5 Essential Positives








These 5 positives really struck me; I had to share them:

5 Positive Things

1) Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.

2) Never let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life.

3) It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

4) If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

5) Begin each day with a grateful heart.

We saw these at Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen from a trip to Chicago a while ago.  (As a side note, the food we had was excellent and recommended.  I had one of the bowls- spicy Thai brown rice with tiger shimp, along with the butternut squash soup.)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


(But be careful with the name!)  Celebrate with the history and some green, as well as favorite dishes (even though they may not be historically Irish).  Of course, there is nothing like a glass of Guinness.  Visit a local Irish pub, and don’t forget dessert!  I’m not Irish (but I’m adopted Irish through my wife).

We didn’t go with the typical dishes this year; instead, I made a sweet pea and asparagus risotto to celebrate with green.  I’ve made a basic (somewhat healthy) risotto recipe for a while now and have found ways to adjust it to tasty effect.  I have a couple of cooking adjustments so it is not so heavy (1% milk instead of cream, butter added just before the end, olive oil to start).  Enjoy!

Sweet Pea and Asparagus Risotto

olive oil

1 large white onion

2 cloves garlic

2 c white wine

1 tablespoon parsley

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon marjoram

1 tablespoon coriander

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups risotto rice (Arborio or another kind)

1 cup milk

6 cups water (added one at a time)

chicken-flavored stock granules (or veggie, if desired)

1 small bag frozen peas

1 bunch fresh asparagus, chopped into pieces (tough part of stem removed and discarded)

2 tablespoons butter

8 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

I cooked this using a wok, but a medium-large non-stick saucepan should work.  Add olive oil to pan and set heat to low-medium.  Chop onion and add to pan.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add garlic using a garlic press (or mince).  Cook for about a minute (don’t let garlic burn), and add white wine.  I added the herbs at this point.  (I tend to like a lot of seasoning, so my herb and spice measurements were more along the lines of 2 tablespoons each.)  Add the rice, and cook so the wine bubbles and starts to reduce.  Add peas and asparagus.  Add milk, and then add the water 1 cup at a time (as the water cooks away and evaporates).  (Add chicken, chicken-flavored, or veggie stock granules according to the package directions.)  Keep heat at about medium so the mixture is bubbling, and keep stirring frequently to prevent burning/sticking and to build the creaminess with the rice.  Taste the rice as you cook so it does not get completely soft (you may need to add additional cups of water if the rice is not yet done, though).  Add the butter just before you are done.  Allow it to melt and stir it into the mixture.  Remove the risotto from the heat and add the shredded Parmesan (while stirring).

A note- fresh peas may be better, but we did not have any available.  The frozen peas we had seemed starchy, but we did enjoy the flavor of the peas, so frozen baby peas may be the way to go (more sweetness, less starch).   Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Cuban Food in Key West

El Meson de Pepe on Map

As part of our trip to Key West, Florida, we wanted to visit as many local restaurants as we could.  One of our stops brought us to El Meson de Pepe.  We wanted to try a little of everything, so we opted to split a #80- a plate that had three different dishes: Lechon Asado (pork), Ropa Vieja (shredded beef), and Picadillo Habanero (ground beef).  I tried a bowl of the black bean soup, and our meal came with both sweet plantains and the yucca.  We also split a piece of their Key Lime Pie (Torta de Limon).  We are also fans of Tres Leches cake, but could not pass up Key Lime in Key West.

I had not had Cuban food before (just hadn’t had the opportunity yet).  My wife had Cuban food previously, and she felt the flavors and tone of the restaurant were consistent with her previous experience. They had musicians playing outside, and had set up heat in the covered outdoor dining area since it was a little cooler that night (though still plenty warm, as back in Wisconsin it was nearly below zero!)  Overall, it was relaxing, yet invigorating atmosphere.

The food was delivered super-quickly.  My black bean soup was quite delicious, and a great way to start off the meal.  My wife is not much of a fan of pork, so I had that dish to myself, and it was excellent.  The shredded beef was just as tasty.  I was the most excited to try the ground beef dish due to the combination of “tomatoes, onions, garlic, bell peppers, cumin, bay leaves, oregano, olives, capers, and raisins”.  I was perhaps a little surprised that the flavors on the dish weren’t a little stronger given the ingredients, but it was tasty nonetheless.  We both loved the plantains, and I had never had yucca before, but it was also good- a unique flavor.  The Key Lime Pie was a refreshing way to end our meal, as well.  All considered, we would certainly go back, and recommend that you do too, if near Key West.

Prairie Bay

Prairie Bay Logo

This is the last (for now) of my vacation-based food reviews from Baxter, MN.  Let me start with a question.  How long do you remember what you had to eat?  Is it possible to go back… a week?  Perhaps- and maybe the memory gets fuzzy after that.  Good food should inspire a good memory- and I still remember what I had (Coconut shrimp and pasta!) when I first visited Prairie Bay, more than a year ago.  (This was a eagerly-awaited repeat trip!)

It is easy to notice the welcoming and classy ambiance right upon entering.  I visited with my wife and sister-in-law for lunch, and the restaurant was busy, but not overly noisy or cluttered.  The most difficult part was choosing what to have with expectations of such delicious food.  I eventually decided on the Chorizo Mango Cilantro Tasty O- their wood-oven take on ham and pineapple pizza.  Now, I am quite a fan of ham and pineapple, but I am also quite devoted to complex and tasty flavors.  This pizza certainly handled my pizza craving while hitting the sweet/salty notes expected from ham and pineapple, plus providing the complexity I desired.  The cilantro was the perfect flavor to complement the chorizo, which was tempered by the mango and the cheese.  The pizza crust is excellent- one of the best I have found.  My food was delivered quickly and was a generous portion, well worth the price.  We did not order dessert this time, but I recall the desserts we shared last time were sumptuous without being pricy.  They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and my only regret is not being able to try something from each menu yet!  If you are in the area, create yourself a vivid meal memory, and eat at Prairie Bay.


