24-Karat Gold: Epicurean Group Shines As Colorado Environmental Leader

The Epicurean Environmental Management team at ELP Awards Breakfast at Wings Over the Rockies. Photo by Evan Semón

The Epicurean Environmental Management Team (Rebecca Pino, Paul Hunter, Jenna Johansen, Joel Villezcas, Meghan Sibert) posing with Lynette Myers, Coordinator for the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program (Photo by Evan Semón).

At Epicurean Group, we don’t just set the table, we set the standard, creating amazing events and experiences for the past three decades. But this week, we are incredibly proud to share that we have also been recognized for our environmental leadership in the state of Colorado.

Epicurean Group was recently named a “Gold Leader” by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental Leadership Program (ELP). The ELP program recognizes Colorado companies and organizations that voluntarily go beyond environmental regulations with the goal of sustainability. The ELP “Gold Leader” status marks the highest level of distinction in the esteemed program, recognizing a continued commitment to sustainability and environmental leadership.

In addition to this accolade, our Environmental Management Team, led by our Executive Innovation Chef, Jenna Johansen, was a finalist in the ELP’s “24-Karat Gold” Challenge, which spotlights Colorado environmental champions for their sustainability initiatives.

While we have a robust environmental program, as well Epicurean Cares to support the local community, we’re most proud of our waste reduction programs, ensuring that 98% of Epicurean’s unused food and serving items are recycled, reused or repurposed. We have implemented recycling and composting programs at all Epicurean offsite venues to reduce trash volume and have repurposed thousands of pounds of food by donating to partner organizations including We Don’t Waste, Sox Place and the Volunteers of America.

(Photo by Evan Semón)

The ELP Awards Breakfast at Wings Over the Rockies (Photo by Evan Semón).

Our commitment to the environment is long-standing. Epicurean Group was the first registered “Colorado Proud” caterer, using seasonal local produce on our menus. Our program encompasses all Epicurean venues, including Epicurean Sports at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Denver Center for Performing Arts, and Mangia Bevi Café, as well as over 1,000 corporate and private catered events a year. Our environmental efforts go beyond our events and experiences and impact things such as equipment repurposing, sustainable remodels to our office spaces, use of solar energy and implementing everyday environmental best practices such as using ceramic mugs instead of paper cups to ensure minimal impact and waste.

Being named an ELP “Gold Leader” for our sustainability initiatives and efforts to reduce food waste in the state of Colorado is an incredible honor and has inspired the Epicurean team to develop additional ways that we can reduce our environmental impact and continue to benefit our community.

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To Celebrate Earth Day: 5 Ways to Save Food at Home from Going to Waste

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While today officially marks Earth Day, at Epicurean Group we believe it’s important to celebrate the environment every day which is why we use a number of green practices in our kitchens daily. By creating partnerships with organizations like We Don’t Waste and Rocky Mountain Sustainable Enterprises, more than 90% of our annual waste output is recycled. Last year at Sports Authority Field at Mile High we donated 63,364 servings of unused food to people in need and we provide approximately 500lbs of scrap food to the Alpine Waste & Recycling Compost program each week.  We’re also recognized as a Colorado Proud company for souring locally and have a Bronze Level certification from the Environmental Leadership Program.

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Did you know that the average American household wastes $1,600 a year on food that gets tossed in the trash? Not only is wasted food bad for the pocket book but once it hits the landfill, the spoiled food releases methane gas which has been linked to global warming. Yikes!

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Here are 5 Ways to You Can Save Food at Home from Going to Waste:

    1. Make a Plan & Stick to it! –Before going to the grocery store, write a list keeping in mind if you have any plans throughout the week that may prevent you from cooking at home. Buy only what you intend to use and cut recipes in half for fewer servings. Look to the meat counter, bakery and bulk food bins where you have the ability to choose the quantity you buy opposed to prepackaged goods.
    2. Start a Compost-Create healthy and fertile soil for your garden by decomposing unused food scraps. To learn more about composting and how you can do this at home, click here.
    3. Repurpose Your Leftovers-Did you know you can make homemade broths using leftover meat bones that are loaded with health benefits? Bacon grease can also be saved and added to virtually any vegetable to give the flavor an extra boost!
    4. Just Freeze It! –Lots of meat and produce can be frozen and used at a later date. During meal prep, freeze and store portions to be used later on. This will save on those busy days when there’s no time to cook!
    5. Donate Unused Food-Many local food banks and shelters accept canned and non-perishable goods. Check with local churches and food banks for more information.

