FarmerChef Roasted Carrot Soup

Photo of carrots

Have you ever noticed if you cut excess processed sugar out of your diet there are some pretty sweet veggies out there? Carrots take the cake when it comes to sweetness.

Photo of sliced carrots

Our carrots looked liked candy corn when we chopped them up to roast for our soup.

FarmerChef Roasted Carrot Soup

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Per Serving 402 calories

Fat 18 g

Carbs 61 g

Protein 3 g

6

Serve with croutons if desired.

Ingredients

  • 6-8 carrots
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 can coconut cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 leaves kale, mid-rib removed

Instructions

  1. Dice all but one carrot and toss with olive oil
  2. Roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes
  3. Saute carrot, celery, and onion until tender
  4. Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant
  5. Add vegetable stock and simmer for about 15 minutes over medium heat
  6. Place in vegetable stock mixture in blender to puree
  7. Add roasted carrots to coconut cream and seasonings in pan used to saute
  8. Add back pureed vegetables
  9. Cut kale leaves and add to soup just before serving

Photo of Roasted Carrot Soup

What if ….real food came from a vending machine?

Imagine being in a food court in Chicago.  You are surrounded by the typical unhealthy food options and then you see a funny looking vending machine with reclaimed wood paneling and plants on top.  You walk closer and see that is a really a self-service kiosk for a company called Farmer’s Fridge.  

How about it, would you buy a meal at this kiosk?

I haven’t had a chance to try it out personally but it is a hit on yelp!

Ponder the possibilities of our consumer actions leading to good results for your body, your family, your community, and our world. That is what we will do right here once a week. ♥ We’ll explore
  • choices made in the home
  • choices made in our places of worship, schools, and other institutions
  • our everyday career, dining, and shopping choices

[Read more]

What if ….bloggers decided to join together and promote healthy snacks?

Have you noticed that there are many bloggers who are avoiding processed food for snacking?  These bloggers are already influencing the people who read their blogs and the people that live and work in their life.  Many bloggers I read have chosen to go the real food route because of health or allergies.

Photo of inspiration for healthy snacksWith each of us influencing our little world, the economy and the demand for products is changing. Instead of hitting the aisle in the convenience stores we are checking Pinterest on our smart phone for inspiration and making sure we have some healthy items stashed away in the car, backpack or pantry.  It hasn’t made a huge difference yet.  However food companies are feeling cumulative effects of changes to snacking. What could we do if we bloggers worked together?  Maybe a bunch of bloggers could do a day of the healthy snack?

If you like that idea, write a post about it or send a suggestion.  If you have a post on healthy snacking, post it below in the comments so I can pin it to my board.  In the meantime, here is a the recipe I fixed today that was inspired by the one in the picture.  I adapted it and preparing it got me thinking about this post. 

Spicy Crunchy Chickpeas

makes a small batch for one or two snack-ers

1 cup cooked chickpeas  (can use can or cook your own)

1 tablespoon oil  (I used avocado oil on half and Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the other half)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cuminchickpeaingredients

pinch cayenne

salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse cooked chickpeas and dry by rolling in a towel.  If the skins come off,  you can discard them.  Combine spices and oil and add chickpeas.  Toss to coat evenly and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake till crispy for about 25 to 35 minutes.  Serve immediately or pack in a dry storage container for later.   There are some recipes that suggest cinnamon.  I will try those next time.

Ponder the possibilities of our consumer actions leading to good results for your body, your family, your community, and our world. That is what we will do right here once a week. ♥ We’ll explore
  • choices made in the home
  • choices made in our places of worship, schools, and other institutions
  • our everyday career, dining, and shopping choices

Send us ideas and comment on suggestions.

Cool Caribbean Salad Made with Lentils

A few weeks ago Steve’s mom, Mary Jane shared an e-cookbook that she has been using from The Northern Pulse Growers AssociationPhoto of Cool Caribbean Salad

Photo of Steve and Mom

She discovered that pulses, which are peas, lentils, and chickpeas, are good sources of beneficial soluble fiber and proteins.  Since she is on a gluten-free diet she comes up with some good ideas.

