Tag Archives: food

Enjoying the weather!

September 29, 2014


I was able to get out and enjoy the gorgeous weather we had over the weekend. It started with trap shooting Saturday afternoon at the home of a high school classmate and friend, Tim Kiminski. I had organized the event as a fundraiser for Trinity School at River Ridge, where my two youngest kids, Claire and William, go to school.

We had a fabulous time, then went to a wild game dinner at the home of Al and Anne Nicklaus in Burnsville. We had lots of good food, including two of my specialties — venison cheeseburger on a stick, and wild turkey/wild rice casserole. Anne added her famous venison pot pie, and Al offered a pheasant appetizer. By the end of the night, I was stuffed!

Of course, we talked hunting quite a bit during evening. Al showed me his new bow, and I drew it back to check it out. To my surprise, the draw length was perfect, and the peep sight on his string aligned perfectly with my eyes. Amazing! I could hunt with that bow. At the very least, I plan on taking some practice shots with it.

Yesterday, I took my son Andy down to Red Wing to work on deer stands. We moved two of them to what I hope will be better spots. The weather was a little warmer than I would have liked, and the mosquitoes were absolutely terrible. They swarmed us from beginning to end, and it felt like I had 100 bites on my body by the time we were done. Thankfully, one of the landowners had some repellent on hand, or I might have needed a blood transfusion.

The good news is, we got the two stands set up. Now, all we need to do is cut some shooting lanes. I will go back and do that in the next few weeks. I may wait until the leaves fall. Sometimes, with the leaves gone, visibility is much improved, and I see that I don’t have to do a lot of trimming. It’s not as critical for gun hunting as for bow hunting. Shotgun slugs go through small twigs and branches with no trouble, whereas even the smallest obstacles can deflect an arrow enough to miss the deer.

I’d like to get out and bow hunt soon, but I’m more interested in sitting in the stand in late October and early November. That’s when the rut really picks up steam, and that’s when I want to be out there.

Give me a day in the 30s or low 40s in early November, and I’m confident that the deer will be moving. Can’t wait!

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Not too cold for grilled venison!

December 18, 2013


I’m sure my next-door neighbor was giving me a funny look when I went outside the other night to fire up my charcoal grill.

He was shoveling his driveway. Usually, shoveling and grilling don’t happen at the same time. For most folks, the grilling season ends by Thanksgiving and doesn’t start up again until the snow melts and the birds start singing.

I’m a little different. My grilling season never ends. That does not mean I have no limits. When temperatures plunged down into the single digits recently, my grill stood idle on my back deck.

But, the mercury pushed up to a balmy mark near 30 degrees on Monday, so I decided it was time for grilled venison steaks. The cold didn’t bother me as I poured charcoal into my metal cylinder and stuffed two pages of newspaper underneath. It did take a couple tries, but the coals eventually heated up to a beautiful red glow.

This meal was going to be special, featuring the first meal of steaks from the buck I killed with my bow in early November. Because I was trying for my first deer with a bow, I chose to take a smaller buck. The decision was made easy by the fact that this deer presented a perfect broadside shot at 10 yards, which is every bowhunter’s hope while sitting in a stand.

Now was going to be the payoff, I said to myself as I pulled the marinated steaks out of the refrigerator. Every deer hunter likes to take a big buck, which I did a year ago. But, true meat lovers like me know that the best tasting deer are the younger ones. And, a young buck is the best of all because it has a larger, adult body, but is young enough for the meat to be tender.

So, taking this deer was a no-brainer. The good news is, the area I hunt in the metro seems to have lots of small bucks. I have seen eight so far this archery season, and I’m sure there are even more roaming the woods. Interestingly, I have read recently that metro areas, particularly those off limits to hunting or open only to archery hunting, can have more bucks than areas that allow gun hunting.

I think a major reason for this is that the younger bucks are often very active in the fall, roaming the woods looking for does and often getting run off by bigger bucks. Plus, they are less wary and educated than older bucks, which are highly adept at avoiding hunters.

Thus, I am optimistic that I will continue to see small bucks on this property, though sighting a bigger one would be just fine, too! On the other hand, it’s very hard to argue against harvesting a young buck once the meat ends up on your plate.

And, I have to say, the grilled venison steaks from this young buck did NOT disappoint. They were delicious. I cooked them medium to medium rare, and I used a marinade created by some friends of mine, Bob and Christine Brickweg. Christine would not call herself a gourmet chef, but she definitely knows how to prepare venison!

