Dim Sum at Li Wah

Last Friday was the last day of our mini-vacation without Alex. As much as I love my one-to-one time with Keith, I missed my kiddo as well (even though it was actually a break for me…go figure). After we dropped Alex off at camp, we headed to downtown Cleveland and decided to have dim sum at Li Wah Restaurant, a first in more than 10 years. I’ve known about Li Wah since my college days and it is actually one of the more authentic chinese restaurants around the Cleveland area. Anyway, I’m glad to declare that they still serve super-delicious food! In addition to various dim sum dishes, we also ordered chicken & salt fish fried rice and spicy salt baked squid. Yum!

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Mitchell’s Ice Cream

On Thursday (which was day 3 of our mini-vacation), we passed time at several different places but the most noteworthy goes to Mitchell’s Ice Cream. Although Mitchell’s Ice Cream has been around for a while now, this was the first time Keith and I gave it a try. Of course, everything we sampled tasted delicious but we finally decided on chocolate peanut butter cup and caramel fudge brownie. OMG! They were so delicious!!! The peanut butter chocolate chunks were huge and how did they get the brownie so fudgy and moist? Best of all, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ice cream itself is not sickeningly sweet (I was a little worried about that) – the sweetness is just right! You can bet we’ll be visiting Mitchell’s pretty often from now on. :)

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Lunch at Shinano

After Eton, we went to lunch at our favorite Japanese restaurant – Shinano, located in Solon, OH. As usual, we had a hard time deciding on what to order but we finally settled on an unagi (broiled eel) and yakiniku (sautéed beef) meal. For sushi, we ordered unagi maki (eel again), philadelphia (smoked salmon and cream cheese), and a banzai roll (soft shell crab). To round off the meal (even though we were super-full), we shared an order of green tea ice cream. Everything was absolutely delicious! :)

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Eton Chagrin Boulevard

For day 2 of our mini-vacation (Wednesday), we spent the morning at Eton Chagrin Boulevard. Eton is a shopping center in Woodmere, another suburb of Cleveland, OH. We normally go there to shop at Trader Joe’s and Penzeys Spices and occasionally, Sur La Table and Barnes & Noble. Besides these stores, another thing that attracts us to Eton is its impressive landscaping and flower displays. It’s just such a beautiful place to walk around and relax…sigh. :)

Eton with its gorgeous landscaping

Eton with its gorgeous landscaping

Lush flowers/plants

Lush flowers/plants

A beautiful display of miniature houses surrounded by more flowers/plants

A beautiful display of miniature houses surrounded by flowers/plants

More miniature houses - they are so pretty!!!

More miniature houses – they are so pretty!!!

Flowers everywhere! That dark purple plant on the bottom right is one of my favorites...it reminds me of butterflies. :)

Flowers everywhere! That dark purple plant on the bottom right is one of my favorites…it reminds me of butterflies. :)

Chairs and tables for people to play chess. It even has a life-sized set, which makes it even more fun for the little ones.

Chairs and tables for people to play chess. It even has a life-sized set, which makes it even more fun for the little ones.

Got to check out Trader Joe's, of course.

Got to check out Trader Joe’s, of course.

Temptations but we managed to resist...mostly. :)

Temptations but we managed to resist…mostly. :)

Went to Penzeys as well

Went to Penzeys as well

My favorite part of the store is the baking section!

My favorite part of the store is the baking section!

Although Eton has many dining options, we decided to go somewhere else for lunch. However, before we left, we stopped at Vegan Sweet Tooth (located inside the mall itself) and had our dessert first. The cupcakes were absolutely delicious!

They all looked so good!

They all looked so good!

We finally decided on Chocolate Kahlua and Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcakes. Yum!

We finally decided on Chocolate Kahlua and Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcakes. Yum!

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Hudson, OH

Alex is in day camp all of this week, so Keith and I took the opportunity to have a mini-vacation of our own. Yesterday, we explored downtown Hudson for the very first time. First stop was Great Lakes Baking Company. We were impressed with the beautiful and delicious-looking selections. For breakfast, we tried a lemon blueberry scone and some cheese sticks. They were scrumptious! During lunch time, we stopped by again to pick up our order of cranberry walnut bread, ciabatta, cheddar pepperoni rolls and of course, we had to try their pizza. :) We got two different slices of pizza of whatever they had at that time and they were fantastic!!! The staff was friendly as well. We would not hesitate to stop by again the next time we are in the area.

Cookies galore and a variety of scones

Cookies galore and a variety of scones

More baked goods

More baked goods

This is a work of art! Almost too adorable to eat. :)

This is a work of art! Almost too adorable to eat. :)

Cheese sticks - yum! Scone - yum! Pizza - super yum!

Cheese sticks – yum! Scone – yum! Pizza – super yum!

Next, we explored the First & Main shopping district. We stopped in a few stores that interested us – The Western Reserves School of Cooking & The Cookery, Open Door Coffee, Land of Make Believe, and The Learned Owl. Keith ordered the daily special – turtle mocha at the coffee shop and said it was delicious!

