Monthly Archives: June 2013

Foodie Penpal from Colorado


This month’s Foodie Penpal box came from Kelly from Colorado. She told me this was her first month with Foodie Penpals and asked me for some tips as well as my preferences.

She more than exceeded my expectations!

photo 1

Kelly is a cupcake blogger over at High Altitude Cupcakes. {Love that name!} As I drooled over the photos of her creations, I knew there was no way she could send me a cupcake without it flattening in transit. Or, if she had perfected cupcake shipment, she would more likely have to send only cupcakes, which could be a beautiful thing. But it also could be bad thing if all cupcakes were consumed {by me} in one sitting! But as I suspected, cupcake shipment still proves difficult. In fact, when I wanted to send last month’s Foodie Penpal some banana chocolate chip muffins, I opted to send her the dry ingredients along with the recipe instead.

photo 2

Her beautiful, hand-written card was fitting and adorable!

photo 3In this note, Kelly went into detail on each item she sent and why.  She carefully selected some items from her beloved home state as well as some of her own favorites.

photo 5Clockwise from the Cupcake note:

Doxy’s Smoky Chipotle Starter – Aurora, CO | This is the only item I have not yet tried. It’s a packet of natural herbs and spices that can be used to make salad dressing and dip or to season fajitas or pasta. It will not go to waste!

JJ Sweets Cocomels – Boulder, CO | Oh, Cocomels! Thank you for making another appearance in my life! I was first introduced to these when a sample arrived in my monthly Love with Food box. I once again adored these cream caramels made with coconut milk.

Justin’s Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – Boulder, CO | I’m familiar with Justin’s Nut Butters, but I wasn’t aware that the company also made peanut butter cups! And with dark chocolate? There was no way that this could go wrong. And it didn’t. Each cup made it into a day starring as my daily piece of chocolate. Mmm.

Chuao Chocolatier Chocolate Covered Potato Chip Bar | I adore this chocolatier! Kelly just discovered it and with my love of chocolate, knew that she had to share.

Homemade Peach Jam | This is the best jam I’ve ever had! I am dead serious about this one. It’s made from Colorado’s famous Palisade Peaches. What I adore most about this jam is that the beautiful peach flavor shines through. It is not overly sugared. In fact, I told my husband that it kind of tasted like mashed fresh, ripe peaches. Beautiful and refreshing.

Clark’s Wildflower Honey – Fort Lupton, CO | This honey is produced from wildflower and bees out of Fort Lupton. I had recently run out of honey and always like to replace it with a new one from a local producer often found at the Farmer’s Market. Getting some from a Foodie Penpal is even better! I love the Wildflower variety of honey, too.

Homemade Fig & Olive Tapenade | Kelly sent this to cater to my love of Mediterranean inspired food. She said that she also shares that love. Of course, I’ve had  tapenade before, but I’ve never had it made with figs, which are something else I really love, but rarely ever get to enjoy here in Minnesota. And let me tell you, this tapenade is divine! It’s so versatile, too.


Kelly suggested that I spread the tapenade with goat cheese on sliced French bread.

Perfect suggestion. This was an excellent way to enjoy it. I truly believe that if you are not a fan of olives, combining it with the figs mellows those distinct olive flavors out a bit with just that hint of sweetness. It also went perfectly with the honey ale above, which you’ll hear more about at a later date.

But then I got some ideas and enjoyed this beautiful Fig & Olive Tapenade in other ways!

with sliced tomato!

I added sliced tomato!

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Drizzled with the wildflower honey!

I drizzled it with the wildflower honey!

Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!

Tapenade (4)

I put it in a salad!

I made a simple salad for a work lunch one day which included fresh farmer’s market greens, tomato, goat cheese and the Fig & Olive Tapenade. At work, I drizzled a little lemon grapeseed oil over the top to dress it and topped it off with a few sliced almonds for some added crunch. Highly satisfying. It reminded me of sitting in the sun at a café in Provence. {I smile as I sigh here…}

Thank you, Kelly, so much for this beautiful box of lovely treats.

