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Archive for the ‘Minnesota’ Category

Bell and Frank Barr are two of the most fun-spirited people I have [virtually] met. The Faerie House artists and owners design, create, and bring to life whimsical clay faerie houses for gardens and indoor spaces, all from their colorful Edina, Minn. workshop. In the middle of winter last year, I had the pleasure of talking with the Barrs and learning about the passion they put into their handmade art and why they have quite a “sparkly” following. This summer, I have the pleasure of enjoying my own brightly colored, playful Faerie House on my deck. (I swear a fairy buzzed by my head as I wrote this post on the deck right after I placed the twig in the fairy door. It didn’t ring the tiny bell inside though.) Read my Edina Magazine article to learn what the symbol on the roof represents, why I stuck a tiny stick from my yard in the faerie house door, and why Frank and Bell stamp NOW on each piece. Better yet, view the article on pages 42-44 of the Edina Magazine April 2017 digital edition so you can read articles about installing an outdoor fireplace, a tree planting cheat sheet, a few tips about growing Cacti, and my favorite—made in Minnesota paleo nuts called Num Nuts.

You can see all the different Faerie Houses and meet Frank and Bell at the 2017 Edina Art Fair booth #431, Excelsior Art on the Lake, and Eagan Art Festival.

If you can’t make it to one of the art shows, you can buy Faerie Houses online at FaerieHouse.com. Even if you don’t wear sparkly shoes, I bet you will get hooked.

Sweet & peaceful wishes,

Staci

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Have you ever driven down the interstate, passed a vehicle and looked over and wondered how in the world a toddler is driving the car next to you?

kids in cozy coupe

Perhaps toddler is an exaggeration. But it’s possible the young driver’s parent is back at home (tracking them at every mile marker on Find My iPhone), frenetically doing laundry and scrubbing floors with a toothbrush to keep their mind off the fact they just let their teenager take the car 53 miles down Interstate-29—alone for the first time.

And in the parent’s mind, they can’t shake the terrifying feeling like they’ve just let their toddler run with scissors across a busy intersection, street covered in glassy ice, in an area with frequent DWI and distracted driving crashes.

Cozy Coupe

I know why we have fear like this. It’s not because we don’t trust our kids or feel like we haven’t prepared them. But we know life happens and in the middle of our routine, daily lives, people die. And it seems like barreling down the interstate at 80 mph opens the door to tragedy, because let’s face it, you and I both know there are idiot drivers out there who aren’t paying attention to anything but Snapchat stories of people they don’t know or the slimy lettuce that just fell out of their taco onto the floor.

Little Tikes

But if we look at it from our kids’ point of views, they just want freedom. The day after I rode with my teenager on the interstate for the first time, author and 12-year-old Minnesota blogger (That is Great!) Oscar Wolfe published Great Survey: Parents Give Us Freedom! and although it didn’t ease my vehicular fears, it reminded me that I’m not the only person in this decision. Especially at the age of 17 and having driven for almost two years, my daughter deserved to have me listen to her reasoning about why she thought it was OK for her to drive on I-29 alone.

We had a good conversation and she has since then driven a few times alone to Sioux Falls on the interstate and she does just fine. As parents, it’s hard to look at our young adult children and see young adults rather than babies. We still see the kid who rode on top of the Cozy Coupe while her brother was driving.

cozy coupe

But if I take another look, she was wearing a bike helmet so even at the age of four she inherently practiced road safety in the garage.

And yes, my floors are spotless and I still track her at every mile marker.

Sweet freedom wishes,

Staci

I also love Oscar’s follow-up article, How Parents Make the Rules. Often times, kids don’t know why we make the decisions we do about their freedoms. It usually has nothing to do with us trusting or not trusting our kids. And what matters most to us in this world is keeping them safe and alive.

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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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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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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

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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,

Staci

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There’s no name swapping when it comes to matters of the loose meat sandwich. Call them what you will – BBQs, sloppy Joes, taverns, loose meat sandwiches –loyalty to one over the rest is likely a reflection of your childhood days spent at church basement potlucks, drive-in cafés, and birthday parties where the main dish was served from a slow cooker. But it really comes down to the region where you grew up.

To add to the controversial list of loose meat sandwiches, I used tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, and beer to create a tangy, hearty meat sauce meant for a bun. So is born, and will forever be known from my tiny southwest corner of Minnesota – the BeerBQ Joe.

BeerBQ Joe Taverns - BBQs with beer

Here’s my (Eastern South Dakota roots) take on the meaty sandwiches:

BBQs – this is what we grew up with my mom making. We still say, “I’ll make the BBQs,” for a party. Mysteriously, there isn’t any BBQ sauce in the recipe. Just tomato sauce or soup and ketchup. Catsup? That’s another story.

Sloppy Joes – I’m still afraid this might imply Manwiches, which remind me of “those” kids whose moms made these for birthday parties and it almost always meant there were green flecks in my meat. And the funny dads stuck Cheetos in their ears.

Taverns – I had never heard of taverns until about four years ago when someone at work mentioned them. She grew up in Beresford, S.D. That’s only 89 miles south on I-29 from where I grew up. But…it’s only 46 miles from Yankton, S.D. which according to South Dakota Magazine’s Laura Johnson, proper taverns ought not include anything from a tomato. You must read her article, “The Humble Tavern” and all the comments that follow to get to the heart of people’s steadfast beliefs about taverns. A recipe and story about taverns on Food.com seem to corroborate a comment made by Julie Simpson in Laura’s tavern story – Ye Olde Tavern in Sioux City, Iowa just might be the birth place of taverns in the early 50s.

Loose meats – I just figured these were sandwiches with cooked ground beef and onions and seasonings. Or just deli meat sandwiches. I didn’t really know.

BeerBQ Joes

Make 12 servings (recipe can easily be halved or doubled) 

2 lbs (85-90% lean) ground beef

1/2 cup diced onion

1 garlic clove, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)

1 cup (8 ounces) BBQ sauce (use a spicy sauce for more heat)

1 cup (8-ounce can) tomato sauce

2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon onion salt

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces dark beer (I use Shiner Bock, just like in my Once a Month Beer Chili Spaghetti)

Buns or garlic toast, cheese slices, dill pickles

In a medium pan, brown ground beef with onions and garlic until the meat is cooked through, breaking meat into pieces. Drain the grease. Add the next 7 ingredients (BBQ sauce through the pepper), stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.

Pour in beer. Stir. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.

Serve on buns, sandwich bread, pretzel rolls, toasted garlic bread, pita bread, etc. Top with cheese and pickles.

Cover leftover BeerBQ tightly and store in refrigerator up to 5 days.

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What’s perfect for dessert? Peanut Butter Pie.

peanut butter pie for mikey

Where do your loyalties lie? BBQs? Taverns? Sloppy Joes? Loose meats? BeerBQ Joes?

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