Words by Tracy Nicholson / Photography by Travis Beauchene, Studio Three Beau

We’ve gotten to know Moorhead resident, Laneil Skaff, over the past year and she has never disappointed with her remarkable, at-home culinary skills. With each passing month, her brilliant recipes have become a fixture in our pages. While last month she gave us a glimpse of her Tuscan adventure, this month she once again teams up with her daughters, Julie Stoe and Jenna Stowers, to show us three simple and fun lake recipes their family loves. To immerse ourselves in the lake life, we visited their newly renovated, Middle Cormorant lake home to see how their family lives and dines on the water.The Skaff family built the first cabin on the property in 1990. Add nearly 30 years, and their now-grown family had over doubled. Realizing it was time for a renovation, Laneil and Sam Skaff recruited more family to help – Brad and his dad Dewy Vesta of R.V. Construction. With a goal to stick with their current footprint of 1,800 square feet, the Skaffs collaborated with architect Herman Novak, certified kitchen designer Bill Tweten of Western Products, and the Vestas to make the same amount of space feel like a home that’s twice the size.

The Renovation
To start their renovation, the entire lake home had to be gutted and completely reworked from top to bottom. Like many older lake homes, the prior footprint had a floorplan that was much more divided, making the space feel closed in and less efficient. The kitchen was much too small for their growing family and with grandkids running in and out, there needed to be a bathroom with easy access from the door. “Because we had to use the same footprint, the only other thing I asked was that we keep at least the same amount of storage.””Before the renovation we had a lot of carpet, so that was another thing that we really wanted to change,” said Laneil Skaff. “We replaced that with a linoleum vinyl plank – it’s really easy to clean up after when you have wet kids, bathing suits and sand.”

Raise the Roof
In the more communal space of their lake home, Brad and Dewy Vesta raised the roof to give the illusion of more space. “We took out the original scissor truss ceiling that was up there and we raised it 42 inches by taking that out and putting in I-joist beams,” said Brad Vesta. “Basically, it’s a truss that Mid-States made for us and instead of fastening it together like they usually would, my dad and I put up each end one-by-one with a pulley system. We bolted it all together while we used a temporary wall on each side to hold the roof up until the truss was in place. Then we covered it in reclaimed lumber from Dakota Timber Company.”

The Landing Pad
Tweten’s cabinetry design started at the front door with a unique landing pad accommodating every family member and guest. Custom built-ins were created to provide a drop zone and charging station for computers, phones, keys, sunglasses and even the kid’s lifejackets. “Bill really was so good at thinking about every little detail. I didn’t want my computers and the phones cluttering up the island, so this is a great spot to keep everything organized,” said Skaff.”We originally had the life jackets up higher on a bar in the old cabin, but it just made more sense to make the bar lower so the kids can learn how to hang up or grab their own life jackets,” said Jenna Stowers. “When you have eager ones ready to swim it’s a really easy place for the kids to grab a life jacket and go jump in the lake.”

Another spot in the landing pad is designated for a giant basket of Crocs. “They’re our all-purpose lake shoes,” laughed Skaff. “Everyone can find the basket, you take out a pair that fits you and that’s what the whole family seems to wear all weekend.”

Island Ambitions
To make their kitchen worthy of large family gatherings, the Skaffs worked closely with certified kitchen designer, Bill Tweten of Western Products. With a need to squeeze a lot more function into the same square footage, this was one room that required extreme efficiency and sneaky storage. For the finish, the Skaffs chose a unique, pigment white for their upper and perimeter cabinets. “I wanted it to be a softer white and as cabin-like as possible, so with this pigment stain, you can still see a little of the grain coming through.”S

The island, finished in a deep Slate stain, was designed with distinguished storage encompassing every inch. “One of my favorite features are the big, deep drawers. I’ve got all of our dishes in the drawer – we have a drawer for glass, one for plastic and one for paper products. Don’t mind the ants on the glass dishes, those are painted on ants – a fun set my sister gave me,” laughed Skaff.(beach towel storage – island)
In the island, Skaff has a designated spot for her cookbooks as well as a place reserved for an item their family is in constant need of – beach towels. “The girls really helped me by reminding me of what I had, what I needed to make room for,” said Skaff. “One of the big things was that we always had a huge basket for beach towels. So, I said, ‘When I take down all of the walls, where’s that going to go?’ That’s now the upper part of our island – the two drawers on this side are all beach towels. Bill really helped me think through and provide some great solutions for the storage and things we had to have to make it all work.”

