Wintertime in Minneapolis

To love wintertime in Minneapolis, one must learn how to love the snow and cold. It was never my favorite season, as it seemed like it lasted forever. I would count the days until Daylight Savings Time and Easter. As a kid, Lent was more of a countdown to Easter morning than it was about anything worshipful, despite attending Wednesday services and the awesome Lutheran church basement potlucks.

Grand Barker wintertime in MinneapolisAfter Sunday School, my sister and I would hurry through the church parking lot and around the corner to meet our parents, grandparents, and a few others at Skylane’s Bowling Alley. The sloppy joes were so good we had to get the recipe.

I used to love watching “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” as she seemed to make wintertime in Minneapolis look so fashionable. But she never had snow on her boots! Maybe Rhoda did.

When we weren’t ice-skating, or building atomic igloos in the front yard, Kris and I spent time at the Barker house. Grandma’s winter food was a wonderful comfort, and grandpa wasn’t so bad in the kitchen either! We almost dreaded hearing the crunchy snow under the tires as our parents came to retrieve us from our days of fun.

The only thing better than wintertime in Minneapolis is Spring. Or Fall. Or Summer.

Introducing: The Barker Bites

I love cookbooks.

In another post, I likely will give you my story on cookbooks, but for today, I want to introduce you to my newest work in progress. It is titled, “The Barker Bites.”

This cookbook is an ode to my Mom’s side of the family, hence the name “Barker” for her maiden name.

I began the writing journey on this project wanting to include the recipes as a part of a story. I will go through the recipe story season by season, beginning with Winter and ending with the holidays.

It’s my desire to publish this as an ebook once the story is told. If you see any typos, missing ingredients or just bad recipe grammar, feel free to send me a note.

Our journey back in time begins shortly. Thank you for reading.


Summertime in Minnesota

Beside the crazy humidity and mosquitos the size of small pelicans, summertime in Minnesota was the best.

Between church life, camping, swimming and a couple of amazing Grandmas, I could write a book!

A favorite memory of Faith Lutheran Church in the summer was the spectacular ice cream social. The ladies would get together and bake pies in the tiny church kitchen, then line them up on the steps up to the narthex to sell.  Big yellow and green striped canvases would shelter people from the July heat. People would bicycle up to the front door of the church and purchase pies to take home. It was a beautiful sight.

The church would get so hot during summer months that we’d cool off by bending the bulletins into fans (hopefully without Pastor Lau catching too much of the commotion.)  We loved having donuts after church in the Summer, versus Sunday school the rest of the year.

One of the first things we did right after school let out for the summer, was head to Lake Kabetogama for a week. The Severson’s and Bednarz’s would drive the matching International Harvester Travelalls and pop-up tent trailers the seven hour drive to the beautiful lake.

Camp Wooden Frog was our destination, and to this day I can close my eyes and smell the yummy pine tree surroundings.

Camp 1362 provided another fun place for church potlucks.

About an hour out of the Cities, it harbored two bunkhouses and a boathouse. Yet, through the years, Camp would go through many changes. We loved the additions of a dining hall and indoor plumbing. Yet, some of my sweetest memories are of the church potlucks with Grandma and Grandma Barker.  I loved to watch people spread out their blankets, then arrange their food. They’d share proud stories behind their dishes, pray, and sit down and eat together.

Because we didn’t have central air conditioning in our house, as summer wore on, my sister and I would bike to any place that did.

We’d bike to Grandma and Grandpa Barker’s house or ride up to the library.  The big orange round chairs spun us as we read books til we had our fill.  Once our body temperature was sufficiently lowered, we’d start the hot  and sweaty journey bike ride back home.summertime in Minneapolis

Then there were the swimming lessons.

Kris and I had mixed feelings about these chlorine filled-drills each summer. The Richfield Pool opened at 11 am, so  lessons were scheduled early in the morning, and the water was ice cold.

Neither one of us was a wuss.

We spent a lot of time swimming in lakes as we grew up, so a little cold water didn’t scare us. But this was VERY cold water and I still think a truck came by each morning to drop ice in the pool before we arrived.

Mom would drop us off in the morning, then retrieved us later. She lined the hot vinyl back seats with towels to prevent screaming.  At home, the treat would be Wheat Thins, cold green grapes and RC cola. Summer truly arrived once we’d spot a Strawberry Pie on the counter.

Aunt Joanne’s apartment was a highlight in July and August. We’d swim in the pool, be rewarded with “Weenie Buns” and often celebrated my cousin Dave’s and my Dad’s birthday there.

Grandma Bednarz’s farm was another highlight of summertime in Minnesota. We’d get to spend time with our big family, usually on the lake or playing by the river. Grandma also loved keeping us busy with the huge garden out back. My tastes were forever spoiled after indulging in all the wonderful vegetables we’d “find.”




Springtime in Minnesota

Ah.. nothing better than Springtime in Minnesota when you are a little kid. Except maybe for Summer. But we’ll get to that a little later.

I would love to feel the balmy 42 degree March sunshine on my face. It was a time of being able to unzip the snorkel jacket down halfway, watch the snow melt and dream about Easter Vacation.

We made a big deal out of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to the Wednesday evening gatherings at Faith Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, just a few blocks from my grandparents home.

Palm Sunday was fun and triumphant, after a fairly gloomy Lent season. The organ music at church matched the mood of the clouds and black snow banks. By the time the palms were waving and we were singing “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna”, there was hope in the air.

As a child, the Maundy Thursday/Good Friday pairing was a quick departure from the the waving branches, but I treasured the time we had with friends and my beloved grandparents. That church was our second home, and we loved it.

When Daylight Savings Time fell on the same day as Easter, I am not sure who it tortured more, the parents or the children. I am thinking the folks, as they to do all the work. Not to mention be at the church for sunrise service at 6:30 am.

My sister and I were half awake as we sniffed our basket of confections, and while no parent was thrilled about kids having candy during church, they quickly realized it was the only thing that kept them from dozing off. Even the gorgeous sanctuary full of Easter lilies and the trumpets blaring “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today” could only keep the eyes open so long.

Little girls would compare dresses and white patent leather shoes. Little boys pretended they weren’t dressed up at all. And after a healthy dose of pancakes in the Lutheran Church basement kinda way, the wagons headed home for naps.

My Grandma Barker loved Springtime in Minnesota. I have fond memories of biking over to their house and seeing the joy in her big blue eyes as she showed me the new tulip leaves beginning to poke through in her garden. It was a little surprise party for her every year, and I felt honored to be a part of it.

By the time May rolled around, she loved to load my little bike basket up with freshly cut Lily of the Valley.  She would soak a paper towel in water, and carefully wrap them in foil for my journey back home. To this day, they are my favorite flower, and that scent reminds me so much of her. I finally found a perfume that has that delicate scent, and I only wear it in May. Diorissimo.

As Spring rolled in, so did the weddings, and as Lutheran Church kids we helped our moms with catering. Two of the best recipes from that era that you absolutely must try are The Absolute Best Turkey Salad on the Planet and the Sherbet Punch. Happy Springtime in Minnesota!


Birthday Memories

In this section, I wanted to fondly recall all the birthday memories I have of my family’s birthdays. Their favorite foods, types of cake, most fun gift, etc.

But as a child, the only birthday I remember, well, is mine. That sounds terrible, but I’m being brutally honest. I had to do a little more research for this part of the story than any other.

I remember EATING cake and ice-cream at all of those birthdays. Believe me, if there wasn’t cake and ice-cream at someone’s birthday, I would be recalling that here, in vivid detail, and I would name names.

But back to me.birthday memories The Barker Bites

Devil in Disguise

One very early memory I do have of any kind of cake, birthday or no, involves my cousin Dave. He showed me how to sneak buttercream flowers off of cakes, and then smoothing over the frosting to hide it. My first memory doing this  was him lifting me off the ground, so I know I started early!

Nonetheless, since the day I first discovered it, Angel Food Cake was favorite. Springy, bouncy and happy, it seemed to be a cake with a sense of humor. It kicked back, and I liked that.

Now think about it for a second, have you ever watched anyone cut into an angel food cake and exclaim, “wow, I have never had such a lovely experience cutting cake! Bob, did you sharpen this knife just to surprise me? Everyone! Come see how easy it is to slice this cake!”

Usually it’s the exact opposite.

Aunt Martha goes in, smuggishly confident, sharpened blade in hand.

This woman is 75 and has cut through this rubbery, bounce-back territory before.

Not seven minutes later, dear Aunt Martha has her heel on the table, cursing ,“you sticky frosting covered piece of upholstery.”

what kid doesn’t look forward to that every year?

Introducing: Yes, We Ate Turtle

Welcome to “Yes, We Ate Turtle,” my first self-published cookbook to make it to print.

This book is a tribute to my Polish and German heritage from my Dad’s side of the family. Many cousins, aunts and uncles contributed recipes and pictures to this wonderful compilation, and while I edit it for ebook release, I am sharing it with you.

Bednarz Family… if you missed the first edition, I would love to have your additions for this ebook version. Please shoot me an email and I will make sure it gets posted.

Happy Turtle hunting!

Wow, She’s Really Let Herself Go

In getting back to blogging after a longer than expected break, I decided that the “Fat Little Me” section is the perfect spot for the airing of all my dieting grievances. More on that at another time.

Once again, I find myself in the midst of the “need to lose 30 lbs” conundrum. And by midst, I mean the literal 15 lb mark.

This does require celebration, mostly in that I decided to start WAY earlier than swimsuit season this year, in hopes I have a fighting chance at shaking off that last 15. And if you’re anything like me, shaking is pretty much what it comes down to (if running, swimming, dancing, and tying weights to your ankles haven’t helped yet.)

This time around, I managed to discover “kefir”, something I’d never tried before and adds a nice dairy and probiotic kick to my smoothies. Speaking of kick, once again I tried going off dairy entirely, and that never works for me for long. This midwestern girl would need to be under a professional care team to dare try that again. I managed to go about six weeks this time, then found myself helplessly at the Honey and Mackie’s counter ordering a double scoop of Cookie Dough in a waffle cone. My mineral levels seemed to be in a happy balance all at once. And that’s my report on kefir.

What is up with the bone broth craze? I miss the days of dieting where Snackwells were expensive, and you could find a good T-bone WITH the bone. When I do online grocery orders and type in “soup bones”, I get taken to a dog food page.  Gelatine is now $9 a box. What? Hide your marshmallows. I’m gonna start bringing a Ziplock to Happy Hour and collecting the bones from chicken wings. Ridiculous.

And where do these fad diets come from, anyway? I’ve lived long enough to see the protein diet go out of style and come back in again. Sugar needs to make a comeback. My thanks to all the companies proudly listing “cane sugar” on their labels when they decry corn syrup. I think I’m half joking.

I set up a little reward system for myself for when I reach milestones in my weight loss efforts. For hitting the midway point, I really wanted to buy a pair of non-stretch denim jeans. If you’re anywhere near my age, you understand what non-stretch denim is. It’s denim. In theory, it really shouldn’t even have “non-stretch” in front of it. Non-stretch denim is what denim used to be before the word “jegging” mixed everything up in there somehow.

By the time I get done explaining it to the salesperson, I will have lost all 30 lbs. Gonna go get some ice-cream instead.

Cucumber Sandwiches


Cucumber Sandwiches

When I got married in 1984, I had about 5 wedding showers. With the exception of one my high school friends had thrown for me (hey, I was 19!) my Grandma Barker attended each and every one.

And to every shower, she would bring a plate of her lovely cucumber sandwiches. She took great care to make them, and I loved seeing them appear on the table.

The "Barker Bites" cookbook would not be complete without her recipe.


  • 8 oz whipped cream cheese
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp dried dill
  • 1 loaf cocktail rye
  • 1 cucumber sliced thin, patted dry


  1. In a large bowl, combine cream cheese with spices.

  2. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese mixture on each piece of bread.

  3. Place 1-2 cucumber slices on top.

  4. Served immediately.

Italian Parmesan Chicken


Italian Parmesan Chicken

A nice, Keto-friendly recipe that is super easy to make. If you like, add nutritional yeast for extra zip. I love this by itself, but it also really tasty chopped up for a salad.

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup parmesan
  • parsley for garnish


  1. In a ziploc bag, pound chicken breasts until they are about 1/2" thick (or uniform thickness).

  2. Add all remaining ingredients, except for cheese and parsley, to Ziploc bag.

  3. Squish the bag, mixing the ingredients and pressing into chicken.

  4. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

  5. Preheat oven to 425°

  6. Lightly oil a baking dish, and arrange chicken breasts inside.

  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

  8. Remove from oven and top with cheese and parsley.

Almond Joy Cookies

Almond Joy Cookies

I love experimenting with boxed cake mixes, so recently when I found that Duncan Hines had come out with a coconut cake mix, my heart started beating faster.

I do this same recipe for Cherry Chip cookies, but wow, it is amazing with the almond and drizzle of chocolate.

If you want to do a "Mounds" version? Skip the almond, and use dark chocolate instead.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American


  • 1 box coconut cake mix
  • 8 oz cream cheese softened
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 4 oz chocolate milk or dark


  1. Preheat oven to 350℉

  2. Mix together cake mix, cream cheese, butter, coconut, vanilla and almond extract until well blended,

  3. Roll into 1 inch balls, and place on parchment lined cookie sheet, 1 inch apart.

  4. Place an almond in the center of each, and flatten slightly.

  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until bottom edges turn golden.

  6. In a small bowl, melt chocolate in microwave, 30 seconds at a time, until melted. Stir after each 30 seconds.

  7. Drizzle each cookie with melted chocolate.

  8. Place cookies in fridge to re harden chocolate.

Recipe Notes

For "Mounds" cookies, use dark chocolate, and to make them look slightly different, instead of drizzling the tops, dip the bottoms of each cookie in the melted chocolate.

Keto Drink

Keto Drink

This is a great way to add some "zest" (and electrolytes) to your water while on a low carb diet!

Servings 2


  • 16 oz water
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar Fairchild's is a great brand
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • electrolyte powder or drops if desired


  1. Shake together.