wastEDwisconsin

By Amy Huo, executive chef, The Informalist    /   Photo by Kyle Lehman

According to a July 2016 article in The Guardian, Americans discard roughly half of all produce because of a “cult of perfection.” That is, because an apple has some spots or lettuce leaves have fallen prey to a wayward cabbage worm, those products are unsellable and promptly discarded. It must be noted that this produce is unharmed in all other ways, usually perfectly ripe but unfortunately looks imperfect. While I would like to say that my parents and grandparents—the generation oppressed by the Great Depression—would be horrified to see food wasted in such a manner, the truth is quite the opposite. Years of marketing by Big Agriculture in the food industry has changed perception of how our produce must appear in order to be edible. That is, imperfection in appearance signifies imperfections more serious than surface-deep.

 

Where did this begin? All signs point to the discovery, processing, and development of sugar in Europe—some even argue that sugar was a means of supporting American independence (British forces were apparently too busy defending their sugar plantations in the Caribbean to adequately defend against American colonial independence). Furthermore, heavily processed wheat and white bread products were seen historically as more pure than brown bread made with wheat that includes the germ and bran. Essentially, many eighteenth-century Europeans believed eating white foods made one more pure.

 

While I cannot connect via concrete evidence that any of the historical significance of eighteenth-century European tastes led to our demand for culture of perfection in food of the modern age, it does seem that there is a persisting connection between perfect appearance and taste. We live in an age of hothouse flavorless tomatoes and the “Red Delicious” apple (really not delicious at all, in fact, mostly mealy and devoid of flavor altogether).

 

It’s no secret, at this point, that my experience in New York with Chef Dan Barber has impacted my life and my approach to food in the restaurant. Chef Barber started the wastED campaign in New York by serving a dinner completely made of food waste. Most recently, he and the team from Stone Barns served dinner on the rooftop of the Selfridges department store in London to draw attention to the egregious amount of food wasted around the world in developed countries on the daily. His dishes were inventive and flavorful, served on broken plateware and other usually discarded items.

 

Because my background in the culinary industry is heavily influenced by this kind of throw-nothing-away philosophy, I’ve begun to focus on the food waste issue here at The Informalist. wastEDwi is my campaign to draw attention to the many ways we utilize usually wasted ingredients in our kitchen to create dishes that are inventive, beautiful, and delicious. Preserving ingredients to use year-round demands innovation but begets unforeseen experiences for our guests. For example, this year, to preserve the flavor of sugary spring parsnips, we used the meaty parsnips for our various dishes requiring root vegetables but then dehydrated the peels and ground them into dust. The perfumed quality of the fresh parsnips and the pure sugary sweetness are both preserved in the dust and give us an extra layer of flavor to play with in our dishes. In some recipes, I’ve gone as far as replacing the sugar content with this parsnip sugar or dehydrated sweet corn in the same manner. Beets juiced for sauces leave behind pulp that can also be dehydrated, ground, and used to color pasta. Carrot and fennel tops usually discarded can be used the same way or mixed with salt or sugar to garnish a dish.

 

Kitchens have long had to use normally wasted items to improve their food cost, but this approach is more important than just saving money. It’s about respecting the time and effort farmers and producers spend to create the ingredients we serve in our kitchen. Using every part of a product—essentially nose-to-tail for vegetables—means that spiritually speaking, nothing is disrespected. I believe, on a personal note, a guest can feel this kind of approach on a plate. If we can understand that every single element on a dish belies a deeper significance about preparation, care, and environment, then the dish can speak for itself about the philosophy of a culture. In the cult-of-perfection world we live in, imperfection requires innovation. Here at The Informalist, we seek out those experiences so that we may bring the guest a unique, surprising, and exceptionally innovative plate every single day.

 

Sources:
www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/13/us-food-waste-ugly-fruit-vegetables-perfect

www.livescience.com/4949-sugar-changed-world.html

www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/03/04/147819980/american-history-baked-into-the-loaves-of-white-bread

www.sucrose.com/lhist.html

www.selfridges.com/GB/en/content/article/wasted-london

Eat Your Way to a Healthier You

By Victoria Vande Zande, MD, Prevea Health Internal Medicine

 

There are many benefits of a healthy diet including increased energy, improvement in overall health, mood stabilization and overall feeling better. Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin or depriving yourself of foods you love. There are many simple things that you can do to start eating better.

  • Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption to five servings per day. This helps to increase your fiber and vitamin intake, as well as increase complex carbohydrates.
  • Decrease your calorie intake by replacing liquid calories with water.
  • Eat real food. Replace fast food, food from convenience stores and processed snacks with food that you prepare. This takes some extra planning but will definitely make you feel better.
  • If portion size is an issue, try using a smaller plate or a plate which shows how much of each thing you should have.
  • People who count calories have the most success with weight loss if that is what you are striving for.

 

Not matter what you do, it is important to get the proper balance of foods including lean protein, fat and carbohydrates. Evidence shows that higher protein diets decrease hunger, increase weight loss and increase percentage of fat loss. Fats are important as an energy source and for cell function. Trans fats, found in processed and deep fried foods, should be avoided. Carbohydrates are the most abundant molecules on earth and are an important source of fuel for your body. They are necessary for a healthy diet, but it is important to choose correctly. Choose fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates and avoid simple carbohydrates (sugar, processed foods).

 

Now, the holidays are right around the corner and it can be difficult to eat healthy during this time of year; Americans gain approximately one to two pounds throughout the holidays. This can add up over the years. In preparation for a holiday feast, remember:

  • Don’t skip meals. Hunger will cause you to overeat.
  • Eat breakfast. Research shows that people who eat breakfast consume less during the day.
  • Use a smaller plate. This encourages proper portion sizes.
  • Start by eating salad and vegetables first. You’ll be filled up and eat less.
  • Drink a large glass of water prior to eating. Again, you’ll be filled up and eat less.
  • Don’t devour your meal. Eat slowly and savor each bite, and wait 10 minutes before going back for seconds.

 

Controlling cravings over the holidays can also be problematic. Too much processed carbohydrates, sugar and sugar substitute can increase cravings for sweet foods. It has been proven that the more you restrict yourself, the more you are going to get cravings for those foods. Allowing yourself a small amount of the things you crave will not leave you feeling deprived. When you are allowed these foods you are less likely to binge or feel guilty for eating them. One tip – put a barrier between you and the food you crave. Put the food farther away. The less convenient a food is to obtain, the less likely you are to succumb to the craving.

A Weight  Loss Program That Works

For some, a more strict diet is necessary. For these people, Prevea Health offers Ideal Weigh. Ideal Weigh is a medically-supervised weight loss program that uses Ideal Protein foods along with vegetables, protein and supplements to achieve weight loss. With Ideal Weigh, carbohydrates are limited to push your body into ketosis. During ketosis your body burns fat first. Since you are eating more protein your body doesn’t burn muscle. In fact, patients on Ideal Weigh have improved body composition (decreased fat and increased muscle) and lose inches. Additional benefits? Patients with diabetes and high blood pressure are often able to decrease the medications they are on, or discontinue them altogether. Patients who have difficulty with fertility due to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can have improved fertility. Patients with muscle and joint pain will often have improvement due to decreased inflammation when they decrease their simple carbohydrate intake. To learn more visit prevea.com/weightloss.

Healthy Choices: Safeguarding against Seasonal Stress

By Dr. Lynn Thompson

Stress is defined as the organism’s response to environmental pressures or demands either internal or external. The causes of stress in humans can include any event that the individual perceives, consciously or unconsciously, as a threat. It has been reported that at least 90 percent of all diseases are related to stress and the lack of the coping skills to alleviate the long-term reactions. This particular time of year has special risks for uncontrolled stress.

