Books,  Cooking,  Foodies,  Local Products

Spoonriver Cookbook & Giveaway

Don’t let anyone to fool you. Learning to cook like a gourmet genius is hard work. Learning to love vegetables and whole grains if you’re not a fan takes even more. Ever wish there was a cookbook that could help you do both? Meet The Spoonriver Cookbook. Written by Twin Cities local food pioneer Brenda Langton, this book is a must-add to all Minnesota locavore cookbook shelves. Langton is the award-winning chef and owner of Spoonriver restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. The new cookbook adds to a large body of work promoting local and sustainable food, begun in the co-op movement of the 1970’s. Not only do the recipes and photos make you want to lick the pages (try sautéed walleye in a poppy-seed cornmeal crust and butternut squash-chipotle quesadillas…swoon!), the ingredients and instructions are simple and easy enough for the amateur.

Last week I had the opportunity to chat with Langton about her new book (co-written with Margaret Stuart, released Spring 2012 from University of Minnesota Press), about buying local, and about her passion for teaching others about healthy eating. “I love when people tell me ‘you turned my diet around.’ And because it’s food, the rewards they see are fairly quick,” says Langton of her philosophy in creating simple, practical meals. The Spoonriver Cookbook is all about getting people engaged in the kitchen, steering them away from highly processed food, and providing a gateway to a healthy, sustainable diet.

Success with Whole Grains

Most of the recipes have 10 or fewer ingredients, with instructions written to keep new, inexperienced cooks successful.  When people fail with recipe after recipe, eventually they’ll leave the kitchen. One of the largest sections of the book describes how to include more whole grains, a special consideration for Langton. She regularly encounters people who turn away from whole grains, almost always because they were poorly prepared. “There’s nothing worse than mushy or hard grains. They’re no good, ” Langton says. The book promotes a better experience. One with perfectly cooked grains. One that can change a whole grain doubter’s mind. Properly cooked grains are delicious, healthy and a simple pairing for a variety of meals throughout the week. Langton’s tip for introducing whole grains slowly: cook brown rice with another grain together in the same pot. Cook times are similar and the rice can help prevent a mushy or undercooked mess.

Grains aren’t the only thing Langton is passionate about. She’s also the founder/CEO of the Mill City Farmers’ Market in Minneapolis. Open since 2006, the market continues to attract more visitors, all looking for fresh, organic and local choices. It’s a chance for Langton to share and educate about the health benefits of eating better. She says eating fresh fruits and vegetables “is the best insurance policy for a healthy life.” How true is that!

In honor of my chat with Langton (and because I’m in love with the new cookbook!), I’m sharing two special things today. One of Langton’s recommendations from the book, a recipe for buckwheat and rice pilaf. It was fantastic with Whole Grain Milling buckwheat groats from Welcome, MN and fresh herbs from my garden. Second, I’m sharing a copy of the cookbook!

That’s right! A giveaway! To enter, post a comment on this post about your favorite way to prepare whole grains and you’ll be entered to win. Comments will close on Saturday June 9 at midnight. I’ll announce the winner Sunday June 10. Want a better chance at landing your own copy? Hop on over to Minnesota Locavore’s Facebook page. You’ll get one extra entry when you like our page and then a second when you share this post!

Buckwheat and Rice Pilaf

Reprinted with permission from The Spoonriver Cookbook


3/4 cup buckwheat groats
1 cup jasmine rice or another white rice
3 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Dry roast the groats in a frying pan. To do this, heat a pan over medium heat, and the groats, and stir or shake the pan. Roast the grains until they are slightly browned and smell toasty, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
Wash the rice in a strainer until the water is clear.
Combine the rice, buckwheat groats, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan and reduce the heat. Simmer until all the water is absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit, still covered, for 15 minutes. For added flavor and texture, you can top the grains with sliced green onions, chives, parsley, or nuts.

The fine print about giveaways: I love free stuff from blogs, I don’t love dishonesty. All of the opinions on this blog are my own, I wasn’t paid or offered any compensation in any way. The thoughts about this cookbook are all my own and I wasn’t provided with a copy of the cookbook for review or giveaway. I purchased a copy on my own to share with you. It’s just that good! 


  • Teresa Saum

    My favorite way to eat whole grains is in the food at River Rock Coffee in St. Peter. Our bakers use the buckwheat flour from Whole Grain Milling, too, and the buckwheat bread is my favorite bread in the world. It has lot of other grains and flours. Millet (thought that was only for birds!) is amazing! I’ll be buying this cookbook but it sure would be fun to win it!

  • LT

    One of my favorite whole grains to make is quinoa. After rinsing, I follow the directions on the package for cooking in a pot of water. I enjoy eating it for breakfast, especially during the cooler months, so will add dried fruit, nuts and a variety of spices during the cooking process – cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and fennel seed – to make a hearty, warming morning meal.

  • Ann Schroder

    Another great cookbook by a local author. I remember Cafe Kardamena from my high school days! Good food and not just for vegetarians.

  • Annie

    I know quinoa is actually a seed, but… I like to make it per Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Quinoa & Crescenza (with cheese, mushrooms, and red pepper flakes)!

  • Barbara P.

    I love the brown rice salad, made ​​with tomatoes, soft cheese, cucumber, lot of basil, salt and olive oil: a true goodness, especially in summer!

  • Cassidy Gardenier

    My favorite whole grain is quinoa and my favorite way to have it is in a Quinoa Beet salad with lemon vinaigrette! You bring 1 cup of quinoa and two cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. That’s how you prepare the quinoa…Pretty simple. Rest of the recipe is below.

    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 tablespoon fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
    1 -2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    2 -3 cooked beets ( I wrap mine in tin foil and bake at 400 for an hour, less if smaller)
    3 green onions, sliced diagonally

    Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and dijon until emulsified. Then add the dill and salt and pepper to taste. Voila! Vinaigrette done!

    Fluff the quinoa with a fork and put in a mixing bowl.

    Peel the beets and cut into cubes.

    Add green onions, beets and vinaigrette to the quinoa, toss, and refrigerate at least an hour.

    Toss again and serve!

  • Patty G

    We love using many whole grains but we especially like using barley in risotto and in soups. Quinoa is another grain that we are just learning to use. I would loved to win this book as we are always looking for new ways to use grains and vegetables.

  • S &A

    We are trying quinoa for the first time and what a great variety of ideas to try, can’t wait to give them a try!

  • Ami Wazlawik

    I’ve recently tried kasha (roasted buckwheat) warmed up with almond milk and a bit of honey. Very tasty and great for those cold Minnesota mornings in the winter.

  • Susan

    One of our farm specialties is wood-fired multigrain sourdough bread! I also have a passion for a salad made with barley, wild rice, tossed with craisins, yellow raisins, scallions,pecans, a bit of fresh chopped mint, and dressed with orange juice and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.


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