RECAP: Ugly Food Day at the Red River Market

As you may already be aware “Ugly Food” refers to fresh fruits and vegetables that may look a little different than the "perfect" food you find in most grocery stores. They might be bigger, smaller or a little misshapen, but they’re just as good as it’s perfect-looking counterpart, sometimes better!

Reports estimate that 40% of food resources in the United States go to waste each year, often because of the way it looks. If we wasted just 30% less food, we could feed 25 million people. At Ugly Food of the North, our goal is to challenge people to rethink why they deem foods to be acceptable or unacceptable, and to hopefully, waste less food.

This summer, we hosted Ugly Food Day at the Red River Market, an opportunity for the community to enjoy the array of local produce, beautiful and ugly. Vendors were encouraged bring their imperfect produce to the Market and we provided creative signs to encourage patrons to buy and enjoy this produce. We also hosted a Kids Scavenger Hunt where youth explored the Market, met farmers, discovered various ugly foods, and tasted a healthy recipe created by Sanford Family Wellness. After they successfully completed the hunt, they received two free market tolks ($2 value) to buy fresh food at the Market.

Over 50 kids completed the Scavenger Hunt and many families shared that this was an awesome addition to the Market and a wonderful way to teach kids about food waste and local food.

Kudos to the North Dakota Nutrition Council for the mini grant to fund this project!

ADDITIONAL: Ugly Food of the North was also featuring in a news interview on KVRR about ugly food.


Getting Hands On With Waste – A Recap of the Clay County Waste Sort

WASTE – it’s a pretty hot topic in the world of sustainability and rightfully so. Properly collecting and managing waste, and reducing the amount of trash that ends up in landfills is essential to maintaining the health of people and the planet.

This summer the Fargo-Moorhead community is rolling out single-sort recycling, a system where all recyclable materials (plastics, cardboard, glass, etc.) are placed in a single bin, with no sorting required by homeowners. Convenience increases dramatically for homeowners through a single-sort system, and the cities hope this will increase recycling participation in our community.

To get a sense of how much recyclable materials currently end up in the landfill (pre-single-sort implementation), Clay County Solid Waste organized an afternoon for volunteers to come together and sort trash from 100 Moorhead households.  

Ugly Food of the North joined Clay County for the sort to learn more about waste management in our community. These are a few of our key takeaways.

  1. Food Waste is A BIG ISSUE in our Community – As we sorted through the 2,500 pounds of trash, we found a lot of perfectly good food including a half eaten cheesecake, gently bruised fruit, packages of baby carrots, half-eaten rotisserie chickens, and countless boxes of uneaten leftovers. The total weight of organics (food, garden and lawn clippings) collected was 583.2 pounds from 100 households.  There were 14,304 households in Moorhead in 2010, and if these organic waste numbers are consistent with the rest of Moorhead, we estimate that over 83,000 pounds of organics end up in the trash every week, or over 4.6 million pounds each year. And this is just Moorhead! We really need to get a handle on our organic waste, including reducing the amount of food we throw, composting at home, and exploring options for municipal food scrap composting in our community. [For more information about these programs and ways to support growing them in our community, check out the Municipal Composting and Backyard Composting blueprints from the Cass Clay Food Commission.]
  2. Plastic Bags – YIKES! Of the 2,500 pounds of total trash sorted, 62 pounds was just plastic bags, or about 2.5% of the total trash. Yes, plastic bags are convenient and sometimes necessary, but they are terrible for the environment. Everyone can do his or her part to reduce plastic bag use. Get reusable bags and remember to bring them when you shop! Shop for foods in bulk when you can and bring your own reusable containers. If you’re in the market for a reusable bag, our friends at the Red River Market have some of the cutest in town. [Red River Market Opening Day is Saturday, July 8!] If you’re looking to do more bulk food shopping, Prairie Roots Food Co-op is open and they have a fabulous bulk food section.
  3. There’s a LOT of “Trash” that Shouldn’t Be Trashed – Of all the waste sorted, about 78% was true trash (although that does include unnecessary food waste), while 22% (560 pounds) was materials that should be recycled. This included 152.9 pounds of paper, 111.8 pounds of plastic, 93.8 pounds of glass, 88.9 pounds of cardboard, and 27.5 pounds of cans. These numbers represent the large amount of recyclable materials that currently goes to the landfill when it should be recycled. With the new single-sort system, recycling couldn’t be easier and we hope everyone will take advantage. And while recycling is awesome, remember to practice all 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
  4. Appreciate the People who Handle Your Trash – As we sorted the very LARGE pile of trash from a mere 100 households, we quickly realized what a huge and important task waste management is. The people who do this work are passionate about providing the best service to our community while doing their part to reduce the environmental impacts of waste. We are very grateful for these people and you should be too!

We hope you all enjoy and utilize the new single-sort recycling system, and thanks again to Clay County Solid Waste for the opportunity to learn more about our waste stream. We’re excited to use our big blue bins and see the impact of single-sort in our community!


Strawberry Moon Cocktails

In honor of the Strawberry Moon a couple nights ago (!!!) and the arrival of summer, we're celebrating with a cocktail made for sipping on the porch with friends while the weather's warm! Although this recipe calls for strawberry rhubarb syrup, feel free to substitute other berries or fruits as they come in season throughout the summer, or use whichever fruits are going soft in your fridge. Also feel free to experiment with herbs and spices as well--try a handful of rosemary, ginger, clove, or thyme, either on their own or as additions to the fruit. 

How much fun do these look?! I just love using fun straws to add a little something extra to my drinks!

How much fun do these look?! I just love using fun straws to add a little something extra to my drinks!


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 in. pieces (feel free to use the end trimmings that most people throw out)
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced (we used strawberry tops leftover from baking a cake. After you trim off the tops, simply pull the leaves off, and use the bit of fruit left for the syrup. See photo for illustration)
  • 2 tsp vodka (optional, added to keep the syrup fresh longer)

Combine the sugar, water, and fruit in a small saucepan. Cook over medium high heat, until sugar dissolves and syrup simmers, gently smashing the fruit on the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon as you go. Reduce the heat and let syrup simmer for 3-5 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and let cool completely. Strain into a jar over a sieve or several layers of cheesecloth. Add vodka, if using. Keep in a tightly covered jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 


  • 2 oz. gin 
  • 2 Tbsp. simple syrup
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Ice cubes
  • Club soda to top

Combine gin, syrup, lime juice, and a couple cubes ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until combined + cold. Strain into a glass, add ice, and top with club soda. Take two cocktails (one for you and one for your lover, friend, neighbor) out on the fire escape and cheers!


RECIPE: Waffles with Cacao & Pepitas

As Lesie Knope would say, "Why would you eat anything other than breakfast food?". The lady makes a good point, and is the inspiration behind this month's "ugly recipe"... WAFFLES! More specifically rye waffles with cacao nibs and pepitas! They're secretly pretty healthy and pack a lot of flavor into a typically less flavorful base. They're also hearty, which I love for brunch when the next time you'll eat is most likely dinner.

Waffles, work, and friends. But remember, work never comes first. (Waffles come first because you need friends to eat your waffles with!)

Waffles, work, and friends. But remember, work never comes first. (Waffles come first because you need friends to eat your waffles with!)



1 c. rye flour

1/4 tsp salt 

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp coconut oil

3/4 c non dairy milk

1 egg

1 tsp orange (or lemon) zest

1 tbsp cacao nibs (plus more to top) 

1/4 c veggie purée (squashes or carrots work swell but feel free to experiment too!) 



You should mix all the wet ingredients together first and then add the dry but I tend to just throw 'em all together at once and mix.

Then throw the batter in the waffle

iron and let it do its thing. 

Top with pepitas, more cacao nibs, and a good amount of maple syrup (especially since this recipe doesn't call for anything to sweeten the batter, the maple syrup really adds another dimension to the flavor!). 

Personally I advocate for a small dollop of almond butter and a couple of slices of banana too!



The Cutest Ways to Showcase Your Love for Veggies

These felted veggies cling to embroidery hoops. They're designed by Veselka Bulkan and we found them via Colossal. No they don't really promote sustainability or reduce your carbon footprint, but they are SO CUTE so we had to share. Happy embroidering!



Food Safety: The Rules of Refreezing

photo by Cathryn Erbele

photo by Cathryn Erbele

We are all about eating bruised food and ignoring sell by dates when the food smells perfectly fine. But that being said, we do want to help you re-use that food without getting you sick. So here Food 52 breaks down rules for re-freezing. We've summarized the most important points below!


1. Only re-freeze food that has thawed in the refrigerator. If it has thawed anywhere else, use it up. "... since bacteria grows rapidly once thawed, you should cook or refreeze the food as soon as possible. A good general time frame is within 48 hours of thawing, depending on the food." 


2. Refreeze food 48 hours after thawing or less. Aka don't refreeze food that you thawed a week ago. ESPECIALLY meat. 


3. It is safe to thaw raw foods, cook them, then refreeze the cooked version. This one is pretty self-explanatory.


4. Refreeze only once. Yes, I'm talking to you who wanted to make chicken but all the breasts were frozen together so you thought you could thaw them all and then refreeze the ones you didn't end up cooking.


And finally, Food 52 also mentions a few super helpful tips that we wish we had thought of ourselves but didn't so here they are: 

Anything that isn't delicious frozen the first time won’t be good refrozen, either. So soft cheese and milk are out.

Upon freezing, ice crystals puncture the cell walls of these foods, breaking down the emulsions. So those creamy sauces and emulsions won't be the best after that second time in the freezer.



TEDxConcordia College: An Interview with Megan Myrdal

Ever been inspired by a TED Talk? Or been to a TEDx event and thought "This is awesome"? Us too! So when our co-founder Megan got a chance to speak at one, she (way more eloquently than this) was like "HELL YES" because we're passionate about sharing why the local food system matters.

So earlier in April Megan gave a TEDx talk at TEDxConcordia. We thought it'd be an awesome experience to reflect on and inspire others. Here are Megan's thoughts.


Q: How did the opportunity arise?

In early December 2015 Concordia College sent an invitation for current students, college alumni and faculty to submit a proposal to speak at the first TEDx Concordia College. As an alumni and current adjunct faculty of Concordia, I jumped at the opportunity to submit to speak about my passion - ugly food! I was notified in early February that my proposal was accepted. I spent the next two months working with a stellar team of student organizers who helped me develop my talk and feel prepared for the big day - April 7!



Q: Were you nervous? What was going through your mind during the talk?

I have to admit I was quite nervous. I was a speech kid in high school but it had been quite a long time since I’d given a talk of this nature. I decided to go sans notes so it took a long time to memorize - a 15 minute monologue is a good amount of information to commit to memory. Basically if you saw me at any time in the two weeks prior to the talk, I was more than likely running lines in my head. Sometimes, I’d pretend I was talking on my phone while walking home from class and I was actually reciting my talk. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do! During the talk I was pretty focused on the goal of adequately conveying my points and engaging with the audience on the importance of food waste. But, I was definitely thinking about what was coming next in my talk and being prepared for transitions.



Q: If there was only one takeaway from the talk, what would it be?

The title of my presentation was called “The Way You Look At Food Can Change the World.” I truly believe this to be true. If we begin to look at food as more than just a thing. If we start to think of food as a relationship: look at all the people, all the resources, all the time; all the energy, and all the life that goes into producing every single bite of food we eat - it brings our level of respect and appreciation for food to another level. And with respect and appreciation for food’s significance, it becomes much harder to throw any food in the trash.



Q: What advice do you have for others giving a TEDx talk?

I do quite a bit of public speaking but a TEDx talk was something totally different for me. It’s a much more staged speaking engagement than I think most are used to. What helped me was practicing aloud, A LOT and also enlisting friends and family to listen to the talk and provide pointers. Things can come across one way in your head, but may not be conveyed the same to others. Essentially, it’s the age old rule of public speaking: practice practice practice!

I’d also recommend that if you have the opportunity to give a TEDx talk, seize it! The process is challenging and exhilarating, and when you are finished, you definitely feel like you’ve accomplished and been part of something truly special.


Thanks Megan! And thanks Morgan Schleif for these great photos! Killer event.


Pizza! April's Ugly Recipe is Gooey

Something I've started loving to make? Homemade pizza. Don't get me wrong, going out for pizza is good too. But figuring out how to make a really great crust, and topping it with everything your heart desires (without having to pay extra for a single topping), well you just can't beat it.

Something else that's wonderful about homemade pizza? You can make it pretty ugly and it still tastes amazing. And I don't just mean aesthetically ugly (let's be honest... no perfectly round pies are coming from me). You can top it with leftovers, with veggies that are just on the cusp of going bad, you can even use a combination of flours (for example, rice flours are awesome because they are so fine and tender)! Plus, whether it's the dead of winter and you're using herbs you've dried, or the peak of harvest season and those herbs are fresh out of the ground, it's gonna be good. In other words, pizza celebrates all the values we hold at Ugly Food of the North - delicious food, sustainable habits, and none of it will end up going to waste!

