Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rosenmunnar (Swedish Thumbprint Cookies)

It's Christmas cookie time of year. I love to bake. And I love to bake cookies. But I really like things that are easy to make. These cookies are all the things you want in a cookie. Just a handful of ingredients. You can keep the ingredients simple and use whatever jam you have in the house, you can skip the sugar drizzle if you're out of powdered sugar. I have written the recipe to show the little extras that I have discovered make these super-easy cookies even more super fabulous: like vanilla bean paste in the icing. Rosenmunnar means literally "red mouth" as I understand Swedish. I imagine the Swedish immigrants of Minnesota used whatever jam was available to them, like raspberry or strawberry. But back in Sweden I imagine these with lingonberry jam. I haven't tried them that way, but if you are Swedish or have Swedish heritage in your family, I'd love to hear what jams were traditionally used in your grandmother's house. The recipe has very few ingredients, but don't let that deceive you. They are spectacular and complex! My mother has a wonderful recipe for a ribbon cookie that you roll into a log, flatten, fill with jam, bake, cut into strips, etc. etc. Too many steps. When I decided to make 10 dozen cookies for our church cookie walk... these are the cookies I made. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do. 

Rosenmunnar (Swedish thumbprint cookies)
1 c. butter, room temp
1/2 c. white sugar
2 c. flour, I use white unbleached.
1/2 c jam (I use homemade raspberry but found we like it best with Smucker's Orchard's Finest Northwest Triple Berry Preserves. YUM!)
Heat oven to 375°F. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add flour a 1/2 cup at a time. Mix until it goes from fine crumbs to almost a ball and all the dough is pulled off the sides of the mixing bowl. Shape into 1" balls, place on cookie sheet and press a little indentation on top with your thumb. Fill thumbprint with a tiny scoop  (1/4 tsp) of jam. Bake 15-17 minutes until lightly golden. Cool and drizzle with a powdered sugar icing. 

Powdered Sugar Icing
3/4c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. milk
1/4 tsp of vanilla bean paste (Paste is great, it has bean flecks in it!)

Stir to a smooth consistency. If you find it is too thick, add a little milk (1/4 tsp.) Too thin, add a teaspoon of sugar. Drizzle over cookies off the end of a spoon. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Baked Chicken Wings

We like chicken wings at our house. There are three of us and we each like something different on our wings. My daughter is a barbeque lover. I like Frank's Sweet Chili sauce. And my husband, the purist, likes buffalo sauce made with Frank's Red Hot. These baked wings make it easy for everyone to sauce their own wings as they like or try a little of everything. We buy the package of fresh chicken wings in the grocery store and cut them to the smaller wing size. The wings come with three parts, the shoulder, the arm, and the tip. When prepping, you'll discard the tip. I'll share the recipes here for our buffalo and blue cheese sauces. The picture shows the wings drizzled with Frank's Sweet Chili sauce.

Baked Chicken Wings
(makes 24 wings)
1 package of fresh chicken wings
4 T. olive oil
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
3 T. of minced garlic (jar style) or 3 cloves, pressed
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white ground pepper, this is a finely ground pepper that blends in nicely
1 gallon size zipper bag

Buffalo sauce:
1 cup Frank's Red Hot
2 T butter or margarine

Marcy's Blue Ranch sauce:
1/2 cup Hidden Valley Ranch dressing
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

Celery sticks, if desired

Preheat convection oven to 375°F (see note below). Cut chicken into the smaller wing pieces, discarding the tips. Prepare the rub in the zipper bag by adding the oil and spices right into the bag. Add chicken wings. Zip the bag shut and shake to coat the chicken. Set aside until oven is heated then arrange on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with pan spray. Bake 30 minutes or until crispy and cooked through. While baking, prepare the buffalo sauce in a small saucepan. Heat thoroughly. Prepare the blue ranch dip. When wings are done, add to the buffalo sauce and stir briefly to coat. Remove and serve with blue ranch and celery.

