The Argyle Moose: Creating Community Space in Hugo

By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers

A very dapper moose calls a charming storefront in Hugo, Minnesota home. The Argyle Moose, a store full of gifts and goodies, dresses its dapper mascot with a colorful scarf. The store is home to a vibrant collection of Minnesota-made gifts: sassy cards, children’s toys, baby onesies, puzzles, candles, spices, original art, jewelry, and books. 

Celeste Knipping and her family opened the doors of The Argyle Moose in August 2020. “It was a little nerve wracking. We offered private shopping and curbside pickup as a way of safely engaging with our community in the beginning.” A silver lining was the total lack of supply chain issues in setting up the store’s inventory thanks to sourcing their products locally. 

“We saw a need in our community for a space like this. This is a family endeavor. You’ll see our kids working in here. We’re having fun,” said Celeste. While The Argyle Moose is a store, it’s also a space to learn about Minnesota’s local artisans. “Don’t be afraid to come in and look. Just come see what’s here. There’s so much talent in Minnesota—so many great makers. We absolutely love being here. It’s fun!”

Now having celebrated their second anniversary, Celeste reflected on her original motivations for opening the store. “There was a lot of chatter about needing a space for local makers to share their goods and for customers to find them. I was surrounded by makers in my neighborhood who created a range of products. They didn’t have a consistent local place to sell them. It was especially hard during Covid when the local markets were cancelled and closed.” 

Celeste established a space for both local makers and for visiting customers. Celeste gave a lot of thought to the store design to make it an enjoyable shopping experience for customers of all ages. There’s a hands-on play area in the store for younger guests, complimentary water for shoppers, and all purchases are packed to be gift ready when customers leave the store. 

Before moving to Minnesota 15 years ago, Celeste’s professional experience was in project management and marketing for large corporations. After staying home when her twin girls were born, Celeste contemplated what her return to professional life would be. “I started to wonder about my 2.0. I didn’t want to go back to a traditional corporate model. I wanted to create something that would strengthen my community.” 

When the store opened, The Argyle Moose featured 30 local vendors. The collection has steadily grown over the past two years to now include over 50 Minnesota makers. “The store has done well because there’s nothing else like us in Hugo. We include artisans from our own town. If we don’t have it, I can work to connect customers with someone who can make it,” shared Celeste. “Every week I hear from people that they’re so glad that we’re here. That feels really good.” 

Doing good is an essential part of The Argyle Moose’s mission. During their first year, they donated a portion of the store’s proceeds to support the Hugo Food Shelf. Their second year of donations went to Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation due to Celeste’s husband Patrick’s personal experience with the condition and Solid Ground, a White Bear Lake nonprofit organization that works to prevent and end homelessness for families with children. The Argyle Moose supports both of these organizations monthly. 

A number of the makers included in the store’s collection choose to donate a portion of their proceeds as well. Customers can learn about individual maker’s passions from the wall of fame that shares the makers’ motivations behind the items currently in store. “Our customers like feeling connected to the person who made the item they choose to buy. People really like knowing those stories, the why. Often the what they choose to buy isn’t as important as the why,” shared Celeste. “It’s the same for us. Yes, we’re running a store, but it’s a place in the community too.” 

For Celeste, the fun parts are constantly discovering new talented Minnesota makers and the conversations that she has with people who visit the store. Over half of their customers are repeat visitors, which gives them a chance to form a relationship with Celeste and her family in store. “You know how you talk to your stylist about everything when you go to get your hair done? I feel like that happens all the time in the store.” Those relationships create an inclusive and supportive space where a local community of makers and customers all thrive.

Visit https://www.theargylemoose.com/ to peruse the extensive selection of Minnesota made products. Stumped for a gift idea? Check out their suggested collections to be ready for your next event. 

Visit The Argyle Moose in store Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 14755 Victor Hugo Blvd #110, Hugo, MN 55038

Makers—check out the website maker contact form if you’d like to add your craft to their collection. 

Follow along for the newest items in store on Facebook and Instagram @theargylemoose. 

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram to discover the people who make it easy to celebrate living local in Minnesota. 

Sunset Creek Farm: Organically Grown Grains on the Table in a Snap

By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers

In this third installment of locally-sourced convenience foods, I invite you to start imagining the delicious smell of muffins baking in your kitchen oven. The Kotten’s Favorite Bran Muffin Mix includes wheat bran and wheat flour grown, cleaned, and milled at Sunset Creek Farm in Albany.  

Sunset Creek prepares wheat and rye flours grown and milled at their certified organic farm. Jolene Kotten, her husband Tony, and their in-house taste testers —children Brooke, Kelly, Ivan and Henry, have developed recipes so that their customers can easily enjoy the benefits of organically grown grains at home. Their product line of convenient mixes includes wheat and rye bran muffins, oatmeal waffles, wheat and rye pancake mixes, and their newest product—wheat chocolate chip cookie mix. Sunset Creek also make their own granola, including a custom keto blend. 

Jolene talked with me from her summer kitchen on the farm where she prepares her farmers’ market goods about her journey into organic farming. Jolene and her husband Tony both grew up on dairy farms in central Minnesota. They moved into cattle farming when they put down their own roots. 

Sunset Creek Farms Rye Bran Muffin Mix made with grains grown and milled on their farm

They completed the transition for being certified organic in 2018. “In the beginning, we wanted to certify our animals—both cattle and hogs—as organic. We grew cover crops like wheat, rye, and soybeans to feed our animals,” shared Jolene. “After COVID hit we decided we wanted to try to mill our own wheat.” 

Their first round of wheat milling did break their blender, but the whole family loved the results of the bread and cookies that they made. They soon purchased a tabletop electric mill, which was followed by a tabletop stone mill. Jolene uses these two mills to grind all their flour that she sells and uses to prepare the mixes. Find their products at the Richmond and St Joe’s farmers’ markets, through their website http://www.sunsetcreekfarm.com/, and at area stores including Smith + Trade Mercantile and Gathering Grounds in Avon. 

Tabletop flour mill in action!

