Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day

A nation that does not honor it's heroes, will not long endure.
Abraham Lincoln

Take time to reflect and honor those men and women who have served our country, past and present. So...

When You See a Soldier

When you see a soldier
Be sure to shake his or her hand,
And let that soldier know you're grateful
For the protection the military affords our land.

But most of all express your thanks
for every soldier's personal sacrifice.
In order to serve our country,
They risked their entire lives.


Strawberry –Rhubarb Sauce
Cook’s notes: Celebrate spring with the sweet tart taste of rhubarb with strawberries. This sauce is versatile using it as jam on muffins, over ice cream or pound cake or as a side for meats and poultry. The sauce can be pureed in blender to make it smooth or pulse a few times in blender and let some chunks remain in the sauce. Sauce will thicken as it is refrigerated for several hours. I used a margarita glass for a scoop of vanilla cream with Strawberry-Rhubarb Sauce. The dessert was paired with Sweet and Spicy Chicken Skewers previously posted at
2 cups diced rhubarb and 2 cups diced strawberries
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 TB. Grand Marnier
½ TB. lemon juice
1 TB. grated orange or lemon zest
optional dash of cinnamon

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water and stir to dissolve.
Add rhubarb and simmer on low 15 minutes, add in strawberries, lemon juice, zest and cook 10 minutes longer. If using cinnamon add in this cooking step.
Remove from heat and add in Grand Marnier.
Puree in blender or pulse a few times in blender keeping in some chunks.
Refrigerate to thicken.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Weekend Round-Up

Amy Thielen is a chef, TV cook, and two-time James Beard Award–winning writer. She is the author of "The New Midwestern Table" (2013) and host of Heartland Table on Food Network (2013–2014) and worked for celebrated New York City chefs David Bouley, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Daniel Boulud before moving back home to the Midwest. 
Thielen speaks widely about home cooking and contributes to radio programs and magazines, including Saveur, where she’s a contributing editor. She lives with her husband, visual artist Aaron Spangler, their son, his dog, and a bunch of chickens, in Park Rapids, Minnesota.
In 2013 I wrote a review of her first book "The New Midwestern Table"which featured over 200 recipes that showed Midwestern cooking like our grandmothers used to do but with a modern freshness. Thielen's cuisine is thrifty, intuitive and seasonal. "The New Midwestern Table" was a cross between a memoir, a travelogue and a cookbook. Thielen is a strong writer who engages  the reader with her keen sense of observation.

Amy has rock star status in our area with a devout following. Recently Beagle Bookstore in Park Rapids. MN held a book launch for her latest book "Give A Girl A Knife". 
Note the creative way knives are displayed with the 3 letter I's.

Thielen's newest book "Give A Girl A Knife" is a food memoir that chronicles her cooking journey from her rural Midwestern hometown to the world of New York City fine dining and back again in search of her culinary roots. The book is written in two narratives. One it is an autobiography about how food can define your life, the special moments and the every day ones. The second narrative is a about a young rural Minnesota-born couple who choose Minnesota over all other places, making some extreme but exciting sacrifices to defend and hold their dream of a "living off the land" existence in the north woods. It’s where Thielen really, truly learned to cook and to honor the way her ancestors cooked in the first place.
I did enjoy one reviewer's comment who said Thielen's writing is quietly lovely, Minnesotan through and through. I am looking forward to the read. 

Recently my daughter and I attended her book launch in Park Rapids. It was held in gallery of an old courthouse called Nemeth Art Center. 

I missed my chance to get a photo of the whole cake (featuring copy of book cover) but you get the idea how creative it was. 
My small connection to Amy is that she and my niece are really good friends so we took this photo to document the event.   
Here's what I would consider an Amy approved recipe that speaks to Midwestern cooking, a hotdish with chicken and wild rice. I happen to know Amy has harvested wild rice and she raises chickens. 
Chicken with Wild Rice Hot Dish (known as casseroles everywhere else) 
Cook's notes: Whether you're from the Midwest and grew up eating "hot dish" or never heard the word before this comfort food hits the spot on a cold evening. This is my updated version that uses no canned soups.  The rice and chicken can be prepared the day before for easier prep.

