Garden: 2017

Garden 2017 planting day | Kale and Ale

Tonight we planted our garden. Every year it’s an exciting day: The possibilities are endless and there are no failed plants at this point. Everything is cute and small, and the yield and hopes are great.

We like to try some standbys and some new things. This year we are trying broccoli for the first time, wish us luck. (Disclosure: The last minute thing we try usually doesn’t do great.) Now in our third year, Aaron and I tried to plan for how big things get, how much sun they get and how much space they need. Each year we learn a little more and take that into consideration.

RELATED: Tips for first-time gardeners

This year, we went to the University of Minnesota Master Gardener sale, where they sell what they have grown, which often means unique or heirloom varieties of food. The garden has:

  • Sugarsnax carrots
  • Rosemary (in a pot)
  • Apple mint (in a pot)
  • Packman broccoli
  • Basil
  • Peppers:
    • Marconi
    • Serrano
    • Carmen
    • Chocolate beauty
  • Tomato:
    • Martino’s roma
    • Lemon boy
    • Tumbling Tom (in a hanging pot)
  • Chives (already had)

For reference, read my post of what I planted in 2016.

What will you be growing this year? What is your favorite thing about gardening?

Running Goals: 2017

Golden Valley 10k running 042917 Valerie | Kale and Ale

In the home stretch of the Golden Valley Run the Valley 10k.

After a low-key year for running in 2016, I plan to make up for it in 2017. One of my top running goals since moving to Minnesota has been to run around nearby Medicine Lake at almost 9 miles. I’ve never built up to that distance during the short summer running season, but since I’m finally acclimating to weather and have been going to the gym regularly, I’ve made it a goal this year.

When I found a 10k for the end of April in the next town over from where I live, I signed up. I know the best way to hold myself accountable with a running goal is to sign up for a race. Having spent the winter doing yoga, elliptical and weights, I was training from 0 miles. I found a 10k training plan and started one day at a time. From my first run, I quickly got stronger.

The day of the race I was concerned about my performance. I hadn’t done my legs any favors the week leading up to it. I was at a concert standing and dancing the night before, and had attended a Barre fitness class two days prior. While my goal was to finish, I crushed it with a 10k personal record of just under an hour, at 59:26. I attribute that to the much-dreaded treadmill runs where I pushed up my speed on shorter runs. This is something I’ve known for years that I need to incorporate into my training and had been reluctant to do, so I guess now I know the results.

Golden Valley 10k 042917 group | Kale and Ale

Gotta love a race where pastries are part of the post-run snack. Holly, Nyssa and I with our post-run carbo-load.

I’m now at a good base to run Medicine Lake in a month or so (my personal running goal is to build up to 7.5 to 8 miles by the end of May). And when one of my race buddies Nyssa mentioned doing a 15k in June or July (a distance I’ve only done once), I was on board and am interested in doing one to keep up this momentum and distance. Either way, I plan to run around Medicine Lake this summer and make running outside earlier and later in the year a new tradition.

What are your summer fitness goals? I would love to hear them in the comments so we can help motivate one another!

Review: Reverie Cafe and Bar Breakfast

Reverie Cafe polenta rancheros } Kale and Ale

Polenta rancheros at Reverie Cafe and Bar in Minneapolis

Reverie Cafe and Bar, a casual vegan restaurant in Minneapolis, recently started serving breakfast. As I’ve been meaning to go back since I had a delicious Cuban sandwich for dinner last year, I decided now is the time to return.

Since I knew Aaron and I would be out and about, looking for something to stick with us for a while, I suggested checking out Reverie’s breakfast offerings. We got there about 9:40 on Sunday—perfect timing to grab one of the few off-street spots they have. We beat the rush by about 10 minutes, which means we had a pick of tables and got to the front for food.

I knew I wanted the Benedict, as it looked amazing and because I could never stomach a non-vegan version. It wasn’t meant to be, as they were out of shiitake bacon. I was momentarily disappointed and stumped as to what to order, but the employees assured me everything was good. They pointed me to a section of the menu with more savory dishes. I choose the polenta rancheros and Aaron had the biscuits and gravy.

Reverie Cafe breakfast | Kale and Ale

Polenta rancheros and biscuits and gravy at Reverie Cafe and Bar in Minneapolis

Both were amazing choices, savory depth of flavor. We shared a bit of each and I couldn’t decide which I liked better.  I don’t know what’s in it or how they did it, but the beans in my dish had such a good flavor that I couldn’t exactly place. This was disappointing in the fact that I can’t even try to replicate it at home. The fillings were very large portions; I didn’t finish mine and I was full almost until dinner. I would go back again for either of these or to hopefully get the Benedict in a heartbeat.

Restaurant Review: The Tomato Vine

Note: I was provided the food in this review at no charge from the Tomato Vine restaurant. All opinions are my own.

salad The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

The peanut dressing on this tofu and grain salad is amazing.

When the restaurant/catering/take-and-heat business The Tomato Vine contacted me about reviewing its food, I jumped at the chance. Having spent last summer looking at healthy, local and fresh catering options for my wedding, this would have fallen into that category.

