Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas in Minnesota!

I was hoping for a white Christmas in Minnesota like last year:

But it was not snowy or even very cold this year in MN - how weird!!! Oh well, our annual Christmasy MN trip was filled with lots of activities, and as usual, Dimitri made the trip up with us!

We were able to cook dinner with some dear friends Rob and Sarah, who were newly married in October!

For Christmas Eve, we went over to Bryan's brother's house where he and his wife made the most amazing three course meal for us all! We had roasted corn and potato soup, salad, and duck in mole sauce! Bryan and I were in charge of drinks and we brought cranberry mojitos! Everything was delicious. We opened gifts and little Jonah went crazy with the wrapping paper and ribbons.

Christmas Day was pretty chill and we spent time reading, relaxing, napping and chit chatting before we had another delicious dinner made by my in-laws with just immediate family.

The next couple of days were filled with family. Monday was a reunion of Bryan's dad's side of the family and Tuesday was a reunion of Bryan's mom's side of the family! It was a busy chunk of days, but it was great fun to see everybody!!

Wednesday I relaxed with my friend Sarah and got a massage and afterwards we talked over coffee and later wine! It turned into a longer afternoon of reminiscing! It was great though.

Yesterday, after a quick brunch with Sarah and her husband Bobby at the Downtowner in St. Paul, we drove back to Chicago!

It was a long and busy trip and we needed a day to get ready for this weekend - NYE CHICAGO. We have 2 sets of friends coming to visit us from MN for an epic weekend of celebrations. It will be legendary!

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles

You may see my December catch up post here!

I made these Oreo cheesecake truffles for some Christmas goodies! I was invited to a cookie exchange party by my great friend Adrie, and these were my contribution. They were well received by friends there as well as family over Christmas! I must say, they are insanely delicious!

The hard part is getting the outer chocolate shell just the right consistency. The recipe says to melt chocolate chips and butter. We tried various types of chips (even the ones straight from the recipe) and nothing worked right. We finally got it right (on the 3rd try) using baking chocolate squares, butter, half and half and a touch of coffee. Do what works best for you!

Oreo Cheesecake Truffles
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 package Oreo cookies (minus a few for eating if you want!)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened at room temperature
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter

1. Crush the Oreos (the entire Oreo, cream and all!) until finely ground. A food processor does the best job, but if you don’t have one, throw the cookies in a ziploc bag, grab a rolling pin, and go to town.
2. Transfer 3 cups of the Oreo crumbs to a bowl and add the cream cheese. Using a spoon, press, mix and stir until the cream cheese is completely mixed into the Oreo crumbs and you have a soft, homogeneous mixture. Using a small cookie scoop (or the equivalent of 2 teaspoons), scoop/roll balls of the Oreo/cream cheese mixture and place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Once you have scooped out all of the filling, refrigerate the baking sheet for at least 30 minutes, until firm.
3. In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate chips and butter in 30 second increments at 50% power, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth. You may also use a double boiler on the stovetop. Add half and half if necessary to thin out chocolate. Working with one Oreo ball at a time, dip it into the melted chocolate, roll it around to cover completely, and then use a fork to remove it from the chocolate, letting any excess drip off. Place the dipped truffle back on the wax paper-lined sheet. Repeat with all truffles; once finished, return the baking sheet to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes.
4. Serve the truffles, or garnish with some melted white chocolate and leftover crushed Oreos. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Kale and White Bean Soup

You may see my December catch up post here!

Bryan and I both had a craving for some greens one week and decided that we wanted kale to be included in the week's grocery list. I found this soup recipe and we decided to give it a try on a rainy, dreary, December winter evening in Chicago. It turned out great and we loved this soup! It is definitely going to become a winter staple around here! It also makes great leftovers, and you know how we love leftovers!

Kale and White Bean Soup
From Epicurious


  • 1 lb dried white beans such as Great Northern, cannellini, or navy
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 2 qt water
  • 1 (3- by 2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf (not California)
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 lb smoked sausage such as kielbasa (optional), sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb kale (preferably lacinato), stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped

  • Directions:

    Cover beans with water by 2 inches in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander and rinse.
    Cook onions in oil in an 8-quart pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans, broth, 1 quart water, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and rosemary and simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, about 50 minutes.
    While soup is simmering, brown sausage (if using) in batches in a heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning, then transfer to paper towels to drain.
    Stir carrots into soup and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in kale, sausage, and remaining quart water and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper.

    Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp and Cilantro

    You may see my December catch up post here!

    After we finally finished our Thanksgiving leftovers, we wanted a lighter dish to enjoy for a couple of days. This dish popped right to mind! We first enjoyed it with our friends Thomas and Abigail while we visited them in Philadelphia in November (another interview for Bryan). It was delicious then, and we knew we wanted it again! This dish is fulfilling, healthy and light all at once and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

    Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp and Cilantro
    From Food and Wine

    12 oz soba noodles
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    3 tablespoons tamari
    1 teaspoon agave syrup
    2 large shallots, thinly sliced and separated into rings
    6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
    2 scallions, finely chopped
    1/4 cup chopped cilantro
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    Lime wedges, for serving


    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until tender, 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the oil with the soy sauce, tamari and agave syrup. Add the noodles and toss.
    2. In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat until golden and crisp, 2 minutes. Transfer the garlic to the paper towels.
    3. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir in the shrimp and season with salt. Grill the shrimp over high heat, turning once, until glazed and just white throughout, 3 minutes.
    4. Arrange the noodles on a large platter. Sprinkle with the scallions, cilantro, crushed red pepper and the fried shallots and garlic. Arrange the shrimp on top and serve with lime wedges alongside.

    December Catch-Up!

    December was such a busy month, I barely had time to sleep, let alone blog. This post will give a quick catch up of what our December was like to catch you up!

    About mid-December Bryan and I went to San Francisco for his last residency interview. The weather was perfect the whole time we were there and it was beautiful!! We got to eat at some wonderful restaurants: Zuni Cafe with my dear college friend Rachel and her husband Mikael. We celebrated the end of Bryan's interview season by eating at a German restaurant, Suppenkuche. We also had delicious coffee at Blue Bottle Coffee with our wonderful hosts and college friends Micah and Stefani.

    The day before we left for San Francisco, I took the final for my nutrition class and am very happy to have it completed! I got an A for those of you wondering :) I loved studying the material, but it was hard to take a very time consuming class while working full time and traveling along on interviews. The rest of the winter and spring should be much less stressful!

    Just prior to the trip, one of my best friends suffered a great loss as her mother died of a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. I wasn't able to make it to the funeral, as it was in MN during the time we were to be in SF and the flights wouldn't work out for me to be there in time. However, we were able to get together over the holidays to reminisce and spend some quality time with each other. My friend is one of the strongest people I know, and she will get through this. I will always be there for her! The 11th anniversary of my mom's death occurred over the holiday and there is just something about this time of year that bring everything back and make memories stronger. I love her and miss her more than words can say.

    Coming up:
    A couple of dishes that got us through the busy weeks prior to Christmas!
    Christmas in Minnesota

    Things happening this weekend and will appear on the blog soon:
    NYE in Chicago
    2nd Wedding Anniversary

    Sunday, December 25, 2011