Weekend Visitor

This past weekend, Noah’s sister visited from Chicago. I’d say it was an opportunity to act like a tourist…but I sort of think we always act like tourists.

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Rachel got here Friday afternoon and we went to the Midtown Global Market (site of Kitchen in the Market) for dinner and then to a Ragamala Dance show at the Walker.

No pics from Friday, but there are plenty of photos from Saturday’s activities. It was a super active day, with a run in the morning and most of the afternoon occupied by a bike ride.

Noah and I each had our own bikes, and we rented a bike for Rachel from Nice Ride.

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Noah has a leftover Nice Ride membership from the summer, so we were able to get the bike for no charge. Also, Nice Ride has recently added a lot of new bike stations (including one very close to my apartment!) and extended the no-charge ride time for members from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. Noah and I had high ambitions for the bike ride, and we wanted to show Rachel all of the Minneapolis highlights:

  • Chain of Lakes (Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, and Lake of the Isles)
  • Hiawatha Bridge and Midtown Greenway
  • Guthrie Theater and Mill District
  • Stone Arch Bridge
  • University of Minnesota
  • Nicollet Avenue Pedestrian Mall and Downtown

Please note the magical fact that all of these wonderful locations were accessible via protected bike path.

We somehow mustered the energy to hit all of the spots, although we didn’t actually bike along the chain of lakes because we could see it some from the greenway and had also run near the lakes that morning.

Hiawatha Bridge along the Midtown Greenway:

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Hiawatha Bridge and Greenway

View from the bridge linked the east and west banks of the University of MN:

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view from UofMN bridge

View of the Guthrie and Mill City Museum from the Stone Arch Bridge:

view of the Guthrie and Mill City Museum from the Stone Arch Bridge

Slightly over two hours later, the journey was complete and it was time to return the Nice Ride…

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…and get some beer!

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A friend of mine has a coworker who knows a guy who knows a guy (yes, I meant to type that twice) who works at the Excelsior Brewing Company and said he would give us a tour, so a group of us headed out there in the late afternoon. Apparently, it was one too many degrees of separation though, because when we got there the fellow in question was out boating and unable to show us around. We somehow managed to recover and sample some of the brews. On tap was a brown ale called Bitteschlappe,  Bridge Jumper IPA, and Big Island Blond. They were out of their pale ale (called XCLR), so those who ordered flights had to double up on a different variety:

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I ordered the brown ale because it had the lowest bitter rating. I enjoyed it for approximately 3oz. and then the beer flavor was too much. They say it’s an acquired taste…but I certainly have yet to acquire.

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After a sufficient amount of time in the brewery, we decided to walk around the town of Excelsior. From the drive in, we knew there was a cute Mainstreet that led to a park and pathway along Excelsior Bay. We walked through town to get to the water:

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Notice the prom pictures happening in the background behind us. This was clearly a hotspot for photos since we also saw a wedding!

When we got back to Minneapolis, we were all hungry and ready for dinner. We tried to go to Brasa but the line was too long, so we ended up at Bryant Lake Bowl instead.

Noah ordered a bison steak salad, I ordered a beef sandwich, and Rachel ordered a black bean and beet burger:

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The food was good, but we were still hungry after (maybe because of all the biking!). We picked up a slice of pizza to go from Pizza Luce later in the evening.

It was a lot of fun to have a visitor over the weekend, and I especially enjoyed the bike tour. Especially now that I know I’m leaving Minneapolis, I’ve been eager to go back to all of my favorite places one more time and, of course, take lots of pictures for the memory books!

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Wonderful Weekend

People often ask, “what was something fun you did this weekend?” Sometimes the question puts a lot of pressure on because if nothing immediately comes to mind I think, “oh no! Did I do nothing fun?!?!”

But, right now I would love to hear the question.

you: What was something fun you did this weekend?

me: EVERYTHING!

Yes, I had an absolutely phenomenal weekend. Not only was the trip to Stillwater great, but the rest of the weekend continued to be full of fun shenanigans with the love of my life, man of my dreams.

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Yes, I made that meme and am very proud.

The man in question planned a surprise outing for Sunday that I was looking forward to with great anticipation. I hopped on my bike without too many questions and followed the leader until we got here….

