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Vegan Minestrone

Minestrone can be anything you want it to be. It's super flexible, adapting to what's in season. In the summer, your minestrone can be full of zucchini and fresh tomato and herbs, and in colder months minestrone can be a refuge from thick, pureed vegetable soups while still providing an outlet for the squash, potatoes and hearty greens of winter. Minestrone can easily be made vegetarian or vegan. Many recipes call for pancetta or beef both, but a dab of extra oil and a bit of sundried tomato can fill in for the rich flavor and texture provided by the meat. If you don't use butter and don't sprinkle the top with parmesan, it's a vegan soup. If you leave out the pasta, it's gluten-free. Minestrone is what you need it to be. The recipe below is an amalgam of all the recipes out there, skewed towards what was in my fridge on Sunday. Yes, this was Superbowl minestrone. It's vegan, and while I threw some pasta into mine at the last minute, it's portioned to result in a rich soup with plenty of chunky vegetables and beans and no need for pasta. (Though, if you'd like to add pasta, just add more stock). I used sundried tomatoes in place of bacon or pancetta. I don't believe I'll every fully wrap my head around the concept of umami, but tomato and mushrooms do well subbing for meat. I chopped up the sundried tomatoes and swished them around in two tablespoons of oil over a medium flame until they had softened a bit and smelled like they were ready to make soup. You know how that smells, right? Next, the veg. A couple of carrots and celery stalks, and two small onions, all diced up. An entire head of kale. 4 cups of cannellini beans. A quart of crushed tomatoes. Four cloves of garlic. A cup of sliced mushrooms. I tossed the onion with the sundried tomato until it was translucent and glossy. Diced carrot and celery went in, then I minced in the garlic. About 5 minutes later, when the celery was just starting to yield, I added a bunch of chopped lacinato kale (stems removed). This doesn't need to be kale. Lots of recipes call for escarole, or cabbage, but spinach or chard would work well. Minestrone is whatever you need it to be. I flipped the kale around with the other veg for a few minutes until it was starting to wilt, then turned the whole thing into soup. This would be a good time to add diced potatoes or squash, if you have them on hand. I added 6 cups of vegetable stock (you can use chicken or beef here) and four cups of crushed tomatoes. If you'd like to add pasta to your soup, think about maybe using 8 cups of stock. This is a substantial soup and you'll need extra liquid to support some cavatelli or ditalini. Give that a stir and add in the beans. If you're using dried beans (and you should use dried beans) soak and cook them in advance. If you're using canned beans (and I used canned beans), give them a serious rinse to reduce the salt. Add herbs. Again, this is flexible. I had oregano in the freezer and added about a tablespoon and a half of those leaves, plus about half a tablespoon of both dried thyme and rosemary. Fresh is best, so if you have it, use about a tablespoon of fresh herbs for each teaspoon of dried - that's 3x as much fresh as you'd have used dried - because dry herbs are all compact and crumbly. Salt and pepper. I salt my soups more than I salt my other foods, but I'm generally conservative with salt. If you use storebought stock, it's probably already salted, so salt carefully. Salt, taste, and salt some more. With canned tomato products, I find that there is a bit of a metallic taste that is reduced by adding salt. If your tomatoes are fresh or boxed, you may not run into this. Once my soup was seasoned, I brought it up to a boil, then back down to a simmer and let it cook like that, barely bubbling, for 45 minutes. You want to make sure you end up with tender kale, but if you use softer greens, you can probably get away with a 30 minute simmer. Either way, that's pretty quick for soup. In the end, I had about three quarts of soup, so I could stash two right in the freezer. A few notes about adding pasta. This soup turns into an amazingly filling meal with a bit of pasta. I used cavatelli. I only added pasta to the soup we were eating immediately, so the rest of it was frozen pasta-free. It's very easy to add pasta when you reheat it, and that way you don't have to worry about mushy noodles. So I had added a couple of extra cups of stock to my soup early on, and just dropped in a small handful of pasta per serving. Brought that to a low boil until the pasta was cooked to my liking, and I was all set. If it's too thick, just add more stock. This recipe is cross-posted at where I’m working on making food out of food. Ingredients
  • two small onions
  • 1 bunch kale or other leafy greens
  • a couple of diced carrots
  • a couple of diced celery stalks
  • 4 cups cannellini beans
  • 1 quart crushed tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon rosemary
  • 1/2 tablespoon thyme
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
Instructions Sauté onion with the sundried tomato until translucent. Add carrot, celery and minced garlic and sauté for 5 minutes. Add kale or other greens, toss until it starts to wilt. Add 6-8 cups of vegetable stock (you can use chicken or beef here) and 4 cups of crushed tomatoes. Stir. Add cannellini beans and herbs. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes. (Optional) Add a handful of pasta if you're feeling it, but it's plenty hearty on its own. Boil until pasta is done and serve. Details
  • Prep time: 15 mins
  • Cook time: 45 mins
  • Total time: 1 hour
  • Yield: three quarts of soup

