Jen and Company

Entries categorized as ‘Jen said’

Thoughts on moving

November 18, 2012 · 3 Comments

We have been in our new home for 16 days and we LOVE it. Although we are far from settled and we haven’t figured out our new routines, it is home. I thought I’d share some of my random thoughts (since I don’t know how to be anything but random) about moving, renting our former place and the transition to condo living.

  • Moving is a lot of work. Hiring movers was the best decision we made and I will never go back. Worth every penny.
  • When we put our house on the market more than a year ago, we purged. We pitched, donated and gave away so much stuff. When we were finally ready to move, we got rid of a lot more. Now that we are in the new place, we got rid of even more things! Less is more people. You don’t NEED that candle holder you loved 8 years ago that’s been in your closet for the last 5. Not sure? Invite your 17-year old niece over for the weekend. She’ll tell you what’s what.
  • We found renters for our old place using a rental company. Easy peasy. At least for me – Brette thankfully handled all of that. He also was smart enough to have them manage the property going forward. It’s a huge relief already.
  • Living in a condo has its quirks. we can hear people walking in the hall above us. I’m used to it now but the first night freaked me out.
  • Everyone is concerned about the dog. Lily was confused at first, but really is loving life. She gets to go to a dog park three times a day. Fetch. Sniffing other dogs. Wrestling with Colby the Golden Retriever. This is her life and she is thrilled.
  • 5:15 at the dog park is doggy happy hour. The place is packed! I think someone should bring a portable bar out for the owners. And a coffee cart at 7:15. And a night cap at 9. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
  • My new kitchen is big and spacious, but lacks storage space. Brette will be building an island (yay!) and we bought this to help with storage. It fits the industrial look of our space.

  • Although we moved into a condo, it is more space than we had in our house (it was just a little guy!). It’s big and open compared to our small little rooms. It still seems a big foreign and we’re just not sure what to even do with it.
  • Interior design and arranging furniture are not strong suits of mine. If anyone is interested in coming over to give me advice, I’ll happily hand you a beer or fill your wine glass.

That is it for now. Even though our new place has a long way to go before it seems “ready”, we’re open for visitors at any time.  Cheers!


Categories: food for thought · Jen said

On the move!

November 6, 2012 · 1 Comment

A few days ago:




Present day:



Have you guessed what we are up to?

After quite a long process, Brette and I have moved to downtown Minneapolis into a loft/condo that we are completely in love with.

When our wifi is hooked up and I can make my way out of boxes, I’ll be sharing more about what I’ve learned in this process.

So far, the family is adjusting well, dog included.


Categories: Jen said

csa friday #13

November 2, 2012 · Leave a Comment

Will I ever get bored with the CSA? Doubtful. Boxes of beautiful produce area always welcome in my home.

This weeks devliery did not dissapoint. Surprised?

Here’s what the fridge looked like after:

And the countertop:

The yellowy tomato looking things are persimmons. My first one!

The Details:


  • Portugese Kale – This is large and leafy. I don’t think I’ve had it before. Apparently the stalks are edible too if you peel them.
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet Potatoes – I haven’t used my sweet potatoes from the last pick-up. I think I feel a pot of soup coming on.
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Red Onion
  • Red Russian Garlic
  • Carrots 
  • Broccoli
  • Beauty Heart Radish
  • Sugar Dumpling Squash
  • Romanesco – more dinosaur looking cauliflower!
  • Salad Mix


  • Thomcord Grapes – a cross between a Thompson Green Grape and the Concord Grape
  • Valencia Oranges – I hope these stop the cold I feel coming on!
  • Fuji Apples
  • Emerald Beaut Plums
  • Persimmons – I have never had one of these. So curious. It looks like an orange tomato.
  • Kiwi – How do you eat a kiwi? Brette eats the whole thing – skin and all – claiming it’s too much work to peel such a small fruit. I tend to peel and slice.
  • Haas Avocados – I will never get sick of a big avocado supply.
  • Warren Pears 
What produce is showing up in your home this week?