  • 2 cups cooked wild rice and 2 cups long grain or brown rice 
  • fine sea salt 
  • 3 TB, salted butter, divided 
  • 1 cup diced onion or 2 leeks, white and light green parts, diced 
  • 1 cup celery, diced 
  • 1 cup diced mushrooms 
  • optional 1/2 cup diced water chestnuts 
  • freshly ground black pepper 
  • 4 TB. all-purpose flour 
  • 1- 1/2 cups 2% milk 
  • 2/3 cup fat free half and half 
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock, low sodium 
  • 1/4 cup white wine 
  • 3/4 tsp. dried thyme (or 1- 1/2 teaspoons fresh) 
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes 
  • 1 tsp. herbes de Provence, divided 
  • 2 cups roughly chopped cooked chicken 
  • 4 ounces Swiss or cheddar cheese, grated (about 1- 1/2 cups) 
  • 2 cups coarsely ground buttery crackers (such as Ritz or Club; about 2 sleeves) 
  • 2 TB. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • optional 3/4 cup silvered almonds 
  • Cook both rices together, rinse and drain. Set aside. 
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the butter in a large high-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks or onions, celery and mushrooms. Cook until tender, about 6 minutes. 
  • Add the flour to the vegetables and stir until well combined. Pour in the milk and bring to a simmer, whisking to prevent any lumps. Add in the half and half, chicken stock, wine, 3/4 tsp. thyme, 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence, 1 tsp. parsley, chopped chicken pieces and both rices. 
  • Grease a 2-1/2-3 quart baking dish. Pour the chicken mixture into the dish and top with the remaining cheese. Bake covered with foil for 25 minutes. 
  • Add crackers to a zip loc bag with 1/2 tsp. herbes de Provence. Use a rolling pin to crumble. Add in 1 tablespoon melted butter and shake to combine. Set aside. 
  • Remove foil and sprinkle with slivered almonds and the cracker mixture over the top. Bake until the crackers turn golden brown and the mixture bubbles in the center, 1o minutes. Serve immediately. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Day Treats

Firecracker Cupcakes
Cook's Notes: The recipe is so easy when using a box of red velvet cake mix and cream cheese coconut balls for inside filling. Michaels or the Dollar Store  are good places to look for decorating toppings. Here are a few to consider
Cherry Bombs
Twizzler Fizzler
Texas Style Buttermilk Brownies
Cook's Notes: These buttermilk brownies are old fashioned goodness, fudgy and decadent. The recipe was easy with straightforward directions. For a  mocha experience substitute coffee for the water. It adds depth to the chocolate flavor.  One of the best parts was having all the ingredients on hand and the second best part the creamy chocolaty frosting. I guarantee you'll be licking the bowl. These brownies are reminiscent of a Texas Sheet Cake recipe. 

Recipe adapted from
  • 1-1/2 sticks of butter and 1/2 stick of margarine-total 2 sticks
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (regular-type, dry)
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 1 cup water or 1 cup coffee
  • 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt 
  • 1/2 tsp. espresso powder (it amplifies the chocolate flavor) 
  • 2 slightly beaten large eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 TB. Kahlua
  • 1⁄4 cup butter 
  • 3 TB. unsweetened cocoa powder (regular type, dry)
  • 3 TB. buttermilk 
  • 2 1⁄4 cups powdered sugar 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 1 TB. Kahlua
  • 3/4  cup walnuts or 1⁄2 cup pecans, chopped 
  • In a saucepan combine butter, cocoa, 2 cups sugar and 1 cup coffee or water 
  • Bring to boil; stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In large mixing bowl, blend together flour, soda, espresso and salt.
  • In small bowl combine buttermilk, eggs, Kahlua and vanilla; whisk lightly with a fork.
  • Pour buttermilk mixture into dry ingredients; mix until smooth.
  • Add cocoa mixture gradually with mixer on low setting.
  • Mix until well blended (flour and buttermilk mixture will be thick and likely need to be scraped from sides of bowl to blend thoroughly).
  • Pour into greased 13 x 9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 22-24 minutes. Test with toothpick.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
  • In saucepan, mix 1/4 cup butter, 3 TB. cocoa and 3 TB. buttermilk.
  • Whisk and stir until boiling (mixture will be slightly curdled); remove from heat.
  • Beat in 2-1/4 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 TB. Kahlua. Add more buttermilk as needed for correct consistency.  
  • Pour frosting over brownies and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. 
  • Refrigerate until set about 1-2 hours. 
Red, White and Blue Parfaits
Cook's Notes: This eye-pleasing patriotic mousse parfait recipe in the best colors around -- red, white and blue! Recipe from Serves 4-6 dependoing on size of parfait glasses.

  • 3½ cups heavy cream, divided
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. red food color
  • 1 tsp. lemon extract
  • Assorted NEON! Food Colors & Egg Dye
  • 2 TB. white chocolate chips
  • Beat 1½ cups of the heavy cream, cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of the sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Add in red food color; stir gently with spatula until evenly tinted.
  • Beat remaining 2 cups heavy cream, remaining ½ cup sugar and lemon extract in large bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form.
  • Remove 1 cup.
  • Add ¾ teaspoon neon blue and 5 drops neon purple food colors; stir gently with spatula until evenly tinted.
  • To assemble parfait, alternately layer red and white mousses in dessert glasses.
  • Top with blue mousse and white chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Memorial Weekend Cooking

The first observance of Memorial Day was held May 30, 1868 to honor soldiers killed in Civil War. Today Memorial Day is celebrated the last Monday in May to honor all Americans who have given their lives during wartime. The event became a federal holiday in 1971.
There are many ways large and small to pay tribute on this day to those who lost their lives and those missing in action by displaying a flag, writing a letter or contacting a family who has a missing service member or who has lost a loved one, attending a Memorial Day service/ceremony or parade in your area and visiting a grave site. Be sure to check your newspapers for other events being held in your area.

Often the holiday is celebrated with get-togethers. Here are some easy, no-fuss ideas. 
7 Layer Salad gets a holiday makeover
Ever Ready Round-Up Ideas 
Moroccan Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Raspberry Chipotle Bean Dip
Cook's Notes: I could have skipped the lunch and just eaten the dip it was that good! By the time I remembered to take a photo this small portion was all that was left. 
Only 5 ingredients. Next' go around' I thought Peach Mango Salsa would be a good substitution for Raspberry Chipotle Salsa to try.  Start out small with chili powder and work your way up the hotness gauge. 
1 lb. mild Italian sausage or Mexican chorizo
1 jar of Mrs, Renfro's  Raspberry Chipotle Salsa 
1-2 tsp. chili powder  
1/2 can refried beans
1/2 prepared  package of Mexican 4 Cheeses
  • In a large skillet brown meat, Drain grease and use a food processor to crumble meat. Wipe pan clean and add meat back into pan with a jar of salsa, chili powder, refried beans and cheese. Mix well and cook on low heat, uncovered about 20 minutes. 
  • Serve with chips 
I had company for a fiesta lunch which included chicken burrito bowls. Watermelon slices were an easy side to add. Recipe previously posted but some updated photos. 

Red White and Blue Parfaits, Texas Style Buttermilk Brownies and Firecracker Red Cupcakes with Coconut Filling

Monday, May 22, 2017

The World According to Bella

Catching Up with Spring 
What started out as birthday party for Mr. C  (Yikes ! Look at all those candles! I was worried about a fire.)  
ended up as a raw hide party for me, Sadie and Luna.
And what a feast we had. Kept us busy for a real long time. Did you notice the bed I am on? They sure know how to treat a guest well. I felt like a queen getting to use Sadie's Orthopedic Memory Foam bed. She did not seem to mind. But when it was time to leave I did not want to go. Mr.C had to drag me off the bed. It was a really fun party. 

But the next day turned out bad. I was so excited to help Mr. C launch the boat for the season.     
I was first on board and hoped Mr. C would remember my usual milkbone treat. He did not fail. The seas were calm and plenty of things caught my attention.  
In fact so much to see that I totally lost it and went on a what Mrs. S called a barking frenzy. I just couldn't help myself. There were birds in the water, birds along the shore, birds flying overhead, birds, birds everywhere. My head was dizzy looking here, there, everywhere and not being able to catch a one. Mr. C and Mrs. S said I was causing so much commotion fishing people nearby looked angry as we passed by. 

When we stopped Mrs. S said she had had enough. I spoiled their ride. So now I've lost my boating privileges at least for this month. It is really hard watching them take off another day without me. They don't even look up at the house to see me at the window with my nose pressed against the glass. I don't think they heard me whimpering as I was left behind. They just don't seem to realize I'm only doing my job protecting them from intruders who might land on our boat.

There were some bright spots last week to cheer me up. I managed to score big by catching a frog and a mouse.  I even surprised myself but then didn't know what to do with my catch. I gave them both up without a fight for Mrs. S's trade, my favorite sugar snap peas. They're too good to pass up.  You see I am trying to win Mr. C and Mrs. S over with my good behavior. I tried to be helpful on clean-up after some real tall trees were taken down. I got some quick on the job training with Mr. C . He showed me how to fetch small branches and drop them along the side of the woods.   
Memorial Day is not too far off. We have company coming. I sure hope Mr. C and Mrs. S have a change of heart. We always take a boat ride that day.

