Thought For Food

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As I sit and look out at the 7 inches of snow that has just fallen here in Minneapolis, I sigh. It’s April, Minnesota. April. At least I can enjoy my morning granola and steaming cup of coffee, and a few great reads.

In case you are interested:

The Best Diet? Real Food

Where to Live? Anywhere, Intentionally

Still Hate Kale? Give your taste buds a chance

Want to Save on Food? Stop eating out so much…

And now back to coffee and card-making, enjoy this day everyone!

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CSA: What’s the Big Deal?

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Kale (Toscano, Red Russian, Rainbow Lacinata), Spinach (Bordeaux, Tyee), Radishes (Easter Egg, Pink Beauty, Rudolf), Lemon Balm, Sheep Sorrel, Lamb’s Quarter, Fennel, Broccoli Rabe, Chives, Scallions

Well for one, just look at that basket of green goodness! Don’t tell me you’d rather join the crowds at the “super”market to get produce that’s been sitting in a refrigerated truck for a week and sprayed with who knows what to stay “fresh.”

Beyond the beauty of the bounty, there are plenty of other reasons for buying into a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture).

1) It benefits you: you’ll be eating fresh food, with amazing flavor and nutritional benefits not found in grocery store produce. You’ll also be exposed to new, seasonal vegetables and new ways of cooking.

2) It benefits your community: interact with other food-minded members of your neighborhood, and the people who are actually growing your food! At Sylvester Manor, our CSA members have the opportunity to work on the farm in exchange for a cost reduction. We also donate extra produce to schools and food banks in the area.

3) It benefits the farmer: each CSA share is someone in the community saying “I trust you!” You give the farmer a cash advance, so they can have up front capital to use the non-growing season to plan, buy seeds, prepare land, and not worry about the lack of cash flow.

So why doesn’t everyone do this?
It’s expensive: Consider the true cost of food. The locally, sustainably, seasonally grown produce from a farm is just that. It’s priced based on the cost of seeds, land and labor. Industrial scale organic or conventionally grown food is not usually priced as accurately. Not even counting their pesticide-laden, toxic nature, consumers pay for this food outside of the grocery checkout line through tax payments (subsidies), massive environmental damage and growing health problems. I could keep ranting, but feel free to read more.
It’s inconvenient: What is? Going to a one-stop shop to pick up your weekly produce? And not having to be surrounded by 40,000 products, sale signs, and fluorescent lights? You can probably find a CSA that will deliver to you, or that you can pick up at a farmer’s market near you.
It’s low quality: Sure, you might get some veggies with dirt or a few bugs, some cracks or irregular shapes – these are indications that your food was, ya know, grown for flavor, not just looks or yield or shelf life or packaging. Someone planted that seed, watered it, transplanted it into the ground, and that plant was subject to the elements of nature. I bet if you close your eyes and taste a radish out of the field, and then a radish from Whole Foods, you’ll understand what quality means.
It’s not food I want (no choice, dislike vegetables, can’t we have tomatoes in May?): What if you view it as a chance to try out new foods, new cooking styles? Learn to be ingredient-driven, eat produce that is in season and be creative to overcome psychological blocks you have toward certain foods.

And if you’re a part of the Sylvester Manor community (and I’m sure a lot of other CSAs), we love to talk about food, share recipes, and offer suggestions for how to use what we give you. Here’s what we gave our CSA members for their first share this week:

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Food has such power to bring individuals and entire communities together. Of course, a CSA is not the only way to get involved, but it’s a nice start.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead

A Green Meal. Or Two.

Dhamma Green Salad

Dhamma Green Salad

As promised, I’ve got the names for the multitudes of greens flourishing in our high tunnel over the winter. The Dhamma Green salad features quite a few of them:  Green Frills and Ruby Streaks Mustard Greens, Purple and Green Mizuna, Red Rain, Red Vein Sorrel, Out-red-gous Lettuce, and Wrinkled, Crinkled, Crumpled Cress. Dhamma salad is served with shredded, raw beets and carrots, cooked chickpeas (not from a can people, day-before preparation is essential – soak’m overnight, drain & rinse’m, fill’m up again, boil’m, simmer’m until they’re soft and buttery). Dressing is optional, but a little oil and Balsamic never hurt anyone.

Farm Crew amidst beds of kale and spinach

Farm Crew amidst beds of baby kale and spinach

We harvested the kale and spinach for a local restaurant, 18 Bay (though of course I ate my fair share while I was harvesting…). They also took some bolting Mizuna stalks, to be served atop a fish entree they were preparing that evening. Talk about farm to table service – from the ground to the plate in just a few hours! Next week we’ll harvest the bolted arugula for them, and they’ll press those little flowers into pasta. Can’t wait until we get to cook & dine with the owners…

Henbit Deadnettle, a "weed"

Henbit Deadnettle, a “weed.” 18 Bay didn’t want these, but we sure did. Part of the mint family, beautiful & delicious!

Arugula Flower

Arugula Flower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chard went into a delicious, warming soup – perfect for the blizzard that came seemingly out of nowhere. Here’s my recipe:

Lentil & Chard Soup

Lentil & Chard Soup

1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 medium carrots, chopped
1-2 medium parsnips, chopped
6-8 cups vegetable broth
2 cups stewed tomatoes
1 1/2 cups red lentils
lots of heaping handfuls of chard
salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, cayenne
lemon juice

Saute the onion in a bit of oil until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add the carrots and parsnips and cook until almost tender, adding a bit of broth to prevent vegetables sticking to the pan & collect any caramelization that may be happening.
Add the rest of the broth and the tomatoes, and bring to a boil.
Add the lentils, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer. Don’t panic when the lentils start breaking down – it’s their nature.
5-10 minutes before you want to serve, add the chard (baby or chopped leaves) and let it cook down a bit in the hot broth.
Season with salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, cayenne and some fresh lemon juice.

