It’s stock show time! Right now the National Western Stock Show is in full swing in Denver. For me this event brings back memories of some of my first experiences as Miss Rodeo South Dakota, a year in which I learned so much about myself, met so many wonderful people, and got to attend rodeos across the country and my state. 

Speaking of stock shows, one of my favorite stock shows is right around the corner, the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo! Every year thousands dig out their cowboy boots and Wrangler jeans in the dead of winter in the Black Hills of South Dakota for the annual event.

For me the smells of the Black Hills Stock Show bring the event to life! There are no words to describe that first inhale as you walk through the doors to the rodeo arena, one of livestock, horses, and everything western. For me it brings back every single memory I have with horses and rodeo.

As a former Miss Rodeo South Dakota, my heart still skips a beat every time I see that beautiful cowgirl carrying Old Glory in the spotlight. The excitement is electrifying as fireworks spark and the horses speed by effortlessly. Rodeo holds a special place in my heart because of the wonderful people I met in the sport and the many memories I made with my family and friends. 

But the Black Hills Stock Show also hosts home to an amazing horse sale, ranch rodeos, bull ridings, art shows, and 4-H youth events. Oh and we can’t forget the trade show, western shopping at its finest.

Walking into the trade show the smell of vanilla cinnamon almonds permeates the room. As a shopping connoisseur it is almost impossible to not stop and at least sample the decadent almonds but most often the sample elicits buying a few pounds to munch on the entire day.

Last year at the Black Hills Stock Show, there were no almonds! That sweet vanilla sugary scent had been eradicated from the building, so this year I’m taking it upon myself to cook up a batch at home! These almonds are a cinch to make and every cowboy and cowgirl will be asking you for more. They are sweet and crunchy, but also satisfying. They will definitely give you the energy needed to get through all of those wonderful stock show events. So this year as I travel to  Rapid City for this show stopping event, I will be toting my own almonds!

Memories can have a significant power, power over our emotions and power over the choices we make for the future. Remembering those memories and sometimes the delicious smells that go with them can be a rewarding experience. 

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Cinnamon Sugar Vanilla Almonds

INGREDIENTS
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 T. cinnamon
1 egg white
1 T. vanilla
3 1/2 c. whole almonds

GUIDANCE
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat. In a bowl combine sugars, cinnamon, and salt. In a large bowl whisk egg white until frothy, then whisk in vanilla. Mix in the almonds and stir to coat. Then add sugar mixture and stir to coat all almonds. 

Spread almonds evenly onto a baking sheet. Bake for 60-70 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Enjoy warm or cool completely and store in an air-tight container. 


When I think of Alaska, many things come to mind: adventure, the last frontier, uncharted waters, cold (even though I think North Dakota temperatures are sometimes way worse), Sarah Palin, gold, but most importantly exploration. This new year is marked with more opportunities for exploring more of myself and more courage to try new foods and recipes. 

The beauty of Alaska is uncomparable to any other state and it’s access to abundant wildlife is remarkable. I actually have been to Alaska way back in the day, but unfortunately I have no memory of it (I was 2). My sister had the opportunity to visit Alaska last spring and the photos she brought home were spectacular. Not only that, she brought us fresh caught Alaskan halibut too! Although this fish waited patiently in my freezer for the past few months, it still tasted as just as fresh as the day it was caught.

I had fun using my ulu that my sister got for me, which is an all-purpose knife traditionally used by Inuit, Yup’ik and Aleut women. It is a very diverse tool, as it was used for almost everything; skinning animals, cutting food, and chopping up blocks of snow for igloos.

I wanted this halibut to resonate clean, healthy flavors so I used dill and lemon to add to the real star of this dish, alaskan halibut. The tomatoes added beautiful color and texture to the flaky fish. So what new avenues do you plan to explore this year? A new place? A new recipe? A new outlook on your health? The new year offers a great place to start a new and begin with a clean slate. The official state motto of Alaska is “North to the future”, what will guide your compass this year to your future explorations?

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Alaskan Halibut with Lemon Dill Sauce

INGREDIENTS
1/2 c. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 2 lemons
2 T. lemon zest
2 T. chopped dill
2 c. cherry tomatoes
salt
pepper

GUIDANCE
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut halibut into 1 inch filets. Rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Mix olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and dill in a small bowl. Sprinkle filets with salt and pepper and place in a cast iron skillet. Toss cherry tomatoes in lemon dill mixture and pour mixture over halibut filets. Cook 15 minutes until fish is cooked through. Broil for 3-6 minutes so filets are nicely browned on top. 




 

~Alaskan photos courtesy of Kelsey Ellis


Cheers to 2017! This year I had a hard time deciding what type of resolutions I would like to focus on for the new year. I used this first week to gather ideas from others and to mold my own thoughts into resolutions that would be realistic but also lasting, sustainable. Here are a few contenders:

  1. Learn how to play piano. I already have a gold star here as I already set up my lessons to begin this summer!
  2. Spend quality time with my daughter. So many times I find myself zoned out into social media that I don’t truly devote myself to her. This year I want to create quality memories with full attention.
  3. Exercise more. My exercise level this year has been at a solid -2. With the biggest excuse being: when do I have time with a 1-year old! Well I have discovered that early morning before she gets up is my only option, so here’s to 6 AM workouts!
  4. Devote more time to my blog. Do you see a common theme here, lack of time? Posting once a week during the school year is my goal, and really pushing more focus during the summer is a secondary step. 

I wanted these resolutions goals to be long lasting and worthwhile, much like this delicious  Knoephla soup. During the past few weeks in North Dakota, our weather has rivaled that of Antarctica. We have copious amounts of snow and sub-zero temperatures daily. This soup is the perfect answer. 

Knoephla, also spelled knephla is a type of dumpling, commonly used in soups. The word is related to the modern German dialect word Knöpfle, meaning little knob/button. Traditional knoephla soup is a thick chicken and potato soup, almost to the point of being a stew. I stumbled upon this soup with my migration to the state of North Dakota. It is a quintessential North Dakota (German) soup that can be spotted all over Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota in the winter. I have loved learning about the German cuisine in North Dakota and I hope to share more of that with you all this year. 

I looked to my brother-in-law to help me master this soup. He is exceptionally qualified to depict this soup just for the simple fact that he is an “old farmer” at heart and his German, North Dakota roots run deep. 

When I asked him about the history of this soup he noted that many farmers were known for this soup, for the simple fact that the ingredients were readily available to families, thus making it a soup that provided nourishment and comfort to families across the midwest. 

Today this soup still offers the same sustainability, by providing comfort and delicacy to families in the cold depths of North Dakota winters. I hope you are all staying warm and working towards goals of your own in 2017!

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Knoephla Soup

INGREDIENTS
Soup Base
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c. celery, diced
3 c. carrots, peeled & shredded
3 c. potatoes, cubed
4 T. chicken bouillon
1 pint of heavy cream
2 c. milk

Knoephla Dough
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. salt
2 eggs
2/3 c. water

GUIDANCE
Combine all vegetables and chicken bouillon in a stockpot. Cover with enough water so that all of the vegetables are covered. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Meanwhile prepare dough in a stand mixture. Let rest. Form dough into log shapes. Cut quarter size pieces of dough into the soup base mixture. Add heavy cream and milk. Simmer 1 to 2 hours until soup has thickened. Make sure to stir consistently as simmering. Enjoy!

 


Day 3 of 12 Days of Christmas Kindness! Are you feeling the effects of kindness radiating around you yet? It’s amazing how doing a simple act of kindness can come back to you in many ways. Today’s act of kindness for Day 3 is:

Surprise someone by doing a chore for them

We all have typical chores that we have to accomplish each day, but how nice would it be if you came to find out that someone stepped in and helped you out! The element of surprise in this act of kindness is pivotal. So do the dishes for your wife. Take out the garbage without being asked. Help someone with a task that maybe they typically conquer by themselves. They will appreciate the extra help!

These yummy Christmas cookies offer the same element of surprise, a sweet maraschino cherry inside! This recipe creates cookies that are light and winter-esque and then they are topped with sweet cherry frosting and dusted with snowflake like powdered sugar. My variation of frosting these exudes a cookie full of flavorful frosting. Don’t forget about that sweet maraschino cherry surprise inside!


It’s day 2 of our 12 Days of Christmas Kindness. Today’s act of kindness is simple:

Share something with a friend today

And I have just the thing for you to share! This caramel puff corn is so chewy, sweet and delicious. It’s relatively simple to make, although I had to make two batches this round (me and baking soda aren’t friends). It’s so good you might have a hard time sharing, but because of it’s highly addictive qualities (think popcorn + caramel) it will be worth the gift of kindness. 

If caramel puff corn is not in the works for you today, there are so many more things to share with a friend. Share a laugh, share a memory, share something funny, share a phone call or share some of your time to help your friend. There are many things in life worth sharing and having friends to share them with make life even more special. So this holiday season make sure to cherish your friendships and share something with those friends today!

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Caramel Puff Corn

Recipe courtesy of Old Dutch

INGREDIENTS
1 bag of puff corn (I suggest Old Dutch)
1 c. butter
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. light corn syrup
1 t. baking soda

GUIDANCE
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan. Cook until mixture has melted. Add baking soda – be aware this will cause the mixture to foam. Pour puff corn into a LARGE bowl and pour caramel mixture over the puff corn and mix until all combined. Spread onto 2 baking sheets (I used a silpat baking mat for easy cleanup). Bake in the oven for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spread onto wax paper and break apart. Let cool and enjoy!

 


It’s officially T-minus 14 days until Christmas! I have thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas season and everything that comes with it. My most favorite activity to do this time of year is to BAKE! I love to put on the Christmas tunes, sift through different recipes and bake up a storm! Speaking of storms we have had a few snow storms here in North Dakota already. All I can say is that I think this winter is going to be a unique one for sure!

With the snow, we were gifted two, yes TWO snow days. I took the opportunity to bake my little heart as the snow fell inch by inch. This holiday season I want to share 12 yummy holiday recipes that you can share with others, but also a small act of kindness to go with each!

One of my favorite activities that I do with my students, is a countdown of twelve days with an act of kindness that goes with each day. They are simple acts of kindness, but they each have big impact. I truly believe it’s important to remember the value of kindness to others. When you do something nice, it can make a large difference in how someone is feeling. My goal with the 12 Days of Christmas Kindness is to share treat plates with all of those hardworking people in my life that deserve an extra small, sugary thank you this holiday season. 

So with the next few days before Christmas I will be sharing a simple act of kindness that I urge you to try and a tasty recipe to go with each! Todays act of kindness:

Smile at as many people as you can today!

To go with that sweet smile try these oh-so-yummy peanut buttery cookies!

🙂

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy Cookies

INGREDIENTS
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
2 T. milk
40 mini chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped

GUIDANCE
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda. Set to the side. Cream together butter, sugars, and peanut butter until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and milk. Add the flour mixture, and mix well. Shape into 40 balls and place each into an engrossed mini muffin tin. 

Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place a chocolate covered peanut butter cup into the center. Cool and enjoy. 

 


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Wow, to say that this week has been heavy is an understatement. As a school counselor, one of the fundamental concepts that I teach and re-teach every day is being a gracious winner and loser. Win or lose there is aways a good lesson at the end of the journey of competition. I guess I have been a little disappointed in some of the methods that reactions were delivered after this week. Being on Facebook the day after the election truly made me question what it means to be a gracious winner or loser and what that should  look like. Being gracious is something that is marked by kindness and courtesy, but also tact and delicacy. 

Many people across the country were upset and others were elated with the final decision as our citizens chose our next president of the United States. Let’s look at how to handle both sides of the coin.

Being a gracious winner:

  • be modest, no one likes a “show off”
  • acknowledge the efforts of the opposing side
  • to be a good winner you have to learn and practice the skills which made you a winner, but other skills will also need to be developed as you continue

Being a gracious loser:

  • feeling and expressing anger and frustration at losing is ok, but in a safe and private place is the best form of practice
  • look for the positives, what did you learn from the experience, what can you do differently next time
  • being a gracious loser centers around the ability to celebrate someone else’s good fortune, despite the disappointment one feels

These bars graciously offer just the right amount of tact and delicacy that we all need this week. They are both salty and sweet,  all at the same time. They have delicious peanut-butter flavor, paired with a salty crunch from the pretzels and creamy butterscotch chocolate frosting.

