Wednesday, July 29, 2009

More pretty cocktails

Check out these "so gorgeous they blow my mind" champagne drinks from Martha Stewart Weddings. As beautiful as they are, it's just a simple touch/embellishment that adds such visual impact.

From Tiny roses add an elegant detail to your champagne toast. To make the garnishes, insert a toothpick into the base of each blossom at an angle of a little less than 45 degrees. Cut the stems cleanly about 1-inch shorter than the length of the toothpick; you may have to adjust length depending on the weight of the bloom. Place each toothpick just inside of a rim, letting the roses balance delicately on top.

From Offered as an aperitif or for a toast, this aromatic drink evokes the romance of the South of France with each sparkling sip.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Real Party: A Mexican Fiesta

My good friend Libby turned 30 last weekend and her boyfriend Biffer (yes, it's a nickname), Kristin and I co-hosted a Mexicana Fiesta at my house. Though lots of planning and good intentions went into the party, it didn't exactly go as planned. So my lesson learned is that you can't always predict party success and things don't always go perfectly.

Let's focus on the postive, shall we? We had a good five hours of party greatness and overall the heart of the party was present. The decor was lovely, many good friends and family came, and there was lots of great food as well as an amazing signature drink, Sangria.

Check out the delicious menu:

Barbacoa (this turned out amazing and I wish I would have snapped more pictures, the meat was super tender, just the right amout of heat and had an awesome deep flavor.)
Shredded chicken
Ground beef
Black beans
Mexican rice
Habanero salsa
Green peppers and onions
Sangria (recipe from
The birthday gal is not a big cake person so we had an ice cream sundae bar instead.

Here are some pics from the day.

These gorgeous flowers are from the Mpls Farmer's Market and the bold colors reminded me of Mexico.
Custom menu

I've been saving mason jars for months now and tied colorful ribbon around the top and filled with long-burning votives.

Kristin brought over lots of great decor.

Biffer dressed up for the party. It was a big hit.

These colorful lanterns were my favorite part of the decor. At night they just glowed and created a cool ambiance.

What is a Mexican Fiesta without a pinata? My favorite part was after Libby broke it open about 10 neighborhood kids appeared and we had them join in and collect all the candy.

The buffet, thank goodness for crockpots.

The gorgeous lanterns at night.

The Mason jars lit with candles.

Click here to check out the inspiration board I put together for this party.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Inspiration board: vintage baby shower

I am co-hosting a baby shower with friends Megan and Linsey for fabulous, adorable mommy-to-be Jill. We are all very excited for this shower as it is Jill's first baby and I am not kidding when I say that she is one of the cutest pregnant gals around. We have decided on a vintage themed shower, think glass baby bottles filled with blooms, old fashioned diaper pins, lacy ribbon, vintage-chic photographs in frames, etc.

Since it wouldn't be a proper party without some booze (in my opinion), we will have wine but also sparkling tea for the pregnant ladies, and of course lots of great food. We're going to keep the food simple but delicious. So far on the menu we have:

Caprese skewers
Mini cucumber sandwiches
Cheese and baguette
Croissants and chicken salad
Fruit salad

And of course I have put together an inspiration board for the occcasion, look at all the cute, vintage-y goodness. I can't wait!

Jill and Matt are not finding out the sex of the baby (boo!) so we are keeping everything as gender neutral as can be (sssshhhhh, don't tell Jill but I am secretly hoping she has a girl!!!).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mini crab cakes and herb linguine with shrimp

My sister and I had a date on Saturday night that consisted of a seafood dinner and watching Twilight. That might sound a bit weird/random but we had a lovely, relaxing evening with a great meal. The menu included mini crab cakes and an herb linguine with shrimp. I've been wanting to make the mini crab cakes for a while, but jumbo lump crab meat is super expensive and making them just for her and I was a great way to test the recipe and not spend too much.

The mini crab cake recipe is from my Weight Watcher's Simply Delicious cookbook and the linguine is from Cooking Light. Both were great, but I made a few additions and strayed slightly from the original recipes.

