Community Food Systems Conference
Upon returning to Iowa on the 9th, it seemed as if we brought the tropical warmth back with us for a little while. January 10th was what I like to call an “open coat” day, with temperatures in the 30’s. Unfortunately, the bottom dropped again and by the 12th we were below zero again. That didn’t stop the Courtney Long and Community Food Systems enthusiasts from gathering at the ISU Alumni Center in Ames and lighting a fire for local food supporters.
This 4th annual event kicked off with registration and networking bright and early at 7:30 am January 12, 2018. Local food supporters from all over Iowa, the Midwest and even Texas braved the bitterly cold temperatures to hear about all the good things happening in Iowa in regards to local foods. Highlights of several successful projects, programs and partnerships around the state were shared and reaffirmed that our work in local foods is making a difference.
Ramping up Local Foods in Cass County
I shared at a table with several people from Cass County who are moving and shaking the local food movement in Southwest Iowa-not too far from my hometown of Portsmouth. Kate Olson (Cass County Extension) gave an update of all the projects going on from a Master Gardener donation garden to CSA’s to Farm to School activities. As a former school nurse, I wanted to hear more about the Farm to School success as the process to procure local foods can be challenging for school food service directors.
DeeAnn Schreiner, the Atlantic Community School Food Service Director and I had a great conversation on the topic. She wholeheartedly believes we are what we eat and children can’t eat nutritious food if they are not exposed to it. Local foods has helped connect her students with the food they eat–increasing consumption of healthier food choices. DeeAnn is working at getting more local foods incorporated into her menus. She said ISU Extension has been a huge help and has many resources available to make local food procurement much easier for school districts.
Peppers instead of Chips
DeeAnn gave me the idea for this recipe. She and my other table mates were all talking about using peppers instead of corn chips in a baked nacho, and it really grabbed my attention. I love baked nachos but corn chips don’t always agree with me-especially if I eat more than a few chips. I am also always on the lookout for more ways to incorporate extra vegetables into my recipes.
A few days after the conference, I made my Butternut Squash Chili (with most of the vegetables from our garden-frozen, canned or dehydrated) and thought the leftovers would make the perfect nacho topping. I also decided to use our cast iron skillets.
There are many reasons I love cooking with cast iron, but one of the biggest reasons is iron gets infused into the food while cooking-especially if the food is a little acidic, like tomatoes from the chili. Iron is also better absorbed when eaten with some Vitamin C. Many people do not realize it, but peppers (especially red peppers) are very high in Vitamin C. Even higher than citrus fruits, like oranges. Vitamin C is well known for helping the body to heal and boost immunity among other things.
Cutting up the peppers into 1 1/2 – 2 inch chunks, I roasted them for about 10 minutes. I layered on the Butternut Squash Chili (click this link for the recipe) and returned it to the oven for about 20 min. When that was nicely roasted (slightly browned/crunchy tops), I sprinkled it with about 2/3 cup of cheese (co-jack for my husband and a cheese alternative for me). One final trip to the oven for another 5-10 minutes and we had ourselves a meal to remember.
As we enjoyed our new nachos we were thinking of other kinds of nachos to try this with–Italian, BBQ, veggie….
What’s your favorite kind of nacho?