The rhubarb capital of Minnesota

Archived | May 30, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I’d just finished putting together a Sweet Vidalia Tart when Mr. Keillor began his monologue. I don’t know what it is, but something about listening to a good story makes all the world melt away and it’s just me and that voice and the story itself, and not much else matters for a while. You feel lifted up, taken away, and return feeling a lovely sense of delight.
Road trips are like that. Departure and return, and the journey itself. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a good road trip. The last great one took me to Lanesboro last June for the Rhubarb Festival. Whoever first said, “And a good time was had by all” had just returned from Lanesboro. They are, after all, the rhubarb capital of Minnesota, and a well-deserved name that is. There was rhubarb sauce and bars and pie and lace everywhere, and when I saw all the aprons on display, fluttering in the park, I thought I’d been raptured straight on up.
Things are different this year. The Rhubarb Festival is this coming Saturday, June 4th, 10-4 pm, and I won’t be going. Not for lack of want, mind you. One of my children is about to graduate from high school, and that has to take precedence over rhubarb cream puffs. It just does. There’s so much to do, and to consider, not to mention navigation of the emotional rollercoaster I’ve been on these past weeks. When they say, “They grow up before you know it”, listen. It’s true. Such delight.
Well, I’ve been a Vidalia girl since I graduated from high school myself, and when a dear friend handed this recipe over, I screamed for joy. Literally. And, if you knew me, you might think that is a bit odd.
Sweet Vidalia Tart
3 T butter
1 large Vidalia onion, diced
1/2 cup sour cream
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
1 packet dry leek soup mix
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 (9 inch) deep dish frozen pie crust
Preheat oven to 375. In a large heavy skillet, saute butter and diced Vidalia onion. Cook until lightly caramelized. Remove from heat and whisk in sour cream. Slowly whisk in evaporated milk. Whisk in dry soup mix until lumps disappear. Whisk in eggs. Mix in the shredded cheese until blended. Spoon mixture into an unbaked pastry. Place pie on a cookie sheet and place into oven. Bake in preheated oven 40 to 45 minutes; or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes.

Today light shines on it all

Archived | May 23, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Couldn’t have been a better way to decompress from two days of rain. Almost solid rain. During a garage sale. My garage sale. After three weeks of gathering stuff from friends and family and a few strangers, I closed the garage door Saturday afternoon on about a third of what was there to begin with.
Just in time for the rapture. Which didn’t happen, but there’s always that little thought that maybe, this time around, something will. And it did. Took a while, and it wasn’t the rapture, but it nearly blew us all away.
I don’t have much, never wanted much, but today light shines on it all, this moment. Got my kids texting about who needs a ride after school. A post-garage-sale garage. Mr. Sundberg calling from Seattle, where he’s giving a motivational speech titled, “Live It Up or Give It Up”, and a pink geranium sadly in need of something I can’t give it. Got a VoiceMail from my mother asking for a day together, an appointment for a root canal a week from Friday, and the Lanesboro Rhubarb Festival to look forward to.
Perhaps the rapture is a slow thing, taking all our lives. Perhaps my life is rapture, one hour at a time, too close for me to see it clearly. Perhaps. I’m going to go hang sheets on the line now. The lilacs are in bloom, and the frogs are hollering. The sun is shining, and there’s just enough of a breeze. My gosh.
Some of my best meal memories include a plate of walleye. Try this recipe for Father’s Day, or Memorial Day, or Thursday, just because.
Honey Fried Walleye
8 large walleye fillets
2/3 c. oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. honey
2 c. coarsely crushed Hi-Ho or Ritz cracker crumbs
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Dry fillets on paper towel. Heat oil in 10 inch skillet. Mix egg and honey together. Dip fillets in this mixture, then coat with cracker crumb-flour mixture, pressing crumbs into fillets firmly. Fry about 3 minutes on each side in preheated oil. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

All kinds of things worthy of mention

Archived | May 16, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was still recovering from the excitement of Mother’s Day as the Powdermilk Biscuit song played away and I sorted through things donated by family and friends for our garage sale coming up this weekend. Found all kinds of things worthy of mention, and some not so:
An air purifier.
A neon beer sign.
A box of panties. Large panties. (Oxymoronic, I guess, now that I think about it.)
A sling shot.
A box of new footie pajamas. (I may keep them.)
7 rolling pins.
A tin of old buttons.
A barely used grill.
A stack of old National Geographic magazines.
A painting of a ship in a stormy sea.
And more and more and more.
Of course I’m in danger of making the classic mistake of keeping other people’s stuff. You must be careful when you think of calling it junk, because it’s not. It’s simply no longer meaningful or useful to its owner, and it’s time to rotate. Kind of like eating at a Chinese restaurant when you all switch plates. Keeps it interesting.
I’m tempted by the ship painting, but tempted is all. The grill I’ll keep, as I prefer charcoal to gas, and one pair of the footie pajamas works just fine. I’ll pass on the large panties, and one rolling pin ought to do. Because they belonged, once, to someone I love.
I like the idea of garage sales. Actually having one is its own little trip. I’ll be glad when Saturday evening arrives. I’ll pour a glass of wine and listen to the show, and consider where to take whatever’s left. But that’s Saturday. Until then, I’m up to my ears. And who knows what will happen?
I love fishing, to be sure, but even more I love cooking the fish I catch. Here’s a simple, elegant recipe for walleye. Make it for your dad for Father’s Day. I’m serious.
4 walleye fillets (about 1 1/2 lb.)
1/3 cup sliced almonds, crushed
2 tsp lemon juice
1 T prepared mustard
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Dash of red pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream
Mix all ingredients well and spread evenly over walleye fillets. Place fillets on a greased broiled pan and broil five inches from the heat in a preheated broiler for about 10 minutes or until the fish flakes when probed with a fork. Serves 4.

