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stepping back

December 13th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

It’s two weeks to Christmas and right on schedule, we got smacked with an epic Winter storm. Almost 14 inches of snow fell over the weekend, blanketing our state and instantly changing everything from dull December to dazzling white. The internal switch to Christmas mode snapped on with a definitive click, and now I’m really eager to pull out decorations and deck the halls. I’ve always waited until a few weeks prior to Christmas to really make the house festive, and having such a beautiful white landscape to look at makes it so much easier. Last year, Christmas came and went without snow.

It rained the week before, and temperatures were mild enough on Christmas to wear a light jacket. Growing up in Minnesota my entire life, I couldn’t recall when that had ever happened. The previous year, we had magical Christmas snow that fell in huge flakes on Christmas morning and lifted my heart. Christmas decorations buried under thick, fluffy snow is a sight that renders me still, my eyes shining and wide. I could never get enough of that. Seeing them drip with rain last year was painful.

But not this year.

But it’s TWO WEEKS to Christmas. And I think I should be in panic mode but quite frankly, I’m not. Long ago I decided not to give in to the frenzy that accompanies this most beautiful of holidays, choosing instead to focus on the reason for such a blessed day. I do some baking, but these days I’m giving away the goods more than keeping them; I do set up our decorations, I do send out cards and a few gifts, I do wish to find a perfect something for Mike and Griffin, but if I don’t I can’t sweat it. Life will go on, with or without these, and there will be rain when there should be snow and each 24 hours will pass whether I choose to cram them full of glad tidings, or sit quietly in front of the fire with a glass of wine. We had a very sad loss in our family last week and our plans for this past Sunday came screeching to a halt as we gathered to bid a final farewell, among the thickly falling snow. I can’t put all that much emphasis on festive decorations and holiday jubilee when I know someone’s heart is hurting. It just pulls so much into perspective.

But we still need to eat something. And after a day of struggling over icy, snow covered roads and feeling so much sorrow, having an option for a really quick meal was so nice to have. After clearing a foot of snow from our driveway, I quickly pulled together a flatbread pizza, using Flat-Out’s new line of Flatbread Pizza Crusts. In less than 10 minutes, I had a simple dinner that filled up the hollow space inside.

Flat Outs new line of ready to eat pizza crusts couldn’t be any easier for making a quick meal. From a frozen state, you can place them right in the oven (or use a handy toaster oven, too) and they thaw in minutes. Top them in whatever fashion you love and place them back in the oven to heat the toppings. That pizza above didn’t even take 10 minutes from start to finish.

Flat-Out pizza crusts are perfect for a casual gathering, or movie night with family. Put your favorite holiday classic on… mine is The Christmas Story, or A Charlie Brown Christmas; you need little else besides a variety of pizza toppings to suit everyone’s tastes. A hot oven, and Flat-Outs three crust options- Rustic White, Heritage Wheat or Spicy Italian- and you’ve got the potential for endless combinations. While my boy could live happily with a pizza loaded with meat, Mike and I prefer lighter, vegetarian pizza. I love how we can create our own with these simple crusts, and not be so stuffed afterwards due to how light they are.

My simple recipe for an exquisite pizza was olive tapenade on the bottom, fresh mushrooms and shredded mozzarella cheese. We also have used pickled banana peppers, roasted red peppers, and kalamata olives; my boy used italian sausage and sliced pepperoni on his pizzas.




I was provided a gift card and all the Flat-Out Artisan Pizza Crusts needed by The Motherhood, 
in exchange for this post. 
Flat-Out Artisan Pizza Crusts are introduced exclusively at WalMart

it’s all about the quality

February 22nd, 2011 | Comments Off on it’s all about the quality

Can you believe it’s almost March? For me, that’s always a fun change because the very first day of March is my birthday, but almost better yet, March around these parts means Spring begins, even if it’s only the official beginning of the season. While April is the month to usher in the soft scent of Springtime, March, in one 30 day span will bid goodbye to winter and hello to the sweetness that is Spring in Minnesota. No other month holds as much promise for us, the winter and snow weary, as the coming of March.

The best part of Spring, besides the ending of cold temps and the continual snowfall is that fresh foods start the slow trickle back into our menus. The Farmers Markets open up one by one, showcasing the best of Spring fare. Although I do love the root vegetables, the slow aromatic braises of wintertime, filling the kitchen with a warmth that shutters out that wind and chill, the lighter fare of Spring, and then of course, Summer have such an appeal. Mostly though, I think it’s just because after this endless winter of snowstorm after snowstorm, I’m probably craving green in any form I can find.

If you’ve been around here, even for a brief time, you know that I’m all about the quality of my food. I like it fresh, I like it from scratch and I like it to be well made, even minimally prepared. The fancy food has it’s place, and once in a while it’s a nice treat, but honestly, I can swoon over a superbly fresh salad, lush with dark leafy greens and a palette of colorful vegetables with a simple vinaigrette sprinkled over the top.

Last month I talked about the predictable ease of enjoying the food at Panera. If I’m craving a bowl of soup, with a chunk of fresh bread to dredge through my bowl, I don’t really need to think too hard about where I can get that, outside my own kitchen.

