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Archive for January, 2011

Before I go off into my same old cynical post I wanted to tell everyone reading this to comment below!!!  I have no clue who is reading my blog, what people think about it and I would love to get some feedback or thoughts on my posts!

Now back to the story.

While on an unsuccessful trip to purchase some 2011 St. Paul Firefighter calendars at Borders I found something that could be even yummier (which kind of matters on who you’re asking).

Pretty sure I never see these guys at trade shows...

After finding out that the eye candy calendars were “sold out” I sulked over to the Seattle’s Best, which is a coffee shop that is inside most Border book store locations and ordered myself a Caramel Apple Spice.  I thought that $4 sounded a little steep for a cup of apple cider.  Turns out I would have paid $8 after taking a sip!  Oh.My.Tasty!   

Opps, wrong apple!

Close your eyes (after you read this) and think picture this: You’re at your grandma’s house and she lives on a cute little farm.  It’s 3:00 and she announces that it’s “time for a snack sweetie”.  She then brings out a pan of freshly baked caramel apple pie.  But she doesn’t stop there…Grandma then announces that she has fresh whipped cream to go on top!  You take your first bite and melt away and somehow unicorns and cute little smurfs magically appear singing your favorite Disney song.

Here's your cider in a cute little mug you freaking brat

That is what drinking the Seattle’s Best Carmel Apple Spice is like. 

After this acid-trip like experience I went into an Apple Spice frenzy. 

Since Seattle’s Best is only open when Borders is open so I found out I can’t get my fix until the bookstore is open at 10 AM.  Boo. Then one day I broke down and went to the Caribou down the street and found out that they have a similar drink, Apple Blast, which is about 87.5% as tasty as the Seattle’s Best version.  (Unicorns were missing but Disney song was still playing in the background).

I also found a recipe, which is the Starbuck’s version but after watching them make it at Caribou…it appears to be the same:

Caramel Apple Spice Drink:
Ingredients:
Treetop Apple Juice
Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce syrup, $6.99 @ Starbucks for a 33.8oz bottle
Whipping cream
Caramel syrup
Ground Cinnamon

I told the barista to leave the lid off because my sister lives out of state and can't get Caribou and that I wanted to make her jealous. Complete lie. I just didn't want to look like freak.

Directions
1. Blend a few teaspoons cinnamon syrup with apple juice. I added probably close to a 1/2 cup to 32 oz apple juice (an 8oz drink for 4). Heat in microwave or on stove top. Add a dollop of whipped cream, drizzle caramel sauce on top, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and be happy.

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You can take the girl out of the country…but sometimes the country won’t leave her alone.  Even in the big city ; )

My story begins at the airport.  After purchasing a water bottle at the Caribou Coffee at the MSP airport I boarded a plane.  In the Twin Cities the big competitor to Starbucks is Caribou Coffee, a based in Minnesota chain that has super witty marketing campaigns and tasty coffee treats.

They ALWAYS have such cute ads!

Very shortly after that they yelled at me for listening to my iPod before takeoff (like they always do) and I was left to read my very unique looking water bottle.

TrEnDy...

Well if I didn’t just about have a mini heart attack.  On the back of the bottle it indicated the water was from Langlade Springs in Polar.  I didn’t even know that our town had a natural spring and now it’s being marketed at a Starbucks competitor!?*  Now everywhere I turn, it’s there.  At work.  On planes.  While working out at the gym.  Even my dad had one in his truck the last time I was home!

Turns out that the reason Caribou chose to distribute those water bottles was because of “Project 7” which is a group that put together commonly purchased items (gum, water, mints, coffee) and puts 50% of the profits towards 7 different charities (that go towards the causes on the bottles listed above). 

Another cute campaign of thiers!

The reason that Project 7 chooses the Langlade water bottles and water is because of their biodegradable bottles and because of the fact that it’s “local”.

I know that this was a huge rant about a plastic water bottle but I thought that I would share my story so that every time my city friends taste the water they can find out how good water is supposed to taste and so that my country friends and family can learn more about the trendy water bottles they’ve been seeing around town.

