Dealing with Negativity

Why is it that when you’re trying to lead a healthy lifestyle, some people (even good people), try to make you feel like a douche? Or they give you advice that is clearly not based on fact, but rather on their their own experience (of which they really have none, since they aren’t exactly the picture of health). “I turned out okay?” Ummm… no.

Somehow my avoidance of unhealthy foods or behaviors and any discussion of it, has occasionally been mistranslated as, “You are so unhealthy because you eat that or do that.” I can think of several situations (not just regarding food) in which “no thanks” or “it’s not for me” comes across like this: “You are a turd if you do that.”

In case anyone else out there is getting “the look” or the eye roll or the sneer, for choosing the more natural real food over the processed fake food (for yourself or *gasp* your children), I’d like to offer some encouragement instead. Be proud of yourself and stand your ground. You’re doing something really good! If you happen to be the one rolling your eyes and full of sarcasm, maybe try to lay off just a little. It’s easy to become discouraged when making a change. You’ve probably been on the receiving end before.

We’ve been led to believe eating fatty food is what causes obesity, but that is yesterday’s theory. Our fat intake has decreased, yet obesity is still on the rise. Sugar addiction is a serious problem. It’s an addiction that deserves the same sort of attention as tobacco and alcohol addiction. I’m not saying it should be illegal, but many people don’t realize that it’s as addictive as crack. Most kids will literally lie, cheat and steal for it. They’ll even get into cars with strangers… just kidding. Kids know not to do that now, right? I just pictured a group of sugar fiends in a vacant, condemned house splitting a tablespoon of sugar, purchased with the money they scrounged, just to get a taste. Bet it would happen though.

So many things we thought we knew about nutrition, are just plain wrong. “They” over thought it and led us astray. It’s not rocket science. Go back to eating food the way it was naturally grown. When you eat corn, it should still look like corn. Butter is better than margarine (especially if it the margarine contains trans fat). Sugar should be eaten as it naturally occurs – in fruit, and occasionally honey or pure maple syrup (not Mrs. Butterworth). Stay away from those fad artificial sweeteners. “They” can’t seem to make up their minds about their safety anyway. The whole egg is better than just the egg white, especially if they’re free range and fed well (happy, healthy chickens). Most food is better for you if eaten in it’s original form. The apple, rice, corn, potato, etc. is better and easier to digest when it’s eaten as a whole, or at least eaten together, i.e. mashed potatoes with skin, brown rice, etc. A glass a wine or beer or even a mixed drink (or two) with a meal should no longer be taboo. But all of these, along with meat and dairy and wheat products, should be consumed in much smaller quantities than we’re used to. This should go without saying, but if you have health problems or allergies you should probably listen to your doctor and ignore me.

Eat more vegetables. If you have access, buy locally, organically grown food, including pastured meats. (By the way, happy and healthy animals naturally produce meats that are higher in Omega 3’s.) Don’t support unethical, unhealthy and inhumane practices with your hard earned money. Save the gas and energy used to process, transport and store items that can’t be produced in our region. Be conscious about what you eat. Try growing your own organic food. It’s much easier than you think, and there’s a good chance you’ll actually take pleasure in it. It’s a pasttime that goes waaaaay back. I started with a low maintenance container garden, but next spring I’m actually looking forward to adding an “in ground” garden. More and more research is turning up regarding the harmful side effects of pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s or GM Foods). The evidence is mounting and it’s just a matter of getting everyone’s attention now. Oh and artificial ingredients should be taboo.

Did you know that parents in western societies are likely to outlive their children if things don’t change? It’s true. Let that thought marinate for minute. Our diets and health are spiraling out of control. You might be condoning or even facilitating it by supporting fake food manufacturers and feeding this junk to your kids. If making a change for your own benefit isn’t motivation enough, then do it for your kids. Their lives, literally, depend on it. (Yea. I went there.)

Okay. I’m getting off my soap box now.

