Pho 2

Pho me. Stat.

It was a snowy night…

A combination of the heat pump not working… slash in the midst of repairs…

A wanderlust filled heart…

An ache for vacations past…. And a craving for those little plastic chairs and tables we so delicately perched over… slurping our broth and noodles.. allowing drops to fling this way and that.

Not a care in the world for where those drops ended up.  Just a need to demolish this concoction. The salty, spicy and flagrant bowl of warmth.

I also had free beef soup bones in need of using…

SO I MADE HOMEMADE PHO!!

Php Toppings

I LOOSELY based it off of this recipe:

I excluded what I did not have and let the broth simmer for over 9 hours…

Now it will never compare to those mornings in Hanoi we spent hunched over our bowls.. But this will do. This will more than do!

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Pho 2

What is your favorite Pho recipe?

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How to Beat the Bus Stop Blues

Well, those of you previously lamenting the warm winter temps… I hope you are happy. Winter is here and my morning bus stop is rough… You can find me cowering from the wind, desperately pushing the heat lamp button for relief.

Your snow, your wind and frost tipped trees appeared.

Winter is here.

Guess what winter does to me. It makes me crave all the carbs. All the carbs piled high in sauce.

Perhaps a creamy sauce, one with roasted tomatoes, slowly simmering away. Or a butternut squash sauce.. hmmm..  Topped of with parm and basil… fresh basil.

Like farmers market basil…. that I cannot access for another 5 months at least.  Instead I settle for the “living basil” at my local grocery store and gamble on its longevity.

So in order to beat my bus stop blues, I slice up a butternut squash, roast it away and pray it becomes the sauce my chilled soul is craving.

Sigh. But oo this pasta dish will do.

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So you winter people, join me in some carbs?

You will need:

  • 3/4 Cup of Veggie Broth
  • 1 Cup Heavy Cream or Milk
  • 1 Butternut Squash, Cubed
  • 1 lb Italian Sausage
  • Arugula
  • Handful of Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Egg
  • Handful of Basil
  • 1 12-15 oz Container of Ricotta
  • Cooked Shell Pasta (1 package)
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper, Cayenne Optional
  • One Chopped White Onion

Preheat your oven to 400 Degrees. Throw the chopped squash and onions on a baking pan. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast them in the oven for about 40 minutes. While the veggies are roasting, heat olive oil, onion and one clove of garlic. Once the onion has softened,  then throw in and brown the Italian Sausage. Once the sausage is cooked, add three large handfuls of arugula to the pan. This will cook down a ton.

Once the arugula has wilted, take the pan off the heat and set aside. In a mixing bowl add the ricotta, the egg and a touch of salt and pepper. Next add the sausage arugula mixture. Combine until evenly mixed.

Take your sausage ricotta mixture and stuff each shell with about a spoonful and a half.

Once your veggies have roasted, add them to your food processor. Add in cayenne to taste and two whole cloves of garlic, 3/4 cup of veggie stock and the one cup of milk or heavy cream.

 Blend away to a nice smooth consistency. Pour your now butternut squash sauce into the bottom of a baking pan. Place the stuffed shells on top of the sauce in the baking pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

Once the sauce bubbles, remove and top with chopped basil and a handful of parmesan cheese.

Dig in, enjoy and forget about those howling winter winds, and tomorrow’s bus stop blues 🙂

 

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Resolving to….?

The gifts are unwrapped…..

The cocktails sipped…

And the many morsels of food consumed. This year we hosted our own little Cajun Christmas Eve feast.

There were crab hush puppies, blackened alligator, red beans, jambalaya and Beignets … Yes mom perfected her Beignets leading up to Christmas and they were as delightful as ever.

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Christmas and the holidays are over. New Years Eve was spent celebrating the wedding of one of my bestests 🙂

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And a week later I was celebrating the nuptials of another!

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Now, I find myself being asked to share my new years resolutions…. and I don’t have any. I’ve never been much for them, as past experience never set a great bar. I have too many things I want to do.  I want to write more, let my creative juices flow… perhaps find myself with an actual camera and take classes?

Like the masses I want to travel.

I have finance goals… I want to be a landlord (competing interests?)… I want a number of things.

I want to rediscover my kitchen and stacks of cookbooks.

Perhaps I take 2016 as my planning year? The year I narrow it down? A year of thinking, of strategy?  A year to save, to question and decide?

What are your strategies for narrowing down your goals? Have you ever taken a “planning” year?

Last but not least, I want more brunch in my life 🙂

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Run, don’t walk to Burch, and order this crab toast! You will thank me 🙂

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Brunching Lately

I’m often asked, what is your favorite place to eat?

Makes sense right, as I blog about food, eat food, check out the new and the old “hot” places. Duh.

I read articles about food, new restaurants and local chefs’ accomplishments on the daily.

I’d rather be lost in a pile of recipes or Foodnetwork’s archives than be stuck with my daily work. (shhh)

Cookbooks are my secret pleasure… reading them. Yes I read them…. I don’t really cook with them, as following a recipe is not for me; I’m a pinch there, squirt there, cup or two here kinda girl.

