Pistachio muffins for a little comfort

**spoiler alert for Grey’s Anatomy fans who’ve been living under a rock this past week**

I am not an emotional eater, but every once in a while you need something special in your belly to feed your happiness.

If you are a Grey’s Anatomy fan you might be looking for some comfort food just like me. I know it has been almost a week, but we all still haven’t gotten over the death of Derek Shepherd (aka Dr. McDreamy). Some people turn to ice cream or cheesy lasagna, but my go-to is muffins. There is something soothing about starting your day with a moist slightly sweet muffin.

So hopefully these pistachio muffins will soothe whatever is bothering you . . .

Pistachio muffinsPistachio Muffins – adapted from Food Pleasure and Health
Makes 6 jumbo muffins (I mean who eats one little muffin anyway)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup skim milk
1 Tbsp lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp all spice
¼ cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup shelled, roasted salted pistachios, roughly chopped

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Measure your milk and add the lemon juice. Allow to sit until needed – the milk will thicken like buttermilk.

In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and all spice.

In a separate bowl combine the wet ingredients and gently whisk – milk, oil, vanilla extract, and egg.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Spray a six jumbo muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the cups and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pistachios.

Bake the muffins for 15-17 minutes until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let set in the pan a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy!

Weekly randomness: bouncy house, zombies, and wanderlust

SleepThis picture pretty much sums up how I have felt all week. On a typical week I am rushing between family time, work, and school which can leave anyone feeling a little drained, but this past week was our daughter’s third birthday and we wanted to make it extra special. So we threw a special bash and invited friends and family to our house, which equals deep cleaning, a late night arrival by family from Illinois, and lots of extra little errands to run.

All of that work and loss of sleep was well worth it though.

Olivia jumpsgiftscakeOlivia loves to jump or as she says “jump, boing, hop” so we rented a bouncy house for everyone to enjoy. We highly recommend Twin Cities Inflatables.

What birthday party is complete without a birthday cake? I searched all over for a local bakery to get our cake from and landed on Taste of Love bakery. Marie at Taste of Love did a fantastic job on our Doc McStuffins cake. A delicious and beautiful double layer chocolate cake covered in pink buttercream with smooth buttercream separating the two cake layers. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. If you get the chance, check out the cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, and other goodies from this local gem.

Of course, my mind never stopped running full throttle this past week so I still found lots of things to check out and share with everyone 🙂

zombies runningNeed motivation to keep the pace up when you’re running? There is a new app that taps into our basic instinct to fight or flee when in danger. Zombies, run! mixes gaming with exercise and definitely gets your heart beating faster during a work out. The app sets the stage during your workout with a story that you are out to get supplies in a world overrun by zombies. Your music playlist still plays, but every once in a while you get a message that a zombie is gaining on you and then you get a beeping sound that increases in frequency as the zombie gets closer. I didn’t think it would affect pace – it is fake after all – but without even realizing it the pace increased to get away from the zombies. So if we ever have a zombie apocalypse I guess I will be well trained for the supply runs.

EAT! Vancouver

EAT! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival Pastry Tasting and Panel Discussion.

As part of my economics class I am working on a group project for business travel. All this talk about hotels and airlines is making my wanderlust kick into hyperdrive. So of course I’ve been looking at places to go, people to meet, and foods to try. And I stumbled across EAT! Vancouver Food and Cooking Festival. Definitely going on the list!

Weekly randomness: cruffins, craft beer, and Star Wars

If you asked anyone who knows me well they would probably tell you I am organized on the outside, but a total ball of randomness on the inside. I jump from topic to topic and if something grabs my attention I will tell you about it.

So here is what grabbed my attention this week . . .

cruffin

Cruffin from Mr. Holmes Bakehouse, San Francisco, CA. 

The cruffin – mix between a croissant and a muffin! It might be time to head back to San Francisco 🙂

Etsy for beer lovers – Noble Brewer Noble Brewer

Homebrewers bring their best bottles to this beer club site. You sign up and get to try exclusive beers and learn about the brewers behind the scenes. Many of these homebrewers have dreams of one day owning their own brewery . . . who knows you could be trying the next big thing in craft beer.

When I was three I was reciting all the lines to Return of the Jedi so to say I am excited about this movie is an understatement 🙂

The full Monica Lewinsky TED Talk . . . she is so relatable and intelligent and you really should watch this!

Du Nord Craft Spirits: Behind the scenes

I have certainly had my fair share of beer and wine, but at heart I will always be a spirits girl. There is something about the vast array of scents, flavors, and mouth feel that excites and hypnotizes me. Which is why I am so excited to see a craft spirits movement blooming in Minnesota. People who are passionate about what they are doing draw me in like a magnet and if they have a bottle of vodka to sip while we talk all the better.

It was one of these magnetic stories that drew me in this past weekend. My husband and I found ourselves without a toddler in tow so I decided it was time for an actual adult excursion. With a little searching I came across the Du Nord Craft Spirits Distillery tour and Cocktail Room. The story behind how people came to do what they do and the history of a product have always fascinated me. This tour did not disappoint.menu

We arrived a little before our 3:00pm tour time at a rather non-descript building in an underdeveloped area of Minneapolis. Located just off of Hiawatha and the light rail line I had been past this block hundreds of times and had no idea this was here. Of course, in my defense the cocktail room only opened in January 2015 after Minnesota law changed to allow distilleries to offer more to drink on-site than just tastings. So we partook of the rewards of the law change with a couple of pre-tour cocktails. Both the Bee’s Knees and Du Nord Salty Dog were phenomenal – beautiful color and fantastic balance of flavor.

drinks

With our cocktails in hand we joined a small group of fellow spirits lovers for a behind the scenes look at this small operation. Started by a husband and wife team they are keeping it completely Minnesotan. The name Du Nord comes from the state motto, L’Etoile du Nord (The Star of the North). They are a grain to glass operation – all of the grain comes from Minnesota growers (directly from the farmer when possible), is distilled in house, and bottled for sale at local liquor stores. As our guide Ed told us, you will never see a Du Nord Rum because Minnesota cannot grow sugar cane.

