Monthly Archives: September 2010

Mom’s weekend

So my mother came to visit me this weekend.  And a lovely time was had.  Nothing really spectacular to note – just a lot of little things that makes life enjoyable.

A walk through the neighborhood that ended up at Pizza Luce in Uptown.  Enjoyed a beer on the patio while we waited for our table.  Filled up on some tomato and basil bruschetta and decided to be adventurous and ordered a baked potato pizza.  We were pleasantly surprised with how tasty it was.  I think the key was the extra smokey bacon they used.

Saturday brunch at Lucia’s (the baby Budapest muffins are well worth a visit).

Changing the car battery.  Yes, we are two strong women capable of changing an automobile battery.

A trip to the fabric store to pick up goodies for a craft project (reupholstering my dining room chairs) in my newly resurrected car.

A quiet dinner at home of leftover pizza and a fresh salad (spring greens, honeycrisp apple, raspberries, dried cranberries, blue cheese and caramelized walnuts dressed with some red wine vinegariette.  There may have been some catching up with Project Runway…

And a most delightful Sunday.  A much needed mother-daughter heart-to-heart followed by a breakfast of french toast topped with my experimental blueberry jam (which was delicious, although, more of a compote than a jam).  Then we headed east out of town to try our hand at apple-picking.  The weather was perfect for such an event.

We walked the apple orchards and vineyards while enjoying a cup of cider and an apple brat.

Then we made our way to the St. Croix river and stumbled along the quaint little town of Stillwater.  It was almost disgustingly cute.  We poked into all the little shops and walked around the river all the while remarking on how quaint the town was.

After such a full afternoon of activities we rewarded ourselves with ice cream from Izzy’s.

And we even managed to take a walk around Lake of the Isles, snapping photograph after photograph trying to capture the fall colors.

So thanks Mom, for a great weekend!

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Jammin’

As much as my pseudo-Southern self wants to deny it, autumn is here in the Twin Cities.  And I’ll admit, I am a little bit excited for it.  Fall means cool, crisp mornings and lightweight sweaters.  It means an abundance of root vegetables and winter squash at the grocery store (butternut squash on my counter – I have some delicious plans for you later this week).  And it means stocking up the pantry for the long (and I mean long), cold (and I mean cold) winter ahead by preserving the tastes and smells of summer.

Now, I’ve never actually made preserves before.  Sure, as a kid I would watch my mother can just about anything she could get her hands on … peaches, pears, applesauce, green beans, zucchini relish … and to be perfectly honest, that pressure cooker scared the living daylights out of me and I have since avoided all sorts of canning activity.  But, as I have just discovered, you don’t actually need a pressure cooker to make jams, jellies and preserves.  So I decided to try my hand at some spiced blueberry jam this cozy Sunday afternoon.  I think it was a great starting point into the world of canning – although, I do admit, to having made a couple of emergency calls to my mother…

I like how few ingredients can go into making a jam.  This particular recipe (found in the book aptly named Jams and Preserves by Gina Steer) called for 1 1/2 pounds of blueberries, 1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about two small juice oranges), a cinnamon stick and vanilla bean and about 2 1/2 cups of sugar.  First, simmer the blueberries, orange juice, cinnamon stick and vanilla bean over low heat for about 20 minutes. It will turn your wooden spoon and pot a lovely shade of purple…

Next, add sugar until it dissolves.  Turn up the heat and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes.  Take off the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of pectin (aka Sure-Jell or Certo and good luck finding it in your grocery store – it may be hiding in the baking aisle, the kitchen gadget aisle or with the tupperware and lunch bags).  Let cool slightly before pouring into sterilized glass canning jars (place right-side up in a 285 degree oven for 15 min).  To ease the pouring process, I first put the jam into a large batter bowl with a handle and a spout and that worked really well.  My batch made about 5 1/2 cups.  Cover with lids and screw on the caps.  After a few minutes you should a hear a “pop” indicating that the lid has sealed.  Hopefully the jam will set in a day or so and you will be good to go.

I think I might try mine with some baked brie and walnuts…

There (and over there) and back again

I have been traveling (and not blogging) a lot lately.  In the past three weeks, I don’t think I spent more than 4 days in any given place.  First was the visit to Orlando, which I’ve already shared with you.  Then there was a brief stint back in Minneapolis  (mostly to check in on Puck and Kudzu), which lasted all of about 12 hours before I was back at the airport.  Then it was off to Durham, NC to spend a few days working on experiments those fickle reviewers like to ask for – and of course to see near and dear friends.  Next was a couple of days in Minneapolis and an attempt to get some work done, but mainly consisted of more edits and resubmission of the manuscript.  And then I was back on a plane, heading south to Gainesville again, to celebrate an anniversary.  Finally, I am back in Minneapolis and have no plans to get on an airplane again until Thanksgiving.  My mentor, and my cats, are thankful that my traveling days are behind me.

But let me share some highlights of the past couple of weeks.

First, Duke and Durham.

Working in a lab where it is not forbidden to drink coffee or have an afternoon treat.  Not to mention, a place where you know everybody’s name (and the people you don’t know – know your name), you know where everything is and how to do everything – and the data speaks for itself.  Man, I miss knowing what I am doing.

A dinner, or two, at The Federal.  I don’t even know what else to say about this – anyone who has eaten at The Federal understands what I am talking about . Those who haven’t been has fortunate – if you ever find yourself in Durham, North Carolina – get yourself to The Federal and order anything from the Daily Specials menu, especially if it has anything to do with pork.  The fates were smiling upon me during my visit and pork belly was on the menu (and a steal for only $8).  I had nearly licked the plate clean before I thought to take a photo.

And savoring quiet moments in a cozy home, discussing things monumentous and trivial, as good friends are inclined to do over a cup of coffee.  It did my heart good.  The list goes on and on: wine bar, trivia at The Joyce and backyard BBQ’s.

Now on to this past weekend in Gainesville.

I may have gone into domestic overdrive.  Boxes (from over a month ago) unpacked, broken down and put away.  Furniture arranged.  Photos hung on the wall.  Loads (and loads) of laundry.  I think the place now feels more like somebody lives there, rather than somebody just moved there.  I do admit to indulging in some fantasies about painting the walls…but managed to restrain myself.  I even made it to one of Professor Scott’s math lectures.  But it wasn’t all work.  There was lazy weekend mornings, complete with blueberry pancakes (alas, no syrup…the kitchen isn’t completely stocked yet) and cuddles on the couch.

There may have been a number of sporting events on the TV, but an equal amount of Food Network viewing.  I may have even fallen asleep watching Mad Men – which has nothing to do with the show (which I adore) but speaks to how relaxed I was.  A fancy anniversary dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in Gainesville – which sadly isn’t saying much.  At least the company, if not the food, was good.  I think that the food scene in Gainesville is trying really hard to sound delicious and be community minded, with local, organic foods – but isn’t doing much to actually taste delicious.  It’s not all bad.  There is some decent BBQ at Adam’s Rib Company – but I think they key is that they aren’t trying to be pretentious and ultra foodie. (I mean, how can you be when you serve a plate of cream and brown food?)  But it’s tasty.  And it works.

We even got the screened-in porch in order.  A good place for a shared dessert, a game or two and even some work.  If only it weren’t so hot outside…

Now I am back in Minneapolis and there are things that are only here that I appreciate after spending time away.  A decent bowl of grilled pork vermicelli noodle salad (I am realizing I may have a serious pork addiction).  Crisp, cool mornings and bright afternoons.  And snuggles with the cats, who are justifiably attention-starved.