Friday, July 30, 2010

Flamingo sighting

I know what we are doing tonight. Do you?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

OH....this one was YUMMY!!!

I'm sharing...because, well, I like to share.  My August issue of Bon Appetit came and I combed through it.  I usually find one recipe per issue that sparks my interest that I have to try.  This issue was no different.  Oddly enough, my husband had looked through the magazine and of all the recipes (even those that included red meat...his all time favorite), he picked the same one I did:  Grilled Mustard Chicken with Fresh Corn Polenta.  Now, let me assure you.  I have never...let me emphasize NEVER made polenta before.  I watched Michael Chiarello  from FoodTv's Easy Entertaining, make it but even that was very different from this recipe (he used it as one would use a noodle in lasagne)The recipe from Bon Appetit was was the equivalent to corn grits.  I happen to love grits.

The recipe suggests that if you can't find polenta (a coarse version of corn meal) to use cornmeal instead and cook for half the time.  I found polenta in the natural food section of was also called corn grits.  The other "odd" ingredient was mascarpone.  I have had mascarpone in tiramisu but have never cooked with it myself.  I did find it at the local grocery store in the special cheese section (and it was expensive!  $4.99/8oz).  I also found it at TJ for half that price (of course I bought it cheaper...TOO, I see tiramisu in my future).  Since I had all the ingredients on hand...tonight was the night.


  • 6 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed
  • 6 large chicken thighs with skin and bones
  • Olive oil


  • 5 cups water
  • 1 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from about 3 large ears, I used 4)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese 



  • Whisk onions, mustard, lemon juice, and garlic in medium bowl to blend. Using fingertips and leaving 1 side still attached, loosen skin on each chicken thigh. Lift skin flap on each and fold back. Spoon half of mustard seasoning atop thighs, dividing equally; spread to cover meat. Fold skin flap over to enclose seasoning and secure skin with metal pin. ( I didn't bother with the metal pin) Sprinkle thighs with salt and pepper on both sides. Turn thighs, skin side up, and spread remaining mustard seasoning over skin. Transfer to small baking sheet. DO AHEAD Chicken can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush grill rack generously with olive oil. Grill chicken until golden brown and cooked through, turning chicken occasionally and moving to cooler spot on grill if browning too quickly, 40 to 50 minutes.  I kept chicken on the back burner while I increased the heat on the front burners to quickly grill zucchini.


  • Bring 5 cups water to boil in heavy large saucepan over high heat. Gradually whisk in polenta, then 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt and sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer until polenta is tender, thick, and creamy, whisking often and adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer, 25 to 30 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook, stirring constantly, until corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in mascarpone cheese. Season polenta to taste with salt and pepper.  Here is where I deviated.  I added about 5 slices of cooked bacon, I had cut into 1 inch pieces and fried to a crisp.
  • Spoon polenta onto each of 6 plates. Top with grilled chicken and serve.
     It pretty much looked exactly like this (picture courtesy of Bon Appetit):
    I served it with zucchini I threaded on metal skewers, sprayed with olive oil, Emeril's Essence and pepper and tossed on the grill as soon as the chicken was done.  I topped the zucchini with a little shredded asiago and served dinner on the deck with a bottle of chilled Santa Barbara Landing Chardonnay.
    This recipe is definitely a keeper.  It also didn't take long to put together.

I have taken the left over polenta and placed it on a plate to harden.  I will fry it in bacon grease tomorrow (SLAM...that's the sound of your arteries closing up shop) and top with maple syrup and we'll eat it for breakfast.  As my dad taught me to do

Waste not...want not.  After this, you'll want...NOT!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sorry Charlie...

Do you remember the old Star-Kist commercials..."But Charlie, Star-Kist don't want tuna with good taste...Star-Kist wants tuna that tastes good.  (deep announcer voice) Sorry, Charlie...only good tasting tuna gets to be Star-Kist".  (see Michelle...the  wasted brain cells I have remembering that sh!t).

