Friday, October 5, 2012

Save the Artichokes!

After extensive Googling, I have not found any decisive material on whether or not artichokes can successfully be grown in Minnesota.  But I'm trying.

My mom and I bought the plant from a sale not knowing anything about them, but thought it would be fun to try. Now it's October and although the plants grew very large, there have been no artichokes.  This is not all bad news... several online blogs and articles say that artichokes do not produce fruit in the first year.

Herein lies the problem.  Artichokes are not hardy enough to withstand a Minnesota winter.  My challenge is to figure out how to save them as the show falls and the temperatures drop this season.

From various sources, here's what we came up with for an experiment.  I have no idea if it will work, but here it goes.

Step 1: Trim the artichokes back to about 12".

Step 2: Cover plants with 12" of straw.

Step 3: Top with Manure. (I used 1 5 gallon bucket per pile.)

Step 4: Cover with a dark colored tarp or plastic and secure.

Step 5: Hope for the best.

We'll have to see what, if anything, comes up next Spring! 

Special shout out to Fritz at Gleason Farms in Corcoran for hooking me up with both the straw and manure for this project!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Luxury Lasagna Night.

The girls literally spent all day cooking.  The morning started off with canning stewed tomatoes and we ended the evening with two lasagnas that are made to please.

Lasagna #1 used up one of the  many butternut squashes growing in our garden, and we took care of the remaining basil that my sister had been growing as well. This is a recipe from Food Network's Giada de Laurentis (one of my favs) that I have made once before.  Like most lasagnas, its one that gets better in the fridge overnight for lunch the next day.

Lasagna #2 is an ooey gooey pan of artichokes and sun dried tomatoes. My sister found the recipe through Pinterest.  We substituted the mozzarella for pepperjack.  That was a good move.  Just a little kick in the layers really added to the dish.  We also cut down just a little on the cream cheese.  It's a super rich supper.

After one slice of each lasagna a piece, we were stuffed. Add a glass of wine, or two, to the equation and I was falling asleep on the way home. Enjoy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday Dinner, Shrimp Tacos.

We didn't have a specific recipe for shrimp tacos this week, so we made things we like, to put on top.  It turned into a bit of Asian-Latin fusion and ended up delish.

I'm not one for measuring but I'll try my best to type up a recipe.

2 pounds, raw medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1Tbsp Siracha Sauce
1Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Grill 1-2 minutes per side until just pink.  Serve immediately.

Topping 1: Asian Vegetables
2 medium zucchinis, sliced into sticks
1 onion, sliced
1 - 8oz package mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp Canola oil, or Olive oil

Heat oil and butter in a sautee pan or wok. Add remaining ingredients and sautee over high heat until crisp-tender.  Serve.

Topping 2: Carribbean Beans and Rice
This is a recipe adapted from Pinterest
1- 15oz. Can black beans
1 onion, chopped
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 mango, chopped (can substitute papaya, pineapple or other tropical fruit if mangoes aren't available.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1 orange, juiced
1 Tsp Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup cooked rice, white or brown.

Sautee bell pepper and onion in olive oil until softened. Season with salt and pepper.  Add remaining ingredients except rice and simmer until heated through.  Serve over rice.

Although we used topping 2 for our tacos, this is a great side dish on its own as well!

Sauce: Benihiana's Shrimp Sauce
2 cups mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic juice
3 -4 teaspoons ketchup
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon Siracha sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
up to 1/2 cup water to thin as desired

Whisk together and serve with Asian veggies and shrimp, recipes above.

Side: Cilantro and Blue Cheese Slaw, Courtesy: Taste of Home
8 cups shredded cabbage
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated lime peel
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, onion, cilantro and jalapeno. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; pour over salad and toss to coat.
Now for the tacos, make any or all combinations with the above.  Add extra chopped onion, chopped cilantro, jalapenos, hot sauce, sour cream, etc to make it your own!

I preferred the beans and rice on a soft shell.

Brother-in-law Andy, preferred the veggies and shrimp sauce with jalapenos on his! 

Plus here's a pic of his pateneted borrito hold... to keep the spillage to a minimum. :)


Sunday Dinner: Food Network Edition.

We took our inspiration for last week's Sunday dinner from Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives program on Food Network.  Bryan is responsible for requesting this one because of the high meat content.  But with goat cheese in the recipe, the girls were on board too!

