• Local food means local jobs
    By Steve Peters
    Correspondent | November 19,2012
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    We’re just weeks past election season and only a couple days away from the start of the holidays. And if you think about it, the two have much in common when it comes to the foods we purchase and consume.

    With elections we look to put people in office to ultimately improve our lives – including our cities, states and country. While this is incredibly important, there also comes a point at which we have to ask ourselves what are we doing as individuals to improve our communities? Do we make an effort to support our local businesses, whether they are farms, restaurants, or shops? Do we put nearly as much thought and energy into our actions as we do hoping for the elected to do things for us?

    A few years ago, before I moved to Vermont and specifically, an area with both the great need and potential for a more self-sufficient economy, I read a 2009 Time magazine article titled “Buying Local: How it Boosts the Economy.” I was surprised to learn that studies prove that purchases from small, independent businesses (as opposed to the big box companies) are twice as effective in supporting the local economy. Why? The money and jobs stay right there.

    Sure, you can argue that local is more expensive. And sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. But when you buy local food, items in season are much more economical. Bulk purchases often reduce the cost even more. Learning to freeze, dry, can and store produce are highly useful skills, that aren’t all that difficult to learn and are far from being new concepts. But again, this takes a conscious effort – one we are all capable of making if once in awhile we readjust our priorities.

    The holiday season, when we spend time celebrating and being thankful, is a prime opportunity to see how much we can incorporate into our gift and food buying that is local. As with any other time of year, this doesn’t mean a radical, 100 percent shift in shopping habits.

    If we all just made small adjustments, the difference in our local economy would be significant. We probably have eight or more different dishes on the Thanksgiving table – what if half were locally sourced? Or just five of the numerous gifts we end up buying each other for the holidays came from the local bookstore, garden shop or cafe? Before we wind up with either ghost or big box retail towns, let’s be appreciative of what do we have in our local economies and how great they can be when we support them.

    That said, there are two days until Thanksgiving. Maybe you didn’t get a chance to get to one of Rutland’s year round farmers’ markets this past weekend. Fortunately, there are stores like the Rutland Area Food Co-op that carry a variety of local produce, cheese, meat and more.

    Here are a couple of recipes utilizing some of what’s in season right now that would fit in well on your Thanksgiving table:

    Shredded Brussels sprouts & apples
    1 large, crisp apple cut into bite-sized wedges
    1 lemon, juice only
    A couple pinches of fine-grain sea salt
    A couple splashes of olive oil
    2 medium cloves garlic, minced
    Scant tablespoon of maple syrup
    1/3 cup nuts, toasted and chopped
    12 ounces (3/4 pound) Brussels sprouts, washed and cut into 1/8-inch wide ribbons

    Heat a large pan with the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add in the garlic, wait a few seconds, and then add in the

    Brussels sprouts and apples with a pinch of salt. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring a couple times until you get some golden bits, and the sprouts are bright and delicious. Add in the maple syrup and 1/2 of the pine nuts — gently stir to combine. Remove from heat and enjoy immediately sprinkled with the remaining nuts and a little lemon juice. Serves 4 as a side.

    Adapted from 101cookbooks.com

    Autumn millet bake
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for the dish
    3/4 cup millet
    1 medium butternut or other winter squash peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
    1 cup fresh cranberries
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 tablespoon minced sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
    2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
    1 cup vegetable stock or water, warmed
    1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and grease a casserole or large gratin dish with olive oil. Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the millet and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes. Spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

    Scatter the squash or pumpkin cubes and the cranberries on top of the millet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the sage and drizzle with syrup. Carefully pour the warmed stock over all. Cover tightly with foil and bake without disturbing, for 45 minutes.

    Carefully uncover and turn the oven to 400 F. Sneak a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it looks too dry, add a spoonful or two of water or stock to keep the millet cooking. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top, and return the dish to the oven. Bake until the mixture bubbles, the top is browned and the millet is cooked through — another 10 minutes or so. Serve hot or at room temperature, serves six as a side.

    From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

    Steve Peters is the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link’s food education specialist. Check out the Everyday Chef blog at everydaychef.org for more of his thoughts and locally based recipes.
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