PS: Apologies for the terrible formatting of this blog. I’m still trying to work out the kinks. Suggestions appreciated! You’re talking to someone with no coding or web design experience, but plenty of general computer experience and a willingness to learn.

A Farmer’s Way to Start the Day

A Farmer's Way to Start the Day

Granola! I’ll be the first to admit I’m addicted to this stuff. But come on! It’s got everything you need to start the day right – protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals – and it’s delicious! And the sky is the limit for variations on this stuff – from different grains and nuts and seeds to spices and sweeteners and toppings, not to mention the granola bar and endless varieties that go along with it.

Without further ado, here is my “recipe”

8 c. rolled oats
1 c. sunflower seeds
1 c. sesame seeds
1 1/2 c. almonds
1 1/2 c. shredded coconut
1 T. cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
pinch salt

3/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. agave syrup
1/2 c. nut butter

Mix the dry ingredients. Melt the wet ingredients in the microwave or over the stove, and add onto the dry ingredients, mixing until everything is coated.
Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet (or two or three), and bake in a 300 degree oven for about an hour, turning every 15 minutes.

Substitutions/Variations

Grains: Buckwheat Groats, Quinoa Flakes, Puffed Rice
Nuts: Walnuts, Cashews, Pecans, Macadamia, Brazil, Hazelnut
Seeds: Pumpkin, Chia, Hemp, Flax
Oil: Canola, Nut Oils
Sweetener: Honey, Maple Syrup

After cooling, store your granola in an airtight container, and eat any meal of the day. I like mine with almond milk, an apple or banana, and some dried (or rehydrated) fruit. So tasty! And its lowering my cholesterol (almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds) and glycemic index (sunflower seeds), providing vitamin E and B (almonds, sunflower seeds), calcium (sesame seeds), and giving me protein for a hard day’s work, what else could you need??

Granola provides energy to plant 2,200 onion seeds in a day!

Granola provides energy to plant 2,200 onion seeds in a day!

Pontiac yellow onions here. Also seeded: Red Bull, Red Baron and Barletta. Alliums to come: leeks, shallots & scallions.

Pontiac yellow onions here. Also seeded: Red Bull, Red Baron and Barletta. Alliums to come: leeks, shallots & scallions.

 

The First Meal

Chickpeas & Chard in Tomato Sauce, Seven-Green Salad, Almond-Arugula Pesto and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Chickpeas & Chard in Tomato Sauce, Seven-Green Salad, Almond-Arugula Pesto and Roasted Red Pepper Dip

The Sylvester Manor crew made our first meal together, and it set some pretty high standards. After a day of wondering where I was going to get my fresh vegetable fix – I found it in our high tunnel. Greens upon greens! A dozen different varieties! This is every girl’s dream, right??

I should have written down all their names, but in my excitement, I didn’t. I’ll be more diligent in the future.

The star of our dinner was the Seven-Green Salad. Two different mustard greens, sorrel, red leaf lettuce, tatsoi, chicory and cilantro. I saved the spinach for a delicious lunchtime smoothie. The arugula went into an Almond-Arugula Pesto. The salad dressing was made in the same blender as the pesto with some olive oil, balsamic, salt & pepper.

We also had some chickpeas and chard in tomato sauce leftover from last year’s Manor crew. And we had to try their Roasted Red Pepper dip as well.  And what dinner would be complete without a few beets? These had been sitting in a makeshift root cellar, so they were a little dry, but we finished them up anyway.

Salad Greens

Salad Greens

Bowl of Greens

Bowl of Greens

Arugula-Almond Pesto

Arugula-Almond Pesto

Chioggia, Golden & Red Beets

Chioggia, Golden & Red Beets

A Brief History of Sandwiches

A Brief History of Sandwiches

Spinach, Tomato, Avocado, Roasted Chicken & Paprika Mayo on Ciabatta

So…I love sandwiches. I thought I’d post some pictures of sandwiches I made to tantalize your taste buds a bit. However, these were also all made before my focus on local, seasonal, nutritious food really started – so it’s a bit of tomfoolery on my part. I will start taking photos of my new cooking style as soon as we get our kitchen in order here at the Manor.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos, and also enjoy this great article on the art of sandwich making.

Chicken, Avocado, Tomato & Pesto on Whole Wheat

Chicken, Avocado, Tomato & Pesto on Whole Wheat

Turkey, Roasted Red Pepper, Avocado & Havarti on Foccacia

Turkey, Roasted Red Pepper, Avocado & Havarti on Foccacia

BBQ Chicken & Coleslaw on Toast

BBQ Chicken & Coleslaw on Toast

Pimento Cheese & Pickle on Toast

Pimento Cheese & Pickle on Toast

Dill Egg Salad on Toast

Dill Egg Salad on Toast

Turkey Meatball Sub

Turkey Meatball Sub

 

Right Food, Right Action, Right Awareness

Join me on my journey to learn about food – how its produced, distributed, consumed; how to be a conscious consumer; how to eat “healthy” and more.

I’m headed to Shelter Island, NY for a 9-month farming apprenticeship. At Sylvester Manor, I’ll learn how to plant, weed, harvest, wash and distribute produce. I’ll help out with our CSA and farmer’s market stand. I’ll be involved in cultural outreach and educational programs related to regional, organic, seasonal & sustainable eating. And I’ll be singin’ my heart out through it all.

A long time lover of food, my journey really started last year when I worked as a cook on a small organic farm in northern California. After almost a year of my own personal transformation regarding what I eat and why, I’m ready to share my thoughts with whoever else is interested. Because ultimately, food is an issue that concerns everyone, everywhere – and it’s about a lot more than just getting your fill.

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution