Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Arturo's Spinach Banana Leaf Tamales

We said we'd do it, and here it is! As we say good-bye to March, we're leaving you with a customized, savory receipe featuring our Veggie of The Month - Spinach - courtesy of chef Arturo!


1 pound package of banana leaves, frozen or fresh (available at most Asian or Mexican markets)

2 pounds of already prepared tamale masa

Sauce Ingredients:

3 dried ancho chillies

1 clove garlic

2 whole cloves

2 whole peppercorns


Olive oil

Calabacitas (Mexican squash)

Filling Ingredients

Olive oil

1 cup chopped carrots (about 1 1/2 carrots)

1/2 cup chopped red onion (about 1/2 onion)

3 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

2 calabacitas, roughly chopped

2 plum tomatoes, cored and chopped (about 1 cup)

1 small bunch of spinach (about 15-20 leaves), rinsed, stems removed and discarded, chopped


12 ounces of Monterey Jack cheese cut into 3" x 3/4" x 1/2" pieces

Special Equipment Needed: A large stockpot with a steamer rack


Working one chile at a time, use a paring knife to cut a slit all the way down one side of a chile. Open up the chile and remove the stem and seeds. Remove as much of the veins as you can. Reserve a few of the seeds or veins for adding later.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Flatten out the dried chillies as well as you can and place on the skillet heat. Press down on the opened chillies and leave for a few seconds. Turn the chillies over and heat a few seconds more.

Add the chillies to a small saucepan and add enough water so that they are just covered. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes, until the chillies have softened and plumped up.

Reserving the soaking water, remove the chillies from the pan and place in a blender. Add the garlic, salt, ground pepper, ground cloves and 1 1/2 cups of the soaking liquid. Puree for 2 minutes, until the sauce is completely smooth. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Pour the sauce that a sieve into a skillet. Add a tablespoon of olice oil to the sauce. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to maintain the simmer, cook for 10 minutes. Skim off the foam. Remove from heat.


Cut away the thick edges of the leaves. Rinse the leaves. (If using frozen banaa leaves, rinse them under warm water to defrost.)


Coat the bottom of a very large saute pan with 1-2 TBSP olive oil. Heat on high heat. Add onions, garlic, and carrots. Saute for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and calabcaitas. Saute for a few more minutes. Add 1/2 teasopoon salt. Add the spinach and cook, stirring until just-wilted. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup of chile sauce to the vegetables.


Place the masa on the lighter green, smoother side of the banana leaf.

Lay out rectangular pieces of banana leaf. Place 1/4 cup of masa on the center of the banana leaf and press down on it with the palm of your hand to spread it out.

Place 1/2 tsp. red chile sauce on the masa, place a strip of the Monterey Jack cheese on top. Scoop some fo the vegetable mixture on top of the cheese and masa.

Bring together the two long sides of the banana leaf and fold over, tucking one edge over the other. Fold the two remaining sides under the tamale. Secure with a piece of kitchen string.


Place a steamer rack in the bottom of a very large stockpot. Add enough water to almost come up to the level of the steam rack (about 3/4 to 1 inch.) ine the top of the steam rack with banana leaves.

Carefully place the tamales in layers on the bottom of the pan. After all tamales have been added, add another layer of banana leaves, then cover the pot.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Steam cook for approximately 1 hour.

Yields approximaltely one dozen tamales.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Our Goal - Food Security For All

By Kevin Phipps

Special to the Davis Enterprise, published March 28, 2010

March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education and information campaign created and observed since 1973 by the American Diabetic Association.

This campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The theme of this year's National Nutrition Month is "Nutrition from the Ground Up." For tips on building a healthful diet from the ground up, not only during National Nutrition Month, but year-round, visit the ADA's web site at and click on "For the Public."

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in its report, titled "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2009" estimated that more than 1 billion people (roughly a sixth of the world's population) are undernourished. This means that there are more hungry people in the world today than at any time in the last 40 years.

In the United States, 49 million people are "food insecure," meaning that, at times, they lack access to enough food to support an active, healthy life. And 14.6 percent of American households do not have access at times to nutritious foods. In the "Land of Plenty," this seems inexcusable.

And lest we think that food crisis is a global problem, without local implications or relevance, there are 13,000 adults living in food-insecure households in Yolo County (roughly equivalent to twice the population of Winters.) If food-insecure children are included, this figure could be at least doubled, if not tripled.

For 40 years, the Food Bank of Yolo County has pursued its mission to alleviate hunger. During times of economic downturn, demand for its services naturally increase. Under such conditions, the "safe" thing would be to maintain the status quo, turn inward and focus our resources on meeting basic program demands. But in 2009, the Food Bank of Yolo county was on of the first in the country to become an authorized vendor for WIC (the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.)

Partnering with WIC helps us to provide substantial quantities of nutritious food to people in need, and to couple that food with nutrition education sessions hosted in our new demonstration kitchen led by our Moveable Market and Nutrition Coordinator, chef Arturo Vargas.

Capitalizing on opportunities - at first mention, that might sound like something more apropos to Wall Street than to a nonprofit seeking to meet the needs of the food-insecure.

But when the ultimate goal is enhancing the nutrition and combating the hunger faced by 20,000 Yolo County residents monthly, an organization must think outside the box. And we hope that you will partner with us, or with another agency of your choice seeking to meet the needs of the food-insecure. Working together, we can make a difference during this time of economic downturn and food crisis, and especially during March, National Nutrition Month.

Kevin Phipps is the grant writer for the Food Bank of Yolo County.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Give Your Spinach 9 Lives!

As the month of March comes to a close, let's revisit some creative and delicious ways to enjoy our Veggie of the Month - Spinach!

*Eggs & Omelets *Sandwiches* Hamburgers*

*Pasta Sauces *Salads *Smoothies*

*Burritos *Casseroles *Tacos & Quesadillas*

Comment below & let us know which one of these is your favorite. Our chef Arturo will create a customized recipe for the most popular choice & we'll post it here on March 31st!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Arturo's Favorite Spinach Dip Recipe

Check out this great recipe featuring our Veggie of the Month - Spinach - brought to you by our resident chef - Arturo Vargas!


1 cup diced red bell pepper

1 packet of frozen spinach (approximately 9 ounces)

1 8-ounce package of nonfat cream cheese

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup of diced onions

1/2 cup of chopped cucumber

2 chopped avocados

1 clove of minced garlic


1. Bring the cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add the diced red pepper and chopped spinach. Bring water back to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and simmer until the red pepper is very soft--about 10 minutes. Drain the spinach and red pepper in a colander--pressing out as much liquid as possible.

2. Combine the cream cheese and spinach in a blender and mix for approximately 10 seconds. In a large bowl, add the minced garlic, parmesan cheese, diced onions, chopped cucumbers and chopped avocados. Mix everything into a soft mixture.

3. Spoon the spinach dip into a serving dish and serve with a tablespoon of finely diced red bell pepper sprinkled on top for garnish.

Tastes great on warm olive or cheese bread!