Jen and Company

montreal eats

October 31, 2012 · 2 Comments

I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend in Montreal with my husband earlier this month. Neither of us had been before so we were eager to explore a new city together. We were also eager to lounge and relax, eat and drink, and restaurant hop. I did a fair amount of restaurant research leading up to the trip. While one of the things I enjoy about visiting a new city is stumbling upon a great place to eat, it can also get frustrating wandering around passing restaurant upon restaurant and wondering which one to try.

I had made dinner reservations for two nights, but unfortunately we didn’t make it to the one place we were really excited about trying, Au Pied de Cochon. After some stomach weirdness on my part, and some general malaise on Pat’s part, we didn’t think we’d enjoy the experience of poutine, fois gras, and a meat-heavy meal that particular night. So, we forfeited those reservations and had some small plates of Italian instead at Dolcetto. We sat at the high-top bar in viewing range of the kitchen and chatting range of the chefs. We tried a little bit of everything- a prosciutto and arugula pizza, an antipasto veggie platter, a creamy squash lasagna and tiramisu. It was a fun little restaurant, the food was tasty, and all those yummy carbs definitely hit the spot after a gorgeous fall day of walking around Montreal.

Due to a booking snafu at our hotel, we got to stay at two different hotels in the Old Town area of the city. At our first, we arrived late at night to this package of macarons and a free drink at the hotel bar.

Another place we were determined to check out was Olive + Gourmando. Luckily it was right in the neighborhood where we were staying so we were able to get our fix of incredible pastries and delicious coffee not once, but twice. Our first morning we went for breakfast and found out they don’t really serve breakfast, except for a heaping bowl of yogurt/granola, coffee, and pastries. I got the mongo-granola, which was hearty and awesome and filled with fruit, a brioche chocolat, and a latte. Pat had all of the above, minus the granola. And the brioche chocolat? Oh my.

We were back here the next day, after touring much of the city in the pouring rain. This time we went for their tasty paninis and soup, which hit the spot on that wet day. And then for dessert we had more pastries and coffee.

That night we dined at Brasserie T! (the other res that I had made ahead of time), and ate this:

(above: jambon la quercia and fondue parmesan)

(above: flank steak and frites. And wine.)

I liked this restaurant. They let us take our time, service was efficient but not overbearing, location was right next to a contemporary art museum, and they did a nice job with the food. Pat thought the flank steak “could have been better”, but I was very pleased with my meal. We had dessert too of course. (apple turnover and ice cream)

We had heard that Montreal is known for its bagels and were eager to try some, so on our  last full day we took a cab to Fairmount Bagel and picked up a couple sesames and cream cheese. Then we walked to the bike shop where we were joining a tour later in the morning. The bike shop wasn’t open yet, so we made ourselves at home at a next-door coffee shop with our bagels and cappuccinos.

And speaking of the bike tour… we’d like to sing the praises of Fitz and Follwell for providing us with an awesome morning of bike-touring around the city.

Pat, in front of an outdoor art installation made of milk crates

As part of the bike tour we visited an out of the way farmer’s market for lunch. We never would have found Atwater Market on our own.

We rode a total of 12(ish) miles, ate lunch in the sunshine outside the market, and then stopped for almond croissants on the way back to the bike shop. That there, people, is my kind of bike ride.

Three more places worth mentioning… we had a decent breakfast one morning at Le Gros Jambon; a tasty and reasonably priced lunch in a very crowded (read: popular) lunch spot called Le Marche de la Villette, and a nice, vacation ending dinner at Venti Osteria.

Montreal was the perfect destination for an autumn long weekend getaway. After just a two hour flight from Minneapolis, you can find yourself in a city that feels European, yet is very laid back, friendly, and English speaking!

→ 2 CommentsCategories: Anne said · biking · travel

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.

→ 2 CommentsCategories: 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!



