Posts Categorized: Food & Recipes

Read the Driftless Food Guide Online!

It’s here! It’s here! We wanted to make sure you got a peek at it online because we are so. darn. excited!

So, without further ado, I’d like to introduce: the first-ever Driftless Food Guide! You can read the whole thing online here!

Let me tell you a little more about what we’ve got going on: At the heart of this publication are the stories of farmers, producers, restaurant-owners, cooks, beer-brewers, wine-makers, spirit-distillers and other foodie-type entrepreneurs who are busy at work, making the Driftless so amazing – and tasty! 

There’s something utterly magical about biting into a freshly picked fruit or vegetable, drinking a locally made brew, or tucking into a just-baked pie. You can taste the love, the family history, the hard work that went into it.

We created the Driftless Food Guide to help you learn a little more about the people behind that hard work, and so that you may be inspired (woot, woot), to make your food local this year. Supporting local businesses directly invests in your community, and building communities is one of the most important things you can do in this life.

Plus, you’ve gotta eat. You may as well make it fun and delicious…and make it count!

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols

Got a great story?

We’d love to hear more! There’s a finite amount of space in each Driftless Food Guide (DFG), but luckily we’ll make a new one each year. We can’t guarantee we’ll write every story we’re pitched, but can promise to learn more about and listen to your ideas!

Missed the ad deadline?

Darn, we didn’t get you in this year! No worries! We’ll make another DFG in 2019. Head on over to this page for more information about advertising or getting listed in the Local Producer Directory (see that on page 29).

Watch for the print version of the Driftless Food Guide showing up around the region soon, and in the meantime, please check it out here and let us know what you think! Thanks!

The Roots of Food: Family Recipes and Stories


Intro & food photos by Aryn Henning Nichols • Illustrations by Lauren Bonney
Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

Family recipes have roots – and stories. Inspire(d) gathered some of those recipes and their tales for an epic collection for summer fun. Join in as we cook our way through some great family history.

apple pieOne bite of a dish your grandma used to make shoots you through time, through a rolodex of memories…it practically plants roots from your toes into the very spot your ancestors first broke soil.

I spent the morning peeling potatoes, chopping onions and celery, and thinking of my own grandma. She passed away in 2008, but the memories of the small apartment where she lived when I knew her came flooding back.

Food is funny that way. It’s a connector. It brings so many of our senses to life…feeling the produce, chopping the vegetables, smelling the crust baking, and, finally, tasting. It’s a wonderful thing.

We love featuring food and recipes each summer. This year, we asked folks to share some of their family food memories. I start it off with my grandma’s potato salad. Spoiler alert: It was just as good as I remembered!

There’s so much great local produce available every summer from farmers right here in the Driftless Region – at Farmers Markets and through CSAs and co-ops and roadside stands…so take advantage of these wonderful resources. Cook on, and visit us at for more fun recipes and meals! You gotta eat, right? May as well eat right.

XOXO – Aryn


Grandma Henning’s Potato Salad 

Underwood Marinade for Grilling 

Root Beer Pulled Pork and Carolina Coleslaw

Grandma’s Apple Pie

Piradzini “Piedogs”


Piradzini “Piedogs”

Piradzini piedogs

Justin Scardina’s Piradzini “Piedogs”

Photos & text by Aryn Henning Nichols • Illustrations by Lauren Bonney
Recipes by Justin Scardina • Originally published in the Summer 2016 Inspire(d)

“I’m a quarter Latvian, half Sicilian, and a quarter ‘mutt,’” says Decorah chef Justin Scardina.

While the majority of people can’t even find Latvia on a map, Justin grew up with a grandma who had lived there the formative years of her life.

Piradzini piedogsWorld War I had taken a great many soldiers, including Justin’s great grandfather. Without a spouse, his great grandmother was looking for a fresh start. Many people were emigrating from Latvia and settling in Chicago in the late 1930s – amongst them was Justin’s great grandmother, and her teenaged daughter, Sonja.

