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It’s tradition for me to make deviled eggs for the Fourth of July but it’s not about picnics, campgrounds, or family reunions. In our family, it’s about fireworks.

deviled eggs

I pack up smoky deviled eggs flecked with bacon and trek across the border—the Minnesota and South Dakota border on U.S. Highway 14—where for a week and a half, my sister Kalli runs her in-law family fireworks store on the edge of the state line rest area.

fireworks semi sign

She is a South Dakota resident and I live a few miles into the Land of 10,000 Lakes & 1 Trillion Mosquitoes so we are practically neighbors for nine days! (South Dakota residents can buy fireworks in the state between June 27 and July 5, visitors can buy any time.)

SD sign and fireworks flags

She runs the store during the days and her friend Barry works at night and he stays overnight in a camper to guard the place. He usually texts me on June 27  to remind me that he is looking forward to my deviled eggs. And within a few days, I show up with the smoky little devils.

fireworks store

And because of it, there are two fireworks named after me. (OK, not really.)

sweets firework

Sweet and stressed out. I guess those could be named after a lot people I know.

stressed out firework

(As you can see, she runs an orderly ship around there.)

fireworks store inside

What is a Fourth of July food tradition in your family?

Deviled Eggs

hard-boiled eggs

mayonnaise

mustard

Worcestershire sauce

dash of liquid smoke

onion salt

garlic powder

dried bacon and onion seasoning (I use Tastefully Simple Bacon Bacon; you could use bacon bits and dried onion flakes.)

pepper

  1. Peel the eggs. Discard the shells or use them in your garden.
  2. Slice eggs in half lengthwise with a sharp knife.
  3. Pop the yolks into a bowl and set the whites in a container.
  4. Mash up the yolks with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients to taste and desired consistency.
  5. Scoop the yolk mixture into the egg whites with a spoon or use a bag to pipe it in. I use my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator with the large star tip so the bacon bits don’t get stuck.
  6. Sprinkle with a few bits of Bacon Bacon.
  7. Cover and store in refrigerator for a few days.

Sweet and smoky wishes,

Staci

A personal chef. I don’t have one but if I did, I’d eat healthy meals 19 out of 21 in a week. The other two would consist of Twin Bing candy bars, pepperoni and green olive pizza, Caribou Campfire Mochas, Potato Olés with nacho cheese, fettuccine Alfredo, crusty bread slathered with butter, and a towering stack of bacon.

chicken chickpea cilantro salad_1649

My lame excuse for not eating healthy, other than not having a personal chef, is that it seems it takes extra time to plan and prepare healthy meals. But lately my sister Kalli has been influencing me to embrace smarter health habits so I’m experimenting ways to get my salt and savory fix without dipping seasoned fried potato rounds in nacho cheese sauce containing 12,032 (give or take a few) calories per one-ounce Solo cup.

Kalli, author of See Jane Fit and Funky on Facebook and Instagram, developed chicken chickpea cilantro salad based on a deli dish from Pomegranate Market in Sioux Falls. You only need 26 minutes, rotisserie chicken, one can of chickpeas, a bunch of cilantro, red onion, your favorite low-carb low-sugar oil & vinaigrette dressing, lettuce, and low-carb tortillas.  

We’d still rather eat King Bings and drink a bottle of Stella Rosa and a six-pack of Angry Orchard. (A bunch of grapes and six apples a day, right?)

King Bings

Here’s where the 26 minutes comes in. I live five miles from the nearest store so it would take me almost as much time to drive to town, buy a King Bing, and zip back home as it would for me to make chicken chickpea cilantro salad. I timed myself, lallygaggingly preparing the salad, and it only took 26 minutes from the time I took the rotisserie chicken out of the fridge to the time I rolled my first tortilla.

bike on wind tower road

My sister has also inspired me to incorporate more active minutes in my day. Maybe if I ride my bike to town and back I’ll deserve a King Bing?

chicken chickpea cilantro salad

Wrap it, spread it, or roll it – this salad is good on crackers, rolled up in lettuce, stuffed into a tortilla, or just by the spoonful. What are some foods that make healthy eating choices easy for you?

Chicken chickpea cilantro salad

(The following are the measurements from See Jane Fit and Funky. I used an entire rotisserie chicken breast so I added extra onion, cilantro, and dressing. The way I did it, it made approximately four cups of salad.)

