Posts Tagged ‘giving back’


Strong Recommendation – A Local Craftsman

   Posted by: anj68    in community, giving back

I wanted to provide a great recommendation to my readers.  Caufield Clay Works,, located in Saint Paul, Minnesota, provides some beautiful ceramics.  They have also been kind enough to donate several ceramic dishes and plates to Alice the Cook’s kitchen.

As a note, all of the food photographed on this website is shot on Caufield Clay Works plates.  If you are looking for some beautiful stoneware, or other items, please consider visiting his online studio at

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At the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, I perform various cooking demonstrations with my assistants.  In past years, we’ve created a lot of food that needed to fill empty bellies, but we didn’t have the means to do so.  A couple of years ago, we developed a way of performing the cooking demonstrations and feeding the cast.  Last year, we dubbed the concept as The Family Table.

There, cast members could get some hand crafted meals, water, and a place for the community to connect.  We prepared a meat and vegan dish each day.  On a couple of the list serves, that I belong to, I posted some facts about the family kitchen.

  • Each day of the 2010 run of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, The Family Table served between 85-125 people.
  • On Saturday, October 2, 2010, we broke a record by serving 122 cast members in 40 minutes (shortest time for service).  We believe it was due to the cold weather.  On Sunday, October 3, 2010, we prepared for the day and fed 185 cast members.
  • MRF provides a stipend for a food budget, but following it would allow us to feed the cast through 5th weekend.  The cast’s tips and donations help us stretch the budget to feed the cast throughout the entire season.
  • Each week, Cub, Rainbow, Kowalski’s, Lunds, Sam’s Club, and Costco are all shopped to get the best prices
  • Every bowl is washed and bleached so that they remain food safe.  At the end of the run, every bowl, cast iron pot, and wooden utensil is oiled and prepped for storage over the winter.
  • All of the equipment for The Family Kitchen weighs 1750 lbs and includes two tables, tent, fly, cast iron pots, travel stove, shelving, period kitchen, shelving, coolers, etc.
  • I kept a running tally through the season.  We went through a lot of food (roughly):
    Black Beans    14 lbs
    Chickpeas        22 lbs
    Lentils 8 lbs
    Zucchini           100 lbs
    Rice    100 lbs
    Bread     65 lbs
    pumpkins    23 lbs
    leeks    30 lbs
    onions    15 lbs
    potatoes    117 lbs
    carrots    130 lbs
    chicken    140 lbs
    beef    150 lbs
    pork    72 lbs
    meatballs    27 lbs
    kielbasa    30 lbs
    turkey    60 lbs
    mushrooms    16 lbs

    I hope that The Family Table can become a not-for-profit entity for next year.  I am looking for a lawyer who specializes in filing for not-for-profit status in Minnesota and is willing to work pro-bono.  If you have any referrals, please let me know.

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Stretching your Food Budget

   Posted by: anj68    in community, Food, giving back, Hints, Uncategorized

In today’s economy, many are making cutbacks in all areas of the household budget.  Anything that can be eliminated is considered.  For many, the days of eating out everyday are gone and are being replaced with brown bag lunches.  It’s hard on a lot of families who were used to living in one lifestyle and suddenly, they need to change the way they live their lives.9017_150093804438_579144438_3443213_6130643_n

Often, the food that is cheap (and highly over-processed) is not good for you as it is often contains unhealthy fillers, high fructose corn syrups, nitrates, MSG, and/or other unhealthy ingredients which can increase behavioral issues with children and adults alike.

In an earlier blog (, I touted the benefits of buying  locally.  It is idea and helps the environment and the community, but can also hurt the pocketbook.  Below are some suggestions at buying good food, which can lead to healthy and tasty meals which help with the budget.

A couple of suggestions.  Consider finding a meat slicer (used or new), chest or upright freezer, food dehydrator, and a “food saver.”   Each of these items as well as some good food storage containers can help keep your food fresh for a longer time period.  Buying in bulk and cutting the items down to family-friendly servings are ideal.

  • A 14 lb. shoulder beef roast at Sam’s Club can cost around $22-$25, but can be cut into 30-40 steaks or 5 smaller roasts.  Roasts can be sliced up for sandwich meat.
  • Buying a whole chicken and cutting it up is significantly cheaper than buying processed chicken.  Remember, some scraps can be used for other things. Chicken backs which are usually disposed of can be used to make broth or stock.
  • Check out the local ethnic food markets for fresh fish and rice at cheaper prices
  • Consider adding more vegetables and fruit to your diet.  It’s not only healthier, but easier on the budget that processed meat.
  • Left over vegetables that may not be enough for a serving, can be used with other vegetables and made into soup, stir fry, etc.
  • By drying fruits, you can have a healthy snack at less cost that can be kept for a longer time.
  • Review the packaging and read the ingredients.  Are you buying a name brand and/or a lot of chemicals?
  • Dried beans are better for you and less expensive than canned beans.  They do require some planning by soaking overnight (24 hours) prior to use, but the higher magnesium, protein, and fibers levels will be much more beneficial.
  • Pay attention to your local store’s coupons.  Two-for-ones are great for saving money especially on items that can be used to offset eating out prices.  Pick up things you go through quickly and that are versatile so you always have items for an easy meal:  rice, pasta, pasta sauce, etc…
  • Get creative with recipes.  Some times, when money is really tight, you can take an inventory of what you have and visit some websites that specialize in recipes with four or five ingredients.  I like  You can do a search based on some of the ingredients you have.
  • Selecting a day where lunches can be made in advance.  For example:  A family size lasagna can be cut up into 12 different servings
  • Be eco-friendly and buy a water container and avoid buying bottled water.  Water is good for you, but the disposable plastic bottles are not good for the environment.
  • Date the items you put into the freezer with a permanent marker on the packaging so you don’t lose it to freezer burn and your money won’t go to waste.

I hope you found these suggestions useful.  There are other locations and resources in other states that can help families that are really struggling to feed their families.  If you are one of these families or people, visit Second Harvest Heartland or your ear food shelf.

If you are one of the fortunate ones, consider donating to an area food shelf and help others who may be struggling.


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Giving Back

   Posted by: anj68    in community, Food, giving back, News

One of the non-profits I support is Second Harvest Heartland.  Second Harvest Heartland is the Upper Midwest’s largest hunger-relief organization with a mission of ending hunger through community partnerships, and is a 501(c)(3)nonprofit organization.  They count on volunteer hours, food and cash donations.  

Last month, my place of employment hosted a Week of Service where employees are encouraged to give back to the community via donations of goods or services.  Several of us volunteered a couple of hours to Second Harvest.  It was fun and educational.  

At the end of the run each year at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, my members of my kitchen donate our tips to Second Harvest Heartland.  For every $1 that is raised $9 of food is purchased for the community.  

If you would like to consider a donation, visit their donation website HERE.  Every little bit helps and offers an opportunity to help those less fortunate.


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