Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GH Thanksgiving Recipes

If you saw yesterday's GreenHouse Thanksgiving photos, and are hungry for more, today I'll give you all the tools to recreate some of those dishes themselves.

Of course, I assume you don't need to make 25 servings of each, so I'll pare down the ingredient amounts, but if you do want the full 25 servings versions, just let me know!

As with any good menu, this one began with some imagination, lots of internet and cookbook research, and a trip to the farmer's market (in my case, the first indoor winter farmer's market of the season!). Many of the ingredients were from our Dane County Farmer's Market: the sweet potatoes, potatoes, apples, salad greens, cranberries, wheat bread for stuffing, eggs, and carrots. The onions and garlic were from the local farm of the GreenHouse Program Coordinator.  And the rest of the ingredients all came from the Willy St. Co-op. Pretty cool.

The full menu:


GreenHouse Thanksgiving 2011

Sweet Potato Biscuits 
Cranberry Sauce 
Green Salad with Dried Cranberries and Carrots (no recipe) 
Green Bean Casserole
Apple-Walnut Stuffing 
Vegetarian Gravy 
Rosemary and White Bean Mashed Potatoes 
Apple Pie 


Sweet Potato Biscuits
from "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea," by Martha Hall Foose, via our friends SK and TY

2 medium sweet potatoes
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake sweet potatoes on a baking sheet until tender, about 40 minutes. Once they cool, cut them in half, scoop out the flesh, and mash it up.  This should yield about 1 cup mashed potato.
  2. Raise oven temperature to 450 degrees. Mix the sweet potato flesh, milk, and butter. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Gently mix the dry ingredients into the sweet potato mixture to form a soft dough. Drop the dough by tablespoons onto a greased baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until they are a deep orange color. Yields 12
My notes: Instead of roasting the potatoes, we peeled, chopped, and boiled them.  We also ended up baking the biscuits for about 20 minutes, and had a little problem with burning. On the whole, this time around they ended up tasting more like pancakes than anything else--still delicious but not as biscuit-y as I'd had them before when my friends TY and SK made them. Maybe it was because we didn't roast the potatoes? I'd love to hear the results of any experiments from you all...


Cranberry Sauce

~10 ounces cranberries
1.5 cup white sugar (or less, to taste)
2 1/4 cup water 
2 tsp orange zest
  1. In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water and zest. 
  2. Stir in the cranberries and cook until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes). 
  3. Remove from heat and place sauce in a bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken. (8 servings)


Homemade Green Bean Casserole
 adapted from the Post Punk Kitchen

4 cups green beans (2 cans; if using fresh or frozen, pre-boil for ~7 minutes)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
4 cups creamy mushroom soup*
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper
1/2 cup fried onions
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  1. Saute onions in olive oil on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute for 7 minutes more.
  2. Mix the flour into the mushroom soup until very few lumps are left. Add to the pan along with the salt and pepper. Stir often for about 10 minutes, until thickened.
  3. Preheat oven to 375*. Add the green beans to the pan. Mix in half of the fried onions. 
  4. Transfer to an oiled casserole and top with the remaining onions and bread crumbs Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and bubbly.

* we used 1 box of Imagine brand condensed soup mixed with half water/half milk
** we used the cheap store brand full of bad stuff, but I've heard Trader Joe's has a healthier version

Our notes: this came out even more delicious than the Campbell's Soup/French's Fried Onion version, I think. It was so saucy, though, as it often is, that I almost wished we hadn't made the vegetarian gravy, and had just used the sauce from this as gravy for the stuffing and mashed potatoes. Live and learn.

Apple-Walnut Stuffing

1/3 cup butter 
1 large onion, finely chopped 
2 stalks celery, finely chopped 
1 cup chopped red baking apple 
1 cup chopped green cooking apple 
2 cups whole wheat bread cubes, lightly toasted 
1 cup chopped walnuts 
2 tablespoons dried whole-leaf sage 
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary 
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
1 large egg, beaten 
1 cup milk 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon pepper 
  1. Melt butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and celery, and cook, stirring constantly, until tender. 
  2. Combine apples, bread, walnuts, and herbs in a large bowl; stir in cooked vegetable mixture, egg, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. Spoon into a lightly greased baking dish. 
  4. Bake at 350* for 30 minutes. Serves: 6
Vegetarian Gravy

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  1.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Stir in flour and soy sauce to form a smooth paste. 
  3. Gradually whisk in the broth. Season with sage, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. 
  4. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened. Serves 12.