According to the book:

Peas, lentils and chickpeas are among the most ancient crops in the world. Peas have been discovered in caves in Thailand dating back more than 11,000 years and lentils have been found in Egyptian tombs.

I am excited to cook my way through this book.  Here is the first recipe I selected.  It was so good, I felt like snorkeling after eating the salad.

Cool Caribbean Salad

 Makes 2-3 servings

1⁄2 cup dry lentils, rinsed (I used green lentils)

1 1⁄2 cups water

1 cup diced fresh pineapple (I used canned pineapple)

1⁄2 cup finely chopped cilantro or to taste

1⁄2 cup finely chopped red onion

Dressing

 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice

1 tsp minced fresh ginger

2 Tbsp peanut oil  (I used olive oil)

1⁄2 tsp grated lime zest

1 clove garlic,minced

1⁄4 tsp salt or to taste

  1. Combine lentils and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.
  2.  In a small bowl combine dressing ingredients; in a serving bowl, combine cooked lentils with pineapple, cilantro and red onion.
  3.  Stir in the dressing. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

CoolCaribbeanIngred

 

What if ….more commercials showed people cooking?

I love it when I see commercials showing people cooking with real food.  It would be great if it were as common as the commercials that show people opening a box.  I don’t know about you but for years I was convinced I was too busy and too tired to cook.  So I bought a lot of convenience and processed foods.

Ponder the possibilities of our consumer actions leading to good results for your body, your family, your community, and our world. That is what we will do right here once a week. ♥ We’ll explore
  • choices made in the home
  • choices made in our places of worship, schools, and other institutions
  • our everyday career, dining, and shopping choices

Send us ideas and comment on suggestions.

Homity Pie: Inspired by the Land Girls of WWII

Last weekend Francine reported in from her life in England. Here she tells about stopping at Raspberry Tea Room in Llanyrafon Manor in Wales.

We ran in between a rain shower and saw lots of yummy things in the pastry case. The lady behind the counter said Homity Pie is a favorite of locals. She told us it’s a recipe from the war…the girls who farmed here used to make it with potatoes, spinach and cheese. And it’s made with veg from the kitchen garden.

When she got home she did a bit of research and found that the farming girls are called Land Girls and they were part of the WLA or Women’s Land Army.

Photo of WLA posterFrancine also mentioned the BBC show Land Girls.  I have been watching it on Netflix. If you like Downton Abbey, perhaps you will enjoy this show set during WWII.

After searching around a bit I settled on a recipe that also had apples in it.  Here is the original recipe I used.  I made some adjustments including making sure I used Picket Fence Creamery cream.  The whole idea with this dish is making do with what a person has available locally.

homitypie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homity Pie (makes 2 five inch pies)

1/2 small onion

1/2 leek

1/2 apple

1 tablespoon oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch black pepper

2 slices Swiss cheese (original recipe called for cheddar cheese)

2 tablespoons cream

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon parsley

2 eggs

  1. Dice and sauté the onions and leeks over a gentle heat in the vegetable oil, until they’re soft. Add  diced apple pieces and mix in.
  2. Cut slices of swiss cheese into small pieces.
  3. Add the garlic, followed by the potatoes, parsley and thyme, the eggs, half the cheese and cream.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and combine the mixture well together.
  5. Fill the pies and cover them with the remaining cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour until the top is golden

Easy Shortbread Crust

(adapted from this recipe)

1 cup flour

1/4 cup water

4 tablespoons butter-cut into small pieces

salt to taste

Mix together and press into greased pie or tart pans. Place in refrigerator while preparing the pie filling.

HPOven

What if….an edible landscape was as common as a lawn?

Imagine what would happen if it became the norm for people to take out their lawn and plant an edible landscape?  This video shares the story of a family who changed their normal yard in Southern California to an urban farm that produces fruits and vegetables, attracted beneficial creatures, and ultimately created healthy soil.

