LINN GROVE – Working in the corporate world, Sheila Thomsen often talked and dreamed about doing something different. One day she left that world to begin working on a project that would benefit others by providing a home away from home in a peaceful setting in northwest Buena Vista County.
Paul and Sheila Thomsen own land along the Little Sioux River, just east of Linn Grove, an area where native timber thrives – predominantly burr oak, with red oak and walnut – and where white tail deer, wild turkey and pheasants are abundant, it’s a perfect setting for a bed and breakfast business.
For the Thomsens opening a B&B was the result of years of studying similar operations. It took a bit of brainstorming, and planning, they said, to make it comfortable enough for hunters, yet nice enough for couples and families.
Playing off words from Paul’s woodworking business, Oak Inspiration, the Thomsens built a new home designed specifically for their InnSpiration Bed and Breakfast, with enough flexibility built in that the home could have multiple uses.
Paul, who also farms, did much of the work himself having the house open for guests by September 2008. Four rooms have been named and decorated simply to complement their themes including Lake Room, Mountain Room, Green Room and Grandma’s Room, which displays paintings done by Sheila’s mother.
Guests can choose to use one of the trails in the 370 acres of timber. Winter activities include cross country skiing or snowmobiling. In the summer a canoe is available for floating down the Little Sioux River.
A 2-acre fresh water pond is a popular spot for a swim before supper.
The Thomsens’ tailor each visit according to their guests desires. Sheila plans meals around their schedules and wants like brunches, dinner, a nice evening meal.
Sheila keeps a record of what is served so on a return visit, the meal can be different unless the guests request a repeat of a favorite. She works ahead, doing as much prep work as can be done to relieve some of the preparation work when guests are present.
A favorite cookbook that she relies on is “The big book of breakfast – Serious comfort food for any time of the day,” by Maryana Vollstedt. Sheila Thomsen said that almost every one of the recipes she has used has been good, not needing any of the tweaking that Sheila often does.
Thomsen cooks for her guests as she did when their four children were home. Simply good food using as many natural ingredients, making healthier substitutions when she can.
Favorite recipes from InnSpiration Bed & Breakfast include:
Blueberry French toast
(prepare the day before)
12 sliced day-old white bread, crusts removed
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 cups milk
1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Fresh grated lemon peel
Cut bread into 1-inch cubes; place half in a greased 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Cut cream cheese into 1-inch cubes; place over bread. Top with blueberries and remaining bread.
In a large bowl, beat eggs. Add milk and syrup; mix well. Pour over bread mixture. Cover and chill eight hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.
Uncover and bake 25-30 minutes more or until golden brown and the center is set.
In a saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch; add water. Bring to a boil over medium heat; boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in blueberries; reduce heat. Simmer for 8 to10 minutes. Stir in butter, lemon juice and grated lemon peel until butter melts.
Serve over French toast.
Yield 6 to 8 servings (1 3/4 cup sauce)
Jumbo banana-carrot muffins
(Sheila describes these as, “Great!” It contains no oil or butter)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup unsweetened apple butter
In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In a small mixing bowl beat eggs until light. Beat in honey and orange peel. Fold in the bananas, carrots and apple butter. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Yield: 9 jumbo muffins.
Cranberry spinach salad
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups , or about 10 ounces, baby spinach leaves, trimmed
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 1 small)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the walnuts on an ungreased baking sheet. Toast until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the oil, sugar, vinegar, mustard and salt in a small bowl. Whisk until blended. Set aside.
Combine the spinach, cranberries, toasted walnuts and red onion in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to coat. Serve.
(do one hour from meal)
1 3/4 cups warm water
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup (heaping) sugar-(Sheila uses Raw Sugar or Honey)
3 tablespoon yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
Mix water, oil, sugar, yeast and let stand 15 minutes. Add salt, eggs, flour. Mix well, shape into buns. Let stand 15 minutes. Bake in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.
Yields about 2 dozen.
Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at email@example.com.
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