January 2011

Paneer and Other Magic Tricks You Can Do in North Dakota*

I’ve learned that when you have to go around a room and introduce yourself by name and an interesting fact about yourself, it helps to be able to say, very casually, “I make paneer.” If you go on to explain that paneer is an Indian cheese, and you make it to use in some of your favorite curries, you will quickly see the room divide into two camps. One camp thinks you are crazy. The other wants to come to dinner.

In summer of 2008, at our neighborhood farmers' market, a man was beginning a cooking demonstration to promote his new cookbook, and the scent of sautéing garlic, ginger, and onion filled the air. My daughter, Cora, then two-years-old, was done with the market, having exhausted the thrill of buying her own carrot and tasting the cabbage leaves. We left, but I noted the book’s title.

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Understanding the Farm Bill: Who Benefits From the Current Commodity Programs?

In my last Farm Bill post, I wrote about the argument for directly subsidizing agricultural production: farm income is erratic, and in order to keep farmers in the business of supplying the food and fiber we all need, they must be guaranteed an adequate income. Under the current system, farmers are given direct payments simply for growing an eligible crop, such as corn or soybeans. In years when prices fall below the target price for a particular crop, they also receive countercyclical payments. 

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Greet the New Year with a Healthy and Delicious Vegetable Soup

I know a lot of people who take the month of January to rein it in, take stock, and press the reset button. Some detox, some jump on the exercise wagon, some just try to focus and center themselves after the frenzy that is December. Personally, I never pass up an excuse for a fresh start, so January is as good a time as any to make myself some promises, which I then inevitably break, for which I have to forgive myself. It’s not a big deal. I don’t feel guilty about it. It’s just how I roll.

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Diet is a Four Letter Word

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been on a diet. It’s likely most of us have, given that we live in an image-obsessed, diet-crazed society and that the quick fix weight loss business is a multibillion-dollar industry. More importantly, did dieting work for you? If it did, were you able to meet your goal and keep the weight off?

Dieting is a hard row to hoe. It’s not conducive to having a social life nor is it uncomplicated for those who prepare meals for others. When we diet, the journey is not as rewarding as the destination. It’s an experiment in deprivation that we subject ourselves to with determination and resolve to “do it this time.” But the percentage of people who achieve their goal via denial and sheer willpower and who maintain this newfound image is very small.

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No More Plastic Bottles or Delivery Services: Easy Ways to Enjoy and Preserve Water

If you’re like me, you don’t think much about finding the perfect water source when you’re really thirsty; you just want to drink. Water is one of the essential elements of life, a sustaining force that not only quenches our thirst but is also integral in everything from agriculture to transportation to sanitation and personal hygiene. Water is essential for survival, not only for individuals and communities but also for the preservation of our environment.

How can we satisfy our own need for this precious resource while preserving it for future generations?

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Sunflower Oil and Wisconsin's Driftless Organics

In 2007, Josh Engel of Driftless Organics Farm in Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin planted a trial crop of sunflowers. It was a pilot run, so he only gave it a few acres. At the end of the season he harvested the seeds, pressed them, and gave the oil as gifts to friends and local chefs. They clamored for more, so Josh knew his experiment had been a success.

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Getting to Know the Minneapolis Public Schools Food Service Department, Part Three: The Unsung Heroes

One of the most striking things about the people who work at the Minneapolis Public Schools Food Service Department is how upbeat they seem. Just look at their picture above. From left to right, they are:

Larry Jones (Operations Manager - School Sites)Ricardo Abbott (Operations Manager - Nutrition Center)Joe Hollenback (Culinary Supervisor)Nicole Barron (Accounting & Business Systems Manager)Irfan Chaudhry (Assistant Director)

Do you notice something strange? They're all smiling.

"There are a lot of people in every business who are happy with the status quo," Nicole tells me, "you're not going to find it here."

"Summers used to be so easy," Irfan says, "but we don't take any vacation anymore. We want to make sure we give our kids the best food we possibly can."

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January's Simple Good and Tasty Book Club Pick: Farmer Jane by Temra Costa

Our first book club first pick of 2011, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat, tells the stories of women working towards eating and farming sustainably. Author Temra Costa writes about the relationships, nurturing, and inventiveness that women bring into the “delicious revolution” that is happening in our food world. Join us on January 27 at Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op from 7:00 - 9:00 pm or in Bemidji (near Harmony Co-op) from 5:30 - 7:30 pm to dig into these stories.

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Start the Year Right with Good Food Classes at Linden Hills Co-op


Do you make New Year's Resolutions? If so, do you make the same ones each year? Are you still trying to shed those 20 pounds you've been resolving to lose since 1997? Me too.

Last year I resolved to learn a few new tricks: I made granola for the first time, a Kahlua-like drink, cassoulet, and a bunch of pork shoulders (my wife gets most of the credit for these). I started composting. I spent half a dozen days at Riverbend Farm to try to get a very small feel for organic farming. I even took a canning class at Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis.

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Who's Your Farmer? Organic Valley Wants Us to Know

Organic Valley has a new feature on their website that lets you find out who your farmers are. By entering your zip code, you can get a list of the family farms in order from closest to farthest from your location (including mileage to a tenth of a mile) that are members of the Organic Valley Coop. The new feature, “Who’s Your Farmer?”, is part of the company’s effort to showcase their farms and make the local-ness of their products more visible. (You may have also noticed your local farmers pictured on your milk cartons, another effort to bring Organic Valley farms into customers’ homes.)

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