Afton Apple Orchard

Family Hayride Afton Apple

I’m starting to accept that I’m a very ritualistic person when it comes to certain activities and seasons. Last month I posted a picture of my Minnesota State Fair spreadsheet and through the online shouts of cheer, when it was shared there were some critics. Some people think I need to relax a bit with my planning. Ok, I get it, I am a bit type A (some people also applauded this).  Just like the Fair, when I think about fall I start to create more lists in my head of experiences and fun activities and for me, one of those activities is a trip to the orchard with my family. I’ve heard from friends recently asking my perspective on an “authentic and fun” orchard experience. I don’t mean to get philosophical when it comes to visiting an orchard but really, what matters to you? Is it quiet, family activities, organic apples, a place to take family pictures, music, wine? Once you figure that out go check Minnesota Grown web page and see what they have to offer! Frankly, there isn’t a perfect orchard that fits everyone, you have to do what your family loves!

Apple picking Afton Apple

So I’ll tell you what’s on my checklist (don’t worry I won’t get you guys all excited and make a spreadsheet): apple-picking, bonus if there is also other fruit-picking, family activities, especially hayrides, not too far from the Twin Cities (under an hour) and one very important component-food products made from apples and/or pumpkin.  For me, the place that meets our family’s orchard checklist is Afton Apple Orchard.

Afton Apple Hayride

About 30 minutes from St. Paul, visiting Afton Apple is a short car trip away. When you reach the entrance you see fields of berries and beautiful apple trees. Set up right at the entrance is an apple sampling station. I recommend doing this first so your family can decide what apples you want to pick during the day.  Among the farm is also a playground, petting zoo and gigantic tire climber.  There’s plenty of room to run and play, take a nice walk and coming here is a perfect day tip for families-we spent 3 hours at the orchard and even then we had to convince the kids to leave.

Afton Apple Tractor Hayride

The first thing we did when we got there was hop on the hayride.  They have several tractors going that take you all around the orchard and the tractor driver stops at different points and yells out the apple “stops” as in where the particular apples are if you want to get off and pick. Rarely did you have to wait very long for the tractor and it was a particularly busy Sunday afternoon when we went.  We loved just riding the hayride around the orchard (we rode it twice) and then we got off at the playground.

Afton Apple Playground and Tires

At the playground there were really unique swings, slides and tubes. Next to the playground was a petting zoo where Wes had fun feeding goats! There is also a giant tire climber which was really fun for everyone to check out.  After we played for a while I picked up some apple doughnuts-a must try when you are there. Each of us had our own because there was no way we could share. Later in the season they will also have pumpkin doughnuts. We also tried their apple slushie and apple float-both really great drinks!

Apple Doughnuts Afton Apple

After we refueled we headed to the hayride and got off on the Red Barron stop. When I sampled the apples, I thought these were perfectly sweet eating apples that would be great for a snack, baking or savory meal. The apples were $1.90 per pound and we filled up almost two bags. The kids had a great time picking apples, well except for when one fell and hit Weston on the back of the head! Poor guy! After we picked we headed back on the hayride and went out to the berry fields and picked red and yellow raspberries.  We picked one pint and Stella was very serious about picking only the perfect berries! Weston on the other hand was very serious about eating the berries and very sad to leave, well actually we all were-it was a great orchard and look forward to visiting again!

Berry Picking at Afton Apple

Sad to leave Afton Apple

Afton Apple Orchard
14421 So. 90th St. Hastings, MN 55033
651-436-8385
Note: There is an admission charge-$4 for ages 5 and up (adults and children must pay admission) and $3 for ages 4 and under.

 

 

5 Easy and Cheesy Back to School Meals

Back to School Meals

It’s back to school time. The kids have their new clothes, supplies and you took that really cute first day of school picture. They are ready to start the new school year, but are you? Back to school is an exciting time but it also can mean chaotic morning routines, shuttling between places, athletics, after school activities, homework and did I mention, you were supposed to make dinner sometime in there?

So how can you stay ahead of the game when it comes to back to school meal planning?  First, my go-to meals for back to school time must be easy.  For me that means easy assembly, simple ingredients and also time-saving techinques so freezer-friendly, one-pot or crock-pot meals are all meals I have on speed dial.

