Quinn Popcorn Review

So back in May I visited the Wake Up the Earth Festival sponsored by Spontaneous Celebrations in Jamaica Plain with our friends Scott and Shane. I love this event each year which features local organizations and artisans along with great entertainment from bands, singers and performance groups. It has been so close and we love taking advantage of it each year.

This year I stumbled upon the best find ever, Quinn Popcorn. Dane and I would definitely choose popcorn above almost any snack. When I started talking to them at the festival they had my full attention and support. I learned that they are a small business serving up microwave popcorn made with all natural ingredients. I was sold and decided to give the Vermont maple and sea salt option a try.

Dane was pretty happy when I brought this home and we had to try it immediately. We always use an air popper when I make our popcorn snacks and I’m a little wary of the microwave variety only because I’ve known too many people who grossly overestimate how much time is needed for their popcorn and then it smells like burned popcorn for hours.

This turned out to be super easy, as long as you aren’t a serial popcorn burner. Popped it for about 2-2 1/2 minutes then added this delicious happiness.

They definitely make the instructions easy enough. Come on, if you can’t master this then I don’t know what to tell you. Even I could do it. I have found with other types of oil that it can feel like it all comes out at once and it’s hard to evenly distribute. If you cut on the line and leave a small opening to drizzle, you can just add a little bit at a time while tossing the popcorn. Add in the seasoning and you’re set.

I don’t know if I’ll ever eat any other kind of microwave popcorn ever again. Quinn Popcorn is so good with a few different flavors to try. We absolutely recommend trying it if you’re a popcorn lover. I love knowing we can support a local small business that is making great decisions on what to include in their product. Not in the Boston area? Don’t worry, you can find places to get Quinn Popcorn here!

Minneapolis Town Hall Brewery, Minnesota

Yes, I know. Tired of my Minneapolis trip yet? I feel like it sometimes takes me forever to get around to doing posts, so I’m still writing about my trip. But it was so awesome that I can’t just leave anything out!

My second night in visiting with Sam and Jason (right after leaving the MN State Fair for the second day in a row) we headed to the Town Hall Brewery, a brewpub in downtown Minneapolis. Sam found the place and loved their website so much that she decided we had to go. That and they have great beer. I was sold. Doesn’t take much.

Our main goals was to try a bunch of different beers. We had eaten so much at the fair that we didn’t need much in the way of food. Just some beer samples. The Town Hall Brewery made it really easy to try different styles with their different beer flights.

Sam went with a flight of their signature brews: Dortmunder Local, Masala Mama IPA, Hope and King, Black H2o Oatmeal, and West Bank Pub Ale. I decided to go with the seasonal flight: Smoked Hefe, Broken Paddle ESB, Tank Monkey Double IPA, Honey Storm, and a special infused beer.

There were some really interesting flavors between these 10 different beers. Some that stood out most to me were in the seasonal flight. The Smoked Hefe had some really intense smokey flavor, along the lines of a smokey bourbon or a whiskey. The Honey Storm was interesting too, with a sweet start and really oakey (is that a wordy? it is now.) finish.

All the signature brews were good, solid varieties. I especially liked the Hope and King Scotch Ale and the West Bank Pub Ale. To me, both were really drinkable and I could totally see them becoming a favorite for me with some growlers at home if I didn’t live so far away.

OK, and I know I said we weren’t really hungry, but somehow sampling 10 different types of beer makes you feel like you suddenly have an appetite again. So we ended up with the Spinach and Artichoke Dip and the Mashed Potato Pizza (!).

The dip was delish with the pita chips for dipping and the “pizza” was basically like potato skins on a pita. Carbs anyone? Perfect pub snacks for imbibing some delicious beer.

I would love to go back for an actual meal in the dining room. We sat near the bar since we weren’t planning on ordering much food, mostly just drinks. I loved that they had different flight options. The most appealing part of the Town Hall Brewery to me was their selection of in-house beer, so I was really happy that it was easy to try so many different kinds.

Thanks Town Hall Brewery for a lovely evening filled with 10 different styles of beer!

