Archive for October, 2011

Smarter than a…

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011


As I planted a patch of tulips in my backyard in the late afternoon, I imagined the chipmunks and squirrels (and I learned today that chipmunks are in the squirrel family) watching with glee. ‘Dinner is served! Just dig down six inches and we’ve got MREs (meals-ready-to-eat). Yippee!’

Who cares whether I’m smarter than a third grader. I just want to be smarter than the squirrel families who frequent my yard. I laid some obstacles to their dinner. The mighty fortress is pictured: Small but mighty.


Literary Hero: Jane Yolen

Monday, October 17th, 2011

When I discovered Dream Weaver, by Jane Yolen in 1979, I was dazzled that a contemporary writer created such fairy tales.

     I’ve read many more Yolen books: Here There Be Dragons, Owl Moon,
and Sleeping Ugly, to name a few. She’s written more than 300.  Yes, THREE-HUNDRED books, including fairy tales, fantasy stories, and poems seemingly for children and young people only, but not really.
     Yolen isn’t a stranger to the Twin Cities. Her son, musician, etc. Adam Stemple, lives here and Yolen is often at guest at the Kerlan Collection, an outstanding children’s literature research center at the University of Minnesota.
     Tonight, I heard her for the second time when she spoke in St. Paul at Hamline University. I was sure the room would be standing-room-only. After all, many do consider her America’s Hans Christian Anderson. The audience for her reading was modest in size, but great love for this artist and her work.
     Her new book isn’t for children. It’s a very adult book, of poems that tell of her husband’s illness and death in 2006 and her life then and after: Things to Say to a Dead Man: Poems at the End of a Marriage and After (Holy Cow! Press, 2011). The poems are plain spoken and raw with shards of hurt at what leads to death and what happens after.  Read more about Yolens’s first book specifically for adults and learn about this most prolific and spot-on author, one of my top literary heroes: “Ten questions for author Jane Yolen.”
     If you’re in Minneapolis-St. Paul, you have another chance to meet her.  Jane will be reading at The Loft in Downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday, October 19, 2011.
     Travel well, Jane Yolen.  And, keep bringing the spirit to life in your writing!
 Jane Yolen

Pine Ridge: Seeds of Hope and a Buffalo Snack

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Tonight, the ABC program, 20/20, devoted its entire program to Pine Ridge, the town and the reservation, Land of the Lakota,  in southwestern South Dakota. On Hidden America: Children of the Plains, Diane Sawyer rode a horse, wore a dancing shawl, and met Lakota in schools, business, law, and recovery. Those she interviewed painted a story with seeds of hope in a community awash in alcoholism, diabetes, and teen pregnancy. If there can be a Lakota Spring and a better future for Lakota children, these are the people who will help make it happen.

There’s a food angle in Sawyer’s portrayal of Pine Ridge. She covered it in two ways.  First, a Subway restaurant opened on Pine Ridge and a customer exclaimed that she hadn’t eaten a cucumber since she couldn’t remember. The report portrayed the restaurant as offering veggies in a food desert.

Second, the report featured the Tanka company, a home-grown Lakota business that makes and sells buffalo and cranberry-based snack sticks, sausages, and hot dogs, no doubt inspired by the traditional tribal mainstay, pemmican made of pounded buffalo meat and dried wild berries. The products with such names as Tanka Wild, Tanka Bars, Tanka Bites, and Tanka Dogs are gluten-, nitrates-, msg-, and hormone-free. Sawyer reported the Tanka Bars are available at 4000 outlets around the U.S., including Whole Foods. I’m making a trip there tomorrow to find a Tanka bar and have a taste.

To be continued….


Meatloaf and Pot Roast: Midwest Americana Redux

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Ordered meatloaf for lunch today. Meatloaf with potatoes and gravy, vegetables, and a roll: that’s what the menu said.  The server brought two GIANT slices of meatloaf with gravy, perfectly cooked broccoli and cauliflower, and two nice dinner rolls. (No potatoes. Allergy.)

The restaurant, Taste of Scandinavia with locations in two St. Paul suburbs, was founded in 1990 by Soile Anderson, using recipes from her native Finland. She no longer owns the place, but the current owners maintain her quality. And, they make her frosted kringle, untested during this trip.

While I tucked into the excellent meatloaf (with enough leftover for another meal,)” my lunch partner, Vicky, enjoyed her pot roast quesadilla on a whole-wheat flour tortilla. Both the meatloaf and the pot roast were thoroughly modern takes on classic Midwestern food.

Our talk over lunch was of corporate business, consumer affairs, blogs, and marketing.  That is, it was until our conversation shifted to the classic cafe lunch both she and I remember from our small-town childhoods, hers in Northern Minnesota, mine in South Dakota.

Every cafe and small restaurant across Minnesota, South Dakota, and probably every adjacent state, had a ‘dinner’ special. Dinner was what we called the noon meal, except for the meal at school which was lunch.  The classic cafe ‘dinner’ special was either a hot sandwich (beef pot roast, pork, or meatloaf served with mashed potatoes and gravy over a slice of white bread) or a hot dinner, which was the same items sans bread slice, but with a dinner roll on the side. The menu moved out of the cafe for farmer appreciation dinners or any community dinner that wasn’t a potluck.