This month I’m partnering with Crystal Farms to bring you my recommendations for Easy and Cheesy Back to School Meals.  I’ve put together five meal recommendations that are from the Crystal Farms recipe web page and a few from my own collection. Click through to the recipes and see my notes below for my tips and tricks. Buffalo Chicken

Cheesy Buffalo Chicken Skillet Dinner: Crystal Farms
I love this skillet dinner. With just one pan, you have yourself a super easy and flavorful dinner.  I doubled the pasta, used chicken strips, 1/3 cup of ranch, 2 TB of Buffalo Wing sauce, and then I used Crystal Farms crumbled blue cheese in place of the shredded cheese.

Cheesy Risotto

Cheesy Crock-Pot Risotto with Sausage: Dining with Alice
My Cheesy Crock-Pot Risotto is a perfect back to school meal because the hard work is done for you in the crock-pot! No standing around the stove stirring, the risotto cooks right in the crock-pot. This cheesy risotto pairs perfectly with your favorite sausage or shredded pork or chicken. We enjoyed ours with wild rice sausage!

Egg Cups

Cheese and Veggie Scrambled Egg Cups: Crystal Farms
Does your family love breakfast for dinner as much as ours? You can sub in any of your favorite veggies or even cooked sausage or mini pepperonis.  Store in the freezer and they make a super easy breakfast on the go too!

Mac and Cheese
Creamy Butternut Mac and Cheese: Dining with Alice
This recipe is so easy and is bright orange from squash! Just as fast as boxed mac and cheese, this recipe is so creamy and cheesy you might have to fight the kids for this one!

Grilled Cheese
Ultimate Grilled Cheese: Crystal Farms
You want to talk easy? This is it.  So simple and so delicious.  These open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches are a perfect way to use up the last of the tomatoes from the garden.  I substituted bagels for the toast and used Crystal Farms Variety Pack of Cheddar, Marble Jack and Swiss and Baked at 450 for 12 minutes.

Crockpot

Photo: Amazon

The kids got new backpacks, clothes and shoes and I didn’t forget about you! You need something special to celebrate back to school. How about something for the kitchen? Something shiny. Oh and she’ll cook for you when you aren’t at home!  That’s right, I’m giving away a Crock-Pot! Follow the Rafflecopter instructions to enter to win a Programmable Cook and Carry Oval Slow Cooker! For a blog post entry, tell me which one of these Easy and Cheesy Back to School recipes you’d like to make!

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This post and giveaway was sponsored by Crystal Farms. For more information, please see my Disclosure and Privacy Information.

Creamy Butternut Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

This is one of our family’s very favorite recipes. Seriously, you do not need boxed mac and cheese with this recipe! This is a creamy and cheesy mac and cheese that is a super quick weeknight meal. Not only does it sneak in some squash, it also reheats perfectly. Get this on your meal speed dial! This recipe is part of my Crystal Farms Easy and Cheesy Back to School Meals. Don’t forget to enter to win a crock-pot below!

Ingredients:
1 lb Cavatappi Pasta
1 cup Crystal Farms Sharp Cheddar (shredded)
1 cup Crystal Farms Marble Jack (shredded)
10 ounces Frozen Winter Squash puree (defrosted)
2/3 cup Sour Cream
1 tsp Salt
½ cup Heavy Cream
Directions:
Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Once pasta is cooked, combine pasta, cheeses, squash, sour cream, salt and heavy cream in a large stockpot over low heat.  Stir until cheese is melted and ingredients are combined.

Serves 8.

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Cheesy Crock-Pot Risotto

Cheesy Risotto

I’ve been making risotto in the crock-pot for years.  It is a perfect week night meal because it can be made during naptime or the night before and you can reheat it and serve it a variety of ways.  This recipe is for my cheesy crock-pot risotto.  It is so creamy and pairs perfectly with pulled chicken or pork, sausage or make it vegetarian and pair with veggies and beans.

This recipe is part of my Crystal Farms Easy and Cheesy Back to School Meals. Don’t forget to enter to win a crock-pot below!

