CSAs: Sign Up Now for Great Produce, Good Meat

Farmer's Market Photo

Hard to believe, but summer really is coming. Think ahead now and join a CSA to enjoy great summer produce at very reasonable prices.

Now is the time to sign up for a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

What  Join a CSA and you rise from passive grocery store consumer to farm member and supporter.  Every week you get a great box of produce (or meat) at amazingly reasonable prices.  Super fresh and super tasty.

Why  By the single step of joining a CSA you do all this:

  • get the best-tasting produce
  • at the most reasonable prices
  • that does the best job of supporting your and your family’s good health
  • while supporting sustainable growing practices
  • which protects the environment and preserves farmland
  • supports local farmers and local economy
  • and builds a stronger community.  What else can you do that is so beneficial?!!

Also be sure to see the previous post on the importance of clean meat–the kind you get direct from a farmer

When  CSAs deliver produce weekly, as it’s grown, so in Colorado that’s generally June through October.

Where  CSAs usually deliver to nearby towns and cities; it’s nice to find one that delivers to a fairly close location.

How Much  Pricing varies, depending upon farm and size.  Regardless, in my experience, the per pound price of produce was always very reasonable.  See the listing below for exact pricing.  And remember to start small.  There’s always next year to buy a bigger share as you get accustomed to this new way of “shopping.”

CSA Listing
The Daily Camera just printed a convenient list of CSAs that deliver in the Boulder area
Here is another good online source  (but note that Grant Family Farms is no longer in business.)

CSA Fair  Come Meet the Farmers!
Saturday March 15, 9:00am – Noon at Impact Hub Boulder, 1877 Broadway, Suite 100
Co-hosted by Local Food Shift and Boulder County Farmers’ Markets.  Connects people face-to-face with farmers, discovering all the ways to directly support them, learn about food production and enjoy local food–and join a CSA!   RSVP here.

Produce

We’ve been “trained” to seek out produce that looks good on the outside; CSA produce may not be as pretty on the outside, but it is stellar on the inside.

Think Ahead”  That’s the key to reaping the benefits of a CSA.  Remember we live in an instant food culture.  Anytime you get hungry, somebody has something to fill you up.  But you get what you pay for.  Little effort = little value.  Sadly we see the consequences of little effort all around us.

Why not try a new paradigm:  Think ahead.  You will be hungry this summer and autumn, just like you are every day.  That won’t change.  What can change is thinking ahead now and ordering a CSA.  Each week, you’ll have a magnificent box of produce and clean meat.  Then, when you’re hungry, you’ll fill yourself up with real food that nourishes and nurtures, i.e., what you really want to be eating.

Full Disclosure  CSAs offer great benefits, but as a member-supporter of the farm, you also get to intimately know and share some of the risks of farming.  In this way, you get very connected to the world outside our homes and offices where real food is produced.

Our farmers work tremendously hard and are so ingenious, but there are a lot of factors outside their control (e.g., floods, drought, shearing hailstorms, to name just a few from the last couple years.)  The fees paid by as a CSA member give farmers a cushion of security in this very risky environment.

Most often, those fees are repaid tenfold in the health-giving, delicious produce members receive.  But now and then, members take a hit alongside their farmers (albeit it a much, much smaller hit!)  Last year, for instance, our farm suffered a freak hailstorm in July.  In one hour, half of their crops were destroyed.  Talk about a force of nature!  But even though our shares were smaller, they were still very adequate, and I never felt “deprived.”

Members also help farmers by accepting and using up the less-than-perfect produce that is part and parcel of every harvest.  I was dismayed when the produce from my first CSA wasn’t nearly as nice as what my farmer sold at the Market.  Think about it, though:  for every perfect 7″ carrot, there are several 4-6″ carrots which taste just as good.  They may take a little more work, but by accepting them, they don’t go to waste and our farmer is further supported.

Finally, there is the dreaded, “What if I get 10 turnips” fear.  First, come to our healthy meal making classes with The New Kitchen Cooking School.  We learn systems for cooking a vegetable in multiple ways so you never feel over-dosed.  This summer we have three sessions all revolving around the summer vegetables you might receive in a CSA box.  Second, a CSA box always has plenty of variety to offset any vegetable you receive in plentitude.