Minnesota State Fair Part II: Fair Food and Fun

With all the foods on sticks we ate, it’s kind of hard to believe we had enough room in our stomachs to have anything else. But somehow we did. I think we had a pretty good strategy with choosing those foods we would share, thereby saving stomach room for those things we just couldn’t pass up to eat on our own.

Since my birthday was the first day of the fair, I jokingly said to Sam at one point that I want to eat the fried pickles with birthday candles in them. She didn’t forget this and actually brought birthday candles and matches, put them in my fried pickles, and together Sam and Jason wished me a happy birthday.

I think people passing by were slightly confused by this, but it was probably the best birthday treat I ever had. These were the regular fried pickles, but I also had some of Sam’s which had cream cheese sandwiched in between two pickles, then each little sandwich is battered and deep fried. SO GOOD.

In the Agriculture building there was a section devoted to Minnesota wineries. I had no idea there were any wineries in MN, but we had to try some, so we ended up with this sampler of 6 kinds of wine. Obviously in a MN shaped holder.

Wines were:
1 - Potter John’s White from Falconer Vineyards
2 - Sippin from a Slipper from Glacier Ridge Vineyards
3 - The Wine-ing Farmer’s Wife from Fieldstone Vineyards
4 - Frontenac Gris from Parley Lake Winery
5 - Prairie Smoke from Northern Vineyards
12 - Raspberry Wine from WineHave Vineyards

You were able to pick the 6 wines you wanted to try with this sampler out of 13 different varieties. I just picked all the whites – there were five – and then a fun one for the sixth choice. It was really hot, so we went with the lighter varieties. The Frontenac Gris and The Wine-ing Farmer’s Wife were my favorites. I don’t like really sweet wines, so they were a little drier. The Raspberry Wine was super sweet, but fun to try because it was different than all the others.

It wouldn’t be a State Fair without giant vegetables. Here’s the 1st place pumpkin from this past year.

Then in the Dairy Building there was butter bust sculpting. Artist Linda Christensen sculpted 12 busts, one for each of the 11 Minnesota Dairy Princess of that year and 1 for Princess Kay of the Milky Way (title awarded to the winner of the MN Dairy Princess competition). Each bust starts with a 90 pound block of butter that takes hours to carve. One bust is created each day for the duration of the 12 day fair.

I had my first experience with fried cheese curds at the fair. Definitely a once in a while kind of food. So yummy. And so not good for you.

Then there was the MN State Fair legend, Sweet Martha’s. This booth has been at the fair for 25 years, and operates only out of the fair. Pretty impressive. They now have cookie dough you can purchase at the grocery store as well, but it’s amazing the business they do during this 12 day period each year. We got a bucket that was overflowing with 4 dozen chocolate chip cookies. After we just could not eat any more, we saved some and had them for breakfast the next morning.

My favorite picture, taken by Jason.

The fair overall was so much fun, so here are some highlights:

Pictures above clockwise from top left: Ducklings, just a few days old, in the birthing barn. Me with a cow that was walking down the street. Princess Kay of the Milky Way finished butter bust. Me and a giant pickle on the side of the fried pickle stand. Cheese curds sign in the food building. Jason and I supporting MN turkey by being some. Giant Sing Along that played every day, it was surrounded by groupings of microphones so you could just jump on and sing with everyone. Jason playing Wheel of Fortune in one of the arcades – he got a tootsie roll and a green crayoned shaped eraser with his ticket winnings.

Thanks to my awesome friends for taking me to the fair two days in a row when I visited! That about covers the fair, but more posts from my Minnesota trip are coming up!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Sometimes you just need a great dip. Dane and I were hanging out one weekend and I really wanted spinach and artichoke dip. Instead of going out to a restaurant, I figured I could just figure out how to make some on my own.

I started with looking through some recipes just to get a sense of the amounts I should be working with. I saw recipes that called for cream cheese, sour cream, and mayo. None of those seemed right to me. Mayo in a spinach and artichoke dip? Not so much for me.