Mini Crab Cakes with Dill Mayonanaise


1 pound cooked jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over
1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs (I used panko)
1/2 cup reduced-calorie mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated onion
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 egg white
4 drops hot pepper sauce
1/2 cup cornflake crumbs (I substituted panko for this)
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons chopped dill
1 tablesoon canola oil

Combine the crabmeat, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of the mayonnaise, the onion, 3 teaspoons of the mustart, the egg whtie, and hot pepper sauce in a bowl. Form into 14 patties.

Place the cornflake crumbs on wax paper. Dredge thepatties in crumbs, then transfer to a plate. Refrigerate, covered, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 cup mayonnaise, the relish, dill, and the remaining 1 teaspoon mustard in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet or griddle until a drop of water sizzles. Add the patties a few at a time; cook until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Turn over and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Serve with the mayonnaise mixture.

Some notes, I added about a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the crabmeat mixture. I also sprinkled Old Bay seasoning on each crab cake before cooking them.

As you can tell in the photos, I wasn't too concerned about presentation since it was just Kat and I having a casual dinner. But these little guys were tasty and would be a great appetizer to serve at a cocktail party with sides of lemon slices on top of a nice platter.

Crab Cakes on Foodista Check out this cool foodie site for more crab cake recipes

I was really craving pasta for some reason and came across this recipe while browsing What I loved about this dish is that a small amount satisfied a huge craving. The flavor was similar to an alfredo sauce but without the zillions of calories.

Herb Linguine with Shrimp


4 ounces fresh linguine (since I love leftovers, I made the entire box, and used whole wheat)
1/2 cup half-and-half (because I used the whole box I added more half and half)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons preshredded fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound cooked and peeled medium shrimp
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream


Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat (I didn't omit either of these, pasta needs to be cooked in salted water for flavor in my opinion); drain.

Combine the linguine, half-and-half, and the next 4 ingredients (half-and-half through salt) in a large nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp; cook for 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat, and stir in sour cream.

Notes, I added juice from half a lemon for some fresh, lemony flavor to complement the shrimp and some fresh tomatoes for color.

Overall, it was a lovely night. I got to hang out with my sweet, fabulous sis, test a couple new recipes and watch Twilight. Sometimes laid back nights are the best kind.

Speaking of Twilight, stay tuned for an upcoming post about a Twighlight-themed party my sister helped plan/organize for her friends b-day. Think apples in cylinder vases, blood-red drinks and lots and lots of red candy. Totally fun ideas for Twilight lovers out there.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mpls Farmer's Market

I went to the Mpls Farmer's Market on Lyndale with my younger sis on Sunday morning and we had a lovely time. There are so many gorgeous fruits and vegetables in season right now that I could hardly carry my bag towards the end it was getting so heavy.

I purchased cucumbers, radishes (for a great radish appetizer, click here), beets, cherries (not sure if these are locally grown) and of course, a savory scone from my favorite Farmer's Market vendor, Cocoa and Fig. Katie got to meet Joe the co-owner, and she purchased a carrot cake cupcake and carrot cake cookie, both looked delicious.

I was tempted to purchase every fresh flower bouquet I saw, all so damn beautiful!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A little piece of summer

Doesn't Caprese salad just remind you of a summer day? The red ripe tomatoes, fresh, fragrant basil and soft, cold mozzarella with a touch of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and is definitely on my list of favorite dishes.

Though it's a bit chilly in MN today I thought I'd post this lovely Caprese salad I made yesterday for a potluck with my coworkers. The tomatoes are beefsteak from an Amish community in Wassau, WI. They were the most beautiful, ripe red tomatoes I have ever seen (the stand is located on Nicollet and 8th). These two young guys drive to the cities every Thursday for the Minneapolis Farmer's Market. They may also stay the weekend for Lyndale market but I'm not sure. What I am sure of is they've made my short list of fave farmer's market vendors which also include Dehn's Garden (the best herbs you've ever smelled/tasted), Cocoa and Fig (confection perfection...sorry, I couldn't resist) and the hummus ladies (I think the name is Serena). These vendors literally make my day each and every Thursday and help in creating beautiful, perfect dishes like this one below.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ice cream and birthdays

Going out for ice cream is such a sweet treat, especially on a summer evening with your girlfriends. Last night Melanie, Kristin and I met at Grand Ole Creamery to celebrate Kristin's upcoming 29th birthday.