After their milling experiment took hold, Sunset Creek initially sold their flours as a pantry staple for local cooks. In the milling of the wheat flour there was bran leftover that Jolene didn’t want to waste. With this desire to waste not, their best-selling bran muffins were born. “All the recipes were home tested with lots of family sampling,” said Jolene. “It takes a lot of work to make sure that you have the right consistency. Will the mix still work if the customer uses a medium or a large egg?” 

Sunset Creek also sells rotationally grazed beef, pork, chicken and turkey as well as seasonal produce. Only their flours, brans, and mixes are available for shipping.  

Jolene especially enjoys connecting with her customers about the difference of locally-raised organic products. Jolene herself is gluten sensitive. Their family’s farming practices were inspired by a desire to create a more sustainable and health-conscious product from their farm. “It’s nice to feel sustainable. We’re here to help people. When I get that call from someone looking for a true grass fed beef or a truly organic flour, I can provide that.” 

Jolene’s favorite part of her business is the interaction with her customers and the chance to educate about the freshness of their products. “We hadn’t participated in farmers’ markets before our flours. Now it’s a family affair—my 13 year old is our best salesman,” said Jolene. “I do enjoy people and learning their stories. It helps me to understand them and what they need from our local farm.” 

Jolene’s days are a balance of time in the gardens, packaging mixes at their commercial kitchen space, bookkeeping for the family’s electrical contracting business, and canning her favorite pickled beets. At the end of the day, her goal is to produce the best product that they can to nourish themselves and their customers. “We really are a farm-based business that just wants to provide better food. The goal is to make people happy, to help people, and to get people what they need.” 

Visit http://www.sunsetcreekfarm.com/ for the full menu of Sunset Creek Farms products. Special offer now through November 30—get a free pancake mix with your order! Which mix will you try first? 

Follow @sunsetcreekfarms on Facebook for their current market schedule. Follow @sunsetcreekfarm on IG for glimpses of life on the farm. 

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on FB and IG to discover more people making Minnesota a tasty place to be!

Simpls: Changing the World One Delicious Meal at a Time

By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers

It all started with a pinewood derby competition in their Roseville Cub Scouts pack. 

Michael von Fange and Ryan Rosenthal are childhood friends who now lead Simpls, a local company based in St. Paul that delivers locally-sourced, restaurant-quality, ready-to-heat frozen food to the extended Twin Cities Metro. Michael directs the company’s sales and financials and Ryan oversees branding and operations. They both spend plenty of time in the kitchen and are handy on a construction crew.

The goal of Simpls is, well, simple. In Michael’s words, “We’ve got to save the world!”

How do these childhood best friends propose to do this?

It starts with building community and stability among their company’s team members. Simpls maintains its own fleet of delivery drivers with a starting minimum wage of $18 an hour. All employees get paid time off. 

Simpls is a member of 1% for the Planet. This means that they donate 1% of all sales to local non-profits that promote a healthy, regenerative and equitable food system. 

Simpls wants to make it easy for their customers to support local. They celebrate the amazing Twin Cities food scene while advocating for local sourcing to become the new industry standard. Michael explained, “That’s the only way high-quality, nutritious, and regenerative food will be accessible and affordable for everyone.”

Simpls Margherita Pizza

All of their soups, pizzas, and new hot dishes are made in St. Paul. Their local partners includes Baker’s Field Flour & Bread, Century Sun Oil, Co-op Partners, Featherstone Farm, The Good Acre, Harmony Valley, Larry Schultz Organic, Organic Valley, Red Lake Nation Foods, Thousand Hills Grass Fed Beef, and Wise Acre. At least 90% of the ingredients in every item on their menu is organically or regeneratively sourced. 

Why does this matter? “You eat at least three times a day. What you’re putting in your body makes a difference for your health and the health of the world,” explained Michael. “We’re trying to change the food system for the better. We create demand for regenerative agriculture. We do that through delicious food. When you make delicious food that’s easy to access, everyone is on board. Even if they don’t consciously support your larger goals, they still are by choosing those delicious foods.” 

Simpls Thai Lemongrass Soup

Simpls got its start eight years ago as a brick and mortar soup oasis. Michael and Ryan both left their corporate jobs to launch two skyway locations and a third spot near the U of M campus. “We were the soup shop!” laughed Michael. They were best known for their Minnesota staples, such as beef chili and chicken wild rice soup. They started introducing some updates on classics like their Thai Lemongrass Chicken and Michael’s personal favorite—the Jamaican Jerk. Some of recipes, like the Roasted Cauliflower Turmeric, became part of the menu as a customer suggestion. 

Their menu offers a delectable mix of meat, vegetarian, and vegan options. “We like to span the whole spectrum from vegan to meat. We’re conscious of that. We focus on the ingredients and being delicious. Our meat eaters will still enjoy our vegan options, which are hearty and delicious with great sources of protein,” shared Michael. “All of our soups are made without gluten; we want there to be lots of options for our customers that support their health and dietary preferences.” 

Simpls Bacon Carbonara Pizza

The March 2020 shutdown prompted a rapid restart of Simpls’ business model. “All we were left with were our soup recipes and some frozen inventory,” reflected Michael. An email blast to their customer list quickly cleared their inventory when they offered contactless home delivery. “We realized that we had discovered something. Our original concept was to bring sustainable foods in a quick, convenient format. We can still do that. Now it’s frozen and directly to their doorstep wherever they’re living and working.” 

Michael and Ryan think of Simpls as Schwan’s for the modern family. Simpls builds on Schwan’s delivery model by shaping their menu around consumers looking for cleaner consumer packaged goods. “We provide something quick and convenient that matches our customers’ values.” 

Focusing on the food itself, “We produce restaurant quality food that you’d expect at a sit-down restaurant, but you purchase it packaged in a convenient way.” Building flavor into their dishes starts with the basics. All their soups start from their housemade roasted vegetable stock. 

Simpls Mostaccioli Market Bake

Brand new additions to the Simpls menu this October are Market Bakes. This is their own spin on the Minnesota Hot Dish. The new items are: Chicken Tikka Masala, Chicken Fajitas, Pork Stir Fry, Mostaccioli, Chicken Marsala, and Vegetable Potato Curry. Ryan describes these new dishes as “Aromatic golden roasted chicken in a rich and creamy curry sauce with a medley of Minnesota wild rice and brown rice” for the Chicken Tikka Masala and “Luxurious coconut milk vegetable curry with a medley of roasted sweet and yellow potatoes” for the Vegetable Potato Curry. 