Sarah's Garden: On Choosing Seeds

Friends!  It is almost the best time of the year:  the time to plant seeds! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="500"]Greens SEEDS[/caption] The past two years I've gotten my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.  I chose them because they had a wide variety of open-pollinated seeds and lots of strange heirloom varieties that I couldn't find other places.  Also, and most importantly, none of their seeds are genetically modified.  Now I'm not here to lecture you on the potential horrors of eating genetically modified vegetables (ahem) BUT my reasoning is that if I'm going to go through the trouble of growing my own food I want it to be as healthy as possible.  I recently stumbled across a list of seed companies that are either owned by Monsanto or sell seeds from them, and then there's also a list of seed companies that are not affiliated with Monsanto and sell only non-genetically modified seeds.  Here's the list and, of course, take it with a grain of salt since it's coming from a website called "Emergency Homesteader."  But!  Both Baker Creek and Happy Cat Farm are on there - I mention Happy Cat because they are right in Kennett Square and you can find their seeds at a lot of local places (including Reading Terminal) if you'd rather go for local seeds.  Another local-ish one is D. Landreth Seed Company, which is near York. Although I've been very pleased with my Baker Creek seeds I think I might try Happy Cat or D. Landreth for some seeds this year since they're closer.  Plus they have lots of strange varieties that are hard to find elsewhere.  This year I am going to actually try to save some seeds (fingers crossed!) so I'm looking for some slightly weirder things to grow.  Plus, isn't it fun to grow produce you can't find in a grocery store or farmer's market?  I think so! One last thing:  even if you're not too worried about eating genetically modified food, Monsanto still uses lots and lots of chemicals to grow their genetically-modified seeds - in fact, lots of their seeds have been genetically modified so that they can survive insanely high doses of pesticides.  That's not cool, especially because those pesticides seep into the water and ground and then people and animals end up ingesting them unknowingly.  This is where I grew up so I witnessed it firsthand and let me tell you, the fish in the Housatonic River are deformed and dying rapidly and it's just ridiculous what big companies can get away with in this country. Anyway!  Choose your seeds wisely.  Soon it will be time to plant!

Event Recap: What Is Your Food Worth?

