Mill City knows a thing or two about grains and cereals. After all, from 1880 to 1930 Minneapolis was the flour milling capital of the world. So when I spotted a small stand at the Northeast Farmers Market selling handmade cereals made with organic, historic, heirloom grains, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could taste a bit of MN history.
Liz Talley is a fourth generation Minnesotan. She started a cereal-making company, Minnesota Goodness, in 2010. In 2012, she formed a partnership with Jule Rentz, and together they started a new company called Urban Graze. Now, in a commercial kitchen in Golden Valley, Talley and Rentz are producing signature lines of Minnesota Goodness and Urban Graze cereals.
The cereal grains they use are grown by three organic farmers in Wisconsin and Minnesota, who are growing old varieties of open-pollinated grains—heirloom grains. In the Urban Graze kitchen, Talley and Rentz combine those grains with ingredients like Minnesota honey and Wisconsin cherries to develop a range of products like triple berry muesli and Caramel Crunch granola (made with homemade caramel sauce). Talley’s passion for Minnesota’s history shows in the ingredients she uses, but it also extends to the product names she helps develop, like “Good Neighbor” cold cereal and “Boundary Waters” hot cereal.
“As a community, we’re preserving the valuable traditions of our rich heritages in local, sustainable, organic farming—and the enjoyment of cooking and sharing good food as we gather with our families and friends,” said Talley.
As people who “graze” throughout the day, Talley and Rentz wanted to develop products that promoted eating well all day long. Talley says her cereals are a good match for breakfast, but can also be sprinkled on salads for meals later in the day. Although not their most popular item, her favorite cereal is their North Shore muesli—a European-style muesli with berries, nuts, and grains, which she combines with yogurt.
“The Paul Bunyon Granola with cranberry and blueberries is our most popular,” said Talley. “The Extreme Crunch is made using grains that are gluten-free, by nature. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of bags of Extreme Crunch I sold last year to people who used it on their sweet potatoes and apple crisp.”
And if you think the name “Extreme Crunch” is superfluous, think again. The tiny whole grain nuggets are reminiscent of Grape-Nuts, but they pack an irrefutable crunch and a complex sweetness (stemming from maple and sorghum).
Talley’s got the knack for developing award-winning recipes—her berry nut granola bars took a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair in 2011. But while she enjoys developing recipes that compliment the unique grains she uses, it’s the day-to-day connections she makes that motivate her the most.
“What drives me is that I love connecting and networking. I am so excited on a daily basis about connecting these farmers and their food to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to taste these grains. I get a real joy from connecting the consumer to the farmer.”
You can find Minnesota Goodness and Urban Graze cereals at Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market, St. Paul Farmers’ Market, Golden’s Deli, Golden Fig, Jack’s Bakery, Ferndale Market, or buy them online.