A Scoop of This, a Pinch of That

People who know me know I don’t use recipes much. I tend to cook from what is available — what was on sale, what I got from the CSA or farmer’s market, what is left over from a previous meal. My family’s favorites are my made up concoctions. I don’t often measure either. That said, I did post a few recipes. Or rather Hubby did. There are only a few now, but I plan to add more each week — after I make them with a measuring cup. 🙂 Please let me know if you use any and how you like them. I would also like to hear your recipes for real food.

Thanks, Hubby!

Week 4 Challenge — No Fast Food

We did ok in week 3. We had 4 servings of meat. We had cheeseburgers and roasted chicken from local farms. It’s the other 2 that weren’t local. We had ribs for a Father’s Day dinner at someone else’s house. The other was a total slip up on my part. One day when trying to figure out what we would have for lunch (our mornings this week turned out to be way busier than I anticipated), I decided on a turkey bacon sandwich. It wasn’t even until the next day that I realized we had had meat that probably wasn’t local. Please forgive me! If it redeems me at all, we went to the Greek festival this weekend. So much good smelling food, so many things with meat. But because we suspected the meat was probably not local, we remained meatless. Next year, we’re going to try some of those other items.

This week, our challenge is to have no fast food or deep fried foods. Hubby was disappointed to find out he couldn’t have tortilla chips with salsa. Fast food is from a restaurant with a drive-thru or where you watch them prepare your food through a glass window, a convenience store, food court, and so on. I’m disappointed that Chipotle is considered fast food. I guess the white rice isn’t best for me, anyhow.

You’ve asked, so…also this week with Hubby’s technical expertise, I plan to post some recipes.

Think Outside The Box

We get used to buying from the grocery, but there are many other options.

Farmers’ markets: During the growing season, you can find a farmer’s market on nearly every corner. My hubby’s work has even started a farmer’s market for employees. Now that’s the way to think outside the box! It would be great for more employers to follow their lead and give employees easy access to fresh produce. Check out Eat Local Cincinnati to find a farmer’s market near you (some are open even in winter).

Speaking of farmer’s markets and SNAP benefits budget, Ohio has a program for food assistance recipients to access locally grown produce at farmer’s markets (2010 Ohio list has 41 farmer’s market locations listed that accept the benefit card, hopefully this program will grow).

CSAs: Pay ahead, work or both to get a share of the farmer’s harvest. You can search for CSAs near you.

Order for pickup: There are places that allow you to order your food and they will pack it up to be ready for you to pick it up. There might be member fees or minimum order amounts required. With this option, you don’t get to personally select items for purchase (which tomato looks most appealing to you), but it might save you some time shopping. You might also have access to items not available at the grocery store.

Sam’s Club Click ‘n’ Pull — variety of grocery available

Grassland Graze — grass-fed beef

Locally Harvested For You — meat, dairy, produce and other locally produced food items

Order for delivery: You order the food, they bring it to your door. There is generally a delivery charge and may be member fees. You don’t get to personally select items for purchase, but this might save you some shopping time as well as driving time and gas use.

Meijer — variety of packaged, shelf stable foods available for delivery.

Green BEAN Delivery — like a CSA, local produce and other items available.

Grow your own: Couldn’t get fresher or more local than straight from your own garden. You control what food to grow and how it’s grown. Cheaper than the grocery, but more work involved. You can find plenty of options to purchase organic, heirloom seeds or plants with an internet search.

We have tried all of these options (though not all of the places listed) and I believe they all have advantages worth considering. Where have you shopped Outside the Box?

Week 3 Challenge — Local Meat

Barn at Grassland Graze

We did well this week drinking only water, milk, coffee, tea and one serving of juice. The girls chose to have their juice in the form of homemade popsicles. I had one Izze and Hubby had no juice. We also managed to have at least two fruits or vegetables (often more) with every meal with the exception of one breakfast, I believe. As for budget, I have used well over half the monthly budget in only half the month. I usually buy what we will use when I see it on sale. Makes sense, right? This usually means a few weeks of spending more and a week or two of spending less. I have a couple of weeks to balance this budget.

The challenge this next week is to eat only local meat with no more than 3-4 servings. The number of servings won’t be so hard. The part about only local… well, while not impossible, it’s not super easy either. Luckily I have done a little pre-planning, knowing this was coming. Gravel Knolls sells free range chicken and eggs — they say they eat organic clover and bugs. We ordered a chicken to pick up when we get our CSA member share. Grassland Graze sells grass fed beef for pick up. We will have cheeseburgers from there one day this week. Both farms are in Liberty Township, Ohio, approximately 30 miles or less from home (much closer to Hubby’s work).

Speaking of distance, how close is “local”? There are a variety of opinions on how far food can travel and still be “local”. Some say 50, some 100 miles, our federal government says 400 miles. And some say it is more about regions than distance. I think either is acceptable when you consider much of the produce at grocery stores travels 1,000 to thousands of miles to get there.

