Recipe of the Month: December

Cheers to showing 2020 the door! Raise a glass with our Blackberry Thyme Champagne Cocktail.

Blackberry-Thyme Champagne Cocktails

Adapted from William Sonoma

Serves 6


Blackberry-Thyme Syrup:

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs

Thyme Simple Syrup:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs


  • 3 oz. Blackberry-Thyme Syrup
  • 1 1/2 oz. Thyme Simple Syrup
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) chilled Champagne, Prosecco or other sparkling wine
  • 12 fresh blackberries
  • 6 fresh thyme sprigs


  1. To make the blackberry-thyme syrup, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and thyme and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until the berries have broken down and become juicy (about 20 minutes). Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container, cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
  2. To make the thyme simple syrup, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water to a simmer. Add the sugar and thyme and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let cool. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container, cover, and refrigerate for about 2 weeks.
  3. To assemble the drinks, in each of 6 Champagne flutes, combine 1/2 oz. blackberry-thyme syrup and 1/4 oz. thyme simple syrup. Top off each flute with 4 oz. of the prosecco. Garnish each drink with blackberries and thyme sprigs.

Recipe of the Month: November

Pumpkin Croissant French Toast Bake

Recipe from Life Made Simple Bakes (

Makes 6-8 servings


  • 1 loaf brioche or challah bread or 6 large or 18 mini croissants, cubed
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 8 eggs
  • 15 ounces pumpkin purée
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp kosher sea salt


  1. Butter or spray a 9×13-inch baking dish or 4 qt. enamel cast iron, add cubed bread or croissants; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, sugars, eggs, pumpkin, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, cloves, and cinnamon. Pour half of the mixture over the bread croissants. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  4. Pour remaining batter over bread/croissants.
  5. Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes to an hour (you may need to tent the top of the bake with a piece of foil during the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning). Remove from the oven and allow to cool/set for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar and maple syrup if desired.
  6. OPTIONAL: Sprinkle with Toasted Chai Pepitas (Recipe below).


  1. Day-old bread works best.
  2. If you don’t have time to let unbaked casserole to set overnight, allow it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

Toasted Chai Pepitas 

Recipe from I Delicate (


  • 2 cups raw pepitas
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 200° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix pepitas and maple syrup until well-coated. In a small bowl, combine salt and spices. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the syrup-coated pepitas and mix well until spices are evenly distributed.
  3. Spread pepitas into a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until aromatic and lightly crispy.

2020 Women In Business: Anita Nelson

Earlier this month, our agency president, Anita Nelson,  was honored with a 2020 Women in Business Award by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. We’re beyond proud of Anita for the example she sets for our office each and every day. Learn more about her recognition in this article: 2020 Women in Business Awards: Anita Nelson, IN Food Marketing & Design.

Recipe of the Month: October

Deconstructed Crab Cake Toasts

Crab Dip Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp. Olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely diced white onion
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp. chipped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs – unseasoned
  • 1 lb. lump crab meat

Dip Topping:

  • 1 1/2 cup panko crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped scallions
  • 3 Tbsp. butter, melted Salt & Pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, corn, and salt and pepper and saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the scallions and cook 30 seconds longer. Remove from heat, place in a bowl to cool completely.
  4. Combine vegetable mixure with eggs, chiptole, mustard, mayonnaise and breadcrumbs. Stir well to combine.
  5. Gently fold in crab meat and transfer into a buttered baking dish.
  6. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  7. While the dip is baking: Combine panko crumbs, melted butter, finely chopped scallions, salt and pepper.
  8. After 15 minutes, remove dip from oven and top with prepared panko crumbs. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until topping is golden brown.

Cornbread Crackers

Adapted from


  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 cup instant polenta
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • Pinch of chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, extra


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prepare the pan: grease a 6cm-deep, 9 cm x 19 cm (base) loaf pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, extending paper 2 cm above edges of pan on long sides.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder, cumin and chili powder into a bowl. Add polenta, sugar and salt. Season with pepper. Stir to combine.
  4. Make a well in the center. Add buttermilk, egg and oil. Stir to combine. Spoon into prepared pan. Smooth top.
  5. Combine crushed coriander seeds, chili flakes and extra salt in a small bowl. Sprinkle over mixture in pan.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of bread comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Turn, top-side up, onto a baking paper-lined wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Preheat broiler.
  8. Using a serrated knife, trim ends from loaf. Cut loaf into 2cm-thick slices. Place on prepared tray. Toast for 2 minutes each side or until lightly browned.