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups Arborio Rice
2 TB Onion (chopped)
¼ cup Butter
¼ cup Coconut or Olive Oil
2 tsp Salt
¾ cup White Wine (I like to use sweet whites like a Vino Verde)
4 ¼ cups Chicken Broth (32 ounce box)
1 package (8 ounce) Crystal Farms Asiago and Parmesan Blend

Directions:

In a crock-pot add rice, onion, butter, oil, salt, wine and broth.  Stir to combine.  Cook on high 1 hour 55 minutes. Once cooked, add Asiago and Parmesan cheese.  Serve with your favorite sausage.

Serves 6

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Green Smoothies

Green Smoothies

Right now my garden is bursting with Kale.  I am trying a new format with my garden this year, trying to grow more edibles and I think I went a bit wild with the Kale.  We’ve been eating Kale salads and there’s no stopping it-I see lots of Kale hitting the freezer this fall.  Last winter I drank smoothies every day and actually bought my Kale and just stored it in the freezer.  It is such an easy veggie to throw in the blender and not too strong of a taste that anyone will turn their nose up at it.

Weston’s class was having a bunny theme and his teacher asked if I had a good bunny-themed recipe. I created this recipe just for his class and even had a chance to volunteer in his classroom and make the recipe with the kids.  You think cooking on TV is nerve-racking? Try cooking for two-year-olds!

Green Smoothies in the classroom

The first thing I did was show the kids the smoothie ingredients and talk about the colors and who eats those veggies-bunnies! I also let them touch the big Kale leaves and rip the leaves from the seam.  This is an easy thing you can do when cooking at home with your kids. Don’t underestimate what your kids can do in the kitchen. You can talk about colors, smells, origin of food but your kids can also dump ingredients for you after you measure and press buttons on appliances. My biggest piece of advice is just try not to worry about the mess-it will happen! This smoothie is packed with kale, peaches, banana and the most important bunny food-carrots!

Ingredients:

1 cup Carrot Juice
2 Bananas
1 Peach (pit removed)
2 cups Kale (chopped)
16 ice cubes

Directions:

In a blender add carrot juice, bananas, peach, kale and ice.  Use high or ice-crushing setting on the blender. Blend until are ingredients are combined and ice is smooth.

Makes Approximately 5.5 cups (2 Adult and 2 Child-Size Smoothies)

Creativity Jam

MN State Fair Giant Slide

I am currently serving as a Smart Play Ambassador with the Minnesota Children’s Museum and each month we explore various topics and share the educational learning opportunities at the museum as well as apply it to our own lives.  This month we are talking about one of the 7C’s-creative thinking at the Creativity Jam exhibit.

I visited the first Creativity Jam exhibit earlier this year.  I was smitten with the opportunities for children to imagine, invent and improvise.  There were sewing stations, tape rooms, pianos and places to just sit and let your mind go. I remember saying multiple times to my husband, “Isn’t this amazing?”  I liken the Minnesota Children’s Museum Creativity Jam exhibit to riding down the Giant Slide at the Minnesota State Fair.  No matter our age-we connect to that child-like joy and awe. There’s just not much like it.

When your kids engage in the interactive and exploratory play like that in the Creativity Jam exhibit you can see many of the 7C’s at work.  So what are the 7C’s? You can read my post on the topic here. Understanding and supporting the 7C’s is part of the foundation for success for our children and as parents, we can grow these skills at home and at the museum.  It’s also important to note that the 7C’s grow with us throughout our life and need to be continually developed not just in early childhood.  The 7 C’s are confidence, control, critical thinking, creative thinking, communication, collaboration and coordination. I wrote about creative thinking earlier this year. This month we are examining creative thinking in the exhibit again. It’s about experimenting and letting your child’s mind soar.  There is no better place to see your child’s creative thinking at work than at the Creativity Jam exhibit maybe because there are no rules, right way or correct answer-the children are free to design and construct how they see fit. Watch this two-minute video below to see how lifting creative rules and correct answers frees children’s creative thinking.

Keeping in mind some of the components of creative thinking, I thought about how they were being fostered in the latest Creativity Jam exhibit:

Creativity Jam Creative Thinking

Inquisitive: The first thing my daughter (almost 5) found in the exhibit was a wind tunnel. Children of different ages were figuring out how the tunnel pushed yarn and paper up into the air.  They tried small pieces and big pieces and watched as each push of different materials produced different results.