This time of year we find to be more stressful from lack of sunshine, increase in sugar consumption, and “family” or community traditions. We live in an area around the 45th north latitude and as such are very limited on the direct sunlight during the winter months. Stress can present as depression (also increased in the winter months). When the skin does not have enough sunlight, Vitamin D is not manufactured. If you do not have adequate sun exposure, you should include good sources of Vitamin D in your diet from egg yolks; raw cow milk; fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon, and herring; shrimp; chicken liver; and orange juice.

Ironically, orange juice is very high in sugar. In a one cup serving (8 ounces), OJ has 124 mg (milligrams) of Vitamin C (more than 100 percent of the US government’s Recommended Daily Intake of about 60 mg/day. Research dating back to 1999 recommends an increase to 120 mg/day). Dr. Linus Pauling discovered that Vitamin C is needed by the body to fight bacteria and viruses. Glucose (simplest form of sugar found in the body) and Vitamin C have similar chemical structures. There are times when the body can confuse sugar and Vitamin C. When the blood sugar level reaches 120mg/dl, the body’s ability to destroy the bacteria and viruses is reduced by 75 percent for the next four to six hours. Here are some not-so-sweet facts about sugar, just to name a few.

 

  • The average American consumes 100 pounds of sugar per year. Crazy, right?  It is even crazier when compared to the mere 8 pounds of broccoli the average American consumes annually.
  • The other white powder. Sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
  • Sugar is hidden almost everywhere, especially in processed foods.
  • Sugar in disguise:  corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, glucose, fructose—watch out for the “ose” at the end of the word!
  • Refined table sugar (aka sucrose) lacks vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  In fact, your body has to tap into its precious mineral and enzyme stores to process it.
  • If your body does not properly digest sugar (and simple carbs for that matter), it contributes to candida overgrowth. If you are not familiar with candida, it is worth a Google or Bing search.
  • It feeds the bad guys. Sugar contributes to an acidic environment, which cancer and other diseases love!
  • It contributes to Type 2 diabetes.

This time of year, many of us celebrate religious holidays and overindulge in spending, eating, and lack of sunshine. Rather than participate in activities that increase stress levels, take a deep breath, go for a walk, have an attitude of gratitude, enjoy a hearty laugh, and share a healthy, low-sugar meal made with love and joy.

A cheerful heart is good medicine.
Proverbs 17:22

Dr. Lynn Thompson holds doctorates in chiropractic, naturopathy, and homeopathy. She has been involved in healthcare for forty years. Dr. Lynn resides in Foster with her husband, John, and travels extensively around the United States presenting classes on health and wellness utilizing essential oils and nutrition.

Deep Winter Greenhouse: Extending the Growing Season for Northern Climates

By Nyssa Langlois, Writer & Copy Editor for Farm Table Foundation

As we enter the beginning of fall, many of our regional farmers begin to prepare for a slow, if not nonexistent, growing period. Winters in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota are frequently met with shudders in response to the bitter, dark transition that takes over the landscape. Winter in the north is rarely thought of to be an agriculturally productive time of the year–rural farms become barren, and hearty, local crop supplies become incredibly slim.

Yet there has been a recent introduction to these northern agricultural communities that would allow local farmers to grow a variety of greens and root vegetables year-round. The University of Minnesota has spent the last few years researching the sustainability and productivity of deep winter greenhouses, structures specifically geared toward the northern, blistery winter climates of Minnesota and Wisconsin, to provide produce throughout this harsh time of the year.

Research done by the Department of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at the University of Minnesota has indicated there are specific methods to maximizing the productivity of these deep winter greenhouses. By using unique methods to retain and transfer solar energy, the design for these greenhouses allows for optimal growing even during the darkest winter months. These deep winter greenhouses are an ideal way for small farms to continue producing a good share of their root vegetables and greens varieties year-round, as this style of greenhouse is oriented toward plants that don’t require copious exposure to direct sunlight. Turnips, radishes, baby kale, sprouts, Asian greens, and herbs do exceptionally well in this particular environment.

