1602 285th Ave. NE
Isanti, MN 55040

Phone: 763-444-8206
 


 



Phil

Guys Baked French Toast

The past couple of years we men of the house have made desserts for the Christmas holidays (click on the keyword:recipe).  This year we are going to be unpredictable (just like you know who) and make Christmas 
morning breakfast!


We’ll go with one of my favorites—Baked French Toast.  Tip:  this goes over just as well at the hunting shack.  Butremember you have to work it up the night before!

Start with a hint from the title and get a loaf of, what else, French bread—at least an arm’s length one.  Slice it into 1 3/16th inch slices.

Take a cake pan and lube it well with spray lube (if you don’t you will be making a very sticky mess for the wife to clean up and, after all, it’s Christmas so be thoughtful (at least for today).

Then take a couple of Tablespoons of corn syrup, a stick of butter (best) or margarine (at Christmas?), and about a packed cup of brown sugar.  Simmer it in a sauce pan on the stove for a couple of minutes.  Then pour it into the lubed cake pan and spread it out so nobody gets cheated.

Add the slices of French bread—okay to squeeze them together a bit to eliminate the open areas (the French are too ornery to make their bread square).

Then in a separate bowl mix together several (5) eggs (no shell bits please), a teaspoon or so of vanilla, and, give or take, a cup and a half of milk.  Sprinkle in some salt, some nutmeg, and lots of cinnamon (personal preference).  Then spoon the gook over the French bread, making sure to give all the slices equal treatment…then sprinkle on lots more cinnamon.

Cover, shove in the fridge and go back to the game.

The next morning crank up the oven to about 350 degrees and bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or so.

When you remove it from the oven quickly flip it upside down on a plank before the caramel sets up.  (If you don’t do this the first time you make it, you will the second time.)

You can serve it with syrup, but you hardly need it.  It’s almost as much caramel roll as French toast.  The family can take a vote on which they think it really is.

Everyone will want seconds, so figure the above recipe will feed about six.  I always double it because it’s so good warmed up in the zapper.  Do you call two arms of French bread a hug?

I already have a recipe in mind for next year—can hardly wait.  Hint: think game time!


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Phil

New patio and firepit

Shown is the new firepit and patio area that Greg installed this fall.  We'll have a campfire in it on weekends during the Christmas season.  We still have to cut another half dozen stumps and install our antique tractor seats on them.  This year we are also preparing Christmas carol songsheets in which the lyrics are in the same order as the music playing on the overhead speakers.  There will be no excuse for not joining in with Gene Autry, Bing Crosby, Mitch Miller, and the rest of the gang!

 


Phil

Pinestead Creek Nature Trail

This year we are adding a nature trail along the east end of our creek.  It’s the part of the creek that is totally wild so it has taken some work on our part to clear enough trees (and lots of deadfalls), brush, and waist-high grasses.  It will go from the driveway area along one side of the creek and back again on the other side.  The total length will be a little over 1/3rd mile.

 


Phil

A Visit to the Worlds Largest Christmas Tree Store

On our way to the National Christmas Tree conference in Ohio, Helen and I stopped at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland–the world’s largest Christmas store.  It’s an “all day” experience as the store is close to two acres in size and the highly decorated grounds are over 20 acres. Everything is first class.  We spent as much time looking up at the fantastic Christmas displays as we did looking at the merchandise.  It’s located in Frankenmuth, Mich; a great little european style Christmas village in itself.  Photos take in so little of it.  Here are just two, we could have taken dozens.


Phil

Earth Day 2011

Earth Day


Today is earth day (Friday April 22nd) and we are celebrating by planting at least 1000 trees–more if the heavier rains hold off.  This is great planting weather: a high in the 40’s, a light mist, but also some wind.  Can’t say, out in an open field on an open tractor and planter, that its great people weather.  The picture is of the first batch of new trees and there are more to come.  We’ll be at it for a couple of weeks so, for us, Earth Month would be a more descriptive term then Earth Day.

 


Phil

Wisconsin Presentation

Phil & Helen traveled to Weston, WI (next to Wausau) last weekend to attend the  Wisconsin Christmas Tree Producers Association (WCTPA) annual winter meeting.  Phil was a guest speaker, speaking in favor of the upcoming Christmas tree grower vote on establishing a USDA approved/monitored national Christmas tree sales checkoff.

 

The checkoff of .15 cents per tree sold would raise funds to support marketing and research.  It would provide a central pool of funds, administered by an elected board of Christmas tree growers, to more effectively promote real Christmas trees over fake ones.  It ould also fund research into reducing rotation times and improving needle retention.  It would be similar to checkoffs operated by the beef and the milk councils.


Phil

Guys Bread Pudding Recipe

Guys Bread Pudding Recipe

Bread PuddingLast year’s recipe, baked apples (see November '09 archives), was a great hit (no-one complained), so I thought this year I would share another one of my dessert recipes.  This one is for the best bread pudding ever.  I have made it at least a half dozen times.  Of course, what makes bread pudding so great is the sauce, so I'm also including directions for making a couple of them.

I wanted to get this out before Thanksgiving so you could serve it and ace out whoever brought the cranberry sauce or the sweet potatoes.  Use it again at Christmas and then again at New Years.  If people start to tire of it (hard to believe), then switch to the baked apples.