[caption id="attachment_4760" align="alignnone" width="400"]A sold out Co-op Speaker Series Event welcomed Professor Bryant Simon to talk about the bad economics of our food system. A sold out Co-op Speaker Series Event welcomed Professor Bryant Simon to talk about the broken economics of our food system.[/caption] Let the conversation begin! We are very pleased to report that the first in the South Philly Food Co-op’s new Speaker Series was a resounding success!  Members and non-members alike packed the house at Free Library of Philadelphia’s Charles Santore Branch for an eye-opening talk with Temple Professor Bryant Simon, whose new initiative, What Is Your Food Worth? is asking Philadelphians to confront a very serious question: what are our food choices really costing us? From unsustainable industrial meat production, misaligned federal subsidies, and the $200 Big Mac down to workers’ rights and a cycle of corporate abuse shackling our entire nation to the ball and chain of “cheap” food, Professor Simon took no prisoners as he exposed the realities of the modern food system.  For proof, check out photos of the crowd at rapt attention on Facebook. Interested in pulling back the veil even further?  We’ve put together a list of resources below, some of which were mentioned during yesterday’s talk, to wade even deeper into the muck of the modern industrial food system: Comments?  Thoughts?  Ideas on this cripplingly complex topic?  Talk to us on Twitter or Facebook in the comments below.  We want to know what you think! Thanks to all those who attended, and if you couldn’t make it this time, keep your eyes peeled for news on the next in our Speaker Series as we look towards a nutrition-focused event in March!

SOLD OUT: Soup Swap II — The Wrath of Squash

[caption id="attachment_4749" align="alignright" width="185"]wrath of squash The Wrath of Squash[/caption] Heads-up, you chowder fiends, you lovers of bisque: The South Philly Food Co-op's much-loved Soup Swap, now in its second incarnation, has SOLD OUT! That's great news for everyone who's signed up (so much delicious soup coming your way, you guys!), but for those of you who're souper disappointed you forgot to RSVP, never fear: There are still a few spots left on the waiting list Event details: WHAT: Soup Swap II: The Wrath of Squash WHEN: Sunday, February 10, 4-7 p.m. WHERE: Home of a committee member: 1411 S. Franklin St. Click here to get yourself on the waiting list, and don't forget to visit our Events Page on the regular (next up: February 27's Food Quizzo at The Wishing Well!). P.S. Wanna know what the Soup Swap is all about? Check out our Facebook page!

Spiced Applesauce Breakfast Cake

I'm just starting out honestly, with "breakfast cake." I know there's a fine line between bread and cake - (banana bread and carrot cake?) and this is a non-dessert cake. It's not a bread. It's also not super sweet. It's breakfast cake, but you can have it for dessert if you want. I was looking to make applesauce cake for two reasons: 1. I had too many apples, and am not interested in things like crisps, crumbles, pies, tarts; and 2. When I was a teenager, there was this orchard/farm market by the mall and they made amazing applesauce cake. So working off the idea that cake can be made of applesauce - and not just in the swap-the-oil-for-applesauce-in-the-Duncan-Hines-mix-way - and that I needed to use some apples, I went to work. Except, it's hard for me with desserts. I don't like really sweet things. Also, I have no idea how that applesauce cake I grew up with was made. But it worked. A very lightly sweet cake (dust it with powdered sugar and you get a bit more sweet in every bite) that's not really CAKE in the plan-your-other-meals-to-account-for-it way.Step one: Applesauce I used to make applesauce by simmering apples and pushing them through a fine sieve. It was tedious, but fairly direct. Apples, heat, sauce. I am now the proud owner of a food processor, so it was much less time consuming, but I made applesauce all the time when I didn't have a food processor, so don't let that get in your way. This is what food mills are for, if you have one of those. I had four apples to start with. These were Fujis from Bird in Hand, PA. If I had five apples, that would be ok too. I wanted a cup and a half of sauce and came up just short. Apples were quartered, cored, and the skins were scored. Then dropped in near-boiling water (disregard the temperature in the photo). Simmer until soft, 20-30 minutes. Run under cool water and drain. Peel skins. Puree (or mill, or push through a sieve). I came up just shy of a cup and a half (that's a cup-and-a-half measuring cup). Apple size is going to vary. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease and flour a pan. Or just flour, you know your own pans. I went with a brownie pan. I took a stick of butter, a quarter cup sugar and a half cup brown sugar and creamed them together. I beat an egg into the mix, and added the applesauce. Since I was a bit short on sauce, I added some cider too. I sifted some flour (half whole wheat, half AP) with baking soda and spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves). And slowly incorporated it into the wet ingredients, stirring gently. Once your dry goods are wet, it's go time. Spread the batter into your pan, and pop it in the oven. Set a timer for 30 minutes, but expect it'll take 45. After 30 minutes, do a toothpick test. You want it moist, but not raw. Let it cool, then turn it out and maybe very liberally apply powdered sugar, since it's really not a sweet cake on its own. With tea I'd call it breakfast, with milk I'd call it dessert. If I was all alone on the couch I might call it dinner. This recipe is cross-posted at where I’m working on making food out of food. Spiced Applesauce Breakfast Cake Ingredients
  • 4-5 apples
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup, 4 oz) butter
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups flour (I mixed AP and whole wheat)
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners' or powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (use to fill in for missing applesauce) apple cider (optional)
  • Core and quarter apples, and simmer until soft (20-30 mins). Peel and puree - either in a food processor, food mill, or through a fine mesh sieve. Or start with some applesauce and go right to step 2.
  • Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in egg. Mix in applesauce and optional apple cider.
  • Sift dry ingredients (except the confectioners'/powdered sugar) together. Sift again into wet ingredients. Fold in, stirring gently.
  • Spread mixture into a buttered and floured brownie pan. Bake at 350 for 30 min to 45, testing with a toothpick.
  •  Let cool, turn out the cake and dust with confectioners' or powdered sugar.
Details Prep time: 40 mins Cook time: 40 mins Total time: 1 hour 20 mins Yield: 10-20 servings

Amendment Threatens Urban Farms in Philly

Note: The following post was written by Jon McGoran, editor of Weavers Way Co-op's The Shuttle newsletter. You can find the full issue here. On December 13, 2012, less than four months after the widely anticipated implementation of the city’s brand new zoning code, City Council’s Committee on Rules has voted to approve an ordinance that undoes important aspects of the code, including the gains made for urban agriculture in Philadelphia. Introduced by Councilman Brian O’Neill, Bill 120917 creates restrictions on a range of uses in commercial mixed uses areas. Among these restrictions, the bill would only allow community gardening and market farming by  “special exception” on over one third of  the city’s commercially zoned lands. What does this mean for existing gardens? The affirmative vote by the Rules Committee immediately renders illegal approximately 20 percent of the urban farms and community gardens already in existence in the city. The amendment is scheduled to come to a vote by the full Council on January 24, 2013. In the meantime, since the bill is regarded as a “pending ordinance,” the city may begin enforcing the provisions of the bill immediately. If council votes in favor of the bill, the changes would become permanent. While the provision allowing farm or garden parcels with a special exemption is an improvement over the initial version of the amendment, which would prohibited gardening and farming outright, it is still an onerous process that would inhibit urban agriculture in Philadelphia. “The Special Exception process is not an ‘over the counter’ approval and requires quite a bit of administrative effort,” explained Eva Gladstein, Deputy Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. “The zoning applicant must: file an application for a ZBA hearing; notify the local RCO, near neighbors and the District Councilperson of the project; meet with the local RCOs and document the meeting; post notice of the ZBA hearing on the property for 21 days prior to the hearing; at the hearing, demonstrate that the proposed use is consistent with the zoning code and any applicable standards for the use; and if there is testimony at the hearing from the community that the impacts would be more than normally expected from that use, must provide evidence to overcome such testimony.” The amendment passed out of the Rules Committee on a four to three vote, despite almost unanimous testimony in opposition to the bill from an array of constituencies. The changes would prohibit new businesses such as auto shops, car rental and sales, gas stations, personal care homes, single- room residences, and group living from locating in commercial corridors. Joining urban farms and community gardens in requiring special exemptions would be transit stations and storage facilities. Prohibited outright, and thus requiring zoning variances, are businesses including auto shops, car rental and sales, gas stations, and personal care homes. “Philadelphians in neighborhoods throughout the city place a huge value on gardening and farming as food production, vacant land stewardship, and community building. Under the new zoning code, city policy began to reflect the commitment of the city’s residents. This dismantles progress made,” says Amy Laura Cahn, Skadden Fellow at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia’s Garden Justice Legal Initiative. What can you do? Contact your district council member and the at-large council members.
  1. Let council members know that gardening and farming matter to you.
  2. Encourage council members to keep the zoning code intact and rely on the anticipated one-year review to address concerns.
  3. Ask that they oppose City Council Bill 12917.
For more information on the zoning changes, click here.  