Ponder the possibilities of our consumer actions leading to good results for your body, your family, your community, and our world. That is what we will do right here once a week. ♥ We’ll explore
  • choices made in the home
  • choices made in our places of worship, schools, and other institutions
  • our everyday career, dining, and shopping choices

Send us ideas and comment on suggestions.

New World Cafe: Des Moines, IA

On the edge of funky Photo of Green BurgerEast Village in downtown Des Moines, you will find this shining example of the good food movement. It is a small cafe open for lunch, some evenings, and since the first of the year, they are now open for brunch on Saturdays. The cafe is closed on Sundays.  

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4

New World Cafe’s mission, stated on the first page of their website, is to support local organic farms. They have an all vegan menu and compost all food scraps.   Windows at New World Cafe

Flavour: 5

Back in November, Luke had been visiting from California and we ate here. He ordered a burger and really liked it. On the first visit I ordered the Mexican Bowl. This time, I had this beautiful Green Burger. All the food choices were made with great ingredients, fresh and served fast.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

I was to surprised to discover the clarity of the mission for this restaurant. They have at least one option a day for people to pay what they can afford. Another interesting factor in their concept is they use volunteers to cover shifts and preparation times. As a former restaurant owner, I have found that running a small independent restaurant, especially one that has a bit of an educational mission, is incredibly hard work.  The rewards are the stories people share about the food and what it means to them.  I am impressed with their goal to educate people about why eating vegan is a smart choice in many ways.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4

The service was efficient and friendly. When my food arrived it was presented with pride; a beautifully crafted work of culinary art. The cafe is located in an older attractive building that has nice windows. I savored the warmth of the sun on a cold winter day.

Overall Rating: 13.5+

Brunch on a lazy Saturday morning is brewing on an upcoming weekend. Many people I have met since moving to town have an affinity for this place and I can see the appeal. Who won’t want to eat at a place where they really, really care about the food they serve?

Photo of Education Table

New World Café on Urbanspoon

What if ….more people noticed fake food?

When  my kids were young I often used the Jiffy muffin brand.  It’s an old fashioned looking, blue and white, small box.  Francine told me, “I remember thinking, wait how can these little blue things be blueberries?Jiffy Mixes: Blueberry Muffin Mix

I came across this article recently and it made me remember those crunchy fake blueberry bits. Every time I see those mixes in the store I feel slightly amused. Don’t worry, I am not one to beat myself up over the past.  Not too much anyway. I am more likely to laugh, since I can’t do anything about the past.  But I do notice how my views have changed the more I have learned over the years.

Young moms like Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food, impress me.  She models how to feed her family on less processed food and has a following of over 1.2 million on Facebook. 

There does seem to be a mini trend in the works. More and more people are noticing fake food. Does it matter what we feed ourselves and our families?  If so, why do you think it matters and what will be the result of this new trend?

Ponder the possibilities of our consumer actions leading to good results for your body, your family, your community, and our world. That is what we will do right here once a week. ♥ We’ll explore
  • choices made in the home
  • choices made in our places of worship, schools, and other institutions
  • our everyday career, dining, and shopping choices

Send us ideas and comment on suggestions.

Chinese New Year Inspired Dumpling Soup

When I was seven, I experienced my first Chinese or Lunar New Year celebration.  I think it was coincidental, as I observed the festivities from a distance. Our family lived near San Francisco and often went to my dad’s office in the city on weekends.  I remember hearing noise and arriving at the window in time to see a colorful dragon as it streamed below us on the street. 

I cherished this memory enough to take my own kids to see a very small Lunar New Year celebration in 1989. It was at a local Chinese restaurant near our home in Louisville, Kentucky.  The kids were too small to remember but perhaps Francine was influenced because she actually lived in China twice as an adult.  Luke had a chance to visit her and travel in China.Photo of Dumpling Soup

This last Friday evening Steve and I set about to make something in honor of the new year celebration.

