Friday, December 28, 2012

Macaroni and Cheese

I can eat my weight in macaroni and cheese.  Truly.  I don't care if it is full of cream and lobster, or if it's the "5 for a dollar" generic brand.  You put creamy cheese and carbs in my zip code and there will be a riot.

My kids are Philistines.  They like Annie's shells and white cheddar.  Which is not a bad product, but it is not HOME MADE.

Eric gets Men's Health magazine.  The framework for this recipe is in their January/February 2013 issue.  I upped the fat, changed some of the amounts, and, well, made it better.

This is GOOD fat, people.  Don't you be messing with skim milk or margarine or reduced fat nuthin.  Give it a shot full strength, eat a bit less than you normally would, and feel the love.

Sassy's Mac and Cheese

2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked and drained (about 4 cups or so)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
several grindings of black pepper
big pinch of salt
1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (I used Tillamook)
1/2 cup shredded whole milk mozzarella
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese (I used some lovely cave aged Gruyere)
1/4 cup creme fraiche (you can sub sour cream or full-fat greek yogurt)
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese

In a sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the flour.  Whisk and cook for one minute.  Add the milk and whisk, bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes, adding salt and pepper.  Turn down the heat and add the cheeses and stir until smooth.  Turn off the heat and add the cooked pasta and the creme fraiche.  Fold it all together.

Preheat the broiler.  Pour pasta into a baking dish (8 inch square works well).  Top with bread crumbs and then parmesan cheese.  Broil for 5 minutes until top is golden.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sassy Thanksgiving 2012

Happy Thanksgiving week!

I spent an ungodly amount of money at Costco and Super Target yesterday.  Shhhhh.  Some of it was for Christmas baking, but not-so-much.

I still have to pick up the turkey, parsley, pearl onions, and Haralson apples on Wednesday morning.  The turkey is fresh, which for many years now is the ONLY way I will purchase and prepare a Thanksgiving bird.  I have no time nor patience for that whole thawing scenario.  Into the brine it goes Wednesday noon and there it stays until Thursday morning when I wrestle that slippery sucker into buttery golden submission.

Brine?  Gallon of water in a big pot, cup of salt, cup of sugar, handful of herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage.  Peppercorns.  Sliced onion and garlic.  Splash of white wine if I have some to spare (dry vermouth!).  Bring it to a boil, add a bunch of ice to cool it down, then put your turkey in a Rubbermaid tub, pour the brine over the turkey and add enough ice cold water to cover Tom completely.  If you live in the North, put the tub in the garage.  If you are below the Mason-Dixon line, I hope you have a big spot in your fridge.  And you'll probably need a pot rather than a tub.  On second thought, don't brine it.

As at your house, every year has some "must-haves" on the menu.  I've been doing this holiday meal for 20 years, and there are some things you do not mess with.  For example, my mom's wild rice casserole (hot dish, thank you).  When I smell it baking, I get teary-eyed.  I wish we could have Thanksgiving with my parents . . .  And if the mighty hunters get a deer in early November, there will be a venison roast, smothered in  mushrooms and onions and some red wine.  There has to be lefse.  There has to be cranberry relish AND cranberry chutney.  Some in Eric's family insist on a cranberry jello thing made from canned cranberries, jello, walnuts, sour cream, and, well, ewwwwww - it's chunky and pink and doesn't touch my plate.  But we include all traditions.  Pickles are law.  And the usual TURKEY-STUFFING-MASHEDPOTATOES-GRAVY situation.  Stuffing.  In.The.Bird.

Every year, I try to do one "new" recipe to impress the company and keep things fresh.  This year, it's Scalloped Oysters, from Martha Stewart's Magazine.  See link to recipe below.  It calls for 2 pints of shucked oysters.  The fish monger told me I would be making a $40 side dish.  I opted for canned in water (NOT smoked).  It'll be good.

Some of the below items are being brought by other family members.  THANKS people!

The Menu

Sage and Onion Stuffing with Sausage and Pecans
Mashed Potatoes with Scallions (Champ)
Venison Roast with Mushrooms
Wild Rice Casserole
Scalloped Oysters
Corn Casserole
Creamed Peas and Pearl Onions
Cranberry-Orange Relish
Cranberry Chutney
Cranberry Jello

Dessert:  Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Chocolate Pecan Pie, Sour Cream Raisin Pie, White Chocolate Raspberry Brownies, Fresh Whipped Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream.

WINES:  Rose', Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc.  Consumer's choice :-)

Scalloped Oysters

(from Martha Stewart Living Magazine, November 2012 issue)

So, friends, what's on YOUR menu?

Have a wonderful, cozy, tasty, loving, gratitude-filled day with the people you love the best.  Happy Thanksgiving from the Sassy Family!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This CanNOT Be Good

Well crap.

So I run to the store for a few items.  The most important being butter.  I am down to 2 tablespoons and the Sassy Family simply cannot breakfast without more butter than that.

It's 8:00 p.m., the dish crew (Asher and Elsa) are working on the kitchen.  I sneak out.  To get butter, orange juice, some fruit, and NOT this:

Since none of you have ever experienced this situation, let me hold your hand.  There is no shame.  Much.

You run to the store (see above) for a few selected items you've jotted on a post-it note and stuffed into your jeans pocket.  And you're powering your way through your familiar store when suddenly, it happens.  Some horribly twisted and perverse store merchandising expert decided to put THE ABOVE on an end cap.  All "holiday-ish" and "festive-like" to seduce late evening women shoppers with muffin tops and a short list of items to procure.

Knowing DARN well this mamasita is going to snatch a bag and drop it into her tiny "quick trip to the store" cart and look the other way.

Now here's the part that surely you've never done.