Dining at the Lake
To design their new dining room, the Skaffs relied on beautiful built-ins and a custom-made table by Josh Humble of Finnu. Their table for 12 was built using redwood pickling barrels hailing from California.Laneil Skaff had chosen the drop-down chandelier but soon realized that it was not meant for installation on their slanted ceilings. To remedy the design dilemma, Brad Vesta used reclaimed lumber to create a flat base for the fixture to hang evenly.

Master Suite
In the master suite, the family worked with Tweten to design a wall of built-in cabinetry for drawer space and office, using every inch of the rooms available space. “On the back wall, we did a white-washed shiplap from Stenerson Lumber,” said Brad Vesta. “To get a more rustic look, we didn’t prime it. That way the knots could bleed through. Then we did two coats of paint and one coat of clear so fingerprints can be easily wiped off.”  In the bedroom and throughout the lake home, windows were replaced with a pre-finished pine from Pella’s Designer Series.The Skaffs refurbished their existing night stands with chalk paint from Eco Chic Home and kept the style uniform, relying on comforting quilts for every room.In the master bath, Laneil Skaff chose a wood-look porcelain tile with a quartz seating area in the shower. “It’s the lake cabin and I just wanted it to feel like a lake cabin. So, when they started laying this tile, Sam called and asked if there was something wrong with it. I had to explain to him that that’s how it’s supposed to look,” laughed Skaff. “I just love the old, weathered wood and beachy textures. I also wanted a matte finish for the vanity, so we used a Corian from Western Products.”In the guest room wing, even the Skaff’s hallway is beautifully accented with gorgeous pieces like the reclaimed wood and dock cleat coat hanger and one-of-a-kind barn door. “This wood was actually from the old redwood deck that we took out during the renovation,” said Brent Vesta. “I brought Finnu a bunch of the wood and they used the larger dock cleat for the handle.”“I love the barn door because all of these colors are different stains that we had used on it over the past 30 years,” said Laneil Skaff. “Finnu used different planing techniques and worked hard to keep that original finish.”

Fun & Functional
With an idea that spurred from Pinterest, Laneil Skaff found an industrial solution to a create fun and functional sleeping space for six. “Brad and my son, Nate, built this set of bunk beds in the kids’ room, then my boys finished the other set. Brad was really the engineer to help us with the design using industrial plumbing pipes.” The design consists merely of 2x4s fastened to the wall with the piping grounded to the floor for support. For the smaller beds, Skaff used crib mattresses, then baskets and hooks for efficient storage.“We just tried to keep everything looking as much like the lake as possible. So, you’ll find a lot of reclaimed wood, vintage skis and paddles, along with comfy quilts in each room,” said Skaff.”All of our closet systems are from Smart Spaces. They came in and customized them to every room for us,” said Skaff. “She really used our space wisely. We designed most of the closets with enough space to fit a smaller crib, so the kids can have the babies close by, but also be able to close the door a bit, so they can still use the room.”

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Midwest Nest is always thrilled to join Laneil Skaff and her daughters, Julie Stoe and Jenna Stowers in the kitchen. Gathering around their beautiful new island at the lake, they shared three recipes they love to serve up, with a side of sunset.

Chicken-Farro Salad

(Serves six meal-size servings)
This salad uses the grain Farro – it is an ancient grain that an excellent source of protein, fiber, and nutrients like magnesium, zinc and some B vitamins. It has a nutty flavor and chewy texture. With a great mix of sweet and salty, and a mild dressing to tie it all together, this makes a great summer meal.

