Posts Tagged ‘food’

How Green Was My Garden: Let’s get it started in here

“Everyone who enjoys thinks that the principal thing to the tree is the fruit, but in point of fact the principal thing to it is the seed. — Herein lies the difference between them that create and them that enjoy.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Seedstarting. Not too long ago it was only for hardcore gardeners with casual gardeners usually purchasing seedlings ready to plant from big garden centers.  But the rebirth of vegetable gardening, especially urban gardens, has caused a huge surge in seed sales & folks trying their hand at seedstarting. 

Locally Mother Earth Gardens has offered seminars on seedstarting for years but in the past two the free seminars have reached capacity for reservations as soon as they are announced.  Their beginning seminars are full of people who are just starting their gardens as well as those who have never started their garden from seed before.  The seminars were so successful the neighborhood garden store added an advanced seminar. 

Advanced Seedstarting Seminar from Mother Earth Garden

During the advanced seminar we shared stories about how long we’ve been gardening, the best gardening books, and most of the time was spent sharing each gardener’s tips for everything on fruit trees, pruning raspberries and of course pest control. 

Seedstarting is simple once you have the right tools.  The most common mistake is hoping that sunlight in Minnesota is sufficient for good germination & plant growth.  The spring sun locally is not good enough and must be supplemented with grow lights.  There are many more options this season than ever before for setting up the best light system for your seeds.  I purchased hanging lamps  and just use a wire rack shelf from Target for all the trays but if you would rather have a ready-made system there are many options available, though they tend to be a bit expensive. 

The other key to good seedstarting is heat.  I keep my seeds in the utility room next to the water heater & furnace so it gets very warm in there. But there are many heat mats available as well to help you maintain that warmth. 

Humidity control is also important for good germination of your seeds, so making sure you have the plastic greenhouse lids on your trays until they are big enough for thinning out is key.  Different shapes available from large domes for bigger plants & short ones to greenhouse shaped units

Moisture is the final key to good seedstarting.  The plastic domes will help you maintain good water levels in your soil but you need to maintain tht with proper watering, not too wet (seedlings will rot & be suceptible to damp off) and not too dry.  Watering from above is okay as long as the spout on your watering can disperses the water without disturbing the soil.  Or you can water from below in the trays, just make sure you only water enough for the plugs to absorb & they aren’t sitting in standing water. 

Seeds at Mother Earth

The biggest advantage to seedstarting yourself is the increased selection of plants you can choose.  There are so many heirloom varieties and unique hybrids to choose from when using seeds that would never be available at your farmer’s market or garden store.  I usually purchase some seeds in stores in my neighborhood like Minnehaha Falls Nursery or Mother Earth & supplement those with ordering from garden catalogs.  The best part of February is pouring over my seed catalogs to choose what I will grow this year. 


This year I am adding some new lettuce varieties as well as a melon, interesting cabbage & brussels sprouts & filet beans to my garden, things that would only be affordable and even found through seed catalogs. 

Some good choices for organic seed catalogs include  Minnesota’s own Peter’s Seeds, TomatoFest, Botanical Interests, John Scheepers, Seeds of Change, and Seedsavers

It is a bit late for starting some veggies from seed, like onions & leeks, which I started in late February.  But in the right conditions you should be able to still get your seeds started on most all other vegetables now and early April.  The University of Minnesota Extension service has a great guide for a good seedstarting schedule. 

Because of our early warm weather you can get a jump start on direct sowing on things like peas, lettuce, radish, spinach and carrots.  You can just put those directly in your pots or raised beds, or in the ground if it is in a sunny location and has warmed up enough. It is best to wait just a bit longer on things like squash & beans because as we all know in Minnesota there is always a chance for more cold, including a hard frost or snow. 

So if you have never grown your plants from seeds, it is very easy & affordable with a few tricks & tips.  There will always be crop failures, it happens to nurseries too. But you can still be successful & have the great satisfaction of growing your own food from seed to table and have a fantastic variety of flowers too! So what are you growing from seed this year?

How Green Was My Garden: Ring the Bell for Sustainability

The Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota is hosting a great panel discussion with Local Growers about sustainability & why it is important.  Here is the release:

Sustainable Foods and Farming Local Growers Panel
Tuesday, March 23, 7-9 pm at the Bell Museum Auditorium, East Bank, U. of Minnesota

Why is sustainability important for land and for people?

