Lee Ann Owens
January in Minnesota brings many challenges but this year was exceptional. Besides a sub-zero cold punch and bouts of political strife, the beloved Oak Grill is slated to close. Popovers are on the endangered eating list – at least in downtown Minneapolis.
The Oak Grill tradition goes back a long way with my family. I can see my mother and sister seated up straight against the backdrop of over-sized chairs and an old English fireplace. Everyone is dressed in her Sunday best right down to her purse strings. Our worries fade into a melody of agreeable table conversation. It’s the 70s. We’re on holiday. The country club-style surroundings feel comfy and inviting. These oak trimmed walls are a public forum, the crowning glory of a shopping paradise that defined the civic pride of Minnesota since 1947.
Decades pass. The glitz and glamor is gone. An elevator ride to the restaurant’s 12th floor confirmed my worst worries. On the way up, the doors opened up to cavernous floors dotted with remnants of merchandise. The premiere shopping spot of Minneapolis was reduced to a clearance sale.
Neither the familiar setting of the Oak Grill nor the company of a dear friend soothed my strain. Even a succession of three popovers did little to curb the pain and not just because they charge extra for seconds now. No. I wanted my store back, the Oval Room trimmed to the hilt with alluring top designer fashions, the Marketplace with those ornate boxes of Long Grove candy that looked almost too beautiful to open.
What happened to my childhood shopping mecca?
I was loyal. This was still the place I came to buy clothes, luggage, cosmetics, candy, sheets, towels, china, stationary, pots, pans, kitchen gadgets and more. My house is filled with the bounty of Dayton’s turned Marshall Field’s turned Macy’s.
But it wasn’t really the things, it was the experience buying them that counted. Nothing beat an indoor Bachman’s flower show during the slow thaw of spring. The cleverly animated Easter and Christmas shows were as much for the adults as the kids. We came to the 8th floor shows and they marked the passing of the seasons better than any calendar ever could. Throughout it all, we ate at the Oak Grill. No shopping trip was complete without a good old fashioned meal started by popovers.
It’s a sad day for retail. We’ll miss you Dayton’s and Oak Grill, more than you’ll ever know.
Fall brings more than post card perfect leaf color to Minnesota’s North Shore. Crisp juicy local apples are at their prime. That means caramel apple season at Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen in Knife River.
Each caramel apple is lovingly prepared in small batches from scratch. A plunge of warm caramel cools into a blanket of buttery sweetness. The coveted sweet cream caramel spills over the curve of the apple forming a puddle.
Natural beauty lies within the edible wrapper. A locally-grown Honey Crisp or Sweet Tango apple bursts with autumn harvest juiciness. The apple hides under a generous dip of homespun caramel – not just any caramel but an old Canelake family recipe handed down from generation to generation.
You’ll want to jump right in and eat one. But how: bottom up or top down? Or maybe – in a well-intended but futile attempt to stay tidy – use a knife? Eating a gooey caramel apple poses many challenges from sticky fingers to food tainted clothes to messy tooth residue and all are a joy to overcome. Any way you go, this caramel apple can only delight.
After one bite, only a Great!Lakes Candy Kitchen caramel apple will do. In a world populated with far too many uninspired supermarket interpretations, this scrumptious jubilation outranks all others.
Savor the true taste of the season. You’ll enjoy fall even more with a real caramel apple in hand even if things get a little messy.
The Edina Eater returns… It’s a food blog comeback!
Days, weeks and months crumble away for a food blog. The Edina Eater is no exception.
I hesitated and the time was lost. This is my apology.
Life is a full plated priority list even for a food blogger. My evenings and weekends go to:
- Time with family
- Working out
- Classic movies
- Work-related networking
- Doing errands
This no-blog bullet list must change! Today is the day to post again.
Food blogging is a creative outlet for my writing and photography. The Edina Eater lets me showcase great restaurants, delicious yet practical recipes and fun food events. Quality food is my passion. What we eat matters for our personal health and the health of the planet. What you ate for lunch is important! I love to spark a good discussion.
Here’s to happy eating and a life filled with joy – along with an occasional food blog post.
What’s more fun than a weekend cupcake event? “Wag-wag…Why nothing!” says Turtle the dog.
A puppy mill survivor, the cute as button pint-sized pouch, has a cupcake named in his honor. Sweet Retreat sponsored a cupcake fundraiser for Turtle when he was sick and need financial help. His tail to recovery is a long one, and many dog-loving thoughtful folks helped along the way.
Now Turtle is turning two. He’s better. One look at his deep dark puppy eyes and your heart will melt.
