Extra Credit Gardening: Growing pineapples in Minnesota

pineapple in snow

Ten years ago, my husband and I escaped the January cold and spent a week in Costa Rica. We stayed at a beautiful but rustic lodge on the edge of the jungle, where the kitchen staff spoiled us with scrumptious meals made from the many local foods. Every meal was served with large chunks of fresh, juicy pineapple, and I couldn’t get enough of it. Perhaps it was the surrounding rainforest, or the sounds of birds, animals, and ocean waves on the beach that accentuated my pineapple-eating experience, but whatever the reason, I fell in love with fresh Costa Rican pineapples.


But all vacations must come to an end, and we were soon home in snowy Minnesota. Still in that post-vacation glow when I headed to town to stock up on staples, I was delighted to see that our local grocery store had pineapples on special. I bought four and looked forward to once again having fresh pineapple with every meal.


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New Year Resolution: Cook like my great-grandmother


I'm something of an industrial-size resolution creator. I love the huge, sweeping type of resolutions that involve dismantling my normal way of thinking or operating in the world — and I don't reserve them for New Years, although that's a traditionally fun kickoff for some of them. 


Even though there are approximately 5,000 blog posts out there right now about how resolutions don't work, I think the inclination to make these simple vows is tempting for a reason. Who doesn't love a fresh start, a sense of improvement, a brighter way forward instead of gloomy regrets? I do agree that some types of goals seem almost thwarted from the start, particularly those that are too vague — "I'm going to be a better person this year!" — or perhaps too ambitious or restrictive. 


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Kitchen DIY: Homemade beef broth

bone broth

Not long ago, my little boy was sick for a few days, so my usual cooking routine was interrupted. I absolutely don’t mind the interruption, and like having him home with me all day again, but I just hate it when my little ones are sick. Since he hasn’t been eating a whole lot (sore throat), I’m so thankful to have frozen broth at the ready for both the ease and the nourishment that it can give to him. I guess this is as good a time as any to post this recipe, then.


Making broth isn’t a new concept, but it seems as though the foodie/health world has rediscovered it lately. There’s a good reason for that. Making broth is simple and it offers so many healthy benefits that store-bought versions simply do not. They also taste so much better. Make a homemade broth and then do a taste-test with a store brand. I have. The difference is stunning.


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Vino 101: Drinking the stars


With the holiday season upon us, your mind is probably fizzy, and not just from the stress. Sparkling wine has been a celebratory drink for generations, and it is especially synonymous with Christmas and New Year’s Eve. 


But which one to get? A wall of sparkling wine can be overwhelming, especially to someone who only buys the stuff once a year. 


Well, have no fear. I’m going to give you a basic overview of the different kinds of sparkling wine and provide examples of each type. 



Mention sparkling wine, and Champagne is the first thing most people think of. In order to be called Champagne, a wine has to come from a specific region (in regulatory parlance, the Champagne “AOC”) in northern France, and must be made using a very specific method.


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One-Stop Shopping: Simple, good, and tasty gifts

mason shaker

Update: Cooks of Crocus Hill is open until 2pm today, Dec. 24th. Stock up!


With less than a week to go before Christmas, and plenty of spots open on our wishlists (okay, many of them for ourselves), we asked for some expert guidance from Julie Jansa, buyer at Cooks of Crocus Hill. 


Here are her picks for some outstanding holiday picks: 


For the budding mixologists: For those that like to create, check out the Homemade Gin Kit or the Mason Shaker from our pals at W&P Design in Brooklyn, NY. These folks have a passion for creating products on trend with great packaging.  


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Kitchen Basics: Making homemade ghee


Welcome to your new favorite fat.


Ghee is a form of clarified butter, which is just butter without the milk/dairy solids in it. It’s those solids that cause butter to scorch at a high temperature, which is why butter is not your best bet for sautéing or frying at high temperatures. However, with the solids removed, ghee has a higher smoke point even than olive oil and coconut oil, and those high temperatures become your friend again.


And it’s not just for cooking. You can use ghee in any way you might use butter: spread on bread or toast, or melted as a topping for meats or vegetables. Other benefits of ghee:


Dairy free: With nearly all of the milk solids (lactose and casein) removed, it can be tolerated by those with lactose intolerance. It’s Paleo-friendly as well.


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DIY Craft Cocktails: Holiday drinks that pack a punch

holiday cocktails

I keep three main goals in mind when making cocktails for a gathering. First, I want them to be simple to prepare, without the need to make several trips to the grocery store, co-op, or liquor store. Most ingredients should already be in my kitchen or home bar. This is particularly true during the holidays, when prep time is limited, or nonexistent due to other food and hosting tasks needed that night. 


Second, I want to be able to mingle and socialize during the gathering, instead of being stuck at the bar or in the kitchen, making single drinks to order. Last, and most importantly, I want them to be delicious and something a bit out of the ordinary. After all, holiday drinks are particularly celebratory: we are toasting family and friends and marking the end of one year and the beginning of a new one.


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Hello, Holidays: Gingerbread with cinnamon icing


Though chocolate is my favorite sweet, around this time of the year I love to bake with those warm, delicious holiday spices. You know the ones I’m talking about: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg.  


Along with their unique flavors, I love their warm, comforting aroma wafting through the house.  It wakes me up from the cold-weather coma that sets in in December and January. Ok, that might be a bit dramatic, but I’m still trying to grapple with the fact that winter is here. This week my daughter and I did our best to fight cold outside by staying in the kitchen to bake gingerbread with cinnamon icing. It was perfect.


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