Simpls Fajita Market Bake

Simpls has an extensive delivery network throughout the Twin Cities Metro area from Monticello and Delano in the west, Elk River and Stacy in the north, Scandia and Afton in the east, and Prior Lake and Farmington in the south. 

In addition to direct delivery to consumers, Simpls partners with community groups for online fundraisers. Each group gets a custom code that they share with friends and family. Simpls takes care of the payments and delivery, sending a check to the organization at the end of the fundraising drive. Simpls has already given back over $110,000 to community groups, investing in their local community. 

Visit https://www.simpls.com/ to explore the full Simpls menu. 

Use code MTMM25 for 25% off your first purchase!

Follow @eatsimpls on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s new on their menu. 

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram to discover more people making Minnesota a tasty place to live!

Simpls Chicken Tikka Masala Market Bake

Smith+Trade Collaborative: A Fresh Celebration of Minnesota Local Artisans

Kelli Kaufer and Mina Carlson of Stillwater’s Smith+Trade Mercantile and the new Smith+Trade Collaborative exude an infectious energy. Their Stillwater roots and passion for healthy local communities run deep. 

Both Kelli and Mina have lived in Stillwater for over 20 years. Stillwater became their forever home after living throughout the United States. They are art lovers and energetic DIYers. They are problem solvers. When they noticed an increase in empty storefronts in their beloved Stillwater, they became part of the solution. “I remember walking down Main Street about seven years ago,” shared Mina. “I remember thinking that something had to change. What could we do differently?” 

While the COVID pandemic initially was a scary blow to their business, it also allowed for a period of reflection. “Supporting local had an urgency that it hadn’t before. Minnesota Made became more important,” explained Kelli. “People are really aware of what they’re buying and where it’s from. Consumers are making more of an effort to see where things are made.”

In the airy loft office of Smith+Trade Mercantile, we talked about community and what supporting local means to them. Kelli and Mina are part of the local maker puzzle for the long haul. 

Kelli Kaufer founded Smith+Trade Mercantile in the spring of 2019. Having built a thriving interior design business with scores of contributions to HGTV and DIY networks, Kelli sought to establish a community oasis for local designers and craftspeople. Every item for sale in Smith+Trade has been crafted locally, with contributions by dozens of unique artisans. The curated collection of items for sale ranges from organic pancake mix to kinetic sand tables. Handcrafted stationery collections, leather goods, acrylic paintings, and self-care products are among the multitude of options in between. 

Kelli and her husband Paul moved the store to its current location at 229 Main Street South in downtown Stillwater in 2021. They completed the buildouts themselves including the striking Shou Sugi Ban wall near the store entrance. This welcoming space showcases the work of over 120 different artisans from Minnesota. The store beckons shoppers to tour the possibilities of what local artisans can create.“We love reading the comments in our guest book. Our visitors love this space and are often surprised by what they’re able to get here,” shared Mina. “Often they find something that they’ve never seen anywhere else before. We love that.”

Mina Carlson was an enthusiastic supporter of the store from its inception. A frequent customer, she and Kelli became friends. “I realized immediately that this place was something different,” explained Mina. “Being a local businesswoman myself, I always want new area enterprises to succeed. I was telling everyone about this new community highlight.” During a fateful visit to the store, Mina and Kelli discussed possible store expansion. This conversation led to Mina joining Kelli as a partner focused on store operations and growth. 

If you’ve visited Smith+Trade this summer, you may have noticed the active work on the storefront next door. The Smith+Trade Collaborative opened this past weekend to reveal a unique space that celebrates locally made with deep reverence. “There isn’t anything like this anywhere else in the United States right now,” explained Mina. Kelli elaborated, “The artisans that we’ve been meeting with have been stunned.” 

What has local artisans speechless? The Collaborative brings to life Kelli and Mina’s dream of cultivating an accessible space that celebrates local design. “When you walk in, your eye will be pleased. This space is not manufactured and you can tell right away,” explained Mina. This is a new group of artisans for Smith+Trade—cabinet makers, glass blowers, rug weavers, wood workers who make tables and bed frames. 

The space is subdivided into rooms. “When you walk in there will be a full bedroom. From floor to ceiling—the bed frame to the linens to the pillows to the light fixtures—everything is Minnesota made,” Kelli stated. “The cabinets are different. They’re fresh. I get goose pimples!” Mina replied, “I do too! Both of us have always dreamt of doing something like this.”

Smith+Trade Collaborative combines Kelli’s gift for design with Mina’s experience in development and building homes. They get to mash it up to create an amazing resource. Forget your big box hardware and design stores. Smith+Trade Collaborative will provide you the talent on every level of the process to create a unique, locally-made space for your home or office. 

The Collaborative addresses one of the greatest challenges for people who want to support local—the time limit in consulting with multiple sources. Decision fatigue, when it comes to design and construction, can be a real factor. Kelli and Mina have done the legwork of bringing local makers together in a showroom so that each customer can see how the whole package comes together. Kelli summed up the vision of the new Collaborative elegantly, “It’s purposeful. We want to show how one artisan’s work compliments that of another artisan. You can pull it all together in your home and office spaces.” 

When Kelli and Mina aren’t in either of their storefronts, you’ll find them collaborating with local high school trade programs or organizing art programs with Gateway Trailside & Smith through Gather and Grace. Visit https://smithandtrade.com for event calendars and artisan pop-ups. 

Follow @smith_and_trade_mercantile and @smith_trade_collaborative on Instagram to be the first to know what’s new in store. 

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Instagram and Facebook to discover the makers who make Minnesota an amazing place to live!

Micro greens turn into a big adventure for Amanda Yadav of Fiddlehead Farm.

Amanda Yadav finds joy and power in a magical room in her Andover home. Amanda cultivates over 30 different varieties of micro greens in a converted bedroom that is now registered as Fiddlehead Farm. The leafy rainbow that she tends yields flavors and textures that enhance any dish in addition to being nutritional powerhouses.