(NOTE: We used convection baking on our oven, so the time to bake was only 30 minutes. If you do not have convection baking, bake 40-45 minutes at 375°F.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Steakhouse Salad with Roasted Beets

After I finally figured out how to make perfectly roasted beets, I was ready to make the steakhouse salad I had imagined. We buy a split quarter beef from a farmer in southern Minnesota and have processed at the Bergen Meats butcher shop in a tiny town with only a couple of other buildings in it. It's great stuff. They also have awesome smoked turkey breasts, but that's off topic. Back to the steakhouse salad. I wanted to make a salad with grilled sirloin. These sirloin steaks are so great and we grill ours pretty rare, you should grill to the doneness you like best. Now, roasted beets are a perfect compliment to a hearty steak. The only real prep time is the time it takes to roast the beets (which you can do easily in the crockpot: see recipe here.) The rest is just a few minutes at mealtime. We used one 16 ounce sirloin for a main dish salad for our family of 3. If you are serving more people and this is a main dish, you'll want to double the recipe. If it's a side dish, smaller portions are perfect. I hope you enjoy it.

Steakhouse Salad with Roasted Beets
1 clamshell of organic spring mix salad greens
1 16 oz. sirloin steak, seasoned with any all purpose grill seasoning you normally use
6 roasted beets, cut into strips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Grill the steak to desired doneness. Allow to rest a few minutes while you prep the salad. On plates, arrange the spring mix greens. Add the beets, feta and walnuts. Drizzle with maple mustard dressing. Slice the steak and arrange on top of the salad and serve.

Maple Mustard Dressing
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 maple syrup
1 tbsp. mild Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. paprika
Mix it all together in a jar and shake!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Roasted Beets in the Crockpot

I am so excited. I have finally figured out how to make delicious beets! I have always adored beets. I love them whenever and wherever I can get them. Soft roasted beets, cold on a salad, pickled. I have bought them from the farmers market and tried a few different ways to make them but none gave me the taste I was after. I wasn't sure how long to cook them. So the last farmers market of the season I found some pretty little beets. Yesterday on my lunch break I jumped in to try my hand at beets. I work in a small city so I get home at noon to let out the dog, clean and vacuum, start a load of laundry, and prep some for dinner. I put on some sterile medical gloves so my fingers wouldn't be red when I went back to work and it worked great. We ate them warm for dinner and the leftovers were used cold on a salad the next day. I am so thrilled that I can make beets taste so well and it's so easy. I hope you give beets a try, if you have never tasted them before they are like a cross between a carrot and a potato in taste, but with a little tang like a radish. Worth a try! Who knew you could get excited about beets?!

Roasted Beets in the Crockpot

12-15 beets
1 T. olive oil

Clean the beets, cut off the tops and bottoms and peel off the skin. Leave the beets whole and place them on one large sheet of aluminum foil, large enough to wrap all the beets in. Drizzle with a little olive oil to give a little moisture and to keep the beets from sticking to the foil. Wrap the foil around and seal the edges so steam can't escape. Place the foil packet in the crock and cook on low for 4-5 hours. The beets will be soft and moist when you get home and ready for eating warm or cooling to serve on a salad. Yum!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Streusel Topped Apple Pie

This is apple time of year. I have just one apple pie recipe I use. And when I have a good year, meaning I have come into a good supply of apples, we set up a pie making assembly operation in my kitchen to make pies until the apples run out. We've done as many as 15 in a day. They freeze well and bake up well so in mid-January when it seems the coldest of the coldest days, you can bake up a pie and warm yourself with the taste of fresh apple pie. It's our favorite and pretty fool proof. I hope you enjoy it. It's FABULOUS drizzled with a little caramel sauce. (Caramel apple pie!) For this pie, I use a mix of soft baking and firm eating apples so the pie bakes with not too much mush, and not too much crisp.

