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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. 


Cinnamon Sugar Vanilla Almonds

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

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?


Alaskan Halibut with Lemon Dill Sauce

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

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!


Knoephla Soup

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

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!