Sweet Potatoes

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The sweet potato is one of only a few cultivated vegetable crops that originated in the Americas, being traced back to Peru as early as 8000 B.C. The sweet potato is neither a potato nor a yam but a rooted tuber and member of the morning glory family.

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How to Prepare:

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To prepare sweet potatoes, simply scrub the skin of the potatoes clean using a vegetable brush and running water to remove any dirt and grime off the skin of the sweet potatoes. Then cut away any damaged areas.

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How to Store:

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Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place for up to several weeks. Do not store in plastic or refrigerate. Temperatures below 50 degrees will result in off-flavors, and excess moisture will encourage sweet potatoes to rot or sprout prematurely. Do not scrub clean or wash until just before preparation. 

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How to Cook:

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You can enjoy sweet potatoes baked, boiled, steamed, grilled, or mashed.

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Information adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini

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Recipes

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Roasted Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pilau

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Ingredients

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  • 2 cups (½-inch) cubed peeled fresh pumpkin (about 12 ounces)
  • 1-½ cups (½-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato (about 1 medium)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion (1 small)
  • ⅓ cup diced celery (about 1 rib)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
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Preparation

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange pumpkin and sweet potato in an even layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until tender and just until vegetables begin to brown, stirring after 18 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside.

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Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add broth and remaining ingredients to onion mixture, stirring to combine; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 50 minutes or until rice is done and liquid is mostly absorbed. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf. Add pumpkin mixture; stir gently to combine.

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Recipe courtesy of My Recipes

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Extra Crispy Sweet Potato Wedges

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Ingredients

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  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled (or unpeeled, if you like skin) and cut into wedges
  • 2-½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
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Preparation

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Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with tinfoil (shiny side up); place baking rack onto prepared baking sheet; set aside. Peel the sweet potatoes (if preferred) and cut off the pointy ends. Slice the sweet potatoes in half (lengthwise), then cut each piece into wedges. Place the sweet potato wedges in a large bowl, then add in the olive oil, salt, sugar, seasoning, and black pepper.

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Mix well, making sure each wedge is coated with oil and spices. Arrange the sweet potato wedges in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn on the broiler and bake for another 3-5 minutes, or until they're well browned and crispy. Keep an eye here – it's easy to burn when the broiler is on! Cool wedges on pan for 5 minutes, then serve at once!

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Recipe courtesy of Baker by Nature

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Curried Sweet Potato Apple Soup

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Ingredients

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  • 2 large (1 pound) sweet potatoes
  • 1 large (8 ounces) tart apple (such as fuji, honeycrisp or Gala)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 can (14 to 14-½ ounces) vegetable broth (about 1-¾ Cups)
  • 1-¾ cups unsweetened apple juice
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 container (6 ounces) plain low-fat yogurt
  • ¾ cup croutons, optional
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Preparation

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Pierce sweet potatoes and apples with fork tines. Microwave sweet potatoes and apple on high until apple is very tender, about 6 to 7 minutes. Remove apple; set aside until cool enough to handle. Continue microwaving sweet potatoes on high until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes longer. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

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Meanwhile, in large saucepan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and curry powder. Cook and stir until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes. Transfer broth mixture to bowl of food processor; reserve saucepan.

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Halve sweet potatoes and apple. Remove apple core, scoop potato and apple pulp from skin. Add to processor. Add salt; whirl until very smooth, gradually adding apple juice through processor feed tube. Transfer mixture to reserved saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat; whisk in yogurt. Reheat just until hot (do not boil). Serve topped with croutons, if desired.