The farm’s name is a tribute to Amanda’s Duluth roots. Her parents owned a half acre wooded area in the middle of the city. “The whole back area was ferns. I grew up playing in the fiddleheads all day long. It was so cool.”

Amanda’s goal? “I want people to know about micro greens. They’re not just a garnish for a restaurant. They’re for everyday people,” shared Amanda. “I had never eaten a radish before growing micro greens. I didn’t know what all of these flavors were. Now I can grow them and try them out. They’re all great!” 

Her journey into micro greens started with a tray of broccoli seeds that she started during the  winter. “It was fun. I enjoyed it. I kept doing it for my family.” As her production increased, she approached a local restaurant just down the road from her house. “The Tipsy Steer was my first customer. I’ve been able to grow along with them.” Amanda provides micro greens for all three Tipsy Steer locations.

This winter experiment became an unexpected professional journey. Amanda turned her suburban home and garden into a working farm. Along the way she gained a deep appreciation for what it means to support and shop local. “I love supporting local and being a part of it. I didn’t really understand until I started growing myself,” shared Amanda. “I learned so much from watching and listening to people at the farmers’ market. I was one of those people who went to to grocery story and bought whatever I felt like, not really thinking about what was in season.”

Amanda encourages her customers to get to know the people behind the products they consume. “You have to know their stories. Know how much work is involved in what they do. Know where your food comes from or where it doesn’t come from. There’s A LOT going on here.” Amanda appreciates the support and education that she received from local food purveyors Minny Row Market and Michelle, the garden maven, of Forks in the Dirt. 

Every local purchase has a positive impact. It may feel little to you, but it adds up. “Making just a few changes in your purchasing and going to your farmers’ market is important. You make a difference without realizing the impact you have. That’s how we strengthen our local supply chain.” 

Those small steps are all the more poetic when micro greens are the product in question. 

Cultivating micro greens is fast-paced work. Amanda cleans trays every Wednesday. Thursday she fills trays and stars to seed the next crop. Friday she finishes seeding. Over the weekend she waters. Monday and Tuesday are harvest and delivery days. Then it’s back to Wednesday with harvesting, delivery, and cleaning trays all over again. Most varieties are ready to harvest, which Amanda does by hand, in ten days. Some varieties, often special requests from customers, take longer. Amanda especially enjoys experimenting with new plants. 

Over the winter months, Amanda ran a salad share where she delivered three to four varieties of micro greens to customers weekly. Thanks to customer inquiries about reusable containers, almost all of her delivery shares were packaged in glass jars, which customers returned for a deposit. At least 3000 plastic clamshells were saved in the first half of this year thanks to Amanda’s and her customers’ efforts to reuse. 

Before establishing her Andover farm, Amanda lived in Kansas and Nebraska where she earned a Master’s degree in french horn performance. She played with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra and performed with Broadway on Tour’s Mary Poppins. She’s also taught piano lessons. She hasn’t tried performing for her micro greens, but didn’t rule out the possibility. 

These days you’re more likely to find Amanda teaching a class on growing your own micro greens at home. She sells grow cups for both humans and pets. She really wants people to understand the power of growing their own food. 

Find Fiddlehead Farm greens year round through Market Wagon. This winter she will return to the White Bear Lake Winter Farmers Market hosted by Forks in the Dirt. You can also pick up at her Andover farm. 

See Amanda’s full selection for pick up or delivery at https://www.fiddleheadfarmmn.com Right now she has a beautiful assortment of edible flowers available. All of Amanda’s plants come from non-GMO seeds and are often organic. Amanda composts all her root mats in her home gardens and edible flower beds. It makes for a happy mini-ecosystem that feeds both her family and her customers. 

The winter Microgreen Salad Share will return. Watch the website to know when sign ups open. 

Amanda shared her Farmers’ Market Breakfast Sandwich and Pasta Alfredo with Peas recipes for you to try at home.

Follow @fiddleheadfarmmn on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s growing inside and out at Amanda’s house.

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram to meet more people making Minnesota a tasty place to live! 

Dine4Dinners-Chef Carline Bengtsson brings culinary magic to your home

Chef Carline Bengtsson’s talents make her a mix of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, Mary Poppins, and an international travel agent. 

How, you ask? 

Chef Carline Bengtsson

Born in Jamaica, Carline grew up to marry a Swede, travel the world, and found herself fascinated and inspired by the flavor palettes she encountered—especially throughout Asia and Scandinavia. 

When you book a Dine4Dinners Experience with Carline, she brings the ball to you. Carline works with her client-hosts to determine what’s necessary to set the table for a transformative experience for all the guests. With her magical bags and crates in tow, Carline arrives with all the necessary meal ingredients. Working in the temporary office space of the host’s kitchen, she prepares, serves and cleans up the meal—managing to head back to her Lindstrom home base before the guests begin to leave. She seeks to leave the kitchen spotless, like she was never there, and yet the photographic evidence of the beautifully plated meals remain. 

Pork Tenderloin Dinner

Carline’s second career as a private chef developed behind the scenes of her nearly 30 year career in bringing cardiovascular products to market at Medtronic. As a child, she used to help her mom in the kitchen, “That’s how I learned the value of a home-cooked meal. I was the oldest of three siblings. Sunday was an important day for us. You didn’t miss Sunday dinner.” 

Chef Carline’s signature one bite appetizer

Her husband Lars loved to cook. In spite of disagreements due to his preference for potatoes and hers for rice, they found happiness in cooking and eating together and with their circle of family and friends. “We did a lot of entertaining. It was something that was fun. We enjoyed getting together and having conversations around the table over good food,” reflected Carline. “People would tell me that I needed to open a restaurant or write a cookbook. I always thought—come on! I have a job. I never imagined myself doing this professionally.” 

Spicy Shrimp Dinner

After her husband passed away in early 2012, Carline found herself daydreaming about the role food had played in their lives. Her first “Ah-ha!” moment came when she asked some of her family and friends what they would say about her cooking if they were food critics. “Their responses were so positive and enthusiastic. I began to see a path that I hadn’t recognized that I was on. Maybe I should write a cookbook.” She started the process in late 2013 and had her book launched in January 2015. “I knew nothing about writing or self-publishing a cookbook,” shared Carline. “I had no idea that there were all these people in my life who were waiting to help me with this new venture.” 