I can tell that you put a lot of thought and heart into it.

Everything has won me over!

I shipped a box of Foodie Penpal goodies this month to Maggie in Georgia, who is a big lover of Cheez-its. Let’s just say that she set me up to send her some of the cheddar variety of our local Pop’d Kerns. 😉

If you’d like to participate in Foodie Penpals, here’s the best part:

You don’t need to have a blog to participate!

Here’s how it works:

1. Sign up by the 4th of the month that you want to participate.

2. On the 5th of the month, you are assigned a Foodie Penpal.

3. You communicate with your penpal about any food allergies or preferences, as well as where to ship the package.

4. By the 15th of the month, send $15 worth of food to your penpal that may include homemade goodies, local treats or just some of your favorite discoveries that you want to share! The box must also contain something handwritten.

5. You’ll receive a package from another Foodie Penpal, who was assigned to you.

6. If you are like me, you squeal with delight when your package arrives.

7. You enjoy said goodies, which you may have never known about otherwise.

8. If you are a blogger, you post about the package you received on the last day of the month – Reveal Day! {If you are not a blogger, you do not need to do anything, but thank your Penpal, of course! However, if your Penpal does blog, you can choose to write a guest post, if you so wish.}

What is your favorite food from your neck of the woods?


Seaweed in My Food Boxes


Subscription Box Saturday: Food Box Edition

My June food boxes had something in common. They both came with seaweed. It turns out, I don’t mind the stuff when it comes to sushi, but I’m not a fan of the snacking kind.

Goodies Box – June 2013


Pringles Stix Cheese Flavor – Rating: 4/5 | These were good. They are kind of like Cheez-its, a bit better, but in stick form. Would I buy them? Probably not. I just don’t buy that sort of snacky food. Would I eat them if put in front me? Yes!

STAX Que Rico – Adobadas Chips – Rating: 3/5 | These taste like chili powder flavored Pringles. They are fine, but not a favorite.

Duchy Originals – Highland Shortbread – Rating: 3/5 | These taste pretty authentic for shortbread, buttery and not too sweet.

Smooch Snacks Snacks – Apple, Raspberry, Peach, Chia & Acerola – Rating: 3/5 | I’ve sampled a lot of these pre-packaged fruit-sauces over the last few months. I like them because they are a very convenient way to get in your daily servings of fruit. The flavor combo was a little strange, but I didn’t mind it. I liked that the raspberry seeds were in there. (Or was that from the chia seeds?) It gave it a little more texture than the other ones on the market.

Gimme Health – Cheddar Cheese Seaweed Crumbles – Rating: 2/5 | I really wanted to like these. The cheddar was a nice touch, but seaweed snacks are still not for me.

Dream Water NightTEA Night – Rating: 2/5 | This is the opposite of 5-Hour Energy. Or at least that’s the impression I get with the packaging. I hadn’t been sleeping well lately, so I gave it a shot. No such luck.

From this photo, you’d think that this box was packaged really well:

Goodies-2But it wasn’t. The shortbread, half of the STAX chips and some of the Pringles Stix came in pieces. Too bad. 😦


Love with Food – June 2013

LWF-3(Sorry for the blurry photo.)

Do More Bars Gluten-Free Pineapple Coconut Cereal Bar – Rating: 4/5 | These are very good! I like the coconut pineapple flavor. They are just not something I would normally buy.

Soy Joy Bar – Rating: 2/5 | I’m just not a fan of these. I like other bars so much better. I’m not big into processed soy products either, but that’s just my personal preference.

Surf Sweets Organic Gummy Bears – Rating: 4/5 |I haven’t had gummy bears in forever. These taste good, as far as gummy bears go. If you are going to give something like this to your kids, you might as well give them some that are GMO-free and without HFCS.

