Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Minnesota State Fair

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS.  I MADE IT.  I MADE IT TO THE MINNESOTA STATE FAIR.  So after about ten years of being with Charlie and unsuccessfully timing our visits to Minnesota, we just so happened to be in town so we went and I ate everything.  Well not everything.  Probably only about 1% of what the fair had to offer, but we did our research and the 1% we did have was absolutely outstanding.  Ready?  Are you ready?  Hold on to your corn husks. 

So we started early.  Like 8:30 early and we bee lined for the bacon wrapped turkey leg from Texas Steak Out.  Words can not describe how delicious this was.  Even though we were diligently trying to pace ourselves, we nearly polished this off.  It was first smoked and then wrapped with bacon and grilled and then kept warm on top of a bed of onions.  I can't even handle it.  

The Corn Roast is famous at the Minnesota State Fair.  They roast super sweet, tender corn in the husks, peel it back, dip it (legit DIP IT) in butter and then let you season it with S&P.  It was amazing. Exactly what you'd expect sweet, in season corn to taste like.

So...those of you that are familiar with the fair know that they serve everything you can imagine on a stick.  Like everything.  I can do without the deep fried Oreo on a stick, or the meatloaf dinner on a stick, but there was no denying that Big Fat Bacon's bacon on a stick was meant for me.  It was cooked PERFECTLY.  Thick cut, salty, crispy, but not too crispy...and they give you chocolate to drizzle on it.  Sounds weird but it wassssssnnnn't.  I die.  For bacon.  I die for bacon a stick.

So these Australian potatoes were not part of the plan.  But we couldn't help ourselves.  They looked so crazy good and different.  They are sliced potatoes, battered and deep fried and topped with cheese or ranch sauce (or both plus bacon if you're me and Charlie).  We also added some dark malt vinegar that was life changing.  I think the camera lens is cloudy from my greasy little finger prints. 

So you guys know that I like sweets but they have to be really over the top crazy special for me to have more than a couple of bites.  Let me put it this way.  I was mowing this - Minneaple Pie's deep fried pumpkin pie with cinnamon ice cream.  This wasn't just good because it was deep fried.  The crust was super duper flaky and the pumpkin filling was sweet but not too sweet and the ICE CREAM. I can't.  If I didn't pack my suitcase to the absolute MAX I would have smuggled three of these home with me.

Yawn. Cheese curds.  Actually...I shouldn't say yawn.  In light of all of the other fantastic and unique food we had, the Minnesota State Fair staple - battered dipped and deep fried cheese curds - were amazing.  I've just had them before.

Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies were everything I dreamed of and more.  They were lovingly and magically made and piled high for us to enjoy.  Ok - so funny story.  We were nearing the end of our food tour and I couldn't bare to throw these out but I literally could not eat another bite.  Well not literally because I ordered a Dole Whip after (see below).  Anyway, we wrapped several napkins around the top and then fashioned them with a hair elastic to seal the cookies in the cone.  My hair looked INSANE but I didn't care.

Ah, Dole Whip.  How I love thee.  They ran out of the vanilla swirl, so I was left with just the pineapple portion but I just had to have it.  The only other place I have EVER seen Dole Whip is at Disney next to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. So I had to.  I just had to.

This is a picture of me after the food tour.

Just kidding.  I didn't take a nap.  We visited the animal barns.  The deep enjoyment I got from this sheep is just embarrassing.  I keep looking at this picture and just cracking up.  I mean OBVIOUSLY sheep wear blankets to keep them clean. 

Here I am thoroughly enjoying my first fair visit.  So little time so many places to visit and try.  I'll be back, fair - I'll be back!

Stay hungry! 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Glass Baby Bottle Roundup & Reviews

After 16 months in the game, I feel safe calling myself an expert in glass baby bottles.  I knew right from the start that I wanted to go glass with Will's bottles to avoid unsavory leaching into his earliest meals.  There are a few more glass bottles on the market now than when we started this journey (ones I'll have to try out next time around!) but here's my rundown on the three that we tried.

First up are Lifefactory bottles, which come with silicone sleeves in fun colors.  At $14.99 for the smaller bottles, they're definitely in the "spendy" camp but I knew they'd be sturdy from dropping my adult-sized Lifefactory water bottle on concrete more than once.