What is being done in Minnesota to help reduce environmental degradation? Why should we care? Four local growers will share their stories of gardening and farming using organic and sustainable practices, native plants and alternative market structures.

Speakers: Jim Riddle, organic farmer, sustainable agriculture educator Tony Thompson, grower of corn, soybeans and native plants Courtney Tchida, with the U of M’s Student Organic Farm Norm Erickson, a grower of hazelnuts for food and fuel

Tour the Bell Museum’s Hungry Planet Exhibit before the panel starts! Following the panel, audience members will be able to ask questions and share information about opportunities to get involved in the local foods movement in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Sustainability Studies Minor,

Naked Award Winner – Jamie Oliver wins TED Prize


Jamie Oliver, who revolutionized how many people cook with his groundbreaking “Naked Chef” television series and cookbooks has been named the recipient of the 2010 TED Prize.  With the prize Oliver wins $100,000 to grant a wish to “change the world.”

Changing the world is nothing new to Oliver, who as a very young chef took his training in Great Britain and Italy and showed that food can be stripped down to its very essence, “Naked” and enjoyed by all.  His father owned a pub in Essex where his love of cooking began to be fostered.  He went onto Westminster Catering College and then trained in France. And after time at prestigious restaurants it was while a documentary was being filmed at the River Café where Oliver’s irreverent style and what he calls “cheeky” nature found the cameras.  Soon after “The Naked Chef” was born and Oliver became one of the newest and certainly youngest of the celebrity chefs.

jamies-america-largeBut the British kid who plays drums in a rock band didn’t just cook food. He was passionate about it, where it came from, and especially how food was affecting the youth of Britain.   With his celebrity Oliver launched a campaign to improve the food in UK school lunch programs. He filmed a multi-part documentary and worked with the British government to change policies about what was being served to the UK children in his battle to fight obesity and ensure they were eating healthier foods.

Oliver didn’t stop with school lunches, he founded the Fifteen Foundation a program that exists to help disadvantaged youth, now across Europe, assisting them to build careers in the restaurant industry. The concept is based on an apprenticeship model with a working restaurant, foundation and training program all together.  The  Fifteen program has graduated 159 students at a cost of $49,500 each through the start of 2009.

He also took his love for good food to the British television airwaves in a documentary to dramatically demonstrate how chickens live and die to reach consumers’ plates in the UK. Olivers’ “Fowl Dinners” on Channel Four has directly lead to a dramatic increase in the demand for free range chickens at grocers like Tesco and Sainsbury.

Following the chicken across the road, Oliver also launched a fight to save British pork in his series “Jamie Saves our Bacon.” Which discusses UK pig breeding and the heritage of local pork.   His other special focuses on getting people back into the kitchen. Oliver’s “Ministry of Food” shows how simple healthy cooking is just as easy as nuking frozen school-dinners-featuredinners and is an important part of a good diet; how making your own food is most often less expensive than buying pre-made, pre-assembled and pre-packaged foods. Oliver has also fought for clear and accurate food labeling in supermarkets and grocery stores in Great Britain.

Jamie has launched his own wines and foods as well as dinnerware and other products like most celebrity chefs. Unfortunately for us Yanks, the food and wines do not seem to be available in the United States yet and shipping on most of the other products is obviously spendy, but it can be well worth it.

Of course, the cookbooks are still his bread and butter,excuse the pun. In fact the Fifteen Foundation is funded entirely by an endowment from sales of one of his cookbooks. Oliver continues to come out with unique approaches to food to surprise and entertain.  His latest, Jamie’s America, includes his take on American cuisine after filming recent specials and a BBC Series in the United States.  He is also about to launch his fight against childhood obesity and toward healthy foods for children in schools across the pond to the American market in Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution USA to be aired as a television special on ABC.  You can sign Jamie’s petition for better food in US school lunches here.

As the  recipient of the TED prize, Oliver is certainly one person who use that $100,000 prize and take “One wish to change the world”, he has already done so in so many ways.

Hand it over! – Holiday Traditions

The word Tradition comes from the latin root traditio which mean “handing over or passing on. It was a great song from Fiddler on the Roof. But when it comes to the holidays most of us have many traditions that make the season what it is, whether there are old ones or new ones that we have created over the years.  These traditions give us comfort and bring us together and help us to carry on our cultures.

