Daytrip: Mankato

Minneopa waterfall |

Waterfall at Minneopa State Park near Mankato, Minnesota.

I have made an effort this summer to get out and explore more since, as I’ve mentioned, I was busy with buying a house last summer. I think I’m taking advantage of the short Minnesota summer. I’ve enjoyed incorporating daytrips into the rotating.

In Yan Teopa Rock overlooking Lake Pepin (a.k.a. the Mississippi River). #nofilter #hiking

A photo posted by Valerie (@kaleandale) on

I shared my time in Waconia, but two weeks ago I went hiking near Red Wing at Frontenac State Park and purchased a state park pass good for one year. I didn’t take many pictures during that time, but hit up the park and a fairly challenging hike, but the reward is views from the bluffs of the Mississippi River. After that I hit up Red Wing Brewing for some beers, which had pizza that looked amazing (looked being the key word).

Minneopa State Park prairie |

Prairie being restored and prepared for bison at Minneopa State Park.

Wanting to take advantage of the weather, the hiking shoes I bought this summer and the park pass, I planned a trip to Mankato and the nearby state park Minneopa. This park was a lot different than Frontenac, so the variety was neat. The trails were much easier, as they are all made for cross country skiing, so they are wide and flat. There are two parts to the park, a paved trail going to the waterfalls and a part that is in some trees but mostly prairie grasslands. In the second part, they are currently working to restore the prairie further and reintroduce bison into the park. I think there will be a part where the bison roam that you can drive through with your car, so I would like to go back and visit once this is done.

Mankato Brewery sampler |

Mankato Brewery sampler

I enjoyed all the sites and flowers, but the prairie was warm, so I wanted a beer to cool down. Heading to Mankato Brewery, I opted for a sampler, as it was all types of beer I like and I had only had one of the four beers before. The sampler included Kato Lager, Organ Grinder Amber Ale, Duly Noted American Pale Ale and Haymaker IPA.

Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery |

Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery

From there going north the next stop was Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery. The variety of wines was impressive. I got five samples for $7. The real draw was the brick-oven pizza, as I wasn’t going to make the same mistake and miss out as I did at Red Wing Brewery.

Chaknaska Creek Winery pizza |

Chankaska Creek veggie pizza

The brick oven pizza was crispy and had a variety of vegetables. After eating some pizza and sipping wine I walked the grounds. A creek runs through the winery, and I was impressed with the different parts of the winery that can host events and are nice spots to relax.

Chankaska Creek Winery |

Chankaska Creek

I think I have a pretty good thing going with hiking and exploring breweries and wineries that are easy drives from the cities. Do you have any easy daytrips around here that are worth a drive?

Zucchini Pizza

Zucchini pizzas | KaleAndAle.comZucchini pizzas |

Zucchini is the base for pizzas in this recipe.

In an effort to solve my most burning question every summer — “How do I use all my squash and zucchini?” — I decided to go the squash-as-pasta route, using it in place of the crust for pizza. A bonus was this was a tasty, light treat using produce from my farm and garden in a non-too heavy meal on a humid summer day.

Herbvorous Butcher | KaleAndAle.comHerbvorous Butcher |

My first experience with Minneapolis’ vegan butcher resulted in tasty Hawaiian ribs and pepperoni.

As luck would have it, I stopped at a Herbivorous Butcher pop-up shop last week and snagged some pepperoni, so I knew the results would be tasty. (Side note: Herbivorous Butcher is a Minneapolis-based vegan butcher making small-batch handcrafted food from scratch.)

Zucchini sweating |

Sweating the zucchini

I wanted the pizza crust to be as bread-like and sturdy as possible, and cook as well as could be expected, so I sliced the zucchini evenly into 1/4 inch slices on my mandoline and salted them for about 30 minutes. Patting them dry, I dipped each slice in the milk-eggwash and dredges them in breadcrumbs. They then went on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and baked at 400° for about 15 minutes, until browned and crisp.

Zucchini pizzas assembly KaleAndAle.comZucchini pizzas assembly

Pizza assembly line

Next the zucchini crusts got a light amount of marinara (no need to make them soggy an hour into the production) and cheese, then thinly sliced toppings. In this case the toppings were mushrooms, green onions, the pepperoni and rosemary, again lightly topped to not make the pizza too heavy. From here the pizza was put back into the still-warm oven to broil for 10 minutes. Once the cheese was bubbling and the toppings cooked, it was ready.

With the breaded zucchini as the crust, it was difficult to tell it wasn’t bread, it just wasn’t dense like crust. And more importantly, it was hard to tell it was zucchini (one of my less favorite summer vegetables).

With a little planning and not much hands-on time, this was a really tasty light summer dinner I will be making again.

