Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blueberry Streusel / Coffee Cake

The day before Easter I found myself at CVS buying the usual plastic eggs and "on sale" candy to fill 2 Easter baskets for the kids. Although I felt quite pathetic having to buy my goods the day before the big event, I was not the only one. Not by a long shot.

And a good thing I did go. On my walk back home I ran into one of my absolutely Fabulous neighbors. The neighborhood "mom" stopped me while I was walking by to make sure I knew about the annual Easter morning Egg Hunt. I indeed know about it, but it didn't really sink in. I love my neighbors and the annual events are really quite extraordinary. Since we haven't been here a year yet, I was unfamiliar with the Easter Shenanigans. So, Mom convinced me that we had time to come over at 9am and have some great food and the kids can partake in a street long Egg Hunt like no other. ... one catch, Bring a dish to share. As always, I just want people to like me. So, no, I can't just go buy something and bring and share. I have to make some high stress from scratch dish.... for breakfast!

I chose Blueberry Streusel. Mostly because I had all the ingredients. And Luckily, I found a Great Blog ( that linked to Food and Wine Magazine :-) with a super simple blueberry streusel.

Streusel Topping: 2 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits 1/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour 1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 Cup (4 oz) walnuts, chopped (optional - I didn't use them, maybe next time)

1/2 C canola oil
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk or low-fat plain yogurt

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, or mixed blackberries, blueberries and raspberries (the frozen blueberries were fantastic)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan.

2. To make streusel topping:
In a medium bowl or a food processor, combine butter, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut butter in with your fingers or process until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts and set aside.

3. To make the cake:
In a large bowl, combine oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla, and beat with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until smooth. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir to blend. Add to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk or yogurt. Beat until smooth. Stir in fresh or frozen berries. Turn into the prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with topping.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, then remove the pan sides and let cool completely. Cut into wedges to serve.

From "Coffee Cakes: Simple, Sweet and Savory" by Lou Seibert Pappas

9am. An absolutely gorgeous day by any standard - and especially for Early April in Minnesota! Walking out our front door, we could already see why the kids love this day. There were huge cardboard bunnies and eggs all over the front lawn of Mom's house. And there was a 4x8 foot sheet of white washed plywood leaning up against the fence with 3 kids painting. In fact most of the decorations were set up by the local kids! Is this place real? Just give me the Kool-Aid, because I am loving it. The kids and I were in AWE. I walked in the house to the kitchen with a still warm blueberry streusel in hand. It smells amazing by the way. Gave Mom a big hug, and I got the reaction I live for. "You made this? From scratch? That's so wonderful." I was still a little nervous though. I used the frozen blueberries and per the suggestions of the blog, didn't mix them in so they wouldn't all sink to the bottom. Instead they pretty much floated on top. So, I sliced it up. YUMMY. Oh, I love coffee cake, and made from scratch is totally gratifying.

The morning continued with very gracious complements from my neighbors. The kids filled up on a smorgasbord of fruit, bread, pancakes and candy, candy, candy. The Egg Hunt was very diplomatic. All the kids lined up the door and the younger kids ran out first followed 30 secs later by an older group. You can tell a lot about the adults in the neighborhood by how well-behaved all the kids are. and WOW are they ever. I've never met a more respectful bunch. Helping the younger kids find the eggs and offering up a couple of their own so the little ones wouldn't feel bad about not finding as many.

The conversations throughout the morning ranged from business techie talk, to the economic hit on the librarians, and the local jealously about who already got a Ipad. And surprisingly, I loved every minute of it. Oh, and did I mention the mimosas and chocolate covered strawberries? It can't get much better than that.

We left with happy bellies and happy kids.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Pizza Nea Review

Pizza anyone? Yeah, sure! I have the perfect coupon for that! Say hello to $20 bucks free at Pizza Nea.

Couple of Fridays ago, my friend and I thought we should play catch up. I logged on to - love it.. check it out! - and scored a great deal for $20 bucks for a $40 coupon at Pizza Nea. It's located in the heart of NE Minneapolis, the newest coolest area of town. Hubby and I went out to eat in NE at the RedStag Supper Club over Valentine's Day - absolutely delightful! anyway, back to pizza. Since I'm a St. Paul girl and rarely venture past Grand Ave, I had Gretchen drive. Found a lot fairly quickly, after narrowly avoiding all the one ways. Walked down Hennepin... and there it was... Punch Pizza!! WHAT!?? how can 2 Neapolitan style pizzerias be located soooo close together. I guess Neapolitan is really big in NE.