Wash Cycle Laundry Lands on the Cover of GRID Magazine

WCL GRID   The January 2013 issue of GRID Magazine features a familiar face and supporter of the South Philly Food Co-op -- Gabriel Mandujano, CEO and Founder of Wash Cycle Laundry.
"The business, which uses bicycle trailers, sophisticated route planning software and a self-designed automated washing system, is revolutionizing the way Philadelphians receive clean laundry. With roughly 100 corporate clients and several hundred residential customers, Wash Cycle is proving that the laundry industry can be greener, cheaper and more efficient than the current model."
Wash Cycle Laundry not only provides a fast and green alternative to doing laundry but they partner with workforce development organizations like Gearing Up and Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha to create jobs for Philadelphians. You can read the full story here and member-owners be sure to use your Shop South Philly discount for 50% off your first service with Wash Cycle Laundry! Congrats to Gabriel and Wash Cycle Laundry -- keep up the good work and thanks for your continued support!  

News from Our Co-op Friends: CreekSide Co-op Grand Opening!

In the spirit of co-ops helping other co-ops we're passing along this exciting news from our friends in Elkins Park, PA. Now, South Philly, let's get cracking so we can send out a press release like this!
ELKINS PARK, PA – January 8, 2013 – On January 16, members, neighbors, VIPs and others will join CreekSide Co-op in celebrating the Grand Opening for this brand new community-owned grocery store in the heart of Elkins Park. The event will feature a ribbon-cutting ceremony with VIPs, including Montgomery County Commissioner Josh Shapiro, plus live music from Ken Ulansey and Dave Posmontier. There will also be plenty of great food from the Co-op’s celebrated Prepared Foods Department and Deli, as well as a variety of samples and demos from CreekSide’s wonderful vendors. The Grand Opening celebration, and the Co-op itself, are open to the public, and everyone is invited to join in the fun. The event lasts from 9:30 until 11:30 a.m., but there will be Grand Opening Specials, January 16 – 20, all weekend long! Enjoy a weekend of samples from CreekSide Co-op’s own kitchen and many of our local vendors, plus lots of in-store events and specials, plus CreekSide Co-op members get a special 5% member discount on everything, all weekend long, all weekend long, January 16 – 20! For more information about CreekSide Co-op, and the Grand Opening Celebration, visit CreekSide Co-op is a brand new food co-op in Elkins Park, recently opened in the former home of Ashborne Market. Our 1,400 member households are committed to healthy food, a healthy environment, and a healthy community. CreekSide Co-op is full-service grocery store offering local and sustainably raised produce, kosher meats, organic bulk foods, a café and community meeting place.

Save the Date: January 30th Speaker Series -- What is Your Food Worth?