Rosemary and White Bean Mashed Potatoes

1.5 quarts water
1.5 tablespoons salt
1.5 pounds potato peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
12 ounces white beans (cannelini, navy, northern, or even garbanzo)
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1-1/2 tablespoons rosemary chopped fine
3-8 ounces boiling water from potatoes

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot, and then add the salt.  Boil the potatoes until they are fork-tender, approximately 20 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling, heat the olive oil in a small sauté pan. Once hot, add the beans and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Next add the garlic and rosemary, continuing to stir the beans for another minute.  Ladle 3 ounces of water from the potato pot into a food processor.  Add the garlic-and-rosemary-infused beans while still hot to the food processor.  Process the beans until smooth.  Transfer the bean puree to a bowl and keep warm.
  3. When the potatoes are ready, drain them and let them rest for 5 minutes.  Puree the potatoes and then add to the reserved bean puree. Mix thoroughly, season to taste, and add more potato water as needed to moisten. Makes 9 (1/3 cup) servings

Apple Pie

6 cups thinly sliced apples
1/2 cup brown sugar (less if apples are sweet)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon flour
½ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pie crusts (ours were pre-prepared from the co-op, but this is a great recipe if you need one)

  1. Prepare your pastry for a two crust pie. Peel, core, and slice apples; measure to 6 cups.
  2. Toss apples with lemon juice, flour, vanilla, nutmeg, butter, and cinnamon
  3. Arrange apples in layers in pastry lined pie plate. Cover with top crust. Place on lowest rack in oven preheated to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes longer. Serve warm or cold. Serves 8
Our notes: We made two apple pies, and then had another set of pie crusts, but not quite enough apples for a third pie. We did, however, have sweet potatoes left over from the biscuits, so we combined the apples with the pureed sweet potato and made a combined apple-sweet potato pie. It was a bit soft, but delicious.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

GreenHouse Thanksgiving

In addition to the delicious Thanksgiving feast I had on the day itself, I got to share a Thanksgiving-style meal with the students at the GreenHouse during the week before the holiday.

About eight student chefs joined me--some with lots of cooking experience, some who were just starting out--and we managed to cook a meal for 25 people, with 7 different dishes, in just 3 hours.

It was kind of a heroic feat, if I do say so myself.

I'll be back tomorrow to share the recipes from the night, but because there were so many beautiful photos, I thought I'd dedicated one post to the images themselves. All of the photos below, except for the fourth and seventh are by Kat Cameron.

So here we go:

The prep. Making vegetarian gravy, apple pies and vegetarian stuffing:

Justin convinced me we had to have green bean casserole, so, for him:

Starting to come together! Vegetarian stuffing, green bean casserole prep, gravy, green salad:

Mashed potatoes and white beans with rosemary and garlic, sweet potato biscuits, and sauce from local cranberries:

 The crew starting to assemble and preparing to indulge:

My plate:

And, of course, the fresh apple pie for dessert:

p.s. happy birthday, hbr!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scenes from Thanksgiving

Wanna know what my Thanksgiving looked like?

It looked like a full plate of delicious food, with brussels sprouts and pretzel rolls and simple stuffing and chunky applesauce, all for me:

and like four of my favorite people in the world:

But also like the joy of shared food, brought potluck style by different family members, who all took me in and made me feel at home:

and like adorable nephews and cousins who run around with joy and share secrets and use their outside voices, but can never actually look at the camera at the same time:

And what did your Thanksgiving look like?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Break #4

Today's links:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Break #3

Today's links:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fourth Grist Post

Check out my fourth post over at Grist:

Thanksgiving marked the seasons in a post-seasonal world

I'd love your feedback!

Thanksgiving Break #1

We're going to be taking a break this week over Dining and Opining, so although I won't be putting up new posts with original content, I'll check in each day with links to:
  • One beautiful food photo
  • One interesting food-related article
  • One recipe to try
Feel free to share your own links in the comments! 


For today:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tofu-Walnut Meatless Balls

In our family, I'm often the one who likes to make up wacky recipes and try out new things in the kitchen, while JH often sticks to his favorite standbys. But last week, when we had some tofu in the fridge that needed using, I suggested making some sort of meatless-balls to go with spaghetti, and JH stepped right in and said he wanted to try to make them without a recipe, just combining ingredients and seeing what we came up with.  His ingenuity paid off, and now you get an inside peek into what he came up with.