Get a year’s worth of recipes—check out our 2020 calendar.

Recipe of the Month: September

London Fog Cake made with Toasted Sugar

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats (


For the cake:

  • 16 oz toasted sugar (about 2 1/4 cups; 455g)**
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp (8g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 8 oz unsalted butter (16 Tbsp; 225g), soft but cool, about 60°F (16°C)
  • 3 large eggs, brought to about 65°F (18°C)
  • 1/2 oz vanilla extract (about 1 Tbsp; 15g)
  • 16 oz whole milk (about 2 cups; 455g), brought to about 65°F (18°C)
  • 3 bags of Earl Grey black tea
  • 16 oz all-purpose flour (about 3 1/2 cups, spooned; 455g)

For the Swiss meringue buttercream:

  • 6 oz egg whites (2/3 cup; 170g), from 5 to 6 large eggs
  • 11 oz plain or toasted sugar (about 1 2/3 cups; 310g)
  • 3/4 tsp (3g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • Scraped seeds from 1 split vanilla bean (optional)
  • 20 oz unsalted butter (5 sticks; 565g), softened to about 65°F (18°C)
  • 1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract

For the lemon drip icing (optional):

  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp Limoncello


For the cake:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease 2 7-inch anodized aluminum cake pans and line with parchment. Lightly grease 1 6-cup bundt pan (recipe also works for 3 8-inch cake pans).
  2. In a saucepan, heat milk on medium heat until it steams and just starts to bubble bu isn’t boiling. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and steep for 3 minutes. Remove tea bags and allow milk to cool to room temperature (or refrigerate if not using immediately).
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter. Mix on low speed to roughly incorporate, then increase to medium and beat until fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. About halfway through, pause to scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula.
  4. With the mixer still running, add the eggs one at a time, letting each fully incorporate before adding the next, then dribble in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low and sprinkle in about 1/3 of the flour, then drizzle in 1/3 of the Earl Grey-infused milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk, working in thirds as before.
  5. Scrape the bowl and beater with a flexible spatula, and resume mixing on medium speed for about 3 seconds to ensure everything is well combined. The batter should look creamy and thick, registering between 65 and 68°F (18 and 20°C) on a digital thermometer. (Significant deviation indicates ingredients were too warm or too cold, which can lead to textural problems with the cake.)
  6. Fold batter once or twice from the bottom up with a flexible spatula, then divide evenly between prepared cake pans (about 20 ounces or 565g if you have a scale). Stagger pans together on the oven rack, and bake until puffed, firm, and pale gold, about 32 minutes. If your oven has very uneven heat, pause to rotate the pans after about 20 minutes. Alternatively, bake two layers at once and finish the third when they’re done.
  7. Cool cakes directly in their pans for 1 hour, then run a butter knife around the edges to loosen. Invert onto a wire rack, peel off the parchment, and return cakes right-side up (covered in plastic, the cakes can be left at room temperature for a few hours).
  8. Prepare the buttercream.

For the buttercream:

  1. Fill a wide pot with at least 1 1/2 inches of water, with a thick ring of crumpled tinfoil placed on the bottom to act as a “booster seat” that will prevent the bowl from touching the bottom of the pot. Place over high heat until steaming-hot, then adjust temperature to maintain a gentle simmer. Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla seeds (if using) in the bowl of a stand mixer. Set over steaming water, stirring and scraping constantly with a flexible spatula, until egg whites hold steady at 185°F (85°C). This should take only 10 to 12 minutes, so if mixture seems to be moving slowly, simply turn up the heat. Once ready, transfer to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip at high speed about 10 minutes, until meringue is glossy, stiff, and cool to the touch, around 90°F (32°C).
  2. With mixer still running, add butter, 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time. Initially, the volume of the meringue will decrease dramatically; it may even seem soupy along the way, but as the cool butter is added, the mixture will begin to thicken and cool. In the end, buttercream should be thick, creamy, and soft but not runny, around 72°F (22°C). Mix in vanilla extract on low speed until well combined.
  3. Use buttercream right away, or transfer to a large zipper-lock bag, press out the air, and seal. Buttercream can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks and frozen for up to several months. (The main issue with longer storage in the freezer is odor absorption, not spoilage.) Rewarm to 72°F and re-whip before using.
  4. Troubleshooting: If warmer than 74°F (23°C), the buttercream will be soft and loose; pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes and re-whip to help it thicken and cool. If colder than 68°F (20°C), the buttercream will be firm and dense, making it difficult to spread over cakes and slow to melt on the tongue, creating a greasy mouthfeel; to warm, briefly set over a pan of steaming water, just until you see the edges melting slightly, then re-whip to help it soften and warm. Full troubleshooting guide and video here.

For the drip icing:

  1. In a small pot, heat the cream until just warm.
  2. Reduce the heat and add in the white chocolate. Mix until the chocolate is completely melted.
  3. Remove from the heat and place in a container. Stir in limoncello.
  4. Cool completely and cover.

Assembling the cake:

  1. Using a serrated bread knife, trim the top of the two round cakes to make them even.
  2. On a cake stand or plate, place a small amount of icing in the center (to keep the cake from moving around on the stand). Place the first cake layer on the stand and spread about 1 cup of the buttercream evenly on the top surface. Place the second layer and repeat.
  3. With an offset spatula, spread an even layer around the outside of the cake, leaving some portions of the cake exposed. Play around with it until you get the look you would like. Place the top bundt layer and chill entire cake in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  4. Take the cake out of the freezer and slowly start to spoon the drip icing over the top of the cake. It will start to run down the sides but will seize up due to the temperature of the cake.
  5. Keep the cake refrigerated for up to two days. Take it out of the fridge at least 2 hours prior to serving.

**For the toasted sugar:

  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 300°F. Pour 4 pounds (9 cups; 1.8kg) granulated white sugar into a 9- by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Toast until the sugar turns ivory, about 1 hour.
  2. Stir thoroughly and continue roasting, pausing to stir every 30 minutes. The sugar will produce steam as a byproduct of toasting, so it must be stirred well to allow that moisture to escape. Stirring should also help move hot sugar from the edges toward the center, and cool sugar from the center toward the edges, for even toasting. Continue toasting and stirring every 30 minutes until the sugar has darkened to the desired degree, from a light beige to the color of traditional brown sugar, between 2 and 4 hours more.
  3. When the sugar has finished toasting, set aside and cool to room temperature, stirring from time to time to speed the process and allow for continued evaporation of steam. Alternatively, the cooling process can be sped along by pouring the sugar into a large, heat safe container. Once fully cool, transfer to an airtight container and store as you would plain white sugar. It can be used interchangeably, by weight or volume, in any recipe that calls for white sugar.
  4. Troubleshooting: In an oven that runs hot, or when using a different volume of sugar, or a different size baking dish, or a metal dish, the sugar will heat more rapidly, and may begin to liquify much sooner than expected. If this happens, immediately pour the dry sugar into a large stainless steel bowl, leaving the melted caramel behind. If the sugar is not stirred thoroughly throughout the toasting process, it may clump severely along the way and as it cools; should this happen, grind the cooled sugar in a food processor until powdery and fine.


Recipe of the Month: August

Toasted S’more Brownie Skillets

Yield: 8, 3½” skillets


  • 1 cups graham crackers, crushed for crumbs
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted, first
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, second
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips or toffee bits
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided use
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 large marshmallows
  • Pistachios, optional
  • Chocolate Fudge Topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and 1/3 cup melted butter.
  2. Place a heaping tablespoon of crumbs in each skillet and press into bottom of each skillet.
  3. In a large bowl over simmering water, melt butter, 4 ounces of chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate until smooth. Set aside and let cool for about 15 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until well combined. In a medium bowl, sift together 1/4 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the chocolate mixture, stirring until just combined.
  5. In a medium bowl, toss together the remaining 1 cup of chocolate chips or toffee bits and 1 Tbsp. of flour and fold them into the chocolate mixture. Divide batter into eight 3 1/2 inch cast iron skillets and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, taking care not to overbake.
  6. Top with marshmallows and broil to desired brownness. Drizzle with hot fudge and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

Food Connections Spotlight: Julie Kendrick

“I’ve been coming since the first mastodon leg was cooked over an open fire and someone said, ‘This is creamy, crunchy and family-friendly!’”

