Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Luke's Care Package

I had promised my youngest brother Luke a birthday present once he arrived at school. Well, it took me a couple weeks to ask for his address and then we had meat fest, so his care package got put on hold. After all the salsa making last weekend I figured it was about time I got to making his gift. Today I sent him Pumpkin Blondes, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Trail Mix, Homemade Granola and a jar of Spicy Salsa. He really enjoyed it so maybe I will to try to send him something every once in a while.


Homemade Granola

2 cups Rolled Oats [not the instant kind]
1 cup of sliced almonds
1/4 cup of sesame seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup of wheat germ AND/OR flax seed
scant 1/4 cup of cooking oil
1/2 cup of honey
vanilla extract to taste

1/2 cup of raisins
1/2 cup of other dried fruit

Mix oats, all nuts, vanilla and grains into a large bowl. Then comes the ’scant’ part of the oil: measure the oil then swirl it around the sides of the scoop before pouring it out. Now measure your honey in the same scoop and it will pop right out.

Then mix it all around a little bit more. Get out your baking pan and pop it into the oven set at 300 degrees. You are going to bake it in 10 minute intervals and will stir in between to avoid burning your oats. The total time is 30 mintues.

When it’s finished baking, pull it out and mix in the dried fruit.

Source: Julia

Pumpkin Blondes

Pumpkin Blondies

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups granulated sugar (or brown sugar)
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
½ cup chopped, toasted nuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with foil.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Stir together and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined. Mix in the pumpkin puree. With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated. Fold in the white chocolate and butterscotch chips (and nuts, if using) with a rubber spatula.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake until the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs, about 35-40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before cutting.

To serve, lift the cake from the pan using the foil and transfer to a cutting board. Peel off the foil and using a sharp knife, cut into 24 squares.

Source: Annie's Eats

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Canning Salsa

Patrick was golfing with friends today, so I decided to spend the day canning salsa. I went to the farmer's market with the intention of only buying the ingredients for salsa and I was doing well, until I saw a huge bucket of tomatoes for only $6. I caved and bought them knowing that since Patrick was golfing I would have time to can the tomatoes as well. Well, its a good thing this was my last stop at the market as I struggled to carry them back to my car without dropping them.

Salsa Veggies

Salsa Veggies 2

Pico de Gallo

Zesty Salsa
Makes 7-8 pints

10 cups roughly chopped tomatoes
5 cups chopped and seeded bell peppers
5 cups chopped onions
2 1/2 cups hot peppers, chopped, seeded
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

Combine all ingredients except tomato paste in large sauce pot.

Simmer until desired thickness.

Stir in tomato paste.

Ladle hot salsa into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head-space.

Process 15 minutes in a hot water bath.

Note: Use more hot peppers for a very hot salsa or less for mild. I used the seeds in one of my batches and it was pretty spicy, the other batch I didn't put any seeds in and it was much milder.
Source: RecipeZaar

Finished Product

And for your entertainment, my gigantic bag of tomatoes from the farmer's market.

Bag O Tomatoes

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tortilla & Black Bean Pie

I have made this before we started the blog and tonight I was looking for a quick easy supper, so I decided to make this Tortilla & Black Bean Pie.

Tortilla & Black Bean Pie

Tortilla & Black Bean Pie


4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno chile, minced (remove seeds and ribs for less heat)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
12 ounces beer, or 1 1/2 cups water
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn
4 scallions, thinly sliced, plus more for garnish
2 1/2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream and salsa, for serving


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a paring knife, trim tortillas to fit a 9-inch springform pan, using the bottom of the pan as a guide. Set aside.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add beans and beer to skillet, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until liquid has almost evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in corn and scallions, and remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Fit a trimmed tortilla in bottom of springform pan; layer with 1/4 of the beans and 1/2 cup cheese. Repeat three times, using 1 cup cheese on top layer. Bake until hot and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Unmold pie; sprinkle with scallions. To serve, slice into wedges and serve with sour cream and salsa.

Source: Savory Spicy Sweet

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

CSA Share Week #15

After the party we were in need of vegetables again, so it was good to fill up the fridge again this week. I have a few plans with these veggies, including Eggplant Parmesan & maybe a Risotto with Mustard Greens. Everything, but the greens should last a while so we should be set until our next box.

This week’s box contains: Spinach, Eggplant, Green Mustard, Daikon, Winter Squash, Potatoes, Onions, Sweet Peppers, Green Top Beets.

CSA Week 15
From left to right, top to bottom: Spinach, Beets & Sweet Red Pepper

Mustard Greens

Monday, September 21, 2009

Our Birthdays & Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake

Patrick & I were born only 5 days apart, my birthday is the 15th and Patrick's is on the 20th. This year on my birthday I made this awesome Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake to bring to work and then later that night I went to my cousin Jolene's to have dinner with her and my aunt Rosie and another one of my cousin's Frannie. It was nice to see Jolene's new place and catch up.

