Wednesday, November 17, 2010

December Hand Crafted Food Swap at Branch & Birdie!

We are so pleased to announce that we have confirmed a venue for our Special December Edition of Food Group! Our Portland Hand Crafted Food Swap will be hosted at the newest jewel among the Montavilla neighborhood shops in SE Portland, Branch & Birdie.

With warm hearts, we invite you to join us on the evening of Wednesday, December 1st! See below for more details:

After a full summer and autumn season of putting up, whipping up, drying, canning, soaking, mixing, stacking, sorting, and setting aside for winter, come celebrate by bringing your favorite creations to swap with fellow Portland foodies.

A Food Swap is part silent auction/part village marketplace/part fun-loving open house where your homemade creations (breads, preserves, special concoctions, canned goods, etc.) become your own personal currency for use in swapping with other participants. What better way to diversify your pantry and rub shoulders with friend and neighbors?

When: Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, 7pm

Where: Branch & Birdie, 8021 SE Stark Street, Portland, OR 97215

Bring an assortment of your homemade edibles and/or body care & household specialties to exchange for other handcrafted delights. Sustainable Food For Thought will provide swapping cards, name tags, and organization for the event. You will be given the opportunity to offer trades in a silent-auction type format, and you will be free to choose which trades to accept for your products. Bring as much or as little as you like; there are no caps or minimums.

Pacific Northwesterners {aka the Willamette Valley, the Portland Metro Area, and our Neighbors to the North}. Please, adults only as we are unable to provide childcare for this event.

The first 20 RSVPs will be given free entry. Additional swappers or those registering at the door may participate for a $5.00 donation.


a) RSVP to
Please provide your name, contact info, and potential items you plan to trade
*you’ll not be bound to your list, it simply helps in planning for table space - bring as many or as few items as you would like to swap...

b) On Wednesday the 1st, please bring your hand crafted goods + a contribution to the appetizer potluck

c) Simple as that! We’re so excited to meet one another and celebrate the bounty of the seasons and the fruits of our labor~

Invite Friends & Spread the Word: @pdxfoodswap | #pdxfoodswap

{A Very Kind Thank-You}
To the following inspirations and collaborators:

Anna Fickle and Andrea Roesel at Branch & Birdie
Branch & Birdie | @branchandbirdie | Facebook

Kate Payne at The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking

Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking | @hipgirls | Facebook
Be sure to check out photos from her fabulous #BKSwappers event in Brooklyn, NY!

Sarah Gilbert at Cafe Mama
Cafe Mama | @sarahgilbert

Chris Musser at Lost Arts Kitchen
Lost Arts Kitchen | @lostartskitchen | Facebook

{Looking Forward to Seeing You There!}
If you have additional questions, please be in touch with Emily or Bethany

{Printable Flyer}

--Post Event Update--

Mini PDX Food Swap Documentary }

Thanks for Coming! ~ Pictures and Descriptions from the Swap

Preview the mini-documentary at Cooking Up A Story

Want to receive updates on future swaps?
Like the PDX Swappers Facebook Page

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sustaining Snacks: Homemade Lara Bars

In desperate need of an alternative to the packaged cookies and crackers and mid-afternoon trappings of my office lunch room, I set out to recreate my favorite good-for-you-and-tasty-too snack using a few bulk ingredients and a happy food processor.

I love Lara Bars. I really do. Their ingredients lists are short and sweet: real foods, no preservatives, no GMOs, no crazy-hard-to-pronounce-fifteen-letter-words. But at upwards of $1.79/each (though I have scored a few times on the $1/ea sales), it's hard justifying more than a few stock-ups in fits and spurts, and even then, I end up going through them too quickly or playing the martyr and trying to make them last too long.

Additional note: While looking into the origins of the Lara Bar, I discovered that the company was sold in 2008 to....General Mills ("The World's Sixth-Largest Food Company" their website tagline proudly proclaims). Yet another reason to help willingly fracture and diversify the food chain. (A favorite podcast of mine, Deconstructing Dinner, has an eye opening series on packaged foods and the multinational corporations producing such products. If you're interested, I especially recommend the programs on Nestle and Kraft.)

I've found, if I make them myself, it's easy, entertaining (well, I'm easily entertained in the kitchen), and even just a tad bit mentally freeing. No sugar rush. No regrets. Just a healthy boost for a mid morning snack or an afternoon pick me up.

After Googling my way around the www looking for helpful homemade Lara Bar tips and pointers, I settled on this recipe from Enlightened Cooking as a starting point. Her recipe calls particularly for dried cherries, but I worked off her ratios and simply chose my own ingredients.

Bulk Medjool dates, raw almonds, and cashews from Azure Standard
Dried cranberries, apricots, ginger, and figs from Trader Joe's
Dagoba Xocolate drinking chocolate powder from Whole Foods
Dried coconut from the neighborhood store

Working quickly in one nighttime burst of energy, I made three batches (not stopping to clean the food processor in between...I prefer to think of cross contamination of ingredients to be akin to cross pollination of wildflowers).