(*Sources cited: http://www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/)

 

Hungry to Make a Difference? Here’s How.

pbj cupcakes

 

‘Tis the season of leftover Halloween candy and apple pies and egg nog and champagne at midnight – or at brunch – or both if you are so inclined. Or lucky. Blogs and magazine articles and morning shows are already talking about how to avoid the holiday weight gain and the post-party hangover.

But a recent article in The Denver Post, tucked inside the “Season to Share” insert, stopped me in my tracks. There I was, happily sipping my hot coffee after a busy morning that started with me getting four children dressed and fed and off to school; and ended  with me cleaning up dishes from their breakfast of steel cut oatmeal with plump raisins and organic bananas, and topped with cinnamon, nutmeg and milk delivered weekly from Robinson Dairy. Whew – life is HARD. Then I read the Post article:  “For pupils, breakfast is served – thanks to Hunger Free Colorado.” Oh.

Sometimes I need it spelled out, literally, in black and white. Just an hour earlier, two out of my four were whining about not wanting raisins in their oatmeal and now I was reading the unappetizing and staggering statistics – 83 percent of the students at Rose Hill Elementary in Commerce City qualify for a free breakfast. Ouch. Kids at Rose Hill were eating Ultimate Breakfast Rounds (aka “UBRs”), packed with fiber and protein to get little bellies full so growing brains could learn. Hmmm – makes you think, doesn’t it?

Hunger Free Colorado, in operation since 2009, served almost 134,000 daily breakfasts during the last school year.  That sounds like a lot because it is a lot – but I imagine there are many more children out there going without, coming from families that are not able to make even the most humble of ends meet.

At Epicurean, we have always been diligent about supporting the community in the fight against hunger. After all, Larry DiPasquale started the company because of his passion for feeding people. Our experience with dozens of organizations across the state have made an impact on the Epicurean staff; and clients such as Live Well Colorado, an organization that is fighting the battle against childhood obesity which, research shows, often stems from a lack of resources (think – money) to obtain fresh, healthy foods has stayed with us all. We have an ongoing partnership with We Don’t Waste, an innovative establishment that collects unused food from venues, caterers, restaurants, and other food purveyors and distributes it to Denver’s underserved populations.  And our 20-plus-year relationship with Volunteers of America has and always will be close to our hearts – we even donate a portion of our Epicurean Street Cuisine Food Truck proceeds to the organization.

Based on the Post article, Hunger Free Colorado believes that more than 815,000 Coloradoans are at risk for hunger. Our state is has one of the fastest-growing rates of childhood poverty in the nation – though we are 31st in the lineup for school breakfast participation. Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of mouths to feed. So whether you are an individual and want to reach out to Hunger Free Colorado or a restaurant able to support We Don’t Waste or just one person able to make a lunch for a young neighbor, we applaud you and ask that you share your story with us on Facebook.  In the meantime, here is our take on a breakfast treat to serve to your own family, thanks to Yvette Garfield of Handstand Kids. Enjoy – while counting your blessings.

 Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20  minutes | Serves: approximately 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened at room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 jar of strawberry jam

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk to combine, set aside.
  • Place the softened butter and sugar in another large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on a low speed until smooth.
  • Add peanut butter to the bowl with the butter and sugar and mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add one egg and mix to combine. Repeat with remaining 2 eggs, mixing after each to combine before adding the next.
  • In another large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, vanilla extract, oil and buttermilk, set aside.
  • Add half of the dry flour mixture to the bowl with the butter. Mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add the sour cream mixture to the bowl and mix until combined.
  • Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides to make sure there are no lumps.
  • Add remaining flour mixture and mix until smooth.
  • Use a spoon to scoop the mixture into 20 lined cupcake pans or baking cups.
  • Bake cupcakes for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown, and let cool at room temperature.
  • Once cooled, use the melon baller to gently scoop out a small piece from the center of each cupcake.
  • Fill the holes with the strawberry jam.
  • Cover tops of cupcakes with Peanut Butter

 

*Alternative: For those with nut allergies, try this recipe with sunflower seed butter.