Monday, January 31, 2011

Sandy's Tavern

As much as I enjoy fine-dining, I'm a sucker for a night out at a dive bar with a good burger and a pitcher of beer.  Sandy's Tavern in Richfield, MN has been on my list of places to try, especially after getting voted as Best Burger in City's Best Burgers.  Along with a handful of friends, we decided to check it out.  It certainly lived up to our expectations.
When we arrived, we were greeted outside by our waiter who was outside for a smoke break:)  He was very pleasant, opened the door for us, and assured us he would be "right in." He was very attentive and friendly throughout the night.
The interior is classic neighborhood small town tavern. . . old chairs and tables, booths, beer lighting decor, pool-table,  and video games.  Most of the patrons appeared to be from around the neighborhood. 

We started off with a few pitchers of beer, Grain Belt Premium and Blue Moon for the MN and WI folks. . .served in ice cold mugs. 

The menu is classic bar food, served in baskets.   No silverware is needed.  This is finger food.  We ordered a basket of onion rings, cheese curds, and fries to share.

 My favorite of the 3 was the onion rings.   Unlike most Minnesotans, I'm not the biggest fan of cheese curds.  But I tried one: pretty good.    Fries were ok.  Crinkle cut isn't my favorite, and they were a little underdone. 

I had the Olive Burger  pictured above (with cheese and sliced green olives, no sour cream).   It was served with pickles.  The bun was soft, small, and squishy; just the way I like it.  The burger was delicious and not overly greasy.   A cheeseburger with olives. What a brilliant idea.  I"m stealing it. 

Trycia, who's not a big fan of of ground beef, had the fish sandwich. . .she claimed it was similar to the fast food restaurant that claims a clown as it's mascot. 

Everyone else had variations of cheeseburgers, and we all seemed to empty our baskets. 

Tip:  Bring cash. . .no credit cards (although they do have an ATM).

If you're looking for a good burger bar with friendly wait staff, a local crowd, and affordable prices, then Sandy's Tavern is your place.  We'll be back:)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cole's Raspberry and Fig Cake

Hi! I am Cole, Kara’s guest blogger for the week while her kitchen is undergoing an Extreme Makeover! Since it's cold outside and we live in Minnesota, I figured I should make a dessert that represents the great Scandinavian culture that surrounds us 9 months out of the year. This Raspberry and Fig Cake is a big favorite of my boyfriend Nick and mine.  The great thing is that it can be enjoyed with coffee or your favorite dessert wine (I suggest a Riesling or a Moscato, yum!).

** WARNING: This cake is not for the figure conscious, but for those who don’t mind. . .there is a stick of butter and 1 ½ cups of sugar in their cake.

Raspberry and Fig Cake
Adapted from Food and Wine, March 2010
Dry bread crumbs, for dusting (crumble 2 pieces of whole grain bread, bake at 400 for 5-8 min.)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I use Splenda sugar)
3 large eggs (I use Omega 3 brown eggs)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Finely grated zest of 3 limes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 pint raspberries
4 figs, cut into eighths (I use California style figs)
 *additional 1/2 pint raspberries
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 9-inch cake pan (I personally use my pampered chef round stone cake pan) and coat with bread crumbs. In a bowl, using a handheld mixer beat the sugar and eggs at high speed until fluffy, 2 minutes at the most. Beat in the butter and 2/3 of the lime zest. Lastly, at low speed, alternately beat in the flour and lime juice until almost completely mixed.

Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and smooth the surface. Gently press in the raspberries and figs (* if figs are not in season you can replace them with an additional ½ pint of raspberries).

Bake the cake on the bottom third of the oven for 40 minutes. Transfer to the upper third of the oven and continue baking for 35 minutes longer, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.

Transfer the cake to a rack to cool. Run a thin knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan.

Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar. Sprinkle with the remaining lime zest, cut into wedges and serve.

I promise you will love this cake!  It’s a little sweet, a little tangy, and a whole lot of moist goodness!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pumpkin Curry Pork Tenderloin

This recipe really couldn't be any easier.  I purchased a jar of Pumpkin Curry Sauce prior to the holidays.  The directions say to add it to any meat or vegetables, and simmer for 20 minutes.  I've made it a few times with pork tenderloin in a crock pot dish.  It's always a success.  It has a hot and spicy Indian-like flavor, can be paired with a variety of side dishes, and freezes well.   It was the perfect dish to take out of the freezer this morning, and prepare in our makeshift dining room kitchen this evening.

Pumpkin Curry Pork Tenderloin
2 pork tenderloins, average size, trimmed of fat
salt, pepper
1 cup of water
1 jar of Williams Sonoma Pumpkin Curry Simmering Sauce (or a similar curry sauce)

Place 2 pork tenderloins in a crock pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add 1 cup of water and cover.  Cook on low all day (6-7 hours).  Remove any unwanted fat from the liquid and shred tenderloin with 2 forks in the crock pot.  Add pumpkin curry sauce for last hour on "keep warm" setting.  

Serve on top of noodles, basmati rice, or spaghetti squash.