Turtle Cupcake Time
To celebrate his successful road to recovery and help other dogs in need, Sweet Retreat is bringing back the famed Turtle cupcake. Rich dark chocolate with a sweet disposition through and through the Turtle cupcake is a befitting tribute to Turtle the dog.
Turtle Cupcake Birthday Celebration:
Saturday, August 29 from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sweet Retreat Cupcake Boutique, 5013 France Ave. S., Minneapolis at 50th and France.
Get Your Turtle Cupcakes
Show your paws on support. Visit Sweet Retreat Cupcake Boutique on Saturday and buy a special Turtle cupcake. Maybe get a few for your family and friends. They’ll be glad you did and it’s all for a good canine cause. One dollar from each Turtle cupcake goes to Underdog Rescue.
The Twin Cities based-based rescue organization is dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and placing “underdogs” in the forever homes they deserve. Underdog Rescue focuses on animals like Turtle who need the most help. Vet bills often come along with dog rescue and adoption efforts. Show your support with cupcakes and consider a cash donation Underdog Rescue.
Cupcakes are even better when they benefit your dog friends! Turtle agrees.
Just about any vegetable that can stand up to heat works in a stir fry. Bok choy bursting with juicy celery-cabbage flavor makes an especially nice choice.
Fresh from the grower is always best but shipped in product will do too. Look for crisp, bright blemish-free stalks. To remove soil, I cut off the bottom inch or two of the core then break off each big leaf and wash separately under running water.
Any stir fry demands your full and immediate attention. Completely prepare all your ingredients before you turn on the heat. Also, set your table with everything ready to serve, including drinks and condiments. Stir fried food tastes best straight out of the wok.
Tofu, Bok Choy Stir-Fry
- ½ cup tofu
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 cups bok choy, chopped
- ¼ cup red pepper, washed, cored and thinly slivered
- 1 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon ginger, fresh squeezed
- 1/3 cup cherry tomatoes, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon white wine
- 1/4 cup peanuts, crushed
Drain tofu and press dry between clean towels. Cut tofu into uniform bite-sized cubes.
Heat oil in large wok over high heat. Carefully add tofu and cook until golden brown. Stir in bok choy and cook until about tender for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in red pepper. Add garlic and ginger (Rather than chopping, I use a garlic press for both.) Add cherry tomatoes, soy sauce and white wine. Cook until tomatoes are just turning soft and translucent about 4 minutes.
Top with peanuts and serve immediately with rice or soba noodles.
With St. Patrick’s Day comes Irish soda bread. Heavy loaves fresh from the oven win over hearts – even non-Irish ones. Who could resist? Moist crumbs cling to your teeth with a pleasant starchy paste.
Douse your Irish soda bread in a spot of hot tea. Only strong tea like Irish Breakfast brewed to a deep black with a splash of cold milk will do.
Why limit the joy to just St. Patrick’s Day? Irish soda bread is tasty enough to eat year round. Just be sure to eat your bread straight from the oven or sure as yesterday’s crop of shamrocks, the glory will fade.
My Irish soda bread has non-traditional healthy add-ins like flaxseed meal and chia seeds. Still, the loaf has an Old World hearty grain taste. This is my much changed version of the Irish Soda Bread recipe from British book — Bread: the Breads of the World and How to Bake Them at Home by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter published by Hermes House.
Whole Grain Irish Soda Bread
Ingredients13/4 cups buttermilk ½ cup dark raisins 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour 2 cups all-purpose flour 3 tablespoons golden flax seed meal 2 tablespoons oat bran 2 teaspoons baking soda 2 teaspoons cream of tartar Pinch salt ¼ cup butter, cold 1 teaspoon baking soda 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature 2 tablespoons chia seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure buttermilk into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Mix raisins into the buttermilk and set aside.
Sift whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, golden flax seed meal, oat bran, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt together in a bowl. Rub in cold butter until only small bits of butter remain. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the buttermilk-raisin mixture. Stir the wet-dry ingredient mixture just enough to form a ball of dough. Do not overwork dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface. Spread dough ball with soft butter and smooth out with your hands. Top with chia seeds. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Using a large serrated bread knife, make two deep cuts like a cross into the round dough .
Bake 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean. Eat right from the oven. Leftover Irish soda bread has a stale crumb.
This classic French dish is a snap to make with a bunch of fresh spinach and a ready-made pie crust. Spinach and cheese quiche makes a great light lunch or dinner served with a salad.
Real Hens Make Quiche
As is true with most any recipe, the better the quality of the ingredients, the better the final result will be. Buy the best quality cheese that you can afford. Real French Gruyere rather than plain old Swiss would be ideal. Also use real farm eggs that come from free-range, cage-free hens. They do have a richer taste and more nutrients.
