Also in this issue: A look at holiday TRADITIONS from near and afar Tips from Diane Dunham for your PANDEMIC BREAD BAKING
FIBER AND CERAMICS with Caitlin Heyer The Free Press MEDIA
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2 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
FEATURE S DECEMBER 2020 Volume 15, Issue 12
Pre-heat those ovens! Tips and tricks from professionals to perfect holiday cookie baking
‘Tis the season
Get your knead on
Learn the different holiday traditions from area residents
Market Bakery owner offers tips to perfect bread baking, a hobby that rose in popularity during the pandemic
ABOUT THE COVER Hy-vee cake designer Mara Brockman, decorates cookies. Readers from the area sent in their favorite cookie recipe.
MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 3
DEPARTMENTS 6 From the Editor 8 This Day in History 9 Avant Guardians
Dream Weaver: Caitlin Heyer
10 Beyond the Margin
In lightness or darkness
12 Familiar Faces Abby Daleki
14 Day Trip Destinations GLOW Holiday Festival
36 Let’s Eat!
38 Community Draws Meals on Wheels
Stout winter constitution
40 Country Minutes
The Dogs of Oshawa Township Part 11
42 Garden Chat
The end of the season
44 From This Valley
The annual Christmas letter: The weirdest year
Coming in January
39 4 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Getting to know Bukata Hayes
M OMENT S FROM THE PARK. DAYS F R O M BE I NG YOUR NEW HOME.
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© 2020 All rights reserved. MANKATO MAGAZINE • Ecumen. DECEMBER 2020 •5
FROM THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR By Diana Rojo-Garcia DECEMBER 2020 • VOLUME 15, ISSUE 12 PUBLISHER Steve Jameson EDITOR Joe Spear ASSOCIATE Diana Rojo-Garcia EDITOR CONTRIBUTORS Bert Mattson Dan Greenwood Jean Lundquist Kat Baumann Leticia Gonzalez Nicole Helget Pete Steiner Katie Leibel Nell Musolf
PHOTOGRAPHERS Pat Christman PAGE DESIGNER Christina Sankey ADVERTISING Danny Creel SALES Jordan Greer-Friesz Josh Zimmerman Theresa Haefner
ADVERTISING Barb Wass ASSISTANT ADVERTISING Christina Sankey DESIGNERS CIRCULATION Justin Niles DIRECTOR
Mankato Magazine is published by The Free Press Media monthly at 418 South Second St., Mankato MN 56001. To subscribe, call 1-800-657-4662 or 507-625-4451. $35.40 for 12 issues. For all editorial inquiries, call Diana Rojo-Garcia 507-344-6305, or email email@example.com. For advertising, call 344-6364, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
6 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
A TRADITION, LIKE ALL OTHERS
he eve before Christmas Eve, the Rojo family had already begun to prepare the festivities for the upcoming holiday. Mom cooks up pork in a pressure cooker that I’m almost certain is about the same age as me. It’d whistle in the kitchen as she started to prepare chile colorado (red chile sauce) to smother the shreddable, buttery pork. The family would patiently wait for the meat to marry the flavors of the chili as it reduced. Mom watched everyone with suspicion while she tried to remember how her mother would make the masa for tamales. “Her’s would just be so fluffy,” she’d say, as she tested the dough by dropping it into a cup of water. And as soon as we inched closer to the stove, eyeing the pork, she’d condemn us for eating the filling for the tamales. Every single year it’d be the same, and what was even better than the dance between stealing a bite of that delicious meat and my watchful mother, was assembling the tamales. Together, in a rather cramped dining room of a smallish, typical 1940s era cottage home, our family of five which continued to grow with spouses and more kids, we’d set up shop. One would smother the masa on the already soaked corn husks from days before. Another, filling the meat — enough to be filling, yet not so much that it’d overflow in the cooking process. Then passed along to another to wrap up the tamale. A messy, messy and tedious job. No wonder Mom only makes it during Christmas. And for years, before I was born, our family has held this tradition. I never really cared for the actual Christmas Day or even the presents (except that one time I got a play kitchen and the other time a play desk). December for me was the gathering days before Christmas with my family, creating a food that has been passed down in my culture since the Aztecs. Sitting around, learning to smother the masa onto the cornhusk from my mother, who learned it from my father, who learned it from his mother. And sharing stories between my brothers, and now my many nieces and nephews and my in-laws.
A powerful, and delicious, emotion of connectivity between loved ones. A tradition stemmed from food. Something that every single human has, and personally, I believe that’s what makes us human. It’s something that most of us can still rely on, regardless of a pandemic. Anthony Bourdain (rest in peace, homie), one of my ultimate favorite chefs and author, explained it like this: “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” So for this particular, and very foodcentered, issue we wanted to share the traditions others have during a time where traditions are heavy. We asked our readers in October to submit their favorite holiday cookie — a tradition as old as time (probably) and you guys did not disappoint. There were cookie recipes passed to us that had been passed down THREE generations and others from grandparents. Check out our cookie submissions — more than 20! — and take a peek at some tips from Cheri Brown, owner of Diamond Dust Bakery in St. Peter and Stacey Donoho, cake decorator at Hy-Vee’s hilltop location. Nell Musolf also explored traditions celebrated from here and afar, including St. Lucia’s Festival at Gustavus, the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. James and many international students (there’s a special recipe in here, too!). And if you haven’t had enough food yet, check out Jean Lundquist’s piece on pandemic bread baking. Lundquist spoke with Diane Dunham, owner of Market Bakery, to get the science behind great baking (there’s a recipe in this, too.) Whatever tradition or holiday you may celebrate during, after or before December — I wish you a very merry, happy holiday. We’ll see you guys next year! Diana Rojo-Garcia is associate editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact her at drojogarcia@ mankatofreepress.com
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THIS DAY IN HISTORY Compiled by Jean Lundquist
Indian Lake Dec. 18, 1918 For many years, “stringers” in small villages and towns submitted the highlights in news from their area. In 1918, many echoed this report from the Indian Lake reporter: The Indian Lake School will close until after the holidays, as so many cases of influenza make it unsafe to continue classes; the Lawrence Olinger family is recovering nicely from the influenza that afflicted them all; Alfred Mutch, who had been working at the Poor Farm, has been having the influenza; Mrs. R.L. Crase has the flu; Miss Hazel Kidder and Lillian Duffrey are among the latest flu victims, and Harold True is reported to be having the flu. Find youths involved in two thefts Dec. 21, 1959 Two juvenile thieves were identified by police after a theft from a drugstore, and another from the railroad roundhouse on Poplar Street. In the first case, a young man from out of town apparently stole a bottle of liquor while another boy made a purchase, distracting the clerk. When they returned to the vehicle where two friends were waiting, the out-of-towner showed his friends what he had. They didn’t want to be involved and made the boy throw the bottle out the window. They were found because the clerk wrote down the car license plate number. Another boy, 14, was apprehended after allegedly breaking into lockers in the round house and absconding with some pencils and a rubber stamp. A railroad employee chased him and gave police a description. Groundswell takes over credit association offices Dec. 17, 1985 The farm crisis of the 1980s saw many farm families lose not only their land, but their livestock, machinery and homes. At 7:30 a.m. on this particular Tuesday, some 12 members of the agriculture group Groundswell marched into the Production Credit Association offices demanding Gov. Rudy Perpich come to the location and hear their demands. Two employees were free to leave, they said, but a secretary had decided to stay to preserve records and a loan officer said he felt it was his duty to stay. Blue Earth County Sheriff LaRoy Wiebold arrived to negotiate. When told of the demand to talk to the governor, Wiebold said, “I hope he’s not in Austria this week.” Montgomery moose saga is over Dec. 12, 1977 Dave Soukup, of Montgomery, and a friend from Silver Bay thought the biggest moose Soukup had ever seen was worth pursuing after Soukup shot it while moose hunting his first time out. Unfortunately, it meant the two men were separated from the rest of their hunting party and were lost. Night fell. Snow was waist high. The temperature was 15 degrees below zero. All they had to eat were candy bars. The men had no shelter and no sleeping bags, but they had snowmobile suits and gunpowder from hunting shells to help start a fire, and they had the biggest moose Soukup had ever seen, about 1,000 pounds, dead in their camp. After being rescued the next day, Soukup hired a helicopter to find the animal, rented logging equipment to retrieve it, and had it delivered to a locker plant in Montgomery. He said he would most certainly go moose hunting again.
1750 Northway Drive • North Mankato, MN 56003 www.corpgraph.com
AVANT GUARDIANS By Leticia Gonzales
Dream WEAVER C
Caitlin Heyer began in ceramics, now considers herself a weaver
aitlin Heyer, a 30-year-old art teacher and kiln tech, always has gravitated toward the
arts. “I spent a lot of time drawing and coloring and playing with clay and beads as a little girl,” Heyer said. “I started weaving in high school when a friend gave me a set of cards for tablet weaving. I loved it, but cards are kind of limiting because they’re mostly for making narrow bands.” Heyer said she fell in love with ceramics while studying studio art at Bethany Lutheran College, where she ultimately earned her degree. “I started as a painter in college and worked mostly with oils but found I was drawn to the surface
work I could do in ceramics.” After graduation, her husband encouraged her to find a studio at the Arts Center of Saint Peter. Although she had been a potter, Heyer said that her pregnancy in 2018 prevented her from bending over the pottery wheel. She also had to limit her glazing because of the toxic chemicals. “So I started incorporating fiber to my work as a way to add color, and I had so much fun exploring that relationship between the softness of the fabric and the hardness of the ceramic,” she said. “Both materials are so strong in their own ways.” In addition to being a stay-athome mom, Heyer works part time at Artifact, firing the kiln and as a
Caitlin Heyer studied studio art at Bethany Lutheran College. The artist works with ceramics and fiber. | Submitted photo
fiber technician at the Arts Center of Saint Peter, caring for the looms and teaching weaving. She still manages to find about 10 hours a week to work on her own art. In her show last year, Heyer said she found herself including more fiber in each piece. “I ended up using a floor loom for one project and loved it so much that it was kind of a natural transition into weaving.” While she still includes ceramic elements in her woven work, she considers herself a weaver now. “My most recent and biggest exhibition was last October,” Heyer said. “It was called ‘Holding Space,’ and I was really fortunate to be able to join my fellow potters Jan Waller and Stephanie Bové to explore how people deal with and approach death. Recently, I started dying my own yarn and rags for rugs. I have two hand-dyed rugs on my loom that I’m working on right now.” Finding inspiration for projects has been a challenge due to the ongoing pandemic. “COVID has really thrown a wrench in my flow, though, and I took a three-month hiatus to sew masks,” she said. “Now a lot of my work has to do with protection and protective barriers. I tend to work in blues when I weave and with neutrals for my ceramic elements. I love the interplay between the rigid permanence of the clay body and the softness and fluidity of the fibers.” She isn’t letting any materials go to waste either, as she is also making ceramic beads to add to a warp for a round rug made out of mask scraps. “I find lots of things inspiring, and something that seems unrelated can really make a connection. Making masks has made me think a lot about the ways we protect ourselves both physically and emotionally.”
MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 9
BEYOND THE MARGIN By Joe Spear
In lightness or darkness
The fall sunsets create a beautiful red glow to the historic Mankato post office. 10 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
ecember is for endings. And beginnings. The winter solstice arrives at 5:02 a.m. Monday, Dec. 21. The Old Farmer’s Almanac charts the sunrise in the 56001 area code at 7:48 a.m. and the sunset at 4:40 p.m. for 8 hours and 52 minutes of daylight. But from there, we’re Minnesota stubborn. The days don’t get longer until Dec. 25, when we gain one minute. And what a day to gain some light. We gain another minute by Dec. 27 and another by Dec. 29. Another by the 30th and another by Jan. 1, to go with our New Year’s celebrations. From there, if you’re an optimist, the situation gets better. And we can only hope the election will also be over by December. nnnn
The 1896 Mankato post office closed in October and is now dark and empty. I’ll miss looking out my office window across the street to see the daily activity. People waiting in line patiently, many sending packages to families far away, perhaps on different continents where things are not so good. But here they can walk into an inspiring building built with engineering and heavy cranes and with beautiful stone dug out of the ground not more than a few miles away. The changing light of the
seasons turned the 125-year-old Kasota stone of the post office a slightly different color. The low sun of autumn sunsets creates a brilliant reddish glow. The bright reflection of white winter snow highlighted the gleaming stone. One of the matriarchs of the Vetter Stone company was one of few who could point to where the original post office was adjoined to the addition that doubled its size. Talk about a growth industry. And the post office represents all of these things that were great now and in the past. Think of the Pony Express and the ever stoic and vigilant words of “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” And now, only developers with huge tax breaks can stop the mail. And they really can’t stop it, they can only displace it. The mail will go on. Even the people who swore an oath to protect all the things that make our country great are trying to end the Postal Service. They want to “defund” it by removing mail-sorting machines and wheeling away the signature blue boxes that stand as a familiar symbol that we can connect with our countrymen far away. This in a year where mail-in ballots quadrupled in number. The Mankato post office moved to a rather uninspiring building near the skyscrapers. The carvings and glass and polished iron tables were replaced with Fed Ex-like countertops, surgical light, and rocket red painted walls with big emblazoned numbers “56001” — as if we didn’t know where we are.
are hunkering down. Consider that message. At the Mall of America, they put on more security out of “an abundance of caution,” a phrase that seems all too common lately. Still one could take solace in some things not affected by elections. There was no widespread boarding up of buildings in Kentucky, one of the reddest of red states. It was the first state called to go for President Donald Trump on Election Night, with only a small portion of the vote official. Things are pretty predictable in Kentucky, and Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear can only hope they’ll stay that way for him. If economic growth is good for incumbents, then Beshear may be OK. Kentucky bourbon makers stockpiled a modern-era record amount of products aging in warehouses. A report shows more than 9.2 million barrels of bourbon are being stored there — the most since 1967, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. We’ll need that at some point this year, I’m sure. Beshear hailed it as a great milestone, though as a Democratic governor in a red state, I’m sure he’d wished the voters had drunk more of the bourbon instead of storing it. Still, as thousands of Kentuckians are employed at distilleries, the governor had to note it “represents our history and future.” One cannot ask much more than that. Yes, December is for darkness and endings, but also for light and renewal. By the feast of the epiphany on Jan. 6, we will have gained 11 minutes of daylight.
nnnn The joy of Election Day has ended. They boarded up the stores on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. A Target spokesperson said it was precaution to keep with the company’s priority of keeping their team and guests safe. The feds sent in 15 paralegals to take election complaints. On the day where Americans are expected to speak loudly about their government, people
Joe Spear is editor of Mankato Magazine. Contact him at email@example.com or 344-6382. Follow on Twitter @jfspear. MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 11
Eclectic and BRIGHT Artist describes her art as “big, bright-colored and wonky”
Photos by Pat Christman
Abby Daleki HOMETOWN: Onalaska, Wisconsin
FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE: “The Nightmare Before Christmas”
FAVORITE HAND SANITIZER: Soap and water
CURRENT EARWORM: Blackpowder by Jucifer
f time and money weren’t a concern, Abby Daleki of North Mankato would probably be off on a coast somewhere sipping “cold bevvies, petting cats, swimming, dancing, drumming” and, of course, painting. Daleki has worked in the Mankato area to bring artists together, along with Melissa Ketchum, to give artists an opportunity to show their work. Before the pandemic, they’d host OmniMatter pop-up art shows, which gave artists not only a place to display their art but to network as well. And before the public art focus, Daleki could be seen performing as the drummer in Sister Gin around 2011. She also teaches an online heavy metal belly dancing class. The artist, whose work you can see on her very own garage door and mural on Mom & Pop’s wall, believes in art in all forms. Go to abbydaleki.com/ to check out the rest of her work. MANKATO MAGAZINE: For the last few years you have done a project called 100 Day Projects. What are those and what have you done during those 100 days? A B B Y D A L E K I : The 100 Day Project (www. the100dayproject.com) is a way to commit to art making and beat resistance. I have always struggled with resisting art making as my conscience gets in my way of creativity. It is a constant for 100 days that suggests that I hold myself accountable of creating every day. Each year, I focus on a few elements that I want to work on. My paintings have always been big, messy, bright-colored and wonky. So, for a couple years now, I have really tried to keep the 100 day projects to a minimalistic style. One year, it was just one line per drawing. That was quite difficult, but it required that I slow down and really focus on the line. After the 100 days, I became more confident in mark making. In 2020, I wanted to focus on mixed media: sewing into paper, line and words. I wrote short poems for each drawing and used colored, but mostly black, thread and sewed into the paper. MM: Between yourself and Melissa Ketchum, founder of Twin Rivers Movers and Shakers, OmniMatter pop-up art shows came to fruition. What was the idea behind these shows and how has this been important in the community? AD: When I was still living on the East Coast, I was already
12 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
planning my goals for after I moved back to Minnesota. One of those goals and intentions was to create and connect community and artists through OmniMatter. I had put this idea out on social media and the word traveled through artists in Mankato. Melissa and I had not yet met each other, but she had caught word of this idea and wanted to make it happen as she had similar ideas. Eventually, we were able to meet up and discuss the logistics as my original idea had not translated fully. This is where Sunday Art Social (later Saturday Art Social) became known and my brainchild, OmniMatter, was debuted. One of the main reasons I wanted this project to come to fruition was because I had experienced an instance in graduate school where a gallery assistant made it known that I, as a grad student, was not yet an established artist and therefore would not be treated the way an established artist would be treated. That was when I decided that all artists are deserving of respect, inclusivity, and that it should not matter where their art is displayed: be it a coffee shop, an empty parking lot, a gallery or a barn. Artists should have multiple opportunities to display their art. The name somewhat gives it away: Omni (all) Matter (things). We’re all very important and should be treated as such. MM: If you could describe your art in five words, what would they be? AD: Bright, awkward, wonky, precise, delicate. MM: The mural on Mom & Pop’s Ice Cream Shop is your work. How did you choose that design? AD: I have been making these wonky bright paintings for a while now, and Casey and Shawn of Mom & Pop’s were really interested in having my work on their newly purchased ice cream shop! So, I had free rein of design and I approached it the way I would approach a canvas. The only real difference was the V shape in the middle that was somewhat abstract ice cream cone. It was my first mural and has really opened a lot of doors for me.
MM: This year, one of your pieces of work was featured in an exhibition in Ghana. Tell us a little bit more about that piece and exhibit. AD: I had some of my 100 Day Project drawings hanging at the St. Peter Food Co-op and local artist Daniel Kerkhoff was interested in purchasing one. He explained to me that he was traveling to Ghana to teach kids using local Minnesota artists as reference. There was an exhibition of all the Minnesota and Ghana artists. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend. MM: Would you rather have your art come to life or become stuck in your own art? AD: I view my paintings as beings. I used to name each painting with human names. Like, Mark, Eric, Nancy, Christina, etc. I would LOVE for them to come to life. I worry that it would be selfish of me to only hang out with my painting friends, though, because that is exactly what I would do.
MM: You also teach belly dancing — heavy metal belly dancing, to be precise. How did you get involved in belly dancing and why heavy metal? AD: In 2011, my friend and bandmate Violet Kind had opened her belly dance studio. She was very persuasive in trying to get me to take her classes. So, I agreed to it and took classes up until 2015 when I moved to Delaware for grad school. When I moved back in 2018, I continued taking classes and began teaching as well. Heavy metal is my favorite genre and, as a drummer, I really enjoy the rhythm that heavy metal offers. I connected belly dancing and heavy metal with the melodic guitars, rhythmic guitars and fast drums. Due to COVID-19, the physical studio ceased to exist and as instructors, we were allowed the opportunity to do our own thing. So, I opened my online heavy metal belly dance studio Doum Lizard Studio.
