An earful of Lenny

Chef Lenny Russo is a natural storyteller, and in a recent podcast from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in Washington, D.C., he talks about his 2013 visit to Slovenia as part of an American Chef Corps visit, where he served both as a culinary ambassador and the focus of a Slovenian TV series called “Seasoned by Americans.” He was then executive chef/owner of the former Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market. Russo is the only Minnesota chef to have been named to the American Chef Corps. Hear the podcast at


Ice cream, you scream

A vote for ice cream is always a good vote. This one involves your preference for a Midwest Dairy malt or sundae flavor that would be prepared — and sold exclusively — at the Dairy Goodness Bar at the 2019 Minnesota State Fair.

You have now through April 12 to indicate your choice of which of three flavor combos you want to see (or taste): MINTesota Nice (chocolate mint cookies, mint syrup and chocolate drizzle over vanilla ice cream or malt); Birthday Blast Batter (vanilla ice cream or malt with birthday cake bites and rainbow sprinkles); or Late Summer Dream (vanilla ice cream or malt topped with orange marmalade and vanilla wafers). Place your vote at Midwest Dairy asks you to share your choice with the hashtag #DairyGoodnessFlavor. This year’s State Fair runs from Aug. 22 through Sept. 2.

This Spam’s a winner

April Weinreich, of Wahkon, Minn., turned Spam into a winning brunch item with the Great American Spam Championship.


Spam Baked French Toast

Serves 12.

• 1 (12-oz.) can Spam-with-real-Hormel-bacon, cubed

• (16-oz.) loaf Hawaiian sliced bread, cubed into 1-in. pieces

• 8 eggs, lightly beaten

• 1 c. half-and-half

• 1 c. coconut milk

• 1 c. crushed pineapple, well drained

• 1/2 c. sweetened flaked coconut, divided

• Maple syrup, if desired


Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. In large skillet, over medium-high heat, cook Spam 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned. Spread bread cubes into bottom of prepared pan. Top with Spam cubes.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half and coconut milk. Stir in pineapple and 1/4 cup coconut. Pour over bread cubes and Spam. Press bread down slightly to absorb more egg mixture. (Cover and refrigerate if desired. Bring to room temperature before baking.) Bake 30 minutes. Top with remaining coconut. Bake additional 15 minutes, or until coconut is toasted. Serve with maple syrup, if desired.