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Recipe courtesy of NC Sweet Potatoes

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Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes

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Ingredients

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  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp each cumin, coriander, cinnamon, smoked (or regular) paprika
  • optional: Pinch of sea salt or lemon juice
  • ¼ cup hummus (or tahini)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1-½ Tbsp)
  • Water or unsweetened almond milk to thin
  • optional: Sea salt to taste
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Toppings – optional

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  • ¼ cup cherry tomatoes, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley, minced
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Chili garlic sauce
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Preparation

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with foil. Rinse and scrub potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. This will speed cooking time. Otherwise leave whole and bake longer (approximately double the time (45 min – 1 hour). Toss rinsed and drained chickpeas with olive oil and spices and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Rub the sweet potatoes with a bit of olive oil and place face down on the same baking sheet (or another baking sheet depending on size).

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While the sweet potatoes and chickpeas are roasting, prepare your sauce by adding all ingredients to a mixing bowl and whisking to combine, only adding enough water to almond milk to thin so it’s pourable. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add more garlic for more zing, salt for savoriness, lemon juice for freshness, and dill for a more intense herb flavor. I found mine didn’t need anything else. Also prepare the parsley-tomato topping by tossing tomato and parsley with lemon juice and setting aside to marinate. Once sweet potatoes are fork tender and the chickpeas are golden brown – roughly 25 minutes – remove from oven. For serving, flip potatoes flesh-side up and smash down the insides a little bit. Then top with chickpeas, sauce and parsley-tomato garnish. Serve immediately.

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Recipe courtesy of Minimalist Baker

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Honey-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey-Cinnamon Dip

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Ingredients

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  • 2 large or 3 medium sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and trimmed into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons honey
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons coconut oil in liquid state (or another oil, i.e. olive, vegetable, canola)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon, or to taste
  • pinch salt and pepper, optional and to taste
  • pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, ginger, allspice; all optional and to taste
  • ⅓ cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
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Preparation

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet or spray with cooking spray; set aside. Slice potatoes into 1-inch chunks and put into a gallon-sized Ziplock. Open bag and add honey, oil, cinnamon, optional salt and pepper to taste, optional seasonings to taste, seal bag, and toss potatoes to coat. Really manipulate the potatoes around inside the bag, pushing the ones on the top to the bottom and vice versa, to equally distribute the honey, oil, and spices. Using your hands, transfer potatoes to baking tray, arranged in a single flat layer and not touching, if possible. Tip – Don't dump potatoes from bag onto baking tray because excess marinade will get onto baking tray and it will be prone to burning. Save any remaining marinade in Ziplock bag to be added halfway through baking.

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Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, remove from oven, and flip potatoes over using tongs. If desired and if there's extra marinade, lightly and evenly drizzle potatoes with what remains from Ziplock bag. Return tray to oven and bake for about 15 to 20 more minutes, or until fork-tender and done. Keep a close eye on potatoes in the final moments of baking so they don't burn. Baking times will vary based on oven variances, the potatoes and how thick they're cut, how full the tray is, and how well done you like them. Optionally (but recommended) serve potatoes with dip or your favorite condiments as soon as they're cool enough to eat. While potatoes finish baking, make the dip. Add all dip ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until smooth and combined. Transfer to ramekin if desired for serving. Dip will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 1 week.

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Recipe courtesy of Averie Cooks

Q&A on Growers’ Fare with Garrett from MSU Extension

Michigan State University Extension helps people improve their lives by bringing the vast knowledge resources of MSU directly to individuals, communities and businesses. MSU Extension helps to grow Michigan’s economy by equipping Michigan residents with the information that they need to do their jobs better, raise healthy and safe families, build their communities and empower our children to dream of a successful future.

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Garrett Ziegler works for MSU Extension as a Community Food Systems Educator. He has been one of the key players in the USDA grant-funded CSA promotion project that puts on Growers' Fare. 

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Q: What is Growers' Fare?

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A: Growers' Fare is an open house that will take place on Saturday, March 19 from 9:00a-2:00p at the Downtown Market. This open house is an opportunity for people to meet and connect with twenty local farmers to learn more about their farms, growing practices, and CSA programs.

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Q: Why did you get involved with the CSA promotion project?

