Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Hot Dog Halloween

Because nothing is cuter than cats dressed like dogs.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween snacking

Spend anytime in the pumpkin patch lately? Halloween is upon us and we are loaded up with treats for every Elsa, Spiderman, witch, and Ninja Turtle in town.

Gone are the days when we tripped along the sidewalk in homemade masks that were impossible to see out of, juggling our treat bags as well as a little orange UNICEF box that we were determined to fill with nickles and dimes. Now the neighborhood kids ask for donations to the food shelf, so I've got cans of soup and a few boxes of cereal stashed next to the candy bowl.

Halloween dinner? That's easy. Calzone mummies, Maple Curry Squash Soup, and cheese sandwiches are a perfect feast for goblins both big and small.

Maple Curry Squash Soup
Serves 2 to 4

1 small pumpkin squash, halved and baked until soft in 375 degree oven (about 40 minutes)
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
14 ounce can coconut milk
2 tablespoon each maple syrup and peanut butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil 

Saute squash, onion, pepper, and zucchini in olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add curry, turmeric, and cayenne and cook while stirring an additional 2 minutes. Add stock, coconut milk, maple, and PB and stir until well combined and hot. Season with salt and pepper.
Garnish with roasted squash seeds and nuts, and crumbled bacon.

                              Morotbröd (Carrot Bread)

Make white cheddar sandwiches with my new favorite bread recipe which can be found at Called to the Table.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Purring with satisfaction

October is my favorite month. Somewhere beneath the Halloween hubbub whispers the promise of holidays and snowpeople. From goblins and witch hats to menorahs and Christmas trees, the celebrations are upon us. October is to the holidays what Thursday is to the weekend: the start of something great.

The cats seem to sense my excitement. Give them a warm autumn afternoon and they run to their outdoor enclosure like children at recess. They sniff at the fallen leaves, then play tag and jump into crunchy piles. Orson catches his breath with frequent catnip breaks while Olive and Oskar line the fence to watch our neighbors raking. The cats roll contentedly in the waning rays of sunshine and I swear I can hear a chorus of purring.

Whether it is playing in the leaves or writing a decent story, there is a contented exhaustion that comes from working hard at something you love. October brought me a heavy dose of that feeling, and I can tell you that exhaustion that comes from satisfaction is a better high than anything John Denver ever sang about.

It began with a lecture and cooking classes to kickoff the American Swedish Institute's Nordic Table Food Programming. I spoke about how to bring a New Nordic philosophy into Midwestern kitchens. We are continuing that conversation in cooking classes where this past weekend we made Swedish tacos with pulled pork, rye flatbread, and quick-pickled slaw. Last week I also spoke to a group of food writers, scientists, and chefs about New Nordic cuisine. They are a uniquely supportive group of women who welcomed me and were interested in what I had to say. Afterwards I told T, "I think I've found my people."

Whenever I am given opportunities to do the work I love, I worry how long it will last. There is a feast or famine flow to freelance work. This time around I am trying to just be content in my exhaustion and live in the moment. For now, everyone our house is purring with satisfaction. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Alienation in Minneapolis

the state or experience of being isolated from a group or an activity to which one should belong or in which one should be involved. loss or lack of sympathy; estrangement.
(in Marxist theory) a condition of workers in a capitalist economy, resulting from a lack of identity with the products of their labor and a sense of being controlled or exploited.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A night in Edina and dreams of yakisoba

Our best food memories serve more than just the taste of a meal. They encompass place and time. For twenty-five years, more than half my lifetime, I've been searching for authentic yakisoba in Minnesota. I've been looking for a yakisoba that can bring me back to my youth and to the old Japanese man who fried noodles at his cart in the street. When I need comfort, I think of that vendor and his good soba.

I know I can ever relive that experience or those flavors... but that hasn't stopped me from trying. I've grazed my way through dozens of Twin Cities Japanese restaurants and enjoyed many delicious noodle dishes. Of course, none have had the grilled street food flavor of the yakisoba I ate on the outskirts of Tokyo.

It began with the smell. Like a pig searching for truffles I sniffed my way through our neighborhood. The aroma became a place where sesame oil met hot griddle, where strings of noodles were kissed by spicy threads of pickled ginger. In Tokyo yakisoba vendors were as common as hotdog stands in New York City. Yakisoba was the food of the people hustling through the streets with no time for a proper sit down meal.