Seaweed Love Roasted Seaweed Snack – Rating: 1/5 | As I mentioned earlier, I don’t mind nori when it comes to sushi, but these just aren’t my thing.

Turbana Sweet Platain Chips – Rating: 3/5 | I liked these. I think I had the salted ones before, but these are lightly sweet. Although, Kim at Living, Laughing & Losing makes her own all the time.

Flavrz Organic Liquid Drink Mix – Superfruit Flavor – Rating: 3/5 |Just add the liquid mix to a bottle of water. This was okay. I think they are supposed to be a slightly healthier alternative to Crystal Light packets. Not sure it’s something I’d run out and buy, though.

PUR Pomegranate Mint Chewing Gum – Rating: 2/5 | I was really excited to try this flavor of gum. However, the flavor did not last long and the gum quickly became hard. 😦

Smooze All Natural Conconut + Mango Fruit Ice – Rating: 4/5 | These are a nice twist on Push-Ups! It arrived in my box unfrozen of course, but I was instructed to pop it in the freezer. Shamrock wanted some and tried to steal a lick!


Then I realized that there were two more items in the box:


GoOrganic Apple & Blood Orange Hard Candies – 4/5 – It’s hard candy that’s organic. It tastes like hard candy. Not much more to say!


My lessons learned this week:

1) I’m not a fan of seaweed snacks.

2) Although it’s fun trying these food products, it’s a rare occasion when I’ll actually buy them myself. For now, most of them are just nice little treats.

What treats are nice when someone else gives them to you, but you wouldn’t necessarily buy them yourself?


Bacon-Covered Meatloaf with Creamy Mustard Sauce


When my mom was in town for the week cleaning my house {I know, I am spoiled. It’s the best gift ever!}, we wanted to take her out to dinner to some of our favorite places. But during the week, I also wanted to cook for her after a long day on her feet. I had to make sure our dinners were Rob-friendly. Of course, I made his beloved San Marzano Pasta. Another night, I did some easy Zatarain’s Jambalaya.

Then, I thought of something.

Rob doesn’t like leftovers. If I’m lucky, he’ll eat one serving. A while back, I made him a meatloaf that he adored. However, it makes six servings, which would normally mean that there were four leftovers for me. I do like leftovers and all, but not that much. With mom in town, that meant that we could each have a serving and each have a leftover for lunch the following day. Win-win!

First off, let’s be honest – I’m not much of a meatloaf fan.

Maybe it’s the overabundance of ketchup? Before watching Melissa d’Arabian make this particular version on the Food Network, I’d never actually made meatloaf in my life. And you’d think with my strange aversion to bacon on and in my food, you’d think this recipe would be a turn-off for me. But I like Melissa’s concept of Ten-Dollar Dinners. And the fact that she is married to a Frenchman {and ovbiously a francophile herself} means she creates some great French and French-inspired dishes. So I’m a follower. But on this particular episode, she made a recipe, I thought Rob would love!

Meatloaf with Mustard and Sour Cream Gravy

{Recipe link here.}

The thing is that Rob is turned off by any dish labeled gravy. I know it makes him think of the traditional Thanksgiving Day kind. So when I told him that I was making a Bacon Meatloaf, I just said that it would be accompanied by a Creamy Mustard Sauce. Because that’s all it is, isn’t it? 😉 Truthfully, I didn’t think he heard me after I used the words Bacon & Meatloaf together. I had him at that. Still, for my purposes, I’ve renamed the dish:

Bacon-Covered Meatloaf with Creamy Mustard Sauce

I hope you don’t mind, Melissa! {I’m still givin’ you all the credit.} And it’s soooo good and juicy. Surprisingly, the bacon isn’t overpowering, which is one reason why I usually prefer my bacon on its own. My mom gobbled it up, too, along with the side salad I served with it. I promptly gave her the recipe, so I’m sharing it here with you, too. I had fully intended of taking a photo of it when it came out of the oven, but my diners were anxious to eat and I completely forgot about it. So you’ll have to make do with a photo of one of my containers of leftovers. It’s still pretty yummy-looking, if you ask me.


