Monster Cookies

6 eggs
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp Karo syrup
4 tsp baking soda
1/2 lb. butter or margarine
3 cups peanut butter (almost a 28 oz. size jar)
9 cups oatmeal
1 cup M&M candies
1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

Cream eggs, sugar and butter. Add vanilla, syrup, soda and peanut butter. Mix well. Stir in oatmeal. Fold in M&Ms and chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 minutes.

Cook’s note: I use more M&Ms than the recipe calls for (about 1 1/2 cups).

Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

Learn about Quickbooks and more at our November events

Our staff invites you to join them at these great events throughout November. Be sure to follow us on our Facebook page for information on these events or pictures from other events you may have missed.
The Secrets to Understanding Quickbooks and Your Business Finances – Quickbooks Beyond the Basics Part 2: 7:30-9am
Learn how to understand and utilize the income statement at our free business session featuring speakers from JRM and Associates. Session include breakfast.
Minnesota CPA Tax Conference: 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Stop by and see us at the Merchants Bank booth (#213) for your chance to win Minnesota Wild hockey tickets!

5 Ways to Stick to an Exercise Routine


How many times have you penned a workout plan — and then did not follow through with it? You’re not alone. Even when you have the best intentions, motivation can ebb and flow every few days or weeks, according to a study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.

But don’t fret; with a few little tricks, you can stick with it, and reap the health benefits that come with it.

“There’s a notion that when you want to start a new fitness regimen it’s all or nothing, but change is a series of different stages with different ways to get you to each next stage,” says Elizabeth R. Lombardo, PhD, psychologist and author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.”

Ready to get your motivation back? It’s easy with these tips:

Dress the part – Simply putting on your workout gear and lacing up your sneakers can help enhance your motivation to hit the gym. According to a Northwestern University study, when participants wore a lab coat, they were better at tasks that required attention than they were when donning regular street clothes. What’s that have to do with exercise?

“It’s all about the symbolic meaning that you associate with a particular item of clothing,” says researcher Hajo Adam. “I think it would make sense that when you wear athletic clothing, you become more active and more likely to go to the gym and work out.” Even if you weren’t planning to work out, the right clothing may motivate you to pick up the pace around the house or even take a walk around the block (in other words, it couldn’t hurt).

Keep it interesting – Doing the same fitness routine over and over again can become tedious — and in turn, zap your motivation. So, instead of continuing to walk the treadmill or ride an exercise bike every day, switch it up and make working out more enjoyable. For example, take a walk in the park with the kids, a hike with your spouse, or check out drop-in exercise classes at gyms and malls. Many tend to offer classes like Pilates, yoga, Zumba or strength training — classes that will keep your workout appealing (and best of all, sometimes these drop-in classes won’t even cost you anything to attend).

Be realistic with your goals – Saying that you will complete a two-hour workout at 6 a.m. each morning followed by a yoga and Zumba class may not be very practical. Instead, focus on fulfilling goals you can commit to, like upping your run one-tenth of a mile whenever you’re out for a jog, or losing a pound in two weeks.

“Set realistic goals that include clear milestones, and as you progress toward your goal, you’ll find a ripple effect occurs and things fall into place in your work, home life and health,” says Stacy Fowler, a personal trainer and life coach in Denver. When you achieve a goal, you may be surprised at how much your motivation will increase and you’ll want to continue on the fast track to success.

Be flexible – When plotting out precisely when you’ll work out, it’s important to go easy on yourself. Scheduling exercise time slots three or four times a week is a great way to stay active, but be willing to mix up your agenda when need be, say, when an unexpected work event pops up or you’re feeling under the weather. In other words, if something does come up, don’t let that stop you from getting a workout in at another time.

Get a gym buddy – Having someone to work out with is proven to help you stay committed to fitness.

“In my 10 years of experience evaluating what creates long-term health-and-fitness success, the single most important factor is having a support system,” says Wayne Andersen, MD, cofounder and medical director of Take Shape for Life, a nationwide health and lifestyle coaching program based in Owings Mills, Md. Think about it: If you promised your friend or family member that you’d work out with them at a certain time, you’ll be more likely to follow through than if you didn’t make that promise.

“Psychologically, if you feel like you have a responsibility and commitment toward another person, you are more likely to follow through on that commitment,” says Michelle P. Maidenberg, PhD, MPH, clinical director of Westchester Group Works in Harrison, N.Y. Additionally, a study published in “Psychology of Sport and Exercise” showed that the workout habits of people you know can positively influence your own.

Sticking to a fitness plan doesn’t have to be tedious. With these simple exercise-related motivation boosters, you’ll be back in the swing of things in no time.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Increases Shareholder Dividend by Five Cents Per Share; Success Continues Through First Three Quarters of 2014

Rod Nelson, President & CEO

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) reported net income of $9,749,529 through the first three quarters of 2014. The figure is $281,644 ahead of last year’s net income and ahead of MFGI’s plan. Based on the performance, the MFGI Board of Directors voted to increase the shareholder semiannual dividend by five cents to 50 cents per share, according to MFGI President & CEO Rod Nelson.

“I am pleased that we can continue to reward our shareholders for their confidence and continue to bring value to those shareholders, our customers and our employees,” Nelson said. The dividend will be paid to shareholders of record as of November 21, 2014. “I do expect that we will finish the year on a positive note.”

Nelson said the main drivers for the continued success are the work of business bankers across all locations in securing new business, maintaining loan credit quality and the success of the mortgage area.

