Sunday, May 30, 2010

Everything But The Kitchen Sink Salad

I am still getting used to cooking for one - so I have been having issues with buying too much produce for one week. What to do with it all at once? SALAD!!

Two handfuls of greens
Everything else edible in the fridge

Mine included: mixed greens, strawberries, blackberries, avocado, radishes, feta cheese & homemade balsamic vinaigrette

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Down On The Farm

On Friday I woke up bright and early at 5:30 AM to head down to the community farm on campus. I figured, if I'm reading about farming and agriculture - I should probably do some of it too. From 6-8, we planted tomatoes and sweet peppers and secured row cover over the squash and peppers.
After a quick break for breakfast, we were out again until noon weeding the swiss chard, kale and turnips. 12-3 was prime napping time and then we worked again until 7 PM - more weeding and row covering!
It felt great to be getting my hands dirty after spending so much time doing research in the library.
The farm was started a couple of years ago by two students who were interested in investing in local agriculture. Since then, a number of students come down to the farm in the fall and spring to help pick, plant, weed, and till. During the summer three interns take care of the communal garden and 16 community members grow their own plots on the land.
This year, the farmers decided to work closely with Bon Appetit, our food service provider, to grow produce that could be sold to Bon Appetit during the summer and fall. The end result - more tomatoes, squash and sweet peppers are being grown over kale, purple carrots and swiss chard. However, the latter products can be sold for a pretty penny at the farm stand held every week on campus.
After spending the day learning the history of the garden and getting a good hamstring workout from weeding - the interns and I had a pot luck dinner to celebrate the end of the week and a very productive day.
Since I have started cooking on campus for the summer, I have only been cooking for myself. Therefore, cooking for 4 people sounded like a daunting task. Thank goodness I had been saving a box of pasta for "emergencies" or group gatherings like this one.
Using my new book Raising the Salad Bar, I made a pasta salad with feta cheese, sweet corn and local tomatoes. To finish the dish off, I created a light dressing of lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.
Dinner included: rice salad with beans, miso soup, cucumber salad (with fresh mint from the community farm!) pasta with peanut sauce, and my own pasta salad.
I have plenty left over, so make the trip to my suite to pick some up!

P.S. Abby - I brought all the beer you left me to the pot luck. The Summer Brew was enjoyed by all! The Christmas Porters...not so much.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Debra Richardson has organized a Food For Thought film series this Spring that includes great foodie films such as: What's On Your Plate? King Corn, Our Daily Bread and The Future of Food. Shown in public places all over Utica, these films are pushing local residents to think about what and how they eat. The last two films are being shown tonight and tomorrow night at The Dunham Public Library and Utica College, respectively.
The first film, What's On Your Plate is a film about kids getting involved in their local food movement. Through the rest of the school year, our big plan is to get this movie shown in elementary schools and to parents. At MLK elementary it is amazing how much the kids already know about food, diabetes and nutrition. However, it is also amazing how little their parents know. Therefore, we must educate parents in order to get them angry enough to start demanding and cooking better food for their children.
Here is the trailer for What's On Your Plate:

Research Update 5/26

Yesterday Anne, Joyce and I took a trip down into Utica to meet with Debra Richardson of the Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL). Walking into her backyard was like walking into Eden. She is growing so much food, preserves her own meats and cans excess vegetables and fruits. After sitting down, each with a glass of homemade grape juice, Debra began talking about her life and the work she does in Utica. Debra's life has been far from easy, but has given her so many valuable experiences - from waitressing to getting a degree in videography to protesting nuclear testing in Nevada to opening her own restaurant in upstate New York and finally working for the community in Utica.
At the end of our meeting, the four of us had a plan of action for the summer:
1. Assess the needs at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary school
2. Research the effects of lead poisoning on the community
3. Plot a garden on site
4. Organize a garden curriculum that can be integrated into all areas of study from kindergarten through fifth grade
5. Get all the teachers on board
6. Apply for lots of grants to get $$$$$$

All of those may seem to fit except for step 2, researching lead poisoning. However, Utica is the 2nd worst city in the United States to live in for lead poisoning. After meeting with the principal at MLK, it became even more apparent that a community garden can help these kids by providing food that is not contaminated by lead dust. Principal DeSalvo said that 10 kids this year have been diagnosed with lead poisoning - and those are just the confirmed cases. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities in children. However, because of the large immigrant community in Utica, about 7 different languages are spoken in each classroom. Therefore, it becomes difficult to get a child, his/her parent, a translator and a doctor in a room at the same time to get a diagnosis.

I am really excited to nerd out this summer and help the local community feel empowered through this garden. Things are starting to come together!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Time For Lunch

The children at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Utica are fighting for healthier school lunches!
After being educated about food, diabetes and their own school lunches, these children wrote to their Congressional Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Shumer and Representative Michael Arcuri.
Check out their letters here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The First Supper

Last night was the first night I cooked in the dorms for the summer.
I did all of my grocery shopping yesterday, which totaled roughly $90. However, about $30 was spent on kitchen necessities (cutting board, knife, measuring cup, bowls, peeler, and various spices).
With my groceries in tow, I came back to my room to plan my dinner. I already broke one rule by purchasing some natural chicken sausage that originates in Chelsea, MA (275 miles away). BUT - all of the ingredients were fresh and I could pronounce all of them. When I actually start getting paid for the summer I won't be breaking this rule because I will have the resources (aka MONEY!) to buy from the Utica FoodShed. While these items are pricier than meat coming from CAFO's, I am willing to eat vegetarian most of the week to be able to splurge on expensive chicken breasts for a couple of meals.
SO - enough boring logistical talk. Here is what I cooked last night!
Chicken Sausage
Mixed Greens
Roasted Beets
Goat Cheese
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette

I used a recipe online for roasted beets that uses both the microwave and the oven to ccok the beets in a shorter amount of time. After 8 minutes covered in the microwave, I transferred them to the oven for 15, drizzling them in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. When I finally took the beets out, the bigger slices were harder in the middle than I would have liked. Fortunately, I have lots left over, so when I reheat them in the microwave they will become more tender.

Overall, it was a delicious meal made for one. When the Clinton Farmers Market opens on June 10th, I plan on only going to Hannaford for olive oil, flour, sugar, etc.
I am curious to see if my summer plan will work!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer at Hamilton

This summer, thanks to the Emerson Grant committee, I am able to conduct research on the Hill.
Here is a short summary of my proposal:
After visiting Nuestras Raices, a thriving community farm in Holyoke, Massachusetts – a city similar to Utica – I am curious to see if a community farm could help increase Utica’s economic prospects, strengthen ties between Hamilton and the local community, and provide the local population with a sense of agency. I hope an Emerson Grant will provide me with firsthand experience in applying theory to practice. The research I conduct this summer will become critical to writing my Women’s Studies thesis on local food movements, women, and food as a form of cultural maintenance in immigrant populations. I will be implementing community gardens at Martin Luther King Elementary School and the Resource Center for Independent Living. Work will include interviewing local residents and organizations, obtaining demographic and statistical data from the city, looking into issues of soil lead poisoning in the area and conducting grant research to make the actual projects feasible.

Because I am working to increase the local food movement in Utica, I am pledging to personally change the way I eat my own food:
1. Only eat local meats (within 100 miles)
2. Stop purchasing processed foods
3. Buy as much produce from the farmers market in Clinton & Utica
4. Eat in season

This blog will be a documentation of my work in Utica as well as personal food experiences this summer. Bon appetit!