Besides the actual combination of ingredients, another good idea he had was to pre-bake the little guys in mini-muffin tins, so we'd be sure that they maintained a spherical shape:


While he was working on the meatless-balls, I put together a saucy mixture of sauteed onions and garlic, Portuguese kale (from our Harmony Valley CSA box), and tomato sauce:

Once the balls came out of the oven, we mixed it all together:

And then serve the yummy mixture over spaghetti mixed with bowties, along with the last of our garden tomatoes:

Here's our best attempt at a recreation of the recipe, to share with all of you:

Tofu-Walnut Meatless Balls

1 large onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 cups mushrooms, chopped
herbs, to taste (basil, oregano, sage)
16 oz tofu
~2/3 cup walnuts
~ 1/3 cup wheat germ
~1/4 cup Progresso bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1.5 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
1.5 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon of your favorite hot sauce

  1. Saute onions and garlic in oil on medium heat, until beginning to soften and turn golden.
  2. Add mushrooms and herbs and saute until softened, about 10 minutes more. 
  3. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients (tofu through hot sauce) in food processor and pulse until it achieves a uniform consistency.
  4. Combine sauteed vegetables with tofu mixture in a large bowl. Mixture should be wet and pretty soft, but not runny. Add more wheat germ/bread crumbs if it seems runny. 
  5. Fill greased mini-muffin tin with mixture. If you don't have such a tin, you can just try to form balls from the mixture and place it onto a greased baking sheet, an inch apart. You'll probably have to do this the remaining balls, even if you use a muffin tin anyway. 
  6. Bake the meatless-balls at 375 F until brown and firm, about 35 minutes. Break one open to make sure it's no longer wet on the inside.
  7. Combine with your favorite veggies and sauce, and serve over pasta. Delicious!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

D&O as Wall Art

We recently did a bit of rearranging in our bedroom, which opened up some wall space.  In thinking about what to hang there to add some color to our room, I was inspired by my Mom's recent redecorating. She, being a devoted Dining and Opining fan, found a few images from the blog that she loved, had them blown up and printed, and then framed them for some walls in my parents' house.

I went a cheaper route, printing regular 4"x6" food photos from the blog to create a sort of matrix collage that adds up to one larger wall hanging. I just used little pieces of blue painter's tape, rolled up to function as double-sided tape, on each of the four corners of each photo.  I arranged the photos in roughly rainbow color order (from red in the top left to green-ish in the bottom right) beforehand, and then hung them up, using the bottom middle photo (the open-faced sandwiches) to frame the remaining photos around. I used a yard stick to make the even space between each row.

Here's how it looks in the room:

It's great fun to look at all these images, and think about the stories that go with them. It's like a retrospective of my last 10 months of blogging. Spot any of your favorite posts in there?
Here's a cheat sheet: 

Row 1:
Row 2:
Row 3:
Row 4:
Row 5:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Turkey Day Coach


My pal AC recently called me his "vegetarian Turkey Day coach"--and I was so happy about this label, that I figured I'd share some of my coaching with you.

You see, AC had heard some of the awful things about the way that modern day grocery store turkeys are produced, and he wasn't so happy about the fact that baby turkeys have their upper beaks snipped off, or that in the fourth week turkey chicks are packed into a room with 24-hour-a-day bright light, which disrupts their natural sleep cycles, so that they can be kept awake and force-fed all day long. He wasn't  thrilled about the fact that conventional turkeys are pumped full of antibiotics to keep them from getting sick from the over-crowded conditions, or that they have been bred to have so much white breast meat that they can't stand on their own, and can't reproduce without artificial insemination. (Read more in this recent article: The Truth About Turkey).

But, although there are many options for a delicious turkey-less Thanksgiving, AC wanted to treat his family to a better version of the classic holiday dish. He wanted a turkey, but not one from a conventional factory farm.

