Do It Yourself

Reduce Food Waste at Home with Ends + Stems

Indulge me for a moment, will you? Go to your fridge right now. Do a quick inventory. Take special note of any fruits, veggies, or odd leftover boxes of Chinese take-out rice that might be inching just a little close to “not edible anymore.” If I asked you to make dinner tonight with JUST that food, could you do it? Would you want to?

It’s tough to come up with ideas on the fly for all those odds and ends, right? You’ve had a long day, the kids, or well, probably YOU, too, want dinner NAOW! You may not feel terribly motivated to be creative after giving all your energy to other stuff all day. I get it. But, I think we all also get that those leftover bits we don’t know how to use will probably end up in the trash, maybe the compost, but definitely not on the dinner table– that’s money wasted, time wasted, and (duh) FOOD wasted.  That’s why I’m so stoked about a new meal planning service called Ends + Stems, designed specifically to help make sure you use up those, well, ends and stems.

Alison Mountford is the brains behind the operations at Ends + Stems. She’s been a professional chef since 2004, and her career has spanned from personal cheffing, to running a meal delivery service, to some time spent in large scale food tech. Over the course of the last 14 years, she’s had the opportunity to work closely with small farmers, to get an up close look at how our food system works. But, she’s also worked in the homes of families who use the food grown by those farmers, and has taken note of how they do their shopping, how they utilize food, and the logistical concerns that could stand in the way of making that little bit of extra effort to help reduce or even eliminate household food waste.

“The classic advice to reduce your food waste is 1. Write out a meal plan, 2. Shop intentionally. But that takes so much time and effort! The thousands of families I’ve spoken with do care about their waste and its effect on the environment, but they’re already so busy and asked to care about so much,” she says.

In other words, Alison gets it.

She decided she wanted to launch Ends + Stems as a full blown meal planning service in July of this year, and TODAY the very first meal plan goes live.

Meal plans come with easy to follow recipes for nutritious meals, as well as your weekly shopping list, designed to help you purchase only what you need to cook through the recipes.  The final recipe for the week helps you pull together what’s left over from your shopping trip, so nothing goes to waste.

This post isn’t sponsored. She didn’t ask me to write it. I heard about Ends + Stems through another chef friend, and after getting the full scoop, I was totally on board to support a product that ticked so many boxes for me. Woman-owned business? Check! Helps reduce food waste? Check! Does all my thinking for me (at least when it comes to meal planning)? Check! Check! Check!

Here’s another big win– If you sign up with Ends + Stems anytime in the next six months, it’s free! Alison and her team believe that by building a community of Ends + Stems meal planners, trading tips, talking about their favorite recipes, and really helping to make Ends + Stems a resource for home cooks, word will spread and everyone will want to get on board this No Food Waste train. Small, meaningful change in how we shop and cook CAN make a difference.

I’ve made it super easy for you to sign up… just click anywhere you see Ends + Stems in this blog post to head over to the website and get started. Once you’ve signed up, spend a little time checking out any of the great videos posted there, look through more tips on reducing food waste, and connect with Ends + Stems on social media to keep up with all the newest stuff being added to make your experience even richer.

Instagram: @endsandstems
Facebook: Ends + Stems

“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

Happy Cooking!

Recipes for a Revolution

Friends, I’ve been keeping a pretty big secret from you. It’s a good one, though, and now that I’ve finally going to spill, I don’t think you’ll mind too much.

This summer, I’ve been writing a cookbook.

Correction. This summer, I’ve been procrastinating, suffering from writer’s block, stressing, furiously writing, recipe testing, mumbling to myself, and taking up the booths at Bardo Coffee for literally entire days–the result of which is a cookbook.

Recipes for a Revolution: A Practical Guide to the Care and Feeding of Activists, is part cookbook, part pep talk, for those of us who have heard the call to speak up and to act up– on behalf of equality, the protection of human rights, the protection of the environment, better education, better healthcare, a better food system, and to stand in the way of those who may be threatening those things. But, it’s not a book on how to be an activist. Rather, it’s a guide for activists who find themselves trying to juggle work, school, family, and the important work they do for the causes they believe in.