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A: I got involved with the CSA marketing project because I wanted to find a better way to engage with farmers and help them to have successful businesses. I saw this as an opportunity to support their work and grow the ability of small and medium growers to thrive in West Michigan. As an organization, MSUE strives to foster collaboration, build trust, and empower local growers and this project aligns with those values.

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Q: Why do you think that CSAs are valuable?

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A: CSAs are one of the best ways to build community and knowledge around local food. There is no better way to get connected to local food than to touch the food, cook with it, and celebrate it together. CSAs allow consumers to directly invest in farms and build relationships with farmers. Considering the economic, social, and environmental benefits of supporting locally based food systems, I would love to see CSAs become more prevalent in our community. 

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Q: What do you hope that people gain from attending Growers' Fare?

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A: I hope that attendees come to Growers' Fare to connect with farmers and learn their stories. I want attendees to gain a better understanding of what CSAs are, why they are important, and how they can be a part of a healthy local food economy. I want people to come to have fun, eat delicious food, celebrate our local economy, and most importantly, celebrate our local growers. 

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Q: Who should attend Growers' Fare?

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A: This event will have something for everyone to learn regardless of their experience level with CSAs. Whether you are new to the concept of CSAs or you have had one in the past, this open house is a great way to connect with farmers, learn about their practices, and identify resources that can help you make the most of your CSA experience. There will also be free food, kids activities, and cooking demonstrations so this event will be a great learning opportunity for all.

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Learn more about Growers' Fare!

A note from the Executive Director

There are a lot of ways that people identify the community into which they belong – perhaps by geography, religion, cultural heritage, or shared experience. 

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No matter how one identifies, mounting evidence shows that communities with higher proportions of local ownership are better off by numerous economic, social, and environmental indicators.  As an example, communities with higher proportions of local ownership have:

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  • higher high school graduation rates,
  • higher employment rates,
  • higher literacy rates,
  • lower obesity rates, and
  • lower infant mortality rates.
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What’s the connection?  More local owners means more diversified financial and social capital.  It means that entrepreneurs can sit on boards and donate to causes that they care about.  It means they can tackle tough challenges and find solutions. 

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Local First exists to lead the development of an economy grounded in local ownership that meets the basic needs of people, builds local wealth and social capital, functions in harmony with ecosystem, and encourages joyful community life.  

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We believe that in order to achieve our mission, we need an inclusive community that’s full of diverse business ownership.  This past summer, the Local First staff and boards embarked on a journey of learning more about how we as individuals, and as an organization, can be intentional in creating an equitable and inclusive community.  This resulted in the formalization of a diversity and inclusion statement and a plan for the future.  You can find out more at www.localfirst.com/diversity

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Local First is strongly committed to the values of diversity, inclusion and equity as we recognize that such values strengthen our work for an economy grounded in local ownership that meets the basic needs of all people.  We believe that practicing diversity, inclusion and equity enhances our membership, advocacy and mission.  

New Dog Boutique Sets Up Shop in North Monroe

A new boutique dog store is celebrating its one month anniversary near downtown Grand Rapids.

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Fido & Stitch, a one-stop-shop for canine owners featuring a wide selection of food and toys and a grooming salon, recently opened in the renovated 820 Monroe building.

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“Our goal is to carry everything owners need to give their dogs a long, healthy and fun life,” said founder Alli McDonough.

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The Hamilton, Michigan native and Hope grad moved to Chicago after college and was inspired by the urban pet stores located there.

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“People moving to downtown Grand Rapids want that urban experience,” she said. “820 is dog-friendly, and so are many current and upcoming apartment projects in the area. We’re ready to capture that future growth.”

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Fido & Stitch is part of a wave of new businesses opening in that corridor including neighbors CKO Kickboxing and the soon-to-be-opened City Built Brewing Company. Just a couple blocks away, Gray Skies Distillery will likely be open by the beginning of March.

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Inside the boutique, customers can select from many unique lines of freeze dried and dry food from brands like Champion, Signature and Stella & Chew’s, along with leashes, apparel, luxury bedding, treats, vitamins & supplements and all-natural cleaning products.

