Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Weekly Recipe #62: Gluten-Free Blueberry Pancakes

By Jeanne Foels, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator

You've probably heard the term gluten-free, but what exactly does it mean?

Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley and rye. It is also used as a food additive to flavor, stabilize or thicken many processed foods.

A gluten-free diet is a necessity for people with celiac disease, in which gluten causes inflammation of the small intestines. In addition, many people these days find themselves intolerant or allergic to gluten to some extent, and so reduce the amount they consume. Going gluten-free is also something of a trend for people without an allergy or even physical intolerance.

As a result of increased demand, gluten-free products are more diverse and easier to find these days. Gluten-free beer, cereal, pizza and pasta are now on the market. Even bread and other baked goods can be made gluten-free with a variety of alternative flours made from sources like almonds, buckwheat, rice and chickpeas.

The following pancake recipe from Open Arms Chef and Baker Rita Panton calls on tapioca flour (which can be found at your local co-op) and corn to replace traditional white flour.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Pancakes
Adapted from a recipe by Mary Ann Wenniger

(Yields 12 pancakes)

1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup honey or sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, separated
2 tbsp. yogurt
3 tbsp. butter, melted
1 cup blueberries

1. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. In a second bowl, combine egg yolks, buttermilk, yogurt and melted butter and whisk until blended.
3. Add the bowl of wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.
4. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Add blueberries.
5. Lightly coat a skillet with butter or oil. Heat over medium heat. For each pancake, pour 1/4 cup of pancake batter into the pan. Flip after two minutes or when bubbles form in the batter.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Weekly Recipe #61: West African Peanut Soup

By Jeanne Foels, Marketing & Outreach Coordinator

I've become a bit of an evangelist on behalf of this soup, to the point where it's getting embarrassing. I'm obsessed with pureed soups, peanuts and sweet potatoes, and this recipe has it all! The sweet + savory combination is my favorite, and the hint of spice is icing on the cake. Naturally, this soup came to mind when Asei, Joaquin and I were plotting our Soup-a-Palooza entry. We're glad you liked it!

For years this creamy soup been my go-to dish to feed a crowd, whether for dinner parties, weekend trips or potlucks, and there's usually a batch of it in my freezer for quick weeknight meals.  Healthy, economical and just different enough to be interesting, it just might become a staple in your house, too.

Make it the day before a potluck or a weekend at the cabin -- like many soups, the flavors only get better the day after. Plus, it freezes beautifully!

West African Peanut Soup
(Serves ~8)

2 cups onions, chopped
1 tbsp. peanut or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. cayenne or other ground dried chiles
1 tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups sweet potatoes, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock or coconut milk
2 cups tomato juice
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tbsp. sugar
1 cup scallions or chives, chopped

1. Saute onions in the oil until translucent. Stir in cayenne and fresh ginger.
2. Add the carrots and saute a few more minutes.
3. Mix in the sweet potatoes and stock or coconut milk. Bring soup to boil and simmer for 15 minutes, until vegetables are tender.
4. Carefully transfer the vegetables to a blender or food processor with the cooking liquid. Add tomato juice and puree until fairly smooth. You may need to perform this step in several batches.
5. Return puree to a soup pot. Stir in peanut butter until smooth.
6. Taste soup, and add a little bit of sugar if the natural sweetness from sweet potatoes and carrots isn't enough. Serve topped with scallions.

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Pete Takes a Look Back

By Pete Fischer, Volunteer Services Coordinator

When I think back to when I first started as a volunteer coordinator at Open Arms a lot has changed...

I started when Open Arms first began running its capital campaign to build our current building. I was a fresh-out-of-college employee trying to learn the culture of Open Arms and figure out where I was sending my volunteers. Back then, everyone sat in cubicles so close together that it felt like being crammed into a sardine can.

When I started, we served 380 clients. Back then, we only had about 15-18 delivery routes Monday through Friday. The first volunteer shift started at 9 a.m., and only 3-5 volunteers would volunteer per shift. I can recall a group of women who volunteered Tuesday mornings that I was terrified of!

As days have turned into years, my how things have changed! Today we serve 800 clients a week and our first volunteer shift starts at 7:30 a.m.! Delivery has expanded onto Saturdays, and a typical day consists of 25-30 routes. We have an organic farm, complete with its own volunteer shifts. Oh, and those women still volunteer on Tuesday mornings -- and have become some of my closest friends.

As I think about where we have come as an organization and where we are going, I can’t help but think about the volunteers that make our vision possible. There is not enough coffee, donuts, gas money and thank you cards to tell you how much we appreciate the work you do for us. Thank you, volunteers, for everything you give us each and every day!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Our First Official Harvest at Open Farms

By Ben Penner, Farm Director

Outdoor farm work started early this year. Despite this spate of cooler temperatures over the last few days, farmers from around the state have been antsy since at least early March. They’re not alone; much warmer than normal temperatures have me thinking that I might have missed the window to plant my early season crops.