Imaginative: My son (2) is rarely given the opportunity to play with the tiniest play pieces like legos.  At the exhibit there was a board where he could try out this new toy and work alongside those older and watch as new shapes and figures were formed.  He also loved the tables of big connecting blocks where he could free form his own creations.

Open-Minded: The paper airplane station and launching machine was also a big hit.  Again, children ages 2-5 were all enjoying the activity and processing in different ways. The little ones were connecting that the machine spit out the airplane and putting it in forced the airplane out, while the older children figured out that the weight of paper and airplane size determined the plane’s flight.

Courageous:  On one corner of the exhibit there was a climbing and jumping area that challenged the kids to stay off the “lava.”  Acting on intuition, they jumped on different paths and tried to keep their feet on the “rocks and logs” and even used rope to keep them going.

The Creativity Jam exhibit ends on September 7, 2014. Go check it out and see your kids creative thinking soar! If you’ve check out the exhibit, share your experience!

ARC’s Personal Shopping: Dual Appointment

ARC Dual Appointment 2014

New shoes, backpack, jeans, and shirts-check! Your kids are ready to head back to school-but what about mom and dad’s closet?  Fall and the start of school is a refresher time for the kid’s clothes but a new school year and season can also be a good time for adult closets to get a good makeover.  But how you can do this with just a little time, money and energy for two people?

Only about a year ago I wrote a post about the need to find clothes that fit and honored my body and all of its post-baby curves.  I also needed an experience that saved me time and money when it came to finding clothes.   I’ve gone to see the personal shopper at ARC’s Value Village several times now and on any given day I’d say I’m wearing at least one thing from my thrift store shopping experiences.  The personal shopping experience has provided me with a collection of wearable outfits, helped me hone in on my style and it’s saved me tremendous amounts of money and time.  When people compliment me on my outfit, I don’t discount that it’s from the thrift store-I proudly say it is from ARC’s Value Village and tell people about their personal shopping service.

With my great experience with Michelle I thought I’d schedule a dual appointment with my husband to see if he would also find stylish affordable clothes.  I feel like Men’s clothes are so expensive and rarely can we find good sales-especially on dress clothes.  The dual appointment was an awesome experience with my husband because he was able to find clothes he really liked (for both work and weekend) and Michelle gave him a friendly voice when it came to styling tips.  For example, my husband tends to err on the side of too loose fitting clothing and she got him to try some things a bit out of his comfort-zone.  He found a great blazer, dress shirts, casual shirts and even some shoes. When we checked out our cashier even commented that not one thing that Will bought was over $10!

For my appointment, I was looking for fun dresses that could be worn for work and play.

Dual Appointment at ARC

Several of my pieces still had the tags on and revealed original prices between $50-$75. I found some great yellow shoes and even a great computer bag. I also tried on a brand new navy and polka dot dress but it was too big but I loved the style and fabric so I decided to buy it, take it to a tailor and it became a new favorite!

Navy Polka Dot Dress

While I went on a dual appointment with my husband, you could schedule a dual appointment with your parent, sibling, coworker, friend or even your child!  The personal shopping appointments are free and in an hour time frame you are presented with several outfits, invidual pieces and accessories to refresh your wardrobe.  Michelle works with you on fit and home styling options.  In my original post, I shared tips about preparing for your appointment-including taking photos at your appointment to see how to style.

When you buy clothes from ARC’s Value Village the proceeds go to many programs, advocacy efforts and services for families in our community that have an intellectual or developmental disability.  ARC’s Value Village Thrift Stores fund programs and services that help people with disabilities and their families chose and realize their goals of where and how they live, learn, work and play through ARC Greater Twin Cities.

As you can imagine, the personal shopping services at ARC’s Value Village are extremely popular! When appointments are released they book up within minutes! I have a very special giveaway for my readers! Follow the Rafflecopter instructions for a chance to win a dual appointment with Michelle! For a blog post comment, tell me who you’d bring with you and why!

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Thanks to Michelle at ARC’s Value Village for giving one of my readers the opportunity to try out a dual appointment! You can follow her styling adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

End of Summer Beer Bucket List

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I know you feel it. The last moments of summer slowly slipping away. Out of our control, the weather starts to cool and the kids head off to school.  Enjoying one of the last boat rides of the season, Will grimly pointed out to me that the days were already shorter as we watched the sun creep away far earlier than it had all summer.