KYFT 2010

This weekend the girls and I, and a few of our friends, visited seven farms during the the Know Your Farms Tour. Twenty-seven local farms participated. Saturday we visited three: Birdbrain Ostrich Ranch, Grateful Growers Farm and Lewis Farm/Carolina Cattle Co. The ostrich farm was our first stop. The little guys were so cute. We sampled some ostrich meatballs. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but ostrich is nothing like the poultry I’m used to. If someone had told me I was eating beef, I would’ve believed them. Lewis Farms was more fun for the kids. They fed hay to the horses and there was a hayride tour.

The highlight for me on Saturday was visiting Grateful Growers. If you’ve read any of my earlier entries, you probably know that this is who I buy pork products from at the Matthews Farmers Market. It was nice to visit a farm that actually provides food for our family, and it was the only one we visited this go round. Linsey was very excited when she recognized Natalie from the market. I though we’d just be seeing a lot of happy pigs, but it turns out they grow other things as well for their own consumption: chickens, turkeys, mushrooms!! We ate lunch from their Harvest Moon Grille concession trailor. The GGQ (Grateful Growers pork barbecue) was good, but the pork burger with sriacha aioli and cheddar cheese on a homemade yeast roll – was devine! It would have been even better with the tomato. Haleigh ordered it without. This place has been highly rated (and not just by me), so if you’re ever in uptown Charlotte, hunt this orange concession trailer down!!

On Sunday we visited four farms that were really close together: Hartsell Farms, Bame Farms, Wild Turkey Farms and Landis Gourmet Mushroom (which is actually in an old cotton mill). We saw Fainting Goats, Belted Galloway Cattle and Gulf Coast Sheep (all endangered breeds) at Hartsell Farms. This is where I realized I had never really tried lamb before. I wish I’d though of it before we left and bought some while we were there. As soon as I figure out how to order some local, humanely treated lamb, I’m going to attempt cooking it.

Bame Farms was a small operation. The girls enjoyed playing with the antique corn sheller and grinder, but this is not the type of farm I want to support, at least until things improve for the pigs. I was really disappointed at how they were treated here. The pen was too small and the entire thing was just one large muddy mess, which I’m sure included the pigs’ own waste. This is better than a CAFO on a factory farm, I guess. But the chickens that we saw on the entire tour had better living arrangements than these poor pigs. I’m not saying that pigs should be treated better than chickens. However, this farmer claims that he grows the pigs to around 150 pounds (although they can get much larger). At best, that’s about 145 pounds more animal than a nice sized chicken. These guys need way more room to run than chickens do.

There were at least two faucets with water trickling out constantly and the pigs were completely covered in this dark mud/urine/poo mixture. (I’ll admit that the pen didn’t smell as bad as it looked.) The pen was no more than 10′ x 10′ and only about 3 feet high. It was covered, so the pigs wouldn’t have to worry about getting too hot. But pigs are smart and playful and enjoy running around every now and then. That was clear on every other farm that we visited. I wonder if these poor guys ever have the chance to set their feet on dry land (or whether some of them could even walk at all). Moving around in that gooey muck can’t be easy. If I remember correctly, they are fed mostly corn, which is not good. One of them appeared to be sick or injured. When asked about the pig, the farmer said he didn’t want to take it to the vet, because he feared they’d tell him to put it down. I’m not sure if he was looking out for the pig or his investment, but the pig should have been isolated from the others at the very least.

Wild Turkey Farms in China Grove was my favorite, by far. When I dream up an ideal, sustainable farm, this is pretty close to what I imagine. Everything they do here is done with care and respect for the animals, the environment and the consumer. The are even Animal Welfare Approved. All of the animals were pastured. The pigs live in huge, uncovered pens with a couple mud holes and ark shelters. There is plenty of grass under their feet. The cows roam in a huge pasture. While on our hayride tour of the farm, we could see them at a distance, relaxing under the cool shade of some trees, along with some protection – a llama (a couple of dogs also help with this). According to the farmer, llamas are extremely territorial and can sense an intruder from much further away than the cows can. They are also pretty fierce toward unwanted guests. The chickens also had nice sized pens on the pasture. The turkeys pen was a little smaller, but I’m pretty sure it’s due to their frailty. According to two different farmers on the tour, they are more difficult to keep alive and one of them isn’t planning to raise them anymore.