I like the way they look (we've received many compliments on them) but I really like how they've stood up to tons of use.  First they withstood sleepy, clumsy new parents who were perpetually knocking things over and they are still in use with a toddler who likes throwing everything.  Speaking of "still in use", you can see in the photo below that Lifefactory sells tops to turn their bottles into sippy cups once the traditional bottle days are over.  These still get heavy daily use and will still be in good shape when we have another baby down the road.

So although these next bottles don't turn into sippy cups like the Lifefactory ones, these were actually my favorite during the bottle stage of Will's life.  The Phillips AVENT glass bottles have a wide neck which made them super easy to clean and super easy to pour pumped milk into without splashing/wasting any.  These two reasons alone are enough to earn a new mom's love, but I should mention that they were also super sturdy, even without a sleeve (though I see that you can buy those online).  Will has tossed these onto the sidewalk from his stroller before and though I gasped and expected breakage while it happened, they were fine.  They were also wider than the other bottles and easy for Will's little hands to grip once he began feeding himself.  Once you figure out how to get the top on (it needs to be done just so), these are a solid glass bottle choice and one I'd definitely recommend.

The third type of glass bottles we used were Dr. Brown's.  I know other people love these (4.5 stars on Amazon), but I didn't like them at all.  All of the hardware that comes with the bottles (see below) is supposed to help with gas and spit-up.  We didn't notice any remarkable difference (though to be fair, Will wasn't very fussy to begin with) and I hated cleaning all of the parts.  My biggest problem with them, however, was that the neck of two out of four bottles chipped.  Pretty much the biggest problem you can have with a glass baby bottle.  I know that Will didn't get any glass, but I was mad that I had to throw away two full bottles of pumped milk and 50% faulty bottles were enough to have them taken out of our rotation (I carefully used the remaining non-chipped ones for milk storage).

Any experience with glass bottles?  Anything I missed?  This is what worked (& didn't work) for us over the last year but I'd love to hear other suggestions!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Easy Broccoli Bacon Salad

I've been meaning to make an easy broccoli salad for the blog for awhile now.  I remember when I first had it.  It was at a get together at my in law's place (Mom 2 and Dad 2) and Charlie's aunt Chris brought a broccoli salad over that I simply couldn't stop eating.  I had never seen or heard of it before - I don't think New Englanders know about this delish side summer dish so boom.  Here you go. 

This salad is so good!  I really can't express that enough.  It's also surprisingly easy to make.  My kind of recipe.   It has everything you want - a tangy light dressing, smokey bacon, crunch from the broccoli, and then this unexpected tang from the dried cherries.  Not convinced?  There's bacon in it. Oh, I already said that. 

So you mix the dressing together, slice up the red onions, and crisp and crumble the bacon and then mix everything together.  It get's better the longer it sits - you can make it up to 12 hours before.  I would make it at least 2 hours, however, before serving.  It needs some time to mellow fellow.

Ohhh.  Boy.  Charlie was gone this weekend so guess who ATE THE ENTIRE THING.  I have no idea what's going to happen to my stomach later but IT DON'T MATTA.  It was delicious.

Here's the recipe guyyyzzzz.  Double it for a crowd.  This only makes about 4 servings. 

3 Cups of Fresh Broccoli Florets 
1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise 
1/2 Cup of Non Fat Plain Greek Yogurt (you can use sour cream as well)
3 Tbs of Apple Cider Vinegar 
5 Slices of Bacon Crisped and Crumbled (reserve 1 piece to top before serving)
1/8 Cup of Thinly Sliced Red Onion 
1/4 Cup of Dried Cherries 

Mix together the mayonnaise, yogurt, and vinegar for the dressing.  Combine the crisped bacon, thinly sliced red onions, broccoli, cherries and dressing.  Reserve a little of the bacon (if you can) to top the salad before serving.  

Stay hungry! 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chicago's Windy City Smokeout

Chicago is the best city in the world.  There is always something awesome going on - especially as it relates to food.  Summer is a BLAST in Chicago - and it makes me cringe to think we're already deep into July.  But WHATEVER.  At least I'll have these pics from Chicago's Windy City Smokeout to get me through the subzero temps of winter. 

So you guys ever watch BBQ Pit Masters?  If so, you know exactly who the below BBQ legend is.  Mr Myron Mixon ladies and gentlemen.  We knew his BBQ was going to be at the Windy City Smokeout but not him!  We were very excited to "meat" him and is legendary food.  Sorry.  Bad joke. 

