Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Know I Haven't Posted in Months & Months...

I spent the summer working 3 jobs and one internship to prepare for my semester in Paris, where I currently am. I had no time to do what I love best, baking. In Paris I live in a dorm so I have no kitchen to cook. Everyone has promised to find me a kitchen to make them pies & hopefully a whole Thanksgiving meal with that comes around! It will be fun to adapt to what's offered here. If I end up making those things, I'll definitely post here. Until then, you can keep up with my travels by adding this blog:

Vonnie's Travels

Au revoir!

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Birthday: The Celebration in Food & Drink

My birthday this year (7/11) was marked by absolutely delicious food. I ate supremely well all week & weekend, with more birthday lunches & dinners lined up for this coming week!

First up was sushi with my friend Michael at Mt. Fuji the Sunday before my birthday. They have amazing happy hour specials but the atmosphere is definitely not my style, with Daughtry playing in the background & all. Their Spicy Girl roll was great!

Tuesday I ate sushi again with my friends Hunter & Kevin at Obento-Ya just off the U of M campus. It was good but their happy hour specials were not so special. Next time I will go for a bento box; they seemed to be the most popular thing there.

Friday I went to Barbette in Uptown with Aaron. Bless his soul, everything on the menu scared him. He ended up getting the pork loin with apple ginger sauce & really liked it. I got the seared salmon with orzo pasta salad with dill pesto and it was unbelievable. More to come on that on Heavy Table this week (along with a picture!). We split the small order of pommes frites as an appetizer, which is probably what got me so full & the reason why Aaron didn't complain too much. I was rolling out of there by the end of my meal! I haven't had fries in ages & the fries at Barbette were good enough to break that fast. We had to stop to rest on the walk back home because I was so full!

Aaron was looking quite dapper! It distressed me how many people were eating out at places like Barbette & Chino Latino with cargo shorts and flip-flops on. Make an effort!

Saturday I woke up early to seize the beautiful day and head down to the Mill City Farmers Market to see what I could see. My first stop was watching Tim McKee work his magic doing trout sliders in celebration of the market's Trout Fest that day. They were just right; the buttery, grilled potato roll, trout with slightly crunchy skin, aioli sauce, and field greens all came together to create the perfect little morsel. Maybe as a bon voyage dinner before I go to Paris, I'll stop there with my most financially stable and seafood-loving friends.

Next up was some delicious chocolate courtesy of French Nugget. I love these things! They don't melt and have just the right amount of sweetness. They taste healthier than regular chocolate too. I don't care if they actually are! I got Almond Heaven and Oatmeal Dream; both lived up to their names.

After that I got a strawberry shortcake from what I think was Solomon's Snacks & Bakery. I didn't end up eating it till I got home, but it wasn't the best or the worst shortcake I've ever had. There definitely needs to be work done on the strawberry-to-cake ratio. Too much cake!

I was still craving some sweets so I made the obligatory stop at Chef Shack to try their beet ice cream. Boy, was it good! Just the right hint of sweetness & beet flavor. Keep in mind that this is coming from a vehement hater of beets, even. I can't wait to try their carrot & corn flavors when those veggies are in season. I was so tempted to buy a bison burger or cow tongue taco or Indian spiced donuts or vegan brat or... okay, everything they had listed for sale. I'm a sucker for good food! I'll be back.

With my final dollars, I bought some fresh raspberries, a mix of red & black. They were perfectly ripe and filled my mouth with that pleasant zing that comes with well-grown berries.

After an intense work out in the afternoon, I was ready for my birthday dinner with my parents at Good Earth in Edina. I had the hardest time deciding what to get, since absolutely everything on the menu looked amazing. I ended up going with the shrimp club, which hit the spot just right. Spicy from the shrimp, refreshing from the tomato, crunchy from the toasted sourdough, creamy from the avocado; a good balance of flavors. My little field green salad was a good accompaniment. I hope to make it back there many, many, many times. Soon.