MM: One of your special projects is “U-nan-onymous,” a COVID-19 series featuring a variety of work. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? AD: While in graduate school, my colleague Bailey Chick and myself started Unanonymous (Unanimous + Anonymous) Project that consisted of drawing collaborations between artists who did not know each other but were like-minded and exchanged the drawings through USPS. At the end of that project, we had 100 drawings with each drawing being completely unique from the next as none of the drawings had the same combination of contributors. With the COVID-19 Edition, we wanted to replicate this in a digital way. Bailey and I sought out artists who experienced similar things: Each artist had an exhibition canceled or rescheduled due to COVID. The rules were fairly open so each artist’s medium was different from the next. At the end of the art exchange, we created an e-book for easy viewing.
MM: You’ve recently moved back to Mankato from the East Coast. How long were you there and what did you do? AD: I moved to Delaware in 2015 for graduate school at The University of Delaware in Newark. I received my MFA in studio arts in 2017. After graduation, I moved to Wilmington, Delaware, and taught two semesters at Lincoln University near Oxford, Pennsylvania. As a born and raised Midwesterner, I decided to move back to Mankato in 2018.
MM: If you could sit down with any person (alive or dead) for a cup of coffee, who would it be and why? AD: My paternal grandfather. I didn’t get to know him well as he suffered from dementia by the time I was a teen. If I could meet him now, I would ask him a lot of questions about his 10 siblings who all were born and raised in northeast Minneapolis. I’m very interested in my family history. Compiled by Diana Rojo-Garcia MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 13
DAY TRIP DESTINATIONS: GLOW Holiday Festival By Katie Leibel
Lighting up the holiday season
GLOW Holiday Festival celebrates the holiday at the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul | Courtesy GLOW
GLOW Holiday Festival adapts safety during pandemic
ven though many holiday traditions are canceled or drastically changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a Scrooge-like scourge will not be wiping out all holiday cheer. A new event attempts to capture the joy of the season in a safe way. The GLOW Holiday Festival is a drive-thru attraction that celebrates the holidays at the State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. The family-friendly festival kicked off Nov. 19 and goes through Jan. 3, featuring millions of lights covering a variety of displays and scenes, a largerthan-life 3D projection, a State Fair Food Court, and much more including a few surprises, according to the festival’s staff. Rand Levy, Adam Chesin and Adam Wendle — the three partners of the event — banded together to get the festival started. Levy was approached with the idea by a promoter friend who told him about a similar successful event he did in Chicago. “It sounded not only fun and exciting to us, but it also seemed like something that we could execute well and provide some of that same fun and excitement to
14 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
the people of our community,” the three said in a joint interview. “I grew up with a food and beverage background, and my family owns one of the beer gardens at the State Fair. I also run concessions for other special events and music festivals around the city,” Chesin said. Chesin has had a contract for the beverage operation at Soundset Music Festival for the past five years (which Levy owned). “So I’m not averse to a fast-paced, high-volume environment,” Chesin said. Levy has owned and promoted events and music festivals for the majority of his career including WeFest, Soundset, 10,000 Lakes Music Festival, Palomino Festival, Lilith Fair and Warped Tour. The third partner, Wendle, comes from a business and sales background and also can build or fix just about anything. The three create the mix of skills required to pull off an event like this. GLOW features multiple stops along the tour in the fairgrounds. One of the highlights include the Tinsel
Tower, which is a 3D graphics display projected onto the State Fair’s 4H building. The holiday festival has an Arctic Circle, which includes a towering 100-foot tree, surrounded by lit icicles sticking up from the ground. Another area, Glitter Critters, features an array of “larger-thanlife animals lit up with thousands of lights.” The partners’ favorite part is building the show, making it fit and catering it to the footprint they have to work with. “It’s always a pleasure to work with the people of the State Fair to make an event that can be safe and fun for everybody who attends,” Chesin said. One of the best parts of the whole event, they said, is the food court finale near the end. “The food court is an optional portion of the show. After the drive-thru tour is finished, attendees can choose to park, put on their masks and enter an area we call sELFie Plaza where the food court will be located,” Chesin said. There they can enjoy State Fair foods, take family photos with a few more displays, and check out GLOW merchandise. Along with edible food, there is the festive gingerbread house. “It’s the old superintendent’s house on the fairgrounds that we thought we would magnificently light up like a gingerbread house. Immediately behind it is the giant State Fair water tower on Snelling Avenue that we are going to light up like a candy cane and we are calling it the Peppermint Tower,” Chesin said. “It might just give families some inspiration and ideas of things they could do to light up their house and yard.” Their goal is to make GLOW become an annual winter event that becomes a staple to the metro area. “We want to do everything that we can to mirror the popularity and fine reputation of the Minnesota State Fair,” Chesin said. Not only is it important to them to spread some fun in Minnesota amid the public health emergency, but they also want to give back to the community. Charity is a “bedrock piece” of the festival. Two dollars of every ticket will be donated to different nonprofits throughout the run of the event. Charities are also given
the opportunity to promote their night and reach out to donors for additional support. “We feel that giving opportunities like this during the holiday season is good for everybody. We also have a physical representation of giving and charities with our Charity Flame display and artist park where we’ve given a handful of regional artists a grant to create a lit-up display that we will put out to exhibit. Additionally, we are letting the artists sell their piece after the event, and they are able to keep all
of the proceeds,” Chesin said. GLOW is a timed entry event. There will be 45 cars entering every 15 minutes. It starts nightly at 4:30 p.m., and tickets are $46 plus applicable fees. Originally the group wanted the event to be a walk-thu show, but it became a drive-thru because of the pandemic. “We look forward to the day when we can use the fairgrounds as it’s intended, to be walked through,” Chesin said. “As a festival, I can’t think of a better place for this to take place.”
IF YOU GO:
GLOW HOLIDAY FESTIVAL
GLOW will light up every day: December through Jan. 3 Sundays – Thursdays 4:30 - 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays 4:30 - 10 p.m. Tickets are $46 plus applicable fees. One ticket = One vehicle. Go to glowholiday.com for more information MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 15
Hy-Vee cake designer Mara Brockman decorates cookies with an airbrush.
PRE-HEAT Those Ovens Tips, tricks to bake the perfect cookie this holiday season from those in the trade By Diana Rojo-Garica | Photos by Pat Christman 16 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Cutout sugar cookies, such as the ones pictured from Hy-Vee Hilltop, are a common holiday treat. Pull out the stretchy pants specifically reserved for the holidays (we’re not judging) and throw on an apron, ‘cause baby, ‘tis the season to bake — cookies to be precise. Most everyone has a coveted cookie recipe hiding somewhere in their brain that has been passed down for generations — one that was perfect enough to serve Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Could have been any of the variety of cookies — bar, drop, no-bake, ice box, cut out or rolled — that set the mood for the holiday season. And it’s a tradition that has been around for ages — literally. Cookie making actually began as early as the medieval period, featuring spices such as the ones we typically associate the holiday with — cinnamon and ginger, according to WikiPedia. (Note: To all the teachers in my life who said WikiPedia is not a credible resource, I respectfully disagree.) Over the years, humankind has evolved and, naturally, so did the recipes. The tradition’s popularity grew throughout Europe in the
16th century along with Lebkuchken in Germany, pepparkakor in Sweden and krumkake in Norway. Then the Christmas cookie headed its way to the United States in the 17th century brought by the Dutch — at least that’s the earliest evidence of deliciously carb-filled treat in the nation. By the 1930s, it was a custom to thank good ol’ St. Nick by leaving cookies and milk. So it was a no-brainer to ask our readers to submit their favorite cookie recipes to share with others during the holiday season. Luckily for us, baking is a relatively socially distant hobby, too. But before hitting those ovens with chocolate chip, sugar, molasses and gingerbread cookies and others submitted by readers, take some tips from professionals in the trade to perfect your holiday cookies. Let’s start off with the basics: the equipment. The most vital tools in the kitchen include a mixer, measuring spoons, cookie scoops, sheet pans and dry
and liquid measuring cups. Cheri Brown, owner of St. Peter’s Diamond Dust Bakery near Gustavus Adolphus College, states that liquid ingredients should be measured in a glass or plastic spout measuring cup (it makes pouring a whole lot easier). And dry ingredients should be measured in your typical stacking measuring cups. “There can be a difference of one tablespoon per cup when measuring with a liquid versus a dry measuring cup,” Brown said. That can have quite an impact on your cookies.” After all, baking is, to a T, science. “Some people don’t realize that baking is a lot like chemistry,” said Stacey Donoho, bakery designer at the hilltop Hy-Vee. “A recipe only turns out because all of the ingredients work together to create different reactions, to create the effect you want within your baked good.” For example, when baking powder is added to a liquid, it creates bubbles once it’s heated, MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 17
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making a cake rise. Baking soda, on the other hand, when mixed with an acid creates the same reaction. “Each ingredient in a recipe is so important because each one has its own job to do,” Donoho said. For cookies, this plays a huge role especially in the staple in most recipes such as butter and eggs. “Let your butter and eggs sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes,” Brown said. “If the butter is too cold, it will not cream properly resulting in a dense cookie. If butter is too soft, the batter will not hold enough air during the creaming and produce a heavy, greasy dough.” And don’t overmix! The batter needs a little bit of air, Brown said. This happens when you cream the butter and sugar — incorporating air during the process. “Beating it too long liquefies the butter,” Brown said. “You want the batter to hold its shape and the butter to melt when it hits the oven’s heat.” This results in a flakier, lighter cookie, Brown said. Overbeating the mixture, after adding the flour and baking soda, will cause a
tougher cookie. Other factors play in a hard, crispy cookie such as a too high of a temperature while baking or baking it too long, Donoho said. “It is useful to have an ovengraded thermometer to accurately assess what temperature your oven is at,” Donoho said. Although we’re all eager to place every single drop of cookie into the oven to amass a larger quantity a la Sweet Martha’s at the State Fair — don’t. “Do not overload the oven,” Brown said. “Bake one sheet of cookies at a time on the middle rack.” If you do need to bake more than one at a time, Brown said, rotate the sheets halfway through baking to ensure a nice even browning. Another must-have in the kitchen for baking cookies is a shiny aluminum baking sheet. “Dark baking sheets absorb heat, causing cookies to brown too quickly on the bottom,” Brown said. “Also, using parchment paper allows the cookies to brown evenly throughout baking.” Consistency is the ultimate key in cookie baking.
