Create, compete at the fair

The Minnesota State Fair is on the horizon, and with it opportunities for showcasing your baking, cooking, preserving and other culinary talents. What's new? Pillsbury will enter the first-place winners from 21 state fairs in its national contest that sports a $5,000 grand prize. Yes, you need to use a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust. Fleischmann's Yeast will donate $10 to breast cancer research for each yeast-based entry. The winner in the King Arthur Great Cake Contest will compete with winners from 14 other state fairs for a $500 shopping spree or a trip for a class at the King Arthur baking center in Vermont. Baking not your thing? Mac 'n' cheese is the theme for Spam's annual contest, and you could end up in Waikiki as grand champion.

For details on these and the many other contests in the Creative Activities Building, visit www.mnstatefair.org, where you can download the premium book. Both online and mail-in registration will close at precisely 4:30 p.m. Aug. 10.

New flavors for sale

Some new flavors, or at least new nuances, are on the shelves and online now. McCormick & Co. has roasted four spices: cumin, cinnamon, ginger and coriander. The flavors are fuller and deeper. And you don't have to worry about scorching the cumin seeds and smelling up your coffee grinder.

Remember the Bacon Salt folks? They have a new product: J&D's Malt Salt, which tastes just like malt vinegar -- it really does! -- in dry form, which keeps fried food from getting soggy as it might with actual vinegar. They say it's especially good on vegetables and fish, maybe even popcorn. Learn more at www.jdfoods.net.

The youngest locavores

The Minnesota History Center in St. Paul brings kids inside the "eat local" tent with "Little Locavores: Tasty Bites of Minnesota's Culinary Past and Present" from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The family-oriented event explores the state's agricultural heritage with healthful foods prepared by local chefs, including Seth Bixby Daugherty, who's making a wild rice salad. Other treats include healthy popsicles from Helados y Paletas La Chiquita, natural sodas from Northern Brewer, and ketchup made from local tomatoes and served with local potatoes. All this, plus performances by School of Rock, MC/VL and a student jazz ensemble from the Walker West Music Academy. The event is co-hosted by Gastro Non Grata, and is part of the regular museum admission of $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and college students and $5 for ages 6-17 (free for 5 and under). KIM ODE