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Winter holiday foods

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ALISSA WEISS:  I love cookies, they're hands on, there's a lot of technique involved in them, they're really fun and easy to do with kids, they bake quickly and they're perfect for gift giving, any time of year. they're great.

KAYTE YOUNG:  From WFIU, I'm Kayte Young, and this is a winter holiday special with Earth Eats. Coming up in the next hour, we drop in on a cookie baking workshop with kids, we enjoy a hot cup of coffee on a chilly bike ride, and we toast up a batch of maple granola for holiday gift giving. All that just ahead, plus, chestnuts. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Thanks for tuning into the Earth Eats winter holiday special. I'm Kayte Young. Baking cookies is a great thing to do with kids of all ages.

KAYTE YOUNG:  You can keep it simple or you can go all out, and even the youngest children can pour a cup of flour into a bowl, or cut a shape from some rolled out cookie dough.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Georgia O'Connor and Alissa Weiss are nutrition and youth educators at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard in Bloomington, Indiana. The Hub, as the locals call it is a food pantry and community food resource center that offers gardening and cooking workshops for children and adults. They've got a spacious teaching kitchen, and one year, they offered a special pre-holiday cookie baking workshop, just for kids. About ten young bakers and a handful of parents lined the edges of the tall, metal tables in the classroom, they had rolling pins, baking sheets and measuring cups at each station. They taught three different recipes with some of the steps done ahead of time to move things along.

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  So, we're going to start by making the modern sugar cookie. To save time we made the dough ahead, but, this is a very basic cookie recipe, and we'll send it home with you.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Alissa taught the pin wheel recipe, which included specific skills and techniques.

ALISSA WEISS:  We're going to start my measuring our chocolate, we need two ounces of chocolate. So, we're going to use our scale and we're going to measure out two ounces.

ALISSA WEISS:  We're going to use a double boiler, has anyone used a double boiler before?

ALISSA WEISS:  And then we're going to put a pot on top. Has everyone had a chance for some water?

KAYTE YOUNG:  They accomplished a lot in those two hours, and, by the end of the class, each family went home with freshly baked cookies plus some dough and instructions for finishing at home.

ALISSA WEISS:  Alright, one of the favorites. Peanut butter.

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  One, two, three.

EVERYONE:  Cookies!

KAYTE YOUNG:  After the smoke cleared and the interns were finishing the last of the dishes, I sat down with the two instructors.

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  My name's Georgia O'Connor and I am the Youth Educator here at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard.

KAYTE YOUNG:  What was happening in here today?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  A lot of kids baking a lot of cookies. Kids with their hands in the dough and kids using their hands to mix up cookie dough, rolling cookie dough and learning new techniques, like baking skills such as leveling off, and sifting two different ways, where they use a sifter or a whisk. The order in which you bake things, so, dry ingredients separate, then wet ingredients.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Is this the first time you've done a cookie workshop with kids?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  Yes, absolutely the first time.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, you regularly do cook with kids though, right?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  Yes, usually the kids cook 4:!5 to 5:00, Tuesdays and Thursdays. We usually cook vegetable based dishes, and we do some baking as well, but not as often as we do the vegetable dishes.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And that's more of a drop in program.


KAYTE YOUNG:  So it's a little bit quicker too?


KAYTE YOUNG:  So you wouldn't have time for a big baking project?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  No, we try to keep the recipes for a kids' cook really simple, things that you could duplicate at home quite easily, and that kids could actually participate in. We just use fewer ingredients.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, this was a little bit of an undertaking?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  Yes, it was, but it was fun, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

KAYTE YOUNG:  How many cookie recipes did you make today?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  We made three. We made modern sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies, and then, our last was a Chicago pinwheel cookie.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Can you tell me anything about the peanut butter cookie recipe?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  That peanut butter recipe has been around for a long time, I was about 21 years old, and I found it on the back of a Dominoes sugar box, wasn't much of a cook then, but I loved that recipe, it was chewy and crisp at the same time, and so it's one of my favorites, and it calls for a cup of peanut butter, which makes it even better.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, you've stuck with that all this time?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  Stuck with it, haven't changed a bit on it, just doubled the batch is all I do, double the recipe.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Why do you think cookies are a good thing to do with kids? Or either of you can answer that?

ALISSA WEISS:  I love cookies, they're hands on, there's a lot of technique involved in them, they're really fun and easy to do with kids, they bake quickly and they're perfect for gift giving, any time of year, and they're great.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Could you say your full name?

ALISSA WEISS:  Yes, Alissa Weiss, I am the Eduction Coordinator here at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I'm wondering about the pin wheel recipe, is this something that comes from you?

ALISSA WEISS:  Sure, yes, I'm from Chicago, and there was an old cookie manufacturing company called Maurice Lenell, one of their cookies that they would make that was a classic was this chocolate and vanilla pin wheel cookie with these red sprinkles around the outside, they were the kind of cookies that you'd get in a tin with the shortbread cookie with the little cherry in the middle, and they closed down a few years ago, and, so, the bakery I used to work at kind of brought them back, and it reminds me of Chicago.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And so, there was a specific color of sprinkles on the outside?