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Fido & Stitch also has a self-serve dog wash area with a specially-designed tub, shampoo, a hair dryer and an apron. Customers can either walk-in or book an appointment in advance, or dog owners can also reserve a time with a professional groomer who will bathe, brush out and give their pooches a detailed hair cut.

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Down the road, McDonough is planning to host special adoption events with the Humane Society and partnering with places like GR Dog Adventures to provide things like dog-running training classes and puppy classes.

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“We feel we have very competitive pricing based on the quality of the service,” said McDonough. “There is nothing else downtown like this.”

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Follow Fido & Stitch on Facebook | Website 

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Delicious Local Cuisine

Make Valentine’s Day extra special this year with delicious cuisine and cocktails created by these locally-owned restaurants and pubs.

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Black Heron – A special three-course Valentine’s dinner will be offered each evening, February 12 through the 14th. Select from cured salmon, beet and strawberry salad, sea bass, and chocolate cheesecake. Gluten free and vegan options are available.

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Downtown Market – The Market has an entire weekend of events planned including couples’ cooking classes, a classic macaroon making workshop, and cocktails created at the custom 30-foot bar carved from ice. 

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Long Road – The West Side distillery will feature a five-course meal featuring oysters, smoked salmon and short ribs, paired with hand-crafted cocktails. Seating is limited to 50 people and reservations are required.  

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Love’s Ice Cream – The Day of Love’s is back February 14. From 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. all single scoops are buy one, get one free and all to-go pints of ice cream are 2 for $14.

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Olive’s – The East Grand Rapids eatery will host its first-ever Valentine’s Day brunch with a full spread, cocktail specials, mimosas and a bloody mary bar. Seating is limited and reservations are required.  

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One Trick Pony – The Valentine’s Day brunch running from 11 a.m. to 4 p. will have a special menu created by Chef Mike. Reservations recommended. 

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Pietro’s – The Italian restaurant will host Chef Tim’s Valentine’s Wine Dinner on Wednesday, February 10, starting at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $50 per person. Pietro’s also has a Fall in Love menu planned for February 10-28.  

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Railside Bar & Grille – Now open to the public at Railside Golf Club in Byron Center, the classic restaurant with modern cuisine will have a special 3-course Valentine’s Day Dinner. $35 per couple.

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Reserve Wine & Food – Over Valentine’s weekend, choose from a 3-course or 5-course menu that will highlight tagliolini pasta, wagyu beef zabuton, date cake more. Prices are $45 and $65 per person.

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Rockwell Republic – Celebrate Valentine’s at the gastropub on South Division. Contact Becca at 616.551.3563 for reservations.

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Salt & Pepper – The savory grill and pub on Lakewood in Holland will feature a Valentine’s sharing menu that will include an appetizer, wine, two entrees, dessert and a keepsake photo. $32 per person.

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Twisted Rooster & Crooked Goose – Both restaurants are kicking off their Valentine’s themed menus February 8th with a week-long Red Velvet Waffle giveaway. Specialty cocktails include Cherub’s Punch, the Chocolate Covered Strawberry and the Going Stag.

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The Winchester – Available February 12-14, the special Valentine’s dinner features antipasti for two, a frisee chop salad, wagyu beef tartare, bouillabaisse and red velvet cake. A few bottles of Brewery Vivant’s 5-Year Anniversary Ale will also be available.

Local Chef Brings Global Flavors to Grand Rapids

Culinary Expedition is a local business based out of Grand Rapids that offers cooking classes, private chef services, and hosts private cooking events. The head chef of Culinary Expedition, Elizabeth Suvedi, travels abroad at least once a year to be able to craft cooking classes that bring the flavors and experiences of different countries to you.

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Q: What is the mission of Culinary Expedition?