My favorite kind of spinach and artichoke dip always has a delicious cheesyness mixed in with the spinach and artichoke. Since I’ve made all kinds of things with cheese sauces (because I LOVE CHEESE!) I knew I could make it work. And the results were awesome!

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onions
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 4-5 strips bacon, fried crisp, drained and crumbled
  • Assorted chips for dipping (pita chips, tortilla chips, bagel chips)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round dish (I actually used a pie plate, which worked perfectly) and set aside. I also drained the spinach, which took awhile to get all the water out. Really make sure you drain off as much water as you can. I then drained the artichoke hearts and chopped them into bite sized pieces.

In a medium pot, cook the bacon until crispy over medium-high heat. Remove the bacon and crumble once it has cooled. In the bacon fat, add the onions and cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional 3 minutes.

Add the flour and stir constantly, to make a roux. Cook about 3 minutes then add the milk and cream. The mixture will start to thicken, so make sure to keep stirring constantly. It should take 3-5 minutes of stirring before you feel it starting to thicken.

Add the spinach and stir in well. Then add the cheeses, artichoke hearts, and bacon, and stir together.

Remove the pot from the heat and pour into the prepared dish. Put in the oven for about 20 minutes, until bubbly (you can add more cheese on top if you want). Remove from the oven and serve hot with chips.

This does make a LOT of dip, and Dane and I didn’t get through even close to half of this. It’s the perfect amount for company though. I froze the rest that we didn’t eat, and plan to try and reheat it next time I’m feeling the need for some dip. It may or may not work, but hey, it’s worth a shot.

Hope you enjoy!

Connor’s Farm, Danvers

All of a sudden it was the end of November! Let’s just get these end of fall posts out of the way, then on to the holidays!


One weekend I came into the living room to see Dane had a To-Do List made for us of things he wanted to do that weekend. At the top of his list was the corn maze at Connor’s Farm in Danvers. I couldn’t help but think it was pretty cute that my husband wanted to go to a farm, so of course I agreed and we drove up to Danvers.

Connor’s Farm is small, but busy, especially during the fall. For the fun seekers, enjoy the jumping pillow and the corn maze. For the barbeque lover, there’s Bob’s Barbeque Pit. For the passive aggressive types, try the corn cannon and shoot a corn cob into the pond. There’s a little something for everyone.

First up for us, the corn maze. Every year they do a different maze with a different design. We loaded up on apple cider and cider donuts before going in, just in case we didn’t make it back out.

While we wandered we stumbled upon these clever little signs. Kept us distracted from the fact that we had no idea where we were going (and weren’t really paying attention to our path). Corn all starts to look the same.

We did make it out eventually, and headed right over to the jumping pillow. There was not one adult on it, but really, that was not going to stop me from having fun. Look at how much fun those kids are having! Why should they be the only ones?

After less than 5 minutes I was exhausted! That thing was a much tougher workout than I had thought. I have no idea how kids have that much energy. On to the hayride. No jumping involved.

We headed over to the farm store after all our fun and loaded up on fall goodies. They have fresh produce, local food, and local dairy products. If you’re looking to shop local, definitely give Connor’s a try!

We had a blast being kids for the day at Connor’s Farm. We’d definitely go back (if not for the awesome cider donuts, then for the corn cannon, which wasn’t working when we went for our turn). I’d love to go back as the holidays get closer and get some homemade pies.

Thanks for a fun day Connor’s!

Girls’ Pint Out Meetup

If you know me, you’ll know I love beer. Until a few years ago, I was the girl who didn’t like it. I hated the taste (probably from tasting some awful beer) and didn’t understand why people drank it at all (besides the obvious). Then my eyes were opened when I tasted Harpoon UFO for the first time. Beer, I realized, is actually pretty great.

Since then I’ve fully embraced the world of beer. I love learning more about how it’s made, how different flavors can come out in different varieties, and of course, tasting it and picking my favorites.

Enter Girls’ Pint Out. I learned about this organization through my fellow brew diva and good friend, Becca. Besides being a fan of the organization, she’s now the head of the new Boston chapter of GPO.