Watch the video episode here:

Turns out this Cowgirl Panini is fantastic!  Even better, we made extra meet for packing lunches in the upcoming week.  I also used some left over meat in a stew... in was one of the best batches ever.  This meat is a keeper recipe that could be used in any number of ways.

PS, I didn't take any pictures... I forgot!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Sunday Dinner, It's Not Pretty, but it Sure is Tasty.

I'm back on track for my Sunday Dinner posts.

This weekend I tried a Pinterest recipe that looked and sounded fantastic on the original blog... read it and get the recipe here... While mine didn't turn out looking as nice, it still tasted fantastic.  My potato onion tart was a big hit.

Here's the response I got from my brother-in-law when he found out I was making a potato onion tart:

Sister: Laura is making a potato onion tart for dinner.

Brother-in-law: What the hell is a potato onion tart?

Sister: I don't know but it sounds good.

Haha, it did sound good!  Here was my problem, I may have had the heat too high or sauteed my onions a little too long before putting them in the oven with the potatoes. I will try it again.  eithe rway though, put a bunch of cheese with potatoes and it's pretty hard to go completely wrong.  Everyone still thought it tasted really good and that's what matters most.  I will give this a second attempt and perhaps bake it at 350° instead of 400° and see how that works.

As a main dish we made simple grilled salmon with just salt and pepper and some lemon juice and olive oil.  But to dazzle it up a bit we served it with a side of tzatziki sauce.  Yum! 

To make tzatziki sauce, mix a cup of yogurt with half a grated cucumber, some chopped fresh dill, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  You can't really mess it up, specific amounts aren't important.  Just taste it and add more of something until you like it!  I like it with plenty of dill, dried dill weed works great too. 

For a second side and to incorporate a little green into the meal, we sauteed fresh green beans in a frying pan with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.  A few minutes over medium heat and they are tender but still a bit crunchy.  They taste so fresh when paired with the cheesy potatoes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sunday Dinner, Pasta with a Side of Pasta.

We were on carb overload after this Sunday dinner.  Pasta, paired with another pasta, plus toasted bread and some cupcakes ended up delicious, but heavy on the carbohydrates.

While my sister took on the pastas, my mother and I attempted to make a homemade frosting that involves a candy thermometer and was featured on KARE11 a month or two ago when I filled in for Belinda on a Saturday morning.  The frosting was made by Sweets Bakeshop and is to die for.  To my surprise, it wasn't too difficult to make, especially when you factor in our boxed cupcake mix.

I followed the recipe online for Italian Meringue Buttercream exactly, with one exception.  I omitted the vanilla in favor of some lavender.  Yum!  After topping the cupcakes, I did eat some leftover frosting by itself... it is that good.

On to the main dishes... these two pastas, were both fab.  Although the boys of the group did enjoy the spicy chicken dish a bit more than the light basil and lemon one.  If you ask me, they were both good, both for different reasons.

The lemon basil one was nice and light.  Pine nuts added a great bit of texture.  Plus, you could easily add chicken or another protein if you wish.  Here's the recipe from I Nom Things.
The spicy chicken pasta dish was a great one pot wonder, and using canned sauces are a great time saver.  Next time, I would add even more sauce since the pasta soaked it up quite a bit and didn't leave quite enough on the plate to justify eating a slice of bread alongside it.  :)  Here's the recipe from Tastebook.  We accidentally forgot our frozen peas...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sunday Dinner, Mother's Day Brunch.

For Mother's Day my mom requested we go to church to see her play in the bell choir, and that we all have brunch.  Easy enough.

Brunch for us consisted of only two dishes, but we were so full that making any more food would have just been a waste.  We made Corned Beef and Gruyere Casserole, as featured by Michael Symon on The Chew and bacon pancakes!

The casserole is so freaking good.  Add Gruyere and some fresh herbs to anything and I bet it would taste good!  Here's the recipe: Michael Symon's Corned Beef Hash Casserole

The bacon pancakes are easy and delicious, and can be made one of two ways.  After mixing pancake batter using your favorite box or homemade mix you can either crumble in some cooked bacon or, lay the bacon slices on a griddle and pour a scoop of batter over each one.  Cook and flip as usual and voila!  I tried the second method and it worked great.  I recommend real maple syrup on the side too!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Homemade (Sort of) Foaming Hand Soap.

