Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Tell DeLores to bring lots of grape salad November 24, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Vintage plastic grapes on a vintage food tray, used here for illustration purposes only.

Vintage plastic grapes on a vintage food tray, used here for illustration purposes only.

ALRIGHT, MINNESOTANS, it’s time to tell the other side of the story, to balance the “I’ve never heard of Grape Salad” to the “I have and I prepare it for my family and they love it.”

Just a little background for those who are unaware: The New York Times recently published an article listing Thanksgiving dinner foods that best represent each state. Grape Salad was selected for Minnesota, evoking the wrath of many a native. Most of us have never heard of the salad and don’t consider it at all representative of our state.

But then along come several Minnesota Prairie Roots readers, including DeLores Johnson from Belview in my native Redwood County, MN., who have, indeed, heard of Grape Salad and prepared it.

The salad is so popular with DeLores’ extended family that they ask for it every Thanksgiving and Christmas. The request is the same each holiday: “Tell DeLores to bring lots of Grape Salad.”

She first made the salad about 10 years ago after discovering the recipe in a newspaper (but not the local The Redwood Falls Gazette). Having never heard of Grape Salad until then, DeLores thought it worth a try although she hesitated to reveal sour cream as one of the four ingredients.

But her family loved the salad. Her grandchildren even argue over who gets the last little bit in the bowl, claims DeLores. She doubles the recipe. It’s apparently that good.

DeLores terms Grape Salad as “delicious” and says people from all over have called her for the recipe. “I never knew it would be such a hit,” she says.

One year, when grapes were especially expensive, DeLores nearly didn’t prepare Grape Salad. But because she knew the kids would be disappointed, she bought what she needed and the grapes cost more than the meat.

No wonder she tells her grandkids Grape Salad is special because it’s made with lots of love.

So there you have it. That’s DeLores’ Grape Salad story and she’s sticking to it.

HERE’S THE RECIPE for Grape Salad, direct from DeLores:

Red or green seedless grapes (DeLores emphasizes seedless; one year she bought the wrong grapes and spent a lot of time cutting grapes in half to remove seeds.)
1 cup brown sugar
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces Cool Whip

Mix the dressing and then add the grapes. Enjoy.

TIPS: For Christmas, DeLores sometimes buys red and green grapes to make a more colorful holiday salad. Grape Salad can be prepared a day in advance, refrigerated and stirred just prior to serving.

FACT:  When DeLores was growing up, the only grapes she had available to her were wild grapes like those used to make jelly.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Chocolate cake for breakfast March 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:50 AM
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“MOM, CAN I HAVE some hot fudge pudding cake for breakfast?” my 17-year-old asks.

“Sure, go ahead,” I reply. “There’s some whipped cream in the fridge too.”

Am I a bad mom for letting my teen consume a chocolate dessert before 8 a.m.?


Hot fudge pudding cake slathered with real whipped cream and topped with sprinkles.

When his sisters were that age—they’re 23 and 25 now—I never would have allowed them to eat cake for breakfast. But I’ve become a little much more relaxed in my parenting now that I’m older and tired.

Besides, I didn’t tell my boy this, but I was considering dipping into the chocolate pudding cake for breakfast too. I didn’t.

I wondered, though, as I poured cereal into a bowl, whether the cinnamon and sugar-laden squares I was about to eat were any more healthy than the homemade chocolate dessert?


The sugary cereal I ate for breakfast.

Just to clarify here, before you give me your opinion, you should know that my lanky son is over six feet tall, skinny as a toothpick, slim as a rail, etc. He can eat any amount of anything and not gain an ounce. Last night he ate a half a piece of pizza at 10:30. He does not like fruits (except for bananas and raspberries) or vegetables (except for potatoes). I did not raise him to dislike either as I could live on fruits and vegetables, OK, and chocolate.

If you would like to try hot fudge pudding cake for breakfast, or any time, here’s the recipe. It’s one of my favorite desserts, which my mom made when I was growing up, and is incredibly simple to prepare. Enjoy.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup sugar

2 Tablespoons cocoa

½ cup milk

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa. Stir in milk and vegetable oil. Spread in a 9-inch square pan.

Sprinkle with 1 cup of brown sugar and ¼ cup of cocoa that have been mixed together.

Pour 1 ¾ cups of hot water over the entire batter and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes. During baking, the cake mixture rises to the top and the chocolate sauce settles to the bottom. Serve warm, with whipped cream if desired.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


I plead guilty to eating key lime pie for breakfast July 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:34 AM
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IF EVER YOU FEEL GUILTY about eating dessert for breakfast, do as I do. Adapt.

I have, on occasion, crumbled a cookie into vanilla yogurt, thereby justifying that this qualifies as a nutritious breakfast (by my definition).

And just the other day, when I opened the refrigerator early in the morning and eyed the key lime pie, I decided, what the heck.

I pulled this key lime pie from the refrigerator. Had my husband and I really eaten this much pie already?

With a handful of blueberries tossed on the side, this could qualify as a breakfast food. Blueberries, after all, are high in antioxidants, which protect cells from damage that leads to aging and various diseases. That’s good enough for me.

So I plated a piece of the key lime pie I had made just a day earlier, added the blueberries and indulged without a twinge of regret.

With a side of blueberries, key lime pie makes a balanced breakfast. You've got your protein (eggs), your dairy products (sweetened condensed milk and sour cream) and your fruit (blueberries and lime juice).

Later I e-mailed Joanne Fluke, creator of this pie, and asked if I could publish her recipe on Minnesota Prairie Roots. She obliged.

But first, you should know that Joanne is a Swanville, Minnesota native and the New York Times bestselling author of the Hannah Swensen culinary cozy mysteries. She defected to California, where she’s lived for years, but I don’t hold that against her. Joanne writes some good Minnesota-based mysteries that include some equally great recipes. And she returns to her home state at least once a year to visit and to promote her books.

The recipe for key lime pie published in 2007 in Key Lime Pie Murder. In that mystery, main character Hannah Swensen, who owns a bakery, is judging baked entries at the Tri-County Fair. As she leaves the fairgrounds one evening while carrying a key lime pie, she discovers a dead body. So that, dear readers, is the story behind the decadent, to-die-for dessert that I devoured for breakfast.

Key Lime Pie


5 eggs

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

½ tsp. lemon zest (optional, no substitutes)

½ cup sour cream

½ cup key lime juice (may substitute frozen key lime juice or juice from regular limes)

¼ cup white sugar

Crack one whole egg into a medium-sized bowl. Separate the 4 remaining eggs, placing the 4 yolks into the bowl with the whole egg. Place the 4 whites in another mixing bowl and set aside for later use in the meringue.

Whisk the whole egg and yolks until uniform in color. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Add the lemon zest, if you decided to use it, and the sour cream. Stir together and set the bowl aside.

Juice the limes and measure out ½ cup of the juice into a small bowl. If you are using the ready-made lime juice, measure out ½ cup of that. Add ¼ cup sugar to the lime juice and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Next, whisk the sugared lime juice into the egg mixture.

Pour the filling into a pre-made graham cracker or cookie crust. Bake 20 minutes at 325 degrees F. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack.

Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. to bake the meringue.


4 egg whites

½ tsp. cream of tartar

pinch of salt

1/3 cup white sugar

Add the cream of tartar and salt to the bowl with the egg whites and mix in. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Continue to beat at high speed as you sprinkle in the sugar. When the egg whites form firm peaks, stop mixing. Spread the meringue over the filling with a spatula, sealing to the edge of the crust.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for an additional 12 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Refrigerate if you wish. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Text & images © Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Recipe courtesy of Joanne Fluke