After dinner, we wanted to wait to indulge in dessert until my brother got home from Colorado with my grandparents. In the downtime, my mom and I decided to go out and pick all the black raspberries that were along the bike path in my neighborhood. We actually found a ton, with plenty more on their way to becoming ripe. I doubt we'll do anything with them; I'll gobble them all down with my breakfasts before my mom decides.

When I had to choose what to have my mom make for my birthday "cake", I had the hardest time figuring out what I wanted. I finally settled on another pear pie with Gruyere right in the crust. My mom found an amazing recipe and made a bomb pie, although it was a little undercooked. I blame our oven; we've been having a lot of failures lately, leading me to believe that our oven temp isn't up to snuff anymore. Even so, the pie was exactly what I wanted!

After pie I was off to my birthday party at my friend's apartment in Dinkytown. I had lime curd from making a previous confection (post to come) and wanted to use it up to make a dessert for all my friends. I settled on lime curd cookies. They weren't the best-looking - the dough was much too stiff and never spread out in the oven - because of a funky recipe, but they sure did taste good. I brought over two dozen and they were gone in half an hour. Everyone was chiding me for baking on my own birthday, but why not do something I love on a day that's all about me?

I also indulged myself with a bottle of chardonnay (among other drinks) at my party. I would have gotten absinthe but apparently it only comes in large, expensive bottles at MGM.

The next day, I woke up, took a nap, and headed out to sushi at Osaka in Eden Prairie with some high school friends. It was happy hour & they had great specials. My friend was paying, so we indulged in some veggie tempura. I also had a spider roll & Alaska roll. I am forevermore sitting at the sushi bar wherever I go, because the chef gave us this at the end of our meal, without even knowing it was to celebrate my birthday:

Despite the treat, we still headed to Scoops in Bloomington for dessert. They've got Sebastian Joe's ice cream, so I decided to get the raspberry truffle. I don't think I'll be getting it again. It wasn't the right combination of raspberry and chocolate that something like raspberry chocolate chip is. Next time I'm headed straight for Pavarotti.

Tomorrow I'm hitting up Loring Pasta Bar, with promises for more sushi later in the week. Next weekend (not this coming) I'm headed to Chicago, where cupcakes and gourmet grilled cheese await. Life is good!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Teeny Tour: What I Ate

While on tour with Represent! through Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado for a little over a week, I got to eat all kinds of new things. I, of course, documented everything I tried! There are so many things I want to have in Minneapolis: Waffle House, Sonic (although one did just open in Bloomington while I was away), Goodtimes, & Wahoo's. Keep in mind that I was being paid $5 a day for food so I was looking for the cheapest stuff possible.

First stop: Sonic, Cedar Rapids, IA

Strawberry Cream Pie Shake

Grilled Chicken Sandwich (I ordered a wrap but this looked appetizing enough)

Jared's dollar sausage breakfast burrito

2nd Stop: Taco Bell, Des Moines, IA

Vegetarian 7-Layer Burrito

3rd Stop: Lisa & Kristy's apartment (my home for 3 days)

Veggie Sandwich made especially for my by Kristy

4th Stop: Taste of India, some mall in Omaha, NE

Some chicken dish + basmati rice + some naan made fresh right in front of me

5th Stop: Sonic, Omaha, NE

Blue coconut slush + grilled chicken wrap (no ranch!)

6th Stop: Microtel Inn's Continental Breakfast, Lincoln, NE

Cheerio from a bowl I snagged, plus 2 donuts and cranberry juice

7th Stop: Smashburger, Denver, CO

Create-Your-Own Burger of cheddar cheese, classic bun, smash sauce, leaf lettuce, red onion, & tomato, plus veggie frites

8th Stop: Goodtimes, Colorado Springs, CO

Teriyaki chicken sandwich with pineapple, mozzarella, and lettuce, plus a raspberry/strawberry custard Spoonbender. COME TO MINNEAPOLIS!!