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“A scoop to keep the size of the cookies consistent is a must so they bake evenly,” Donoho said. Make sure, too, to always double check the freshness and quality of the ingredients being used in a recipe — it can make or break your cookies’ flavor profile. Which is why it’s important to always keep the pantry full of fresh ingredients. “Use real butter rather than margarine or shortening, real vanilla and make sure your ingredients are fresh,” Brown said. Cheaper brands of butters, Brown said, can consist of up to 19% water. “This makes it harder for the eggs and butter to incorporate, and it will also cause excess spreading of the cookie.” Be sure to replace that baking powder and baking soda that’s probably been sitting in the back of your pantry for months, too, before baking. Spices also should be replaced if they are more than a year old. After you’ve spent days baking the hundreds of cookies, send them to friends and family. The best way to send them along in the mail, Brown suggests, is to stack three to four cookies together (depending on the thickness of the cookies, of course). If the cookie is a quarter inch thick, stack up to three cookies and then wrap them up inside of a plastic wrap. “Just like the drop-style cookies, sealing your rolled cookies inside a plastic wrap prevents them from turning,” Brown said. “Seal the plastic wrapped cookies inside of zip-topped bags. And do not squeeze all of the air out.” Leaving some air in the act acts like a bubble wrap, Brown said. Then just place the bags inside your desired box padded with tissue paper. Regardless of which holiday cookies you decide to make, make them with loved ones. She suggests cutout sugar cookies because they are fun to prepare and decorate. “Share holiday traditions or make some new ones with the help of children or grandchildren,” Brown said. “Learn and teach them new skills that will last a lifetime. You will be creating holiday memories they will cherish forever!” MM
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Editor’s note: Thanks to all the readers who submitted their cherished holiday cookies with the Mankato Magazine. Due to an overwhelming response, and in fairness to each submitter, one recipe was chosen from each submission. Go to mankatofreepress. com/ mankatomagazine to view the extra recipes from our readers.
1 box of chocolate cake mix 1/2 cup butter, softened 1 Tbsp. water 3 eggs powdered sugar Andes mints, unwrapped In a large mixing bowl, mix together cake mix, butter, water and eggs with an electric mixer until completely blended. Shape into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. When out of the oven, and still warm, press one Andes Mint into the center of the cookie. Submitted by Bonnie Frisk
Nutmeg rum logs 1 cup butter 2 tsp. vanilla extract 2 tsp. rum extract 1 tsp. ground nutmeg 3/4 cup sugar 1 egg 3 cups flour
Cream together butter and sugar. Add flavorings, nutmeg and egg. Mix well. Add flour. Mix until a smooth stiff ball of dough forms. Roll out on lightly floured surface to ¼-inch thickness. Cut into log shapes. Bake until lightly browned in 350-degree oven. Let cool. Frost and decorate. Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies. Frosting 1 1/2 Tbsp. softened butter 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract 1/2 tsp. rum extract 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. of milk or cream 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar Mix together until spreadable. Add milk or sugar as needed to get to desired spreading consistency. Food coloring can be added as desired to make different colors of cookies. Adjust milk amount to compensate for added liquid. Submitted by Connie Giles
20 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Cracked Sugar Cookie 2½ cups flour 1¼ cups sugar 1 tsp baking soda 3 egg yolks ½ tsp cream of tartar 1 tsp vanilla 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
Preheat oven to 350°. Measure dry ingredients together – flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Set aside. Beat together in a large bowl, butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture and beat well. Shape dough into balls, roll in sugar and place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes – until lightly golden brown around the edges. Remove to cool. Yield 3 ½ dozen. Submitted by Cindy Steinberg, Eagle Lake
No Bake Cookies Sour Cream Cut-Out Cookies 1 cup butter 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar 2 eggs 1 cup dairy sour cream 1 tsp. clear vanilla 4 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp. soda 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt
First mixture: 3 cups raw oatmeal, 1 cup shredded coconut, 6 tablespoons of cocoa, ½ cup nut meats (if desired). Put these in a large bowl and mix together. Then boil the following together for one minute: Add 1 tsp. of vanilla while boiling 2 cups sugar,1/2 cup butter (or 1 stick margarine), ½ cup milk. Pour second mixture over first and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls on wax paper and allow to set until firm or store in refrigerator. Submitted by Tammy Whiteis
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and cream thoroughly. Fold in sour cream and vanilla. Sift together flour and other dry ingredients. Gently stir into butter mixture. Chill one hour or overnight. May be rolled thin ( ¼-inch) or thick (½-inch). Scraps from cut-outs may be rerolled once without becoming tough. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, dependent on thickness and size of cookie cutters. Makes 5-6 dozen.. Submitted by Brenda Langerud, Waterville
1 cup butter 3/4 cup sugar 3/4 cup brown sugar 1 tsp. vanilla 1/2 tsp. water Cream the above ingredients Beat in 2 eggs Add: Sifted 2 1/4 cups flour 1 tsp. baking soda 1 tsp.salt Add: 2 cups chocolate chips and 1 cup nuts Bake 350 degree for 8 - 10 minutes Submitted by Warren Michels
2 cups white sugar 2 1/3 cups brown sugar 1 cup margarine 3 cups chunky peanut butter 9 cups quick rolled oats ½ tsp. vanilla 6 eggs 4 tsp. baking soda 1 cup M&M candies 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips ½ cup raisins ½ cup chopped dates ½ cup sunflower seeds ½ cup M&M Baker’s ½ cup Reese’s Pieces Mix all together. Stiff dough. Roll into balls and place on baking sheet. Bake 350° on lightly floured pan for 12 minutes. Take out of oven before cookies look done. Cool for a few minutes on pan. Store in freezer. Submitted by Kiya Erler, Janesville MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 21
REFLECTIONS By Pat Christman
22 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
he holidays often bring to light how generous the Mankato community can be. Organizations like the Holiday Sharing Tree and others reap the benefits of that generosity every year. Gifts of money, presents and time come showering down this time of year from people who feel they have enough and want to share with others. This year that generosity may be called on more than ever due to the strain put upon many families due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Give if you can. Take if you need. Share. MM MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 23
Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies
Thick and Chewy Cookies
May your Christmas be Merry & Bright!
SEE MORE LISTINGS AT
24 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
1 cup flour 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 1/2 tsp. baking soda 1/4 tsp. salt 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temperature 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup granulated sugar 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats 1 cup raisins
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar for two minutes until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla to the mix. Slowly mix in the flour mixture and continue mixing until combined. Stir in the oats and raisins. Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Once the dough is chilled, remove it from the refrigerator. Using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, scoop the cooking dough and drop onto baking sheets. Shape each into a ball and flatten with your hand. Bake in separate batches at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until the edges or the cookies are lightly golden brown and the top is set. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. If you wish for the cookies a little thinner, skip the chilling. Submitted by Winnis Buesing, St. Clair
1 cup sugar 1 cup butter 1 3-ounce package cream cheese (softened) ½ tsp. salt ½ tsp. almond extract ½ tsp. vanilla 1 egg yolk 1 cup flour Combine all ingredients except flour. Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour. Mix well. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2 hours. On lightly floured surface, roll out 1/3 of dough. Cut, place 1” apart on cookie sheet. Leave cookies plain or sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake at 375° for 7-10 minutes. Submitted by Sue Loechler, North Mankato
2 cups sugar 1½ cups vegetable oil 2 eggs ½ cup molasses 4 cups all purpose flour 4 tsp. baking soda 1 Tablespoon ground ginger 2 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. salt Additional sugar 2 packages (12 ounces each) vanilla baking chips ¼ cup shortening In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar and oil; mix well. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in molasses. Combine dry ingredients. Gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Shape into ¾ - inch balls and roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until cookie springs back when touched lightly. Remove to wire racks to cool. Melt vanilla chips with shortening in a saucepan over low heat. Dip the cookies halfway; shake off excess. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets to harden. Yield: about 1 1/2 dozen. Submitted by Carol Schuch
NEED HELP WITH THIS YEARS
White Chocolate Orange Dream Cookies 1 cup soft butter 2/3 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar Cream above ingredients together, then add: 1 large egg 1 tablespoon orange zest 2 tsp. orange extract add pistachio pieces if desired
Combine the following then gradually add to above, beating just until blended after each addition 2 1/4 cups flour 3/4 t soda 1/2 t salt Add: 12 oz. white chocolate chips Bake 350F 10-12 minuteswatch closely Enjoy! Submitted by Barb Eide
EASY Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup sugar 1 cup creamy peanut butter 1 egg 1 tsp. vanilla Mix together all ingredients. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper covered baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Notes: May put a chocolate star or Kiss in the middle before baking. May take a fork dipped in sugar and criss cross on top of each cookie before baking
Wish L ist?