ALISSA WEISS:  Yes, classic red pink color.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Interesting. What is your vision or your goal for what you have in mind when you do a workshop like this with kids?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  Well, typically our cooking classes with kids are only 45 minutes, and so you can't do a lot in 45 minutes with kids. So, one of the reasons was a longer session to do something, like we've done a pasta workshop for kids, and that would take a lot longer than 45 minutes, so that was one of the reasons. We also thought that parents might stick around a little bit more, and they have, they've stuck around and started helping their kids do the cooking as well, and so that makes it kind of fun to have a family oriented project.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, what if somebody says, "Well why are you teaching kids how to make these sweets, with sugar in them, and this isn't very healthy, and I just feel like you should be teaching them how to cook with vegetables"?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  We want to use fresh ingredients, instead of store bought cookies the homemade cookies taste so much better, they're fresher, they don't have all the preservatives, and I don't think I've bought a store bought cookie in several years, and part of it is just because I think they taste better and they're better for you, they're just great.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And so, all of the cooking lessons that happen here, they're not just focused on super-healthy eating, some of it's just about cooking?

ALISSA WEISS:  Yeah, it's about cooking and coming together and building community, and using our hands and tasting, and kind of associating conversation and community with eating and whole foods.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Do you find it challenging to work with large groups of kids like this when you're trying to get everybody to focus on a project? It's the end of the day, they've been in school all day, like, how is that for you?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  It's bittersweet, I mean, it can get chaotic and you can, in your mind, be like, oh whoa, what are we doing here? But then you realize the kids are enjoying it, they're having a good time, and this is kids having a good time. They are chaotic when they're together in communities, so, I love it.

KAYTE YOUNG:  How do you feel about working with a group of kids?

ALISSA WEISS:  The same. I think that it can be hectic but also very fun, and I also think, to add to what Georgia said, that do I necessarily think they'll all be able to go home and start a recipe from start to finish? No. But I think it's also about building incremental skills and exposure to it, and experience of doing the thing and having fun while doing it, and that is going to create a desire to continue to bake and cook, even if it's not an automatic "I've learned a thing and now I can go and do it," it'll be built into their childhood and experience of cooking and baking.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The other thing that I was thinking about, that so many things that I've been to around the holidays where there's like a craft, or there's cookie baking in Mrs Claus' Workshop, and you go in, and it's usually like a store bought cookie and you decorate it with store bought icing, and sprinkles maybe.


ALISSA WEISS:  And that's your cookie baking. And so, just to have this chance to do not just one, but three recipes, from scratch, all the ingredients, that's kind of a rare thing, kids don't usually get that kind of experience.

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  That's true.

ALISSA WEISS:  It's fun to build in these other skills that kids have of varying levels and have the kids work together too, which is always great to see, an older kid working with a younger kid and learning about measurements and learning about all the other sciences associated with baking.

KAYTE YOUNG:  What are some other workshops that you have coming up?

GEORGIA O'CONNOR:  Let's see, we have a pie workshop, in January we're going to do some winter stew workshops, we've done tortillas, popcorn, all sorts of stuff.

KAYTE YOUNG:  That was Georgia O'Connor and Alissa Weiss of Mother Hubbard's Cupboard. You'll find all three of these cookie recipes: the modern sugar; the peanut butter and the Chicago pin wheel on the Earth Eats website, Coming up next, a story about a classic, seasonal food, chestnuts, on this winter holiday special from Earth Eats.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Until recently, that song was really my only association with chestnuts, but, last fall, I had the chance to explore a chestnut grove for myself, right here in Indiana. My neighbor and friend, Julia Valliant, happens to be a researcher with the Sustainable Food Systems Science Group at Indiana University. She's got an interest in chestnut growers in the mid-west, and she invited me out to a You Pick orchard to check it out.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I'm a sucker for foraging of any kind really, mushrooms, berries, persimmon, paw-paw, I almost never have the chance to gather tree nuts. We headed up to Anderson Orchard on a Sunday morning in September. Peak apple picking and pumpkin patch season. Even at nine a.m., the parking lot was filling up and the playground was populated with sweater clad youngsters and their plaid flanneled parents. Anderson Orchard is a shining example of agritourism. The place served as an attractive destination for families to experience all things autumnal and seasonally picturesque. The dwarf apple trees make for easy hand-picking, they have a pumpkin patch where families can pick out their own jack o'lanterns for carving.

KAYTE YOUNG:  But, we were there for the chestnuts. Julia had heard this was the last weekend for those and we didn't want to miss out. Chestnuts aren't really the main attraction for most visitors to Anderson Orchard. Julia had heard from the owners that folks originally from East Asian countries are the primary customers. We picked up bags from a table at the edge of the orchard, and got directions to the nut tree grove.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We wanted to find the chestnut trees, do you know how far they are?

MALE, ANDERSON ORCHARD:  See that big tree right there? If you headed towards that, you've got to go just down the hill and there's a bunch of them there.


MALE, ANDERSON ORCHARD:  Or you can walk out here, go to the first road, you can turn, a gravel road, you can make the right turn on, and that will take you to a lot, and they'll be on your right side.

