Best Hills to Sled for Free in St Paul, MN

Living in St. Paul, MN my whole life I know a thing or two about sledding… for free. Although, growing up I had the privilege of having a perfectly steep hill in my backyard at my parent’s place. But since my parent’s have built a deck in their backyard, sledding on their hill would probably send us slamming to the house.

The search for safe outdoor winter activities for my restless and active boys during this time has become something to look forward to in the midst of circumstances. Luckily, we were able to take a break from our cabin fever and enjoy the outdoors for the sake of our sanity.

According to the City of St Paul, the following are the top 4 steep hills to go sledding for free are:

Sledding Hill LocationRating
Baker Park
209 W. Page St.
Saint Paul, MN 55107
Steep
Battle Creek Recreation Center
75 S. Winthrop St.
Saint Paul, MN 55119
Steep
Highland Park Community Center
1978 Ford Pkwy.
Saint Paul, MN 55116
Steep
McMurray Athletic Fields
1155 Jessamine Ave. W.
Saint Paul, MN 55103
Steep

Most recently we visited Battle Creek Recreation Center, totally would recommend it. The hill is steep, there’s lighting at the top of the hill for safety, and there’s not a ton of people. I would suggest going sledding when the snow is ample and fresh for a better experience.

Battle Creek Recreation Center (St Paul, MN)
Battle Creek Recreation Center (St Paul, MN)

Store Launch

Finally, an online store that provides stylish and practical solutions for organizing your home and life! I am thrilled to share this announcement with you.

Thrilled To Finally Be Able To Launch My Online Store

www.kayklalorstore.com

I have been working hard for the past few months just getting things ready for the new year and preparing the launch my online store. Like many of you, I have been caged in my house and having an itch to organize everything from kitchen cabinets to kid’s toys and shop for home décor or functional furniture online. To no avail, I found it challenging to shop for products that were appeasing to my taste. So I thought, why not create my own online store with products that appease to my taste and style.

The Store Selection Is Constantly Growing

If you don’t see what you’re looking for now, check back in a few days! They’ll be new products that will be added to the site on a regular basis. Also, follow my blog for posts of new products added to the online store.

I’m so excited to start this new journey and hopeful for the new year.

Herbs

A Little Background

I had recently called my paternal grandmother on her birthday and ended up taking for almost two hours. She lives in Seattle, Washington and I’m in St Paul, Minnesota so we don’t get to spend much time with each other. She recently turned 71 years old and I was just asking things about her and her life. My paternal grandmother has been a farmer all of her life. She was a farmer where she was born and raised in Laos and when she came to the U.S., she continued to be a farmer and that was her way of living, raising her children, and support several children off to college.

My maternal grandmother also had a green thumb and did some farming here and there but for the most part she was a gardener. I was much closer to my maternal grandmother as she lived closer to me and I practically spent my childhood at her house. She would tend to her garden everyday, regardless if she had to babysit a grandchild, she would hoist that grandchild onto her back with a traditional Hmong baby carrier.

As I’ve gotten older I’m continuing to have the need to have a green thumb as well. Finding myself going to the asian grocery stores just to purchase herbs and running into issues of my herbs dying faster than me eating them. So I’ve been dabbling on growing my own herbs wishing I would’ve shown interest earlier when my maternal grandmother was still alive. So the subject of growing herbs was on my mind when I was talking to my paternal grandmother on her birthday.

It’s amazing the wealth of information that she has about farming. She has grown everything from a variety of herbs, fruits, and flowers and these are the only things that I’m aware of as I have memories of her bringing luggages full of fruits and vegetables for whenever she came to visit us in Minnesota. Not to mention she used to grow and sell flowers at Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, Washington.

So we were on the subject of growing herbs such as cilantro, green onion, mint, Thai basil, and lemon grass as they are essential in Southeast Asian cuisine. I could tell the difference of our perspectives in growing herbs, hers is the ideal way of growing them in outdoors in the garden, whereas, my perspective is growing indoors in a planter or in a mason jar. I might just have to turn my front lawn into a mini garden because I’m having little success growing them indoors.

Herbs are almost always served fresh in all of Southeast Asian cuisine.

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1. Cilantros | 2. Green Onions | 3. Mint | 4. Thai Basil


Cilantros

Cilantros

Cilantros are tasty, aromatic, and are used as more than just garnishment to many Southeast Asian dishes. Cilantros are a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine as it provides a powerful fresh taste to any meal. I have cilantros all the time in my fridge or often find myself purchasing cilantros from the local asian grocery stores or if you don’t have any near you Amazon always seems to have everything.

