Monthly Archives: January 2014

3 Favorite Kitchen Tips of the Week


I found some great tips this week that you might enjoy, too. Click each link for the tip!

1) How to Preserve Garlic from An Organic Wife – fresh bulbs anytime!

2) How to Freeze Tomato Paste from Kitchen Parade – don’t waste those cans or bother with tubes!

3) French Cheese Etiquette from Southern Fried French – you know this francophile-Wisconsinite {moi} loves her cheese!

What’s your favorite kitchen tip this week?

Please share because I love tips!


Porter-Stout Week


I interrupt this Wine Wednesday to bring you…

Porter-Stout Week

at Pizza Lucé in Richfield!

We were so lucky when our friend Shondra directed us to the Pizza Lucé Richfield Facebook Page which announced the release of several ethereal porters and stouts on tap for this entire week!

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Some of these include:

  • Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter (CO)
  • Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (NY)
  • Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (IL)
  • Founders Imperial Stout (MI)
  • Fulton Worthy Adversary Russian Imperial Stout (MN)
  • Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout (NY)
  • Bells Hopslam Double IPA  (MI)
  • Surly Abrasive Double IPA (MN)

Okay, so those last two are not porters, nor stouts, but they are worthy of recognition for being tapped in their own right! And I love how there are some local beers included on the menu, too.

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Nearly all of these have high ABVs, so they’ll only be served up as 10 oz pours. You’ll be grateful if you want to try more than one!

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What’s more is that Shondra reminded us that every Tuesday the Pizza Lucé in Richfield offers all of their tap beers for $3 all night long! And that didn’t change at all for this special event. Beers that we might pay $6 to $10 for elsewhere were just three bucks. We were pleased.

I ordered me a plate of appetizer meatballs (half-price during Happy Hour):

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Meatball Appetizer
Five meatballs or veggieballs topped with mozzarella cheese and baked in a homemade sauce made from organic tomatoes, fresh garlic, Italian herbs, roasted red peppers and red wine. Served with garlic toast. – $7.59

Since it was a school night and couldn’t have a glass of every beer, I had to choose my beer wisely. I started with the Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Stout since I adore it so and it is hard to find in a bottle, let alone on tap. But I quickly learned why I prefer that as an after-dinner dessert beer. It was a little sweet to pair with the meatballs. I’ve been known to order ports and stouts as dessert.

I decided on just one more beer: the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Generally, I like to support the locals. But it’s the only beer on the menu I hadn’t had. And I am really in a bourbon barrel beer phase.

One sip and I was in heaven.

You can find these beers (well, not for $3, but still not badly priced) at Pizza Luce in Richfield all week. On Thursday, they’ll have live music along with a very limited tapping of a firkin of Fulton Worthy Adversary.

What’s the best special/happy hour where you live?



Gold Nugget Tavern and Grille


Our “Man’s Best Friend” Painting Class through Art and Elixir brought us to the Gold Nugget in Minnetonka. We went early so that we could have a bite to eat before class. You can order food during class. People often do. But I find that there is not much room for the food. It’s just not ideal for me to be eating and painting at the same time.

Something I thought would really please Rob is that this little neightborhood restaurant and bar, located in a strip mall, has a burger battle! There are 52 different burgers to try every year! Each week, a new burger goes up against the burger from the week before. The winner moves on to the following week. One burger could reign for several weeks, but there will still be a new burger up against it each week.

I love this concept!

Another thing I knew he’d love is the beer selection – about twenty or so brewery offerings with almost half from Minnesota. In fact, we got to try something new…

Bent Brewstillery's Dark Fatha - American Emperial Stout

Bent Brewstillery’s Dark Fatha – American Emperial Stout

This was our first beer from Bent Brewstillery, which is out of Roseville, Minnesota. The company gets it’s name

because most of the beers are not made strictly to style: they’re “bent” a little bit away from the norm. This sometimes comes from combining the best parts of two different styles.

This is probably why the Dark Fatha doesn’t show such great ratings on Beer Advocate. But we liked it and would order it again. It’s got a lot of the qualities of a nice Imperial Stout, but with an unexpected slight hoppiness.

There is a pretty sweet happy hour, too, at the Gold Nugget. But we opted for some signature items instead. I mean, how could you go to a place called the Gold Nugget and not order the Gold Nugget Tots!?

