Speed Dating for Local Food: Slow Food Huron Valley hosts CSA Fair this Sunday

Slow Food Huron Valley is hosting the perfect event for the indecisive local eater this weekend: CSA speed dating.

Delicious bounty ready for you weekly

Many of you may be familiar with… speed dating, but CSAs?   CSAs or Community Supported Agriculture is a way to connect growers to eaters.  Physically, it is a box of food, generally weekly (ranging from assortments of greens, to tubers and eggs, maybe even some dairy or meat) that is available for pickup or delivery usually from Spring until Fall.

The CSA share one purchases is advanced capital to the farmer and therefore a vote of confidence for the farmer.  Due to this advanced payment and stability in knowing the steady customers, the CSA share is usually a great deal for the food purchased.

Purchaser/eater receives fresh, seasonal produce weekly while being engaged much more intimately with the grower.  And the grower gets the vote of confidence, deeper relationship with customer, and advanced capital to make it all happen.  Sounds like a win-win to me.

Continue reading Speed Dating for Local Food: Slow Food Huron Valley hosts CSA Fair this Sunday

UM SOUP: Opportunity to be both full and fulfilled

Recipe: Tomatoes, beans, cilantro, and some CREATIVE community innovation

Funding awesome local projects has never been so tasty.
Only one day remains to submit your ideas for creative, community-based projects to UM Soup.  

What is UM Soup you ask?  SOUP is a monthly, community dinner that makes micro grants for local projects… projects that often would never have any other means to get off the ground.  SOUP is a national movement, with groups popping up all over the country, dedicated to implementing innovative and beneficial projects in their towns.  For this month’s March 23rd SOUP meet-up, project proposals are due March 13th!

With a seed grant from Shareable Magazine, UM Program in the Environment junior Isabella Morrison is organizing UM Soup to involve students more in their community.  Isabella was inspired after she attended another nearby SOUP in Detroit.  Isabella remarks, “[...] I was inspired by the people, ideas, conversations, and community activism that brewed over soup.”  What could be a greater metaphor than eating nourishing, warm, comforting, complete-meal-in-a-bowl soup while also sharing ideas about how to nourish and nurture the communities that we live in?

For $5, A2 residents and UM students can have a fun evening learning about local projects, eating a local meal, jamming to live music, and voting on their favorite community project! Continue reading UM SOUP: Opportunity to be both full and fulfilled

DIY gift ideas you’ll enjoy making and giving

As an amateur watercolor painter and broke graduate school student, my family and friends are becoming used to my hand-painted cards and wall-worthy (my opinion) paintings as gifts. Plus at least for my nephews and niece, why try to compete against flashy-brightly-colored-Toy-Story-themed-remote-controlled-car with other flashy-brightly-colored-Dora-the-Explorer-themed-remote-controlled-car that is outside of my budget anyway?  A pack of colored pencils and glitter, accompanied by some of their Aunt Jill’s works of art will be enjoyed in both the short and long term.  This holiday season though, I’m taking my DIY gifts to the next level… and yep, I am completely willing to share some of my finds. (Lucky you!)

First, what’s the most accessible DIY gift?

Food!  I am no wood craftsman, BUT I can mix some great ingredients to make a granola that would start your day off right.  And I think most could do that.  Homemade granola, infused olive oils, fudge, freezer jams…. the list goes on and on.  Here’s what I’m cooking and baking this year:

 ”Kitchen Sink” Chocolate Bark

After 2 years of giving truffles to friends and family for the holidays, I am thinking I will aim for a healthier option with crunchy and delicious chocolate bark.  This recipe calls for mixed nuts, dried fruit, and pretzels: you are only limited by your imagination for combinations here.  I think I’ll try almonds and dried apricots….

I also am demolishing a canister of coffee beans this week (only three more exams left…) and I’m thinking that with a quick peel of the label, wash, and addition of ribbon, it will make a great container to hold the bark!

Continue reading DIY gift ideas you’ll enjoy making and giving

Getting dirty at the UM campus garden

My Fellow SNREds and I posing for a photo in between tasks (Note: the tomato carnage)

My Fellow SNREds and I posing for a photo in between tasks (Note: the tomato carnage)

So many of the principles and themes I have explored thus far in my coursework in the School of Natural Resources and Environment and “work-work” at the Ecology Center has been about place.  When you know the landscape and people around you….if you know the processes, inputs and outputs more intimately because you are physically next door or you’re undertaking them yourself, sustainability is that much more accessible, easy, and – most importantly – satisfying and fun.  There ain’t no label for the “fair trade” that exists between the “buyer” and “seller” at the A2 farmer’s market.  And that exchange of goods and often words too – as I alluded to earlier – can be so satisfying and fun.

So I decided to walk the walk and devote some of my precious weekend hours to getting down and dirty at the University of Michigan campus farm, located at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.  And as some of you are now familiar…. recent locale of the Harvest Festival! Continue reading Getting dirty at the UM campus garden

Honey, reggae, and a high chance of tomatoes

I don’t know about you, but a lot of us (probably all of us) at Ann Arbor 350 headed over to the Farmer’s Market last Saturday, Sept. 8, for the fifth annual HomeGrown Festival. Featuring food tastings, face-painting, local bands, beverages, a silent auction, and learning booths, there were activities for students and the whole family. And there were LOTS of people from both crowds. Want to know more? Continue reading Honey, reggae, and a high chance of tomatoes

A PSA for CSAs

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. Here’s a definition from the US-duh (a Joel Salatin term, not mine):

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a direct-to-consumer marketing arrangement that permits household consumers to purchase advance shares of a farm’s production in return for regular (usually weekly) deliveries during the growing season. CSA operations have experienced a dramatic rise in popularity in the United States during the past several years, expanding from an estimated 60 operations in 1990 to approximately 3,600 operations as of mid-2010.

You may have heard it before, but I don’t think there’s harm in saying it again: CSAs are good for communities. And: YOU SHOULD GET ONE.

The scale of benefits are absurd. You’ll COOK, experiment with new ingredients, end up google-finding for new and amazing things to do with kale, help local farmers focus on growing and not on selling, and on and on.

Many local CSA shares start pick ups in the next couple of weeks, so there couldn’t be a better time to sign up.

One CSA that I know still has shares — because they were tabling next to me at the Michigan Theater for Joel Salatin’s talk — is Tillian Farm Development Center. TILLIAN! There’s something you should know about. The TFDC facilitates new farm business development in order to increase diversified production for local markets, year round in our food shed. Your Tillian CSA share will support your and your family’s health and happiness, but it will also go right back into Tillian’s Incubator and Residency programs. Positive feedback loop! What’s not to love?

(Need a link?  http://tiliancenter.wordpress.com/ )

I’ve put a call out on Facebook for more farms with shares available. I’ll update this post with what I find. You should feel free to leave comments here or on Facebook so we can do some networking to get as many shares filled as possible.

UPDATES:

Mel’s Diner – Funkify Your Food – Vol. 4 (Part 1)