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A: The goal of Culinary Expedition is to teach people how to cook healthy, flavorful dishes. I want to encourage people to experiment with different ingredients and flavors in order to expand their culinary repertoire. I strive to focus on cooking plant based dishes that use wholesome ingredients. I want to show people how easy, fun, and tasty healthy cooking can be.

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Q: Do you collaborate with anyone in town?

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A: Yes! I am currently partnering with the Gilmore Collection on a vegan Mardi Gras dinner experience that will be held at B.O.B.’s Brewery. For this collaboration I will be the guest chef for the evening and I have created dishes that will bring authentic tastes of Mardi Gras to attendees. I also partner with local doctor, Kristi Artz. Together we teach cooking classes focused on educating people about the health benefits of eating more nutrient dense foods. Dr. Artz is a great wealth of knowledge. In the past I have also collaborated with the Downtown Market on a cooking series called “You Are What You Eat.” This series focused on cooking meals for specific body systems focusing specifically on brain health, digestive health, bone health, and joint health.

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Q: What role does local food play in your business?

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A: I try to buy my ingredients locally whenever possible. I appreciate supporting local businesses because I want to see more locally owned businesses thrive in Grand Rapids. I also strive to buy locally because I recognize that when you buy your food close to where it was grown, it is higher in nutritional content. Supporting local businesses allows us to keep jobs in our community and supports the local economy.

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Q: Where do you like to buy your ingredients?

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A: I like to buy my ingredients at the Fulton Street Farmers Marketthe Downtown Market, Harvest Health Foods, Spice of IndiaAsian Delight, and India Market. In the summertime, I love going to the farmers market to pick up ingredients that I have never worked with before and experiment with them to create new dishes.

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Q: What is on the horizon for Culinary Expedition?

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A: In the spring I will be taking a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Japan. While there I will be taking classes, shopping in markets, taking pictures, enjoying food, and getting the complete culinary experience. I will then bring those learnings from these three countries to Grand Rapids.

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Q: What is your vision for Culinary Expedition?

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A: I want people to feel empowered to get creative and try new cuisines. I want to bring people together around food and emphasize the joys of cooking together.

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For more information or to receive details on upcoming Culinary Expedition events, contact Chef Elizabeth Suvedi, visit the website, or follow their Facebook!

Kale

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Kale is a nutrient packed green that offers unique and delicious flavor to any meal. Kale is a very cold-tolerant plant, making it a staple crop late into the growing season. While kale grown outdoors can be harvested as late as December, kale can also be grown indoors in greenhouses throughout the winter. If you are interested in eating locally grown kale during the winter months, you should visit Real Food Farms on Saturday mornings at Fulton Street Farmers Market

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How to Prepare:

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Wash kale leaves well, checking the underside of each leaf for soil and garden pests. Remove stems from mature kale leaves by folding the leaf in half lengthwise and stripping or slicing away thick stems. Baby or very tender young leaves may be cooked stem and all.

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How to Store:

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Wrap kale in a damp towel or in a plastic bag and refrigerate, preferably in hydrator drawer, for up to one week. Leaves will wilt if allowed to dry out. For long-term storage, kale can be frozen. Wash, de-stem, and blanch leaves for 2 minutes. Rinse in cold water to stop the cooking, drain, and pack into airtight containers such as zip-lock freezer bags.

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How to Cook:

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You can enjoy kale raw, sauteed, grilled, or steamed.

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Information adapted from From Asparagus to Zucchini

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Recipes

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Ricotta, Kale, And Mushroom Toast

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Ingredients

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  • Wild mushrooms
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Kale
  • Fresno chile
  • White wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ricotta
  • Country-style bread
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Preparation

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Cook wild mushrooms and sliced garlic in olive oil, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp. Add torn kale leaves and sliced Fresno chile (seeded for less heat) and cook, tossing, until kale is wilted; season with white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Season ricotta with salt and pepper and spread onto toasted country-style bread; spoon mushroom-kale mixture on top.