 Cheddar filled homemade tater tots served piping hot with a side of bacon-chive dipping sauce. 7.95

Gold Nugget Tots
Cheddar filled homemade tater tots served with a side of bacon-chive dipping sauce. $7.95

To be honest, we were a little disappointed. We like ourselves some good crispy tots and we were expecting those kind, but with a cheesy center. These were bigger, browner and softer. I liked them a little better than Rob just because I love potatoes in general. But one was enough for him.

Then we opted to split the Weekly Burger Special. We wanted to try the burger that was battling! They were kind enough to split it in back and bring it out on separate plates for us.

Quattro Formaggi Burger
Four cheeses – American, provolone, Swiss and feta cheese on a grilled burger patty topped with a lemon chive mayo, served on a brioche bun

The burger was cooked perfectly medium-rare to our liking and had an excellent flavor. I wouldn’t say it was Top 10 Burger worthy, but it was good enough that we’d get it again! Splitting the burger was the perfect amount of food that I was satisfied, but not stuffed. And Rob enjoyed the fries {we chose the truffle salt ones} a little more than I did, so I didn’t eat many.

If we lived in this neighborhood, I have a feeling that this is a bar where we’d be regulars. Rob would have to come back to try all of the new burgers and the ever-changing taps. We loved the ambiance as well. It’s no wonder it was hard trying to find a parking spot. It’s a popular place!

Have you ever been to a restaurant with a weekly battle with a reigning champion every week?


Fitness with a Broken Toe {Food & Fitness Link-Up}


This is the year of self-care for me and I feel like I’m being tested. Last Friday night, I stubbed my pinky toe so bad that it made it very difficult to walk. I iced and elevated it all weekend. So. Much. Fun.

I went to the doctor on Tuesday and after an x-ray, learned that I had a non-displaced fracture, meaning that although my toe is broken, it has maintained proper alignment. Whew! I’ve never broken a bone before so I can’t complain that if I’d have to have broken one in my lifetime, this kind would be it.

And as predicted, there wasn’t much that can be done. But I wanted the advice of how long I should stay off of it and when I could workout again, even if that meant just walking.

So I have buddy-taped the toe to the next and am wearing a small boot. Apparently athletic shoes are not a good idea to squish a broken toe into a shoe. I am told that it can take up to six weeks to heal and to refrain from any strenuous activity on it.

The Good News:

  • My back now feels great.
  • The majority of the pain in my toe/foot was during the first two days. It was a good thing to ice and elevate every two hours on those days. I’m lucky it was over a weekend!
  • Every day, the toe is getting better and walking is getting easier.

Now for this week’s plan!







  • I may try the recumbent bike this week. My doc said it was okay as long as it’s not putting any pressure on nor whacking my toe. The bike has caused my back to hurt in the past. And since sitting is the worst thing I can do for my back, I may just do a few short intervals.
  • My post-back surgery PT exercises. I can do several of these despite my toe. Since I can’t do a lot of cardio, it’s time to strengthen the back and do them every day.

Have you ever broken a bone?

What did you do for exercise in the meantime?


Painting our Pooches!


It’s time for the second installment of

Sophie and Shamrock Saturday!


Back in November, I received an email in my inbox for an offer to have a customized pet portrait painted. I thought, “How lovely would that be!?” But I couldn’t swing the $300 asking price.

After having done so many painting classes, I wondered if any of them offered those to paint your pet. I knew that my painting would not turn out as nice as one by that talented artist advertising on Etsy; but I did know that I liked the painting classes and it would be a very personal painting to me!

A little over a week later, I found a Groupon for Art and Elixir, a Paint & Sip company I had heard of, but had not yet tried. Before buying the Groupon, I browsed through their calendar to make sure that there was a painting that I wanted to do, on a date that I could do it, at a location that I could make on that given date.

This is what I found…

For this event you will get to paint your OWN pet!
Painting your pet is as easy as 1,2,3. You will supply us with a photo of your Fido, we will sketch him/her onto the canvas for you prior to class, and finally you will paint in your pet with our guidance during class to complete this custom pet portrait. For this event, you must email Terri a photo of your beloved family pet at least 7 days prior to class.

That Law of Attraction in action!


Seeing that there were only a few seats left, I purchased the $17 – YES, $17! – Groupon right away and signed up for the class. The class is considered a “premium” one since not everyone is doing the same photo, so I paid the extra $10 to upgrade. Then, I thought…

“Which dog would I choose to paint?”