Here are a few tips I offered him:
  1. Check out the local co-op or natural foods store.  Ours, the Willy Street Co-op, is taking orders now:
  2. Go to the farmers' market. Our local one, the Dane County Farmers' Market, has a super feature on its website where you can search for particular products and then see what vendors offer those products. So, a search for turkey takes you here: Turkey Search Results. Nine options locally! 
  3. You can also contact a particular vendor and do a pre-order directly from a farm. One great options in the Madison area is JenEhr Family Farm, which is where AC ended up purchasing his turkey.
  4. If you're not in the Madison area, check out your local listings, or find a farm on Eat Wild.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Eating and Memory

Way back in August, I put out a call for help in prepping the seminar I'm teaching this semester, "Composing a Shared Meal: Food, Ethics, and Community." Many of you shared wonderful suggestions, and I apologize that I haven't been better about updating you with how the semester has gone. I'm happy to offer reflections if people are understand.

Regardless, now I'm back to ask for help with yet another seminar that I may be teaching in the spring.  This one is going to be focused more on writing and oral history, with a tentative title of "Eating and Memory: Writing Oral Histories of Food." (I tried to get away form the ubiquitous Pithy Title [colon] Descriptive Phrase Formula, I really did, but I just couldn't escape.)

Here's a blurb I've written up about it:

We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” This seminar examines that idea from all angles, considering how identity and culture are tied up with diet, how what we and our families have eaten in the past shapes who we become, and how memory can shape our understanding of ourselves. This class is about stories and food. We’ll share our own stories, listen to the stories of others, and write and record the stories we encounter.  Through this class, you’ll learn some oral history technique, and will have the opportunity to capture the food memories of your own family—whether of your parents, grandparents, or others in your community. At the end of the semester, we’ll produce a tangible piece of history that contains the shared stories—whether written or recorded through audio or video—of our seminar’s participants. Come prepared to write, reflect, share, think, and create together! (and sometimes we may do a little eating, too).

So, as I think about a syllabus, I want to collect essays, interviews, audio pieces, maybe even videos that do a bang-up job of revealing the emotion, humor, and humanity of people's memories about food.

Can you help me in this collection effort?


Friday, November 11, 2011

Global Meals Press

My friend KK put together a piece on the GreenHouse Global Food for Thought Meals, for the Badger Herald, one of the student papers. I'm sharing it here!

Global Food for Thought combines cuisine, culture

New residential program brings food into focus, offers taste of the world
The GreenHouse Community is unfamiliar to most. Situated on the first floor of Cole Hall, the learning community focuses on the concept of individually defining sustainability and finding ways to enact those newfound beliefs. As with many learning communities, the GreenHouse offers relevant programming for its members and small seminar classes to provide students with focused, unconventional learning opportunities.
The Global Food for Thought Meals began as a seminar and is now a regularly occurring part of GreenHouse programming. Led by GreenHouse Food Intern Anna Zeide, the Global Meals are, as she puts it, “an innovative series of dinners that expose students to the cuisine and culture of another place, using food as a lens onto larger ethnic, religious, linguistic, class-based and gender issues.”

The seed had already been planted for Global Meals before Zeide joined the GreenHouse team last semester. Professor Jack Kloppenburg, director of the GreenHouse, decided such a series would be the best use for grant money awarded from the Division of International Studies. Zeide echoed Kloppenburg’s sentiment, though, stating that food is “a perfect lens onto international cultures, and so the idea of an international-focused food series was born.”

Many of the meals feature chefs or speakers from the Madison area from restaurants that are familiar to most students, like Chautara on State Street. However, the cuisines and cultural topics offered span the globe. While the food itself is prepared by the chefs in University Housing’s food department, they collaborate closely with the guest speakers and modify the cuisine to include locally available ingredients.
The meals are impressive. As sophomore Adam Luepke recalled, “I remember my first meal. It was dish after dish of delicious food; everything was spot on. It was a restaurant-quality meal with restaurant-quality service.”

But the discussion that follows is certainly no afterthought. Many of the speakers and chefs have lived in different countries, and as such, they provide insight into common matters from a unique perspective. Students learn about topics ranging from eating locally to how to make tempeh. Speakers sit with the students too, offering some the chance to have a less formal conversation, which helps provide the communal atmosphere Global Meals strives for.

Most recently, the Global Meals series featured Scott Barton, a culinary consultant with extensive industry experience and a teacher of various classes, including some at the masters level. His meal centered on Afro-Caribbean cuisine, which included everything from traditional cheese bread to a pumpkin dessert. Barton spent the majority of his discussion talking about food identity, how it varies from person to person and how it heavily relies on a person’s experience.