The Basic Ratio:
one part dates + one part dried fruit + a little more than one part nuts + a smidgen of spice
(this can be adjusted ad infinitum - see my variations below and see the original recipe for additional ideas)

The Basic Gist:
Combine pitted dates in food processor with dried fruit, pulse to a thick paste
Remove and place in bowl
Combine nuts and spices/extras in food processor and pulse until chopped
Add nut mixture to bowl of dates/fruit and knead until well combined
Press out onto cookie sheets
Refrigerate until firm
Cut into bars
Store in airtight container

From upper left, clockwise: Xocolatl Fig, Apricot Almond, and Cranberry Ginger Coconut

{ Xocolatl Fig }
1 C. Pitted dates, chopped
1 C. Dried figs
3/4 C. Almonds (I used soaked and dried raw almonds)
1/2 C. Cashews (toasted briefly in the oven for extra flavor)
1 T. Dagoba Xocolatl powder (includes dark chocolate, chili, and cinnamon)
1/2 C. Sunspire 65% Cacao Organic Chocolate Chips

{ Apricot Almond }
1/2 C. Pitted dates, chopped
1-1/4 C. Dried apricots
1-1/3 C. Almonds
1/8 t. Cloves
1/8 t. Nutmeg
1/4 t. Cinnamon

{ Cranberry Ginger Coconut }
1 C. Pitted dates, chopped
3/4 C. Dried cranberries
1/4 C. Dried ginger, uncrystallized
1-1/3 C. Cashews (toasted briefly in the oven for extra flavor)
1/2 C. Coconut

The first time I made these, I followed a recommendation to mold them individually in muffin tins on top of squares of pre-cut saran wrap to make it easy to pop them out, seal them up, and take them on the go. It was a nice notion, but my personality screamed for tidy little bars instead of round wanna-be-cookies, and I gave in the second time. Besides, I didn't like trying to wrangle all those little squares of plastic into place.

Bars they are, and bars they will continue to be. They're living happily inside my fridge, and I just take them out one or two at a time and pack them with my food for the day.

~ The finished product: Approximately 40 bars ~
And since I like to do the math...that's 40 x $1.50 (being generous) = Comparable to $60.00 worth of Lara goodness.
And I still have 3/4 of my bulk box of dates left!

These are a life saver when my blood sugar plummets toward the end of the work day and better than a coupon when it comes to saving money by eating a little something before visiting the grocery store!

I'm eager to continue experimenting with flavor combinations...and glad for a wholesome treat in close reach during these busy days. Interested? Give that food processor a whirl and see what you come up with!


Food Group: Sustaining Snacks
The Real Lara Bar
Enlightened Kitchen's Lara Bar Recipe

Monday, November 8, 2010

Food Group: November Recap - Sustaining Snacks

Our November Meeting brought new friends and old alike together to discuss Sustaining Snacks, and the whys and hows of better eating throughout our days. For those who were unable to join us, the evening's outline is shared below.

Please, feel free to leave recipes or links in the comments section to share your personal favorites. The more inspirations, the better!

The Trouble: Poor snacking habits, midday hunger pangs, easy access junk food at work, expensive packaged foods, and the consequential loss of productivity and depleted energy at the end of the day (especially when it's time to cook dinner!).

The Encouragement: Think ahead, re-build habits, re-train taste buds, try new foods, follow through.

{ Discussion }

Why do we need new ideas and routines?
What types of frustrations do you have with your own midday food choices and options?
How do we get to the point of midday hunger? (Lack of breakfast, empty lunches, hard work?)
How does this affect life at home and work? (Low energy, low concentration, low productivity for accomplishing tasks and making meals.)

How can we think ahead? (Anticipate busy seasons; prepare snacks in advance)
How can we rebuild habits (Reach for water before a snack, delay first instinct to grab filler foods)
How can we re-train taste buds? (Pay attention to flavors/textures; appreciate nuance vs. sugar/salt)
How can we try new foods? (From ideas shared tonight, think about trying something unfamiliar)
How can we follow through? (Build new habits slowly; pick one or two small changes to make well)

What Stops Us From Making Changes & Eating More Nourishing Foods?
Habits. East. Time. Money. (Money is at times a valid strike against nourishing foods, but expenses can often be mitigated by an investment of time: a vicious cycle.) Many of these ideas are not rocket science, but they require forethought - one of the biggest personal challenges.

{ Ideas }

What snacks and make-ahead foods have worked well for you in the past? Favorite recipes, stories?
For those with children, what kinds of kid-friendly snacks do you recommend?

Food Combinations
Fruit & Nuts: Apples & Almonds...Pears & Walnuts...Cherries & Cashews
Soaked Nuts: Soaked and dehydrated to unlock nutrients
Plain yogurt with dried fruit/nuts
Sliced fruit dipped in nigh quality nut butters or honey
Chopped veggies and hummus
Whole grain tortilla with nut butter and fruit slices
Homemade Lara Bars
Dehydrated fruits
Muffins with high quality butter
Cheese & fruit slices or homemade jam/preserves on nutritious bread or crackers

How Can We Save Time?
Boil a handfull of eggs at the beginning of the week
Make Lara Bars in a large batch and freeze/refrigerate
Bake muffins ahead of time and freeze/thaw as needed
Make bulk snacks at the beginning of the month and host a snack swap to trade with others

{ A Few Random Recipes }

From The Nourishing Cook:
Nut recipes

Whole Grain Crackers
Lemon Muffins

From Kimi at the Nourishing Gourmet:
Directions for soaking nuts

From Googling Around A Bit:
Energy balls
Carrot zucchini squares

And...just because we're fun like that -
Homemade Poptarts

Homemade Lara Bars
Hazelnut & almond crackers

{ Ideas }
Add below!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ode to the Kitchen Table

We just found a table that fits in our small place...

We didn't know what we were missing...

Dinners will never be the same...


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