Easy DIY is so right up my alley.  This is one of those no-brainer choices...

Foaming hand soap is so much more fun than regular hand soap.  But it can cost like $3 to $5 a bottle!  So here's an easy DIY:

Take an old but clean foaming hand soap bottle and fill it almost to the top with water. (I used filtered water, but I'm sure tap will do as well.)  Squirt in some dish soap.  I'm not one to measure, but I would guess I put in 2-3 teaspoons.  Screw on the cover and gently shake to combine the soap and water.  Voila! 

Pump and scrub away!  Just like a new store-bought bottle!

Thursday, May 3, 2012


I am so pumped up!  Fork in the Road Foodtruck and I have teamed up for a daily forecast just for food trucks and their patrons. 

As the official food truck forecaster, I'll send out a tweet each weekday at 9:30am and again at 11:30am with the MSP weather conditions for the lunch time rush!  Follow me on twitter @laurabetker and follow the hashtag #foodtruckforecast!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Peach Sauce and Risotto.

So these things don't really go together, but Jenna requested the risotto and Bryan saw this peach sauce on Man Vs. Food the other day, so what the heck!

I happen to have a risotto recipe in one of the Giada De Laurentiis cookbooks I have.  It's one of those recipes that once you make the basic form, you can literally add anything to it and it only gets better.  While risotto takes a little time to make, it really is easy.  Here's the recipe I used.  I kept the add-ons simple and just used some fresh herbs.

Giada's basic Risotto:
4 cups chicken broth
3 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parm
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Few sage leaves, or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand

In a medium saucepan,bring the broth to a simmer. Cover and keep hot over low heat. In a large saucepan melt 2 Tbsp. butter over medium. Add onion and sauté until tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, 3 min. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and still until almost completely absorbed, 2 min. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the net, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Parm cheese, the remaining tablespoon of butter and salt and better.  As mentioned I also stirred is a bunch of fresh cut herbs at this point.  Fab!
The chicken was slightly trickier because they don't give an exact recipe on Man Vs. Food. So, by watching closely and using some general knowledge of making BBQ sauce, I winged it.  Here's the general recipe, but please note that I am NOT a measurer.  A little of this and a little of that, is my cooking method.  Then add a little more until it tastes right.  This sauce is fabulous.  I would be great for wings or pork chops.  And as an added bonus, it tastes great as a salsa with tortilla chips!

Coat a bone-in cut up chicken with olive oil, paprika, thyme and salt and pepper. The amounts aren't important,just make sure you have enough salt to flavor the chicken.  It will be a bright reddish-orange mixture.  Grill on medium high until juices run clear.

Peach Sauce:
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 small cans tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. molasses
1Tbsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large cans of peaches in syrup
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large skillet or heavy pot soften onion celery and bell pepper in olive oil over medium heat.  Season with thyme, salt and pepper.  Add tomato sauce, brown sugar, molasses and Worcestershire sauce.  Taste. (It should taste a bit like BBQ sauce.   Like it sweeter?  Add more brown sugar.  Like it more tangy?  Add more Worcestershire or a splash of extra vinegar.) Season with salt and pepper. Let sauce bubble for a couple minutes over medium heat.

With a food processor, blender or immersion blender puree the sauce.  Add can of peaches, with syrup and puree again.  Pour back in pot.

Add bay leaves and simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and season.  Serve over chicken!

Dessert was one of those afterthoughts that came about with whatever we had in the house at the time.  After a quick internet search, we came up with Fruit Nachos! 

Here's how we made them!

Fruit Nachos:
2 cups fresh or frozen fruit, thawed and chopped
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tub whipped topping, like Cool Whip
1 individual serving of yogurt, any flavor is fine
chocolate (white, milk or dark)
flour tortillas
melted butter
2 more Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

For the fruit topping:
Mix fruit and sugar.  Allow to macerate.

For the whipped topping:
Mix whipped topping and yogurt.  Add honey to taste.

For the chips:
Cut each tortilla into 8 equal sections.  Mix butte with cinnamon and sugar.  Spread butter mixture over tortillas on both sides.  Place in a single layer on cookie sheets and bake at 400° until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Place chips on a platter, top with yogurt mixture and fruit.  Shave chocolate over the top.  Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sunday Dinner, Thailand.