MALE, ANDERSON ORCHARD:  And if I was walking back there I would cut right through the trees.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, we're going to cut through the trees.

MALE, ANDERSON ORCHARD:  Yes, that's your shortest way right there. Keep walking towards the big tree.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We trudged through the rows of short statured apple trees, laden with perfect looking fruit. It was difficult to walk past them without picking, but we stayed focused. After about a five minute walk, the chestnut grove came into view. Next to the tiny apples, the chestnut trees were towering and majestic, their large branches formed a canopy, a shady sort of tall tunnel. Right away we saw a couple of women gathering nuts around the bases of the trees. They both wore gloves, and one had a pair of kitchen tongs. We introduced ourselves to [PHONETIC: Laneen] and her mother.


LANEEN:  Hello.



KAYTE YOUNG:  Are you finding any?

LANEEN:  Yes, chestnuts?



KAYTE YOUNG:  We've never done this before, so we have no idea.

LANEEN:  Yes, this is my first time too.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh, really?

LANEEN:  Yeah.

JULIA VALLIANT:  Look at all those.

KAYTE YOUNG:  That's a lot.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so you just look around?



LANEEN:  Yeah, I just pick up.


JULIA VALLIANT:  Oh my gosh. Can I take a picture?

KAYTE YOUNG:  Sure, sure, sure.

LANEEN:  They say if I shake the tree, but they're too big for us to shake.

JULIA VALLIANT:  Yes, that seems so--

KAYTE YOUNG:  Those branches are too high.


KAYTE YOUNG:  They drove down from Carmel for the harvest, and we asked how they liked to cook the chestnuts.

LANEEN:  You bake them or you can make soup, well, the chickens mix well with chestnuts, also beef is good, and you can just cut it open and put some sugar or honey on the top and put in the oven, and then when it's popped up it's very sweet. I like them roasted, but my dad already has a plan to make some chicken soup out of them.



LANEEN:  Yes. Yes, this is my first time too, my friend came over yesterday and she got a bunch, so I'm just taking whatever's on the ground. I have never seen a chestnut tree, this I my first time. Although I have always eaten them. In China they grow in the mountain area, rural area, I grew up in the city. And my neighborhood definitely doesn't have those. I think on the east coast or west coast, in China, they grow them, and the harvest season, it's seasonal. I think it's the winter time, nice color, and people just sell them roasted. I like them, yes.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes, I've only ever had them roasted, I think Americans, European Americans, usually the tradition is just roasting them around Christmas time.

LANEEN:  Oh, you actually eat this? I thought Americans didn't eat them.

KAYTE YOUNG:  It's a holiday thing, because there's a Christmas song that has chestnuts roasting.


KAYTE YOUNG:  And I've never had them any other way, really.

LANEEN:  Yes, my dad makes soups, it's just the whole thing, you peel them off and then put into the soup, and you just kind of cook it for a few hours, then it has some of the flavor. And the chestnut in itself has a very special texture.

KAYTE YOUNG:  It does have a really unique texture.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes, I can picture it in a soup, I just have never had it.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Laneen tried to give us some of what she harvested, but I assured her we could find some of our own.

LANEEN:  Oh, do you want to have some?

KAYTE YOUNG:  No, no, it's okay, we'll find some.

KAYTE YOUNG:  She tried to insist.

LANEEN:  Come on, come on, just take some.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We're good foragers.

LANEEN:  Yeah?


KAYTE YOUNG:  Thank you so much, I appreciate it, and thank you for talking to us, I really appreciate it, just on the spot.

LANEEN:  No problem.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Thank you.

LANEEN:  Nice meeting you guys. Have a nice day.

KAYTE YOUNG:  You too.

KAYTE YOUNG:  It took some hunting, kicking leaves around, and even shaking some branches, but I did manage to find a few chestnuts. Often, when they fall from the tree, they're free from their spiky hull, and you can just grab the shiny, brown nuts. But, some of them were in their protective armor, and it was painful to try to free them with my bare hands.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We ran into another forager, [PHONETIC: Juasan], she's originally from South Korea, and she lives in Bloomington with her husband, Ricky. They came to the orchard for apples, but were thrilled to find the chestnut trees. Juasan was impressed with my haul.

JUASAN:  Oh yeah, I see some, real good. Yes.

KAYTE YOUNG:  She showed us a trick for freeing the nuts from the prickly shell.



KAYTE YOUNG:  I was using a stick.

JUASAN:  See, no.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And stepping on it.

JUASAN:  Yes, you open it like this. Okay. Open it like this, okay?

KAYTE YOUNG:  Awesome.

JUASAN:  See? Look. Okay. We will open it like that.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Juasan puts one foot on either side of the nut and works it back and forth to loosen the shell. Once the nut emerges she reaches down and grabs it without getting stuck by the sharp spikes. I asked her how she prepares the chestnuts.

JUASAN:  Okay, just the bottom here, just a slash in just the skin. The skin's slashed. Then go to the oven, maybe 400°, and maybe 15, 20 minutes, that you bake them, then you can eat. They're ready to eat.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so you just roast them?

JUASAN:  Yes, I roast them, yes.

KAYTE YOUNG:  You don't cook them any other way?

