You’re shopping there anyway — buying books, can openers, and iPhone cases — so you may as well use it to donate cash to your favorite charity. I’ve been using AmazonSmile since spring when I learned that one of my favorite organizations, East Central CASA, is enrolled in the program.

book tree

And now that my beloved youth hockey association is using AmazonSmile to earn cash, it reminded me to spread the word so you can use it to give money to the non-profit(s) of your choice.

Click here to get started. AmazonSmile donates .5% of eligible purchases to charitable organizations that register. Learn how your organization can start receiving donations here.

Sweet smiles,


As a border hockey family (we live in Minnesota but our kids play in the nearby South Dakota BISA association) we often participate in tournaments in the State of Hockey. We’ve spent weekends at rinks in New Ulm, Albert Lea, Willmar, Stillwater, Owatonna, Faribault, Marshall, and my personal favorite – the Twin Cities. We usually patronize local, non-chain restaurants that serve beer and overlook loud youth hockey players who may or may not dump spaghetti into the water pitcher.

Last year while in Owatonna, we had Nick’s Pizza Palace deliver to the hotel. It was fabulous so when we were in Faribault this summer for Shattuck-St. Mary’s hockey camp we drove down to Nick’s.

Nicks Pizza Palace Owatonna MN

My daughter and niece took care of the leftovers.

If you’re headed to a rink in the area, skip the loaded nachos and tacos in a bag. You want to save room for piping hot, not-too-greasy pizza squares from Nick’s. If you’re from the Brookings area and are a fan of the iconic Pizza King, this pizza is like that. Only better.

Nicks Pizza Palace pizza

Pepperoni and green olive from Nick’s Pizza Palace

The menu is quite extensive.

Nicks Pizza Palace menu

Cheese and red pepper shakers? Look how squeaky clean they are!

Nicks Pizza Palace cheese and red pepper flakes

It grosses me out when I go to a restaurant and the condiment bottles and salt and pepper shakers are crusty and slimy. Not here! It made me feel like their culinary safety and sanitation practices met the standards I have in my own kitchen.

Nicks Pizza salt and pepper

Since 1978 – it’s always the long-time hangouts that make the best pizza squares. If there’s spaghetti involved, it might be best to order delivery.

Nicks Pizza Palace front door

Jim Braaten from the Sportsman’s Blog™ (read his article about selling unnecessary hunting gear to female hunters) lives in the area and is always willing to share recommendations to hockey families and Minnesota Wild fans. If you have a craving for Italian, head to Andiamo. For Mexican fare, Jim recommends Plaza Morena.

While you are on the I-35 corridor, zip up to the Faribault Woolen Mill for cozy made-in-Minnesota blankets, bags, and scarves. We also like to eat at Joe’s Sports Bar and the Depot Bar and Grill in Faribault.

Cheers to pucks & pizza,



You might have read this post last year but I still feel this way about Black Friday. I’ve been traumatized by the ghetto blaster incident.

Originally posted on Random Sweetness:

If you are dragging yourself out of bed early this morning, I hope it’s to make a pot of coffee, turn on your oven, and park yourself at the kitchen table. The last Black Friday I ventured to a store was the year a lady stole my cart full of ghetto blasters from the electronics aisle. So let’s just order the crap we need online and get back in the kitchen where all the fun happens.

If you have overnight guests, these first two recipes will make your house smell like your favorite aunt’s B&B. Don’t make them unless you want your guests to return.

To-Live-For Pumpkin Butterscotch Coffee Cake

pumpkin butterscotch cake

Ham and Cheese Stuff’n Puff

ham cheese stuff and puff_3991

If you have leftover turkey, use it in place of the chicken to make Lime Street Chicken Tacos.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

Or use the turkey to make Crunchy Deli Wraps. It’s a convenient way to use…

View original 241 more words

There is no better fall smell than filling your home with the comforting scent of spicy pumpkin, especially when the cozy aroma wafts from your oven, not a candle or an outlet. Before your house smells like turkey and scorched potatoes, start your Thanksgiving festivities with pumpkin streusel coffee cake.

A few years ago I baked this cake to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. After I got strange looks from people that morning, I found out I was supposed to have brought treats the day before; but once we sliced into the soft, warm-in-the-middle cake, they quickly forgave me. See, look at those beautiful, forgiving smiles.

The recipe is from VeryBestBaking.com., a website on which I have a recipe box overflowing with homestyle goodness. But here’s what sends it over the top — instead of using plain nuts in the streusel, I tossed in Praline Pumpkin Seed Crunch from King Arthur Flour. I don’t think they sell it anymore, but you could use any praline nuts like pecans or cashews and crush them up.

Cozy cake wishes,

It’s frustrating to get home and open a bag of store-bought potatoes only to find that one is so badly rotten it infected each potato it came in contact with. But you squeezed the potatoes before you chose a bag, right?