To Zeide, food is the gateway through which students can better understand a foreign culture or idea. In her words, “Food can be a powerful reflection of cultural difference, and shared eating can bring different people together.” While the tastes might be foreign, the language of food is universal: Everyone can find a common thread in sitting down and sharing a meal.

Two installments remain in the series this semester. One, featuring West African cuisine, will even have a brief exhibit of West African dance. Next semester, the Global Meals will partner with the Women in Sustainability series, combining the two ideas by inviting women who have focused on large-scale agricultural sustainability.
While the Global Meals Series is in its infancy like the GreenHouse itself, it has already yielded some interesting results and a positive flow of ideas. To the students, it provides a chance to expand their knowledge of foreign cultures over a delicious and unique meal, in a language spoken by everyone.

For more information on Anna Zeide, check out her work on or her own food blog, Dining and Opining,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vegetarian Caesar Dressing

Remember those tofu croutons from last week? 

They pair especially well with a Vegetarian Caesar Salad (which is NOT actually what's pictured above--that's just a pretty salad photo to give you some eye candy or, erm, eye salad [new term for the health-conscious eater?])

Most Caesar dressings have anchovies (or at least Worcestershire sauce, which itself usually has anchovy paste), and so this dressing recipe I'll share with you is exciting in its ability to maintain that creamy tang minus the oily fishes.

For a typical Caesar salad, toss a bunch of greens (romaine lettuce is standard) with grated Parmesan, croutons (of the bread or tofu variety!), and some of this dressing. Or, mix it up, and use this dressing on other kinds of salads, or even as a nice sauce for roasted vegetables. Anyway you use it, it's delicious.

Vegetarian Caesar Dressing

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (use vegan mayo to make vegan)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Combine all of the ingredients--either by whisking together in a bowl, or by pouring them all in a jar, putting on the lid, and shaking it like the dickens. Leftovers will store in the fridge for about a week.  Yields 1/2 cup.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Illustrated Food Rules

Have you heard?!

Michael Pollan has a new illustrated edition of Food Rules out, with beautiful drawings by Maira Kalman (whose "And the Pursuit of Happiness" blog at The New York Times was just stunning and sometimes made me cry.)

If you thought his Food Rules couldn't get any better, just wait until you see Kalman's drawings, which are rich and beautiful. Like this one for the rule "If You’re Not Hungry Enough to Eat an Apple, Then You’re Probably Not Hungry."

See Kalman hilariously narrate some of her drawings here (like the comment "I wasn't as pure as I thought I should be [when Pollan asked her to illustrate the book], and I told Michael that cheese doodles play an important part in our family history. He forgave me for that."):

And Pollan was also on the Colbert Report last week, talking about this little slip of a book:

Some of my own favorite Food Rules, you ask?  Well, here are my Top Ten, with the numbers from the original Food Rules:

Dining and Opining's Top Ten Pollanian Food Rules
  • #3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.
  • #6. Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.
  • #8. Avoid food products that make health claims.
  • #11. Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
  • #16. Buy your snacks [and as much of your other food as possible, he might add] at the farmers' market.
  • #19. If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.
  • #27. Eat animals that have themselves eaten well. [If you're going to eat animals at all, that is; also can be rephrased as "You Are What 'What You Eat' Eats"].
  • #39. Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.
  • #50. The banquet is in the first bite.
  • #60. Treat treats as treats.
  • #63. Cook.

Anyone have some favorites to add? I'd love to hear 'em...

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Grist Post #3

Re-posting my third Grist Food Studies post, which went up last week:

College Students Plant Seeds of Change 

 (some of my awesome GreenHouse students)

If you've ever visited the University of Wisconsin, you've probably eaten some Babcock ice cream, perhaps while enjoying a sunset on the Terrace. It's just one of those things that people do.

But last week, some of the students in the food ethics class I student-teach began to ask questions about how Babcock ice cream is produced -- whether it's organic, how many processed ingredients it includes, if all the milk is produced locally, whether the cows are happy, and so on. We decided that we'd take some time during our next class session to do a little digging, including finding the contact information of the dairy store or food science administrators who have some say in how Babcock dairy products are made.

This conversation left both my students and me with smiles on our faces. What I found particularly moving was their keen desire to engage and create change at the university level. After my class, I couldn't stop thinking about the dramatic potential of these sorts of academic-practical connections.

I mean, students have to spend time researching and producing written work anyway, so why not apply that labor toward some practical end -- like activism or public history or community education? Of course, not all disciplines lend themselves to these kinds of assignments, but when it comes to food that is produced or served at a University, students are the main audience and funding source, so they hold unusual power.
Students find it very frustrating to learn about large-scale problems--whether it be factory farming or income disparity--and then feel thwarted in their desire to make change because of the enormity of these issues. But while their impact at the national level might not be large, students most certainly can have an impact at the university level. Universities are sometimes more malleable, more flexible, and more responsive to consumer demand than our larger society. The University of Wisconsin's recent decision to cancel its contract with Nike due to treatment of workers in Honduras, for example, was the result of work by the Student Labor Action Coalition and longstanding activism around labor licensing.

When it comes to food issues, there is building momentum to encourage universities to source food ethically, and to bring "real food" to campuses. One central organizing group, Real Food Challenge, wants universities to offer food that "truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth ... a food system--from seed to plate--that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability."

Real Food Challenge was here in Madison a couple of weeks ago, and put on two workshops for students--one on corporate dining services and one on strategic campaign planning. Both of these sought to give students the tools to approach dining directors and university administrators, aiming to change the way that food is sourced. Of course, there are many bureaucratic and institutional hurdles that stand in the way of change, but a conversation is nearly always the needed first step.

I've spoken with chefs and dining service managers here at the University of Wisconsin, and I know that there are many eager, motivated, well-intentioned people in those positions who are looking for students to step up to the plate and call for change. Student demand is valuable to these folks because administrators respond to it far more than to simple good intentions on the part of employees.

But because students are first and foremost at institutions of higher learning to be students, to learn and complete course assignments, it is especially important that we think about ways to gear those learning environments toward creating tangible change. We, as students should ask for assignments that matter. And we, as teachers should see our assignments as opportunities for students to change their lives--and the larger world around them--for the better.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mama!

Happy Birthday to my wonderful Mama!

Some of our joys and shared food over the last year:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tofu Croutons

Last week, I wrote about the wonderful soup and salad meal that JH made for me, complete with potato-leek soup recipe.
I mentioned the tofu croutons that were part of the salad, and in the comments, Robin asked for the recipe.

As I sat down to write the recipe, I began to feel at a loss, since we typically make it without following any particular rules. But then I remembered that the original inspiration for this tasty salad topping came from a great cookbook, one from Moosewood called Simple Suppers: Fresh Ideas for the Weeknight Table.

So, I returned to the source. But the particular recipe I found was only a general approximation of the simpler method we use. Here's what Moosewood had to offer:

Tofu Croutons

1 cake firm tofu (about 16 ounces), cut into 1" cubes
1 T olive oil
2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1 T ground fennel seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. 
  2. Oil a baking dish and spread tofu cubes in a single layer. 
  3. Combine remaining ingredients to make marinade, pour over tofu, and stir. 
  4. Bake until tofu is crisp and liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Stir a couple times along the way, to keep things cooking evenly. 
Our modifications:  
  • We often cut the tofu even smaller, closer to 1/2" cubes. 
  • We vary the seasonings, but typically go the simplest route, which just includes a few splashes of oil and a few splashes of soy sauce, directly onto the tofu on the baking dish. 
  • We typically use a toaster oven (have I raved about this little machine yet?!), so that we don't have to heat up the whole oven, and so the croutons cook even faster, tossing them several times throughout 
  • And although these particular croutons were included with a Vegetarian Caesar Salad recipe (which I hope to share soon), we toss these croutons on top of any kind of salad, and they'd probably also be delicious atop soups or even casseroles!
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Best Catalina Alternative

So, as I've shared before, Justin's Mom's Taco Salad recipe is one of our favorites around here, and one we return to often.

But, as described in this post, I always felt bad about using the Kraft Catalina dressing that the recipe calls for. This feeling of badness came primarily from the scary list of ingredients in that Kraft staple:

Ingredients: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Soybean Oil, Vinegar, Salt, Water, Contains less than 2% of Modified Food Starch, Phosphoric Acid, Dried Onions, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate and Calcium Disodium Edta As Preservatives, Citric Acid, Guar Gum, Natural Flavor, Red 40, Yellow 6, Blue 1. 