Bacon-Covered Meatloaf with Creamy Mustard Sauce

I followed Melissa’s recipe almost to a “T”. However, I did use panko breadcrumbs, the spicy Italian sausage and a leaner ground beef. I also didn’t use the recommended special equipment – a glass loaf pan. I didn’t find it necessary. I just used my regular non-stick one. It’s only used for molding the meatloaf anyway. The leaner ground beef worked just fine, so I’m sure you can lighten up this recipe in many ways, too.

Give it a try, I’ll bet you’ll love it. In order to have less leftovers for the two of us next time, does anyone know how to adapt this recipe into a small loaf pan? Half the ingredients? Then cook for how long? Sometimes it is easy to half or double a recipe, sometimes it’s not as simple.

What are your tricks and tips to adapting recipes for more or less people?

How ’bout your tricks and tips to lighten up recipes?

Have you ever renamed a dish so your family would eat it?


Red Cow – Minneapolis


Last night, my husband and I dined at the Red Cow. He just arrived back in town from a weekend up north and I was craving a burger. {What’s with this burger craving lately?} We’ve been wanting to go there for a while after hearing about it on Heavy Table, via Thrillist and through friends. And it’s in South Minneapolis near Edina, which means it’s a closer drive for us than say, Downtown, Uptown or Nordeast Minneapolis.

Arriving at about 7 or 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday, we walked right in and found a seat at the bar. I noticed on a promotional ad sitting atop the bar that there is a wine glass cleverly inserted into the Red Cow logo. Underneath the logo read:

Red Cow *Fine Burgers & Wine*

I’m wondering now if this was the original concept because everything else now reads:

Red Cow *Fine Burgers, Beer & Wine*

My thought is that with the growing craft beer industry in the Twin Cities metro, there is no way to leave the brews out. And most people associate beer with a good burger, after all.

Side note: There are some great burger and wine pairings that are sensational, but I’ll save that for a Wine Wednesday.

Nevertheless, the list of beer and wines available here is a long one. Our bartender, Grant, was knowledgeable about the beers. When the Nitro beer we were curious about was out, he told us that the replacement wasn’t pouring quite properly. I love an honest bartender! There are more than just a few beers on tap and several in a bottle, too.

As for the wine, there are 35 different ones offered by the glass. And after perusing the menu, I was happy to find that they aren’t your “usual suspects”. I find that sooooo incredibly boring. I’d rather try new wines when I’m out. Red Cow uses the same style wine dispenser system as Scusi.

Also, the menu also offered a Burger and Champagne special – Two Burgers and a bottle of Bollinger for something like $125. {I don’t see it online.} I love that! It reminded me of our favorite steakhouse in Pensacola, Florida, McGuire’s Irish Pub:

‘Tis Grand. Our Grand Filet Mignon, custom ground and Chargrilled, served
with a side of Caviar, chopped Red Onions and a Grand Magnum of imported Moët Impérial Champagne. …………

I’ve always wanted to try it… just once.

But back to the burgers at Red Cow. They make some interesting burgers with more elevated toppings. I had a hard time to deciding. When I asked Grant about whether I should order the Barcelona or the Royale, he hesitated, stating both were very, very good. Rob cut us off, though and said, “Well, I’d like the Barcelona.” {Of course, he told me he was going to order something else before our order was taken.} That made my decision easy. I could always have a bite of Rob’s burger, right?