Grandma Sonja McGraw had five kids – four girls and one boy – and lived on the north side of Chicago.

“The culture was definitely present even for my mother,” Justin says. “She remembers going to events where everyone was still speaking Latvian.”

Justin’s mom, Karey (Scardina once she married), was the oldest of the brood, and, thus, Justin and his younger sister and brother were the oldest of the cousins. While the other cousins were still at home in diapers, Justin and his siblings would head the few blocks over to Grandma Sonja’s to make a Latvian snack called Piradzini.

Say what? “We called them piedogs,” Justin says. “Basically a baked sour cream roll stuffed with bacon, ham and onion…. good stuff.”

Pie (rhymes with me) dogs – a nonsensical word they made up so it would be easier for the little kids to pronounce– were a special treat made for all the big holidays in the McGraw family.

“We’d show up early, and Grandma would have everything set up in her big kitchen. The dough was all ready to go, and pretty simple to make, but the biggest task was mincing the meat and onion. You want the dice to be really small so, you know, you don’t have a huge chunk of bacon in one bite. Everything goes in uncooked,” Justin explains. “We’d use a water glass to cut out the dough rounds, then roll them out, add in the filling, and form the dumplings.”

While Grandma and the kids were inside prepping and baking piedogs – “It would take all day,” Justin says – Grandpa and the uncles grilled outside or took a boat out on the lake. The family would all come together for dinner – 16 could fit at Justin’s grandma’s long dining table.

“These were a huge event when ever some one made them in my family,” he says.

“My mom makes piedogs too – she bases her recipe off my great grandmothers, though. Grandma Sonja cut some of the fat out of the original recipe… it was the early 80s, you know,” Justin says with a laugh. “My mother put it back in.”

Justin made these for the first time himself about six years ago.

“I had a random craving and called home and asked for the recipe,” he says. “I could have sworn there was garlic in there, but mom says no.”

Perhaps that’s how recipes like this evolve over generations. Justin listened to his mom, though, and kept garlic out of his recipe… but he kept the fat in.

These days, when Justin isn’t making Latvian snacks or entertaining his seven-year-old daughter, Adina, he’s a chef at Luther College, and the mastermind and chef behind local pop-up restaurant Salt/Water. Check out Salt/Water on Facebook for details on upcoming menus and dinner dates.


Piradzini “Piedogs”

Recipes by Justin Scardina (and family!)

Sour Cream Dough

1/2 C Sour Cream
1 C Warm Water, slightly above room temp.  110-115F
2T Sugar
1 1/4 t Salt
3 C All purpose Flour
3 t Yeast

Meat Filling

1 lb Bacon, best you can afford, diced finely
1/2 lb Smoked Ham, again best you can afford, diced finely
2 yellow onions, finely diced
Black Pepper, loads for freshly ground black pepper


Start the dough… mix the warm water, yeast, sugar to together and allow to sit to proof the yeast about 8-12 minutes. In the mean time, stir the flour and mix in salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center of the flour. Now mix in the sour cream in the yeast/water mix until well combined. Add that mixture to the flour and mix gently until the flour comes together in a elastic ball. Transfer to a new, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Allow to rise in a warm area for at least an hour.

In the mean time, chop all the bacon, ham and onions and mix well to combine. Liberally season with freshly ground black pepper, mix again and set aside until ready to use.

Now take the dough and knead for 5-10 minutes. Again place in an oiled bowl and allow to rise again. After a half hour, the dough will be ready. Take a 1/4 of the dough out on a floured surface and, using your hands, flatten a section at a time. Usually we would use a water glass to cut out 1-2″ circles of dough to stuff with our filling. Fill the circle with 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon of the meat filling and fold the dough over the meat to make a dumpling shape. Repeat until you run out of dough or filling.

Preheat an oven to 350 F. Arrange your dumplings in a single, spaced out layer on a sheet tray. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown on the outside. Make sure to check them after 10 minutes to rotate the sheet tray. Enjoy warm and stuff your face!

Read more Roots of Food: Family Recipes and Stories here!