For the most part, my pinches, squirts and random cups work out.

A few days ago, when asked where my favorite place to brunch was… I blanked. I’d like to blame the oodles of cold medicine I was under the influence of…. however it may also be due to the fact that I haven’t brunched in a while! Shocking.  I know.  I am the self proclaimed bruncher and would gladly wear any article of clothing, exclaiming, “But First, Brunch!” should you happen to want to send me such article of clothing… really I’ll take them 😉

The only cure to this mind fart is of course, to go BRUNCH!

So off to Birchwood Cafe we went.  Please slap my hand because it has taken me far too long to try this place out.  Birchwood’s commitment to real, local and community shines true on your plate.

The commitment is apparent in that first bite. And that first sip of an afternoon cocktail.

I had to try the Birchwood Beef Burger… with housemade ketchup, mustard and onion, pickled cucumbers, and lettuce on a birdseed bun. (I have this thing with burgers)

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To sip on the side I had the Rosemary Elderberry Mimosa. Just yum. I’ll take another and another please!

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If you are like me, and Birchwood Cafe is still on your must try list, perhaps check it off this weekend? 🙂

Other places to try: here …. here.. and here.

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Slurping Away…

When we moved from Singapore to Tokyo, the city was in the throws of winter. The city was blanketed in its first measurable snow in quite some time.

Our family was not equipped for the seasons, having left behind our winter gear in the states. My long blonde hair sun kissed and skin about as tan as it will ever get… A stark contrast to our new home.

Tokyo’s winter was shock to me and my family. Although we new it would be there….

We used socks as gloves and had a little snowball fight outside our new apartment.  I’ll never forget that sock fueled snowball fight. My first memory of our new home. Our newly adopted country. Our second expatriate move.

A new culture for my childhood to explore, absorb and bond with.  The noodle shops quickly became our favorite stomping grounds.  How many bowls of ramen could my brother and I slurp away?  Who could slurp the loudest? And yes this is totally acceptable in Japan.  A noodle shop without slurping is a bad noodle shop… you don’t want to be eating it.

On home leave back to the states, mom had to remind us that slurping was not acceptable in the US.  Mind your American manners…

O how I miss those noodle shops, welcoming me in with their plastic bowls of food….. encouraging you to point and order. Those flavors, those sounds, the smells and the familiar feel of the shops are forever engrained in my mind. The one we went to every Saturday, where baby sister was so coddled by the owners. Treat after treat they would bring her, hold her as my parents ate.  We could only communicate in broken language of the other, but you were family here.

Lucky for me, a new ramen shop has opened in Minneapolis. One with hype around the block.

Within a couple weeks of the opening, we had to check it out.

Ramen Kazama.

I walked in with high expectations.  The way the menu is laid out brought back a familiar feeling. I knew this was going to be good.

We ordered the spicy pork and the chicken.

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The ramen broth here is some of the best. It touched a nerve, a feeling, a memory I haven’t had in a while.

This is the closet ramen to what I remember from Tokyo, that you can find in Minneapolis. You must go here.

When Minneapolis is in its throws of winter, there could be no better cure. It is truly delicious.

 

Pickle Please.

Happy Friday Y’all!

(Y’all is the last remnant of my Austin Trip a couple weeks ago….)

I’m in Milwaukee to celebrate my fourth Bachelorette lady since May… off to drink champagne, dance around and share delicious food and memories with some wonderful ladies.

To kick off the weekend festivities, how about some funny facts about me you may not know and a contest!?

1. I have many nicknames. Tina, Xtina… Peanut… “my little pigpen”… and Chris (though you must gain my permission to call me Chris).

2. I took multiple years of Tae Kwon Do and actually competed in the Junior Olympics twice. Who knew?! 😉 My championship photo actually hung in our first post college house… Eat your heart out…

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3. I must avoid the throw pillow section at Target or HomeGoods, as I will leave with an entire new set of throw pillows every time.

4. I totally dance around my bathroom as I’m getting ready or about to hop in the shower.

5. I used the same tennis shoes from high school until I was 28 years old…. yes I know. I’m a phenomenon.

6. Pickles and I are in love. Did you know I’m a pickle person? Put a few in my fridge and they won’t last long. Snack away I will. Which is perfect for National Pickle Day tomorrow!

Oh Snap! Pickling Co. wants to celebrate National Pickle Day by giving lucky pickle fans a chance to win $100 and free Oh Snap! pickles.

Um yes please!

To participate:
  1. Like Oh Snap! pickles on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Oh-Snap-Pickles-1451071898529397/?fref=ts
  2. Find the hidden Oh Snap! Pickle on the contest page http://ohsnappickles.com/pickle-day/
  3. Enter your name, email, and location of the Oh Snap! pickle for the chance to win $100 and free product samples.

$100 and free pickles wohoo!

Good luck and Happy Friday Y’all!

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The Sauce and I..

A few weeks ago I hopped in my car.. off to meet a friend and explore a new to me place.

