July 25, 2008

Grand Marais

Grand Marais is definitely one of the charming towns with a lot to offer. After a good lunch with a big slice of cake, we had to walk around to burn it off. Though the day was warm, it was a little chilly with all the wind from the lake.

We walked on the pebble beach and stopped at the Trading Post, a couple of gift shops, galleries, and a book store. We were on our feet for about a couple of hours exploring the town. We also went to the Coop store and got some hand-harvested, hand-parched wild rice.

Our next plan was to look for a wild Moose and before heading out, we stopped for coffee and of course check email :) @ Java Moose.

July 22, 2008

Spinach & Lentils

Spinach and lentils can be mixed in a variety of combination and is an easy dish to make. I love the version of "keerai kootu", which is more watery and goes well with rice and a dash of ghee. For the following recipe I typically use less lentils than spinach, but it can be varied by using more lentils, other leafy greens, adding sauteed onions and tomatoes. This can also be served as a soup by adding some lemon juice after removing from the heat.

This one is for Naghma & Carolyn

Spinach - chopped
Lentils (dal) - Moong Dal or chana (yellow split beans) dal
Coconut - shredded
Salt & Pepper
Turmeric - pinch
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida (optional - found in Indian stores - use no more than a pinch)
Chilli - either red or green

The easiest way to make this dish is to use a pressure cooker - reduces the time it takes to cook dal. It is also faster to cook dal in the microwave than on stove top.
* Add the dal, a few drops of oil, salt, two pinches of turmeric powder, add the required amount of water (1:2 for chana dal and 1:1.5 for moong dal) and cook till the dal is soft and mash it.
* If using the pressure cooker, I would spread the spinach on top as a layer and let it cook in the steam. If not, wilt them in the microwave or blanch.
* Heat a small pan, add a little oil and fry the cumin, coriander, pepper, chilli (either green or red) and blend it with the coconut and salt. Watch the salt here as the lentils are already cooked with some.
* Add this paste to the spinach and Dal mixture, garnish with a tempering of mustard, a little chana dal, asafoetida. Add more water depending on required consistency and bring to a boil. I prefer the blended method to uniformly distribute the heat from the chillies.
* For a non-blending option, add cumin and coriander powder, black pepper, salt, mix in shredded coconut and chopped green chillies or half a peice of dried red chilli. Bring to a boil and top with tempering.

July 21, 2008

Angry Trout Cafe @ Grand marais

We were pretty hungry after our ~3 miles hike for more than a couple of hours and headed for Grand Marais for lunch. Our first stop was at the visitor's center, where in addition to a lot of good information, we were able to park our car for the next few hours.

We strolled along the beach to Angry Trout Cafe, which was recommended to us by two of our friends. Though they don't have a menu on their website, we were sure they had vegetarian fares. We were pleasantly surprised to find that they used mostly organic vegetables in their recipes and supported a variety of local producers and also artists.

The appetizer was Fried Eggplants with a very lemony aioli sauce.

It was followed by a Wild Mushrooms sandwich, served with chips and coleslaw

And of course, we had room for a big slice of Maple Butter Cream Cake that is from a local bakery (Lola's Sweet Life Bakery) that supplies to almost all the good restaurants in town. I really liked the idea of outsourcing the dessert department in a restaurant :) This is one of our top restaurants, with not only really good & healthy food, but an awesome view of the lake, good ambiance and great service.

July 19, 2008

Cascade Creek

The Cascade River State Park hiking trail joins with the Superior Hiking Trail and runs towards Lookout Mountain in Lutsen.

The best part of our trip was when the trail was near the Cascade Creek on the way back to the lodge, we were able to climb down and walk on the rocks in the creek bed. Just walking along the creek listening to the flow of water is an experience in itself.

And yes, we missed Amy a lot already, but that feeling only intensified into a regret for a while as the trip went on.

July 17, 2008

Cascade River State Park

Cascade River State Park is one of the most popular spots for hiking on the North Shore. We enjoyed walking through the Boreal Forest to the Falls which is about a mile from the restaurant. Warblers were abundant and so were chickadees. We were able to see the falls from a span bridge and also walk up to it further in on the trail.

After Gooseberry Falls, we know there will be quite a bit of water and the flow was pretty good. The gorge itself was beautiful, and it was fun to step on the boulders from quite a few places on the trail.

Root Beer colored Falls

July 16, 2008

Night at Cascade Lodge

After what seemed to be a long night, we reached Cascade Lodge in Lutsen, MN for the night. The staff were kind enough to leave our keys on the front desk, so we can check-in late. We woke up to a beautiful morning and an awesome view from our room. I got up at the first light to see the lake and went back to bed !

We had breakfast at the Cascade Restaurant next door. Our breakfast was a simple Swedish Pancakes & Blueberries. We also packed a Cinnamon Roll for the hike. Unfortunately the coffee was very disappointing.

The lodge has activities planned for the guests everyday and this day it was Alpine Trekking. However, they had to cancel it and instead let us borrow their new hiking poles for free for the day. This is the view of Lake Superior from the pine forests behind the restaurant as we started the hike.