“What does organic mean?” “Is local really better?” “How do I know if something’s sustainable?” “What’s with these high prices?” “What I buy won’t make a difference, anyway…will it?” Understanding the complex spectrum of food choices in today’s world is often more like navigating a labyrinth than walking an aisle. But when it comes to what we eat, we’ve got a lot more power than we think... and it’s time to start taking and talking our food choices seriously. At 6 pm on January 30, 2013 come out and delve into the true value of the food we eat with Temple Professor Bryant Simon, author of Everything But the Coffee and founder of the collaborative “What Is Your Food Worth?” – a unique partnership exploring the choices each of us confronts in our everyday lives as we try to square what we eat with what we believe. During this candid conversation we’ll explore how the price of cheap food is hiding costs and making the “real” prices of organic or local food seem higher. Become a part of this exciting new initiative’s vibrant, roving conversation on food, ethics, sustainability, and eating at this Co-op debut event! South Philly Food Co-op Speaker Series When: January 30, 2013 at 6pm Where: The Charles Santore Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 932 South 7th Street (7th & Carpenter Streets) Cost: FREE (but please download tickets from our EventBrite site so we have an idea of how many to expect)

Sarah's Garden: Indoor Bulbs

Happy 2013!  After things calm down after the holidays I tend to get really antsy to plant seeds but I still can't do that for another couple of months.  My solution this year has been to plant bulbs inside (and impulse buy cheapo plants while I'm at the grocery store.)  But for now let's focus on the bulbs. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="375"]photo.JPG check out that sweet bulb vase[/caption] I don't even know what this bulb is.  I think it's a hyacinth but who knows?  My mother gave me this one a few months ago and for a while I just left it thinking I would plant it outside.  But I forgot about it when I planted my bulbs outside so I decided to do it inside.  This picture is from about a month ago, right after I had put it in the window that actually gets light. You can see I put too much water in it - the bulb itself shouldn't be sitting in water, just the little roots.  I did that on purpose in case I forgot about it (which I did!) but it definitely started getting a little moldy around the parts of the bulb that were sitting in water.  I got worried so I took it out and washed the vase and even washed off the bulb a little bit with some water and a dishcloth and it seemed to work out fine.  Obviously the way to avoid this is to not let your bulbs sit in water. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="375"]photo.JPG hello, small friend[/caption] Clearly the mold didn't deter it too much because here it is a month later.  Now that I've gotten used to watering it (and remembering that it's there) I make sure to keep the water level below the bulb itself.  It's not so hard now because check out the roots: [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="375"]photo.JPG christmas lights reflected in the glass because YES the tree is still up[/caption] These guys are pretty crazy!  I like how they look through the glass. The other thing I do when I'm feeling like I don't have enough little plantlings to care for is Sarah's Yearly Attempt to Grow an Avocado.  This year is no different! [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="375"]photo.JPG i believe in you, avocado[/caption] This is what happens with me and avocados:  I love avocados.  We eat a lot of avocados.  And I've tried and tried to grow one like this and without fail I forget about it and it dries out or it gets too wet and is mushy and moldy and either way I end up with no avocado plant.  I mention the eating of avocados not because I want to grow my own to eat - I've pretty much chalked that up to an impossibility in this climate - but because I am ALWAYS tempted by pits lying around and eventually I can't take it anymore and try this again.  This time I did it a little more carefully:  I washed and scrubbed the pit in water to make sure I got all the avocado off.  Then I let it dry for 24 hours to make sure it was nice and dry.  Then I put the toothpicks in at an angle so that more of the bottom would be submerged in water.  AND I have been changing the water in hopes of  discouraging mold growth.  But you can still see in the above picture that there is some weird dark stuff going on around the water line so I may take it out, change the water, and scrub the pit itself a little.  I fully believe that this would be easier if I just planted the pit in some soil in a pot but I have a weird (okay, not weird just proprietary) stubbornness and I want to grow it this way!  I remember doing it as a kid, I remember my friend's mother doing it and I KNOW IT CAN BE DONE.  The nice thing about this, though, is that it's completely free and I can try it again if this attempt doesn't work.  But come on, people.  It's time. Do you grow bulbs indoors?  I always thought it was kind of silly but then my mystery bulb started growing and I got that sense of accomplishment mixed with pride that comes with watching something thrive under my (minimal) care - the same feeling I get from watching my plants grow in the summer.  It's good to feel that again!  And it's a good reminder that spring will come no matter how long winter feels.