Remembering Katherine

katherine pike hedeen

There’s an African proverb that says “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s a concept I have pondered quite a bit in recent days as I reflect on the death of one of the chieftesses in my own “village.”

Katherine Hedeen, who died quite suddenly last week,  was one of my late mother’s very best friends. Her husband, Bill Hedeen, had been one of my father’s very best friends. The photos shown here are from a trip they all took to Europe in 1980.

I have known Katherine my entire life and can point to very particular influences she had on my life.

Younger than my siblings by 10 and eight years, I was also the youngest child among my parents’ close circle of friends. Consequently, I was brought along to parties and other gatherings more than my sister and brother, and I spent quite a bit of time with those adults.

Katherine, in particular, took an interest in me. She encouraged my love of reading by giving me books, even enrolling me in a children’s book club. I still have a few of those books in my collection and would never think of parting with them.

I knew Katherine to be a bit prim and proper (Mom always prompted me to send a prompt and proper thank-you note for those books), but she was also warm and caring and always interested in whatever I was doing, never failing to include me in the conversation. I also often attended the theater with my parents and the Hedeens, cultivating that interest, too.

When my brother Marty was battling cancer and Mom spent most of the summer of 1975 in Rochester with him, Katherine was one of several of her friends who stepped up to fill a motherly role for this then-12-year-old.

And Katherine also stepped up for me later in life, after my dear mom passed away in 2005 (my father Don having preceded her nine years prior).

Katherine made a point of calling me. She sent me emails. She invited me over for ice tea with lemon and brownies. On the occasion of my 50th birthday — a time when I was sharply feeling the absence of my birthday-loving momma — Katherine honored the occasion with a special gift, filling that void and touching my heart.

In recent years, the population of my village of elders has steadily declined, one by one. Katherine’s death is the most recent of many who influenced my life in one way or another.

There are only a handful of such people left, and I am feeling her loss quite keenly. When I attend Katherine’s memorial service tomorrow, there will likely be a few tears shed as I envision the reunion happening on a heavenly plain. But I imagine there is one heck of a bridge game going on up there, and the thought of that puts a smile on my face.

A perfect garden pairing

In our very small backyard, I don’t have room to grow any tomatoes, but that’s OK, because there are lots of tomatoes to be found at the local farmers markets. Besides, when I did grow tomatoes a number of years ago, I didn’t seem to have the knack for the luscious fruits. They always seemed to end up with blight or end rot or some other tomato malady.

FullSizeRender (23)But I do grow something that is a perfect partner for the tomato.

Basil.

Basil is by far my favorite herb. When it is flourishing in my backyard planters, I throw it in just about everything — pastas, soups, salads, vegetables.

But basil is really at its best when paired with tomato. The two are often planted side by side in the garden because they like the same growing conditions and seem to thrive during the hottest weather.

When the weather begins to turn cooler, I begin to squirrel away basil in my freezer (more on that later) for future use. But I’m not quite at that stage yet this year. Instead, I will make the most of the harvest in dishes such as this salad, one of my favorite latter summer side dishes. It’s so simple to put together and makes the most of that tomato-basil combination.

For the rice, you can use leftover rice, or I’ve used the quick-cooking variety or even those pre-cooked pouches that can be found in the grocery aisle. Rather that bottled dressing, I usually utilize the mix that comes in small envelopes in the dressing aisle, mixing it at home with red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Other vegetables, such as sliced cucumbers or broccoli florets, could be added to the salad, too, but I prefer the simplicity of the tomato and basil combo.

Simply Delicious Rice Salad

3 cups cold cooked rice

⅓ cup Italian dressing

2 tomatoes, diced

½ cup red onion, diced

¼ cup chopped basil

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients; toss well. Makes 6 servings.

 

Getting an earful

FullSizeRender (21)

One of my current means of gainful employment is paraprofessional subbing with the local school district. During one such gig earlier this year, I heard some kindergarteners telling knock-knock jokes, but they weren’t quite getting the format right. They would say the “knock-knock” part, but then would just insert nonsensical words instead of coming up with an actual pun.

So I resolved to teach them a real knock-knock joke, and happened upon this gem:

 

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Gorilla.

Gorilla, who?

Gorilla me a burger, please?

 

I’m not sure my young charges actually grasped the word play, but soon they were telling this joke to the janitor and the lunch ladies as we waited to get in line for food, and they continued to do so for several days in a row.

Yes, it’s truly a corny joke, but it was the best I could come up with and get 5-year-olds to repeat.

Which makes me think, how did the term “corny” ever get applied to bad jokes. Because to me, sweet corn season is no joke.

