Thursday, June 30, 2011

Simple Gazpacho with Shrimp

It does not get any more simple, pure and healthy than this delicious veggie soup which is served cold. The veggies are raw, so you do not lose any of the nutrients in the cooking process, which makes this soup extra healthy. 

With heat warnings ahead, 16 hours of exam practice in two days--I know cooking will not be on my priority list.  If you can chop veggies, you can make this soup.  It helps if you have a food processor, but a blender will do the trick too.  Some or the reviewers actually said they roughly chopped the vegetables by hand for an extra chunky soup, so do not shy away from this recipe for lack of tools.  There are many gazpacho variations--I picked a more basic version from Ina Garten

Veggies before they hit the steel blades of the food processor. 

5 Roma tomatoes, cut into one inch chunks
1 English cucumber, cut in half and seeded
2 red bell peppers, cut into one inch chunks
1 red onion, cut into one inch chunks
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups of tomato juice (I use the Sacramento brand)
1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 Tbs kosher salt
ground black pepper

Optional Garnishments
Greek yogurt (use it like sour cream)
small shrimp (I like to throw a few on top before I eat it)

1) Chop up all of your veggies.  In a food processor, take each vegetable separately and pulse until it is coarsely chopped.  It is important you do the veggies separately, because of the different textures.  You can look at the pictures below to see what "coarsely chopped" looks like.  Also--this is a matter of preference.  You may want a really chunky soup or even a puree.

2) After each veggies has been through the food processor, set it aside in a large bowl (at least 3L).  When all of the veggies are done, add the vinegar, EVOO, tomato juice, salt & pepper.  Place it in the fridge and allow it to chill.  The longer it sits, the better it will taste!

3) If you want, garnish it with a dollop of Greek yogurt and half a dozen small shrimp. 

*One of the reviewers suggested serving it in champagne flutes garnished with sour cream.  Might be a cute idea for a gathering...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

NuVal Nutrition Ratings--so excited I had to blog about it!

I read about this system for rating the nutritional content of grocery store foods and I hope it comes to a grocery store near me soon (Trader Joe's, Rainbow and Target)!

The system was developed by a Yale doctor and nutritional experts.  I think any information we can get about our food is good information.  I also think that it is really hard for the average consumer to decide whether something is healthy.  There is hardly any nutritional education in elementary and high school, food ingredient labels require a college chemistry book in order to figure out what anything is and even if someone does look at the label, they might not know what effect certain nutrients have on their bodies.  The things I do know--I only know because I was required to take a science course in college and that course ended up being Nutrition. You have to go out of your way and seek out information in order to really understand anything about the food you are putting in your body.  This system makes it easy!  I know I used to buy light yogurt full of nasty high fructose corn syrup, light mayonnaise loaded with added sugar until I learned that these products do more harm than good. 

I do wish there was more information about how certain foods got the ratings that they did.  It is kind of unfair that certain food companies have no idea why they received the score that they did.  I feel like an explanation might help them make their product better. 

Harriet Brewing Company

Awhile back, my mom told me about a brewery located in Minneapolis that was written up in the Star Tribune called Harriet Brewing.  She encouraged me to check it out and I did not get around to it until recently after having Westside, one of Harriet Brewing's beers at a local bar.  It was a Belgian style IPA and I was instantly smitten with the beer.  I am not going to do a lengthy beer review, but I will tell you that Westside is hoppy like an IPA, but with the citrus and freshness of a Belgian.

After some research, I learned that you can't just pop into the liquor store and pick up a six-pack.  Harriet Brewing is small and is not to the point where they are bottling their beers.  However, upon visiting their brewery, you can purchase what is commonly called a "growler."  It is a 64 oz. jug filled with beer and it went great with the steak dinner I made the other night.  The people at Harriet are friendly and glad to sell you their beer.  I definitely will be back, filling up my growler to share with my family over the 4th of July weekend. 

Anyways, I urge you to check out Harriet.  I also urge you to check out Fulton (started by Johnnies for all you CSB/SJU people) or Surly.  These three breweries just might be the beginning of a fantastic craft brew scene in Minnesota, made possible by the passage of a new law.  Not only are you supporting something local, but you will also be at the forefront of a new and hopefully growing scene in Minnesota.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Green Beans with Gremolata

This recipe is similar to one my mom makes, but her gremolata is a bit more fancy than mine.  I took the concept and made my own version which is quick and simple.  Gremolata is a concoction made of fresh parsley, garlic, and lemon zest.  There are a few variations--I skipped the garlic. 