Read more from Dan Moore’s volunteer website about why and how to join a CSA

Happy eating!

Imagine Your Way to a Healthy Eating Lifestyle

The next step in the Imagination series . . .

You may have heard of Nutrition Action.  It’s a great newsletter that has really opened my eyes to what is actually inthe processed foods we so merrily munch.  A recent article was particularly interesting.  It  pitted the Top 10 Super Foods against the 10 Worst Processed Foods, providing the nutritional lowdown on each entry.  Here’s an abbreviated version:

Super Foods vs. The Worst Foods

*From Nutrition Action Health Letter: http://www.cspinet.org/nah/10foods_bad.html

As usual, I lapped up the dirt on all the fat, salt, calories and chemicals in foods like Marie Callender’s pot pies, Campbell’s Soups and the Olive Garden trio plate.   But I could only do that because I had imagination, i.e., I can look at the list of 10 Super Foods and imagine a dozen alternatives to the Top 10 Worst that are not only scrumptious but health-giving as well.  I don’t have to depend on Marie, Campbell or Olive for food, flavor and comfort at end of the day.

For a lot of people, however, those foods are a main source of food, flavor and comfort, so it isn’t so fun to read the dirt on processed foods.  Lacking the imagination to free ourselves from that trap, we look at the Super Food list and think, “Oh great, a dinner of salmon with spinach and brown rice plus fat-free milk to drink.  Oh great, crispbreads with oranges for snack.  Oh great, frozen butternut squash steamed with kale for lunch.”  Faced with that kind of lineup, it’s hard to imagine healthful eating as anything but dismal!

But what if the Super Food list were enhanced by a little imagination.  Take a look my Super Food meal list from the past couple weeks:Super Food Imagination List

What you will gather from this list is that we face a  translation problem.  Each of the plain old super foods on the list actually translates into a delightfully delicious dish!  But we often don’t know this–and very often can’t even envision it.

Hence the need for need for revving up the imagination.  If 2012 is your year to begin a healthy eating lifestyle, here’s a good starting point:  Envision the Super Foods as the basis for hundreds of incredible meals that beat the heck out of Marie’s pot pies.  You may not be able to picture those meals, and you may not fully believe that statement, but can you at least:

  • Imagine a world where healthful meals are as good, satisfying and comforting as a bowl of Haagan Daz or Cold Stone.
  • Imagine eating foods and feeling really good–not guilty–about what you’ve eaten.
  • Imagine that you could experience incredible health by eating deliciously delightful meals.

What you need to know is that these imagined scenarios are all true.  I can say this with complete confidence because I’ve been in this wonderful world for many years and it only gets better and better.  I hope you’ll join me this year–starting with just a leap of imagination.

Ready for the next steps:

Kitchen Tip: Making Produce Safe to Eat

Water Photo

By willg photos (c) all rights reserved

Water Wins Again

Just about the time salmonella and E. coli fade from the headlines, it seems like some new contamination case surfaces, putting us right back on edge about the safety of our food.  Remember the outbreak of listeria in last summer’s cantaloup crop?

Fortunately, in one of our Whole Kitchen series, CSU Extension Agent Ann Zander shared a surprisingly effective weapon in the food safety wars:  running water.  No need for fancy washing solutions or time-consuming procedures, she explained, just wash produce in running water.  Surprising as it might be, Extensions Service research showed that plain old water worked as well as commercial washing solutions–and for a lot less money!

  • The key, however, lies in washing the produce under running water.  So it’s great if you’re saving water by scrubbing produce in a bucket of water.  Just be sure to give it a final rinse with a healthy dose of running water after scrubbing.
  • The same goes for lettuce, spinach or any of the leafy greens that get washed in a salad spinner. Remove the spinner from the washing bowl and rinse the greens thoroughly under running water before spinning dry.

Steeping back to a bigger picture view on this topic, isn’t it amazing that plain old water is our best friend when it comes to safe produce?  Really elevates the stature of this seemingly common resource that we so take for granted.  What you should know, however, is that this seemingly plentiful resource is actually becoming scarcer by the day.