Streusel Topped Apple Pie
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
2 tsp tapioca
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 T. lemon juice
2 tsp. cinnamon
6-8 baking apples peeled, cored, and sliced 
2 T. butter
1 prepared pie crust (I use refrigerated Pillsbury crusts)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 stick butter, room temp
1 c. flour

Combine filling ingredients and pour into the prepared pie crust. Combine topping ingredients, this will be crumbly at best. Cover the apples with the topping mixture. Place pie pan on a cookie sheet to catch any spills. Bake at 350°F for 55-60 minutes. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Grandma Lally's Spaetzles

My daughter is 8 years old. She LOVES these little Bavarian dumplings. How could just a few simple ingredients yield such delight? I don't know. But I do know I loved these dumplings too. My mom made these as her mother did before her, and probably her mother before her. I don't think my mom even used a recipe. She just made the dough and dropped it with a spoon into boiling water. After a few minutes of boiling them, the spaetzles were drained and browned in melted butter with chopped onions. A little salt and that's all. It was truly one of my favorite childhood meals and my best childhood memories. We fought over the biggest ones. I have such happy memories of meals such as this. My recipe is a simple one. I hope you enjoy it. I use a spaetzle maker to produce the tiny, even shapes. But you can use a spoon, which I have done myself many times too. These are also great for dumplings in chicken soup. Just drop into the boiling soup and cook for a bit to make sure they are done. Delicious. 

Grandma Lally's Spaetzle
4 eggs beaten by hand
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper or allspice* (which is what I use)
1 T butter
Put a large kettle of water on to boil. Salt the water. Mix eggs, flour, cold water, and seasoning. Dough is thick but soft. Drop with a spoon. (Or you can use the spaetzle maker by spooning dough into grater section and sliding it back and forth as small pieces of dough fall into the water.) Cook only a couple of minutes until the spaetzles rise to the top. Drain. Stir in 1 T. butter to keep from sticking and sprinkle with a little salt.

You may brown spaetzle in a skillet with butter. Or you can serve them with buttered onions to spoon on top:
1 stick of butter
1 large onion, chopped 
Saute onion in butter until the onion is very soft. Spoon over spaetzle when serving and salt to taste.

These go great with sauerkraut and brats or ring bologna sausage. Very simple but comforting food from my Grandma Lally.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

S'more Brownie Bars

S'mores always remind me of camping and good times with family. (And Seinfeld, remember s'mores and s'stupid?) I was noodling on a way to combine brownies and the great taste of s'mores without a campfire.Sure you could stir marshmallow and crushed graham crackers into your brownie mix, but that would be missing some pizazz. So I thought let's combine the graham crust of my favorite bars with yummy brownies. Now that sounds more like it!! I had to cook the brownies a bit longer than the box recommended so plan for 40-45 minutes, adding the marshmallows after about 35 minutes of baking. Here's the recipe I came up with, I hope you like it.

S'more Brownie Bars
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 box of brownie mix for 9x13 pan
1 cup of chocolate bars broken into squares (about 2 regular size Hershey bars)
1 cup mini marshmallows (I use a cup of large marshmallows cut into small pieces so the graham crumbs stick to them)
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar. Press into bottom of 9x13 greased aluminum pan. Prepare brownie mix according to directions. Spoon on top of graham crust. Bake 30 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate, marshmallows and graham crumbs. Bake 5 minutes until marshmallows are golden and the brownies are completely cooked. Hit with the broiler for a minute or two if you like your s'mores a little burnt.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mom's Zucchini Bread

Here's another great way to enjoy zucchini! Zucchini is one of those things you don't have trouble finding in August. Our farmer's market has a great selection and is just a block from my house. We picked up some over the weekend and made this quick bread to enjoy after lunch on Sunday. We had to sneak in some baking before the big heat wave hit. Hurricanes get names, blizzards now get names. Heat waves should get names too. This one closed school early for three days in a row. Worthy of a name, I'd say. We do hope it ends soon so we can get back to cooking and baking. Tonight we just might be having root beer floats for supper, just like Mom used to make when it was 'too hot to cook.' I'm hoping to be able to make and share Mom's Chocolate Zucchini Cake recipe soon!

