This past week we sourced so much of the produce from ValleyHUB, which is part of Kalamazoo Valley Community College's amazing culinary program. We found different types of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and greens. One that we were introduced to is Amaranth. It is shown the picture above, top left side. It is a leaf with a purple center. It has a mild taste and works perfect in next week's spring rolls! We had all these items available, so we decided they would all work well in a spring roll. First we layered the amaranth on the wrapper. Then added strips of veggies on top, rolled it up, dipped in our peanut sauce that has ginger, soy or coconut aminos, sesame oil, garlic and vinegar. Perfect! So fresh, local and delicious. Quick, easy and healthy....and it is on the menu for pick up or delivery this Tuesday!
Great trip to the one of the last winter farmer's markets of the season. Even though they are right at the door, I always missed Green Gardens. Shame on me! They are an awesome farm in Battle Creek. With unique items like sunchokes and the largest beets I have ever seen, I am excited to start using their produce. They had a bunch of spinach, which makes me think of one of my favorite salads, fruited spinach salad with poppy seed dressing. Pretty sure that will be next on the menu.
Crisp Country Acres still has all the root veggies and apples, but today they surprised me with green beans! They look so good, but they are for my family this week, but I know will turn up in a near future menu. Roasted, steamed or raw, there is so much we can do. Maybe in spring veggie pasta. They also had some interesting microgreens that they plan to have for a while. I am intrigued by the beet microgreens and hope to have a pesto.
Summer Sun Greenhouse in Lawerence provided us this week with very large red lettuce leaves for the ginger peanut lettuce wraps. So much nicer and bigger than I have found at the grocery store. We are also using their garlic chives in that menu, which should give an nice punch to the wraps and the soup.
Finally, this week we are also using some unique produce and products from local shop, Pacific Rim off Oakland Dr. They are moving to Kilgore, but still operating on Whites Rd. We use their shiitake mushrooms, ginger, garlic, maybe bok choi, bean spouts, noodles and other shelf items. This week is Asian Noodles and Ginger Peanut Lettuce Wraps! Check them out for a wide variety of premade, pantry and fresh items.
Fun menu this week as we have a slow cooker recipe. Never a bad time for soup especially when it cooks itself. Black Bean soup with veggie fritters. It will be interesting to see what veggies pop up in those since we are starting to see more at the market. We are also adding a bonus this week - Nachos! I made them for a few high school foods classes. We loaded them with beans, fire roasted tomatoes, olives and green onions and, of course homemade vegan nacho cheese. Nothing fake here though. No fake cheese. Its made with cashews and carrots and it is YUM!
We are getting close to the opening of outdoor farmer's markets. Over the winter months, we are fortunate enough to have farms that provide cold storage produce over the winter like root veggies and apples. Some have green houses and provide our area with greens and herbs. Now in the spring (I think that is the season we are in) asparagus and strawberries are right around the corner. We love picking fresh strawberries, but the season is quick so be sure to get out there when they open. We go out to Mandigo Farms in Lawerence / Paw Paw area where they have great fields for the kids to pick. Also a variety of greens will be out soon.
But what about those unique produce items? There are so many things out there that many grocery stores just don't carry because they are not that high in demand or they are special produce that small farms can grow. This past week, we featured celery root from Crisp Country Acres. A softball sized root that is a little bumpy. Like celery, but a root vegetable. We used it in our roasted vegetable with lemon dressing. You can slice it thin and use it in salads and cube it for soups. Just scrub it and peel.
Other unique produce may not be grown locally, but they are sold by a local small business. Pacific Rim, located on Whites Road behind the Oakwood Shopping Center sells some amazing and unique items. Tons of mushrooms, sprouts, greens that I haven't seen at the markets as well as big knobs of ginger. We used the shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choi this week. Next week we have a soup and lettuce wrap using again the mushrooms, ginger, sprouts and whatever else looks good!
There are also many 'new' trendy grains that people have caught on to. If you haven't heard of them, give them a try! This week we featured Dough Chicks pancake mix which used flax, teff and chia. Flax is a seed and can be found ground or whole. Ground flax is something we use with a little water in place of eggs in recipes. (not in place of scrambled eggs) It acts just like an egg and when you let it sit for a few minutes, it gets gelatinous just like an egg! 1 T of flax meal to 3-5 T of water. Add it to cookies, cakes and even batter for french toast.
Chia is another healthy and interesting seed. It is not just for smearing on a clay head or animal to watch it grow hair. (Remember those? Chi chi chi chiapet) You can throw them in anything, but again this seed can thicken things. This past week we made chia pudding with the Power Brinner. You can just add chia seeds to a liquid like milk, but we made a sugar free / dairy free cream to go with it. Let it sit for a bit or overnight and it thickens like pudding! Check out these and other unique items at PFC - People's Food Co-op downtown Kalamazoo. The bulk section is great place to start especially if you just want to try a little out.
These are just some of the ingredients we have been using and will feature in future meal kits. It's a great way to try out something new!
It's hard to believe, but spring is almost here in Kalamazoo. The farmer's market is opening in about a month so farmers are getting their produce ready! Some farmers have already been picking and we are so excited.
Crisp Country Acres is picking tomatoes, but they already have had root veggies and cold storage items like sweet potatoes, beets and apples. We have really taken advantage of those these past few weeks. Next week's menu is cooking on Tuesday and includes potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and greens for the roasted veggie hash. We are also looking at their sweet potatoes and onions for the chili and apples for the apple salad for the following week. The first cherry tomatoes has us wondering what delicious recipes we can cook up with those. Maybe a bruschetta topping? Tabouli salad? Fresh pasta sauce? We will see!
J&J Tortillas out of Hopkins is creating some of the best tortillas I have ever had (and my family runs through a lot of them!). They are simple and beautifully made using real ingredients. If you have ever bought tortillas from the store they are loaded with strange ingredients, which is just not needed. J & J has several options including some organic ones, ones with unique grains and flavored ones like spinach and tomato! We have used the white and wheat and are excited to use the flavored ones in an upcoming menu with wraps and soups.
The mother and daughter team of The Dough Chicks have such an amazing line of healthy baked goods and mixes. And we not just talking your basic healthy ingredients. They use super grains like teff, flax and chia to make ordinary treats extraordinary with a punch of power. This week they are featured in our Power Brinner menu with their Two Mittens Pancake mix. Amazing! Not only is it super healthy, but it is also gluten free??!! Easy mix with or without using an egg, its delicious!
Finally, we are so looking forward each week at what KVCC Valley Hub is growing. We took advantage of cool peppers a couple weeks ago (as pictured) as well as herbs. They have a greenhouse room that I visited with so much growing plus what they have available at the Bronson Tuesday market. It will be a surprise what we pick up next from them, but I am sure I will be hunting the greens and herbs.