Although it is fundamental not only to our healthy existence but also our very survival, water is increasingly being siphoned off for things like:  washing spinach multiple times so we can have a conveniently packaged product; serving as a disposal stream for antibiotics, hormones and other pharmaceutical waste from our bodies; and most recently as a primary ingredient in oil and gas “fracking.”

What happens to our public water is a good issue to watch.  It would be ironic indeed to have plenty of oil for cars and lots of natural gas to heat our homes, only to run short of pure, clean water for drinking, growing food, cooking–and safely washing produce!

Want to learn more about the crucial role of water and how to protect this treasure?  Check out the upcoming conference:   The Downstream Neighbor, January 27-29, 2012 in Denver.

How to Make Healthy, Whole Grain Breadcrumbs

Transform throw away crusts into kitchen gold

The previous post talked about “breading,” an easy building block cooking technique used to create dozens of different, interesting dishes.  Get ready to start experimenting with this technique by making your own breadcrumbs.  Save money by using up old crusts and stale bread that would otherwise go to waste.  Help the environment by keeping food out of  landfills, where it produces methane, a far worse contributor to global warming than carbon emissions.

Out of the Breadbox Bread

Good News for Gluten Free Eaters: Enjoy breaded dishes by making crumbs from your favorite GF bread, like Out of the Breadbox, at Vitamin Cottage.

Start with Whole Not Half  Healthy breadcrumbs can only come from healthy bread, and that means bread made from 100% whole grains, like whole wheat, oats, brown rice and millet.  In the ingredient listing for a bread, the single word “wheat” is code for “white flour.”  Skip that brand and look for one made entirely from whole grains.  Whole grains are so delicious and nutrition rich; why waste money on breads made with half grains, especially when it’s the halves with all the calories and few of the nutrients that go with them!

Gluten Free  Good news for gluten free eaters:  You can use gluten free bread for crumbs.  Be sure it’s whole grain, like Food for Life’s Millet Bread which makes really flavorful crumbs.

Using Food Processor to Make Crumbs

Act Ahead: Whenver you end up with a couple crusts or stale slices, toss them in the food processor and give them a whir.

Act Ahead  Don’t wait until preparing a breaded dish to make the breadcrumbs.  Then you’ll be saddled with the extra step of a  toasting them in the oven to dry.  Instead, weave the process into your normal kitchen routine.  Here’s an example:

  1. Whenever you end up with a crust or two, simply toss them in the food processor.
  2. Process the crumbs when, e.g., you’re next unloading the dishwasher.  Push the button and unload the glasses.  Once the bread has been transformed into crumbs, dump them on a plate.  Put the plate on top of, e.g, the microwave.
  3. Give the crumbs a stir or two over the next couple days to make sure the bottom ones get exposed to air.
  4. Then, while heating something in the microwave, pour the dried crumbs (make sure they are completely dry)  into a storage container; put the plate in the dishwasher.
Large Breadcrumbs

Large crumbs are great for gratin toppings, meatballs and so on. . .

Now you’ve got large crumbs to use for gratin toppings, in meatloaf and meatballs, etc.  To use crumbs for breading, I recommend one additional step:

The Fine Grind  Breading works best when the crumbs are very fine.  They do a better job of sticking to the food and creating an even, solid coating.  That’s why flour and cornmeal are such good breading ingredients.  Breadcrumbs can be made into a perfect breading ingredient by simply running them through the food processor again, after they are dried the first time.  I wait and do this when I’m making a dish, and only fine grind as much as I need, leaving larger crumbs for other uses.

Small Breadcrumbs

. . . but for breading, process again after they are dried for a small, fine crumb

No Food Processor?  An immersion blender with a chopper attachment is a good, and much less expensive, alternative.  If that option isn’t available, there’s always a rolling pin.  In the days before all our specialized electric appliances, we broke crusts into large pieces, dried them and then crushed with a rolling pin.  Putting them inside paper or plastic bags minimized the mess.

Ready to do experiment with breading?  Check out the next post on Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping,  which makes use of plentiful late summer and early autumn produce.