City Mouse meets Country Mouse with these water bottles!

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The Book Thief was a novel recommended to me by a coworker and was the last book that I read before getting my Kindle for Christmas.  I’ll start by saying that it was a great way to go out.

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is Death’s narration while looking upon a young girl’s life in Nazi Germany before and throughout WWII. 

Death’s first accidental meeting with Liesel Meminger is while “picking up” her brother.  Their mother is forced to put them up for adoption due to health and past political issues with their family and so most of the book is spent from years 10-15 at her foster family’s home on Himmel Street.

 

Her foster father Hans eventually builds a very special bond with Liesel and helps her to unlock the world of literacy…which leads Leisel to become a book thief.  Liesel’s every day and not-so-ordinary accounts with her new family and friends throughout those years will leave you weak at the knees feeling thankful for what you have.  To imagine one person (Das Fuhrer) having such impact on so many people’s lives makes me sick to my stomach and pondering if something like that could ever happen again.

Death’s narration is extremely witty, the subjects throughout the book are haunting, is about a subject that every teenager should learn about, and will leave you with tears in your eyes. 

Many reviewers mentioned that this book will eventually be a future classic next to Novel of Anne Frank, to which I agree.  This book has won multiple awards in both children and adult book categories and I am excited to see what else Australian author Markus Zusak stories I can get my hands on. 

 

PS – Yet another cute writer on my blog!?

Review *****/5 stars (with a tear drop for extra points)

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Earlier this month Stephanie and I traveled to Vietnamese on our Global Cuisine Tour #2.  The only catch was that we didn’t even have to leave one of the richest suburbs in Minnesota!  Thanh Truc (aka the Green Bamboo) was our next stop…

After finding a review  from Kathie Jenkins of the Pioneer Press Stephanie suggested that we give this one a try.  Driving up we weren’t so sure because, as Kathie Jenkins mentioned, the primary foodie’s motto with authentic cuisine is “the greasier and divier…the better”. 

Upon walking in there was immediate realization that neither of us was ready for how nice it would be!  It has a very nice interior with lots of calming  greens and paper laterns throughout the establishment.  Lunch on a Friday was busy but once we got our water and he took our order….it must have taken under 4 minutes for our meal to come out! 

Vietnamese in Minnesota!

Stephanie ordered off of the lunch menu, Shrimp Noodles Saigon Style.  The veggies looked extra crunchy and the shrimp appeared to be of very healthy size. 

Thanh Truc Shrimp Siagon Style

I (of course) ordered the much previously discussed Pho.  You can tell that this soup broth is a Thanh Truc labor of love.  The flavors were sooo good, the noodles were perfectly cooked, and the side garnishes were to die for!  Pile on those fresh chiles, basil, lime, and bean sprouts!

Thanh Truc Beef Pho

We both had a great lunch, the interior was very appealing, the food was extra fresh, the service was very timely and I give our overall experience ****/5 stars!  But the beef pho as a standalone gets *****/5 stars.

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Pho where do we start?

Let’s kick off this exploration with the Spice Girls’  “2 Become 1”  music video link which for a great song (that is belive it or not, is 100% relevant to today’s post).

Here’s why:

1.)    “Spice” is in their band name and spices which is what trying global cuisines is all about!

2.)    In terms of the song; what is the only thing better than Indian food?  How about Indian food and Chinese food mixed into one marvelous cuisine!?

For me, Vietnamese cookery channels Hollywood’s “Brangelina” equivalent for the food world.

For those of you still living in a cave, Vietnamese food hails from Vietnam (duh) and is an up and coming cuisine.  I would compare it to how Indian food three years ago; a bright and rising star that hasn’t quite been found yet and has two very distinct heritages.

1.)    Mountainous Northern Vietnam borders China and many of their dishes have their neighbor’s influences (beef, stir fires, noodles).

2.)    In the South, Cambodian influences can be seen (coconut milk, spices, lemon grass…think Thai).

But throughout the country’s cuisine seafood remains a constant.  You would have to be blind not to notice that fact based on the map above.