Mom's Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 c. oil
2 c. white sugar
3 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini, unpeeled

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare 2 bread pans with pan spray and a dusting of flour. Cream together sugar and oil. Add eggs and beat well. Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture alternately with zucchini. Stir well after each addition. Pour evenly into the two bread pans. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from pans to wire racks.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Mom's Zucchini Hotdish

It's zucchini season. It came a little late for us this year but it arrived in its typical green abundance. It is always hot here when the zucchini comes in season so you have to crank up the air conditioner to get this cooking done, though we do enjoy slicing zucchini in half and grilling along with the steak or burgers. One of our family favorites is my Mom's Zucchini Hotdish. It's not the standard Midwestern fare made with condensed soup of some kind or another. (I don't get me wrong, we love and eat plenty of that sort of hotidsh too!) This one has a light tomato base with the awesomeness of fresh zucchini. My daughter loves the zucchini so I add more than my mom's recipe originally called for. I've been eating this every summer since I was a kid. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Mom's Zucchini Hotdish
1 lb. ground beef
1 c. onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large can diced tomatoes*
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. oregano
2 cups zucchini cut into chunks (I use one 10-12" zucchini)
1 bag extra wide egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef, onion, green pepper, and garlic in a large skillet. Add tomato, sauce, salt, oregano, and zucchini. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, until zucchini is soft, stirring occasionally. When zucchini is softened, remove from heat. Stir in noodles and cheese. Allow cheese to melt and serve.

*If you home can tomatoes, 1 quart jars of those are best here instead of the tomatoes and sauce.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mound Bars from the St. George Cookbook

I'm going introduce you all to some classic recipes from the St. George cookbook. This cookbook was published for the 125th Anniversary of the St. George Catholic Church in rural New Ulm. The 125th Anniversary was celebrated in the 1980's but I do not have the exact date. I do know I received the cookbook from my parents for my high school graduation. 

We used the cookbook a lot as I was growing up. Anytime I ask my mom or grandma about a recipe, it's pretty likely they'll say it was from the St. George cookbook and refer to the recipe submitter's name to identify which specific version of a recipe to use. Dill pickles in my family are from the Irene's Dill Pickles on page 170. Smear Kuchen is from Mrs. Leon Wendinger on page 11. Homemade noodles are from M.J. Beranek on page 17. Some recipes are vague, "stir a little flour into butter until brown." It doesn't say how much of either one to use. Buttermilk pancakes and crispy waffles are a couple of our most favorite recipes and the pages show the heavy use with oil and vanilla extract stains. 

And like my mom and grandma before me, I mark a recipe with the handwritten note "Good!" if it is worthy of making again. It's my go-to cookbook for holiday candy recipes. Many of my mom's extended family have submitted the recipes here so they are likely recipes that come from my own great-grandparents and were handed down to generations of Beranek's, Forst's, Wendinger's, and Schwab's and all the families who populated the area around this small unincorporated town named for the church whose steeple rises above the corn and soybean fields.

When I share a recipe from this book, I'll note the name of the person who submitted it to the cookbook.

Mound Bars
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups coconut (sweetened flakes)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 T. peanut butter
1 bag chocolate chips

Mix crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into 9x13 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350°F. Mix together coconut and sweet milk. (Instead I spread the coconut on the crust and drizzle the sweet milk evenly over the coconut.) Back 15 minutes more. Melt chocolate chips, stir in peanut butter and spread on the coconut layer. Cool completely and cut into squares. 
Annette Beranek Altmann

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thai Chicken Wraps

Hello, friends. I hope you are enjoying summer. I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, but thanks for your patience. End of summer days are busy and time for squeezing in as much as possible. Kind of like a wrap sandwich. I always fill them too full, just like summer. If things spill out, that's okay. Sometimes you can't keep all the goodness inside. That is true of so many things. I have to stop and remember it's okay to be messy. Let it spill out. Fill things too full. Enjoy life too fully. You won't be sorry if you give/live/love too much. There's room for leftovers.

This little wrap is a great way to use leftover chicken breast. When we grill chicken breasts we throw an extra one or two on the fire so we can have some for salads or sandwiches. This is a refreshing summer lunch and a super quick meal. I like to use the Earthbound Organic half and half salad. It's half spring mix and half baby spinach. I love the different flavors and textures and the lovely green colors. You could use any lettuce you like. The rest is pretty simple.