This is the first year where we have experimented with season extension, and it’s hard to know what to plant. Indoor temperatures have already surpassed the 110 degree mark -- too warm for cool season crops -- but with overnight lows dipping to the high 20s, it is still too cool for tomatoes and peppers. I have experimented with a few tomatoes in the tunnel for the past few weeks and they were doing fine until it got down to 25. We had built a low tunnel within the high tunnel -- essentially creating a double layer of plastic -- which certainly increased the temperature a degree or two, but the low temperatures were still too much. I am happy to say, however, that the lettuce we planted last fall is doing fine, and I just delivered our first official harvest to Open Arms on Tuesday, April 10.

Over the next few days, I’ll continue to experiment with other methods to add another degree or two right at the soil surface near vulnerable plants. The only drawback is that, with this extra protection, daytime temperatures underneath that second layer of plastic have reached over 120 degrees. Since the conditions have been so variable, I have been compromising by direct-seeding turnips, broccoli, kale arugula and spinach crops outside and covering them with a plastic layer or row cover, or even just leaving them bare. One way or another one of these strategies is bound to give us an earlier than usual harvest in the hot spring of 2012.

If you would like to learn more about season extension, join me to plant, weed, prune, build trellises and lay down irrigation in the hoop house and the low tunnels at Open Farms this growing season. Check out our website for upcoming shifts.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What You DON'T Know About Salt

By Gwen Hill MS, RD, LD

In my last post for National Nutrition Month, I talked about decreasing salt intake to limit sodium. Now let’s talk about the different kinds of salt.

Kosher, sea and iodized salts have all had their share of the spotlight recently. What’s the difference? They originate either from the sea or underground deposits, and each go through unique processing procedures. Chefs and bakers have their favorites, due to the texture that each possesses. Iodized salt is finer and dissolves more easily, making it preferable for baking. Kosher and sea salts are coarser, making them preferable for cooking. Kosher is cheaper than sea salt, making less of an impact on the wallet. But the most common question is, “Is one healthier than the other?”

Well, all of the salts have the same sodium content by weight. However, due to granule sizes, iodized salt appears to have a higher sodium content per measurement, as more granules fit into a teaspoon than the coarser sea salt and kosher versions. Here is the breakdown of sodium content in milligrams of the various salts per 1/4 teaspoon:

· ¼ tsp kosher salt = 480 mg sodium
· ¼ tsp sea salt = 480 mg sodium
· ¼ tsp iodized salt = 590 mg sodium

But there is a trade off to using kosher and sea salts instead of iodized salt…

Why is salt iodized?
In the early 1900s iodine deficiency was a problem, because the diets then did not contain foods that are naturally good sources of iodine. Iodine is necessary for the production of thyroid hormones, and a deficiency can lead to goiters, hypothyroidism and varying degrees of growth and developmental problems. The US salt industry added iodine to salt in 1924 based on Dr. David Marine and Dr. David Cowie’s research, which showed a significant reduction in goiters with the addition of iodized salt in the diet. Salt was the chosen vehicle for iodine due to its staple status in most American’s diets. Because many of these iodine deficiency symptoms are no longer prevalent in America, many think that we no longer need to monitor our iodine intake.

This is a misconception -- we still need iodine in our diets to continue to prevent these problems. In fact, iodine deficiency is still accepted as the most common cause of preventable brain damage in the world. Over 70 countries in the world participate in voluntary salt iodization programs, because of these effects.

You can get iodine from other sources, such as seafood and seaweed. It may also be found in crops grown in soil that has a significant source of iodine. However, due to a world-wide phenomenon, iodine is rapidly depleting from soil due to erosion. The plants grown in the eroded soil contain lower amounts of iodine than before. Because most of us will not get the iodine we need from these sources, iodized salt is still one of the best ways to get the iodine we need to prevent deficiency.

So is one kind of salt healthier than the other? Depends on how you look at it. Salt is salt when it comes to sodium. I suggest that you always limit your salt intake to decrease your sodium intake, regardless of salt type. But, if you need more iodine in your diet, iodized salt offers the clear benefit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Weekly Recipe #60: Lime-Spiked Corn Chowder

By Sarah Leonard, Open Arms Chef

There are two secrets to an award-winning vegetarian soup: butter and heavy cream.

To build real depth of flavor in a vegetarian soup requires a lot of layering of flavors you might usually associate with meat products—roasting, smoking, grilling, etc. We used roasted garlic and grilled fresh corn to emulate a smoky, meaty flavor in this vegetarian chowder. The lime juice at the end really helped to brighten up the richness of the butter and cream.

Although this soup is fantastic vegetarian, you could also begin by rendering the fat out of some bacon and use that to sauté your vegetables instead of the butter. Remove the bacon and reserve, crumbling over the top of the soup as a garnish.

Lime-Spiked Corn Chowder
(Makes approximately 5 quarts)

1 head of garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
8 cobs of corn
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tbsp. salt
1 stick of butter
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1 1/2 cups diced celery
4 cups milk
8 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
Zest from 1 lime
3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup fresh lime juice
Salt and white pepper to taste
3 cups diced red bell pepper
½ cup chopped cilantro

Roast Garlic:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut off the top ½ inch of the head of garlic, exposing the individual cloves. Drizzle with olive oil. Wrap garlic, cut side up, with aluminum foil and roast until the clove of garlic is tender and golden brown. Squeeze garlic out of skins and reserve.