Zucchini pizzas | KaleAndAle.comZucchini pizzas |
Zucchini pizza
Print Recipe
Pizzas using breaded and baked zucchini as the crust.
Servings Prep Time
2 60 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 60 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Zucchini pizzas | KaleAndAle.comZucchini pizzas |
Zucchini pizza
Print Recipe
Pizzas using breaded and baked zucchini as the crust.
Servings Prep Time
2 60 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 60 minutes
Cook Time
25 minutes
  1. Slice zucchini as evenly as possible and as thinly as desired.
  2. Salt zucchini 30 minutes. Pat dry.
  3. Whisk together egg and milk in one bowl, pour the breadcrumbs into another. Dip each slice of zucchini in the egg wash and coat with breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet and cook at 400° for 15 minutes or until browned and crisp.
  4. Remove from oven and top with marinara, cheese and toppings. Place in warm oven and broil 10 minutes.
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Amusements at The Rookery

Rookery Violet Pilot |

Violet Pilot at The Rookery

I went to The Rookery in Robbinsdale yesterday for the first time. It’s such a shame it took me that long to get there. In my defense, I stopped by one night this winter but they were closed for a private event.

The Rookery, for those not in the know, is the “bar program” (their words) of Travail Kitchen & Amusements, a chef-driven restaurant with a tasting menu of 14-20 plates. I had not tried too hard to visit either place because I knew it was hard to get in and I wasn’t sure of the vegetarian options. This assumption, in the words of Julia Roberts’ character on “Pretty Woman,” Vivian Ward, was a “big mistake. Big. HUGE.”

So I went to The Rookery. I knew it was near Travail, so I walked in, unsure, and realized the bar is to the right, the restaurant to the left in one big room. And if there is still any confusion, the chalkboard at the door has arrows.

As I said, it is one large room. I didn’t take pictures because I didn’t expect to have such a great time I would write about it, but viewing this album gets to the gist of the restaurant. It’s all open air, with different food and drink stations, so it’s an entire experience. Reservations are needed for the entire tasting experience at Travail, but at The Rookery you can belly to the bar, talk to the bartenders and cooks (they love it—they are like actors themselves) and watch the show. They slide you a paper sheet “menu” with the small plates offered that day, which are ordered by the piece, and they answered all questions about my food needs and explained what to expect with each item. And during this, they explained the entire tasting menu can be made vegetarian (or vegan, or gluten free or whatever your specific needs may be).

Rookery Pickled Plate |

Pickles (fruit and veg, spicy, savory and sweet) at the Rookery.

I had a Violet Pilot drink (gin, lavender and lemon). Food was pickle plate (pictured), fries with a mustard emulsion, fried green tomatoes with an amazing homemade dill ranch sauce, and spring rolls. I was so impressed and excited by all this, I plan to get tickets for the Travail experience soon.

And if you are in the area and it’s open, I must suggest Golden Age Design, a mid-century furniture shop. The owner is nice and the furniture quality is impressive. It’s where I got the sideboard for my living room.

Have you checked out Travail or The Rookery? What was your experience there like?

CSA 2015 Weeks 2 to 4

I’ve been slacking on blogging, falling behind. We are a month into the CSA, and it’s starting to get to be more than I can eat in one week (but, challenge accepted!). The variety is so impressive, I can’t believe week 1 and a few items were only a few weeks ago.

The kinds of things I have been getting lately includes peas (done for the season), huge heads of lettuce, lots of squash/zucchini and potatoes, onions, beets and green beans (yummm). This week we start with sweet corn. Sweet!

Here’s weeks two to four:

I’ve been having a lot of salads and grain/veggie bowls. I’ve also made enchiladas, and today I’m going to make stuffed peppers in the slow cooker and grill veggies.

As if that all isn’t enough, I tried my hand at gardening this year, and the results seem to be a best-case scenario, as evident below.

Garden |

The garden almost two months in. A beast!

What have you been making with in-season produce and what is your favorite way to preserve produce?

Exploring the Neighborhood Farmers Market


New Hope Farmers Market

Saturday I explored the farmers market in my neighborhood, the New Hope Farmers Market, for the first time. I lucked out as they are building a Hy-Vee in the location of the former farmers market, so they moved the market an easy walk from my house.

(For the uninitiated, Hy-Vee is the best grocery store, employee owned in Iowa. The first Twin Cities location is near my house. And it was my first employer.)


Rosemary and peppermint plants

In its second week of the season, the market is a good size; it has a nice variety of vendors but can be a quick trip. I went to browse for future weeks and left with two herb plants: Peppermint and rosemary.


Produce at the New Hope Farmers Market.

Also at the market are various produce vendors, some pickle and jam stands, bakers, crafts, the University of Minnesota Extension Office, someone selling fresh chicken and the necessary singer, kettle corn vendor and mini donut maker.


All in all the market is a great community resource. I loved seeing people walking to and from the market with their reusable bags, just as I did and will in the future. I’m happy to add it to my CSA food every week.