Super powers.

My in-laws are in California for an extended vacation, and last weekend we followed them to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. They, of course, have the luxury of being on permanent vacation, so they’re there for the rest of the week, at which point they’ll make their way back to San Francisco for their final weekend with us.

That said, Tahoe was pretty awesome. Despite living 4-5 hours away from the area, we hadn’t been out that way yet, so we were looking forward to our trip not only for spending time with the family, but also to check out a new area that we are sure to revisit.

We did a couple of hikes while we were there (one through Big Meadow and another along Echo Lake, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail), and these bars would have been perfect to have with us, but sadly I didn’t make them until this week. I’m sure they’ll be put to good use this weekend when we’re out wandering around the city, so we’ll see how filling they are.

Regardless, I like the name of them, “super-power bars”, aptly named because of all the super-nutritous ingredients. Speaking of which, I should warn you that they are loaded with all sorts of weird stuff that you likely don’t have on hand (at least I didn’t). Quinoa flakes, Incan berries, wheat germ, and chia seeds are all a little hard to find depending on where you live, but I was able to locate them all in one place (for the SF-ers, that was Rainbow). I’d suggest buying enough of the ingredients for multiple batches, so these ingredients don’t go to waste.

Incan Super-Power Bars
adapted from Food & Wine, September 2011; makes 2 dozen bars

time commitment: ~1 hour, 15 minutes (including lots of down time)

printable version

ingredients
2 c quinoa flakes (7 ounces)
1 c sliced almonds (3 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c raw roasted sunflower seeds (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ (2 ounces)
2 T chia seeds
3/4 c golden berries, also known as Incan berries and dried cape gooseberries (4 ounces), coarsely chopped
3/4 c raisins
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c plus 2 T light brown sugar
1/2 c plus 2 T agave syrup
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t sea salt

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a sturdy rimmed baking sheet, toss the quinoa with the almonds and toast for 15 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sunflower seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds, golden berries and raisins.
In a medium saucepan, combine the 4 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar is just dissolved, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into the large bowl and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray (or butter). Scrape the mixture onto the baking sheet and form into a 7-by-12-inch rectangle, pressing lightly to compact it; use a straight edge to evenly press the sides. Bake the bar for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until firm, 20 minutes.
Invert the bar onto a work surface and peel off the paper. Cut the bar into twelve 1-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip in half to form twenty-four 1-by-3 1/2-inch bars.

Milwaukee’s Best

Man, is this shaping up to be one of the best summers ever, or what? Sure, it’s hot practically everywhere, but last time I checked summers are supposed to be hot. So I won’t complain about it, and instead I’ll say that I’ve enjoyed almost every single drop of sweat that’s dripped down my leg these last couple of months.

Especially from this past weekend. Who doesn’t like to sweat beer?

And have pretzels eaten off your necklace? That’s how Milwaukeeans roll, apparently. Following the awesome concert on Friday that was Bon Jovi (& Kid Rock, who really was awesome too although I hated to admit it), we awoke, hit up the Dunkin’, and high-tailed it up I-94 to Rach & Andy’s new digs.

Word on the street is Milwaukeeans cringe when someone calls their city a “miniature Chicago”, but I’m gonna have to agree with whoever started that metaphor because it’s true. Lake Shore Drive, neighborhood variety (even an Evanston-like suburb), enough greenery to briefly forget about the city, Lake Michigan, and plenty of great food, these are just a few things that remind me of Chicago. Of course, there’s also the affordable housing, two-second parking, no waiting at restaurants (even if you make a reservation one hour ahead of time), and serenity that is a road without honking horns that immediately remind you that you are definitely not in Kansas Chicago anymore, and those are things that undoubtedly go straight to the top of my “pro” list after living in this big ‘ol place for 6 years (as of this week!).

In short, I can easily see why Rachel & Andy are happy to call Milwaukee their new home. If it isn’t your home though, I should add that it’s a great summertime road trip if you’re in the Midwest.

The highlight of our short weekend in Milwaukee was the “1st Annual Brew Fest”, which was held in McKinley Park. Forty bucks at the door gets you in for 4 hours of unlimited sampling of local (and no so local) breweries, people-watching galore, and a long line at the facilities. Of course, since this was the “1st Annual Brew Fest”, there were some kinks to iron out, such as the fact that all but 2 breweries literally ran out of beer, and the other obvious issue was the port-o-potty shortage – a 30 minute minimum wait in line, while everyone else (well, everyone not in line) drinks the quickly diminishing beer supply. Overall, it was a great event, and given the 90-minute drive to Milwaukee from Chicago, I’m guessing we’ll be back next year.

By the way, is Rachel gettin’ frisky up there?! Shame on her.