In order to sustain and further research in this endeavor, the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships office has worked with the construction of five deep winter greenhouses at different locations throughout Minnesota: the Organic Consumers Association in Finland, the Bemidji Community Food Shelf, Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Alternative Roots Farm in Madelia, and the Lake City Catholic Worker Farm. The greenhouse in Finland opened in February of this year, and the second installment of the project, located in Bemidji, opened at the end of September.

The Farm Table Foundation is excited for the opportunity to expand its knowledge base on deep winter greenhouses, as finding more economic and sustainable ways to continually produce local, organic food is a top priority of the organization. To keep the community up to date on this new greenhouse practice, the foundation has invited Greg Schweser, the director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at the University of Minnesota, to conduct a discussion about deep winter greenhouses at the Farm Table Foundation. Schweser will be addressing the specific design techniques used to create a deep winter greenhouse, as well as the thoughts and energy that go into creating this kind of structure. This discussion will take place on Tuesday, November 14, at 6:00 p.m., and it will be open to the public. Tickets can be procured for $15 at the Farm Table Foundation website under Classes and Events.

Nyssa Langlois studied at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and worked as a program advisor for World Endeavors. Her current positions are copy editor, writer & server extraordinaire for Farm Table Foundation in Amery, Wisconsin.

Brewing Projekt Launches New Food Truck: Interview with Chef Josh Steinmetz

The Brewing Projekt is sponsoring a new food truck! New local chef Josh Steinmetz will be serving up food from the truck in September. Recently we spoke with Steinmetz about the new endeavor.

Second Opinion: You are a Johnson Wales University graduate. How did that come about?
Josh Steinmetz: Well I started washing dishes at Lake Wissota Golf when I was fourteen just to have some extra cash before school. When I went to college the first time, I decided that I wanted to take a year off to get away from school for a while. I called up my old chef and asked him if he had openings, and he did. I stayed working with him for three more years at which point he told me that I would learn everything that I would need if I stayed in the industry and just worked, but it would take many years or I could go to school and learn the bulk of all of it in a matter of four years.

JWU was a great experience and an amazing learning experience. The first two years went by very fast and were routine with what we made and the correct way that they were made. The next two years when I got into my concentration were a blast and an amazing learning experience. I graduated in May with a bachelors in Culinary Food Service and Management with a concentration in Sustainability and Wellness.

SO: How did you get involved in the food truck project?
JS: Will and I had been talking for a while when he asked me how I would like to be my own boss. We started discussing the food truck and some ideas, and the rest is history.

SO: What kind of food will you be serving from the truck?
JS: I will be serving a Carolina-style BBQ with my own twist. Some of the items will include smoked pulled pork, herb smoked pulled chicken, sharing portions of tator tots and fried Brussel sprouts, house-made pickles and sauces. Once things get rolling I will be having certain weeks where I will be serving different-style ethnic cuisines.

SO: What is your interest in using local foods and how do you hope to incorporate that with the truck?
JS: My interest in using local foods is trying to get the best ingredients closest to the source of growth. The closer you buy something to where it was grown the better flavor and more nutrients the ingredients will have.

SO: When will the truck begin serving?
JS: We are hoping to have the food truck up and running by the first week in September.

SO: Will the truck be serving Brewing Projekt products too?
JS: We won’t be selling Brewing Projekt products, but we will be using some of them in our recipes.

SO: Describe some menu features that will use local products.
JS: All of the pickles that I will be making will feature local foods, along with the sauces, and I will be using local cheeses. I will be trying to incorporate as much local as I can right away, but it will be a process that will take some time.

SO: What are your goals for the truck?
JS: Some of my goals for the food truck are to offer some big bold flavors that won’t break the bank, trying to be as sustainable as possible, and creating everything I can from scratch.