Few things put as many ants in your pants as that heavy, New Orleans funk. So it was the other day
that I had The Meters’ Soul Island in my head, inspiring me to throw together some Tofu Creole.
Cajun and Creole cuisines are notoriously heavy with flesh and it can be extraordinarily difficult to
replicate the flavors in vegetarian recipes. I’ve managed to convert two dishes – Shrimp Creole and
Gumbo – into meat-free versions that capture the soul of all things N’ahlens.
Creole is one of the few dishes from the region that doesn’t start with a roux. Its thickness comes from
a long simmer – the longer, the better. However, if you are like me and don’t start thinking about
making dinner until well after 5 pm, you can save time by adding cornstarch. If you want to let it simmer
for an hour or two to thicken up, then skip the cornstarch step.
I throw in a couple tablespoons of sugar to cut through that tomato edge, but only after I’ve tasted it
first to see how tomato-ey the dish is. This is typically dependent on the brand of tomatoes you use – in
mine, I use locally packaged Eden tomatoes. Some folks think adding sugar is sacrilege, but hey, I think it
tastes better. Skip the sugar step if you like – definitely don’t add it until after you’ve tasted everything
else put together.
Leave the Tabasco on the grocer’s shelf – Clancy’s is made right here in Ann Arbor, and tastes much
better.
Substitute oil for the butter and make this a vegan dish.
Tofu Creole
Serves 4
2 tbsps butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
½ large green pepper, chopped
1 block extra-firm tofu, cut into chunks
4 tbsps Creole seasoning (recipe follows)
2 tbsps cornstarch
¼ cup full-bodied red wine, such as Bordeaux
1 large can Eden Foods crushed tomatoes, no salt added
1 small can Eden Foods diced tomatoes, no salt added
A few drops of Clancy’s, to taste
2 tbsps vegan cane sugar
2 cups rice, cooked according to package directions
In a soup pot, sauté the onion, celery, green peppers and tofu for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add
creole seasoning, stir, and cook for one minute more. Add cornstarch and stir in thoroughly. Deglaze
the vegetables and tofu with the wine, and cook until the wine has evaporated. Add both cans of
tomatoes and Clancy’s and stir well. Taste and add sugar, salt, additional creole seasoning, or more
Clancy’s if necessary. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve warm over rice.
Creole Seasoning
From Mr. B’s Bistro, New Orleans
1/3 cup paprika
3 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon granulated onion
4 teaspoons dried thyme
4 teaspoons granulated garlic
Mix all ingredients well and keep in an airtight bowl.

Few things put as many ants in your pants as that heavy, New Orleans funk.   So it was the other day that I had The Meters’ Soul Island in my head, inspiring me to throw together some Tofu Creole.

Cajun and Creole cuisines are notoriously heavy with flesh and it can be extraordinarily difficult to replicate the flavors in vegetarian recipes.  I’ve managed to convert two dishes – Shrimp Creole and Gumbo – into meat-free versions that capture the soul of all things N’ahlens.

Creole is one of the few dishes from the region that doesn’t start with a roux.  Its thickness comes from a long simmer – the longer, the better.  However, if you are like me and don’t start thinking about making dinner until well after 5 pm, you can save time by adding cornstarch.  If you want to let it simmer for an hour or two to thicken up, then skip the cornstarch step.

I throw in a couple tablespoons of sugar to cut through that tomato edge, but only after I’ve tasted it first to see how tomato-ey the dish is.  This is typically dependent on the brand of tomatoes you use – in mine, I use locally packaged Eden tomatoes.  Some folks think adding sugar is sacrilege, but hey, I think it tastes better.  Skip the sugar step if you like – definitely don’t add it until after you’ve tasted everything else put together.

Leave the Tabasco on the grocer’s shelf – Clancy’s is made right here in Ann Arbor, and tastes much better.

Substitute oil for the butter and make this a vegan dish.

Mels Tofu Creole

Mel's Tofu Creole

Tofu Creole

Serves 4

2 tbsps butter
1 large onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
½ large green pepper, chopped
1 block extra-firm tofu, cut into chunks
4 tbsps Creole seasoning (recipe follows)
2 tbsps cornstarch
¼ cup full-bodied red wine, such as Bordeaux
1 large can Eden Foods crushed tomatoes, no salt added
1 small can Eden Foods diced tomatoes, no salt added
A few drops of Clancy’s, to taste
2 tbsps vegan cane sugar
2 cups rice, cooked according to package directions

In a soup pot, sauté the onion, celery, green peppers and tofu for 5 minutes over medium heat.  Add creole seasoning, stir, and cook for one minute more.  Add cornstarch and stir in thoroughly.  Deglaze the vegetables and tofu with the wine, and cook until the wine has evaporated.  Add both cans of tomatoes and Clancy’s and stir well.  Taste and add sugar, salt, additional creole seasoning, or more Clancy’s if necessary.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve warm over rice.

Creole Seasoning

From Mr. B’s Bistro, New Orleans

1/3 cup paprika
3 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon granulated onion
4 teaspoons dried thyme
4 teaspoons granulated garlic

Mix all ingredients well and keep in an airtight bowl.

