Posts Categorized: Recipes

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is our favorite to order at the Luren Singers food stand at the Winneshiek County Fair – a la mode, of course. (Yay! FAIR TIME is coming up soon!) But I’ve never made one of these pies from scratch – so far, I’ve only baked apple and peach/blueberry. Clearly, it was time to add another pie to my repertoire, and we needed to use some of our monster rhubarb 11116396_10207300461533212_6958272834708009085_o(see right) plus strawberries are so good right now!

Don’t be afraid to make your own crust – it’s really not hard, I promise! This crust is a little different from my regular recipe (usually I bow to Betty Crocker). I love that there’s ample dough to work with and the sugar and extra butter helps the crust crisp up nicely. Yum!

The filling for this pie is nice and tart, so I recommend serving it up a la mode too – with vanilla ice cream, of course! Happy baking!

Enjoy – and please let me know if you have any questions.


Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Recipe


2 1/2 cups plus all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup ice-cold water (added by tablespoons)


2 1/2 cups chopped fresh, red rhubarb
2 1/2 cups washed and cut strawberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, cubed

Make your crusts:
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cube the butter and cut it in with a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingers! You’re good when the bits are about the size of peas. Add water a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing up the dough lightly with a fork until it seems like it’s starting to stick together (but isn’t sticky). Push the dough into the middle of the bowl and form a ball.  Cut in two and move over to Saran Wrap and form into two discs. It often seems a little dry, but don’t fret. It comes together.

Chill in the refrigerator while you make the filling. You can also make dough discs ahead of time and freeze, or keep in the fridge up to three days. I like to double my crust recipe when I’m making them so it’s easy to throw a future pie together. Just grab a couple crusts out of the freezer and make a filling!


Preheat your oven: 425 degrees F.
Tip: Place a foil-covered baking sheet at the bottom of your oven to avoid bubble-over mess!

Make your filling:
Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon, and vanilla. Carefully stir together in a large bowl.

Assemble your pie:

Pull your dough discs out of the fridge and sprinkle a little flour on your counter where you’ll be rolling our your dough. First roll out the bottom crust. To move it over to the pie pan, fold dough in half, then in half again. It’s handy to have pastry cutter to get under your dough. Fold out into the pan. Pour in the filling, dot with butter, and then roll out the second disc of dough and repeat the folding maneuver for the top crust. Cut a few slits in the top to avoid steaming your crust, and decorate the pie too, if you like!

Cover the entire pie with foil and bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. The, decrease temperature to 375 degrees F, remove the foil, and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling. Cool before serving (with ice cream). Enjoy!



Best Brownies Ever (Seriously)


As I age (turning 35 this year, whoop whoop), I glean certain bits of knowledge that I know will help me for the rest of my life.

One of those bits (or should I say bites?) is this brownie recipe.

Or perhaps it should be “knowing which types of desserts are totally worth it.” These brownies are worth it (and don’t usually make me feel like crap when I eat them)! My chocolate cake recipe falls into this wonderful category as well (lucky me!).

These brownies are ah-mazing. AMAZING! But you must promise me one thing: Don’t over bake them! Promise! If they seem a little too gooey in the center but just right on the outside, TAKE THEM OUT! That’s an order.

I usually bake these brownies in a metal 12×17 sheet pan (glass doesn’t work as well for some reason, but it will work). Then we eat some warm with whipped cream and sprinkles right when they come out of the oven (do this), we eat some the next day (the flavors always seem a little more complex), and then we freeze the rest (and eat them over the course of the next month). This is the perfect way to live life, FYI. Always with brownie bites in the freezer.

Speaking of brownie bites, these also work really well in those cute little baby muffin cups. Bake them for only 15 minutes (watch those bites!) and then, of course, shake some sprinkles on there. Then gift them to all the people you love most in the world. Brownies for World Peace.


Anyway. Enjoy this recipe! XOX – Aryn



Amazing Fudge-y Cake-y Brownies with Chocolate Chunks

10 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs
1 cup strong-brewed coffee (remember you’re making these when you make your coffee!)
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional) ((but do it))

To make:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven. Butter (I always use the paper from the butter sticks) a 12×17 metal sheet pan.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a large stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water (I always use my KitchenAid mixer bowl nestled right in a pan of water). Stir, stir, stir until beautifully melted. Remove from heat and stir in the cocoa powder and sugar. Next, whisk in the vanilla extract and eggs, two at a time, beating well after each addition. Whisk in the coffee as well. Finally, stir (don’t use the whisk, it doesn’t like this part) in the flour, salt and chocolate chips (if using).