Chinese New Year Inspired Dumpling Soup

Filling for Dumplings:  (Makes about 30)

1 carrot

2 celery stalks

1/4 head green cabbage

1 cup spinach

1 and 1/2 inch ginger-minced

3 green onions – diced  (reserve green tops for garnish)

5 oz. tofu cut in 1/4 inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons diced cilantro

1 egg

1 package won ton wrappers  (we used square wrappers)

Start by cutting the tofu in 1/4 inch cubes and fry in about 3/4 inch of  vegetable cooking oil in a frying pan until golden brown. While tofu cubes are cooking you can dice the carrot, celery, cabbage, spinach, and onion. 

In a saute pan sweat onions, carrots, and celery.  Add cabbage and cook until softened. Add spinach and ginger and cook until spinach is wilted. Pull off heat. Combine diced cilantro, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Mix together with 1 egg and the drained tofu.

Set each won ton wrapper on a flat surface and use a bowl of water to wet two edges of the wrapper with your finger. Use about a teaspoon of the filling placed in the center of the won ton. Fold in half diagonally and press edges together.  

Gently boil in vegetable broth for vegetarian or (chicken broth if you prefer) for about 3-4 minutes. Serve with broth and garnish with reserved diced green onions. We cooked about 3 to 4 dumplings at a time. 

Does your family celebrate Chinese or Lunar New Year?  San Francisco is one of the best places in the US to experience Chinese New Year. It is not too late to participate in the February 15th celebrations.


What if… Everyone Had Knife Skills?

The “What if” question for last week involved encouraging people to cook at home.  If we want to cook at home we can save ourselves a lot of time and money in the kitchen by developing our skills with a chef knife. 

For some reason I  never developed the practice of using a chef knife until we opened our restaurant in 2008.  Steve and Luke both taught me how to use one. In fact our home kitchen didn’t have one until my sister-in-law noticed and gave us one as a gift.  I don’t think I am alone based on the number of people I have talked to about cooking at home.

This video does a pretty good job of teaching the basics.  

I have also included a video from Luke’s cooking series on the chiffonade technique for cutting greens and making things look pretty.

If you want to select some other knives besides a chef knife, here is a good article that can help when picking out knives.   Let us know your thoughts on our what if…..real food Wednesday questions.

Just Right: Oatmeal Apple Pancakes

I have been working on this recipe for awhile.  I found a recipe online but it made the pancakes too rubbery.  I liked the recipe because there is no added sugar.  The sweetness comes from the apples. With a few adjustments I knew I was on the right track and then Sunday morning Steve and I tried them again. They were delicious! Photo of Oatmeal Apple Pancakes

You will find this to be a super easy wheat-free recipe that doesn’t have any special gluten-free flour or any of the gums usually added to gluten-free flour.   If you are sensitive to gluten, you know the drill by now, to purchase oats that were processed in a gluten-free facility. 

Oatmeal Apple Pancakes  (makes 5 medium to large pancakes)

2 apples, peeled, sliced and cored

1 1/2 cup oat flour*  (156 grams)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

1 cup milk  (we used coconut milk)

Start by cooking the apples in a pan over low heat.  The apples will  get soft and you can mash them and continue cooking.  If you use a low enough heat you will not need to add any water. 

Combine  oat flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon mixture in a bowl. 

To the dry mixture add the cooked apples, mix in eggs and milk.  Mix away!

If you’ve made wheat flour pancakes in the past you have been told to not over mix the batter. (Like in this recipe by Alton Brown) The reason for this caution is that the gluten in the flour will start to develop to the point of making the pancakes tough.  For this batter you can mix it as much as you like since there is no gluten to develop. So when making pancakes with kids this would be a good recipe to use.

Heat a dry non-stick skillet and spray with a pan release product before you cook your first pancake. 

*How to make Oat Flour

Making oat flour is as easy as taking old fashioned oats and pulsing them in the blender.  If you make extra you can use in other recipes like the Oatcake recipe we did in the past.   Thanks, Francine for teaching me that. :)

What if… Restaurants Promoted Cooking at Home?