On Saturday, we celebrated both our birthday by going to dinner at Cowboy Jack's a new restaurant near our house. We have talked about going there a few times, but we rarely eat out, so we thought this would be a good opportunity. It was such a beautiful night out and the restaurant is just across Rockford Rd., so we walked there.

Lemon Blueberry Coffee Cake

Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour (about 13 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
grated zest & juice of one lemon, divided
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (16-ounce) container reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cake, grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and dust it with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, butter, and rind in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition (about 4 minutes total). Beat in vanilla, lemon juice, sour cream and buttermilk. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture; beat at medium speed just until combined. Toss blueberries in reserved dry ingredients; gently fold into the batter. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar (optional).

Source: The Kitchen Sink

Patrick's B-Day Present

On Sunday, Patrick got to wear his brand new Packer jersey. Since Brett Favre is now a Viking, Packer fans are no longer satisfied with their old Packer gear and neither is Patrick, so he got a new jersey for his birthday. We also went to church and I had my first day as a helper in the K-3 Children's Church. It went fast, but boy it takes a lot to keep those kids focused for more than a couple minutes.

For Patrick's birthday dinner, I made potstickers from scratch and fried rice, hopefully I will get to posting that soon.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Meat Fest - Fish & Chips Edition

Last year was the year that Patrick discovered Von Hansen's Meat Market and we had a meat fest celebrating it. This year after we went halibut fishing in Alaska we decided to share some of our catch with our friends and have a Meat Fest - Fish & Chips Edition. Everyone had a great time, we will definitely have to make it a yearly fest, as long as people continue to help with the clean up efforts.

Here are the fried fish, caprese salad with tomatoes & basil from our garden, and a vegetable tray featuring our CSA vegetables and some peppers & tomatoes from our garden.

Fish & Chips

The food: beef & cheese sticks, tomato salad, chips & salsa, a vegetable tray & caprese salad. And then the bar, our little utility cart worked out well for that. This year was much less chaotic in respect to the food, but the party was a little more interesting.

Food & Alcohol

Patrick bought some spotlights for the backyard so people could play games even after it was dark. They worked pretty well, and Kasie, Shanna & I took advantage by doing some cartwheels down there.

Cartwheels & More

Hanging Out

Friday, September 11, 2009

CSA Share Week #13

We got another box this week and we planned on using most of the vegetables for our Fish & Chips party we were having on Saturday. It ended up working out really well. We used everything except the watermelon for the party.

This week’s box contains: Spinach, Carrots, Turnips, Broccoli, Peppers, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Watermelon, and Garlic.

From left to right, top to bottom: spinach, broccoli, garlic & tomatoes.

Spinach, Broccoli, Garlic & Tomatoes

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Labor Day Weekend

Usually for Labor Day weekend, we spend it with my dad's family. They have been going to a resort over Labor Day weekend at least since my parents were dating, maybe even before that. This year nothing was planned until just weeks before, but Patrick and I still decided we wanted to go. We went to the same place we went two years ago, the Bridges Bay Resort in Okoboji, Iowa. You wouldn't think there is anything too cool in Iowa, but this place is really nice and Okoboji is actually a pretty fun place to be in the summer.

Patrick and I were there all day Saturday and then we left early Sunday morning for Patrick's uncle's wedding in La Crosse. Saturday was really nice, the temperature was in the 80s and we spent most of the day playing in water park and then in the outdoor pool with a swim up bar. Then later that night we went to the waterside bar/restaurant right outside the hotel. It was a really relaxing way to spend the day.

We left early Sunday for the wedding. We got to La Crosse with enough time to check into the hotel, which was just down the street from the wedding. Patrick's uncle Buz was getting married for the first time and he is 50 years old. The ceremony was really nice and it was great to see how happy they both were. They had a great reception afterward at Piggy's a very nice restaurant in La Crosse.

Here are few pictures from the wedding. Buz & Laurie, the perfect day for an outdoor ceremony and us at dinner.

Buz & Laurie's Wedding

The next morning we took advantage of being able to explore La Crosse since we don't go back that often. When we were in college we loved that we could walk to almost anything and that morning we took the opportunity to walk around downtown and campus.

Here are a couple pictures from by our hotel, the Radison downtown. I used Priceline and got a pretty good deal the hotel.

La Crosse

And although we didn't get a riverview room, the view of downtown isn't too bad. It makes me want to live that carefree life again, where are biggest worries was when we were going to go rollerblading and eat ice cream at the Pearl.

View From Radisson

Next to Riverside Park there is a new Friendship Garden, here are some of the highlights.