Her marinade, which I simply call the “Brickweg marinade,” is very simple to make. You buy packets of Italian dressing and make it according to the directions on the back of the packet. But, you need to make two key substitutions. Instead of regular vegetable oil, use olive oil. And, instead of vinegar, use balsamic vinegar.

I usually make a double recipe with two packets. Then, you pour over the meat and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, flipping the meat over halfway through the process to make sure the marinade soaks into both sides. I usually do the marinade right before I go to bed, then flip the meat the next morning. But the time the coals are hot, I’m good to go!

If you were fortunate to get a deer this fall, give this recipe a try. I am convinced that you will not be disappointed!

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What a bass means to a boy

August 21, 2013


Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

Proud anglers hoist the biggest bass of the day.

I’ve never been so excited about a 16 1/2-inch largemouth bass as I was last Friday.

And, it wasn’t even my fish. The lucky angler was my nephew, Michael. I think I was as joyful as he was when we hoisted his prize over the gunwale.

The chunky fish was the largest he had ever caught. And, the look on his face made that point clear. It matched a fish I had landed about an hour earlier, providing an excellent start to a meal for my brother and his family.

Times like this create summer memories that last well into adulthood. But, I had started wondering if a moment like this was going to happen for Michael or his older brother Matthew. I had spent the early afternoon trying to teach them how to catch bass on plastic baits, but with little success. There definitely is a steep learning curve for this endeavor, and early attempts can be filled with frustration and futility.

This occasion was no different. There were bites, hooksets that weren’t nearly stout enough, and numerous escapes by the bass.

The good news was, the fish were there and plenty willing to grab onto the baits. I was hoping, in time, one of the boys’ hooks would work its way into a largemouth’s jaw.

Sure enough, in the last hour, Michael pierced the mouth of a bass with a worm hook I had let him use. The battle was on! Usually, if the hook gets through the fish’s bony jaw, it’s curtains for the bass, unless the line gives way.

Michael played his fish well, and the fish eventually came belly up to the side of my boat. A quick swoop of the landing net, and the young lad tasted success at last.

I did my best to applaud his skills and acknowledge his success, hoping this would hook him on bass fishing – and plastics – for life. Meanwhile, another task just as important tugged for my attention.

Matthew never did land a fish that day, and he struggled with tangled line on top of that. This is an opportunity for gentle teaching and encouragement, and I took some time after we got off the water to have a little talk with him. My brother felt bad for his oldest son, but I told him that experiences like this can create a hunger that can make a person hungry and determined to conquer the learning curve.

I reminded him that I have been bow hunting for two years, and have yet to tag a deer. Guess what? I am more eager than ever to get out there and try to shoot and recover a whitetail. So, I noted, Matthew’s unsuccessful try at catching a bass on a plastic worm is not necessarily going to sour him on fishing.

Hopefully, it will keep him coming back for more. I have a feeling he is going to want to top his brother’s bass.

Now’s the time to turn to the next page of his young fishing career. Largemouth class will be in session next summer!

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Walleye heaven!

June 24, 2013

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Julie and Claire Hrbacek display part of their catch on Upper Red Lake

Julie and Claire Hrbacek display part of their catch on Upper Red Lake

I had the narrowest of windows to try and pop a few walleyes for the frying pan last week – about three hours, to be exact.

Where can an angler go to have any hope for success in such a tiny time frame?

Upper Red Lake, that’s where! Just two weeks ago, it looked like I might be able to get away for two or three days at the end of last week. I was primed to hit this phenomenal walleye fishery to cash in on a walleye bonanza fueled by the shrinking of the lake’s protected slot – from 17-26 inches to 20-26 inches on June 15.

I was dreaming of two days of fast fishing, with a fish fry at the cabin and a limit of walleyes to bring home. Alas, the calendar got full, and I was left with just one evening to get out on the water.

I cajoled my wife Julie and daughter Claire into joining me, and we left the house at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, June 20. We arrived in Waskish on the lake’s eastern shore at 5:30 p.m. and eagerly pulled in to Bear Paw Guides, where our guide for the evening, Tyler Brasel, awaited.

It had rained during the drive up north, but the skies brightened near Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, the weather looked troublesome on the western horizon, where Tyler’s dad Steve said a storm was positioned.

