delicious! I had thrown together a quinoa salad with sauteed red peppers, onions, and garlic, and we also had some of Mom’s seasoned catfish, some salmon, Davy’s homemade rye bread, and roasted sweet potatoes. Aunt Dina brought some coleslaw and Texas caviar to share, as well. And Em made a fruit dip with cream cheese, sour cream, walnuts, and pineapple to go with sliced apples.

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It certainly looks summery. I’m waiting….

Spring Hasn’t Sprung

Mother Nature doesn’t give a rat’s foot about the calendar. This week has been cold and windy with plenty of snow to help cement in the fact that “It ain’t spring til I say it’s spring.”

Well fine, Mother Nature. I can stay inside, cook, speed read, and watch my new favorite show: Bones until you’re ready to let us play outside.

I already have a love affair with Zooey Deschanel, so it didn’t take me long to hop on the Emily Deschanel bandwagon; she’s just as beautiful but plays a much less vulnerable character as Temperance Bones than Zooey ever has. Plus, look how cute David Boreanz is! He has a fabulous smile and the same endearing qualities he had playing Angel in the Buffy series.

Here’s what I’ve been eating lately.

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European dinner with Gouda, Irish aged cheddar, cucumbers, pickles, balsamic tomatoes, smoked salmon, and pickled herring.

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Corned beef with melted Swiss cheese, roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts.

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Salted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

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Chicken fajita salad with guacamole.

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Mushroom Bourguignon.

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Wait. Did I mention the salted oatmeal chocolate chip cookies? Good. Recipe coming after I perfect them, but I made these with dark Ghiradelli chocolate chips and sprinkled them with sea salt, so they are a perfect combination of sweet and savory. Like a chocolate covered pretzel, only with oatmeal so they’re healthy. Right?

Trip to Steven’s Point

Right in the midst of my fortheloveofallthatisgoodcanwinterpleasebeover funk, a wonderful weekend put a spring in my step. Only the best of friends can do that.

On Friday evening, Dave and I took an hour and a half long drive to Stevens Point for a much-needed visit with two of our favorite people in the world: Dan and Emily.

050 We always have a ridiculously good time hanging out with them, and this weekend was no exception.  My camera was shy Friday evening but we had plenty of fun catching up with Dan and Emily and two of their good friends Luke and Kirsten (who I am determined to make our good friends as well because they are so cool).

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We listened to Gaelic Storm, enjoyed delicious adult beverages, planned a dinner of mussels and oven fries, then ended up eating oven fries and ordering pizza when we found out the mussels had all closed. We went to bed at a perfectly respectable 12:00am and woke up the next morning with French-pressed coffee and more music. Dan and Em always have music playing in their apartment, and it definitely makes the mornings more relaxed and enjoyable.

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Dan and Dave took to the kitchen to work on breakfast for us: potato latkes with fried eggs. I love men who cook. Women too. Actually, anyone who likes to cook is pretty awesome in my book.

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Breakfast was simple but incredibly satisfying. I put a nice little swirl of Sriracha on top of my over easy egg, and the creaminess of the yolk was very satisfying against the sharp onion taste and buttery potatoes. Perfecto!

After breakfast, we headed off to an antique store/consignment shop, which had three levels of awesome finds. We spent several hours sifting through everything and had fun entertaining the idea of buying cast iron pans, antique swords, hideous paintings, and 50s art decor and trying on clothes.

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This 70s-tastic jacket fit Em like a glove. And I found this hideously yellow hat to be quite flattering, indeed. 🙂

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Dave tried on an awesome army jacket that we all loved.

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It fit him so well that we convinced him to buy it. Dave doesn’t have a really good-fitting jacket, and this one looked too good on him to pass up. Vintage clothing is the best. In the end, we all left with something, and we met up with Luke and Kirsten again at Emy J’s for coffee and tea.

I ordered a Yerba Mat’e tea for a boost of caffeine.

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And Em insisted we split this to-die-for fig bar.

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It was a lovely take on a fig newton with an enormous amount of chewy, juicy fig filling. Delicious.

Dan and Em just bought a house (!!!), and we did a drive-by Saturday to get a sneak peek. It is beautiful and so them. I am really excited for them to move in and make even more happy memories. Like us having cook-outs and playing croquet in the back yard. 🙂

We stopped back at the apartment for a bit to check on the status of that night’s dinner: beer and balsamic braised short ribs, which made the apartment smell heavenly.

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And Dave started dough for Caraway Rye bread to go with dinner.

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After we put the dough in the refrigerator to rise slowly, we headed to a local brewery to enjoy a pint.

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I have never been a Beer or Miller girl, so I am becoming a big fan of local breweries. The beers always have so much more flavor to them, and I’d rather pay more for good beer than settle for second (fifth) best. The selection at O’so was great.

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I ordered a beer off the ‘Dark’ menu: Night Train.

029While enjoying our beers, we decided we needed food before we hit the road again, so Dan and Dave walked over to a restaurant to order some fast appetizers.

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We split an asparagus quesadilla and a creole quesadilla. I was quite taken with the idea of the asparagus quesadilla–I’m a huge fan of asparagus, but I don’t cook it as often as I would like to eat it. Broccoli always seems to win out.

032We also split an order of sweet potato fries. How did I live without sweet potatoes before?

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I loved seeing the stack of bourbon barrels at the tap house. Now that’s art.

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After an hour or so at O’so, we got back in the car and headed to another brewery for a real live brewery tour…Central Waters.

