Edible Omaha

WARM SPINACH SALAD WITH BALSAMIC REDUCTION

Serving: 2

1 bunch of fresh spinach

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 ounce goat cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until reduced by half, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add spinach, salt and pepper and cook until leaves are barely wilted. Add spinach to serving dish, sprinkle with goat cheese and walnuts, and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Serve warm.

From Julie Kolpin

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EDIBLE NATION: JUST LABEL IT!

just-label-it-petition1

Just Label It
by Naomi Starkman

In October, the Just Label It (JLI) campaign filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods, to give consumers the right to know what is in our food. Since then, more than 470 consumer, healthcare, environmental and farming organizations, manufacturers, and retailers have joined the campaign, generating more than 550,000 consumer comments to FDA.

GE food, also known as genetically modified organisms (or GMOs), are foods altered at the molecular level in ways that could not happen naturally. In 1992, the FDA ruled that GE foods do not need independent safety tests or labeling requirements before being introduced because it determined that they were “substantially equivalent” to conventionally produced foods. Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety and lead author of the JLI petition said, “We are asking the FDA to change a decade’s old and out of touch policy.”

Polls show that 93 percent of Americans want the government to label GE foods. Labeling is required in other countries, including the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Brazil, and China.

While nearly 90 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy in the U.S. are from GE seeds, the safety of GE crops for human consumption has not been adequately assured. Yet, unlike the strict safety evaluations for approval of new drugs, there are no mandatory human clinical trials of GE crops, no requirement for long-term testing on animals, and limited testing for allergenicity, with studies raising concerns that they may pose an allergen risk.

Gary Hirshberg, Chairman of Stonyfield and a founder of JLI, said: “While the pros and cons of GE foods is debated, an entire generation is growing up consuming them. Until we have no doubt that GE crops are safe to eat, consumers should have a choice about whether we want to eat them.” Hirshberg recently published “Label It Now,” the first consumer guide to GE foods, available now online.

JLI also recently launched a new video by Food, Inc. filmmaker Robert Kenner, Labels Matter, collaboration between JLI and Kenner’s new project, FixFood, a social media platform aiming to empower Americans to take immediate action to create a more sustainable and democratic food system.

The drumbeat for mandatory GE labeling is getting louder, as informed consumers are demanding the right to know what’s in their food. In October, the GMO Right2Know March, a two-week, 300-mile trek from Manhattan to the White House took place. In California, a 2012 GMO labeling referendum is being sought. Federal legislation has been introduced requiring labeling of all GE foods.

It’s urgent that we make our voices heard now, as the FDA is deciding whether to approve GE salmon and the USDA advances a proposal to deregulate corn engineered to be resistant to the herbicide 2,4-D, a major component in Agent Orange. You can join in asking the FDA to allow consumers the right to know what’s in our food. It’s your right.

Naomi Starkman is a founder and the editor-in-chief of Civil Eats, a website that promotes critical thought about sustainable agriculture and food systems. She is a food policy consultant to Consumers Union and others, and a founding board member and strategic advisor to both the Food & Environment Reporting Network and FixFood.

Read moreEDIBLE NATION: JUST LABEL IT!

EDIBLE DELIGHTS: Eat Something Beautiful

desserts

Eat Something Beautiful
By DR Brown
Photography by Juliene Marie

“You are what you eat, so eat something beautiful.”

Proudly displayed inside the Cordial Cherry workshop and retail store, this inscription serves as a reminder of a special grandma and lessons transferred across generations. Melissa Hartman, Cordial Cherry owner, learned how to make chocolate covered cherries from her Grandma Sheldon, who encouraged Melissa to see the beauty in all things.

As a small child, Melissa would run around Grandma Sheldon’s house at Christmastime and grab a chocolate covered cherry from the counter top in the kitchen. These small bites were the start of a love affair with chocolate that would eventually find Melissa surrounding her own family with chocolate. The cherries are made the traditional way using Grandma Sheldon’s recipe with an artistic flair created by Melissa. Handcrafted and displayed as edible art, these tasty delights are the embodiment of eating beautifully.

Traditionally, chocolate covered cherries were a Christmas season treat. Today, with Melissa’s creative flair and desire for beauty, these treats help celebrate all major holidays, along with special occasions such as weddings, births and graduations.

Melissa’s creations help make each and every day a celebration. She continues to expand her products, now including handmade truffles, caramels, chocolate crème strawberries and melt-a-ways.

The store’s brilliant design lets the chocolates shine from beneath their glass covers while gracefully floating on silver stands. The décor and furnishings, including display tables built by Melissa’s dad from repurposed wood, transport visitors back to simpler times. Graceful chandeliers mimic candlelight. The space transforms into a cozy haven for wine tastings and private parties.

As customers leave the store, clutching their gorgeously boxed delights, Melissa conspiratorially suggests following the “one-bite rule,” recommended for the sheer practicality of not wearing your second bite. That one beautiful bite, though, will most surely lead to another.

The Cordial Cherry
Spring Ridge Plaza
1223 S 180th St. (at Pacific)
Omaha
402.679.3011
Open Tuesday–Friday: noon–6pm
Saturday: noon–4pm

Read moreEDIBLE DELIGHTS: Eat Something Beautiful

SIRLOIN STEAK IN BEER AND MOLASSES MARINADE

Serving: 6–8

2 (16-ounce) beef sirloin steaks

¼ cup orange juice

¼ cup dark beer

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons molasses

1 teaspoon freshly grated gingerroot

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon garlic scapes, finely chopped, optional

Use a fork to poke holes all over the surface of the steaks, and place in a large glass baking dish. In a nonmetal bowl, mix together juice, beer, soy sauce, molasses, ginger and garlic. Pour sauce over steaks, and let sit at least 30 minutes.

Lightly oil grill grates and preheat grill to high heat. Remove steaks from marinade and add to grill. Pour marinade into a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, and cook for several minutes. Grill steaks for 7 minutes per side, or to desired doneness. During the last few minutes of grilling, baste steaks with boiled marinade.

From Julie Kolpin

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LIQUID ASSETS: Out of the Garage and into a Brewery

liquid

Out of the Garage and into a Brewery
Keg Creek Brewing Company
Story and Photography by Mike Brownlee

A pint of brown ale sits at the bar—just the right amount of foam at the top. The liquid settles nicely in the glass. A good pour. The beer is smooth and pleasant with a hint of hops in the aftertaste. One of the four regular products of Keg Creek Brewing Company, the brown ale is delicious.

“Craft beer is about tasting new and different styles,” says John Bueltel, a co-owner of the Glenwood, Iowa-based brewery. “You have to be willing to experiment.”

“When you get a good taste, with some flavor to it, you drink slower, you savor,” adds Art Renze, one of Bueltel’s partners.

Last summer, friends and home brewers Bueltel, Renze, Randy Romens and Grant Hebel left the garage to open Keg Creek.

“I’ll never forget that first day, never forget that date,” Romens says of their September 22 opening. “I thought it would get easier after that.”

Sitting at a table at their tasting room, Bueltel and Renze laugh at the thought. Business for the brewery has grown exponentially during the year after inception. The friends hold regular tasting room hours—often to a full house—and lead tours of the brew room for people who call ahead. At the brewery, they sell growlers of their wares—half gallon or four pints—and they’re working on a design and labels for the individual bottles they hope to offer soon.

Keg Creek beers are on tap in Omaha at the Crescent Moon, Brass Monkey, and Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen; in Glenwood at Vine Street Cellars; in Council Bluffs at Buffalo Wild Wings; and at several bars in Lincoln and Des Moines. “We thought we’d serve a few people in the tasting room, get a few kegs out there,” Hebel, the head brewer, says. “That hasn’t been the case. The biggest surprise is the number of people that support us and have been willing to try the beer, try new things. We’re growing quicker than we thought we would.”

Taking It to the Drinkers

On a Tuesday night, patrons with a refined beer palate file into the Brass Monkey, a neighborhood bar at 36th & V streets. Hebel, Bueltel and Renze have set up a table on the far end of the bar with about six growlers of their wares ready to be poured for interested tasters.  It is also the first night the bar has Keg Creek on tap.

“First, they’re just great guys,” said Maria Tworek, who owns the Brass Monkey with her husband, Kevin. “And they make great beer.” Whether it’s in a small plastic cup or a pint, many in the packed bar have a Keg Creek beer in their hands.  The three men work the crowd, talking beer, laughing. And that’s without Romens, the guy they call their “socialite,” although Bueltel is a close second for the title, if not a debatable first. “There’s a degree of satisfaction in talking about a beer you made,” Hebel says at the event. “It’s nice to come out and explain our beers, meet the patrons that’ll be drinking Keg Creek. We hear what they like and don’t like. I love making beer, but I like the backside more, talking to people about the beer.” Hebel takes a sip from the pint in his hand. “Market research,” he adds with a grin.

Turning Passion into Business

After years of home brewing, the men’s knowledge and expertise grew, as did a devout local following. An idea fermented in their heads. “Maybe all home brewers sit around saying it’d be great to have a brewery,” Bueltel saya. “But for us, this has always been a dream.” So they opened Keg Creek.

Along with the four staples—brown ale, wheat, India Pale Ale (IPA) and stout—Keg Creek produces a specialty beer about once a month. They’ve concocted a black IPA, a lager and a Belgian-Scottish ale aged in a wooden bourbon barrel, as well as other selections.

Though they’d made beer for years, they soon found that running a brewery was something new. In 2009, Bueltel retired after 30 years as an art teacher atGlenwoodHigh School. He flipped houses on the side while teaching and spearheaded the renovation of their building, a multiple-month endeavor last year.

An Army veteran and a veterinarian, Hebel still works part time at theOmahaBestCarePetHospital. In January, Renze “retired” to solely work at Keg Creek after 33 years with Mid-American Energy, while Romens went from a 22-year stint in the Army to a gig with the Army Reserve, where he has been since 2007.

When they brewed their first batch, the four entered an industry on the rise. Preliminary numbers count about 1,949 operating breweries in theUnited States, according to the Brewers Association, the national organization of craft breweries. That number is up from 1,689 in 2010 and 1,546 in 2009. Over the first half of 2011, the most recently available numbers, craft brewers sold an estimated 5.1 million barrels of beer.

InIowa, four new breweries opened in the last three years, bringing the Iowa Brewers Guild total to 26 (including Keg Creek). There are 15 breweries in the Nebraska Craft Brewers Association, the highest number in at least 20 years, according to Paul Kavulak, president of the association and founder of the Nebraska Brewing Company in Papillion.

Kavulak said despite an increase in operations and barrels filled in the past few years, craft brewers produce only 1% of beer consumed in the state. “When you say that, you realize there’s room for a hell of a lot more breweries than there are,” he says.

That growth is possible, he says, because the palate of theNebraskadrinker increasingly refined during the last five years. “We’ve educated people and they’re consuming appropriately. There’s more of a market inNebraskanow.”

While the Crescent Moon was the only craft-beer bar in the area for years, a number have opened recently. The challenge for craft brewers, Kavulak says, is staying relevant.  “The beer geeks walk in, they want what they haven’t had yet. Our fathers’ and grandfathers’ generations were brand loyalists. They wanted a Schlitz or a Miller,” he says. “So these days, it’s difficult to maintain a tap handle. Easy to get one, the real test comes with longevity at a bar.”

Keg Creek is ready for that test. Renze says the unexpected growth is nice, but they’ll take it slow—don’t want to tap out the market too quickly. Their philosophy: Specialty beers should appease beer nerd wanderlust, while quality staples should continue to be popular.

At the brewery, Renze pours a glass of brown ale, a glass of wheat and sits down.

“Quality control,” he says, a grin on his face, before taking a sip. Bueltel bounces around the room before settling into a chair. Romens pops into the production room every so often, checking on a keg filling. They share jokes at each others’ expense, interrupted only by Romens’ trips to the keg.

Hang around the guys for a while and it becomes apparent Keg Creek Brewing is a dream realized. There’s hard work, sure, but these four friends figured out a way to make beer, drink beer and have fun. And get paid for it.

RECIPE

SIRLOIN STEAK IN BEER AND MOLASSES MARINADE

Keg Creek Brewing Company
111 Sharp St.Glenwood, IA
712.520.9029
KegCreekBrewing.com

Tasting Room Hours
Wednesday–Friday: 4pm–10pm
Saturday: noon–10pm

Mike Brownlee’s beer palate refined tenfold during work on this story and he looks forward to further ale exploration. But he enjoys the occasional Bud Light. The Council Bluffs native tells the stories of the people, places and events of southwest Iowa as a reporter for his hometown newspaper, The Daily Nonpareil. Follow him on Twitter @mikebrownlee.

Read moreLIQUID ASSETS: Out of the Garage and into a Brewery

Green Thumb for Hire

greens

By Mike Watkins
Photography by Squeaky Green Organics

Imagine it: a beautiful cedar-plank raised-bed garden filled with gorgeous organic vegetables right there in your yard.

Many of us want to see that vision come true, but for various reasons can’t or won’t find the means to make it a reality. But it’s that kind of desire that is fertilizing a growing national trend known as “rent-a-farmer,” and part of why Bryan Kliewer created Squeaky Green Organics.

Squeaky Green customer Bob Cole admits to having a bit of a black thumb. He planted a selection of veggies in a small backyard garden plot in the spring of 2010, and despite his efforts to fertilize and nurture the plants, they didn’t make it. Then he met Bryan Kliewer.  “Bryan is incredibly easy to work with and has made it possible for me to grow great-tasting vegetables in my yard when I couldn’t do it on my own,” said Cole, who now has three cedar beds Kliewer built, planted and maintains for him each year.

“He told me that I had some bad soil for growing, so he created the right environment for me to grow my own vegetables each year.  They grew so well and so much that I ended up giving away more to my children and grandchildren than I kept for myself. In the summer, one of the first things my grandkids like to do is go out to the garden and pick vegetables.”

But creating raised-bed gardens in peoples’ backyards is just a small part of what Kliewer and his family had in mind when they started Squeaky Green Organics in 2010. They also like teaching others that they can grow their own food too.

Kliewer’s own roots in farming are planted firmly in the soil of Lushton, Nebraska, where he learned the craft at his parents’ knees.  He took a circuitous route through agriculture marketing and sales before deciding he, too, wanted to experience life through farming.

“I watched them their entire farming careers, and I always knew if I was going to go down this same path, I was going to grow organic,” said Kliewer, who lost both parents to cancer within the past decade. “They taught me everything that I know, and now I get the opportunity to grow for other people and pass along some of that knowledge in the process.”

Today, Kliewer, wife, Suzanne, and a small group of employees farm three fields near and around Plattsmouth, Nebraska. Kliewer chose to spread out the farming locations to mitigate risks—some controllable, others natural, unpredictable and sometimes violent—like wind, hail, flooding and even insect infiltration.

“We had some water damage from flooding near the river in Plattsmouth this past summer, but because of our two other locations, it didn’t hurt our entire crop or overall production,” Kliewer said.

The Kliewers plant only heirloom seeds, which Kliewer says are selected for their flavor. Heirloom varieties refer to a class of vegetables cherished by seed savers who have passed them down through generations.

“Heirlooms were brought over by our grandfathers’ grandfathers,” Kliewer said. “They offer a big variety of vegetables—like white, yellow and purple carrots rather than just the standard orange you find in the supermarkets. They have intense flavor.”