My grandmother and I were on the subject of growing cilantros for a while as I was asking her simple questions like the following:

Q: How do I harvest them? Do I cut them all at the base and then they’ll grow right back?

A: No. Don’t cut them at the base, most definitely won’t grow back. With cilantros, you have to cut the stem that’s attached to the leaf and by doing this way the cilantro will grow back bushier as well

When I first started growing cilantros on the side of my driveway many years ago, to my surprise, I didn’t know that when cilantros hit its maturity that it starts to bloom with little white flowers at the top of the stem. I later learned that within the little white flowers are seeds to grow cilantro again. So I asked my grandmother the following question:

Q: When can I harvest the seeds? So I harvest them when the little white flowers start to bloom?

A: No, you pick the seeds of the stem when it has died and dried off.

My grandmother continued to tell me to grow Hmong cilantros, usually these cilantros will still have roots attached to it, which I can regrow and collect the seeds when it matures. Apparently, according to my grandmother, Hmong cilantros are a lot more flavorful, aromatic, and bushier. Turns out, these Hmong cilantros are from the seeds that Hmong people brought with them from Laos. Going to ask my grandmother before spring to see if she can send me some of her seeds for me to plant in my yard. Plus, it has a nice ring to it “my grandmother’s cilantros.”

I also asked her if she would freeze the cilantros after harvesting them, and of course, she does.


Green Onions

Green Onions

Some call it scallions, but I call it green onions. Green onions are also an essential herb when it comes to Southeast Asian cuisine. Used more than just a garnishment and more for its slight onion fresh taste to any dish. I, too, find myself purchasing this herb along with cilantros when running to local asian grocery stores.

I’ve dabbled over the years of growing green onions and always found them to grow best in summer outdoors. Once grew green onions on the side of my driveway, hardly tended to it, and they grew so fast and tall. At that time I was just experimenting and didn’t realize that green onions also bloom at this maturity. Grew so many green onions in abundance that my husband and I gave bunches away to our neighbor.

What I also learned about green onions was that I could regrow, or up-cycle, my green onions purchased from the store. I just have leave about 2-3 inches from the ends, submerge the roots vertically in water and before you know it, the green onions will start to grow. Eventually my green onions grew so tall that I had transplanted to a mason jar as a planter.

Cilantros and Green Onions go hand in hand. The following are recipes that include cilantro and green onion as an ingredient:


Mint

Mint is has a strong smell and taste to any Southeast Asian dish. It’s most often used in as a garnishment in dishes like Pho, Kao Poon, and Laab. It goes hand in hand and complements with cilantro and green onion.

Mint is another herb that I plan on growing as local asian grocery stores usually sell them in large bunches. It usually goes bad before I get the chance to use them all, so planting them is in the hemisphere.


Thai Basil

My husband and I love eating Thai basil. Thai basils are not like other typical basils that are used in basil pesto or on Margherita pizzas. Thai basils are different in its own right, asian grocery stores usually sell them with stems attached, whereas, other basils are sold with only its leaves and no stem in clear plastic containers. Another difference is that Thai basils have stems that are purple in color and has a very distinct and strong basil aroma.

Thai basils are great with stir fries. Most definitely when eating at a Thai restaurant, the menu will always have some sort of a basil stir fry dish. My husband always orders a basil stir fry dish when he has the chance and always asks for extra Thai basil to be cooked in it.

Most importantly, when it comes to noodle soups like Pho, Kao Poon, Kao Piak – Thai basil is a must need ingredient.


There you have it, the four main herb ingredients to any Southeast Asian dish. Be sure to like and follow this blog along with following my social media for more updates.

Main Ingredients Page

Rice

I have a taste for plain white rice, whether it’d be short-grain white rice (sushi grade) or Jasmine rice (long-grained). Short-grained white rice is the type of rice that many Hmong people, as well as Southeast Asians, eat. For a healthier option, Hmong people have transitioned to eating more Jasmine rice.

Hmong people have a history of farming and harvesting white rice in Laos before arriving to the U.S. as refugees. My great grandparents, grandparents, and parents, now myself and my children love and eat white rice. It’s such a crucial staple in every Hmong kitchen as it’s eaten with all meals of the day. Our preference of rice is so ingrained in us that my dad would always reference meals at restaurants would taste better if it had rice to go along with it.