Barcelona 11.50    angus burger, manchego, prosciutto, piquillo pepper & smoked aioli [GF]

Barcelona – 11.50
angus burger, manchego, prosciutto, piquillo pepper & smoked aioli

Rob loved his burger and he isn’t generally a Manchego fan. I took a bite and enjoyed it to. However, I did like mine a wee bit better… 😉

Royale 11.00 angus burger, pork belly, brie, arugula & tomato jam [GF]

Royale – 11.00
angus burger, pork belly, brie, arugula & tomato jam

It’s gotta be the brie with the combination of arugula and tomato “jam”. {They were more like big chunks of roasted tomato, which I loved!} I didn’t think it really needed the pork belly though. Although I’m not really a bacon-on-my-burger fan, that wasn’t why I didn’t need it on the burger. It just added a bit of weird, unneeded texture.

We realized after ordering that they never asked how we wanted the burgers. That seemed strange to me at a burger joint. With all of those toppings, it was really hard to tell if there was any pink inside, which is how we prefer our burgers. But the burger was so juicy, that it didn’t even matter to me how they cooked it!

Each burger came with a side of fries. We had a choice of the original or the Truffle-Parmesan. DUH! You know what we chose. And actually, the fries by themselves, really weren’t good at all. While at Burger Jones, we like to order a side of fries because they don’t come with the burger, I wouldn’t order them if that were the case here. The Truffle-Parmesan fries are sprinkled with a little shredded parmesan and served with a side of truffle aioli. The truffle aioli was what made the fries!

But the burgers here are pretty darn good. I’d have to put them ahead of Burger Jones. {Now if we could combine Red Cow’s burgers with Burger Jone’s fries…} It hit the spot for me that night. And while I don’t think they’ll make Rob’s Top 10 Burger List {which I still need to update!}, I have a feeling, we’ll be back.

What do you like to drink with your burger?


Beauty Box Battle


Subscription Box Saturday: Beauty Box Edition

Remember how I was trying to figure out which Beauty Box to keep last month? Well this month, my beauty boxes left me feeling completely…


This might have something to do with me. I’m not feeling so beautiful these days. So take my thoughts on these boxes with a grain of salt.


Birchbox – June 2013

Davines Shampoo, Conditioner and Hair Oil – The shampoo is fine. The conditioner ended up in my travel kit for when I run out on the road and the oil reminds me of the Moroccan Oil that I already use (only not as nice smelling!)

Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser – This was nice to have. It’s been a while since I’ve used a sugar scrub or exfoliant on my body.

Color Club Wanderlust Collection – Still need to fix the nails before I can use this polish. My toes are currently pedicured.

Oscar de la Renta Something Blue – This perfume is fine. Not exceptional or something I’d buy. Good to try, though.


And even though I was so excited last month when my first Beauty Army box arrived with these words:

ba2….I just wasn’t feeling it this month.

Nor was I feeling it with the stuff that I chose to go into my box.


Beauty Army – May (or June?) 2013

I’m not sure if I should call this box May or June because I get to choose my products around the 25th of the month and then it ships the following month.

Teas – They were some of the better choices for this month’s box. But I have not yet tried either. I was on a tea kick for a bit, but it’s been soooo hot lately. Maybe I should try them as iced tea.

Yes to Daily Pore Scrub – Went straight to my travel bag.

Cotz Face Sunscreen for Natural Skin Tones – I actually love how this feels on my face! Not greasy or oily. It actually gives my skin a better, more silky feel. I may consider buying this for the summer.

Therabreath Oral Rinse – In a word – Mouthwash.

Mini Kittour Travel Bottle – Have not used this yet, but it’s a good staple for my travel bag.


Right now, I’m debating if I should keep these boxes at all. But this is the first month I’ve felt that way, so we’ll see.

Do you ever feel ho-hum about things that usually get you excited?

How do you explain this?


Back to the Cafeteria {Now Closed}


A Groupon {or other daily deal} brought us back to the Uptown Cafeteria. I bought it because I knew I wanted to go back and get the Tuna Melt of Tuna Melts. It’s on my Best of the Twin Cities list!

However, I completely forgot how good this entire menu looks. I found myself torn because what I Really Wanted that day was a burger. The Turkey Burger sounded sooooo good to me. But whenever I order a turkey burger at a restaurant, I am always disappointed. Then, after said disappointment, Rob likes to ask when I have ever liked a turkey burger while dining out. Point.