9th Stop: The Loft (venue), Colorado Springs, CO

Homemade chocolate cake, plus spaghetti with sauce & bread, provided by the venue.

10th Stop: Wahoo's Fish Tacos, Colorado Springs, CO/Baskin Robbins

Chargrilled fish taco with black beans & ahi rice. Another place that needs to find a home in Minneapolis.

Nutty coconut ice cream on a sugar cone. And 5 minutes later...

88 cent soft serve on a cake cone.

11th Stop: Waffle House, Colorado Springs, CO (I was here for 3 days, by the way)

Chocolate chip waffle, 2 eggs fried, biscuit & jam, & hashbrowns. I miss Waffle House from the South.

12th Stop: Taco Bell, York, NE (on the way home)

89 cent grilled chicken burrito... a great value for the money! Gotta love it after almost 24 hours without eating anything but a few apples.

I didn't eat TOO poorly, but I do wish I had gotten more fresh fruits & veggies in. It's hard to do when you've only got so much to spend!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Mandarin Chicken Stirfry

I saw this super-simple recipe for Mandarin chicken on Crepes of Wrath and couldn't resist making it, especially having all the ingredients on hand that I needed to get rid of before moving out. I didn't have rice, but added the rest of my Trader Joe's Harvest Hodgepodge frozen vegetable blend to the mix. I scaled the recipe down to only feed one - myself! It took next to no time to prepare and came out great. I was licking the plate when I finished! I highly recommend this recipe, plus everything Crepes of Wrath blogs about!

Birchwood Cafe

My mom and I went to Birchwood Cafe in the Seward neighborhood for dinner the night before I was leaving my apartment in the area. I knew I wouldn't get another chance to eat there anytime soon so jumped at the chance to choose whatever restaurant I wanted. We got there on a Friday night and it was packed with families, singles, and couples. Everyone seemed like a regular. It could have something to do with its location in the middle of a residential area with no other businesses around.

We ordered and I got to pick out a dessert to eat while waiting for our food. I went with this luscious pineapple caramel bread pudding. I had never had bread pudding and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do so. This was out of this world. They put a little homemade whipped cream on topped that perfectly complemented the dish. I'm drooling just thinking about this again. It was gone much too soon; I wish I hadn't had to share it!

I ordered the black bean quinoa burger with rhubarb ginger compote, provolone, tarragon orange aioli, lettuce, & onion on a multigrain bun, aka there was no way this could taste bad. It also came with blue corn chips & a small amount of salsa. The burger was absolutely delicious and filling; I couldn't have ordered anything better.

My mom got the Wild Acres turkey burger with Surly Bender mustard, tart cherry ketchup, white cheddar, onion, lettuce, & tomato on a buttermilk bun. The chips also came with her meal. I had a bite and really liked it; she thought it was just a little too spicy.

Either way, you can't go wrong with Birchwood's burgers or desserts (everything in that display case looked killer). I can imagine all their food is amazing, leading to their immense neighborhood popularity. The people in Seward are pretty bike-friendly, co-op-shopping folks, so it fits right in. I hope to be able to go back again before I leave for Paris!


As mentioned in my blondie post, I made these for a dinner party. The one mistake I made with these brownies was flouring the cupcake tin - it made it really hard to get them all out in one piece. I made them again a couple of days later and just greased the cups and they came out beautifully. These were perfect, fudgy brownies. By making them individual size, each one had a fudgy middle and crispier outside, without anyone having to eat a harder corner piece that is usually a part of making a pan of brownies. I made them for a bunch of boys so they were gone in seconds. The powdered sugar dusted on top was the perfect addition.