Falling Is OK
The quiche looks puffy right out of the oven. After cooling a few minutes, the quiche settles down to a more standard thickness and texture. Either way, your quiche will impress. If you have time go all out and make your own pie crust from scratch.
Spinach and Cheese Quiche
Ingredients3 cups spinach 6 medium eggs 1/2 cup half and half 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg 1/2 teaspoon salt freshly ground pepper 1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese 2 green onions, thinly sliced 1 pie crust
Preheat oven to 350F.
Rinse and drain spinach to remove all dirt. This can take up to three separate rinses. Steam spinach for about 4 minutes or just until tender. Place spinach in a colander, and set aside to drain and cool.
In a large bowl, mix eggs, half and half, nutmeg, salt and pepper until combined. Stir in cheese, green onions and cooled spinach.
Carefully pour mixture into pie shell. Set filled pie shell on a round cookie sheet and place into preheated oven. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes or until set.
Eat more greens and love them. Arugula prepared with a quick, easy, healthy Mediterranean-style presentation makes eating right a pleasure. Greens can be good.
Terrifically Tasty Greens
A snappy sauté transforms arugula greens into a warm savory nosh. Nutty Marconia almonds and pine nuts add a chewy texture. Chickpeas boast a bean-based heft that’s almost meaty.
While some protein or pasta could go along side, wilted winter greens with beans stand on their own. This vegan vegetable-bean—nut combo is substantive without embellishment.
Nice Leaves Only Please
To heighten flavor and avoid any bitterness, use the freshest greens available. Buy and cook your arugula on the same day if possible. Inspect the arugula carefully and discard any wilted or discolored leaves. If a leaf appears bad, toss it. A dish with a few ingredients can’t afford any bad apple taste.
Eat It All
Only cook enough for the meal at hand and serve wilted arugula greens with beans promptly. Cooked greens do not age well. This is a dish to eat and enjoy fresh.
Wilted Winter Greens with Beans
Ingredients:2 tablespoons olive oil 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tablespoon white wine ½ cup canned chickpeas, drained 4 cups arugula leaves, washed, dried and picked over ¼ cup Marcona almonds 2 tablespoons pine nuts Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Drizzle of balsamic vinegar
Place olive oil in a large heavy frying pan over low heat. Blend in garlic and cook for about one minute; do not let garlic turn brown or a strong bitterness will over power the dish. Quickly stir in white wine to soften garlic and prevent browning. Toss in chickpeas to coat with liquid. Carefully, blend in greens. Stir occasionally until arugula is cooked, about two minutes. Add Marcona almonds, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Place on a serving dish a drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
Chocolate lovers rejoice. Homemade from scratch mousse comes together in minutes. Four ingredients make a marvelous mousse.
Pick your pleasure. Dark, milk and white chocolate work equally well. Get fancy. Make a batch of each and layer ribbons of chocolate delight. Impress everyone with a grand look. Only you will know how easy minute mousse is to prepare.
One universal rule: the higher grade of the chocolate, the better the flavor will be. Never use chocolate chips, they have more of a waxy texture than fine eating chocoalte and fight melting. Instead, treat yourself to some top-quality chocolate bars.
Homemade chocolate mousse is elegant. The simplicity of creamy, fluffy, buttery chocolate stands on its own. Just spoon into a martini glass, Mason jar or fluted ramekin.
Or go all out and dress the mousse up with:
- Fresh fruit: raspberries, strawberries, cherries
- Cake: vanilla, chocolate, angel food
- Pie: cookie crumb crusts
- Dessert cups: frilly molded chocolate shapes for a dessert hors d’oeuvres
- Sides: cookies or heart-shaped candies
Any way you choose, a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream completes the dessert with a contrasting white puff. Just keep your creations cool and covered or promptly serve.
Valentine’s Day or Everyday
For Valentine’s Day, chocolate cream mousse is ideally indulgent. The dessert is so easy to fix up into something special and seductive.
For day-to-day eating chocolate cream minute mousse easily fills a void. When all the goodies are gone and the need for chocolate hits, make minute mousse.
Chocolate Cream Minute Mousse
Ingredients:2/3 cup chocolate, broken into chunks 2 cups heavy cream 1/3 cup granulated sugar (use 2/3 cup for dark chocolate mousse) 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier liquor
Slowly melt chocolate stirring occasional in a very heavy pan or over a double broiler (without pan touching the water) over low heat. Take off heat and let cool for a few minutes to almost room temperature.
Meanwhile whip cream in a large bowl. Add sugar and Grand Marnier. Quickly fold in chocolate stirring fast to avoid clumps of chocolate. Fold just until blended. Place mousse in refrigerator to firm.
Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream, garnish and serve.