Love, Bella  

Weekend Round-Up

Think of all the beauty that's still left in
and around you and be happy.
Anne Frank
Photo taken Ely, MN
I picked this photo to go with the quote because I imagined if Anne could escape the chaos of her life she would sit on the bluffs and drink in the solitude. Perhaps she might even write in her diary. How lucky we are to have the freedom and choices to where we roam. 

Cook's Notes: Check out these recipes by Chungah from Damn Delicious site. 15 recipes that are budget friendly replicating take-out foods you can make at home. Some of my favorites were lettuce wraps 
and Orange Chicken.
Memorial Day Cooking
Cook's Notes: This week's Ever Ready specials ideas for your Memorial Weekend Cooking. Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookie Pie is the perfect dessert to have on hand in the freezer so you have more time to visit with friends and family. It's easy, tasty and no baking needed.This pie recipe can be made in a springform pan, 9 inch glass square pan or a glass pie pan as shown in the picture. It freezes well covered with foil up to two weeks. Other ice cream flavors could be substituted such as vanilla, strawberry or chocolate.
This recipe originally came from Nestle Toll House and is sure to be a hit with any age group. 

  Chocolate Mint Oreo Cookie Pie 
  • 1 quart mint chocolate chip ice cream
  • 1 regular package of Oreo cookies (not Double Stuff brand) you will need a total 2-1/2 cups cookie crumbs for this recipe
  • 5 TB. melted butter 
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 10 oz. Dark Chocolate Toll House Morsels (other options include:semi-sweet or bittersweet chips)
  • Remove ice cream carton from freezer to soften
  • In a Cuisinart crush cookies using about 2 and 1/2 rows of Oreos that have been broken up. 
  • Add in 5 TB. melted butter.
  • Use 2 cups of cookie crumbs for cookie pie crust and reserve 1/2 cup cookie crumbs and set aside
  • Place the pie pan in freezer for 15 minutes. 
  • Remove pie pan and add 1/2 of the softened carton of ice cream, smooth out ice cream evenly in pan and sprinkle with 1/4 cup cookie crumbs over it.
  • Return pie pan to freezer for an hour or until ice cream is fairly firm.
  • In a glass measuring cup microwave on high for 45 seconds the evaporated milk
  • Remove and whisk in chocolate chips until smooth
  • Pour chocolate into small bowl and place in freezer for 10 minutes to cool it down. 
  • Remove pie pan from freezer make sure the ice cream layer is firm and chocolate is cooled.
  • Pour chocolate mixture over ice cream return to freezer for an hour to firm this layer. 
  • Add last layer of ice cream and rest of cookie crumbs, lightly cover with wax paper and return to freezer for a few hours. Remove wax paper and cover the pie with foil.  Store in freezer. 
I just had to have two desserts.
Chocolate Mousse in a Phyllo Cup 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Chicken Burrito Bowls

Cooks Notes: Yes, I do realize it's Saturday and not Friday  but I had to miss Healthy Friday posting as I was busy being healthy working outside and not cooking. We had several 100 ft. trees taken down and I was on clean-up.  It was a ton of work and even Bella did her part. 
We had to do some on the spot training by throwing a small branch so she'd  fetch it  and drop near the edge of the woods to get the idea. How good is that!
In March I posted some of Becky's ideas for Chicken Burritos
Ever Ready returns with some more ideas on this creative concept for lunch or dinner. 
Chicken Burrito Bowls for Two
Cook's notes: Advance preparation is a must for this meal. It makes assembly so much easier. Ingredients can be easily increased for more than two servings. Marinating chicken in buttermilk is a secret ingredient that makes the chicken more tender and juicy. 
The ingredients are arranged in this photo top to bottom for placement in a bowl-lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, rice. black beans, corn, chicken, peppers and onions. 
The basmati rice can be placed on serving platter as pictured above or served separately in a bowl. 
Lime Cilantro Basmati Rice
Another option for serving a larger group is using a serving dish with individual containers.
We all have our favorite salsa brand. I really like Mrs. Renfro's Raspberry Chipotle Salsa
Three other sides that go well with this meal are included at the end of the  burrito bowl directions.
  • 2 chicken fillets .skinless and boneless
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • dry taco seasoning mix
  • 1 cup dried brown basmati rice  
  • chunky salsa
  • red onion
  • red and yellow mini peppers diced 
  • Roma tomatoes, diced 
  • romaine lettuce, chopped 
  • 1 small can Mexi-corn, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small can black beans, drained and rinsed 
  • Mexican Four Cheeses, prepackaged
  • Optional toppings: lite sour cream. salsa, avocado chunks, guacamole, corn or tortilla chips
  •  Combine chicken and buttermilk in a zip loc bag. Place bag in a bowl and refrigerate 1-2 hours. Turn once. 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Drain buttermilk from chicken over the sink and lightly pat dry with a paper towel. Place on baking sheet. Sprinkle chicken with taco seasoning mix and add several tablespoons of salsa over the chicken,spread diced red onions and peppers around the chicken. Lay a piece of foil over the baking pan and cook 35 minutes. Let meat rest 5 minutes before slicing. 
  • While meat is cooking make basmati rice according to package directions. Add in 1-2 tablespoons lime juice and sprinkle of ground cilantro leaves into rice. Keep warmed until serving.
Homemade Mango Salsa
  • 3/4 cup chopped, peeled mango or peach
  • 1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium sweet mini red sweet pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 TB. thinly sliced green onion or 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and finely chopped or pinch of red pepper flakes 
  • 1- 1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. finely shredded lime peel
  • 1- 1/2 tsp. lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 pepper
Mix well, cover and refrigerate several hours. 