Submitted by Michelle Kramer
Walnut Cinnamon Mandelbrot Biscotti
A typical, not-too-sweet mandelbrot, a richer and softer cousin to biscotti. You can have it plain or tossed in a cinnamon sugar for a spicier, sweet treat. This cookie makes a good basic biscotti and takes well to variations. Makes 20-28. 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 cup oil 2 eggs 2 tsp. vanilla 1/4 tsp. salt 1½ tsp. baking powder 2 cups flour 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or other addition Cinnamon sugar mixture with 1 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and oil, then blend in eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together salt, baking powder and flour. Fold flour into wet mixture, then fold walnuts to incorporate. Turn mixture onto waxed paper and shape a log, about 10-by-3 inches, flouring hands if necessary, to avoid sticking. Transfer paper and log on cookie sheet, press down to flatten slightly, and bake until just set, 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes. Transfer log to a board, and using long, serrated knife, cut into ½- inch slices. Place cookies back on cookie sheet and bake again at 325 F. to dry and brown slightly (about 11-18 minutes). Turn cookies over once during baking to ensure both sides bake evenly. After the second bake, shake gently in a bag full of cinnamon sugar (optional). Cool and store at room temperature in an airtight container. Submitted by Bob Stover
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Total Time Prep: 50 min. Bake: 20 min./batch. Makes 18 dozen Ingredients 3 cups butter, softened 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted 4½ cups all-purpose flour 1½ cups cornstarch 2 tsp. vanilla 1 tsp. salt In a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (Don’t overdo.) Gradually add flour and cornstarch, beating until well blended. With hands lightly dusted with additional cornstarch, roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased or parchment paper covered baking sheets. Press lightly with a fork dipped in colored sugars. Bake at 300° until bottoms are lightly browned, 20-22 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. Enjoy! Submitted by Terri Michels
Impossible meringue cookies
2 egg whites — beat until they form peaks 2/3 cup sugar — add slowly and beat until very stiff Fold in: ½ cup chopped nuts ½ cup chocolate chips (optional) 1. Heat oven to 350 degrees 2. Cover cookie sheet with foil 3. Drop batter 1 Tbsp. at a time onto the foil 4. Put cookies in oven 5. Turn oven off 6. Leave in overnight Submitted by Joan Hurry 26 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
The following recipe is one I received from one of my very best friends, Loreen, and it has become an all-time favorite. Use the red/ green M&Ms to make it for Christmas. Mix together: 1½ cups softened butter and 1½ cups packed brown sugar Whisk together: 2 cups oatmeal, 2 cups flour, 2 tsp soda, 1/2 tsp salt Stir the whisked ingredients into the butter/sugar mix. Pat 3/4 of the entire oatmeal mixture into a jelly roll pan (15.5” x 10.5”). Bake 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees. Melt an 11-ounce package of Kraft caramels with 4 tablespoons butter and 4 tablespoons milk. (I do this in the microwave.) Pour over the baked mixture. Sprinkle approximately 3/4 lb of original M&Ms over the caramel and top with the reserved oatmeal mixture. Bake another 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees or until golden brown. (Optional: Use dark chocolate M&Ms instead of milk chocolate. Add chopped nuts and/or coconut to the oatmeal base.) Let them cool and cut into bars. They are great when kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator chilled and chewy! However, it’s a personal preference. Submitted by Nancy Benson, Mankato
Grandma Madsen’s date nut pinwheel cookies 3/4 cup firmly packed chopped dates 1/3 cup sugar 1/3 cup water 1/3 cup chopped pecans 1/3 cup shortening 2/3 cup packed brown sugar 1 large egg ¼ tsp. vanilla extract 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour ¼ tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. baking soda
In a large saucepan, combine dates, sugar and water. Cook and stir over medium heat 10 minutes until very soft. Add pecans. Cool. In a large bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking soda; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Refrigerate, covered, 1 hour to until easy to handle. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into an 8-inch square. Spread with date mixture; roll up jelly-roll style. Wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm. Preheat oven to 400. Unwrap and cut dough crosswise into ¼-in. Slices. Place 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Submitted by Deborah Huettl
Classic butter cookies Yields 4 to 6 dozen cookies 1½ cups (3 sticks) butter 1 cup sugar 1 egg 2 tsps. vanilla extract ¼ tsp. salt 4½ cups all-purpose flour
Frying pan cookies
2 cups flour 2 tsp. soda 1/4 tsp. salt 1 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. cloves 3/4 tsp. ginger 3/4 cup shortening 1 cup sugar 1 egg beaten 1/4 cup molasses Stir together shortening, egg, sugar and molasses. Add dry ingredients. Chill dough. Roll into balls and coat in sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Submitted by Missy Manderfeld
¾ cup sugar 1 cup chopped dates 2 eggs, well beaten 1 tsp. vanilla 1 cup chopped nuts 1 cup cornflakes 1 cup Rice Krispies Coconut
In a heavy frying pan, mix sugar, dates and well-beaten eggs. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture pulls away from the sides of pan (about 5 minutes). Cook 3 minutes longer, then add vanilla and nuts. Carefully add corn flakes and Rice Krispies. Wet hands in cold water. Form into balls about the size of walnuts. Roll in coconut. Cool Submitted by Darlene Poehler, Nicollet
Black walnut, cranberry and white chocolate cookies ¾ cup all-purpose flour ½ tsp. baking soda ¼ tsp. salt ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar ¼ cup granulated sugar 1 egg 1 tsp. vanilla extract 1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats ½ cup white chocolate chips ½ cup dried, sweetened cranberries ½ cup black walnuts, roughly chopped Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Combine butter and sugars and beat with an electric mixer until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Add flour mixture; mix well. Add oats, chocolate chips, cranberries and walnuts; stir well. Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake about 9 minutes, until just golden brown. Let cool 1 minute on baking sheets; remove to wire rack. Let cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen. This is not my own recipe, but these are THEE BEST COOKIES!
Beat butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and salt in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour; beat until well mixed. Cover dough. Refrigerate 1 hour. Work with ¼ dough at a time; keep remaining dough chilled. Roll out on lightly floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut or mold dough into desired shapes. Repeat with remaining dough. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place cookies on unbuttered baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Remove cookies to rack; cool completely. Frost and decorate cookies as desired. Store in airtight containers at room temperature. Submitted by Joanne Johnson, St. Peter
Girl Scout thin mints
1 package almond bark 2 10-ounce package chocolate chips ¼ tsp. peppermint oil OR package Andes chocolate mint candy — can also get candy chopped in baking aisle. 1 box Ritz crackers I use a small Crockpot, but this can also be done in a double boiler. Melt almond bark, chips and mints together. Can add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to keep it smooth. When melted, dip each Ritz cracker in chocolate. Shake off excess, lay on parchment paper to set. Would do entire box of crackers. Submitted by Mary Sisfusson, Mankato
Submitted by Teresa Brandts MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 27
Peter Schroder (second from right), portraying one of Lucia’s children, admires the crown of candles atop Hanaa Alhosawi’s head as she portrays St. Lucia in 2019 at a service in Christ Chapel on the campus of Gustavus. File photo
'Tis the Season Area residents share their holiday traditions, near and far By Nell Musolf | File and submitted photos
oliday traditions mean something different for everyone. In the Mankato area, celebrations can be as varied as the Minnesota weather. At Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, the Festival of St. Lucia has been celebrated since 1941 and is on Dec. 13. At Gustavus, which was founded by Swedish immigrants, the tradition is kept alive by choosing six sophomore women to be a part of the Court of St. Lucia. “The festival continues to evolve, which has allowed it to remain popular to students,” said Barb Larson Taylor, associate vice president for marketing and communication at Gustavus. Taylor said about 10 years ago, the group of 28 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
seniors who planned the event questioned its purpose and relevance. “At that time as a group, we tried to read as many versions of the St. Lucia legend that we could find, and then we discussed the themes and lessons that apply to the current community,” Taylor said. The group identified four meaningful qualities of St. Lucia from the legend: courageous leadership, service to others, strength of character, and compassion. Choosing the people who make up the St. Lucia court is a process that has been intentionally designed to be more than a popularity contest. “It’s really designed to hold up a few amazing individuals and to celebrate and inspire all of us to
be a light to people in our world in our own way,” Taylor said. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s celebration will be a virtual experience with the college working to capture at least some of the typical elements from the traditional festival into an online event that will be broadcast on St. Lucia day. The event will be livedstreamed at 10 a.m. Dec. 10 at Gustavus.edu/ events/stlucia. Bethany Lutheran College student Alejandro Canedo is originally from Mexico. Christmas is the major holiday in Mexico and, according to Canedo, food plays a major role in celebrations. “The whole family almost always gathers together in a house where a turkey or sirloin is the main plate and romeritos or spaghetti are the second plate,” Canedo said. Dinner is often followed by fireworks outside while indoors many families play board games together. Gifts are left out for other family members at night. “I used to wake up at six in the morning to look for the gifts since parents also hide presents for children to find,” Canedo said. Julia Siufi also attends Bethany where she is double majoring in legal studies and history. Siufi, who grew up in Brazil, remembers her mother decorating the house early for Christmas and leaving the decorations up until the middle of January. Since coming to Bethany, Siufi decorates her dorm room for Christmas with red and green lights and other decorations. “We celebrate Christmas in Brazil, but we don’t have Halloween or Thanksgiving. Being able to experience those American holidays has been deeply touching,” Siufi said. When it comes to Christmas, Siufi especially enjoys the college’s Christmas at Bethany, an evening Siufi considers “magical and beautiful.” Back in Brazil, Siufi’s mother served a special holiday dish called Rabanada, which is similar to French toast. “I love Christmas. As long as I get to spend it with the people I love, it is memorable to me,” Siufi said.
