Leftover Cranberry Sauce? Make Baked Brie in Puff Pastry!

Ten years ago my dear friend, Karen Seljevold, read an article in The Forum which stressed the need for donations to our local food pantries as winter approached. Moved by the story and never one to shy away from a good cause, Karen reached out to her friends Linda Lamb and Jenni Monson and said, “We should do something.” The three ladies brainstormed ideas and the Pantry Party was born, with Gina Kraushaar joining the group as a fellow host a few years later.

The annual party is hosted in their homes, trading off between the friends from year to year. Dozens of women are invited to attend the party with the intention of coming together to enjoy food, wine and friendship, and all they ask in return is that each guest makes either a monetary or non-perishable donation to the Fargo Emergency Food Pantry.

I remember attending my first Pantry Party several years ago before they began accepting monetary donations, when the evening would end with several rooms packed to the hilt with bags and boxes of non-perishable food donations. The entire house was literally filled with food. There was no way you could leave a party like that without feeling warm and fuzzy, knowing that you’d joined others in doing good.

Karen estimates that there were several hundred pounds of food collected each year before they also began encouraging cash donations. The bulk of the gifts are now monetary and, while I miss the visual dynamic of all that food, I love knowing that the pantry can make our dollars stretch much further than our food donations. This year alone, Karen expects their cash contributions to exceed $1,800, in addition to dozens of bags of food.

“When you get an idea and have great people around you, it’s easy to do something like this,” Karen said. I’d argue the easy part, as planning a party for 30 to 50 women is never a simple task, but I understand the sentiment. Everyone has a good time at this party, including the hostesses.

Like any great party, there is no shortage of delicious food at this event, and this year the star of the appetizer buffet was Karen’s baked brie in puff pastry. When I asked her for the recipe she rolled her eyes and said, “This is way too simple for you, Sare. It’s a brick of brie cheese covered in raspberry jam and wrapped in puff pastry. Seriously, there’s nothing to it.” Yet, it was the dish everyone was talking about and returning to for more. 

And hey, aren’t we all looking for that one dish that impresses everyone, with minimal effort on our part? I jazzed it up today by adding candied pecans and homemade cranberry sauce instead of jam (great way to use leftovers), but Karen’s version was just as satisfying. “Who knew cheese could taste this good?” exclaimed Dave Wallis, our Forum photographer.

RECIPE: Baked Brie in Puff Pastry Appetizer 

RECIPE: Sarah’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce

And the Winner of the Great Sarello’s Soup-Off Is…

The Great Sarello’s Soup-Off has come to a close and, with 122 votes cast over two days of tasting last week at Sarello’s, one soup reigned victorious.  While our voters enjoyed all five of our featured finalists’ soups, in the end there was no stopping the juggernaut that was Tom Shorma’s Walleye Chowder, which received an impressive 54 percent of the vote.

We congratulate Tom for his original use of a favorite regional ingredient which both surprised our voters in its creativity, and delighted them with its wonderfully delicious local flavor. People were positively gushing about Tom’s walleye chowder which, with its lovely red color, will cut a pretty picture when served in the soup bowls which were graciously offered as our grand prize by our friends at Prairie Fire Pottery in Beach, ND.

An avid foodie, Tom is also a passionate outdoorsman and experienced fisherman, both on the lakes of Minnesota and in over 30 fly-in fishing trips to Canada. Tom told us that he serves as the “head chef” in their group of six to eight fishermen, and is responsible for cooking up fresh walleye two to three times each day, for four days straight. Tom approaches this culinary challenge with enthusiasm, making it his goal to give the group as much variety as possible.

Some of Tom’s features include the traditional shore lunch, Cajun walleye and even walleye tacos. But Tom said that each year the party favorite ends up being his personal favorite, and after tasting Tom’s walleye chowder in last week’s Soup-Off our voters gave it their endorsement, too.

Tom’s chowder is a clever twist on a traditional Manhattan clam chowder, which has a tomato based broth as opposed to the thick and creamy classic New England chowder. When submitting his entry, Tom advised us of the factors he considered when creating his chowder, which included easy preparation and ingredients that can be found in most any local grocery store.

He even recommended looking for ingredients that are already cubed or chopped, which shortens the amount of prep time. Tom also takes the time to pre-measure all of the spices, which he puts in a small container to pack for the trip.

With both a daughter and mother-in-law requiring a gluten-free diet, Tom said that his chowder is easy to modify to accommodate their needs, and even included these tips in his recipe.

While Tom’s walleye chowder was the star of the Great Sarello’s Soup-Off, our voters raved about all five of our finalists’ featured soups. To select our finalists among the dozens of recipe entries we received, we looked for soups that were unique to each other and different from what we typically offer at Sarello’s. Any one of these soups would be a welcome addition to our menu.

Finishing in second-place is Michelle Erdmann of Fargo, with her recipe for Italian Sausage and Cheese Tortellini Soup with Spinach (Gio’s favorite), affectionately dubbed “Ogre Stew” by her coworker’s children who noticed that the shape of the pasta resembles Disney-character Shrek’s ears.

Third place honors go to Renee Crary of Detroit Lakes, with her elegant and creative blend of white and black beans called Tuxedo Bean Soup. Our runners-up, both hailing from Fargo, are Kristen Berg Rheault’s Valley Borscht and Sarah Ann Miller’s Beer Cheese Soup. All of the entries can be found on our blog at www.thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

Whether you submitted a recipe, cast a vote, or contributed a prize for our winners, we are grateful to everyone who participated and helped make the Great Sarello’s Soup-Off such a success.

Tom Shorma’s Walleye Chowder

Michelle Erdmann’s Italian Sausage & Cheese Tortellini Soup with Spinach

Renee Crary’s Tuxedo Bean Soup


Today’s Featured Recipes: Turkey Crepes with Pistachio Pesto

Turkey Crepes with Pistachio Pesto

Tony’s talking turkey this morning on North Dakota Today with Chris and Andrea, and is sharing two of our favorite Thanksgiving-inspired recipes: Turkey Crepes with Pistachio Pesto.


Turkey Crepes are an elegant and creative way to utilize leftover turkey meat, or to put a new twist on your Thanksgiving Day menu. The focus of these two recipes is simplicity – these are elegant, yet uncomplicated dishes that you can easily make right at home. Tony even gives us permission to skip the hassle of making crepes from scratch, and encourages us to find fresh ones in the produce department of our local grocery store. As a busy mom, I love any kind of tip that helps me save time – thanks, Tony!

The pistachio pesto couldn’t be easier to make, but don’t let that fool you – with its wonderful nuttiness and buttery flavor, this pesto takes these basic turkey crepes to the next level. This pesto is incredibly versatile, and could also be used with chicken or fish, or even as a dip with hearty crackers. For this recipe, Tony uses pre-shelled and salted pistachios, so no additional salt needs to be added to the pesto.

CLICK HERE for the Turkey Crepes RECIPE

CLICK HERE for the Pistachio Pesto RECIPE

 Be sure to check out our Thanksgiving 101 section here on the blog for Tony’s Top Ten Turkey Tips (T to the 5th), Thanksgiving Wine Pairings and Turkey Thawing Guidelines.

Who Are Our Three Remaining Finalists in the Great Sarello’s Soup-Off?

The Great Sarello’s Soup-Off kicked off last night with our first round of tasting and, with over 70 votes cast, 3 soups have emerged as the crowd favorites! It’s a tight race, and votes will be combined from both rounds of voting so join us tonight and help us decide the winning soup from our three remaining finalists:

Walleye Chowder
submitted by Tom Shorma, Fargo, ND

Tuxedo Bean Soup
submitted by Renee Crary, Detroit Lakes, MN

Italian Sausage & Cheese Tortellini Soup with Spinach
submitted by Michelle Erdmann, Fargo, ND

Congratulations to our finalists!

We’ll have all three soups ready for you to TASTE & VOTE TONIGHT in the Sarello’s Wine Lounge from 5:30 to 6:30 PM, so come on out and help us pick our winner!

The first-place winner will receive a set of four soup bowls from
North Dakota artist Tama Smith of Prairie Fire Pottery in Beach, ND.
(see sample photo below)

Other Prizes include:
Breadsmith Bread 
Sarello’s Gift Card(s)

Grocery Store Gift Card(s)
Handheld Immersion Blender