White rice is eaten plain as a side dish to many Asian meals. Sometimes even as a main dish when cooked as fried rice. Short-grained white rice was cooked the traditional way with the use of a steamer pot and bamboo basket, either to steam regular rice or make sticky rice.

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1. Kokuho Rose Rice | 2. Three Ladies Jasmine Rice Long Grain

Rice used to be steamed in a steamer pot and bamboo basket for steaming rice or making sticky rice (only with short-grained white rice). I have never made rice the traditional way but often would call and ask my mom how she made it. It’s still on my to do list to learn the traditional way of making rice.

Sticky Rice Steamer Pot and Basket

When I was younger, I would remember my grandma storing sticky rice in these small bamboo baskets. I found myself recently at a local asian grocery store looking for these bamboo baskets for nostalgia but I just couldn’t find one that was made with quality and that resembled the one my late grandmother had. The closest one I was able to find on Amazon is the following.

Little by little, the traditional way of making rice came to an abrupt end as electronic rice cookers came on the rise. The only time I ever saw rice made the traditional way now is either at Hmong catering services or restaurants when making large batches that just can’t compete with the small home electronic rice cookers.

I’ve had my fair share of using a variety of rice cookers and they have come a long way. Growing up, my family, as well as other Hmong families, used something similar to a Tiger JNP-1000-FL 5.5-Cup.

Tiger JNP-1000-FL 5.5-Cup

Currently, I use a rice cooker model that it is no longer being made but is a version similar to the model of Zojirushi NS-LGC05XB Micom Rice Cooker & Warmer.


Although I don’t eat as much rice as I used to anymore, I would crave for a nostalgic meal every now and with a side of plain white rice. The following are several recipes that includes the ingredient of white rice or meals that would go great with a side of white rice.

Main Ingredients Page

SPICES

Spices in the Southeast Asian cuisine are used as condiments to add a touch of spice to a dish or cooked in high heat alongside to ingredients. Spices are ultimately used in every Southeast Asian dish imaginable. It’s safe to say that if it’s not spicy, it’s not an authentic Southeast Asian dish. The word “spice” is such a broad category for this subject so I’m going to break it down to its rightful subcategories of 1) fresh spices, 2) dry spices, and 3) wet spices.

NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.


Fresh Spices

So what makes a Southeast Asian dish so deliciously spicy that it hurts so good? Thai chili peppers. There you have it. Now you’re probably used to seeing cooking videos deseed peppers but not in Southeast Asian cuisine. I could never understand as to why one would deseed a pepper because of the preference of not wanting it to be too spicy? Then don’t use the pepper… period.

According to the internet, Thai chili peppers have Scoville level from 50,000 to upwards of 100,000, which is about 15 times spicier than an average Jalapeño pepper. Some come in the color green and some in red. The red Thai chili peppers are preferred for its high level of spiciness but not all red Thai chili peppers are created equal. Unfortunately, it’s a hit or miss with the spiciness, but you’ll just have to make due with what you have.

Thai chili peppers are usually sold in your local Asian grocery store or in local farmer’s market. Luckily for me, as I live in the heart of the Hmong community in St. Paul, MN – there’s tons of both. But if you live in the outskirts, I’m sure you can make work with ordering some Thai chili peppers from Amazon.

Thai chili peppers are typically sold in packs of maybe a good handful of 50-100 peppers (I’m estimating because I’ve never counted). When purchasing these Thai chili peppers, of course you’re not going to eat them all in a sitting before they start to go bad… you must freeze them in Ziploc Feezer Bags. So from store to Ziploc Feezer Bags is how I do it. When I need a few of Thai chili peppers, I rinse first and then use it.

Now that’s out of the way, you can use Thai chili peppers in any stir fry dish by cutting off the stem and then cutting it in half the long way. The reason for cutting it in half the long way rather than throwing a whole pepper in for cooking is to expose the seeds of the pepper to the dish for that next level spice. Southeast Asian cooking has a style of layering ingredient flavors to a dish. Typically, it’s oil and the holy trinity of ginger, garlic, onions – then, fresh Thai peppers… and whatever ingredients that come next.