It seems like a crazy idea for a restaurant to promote cooking at home.  But being concerned about the quality of prepared food that is normally served in restaurants, we instigated a promotion during the month of August and September called The FarmerChef Project. Photo of Pickle Recipe  We recruited two other restaurants to join our restaurant in offering recipes of dishes that we prepared using local ingredients.  Then offered recipes for customers to prepare the dish at home.  Even though the promotion is officially over, you can check out the recipes by clicking on our icon which will take you to the  pinterest page. Logo for FarmerChefs

As part of the promotion we worked with University of Minnesota Extension to help us survey restaurant customers about their preferences for local food and cooking. There is a myth that says people won’t pay for better quality ingredients. Our survey respondents reported that they were willing to pay from 5% to 25% more for a meal prepared with local ingredients?

Would you like to see more restaurants promote cooking at home with local products?  If they did, would it help to repair our broken food system?

What if… Your Neighbor Was an Organic Farmer ?

Photo of Pinterest Board

The lead article in yesterday’s Des Moines Register begins with this line:

A Des Moines-area developer is betting Iowans not only want to know the farmer who grows their food, they will also want to live next door to him.

I would change “him” to “him/her” because there is also another trend that says women farmers are on the rise.

The article doesn’t mention the location that the developers are considering.  There is a realization that housing developers have moved away from golf courses because they are expensive to maintain.  It is exciting to see this trend develop.  I actually know two farmers who are in the process of building an organic farm and teaching center on 10 acres near Ankeny.  In fact, we had dinner them last night and had a chance to see their plans.  As their story unfolds I look forward to sharing more. 

In the meantime we can all dream about these types of developments by looking at the ones that already exist.  Check out the pins on our FarmerChefs Pinterest account.

Whole Wheat Honey Biscuits

All the reading I did about Food Trends for 2014 got me hungry for biscuits.  So I followed Steve around the kitchen last night as he put together a batch of whole wheat honey biscuits.  He doesn’t follow recipes so I have to have a pen in hand if I want to re-create it later.Photo of biscuits

Lightly crisp on the outside and warm and steamy on the inside, was the experience I enjoyed when I sampled them.  Oh yes, they have a hint of sweetness from the honey.  The were even slightly FarmerChef-y. The honey was purchased last summer at the farmers market.  If you get a chance, do buy local wheat flour from a local farmer as we have done in the past.

Whole Wheat Honey Biscuits

(makes 9 biscuits)Photo of teapot and biscuit

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 stick butter, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup honey

3/4 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and use pastry cutter to mix in the small pieces of cold butter.  Combine until the mixture looks like gravel. Then add honey and milk and combine into a ball in the center of the bowl.  If needed add a little more flour to hold everything together. Place on a floured surface and shape into a square.  Use pastry cutter to cut into 9 or 12 biscuits depending on how big you’d like them to be. Put biscuits on a baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.

Snuggle up with a cup of tea and good book and enjoy!

What if… Real Food was Convenient?

What if… real food was as convenient as picking it up at the end of a busy day? You know, kind of like a personal chef but a bit more affordable.

Good news!  There is an expansion going on in the good food movement.  As I wrote this post I got an email with a link to this article. To me, the article shows that there is a growing demand for better quality food that is convenient.

I’d like to introduce you to Brandy Lueders who owns The Grateful Chef in Des Moines.  She is the real deal in terms of a chef creating a business that supports her family doing what she loves.  Not to mention that she uses wholesome ingredients for those that want good food but don’t have the time in their day to make it.  I am kinda lucky because I live with a chef, but hey, even he needs a break.

thegratefulchefOn my way home from my volunteer work, I picked up two dishes that I ordered earlier in the week.  The way it works: 

1. A person signs up to receive an email with the selections each week. 

2.  Once you get the email, you decide if you want to order that week and place the order by Monday evening. 

Brandy uses the commercial kitchen at The Wallace House on 16th Street here in Des Moines.  She prepares the food to order and on Wednesday evenings her customers stop by the kitchen to pick up their food on their way home from work.  Today she also had farm fresh eggs available for sale from a local farmer.

