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Archive for the ‘Breakfast & Brunch’ Category

If you’ve been a morning guest in our home, chances are your coffee was as black as frozen hockey pucks and you’ve thrown dietary restraint to the wind by pigging out on warm, gooey butterscotch monkey bread.

Butterscotch monkey bread

Once in a while, I surprise my lovely friends and their kids and give them monkey bread at hockey games. And if you look closely on the bench by my purse, I even have a little pan for my favorite #6 after his game.

Tracey and kids

My recipe has evolved over the years to include butterscotch pudding mix and more biscuit dough. I’ve even driven 12 miles one way to buy the pudding in the morning because it’s that much better with it.

butterscotch monkey bread

I don’t only make monkey bread for houseguests. It is best eaten when it’s warm so my kids are experienced at dishing it into plastic containers for road food, like today as she headed off to work. Some houseguests, you know who you are Zach, won’t eat any until they’re in the car.

monkey bread before work

No houseguests? Make Flying Solo Monkey Bread.

monkey bread

Gooey forkful wishes,

Staci

Butterscotch monkey bread

1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 small box (3.5 oz.) cook & serve (not instant) butterscotch pudding and pie filling

1/4 cup sugar

2 generous teaspoons cinnamon

4 tubes (7.5 ounces each) refrigerated biscuit dough

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease Bundt pan.
  2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar together. Whisk until bubbly. Turn off heat.
  3. In a separate medium bowl stir together dry pudding filling, sugar and cinnamon.
  4. With kitchen scissors, cut each biscuit into four pieces, letting them drop directly into pudding mixture. Every six biscuits or so, toss pieces around to coat fully and drop into Bundt pan.
  5. When half of the biscuits are in the Bundt pan, drizzle a few tablespoons of the caramel mixture onto the coated biscuit pieces.
  6. Finish cutting all the biscuits. Evenly pour the caramel mixture over the pieces.
  7. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit 10 minutes. Invert pan onto a large baking sheet and lift Bundt pan off.

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“Judy! This one’s not done,” squawked the old guy as he handed the sparkly donut back into the kitchen. As he shuffled back to his buddies at the community table, I heard, “There’re three women in there and they still can’t get it right.”

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the conversation about a common Midwest funeral sandwich meat spread made of roast beef (sometimes ham), relish, and mayo led to me saying, “It’s not like you wish someone to die, but you look forward to funeral meat.”

cinnamon sugar donuts

Although I live just a few dusty miles outside of this teensy town (population less than 200), this was my first time attending early morning community coffee at the Verdi Township Hall. We were at supper the night before and Grandma Judy, aka Country Grandma (also the Queen of Gravy), said she was making donuts at community coffee in Verdi in the morning. Her grandson (my nephew) Garritt and I agreed we needed to check it out. I mean, how often does an itty bitty town serve community donut holes?

Verdi Minnesota Township Hall

Like any small town, the ladies in the kitchen had been watching out the window and already had the lowdown on Garritt and me when we walked in the door. They saw him drive up and pull away because Judy and I weren’t there yet. Then I pulled up and sat in my car waiting for Garritt. Judy pulled up and went inside to start the morning’s treats. When Garritt came back, we went inside together. If Verdi had a newspaper, I’m guessing our visit would have made the front page.

Verdi Township old school

I’m not sure of the time details but it sounds like community coffee is available every weekday morning at the Township Hall, which also serves as the School Museum and the Community Center. The building was a schoolhouse back in the day and then it later served as the superintendent’s house.

Judy making donuts

You can grab a cup of coffee from the lady in the kitchen and sit on a vintage school chair (from the deteriorating [closed] brick public school across the street [pictured below]) at one of two round tables. Judy’s son, Will, was in one of the last classes to graduate from the Verdi school.

Former Verdi, Minnesota Public School

Former Verdi, Minnesota Public School

The donuts are a special occasion but people take turns bringing treats each day. There’s a bowl on the table to drop your one-dollar bill to cover the cost of the coffee. And don’t fret if you forget your reading glasses—a community pair dangles from the magazine rack on the wall.

Judy making fried donuts

The lively conversation included a lady talking about excellent meat they sell at a locker in the Belview and Seaforth area, Judy’s addition of shredded carrots to ham and bean soup, and gossip about who owns a certain property in Verdi and some land for sale in nearby Lake Benton.

donut in cinnamon and sugar

It’s good that Garritt and I went to morning donuts because we found out how easy they are to make at home. (Recipe below)

serving donuts

Sure, the warm donuts, hot coffee, sparkly sugar, and old-timer conversation were worth going out early on a cold Minnesota morning. But the real emotion and meaning behind this day was about the blessing of Grandma Judy’s life. Can you feel the happiness radiating from Judy and Garritt in their picture? Judy has NEVER liked having her picture taken (as-in she doesn’t even allow them).

Judy has been a rock and a super special person to her only child’s family (Will, Heidi, Cody, Garritt, and Trav) and to me and my younger sister, Kalli. But Judy had a life-threatening health scare last year that we didn’t think her body, or her deficient will to live, would pull her through. She endured a lot but God let us keep her here with us. She is out doing things and enjoying the free spirit she has again, sharing her sprightly sense of humor wherever she goes. The true blessing is that God breathed beautiful life back into Judy—she can finally feel and believe how much people love her. Prayers answered.