I box up my extra slice of meatloaf.  While I wrapped my roll in a napkin, Vicky, slyly, remembered when at meal’s end of many community events, some women would tuck a napkin-wrapped roll in their purses, along with packets of sugar, salt, and pepper.

Busted.  Me.  I trust those purse-packers of yore felt as I did today: the roll was simply too good to not enjoy for another meal.


A Bite of Pineapple, a Glass of Wine, and Friends

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The first Friday of every month, I can always go to a party. It’s a pot-luck soiree of people who work in the creative arts in the Twin Cities–writers, designers, editors, talent in all media.  Kit Naylor and Cathy Madison got it started and Kit is the supreme hostess who makes sure it continues, scheduling hosts and welcoming one and all.

Everybody brings something:  wine, beer, sparkling water, and food, good food. The eclectic dining offerings span every menu possibility from honey-crusted peanuts from a bin at the supermarket to a curry recreated by a man just returned from Malaysia. A marketing writer who aspires to turn her baking arts into a cookbook brings her latest concoctions. In the winter, there are crockpots of stews and soups. During summer, plates of fresh tomatoes with basil and bowls of fresh fruit predominate.

I decided to bake for last week’s bash. Hungry for pineapple upside-down cake, I down-sized to mini-cakes, each with a bite of pineapple and an almond. They were devoured right down to the crumbs on the tray.

Pineapple Upside-Down Mini Cakes

No need for cupcake papers. You may need to trim the cakes to get them out of the cupcake pans.

Makes 24 mini cakes

1 15-ounce can pineapple slices in juice1/4 cup butter, melted

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

24 whole almonds or pecans

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 1/3 cups reserved pineapple juice plus water or milk

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

1.  Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Cut six slices into quarters. Use remaining pineapple as desired.

2.  In small glass bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, and water. With non-stick spray, coats sides of each compartment of two 12-serving cupcake pans. Divide butter-sugar mixture among the cups. Arrange 1/4 pineapple slice and one nut in each. Set pans aside.

2.  In medium bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, and baking powder. Stir in juice mixture, 1/2 cup butter, eggs, and vanilla. Mix at lowest speed of mixer just until ingredients are combined. Increase speed to medium and mix 1 more minute.  Evenly divide batter in pans.

3.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until wooden pick comes out clean. Cook pans on wire rack for about 5 minutes. With a table knife, loosen sides of each cake, removing excess cake on top edges, if needed. Invert onto baking pan. Spoon out any topping left in pan. Serve warm.






Food Friend: Lisa Golden Schroeder

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011


In cat years, Lisa and I have been friends forever, since the dawn of our food careers.  We’ve collaborated on dozens of food photographs and made each other laugh, many times. She makes it look easy to make food beautiful and she shares her talents as a food stylist, teacher, writer, recipe developer, and lover of the food in general. Learn more about Lisa and food styling at and check our her e-zine, Tweezer Times.


Food Legends

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Family food legends have a way of nourishing body and soul. 2011 marked the Minnesota State Fair’s inaugural Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance’s Heirloom Recipe Contest. I  joined in the judging to honor slices of cherished Minnesota family history. Eighteen women and men, aged 24 to 70, each displayed a story and a prepared recipe. The judges tasted potato soup, chocolate cake, ginger cookies, butterflake rolls , and perfectly cooked spare ribs with homemade sauerkraut.

Four stories and recipes broke out of the pack as the winners.

1st Place: Roberta Casey, St. Paul, MN. We laughed out loud at Roberta Casey’s story of her grandmother’s Pretzel Cookies and the lengths to which Roberta and her cousins went to get more than their fair share. Casey’s display was accurate right down to the layers of plastic wrap she described as being essential to her grandmother’s storage method. Hilma Cherney Rivan passed away at age 97. The family served Pretzel Cookies at her funeral reception.

2nd Place: Gwendolyn Swenson, North Branch, MN. Swenson used peaches for this version of Fruit Upside-Down Cake, presented on a Depression glass plate on a vintage doily. The crumb and flavor of the cake were excellent. Swenson noted: “I have been making the recipe for nearly 50 years. Mom is nearly 84 years old. So between the two of us, we been making this recipe for over 70 years.”

3rd Place:  Natalie Tangen, West St. Paul, MN.  Tangen told her grandparent’s touching love story and described the hard-working life Louise and Fred Paez shared. Members of the family still make Louise’s Spanish Rice and eat it rolled up in homemade tortillas. “Her rice with tortillas was simple fare, but lovingly made by her beautiful hands.”

4th Place: Josette Repke, Plymouth, MN, Wash-Day Supper. Josette remembers this  surprising delicious Wiener Hot Dish with Boiled Potatoes (or, if you prefer, Hot Dog Casserole) from Mondays of her childhood, the day the wash was always done.

Read the winner’s essays and try their recipes and read about previous contests.

The Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance, based in Chicago, debuted the competition in 2009 in Illinois and has since expanded to Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and this year to Minnesota and Missouri, with plans to take the contest to more state fairs next year.–From Farm to Fork co-sponsors the event. Watch GMFA for information about 2012 participating fairs and information about how to enter.