The Northern Heartland Kitchen cookbook

I got one of those dream assignments, shoot the cover of Beth Dooley’s new cookbook. The theme of the cookbook is northern harvest. The publisher wanted Kale and to have the feeling of a bountiful harvest.   I shoot a series of images and submit them to the publisher and hope they will like one of them.  Kale is a tricky subject to make look fresh and appetizing, it is so dark and moody. But in an interview, Beth Dooley is a big fan  “Beth: Kale! Kale! Kale will save the world!  Kale is good for your health, it grows everywhere, it’s hardy, and it actually returns nutrients to the soil instead of depleting the soil. I learned about it from Atina Diffley of Gardens of Eagan. She’s a huge proponent of kale.”  Perhaps I should rethink how I feel about Kale.

The Northern Heartland Kitchen is a cookbook  about cooking local, seasonal food. The recipes are organized by season, with what is ready to harvest from the garden or shop at the local farmers market.  There’s info on pickling and preserving food.

There is a good review of several of the recipe’s on the Heavy Table web site-

It is a great cookbook for cooking local seasonal food and staying healthy with more vegies. There are several recipes I need to try before the summer season is over- the next on the list is a watermelon gazpacho.

Here are some out-takes from the photo shoot for the cover shot of the cookbook.  

Hmong Chicken Laab

The first time I tasted Chicken Laab it was made in the kitchen by the author of the Cook Book.  I was immediately addicted,  I had never tasted anything with so much flavor and fresh tasting. Chicken Laab is eaten like a lettuce wrap, the best lettuce wrap you have ever tasted.

Cooking from the Heart  The Hmong Kitchen in America

Authors: Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang
I had the honor of shooting the food photography for this cookbook. It was a cultural experience, from shopping at the Hmong market in St. Paul to having the food prepared in the kitchen and hearing all the history and family tradition behind each recipe. I got to try alot of new things and one of my favorites is the chicken Laab lettuce wraps.
I used fresh ground chicken at the grocery store and lots of herbs.  This is a great fresh summer recipe.  Packed with lots of flavor, light and no fat. All the herbs and fresh citrus juices is an amazing combination. It is a regular dish at my house this summer.
We worked with a food stylist and a prop stylist who pulled alot of the dishes, linens and backgrounds. And then we got to play on set the idea food photography job. Here are some of the samples from the book.
Please check out alot more great information on the book and the authors at their web site

Chicken Pot Pie with Roasted Red Peppers

This is a classic comfort food, Chicken Pot Pie. I’ve made this recipe several times, what makes this so good is the combination of white wine and chicken stock with a little bit of heavy whipping cream. Which makes it slightly lighter than your traditional pot pie.  Short on time as usual I bought a rotisserie chicken and the pre-made pie crust can make ahead the roasted red peppers and then the pot pie comes together pretty quickly.

I shot this cover photograph several years ago for this republished Pot Pies by Beatrice Ojakangas.  I highly recommend this cookbook it has lots of great recipes.  I would like to share this recipe with you.

Beatrice Ojakangas is a Duluth local and has published something like 27 cookbooks.  She started her career when she won the pillsbury bake-off.

“The year was 1957, and a young cook, wife and soon-to-be first-time mother living on a military base in England entered her recipe for cheese bread into the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Beatrice Ojakangas didn’t win first place that year — the top prize went to Mrs. Gerda Roderer of Berkeley, Calif., who received $25,000 for her “Accordion Treats,” a delicate horn-shaped walnut cookie. But Ojakangas’ bread took the second grand prize and helped launched an enduring career that has included 27 cookbooks on a wide range of subjects, from whole grain breads to casseroles to pot pies to her specialty, Scandinavian cooking and baking.”

“Passing on the culinary secrets of her heritage in twenty-two cookbooks and hundreds of magazine and newspaper contributions, Beatrice Ojakangas has been the voice of Scandinavian cuisine in America for over 20 years. Influenced by her mother’s love for the kitchen, Beatrice learned about her culinary heritage and the art of baking from an early age. ”

She has a blog with lots of recipes to check out.

I’ve never met her but I have photographed several covers for her cookbooks for The University of MN Press.  Here are some other covers I’ve worked on:

Finnish Salmon Stew for Saint Urho Day

This past week was alot of Saint’s Days to celebrate, the big one of course Saint Patrick’s Day.  We put on our green and headed to the state capital for a parade in some 78 degree    summer weather here in Mpls.  Record number of people out celebrating, who knew there are so many Irish.  This year I also learned of a new Saint’s holiday from an art director I was working with on set last week.  The day before St. Pats is Saint Urho Day, March 16th.  You probably have not heard of this holiday if you have not grown up in northern MN.

