CFR Top 10 Summer Foods


WatermelonAfter several months of being surrounded by a total absence of color and temperatures well below zero, we hit 50 degrees for the first time last week.  Here in Minnesota, that is equal to about 80 degrees anywhere else.  So, after a long cold winter of eating soups , stews and hotdishes, that got us talking at Curtis Food Recruiters about the foods we were most looking forward to eating this summer.  For those in the warmer climates, this may not be something that is thought much about, but for us in the northern areas, it is a hot topic, right along with discussing the weather and various aches and pains!

This is our list of the top ten foods we are looking forward to eating this summer:

  1. Watermelon – bright red, seedless, juicy and sweet.
  2. Fresh raspberries – they make a great vanilla ice cream topper!
  3. Green beans – picked right out of the garden and cooked with a little butter and salt until tender.  Yum!
  4. Anything barbequed on the grill.
  5. Fresh heirloom tomatoes – picked right off the vine.  They are awesome in a caprese salad with a variety of red, yellow and orange hues.
  6. Anything on a patio – preferably Mexican.
  7. Fresh Strawberries – it’s best to find a patch and go pick your own.
  8. Guacamole and chips – with lots of fresh cilantro.
  9. Corn on the cob – dripping with lots of hot melted butter.
  10. Potato salad  – made with lots of mayo so it’s not too dry, a little mustard , salt and pepper.

Even though some of those in the south may not understand how much we think about these foods, I think we can all agree that they make the warm weather so much more enjoyable! What food are you looking forward to eating this summer?


Here are links to some of our favorite local CSAs, farms stands and berry patches – They offer the option to add eggs and home delivery to their CSA program in Buffalo, MN. – CSA, roadside stands throughout central MN, as well as a Minneapolis farmers market favorite. – Roadside vegetable stand at their farm in Corcoran, MN. – Open Thursday afternoons, June 11 to October 22, 2015. – Open Friday Mornings,  June 26 – October 30, 2015.

Food Trends We Love

Food like everything has trends; they come and go. I love every part of food; from reading recipes and grocery shopping to cooking, and best of all eating!

In the last ten years some fads turned into bona fide trends.  Moving from $.50 diner coffee to a $5.00 venti nonfat Caramel Macchiato’s and the rise of organic and sustainable foods.  More recently we have seen an increase in whole grain and gluten free products.  The advent of the “Food Truck” is one of my favorite trends.  To be able to get a gourmet Cabrito Butter Burger with Roasted Tomatoes, Charred Onions and Sweet Pickles from the Andrew Zimmern’s food truck is an incredible treat on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.  We have learned to love quinoa, kale, gluten free and Sriracha (or have we!).


One of my favorite new trends in the food industry is the use of fresh herbs. Today’s cooks use them regularly to add flavor and freshness to any dish.  Although classic herb gardens have thyme, basil, mint and chives my favorite is Cilantro.  Cilantro is easy to grow and can be used in a variety dishes. One key to successful cilantro is to prune the flowers when it begins to grow. If you don’t, the stems become woody and the flavor changes.  The Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis uses it in their chorizo stuffed peppadew pepper and the Barriro Tequila Bar on Hennepin uses a cilantro-lime vinaigrette in their mixed green salad and also in their barbecued pork torta. One of my personal favorites is Southwestern Spiced Sweet potato fries with chili-cilantro sour cream. Another is Cilantro sugar which can be used to dip watermelon or rim cocktail glasses. One other noteworthy item: Each 100-g serving of raw cilantro leaves provides over 521 mg. of potassium. Cilantro adds a unique and subtle flavor to many dishes.


One thing I know for sure is that overall the trends have been focused on delicious, healthy, and flavorful foods. Herbs play a key role in enhancing both savory and sweet dishes.  I am a true foodie at heart.  My education and early experience was in food science/R&D and now as a CPG recruiter I just can’t get enough of what the food industry has to offer.  I look forward to seeing what the next ten years bring.

-Holly Shoberg


Food Festivals


Working for a CPG Recruiter we are constantly talking about food.  Our food industry clients make some of the best products in the grocery aisle but there are some brands that don’t get the same kind of PR.  Eating is one of my favorite hobbies.  Whether it’s a night out on the town trying new foodie restaurants, or Martini Friday at home, snacks are on the menu!  One way to sample a lot of food in one spot is a food festival.

Whether you are into garlic, truffles, or food truck dining there is a food festival for you.  Some of the more notable festivals involve throwing tomatoes or wearing watermelons as water-skis.   All year long you can find grand celebrations of food and drink all over the world.  From local eats to celebrating bug cuisine, there are food festivals to satisfy many fancies.  Easy enough to find on the internet are the “Best Food Festivals,” I have listed a few links below.