Would it come straight across the lake and end our outing? Or, would it steer southward and pass us by?

I said a short prayer, with the intensity only a fisherman yearning to get on the water can muster. With that, we hurried to the boat landing, located on the outlet of the Tamarac River.

A bobber and hope

We only had to go a short distance from the mouth of the river to one of Tyler’s favorite spots. It’s a small rock pile the size of a living room located on the eastern shore. He’s got it plugged in to his GPS, which was the size of a small TV. He actually has two GPS units, which enabled us to park almost right on top of the rock pile.

Tyler handed Julie and I rods with jigs tied on. We promptly attached frozen minnows to the jigs and heaved them overboard. Julie caught the first walleye of the evening – and the second, and the third. This all happened in a manner of minutes, while Tyler was getting Claire set up with a slip bobber rig.

Throughout the drive up north, Claire had said she wasn’t sure she wanted to fish. I hoped she would at least try it. When Tyler suggested the bobber setup, Claire quickly agreed.

Good thing, too. The walleyes jumped all over her jig-and-leech presentation. In fact, she ended up catching the most fish in our group. Even Tyler marveled at her success.

As for me, I caught my fair share, and contributed to the limit of 12 walleyes we brought back to the docks. Turns out, we needed far less than the three hours of daylight to pull in our legal limit. And, we caught several bonus perch, and Julie even landed a northern pike that we were able to keep.

Attitude change

In terms of Claire’s attitude about fishing, she had this to say shortly after landing yet another walleye:

“This is a game changer for me. I like fishing now.”

Why shouldn’t she? With fishing like this, just about anyone would fall in love with it. Fortunately, the storm held off and didn’t bother us during our time on the water. The wind did pick up during about the last half hour, so we decided to head in. Tyler and Steve cleaned our fish back at the resort, and we took home a nice bag of walleye fillets.

Tyler said he is able to catch walleyes all summer long, though he has to go farther out from shore and cover more water. He said he never fails to catch fish when he tries his hardest. Sometimes, he does some experimenting and will come up empty.

The good news is, there is lots of summer left and Tyler has plenty of openings on his calendar, especially during weekdays. And, there are lots of walleyes left in the lake. We caught plenty of various lengths, from about 8-10 inches all the way up to one just more than 20 inches. The fishery looks to be in fine shape.

Perhaps, the best news of that wonderful night is that Claire definitely wants to go fishing again. In fact, she was disappointed to leave the next morning.

Who knows? Maybe there’s hope I can get her into a deer stand.


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Looking back on 2012

January 2, 2013


Many people are diving in to their New Year’s resolutions right now, with almost a full year ahead to test their resolve.

But, it’s not a bad time to look back, either. This year was one of my best ever in the outdoors. The highlights are many, and reflections of an outstanding year in God’s glorious creation continue to bring a smile to my face.

Turkey time

The wild turkeys got active earlier than usual this past spring, with March feeling more like May. I began the gobbler chase in April with my son, William, during the Wisconsin youth weekend.

Although we left the woods without a bird, it turned out to be an action-packed hunt. We had numerous birds gobbling on the roost not very far away, then had a group of birds come in our direction after flying down. They hung up, but eventually we had a group of 1-year-old toms (called jakes) come in, along with two hens. William got two shots off, but failed to bring down a bird. I would later redeem that hunt by getting what I think was one of those jakes a month later. On  the same piece of property, I had four jakes come in, and was able to get one of them.

I added a Minnesota longbeard to the harvest, and it didn’t even take an hour. I heard a bird gobbling on the roost, then slipped in to about 50-60 yards from the bird. He flew down and came right in. As I stood over the nice tom after pulling the trigger, and my watch read 6:21 a.m.

A wonderful surprise

With the hunt over so fast, I decided to head over to Wisconsin to see if I could fill my other tag. The state went from a series of five-day hunts to seven-day seasons. That meant my Minnesota and Wisconsin seasons overlapped by a day.

So, I registered my Minnesota bird in Red Wing, then crossed the river into Wisconsin. I tried hard to get my second bird, traveling to three different properties. On my last stop, I saw hens but no toms. I decided to try one last spot on this small farm, and saw something brown on the ground in the corner of a field. It turned out to be a morel mushroom. And, there were many more.