When one of the guests asked about slaughtering, which can be a touchy subject, the farmer didn’t flinch. The slaughtering company was in North Carolina and is family run. Based on what I had seen and heard so far, I believed him when he said it was a company he could trust to do the job with respect. I am considering ordering meat from this farm just to show my support for their high ethical standards. Standards so high, that some of their own family members and other farmers have given them a hard time about it. (Haters!)

The $25 that we paid for the ticket covered as many people as we could fit in one vehicle for both days. What a bargain. This annual tour will become a tradition for us. I highly recommend it, especially if you have kids. Even if you don’t care about the food aspect, this tour is such a fun learning experience.

Happy Grateful Growers Piglets

By the way, did you that NC is second only to Iowa in pig production, and that Smithfield is the nations largest pork producer. I wonder how Paula Deen feels about CAFO’s… Anyway, I won’t get all political on you, but if you’re interested in knowing how poorly these pigs are treated or how the waste is affecting the water supply, read this (please click the link), or do you own research.

An 8 Year Old’s Perspective

Linsey wrote her “story” about a week ago, but I’m just getting a chance to post it. I was going to do a little editing to cut down on the repetition and correct obvious errors, but I’m going to fight the urge to change anything, and post it “as is” so that you can get the full scope of it’s 8 year old charm! I apologize in advance if it’s too difficult to read.

Linsey’s Perspective:

I like to go to the farmars market with my mom. I see lots of food at the farmars market. There are lots of vegetables at the farmermersmarket We go to farmarsmarket on Saturdays evry week. There are not a lot of furts at the farmer. The first day I went to the farmersmarket I thout the farmersmarket was boring but I was wong now I bon’t thinnk that the farmersmarket is boring eny more. I amso Excted evrytime I go to the farmersmarket I went. one time I went I stayed to wach a chef cook I was so happy when the chef was done I got to try the food that the chef cooked. I was so good that I wanted more but I couldn’t have more. I tasted a pear at the farmersmarket the pear was so good. Evry time I go I can get a treat. I can get eny treat that I want. I am so happy that I can get a treat. The treats I get are so good that I want more Love Linsey the End

In case you were unable to decipher: “There are not a lot of furts at the farmer,” she was not talking about flatulent or grouchy old farmers. She meant: There are not a lot of fruits at the farmers market. She was blown away when I told her that tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins were all fruit. It was not easy for me to ignore all those red squiggly lines as I typed, as well as her misuse of punctuation and lowercase and capital letters. But there it is.

Last night for dinner I had planned on putting some leftover ingredients together with some new ones to save time and also because I didn’t want to waste any of our treasured fare. I chopped two cloves of fresh garlic, stemmed and chopped some shiitakes from Clover Mushroom Farm and rough chopped about two handfuls of fresh sweet basil from my garden. I started my pasta water, then heated a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a pan and threw in the garlic, mushrooms, leftover Grateful Growers pork sausage (about half a cup), sea salt and freshly ground pepper. I had planned on adding leftover tomato sauce from our Italian sausage dinner to these ingredients, but after being hit with the wonderful aroma of mushrooms, garlic and sausage sauteing in olive oil, I decided not to drown them in the heavy sauce. Instead, I added about a half a cup of Chardonnay that I had in the fridge. While the alcohol was cooking out, I diced a tomato, thinly sliced about a quarter cup of sweet onion (very thin, I mean almost shaved) and grated about a half a cup of fresh parmesan. I also tossed fresh handmade pasta (by Pasta a Mano) into the boiling pot of water. It only takes about 3 minutes to get fresh pasta cooked al dente. I drained the pasta, then tossed it, along with the tomatoes, onions, basil and parmesan, into the the mushroom and sausage mixture. It was delicious and the pasta was perfect.