With her cookbook Carline’s Fork & Cork Simply Delish! to her credit (most recipes come with suggested pairings from family-owned Winehaven Winery and Vineyard in Chisago City), she found herself wondering what her next move would be as she planned her retirement from Medtronic four years later. 

Her next “Ah-ha!” moment arrived when she sought to redeem her remaining Medtronic Reward Points before retiring. With 19 points, she discovered that she could feed a child through Feed My Starving Children for 19 weeks. “That was when I realized what I needed to do when I left Medtronic—to use my cooking to pay it forward to those in need.” 

Thai Gumbo ready to serve

Since launching Dine4Dinners in June 2020, more than 120,000 meals have been donated to combat food insecurity throughout Minnesota and beyond our state’s borders. Another nearly $60,000 has been raised to support charity fundraisers through silent auctions and local organizations’ initiatives. Hosts receive a 25% discount on the price of the meal with the understanding that those funds are to be donated to a food support organization of their choice. “There are so many avenues providing meals for those in need and yet it’s frustrating that it’s not enough,” reflected Carline. “I’m happy to be a small part of helping to meet those needs. For me, just being one person, it’s pretty amazing what Dine4Dinners has done in just under two years.” 

Poached Pear Dessert

Carline sources fresh and organic ingredients in the meals she prepares for her clients. Her dinners are typically a five course meal. As I listened to her description the menu for her next event, it was fun to see her smile deepen as she explained each course. Given how visibly happy it made her, it’s no surprise that the most consistent adjective used to describe her meals is ‘amazing’.  

Carline’s caprese salad

Carline travels from Lindstrom throughout the Twin Cities Metro transforming people’s home spaces. She currently has some openings in August and is booking experiences through the rest of 2022. 

The greatest limitation of Dine4Dinners is the fact that Carline is the only chef. When serving a larger group, Carline depends on her Ambassadors who volunteer with her as culinary assistants. “It would be great to get another chef on board who would want to work with this same model. With another chef, we could really grow.” 

Meatballs and Zucchini Noodles

Carline looks forward to continuing building her village of fellow foodies. She started a newsletter “Get to Know Those Who Serve” to highlight the contributions of people working to bring positive change. “I want to promote others doing good. We all need to lift each other up,” shared Carline. “At the core of my being, I’m a natural giver. Giving back was the mission at Medtronic. It’s something that I took with me after retiring. It’s all about leaving a legacy where people will remember you because of what you did.” 

Visit https://dine4dinners.org to see sample menus, read reviews, buy her cookbook and start planning your own dining experience. Brunch, lunch and dinner are all possible!

Brie with Tomatoes

For a little home inspiration, Carline shared the recipe for her Mixed Green Salad with Mango, Asparagus, and Fennel. Find more of her recipes at her blog. (https://mosaicdelish.wordpress.com/blog/

Salad Ingredients:

4 c. mixed greens

1/2c. raw asparagus, chopped

1 c. diced mango

1/4c. fennel, thinly sliced

Dressing Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

1 Tbsp. unfiltered apple cider vinegar

1 tps. Dijon mustard

Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Pinch of Garlic Power (optional)

Ground fennel seeds (optional)

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Garnish: 1 tsp. orange zest

Combine all dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk together well. 

Salad Assembly: Place the mixed greens on a large salad plate. Top with mango, asparagus, and fennel. Dress with orange vinaigrette dressing. Garnish with orange zest. Enjoy!

Mango, asparagus and fennel salad

Visit https://dine4dinners.org to learn more about Chef Carline’s menu offerings and her give back program. Follow her on Facebook at #carlinesforkandcork and @mosaicdelish on Instagram to see what’s going on in her kitchen.

Follow @meettheminnesotamakers both Facebook and Instagram to meet more makers and growers making Minnesota an amazing place to live!

Andrea Claassen: Movement, Mindfulness and Mother Nature

Andrea Claassen thinks that the fitness industry has failed, especially when it comes to women’s health. The overall marketing and messaging for women is unhealthy and unsustainable. The predominance of quick-fix programs leads us to fail repeatedly. “The fitness industry is a big business and yet we have more obesity and chronic illnesses. There’s clearly a disconnect. When we focus on short-term results instead of lasting lifestyles, we will fail over and over again.” 

Andrea Claassen embracing all of Minnesota’s seasons

With over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer, Andrea’s fitness evolution began as a high school athlete growing up on her family’s south central Minnesota farm where they raised pig, corn and soybeans. “I’m a big fan of living seasonally. We’re very much attached to the seasons on the farm. You have to be. When I went to college I got away from that,” reflected Andrea. “When I discovered Ayurveda, nature’s wisdom, it made sense to me. What’s going on outside is going on inside of us. That’s something I like to tap into with clients. I help people to embrace all the seasons, including winter.” Our dependence on convenience foods and produced shipped out of season has disconnected us from some of the wisdom and natural rhythms of our grandparents. 

Her journey from college athlete to Ayurvedic Wellness Coach and Personal Trainer was a gradual process for Andrea. Her goal is to help clients balance their hormones and live in sync with their bodies’ natural rhythms. Andrea publishes her weekly Peaceful Power Podcast (https://andreaclaassen.com/peaceful-power-podcast) to provide resources about Ayurveda, seasonal living, and being comfortable with trying multiple modes of fitness until one finds the right fit. 

First-time author Andrea Claassen with her 2021 book, Divine Body Wisdom

Andrea published her first book, Divine Body Wisdom, in 2021. This gave her another opportunity to follow her passion of teaching, “Even though I’m not in the classroom anymore, I’m a teacher at heart. I love to teach, especially when I can educate people about themselves.” Her book allowed her to go more in depth than her social media platforms. It’s designed a resource readers can return to as the seasons change. She was especially delighted when she learned that a couple of clients had purchased the book for their teenage daughters. It’s provided them with a bridge to be able to talk about the changes their daughters are experiencing. 