How to Bread Fish, Meat and Vegetables

One building block cooking technique, dozens of dishes

Here at EveryDay Good Eating, we like to take the mystery out of cooking.  We believe everyone can make–and deserves to enjoy–deliciously healthful food, everyday.  That’s why we teach basic, building block cooking techniques that can be mixed and matched to create a wide range of dishes.  Breading is a perfect example.  It’s an easy and inexpensive technique that can be applied to lots of different foods to create dozens of different dishes.

Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping

Breading eggplant adds fast elegance to this somewhat bland vegetable, creating a perfect palette for a fresh tomato topping

Why We Love Breading  Who doesn’t end up with bread crusts that no one wants?  Turn them into breadcrumbs and they won’t end up creating environmental havoc in a landfill.*  Meanwhile, you’ll save grocery dollars and end up with a form of kitchen gold.  Coat an ordinary food with breadcrumbs and suddenly it gets a welcome flavor boost and becomes something special, especially beneficial for blander foods like eggplant and zucchini.  Breading also helps retain moisture for delicate foods like fish and chicken breasts that dry out  easily when cooked.

Basic Breading Technique 

  1. Dipping Eggplant in a Wash

    Step 1: Dip the food in a "wash," here a mixture of olive oil, milk, mayonnaise and fresh herbs

    Dip a food in some kind of “wash,” like egg or milk

  2. Coat it with breadcrumbs
  3. Fry or bake until the breading browns and crisp.

Those are the basic elements of breading, although you’ll see dozens of variations in recipes.  Sometimes, sturdier and moister foods (like chicken breasts) aren’t dipped in a wash at all, or foods are dipped in flour before the wash.  The liquids used for a wash can vary from recipe to recipe.  Finally, delightful variety can be achieved by including herbs, spices and other flavors with the breadcrumbs or by swapping the crumbs for different flours, cornmeal, crushed corn flakes or cracker crumbs.

Dipping Eggplant in Whoel Grain Breadcrumbs

Step 2: Coat the slices in finely ground breadcrumbs. Here we used whole grain, gluten free crrumbs.

Making It Healthy  Breaded foods are often equated to unhealthy foods.  Think chicken nuggets, fish n’ chips and eggplant parmigiana style.  These  foods are coated thickly with white breadcrumbs then thrown in a deep frier where they absorb ungodly amounts of bad fats.   Don’t let these examples dissuade you from experimenting with this easy and delicious technique.

  • Simply use a 100% whole grain breading, whether that’s breadcrumbs, flour, cracker crumbs, etc.  While whole grain breadcrumbs can be difficult to find at grocery stores, they are easy (and free) to make.  Check out this blog on making breadcrumbs, paying particular attention to the note on giving them a second “Fine Grind” after they are dried.
  • Fry in healthful oils, like olive and safflower.
  • Use moderate amounts of oil.  Surprisingly, browning can be achieved nicely with just a tablespoon of oil.  Be sure the oil is very warm to hot (but not smoking) before adding the food so it isn’t just absorbed by the breading.  Although the second side will brown well enough in the skim of oil remaining after the first side is browned, additional oil can be added to brown the second side more thoroughly.  In this case, remove the food after browning the first side, scrape out any remaining bits so they don’t burn, add another tablespoon of oil and heat before adding the food on its second side.
  • Preparing Breaded Eggplant for Baking

    Step 3: Fry or bake. Here the eggplant is baked, but because of the oil in the wash, there was no need to spray slices with additional oil to get a nicely browned crust.

    Bake as an alternative to frying.  The hot air circulating in an oven does a great job of browning and crisping breaded food, if the weather isn’t too hot for turning on this appliance.  Best results are achieved by spraying the food with a little oil before baking.

Ready to try a breaded dish? First, find out how to make your own free, healthful, whole grains crumbs.  Next, check out the post on Breaded Eggplant with Herbed Tomato Topping,  which makes use of plentiful late summer and early autumn produce.

* Food waste produces methane gas which contributes far more to global warming than even carbon emissions.

Q & A: How to Heat Oil for Sauteing

Kitchen Tip (+ a Little Kitchen Wisdom)

At a recent Cooking Get Together we were preparing to saute onions for a healthy risotto.  As always, the recipe said, “heat oil until hot but not smoking.”  That directive led one of the participants to ask:

Picture of Heating Pan for Sauteing

When sauteing, first heat (a/k/a "condition") the pan, then pour in the oil and heat until oil is shimmery and very thin, but not smoking.

