Monthly Archives: November 2009

Canada Grocery Stores Goes Local

BuyLocal.inddA Canada grocery store breaks from its parent large chain namesake to support local food. Bound to purchase food dictated by the Sobey’s Chain, the owner could not provide locally sourced food despite growing consumer demand. On July 3, 2009, owner Dale Kropf broke from the Sobey’s chain in order to have more flexibility to provide locally sourced food.

Read the full article

From the article:
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Canadians are increasingly subscribing to the “buy local” and “100 mile diet” philosophies due to concerns over imported food, Kropf adds. “The pressure was always mounting — the more recalls, the more bad press from China or wherever the product was coming from. I know that in our case, our private label pickles are made in Indonesia. I couldn’t believe that.”
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Like the McDonald article I posted, this story speaks to a local food victory. What is different in this case is that customers demand helped create the change. In both cases, corporate policy forced owners of have to break from the franchise.

What both these stories says to me is that the local trend is not going away and food distributor are starting to take notice. And we the consumers have the ability to create change with our wallet, which will not be ignored.

The more that local food is demanded and purchased, the more grocery stores, and restaurants will provide it. And the increased demand will create an increase in local farms and food producers of all kinds.

So how can we promote change?

The quick answer in my opinion is to push your grocer to provide More Local Foods.

Why the grocer store and not the farmer’s market, a CSA, or home gardening? All these things are great and are growing and need to be supported. At the same time the main source for food distribution is still the super market, and that is where change needs to come from too.

Simply ask the manager in various departments at the grocery store:

“What local products do you offer?”

If they do not know, or they do not have any, tell them that you are committed towards buying more locally sourced food and would like them to supply it.

Also ask what local food is coming. For example, I produce manager will know about a batch of local green beans coming in, or apples, or peaches etc…

If we show a demand for local produce, and create a run on say local peaches, the produce managers will take notice and most likely order more locally sourced items. If say the locally sourced food is selling better than the imported stuff, there will be an incentive for them to get more. Of course, only if their cooperate policy allows.

I am starting to see “Local” and “Michigan” labels on food items at grocery stores like Arbor Farms, Plum and even Whole Foods. They may be more demand for local than there is suppliers which is a good thing because this pushes the market to adapt.

$2.50:Turkey and Barley Stew

Ann Arbor FoodMy usual go to grain is short grain brown rice. This is a leftover from my days when I ate a macrobiotic diet. Now that I am eating more locally, I am thinking about other grains. Barley is a grain that is grown here in Michigan, along with oats, corn and wheat. I have yet to find whole grain corn available for making pasole, but I figure it is out there.

Here is a hearty stew made from whole barley. Most barley recipes call for pearled barley which is a more refine product like brown compared to white rice. The upshot is that whole barley comes out chewy and takes much longer to cook, about an hour or more, but it has more nutrition.

I provided a vegan option for this meal. If going vegan, the addition of dried mushroom which including the mushroom tea and perhaps some miso could be use to boast flavor. The addition of chopped nuts or seeds can also be added as a garnish for a hearty vegan option.

I forgot to garb an itemized receipt so there is not a 100% official local food cost breakdown for this meal, but I am sure it fits into a $3-5 range per person.

Turkey and Barley Stew

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

1 pound of whole barley, (Hampshire Farms) $1.50

1 pound of ground turkey (can substitute you favor ground meat or sausage), Plum Market $7.00 (Meat is optional, this meal can be vegan)

3 medium size leeks, cleaned and dice, with some green parts (AA Coop) $??$3.00

2 cup of sliced mushrooms (AA Coop) $??$2.50

2 cup of medium diced carrots(Garden works) $1.00

1 quart jar of canned tomatoes with liquid (Home Garden) $1.00

1 cup of frozen peas (not local) $1.00 ???

1/4 cup of organic soy sauce (No Local) $?? 1.50

3 bay leafs

3-4 tablespoons butter (AA Coop) $.50 (Substitute olive or vegetable oil for a vegan option)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Estimated Cost:

Eight servings $2.38

Ten servings $1.90

Vegan Option: $2.50-$1.20 (depending on how fancy you get with the dried mushrooms, nuts and other additions)

Procedure:

In a large heavy bottomed, brown the turkey with the butter. Remove the turkey and add the leeks and mushrooms with a little salt. Stir and cooked them down for around ten minutes. If they start to stick, add a little water. Add the carrots, some bay leaf, the can of tomatoes, the soy sauce, the barley, and turkey. Add about 2-6 cups of water, enough to cover. Barley absorbs a ton of water, so you might need to add more depending if you want this to be more of a soup than a grain dish. Stock can me use to substitute some of the water. Stir in the smoked paprika and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about an hour, or until the barley is cooked. Thaw the peas in put into the stew during the last ten minutes.

Garnish with parsley or scallion.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Ice Cream

This is my submission to the Slow Food Huron Valley Cook Off.

Most ingredients are local. The except is the pumpkin spices and the bourbon. Now that I am studying local food, I find it interesting that the taste of fall, specifically the spices come from so far away. Spices are hard to come by on a 100 mile diet, and substitutions for tropical flavors are harder still. If you want to go completely local, you can omit the spices. I used white sugar because it was local, but feel free to use brown sugar or a combination of both white and brown sugar. For a lighter texture ice cream, use milk instead of buttermilk.

The end product is a like frozen pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin Buttermilk Ice Cream

Ingredients:

2 cups of heavy cream (Calder Dairy)

2 cups of buttermilk (Calder Dairy)

1-1/2 cups of pumpkin puree from a roasted pie pumpkin or can (AA FM)

6 egg yolks (Farmers Market)

1 cup of sugar (Michigan Big Chief)

1/2 cup of Maple syrup (Michigan Maple Sugar)

2 teaspoons of pumpkin spice (mixture of powdered cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove)  (Not Local)

pinch of salt

1 ounce of bourbon (optional)

Procedure:

If using a fresh pie pumpkin, cut the pumpkin with a heavy knife into 2-3 inch squares. Spread onto a glass casserole pan skin side up. You might need a few pans depending on the size of the pumpkin. Bake at 375 degrees for an hour or more until the pumpkin is fully cooked and is somewhat dry. Scoop out the flesh and process through a food mill. If you do not have a food mill, use a metal strainer and push the pumpkin through with a wooded spoon. You should have 1-1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree.

In a double boiler, heat but do not boil the buttermilk and the cream, and 3/4 cups of sugar. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks until they increase in volume and turn lighter in color. Combine the rest of the sugar, maple syrup, bourbon, pumpkin spice and salt to the egg yolks.

Now the tricky part, tempering the eggs. With whisk in one hand and a ladle in the other, ladle some of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture while constantly whisking. Add more of the hot mixture until the cream and the eggs mixture combined and brought up to a warmer temperature. If you see some cooked egg in your egg mixture, it means you the tempering was a little off. Don’t worry. It means you cooked a little bit of your egg. Simply stain the egg mix before adding it to your hot cream. Combine the tempered egg mixture to the cream mixture on the stove and bring up to 170-180, but no higher. Stir in the pumpkin puree.

Freeze or refrigerate the mixture until it is cool, but not frozen. Add the mixture to you ice cream machine and process based on the manufactures instructions. Freeze ovenight, or until the ice cream firms up.

Makes 1-1 1/2 quarts.

$1.00 Local Meal: Lentil and Sweet Potato with Feta

Lentil and Sweet Potato with Feta

6-8 servings

Green Lentil 1 LB (Hampshire Farms) $1.75
1 Large Onion, diced (Eastern Market) $.50
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (EM) $1.00
2 cloves of garlic, minced (Ann Arbor FM) $.25
2 Lemon (No local) $.50
1/4 LB Feta Cheese, crumbled (Local from Peoples food coop)$1.00
Chicken Fat (Leftover)
Thyme and Oregano, minced (from home garden)
Salt and Pepper

Home Made bread $.50
Butter 1/4 stick $.25 (from people food coop)

Total 5.75

Per Serving $.95-$.72

Procedure:

In a large pot add some of the chicken fat, or 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or unsalted butter. Add the onion and cook for five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in the sweet potato, lentils and 6-8 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Place cover on with a small gap to let out some steam. Cook until the lentils are soft, about 30-45 minutes. Add the lemon juice, more chicken fat or butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with hearty bread with butter, and crumbled feta cheese.

Note: You might want to hold off on the salt until you add the feta which is very salty. This recipe also works with yellow split peas and red lentils. Note that the yellow split peas will take longer to cook. For a creamier richer dish, and stir in some heavy cream.

An Oasis in an Urban Food Desert

We have it lucky in Ann Arbor with access to fresh food. With in a few miles of my house there is Plum Market, Kroger, Meijer, Arbor Farms, the Peoples food Coop, Kerry Town Market, Fresh Season (which may be relocating), and in season the Ann Arbor Wednesday and Saturday Market Farmer’s Market, and the Westside Farmers Market. A little further down the road is Bush’s, Trader Joes and two Whole Food Markets. And a new discount grocer is being built across the street on Maple and Dexter from Plum Market. Ann Arbor is a fresh food Oasis.

By contrast certain places in Detroit and other urban cities are “Food Deserts.” From an article from the metro times by Larry Gabriel:

According to the study, these are areas (food deserts)where fringe food locations — gas stations, liquor stores, party stores, dollar stores, bakeries, pharmacies and convenience stores — are … uh … more convenient than mainstream grocers. In fact, about 550,000 Detroiters, well over half the city population, live in out-of-balance areas where the nearest grocery store is twice as far away as the nearest fringe food location. Combine that with a lack of a good mass transit system and you have a nutrition drought. Those severely out-of-balance areas are defined as food deserts.

The study says that “unless access to healthy food greatly improves, residents will continue to have greater rates of premature illness and death.”

Detroit isn’t alone. Food and nutrition issues plague every major urban area in the United States. There are diabetes and obesity epidemics across the nation. But, as usual, national problems are magnified in Detroit.

“Detroit is unique in that there are more neighborhoods without this kind of access,” says Kami Pothukuchi, a professor of geography and urban planning at Wayne State University. “The extent of food deserts is smaller in other cities.”

Coming back from a trip to the Detroit’s Eastern Market, I thought how huge and abundant it was. The Eastern Market was probably 20-40 times the size of of Ann Arbor Farmers Market. I thought, Food Desert?, This is an Oasis.” But many do not have a car or access to the market.

Here are a few video of organizations who are trying to make a difference to help feed Detroit.

Coffee Ground Compost

Ann Arbor FoodI have been thinking about gathering coffee grounds for compost for a while ever since I read about how good it is for gardens. Coffee grounds have a 20:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio which make for a good addition for a compost pile. The balance is not optimal which should be about 30:1-35:1, but the addition of vegetable scraps, leaves or hay make for a great balance. The good news is that coffee grounds are free.

Almost every town has a coffee shop and Ann Arbor being a college towns uses its fair share of coffee beans. Most of this garden providing fertility is thrown out, which cost the coffee shop money to dispose of. An important conversation to have when talking about local food is also local soil fertility.

So I purchased a few five gallon plastic containers with lids and started going around to local coffee houses to ask if I could have their leftover coffee grounds. So far I have three places that are willing to let me have their coffee grounds. Some places can have about 1-2 containers a week, while others can do 1-2 full five gallon buckets a day.

I have a corner area on the side of my garage where I plan to start piling up the grounds, leaves and veggie scraps. It is 5×5 and 3-4 feet high which comes to about 75-100 cubic feet. One five gallon bucket comes to about 1 cubic feet, so I can shooting for 75 buckets. Compost experts say that a pile should only be made up of about 25% coffee grounds. So I might have to stop at 10-20 buckets.

If you want to start collecting coffee grounds, get at least two containers and lids. One container is for giving to the coffee house. The second container is to replace full container when you pick it up. Make sure you give them a lid because they do not want the grounds sitting out uncovered.

Remember that you are doing them a favor. Without you taking the grounds off their hands they would have to pay for its disposal. Make sure that you do not forget the ground and pick them up when they are full. If they sit too long the coffee shop will see you as a pain and stop letting gardeners collect grounds. So be good about picking up your grounds so you don’t ruin it for the rest of us. I find that you also have to keep on them to give you the grounds. Some employees will not know to save the grounds, so you have tell them what you are doing.

I think there really should be a local gov’t initiative to collect and compost all coffee grounds along with leaf pick up to add to garden fertility of a town. Granted, coffee is far from a local food, but it is here and it can be used to provide a beneficial use for a local food system instead of going to waste.

American’s drink 450 million cups a year, which comes to 2.5 million pounds of coffee. Every last good to the last drop (ground) can be use to give back to the soil to support a local food system.

Ann Arbor Food

Pinto Bean and Chicken Casserole w/corn biscuit topping: $2.13 per serving

Ann Arbor FoodThis is a great recipe for cheap eats. It uses a bunch of tricks to make an economical meal. My money saver tips are adding beans when using meat, left over stock and chicken fat to add flavor and richness, and using corn meal and/or a baked element.

This meal can also be a base for many variation. You can switch the type of beans, the kind of meat, use sausage, fish/seafood, go vegetarian, and/or add cream for richness. I use a buttermilk corn drop biscuit topping, but you can substitute an biscuit recipe you like.

Ann Arbor Food

Ann Arbor Food

Pinto Beans, Chicken and Vegetables

Pinto Beans (Hampshire Farm) 1 LB $1.50
(Can use an beans you like. Substitute two 16 oz cans of bean for 1 pound of cooked beans)

Chicken Leg, (Sparrow Kerry Town) $3. per pound 21 oz, $3.93
(Can substitute another meat, sausage, seafood, or go vegetarian)

2 1/4 cups left over stock from the other night and some chicken fat.
1/2 cup AP Flour, 5 oz (Westmill) $.62
1 onion (Eastern Market) $.50
3/4 LB carrots (Ann Arbor Farmers Market) $1
broccoli (Eastern Market) $.50
1/2, 8 oz jar of roasted red pepper, jarred at home from FM pepper $1.00
1 small jalapeno pepper (FM) $.25
Garlic (FM) $.25
1/4 stick of butter (Coop) $.25
Dry Thyme, basil and oregano from garden
Smoke Paprika(not local, but could be)
Salt

Procedure:

Soak and cook the beans. Set aside. Brown the meat and set aside. Add the butter to a large pan and saute the onions for a few minutes. Add the carrots and broccoli and cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno pepper, and red pepper. Add the stock and the flour and combine. Stir in the beans and meat, and add to a large casserole pan.

Corn Biscuit Topping

Corn Meal (Hampshire Farm) 5 oz $.31
Ap Flour (Westmill) 5 oz $.62
1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter $.50
3/4 cup Buttermilk (Calder Dairy) $1.50
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (not local)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (Not Local)
pinch of salt

Procedure:

In a food processor, combine the corn and AP Flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and diced cold butter. Pulse until the mixture is combined to a crumble. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the buttermilk.

Spoon out the corn biscuit dough in blobs on top of the meat, bean, veggie casserole. In a pre-heated 350 degree oven, cook for 30-35 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and the biscuit are golden brown.

season with salt and pepper to taste and hot sauce (optional)

Total: 12.81

4 Really Large servings: $3.20

6 Big servings: $2.13