This week, I’ve been working my way through a bag of corn that was left on our doorstep by a good friend — a really good friend! — whose family grows some of the best ears around. The corn is sweet and delicious, needing nothing but some butter, salt and pepper to enhance its flavor.

FullSizeRender (22)

Since I usually only make a couple ears of corn at a time, I almost always use the microwave method for cooking it. Here’s how I do it:

Using a sharp knife, cut off the excess husk and stem at both ends of the ear. Remove the outermost layers of husk, leaving just a couple layers in place over the kernels. Loosen the remaining husk and run the ears under cold water, or soak in cold water for a few minutes.

Place in microwave and cook on high for 3 to 4 minutes, depending on number and size of ears, turning once in the process. Let ears sit for a few minutes to further steam the corn. Use hot pads or oven mitts to remove the husk and silk from the corn. You can also pull the husk back and use it as a handle for eating. Consume.

While it certainly isn’t the case with this batch of corn, occasionally you come across an ear or two that isn’t so sweet, or maybe it loses some flavor with an extended stay in the refrigerator. Such corn is the perfect candidate for making street corn, which utilizes 

mayonnaise instead of butter. Most often, this is referred to as Mexican Street Corn, but I’ve changed it up a bit, so I’m going to call it Minnesota Street Corn instead.

Minnesota Street Corn

¼ cup mayonnaise

½  cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

½ teaspoon fresh basil, chopped

4 ears corn, husked and silk removed

 

Preheat grill.

Combine mayonnaise, Parmesan and seasonings. Spread a thin layer of the mixture over each ear of corn. Wrap ears in foil and place on grill.

Cook, turning occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

A not-so-depressing dish

FullSizeRender (20)

I went to Tuesday afternoon’s Farmers Market and marveled at the array of produce that has suddenly become available. A couple of weeks ago, the options were quite limited, but now it seems that everything in the garden is ready to be harvested. There was sweet corn, kohlrabi, tomatoes, onions, carrots, raspberries, zucchini, broccoli — even fresh-from-the-bakery loaves of bread.

But I was on a mission to find the ingredients for one of my favorite dishes — what DotMom always called Depression Dish.

From here on out, I will just call it DD — which could stand for Delicious Dish, or Devoured Dish, or whatever other D word that would be suitable — because it is far from depressing. The only reason it would cause me any depression is because the availability of the ingredients means that summer days are now waning — definitely a reason for me to feel blue as summer is my favorite season.

But I believe the “Depression” in the title refers to its popularity during the 1930s Depression era, when people stretched their food resources, especially spendy items such as meat — in this case bacon — with foods from their expansive gardens.

But the key ingredient in DD is green beans — fresh-from-the-garden green beans. And I found those in abundance Tuesday. It also requires potatoes, and the “new” potatoes that vendors were selling are just the ticket, along with some freshly dug onions.

Here’s the DD recipe as it appears in DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook.” She chose to title it “Old Fashioned Green Beans and Potatoes,” but I think it deserves a brand new name.

Definitely Delicious Green Beans and Potatoes

4 strips bacon, diced

4 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and halved

1 cup water

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup diced potatoes

¾ cup sliced green onions

In large skillet, cook diced bacon for 5 minutes or so. Drain off part of the bacon drippings. Stir in green beans, water, salt and pepper. Simmer 2 or 3 minutes. Add potatoes and onions. Stir well. Simmer about 15 minutes.

Serve as either a main dish or side dish.

 

Connecting the Dots

Dot's Tavern

Having written often about road trips in our Jeep Wrangler, Hubby Bryan and I often get asked, “Where are you going this summer?”

We generally go on one extended trip and several shorter long weekends over the course of a summer. During the long pre-Fourth of July weekend, we went on one of those shorter excursions to one of our favorite places — Wisconsin.

Wisconsin in the perfect place to venture if you love beer, cheese, sausage and windy roads. We fit that description to a T: Bryan is an avid homebrewer (I help, usually by naming and consuming the resulting brews) and we enjoy craft beers; we both love cheese; Bryan’s favorite meal would be a platter full of sausage; and taking those S-curves in the Jeep with the top off is a navigational delight. (And amazingly, the Jeep gets its best gas mileage in such terrain.)

This is somewhat of a generalization, but just about any town of any size in Wisconsin has at least one bar (if not four, often all at a crossroads on the four corners), a cheese factory and a butcher shop that specializes in sausages. We have our favorite such locales in Wisconsin, many of which I’ve shared in previous stories about our travels.