Being the first generation American of Welsh parents many of our traditions are British.  Though after attending a Jewish preschool, Talmud Torah at the Temple of Aaron in St. Paul, we added lighting of the Menorah for several years too, though we no longer do that.

One of the traditions started when we were children still continues today, the Christmas Nightie.  Yes, my sisters and I all used to get matching nightgowns for Christmas, and now to this day, we get matching pajamas, and it has expanded to include my mother, my sister’s husband & kids, and my other sister’s boyfriend.  If we were all in a room together and had a picture taken it would be quite a sight!  The only rule is no flannels, too cliche’. I think the most funny was the year we got gold lame’ & black ones, hysterical. Sorry, not posting a picture though.

We decorate our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve.  All the ornaments collected over the 41 years my mother has been in this country come out of the boxes, including the ones each of us get from Santa in our stockings each year, come out and are placed on the tree.  No more room for plain ornaments on the tree. Along with those are the few antique ornaments my mother brought with her from Britain as well as the ones we have made over the year, well the ones that have survived a few basement floods, and cats and dogs toppling the trees.  It is quite a collection and the reminicing is always fun when each ornament is hung.

When we were children we used to put out a plate of cookies & milk for Santa Claus and sit by the fire to read Dylan Thomas’  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” before bed (wearing our Christmas nighties).  Alas, with no more children in the house here, that tradition is no longer observed. More likely than not I am usually still up wrapping presents until the wee hours instead.

Christmas Morning it was always my little sister that woke everyone up first and we opened stockings first, which of course always had a tangerine in the toe.  The orange in the toe of a stocking is a universal tradition that symbolizes the gold left by St. Nicholas in the toes of the stockings of three girls that either saved them from slavery or gave them a dowry so they could be married, depending on which story you read.  The other must for our stockings is a Toblerone.  All of our stockings are handmade by my mother, petitepoint with our names on them, backed in red velvet.  They are hung on the mantlepiece and look so wonderful there.

Still wearing our Christmas nighties we then open presents, each of us with our own position in front of the tree that we have held for at least 20 years and we take turns opening the gifts from under the tree.  With the roaring fire next to us it is a fantastic tradition as we look out the picture window and watch the neighborhood awaken. Across the street we even get to vicariously watch our neighbors partake in their annual Christmas pinata tradition on the tree outside. After cleaning up any bags and wrapping paper it is time for the Christmas puzzle and breakfast!

SoldiersBecause the greatest traditions of holiday time involve food,  our family is no different. When we are decorating the tree on Christmas Eve we have a lovely steak dinner.  It wouldn’t be Christmas Morning without soft-boiled eggs and soldiers, which for the uninitiated, is toast cut into strips to dip into the gooey egg, and bacon, sauteed mushrooms and fried tomatoes.

For Christmas Day we now go to our family friend’s house for dinner surrounded by all their children grandchildren. They have three boys, we have three girls so it has always been a fun time to have our families get together.  Now with all the extended families and seeing the kiddie table recreated with their children instead of us is very fun.  And now instead of playing Atari or Simon we all are playing Wii after Christmas Dinner which includes Turkey, Green Bean Casserole and yummy pie for dessert!  I usually get called in to the kitchen to help make the gravy.

Boxing Day is the big day for us (the day after Christmas for you Yanks).  That is when we have our own traditional dinner that includes Bread Sauce, boiled carrots, brussel sprouts, mashed buttered parsnips, roast turkey draped with bacon for basting and stuffed with two kinds of stuffing, herb in one end and sausage in the other, roast potatoes. For dessert the Christmas Pudding of course, with brandied white sauce. 

Christmas pudding

When we were younger we used to help my mother start making the puddings in September in big laundry tubs. It is quite an undertaking involving suet, lots of dried fruit and lots and lots of booze including Guinness! We would stir and stir with big wooden spoons but inevitably would give up on that and just dig in with our arms. After several days of mascerating the puddings were ready for their molds and would get steamed so they would be ready for Christmas.  It is definitely an acquired taste, but the pudding contains either silver coins or silver charms, which are believed to bring prosperity in the new year, so getting a child to eat it isn’t that hard because they want to find the coins and, you can smother it in the white sauce too (made with vanilla instead of brandy for the kids).  The pudding is always brought to the table with a piece of holly stuck in the middle and the pudding is ablaze in a bath of brandy.  There have been a few close calls with too much brandy and burned holly, but it is usually quite a sight.

