Redefining Perfect

Woman place | Kale and Ale

Recently spotted at Mad Modern furniture. It took all my will not to buy it.

I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, but I do set a lot of personal goals for myself. I love to see growth and character building through new adventures and accomplishments. Yet I find myself constantly redefining what success means, and it feels it’s been tested a lot this year.

Some might read this post as an excuse for not tending to my blog as I would like. To me, this post is about the importance of personal health and discovering the healthy balance in life.

I know I can be pretty Type A and wound tight. I love marking things off a robust to-do list. Yet I’m reminding myself a little more forcefully and often that crossing things out on a slip of paper isn’t the end goal. Living in the moment is. And often that means that times when I want to finish a blog post, I leave my computer off and focus on friends, family and myself.

It helps that I have a strong support system, can more easily and often see my family, am working Monday to Friday during the day for the first job in my life. Not everything is perfect or how I would choose it to be, but that’s life. And I’m accepting it more every day.

Kitchen dry out | Kale and Ale

My kitchen last week. Only difference now is the loud, hot blowers and driers aren’t there. Neither is the kitchen sink (still).

All aspects of life have been busy this year, and something has to give. Even this past week or so (when my first unplanned house issue with plumbing and water damage has come up) I’ve been asking myself what is the bare minimum that needs to he done today, and the blog certainly doesn’t fit in there. This year has been busy at work and the summer doesn’t look to slow down.

People have said I handle pressure well. My many years as a front page designer for a daily paper that can have a lot of crazy stories has taught me that to meet deadlines and move forward, I can only work with what I have in the present time. Sometimes that’s bare minimum, and I have to figure out what that is. But stressing about it isn’t productive. I take one thing at a time, and can’t control the rest.

While I use this blog to better myself and express myself to others, it will be on the backburner this summer as I rediscover myself.

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Note: While I’m in a good place mentally, I need time to not be so stressed out and focus on the non-blog items in my life right now. However, if you yourself feel overwhelmed, sad or worse, please seek help. MentalHealth.gov is one resource.

 

Road Trip: Decorah, Iowa

Decorah, Iowa, is located in the northeast corner of the state, 15 miles south of the Minnesota boarder among bluffs. Best known for the eagles, liberal arts college Luther, Norwegian pride and Toppling Goliath Brewery, it’s an outdoor haven of small-town living. Having only passed through it once 18 years ago, I decided to head down Highway 52 and explore the big hiking and beer options in this small town.

Aaron and I visited over the long Memorial Day weekend, and be warned: The town shuts down on the holiday. There were only two places open downtown for breakfast, but more on that later.

Beer and Food Options in Decorah

Oneota Coop Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Oneota Community Co-Op

We arrived in Decorah around lunchtime, so we headed straight to the Oneota Co-Op, recommend by my dad. The shop itself isn’t large, but the cafe portion includes a salad and hot bar and pressed panini sandwiches. I was hard pressed (hilarious, right?!?!) to pick between the magic mushroom and chipotle tofu sandwiches, but ended up with tofu simply because I knew I would appreciate the protein from it and the two slices of cheese on it later when I was hiking and drinking. And the sandwich was amazing, featuring slices of tofu in an amazing sauce between two melty, flavorful slices of cheese. We ended up stopping at Toppling Goliath Brewery for lunch, eating on the patio and washing the food down with a hoppy beer.

Seed Saver Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Seed Saver’s with heritage seed area in the front

After lunch we made our way to Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm to view the gardens and hike the grounds. There is a lot of ground there, so it was fun to walk around past an orchard, through a prairie and in a pine forest. Beyond the hiking (of which there are many miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty, pick up a map in the visitor center to find out trail features, length and difficulty) are the gardens. There is a great herb and decorative garden, but my favorite part is where Seed Savers is trying to identify possible duplicate types of produce to properly name and identify foods and to save the heritage seeds. The farm is free to visit and interesting, worth a few hours of time.

Pulpit Rock Brewing Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Pulpit Rock Brewing and chill patio

Next we stopped at Decorah’s other brewery, Pulpit Rock Brewing Company. It had a great, large patio with a great view of a city park. It was warm, so it was great to hang out outside. People kept filling in and out, ordering beers and enjoying themselves. We, however, weren’t that impressed with the beer. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t impress us, feeling like we could take it or leave it. So we left it, but like I said, many people were taking it.

We made out way to Hotel Winneshiek, the restored turn-of-the-century hotel, to drop off our things and freshen up, and walked around the cute downtown. The Decorah Hatchery clothing and outdoor store came recommended, but was already closed for the day when we made it there, as it had very limited hours on Sundays. We walked down Main Street, passing historic buildings and looking at some interesting houses featuring large gardens and solar panels.

Main Street ends at the Upper Iowa River and an entry point for the well-maintained paved 11-mile trail around Decorah, running alongside the well-known Fish Hatchery and Raptor Resource Project, home of the Decorah eagles. We plan to bring our bikes next time and explore the trail in full.