This time, we went in search of a very small tavern in a very small town. Friends Kevin and Kami Lease, former Worthingtonians who now live near Madison, had told us about a place called Dot’s Tavern. I was immediately intrigued, because we lovingly called my late mother — Dorthy Rickers — Grandma Dot, and now I often refer to her as DotMom in these writings. The Leases also refer to Kevin’s mom — another Dorothy, albeit different spelling — as Grandma Dot. So the name holds significance for us all.

The Leases weren’t able to guide us to or meet up with us at Dot’s Tavern, so Bryan and I ventured there on our own. It is located in a tiny little unincorporated town called Basco, just south of Madison, Wisconsin. Our GPS doesn’t recognize Basco, but we managed to find the place by plugging in Dot’s official address.

There it was — a house in a small cluster of houses (think Org) on the edge of a Wisconsin pasture. If the Dot’s Tavern sign hadn’t been posted out front, we would have surely thought we were in the wrong place. The tavern is actually located in the basement of the house, and the sign indicates it’s been there since 1948.

On this particular day — a Sunday — a meat raffle had taken place earlier, and some vintage cars were parked around the perimeter when we arrived. As the clouds let loose with a few sprinkles, those vintage rides quickly disappeared. But by the time we went downstairs to the bar to fetch a beer and re-emerged, the sun was shining again, so we sat outside on some plastic lawn chairs at a picnic table.

Yes, Dot’s is one of those unique Wisconsin small-town watering holes, to which, in all likelihood we will return again.

Here’s a seasonally appropriate recipe that features two prime Wisconsin ingredients — cheese and beer.

Wisconsin Berry & Cheese Salad

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons beer (preferably a pale ale or fruit-based beer)

2 tablespoons honey

1 small garlic clove, finely minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups mixed greens or romaine lettuce

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1½ cups fresh blueberries

½ cup Cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes

⅓ cup chopped pecans

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, beer, honey, garlic and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Set aside.

In large bowl, combine greens, berries and cheese. Add dressing, tossing well. Sprinkle pecans over all and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

When was the last time you played croquet?

FullSizeRender (19)

I probably hadn’t played croquet since I was in my early teens, and back then I’m pretty sure I didn’t play it right.

But I got a lesson in the classic yard game of croquet (not to be confused with a croquette — a small roll of vegetables or meat, fried in breadcrumbs, since this blog does most often focus on food) on the Fourth of July at a holiday gathering of friends. For the most part, it was a friendly competition, with no mean-spirited “sending” of an opposing player, although that doesn’t mean we weren’t all playing to win. Beginner’s luck was on my

output

side, as the rest of the competitors had already played one round, and I managed to come in second on my first go-round. I’m sure that luck won’t carry through next time.

But I did enjoy the endeavor and will be eager to pick up a mallet again. It’s a fun game that can be enjoyed by all ages. Besides, I just like saying the word “wicket,” which for those not familiar with croquet is the arched wire through which you must hit the croquet ball. Most particularly, I like the idiom “sticky wicket,” used to describe a difficult situation, although I hope I don’t find reason to utilize it any time soon.

Now on to a recipe, but not for croquettes because at the moment it’s too hot to consider deep-frying anything. But it is perfect weather for a salad, and this one is a favorite from my recipe file. I’m sure it was originally printed in DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing” column in the Daily Globe, although it isn’t in her cookbook.

The title on my recipe card is for “Mean Salad,” and since it’s not a particularly spiteful dish, I tend to think that the title comes from somebody saying “I make a mean salad.” That’s my explanation, and I’m sticking to it. This version utilizes cauliflower, although I’ve also made it with broccoli, both of which should be forthcoming from area gardens. It’s a great accompaniment to a grilled chicken breast.

Mean Salad

1  Romaine lettuce heart , torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into florets

8 slices bacon, fried (or cooked on the grill or in the microwave!) and crumbled

1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

For dressing:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 small onion, chopped

Mix dressing ingredients. In a large bowl, combine romaine and cauliflower. Add the dressing and stir to coat. Sprinkle in bacon and Parmesan and toss.

 

 

 

 

Star-spangled holiday

waiting for fireworks.jpg

Recently I’ve occasionally heard the sound of fireworks off in the distance — a sure sign the Fourth of July — Independence Day — is upon us.

The annual fireworks display over Lake Okabena is the most vivid of my childhood memories of July 4. No matter what we did earlier in the day, my family always ended the holiday sitting on the lakeshore, watching the “rocket’s red glare, the bomb bursting in air,” come to life over the local body of water. DotMom, always eager to expand our vocabulary, challenged us to come up with a different adjective for each brilliant display. But soon the descriptive words gave way to silence as we were enraptured 

fireworks2

by the lights and colors in the sky.