Grill Corn:
Coat the cobs of corn lightly with vegetable oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill over high heat to char the kernels. The cobs should be somewhere around 50-60% charred. Remove from grill and let cool. Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and reserve both.

Make Soup Base:
Melt the stick of butter in a large stockpot. Sweat half of the onions and celery in butter until softened. Meanwhile, blend roasted garlic with enough of the milk to make a smooth mixture. Add to vegetables in pot along with vegetable stock and remaining milk. Add corn cobs to stockpot. Let simmer for 1-3 hours, depending on how long you have. Let cool completely.

Finish Soup:
Strain the vegetables out of the soup base and discard them. In a heavy stockpot melt 2 tbsp. butter. Sautee remaining onions and celery just until softened. Add 2 tbsp. flour and continue cooking over medium heat for approximately 7 minutes, or until the flour loses its raw flavor. Slowly stir in the soup base, incorporating it into the veggie/flour mixture evenly. Add the lime zest and reserved corn kernels. Bring to a simmer. Add the heavy cream and bring back up to a very light simmer. Add lime juice, salt and white pepper to taste. You will know you have added enough salt when the lime flavor really pops. Stir in the red peppers and cilantro to serve.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Reflections on Ethiopia

By Ben Penner, Farm Director

Now that I’ve been back from Ethiopia for a few weeks, I've had a chance to reflect on the work of Open Arms in that country. Our support for the nutrition project there has been vital to nearly 4,000 people over the years, and that is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the scale and scope of the need. Sometimes, however, our first impressions are the best, and so I’d like to share some of my initial thoughts in fairly raw form. Perhaps this will give you a sense of the experience as it was happening.

Here are those thoughts:

> I’ve been learning what I can about the history of Ethiopia. I’d like to be a good guest here but I feel like I am primarily an American overseas -- someone certainly interested in positive social change, but at best limited in my knowledge of how to effect that change and at worst naïve about how the world really works. Trying to fit this all into a workable framework would probably take years -- I only have about a week.

> Marble. The first thing I notice getting off of the plane from Amsterdam is the marble. Marble is everywhere in the airport. The strip malls and shopping malls have marble. Marble is everywhere, and marble is cheap -- in Ethiopia. How is that for some perspective?

> Driving southward out of Addis the traffic turns from cars, minibuses and taxis to large semis straining with cargo and shipping containers. Yoseph, our guide today, tells us that the large amount of truck traffic on this road is going to and from the main shipping port in Djibouti. The traffic on this road is indicative of the development going on throughout the country and especially around Addis. Foreign investment has created a frenzy of economic activity -- manufacturing, construction and public works projects such as the widening of Bole Road (the main road in Addis from the airport to downtown) is managed by Chinese companies with Ethiopian labor.

> There is so much open land. It is the dry season so it is hard to imagine green fields, but the land itself is fertile and -- with enough water, labor and time -- is very productive. The government has begun a number of different irrigation projects to address the need for water during these dry periods. Mostly what will be grown are cash crops -- cotton, sugar cane and perhaps teff, the grain that makes the Ethiopian staple food injera.

> I have never seen this kind of development, even when I visited India. The new factories being built take on the cast of global scope and scale, the type of development we hear about on the news but don’t actually see in the U.S. -- and yet many people here appear impoverished. This juxtaposition is startling for me. I read that 85 percent of the population in Ethiopia is involved in agriculture, and by observation I can tell that this must be accurate. Most people appear to be working in one way, shape or form in agriculture. I wonder how the development occurring will affect them and their livelihoods. Will it improve their situation?  I hope so.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Weekly Recipe #59: Macaroons

After Toast!, our volunteer celebration, we received quite a few requests for the macaroon recipe that Lila made for our fabulous volunteers. Chef Cassie obliged with the recipe, so here's some coconut-y love, from our kitchen to yours:

(Makes roughly 2 dozen)

7 oz. water (3/4 cup + 2 tbsp.)
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 oz. light corn syrup (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp.)
1/2 oz. vanilla bean paste (1 tbsp.) [available at Byerly's]
1 lb. desiccated coconut [unsweetened, finely ground coconut - found at most co-ops]
1 oz. cream cheese (2 tbsp.)
25 oz. egg whites (3 cups + 2 tbsp.) [we suggest buying a carton of egg whites]

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring the water, salt, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat. Put the liquids in a mixing bowl, adding the coconut, cream cheese and egg whites one at a time and mixing until each is incorporated.
3. The mixture should be fairly firm and thick. If it is runny and doesn't hold its shape when pressed into a ball (or seems to slump), mix in more dry coconut until it holds a firm and dense ball shape when squeezed in your hand.
4. Using a large ice cream scoop, press macaroon dough (should be firm) into scoop and level with side of the mixing bowl. Place on parchment lined sheet trays.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for about 13 minutes. Macaroons should be golden brown and crispy on the outside but still nice and soft on the inside.