4 ounces rotisserie chicken, shredded

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely diced

3 tablespoons olive oil & balsamic vinaigrette dressing or marinade (low-carb, low sugar)

low carb, low sugar tortilla wraps (We love Tumaro’s Low-in-carb Let’s Skip The Sandwich tortillas)

lettuce (optional)

Mix together the chicken, chickpeas, cilantro, red onion, and dressing. Roll onto tortillas or lettuce or spread on crackers. Store in refrigerator.

 

Healthy wishes,

Staci

Think about the towns you’ve lived in.

Whether it was a favorite dish at a restaurant, a donut worth dragging your hung-over ass into the bakery at seven o’clock in the morning, or crunchy produce and warm bread at a local farmer’s market where the parking lot is as muddy as your grandpa’s farm in April, you’re bound to have dreamy food memories from places you’ve called home – memories that pull at your car’s heartstrings until you find yourself in the parking lot when passing through town.

If you grew up in Brookings, S.D. you’ll find yourself driving up and down Main Avenue in search of a parking spot in front of Nick’s Hamburgers at noon and down a few blocks at Pizza King in the evening. And if the Purple Cow, Donut Barn, Julienne’s Bakery, or Arctic Circle were still there you’d need three days and an extra hole in your belt.

sweet burger

This winter I took a drive to Fairmont, Minn. and as I drove there I recalled that when I lived in Truman, we used to get the best burgers from this place by the lake [in Fairmont]. So I decided to stop for a sweet burger at the Channel Inn on the north edge of Hall Lake.

Channel Inn Fairmont MN

I easily mimicked the green olives and Swiss cheese burger at home (pictured above), but nothing beats the real deal from that little lakeside bar—maybe it’s the buttery grilled bun or the drippy, tender burger in-between, it could be the five-inch pile of olives or the snappy pickles, but I think what makes the burger even better is its sidekick of tater tots with a rich cheese sauce so thick it doesn’t drip.

sweet burger Channel Inn Fairmont

I must be a sucker for tater tots and cheese sauce because when I think about another place I used to live, Avoca, Minn., we often ate at the Hub Drive-in and that was my usual order there too. What food memories do you have from places you have lived? Do you try to replicate it at home?

Sweet food memories,

Staci

It’s not like anything needed to be improved upon with the original marshmallow creme crunch brownies. In addition to being a favorite treat around these parts, the recipe has been one of my most viewed on Random Sweetness — more than forty thousand people in the past few years. I hope at least half of them baked and shared the sticky squares.

But just like Golden Grahams cereal makes sweet no-bake s’mores bars, I had the feeling that using it instead of Rice Krispies would make marshmallow creme crunch brownies even harder to resist.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies

Did it? Well, there are a few globs of marshmallow creme stuck on my camera and there are definitely a few brownies missing from this picture.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies square

Marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies

For Brownie Layer:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

6 Tablespoons cocoa

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1 cup flour

*************

7 ounce jar marshmallow creme (Sometimes I use most of a 13-ounce jar but they get pretty sticky.)

1 cup creamy peanut butter

12 ounce bag chocolate chips

4 cups Golden Grahams cereal

  1. Beat softened butter on medium for 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat 4 minutes. Beat in cocoa, vanilla, and salt. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Stir in flour just until combined.
  2. Pour brownie batter into a well-greased 13×9 pan (or lined with parchment paper). Bake at 350˚ for 25-30 minutes or until done. Cool completely.
  3. Spread marshmallow creme on cooled brownies.
  4. Melt the peanut butter and chocolate chips together over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cereal. Spread over marshmallow creme layer.
  5. Chill before serving.
  6. Store in refrigerator.

Sweet marshmallowy wishes,

Staci

As I unwrapped garlic cloves to make Garlicky Potatoes, Green Beans, and Cauliflower (super fabulous dish), I remembered that there was a time, it only had to happen once, that I didn’t know the difference between a clove of garlic and a bulb of garlic. Which means, a recipe called for two cloves of garlic and I used two bulbs. Yes, two bulbs of garlic.

garlic

Obviously, I’m mostly self-taught in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cooking. Remember how I used to smash tomatoes trying to cut them using the wrong knife until Jason told me to use a serrated one? (Apology to tomatoes and making pico de gallo.) Well if you cook with your kids like Stacey Viera does, you’ll want to add tomatoes and garlic to your Kitchen Tips 101 list.

use a serrated knife to dice a tomato

Thank goodness I figured out the garlic clove/bulb thing (and slicing tomatoes) because otherwise my favorite Chicken Black Bean Salsa would scare vampires away.