→ 8 CommentsCategories: fitness · Jen said · race recaps · running
Tagged: ,

The Injury Bug: Don’t Get Bit

October 23, 2012 · 2 Comments

after surgery knee view See that? That was my view for about four days a month ago. Pretty awesome I know.  The best way to avoid this: don’t get bit by the injury bug. I wish I could tell you I was PR’ing in my last race or doing a trail run for the first time, or even crashed my bike speeding down a hill at 50 mph. Unfortunately it’s none of those things. Instead, it was the result of poor decision-making. Here’s the set-up:


  • Guys weekend with 14 dudes from work
  • 36 holes of golf and the associated tom-foolery
  • One dock, one lake, an amazing cannonball and two feet of water

The result was a torn meniscus.

I tried to ignore the problem by resuming regular activities including hockey, volleyball and a little spinning. For about six weeks I figured it’d just get better if I let it rest outside of those activities. It didn’t. Instead I got to skip the Minneapolis Du (lame).

The pain and the ‘locking’ worsened, and I eventually went to see my friends at TRIA Orthopaedic and ended up with a little clean-up surgery. Fortunately the folks at TRIA are pretty awesome and they knew just what to do and how to do it. I saw Dr. Steubs, who happens to be the same guy who does knees for most of the professional sports teams here in Minneapolis. The proof was on the walls in the form of signed jerseys (Johan Santana) and team photos (Minnesota Wild). The surgery was successful (once we agreed on which leg the surgery was going to be on) and they immediately had me doing physical therapy to return strength to the knee and surrounding muscles.

Signed knee from Dr. SteubsHe even signed my knee. But I don’t think I can sell this autograph unfortunately.

While that’s all fine and dandy, for an endurance athlete, and I use that term in the most loose sense when referring to myself, those aren’t the kind of workouts I’m accustomed to. For about 10 weeks total the only time I got my heart rate up was, well, I can’t talk about that on the interwebs. But Jen did and you can make your own inferences after reading her story here.

Since then the rehab has been slow. My most recent run consisted of intervals of two minutes walking, three minutes running for 30 minutes. I’m still working my way back to running five minutes consistently, and then I’ll be cleared to run like I used to, assuming pain and swelling don’t return. Biking is fine, and was the whole time. The thing is I took this opportunity to pretty much quit working out all-together and eat whatever looked good. And it all looked good. The result of that: about 10 to 15 pounds of extra winter warmth way before I’d need it to survive the Minnesota winter.

Now it’s time to take it off. Watching what I eat, not just as it goes into my mouth, but thinking about what I’m eating ahead of time, will hopefully speed things up prior to the holidays, when we all know what happens (lots of food, cookies, family gatherings, and regular snacking). I’ll let you know how that goes.

Long story longer, it all comes down to this: coming back from an injury is a lot more painful than not getting injured in the first place. So if you want my advice, and why would you be reading if you didn’t, avoid shallow water and amazing cannonballs. You’ll thank me for it.

→ 2 CommentsCategories: fitness · running · Scott said
Tagged: ,

csa friday #12

October 19, 2012 · 1 Comment

I will never get sick of picking up our CSA box. Never.

The season has definitely changed over to fall. There are a lot more root vegetables this time around. Please hear me – I’m not complaining. I’m loving the change to heartier soups, stews and things you can roast. Fall is by far my favorite time of year.

Most intriguing vegetable in this box? This guy.

Broccoli Romanesco. I’ve seen it at the market before, but have never actually tried it. Apparently it is similar to a cauliflower. Have any of you tried it? Thoughts?


The full veggie box included: 

  • Red Sweetheart Cabbage
  • Salad Mix
  • Red and yellow onions
  • Spaghetti Squash
  • Honeynut Butternut Squash – I cannot wait to try this!
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Broccoli Romanesco
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Purple Viking Potatoes
  • Green Curly Kale
  • Celeriac

The best part of the Fruit Share?

Pomegranates! I love this fruit. To me it is totally worth a few minutes to harvest all the juicy seeds (see my tutorial here). I haven’t decided what I’ll do with them quite yet, but I can’t wait to break one open.

The full Fruit Share included: 

  • Pippin Apples
  • Asian Pears
  • Biodynamic Limes
  • Pomegranates
  • Biodynamic Thompson Grapes
  • Brown Turkey Figs
  • Braeburn Apples

What foods are you enjoying this fall?

→ 1 CommentCategories: csa · Jen said