Thai Chicken Wraps
4 tortilla shells or your favorite flavored wrap
1 large grilled chicken breast, cut into strips
2 cups lettuce
1 small can mandarin orange slices, drained
1 carrot, cut into strips like shoestrings
1/2 c. peanuts, chopped
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
spicy peanut sauce

Lay the tortillas flat and put a bit of lettuce in the middle. Evenly divide the chicken and place on the lettuce. Top with peanuts, carrots, cilantro and mandarin oranges. Dress with some peanut sauce, as much or little as you like. Fold up one edge and roll the wrap for easy eating. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Holy Stromboli

I stumbled on the easy stromboli idea when I was planning meals for our week-long stay at a cabin. I have tried a few different fillings and doughs. I have settled on this recipe that works great for my dairy-free husband. It's super easy, super good. So good in fact that I have failed to get a good picture of any stromboli... it gets eaten that fast. My family loves it. Daughter loves cheese and pepperoni combination which is pictured here. Husband and I have settled on this version. Do not use non-stick or dark pans; your bread will burn on the bottom.

Holy Stromboli
1 loaf refrigerated french bread dough
15 slices of hard salami
24 slices of hot pepperoni
1 cup Daiya shreds mozzarella flavor

Open the dough and unroll on a greased baking sheet. Layer salami, pepperoni, then cheese on the flattened dough. Roll. I usually fold over one side then the other and seal the edges by pinching them shut. I find if I roll them too tightly the center doesn't bake well. Now just bake according to the directions on the dough package. I bake 23 minutes at 350°F. Cut into slices and enjoy with marinara sauce.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Black Bean and Cilantro Salsa

In the summer, anything with fresh cilantro just tastes awesome. It's so light and summery; I can't get enough of it. Plus it is what makes salsa taste like salsa to me. I don't need my salsa to be spicy if it has cilantro in it. 

I wanted to make a quick black bean salsa to serve on hot dogs for my 4th of July hot dog bar. I had the Thai dogs, the American dogs, the German dogs, and wanted a fresh Tex Mex dog. Some black bean salsa with chopped avocado and sour cream seemed like a great combination. Here's the quick and easy recipe for this Black Bean and Cilantro Salsa plus a peek at the Tex Mex dogs we devoured. 

Black Bean and Cilantro Salsa
1 (28 oz) can of black beans, drained
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup (or more) of fresh cilantro, chopped
2 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all in a bowl and refrigerate for a couple hours to let the flavors mingle. 

That's it. Easy. Fresh. Summer. Yum.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hi-ho Cheerio Bars!

I know it happens to you. You buy some cereal and everyone goes nuts for it for two days, then it sits in the pantry. I had a huge box of Cheerios and a half a box of chocolate Cheerios that my family just would not finish. You know how that goes. The cereal cravings come and go in the house. So... what to do with that much cereal? I knew I could find a recipe for Cheerio bars and I did! But I didn't have all the exact primary ingredients so I improvised! I will post a link to the original recipe to pay homage to the source, but here is the adaptation I came up with that was a huge hit in my house! We love butterscotch (or at least I do and my family doesn't know that's what they are eating!)

Hi-ho Cheerio Bars!
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups peanut butter
Half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and half a bag of butterscotch chips for a total of 12 oz of chips (about a cup of each)
4 cups regular cheerios cereal
3 cups chocolate Cheerios cereal
Grease a 9x13 pan with a light coating of pan spray on the bottom and sides. In a large saucepan, heat the corn syrup, sugar, salt, and vanilla over medium heat until it comes to a steady boil. Reduce heat to low and add the peanut butter. Stir until it is well mixed. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Stir until the chips are completely melted. Then add the Cheerios and stir until the cereal is well coated. Spoon into prepared pan and pat down with a spatula. Cool completely and cut into bars. Enjoy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Ramen Noodle Slaw

This could quite possibly be the easiest salad ever. And you get to pulverize something with a rolling pin! How fun, right? I got this recipe from my sister-in-law and it's a go-to salad in the summer time. Great for picnics and potlucks because there's no mayo or dairy to worry about. I even like it the next day when the slaw is a little wilted from the dressing. It's good, simple and quick. Perfect for summer for another reason: there is very little oven work involved. I use my toaster oven for the almonds. It's much quicker to heat up and helps you keep a close eye on the almonds so they aren't over toasted. If you are out of almonds, try sunflower seeds instead. This recipe uses the rectangular kind of ramen noodles that cost like 11 cents on sale. Remember the Maruchan ramen noodles you ate in college? That's the one you want!