Chicken Black Bean Salsa

And my summer sausage salami cilantro pizza would go from oven to trash in five minutes or less.

summer sausage and salami cilantro pizza

For more recipes using garlic and tomatoes, flip through my Potatoes and Vegetables Pinterest boards.

Something else I wish I would’ve known before attending a business lunch at Sushi Masa, you don’t eat edamame pods.

Sweet garlic breath,

Staci

Here’s a [short] story of oat-packed, honey-sticking, fall-spiced energy balls.

They didn’t get made in time for the girls varsity state hockey tournament, but since the ingredients were already in my pantry, they made their way to sisters shopping trip. OK, so the hockey players needed the energy more than we did but I don’t know a mom who can’t use a tiny ball of get-up-and-go.

pumpkin spice energy balls

The recipe for spiced pumpkin energy balls is from Wholesome Magazine & Community. I substituted sliced almonds for the walnuts and due to availability, I substituted dry roasted sunflower seeds for the raw pumpkin seeds.

I’m not sure if this would help keep them together better but I would add an extra tablespoon or so of honey because the chilled balls fell apart when we ate them (luckily in the hotel parking lot). An easy solution to the crumbs would be to serve them in cupcake papers.

As they aren’t supposed to be, these aren’t sweet except for the dried cranberries. Next time I might ruin the healthy thing and sneak in a few mini semi sweet chocolate chips and dried cherries instead of cranberries.

Sweet & healthy shopping,

Staci

Earlier this week I was passive-aggressively called heartless, rude, and arrogant by a grandmother and her (adult) daughter. Their Facebook pity party began with what was a concise, grammatically correct response from me to a text message. In the swift, and still puzzling response to me, I thought at first it wasn’t even intended for me. It was almost as if her finger had already pounded out the hateful words and her finger was on the trigger before I even responded. And her mother, well it only took THREE minutes before she took to Facebook to (passive-aggressively) attempt to demean this HEARTLESS, RUDE, and ARROGANT person (me) and express her wishes about bad KARMA on this nasty person (me).

plum cake

And you know what, it only took SECONDS for people to agree, comment, assess the situation which they knew nothing about, and help these two bullies stir their big, insecure, pot of disdain. Was it the swift and concise manner in which I responded? Or was it the proper grammar? In my experience as a communications professional, using phrases such as, “…as I was the one who…” can be perceived as being arrogant by circles of people who commonly use phrases like, “…ain’t no one told me.”

IMG_3806

Anyway, I am trying to think positive thoughts and not let this hurt me, but who’s kidding? I’m not offended by these two women because they are the kind who gossip, talk about people behind their backs, complain about bullies but are ones themselves, and will tell you anything you want to know about someone’s personal lives – who’s sleeping with whose husband, who is battling depression, whatever you want to know. But when people you know innocently rally around your haters, it’s going to sting. I even thought about posting the word-for-word text conversation that led to this bitterness so that people would truly have the opportunity to judge, but I tend to be one who (not easily) refuses to lower myself to levels such as this. So I’ll just take this as a good reminder that we shouldn’t be too quick to help stir other’s pots of hatred. We never know what heartless, rude, arrogant people are behind their pitiful campaigns.

So instead, I came home and enjoyed a delicious piece of plum cake that my friend Tracey made for me last week. Here’s the positive story I want to share with you – Quite a few years ago, I met this crazy fun Southern girl. (She uses words like “commode” and “cellular unit.”) We instantly bonded when we realized that we had the same childhood love for a certain plum cake made with BABY FOOD. For reasons only he knows, God brings people (and sisters!) into your life who bring you joy and true, honest friendship. People who are constant cheerleaders for all your dreams, friends who can have thoughtful conversations that don’t include gossip and bad-mouthing others. People who will bake cake for you. Keep those friends.

friends at hockey

Surround yourself with THOSE people.

sister

Stir their pot of goodness until it runneth over.

Kalli

Plum Cake

(As given to me by my mother, Linda Moe)

Cake

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons red food coloring

2 small jars plum baby food (If you can’t find plum, Tracey used plum/banana/apple or something like that as a substitute.)

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Icing

1/4 cup margarine

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons milk

pinch of salt

  1. Mix oil, sugar, eggs. Add vanilla, food coloring, and plum baby food. Mix well. Blend in dry ingredients. Stir in nuts.
  2. Pour into a well-greased and floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until cake tester comes out clean.
  3. For the icing: simmer margarine, sugar, milk, and salt for 3 minutes. Drizzle over cake while warm.

Sweet karma wishes,

Staci

I welcome positive comments on this post. Negative comments will be deleted. 

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