Everyday Adventure: Modern Pioneering

Meet Georgia Pellegrini, a new monthly contributor to the Minnetonka blog.  Today she shares her approach to finding adventure in every day life, along with a delicious Rose Petal Hazelnut Cake recipe from her new book “Modern Pioneering.”

Because of my Great-Aunt Gray, I have always liked to get dirt under my fingernails.  I can still picture her standing in her gardens, hunched over with shovel and trowel, her white hair puffing out from below the brim of her baseball hat, her floral skirt falling just above her oversized muddy sneakers.

She opened my eyes to what it means to be a fearless girl, the last of a generation that knew how to kill a chicken in the backyard for dinner, that wasted nothing, that made the best of what they had and never pointed out what they didn’t. Thanks to her, I learned to cook with economy and respect for simple ingredients.

For her it wasn’t about survival, it was a way of life, and she taught me to stop and smell the rosemary and to look for purslane in between the sidewalk cracks, and turn it into a tangy healthy salad. I also learned to wear a little homemade beet juice tinted lip-gloss while doing it.

There was comfort and strength to be found in the deliberate churn of Aunt Gray’s ice cream maker, which set the day’s tempo. Aunt Gray was famous for her rustic cornbread and her homemade ice cream, which she prepared with the bare minimum of sugar in order to accentuate the other flavors. She probably would have eliminated sugar from their recipes altogether if she could have gotten away with it, such was their disdain for added sweetener.

In the years since my time with Aunt Gray, I have spent countless hours in the outdoors, but I have also traveled constantly, and have lived in small urban spaces without the luxury of lush land around me. Yet I still have the desire to feel the dirt slip between my fingers, to stir ruby-colored jam in a pot and watch it grow thick.  And I have come to realize that Aunt Gray’s generation got more than a few things right and there are still ways, both large and small to “get back to the land,” even if the “land” is only a fire escape or a patio planter; even if the land is a parking strip where you are picking wild dandelion greens for a salad.

Even in my urban Austin home, I can still mark the seasons by the scents of the herbs growing on my windowsill and the rose petals blooming in the parks. Yes, Aunt Gray taught me that those pale pink rose petals that grew on her arbor were edible too, and make the most festive party presentation on a cake.

Thanks to her, I’ve realized that we can all be both modern and a pioneer if we seek out new experiences with a sense of fearlessness. Sometimes stepping outside of our comfort zone is a reminder that the lost world we seek can be within arm’s reach.

It is empowering ourselves to find adventure in new experiences and in a little self-sufficiency that is what makes us feel truly full. And sometimes it can be as simple as scattering a fistful of rose petals onto a hazelnut cake on a warm sunny afternoon.

Rose Petal Hazelnut Cake

Serves 8

This is a simple, nutty cake good for afternoon tea. Because it is flourless and not too sweet, eating it any time of day is suitable. You can of course dress it up with whipped cream or frosting if you would like.

Tip: If you whisk the whites by hand, use a large, heavy whisk for efficiency and make sure the whisk and bowl are very clean and dry so that your whites form stiff peaks.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 40 minutes

Unsalted butter for greasing the pan
1½ cups hazelnut flour (or finely ground hazelnuts)
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs, separated
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup fresh organic rose petals

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. butter an 8-inch fluted tart pan with a drop bottom and set aside. You may also use a cake pan, but if you do, be sure to use a toothpick to check for doneness.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the hazelnut flour and baking powder and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar and whisk vigorously until pale yellow. Add the almond and vanilla along with the cream and whisk again until fully combined.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the yolk mixture and mix together until uniform.

5. In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

6. With a spatula, fold a third of the egg whites into the batter, then incorporate the rest of the whites all at once.

7. When the batter is uniform, gently fold in the rose petals.

8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Place the pan in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool to room temperature.

9. Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar, slather it with whipped cream or frosting, or leave it be, whatever you please. It will keep for about 3 days, and should be stored in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic.

Click here to enter for a chance to win a pair of Minnetonka boots and a copy of Georgia’s new book “Modern Pioneering.”

About Georgia Pellegrini:
Georgia’s taste for simple food and outdoor adventure evolved as she grew up in the Hudson Valley. She followed her passion to the French Culinary Institute and then to Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and La Chassagnette in France. Georgia is the author of “Food Heroes,” “Girl Hunter,” and the new book “Modern Pioneering.” She has appeared on Today, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Iron Chef, and much more, and her outdoor Adventure Getaways have been featured everywhere from the New York Times, to the Wall Street Journal, to HBO. She lives in Austin, Texas and chronicles her adventures on her wildly popular website GeorgiaPellegrini.com and her Facebook fan page.




Store Spotlight: Funky Munky

Minnetonka Store Spotlight: Funky Munky 323 N. Randall Rd. Lake in the Hills, Illinois

Meet owner Jodi Galle in our Q&A below and learn more about Funky Munky of Lake in the Hills, Illinois!

What’s your Minnetonka story?
Before I took the jump into “brick & mortar” retail, I would vend at music festivals & universities.  It was a great  environment of creativity and expression.  In 1993, I opened Funky Munky with the goal of creating the same experience within a store.

In 2008, Minnetonka was added to our merchandise mix. It is a great partnership; as our customers value the quality of the brand.  Music fests continue to be a big part of our customers lives.

What is your favorite pair of Minnetonka boots?
My favorite style is the 5 Layer Fringe Boot.  The cushion sole makes you feel like you are walking on air. It looks great with jeans, leggings, skirts or shorts. And is one pair of boots that always gets compliments!

What is the most popular Minnetonka style in your store?
The 5 Layer Fringe Boot continues to be the most popular style.  As of late, the El Paso Moc and Suede Ankle Boot have been getting a lot of attention.  Our merchandise comes from all over the world and the El Paso fits right in with its tapestry detail.

