It’s Back! Can you spell F-R-E-E —- L-U-N-C-H?

Feed the 5000 Calgary logoLast year’s inaugural Feeding the 5000 event in Calgary was such a huge success that it’s back for a second year.

Volunteers prepare vegetables
Volunteers prepare vegetables

For those who missed it, Feeding the 5000 (#f5kyyc) sees local chefs, producers, food retailers, community organizations and a legion of volunteers come together to prepare a delicious lunch for five thousand people, using food that would otherwise be thrown away.

Think winter-stored potatoes, ugly onions, shelf-weary fruit, day-old bread…

That’s just a small part of the 1/3 of world food production that never makes it into people’s bellies – and that we Calgarians discard daily.  By turning donated leftovers into lunch instead of compost, SAIT Chef Andrew Hewson and his team will not only be rescuing edible food, but also saving from waste all the resources to grow, ship, and produce that food.

Greek salad – F5KYYC 2017

This year’s draft menu looks AMAZING:  potato salad with Brassica mustard vinaigrette; white bean salad with kale and herb pesto; rescued-fruit lemonade; and chocolate chip cookies made of spent grain from a local craft brewer.

The bread pudding with yogurt sauce that drew a long line of fans at last year’s event will be making an encore appearance.

F5KYYC bread pudding
Lining up for bread pudding – F5KYYC 2017

And that’s just for starters.  There are always surprises when the food trucks roll in – who knows what else will appear?

So leave your brown bag at home and your debit card in your pocket this Thursday, June 14, and come on down to Olympic Plaza between 10:30 am and 2 pm to taste what a little creativity (and a lot of hands) can do.

Chickpea salad - F5KYYC 2017
Chickpea salad – F5KYYC 2017

Check out the partner booths. Watch a food demo or two. Take away some new recipes for tackling your own food waste at home.

Last year’s event served 6,750 portions of a nutritious free lunch and diverted 1,025 kg of food from the landfill.  This year Feeding the 5000 Calgary is looking to beat that – so come early.  The event ends when the food runs out.

Feeding the 5000 Calgary

June 14, 2018

10:30 am to 2 pm

Olympic Plaza

Follow the event on Facebook,

 #f5kyyc and @f5kyyc.

Supported by The City of Calgary Waste and Recycling Services,

Leftovers Calgary, and the Recycling Council of Alberta 

with funding from Alberta Ecotrust.

 

Text and photos © 2018 Catherine Van Brunschot

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Leftovers Black Box Challenge – Week 1: Inspiration

(*Black Box Challenge (def’n) – a competitive event frequently seen on TV food networks, whereby chefs attempt to create the best dish from a collection of ingredients not revealed to them – i.e., hidden in a black box – until the event begins)

Black boxIt’s all Julie Van Rosendaal’s fault.

This quest that I’ve set myself – to minimize my own food waste by looking at my fridge contents as a sort of Black Box Challenge – yeah, you can blame it on her.

Long before I began volunteering for LeftOvers Calgary and long before I discovered the deplorable figures about food waste,  Calgary food writer Julie Van Rosendaal had me started on a quiet culinary journey.  (Unbeknownst to her).

I’m a big fan of her weekly CBC Radio column.  How can you not love her infectious enthusiasm for how easy it is to put good food on the table?  Her on-air coaching helps me tweak my own kitchen technique.  She has a phenomenally-intuitive approach to cooking that I wish I could emulate (big on throwing in “a little of this, or a little of that, whatever you’ve got around”) .  But I remain a firm kitchen chemist, sadly shackled to recipes and careful measurement.

Until one day, she said something that clicked a cylinder into place:  “When you’re planning your meals, start with what’s in your fridge”.

Too often, she explained, we decide first what we want to make for dinner, then go out and buy the ingredients for it.  This means that what’s already in our fridge runs a high risk of staying there, while the new groceries create a fresh crop of odds and bits that will be our next leftovers problem.  Why not reverse that process, she suggested:  start with what you already have and use it as a foundation for your next meal.

A seed had been planted.

My transition sprouted slowly.  One day, a yam at the bottom of my potato bin set me scanning the indexes of my favourite cookbooks for yam-anchored side dishes.  On another, some tired lemons had me trawling the web for citrus-infused mains.  Small successes brought me a disproportionate amount of satisfaction -not just for throwing less out and doing my bit to save the planet, but for the pure pleasure of creativity.  And one evening I knew I was hooked for good.

Tired celeryBusy with deadlines and with no time or inclination to go the store, I opened my fridge to the dispiriting vision of limp celery sticks – leftover crudités from a weekend dinner party.  A freezer dive produced two tiny chorizo sausages and half a bag of raw shrimp – vestiges of previous taco nights.  Celery, shrimp and sausage got me to thinking about jambalaya – and soon I was digging into my favourite cookbook by Chef Michael Smith .

His recipe called for both green and red bell peppers; my crisper held the better part of a single red.  Good enough.  A sample rice packet picked up from last fall’s runners’ fair could fill the medium-grain rice requirement and some dried thyme could substitute for filé powder.  I was temporarily stymied by the uncharacteristic absence of  canned tomatoes in my pantry.  But I made do with a few tomatoes shriveling on my kitchen counter – and threw in my last couple handfuls of spinach for good measure.

And the result?  My man raved about the jambalaya I produced that night.  I couldn’t disagree.  I had created a delicious dinner from nothing but leftover bits – and the thrill of the challenge made me a firm convert to the delights of “Black Box” inspiration.  (Thank you, Julie!  You might not have coined the term, but the inspiration is all yours).

Note that I haven’t given up my recipe crutch.  And I still plan most meals on desire and a long grocery list.  But at least once a week I start my menu-planning with a peek in my fridge – and the amount of food I throw into my green bin has dwindled to a trickle.  In my personal battle against food waste, fun has proven SO much more motivating than guilt.

I’ve included my jambalaya rendition for you here (Or as close as I can remember it.  Feel free to improvise).

And as promised in my November post, I’ll spend the next few weeks sharing the leftovers challenges that crop up in my fridge and the strategies I’ve devised to deal with them.  I hope through this series that you, too, will be inspired to tackle your own Black Box – and that, like me, you’ll discover it to be a new culinary muse.

In the meantime, check out Erin Lawrence’s article in this month’s issue of City Palate for more on the food waste conundrum (you’ll find it on page 22).

And watch for my post next week with another recipe or two!

 

Improvised Jambalaya

Serves 2

 

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

4 ounces chorizo (or other spicy sausage), sliced into thin rounds

2 stalks (or so) of celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1-1/2 tsp paprika

1-1/2 tsp ground cumin

1-1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup of medium-grain rice

1/3 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 or 3 tomatoes

3/4 cup water (or chicken broth, if you have it)

Heat a large heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Add vegetable oil and sausage, and sauté until lightly browned (2-3 minutes).

Add celery, onion, pepper, garlic, paprika, cumin, thyme, and cayenne.  Continue cooking until vegetables have softened (4-5 minutes).

Stir in the rice, coating the grains with oil and lightly toasting for a minute or two.  Stir in shrimp, tomatoes, and water or broth, and bring to a full boil.

Reduce heat to simmer. Cover pot with a tight lid and cook for approximately 20 minutes. Turn off heat and rest 10 minutes without removing lid.  Serve with pride.

(*If tomatoes are not very juicy and mixture becomes dry before the rice is fully-cooked, add more water or broth, replace lid, and continue to simmer until done).

Text and photos © 2018 Catherine Van Brunschot

 

Diving into the Black Box – a Leftovers Challenge

Blush Lane- LeftOvers pickup
Photo credit: C. Van Brunschot

If you’ve been following my FRESH BITES blog or my FaceBook page, you’ll know I’m as hooked on issues of food waste and hunger as I am on sharing stories of great food in amazing places.  (Check out the new issue of City Palate magazine for my article “Feeding the Community” – highlighting an innovative organization tackling food waste and hunger right here in Calgary).

But when I learned from a 2014 City of Calgary study that 36% of the household trash hitting our local landfills was FOOD – and that more than half of that discarded food was edible – it was pretty impossible not to look at my own kitchen.