Walking down First & Main

Walking down First & Main

More stores

More stores

The next place we stopped at after all that was Heather’s Heat & Flavor. This place must have a gazillion bottles of hot sauce plus a wide and unique selection of BBQ sauce, spices, dips, dressings, and more. There were almost too many different products to choose from but we managed. :) Staff was really friendly and helpful as well.

Countless variety of hot sauce, BBQ sauce,

Countless variety of hot sauce, BBQ sauce,

...spices, rubs, dressings, and more

…spices, rubs, dressings, and more

Last but not least, we checked out the local gourmet popcorn store – crazybuttrueThis store carries over 50 flavors of popcorn! It’s definitely a place to visit if you are a popcorn lover (you know who you are). :) The guys behind the counter (I didn’t catch their names) were super-friendly and encouraged a lot of sampling. We had a really fun time in here. All in all, Keith and I had a wonderful time in Hudson. Maybe we’ll bring Alex with us next time. :)

Very aptly named :)

Very aptly named :)

Popcorn, popcorn everywhere! :)

Popcorn, popcorn everywhere! :)

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Cream Cheese and Blueberry Pound Cake

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Where has our summer gone to? Not that I’m complaining weather-wise, since the cooler weather has allowed me to bake, bake, and bake. But at the same time, it feels so strange…it feels like we’re bypassing summer straight to fall. Not only that, school will be starting in another three weeks. Yikes! Breathe, Chris…breathe. :)

Here’s another thing we made with our blueberries – Cream Cheese and Blueberry Pound Cake. It’s a fantastic recipe from Fine Cooking! I made it three times in a row. Super-delicious! :)

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Summer Evening

We spent a gorgeous evening at one of our favorite parks earlier this week. It feels like precious moments such as these are harder to come by nowadays (we are either too busy or too tired), which makes us treasure these times even more.

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Blueberry Sauce and Lemon Pancakes

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The next thing we made with our yummy blueberries is a family favorite – blueberry sauce! And here, we pair it with lemon pancakes, something equally delicious in their own right but when combined with the blueberry sauce, they are out of this world! Enjoy!

Sauce {lightly adapted from the Blueberry Sauce recipe in The Professional Pastry Chef cookbook by Bo Friberg}
½ cup sugar
1 cup cranberry juice (or your favorite cranberry juice blend – we like cranberry blackberry or cranberry grape)
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1½ cups fresh blueberries

Place sugar and juice in a small saucepan. In a prep bowl, combine water and cornstarch. Stir until cornstarch is dissolved, and add into the cranberry juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in blueberries. Let cool and serve. Store leftovers in the fridge. 

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Pancakes {lightly adapted from the Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes recipe from the Joy of Cooking website}
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup light sour cream
⅓ cup 2% reduced fat milk
Zest of two lemons
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra light olive oil
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
 

In a medium bowl, whisk or stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center, and add sour cream, milk, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, vanilla extract, and egg. Use a fork to stir the wet ingredients and slowly incorporate the flour mixture until they are all combined (batter will be thick). Preheat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Lightly grease the cooking surface with butter or oil if necessary. Cook pancakes (use ¼ cup batter per pancake) until golden brown on both sides, adjusting the heat as needed. {Personal note: apparently, our stove is on the hotter side and I ended up having to cook the pancakes on medium-low heat.} Serve with blueberry sauce. :)

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Blueberry Muffins

Muffins are one of my favorite things to make. They are easy to put together, they are not finicky (mostly), and they bake up pretty and delicious in no time at all. So, that’s the first thing we made with our bountiful blueberries. Enjoy!

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Lightly adapted from the Perfect Muffins recipe in the McCall’s Home-Baked Breads cookbook.

2 cups all-purpose flour (remove 2 tablespoons and set aside to coat the blueberries)
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups whole milk
⅓ cup vegetable oil (I use extra light olive oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh blueberries
1½ tablespoons turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan or line with baking cups (tip: spraying baking cups with cooking spray will prevent muffins from sticking to the paper). In a large bowl, whisk or stir flour (minus the 2 tablespoons), sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Then, make a well in the center, and add milk, oil, vanilla, and egg. Stir only enough to combine all the ingredients (batter will be lumpy). Sprinkle the reserved flour over the blueberries to lightly coat them. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter. Spoon batter into the muffin pan (I use an ice cream scoop), and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let muffins cool in the pan for a minute or two. Then, transfer muffins out of the pan to a cooling rack and cool completely.

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Picking Blueberries

Blueberry season is in full swing right now, and I managed to persuade Alex to go pick some with me yesterday. It was cloudy, breezy, and cool (another weird summer day) but just perfect for blueberry picking. :)

{For the past several years, we have been picking blueberries at Voytko Farms in Auburn Township, Ohio.}

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