So many times, we find ourselves giving all our energy to everyone else, and not saving any time to care for ourselves.  As we set aside our own needs for healthful, nourishing food; for time to recharge; for the simple act of staying hydrated, we become more run down, more tired, maybe even sicker. This book serves as a gentle reminder that we must prioritize our physical, mental, and emotional well-being if we are to stay strong as activists and advocates for the issues that are important to us.

Recipes for a Revolution contains over 50 recipes, all carefully designed and chosen to provide an approachable, accessible, practical way to set ourselves up for success as we do this work of resisting. Whether you’ve only just heard the call to act, or your activism is much more developed, I believe this book can serve as a reference, a check-in with yourself, to help get your kitchen calibrated with that activism.

RFAR is available for pre-order in Kindle format for $13.99. If you buy now, it will automatically be delivered to your Kindle device when it releases on September 20th If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read it by downloading the free Kindle app to your phone or tablet, or reading it on your desktop through Amazon. However, I will have a .pdf version available for purchase, as well. You can pre-order now, and receive it the same day it releases for Kindle.

To pre-order the Kindle version, Just click here!

To pre-order the .pdf version, please e-mail gonnacookthat@gmail.com with “Cookbook Purchase Request” in the subject line, and I will send you a pre-order payment link through PayPal.

For those of you wondering, I will be creating a funding page to help cover the cost of generating a paperback version of the book later this year.  If you’re like me, cookbooks are just a thing you want to be able to hold in your hands, make notes in the margins, and keep close-by in the kitchen. Self-publishing a printed version of a book can be expensive, but it’s something I definitely want to make happen.

Thank you, so much, for your support!

Feast of Fermentation 2017

It’s been a busy summer, people. I got back from Oregon and hit the ground running with work, a book project (stay tuned!) and digging in on preparations for the 5th Annual Feast of Fermentation for the Boulder Food Rescue. It’s happening on September 23rd, at the Avalon Ballroom. Last year was my first time cheffing the FoF, and it was such an amazing time, I’m doing it again. (And honestly, for as many years as they’ll let me.)

In addition to some great local beers from the likes of Nighthawk Brewery and Montucky Cold Snacks, a homebrew competition sponsored by Boulder Fermentation Supply, a silent auction full of great items to bid on for any budget, and some highly danceable tunes from The New Family Recipe, my super talented (and a lot more organized than me) sous chef Elizabeth and I are developing taco bar and noodle bowl menus that are going to make your facehole so very happy. We’ll utilize not only a TON of delicious fermented product like kim chi, sauerkraut, salsas and hot sauces from the excellent folks at Ozuke and McCauley Family Farm, but also bring in other products grown and produced by companies in and around the Boulder, Colorado area. Also, the  Boulder County Farmer’s Market has hooked us up with market dollars to round out the menu with gorgeous, local, farm fresh produce. You guys, if you’ve never gone on a full blown farmer’s market shopping spree, let me tell you, it’s 100% some of the most fun I’ve ever had with my pants on. And getting to turn all that lovely produce into yummies for hundreds of members of my community? Pinch me! So cool!

If you live in the Denver/Boulder area, please come join us! I promise you’ll have a good time, and you’ll support an organization that is passionate about reducing food waste and bringing nutritious food to low income residents in Boulder and Broomfield counties. Win-Win, right? Tickets are $45 for an all you can eat, all you can (safely) drink, dance your face off evening of fun. But, if you can round up 5 friends to go with you, the individual ticket price for each person in the group of six is $35.

If you don’t live nearby, I’m not going to leave you empty handed. Behold! Instructions on how to put together your own quick, easy, and tasty noodle bowls. This should make enough for four large bowls.

Equipment:
Knife and cutting board
Measuring cups & measuring spoons
Blender or food processor
Large pot for boiling water or broth
Tongs for portioning everything into bowls
Small serving bowl and spoon for the sauce

Ingredients:

For the Sauce:
1/4 cup peanut, almond, or cashew butter
3 tablespoons fresh ginger (the stuff in the tube is fine)
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup Mirin (rice wine vinegar)
A healthy pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Additional salt to taste, if the soy sauce alone doesn’t work for you

Puree everything together in a blender or food processor until all the ingredients are incorporated.