1 lb. fresh green beans
2 Tbs. EVOO
1 Tbs. butter
1 cup chopped parsley
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
2 oz. shaved Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper

1) In a small dish, mix the gremolata--chopped parsley and lemon zest.  Set aside along with half a lemon.
2) Heat a large frying pan and then add the butter and EVOO.  Let is heat up, and then add the green beans. Add a small amount of salt & pepper. Saute for about 7 minutes on medium heat. Just before they are done, add the juice from the lemon half. I just just squeeze it right over the pan.
3) Turn off the heat, and toss in the gremolata and the Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Steaks on the BBQ

I am a big fan of steaks on the barbecue.  The only problem is my dad lives 300 miles away and I feel I will never be the grillmaster that he is.  He knows exactly what temp the grill should be at and exactly how long each side needs to hit medium rare.  His steaks are almost always perfect and it is a hard act to follow.

The fact of the matter is, I will never learn to grill like my dad unless I try.  This weekend I attempted my first steak.  After some research, I decided to try a flank steak.  While this is not the most tender cut of meat, it is very flavorful and it is not expensive.  With the right preparation and the right tools, I felt I could make a decent meal of it.

In order to make a flank steak enjoyable, it is necessary to marinate it with something acidic.  I chose balsamic vinegar because I had it on hand and I love it with red meat.  Something with red wine vinegar would probably be tasty too.  Next, it is very important to cut the steak correctly--across the grain.  If you are wondering how to do this--this blog explains it well. I sliced it very thinly, using a freshly sharpened knife.

I definitely inherited my father's fear of overcooking meat.  The recipe suggested 3 minutes a side, and I did more like 2 minutes because I was terrified of over-cooking it.  It definitely could have used 30-45 more seconds on each side.  As I grill more red meat, I will eventually learn what medium rare is by touching the meat.  Now, I only know what medium rare does not feel like, but hopefully I will learn soon!

Despite being slightly under-cooked, the steak was full of flavor and was not tough at all.  I will definitely try this recipe from Martha Stewart again. I served it with green beans with gremolata (Tuesday's post) and cauliflower steaks and a delicious beer from Harriet Brewing Company (Wednesday's post).

1-1.5 pound flank steak
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup EVOO
3 springs of rosemary, minced
3 cloves of garlic
salt & pepper

1) In a small bowl, combine the balsamic, EVOO, rosemary, and garlic.  Put the steak in a ziploc bag (or tupperware where the steak will be covered by liquid) and cover it in the marinade.  Leave it for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours in the fridge.
2) Prepare the grill.  I used a charcoal grill and waited until the coals were very hot.
3) Before putting the steak on the grill, let it come to room temperature (you can even do this while it is still marinating), and just before putting it on the grill, dry it off with paper towels to avoid flames and salt & pepper each side. 
4) Grill it for 2-3 minutes per side for medium rare.  After it is off the grill, let is sit for about 5 minutes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cauliflower Steaks with Caper Vinaigrette

If you are wondering what cauliflower steaks are--they are big, thick slices of cauliflower.  My cousin makes them and covers them in an olive tapenade.  They are great, and I wanted to do something similar, but I wanted to try something with a lighter flavor.  I also admit I was avoiding a trip to the grocery store. I found a vinaigrette from Food & Wine that a chef tossed cauliflower florets in, and spread it on the cauliflower steaks. They were delicious--one will make a great side and two with a couple sides make a fantastic meal.  I enjoyed them with a leafy green salad and tomato soup.

1 head of cauliflower, cored and sliced in pieces about 3/4 inch thick (the pieces towards the ends are more likely to fall apart than the center pieces)
1 shallot minced
2 tbs of capers, chopped (capers can be hard to shop, I used my herb mincer, but a pizza cutter might work well too)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup EVOO
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
salt & pepper
+2 Tbs of EVOO

1) Preheat the oven to 375.  Heat a large skillet and add 2 Tbs of EVOO.  Brown each side of the cauliflower slice.  Each side should take 2-3 minutes.  You will probably have to do them in batches.  Add more EVOO as necessary.
2)  Mix the caper vinaigrette.  Add red wine vinegar, the capers, the shallots, the garlic and the 1/4 cup of EVOO. 
3)  When the cauliflower is all browned, lay the pieces flat on a baking sheet.  Spread the caper vinaigrette on each cauliflower piece until the pieces are covered.  Bake for 25 minutes. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Restaurant Review: The Rusty Taco

Check another one off the Taste 50.  I made it to the Rusty Taco, located at Lexington & Randolph in St. Paul, and it is safe to say I am hooked! To be fair, I am slightly biased as tacos happen to be one of my favorite foods. 

The Rusty Taco has 12 different tacos to choose from.  They are not your typical tacos though! Choices range from a Picadillo Taco, which is filled with beef and potatoes to a BBQ Brisket Taco filled with beef brisket, house made bbq sauce and cole slaw.  Each taco is $2.50, you can choose between a flour and corn tortilla and whether you want cilantro or not.  There is also chips with salsa, pico de gallo, queso or guacamole for $2 or $3. 

The Grilled Fish Taco

I have tried the Brisket Taco, the Rusty Taco and the Grilled Fish Taco.  My favorite is definitely the Rusty Taco filled with extremely flavorful pork, pineapple, onions and cilantro.  It was really good with a bit of spicy red sauce.  I also loved the Brisket Taco filled with slow roasted and shredded pork, onions, queso fresco, and cilantro.  One of my friends had the Grilled Fish Taco previous to my visit and described it as a little disappointing.  I have to agree--the fish could have had a bit more flavor.  I enjoyed the taco much more with a lot of salsa verde.  The chips and guacamole were good and I will not hesitate to order them again.

The atmosphere is casual and very similar to being at Chipotle or Noodles & Company.  The staff was all extremely friendly and checked up on us to make sure we were enjoying our meals.  I was surprised it was not a little more full--but I think as people discover this place they will go back again and again.  I know that every time I go to the nearby Trader Joe's, I am always considering grabbing a taco or two to go.  I also would love a Rusty Taco in Uptown--there have been several instances where I have been craving something quick, cheap and not entirely bad for you.  Rusty Taco fits that bill! 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bright Ideas with Chef Isaac Becker

On Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending an MPR live audience event with Isaac Becker.  In case you don't know who Isaac Becker is, he is the co-owner of Bar La Grassa and 112 Eatery and is the 2010 James Beard winner for best chef in the Midwest. 

I love both Bar La Grassa and 112 Eatery and was very excited to hear from the chef behind the delicious food.  It is safe to say that the interview was not exactly what I expected.  Isaac Becker is very Minnesotan. He does not seem to have an ego and was very unassuming.  I do not doubt he was a bit nervous and maybe not completely comfortable with being interviewed for an hour.  I can't say I blame him for that!

My favorite part of the interview was when his wife and business partner, Nancy St. Pierre joined the conversation.  She manages the "front end" of the restaurants.  I really loved hearing them talk about running a family business--something I can more than identify with given that I grew up with parents running a business in the hospitality industry.  

Anyways--the interview will be aired on MPR, Thursday at 12 PM, so I won't tell you anything more, except for the fact that I left MPR headquarters craving a plate of cauliflower gnocchi and planning on trying to recreate it!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Product Recommendation: Luna Bars

There are a few food products I cannot live without and one of those products is Luna bars.  I have never been very good at eating breakfast.  I have other priorities in the morning, such as laying in bed until the last possible moment.  However, breakfast truly is important.  It gets your metabolism going and gives your brain the food it needs to actually function. I found the best way to make sure I started my day with a healthy breakfast was to make it as convenient as possible. 

I tried several different protein bars (protein is good, it sticks with you longer) including Clif, Zone, and Special K.  The Clif ones are okay, but I think they give me more than I actually need and they feel like they are meant for someone who is incredibly active.  The Zone ones were also okay--but I would buy them in bulk at Costco and I got really sick of the two flavors. I also looked at the ingredient list and was kind of horrified by all of the additives.  The Special K bars are good, but I would be hungry pretty quickly after. 

 (image courtesy of Google Images)

In come Luna bars.  There are a ton of different flavors (16 or 17)--my favorites are Lemon and Blueberry Bliss.  They are the perfect size and maybe this is just a marketing gimmick--but they are nutritionally balanced just for women. They are also 70% organic and are not made with any genetically modified ingredients.  Awesome! A package of 6 is on sale this week at Target for $5.  I recommend that you pick some up.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Fish Taco Bike Crawl

On Saturday I had the pleasure of taking part in "The Fish Taco Bike Crawl."  Along with eight others, I biked through Minneapolis sampling fish tacos.  The weather started as overcast, but unfortunately turned to rain. That did not stop me from making it to all four fish tacos stops, although I admit the last one was via car.