While we now live just a hop, skip and a jump from the lake, our tradition is to head down to the home of a friend who lives along Sailboard Beach and has a view less impeded by trees. The photos posted here were taken there

 last year, showing the people lined up in anticipation of the dusk display and the ensuing light show.

But before the fireworks, the Fourth is the perfect time to fire up the grill, so I’m keeping my promise from a few weeks back to share our favorite turkey burger recipe. Hubby Bryan and I like things spicy,  but if your tastebuds aren’t as attuned to heat, use less chipotle in the meat mixture.

Chipotle Turkey Burgers

1½ pounds ground turkey breast

fireworks3

¾ cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 or 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (from a can), stems and seeds removed, finely chopped

1½ teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

 

In a bowl, mix all ingredients lightly, just until everything is incorporated. Divide mixture into four equally-sized balls; form into patties. Sprinkle patties with salt and pepper.

Prepare grill to medium-high heat. Place patties on grill and cook until seared on both sides and meat is cooked through,

Serve on whole wheat buns with sharp cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and lettuce. (We often mix some of the adobo sauce into the mayo extra heat.)

 

The rituals of summer

I’m starting to write this blog while sitting on my deck and listening to the “Amazing” Worthington City Band concert going on across the street in Chautauqua Park. I’m sure the concert will be over long before I’m done writing, as I likely won’t finish this until tomorrow.

But the concert on the first official day of summer sparked some thoughts about summer rituals, and I wanted to get them down before I lose the train of thought.

The weekly Wednesday night band concerts were always a summer ritual for my parents, and consequently we Rickers siblings. As a youngster, I would play in the park and ponder what candy to purchase from the popcorn wagon while the music was background noise. Both my sister and brother played in the city band during their teenage years; I did not follow through with that tradition, as I did not like the clarinet, the instrument I inherited from my sister and thus gave up before I made the transition from junior high to high school.

My parents, Don and Dorthy, usually made the trek to the band concert on their bicycle built for two — another summer ritual. In fact, I pretty much learned to ride a bike by pedaling from the back seat, Daddon at the helm.

As a kid, perhaps my favorite summer ritual was stopping for ice cream at one of the local drive-ins. I know that a recent post on the “Growing Up in Worthington” Facebook site sparked a debate about which establishment, the Dairy Queen or the Dairy Freeze, was the most frequented.

However, the place I remember best is Karley’s Drive-In, an easy stop for those circumnavigating Lake Okabena back in the 1970s. I particularly remember the twist cones — not just the classic vanilla/chocolate variety, but a different flavor offered every few days. My favorite was vanilla/lime. Yum.
(BTW — the band is now playing the Star-Spangled Banner, so the concert is at an end, but not so this blog.)

A few weeks ago, a similarly tart-sweet frozen concoction tickled my fancy. On one of our Jeep forays through the Iowa Great Lakes, Hubby Bryan and I stopped at a food truck, and I couldn’t resist sampling the strawberry-rhubarb ice cream. It got me thinking: Could I concoct something similar?

The thought stuck with me for a few days, and finally I bought some strawberries. Alas, my rhubarb patch was buried by a concrete driveway a number of years ago, and I could not come up with a source for some tart stalks. So I decided to settle for fresh strawberry ice cream. As the base, I used a longtime favorite concoction from DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook” and altered it for berries instead of citrusy flavors in the original. My only regret is that I used half and half instead of whipping cream. If you’re going to make this, go for the full-blown indulgence factor of the whipping cream. It does make a difference.

(Note: This ice cream recipe does contain raw eggs. If you are worried about that, seek out pasteurized eggs or utilize powdered egg whites and leave out the yolks. The beaten whites do add a fluffy texture to the ice cream.)

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

16 ounces fresh strawberries, caps removed and slicedFullSizeRender (15)

1 cup sugar

¼ cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla.

2 eggs, separated

1 pint whipping cream (not whipped!)

Whole milk (about 2 cups)

In a food processor or blender, puree the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice. Add the vanilla and egg yolks, stirring thoroughly to combine.

Beat egg whites until stiff.

In a large bowl, combine the strawberry mixture and whipping cream. Carefully fold in the egg whites.

Pour mixture into the bowl of the ice cream maker, adding enough whole milk so it’s two-thirds full or to the fill line. (My ice cream maker is a small model, so I processed it in 2 batches.)

Once processed, transfer ice cream to a freezer container and chill until fully frozen.,

 

Slaw on the side

FullSizeRender (14)

It’s been about a month since we took our first long-distance Jeep trek of the season. It’s become something of a tradition for Hubby Bryan and me to head south in late spring in search of warmer temps to test out the topless mode of the Wrangler. Most often, our destination has been Omaha, but this time around we decided to go a bit farther south and decided on Kansas City as the locale for a long weekend adventure.

We have often passed through — or more aptly around — KC on our way to other places. So we figured it was time we checked out the local brewery scene and dig into some barbecue. That meant a stop at Boulevard Brewing Co., the largest of the “craft” breweries there, as well as a couple of the smaller establishments that produce beer.

Boulevard met our expectations, with a delightful tour led by a charming young lady, concluding with a sampling of some of their products. Since we’ve been on more than a few such brewery tours, we really didn’t learn anything new, but we especially enjoyed the view from a rooftop deck and sampling some of their experimental beverages.

We also got a recommendation for KC BBQ, and headed just down the street to Danny Edwards Boulevard BBQ, one of the more “hole-in-the-wall”-type barbecue places, as opposed to the slicker sit-down restaurants. The service was fast, the burnt ends were fabulous and the atmosphere was casual and homey. We would certainly go back again.

Accompanying our barbecue selections was a side dish of slaw, of course. Coleslaw is a regular supper side dish at our house, so I like to try the various regional versions. Over the years, I’ve developed my own throw-together version that I think combines the best qualities of those I’ve enjoyed.

So a couple of blogs ago, when I posted a photo of a burger, there was slaw on the side, and one of you readers asked me for the recipe. That meant I had to actually stop and measure what I put in my slaw dressing, and that took a little doing, since I usually  mix up just enough for Bryan and me. Even when I make a bigger batch for a gathering, I add a little bit of this and a little bit of that until I get the flavor right. But I did manage to get a reasonable facsimile down on paper. 

I’m not sure if this would qualify as Kansas City slaw. It’s my own version — not too creamy, not too sweet, not too vinegary, with a hint of heat for my spice-loving hubby. Because it’s convenient, I use the bagged cole-slaw mixture, available in the produce section at the grocery store, although I’ve also thrown in some kohlrabi, broccoli or other crunchy veggie for a change of pace. Most often, I add some chopped red bell pepper for both color and flavor.

So, as requested, here is my slaw recipe. It’s what’s for a supper side dish at our house at least a couple of times a week during the summer months.

 

Slaw on the Side

1 tablespoon sugar (honey or agave syrup may be substituted to taste)FullSizeRender (13)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

½ teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon bottled ranch dressing

Several dashes (or to taste) hot sauce

½ cup mayonnaise

¼ teaspoon seasoned salt

½ cup finely chopped onion

⅓ cup chopped red bell pepper

 

In a bowl, dissolve the sugar in the red wine vinegar and lime juice. Add the mustard, ranch, hot sauce, mayonnaise and salt, whisking to combine. Fold in the chopped onion and red bell pepper. Combine dressing with one bag prepared coleslaw mix.

 

Waves & wind, sun and fun

Hubby Bryan and I just got home after a Jeep ride around Lake Okabena. Well, we couldn’t go all the way around the lake tonight, because part of the road is blocked off in preparation for the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival, which gets under way tomorrow and continues through the weekend.

Sailboard Beach (which, for those who once lived in Worthington but no longer do, is the area around where the power plant once stood) already looks festive, with the stage and beer tent already in place and food vendors already arriving.

This is the 18th year for the festival, and I can say I was there for the very first one. In fact, I was the reporter on duty for the Daily Globe the year that visionaries Bill Keitel and Jeff Hegwer realized that Lake Okabena could possibly become a mecca for windsurfers with its windy conditions and low profile and threw together a small festival. That year, I both photographed and wrote about the event and met some wonderful people who make the journey to Worthington to test the windsurfing waters.

Over the years, the Regatta has grown and evolved into a unique and very special event. It has served as the venue for several National Windsurfing Championships. I was involved with it for a number of years, helping with various aspects and organizing coverage for the newspaper, and I’ve made some wonderful friends in the process. Now I just sit back and enjoy it and am always glad to reconnect with the people I have met at past events.

regatta2016

The photo featured here is from the 2016 Regatta. Taken at dusk, it’s not the most colorful view of the festival, but I was struck by the sense of community as boats and people lined up along the shoreline to enjoy the evening’s musical offerings and be part of the event.

 

If you are in the vicinity of Worthington this weekend, I suggest you come down to Sailboard Beach and check out the sights, sounds, food and other offerings to be found there. (Yes, it’s going to be hot, but having volunteered for the event when the temp was barely in the 50s, I can tell you the heat is definitely preferable!)