My summer has been filled with so much fun, I almost feel as if we outsmarted it.  Being released from that awful winter of 2014, we weren’t left with much but to soak up every ounce of sun and fun this summer.  My summer has been filled with more comfort food and craft beer than sessions with my personal trainer but I guess there is time for that in the winter, right?

So before we head into the fall, and embark on octoberfest and pumpkin flavored beers, why don’t we savor these last few days and enjoy some end of summer beers and places to enjoy them.

3 Places to Enjoy a Minnesota Beer Before Summer is Over

1. Indeed Brewing Company (Minneapolis)

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It’s safe to say that Indeed makes some of my very favorite beers.  I’ve been loving Shenanigans this summer.  A recent date night led us to their Taproom where in small batches they were making infusion drinks with Shenanigans.  That night they were making Arnie Palmers.  Looking for the perfect date night? This is it-grab some takeout or check out their food truck offerings and enjoy some quality time and quality beer with your significant other. Check out the Taproom on Wednesday nights for their Indeed We Can charitable campaign, that night’s net proceeds are donated to a local nonprofit. How awesome is that?!?

IMG_40812. Lake Harriet Bandshell and Park/Bread & Pickle (Minneapolis)

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A trip to the Minneapolis lakes is a must stop before summer ends, right? So a couple weeks ago we made a Friday night trip to Lake Harriet with our kids.  Gosh we had fun-in fact we returned the following week for a date night because we had such a great time! Here’s what we loved-go check out Bread & Pickle and pick up a Walleye Sandwich, Truffle Popcorn and a great craft beer-you can find Lift Bridge, Surly and Summit on tap right now.  Bread & Pickle expects to be open until October 5 but it’s weather-dependent. The bandshell has great music you can listen to while you enjoy your meal and beer but afterwards you have to check out the awesome playground there complete with a huge sand pit great for digging and making mud pies!

IMG_38043. Bauhaus Brew Labs (Minneapolis)

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Guys, this is one my new favorites. Perfect for date night, but get this and you won’t hear me say this very often-you can bring your kids. Yes, bring your kids to a brewery.  The space is amazing and big.  It’s a beautiful open air building with places to sit inside and out. Trains go right by the building and the sun shines in every space.  Can you tell I love it? But wait, there’s more. Right at the front of the brewery there’s a space just for parents to sit with their kids and wait for it-they have toys.  Not only was the beer outstanding, try the Wonderstuff and the Sky-Five but it was welcoming and fun-especially with the family.  Pack a picnic, grab take out or check out their food truck schedule.  We went on Thursday night and had a great time-the kids loved it, we relaxed and had great beer-what more could you ask for?

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3 Minnesota Beers You Must Try Before Summer is Over

1. Minnesota Tan from Lift Bridge Brewery (Stillwater)

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Listen carefully, run do not walk to your liquor store and pick this up. This is a limited specialty and won’t be around forever. I picked some up tonight in St. Paul and there were three packs left.  You sense the urgency? I first had this beer at the Lift Bridge taproom and waited patiently for it to arrive at the Ale Jail in St. Paul.  The Minnesota Tan is a Belgian-style Tripel that is fermented with raspberries.  This is a tart, refreshing beer perfect to celebrate the last moments of summer. This is a great beer to pair with a summer salad-especially a caprese.

2.  White India Pale Ale from Badger Hill Brewing Company (Minnetonka)

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This a beer that my husband and I can both agree on, well actually I have to hide it from him.  This is a hoppy Belgian Wit with flavors of citrus-especially orange and coriander.  Friends, this a such a drinkable beer and perfect for these last summmer nights around the grill.  So fire up the grill this weekend and drink this beer with a juicy cheeseburger.

3. Hop Session from Brau Brothers Brewing Company (Marshall)

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Will and I both really loved this drinkable American Ale.  With tones of citrus, it is perfect for a boat ride or sitting by the bonfire one last time.  I saved mine for yellow cake with chocolate frosting and it was delicious. You don’t usually eat cake with your beer? Ok, drink this with some brats on the grill.

Where do get all these great beers? Head over to the Ale Jail in St. Paul.

