Lucky Dip Produce Project: Week 1

Last Saturday we picked up our first Cropthorne Farm CSA share at the opening of this season’s Winter Market. What did we get?

  • multicoloured carrots
  • a massive (3 lb. 8 oz./1.6 kg!!) kohlrabi
  • shallots
  • sugar loaf radicchio
  • rainbow chard
  • chioggia beets
  • fennel

And because we are total impulse market shoppers, we also purchased some other goodies:

  • parsnips
  • Brussels sprouts on the stem
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • butternut squash
  • mixed coloured potatoes
  • more carrots
  • mixed apples
  • pears
  • quinces
  • honey

Cropthorne Winter 2014 Week 1That’s a whole lotta veggies! I’m excited to get cooking!

Lucky Dip Produce Project

It’s been a long time since I’ve been here and it has only solidified the fact that I just don’t have writing stick-to-it. I’ve seen myself notoriously start and stop on far too many of these kind of projects. It seems that if I don’t have a reason to blog, I just won’t.

Not only am I notorious for dropping the blogging ball, I’m embarrassed to say that I am also notorious for letting produce sit in the fridge and rot. I will buy, pick or receive vegetables, lose track of them and when I dig them out of the depths of the fridge, they’re too far gone to salvage and eat.

So this poses a challenge for the next while. We have signed up for a weekly winter CSA through Cropthorne Farm in Delta, BC. We participated in the farm’s CSA’s last winter and summer and we split the share so we received produce every other week. This season we’re taking on the whole share and we’ll be receiving a lucky dip of produce every week for 8 weeks. This is going to be quite the commitment because it’s a substantial amount of veggies and we usually end up buying others that are appealing.

So I’m going to tackle these two notorious traits (haha…I’m notorious for many more things, but here’s not the place to discuss them): I’m going to embark on an 8-week project where I’ll write about our winter CSA adventures. I’ll include what we receive, what I’ve done with the produce, recipes, impressions and hopefully, many other tasty morsels.

What am I trying to get out of this? I hope that the Lucky Dip Produce Project will inspire me to:

  • use up all my produce before it goes bad
  • share new and interesting recipes and resources
  • commit to blogging for 8 weeks

I’ll also get to expand my repertoire of vegetable cookery, have a dialogue with you about eating seasonally, eat more vegetables and feel good about decreasing wastage. And if I should get myself motivated to blog on a regular basis on the long term, I will be the more pleased.

That sounds like a delicious reason to blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Back to school!

It’s that time of year again! Kids are both dreading and looking forward to heading back to school. Parents are also looking forward to sending their kids off but dreading having to pack lunches. Last fall I posted the One Less Challenge and this year I am throwing down the gauntlet again.

I took my own advice to heart last year and managed to cut down on the few store bought processed foods I was packing. These are some of the things we swapped out:

  • Cold cuts: our kid wasn’t a big sandwich eater but when I packed them, I would often include deli meats. This year I was almost able to eliminate them and replaced them with other protein such as smoked firm tofu, homemade karaage (breaded chicken), salmon salad, leftover roast or grilled meat and homemade meatballs.
  • Crackers: I got tired of paying big bucks for whole grain crackers that contained ingredients that were entirely unnecessary and that would be eaten within a few days, so I started making them. Cheap, healthy and delicious.
  • Yogurt cups: We’ve never really bought them as I find pre-flavoured yogurt way too sweet and it contains more artificial stuff than I want. When the Kid went to summer camps, we’d fill up his chilled food thermos with frozen berries and plain yogurt sweetened with a touch of honey. By snack time and with enough jostling, he had a delicious frozen yogurt treat.

Ready for the challenge? Can you pack one less processed food in your kids’ lunches every week? Sure you can!

Happy back to school!

Be the change

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi.