And even though we discovered a good home-made version of this Catalina, it still didn't quite hit the spot, and sometimes it felt a little onerous to pull out the food processor and all. Sometimes you just want to grab something from the pantry without having to make it from scratch, right?

We tried a few other store-bought alternatives, like Annie's French Dressing, but found them all lacking that original Kraft Catalina flavor. 

Until now.  We just discovered Seeds of Change's Organic French Tomato Dressing, and it's perfect. Delicious. Tomato-y. Just right.

Not only is it organic and delicious, but check out this ingredient list:

Ingredients: Water, evaporated cane juice*, vinegar*, sunflower oil*, tomato paste*, corn starch*, dijon mustard paste*, sea salt, onion powder*, spices*, roasted red pepper puree*, extra virgin olive oil*, locust bean gum*.
* = Certified Organic

Much better!

Now we're happy and well-fed and (at least a little) healthier!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Happy Mail

The doldrums* I've been stuck in for the last few weeks were partially abandoned yesterday when I came home to more happy mail in one day than I ever get, except for my birthday!


Opening these exciting packages and discovering the wonderful contents within gave me such a deep sense of joy and gratitude towards the kind friends who had so thoughtfully and appropriately chosen gifts for me and mailed them, without any special occasion needed.

The first package I opened was from my dearest family friends, MS and ES, who have been my second-string parents for as long as I can remember. It contained a wonderful screen-printed shirt with a canning jar on it that read "Yes We Can...Eat Local" and a logo for the Root Cafe. I wrote about this terrific cafe in Little Rock, AR, way back in my first week of blogging here at D&O. And I'm happy to report that the cafe has been thriving ever since, and that I now get to advertise it's awesome-ness here in Madison, with this perfect shirt.  (Don't tell my other shirts, but I think this may be my new favorite shirt--the color, the softness, the fit, the canning jar [!], the story, and the ability to advertise such a worthwhile venture all make it pretty unbeatable.)

Eddie Vedder the cat also took a liking to it:

The other package was from my friend and colleague, AW, and contained a little gem of a historical pamphlet "Canned Foods Recipes for Fifty," published by the National Canners Association. It was such a delight to leaf through it and imagine who might have read this in years past, and how they might have used it.  The book was from a bookstore called Rabelais in Portland, Maine, which I had read about on AW's blog a few days ago! The bookstore sounds way cool, so I was especially excited to get this little unexpected piece of the place.

 Amazing what a little bit of thoughtfulness and surprise can do!

Thanks to my loveliest friends and family for thinking of me and sharing such ideal gifts.  So grateful to you.

* I always think of them as the "colorless place where thinking and laughing are not allowed" from The Phantom Toolbooth. Remember that book?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cider Pressing

We're now well on our way to creating our first fermented beverage, which we will have taken from tree to bottle from start to finish!

And in keeping with the seasonal theme, we've focused on sweet, rich, caramel-colored hard apple cider!

The inspiration for this project (especially on Justin's part) was twofold: (1) A professor in Justin's department (for whom we farm-sat last month) makes delicious hard cider that we've often enjoyed, and (2) Our friend MH organized a cider pressing event for the Madison Fruits and Nuts group, where we'd have access to local organic apples, a cool hydraulic apple press, and expertise.

The pressing took place at this new community workshop called Sector67, which is really impressive space with all kinds of equipment and tools that would be too expensive for an individual to own, but which work really well when used on a cooperative basis. Check out the organization's website to learn more.

So, Sector67 loaned its parking lot for the apple pressing, and yet another wonderful local group, the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, loaned the apple chipper and press, the former of which looked like this:


You basically just fed the whole apples into the mouth of this machine (at the top left) and it chipped the apples up into little pieces, much like a wood chipper would do. Apple chips: 

The apples themselves came from one of the only organic apple orchards around here, Gardens of Goodness: 

Once the apples made it through the chipper, we spread the apple chips in layers between porous cloth and wooden plates in the apple press. As soon as the layers were set up, we'd turn on the machine, and the juice would just flow out of the machine into the waiting steel vessels below, which you can see behind the press at the lower left below:

Here's Justin folding up the cloth over the apple chips on one of the layers:

Once the juice was pressed into the steel vessel, it was then poured into a big bucket with a spigot, and then released from the spigot into gallon jugs: 

From our two bushels of apples, we made off with about 5.5 gallons of sweet, delicious cider!

Stay tuned for the fermenting post, soon to come!