Even though my sissy was reluctant about eating curry, the fam took a trip to Thailand.  Although we did have a big shopping trip in the spice aisle for things like tumeric and fish sauce... it was worth it!  Another fabulous weekend din din.

Here's the recipes:

Fish Curry (We added noodles and it could have used a bowl)

Asian Cabbage Slaw (Great for a picnic)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday Dinner, Panini-Fest.

Another round of Sunday Dinner in the books.  And while the traditional Easter meal involves ham and most likely cheesy potatoes, today's grub at the Betker household was paninis!
Served rustic-style...
My sister has a recipe book devoted to only panins that was looking pretty, but feeling unused sitting on the kitchen counter. So we each picked a sammy and then we made them all!  Of course we made multiples and everyone got a taste of everything.  And to balance all the carbs found in ciabatta bread, a romaine salad with mandarin oranges, almonds and poppyseed dressing.  Wash it all down with some Sauvignon Blanc, and everything works out perfectly. :)
Italian Tuna with Avocado, Mozzarella and Artichokes
Here's a list of the sandwiches we made:
  • Ham, Brie and Apple (Everyone's Favorite)
  • BBQ Chicken with Blue Cheese and Celery
  • Goat Cheese with Cherry Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar
  • Italian Tuna with Avocado, Mozzarella and Artichokes
  • Goat Cheese and Raspberry Sauce
  • Turkey with Blue Cheese and Cranberry-Orange Relish
Left: Turkey with Blue Cheese and Cranberry-Orange Relish
Right: Ham, Brie and Apple

Friday, April 6, 2012

Planning the Garden.

The garden has been tilled (thanks to Bryan) and I can't wait to start planting in it.  Now that we've moved into April ,some early cool season crops are ready.  For example, it won't be long before I plant some kohlrabi, cabbage and onions.

I always like to plan my garden to take in account companion planting and space before putting anything in the ground.  Golden Harvest Organics puts out a great website on companion planting with an itemized list plant by plant. 

This year, I'm using a website tool that is new to me, which helps gardeners plan their gardens right from the start!  It's from Smart Gardener, Inc. and even has a calendar feature that keeps you on track with planting and upkeep schedules throughout the season.  You enter your zip code and it can tell you which plants will work best in your area.  It does take a few minutes to get started, but I think it will come in handy especially early in the season. 

I moved things around just a bit for even spacing, but here's what my virtual garden turned out looking like:
I'm so excited to get started I can hardly wait!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

DIY Fashion, The Pleated Wrap Skirt

My attempt at making my own clothes has begun.  I made this skirt a few months ago and today it made its on-air debut. 

I'll be honest, this probably wasn't the best choice for a beginner, but with a little help from Mom it turned out great.  The pleats take some patience but are so worth it... I think.

I'm so loving all the blogs of designers that post how-to's.  I'm completely taking advantage of their great skills in explaining and pattern making.  The best part is that you can alter many of then for shorter or longer lengths to custom design them for your own look. Here's the link to the blog that inspired my outfit today!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sunday Dinner, Carnitas.

My brother-in-law said he felt like we were sitting in Mexico while eating this week's Sunday Dinner. The rest of us agreed.

I've made this recipe once before, a long time ago, and I don't know why I don't do it more often. Carnitas.

The recipe for these pork tacos is from a Martha Stewart publication, Everyday Food. It's a great monthly magazine that is ALWAYS stocked with great recipes. We supplemented with a Paula Dean Southwestern Salad that was so refreshing.

It's always a good thing when a recipe includes avocado. And in this case... Both the salad and the main dish have some!

Here's our recipes this week:

Friday, March 30, 2012

The All-Girl Show.

I'm filling in for Sven this week. Plus Tim and Pete are off and Janel and Shayne are filling in.  With Kim, that makes it all girls this morning!  We decided to have a little fun being girly and are sharing our favorite beauty products.

Hands down, mine are homemade make-up remover wipes that I found on Pinterest.  I've modified the recipe just a tad.  They are a huge money saver and they work great! Plus, they double as baby wipes, so I always make a double batch and give half to my sister for Ella!  She loves them too. 