For the past few years I’ve been rethinking our relationships with food. I, like many around me, love food and love to eat but I’ve noticed a real disconnect between people and their food. Somehow, there’s a whole generation of my peers, if not more, who has lost the ability or the will to cook. Why cook when we’re convinced that it takes too much time and energy, when marketers are seducing us with prepared foods, when the latest meal-in-a-box is deceivingly “cheap”? When cooking has become a spectator sport and when kids think macaroni and cheese comes from a box and bagged carrots are naturally mini?

I’ve been fueling a passion for food literacy, the ability to understand all facets of our food: its origins, how to grow or produce food, how to cook and eat it, its nutritional value, its social values, how our food choices affect the bigger picture. There’s no doubt that this evolution has been influenced by having a child and my desire to help him connect to food in a broader context. I knew from day 1 that one of my roles was to educate him about as much about our food world as I could, if not to give him basic life skills but to give him the knowledge to become an informed consumer.

Can I effectively change the next generation? Am I able to influence those around me to understand the food they eat and make healthy choices? I have to.

I started devising a plan, albeit a small one, to help me get my message out there. Start with my own child. Begin a dialogue about food, use all our senses, encourage him to cook and explore, grow food, read about food. Then work on his peers: take the Kid’s classmates on a fieldtrip to the community garden, host cookover playdates, talk about food. Small change but I felt that I was making a difference.

Then the potential vector for bigger change came my way. The posting for a job as a food coordinator at our local neighbourhood house landed on my proverbial plate. They were looking for someone who would work with different groups to build dialogue about food, to build capacity to feed themselves, to help revitalize an edible garden, to work with care providers of school aged kids to provide more nutritious snacks. And the job would be in my own community.

Gratefully I got hired for the position and I’m immersed in a warm, embracing atmosphere with supportive, inspiring colleagues and even more inspiring participants of all ages. I had worked in non-profit, community service environments for years before dabbling in other food related fields. When you’ve worked in the community, there’s a part of your heart that’s always rooted there. And when you leave the field, there’s a voice calling you and reminding you of what is important. I feel like I’ve come home. I feel like I can finally be the change I want to see.

Starting Early

I joke a lot about having our 8-year old son work in the kitchen. It usually begins with some seemingly daunting task like hulling 20 pounds of strawberries and ends with some remark about child labour. The funny thing is that I’m not joking. I am dead serious about encouraging parents to have their kids cook with them.

The Kid, age 2, seasoning ribs.

The Kid has always hung around the kitchen. When he was about 6 we decided that he would be an active part of preparing family meals. We established a weekly Kid-led dinner night: he’d come up with a menu, we’d look in our cupboards and fridge and figure out what ingredients we had and what we needed to buy, we’d shop together and then we’d cook together.

Gradually this novelty night has evolved into the Kid pitching in at almost every meal from making pancake batter to peeling and chopping onions to concocting his own seasoning for steaks. And he does it all with pride, knowing that he’s contributing to our family.

Doubtful about having kids in the kitchen? Here are a few benefits of cooking with your kids (there are many, many more):

  • You are spending time with them. There. The argument about not having time to be with your kids is out the window.
  • Kids need to learn the basic life skills of choosing healthy food, cooking it and enjoying it with others. By cooking regular meals with your kids, you are giving them valuable tools for self-reliance.
  • You are capturing and utilizing teachable moments. Imagine all the discussions you can generate about food: taste, texture, smell, math, chemistry, biology, where food comes from, how food affects us…
  • Your kids make a mess. Then they learn how to clean it up. And you get to practice patience, tolerance and letting go.
  • Kids are more likely to try new foods (or old foods that they thought they didn’t like) if they are involved in preparing it. Sounds like a cliché but it works.
  • Kids build a sense of pride and accomplishment when they can say that they took part in making and sharing a meal.
  • Although it initially seems like a lot of work and things take 20 times longer to do, kids will eventually be able to truly contribute and help in the kitchen.
  • You get to engage, build dialogue, community and an incredibly special bond with your children. And isn’t that exactly what parents want?

