31 December 2011

( a bit of toy-fun in green-speak )

by ambre juryea-amole

“one of our mottos is ‘no batteries.’ we want to keep batteries out of landfills. rechargeable batteries are good, but we want to get rid of batteries altogether,” says oley valley resident john stokes, founder of stokes solar green toys & goods. he is stirring toward the future by looking skyward—introducing children to renewable energy through education-savvy, eco-friendly toys.
“coal and oil are only going to last for so long. it’s not like you can make any of that,” adds stokes. he predicts a world where people associate the word ‘oil’ with soybeans and corn rather than fossil fuels. “that’s where we’re going to be heading, using what we can grow. i mean, fossil fuels are exactly that: old fuel.”
stokes, an electrician, has an energized glimmer in his eyes when he talks about the inner workings of the toys he offers. though stokes doesn’t manufacture the toys himself, he knows what makes the wheels turn and the gears churn, in all of it. in fact, his knowledge about renewable energy is so vast that he constructed his own built-from-scratch wind turbine to make use of oley’s whipping winter air.

( all photos courtesy of stokes solar )

stokes solar is still in its infancy, but it’s off to a good start. stokes gives demonstrations amidst ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ at green fairs and markets throughout the year. “it’s fun to see the expressions on people’s faces when i show them what the toys do.”
he also gets to employ his two sons, maxwell, 3, and julian, 1, as test pilots for his toys. “they have a couple toys of their own, and i like to show them the bigger toys too,” says stokes. when his almost-four-month-old daughter, olivia, is older, she will  win the chance to test out the solar-revving vehicles and also two eco-homes, fashioned with pretend solar panels, wind turbines, and plenty of green-geared amenities.

the sun lights imaginations

 most popular are the happily hopping frog and super solar racing car—quite accessible for the eco-novice because they are pocket-sized, and they “don’t cost a hunk of change,” as stokes says.

more advanced toys are in the picture, too. “i try to hit beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels with the toys to keep everyone learning,” says stokes. the next step up from the super solar racing car is the solarspeeder v2.0, which takes a few seconds to gather enough sunlight but then zips off in lightning bolt form.
also among the more advanced offerings is the 6-in-1 solar kit: a dogbot, circling airplane, stationary airplane with spinning propellers, car, sun-run wind turbine, and pool-friendly boat. and because all six toy-building possibilities are powered by the sun, kids are eager to enjoy the great outdoors with them rather than sitting inside with their eyes glued to the teevee.

a car that runs on water

people have talked about the possibility of cars that use water as fuel for quite some time, but stokes is showing everyone that the seeming myth of the water-powered car is becoming a reality. in stokes’ line are two hydrogen fuel cell cars and a third car powered by salt water, with a fuel cell involved. one of the hydrogen fuel cell cars is in a fuel cell car science kit; the other, the h2go fuel cell r/c car, comes fully assembled and has a hydrogen station and even a solar-powered remote control.

changing the way
kids—and parents—play
the ultimate goal here is to change the way people think about energy, which stokes already sees in his own children. “my oldest son, if he wants to power up the frog or the solar car—he knows where to put it,” stokes says. “he’s like, ‘all right, let’s find some sun,’ and he’ll put it in the sun. it’s a neat learning curve—to see how the new generation is growing up compared to the old. instead of looking for batteries, they’re looking for sun. it puts a totally different perspective on things.”
in addition, the toys are teaching parents about renewable energy, and parents are learning as much as their kids. “this technology wasn’t there when parents were in school,” says stokes. he notes that adults are aware of the dire need to change our energy consumption, but they don’t really understand it until they experience the alternatives first-hand, seeing these toys come to life.
for now, stokes solar will continue to operate primarily online, but stokes hopes that someday it will grow enough to allow him to open a shop. “i enjoy what i’m doing, knowing that every little bit makes a difference,” says stokes.
to learn more about stokes solar, or to place a quickly-shipping order, visit www.stokessolar.com, search for it on facebook,  or find stokes himself at the north wales’ whole foods markets’ green fair  (spring and summer), every saturday (except rainy days) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

to see stokes solar in action
all the sooner, visit

gallery& cooperative
19 east main street
kutztown, pa 19530

monday 9 january (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) &
monday 23 january (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