Here's my recipe:

1 Roll good quality paper towels (I like Bounty or Viva.)
2 1/4 cups Water
2 Tbsp. Baby shampoo
2 Tbsp Baby oil
Plastic container (I use a sherbet container, My sister uses Tupperware made for storing flour.)

Cut the paper towel roll in half across it's "equator" using a sharp kitchen knife.  You'll have two smaller rolls that look like toilet paper rolls.  Make sure it fits completely inside the plastic container and set aside.  Put the next 3 ingredients into your plastic container and mix gently until combined. 

You're basically don't at this point.  It's super easy!

next put the paper towels into the container with the liquid.  I like to dip one side and then flip it over.  Allow all the liquid to be soaked up.  Then pull out the cardboard core of the towels.  Voila!  The towels will dispense from the center. 

Use and abuse them, they're fabulous!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sunday Dinner.

Since moving back, the fam has started a tradition of Sunday Dinners, held at my sister's house.  Week to week we dig up recipes, new and old to make and eat as a family.  While the boys relax and watch sports, most likely having a beverage as well, the girls hang in the kitchen. 

There's a serious hierarchy when it comes to our cooking.  I'm the head chef.  My sister, Jenna, is second in command.  And my mom is the sous chef.  It's become a running joke and makes for a fun time.  There's always laughing, sometimes some arguing, and always some wine.  We all look forward to it as the week goes on.

Although a big part of the event is spending time together, the food is the star of the show.  Recipes range from fancy and complicated to down home comfort food.  Either way, they usually turn out fantastic. 

Here are a couple examples of previous Sunday Dinners.  Each Sunday evening you can look for a new post with a new recipe!

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Tenderloin Steaks with Gorgonzola and Herbs and Roasted Garlic and Grape Tomato Pasta with Basil and Arugula (Thanks to Bel for this recipe!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Up in the Sky!

When I was little, my mind changed nearly every day when it came to what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I was a doctor, and a school teacher, and a rock scientist.  For at least a little while mixed in to all that, I was an astronaut.  How fun to fly up into the stars.

I'm reminded of how cool the starry skies look thanks to an appearance from Jupiter and Venus lately. 

In the western evening sky, the two planets can be viewed aroung 9:00pm.  They are moving past eachother but will be at their closest (3°) tonight.  Take a look up and see!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I'm Loving It.

Being back in Minnesota definitely has it's perks. 
Ella, My brand new niece!
But Lima did have some great qualities.  Most of them work at WLIO... Bryan and I are definitely missing our friends.  And Punchie is too! (That means you, Brutus.)  But also, I'm missing my 5 minute commute to work!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Next Step.

It's been almost two years since I came to Lima... nervous and so excited to start my TV Meteorology career.  Now it's time to take the next step to continue professional development.  I've accepted a job in Minneapolis at the NBC affiliate, KARE.  Two weeks from today I'll be packing up in a U-Haul and heading back home to Minnesota. 

Bryan and I couldn't be more excited.  With a new baby in the family (thanks to my sister and her husband) we're so excited to get back to family and friends.  But we're also trying not to think too hard about the friends we are leaving behind here in Lima.  There will definitely be some tears as we say goodbye to Limaland.

January 31st will be my last day at WLIO.  I've been so lucky to have worked and learned here with such a supportive community.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ohio, Check!

Living in Lima certainly has the perk of proximity to several big and exciting cities.  Bryan and I made it a priority during our time here to visit each city in the region at least once.

With a trip to Cincinnati this weekend, the task was complete!  On our way down, we were talking about which one we had enjoyed the most and which one we could see ourselves living in long term.  To that question, I replied Columbus and he chose Indianapolis.  As a vacay destination, we both agreed on Put-in-Bay... can't beat a winery on an island with golf carts!

But after a great night that included a sampling of appetizers and drinks at several restaurants we both agreed it would be Cincy for us!  We loved it!  The architecture of the old houses was fantastic.  The river and hills make for interesting landscape.  And the variety of neighborhoods within the city makes for an experience no matter what your mood is.

Here's a few pics of our trips that took us out of Limaland.
Indians vs. Twins, Cleveland

Badgers vs. Buckeyes, Columbus

East Harbor State Park, Port Clinton

Wednesday, January 11, 2012