Weekly Photo Challenge: The Sign Says

Always read the fine print . . .

One of many unique food offerings at the 2012 Minnesota State Fair

Only 83 days until the Minnesota State Fair kicks off its annual eclectic extravaganza of food, animals, exhibits and entertainment!

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”The Sign Says” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Three of My Favorite Things: Brie, ‘Shrooms and Arugula

I started my photo challenge post for the “escape” theme, but between track meets, orchestra concerts and work obligations, it has stagnated (due to it becoming a bit more elaborate of a post than I had planned, as I spent time reflecting on, or perhaps planning, my escape). . . . But, while replying to comments (as a procrastination strategy in response to my other obligations), John at From the Bartolini Kitchens reminded me of an easy weeknight recipe I like to make when time is limited (when I don’t have time to make the really delicious ideas posted by John!).

Pasta with Brie, Mushrooms and Arugula
Pasta with Brie, Mushrooms and Arugula — just ignore the stray dog hair that found its way into the bowl . . . such is life in Kat’s house.

In less than half an hour, dinner is on the table by making Pasta with Brie, Mushrooms and Arugula, one of Real Simple magazine’s recipes.  My entire family enjoys this recipe, and it is easy to change up, perhaps by adding a little garlic and prosciutto next time?  The brie with white cooking wine creates a light creamy sauce without becoming too heavy, and that sharp bite of baby arugula is always tasty.  I used baby portabella mushrooms (you know, the other dark meat) which I think added a bit more flavor than regular button mushrooms.  A mix of mushrooms could be a nice addition, as well.

This recipe has found its way into my tried and true recipe binder for repeat use.  If you give it a try with some twists of your own, I would love to hear about them!

Ciao! ~ Kat

Life is Short, and Food is a Lovely Part of It: Six Courses at the Chef’s Table

Life is short, and food is a lovely part of it.  As Julia Child is noted to have said, ““The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.”  (However, I really must notch up the running again next week . . . ).

To celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary, we decided to try the Chef’s Table dining experience at the Ledge Rock Grille, a cozy restaurant on the North Shore of Lake Superior, just south of the town of Two Harbors.  The restaurant is located on the same property as the Larsmont Cottages.  As the years go by, it is easy to treat one’s wedding anniversary quite casually, particularly when we are not the type that typically celebrate birthdays big, and have often found some home improvement project that needs completing rather than exchanging gifts to mark a special occasion.

Dining Room at Ledge Rock Grille

Life is busy at this stage of life, between work and family obligations.  It makes it even more important sometimes to find that time to do something special to mark occasions which should be celebrated.

Ledge Rock Chef's Table Menu

Making reservations to enjoy the six-course menu at the “Chef’s Table” was definitely a way to mark a special occasion.  It promised to be a leisurely dining experience, which we chose to enjoy with wine pairings, on a quiet weeknight as spring kicked off its snowy start (unlike summer weekends when a reservation at the restaurant is sometimes impossible to obtain and the resort is full of guests).

The Chef’s Table seats up to four guests at a counter-height spot adjacent to the open kitchen.  On a night when the restaurant is quiet, it is as if you have your own personal chef and waiter, allowing for a relaxing evening, with the dinner courses paced over two hours.

Seared Scallops with Blueberry Balsamic

The first course featured one of my favorite foods — scallops!  Blueberry balsamic was drizzled over the plate, serving as a cushion for the lightly broiled seafood bites.  A Pinot Grigio nicely paired with this dish.

Arcadian Apple Salad

ledge rock salad dressing 2013








The salad course was a unique blend of flavors I had not expected — Arcadian spring greens, amaretto apples, feta, and candied spiced walnuts, with an apple cider vinaigrette.   The apples had been soaked in amaretto and club soda, I believe.  It resulted in a very light taste, with the amaretto acting almost as the second layer of flavor behind the apple, rather than overpowering it.  The candied walnuts were spiced with many notes, including cumin, cayenne, and paprika.  My husband, the real cook in our house, tried to dissect each layer of flavor and guess the different ingredients that created it.  The slightly heavier Chardonnay was a great flavor partner for these layered tastes. 

