August 16, 2017

Tips for Eating Sustainably | west windsor farmers market summer 2017 photo journal

Farmers markets - I can’t get enough of them.

From a sustainability standpoint, they’re a great resource for accessing high quality, local food. By sourcing even a few of your ingredients from one, you support the small-business practices of local vendors (which are typically more environmentally friendly) and the local economy.

Learn more about The Feed Truck through my interview with Jessica Winderweedle here

From a culinary standpoint, the food simply tastes better - though it all depends on your farmers market’s regulations, most vendors sell products grown, raised, or produced within an hour (or specific mile radius) of your home. That means that the produce isn’t picked when it’s unripe, shipped across the world, and kept in storage for another week. Local produce is picked when they’re just about or are ready - they’re packed with so much more flavor when they’re not artificially ripened!

Recipe for Byron Talbott's Steak and Potatoes here.

Sustainably raised animal products also taste better, too. When the animals are happy and healthy (raised with enough land, exercise, and proper nutrition), they produce (or are) better ingredients. The farm to table concept, as “hippie” and “trendy” as it may be, proves its worth through taste.

Speaking with the vendors and farmers is another privilege that you can’t get at a supermarket. They’re always eager to share their stories and talk about how they make their goods. Be prepared, they’ll usually entice you to go and visit their farms ;) You don’t need to worry about falling prey to supermarket labels and “catch-all” phrases when you personally know the story of your ingredients’ life. (Note: being “USDA organic” certified is a costly process. At the same time, it doesn’t guarantee the idyllic farmhouse image we like to associate with it. Some farmers may not use any pesticides, herbicides, or GMO seeds but don’t have the certification, which is why it’s so important to talk to your farmers! Learn more about the organic certification process here.)

Plus, awareness of your ingredients’ stories helps you treat them with greater reverence when you’re cooking.

It’s all a win-win, and I’m very jealous of anyone who can source their ingredients from a local market year round. With that being said, for those who don’t live in areas with year-round markets (and let’s be real, farmers market goods are often more expensive), here are some of my suggestions for other ways to be more environmentally considerate through food:

Now-Forager's Roasted Strawberry Thyme Shortcake recipe here

1. Meal plan
Start off with dinner. Plan out what you intend on cooking/eating each night for one week. By thinking ahead, you’re able to write down a more precise grocery list and avoid buying extra food that could go to waste. Investing a little time to meal plan will save you money and prep time in the long run.

If you need some help getting started, I’ve created a Monthly Meal Planner for you (below)! Having a monthly calendar view gives you the convenience of looking back at previous weeks for inspiration, but I recommend taking things week by week. It’s less overwhelming that way. Note: I made a six week monthly calendar view in case more space is needed if a month starts on a Friday/Saturday.

Here’s how I approach meal planning: I come up with a list of my go-to recipes and recipes I’d like to try. I mentally make notes of which recipes share similar ingredients, and assign them to the same week, that way I save on groceries. Once the week is planned out, I make a grocery list, specifying the quantities for each item I need.

If you have any additional questions about meal planning, ask away in the comments!

2. Compost
Not everyone has a compost, but see if your farmers market has a communal compost bin, or ask a local farmer if they could make use of your produce scraps.

3. Get to know the shelf-life of your produce
A lot of food can go to waste, even if you meal plan, because they go bad quickly. Delicate leaves, like bibb lettuces and baby spinach, for example, become slimy rather quickly. On the other hand, cruciferous vegetables, like kale and broccoli, can withstand more time in the refrigerator. Understanding the shelf-life of your produce will help you meal plan more effectively and reduce food waste.

4. Optimize the storage of your ingredients to minimize food waste
Keep vegetables and fruits in humidity controlled refrigerator bins, condiments less susceptible to spoilage on the refrigerator doors, and bread in the freezer if you anticipate not finishing it in time.

5. Purchase seasonal produce
It’s tough to practice this with all ingredients (I still eat bananas in the winter!). But purchasing and cooking with seasonal ingredients during their appropriate seasons is more sustainable for your wallet. Plus, produce tastes better when they’re in season (ever eat watermelon in January?). Don't forget, what's in season depends on where you live!

6. Get organic when you can
Organic goods, especially organic animal products, are expensive. Define your own goals (ex: committing to getting organic “Dirty Dozen” produce whenever possible, only purchasing organic milk) and adjust them as you go along. As mentioned, organic isn’t the catch-all, “gold standard” for everything, especially because the agriculture industry always finds loopholes. However, organic goods do offer significant environmental and health benefits over their conventional counterparts. Strive for organic when possible, but as always, show yourself some flexibility and grace by not being too strict.

7. Download the Seafood Watch app
Created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this free, user-friendly app will be your go-to for sourcing sustainably caught seafood. It rates the sustainability of specific types of seafood based on the way and where they’re caught. There’s even a sushi section to help you make better choices the next time you order sushi!

For those whose interests have peaked, consider reading Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”.

August 13, 2017

Summer In My Kitchen | a photo journal

Things I've cooked and baked that won't quite make it to having their own recipe post:
Wilson's graduation cake
Peach galette
Soft scrambled eggs
Giada DeLaurentiis's Mango-Vanilla Sauce over Cod
Trial run for my Cauliflower Fajita Taco recipe 
Roasted garlic

Cornbread with roasted grapes
Roast chicken with grapes and pan juice over arugula
Lime chicken with sauteed kale, bell peppers, and brown rice
Roasted root vegetables
Curried chicken over root vegetables
Leftover chicken, sauteed beet greens, roasted beet and carrot quinoa salad
Browned butter oatmeal raisin bran cookies
Honey mustard crispy kale and egg white lavash wraps
Roasted root vegetable sauce over pasta, roasted broccoli, carrot top pesto chicken
Breakfast tacos

I hope these photos have given you some inspiration for your own meals!

Here's a sneak peek at recipe posts to come:
Ginger and Chicken Meatballs
Bean and barley stew
Disney inspired ratatouille
Chocolate chip pretzel cookies
Homemade pasta with roasted tomatoes
Marcus Nilsson's grandmother's meatballs with a 30 minute fresh tomato sauce
Roasted Italian summer vegetable sandwich
A spin off of David Liebovitz's Pork and Pineapple Curry recipe