The One Less Challenge

I love the beginning of the school year. There’s a sense of anticipation and a certain excitement of new things to come. By the end of summer, New Year’s resolutions have come and gone and I always feel that this is my second chance to start anew.

So I am proposing a challenge, a fall resolution of sorts. I challenge each parent reader (including myself) to start the new school year off with the “One Less Challenge”. Each week, I challenge you to eliminate one processed food from your kids’ lunchbox. That could be any lunch or snack item that is highly processed and that could contain food colouring, preservatives, excess sodium and highly processed sugars and fats. Just one item per week.

Why am I throwing this out there? It all started when the Kid and I sat down last week and brainstormed about what he’d like to pack for his lunches and snacks this upcoming school year. The conversation over the last week has included what he’s observed in the lunchroom and at recess and he was concerned: “Mom, I don’t understand why kids bring food like pop tarts, chocolate coated granola bars, Kraft Dinner, Froot Loops, even Subway to school! It’s not healthy. How can their brains learn well on processed foods?” Good question.

I know I pontificate about the perils of processed foods often and you don’t want to hear me rant, so here are Lisa’s ten good reasons to eat less processed foods from 100 Days of Real Food (I can add more reasons, but I’ll leave that for another day.).

Trading processed foods up for more healthy alternatives doesn’t have to be difficult nor expensive. Going less-processed doesn’t mean you have to make everything from scratch either…there are a lot of store bought foods that fit the bill. Here are some easy, healthy snack ideas. and some healthy lunch ideas. Not sure of what ingredients to avoid? This will give you some guidance on reading ingredient lists.

Here are some popular processed foods to consider replacing:
-goldfish crackers, chips
-luncheon meats, vegetarian meat substitutes
-packaged granola bars, marshmallow crispy rice squares, soft cookies
-chewy fruit snacks and fruit roll ups
-pudding and jello cups
-juice beverages and cocktails
-frozen entrées and pizzas

Up for the challenge? I don’t expect you to deck out in tie-dye, join a commune and eat lentils all day. I just want you to think about what you’re packing in your kids’ lunchboxes, understand how those foods affect your kids’ health and see if you can include one less processed food by replacing it with something healthier.

Your kids will have much to gain by including one less. I promise.

Thinking Outside the Box, Literally

Life is full of clichés and the one about breakfast being the most important meal of the day is one that holds true. Breakfast boosts lagging blood sugars and fuels us for the day. Given the fact that this is the first food we feed our starving bodies and brains, it would make sense to choose something really nutritious. That’s another reason why I don’t serve breakfast cereal often.

“What do you eat for breakfast then?”

Around here we have very loose ideas of what breakfast food should be. So we’ll eat whatever is around that fills and fuels us for the day. Here is a list of some non-typical weekday breakfasts we might eat to start the day:
-egg fried rice
-pasta with butter and garlic or pesto
-frozen dumplings
-bean and cheese quesadilla
-leftovers from last night’s dinner. This could be just about anything: pasta, noodles, pizza, soup, stir fry, steak and potatoes. Anything.

But we also eat some typical breakfast foods:
-frozen homemade waffles, pancakes or muffins
-French toast
-eggs, omelettes
-homemade granola or muesli with yogurt
-hot cereal (not the instant kind): any combination of oats, barley flakes, quinoa flakes, triticale flakes…

And I’ll round out the breakfast with milk, fruit and sometimes even veggies or a fruit and yogurt smoothie.

“How do you find the time to make breakfast?”

Honestly, boiling up some water for pasta or stir frying rice and eggs takes about as much time as putting the kettle on and making a Bodum-full of coffee.

You get the idea. Pretty much anything goes as long as we have a balanced meal (yes, including all the proverbial food groups) and avoid falling into the clutches of highly processed breakfast cereal. Can your household do without cereal? Think outside of the cereal box and strip away your notion of what breakfast food should be and you’ll come up with a ton of new, quick, more-nutritious-than-cereal alternatives to start your day.