Why eat local? Localvores (people who eat locally raised food) do so for a variety of reasons. Eating locally supports the local farmer and the local economy. You might even meet the farmer raising your food and ask him/her questions about it. The farther food is transported, the greater the effect (of fuel emissions for example) on the environment. Local is better for the earth and therefore better for our health and future food supply. Local food will be fresher and healthier when you get it than food that travels thousands of miles. Many localvores choose local food over organic because certified organic food from larger corporations is viewed as lower quality/more highly processed. Also, local farmers might use organic and sustainable practices in their farming, though they have not gone through the process of becoming certified by the federal government. I believe it is a lengthy and expensive process.

Do you eat locally raised food?

1, 2 and 3

I have heard it said that for the healthiest options, one should shop the perimeter of the store. In other words, the fresh stuff — produce, dairy, meat — that are usually located on the outside walls of the grocery. I don’t personally know of anyone who ONLY shops the perimeter. Everyone I know purchases at least some packaged food. Well, with this “real food” rule of no more than five ingredients in any packaged food, what do I buy? There are actually plenty of options.  Once I started looking at labels, I was surprised by how many products out there really do have so few ingredients. I was also surprised to find out that some products contain many more than I thought.

So, why only five? Well, I’m not sure of the magic of the number five, but the point is that the more ingredients in a product, the more processed it likely is. And our goal as it is, is to have less processing, closer to the way God made it. Often, the extra ingredients are just additives, flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers, extra fat, extra salt, extra sugar and things with excessively long chemical names that were made in a lab, not raised in a field.

I have started the list of 1, 2 and 3 ingredient products on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, page. We have tried/do use 90%+ of those listed. I’m sure there are others that qualify as well. Maybe you use some that could be added..?

Week 2 Challenge — I’ll Drink to That

This last week, our challenge was to have at least 2 fruits or vegetables with every meal. There is only one meal that we didn’t do that, the last meal of the week. We ate at a barbeque restaurant with few options for vegetables. I don’t feel too badly though because we averaged well above two fruits/vegetables per meal over the whole week, including breakfasts! Yay us! We all also had green beans in that final meal of the week. And I think the point of the challenge is to not only include more produce in the diet, but also offer options for someone who might not like one of the offerings. I will call that a success.

Speaking of eating out, we did that twice the last day of this challenge. It is the cost of those meals that we are over budget compared to a week’s worth of food stamp benefits. We will try to make up for it in the next few weeks to stay within budget for the month. To see what we purchased and what we ate, check out the Budget page. I will not include this “meal plan” each time unless I hear from others they would like to see it. You will see some items on the list that don’t count as “real food”. For example, mayonnaise, chocolate milk, store bought ice cream. Nearly all of it though follows the guidelines. Some of those will disappear over these weeks of challenges.

OK, on to the next challenge. This week, we are to drink only water, milk, coffee or tea, without any sugar (sweetened with honey or maple syrup is ok). One glass of juice in the week and red wine in moderation is also ok. Because our family doesn’t drink wine, I think one additional cup of purple grape juice is allowable. We mostly drink water and like milk and tea as well. My husband likes coffee with sugar, but recently switched to maple syrup and likes it fine. I like honey in my tea (iced or hot) and my oldest daughter doesn’t really like juice much anyhow and only drinks it once in a while. Again, not the toughest week, but there will be a bit of a challenge. I like Izze sparkling juice and usually have about 3/week. My husband also. My youngest loves juice and we already water it down some to limit it. She usually has a few cups a week. We all like hot chocolate (mochas for hubby) and the girls like chocolate milk. So, this week I will try to come up with a delicious chocolate milk/hot chocolate without sugar. Hmmm…..or maybe an alternative. Vanilla milk with honey or plain 100% chocolate with honey or maple syrup in milk..? I’ll let you know what we come up with. Any thoughts out there?

I think the honey from Carriage House Farm (one of our CSAs) will get used a lot this week. OK, we will also try moderation, probably. 🙂

Will Work for Food

Today we went to our two farms. OK, we don’t own them or run them or really have much say. But they are both CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) that we have joined.

For several weeks, the girls and I have been going to a local farm and working in the garden. (Did anyone else notice how hot it was in the sun today?) After a couple hours of work, we get to pick some of what is ready for harvest to take home and eat. Carriage House Farm is just 2 miles from our house and is a work only CSA, meaning we plant, weed, clear beds, etc. and get some delicious food, not to mention the great experience. My girls get to see the hard work that goes into their food. They also get to participate in the process from planting to harvest. I hope to learn as much as I can too. You never know when this knowledge will come in handy. Kate, the garden manager, always provides some knowledge for us to take home with our food.

Gravel Knolls Farm is a pay only CSA. We pay up front in spring and get a weekly share of the harvest throughout the summer. The benefit: great local produce directly from a farmer you have met. There is risk though. If the harvest is lean, so is what we pick up each week. This year, with all the rain, is a little bit of an example. Planting was delayed at both of these farms, as well as across most of the Midwest, I suspect. But they are experienced farmers that know how to make work what God gives. Today we had our first pick up and already enjoyed some of the deliciousness (from both farms) at dinner. They have a great dog named Milton, 2 Clydesdale horses and lots of sheep. We loved seeing their newest member, a lamb whose mom died giving birth to his brother. I understand we might get to sign up to work at this farm sometime. Might be nice to see the workings of another farm too.

Neither of these farms is certified organic, but they both pride themselves on using organic, sustainable practices. If you want to find a CSA near you, check out Local Harvest.