So whether you are celebrating this week that your candidate won, you can enjoy these delicious bars or if you are disappointed your candidate lost, take the time to move forward and make these bars to decompress. Winning and losing is a part of real life, learning how to conquer both can but just as rewarding. This quote sums it up best, “it is your response to winning and losing that makes you a winner or a loser.” Were you gracious this week?

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Pretzel Scotcheroos

INGREDIENTS
1 c. light corn syrup
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter
6 c. crispy rice cereal
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 c. pretzels

GUIDANCE
Add corn syrup and sugar into saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to boil. Do not overcook, doing so will make your peanut butter-cereal mixture tough. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter. Mix well. Add cereal. Stir until well coated. Press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Set aside.Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in 1-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread evenly over cereal mixture. Sprinkle crushed pretzels or whole pretzels to the top of chocolate mixture. Let stand until firm. 

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{Spicy} Homemade Salsa

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The definition of spicy equates to flavored with or fragrant with spice. Isn’t there just a ton of spice in life everyday? Throughout our lives we can have pretty bland, boring days sometimes, but other times the day can be packed full of colorful, lively, exciting events that make the day seem “spicy” in a way. 

Lately I have begun to notice how I react to those hot, pungent moments in life and how it affects my mood. I see others around me and the amount of strength and courage that they put forth as they encounter immense struggles. I find that understanding the struggles of others has helped me to grasp the sheer power of how your mindset affects your attitude and ability to push forward in life. 

Life can really toss your some crazy curveballs, but having a positive outlook during those times of struggle can totally change the whole ballgame. 

This salsa recipe mimics that mentality. You can add just as much heat as you want, the more heat you add, the spicier it gets. It’s all about how much you put forth. If you put forth a positive attitude, you will get more out of life. If you don’t put in the time, effort, or power, your life may just be a little more bland. And if you walk around with a negative attitude and your head hung low, your life with carry that same persona. 

This recipe is the perfect combination of all your favorite garden produce and it can be savored all year long with the right canning process. So stay positive, add some spice to your life, and make the salsa….you won’t be disappointed. 

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Homemade Salsa

INGREDIENTS
12 c. tomatoes, diced, not peeled
2 c. onions, diced
1 c. green pepper
3 jalapeno peppers, seeded or unseeded
1 6 oz. tomato paste

SEASONINGS
1/3 c. vinegar
1/2. t. cayenne pepper
1/2 t. crushed red pepper
1/2 t. black pepper
2 T. salt
1/2 t. basil leaves
1/2 t. chili powder
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. garlic powder

GUIDANCE

Put tomatoes in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook at a slow boil for 1 hour. Add seasonings and simmer at a low boil for 1/2 hour. Add onions and peppers and simmer for 15 minutes, add tomato paste and simmer for 15 minutes more. Process for 15 minutes in hot water bath. 

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As a new parent, patience has become a virtue that commands my full attention. Gone are the days of worrying only about myself, sleeping in, or making an outing without sippy cups and toys. Learning to be patient with my toddler and myself has been a new undertaking.

Parents today often feel it’s their responsibility to live up to a certain standard or set of rules. Your child should sleep at this time, wean off the bottle now, learn new things at certain times. When in the end, each child learns at their own speed. I struggled with learning to be patient with this mentality. I saw other’s children meeting milestones, while we were still climbing an up and down battle with certain things. Learning to be patient in these instances offered a great peace of mind for me. 

So how do I find patience? Look for the bigger picture. Being a parent is hard, but it’s a journey that you have to discover for yourself and it is not a straight path. That’s what makes parenting so interesting, each day is a new adventure. Sometimes it’s an adventure that makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs, but hence still an adventure.

