A not-so-depressing dish

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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?

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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


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

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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 


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


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

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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.


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!)

Topless grilling

burger for blogOK — topless grilling is not really a thing. Or maybe it is, and if so, I don’t really want to know about it.

But when summertime rolls around (yes, I know that summer doesn’t officially start until the solstice on June 20, but summer-like weather has finally arrived), there are two sure signs of it at our house. The tops come off the Jeeps, and grilling becomes the preferred means of cookery

Both those things happened today, with the second consecutive day of warm weather.

The panels on the four-door Jeep that I drive come off quite easily, so they have been removed for the sporadic nice days we’ve experienced thus far, but have been quickly been put back when showers and cooler days have threatened. Hubby Bryan’s Jeep, however, is the standard model, and takes a bit more time and effort to remove the lid. But today the top came off and will likely stay off for the duration. (There is a smaller top that can be deployed in the case of sprinkles and a full cover for when harsher weather hits.)

Like the removal of the panels on the four-door Jeep, the cover has come off the grill sporadically over the last couple of months, but we hadn’t gone into full-on grilling-every-day mode. But I think that will change now, and tonight we had some delicious burgers for supper (see picture above). Hubby Bryan is the grill master — Burger Master, in particular — at our house.

Here are some of the techniques HB employs to get the best-tasting burger.

  • Don’t use extra lean ground beef. Fat is flavor, and if too lean, it is dry and tasteless when grilled.
  • Form the burgers lightly — don’t pack them — and use your thumbs to form a dimple in the middle of each patty. This will keep the meat from forming a dome while it cooks.
  • Shape the burgers to fit your bun or bread. With the burger pictured above, Bryan went for an oval to better fit the bread he used in lieu of a bun.
  • Never use the spatula to “smash” the burger while grilling. This forces out all the juices
  • Don’t over-grill your burgers. They are best left a little bit pink in the center for optimum juiciness.
  • Experiment with toppings. Tonight we had caramelized onions and mushrooms on top of our burgers, along with a dollop of beer cheese spread. Yes — the beer cheese spread that comes in a plastic tub melts quickly and makes for a really tasty burger.
  • And don’t forget that ground meats besides beef make good burgers. Watch for my favorite turkey burger recipe in an upcoming blog.



What’s up for Memorial Day?

What’s this — another blog so soon?

I have no intentions of writing a new blog every day — probably more like once a week or so — but this one follows quickly on the heels of the first for a good reason.

This upcoming weekend is Memorial Day — a wonderful three-day extravaganza honoring our fallen service men and women, as well as all of our loved ones who are no longer with us. It’s also generally regarded as the kickoff to summer, although — at least for Worthington students — there will still be four more days of school before the summer hiatus officially begins. (As someone who has been subbing in the schools, I can honestly tell you that most of the kids’ brains are already on vacation!)

So what’s on your Memorial Day weekend agenda? Since people are so quick to say “There’s nothing to do in Worthington,” I want to point out that there are a couple of wonderful things happening this weekend in the ol’ hometown.

On Saturday, Spomer Classics will host its annual Classic Car Show ‘n’ Shine from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Whether you are a classic automobile aficionado or not, it is well worth the stop. In fact, it is well worth making a special trip to Worthington.

Spomer Classics — operated by Marv and Jeanine Spomer, who used to own Spomer Motors — is an amazing museum of automotive memorabilia and much more. The inside space showcases the outstanding collection that Marv has amassed (with Jeanine’s support and help,of course) during his years as a car dealer and now in retirement. Marv is a master at hunting down and acquiring some of the more rare pieces of automotive history. (Check out the photo above that I took during last year’s Show ‘n’ Shine.)

There are classic cars, dealership signs, oil company signs, neon signs — each one has a story that Marv is eager to share if in the vicinity — and the spectacle of it all is almost overwhelming. But even if you’re not into automotive history and collectibles, Marv has also hunted down and preserved many small pieces of Worthington history that are interspersed throughout the facility. A stroll through the museum is a special treat for people with local or area connections,.

Additionally, car collectors from throughout the region will be on hand, parking their own prized vehicles in the museum’s ample parking lot, so you have a chance to check them out, up close and personal, and perhaps hear some of their stories, too.

Spomer Classics truly is a one-of-a-kind attraction that draws many people to Worthington. If you haven’t checked it out before, I urge you to do so on Saturday. It is located on the west end of Oxford Street (former Koppy Motors building) at 322 Oxford St.  Go to spomerclassics.com for more information.

The other must-do on the local calendar of events is the Memorial Day program at 11 a.m. Monday at Chautauqua Park. Besides being a wonderful way to honor our service men and women, the program is traditionally the first performance of the summer season for the “Amazing” Worthington City Band. AND it will give people a chance to see the recent improvements made at the bandshell, which not too long ago was placed on the National Register of Historic Places (see photo and plaque below).

Since I live right across the street from the park, the bandshell is particularly near and dear to my heart, and I cherish the weekly summer band concerts.

Both Spomer Classics and the outdoor band concerts are great assets to our city. Check them out if you’re in town this weekend.

spomer-schoon signspomer -- red carbandshell2017bandshell plaque





And so it begins …

Whew. There. I’ve done it. I’ve taken the first step in getting back to writing.

It’s been 10 months since I left my position as features editor at the Daily Globe newspaper in Worthington MN, and I’ve done very little writing since. But after 28 years in journalism, it was a needed break. I needed the separation. I needed to distance myself from the daily process of writing, proofing, editing, designing.

While I loved working at a daily newspaper, the industry has changed. Sadly, a newspaper is no longer a necessity for the average person. It’s not even a luxury. The Internet has changed all that. So when the Daily Globe’s parent company offered a company-wide “voluntary separation program,” I decided it was in my best interest to accept it. No regrets.

But I must clarify — I AM NOT RETIRED! Anyone who believes I could retire in my still-somewhat-early 50s after three decades in journalism doesn’t understand just how poorly journalists are paid. I still need to make money. I still need to get a job with insurance benefits. I just need to figure out what that is. In the meantime, I’ve been working as a substitute paraprofessional in the local schools and helping out on the production side in a local leather crafting shop. It pays the health insurance for the moment.

But back to this blog. For almost 50 years, my late mother, Dorthy Rickers (aka DotMom), wrote a column for the Daily Globe called “Mixing & Musing.” My own personal writings during my newspaper tenure were always titled “Lagniappe,” a Creole term that means “a little something extra,” a favorite word for both me and my mother.

For this new endeavor, however, I’ve decided to revive her original title, because it accurately reflects what I want to accomplish. I hope to share some of my favorite recipes while musing about whatever topic catches my fancy. It will be journey through the past (anecdotes about my mother and some recipes resurrected from long and not-so-long ago), the present (tales of Hubby Bryan’s and my often beer-centric travels in our Jeep, perhaps?) and hopefully what the future holds for all of us.

I hope you will come along with me for the ride.