Lately I’ve been swept up on the “New Restaurant” hype. So many places are opening up around Minneapolis and they’ve created an entirely new must try list in my notes app..

So much so that I’ve neglected my long running must eats list..

Friend D brought me back to this wishlist when she suggested we meet at Chimborazo.

Have you been to this intriguing place off of Central in northeast Minneapolis?

It was my first intro to Ecuadorian cuisine… an introduction which will usher in many more dining adventures if Chimborazo has anything to do with it!

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The special called to me that night and while the name escapes me, it was a dish of scallops and shrimp topped with a creamy, spicy coconut sauce…..

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I could just take a spoon to that sauce…. just the sauce and I… alone in a room….hmmm.. OOOO you’re there. oops.

I mean.. enough about the sauce.

The sweet fried plantains on the side didn’t stand a chance either.

Seriously this place is amazing.  The flavors bring me back both to Asia and my (one) trip to Chile. There is such a complexity of flavors here.

If you do not go here… I’m sorry.

Thank you to D for bringing me to a place that has been on my must try list for far too long. I’ll try not to get inappropriate with my sauce explanations next time 😉

Joys of Fall….

Remember those blanks in the calendar I once professed my love and excitement for?

Well those blanks somehow dwindled…. were too few cherished evenings.  In their place have been the joys of fall.

Joys of fall…. something I don’t normally say.

I mean.. I know what comes after fall in Minnesota. What those tumbling leaves mean. Those fire red leaves, flashing at me to book my beach vacation now!

Fall to me means winter is coming….

But this year something is different. I’m taking in all the fall activities without that grain of salt or nagging feeling of “I know you’re coming snow….”

Like Fall Funday, which friend Kbail plans every year.  This year a tour of breweries and “hop off the light rail spots.”

Like Bang Brewery.

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At Bang Brewery you can apparently find men posing in the door way…. who wouldn’t want to go there 🙂

Joking.

Like all the plaid you can wear required.

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Post Fall Funday, do you know what is required?

Um… Bacon.

Did you know all the things you can do with bacon? Or the types or meals you can add bacon to? (psst even vegan bacon :))

Like this Praline Bacon from Heyday!!

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When fall comes around, I’m over here throwing bacon in and on everything… like salads, pastas and my brussel sprouts. For other ways to use bacon, check out this article

Do you have a favorite fall ingredient?

AND Are you out there enjoying all Fall has to offer? If not, get to it!

Snow is coming…. shhhhh 🙂

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Just Hanging Out

Ever have that nightmare…. where something happens in public.

That nightmare where you toss out your yoga mat in class, and out comes underwear flying onto the floor?

Or that high school nightmare of tampons spilling down the classroom row?

Or you accidentally, somehow split your pants at work?

Well…..

Nightmare became reality for me on Monday.

Picture this:

It is 3pm and you’re walking to grab that necessary afternoon coffee. You’ve met with company big wigs for a charity kickoff event.

You were introduced to the head of your department’s head.

And now… on that caffeine trek downtown…. you feel something hitting your ankle…. What is that….

You look down….

And there it is…

A pair of underwear hanging out of your pants! (yes its yours!) Time and space freezes, your cheeks flush and your breath pauses.

There it was, just hanging out!

THANK GOD FOR BLAZER POCKETS.  You do a quick, “let me brush my pant leg off” move and into the pocket it goes.

Did anyone see, because this is totally real life and NOT a nightmare. I hope this is entertaining to someone…. because here it is, out there for you all to see!

Anyway! You know what is not embarrassing?

THIS burger from IL Foro.

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The only available at lunch, brisket blend, dripping in cheese, perfect amount of salt, heaven in your mouth burger, can only sit at the bar unless you snag a reservation burger.

For real, go, no run here at lunch. Try this burger.

I’ll be back for more menu items in the future 🙂

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Overheard…….

My days walking to work are over. (for now)

The crisp fall air in the morning has me seeking cover in my friendly city bus.

I now take the bus to work. Let me tell you, the first couple of times had me all up in arms. Who knew you actually had to pull the cord  hard enough, it has to make a sound…. Stop requested.

Ten blocks past my stop later, in the rain, I learned my lesson.

I’ve learned my afternoon bus is always late. By five or six minutes.

One time it never even showed up?

However, the stumbling blocks are over and I’m having a love affair with the bus.

Where else can I eavesdrop on my fellow commuter’s supper? Multiple days in a row I was privy to whether or not this guy is going to eat the squirrel in his freezer…. it has become a heated debate between himself and two female fellow riders….

I’ve yet to learn how the squirrel became a resident in his freezer ….. eagerly hoping this detail comes to light on the next ride.

I’m ready for any and all future overheard sessions… Bring on the morning, or afternoon, comedy.

All jokes aside, know where you should be taking the bus to? Kyatchi.  For Ramen Mondays. (no squirrel included)

$13 for ramen and a beer, I’m there!

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Have you been?

If not, lets go! I’ll take the bus 😉