In earlier years my mother also used to make a Christmas cake, which is similar to a fruit cake, but iced in a layer of marzipan and then a layer of hard royal icing, and then a holiday or winter scene decorates the top. I still remember an elaborate skating scene on one that she made that included a mirror for the ice!


Of course no Christmas dinner or Boxing Day dinner in our house would be complete without Christmas Crackersxmas dinner. Not edible ones, but the ones invented by Tom Smith in the 1800s in Britain. He worked in a confectioners shop and reinvented the “bon-bon” he had seen on a trip to Paris. Inspired by the “crackling & pop” of the sound logs make in the fireplace he created the cracker, which is a tube that usually contains a riddle or joke, a toy of some kind, and of course, the paper crown, and when you pull the ends to open them, they “POP”.  All of the photos of our Christmas & Boxing Day dinners growing up show us around the table wearing the paper crowns.

Boxing Day is a big holiday in Britain. The day is usually the day the Alms boxes were opened, hence the name, but also because the aristocracy gave gifts to the less fortunate in a Christmas Box. Because servants and workers did not have Christmas day off Boxing Day became the day they were allowed to celebrate and party, so it is very much “the people’s” holiday.

So between decorating the tree, Christmas nighties, the Christmas puzzle, soft-boiled eggs & soldiers, bread sauce, Christmas pudding, and Christmas Crackers, we have so many wonderful traditions that are continued to this day that were started as a child and I am sure will be continued as long as we celebrate the holiday together.

Wishing everyone a wonderful season of sharing their favorite traditions.

How Green Was My Garden: Its not over until the Fat Lady Sings about Sustainable Agriculture

People have been singing to their plants for years. And there have even been scientific studies on the effects of music on plant growth.   Now there is a traveling Opera being performed in local Community Gardens in the Twin Cities. Mixed Precipitation is presenting  Orpheus and Eurydice: a picnic operetta,  “a celebration of the sustainable foods system with brave mortals, a three headed-dog, tear-jerking lovers and locally sourced food samplings.”

Roland Hawkins II and Meredith Cain-Nielsen encounter the unexpected during their musical picnic (photo credit-Brad Dahlgaard)

Mixed Precipitation is also hosting a Brunch Benefit at the Bedlam Theater

Saturday August 15th 11:00–1:30
Sunday August 16th 11:00–1:30

Featuring  live music by Karen Townsend, others and a champagne toast to ecological design and backyard barnyards. Leave with a few gardening tips from master gardeners!

Bedlam Theatre is located at 1501 S 6th St, Mpls

This production is directed by Scotty Reynolds and features the spirited music direction of Erik Pearson, dynamic choreography of Taja Will and the work of culinary interludes of collaborating chef Nick Schneider of Café Brenda

Suggested donation: $10 to $40

Community Garden Schedule:

Sat. August 29th 4:00 at the Birchwood Community Garden

(2544 Hwy 100 South in St. Louis Park, behind Reformation Lutheran Church)

***audio description provided at this performance

Sunday August 30th at the JD River’s Children’s Garden

(Glenwood and Washburn Ave in Theodore Wirth Park, Mpls)

Saturday September 5th on Nicollet Island

(Maple Place and Nicollet Street)

Saturday September 12th 4:00 at the Columbus Community Garden

(33rd and Columbus Ave, Minneapolis)

Sunday September 13th 4:00 at Celeste’s Dream Community Garden

(1880 Randolph Ave, outside the Sister of St. Joseph Carondelet, St. Paul)

Saturday September 26th 4:00 at the Augsburg Community Garden

(20th Avenue and 6th Street, Mpls)

Sunday September 27th 4:00 at the Midway Green Spirit Community Garden

(at the intersection of Taylor and Hamline Avenue and Pierce Butler)

Tickets:  612.619.2112

$10–$20 Suggested Donation  (no one will be turned away for lack of funds)

It’s Restaurant Week! Let’s Eat!

Best of the Best promo pic

This week is Mpls St.Paul Magazine‘s Best of the Best Restaurant Week! You have until Friday to to enjoy things like $30 grand-prixe dinners at La Belle Vie and Murray’s, along with other places in St. Paul and the suburbs. I had completely forgotten until right now, so I’ve gotta figure out where I should eat before this is over. Are you taking advantage of this deal?

moto-i Announces Sake Classes

The first sake brewing restaurant outside japan, moto-i, opened at Lake and Lyndale last month.