So, does everyone have their favorite, are the two pizza joints at war? Can you go into Punch on Monday and Nea on Tuesday and not get thrown out of town. I was a little nervous. ... Did I mention that I live near Grand??? I visit Punch Pizza every week! I was begging myself not to make a scene if it didn't live up to my Neapolitan Standards. And if you're wondering, no, I have not been to Italy, and I know nothing of true Neapolitan Standards.

Groupon in hand, we walk in. PACKED. Was it always this packed on a Friday night? OR, did all of the other 3,000 people that bought the Groupon decide to go out that night too? Either way, I smelled the smells and had a coupon, we weren't leaving. I have to tell you I loved the atmosphere. It was very hip. Many University couples were on the scene, with a few very sheik couples in their 50s, and one young family at the pizza bar with two little twin girls - probably about 4 years old. They were playing with forks and pizza dough balls. slightly odd, but I still tilted my head and said "ahhh."

Just ahead on the ramp there were people just milling about, it must be the line...nope, just a gathering of equally confused couples - man/woman couples... well, one very nicely dressed gay couple, and Gretchen and myself. I almost went with the flow and put my arm around her, surely my husband would understand the peer pressure situation.

I assumed that the tiny tiny blonde that was running around like a chicken with her head cut off was the host. Her eyes were wide, and I felt as if she were on the verge of utter panic... But I stopped her anyway. It would be a 30-35 minute wait, we could wait with the masses on the ramp, and no, we couldn't leave our name and then come back a 1/2 hour later liquored up. But yes, we could drink while standing on the ramp.

Well, we weren't going to leave now, we were in for the long haul. Our host did eventually come back and write 3 of our names down on a napkin with a black magic marker and then stuff it in her pocket, but she did not come back to take a drink order.

We spent our waiting time catching up... oh... kids, yes, hmmm, family...ohhh, right, theatre, fun. Then, an absolutely lovely older man brandishing a bottle of Pinot Nior came rushing out of the kitchen... and he had glasses in his hands - I immediately fell in love. Thanking us for waiting, we were given a tasting of the wine. Beautiful wine glasses I must say, and excellent wine too.

Once we got our table, we took a look at the menu (yep, I know, could have been doing that earlier... hind sight is always 20/20!) Not as many choices as Punch for pizza, but it didn't seem to matter, because I still had a tough time choosing. Each item on the menu was making my mouth water. I ordered the Caprino e Treccione - goat cheese, smoked mozzarella, artichokes, and sun dried tomato. Gretchen ordered the Confunghie Prosciutto - porcini mushrooms, prosciutto, parmigiana and mozzarella cheeses, and San Marzano Tomatoes. And last but not least, we ordered a bottle of red wine to share. There goes the groupon and more!

Our waitress was punctual, to the point, polite and Much calmer than the host. She also had the most wonderful tattoos around her elbows. Some sort of flowered partial sleeve or very thick band of tattoo in the middle of both arms. She was instantaneously super cool.

The pizza arrived very quickly. For those of you that are not familiar with Neopolitan Pizza, it's cooked in about 1.5 minutes in a wood fired stone oven. It was delicious. The delicate smoked goat cheese against the tang of the artichokes was heavenly. The crust was thin, but not like a cracker, and at the same time (sorry Punch) still kept some form and rigidity,. not a whole lot, but some. I was very impressed.

I also tried the mushroom prosciutto pizza of Gretchen's. YUM. While I'm a fan of anchovies, I'm not usually a fan of prosciutto - too salty. Strange huh? But never mind, it was perfect. The salt was there, but not overpowering. The full earthy flavor of the porcini mushrooms was still able to come through. The flavors were extremely well balanced on both pizzas.

I have to say, I loved it. from the original works of art on the walls, to the slightly neurotic host, it was a fun experience and the food couldn't have been better. The atmosphere was hip, but not intimidating. Friendly, but not too casual.

So, what's the final outcome? Punch or Pizza Nea? It's a draw. Pizza Nea is a little more expensive. I believe Punch is a little more authentic and I like that they have more options for the mostly vegetarian. But I like the "sit down, have a waitress setting" more than the fast food style of Punch.

I recommend Pizza Nea - 2 thumbs up!

Peace out.