JUASAN:  Uh-uh.


KAYTE YOUNG:  She says if the shell is too tough to cut she boils them, peels them and eats them plain. In South Korea, they're sold roasted, as street food. But at home she says people usually boil them. She says they're a popular food for the Korean Thanksgiving, which takes place around the time of the Autumn Equinox. As we were leaving there was some question about whose chestnut stash was whose.

JUASAN:  This is yours?

JULIA VALLIANT:  That's yours, or this is yours?

JUASAN:  I don't know.

JULIA VALLIANT:  Or is this yours? This is mine as well.

JUASAN:  I think it is mine.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes, because mine had the light ones in it.

JUASAN:  Yes, this is mine.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I'm still wondering if Juasan accidentally ended up with my hard won treasure, but by the time we got up to pay it didn't matter, there was extra at the table for purchase. Apparently, when Laneen brought her haul to be weighed, the price per pound was too high for her, she'd seen them cheaper at the store.

LANEEN:  Yes, 12 pounds, so it's pretty good. I saw they're selling them cheaper, they're more expensive here, so I just decided I'd just go to the store.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Wow, okay.

LANEEN:  But I had fun here, so, yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, it was fun picking them.

KAYTE YOUNG:  She just walked away. Julia and I could not believe it. I bought a couple of her pounds to supplement my meager collection. And, like Laneen, I too had fun at the chestnut grove.

KAYTE YOUNG:  After a short break, we'll talk with Julia Valliant and her colleague, Olivia Schumacher about their research on tree nut crops in Indiana. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Thanks for tuning into this winter holiday special from Earth Eats. I'm Kayte Young. Next, we have a conversation about mid-western tree nut crops with a focus on that seasonal favorite, chestnuts. I'm talking with researchers Julia Valliant and Olivia Schumacher. I asked Julia to tell the story of how she first got interested in nut crops, and what her vision is for the future of tree nuts in Indiana.

JULIA VALLIANT:  Yeah, years ago I heard about some research that I think was led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, where they did this big analysis, looking at the agricultural land of planet earth, and looking at all the land we have put right now to annual staples, such as soy beans and corn, and, to a lesser extent, wheat. And, their analysis looked at what could we be raising nutritionally on this land if we were instead put it to raising chestnuts and hazelnuts? Could we raise as much protein? And could we raise as much fat? And could we raise as many calories and carbohydrates as we do now? And I recall the answer being yes, in fact, we can raise more, we can feed the world better through these perennial staple tree crops than we're managing to feed the world now, through soy beans and corn and wheat, which have really harsh environmental consequences as well as nutritional and ecological.

JULIA VALLIANT:  And so that has stayed with me over the years as an inspiring story, and, just from starting to learn from the members of the Indiana Nut and Fruit Growers Association, about the work they're doing and the work they'd like to see happen in Indiana, we were able to put together an idea for a project, which the Indiana State Department of Agriculture decided to fund, to take stock of what's happening around Indiana now with tree nuts, and learn what the next steps are in encouraging more growers and landowners to get into raising these tree crops. I mean, immediately what I think of is when I think of converting row crops to tree crops, I think of the time, I think of how long it takes for a tree to bear fruit, or nuts.


JULIA VALLIANT:  People have estimated the number of years you need to wait before the trees are bearing, and depending on how you approach it, whether you graft the tree or just wait for the root stock to start bearing, it's five years, six years, ten years, and certainly our incentive mechanisms in agriculture right now are not set up to support people through that long term transition, so there are calls by leaders in this conversation to establish more ways to help people to invest in producing perennial crops on their farms. And then, there are other ways in which investors, who would like to support agricultural transitions to organic, or to perennial, can invest in helping farmers and land owners to transition what their land is raising over time.

JULIA VALLIANT:  Sort of like venture capitalism or having outside investors in your operation. I've heard it referred to as patient capital or patient investment, like it's going to take some time, or loan mechanisms where a farmer can borrow money and there are no expectations for pay back to begin at all until several years down the road, and the interest is not accruing in that time. So, you know, novel mechanisms for how to help people make that leap.

JULIA VALLIANT:  We were excited to get to go and visit a pecan orchard down near the Ohio River that was planted in 1940, this was so beautiful, these 80 year old pecan trees swaying over us, and these goats grazing through them, and lots of conversations around the promise of pecans for Indiana, there are varieties now that really can do commercially well here, lots of claims about how much money you can earn off of pecans, lots of rumors, but I feel like our research has kind of gone around and dispelled rumors one by one about the promise of pecans.

JULIA VALLIANT:  We heard about a pecan farmer in Illinois who really does have this great, commercial pecan operation, where they crack and shell and process the pecans on their farm, they have this great farm store and they vend all over the state, and we had heard that he was very systematically taking land out of soy beans and corn every year and putting it to pecan trees, because that was working out for him economically. We had heard this from a few people when we went there.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes, kind of your dream come true.



JULIA VALLIANT:  So we drive to Illinois to get this story. He's not doing that, he is not doing that.

OLIVIA SCHUMACHER:  He tried it once, converted I think maybe an acre patch, and now it's like his test plot, but it's not what he uses for production.