Photo of orderI couldn’t wait till dinner, I just had to dig into the nutty quinoa apple salad.  Don’t worry, I didn’t eat it all, I saved some for Steve.  I also ordered a Moroccan Style Vegetable and Chickpea Stew.  Both of these dishes were vegan friendly for those that want to eat their #phytosfirst.   We are that new breed of eater who is not strictly vegan but like to order it whenever possible.  In our case we like to learn what you can do with veggies.

Please share with me any kind of service you find in your community that is similar, I would like to do a follow-up post and share ideas to support concept of eating real food.

Photo of Quinoa Salad

Midwestern Food: #1 Trend for 2014

Happy New Year!  On this first cold Sunday in January, Steve and I stayed inside and read about all the food trends for 2014. Each publication we read seemed to have a slightly different spin on the trends.  But we liked the list that put Midwestern food, they don’t even call it a cuisine, on the top of the list. A new show on the Food Network called Heartland Table is introducing this part of the world to those who haven’t been here.  The host of the show is Amy Thielen who is the author of the book the Midwestern Table.

One trend spotter, Kathy Gunst, even went so far as to say that the Midwest will be a destination for foodies.

If this is true and you are packing your bags, we are happy to share some Midwestern gems we’ve reviewed:

Birchwood Cafe:  Minneapolis, MN  11+Photo: Walking to the Cafe
Fresh Market and Cafe:  West Des Moines, IA  13.5+
Kitchen Table:  Omaha, NE  14+
River Rock Coffee: St. Peter, MN  13+
Verdant Tea:  Minneapolis, MN  12.5+
Wise Acre Eatery:  Minneapolis, MN  12.5+
Wolf Peach: Milwaukee, WI 14+

We have our eyes on a few places in Des Moines and around Iowa worth a visit in the year ahead:  Salt Fork Kitchen, Alba Restaurant, The Des Moines Cheese Shop, and HOQ.  All of these restaurants are on our list because they source local food.

Fresh Cafe and Market: West Des Moines

wheatgrass

After a few months of scouting out potential restaurants to review in the Des Moines metro area, I begin with a review of this gem tucked away in a professional building.  I first became aware of this place when I saw their booth at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market.   A tray of fresh wheatgrass, sitting in the booth, caught my attention. 

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness: 4.5

What a story there is to be told about local food. According to a bio I found:

Kerri Rush, “the wheatgrass girl” is the owner, farmer and chef at Fresh Wheatgrass Farm in Carlisle, Iowa and Fresh Cafe & Market in West Des Moines, Iowa. She started growing wheatgrass in 1996 when her Mother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon, liver and lymph node cancer. After researching “alternative” healthy ways to give her immune system a boost she found it in wheatgrass and juicing. (her mother is now cancer free!) Kerri became hooked on all of the benefits of wheatgrass and her business started growing!

According to the menu the rest of the food is organic, local, gmo and synthetic-free.  They proclaim that they change their menu often because they work with fresh, seasonal products.

FreshChorizoFlavour: 5

This vegan chorizo is loaded with flavor and you can see the presentation is attractive.  The “chorizo meat” is made with quinoa and roasted potatoes, poblano peppers, and corn.  I had a choice of whole wheat or gluten-free tortilla.  I selected the whole wheat.  The topping is cilantro-chile crema and fresh scallions and tomatoes.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

Photo of Fresh signIt was a surprise to find such yummy food in an odd looking professional building.  At first I was excited because I saw a woman with five little girls come out and get in a van.  I thought maybe they were Girl Scouts working on their locavore badge.  Photo of Locavore BadgeYou know, touring the kitchen to learn about food.  Then I realized they had not been at the cafe, they had been dancing in the room next door.

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 4

Three of the walls are each painted a different bright color and the fourth wall is glass which makes for a dramatic and vibrant cafe.  The tables are sturdy wood with substantial chairs.  You order at the counter and the food arrives quickly.