Sunshine Moonshine Logo

Another wonderful restaurant we found on our trip to Baxter, MN was the Sunshine/Moonshine.  We visited on a recommendation and ate with my wife’s brother and his wife.  We arrived at the restaurant for lunch and were greeted and waited on quickly.  The food did not take long to arrive- I was hungry for some Pad Thai, so it was the Thai Peanut for me.  It was a generous portion of noodles and vegetables; I opted not to add chicken.  The peanut sauce was excellent- perhaps a bit spicier than I was expecting, but flavorful nonetheless.  The dish certainly satisfied my craving and was very reasonably priced for the amount of food I received.  The included egg roll was a tasty bonus.  I’d highly recommend a visit!

Rafferty’s Pizza

Here is post #1 of a few vacation-food related posts.  I have often thought that a restaurant-based vacation would prove to be an intriguing one.  (Perhaps sometime in the future…)  While our most recent vacation was not of this type, I am always eager to find some good eating wherever we are going.  This was a repeat trip to the area, so we were expecting a repeat of tastiness.

Thus, we arrive at one of our dining highlights: Rafferty’s Pizza of Central/Northern Minnesota.

Rafferty's Pizza Header

I am a mega-fan of their cheeseburger pizza.  There are frozen varieties of other brands of cheeseburger pizza in the supermarket, but none compare to theirs.  It captures that burger essence and flavor in a pizza format.  I’ve always enjoyed pickles on hamburger pizzas, also.  I wouldn’t change a thing about their recipe.  It satisfied the craving while making me want to eat more cheeseburger pizza- a delicious conundrum.  It’s unfortunate that more places near us don’t offer cheeseburger pizza on the menu.  (It’s similarly unfortunate that we don’t have a Rafferty’s nearby.)

We also went off of the specialty menu and ordered a classic ham and pineapple, which was also tasty.  Their creation evoked the best of the ham and pineapple mix.  We’d order both pizzas without hesitation again the next time we are near a Rafferty’s.  The true difficulty is trying additional specialties, because we like these so much we have to reorder!

The Fireside Review #2

My wife and I went to the Fireside to see Legally Blonde The Musical partly because we had heard it was an excellent show and partly because my wife loves the movie, but it was completely as enjoyable as we were expecting.  The casting was very well done.  It’s always intriguing to compare movies to other iterations of a similar story, like musicals.  This one held true to the original source, as well as adding to it.  If you are thinking of seeing the show- hurry!  The show’s run is almost over.  And, as before, the show was not the only star. Part of the difficulty in choosing a show time is choosing which tasty meal you will get to enjoy.  This time we chose Sunday Brunch (all you can eat!).

Sunday Matinee Brunch
Chef-Carved Jones Cherry Wood Smoked Premium Ham and Roast Breast of Turkey,

(Both were delicious- and juicy.  Nothing’s worse that having dry turkey or ham, which was most certainly NOT the case here.)

Chicken Breast Tempura with Brandied Apricot Sauce,

(I’ve had this before, and I think it is one of my favorites- like a more flavorful and grown-up version of chicken nuggets- with a sophisticated sauce to boot!)

Eggs Benedict on Jones Hickory Smoked Canadian Bacon,

(I’m not a fan of over-easy – runny eggs, but this is definitely a personal preference rather than any comment on the dish.)

Scrambled Eggs,

(Both plain and with vegetables and cheese-  a breakfast classic.)

Jones Cherry Wood Smoked Bacon and All Natural Sausage Patties,

(Another set of delicious breakfast staples.  The bacon is the kind I prefer- not too soft.)

Fresh Norwegian Salmon,

(I love salmon in general, and The Fireside makes theirs well.  It’s a pleasant addition to the buffet- and again, it was not dry- a major plus!)

Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Tomato Butter Sauce,

(This is an example of a dish I would present to someone who says a vegetarian dish can’t be tasty.  I could have just kept eating these, if it wasn’t for all the other food I had to have.)

Bouquetierre of Garden Vegetables,

(A good mix of veggies.)

Beef Tenderloin and Broccoli,

(A nice flavor contrast to the other items on the buffet, paired with rice.)

Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Syrup,

(I wasn’t in a pancake mood, but my wife enjoyed one of them made with M&Ms.)

and Home Fried Potatoes. 

(These were quite excellent- I’ve had a LOT of this type of potato, and often they are heavy and one-note.  These seemed lighter and had plenty of flavor.)

Your Brunch Buffet is accompanied by Chilled Strawberry Soup,

(Scrumptious and refreshing- a great idea for the start of the meal.  Not too sweet and with real strawberry flavor.)

Pastries from The Fireside Ovens,

(This was the opening item- a perfect appetizer.  A lot of variety and complexity in flavors.)

Banana Crème Brulee,

(A dessert well-done.  I’ve had other brulees of theirs, and they will all have you scraping the dish for the last bit.)

Coffee, Tea and Milk served at your table.

(I always have the coffee- a flavorful blend.)

Thanks again, Fireside, for a wonderful show and tasty meal!!