The company, which the Kliewers still run from their home, doesn’t start and stop with seeds and plantings. They also provide environmentally conscious products like rain barrels, compost bins and vintage glass yard art. Their eco-coaching services extend into helping people purchase and install backyard chicken coops, making sure they get hens only—roosters are too loud for a neighborhood setting—and that they get the right feed and other supplies.

Squeaky Green also provides lawn care services, encouraging clients to establish a functional landscape that maintains a “balance between visual beauty and natural resources.”

“Edible landscaping makes it possible to grow food and nonfood plants together without having to allot separate plots of land for both,” Kliewer said. “Certain nonfood-bearing plants provide natural protections for the food-bearing plants from insects and animals. It’s a combination that works for both.”

At the core of his business, however, Kliewer is all about growing tasty food—to enjoy raw, cooked, in recipes, as a snack, or whatever.  He and Suzanne farm their patches of land almost year round, depending on the weather, and sell their wares each spring and summer at the farmers market in Omaha’s Old Market.

That farmers market presence has created a following of people who enjoy purchasing the Kliewers’ organic heirloom veggies. In the off season when the market is closed, the Kliewers keep in contact with these regular customers via phone and email to let them know each week what will be available so they can place orders for the amounts and types of vegetables they want and also arrange for pickup and/ or delivery within a day of picking.

Jerre Tristish, who has been buying produce from Squeaky Green for the past year, doesn’t have the option of growing his own garden—even one set up and maintained by Kliewer— because he has no yard. He lives in a row house near the Old Market and has come to see the Kliewers as neighbors and friends.

“We love that the vegetables are organic, that’s the biggest reason we buy from Bryan, but we also love the fresh taste,” Tristish said. “We especially love the lettuce he grows. It has a much sweeter taste than what’s available in stores, and his tomatoes and melons have tremendous flavor.”

Squeaky Green also sells to a select group of local restaurants— The Boiler Room and Flatiron Café, in particular—that prefer to include and even base their recipes on locally grown and harvested vegetables.

“Many of them have the chalkboard menus that they determine and change each day based on what vegetables are available,” Kliewer said. “Our customers are what we call foodies—consumers who are passionate about what they eat—and they really value the flavor and beauty of the food.”

For more information, visit www.SqueakyGreenOrganics.com or call 402.575.7988.

RECIPE

WARM SPINACH SALAD WITH BALSAMIC REDUCTION

 

Iowa-based writer Mike Watkins typically does sports features, but as a lover of fresh food, this project made perfect sense to him. He is now sold on buying more locally grown food, is considering starting a garden of his own in the backyard, and will try his best this summer to hit the local farmers markets for some veggies. Nothing is better than fresh tomatoes.

Read moreGreen Thumb for Hire

CREAMY SCRAMBLED EGGS

Serving: 2

3 eggs, pastured fresh or frozen (If using frozen eggs, thaw in refrigerator for

24 hours before preparing recipe. )

1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

Chopped fresh herbs, optional

Melt butter in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk eggs and cream in a small bowl until yolks are completely incorporated with the whites. Pour eggs into saucepan. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until eggs are of desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and stir in fresh herbs. Serve immediately.

Read moreCREAMY SCRAMBLED EGGS

IN THE KITCHEN: THE EGG

The EggUnderstanding That Toughest and Most Fragile of FoodsBy Summer MillerPhotography by Carole Topalian Free range. Cage free. Pastured. While these phrases are seen wherever eggs are sold, their meanings remain open to interpretation. In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act to regulate and implement universal standards for organic production and labeling. However, … Read moreIN THE KITCHEN: THE EGG

CULTIVATORS: Table Grace Café

pizza

Table Grace Café
Offers a Slice of Hope
By Emily Brocker, Photography by Sarah Kay Bryan

Whether you’re down on your luck, between jobs or just on lunch break from one of Omaha’s many downtown businesses, you are welcome to eat a healthy, freshly made lunch at Table Grace Café. There are no prices in evidence.  Instead, this nonprofit café displays a donation box on the counter where patrons order. If you have no money in your pocket, you can pay for your meal by volunteering at the café. But Table Grace is about more than welcoming all to a good meal. “It’s about building community and getting the word out about hunger,” said founder Matt Weber.