Riverside International Friendship Gardens

We went to visit Patrick's little sister Mariah in between Riverside Park and UW-L. They have a 7 month old beagle named Blue and he is super cute, it made me even want a dog and I don't even like dogs that much. I wish I would have brought my camera with, next time we go I will have to get some pictures.

After Patrick's dad's house, we went to campus to check out what was new. Since we left they have built a new residence hall, built a new stadium and now they took down a residence hall and administration building to make room for a new academic building. Here is what is left of what was Trowbridge, the all girls dorm, and Wilder Hall, the former home of Career Services & Res Life.


We hadn't been there since the new stadium was built, so we went and checked that out. It was pretty cool, it would be even cooler if anyone really cared about the football team. I am pretty sure I only went to a couple games and the only thing I remember was how annoying the marching band was.

New Stadium

New Stadium 2

And here is our sign we donated to UW-L for the 100th anniversary. Our sign hangs on 4th Street and King Street. Too bad they spelled my name Sars, instead of Sara. Here is the photoshoped version. And there is Main Hall, this is where Patrick and I met. We worked there together for three years before we graduated and moved to Minneapolis.

Banner & Main Hall

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

On Sunday, Patrick was study for his CPA exam and I decided that we needed to make this lasagna when I saw it earlier in the week. It was a great use for a lot of our CSA vegetables including the zucchini, summer squash and the spinach. We also used the fresh tomatoes that I canned on Saturday for the sauce. The lasagna was really good and was perfect for a cool August night.


Lasagna Piece

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

1 medium onion
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon italian herb seasoning
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes (optional suggestion, use one can of fire roasted tomatoes)

1 15 oz container part skim ricotta cheese
1 egg beaten1
10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (I used fresh spinach from our CSA)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups sliced mushrooms
salt & pepper as much or little as you like

Additional Ingredients
3-4 zucchinis and squash, sliced
additional chile flakes
italian herb seasoning (oregano, rosemary, thyme, etc)
fresh mozzarella, sliced (5 oz "ball")
lasagna noodles of choice (whether it be homemade, fresh, the non-boil kind, or the kind you boil)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Prepare tomato sauce. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion & garlic. As those begin to soften, add chile flakes and italian seasoning. Cook 3-4 minutes, add the cans of tomatoes. Simmer and puree, or just roughly break up with a wooden spoon.

While the tomato sauce is simmering, prepare the roasted vegetables. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange the vegetables on a cookie sheet sprayed with olive oil nonstick spray, in an even layer. Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, chili flakes, dried herbs seasoning, and roast for 25-30 minutes until done.

Prepare the filling. Beat the eggs, add in ricotta, spinach, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, mushrooms, salt and pepper, and combine well.

Prepare the noodles if necessary. An easy way is to boil them in a large skillet, about 4-5 at a time.

Layer ingredients in a 9x13 pan in the following order: sauce, pasta, filling, veggies, cheese, until you reach the top of the pan. Layer with remaining noodles, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese. Bake at 425° for 35 to 45, until top is brown and bubbly. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes before serving.

Alternatively, you can wrap tightly with foil, and then plastic wrap, and freeze. To reheat, thaw in refrigerator, then place in oven, and turn oven on to 425° for 45 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly. Let rest 20 minutes before serving.

Source: Erin's Food Files

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ben & Betsy's Wedding

On Saturday afternoon, Patrick and I headed to North Branch for my cousin Ben's wedding reception. Ben & Betsy were married in Ireland a few weeks ago, so on Saturday they had a ceremony and reception at her parent's house. It was good to see some of my mom's siblings that we don't see that often.

Ben's sister Katie had a baby girl Ella in April and Ben & Betsy had a baby boy Parker in May, so they were the flower girl & the ring bearer. They were pretty cute during the ceremony. Parker was slient, but Ella was just chatting away.

The Babies at the Wedding

Here are Ben & Betsy doing a unity sand ceremony, which is similar to the unity candle.

Ben & Betsy's Wedding

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Canning Tomatoes

Our tomatoes are still coming in pretty steadily, but we haven't had enough at a time to preserve any. On Saturday morning I decided to go to the New Hope Farmer's Market which is only 4 miles from our house, for some tomatoes. I am glad I did, I have never been to there before and it was just the right size to have a variety of produce, but not the fluff they have at the Minneapolis market. I ended up getting a huge plastic grocery bag full of tomatoes for eight dollars, not too bad.

To can the tomatoes, I just removed the skins from the tomatoes, quartered them and then added lemon juice and salt to the jars before I put them in a water bath for 45 minutes. Simply Canning was a good information source for my first time doing this. I used these tomatoes in our lasagna on Sunday, stay tuned for the recipe.

Canning Tomatoes 2

Canning Tomatoes