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Other than South Dakota Magazine, the only magazines you’ll find falling off my office shelves, shoved into my purse, and untidily stacked on my coffee table, nightstand, desk, kitchen table, and office floor are food magazines. The competition for top-of-pile is harsh but with its sixth issue hot like bacon off the press, Wholesome, South Dakota’s premier food magazine, has quickly taken up prime real estate in my home.

Wholesome May June 2014

The July/August edition hit the stands of our favorite local spots this week and it’s jam packed with recipes using blueberries and ingredients from our bountiful garden harvest and farmers markets. If you can’t get your hands on a copy, you can flip through it here and past issues online or you can subscribe to the magazine and have it mailed to your home.

The May/June edition of Wholesome (pictured above) gets you all set for summer gardening, with a few delightful recipes for your strawberry harvest. I have a particular fondness for the Italian Tuxedo Trifle on page 55. It’s a family favorite.

Get more good stuff from Wholesome on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Sweet summer wishes!
Staci 

 

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December is coming to an end and South Dakota Magazine will remove my favorite issue from the shelves, soon restocking and mailing the January/February edition. More than 45,000 subscribers will toss the holiday copy onto a towering stack of magazines or they’ll donate it to a local library. (Some might even throw it in the recycling bin. GAK!)

magazine layout

Although I didn’t frame it, the November/December issue of South Dakota Magazine will be my most treasured because it’s the first publication that printed my writing and my photos. The people who publish it are truly devoted to the history and future of my home state of South Dakota. They are storytellers and photographers – they are my kindred spirits. And more personally, I am honored to share a family recipe and a story about my Grandma Janet.

grandmas story

White Cookie Tradition
(Slightly extended version)

My grandma Janet has arrived at Christmas dinners carrying a tall plastic bucket delicately packed with thin, white cookies twinkling of fine sugar for as long as we can remember.

grandmas white cookies ©Staci Perry 2013

It wasn’t until a few years ago that we allowed ourselves to accept that grandma, who turned 87 in October, would not be the white cookie matriarch forever. She happily shared the recipe with us, which is particularly light on instruction, and said, “I don’t do anything special to them.” I knew it was time for me to learn how to make her signature cookies.

recipe card ©Staci Perry 2013

Shortly after she married my grandpa Elroy in 1945, grandma purchased a hefty Sunbeam Mixmaster electric mixer from a store in a town near their farm. She thinks they got it from Hanson’s Hardware in Astoria, S.D., which is also where they bought the only toaster her and grandpa ever owned.

The day grandma taught me how to make her white cookies, she pulled the faded rooster terry cloth cover off the mixer, releasing a flood of sweet memories into the kitchen. It was like peeling back the dusty cover on a hot rod after countless years in storage.

grandmas mixer ©Staci Perry 2013

She chuckled a little when I expressed amazement that with all the baking she has done in her lifetime it is the only electric mixer she’s ever used.

“I was happy when I got it because I did a lot of beating by hand,” she laughed.

Grandma almost crawled into the cupboard to unearth her favorite cookie sheet. “They don’t make them like this anymore and it’s the only one I have,” she told me as she handed me the heavy piece of stainless steel. She won the pan, made by Clydeware Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Ill., at a home party in the early 1950s.

grandma with cookie sheet ©Staci Perry 2013

As we baked that day, I pictured grandpa, with his hands the size of Little League gloves, grabbing a handful of grandma’s white cookies, his long legs pulling up a chair at the kitchen table, steeping the crispy round cookies into his steaming coffee until soggy crumbs floated to the top of the cup. It was one of his favorite cookies.

It’s no surprise – his mother, Ruth Moe, is the one who gave the white cookie recipe to his lovely bride. His father, Edwin Moe, made the richly marbled apple wood rolling-pin that grandma still uses.

rolling pin ©Staci Perry 2013

After almost 70 years of warmly saturating her home with the sweet scent of homemade goodies, grandma’s baking sheets have become almost too heavy for one oven mitt to hold, the dough is getting harder for aged hands to stir, and her kitchen counters have mysteriously gotten taller.

Although my first crack at baking grandma’s cookies taught me that it will take practice before they look perfect like hers, my kids devoured them when I got home. And grandma asked me to come back and make them again because she’d like to have more around. To me, that’s what baking and sharing is all about.

Now it’s my turn to give grandma a tall, plastic bucket overflowing with family tradition and sweet memories that will spread farther than a handful of flour tossed into the South Dakota wind.

Grandma Janet’s White Sugar Cookies

2 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable shortening (NOT butter-flavored)

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sour cream, room temperature

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

White sugar to sprinkle on top of the cookies

Flour for rolling out the cookies

Prep work: Bring the eggs to room temperature, approximately 30 minutes. At the same time, measure 1 cup of sour cream into a medium bowl and stir in 1 teaspoon of baking soda. The sour cream will begin to swell as the soda dissolves. Let set while the eggs are coming to room temperature.

Make the dough:

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat white sugar and shortening together until creamy.
  2. In a separate bowl, vigorously stir eggs with a table fork or small whisk until well beaten. Add to the sugar mixture and beat on medium-high until combined.
  3. Spoon sour cream into the batter and pour in the teaspoon of vanilla. Beat on medium-high for 3 minutes, turning off the mixer a few times to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Into a separate large bowl, dump 6 ½ cups of flour and 1 teaspoon of baking powder, stirring together so the powder is dispersed throughout. Add the flour to the cookie batter 1 cup at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is stiff. If it’s not firming up, sprinkle in more flour until stiff. Depending on how powerful your electric mixer is, you may need a thick wooden or heavy metal spoon to stir in the last few cups of flour by hand.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight. The batter is ready when it’s firm and doesn’t stick on your finger. If the dough still seems sticky after refrigerating, stir in a little more flour.