Ramen Noodle Slaw
1 cup slivered or sliced almonds
1 package cole slaw (or about a half a head of cabbage sliced)
1 green onion, chopped into small pieces
1 package beef ramen, uncooked (such as Maruchan)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 T. sugar

Toast the almonds in the toaster oven on 250°F for about 5 minutes until just lightly toasted. Cool almonds slightly. Put cabbage into a large bowl. Stir in the almonds and green onion. Put the uncooked ramen noodles into a freezer weight Ziploc bag, seal and put on the counter. Pound with a rolling pin until the noodles are broken into small pieces. Stir broken noodles into cabbage. In a small bowl empty the contents of the ramen season packet. Add vegetable oil and sugar. Stir to combine. Pour oil mixture over cabbage and stir to coat the cabbage. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mom's Marinated Salad

Summer time. It's salad time. My mom made this salad often in the summer. The taste of Italian dressing on broccoli is so amazing. That flavor takes me back. And it's so easy. I can see why my mom made this a go-to recipe. I like that this salad helps you can sneak in some fresh vegetables without worry or fuss. You make it the night before so the veggies get well marinated and full of flavor. It works great for potlucks and picnics so you don't have to worry about egg or dairy based salads. You can use whatever vegetables you like, but this combination is our favorite and it's very pretty. Bonus!

Mom's Marinated Salad
1 small head of cauliflower, washed and cut into small florets
1 small head of broccoli, washed and cut into small florets
1 small onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped (I used about 2 cups of baby carrots cut in slivers)
1 package grape tomatoes, washed and cut in half
1 bottle Kraft Zesty Italian dressing.

Combine all ingredients in a large container with a lid. Stir to coat the vegetables with dressing. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Crockpot Calico Beans

It's the 4th of July weekend! I love when Independence Day lands on a Thursday or Friday, that means the fun can last a few days longer. Kids can stay up late for fireworks and still have the next day to sleep in. We have lots of family coming home for a big school reunion in my husband's hometown. The whole weekend is full of activities. My daughter has been SO excited to see her cousins from out of town.

My in-laws will be feeding close to 20 people for meals so I offered to chip in on some meals. Today we're doing a gourmet hot dog bar! We have fixings for Thai dogs (posted on my blog: Not Your Kid's Hot Dog), Tex-Mex dogs (with homemade black bean salsa which I will share in a future post), German Kraut dogs, and good old fashioned ketchup, mustard, relish dogs.  It's easy and offers something to satisfy everyone's taste. Along with the hot dog bar, I've mixed up a big batch of Crockpot Calico Beans. We LOVE these beans, especially with Schmidt's bacon. I've mentioned Schmidt's before because their meats are so good. This is easy to whip up and feeds a whole mess of people. Great for picnics, potlucks and the 4th of July! 

Enjoy your day and give thanks for the freedoms we sometimes take for granted and give thanks to those who have sacrificed to protect our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happy birthday, America!

Crockpot Calico Beans
2 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. bacon
1 cup ketchup
2 T. prepared mustard
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 T. white vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 large cans baked beans (I used Bush's original)
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can baby butter beans, drained
1 can red beans, drained

Brown ground beef, onion, and bacon. Add all ingredients to the crockpot and stir. Cook on low for a couple of hours or on high for about an hour. Enjoy! 

(Yes, it's THAT easy! You may also put in a glass baking dish or pan and back about 40 minutes in a preheated 325°F oven. This also freezes well to heat up later.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Grandma Lally's Peach Dessert

I am posting this recipe in honor of my maternal grandmother, Hilaria "Lally" Ann (Beranek) Schwab. She passed away November 11, 2012. I miss her terribly. She was an awesome Grandma and a hard working, resourceful, farm woman. She could cook and bake, butcher chickens, kill a bat with a pliers (Sorry PETA!), and so many other things. She was tough and fearless and faithful. She could scoop her snow and clean the leaves out of her third-story gutters into her late 80's. Food was how she expressed love. Even as a resident of an assisted living community, she would share snack packs of Fig Newtons and Goldfish crackers with my daughter or send me off with a baggie of frozen apple pastries and a banana. She shared so much with me and I'm happy to share some of her with you. Any recipe I share of hers will be a "Grandma Lally" recipe. I hope you enjoy this one. The crust was of course made with lard, but I've substituted Crisco for the modern baker. If you still use lard or render your own, by all means, go for it. Enjoy the fresh peaches of the season and give this a try.

