micro[wave]managing

Right now, I’m living in a hotel. Not too shabby…

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I’m doing my outpatient medicine rotation in a northern suburb, and the hospital up here has very graciously provided us with housing so that we don’t have to make a 1.5+ hour commute each way. I feel like I’m stuck halfway between vacation and real life: enjoying the “rainkissed leaves” scented lotion, free cookies and coffee in the lobby, and cable TV, but still facing the realities of studying, working, and waking up early.

While there are lots of great restaurants within a short distance from the hotel, my budgetary and time constraints don’t exactly allow me to be eating out every night. Lucky for me, my room is equipped with this lovely little kitchenette (aka a mini fridge and microwave). I’ve secretly been looking forward to challenging myself to “cooking” in this little space since I found out I’d be coming up here back in June. During my first two years of college, I basically earned a minor in Dorm Room Culinary Arts, so reverting back to the good old days of making do with a few inches of counter space, a tiny cutting board, a mini knife, and a small yet mighty microwave was alluringly nostalgic.

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These past two weeks, I’ve been capitalizing on the extreme microwave-ability my all-time favorite food, the sweet potato. A quick rinse in the bathroom sink, a couple of knife pricks in the skin, and a click of the POTATO button and voila!—an instant, vitamin-rich, and filling canvas for whatever your heart desires. For me, that’s been some microwave steamed kale (bought pre-washed and cut, sprinkled with a splash of water, and microwaved for 1 minute), bean salsa (both purchased and homemade), avocado chunks, and a dollop of Greek yogurt or a sprinkle of feta cheese. Delicious, nutritious, satisfying, and all wrought from this humble little space.

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I only have a few more days left here, but I’m hoping that future rotations will land me back soon for a welcome change of pace and a healthy bit of a culinary challenge.

So, no real recipe here, just my vote of confidence that you too will be able to make the most of any downsized kitchen space you encounter. And my biggest tip if you find yourself in a similar situation: bring your favorite plate/bowl/silverware from home and a little dish soap and sponge. It makes all the difference in making for homier mealtimes.

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the sweet part of the city (minneapolis edition)

“I started a list of potential things to do this weekend… so far it’s 15 restaurants, 3 bars, and 3 actual things to do.”

Thus began an email from Anna (mentioned here before for her Pimm’s cup skills) on the eve of our spontaneous weekend jaunt to the Twin Cities. And I’m proud to report back from an amazing tour de food in the Land of the Wind Chill Factor. We ate and we ate and we did pretty much no actual things and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Here are the highlights:

Eplegaarden:

I made a pitstop near Madison at “da apple orchard vit da Norvegian exposure” (per Eplegaarden’s absolutely hilarious website). There was a sign on the gate that said “No cell phones. Loud talking disturbs the Norwegians.” I came away with 23.5 pounds of apples. Orchards exacerbate my struggles with moderation. Applesauce recipe forthcoming.

Muddy Waters:

This cafe-by-day/bar-by-night was our first stop when we rolled into town. This place has some of the best bar food in MPLS  and the chances are good that you’ll spot a local celebrity before you finish your beer. We saw nobody famous on Friday but were consoled by Mushroom and leek pizza, pear and brie grilled cheese, and pints of Surley.

Bryant Lake Bowl:

Cozy pub/ brunch spot in the front, old-school bowling alley in the back. Lemon ginger scone + broccoli and white cheddar scramble. But it was way too beautiful a day outside to stay inside and bowl.

Common Roots Cafe:

Afternoon coffee with a view…

Jasmine Deli:

Every time I go to Eat Street, a famous row of restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, I swear I will go somewhere other than Jasmine Deli. But I always end up at Jasmine Deli because it’s my favorite. “Okay,” I think, “at least I’ll order something different this time.” And then I get the exact same thing as always, noodle salad with tofu. I can’t really imagine a trip to Minneapolis without it at this point. I’ll bear the title of creature of habit with relish.

Sebastian Joe’s:

Can’t pass up ice cream at S.Joe’s, even on a winteresque evening. With great trepidation, I forwent my favorite (banana/coffee/chocolate chip) in favor of pumpkin spice. I was not disappointed. Neither were Anna and Daniel.

Victor’s 1959 Cafe:

The upper midwest is probably the last place on earth that I’d expect to find delicious Cuban food. Joanna was not surprised. “Cubans are everywhere. We’re taking over,” she tells me. My black beans, scrambled eggs, and guava jam were gone before I could take a picture for the blog.

Isle Bun and Coffee:

Having been raised on homemade, from scratch and nothing but the best, I’m choosy about my cinnamon rolls.  Isle Bun is one of the few places I’ve ever had a roll that can hold a candle to Grandma Kay’s. The smell at this place was enough to make me want to drop out of med school and convince Joanna to open a bakery with me. But that’s probably just the sugar talking.  When I asked the bakery lady to box up a roll to go so I could take it back to my people in Chicago, she said, “you better put it in the trunk so it survives the drive without you eating it.” Sage advice.

As I hope is abundantly clear by now, you should let me know if you ever find yourself in the fine city of Minneapolis and in need of a restaurant rec. I’m your girl. If you want ideas for actual things to do, though, you’re on your own.