Mel’s Diner – Covering the spread on football Saturday – Vol. 3

Football means friends and food.  I love to put out a ‘grazing’ spread of hearty, no-plate-required snacks so people can grab a quick bite throughout the game yet still feel that they’ve had a solid square.

So forget the wings, nachos, and ribs.  Leave the heartburn behind and embrace a menu that celebrates the spices that aid digestion, so you don’t feel sluggish for the after-party.

Football means beer – IPAs are a nice pairing with this menu, and many of them are made right here in Michigan.

Go Hokies!  Go Blue!

Lentil Sliders

Lentil Sliders

Lentil sliders

Makes 12

1 cup green lentils
1/4 cup pearl barley
3 tbsps unsalted butter, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsps curry powder
3 tbsps chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup bread crumbs
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 slider buns

Suggested toppings:
Goat cheese
Cucumber raita
Tomato

Pick and rinse the lentils.  Add lentils and barley to a saucepan with water, add salt, and boil for 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Cool.

Melt 1 tbsp butter in a skillet and sauté the onion, garlic and ginger for five minutes.  Cool and add to the lentils and barley.

Stir the curry powder, cilantro, bread crumbs, and egg whites into the lentil mixture, and season with

salt and pepper to taste. Mash one cup of the mixture and transfer back to the bowl.  Mix well.

Form 12 sliders and brush each side with remaining butter.  Cook for 4 minutes on each side on a hot grill.  Lightly toast the slider buns on the grill as well.  Alternatively, they can be pan fried over medium heat for 4 minutes on each side.

Put the sliders together using your favorite toppings.

Tofu tikka masala quesadillas

Tofu tikka masala "quesadillas"

Tofu tikka masala “quesadillas”

Makes 16 wedges

1 pkg tofu
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsps fresh ginger, minced
2 tsps paprika
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
4 pieces of naan
Cucumber raita

Place tofu block on a plate and set another plate on top, leaving there for 5 minutes or so to squeeze the excess water out.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients thoroughly.

Cut tofu down the middle lengthwise, then slice into thin (1/16”) square pieces.  Transfer to a shallow dish and pour the sauce over the tofu.  Marinate for one hour.

Transfer to a frying pan and cook marinated tofu over medium heat for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

Spoon tofu over ½ of each piece of naan, fold over, and slice into quesadilla-esque wedges. Serve warm with a side of cucumber raita for dipping.

Curried sweet potato kabobs

Curried sweet potato kabobs

Curried Sweet Potato Kabobs

Makes 12 skewers

2 sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tbsps butter
2 tsps curry powder
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne
Salt to taste

Parboil sweet potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes, then chop into chunks.

While the sweet potatoes are cooling down, mix spices together in a small bowl.

Rub sweet potato chunks with butter and skewer.  Sprinkle with spice mix.

Place on the grill and cook for 12 – 15 minutes, until soft.

Pineapple skewers

Pineapple skewers

Pineapple skewers

Makes 12 skewers

1 pineapple, cut into chunks

Place pineapple chunks on skewers.  Grill for 2 – 3 minutes on each side, until grill marks appear.  For the more adventurous, sprinkle skewers with a touch of cayenne before they hit the grill.

Mel’s Diner – Volume Deux

Not too many things are as sublime as a hearty pasta dish that is light enough to serve during the summertime.  Paired with a salad that gives me an excuse to fry up some goat cheese and get some bubbly on the plate, and it’s a reason in itself to celebrate.

Most of the ingredients are made in Michigan and are easily secured at the farmer’s market, local grocers, and party stores.   Yes, bubbly is made in Michigan – I used Chateau Chantal’s Old Mission Peninsula.