Julie Kendrick, freelance writer/journalist extraordinaire, is a familiar face at Food Connections. She’s penned countless compelling stories—many of them about food—for HuffPost, the Star Tribune and just to name a few.

But enough chat, let’s hear from the pro herself.

For those who don’t know, can you describe what you do for a living?

I talk to interesting people about what makes them interesting and then write about it. I’ve interviewed celebrities (Walter Mondale, Maria Shriver), celebrity chefs (Curtis Stone), community activists (Minneapolis’ own Rose McGee), farmers, ranchers and genetic scientists.

Has your writing process changed during social distancing?

Not a bit. I’m the laziest writer alive, so I’ve always tried to wriggle out of in-person interviews, which require driving, pants-wearing and smiling at people when I just want to listen and take notes. So, I’m still right where I’ve always been, doing what I always do — calling people from the spare bedroom upstairs, eternally thrilled when anyone is willing to talk to me. This afternoon, I talked with a man in Austin who owns a “sober” bar called Sans Bar. We talked about what it’s like to be a (currently shut down) black-owned business that serves the recovery community. That’s for a story in Then I talked with a Minneapolis-based “death doula” (it’s a thing) about what a day is like for her, for a story on When I talk to people in other places, I always ask them about the weather. It’s such a dumb thing to do, but people love it (it was 100+ degrees in Austin today, for example, a fact I would not have known had I not interviewed that sober bar guy).

What’s been your favorite takeout meal?

No takeout, ever. No restaurant meals either, even before. In addition to being lazy, I’m also incredibly cheap. Man, you’re a tough interviewer — I’m really baring my soul here.

What have you been cooking lately?

This Sunday, I made English muffins (using the recipe from the Tartine cookbook, on loan from the library) and used them as a base for Eggs Benedict. The 2-minute Hollandaise from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats is so easy and good; you just need a jar and an immersion blender.

Thanks to inspiration from IN Food’s resident culinary genius Lori Gerdts, I’ve been making tons of sourdough crackers, using Sunrise Mills heritage flour (taken out in trade for writing the new back-of-label copy on their bags).

I’m always making a new batch of kombucha or sauerkraut to put in my fermenting crock. I make, parbake and freeze individual sourdough pizza crusts, and I’d say at least one pizza gets made here just about every day, using homemade tomato sauce, or, just recently, pesto made from basil from the garden.

And, almost every night, someone makes popcorn in the Whirley Pop. It’s the best dinner ever.

When did you decide that you wanted to make a living as a writer?

Early in my career, I worked in agencies as a copywriter. Then I started leading presentation teams, so all I wrote was introductions (“Thank you so much for the opportunity to present our pack of lies to you today …”). I did that a lot, back in the days when submitting something online scared people, at least the delicate, creative flowers at the agencies where I worked. I became an expert at hitting the “submit” button and not hyperventilating.

When the economy crashed, all that business went away. (Earnings for the month of December, 2008 = $200. Fun, familiar times). I was volunteering for a youth theater, trying to get coverage about a bullying prevention play they were doing. I approached the editor of MN Parent magazine and offered to write a story about the play for free. She took me up on my offer, and after that she started offering me assignments. I was astounded that someone would pay me to talk to a person and write about it. One thing led to another, and I’ve been a freelance writer for 17 years.

What/who made you want to write about food?

There are three kinds of people who are always fun to interview: farmers, scientists and chefs. Not sure what the throughline is there, but I guess it’s that they’re generally independent thinkers who create things instead of just talking about them. Also, everyone thinks they understand what people do in those jobs, but usually they don’t, so there’s always a new angle to explore.

What’s something you love about food writing?

Finding an unsung hero who is excited to tell their story. It’s even better when I can help that person find a national platform for their work, which I’ve been able to do a few times. It’s incredibly gratifying.

What’s difficult about food writing?

Keeping it fresh, because so many things have already been said. I mean, we’ve been eating since we’ve been here (quick Wikipedia check: about five million years), so a lot of adjectives have run out of steam. A while ago, I worked on a project for General Mills to add SEO content to their 200 top-searched recipes. I had to write a 200-word “story” about each recipe. I quickly learned that there are only so many different ways to say “creamy,” “crunchy” or “family friendly.” I just about lost my creamy crunchy mind, 40,000 words later.

Who’s a food writer or personality you admire?

I read a lot of cookbooks (library, cheap) and most of them are awful. You know a fun one? Surprise, it’s Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings. It’s clearly dictated to a lackey, because I’m not sure this woman has ever held a writing instrument in her hand, but it’s utterly without pretension and seems to capture her spirit of not giving a fig what anyone thinks about her. I made her split pea soup with hot dogs for a Soup Swap and it was great. Tyler Kord’s A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, edited by Francis Lam, is fresh and original. Eddie Huang’s Fresh Off the Boat is a filthy, profane and very entertaining chef memoir. Chef Rossi’s Raging Skillet, ditto.

In terms of writing, everything Anthony Bourdain ever wrote was true blue and straight from the heart. He’s the food writers’ Hemingway, may he rest in peace.

I also love weird, old-timey books about food that I have to get on inter-library loan and wait months to receive. I just read The Girl from Rector’s, written in 1927; it’s about a NY restaurant that was a hot spot in the Gilded Age. My copy still had a stamp card with due dates in the back, and the last time it had been taken out was in 1946. I was in heaven.

Where do you find inspiration?

Even though I am, as previously confessed, lazy, I also am a relentless hustler for new material, so pretty much everything I see, eat or hear about gets evaluated – could this be a story? I pitched & sold that Whirley Pop story after making popcorn (dinner) one night and seeing “Monon, Indiana” stamped on the top of the popper. I wondered what that place was like (answer: population 1,748; one stoplight). I wondered if I could trim my own bangs during quarantine and wrote about that. My daughter wondered if it was a bad idea that she hadn’t worn a bra during the entire pandemic and I wrote about it (and got to interview a UK-based biomechanics professor / bra expert, proving that there is, in fact, an expert for everything). Whenever I talk to someone, I’m always sizing them up for their editorial worthiness. It’s my life goal to write about every single person I know and quote them at least once in a story. I’m getting closer all the time.

What’s your go-to beverage when you’re cranking out an assignment?

Usually just tepid tap water, whee, but if I’m especially stressed, I treat myself to Diet Coke. When I wrote the HuffPost story about Rose McGee giving away Sweet Potato Comfort Pies at the George Floyd site, I turned the story around in three days. I was in an absolute panic, wanting to make sure it was worthy of such a great woman. I drank two liters of Diet Coke in those three days, and I think I burned a hole in my stomach. But she was happy with the result and ended up being interviewed for Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, People magazine, Reader’s Digest … so I guess it was worth it, even though I’m just now coming down off that caffeine high.

Is there an article you’ve written recently that you’re particularly proud of? (I’m sure it’s hard to choose just one).

In February, I pitched, sold and submitted a story about Shop Dogs of Minneapolis for the Strib, and then it had to be put on hold until just now. I hope it makes people smile for a minute.

What’s the strangest thing (in a good way) someone’s ever commented on one of your articles?

Not necessarily good, but funny: When I wrote a story about goat meat, the HuffPost editor slapped on a snarky headline that made people mad — so mad that it was the #1 story on all of HuffPost for 24 hours (news flash: outrage sells). The editor was thrilled, but my Twitter feed exploded. I heard from angry world citizens who wanted me to know they’d always eaten goat meat (the point of the article, but no one read that far) and many, many incensed vegetarians who sent pictures of baby goats with captions like why Julie why? Fun fact: I have never eaten goat meat.

If someone wants to partner with you, how can they reach you? // 612-382-5333

Interested in getting to know even more great food-industry professionals like Julie? Join us at Food Connections! To get in on the food and fun, shoot us an email at, and join our LinkedIn and Facebook groups to stay connected.

