My Facebook page is filled with messages from friends saying “Just got my first shot,” or “Yippee, we’re fully vaccinated!” Happy faces and feelings of relief — and one of the reasons for those is the fact that we can again get together with friends and family in person! That’s a real reason to celebrate — and celebrations mean food.

I was thinking about our families, this year made smaller by the passing of two of our siblings — my brother, Gary, and Dan’s sister, Joan. Family gatherings usually mean food favorites on the table. My brothers, their families, and us usually gather for the BMG  reunion in the summer — that stands for Bud/Mabel Gruhl, our parents! We grew up on a farm in rural Hawley, so many of our food memories read like a church basement dinner. Grilling was a big thing and I still think my dad invented the first Weber grill by cutting a metal barrel in half with his acetylene torch and adding hinges for the cover. He also used that same torch to start the coals because he would come in from the field, start the coals with the torch, go milk cows and then grill for supper.

My mom, Mabel, was a wonder in the kitchen so I am sharing a couple favorites that still appear at our gatherings to this day along with a recipe from Dan’s mom, Emma, who was a cookie baking wizard.

Mabel’s Buns

Mom was a consummate bread baker, sometimes baking 16 loaves at a time! 

Makes 12 -16 buns — mix by hand or use the dough cycle on a bread machine. 

Heat: 1 cup water1/4 cup granulated sugar

Add: 1/4 cup shortening1/2 tsp. salt  and cool

Add: 1 beaten egg3 cups flour

2 tsp. yeast

Note: If mixing by hand, cover and let rise until doubled before shaping. Mix, shape, put on greased baking sheet, cover with towel and let rise until doubled. Bake 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees. Brush tops with melted butter and cool on a rack. This dough also works well for cinnamon/caramel rolls.

Wild Rice and Sausage Casserole

Dad used to purchase a gunny sack of wild rice from one of the nearby reservations. 

Wild river rice is part of our family tradition, and not just on holidays.

1 cup raw wild rice

2 cups chicken/vegetable broth

2 T. chicken soup base

1 lb. seasoned pork sausage

2 T. butter

2 T. oil

1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 1/2 cups chopped celery

8 oz. mushrooms, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 1 cup dried cranberries

Sliced almonds for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees and put the rice, broth, and soup base in a 9 X 13 cake pan. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Check at 40 minutes as different types of rice cook differently. While the rice is baking, fry the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula. Drain and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the remaining ingredients in the butter/oil mixture. Mix all together, adding cranberries if using. Put in a casserole dish and return to oven for 30 minutes. Garnish with almonds when serving.

Emma’s Sand Tarts

There was always a huge gallon jar of these waiting for us when we visited Dan’s folks at the holidays. They are addictive — thin, crisp and delicious!

1 cup butter

2 eggs

2 cups sugar

2-1/2  cups flour

Separate eggs: save each white in its own bowl. Cream butter and sugar. Add beaten egg yolks, white of one egg and flour. Mix well. Chill for an hour or more. On floured board, roll thinly to 1/8 inch. Cut columns, then diagonally to make triangles. Brush with slightly beaten egg white and dust with sugar and cinnamon. Bake 8-10 minutes at 375 degrees. Watch carefully, don’t overbake. Check the underside, if it is a bit brown, take them out, put on rack to cool.

These three recipes don’t even begin to touch on the myriad of food memories in my family. A quick rundown of favorites that come immediately to mind are:

•Red hotdish (basically bacon/tomatoes/macaroni).

•White hotdish (basically macaroni in a white sauce).

•Beef dishes galore (because we raised our own cattle).

•Chicken (especially fricassaed chicken) always the picnic and dinner-in-the-field meal.

•Fresh bread (16 loaves at a time).

•Swedish pancakes (like a crepe, but sweet).

•Milk mush (cheap version of rommegrot).

•Any kind of fruit canned by Mom (we called it sauce).

•Scandinavian treats: krumkake, rosettes, fattigmann, sandbakkels, lefse, flatbread.


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