Times like this are when being on Weight Watchers plagues me, and I practically drooled on the frosted glass cases filled with hundreds upon hundreds of different flavors. What I really wanted? Peppermint Bon Bon in a waffle cone. What I ordered? Raspberry Lemonade Sorbet. Now before you feel too sorry for me, the sorbet was delicious! It was refreshing, not too sweet with the perfect lemon and raspberry flavors. And only 2 points, woot woot!

Melanie ordered a coffee-flavored ice cream cone which was delish (I stoled a tiny bite) and Kristin ordered two different flavors and I think they were strawberry and cookies n' cream. You can tell she enjoyed it by the photo below. I wish I had a picture of Melanie as well because if you ask me, they are two of the cutest gals around.

Grand Ole Creamery is an institution. The weather wasn't even that great last night (threatening to rain) but there was a huge line outside the store just waiting for the creamy goodness. I think many of the guests are lured in by the sugary, waffle-cone aroma that wafts onto Grand Ave as you walk by. Irresistable.

Monday, July 13, 2009


I love/adore/worship potatoes. Any kind really...fried, mashed, scalloped, etc. Pair potatoes with melted cheesey goodness and I am one happy gal.

Check out this Potatoes Au Gratin recipe from the Food Network. My friend Libby has made these twice now, most recently for her boyfriend Biffer's birthday. They were a big hit, with me of course, but also with the birthday boy.

Potatoes Au Gratin


1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 pounds Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 1 1/2 quart baking dish with about 1 tablespoon of the softened butter.
Arrange a layer of potatoes in the baking dish, and sprinkle some of the cheeses over them. Continue layering potatoes and cheeses until you've used them all, ending with a layer of potatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk the cream with the salt and pepper; pour this over the potatoes. Dot the remaining butter over the top and sprinkle with the paprika. Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the potatoes are tender and golden brown on top. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 10, 2009

A yummy shrimp appetizer

I love shrimp and think it is a great summery appetizer, especially if it is grilled on a skewer. I found this fantastic recipe for exactly that with soy sauce and ginger from the My family had a get together for the fourth of July and I made these for my mom, she loves anything with fresh ginger.

Instead of just drizzling the vinaigrette on the grilled shrimp, I served the skewers with a bowl of it as a dipping sauce. I also skipped the sesame seeds because I didn't have any, they were just as good without.

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Soy Sauce, Fresh Ginger and Toasted Sesame Seeds


Wooden skewers (4-inch)
24 large shrimp
1/2 cup light soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 cup peanut oil, plus extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds


Soak 4-inch wooden skewers in cold water for 1 hour. Thread 1 shrimp onto each skewer so that the shrimp lie flat.

Whisk together the soy, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, white wine vinegar, lime juice and peanut oil together in a small bowl. Place shrimp skewers onto a plate and drizzle with peanut oil to lightly coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat grill. Grill shrimp 2 minutes per side or until just cooked through. Place shrimp on a platter, drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Check out those plates with loons on them, they are my moms who happens to be a major bird lover. My family and I are up north this weekend hanging out at a cabin and everytime a loon calls (or whatever it is they do) my mom says, "shhhhh, shhhh, do you hear the loon?!!" If I never hear a loon call again it may be too soon :)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

BBQ's and best friends

I had a BBQ at my house on Tuesday evening with the PCG gang (PCG stands for Park Cottage Grove, my high school in my home town). I am still very close with my high school friends and my best guy friend Nick (we call him Lobo) is visiting this week from Fort Collins, CO. I was pretty ecstatic to have my dearest friends hanging out, eating good food and enjoying a beautiful MN summer evening.

The menu included:

Bruschetta with tomatoes and basil
Jicama and watermelon salad with a tequila lime vinaigrette
Portobello mushroom burgers
Black bean burgers
Blue cheese beef burgers
German potato salad
Roasted red potatoes
Strawberry shortcake

Kristin brought the gazpacho and salad and both were perfect for a summer BBQ, light and refreshing. Mel and Justin brought the dessert and I made the rest (with Libby's help).

Bruschetta with tomatoes and basil is a simple, tasty appetizer that I've been making quite a bit thanks to Dehn's Garden (an herb stand at the Mpls Farmer's Market), they have the best basil and I buy a bunch every week. This recipe is from, a great website with endless recipes. Perhaps this is cheating but I just use fresh tomatoes and skip the part that requires parboiling.

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil Recipe


6 or 7 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs) (In my opinion any tomatoes work fine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 baguette French bread or similar Italian bread
1/4 cup olive oil

Prepare the tomatoes first. Parboil the tomatoes for one minute in boiling water that has just been removed from the burner. Drain. Using a sharp small knife, remove the skins of the tomatoes. (If the tomatoes are too hot, you can protect your finger tips by rubbing them with an ice cube between tomatoes.) Once the tomatoes are peeled, cut them in halves or quarters and remove the seeds and juice from their centers. Also cut out and discard the stem area. Why use plum tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes? The skins are much thicker and there are fewer seeds and less juice.

Make sure there is a top rack in place in your oven. Turn on the oven to 450°F to preheat.

While the oven is heating, chop up the tomatoes finely. Put tomatoes, garlic, 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, vinegar in a bowl and mix. Add the chopped basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the baguette on a diagonal about 1/2 inch thick slices. Coat one side of each slice with olive oil using a pastry brush. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down. You will want to toast them in the top rack in your oven, so you may need to do these in batches depending on the size of your oven. Once the oven has reached 450°F, place a tray of bread slices in the oven on the top rack. Toast for 5-6 minutes, until the bread just begins to turn golden brown.

Alternatively, you can toast the bread without coating it in olive oil first. Toast on a griddle for 1 minute on each side. Take a sharp knife and score each slice 3 times. Rub some garlic in the slices and drizzle half a teaspoon of olive oil on each slice. This is the more traditional method of making bruschetta.

Align the bread on a serving platter, olive oil side up. Either place the tomato topping in a bowl separately with a spoon for people to serve themselves over the bread, or place some topping on each slice of bread and serve. If you top each slice with the tomatoes, do it right before serving or the bread may get soggy.

German potato salad is a fantastic side dish and a really nice departure from the typical mayo-based types. My friend, Siobhan (who happens to be traveling to Columbia today!) made this for me last summer and I got hooked. German potato salad is vinegar based and gets flavor from mustard seeds, onions and bacon. The recipe is from Food Network.

German Potato Salad


3 pounds new potatoes
1 yellow onion, quartered
1/2 pound bacon, diced
1 large red onion, diced
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1/4 cup canola oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves


Preheat the grill to high. Place potatoes in a large pot with the onion and cover with cold water. Cook, on the grates of the grill, or on a burner, until tender. Drain, discard the onion, and cut the potatoes into cubes when cool enough to handle. Place the potatoes in a large bowl and cover to keep warm.

Place a large saute pan on the grates of the grill. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Add the onions to the rendered bacon fat and cook until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully add the vinegar and mustard seeds and cook for 2 more minutes. Whisk in the canola oil and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Add the hot dressing to the potatoes and toss gently to coat. Fold in the green onions and parsley. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste.

Note, this recipe oddly doesn't say when/if to add back in the bacon, but obviously it tastes better if you crumble the bacon and fold it into the potato mixture. I also threw out about 3/4 of the bacon grease before I added the onions, no one needs that much grease!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Delicious blueberry muffins

I have been off work all week, somewhat of a staycation...relaxing at home, running those errands there is never time for on the weekends, catching up on reading and of course, doing a lot of cooking and baking.