I used to have an abundance of Thai chili peppers all year round when my maternal grandmother was alive. She would grow Thai chili peppers in her little backyard garden. My mother has her own garden, now that all of us kids have grown up, and a good reason for her to start since we won’t be trampling in her yard. She, too, would harvest Thai chili peppers and distribute it me and my brothers but she didn’t nearly grow as much as my grandmother did. So I would find myself purchasing Thai chili peppers at local grocery stores and Hmong farmer’s market.


Dry Spices

Growing up, I would remember my grandmother using a woven bamboo basket to lay the Thai chili peppers that she harvested from her garden for full sun exposure. She would always tell us kids to watch out and avoid her basket full of peppers as we would run by it.

As an adult, I’ve come to realize that she was drying the Thai chili peppers to make dried Thai chili peppers.

Although, I don’t recall my grandmother have whole dried peppers around her house, but she did have plenty of Thai chili powder.

The Thai chili powders were probably crushed by using a traditional Thai Clay Mortar and Wooden Pestle, which is a staple tool in Southeast Asian cuisine. I, myself, own one as well, which I purchased from a local Asian grocery store but you can also purchase it from Amazon.


Wet Spices

  1. Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp Hot Sauce | 2. Dynasty Hot Chili Oil | 3. Tuong Ot Toi Viet-Nam Chili Garlic Sauce | 4. Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Chili Sauce

Wet spices are often used as condiments to add additional spice to a dish. Sometimes more than one wet spice will be added so don’t be too surprised. Each wet spice has its unique texture or flavor whether it’s an oily flavor or garlic flavor and the texture of the peppers, it’s all preference.

Huy Fong Foods Sriracha Chili Sauce is the most popular among the wet spices, but all wet spices are typically used as condiments in Pho noodle soups and Kao Piak.

The two chili oils: Lao Gan Ma Spicy Chili Crisp Hot Sauce and Dynasty Hot Chili Oil have its own rights in the overall Asian cuisine, not just the Southeast Asian cuisine, which you’ll find it’s commonly used in Chinese dishes as dipping sauce for wontons or pan fried noodles.


I used to cook stir fries using fresh Thai chili peppers but as I have kids who can’t quite tolerate the spice levels yet, I’ve refrained from cooking with fresh peppers. Although I do miss it a lot, I’ve been using more of the dry and wet spices as an alternative for that spice fix.


Recipes that use spices:

Main Ingredients Page

SOY SAUCE

Soy sauce is it’s own beast in the overall Asian cuisine, not just to Southeast Asians. It’s used in many of its Southeast Asian dishes and is often used as a condiment and/or a marinating flavoring ingredient. Soy sauce is a salty savory umami flavor made from soybeans (which means it’s vegan/vegetarian approved) and is often used as a substitute of salt.

You’ll see soy sauce used in Pho, fried rice, stir fries, and a variety of soups and stews. Another staple in my kitchen that I never go without. I actually have a bulk gallon size in my cabinet and occasionally refill my soy sauce dispenser. Soy sauce has come a long way since I was a kid. There’s a variety of soy sauce with regards to low sodium and gluten-free versions.

1. Kikkoman Soy Sauce in Dispenser | 2. Kikkoman Soy Sauce, Less Sodium | 3. Kikkoman Soy Sauce, Gluten Free

Recipes that have soy sauce as an ingredients:

Main Ingredients Page

Homemade Stuffing

If you’re ever in the mood to take on the challenge of making some homemade stuffing, I got you covered. I have been eating stuffing my whole life from Stove Top Stuffing Mix and it never fails. But this year is different in every way and all this pent up creative energy I took it on my food literally. This was my first time ever making homemade stuffing and couldn’t believe how easy it was.

I made this homemade stuffing for this past Thanksgiving Dinner and it was a hit. It was so crunchy like garlic bread and crouton. Soft like you would expect from eating stuffing and the slices of onion really brought out the flavor. Of course, we had stuffing leftover and reheating it in the oven was just as good if not better as it had time to marinate and continued to have the same crunchiness as the first bite.