Major Baking Fail: Blondies

I tried to make some brownies (post coming next) and blondies for a friend's dinner party since it would be with a bunch of people I didn't know; I always bring food to make a good impression. I wanted to make them easy to share so I made them in cupcake tins; I also didn't have any square brownie pans to make them in. I found a decent recipe for blondies & decided to add butterscotch chips for an extra zip. I remember adding the baking powder & baking soda and thinking it was way too much for the recipe, but I didn't do anything about it. I noticed them rising way too much in the oven and panicked, but there was nothing I could do at that point. They came out of the oven and immediately fell into little hard rocks of failure. I will have to find a better recipe and try again. Never give up!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

(This is a very belated post; I just finished with school/finals, moved home, and am now on tour for a week-ish with my friend's band. Selected pictures here)

My grandparents have a rhubarb plant (technically my aunt & uncle's) and gave my mom about a pound to use as she pleased. They were pretty weakling stalks, not quite pink enough for my liking, but I couldn't resist making a strawberry rhubarb pie, especially with strawberries on sale at Rainbow the other week.

I found a recipe that showed promise (I forget where now) and set about making the pie with my mom.

The filling was kind of soupy so we ended up scooping some out so it didn't bubble over. It seemed to bake fine, with juices dripping out towards the end. We figured it was done, so took it out. Now, I didn't get a chance to try it (I scooted off to a concert at the last minute), but my mom said the pie was almost inedible, it was so soupy. We should have found a recipe that cooked down the filling first, then added it. Unfortunately the rhubarb plant won't produce enough for me to take any more home this summer, so I might have to hit up a neighbor or the co-op to try this again and hopefully find success.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A No-Brainer

Combining bananas with chocolate or peanut butter is always a surefire success. But what about all three? Success squared! I found a recipe for marble banana chocolate bars on but didn't want the hassle of cleaning a glass dish or cutting things up. I decided to add in some chopped up chocolate chips and make cupcakes out of them. Marbling batter inside of a cupcake liner isn't an easy feat, either. At least they turned out quite beautiful!

I topped these off with some peanut butter buttercream from Martha Stewart. It's really hard to use the right amount of peanut butter frosting so it doesn't overpower the rest of the cupcake. I put on just a small dab and the flavors blended beautifully. Since I'm leaving my apartment in a week and don't want to grocery shop, these have made really great breakfasts. They've got bananas in them so they're healthy, right?

How I Plan To Take Over The World

Cup-pies! They're mini pies, in this case apple, made in cupcake tins. What a way to revolutionize the ever-expanding cupcake market. Of course, the idea was introduced in an episode of Pushing Daisies - adding Chuck's new idea of cup-pies to the Pie Hole's menu was a source of debate between Ned & Chuck. Other bloggers have already tried it - Eggs on Sunday and Blondie & Brownie jumped on this idea long before I even started watching the show.

This was a really fun experience for me. I had made an apple pie with a friend the day before and had a ton of leftover sliced apples. I didn't want them to go to waste, but didn't have enough to make another whole pie. The idea of cup-pies must have stuck in my head, and thankfully they were just the right solution. I chopped up the apples and prepared the filling, and then set out to conquer the hardest part - the crusts.

I am a pro at making pie crust from scratch at this point, but this was still really difficult for me. I didn't want to overwork the dough by having to keep rolling it out to make more circles so perfection wasn't my goal for this batch. I cut out circles of dough and made them even thinner to fit into the cupcake cups. By far the hardest part was attaching the top crust to the bottom. I didn't let the bottom crust hang out of the cups far enough to really attach the two layers, so I just tucked in the top crust, hoping for the best. I did not get the best.

As these pups were cooking, apple juices were coming out of the pies and dripping onto the bottom of my oven.

Then when I was trying to remove the pies from the tins after cooling, the tops were coming off the rest of the pie. One even crumbled, which led to me taking pity on it and eating it while still in the pan.

Overall, I didn't add enough sugar to the filling so the pies were a bit on the bland side, something I'll keep in mind for next time. I can't wait to try other flavors!