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Stan Tekiela Captures Grandeur and Beauty of Bighorn Sheep

In this week’s post, photographer, author, and naturalist Stan Tiekela reports about the bighorn sheep he encountered in the narrow mountain valley in western Wyoming. It was a picture-perfect winter day. The sky had a thin veil of clouds that would occasionally spit out large fluffy snowflakes that would drift straight down to the ground as if in slow motion. At other times the sun would peak out. The temperature was well below zero, and the best part was, there was no wind—it was calm and quiet. I had been searching up and down this narrow mountain valley in western Wyoming for several days for bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis). Suddenly, I heard a crack that sounded like a gunshot come from the steep rock cliffs above me, a sharp and clear crack that echoed off the valley walls several times before the valley fell silent again. I knew the bighorn sheep must be nearby. Weeks (if...

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Two Ham Hot Dish Recipes Sure to Delight

Today we share with you two ham hot dish recipes sure to delight the entire family. Hot dish is a tradition throughout the Midwest, but in Minnesota, it’s legendary. In print since the year 2000, Theresa Millang’s Great Minnesota Hot Dish has been the go-to source for this comfort food for years. We hope you enjoy these super-easy-to-prepare dishes. CHEESE AND SAUSAGE PASTA BAKE  Ingredients 1 pound pasta 1 pound Polska Kielbasa or smoked sausage 1 (24-ounce) jar spaghetti sauce 2 cups cottage cheese 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Slice sausage into 1/2-inch pieces, and cook in a large skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Stir in pasta and spaghetti sauce. Gently stir in cottage cheese and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Pour pasta mixture into a lightly greased 11x7-inch baking dish. Top with remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Bake30 minutes. Serves 4–6. HAM ’N’ NOODLES HOT DISH Ingredients 8 ounces spaghetti...

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The Northern Goshawk, a Secretive Bird

In today’s post, naturalist and photographer Stan Tekiela shares with us the secretive world of the northern goshawk. On a trip to Northern Minnesota for the annual raptor migration, a good friend and licensed raptor bander had captured a juvenile northern goshawk as part of his ongoing research project. I had a group of 14 bird watchers with me, and we had a wonderful chance to see and learn about this remarkable raptor. Not only could we see it up close, but we got a chance to hear it call—a rare opportunity. The northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is a member of the accipiter group of hawks. It is closely related to the sharp-shinned hawk and the more familiar cooper’s hawk, which is found in many of our backyards. These hawks are known for their short powerful wings and extra-long tails that help them zip through dense forests while chasing birds, such as...

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Updated and Improved Night Sky Guide

We’re excited about this new edition, and we’re celebrating with a GIVEAWAY! First, here’s more about the updated and improved Night Sky guide. Stargazing is among the most peaceful and inspiring outdoor activities. Night Sky: A Field Guide to the Constellations, the award-winning book by Jonathan Poppele, makes it more fun than ever! The Night Sky guide takes a simple approach to finding 62 constellations by focusing on one at a time. It teaches readers how to locate any constellation in relation to the Big Dipper, the North Star, and the top of the sky. It also includes mythology, facts, and tidbits—plus, it comes with a new and better red-light flashlight for night reading. With two ways to locate each constellation, readers will know where in the sky to look and what to look for! What else is new in this updated edition of the Night Sky guide? Night Sky now features all the...

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About Blue Jays, Flying Squirrels, and Chipmunks

In today’s post, Stan Tekiela, naturalist and wildlife photographer, observes as Blue Jays, flying squirrels, and chipmunks as they prepare for winter. Off in the distance I can hear the familiar scream-like call of a Blue Jay. The sound pierces through the yellow and orange autumn maple leaves on a crisp blue-sky day. I sit enjoying the sunshine, calm winds, and the smell of autumn in the air. Again, I hear the Blue Jay cry, this time a bit closer. Knowing the biology of these birds, I understand it won’t be just one bird traveling alone. No, it will be a family of Blue Jays—often two mated adult birds and several juvenile birds. Funny thing is, the Blue Jays all look exactly the same. They act the same and sound the same, so it’s impossible to tell them apart. Looking around, I can’t help but notice all the other critters prepping for winter....

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Breakfast Hot Dish Great for a Lazy Morning

Start the morning with a breakfast Hot Dish, or prepare one ahead of time for brunch. Here are two great recipes. Spuds-Ham-Eggs Breakfast Hot Dish Ingredients 1 (2-pound) bag frozen hash brown potatoes 2 cups diced cooked ham 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese 11/2 tablespoons butter 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch strips 1 (8-ounce) package fresh mushrooms, sliced 6 large eggs, lightly beaten 1/2 cup whole milk 1 cup cottage cheese 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper Preheat oven to 350˚F. Layer 1/2 potatoes into a lightly greased 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Top with ham and cheese. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add bell pepper and mushrooms; cook while stirring 5 minutes or until tender. Spoon mushroom mixture over cheese in baking dish; top with remaining 1/2 potatoes. Combine eggs, milk, cottage cheese, and black pepper in a bowl; beat until well blended. Pour egg mixture over potatoes in baking dish. Bake, uncovered, 50 minutes or until light brown and center is set. Serves 8. Egg and Sausage Breakfast Hot Dish Ingredients 8 ounces...

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Pumpkins, an Incredible Edible

In this week’s post, Stan Tekiela talks to us about pumpkins and the history behind this incredible edible. It’s funny how we hang on to traditions—especially ancient ones. Take Halloween, for example. Started nearly 3,500 years ago by the Celtic people near Britain, it was a special day set aside to mark the end of the harvest and acknowledge the beginning of the long, dark, and cold season. To celebrate, the leaders, called Druids, would order all fires in the village to be extinguished. A large sacrificial fire was built in the center of the village. People would arrive near sunset carrying large turnips hallowed out with grotesque faces carved into them—kind of like we do with pumpkins (jack-o’-lanterns). The evil-looking turnips, called neeps, were filled with tallow (animal fat), mounted on poles or sticks, and ignited in flames. The flaming neeps were carried around to frighten away the evil spirits that come...

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Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas Hot Dish

The Minnesota Hot Dish is something most other folks would call a “casserole;” either way, the entire family will enjoy this Chicken Enchiladas Hot Dish recipe. Ingredients 1 (8-ounce) jar Cheez Whiz, divided 1/3 cup sour cream 1/4 cup chopped green onion 1 teaspoon chili powder 2 cups shredded cooked chicken 6 flour tortillas Salsa Preheat oven to 350˚F. Mix together 1/3 cup Cheez Whiz, sour cream, onion, and chili powder in a large bowl. Stir in chicken. Spoon 1/3 cup chicken mixture onto each flour tortilla. Roll up. Place, seam sides down, in a lightly greased 11x13-inch baking dish. Top enchiladas with 1/2 cup salsa. Bake 25–30 minutes. Microwave remaining Cheese Whiz until hot, and pour over enchiladas. Serve with additional salsa. Serves 6. Make Your Chicken Enchiladas Modern Substitute 8 ounces freshly grated Chedda cheese for Cheez Whiz. In Minnesota, there’s the “company” hot dish, which has a more elegant presentation and may include seafood but not tuna. The “baby shower” hot dish may indeed contain tuna. Then there’s the hot dish...

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