For the Noodles:
1 14oz box rice noodles
10 oz boiling water or broth, for extra flavor (veggie, chicken, mushroom, beef… whatever floats your boat)
3 peeled and crushed garlic cloves
Healthy pinch of salt

Bring the water or broth to a boil. Add the crushed garlic and the salt, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the garlic “steep” in the liquid for about 5 minutes, then remove. Add the noodles to the hot liquid and cover. They’ll be soft enough to eat in 5-7 minutes.

The toppings:
Literally any combination of fresh veggies will work here, plus about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of your preferred protein, pre-cooked. If you’re drawing a blank, here are some ideas:

Proteins:
Poached shrimp
Baked or grilled chicken, sliced
Sliced steak
Firm tofu, cubed or cut into matchsticks and sauteed
Tempeh
Seitan

Veggies:
Julienne bell peppers
Sliced mushrooms
Bean Sprouts
Thinly sliced carrots
Snow peas
Sliced cabbage
Bamboo shoots
Sliced celery
Sliced jalapenos
Sliced greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens, beet greens)

Garnishes:
Thin sliced green onions
Cilantro
Chopped nuts
Chow mein noodles
Crispy roasted chickpeas

I don’t think there’s a bad combination here, so go crazy kids!

So long, for now.

This was my last week for the season at Dunbar Farms. This afternoon, after one last harvest day, and preparing one last Friday lunch for the crew, I’ll point the Honda back toward Colorado and make my way home for the summer to reconnect with friends, save up money for the rest of the year, and chef it up for the Boulder Food Rescue‘s Feast of Fermentation. I’m pretty excited to get back, and knowing I’ll be back at Dunbar sometime in October makes this not so much a goodbye, but more of a “See you later.”

I know I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg of what this place has to teach me. Of course, there’s the farm stuff. The growing things, and harvesting things, and all the work that goes into taking care of it all in between. But other pieces of the puzzle are just starting to click into place. I have some research to do before I get back in the fall. I need to take some classes and dig up some books to help me identify all the wild plants that grow around here. I have a feeling I’m leaving a feast of both food and medicine un-utilized by simply not knowing what’s what. That needs to be remedied.

I’m leaving in the middle of perfecting an almost finished, but not quite there method for making tortillas from scratch out of the corn we grow here. Making the masa from the corn I milled is the easy part, but it’s the milling itself that still needs some tweaking. I hear rumors of another cheffy type person coming to stay. I’m hoping whoever it is can pick up the reigns on that one, but if not, that’s at the top of the list for when I get back.

 

In case I haven’t mentioned it, and you didn’t already know, Oregon is stunning. Of course, so is Colorado, but this is a different thing altogether. I’ve only just begun to explore the area, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the state upon my return.

Along with the people and the plants, animals live here, too! I haven’t gotten to spend much time with them this go around, so that’s on the list for my fall/winter stay, as well.

 

 

 

Our farm manager, Juan, and I have had some interesting discussions about U.S. immigration policy, work ethic, and the American way of life. He’s opened my eyes to just how differently those who are not native born see the country I’ve always called home. There’s a worker shortage on farms across Oregon this year. Looming questions about the future of immigration policy and more aggressive enforcement have frightened many of the undocumented workers who typically step up to take on the work of picking fruit, maintaining vineyards, and caring for livestock. Juan, who does have documentation, comments, “These are jobs Americans don’t want. Where are all the American people who say we take their jobs away? Why aren’t they asking for these jobs? They don’t really want to do the work. They just want to get mad and complain.”

I don’t have a good answer for him. Not yet. At least, not without admitting some hard truths about how some people view manual labor in general, and how disconnected many people are from the workers who grow their food, and the work it takes for that food to make it to their tables. I’m even more determined now to be a part of the solution… To be a voice that helps bring people together with their farmers and small batch producers to help promote relationships instead of just transactions. Even after laboring side by side for the past several weeks, Juan still isn’t even convinced I’ll be back in the fall. So, obviously, number one on the list is to just get my ass back here. There’s a burrito dinner bet riding on it, so you best believe I’m making good on my promise.

Speaking of food, I’ve heard it said this area “has zero food culture.” From what I’ve seen, though, it’s there if you know what you’re looking for. Much like in Colorado, a good bit of it seems to revolve around local craft breweries. Fine by me! From what I’ve experienced, not only is the beer good, but the food, made with ingredients often sourced from less than 100 miles away, is pretty damn tasty, as well.