One of the greatest obstacles in teaching Ayurveda is demystifying it. “It’s a lifestyle change and yet everything can be Ayurveda. In the winter, it’s not just soups. A tuna melt can be Ayurvedic. It’s a warming food. Ayurveda is a new was to think about life to keep our inside in sync with our surroundings.” Working Ayurveda and yoga along with other forms of exercise allows Andrea to customize workout plans that truly fit her clients’ lives. 

Andrea leading one of her signature 30-minutes workouts.

Andrea is also a big fan of 30 minute workouts. “They used to call me the 30 minute queen at the gym. I really believe in a focused 30 minutes. It doable for moms. 45 minutes can feel too long with all their other demands.” 

Andrea’s main business focus is one-on-one coaching. She also facilitates a range of courses geared around seasonal living and introspective guidance year round. See the end of this piece for Andrea’s description of her upcoming course starting in May. 

When Andrea is not coaching clients, teaching fitness to her beloved senior citizens, or teaching yoga to her husband’s basketball students, you might find her enjoying her favorite tuna melt from Yum! Kitchen and Bakery or pineapple fried rice at Coconut Thai. Outside time is a priority for Andrea whether it’s walking her dogs in her Saint Paul neighborhood or exploring her favorite area trails. For cozy inside time, she’s a huge Hallmark Movie fan. “I have a Hallmark IG account—@hallmarkchannelmovies. Sometimes I get followers who think I am the actual Hallmark channel. It’s just a fun space for me to share my Hallmark Movie reviews.” 

As the weather begins to warm in the northern hemisphere and spring creeps into Minnesota it’s a great time to try Andrea’s Cilantro Chutney. It’s a long time fan favorite with her clients. Good on nearly anything and easily transportable to an outdoor feast!

Her next special program starts May 2nd—Self-Care With Your Cycle Challenge. The description that follows is from Andrea:

“I just want someone to tell me what to do, I’m exhausted, burnt out and don’t have the time to create a self-care plan for myself. That’s what many women have been telling me, especially after the last 2 years. I wanted to create a self-care plan that flowed with your menstrual cycle. That’s why I created the Self-Care with Your Cycle Challenge taking the guesswork out of self-care. 

Instead of starting the day with a decision of “what should I do today?”Start your day with a clear plan. This program is geared to help you take away the decision fatigue many of us are feeling right now. You can look at your self-care calendar and you know how to make space for you that matches with your menstrual cycle needs. Most self-care programs miss the menstrual cycle as being a guide.

I’m super excited to have a weekly prize (examples: oracle decks, teas, books, and candles) and one overall prize box winner to help hold you accountable to making space for yourself. All you have to do is block 10-20 minutes a day for you! If this is something you feel called to join we start the 4 week challenge May 2nd! The last day to join is April 30th.”

Follow Andrea on FB and IG @seasonalandrea. See all available programs on her website: https://andreaclaassen.com

To discover more local makers and growers, follow @meettheminnesotamakers by Michelle M. Sharp. Meet the Minnesota Makers was founded with the purpose of promoting and connecting the innovative makers and growers of the Land of 10,000 Treats. 

Meditation in Minnesota

Meet the Maker: Jack Hedin of Featherstone Farm

Featherstone Farm was born of Jack Hedin’s fortuitous reading of his great grandfather’s memoir who grew up on the high grass prairie of Featherstone Township in Goodhue County near Red Wing. Reading his great grandfather’s observations of the natural world of southeast Minnesota—the soils, the habitat, the ecosystems—made Jack realize that living with this land through farming was his life’s work. “The name of the farm is from my great great grandparents’ homestead. It’s where my great grandfather learned about the world. It was this gift that he passed along to me.”

The memoir that inspired Jack’s life of organic farming.

Over 25 years ago Jack and his wife Jenni McHugh began farming in SE Minnesota. From the start, their mission was to feed people in an environmentally sustainable way. Featherstone was an early adopter of organic farming, a choice that is at the cornerstone of its daily operation. “I believe in organics. It’s a better way to go,” reflected Jack. “I went organic because of the soil.  It’s the foundational principle of trying to return agriculture to some kind of natural system, to mimic something closer to the natural order with respect to diversity and microbiology.” For Jack, organic farming promotes health and balance through improved soil quality, which results in a richer product for the consumer while preserving natural resources for future generations. 

Tomato plants in the hoop house

Jack wanted to grow food for people,“It’s a sacred service to feed people.” The majority of the produce grown on the 140 acres of Featherstone is destined for consumers’ home use. They want individual families to benefit from their sustainable agricultural practices. Their produce is enjoyed by more than 1000 summer CSA and 550 winter CSA subscribers. They also stock Twin Cities, Rochester, Winona, and LaCrosse co-ops, and Whole Foods Stores throughout the Midwest. Their famous carrots, however, don’t leave the Twin Cities area. The 100 tons that they harvest each year is barely a winter’s supply for the CSA program and Twin Cities co-ops. 

A small part of the 100 tons of carrots that Featherstone Farm harvests each fall.

When Jack first started farming he and his wife spent the spring and summer in Minnesota at their initial farm in Winona County. They spent the winters working at farms in Sacramento, California, “We were just getting started and had to pay the bills.” While Jack was able to follow this annual migration with his wife and young son, this experience gives him a sense of empathy for the familial strain that many of Featherstone’s international seasonal workers face. 

Broccoli Harvest

In recent years, Featherstone has focused on crops that are less susceptible to disease and to Minnesota’s sometimes unpredictable weather cycles. Root crops and winter squashes help them to be more financially stable. “If the general public understood the challenge of farming in a climate with rain, they would understand why local foods cost more than foods grown in California,” explained Jack. “Most of what you see in a conventional grocery store is grown in the arid west where these crops have never seen one drop of rain. When you only irrigate, it’s much more predictable and less risky to grow things.”

Jack credits the robust rich soil of the current Featherstone site with much of their current success. The Waukegan loam soil native to river floodplains of Minnesota’s Driftless region allows them to grow a tremendous variety of organic produce. A University of Minnesota Soil Agronomist, Nic Jelenski has confirmed that the Featherstone Farm combination of Waukegan silt loam in a well-drained floodplain, is extraordinarily unique in the State. Being an active steward of this unique soil is a personal mission for Jack. “We need to take a richer view of soil resources. It would be good to have more of a plan to identify and protect the best land to give local foods a better chance. There ought to be specialty protections for rich farmland just like there are for wetlands.” 