St. Lucia Tyra Banks smiles while waiting for the start of the Festival of St. Lucia 2018 at Christ Chapel. File photo
Ingredients 1 French baguette 2 cups milk 1 can sweetened condensed milk 3 eggs
Cinnamon Sugar Oil
Cut the bread in medium sized slices, save for later. In a bowl, add milk and sweetened condensed milk and mix with a spoon. Save for later. In another bowl, whisk the eggs thoroughly with a fork. Heat the oil in a pan until it’s hot. Put a slice of bread in the bowl with the milks and leave for one minute. Place the bread on a sieve until there is no excess moisture. Once all the bread has been dipped in the milk, dip each slice into the egg mixture, remove quickly and fry. The recommended frying time is usually two minutes per side, but that can vary. Let it fry until each side is golden. Place on a plate lined with paper towels. On a different plate, sprinkle sugar and cinnamon. Roll fried bread slices in mixture. MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 29
Alejandro Canedo studies engineering at Bethany Lutheran College. Canedo, from Mexico, celebrates Christmas with his family with a dinner and fireworks. Photo by Pat Christman
For three Minnesota State University students hailing from Nepal, the holiday season occurred a little earlier in the year. Dibiz Bir Singh, Paras Luitel and Rishab Humagai are all majoring in engineering and have been in Mankato for a few years. Singh said the most common festival celebrated in Nepal is Dashain, which occurs in September. Luitel recalled one festival that takes place during the winter months, Maghesakranti. “It’s basically the movement of the sun from one zodiac sign to another,” Luitel said. The significance of Maghesakranti is that it brings the end to the winter solstice along with the belief the days are longer again and the nights are shorter. “We do celebrate Maghesakranti by eating different foods, but they are very difficult to make so I don’t celebrate it here,” Luitel said. Rishab Humagai explained that the way of celebrating festivals differs from state to state and cities to cities in Nepal. “I come from a city called
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I would like to wish all of my past and present clients a safe and happy holiday season!
30 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Biratnagar,” Humagai said. “During the festival of Maghesakranti, which is on Jan. 14 next year, we have a feast with the family gathering, complex food and sweet snacks.” One of the snacks is a roast of sesame seeds mixed with ayurvedic sugar (a sugar product made from the juice of sugar cane) and other spices that are rolled into doughnut balls. All three students agreed making traditional food is a little too complicated to duplicate in Mankato. Instead they spend the holidays relaxing after finals. “My biggest celebration during the winter break is a break from studies,” Luitel said. A few miles west of Mankato, the Churches of St. James in St. James and St. Mary’s in Madelia have celebrated a Feast Day in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe for 30 years. The Rev. Timothy Hall explained the tradition. “The Proper of Saints in the Roman Missal of the Catholic Church identifies Dec. 12 as a Feast Day in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In Mexico, this day has been elevated to the level of a Solemnity — the highest rank for a Catholic devotion,” Hall said. The celebration is held that day because in December of 1531, the most holy Virgin Mary appeared to a young boy, Juan Diego, at Tepeyac in Mexico, an apparition that had appeared to him on numerous occasions previously. To prove to the local bishop that the boy had indeed seen the Virgin Mary, roses appeared in his cloak when he arrived to visit the bishop along with a detailed image of the Virgin Mary painted on the same cloak. The image is commonly known as a “tilma” and churches where the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is celebrated often have a copy of the tilma reserved in a place of honor. The Feast Day of Our lady of Guadalupe begins at midnight Dec. 12 with prayers that are known as “Las mañanitas.” That means “the wee hours” with the point being it is a time of prayer and song that is to be done early in the morning and with traditional songs to the Virgin Mary sung at that prayer service.
St. James Catholic Church celebrates the Day of Our Lady Guadalupe. The feast day is celebrated in commemoration of the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Mexico on Dec. 12, 1531. Children dress up and perform a reenactment of the appearance. Courtesy The Rev. Timothy Hall Following the service, participants usually go to the church hall and have a time of fellowship while they enjoy eating “pan dulce” (sweet bread) and hot chocolate. Later that same day people often hold a procession through the streets near the church carrying banners and statues of Saint Juan Diego and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Afterward, they return to the church for a Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “After the Mass it is customary for children to act in a play telling the story of Juan Diego and the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Hall said. “Then the community gathers in the evening in the church hall again for a big meal of costumery, Mexican food and lively music.” Hall observed that participants appreciate the celebration as an acknowledgment of their homeland and in the faith they practice. “The Mexicans are very proud of the visit the Virgin Mary made to their homeland. It is a time of devotion and veneration to the
Virgin Mary, for sure. It is also a time for them to be proud of who they are because the Mother of God has looked upon them and continues to pray for them. These celebrations are not about getting things done. It’s just the opposite. These celebrations are about stopping what we are doing and recognizing that God loves us and we love one another,” Hall said. This year, with COVID -19 to be taken into consideration, the celebrations of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe will be affected. But unless the state goes into another full shutdown, Hall plans to at least celebrate the Mass for that day while following all the protocols for a church service in place during the pandemic, which means limited attendance. “Needless to say, the celebrations will likely not be as lively as in years past here in the United States anyway. I would imagine that in Mexico MM
MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 31
Diane Dunham, owner of Market Bakery, specializes in breads and other baked goods.
Get your knead on
Interest in bread baking rises during pandemic; owner of Market Bakery offers tips to perfect the craft By Jean Lundquist | Photos by Pat Christman
istening to Diane Dunham talk about making and baking bread, the process sounds like chemistry. And in many ways, it
is. Dunham is the owner of the Market Bakery
32 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
that sells breads and other baked goods at the Mankato Farmers’ Market. For several years, she has been involved in baking and the food industry, including a couple of decades baking in a federal prison for 800 prisoners three times a
Diane Dunham removes a freshly baked loaf of bread from the oven. day. Both Dunham and her sisters are involved in the food industry, but not because they grew up in a baking family. “I grew up in a non-cooking family. We learned to cook and bake because we were hungry!” she says. “I remember my mom baking bread once. It was a frozen loaf she popped in the oven.” Dunham is not surprised by the urge in the populace to bake bread. She says it’s something to do alone, or with friends and family, and it eases the fear of food shortages during the pandemic. That urge to bake and the fear of shortages led to some very real shortages in the availability of flour and yeast – two mainstays of bread baking. Although Dunham purchases what she needs from a wholesaler rather than a retailer, she notes she was concerned about getting supplies for a few months earlier this year. For years Dunham taught baking classes in her nearly all-commercial kitchen in the winter months. She always stressed “the three unders” where most home bakers of bread fail. “They under mix (knead), under proof (let the dough rise) and under bake (either too low of a temperature or too short a time).” Tips she offers for home bread makers: Don’t overheat the water in which the yeast is dissolved. She most often uses room temperature
water as opposed to heated water. Yeast breaks down when it is too hot and won’t raise your bread. If the water is cool, it just may take a little longer for the yeast to work. “If you have hot dough, your bread is history.” Dunham also says it’s unlikely a home baker would over-knead bread dough. If using a KitchenAid mixer for kneading, she says it’s more likely the mixer’s gears would be overloaded before the dough was over-kneaded. A most critical element, Dunham says, is salt. “Salt is almost more critical than yeast,” she says. Without salt, bread will “dimple and fall.” Any final message from Dunham to bread bakers is to pay attention to what is supposed to happen in the two hours the recipe calls for letting the dough rise. The two hours are unimportant, she says. The dough should double in size, for example, no matter how long it takes. In the summer heat, it may take half an hour. “Don’t count on time,” she says. Dunham offers these two recipes for potential bread bakers. And, she cautions, it’s the process more so than the ingredients that make the difference.
MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 33
Basket of breads Diane Dunham baked. Dunham urges bakers to not overheat the water to dissolve the yeast.
BREAD RECIPES FOR BEGINNERS Ciabatta Bread
Makes 2 loaves 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water 1 tsp yeast 4 cups bread flour 2 tsp salt Directions In large bowl, place water and stir in yeast. Let stand 2 minutes. Then stir in flour next and then salt. Dough will be loose and gooey like biscuit dough; stir together for about 2 minutes. (You can use a mixer with a hook or paddle.) Cover bowl and let set in a warm area like on top of the stove until tripled in size, 1-3 hours, depending on the temp. When tripled in size, pour out onto a large floured tray or baking sheet. Right after pouring out, using a floured spatula or dough scraper, fold dough inward, about four folds all to the center. Flour dough completely (not thickly) and cover with a dish 34 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
towel. If it's not floured well, the towel will stick. Let set for 30 minutes and repeat the folding then flouring, for a total of three times not including the first one when you poured it out. Let it sit for 30 minutes after the third fold. The folding is the key to developing the texture and developed flavor. After the final 30 minutes, with floured hands, cut your dough in two pieces, flour and shape into a loaf. From the time you initially pour it out until you cut the dough is two hours. After shaping the loaves, place on a greased and cornmealed pan, lightly flour the top of the loaf and cover again with a towel until nearly tripled in size. Again depending on your dough and air temps, this could be 30-90 minutes or more. Loaf may look raggy — that's fine! Pre-heat oven to 450-475 degrees F, yes… that's right. Bread bakes about 15-20 minutes total. Turn pans half way through baking time. It should be fairly dark and blistery looking. Long process, but so worth it. May take a few attempts to perfect it.
Harvest Seed Bread
2 cups water 1 tablespoon of yeast 3 tablespoons molasses 3 tablespoons oil 6 tablespoons of salted and roasted pumpkin seeds 1 ½ tablespoons poppy seeds 2 tablespoons millet or sesame seed 1 tablespoon salt 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour 3 cups bread flour Directions Start yeast in water for a couple of minutes, then add rest in order. Hold back 1/2- 1 cup of bread flour, add as needed to make a medium firm dough. After nearly doubling in size, cut/shape and allow to proof. Bread should nearly double before baking. Bake at 380 degrees F until browned on the bottom, about 20-30 minutes. Can make into buns or loaves. Because this dough is dark, it will look like it is done before it is. Tap it to check for the ‘hollow’ sound and check the sides of the bread from brownness.
nnnn For those interested in creating sourdough bread, as has been popular during the pandemic, there are a couple of ways to proceed to success. Sourdough is bread that’s been naturally leavened with active cultures of bacteria and yeast. In the true form, no commercial yeast has been used. This requires several days on your counter, with acute attention every day. If mold appears in your starter, it must be thrown out. Dunham uses a commercial sourdough starter for consistency, but Bob’s Red Mill flour company has provided information on how to build an organic starter from scratch. It takes several days, and shortcuts are not allowed. It also involved discarding much of the starter as you build. Like Dunham’s ciabatta recipe, it’s an intricate process, but worth it. If you have an extra Mason jar and lid, punch holes in the
lid. The only ingredients you’ll add are water and flour … 4 ounces of each. Attach the lid, and wait 24 hours. If you are unable to spare a lid due to shortages this past fall, use cheesecloth or a clean towel. After 18-24 hours have passed, discard half the starter, and add flour and water. This process continues for several days while the starter ferments. By the end of the process, you will have a bubbly starter that will raise your bread without additional commercial yeast. The tangy taste of sourdough bread is even better knowing the ingredients that went into it. There are several YouTube videos about how to make and bake homemade bread, and others about sourdough starters and bread, pancakes and muffins. Anyway it’s sliced, the aroma of homemade baking bread is a trick real estate agents have used for years when showing houses to prospective buyers because it smells like home. MM
MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 35
Food & Beer
By Dan Greenwood
southern mn style Co-owners of WYSIWYG, Kristi Schuck, left, and Marie Christiansen, opened the shop in 2016.
WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET Local juice company opened second location in Spicer
By Dan Greenwood | Photos by Pat Christman
n many ways, Kristi Schuck and Marie Christiansen are kindred spirits. The co-owners of WYSIWYG Juice Company in Mankato shared several parallel experiences prior to meeting each other six years ago. Both of their husbands died of colorectal cancer at the age of 40. When Schuck’s husband was diagnosed in 2012, his doctors 36 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
suggested he had about six months to live. Christiansen’s husband was given a prognosis of 18 months. Both men lived for years following their diagnoses, and Christiansen and Schuck believe the health benefits of juicing played a role in that. It wasn’t until the two women met in 2014 when they were both training to be Livestrong
instructors at the Mankato YMCA that they discovered just how much they had in common. They both started juicing when their husbands were each diagnosed, and two years later, they opened WYSYWIG Juice Company, which means, “What you see is what you get.” The phrase defined their goal of blending an array of organic and raw blended
WYSIWYG Juice Co.
527 Front St., Mankato, as well as in Spicer
What they’re known for:
Blended home-made fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, on-the-go treats, smoothie bowls
Freshly made juice from WYSIWYG. The most popular juice is “Alert,” which is made with apples, orange, lemon, cranberry and ginger fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies without any additives. “What was great about Marie and I coming together and having this experience is we already had 15 years of juicing experience and finding out what tasted good,” Schuck said. “The element that threaded through our journeys together was hope, and that’s what you see in our mission, our business and our passion.” Their juice ingredients range from apples, pears and lemons to more eclectic options such as garlic, turnips and spinach, which requires a massive amount to produce just a small amount of juice. “When you put a pound of spinach in that container and eke out 2 ounces of juice, it’s a really hard shift of perspective,” Schuck said. “Then you learn that what you get out of that is what you need. You get creative as a home juicer.” They now have 11 blended juices, ranging from charcoal lemonade (activated charcoal acts as a digestive aid) to Therapy, a juice made from kale, ginger, lemon, lime, red cabbage, turmeric, black pepper and beets – a root vegetable packed with nutrients that can be consumed much easier for people who have an aversion to the taste or texture. “Kristi and I both hate beets,” Christiansen said. “But we know there are these phenomenal
benefits to them. It’s such a superfood; it’s great for your heart and after a night out.” The duo categorized their nearly dozen or so juices into three tiers. The first is mainly fruit juice, the second is a combination of the two, and the third is primarily vegetable based. “If you’ve never juiced, tier one is a safe bet,” Schuck said. “It’s going to be sweet like what we experience when we go to the grocery store.” One of their most popular juice blends is Cleanse, which falls into the tier one category. It’s a combination of green apple, pear, lemon, parsley, spinach and ginger. “Parsley is a great energy booster,” Schuck said. “When you’re out there researching what a body needs to be healthy, you start to put all these pieces together. The Cleanse juice came as a result of finding out that parsley is great for energy, helping the liver and detoxifying our blood.” Recover is a popular tier two juice with collard greens, parsley, lime, mint, kale and apple. Energy – a tier three blend – has a bit of a kick with cayenne pepper, ginger, cilantro and pink Himalayan sea salt blended with carrots and lime. Schuck said their recipes are a balancing act between taste, color and nutritional value. Just a small amount of lemon and
celery are required to bring out the taste without covering up other flavors. Beets and greens tend to dominate other juice ingredients when it comes to color, so knowing how much to add without dominating is key. “Color is also vital to the experience that we want our customer to have,” Schuck said. “Before we opened, we found this recipe that had cranberries in it. So, we played around and developed this recipe which was our No. 1 seller. This is the Alert juice. It has apples, orange, lemon, cranberry and ginger.” Customers also will find a variety of nut milks, on-the-go treats, smoothies and smoothie bowls. “Imagine a bowl of granola. Instead of the milk you would pour on it, we put it on a bed of smoothie essentially,” Schuck said. “We have three long-standing flavors with the smoothie bowl, the acai bowl is one of our flavors. We also have mango and a pineapple green one. We always have a monthly special one too.” For those who live outside of Mankato, the women opened another store in Spicer earlier this year and have plans to franchise in places such as the Twin Cities. Even if you’re out of town, you can still have an order shipped to your doorstep.
MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 37
COMMUNITY DRAWS By Kat Baumann
38 • NOVEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
By Bert Mattson
Stout Winter Constitution
t’s like the prologue to a frosty thriller: After half a calendar of quarantine and half a foot of snowfall before Halloween, the Upper Midwest settles in for one of its legendary winters. Holidays looming, folks yet leery about large gatherings will be settling in across the table from family members they’ve spent many a long day with, dodging video conference cameras and passive-aggressive quips. As I type, the wife just walked by and eyed my screen, trying too hard to seem casual. I’m sure she suspected I’m tapping out the same sentence over and over… and over. But this is my season. There’s something about seeing my kid come in, carrying the cold with her, and stomping snow from her boots that resets me. The air and early darkness outside don’t seem forbidding. Rather, they frame the heavy scented air and warm lighting inside. Cozy just can’t exist without cold. And whipping winds beg the alcoholic warmth of winter brews — most of all after the others are off snug in bed. The twinkling lights seem to soften and run a little slower. The glassware trends toward something with a stem. The palate can bear a bit more malty sweetness and roast. Snowstorm, Schell’s winter release, which is never the same twice, is in its 27th year. This year’s oat stout is a black stout brewed with oats and triticale. Oats impart smoothness due to their relatively high content of lipids and proteins. Triticale is a crop species resulting from Triticum (wheat) and Secale (rye). Rye imparts a spicy, crisp aspect. This year’s Snowstorm isn’t a dull boy. It’s a luxurious promise of roasty notes of chocolate and coffee. For the sweet tooth, I like it with Pot du Crème topped with
Enjoy the Season for every reason!
unsweetened whipped… otherwise, a saucer of veiny blue cheese. Another local tradition is Summit’s Winter Ale, dating to the ‘80s. It came near to retirement a few years ago, which was staved off by a loyal fan following. Styled after British Winter Warmers, its malt bill — including black and caramel malts — and its array of German and British hops yield spice and crust along with light notes of coffee and cocoa, some caramel and plum. Bitterness is restrained and the sweetness is not overdone. Aside a saucer of chilled glazed ham and smoked Gouda, this spread should turn stir-crazed to jolly in a pinch. Great Lake’s Christmas Ale has been making the rounds since its debut in 1992. Since then its earned itself a stable of beer competition medals. Brewed with honey, fresh ginger and cinnamon, this Winter Warmer yields hints of toffee, molasses and gingerbread along with the anticipated cinnamon along with notes of nutmeg and clove. Candied fruit sweetness, piney bitterness and spice are surprisingly well balanced. The nose on this ale alone is capable of setting the festive, fireside mood. A saucer of goat cheese and apple slices, or even apple chutney, would pair well with this one, toning cabin fever down a degree to Christmas cozy. Bert Mattson is a chef and writer based in St. Paul. He is the manager of the iconic Mickey’s Diner. bertsbackburner.com
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MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 39
COUNTRY MINUTES By Nicole Helget
The dogs of Oshawa Township T
he neighbor texted me one afternoon while I was at work. I tapped the message and gazed at a photo of my dog, Polar Bear, standing alongside his German Shepherd girlfriend in the neighbor’s doorway. Polar Bear is staring up at the camera, smiling. His girlfriend is staring at him adoringly. “Reunited!” the message read. “Such a gentleman,” the neighbor wrote. “He knocked on our door.” Oh my word, I thought. He really takes the cake. I called my husband to go and pick him up. “I was wondering where he went,” he said. “The wind is coming from the south. He must have smelled her.” “That’s like two miles away,” I said. “No way.” But of course Polar Bear had smelled her and it pushed him over the edge. He just couldn’t wait anymore. Polar Bear’s girlfriend is a lovely dog with long brown fur and perky ears. They met on the gravel road when the girlfriend was getting walked a few years ago, and now, if Polar Bear sees her on the road from the kitchen, he loses his doggy mind. More than once, I have had to cut short a shower because I can hear him moaning and howling and practically crying to be let out. You’ve never heard such a pathetic display of longing. With soap in my wet hair and a towel around me, I run downstairs to open the door, so Polar Bear can go greet her. She’s pretty and friendly and she likes to play fight and chase. I can see why Polar Bear likes her. When he doesn’t see her for a while, the pining builds up until he can’t wait anymore. He just has to go over there and knock on the door for a visit. 40 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Unfortunately for him, he’s going to be in for a long wait in November since deer hunting season is upon us. He can’t be out of the yard or even in the yard alone during deer hunting season. Not only do I not want him to get his butt accidentally blasted, I also know how he is: if Polar Bear sees a hunter out there trying to be sneaky while waiting, Polar Bear would dart right over there and blow the hunter’s cover and annoy the hunters and test their patience. For the time being, Polar Bear has to stay in the house and get walked on the leash. His dates with his girlfriend are going to have to wait, and he’s going to have to be patient, which he’s not very good at. Then again, he doesn’t have the best role models. I’m impatient. The kids are impatient. My husband is impatient. We want what we want when we want it. Which is always now. For instance, who won the election last night? I want to know now. I understand, of course, the reasons we can’t have those answers yet, and I appreciate the care and methodology of counting every single ballot, to the last one. That’s how it should be. I just wish it could be faster. Waiting and having our patience tested is where we find ourselves today, the morning after November 3. As I write this, I have refreshed Twitter approximately 10,000 times since 10 p.m. last night. We still don’t know the outcome, and then we don’t know what the outcome of the outcome will be. Will there be a clear cut winner and a graceful loser? Unlikely, but maybe. Will the outcome be contested and get nasty? Very possibly. I can catastrophize about this kind of stuff easily, and have for at least the past year.
My patience has been stretched, exhausted, and tested again and again. Yet, somehow, just when I think I’m going to snap, I muster up just a bit more and plug along again, even if “plugging along” actually means staying home, avoiding public places as much as possible, and being mindful of the other objective reality testing taxing our endurance, a public health crisis. Refilling my patience has taken more creativity on my part. Lots of time outside and ruthless cleaning of the house and eating everything in sight seem to be the three most effective restorative measures. I like to look at that picture of Polar Bear with his girlfriend. He’s so happy in it. He’s been rewarded. What will our reward be? Do we even deserve one? I would like to think that a functioning democracy would be nice, and that we’ve earned that. I would like to think that a reliable vaccine is right around the corner, and that we’ve earned that, too. I would like to think that with a functioning democracy and a vaccine, we can really start addressing all that’s wrong with our relationships, our communities, states, country. I like to think that we’ll have time for that, then. Why didn’t we have time before? Because we didn’t make it, I guess. We deserve a reward after all this waiting. Right? Yes, we’ve waited and been patient. But I’m not sure we’ve worked hard enough to make things better. I know I haven’t. The wind is blowing from the south, which means it’s going to be another warm day, a small reward for people who may not deserve it.
Nicole Helget is a multi-genre author. Her most recent book, THE END OF THE WILD, is a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, a Parents' Choice Award Winner, a Charlotte Huck Award Honor Book, a New York Public Library Best Books for Kids, a Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Book, an Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students, a Best STEM Trade Books for Students K-12, a Georgia Children's Book Award Nominee, and the Minnesota Book Awards Middle Grade Winner. She works as a teacher, manuscript guide, editor, and ghostwriter. She lives in rural St. Peter with her family and dogs. You can follow the Dogs of Oshawa Township at @TheOshawa on Twitter.
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MANKATO MAGAZINE • DECEMBER 2020 • 41
GARDEN CHAT By Jean Lundquist
Jean Lundquist’s blooming Mother In Law’s Tongue plant. Courtesy Jean Lundquist
The end of the season
eneath the pale blue of winter skies, something of a miracle has happened in our house. OK, it may not be a miracle, but it sure did surprise me and lifted my spirits in these trying days of elections and The Virus of 2020. Forty-three years ago, before Larry and I were married, he gave me a couple of plants as a Christmas gift. Two of them are still alive, which in itself is surprising. (Houseplants in my house have to really want to live because they are pretty much on their own except for a bit of water whenever I remember.) But what should my wondering eyes behold? The snake plant, also called a Mother In Law’s Tongue, blossomed! Never before has that happened. There are several stalks of blossoms, in fact. They start out as anomalies – they look like they 42 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
are dripping dew from small tight buds. In honesty, I wondered if the plant was sick when Larry first pointed them out to me. Maybe it had a growth of some kind, I thought. But thanks to Google, I learned that they are, indeed, flowers. They are slow to open all the way into a small, soft, feathery flowers. That was perfect for me. They came as I unplugged the space heater in my greenhouse and harvested the remaining tomatoes, eggplants and peppers from the plants still in there. The unplugging was a bittersweet act, but I was ready to hang up the towel on 2020. It was a good growing season, and I was ready for it to end. With a half a paper bag of green tomatoes enclosed with a banana to help them ripen, I have no idea what to do with them, should they actually ripen. I have jars and
jars of tomatoes in the basement that I canned and plenty of tomatoes already in the freezer. Although, I did find a very good recipe for tomato-vegetable juice I could make more of. It’s tomatoes, onions, celery, red pepper, parsley and oregano. I added garlic because, well, I added garlic. It also calls for salt and pepper to taste, and a tablespoon of lemon juice. A small teaspoon of honey is also a good addition, to help take the edge off the acidity of the tomatoes. Should the tomatoes ripen, the oregano, parsley, red pepper and celery in the garden are dead, but I assume store-bought will work just as well. Just simmer it all together, run it through a mill, chill and enjoy.
Something for Everyone on Your Christmas List!
nn n n With all the jokes being made about baking sourdough bread during the pandemic, I’ve been reluctant to tell anyone about my sourdough bread adventures. But I want to brag just a little. I’ve been making sourdough bread for decades, always boosting it with some commercial yeast. This fall I took the time to actually follow directions on how to make a strong starter without fast-rising yeast, and it was worth it! Bread sticks, loaves, ciabatta – all turned out delicious. My sourdough has never been better. nn n n As I dream about my garden in 2021, I’ve been keeping my hands busy weaving. Scarves, mug rugs, mats and rugs, and key fobs. Now I just need this virus to recede so I am not afraid to take them places to sell them. The pile is getting taller … nn n n I just went to take another peek at my snake plant. I sure do hope I don’t have to wait another 43 years to see it flower again!
Jean Lundquist is a Master Gardener who lives near Good Thunder. firstname.lastname@example.org
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FROM THIS VALLEY By Pete Steiner
the weirdest year
The annual Christmas letter:
ourney with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when we could casually walk into any restaurant or coffee shop or pub, sit next to someone at the counter, and… It was Feb. 28. A novel virus was making worldwide news. Already, citizens and reporters in China, Korea and at LAX were wearing masks. Locally people were still casual about it, no masks in grocery stores, still toilet paper on the shelves. M a rc h 8 m a r k e d t h e f i r s t 60-degree day in five months, the river was flooding the bottomlands, but in town, parents were out with their children, dog walkers were out, jackets were shed, outdoor hoops were overtaking outdoor pucks. I don’t need to remind anyone of what happened — just nine days later. In fact, we could probably end this year’s letter in five words: It was the COVID year. But they pay me for 800 words, so… Beyond the quarter-million deaths (so far), beyond the job losses, we lamented smaller losses that gnawed at our sense of who we are, all the comfortable routines abandoned: morning coffee group, Friday happy hour, the weekly trip to the library, Sunday morning church, singing in a choir — you name it — so many occasions where we normally get feedback and perspective, where we can reconnect with the folks we consider our tribe — gone! Now those interrupted rituals have expanded to include holiday celebrations, from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s. Zoom virtual gatherings only go so far to ease feelings of isolation. As others have noted, virtual uses just two of our five senses. nn n n
44 • DECEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE
Tim Krohn’s lead story for The Free Press on Nov. 13, 2001 — 19 years ago — quoted Michael Osterholm, then state epidemiologist: “I’ve dreaded its coming and what it means to society… we’re woefully lacking in many areas.” At the time, he was coming to Mankato to speak specifically about the post-9/11 anthrax attacks. Yet since Osterholm first came here in 1995 to help deal with a meningitis outbreak, and to lead a massive vaccination effort that brought 30,000 people to a huge tent on the MSU campus, he has continually preached about our country’s shortage of funding and preparedness in the public health sector. Now at the University of Minnesota, he still repeats his message daily — talking now about COVID — on various news and talk shows. Unfortunately, it just emphasizes, for all our human capabilities, we are not very good at contingency planning. nnnn The enduring symbol of 2020 will be the face mask. Amid the stylish or symbolic ones, or the ones with slogans, I wish we had transparent masks. I’ve been told they exist, but I haven’t seen one. The thought came to me as I picked up a to-go order. The young lady handing it to me through the window said, “Have a nice day!” I think she was smiling. But I’m not sure. That’s another loss: Besides indoor dining and live performances, we often can’t experience the smile, that universal human signal of acceptance. I thought of Nat King Cole’s lovely song, “Smile though your heart is aching/…smile through your fear and sorrow/… and maybe tomorrow/you’ll see the sun come shining through…”
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I usually reserve my “hail and farewell” comments for the January column, but there’s one I need to add here: “Farewell, Lord Hentges!” Longtime City Manager Pat Hentges is retiring, although he and Becky plan to remain city residents. I always regarded him as an exemplary civil servant. He wasn’t political and didn’t crave the spotlight, even though he enjoyed it when Mark Fischenich, who often used the “Lord Hentges” moniker in his Sunday paper “Ask Us” column, would highlight Hentges’ oftenwry comments about various city issues. When I was in radio, I got to interview Hentges monthly on my “Talk of the Town” program. The first time he came into the studio, he said, “Ask me anything you want. Don’t hold back.” He also told me, a city without a vital core will die; so he focused on reviving Mankato’s downtown, as well as pushing diversification of the economy and upgrading the city’s parks. My opinion: You’ve done a great job if you leave a place in better shape than you found it. If you see him, tell him I said these things — he may not read it, as he liked to accuse me of being just an old codger who simply reminisces about the good old days. nnnn Has the election been decided yet? Less political rancor would be a nice thing to be able to put in Christmas stockings this year. And the annual wish for good health takes on greater urgency until we get a COVID vaccine. As always in this last column of the year, let me wish you a truly merry Christmas, however you may celebrate. Longtime radio guy Pete Steiner is now a free lance writer in Mankato.
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MANKATO MAGAZINE • NOVEMBER 2020 • 45
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46 • NOVEMBER 2020 • MANKATO MAGAZINE