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Cookbook Recipes and a Minnesota Tradition

When people think of the North Star State, their first thoughts probably relate to lakes or winter, but the cookbook recipes in The Great Minnesota Hot Dish introduce another of the state’s staples: the one-dish-complete-meal system. Called a casserole in most parts of the country, the hot dish is simple, practical, and delicious. The first edition of this popular book, written by Theresa Millang, dates back to 1999. For 18 years, it brought a variety of hot dishes—from traditional to Cajun, Creole, Tex-Mex, Southern, and Chinese—to dinner tables everywhere. Now, by popular demand, the title has been revised and updated into a second edition. Local cook Karen Corbett, who has spent her life preparing meals for children and grandchildren, as well as students at a school and young campers at a camp, puts her own spin on the Minnesota cookbook recipes, creating a perfect blend of old favorites and new flavors...

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Children reading books

Stan Tekiela Studies Red-headed Woodpeckers

In today’s post, Stan Tekiela shares with us his study of a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers. Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to study and photograph a pair of Red-headed Woodpeckers nesting in an old tree and feeding their young. All of this happened because a reader of this column gave me a shout to share the exciting news of this cool woodpecker. The Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythocephalus) was once a very common woodpecker. In the mid 1800s, John James Audubon stated that the Red-headed Woodpecker was the most common woodpecker in North America. In fact, he called them semi-domesticated because they weren’t afraid of people. He stated that they were camp robbers and also a pest. According to the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count data between the 1950s and 2010, the population of Red-headed Woodpeckers has dropped dramatically. Over 80 percent of the population has died out in just over 50 years. And...

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Ghost Stories Are Fun Books for Kids

When we think of Halloween books for our children to enjoy, real ghost stories might not spring to mind. These Ghostly Tales are intended for adults, right? While, yes, spooky collections are typically written for grown-ups, they can also be appropriate for young readers—at least for those with an interest in things that go bump in the night. If your children are fascinated with the frightful, AdventureKEEN’s horror offerings might be excellent October titles to get them reading. Still not sure? Continue on to learn more about these popular books. The Stories are Reportedly True The Ghostly Tales series (and AdventureKEEN’s other spooky titles) are grounded in reality. They are dramatic retellings, based on interviews and research. The Halloween books don’t resort to supernatural violence or murder to freak out the audience. They don’t have to. The horror lies in the fact that these are supposed to be true stories. The events...

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Children reading books

Trumpeter Swans Are Back in the Wild

In today’s post, Stan Tekiela celebrates the return of Trumpeter Swans, who at one time were nearly wiped out in the lower 48 states. My-oh-my, how times have changed. Over the last 35-plus years, I have witnessed a few amazing changes in nature. It usually takes hundreds (if not thousands) of years to effect change. But when you throw in human activity, everything seems to be accelerated. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time photographing a Trumpeter Swan nest with cygnets. When I first started studying, photographing, and writing about nature, there were no Trumpeter Swans around. They were locally extinct, a term called extirpated. We humans did a great job at eliminating so many species, including the Trumpeter Swans. The swans were wiped out of nearly all regions in the lower 48 states. From the time of settlement until very recently, Trumpeter Swans were hunted for their meat and feathers. They are...

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Food Chain Book Entertains and Educates

The new food chain book by Ryan Jacobson and Stan Tekiela, What Eats That?, has arrived, and it’s as fun to read as it is informative. Ryan provides interactive text that literally keeps readers guessing with every turn of the page, while Stan supplies amazing photography that brings one of Adventure Publications’ best picture books to life. The concept captivates readers from the start. Children are shown eating their favorite foods, and the text explains what a food chain is, while suggesting that we are all part of a food chain every time we eat. From there, the food chain book takes off. A species is introduced on every page, with fascinating information given about how its members eat or hunt. Then the question is asked: What Eats That? Of course, there are any number of possible answers to what eats a given critter, so guessing could be tricky. But there’s a reason...