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Check out my first beer bucket list of the summer!

Thomas & Friends Exhibit

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I am currently serving as a Smart Play Ambassador with the Minnesota Children’s Museum and each month we explore various topics and share the educational learning opportunities at the museum as well as apply it to our own lives.  This month we are talking about the STEM learning opportunities at the Thomas & Friends exhibit.

About STEM
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  This is an education topic widely discussed in social, academic and economic circles.  STEM skills are important being competitive in the worldwide economy. Wait? We are talking about our little kids right? The ones we just rationalized with about not putting their toothbrush in the toliet?  Yes, in actuality the earlier we start helping our children grow STEM thinking the better and I know, how crazy to think we are preparing these little people for the workforce! I just want the toys picked up!

From the Minnesota Children’s musuem, early childhood, STEM practices look like this:

  • Science: using senses to observe and events and phenomena, asking questions, seeking answers, describing properties
  • Technology: using tools and understanding their uses
  • Engineering: identifying problems, exploring options, designing solutions, manipulating outcomes
  • Math: gathering information, comparing sets, classifying objects, quantifying amounts

The new Thomas & Friends Explore the Rails exhibit was inspired by STEM-based thinking and practices.  It is also a great place to try out some of those 7Cs. You remember the 7Cs right? If you need a refresher check out my 7Cs post.  Now these 7Cs match up perfectly with STEM practices and thinking. Here are some examples from the museum:

  • Taking initiative, and creating and carrying out a plan to repair Percy’s wheels (Confidence and Critical Thinking).
  • Navigating differences of opinion and working with others to get Percy’s engine going (Collaboration and Control).
  • Seeing and experimenting with a multitude of routes on the one-of-a-kind train table (Creative Thinking).
  • Sharing thoughts and ideas with others while figuring out how to fit the luggage and cargo onto the train cars (Communication).
  • Developing eye-hand coordination and strengthening small muscles by opening doors, turning knobs, and sliding trains down the track in the special Tot Spot (Coordination).

Who knew so much learning and development was going on during play?  We recently checked out the exhibit with our almost five-year-old and two-year-old.  This is a perfect place for those ages.  Here are some of the activities our family enjoyed:

Thomas Exhibit Activities with Numbers

1. Fixing Percy’s broken wheel.
2. Checking out the train table.
3. Loading and sorting luggage on the train and riding.
4. Using wheels to load Percy’s coal box and get the steam going.
5. Playing in different spots of the train table including the center hole.
6. Exploring history of Thomas through video.
7. Climbing inside the cab of Thomas to explore buttons and levers.
8. Early Explorers area with blocks and toddler activities.
9. Pretend play as conductors, playing with the clocks and selling tickets.

Thomas & Friends Exhibit: http://www.mcm.org/visitor-information/visiting-exhibits/thomas/
Museum Hours: http://www.mcm.org/visitor-information/hours-parking-directions/
Exhibit open until September 21, 2014.
Have you checked out the Thomas & Friends exhibit-what did enjoy the most? If you haven’t checked it out, what do you think your kids will want to see? Tell me in the comments here on my blog or on my Facebook Page and I’ll pick one person on Friday, August 22 to receive two free admission passes to the Minnesota Children’s museum.

MN State Fair New Foods 2014

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Friends, check this out, I was at the 2014 Minnesota State Fair before it even opened! I feel like such a lucky girl-not only did I get to check out some of the new exhibits, I got to sample some of the new 2014 State Fair Foods. I know you share in my passion and love for the Fair, I posted a picture of the foods I sampled and you went wild.  So here for you is a sneak peek at some of the new foods you’ll find at the fair this year and my review.