Table Grace Café’s mission is “to foster a healthy community by offering great food prepared and served in a graceful manner to anyone who walks through the door.” The commitment to great food is no accident. Owner and Chef Weber received his training at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City. He has a true commitment to serving healthy, fresh and nutrient-dense food to all who dine at Table Grace. The menu features gourmet soup, salad and pizza, with a vegetarian alternative to each dish featured daily. The pizza crust is made with whole wheat and semolina flours and flax. The salad dressing is made with olive oil, fresh garlic and balsamic vinegar. Whenever possible, foods are made with organic ingredients.

Nebraska natives Matt and Simone Weber founded Table Grace Café in 2011 because they wanted to make a difference in their community and wanted to bring awareness to the hunger problem, here at home and across the country.

Both Matt and Simone are active in Nebraska’s Evangelical Lutheran Church community, which is where much of Table Grace Café’s financial backing comes from. Prior to starting Table Grace, Matt worked at Carol Joy Holling Camp in Ashland, Nebraska.  Simone is the director of Music Ministry at Omaha’s First Lutheran Church.

The Webers started their venture by offering personal chef services for single parents in their church. While this helped achieve their goal of easing hunger on a small scale, it wasn’t a sustainable business model. Matt wanted to pursue a business based on social entrepreneurship concepts—something that looked like a traditional business but helped the community at the same time. This is when Table Grace Ministries, a registered 501© (3) nonprofit organization, was formed.

Matt knew the next step was to open a restaurant, similar to one he had visited in Denver called the SAME (So All May Eat) Café. So he began looking for a space to lease. To do the most good and be sustainable, the restaurant needed to be in a diverse socioeconomic area. He considered Midtown Omaha but ultimately decided on the downtown location due to the proximity to the 16th Street bus stop transfer station, the nearness of Omaha’s homeless population and the large number of businesses located within walking distance.  Matt struck an agreement with the Omaha Housing Authority for his location at 1611-½ Farnam Street, and Table Grace Café opened its doors in April 2011.

“When we first opened, we were serving about 20 customers a day,” he said. “We’ve seen that increase to about 40 customers today.  Ideally, we hope to serve 60 people a day by the end of this year.” While Table Grace has its regulars, the majority of those are patrons who aren’t able to pay much for their meals. To meet the goal of serving 60 people a day, long-term, Table Grace needs more paying patrons.

But attracting a more socioeconomically diverse clientele isn’t just about the money. “It’s about creating a sense of community and bringing awareness to hunger issues,” Matt said. One of Table Grace’s unwritten goals is to unite the community to find viable, long-lasting solutions for Omaha’s hunger problem.

Just as crucial to helping solve hunger issues is Table Grace’s two-week restaurant internship program. Individuals who are down on their luck, looking for a job in the food service industry or hoping to develop some new skills are able to apply for the internship program. If accepted, interns learn a variety of food-service techniques, including food handling, sanitation, dishwashing, food preparation and food safety. At the conclusion of the two weeks, Matt provides the interns with a letter of recommendation, assistance with their résumé and advice on job hunting. A number of interns through Table Grace’s internship program have gone on to find jobs in restaurants around town thanks to the training and new beginning Table Grace offered them.

Matt has big plans for the future. “My hope is to develop relationships with organizations throughout Omaha that can help these interns find and keep jobs,” he said. “We want to become more than a charity.”

Emily Brocker is a writer and a self-confessed “live to eat” type of person. Coming from a long line of Idaho potato farmers, she has a passion for real, fresh food prepared and shared with love. In her free time, Emily exercises her sweet tooth through baking.

Table Grace Café
1611-½ Farnam St., Omaha
Open Monday–Saturday, 11am–2pm
Dinner by reservation only

Read moreCULTIVATORS: Table Grace Café

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