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Posts Tagged ‘Minnesota’

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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If you’re driving on Minnesota-19 through Ivanhoe, take a north turn onto N. Harold Street. Drive three blocks and look to your right. Smack dab in the middle of town, home to the Lincoln County seat and 549 people, is a trendy shop bursting with stylish boutique-like clothing and accessories, repurposed furniture and décor, kitchen tools, and charming gifts.

The Gift Ivanhoe MN

Before I lead you into the ticket-writing arms of an officer, slow down if you’re driving Highway-19 through Ivanhoe, Minn. There is almost always a cop waiting to meet drivers who don’t slow down for their residential speed limit.

The Gift 2

My daughter and I are lucky because Ivanhoe is less than a half hour from our house. It’s nice to have such a fun store closer than driving to Sioux Falls, which is our typical shopping behavior in this tiny corner of southwest Minnesota. Thank goodness for Facebook, which is how my sister Kalli heard of The Gift and ultimately we visited for the first time together.

repurposed door at The Gift

The Hendricks Hometown Bakery is a short drive from Ivanhoe so stop and get yourself a few donuts and loaves of bread after you try on clothes here. (Please note, they hung a new sign on the front of bakery recently so it will look different from my blog picture.)

The Gift 1

Can you see why we love it here?! THIS repurposed baby blue gem is a dream piece of furniture for me but I haven’t bought it. Yet. Somewhere on their Facebook page, owner Ashley Conner posted a before and after on this beauty.

The Gift 3

But I DID buy this old door. I’m not sure what for. It’s so heavy and large that Jason had to pick it up for me on his way home from the city. He mentioned he could use it as the front of a kitchen island that he’s going to build out of our barn wood.

old barn door at The Gift

Here’s an idea for a little road trip if you live in the area — depending on which direction you’re starting from and the hours they are open, work your way from the bakery in Hendricks, to The Gift in Ivanhoe, to Laney Lu’s Boutique in Redwood Falls, and down to Junk With Purpose in Walnut Grove.

The Gift bench

If you go on a Saturday, get there early. The Gift close at 2 p.m.

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Small-town bakeries are as scarce as T.V. repairmen and seamstresses, yet situated on the Minnesota and South Dakota border is a place where the coffee’s on and the glass cases are filled with sweets and doughnuts sure to evoke nostalgic smiles.

Hendricks Hometown Bakery Minnesota

Where the wire shelves are stacked with bread as fresh as teenage boys on prom night.

Todays bread Hendricks Hometown Bakery Minnesota

Step into the Hendricks Hometown Bakery on South Main of this one-horse town, population 699. (They have almost half as many Facebook fans – let’s like them so much that their online population is more than 699.) And say hi to their sweet-as-pie manager, Brenda.

bread rack Hendricks Hometown Bakery Minnesota

Immediately to your right are bags of soft, homemade breads, buns, and rolls. Nestled next in line is a gleaming case of cookies, bars, brownies, and muffins that seem to have been pulled from your grandma’s brown electric oven. To your left is a little rack of discounted items.

bakery case Hendricks Hometown Bakery Minnesota

No high-cost computer generated signs here. Only handwritten cards are needed to help you make the decision about what gets placed in your white bakery sack.

Gold Bricks Hendricks Hometown Bakery Minnesota

Cornered between the cash register counter and the coffee station is the doughnut case filled with sticky, caramely, frosted, sugared, and sprinkled gems.

doughnut case Hendricks Hometown Bakery Minnesota

The white bag I carried out had a few of the most delicious glazed blueberry cake doughnuts I’ve ever eaten. I want to go back and get more. Every single weekend.

blueberry doughnut from Hendricks Hometown Bakery Minnesota

The bakery has shared café-style seating so if you have time, soak up the sweet smell of the warm ovens and enjoy a treat before you hit the road. Hendricks is only three miles north of MN-19 on MN-271. While you’re in the area, take a spin around the border sharing Lake Hendricks and the Hendricks Golf Club. Then get back on the road and stop for shopping at The Gift in Ivanhoe. (Read Off the highway and into The Gift to see why you may want to save the donuts for later.)

Farmers Creamery Co Hendricks Minnesota

At the end of Main Street is a building I’d like to move to our acreage and transform into our house. When you go to the bakery, come back and tell me what you enjoyed most. Happy bakery road trip!

Hendricks Hometown Bakery is located at 108 South Main in Hendricks, Minnesota. Their phone number is 507-275-4010. Hours are Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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National food days don’t excite me. If it’s National Cashew Day, I’ll celebrate the crunchy carrot.

It means more when people think for themselves. Sorta like Valentine’s Day — if you wait and spend three times as much money on a dozen roses just to give a bouquet to the love of your life on the day society tells you to, you don’t deserve a sweetheart. Instead, on a random day in the summer, pull off the busy highway and pick a handful of those pretty purple wildflowers swaying in the country shade.

