Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My current favorite national marketing campaign December 29, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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mandarins-ad-campaign-billboard-67

 

SEVERAL WEEKS AGO a billboard along Interstate 94 in Rogers popped out at me. Not like a jack-in-the-box or a creepy clown. But visually.

The simplicity of the graphic design and the short, powerful message of “Good choice, kid.” made this advertisement noticeable among all the roadside clutter.

This Wonderful halos billboard is part of a $30 million ad campaign focusing on kids who choose mandarins over something less desirable. So I learned while googling the slogan. To totally understand this, you have to view the television spots that are part of this campaign. Kids star in videos with storylines that present a temptation—like sleeping over in a creepy doll-filled mansion or running away to join the circus—and the obvious better choice of a mandarin.

The ads are quirky, funny and, yes, most assuredly memorable. To the creative forces behind the Wonderful Halos newest marketing endeavor, well done.

TELL ME: What ad campaigns, past or present, do you consider especially well done and memorable? Why?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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From Colorado to Minnesota: Peaches, peaches & more peaches August 17, 2015

Colorado peaches

Colorado peaches

PEACHES AND CREAM. It is how I ate fresh peaches as a Minnesota farm kid. Chunked peaches drenched with cream in a bowl. To this day they remain one of my favorite fruits, as much for the taste as for the memories.

Today's peaches are packed in cardboard boxes rather than wooden crates.

Today’s peaches are packed in cardboard boxes rather than wooden crates.

Every summer Mom would pick up a slated wooden crate of peaches from the local grocer. She pried the lid open and then we carefully unwrapped the peaches from pinkish tissue, setting the tissue squares aside for use later in the outhouse. Next we slid the peaches into boiled water to loosen the skins. Soon Mom was slipping sliced peaches into Mason and Ball jars and packing the jars into a pressure cooker. When the jars had cooled, the lids sealed, she gathered the preserved fruit to store in the cellar.

Then, on the coldest of winter evenings, Mom lifted a door hidden in the red-and-white checked linoleum kitchen floor and sent me to the cellar. Down the wooden stairs I clomped to the dirt-floored cellar lit by a single bare bulb. There, in the earthy shadows, I searched for a quart of golden peaches. Thin-sliced peaches if the fruit was to serve as a dessert. Half-slices of peaches if Mom planned to serve the fruit as a salad, halves turned up to cup cottage cheese nested upon a leaf of iceberg lettuce.

Today I neither eat peaches with cream or cottage cheese, or even preserved. I prefer mine fresh. And right now I have 39 fresh Colorado peaches—20 pounds—in my refrigerator. That is a lot of peaches for two people to eat. But my husband insists we can do it. He’s right. Several years ago we managed to consume an entire crate of peaches without any spoiling.

Buyers could choose whichever box of peaches they wanted.

Buyers could choose whichever box of peaches they wanted.

I love peaches. And I like supporting a good cause, which is partially why we ordered a box of Colorado peaches. The Community Cathedral Cafe, a coalition of Faribault churches providing a free meal in Faribault every Tuesday evening, sold the peaches as a fundraiser. So did the youth at First English Lutheran Church.

Boxes of peaches await pick-up in the basement of First English Lutheran Church.

Boxes of peaches await pick-up in the basement of First English Lutheran Church.

When we picked up our 20-pound box of peaches, I was impressed by the sheer volume of boxes stacked in the refrigerator cold basement of First English. The two groups teamed up to order five pallets of peaches from Noland Orchards, a family fruit farm near “The Peach Capital” of Palisade, Colorado. That’s 400 boxes or 8,000 pounds of peaches, selling for a grand total of $12,800.

Peach paperwork and suggestions on how to eat peaches.

Peach paperwork and suggestions on how to use the peaches.

So now I’m looking for recipes to use these peaches. If you have a favorite, pass it on. That’d be mighty peachy of you.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Entry to the peach pick-up site at First English Lutheran Church in Faribault.

Entry to the peach pick-up site at First English Lutheran Church in Faribault. The pallets have already been claimed for repurposing into artwork and more.

Simple directions once inside.

Simple directions once inside.

Carts are on hand to transport boxes from basement to vehicle.

Carts are on hand to transport boxes from basement to vehicle.

Volunteers are available to wheel peaches outside and load into vehicles.

Volunteers are available to wheel peaches outside and load into vehicles.

And when that task is done, back inside the volunteers go to await the next customer who has preordered a box of peaches.

And when that task is done, back inside the volunteers go to await the next customer who has preordered a box of peaches.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Peach Project August 29, 2012

I GREW UP WITH DIRT under my fingernails, banishing weeds from the garden and then, later, harvesting and preparing veggies to eat fresh or preserve.

My mom canned some, froze some, storing away freezer boxes plump with green beans and beets, corn and other vegetables.

She also preserved fruit in quart jars, with the assistance of us kids, for the long Minnesota winter ahead. Applesauce and cherries. Peaches and pears.

A juicy Colorado peach, from which I must remove the skin because I can’t tolerate the fuzz (feels like a cotton ball) in my mouth.