The old man who ran the yakisoba stand near our house didn't speak English, and I only spoke enough Japanese to elicit a finger-pointing toward the closest subway station, but he knew I loved the ginger and always gave me extra. I could watch him for hours, frying noodles over the long hot griddle. He added bits of vegetables and pork and finished the fried soba with a flourish of sauce. With nimble skill he'd heap a generous portion on to a cardboard plate using chopsticks and a spatula, then hand the plate to outstretched hands. On a cold day, standing near the grill was a way to keep warm while you waited for you noodles.

The Edina location of Cooks of Crocus Hill, a local kitchen store and cooking school, recently hosted a Japanese Street Food class, and I felt like my search for authentic yakisoba in Minnesota was at long last over. We eager students (sort of) accomplished the correct folds on our gyoza, learned the secrets of a perfect takitori skewer and sauce, and made a delicious yakisoba. The noodles weren't fried outdoors over an open flame (although we did fry them over the flames of a good gas range), and there weren't the fine ribbons of ginger that I crave whenever their is a promise of Japanese food. In the end our yakisoba didn't completely end my longing for the dish I still dream about.

But oh, what a meal.

Am I ready to return to Tokyo and receive soba training from a master so that I can open my own yakisoba cart in the the Twin Cities? (Yes! Perhaps just a stand in my own backyard...) From the streets of Japan to a night in Edina, these dreams of yakisoba guide me.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Land of the lost lip balms

Every year at the Minnesota State Fair the good folks from the StarTribune give away funny flavored lip balms. They've had bacon balm (tasted like Mrs. Butterworth syrup), brat balm (tasted like dill mustard), and buttered corn balm (simply delicious!).

This year I asked one of the balm distributors how many tubes they order each year and was told, "That is classified information."

Not satisfied with her answer, I pressed further, "So, you don't actually know the number, do you?"

My question only served to annoy lip balm lady. "I do know."

Summarily dismissed, I walked away with a tube of cut grass balm (tasted like a warm spring breeze) in my fanny pack and a curious head full of questions.

Where do these mysterious balms come from? Who thinks up these flavors? How many more flavors can they possibly create? How do I collect every odd flavor ever to fill a plastic cylinder?

A weekend visit to our handy Ax-Man Surplus store fulfilled my wildest heavenly lip balm fantasies. For $1.95 each I could fill a dozen fanny packs with flavors like mac and cheese, chocolate milkshake, and popcorn.

I feel like the secrets of the weirdly flavored lip balm world are suddenly open to me.

At Called to the Table today another secret is revealed: where did the lobster egg rolls stashed in my high school friend Sarah's freezer come from? Hmm... lobster egg roll lip balm, anyone?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Class of '85: pass me the Cheez Balls

     image from: 

Collide Theatrical’s “Class of ‘85” is midway through its two week spot at the Southern Theater. We scooped up tickets because, as self-appointed Gen X media monitors, we have a duty to support all plays, movies, and TV shows about the 1980s. There was another draw for our visit to the historic theater on Minneapolis’s West Bank as a high school buddy of mine is the lead female vocalist. There is a surreal sort of comfort watching your high school friend from the 80s perform in a play about high school in the 80s thirty years after the original spectacle.

As “Class of ‘85” opens we are introduced to a mishmash of clichéd stereotypes: Princess, Cheerleader, Geek, Outcast, Jock, Rebel, Nerd, and Drama Queen. The angst filled teens jeté and pirouette between tales of unrequited love and misunderstood youth. Music meanders from wild-with-abandon hair rock to Whitney Houston pop slowed into sweet ballads, while classroom dramas lead to the eve of prom when the group of students is thrown together a la “The Breakfast Club.”

Dance performances are a jazz-fueled fusion of ballet and modern with some hip-hop and tap thrown in for good measure. Individual dancers flawlessly capture the aforementioned unrequited love, misunderstood youth, and general angst. High-energy ensemble routines tell the often manic-depressive stories that come with learning to navigate love and friendships, and a “Footloose” inspired finale provides the happy ending we all deserved.

While “Class of ’85” is billed as a dance production, music shares a starring role on the marquee. Deb Brown and Michael Hannah are backed by a band that packs in everything from synthesizers and organs to the poppy white hip-hop beat of New Kids on the Block.

We cheered the hokey plot, applauded the gloom, and sang along to remixes of “Tainted Love” and “Fame.” All of the misery and joy that we felt in adolescence came to life. I think John Hughes would approve.

Ticket bearers take note: beer and wine are complimentary. You can also reminisce with a can of saccharin and TaB for only $1. The only refreshments missing were a box of frozen Jell-O Pudding Pops and a canister of Cheez Balls.