( phoebe’s phorever ! phood with phlair )

by marian wolbers

it’s thursday, lunchtime.

your african peanut chicken soup is walking in the door, preceded by anticipation, announced by aroma. it’s another delivery by phoebe canakis to the hungry-for-health clientele who adore her business, phoebe’s pure foods.

this week’s menu featured not only that tawny-toned, white meat and vegetables creation in a peanutty stock, but a soup from a different continent altogether: a spicy mexican black bean soup that’s as sassy as a flamenco dancer on a hot summer night. it’s unashamedly loaded with what seems like 4,200 ingredients, from tiny diced carrots and peppers and tomato bits to barley nuggets and celery snippets, all of them playing a large supporting cast to the stars—the black beans—with a zing that’s gentle but sure.

( a souper landscape, where a bean would most love to swim--
spicy mexican black bean soup, anyone ? 
photo by marian wolbers )

like so many of canakis’ culinary offerings, the soup is low-sodium, all natural; it’s not overly spicy-herby, but instead prepared to foster the taste of multiple flavors. it’s as though this home cook personally coaxes each ingredient to retain its essential vitality and individuality while joining into the larger party called “soup.”
canakis’ magic carries across to her fresh wraps and salad choices which are low-calorie, high-fiber, and festive with healthy greens:

·         curried chicken salad (using local & organic chicken)
·         hummus & feta with a mix of organic veggies
·         “bright & lemony chicken salad,” with a canakis-made vinaigrette
·         cranberry & pecan chicken salad (a light, low-fat creamy salad)
·         albacore tuna salad

of course, she caters full-scale feasts and bakes pastries, too. her greek goodies are classically elegant and precious, and are available, boxed, at special times in the year. the honey-sweet confections connect with her mediterranean roots on her dad’s side of the family. confessing that sugar has a hold on her, canakis doesn’t keep it around much at home. she says earnestly, “if  there’s any sugar in the house, i’m like a little mouse—i sniff it out.”
but she loves soup best of all. her deep brunette eyes shine when she says, “i love making soups. it’s comfort food. there’s no better way to feel full and not compromise what you’re putting in your body.” for the record, she also adores macaroni and cheese. (okay, who doesn’t ?)
canakis gravitates to local farm stands to buy ingredients—the more organic, the better. she aims for whole foods, unprocessed, in season.

a turnaround

the pure food venture started in an unlikely way: “i got into an accident on the pennsylvania turnpike, on a sunday,” she explains, tossing back a stray curl of midnight brown hair. “i was working a job that was an hour-and-a half commute and found myself in my car, turned all the way around and facing the wrong direction. i was okay—but i didn’t even know what to do. all i could think was how i’d soon see oncoming traffic, and so i left the car and got to the side of the road.”
“then i thought to myself, ‘what am i doing ?’” more than a scare, this proved an  epiphany. “i quit the job. and because i had always wanted to start my own coffee shop, i went to starbucks and started working.”

( to this home cook, food is something that should come 
not from a box but from the earth.
photo courtesy of canakis herself )

eventually, she put other businesses behind her, developing her own, which is still evolving. “i’m not in a hurry to open a storefront,” says canakis. “i love talking to people when i’m making deliveries. i love all my customers.” she also loves gardening, blogging about food, and talking about “how to eat organic on a budget” (BCTV).

special deliveries

here’s a sample of the delectably written, temptation-laden offerings penned by canakis herself through her weekly lunch news update:
barley, roasted broccoli, & acorn squash salad—

organic barley with roasted broccoli & local acorn squash on a bed of organic greens with a shallot, maple syrup, & cider dressing
$8.50 ($8.01+tax) meat free

$11.50 ($10.84+tax) with local, free-range, organic roasted chicken or tofu

deep in food-thought, thinking of joining the lunch-to-go bunch ? log on to www.phoebespurefood.com to sign up for weekly menu updates and to get deliveries, or to order and pick up her notorious nosh at sunshine wellness resources, 511 reading avenue, in west reading. tel: 717.445.8552.

