Anytime I can incorporate my lil’ monkey into helping with a recipe I jump at the chance. I loved that this bread incorporated dyed eggs, because it gave me an excuse to dye eggs with my daughter. We are running off to St. Louis for Easter to visit family, so no long post with this pretty loaf of bread. Just the point to remember to spend time with your loved ones and do something special. Dying Easter eggs was always a special memory of mine when I was little and I loved sharing it with my daughter now. Happy Easter!

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Italian Easter Bread

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 c.all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2/3 c. milk
2 T. butter
2 eggs 5 whole eggs, dyed if desired
2 T. butter, melted

GUIDANCE
Combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast; stir well. Combine milk and butter in a small saucepan; heat until milk is warm and butter is softened but not melted.

Gradually add the milk and butter to the flour mixture; stirring constantly. Add two eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat well. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal size rounds; cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Roll each round into a long roll about 36 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick. Using the two long pieces of dough, form a loosely braided ring, leaving spaces for the five colored eggs. Seal the ends of the ring together and use your fingers to slide the eggs between the braids of dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place loaf on a buttered baking sheet and cover loosely with a damp towel. Place loaf in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Brush risen loaf with melted butter.
Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden.









I have wanted to bake this cake for several months and the initial plan was to make it for myself for my birthday at the end of February. Fast forward to being sick most of February & March and it never happened. Thankfully I have completed the task and it did not disappoint. 

For some reason this year we have been plagued with every sickness possible. I often question if it is because I work in a school and continually share sicknesses with 450 other students. Or maybe the fact that my toddler spends time at daycare and does not understand the facets of how to stay germ free yet? Whatever the case, it was a rough two months as we battled sickness after sickness. 

I’m curious what do you all do to stay healthy? I have heard of many concoctions of vitamins, airborne drinks, natural oils, but doesn’t it really just boil down to washing your hands? I feel like I do this liberally! I also try to take care of myself because I think if your body is worn down, sickness tends to grasp on with a vicious bite. What has worked for you, because I’m all ears! 

All that I know is that I am so thankful for SPRING! It is such a wonderful time of year. The sun is out, the birds are back, and it seems that the haze of sickness has dissipated (for now). 

To celebrate this momentous occasion I FINALLY got to bake this beautiful cake that I found in The Vanilla Bean Baking book. Mint chocolate chip ice cream is my all time favorite ice cream, so naturally I was intrigued by this combination all whirled up into a delicious cake!

I added a little springtime spin on the cake with the addition of a chocolate nest and peep birds. The chocolate cake is a rich sponge cake paired with the minty buttercream, this cake screams spring from every angle. ENJOY!
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Mint Chocolate Chip Cake with Peeps Nest
from the Vanilla Bean Baking Book

INGREDIENTS
CAKE
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 c. mocha frappuccino coffee, hot
1 c. buttermilk
½ c. olive oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
2 t. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 cups (396 g) sugar
¾ c. cocoa powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt

FROSTING
8 large egg whites
2 ¼ c. sugar
¼ t. salt
1 ½ pounds – 6 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T. crème de menthe
½ t. mint extract plus more to taste
1 t.vanilla extract
½ c. chocolate chips, chopped small
Green food coloring (optional, if your crème de menthe is not colored and you want a nice minty green)

NEST
Bittersweet chocolate, cut into strips
Peeps

GUIDANCE
CAKE
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Butter and flour two 8 by 2-inch round cake pans (see note) and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Put the bittersweet chocolate in a small bowl. Pour the coffee over it and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. In a medium bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk the buttermilk, olive oil, eggs, and vanilla.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt on low until combined. (If the cocoa powder is lumpy, you can sift it into the other ingredients.) With the mixer running on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture. Increase the speed to medium and beat until combined, 20 to 30 seconds.

Whisk the chocolate and coffee together until completely smooth. With the mixer running on low, slowly pour the coffee mixture into the batter and mix until just combined. Using a spatula, give the batter a couple of turns to make sure it is fully mixed.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out with the tiniest bit of crumb. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and let cool completely. Once cool, the cakes can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated overnight or frosted.

FROSTING
Put about 1 inch of water in a medium saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the egg whites, sugar, and salt until combined. Put the bowl over the saucepan, being careful not to let the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until the sugar is completely melted, and the mixture reaches a temperature of 160⁰F, about 4 to 5 minutes. While you are stirring, be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with the spatula—this will ensure no sugar grains are lurking on the sides and will help prevent the egg whites from cooking.

Remove the bowl from the heat and place it in the stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk the mixture on medium-high until stiff, glossy peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. With the mixer running on low, add the butter, 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition until incorporated. Add the crème de menthe, mint extract, vanilla, and a couple drops of green food coloring (if using). Beat again and then taste test. If you want your buttercream to have a stronger mint flavor, add more mint extract ½ teaspoon at a time, until you are happy with the taste. Add the chocolate (if using) and stir with a spatula to combine.

Make sure your cakes are completely cool before you frost them. If your layers have a large dome, you can slice off the rounded bump for a straight top if desired. This will help make your cake look even and professional. 

Apply a crumb coat: Make sure your cake layers are even; you want them to line up together, and none of them should be sticking out farther than the others. Gently press to adjust them if you need to and you a ruler or straightedge to make sure they are lined up evenly. With an offset spatula, apply a thin, even layer of buttercream to the top and sides of the cake, covering every surface, and filling in the gaps between layers. Smooth out any bumps or lumps in the thin coat. Be careful if you need to apply more buttercream to not get crumbs from the spatula back into your mixing bowl. Move the cake into the freezer or refrigerator to chill the cake and harden the buttercream. This will keep the crumbs in place, locking them into the crumb coat. 

Apply a finishing coat: Take the cake from the freezer or refrigerator and put it back in the center of your turntable or cake stand. Place a large amount of buttercream on the top of the cake. With an offset spatula, smooth the buttercream on top of the cake so that it is a perfectly level layer. When the top is even, move onto the sides. Put a good amount of buttercream onto the spatula and then use the spatula to put the buttercream on the sides of the cake in a thick layer. Don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth at this point, just make sure you have a nice thick coat, covering all the cake. Press the spatula very gently against the cake at a slight angle and move the turntable or cake stand in a constant fluid circle. As the table/stand moves, the spatula will begin to collect some of the excess buttercream and even out the sides. Stop to clean the spatula off a few times. You want to be careful not to take too much of the buttercream off, or you will start to see the cake layers underneath. Keep turning the table/stand until the buttercream is as smooth and even as possible. A slight edge will have built up on the top of the cake and with your spatula at an angle, run it across the top to even it out.

Finish decorating: The cake will be smooth at this point. You can leave it as is, or add some more decoration to it. When finished decorating, move the cake to a cake stand to serve or clean your cake stand if you have been assembling on the cake stand.

Assemble the chocolate strips into a nest shape and place your peeps on top!








My first encounter with the ever exclusive “Caesar” cocktail was at a hockey game. This combination seems fitting, because the caesar was developed in Canada. The cocktail is also consumed primarily in Canada. I guess living in North Dakota, those Canadian notables of hockey and caesars tend to rub off on people eh?

This drink for me has also always been synonmous with my husband. Prior to meeting him I was never much of a bloody mary connoisseur, let alone hockey or Canadian-esque accents either. But let me tell you, this man makes the best caesar ever.

So it seemed natural to collaborate with him to create this loaded cocktail that pairs this fulfilling, spicy cocktail with all of the wonderful add-ins that really make it a meal in a glass!

One of my favorite things to do with my husband is to be in the kitchen. I love being in the kitchen period, but when I get to cook with him it makes me extra happy. We typically cook together when we have friends coming over and he mans the grill, while I finagle the sides. 

Marriage is interesting in that way, how it really boils down to a strong foundation of teamwork. Seeking out each others interests and spending time doing both. I love cooking up items with hime and putting our Top Chef spin on each dish (a favorite of ours to watch together).

This is perfect for all those college basketball games that I will have to watch this weekend with my husband. Like I said, it’s all about teamwork, you’ve got to work together to learn new things, share hobbies, and understand what it is they love about those things. Working together creates greatness. Together is always stronger than one.

Back to the caesar, you can really add whatever bar food favorite you want on top of this cocktail as long as it will stand sturdy with a cocktail skewer. We opted for pickles, olives, bacon, pickled eggs, pickled asparagus, a pepper jack cheese slider on a hawaiian sweet bun, bacon, celery, shrimp, a beef stick and a cheese stick. 

What do you like to cook with your teamate? Cheers to marriage and teamwork and all the things that life brings with love. 
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Loaded Caesar

INGREDIENTS
Ice
1/4 c. vodka
2 t. celery salt
4 t. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t. pepper
4 T. pickle juice
1-2 c. Clamato
tabasco  to taste

GUIDANCE
We used quart size mason jars for this cocktail. Fill your glass 3/4 full with ice. Pour in vodka first and then add in celery salt, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, pickle juice, and tabasco to taste. Fill the remainder of the glass with Clamato, which is tomato juice with the addition of clam broth. 

Next add in your garnishes. We like to put pickles and olives right in the drink. Ideas for skewer items include: pickled eggs, pickled asparagus, celery, beef sticks, cheese sticks, bacon, chicken strips, banana peppers, sliders, pickled green beans, onion rings, french fries, mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, and shrimp. Cheers!


Every year as a nod to my Irish heritage, I make Irish soda bread. I’m not sure where this ritual began for me, but I started doing it about 10 years ago. Maybe it helps me to pay homage to my Irish ancestors or maybe it’s because I love the simplicity of this recipe that I use every single year. 

Having rituals or traditions surrounding holidays is very commonplace for myself and many others. I typically have specific recipes that I make consistently for certain holidays. Pumpkin shaped pizza for Halloween, cheddar herb butter biscuits on Christmas Eve, rainbow cookies for Christmas, braided egg bread for Easter, and of course this stout Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day!

These recipes give me something to look forward to for each holiday. Rituals can be extremely therapeutic because they are predictable. I think rituals give us a sense of peace because often times it is something we can control in our lives. 

This week has been a hard week emotionally due to some circumstances out of my control, so making this recipe was comforting for me in many ways. Combining the familiar ingredients, kneading the sticky dough, and savoring the warm, buttery bread all brought calmness to my tolling mood. 

In my research, I found that this recipe that I make every year is a very “American” twist on Irish Soda Bread, which I love. Even though I trace many of my ancestral roots back to Ireland, I truly am American in every respect. The American version tends to be more sweeter than the traditional soda bread. 

Irish soda bread was a recipe of traditionally poor people because all of the ingredients were quite simple; flour, salt, baking soda, and soured milk. This recipe is slightly different because it adds hints of tartness with orange zest and sweet raisins. I also add a dusting of sugar to create a delicate, sweet crust on top of the soda bread. 

Now there are several variations as to why an “X” is marked in the top of the bread. Some say that the X was to ward off the devil and protect the household. Some say it was just a method to easily split the bread into four pieces or that it represented a cross during Christian holidays that brought blessings from the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. My favorite theory though is the one that alludes that the X was meant to let the fairies escape from the bread. Whatever you believe (I think they all sounds promising), don’t forget to cut the X in your bread!

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Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home

INGREDIENTS
4 c. flour, plus extra for currants
4 T sugar, plus extra for finishing
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
4 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 3/4 c. cold buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 T. grated orange zest
1 1/2  c. raisins

GUIDANCE
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the raisins with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top of the dough. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with a slather of butter. 


This past summer when I began pondering my time, I asked myself a simple question: “What is something I want to accomplish that I haven’t already done?” This brought me to my goal of wanting to create a cookbook. Cooking has been a passion of mine since I was a little girl and creating a cookbook seemed like the ultimate culmination of this hobby. 

When I googled, “How to get a cookbook deal” all roads led me to creating a food blog. This seemed like the perfect avenue for me, the combination of photography and cooking. Two hobbies of mine that I had put on the back burner for many months. Two hobbies that I had pursued in college career endeavors and something I could do in my free time at home.

But this did not go without hesitation and doubt. First, who would want to read MY food blog, what would be my point of view, and was it even a feasible feat living in a small town in North Dakota? Would I be able to figure out all the website, photography, and tech jargon needed to create a beautiful blog?

Enter my inspiration, Molly Yeh of the food blog My Name is Yeh. My google searches led me to the Saveur Blog Awards where I perused several successful food blogs on the internet. Lo and behold would you guess that My Name is Yeh is one of the most successful food blogs and it stemmed from a small farmstead in North Dakota!

Molly’s blog is wonderful. It is full of picturesque photography and scrumptious, innovative recipes. See for yourself here. Her writing is charming and seeing her pictures of recipes that had taken cues from her North Dakota farm made me feel right at home. Her cookbook is one in the same a perfect gathering of unique recipes that tie to her roots, but also her experiences in New York and North Dakota (two loves of mine too). Her blog and cookbook were a true driving force in helping me find the courage to start my own blog. 

A few months ago I was thrilled to learn that I had won one of Molly’s pre-order giveaways for her cookbook Molly on the Range (which you can purchase here.) A small canister of rainbow sprinkles arrived in my PO Box a few weeks later, but not only pretty rainbow sprinkles they were also mixed with spices, sesame seeds, and salt. 

I thought for weeks what would be the best recipe to pay tribute to these special sprinkles and I came up with Baked Funfetti Donuts. Molly is known for her classic funfetti cake that graces the cover of her cookbook. I thought this rendition would be fun to take a twist on this colorful cake and pack it all into one little donut. Funfetti was also the perfect ingredient because it also depicts her very witty, creative food blog to a T! 

These donuts have wonderful flavor and the sprinkles make the donuts pop even more! So thank you Molly Yeh for inspiring me to start my blog (and thanks for the sprinkles!) I hope that someday our paths cross in the small town ways of North Dakota that we both know and love.

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Baked Funfetti Donuts

INGREDIENTS
Donut
1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/3 c. sugar
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. greek yogurt
1 egg
2 T. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 t. imitation vanilla extract
1/2 c. rainbow sprinkles

Icing
3 T. heavy cream
1 c. powdered sugar
1/4 t. vanilla
sprinkles

GUIDANCE
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a donut pan with non-stick spray. I purchased mine from here. To make the donuts, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and sugar together in a bowl. Set aside. Whisk the milk, yogurt and egg together until smooth. Add in the melted butter and vanilla, whisking until fully combined. Slowly combine the dry ingredients in with the wet ingredients. Do not over mix. Fold in the sprinkles gently, making sure you don’t mix too much or they will bleed. Spoon or pipe the batter into donut pans, filling 2/3 full. Bake for 9-10 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Cool before glazing. 

To prepare glaze, heat powdered sugar and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until smooth. Add in vanilla and mix for 2-3 minutes until warm. Immediately dip cooled donuts into warmed glaze and sprinkle with sprinkles!

Enjoy!


Ok get out your box of Kleenex…….

Two years ago my husband and I were driving to Grand Forks, North Dakota for a Fighting Sioux  University of North Dakota hockey game. I was almost 6 months pregnant at the time and looking forward to an exhilarating Valentine’s Day weekend with friends. I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed on the long, weary drive across the state of North Dakota, when I suddenly burst into tears. These weren’t tears of sadness, but more so tears from a place of love and happiness. 

There on my Facebook newsfeed was a photo of my grandparents, Catherine & Odie West. They were being honored for Valentine’s Day as the King and Queen of the Valentine’s Day Party at the nursing home where they resided. Now the tears didn’t come from just that distinct honor, but from my Grandpa’s response when asked what he was going to get my Grandma for Valentine’s Day.

His response:

“Oh I will just go up on the ranch and pick her some wild flowers” as he had always done for his sweetheart for the past 66 years it read. At this point my Grandpa’s Parkinson’s had taken most of his mobility leaving this task, be it an impossible one. I know he would have done just that if he could of at the time. 

My grandparents were a true love story, 66 years in the making at the time.  They raised 5 children and built a beautiful ranch and farm north of Pierre, South Dakota. My Grandma once wrote, “Ours is a life story of two people who together with determination, hard work and play filled their lives with love and memories.” And they did just that, they built a wonderful life that was overflowing with love and memories. 

This year will be my Grandma’s first Valentine’s Day without her sweetheart by her side. My Grandpa Odie passed away this fall. They were married for almost 68 years.

One of my favorite memories with my Grandma when I was little were the small pieces of fudge that my Grandma would wrap up and place underneath a small Christmas tree. One year, when we still lived in New York, she gave me a few small presents from under the tree and told me that I couldn’t open them until I got on the airplane. I loved waiting to open the delicate wrapped fudge pieces and enjoying them on my trip home. 

This year I will be remembering what my Grandpa said. Make sure to show those around you how much you care, even if it’s a simple bouquet of wild flowers, a small surprise of fudge, or even a phone call, it’s the thought that counts.

Here is a simple recipe for homemade fudge for you to enjoy with those that you love this year on Valentine’s Day. Cherish those that you love this year on Valentine’s Day. If it’s not a sweetheart, maybe it’s a good friend, or a family member that you love dearly. Love is a powerful bond.

To read more about my Grandpa Odie’s amazing life, check out this article here

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Homemade Fudge with Walnuts

INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. salt
4 T. unsalted butter
1 5 oz. can evaporated milk
1 jar of marshmallow fluff
1 t. vanilla
1 12 oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

GUIDANCE
Grease a 9 inch square baking pan, set aside. In a large saucepan combine sugar, salt, butter, evaporated milk, and marshmallow fluff. Stir over low heat until blended. Increase heat to medium and bring to a full following boil. Boil slowly, stirring for 5 minutes until fudge reaches soft ball test consistency (234-241 degrees on a candy thermometer). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and chocolate chips until melted. Add nuts. Pour into greased pan and cool. Cut and enjoy!

 


Typically my Monday and Friday mornings consist of 20 minutes of playground duty. Most of these mornings lately are blustery, cold mornings noted with me standing in one spot jumping around to stay warm and counting down the minutes until the bell rings. Or most recently trying to manage the sledding penguins students as they play on the glaciers on the playground. 

But every morning I find it so interesting that our students play football every day; wind, rain, snow, sleet, and sun. They even find a way to play when they can’t even see the goal lines because they are covered in snow mounds. The only time there is not a football game in play is when the game gets banned by school administration for previous problems or disputes on the playground. 

Now with this game, comes controversy, disagreements, but also a great sense of sportsmanship is created in every game played. Even though I think our teachers find that sportsmanship hard to see at times, it is there embedded in the snow covered goal lines on our playground. Sportsmanship encompasses fairness, ethics, and fellowship. Each morning our students organize themselves and play the game, most often refereeing the game themselves too. They foster respect for their younger peers and teach them the game as well. It has created a fellowship in our community, that in return has created state championship quality football programs. 

I actually overheard a students say today, “I hope our new student tomorrow is good at football.” 

With Superbowl LI right around the corner, I always hope that this same small town mentality of sportsmanship is demonstrated at the biggest event for football in America. As we all know last year there was much controversy with cheating in the NFL. It really saddened me, because I know how many of my young students look up to these career athletes and I think this type of play is the epitome of poor sportsmanship.

As parents and educators I think it is our job to help continue to foster those beliefs of playing fair, including others, and becoming a good winner and loser. It is these values that carry through to many other areas of our lives; school, friends, and family. Sportsmanship is a vital attribute to understand in order to be successful in life. How will you share good sportsmanship with your family?

So while we are watching with the rest of America this Sunday, remember sportsmanship and what it means. While you are doing that let’s enjoy some yummy food! I have to admit I am not a huge football fan myself, but I do love the array of Super Bowl recipes that popup this time of year. This year during the Superbowl I am striving to create recipes that aren’t too filling, but also one that would satisfy the typical football food feast. 

Behold cucumber salsa! This salsa is amazing. It is refreshing, light and perfect for your game day spread this year. I actually like this salsa the next day because after it sits in the refrigerator for a day or so the flavors really mesh together nicely. Cheers to a fair, honest game of football for Superbowl LI! 

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Cucumber Salsa

INGREDIENTS
2 cups finely chopped seeded, peeled cucumber
1/2 c. finely chopped seeded tomato
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
2 T. minced parsley
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, chopped (Leave seeds in if you like it HOT!)
5 t. minced cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 c. reduced fat sour cream
1 1/2 t. lemon juice
1 1/2 t. lime juice
1/4 t. cumin
1/4 t. salt
Tortilla chips

GUIDANCE
Combine cucumber, tomato, red onion, parsley, pepper, garlic, cilantro in a small bowl. In another bowl whisk sour cream, lemon juice, lime, juice, cumin and salt. Pour liquid mixture over cucumber mixture. Serve with tortilla chips. 

 



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!