Garritt and Judy

Verdi Township Hall Cinnamon Sugar Donuts

1 tube refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

vegetable oil or canola oil

  1. Stir cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.
  2. Cut each biscuit into three pieces. Roll each piece into a little ball if you want them to be round.
  3. Heat oil to 350 degrees. You can either use a heavy dutch oven or deep saucepan, or like Judy does, a small deep fryer.
  4. In small batches, drop each ball into the hot oil. Fry until light golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon.
  5. Roll the fried balls in the cinnamon and sugar and place on paper towels.

Sparkly morning blessings,

Staci

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Baking isn’t a sure thing. I’ve heard it’s a science but since I’m not an exact measurer and English was my best subject, my talents lie more in unpretentious, candid culinary storytelling and sharing goods from my kitchen when they turn out to be delicious.

Enter banana bread. Other than the rare few who don’t like anything baked with brown bananas, people will generally accept the offering of a fat slice of tender chocolate chip banana bread.

chocolate chip banana bread

If you’re on the baking end, banana bread recipes are typically easy-going and tolerant of even the most novice bakers. But somehow I found a way to bake a deep, doughy sinkhole in my most recent loaf. The problem wasn’t the recipe.

chocolate chip banana bread

I tried to be too fancy by placing thin slices of bananas down the center of the loaf before sliding it into the oven. Why? Because one of my favorite muffins, banana chocolate chip, from Kowalski’s Markets has a few crunchy bananas baked on top and I wanted it to be like that. But I think the mushy rows of bananas on top wouldn’t really bake—I even turned the broiler on at the end! I finally had to take the bread out of the oven because the top was getting too brown.

I think I tried doing this once with banana chips but I can’t remember how it turned out. Maybe I need to wait until the bread is half or three-quarters baked and then toss banana chips on top. Or perhaps a baker from Kowalski’s Markets will tell me their secret.

chocolate chip banana bread

To top off my fiasco, I was planning to share the bread with my sisters that day so I needed it to cool down quickly. After the bread cooled for an hour or so, I stuck it in the fridge and next thing I know, there was a cavernous sinkhole down the center. The upside of this story is that this recipe is a keeper (if you don’t add mushy banana slices to the top). It is magnificently tender and chocolatey.

I only slightly adapted the recipe from one of my go-to recipe and entertaining blogs Reluctant Entertainer. My additions to Sandy’s Sour Cream Banana Bread include a cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom, and using white and brown sugar.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup mashed overripe (brown or spotted) bananas, about 3 bananas

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Heat oven to 350° and grease a 9-inch loaf pan or line with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy (about 4 minutes).
  3. Beat in eggs.
  4. Stir in bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat on medium-low until incorporated.
  5. In a separate medium bowl stir together flour, cinnamon, cardamom, soda, and salt.
  6. Gradually and slowly beat in the flour mixture in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each, but be gentle—overbeating the batter will create a tough banana bread. It’s fine to see some flecks of flour still.
  7. Fold in chocolate chips.
  8. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean (or with only melted chocolate).
  9. Cool 15 minutes then remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Store at room temperature in airtight container up to four days.

Sweet, sinking wishes,

Staci

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This little piggy went to the market. These little piggies jumped into my breakfast pie. Just like with ham and cheese stuff’n puff, your houseguests will return. Add a side of toast or fresh fruit and it’s the quintessential brunch filled with eggs, bacon, sausage links, ham, and melty cheese. And look at how many farming industries you are supporting with this one recipe: pig, dairy, and chicken farmers!

3 piggies in a breakfast pie

All the breakfast meats in this dish seem like a lot of work for one groggy morning in the kitchen but here’s how to make it easy on yourself. When you fry too many sausage links (and maybe bacon) on a Sunday morning before you leave for a week-long vacation, freeze all those extras. When you are ready to make this breakfast, buy a package of precooked, diced ham.

If you don’t have cooked bacon in your freezer, just fry five strips and chop them into the egg mixture. Easy as [pork] pie.

3 piggies in a breakfast pie

5 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup milk

1/4 cup fresh celery or broccoli, chopped (optional)

1 package (6 ounce) STOVE TOP stuffing mix

3/4 cup diced cooked ham

7 sausage links (or patties), cooked and diced

5 strips cooked bacon, cooked and chopped

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided into two (1/2 cup) measurements

Bake it:

Get your oven to a piping hot 375˚.

In a really big bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sour cream and whisk until combined. Add milk and whisk until everything is blended. Stir in celery (or broccoli), stuffing mix, ham, bacon, sausage, and 1/2 cup shredded cheese.

Pour into a greased 9-inch pie plate, 9×9 square pan, 9-inch tart pan, or a 2-quart casserole dish. Cover loosely with foil. I like the non-stick kind so the egg mixture doesn’t stick to it.

Bake 60-68 minutes, or until completely heated through the middle. Remove from oven, remove foil, and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup shredded cheese over the top. Bake uncovered another 5 minutes, or just until cheese is melted and slightly browning.

Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Sweet swine wishes,

Staci

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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

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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

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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 confectioners (powdered) 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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