Comfort Food for All

In the winter on a snowy day  – like today at my house! – I like putting something on the stove to slow cook or in the oven to bake so that the wonderful smells travel through the house.  Comfort foods can give you that double pleasure – smelling awesome and tasting great when you finally get to dive in!

When my kids were small, my go to comfort food when it was cold outside was either a great baked mac and cheese or potato soup with homemade bread!  What a great meal to come into after you have  been outside shoveling snow or playing with the kids in the snow!

So what foods do you remember as a child that brought you great comfort and felt so good eating?

Are there different comfort foods you go to as an adult that are different from when you were young?

Well, I decided to put a soup on the back burner – a cabbage soup which is very simple and you can be working at home around the house and let it simmer on the back burner for 3-4 hours.

Saute the onions

Saute the onions

This recipe uses up vegetables that should be in the vegetable drawer all the time in your Refrigerator!

Cabbage and Carrots

Cabbage and Carrots

You can slice the carrots using a mandoline!

You can slice the carrots using a mandoline!

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Add sliced cabbage and a can of tomatoes.

Add sliced cabbage and a can of tomatoes.

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Put the lid on it!

Put the lid on it!








































Stir all ingredients together, add salt and pepper to your taste and bring to a boil being careful not to burn.  Turn down to simmer for 3-4 hours.  Serve with a loaf of bread and some cheese and you have a great inexpensive, low calorie meal!

What is your go to comfort food?


Starting A School Garden

Michigan State University Extension is hosting Starting and Sustaining the School Garden on January 31, 2013 from 8:30 to 4 p.m. at the MSU Tollgate Education Center in Novi.

Teachers, Food Service Directors, Parents and other volunteers can come and find out all of the essentials to growing a successful school garden.  This workshop will work for community and faith-based gardens as well.  Katherine Hale, Extension Educator with Michigan State University Extension, says, “Teachers may want to extend their classroom outdoors but may not feel confident about gardening alone.”   This workshop can help give them the resources and tools to be successful.

Research is demonstrating that students who plant and harvest their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them (Cornell, UC Berkley, UC Davis), and garden-based learning can make a positive impact on children’s academic performance (Klemmer et al. 2005).  Math and science skills are used in gardening along with scientific methods of investigation and experimentation.  Equally important for youth is the lesson on understanding how food gets from seed to table.

Participants will learn,  “how to choose the best site for their garden, how to improve their soil, selecting the best vegetable crops that will mature in spring or fall when school is in session, how to conduct regular garden maintenance, how to incorporate the garden into school curriculum and much more”, states Hale.   Sessions will be taught by MSU Extension Educators and Master Gardeners.

 The workshop is $65 and will run from 8:30-4 p.m.

 To register go to Garden Training    or email: or call 586-469-5180



All About Food Conference Coming Soon!

The Macomb Food Collaborative, in combination with Michigan State University Extension, is hosting its second annual “From Farm to Fork: All About Food” Conference, Thursday, Feb. 14, 9 a.m.  –  4 p.m. at the Macomb Intermediate School District in Clinton Township.


This one-day conference is aimed at anyone who grows, produces, processes, markets, distributes, or eats food. There is something for everyone who loves good food.

“Interest in locally grown food continues to explode in Macomb County,” said Katherine Hale, Macomb Food Collaborative coordinator and MSU Extension Food Systems Educator. “Whether you’re a parent or commercial chef, local pizzeria owner, school cafeteria director, hospital food employee, food blogger, culinary instructor, home vegetable gardener or local farmer, our conference addresses your passions and challenges.”

Bridging relationships between individuals and industry players is another key benefit of the conference. 

“This event brings together growers, vendors, distributers and consumers,” Hale said.  “That’s what we’re all about:  connecting individuals and families to healthy, local food sources and promoting economic opportunity and development.”


In the 2010 PolicyLink publication, Healthy Food Healthy Communities, the authors outline how local communities can improve the health of residents and improve economic opportunities for farmers by taking multiple approaches to provide healthier food access.  The report documents solutions that communities can initiate like improving neighborhoods with healthier food options at corner stores, linking farmers to consumers at farmers markets and community gardens and by offering food access programs like EBT access, WIC and Senior Project Fresh coupons.  All of these efforts will be shared in various sessions at the conference to inform local residents about the opportunities in Macomb County.


The event’s inaugural debut in 2012 drew more than 200 guests.   Once again, Macomb County Executive, Mark Hackel will open the conference with a welcome and remarks.