Preparation Time: 12-15 hours | Cooking Time: 45 minutes | Serving Size: 4-6

Ingredients

  1. 2 French Baguette
  2. 4 cups of Vegetable Stock or Homemade Vegetable Stock
  3. 1 Garlic head
  4. 1 stick of softened Salted Butter
  5. 2 fresh Eggs
  6. 1 Yellow Onion, diced
  7. Salt to taste

Kitchen Essentials

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  1. Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl
  2. Baking Sheet
  3. Whisk
  4. Aluminum Pan or Deep Baking Pan
  5. Measuring Cups and Spoons
  6. Cutting Board
  7. Cooking Utensil

Directions

  1. Take the two loafs of French Baguette bread and start to break pieces off either by hand or with a bread knife. I prefer an off uniform shape to my bread pieces so I prefer breaking it off by hand. NOTE: It’s best to break pieces off with fresh bread (bought the same day) rather than waiting a few days. Turns out the packaging of the French Baguette Bread tends to dry out the bread so when I had done the process of breaking it was rock solid and I had to use a bread knife to try to make the best of what I could do to break it apart. Set it aside overnight or at least 12 hours in a full baking sheet to allow for the bread to completely dry.
  2. Preheat the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Cut the base of the garlic head and place it on a baking sheet (skin and all) and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the garlic has softened.
  4. Take the garlic out of the oven and wait for it to cool.
  5. Preheat the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Holding the top end of the garlic head, squeeze the garlic cloves into a stainless steel mixing bowl and discard the garlic skin.
  7. Add the softened salted butter to the roasted garlic and mixing with a whisk.
  8. Add eggs and whisk.
  9. Then add the vegetable stock and whisk to combine all of the ingredients.
  10. Place the dried French Baguette bread pieces into a full size Aluminum Pan or a Deep Dish Baking Pan.
  11. Pour the liquid mixture into the pan.
  12. Add diced yellow onions.
  13. Light mixture with a cooking utensil to combine.
  14. Bake it in the oven for 45 minutes.

Crockpot Split Pea with Ham Soup

The only time we ever make this Crockpot Split Pea with Ham Soup is if we have leftover ham. Probably one of the best leftovers we make with leftover ham, but unfortunately, we make this meal at least once a year and typically around the holidays. But this upcoming year will be different as I have at least 2 Ziploc Freezer Bags full of frozen ham from Thanksgiving Dinner’s leftover. I’m determined to make sure we’ll have more than one meal of Split Pea with Ham soup.


Ingredients

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Preparation Time: 10-15 minutes | Cook Time: 6 hours | Serving Size: 8-10

Purchase and download digital PDF recipe, click here.

Kitchen Essentials

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  1. Crockpot
  2. Immersion Blender
  3. Cutting Board
  4. Knife
  5. Measuring Cups and Spoons
  6. Cooking Utensil

Directions

1. Add carrots, celery, green split pea, yellow onions, thyme, salt, garlic, and black pepper in the Crockpot.

2. Place ham bone in the Crockpot with a desirable amount of cubed ham.

3. Add water to submerge all the ingredients to the minimum fill line of the Crockpot.

4. Stir using a cooking utensil for a good mix of all of the ingredients.

5. Set Crockpot to cook for 6 hours.

6. After cooking for 6 hours, use an immersion blender to blend to preferred smoothness. I like it a bit chunky with some smoothness, so a few pulses would be sufficient.

7. Before serving, taste to adjust salt to taste.

OYSTER SAUCE

Oyster sauce is savory with a touch of sweetness. It’s the main ingredient to add to any stir fry dish, a condiment to soups like Pho, and also a great marinating sauce to add to any meat. Because of that added touch of sweetness it adds a nice glaze to meats when grilling or broiling.

The first memory that I ever have of using oyster sauce was probably when I was about 9 years old. I was at my grandma’s house trying to cook up a storm of fried rice for me, my uncles (who were my age and younger), and cousins. I knew I needed oil, cooked rice, salt and black pepper in a hot pan. What I didn’t know was what actually made that brownish color in the fried rice that my mom usually made. I remember looking in my grandma’s kitchen cabinets, finding the oyster sauce, and thought maybe I’d give that a try and gave it a good wham for it to come out of the bottle into the hot pan. Gave it a good stir to combine everything and had a taste of it… to my surprise, it was really good. To my knowledge, that was the first tasty fried rice that I had ever made. You never forget your firsts.

Oyster sauce is another ingredient that I must always have in my kitchen and you can find it at your local Asian grocery store or Amazon.

NOTE: An as Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

1. Lee Kum Kee Premium Oyster Flavored Sauce | 2. Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand Oyster Sauce | 3. Maekrua Oyster Sauce

Recipes that includes Oyster Sauce as an ingredient:

Main Ingredients Page

Ingredients

Ingredients was where

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Heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. Wait until the pan is hot and the butter has fully melted.

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