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Flower Power: Make the most of lilac season by turning the petals into tasty ingredients

lilac simple syrup

I found a few recipes recently that call for lilacs. Who knew lilacs were edible? I certainly didn’t. And what great timing to discover these culinary uses the same week mine bloomed!

 

To prepare lilacs for recipes, first you need to go pick a whole bunch of them. Get them from a trusted source, where you are sure they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals. Pick some extra to put in a vase in the house.

 

Rinse them really well (I dunk them in a bowl of water and swish them around) and then gently shake off excess water. Pick them apart a bit into tiny clumps, and put them in a bowl. Get another bowl for "discards" and a third bolw for the picked blossoms and buds. Here is my discard bowl in the "picked blossoms" bowl.  

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Arctic Char Challenge: Being in a landlocked state doesn't mean skipping new seafood choices

arctic char

When it comes to beef, chicken, and pork, it's fairly easy in the Twin Cities to find local vendors. Whether it's buying a quarter of a cow, fresh pork sausage, or a carton of eggs at the farmers market, or even at some local grocery stores, it's within reach with a little bit of effort. It's also pretty simple to decipher the labels and figure out if you're buying quality meat or not. Seafood, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier. 

 

Since it's difficult (um, impossible?) to find a local tuna or salmon farmer in Minnesota, instead we have to look at labels and talk directly with the source who buys the fish to ensure we are buying sustainable fish.  

 

Seafood can be considered sustainable if the species is abundant naturally or through responsible practice (farm-raised), and the harvesting methods aren't harming natural habitats with pollutants or destroying the habitats in which the species lives. 

 

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Curing Picky Eater Syndrome: Hand over some meal planning to your new junior sous chef

kid chef

Cooking with your kids is one of the best ways to get them to eat healthy real food, and a great way to boost their excitement is by involving them in meal planning. 

 

When children can take ownership of breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks, they tend to really think about what they’ll be eating. When you first start giving your children a voice in meal planning they may provide outlandish ideas such as cheeseburgers with cookies for buns or string cheese for every meal, but you can curb this by showing them how you do your own meal planning, and what you take into account (nutrition, budgets, what’s on hand) so they understand how meal plans work. And of course, do your best to make meal planning fun!

 

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Way Beyond Brown Rice: A chat with vegetarian cook and cookbook author Martha Rose Shulman

Renowned cookbook author and New York Times writer Martha Rose Shulman will be in the Twin Cities signing her newest book and doing a cooking demo on Saturday, May 24th, so we thought we'd lob a few questions her way in advance. 

 

The author writes the Recipes for Health column for NYT, and is the author of over 20 cookbooks, many of them vegetarian and all of them geared toward inspiring home cooks. Her newest, The Simple Art of Vegetarian Cooking, gives a fresh take on the topic, and she tells us why.

 

What got you started as a recipe writer, particularly your focus on vegetarian cuisine? 

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School Lunch Makeover: A new project is bringing more training to farmers, which means better produce for kids

Jefferson Salad Bar

Did you know that Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is buying free-range, hormone-free turkey from Ferndale market, carrots and red potatoes from the Hmong American Farmers Association, squash from L & R Produce, and kale from Gardens of Eagan?

 

Farm-to-school is booming at Minneapolis Public Schools, thanks to an innovative new partnership with the University of Minnesota. The university's On-Farm Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Education Program and the Minneapolis Public School Culinary & Nutrition Services are teaming up to provide training and technical assistance to farmers selling to MPS for the school meal program in an effort to boost the amount of fresh, local produce MPS can procure.

 

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Craft Cocktails: Sampling new Minnesota micro distilleries

micro distillery cocktails

Minnesota is in the early stages of a craft liquor boom. As part of the Surly Bill of 2011 (the bill largely responsible for Minnesota's robust and ever-expanding craft beer culture), it is now easier and less expensive to obtain a micro distillery license. Over the past year or so, we've seen the first products of these new companies become available.

 

One of the newest distilleries, Du Nord Craft Spirits, began selling its flagship product, L'Etoile Vodka, this past week. Vodka, gin, and other clear spirits form the majority of items currently hitting the market, as they don't require aging; we should see more whiskeys, rums, etc. arrive over the next few years. Now is a good juncture to sample several of the high-profile liquors currently on offer, in order to highlight the impressive and exciting work being done around the state.

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Fish Tonight: Partner up with your local sustainability-minded fishmonger and make ceviche

ceviche

In terms of simple-to-prepare foods, ceviché is on the top of the list for making a great impression with little effort. The delicate balance of fish, acid, and vegetables give the illusion of complexity, when in reality, the dish takes just minutes to prepare. There are a few key components in making the dish successful. It all starts with choosing the right fish.

 

Here’s how to select the best fish:

 

Start with your fishmonger. Because they live in water, fish are more sensitive to heat, travel, and bacteria than other proteins. Your best bet is going to a source that is knowledgeable about storage, quality, and cut. Locally, we have the wonderful folks at Coastal Seafoods, located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, who are passionate about quality fish and can help you make the best choices.

 

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Hunting for Dinner: Foraging for ramps, and the best onion dip recipe ever

ramp onion dip

After a long winter like the one we just suffered through, most of us here in Minnesota are anxious to get outside and enjoy some nice weather. Last week, I had the opportunity to get out trout fishing with my 2-year-old son. We walked along a river bank south of Rochester and didn’t catch a thing but we were outside and it was wonderful. As we went along, I couldn’t help but notice all the broad green leaves sticking up out of the ground. They were instantly recognizable as ramps and my trout-fishing day turned into a ramp-picking day.

 

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