Midwestern Magic, Part 2

Grandma and I

After leaving the Wisconsin Dells, we arrived in Maplewood, MN around 5 pm – perfect time for a barbeque! It was great seeing my aunts, uncles and cousins – and my sweet grandmother, who’s turning 90 in a few weeks but still has a razor-sharp wit. My dad was grilling up salmon burgers and cranberry walnut bratwurst, and the table was heaping with apple ambrosia dip, roasted potatoes, smoked salmon and three types of pie. We ate and then sat around being merry – here’s proof.

Some of you reading this blog know that I’m a big klutz – and if you don’t, well, you do now. As I oohed and ahhed over the beautiful handcrafted doll house at my grandmother’s house, somehow my big old booty bumped into a little TV tray and sent diet coke splashing everywhere. Thankfully everyone was cool about it and helped me blot at the carpet, but how embarrassing! My butt apparently has a mind of its own – thank god it doesn’t have its own zip code. (Just a few days later my butt took down a plate of grilled cheese. I guess my butt is striking back for being sat upon all these years.)

Top the Tater

After the BBQ, I had a strange craving… for TOP THE TATER! You folks in the Midwest might know what this is – a sour cream dip filled with chives and other herbal seasonings. My cousin Sarah bought some once with Old Dutch potato chips (locally made in Minnesota) and I was hooked by the salty, creamy combination. I figured… when in Minnesota, do as the Minnesotans do – so I splurged at 11 pm (come on now, only 9 pm Cali time) and bought some Old Dutch and Top the Tater to eat in solitary bliss in my hotel room. Yeah, yeah – bad weight loss blogger (HONEST weight loss blogger!).

A classic photo I found in my Grandma's album - hopefully this is the ONLY topless picture of me on the internet!

The next day we spent at my Grandma’s house catching up, looking at old photos and helping her with some household stuff – I learned how to properly wash windows. Did you know that the correct way to wash windows is to wipe downwards on one side, and then wipe horizontally on the other? No streaks! We relaxed over lunch and told old stories – and then we were back in the car with my dad, heading to Chicago to see my cousin Becky get married! Come back Monday to read about her awesome and unusual midnight wedding snack!

Cutting the Cheese

I was born amongst the skyscraping cornfields of the Midwest – veritable home to all-beef hot dogs, a giant silver bean, lots and lots of lakes, chainsmoking and some of the best cheese in all the land, thanks to the charismatic cows of Wisconsin.

My sister recently visited Wisconsin on her way to see my Grandma who lives in Minnesota, and she bought several varieties of cheese – cheddar, colby, colby jack, and monterey jack. (I didn’t know there was a type actually called Colby!) Instead of ravenously devouring them bite by bite as I would have done, holed off into the airplane bathroom gnawing on a hunk of Jack, she diligently held onto it in preparation for her first annual “Cheese Off”. (Just kidding about the airplane bathroom – as if I’d bring anything edible in there! YUCK!)

You Californians know that California has a thing about cheese, too. While our state can’t tout football fans who actually wear wedges on their heads, we do have “happy cows” who bear toothy, cud-eating grins as they make magical milk which will later be turned into cheese. (Somebody speculated that they were “happy cows” because instead of eating grass, they eat GRASS. You know, the kind of grass that makes you crave cookie dough.) But, being the good old-fashioned corn-fed Midwestern girl that my sister is, she decided to let the taste buds decide who would claim victory as the CHEESE KING.

She cut all of the cheese into little chunks on separate plates, and my family, in-laws and best friend were all instructed to taste them one after the other (Cal Colby VS Wisconsin Colby) and vote. She marked our results down on a whiteboard, and at the end, WISCONSIN was named the Cheese King (but not by much)!

Now – several people have cried foul about the way the test was conducted, as my husband says the California Cheddar was “Cheap cheddar, not representative of California”, and the purchase of this “cheap cheddar” could have been “a subconcious attempt to sway voters to the Midwest.” I personally wondered if the Wisconsin cheese was not as fresh as the California cheese, given that it had traveled eight hours by plane and lived in the fridge for awhile, which may have explained its meager win.

Cheese off Hostess flashes a Cheesy Grin

Apparently when my sister purchased the Wisconsin cheese, she explained what she intended to do with it to the store clerk. The clerk, no doubt a genius in my mind, had only this to say in the response: “Why does California want the best cheese, too? They have the best everything. So let us have the best cheese, damnit! You have it all!”

We’re letting you have it, Wisconsin. Your cheese wins.

Weekend Wrap-Up

*clutches belly* ohhhh. ahh. I guess I should *strain* write a blog…*unbuttons jeans* but that requires getting off the couch….. sooooo fulll *grimace*

JUST KIDDING! But after you see all of these pictures, you’re going to think the above is true! This weekend, my lovely Aunt Ginny, Uncle Daniel and parents were in town, and man, did we eat! Here’s a brief run down of some of our most memorable meals. Surprisingly, I was fairly good and overdid it only once, on salsa and chips, one of the more benign things to pig out on. But I also dragged my butt to mega-calorie blaster impact kickboxing for an hour, so that’s a plus!

My parents and uncle arrived Friday night, and I wanted something to snack on, so I made cookie dough dip. Sadly, this dip was extremely overrated, and I think I ate two or three licks of it before throwing it out. Unfortunately it just wasn’t a crowd pleaser and tasted nothing like cookie dough.

Cookie Do"n't" dip

Thankfully, I had harvested some peppers and tomatoes from my garden and made salsa. Fresh salsa is always amazing, but I may have gone a little overboard with the garlic (3 cloves? no problem!)


Last night, we went to Five Guys and had burgers, fries and peanuts – Here’s Matt holding his burger and a nice shot of the table. (See that hand dipping for fries? Love that!)

Five Guys and Fries

Then, this morning, we had brunch at BJ’s – I had the italian market salad (very good – I love fontina cheese! Where can I buy it?) and the whole table shared a chocolate chunk pizzookie. Here’s my mom pretending to lick the pan (maybe she’s not pretending).

Mmmm, coookie

And then tonight, we were naughty and celebrated the season premiere of True Blood by pulling out the deep fryer. Matt made most of the dinner (great job, Matt!) and we had delicious fried chicken, sauteed squash and zucchini (from our garden – it was SO sweet and tender – yum!) and mashed potatoes (I made the gravy).

Courtesy of Chef Matthew

Last but not least, we had FRIED CHEESE CURDS. My Auntie Ginny is from Wisconsin and she thoughtfully brought us some fresh cheese curds.

Ellsworth Cheese Curds!

Curds are … exactly what they sound like – curds! When they’re fresh, they squeak between your teeth. I dunked them in a light milk batter and deep fried them and the result was salty, chewy, melty, crunchy amazing cloggin-your-heart goodness. LOOK. JUST LOOK. nommmmmmm.

mmmmm fried cheese curd

All in all, it was a very nice weekend with my family and we ate lots of yummy things. I didn’t feel so bad though because I did work out, and never ate in excess. I think that while things like fried cheese curds aren’t a good long term choice for weight loss, having them every once in awhile (I haven’t had them in years!) is not a bad thing, as long as it’s in moderation. I won’t ever be able to be a cold-turkey from junk food type person – and that’s ok. It will take me small steps to complete my journey – and I’m willing to go a little slower to savor every day 🙂

Lyssa with her Curds