Recipe of the Month: July

Classic Avocado Toast


  • 1 piece thick cut grainy bread
  • 1/2 large ripe avocado
  • 1-2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste


Toast the piece of bread until the bread is just golden brown, about 2-3 minutes depending on the thickness of the bread. For the halved avocado, remove the pit from the avocado and discard. Remove the avocado from the skin and place the avocado flesh into a medium bowl and mash it with a fork and a squeeze of the fresh lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper as needed. Slather the mashed avocado on top of the toast. Add more salt and pepper is desired and serve immediately.

Get creative with your avocado toast toppings like we did! Some of our favorite additional toppings include feta cheese, roasted tomatoes, corn, cayenne, and the list goes on!

The power of sampling in foodservice

Ok, honest question: when was the last time you went to the grocery store on a big sampling day and didn’t try something? Did you get the cheese with the toothpick? Did you try a sip of that on-sale wine?

Bite-sized, big results

Sampling is a valuable tool used heavily in retail settings to drive awareness and purchase. However, it’s underutilized by foodservice manufacturers, and they’re in for a big opportunity by getting on board. When used properly, sampling can be a very powerful way to convert operators and create long-lasting sales.

According to a report on In-Store Sampling Effectiveness, sampled items in multiple categories showed an average of +475% cumulative sales lift on the day of the event. In addition, the data reveals significant potential for repeat purchases.

Send in the samples

Time and time again, we hear the same thing from operators: they’ll always try a product if it’s given to them. These folks are often hands-on, creative chefs themselves. If the product is right in front of them, they can use their imaginations and get a first-hand look at the potential it holds.

In fact, one operator we worked with loved his sauce sample so much, he switched distributors at a future restaurant just to be able to purchase it!

Go ahead, give it a try

If you’re a foodservice manufacturer and aren’t leveraging samples for your new products, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Limit your samples: Control costs and drive urgency by making only a certain number available if promoting via paid media or email.
  • Give ‘em enough: If a sample’s too small, an operator may not get the full picture— make there’s plenty of product for them to work with.
  • Maximize leads: Ensure you’re capturing operator leads so you can follow up with a sales call or additional offers.
  • Priority mail: If budgets allows, force ship samples to a select group of high-potential operators and follow up with an email or phone call to get their feedback. Consider providing a full case so operators can also see the packaging, case size and storage.
  • Ready for launch: With new product launches, ensure you’re allocating a portion of your budget for broker samples. And if the product is refrigerated or frozen, provide them with a branded cooler bag for operator sales calls.

Speaking of samples: want a taste of how we can help you drive trial with a new product launch? Contact Anita Nelson at to get started!

Recipe of the Month: June

Jalapeño Cheese Crisps

Recipe from Cotter Crunch (

Makes 20-25 crisps


  • 5 medium jalapeños
  • 2–3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp onion salt or powder
  • 6-8 one-ounce naturally aged cheese slices (Parmesan works best, but Swiss, provolone or Havarti all work too.)
  • Pepper
  • Tabasco or ranch sauce for dipping


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Slice your jalapeños into thin slices, about half an inch thick. Make sure to cut out seeds if you don’t want them spicy.
  3. Toss jalapeño slices with olive oil and onion powder or onion salt, pepper, and arrange flat on a baking tray with parchment paper.
  4. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the jalapeño slices are crispier. This is why it’s important to cut them thin. If you cut thicker, they will take longer to bake.
  5. Next, remove jalapeños and let cool. Blot jalapeños with a paper towel to remove extra oil.
  6. Place your oven at 400° F and re-line your baking tray with parchment paper.
  7. Take half of your cheese slices and cut in half or into 2-3 pieces. You can also just pull them apart into pieces.
  8. Fold it around the jalapeño slice/ring making sure it’s still flat, not a ball.
  9. Place on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Repeat until you have used up all your slices.
  10. Bake at 400°F for about 6-7 minutes or until cheese is crispy. Provolone and Havarti take around 10 minutes to bake crispy depending on the oven. Be sure to check after 5 minutes so they don’t burn.
  11. Remove from oven, let cool, then season with pepper/sea salt if desired.