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a little batter clinging to it, and, inserted in the edges, comes out almost clean. DO NOT OVER BAKE. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, room temp the next day, and then freeze the extra because they’re amaaaazing!


Mississippi Mirth: An Irish Feast!


A Wee Bit of Blarney

By Jim McCaffrey • Photos by Aryn Henning Nichols • Originally published in the Spring 2015 Inspire(d)

I am going to buck tradition for St. Paddy’s Day. Well, sort of. A traditional menu of corned beef and cabbage in America differs from what graces the tables in the old sod. When one visit’s the Emerald Isle and asks the age-old question, “Where’s the (corned) Beef?” He/she may be met with empty, blank stares. The closest applicable dish that comes to mind is probably back bacon and cabbage – two totally different animals. (No pun intended.) Okay, okay…they do have corned beef in Ireland, but it is not the headliner of Irish cuisine. When the massive potato famine led to the great emigration, many Irish made the long voyage to Ellis Island. Upon embarking into New York City, they encountered Jewish butcher shops churning out kosher corned beef at Godspeed. Almost divine intervention. It was a tasty cut of meat, prepared much like their beloved Irish bacon, but inexpensive enough for the impoverished immigrants. Paired with cabbage (cheaper than potatoes), it became a new household staple. Now you know the real history of how corned beef and cabbage became the beloved and traditional meal for St. Paddy’s day. And that’s the truth, (fingers crossed).

Speaking of traditions, I better share my all-time favorite Irish joke with you:

Patrick and Mary had been married for years. It was Patrick’s birthday. When he got home from work Mary informed him that she had made his favorite meal.

“Oh,” asked Patrick, “Did you make lobster?”

“Oh yes, Patrick,” said Mary.

“And those little red potatoes?” queried Patrick.

“Oh yes” replied Mary.

“And julienned carrots?” asked Patrick.

“Of course,” said Mary.

“And snails? Did you make snails?” Patrick asked.

“Oh my word, Patrick, I forgot the snails. I’ll run right down to the market and get some,” said Mary.

“No, no, no,” Patrick replied. “You’ve been cooking all day, I’ll run and get them myself.”

“All right,” said Mary, “But don’t you be stopping by the pub on the way!”

Patrick said, “No, I’ll be right back.”

So Patrick runs to the store and picks up a sack of snails. On his way back, he comes across Mikey standing in front of the pub. Mikey says, “Patrick, its your birthday, let me buy you a pint.” Patrick says, “No, I promised Mary I’d be right back.”

Mikey says, “In the time we have been talking, we could have quaffed one down.” Patrick says, “Oh, all right.” So Mikey buys Patrick one and Patrick buys Mikey one. They keep at it for a couple of hours.

Patrick suddenly grabs his sack of snails and says, “Mary is going to be furious,” and races home.

Just as he gets to the stairs of his house, the bottom of the bag breaks open and the snails fall to the sidewalk. Mary comes to the door and yells, “Patrick, where have you been?”

Patrick crouches down and gesturing to the snails says, “Move along laddies, move along.”

Ok, enough of this diatribe. Back to the meat of the matter, so to speak. In this case, the meat is Ireland’s beloved lamb. The Emerald Isle is aptly named for its abundance of lush pastures. This abundance has led to an abundance of sheep. Root vegetables incorporated with the lesser cuts of lamb became a favorite dish in the old country especially with the farming community. Better known as Shepherd’s Pie and in our case, we used ground lamb. Not always readily available, I was able to procure some at the Oneota Food Co-op in downtown Decorah. This simple but wonderful peasant dish is just great comfort food anytime of the year. I made it in individual rarebit dishes but it can just as easily be made in a casserole dish for everyone as well.


Next up is another fun peasant entry, Irish Soda Bread. I have to admit that until a year ago, I had never even tasted it, let alone having baked it. My eyes were opened when I dined with Joey Homstad at Dublin Square in La Crosse. We both ordered the fish and chips. Delightful! Accompanying was a dense wedge of bread that had raisins in it. I thought this is weird but slathered it up with softened butter and gave it a try. It was on a different plane than fish and chips with its sweetness, but it worked anyway. The recipe I have included calls for caraway, which I think I will leave out in my next batch. It tended to overpower everything else in the bread.