After I saw what the world could offer I decided to look closer to home.  Here in MN we can enjoy several food, wine, craft beer, and local eats festivals in 2014.    I recently found and attended a local food focused event.  From “Olive Oil on Tap” infused olive oil and “BurntOut BBQ Company” sauces to sweet confectionary treats and amazing cheeses, there is always something wonderful to snack on while sampling the local beverages.  Minnesota craft beers are fantastic!  The artistry and talent of these small shops is apparent to me as a small time foodie.  I believe they are inspirational to the larger food producers as well.  It was a pleasure to put faces and stories to some local brands I have bought at the store, like Curt’s Special Recipe salsa.  We are excited to try their Spicy Bloody Mary Mix.  I brought home some great cheese and snacks for the next Martini Friday!  I am looking forward to dipping my fresh baked bread in Tuscany infused olive oil with parmesan, and working away at the quarter wheel of “Faribault Caves” cave aged Gouda.  Is anyone else hungry?


Here are a few of the websites I enjoyed while looking for food festivals:

Gardening in Small Spaces: Making the Most of What You’ve Got


As we finally seem to be rounding the corner on spring, looking back, I can truly say that it was a long winter!  I know this for sure, because on one of our first Minnesota spring mornings, I was awoken to the sound of birds and I literally couldn’t recognize what the sound was!  That got me thinking about my vegetable garden.  At Curtis Food Recruiters, we are all about the food!  On this note, one of my passions over the last few years has been planning and growing my own vegetable garden.  Even though I don’t have a lot of space for vegetable gardening, I really do enjoy it.  Backyard gardening is a food trend that has been growing in popularity across the nation.  Many of us do not have expansive fields in which to plant and grow our own food, however, we do have the means to create some very productive crops using the space that we do have.  Whatever you choose to call it: urban gardening, square foot gardening, container gardening, backyard gardening, the concept is all the same; we are trying to do the most with the space that we have.

The following are some of my favorite small space gardening tips:

Use square foot gardening.  The concept of square foot gardening was created in the 1970’s by a retired engineer named Mel Bartholomew.  He noticed that instead of the traditional way of planting with rows, small gardens would be more efficient if planted in squares.  This was because the rows were intended to make space for the equipment in the fields, but were not as efficient as a densely planted garden.   Square foot gardening involves laying down 1 foot square guides and then planting the various crops within each 1 foot section.   This can be done using wood strips or even string, or in my case “eye-balling” it.  With rows eliminated, this type of dense planting also helps reduce weeds, another bonus for the home gardener.  Raised gardens also work well.  In two 4 x 8 gardens, you could have as many as 64 different types of vegetables.

Think about recycling your crops throughout the summer.  Some plants grow quickly from seed and can be replanted throughout the summer.  This is one form of succession planting.  Vegetables like lettuce, radishes and green beans work well for this.  You can replant these crops about every 2-3 weeks, as the plants stop producing.  Another great way to re-use garden space is to cut plants like Swiss chard and lettuce about an inch above the ground when harvesting them.  This will allow them to re-grow at least one or two more times.  By following these tips, you can recycle your garden space all summer long.

Consider dwarf or miniature varieties of plants.  These plants can produce as much as the traditional larger sized varieties, but in a much more compact area.  More and more types of these plants are being introduced as backyard gardening is becoming more popular.  They will often be labeled with words like dwarf, miniature or compact.  Also be sure to look for varieties that indicate that they are highly productive.

Consider growing herbs and vegetables among the other plants in your landscape.  Herbs and vegetables don’t always need their own private garden space; they can be simply incorporated into your landscape.  This also means that the space in your front yard can be just as easily used as the space in your backyard; making more room for planting vegetables and herbs.

Plant what you enjoy.  Herbs are very distinct in flavor and smell and can trigger a range of feelings, emotions and memories.  Lavender is a great example of this.  One of my favorite things to plant among my perennials is Pineapple Sage.  Even though I never choose to cook with it, Pineapple Sage is one of my favorite herbs.  Full grown at about 2 feet, it is a beautiful lime green plant that smells absolutely wonderful!  Every time I walk by it, I grab a small handful of leaves and am immediately taken to the tropics!

Create miniature gardens in your containers.  Even planters on a patio or deck can be great containers for a small garden.  You can create small themed gardens within the containers.  For a spaghetti garden, all you need is a tomato plant, like San Marzano or Roma, and some herbs like oregano and basil.  Be sure that the space does get at least 6 hours of sun for best results.  Consider other types of miniature gardens as well, such as a salad garden with various types and colors of lettuce, grape tomatoes, chives and radishes.  Be creative!

Use all of your space wisely, including vertical space. Planting vining vegetables on a trellis or pole is a great way to get several more feet of vertical space from your garden without using a large footprint.  A simple thing I like to do is put 4 or 5 bamboo stakes in the center of my raised garden in a small circle or square and then tie them together at the top with twine.  Last summer, I planted pole beans around the stakes.  At the height of summer, they were not only a beautiful focal point in my garden, but also produced an abundance of great tasting beans through the later part of the summer.   In the landscape, a rung ladder propped next to the sunny side of the house would make a great support for peas or miniature pumpkins; or a trellis would work equally well.

Have fun and be creative with the different types of containers you can use in your space.   I have seen some pretty creative uses of containers around the web these days.  This includes multi-level containers on the deck, as well as pallets being propped up vertically with plants in pots tacked to the sides.  One of my favorites is the re-purposing of an over the door shoe bag.  It was made out of a really pretty burlap type fabric and had herbs tucked in the places where the shoes are supposed to go.  Adorable!  I have also seen multiple layers of gutters hung together with twine and used for planting.  I currently have a window box that I am not using for flowers this year, but filled with herbs, it may be a great center piece for my outdoor dining table.

For additional information on the topic, one website that offers some great suggestions and how-to’s, including tutorials, on creating small space edible gardens is Sunset at  Mel Bartholomew also offers some great tips to getting starting with the Square Foot Gardening method on his blog at

Now get planting!  I would love to hear about your results!

Marianne Lenz

“Thank the Waiter” – Six Steps to Positive

Six Steps to Positive – By Russell Zwanka

You know how you feel when you spend the day with someone with that “can-do” positive energy?  It’s contagious.  It makes you feel more energetic, more productive, and even more successful.  You look forward to being with that person.  Can’t we all be that person? We can all be forces for positive change, forces for enthusiasm, forces for looking at the bright side of every situation?  We can!  All it takes is the right attitude and the determination to follow a few steps:

Assume positive intent.

Sounds easy enough, right?  But, what about that person who just cut you off in traffic?  What about the co-worker who took the project in the wrong direction?  The human nature assumption is usually that the person meant to do it.  For once, and hopefully it will stick, assume that the other person only had positive intent, and really has no personal vendetta against you.  They are just another person in this world just like you.

Thank the waiter.

“Thanking the waiter” is a metaphor for ensuring that we recognize everyone around us as important….at all times.  How many times during your lunch does a waiter or waitress re-fill your drink?  Sure, they are getting paid, but don’t you think they would love to hear you say, “thank you”?  Every time.  Look around you.  There are bus drivers, policemen, utility workers, teachers, or even your team at work.  These are people who make your life a little easier.  Just saying thank you can go a long way.  You know, I’m sure even the President of the United States would like to hear someone thank him once in a while.

Be appreciative of what you have.

For most of us reading these words, we are able to walk to the pantry and grab something to eat.  If we want to drive down to the local grocery store and buy some special cut of meat, we can do that as well.  Want to drive to the other side of the country?  Go for it.  We have freedoms that many do not enjoy, and we can sometimes take them for granted.  You have a system that allows for a teacher to be there for you every day and pass on knowledge.  Be appreciative of your current situation, not always what you wish you had.  When you really take time to look around you, things are pretty good.

Develop a moral compass. 

You can’t go through life making decisions on a whim, making decisions on emotion, making decisions on impulse.  The most positive individuals make decisions based upon their moral compass.  How does this decision affect others?  Is it the right or wrong thing to do?  Would I do it if my Mom were watching?  A moral compass is a guide.  It’s a guide to doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  Think of the impact on this world if all decisions were made under the direction of a moral compass.

Think of the other person first.

When you are talking with another person, are you listening to respond or are you listening to learn?  It is second nature to blurt out how you feel, how you acted, how you would do things differently.  You have to train yourself to listen with the intent to learn what the other person is saying.  It’s not all about you.  People want to be heard.  Remembering the “two ears and only one mouth” ratio is paramount to positively impacting others.

Do what you enjoy. 

Yes, it is called work because it is a lot of work….but, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what you are doing.  If you are in retail, and every store you pass in every country you visit is another opportunity to see the neat creative ideas that someone else might have thought up, you are in the right job.  If you are a web designer, and you have to constantly review other sites for great ideas and inspiration, you are in the right job.  Do what you love.  Do what brings out the passion in you.  Life’s too short to do anything else! We can do this!  We can be a positive force on this world.  We can be the encouraging and passionate impact for change.  All it takes is the right attitude and the desire to be the magnetic pull that unites those around us in a positive manner.


Russel Zwanka

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Russell Zwanka is CEO and Partner at Triple Eight Marketing.  Russell has led the merchandising, marketing, advertising, procurement, and all customer engagement areas for multiple organizations in the United States and Canada.