Stop one was The Tin Fish located on the shores of Lake Calhoun.  Normally there would be an incredibly long line, but due to the overcast weather there was no line at all.  I enjoyed a grilled mahi mahi taco, while Charlie had a shrimp taco.  Both tacos were great, but I preferred the shrimp.  Tin Fish puts ranch on the tacos, and while normally ranch is not my favorite, it worked really well on the tacos. With a bit of cabbage and cheddar these tacos were excellent.  On a side note--check this off my Star Tribune Taste 50 list.

Our next stop was La Sirena Gorda (the fat mermaid) in Midtown Market.  Apparently, these are some of the best fish tacos in Minneapolis. Our whole group ordered mahi mahi tacos because there was only one person working and it would be easier and quicker to just order the same thing. The mahi mahi was in a delicious pineapple marinade and the avocado/salsa verde mixture accompanying the tacos was a nice addition.  However, I have to admit I was slightly disappointed in these tacos. Maybe it was the corn tortilla (yuck!) or the marinade, which was good, but overpowered the fish.

After a beer in Midtown Market, we began the ride to Sea Salt Eatery.  This portion of the trip involved getting drenched by the rain. I  learned what bike fenders do and unfortunately I do not have any, so I had a big wet, muddy stripe going up my bike. Oh well!  At Sea Salt I had shrimp tacos and Charlie had marlin.  The tacos were okay--not particularly notable.  However, a few people had fried scallop tacos and they were apparently very good. I did love the hot sauce bar at Sea Salt and it was so pretty that I would love to go back and enjoy it on a sunny day.

The last stop was Masa in downtown Minneapolis.  I confess that after sitting in the frigid air conditioning while soaking wet at Sea Salt,  Charlie and I opted to skip the bike ride to Masa in favor of dry clothes and cleaning up.  So maybe we did not technically complete the Fish Taco Bike Crawl, but we technically make it to Masa.  I really liked the mahi mahi tacos at Masa. They were second only to the tacos at Tin Fish.  I feel like I got a bit more for my money at Tin Fish and the tacos there overall just had a better and had more real flavor.

Anyways, I can't wait for the next food related bike crawl! My vote is a hot dog bike crawl, but I think the consensus is the next one is pizza. No complaints here!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mom! The Meatloaf! A Recipe for Spicy Turkey Meatloaf

This is not your mother's meatloaf, but I could not resist titling this post with a quote from Wedding Crashers.  Generally meat loaf is one of those foods that is take it or leave it for me.  I usually find it kind of "blah," but I am also interested in trying to make it less "blah" and more of an enjoyable dish because it is ridiculously easy to make, it makes great leftovers, and can actually be pretty healthy.  This recipe comes from Food52.  It is anything but "blah" and was spicy and satisfying. I increased the amount of breadcrumbs and added an extra egg because I felt this recipe could use a bit more "bind." I used the extra glaze to saute bell peppers and onions, served along side quinoa.  You could saute just about any veggie in the extra glaze and rather than quinoa, any sort of rice would work well too.

Ingredients for the meatloaf
1 lb. extra lean ground turkey (or ground beef)
1 yellow onion (diced)
3 cloves of garlic (minced)
2 eggs
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
3 Tbs. of soy sauce
2 Tbs. of ketchup
2 Tbs. of Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. of Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. of rice vinegar
2 tsp. of ground cumin
1 tsp. of cayenne

Spicy Sriracha Glaze
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbs. of apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. of Sriracha sauce
1 tsp. of ground cumin

1) In a frying pan, saute the onions and garlic until the onions are golden brown. I used a small amount of EVOO.
2) Preheat your oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatloaf, including the onions and garlic.  Mix well.  Press into a 9 x 9 square pan.
3) Mix the glaze ingredients into a small bowl.  Once the glaze is smooth, brush it over the top of the meatloaf.  If you don't have a basting brush, use the back of a spoon. 
4) Place the pan into the oven and let cook for 35-40 minutes.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Sunday was a weird weather day. We could not tell if it was going to rain, stay overcast, or if the sun was going to peek through. Nevertheless, we stuck with our plans to do beer can chicken on the grill.  Just in time for the chicken to come off the grill the sun made it's debut.  We enjoyed shredded chicken sandwiches, with brie and jalapeno relish accompanied by my sweet potato salad and home-brewed beer.  Dan takes the credit for the delicious chicken and the homebrew and Hillary made the excellent jalapeno relish. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Shrimp Pasta Salad with Cucumbers, Dill & Grape Tomatoes

Well--I am still trying to use up all of the dill and cucumbers in my fridge.  I once again used foodily to find a few recipes.  This one, from Martha Stewart grabbed my attention and I have to say it was pretty good and I will definitely be making it again.  It tasted so fresh and summery--and now I am down one English cucumber (two left!) and only have about 1/2 of the giant bunch of dill I bought. 

