Diversions Welcomed

Diversion:  “An instance of turning something aside from its course -or- an activity that diverts the mind from tedious or serious concerns; a recreation or pastime.”

These are the moments in my day when ideas spark. Creativity shines. When the “I should be…”, becomes a captured photo, a creative twist on a recipe or a fun little project. These are the sunny spots that add warmth to my life. They help define who I am.

And this is my opportunity to share my “Sunny Diversions”.


“Out the Door” Trail Bars

This is my own version of  a sweet and salty trail bar.  The goal was a treat that my husband and sons could grab as they headed out the door, be it school, work or for fun. I would make up a big batch and wrap each bar in plastic wrap and set them in a bowl right by the front entry. They loved their chewy goodness. When first developing the recipe,  I spread a thick layer of  chocolate mixture on top. My guys thought it was too much, so the amount of chocolate/butterscotch layer was decreased and converted to a drizzle. If you are not in a chocolate mood, they are also wonderful plain. You can also cool the mixture a bit before pressing them in the pan. When cooled, you may add M&M’s or your favorite flavor of chips to the mix and leave them unfrosted. That is the fun of making a trail bar. They adapt to your imagination and taste. As long as you add approximately 10 cups of dry ingredients to the bowl you can be creative with the out come.

“Out the Door” Trail Bars

4 cups Special K cereal

3 cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal

2 cups broken pretzels

1 cup peanuts

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Line a large jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan combine:

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups light corn syrup

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Stir mixture frequently. Bring to a boil long enough to melt sugars. Pour over dry ingredients and toss together, coating well. Dump mixture into lined jellyroll pan. Use a second piece of parchment paper or greased hands to press mixture into the pan, until it is evenly spread out.


1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

Melt in top of double boiler until smooth. Pour into a ziplock bag. Cut tip of corner off of the bag to use to drizzle melted chips over the the top of the bars. Cool and cut into 48 narrow bars. Each bar has approximately 190 calories.



Nursing Reflection: Hospital Gowns

I have been reflecting on hospital gowns. Their drab colors and patterns are easily faded by numerous washings. They are shapeless, ugly, and certainly “breezy” in the back.
But, to me, as a hospital nurse, they have a attained a beauty beyond their functionality.

Hospital gowns are the great equalizer. When you are in the hospital, you are striped of everything else, except the gown. When caring for you, I see your humanity only, you as a person.

I do not see your social status, financial state, religious affiliation, cultural or political ties. I just see a person. An individual who is entitiled to be treated with dignity, respect, care and compassion.

What a privilege I have been given, as a nurse, to be able get to know and care for individuals in this capacity.

(I wouldn’t mind though, if they could make a more modest, nicer looking “equalizer”.)

Making an “Iron Range” Potica using a Bread Machine

Making Potica, the traditional Minnesota Iron Range way, is a day labor of mixing, rising, stretching and baking. And at the end, each time, I truly feel I have conquered a baking masterpiece. However, apart from the holidays, it would also be fun to make a Potica on a lesser scale, maybe even play with some of the other classical fillings, such as pecan or poppy seed. I decided to trim my traditional recipe in half. And since I was looking for ease and experimentation, I would use a bread machine to make the dough. The dough was a success. It requires the extra proofing, but not having the floury mess and cleanup, allowed me time for other projects while the dough was rising. Plus, I had less dough to roll and stretch.

With only half the amount of dough on my table, I was able to stretch the dough very thin. In fact, I was able to stretch it out an extra 8″ widthwise. Although I was proud of my dough stretching abilities, there was not enough filling to keep the Potica as moist as the traditional bake.  I realized that the area of dough of my traditional Potica is 36 x 60 inches. Since I divided my recipe, I needed to keep to a 30 x 36 inch rectangle, and forego the extra inches. The Potica was still delicious, but next time I will try not to get carried away with challenge of making super ultra thin dough!

Potica (using dough cycle on bread machine)

Potica Dough:

4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 c. butter, softened
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 c. sugar
3/8 c. water
3/4 c. milk
2 eggs (beaten)
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tsp rum extract

Add the wet ingredients to the bread machine first. Next, add the salt and flour. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the flour. Set the bread maker on dough cycle and start the machine. Check to make sure all ingredients have incorporated nicely together and that dough is not too dry or sticky. After dough cycle is complete, gently turn the dough out onto a cutting board. Remove the paddle from dough and punch down to remove air. Place the dough in a oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Place the covered bowl in a non drafty area and allow to rise until doubled. While dough is rising, prepare the walnut filling.