Overall Rating: 13.5+

I’d like to see Fresh Cafe and Market or other favorites like Desert Roots Kitchen, populate the malls, downtowns, and suburban intersections of every city in America.  Making food this good takes a huge amount of effort.  The commitment to quality is the reason we do not often see these types restaurants that offer truly fresh food at a lower this price point.    I leave you with this picture that proves you can get something fresh on an Iowa winter day.Photo of Green Juice

Fresh Cafe & Market on Urbanspoon

Iowa: Three Times a Charm

33_aplacetogrowIowa: A Place to Grow was the state motto when Steve and I moved here the first time.  Young and in love, we felt charmed to arrive in a state that had a goal that matched our desires at the start our life together. 

After Steve graduated from Iowa State University,  it was bye, bye Iowa as we returned to his native state, Idaho.  Yet, for some reason, we had a secret desire to raise our kids in Iowa and eventually had a job offer that brought us back.

A call from a headhunter lured us to the land of stone farmhouses and epic national history, Pennsylvania. It was a fun adventure and gave us time to mature professionally and personally.

After 12 years in the Philadelphia metro area and 6 years in rural Minnesota, we have magically appeared in the state again. I say magically because we didn’t seek out a plan to move here. We got a call from a former colleague and one thing led to another.  Voila, we are back.Photo of t-shirt from RAYGUN

If you haven’t been to Iowa you will be surprised to learn that Iowa is not the great fly over, that many east and west coast dwellers assume.  For one thing the state has a sense of humor.  We got a chuckle when we wandered into RAYGUN, a store in the East Village, that has a goal to make people laugh.  They sell  t-shirts that poke fun at what people think of Iowa.

Most people think of Iowa as being a state of mostly soybeans and corn.  This fact is true but Iowa makes up for the lack of diversity in crops with a diversity of ideas about food and food systems.  Just visit the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market to see a sampling of diversity. 

Since arriving, it has been incredibly easy to align our interests of yoga, food and personal growth with like-minded souls.  Here is a re-cap of just a few connections.

In September we were invited to a Yoga on the Farm event at PepperHarrow Farm. There, in addition to yoga, we toured the farm and ate awesome food.  Check out all the photos by photographer, Drew Maifeld.

YogaontheFarm

During the month of November I attended a conference from an organization called Women Food andPhoto of Sonia Kendrick Agriculture.  There I met a woman who was tired of hearing people brag about how Iowa feeds the world and started an organization called Feed Iowa First.  The founder is a veteran who recognized that even here, in the land of plenty, our current food system is not working and many go hungry.  

In early December, I had a chance to attend Tedx Des Moines Women. This re-cap by a fellow attendee will fill you in on that awesome event.  It wasn’t about food but I did meet people from Dress For Success Des Moines. I hope to us my coaching skills and volunteer as a mentor in 2014.

DFSDSM

The bottom line about Iowa is that somehow we haven’t gotten in right yet.  Iowa is calling us back to grow some more before she lets us sail away into the sunset. 

No Food in the House Soup

Have you ever come home from work and looked in the fridge to discover that there is no food in the house?  When I found myself in this situation, I challenged myself to respond like the chefs on CHOPPED.  Those inventive chefs compete against each other to come up with a meal based on oddball items in a market basket.

Potatoes, celery, onions, frozen green pepper, turnips (already boiled a week ago) and vegetable stock were the collection of ingredients I found in my “market basket.”

A cooking strategy I picked up from Luke and Steveis to start chopping and sweating onions and celery.  This buys me a bit of time time while the creative juices start flowing.  Eventually I put together a pretty decent tasting soup.  It must have been good because this is the only picture I was able to capture.

Photo of empty bowl

No Food in the House Soup

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 medium celery stalks, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup green peppers

4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced

2-3 turnips, boiled

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth

1/2 cup water

1.  Heat olive oil in a heavy pot.  Add onions, celery, and green peppers and sweat until soft.

2.  Place already cooked turnips and up to  1/2 cup water in a blender,

3.  Add celery, onions, turnips and green peppers and blend until smooth and creamy.

4.  Boil potatoes in another pan.

5.  Heat vegetable broth and mixture from the blender.  Add potatoes when cooked and mash slightly. 

6.  Heat and season soup with black pepper and rosemary.  Serve immediately or save for another meal.