Toppling Goliath | Kale and Ale

Tons of small-brewery charm at Toppling Goliath

This time we didn’t have our bikes so we walked back to Toppling Goliath. I recommend walking because parking isn’t great (both in size of lot and that you have to go down a steep drive to exit) and the beers are so damn delicious you won’t want to limit yourself. Pro tip: Belly up to the bar and chat up the servers to find out what fun beers they have had recently (we scored samples that way) and to learn about what beers are in the works. See current beers on tap.

Mabe's Decorah Iowa Beer Gnome | Kale and Ale

Beer-drinking gnome at Mabe’s, the best kind

After trying enough beer, dinner was in order so we walked back downtown to Mabe’s, It was a good choice for after-drink dinner, with a homey feel and delicious food. And the casual family vibe and large dining room meant we felt we could linger. From there we went back to the hotel, tired from a long day, and needing to rest for more hiking the next day.

Lots of Hiking in Decorah

We ate breakfast at our hotel restaurant, Restauration. It was only one of two places open for the holiday, but by going there we weren’t settling; it was a fantastic meal. It focuses on homemade and local food, which is a warm welcome in a hotel restaurant. I got the blue plate special (served on a blue plate!): eggs, potatoes, fruit (instead of meat) and toast, and the potatoes where smashed and fried with the skins on, seasoned well, and the eggs were local. Very filling meal for around $6.50, great to keep me nourished while hiking, and good coffee, too.

Dunnings Springs Decorah, Iowa | Kale and Ale

Dunnings Springs is totally worth the stop

Right inside town are three parks next to each other, each worth exploring: Dunnings Springs, Ice Cave and Palisades. Each is worth a stop, even a quick one, on its own. The spring can be seen from parking and is very impressive, and there are benches to sit and view, so it’s a great spot to visit no matter your athletic ability. View hiking options in Decorah.

Decorah really has a little of everything I look for in a getaway, and I can’t wait to return.

Friday Links

We have made it to the end of a short work week! It’s officially “summer” season up here in Minnesota, but I know for many of you it’s very warm and has been so for a while. What wonderful things are you doing this week? I’m going to visit my family in Iowa.

Speaking of, I went to Decorah, Iowa, last weekend; look for a blog recap soon. On the way home I checked out Forager Brewing Company in Rochester, Minnesota. Such a cool space, it has lots of little spaces, rooms and nooks, with all kinds of decor, food and beer styles. I posted a picture on my Instagram. (Follow me at Kale and Ale if you are on IG!)

RELATED: Rochester daytrip: Breweries and hiking options

 

Speaking of, if you are looking for new drinks, I’m hosting a giveaway of a copy of “Wild Drinks and Cocktails,” so enter by Monday! Enter for your chance to win here. Even if you don’t win, check out the recipe for the Claret Cup.

I love running in different locations and races that are on new routes. As the article “9 Best Places to Run in the U.S.” states, running while traveling is great because it’s a way to sight see, feel like a local and work up an appetite for new restaurants and food. I really couldn’t agree more. While I haven’t run any of these places, I’ve walked or been near a few, and can agree these are good locations. What is the best place you have run?

Do you love food trucks and live in the Twin Cities? Here are a handful of food trucks to watch and visit in the Twin Cities in 2016, including a juice and smoothie truck, a sushi-burrito truck, and food served out of a Winnebago.

 

Cookbook Review: Wild Drinks & Cocktails

This post contains affiliate links, where I may get a small portion of sales to fund this blog.

Wild Drinks and Cocktails

I’m back with my second cookbook review. Last time it was vegan party food with “Thug Kitchen Party Grub,” and this time it’s another thing I really enjoy, “Wild Drinks and Cocktails.” It is a book full of handcrafted squashes, shrubs, switchels, tonics and infusions to mix at home. It focuses on making handcrafted drinks using fresh, foraged ingredients.

Related: Read my review of “Thug Kitchen Party Grub.”

As the name and description imply, there are drinks for syrups, infused beverages, sangria, bases of other drinks both alcoholic and non, and an entire chapter devoted to soda recipes and fizzy drinks.

The range of recipes is incredible, from both the standpoint of ingredients to how long they take to prepare; one drink I made had to ferment for a month. Already a fan of infused vodka (see my instructions on how to infuse vodka) and recently getting into preparing fermented food and drink (think beermaking and canning), this book is calling my name. There are drinks appropriate for every season, so this is a book you can go to year round. Case in point are three drinks I’ve made:

  • Fire Cider: A vinegar tonic that includes horseradish, garlic, ginger, onions and chile peppers. This is full of flavor, but is said to ward off a cold or flu, relieve sinus congestion and warm up on a cold day. It is full of flavor but surprisingly easy drinking.
  • Haymaker’s Punch: Also known as a switchel, becoming the new hip drink. It is full of electrolytes and iron, this is a great drink after a workout or a hot day. It was easy to make with common ingredients and a nice alternative to kombucha. (There’s also a recipe for a Turmeric Switchel, another popular ingredient right now.)
  • Citrus Squash: Not the food, the squash is a base of mixed citrus that is like a concentrate. Add water for juice, add champagne for mimosa or do as I did and add wheat beer for a nice beer cocktails.
Wild drinks and cocktails fire cider | Kale and Ale

Fire cider, the real (healthy) deal.