But the description of this one kept speaking to me – it was a Green Chile Turkey Burger. So I asked our bartender/server for advice. “I really love the Tuna Melt here, but I’m torn tonight. That Turkey Burger looks so good! What do you think?”

Nine times out of ten your server will a) give you an honest answer and b) have good taste. This bartender, without hesitation, told me to go for the Turkey Burger.

And I’m so happy I did!

reen Chile Turkey Burger11.00 muenster cheese, avocado, green chilies

Green Chile Turkey Burger – $11.00
muenster cheese, avocado, green chilies

I chose cottage cheese as my side for a little extra added protein. {I ate a few tots off of Rob’s plate, too!} I used about half of the onion. After the first messy bite, I discarded half of the bun and ended up eating the rest with a fork and knife. This was soooo good! Look closely at the meat – it was well-seasoned with herbs. And those green chiles were just what I wanted.

Rob, took the challenge and tried the Best F#@!-ing Burger EVER. {They call it the “F Burger” when they bring it to your table.} And although he enjoyed the burger, it wasn’t good enough to make his Top 10 Twin Cities Burgers list.

Best F#@!-ing Burger EVER15.00 velveeta stuffed and topped with pepperjack cheese, bacon, short-rib, fried egg and horseradish sauce

Best F#@!-ing Burger EVER – $15.00
velveeta stuffed and topped with pepperjack cheese, bacon, short-rib, fried egg and horseradish sauce

I need to remember that when Uptown that this is a place to return. I haven’t been disappointed with the food and am anxious to try other menu items. It’s comfort food with flavor. No brainer for me!

Tip: Happy Hour in the bar area lasts one hour longer than Happy Hour on the rooftop!

It’s burger season. What are your favorite burger toppings?


Torrontés – The White for Everyone


It’s no secret that I’ve been into craft beers much more than wine lately. I’m actually sipping one – the Indeed LSD Honey Ale {more on that in another post!} – while I write this Wine Wednesday post. And while I tend to be more of a red wine drinker, occasionally a white wine comes along that makes my palate sing! Such happened the first time I tried a Torrontés.

Torrontés is a white grape grown in Argentina. Over the years, The Traveling Vineyard has carried one every now and again. But it’s still little known to the general wine-drinking population in the U.S. It’s a wine, though, that I like to describe as The White Wine for Everyone.


Torrontés served in my Connoisseur’s Club glass that I earned through The Traveling Vineyard

At Wine Tastings where I’ve brought this varietal, I’ve had red wine, white wine and sweet wine drinkers alike go crazy over this wine. It’s probably because it’s so versatile. Although it’s not technically a dessert wine, it’s got floral aromas with a fruitiness that can be perceived as sweet. It pairs well with spices, Asian foods, guacamole and smoked meats. What’s more is that I’ve discovered that it can sometimes work well with a lemon cookie or meringue pie! Click here for a lemon trifle recipe given to me by one of my tasting guests.

A bonus pairing recently discovered by a fellow consultant: lemon scones. Can we say Brunch Wine, anyone?!

It’s the perfect wine for summer, especially for those who typically drink reds, but who really would like to have a favorite white as a sipping thirst quencher during the heat. Additionally, Torrontés isn’t always so easy to find. The Traveling Vineyard gets theirs in small quantities from smaller vineyards. Once it’s gone it’s gone!

Kesari Argentine Torrontés - The Traveling Vineyard

Kesari Argentine Torrontés – $15.99 from The Traveling Vineyard

Tip: Don’t serve Torrontés {or any white wine for that matter} too cold. It should not be served straight from the fridge. Take it out and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Or, alternatively, slide one of these wine chillers on to your room temperature white to cool it down. Drinking a white wine too cold will mask the flavors!

What’s your summer wine or beverage of choice?