Loving: A shelf for my Pyrex bowls

Finally, I have a place to show off my collection of vintage Pyrex bowls besides the dusty top of the refrigerator. We bought this expedit shelf from IKEA while we were in Minneapolis. We also got the desk attachment because Mike has had a hard time working in the living room without a dog clamped to each arm on the couch. Now I am wishing my office desk was so nice!

You can also see my keep calm poster in the background. Love it.

Back to bed

The dogs are not allowed to sleep with us anymore due to their bed-hogging problem. But every morning that I’m working at home, Sadie hops in bed after I get up and stays there until, well, whenever she feels like getting up. I think she just wants to have the warmest spot in the house.

My first yurt

Our long weekend on the north shore was wonderful, and of course, complete with all kinds of weather events on our drive. With our habit of going in January we’ve been snowed in not once but twice with the same set of friends in Minneapolis on our attempts home. Another time we drove back with such a load of boxes from IKEA that a fender bender probably would have severed my head. This time it was 30+ degrees the whole time (it was 30 below last year) and rainy, of all things. The temperature varied enough to give us both freezing rain on the way up and snow on the way back, but we made it safe and sound.

Anyway, we got to meet some of the locals this time, and they were so much fun. The only store within 10 miles of the cabin is a little grocery and restaurant that just happens to grind their own grains for the homemade bread and pizza they make. Our server was a girl about our age who had just moved up there from Minneapolis. And then we met this couple, Gary and Nannette, who told us that they lived a few miles down the road in a yurt. And we could come check it out anytime. Oh hell yes.

Our friend Brigid had just been telling us about how her husband, Aaron, dreams of living in a yurt in Montana, but she just can’t get on board. So since they joined us the next day, we all decided to check one out in the flesh. I’m sorry I don’t have photos, but maybe this Wikipedia entry will give you some idea of what it looks like. It’s basically one big, round room with a high ceiling. I have to say, having seen the tight quarters, I can’t imagine living there myself. But the place was plenty warm inside, and they even had a full kitchen and high-speed internet. I don’t think Aaron’s ready to give up on his dream quite yet.

Unfortunately we saw a lot of these.

And I spent a lot of time watching Mike do this.

We are making a video for our wedding website featuring a lot of north shore spots. It’s going to be newsreel-y and ridiculous and fun.

The rest of the weekend we spent finalizing some details on the wedding, and eating. Oh my, the eating. I am madly in love with the cinnamon bread from that store I was telling you about. I ate almost a whole loaf myself.

Then we checked out a few other restaurants in Grand Marais, and everything we ate was just incredibly good. You don’t expect to go to a town of 1,300 (even a touristy one) and find menus that have more local, organic and vegetarian options than some of the biggest restaurants in our city of 200,000. But that’s what we found. I gotta tell ya, I’m getting a really soft spot in my heart for this place. But it doesn’t take much more than good food to put me over the edge.

Off to Minnesota

It’s cold and icy and miserable, so where are we going? Northern Minnesota!

I know it seems crazy, but we go every January because it’s a true getaway, from the phone, computer, TV, everything. And it’s a different kind of beautiful up there in the winter. So I will be on a blogging break until next week. Take care of yourselves.

Loving: knockoff chair

What happens when you are dying to have this modern chair from Crate & Barrel to put in your office because you need a straight-backed chair for your finnicky back and you don’t want roll-y wheels, which will just crinkle up the carpet, but you can’t bear to pay $90 for just one chair??

(gasp)

You buy the knockoff at Target, of course, because you can actually get two (one for each desk in the office) for $69. Yippee!

And sure, you had to go to a couple stores to get the green ones because some incredibly rude Target employee announced that though they were on display they didn’t actually have any of the chairs in stock. But store #2 came through in a big way, and now it’s there, and just the loveliest pop of color in the office.

Zucchini bread pudding

I can’t say I was always a fan of bread pudding. I have a thing with eggs. If anything is too eggy tasting, especially if it’s burnt, I don’t like it. But I am picky like that. Sometimes custardy dishes have the same effect, and sometimes the thought of soggy bread just doesn’t sound good. But I have come to appreciate a nicely done bread pudding (either savory or sweet) the last couple of years. I am still daydreaming about the one we had at Figs in Boston…

Anyway, this recipe turned out to be the most wonderful weeknight dinner on a cold winter night. And I got to use up half a loaf of artisan French bread that had started to get old.

The original recipe calls for butternut squash, but I had a feeling I would like zucchini better. I also roasted it quite a bit longer than it said to, because I know that it takes around 30 minutes to really get a good caramelized zucchini, and that’s where all the flavor is.

So here’s my version. It’s one of my favorite new recipes of 2010 (ha).