CSA Box Assembly Line

From the early 1990s when Featherstone began with 20 CSA subscribers until now with the establishment of high tunnels to extend the growing season and climate-controlled warehouses to store their winter crops, Featherstone has been a joyfully hard journey for Jack. “Farming is a hard life. I love it. I love how there is always something new. We’ve almost lost our farm a couple of time and our customers and community rallied because they were determined not to let our farm fail.” He’s optimistic about the future of Minnesota farming,  “There are so many great young CSA farms and farmers out there. I have nothing but admiration for them.”

His personal favorite of their products are their carrots. He has to admit that there’s something special about them—in large part due to being grown in the rich Waukegan soil rather than sand as you’d find at many large producers. Patty Zanski, Featherstone’s Sales and Marketing Lead and CSA Coordinator recommends pairing their carrots with some local honey for a delightfully glazed result like in this recipe from Delish

Jack’s favorite carrots being packed.

Jack also favors their buttercup squash, roasting it for several hours at 250 degrees. Think of it as a sous vide squash. It’s wonderfully tender. When he’s not enjoying his own produce, you’ll find Jack snacking on fresh ground almond butter from the People’s Food Co-op in Lacrosse, “There’s no better snack in the world than a rice cake with almond butter and a couple of satsumas.” 

Looking forward, Jack hopes to return to on site events for both CSA subscribers and the greater community. He’d love to have a field day to compare notes with neighboring farmers about their practices. In closing Jack stressed that while he is the farm’s founder, “No one should ever get the impression that Featherstone is really me or mostly me. We owe all of our success to a great team of experienced managers and immigrant farmworkers, who do most of the work around here day to day.”

To learn more about Featherstone Farms CSA or Wholesale programs and their farming practices, visit https://www.featherstonefarm.com/index.html or follow @featherstonefarmmn

To discover more local makers and growers, follow @meettheminnesotamakers by Michelle M. Sharp on FB and IG. Meet the Minnesota Makers was founded with the purpose of promoting and connecting the innovative makers and growers of the Land of 10,000 Treats.

Butternut squash harvest

Meet the Maker Profile: Hayley Matthews-Jones of Minneapolis Craft Market, Minneapolis Vintage Market and The Get Down Coffee Co

Hayley Matthews-Jones thrives on the energy she gets from project planning and connecting people. This work is her creative outlet. As the founder of two businesses—the Minneapolis Craft Market and the Minneapolis Vintage Market—and the COO of The Get Down Coffee Company, she seeks a constant flow of projects that allow fun cool stuff to happen. This constant action encompasses her ideal mix of innovation and logistics, “My brain loves that. I need both of those things to feel full.” 

From her experience growing up in London, Hayley saw the lack of regular engagement opportunities for local makers through casual markets as a missed opportunity for the Twin Cities. Her background in event planning and a “why can’t I do that?” mentality inspired her to lay the groundwork for what became the Minneapolis Craft Market. 

The Minneapolis Craft Market has a nimble model that allows makers to engage with a wider audience at a low-risk individual investment point. Ideally the Market is a testing ground; experienced makers try out new products and new makers get their start in this community space. 

Over 1400 makers from all over Minnesota as well as the Dakotas, Iowa, and western Wisconsin are registered to participate in the regular markets. “We use the term ‘maker’ because I find that to be more inclusive. The artist or creator has to be the person coming up with the design and making the product,” explained Hayley. “We also feature fair trade artisans and things with up-cycled and sustainable materials.” Many of the current makers were inspired to apply by first attending a market as a shopper. 

If you’ve never attended a Minneapolis Craft Market event before, be prepared to enter a unique space. Inspired by the historic Greenwich market, the Craft and Vintage Markets are modeled as street events. “It should feel like when you’re walking down a street in London. It’s busy. It’s bustling. There is street food, street music, street art—everything. The street feels alive.” 

Since starting the Craft Market in 2015 and the Vintage Market in 2018, Hayley continues to be impressed with how much they’ve grown. “When we started the market it was at the beginning of the upswing of the locally-made movement. Consumers are a lot more conscious of what it means to spend a dollar locally,” reflected Hayley. “I think that’s great. More people are understanding why these markets exist and how they benefit their own community.”  

Working with visionary people is a highlight of her professional roles. “Surrounding yourself with entrepreneurs and people who are making things, whatever that may be, is really invigorating.” Part of that invigoration comes from seeing makers in her network thrive and succeed. “Some people find other people’s success intimidating. For me, I’m like—yes! I’m the biggest cheerleader. I love to see other people doing well. If you’re doing good, I’m doing good.”

In addition to the in-person markets that resumed in June 2021 after a 17 month pandemic hiatus, there is also a digital marketplace (https://shop.mplscraftmarket.com) where shoppers can browse from over 250 Minnesota Makers. 

Hayley launched the online portion of the business in the early days of the pandemic with support from her Lunar Startups cohort. Lunar’s coaching and the camaraderie of her cohort were key in her navigation of the major transitions that her businesses faced. She highly recommends seeking out coaching and mentoring for small business owners. “There’s a mindset shift when you start to run your own business. Part of the education I got at Lunar was what it means to truly own my business. There’s a tendency for women and people of color to undersell themselves. Lunar helped me to see that.” 

Hayley reflected on what it means for her to be both an entrepreneur and a parent. “Entrepreneurship takes everything out of you. It gives so much too. The same way as parenting. My partner and I basically have a third child, which is the business. It needs nurturing, attention, and love. You just hope that you’re doing everything the best you can.” 

When she’s not working, Hayley likes cooking and enjoying slow dinners with friends. When she feels like baking she reaches for a taste of home in her favorite shortbread recipe. Creating an in-home gathering space is Hayley’s long-term definition of success. “I want to have a big kitchen table that is the spot where everyone comes and eats. You have those long conversations and arguments. You celebrate meals and holidays. That’s my goal.”  

