By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Julie Rolsen likes to put her own stamp on dishes from her kitchen.
"Don't think you have to follow a recipe," she said. "Follow your heart."
It's the unique touches that guests appreciate at Garth Woodside Mansion Bed and Breakfast in Hannibal.
"I want this experience to be a little bit different," said Rolsen, who owns the B&B with her husband John. "I don't like doing the same thing over and over that everybody else does."
Breakfast is Rolsen's favorite meal, and the inn features fruit cups, juice, muffins, yogurt and homemade Granola to start each day.
"With my fruit cup, I try to have at least 10 different fresh fruits," she said. "People don't cut fruit for themselves. It takes a lot of time to cut fruit."
Rolsen also serves a hot entree each morning such as Breakfast Pizza, naan bread topped with Alfredo sauce, eggs, bacon and cheese then baked.
"Whatever you're making, add eggs to it, and all of a sudden, it's breakfast," she said. "I always use fresh-grated Parmesan cheese, never the stuff in the can."
Guests can take home a reminder of the experience from a coffee mug to a copy of Rolsen's cookbook, "Inn the Kitchen at the Mansion."
"I'm really big on sharing all of my recipes with people so they can have it. They have a little bit of Garth when they go back home," Rolsen said.
Some of her most popular recipes are the Lemon Cream Sauce served with fruit cups and the Black Raspberry Butter available to spread on fresh-baked muffins. Granola and Granola Bars also are popular with guests, and when she's preparing supper, she'll rely on "the best there is" Caesar Salad Dressing.
"You have to have anchovies in Caesar dressing," she said. "You can taste the difference."
Rolsen's from Michigan, and her husband, a retired Air Force colonel, is from Ohio. They met at an airshow in 1976 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
"His plane broke down. He was there for a week. It was seven days to fall in love," she said.
They moved every four years thanks to his Air Force career, with Rolsen often taking cooking classes in each new city, before coming to Hannibal in 1999 when he retired and they bought the Garth.
"This is the longest we ever lived anywhere," she said. "When we were here for four years, it was time to do something. We built the big cottage. When we were here for another four years, we built more cottages and added the restaurant, then we bought the kitchen store."
Liking to cook was a key ingredient in buying the bed and breakfast, consistently ranked the best in Missouri -- and in opening the Main Street Kitchen Store, overseen by daughter-in-law Sheena, in Hannibal's historic downtown.
"We were looking for a bed and breakfast that had a list of things -- at least eight bedrooms, acreage, 100 miles from at least two major cities," she said. "We are 100 miles from three major cities -- Columbia, Springfield and St. Louis."
Rolsen has found people will drive four to five times what they drive to work every day for a weekend trip, making the bed and breakfast a destination point for people as far away as Kansas City and Chicago.
When guests arrive, Rolsen focuses on making the experience as memorable as possible.
"Little things we take for granted because we see it on a regular basis and experience it on a regular basis, guests are just ecstatic," Rolsen said. "I do a lot of my own growing of herbs and vegetables. I'm really getting into aeroponics, growing cucumbers, strawberries, lettuce. It's much healthier, better than organic."
Using fresh ingredients is key to Rolsen's cooking.
"In the spring when the raspberries are out there, they pick, and I make the cobbler," she said. "They think it's wonderful. I say you're doing the picking, not me."
Guests may head to the garden to pick something to use for supper that night, and in the inn's large commercial kitchen, "I can get 10 butts in here cooking," Rolsen said.
Everyone eats well at the Garth, from the guests to the birds and the resident llamas.
"They're very low maintenance. This time of year you have to give them some hay. Otherwise, they graze and eat grass," she said. "People have seen dogs and cats and horses, but they haven't seen llamas up close. They're very friendly with guests. We put a leash on them so guests can take them for a walk."
Lemon Cream Sauce
8 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Mix ingredients together, and store in the refrigerator. Sauce keeps one week. Use over fresh fruit.
NOTE: You may substitute any imitation sugar, depending on your preference. Rolsen uses stevia for guests who prefer low sugar dishes.
Black Raspberry Butter
2 pounds sweet cream butter
6-8 ounces homemade black raspberry jam
Soften the butter in a large mixing bowl at room temperature. Add the jam, and beat well with an electric mixer. The more air you incorporate into this the easier it will be to spread.
6 cups old-fashioned oatmeal, not instant nor quick-cooking
1 cup pecans
3/4 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup safflower oil
1 cup applesauce or apple butter
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon lecithin
1 cup chopped dried fruit (cherries, dates, raisins or figs)
Combine dry ingredients, except dried fruit, in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine and mix well the wet ingredients; stir this into the dry ingredients, and combine very well.
Spread onto a baking sheet. Bake at 335 degrees for two hours, stirring every 15 minutes. During the last 15 minutes, add 1/2 cup chopped dates and fruits. Add coconut, too, if desired.
Remove from oven, and stir while cooling. Store in plastic containers or bags in refrigerator.
4 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
2 cups each whole almonds and coarsely chopped pecans
2 cups shredded coconut, loosely packed
1 cup toasted wheat germ
1/3 cup each honey and maple syrup
2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups dried fruit or a mix of dried fruit (Rolsen uses chopped apricots, Michigan dried sour cherries and golden raisins)
1/2 cup sesame seeds
Toss oatmeal, almonds and coconut together on a sheet pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the wheat germ.
Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
While the mixture is still warm, stir in the honey, syrup, vanilla and salt until the mixture is well coated, then the dried fruit. Pour into a buttered 13x9-inch baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press mixture into pan using west fingers, gloved hands sprayed with nonstick spray or a silicon spatula until the mixture is packed as tightly as possible. Rolsen sets the other sheet pan on top of the granola mixture and presses it down.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until light golden brown.
Score with a sharp knife, then cool for 2-3 hours before cutting completely into squares with a really sharp pizza cutter.
Store, as you would cookies, in an airtight container at room temperature for a week or two. Rolsen prefers to store the bars in the freezer to keep them crisp.
Cranberry Nut Muffins
3 cups flour
2/3 cup quick-cooking oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
4-5 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon rind
2 cups cranberries
1 cup pecans, chopped
Mix flour, oats, baking soda and powder in medium bowl; set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add milk, lemon rind, vanilla and cranberries. Add flour mixture one-third at a time, making sure to incorporate without mixing too much. Gently stir in pecans, and bake at 350 degrees for barely 15 minutes. Glaze with a mixture of powdered sugar and heavy cream.
Caesar Salad Dressing
2 cups mayonnaise
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons anchovy paste
12 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Blend all ingredients in food processor but the olive oil. After completely blended, add the olive oil very slowly; do not rush this process. The food processor will be full, but it will all fit.