You get in the car with your 3 bags of list-items and impulse-buys and you realize you need to tuck into that bag of dark chocolate sea salt kettle corn before it makes its way home and into the eye-range and ear-shot of a bunch of bottomless pits known as your children.

And then you cuss, because you realize it's one of those stupid childproof bags - you know - the kind that no hands or teeth could ever manage to open?  Invented because someone, somewhere, broke a filling or a fingernail or burned their THIGHS opening a bag way too easily, so there was a lawsuit and then better bag-laws.

So, being the girl you are, you dig into your animal print handbag and pull our your multi-use Swiss Army Knife.  And you enact the scissors and proceed to cut that sucker WIDE open.  The devil made me do it.

You sample.  And munch.  And silently both curse and bless your store, the dude who stocked the shelf, and Angie, who made this crazy-sinful-wicked-good-sweet-and-salty bag of $3.99 fanny-widening product.  "About 6 servings" - mmmm hmmmm.

The bags came home.  The vittles were shared.  Smiles and moans ensued.

There's this much left:

The bag is now folded over and tucked into the cupboard.  As is the way with things at the Sassy House, the teen will come home from work at 9, eat the dinner left for him in the fridge, and then scrounge around for a thousand more calories and discover this bag.  And finish it off.  Teens.

The worst part of the whole story?  The moral, the lesson to be told and learned here?


"Oooooooo, shiny thing!"

Monday, November 5, 2012

Freezer Storage

What do you freeze your soups-sauces-stews-whatever in?

Lots of people ask that question.  I make a lot of broth and soups.  And I make a lot of everything, so there's usually a quart or two of something or other than needs to go into the freezer for another day.

Today I'm making this:

One can never have enough Red Sauce in the freezer.  Trust me on this one.

There's a lot of talk out there about the dangers of plastic.  Some people prefer to freeze in wide mouth quart glass jars.  I've had enough breaking fun to decide against that plan.  My solution has been to use these wonderful quart sized containers, but I avoid putting HOT things into them.  It's the heat that leaches the chemicals out of the plastic and into your food.  They say.  Who are "they" anyway?


The pumpkins are just for interest.

My grandmother used these containers.  And they still make them!  I find them at my local hardware store, and some grocery stores will have them.  You can write on the lids.  They stack.  They fit nicely into odd spaces.  Just don't put hot liquid in them, and don't reheat in them in the microwave.

My kitchen freezer (top of the fridge kind, not my fave) is home, currently, to about 20 of these containers.  There's chicken broth, cranberry chutney, potato soup, wild rice soup, potato leek soup, pinto beans, black bean soup.  There are 5 rows across and it's 4 containers deep.  

If you say anything nasty about the Oscar Mayer hot dogs, I'll fuss.  They're leftover from our "feed the neighborhood dads on Halloween" party.  Humph.

So that's my solution.  Works for me.  Can work for you.  A pack of 3 of these containers runs about 3 bucks.  I have some I've used for 15 years.  They do not wear out or break or get funky in any way, if you follow the general idea I've given.

Now get busy.  Make some soup.  Freeze it.  Or Red Sauce.  And then when you are sick, or your family is, and there's a need, your kids or husband will have access to healthy simplicity.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wild Cherry Bark Cough Syrup

There's a reason that drug store cough syrup is red.

Because way back when people chose natural medicines and herbs over chemicals, some clever person (probably a woman) discovered the wonderful properties of the bark from a cherry tree to suppress and ease coughs and chest congestion.

But along the way, being the Americans we are, we heard the word "cherry" and thought it ought to be more of a maraschino cherry type of experience.  Someone probably got tired of peeling the bark off trees and going through the routine of making their own syrup.  So a big company got out their chemicals and their food dyes and their grain alcohol and made an inferior and lousy product, because we tend to go that way in our health care decisions.


Sassy's done preaching.  Here's how you make your own, for cheap, and for easy, and for health, and for taste.  You can get all the ingredients at either your health food store (if it's a bigger, good one), or you can order for MUCH LESS MONEY and support a SUPER FAMILY from:

Tell Nickole and Brian at Savvy Teas and Herbs that Sassy says hi.

If you want to make a glycerin-based cough syrup, great.  Your syrup will be ready in about 2 hours.  If you want to try an alcohol-based syrup, you'll need at least two weeks.  Alcohol (some say) extracts more out of the herbs.  But some prefer to skip that ingredient for their children or themselves for various reasons.

(Hint!  Make the glycerin-based syrup, and then for the grown ups, add a tablespoon of the syrup to an ounce of brandy before bed . . .)

Here's what you'll need and what it does.  Plan on about 2-4 tablespoons of each herb, depending on the amount of syrup you want.  And make sure you have a glass quart jar with a lid.

Wild cherry bark - it is an expectorant and has a very mild sedative property

Mullein - the herb of choice for respiratory problems (great herb for kids)

Licorice - has calming and stress relieving properties (cough spasms) and adds a pleasant flavor

Rose hips - high in vitamin C, and my "add to everything" herb for flavor

Orange peel - flavor, anti-inflammatory, more good vitamins

Nettle leaf - a great antihistamine, also anti-inflammatory

Vegetable glycerin - which you can get at some drug stores, most health food stores, or on line in many places - it extracts the properties from the herbs and has a nice sweet flavor


Vodka or rum - you know where to get this

Method A - Glycerin

In a wide mouth quart jar, add 2-4 tablespoons of each dried herb.  Add water just to moisten the herbs and then add glycerin to the jar, leaving an inch of space at the top.  Screw lid on tightly and place in a pot of simmering water, so the water reaches halfway up the jar.  Gently simmer for 2 hours.  Cool for 30 minutes, then strain into a pint jar, pressing the herbs to get all the goodness out.  Screw on the lid and it should last in a cool dark place for many weeks.  No refrigeration necessary.