Summertime pasta and a salad with champagne vinaigrette and fried goat cheese

Serves 4

Pasta:
½ lb. capellini
1 cup snowpeas, trimmed
2 cups arugula, trimmed and roughly chopped
3 tbsps butter
¼ cup grated parmesan
½ cup toasted pine nuts

Salad:
4 cups baby lettuces
4 saladette tomatoes, quartered
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
8 oz goat cheese, sliced into 12 medallions
1 cup panko
1 egg, slightly beaten

Champagne vinaigrette:
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsps champagne vinegar
¼ cup champagne*
½ cup olive oil
a dash or two of Clancy’s extra hot
Salt and pepper to taste
*If you don’t want to serve the champagne straight up in the dressing, substitute this with ¼ cup champagne vinegar and skip the 2 tbsps

So that champagne doesn’t go to waste …Pour ¼ oz Chambord in the bottom of champagne flute.  Top off with champagne and garnish with a raspberry.

Is eating less meat too much to ask? (With recipes to prove it isn’t!)

By: Melissa Combs, 350 Gastronome / Ecology Center Development Director


My grandmother, a life-long Southerner who would put meat powder in her coffee if it were socially acceptable, would emphatically say yes.  At dinner during a family gathering where everyone else ate hamburgers hot off the grill, I was cutting up a veggie burger for my two-year-old and my grandmother said, “I don’t understand what you eat.  It’s all side dishes.”

My mom, who had just lived in our vegetarian household for a month,  jumped in with a glowing review about how wonderful our meals had been, to which my grandmother replied:

“I don’t know how you made it that long without eating meat.  I cried for you.”

Yikes.  The very idea of my mom subsisting on a vegetarian diet for a month sent my grandmother into an angst-ridden tailspin that ended in tears.

Okay.  I get it.  Hers was an extreme response.  Over twelve years as a vegetarian I’ve been called a lot of things.  Elitist.  Hostile.  Loony.  To name a few.

The good news is that the tide is turning.  There are more choices for vegetarians in restaurants. Vegan lunch carts are popping up on the streets.  Even meat lovers like Chef Mario Batali are acknowledging that meat production has an enormous carbon footprint.

This week, the Environmental Working Group released the Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health.  In it is a staggering statistic – if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it’s like not driving 91 billion miles, or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.  Other research indicates that this would also free up enough land, water and energy from livestock production to feed 40 million hungry people.

So why is eating less meat one day a week too much to ask?  Many of us are willing to buy pricier light bulbs, use our bikes instead of our cars, and separate our recyclables to do our part for the environment.  What gives here?

The most reasonable theory I’ve come across is that it’s asking people to step out of their comfort zone.  As Americans, we grow up on meals made up of a meat, potato, and side.  Plus, our lives are so busy that the task of researching how to make vegetables the star of a meal is overwhelming.

I’m here to help.  I’ve been invited as a guest writer on this blog to occasionally submit veggie-centric recipes.  I’ll also do my best to include recipes that showcase local selections and result in zero waste.

Today’s entry is perfect for summer:  Hearts of Palm Ceviche followed by an aromatic watermelon dessert.


Hearts of Palm Ceviche

Oh my...Hearts of Palm Ceviche

Oh my...Hearts of Palm Ceviche

Serves 4

1 14.5 oz jar hearts of palm, drained and sliced

5 saladette tomatoes, quartered

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced

1 red onion, diced

¼ cup orange juice

½ cup lime juice

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ cup chopped cilantro

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Popcorn or sautéed maiz cancha

Mix all ingredients, except the cilantro, in a shallow dish.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and refrigerate for at least six hours.  Add cilantro just before serving.  Serve ceviche in a bowl, topped with popcorn.


Watermelon skewers

Watermelon Skewers!

Watermelon Skewers!

Serves 4

16 bamboo skewers

½ seedless watermelon, cut in 2-inch cubes

Juice and seeds from 2 large tomatoes (flesh can be added to ceviche, above)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 sprigs fresh lavender

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

Lavender or borage flowers

Blend tomato juice and seeds, lemon juice, zest, olive oil and vinegar with a whisk in a small bowl.  Place watermelon cubes and lavender sprigs in a shallow dish and pour liquid over them.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.  When ready to serve, place one watermelon cube on a skewer and stand on a plate. Compost lavender sprigs.  Drizzle with remaining liquid and garnish with lavender or borage flowers.

Have a recipe you’d like to share?  Email it to annarbor350@ecocenter.org.

Additional resources: http://www.meatlessmonday.com/