Kitchen Tech Saturday – Reduce food waste with the foodkeepr app!

I’m going to try this cool (?) thing for Saturdays, and I’d love some feedback. Every Saturday, I’m going to introduce you to a piece of tech designed to help you out in the kitchen, doing your shopping, keeping track of recipes, etc.

I’m not so clever with the names. If you can think of a better name for all this *waves hand around the post*, please speak up! I haven’t designed a graphic to go with the series because I’m sincerely hoping someone far more clever than me can help.

Anyhoots, this week’s technological wonder is the foodkeepr app. It’s a simple little app that helps you create a shopping list, then, once you’ve made your purchases, keeps track of the expiration dates of all perishables and will remind you to use them up before they go bad. It’ll even connect you to Food Network to help you find recipes to use up those last little bits of things before they’re past their prime.

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$200 BILLION (!) dollars worth of food, or about $1100 per household, is wasted in this country… Thrown away because we didn’t get around to using it before it went bad. That’s both horrifying, and preventable. Little things, like shopping lists based on what you really need, meal planning, and getting over that weird fear you have of leftovers (ok, maybe those of you who have been subjected to 4 day old tuna noodle surprise might not find that so easy) can help.

Join me in the fight against food waste by using foodkeepr grocery list!

Android: http://goo.gl/t0QBZJ

iOS: http://goo.gl/zMIWLq

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Inspiration Kitchens

It’s a busy morning in the Inspiration Kitchens classroom kitchen. As chef instructor Jay Bliznick walks the class through its first assignment, a basic French bread, his students begin reading through and writing down the recipe. This morning they’ll not only make bread, but also learn the process for making pate choux dough, bake several dozen chocolate chip cookies, roast chickens for chicken salad, learn how to break down a whole fish, then turn THAT into a lesson on en papillote cooking.

He encourages them all to read every recipe at least three times before they even start gathering their mise en place, to make sure they’re clear on each step. That’s a good kitchen tip for every cook, but for these chefs-in-training, it’s just one of the building blocks in a foundation of professional kitchen habits—sanitation, communication, kitchen safety—the Inspiration Kitchens program aims to instill in its students.

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Inspiration Kitchens was founded as Inspiration Corporation by a former Chicago police officer, Lisa Nigro. It started in 1989 as your basic food distribution project—handing out sandwiches and coffee to Chicago’s homeless men and women. From there, it blossomed into a program that not only gives students who have experienced homelessness, addiction, and poverty a set of professional skills intended to help them improve their circumstances, but also the social services required to set them up for success in the program, and beyond.

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The 13-week course, which includes both classroom and on-the-job training through Inspiration Kitchens’ restaurant and catering service, is free to students, but this is not a hand out. There’s a big commitment required from both sides for the process to work. Inspiration Kitchens provides the training, tools and equipment, help with transportation costs, and job placement assistance; students have to show up to class on time every time, which means they need to make sure obstacles at home, such as childcare or other family comittments, are buttoned up before they start the program. As a result, some students have had to leave the program and come back a time or two before achieving completion. The payoff for all their focus and determination can be big, though. Many students leave the program with jobs in some of Chicago’s best kitchens waiting for them.

Student Erica Payne, who grew up on Chicago’s West Side, started the program in December and is close to graduation. She eventually wants to own her own bakery, making sales through a website vs. a traditional brick and mortar operation. But, she knows for that dream to become a reality she has to stick to the plan she, Chef Jay, and her counselor have worked out. So what’s next for her? More training.

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“Inspiration Kitchens is a great jumping off point. We learn the basics… They’ve suggested I go to the French Pastry Institute. They think I would do well there. Then, I want to buy some property…maybe travel before I settle down and start my business.”

Chef Jay acknowledges that for students like Erica, who came into the program with their passion already well developed, Inspiration Kitchens isn’t so much lighting a fire as it is helping to keep the flame burning through all the hard work, “They have a passion for food… they’ve led themselves to the opportunity.”

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However, it’s the students who have come into the program without a clear idea of an end result that Chef Jay sees as the most exciting challenge, “Those are the ones who I want to thrive. I want them to be able to taste something they’ve never tasted for the first time…My challenge is to try to bring out the passion that maybe has lie dormant, or maybe they didn’t even know they had.”

Inspiration Kitchens is located at 3504 West Lake Street in Chicago, near the Garfield Park Green Line stop. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; Brunch and Dinner on Saturday; and for Sunday Brunch. Reservations can be made through the website. Full service catering is available for corporate events, private parties, and weddings, with event space available on site.

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Food Tank 2017 DC Summit is LIVE!

If you’re interested in hearing some of the nation’s top food activists, scientists, journalists, and policy creators speak about the state of food in the U.S., Food Tank is generously broadcasting the whole day’s program live.

Follow along here: https://foodtank.com/

The full day’s agenda is here: https://foodtank.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/FoodTank_DCSummit_Agenda.pdf

 

 

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Brief Announcement…

So, I’ve been thinking long and hard about some things in relation to my blog & its social media accounts. How to speak up without losing followers. I know there are those who will say that “politics” don’t belong in an account for a food/travel blog. I get the point of view. It’s not a good business decision to speak up, to speak my mind. But, here’s my decision:

Anything that happens, any decision made by those in power to hinder the operation of any person, organization, or department related to the planting, growing, distribution, cooking, eating, disposal of food WILL be discussed here, and on my social media accounts. No, this isn’t becoming a political blog. Not by a long shot. I will always want to talk about the food I’m eating and cooking and the places I go. That will not change. But, these are unprecedented times, and I cannot stay silent about these issues. Climate change, USDA gag rules, etc… these things matter. They are related to what I do, and they demand discussion. I hope my followers will continue to follow with an open mind. Thank you.

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Giving back in the Lone Star State

Hi all!

I’m in Arkansas now. Visiting friends and looking for my next volunteer opportunity. I spent a week and a half with family in Northeast Texas, and while I was there, I got the chance to help MasterKey Ministries distribute fresh fruits and veggies to over 100 families in Grayson County, Texas.

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Every Friday, MasterKey receives a truck full of produce from the North Texas Food Bank. Volunteers rush to get boxes off the truck as quickly as possible so they can start sorting and dividing it for the two hour pick up window.

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Last Saturday, folks showed up hours before our scheduled 10am start time. By the time I arrived, cars were lined up down the street for several blocks.

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I got the chance to chat with organizer Crystal Brooks, who told me that while MasterKey has only been doing these Friday morning events since the beginning of the year, they opened their food assistance program in 2014 and their “everyone is family” approach has been a part of their mission since day one. On Saturdays, Brooks helps run a “clients choice” food pantry, where Sherman residents who meet the income qualifications can walk right into the pantry and take what they need for the week. They’re greeted by name, escorted back, and given the freedom to shop just as they would at the grocery store. That’s a unique experience for most clients, and one MasterKey is committed to continuing to provide, no matter how big their client list grows.

Along with food assistance, MasterKey also offers an after school program; adult education programs like ESL, GED prep, and Citizenship courses; as well as summer learning programs to help kids maintain their “educational edge” while they’re out of school over break.

I’m so glad I got to help out last Friday. The group of volunteers, some new and some who had a few Fridays under their belts, were so warm and welcoming. What also really made me happy was that so many of the volunteers brought their kids along, and those kids hopped right in, helping us sort oranges and break down bags of carrots and potatoes, without hesitation.

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I personally believe this kind of volunteerism is such a privilege, and knowing that these kids are starting to recognize that early is, well, not to be too cheesy, pretty damn heartwarming.