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74 People Took the Winter Eat Local Challenge

By Joey Robison

I’m proud to announce that 74 people took the Winter Eat Local Challenge this past March. These local eaters proved that you can eat at least half of your food from local sources, even at the end of winter when the the root cellars are at their lowest. Congratulations to you all!

One big thing that the Winter Challenge points out is how important it is for our region to have commercial food preservation facilities. We’ve got an amazing selection of food in our local area. Supporting and creating places where our local growers can store excess root vegetables, farmers can freeze fruits for winter sales, and entrepreneurs can create and can anything from pasta sauce and ketchup to snacks and soups will make eating much more locally in a Minnesota winter not only possible, but delicious.

surviving midwestern spring…

By Katie Blanchard

It’s that time of year, when flowers are supposed to be sprouting and trees budding and the earth producing a bounty, right? This year, with all the sun and warmth we’ve been having, the buds part is correct, but just like every year, I yet again face the silly disappointment that snow melt does not automatically resurrect the farmer’s market and return local produce to the co-op cooler. This may also have to do with my having just returned from three months studying in places where avocados, papayas, citrus, and mangoes are local…. but, I will have no fear!

Touring the co-op this morning with my Plant Biology class, Strider gave us the wonderful news that this is the first year he’s seen local produce complete the circle of the seasons—he still has local onions from the fall, and the radishes just arrived from Wisconsin Growers. This is great, and gives such hope for the future of year-round production in this part of the world. Equally exciting are the things we can do, and can create, out of the bits of local stuff that is around and can be started quick in the windowsill. Here’s some of the lemonade I’ve made with our few early spring lemons, as it were….

*sprouts! lentils, alfalfa, mung beans, peas….some of these are locally-produced for normal cooking but you can make them even more nutritious-delicious and get out the early-spring itching-to-grow by soaking them in a jar of water overnight, draining them, and then rinsing 3-4 times a day for a couple of days until they are lovely little crunchy things.

*microgreens! I have not actually tried these little guys, but it could be a similar solution to “I need to grow & eat some green things NOW!” Check this out from the perpetually hip Gayla Trail @ You Grow Girl.

*I was very excited to see the new kneaded butter in the dairy section….spring’s first bounty (radishes!) + that lovely butter = only the most jolie of French breakfasts.

*another of my favorite new versatile recipes is herb shortbread, something than can feature more of that delicious butter and either the tidbits of herbs that survived over-wintering or the new plants that are sprouting (or will be soon!) Use any basic flour/sugar/salt/butter recipe and add a tablespoon or so of rosemary, sage, basil, chamomile, or mint!

*roasted parnsips: those freshly-dug creamy beauties from Open Hands are sweet enough to eat raw, but I am a sucker for all roasted roots. Even better? I mashed up roasted parsnips and onions and Singing Hills’ (delicious) chevre for a delicious homemade ravioli filling.

Yum.

Eating local week in early March

By Angel Dobrow.

Some of my week’s highlights: cheese and MN apples (2 lunches), an unbelievably good custard dessert, corn chowder, sauerkraut and pork chops, root veggie noodle soup, egg bake with onions and kale.   The non-local food was: Cheezits, Raisinets, ordered-out pizza, chocolate, coffee. (!!) I certainly could have done without that second list.

I have noted this week that unless we find a local source of quality caffeine I may have to relocate to …Columbia?

Potluck food

By Angel Dobrow

The challenge week hosted a delicious potluck on Thursday night: shepherd’s pie, bison tongue, chips/cheese/salsa, pesto pasta, quiche, apple crisps, roasted potatoes, root vegetable stew, mint tea, etc., etc. I know there was more…the table was full. Really good food, and about 35 good eaters. The MPIRG chapter from Carleton, a bevy of local-food get-it-done activists brought us up to date on their project to get a Rice County local food policy in place.

One of their ideas was to develop a Local Food policy council, something other municipalities have constituted. I would argue the first meeting of this “future council” has just met…….

And consumed quality food. I would also suggest more potlucks!

Challenge update

Submitted by Penny Hillemann.

Okay, so my family, maybe like yours, is busy and somewhat scattered and the kids (well, we mainly just have one at home these days) don’t like many of the foods the adults like. So I have to admit I leave my son’s diet out of the Eat Local Challenge calculations. He gets local dairy products, some local breads, some Malt-O-Meal brand cereals, and most of the time that’s as far as it goes. (I don’t think they make local ketchup or chicken nuggets yet…) But I will make pizza using last summer’s rainbow tomato sauce before the week is out, so that’ll be something.

I really haven’t been doing much to change the way I normally eat this week — which is good, because it means I’m aiming for a sizable proportion of local foods most weeks of the year. This week I made a large pasta bake with last summer’s frozen tomato sauce and some Callister Farms chicken, and some local Sno-Pac frozen broccoli, and we’ve been working our way through that. Breakfast every day includes toasted Just Bread with peanut butter, a little OJ and local milk in my tea, so that’s close to 50% local. I’ve had a couple of delicious nacho lunches with Whole Grain Milling Co. tortilla chips, Salsa Lisa and local cheese, so those have been 100% local. Meeting treats at work are always from one of our local bakeries or coffee houses, so even the guilty pleasures are legit from that perspective!

So, I’m not the best person to model careful menu planning habits on, but it’s become a habit just the same to buy local options each week, not just because they’re local, but also because they’re just plain good. Good luck for the rest of Eat Local Challenge week!

The Quick & Easy Guide to the Winter ELC

By Joey Robison, Marketing and Member Services Manager at Just Food Co-op

If you’re like me, you need some quick and easy go-to meals for nights that you just can’t commit to cooking everything from scratch. I’ve created the Quick and Easy Guide to the Winter Eat Local Challenge for us.

In it you’ll find a list of events, 5 reasons to eat more local foods, and lots of great—and easy—winter meal ideas that are well over 50% local.

Click on the image to download the pdf, print it back-to-back and fold in half. Or just pick one up at the Co-op.