Current schedule of Minneapolis Craft Market Events: https://www.mplscraftmarket.com/marketfeed or follow @mplscraftmkt

Current schedule of Minneapolis Vintage Market Events: https://www.mplsvintagemarket.com/eventsfeed or follow @mplsvintagemkt

Follow The Get Down Coffee Co at https://getdowncoffee.com or @thegetdowncoffeeco 

To discover more local makers and growers, follow @meettheminnesotamakers by Michelle M. Sharp. Meet the Minnesota Makers was founded with the purpose of promoting and connecting the innovative makers and growers of the Land of 10,000 Treats. 

Photo Credit: Darin Kamnetz

Meet the Maker Profile: Kathryn Nelson of Coco, Bee & Nut

Kathryn Nelson, The Purveyor of Granola or P.O.G. of Coco, Bee & Nut

Kathryn Nelson has noticed how random life moments can reveal your path. After six years as the Purveyor of Granola (P.O.G.) leading Coco, Bee & Nut, Kathryn shared the happy accidents that led to her Minneapolis-based grain-free granola small business.

Kathryn first made granola as a barista at the former Coffee News Cafe in Saint Paul. The cafe had a standard recipe as its base while allowing its employees to put their own twists on each batch. Kathryn reflected, “I liked experimenting with coffee flavors—like caramel or mocha—and playing with them. It’s how I learned to make traditional granola.” 

With this experience as a foundation, Kathryn was ready when a friend asked her years later about making a low-carb breakfast cereal. She thought she would eliminate the oats and focus on nuts and seeds that have a higher protein content. “I took all the spices I had in my cupboard and went to the store and got a bunch of nuts and seeds and put them all together. She was my first tester. She really liked it.” Rave reviews from friends along with their encouragement that Kathryn should sell her granola made her begin to consider this new path. 

It wasn’t until a trip to Uganda where Kathryn saw people her age thriving as entrepreneurs making something out of seemingly nothing that she realized that there wasn’t anything stopping her from being a small business owner herself. Upon returning from this trip, she committed to giving grain-free granola development a formal try. 

Like many food-based small businesses, Coco, Bee & Nut started as a cottage food producer with stands at local famers’ markets. Kathryn got her start at the Maple Grove and Northeast Minneapolis markets. This gave her a chance to directly interact with potential and returning customers, modifying her recipes based on their feedback. 

The current Coco, Bee & Nut lineup: Cardamom Raisin is Kathryn’s favorite!

Her big break materialized in the form of a high school peer who worked at Kowalski’s Market in Excelsior. “Kowalski’s was the one—they said yes! Kowalski’s is really great because if you are local you have way more of a foot in the door. When I saw the shelf full of the buyer’s rejected samples it really put the moment into perspective for me. I was amazed by their support of local products. I felt like I was hardly anything at that point and yet they were willing to give me a chance. Together we would see where my product could go.” 

This opportunity required major operational changes for her granola production. In order to be carried in a grocery store, your product has to be produced in a commercial kitchen. Kathryn also applied for a food producer’s license, upgraded her packaging from coffee bags, developed nutrition labels and began doing in-store demos. A family operation, Kathryn enjoyed tremendous moral and operational support from her parents at every step in the process. Her Dad especially thrived in the role of salesman at the in-store demos first at Kowalski’s and later at Lund’s and Byerly’s. 

“We’re given a finite amount of time in this world. I’m trying to do things that make me feel alive.”–Kathryn Nelson

Kathryn’s favorite part of owning the business is recipe development. Coco, Bee & Nut’s best seller is Blueberry Lemon, which enjoyed its debut as a seasonal treat this past year in a white chocolate bark. This granola is “a labor of love.” The rich lemony flavor comes from whole lemon, which she slices, dries and powders herself. Using the whole lemon reduces waste and harnesses the cancer-fighting power of this dynamic citrus. 

Classic combos: good yogurt, fresh fruit and Coco, Bee & Nut yogurt

Still a granola fan six years and hundreds of batches since starting her business, Kathryn enjoys hers with yogurt, in a bowl of soy milk, mixed into biscotti or as a topping on banana bread. Her favorite flavor is Cardamon Raisin. Its inspiration may surprise you, “I had learned to make the Indian tea cake called soji that has lots of cardamom, raisins, and butter in it.” 

Maple Ginger was a way to make her granola vegan and Honey Nut came along for those who were looking for a simpler flavor palate. Coco, Bee & Nut sources its seeds and nuts from Bergin Fruit and Nuts. 

Ten percent of Coco, Bee & Nuts’s net sales are donated to charity. The Ugandan family that Kathryn has supported the past several years has reached a sustainable space for themselves. Kathryn is looking for a new non-for-profit, ideally one here in Minnesota, to partner with moving forward. 

When she’s not running Coco, Bee & Nut, Kathryn is exploring a new venture as a voiceover artist. She recently completed the recording of her first audio book titled Charlie’s Ark by Karina McRoberts. Kathryn was formerly a vocalist for a jazz combo group. She’s really excited about this new way of using her voice. Returning to the idea of seizing seemingly random opportunities, she noticed a listing for a voiceover class in a community ed catalog at the beginning of 2021. Her motivation is simple, “We’re given a finite amount of time in this world. I’m trying to do things that make me feel alive. This new venture definitely does. I love using my voice.” 

Kathryn representing Coco, Bee and Nut at a recent trade show.

Look for her granola on your next trip to the grocery store or co-op. Order directly at https://www.cocobeeandnut.com and follow her on Instagram. While you’re there, pick up the other ingredients you’ll need to make Coco, Bee & Nut Energy Balls. See the recipe below.

To discover more makers and growers of Minnesota, follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram.

Eat well. Eat local!

Coco, Bee & Nut Energy Balls

Makes 12 balls

Prep Time: 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 ½  cup Cinnamon Cranberry Coco, Bee & Nut: Grain Free Granola, chopped 
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature and stirred well if natural
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey 

NOTE: These energy balls turn out nice and gooey. If that’s not the texture you desire, feel free to add ¼ – ½  cup of dry oats to your mixture.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to combine. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  2. Using a spoon or cookie scoop, shape the mixture into 12 (1-inch) balls and place on a baking sheet or plate. Refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Storage: The protein balls can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 3 months.