I now know that fresh, al dente pasta does not compare in any way to the bland, dry pasta sold in a box at my local grocery store. I would love to learn how to make it from scratch myself. Then I could spend time making pasta with my kids, the way Italian mothers do. I know we’re not Italian, but what a lovely tradition to share between generations.

After dinner I cut two acorn squash in half, seeded and then microwaved them, cut side down, for about 5 minutes (shortcut to reduce baking time). Then I turned them over and wished I had remembered to slice a tiny bit of the end off so they would sit flat. It was much more difficult to do this while they were hot. I put about a half a teaspoon of butter and about two tablespoons of chopped walnuts in each half, drizzled them with a small amount of maple syrup, and then VERY lightly sprinkled some brown sugar on top. I put them in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. When they were done, I set them out on the stove to cool while I got the girls ready for bed. The smell in the house was amazing, but still they had no interest in eating a “vegetable” for desert.

In the mean time, Brian finally got home and came straight upstairs, grinning and inquiring about what was sitting on the stove. Once the kids were in bed, we ate our desert. Brian commented that he wanted to eat them again and, lucky for him, it’s squash season! I’m already inventing new recipes in my head. Maybe I’ll try it with some fresh squeezed orange juice and zest, or cinnamon, maybe even diced with apples. Mmmmm, endless possibilities. Seasonal eating is so yummy!

Cook, Eat, Photograph

I finally made the Butternut Squash Bisque that I couldn’t get to over the weekend. I roasted the vegetables first, rather than sauteing or boiling them as the recipe suggested. I cut the squash in half, sliced the onion and threw the carrots in whole. Then I drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  While they were roasting, I heated the vegetable stock with a little freshly ground pepper and nutmeg on the stove. The carrots were not soft enough, so I diced them up and threw them in the pot with the stock for few more minutes while I scraped out my squash. Next time I’ll cut the carrots in half. I used my Cuisinart hand blender (love it) to puree it in batches. I didn’t add any heavy cream, which the recipe calls for. Instead I just dropped a dollop of plain yogurt in my bowl of soup, threw some chives on top of that and then drizzle a teeny bit of olive oil over it. It was pretty good, but I was a little underwhelmed.

I wanted to take some pictures of it, so I had some again for lunch today. I wasn’t as excited about eating it as I was about photographing it, so I just made a little bowl. It still needed something. It’s kind of like tomato soup. Simple, good… but kinda boring. I might enjoy this soup as part of a multi-course meal, but not on it’s own. Then I figured out what was missing. Some heat!! I added a little cayenne pepper (and a little salt). WHOA! Now we’re talking. I was going back for seconds! Made this way, I could easily see myself eating a bowl of this by itself anytime, but especially on cool day. It was really comforting.

Here are some more random pictures of food. I was playing with the manual settings on my camera this morning in an attempt to figure out how I can get that nice bokeh (blur) in my photos. I think I figured it out, but I need some practice. I wish I could spend all my days cooking, eating and photographing food. What a dream..

Discoveries – More Jibberjabber About Life and Food

It’s breathtaking to watch a child sit in the grass for the first time. Sure, the newness quickly fades and by the time we’re adults, gazing out at our lawns usually means we’re contemplating whether we should mow it, water it, fertilize it, weed it or just go back inside. But for these new little humans – it’s a source of wonder.  They may have seen it through the window. They’ve been carried over or along side the swaying green mass countless times. But the first time you set a child down in the grass and watch them ponder over something so simple, it gives you pause. They just can’t seem to take their eyes or hands off of it. The concentration and curiosity on their sweet little faces while the blades move through their tiny, clumsy fingers may only last a few seconds, or could go on for several minutes. This is the kind of discovery (and sometimes rediscovery) that makes you feel young again.

This is how I feel about food. It’s been there all along but I’ve never really given it the thought it deserves. There were things that I’d seen in grocery stores my whole life, but had never even considered bringing home. Now I’m looking around and touching and smelling and tasting everything! My curiosity cannot be contained. Each week we’re eating things we’ve never tried before. It’s as if we’ve gone off the beaten path. No wait, we’ve literally gone off the beaten path. I’m shopping for food in places that I didn’t even know existed 8 months ago.

Before this, I didn’t buy anything if I didn’t already know how to prepare it (for fear of not liking it or failing to make it taste good and looking like a jackass in the kitchen). Back then, I stuck with what I knew. I made the same 40 or 50 dishes over and over again, sprinkled with a few new ones here and there, but still only using ingredients I was already familiar with. There’s a lot of trial and error, for example, my attempt at bread making. I made eggplant parmesan quite awhile back. It was not good, so I gave up. Why so easily?? I recently tried it again in ratatouille. It was much better, but I’m still not sold. I’ll give it another try. I’m convinced that if prepared properly, any ingredient can and will taste palatable, at the very least. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be things that I’m not fond of. It would be more accurate to say “I haven’t had salmon prepared to my liking… yet,” than to say “I don’t like salmon.”

Here are some of my favorite discoveries.

Holy Basil (tulsi) – I bought this plant on the advice of an organic gardener, to attract beneficial bugs (bugs that eat other bugs), like lady bugs, to my garden. Well, I didn’t want to waste the wonderful smelling herb. It’s more peppery and less sweet than traditional basil, but still has great flavor, so I did a little research. It’s link to Hinduism is interesting and it’s used as a medicinal and herbal remedy. You can read about it here. I let the fresh picked leaves steep in my green tea for about 10 minutes. Lucky for me this stuff grows like a weed. Holy Basil Batman! I have volunteer Holy Basil coming up everywhere. I have more than enough to share, if you’d like to try it (or transplant it).

Fage Yogurt – “I put that sh** on everything!” I mix it with walnuts, fruit and honey for breakfast. It’s the new “sour cream” in our house. I use it in place of crème fraiche, regular cream and sometimes cheese. I like 0%, but if you need something richer, try 2%. I’ve never tried the full fat version (Total), but I imagine that stuff is pretty thick and sour! I even put it on my face occasionally (mixed with a little lemon juice, honey and egg white). Lemon cheesecake facial (good enough to eat), anyone?

Winter Squash – I’ve already mentioned the butternut, but tonight I’m going to attempt Butternut Squash Bisque and we’re going to try acorn squash with a little butter, cinnamon and maple syrup (instead of brown sugar) sometime this weekend.

Pastured Meat – I’ve already discussed how much better pastured meat tastes, as well as how much better it is for your health. But what I haven’t mentioned enough is that it’s also more humane. Paying more for food in general, but meat and dairy especially, makes you more conscious of where your food comes from. We should be more appreciative and respectful of animals that provide food. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I have great respect for religious (and not religious) doctrines honoring the sacrifice made by animals that provide sustenance.

Local Farmers – particularly those that produce food organically and humanely. I’m really excited about the Know Your Farms Tour coming up next weekend. I will be surrounded by kindred spirits and soaking up all their wisdom. It will also give me a chance to thank the farmers for providing my family with good quality, local food. I’ll take lots of pictures and no doubt, blog all about it!

I could go on, but that’s what I’ve come up with so far.

By the way, did you know that people in most other parts of the world spend more time, energy and money on food than Americans. As a nation we spend about 10% of our income on food. Only a little more than half of that is spent on food eaten at home, and that includes money spent on alcohol and cigarettes. I can’t help but wonder if it also includes cleaning supplies, paper goods and toiletries – other things we usually buy at the grocery store. We spend less money than any other country in the world on food eaten at home. Food is cheap here, and has been for several decades. So cheap that I’m convinced many Americans have lost appreciation for it. No one wants to cook, yet everyone loves a home cooked meal! Well you can’t have it both ways people. Be adventurous! Get cooking!!

Success and Failure

I finally did it. I made bread. The flavor was really good, but guess what. I suck at baking!! My wrists and hands were sore from all that kneading. The dough did not rise properly and was dry. It was not at all soft and doughy like it was in the tutorial that I read and watched beforehand (twice). I even referenced my copy several times during the process. I’m going to have to do some troubleshooting to find out why my bread was so dense. I might have used too much flour. I have two “1 cup” measuring cups, and one holds more than the other…? I went with the larger one because it was equivalent to another measuring cup I have, which is actually best used for measuring liquids. You know, the glass one with the handle? How can two equivalent measuring cups actually be different? Well according to my online conversion website, Canada’s cup is a little bigger and the metric cup is a little smaller than the standard U.S. measuring cup. So maybe my smaller one is metric and my larger one is… Canadian? (Why can’t the powers that be just rip the band aid off and convert us to the metric system?)

I also might have killed the yeast (or maybe it’s expired). My liquids were not too hot. I used a thermometer to make sure the temperature was around 110 degrees. But I did let the yeast mixture sit for about twice as long as recommended and by that time, the water had cooled to around 80 or 90 degrees. I don’t know if this would kill the yeast, but it definitely did not rise properly. I even nuked a mug of water in the microwave for a couple minutes before letting the dough rest in there, as some suggested. Did I mention that it tastes really good? I’ll probably try again later this week.

My Tiny Dense Bread and Stupid Measuring Cups

 

This is how they should have looked after baking.

At least my goal to buy most of our groceries from the farmers market was successful. Not only was it a success, but I actually spent less money overall!! Brian stopped by and picked up some milk from HT and I bought a few things at BJ’s. I also bought some produce at Hillbilly Produce, which isn’t even a traditional grocery store. I’m not sure why we spent less, but I have a suspicion that it’s because I’m no longer buying things I don’t really need, just to take advantage of a good deal. Maybe those “good deals” were really just good sales tactics.

I just discovered Hillbilly Produce last week, but it’s been on Independence Boulevard since 1984. I’m going to hold off judgment until I’ve shopped there a few more times. They sell Baucom’s Best beef and chicken and Grateful Growers pork which is a good sign. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was no price markup on the pork. I discussed it with the farmer at the market on Saturday and she said they didn’t want any price competition. I can’t be sure about Baucom’s Best, but I don’t think there was any markup there either.

The girl that helped me at Hillbilly Produce was really nice. She was somewhat knowledgeable about the products. She said that most of their produce comes from North and South Carolina and most of them are grown organically, but are not certified USDA Organic. However, I’m not familiar with the store and most of the farmers that supply their products, so it’s a little hard to take a third party (and complete stranger) at her word. It was hard to tell for sure what was organically grown and information was inconsistent around the store. It would have been nice if there had been some uniformity and specific information posted about the produce. Then again, I’m not really familiar with the store. That could be the problem.

The store itself wasn’t very appealing at first. There was a box of rotten fruit sitting out swarming with fruit flies and ants. It’s an open building with no air conditioning. It was pretty warm and the air was a little stagnant, which can’t be good for the produce. I know the farmers market is outdoors, but the air is fresh and the heat usually isn’t a problem in the morning hours. They do have a refrigerated and freezer section with some fruit, dairy, meat, etc. The produce I bought was okay, but not spectacular. As I said, I’m going to shop there a few more times before I decide whether this will be one of my regular stores.

Not Settling!

Most of the patrons at the Matthews Farmers Market are regulars, so although I don’t know these people, their faces are familiar. This past Saturday, we ran into one of Haleigh’s teachers while we were there. She’s been shopping the market for three years now. While in line to get my French breed, Poulet Rouge chicken, we had a conversation about buying local. She mentioned a quote and statistic that she had found in a book she’d read called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. It’s worth repeating: “If every US Citizen ate just ONE MEAL A WEEK (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 MILLION BARRELS OF OIL every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels. Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.” The list of reasons to shift more of my grocery budget to the farmers market just keeps growing.

I’ve never given much thought to the different kinds of chickens and had never heard of a Poulet Rouge until I saw them at the market. (I’ve learned a lot about food at the market.) It was more meaty and moist and much leaner than a store bought chicken. At first I found it odd that it’s unusually long neck was still attached, then I realized that this was probably done to show off it’s pedigree. After roasting, there was hardly any fat left between the perfectly browned and crispy, well seasoned skin (olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, rosemary and basil, a light sprinkle of onion powder, salt and cracked black pepper) and the tender meat. There was noticeably less fat in the pan juices. So this time, instead of discarding the skin, I ate it, along with about a teaspoonful of the pan juices drizzled on top. I can’t recall ever having a better roasted chicken.

Next week I’m going to start a new challenge. I want to buy most of my groceries at the farmers market instead of the grocery store. The foods I’m buying in stores aren’t meeting my expectations. I’m tired of settling for mediocre food. When I do find products that are local, organic and have quality ingredients, I don’t mind paying more, but sometimes stores such as Harris Teeter and especially Earthfare seem to be bordering on price gouging. As for Trader Joes, most of their food traveled more than 2500 miles to get here! I’ve also learned a few things recently that have me questioning their ethics and the practices used to get these products on the shelves at such low prices. If you didn’t know this already, cheap fast food has it’s roots in California. Now that I’ve been shopping there awhile, I’ve noticed that while some things are cheaper, their processed food is still processed food, and although their produce is usually cheaper, it isn’t very fresh. Not surprising considering the time it must take to get this produce harvested from the farms in California, packaged, loaded and shipped to the stores in Charlotte. I’m guessing this takes a week at least.

Everything I eat isn’t, and doesn’t have to be organic and local. I just prefer it that way. I shouldn’t have to settle for the lesser of evils so often – high cost, food from 2500 miles away, questionable ingredients and additives. The food at the farmers market meets our family’s food philosophy. It’s local, seasonal and mostly organic whole food. They have a few bakers, pastured meat, some cheese, produce, mushrooms, eggs, honey, plants,  hand made soaps and even fresh pasta. I will still have to get dairy and seafood from the grocery store, as well as some additional produce that isn’t grown in this region.

The pasta is pretty amazing. It’s made by a local chef using ingredients purchased right from the farmers market. Brian and I tried the ravioli a couple of weeks ago. He used tomatoes, basil, goat cheese and eggplant. It’s expensive… $9 for a pint sized freezer bag. According to the chef, each bag serves two. If you prepare a complete meal with side vegetables or a heartier sauce and maybe a salad, you should leave the meal feeling satisfied, but not full, which isn’t good portion control anyway. I bought two bags to feed our family of five, but ended up cooking both packages for just me and Brian (kids were with my parents). I didn’t have time to make anything more than the lemon basil sauce to toss it in, so one package wouldn’t have been enough this time. Considering this was upscale ravioli containing high quality, local ingredients, it was well worth it.

By the way the soup that I made last week, with homemade chicken stock and seven beans, turned out beautifully. Brian doesn’t usually care for soup, but enjoyed this one. I added small diced butternut squash, onions and celery, chopped garlic and salt and pepper. When the soup was done, I added a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar to the pot. I garnished the bowls of soup with some shredded Italian cheeses, chicken pieces and several cubes of avocado. WOW! The avocado added a creamy richness to the soup. Healthy, hearty, yummy and made with mostly local and organic ingredients.