Karen and Jon Conant of CrossFit Cape Ann have the community spirit thing down. The members are super motivated for all of their events, and it’s so much fun to see how they rally together to support a good cause. It’s such a positive and fun atmosphere every time I visit. From their cool design inside the gym, to their group events outside the gym like their Sunday evening “bike gang”, it’s clear that this couple throws all of their creative energy into this gym.
I thought it might be fun to gather up a group from the gym and serve up a meal at The Open Door Food Pantry. Gloucester is a beautiful seaside town north of Boston, but actually has a population in need of nutritious food.
The Open Door provides a food pantry, community meals, a thrift store and a mobile market which provides free farmers market produce and groceries to schools and senior centers across town in addition to job training and other services.
Five days a week, dinners are served in a clean, pleasant, and friendly atmosphere. These meals are sponsored by church, civic, and school groups from Cape Ann, with the help of other volunteers. While many of their guests are indeed hungry, others are simply lonely and need to escape isolation at home or are in a “food insecure” situation where they don’t have access to nutrient dense food. In 2012, The Open Door served 17,832 hot meals!
Once we decided on a date, the volunteers signed up quickly. The menu was a fully paleo and delicious feast (recipes are listed at the end of this post) :
We met in the kitchen at 1pm on a Sunday afternoon to start prepping the meal. By 2:30, we were pretty much done. Yes, CrossFitters can peel sweet potatoes in lightning speed! We chopped farm fresh cabbage, carrots, onions, herbs, and sliced some beautiful brisket provided by US Wellness Meats for the main attraction.
As someone who appreciates big, professional kitchens, I was also impressed with the enormous bowls. Check out the cole slaw!
Finally, it was time to serve. The clients arrived and served themselves from the salad bar we provided. Then, assembly line style, we served an unusually large number of guests for a Sunday evening. We were told that because of the high heat that day, they saw many more guests than usual, who were attracted to the cool and clean air conditioned room.
The finished plate was something we were quite proud of! It was a different meal for the diners than the usual church groups serve, who tend to serve casseroles followed by brownie sundaes. Our goal was to serve a nutritious meal that we would love to eat in our own homes our in a restaurant.
The dessert was a simple, fresh fruit salad with mint.
After we served a round of second helpings (mostly of the cole slaw!) and prepared take home containers for those who requested them, we helped clear the tables. It was then time for our group to eat.
I was very proud of our team, and of the community that Karen and Jon have built. It was so rewarding to be part of this experience. I think for many people who are members of gyms like theirs, the gym IS their church – their sense of community. An important part of community is giving back to those who need our help. I’d love to see more gyms getting into the spirit of serving others.
Many thanks also to US Wellness Meats for their generous meat donation.
Recipes listed below…
The Recipes (scaled down for family sized portions)
Serves about 15 – 20
1 10lb side of brisket (full brisket if possible)
1 cup of Dry Spice Rub for Meat (see below)
6 cups hickory wood chips, divided
1 batch of smokey bbq sauce (see below or use your favorite sauce)
- Cover the brisket in the dry rub and tightly wrap. Leave in the refrigerator overnight.
- When ready to start, remove the brisket from the fridge and bring to room temperature. I suggest starting this at about 8 or 9am.
- Soak about 2 cups of hickory chips in water. Set aside.
- Now start your grill. You don’t need an expensive smoker to do this. Frank used his infrared grill and warmed it to 200 degrees F. One side burner is usually all you need. You can do this on a regular gas grill too, just making sure you put the wood chips under the grates (see next step).
- When the grill is warm, place 2 cups of wet hickory chips on a metal tray under the grilling rack. Top with one cup of the dry chips.
- Now add your meat to the grill, fat side up. Close the lid and let this go for about four hours. Make sure the temperature stays at 200-250 degrees F range.
- After 2 hours, add two more cups of wet and one cup of dry wood chips.
- After four hours, you’ll now want to finish the brisket in the oven.
- Warm the oven to 220 degrees F. Place the brisket in a dish with a cover (like an enamel cast iron brazing dish) or wrap in foil (the less-sustainable but functional option) and place on a baking sheet.
- Roast for about 3-4 hours or until the internal temperature gets to 185 degrees F.
- Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the counter, covered, for half an hour to an hour before slicing thinly against the grain.
- Serve with smoky homemade bbq sauce or your favorite sauce.
1 TBS cayenne pepper
1 TBS coriander
1 TBS freshly ground black pepper
1 TBS smoked hot paprika
2 TBS garlic powder
2 TBS onion powder
1 TBS mustard powder
3 TBS sea salt
1 TBS ginger powder
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. When using on meat, try to allow the rub to sit on the meat for at least four hours. Overnight is ideal.
Smokey BBQ Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
1 TBS bacon fat or coconut oil
1 cup onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes and their juices
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS sweet paprika
1 TBS mustard powder
½ c cider vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
1 TBS liquid smoke
2 tsp black pepper
¼ cup applesauce
- In a large saucepan, warm the bacon fat or coconut oil and sauté the onion, garlic and celery for about ten minutes or until they’re soft.
- Add all of the other ingredients and simmer for one hour.
- Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender.
- Adjust for seasoning as needed and serve.
Creamy Herbed Cole Slaw
½ small head green cabbage, shredded
½ small head red cabbage, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
1/3 cup fresh chives, chopped
¼ cup red onion, slivered
1 cup homemade mayonnaise (see below)
1/3 cup cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the cabbage, carrots, dill, chives and red onion together in a large bowl.
- Mix the mayo, vinegar and lime juice in another bowl.
- Combine the mayo mixture with the cabbage mixture.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Makes about 2 cups
2 egg yolks from pasture raised hens
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ a lemon, juiced
1 cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
Place the egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice in a plastic quart container. With the immersion blender, blend the egg and mustard together then SLOWLY add the olive oil in a drizzle stream as you blend. The mixture will become thick. Resist the urge to dump the entire amount of olive oil in too quickly, as the mayo will separate. The whole process may take about five minutes. When all of the olive oil has been added, add some salt and pepper.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
3lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (try garnet yams or Japanese sweet potatoes, which are two of my favorites)
½ cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 TBS pumpkins seeds, toasted (optional)
- In a large soup pot filled with water, bring the sweet potatoes to a boil.
- Simmer for approximately 25 minutes or until they are fork tender.
- Add the coconut milk and mash or whip with a handheld blender.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)