How do you like to style your Minnetonka mocs or boots?
Fringe boots and moccasins are a perfect way to create an amazing outfit. Customers are treated to a daily style inspiration with our mannequin, Fiona. Of course every outfit includes a pair of Minnetonkas!  We also style little sister Winnie in our kids mocs.  We try to always have something unique & unusual to catch the customer’s attention.

What are a few must see destinations near your store?
Lake in the Hills is a wonderful town. It’s less than an hour from Chicago, yet far enough away to have a country feel. There’s even a small municipal airport if you feel like dropping in!

A great way to see the nearby natural prairie is the Prairie Trail.  It takes you north to the the Wisconsin state line or south to a series of additional trails.

And summer means music fests!  A couple that are a must see for our customers include Summer Camp in Chillicothe, Illinois, May 23-25, and Lollapalooza at Grant Park in downtown Chicago, August 1-3.

For the Love of February: Kevin + Angela

For our latest lookbook, For the Love of February, we spent the month following a few of our friends around town, capturing their favorite ways to celebrate the season. Today meet Kevin & Angela!

Whether it’s spending a snowy day outdoors, grabbing a bite to eat at your favorite diner or just laying low at home with friends – how will you be sharing the love this February?

Photos courtesy of Cliff Englert

View our entire For the Love of February lookbook here.


Everyday Adventure: Ice Fishing

This month we are excited to introduce “Everyday Adventure” a new column on the Minnetonka blog.  Celebrating small ways to incorporate adventure into every day life – from trying a new recipe with seasonal ingredients to hiking Mount Rainier. 

After a twenty-plus year hiatus, Molly got back to her Minnesota roots and went ice fishing. Turns out, the men aren’t so grumpy, the technology is top notch and the fish taste delicious.

I first attempted ice fishing at age ten. My uncle Whitey (a nickname he earned as a kid for having white-blonde hair… or at least I think that’s how the story goes) and I drove nearly two hours to Mille Lacs, one of Minnesota’s largest lakes, blasting “Radar Love” by Golden Earring nearly the entire way.

Mille Lacs is so wide across, that if you didn’t know better, you’d think you were looking at the sea. It’s a haven for ice fishermen, with little communities popping up all over the place once frozen over. Whitey had a great set up; really, more of a condominium than a shanty. Once we pulled up to the place, he’d get the generator roaring and we’d be toasty warm, sitting on a nice recliner, watching old episodes of Leave it to Beaver. We caught no more than five tullibees on that trip—a junk fish nobody wants to eat. But it was still fun.

I don’t think I’ve been ice fishing “for real” since. In college, I went fake ice fishing, which basically means sitting in some rickety shack on a lake where the only thing you’re fishing is another beer out of a cooler. Anyhow, a full twenty years after that initial excursion, Whitey invited me out again. I agreed.

I love fishing. The thing is, I hate fish. If I could somehow go straight from reeling them into the boat to chowing down a huge plate fried walleye, I’d be the happiest gal on the planet. That part in the middle where you have to touch the fish and remove the hook, then hold it by the gills for a photo op and clean it… well, I’d prefer to outsource those tasks. However, I’ve signed on for a full year of living outside my comfort zone, so I decided it was time to get back to the frozen lake. I’m a Minnesotan. I was born to do this, right?

I met Whitey out on Prior Lake, just south of Minneapolis. It was an overcast, 30-degree day, which in this polar vortex of a winter felt absolutely amazing. He’s since ditched the fancy digs, opting for a simple ice shelter—basically a mobile tent. We hunkered down, Whitey on an upside down five-gallon bucket, me on a comfy chair, with a propane heater keeping us warm.

Whitey rigged up his Aqua-Vu, an underwater camera that shows you what’s going on under the nearly two feet of ice. We saw tons of sunnies, those amazing little pan fish that are pain in the butt to clean because their filets are only a little bigger than your thumb. Whitey assured me they were good eatin’, so we caught and kept anything that was roughly the size of our hand or larger.


By the end of the day, we’d scored a whole bucket of sunnies. I even took one off the hook myself, which nearly gave me a panic attack, but I managed to get through it (you can watch a video of that here). Next, we headed back to his buddy’s man cave to clean and fry up the goods. I learned how to filet the fish with an electric filet knife, an excellent skill to have in my culinary tool belt.

We fried up a bunch, then made a few sunfish cookies—a new delicacy in my world. Simply salt and pepper a few filets, then stick them in the microwave for 45 seconds, then flip the filets and nuke them for another 45 seconds. I know, microwaving fish literally is one of the most disgusting things you can do in your kitchen, but I promise it did not stink up the place.  Then, we took Ritz crackers, smeared them with cream cheese and topped it all with a bit of fish. It sounds absolutely disgusting, but they were phenomenal. So good, in fact, that I’ll never go another 20 years without ice fishing.

About Molly Mogren:
The daughter of a flight attendant and a hippy-turned-real estate developer who toured Europe in a Volkswagen bus, Molly Mogren came into this world with an undeniable sense of adventure. From hiking the Antarctic Peninsula, to outrunning a hyena in South Africa and even driving a street-legal monster truck through Des Moines, Iowa—she never turns down an opportunity to do something crazy. She’s worked as Andrew Zimmern’s right-hand lady since 2007; they’ve co-written three books together and  co-host a weekly podcast called “Go Fork Yourself.” Her latest project, Hey Eleanor!, chronicles her year-long journey of tackling one thing that scares her every day.  She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her fiancé, dog (Patsy) and kitty, Bogart. She likes to drink coffee, do crossword puzzles and is very good at parallel parking.