Dosage:  One teaspoon as needed, 3-4 times per day, for either wet or dry coughs.  Honey may be added if the cougher prefers.

Method B - Alcohol

Fill jar as directed above.  Moisten with water.  Fill with vodka or rum.  Screw lid on tightly and shake.  Place in a cool dark cupboard and shake 2-3 times per day, for 2-3 weeks.  The longer it sits, the stronger the potency.  Strain and use as above.

One of my willing patients:

Chicken and Pinto Enchiladas with Cilantro Cream Sauce

All credit for these beauties goes to my friend Jillian.  It's basically her recipe.  Which I had to ask for at least 3 different times.  Because I'm 45 and, well, I'm 45.

Thanks, Jillian!

I usually do the reddish sauce for enchiladas.  But really, what could be wrong with jack cheese, cream cheese, cream, sour cream.  Really?

Here you go.  This made 2 really big pans, but I have a really big family and we like leftovers.

Chicken and Pinto Enchiladas with Cilantro Cream Sauce

24 small flour tortillas
6 cups shredded chicken
2 cups cooked pinto beans (maybe 2 cans worth?)
one bunch green onions, chopped (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle powder

1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups salsa verde
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped

2 cups monterey jack cheese
reserved green onions

In a large bowl, gently stir together chicken, beans, green onions, cream cheese, jack cheese, cumin and chipotle.

Spoon 2-3 tablespoons down the middle of each tortilla, roll up and place seam side down in a buttered 9x13 baking pan.

In a medium bowl, blend together sour cream, heavy cream, salsa verde and cilantro.  Pour over enchiladas, and top with the rest of the cheese and green onions.

Bake in a 350 oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Serve with more salsa verde or hot sauce.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Bye Bye Birdie" at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater

We had another terrific night at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater!

Bye Bye Birdie holds a special place in my heart.  It was the first stage musical I ever saw as a young child.  And it made a huge impression on me, staring my love of musical theater.

Eric and I had a great time.  Dinner was delicious, as usual.  I had their famous Chicken Chanhassen, he had a steak.  We had a great table and excellent service, and there was plenty of time to visit and enjoy our dinner before the show started.

Once more, the CDT delivered a spot-on performance of romance, comedy, song, dance, and true love.  The darling story of Albert and Rose, Hugo and Kim, and Conrad Birdie and his "One Last Kiss" before he goes off to the military came to life with great costumes and wonderful  music.  My personal favorite number is "The Telephone Hour" - a gossip extravaganza with the whole cast of teenagers trying to spread the news of Hugo and Kim getting pinned while jamming up the town's phone lines.  I remembered every word from my childhood!

And like every great musical, the guy gets the girl, and the other guy gets the other girl, and the whole town is blissfully happy, and the spirit of American service and teenage dreams hold fast and true for both the cast and the audience.

There are plenty of great tickets still available for many upcoming performances.  Make sure you call the box office to reserve yours today:  952-934-1525.  And visit for more information about this show and other performances running now and new shows in the future.

A couple of pictures from the show:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ham and Cheese Surprise Pancake

We needed something for lunch today.

I had ham, cheese, and of course bread and tortillas, but I wasn't up for the grilled ham and cheese sammie or ham and cheese quesadilla.

I've always thought a savory Surprise Pancake would be yummy.  Our usual one:

is of the sweet and maple syrupy variety.

This recipe made a 10 inch cast iron skillet full and fed 5 kids and one mom.  It was thoroughly gobbled by every member and some had an extra sliver.  It was that good.

In hindsight, I would add some chives, green onion, or an herb like tarragon or thyme.  Sauteed onion would be good, too.  Bacon could replace the ham, or even sausage.  Lots of options here.

Serve it for lunch with a green salad and/or some fresh fruit.  And a glass of white wine if it's that kind of lunch.  Don't rule it out as a dinner, either.

Ham and Cheese Surprise Pancake

1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
5 large eggs
2 tsp dijon mustard
8 ounces grated cheese (swiss, cheddar, parm, co-jack, whatever)
6 ounces ham, diced
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat oven to 400.

In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk and mustard, mix well.  Add flour and salt and whisk until most of the lumps are gone.  Stir in half of the cheese and ham.  Let mixture sit for 10 minutes.

Put butter and oil in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  Heat in the 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, then take pan out and swirl to grease the sides as well.  Pour in the mixture and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from oven, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese and ham and bake for 5 minutes more.

Cut into wedges and serve!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Consignment Fun - The Hanger

When I find out a new consignment store is opening in my town, I get ever-so-slightly excited.

Ok, a lot excited.

I've mentioned I like consignment and resale shopping, right?


The Hanger in Chanhassen is a new favorite place!

See what a big, bright, pretty place it is?

You can find them online at

But for pete's sake, go in!

It's located on the main drag of Chanhassen (West 78th Street), in the same strip mall as Byerly's, on the other end.

If you have things to sell, they are a traditional consignment store - bring in your fabulous items (no appointment necessary) and then you will receive 40% of the selling price - easy!

But hey, I am a shopper for the most part, so let's get to that.

The owners, Rena and Tina, are incredibly friendly and fun, not to mention helpful.  Their merchandising is amazing!  The young woman I've met who assembles ensembles and dresses the mannequins is SO talented.

Look at this wall of cuteness:

Yep, they put together the whole outfit including dress, jacket, scarf, jewelry and bags.  You'll find displays that include shoes in the mix.  Great for the "what goes with what?" challenge we all face.

I have bought skirts, jackets, jewelry, shoes, bags, jeans, pants and a winter coat at The Hanger.  All top name brand, all in terrific condition, all current and stylish and - hello! - a GREAT price.  As in up to 75% off regular retail prices.

Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Ann Taylor, Loft, Polo, Guess, and on and on.

Oh!  They have men's and teen's and kid's clothing, too!

So go visit.  Bring a girlfriend or two (I sure have, right Sarah, Sherri, Steph, and Liese!), or even bring your man because there's an incredibly comfortable sofa and chair for your relaxing needs.  Great mirrors, great lighting, easy to shop and find just what you need.  The Hanger is open every day of the week.

Have fun, and tell them Sassy sent you  :-)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thai Peanut Chicken & Rice Slaw

Not an easy title for a recipe.

But it's a really really tasty salad.

I got a general idea of the recipe from the Aug/Sept issue of "Taste of Home" magazine.  Then I used all home made ingredients, added a few extras, and changed some amounts.

I sauteed the chicken in a skillet with butter and oil, some salt and pepper, and fresh squeezed lime juice.  You can use any kind of chicken you prefer, have leftover, or feel like putting together.

Peanut sauce is simple to make.  You can make it sweeter or spicier or thicker or tangier, all depending on your tastes.  You don't have to use coconut milk, you can just use more water.  Do, however, try to make your own before you go and buy a bottle of MSG at the store with a Thai Peanut Sauce label on it.


This makes a HUGE bowl of salad.  Halve the recipe if you like, or plan to serve it to a crowd, or plan to eat it for a few days.  It won't spoil, it'll probably just get better in the fridge!

Thai Peanut Chicken & Rice Slaw

4 cups cooked and cooled long grain white or brown rice
1 cup Thai Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)
1 package coleslaw mix, or broccoli slaw mix
12 ounces cooked chicken breast meat
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped green onions (scallions)
1 1/2 cups dry roasted, salted peanuts
red chile flakes to taste
a big squeeze of lime juice (one lime) just before serving

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss well.

Thai Peanut Sauce

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (may omit)
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon Asian hot sauce or chile paste (your heat preference)
juice from one large lime
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Depending on your peanut butter brand, and your desire for sweetness, a bit of sugar or honey may be added.  Taste it first!

The sauce recipe makes more than you need for the salad.  Save it for another day and make some Thai peanut noodles with either chicken or shrimp.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Laursen Piano Service - Keeping us Tuned!

Many years ago, my mom found a new piano tuner.

Her former one, long gone now, was named Charlie and he smoked cigars and tuned the dickens out of her simple upright piano and then played a long and mean and lowdown boogie-woogie before he left.

Hard to replace a good guy.

She did find one though!  His name is Steve Laursen, and he and his wife Judy run their own business, tuning pianos in homes, schools, churches, theaters, etc.  is the web site address.

They're right here in Minnetonka, Minnesota.

Their phone number is 952-988-9363.

I grew up playing the piano.  Then for years as an adult didn't own one.  One of those priority issues, you know, like diapers and groceries and mortgage nonsense.

Then suddenly, about 10 years ago, my Aunt Lucy offered me her old piano.  No one used it.  She knew I played.  And I was thrilled at the chance to have a piano again AND the fact that my grandmother and mom both learned to play on that old piano.

Let's just say after moving it and after years of not being used much, it needed some TLC.  Which is when my mom gave me Steve Laursen's phone number.

He fixed it right up!  And I pounded away on it, day after day, finding out that my fingers and brain and heart still had some songs in there.

God bless him, Steve comes back twice a year like a good dentist (ha ha) and puts the piano back in shape. He's smart like that - knows about changes in temperature and humidity and how that affects the sound of a piano.

If Steve and Judy can take such good care of me and my old piano, and help bring music into my house and family, they can certainly help you out.  And a bonus?  Steve is great fun to chat with while he's here.  He's interested in the kids and homeschooling and the new kittens and whatever other kinds of nonsense we've got going on.

Call him.  "You'll note the difference!"

Find him on Facebook.  (

Here's Asher and Elsa - currently taking lessons and making wonderful music for all of us.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Resale Fashion Joy - Part One - Clothes Mentor

Friends are supposed to have your back.  Girlfriends, especially, and no area is more important than men and fashion.

True friends tell you when your boyfriend is a loser, and the truest friend will tell you "yes, honey, those jeans do actually make your butt look big."

My friend Sarah, who is probably one of the dearest, coolest, truest, most laid back and easy going friends I have, came for a visit last week.  A visit to me requires shopping, even when you're Sarah and are not quite as interested in fashion and clothes as I am.  But what a trooper!  She'll follow me around all day, as long as there's a respite at the pub and some Guinness in the ketchup.

In the morning before we set out, we took a walk.  It was cool and lovely and I wanted to show her more of my neighborhood and town.  We chatted our heads off and I maybe was a bit distracting and changed the subject a few times.  Apparently, Sarah meant to tell me something, but forgot when she got whiplash from another subject change.

So we're out shopping.  And I'm wearing a denim skirt and a t-shirt that day.  I come out of the dressing room with my own skirt on and a top I'd tried on.  I'm turning in front of the mirror, you know the way girls do, right?  And I see a HOLE in my SKIRT that is NOT where it should be.  Big ole' rip off the side of the hem.  This skirt is above the knee to begin with, so any extra miles of skin are not the look I am after.

The best part?  When I point it out to my dear, caring, observant friend Sarah - she says - wait for it - "Oh, you know, I noticed that when we were walking, but got distracted and forgot to tell you."

Thanks, pal.

Lucky for me, our next stop was Clothes Mentor, a designer resale boutique I frequent at least monthly.  Mine is in Eden Prairie, but there are other locations around town.  And 59 stores around the country!

Fabulous Rachel was working.  She knows me, knows what I like, what fits, and what looks good on me.  Talk about a true friend.  She knew just the right jean skirt to replace the one that was Sarah's fault somehow.

That's Rachel behind the counter.  She's leaving to work at the new store in Rochester.  I'm trying to forgive her.

I got my new skirt.