JULIA VALLIANT:  And what he's doing there is he's taking wood lots, because they have a lot of native growing pecans there over by St. Louis, near the Mississippi River, and he's managing them for pecans, so he's cutting out other trees and creating more favorable conditions for the pecan trees to grow in.


JULIA VALLIANT:  That's what he's mainly doing, you know, partially because he's so bought into producing commodity soy beans and corn, because he is also an established row crop farmer, and has invested his career in that, and it's hard to make the shift from letting go of your investment in that and investing in a different production system.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes, that makes sense.

OLIVIA SCHUMACHER:  We met another woman who has really taken over in stewarding her grandfather's land, on which he grew, for a hobby, for a long time, and she has this vision and has really taken the steps in connecting with local retailers, cafes and restaurants, who want to buy pecans from them, and who want to sell them, but, they've run into another bottle neck, which is that they don't want to do the work of breaking the nuts out of their shells, and so, what those co-ops have to offer is shared machinery, so that people on both sides win and that you don't have to say no to these opportunities because you would have access to the technology that you need, and things could work a lot more smoothly.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yes. That makes sense. What about tree crops and water usage? When I imagine sort of a forest, you know, like the pecan forest that you were talking about, that's something that's already established, but, when I think about almond farming in the Central Valley, California, I think, oh my gosh, that's using a huge amount of water, and that I've just been hearing about that. So, is there any, in terms of getting trees established especially.

JULIA VALLIANT:  We haven't heard anybody talk about irrigation or the trees' demand for water. They have described their management approaches, and I can't think of anyone who's talked about watering.

KAYTE YOUNG:  They're talking about mowing, they're talking about spraying, they're talking about pruning, they're talking about harvesting. With Indiana's 40 some inches of rain that we get every year. Yeah, we're not the Central Valley are we.

OLIVIA SCHUMACHER:  No, of all of the places we've been to I don't think I've seen one irrigation system set up, which is also another beautiful thing about perennials that have been established for a long time, when they're not intensively managed, like maybe 1,000 acre almond farms are in California, their roots go really deeply, and have this really beautiful ability to bring up nutrients and water from the soil that has been building for a long time. Especially in diversified systems.


KAYTE YOUNG:  We wrapped up our conversation by talking about the long-term vision that's required when thinking about planting tree crops.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We have to be thinking beyond yourself to plan a nut grove, I think.


KAYTE YOUNG:  And you also have to just start, because if you wait and contemplated it, you're missing precious time. So, I've heard a few growers say, like, okay, I just had to dive in and do it and stop thinking about it.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Well, thank you both so much for coming in to talk with me about this.


JULIA VALLIANT:  You're so welcome, Kayte, thanks for having us here.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I've been speaking with Julia Valliant and Olivia Schumacher about their nut tree research with the Sustainable Food System Science Group at Indiana University. I was excited about experimenting with the chestnuts I brought home, I roasted them in my oven, not on an open fire, and I noticed that if they spent too long in the oven they turned hard as rocks when they cooled. It must have something to do with their sugar content. So, I quickly chopped up one batch before they cooled, with the intention of grinding them into flour, which I eventually did in our spice grinder, which is actually a re-purposed coffee grinder, I ended up damaging the blades, that's how hard the roasted chestnuts are.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I made a batch of thin cookies following a Linzer recipe, and substituting chestnut flour in place of the almond flour, they were tasty, but, I realized, after the fact, that I should have either ground the flour finer or sifted it before baking with it, there were a few bits in the cookies that I feared could break a tooth. We started referring to them as tooth crackers. But the flour did have a nice, distinctive, sweet flavor. Check out all the information about tree nuts in Indiana on the Sustainable Food Systems website, we have a link at, where you can also find more recipe ideas for chestnuts.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Still to come, hot coffee in the great outdoors, and a tasty maple granola recipe that's easy as pie. I mean, it's a lot easier than pie. Stay with us.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, which spice were you thinking of--

RIVER BAILEY:  The surly long-haul trucker.


KAYTE YOUNG:  And you have several bags for different applications?

FEMALE:  Yeah.

RIVER BAILEY:  I wouldn't duplicate.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Have you ever heard of Coffeeneuring? What about coffee outside? My guest this week, River Bailey, is going to fill us in on the trend. In fact, he's taking us along for the ride.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We met up at River's place on the north side of Indianapolis, he lives with his wife and daughter in a lovely neighborhood of winding roads, mature trees, and handsome, mid-century ranch dwellings. We snaked through the neighborhood, cut between two houses to find a trail through a patch of woods. A trail littered with golf ball size walnuts, I might add. Tricky to navigate on a bike if you're, well, basically if you're me and you're not used to trail riding in the first place. But, I manage. It's a shortcut that lets us avoid some busy roads.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We still end up crossing two major roadways before we turn onto the Monon Trail, heading south. The Monon is a 27 mile path that follows a former section of the Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville railway. The Rails to Trails path runs from the town of Sheridan in the north, south through Carmel, Broad Ripple and into downtown Indianapolis. It's smooth sailing once we hit the Monon.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And, on this November afternoon, the trail is lined with the colors of an Indiana autumn.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The air is crisp, and we definitely need gloves, but, all in all, it's a great day for a ride. After a couple of miles of easy cycling, we cross the White River, then turn off the trail into a quiet park. We stop at a couple of wooden benches arranged to look out over the river. The woods along the bank are flecked in shades of gold and brown.