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Children reading books

Picking a Favorite Bird is Hard to Do

I’m often asked which bird is my favorite. This is much like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. I often answer this question by stating that whatever bird I am studying or photographing at the time is my favorite. The truth is, I’ve yet to meet a bird or animal that I didn’t find fascinating and super cool. However, if push comes to shove, I’ll admit that I have a great fondness for hummingbirds. They are an amazing group of birds that are unlike any others. There are more than 320 species of hummingbirds. This is the second largest family of birds in the world. It is huge. What is even more interesting is that hummingbirds are only found in the New World (the Americas). They don’t have hummingbirds in Europe, Africa, Asia, or any other place on the planet. Hummingbirds are one of the most easily recognized birds. They...

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Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas Hot Dish

The Minnesota Hot Dish is something most other folks would call a “casserole;” either way, the entire family will enjoy this Chicken Enchiladas Hot Dish recipe. Ingredients 1 (8-ounce) jar Cheez Whiz, divided 1/3 cup sour cream 1/4 cup chopped green onion 1 teaspoon chili powder 2 cups shredded cooked chicken 6 flour tortillas Salsa Preheat oven to 350˚F. Mix together 1/3 cup Cheez Whiz, sour cream, onion, and chili powder in a large bowl. Stir in chicken. Spoon 1/3 cup chicken mixture onto each flour tortilla. Roll up. Place, seam sides down, in a lightly greased 11x13-inch baking dish. Top enchiladas with 1/2 cup salsa. Bake 25–30 minutes. Microwave remaining Cheese Whiz until hot, and pour over enchiladas. Serve with additional salsa. Serves 6. Make Your Chicken Enchiladas Modern Substitute 8 ounces freshly grated Chedda cheese for Cheez Whiz. In Minnesota, there’s the “company” hot dish, which has a more elegant presentation and may include seafood but not tuna. The “baby shower” hot dish may indeed contain tuna. Then there’s the hot dish...

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Children reading books

The Indian Pipe, One of Nature’s Many Wonders

In today’s post, Stan Tekelia explains the Indian Pipe, also known as the Ghost Flower, one of nature’s weirdest plants. There is nothing better than spending a late summer morning walking the woods in search of whatever interesting items you can find. Lately I’ve been out wandering the thick, cool forests on the lookout for familiar natural objects such as squirrels’ nests, various mushrooms, migrating birds, colorful wildflowers, all of which I consider to be old friends. One of the more interesting things in the woods at this time of year is the unusual Indian Pipe (Monotropa unifora). Also called the Ghost Plant or Corpse Plant, the Indian Pipe grows late in the summer season and is found on the forest floor. Standing only 4-9 inches tall, you might overlook this unique plant. But what sets the Indian Pipe apart from all other plants in the forest is that it is pure white...

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World War II Book Honors Fallen Minnesota Men

Why is World War II so compelling? Is it because there were so clearly “good guys” and “bad guys?” Is it because we came together as a country—as a world—and vanquished evil? Whatever the reasons, the Second World War is source material for countless books and movies. These stories are almost always dramatic and entertaining, but for the most part, they allow us to keep the tragedies of war at arm’s length. However, a new Minnesota history book changes that. Little Minnesota in World War II takes those tales of valor and heroism and makes them real. It is powerful and moving, without trying to be either. The concept behind this coffee-table book is brilliant. Authors Jill A. Johnson and Deane L. Johnson came up with it while working on their first book, Little Minnesota, in 2011. That project brought them to many of the smallest towns in the state, where...

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Bird-Watching Gets Kids Outdoors

Sometimes it’s hard to get kids outdoors, but bird-watching is a perfect solution. In this age of smartphones, social media, and video games, there’s plenty to do from home. But we want our children to breathe fresh air, to exercise, to connect with nature. Luckily, birding has the allure to divert attention away from electronic screens and toward our feathered friends. Making this hobby even better, it’s easy and can be totally free. All you have to do is introduce it. How to Start It seems as if birds are everywhere, so chances are good that you can begin in your own backyard. A simple suggestion of “Let’s go bird-watching” might get the kids outdoors. But even if it takes a bit of coaxing, the children will be entranced as soon as they observe their first bird. To hold their interest, make it interactive. Keep a running total of how many birds you encounter. Ask...

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