DIY Craft Cocktails: Festive Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Making drinks for those who can't (or prefer not to) drink alcohol can be a bit of a challenge. It's easy to offer a guest a bottle of soda, juice, or sparkling water, but in the context of a party, particularly during the holidays, it's more fun and inviting to plan ahead and be able to offer them a beverage that's more intricate, more special, more festive.


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Elderberries: From Medicine Cabinet to Table

Fellow foragers had warned me about elderberries. They cautioned me about the hours of tedious labor the dark purple berries demand. They told me how the stems, unripe red berries and even seeds can be slightly toxic as they contain a compound similar to cyanide, and how almost every stem must be painstakingly removed. I’m glad I didn’t listen to these warnings (or conveniently forgot them) as my grandfather and I struck out on a sunny early autumn afternoon to collect our elderberries from a ditch near the family cabin in northwestern Wisconsin. Visions of pies, jams and medicinal tinctures danced in my head, and the elderberry bush, laden with ripe berries seemed happy to oblige. When I pulled my octogenarian grandfather out of the bramble a half hour later, we had four paper bags full of berries. My grandfather wondered if this bounty would be enough for his jam and my various elderberry dreams.

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For Prairie Vodka, Substance is Style

“Organic” isn’t a word I usually associate with vodka. Sure, organic is commendable. Organic is responsible. Organic is even noble.


But these homespun virtues don’t exactly dovetail with vodka’s typically glitzy image. Commercials for big-name vodkas often beguile the viewer with fussy fantasy worlds that feature dazzling women, surreal Norse landscapes, ice palace discos, and fashion runways a-pop with camera flashes.


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DIY Craft Cocktails: Beer Shandies for Cooler Temps

A traditional beer shandy is a refreshing, height-of-summer drink, served ice cold and made by combining lemonade and a light-bodied beer, usually in a one to one ratio. The shandy is typically enjoyed in the middle of a hot day and has a relatively low alcohol content. Its primary purpose is to refresh, not to intoxicate.


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Hunting for Dinner: Snapping Turtles (and a Recipe for General Tso's Turtle)

A couple of years ago I was told about a book called The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, by Steven Rinella. In the book, Rinella tells the tale of being given an old cookbook written by Auguste Escoffier and being inspired to have a feast of all the things he hunts and gathers. Rinella talks about how, pre-Escoffier, he once ate snapping turtle and didn't enjoy the turtle meat because it tasted like a mucky swamp.

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An Autumn Ritual: Making Homemade Thai Chili Paste

In our household, the autumn ritual of preserving our garden through canning, freezing, and juicing is a family gathering in the kitchen. I love the opportunity to fend off those first few cold nights with a steaming hot kitchen, the house windows fogged up from all the blanching, poaching, and hot water baths. We play jazz music on the stereo, and even after the kids go to bed, I’m often putting up the last few jars until 2 am. It’s one of my favorite parts of the year. There is only one exception to the rule here, the evening where my wife and kids can’t get far enough away from the house while I’m working. Despite that fact, this remains one of my favorite nights of all…processing hot peppers.


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Hunting for Dinner: Boundary Waters Canoe Trip (and a Recipe for Fish Curry)

This is the ninth post in a series about hunting for food -- truly meeting your meat.

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My Favorite DIY: Rhubarb Ketchup, Mustard, and Marinara

When I think of rhubarb season, the same scene always comes to mind: I’m nine or ten years old walking barefoot through the dewy grass with my mom out to her rhubarb patch early on a Saturday morning. She lifts back the giant leaves and cuts the perfect stems – not too green, not too pink, not too long, not too short. Each stalk is then stacked across my outstretched arms like tiny cordwood.


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Great Grains: Quinoa and the Problem of Popularity

This is the twelfth post in the series Great Grains, highlighting unusual whole grains and easy ways to incorporate them into your diet.


If quinoa had a résumé, I’m pretty sure that every one of us would have to hire it for whatever job it wanted. Ten seconds on Google pops up enough qualifications to make me wonder why I ever eat anything else:

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Stocking Your Kitchen for Asian Cooking at Minneapolis's United Noodles

Yours truly has a superficial acquaintance with Asian cooking. I’ve made Pad Thai and sesame salmon for friends, and they’re still speaking to me. But on my first visit to United Noodles, any remaining illusions about my supposed savvy with Far East cuisine rapidly went south. Too. Much. Information. Head about to explode.


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