Dough makes 2 medium pies.



3 cups flour (we used North Dakota wheat!)

1 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoons dry active yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/4 cups water (or a little more if you're using heavier flour like whole wheat)


Veggies, meat, cheese, and sauce of your choosing! For this pie we've got an avocado sauce, shredded chicken, peppers, onions, spinach, and goat cheese with a few crumbles of parmesan to top her off. Don't be afraid to experiment with combinations like sweet potatoes, onions, and fennel, or brussels sprouts, pancetta, and a balsamic glaze. Or go simple with San Marzano tomatoes blended with salt and pepper, under a bed of mozzarella, and a few leaves of basil.



To make the dough: Stir water, yeast, and honey together. Let sit until bubbly (about 5-7 minutes). Slowly add the flour and salt mixture and knead until combined. Let it rest for a few minutes while you prepare those toppings.

It's a pretty simple recipe but make sure that you really work the dough so that there are lovely pockets of air in there and get that oven HOT (just like you).

It's a pretty simple recipe but make sure that you really work the dough so that there are lovely pockets of air in there and get that oven HOT (just like you).

Cooking the pizza: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for an hour with a pizza stone on the middle rack. (Yes this seems long but trust us... you want a really hot oven.) Roll out your dough, top it with your favorites, and slide it on the stone. Bake at 500 for 4 minutes, then switch to broil for 3 min. (to get that cheesy nice and melty and browned). Take out, slice, and enjoy! 


The Connection Between Farmers & Charitable Feeding

Caroline's Reflections and conversation from behind the bar at the Ugly Food Farmer Panel.

It's basically a fact that local food conversation pairs well with a local beer. The Ugly Food Farmer's Panel was no different - attendees sipped on an assortment of craft brews donated by Fargo's own Drekker Brewing Company while discussing the different farming practices used in our area. As the entry way to the Rourke began to fill, the growlers began to empty, and conversation took a turn towards agriculture. The 70-minute panel discussion touched on many farming issues such as the use of conventional farming techniques, food policy and nutrition, and consumer responsibility (Check out the full event recap blog here). Yet, I found the most intriguing conversation came to me from behind the bar. 

As a social servant working to end hunger (I currently work as the volunteer coordinator for the Great Plains Food Bank), I jumped at the opportunity to speak with two attendees, Nick and Lindsay, who also work within the charitable feeding network. It was no easy task juggling my duties as drink-server extraordinaire and maintaining a conversation about food justice, but no one went thirsty on my watch! We discussed the importance of nutrition when addressing food insecurity and how charitable feeding is trending towards incorporating nutritional policy.

According to Feeding America, almost two-thirds of food pantry clients use their services on a monthly basis, resulting in an ethical obligation for these organizations to provide healthy food to clients.

Food banks acquire most of their donations through industrial food donors, so as the food industry becomes less wasteful, a decline in shelf-stable charitable food donations is inevitable. Therefore, it is important for food banks and pantries to develop relationships with local farmers in order feed clients with healthy foods. The future of charitable feeding is starting to look local, fresh, and maybe even a bit ugly!

Join Ugly Food of the North to learn more about the area's charitable feeding network, the Great Plains Food Bank on Tuesday, April 5 at 5:30 p.m. for a tour and volunteer opportunity. Click here to RSVP and additional details. 

Farming in the Red River Valley - Insight from four area farmers

In the short essay, "The Pleasure of Eating," Wendell Berry makes a profound statement that is widely quoted today: “Eating is an agricultural act.”

Berry, a novelist, activist, environmentalist and farmer has been speaking and writing about food, agriculture and environmental issues for decades. When Berry called the act of eating an agricultural act, he meant every human is involved in agriculture, whether directly or indirectly, because what we eats affects the way land is treated every day.  

