Tag Archives: Food

Melons to Medora

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota

Husband and I recently volunteered to provide Friday supper and Saturday breakfast and lunch at a retreat for approximately thirty people affiliated with Western ND Synod of the ELCA. The attendees were candidacy committee members and spouses, candidates for rostered ministry, seminary faculty, and the western ND bishop and synod staff. The retreat took place at the Badlands Ministries Bible Camp near Medora in the ND Badlands.

The camp is about 10 miles south of Medora in a new location near the Bully Pulpit Golf Course. Medora has no grocery store, so we hauled in everything we needed for the weekend meals. We had never seen the kitchen at the new retreat center, so we also hauled in all the pots, pans, and cooking equipment we might possibly need. It proved unnecessary, as the kitchen was marvelously equipped, but we were prepared for anything.

We started planning the menu weeks before the event, choosing quantity recipes that could be prepared ahead of time and frozen. This was our penultimate menu:


  • Charcoal grilled hamburgers from grass-fed SD Lutheran Herefords, with all the trimmings
  • Potato salad (Mrs. Untiedts’ recipe from the Grace Lutheran Cookbook from Luverne)
  • Coleslaw (Mrs. Iveland’s recipe from the Grace Lutheran Cookbook)
  • Watermelon
  • Breakfast
  • 3 kinds of egg bakes from Duluth’s own Beatrice Ojakangas’ casserole cookbook
  • Cantaloupe and honeydew melon
  • Toast
  • Homemade jelly
  • Juices
  • Coffee


  • Smoked brisket
  • Butter chicken
  • Curried mixed vegetables
  • Rice
  • Naan
  • 2 peach crisps
  • Pecan bars

We also had a variety of chips, dips, raw veggies, fruit, quick breads, sodas, water, and unlimited coffee for people to have between meals. (And butter. Lots and lots of butter. And ice. 60 pounds of ice to keep the sodas and water cold in a large cooler.)


I had a strict food prep schedule for the weeks before the retreat, with multiple lists for what we needed to do. We were well on schedule, not even daunted by our dishwasher breaking and being unusable for the two weeks prior to the retreat.

The week before the retreat I got irrational, worrying that we didn’t have enough food for lunch on Saturday. This worry coincided with a monumental decision by husband about bratwurst. Husband is from Sheboygan, WI. He is a slow and deliberate thinker. After twenty eight years of ND bratwurst, he announced that he would now only eat bratwurst that were authentically local Sheboygan brats, like those from Miesfeld’s Market in Sheboygan. What is more, he decided that the only buns worthy of such brats were the hard rolls from the venerable City Bakery in Sheboygan. That led me to say,Why don’t we phone Miesfeld’s and order some brats for the retreat! You can grill them the night before!”

Fifteen pounds of Miesfeld’s Grand Champion brats were duly delivered by air freight, along with three dozen City Bakery hard rolls. Husband lovingly grilled the brats over charcoal, staying up until 2:30AM tending the fire. “I always thought I could grill brats in my sleep, and now I know I can!” Later that morning we loaded everything in our van and headed to the bible camp.

We really didn’t need quite so much food, as several people backed out of attending at the last minute, and the thirty people we catered for turned into eighteen very well fed souls. I am happy to say that all the dishes turned out the way we planned, and it was all good.

We loaded up the van with the leftovers on Saturday afternoon, giving away what we could, including seven melons that we couldn’t possibly finish ourselves. It is good we bought a new freezer. We call it the Lutheran freezer. It is full of Grand Champion bratwurst and hard rolls.

Husband is content.

Describe a memorable feast you provided, or consumed.


Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

As some of you may know I am a straw bale gardener. I got interested in straw bales after I had determined that I really wanted to grow tomatoes on my own every summer – after someone on the Trail recommended the expose Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook.

I’ve had varying results over the last few years but this summer the tomatoes are doing quite well and have taken over the corner of my yard that is dedicated to my bales. I’m harvesting enough that the occasional tomato that I’m losing to the squirrels is not driving me too crazy and I’m starting to think about ways to preserve them since they are coming off the vines faster than we can eat them.

Yesterday I pulled a whooper off the vine – I’m calling it Tomato-zilla. Unfortunately I don’t know what kind of tomato it is because I didn’t write down what kind of plants I planted and the little stakes have all gone missing.