The Tomato Vine focuses on seasonally, from-scratch meals, and has a lot of options that are clearly marked for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free meals. All ingredients are labeled, so you know exactly what’s in the food. (See the menu here.) Where possible they source local food. In short, they reached out to me because they prepare food the way I prepare food. I really respect that, for as much as I love cooking, sometimes I just want a break from cooking but I don’t want to sacrifice quality or my beliefs.

Food Options

In addition to the Tomatoes Vine’s set menu, there are weekly specials, and it’s clearly marked what can be modified for dietary needs.

Eating options include delivery or pickup (with heating instructions for later, served in nice Pyrex or disposable containers), a lunch cafe and catering. They focus on catering for corporate and private events.

Lunch options are a few hot choices, salads, sandwiches, sides, snacks and desserts.

My Review

The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

I tried a variety of food, all clearly marked with ingredients and cooking instructions.

As I already mentioned, ingredients and heating instructions are on the label for each meal (which I love, easy to find and see what is in it or to do). I tried a variety of foods:

  • Tarragon grain cakes with apricot chutney
  • Spicy peanut tofu salad
  • Veggie fried rice
  • Red pepper hummus with veggies and chips
  • Maple apple cobbler
veggie cake The Tomato Vine | Kale and Ale

Tarragon cakes full of grains and tofu.

That night I ate the cakes, and my first impression really was that it is something I would make: Simple with good flavor from real food. I loved that the ingredients it included were easy to taste, and it didn’t include extra ingredients or flavors. The tofu and grain mix that is the base of the cakes was really good, it was also in the salad.

Speaking of the salad, the dressing was my favorite thing I had. I took the salad as a work lunch the day after getting the food, since it was on a plastic container. I tried to figure out (with no luck) how to recreate that dressing. Topped with fresh veggies, it was a hearty, filling and flavorful salad.

I make and eat a lot of hummus and the thing that can make or break it is texture. It had a nice consistancy, smooth yet it wasn’t overly processed, so I loved that the texture was a little chunky, the way I like guacamole or salsa. I’ll have to remember to leave it like that the next time I make hummus.

I’m not a big dessert person, as readers of this blog and anyone close to me knows, but this dessert hit the spot. The sweetness is derived from the maple syrup and cooked apples, and the topping was browned and crunchy, contrasting the soft cobbler underneath.

If I’m looking to cater, I would consider and recommend The Tomato Vine, as they are knowledgeable and accommodating on diet, while using seasonal, wholesome foods.

The Tomato Vine

7134 Shady Oak Road, Eden Prairie, Minnesota 55344

Phone: 952-941-1699

Website: www.thetomatovine.com

Facebook: facebook.com/TheTomatoVine

National Park Service: An Appreciation

The U.S. National Park Service is one of the best things about America. It is America. 100 years old, it’s a national treasure to learn about our nation’s history and lands. I really love visiting different sites, from urban memorials to remote parks. See a list of National Park sites.

While I don’t want to get political, as a NPS lover and free-speech advocate, what is going on now is breaking my heart for the group I love. In January, the new president restricted the speech of parks employees via official social media accounts and talking to the media, for things like climate change, publishing reports and things like that. A group of parks employees are resisting and continue to get information out via Alt National Park Service.

The parks really provide so much value culturally and educationally to me. Aaron and I plan our trips with the National Park Service in mind, and enjoy our time at the sites. I love all the social media accounts for the park services, as the beautiful photos and informative captions always brighten my day and make me proud to live in a wonderful country.

While I’ve been going to National Park Services sites since before I could walk them without getting tired (so, at least the toddler years), I want to share some of my favorite photos from recent trips.

You can follow Alt National Parks. Get involved with the National Park Service, including donating.

I would love to see your photos and hear about your favorite park. If you have something to share, please leave it in the comments below. You are welcome to share or use my photos on this blog post for non-commercial use, don’t manipulate the photos in any way and credit Valerie Dennis at KaleAndAle.com. These photos follow Creative Commons license.

Aaron and me hiking a small portion of the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains. Near the highest point in the park, Tennessee on one side, North Carolina on the other.

Grand Canyon | Kale and Ale

Entrance to Grand Canyon. I’ve been here once as a teen and once last year, 20 years later. Much more appreciation when I’m older.

San Felipe del Morro Fortress is part of San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico.

Golden Gate Park | Kale and Ale

15-year-old Valerie looking as thrilled as any teen not fully appreciating escaping an Iowa winter to see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Blue Ridge Parkway | Kale and Ale

When in North Carolina we headed north out of Asheville and went up the Blue Ridge Parkway. Beautiful drive and tons of lookouts.

Mississippi Minneapolis | Kale and Ale

The view of the only waterfall on the Mississippi and the Stone Arch Bridge is beautiful at the Mississippi National River area in Minneapolis.

Zion beer | Kale and Ale

Enjoying a hard-earned beer at the lodge in Zion National Park, perhaps our favorite place we have visited yet.

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U.S. National Park Service Kale and Ale by Valerie Dennis at Kale and Ale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at kaleandale.com.