And one cannot celebrate St. Patrick’s Day without a nod to Ireland’s infamous beer, Guinness. A recipe for Guinness cake was procured and we were off to the races. We were going to test all of these recipes at our quarterly Inspire(d) lunch, so the day before I decided to get ahead of the game and bake the soda bread and the cake at the restaurant. All went well, and after both were cooled to room temperature I placed them in one of our refrigerators. I asked our two waitresses for the night to make sure that no one touched the bread and cake because I was serving them the next day. Morning came and I headed to the restaurant to clean up and finish making our meal for lunch. I hadn’t frosted the cake yet, so I decided to get that accomplished first. Into the refrigerator I go and pull out the soda bread but to my dismay no cake was to be found. After going through all eight of our refrigerators three or four times, and pulling what’s getting to be less and less hair, I started making phone calls. The waitresses were unavailable, Conor said he didn’t see anyone move the cake, and when I called Brock he said he had moved it to the top right shelf. I told him that was impossible. There was an unopened box of avocados and an open box of salmon and that was it.


All I could think of was leprechauns. Those little rascals were up to their shenanigans and had pulled a fast one on me. Back to the drawing board. Make another cake, frost it and make the Shepherd’s Pie. Whew, just in the nick of time. The Inspire(d) crew rolled in and we had a great leisurely lunch. Later, Conor and I were prepping for supper and he pulled out the box of salmon. “Look, Dad, here is the cake, buried under the salmon.” he exclaimed. Damn leprechauns!


Jim McCaffrey is a chef, author, and co-owner with his family of McCaffrey’s Dolce Vita restaurant and Twin Springs Bakery just outside Decorah. He is author of humorous cookbooks “Midwest Cornfusion” and “Mississippi Mirth”. He has been in the food industry in one way or another for more than 40 years.


Shepherd’s Pie

Potato topping 

2 lbs russet potatoes
½ cup half and half
3 oz butter
2 egg yolks
1 tsp sea or kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste


2 Tbl canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 peeled carrots, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ lbs ground lamb
1 tsp salt
Fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbl flour
2 tsp tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp fresh chopped thyme
½ cup fresh or frozen corn
½ cup fresh or frozen peas


Peel potatoes and dice. Put in a 2-quart pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, decrease heat to a simmer and cook until tender. Mash potatoes. Add half and half, butter, salt, and pepper and mash until smooth. Thoroughly whisk in yolks.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add canola to a large skillet. Set on medium heat. Add onions and carrots. Stirring occasionally, sauté until onions become opaque, 3 minutes. Add garlic, lamb, salt and pepper stirring occasionally. When lamb is browned, 3-4 minutes, sprinkle flour, stir, and cook another minute. Add tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, and stir. Simmer for 12-14 minutes until sauce begins to thicken. Add corn and peas. Spread evenly in a 9X9 baking dish, cover with mashed potatoes, using a spatula to make sure topping goes completely to the edges and is smooth. Place on a baking sheet on the center shelf of the oven until potatoes begin to brown, 25-30 minutes. Cool for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy.

(This recipe is a variation of an Alton Brown recipe. If you can‘t find lamb feel to use ground beef in its place.)

Irish Soda Bread

3 ½ cups flour
½ cup sugar
½ tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 pint sour cream
2 eggs
2 Tbl caraway seeds (optional)
¾ cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Soak raisins for 30 minutes in warm water to plump. Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, beat eggs and stir in sour cream. Add to flour mixture and stir well wit a wooden spoon. It will get thick. Drain raisins and add with caraway (if using) and knead with until incorporated. Place batter in a greased 9-inch spring form pan. Sprinkle a little flour on top and pat the batter so it lies evenly in the pan. Use a knife to make a shallow crisscross on top. Bake for 50 minutes.

Guinness Cake

4 oz unsalted butter
10 oz dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
6 oz flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
7 fluid oz Guinness
2 oz cocoa powder

4 oz semi sweet chocolate
2 Tbl Guiness
2 oz butter
4 oz sifted icing sugar
1 oz finely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch spring form pan. Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, sift in flour, baking powder and soda. In another bowl, stir Guinness into cocoa. Alternately fold half quantities of flour and cocoa into butter mixture. Spread mixture into pan and bake 30-35 minutes until a tooth inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before opening pan. For icing, melt chocolate with Guinness, beat in butter, cool a little and then beat in icing sugar.

Remove 1/4 of the icing and stir in walnuts (if using) to the remainder. When icing is cooled to being spread able, coat top of cake with walnut mixture and coat sides with the 1/4 chocolate mixture.