I filled my turkey hunting vest with them and headed home with an unexpected bounty.  I ended the day with fried mushrooms, plus a mushroom-and-cheese omelette at the home of Chris Thompson, academic dean at the St. Paul Seminary. He is an avid mushroom hunter, and he almost freaked out when he saw what was in my vest.

Saving the best for last

If someone had told me in early September that I would still be without a deer on Nov. 11, I wouldn’t have believed them. With the archery season beginning in mid September, I figured it wouldn’t be a matter of if I took a deer, but how many.

Yet, there I was in my deer stand on the afternoon of Nov. 11, the last day of the Zone 3A firearms season, hoping I would not get skunked. I had seen very little throughout the gun season, and failed to tag a deer during my numerous trips to the woods, despite hitting two deer with my arrows.

With gusty northwest winds pounding me all afternoon, it was a test of endurance. But, I still had hope, as the last hour of legal shooting hours can produce strong deer movement.

Sure enough, with only about 10-15 minutes left, a buck appeared out in a picked soybean field 180 yards away. Almost magically, he turned and trotted right to me, stopping and turning broadside at about 70-80 yards. I hit him several times, and when I found him just inside the woods, I realized I had just killed the largest buck of my life. He’s now at the taxidermist, and I can’t wait to see the finished mount.

I give thanks to God for some outstanding memories – and some great food in the freezer. Wild turkey, venison and morel mushrooms – who could ask for more?



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Big buck appears in season’s final minutes

November 12, 2012


I was sitting high in a ladder stand yesterday near Red Wing during the final day of the 3A firearms season. In several days afield, including several dawn to dusk sits, I had seen only two deer – a buck that was too small based on the Zone 3, southeast Minnesota four-point antler restriction, and a doe that spooked and ran before I could shoot.

So, it had been a frustrating season. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out hunting yesterday, but my friend and hunting partner, Bernie Schwab, persuaded me to give it one last try. He was gearing up for an all-day sit. I didn’t know if I wanted to hunt that long.

From the outset, the weather was brutal. It was cold, very windy and it rained some. I couldn’t sit all day, so we got down for lunch and came back at 1:30 for the afternoon sit. In the morning, I had been sitting in the stand  where he had shot a nice 10-pointer the previous weekend, plus seen lots of does. After lunch, I decided to sit in a stand on the far south end of the property that I just put up last year. Bernie saw a buck from it last year, and only sat in it once this year. I thought that might help, as the deer would be less disturbed.
This buck came out with only about 10-15 minutes of shooting light left. I ranged him out in the picked bean field at 180 yards, which would have been a very long shot with a shotgun, and one I would prefer not to take. I decided that I would try it in the last five minutes if he didn’t come in.
But, guess what? He turned toward me and trotted right at me. He passed the tip of a finger of woods that I had ranged at 100 yards, and he kept coming farther, then turned and gave me a great broadside shot. I shot more than once, and am not sure which one was the kill shot. He came right to the edge of the woods where my stand was and went in just a few yards and died.
I knew he was nice when I saw him come in, but was too busy getting ready for a shot to examine his antlers. He’s a beauty! He was a 10-pointer originally, but he broke off one of this brow tines, plus another small point near the tip of one of his main beams.
Fortunately, the five points on the opposite side are intact. He’s got a 19-inch inside spread, and I’m going to have him mounted. That was the only deer I saw all day. I just kept telling myself, “I only need to see one deer.” Frankly, I would have been very happy with a doe, as it would have provided some venison for the freezer.
This afternoon, I called Lou Cornicelli of the DNR to tell him about my hunt. I also asked him to delete an email I had sent last week, in which I railed on the four-point rule because it keeps me from shooting a deer for the table.
If I had shot the small buck I saw on opening day, I never would have had a chance at this one, which will be at the taxidermist very soon. And, just as important, I will have lots of venison to enjoy in the months ahead. Praise God for this great blessing!
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Here’s a dynamite recipe for grilled wild turkey or venison

August 16, 2012


My oldest son Joe is going off to college tomorrow (Friday) for his junior year at the University of Dallas. He is the most avid hunter among my four children, and I thought it would be nice to prepare a wild game dinner for him before he leaves.

Actually, I have done so several times during the three months he has been home, but wanted to serve him up some “natural” fare one last time. This time, I decided to prepare grilled wild turkey breast. Haven’t done that very much over the years, but I recently discovered a terrific marinade that I have used on venison a couple of times with great success, and thought I should try it with turkey.

I will divulge the marinade recipe near the end of this post. A nice touch to the meal was the fried morel mushrooms and onions that I served on the side. I found a large batch of morels on a piece of land in Wisconsin where I went turkey hunting. I brought them home and cooked some that night, then froze the rest for later use. I thawed them and fried them in butter along with the onions. This was the recommendation I got from a good friend of mine, Jim Grill, who is a gourmet cook.

The mushrooms and turkey both were delicious. In fact, the meal was so good that Joe is planning on taking frozen turkey breast down to Dallas. He was fortunate enough to shoot a bird during a hunt back in May just days after he came home for the summer. He plans on making the same grilled turkey that I made for him. For those interested in trying something new, here is the recipe for the marinade:


– Packet of Italian seasoning mix (may need more than one, depending on how much meat there is to marinade)

– Balsamic vinegar

– Olive oil

– Water

All you need to do is follow the recipe on the back of the packet, substituting Balsamic vinegar for regular vinegar, and olive oil for oil. You combine 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar with three tablespoons of water and the seasoning mix in a  glass jar, then shake until mixed. You then add 1/2 cup of olive oil and shake again. When mixed, pour over meat that you have placed in a marinade pan (any large plastic or glass pan will do, or even a disposable tin foil roasting pan). Refrigerate overnight, then flip meat in marinade pan and refrigerate meat until cooking at dinnertime.

You can’t go wrong with this recipe. It comes courtesy of some friends, Bob and Christine Brickweg of Burnsville. They shared it with Christine’s sister, Louise Schwab, who lives next door. Louise and her husband, Bernie, used it earlier this summer when they invited my family to come over for dinner. I have tried it several times since, and I now know it works with both venison and turkey.

The key, I think, is to grill your meat on a charcoal grill, rather than gas. I like the flavor of meat grilled on a charcoal grill. You spend about $60 or $70 for a grill that should last a lifetime.

With plenty of summer left, you can bet I’ll be grilling more wild turkey!


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It’s rewarding to share wild game

July 6, 2012


I walked into the Ascension School building in north Minneapolis this afternoon as the heat index soared well above 100 degrees.

As I waited in the hallway, principal Dorwatha Woods poked her head out of her office and gave me a warm greeting.

Once again, I was there to make a wild game donation. But, I was going to get something meaningful in return – smoked wild turkey. Yum!

Several weeks ago, she had accidentally dialed me and I happened to mention during our conversation that I have a bunch of wild turkey in the freezer. She replied that she has a smoker and she knows how to use it.

What a match! My friend, Steve Huettl, had some extra turkey he wanted to give away, so I took it off his hands and gave it to Dorwatha for smoking. When she described the process of smoking it in her charcoal smoker, I was getting hungry right then and there.

Of course, it’s nice to get something back, but that’s not why I bring wild game to her. She prepares it for poor and underprivileged folks, of which there are many in north Minneapolis. That’s something I believe in, and it takes very little prodding to put together a care package for her.

I added a few packages of venison to the donation, plus two turkey legs from the bird my son, Joe, took in Montana. So, it was a nice selection of wild game for her, and I’ll be counting the days until I get smoked wild turkey. I’ve never had smoked turkey before, so it will be fun to try.

After depositing the bag full of frozen game on her office table, we sat down and started talking about life, as we always do. I couldn’t help but think of her in the wake of the shooting death of 5-year-old Nizzel George not far away from her school on June 26, as he slept on his grandmother’s couch.

I know that this type of tragedy tears at Dorwatha’s heart, not just because of its proximity to her school, but because caring for children is her passion.

Sadly, this shooting is one of many to take place in her school’s neighborhood during the 25-plus years she has been at the helm at Ascension School. Thankfully, she – and her school – is a beacon of light in an area shrouded by the darkness of violence.

Amidst the crime, she marches – and prays – on. More than 200 children are safe within her school’s walls, even though she often invites the very thugs who perpetrate street violence into her building.

“I am determined to make a difference in this neighborhood,” Dorwatha proudly proclaims, adding that she is afraid of no one, even when police issue warnings that people should not be alone in a parking lot.

She scoffs at such alerts, saying “I’ve been going out alone for millions of years.”

It is not so much a statement of age, but of experience. What else would you expect from a woman who once walked across the street and told a group of young men to clean up the drug paraphernalia in the yard so the school children would not see it while looking out their classroom windows?

There is no fear in Dorwartha, but lots of fight left. And, make no mistake, she will not rest while kids are dying in her school’s neighborhood. Unlike many others who see such violence regularly, she has not grown cynical.

Far from it. She continues to open her arms wide and offer a warm smile to every visitor a warm, even those who have been in jail, or will be on their way there soon. She sees value in every person, saying over and over that all people are God’s children and have value.

I’m happy and proud to say I am on her good side, though the stories she tells indicate that visits to her office aren’t as scary as students might think.

In other words, she’s as tough as nails, but with a heart of gold.

And, I can’t wait to be called to this principal’s office for some smoked wild turkey!



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Mother’s Day, Mary and the Bread of Life

May 10, 2012


This Mother’s Day marks one year since my mother succumbed to cancer.  I miss her and think of her often. When I think of my mom, my mind usually turns to food or the family gatherings that were surrounded by food.  Once, while in high school,  some friends stopped over to my house. Before they could leave, my mother had emptied the entire refrigerator! She would not let them leave until they ate something! In the world of food pushers, my Mom was the Godfather or should I say the Godmother! I guess mothers and food are forever linked in most of our minds.  But the food we receive from our mothers is much more than food.  Our mothers are our first teachers and the nourishment that they give to us is counted in greater terms than calories.

When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.
Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, 2009

Yes we have a great gift from our mothers as they teach us who we are, who we have been and who we want to be.  May is also the month of Mary and on May 31st we will celebrate the great feast day of the Visitation.  In the same way our mothers taught us – OUR mother Mary teaches us through the food of life that she brought to the table – Jesus Christ. In times of prayer we turn to mother Mary to be taught the same lesson of who we are, who we have been and who we want to be and it is through Christ, the bread of life, that these things are revealed.

When looking through our church cook book I came across one of the most beautiful stories that illustrates this connection between our mothers, food and the bread of life.  The dedication in the cookbook includes a story from Father Kevin Finnegan.  It goes:

My mother, Evie, took delight in having a day off from work so she could dote on her children and bake bread! Several loaves would be gone within minutes of getting home from school. Several months after my mom died on May 22nd,1983, my family came to a deeper appreciation of mom, the bread baker.  My sister was looking in the freezer for something to cook for dinner when she came across a loaf of her bread. She brought it into the kitchen, and one by one she was joined by my father, my brother and me. We placed the bread on a cutting board and practically watched it defrost. Then we shared it among us, recalling with great affection the devotion which our mother loved and served her family.

“They recounted what had taken place on the way and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the Bread.”  Luke 24:35

My own mother was a kolacky maker, but I will include Evie’s batter bread recipe below.

What memories of food are forever connected to your mother?  Share them in the comments section below.

1 c. milk                   2 pkgs. active dry yeast
3 T. sugar                1 c. warm water
1 T. salt                    4 1/2 c. unsifted flour
2 T. margarine

Scald milk. Stir in sugar, salt and margarine. Cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add milk to mixture. Stir in flour (batter will be fairly stiff). Beat about 2 minutes.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 45 min. It will more than double in size. Stir batter down, beat vigorously for a minute. Turn into a well greased 9x5x4 in. loaf pan.  Bake in preheated oven at 375* for 50 min.  (Reprinted with permission from Divine Mercy Family Cookbook)

Honor your mother this Mother’s Day with food and stories about family, whether your mother is with you in this world or with the heavenly bread of life.

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Highlights at Northwest Sportshow

April 2, 2012


The Big Green Egg on display at the Kitchen Window booth at the Northwest Sportshow.

Got a chance to check out the Northwest Sportshow Friday afternoon. It was about the only time I could make it, and I’m glad I did.

Though I only was able to spend about two hours, it was well worth the trip. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Re-connecting with old friends. Early on in my rounds, I bumped into pro bass fisherman Gary Lake. Years ago, while at Sun Newspapers in the western suburbs, I met Gary and wrote about him in my fishing column. I had the pleasure of fishing with him a few times, and I was able to learn some things from him. I hadn’t seen him in a long time, so it was good to run into him. We both agreed to get out on the water this summer. That will be fun!

I also saw Steve Carney, a fishing guide who also is from my days at the Sun. I have kept in touch with him, and I read his weekly columns in Outdoor News. He’s a straight shooter who tells it like it is. If he does well on the water or in the woods, he says so. If he doesn’t, he says that, too. I have always liked that about him, and respect him a great deal for it. He said he had his best ice fishing season ever this winter, which followed his worst bow hunting season ever in Wisconsin. I told him I might be able to help him with that. I suggested we talk more about it on the water sometime. I sure hope he takes me up on that!

2. Discovering the Big Green Egg. Recently, I had heard about a form of barbecue grill called the Big Green Egg. It has been around for while, but I only have heard of it recently. It’s a charcoal grill, but quite a step up from my Weber. For one thing, you can seal it tight so that the moisture stays inside. That means meat won’t dry out so fast. Second, it has a thermometer mounted in the lid so you always know what the temperature is. And, it’s easily regulated by adjusting the air vent on top. Finally, it uses real charcoal, which gives the meat better flavor.

I learned all of this from a booth run by a store that sells Green Eggs: Kitchen Window in Minneapolis at Calhoun Square. Not only does this store sell the Green Egg, but it also teaches people how to use it. The down side is that these are very spendy grills. There are four sizes, from small all the way to extra large. The large costs $800, which is mighty steep for a grill. I’m not really in a financial position to buy one now, but owning one is now a dream.

Getting a few fishing tips. I’m always on the lookout for tips that will help me put more fish in the boat. I talked with a guy from Pure Fishing and we got on the subject of swimbaits. I first heard about these from In-Fisherman Magazine a few years back. Basically, they are a soft plastic crank bait that you put onto a large jig head and reel in at a steady pace rather than lift and drop it from the bottom. According to editor Doug Stange, all species love these baits, especially walleyes. I have dabbled with them a few times and caught some fish, but always wanted to use them more.

Mike Baumgartner, a Pure Fishing rep, gave me a few tips on how to use them. Like Stange, he said swimbaits can be dynamite at times. He uses them throughout the summer and into the fall. He says once you are set up correctly, they are easy to fish. In fact, he often takes novices out fishing with them, and they catch as many fish as he does.

The key, he said, is to fish them in weeds. That is where they are most effective. And, that is where walleyes spend a surprising amount of their time. And, in many cases, these fish are untouched by other anglers, who frequent  rocks, sand and gravel. So, you’re getting unpressured fish that are in the weeds for one reason – to eat!

That short encounter made me really want to give them a try this summer. Mike has had success on Leech Lake, where there are lots of large cabbage beds. The nice thing about swimbaits is you can cover lots of water. But, there’s one important rigging tip – use a wire leader. Mike says pike love swimbaits, too, and you’ll get bit off many times and lose lots of baits unless you use a  wire leader. Amazingly, that piece of hardware does not scare off walleyes.

No turkey tips

Here’s the surprise of this year’s show – I did not get any turkey hunting tips. I always enjoyed visiting the AmmoCraft & Gobbler Specialties booth owned by Ron Becker, who has a store in Hopkins. But, he stopped coming several years ago. Fortunately, I was able to buy a call from him that is my No. 1 call for turkey hunting. It is made by Quaker Boy and is a very simple push-button call that has proven very effective for me. In fact, I called in two toms with it last spring. It’s called the Pro Push Pin Yelper and sells for about $20. For me, it has been worth every penney. It has brought in several birds to gun range, and it is very easy to use. That is very important when you have a gobbler closing in and are so nervous your hands are shaking.

That’s exactly what happened to me last spring when I called in a nice, double-bearded gobbler in Wisconsin. He responded to a yelp from my box call, then cut the distance in half minutes later and gobbled again. That’s when I pulled out my Pro Push Pin Yelper and hit him with some soft calls, clucks and purrs, which are feeding sounds. He gobbled immediately, then circled to my right and entered a field, where he gobbled again.

Knowing he was likely to keep coming and end up in shotgun range, I grabbed the call to give him one more hen vocalization. When I looked down at my hand, it was shaking. Still, I was able to work the call just fine, and gave him another brief series of clucks and purrs. He gobbled two or three times, and came right in. My shot was only 20 yards.

I shared this story with Ron, who got a kick out of it. With the Wisconsin youth season coming up this weekend, I hope that my son, William, will have a similar experience. He has yet to shoot a bird, but I’m hoping he’ll get his first one on Saturday.

Q: What’s your favorite turkey hunting story?

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