Ingredients:

½ cup pearled or regular farro

6 – Ounces (about 9 cups) mixed baby greens (I like to use some iceberg lettuce in this salad for the crunch)

1 ½ – Cups leftover cooked chicken – coarsely shredded

1/3 – Cup unsweetened dried cranberries (can also use dried blueberries, currants or cherries)

1/3 – Cup chopped dates

2 – Ounces Manchego cheese –
shaved with a vegetable peeler

¼ – Teaspoon salt

¾ – Cup vinaigrette

¼ – Cup chopped Marcona almonds

Instructions:

Bring two quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook according to directions on box – it will be different depending what farro you get. Pearled farro will cook faster. Cook until tender. Drain well and spread the farro on a pan to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the greens, chicken, cooled farro, cranberries, dates cheese and salt. Toss with ½ cup of the vinaigrette, adding more as needed. Garnish with almonds.

Champagne Vinaigrette

(Makes one cup)

Ingredients:

¼ – Cup champagne vinegar

1 – Tablespoon honey

¼ – Teaspoon salt

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

¾ – Cup canola or vegetable oil

Instructions:

Put the vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a blender. Pulse to combine the ingredients. With the machine running, drizzle in the oil. Blend the dressing until it is well emulsified and thick. Refrigerate. Shake well before using.

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Easy Rhubarb Pie

We are often making this pie as we are finishing up meal prep. It takes under 10 minutes to make and then off it goes to the oven while we are eating supper. A pot of coffee gets made, get the bowls, spoons, napkins, and of course ice cream and we’re off for a sunset cruise on the pontoon. A perfect way to end a day at the lake!

Ingredients 

Crust:

2 – Cups flour

¼ – Teaspoon salt

2 – Teaspoons sugar

2/3 – Cup vegetable oil

4 – Tablespoons milk

4 – Cups rhubarb- finely diced

Filling:

1 ½ – Cups sugar

1 ½ – Teaspoons cinnamon

2 – Eggs, beaten

½ – Cup flour

1 – Tablespoon melted butter

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium-size bowl, place all crust ingredients – EXCEPT the rhubarb. Mix with a fork until well mixed. Crust will be crumbly. Set aside ½ cup of the crust and press the remaining mixture in a 9” deep dish pie pan or a 9” round cake pan – pressing crust on bottom and up the sides of the pan. Pour rhubarb on crust and distribute evenly.

In a medium-sized bowl (I often use the same one), combine all the filling ingredients with a whisk until well blended. Pour over rhubarb and spread evenly.

Crumble reserved crust over the top of pie.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Serve warm with Ice cream or whipped cream.

Variation: This recipe works well with peaches or apples.

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Brazilian Cheese Bread

Pão De Queijo
A perfect little gluten-free bread bite to go with any salad. We first discovered these little bites of goodness when we celebrated the opening ceremonies of the Olympics when they were held in Brazil. 

Ingredients:

1 – Egg –room temperature (can place in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes to gently warm egg)

1/3 – Cup olive oil

2/3 – Cup milk

1 ½ – Cups Tapioca Flour

½ – Cup queso fresco, feta, or parmesan cheese – grated

1 – Teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Use a spatula to scrape down sides to be sure everything gets mixed in. Pulse a few more times. Do not over mix. (The more you mix, the tougher the dough)

Generously grease mini muffin tins with cooking spray and pour batter into 24 muffins.

Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are puffed up and a golden brown. Eat while warm with a drizzle of honey, or my favorite, butter!__________

Find the Home’s Finishes:
Contractor – Brad Vesta and Dewy Vesta, R.V. Construction
Architect – Herman Novak Designs
Cabinetry Design – Bill Tweten, Western Products
Cabinetry – Crystal Cabinets, Western Products
Closet shelving systems – Smart Spaces
Pine windows – Pella Designer Series

Tile – Syverson’s Tile
Countertops – Corian, Western Products
Fireplace wood/steel art – Grain Designs
Reclaimed truss and dining chandelier wood – Dakota Timber Company
Dining room table & bench – Josh Humble, Finnu
Dining chairs – Restoration Hardware
High island stools – CB2
Low island stools – Crate & Barrel
Masonry – Winter Masonry
Siding – Iron Grey, by Hardie Board
Drywall – Amundson-Klungtvedt DrywallFor more information, contact:
R.V. Construction
Brad & Dewy Vesta
218.233.4471
Bradley.j.vesta@gmail.comWestern Products
Bill Tweten, CKD, CBD
474 45th Street South, Fargo
701.293.5310
billt@westernproducts.com
westernproducts.com