I haven’t personally been there yet, but Alexis dug it, and I’ll take her word for it.

I did, however, just get an e-mail about a new sake class series at moto-i, including a tutorial on sake, the opportunity to taste a range of grades and styles, chance to tour the sake brewery and eat some of their izakaya fare.

According to the e-mail, moto-i sake seminar is open to all professionals as well as non-professionals. It is our goal to have the most educated sake enthusiasts right here in the state of Minnesota.

It’s an 8-hour sake seminar for 15 people every month, featuring:

  • 20 page training manual
  • Tastings that include over 20 sakes, some of which you cannot get in Minnesota.
  • Lunch and snacks after the class will be included.
  • Blake Richardson and Elise Gee, Head Brewer and Assistant Brewer will be your hosts for this event.

The next seminar will be on Saturday the 8th of November. Cost is $150.

To sign up, email with “Sake Seminar” in the subject line and please include your shoe size (seriously).

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i was thinking explains the Harrington Household Index (HHI) for local grocery prices, from the point of view of someone who loves a good ethnic market.

Ponedaddy’s Pound has good things to say about Minneapolis Public Schools. One of ’em, anyway. That would be Cityview in North Minneapolis.

Two items on Northwest Airlines’ nickel-and-diming: News Cut is brainstorming ways to work around the new luggage checking fees. Aaron Landry explains why he’s breaking up with Worldperks.

On the Radar rounds up some of the plentiful free entertainment options in Minneapolis over the next week.

MinnPost says that the Trust for Public Land says St. Paul parks are awesome.

Altered Esthetics is having its first ever Arty Garage Sale this Saturday.

Car Free Family says “[t]he Northeast Parade was as toxic as usual.”

Two upcoming NRP-sponsored workshops: “Neighborhood Volunteer Training” on July 16 and “Walking your way to a safer neighborhood” on July 17.

The Demanding Diner – Better Service Please.

“So what’s with this Demanding Diner thing?” my millions upon millions of noncommenters may ask if only they could find the time to refill my water glass.

We’ll get there.

Firstly, I love going out for dinner. Honestly, this is something I probably do too often.  In order to maintain this high-flying lifestyle of the rich and famous I’ll often have to hit places that have good food specials with their happy hour or restaurants that have specials on certain nights. Other times I totally splurge and just go for it.

Either way, I say make my life easier!  

It appears has stepped up to the plate with their new feature ‘Our Take on the Local Nightlife Scene’ in the Arts and Entertainment section.

They break down searching by keyword, city/neighborhood, and features such as late night eats, happy hour, etc.  I was especially impressed by the ease of use and the neighborhood feature. This is service I could get used to. Check it out.

Has anyone had a good/bad eating experience you’d like to share? Is there any interest in the occasional restaurant review?

Enquiring minds want to know.


  • twin_cities: ISO grassy metro parks for a guinea pig festival! “The grass has to be chemical free as dozens of hungry guinea pigs will be snacking on and simultaneously fertilizing it.” OMG SO KYOOT!
  • MPR: College of St. Catherine to become a university. “The new name hasn’t been determined, but will include ‘St. Catherine’s’ and ‘university.'”
  • Minneapolis Issues Forum: Do Idaho’s bike safety statutes make more sense?
  • MinnPost: How we’re doing so far. Joel Kramer reports in on the first six months of MinnPost. “ has more than 100,000 absolute monthly unique visitors, as measured by Google Analytics. This makes us the most-visited local-news website in Minnesota that is not driving traffic to itself from a legacy medium, like TV, radio or print.”
  • Minnesota Monitor: Congress studies wrong city for RNC disaster preparedness. “The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found that Minneapolis’ Hennepin County Medical Center did not have sufficient capacity to handle a terrorist attack. The committee completely overlooked St. Paul’s Regions Hospital, which would be the first responder in the unlikely event of a terrorist attack on the RNC.”
  • Southwest Journal: Neighborhood organizations are adjusting their fundraising strategies in preparation for the loss of NRP funding. They mention Bryn Mawr Neighborhood Association; Elliot Park Neighborhood, Inc.; and East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association.
  • City of Minneapolis: Sustainability Initiatives
  • City of St Paul: Sustainable Saint Paul
  • The Deets: Ed looks at recent reports on the link between local food environments (i.e., stores/restaurants in your neighborhood) and obesity and diabetes. Ed’s theory: “The distance you drive to buy groceries effects how you shop.”
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