  • Lube a cake pan (the one in the photo is slightly oval and measures 14" by 11") and fill it with bread cubes.  Best to use a variety of light and dark breads.  The older and dryer the better (cut off the green stuff when no-one’s looking).

 

  • Scatter a half cup or more of raisins over the top.

 

  • Then, if you’re the nutty type (like me) scatter a half cup or more (emphasis on more) of walnut pieces.  Otherwise omit the nuts and much of the flavor.

 

  • Separately,  scald a couple of cups of milk.  (That means bring it just to a boil without having it boil over and making a mess for your spouse--this is not the time to go check on the game).  Then remove from heat and

 

  • Drop in a half a stick of butter

 

  • Also scramble a couple of eggs with a fork and add them in.

 

  • Then add like, say, a half cup of sugar.

 

  • Plus a tich of salt--maybe a fourth of a teaspoon.

 

  • Plus a big T of cinnamon.

 

  • Pour the mix over the bread cubes trying to hit them all.  Then sprinkle on some more cinnamon.  And then some more--that's what makes it really good.

 

You should put this cake pan into a larger one with hot water in it before putting it in the oven.  The bread pudding  will stay much more moist.  It will still work without the water, but it will be more of a bread bake than a bread pudding.  Even so, the sauce can fix that.
 
Usually 45 minutes or so at around 350 degrees will do the trick.  Stab it with your pocket knife, if nothing sticks, you're done and back to the game.

The Sauce

Here are the directions for making two different sauces.  The first one, Lemon Sauce, is for the teetotalers of the family (and the kids, but they never eat this stuff anyway).  The second one is for the people who like to party.  Of course, if there is a really good game on, you can always cheat and serve it with whipping cream (there are limits to cheating--whip your own from real cream, don't use the canned or frozen stuff)

Lemon Sauce:  Believe me this good, good, good.

  • Start with a couple of cups of boiling (not just hot) water.

 

  • Add in a cup of sugar

 

  • Add in 2 tbs. of cornstarch

 

  • Now for the tricky part.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens and gets bubbly.  Try to get the lumps out as you stir.  When you think it's ready (not when you're ready), remove from heat and stir in:

 

  • 3/4 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (again, don't cheat--squeeze the lemon, don't use the bottled stuff.)   Place lemon in your workshop vice, turn the handle while holding a cup underneath.

 

  • Grate the lemon rind and add in as much as you can get.  Since you're in the workshop anyway, just use a rasp.

 

  • Bonus tip:  I like it as lemonly as possible so I also dig out the insides (pulp) of the lemons and throw that in.  It also helps hide any remaining lumps.

 

Rum Sauce:  Believe me this is better, better, better.  And easier to make.

Over low heat, combine:

  • A one pound tub of sour cream

 

  • 3/4th cup of sugar

 

  • 3 Tbs of water (or more if you want it thinner--but wait until you have added the rum and then see).

 

Remove from heat then add a half cup of rum (more if you're brave, less if you're chicken).  Be sure the heat is off!  What's the point in adding the rum if you burn off the alcohol!  Sure the flavor is great, but you also want the zing.

One last tip--double the sauce recipes and serve the bread pudding in a cereal bowl, not a dessert plate.  Then you can drown the pudding the way it should be.  I hate to order bread pudding in a restaurant and have a drizzle of sauce over it, I want a ownpour.  Better yet, put the sauce in a pitcher and let everyone add their own (just don't let me go first).

ENJOY!!!      Phil


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Phil

Staying Warm This Season

This season we have added a new gas fireplace in the gift shop.  Hopefully, it will be a great place to mingle and warm up a bit after (or meybe before a hike through the trees.  Most importantly, there is a new eight foot double arched railroad bridge above it.

 


Phil

500 Year Anniversary of the Christmas Tree

This year, 2010, is the 500th anniversary of the first recorded use of a Christmas tree.  The tradition apparently started in Riga, Latvia in the year 1510.  In honor of this event Helen made a wall hanging or table runner which was raffled off at the recent National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA) convention as a fundraiser for the Christmas Spirit Foundation.

 

Helen with banner

 

The foundation was established by NCTA to help sponser programs which benefit kids, families, and the environment.  Currently it’s largest program is the Trees for Troops program now entering it’s sixth year.

 

More information can be found at:

    www.ChristmasSpiritFoundation.org

    www.TreesForTroops.org


Phil

MNCTA 2010 Summer Field Days

Phil, Helen, and Greg  attended the two day MNCTA field days held this year at Turck’s Tree Farm near Litchfield.  As opposed to the more marketing oriented convention held in February (see earlier post), the summer convention is heavily focused on the growing aspects of Christmas trees.

We had specialists in diseases, insects, and plant pathology from the University of Minnesota walk through the fields with us to help identify issues and corrective actions.  We also had equipment demonstrations by several vendors.  Helen also attended a wreath making session.


People often ask us how did we learn to grow trees.  The short answer is through meetings such as this where you can meet and discuss problems with the experts and, most importantly, share your experiences with other growers.  The long answer is now 27 years long–we planted our first trees in 1983.

 


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