Of course, I have a list for Denver, too, and I’m so excited to spend my summer with so many of my favorite people and places. But, it’s nice knowing there’s so much here worth coming back for.

My Life as a Farmhand

I had a conversation recently with a good friend about relationships, and about how, be they platonic, familial, or romantic, the best way to go into them is asking, “What can I give?” vs. “What do I want?” You guys, I’m in a relationship with this farm, and that very bit of wisdom is what’s driving my experience here. Life as a farmhand has been a quite the gut check.

My job here is to steward things growing from the earth so they can feed people. If you think for one minute that means I’m in any way in charge– Mother Nature has some news for you. Come to this work looking for her to stroke your ego and make you feel important, and I’ve got a sense that you’ll walk away aching and disappointed. Join her cycle, ready to follow her lead, and, well, life as a farmhand becomes a whole different thing altogether.

Life as a farmhand is straightforward, and satisfying. The goalpost is constantly moving, but somehow, you don’t mind. Pull the weeds. Trim the vines.

The farm manager points, you go and do it. Cover the squash. There’s a beetle that likes to attack young squash plants. In their infancy, the beetles appetites are dangerous and destructive, and so we cover the plants with screening  that allows in sun and water, but somehow, keeps out the beetles. Killing the beetle is counterproductive, because later, after the plants get bigger and start to flower, that same beetle becomes a key pollinator–a vital part of the process. So, we temporarily deny them their favorite meal, only to reward them with full access later, when they have a job to do.

Life as a farmhand is delicious. With access to so much food, just steps outside your front door, there’s no end to what a curious and creative set of hands can create. If this farm isn’t growing it, chances are, the one just up the road will be. Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are full of first of the season this and end of the season that, and bumper crops of so much beautiful produce, it’s hard to know where to start. Admittedly, you may be too tired most days to vary the post-work meal routine very much. (For the first week or so, until my body got used to this new rhythm, the best I could do was some variation of black beans and whatever extra greens we’d brought in from harvest day, cooked together and eaten out of the same heavy, white bowl, with the same spoon, every afternoon.) Soon, though, you realize that the extra effort of really thinking it through rewards you with a sweet combination of satiety, pride, and restoration that becomes the answer to the question, “How will I get up and do it all again tomorrow?”

You think I’m speaking in hyperbole, but I don’t think I am. Those of you who’ve experienced the pleasure of eating what you’ve grown will get it, I believe.

Life as a farmhand is not romantic. If that’s the picture I’ve painted for you thus far, let me use this opportunity to correct that.

Life as a farmhand is dirty. There’s no escaping that. Everything you touch will be, is, or was once rooted to the earth. In order to tend to it, you have to be right there with it, touching the soil as you touch the plant. There are tools you will use, for sure, but as in cooking, also in farming– your best tools are your hands. From pulling out those tiny weeds by hand that want to snuggle right up to your plants, to sorting the rocks and uglies out of beans, to picking and washing fresh greens, to thinning the thick, ropy grape vines that grow what feels like a foot a week up in the vineyards, your hands are what get the work done. When you come back in from a day’s work, there’s dirt under your nails, in the hair not covered by a hat, and most certainly, on your clothes. Some days, your shower feels less like bathing and more like excavation.

Life as a farmhand is hard. I’ll admit, I’m not the smartest about my choice of clothing. I wear short sleeves, which, despite the use of sunscreen, leaves my arms to the mercy of the burn/tan/peel cycle the likes of which would probably cause any dermatologist to shiver in horror. I’m learning (after nearly passing out from dehydration one afternoon) that there’s no such thing as too much water while doing fieldwork. I’m learning that taking the extra ten minutes in the morning to run through a few simple stretches can mean the difference between counting the minutes and wishing I was dead around 9am, into my third hour of weeding… or being able to get into a rhythm that makes the time fly and the sound of Juan, the farm manager, whistling along to his Mexican radio station be the thing that lets my body and soul work together to get the job done. I’ve discovered the importance of a hat– for keeping the sun off my face, to catch the sweat coming from the top of my head, and to pull off and fan myself if the breeze isn’t breezy enough for my liking.

Life as a farmhand is good. I’m enjoying it so much more than I ever thought I would, and now that I’ve had this taste of it, I feel like my soul will constantly be tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me of this work.