Category Archives: Food

The Perfect Meal

Husband came home the other night and declared that he was going make a cold German supper for himself. He knew that we had everything he needed for it, down to St. Pauli Girl beer. You can see all the things that went into his supper in the header photo. He proceeded to make potato salad, and had it with the liverwurst, butterkase, corned beef, pickled asparagus, and caraway bread. The Baby Bel cheese isn’t German, but that somehow didn’t matter for him. He had been planning this meal for several days, and spent the weekend acquiring the things he wanted.

Husband is extremely fussy when he prepares and plans our meals, and when he gets an idea about a menu, he is very particular that he has just the right (in his opinion) things that should be included and that should go together. I don’t know where he gets some of his ideas of what should go together. Grocery shopping is a challenge sometimes, as he gets visibly distressed when he can’t find just the right things he has envisioned. Mental flexibility isn’t one of his strengths in these circumstances. At least he is able to laugh at himself and suggested that I write this post about him.

I just want my food to taste good, and if we don’t have exactly the right kind of olive, pickle, beer, or cheese, it really doesn’t matter that much to me. Whenever Husband gets broody and quiet, I know that he is thinking about food and planning some meal or other. Sometimes Grape Nuts is just the perfect supper for me. Heck, I don’t even care what wine I pair with it!

Describe a perfect meal that you have had. What would you include in the menu for a perfect meal you would like to prepare? How fussy are you about these things?

Party Time

Last week was full of more social gatherings for us than we have had in more than a year. At an outdoor ceremony at a city park, Husband and other officers for the local food pantry accepted a cheque from the city for a new security system. Husband got to rub elbows with city officials, Rotarians, former university presidents, and other local worthies. He then did some church visiting to a shut-in couple we haven’t seen for months. It culminated in a wonderful party on Saturday night in Mandan at a city park about 10 miles outside of town at a man-made reservoir.

Dear friends of ours, the ones who gave us the Arikara bean seeds, celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary. They are a couple older than we are, in their early 70’s. He is Native American. She is white. They are both addiction counselors. They renewed their wedding vows with the help of family, friends, former colleagues, and an Indian Elvis Impersonator from Oklahoma. The party was held in a large, open air picnic shelter.

There was plenty of food provided by the couple and kept hot in huge electric roasters. Guests brought food, too. It was a real pot luck feast. There were about 50 people in attendance. The trick was keeping one’s self hydrated and the perishables cool, since the temperature, at 5:00 PM, was 103. I feared for Elvis in his white jump suit. He sang and danced and gyrated despite the heat.

Elvis was fascinating. He is a member of the Choctaw nation and also is an actor and traditional dancer. Our friend found him by searching YouTube videos under the name NDN Elvis. He sang to a prerecorded accompaniment so he didn’t need a live back up band. He also conducted the renewal ceremony. A former tribal councilman read selections from the Bible. There were flower bouquets, sage bundles, and sweet grass braids. Family had made a photo display of the couple’s years together.

The only thing that didn’t work out was the Indian flute player, Keith Bear. He is a rather well known Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation musician. You can find him on You Tube, too. He had to travel unexpectedly to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota to help with the passing of a notable spiritual leader who was present at Wounded Knee. There always seems to be at least one thing that doesn’t go as planned at a big party.

Tell some wedding or anniversary party stories. What worked? What didn’t? What would you want an Elvis Impersonator to sing at your party?

Songs to plant beans by

If any Baboons chance to drive past my house today, they might see a strange sight. They might see me and hear me singing in the garden.

Last winter we got some Arikara bean seeds from a friend of ours from the Reservation. They are a bush bean that produces brown shellout beans. Our friend got them from a tribal elder some time ago. He is a pretty marginal gardener and he gave us the beans to grow in our garden. He is very excited for us to grow them, but he said there were a few things I had to do in order to plant them successfully.