Girls’ Pint Out is all about making beer accessible to women and promoting education about beer and brewing in general. Let’s be honest, the world of beer tends to be associated with macho men, sporting events, and fraternity parties. The ladies want their place in the beer community! We’re taking it, and enjoying every second of it.

GPO has already been really well received in Boston. With their tagline – “Gals in Grolsch, Angels of Ale” – and fun logo, what’s not to love? (although, I’ll be honest I’m not a big pink person, but I’ll take it for now).

I was super excited to  attend the first Boston meetup of Girls’ Pint Out last week. We headed to Deep Ellum in Allston, which boasts an awesome selection of beer (including great local brews), and mac and cheese with duck confit. I couldn’t wait to try it all. Oh, did I mention beer cheese with warm pretzels? UH HUH.

I got to meet some awesome ladies and had some delicious food and drinks. My biggest decisions of the evening were figuring out which beers I wanted to try.

I was SO happy to see multiple varieties of Pretty Things on the menu. Pretty Things is a small Cambridge-based craft brewery. You can only find it in MA, CT, RI, and NY (and even in those places it’s not necessarily easy to find). I tried the Jack D’Or – their flagship beer- and the Babbayaga. Both great. Also, I want those glasses ASAP.

The meetup was great. I can’t wait to see where the GPO Boston chapter goes! For more information, you can contact Hope to see you ladies at the next event!

Ula’s Cafe, Jamaica Plain

I love my funky neighborhood. Dane and I make an effort to eat close to home and try new places, and a favorite of mine is Ula Cafe in the Brewery complex in JP.

The cafe is a great gathering place for JP locals and visitors, that offers sandwiches, soups, and beverages. Baked treats are made on site and fresh each day. During the summer the outdoor patio is the place to be, and the cafe is dog friendly, providing treats and a water bowl for pups while they hang out on the patio with their owners. Ula’s also strives to support sustainability in their food and daily operations. In short, it’s a funky neighborhood place that welcomes everyone and supports the planet. Pretty great, if you ask me.

I mentioned the fresh baked goods. They are AMAZING. I’m a huge sucker for the raspberry crumb bars (or any of them really – I’ve tried apple, fig, and apricot too) and popovers. I would love to learn how to make popovers, but Ula’s are just so good that I feel like mine wouldn’t live up to them.

If you’re a coffee or tea lover, this is the place to try things. I love the Rooibos tea, served in a small teapot. If you’ve never had Rooibos, give it a try. Smells like vanilla and tastes so soothing.

Not in the mood for sweet treats? Grab one of their sandwiches. You have the option of a whole or half sandwich and some change with the seasons. Each has some unique toppings and amazing flavor blends. I LOVE the Black Forest Ham sandwich with herb cream cheese, apricot chutney, and cucumbers. The mix of the cream cheese and sweet apricots makes for great complimenting flavors.

With my sweet tooth, I usually only have room for a half sandwich, but I think it works out for the best. Ula’s is a gret lunch spot and hangout for coffee and a snack.

Until recently, Ula Cafe had unlimited free Wi-fi for patrons. In the past few months free Wi-fi hours have been limited to exclude the busiest times (lunch time during the week, and mornings/lunch on weekends). Smart move in my opinion for Ula’s. There were times I’d go in and one person would sit with their laptop at tables meant for four people for hours upon hours at a time, while purchasing one cup of coffee. I hope this will help this small business bring in more revenue and allow more people to come and enjoy the food and atmosphere.

If you find yourself in JP, (maybe visiting the Sam Adams Brewery?) check out Ula Cafe! Enjoy!

Ula Cafe on Urbanspoon

Homemade Apple Sauce

After we went apple picking we had a ton of apples, and wasted no time using them. I got home from work one evening, and Dane was in the kitchen cooking. He decided to make applesauce, which neither of us had made before. He got the idea from a recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook (which I got for my bridal shower), but then just decided to wing it and make it to our tastes (he doesn’t always follow instructions well).