Ingredients for the Salad
1 lb. whole wheat bow ties or shells (or whatever kind of pasta you want to use!)
1 lb. shrimp (I bought pre-cooked, tail-off shrimp from Trader Joe's)
1 English cucumber peeled and seeded, cut in half and sliced
1 1/2 cups of grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2-2/3 cup of fresh chopped dill

Ingredients for Dressing
3 tbs. of mayo (I prefer Rocco's, but I used Kraft Mayo with Olive Oil)
3 tbs. of EVOO
3 tbs. of fresh lemon juice
2 tbs. of dijon mustard
salt & pepper to taste

1) Cook your pasta according to the specifications.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare your vegetables and the dill and set aside.  Also prepare the shrimp if you did not buy them with their tails off by removing the tails.  Make sure to rinse and drain the shrimp too.
2) When the pasta is done, rinse with cold water and drain very well.  Pour your pasta into a large bowl and set aside.
2) Mix the dressing, except for the salt and pepper.  I would use a whisk and make sure to blend very well until it is smooth and creamy.  Add a small amount of salt and pepper, taste and add more as necessary. 
3) Pour about 1/3 of the vegetables, dill and shrimp over the pasta and then add about 1/3 of the dressing. Stir well, repeating this process until all of the veggies, dressing and shrimp are mixed well in the salad.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

Stocking Your Pantry

This post is dedicated to my friend Gretchen who just moved into a new apartment. I know I have mentioned the importance of having a stocked pantry. For starters, when you get home from a long day at work, school or whatever--it is nice to have ingredients to make a basic meal.  Second, it saves you money.  If you are like me, you go to the grocery store for one thing and come out with five extra things.  It will also save you time if you do not have to make extra grocery runs.  Now you understand the importance--but what is a stocked pantry?

 (yes, my pantry is disorganized and very full. I will have lots of food to survive on in case of a zombie attack)

Here are some of my suggestions--including some basics for your fridge:

chicken broth (I also keep bouillon cubes on hand, just in case)
beef broth
baking power and soda
brown sugar
vanilla extract
bread crumbs (panko for me)
olive oil
pasta (usually spaghetti or linquine and shells or penne)
rice: brown, aborio
soy sauce
canned tomatoes
canned tuna
vinegars: white, red wine, white wine, balsamic
mustard: dijon and yellow
worcestershire sauce
peanut Butter
taco seasoning
stir fry seasoning
spaghetti sauce
pizza dough mix
canned soup: tomato, chicken noodle, beef barley
potatoes: russet and sweet
onions: white and red
chocolate chips

Spices (basic)
salt: kosher and iodized
Italian seasoning
Greek seasoning
bay leaves
chili powder
cayenne pepper

cheese (I buy the bricks because they can be shredded or sliced and usually have cheddar and mozzarella)
lemon juice
lime juice
sliced lunch meat

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dilled Cucumber Tomato Salad

It is that time of year and cucumbers and dill are in abundance.  If you have been reading for awhile, you might remember my recipe for cucumber salad. I make it all the time and while it is healthy, refreshing and delicious, change is good.  I used Foodily to find a recipe that would allow me to use the massive amount of dill and cucumbers that are residing in my fridge.  I found this.  It was definitely good and I will probably make it again.  The recipe called for red onions which I did not have and also for vegetable oil.  I always use olive oil in place of vegetable because it tastes better and it is healthier for you. 

1 1/2 English cumcumbers, cut in half then sliced
2 Roma tomatoes cut into chunks
1/3 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup of cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbs of EVOO
2 tsp of chopped dill
1/4 cup chopped red onion
salt & pepper to taste

1) In a small bowl, mix the dressing. Make sure to mix well so the sugar is dissolved. 
2) Put your chopped veggies in a medium size bowl and drizzle the dressing over them, tossing them well so all the veggies are coated. 
3) Cover and place in the fridge 30 minutes before serving. 