Vanilla cheesecake with fresh berries | Random Sweetness Baking

I’ve always been a rebel. (In the American sense of the word.) Hallmark wouldn’t like me. If everyone is doing something the same way, I’ll simply wait until I find a different way before I do it. It’s not such a bad thing now but trust me, it got me into plenty of trouble when I was a teenage girl wearing boxer shorts to school on final exam day.

But National Cheesecake Day? It’s like my personal national holiday! Even a rebel’s gotta respect the one day when people across the nation celebrate the most traditional yet luxurious dessert known to man(and woman)kind.

Today is National Cheesecake Day. If you are in the Minneapolis area, you must go to Muddy Paws CheesecakeOnce you’ve had a mouthful of their luscious cheesecake, you’ll be weaving your way through the residential area of St. Louis Park every chance you get just to grab a slice from [owner] Tami’s freezer. You can also order Muddy Paws cheesecake off the menu at these restaurants in the Twin Cities. (Say hi to them on Facebook and on Twitter @MPCheesecake.)

When you can’t have Muddy Paws, bake your own slices of creamy heaven:

Brownie Bottom Black Cherry Cheesecake

Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce

Reese’s Salted Cheesecake

White Chocolate Peppermint Twist Cheesecake

Andes Crème de Menthe Cheesecake

Creamy Dreamsicle Cheesecake with Sugared Cream Sauce

Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake with Caramel Shots

KAHLÚA Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

And when you want a good old-fashioned vanilla cheesecake with berries from your garden or corner farmer’s market, make this one and share it:

Vanilla Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

Crust

1-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 tablespoons sugar

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

Filling

32 ounces (four 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1-2/3  cups sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I use Sonoma Syrup Co. Vanilla Bean Crush)

3/4 cup heavy or whipping cream

3 large eggs at room temperature

fresh berries of your choice

Put it all together

For 9-inch springform pan: Preheat oven to 350°. Grease the springform pan with baking or cooking spray.

Combine the crushed graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir well. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. Bake 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until creamy throughout, with no clumps. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times while mixing. This will take approximately 3 minutes. This only works if the cream cheese is at a soft, room temperature consistency.

Add the sugar to the cream cheese mixture and beat on low to medium speed for a few minutes until sugar is well combined and the texture is creamy.

Put the cornstarch in a tiny bowl. While stirring, add just enough ice-cold water to dissolve the cornstarch. It’s probably a teaspoon or two. Stir until dissolved and then add to the cream cheese batter.

Pour the vanilla extract and whipping cream into the batter and then beat on low until all the ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating on low just until combined. Turn off the mixer and gently scrape down the sides of the bowl after each egg is added.

Gently pour the filling into the prepared crust. Bake at 350° for approximately one hour and 15 minutes or until the edges are light golden brown and the center is just set. Turn the oven off and crack the oven door open slightly. Let the cheesecake completely cool in the oven for a couple of hours.

When cooled, run a knife between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it from the sides, then cover the top of the pan with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, remove the cheesecake from the springform pan. Slice with a warm knife, wiping after each cut to keep the slices smooth and free from crumbs. Serve with your favorite berries.

Keep cheesecake in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. If you want to freeze the cheesecake or slices of cheesecake, (remove the berries first) wrap tightly in foil or seal in freezer bags for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for 2 hours.

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If you want to bake these in 4-inch springform pans as I have pictured, lower the oven temperature to 275° and bake approximately 35-40 minutes. If you have mini cheesecake pans, bake for approximately 26 minutes.

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Tomorrow is National Raspberry Cake Day. I’ll be celebrating the bacon cheeseburger.

Happy National Cheesecake Day to all you rebels and cheesecake lovers!

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It’s more about the crusty, spongy in the middle, toasty seeds on top, breads than anything I put on my homemade sandwiches. I’m a bread lover not a bread baker and my toppings are simple, like my tuna salad with truckloads of crunch from diced celery.

Bread Lover's Tuna Salad | Random Sweetness Baking

We hit the road this weekend to New Ulm, Minnesota for a girls hockey tournament. It’s one of the few towns within hours of us that I know still has a small-town bakery. Like the town’s streets, German history wafts from The Bäckerei’s ovens.

The Backerei and Coffee Shop in New Ulm MN

We bought dark buns brushed with a hint of butter and a sprinkle of salt. We ate them before we left town. The other one, pictured at top, was called “something in German that I don’t remember,” and “they are like an onion bread.” Whatever it is, a crunchy tuna salad goes perfect right on top of it. (And yes, it really was orange.)

Even though you likely have your own favorite tuna salad recipe, it’s a good reminder to stop and smell the fresh bread once in a while. Bring a loaf home and make yourself a special sandwich.

Staci’s Simple Tuna Salad

1 (2.6 ounce) package Albacore white tuna in water

1 Tablespoon finely diced red onion

chopped celery, I use at least 1/2 cup

mayonnaise to taste

a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce

a few dashes of onion salt

a few dashes of garlic powder

pepper to taste

enough lettuce leaves to cover the entire bread

sliced red peppers

a couple of slices of your most favorite bread in the whole world

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