“The legend of St. Urho originated in Northern Minnesota in the 1950s. However, there are differing opinions as to whether it began with the fables created by Sulo Havumaki of Bemidji, or the tongue-in-cheek tales told by Richard Mattson of Virginia. Either way, the legend has grown among North Americans of Finnish descent to the point where St. Urho is known and celebrated across the United States and Canada, and even in Finland.

St. Urho’s Day is celebrated on March 16th, the day prior to the better known feast of some minor saint from Ireland, who was alleged to have driven the snakes from that island.

The legend of St. Urho says he chased the grasshoppers out of ancient Finland, thus saving the grape crop and the jobs of Finnish vineyard workers. He did this by uttering the phrase: “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen” (roughly translated: “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!”). His feast is celebrated by wearing the colors Royal Purple and Nile Green. ”

To go along with this holiday they have a Mojakka cook-off. What is Mojakka you ask? There is so much to learn.  “Mojakka (pronounced MOY-a-kah) is a soup served in Finnish-American households in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Western Ontario. The principal ingredients are beef or fish and potatoes. When Finnish immigrants of a century ago made their way to the area around Lake Superior, the name followed them, but it came to mean any soup made of leftovers. ”

We made this Salmon Finnish Fish Stew.  Beth shared stories of her dad making this fish stew on the campfire while they were camping. Using what-ever fish they had caught that day and some basic ingredients you just boil all the ingredients over the camp fire.  We ate some stew after we photographed it, it is quite good and I can see it would be a great dinner at the camp site.  Now, I just need to learn how to fish.


– 200g-400g of filited Salmon or other fish

– 600g potatoes, peeled and chopped into cm cubes

– 1 Onion, chopped into 8

– 200ml Cream

– Dill, a good couple of tablespoons per person, chopped finely

  1. Cover the Onion and Potato with Water in a pan, add about 10 whole Peppercorns and Salt. Boil for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the Cream and half of the Dill you chopped, then the fish fillets whole.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes, stir in a knob of Butter, check the Salt level and add more if needed then serve with the rest of the Dill sprinkled on top.
  4. This recipe is from–

Visit Beth’s site to see our outfits and lots of great styling Ideas.

Avocado Orange Asian Noodle Salad

This is a simple light asian noodle salad.  The nice thing about this salad it’s all improvisational, use what ever might inspire you or what ever you might find in your fridge. One of my favorite drinks to order is the Thai Tea or Thai coffee it’s great with a spicy dish or simply refreshing.Thai Tea is tea or coffee with sugar and condensed milk over ice.


Food Stylist: Melinda Hutchison

If you’re looking for some comfort meaty craving, I say go for a classic recipe. It could be that antidote for the winter blues. Well, there is nothing like a meatloaf, lots of meat and left overs.  This recipe with the cider, prunes and Worcestershire sauce adds a hint of sweetness. Baking the meatloaf without a loaf pan gives you lots of browned crusts. I also like the rawness of mixing the meat together with your hands, truly hand-made.


  • 1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (from 2 slices firm white sandwich bread)
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 pound bacon (about 4 slices), chopped
  • 1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (not lean)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
  • Soak bread crumbs in milk in a large bowl. Meanwhile, cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to low, then cook until carrot is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Add to bread-crumb mixture.
  • Finely chop bacon and prunes in a food processor, then add to onion mixture along with beef, pork, eggs, and parsley and mix together with your hands.
  • Pack mixture into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a 13- by 9-inch shallow baking dish or pan.
  • Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of meatloaf registers 155°F, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Pesto Rubbed Chicken

It’s always one of my favorite time of the garden harvest when I chop down the basil and make my first batch of pesto. The balance of flavors tastes good simply on it’s own. I slather everything with pesto, can’t seem to get enough. The Pesto Smear on a slice of toasted french bread with a Roma tomato on top. Yum

I’ve read the sequence of ingredients matters when mixing the pesto.  Begin with garlic then add pine nuts, then basil, then course sea salt. After a few minutes of mixing then stream in the olive oil, until sauce becomes silky. The cheese is last, it gives it body and creaminess. Every Pesto is unique as it’s creator.

Classic Basil Pesto

4 cups basil– 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil–1/2 cup Parmesan–1/4 cup toasted pine nuts– 2 garlic gloves– coarse sea salt

Pesto Rubbed Chicken

Spread pesto between the chicken skin- Place chicken skin side down on grill and cook-turn chicken and spread pesto on top of the chicken.  Serve with a salad. Enjoy