But here are a couple of dishes we’ve made recently. These are Verily Sherrilee creations, not out of a cookbook, using what was on hand!

Tomato Corn Bean Salad

4 ears of corn from the farmer’s market, kernels cut from cobs

1 can of black beans, rinsed

20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half (we actually have Santa tomatoes in our garden, which are shaped like little tears)

Handful of basil, chopped (basil also from our garden)

About ½ tsp cumin

Salt / pepper

  • Mix all the items together.  You can add more cumin (or less) to taste.

Roasted Tomato Pasta

4 large leeks from farmer’s market, chopped

1 large clove of garlic, chopped or minced (depends on how you like it)

Handful of basil, chopped

3-4 T. olive oil

4-5 tomatoes, chopped

Olives, pitted & chopped (this is optional)

Cooked pasta of your choice (I used spaghetti)

Parmesan cheese (also optional)

  • Sauté the leeks, garlic and basil until the oil is absorbed.  Then add tomatoes and let them roast a bit.  Add cooked pasta and stir.  If you’re going w/ olives and parmesan, you can add them at this point or put them on the table and let folks add themselves to their own dish!

Do you have a favorite summer recipe?

The Family Vegetable

Today’s guest post comes from Jacque.  

Some families have distinguished, ancient crests with lots of regal history; other families have members who have accomplished great things which allows their relatives to bask in the glory of all that star-dust; and some families, like mine, have a very real and symbolic vegetable. It is a vegetable worthy of a family crest.

My maternal grandparents, bearing the last name of Hess, lived on a farm near Pipestone, MN where they raised eight children during the Great Depression. Grandma and Grandpa grew most of their own food to feed their large family. The vegetable garden was immense, even after the children left to start their own families and gardens. Each spring they planted a row of carrots and a row of kohlrabi for each of the eight children. The child was to seed the row, thin the seedlings, weed it, then harvest it, meaning he or she could eat the carrots and kohlrabi any time he or she wanted.

These eight children produced 39 grandchildren (I am number 20), Grandma and Grandpa continued the tradition of planting many rows of carrots and kohlrabi for the grandchildren. The grandchildren trained each other to love this veggie. During a summer visit to the farm when I was about 8 years old, my cousin Jean Marie,*** who was age 7 and who lived right there on the home farm, taught me about the joys of kohlrabi. She led me to the kitchen to swipe one of Grandma’s many salt shakers, then we sneaked out to the garden.

“Don’t let Grandma see us,” Jean Marie instructed as she yanked 2 kohlrabi out of the dirt, stripped the leaves from it and broke off the root. “Grandma will be mad if we leave the salt shaker out here. And we are NOT supposed to eat these!”

I took this seriously.  I did not want to be in trouble with Grandma.

Then Jean Marie headed for the row of peonies which were large enough to hide both of us. There she demonstrated how to peel the thing with her teeth, salt it, and eat it like an apple. It was a delicious secret treat, crisp, delicate and salty. I wanted another. I crawled behind the peonies to the nearest kohlrabi row where I imitated Jean Marie’s techniques of pulling, leaf-stripping and peeling.

Years later I told Grandma about this. She knew. Of course she knew. She knew all of us did this. That was why she planted them—to get us to eat vegetables. She knew they were sweeter if we thought they were stolen.Family Crest 1

When family reunions roll around, a cousin or two arrive with a bowl of home grown kohlrabi harvested the morning of the reunion, a half dozen paring knives for peeling, and salt shakers.   We snack on sliced, salted kohlrabi all day.

If I was to create a family crest it would include the family slogan, “One Mell of a Hess” and include a regal kohlrabi. Like so.

***Names have been changed to protect the family members who have not agreed to have their names included!

What would you include on your family crest?

Five Seconds Grace

Students at Aston University in Birmingham, England have conducted an experiment and claim to posess data that lends credence to the famous 5-Second Rule for dropped food.

They fumbled toast, pasta, biscuits and sticky sweets, and then left the morsels on different types of flooring for up to 30 seconds.

These calculating slobs of science found that time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a munchie. Remarkably, the experiment found that food dropped on carpet picked up fewer contaminants than food dropped on flooring that is less plush.

Additional findings: that wet food drew more invisible unsavories than dry food, and women were more likely to pick up and eat dropped food than were men. That last one runs against the stereotype that women are less disgusting in every respect. I can only reconcile it by assuming that, rather than pick up dropped food, men are more likely to grind tidbits into the carpet with their feet before plunging their hands deeper into the chip bowl.

Although its findings are contradicted by study after study after study, this unpublished and non-peer reviewed research is good enough for me, because now I can begin to imagine living in a more forgiving world where mistakes can be undone with no penalty as long as you realize it right away.

I’m not saying I do a lot of dumb things, but most of the time while committing my major screw-up-of-the-day I pretty much know it immediately – often while in the act.

Although putting it that way might have been an error.

Never mind. Undo!

What if there was a Universal Five Second Rule (UFSR) that allowed you to instantly take back anything at all if it seemed wrong within five seconds of commission – a contract signature, an unkind word, an errant throw, a dropped match, a Facebook post or an e-mail?

The irreversibility of ill-considered choices is what makes it worthwhile to think before acting. In a world governed by the UFSR, some people would abandon discipline and take back virtually everything. And then there would be an expansionist lobby – if five seconds works, why can’t we make it fifty seconds? Or five minutes?

“A slippery slope,” as they say. Which, if you stepped onto one, is exactly the sort of thing you would want to revoke before the consequences hit.

What is the proper length for a grace period?

Tiramisu & You

Today’s guest post comes from Sherrilee

I’m lucky enough to have a job with a very nice perk – travel. I’ve been to some fabulous places: Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa, Paris, the Caribbean, Mexico. The dark side of this perk is that I never get to choose to where I’m traveling; I go where the client program sends me. This means that every now and then I end up traveling to a place that I’ve always wanted to visit but never been assigned to. So when a client chose Rome for their group destination, I was ecstatic.


The site was exhaustive; we were on the go from morning until night. All the usual sites were visited, the Forum, the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica…. everywhere! If I had a bucket list, I would have been able to cross out two of the items on the day we went to Florence: Michelangelo’s David and the Uffizi Gallery.

But an outstanding time was the day we spent at Santa Benedetta winery, southeast of Rome. It was just four of us that day but the owners were as gracious as if we had been a group of 50. We walked the vineyard, tasted wine, learned about the wine-making process and then proceeded to lunch. Even with our group’s small size, they rolled out the red carpet, food wise. There were about 30 different vegetable dishes on the buffet tables (asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) as well as bruschetta and various cheeses. This was just the appetizer part of the meal. Homemade pasta with pesto and fresh parmesan cheese was the main course. It was mouth-wateringly good – it was amazing.

And then there was the dessert.

Now I’ve had tiramisu many times in my life. Alcohol soaked lady finger cookies, with mascarpone cheese, whipping cream and sometimes chocolate – how can you go wrong? When this tiramisu came out of the kitchen it didn’t even look like tiramisu. It looked a little like cinnamon-sprinkled glop on the plate – not the neat layers that I’m used to seeing. But after experiencing the other phenomenal food, there was no way I wasn’t going to at least try it. Oh my. My oh my. It was like eating good art – sweet, creamy, rich – all at the same time. It was so amazing that I don’t even have enough words to describe how amazing it was. I asked to meet the chef; she was a teeny little Italian woman with no English but a huge smile. I had my guide tell her that I would never be able to eat anyone else’s tiramisu ever again.

Of course, I have had tiramisu since that trip – when it’s been offered, I usually try it. But I was right when I was sitting at the table off the vineyard; I’m sure I’ll never have tiramisu that good again!

Describe an unforgettable meal.

Pizza People

homemade pizza

Today’s guest post comes from Jim in Clark’s Grove

It’s hard to imagine a modern American childhood that does not include a steady diet of pizza, but once upon a time, pizza was an exotic food in the United States.

I don’t remember going out to eat pizza with my parents. I became familiar with the food in the sixties as Pizza Hut and other pizza parlors spread across the country. Some time in the late sixties we discovered a recipe for pizza in our old reliable Fannie Farmer cookbook and made our first attempts at making our own pizzas at home.

With the increased interest in cooking in recent years, I am sure there are many people who produce excellent pizza in their own kitchens. When we started we didn’t know other people who cooked pizza at home -it was an unusual thing to do. We weren’t sure that we would be able to make a top quality product, but we have kept at it and it is now a family specialty and a Christmas Eve tradition.

Although there have been modifications, we are still using the same basic plan from the Fannie Farmer cookbook. I can tell you the recipe from memory. The ingredients for the crust are:

  • a cup of water
  • a package of yeast
  • one teaspoon each of salt and sugar
  • a tablespoon of cooking oil
  • up to 3 cups of flour

Mix the ingredients, knead the dough, and let it rise, spread it on the pan, and let it rise again. Then all you need to do is add the toppings and bake it.

Over the years I learned that it is best to add the minimum amount of flour required to get dough that can be kneaded. Too much flour gives stiff dough that is hard to work with and makes a crust that resembles cardboard which is what we produced when we started. The cardboard like crusts are edible, but not as good as they should be.

Our daughter learned about another technique – precooking the crust before adding the toppings.

Put the spread out dough in the oven until it is very slightly brown, then take it out and add the toppings before putting it back in to finish cooking.

The basic toppings, of course, are pizza sauce, and cheese with other optional additions known to all pizza lovers. When it comes to toppings, we found that a thin layer is better than a thick layer. You get a soggy pizza when you overdo it. Finish with fresh grated good quality mozzarella over everything.


What have you perfected over the years?

Scandinavian Saudade

Today’s guest blog comes from Bill in Minneapolis.

I was standing in line yesterday at Ingebretsen’s, the 90-year-old Scandinavian market on Lake Street, as I have for at least 40 Christmas seasons. There were about 35 people in front of me in line and at least as many behind. Now, I hate standing in line. There is almost nothing I want badly enough to warrant standing in a long line. But, as I waited, I suddenly realized I was enjoying myself– enjoying the understated camaraderie and the people watching. I was having such a good time that, when my number was almost up, I considered trading with someone else further down the line.

I’ve thought about why I might have reacted so uncharacteristically, for me, and I think it’s because Ingebretsen’s at Christmas is one of the last outposts of a kind of Christmas I remember from my very early childhood and a kind of Christmas that has mostly vanished. I may be projecting here, but I suspect a lot of the others standing in line were feeling the same way. None of the other customers were under 50. We all came, presumably, from families where lutefisk, Swedish meatballs, Swedish sausage, pickled herring, sylte, and the like were de rigueur at the holidays and we find ourselves struggling to hold on to customs that have mostly fallen away. I noticed that, as I waited my turn, almost no one was buying lutefisk. Even 30 years ago, everyone there would have been buying at least a little.

Lutefisk is hardcore. When I was young, Christmas Eve dinner always included lutefisk and Swedish meatballs as well. There always seemed to be anxiety surrounding the preparation of the lutefisk– whether it would be overcooked or “just right”. The distinction always seemed moot to me.

My dad was born in Robbinsdale and spent his whole life there. My father’s parents lived about 2 blocks away from where I grew up. His only brother was unmarried at the time and lived with them. My grandfather was born in Sweden and my grandmother was half Swedish and half Norwegian. All their friends were either Swedish or Norwegian. When I was very young, the universe was Scandinavian.

I remember that any social gathering with my grandparents also included a number of close friends and assorted unattached bachelors and maiden aunts, all of whom had last names that ended with -son or –sen. I think of those early social gatherings whenever I hear this:

I was the only child in our immediate family group. That meant that Christmas in our family was essentially adult centered. That, in turn, meant that it was primarily focused on the dinner, or on the run-up to the dinner. No presents were ever opened until the dinner was done and the plates cleared. It was excruciating to be the only kid. I had lots of time and opportunity to observe.

Most of the Christmas traditions I remember have fallen away. The lutefisk is gone for certain. My kids, who are adults themselves, know next to nothing about Christmas as I remember it. It has been assimilated into the general commercial culture. The tang and comfort of reenacting the rituals of a distinct tribe are largely vanished. I came along at the end of that chain of tradition and when I’m gone, it will be gone from our family completely.

Once again, I may be projecting my own sentiments, but that’s the undercurrent I felt as I stood waiting my turn at Ingebretsen’s. Beneath the festivity, beneath the joy at finding common ground, a kind of wistfulness that the Portuguese call saudade.

What tribal rituals will you be among the last to observe?