He was so nice and lovely and was bee bopping all over the festival.  What a guy. 

Here is his super famous, unbelievable whole hog.  It was the texture of pulled pork but like 500 times more flavorful.  HOLY COW PIG this was delicious (sorry Caitlin).

We also had smoked wings.  I can't remember if we got these from the Dinosaur BBQ stand or from Myron (food blogger fail).  But these were ridic.

I have no idea where these came from or who bought these because it was late in the day and I was on my 15th Jack Daniels and tea, but they were OUTSTANDING.  Waffle fries topped with pulled pork, pickled jalapenos, cheddar cheese sauce, and BBQ sauce.  I'm still working these bad boys off.

This was the best brisket we had all day.  It was from Dinosaur BBQ and was topped with BBQ sauce and pickled onions and jalapenos.  Check out the smoke ring and the bark.  It basically melted in our mouths.  YUM.

Pic of said brisket bark.  I would seriously give anything to have a bite of that right now.

 This was legit - jalapeno cheddar smoked sausage from Smoque BBQ.  I mean.  WHAT.

Ribs.  Obvi there would be ribs.  There were from Pappy's.  They were amazing.  Fall of the bone tender with a TON of seasoning that formed this chewy flavorful crunch.  Hello.

This was my favorite.  I went back for seconds.  And then I went back for seconds again. Thirds? Fourths?  I lost count.  This was the smoked sausage from Salt Lick...and their BBQ sauce which could seriously make you cry.  I did a big no no and would bring meat from other stands and slather it with Salt Lick's sauce.  I think they were slightly annoyed but who can blame me?

This is our kind of happiness.  Food.  Sun. Whiskey.  Beer.  And friends.  Very good friends.

Stay hungry!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lately on the Homey-front

Oh hay!  I'm back from a blogging break longer than any one I've taken in the past.  The truth is, I didn't have much going on that's blog-worthy.  Here's what's new:

1) I've started watching The Bachelorette.  How I made it all the way through my twenties without watching any of the series is beyond me.  I started watching because Howard Stern wouldn't stop talking about it and my only regret is not starting sooner.

2) My garden is growing like crazy.  Our herb garden always does pretty well (installed this summer with the same setup as usual) but our veggie garden is doing well this year, too.  Peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes galore.  We're getting to the point in the summer where we're about to be overwhelmed with delicious, fresh produce.

3) After years of regular-dress territory, I've decided that I can maybe pull off a maxi dress.  Perfect for looking fancy when I'm really not and for sitting on the ground when playing with Will.

4) ...and speaking of Will the Baby, we have a walker!  For the last few months he has been getting steadier and steadier on his feet and I feel like I spend most of every day chasing him around the house. He's an expert at de-childproofing (maybe we're just awful at childproofing?) and that's really what's been keeping me busy.

The picture above reminds me that I've wanted to paint our front door a bright, punchy color (and have for a while).  It also makes me realize that I probably won't be doing it for a while.  Naptimes, when most bloggers seem to complete their projects, are usually spent trying to control house chaos or take a nap myself.  How long does the "sleep while the baby sleeps" rule apply?  4th grade?  College acceptance?

I'm off to catch up on Andi's escapades (I missed last night) but I'll leave you with some pictures of our garden to pizza adventure from the other night...

...and the promise to be back soon with some more posts and photos!  Thanks for hanging in there (stay hungry!  stay homey!).

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jalapeno Popper Bacon Dip

Jalapeno poppers are one of my moms favorites.  And one of my favorites.  And one of Charlie's favorites.  And well, every one's' favorites. I was in charge of dips this 4th of July so I decided to turn this oh so popular appetizer into a dip-able masterpiece.  AND OH WAS IT.  I mean, my taste buds were doing straight up karate chops. 

Very rarely do I make something that I can't stop eating.  I usually enjoy what I make - but I think that's just a cooks curse - you're always critiquing your own recipes and wondering how you can make it better next time.  NOT THIS...OMG not this. It was so freaking delicious.  I think I ate half the pan.  I just hung around it like a little hover craft, not so discretely licking my fingers and anything else that accidentally (ahem) ran into the dip. 