Categories: csa · Jen said

gourmet dinner club: pumpkin (with lots of recipes)

October 29, 2012 · 2 Comments

Last weekend, we celebrated the fall at Gourmet Dinner Club with a Pumpkin Theme at Mike’s. We had a large crowd of folks (13!) who came with full appetites for what was an incredible meal. We also had a gorgeous table to eat at!

Let’s get the party started! I was in charge of cocktails and mocktails.

For my cocktail, I followed this recipe for a Pumpkin and Apple Cider cocktail. I didn’t actually have one since it was the weekend of the half-marathon, but from what I hear, it wasn’t bad. I don’t have a photo of it because apparently my camera ate some photos. Does this happen to anyone else?

My mocktail was a bigger hit. It’s called a Pumpkin Preggatini. I followed this recipe, making a few changes. I used my own pumpkin puree, vanilla almond milk for the regular milk, ginger snaps for the graham crackers and I made my own spiced simple syrup. These were delicious. This would be great at Thanksgiving or any type of fall cocktail party. You could add a spot of vodka for a spiked version.

During cocktail hour we snacked on Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds (recipe at the end) that Marnie brought. These babies were seriously addicting. Be warned.

Amanda brought a pumpkin marmalade (here’s the recipe!) and served it on baguette slices and a cheddar goat cheese (have you ever heard of that?) and it was also super yum. The citrus in the marmalade was my favorite part.

We then moved to the table and were served up so many tasty treats.

We started with Jenna’s Curried Pumpkin Soup with Cranberry Apple Compote (recipe at the end). It was velvety smooth and tasted like fall in a bowl. She topped it with crispy five-spiced apple chips using this recipe. I could sit down with a bowl just of the apple chips.

Lee made a gorgeous quinoa spinach salad with roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.


Liza pulled of a beautiful Roasted Pumpkin Quiche. Transferring it seemed to be the most complicated but she handled it well. She used this recipe. I loved the use of phyllo dough for the crust.

Also on the plate was the main dish made by Mike. Of course, there is a story behind it and a pretty funny one at that. Here was Mike’s email just moments before our evening began:

“So, I thought I had an epic fail on my hands today, but I did a little recon and it turned out ok…  
My vision was to make chicken with mole sauce.  My habit is usually to look up a bunch of recipes and pick and choose elements that I think sound best.  But I found this recipe from Epicurious (it has pumpkin seeds in it…)
I’m usually super confident in Epi’s recipes, but I think there is just something absolutely wrong about this one-  It called for 3 baquettes! I had the presence of mind to think that was way too much, so I only bought 2 baguettes…  I think what it should actually be is 3 slices of baguette. I ended up with 10 times the volume I was expecting:
It was too thick and chunky to pass through a sieve, and I had to re-blend with the immersion blender to get a reasonable consistency.  I also used 10 times the stock the recipe was calling for, but by that time I was pretty far down the rabbit hole.  The flavor ended up pretty good, so I decided to just go with it with the thorough explanation about the consistency.  I also tried to make an emergency run to Mercado Centrale to see if some restaurant would sell me some fo’ realz mole.  Nobody had more than their regular quantity for their dishes they are serving, so I ended up getting some pre-made stuff in a jar.  So, we’ll have the two to do taste testing…
The chicken is looking like it worked, though.  I dredged some portioned chicken breast pieces and thighs in flour, salt, pepper, cumin and nutmeg.  Then did an eggwash, then breaded in panko and pepitos.

See y’alls in a little bit!” 


The verdict? The homemade mole was definitely better than the pre-made stuff in the jar. It did make a ton! The chicken turned out great. If you need some extra mole, just give Mike a ring. He can probably hook you up.

Then dessert. There were three of them. Yes, three! No one complained.

We had Henriet’s pumpkin mousse which I could eat a giant bowl of. Funny thing…Henriet is from the Netherlands and pumpkin is just not a thing there. It is so weird to her how gaga we all get over it. I’m not sure if we converted her or not. I’m definitely converted to the mousse which was made using this recipe. The toffee crunch was like crack. She made a few changes to the recipe: She didn’t freeze the mousse and she also substituted some of the whipped cream that needed to be folded in with whipped up egg whites.

Dessert #2 was from Kari who also used phyllo dough. This was a non-traditional pumpkin dish (at least for me): Kataifi with Candied Pumpkin and Yogurt. I really enjoyed the yogurt topping – way less sweet than a whipped cream. The tartness brought everything together.

Finally, there was Ron’s Pumpkin Flan. I went in with low expectations. I do not like flan. I can’t get past the gelatinous texture. I’m squirming just thinking about it. Well….I LOVED this flan. It wasn’t gelatinous! It was more of pudding texture than a jello texture. I don’t have Ron’s recipe but as soon as I’m able to hunt it down, I’ll update the post.

At this point, we were all definitely FULL. We enjoyed great conversations over our protruding bellies and rolled home in a pumpkin stupor. It was my kind of drunk. Any of these recipes would be great for Thanksgiving. Speaking of which….that is our next theme! In two weeks will be doing a spin on Thanksgiving dinner which will hopefully give you all some inspiration for your holiday gathering.

Recipes (I’m only including the recipes below that weren’t linked above):

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

3 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4  chipotle chili powder (you can buy in bulk at most co-ops) or Lunds/Byerlys
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp veg oil
1 c raw pumpkin seeds
Set out a piece of parchment paper  to cool seeds on.
Place veg oil in large skillet over med heat. Heat oil until hot.  Add pumpkin seeds and stir to coat.  Cover with lid and cook 1 min.
Sprinkle sugar mixture over seeds, stir to coat.  Cover and cook 1 min until seeds begin to pop.  Remove lid and continue to
cool, stirring for approx 3 min or until most of the seeds have popped.
Place and parchment paper and let cool.  Break apart and store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

 Curried pumpkin soup

  •       1/2 cup butter
  •       1 large onion
  •       2 medium apples (I use haralson)
  •       4 cups roasted pumpkin
  •       4 1/2  cups veg or chicken stock.
  •       1 Tbs curry powder
  •       1/8 tsp  five spice powder
  •       1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  •       1/2 cup cream

Chop onion and apples in food processor  until fine.

In a heavy stock pot combine butter, onions, apples, five spice, curry and the cayenne pepper.

Cook 5 to 7 minutes until onions and apples are soft.

Add pumpkin, stock  and salt and pepper. Cook at medium for 10 min then add the 1/2 cup cream.

Garnish with cranberry apple compote (recipe follows)and creme fraiche.

Cranberry Apple Compote

  • 1    cup whole fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1   haralson  apple peeled, cored and cut in to 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2   cup sugar
  • 1/3   cup water
  • 2   Tbs lemon juice
  • pinch of salt

In a small sauce pan, combine the cranberries, apple, sugar, water, lemon juice and salt.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring frequently,until the mixture is thick and the berries have burst open, about 20 minutes.

Categories: cooking · dinner clubs · Jen said · recipes

race recap: mankato half marathon

October 25, 2012 · 8 Comments

This past weekend I ran in my 5th half marathon. It was my 3rd time running the Mankato Half Marathon.

The execution of this race went exactly as planned.

We got to Mankato Saturday afternoon without a hitch.

We expo’d:

The expo wasn’t all that exciting. It was in a new location at the Field House at MSU. Brette commented that it lacked the energy of years past. The branded gear was meh, but I did buy a couple of Bondi Bands. The race shirts were black and I like them, but for the third year in a row, the small was huge and there were no smaller options. There are a lot of runners way smaller than me. I imagine they could use the shirt as a tent! One of these years, I hope they get that right.