2014 New State Fair Foods

1.
Food: Pizza Tots
What is it: These handmade pizza tots combine sausage, pepperoni, mozzarella, seasonings and hash browns, and they are then dusted with Parmesan cheese and served with a side of pizza sauce.
Where to get it: Green Mill (West of the Family Fair Stage in Baldwin Park)
What I love: I remember drooling over these when the new fair food list was released.  Tater tots are on my favorite comfort foods list and oooh these are good, I even snuck some back to the office for my boss to try. A perfect blend of meaty pizza goodness and the comfort of buttery crisp tater tots. Green Mill, will you please put these on your regular menu?!?
2.
Food: Jello Salad Ice Cream
What is it: Inspired by the classic Minnesota potluck dessert (and served in church dining halls everywhere), this jello salad treat features a sweet cream base flavored with fresh lime juice, swirled with cranberry sauce and blended with marshmallows dipped in marshmallow crème.
Where to get it: Hamline Church Dining Hall (on Dan Patch Ave. near the Visitors Plaza)
What I love: This is the most “Minnesotan” food on the new foods list and do I love it? You betcha. Just like the Jello “salad” this ice cream offers a sweet creamy goodness complete with pops of mini marshmallows. Don’t just stop for dessert, the Hamline Church serves up some awesome meals, we love taking our family here for a moment of zen amid the chaos.
3.
Food: Iron Range Pierogies
What is it: An authentic Polish favorite, these deep-fried dumplings are stuffed with potatoes and cheddar cheese, topped with crispy onion strings and served with a zingy horsey sauce.
Where to get it: The Blue Barn (at the new West End Market)
What I love: Deep-fried dumplings-you had me at deep-fried. Well actually you had me at horsey sauce. I love these and plan to double-fist with the Blue Cheese and Corn Fritz-also being served at the Blue Barn this year.
4.
Food:Deep-Fried Lobster On-A-Stick
What is it:Canadian lobster pieces poached in butter, dipped in a corn batter, deep-fried and served with a spiced dipping sauce.
Where to get it: LuLu’s Public House
What I love: I’ve been made fun of by my in-laws far too many times about the way I crack my lobster. No more ridicule for this lobster-loving Minnesota girl! Fear not poor lobster crackers! No need to crack or peel, here we have a delicious juicy lobster tucked in a blanket of deep-fried goodness. If you are looking for me during the fair, you will find me on the deck of LuLu’s Public House eating this lobster and drinking a beer slushy-yes you read that right, start packing your state fair bags now!
5.
Food: Caribbean-Style Lobster Roll
What is it: Chilled lobster salad tossed in a citrus chipotle mayo seasoned with Caribbean flavors — including cayenne pepper, allspice and nutmeg — served on a soft buttered and grilled roll.
Where to get it: Cafe Caribe (on Carnes Ave. near Chambers St.)
What I love: Being married to a New Englander, I have been educated in the proper consistency of a lobsta roll. You have to have the right amount of the mayo and the bread toasting is key. Minnesotans get your mouths ready, this is it-this is what a lobsta roll should be.
6.
Food: Rustic Stuffed Scone
What is it: A savory, Parmesan-crusted, baked butter scone stuffed with all natural ham, Swiss, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, and a creamy house-made béchamel sauce.
Where to get it: French Meadow Bakery (on Carnes Avenue between Underwood St. and Nelson St.)
What I love: A buttery baked good stuffed with ham, cheese and béchamel sauce, yes please. Don’t just eat this for breakfast, you need this for brinner. Also, I learned they have a machine that is made for stuffing scones, that is amazing and I want to borrow it.
7.
Food: PB & J French Toast
What is it:The ever-popular peanut butter & jelly sandwich is fused with French toast, then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage.
Where to get it: Robbinsdale OES Dining Hall (on Underwood St. next to FAN Central)
What I love: A simple kid’s sandwich gets a serious makeover here, folks.  This gooey sandwich was delicious and this isn’t just for the kids, adults make this a must-stop on your fair list. P.S. It comes with bacon, I think I might just peel open the sandwich and pop that inside!

I know this has you super pumped for the Fair, right? Ok, well hold onto your cowboy boots-I have an amazing giveaway for you! I’m giving one reader 2 tickets to the Tim McGraw Grandstand Concert (August 27, 2014) and 2 Minnesota State Fair Admission tickets. Follow the Rafflecopter directions and for a comment entry, tell me your about your favorite concert or a concert you saw at the Minnesota State Fair!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Minnesota State Fair provided this giveaway. Thank you!

A big thank you to Chris Noonan and the Minnesota State Fair for the opportunity to try the new foods and check out the State Fair before it opened.  I attended the sneak peek with an amazing group talented Minnesota women who love blogging and the Minnesota State Fair. Check out their blogs and support these awesome Minnesota Mamas: