Affordable Organics?

Learning to Double Your Vegetable Dollars Is the Secret

“I’d like to buy organic vegetables, but they’re so expensive.”  Ever catch yourself dreaming of more affordable organics?  Try this on for size:   What if, every time you purchased an organic vegetable, you actually got not just one but two or three vegetables?  No doubt that would make the  economic equation a lot more attractive.

Red Wagon Beets, Golden and Red

Red Wagon Beets, Golden and Red  (Picture Courtesy of Red Wagon)

Here’s how to make that his kind of magic happen:  Waste Not.  For example, in last week’s Farmers’ Market Excursion class, we made beet relish, using a gorgeous bunch of organic red and golden beets from Red Wagon Farm.  The bunch cost $4.00, but

  • we made enough relish for two meals,
  • the next day, the beet greens were the centerpiece for another meal, and
  • the following day the beet stems went into a lentil soup.

In other words, that’s four meals’ worth of vegetables for $4.00, or $1.00 per meal for amazingly delicious, don’t-harm-the-environment, don’t-harm-me, super-nutritious vegetables.

Beets with luch, full beet greens

People in my classes always exclaim, “You really don’t waste anything!” In our food culture which routinely wastes tons and tons of food, I guess my actions do seem odd: Retrieving kale stems when class members mistake them for compost, saving the ends of grated ginger root for tea, stuffing onion ends and skins into a bag to make my own (very cheap) broths. But maybe it’s time for the new, less-wasteful food culture that Every Day Good Eating is bringing about.  (Picture Courtesy of Red Wagon)

Bear in mind, too, that this was no ordinary bunch of limp beets with scraggly tops.  They were firm and dense, the tops lush and huge and the stems plentiful.  Every part of the beet was rich with flavor–leaving the taste buds completely satisfied and providing plenty of vegetable nutrition.  Could anyone really argue that  $1.00 per meal is “too expensive” for this caliber of vegetable?

“You get what you pay for” is a universal law.  Pay little and you get little.  Happily, it works the other way, too, however.  Pay a fair price and you get a fair–often more than fair–product.

Now that you know the magic that makes organic affordable, begin learning how to use all parts of a vegetable.  Join us for our last class on beet relish at Isabelle Farm on Thursday, July 26.  Then check out the next blog for a quick way to use beet greens.  For the stems, just saute and toss them into your favorite lentil soup (which could be a canned variety, too.)

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Best Practice Secrets of Good Every Day Cooks

What Good Everyday Cooks Know that Struggling Cooks Don’t

Picking Up Barbeque Sauce from Honeysuckle

Exploring the Louisville Farmers’ Market at our first Market Morning.  Here, Kristen Hall talks about  she is reformulating all her sauces to use real ingredients–like what you’d have in our own pantry.

For a recent magazine article, Martha Stewart was asked how often she orders take out.  Her response was something like a couple times over the last 15 years.

How many people are in the “0-5” range for takeout during the last 15 years?  Initially, Martha’s response made me wonder whether she is some kind of freak.  But then it struck me:  I haven’t ordered takeout more than a couple times in the last 15 years either!

Fact is, there are people “out there” who make healthy, good-tasting meals night after night like it’s no big deal.  What do they know that most people don’t?

Here’s one big secret:  They know the difference between healthy and unhealthy convenience foods, and they know how to use healthy convenience to make good meals manageable.  Case in point:  The Honeysuckle Gourmet’s Black Jack Barbecue Sauce we discovered at our first Market Morning in Louisville.

Barbecue Sauce

Kristen’s Black Jack Natural uses her homemade ketchup to avoid unhealthful ingredients.

How did we know it was healthy?  At our Market tour, we got to chat with Honeysuckle’s Kristen Hall.  She explained how she is painstakingly reformulating each of her sauces to use all “real” ingredients, i.e., the same stuff you’d find in your own pantry.  If you could replicate a sauce yourself, you’ve got a healthy time saver.  You’re just paying to have someone else mix all the ingredients.

What about the cost?  At $7.00 a jar, it’s tempting to write off the sauce as “too expensive.”  But as FORK owner and class participant Christine pointed out, our group of 8 used only a quarter of the jar!  That means I’ve got at least 4 to 6 more meals in that jar for my husband and I.  Which brings us to the third point:

How do I use the rest of the sauce to make great meals, manageably?  This is the key to making condiments cost effective, i.e., finding ways to use them rather than having them waste away on the refrigerator door.  In addition to using the sauce to top sautéed chicken breasts at our class, I’ve found two other easy ideas:

Fast Recipe 1–Slow Cooker Chicken Legs  In need of a fast meal that could be prepared in advance, I skinned a couple chicken thighs and legs and plopped them into the slow cooker with 1/2 cup of sauce.  Eight hours later, I had melt-in-your mouth pulled chicken and sauce that went perfectly over warmed up leftover rice and broccoli.  Fast food couldn’t be faster!

Fast Recipe 2–Barbeque Chicken Soup  A couple days later, the leftover chicken and sauce became the flavor base for a quick, light summer soup with leftover broccoli, potatoes, new carrots from the garden and onion and garlic, of course.  I used another 1/4 cup of sauce + a little hot sauce for flavor.  Again, faster than fast food–and I still have half a jar of sauce.

So that’s how good every day cooks make good meals manageable–and delicious.  Learn more:  Join one of the everyday meal making classes with The New Kitchen Cooking School.

Eating Out: Not All That Great?

Going out to eat.  It’s supposed to be so great.  That’s what all the ads sing, over pictures of sizzling steaks, creamy pasta, or tomatoes raining gaily down on cheese smothered nachos.

Typical Restaurant Meal of Cheesy Beef Nachos

They look good, but are you bored with the taste of monotone restaurant foods?

So why comments like those I heard last week from some new clients, parents of a 1-year old:  “We eat out way too much,” they both agreed.  What’s going on here?  According to popular culture, we should never tire of eating out.  It’s the epitome of good living!

  • “It’s boring,” said the husband.  Not surprising.  Most restaurants are now chains that can only profit by moving mass volumes of food.  The only way to move masses of food, in turn, is by keeping flavors within a narrow mid-range, so they appeal to masses of people.  So eat at chains long enough and your taste buds will surely get bored.
  • “It’s expensive,” said the wife.  You bet it is.  Nobody cooks food for free.  And when eating in huge chains, you’re paying not just cooks, hostesses, busboys and dishwashers but a lot of corporate upkeep, from marketing to CEO salaries to stockholder communications.
  • Finally, the wife-mother concluded,  “I feel better when I eat at home–and I think that it’s better for my nursing son, too.”  Again, not surprising.  It’s tough to profit off of vegetables (all that labor for chopping and cooking!), whole grains (not produced in quantities that allow for cut rate prices), and moderate portions of clean meat  (where’s my supersized portion?)   Besides, who would actually eat that stuff, and who knows how to cook it and make it taste good without lots of cheese, butter, salt and sugar?

As a child, I remember eating out as an enormous treat, i.e., a special something we got to do on special occasions.  But my mom was always prepared and capable of feeding her family without the helping hand of a restaurant.

In the brave new world occupied by these new parents, however, eating out is no longer an occasional, enjoyable option, but an inescapable trap.  Trapped is what happens when we and our kitchens aren’t set up for manageable meal-making.  We’re left completely vulnerable.  At that point, time pressures, lack of confidence, uncertainty and chaos are all free to gang up and leave us without any option but eating out.

Do you have options?  Are you as bored at home as at the neighborhood chains?  Can you efficiently produce meals that meet your healthy eating ideals?  Can you feed your children the way you want?  There’s help!

  1. Check out the easy mid-winter, boredom busting meal in the next post
  2. Come to a Whole Kitchen cooking series, which is all about acquiring skills to make satisfying meals day in and day out
  3. Call Mary Collette for some one-on-on kitchen coaching
  4. Tell your company or organization to contact Mary Collette for a good eating workshop; reduce health care costs and make employees happy at the same time
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