But what I like even more about Panera is the freshness of ingredients in their salads and sandwiches. The salads snap with the crisp crunch of the lettuce, spinach, spring mix and other greens in them. The sandwiches are topped with an array of dark leafy greens instead of a boring bland iceberg or a limp green leaf lettuce. The aroma rising from the chunk of bread you twist apart to dip in your soup is lush with yeast and you can taste the flavor of the carrots in their delicious and all natural Chicken Noodle soup. The apples snap with an exacting crunch. And people love the bread at Panera so much that they’ve given all their impassioned fans a place on their Facebook page to write their very own Ode to Bread. You can see a short video on the company’s website about their passion for baking those popular loaves. I know a lot of people really appreciate the availability of the calorie content of all their menu items right there in the store, so you can make the best choices for your dietary needs. The staff is also very helpful in assisting customers with food-allergy related questions about the menu, especially helping them to determine the soup and salad items that are gluten free. And I love that they use Stonyfield Farms organic yogurt in their smoothies. That’s one of the best yogurts available.

Have you set up your MyPanera rewards card yet? They like loading a nice surprise on there when you do. I got a gooey cinnamon roll, all for free, added to mine just for beginning to use it. The more you use it, the more rewards you will receive. Who doesn’t like free? Especially if it includes their decadent baked goods.

Fresh, easily accessible and warmly predictable, a quick lunch or dinner at Panera is a good thing, all over the board.

If you’re interested in more information on how Panera finds inspiration for sourcing their ingredients, please visit this link on their Facebook page.

Do you Twitter? Follow Amy, the official @panerabread tweeter for up to date information.

I was compensated financially for writing this post. All content is my own viewpoint and opinion.

a ridiculously delicious challenge

February 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

Hey everyone…. remember the Iron Foodie Contest I entered last December? I made an amazing Warming Winter Soup with soba noodles, porcini mushrooms, fennel pollen seared tofu….. it was a mob of flavors in my mouth and it was good enough to earn me 2nd Place in the contest. And that distinction then paved the way for me to participate in yet another cook-off with fellow bloggers, sponsored by Marx Foods.

This, folks, is a complex and involved contest that yet again, like the Iron Foodie, offers us a chance to utilize some of Marx Foods gourmet products to create original recipes. The first part, however, is a short essay on which three of the following products you would like to have, and what ridiculously delicious thing would you do with them if you won?

The Goodie List
Kobe Beef Sliders
OR Kobe Beef Burgers
Whole Quail
OR Semi-Boneless Quail
Wild Boar St. Louis Spare Ribs Pink Salmon Fillets
Kangaroo Burgers
OR Ground Kangaroo Meat
Wild Mushroom Sampler
(contents may change)
Live Oyster Sampler Ultimate Chile Head Sampler
10lb Specialty Burger Sampler Mega Pantry Sampler
Pekin Duck Breasts Fresh Blood Oranges
5lbs Frozen Wild Huckleberries 20lb Heirloom Potato Sampler
1lb Fresh Daruma Wasabi Specialty Sausage Sampler
14lb Dried Bean Sampler 1lb Bourbon Vanilla Beans
Superior Spanish Saffron Threads Live Geoducks
Edible Flower Assortment &Microflower Blend

Selecting three of these was no easy task, made more complicated by the fact that if indeed you are the last one standing in this elimination type contest, those items you select in this stage will be the ones that you win. I have to be prepared to accept these items in my kitchen if I’m clever enough to rise above the other bloggers and sweep up the competition.

So my choices are the Specialty Sausage Sampler, the 20-lb Heirloom Potato Sampler and the Pink Salmon Fillets. And with these three choices, the ridiculously delicious thing I would do with them if I won would be to host a food sampling party and showcase these amazing items for anyone who attends. Simple, yes, but what a feast that would be!! How could you lose with 9 pounds of sausages made from Buffalo, Duck, Venison, Lamb, Boar, Pheasant, Elk and Rabbit? Imagine those luscious links, grilled to a crackling crisp, split along their sides from the heat to reveal the juicy meat inside? I’d pop open a jar of my homemade Roasted Garlic Mustard, break out the spicy dill pickles, add a crunchy slaw and make sure we had plenty of napkins for the lip-smacking goodness that would ensue from such a feast. Along side those delectable sausages would be served delicate, tender Pink Salmon in a variety of flavorful options such as Lemon and Fresh Herbs, and then seared with either Sweet Sesame, Orange Cranberry or my Spicy Maple glazes. I’d slice the potatoes and roast them to browned and tender perfection so that everyone can sample to their hearts content. Of course, we’d need some good micro-brewed beer for the sausages and several wine selections to sip alongside that salmon. It would be an utterly hedonistic feast to help usher out Winter and welcome the coming Spring. Mmmmm…. I can just about TASTE it!!

Our entries are due by Monday February 7th for consideration by judges at Marx Foods. Should we be selected to move to the next round, by the following week we’ll receive a mystery box of ingredients from Marx Foods. Two of those ingredients will be utilized for an original recipe of our choice. From there, it gets a bit more complicated. So first things first, I’ll send this in for consideration and cross my fingers.