This quote and theme was deeply apparent at the Ugly Food Farmer Panel on March 20 at the Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead, Minn. A packed audience of community members joined Ugly Food on a Sunday afternoon to share in a community conversation with four area farmers:



  • Amber Lockhart, Heart and Soil Farm - Diversified vegetable grower near Grandin, ND
  • Nick Vinje, Vinje Farm - Diversified conventional farmer near Gardner, ND
  • Lynn Brakke, Lynn Brakke Organic Farms Certified organic blue corn, soybeans, alfalfa, barley and Angus beef near Comstock, MN
  • Pete Nielson, Dirt Head Microgreens - Indoor microgreen/urban farmer - Fargo

North Dakota Representative Joshua Boschee moderated a thought-provoking discussion between farmers and the community regarding how food is grown and produced in the Red River Valley. While each respective farm varied in production style, products, markets and farming philosophies, all articulated a shared goal: to grow healthy food for a healthy community for healthy planet.

Each farmers shared valuable insights about how they manage and operate their farms on a routine basis, how farm decisions are made, and how they get their food from field to market. The audience asked a range of questions dealing with big agriculture topics (GMOs) to more personal questions such as how do I make good food choices for myself and my family? Here are a few key Ugly Food takeaways from our area farmers:

  1. Talk to a Farmer: Interested in knowing more about your food? Ask a farmer. No one knows more about how food is grown than those who grow it.
  2. Vote with Your Fork: If you want more local food, buy local food. If you want organic, buy organic. The more we ask (or demand) local produce, the more likely we are to get it. Support farmers markets. Purchase a share of a CSA. And ask grocery stores and restaurants if they have local food and buy it. More demand → more supply!
  3. Support New Farmers: If you’re looking to support the sustainable agriculture movement and our local farmers, the simplest solution is to buy their food! Also, invest time into learning about programs working to train and support future farmers such as Farm Beginning Program and FARRMS Intern ProgramFinally, talk to the decision-makers and get to know your elected officials. As the Fargo-Moorhead community strives to be a place that support entrepreneurs, let’s develop ways to support emerging farmers and farm entrepreneurs. As Amber Lockhart so eloquently put it, “Carrots work better than sticks.” We need to create more incentives for young people to join the farming profession.
  4. Food Issues are Not Black & White: There’s no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to the questions regarding food and agriculture today. There is a wide, WIDE spectrum of how food is grown and produced in our area and around the world. Are some practices and food choices more sustainable? Sure. Are some farmers growing healthier food for a healthier planet? Of course. Should we support these operations as best we can so they can continue to grow? Absolutely! However, it is important that we avoid villainizing or pitting one form of agriculture against another. Almost all forms of agriculture are a product of a system - a system that incentivizes certain crops, provides insurance, and develops market places, for some and not others. We live in a community surrounded by production agriculture. Are the dozens of 6,000+ acre corn and soybean operations likely to convert to organic, diversified cropping/livestock systems tomorrow? Probably not. But can we continue to support market places that value diversification, local and sustainable? Absolutely! Can we talk with our decision makers about programs that promote soil health and land preservation? Most definitely. And can we use our food dollar to support our food values? Every. Single. Day.

    A special thanks to our farmers: Pete, Amber, Lynn and Nick for their willingness to share their passion and livelihood with our community. Thank you to Joshua Boschee for facilitating such a great discussion. Thank you to Drekker Brewing Company for generously donating delicious craft beer to compliment our conversation. And finally, thank you to the community for engaging with us. We truly believe in the power of thoughtful, important conversation, and that meaningful conversations can build significant change. This conversation showed a lot of promise for a bright food future in the F-M area.

How do we extend the FM growing season? A tour through Concordia's High Tunnel

Area farmers, community gardeners and local food system activists toured the Concordia College high-tunnel on March 2 to learn more about season extension, the workings of a high-tunnel structure and how to grow more food in & around our Fargo-Moorhead (F-M) community.

According to, a strict definition of a high-tunnel does not exist, and the terms high-tunnel and hoop house are often used interchangeably. A basic definition of a  high-tunnel is a plastic-covered (polyethylene) structure that creates an improved growing environment. High-tunnels aid food production by extending the growing season (i.e. increased temperature in the high-tunnel), by providing protection from the elements (wind, hail, heat, etc.), and by creating a more-stable system to decrease the risk of crop loss and failure.

But how cool is this?! The Concordia high-tunnel is heated through a solar air system - solar panels capture energy from the sun that heats air through tile lines below the soil! Tour leads Tyler Franklin (high-tunnel manager), and garden interns Joleen Baker and Solvei Stenslie informed attendees that this structures has allowed temperatures to reach the mid-70s this winter season and they anticipate putting food into the ground shortly.

It was apparent from the large and diverse number of tour participants that there is great interest in the F-M community on how to maximize the growing season and increase food production within our urban environment. Some tour participants were farmers who already own high-tunnels and wanted to converse about maximizing the use of their structure. The Growing Together Network (one of Fargo-Moorhead’s community gardening program) is exploring various season extension structures, and are interested in seeing the possibilities with a high-tunnel vs. a greenhouse. Members of the Cass Clay Food System Advisory Commission (the F-M metro areas food policy council) are exploring policies and ordinances that promote or prohibit urban agriculture practices. They were interested in discussing the process Concordia went through to build this structure with city officials. But even better was the fact that not all the participants were directly involved in agriculture at the time, which means that interest for sustainable practices, urban agriculture, and fresh, local food is on the minds of many in our community!

March for Scones!

It's finally warming up a bit in Fargo and the green smoothies are already being blended. But that doesn't mean we can't take advantage of some down home cooking - I've been feeling biscuits lately but scones are basically biscuits that make me feel British while eating so scones it is!


So the best part about scones is that when you find a recipe that isn't finicky you can really adapt it to whatever mood you're in... or to what ever ingredients are on hand.


My favorite base includes an egg because I feel like it just makes the dough so much more manageable for non-pastry chefs (like myself). Make sure to not over-mix dough like this - you don't want to actually melt the butter and lose that amazing flakey texture scones are supposed to have. So without further ago, here goes nothing!



1 and 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole rye flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 egg
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 

(Optional: Mixins like coconut flakes, strawberries and rhubarb, blueberries, chocolate chips... make sure there isn't more than about 1 cup of mixins.)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a flat surface with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the butter and use a pastry cutter or two knives to work the oil into the flour. Add the egg, your mixins, and toss to combine. Create a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the cream and vanilla extract. Scoop the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl and fold over the wet ingredients. Repeat this just until the mixture is combined. Do not over mix the dough. Firmly pat the dough into a large circle on the prepared surface, making it about 2″ thick. Cut the dough into eight triangular segments and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 min until scones are brown around the edges and firm to the touch.

Drizzle with honey, Nutella, jam, or sift powdered sugar over the top.

Enjoy! And let's hope this nice weather stays on for awhile so you can eat those scones with the window open as the breeze wafts in.

February's Ugly Food Recipe: Italian Vegetable Soup

Apparently, 2015 was the year of "bowl food." Seems like a bit of a strange thing, to dedicate a year around eating food out of a specific vessel, but I was all about it. Mostly, because I've always been all about it. It seems like the foods that I crave most often, and therefore cook most often, are all at their best when served in bowls: curry, pasta, oatmeal, stir fry, salads, and, of course, soup.

In my kitchen, soup is a necessity, and there's almost always a big pot of it in my fridge. I love that I can make a big batch and have lunch (and often dinner!) for the whole week. I love that the flavors mellow and deepen as the week goes on. But most of all, I love that making soup lets me use up all kinds of leftover ingredients that would otherwise get forgotten.

This recipe has become a go to in my life, mostly because I almost always have the core ingredients on hand, and I can add or subtract ingredients, based on what I'm trying to use up. Since I (mostly) cook for just myself, it seems like I always have a half-container of salad greens, a few lemons, several containers of fresh herbs, and some wilty celery that I'm trying to get rid of, and this is the perfect way to do it. When I feel like going all out, or when the Red River Market is in season, I'll make a grocery run for fennel and artichoke hearts, but it tastes just as good without them. One thing that you can't go without: topping your piping-hot bowl of soup with fresh herbs and grated Parmesan at the end. Trust me.

Italian Vegetable Soup

  • 2 - 3 handfuls sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 - 3 Tbsp butter, ghee, or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 - 4 ribs celery, chopped (if your celery has leaves, use those too!)
  • 4 - 5 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3 - 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 - 3 diced potatoes (sweet potatoes add a nice subtle sweetness, but use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3 cups diced fresh tomatoes (or one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes)
  • 3 cups cooked white beans (or two 15-ounce cans, drained)
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (bonus points if you make your own!)
  • 5 - 6 cups loosely packed, chopped greens (baby kale and arugula work well, but again, use whatever you have on hand)
  • Handful of fresh chopped Italian herbs (parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, fennel) or 1 - 2 Tbsp. dried herbs
  • juice of half a lemon, plus more to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast, if you're dairy free or vegan)
  • OPTIONAL: 1 cup artichoke hearts, 1 finely chopped fennel bulb

In a small bowl, cover the sun-dried tomatoes with boiling water. Set aside.