Zucchini bread pudding
adapted from Simply in Season

2 zucchini, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 eggs
2 egg whites
2 cups milk
1 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated (1/2 for the liquid part, 1/2 to sprinkle on top)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
9 cups day-old French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spread out the zucchini pieces on a nonstick pan, sprinkle them with salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the sides start to get caramelized. Turn the oven down to 375.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium and saute the onions and garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil. Remember that both of these veggies will need to cool a bit before you add them to the eggs (so it doesn’t scramble right away).

Mix up your wet ingredients – the eggs and egg whites, milk, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Stir in the cooled veggies. Then add the cubed bread. Let this sit for 10 minutes. Then pour into a greased 2-quart baking dish.

Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top. Mmmmm, cheese.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or until the custard is set and the bread crumbs are starting to get browned and crunchy.

The dresses

Last weekend I chose my wedding dress. It was a surprisingly painless process (except for the torture devices they clip you into. But you can’t complain too much when your flab disappears…)

I couldn’t get an appointment at one place and only got one at a second store because someone canceled. But really I think the stars aligned for our shopping day. My mom and sister were able to zip up from Kansas after yet another snowstorm delayed our plans, attend a Nia class and get to our first appointment at a place that was friendly and patient and not at all pushy.

I found a dress I liked there, but decided to continue to our second appointment, just in case. We drove all the way out to Perry, Iowa to a bridal store on recommendations from several people I met during the planning of last year’s Juice wedding issue. One of the employees is this pint-sized woman who’s been dressing brides for decades, and she was so complimentary and sweet. She said I have a lot of “pluses” when it comes to wearing dresses.

And there I found the winner, the one, the dress that’s as me as you’ll find. My mom cried, and made me cry. We decided it was the long line of tiny white buttons up the back that was the most special. I don’t know why, I just wanted them.

So here’s your sneak peek. I don’t even know the name of the dress, I just know I’m lucky to have it.

I also picked out the bridesmaid dresses (beforehand, actually) because I had known for a while that the J.Crew Sophia dress was exactly what I wanted. It also came in the right color and was on sale about a month ago, so the bridesmaids already have them. And I was right. They are perfect!

My friend Jennie also picked out a dress over the weekend, and we both agreed that we were pretty shocked at how set people get about all the “shoulds” of weddings. If you don’t have colors, if you don’t have a date set, if you don’t want to get married in a church it’s like you’ve committed a crime or something. And I’m all about being organized, but I certainly don’t think the world will stop if you want to break tradition. See, A Practical Wedding, for more sanity.

So now we’ve got to start looking at menswear. Actually, we have been looking already and it’s tough to find exactly what we want. H&M seems to have the most potential, but we don’t have one here. Oh well. I’m all about traveling to shop!

Loving: povitica

Have you ever heard of povitica? My mom brought some when she came to visit. Apparently it’s a Croatian bread made with all these swirls of walnut filling. But it’s surprisingly unsweet. I have never seen it here, but she got it from a bakery in Kansas City.

It was delish. I had two pieces.

Reggie says…

High of -3 tomorrow? I think I’ll stay right here.

Super cheesy manicotti

This was an improvised recipe after I couldn’t find one online that was exactly the picture I had in my head. I’ve actually never made stuffed pasta shells before, so I wanted my first attempt to be simple, cheesy, and comforting enough to make me forget that any temperature outside above zero degrees is warm these days.

I had to give myself a little pat on the back for this one because it came out just exactly as I’d hoped. If you put enough cheese in anything, it’s bound to be good, right?

Here’s the recipe. You should have enough filling to generously stuff 14 manicotti shells. I’m not sure how many shells of other shapes it would take, but I’d like to try it another time with smaller pasta.

Super cheesy manicotti

1 package manicotti shells (about 14)
2 15-ounce tubs of part-skim ricotta cheese
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
1 generous teaspoon black pepper
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Boil the water for your shells and cook them for 7 minutes. This should be enough to make them soft enough to handle but a little al dente so they don’t tear.

Drain the shells and let them cool for a few minutes. While you’re doing that you can mix up the filling in a bowl. Combine the ricotta cheese with 1/2 cup of parmesan and the black pepper. The better quality cheese you use, the better the recipe will be. Nothing out of a green jar!

In the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish, spread about a cup of marinara sauce. I used my absolute favorite, from a local pizza place. It is so, so good.

Then start stuffing the shells. I just used a spoon, stuffing one half, then the other. But a pastry bag would probably be a lot less messy.

Once all the shells are done (I think I ended up tossing one because the dish was full and the shell had started to dry out), cover them with the rest of the marinara sauce. Then sprinkle on the mozzarella and the rest of the parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Try not to eat as many as I did.