And then, on a brisk winter evening, when Dad was about to come in for supper after finishing barn chores, she would lift the trap door in the kitchen and send one of us clomping down the creaky, rugged wooden steps to the dirt-floored cellar for a jar of sauce. Dessert. I would tug on the frayed cotton string to switch on the single bare light bulb. Then I would tiptoe reach for a jar of my favorite cherries or peaches.

We got a single box of freshly-picked Colorado peaches. When I was growing up, the peaches came in a wood-slat box that was nailed shut. Each peach was wrapped in tissue paper, which we recycled for use in the outhouse.

Those were my thoughts on Saturday when my husband and I picked up a 20-pound crate of peaches I’d ordered several weeks ago through the Cathedral Community Cafe, a Faribault soup kitchen which every Tuesday offers a free meal to those in need and/or seeking fellowship.

It is a worthy cause with some 9,000 dinners served in 2011 and averaging 150 a week this year. The effort involves about 140 volunteers, 12 churches and four teams of workers.

The Community Cathedral Cafe and First English Lutheran youth pre-sold 260 boxes of peaches and ordered an additional 60 to sell to walk-in customers. The peach project has been an ongoing fundraiser for around five years for the cafe and First English youth. About 50 boxes already had been picked up when I photographed this scene.

But like any such organization, the cafe needs money to keep going. The peach project will channel funds into the cafe’s coffers and I’m happy to support the fundraiser by purchasing a $30 crate of fresh Colorado peaches.

A sign outside the Cathedral Guild House directs customers to the peach pick-up point.

Now, what to do with all those fresh peaches. Thus far I’ve eaten many straight from the box. One evening I blended a peach and vanilla ice cream into a smooth shake. This morning I sliced one into my oatmeal. And I’ve also used thinly-sliced peaches to make a ham and peach panini.

I found the adapted sandwich recipe on Sue Ready’s blog and then tweaked it a bit.

Ham and Peach Panini

2 bread slices

deli ham

1 slice provolone cheese

1 thinly-sliced peach

1/2 teaspoon honey

Djon or spicy brown mustard

chopped fresh basil

Spread mustard and 1/2 teaspoon honey on one bread slice. Top with ham, cheese and thin peach slices. Top with chopped basil. Place other piece of bread on top and brush lightly with olive oil. Also brush other bread slice with oil. Grill in frying pan until golden brown, flip and grill other side.

Love, love, love this sandwich. My husband not so much. But he’s more an ordinary sandwich guy and I really had to persuade him to even take a bite.

Now, I expect when I bake a peach crisp or a peach cheesecake later this week, he won’t hesitate to scoop up a sizable helping.

Tyler Welander, 14, who’s raising monies for youth activities at First English, delivers boxes of peaches to vehicles. I suggested to the peach sellers that perhaps they could bake the pies, too, for me to pick up. But one man said, “Oh, that would be down the street at Trinity.” And he would be right. The Trinity Piemakers are currently selling fresh peach, among other, pies.  And since I attend Trinity, I can vouch for the delicious goodness of Trinity pies.

An elderly couple from Farmington ordered nine crates of peaches, seven of which they will deliver to friends.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE peach recipe and what’s the best way to freeze peaches? I’d like to hear.

Click here to reach the website of the Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour in Faribault, home to the community cafe.

Also, please click here to read a post which features a poem I wrote about canning and the watercolor Zumbrota artist Connie Ludwig created based on my poem. Oh, how I wish “Pantry Jewels” was hanging on my dining room wall.

Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

It’s berry pickin’ time in Minnesota June 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:02 AM
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Berry picking at Straight River Farm near Faribault started two weeks ago and is expected to continue for awhile yet. Yes, berries are about two weeks earlier than normal this year in Minnesota. And, yes, Straight River is open weekdays. Call before driving out to the farm which is located in a peaceful country setting along the Straight River.

JUNE WOULD NOT BE JUNE without berry picking.

So on a recent Saturday morning my husband and I slipped into tattered jeans and worn t-shirts, laced our tennis shoes and grabbed caps as we headed out to pick strawberries at Straight River Farm east of Faribault.

Picking berries at Straight River Farm on a Saturday morning.

About 1 ½ hours later we’d harvested 21 pounds of fruit. We most definitely had to work for what we got. The berries really needed another day or two of sunshine. But we’ve come to expect that; all the berries cannot possibly ripen at the same time.

We usually have a competition to see who picks the most strawberries. This year we tied and picked a total of 21 pounds. See that fold-up garden kneeler in the right corner. I find picking much easier when I use that. But then I have an artificial right hip and I need to be careful how I bend and manipulate my body.

After dropping our two boxes of berries off at home, we took in the Faribault Heritage Days Soap Box Derby trial run and a garage sale before eating lunch and then getting down to the task of cleaning and bagging the strawberries.

My husband and I worked as a team to prepare the berries for freezing.

Plucking berries is the easy part. I’d rather creep between rows, back bent to the sky, than stand in the kitchen for hours washing, hulling, slicing and finally bagging berries. I’d rather chat with other berry pickers—including the young family next to us and the Florida retiree recently returned to his native Minnesota—than shut myself away in the kitchen on a gorgeous summer afternoon.