Hawaiian Pork Kebob

The Hawaiian Pork Kabob that “our” chef, Nate, prepared ended up being our favorite course.  My husband already was scheming how to replicate it before he had a second bite.  The teriyaki sauce did not overpower, but was a nice light glaze companion to the grilled pork tenderloin and pineapple pieces.  A Pinot Noir was poured with this course.  Nate kindly shared with my husband the general ingredients for the teriyaki glaze recipe and I look forward to my husband’s rendition of this tasty dish in the near future!

Raspberry Sorbet and Champagne

The fourth course was an “intermezzo” course, meant for cleansing the palate.  An intermezzo course often involves a sorbet, as it did at Ledge Rock’s Chef’s Table.  But, instead of a side accompaniment of prosecco or champagne, the sorbet was served in a small glass of it — an elegant sorbet float!  It was incredibly refreshing without being too filling before the main entrée.

Beef Medallion and Shrimp Skewer

The next-to-last course is what most would call the “main” course or entrée.  Our menu presented us with a Beef Medallion and Shrimp Skewer.  Nate prepared the medallion perfectly, in accord with our tastes (medium-rare, more rare than medium).  The beef was completed by a strawberry demi-glace which provided a nice hint of flavor for the tender cut of meat.  The pairing of Cabernet wine was a natural choice.  The two large shrimp were wrapped in applewood bacon on a skewer and then topped with strawberry chutney with accents of cilantro.  Fresh green beans and a sweet potato side completed the colorful plate.  Just roll me home now.

But, wait there is still the sixth and final course.

S'mores Cake in the Wood-Fired Oven

I have to admit that when I saw that the final course was a “S’mores Cake” I was thinking I might just have that course boxed up to bring home to my boys.  Yes, having a “s’more” treat a couple times every summer when enjoying the campfire at the cabin is something I look forward to, but marshmallow and chocolate treats otherwise are not usually my thing. (I can do without those memories of marshmallow bunnies in the Easter basket.)  But, my opinion quickly changed as the marshmallow bubbled in the wood-fired oven and the chef drizzled chocolate over the top . . .

S'mores Cake at Ledge Rock Grille









How could I resist a Northwoods dessert served on a personal-sized cast iron plate?  I should have, but I did not.  It was as sweet and delicious as it appeared.  A special treat for a special occasion.

My husband and I decided perhaps we should use our anniversary as an excuse to reserve two seats at Ledge Rock’s Chef’s Table on a quiet weeknight in March each year. It gives us 364 other days of the year to work off the calories until the next six courses.

Ciao! ~ Kat

Teen in the Kitchen: Pear Bread and Poetry

The wind is howling, snow is blowing, and the house fills with the aroma of baking bread in the oven and chili on the stove top.  The men of the house are in the kitchen!

My 17-year-old son is putting on a repeat performance of his pear bread that he baked a couple of weeks ago.  He had me take photos of his lovely first attempt at this baked good, and I must say it turned out beautifully!  The sight and accompanying good taste apparently acted as his poetic muse.  His light-hearted ode to a pear follows.  I suppose I should have properly labeled this post as a “guest post” with my son as the guest blogger!  Enjoy!

Pear Bread

Pear-ly Poetic

A poem by Kat B.’s son

Pear, oh pear,

Fleshy fruit without compare,

Juicy, green, so sweet, so fair –

To thee I pour out emotions bare.


Thy rotund figure does seduce,

But I shan’t imbibe thy godly juice.

Though with all this self-abuse,

Me to a madman will you reduce?


Tensions begin to run quite deep;

Thoughts of thee keep me from sleep.

This un-sated desire makes me weep,

But sown seeds of want I shall not reap.


Canst thou give me a little flavor?

Just a nibble, for me to savor.

Then perhaps I will return the favor,

And present thee mine toe – I shall not waver.


I finally snap, grasp thy body at last;

’Tis time to break this maddening fast!

Mine wheel’s unmanned, and lies broken the mast;

I have submitted, heavens, avast!


Mine mouth tastes sickly sweet, is thinly glazed.

Within me’s the pear at which I once gazed.

My being’s been torn, my morals razed,

But ’tis lack of remorse that leaves me dazed.


For I loved thee, pear, it still is true,

But my recent actions I shan’t ever rue,

For looking back, I’d not undo

Mine every last bite of succulent you.

Pear Bread

You can find a link to the pear bread recipe here on the Taste of Home website — my son recommends one more pear than what the recipe calls for, and added chocolate chips this time for a fun twist.

Ciao! ~ Kat B. (and son!)

Stuffed Squash, Baked Ravioli and the Elusive “Eat” Post

I had good intentions when I started this blog. Visions of a weekly travel-related post, a garden-related post, and a food-related post.  I think that lasted a week.  The blog then degenerated into Kat’s Blog o’ Babble — but, hey, I’m having fun with it, so that’s all that matters, right?!

Food is one of my loves, though — integral to the travel experience and part of many of our best memories of time spent with family and friends (as I noted in my post regarding our 20-year dinner club tradition).  It’s not that I don’t want to blog about food, it’s just that I am at the stage of life that most nights we are lucky if we find ourselves all seated around the dinner table at the same time.  Some weeknights we have a progressive dinner theme, eating in stages and “courses” throughout the evening, to accommodate varying work and activity commitments.  Moreover, since my husband is the primary cook in the house, I am not routinely cooking with camera in hand (even when I do cook, the camera is not usually part of the process)  — and if I would hover with camera in hand while he cooked, our 20+ year marriage would not endure.

This past weekend, my husband found a recipe for stuffed squash on a blog called “The Dirt.”  When he told me the source of the recipe he adapted (by adding some bread crumbs, garlic, sweet Italian instead of regular sausage), I excitedly exclaimed, “I follow that blog!”  This exciting discovery of another mutual interest after 20+ years together was lost on my husband.

Sausage and Ricotta-Stuffed Squash
Sausage and Ricotta-Stuffed Squash (recipe adapted from “The Dirt” blog)

As he pulled the stuffed squash out of the oven, they screamed “food-related blog post”!  (I, for some reason, am the only family member who heard their plea.)  I dashed upstairs to grab my camera, and carefully turned my plate, trying to capture the lovely autumnal dish in the most favorable light.  We even had set the table, in anticipation of a leisurely family dinner.  Notice my husband’s half-eaten squash in the background?  It gives you some idea of how long I fussed over the photo.  This is why “Eat” is an elusive post.

Last night, I actually cooked.  I planned ahead, using my handy-dandy “No Time to Cook” smartphone app from Real Simple while standing in the grocery store (gosh I love that thing — pick the main ingredient and whether you have 20, 30 or 40 minutes to cook, and an array of great weeknight recipes pop up on your screen).  I knew we had some cheese ravioli in the freezer, and had selected a simple pasta dish, “Creamy Ravioli and Pesto Gratin.”

The photo below is what I have to show for that dish (after moving the piles of mail out of sight and wiping away the crumbs on the counter):

Parmesan cheese

As I lamented the fact I had not taken a picture of the golden-brown, cheese-topped bubbly pasta dish when it came out of the oven, my husband looked at me, puzzled, and said, “just post the photo from the recipe’s website.”  (Did I mention my husband doesn’t even read my blog, let alone follow other food blogs on a routine basis?)  I looked at him in horror, and whined, “I CAN’T do that!”  He wisely did not ask me to explain.  This is why “Eat” is an elusive post.

Creamy Ravioli and Pesto Gratin Recipe (Photo credit: Real Simple/David Prince)
Creamy Ravioli and Pesto Gratin Recipe
(Photo credit: Real Simple/David Prince)

Recipe links:

Stuffed Squash from “The Dirt” blog:  http://thedirt.areavoices.com/2012/11/02/stuffed-squash/

Creamy Ravioli and Pesto Gratin (from Real Simple):  http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/creamy-ravioli-pesto-gratin-recipe-00000000028124/index.html

Ciao! ~ Kat