Mother’s Day Adventure

Archived | May 9, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I spent most of the evening getting laundry done and bread pudding made for breakfast so we could all just get up and go on our Mother’s Day Adventure. Which is not a yearly thing, mind you, but now and then for Mother’s Day I get it in my head to do something off the beaten path.
Which, this past Sunday, included a trip to the Minnesota Zoo. Not because the kids wanted to go to the zoo, but because I did. I have fond memories of visiting Samson the Gorilla at the Milwaukee Zoo, and feeding bears at a zoo near my hometown. Plus, it’s a good way to spend time together while learning a bit and walking here and there and laughing now and then. It felt like an adventure to me. And mothers got in free.
Especially when we got to the area where they keep the Asian Wild Horses. Beautiful creatures, they are, and the only undomesticated horse on the planet, I believe. And, in the spirit of spring and wildness and undomestication itself, one of the male horses chose the several minutes it took us to wander by to act on his state of arousal — which was outwardly both formidable and difficult to not notice. “Run!” one of the kids hollered. They looked at me, unsure of what to do next. It’s okay to watch, I told them. It’s a natural, normal thing.
The female horse involved continued feeding on grass while the male did his thing and then it was over. “Well, I guess we can go now, now that we’ve seen everything,” one of the kids said. They were quiet for a while, and then wanted cotton candy. We walked on, and saw bison, bears, and a beautiful trumpeter swan; prairie dogs, camels, tapirs and angelfish. Glory.
Wasn’t a perfect day. It began to rain mid-afternoon, and that’s when we left. Stopped for Chinese food on the way home, where I opened some lovely gifts. An ice cream scoop, some Dead Sea bath salts, chocolates. And flowers. And then we sat together and talked about storms and schoolwork and the mating habits of horses.
I take that back. It was a perfect day. And those children. Oh, I love them.
Time for berries, and the best recipe I’ve found for shortcake is on a box.
Here it is, and I’ve changed it a bit to make it my own, and you can do the same.
The Best Shortcake
2 1/3 cups Bisquick baking mix
3 T butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
3 T sugar
Heat oven to 425° F. Stir baking mix, melted butter, milk, and 3 T sugar in a mixing bowl until soft dough forms. Add a dash of nutmeg if you’re a nutmeg person. Drop by 6 or 8 spoonfuls on to a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake 9 – 10 minutes or until light brown.
Makes 6 larger biscuits or 8 smaller. Serve with strawberries crushed with sugar, fresh peaches and cinnamon sugar, or blueberry topping. Include whipped topped for a complete meltdown.

Life is as sweet as it is difficult

Archived | May 2, 2011 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. The weather hasn’t been bad, either, though there was snow on Sunday, May Day, and a bit on Monday. It’s not the worst thing, but most things aren’t the worst thing. Almost everything isn’t.
I’ve got to be honest and say it’s been a rough stretch. The weather the least of it, really. What’s happening in the world is a lot, and can get a person preoccupied, and throw in tax issues and financial aid issues for the one going off to school and graduation and garage sales and summer coming with all of the packing for cabins and trips and gatherings and the fact that I can’t find the one recipe I’ve been craving… well. Not to unload all of my stuff on you. But there are days. And now that the sun is out I’m able to see flowers blooming and happy little bugs and the kids are out with their red balls and bikes and wiffle bats and I’m feeling a bit less frazzled and a bit more refreshed. Opening the windows helps. That breeze smells like green and light.
What I’m doing right now is making funnel cakes. My daughter said yesterday how sometimes she feels better after she eats something obnoxious, so funnel cakes for lunch it is. The tax question can wait, along with the financial aid forms. What can’t wait is my growling belly, and the piled up laundry, and the walk I’m going to take after I fill up on funnel cakes. A long walk, and without direction. Just that feeling of the earth falling away behind me as I move forward.
Life is as sweet as it is difficult. The blessed mix. Trying and true. Don’t you know.
It’s nearing pie time again, and this recipe, from a friend who can recite it, is more than good for a Mother’s Day surprise or a sunny picnic.
Good Rhubarb Pie
3.5 cups of flour
6 T sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup Crisco butter shortening
1/4 cup butter
10 T ice water
Rhubarb Filling:
8 cups (or 2-lbs) rhubarb cut finely
1tsp vanilla extract,
1tsp almond extract
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup tapioca finely ground in coffee grinder or spice mill
3 T corn starch
1/4 cup flour
1.5 T lemon zest
1/3 of a nutmeg, fresh ground (I use a fine cheese grater)
Combine dry pie ingredients. Cut in butter and shortening, sprinkle in ice water. Toss until crumbly but don’t form into a ball. Place 2/3rds in between parchment paper and squish down and roll out (12 inch circle for bottom crust), the other third for the top crust (9-inch circle). Slide onto a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. If you go too long in the freezer it the top crust will break when you place it on top the pie filling and bottom crust. Place bottom crust in 10-inch pie plate.
Mix all rhubarb ingredients in a bowl and pour onto the center of the pie crust. Cover with top crust cut and decorate as you like. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes, lower the temperature to 350 for 45 minutes; cover the top with foil if it gets too brown. Serve with freshly whipped cream.