MFGI has a strong correspondent mortgage network that supports smaller banks across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North and South Dakota and Nebraska by helping those banks provide mortgages to their customers. That work, coupled with the efforts of the mortgage lenders at Merchants Bank locations, has continued to have a positive impact on the organization.

“The reason for our success is our people and their ability to create and enhance relationships with customers in all our markets. We continuously strive to add the very best people to our team and are focused on continued talent enrichment as we grow,” Nelson said.

Crock Pot Easy Corn


3 – 1 lb. bags frozen corn
4 Tbsp sugar
8 oz. cream cheese
1 ½ sticks butter
2 to 3 Tbsp water

Put all ingredients in crock pot. (I layer them, some corn, little sugar, 1/3 cream cheese, ½ stick butter, and repeat twice more.) Stir occasionally. Cook on low for 4 hours.
Cook’s note: This rich, creamy corn is a real crowd pleaser at Christmas, Thanksgiving and other family or friend gatherings. Easy and delicious!

Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

Five Yoga Moves for Stress


A big work presentation. When a loved one is sick. Deadlines. Bills. Whether big or small, everyone experiences stress as a normal part of everyday life. And while we can’t eliminate stress altogether, evading stress may be easier than you think.

One of the best ways to get a handle on it all: Hit the yoga mat. Yoga, a mind/body exercise that involves stretching and structured breathing, is a proven way to reduce stress and calm your nerves.

“Yoga helps us slow down for a moment and tune into the breath. Simply the focus on one thing — which is the very definition of meditation — allows us to decompress,” Dr. Terri Kennedy, registered yoga teacher and president of Power Living Enterprises, Inc. “The actual asanas [poses] release tension in different ways, and help certain parts of the body.”

While most yoga moves are good stress relievers, specific poses may help more than others. Practice these poses to tame tension and find your inner calm:

  1.  Corpse pose (Savasana)
    How to do it: There are many variations to those pose, but they all begin with laying down on your back with your feed slightly apart, arms at your side with palms facing up. As you inhale, extend your right leg, and then the left, and allow them to drop to the side. Tense your whole body. Then allow your body to sink into the floor. With arms outward, let them rest on the floor. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, allowing your body to relax for five to10 minutes.

    Why it works:
    This pose relaxes your body and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate. That means lowered blood pressure and decreased muscle tension, which are essential to ridding yourself of stress. It also helps clear your head.
  1. Mountain pose (Tadasana)
    How to do it: Stand with your feet together, arms by your sides, with weight evenly distributed to both feet. Press your big toes together and then lift and spread your toes out. Elevate your kneecaps by tightening your thighs. Slightly tuck your tailbone in. Straighten your arms with fingers extended and your palms facing in. As you inhale, lengthen your torso. Keep your neck elongated and eyes forward. Hold for one to two minutes.

    Why it works: This pose works to help you clear your mind and overcome you with a sense of calmness. Smooth breathing and regaining balance are also great stress busters.

  2. Downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
    How to do it: Place your palms on the ground and step back one leg at a time, keeping your hands and feet in line with each other. Stretch your arms forward and keep them straight. Lift your backside in the air and straighten your legs, while pressing your hands and heels into the ground. Your head and neck should naturally relax.

    Why it works: Your spine is elongated during this position, which can help you feel and overwhelming sense of relaxation overcome your body. Downward dog is especially helpful if you’re experiencing a tension headache due to stress.

  3. Cat pose (Marjaryasana)
    How to do it: Begin with your hands and knees on the floor, creating a “table top” position with your back. Straighten your arms and center your head, with your eyes looking at the floor. Inhale, then exhale and round your spine to create an arc. Let your head drop (but avoid bringing your chin towards your chest). Inhale and revert to the tabletop position. Repeat up to 12 times.

    Why it works:
    The feeling of your spinal cord stretching may mimic the feel of a massage, which can ease stress. Cat pose also benefits your stomach organs and muscles.
  4. Child’s pose (Balasana)
    How to do it: Begin on your hands and knees, with your knees about hip width apart and feet together. Stretch your arms forward and lengthen your tailbone away from your back. Extend your torso and lengthen the back of your neck as you place your forehead to the floor. Place your arms at your sides with your palms facing out. Breathe slowly and deeply.

    Why it works:
    This pose works as meditation to tender feelings of calm by soothing the central nervous system. As your spine, shoulders and neck relaxes, so does your mind.

As stressful as life can be, there are ways to help calm you down and relax. Make sure to say Namaste to your stress levels after doing some yoga.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Cheesecake Factory Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe



  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar, divided
  • 3 – 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • whipped cream



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a medium bowl. Stir well enough to coat all of the crumbs with the butter, but not so much as to turn the mixture into paste. Keep it crumbly. Press the crumbs onto the bottom and about 2/3 of the way up the sides of a spring form pan. You don’t want the crust to form all of the way up the back of each slice of cheesecake. Bake the crust for 5 minutes, then set it aside until you are ready to fill it.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, and vanilla. Mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the pumpkin, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice and continue to beat until smooth and creamy.

Pour the filling into the pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes. Top will turn a bit darker at this point. Remove from the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool.

When cheesecake has become room temperature, put it into the refrigerator. When the cheesecake has chilled, remove the pan sides and cut the cake into 8 equal pieces. Use dental floss to make a clean cut. Serve with a generous portion of whipped cream on top. Serves 8.

Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.