Enter to win “Wild Drinks and Cocktails”

Enough about what I think of the book and what I’ve had from it. Now it’s your turn to see for yourself. The publishers Quatro Cooks (check out their blog for more great books and recipes) have been kind enough to provide a copy of the book to one lucky reader of Kale and Ale and a recipe from the book for all readers to try. What? I know!

Right below this is the Rafflecopter widget to enter to win a copy of “Wild Drinks and Cocktails” for yourself, and below that read the recipe for the Claret Cup. The giveaway is open worldwide to anyone 18 or older. The contest starts at midnight Wednesday, June 1, 2016, and runs until Tuesday, June 7, 2016, midnight central U.S. time. Winner will be picked at random via Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Claret Cup | Kale and Ale
Claret Cup
Print Recipe
“THE LEAVES AND FLOURES OF BORAGE PUT INTO WINE MAKE MEN AND women glad and merry and drive away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy,” wrote sixteenth-century herbalist John Gerard. With its brilliant blue flowers and cucumber-like flavor, borage (Borago officinalis) has enhanced wine for centuries, even millennia. Roman and Celtic warriors drank borage-steeped wine for courage, while the Victorians used borage to garnish the claret cup, a popular punch made with red wine from Bordeaux plus various liqueurs, herbs, fruits, and spices. (Pimm’s Cup, which also traditionally includes borage, may have originated as a variation of the claret cup.) This is my version of a claret cup, and it’s inspired by recipes in historical cookbooks. The first delicious step involves creating a fragrant blend of lemon oil and sugar called oleo-saccharum, a classic technique for adding depth of flavor to punches.
Claret Cup | Kale and Ale
Claret Cup
Print Recipe
“THE LEAVES AND FLOURES OF BORAGE PUT INTO WINE MAKE MEN AND women glad and merry and drive away all sadnesse, dulnesse and melancholy,” wrote sixteenth-century herbalist John Gerard. With its brilliant blue flowers and cucumber-like flavor, borage (Borago officinalis) has enhanced wine for centuries, even millennia. Roman and Celtic warriors drank borage-steeped wine for courage, while the Victorians used borage to garnish the claret cup, a popular punch made with red wine from Bordeaux plus various liqueurs, herbs, fruits, and spices. (Pimm’s Cup, which also traditionally includes borage, may have originated as a variation of the claret cup.) This is my version of a claret cup, and it’s inspired by recipes in historical cookbooks. The first delicious step involves creating a fragrant blend of lemon oil and sugar called oleo-saccharum, a classic technique for adding depth of flavor to punches.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine the lemon peels and sugar in a bowl. Using a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon, muddle the lemon peels and sugar until the peels start to release their oils. Let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Combine the lemon peel and sugar mixture in a clean pitcher with the borage sprig, sherry, and red wine. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard the solids.
  3. To serve, pour into ice-filled glasses and top with club soda. Garnish with borage flowers.
Recipe Notes

Makes 1/2 gallon drink

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Restaurant review: Reverie Cafe + Bar, Minneapolis

Reverie menu | Kale and Ale

Reverie counter and menu

I recently visited Reverie Cafe + Bar in Minneapolis,  a casual all-day café with a coffee shop vibe. It’s an all-vegan establishment except for milk for coffee, and the newest kid on the block for veg food, located at the intersection of Franklin and Nicollet. The cafe opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 on weekends, closing when the show that night is over, 1 a.m. at the latest.

While the menu isn’t large, it’s flavorful and touches the basics. The menu evolves, focusing on flavorful and filling soups, salads, sandwiches and appetizers.

Reverie Jackfruit Cubano | Kale and Ale

Reverie Jackfruit Cubano

I was excited to try the jackfruit Cuban, which was very good, but Aaron’s seitan BBQ had a nice zingy kick that made me slightly question my meal choice, but neither would steer you wrong. The fact that the menu is changing and expanding is great, as it’s a reason to go back and try more. And the local beer options are plentiful, so it was great picking new beers to wash down the delicious food.

Fellow blogger and vegan Laura at 1 Girl 2 Cities recently posted a dessert from there that looked a-mazing!

Reverie has #vegan chocolate peanut butter truffles OMG

A photo posted by Laura VZ (@1girl2cities) on

 

If you have been to Reverie, please share your thoughts in the comments. I would love to know what you got and thought. I can’t wait to go back!