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Paint Your Plate is a make-it-yourself studio where you can select from a variety of dishes, figurines, and trinkets what (and how!) to paint. When we walked in, the average age of people in the store went up by about 10 years. But, no matter!

There were a lot of items to choose from, so we took some time decided what we wanted to paint:

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Eventually, I settled on a bowl and Noah chose a mug. We chose a seat at one of the tables and lightly cleaned our pieces to wipe off any dust:

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Next, it was time to choose paint colors, select stencils and stamps if we wanted, and sketch the outline of what we wanted to paint on the outside of our piece with a pencil. While we were there, we hardly talked because we were both so engrossed in our work. 🙂

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Noah put a geometric diamond design on his mug and it looked great:

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I decided to cover my bowl with stars, flowers, and polka dots.

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And since I am planning to use it for breakfast in the morning, I put a sunny message in the bottom:

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We couldn’t take the bowl and mug home with us because Paint Your Plate will glaze and fire the pieces over the course of the next week. When they’re ready, they’ll give us a call to come pick them up. I can’t wait to see what the finished product looks like!

By the time we were done at Paint Your Plate, it was past 6:00 and we were ready to bike home and go for dinner. Since we are leaving the Twin Cities soon, we are eager to go back to some of our favorite restaurants one more time. We settled on The Lynn on Bryant which we visited about a year ago and loved. As we remembered, the food was great. We even saw the Vermont-born head chef and owner sitting and talking with some customers!

We ordered the gnocchi to share as an appetizer and it was fabulous:

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The sauce was creamy and smooth, and we both especially liked the bread crumbs on top. For my entree, I ordered the Bryant Burger (veggie burger with chickpea fries).

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This is the same dish I ordered last time we visited the restaurant, but it was so good I knew that I had to get it again.

Noah ordered a lamb dish that came with a small pot pie as a side. He also thought it was excellent!

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Our eyes were a little bigger than our stomachs though, and we ended up ordering dessert even though it meant we left pretty stuffed.

Noah ordered an affogato (vanilla ice cream topped with espresso) and I ordered the warm chocolate cake:

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The chocolate cake was very dense – almost more like a thick mousse – and the ice cream on top was the perfect compliment to the warm chocolate.

This restaurant is SO good! It can be quite expensive or affordable depending on what you get. The burgers and sandwiches are $15 or less, but the regular entrees are closer to $30. So, you can definitely come on a smaller budget but be conscientious about what you order! Either way, I would say this place is worth a splurge. 🙂

Musings in Calhoun Square

Calhoun Square is located in the bustling Uptown intersection of Hennepin, Lake, and Lagoon. It houses Dogwood Coffee, Kitchen Window, about a dozen other awesome stores/restaurants, and is often hosting some sort of celebration or fair. My gym, LA Fitness, is inside Calhoun Square, and on my way there yesterday morning I really noticed how much the shopping center has grown since I moved here three years ago.

I took an extra moment to notice all the glitz and glamor that has come into Calhoun Square, and this lead to a lot of wonderings.

Such as….

Were these eggs bought specifically for this shoe display?

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Was the full impact of this shirt understood during design?

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Would my life be better if I owned bejeweled capri pants?

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How many people own an angry birds phone case?

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Or proudly wear this Hello Kitty necklace?

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Are there any human beings that look better in this dress than this mannequin? 

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And, finally, would the world be a better place if we were constantly asking one another this question?

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Calhoun Square. Check it out. Learn about yourself.

 

Pumpkin Cauliflower ‘Risotto’

I love risotto, but I almost never make it because I rarely have arborio rice on hand. I almost always, however, have brown rice on hand, so I decided to make a wannabe risotto of my own creation.

Risotto purists would say this dish bears nothing in common with true risotto because it lacks the incredible creaminess that can only be created by the slow cooking of arborio rice. To them, I say, “try this!”

I started with one cup dry brown basmati rice cooked in two cups water for about 45 minutes:

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I added 1 and 1/2 cups of vegetable broth and let heat while I started to steam a half head of cauliflower:

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After a few minutes of letting the broth heat, I added 1 cup of pumpkin puree to the rice:

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After the cauliflower was soft, I added it to the rice and let heat, covered for about 10 minutes:

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This dish was great and made about 4 servings. It is definitely best served warm, although I had it cold a couple days for lunch.

After whipping this up for dinner, I had big plans to go to the theater. The Orpheum is Minneapolis’ venue for touring Broadway shows, and for the last two years I’ve had season tickets and LOVE IT! There are about 6 shows each year, and I look forward to each one. Last week, the Orpheum was showing Once, a musical about a Scottish musician who repairs his broken heart and gets his big musical break by befriending a Czech woman.

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The inside of the Orpheum is beautiful, and I had great seats only about 20 rows from the stage:

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And no, that is not an illegal picture taken during the show. One of the most unique things about this performance was that the curtain never closed and there were always actors on stage! Additionally, the actors themselves formed the band for the show, and every actor had an instrument that they used both within character and on the side stage as part of a band. As people filed in to take their seats, the whole cast was onstage playing music and singing. At intermission, the audience was invited to go onstage and look at the set.

I loved the show and thought the music was great. I was also super impressed how the actors sang, played their instruments, and stayed so in character the whole time. If you have a chance to see Once, I would definitely recommend it!

The Lowry and Lemon Kale Salad

This past week, I went for lunch at The Lowry. The Lowry opened in 2011 and has been a hot uptown spot ever since. It has great food for all three meals of the day, and by night it turns into an upscale bar that attracts those who want something a little more sophisticated than what’s found at the neighboring Liquor Lyle’s.

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The Lowry has a fairly extensive menu of great looking breakfasts, appetizers, soups, salads, and sandwiches, so it was a challenge to decide what I wanted.

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I settled on the grilled cheese sandwich because it is served with a shooter of tomato soup. And, really, that is just too adorable to pass up. My friend ordered a breakfast dish that came with eggs, hashbrowns, toast, and turkey sausage:

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In addition to a great meal out, I also had some good food from my own kitchen last week. I had some leftover kale that I needed to use up, so I came up with a salad using a lot of extra ingredients from around the kitchen.

First, I chopped steamed a half bunch up kale until it just wilted:

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After removing the kale from the steamer, I added three shredded carrots, 1/4 cup cooked couscous, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, and 1/4 cup dried currants:

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Finally, I squeezed the juice of one lemon into the mix and served with baked thyme chicken breast and sweet potato slivers:

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The chicken also was simple and fast to make. I topped the chicken with a little bit of olive oil and some chopped fresh thyme and cooked at 450º for 15 minutes. Cooking the chicken at a high heat for a shorter period of time makes it so much juicier (I’m so glad I learned that trick at Kitchen in the Market with Noah last summer!).

The treacherous outdoors and Black Sheep Pizza

Finally, yes FINALLY, winter seems to be coming to an end. The snow is melting off of the sidewalks, and the road surfaces are nearly entirely visible. While the snow melting is a welcome development, it has led to a dangerous development. BLACK ICE!

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Noah recently shared this comedy sketch about black ice by Key and Peele with me, and I thought it was very funny…so check it out!

Anyway, as the snow has melted, a thin layer of black ice lays hidden on the sidewalk. In fact, I took a pretty nasty fall on the ice pictured above. I fell so hard that my keys flew out of pocket. I didn’t notice until I made it to the gym (where I was headed when leaving the apartment). I walked all the way (super cautiously, of course), and found the keys sitting at the scene of the crime:

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Since the snow and ice are melting more and more each day, I got the winter tires taken off of my bike on Wednesday. I biked to work on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and I had an awesome time.

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Even though the snow is melting, it’s still pretty cold outside, so I need the winter biking face essentials: balaclava and goggles. The helmet is an anytime must-have. 🙂

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One of the places I biked to this week was Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza. I’ve known about this pizza place for a while since it gets positive buzz within the Twin Cities food scene, and I was excited to finally try it. There are two locations: one in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis. I met a friend for lunch at the Minneapolis location on Washington Ave N.

We both ordered build your pizzas. I got mine with goat cheese, mushrooms, and fresh tomatoes. My friend ordered hers with feta, green olives, and roasted red peppers:

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The pizza was great! It was a thin crust and the toppings were flavorful. There were also a lot of great looking salads and side dishes on the menu that would be great for sharing with a larger party.

A Guide to Spring (in Minnesota)

It’s definitely supposed to be spring right now. Yet, as I write this, snow falls. So, here is a guide to enjoying the season of rejuvenation in Minnesota.

1. Don’t fear the white stuff! If it’s snowy, then you might as well take advantage of it. Noah and I recently went skiing at Theodore Wirth Park. The park in north Minneapolis has 20 miles of cross country skiing trails, tubing, and snowboarding areas.

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We enjoyed a little over an hour of skiing, and we got a great workout. The trails were beautiful!

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2. Celebrate indoors! Luckily for me, the holiday of Purim provided a perfect opportunity to have fun inside. I invited friends over to make the traditional triangular-shaped Purim cookie, hamantashen.

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Another Purim tradition is costumes, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to dress like a taco:

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And a person wearing footie pajamas (read: not really a costume):

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3. Try new food! One of the best indoor activities I know is eating, so I’ve enjoyed spending more time in the kitchen as well as trying some new restaurants.

We tried Victor’s 1959 Cafe, a Cuban restaurant in south Minneapolis.

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The restaurant featured lots of unique Cuban dishes, and I was excited to try a vegetarian dish with yuca and plantains. Noah had a salmon dish with beans, rice, and plantains.

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We also tried a Cuban beer and a Cafe Cubano (espresso sweetened with sugar and a tiny bit of milk):

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Highlights from my kitchen have been chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice from the Jerusalem cookbook:

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Salmon with thyme, broccoli, and rice:

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Peanut butter granola from CarrotsnCake:

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And cilantro burgers:

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The cilantro burgers were incredibly easy to make. Recipe as follows:

– 1 lb. ground beef
– 1 bunch chopped cilantro
– 1/4 cup chopped onion
– 2 eggs, beaten
– 1/2 cup flour

Mix everything together and then broil for 8 minutes on one side and 5-7 minutes on the other side (depending how pink you like it).

How to ____ in the winter

Minnesota winters are often among the coldest in the country. This year’s winter, however, has really outdone itself. This is my seventh winter in Minnesota and by far the worst. Schools have been cancelled five times (often on government order) due to extreme temperatures, and there were 36 consecutive days where Minneapolites woke up to sub-zero temps. I’ve managed to still keep biking on some days when it’s above zero, but those days have been few and far between. What’s worse, we’re now into March and spring seems far from around the corner.

Having such a prolonged and extremely frigid winter has been a challenge to several typically-enjoyed activities. How can we Minnesotans keep up when it looks like this outside?!

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How to exercise in the winter

I have run less this winter since any time since I started running (about six years ago). Normally, I continue to run outside a few days a week during the winter and head inside to the gym for the occasional treadmill run on an especially cold day. This winter, however, I have only run outside once since December! I’ve been logging a few miles on the treadmill, but it’s also started to feel a little too much like the dreadmill…

The solution? Find new activities! Fortunately, introductory free weeks to fitness facilities abound, and I recently tried out an awesome gym called The Shed Fitness in Uptown (I know, it just sounds hardcore, right?!). The Shed offers a variety of classes including spin, circuit training, body pump, TRX, and yoga sculpt. I tried five classes during my intro week, and I definitely hope to go back for more!

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How to stay busy inside in the winter

Normally, if I’m not at work or another scheduled activity, I like to spend a lot of time outside – walking, exploring, biking, visiting friends, etc. The severity of this winter has meant a lot more time cooped up indoors in my apartment, needing to fill long periods of time. The best solution I’ve found is to do more cooking! Plus, the extra time means I can put more effort into elaborate recipes and dishes that require extra prep time. Some favorites from the last couple weeks include:

homemade ice cream

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roasted kabocha squash

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chickpea and red pepper soup with quinoa (recipe from Women’s Day magazine)

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and chilean squash (from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook)

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How to smile big in the winter

It’s no secret that weather is a large determinant of mood for many people. I’ve never considered myself to be highly impacted in this regard, but there have definitely been a few times where I feel a bit down or blue and think sunshine sure would help! In this long winter abyss, it’s been nice to take special notice of ‘the little things’ and to make an effort to do something fun/goofy every day.

feeling positive after finding this note stuck to a bathroom mirror

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enjoying an impromtu photo shoot

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No you’re not hardcore…

No you’re not hardcore, unless you live hardcore…so goes the classic Jack Black refrain from School of Rock.

I am not what you might call a risk-taker, but I’ve found my own way to live on the edge this summer with winter biking.

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Yes, I clearly look very tough. Last summer, I made a resolution to start using my bike as a primary means of transportation. Reasons being…

  • environmental
  • recreational
  • fun way to get exercise

When the seasons changed, as they do in Minnesota, I stopped because it was too cold rainy snowy take your pick of excuses. I noticed that I was more irritable at work and whenever driving in my car in the morning, I felt sad and a little guilty that I wasn’t biking. So, I decided to stop making excuses and do what I needed to do to be a winter biker!

Here’s what it took:

Clothes: Lack of appropriate clothing for winter biking was one of the main excuses I used to avoid it. I did not own any rain gear, nor did I own warm/waterproof boots that would be good for biking in. I decided to invest in the appropriate clothing. I bought a raincoat, rain pants, and boots. Total cost: ~$130

Tires: Riding on the snow and ice scares me. I am already a fairly cautious bike rider, and the extra instability of the snow and ice left me feeling really anxious and nervous about falling. Luckily, I live in the greatest biking city in the United States (I ❤ you, Minneapolis), so bike trails are consistently plowed and maintained throughout the winter. Still, conditions could be better. I decided to invest in some studded bike tires designed to travel well over ice and help with snow. Total cost: ~$170

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Courage: Lastly – and most importantly – I just had to do it! Even after getting the appropriate clothes and buying new tires, I was still really nervous. The first couple times, I had to convince myself I needed to actually go out and ride my bike (which wasn’t too hard since I’d already spent the money!). Each time I get to work in one piece though, I build a little more confidence and feel more ready for the next time.

Moral of the story, I may not be the biggest daredevil, but I am taking on the winter with my bike and getting a little braver every day. 🙂

In other news, I’ve continued to do some top-notch cooking from the Practical Paleo cookbook. As I shared last week, I made pumpkin pancakes which were so delicious that I wanted to try a few more recipes from the book.

At the beginning of the week, I made swirly crustless quiche. 

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The recipe was SUPER simple. All you do is combine everything in a bowl and then bake it into a delicious egg bake:

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It made a great lunch and dinner during the week:

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Trying my hand at a more ambition project, I also gave stuffed cabbage a whirl:

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This recipe was a lot more time consuming and involved steaming the cabbage, stuffing them with meat/veggie mixture, covering it with tomato/cranberry sauce (cranberry sauce also had to be made), and then cooking in the oven:

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This was a fun project, so I didn’t mind the extra time required by the recipe. The end result was very good, but I got a little sick of it by the time I had it for the fifth (or sixth!) meal. I need to remember to always downsize recipes a lot.

stuffed cabbage served with roasted sweet potatoes

stuffed cabbage served with roasted sweet potatoes

Paleo Pancakes and Pizza Luce

Several months ago, I bought the cookbook Practical Paleo.

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I don’t follow a paleo diet (and do not support following any strict diet plan!), but I do like a lot of paleo recipes and appreciate the paleo approach to eating for two primary reasons.

1. They promote eating whole foods
2. They discourage fear of fat and encourage regular consumption of fat in meat and other natural sources (see my post about not being scared of fat here)

Despite admiring this cookbook on the shelf and reading through it a few times, I haven’t actually made any recipes from it. Why does this always happen with cookbooks? I seem to always use recipes on the internet or just make them up.

Today was the day for a recipe from the book!

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The recipe I chose was for pumpkin pancakes. The recipe was a simple collection of pumpkin puree, eggs, coconut flour (but I used almond), and some spices. Mix it all up:

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Cook it all up:

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And serve with dried bananas and coconut butter (if you’re me):

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Delicious!

In other news, I have a recap from a visit to Pizza Luce from a few weeks ago.

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Pizza Luce is a popular pizza chain around the Twin Cities area that specializes in creative options with plenty of vegetarian and vegan selections. We ordered quite a feast and had plenty of leftovers! To start, we ordered Focaccia Katerina which was focaccia bread covered with pesto, goat cheese, and bruschetta:

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I ordered a veggieball hoagie with a ‘side salad:’

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As you can see, the side salad was enormous. My dining partner ordered a build-your-own pizza with chicken, tomatoes, and basil:

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Everything was delicious! I would definitely go here again. Also, if you’re buying gifts this holiday season, Pizza Luce is doing a special where you can buy $100 worth of gift cards for $80.