Really keeping it Minnesotan they call the big copper one in the back Zelda - F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife :)

Really keeping it Minnesotan they call the big copper one in the back Zelda – F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife 🙂

So they have started with Gin and Vodka and are working on adding Whiskey and Bourbon (takes 2-3 years). The process of how science and art come together to create these elixirs was fascinating. I guarantee after learning about where and how they make the cuts, how good distilleries don’t strip away the flavor, and what goes into creating a unique formula you will have a whole new appreciation for quality spirits and the amazing things being done locally.

Aged barrels ready for their Whiskey and Bourbon . . .

Aged barrels ready for their Whiskey and Bourbon . . .

I am very excited to keep on eye on what Du Nord is up to since they are coming out with a few new formulas, including a new world flavor Gin (will have no juniper) that people will be able to vote on to pick which gets bottled and distributed, that whiskey and bourbon that will be sitting in the aged barrels, and as part of the Minnesota Distillers Guild working with the MN legislature to pass a bill that would allow on-site bottle sales similar to what you can currently do at wineries.

Until then, I will just have to head out to my favorite liquor store and pick up a bottle of L’Etoile Vodka and Fitzgerald Gin (named after famous Minnesotan F. Scott Fitzgerald). Or I can organize a group of friends for a bottling party where I get an even closer look behind the scenes when we get to help bottle the spirits and we walk away with a parting gift of our own. And of course there is always the Cocktail Room with great atmosphere, big windows to look in on the distillery, and even a food truck on-site for some Italian nibbles – happy hour here we come!

Easter traditions and lemon poppyseed rolls

Happy Easter

Growing up Easter Sunday meant it was one of the few times we were forced to sit though church service dressed in our best. It also meant bright colored baskets, lots of candy, and a toy or two. We would bounce out of bed like it was Christmas in spring and start eating the Reese’s and Hershey kisses.

Little hands help with breakfast

Little hands help with family breakfast – Lemon Poppyseed Breakfast Buns via Half Baked Harvest

Lemon poppy seed breakfast bunsAfter a special family breakfast and church it was off to grandma and grandpa’s to be with the extended family. Usually, the day entailed sidewalk chalk, an Easter egg hunt, and a game of tag or even Wiffle ball. I can still remember my dad and my uncles out there running the bases with my teenage cousins. Of course, there weren’t any sore knees and backs that another good meal couldn’t heal. Chow time

So the ham, potatoes, casseroles, homemade bread, and those weird Jell-o molded eggs cluttered the table until everyone got more than their fill. Easter for us now isn’t high profile enough to cross state lines for a large group gathering. It has become a chance to slow down and sign off from the rest of life.

Of course, the Easters of year’s past are another one of those things you never realize you are going to miss until it is gone. We’ve all grown-up and moved around. My aunts and uncles are grandparents themselves, my cousins have started families, and, like us, begun their own traditions. I hope they all look back with fondness at those spring days and maybe even work in a little sidewalk chalk and Wiffle ball themselves.

Apple spice cake

Apple spice cake with Two Gingers whiskey glaze; recipe coming soon 🙂

As for us, we are still trying to find the right Easter tradition, but chances are it won’t be until years after Olivia is grown that we look back and realize what that special thing was.

Note on lemon poppyseed rolls: We couldn’t find passionfruit and I didn’t want to make a blueberry syrup (I’m just lazy!) so we substituted a simple powder sugar glaze made with pomegranate juice. Still beautiful color yummy flavor!

A love affair with quinoa: Caprese quinoa bake recipe

It has been nearly 12 years since my love affair with quinoa started. I can still remember my food science class in college, learning about ancient grains and how we couldn’t figure out how to say quinoa (keen-wah).

Imagine trying to explain it to my friends who were mostly architecture majors. These were the kids puling all-nighters and living off of cheap pizza, Mountain Dew, Red Bull, and loud music. Actually, looking back on it they were probably the normal ones for college students. Not like the nutrition majors and athletes I sat in class with. But I digress.

The relationship has endured, with quinoa finding its way into hot, cold and room temperature dishes. Breakfast, snacks, and dinners have been known to feature the tiny grain. As an active person who isn’t much of a meat eater, this grain has been a big player in my healthy eating. For a grain, it is higher than average in protein, high in essential amino acids, full of vitamins and minerals, and even has some calcium in it.

Even though I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I’ve made over 50 different quinoa dishes this one is my favorite.

Caprese quinoa bake

Caprese Quinoa Bake

Adapted from Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest

Serves 4-6 (great for lunch the next day!)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of jarred pasta sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • ½ cup baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Heat tomato sauce and tomato paste over low heat in a large saucepan until the tomato paste has incorporated.

2. Once incorporated, stir in almond milk, parmesan, chopped spinach, salt and pepper.

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the quinoa. Fold in the shredded mozzarella and half of the tomatoes, and half of the chopped fresh basil.

4. Spray an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with non-stick spray and pour the quinoa mixture in. Top with fresh mozzarella rounds and the remaining tomatoes.

5. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes and then turn the broiler on and broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

6. Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil ribbons. Let sit five minutes before serving.

Enoy!