We ate a great pre-race meal with my parents and my sister.Pasta, homemade marinara, chicken for some, salad with a balsamic vinagrette and sourdough bread. And my mom’s cookies. It was perfect.

We got to bed early and slept well.

We got up, fueled with our normal pre-race meals. Granola for Brette, oatmeal for me.

We lamented over our attire. Okay, not really a we. It was only me that lamented. Once we decided, we were out the door with the fam and dropped off at the start site.

Sporting one of my new Bondi Bands.

The weather was close to perfect. 45 degrees at race start, wind that was mostly at our back for the race and sunny.

We lined up in the coral with plenty of time. We hung out with the 2:10 pace group and planned on staying with them throughout the race unless I felt I could jump ahead after mile 10.

Everything about our plan was working great. The first miles went by very quickly. They didn’t seem hard. We saw my dad and sister at mile 1.5ish.

That would be me waving. Corn dog.

Click to enlarge

That was a great boost. All of the crowd support was great. The long down hill at mile 4 felt fantastic. The covered part of the trail was a breeze and I wished it would last forever. I made it up the Mount Kato hill without to much problem (other than the ability to talk). This was huge to me because the last two years, I had to walk part of that hill. This year, I just kept trucking. But it was getting harder. At mile 8.5ish, I needed to take a quick walk break, but at that point, I still felt I could meet that 2:10 goal. It was a short break. My heart rate was high, but I was hopeful I could sustain the pace.

That didn’t happen. We saw my sister and niece at mile 9 (Holler!), but after that things got tough.

Again, that’s me waving. You can click on the photo to enlarge.

I needed to take a few more breaks along the way. My legs could not sustain that pace. I got a bit whiny. Ask Brette. He’ll agree. I held back tears a few times and tried to just keep going. I knew I could still PR and that was very important to me.

My husband was amazing. He kept me positive even though he knew my pace was slipping. We could no longer see the 2:10 pace group. It turned into survival mode and if it hadn’t been for Brette telling jokes, stories, and encouraging words, I’m not sure I would’ve made it.

Miles 9.5-12.5 are tough. It is a loop through a park and residential area and I’ve struggled with it each year. There are a couple of uphills that just kill me. Coming out of the park, we saw Liza, who was in town and there to cheer us on. It was a great boost. We saw her again right before the finish and her screaming “Go Hjelle’s!” was extremely motivating. I picked up the pace as much as I could when I saw the finish. I “flew” past my dad waving his cap and crossed the finish line a nano-second ahead of Brette (cuz he’s cool like that). My official chip time was 2:13:59. My watch said the same time though measured a bit longer of a distance. No matter – still a PR!

Major accomplishments based on my goals:

  • I set a Personal Record! I know this is huge and I’m extremely proud.  I cut off a minute and 20 seconds from last year and that is great.
  • I did NOT dry heave like last year. Yay!
  • I did say Thank you to as many people as I could when I had the ability to speak.
  • I ran a race with my husband – which i never thought possible. I’m so grateful for his support.

I did not hit my big goal of having an average pace that begins with a 9. If I said I wasn’t bummed, I’d be lying. However, I executred my race strategy to a T and I gave it everything I had. If I pushed myself harder at most I could have made up a minute. I didn’t have it in me to go any futher.

I feel great about giving it what I had and setting a PR. I’m doing my best to focus on that.

What’s next? A much needed break. I’m going to take some time off from running and let my body rest. I’m really looking forward to that.

Somewhere along the route I told Brette I didn’t think I needed to do another 1/2 marathon. I may change my mind. Right now, I’m going to focus on the rest. I have plenty of time to think about 2013.


A huge thank you to my sister, Jackie, for taking photos. She had a great shot of the finish line. Unforutantely, orange shirt guy messed up the photo. You can see the top of my head behind him. Love it!



Categories: fitness · Jen said · race recaps · running
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