In terms of popular ingredients, I did my best based on the very different influences:

  • Nuoc mam – is a salty fish sauce that is used in lots of Vietnamese dishes
  • Rice noodles
  • Beef (in all sorts of shapes and sizes: round steak, flank, tendon, ect)
  • Anise
  • Ginger
  • Coconut milk
  • Cilantro
  • Shrimp
  • Thai basil
  • Lo Mein noodles

In terms of trying something as a first timer there is only one option…Pho…Pho SURE.  Pho is a noodle soup that is made after long hours of boiling chicken or beef with a combination of spices (ginger, cloves, anise, ect).  It will most likely have some kind of beef on top of rice noodles.

Then they bring it out to your table with a full on buffet of items that you can add including bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, chilies, mint leaves, Thai basil, lime wedges, siracha (super-hot rooster sauce), chives, and probably some items I’m not recalling.

It’s genius.  Simply genius, channels both sides of Vietnam, and I would consider a “must try”.

On deck, me and Stephanie’s Global Cuisine Trip #2 to my first Vietnamese restaurant!

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Was feeling like something easy, fresh and kind of light after a big Packers win today. 

Hey Kristin - Where's Brett in the off-season? Pretty sure it's not the playoffs!! Muuhh ha ha

I went through my Cooks Illustrated recipes and decided that the winner was a Spaghetti with Lemon dish that was published last month that had both green (parsley) and gold (lemon) in it.

Fresh, light, green, and gold!

I took the honor of making quite a few modifications after trying one of their chicken lemon dishes last week that was EXTREMELY overpowering with lemon.  We’re talking to the point of inedible and un-publishable on this site. The dish below might look good but after doctoring it up with lots of things it still tasted like lemonade…ick!

LEMON with a side of chicken somewhere in there

 

But enough bad press to CI and their awkward tastebuds…here’s my version of the recipe:

Ingredients

  • Table salt
  • 1/2 box spaghetti
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  • artichokes, 10.5 or 12 oz can
  • pepper
  • 2 TBSP chopped Italian parsley

Instructions

1.) Add 4 quarts of water to a large pot, add 1 TBSP salt and boil water.  Add pasta to water and boil to al’ dente.  (That mean until it’s just about done but not quite…around 10-11 minutes).  Drain pasta, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and set aside.

 2.) While the water is boiling and the pasta is boiling, use the strainer to juice lemon and set aside juice.  Drain the artichokes and set aside.

 

 3.) In the same pan whisk the reserved pasta water, heavy whipping cream, and olive oil.  Lightly boil for 2 minutes. 

4.) Add the pasta to the mixture and stir.  Add some salt and pepper, parmesan, artichokes, parsley, and only 1/2 of the lemon juice.  Taste the juice at the bottom of the pan and progressively add one tablespoon of additional lemon juice until the citrus level is to your liking, garnish with leftover parsley and parmesan, and enjoy!

and Voila!

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If Oprah gets a list of favorite things than why not me?  I may not have 97 golden retrievers or gross 97 million a year but I think that I have some goods “favorite things” that normal people are actually able to afford.  With that being said, I’ve decided to start a “eat.cook.read favorite things” series. 

Look at those little fluffy puppers!

I actually thought of this while I was going through the grocery store and picked one of my faves up today.  Dove Cafe Collections 70 Calorie Miniatures (java and cappuccino flavors).  While those of you that are close with me might find this strange since I don’t necessarily like or crave chocolate…I can’t explain it…it just taste like heaven!

My Grandma Sweet Got Me Hooked on These!

 Reasons why I love these:

  • Perfect treat at 8:00 PM when you start to get a sugar craving
  • Just enough sweetness to get the craving fulfilled
  • There are two weeks worth in your little $4 box if you had one every night
  • Very low-calorie desert (all things considered)
  • Reminds me of my G-Ma Sweet since she originally introduced them to me a few years back : )

If you’re really interested here are the nutrition facts and I suggest that if you haven’t tried these than you need to take a stroll past your freezer aisle and pick up these little nuggets of sweet and creamy goodness.

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