So I told Rob about the class, thinking I could paint Sophie and he could paint Shamrock. By then, Groupons were sold out. I didn’t care. I signed him up for the class regardless!

Here are the photos we chose to paint:

The event took place at the Gold Nugget Tavern in Minnetonka. We arrived early to have some dinner before making our way to the event room. {Restaurant Impression to come next week!}

When we walked in, we were given our canvases that had sketches of our dogs based on the photos we emailed, as well as a print-out of the photo.

We were also given the paint that we each would need to paint our specific pets:

We looked at the sample finished pet portraits:

A&E Samples

We also decided on our background colors and were given some extra paint for that.

That’s when the canvas on the left became the canvas on the right:

It was then that I wondered if my Sophie’s portrait would make her look like she had only one leg! I inquired about this and one of the artists that was assisting everyone, put an outline of the leather jacket from her Sophie Fonzarelli photo on to my canvas. It was a very personalized class because we were all doing different paintings! However, there is no way that I was talented enough to make it look like a jacket, so I figured it could at least look like a blanket or something covering her other leg.

Sophie 1

And here is the rest of the Sophie Jean artwork process…

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And here’s Shamrock in progress:

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And our finished masterpieces!


I’ll be honest and say we weren’t happy with the work throughout the process, but when we took a step back from looking at our paintings up close, we have to give ourselves some credit. We only started painting a few months ago!

Next time, I want our dogs to do the painting… like this Jackson Paw-lock.

Have you ever had a professional portrait done of yourself, your family or your pet?

What about a self-portrait or self-painted portrait of someone you love?


A New Obsession…


I’ve never thought of myself as an artistic type.



So I don’t know what encouraged me to buy a Groupon to a Paint and Sip event. Maybe I was intrigued when I first learned about these from Lisa’s post. She lives in the Portland area and when I read/saw her post, I immediately thought, “I wish we had those here!” She said that she wasn’t an artist either. And her painting turned out beautifully!

And every website indicates that there is “no painting experience necessary!” I figured that they wouldn’t say that if they wanted happy customers. And it sounded like a lot of fun. So I bought two different deals to different events led by two different companies without ever having done much more than a paint-by-number as a child.

And now I am obsessed!

Generally, at these events, the cost includes your canvas, the use of brushes and paint and the instruction. Everyone is painting the same thing and you are given step-by-step instructions from an artist, although you can feel free to make your painting your own in any way that you want. The event lasts about three hours.

It’s called a Paint and Sip event because you can also buy beverages (alcoholic or non) to sip on (and/or relax yourself!) while you are painting. Sometimes food is offered, too.

In the Twin Cities metro area, I’ve been to classes run by:

  • Cheers Pablo – Studio in Woodbury
  • Brushes and Brews – Paint & Sip events at restaurants throughout the Twin Cities (generally the south metro)
  • Art and Elixir – Paint & Sip events at restaurants throughout the Twin Cities (generally the north metro)

Here’s what I’ve painted so far…

Table in the Rain

Cheers Pablo – Woodbury, MN

I attended my first event with my husband, not knowing what to expect. We decided to do a Couple’s Painting because why would we need two of the same painting in our house? What this meant is that while every one else was doing their own painting, we’d each be doing one-half of a painting on two separate canvases!

Sample of one canvas painting versus a Couple’s Painting on two canvases:

It’s amazing to think that we started with these canvases with a simple sketch…


And of course a glass of wine…


You might be wondering how a painting could look cohesive if you have two different people painting it. The instructor told us that we’d be swapping canvases throughout the night, so the work would be a combination of the two of us!

The process…

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But then Rob went rogue!

He decided that he didn’t want to “conform” and put windy rain on his side and refused to paint his side of the table the same color. At this point, we completely forgot all about swapping!

Here is our finished work:


It was a ton of fun! It’s a unique piece of work that represents the two of us.

I was hooked.


Wine & Song

Brushes and Brews – painted at Casper’s in Eagan

My friend and I chose this painting mainly because of location and timing. In the banquet room, the artist had a sample of the work we’d be doing and another canvas he’d be working on himself as he guided us along through the project.


This time, we started with a blank canvas. Jen and I discussed how relaxing it was to make brushstrokes into these circles to form our background.