Perfect combo of spicy, bacony, cheesy, creamy, crunchy, and soul satisfy...y.  I'm sorry you're reading this.

I sort of wung the recipe.  I was talking to my mom and tasting as I went along, but I pretty much remember the recipe.  I started with crisping up 12 pieces of microwave ready bacon (genius for dips when you don't want to fuss with bacon grease), placed the warm bacon on the cream cheese to soften it up, and then added chopped green onions and jalapeno peppers. 

I then added some mayonnaise (don't you dare use miracle whip or I'll hunt you down) and some sour cream.

I then added some garlic powder and then some colby jack cheese.  Because you obviously need cheese.

Then, I added it to a pie dish/dip dish...

...and then I did something brilliant.  I melted some butter and then added some panko bread crumbs.  After incorporating the crumbs into the butter, I sprinkled them all over the top.  I actually made this two days ahead of time...

...and after baking in a 400 degree oven for about 20=30 minutes, I got THIS.  Creamy crunchy GOODNESSSSS.


MMM.  MMM MMM MMM.  Say what now?  MMMMMMMMM.

Here's the recipe! 

1 Block of Good Cream Cheese (Philly please) 
4 Packages of Microwave Ready Bacon, Crumbled (12 slices total) 
4 Green Onions, Chopped 
3 Jalapenos, Diced (remove seeds if you don't want it too spicy) 
1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise 
1/2 Cup of Sour Cream 
1 Cup of Colby Jack Cheese
1/2 Tsp of Garlic Powder 
1/2 Cup of Panko Breadcrumbs 
3 Tbs of Butter 

Leave cream cheese out until it reaches room temp to soften up.  Crisp up microwave ready bacon and crumble.  While still warm, add to top of cream cheese.  Add jalapenos, green onions, garlic powder, mayo, sour cream and colby jack cheese.  Taste and adjust as needed.Mix and spread into baking dish. Melt the butter and add the panko breadcrumbs and then sprinkle on top.  Let dip chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, but can chill for up to 2 days.  Bake at 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until breadcrumbs are a rich golden brown.  If needed, you can turn your broiler on at the end if they need an extra toasting. Serve with crackers, thinly sliced toasted baguette, carrots, frisbees, or shovels. 

Stay hungry! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Picnic Ideas

We are headed to an outdoor concert this weekend and the venue is famous for elaborate outdoor picnics. Can't even wait.  It's going to be like a fancy shmancy tailgate which just has my name all over it.  Picnics are tricky.  You have to pack things that will travel well, that will do well at room temp for awhile (read: won't kill your guests), and is conducive to longs spans of wine drinking.  I went deep into the Hardly Housewives archives and found the following ideas.  YUM. 

1. Avocado Black Bean Salsa.  This is money.  You know why?  It's totally fine at room temp and it actually gets better the longer it sits since it continues to meld and marinate.  The only problem?  It won't even last that long. 

3.  Cucumber and Salami Tea Sandwiches.  These are cute and dainty.  Not the best choice for room temp, so you would want to keep these cool and then eat them early on in the picnic.  BUT AREN'T THEY SO CUTE?  So cute. 

4. Roasted Rosemary Marcona Almonds.  These are the bomb.  And so easy to make and just fancy enough to make your picnic seem all the more special.  Serve these next to some cheese and meat and you'll have a beautiful spread. 

5. Zero Guilt Cookie Dough Dip.  OMG.  A dessert that tastes like cookie dough, that you can feel good about, AND it'll be totally fine at room temp?  HELLO.  Picnic perfection right here.  

6.  Asparagus Puff Pastry.  This looks divine (haven't tried Caitlin's recipe yet!) and think it would be lovely for a fancy little spread.  

7.  Parmesan Panko Breaded Chicken Fingers. Fried chicken is a picnic must. It's awesome at room temp, just make sure it doesn't sit out for too long, especially in the sun.  I like the idea of doing chicken fingers because eating off the bone is extra messy...especially if you aren't near a sink. 

...speaking of chicken...

8.  Buffalo Chicken Crostini. Not good at room temp?  I challenge!  I've had these at room temp and they are delish. AND since you cook them with the cheese, they stay together and don't fall apart during transport.  Boom shaka laka. 

Ok that's all I got.  I'll be sure to take some pics and share whatever it is I throw together this weekend. 

Stay hungry!