01 December 2011

( food goods, good foods: adam’s pantry in kutztown, at renninger’s )

by marian wolbers

it’s saturday at the farmer’s market in kutztown, and just about eight feet across from a farmstand of crisp stacks of celery and crates of clementines, carlton adam cooks up crêpes right in front of his customers. each of the thin, just-sweet pancakes is custom-made, either savory or sugary. sometimes it’s at an easy pace—time enough to chat with folks as they shop around his food-goods store—adam’s pantry—stocking up on everything from rice to rye flour, from honey to flax, herbs and spices, and nutty sesame sticks. then there are the days when the unexpected happens, like last weekend.

( all photos by marian wolbers )     

“around 10.30 a.m.,” says adam, “a bus came to the market, and the whole store was wall-to-wall people waiting in line. we had the best crêpe day ever !” it’s true, though, he admits, “i finally cut off the crêpes around 2.30 p.m., because i couldn't keep up anymore. i don't think i lost any business, really, because by that time, the crunch was over anyway.” it was proof positive for this retired air products software developer to recognize that his new career is shifting into an uphill gear.

in the beginning

“i started my business at the market in may of 2009. from then until october of this year, i had only bulk foods for sale: rice, beans, herbs, spices, tea, flour, and grains. i also carry a limited line of roland food products such as asian noodles and israeli couscous. early on, i had about 150 different products; today, i probably have over 400.

“except for very few exceptions, all of those additional products are in my store because someone asked for them,” says adam. in other words, if a customer comes looking for a remote spice, or a whole wheat japanese soba noodle, or tea that combines pomegranate and rosehips, and it’s not right there on adam’s shelves-of-plenty, he’ll do his best to get it—soon. to this creative businessman’s way of thinking, it’s not so much exceptional customer service but an “information exchange.”

he explains, “i don't look at available products and buy something because i think it will sell. my feeling is that if one person asks for something, there is a good chance that others will want it is as well. that model has served me quite well in the last two-and-a-half years, and i have discovered some very successful products following that strategy. in addition, i have vastly expanded my culinary knowledge by listening to customers. in a way, my little store is an information exchange. customers come in and bring culinary knowledge, and then i dispense it back out to other customers.”

accordingly, adam’s pantry has the feel of an old-fashioned general store: cozy, inviting, and fascinating—a visual feast for cooks, with lots and lots to ponder, labels to read, products to smell and imagine with.

light gems in the land of heavy

while stacking up bulk items to take home to your kitchen—pie and bread and pastry flours and durum semolina flour, black sweet thai rice or sushi rice, loose keemun panda #1 tea or white tea flower symphony in huge jars, why not grab a bite ? crêpes are a french treat that are elegant yet messy; fancy but satisfyingly real. savories include the ham & egg ($4), smoked turkey ($4.25), chicken ($3.75), or smoked salmon w/ cream cheese ($4.75).  add-ons include mushrooms, caramelized onions, sweet peppers, black olives, tomato, feta, cream cheese, cheddar, and provolone (cheese is an extra .25).  

“to the maximum extent possible,” says adam, “i use ingredients purchased at the farmer’s market itself. the eggs, ham, and smoked turkey come from dietrich's meats; the cheese comes from richard m. heagy; the chicken comes from jim neidermeyer; and the fruit and vegetables come from d&a produce.”

the fruits work well for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dessert—basically, for any reason. adam’s sweet crêpes range from $3 to $3.50, with an option to add on whipped cream or sour cream, blintze-style:

·         banana & nutella
·         strawberry
·         jelly (raspberry, grape, and more)
·         jelly & cream cheese
·         apple, raw sugar, & cinnamon
the latter option features freshly-sliced apples nestling on the browning crêpe skin, receiving a just-enough shake of raw sugar & cinnamon. never mushy, they’re al dente apple, just warm enough, full-flavored in their unadulterated apple-y state.
fruits seem to naturally love the crêpe’s embrace, prettily packaged by the one-two flip of adam’s wide crêpe-knife/spatula.

gluten-sensitives can enjoy this stand as well since adam can quickly batter up 100% buckwheat gluten-free crêpes. try, too, the fresh-squeezed orange juice on the side.

a country-style buckwheat buttermilk pancake also pleases; flip in some blueberries for another 50 cents. slightly heavier but delectably berks-y are adam’s original funnel cakes.