First, I have to wear an apron and a scarf while I plant them. He told me his grandmother wore that when she planted and she was a good gardener. Second, I have to sing to the beans when I plant them. He wasn’t sure of the tune, since his grandmother whistled a barely discernible tune through her teeth while she planted. Oh, and I should make up some words to go with the song. He said not to worry if our Hidatsa pole beans felt jealous. They would be just fine.

My friend’s bean planting instructions are just like the directions he gives to find places on the Reservation-without GPS or a map you would never find your way.

I asked another Native friend what she would sing to the beans, and she said it was important that I compliment them. She is from the Cheyenne River Reservation and is Lakota. (In the same conversation I asked her the address of her new house. She said she wasn’t sure, but I could find it if I went down that one alley, the one with the 15 cats, and then turned left.) I mentioned her lyric suggestion to my bean bestowing friend, and he totally disagreed (Arikara and Lakota rarely agree), saying I had to plead with the beans when I planted them, telling them how much our survival depends on them.

I chose the tune to the Glow-Worm song, and came up with these lyrics:

Grow pretty beans, please heed us, heed us.

We need you so to feed us, feed us.

You’ll make us strong, please don’t take long, so grow pretty  beans, please grow

Part of me thinks that my Native friends are pulling my leg, but hey, if it helps the garden, why not?

Make up some bean growing lyrics. Choose whatever tune you wish. How are you at giving directions?

Just Here for the Food?

I’ve heard a lot of people say “I don’t go to the fair for the food.”   I’ve said it myself and I’ve always wondered if people believed me, if I believed myself.  Yesterday I found out.

When the State Fair announced they would have a mini-fair open for Memorial Day weekend, I was online in a flash.  You had to enter a lottery to be able to get a time slot during which you could buy tickets.  Luckily I did OK and we got out first choice.  There were two time periods each day, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then 4-9 p.m.  You could arrive any time during your time slot but you had to leave at the end. 

It was more crowded than I had anticipated although nothing compared to a regular fair day in August.  There were folks with masks but mostly not; it was easy enough to do social distancing if you needed to, except in the cookie line.  The open part of the fair was about four square blocks and included the giant slide, the DNR stage, the grandstand (although just a seating area and a bingo area).  A handful of vendors, a few musical groups and food.  LOTS and LOTS of food. 

If I had been on my own, I would have stopped and listened to music as I walked around but YA’s musical sensibilities don’t line up with mine.  So we walked around for a couple of hours, bought a couple of t-shirts.  We got some Greek food and some cheese curds.  YA got some toffee peanuts.  We sat for a bit and decided that we’d had probably enjoyed it as much as we were going to – we headed home.

There were a lot of people who were clearly going to hang out the whole of their time slot and the lines in a few place were unbelievable (Pronto Pup had two lines going in opposite directions, at least a block long each way).  But even sharing, neither YA nor I can simply plow our way through massive amounts of food.

So I guess it IS true for me.  I don’t go to the fair for the food.

You doing anything out of the ordinary for Memorial Day?

Yawning Portal Biscuits

You all know that my choice of reading matter can sometimes be a little… eclectic.  But I bet most of you would still be surprised to see Heroes’ Feast Dungeon & Dragons Cookbook sitting my kitchen.  I know I am.  I don’t even remember when I first saw this title, but clearly on a whim I added it to my waitlist at the library.  It’s a new title, so it sat with “On Order” status for about five months and then suddenly with no warning last week, it was waiting for me!

It’s unbelievably well-done.  High quality construction, beautiful photos and very well written.  For those of us who know NOTHING about D&D, it has nice introductions to each section (Human Food, Elven Food, Halfling Food, etc.) that describe the different kinds of beings and their foodie bent. 

The food itself has fun D&D names; the fare itself is nothing extremely exotic, so the names are really key to making this cookbook a lot of fun. 