Grandma Lally's Peach Dessert
3/4 c. Crisco or margarine
1-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 egg
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 cups of fresh peaches, peeled and sliced (about 9 peaches)
7 T. all purpose flour
1-3/4 c. sugar (works well with as little as 1-1/4 c. sugar if you're looking to cut down)
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 c. cream 
2 T. sugar
Preheat oven to 375°. Mix the base ingredients together as you would for a pie crust. I just use a fork to cut the shortening into the flour until smooth. Press into a 9"x13" pan, bringing the crust up the sides just a little. I put a little flour on my fingers to press the crust without having it stick to my hands. Mix the filling ingredients and put on top of crust. Combine topping ingredients and pour over the peaches. Bake 1 hour and cool slightly. Can be served warm with ice cream or cooled completely.

Friday, June 28, 2013

It's Not Starbucks Tuna Salad

My small town used to have a Starbucks and while I love to visit my locally-owned coffee shops, there was something a little 'big-city' feel about having a Starbucks. Sadly it closed and I am still happily patronizing the small coffee shops that squeezed out the big corporate giant. One of the things I enjoyed was the food. One salad in particular and one dessert. I'll share the salad recipe here and the dessert will have to wait for another day. The tuna salad is one I just loved. I like tuna salad as much as the next gal, but it can be a little bland. White pasta, white mayo, and light tuna. It lacks color and zip. So when I tasted this one, I knew I had to figure out a way to replicate this one at home. It works great to mix the dressing in a blender so you get the peppers and tomatoes really smooth. To cook frozen peas, I put in a Pyrex measuring cup, cover with boiling water and let stand for a few minutes then drain. Lovely green peas are ready for salad without being overcooked! I do the same thing to soften the sun dried tomatoes. I hope you enjoy this flavorful twist on tuna salad.

It's Not Starbucks' Tuna Salad
2 c. dry penne pasta, cooked according to directions and cooled
8 sundried tomato halves, softened and chopped
4 halves roasted red peppers in oil (I use Mezzetta)
1/4 c. sundried tomato vinaigrette
1/2 c. real mayo
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil leaves
1 c. peas cooked and cooled
1 can albacore tuna in water drained
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Prepare pasta according to directions. Drain and cool. In a blender combine vinaigrette, mayo, peppers, tomatoes, basil and cayenne. Blend until smooth. Pour dressing over pasta. Stir in peas and tuna. Chill until serving.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Seven Layer Salad

Summer seems to have arrived. Today. We've had a couple warm days here and there this month. But it's muggy and hot today. That means salad weather. I try to limit the stove and oven use in the summer so we eat lots of stuff off the grill, lots of salads, and lots of fruit. One of our favorites is a recipe I got from my mother who probably got it from her mother. It's basic, easy and really good. And it involves bacon so you can get even the most anti-salad folk to eat it. You had me a bacon, right? If you use the real bacon bits in the salad aisle, or use leftover bacon from a hearty breakfast, or better yet maybe you grill your bacon outside! The bacon makes it go great with any grilled food. We had ours with hamburgers last night. It was a great combo. 

For cooking peas, you can do it in the microwave, but I use a pyrex measuring cup, add the 2 cups of frozen peas and then add enough boiling water from the electric kettle to submerge the peas. I let them sit a minute or two and then drain. This way they are cooked just enough, AND they stay nice and green! Anyway to keep the heat down in the house is great with me. I hope you enjoy this super easy summer salad.