The Keynote speaker, Mike DiBernardo, Michigan Department of Agriculture, Economic Development, will discuss the impact agriculture and evolving food markets have on the Macomb County economy.


Breakout session topics include:  economic success stories, how-to-start a food-based business, trends and best practices from Detroit’s Eastern Market, the proliferation of community and school gardens, the scoop on food-assistance resources, food hubs and their regional benefit, food safety, the local food/school connection, along with several, inspiring cooking demos.


To register for the event and purchase tickets, which are $15 through Jan. 31 and $20 afterwards, visit A limited number of scholarships are available for the conference.  Contact Katherine Hale at



Hubbard Squash – Good Winter Vegetables

Hubbard Squash – Good Winter Vegetables

I talked a few blogs ago about my food bucket list. I have been compiling my list for quite some time – some items are actually written down to remind me and then there are others that I continue to keep a mental note of. As I get older I definitely need to write more of these down so I remember! Pinterest is helping me remember these now.

I wanted to report that I accomplished another one of those recipes on my bucket list. The Hubbard Squash – it is that huge (big) blue thing that is a squash and a lot of times bigger than most pumpkins. I have seen many people at farmers markets walk right by them because they were intimidated and not sure at all what that blue thing was or the first thing about trying to cook it. You don’t often see these in the grocery stores because they take up so much room and again they don’t get used that much. They really are beautiful inside and out! I have seen quite a few used in outdoor displays during the autumn months. The nice thing is you can store these squash for a couple of months in your garage where it is nice and cold. I did stock up on a few squash this fall and have them stored now for winter use.

So where do you start with this giant of the squash world. Well, you don’t want to use a knife as you are likely to cut off your arm in the process! The easiest and recommended way to cut open a Hubbard Squash is to actually not cut it at all but to DROP it on a hard surface like your garage floor or driveway. I wish I had thought of this earlier (hindsight is always helpful!) but you could put a large sheet on the ground as you drop that bad boy.

The actual process of breaking open the squash to the time to cook it was probably 15 minutes so again, do not let this scare you off.

1- Drop the squash and break it open.
2- Pick up the pieces, scrape off the gravel (really it wasn’t that much) you could use a knife to scrape of the ends so you can really avoid any foreign objects.
3- Scrape out the seeds and guts.
4- Spray or oil your baking sheets or oven dish and you could add some olive oil to the surface of the squash so it doesn’t get dried out.
5- Cover with foil (or not) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 – 60 minutes depending on how large your squash is.
6- Scoop the cooked squash into a bowl with salt and pepper and a little butter. I didn’t even use sweetener of any kind and this was delicious!

Drop that bad boy!

Drop that bad boy!

Clean out the seeds.

Clean out the seeds.

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The beautiful Hubbard Squash

The beautiful Hubbard Squash

Rutabagas, The Perfect Fall Vegetable

Rutabagas?  Who eats those weird vegetables?  Our grandparents did surely.  If you have a relative that lived through World War II, they often will talk about the shortage of food and the victory gardens that were started to help feed people in cities across America and the rutabaga was one vegetable grown because it kept well.  The Rutabaga was a vegetable that families could rely on well through the winter to keep families fed.  Normally when we think of a favorite vegetable we think of something green, red or orange, but a white vegetable is also part of the rainbow of fruits and vegetables we should eat every day but when we are offered vegetables most of us will choose the colorful veggies.

The rutabaga is often overlooked as a tasteful food.

At farmers markets everywhere you will see a broad range of vegetables to choose from but rutabagas may be less popular because as cooks, we don’t know how to cook and serve them.

They are an inexpensive way to get your Vitamin C and potassium.  They are a great source of fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6 and calcium along with some other very good key nutrients.

Rutabagas will keep for months in a cool dry storage place.  They store well in plastic bags in a refrigerator or cold cellar.

As always, to protect yourself and family from a foodborne illness it is important to wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing your recipes.

You can use Rutabagas in soups or stews.  You can also bake, boil or steam them.  They can be mashed and served as a side dish or you could stir fry them or eat raw in salads.  The Rutabaga is a traditional ingredient in the classic Michigan pasty – along with potatoes, carrots, onion and beef.  Baking rutabagas with carrots and parsnips makes a great inexpensive fall vegetable dish.

Click Here for the food fact sheet on Rutabagas.

For more tips on buying and preparing this and other fruits and vegetables, check out the Michigan Fresh page of the MSU Extension website.  Visitors to the site have an opportunity to complete a survey that is collecting information on future uses of the information and other topics to be developed.

To make a simple Michigan Pasty –

Ingredients:  1# ground beef, 3-4 potatoes chopped small, 3-4 carrots, 1 small rutabaga chopped small, 1 onion diced, S&P to taste and pie pastry.  I do purchase pre-made pie crust which makes this so easy!  You can brown the ground beef with the onion, and even parboil the potatoes, rutabaga and carrots for a couple of minutes.  Take the pastry and roll it out a little bit – if it is in a circle, cut it in half (you can then make four from the two crusts).  You can either layer the meat and vegetables or mix them all together. Place the filling on one end of the crust, fold over the other half and crimp the edges together all the way around – you can do this with a fork and some egg white or a little water on the fork helps to seal the crust together.  You can even get  a little fancier and crimp and braid or whatever suits you!  Then bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and until the crust is golden brown.  I do brush a little butter on the top.  Now to serve – you could make a gravy from beef broth or my family uses ketchup once we break the pasty open.  Its your call!  Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Feast with Local Food

Fall Vegetables

Local farm stands and farmers markets can help you make sure your Thanksgiving Feast supports local farmers.

The Thanksgiving feast is the perfect time to purchase local food for your dinner table. There are so many fresh vegetables, sguash, pumpkins, potatoes and turkey available locally – you won’t have any problem cooking up that traditional feast with farm fresh food.
Locally, you can find fresh turkeys from RC Organics near Richmond or Falker Family Farms near Romeo. But you need to call them right away to make sure they have enough turkeys on hand.
The Mt. Clemens Farmers Market and others are still open on Friday and Saturdays as is the Detroit Eastern Market, Armada on Sundays, and others you can check out on the Michigan Farm Market Association website to see if they are still open.
For the first time I am trying the blue Hubbard squash. The sheer size has scared me off from trying to cook the thing but then I read “how to” for these giant but flavorful squash. The secret is to dropping them onto your concrete driveway or patio to break them open rather than cutting yourself or losing a finger in the process. Once you have it smashed into smaller pieces, place the broken section after you have cleaned the seeds out onto an oiled baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes at 350-375 degrees. With the Hubbard, I don’t plan to do anything fancy other than baking and adding a little butter, salt and pepper and maybe some brown sugar after I have tasted it to see if it needs it. Not all squash needs to be served “sweet.”
Am I only eating squash for Thanksgiving dinner – no way – but I usually do the squash a couple of days ahead of time so I am not using up my oven space. You can then reheat it in the oven or use your microwave.
Let me go back a minute to the actual planning of the big event. I sit down a couple of weeks before the Holiday to plan out my menu – which can be really hard as I love so many of the traditional foods but just don’t need all of them at the table at the same time. When it comes time to choosing the dessert, I am in big trouble because I want to taste the traditional pumpkin pie, have my mom’s pumpkin roll with the cream cheese filling, have apple pie with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese, and I could go on and on. Then there is the stuffing, the vegetables, the potatoes, and what we will drink. So anyway, write down all of the foods you want to have – then start narrowing it down to a “realistic” menu.
Next, make your grocery list – and the reason to PLAN AHEAD is to take advantage of your local farmers market if it is still open. There is a strong possibility that your local grocery store may be purchasing squash and pumpkins from a local farmer. What a great time to plan a trip to Detroit Eastern Market also – as a day trip, or your first trip now is the time to go and see this historical market!
Next, I make decisions on when or what time I need to be cooking some of the foods. Again, I have real issues with the size of my oven, refrigerator and stove top. So I try to make a couple of things the weekend before like the cranberry relish, squash, pies and appetizers (if needed). This way you are spreading out the baking over several days. Oh and I almost forgot about the sweet potatoes! yum, my kids favorite!
The other thing I do contemplate, is whether I want to try a new recipe. Every couple of years I change up the stuffing – and Yes, I do stuff some stuffing into the bird, but I use a baking dish for more.
So look up the recipes you want to use, find your turkey if you want a fresh turkey and look for the farmers markets to purchase your brussels sprouts, squash, pumpkin, potatoes, onions, rutabagas, and kohlrabi. Yes, try a new vegetable!
Did I mention that also on my food bucket list is to make a pumpkin pie from scratch! So rather than wait until the weekend before, I am going to experiment this weekend with baking the pumpkin and seasoning it for that perfect pumpkin pie. Pictures to come!
What will you try this Thanksgiving? Where can you find local produce in November near your home?