Today was a long day, topped off with an experience that was very rewarding, even though it happened while I was "on the job." Sometimes I wonder at the odd coincidences in my life that connect prior experiences, skills and interests.

Tonight, covering a story for another newspaper, I was included in a food prep lesson for a group of school food service cooks. The amazing part was their lesson, led by Minneapolis chef Marshall O'Brien, centered on oven-roasting a variety of fresh vegetables.

If I had remembered I needed to write a column tonight, I might have turned down this opportunity. After finishing the day at my full-time job, I went to observe the chef's cooking lesson.

Oddly, I had already planned to write my column about roasting Brussels sprouts. I had actually planned ahead a week and taken photos of roasted sprouts with two different outcomes. Perhaps I got this done because our plans to visit our cabin in northern Wisconsin changed, once again, this time due to a giant snowstorm.

Readers know I don't usually plan ahead more than a few days before I write my column. My kitchen is the site for trial and error cooking, but it is hardly a test kitchen, where recipes are totally perfected before sharing them. (Another confession, sorry.)

I loved watching the group of some 25 men and women counting off 1-2-3-4, so they were divided into four different food prep groups. Each was assigned one of the recipes and then they began a process of peeling and cutting up fresh vegetables.

It was enjoyable seeing how they divided their labors into roles and made short work of creating giant trays of seasoned vegetables that were slid into ovens, heated to 350 degrees. One of their challenges was knowing their end product needed to be cooked and served at 6 p.m. for a shared meal for all those attending the class.

I also shared that meal. I will confess my favorites were the roasted cabbage with Italian seasoning and a carrot/Granny Smith apple combo. They roasted sweet potatoes using a recipe that is much like one I create (and shared once in this column) and a broccoli/cauliflower mix flavored with garlic and Parmesan cheese.

With some extra green and purple heads of cabbage, three groups were challenged to use their imagination and create a recipe. One group roasted its cabbage, one mixed purple cabbage with tomato sauce and a third group created coleslaw.

After I got home, I looked up Chef Marshall O'Brien's website ( and found recipes for "healthy," no, let me rephrase that, "delicious" food. I had chatted with the chef about the growing awareness of people knowing they want to eat more healthfully, yet thinking they don't have time for scratch cooking, or just don't know how.

In my quick glance of his website, I found "foods to reduce stress" and who, in our busy world, doesn't need more stress-relieving foods. He listed lean protein (especially turkey), plus foods high in magnesium (dark chocolate and dark leafy greens) and vitamin C and potassium (bananas and avocados).

In addition to having my evening meal cooked by someone else (lots of "someones"), I had the experience of learning from a chef. There's a story yet to write, but what a fun story this will be! My only regret is that I had to leave before the chef shared comments. It had also been a very long day for our basset hound Delilah, home alone, so I needed to get home to her. Plus, I needed to write for you.

As I alluded to above, we missed standing at the finish line of the cross-country ski race, known as the Birkie, in Hayward, Wis. On Friday night, my husband had come home and announced we were going to the cabin.

"How was your drive from Rochester?" I asked.

"Horrible," he said.

"You sure we should go?"

"Well, no."

We talked about how it might take twice the time. The real clincher was imagining the amount of snow stacked in our driveway - over a foot. Would our four-wheel-drive vehicle make it through unplowed snow to the garage? Probably not.

Se we stayed home and I cooked as I would have any other Friday night.

In the end, we drove up the following weekend. The roads were still not perfect, but worse in Minnesota than in Wisconsin.

I purchased local papers to get the story of what happened there during the storm. About 2,000 of the 10,000 signed up for the race never picked up their bibs. Another 500 did not finish due to cold temps and fierce wind chills. They had gotten up to 18 inches of snow on Friday in some parts, where the race was held. There wasn't enough time to properly groom the trail -however 7,500 finished the race - imagine that!

Spooner, Wis., reported it had received seven feet of snow so far this winter and with 28 "snow events," had over-stressed plow crews and city and county resources. And we thought we had had a bad winter down here. OK, it has not been all that good here either and yes, so cold that cities are now struggling to keep residential water lines from freezing. (A bit of advice - check and recheck your tap temperatures and consider running a small stream continuously, if 38 degrees or lower.)

The owner of the Black Bear Pub, where we stop for pizza in Stone Lake, Wis., told us they were to be running their tap continuously. We can't do that at our cabin because our sewer goes into a tank.

So that's the story on that.

Now, let's return to the Brussels sprouts. I found them "in season" and reasonably priced. While they are not in season in Minnesota, they are still in season somewhere else.

I roasted Brussels sprouts at Christmas time and found them on special again recently when I was shopping. I'd purchased a pound one week, didn't get them cooked, then got another pound a week later. I roasted both, but two different ways. One batch was roasted with purple cauliflower, another recent market find. The school cooks tonight also roasted cauliflower, the white variety.

The only problem with having created these recipes a week ago, I somewhat forgot the recipes, until I looked at my photo again. The first version has some similar ingredients to a dish we like to order at the Angry Minnow in Hayward.