Seven Layer Salad
1 head lettuce, shredded (or one large bag iceberg shredded lettuce)
1/2 c. chopped onion and green pepper (more or less of either depending on your preferences)
2 c. frozen peas (or fresh) cooked and cooled completely
2 c. real mayo
2 T. sugar
2 ounces of shredded cheddar or cojack
4 slices of bacon, browned and chopped or 1 bag Real Bacon Bits

Put the shredded lettuce in a glass bowl. Layer onion/green pepper bits evenly on the lettuce. Then a layer of peas. Cover the peas with mayo. Sprinkle mayo with sugar. Layer with shredded cheese and top with bacon. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. A couple hours is good, overnight is even okay. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Fresh fish and other good things

Catch of the Day Salad at the Angry Trout Cafe, Grand Marais, MN
Well, I have been a little quiet lately. And for good reason. I enjoyed an awesome vacation with my family. We live on the prairie in southwestern Minnesota. We trekked north to the Great Lake Superior. Spotty cell service and limited internet access are what we tech-based working folk seek in a real getaway. We spent a week enjoying Grand Marais and the surrounding boreal forest and canoe areas of Cook County. What a splendid place. It combines the excitement of north woods, lakes, canoeing and wildlife with the added wonder of the inland sea known as Lake Superior and all that goes along with life along the water. 

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world, but for all practical purposes it behaves like the sea without the salt. It creates its own weather. It offers up an incredible variety of fresh fish all in the comfortable proximity to the fruits of the northern Minnesota forest: blueberry, maple syrup, wild rice, and more. 

We are fortunate to enjoy our share of walleye every summer thanks to my in-laws who are master walleye fisher-folk on the Missouri River of South Dakota. But to experience the fish of Lake Superior—herring, lake trout, and salmon—is a treat. We made the most of it eating as much fish as we possibly could, all the fresh and smoked delicacies that are unique to the North Shore. We enjoyed a catch of walleye and whitefish with our guide, Joe. We gorged ourselves on smoked whitefish, salmon for more than one meal or trail-side snack. We tasted the fresh fried whitefish and herring in the fish and chips basket thanks to the Dockside Fish Market. And always a favorite, we enjoyed the catch of the day at the Angry Trout. Their Fresh Fish Chowder featuring the day's catch of lake trout is second to none. I also devoured the Catch of the Day Salad pictured on today's blog post. A grilled lake trout on a bed of greens with beets, carrots, cucumbers, onions, and cheese smothered in the mustard maple vinaigrette makes for a epicurean adventure that I hope to experience again soon. The dressing is so good I wanted to lick the plate. Seriously.

My post today is not a recipe, it is lauding the wonderful tastes of the North Shore of Minnesota. Among the places we visited include: World's Best Donuts, Sydney's Custard, Java Moose, Angry Trout, Dockside, Sven and Ole's Pizza. There are so many great places to eat in Grand Marais and many we have yet to try... next time!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Barbeque Chicken Salad

When the weather warms up, I love to cook less, grill whenever possible, and eat lots of salads. This is one of our favorites. It combines some great summer flavors, it's easy, and it tastes awesome. You can throw it together with leftover chicken breast. I like to buy the larger packages of 3-4 chicken breasts and either make them all on the grill to have leftovers or split up the package at home and freeze in smaller portions for later. It's a great way to save a little money and time. I always vow to eat more chicken so this helps me do that. This salad works great as a main dish or as a side to grilled steaks or ribs. The barbeque sauce in the dressing really sets this salad apart. I also find that tossing a salad with the dressing in a large bowl right before serving helps you use less dressing while coating every bite. But caution that you have to use what you make and use it immediately or you end up with a lot of soggy leftovers that you won't eat. Try this the next time you have some extra grilled chicken on hand. It's sure to be a hit with the whole family. Also be sure your chicken is cool and so is the corn or it makes the salad lose its crispiness.

Barbeque Chicken Salad
1 large head of lettuce, chopped
2 c. sweet corn, either thawed from frozen or from fresh cooked corn on the cob that is cooled
1 c. sliced black olives
1 large chicken breast, grilled and cooled, cut into chunks
2 c. crushed tortilla chips
optional: 1/2 c. chopped onions

1 c. real mayo
1 c. Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ sauce

Combine mayo and barbeque sauce until smooth. In a large bowl, add lettuce, corn, olives and chicken (onions too if you like them). Start by adding about a half cup of dressing and toss. If you need more dressing to coat the salad, add a bit more. When satisfied with the dressing coverage, add the crushed tortilla chips, toss lightly and serve immediately. Garnish with sliced olives and tortilla chips.