Walnut filling:

1 pounds walnuts (ground fine with food processor)
1/4 c. milk
3/4 c. whipping cream
1/4 c. butter
1 eggs (beaten)
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp rum extract
1/2 T lemon juice

In large bowl, toss ground walnuts with cinnamon. Mix in one beaten egg and milk. In saucepan, heat butter, cream, honey and sugars until rolling boil. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and rum extract. Stir warm mixture into ground walnut mixture. Set aside.

To form Potica:
Place clean sheet on table and cover with dusting of flour. Place the dough in the center of the table. Roll into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle.

Ready to begin stretching out the dough

Place your hands under the dough palms up. Lift the dough up several inches and begin pulling it towards you with your fingertips. Carefully stretch it out, trying not to tear the dough, lifting and pulling until it is evenly thin and transparent, about 30″ x 36″.

Spread with walnut filling leaving a 1/2″ margin.


Starting on the long edge, roll the filled dough in jelly roll fashion. Once the roll has started, you may use the sheet to lift dough and to keep the dough rolling evenly until one long jelly roll-like length is formed. Cut into approximately three, 10″ pieces, or to fit your available baking pans.

Line the pans with parchment and place rolled dough in pan. Allow the Potica to raise for at least 60 minutes or until doubled.

Ready to bake


Bake at 325° F for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool before cutting into 1/2′ slices for serving. Enjoy!

Fresh baked Potica!




If you live on or near the Iron Range in Minnesota for any length of time, you will learn to love and appreciate the 3 P’s:  Potica, Porketta and Pasties. They represent some of the best of the diverse culture of the region. Serbia/Croatia/Slovenia for its Potica, Italy for Porketta and Cornish miners for the pasties. Having moved away from the “Range”, our family has really missed these traditional dishes. In the past, I’ve taught myself how to make Pasties and Potica, now it is time to learn how to make a Porketta. With two pork roasts on hand, I can make one to roast now and one to freeze for later.

It was so fun to research this boldly seasoned roast. I found many slight variations on a common theme of four staple ingredients: lots of fennel, salt, garlic and pepper. Around these seasonings were a variety of other fresh and dried herbs. I chose to concentrate on a Porketta with dried herbs only, since that is what I have in my pantry.

Toasting the fennel seeds would bring out a warmer, nuttier flavor and release their aromatic oils. After toasting, I ground them to a fine powder with a mortar and pestle. Fresh ground pepper, coarse sea salt and garlic powder completed my base spices. A few recipes had paprika in the mix. I love the flavor of paprika and incorporated that as well. Oregano and coriander were included to blend with the fennel as additional herbs.

The aroma in the house was amazing. And our Porketta sandwiches were delicious. It brought a bit of the Iron Ranger to our Wisconsin home.


5 pound Boneless Pork Roast (approximately)

1 Tablespoon Fennel Seeds (toasted, and ground in mortar/pestle)

2 teaspoons Garlic Powder

2 teaspoons Coarse Ground Salt

1 1/2 teaspoons pepper (Fresh ground is best)

3/4 teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons Oregano

1/2 teaspoon Coriander

I Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup apple juice

Toast the fennel in a frying pan on the stove for three to four minutes or until just slightly browned (be careful not to burn them). When cooled, grind in a mortal and pestle. In a small dish, mix the ground, toasted fennel with the other listed spices.

Butterfly your pork roast so that it lays flat in a cookie sheet. Pat dry with paper towels. Score the open roast with a one inch grid pattern, about I/2 inch deep, being careful not to cut all the way through the meat. Spread the inside with olive oil. Rub about 3/4 of the spice mix on the inside of the roast. Roll the roast, starting with the shorter edge. Tie roast with kitchen twine to hold together. Rub the remaining spice mix on the outside of the roast. Wrap the Porketta in plastic wrap and place in ziplock bag. Refrigerate for at least six to eight hours. Overnight is the best.


Pour the chicken broth and apple juice in to a slow cooker. ( I use a Nesco roaster). Unwrap roast and place it in the liquid with the seam side down. Cook on low heat for six hours or until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily with a fork.

Porketta is best served on a fresh crusty hard roll. We like to make our sandwiches ahead of time and refrigerate. The roll takes on some of the flavor of the meat which makes the Porketta sandwich taste even better.



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