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There’s a border battle between two Minnesota housewives and for that reason, I am sworn to secrecy and cannot share my sister’s super-secret-better-than-everyone-else’s Special K bar recipe.

For years, Heidi has been knocking the socks off family and friends with her secret Special K bars. But there’s this one housewife [Lincoln County Housewife] who is unkind (like cyber-bullying unkind) to my sister but that lady’s husband and sons (who are nice and friends of the family) love Heidi’s bars. So she bakes them for the guys but won’t share the recipe with anyone but her sisters. Ah, sweet revenge.

Special K bars

When I told Heidi I was writing this post and assured her that I would not share her secret recipe, she told me a few interesting facts about what happens when she makes a pan (or two) of her famous Special K Bars. [I didn’t use the guys’ names.]

Heidi: When I make these for them, there are rules. They are rationed between each other.

Me: LOL, what? Between Lincoln County Husband and Sons?

Heidi: I don’t really know, but it is wild hog code of rules about who gets bars, when they get bars, what size bars each get. I stay clear!

Me: Oh it’s wild hog rules amongst themselves – they’re not your rules? Is that more than just Lincoln Co. Husband and his boys? Or is it Pipestone Co. Husband and the other guys too? You just toss them a pan and run??

Heidi: Yes. It’s (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male) and (Male).

And the chivalrous “ladies first” rule does not apply.

It gets even better. 

Here’s an excerpt from a message from Lincoln Co. Housewife to my sister:

“Made my husband more bars, huh…I’d like to know what obsession you have about making bars for my men in my family…” blah, blah, blah something about the “fatning” bars… (her spelling not mine) “[Lincoln Co. Husband] told me today that he told you to stop making him bars…you better listen to him…”

Me to Heidi: Did he tell you to stop?

Heidi: Hell no!

Who knew a pan of bars could create such turmoil? We will forever refer to her secret recipe as Special K-iss My Ass Bars.

Special K Bars

(A standard, non revolution provoking recipe)

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup white sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

6 cups Special K cereal (or corn flake cereal)

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

In a large saucepan over medium heat bring corn syrup and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth. Fold in cereal. Press into a buttered or parchment paper-lined 8 x 11½ or 9×13 cake pan.

In a small saucepan melt chocolate and butterscotch chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Once smooth, pour over bars and spread evenly. Cool completely before cutting.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Come back later this week for: 3 piggies in a breakfast pie.

Super secret sweet wishes,

Staci

Skip those individual, itty-bitty bags of Doritos and buy the bag with enough packaging air to inflate a bike tire. Here’s another ex-in-law recipe—it’s like hockey rink concession stand season in a casserole, minus the hockey stink drifting down the hallway!

The only changes I’ve made to this dish over the years is adding onion to the ground beef, a layer of taco sauce or salsa to juice it up a bit, and a smidge more sour cream and cottage cheese.

taco in a bag casserole

Here’s two more family favorite, ex-in-law recipes that lasted longer than my marriage: broccoli ranch salad and homemade Snickers bars.

Walking taco casserole (AKA Mexican hot dish from my ex-in-law Sue)

(Serves 8. You can easily cut this recipe in half.)

Medium or family size bag of nacho cheese flavored chips

2 pounds ground beef or sirloin

1/4 cup diced onion

2 packages taco seasoning

1 (16 ounce) sour cream

1 (24 ounce) cottage cheese

1 cup salsa or taco sauce

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Toppings of choice like shredded lettuce, black olives, sour cream, shredded cheese, taco sauce, tomatoes, etc.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Butter a 13×9 pan or similar size casserole dish.
  3. Brown hamburger with diced onion until cooked thoroughly. Add taco seasoning and cook according to package directions.
  4. In a bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese.
  5. Crush a few handfuls of nacho cheese chips into the bottom of the casserole dish. Layer crushed chips, 1/2 the meat mixture, 1/2 the salsa or taco sauce, 1/2 the sour cream mixture, and 1/2 the grated cheese into the buttered dish. Repeat layers and top with more crushed chips.
  6. Bake uncovered at 350° for 30-35 minutes.
  7. Garnish each serving with toppings of choice.
  8. Refrigerate leftovers.

This reminds me of a joke my kids (DO NOT) love when I tell: “What do you call cheese that’s not yours? Nach-o cheese!”

Cheesy wishes,

Staci

How many times have you done this? You make a dish without a recipe and it turns out to be something you can’t wait to make again. The problem is, the next time you want to make it you can’t remember how you made it or where you wrote it down. Hoping I’ve learned my lesson, publishing this recipe means we can always make piping hot cheesy scalloped potatoes with hamburger.

Cheesy scalloped potatoes and hamburger

I hadn’t lost the recipe for this fresh potato dish. But I lost my recipe for scalloped potatoes and ham and haven’t been able to find it for almost two years. Not only did I want to find it again but my (someday) mother-in-law asked me for it. Lo and behold I accidentally found it on Sunday, on my blog, in a draft page. So I adapted it to make a smaller meal with hamburger since I didn’t have any ham. It’s basically the cheesy potatoes and ham recipe halved but without the onion and garlic, although they would be fantastic in here too. (Marie, I can finally give you the recipe!)

That wasn’t the only recipe I’ve written down and wound up in a desperate hunt for—somewhere hiding in my house is a jotted-down recipe for s’mores cookies that I want to find before we take a trip to the lake next week. Who knows what other random Post-It note recipes I’ll find in my search. Wish me luck because from what I remember, you’ll want the recipe too.

Cheesy scalloped potatoes and hamburger

4 large or 5 medium Russet or Gold potatoes, thinly sliced

1 pound ground sirloin or ground beef

1/2 teaspoon onion salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup butter

4 cups milk

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, or your cheese of choice

  1. Fry the hamburger in a large pan with onion salt and garlic powder until cooked thoroughly. (Fry with onion and garlic if desired.) Drain if needed and set aside in a separate bowl.
  2. In the same pan over medium-high heat, add the butter, milk, flour, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Whisk until thickened, about 10 minutes. It will be more like a bean soup consistency.
  3. Grease a 9×13 pan with spray or butter.
  4. Spread half of the potatoes in the bottom of the pan. Top with half of the hamburger. Pour half of the milk mixture over the hamburger and top with half of the cheese. Repeat the layers.
  5. Cover with foil and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender, the entire pan is bubbling, and the cheese begins to brown. Refrigerate any leftovers and warm in a frying pan the next day.

Cheesy wishes,

Staci

 

 

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

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