Chipotle Cream
Whisk together 1/2 cup lite sour cream or Mexican crema, 1 minced canned chipotle in adobo, a pinch of ground ancho chile, a 1/4 tsp. kosher salt in a small bowl. Mix well, cover and refrigerate.

Avocado Rice

Serves four
Cook 1 cup dry white rice or brown rice according to package directions. 
Stir in 1 pureed avocado, 1/4 cup each minced cilantro and scallions, 1 TB. minced serrano chile or jalapeno and 1TB. each olive oil and white vinegar.   

Thursday, May 18, 2017

How Words Paint Pictures

Audrey Kletscher Helbling, award winning poet, freelance writer,  blogger ( and photographer is observant of nature. Her words capture the essence of small things. 
by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Breathing in the heady scent of lilacs each May,
I remember my bachelor uncle and the gnarled bushes,
heavy with purple blooms, that embraced his front porch
and held the promises of sweet love never experienced.

He invited his sister-in-law, my mother, to clip lilacs,
to enfold great sweeps of flowers into her arms,
to set a still life painting upon the Formica kitchen table,
romance perfuming our cow-scented farmhouse.

Such memories linger as my own love, decades later,
pulls a jackknife from the pocket of his stained jeans,
balances on the tips of his soiled Red Wing work shoes,
clips and gathers great sweeps of lilacs into his arms.

After Audrey penned the poem "Lilacs" it took on a life of its own.

It was selected as a "Work of Merit" in the 2013 Northwoods Art & Book Festival. Then the poem was chosen for inclusion in Poet-Artist Collaboration XIII at Crossings at Carnegie in Zumbrota. Jeanne Licari, an artist, created this work of art based on Audrey's poem. 

Follow Audrey's blog link  below for more details on this collaborative project.
Photos submitted by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Image result for images of decorative lines

Cook's notes: Recently we were gifted with two lake whitefish fillets from the North Shore, Lake Superior. I used the parchment paper method for grilling, added veggies and seasoning to the packets. Step by step cooking instructions on foil or parchment paper cooking were previously posted on several blogs. Either of these methods work for any type of fish fillets.
Grilled Fish Fillets with Veggies
  • fish fillets
  • butter 
  • white wine
  • lemon slice
  • veggies e.g. asparagus pieces, red onions, thinly sliced carrots and potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, peppers
  • seasoning e.g. parsley flakes, herbes de Provence, thyme  
  • Rinse fish and pat dry with a paper towel. 
  • Cut pieces of parchment paper or foil about 13 x 10.
  • Lay fillet in center of each parchment or foil piece.
  • Add veggies and lemon slice on the fillet. Sprinkle with seasoning, Add a very small pat of cold butter and a drizzle of white wine.
  • Fold two long sides first to center making sure they overlap to seal. If using parchment paper moisten edges. Then roll two short sides toward the center.  Moisten edges. 
  • Foil packets can be placed on grill grates and if using parchment packet bundles place a piece of foil underneath. This will avoid the paper burning. 
  • Grill 20-25 minutes. Let packets rest 3 minutes before serving.