*This recipe can be made a day ahead of time. I personally love the sweet & sour taste the veggies get while marinating in the dressing overnight.
*Next time I make this I will probably use 1/2 tsp of Truvia just to cut calories and see how it changes the taste


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cafe Twenty-Eight

So yesterday, I had a bad day after water damaging my less than a year old Android phone. My whole life was on that phone from my calendar to tons of pictures. It is "drying" in rice right now, but odds are it is toast.

After making two labor intensive salads for an earlier event, the last thing I wanted to do was cook and clean the kitchen for a third time in 24 hours.  In comes Cafe Twenty-Eight.  I received a gift certificate from my boyfriend's parents for graduation and it ended being the perfect thing to make my crappy day better.

Cafe Twenty-Eight is located in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.  Not far from Lake Harriet, it is built in an old fire station.  The atmosphere is friendly and the cafe itself is charming. The menu is locally focused featuring Fisher Farms pork and beef from Clancey's Meat Market which is right around the corner.  The only beer they have on tap is from the Surly brewery in Brooklyn Park--which is more than okay with me.  The staff wore attire from both Surly and Clancey's which I thought was a nice touch. I noticed a lot of families--from an older couple enjoying a meal with their 30-something son and a young couple out with their almost brand new baby. It felt like a neighborhood restaurant--a place where you can always count on a good meal and a friendly face.

We started out with wild mushroom pate accompanied by a Surly Shadenfreude.  The pate was good, not great.  I think it tasted more like garlic and less like mushroom, but I still liked it.  For my main course, I had a Fisher Farms Pork tenderloin with sauteed green beans, red pepper and polenta.  Every bite was delicious. I love polenta and the flavors with the green beans, peppers and pork all worked really well with it.  My boyfriend had pork in adobo sauce with two different kinds of salsa, rice and tortillas.  I did not expect the adobo sauce to be nearly as good as it was--but it really had fantastic flavor.  The meal was exactly what I needed. 

Followed by a mini walk around Lake Harriet and a movie--I felt like my night was perfect.  Thank you Suzanne, Paul & Family.  I can't wait to go back to Cafe Twenty-Eight. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Star Tribune Taste 50

Once again, Rick Nelson from the Star Tribune pointed out 50 people, places and products that make Minnesota a great place for those who enjoy food.  Since I love food, I am using this list as a summer activities guide.  Here are the foods and places that I plan on checking out.

Smack Shack's lobster rolls-- The idea of food trucks really appeals to me for some reason.  When you add lobster, English cucumber and lemon aioli, I am absolutely sold.  I can't wait to check this place out.

Soft-serve ice cream at Pizzeria Lola--I am always up for checking out a pizza place.  I have never really had soft-serve ice cream that I feel compares to the good old hard stuff, but if Rick Nelson says it is good, I am willing to check it out.

Rusty Taco-- I can't wait to check this place out. I have seen it near the St. Paul Trader Joe's and I love tacos in any form. I am particularly excited about this place because they offer flour tortillas (unlike barrio). 

Poppyseed bagels with quark at Common Roots--This one had to make the list since Common Roots is just across the alley from me. I don't know what quark is, but I definitely look forward to trying it!

Mill Valley Kitchen--There are several new restaurants opening in the Twin Cities, and while I would like to try all of them, I am going to aim on getting to the Mill Valley Kitchen to try their apparently nutritious food. One of the biggest reasons I do not like to go out to eat is because I feel like it is hard to make healthy choices.

U-Pick Strawberry Farms--One of my favorite parts of summer is the abundance of berries, which are my favorite fruit.  I think I will like strawberries even more if I can pick them myself.

Dinner theater at Bar La Grassa--I love Bar La Grassa, but I have never sat at the bar outside the kitchen. I can't wait to enjoy Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Orange while watching the chefs work their magic.

The patio at Psycho Suzi's-- There is nothing better than enjoying a mixed drink on a great patio in the summertime in the Twin Cities and I have been hearing about the newly renovated Psycho Suzi's for awhile and am anxious to get over and check it out.  I think I might hop on my bike and venture over to Northeast.

Tin Fish/Sea Salt Eatery-- Did I mention that I like tacos? I most definitely plan on hitting up both of these places on the same day when I do the Fish Taco Bike Crawl on June 18th.  Let's hope for nice weather.

Sanctuary-- Five courses for $35? I am there. 

Anyways--if you live in the Twin Cities make an effort to check out some of the great local establishments that we have. I know that I am so thankful to live in an area where chain restaurants are not my only option!