KAYTE YOUNG:  We are here so that River can show me his coffee outside routine.

RIVER BAILEY:  I'm River Bailey, a biking enthusiast and coffee making outside person.

KAYTE YOUNG:  He pulls a stylish, boxy bag from the wire basket attached to the front of his bike. A wald basket, I later learned, they have a following.

RIVER BAILEY:  There's three different devices, coffee making devices, and I brought a cup for you and a cup for me. This is one of the things we could use, called an arrow press, Aeropress, kind of a trendy little coffee making device for a single cup of coffee nowadays, but I think we'll do pour overs. This particular pour over is called a helix. It just folds flat, and then you'll see it expands, like so.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh, that's nice, so it's like the cone for a Melitta or something, but it's really compact and lightweight.


KAYTE YOUNG:  It's made of wire and it collapses.

RIVER BAILEY:  This is our stove, which is just a little pocket rocket, here's our kettle.

RIVER BAILEY:  Just traditionally used for camping, mostly they're titanium, it's a little titanium kettle and cups. You could use anything though, it doesn't have to be titanium. And this little pocket rocket stove is really awesome, it just also collapses, as you can see, and then expands, and then you just screw it on top of your fuel cannister.

KAYTE YOUNG:  The type of fuel for this camping stove is called Isopro, it's a blend of isobutane and propane, and it comes in a squat cannister that connects directly to the tiny stove piece.

KAYTE YOUNG:  He's got a small kettleful of water, and the camp stove is assembled.

RIVER BAILEY:  Alright. And then, so, you don't need a lighter, you've got this thing.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so it looks like a little key almost.

RIVER BAILEY:  Yeah, and it's just a fire starter.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Like a metal and flint kind of thing?


RIVER BAILEY:  Got our little kettle.

RIVER BAILEY:  And boil.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, for coffee outside, just like coffee inside, at home, the coffee is up to you. Bring your favorite roast and grind it just before you leave, or, bring a portable hand grinder, if you must.

RIVER BAILEY:  In the mean time, so that one was like a helix, it's a pour over device, and then this is also a pour over device, but, the nice thing about this little GSI clip on, it's got a name, clip on pour over, is that you don't have to use a filter, it's just built in, you can just rinse it out. Just put some inside of your clip, like so. You like strong coffee?


RIVER BAILEY:  Good. Lots of people do this coffee outside thing, it's kind of trendy now, I think, especially on bikes. I think some people call it coffeneering, which is a funny name for it. You don't have to do it when you're biking, obviously, I mean, the other day I took a hike with a friend and brought all this stuff in a backpack, and we just made coffee outside for us, and that was nice too. But, I like coffee and I like biking, so, combine the two and it's a win for me.

KAYTE YOUNG:  For me, I feel like it makes almost a destination out of the ride?

RIVER BAILEY:  Yeah, yeah, exactly. I like to do it midway, midway through the ride too, so that the coffee kicks in I guess, instead of just at the beginning or at the end.

RIVER BAILEY:  But this location's really nice, it's just a good place to reflect and meditate and just kind of get away from the city, even though you're in the middle of the city you don't really feel like it. It's on the White River, it's in a little park in Broad Ripple, and there's benches and leaves and trees, it's under a weeping willow tree which is really nice. It's just really picturesque. The river's just, right now, I mean, it's just gently flowing, and there's some ripples, the little white water ripples down to the left.

RIVER BAILEY:  The best way to tell this is done, in this kettle, is basically I just watch for the condensation and steam to start coming out of the spout. It doesn't whistle or anything.

RIVER BAILEY:  I think it's starting to steam a little bit out of there.

RIVER BAILEY:  Yeah, we'll give it a shot. That's probably hot enough.

RIVER BAILEY:  So, this particular pour over is the one that doesn't have a paper filter, so the coffee runs through faster, which doesn't seem like a good thing, but, it still tastes really good. You just want to pour it slowly in a circular motion. I've never been a barrister or anything like that, but just from what I've read and seen.

RIVER BAILEY:  It looks hot.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, it's certainly steaming.

RIVER BAILEY:  And these are double walled, titanium cups, so they won't burn your hands either, you can hold them. Yeah, this might be just enough water, actually. Alright.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I've brought my own half and half, because I really--

RIVER BAILEY:  Oh, one of those.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, I really don't enjoy coffee without it.

RIVER BAILEY:  Oh yeah, that looks good. Oh yeah, it tastes just great.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Does it?

RIVER BAILEY:  Yeah, it's really good. I'm usually not a sipper, I did that in front of the microphone. My dad on the other hand is a sipper, he sips everything. Right, cheers.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, that's nice.

RIVER BAILEY:  Decent, huh?

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah. Coffee is probably one of my favorite things about camping, so, I don't know why I've never really thought to bring coffee out on a hike, you know, coffee making supplies out on a hike.

