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Program shows importance of using local produce

Nicole Klem is on a mission to get more Western New Yorkers thinking about locally sourced food.

Klem, director of the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at Trocaire College, has big plans to share her love of regional produce, meats and other staples with a larger audience, but started small earlier this month during a program entitled, “Healthy Farm. Healthy Table. Healthy People.”

“Most foods in season generally complement each other,” said Klem, who gave a brief overview of her department before turning the program over to students Elise Davis and Arthur Nowak, as well as “Healthy Chef” Jim Rebholz, Arden Farms owner Dan Roelofs and Randolph Academy Food Service Careers Instructor Matthew Just.

Rebholz talked up the Western New York Higher Education Health and Wellness Consortium and said 250 students from seven colleges in the region graduated from related fields this month. “This field is more than just a big moneymaker for people in San Francisco,” he said.

Roelofs, who farms outside East Aurora, brought a variety of produce to the dinner, including stinging nettles, which Just blended with oil and garlic and folded into risotto. “It’s so neat to cook something you find in the yard,” the school chef said.

Also included in the courses were Vietnamese spring rolls, fresh herb-rubbed shredded local beef sliders, and a “simple salad” topped with a dressing made from orange juice, lemon juice, pitted dates, garlic, chipotle in adobo sauce, fresh cilantro and olive oil.

Klem’s students served a black bean brownie sundae for dessert. Maple syrup was used instead of sugar, cutting calories by one-third, and chia seeds, packed with healthy omega-3, helped thicken the mix.

“It’s not to say the brownies are calorie-free,” but they’re healthier, and supply some protein, said nutritionist Erin Burch, who was among the diners. If you cut out pop, chips, dips and processed foods, she said, the dinner showed “you can eat healthy and well on a budget.”

Klem plans a similar dinner in the fall at the Russell J. Salvatore School of Hospitality on Transit Road in Lancaster.

email: refresh@buffnews.com

On the Web: Get the recipe for black bean brownies at refresh.buffalonews.com.