In a large stock pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, carrots, celery, a pinch of salt, and a few turns of fresh black pepper. Cook until soft, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, potatoes, and if using, the fennel bulb. Cook until the potatoes have lost their "crunch," about 3-5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, white beans, artichoke hearts, if using, and the stock, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat, so that the soup is just simmering.

Remove the sundried tomatoes from the water, being sure to reserve the liquid. Chop the sundried tomatoes, and add them and their soaking liquid to the pot.

Add the greens, and the herbs. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Garnish with chopped herbs, grated cheese, and/or lemon zest.


This recipe yields a generous 10 cups soup, which is more than enough for a week of lunches for one person, or enough for a good friendly dinner party. If you're going the dinner party route, have one friend bring a good crusty bread, another bring a fresh salad, and another bring a bottle of red wine. Communal eating, FTW!

Event Recap: Composting Panel

Junkyard beer accompanied our panel perfectly.

Junkyard beer accompanied our panel perfectly.

There was beer from Junkyard. There were three knowledgable community rockstars. And there was a great conversation about composting.

Ugly Food of the North’s February event was a community panel discussing the basics of composting, how to do it in small spaces, winter composting (because we live in Fargo-Moorhead after all), and how to build your own compost bin. A full house joined Ugly Food of the North at The Rourke Art Museum in Moorhead to hear insights from three local composting experts.

While we hate the idea of any food being wasted, we know some waste is inevitable. So what do you do with food scraps like apple cores or banana peels?

Composting is the decomposition of leaves, grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, and other organic waste by bacteria, fungi, worms, and other organisms. These organisms feed on this organic material and break it down into simpler organic compounds. Composting has been shown to introduce important nutrients into soil and prevent excess waste from building up in landfills.

Attendees even brought us food scraps for a composting demo!

Attendees even brought us food scraps for a composting demo!

Stephanie Reynolds (Clay County Solid Waste) shared the basics of composting and detailed the importance of balancing green material (grass clippings, fruits and vegetables and coffee grounds) to brown material (paper, cardboard, newspaper and dead leaves). The proper ratio of brown to green is key to produce the right carbon to nitrogen ratio. The decomposition of organic material (the goal of composting) is greatly increased when you have the proper balance between these materials. Reynolds shared that research shows compost that has a ratio of 30 parts carbon (brown materials) to 1-part nitrogen (green materials) is best. Also, it is important to regularly turn your compost pile; about once a week.

Takeaway: make sure you balance your brown to green material for optimal compost & turn the pile regularly.

Peter Schultz (Longspur Prairie Fund) shared great strategies to keep compost working in the winter. In order for bacteria to keep doing their job breaking down organic material, they must be warm. And when temperatures reach subzero these microorganisms are not able to do their job. Therefore, to keep compost brewing in the winter, you need to find or retain heat. Some of Peter’s advice to capture the heat: make a bigger compost pile, surround piles with straw bales, or heaping snow around the bin. Or if you’re not too concerned about keeping the compost working, you can just keep adding materials to the pile throughout the winter, let it freeze, and wait until the spring thaw for it to begin breaking down again.

Takeaway: you can continue to add food scraps to your compost in winter!

Finally, Jessica Creuzer (River Keepers) shared great facts and tips about composting and also ideas to build your own compost bin. Did you know that if you recycled everything you can recycle and compost everything you can compost, you can reduce personal waste by up to 80%? River Keepers teaches a class each year about how to make your own compost bin and provides many suggestions for the types of structures that work best for composting and are inexpensive. Watch their website for the upcoming classes.

Takeaway: River Keepers has some great community programs. Check them out for hands-on classes on sustainable living.

Some exciting news: Stephanie Reynolds shared that the City of Moorhead/Clay County Solid Waste are working with Full Circle Organics to set up a new organics composter in Clay County.  If you would like to hear more about this new composting possibility for our community, check out the Cass Clay Food Systems Advisory Commission on March 9, 10:30 a.m. at Fargo City Hall.