RIVER BAILEY:  I sometimes bring it when we're commuting and traveling, you know, instead of stopping at a coffee shop or something I'll just have it in the back of the car and make it.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, I'm always pretty coffee self sufficient when I travel.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Like, I bring my own set up.


KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh yeah, this is great.

RIVER BAILEY:  And, if I have time, a lot of times I'll stop at a bakery or something and bring along a pastry or something to go with it, just to make the event a little bit more special. And there is a group up here in Indianapolis, I think it's Indianapolis Coffee Outside or something, but I've met with them a few times, and had coffee outside with the group, so it's organized. I think they do it once a month, all year around. But it's been kind of a solo thing for me.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So you spend a lot of time outside, is it usually biking somewhere?

RIVER BAILEY:  Usually, yeah, not always, we also do a lot of hiking and camping, but if I can combine biking with hiking and camping then it's a win. Because I really like riding my bike.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, would you say that some of your interest in doing coffee outside, or even just camping and outdoor stuff, do you like gear?

RIVER BAILEY:  Yeah, yeah, you've probably notice and it's why you asked that question, I'm definitely a gear-head, I'm always looking for another piece. I mean, there's three different coffee making devices right here, and at home we have even more, and I'm always looking for new bags for biking, and bikes, you know. You can only ride one at a time, but, I do like having choices. I follow a lot of people I think on Instagram that test gear and do things like that, so, it would be fun to get into that.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, that would be dreamy.

RIVER BAILEY:  Yeah, I think so too.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Okay, so let's go through all of the things that you have to have. So?

RIVER BAILEY:  Water is definitely an essential, and coffee, and a stove, you definitely want to have your stove, and your fuel, sometimes I've gotten out here and forgotten my fuel, and some kind of device to light it, so whether it's a lighter or this little fire starter stick thing, and then a pot to boil the water in, and then you want just something to make your coffee, whether it's a pour over, or these Aeropresses are really popular, you can't get much more simple than just a simple pour over.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, pour over is definitely my favorite method at this moment.

RIVER BAILEY:  And if you're really hard core you bring the whole beans and put your beans in here and use this little bird grinder. And then the coffee just comes down into here.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Yeah, and then if you're me you would have to bring your little jar of half and half.

RIVER BAILEY:  Yes. But the cup is also pretty important, one time I also forgot my cup, and I tried to make a pour over with like a plastic bottle that I found, which is kind of gross. But the bottle seemed pretty clean. But it didn't work. It worked, but it blew over when I was trying to make it, and I was trying to take a picture of it while I was making it, to prove how clever I was being, and it didn't work out. But I confessed in the post that I made it, it didn't go as smoothly as it all looks in the photos.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Well, that was a very good cup of coffee, and this is definitely the perfect day for it.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, there you go, coffee outside. Grab your coffee and your gear before you head out on your next ride or hike, find a sweet spot and brew yourself a cup. It's especially nice in chilly weather. Enjoy.

RIVER BAILEY:  Little touch for the bag, these clips are made so that the bag won't bounce out.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh, so it is made for this bike basket?

RIVER BAILEY:  It's literally made for this basket, yeah.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Oh wow, okay.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Check our website to find River Bailey's check list for everything you need to make your own coffee outside.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Be sure to look for us on social media, you'll find us on Facebook and Twitter, @eartheats, and on Instagram @earth_eats_wfiu.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So much of my holiday baking traditions involve sweets. Cookies and candy mostly. But, for years, I've also included a granola recipe, and it's always a big hit. This is a very simple granola recipe, you can customize it to your taste, it makes a great gift around the holidays.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Start by pre-heating your oven to 250 while you mix up your ingredients. First ingredient is oats, rolled oats, and you definitely want the old fashioned, you do not want to get the quick oats.

KAYTE YOUNG:  You can also make this a gluten free granola by making sure you purchase gluten-free oats, not all of them are, but you can search for that gluten-free symbol on the container.

KAYTE YOUNG:  So, you want eight cups of rolled oats. The next ingredient is chopped nuts, you're going to want a cup of chopped nuts, and it can be whatever nuts you prefer, today I'm making it with pecan, but I often do it with almonds, and this is a rough chop, I really like to have nice, big pieces of nuts in my granola.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And you're going to want one cup of chopped nuts. And then you just want to mix those nuts in with the rolled oats. I mix up my oats and my nuts in one big baking sheet, sort of a roasting pan kind of thing, it's just a big metal pan. I mix it all up in there so that I don't even have to dirty a bowl. And then we're going to mix up the oil and the maple syrup. So, it's one half cup of maple syrup and one half cup of oil. I'm using a sunflower oil.

KAYTE YOUNG:  I mix this all up in one two cup measuring cup, and then two or three generous squirts of honey. And then one half teaspoon of salt. This is also the time where you can add other seasonings if you prefer. Some people really like cinnamon or nutmeg or cloves of all spice, or any kind of spices that you think would be interesting or desirable in your granola. You're going to mix up that oil and syrup together, and the honey, and get it really thoroughly mixed, and then you're going to pour that directly over the oats and the nuts.