Apple Sauce

  • 4 or 5 apples, peeled and cored
  • about 1/4- 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut the cored apples into quarters (they cook faster that way). Add the water to a medium saucepan, and put in all the apple pieces. Over medium heat, cook the apples until they begin to break down.

This took a while, and we actually started to think they weren’t going to ever get soft, but have a little patience and they will. Use a wooden spoon to break them up once they begin to break down to your desired consistency. We like a few chunks of apples still in the sauce.

Once at the consistency you like, remove from the heat and add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir it up and enjoy! You can have it warm, or chill in the refrigerator before you eat it.

all done!

Other recipes called for orange zest, lemon juice, allspice, and a variety of other things. I think the best thing about this recipe is you can really add whatever you want to flavor it the way you’d like. If you want to get crazy, you can try it with pears too. If you’re feeling sassy, maybe even add some craisins. It’s up to you! Enjoy!

Apple Picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards

Every year we make it a point to go apple picking in the fall. There’s nothing quite like those fresh apples from the orchard. We planned our trip this year about a month in advance, which meant a month of excitement leading up to the weekend. It doesn’t take much to make us happy, and I had big plans for those apples we were going to pick.

The past few years we’ve gone to Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, MA. There’s always some apples to pick, and afterward we enjoy some cider donuts, caramel apples, and cider. Plus, the all important hay ride. On a weekend in October, it was definitely busy at the orchard but some patience will get you through while having fun.

We went with a group of friends, which always make the trip more fun, including Tasha and Clint who had never been apple picking before! We brought them into the apple picking world.

We spent a while walking through the orchards, climbing to the top of the tree to get the perfect apple, and trying to get a few of every type of apple that was offered.

Then we found this crate. And my immediate inclination was to climb in it, just to see if I would fit. I did, and was actually quite comfortable. Then Dane decided to join me, and it was a bit of a process.

All for this picture…

We also learned a few things while we were there. I’ll leave it to Scott to show you.

After a long day at the orchard, we headed back to Becca’s house for dinner and dessert. And I made these little guys.

And they were really yummy. I had a mini apple pocket pie mold from Williams-Sonoma that I wanted to try, and it worked great! These little guys were the perfect end to an apple filled day.

Honey Pot Hill is fun, but I will warn you that during October on a weekend you definitely need to have some patience. There were crowds and lines at the concession area with the cider donuts and hot dogs were really long. We were in no rush, so we took our time and had fun with it. In the orchards there is more than enough space for everyone, and the first weekend in October had more than enough apples to go around.

We had a ton of apples coming home, and you’ll see more posts coming up with our apple recipes!

Vermont and Blackberry Picking

A few weeks ago Dane and I headed up to Vermont to visit our bestest friends Sam and Jason in Vermont (while they were home visiting from Minneapolis). They are originally from the Northeast Kingdom (a.k.a. almost Canada) and the area is absolutely beautiful and in the middle of nowhere. Perfect place to relax.

We spent most of our time relaxing with their families and enjoying being outside. I got to learn about sugaring (how you make maple syrup) and am really hoping to make it up to VT again for sugaring season so I can see the process in action.

Sam’s mom mentioned the fresh blackberry patch nearby. She barely finished her sentence before we all hopped in the car to head down to the wild blackberry patch. How much better can it get than fresh wild blackberries?

Maybe about a mile away in a pretty uninhabited area of VT we all picked up our buckets and started picking. Sam’s mom is a champion picker and had her container filled in about 5 minutes. The rest of us were having too much fun with it and we took a bit longer.

Oh and we noticed some of the patch was bent and crushed. Which Sam’s mom mentioned was just because of the bear. No big deal.

Wait, WHAT?! The bear?!

Yes, the bear. He comes around, but we’d totally hear him if he was coming… probably.

Whatever, back to picking.

We ended up with a TON of blackberries and barely made a dent in the patch. There were so many! We had a blast picking them all together.

And then we ate blackberries for days and days. And they were absolutely delicious!

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