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Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit

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Kale Salad with Miso and Pistachios

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Ingredients

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  • 1-½ pounds kale—stems discarded and leaves thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 tablespoon brown miso
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup unsalted roasted pistachios, chopped
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Preparation

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In a large bowl, toss the kale with the lemon juice and a generous pinch of salt. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the sesame seeds, miso and sugar. Gradually whisk in the oil. Add the dressing to the kale and toss well. Scatter the scallions and pistachios on top and serve.

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Recipe courtesy of Food and Wine

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Quinoa-Stuffed Kale Rolls with Goat Cheese

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Ingredients

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  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 large lacinato kale leaves (about 1 large bunch)
  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-½ cups organic vegetable broth
  • ⅓ cup chopped walnuts, toasted and divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
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Preparation

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Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add tomatoes, garlic, and thyme; cover and simmer 30 minutes or until tomatoes are very tender. Remove pan from heat. Add salt; coarsely mash with a potato masher. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; add half of kale. Cook 1 minute. Remove kale from pan with a slotted spoon; plunge into ice water. Repeat procedure with remaining kale. Drain and pat dry. Remove center rib from each kale leaf, leaving the leaf whole and uncut at leafy end.

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Rinse and drain quinoa. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add quinoa; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove pan from heat; stir in 3 tablespoons walnuts. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

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Spread about ¾ cup tomato sauce over bottom of an 11 x 7-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Working with 1 kale leaf at a time, place about ¼ cup quinoa mixture in center of leaf. Fold in edges of leaf; roll up, jelly-roll fashion. Repeat procedure with remaining kale leaves and quinoa mixture to form 12 rolls. Place rolls, seam sides down, in dish. Spoon remaining sauce over rolls. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with remaining walnuts and cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

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Recipe courtesy of My Recipes

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Winter Lentil Soup

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Ingredients

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  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into ¼-inch-thick half-moons
  • 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into ½-inch-wide strips
  • ½ cup brown lentils
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce; optional)
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Preparation

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Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, for 5 minutes. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, 1-½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Spoon into bowls and top with the Parmesan, if using.

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Recipe courtesy of Real Simple

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Green Tacos

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Ingredients

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  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 4 cups Tuscan kale, ribs and stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 4 corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup crema mexicana
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Preparation

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Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook sweet potato and garlic, stirring often, until potato is tender and just beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes. Add kale and cook, tossing often, until kale is wilted and tender, 8–10 minutes. Add lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve sweet potato and kale mixture on tortillas, topped with avocado and crema.

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Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit

Annual Meeting & LocalMotion Awards in Review

An evening of celebrations and hard earned recognition took place last week at the Goei Center during the 6th Annual Meeting and LocalMotion Awards. In addition to delicious samplings from Local First members such as Terra, Connie’s Cakes and margaritas from Lindo Mexico, attendees also enjoyed a musical backdrop provided by Triumph Music Academy.

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Foster of The Diatribe kicked off the speeches at the Annual Meeting with some spoken word poetry regarding growth and collective goals and desires from the community in Grand Rapids.

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Rather than giving her previously written and practiced State of Local First speech, Executive Director, Elissa Hillary rewrote her speech the day of the event to be more tailored to her observations and reflections of the West Michigan community. She posed the question to the audience, “What if we calibrated our lives to a more human scale?” following her discussion of Big Culture in which complex social systems cause us to lose our ability to relate on a level of humanity and instead make us feel, as consumers and community participants, small. Elissa reminded us all that “Local First means People First,” and that Local First strives to build communities with integrity while straying away from the Big Culture that overlooks humanity.

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Over 60 businesses were nominated for the LocalMotion Awards and all of which were required to participate in the B. Corp Quick Impact Assessment in order to qualify. Mike Chase and Anissa Eddie announced the LocalMotion Award recipients and the evening concluded with well-deserved congratulations and well wishes from Local First and the local loving community of West Michigan. The LocalMotion Award winners are as follows:

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The Change Agent Award: Brewery Vivant
nBrewery Vivant provides promotes active lifestyles by providing bicycle education, providing volunteer opportunities for their employees and customers, and Vivant has also made the investment to put solar panels on the roof of the brewery in the coming year.