I was having a friend stop by on Saturday morning and had my regular biscuit cookbook sitting out.  The night before I was flipping through Heroes’ Feast and I came across the Yawning Portal Buttermilk Biscuit recipe.  If you are a D&D fan, then you know that The Yawning Portal is a very popular tavern located on Rainrun Street in Castle Ward, one of the wards in the city of Waterkeep.  If you aren’t a D&D fan, now you know.

I’m not going to put the recipe here – it’s a fairly straight forward biscuit recipe.  The one difference is that instead of cutting individual biscuits, you pat all the dough into a pan, score it and then bake it.  I also brushed melted butter on the top as it suggested.  If I do say so myself, when I pulled them from the oven, they looked just like the photo in the cookbook. And they were excellent with homemade jam.

If I were a D&D player, I would HAVE to have this cookbook.  As a non D&D’er, I’ll appreciate it for a couple more weeks and then back to the library it will go.  But I will copy out just a couple of recipes so that I have them on hand whenever I want to make something with a really fun name!

Do you have any “exotic”/theme cookbooks?  Or exotic recipes?

The best laid plans

Husband and I are planning a trip to Tacoma in early July to see our daughter. As is typical of our family, the topic quickly turned to food after we determined the dates of our trip.

One of our daughter’s favorite things to eat is a pasta sauce I make with our home grown tomatoes. I can’t take credit for the recipe. It is Marcella Hazan’s Tomato Sauce III. I make it with a tomato puree that I can from our garden San Marzano tomatoes. It is simplicity and richness combined.

2 lbs. fresh ripe plum tomatoes

1 stick butter

1 medium onion, peeled and halved

1/4 t. sugar

Wash and cook tomatoes in saucepan until they are tender. Puree them through a food mill back into the saucepan. add the butter, onions, 1.5 t salt, and cook at slow simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Discard the onion, and serve

In the late summer, I make jars of puree, the first step in this recipe, and can it. Daughter asked if I could bring a jar of puree with me in July so that I could make the sauce when we visit. I said of course I could, and I started to plan how I could wrap a quart jar of puree securely and transport it safely in a suitcase for our flight to Washington. Husband protested, however, and said that it was too risky and we could have tomato puree all over the place if the jar broke, there were perfectly fine tomatoes in Tacoma, and that since daughter had a food mill (a necessary piece of equipment for this sauce) I should just make it when we got out there.

I suppose that he is right, but the tomatoes last summer were extraordinary, and the puree is just terrific, and I have more puree than I need. I just hate it when common sense interrupts my schemes!

When have people interfered with your good ideas? What is your favorite tomato sauce?

Anticipation

A good friend of mine said once I should put “In a relationship” as my Facebook status.  When I was surprised and asked with whom I was having this relationship, she said “your library account”.  Ha ha.  But, of course, she’s right.  I know my library card number by heart and I probably check my account three or four times a week.  To keep myself from having way too many books checked out at once, I have half of my Hold list on pause so that needs curating as well.  And it’s also fun to watch those popular books with long waitlists as they creep slowly towards being available.

In the fall of 2019, someone at a party mentioned a new cookbook written by Dan Buettner called The Blue Zones Kitchen.  I’ve read three of his other books, 2 of them about the Blue Zones (particularly happy/healthy places in the world) so I went to my library account and requested the cookbook.  There were about 580 people in line ahead of me and not a huge number of copies; I figured it would take a few months to get, but I wasn’t in a hurry.

Then pandemic descended upon us.  The first thing was that the libraries all closed down.  Then during the summer they started lending again, but you couldn’t actually go in the library.  Now you can go into the building but you can’t hang out.  You’re supposed to “grab `n go”.  Hand in hand with all these changes is that due dates for books just keep pushing back and back.  Except for downloadable audiobooks, nothing ever seems to come due anymore. 

So as the months went by, I saw The Blue Zones Kitchen languishing on my Holds list, barely moving.  In the fall of 2020, about a year after I put it on my Hold list, the library purchased a few more copies, so I was a bit more hopeful.  On this past Monday, after 18 months, I got an email that the library was holding a copy for me. 

My patience paid off – it’s actually a very nice cookbook and I think I may actually purchase a copy for myself.  In the meantime, I’m going to make this recipe:

Melia Family Minestrone

7 Tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow or white onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 medium celery stalks, chopped

2 tsp. minced garlic

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled & diced

1 ½ c. chopped fennel bulbs, stalks & fronds

1/4 c. chopped parsley

2 Tbsp. chopped basil

½ c. dried & peeled fava beans (or 15-oz can)

½ c. dried cranberry beans (or 15-oz can)

½ c. dried chickpeas (or 15-oz can)

      (If using dried beans, soak overnight)

6-8 c. water or vegetable stock

2/3 c. Sardinian fregula, Israeli couscous or acini di pepe pasta

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

  1. Warm 3 Tbsp. olive oil in large soup pot or Dutch oven.
  2. Add the onion, carrots, celery and cook until soft.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant
  3. Stir in tomatoes, potatoes, fennel, parsley and basil, drained beans and chickpeas.  Add enough water/stock so that all the veggies are covered.
  4. Bring to boil and then simmer slowly, uncovered, until beans are tender, about 1 ½ hours.  If using canned beans, simmer for only 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in pasta, salt and pepper.  Add up to 2 cups of water/stock if the soup seems too dry.  Simmer for 10 more minutes until pasta is tender.
  6. Pour 1 Tbsp. olive oil into bowl before serving.

Have you ever waited a long time for something?  Was it worth it?

The Little Guys

This Saturday, April 24, is Independent Bookstore Day – which I’ve written about here before – five years ago now (!) https://trailbaboon.com/2016/04/27/indie-bookstore-day/ .

We have a little bookstore here in Winona called Paperbacks and Pieces. It’s mostly a paperback exchange except for one corner of new books, and a shelf of popular new titles that you can rent. They will do special orders for individuals and book clubs. Pre-pandemic, they hosted author signings (including our Chris from Owatanna!), local speakers, and occasional local group meetings. Spring and Fall would bring a huge Sidewalk Sale – actually in the side street which was closed off for the occasion.  They’ve been everything I want in a local, independent shop. P & P recently changed owners, but I have no doubt they’ll continue in this same vein.  The other local bookstore (not counting Target & Walmart) is downtown, Chapter 2 Books – used and vintage books, CDs, DVDs – which I also try to support; different vibe, and they have a wonderful cat.

The Big Box retailers did awfully well in the past year, according to this August 2020 article from the New York Times .  As we come out of isolation, I know some of our favorite places – restaurants, coffee shops, small independent businesses like hardware stores – have already gone under. A lot of the remaining ones are struggling to survive, hungry for customers as we start to open up again. I occasionally notice on Facebook posting for one of these places, and share them when I can – like this one for Swede Hollow Café in St. Paul, where I loved to go when I lived in the Cities.

Do you have any favorite small businesses in your vicinity that you will support, as we “open up” from isolation?

Have any of your favorites disappeared with the pandemic (or before)?

Food Pantry

I wrote this post with the help of Husband, who is devoted volunteer at our local food pantry. He works mainly on Thursday afternoons selecting meat for various sizes of families. He tries to “mix it up” so people get a nice variety of the frozen ground and whole pieces of meat. He also goes once a month to help unload the big truck with the large quantities of food that comes from a regional food distribution site in Fargo.

He mentioned the other day that they received a large shipment of of smoked turkey necks. He also stated they currently have vast quantities of smoked Chinese oysters, various dried beans, frozen pork knuckles, hocks, and necks, overgrown winter squashes, Mac and Cheese, eggs (including blue eggs), hot Jimmie Dean sausage, frozen haddock and pollock, Chinese noodles, canned tomato sauce, canned vegetables, soup, canned fruit, half and half, cereals, snacks, dried lentils and garbanzos, Lil’ Smokies, pancakes mix, Mexican and Chinese condiments, surplus diet soda, etc.