Roll out and bake cookies: Preheat oven to 350˚. Grab a cooling rack, rolling-pin, two cookie sheets, and two spatulas (metal works best).

  1. On a heavily floured surface, roll a huge handful of cookie dough into a flattened 1/8-inch thick sheet, dusting with flour to keep it from sticking to the rolling-pin or counter as you rotate the dough.
  2. Cut the cookies using a lightly floured 2 or 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, turning the cutter slightly as you lift it off the dough. Slide a lightly floured spatula under each cookie to ease it from the surface and transfer it to a cookie sheet, lining cookies 1 inch part. (If the cookie sticks to the counter, there wasn’t enough flour on the rolling surface so add more next round.)
  3. Scatter a generous amount of sugar onto the tops of the cookies.
  4. Bake 7-8 minutes. The cookies go from white to golden brown in a matter of seconds so watch closely in the last minute. The whiter the cookies, the softer they are in the middle. For a crisper cookie perfect for coffee dunking, bake 8-10 minutes removing from oven as they turn a darker shade of brown.
  5. Transfer to cooling rack. Let cool completely before stacking cookies in an airtight container, where cookies will keep nicely for at least three weeks.
  6. Repeat in batches until the dough is gone. Makes approximately 7 dozen cookies, give or take the few you eat along the way.

If you really want to get your hands on this issue, it will probably be on the shelves for another week or so. You can follow South Dakota Magazine on Facebook and Twitter. And join me and 45,000 others who subscribe to the magazine.

Maybe I’ll get to share your story next…

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More than 100 locals gathered at Brookings’ new Ground Round Grill & Bar for a special VIP opening party on Saturday night. The new bar and restaurant replaces the Pavilion Bar and Grill in the Brookings Days Inn.

The transition only took two weeks but people anxious to see the new digs were treated to ice-cold beer, fine wine, and a lively variety of menu items from jambalaya with shrimp, andouille sausage and chicken, and Cajun chicken penne Florentine to a more traditional summer menu of BBQ ribs, boneless chicken wings, and coleslaw.

The restaurant opens opened to the public on Monday, 22 August at 5 p.m. and is the latest venture for owners Lance and Ann Park, who have owned and operated the South Dakota hotel, restaurant and bar property since 1998. (They also happen to be friends of ours so this is my “disclaimer” that I may be a little biased in my review.)

The interior has a new look which seems even more warm, welcoming and fun than the previous space. (Get a sneak peek in their Facebook page photo album.) In true Ann and Lance fashion they added a comfy outdoor patio complete with large tables and cushioned chairs, which I’m sure will graciously partake in many late-night summer parties.

So here’s the scoop (and my thoughts) on the menu items that guests enjoyed at the VIP party. (All items are listed on the Ground Round dinner menu or the dessert menu.)

  • Cajun Chicken Penne Florentine: I’m a sucker for creamy, white-sauce pasta with spicy chicken so this dish was one of my favorite. The chicken is excellent.
  • Jambalaya: The first dish on my plate was jambalaya and I almost passed it up – I’ve never tried jambalaya and had no desire to. I am glad I did though, as it was my favorite main dish! It has an amazing smokey Cajun flavor that will definitely entice me to order this meal again.
  • BBQ Ribs and Coleslaw: The ribs have a nice, rich BBQ flavor and the coleslaw is cool and creamy. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m not much of a meat-on-a-bone kind of person but I took a stab at eating one and it was worth it. Ok, with a knife and fork instead of my fingers, but do you REALLY need to lick the bone to enjoy the flavor?
  • Grilled Chicken and Spinach Salad: The roasted red peppers were fantastic! If you like spinach, bacon, and raspberry balsamic vinaigrette dressing, you’ll love this salad. I am more of a Caesar or garlic onion dressing kind of girl so I’ll be ordering the Buffalo Chicken Salad or the Chicken Club Salad next time.
  • Mozzarella Cheese Sticks: Crunchy on the outside, hot and cheesy on the inside – who doesn’t love a mozz stick dipped in marinara sauce?
  • Asian Zing Boneless Chicken Wings: Grab your ice-cold beer – these are gonna burn but you’re gonna love it. Yum.
  • Buffalo Boneless Chicken Wings: Nice and spicy – we tried a few different flavors of the boneless wings and they are all excellent. The best part is that the chicken is a high-quality, white chicken that is real chicken, not processed meat.
  • Choc’late Lovin’ Spoon Cake™: The dessert menu is almost always the first thing I look at on a menu. This one will not disappoint. Don’t let the menu description fool you on this cake – it’s not so much traditional “pudding” layers – it seems more like decadent layers of chocolate ganache. And although it’s called spoon cake, you’ll want to eat a large piece with a small shovel. I. Want. More.
  • Rockslide Brownie: Do yourself a favor and leave room for this at the end of your meal. Or eat it first. You’ll thank me.

This is the only restaurant that I’ve seen BOTH of my kids’ favorites not only on one menu, but in one dish! Check out the Hound Dog Mac N Cheese. It’s even from the blue box. Once our kids see this menu, they won’t want to eat anywhere else.

Gluten free? They made a menu just for you.

Not driving? They made a menu just for you. (and me)

The VIP  party is over and the kitchen will soon be is now open to the public. There are many items to choose from and plenty of time for return visits so I’m making a list. The first thing I’m ordering from the lunch menu is the Turkey Pretzel Sandwich (shaved turkey, applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, mayo, tomato, and honey mustard on a grilled pretzel roll). And for dinner, I’m going Tex Mex with Chimichangas.

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What’s on your first-visit menu list?

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