But such is the destiny of the berry picker.

I sliced and froze 13 three-cup bags of strawberries, no sugar added. I also saved some for eating fresh.

A shipped-in, store-bought strawberry can never match the taste of a fresh Minnesota berry, like those pictured here in this file photo of Straight River Farm berries.

FYI: We’ve been picking berries at Straight River Farm, 3733 220th Street East, Faribault, for years. To learn more about this multi-fruit and vegetable farm, click here.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Tasteless strawberries and wilting lettuce March 10, 2011

I LOVE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.

But I don’t always love the quality of the fruits and vegetables I find in the grocery store. In my opinion, they are often sub-par.

Because I live in Minnesota, I am not all that educated about fresh fruits and vegetables. Our cold climate and short growing season limit our native selections. We rely on “imports” from Florida and California and other much warmer places.

That said, I have no idea when growers pick oranges or strawberries or fill in the blank here. How mature, or immature, is the fruit?

Are oranges, like bananas, harvested when they are green? How about strawberries? Muskmelon? Is all fruit plucked before it’s ripened?

I raise that question because I bought a pound of Florida strawberries the other day that looked oddly, unnaturally overripe. Yet, I didn’t see any telltale mold. My husband theorized that they were “picked green and gassed.”

Is fruit really “gassed,” and what does that mean?

 

A few of the Florida strawberries from the pound I purchased.

The strawberries were rather tasteless, but added a jolt of color to my lettuce salad. If you live in Minnesota or any other cold climate, you’ll understand the need for a jolt of color this time of year. (It’s been a long, cold and snowy winter.)

That brings me to the lettuce. I doled out $2.99 for a bunch of Romaine lettuce at the same time I bought the strawberries. Normally I would pass on Romaine priced so exorbitantly high or even consider substituting iceberg lettuce (which I quit buying years ago because I prefer whole wheat to Wonder bread).

I was willing, though, to pay the $3. I wanted, needed, a Romaine salad. Unfortunately, the selection was not good. Small bunches. Wilted leaves and leaves edged with black. I chose the best and hoped I wasn’t throwing away my money.

 

I had already peeled off several layers of lettuce leaves before I took this photo. What are those brownish spots?

Well, I threw away about three salads worth of lettuce as I peeled off the layers of leaves to reveal what I term “rust.” I have no idea what the brown spots are inside lettuce leaves, nor do I know why leaves are sometimes tipped with black. I just know that I can’t eat it.

This frustrates me.

How many times have you purchased bad lettuce or fresh fruit that ends up in the garbage? I bet you’ve all tasted “baseball” hard peaches or pears and nectarines that never ripen and are as crunchy and dry as cardboard. One bite and in the trash they go.

So why are fruits and vegetables like this?

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS on the quality of today’s fresh fruits and vegetables? I’d like to hear your insights and your experiences.

 

Sliced strawberries, cucumbers and Amablu Gorgonzola cheese added to Romaine lettuce made a perfect salad. I topped the salad with lemon poppyseed dressing.

FYI: Amablu Gorgonzola cheese is made at Faribault Dairy in Faribault, Minnesota, where it is aged in sandstone caves along the Straight River. This is home to America’s first blue cheese plant, dating back to 1936. The award-winning cheeses produced in my community are among my favorite cheeses.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Obsessed with oranges January 29, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:41 AM
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Ever since my friend Kathy told me about orange "smiles," I've eaten oranges this way. No struggling to remove the peeling. Just slice and eat. The fruit easily separates from the rind.

EVER CRAVE A SPECIFIC food for days, even weeks?

Lately, I’ve craved oranges.

Now that’s a healthy alternative to the chips and chocolate I sometimes often desire.

While I can’t pinpoint the exact reasons for my orange obsession, I can theorize. This has been a long and snowy winter in Minnesota. When I see and feel and taste an orange, I temporarily escape to a warm, sunny climate like Florida or California. Seriously. If you live in Minnesota, you know exactly what I mean.

Keep sliced oranges handy in the fridge for a quick and healthy snack.

And then there’s the color. Orange. It’s sunny, bright, uplifting. After way too many wake-up-in-the-dark and dark-by-five-o’clock days, I need an orb of cheerfulness to stave off a potential case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Orange is, after all, opposite blue the blues on the color wheel.

Juicy oranges quench thirst and provide Vitamin C.

Oranges also quench my seemingly endless thirst. That thirst, I concluded, is related to my dried out skin which is caused by the furnace running too much and drying out the air during these endless winter days. True or not, a juicy orange hits the spot.

About now you’re probably thinking, what the heck, is this an advertisement for the California Citrus Growers Association or the Florida Orange Growers?

No, rather these are the musings of a winter-weary Minnesotan who tastes summer in an orange.

P.S. I will accept any and all free shipments of oranges to my snow-encased Faribault home. Thank you.

 

Yes, I became obsessed also with photographing oranges. But this fruit photographs so well, don't you think?

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling