Tag Archives: sustainable living

FRESH Farm to Table Dinner

Buying local is nothing new. 100 even 50 years ago, buying and eating local wasn’t a choice. Everybody had to do it.

When you put it that way, “local” is far from a new concept but the buy & eat local craze is sweeping the nation and the ladies of HAP are excited about it. We recently attended a “Farm to Table” dinner hosted at La Merenda, an international tapas restaurant and a true Milwaukee gem. The dinner was hosted in promotion of the movie “FRESH,” a documentary exploring the world of sustainable farming and shedding light on what has become the industrial agriculture market.

A member of Braise RSA, La Merenda is a local restaurant with a focus on buying local. With an eclectic mix of flavors from around the world, you would never guess many of the ingredients come from our own backyard. Local businesses like Sweet Water Organics, an urban farm that uses hydroponics to grow crops, make it possible for restaurants like La Merenda to support the cause.

Executive Chef Peter Sandroni prepared a four-course meal, with every ingredient hailing from Wisconsin…not an easy task for April in Wisconsin. Wisconsinites are lucky at this time of the year to escape spring snowfalls. But Sandroni mastered his courses with the freshest of ingredients and bold flavors that kept us wanting more. When we asked about our favorite seasonal dish, the Butternut Squash Ravioli, we found that not only does he buy local for that dish as well, but Sandroni houses the squash in the basement of his house to ensure he has enough! We were also treated to sustainably produced wine at each course, expertly paired by local sommelier, Nate Norfolk.

Don’t think that you can make a restaurant style meal using all local ingredients? Check out the menu and you’ll be amazed at what you can find.

Course 1: Toasted Goat Cheese Salad
Honey Goat Cheese: Montchevre Belmont, WI
Mixed Greens: Sweet Water Organics, Milwaukee
Pancetta: La Quercia Norwark, IA
Wine: 2008 Tangent Sauvignon Blanc – Edna Valley, CA

La Merenda Toasted Goat Cheese Salad

Course 2: Spinach Ravioli in Rosemary Cream Sauce
Spinach: Pinehold Gardens Oak Creek, WI
Ricotta: Grande Cheese Brownsville, WI
Cream: Sassy Cow Creamery Columbus, WI
Rosemary: from Peter’s house!
Parmesan: Sarveccio Plymouth, WI
Wine: 2005 Vitanza Chianti Colli Senesi – Tuscany, Italy

Course 3: Braised Pork with Mushroom and Blue Cornmeal Polenta
Pork: Wilson Farm Meats Elkhorn, WI
Prosciutto: La Quercia Norwark, IA
Carrots: Tipi Produce Evansville, WI
Onions and Mushrooms: River Valley Farm Burlington, WI
Blue Corn Meal: Pristine View Farm Hillsboro, WI
Half and Half: Sassy Cow Creamery Columbus, WI
Asiago: Belgioso Denmark, WI
Wine: 2008 Ecologica Syrah/Malbec – La Rioja, Argentina

La Merenda Milwaukee Braised Pork with Polenta

Course 4: Chocolate Hickory Nut Crème Brulee
Chocolate: Omahene Milwaukee, WI
Cream: Sasssy Cow Creamery, Columbus WI
Eggs: Yuppie Hill Farm Burlington, WI
Hickory Nuts: Twin Hawks Hillsboro, WI
Wine: NV Lautenback’s Orchard Country Sweet Black Cherry – Fish Creek, WI

La Merenda Chocolate Creme Brulee

Similar to Food Inc and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, FRESH digs in and asks viewers to reconsider where their food comes from and why they buy what they buy.  Without being all doomsday-style, FRESH will definitely make you think twice about what you eat and how even small decisions with your dollar might cause corporations to listen up.

We were also thrilled to see a fellow Milwaukeean, Will Allen of the Growing Power urban farming initiative, play a prominent and truly inspirational role in the film.  If you thought “farm” and “city” can’t go hand-in-hand, think again.  Based in a rough Milwaukee neighborhood, Growing Power’s two acre headquarters is home to 6 greenhouses, aquaponics stations, beehives, hen houses, goats, a compost center and more. We can’t wait to check out their goods at the Fox Point Farmer’s Market and hope to pop by HQ sometime soon.