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Local Hero Award: Dan Broersma & Ken Freestone
nDan and Ken have joined together to create GreenMichigan.org – a website designed to curate everything a person might desire to know about being a conscious consumer, how to live more efficiently and sustainably.

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The Mover & Shaker Award: Love’s Ice Cream
nLove’s Ice Cream believes in transparency demonstrating their intentional, researched, and honest approach to providing people with locally and as-organic-as-possible ice cream.

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The Triple Bottom Line, Longstanding Business: Catalyst Partners
nCatalyst Partners provides mentor services to businesses working towards sustainability. Catalyst Partners strives to improve business practices from the ground up based on the constantly evolving standards.

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The Triple Bottom Line, Up & Coming Business: Gluten Free Bar
nGluten Free Bar became B Corp certified in October of 2015, which demonstrated their dedication to the Triple Bottom Line. GFB creates locally produced, gluten free, GMO, soy, and dairy free products in their sustainable, certified gluten-free facility.

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The Guy Bazzani Local Legacy Award: The City of Grand Rapids
nIn 2011, the City of Grand Rapids launched mygrcitypoints, a recycling incentive program that partners with, supports, and promotes local entrepreneurs and businesses. The program increased recycling in the city by 80{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} and reduced waste by 13{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de}. The partnership with Heart of West Michigan United Way created additional volunteer campaigns, which collected over $3,000 in donations to purchase school uniforms for the GRPS Homeless Assistant Program.

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Learn more about the LocalMotion Awards.

Show Some Local Love

Keep it local this Valentine’s Day while treating your sweetheart to these unique date ideas and romantic gifts.

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Date Ideas

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Art+Chocolate: Seeing Red – It’s hard to go wrong when you add chocolate to any situation, especially when viewing incredible works of art. On February 13, take a guided tour through the Grand Rapids Art Museum that explores everything red, and learn how artists use the color of love to elicit different responses and emotions. Each participant will get a chocolate bar at the end of the tour.

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Lovers & Lookers – Bring (or meet!) your Valentine at this champagne party set for February 11 at Cygnus27 atop the Amway Grand. There will be a live DJ on hand, complimentary hors d’oeuvres, craft cocktails and beautiful views of the city. Don’t forget to stop by the all-new Mia’s on Wealthy to pick up the perfect black dress!

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Pretty in Pink – Believe it or not, it’s the 30th anniversary year of the John Hughes classic ‘Pretty in Pink’ starring Molly Ringwald and Jon Cryer. Celebration! Cinema North and RiverTown will both have showtimes at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Valentine’s Day.

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Yum! – Enjoy a memorable Valentine’s dining experience at Reserve Wine & Food with special chef-created 3 and 5-course menus. Indulge in tagliolini pasta with black truffle, wagyu beef with black sesame seeds and nori, and date cake with dried apricots.

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Relax – Couples can spend some well-deserved downtime with side-by-side massages in the same treatment room at Design 1 Salon & Spa. For the Valentine’s Day holiday, purchase a $75 gift card before February 13 and receive a bonus $15 gift card. 

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Family Time – Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be just for romantic couples; it can be a fun time for families, too. At The Mud Room in Ada, studio fees to paint pottery or make fused glass are just $12 for the whole family from 1-5 p.m. on February 14.

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Gift Ideas

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6.25 Paper Studio – Find something unique for the love of your life at the specialty paper shop located on Monroe Center. Choose from coloring books, kits, journals, wrapping paper, Michigan-shaped earrings, felted hearts and much more. You can also find all the supplies you need to create that one-of-kind handmade Valentine.

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Connie’s Cakes – The Eastown bakery will create a special 6” two layer heart shaped cake available in chocolate, white, marble, strawberry and raspberry and can include a personal message. Available for pickup or delivery Feb 12 & 13. 

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Ball Park Floral – The long-time West Side florist offers everything from classic long stem red roses to specialty gifts like scented candle arrangements, candy bouquets and even ballcaps with a bottle opener for guys. If you’re looking for that ‘wow’ factor, Ball Park boasts a variety of large and colorful orchids in modern and contemporary arrangements. 

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DeVries Jewelers – Not sure what to get that special someone for your first Valentine’s Day together? Head to DeVries Jewelers for bracelets, everyday sterling silver pieces (starting at $65!) and even name brand watches for guys.

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Schuil Coffee – Michigan’s first specialty coffee roaster offers custom gift baskets that not only feature intensely-flavored ‘uncommon import’ coffees, but also a selection of sweet teas, tea pots, bulk candy and even craft brewing accessories. Orders can be placed online or stop by the retail space on 29th Street near Lake Eastbrook.

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Art of the Table – At the food and kitchen retailer on Wealthy Street, create custom Valentine’s baskets with red wine, chocolate, hot cocoa, mugs, Michigan products and other special treats and gifts. On Wednesday, February 10, Patricia from Patricia’s Chocolates will be on hand for a special (and free!) sampling event.

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Koeze – There are more than just nuts at Koeze! Stop by their retail shops on the East Beltline and Burlingame for milk chocolate roses or Valentine’s Day bags filled with toffee, turtle chocolates and heart candies. Koeze will also create custom baskets that can be picked up as quickly as an hour or two.

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Have a favorite date idea? Share it in the comments below!

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Photo credit: Schuil Coffee

Refugee Business Spotlight: Everest Marketplace

Immigrant entrepreneurs have always been part of the American Dream. Time points-out that 40{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} of the U.S.’s Fortune 500 firms and “untold millions of smaller businesses” were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants. This phenomenon is evident across the country and right here in Grand Rapids.

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Nandu Dangal, owner of Everest Marketplace in the Towne and Country Shopping Mall at 4301 Kalamazoo SE, arrived in Grand Rapids as a refugee in 2008. Everest Marketplace is Dangal’s second venture, boasting colorful displays of traditional clothing, produce and packaged food from various South Asian cultures.

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Dangal’s first job in the U.S. was housekeeping at a hotel, but the job was difficult to keep because of sporadic bus schedules during the winter months. With little English and few prospects during the recession, he struggled until landing a job at Meijer, which he held for five-and-a-half years. “Working as a cashier, and then in customer service at Meijer taught me so many things about doing business.” This vital job experience helped Dangal dream for a future as an entrepreneur.

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Before long, Dangal was taking business and home ownership classes at an area college while working extra hours as a cab driver, factory worker and interpreter to put away money. Like many other immigrants and refugees in Grand Rapids, he transformed hard-earned wages into a thriving career. In 2012, he had saved enough money to open his first business and purchase a home.

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Dangal says he’s “always had a vision, not only for personal success, but also helping others.” Since 2008, many Bhutanese refugees have resettled in Grand Rapids after long years sojourning in camps in Nepal. Dangal and other members of the Bhutanese community have thrived in Grand Rapids. “They are buying homes at a very high rate,” Dangal reports. Part of his success has been helping others put down roots. “When I came to the U.S., I needed an interpreter. Now, I am an interpreter.”

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Six months ago, Dangal was able to purchase space for Everest Marketplace, which provides familiar foods, like panipuri, to the Bhutanese community–and also to Burmese, Somali,Tanzanian and customers from other parts of the globe. Dangal is already planning a small deli to share Bhutanese food with a wider array of customers by summer.

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Dangal’s success supports research that shows effective economies keep important places for immigrant workers. Thriving refugee businesses like his are an indicator of a broader strength we share in Grand Rapids. In addition to starting businesses, refugee and immigrant workers buy homes, pay taxes and purchase goods–a boon for all involved in our local economy.

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Everest Marketplace
nOpen 10am – 8pm, 7 days a week