The volunteers load up the carts. Patrons can’t order what they want. This made me wonder what a person who has very few resources would do with a can of Chinese oysters , frozen pork necks, and a pound of dried garbanzo beans. Husband got the go ahead from the Pantry Board to talk to our local County Extension Home Economist about nutrition information for patrons. I also asked him if the needy folks even know how to cook dried beans or even have the right cookware to prepare a meal from scratch. He and another volunteer are going to come up with tasty recipes using the Food Pantry provisions to help make this food go farther and be palatable.

What would you do with smoked turkey necks and canned Chinese oysters ? What are the essential cooking pots that are necessary for basic cooking? What are the basic recipes that people should know to prepare?

Farming Day 1 Part 1

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Well not exactly day one. But the first day in the field doing spring work so it’s day one from that point of view. 

Spent the morning doing my usual stuff on the computer: emails, newspaper, moms banking, our banking. A few phone calls, etc. before I’m finally out the door mid-morning. 

I needed to take a couple of tires to get fixed and the one on the grain drill I already had loose. Also had a tire on the four wheeler with a slow leak and that’s easy to put a floor jack under the back end and use the impact wrench and four nuts and that comes right off.

Got both tires in the back of the truck, loaded up all three dogs, and headed for Millville Minnesota. We’ve been taking tires to Appel service in Millville for as long as I can remember. It’s about half an hour away and you won’t find a nicer, family owned business, anywhere. Millville is a town of about 180 people and so far down in the valley you can’t get any cell phone reception. There are a couple of bars, couple of restaurants, one Church, a cemetery where I have several relatives, a gun shop, and in a better year I would’ve dropped off the tires and then gone to get lunch at the Lucky Seven Café. 

When I got to Appels, most of the crew was at lunch so I said I’d come back. They are really good at fixing your tires while you wait but I may as well keep moving. Back up the road a few miles to pick up my Oat seed. It was such a nice day, pretty amazing weather for this time of the year, and we worry that it’s so dry; all the farmers are going hard. mostly applying anhydrous ammonia- Those white tanks you see in the fields. I probably saw a dozen farmers doing that. There was a couple guys ahead of me at Meyer’s Seeds and we stood outside and talked while Meyer’s rounded up seed and bring it out on the forklift. I petted some cats (The camera snap on the phone scared them away) and I got a nice metal ‘stick’ used for checking seed depth. Always wanted one of those.


After I got my 54 bags of oats, I strapped that down in the truck, and then back to Millville. As I pulled up, they were just taking the four-wheeler tire in and the drill tire was done. There’s something pretty interesting about watching a guy change tires. The machinery involved and just the whole process is really pretty fascinating. The guy ahead of me was watching his tires get fixed, I watched them fix my tire, while at the same time trying not to get in the way or look TOO interested. (It’s kinda loud and hard to talk or ask questions).

Just a tube needed in the four-wheeler tire. The grain drill tire is kind of special. It’s about 3 feet tall, and completely smooth except it has two heavy ridges on each edge. That way, going through the field, it makes a real clear mark that’s easy to follow on the next round of the field. I had ordered two tires: they had one in stock, the second hasn’t shown up yet. And that’s OK, this one was worse than the other. $262 for the tire. $13 labor to mount both. The only thing missing was the bottle of grape pop from the café. 

The dogs love riding in the truck. And they don’t miss a chance if they can help it. Although Humphrey lays in the back and looks completely uninterested but he does spend a little time looking out the windows. Bailey bounces back-and-forth between the front seat and the backseat and she spends half the trip with her nose in my face. Allie, the queen of them all will eventually setting in some place where the others don’t walk all over her at least for the moment.

Once we are back on our driveway, I let them all out to run home. About halfway down the driveway there was a squirrel about 75 yards away from the trees and making a beeline back to the trees. The dogs were a good 200 yards away. Missed it by “that“ much. 

Do you like car rides?

Got any stories about tires?