Call it Iron Food Shelf

Tackling head-on the bland connotations of cooking from a food shelf's larder, Bremer Financial Corp. is hosting the Bremer Community Cook-off, in which teams of local chefs and celebrities compete to create tasty, nutritious meals from food-shelf staples. The cook-off is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. next Thursday at 7th St. Park Place pedestrian mall between Wabasha and St. Peter Sts. (where the midweek Farmers Market sets up) in St. Paul. The event is free, but donations will be sought from the audience for Second Harvest Heartland, which says that each $1 donation makes it possible to distribute more than $9 of food to those in need. Food-shelf use continues to rise, with Second Harvest reporting a 21 percent increase in the last half of 2007 from a year earlier.

It's a milk thing

June is Dairy Month, and Martha Stewart has donned the famous white mustache a second time to promote the milk industry's new Campaign for Healthy Weight. Natch, there's a contest. Submit your favorite original (healthful) smoothie recipe for a chance to win $1,000 and have your creation featured in Everyday Food magazine. Go to www.whymilk.com to enter. (Although if you're distracted by the website's other contest for a $100,000 chief health officer's salary because that's what you are for your family, well, we're sure Martha would understand.)

Bad enough? Enter this

If your bread doubles as a doorstop and your omelets pass for Frisbees, consider entering the American Egg Board's "Search for America's Worst Cook" contest. Winners -- and we use the term loosely -- will appear in an American Egg Board ad and win a free trip for two to New York City for a culinary makeover. Contest entry information, plus how-to cooking videos, tips and recipes, are at www.americas worstcook.com.

And now, McLattes

Add Mickey D's to the lineup of places to get specialty coffees. McDonald's officially unveils its McCafe at 10 a.m. Friday at its Golden Valley restaurant at 720 Winnetka Av. N., calling coffee their biggest venture since putting breakfast on its menus in 1977. (Bigger than Salad Shakers?) The new beverages include mochas, lattes and cappuccinos, hot or iced. Restaurant industry observers have called this an aggressive move on McDonald's part, noting that Starbucks controls 52 percent of the global specialty coffee market. McCafe is the fifth-largest, with 1.7 percent. Stay tuned.

KIM ODE