I called my husband this morning asking what he wanted to have for dinner.  We were at friends house yesterday and they were getting ready to sear some tuna so he suggested we have...seared tuna for dinner.  I was at TJ and picked up some ahi tuna to make, as per his request.

I marinated the tuna steaks in lime juice, olive oil, rice vinegar, garlic and fresh ginger.  I saved back some of the marinade and mixed it with honey to glaze the tuna with in the final stages.  I roasted mixed potatoes and made a salad of roma tomatoes, yellow peppers, cucumbers and avocados.  I had left over butter from last weeks salmon and asparagus...both basil butter and the cilantro orange butter that I put out.  The steaks, while cooked "just" through, were moist and flavorful.  Even the kids agreed that they were very good (they didn't know what to expect so they were somewhat apprehensive).  They preferred the basil butter, while I was diggin' the cilantro orange butter. 

Not Star-Kist...but definitely tuna that tastes good.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ever Done a Clambake?

MIL's birthday was last Wednesday.  We decided to host a dinner in her honor tonight.  I thought about the menu and considered making, from this month's Bon Appetit, Grilled Mustard Chicken with Fresh Corn Polenta.  When I told a friend this he said...seems like a lot of work.  It did..and didn't.  He suggested a clambake, claiming it was an easy recipe that he did this past winter while ice fishing (oh, the joys of propane turkey fryers...portable AND easy to use).  I asked that he email me the recipe.

When I read it over, I'm like...I can do this.  So, it was decided.  A clambake.  Little did I know that there would be a run on clams in the south west metro area of Minnesota.  Can one have a clambake with out clams?  A _____bake?  I don't think so.  So, after church today, I headed out in search of little neck clams.  Don't get me wrong, I DID call around yesterday, checking to see who had clams in stock.  And I found a few places had what I needed, but when I called this morning, well, all of the sudden, it seems like Sunday was the day that EVERYONE wanted clams.  I called an additional 4 stores and ran into one (only to be disappointed).  Finally, my last three stops I scored:  60 clams at Cub, 20 at Rainbow and another 60 at Kowalskis.  And I was on my way home.

Funny enough, it really didn't take that much to put together.  I had the kids shucking corn, my middle daughter scrubbed the potatoesI cut up 3 different varieties of sausage:  smoked beef sausage, kielbasa, and andouille.  I sliced up onions.  I scrubbed the clams and put the on ice and I set the shrimp to defrosting in the colanderAll that was left was to put it all together.

MIL/FIL arrived with "the pot" and the turkey fryer and I put it all together.  The onion, potato, sausage, bay leaf were combined and put at the bottom of the pot, topped with Old Bay seasoning.  I then topped with 3 bottles of Guiness Stout.  Followed by 2 dozen small ears of corn, more Old Bay, 4 lbs of deveined, peel ON shrimp, more Old Bay, then about 120 little neck clams.  Lid on.  Burner on HIGH.

It cooked for about 30 minutes and when the clams opened it was done.  We strained the pot through a pillow case, keeping the broth to dip the clams and shrimp in.  We then dumped the entire pot (contained in the pillowcase) onto brown paper bags on the deck table, set out bowls of broth and melted butter, several loaves of crusty french bread.  SIL made a lovely caprese salad.  We had several bottles of white wine and we ATE.LIKE.KINGS. It was AWESOME.

Don't believe me?  A picture tells a thousand words.
The pot at the end of the table...that was NOT the cooling pot (not nearly big enough).  We used that to collect the broth, then use it to collect the shells.

My middle daughter and I made a blueberry-raspberry cobbler with vanilla bean ice-cream for dessert that was TDF. (all recipes from Real Simple with a few adaptations).

This was a first for me.  I usually need to try out a recipe first before making it for others.  But, I was assured, I could do this.  I did.  It was SO tasty.  I'll be doing it again.

Had you been here, you'd have thought you had stepped onto a beach in the North East...not a deck in Minnesota.


Yesterday was, yet another (ho hum...) stunningly beautiful day in MN  We intended on getting an early start out on the boat but life got in the way.  We finally took off around 1215 with a cooler full of cheese, salami, crackers, fresh cut pineapple and oranges, pop, juice, water and of course beer.  The boy took a pass on this trip as his work hours seemed to be hampering his social life and he needed to reconnect with some friends.  However my  youngest had her best friend over so we brought her along.
We had barely gotten on the water when I looked up in time to see a bald eagle stalking a fish from a couple hundred feet up, then swoop down and snatch it from the water.  Too caught up in the scene to lift my camera and record it.

These two were the first to hit the tube and Beanie reigned in her wild streak in deference to her friend.  Still...I believe the giggles and smiles said it all.

My older two girls were a bit more adventurous.

Perhaps show off is a better word.

We stopped and snacked while the girls jumped off the boat and swam.

I think they had fun?

Friends on the lake hooked up with us and my oldest and I decided to "walk on the wild side".  They are avid skiers/wakeboarders but have recently been practicing wake surfing.  Imagine using the  wake created by the boat as a wave to surf on.  And there you have it.  Wake surfing.  The board is much smaller than a surf board and has grippies on the bottom so your feet don't slide around on the board as the boat pulls you up.  Now, IF you're really good, and you get in front of the wake, and the boat hits the right speed to create the right wake, you can throw the rope back to the boat and surf the wake.  I'll be honest right up front...I'm not that good.  I'm not even close to being that good.  I got up but couldn't get in front of the wake.  My oldest daughter got up quicker but had the same problem with the wake.

This morning, I'm a little sore.  But, it's a good sore.  A sore that reminds me that I may be getting old, but I don't think you'll ever completely squash the daredevil spirit.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Now wait
And try to find another mistake
If you throw it all away then maybe you can change your mind
You can run, oh
And when everything is over and done
You can shine a little light on everything around you
Man it's good to be someone
~ Rob Thomas, Someday 

Way back in May, on Recital Day  we got tickets to see Rob Thomas at Grand Casino Hinckley.  That concert was on Friday and it was FABULOUS.  A little background.  Rob Thomas and his wife Marisol have founded a charity called Sidewalk Angels Foundation .  The foundation selected Minnesota's House of Charity as the recipient of their efforts in Hinckley.   The entire concert was acoustic, with Matt Beck and Kyle Cook, from Matchbox Twenty, accompanying him on either guitar, piano or lap steel guitar.  All 3 of them rotated between instruments.  It was truly phenomenal.
We couldn't have asked for a better night.  The sky was completely clear with not a cloud in sight.  The moon was waxing, a perfect backwards "c".  The temperature in the outdoor stadium was a comfortable 75 jacket required!
Each song that Rob played he explained how it came to be.  3am...came about from a time in his life when his mom was diagnosed with cancer.  Disease was written by Mick Jagger (and he let us know, when you go out with Mick Jagger, you WILL hold his jacket).  He did Save the Last Dance, written, he told us, by Doc Pomus (and Mort Shuman) who had polio and told the story of how he would take his wife, an actress and dancer out and wanting to see her happy, would watch from the sidelines as she danced.  The song reminds her to go, have fun, but remember "in whose arms you're going to be".  It was inspiring to hear the stories behind the songs.

Rob's first song...Mockingbird.
 Rob played the beginning of the concert with the sun directly in his eyes...hence the sunglasses.

Yes...that's a cheat shot.  I took it off the jumbotron.

You'd think all of that would have been enough, right?  No, the fun didn't end there.  After the concert, we went into the casino and just roamed around.  There was a band, Arch Allies, playing in the event center.  They played all  REO, Styx and Foreigner songs.  We watched them for a while, then went roaming through the lobby when I suddenly grabbed Sharon and we switched directions, following Matt Beck, who was walking through the lobby.  OK...follow might be a bit broad term.  Maybe stalking was a little closer to accurate.  They (he was with another person) went into the high rollers room to the bathroom back in the back.  NO...we didn't follow them in, but we did wait outside the high rollers room and stopped them on their way out and introduced ourselves.  The other person was Seth (or that was the name he gave) and he was responsible for them being in Hinckley.  I asked what made them choose Hinckley and Seth said that they liked doing small venues.  I suggested next time, they think about playing Shakopee and Seth said, is that near Mystic Lake as he was at Mystic earlier in the day.  Who knew?  We could have ridden up to Hinckley together.

So, a fabulous concert.  We got to meet a band member.  Maybe next time we'll get closer to Rob Thomas.  Girl's gotta have her dreams right?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Surf'n Turf

There is no sincerer love than the love of food.  ~ George Bernard Shaw

We had friends over tonight to try out some new recipes.  It was something like surf and turf...ghetto style.  They brought steak marinated and skewered.  We had this as an appetizer with a nice Zinfandel.  He made three FABULOUS was a bloody mary sauce, the second was a replica of a bloomin' onion sauce and the third was a bloody mary sauce mixed with blue cheese.  I'm not typically (ever) a blue cheese fan but this was awesome.  I couldn't decide which dipping sauce I liked best.

Then I made a basil butter stuffed grilled salmon.  Oddly enough, I am not a fan of cooked salmon.  I saw Tyler Florence do this on his Ultimate cooking show and thought...I think I could eat it this way.  Of course, you always make a recipe your own.  His was baked with bread crumbs...I made it on the grill, no panko.  I laid mine on a bed of lemon slices to start with.  And I held back some basil butter to top with salmon with and it was FABULOUS.  I served it with diced fingerling oven baked potatoes and roasted asparagus with an orange ginger cilantro butter (another new recipe that was TDF).  We ate dinner with a nice Pinot Grigio.

For dessert, I made a peach pie.  It was OK.  You can only do so much with peaches in MN.  Finding 10 nicely ripe peaches takes some doing.

Here's the kicker...another fish recipe the children ALL ate.

And to Mr Shaw, I say...AMEN!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Bragging Moment

If you done it, it ain't bragging. ~ Walt Whitman

I didn't do it.  But I'm going to brag about it.  Anyone have a child who plays in-house softball?  My middle daughter ended up in in house softball and I have to say, it was a LONG.SEASON.  The first half of the season consisted of games where the pitchers pretty much walked in 5 runs (mercy rule) for the first 2 innings.  Maybe by the 3rd (and typically last) inning one of the players would hit the ball and the rest of the team would get an opportunity to actually play.  As a parent, it was painful to watch.

Mid season, the pitchers accuracy started to increase and more of the girls were hitting the ball.  We ended the season 6-1-1 (one game was a rainout).  They were the top seed for the playoffs.

Monday's first game was good but they ended with a far enough lead by the bottom of the 5th inning (last inning) that they didn't have to take their last ups (home team), moving them to the championship game tonight.

The first inning didn't look good.  The other team (home team) played some really good defense, preventing us from scoring in the first inning, and they then scored 3 runs at the bottom of the inning.  The second inning they managed to score 2 runs and kicked up their defense preventing the other team from scoring with my daughter, playing 3rd, making an awesome unassisted double play.  Down by 1, they kicked up their offense the next inning and went ahead  7-3, scoring 5 runs (enforcing the mercy rule).  Again they held the opposing team to 3 and at  the top of the 4th they went ahead, 10-4.  The other team had a chance if they could score at the bottom of the fourth.  They didn't.  They went ahead and played the 5th inning again scoring 5 runs.  There was no way the other team could win but they played out the inning with my daughter catching a pop foul ball as a first baseman to end the game.  Final score 15-6

She needs a little work on her hitting.  She made it to base once on a 3rd strike rule, once on a walk, and once with a line drive behind the pitcher.

But she played well enough that her team gave her the game ball.

It was the perfect end to a season that began with a rocky start.  I say by virtue of having given birth to her, I have bragging rights.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Pampered Pause

No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.
Mark Twain
My older girls spent the night with their cousins, leaving Beanie at home.  Alone.  Normally this isn't a big deal but earlier this weekend, the 4 of them had set up a make-over salon, in my living room.  I wasn't bothered by the salon, what bothered me was that she wasn't part of the manicure/pedicure makeovers.  
So, today I took a rightly timed pause from my standard "no" to indulge my baby in her first pedicure, since it gave me an excuse to indulge myself in a (well needed) pedicure as well.  Very spur of the moment.
Here is my baby in the chair...

And getting her toes painted.  I think she picked a color that is called..."I'm 9 and I love neon pink"...

And the finished product...
I think the flowers are pretty!

The smile on her face said it all!

I love that I was the one who put it there.

Who Says?

Who says you can't go back?
Been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There's only one place left, I want to go
Who says you can't go home?
~Jon Bon Jovi

Yesterday, we took the girls and two of their cousins out on the boat tubing.  The weather was iffy but we decided it was worth the effort given how often the forecast is rightWe hooked up with some friends who live on the lake and  just enjoyed the beautiful (see...forecast WRONG) day.  The girls each got a shot at tubing before we parked the boat and from there they swam, using the tube to play king of the hill.

Around 4pm my BIL called thinking to come get his girls and instead we invited him to join us.  We drove over and picked him up at the launch.  The girls decided they wanted to tube again so we took off, with all 4 of the girls riding a 2 person tube. 
As we listened to the screams of delight as the girls struggled to stay on the tube while laughing hysterically, my BIL turned to us and said..."I am SO glad you guys moved back."  Both my husband and I got a little choked up.

So you understand, we moved back to Minnesota almost 14 years ago, in August of 1996, so two of the four girls on that tube weren't even a gleam in our eye.  And we moved for a variety of reasons.  We were living in Maryland and after our oldest daughter was born, we realized that we didn't want to raise our children away from family.  We also didn't care for the  "pace"  of the east coast.  While I would have been happier moving closer to my parents, the likelihood of finding jobs in such a small town (upstate NY) was slim.  So, back (for my husband) to Minnesota we moved.  And have never regretted that decision (OK...maybe the odd day in January, when winter looks to be never ending and  the temps are in the sub zeros...).

How do you regret your children being exposed to an uncle who is willing to do this?

Or idyllic summer days doing this? interesting word.  As I wrote this post, it occurred to me, I have lived in Minnesota longer than I have lived anywhere in my life (yes...I have been all around the world).  So, I think it's fair to say that Minnesota is home.  Who says?  Who indeed.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Part of the secret of a success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.  ~ Mark Twain

I hit upon a winner tonight and wanted to share.  Last time I was at TJ, I picked up a couple packages of frozen (fresh frozen) mahi mahi, sure I could find something to do with them.  Also, the husband and I have talked about trying to incorporate fish into our menu at least once/week.  Tonight was our "once/week".

I pulled the mahi mahi out of the freezer, wondering what to do with it.  Last time I encrusted it in a mixture of panko and macadamia nuts and sauteed it in butter and it was just OK.  I really thought it would be a winner.  So I went in search of a winner.

I found it at  I made ginger glazed mahi mahi.  I think next time I make it I might spice it up a bit with some red pepper flakes and some sherry but this was really good.  I did grill it vs pan frying and was happy I did.  I served it with coconut rice (jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk) and summer squash and zucchini kabobs (brushed lightly with olive oil, seasoned and grilled)...oh and fresh cut cantaloupe.   Oh, and garlic bread.  The husband and I also indulged in a bottle of Napa River Chardonnay (another TJ find).  Here's the kicker.  ALL.MY.KIDS.ATE.IT.

Whoo-hoo!!!  I love it when a plan comes together.

An Apple a Day

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.  ~ Martin Luther

My husband gave me an itouch for our anniversary last October and I LOVE it.  Oh, it's a bit of a pain having to carry around two separate devices since I can't stand brick phones (the iphone would probably have been my choice if I could), but my main point in having it was to keep track of the kids' activities via the calendar (or so I told my husband).  And I DO use it in that capacity.

But Apple and I have a love-hate relationship.  Over the past 5 years or so, I have owned 3 ipods and have had battery issues with each one.  Battery issues that seem to happen one day after the one year warranty is up.  My kids have had better luck so I thought it might be operator me not locking or turning off the unit when not in use.  More elaborate instructions would have alleviated the problem...but I digress.

So, having owned the itouch for about 4 months I noticed that the unit would start up songs part way through the next song.  At first I thought (again) operator error but it would happen if I was just standing still so I discounted that theory (whew).  I made an appt and took it in and they reformatted my itouch and I reloaded it at home.  Only to have the issue still happen.  Then, all of the sudden, it stopped.  Songs are now starting at the beginning of the song.  I called it a fluke.

THEN, the voice control device on the head phones stopped operating.  I couldn't get the double beep indicating that it was in voice control mode (maybe it had an aversion to my voice???  It needs to have a chat with my husband then).  That didn't bother me too much as the headphones themselves still worked.  This weekend as I pulled out my itouch to do the 4.3 mile walk around the lake, I was in my own little world of (mostly) Rob Thomas when I made it back to the cabin, took out one ear bud only to find that the speaker on the unit was in play.  I could hear through the ear bud but it also was playing through the speaker and I couldn't figure out how to play music JUST through the headphones.  I did a reset to original settings without success.

Today, I had to be in the vicinity of an apple store so I went in and explained the issue.  They IMMEDIATELY took my unit, tested my headphones, concurred the headphones were faulty, opened a new pair, handed them to me and I was on my way.  A little stunned...but a happy stunned.

So, customer service is STILL alive and well...and living at your local Apple store.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Wild and Wacky Weekend

A happy family is but an earlier heaven. ~ George Bernard Shaw

We spent the holiday weekend at my in-laws cabin 90 miles away.  And what a wonderful weekend it was.  Full of fun, laughter, adventure, laughter, food, laughter, Bud Lime, laughter, fishing, laughter...and when we were all abed, attempting to unknot the side stitch from laughing, there was still more laughter.

Some snippets of the weekend:
My FIL has a 'little car'.  You're looking at it.  He has had it for probably 50 years.  It hasn't worked well for the past couple years so my son has never had the opportunity to drive it.  Until this year.  Good thing he just finished his behind the wheel, eh?

This is half of the 10 grandchildren present...and usually the very first thing they all do when they arrive at the cabin.  3 of the 4 families represented by children present:

The 14 year olds??? They spent the afternoon taking pictures of themselves.  Faces only a mother could love:

Or the occasional 14 year old boy...:

We had some tubing action happening.  The kids are fearless:

The boat, of course, is optional:

Then there was the fishing.  Normally the pontoon is taken out to the middle of the lake where one would assume the fishing is best.  But Beanie started fishing UNDER the pontoon and started pulling up some nice sized sunnies.  I warned her that if she was going to fish, she was going to remove said fish from the hook herself:

Her cousin joined in the fishing and before we knew it Grandpa and Jacob were cleaning a mess of fish (ok...mess might be a little exaggerated...perhaps a fine appetizer plate of sunnies):

And what is a Fourth of July without the prerequisite fireworks.  We have sparklers to start:

Then all 18 of us loaded onto the pontoon (still on the lift) to watch the fireworks display over the water:
And the finale:

If only the fun had ended there.  No...Grandma needs to do a bed check on such nights.  First, she attempted to spoon snuggle with my 16 year old son.  Do you know anything of 16 year old boys?  His plaintive wail..."Dad...please take your mother away" put us into fits of laughter.  Then came the suggestion that I join my BIL so she could snuggle with her oldest son.  Gently  declining her request, she moved onto her younger son who had fallen asleep earlier and was now sporting lovely bright pink nail polish on what was left of his finger and toe nails courtesy of his younger sister.

Benjamin Franklin once said "He that raises a large family does, indeed, while he lives to observe them, stand a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too."  I count myself fortunate to be living in the circle of a large family, for the pleasure will always outweigh the sorrow.