I had a pint of beautiful blueberries in the fridge and what better way to use them then with a yummy muffin recipe. I came across this recipe on (Cooking Light is one of my favorite cooking magazines) and gave it a try. Despite being on vacation, I still woke up at 6:30 am yesterday to make these for my hubby and me. Trust me when I say these muffins are the best, they are even somewhat light (about 197 calories per muffin, click here for the nutritional information).

Spiced Blueberry Muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen wild blueberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) block fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly spoon 2 cups of flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour and next 6 ingredients (through cloves) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture.

Place blueberries in a small bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour over blueberries; toss to coat.
Place butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed 1 minute or until blended. Add milk, eggs, and vanilla to butter mixture; beat to combine. Add butter mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist. Gently fold in blueberry mixture. Spoon batter into 14 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar evenly over batter.

Bake at 425° for 15 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove muffins from pans; place on a wire rack.

Blueberry Cupcakes/ Muffins on Foodista

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cafe Juliahna

My coworker Brooke lives near me in the West side of St. Paul (I live in South Saint Paul but we're only a couple miles apart). She recommended this cute little coffee shop called Cafe Juliahna on the West side (or is it technically in West St. Paul? I never know with this area). So considering my love of coffee and cafes I checked it out the other weekend.

There are a lot of great things about this cafe. First, they roast their own beans using solar power and all the food is organic. My sister and I went on a Saturday morning and had breakfast. My latte was divine and I will definitely be going back for coffee. We shared a veggie breakfast wrap with a side of fruit. It was pretty good, very fresh but I don't think it was quite worth $9. People who are really into organic food probalby wouldn't consider the prices out of line.

One not so great thing was the service, I'm pretty sure the owner was the one who took our order and she was not very friendly, almost kind of rude actually. And it wasn't as though they were like I said, coffee was fantastic, the food was ok and the service pretty poor. But the cafe was an adorable little place and it is a locally owned business so I'll be back, but probably not to eat. I have searched and searched and am pretty certain this place does not have a website, they are located at 879 Smith Ave S. (right off of Robert St. and Anapolis)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

In honor of July 4th and because I have a cupcake obsession these days, I made mini vanilla cupcakes and decorated them with blueberries and raspberries so they were festive. The cupcakes were super cute and tasted great! The recipe was pretty easy, from and I am not an avid baker so trust me if I say it's easy.

The recipe below is for normal sized cupcakes, I cut the baking time down to about 10 minutes for mini cupcakes, just be sure to check after 10 minutes by inserting a toothpick, if it comes out clean, they're done! I piped the frosting on using these awesome Martha Stewart piping tips and bag from Macy's.

Vanilla Cupcakes


1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 large lemon (optional)
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

Buttercream Frosting:

2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or light cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and lightly butter or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

For the Cupcakes: Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing.

For the Frosting: In an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add a little more milk or sugar, if needed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bulldog in Lowertown St. Paul

I'm not sure I enjoy anything more than dinner out with my hubby. We kept it casual last Saturday and went to Bulldog in Lowertown St. Paul. We had a fantastic time eating great food and enjoying each other's company.

Erik had never been to Bulldog and this was only my second time. He ordered a beer flight and a reuben (one of his favorites). I ordered a vodka/soda/cran/lime cocktail and a buffalo chicken sandwich (one of my favorites). They put blue cheese crumbles on top of cheddar on my buffalo chicken, need I say more? The french fries were fresh cut and perfect texture/flavor. This place has definitely won me over, did I mention they have french fries on their appetizer list prepared 7 different ways?!

We will definitely be going back to Bulldog. Our entire bill was only $44 plus tip and I thought that was pretty good considering I had 2 cocktails and a meal and Erik had a beer flight and a meal.

I should point out that Barrio next door was pretty busy. I guess everyone else had a different experience than I did (see previous post). But hey, I wish them the best of luck, I want restaurants to thrive in St. Paul so more come...and as I mentioned, I would be willing to try Barrio again if someone convinced me it was worth a second chance.

Sometimes I get kind of embarrassed whipping out my camera to take a picture of the plate of food in front of me. So on Saturday I tried to be discreet and used my blackberry to snap a couple pics.