There are people who slice off the spoiled parts and use the remaining potatoes but I can’t stomach it so I throw the bad ones out. Plus I live in the country so it’s not a quick run back to the store if the situation leaves me with fewer potatoes than what I immediately need. (Maybe I’m making homemade hash browns for smoky ham and cheddar hash brown casserole or the T Boys hot dog casserole.)

Yesterday a lady who introduced herself as Sheila busted me sniffing a bag of potatoes in the produce aisle. She asked what it does. Not wanting to look like a crazy person sniffing vegetables, I explained. A few years ago I started smelling the potatoes before I even put a bag in my cart. There are little holes in the plastic bags and the netted bags are easy – inhale inside the bag (never put a plastic bag over your head or you will look crazy or suffocate). It should only smell like dirt. Even if you gently squeeze some of the potatoes and they seem fine, you will definitely smell if there is something rotten in the package.

It has unscientifically worked for me every time.

Earthy wishes,

Pepperoni takes all the pizza glory in our family (pepperoni and green olives on thin crust for me), but the salty circles sit on the bench for this recipe. Even my daughter, who only eats cheese pizza, loved this.

My favorite Easy Salami Pasta Salad inspired me to make Summer Sausage [or] Salami Cilantro Pizza. Although the salad doesn’t contain cilantro, I was thinking it did so when I bought groceries I picked some up. I also added basil. It turns out they are mighty delicious on this pizza.

summer sausage and salami cilantro pizza

You don’t have to use the same ingredients I did – use herbs and cheeses that you like, or omit any that you don’t like. I used summer sausage for this one. (What’s the difference between summer sausage and salami?)

Start with a ready-to-bake pizza crust. Stir together olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Brush the mixture onto the unbaked crust.

crust with oil and herbs

Chop the parsley, basil, cilantro, green onion, and salami or summer sausage.

pizza toppings

Sprinkle the basil, cilantro, and parsley on the crust, saving a little cilantro to sprinkle on last.

herbs on crust

Place thin slices of summer sausage or salami over the herbs.

add summer sausage

Lightly (or to taste) scatter bits of green onion onto the meat.

add green onion

Add a layer of shredded parmesan cheese.

add parmesan

Blanket with a layer of shredded mozzarella.

add mozzarella

Place more meat on top and toss on the remaining cilantro and sprinkle a few dashes of oregano.

ready to bake

Bake according to pizza crust directions.

finished slice

Slice and serve.

Summer Sausage [or]  Salami Cilantro Pizza

1 large pizza crust (ready to bake)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

couple grinds of pepper

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 teaspoons minced fresh basil, or 1 teaspoon dried basil

2 teaspoons fresh minced cilantro

6-8 ounces hard salami OR summer sausage, thinly sliced

1 green onion, diced

¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

½ cup shredded mozzarella

Make this pizza:

  1. Start with a ready-to-bake pizza crust. Stir together olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Brush the mixture onto the unbaked crust.
  2. Chop the parsley, basil, cilantro, green onion, and salami or summer sausage.
  3. Sprinkle the basil, cilantro, and parsley on the crust, saving a little cilantro to sprinkle on last.
  4. Place thin slices of summer sausage or salami over the herbs.
  5. Lightly (or to taste) scatter bits of green onion onto the meat.
  6. Add a layer of shredded parmesan cheese.
  7. Blanket with a layer of shredded mozzarella.
  8. Place more meat on top and toss on the remaining cilantro.
  9. Bake according to pizza crust directions.
  10. Slice and serve.


When summer saunters into fall, my sister Kalli is one of the first people in line for a pumpkin latte. And while pumpkin reigns as the season’s flavor royalty, gingerbread lingers nigh as we wait to shepherd in winter with a fluffy blanket of snow.

In comes the gingerbread latte and an even longer line. So put down that thermos and get out of line. Grab a fork and let the cozy flavors of molasses, gingerbread, and coffee percolate your holiday senses. Gingerbread KAHLÚA Cheesecake If you also want to skip the pumpkin latte line, enjoy one of my favorites, KAHLÚA Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake.

Gingerbread KAHLÚA Cheesecake


1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake filling:

4 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

1/2 cup KAHLÚA (or any coffee-flavored liquor), OR 1 tablespoon coffee extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Make the crust: (If you don’t have a food processor, you can make crumbs in a blender.) In a bowl, combine gingersnap and graham cracker crumbs with powdered sugar and melted butter. Toss to combine. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Make the filling:

In a tiny bowl combine salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, beat room temperature cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugars and vanilla and beat until light. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, being careful not to overbeat.

Stir in molasses and KAHLÚA. Slowly beat just until combined. Sprinkle in the spices and stir gently to mix in.

Pour cheesecake filling into crust. Place in the oven and bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until center is barely jiggly anymore. Carefully run a knife between the springform pan and cheesecake. Cool on a wire rack for an hour or two.

Refrigerate at least 8 hours before removing from springform pan and serving. Sprinkle crust crumbs on top. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks or in freezer up to 3 months.

Cozy fall wishes,

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