Incorporating self care into my regime helped to strengthen my patience. For me, cooking has been a nice escape that helps ground me. Baking these bagels also incorporated new techniques in patience building. These bagels are the perfect combination of comfort and autumn all baked into one. Baking any type of bread has always been a struggle for me, because I am often too impatient to wait for my bread to rise! But with these bagels it was worth the wait. 

At the end of the day, being a parent is an epic journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything. If anything it has made me stronger and evoked a new mindset on how I see the world. My patience level has definitely gone up. So the next time you need to wait in that long line at the grocery store with your screaming child, just think about how much patience you are gaining in the long run. 

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Pumpkin Spice Bagels

INGREDIENTS
2 t. active dry yeast
2 T. sugar
1 1/4 c. water {you may need 1/4 c. more}
3 1/2 c. bread flour {extra flour for kneading}
1 1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. pumpkin puree
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. allspice
1/2 t. cloves
cinnamon-sugar {optional}

GUIDANCE
In 1/2 c. warm water (70-80 degrees) pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir and let sit for 5 minutes. Then stir the mixture until all sugar and yeast is dissolved into water. Mix the flour, salt, and spices. Make a well in the middle and pour in the sugar/yeast mixture. Pour in 1/3 c. water and pumpkin puree. Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. You are looking for a moist, firm dough. On a floured surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Place dough into a bowl that has been brushed with oil. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise until double in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough and let it rest for 10 minutes. 

Dive the dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and roll on your countertop to smooth the edges. Coat a finger in flour and press your finger into the center to make the bagel hole. Use a circular motion to create a larger hole. Place on an oiled baking sheet and let rest for 10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. 

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Place bagel dough into the boiling water for 2 minutes on each side. After done boiling, sprinkle each bagel with cinnamon and sugar. Bake bagels for 20 minutes, until golden brown. 

Makes 8 bagels

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Beauty is all around us. Sometimes I think that I often see more beauty in the fall because it is my favorite season. The temperatures are epic, the leaves are gorgeous, and I can wear boots and sweaters all day, every day. Unfortunately, fall in North Dakota gets cut short sometimes. I could literally live in the autumnal season year round, is there a place like that that exists?

I think this concept is fitting to focus on today because it is COLD here in North Dakota today. Winter has definitely arrived on our doorstep (unannounced as usual) as I saw snowflakes fall to the ground this morning.

Beauty came to mind with this recipe because I pondered for many days about what to make with these beautiful Japanese eggplants that my mother in-law grew in her garden and gifted to me. The punch of purple was so vibrant, especially paired with my favorite Jadeite dishes. I wanted to make something that was equally as beautiful on the plate.

The only thing that I have ever heard of involving eggplant was eggplant parmesan. This eggplant recipe incorporates some elements of Italian cuisine, but harnesses the simple beauty of the eggplant. The recipe reminds me of fried green tomatoes, which is ironic because Japanese eggplant resides in the same family of the tomato because it is in that group of produce that is prepared as a vegetable, but actually is a fruit.

In the end, these crispy slices of eggplant turned out really beautiful. The grape seed oil added a unique flavor and the panko added just the right amount of crunch. Marinara and basil finish off the dish to conceptualize the true picture of beauty.

It is said that food is the only beautiful thing that truly nourishes. I would have to disagree with this quote because I see so much more beauty in the world that can truly satisfy the soul in different ways. Learning to be more mindful in your every day endeavors can help uncover beauty in places you would never expect. What beauty did you see today?

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Fried Japanese Eggplant 

INGREDIENTS
4 Japanese Eggplant
½ c. grape seed oil
2 eggs
1/4 c. flour
1 c. panko breadcrumbs
Salt & Pepper to taste
Marinara
Parmesan cheese 
Basil to garnish

GUIDANCE
Slice the eggplant into 1/8 inch slices. Prepare plates for batter by beating eggs on one plate, flour on one plate, and panko on the last plate. Heat grape seed oil over medium heat. Test heat by dropping batter into oil, when it bubbles to the top, oil is ready. Fry eggplant medallions for 3-5 minutes until golden brown. Transfer eggplant medallions to a plate with paper towels to drain excess oil. Top each eggplant slice with marinara and garnish with basil.

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