Wild Rice Soup

FullSizeRenderMinnesotans love their rich and creamy wild rice soup, something unique to the Midwest. So whenever we have out-of-state or overseas visitors, we send them home with a bag of wild rice…and this recipe for making a slightly healthier version of the old standby. I got a recipe similar to this years ago from Lund’s and Byerly’s. The high-end grocery store serves this soup in their deli, and they were handing out the secret recipe in response to frequent requests from patrons. But lately I’ve been adding in a chopped red pepper (which is chock full of vitamin C), and some celery and carrots. I also use only a portion of Half and Half, and then milk to finish it up. It’s still not a low-fat meal, mind you, just a little more substantive. (And I defy you to find another food blog that offers great vocab like “substantive” along with delicious food…)

1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minded dry onion
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet red pepper, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and grated
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup Half and Half
2 cups skim milk
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or 1 cup diced ham, optional

Combine wild rice, water, and bouillon cube in large sauce pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes, or until majority of kernels are split. Rinse under cold water to shock rice, and halt the cooking process. Set aside.

In large Dutch oven, melt butter. Add dry minced onion and cook until golden. Add chopped onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add pepper, carrots, and celery and cook 5-10 minutes more. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to coat, and then cook a minute more. Gradually pour in chicken broth and stir until no lumps of flour remain. Stir in cooked rice, Half and Half, and 1 cup milk. Add in chicken or ham, if you’d like. Add additional cup of milk if needed to thin soup. Serve.

NOTE: Cream-based soups do not freeze well. Refrigerate your leftovers of this soup.

Nelson’s Ice Cream

FullSizeRender-2I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! If ice cream makes you holler, then head to one of Nelson’s Ice Cream shops in Stillwater or St. Paul, Minnesota. My husband and I joined the throngs of folks waiting in line one balmy Friday night for the most generously scooped ice cream cones I’ve ever seen. With 40-plus tantalizing flavors of Brown’s ice cream to choose from, you need the wait in line to give you time to make up your mind. If you’re still torn between your multitude of options when your server yells “Next!”, don’t panic. They’ll let you have two flavors per cone or cup.

FullSizeRender-1As you can see from the picture of my Toasted Almond Fudge cone (being scooped by smiling server Dan), even the “child-size” cone is beyond belief. We used to joke when our kids were little that they weren’t supposed to eat anything bigger than their heads. At Nelson’s, you’d be hard-pressed to find a child’s head smaller than the ice cream cone on which they are blissfully licking away. I don’t know how anyone could possibly finish the Lumberjack—five mammoth scoops of any flavor served in a bowl with your choice of toppings. Judging from the Wall of Fame reserved for those who’ve downed the monstrous mound, it’s a task best accomplished by growing teenage boys.

FullSizeRenderWithin the forty or so flavors, there are a few sherbet and frozen yogurt options sprinkled in. And don’t forget about Nelson’s infamous Superman ice cream—a trio of tie-dyed neon yellow vanilla, blue raspberry, and pink cherry that’s especially popular with the younger crowd. I’m fond of their waffle cones, and the reward for making it through the first scoop or two, is getting a bite of the crispy cookie-like crunch along with the delectable ice cream. It’s worth the dollar up-charge— $4.50 instead of $3.50—to get a waffle cone over a cup or cone. Your only issue with Nelson’s Ice Cream shop might be finding it. The St. Paul shop is obvious enough on Snelling Avenue, but the Stillwater store isn’t part of the bustling downtown. It’s off the beaten path at the intersections of Greeley and Olive, up the hill from the main business district. But if you really love ice cream, you’ll find it. And you’ll be so glad you did.