036 I had never been on a brewery tour before, so I was really excited to get a behind the scenes look at the brewing process.

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But first…beer.

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Central Waters is become pretty popular in the Midwest, but they want to stay small enough that they will still be a microbrewery, which I think is a fantastic idea. Sometimes beer loses its appeal when you know you can get it anywhere. It’s like going to McDonald’s in France.

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We had a relatively small group of about twelve, and our tour guide answered almost every question we threw at him. I know I didn’t absorb all of the information he gave us (it was a lot to take in at once!), but I had a great time trying to take it all in.

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Another reason I had such a great time was because two of our other friends met us for the tour and came back to Steven’s Point to hang out with us for the remainder of the weekend.

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Tess and Jake are fabulous. I really wish they lived closer so I could see them more, but considering they live 2 1/2 hours away, the couple times we see them a year is pretty good. Saturday night was spent much like Friday night: listening to music, enjoying beverages, and just being in good company.

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We were all helping out in the kitchen, and due to unforeseen circumstances with the oven, we didn’t end up eating dinner until 9:30. It was worth waiting for.

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These ribs rivaled Dave’s in savory melt-off-the-bone flavor, and I loved the parsnip puree that they were served on. I never cook with parsnips, but I will definitely be making that puree again. It was a wonderful bed for the braised ribs, creamy like mashed potatoes with a more earthy flavor.

Another night turned into another morning. The only cure for a Sunday morning:

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Along with the bacon, Em made Jamie Oliver’s pancakes with blueberries.

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And while we waited for the three batches of pancakes to cook, we enjoyed more French-pressed coffee and mimosas.

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Oh, Sundays.

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I am used to eating most meals by myself, so it is always a real treat to eat in the company of others. The food always seems to taste better when it is flavored by good company.

067Or maybe Dan and Em are just really that good of cooks. 🙂

We lounged about for a few more hours, cleaning dishes, then watching Boondock Saints in honor of the day. After the movie ended, we unfortunately had to face the music and make our trek back home. Luckily, the end of the weekend was highlighted by a Leahy-Dowe (and every other American) tradition: Shamrock Shake.

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Lunch of champions.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day, everyone!

 

 

 

Gym Workout

Yesterday, I did something new. I went to the gym for the first time since college to work out. Crazy! I’m used to using my living room and the Great Outdoors as my exercise space, so this was a nice refresher for my routine.

My sister Emily asked if I wanted to join her at the YMCA so I bought a $10 day pass for the one she attends, which is about eight miles from my apartment. Em is used to using the jogging track, but I wanted to workout like I did in college–with ellipticals! The staff was all friendly and very eager to help us, so after we dropped the little moonbeam off in the childcare section, she showed us to the second floor of the gym. I love that they have a relatively inexpensive childcare section so people like my sister can exercise without worrying about their little ones.

There is a workout room filled with ellipticals, but they had just put them in that day and weren’t quite up and running yet. So we used two of the older ones which were set up on the second floor of the gym, right in the corner of the jogging track.

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It took Em no time at all to get accustomed to the elliptical, and it was fun seeing how long we’d been on it, how many strides we took, and how many calories we burned. I love people-watching (not in a creepy way), so it was also kind of nice having people running around the track and watching people on the first floor do a Cardio Kickboxing class.

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My sisters and I were thinking about taking a kickboxing class together, so it was nice to see that the Y offers them as part of their membership. I love kickboxing with Jillian, but this class looked more cardio and less kickboxing than I’d like, although I did miss the end of it. Still, it would be really fun to do with my sisters. I loved having a workout buddy today.

After 35 minutes and 260 calories, we stretched for a few minutes, then hightailed it back to the Kid’s Corner to pick up Aurelia, where the caregiver informed Emily that she didn’t make a peep, just played with toys on the floor. Best baby ever.

Now I’m on the fence about getting a gym membership. I’ve never had one before, because I hate the idea of how much money I would pay every year to exercise when I can do it for free. On the other hand, it was so much fun going with my sister, and it was awesome seeing such a large group of people be active around me–very inspiring. The membership is $42 dollars a month which includes access to a pool, gym, the workout rooms, locker rooms, and any classes that I want to take. (Forty two dollars seems like a lot to me–I think it’s more expensive than most of the other gyms around me).

I can’t make up my mind, but it’s definitely something to think about. It would be really nice to have the opportunity to jog inside this summer when it’s too hot to run outside, though.

When I got home to my Davy, he had just started the newest Star Trek movie, so I showered, grabbed some food, and plopped down on the couch to relax. First, I started with a mug of Miso.

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I love miso soup It’s much better when you get it in a restaurant, filled with chunks of tofu and seaweed, but the packets are still delicious, too.

After miso….sushi!

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Spicy Tuna, Bagel Roll, Tuna, Salmon, and Eel Nagano, and Veggie Goyza. With a little heap of pickled ginger on the side.

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Along with my sushi, I tried some beer that my friends Dan and Em brewed themselves. Since we’re going to visit them this weekend, I wanted to be able to give an opinion on it.

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(Yes, I took the picture before the foam finished settling). I was so impressed! The beer tasted like…beer! It was really refreshing with a bit of a sharp taste that Dave attributed to us leaving it to ferment longer than necessary before refrigerating it yesterday. Now Dave and I are both eager to try to make our own. And we know just who to go to for tips.

Do you have a gym membership? Is it worth it?