Thursday, October 31, 2013

A treat: MSU Bozeman Food Day

These eyeball treats grossed me out big time. But they were all part of the fun at the third annual Montana State University Food Day.

The public is welcome to stroll through the exhibits, but the event aims to provide a venue for nutrition students to share their knowledge and to allow students in general to explore healthy food options -- and get some university credits for attending.

The tables were set up in a kind of circuit course, beginning with general "what do you know?" questions, piloting participants through a variety of activities and good things to eat, and ending with an opportunity to write on a paper plate why they have decided to eat real food.

There were LOTS of healthy treats at every table!

Many students took advantage of its being Halloween and dressed as their favorite vegetables.

Miss Pineapple, above, introduced herself to me with "Hi, I'm a local food." A lively discussion followed as to whether pineapples could grow in Montana, and the conclusion was that it would take a hot greenhouse and be very expensive. But, oh well. The goal is to eat local and to eat fruit, so Montana residents must compromise here and there for good health.

The fellow sitting next to her is Patrick, who explained to me about the campus group Sustainable Foods and Bioenergy Systems Collaborative, formerly known as Friends of Local Foods, which is the name still on the website. (They could use some help updating the site; if you can, they'd like to hear from you!) They decided to update the name to reflect the real purpose of the group, which I guess makes sense to people who are sticklers about details.

Whatever they call themselves, they are a serious group dedicated to "making a difference in the Bozeman food system." Everyone is welcome to join them when they meet on Wednesdays at 6 pm in the SUB lounge on campus.

Speaking of the Bozeman food system, I was delighted to meet Aubree, who updated me on Gallatin Valley Farm to School and the National Farm to School Network. On October 24, National Food Day, 4200 students in Bozeman crunched into delicious Montana-grown apples at exactly 2 pm. Many other districts around the state did the same thing, which explains the loud munching I heard that day. (Just kidding.)

Gallatin Valley Farm to School raises funds by selling lovely red-and-beige tea towels for $15. You can't buy them online right now, but feel free to contact the group, and someone will help you get one.

Even closer to home was a table set up by the Montana State University Food Services (UFS) team. They have created the Montana Made Program to focus on using made-in-Montana products wherever possible. In 2012, they "spent $1.1 million on products that were grown and/or processed, manufactured, and distributed throughout the state of Montana," according to their website. Because UFS feeds 3600 students on campus each day (1200 each mealtime), the impact of their purchases is significant.

But as program coordinator Stephanie Hanson explained to me, the definition of "Montana made" is necessarily broad. Local farmers just can't supply everything, and companies like Pepsi, which hires Montana workers in its local plant, are included. UFS does its best to ensure its buying dollars find their way into the local economy.

I must say the sample granola bars made by the Fat Cat Bakery that caters UFS baked goods were outstanding. Lucky students! Last night the bars had been studded with crickets as a Halloween treat (and supplying extra protein, as Stephanie pointed out). The ones today had only oats, honey, and dried fruit. Whew.

What Montana food event would be complete without Tumblewood Teas? Riza and Laurie poured samples, giving everyone a sophisticated taste of the West. With snow flying outside, tea was the perfect pick-me-up.

On that cozy note, I leave you with the recipe for a gruesome albeit healthy treat (pictured at top of blog).

Edible Eyeballs

  1. Slice carrots into 1-inch chunks.
  2. Top each carrot chunk with a blob of cream cheese and one half of a pitted black olive.
Nutrition values:
  • Carrots: Vitamin A
  • Low-fat cream cheese: Calcium
  • Black olives: Iron, Vitamin E, and Copper

Friday, October 25, 2013

A little dippity do in Bozeman

I've written about Mari's Black Bean Salsa Dip before.

But you know, you really can't get enough of that "dippity do," as she calls it, so here is another quick review.

Before I left for a trip to Bozeman today, I noticed on Mari's Montana Kitchen Facebook page that she was going to be giving out samples at Heeb's in the afternoon. Oh, boy!

I arrived to find Mari smiling (as usual) and graciously supplying passing store customers with a warm cup of her black bean dip.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the dip is incredibly versatile. Mari explained today that you can warm it up and top with grated cheese; add meat to it and spread on tortillas; or eat it as is.

"My friend tells me she takes it out to the parking lot here and eats it before she leaves," Mari told me as I dipped a corn chip into my own sample. (Yum!) "I hope that isn't illegal," she added, concerned about the welfare of her customers.

I didn't think it was. But there could be trouble if everyone bought a tub of dip and took it outside to eat. The police might want to, er, confiscate the evidence and make sure it is as delicious as everyone says.

I suggest buying some and finding out how -- and where -- you like to eat it.

You can find Mari's Black Bean Salsa Dip at Heeb's and the Bozeman Co-op.