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On Your Mark, Get Set: A Stew-pendous Creation

2011 March 1

By Catherine and Chad Veeser

Here’s the situation – we’re going about this leg of the relay as a ‘group effort’, hailing not more than 200 yards from the border of Detroit.  Yes, that Detroit.  We’ve been married for a few years now, and we have a problem: we want to eat better, cook better, be better stewards of our bodies and our community but the area we live in is not really focused on healthy living.  Organic, local, and sustainable are not common words. One almost feels like a revolutionary citizen, speaking in hushed tones with friends about a CSA or a local farmer’s market.  Making healthy choices in these parts requires extra time and extra effort, which are limited resources with our toddler Nathan on the loose in our very small house.  Nathan is our main reason to be a part of the Relay and think more about how and what we eat.  Couple all this  with rookie cooking and you have the basics of a complex, yet widely common situation.  Still we dive head first into the challenge! So, when we saw Zack’s scrumptious looking BTV Beef pop up last week, our minds started running in all sorts of directions.

What does the average Midwesterner, low on options, do to cook and eat healthy, locally, and sustainably?   It’s not totally bleak, and things are certainly changing.  If one takes the time to look, any number of stores, CSAs, and markets are available.  Like many of our predecessors in the Relay, we also have the pleasure of experiencing four full seasons and the creativity that goes with cooking in each one.

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With all of that to consider, we felt inspired by the beef!  We are talking Midwest, right? Zack hit on a groovy new thread – going non-veggie — and we, too, have been trying to steer clear of bread and high sugar meals. We also had something to offer in this department.  Agreeing with each other that there isn’t a much more satisfying meal on a blustery winter evening than a stew.  It also leaves us with delicious left-overs; always a plus for a busy family.

In preparation, then, we planned our hit list.  Our first stop was the Royal Oak Farmer’s Market.  Most of the vendors grow organic and local, with the occasional imported veggie from warmer climates like California.  It was there we saw a very common sight in Michigan: dried cherries. Since we always like to have them on hand, we purchased a package from Tabone Orchards of Traverse City. That is 4 hours north of Detroit and world re-knowned for excellent cherry growing.  After purchasing our onions and carrots from the Van Houtte Farm stand, we stopped by a place we’ve been meaning to visit for some time, Peacock’s Poultry Farm.  It’s here we found the beef.  Yes, you read that right, we found beef at the poultry farm. The beef comes from Yoder Farms Beef, located in a neighboring state, but the farm is Amish and you can’t get much more natural than an Amish cow.  Our only real issue was that the beef wasn’t 100% grass fed – we compromised.

Our last stop was to choose a good local wine.  This was easy to find because Michigan has countless wineries thanks to the good grape growing conditions near the western shores of Lake Michigan.  We went with a Cabernet from Peninsula Cellars, also in Traverse City.

At this point we were well on our way to creating a cozy beef stew with our local finds; a sweet and savory idea was taking shape.  The winter warmth of a beef stew paired with the sweet summer hint of cherries would be a welcome flavor on this snowy weekend.

We’ll see you back here on Thursday for all the delicious details!

-Catherine and Chad

The Veesers reside in Ferndale, MI.  Chad is a future Jeopardy champion and District Director for the Boy Scouts of America.  Catherine is a Physical Therapist and cousin to RecipeRelay’s own Brianna Bain.  Nathan Veeser is almost 2 years old and has just received his Masters in Vocalization of Engine Sound Effects.