The process:

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And our finished paintings to bring home…


Owl Always Love You

Cheers Pablo – Woodbury

My friend Kim said she wanted to do this painting for her daughter:

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I agreed, but wasn’t sure those colors would go in my house. {But, duh, you can make the painting any color you want.} Then Rob had the great idea to give the painting to his parents for Christmas! It would be a one-of-a-kind piece of art especially from me.

But there is a little pressure for an inexperienced artist when you know you are giving it as a gift. Plus, I didn’t want them to feel like they’d have to hang up a(n adult) child’s artwork in their home. But I went with it.

When we arrived, they gave us all sorts of options:

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I decided to stick to the winter theme because I loved how the owls were snuggling and wearing scarves and earmuffs! Kim decided to go with the spring version.

This time, we started with a blank canvas. We got to do a swirly circle background again! Here’s how we started out…

Don’t they look creepy without the eyes!?

And the rest of my process…

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And here’s our finished work… success!

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When Kim’s daughter saw the painting, she pointed out that the little owl was her and that the bigger owl was Kim. How cute is that?!

I didn’t like how dark I made the circles around my red owl’s eyes. So I turned them into glasses! I think he looks like a professor. My mother-in-law said that she is going to name them!


Stone Arch Bridge

Cheers Pablo – Woodbury

I told the girls that I really wanted to paint the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis because it kind of holds a special place in my heart because Rob and I have had some of my favorite dates walking that area of town like this time and this time.


We all felt like this was the most difficult one we had done yet. We had a hard time looking past the painting itself and looking at it in terms of shapes instead. As usual, we started with the background.

I was having a hard time creating the colors I wanted to. In the photo below, where we began to sketch in the buildings, you can see the bridge that we are trying to paint on the screen on the wall. Those are the colors I wanted.

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We were all confused on how this could possibly turn out like that painting. But then I realized we needed to relax and just have fun. That’s when, out of nowhere, I said,

“Just Trust the Process.”

Kim just about fell over laughing. And it became our quote of the afternoon. And it was fun. Here are some photos of what I painted while I was trusting the process…

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And our final masterpieces!


Jen and I are signed up for another class with Brushes and Brews in February. Let me know if you want to join us!

Come back tomorrow to see what Rob and I painted at Art and Elixir – our pooches!!!

What is the most artistic thing you’ve made?


Cottage Cheese – Countless Ways


Growing up, I was always a savory cottage cheese girl. Add a little salt and pepper and I was good to go. I don’t think it was until high school or college that I discovered that people added fruit to their cottage cheese! I’ve tried it and it’s not really my thing; even though it isn’t too much different than fruit with yogurt… or fruit preserves atop a log of cream cheese or chèvre.

Lately, I’ve been eating a lot more cottage cheese.

I’ve found that it really satisfies me. Sometimes I’ll just add a little salt and pepper. Other times, I’ll sprinkle some Herbes de Provence or other savory seasoning on top. Or I’ll just to top it with some chopped scallions.

And still, other times, I just add some to my leftovers!

Cottage Cheese

Here, I stirred some leftover chicken into some leftover sauteed mushrooms and onions. I topped it with some diced tomatoes, but still felt something was missing. A little cottage cheese was the perfect touch to change the flavor and texture!

And by now, you know how much I love making a good Poorman’s Caprese in the summer when tomatoes are in season.

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Well, I’ve created a new-to-me version of the Poorman’s Caprese!

It came about because my cousin gave me a big jar of her homemade salsa. And once I opened it, I didn’t want it to go to waste. Then, I dumped some into my cottage cheese and a new and delicious creation was born.

Salsa Caprese!

Salsa Caprese!

It doesn’t look all that pretty when you mix it all together; but it is oh-so-good!

Cottage Cheese Salsa Caprese

One other way that I’ve liked to eat cottage cheese is rather strange…

And I didn’t think it was the healthiest either. I’d take about a half-cup of cottage cheese and top it with a few almonds, then sprinkle it with a little shredded cheddar cheese. Weird, right?

But then I read this suggested snack on Livestrong for a Cinnamon Almond Spread that consisted of cottage cheese, chopped almonds and cinnamon. I didn’t feel so strange anymore! And their Mini-Mexican Pizzas are very similar to my Salsa Caprese.

In fact, I’ve been seeing a lot of snack-like recipes with cottage cheese as an ingredient lately. What an easy, versatile protein! Oh no. I just did a search for cottage cheese recipes on Pinterest. I could be there all day… 😉

How do you like your cottage cheese?

Any crazy combinations out there?