First meal 2 weeks ago:

Second meal on top, weeks later (excuse the necessary paper plates). . .pork served on top of brown basmati rice, with golden raisins and feta cheese. My favorite of the two meals.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kitchen Makeover

This is my kitchen:

Cabinets from circa 1970, old appliances, wainscoting, recessed ceiling, and laminate counter tops.  Our kitchen is falling apart and is getting a huge makeover.  We've been in our house for 6 years, and it's time for an upgrade.  This has been no small feat. Making decisions on contractors, design, and appliances has been quite the process.  We're finally taking the plunge.  I've been cleaning out cupboards and boxing everything up. Construction starts next week and will last at least 2 months. 

This means we'll be making quick and easy meals (and sometimes not from scratch).  I refuse to make TV dinners.  I bought a  Breville Panini Press, thinking we'll put it to good use. My crock pot will be on standby. And I'm sure we'll be frequenting Linden Hills Co-Op and local restaurants for takeout.

The remodel is going to be a challenge, but the end result is going to be so worth it:)

So, my friends. . .I'm asking you to share a favorite recipe or a dining experience (along with a photo or 2).  If you are willing and interested to be a guest blogger, please let me know!   And I will keep updating as the construction comes along.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Crock-Pot Chicken

This is not the healthiest recipe and it certainly isn't gourmet. . .but it sure is comforting during this cold weather blast we've had this winter.  I do use light cream soups and sour cream to lighten it up.  It's easy, and cooks all day long.

Crock Pot Chicken
Adapted from "If It Tastes good, Who Cares, Part II," Pam Girard, 1992
4-5 chicken breasts
1 can low fat cream of chicken
1 can low fat cream of mushroom
1 small container of light sour cream
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Parsley (fresh or dry)

Place chicken breasts in crock pot and season with pepper.   Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and place on top of chicken.  Cook on low in crock pot all day (8 hours).   Periodically throughout the day, pour off the moisture that has accumulated on the lid. 

Serve on top of brown rice or noodles and top with parsley.   Add a vegetable as a side dish and dinner is complete.  Makes great leftovers and gets a thumbs-up from the kid in the house.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Victory 44

We ventured out to Victory 44 in North Minneapolis last Saturday night with our friends, Keith and Tycia.  The restaurant doesn't take reservations, so we went fairly early in the evening.  We got the last available table when we arrived around 6:45 pm.   The interior is very cozy. . .and full of pictures of pigs.

 Shortly after sitting down, we were greeted by our waiter (who shared he is also a chef, but would not be cooking our meals that evening).  He made a few recommendations from the menu, which is featured on chalkboards along the walls. We decided to share a few smaller dishes and then get one of our own.   Prices were very reasonable, which allowed us to order quite a bit.  Servings were on the lighter side for most dishes.  The wine and beer menu  offered a small yet nice selection, most under $10/drink.   

We started off with the Mixed Greens and the Beet Salad.  By far, the most interesting Mixed Greens and Beet Salad I've ever had.

 We also had the Cheese Agnolotti.  Deliciously rich.

Trycia and I both ordered the Scallops, which tasted very good.  They were on top of  sausage-stuffed ravioli and a blood orange sauce.  Unfortunately, the temperature was lukewarm.  In all fairness, we didn't let the waiter know about the temperature of our dish.

Keith had the Perfect Burger, which also came with fries topped with bacon powder.  He raved about it. 

Courtland had the Reuben, which also came with the fries.  I had a taste. . .divine. 

We decided to order dessert.  This is what arrived first: The Pre-Dessert.  An adult version of smores.

 And this is what came shortly after:  The Dessert Platter.  I cannot remember what each dessert was called, but they were all creatively crafted (with chocolate powder) and tasted incredible.

 When the chef brought out and explained our dishes, he seemed rushed and talked fast.  That being said, we will definitely go back to try Victory 44 again. . .particularly for the comfort food with a twist and affordable prices to go along with it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib and Sweet Potato Souffle

Christmas Dinner Menu:  Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib, Sweet Potato Souffle, Baked Asparagus, and Killer Salad. One fantastic meal.
I've been making Horseradish Crusted Prime Rib for Christmas dinner for at least the last 3 years. Every year it truly stands up to it's hype. The original recipe is from Tyler Florence found here on the Food Network . We leave out the gravy and additional roasted vegetables, and cook it slower than the original recipe.   This recipe is now an official family tradition.

Horseradish Crusted Prime
1 bone in prime rib beef roast, about 4 lbs.
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 cup grated fresh or prepared horseradish (I use the Inglehoffer brand)
Leaves from 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 cup Kosher salt
1/4 cup ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra0virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 
In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, horseradish, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil to make a paste.
Place beef roast in a roasting pan, bone side down.  Top paste over the entire roast.  Roast in the oven until internal temperature measures at 130 degrees (for medium rare will take approximately 2-2 1/2 hours).  Remove the beef from the oven and let it rest at least 20 minutes before carving.    Can be topped with additional horseradish if desired.

So tasty and makes one spectacular roast beef slider for Day #2.

The recipe for the Sweet Potato Souffle can be found on my lovely friend, Lori Harder's website, Busy Girl Healthy Life.  I left out the sweetener packets and used the honey and optional maple syrup (plus 2 Tbsp. ) to sweeten the dish.  It was a fabulous and perfect side dish for the prime rib.

Add a salad along with asparagus and Christmas Dinner was served:)