Q.  When heating oil to saute, do you heat the pan first, then pour in the oil?  Or pour in the oil then heat the pan?

A.  The technically correct sequence is heat the pan first, then pour in the oil.

Q.  But what if you forget?  Is it ok if you mistakenly pour in the oil before heating the pan?

A.  It is ok.

While that’s the short answer to the oil heating question, I have begun sensing a deeper side to questions like these.

The Rise of Fear-Based Cooking  For example, did you feel a slight twinge of uneasiness when I just advocated a flagrant violation of “The Cooking Rules?”  I did so because I have frequently made the “mistake” of pouring in the oil before heating the sauté pan, yet I’ve still ended up with a perfectly fine dish–and perfectly fine dishes are the sum total of what’s required of everyday cooks.  However, for many everyday cooks, there seems to be an underlying uncertainty–maybe even a fear–about all the cooking rules floating around these days and whether we’re following them adequately.  This is likely the result of the cooking shows and competitions proliferating on TV and elsewhere.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being informed and educated about cooking rules, as long as we maintain perspective.  In other words, cooking rules do not define the line between good food and bad.  Rather, they simply identify ways to make food taste better or bring out flavors more fully.  We should never feel inadequate or cowed by rules that are oftentimes repeated with religious fervor.

Professional Cooks and Everyday Cooks  Bear in mind that the cooking rules are developed and propounded by cooking professionals, i.e., people who are paid and have all day to produce the spectacular food.  This does not accurately describe the everyday cook, who is throwing together meals after a long day of work, without any compensation, on a budget, around household chores and bill paying, with particular health needs,  and maybe with kids underfoot or  in between a variety of kid activities.

Permission to Relax   I cooked for years without ever knowing proper saute technique–or much or any other technique for that matter, yet both family and friends were perfectly delighted with the results.  This was before the days of cooking shows, so I think there was bliss in ignorance.  What counted for more than anything was the care and attention I gave meal making.  Gradually, I did begin to pick up pointers here and there as I could, and bit by bit my meals became better.

Think Guidelines, Not Rules  I’d like to recommend this more relaxed approach to anyone who counts themselves in the “everyday cook” category.  First, put your heart, care and attention into meal making.  This counts for as much or more than anything.  Then, think of cooking rules more in the vein of “guidelines. ”  Instead of feeling stressed about knowing  and following them perfectly all the time, just try to pick up one or two at a time and gradually incorporate them into your routines.    You’ll find that few, if any, merit “end of the world” status, rendering a dish inedible if they are not followed.  Following them simply adds up, bit by bit, to better and better meals.

Enjoy  Finally, don’t let anything stand in the way of enjoying your food and those you share it with , which is the point of it all anyway, right?

More on the topic of cooking fear:  Using Fresh Herbs at 11,000 Feet

Hope!

A Little Inspiration for Everyday Cooks

Ever feel like good meals are as likely to show up on your table as $1000 checks in the mail?  Meal making has been made out to be so hard, so difficult and so impossible.  More than cooking skills, new gadgets and more recipes, I sometimes think what we need most is just a dose of plain old hope, i.e., a deep-rooted belief that making good, wholesome food each day is entirely doable.

As an example, I received this email from Carol right after she had registered for a Whole Kitchen Cooking Class:

“Looking forward to the class. I don’t know much about cooking. I try to eat healthy but it requires WORK.”

So it warmed my heart when, after class was over, Carol emailed again.

“Subject:  soup!!

Hey Mary,  Just wanted to share with you that I made the tastiest healthy soup this evening using leftover chicken breasts and good veggies from the fridge. It was quick, easy, and delicious, and I couldn’t have done it before your class. I’m so proud of myself!”Tulips

While the many skills, tips and strategies we learned in class undoubtedly contributed greatly to Carol’s confidence and enthusiasm, I have no doubt that a newly blossomed seed of hope will keep her cooking long into the future, and enjoying it, too.

Need a dose of inspiration?  Join one of our cooking classes where fun and inspiration are definitely main menu items, and cooking is cool again.

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