If you're a woman, who wants to be current and stylish but not a teenager, and wants the very best quality and designer clothing that has barely been breathed on, Clothes Mentor is your store.  And they are NOT a consignment store - bring in your gently used, name brand or designer clothing and they will buy it from you ON the SPOT.  No waiting for it to sell and then having to pick up your check.

Just look at one of the cute outfits they put together:

I know what I like and what looks good, but am not always sure of what to put with what, or what risks to take when mixing and matching.  Their merchandising is fabulous.  And they don't care a whit if you pull an item or two off a mannequin.  Ha!

I've bought countless items there.  Handbags, shoes, boots, dresses, designer jeans, winter coats, sweaters, blouses, and jewelry.

Purple velvet blazer?  Score.

Shimmery leopard skirt?  Got it.

Black velvet quilted winter coat with a (faux) fur collar?  Mine.

Designer jeans - two pairs?  Couple of weeks ago.

My latest and greatest?  Cole Haan gold metallic handbag - retails at $378 - priced at $67.50 - take 20% off that day - HELLO!

Sarah's a good friend.  I never hold a grudge.

Go to Clothes Mentor.  Tell them you read about it here on Sassy Family.  I promise you will not walk out empty handed, or with an empty wallet!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Eating from the Garden

In late May, you plant some tomatoes.  Of various colors and varieties.  16 plants is a good idea.

And around the same time, you put about 6 plants of basil in your herb garden.

Along the fence of your herb garden, you stick a bunch of nasturtium seeds in the dirt.

So you wait.  And you marvel at the God of the sun and the rain and the dirt.

Then one day in August, when the moon is about half full and the temperature is around 84 and you are grilling a flank steak (or two), go ahead and wander into your garden.  Pick about 5 tomatoes, some yellow and some red.  Grab a few crowns of basil off your plants.  And pick a handful of sweet, peppery nasturtium flowers.

Bring the mess into the house.  Blow off the bugs, rinse off the dirt.  Slice, chiffonade, arrange on a pretty and cheap sunflower plate from the dollar store.  Drizzle with olive oil, add a few grinds of salt and pepper.

Then smile.  And inhale.  And smile some more.

Go ahead and eat it.  Let the oil dribble down your chin.  But by all means, make sure you have a hunk of crusty white bread, so you can mop the tomato-juice-olive-oil-salty-glory off the bottom of the platter.

Because you know you want to.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Brindisi's Pub

Our little community of Chanhassen boasts many features that make it the perfect place to live, work, raise a family, go to school, shop, eat, and be entertained.

One of the largest feathers in the cap of our town is the Chanhassen Dinner Theater!

Recently I wrote a post about seeing the new musical "Xanadu" there, which, like all their other productions, was wonderfully fun, entertaining, professional and delightful.  Add in a delicious dinner to your theater experience, and it's hard to find a better night out.


has added a great new place to enjoy an evening out - Brindisi's Pub!

Of course the word pub got my attention at the get-go.

But it's not Irish.  Michael Brindisi is Italian.  And delightful, warm, generous and enthusiastic about everything that is going on at his theater, restaurants, and in his community.  He's reason enough to go to the pub for a hearty hello and handshake!

I digress.

Eric and I had a nice dinner and outdoor summer experience there a few weeks ago.  It was a perfect, warm evening, and we sat at one of their many outdoor tables in a courtyard.  I told Mr. Brindisi it felt like a piazza in the middle of a European town.  Twinkle lights, umbrellas, wrought-iron tables and chairs, plants and trees.  So very welcoming and secluded, yet completely part of the energy of the town and dinner theater life.

The photo only shows about half of the seating area.  It's lovely!

We started out with their Big Ginger drink.  Now we're talking Irish.  Two Gingers Irish Whiskey and ginger ale.  A terrific summer drink.

Not that it always matters, but I was astonished at their simple menu and amazing prices.  Yes, prices.  Where can you get a pub burger and fries for $5?  Hmmmmm?  Brindisi's, that's where!

I ordered the Penne Bolognese, which had Italian sausage, roasted red peppers, and a very nice, light Parmesan tomato sauce, on the slightly creamy side.  It's rare for me to order pasta at a restaurant - but I am so glad I did!  Yum!

I took some home for the endlessly hungry teen - it was a generous portion.

Eric, being the of the male species, opted for the Boneless Buffalo Wings - also great - not too spicy, no bones, rich sauce.

We had such great service, enjoyed a tour of the theater building from Kris Howland, heard all about the great new things going on at the facility like Disco Nights, other dance events, plans to expand the pub to serving lunch and Sunday brunch, maybe add some outdoor heaters and a fire pit to make the season extend into the Minnesota fall months, and more.  She is also such a delight!

And guess what?  They ARE serving brunch, and lunch!  Every time we drive by, it's packed out there.  If you live near the area, you'll probably bump into someone you know when you go.

"Xanadu" is still showing at the theater.  I am GIDDY that "Bye Bye Birdie" is opening in October.  Never before produced at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, and I know I don't want to miss it - neither should you!

Stop by Brindisi's for a drink and appetizer after work, stay for dinner, or grab a bite of lunch in a pretty setting to break up your work week.  You'll be so glad you did!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roasted Ratatouille Soup

So you've got blossom end rot.

And a bit of powdery mildew.

Throw in a wet spring, hot dry summer, and various other factors, and you have again, a garden that does less than the gardener had hoped.

I'm getting tomatoes.  And zucchini.  Some cukes.  Green onions are good.  Carrots are still doing their thing.  We ate a lot of green beans.  But hey!  My zinnias are colorful and beautiful.

I adore garden tomato soup.  Throw some cored maters in a pot, add oregano and basil and salt and pepper and sugar and red wine vinegar, maybe some extra tomato juice to round it out.  Simmer, smash, taste, puree, stir in a pat or three of butter.