I like to think I do better than average at minimizing what I throw out (don’t we all?).  And my weekly volunteer work for LeftOvers Calgary certainly keeps a fire lit under my feet.  But DANG I get myself into trouble sometimes (see the reference to ataulfo mangos in the City Palate piece.  Add to that my weakness for fresh herbs, leafy greens, growing tomatoes, trying out unusual ingredients – throw in the siren call of Calgary’s great restaurants taking me away from my kitchen… Let’s just say my crisper drawer can get overwhelmed pretty quickly).

So I’ve decided it’s time to up my game.  I’m launching a six-week quest to reduce food waste in my own kitchen (six weeks’ practice creates a new habit, they say).

Each week, I’ll identify one thing that’s languishing in my fridge.  My task will be to find creative ways to use it up.  Sort of my own Black Box challenge.

In the interest of accountability, I’ll post my efforts to my blog.  I’ll include a recipe or two – and any tips I’ve uncovered on my own or from others.

Don’t think for a minute that this is just about principle and virtue and doing the right thing.  Truth is, I’ve tried previously to start my meal-planning with what’s already in my fridge and made a remarkable discovery:

It’s FUN! Gets my creative juices flowing.  Expands my cooking repertoire. (And – okay – makes me feel a little virtuous, too).

So look for my first Black Box post in January (Launching the series now, as we head into the holiday season = recipe for failure).  In the meantime, send me your own leftovers conundrums.  Or your proven personal tips.  Or tell me about people in the community who you know are tackling this well.

I’ll take a look at what’s lurking in my fridge and let you know what I find.

Text and photos © 2017 Catherine Van Brunschot

 

International Recognition for Calgary Pâtissier

Yann Haute Patisserie - Calgary

In a pretty yellow house in Calgary’s Mission district, magic happens.

And now the world has been let in on that little secret.

I’m talking about Yann Haute Patisserie, owned and operated by pastry Chef Yann Blanchard and his wife, Jeraldine, since Christmas Eve 2009. It’s an unlikely slice of Paris on the Canadian prairies – a picture-perfect boutique dedicated to the creation of pastry that is as beautiful as it tastes.

The tiny shop has a reputation for having the best macarons in a city spoiled for choice on that front.  I’m a personal fan of its viennoiserie.

And you should see the cakes.

This past week Chef Yann Blanchard became the first and only Canadian chef to be admitted to the Relais Dessert Association, an organization that recognizes the best in French pastry.  Akin to obtaining a Michelin star, Chef Yann joins an elite group of approximately 100 pastry chefs and chocolatiers from 19 different countries who have been acknowledged for the quality of their ingredients, execution, and artistry, as well as their passion and professionalism.

Yann w Relais Dessert pieceChef Yann excels on all those fronts.  But I’ll let you in on another secret.

Some of those gorgeous pastries are delivered free each week to those wrestling their demons at Alpha House – a non-profit agency that has offered a safe environment for 35 years to clients struggling with addiction.

You see, Yann Haute Patisserie is also a regular donor to LeftOvers Calgary – a grassroots organization that rescues food that would otherwise be thrown into the landfill, and gets that food to service agencies in need.  Each day, the staff at Yann Haute carefully squirrel away unsold pastries into their freezer.  Once a week, a LeftOvers volunteer picks up those pastries and delivers them to Alpha House’s detox and recovery centre.  As a volunteer driver with LeftOvers Calgary, I’ve been a lucky witness to the smiles that appear at the recovery centre when I arrive with that bag of magic.

Yann Blanchard and colleagues at Relais Dessert AssociationSo congratulations to Chef Yann Blanchard for his remarkable Relais Dessert distinction.  It’s time the world knew more about his pastry and passion.

And kudos for extending that passion to the environment  – and to those who might not ever pass through the patisserie doors.

Read more about Yann Haute Patisserie and Chef Yann’s Relais Dessert designation at yannboutique.com or on Facebook .

 

Text © 2017 Catherine Van Brunschot

Photos – Yann Haute Patisserie