July 15, 2008

Eggplant Parmesan

Due to popular demand (!!!), I am starting to post recipes to go with my Experiments with Food album. The recipes are either my own concoctions or adapted from various cook books, TV shows, food blogs, friends and family. I will try my best to provide references as much as possible. I cannot provide absolute quantities of any ingredients, as I usually eyeball them. I would appreciate any and all feedback!

This one is for my friend Sindhu

I made this most recent Eggplant Parmesan after watching the show Throw down with Bobby Flay on Food Network. Basically I combined ideas from both the chefs on the show.

Eggplants (# depends on how much you want to make)
Mozzarella cheese (fresh)
Pasta Sauce (I used the bottled one)
Red Peppers - roasted, peeled
Herbs - a combo of dried Italian herbs and Basil
Egg - 1, beaten
All purpose Flour
Bread Crumbs
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil

* Peel the eggplants, slice them - about 1/2 inch thick, place them in a colander, sprinkle some salt and let sit for a little bit.
* I don't like to deep fry, but if you do, go for it!
* Add some oil (I used enough to cover the bottom) on a frying pan, take a slice of eggplant, dredge in flour, dip it in the beaten egg, coat with bread crumbs (I season mine with the Italian Herbs and Parmesan) and fry till brown on both sides.
* I blended the pasta sauce with the roasted peppers, with salt, a dash of crushed red peppers and basil.
* Spread some sauce on the pan in which you are going to bake, add a layer of the fried eggplants, top them with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese. Repeat these layers till you use all the eggplants or run out of room on the dish :) I don't like mine to have more than two layers.
* Finish with a layer of sauce, sprinkle Parmesan. I also add some bread crumbs to the top layer.
* Cover with foil and bake for about 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more. It helps to spray some Pam (non stick spray) on the inside of the foil, to prevent the cheese layer to stick to it when bubbling.
* Wait a few minutes, slice it, grind some pepper on top and enjoy!

Here is a link to Bobby Flay's recipe

July 13, 2008

Split Rock Light House

As we drove North, our next brief stop was at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. We had to get a vehicle permit here (that is valid for all state parks for the day) and wanted to take some pictures of the light house with the sun light falling on it. However, by the time we reached the Pebble Beach it was already getting dark. Though we didn't get to spend a lot of time here, the beach was beautiful, with few people and we are glad we stopped here.

We had reservations for the night and since it was already close to 9 pm by the time we left Split Rock, we had a quick dinner of Wild Rice Baguette loaded with roasted vegetables for dinner at Northern Lights Restaurant in Beaver Bay. Most of the restaurants have a good view of the lake and it makes the food (even a sandwich) taste so much better!

July 12, 2008

Gooseberry Falls State Park

Gooseberry Falls State Park was our next stop from Two Harbors. It was an easy walk to the falls and as soon as we hit the trails, we realized that may be it would have been nice to have brought Amy along. The parks allow dogs on leash and Amy would have loved to walk around and get her feet wet in the water. She was boarded in our local kennel in Owen.

The falls had more water than we expected at this time of the year, thanks to all the recent rains we had. We walked a little bit on the rocks, trying to burn off the calories gained from Betty's pies. Gooseberry Falls was very scenic and no wonder it is referred to as the gateway to the North Shore.

Shankar testing his photography skills :)

July 9, 2008

Betty's Pies - The Best Pies Ever

From Duluth, we took the North Shore Scenic Drive (instead of Hwy 61) to Two harbors. As the name says, the drive was really beautiful with such a splendid view of the Lake Superior.

Our first stop was at Betty's Pies, about 3 miles North of Two Harbors. Our friend Chris recommended we stop there and it is a popular tourist destination on the North Shore. Opened in the 1950's, they are a full service restaurant and have unusual dishes like a Pie-shake.

Though they did not have any pie with nuts in them when we went, their French Strawberry Banana Cream Pie was quite the pie.

A thin crust, a mixture of strawberries and bananas, a layer of banana cream, a layer of meringue and a layer of strawberry cream, served with whipped cream - that was the best and the richest pie I ever had!

Lake Superior - North Shore

Here is a map of our recent trip - the satellite view. We started from our home in Owen, went all the way up to Grand Portage State Park, on the US - Canada Border. The solid white line is the border and the dashed lines represent the borders of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Point B is Duluth, Point C is Two Harbors, Point D is Gooseberry Falls, Point E is the Cascade Lodge, Point F is Grand Marais, Point G represents the Gun Flint Trail and Point H is Grand Portage.

July 8, 2008

Anniversary Trip to the Northshore

We took a drive to Minnesota's North Shore by the Lake Superior for our second anniversary. Duluth is about 3.5 hours from home and it was our first stop. We met our friend Jessica for lunch at the Taste of Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Canal Park. They did not have much in terms of vegetarian appetizers, but the lunch selection was petty good and we had a wonderful lunch.

The day was beautiful, not too hot and a little windy as expected on a lake shore. We walked around Canal Park for a while, first to the aerial lift bridge - a very impressive and one-of-a-kind bridge. We watched as a couple of boats passed by. There are also schedules available when big ships would pass through which we will probably plan for next time.

After a little bit more of walking around, checking out Grandma's marketplace, a couple of galleries and coffee at Caribou's, we headed North on Highway 61 to Two Harbors.
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