But I LOVE ratatouille.  The eggplant-tomato-zucchini-pepper-onion-garlic fabulous late summer casserole bliss that melts in your mouth and makes you glad that some French or Italian person had the foresight to plant all those things together.

I had a few tomatoes today, and some zucchini, and a boat load of herbs.  I lacked eggplant and more tomatoes and peppers.  The solution is the farmer's market.  I went to the one in Excelsior.  Bought tomatoes and corn from my friend Tom.  Bought eggplant and peppers from the dude next to him.  Had onions and garlic at home.

If vegetables are good, roasted vegetables are better x10.  Caramelized, sweet, smoky, savory, soft, perfect little morsels.  A baking sheet, some olive oil, salt and pepper, and a 375 degree oven are your only tools.

My haul:

Your basic recipe, WIDE open to improv.

Roasted Ratatouille Soup

One large eggplant, cut into 1 inch wedges
two medium green bell peppers, cored and seeded, one inch wedges or strips
2 medium zucchini, one inch wedges
8 large tomatoes, cored, cut into 6-8 wedges
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 red onion, quartered
8-10 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
salt & pepper
extra virgin olive oil
handful of fresh basil
handful of fresh parsley
handful of fresh oregano
handful of fresh lemon balm (if you have it)
splash of white wine
1 cup tomato juice
1-2 cups water

Place all vegetables on rimmed baking sheets.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast at 375 for 30-45 minutes.  The garlic will finish first, remove it to a large soup pot.

Scrape all vegetables, along with the accumulated juices, olive oil, and brown yummy bits into the soup pot.

Add tomato juice, a splash of white wine (1/2 cup, probably), and 1 cup of water.

Simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Add the herbs, roughly chopped.  Simmer for another 10-15 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Remove from heat.  Either use an immersion blender or a regular blender, and puree the soup until smooth.  Of course you can leave it "chunky" if you like, but smooth is oh-so-nice.  Add more water if it seems too thick for your liking.

A dollop of sour cream, or creme fraiche, or a swirl of heavy cream, and maybe a tiny pinch of hot pepper flakes, elevates this soup from the sublime to the divine.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sauteed Radishes and Greens

I have died and gone to French heaven.

I've always loved radishes.  Love their peppery crunchy earthy goodness.  Slice on salads is pretty normal, but I'm a fan of pulling one out of the garden, brushing off most of the dirt, and just chomping away.  They are also divine, sliced, and served on buttered toast with thinly sliced sweet onion, salt and pepper.

I just read somewhere/heard somewhere that in France, they'll saute these beauties in butter, along with the green tops, and serve as a side dish.

Yes, please!  I love cooked greens.

These are fresh from my garden, and required only a few more ingredients.  Ready for simplicity?  And if you are uneasy about the peppery bite, lemme tell you that it really mellows with the brief saute.  If you have 5  minutes, you can make this dish.

Sauteed Radishes and Greens

1 tablespoon butter
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
handful of radishes, sliced
radish tops, coarsely chopped
1 large pinch of flaky sea salt
a few drops of red wine vinegar

In a small saute pan, heat the butter over medium low.  Add the shallots and radishes and cook for 2 minutes.  Add part of the pinch of salt.  Add in the greens and cook for another minute or two, until they are just barely soft.

Transfer to a plate.  Add the rest of that salt pinch and (truly) just a few drops of red wine vinegar.  Serve warm.

Just a few simple ingredients.  Always the best bet.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Xanadu" at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater

What a show!

I am so lucky to live in a town with a world-class dinner theater!

Over the years, starting in my childhood, I've seen many of my favorite musicals at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater.  Every single production has been beautifully staged, well-acted and sung, and a treat to enjoy.

A friend invited me as her guest to the press night of "Xanadu" recently.  You know the music, the story, right?  Leg warmers, roller skates, goddesses, beach artists, and love.  What could be better?

I enjoyed a very nice dinner in great seats.  We received a package of fun toys which were used during the production as "audience participation" props.  That added to the campy goodness of it all!

If you loved the late 70s and early 80s, if you wish Olivia Newton John was still cranking out hits, if you want to have a big evening out with dinner, music, laughter and joy, get yourself down to the CDT and partake of their wonderful hospitality and incredible entertainment!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Salad Class!

Eric's company (Palco Sports) is doing a month-long health and wellness challenge - awesome!

Some people want to start an exercise program, others are trying to lose weight, some just want to eat better and feel better.

Good man that he is, Eric suggested using some of my blog recipes for ideas, and has readily and enthusiastically promoted the Sassy Family as a resource.  I like him.

Yesterday, I went to the office and taught a short class on "How to Make Healthy Salads and Dressings."

We know that most people do not read food labels, or know what the words mean; and we know that most people don't make the leap from "this is not healthy" to "I can learn to make my own."

That's where Sassy comes in!  It was so fun to be in front of a group of people who were interested in making the leap.  And it was fun to debunk some of the myths about fat and calories and ingredients.

Prep table full of ingredients, plus a basket of bread for tasting the dressings.  We poured a little of each on a plate and people could dip and taste.  Much better than a spoon or boring lettuce leaf.  Wait, lettuce isn't boring, it's healthy!  Whoops.

We made Poppyseed, Ranch, Blue Cheese and a classic Vinaigrette.  Mixed and shook them up in handy jars, four dressings done in less than 15 minutes.  I used fresh herbs, garlic and onion, good oils, real salt, honey, and all sorts of yummy full fat happy things.

Oh look, there's Sassy!  Without a hair net or commercial license, just sharing knowledge and excitement with a group of nice people.  And full fat mayo.  Mmmmmm.  Those little Kraft dressing bottles?  Proving a point about reading labels.

I would LOVE to do this again.  I've done a few informal things in my home about basic bread baking, nutrition facts, soup basics, making herbal concoctions, etc.  But I'd love to do more and plan to look into making it happen.

If you ever want to show up in my kitchen, or have me show up in yours, we could have all sorts of fun.  I love to teach.  And I love to learn from others.  And I love when someone else cleans up the mess.

( In case you are interested, here's the dressing recipes!  )

Oh, and we made a yummy Spinach-Strawberry-Chicken-Toasted Pecan-Red Onion salad for the Poppyseed Dressing.  And had regular romaine and various veggies to enjoy the other dressings.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Garden, End of May

Everything is planted.

Tiny seeds are becoming green things poking out of the dirt.  Herbs are flourishing.  The early perennial flowers are blooming.  We've had tons of rain and the green-y-ness factor is running high around here.

Just look at those bright peonies!  I have a jar of them on my table surrounded by green and white hosta leaves.

A part of my herb garden.  The perennial herbs are flourishing and I'm using the in lots of cooking.  Annuals planted are 6 basil, 4 parsley, 1 rosemary, 1 pot of mint, and a mess of nasturtium seeds.

Just to fly in the face of conventional gardening wisdom, I don't get nearly enough sun, but somehow I manage to get a bumper crop of herbs every year.

Morning view of tomato plants.  We put 16 of them in on Sunday, and then Sunday night a whopper severe thunderstorm came flying in.  Sirens, wall clouds, all the good stuff.  The tv said there was potential for 2 inch  hail and I thought of my tomato plants.  My teenage son wisely said "better now than in August when they are loaded with tomatoes."  Exactly.  Thankfully, our hail was only pea-sized and the garden did fine.  Buckets of rain, but that's not the end of the world.

Hello bush beans.  Lots and lots of them.  Rows and rows.

The final tally for veggies is carrots, radishes, zucchini, tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, lettuce and a whole bunch of zinnias.  Now we trust that the sun and the rain and the soil and the heat do their job to provide us with a summer and fall of yummy fresh goodness.

How's your garden coming along?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fairy Garden

This is my 9 year old daughter Elsa.

With her fairy garden, under a bush, at the edge of my perennial flower garden.

We've read books, visited shops, taken pictures, gathered ideas, and planned out just the perfect fairy garden for us.

If you don't have fairies that visit your garden, I am very sorry for you.  They usually come without invitation or a space to rest, but you have to want them to come.  And you have to believe.  We believe here.

What you see above is 3 flower pots, dug into the ground, and one flower pot saucer.  Eric helped a bit with design and execution, Elsa and I gathered materials and ideas.  Sally hovered, but isn't quite as into fairies as her big sister.  Wesley is threatening to add toy soldiers and storm the castle.

Here's the parts:

This is the bedroom and bathroom.  Succulent plants from the garden store, shells from Florida, bark from our trees, moss from our woods, rocks from an obliging neighbor, a few beads, and some fairy dust on the roof top.  Just as a welcome beacon.  The big shell is a tub, the bark structure houses the bed and dressing area.

This is the dining room.  Table, 3 chairs, plant and a gold bead for decoration.  Eric sawed the wood into nice shapes.

This is the beginning of the vegetable garden.  That's a tiny thyme plant.  We'll put in a few lettuce seeds.  Those are dolphins, in case you wondered.

There's a tower from an old wooden princess castle.  A tiny balcony around the back is the perfect place for a fairy to wait for a suitor, someone to recite poetry or play the lute.  There's some coral from Florida, a few more plants, and a little bench.

And below is the whole set-up.  We plan a series of suspension bridges to connect it all (twine and twigs) and no doubt there will be little flowers and gifts left from time to time.  We hope the weather doesn't wreak havoc much, and we know that both the fairies and the lovers thereof will straighten and repair and decorate as needed.  If you have a little girl, or are a little girl at heart, you will be delighted to have something like this in your garden.  And watch at night!  There are lights and sounds and flutterings that mean fairies are afoot!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Oven-Roasted Potato Salad with Herb Dressing

I strenuously dislike yellow-mustard-mayo-potato-salad.  The kind from the deli, mostly, but even the home made varieties are usually not my favorite.

But my cook's heart just knew there was a way to make potato salad taste great, have the potatoes hold their shape nicely, with a dressing that is nicely tangy and herby and lighter than the usual routine.

Good ideas come when driving in the car.  Oven roasting the potatoes first was a revelation.  I might have seen sunbeams from heaven and heard angels sing.

Golden Roasted Potato Goodness!

My herb garden is full of green things already.  This was helpful.  I saved a huge, thick slice of good bacon from breakfast this morning, also helpful.  I had a 5 pound bag of Yukon Gold potatoes that needed a purpose in life.  Hello, salad!

Here it is.  It makes a HUGE amount, so plan accordingly.  It tasted good when the potatoes were still a bit warm, better when it was slightly chilled, and I'm pretty excited about serving it tomorrow night for company, too.  Great summer picnic food!

Oven Roasted Potato Salad with Herb Dressing

1 - 5 pound bag Yukon Gold (or red) potatoes, skin on, washed and cubed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
handful of fresh lemon balm, chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
several garlic or regular chives, chopped
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup mayonnaise
large pinch of sugar
1 or 2 slices bacon, cooked, diced
more salt and pepper to taste

On 2 baking sheets, toss the potatoes with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.  You can turn them if you like or remember, but I didn't.  Cool to room temp.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the herbs, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, mayo, sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper, and bacon.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes while the potatoes roast and cool.

When the potatoes are barely warm or room temperature, toss gently with the dressing.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving, toss again, and taste for seasoning.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Frijoles Borrachos (Drunk Beans)

My best friend Katie introduced me to these luscious beans years ago, at her dad's Mexican restaurant.