Aside from Brew Fest, we kept leisurely busy by eating, drinking, and drive-by checking out a few breweries and museums as potentials for the next trip. I probably drove Rachel crazy by saying the following exactly 1,000 times, “Wow, you don’t get this back home!”. Usually, this was because we literally walked up to multiple outdoor eateries (in fact, we ate outdoors everywhere we went) at various times (brunch, lunch, and dinner) and were easily able to snag a table for 4. Don’t get me started on the ease of sliding into a parking spot a block away and Andy asking, “Do you mind walking a block?”, as if he never ever set foot in Chicago.

Hubs was oohing and aahing when we stopped by the Harley Davidson museum, but he must not want one as bad as he thinks because my “a puppy for a motorcyle” compromise was laughed off for a fifth time, after an obvious roll of the eye followed by a vehement shaking of the head. Meanwhile, I almost lost my marbles during one of our drives north of Milwaukee when hearing the price tags for the houses up there, realizing again how outrageous the Chicago market is, and how one smallish condo equals one whopping mansion elsewhere. Bleh.

What we both agreed on is the food – plenty of great restaurants offering all kinds of local, seasonal choices, not to mention custard that rivals Goodberry’s, Milwaukee is certainly on my “to do again” list. Of course, with Rach & Andy there, we’d go back even if we hated it, but nonetheless, we didn’t.

The following are some points of interest from our trip (food included, of course). We didn’t go to any breweries this time, what with a festival full of beer at our fingertips, but if you’re in the neighborhood they are certainly worth a visit.

Food
Water Buffalo, 249 N Water St
Alterra Coffee, 1701 N Lincoln Memorial Dr (but multiple locations throughout Milwaukee)
Cafe Hollander, 2608 N Downer Ave
Buckley’s Kiskeam Inn, 801 N Cass St
Kopp’s Frozen Custard, 5372 N Port Washington Rd, Glendale WI (other locations as well)

Sights, etc.
Historic 3rd Ward Neighborhood
Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N Art Museum Dr
Milwaukee Brew Fest (annual event), 1600 N Lincoln Memorial Dr
The Pabst Mansion, 2000 W Wisconsin Ave
Miller Brewery, 4251 W State St
Harley Davidson Museum, 400 Canal St

Of course, after all the eating and drinking, we entered the Windy City with a relatively tiny appetite, and a salad seemed like the perfect light dinner, not to mention the fact that there was no cooking and relatively little prepping involved. A pit stop at the Whole Foods remedied that situation, and this salad was whipped up in no time and even though we weren’t really hungry, we ate it as if Rachel’d starved us. Hungry or not, this is a great summer salad that hits all the right spots – sweet & salty, chewy & crunchy, you’ll wonder why you don’t eat peaches with prosciutto all the time.

As for summer, we have a whole lot of it left, even though it doesn’t seem that way! I’ll try to share more about our upcoming vacay real soon, because we are ready for suggestions from ya’ll! As for the rest of you, what’s headed your way for the rest of the summer?

p.s. – if you’re a Facebooker, don’t forget to sign up for my new page!

Prosciutto & Peach Salad
Unadapted from Cooking Light, August 2010 (although I won’t pretend that I measured anything); serves 4

printable version

ingredients
2  T  fresh lemon juice
2  t  honey
1/4  t  freshly ground black pepper
1/8  t  salt
2  T  extra-virgin olive oil
1  T  finely chopped fresh mint
1  (6.5-ounce) package sweet butter lettuce mix
2  large ripe peaches, cut into wedges
3  oz  very thin slices prosciutto, cut into 1-inch pieces
3  oz  ricotta salata cheese, divided into 4 equal pieces
2  T  dry-roasted sunflower seed kernels
Small mint leaves (optional)

instructions
Combine first 4 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Gradually drizzle in olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in chopped mint.

Combine lettuce mix and peach wedges in a large bowl. Drizzle lettuce mixture with dressing; toss gently to coat. Arrange about 2 cups salad in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 3/4 ounce prosciutto, 1 piece of ricotta salata, and about 2 teaspoons sunflower seed kernels. Garnish with small mint leaves, if desired.

picture descriptions
food: Water Buffalo black bean burger, Cafe Hollander coffee, Water Buffalo salmon burger, Alterra honey latte, Cafe Hollander breakfast tostado special, Buckley’s Kiskeam Inn restaurant sign, Kopp’s Frozen Custard cows, Water Buffalo side salad, Milwaukee Brew Fest beer glasses

sights: 3rd Ward neighborhood, Milwaukee Art Museum, harbor view, view from park, the Wisconsin Club, view of Miller Brewery, Miller Brewery sign, Harley Davidson museum, Pabst Mansion