don’t worry about staring at the chef: “one serendipitous quality is that people really enjoy watching crêpes being made,” notes adam. “they are intrigued by the spreading of the batter and flipping the thin 15-inch diameter shell.”
denise, his wife, rings up sales. both are devoted to “offering healthy food as much as possible, high-quality food freshly prepared, and dishes that are not commonly available elsewhere in the area.”
says adam, “i am a firm believer that your diet should be varied both to get as many different nutrients as possible and also to avoid dietary boredom. i am really just getting started in my crêpe offerings. i expect to be trying many different variations and ingredients to keep my customers—and myself !—interested.”

register online: www.adamspantry.com and on facebook, or call 610.762.6082.

-- 740 noble street, kutztown --

( swooning for soulful soup by the bowlful )

by jennifer hetrick

“how do i love soup ? let me count the ways,” says new hanover township resident terry schwenk, soup aficionado through his heartful broth spillings.
today, schwenk spends each spring and summer delivering mulch, topsoil, and stone to residents around the region through hetrick gardens. every autumn, he runs a tree installation crew.

but winter is when he spends his minutes at the stove, happily whipping up his cherished soups for not just his family to enjoy but also for his fans at freed’s supermarket in gilbertsville, where he buys a large portion of his ingredients.

anyone who knows schwenk is up to prepping soup nudges kindly in expectance for a bowl of it to savor.

schwenk developed a strong respect for the western soup spoon (and even ordinary dinner spoons, when soup-specific ones weren’t on hand) in his childhood. with nine sisters and two brothers, the full pennsylvania dutch background of his parents led to soups serving as a more economical and  iconic food-memory for when bellies in the house threw around the language of hunger-growling.

his mother taught him the art of whipping up a delightful, palate-hugging soup, including a chicken pot pie recipe he refuses to share with his sisters, even to this day.

when schwenk prepares vegetable soup at his stove, it takes a full eight-hour day to simmer the garden-rich medley just right. taking his food-love very seriously, schwenk doesn’t joke, when it comes to soups, till they’re done and ready to slurp up in a heightened mode of deliciousness.

sauerkraut, cabbage, a ukranian-inspired red beet joined with sour cream, chicken corn noodle, mushroom, split pea, ham and bean, and beef barley are a few of the warm soups he sometimes stirs up in his kitchen.

a family favorite is one that goes by the moniker of hobo stew; it mingles smoked sausage, kidney beans, and potatoes for when taste buds are ready to waltz for this hearty blend.

with cold spooning efforts per bowl, schwenk crafts a delectable red beet, cucumber, tomato, and acorn squash soup in the warmer seasons.

and soup isn’t even worth making unless the broth is done from scratch, in small steps that don’t necessarily take up a lot of time in the busy world of everyone’s lives today. to schwenk, minutes spent preparing soup equate to a bit of peace before glorious and comforting spoonfuls meet with lips.

and the introduction of winter implies that belly-warming soups are in order, which means the creamy seafood chowder he’s perfected over time is something friends and family easily show up at his door for, when they’ve heard the word that he’s making it.

soup is meant to be enjoyed both at the table and as the wooden spoon stirs, schwenk concludes.


skeeter’s seafood chowder -- recipe by terry schwenk


6 lg. clams, steamed & chopped
24 steamer clams, steamed & removed from shells
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb scallops, peeled & cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 lb calamari, cut into rings (optional)
4 oz crabmeat
4 tbs unsalted butter
4 tbs flour
1 small can condensed milk
4 cups whole milk
4 cups water
1 12 oz lager
4 medium-sized potatoes, peeled & diced
1 can white corn
old bay seasoning (optional)
salt & pepper, to taste


steam clams in lager. reserve liquid. strain broth to remove sand and shells. in 6 quart pot, add clam broth, potatoes, corn, and water. boil until potatoes are close to done. add shrimp, scallops, and calamari when the soup comes to a boil. combine condensed milk with flour, then add to the soup. add whole milk. carefully bring to a slow simmer till the soup thickens, approximately 10 minutes. be watchful not to overcook the seafood. add clams and crabmeat. season, and enjoy.

yield: about a half-gallon.