KAYTE YOUNG:  You want the syrup and the oil mixture to fully coat all of the oats and the nuts.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And once the oats and the nuts are fully coated in the syrup and oil mixture, then it's ready to go into the oven, and you're going to want to shake it down to an even layer, and then put it in the oven.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And once you get your pan in the oven, set your timer for 15 minutes.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And once your 15 minutes are up you're going to take it out and stir it, put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes, do that until it's a nice, golden brown.

KAYTE YOUNG:  And once your granola turns a deep, golden brown, it should be done in about an hour, hour and 15 minutes, and, before it cools, you want to add your dried fruit, if you're going to be adding any. So, that would be your raisins or your currants, or you can use dried cranberries, you could use chopped apricots, figs, whatever you prefer. I'll be using dried cranberries, and I think even the cranberries are a little bit too big, so, I usually chop them up a little bit before I add them. And just mix the dried fruit into the hot granola, and you're done. Just let it cool and you can store it in jars or airtight containers.

KAYTE YOUNG:  Fill up a pint jar, put a ribbon on it, and it's a great holiday gift. Hopefully there's enough left for you. I enjoy this granola for breakfast with a dollop of plain yogurt and fresh berries or homemade jam. The recipe is on our website,

KAYTE YOUNG:  That's it for this winter holiday special. Listen to Earth Eats any time on your favorite podcast app.

DANIELLA RICHARDSON:  Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young with help from Eoban Binder, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Samantha Gee, Abraham Hill, Payton Whaley, Harvest Public Media and me, Daniella Richardson. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from the artists at Universal Production Music. Our executive producer is John Bailey.

Vanilla chocolate spiral cookies on a cooling rack

Enjoy cookie baking with kids, and other cozy treats on this winter holiday special. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

"I love cookies. They’re hands-on, there’s a lot of technique involved in them, they’re really fun and easy to do with kids,  they bake quickly, they’re perfect for gift giving any time of year, and they’re great."

This week on the show, a collection of favorite wintery stories for the holiday season. We drop in on a cookie baking workshop with kids at a food pantry, we enjoy a hot cup of coffee on a chilly bike ride, and we toast up a batch of maple granola for holiday gift giving. 

All that, plus CHESTNUTS on this special episode of Earth Eats. Stay with us

Cookie Class

Making cookies is a great thing to do with kids of all ages.

You can keep it simple or go all out. And even the youngest children can pour a cup of flour into a bowl or cut a shape from some rolled out cookie dough.

A group of children gathered around a stove with a woman showing them a bowl. Cookies in the foreground

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard's Education Coordinator, Alissa Weiss shows workshop attendees how to melt chocolate in a double boiler (Amanda Nickey)

Georgia O'Conner and Alyssa Weis are nutrition and youth educators at Mother Hubbards Cupboard in Bloomington Indiana. The Hub, as the locals call it, is a food pantry and community food resource center that offers regular gardening and cooking workshops for children and adults.

They've got a spacious teaching kitchen and this year they offered a special pre-holiday cookie baking workshop just for kids

About 10 young bakers and a handfull of parents lined the edges of the tall metal tables in the classroom. They had rolling pins, baking sheets and measuring cups at each station

They taught 3 different recipes, with some of the steps done ahead of time to move things along. Earth Eats sat in on the workshop and interviewed the instructors.

Note: Alissa Weiss no longer works with Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

Coffee Outside

Ever heard of Coffeeneuring? What about "coffee outside?"

My guest this week, River Bailey, fills us in on the trend.

In fact, He takes us along for the ride.

A hand pouring a small kettle of water over a pour-over device for coffee on a wooden bench outdoors.
There's plenty of cool, lightweight camping gear to collect for Coffeeneuring, but you only need a few key items.

River's Checklist for Coffee Outside (with some links to River's picks):


Kettle or pot

Camp stove

Fuel for stove


Coffee making device and filter (if needed) pour-over or Aeropress


Lighter, fire starter or matches

Container or bag (to store used grounds/filter for the ride home)

A bag or pack (to carry all of the above)

Music on this episode

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from Universal Production Music.


The Earth Eats’ team includes: Violet Baron, Eoban Binder, Alexis Carvajal, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Toby Foster, Daniella Richardson, Samantha Shemenaur, Payton Whaley and Harvest Public Media.

Earth Eats is produced, engineered and edited by Kayte Young. Our executive producer is Eric Bolstridge



Stories On This Episode

Now is the time for chestnuts

close up of brown nut and leaves and a prickly shell

What would it look like for midwestern farmers to convert row crops into tree crops?

Chicago Pinwheel Cookies

Vanilla chocolate spiral cookies on a cooling rack

These stunning cookies look a lot more complicated than they actually are.

Georgia's Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanutbutter cookies, with fork marks, on a cooling rack.

Georgia O'Conner says she found this recipe on a Domino Sugar box, years ago, and has been making it ever since.

Georgia's Modern Sugar Cookie

Small hands with a slab of dough and a ball of dough on a cookie sheet

You'll find this recipe a bit quicker than the traditional rolled sugar cookie.

Kayte's Granola

Granola, yogurt and jam in a white bowl on a red background

This granola (in a mason jar with a ribbon on it) makes a great gift. But you can make it year-round, and enjoy it for breakfast.

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