How do you get involved with this Fresh movement? What are your favorite “fresh” places to eat? Share your ideas here or get more involved by hosting your own farm to table event with ideas from the FRESH community.



Filed under Fab Finds

33 Ways to Go Green Today

Earth Day 2010Happy Earth Day!  We’ve compiled a slew of easy ways to be more eco-conscious this year, along with our favorite tips and products to help you do it. Don’t be overwhelmed by the long list – a lot of the ideas are very doable with a little extra effort.  Bonus: many of these simple switches are budget-friendly too!

Also, don’t forget to check out more tips from our readers in the giveaway comments from Monday’s post and leave your own comment as an entry to win.  We’re thrilled to hear that a lot of you are pretty green already and we’ll be picking one lucky green winner tomorrow.

Ways to Be Eco-Friendly

33 Ways to Go Green Today
1. Switch to reusable bags and stash one in your purse or car. (our faves: Envirosax…find your style here)
2. Make your own baby food.
3. Use biodegradable pet poo bags.
4. Start a compost pile.
5. Join a CSA.
6. Support your local farmer’s market.
7. Switch to eco-friendly cleaning products or make your own!
8. Consider a hybrid car.
9. Walk or bike more .
10. Turn the lights off or switch to energy star bulbs.
11.Start switching to organic produce.  Start by spending just $10 a week on organic.
12. Plant a garden. Don’t have a yard? Try a windowsill herb garden!
13. Switch to chemical-free/organic bath & beauty products (our faves: Alba Sea Plus Renewal Cream, Burt’s Bees Deep Pore Scrub, Method hand soaps)
14. Recycle! Toss a bin in your kitchen or pantry to make it easier.
15. Use fans instead of air conditioning.
16. Know a hunter/fisherman? Live with one? Eat and share sustainably-caught fish or grass-fed, organic meat (bet you never thought about sportsman that way!).
17. Use cloth diapers.
18. Redo that room using low VOC paints.
19. Eat at least 1 meatless meal per week. (try this pizza)
20. Discontinue unnecessary mail such as bills that you pay online or spam.
21. Use rechargeable batteries.
22. Replace paper napkins with a stack of cheap cloth napkins & dishrags. Buy enough for your family for at least a week.
23. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
24. Turn off appliances like TVs & computers when you’re not using them.
25. Plan your meals so you don’t waste food!
26. Create a rain barrel in your yard for watering your garden.
27. Carpool or take public transportation.
28. Switch to energy star rated appliances. (bonus: you’ll get a tax credit!)
29. Donate gently used items to Goodwill, consignment shops or other charitable organizations.
30. Hang your laundry outside to dry.
31. Use a man-powered lawn mower.
32. Fill up your own water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
33. Skip the to-go coffee cup and buy a reusable travel mug. (bonus: most places will give you a discount for using one)


Filed under Cook, Fab Finds, Family, Garden

GIVEAWAY!: Organic, Shaken & Stirred Cocktail Book

Here at HAP, we’re pretty big on finding ways to be sustainable, budget-friendly and fabulous all at once. So with Earth Day coming up on Thursday, we’re dishing up a full week of earth-friendly posts and we’re kicking things off with a great GIVEAWAY!

One lucky reader will win a copy of Organic, Shaken and Stirred by Paul Abercrombie, which is full of delectable cocktail recipes featuring organic ingredients and organic alcohols. To enter, just leave a comment telling us one thing you’re doing this year to be more eco-conscious and we’ll pick a winner this Friday.

Organic, Shaken & Stirred, Organic Cocktail Recipes

Paul also gave us the insider scoop on extending organic from your plate to your glass and a sneak-peek at one of the recipes in his book (which sounds perfect for a summer BBQ!):

1. Give us your one minute bio.
I first became interested in mixology – beyond the teenage tippler’s sloshing rum into a half-empty can of Coke – during a trip to Italy. My then-girlfriend-now-wife Gail and I happened into the beautiful lobby bar of the Grand Hotel in Florence and asked the bartender to suggest a drink. “Negroni”, he said. At the first sip, we were hooked. Pleasingly bitter and sweet and tart all at once, Negroni was a revelation. For months after it was pretty much our house cocktail.

Of course, this was the only grownup drink I knew how to make. I began to seek out recipes new and old, and fresher, better-tasting ingredients for cocktails. Eventually, I connected with West Coast mixologists who were among the first to emphasize organic fruits, vegetables, and even spirits in their cocktails. As soon as I tasted these drinks, I was hooked all over again.

2. How did you get interested in organic cocktails and what inspired you to write a book?
My interest in organic cocktails was in many ways an extension of my interest in organic foods. As organic and farm-fresh foods began to take off some years ago, I noticed a disconnect at restaurants. Here you’d sit, enjoying a delicious meal of fresh, in-season foods, yet in the cocktail glass you’d be served the same pre-fab cocktail mix with Day-Glo cherry colored ingredients. I wondered why people didn’t care as much about what’s in your glass as what’s on your plate. Luckily, I began to run into mixologists such as Scott Beattie and H. Joseph Ehrmann who were already leading the charge to bring the kitchen into the bar. I began reaching out to them (read: pestering them). Soon it was a minor obsession.

3. Organic is a hot health topic but alcohol is not exactly “healthy” per se. Are there any health benefits to buying organic booze? Are they offset by the alcohol?
True…booze, organic or not, is still booze. You’re not going to be healthier if the 11 daiquiris you drank last night were organic. Still, as with food, the advantages of avoiding alcohol made with pesticides, fertilizers or fungicides are manifold. Though spirits are distilled – which, it’s argued, cleans the potentially toxic “junk” out of the mix – experts argue that organically grown grain has a better cell structure and that its natural microorganisms encourage the process of fermentation. Let’s face it: organic growing methods are healthier for growers, more sustainable and just plain taste better. (Oh, and most fans swear that organic cocktails are a recipe for more humane hangovers.)

4. What’s your favorite “ingredient” to use when making cocktails?
I’m really enjoying playing with organic ingredients typically found on plates or soup bowls – like rosemary, ginger and carrots. The sweetness and “carrotness” of an organic carrot is amazing.

5. For the home bar, what are 3 key bar tools and 3 key ingredients one should always have on hand?
Without a doubt, my can’t-live-without bar gizmo is my OXO Good Grips Mini Angle Measuring Cup, which allows you to accurately measure ingredients without having to crank your head sideways to check your measure. Also, a good old-fashioned hand lemon/lime juicer. And ice. Don’t skimp on the ice!

With only three ingredients – an alcohol, sweetener and some form of fresh citrus – you can make any number of sours, a foundational category of cocktail that’s sort of the equivalent of rock songs built on three chords. Simple, but great. For example, a margarita is tequila, agave nectar and lime juice. A daiquiri is rum, simple syrup and lime juice.

Once you get the hang of sours, introduce new ingredients such as elderflower liqueur or muddling in an herb. Don’t be afraid to deviate from recipes. If you like more or less sour or sweet in a drink, that’s the right way to make the drink – for you.

Spiked Blueberry Thyme Lemonade Organic Cocktail

Spiked Blueberry-Thyme Lemonade
8 organic blueberries
4 springs organic lemon thyme
3/4 oz simple syrup*
1 1/4 oz organic vodka (such as Reyka, Square One or Prairie Vodka)
1 oz spring water
1/2 oz elderflower liqueur
1/2 oz freshly squeezed organic lemon juice
1/2 oz yellow Chartreuse

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the blueberries, 3 thyme sprigs and simple syrup until blueberries are mashed.  Add vodka, water, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice and Chartreuse.  Fill shaker with ice and shake vigorously.  Strain into a tall glass filled with ice and garnish with the remaining thyme sprig.

* To make simple syrup, combine 1 C organic sugar with 8 oz water in a small saucepan and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and stir until sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat and cool.  Syrup can be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to a month.


Filed under Drinks, Interviews