My fist book contract! I'm crazy excited!

My fist book contract! I’m crazy excited!

More than three years ago while I was round with my second baby and waddling from one coffee shop to the another. Laptop bag on my shoulder and tall non-fat decaf latte in hand, I met and old friend who convinced me to write a little book I’d been thinking about for awhile. The concept was simple — farmers, chefs, recipes and a few props for this place I call home. A few months after that I met up with the amazingly talented Dana Damewood, who agreed to photograph the project.

It’s a seasonal cookbook with stories about the people who grow food and chefs who create masterpieces for our plates and our palates. I’d like to say that writing this book has been about the food for me. I mean, that would make sense. A cookbook is essentially about food, but the food isn’t the centerpiece of the book anymore than it is the centerpiece of our dinner table. Food serves one purpose and that is to sustain us for our families and friends. It is to sustain the conversation and carry it beyond the functional and into the fundamental. A well-made meal helps us slow down and linger with one another. The food and drink bring us to the table, while the stories we share and our time together become the warm glow the keeps us in our chairs.

The dinner table is where my husband, Steve, and I sit and listen to our five-year-old share the tales of his day, often with no way of knowing what is fact or fiction. It’s where our almost 3-year-old says she is not hungry because a lion ate all of her food. It is where my husband and I amid the chatter and even the frustrations of mealtime with young children teach them to be still and listen to one another. When we take the time to cook a meal and share it, we give of our time and ourselves to those we love. The book is about creating an opportunity live in this space together, and to honor the home cooks and chefs, farmers and artisans of Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, who choose to make these places of sand and structure, forest and prairie and husk and hooves their home. Without them, their trust in me and their contributions, this book would not exist.

People from other places, busier places, more densely populated places call these flyover states, as in there is nothing worth stopping for, so just flyover it. It’s a shame really because people who feel that way are sacrificing sacred spaces, historic neighborhoods and genuinely kind people. The book highlights these culinary and community diamonds, hopefully to encourage those flyover naysayers to touch down for a visit, break some bread and stay awhile. We are known for being friendly around here, and feeding people is kind of our thing.

Now that I’m a little less round, a lot less pregnant, and the mother of two busy kids this book is almost complete. I am thrilled to say I have signed a contract with Agate Publishing out of Chicago.  I’m going to share that journey here where I hope you will also share your journeys with me. Make a sandwich and pour yourself a drink. Let’s be great friends.


Spring Forward

Jackson wakes up a half an hour on either side of 6 a.m. He has done this for his entire life — all four years of it. Any parent with an early riser loves and loathes two time-sensitive events springing forward and falling back of daylight savings.

During the pre-baby time of my life falling back meant the world was full of new opportunities — an extra hour to get loaded at the bar, an extra hour to sleep in the morning — really important and critical events. Life post-babies makes falling back a brutal, soul-sucking experience. Trying to train a child to go to sleep an hour earlier takes weeks of preparation and training — ticking back bedtime 5 minutes at a time, day by day until finally you reach the moment when daylight savings time requires us to retreat and beg these little ones to go to bed. “But it’s still sunny!” they say. “I don’t have to sleep when it’s sunny!” “Yes, you do,” I say and the saga continues. The battle seems endless. It’s a horrible, horrible time. The spring, however, is a time for rejoicing if you are a parent.

Right now at this very moment I can’t help but fantasize about what my life will be like tomorrow morning when I roll over in bed and see that my alarm clock reads, “7:00 a.m.” it will be like Christmas. Angels will sing. Church bells will chime and I will know that for the next two to three weeks until Jackson’s internal clock starts ticking its way back toward the unholy hour of 5:30 a.m.  two great gifts will be mine. First, I will wake on my own without the sledge hammering of little feet running to jump on my head and ask me for me milk and second the sun will be shinning and I will, at least for two weeks, be a rested and reasonable human being. If you need to ask me for anything. This is your window of opportunity.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Strawberries awaiting their chocolate dip.

The second week of February is kind of crazy around our house. It’s Valentine’s Day (one of my absolute favorite holidays), which is two days after my son’s birthday. He turned four this year so we had preschool parties and family parties and kid’s birthday parties so it was basically the week of sugar. Conversation hearts, pink suckers and birthday cake filled every corner of this house.

I hate to be a buzzkill, but when it came time to bring treats for Jackson’s preschool class I opted to make chocolate covered strawberries and forgo the diabetic coma.


Tempering chocolate is one of those things people try to get fancy about but it’s not fancy. It’s actually quite messy not at all elegant, especially if I’m doing the work which typically leaves 3 or 4 dishtowels and me completely covered in the stuff. I’ve been covered in worse. The only thing you really need is time, a digital thermometer and a good stirring arm.

I can’t give you exact chocolate to strawberry ratio, but I melted about 5 bars, not using all of them and dipped 3 containers of strawberries, but keep in mind how much you need will depend on the number and size of strawberries in your container.

I made these for a class of 3 and 4 year olds so I threw caution to the wind and made silly faces with tempered white chocolate. I just used a pastry bag with a small tip to make the faces. The kids loved them and so did the moms and dads who volunteered in class that day.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries


  • 3 Containers Strawberries (washed and dried)
  • 5 - 4 oz Bars Semi-Sweet Chocolate (my favorite is Ghirardelli)


The first key to tempering chocolate is make sure everything you are working with is dry. Even a small drop of water can ruin a batch of chocolate.

1. Wash and dry your strawberries an hour or even a day or two before you want to dip them. Make sure the hull is dry as well.

2. Spread out a sheet of parchment or wax paper.

3. Chop chocolate reserving about a 1/2 cup for later use. Put chopped chocolate in a glass or metal bowl. Place the bowl over a pot with about an inch or two of simmering water. Don't let the bowl touch the water. Get your thermometer ready and start start stirring the chocolate. Once the chocolate is almost melted but still has chunks of chocolate in it, remove it from the heat and keep stirring. Bring the chocolate up to 100 degrees, 110 degrees is the maximum. If you removed it from the heat and it didn't make it to 100 degrees, then put the bowl back over the water, stirring the whole time, until it reaches 100.

Once you reach 100 start adding the reserved half cup of chopped chocolate a little at a time. This is called seeding and it helps bring the temperature down. Keep stirring (this can take a while) until your chocolate reaches tempering temperature.

Here is your tempering temperature guide:

Dark Chocolate: 89-90 degrees

Milk Chocolate: 88-89 degrees

White Chocolate: 85-86 degrees

Once you've made it to your tempering temperature continue stirring for about 30-45 seconds. Then dip your strawberries and place them on parchment paper to dry. The chocolate should harden and turn shiny in within about 5 minutes.