There's no reason why beans can't get drunk on Cinco de Mayo, or any other holiday or meal for that matter.

You'll need to plan ahead a day, as the beans need to be soaked overnight.  Eight hours minimum.  Throw a splash of vinegar in the soaking water - helps the sprouting process and that whole unpleasant <ahem> issue.

All the best parts of cooking are here - smoky bacon, sweet rich dark beer, spices like chipotle and cumin, and my favorite bean, the humble pinto.

These would be perfect at a summer barbecue or picnic, great with burgers or brats, and of course anything Mexican like fajitas or tacos.

Frijoles Borrachos

2 cups dried pinto beans, soaked in plenty of water for at least 8 hours
4 ounces bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
one 12 ounce dark Mexican beer, such as Negra Modelo
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried cumin
one whole dried chipotle
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
large pinch sugar

Drain the beans.  In a large kettle or pot, cook the bacon, onion and garlic until they start to soften.  Add the cumin and oregano.  Pour in the beer, then add the water and the beans, and the chipotle and black pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Stir every so often, and you may have to add more water if it is getting dry.  The final consistency should be barely soupy.  When the beans are tender (VERY IMPORTANT) then you can add the salt.  If you add it sooner, they'll get hard.  Also add a pinch of sugar.  Stir, taste, and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coconut-Curry Chicken and Cilantro-Lime Rice

I had a sorta-kinda blogged recipe of this under another title, but I keep changing the recipe, so I needed a do-over.  I wonder how many hyphens I can use in the title and body of this post?

Hopefully you can find a Thai Green Curry blend in your grocery store.  Or maybe an Asian grocery?  Or on-line?  Oh, look!  There's a hyphen.

Coconut-Curry Chicken

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 - 14 or 15 ounce can of coconut milk (NOT light)
3 or 4 tablespoons Thai green curry blend
fresh cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

In a 9x13 glass baking dish, place the chicken, sprinkle half of the curry blend, then pour the coconut milk over, and sprinkle the rest of the curry blend.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges, serve with Cilantro-Lime Rice.

Cilantro-Lime Rice

2 cups white rice
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
zest from one lime
big pinch of chile flakes
small handful of cilantro stems, chopped
juice from one lime
large handful cilantro leaves, chopped

In a large pot, place the rice, water, salt, butter, garlic, lime zest, chile flakes, and cilantro stems.  Bring to a boil, cover, lower temperature, cover and simmer until rice is tender and water is absorbed.  Remove from heat, add lime juice and chopped cilantro.  Toss gently and taste to see if it needs  more salt.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Garden Planning

It's that time here, in Zone 4, where gardeners' green thumbs start to twitch.  Better people than myself have their early spring plants in - onions, parsley, peas, radishes, greens.  Good for them.  I was on the beach.

But it's time!

Here's our vegetable garden space:

It's approximately 15' x 14' which seems to suit our gardening desires and needs.  I'm not a canner, but I do freeze some things, make refrigerator pickles, , and give a few things away to my parents and neighbors.

The lattice on the deck stairs makes the best thing for growing cucumbers, pole beans and ornamental gourds.  Pole beans are the bomb!  Long after my summer bush beans are done, I'm picking long, lovely green beans well into October.

Those brick pathways you see?  Leftover from the brick patio that was here when we moved in 5 years ago.  I was sort of moaning about no garden space, and one day I was also moaning about that brick patio (south facing) being too hot for anyone to enjoy, and the two brain cells left in my head collided and I said "GARDEN SPACE."

Having an epiphany in your 40s is a thing of beauty, let me tell you.

So Eric ripped up most of the bricks, leaving some for walking on.  He's so clever!

The soil was horrid!  Lots and lots of clay.  Which we're used to in this part of the world, but it was a bummer to remedy.  We added a bunch of manure, compost (purchased), peat moss, and some sand.  The first year produced a small crop of veggies and an even smaller crop of weeds.  If your soil doesn't grow weeds very well, you're in trouble.

Next weekend, I'll put in radishes, greens (mixed salad plus a ton of arugula), onion sets, and scallions.  In a few weeks, we'll finish with summer squash, tomatoes, bush beans, pole beans, cucumbers, chile peppers, jalapeno peppers, and carrots.  I'd say about 50% of that space will be tomatoes.  We plant them 1 foot apart and let them sprawl - no cages, no tying, nada.  Ever since we employed that method, we've had abundant and delicious tomatoes.  More about that later.

The very next thing we did that first summer was build a compost bin.  I say "we" loosely, because I have under-gardeners for such tasks.  Here's our compost bin <----------------

Built for free from branches of trees we cut out of our woods.  Did I mention how clever Eric is?  Seriously.

In that lovely structure we dump egg shells, coffee grounds, fruit and veggie scraps, leaves, grass (no chemical spray, please!), evergreen boughs from Christmas decor, end-of-the-year garden plants.

Every so often, a tomato plant or cucumber vine grows in there all by itself.  That's fun!

In the fall, the compost gets turned and a layer of beautiful live mush gets added to the garden soil, dug in, and then covered with a layer of straw (left from our straw bale fall decorations!).

Here's my herb garden, which in truth is my favorite thing.  On the other side of the fence is my perennial flower garden, and in the way back is our fire pit, created with leftover bricks and sawed logs for stools and benches:

I have oregano, lemon balm, sage, thyme, chives, and garlic chives that come back every year.  I'll add 6 plants of basil, one of rosemary, three of flat leaf parsley, and in the pot I'll plant mint.  I love walking out my front door, taking a few steps, and cutting fresh herbs for cooking.  Sally, age 7, has learned to pick chives for her eggs or quesadillas that she loves.  She's so darn cute.

So there you have it - the Sassy Garden.  Stay tuned for planting updates, tips, successes, failures, and recipes.  Happy gardening!