A Closer Look at Community Supported Agriculture
Today nearly everyone is looking for new ways to eat better. Between busy schedules, fast food restaurants, and junk food at the checkout, there are endless temptations to eat badly.
How about a temptation to eat better? My favorite is Community Supported Agriculture.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA for short, is an arrangement between subscribers (also called members) and a local farm. The members join for a season and make a monetary payment in exchange for a share of the harvest. Typically you receive a weekly box, delivered locally, often to another member’s garage. CSA members share in the risks and benefits of the harvest. This means that in a good year there may be additional bundles of corn while in a bad year, corn may be absent–but there may be extra cauliflower.
Your Community Supported Agriculture Dollars at Work
CSA’s typically offer good value for your food dollar and the foods are often grown without chemical pesticides. By “eating local” you help the local economy, support family farms, and reduce the impact of packaging and shipping cross country. And you get some really fresh, amazing food.
One of the surprising advantages of joining a CSA is that it is a commitment. With one burst of resolve you sign up–and are in it for the season. Since you have already paid for a weekly box of vegetables, you are more likely to eat them. And let’s be honest, if you have a bad week at work, you are going to need something more motivating that a simple commitment to eat better. Sounds challenging, but the (really fresh) produce is so beautiful, it feels like you are getting a weekly present.
Beyond the food itself, joining a CSA may offer additional benefits. Often there is a newsletter with healthy recipe suggestions and connections to other providers like grass fed beef producers. There may also be farm events like canning classes or member parties, where your kids can see a real, live chicken. I’ve had a great time and gotten delicious recipes at my CSAs annual harvest party.
Most CSAs are getting ready for the new season and signing up members now. If you are serious about eating better, this is one of the best commitments you can make. To find one near you, check out the Local Harvest website.
Let Us Know About Your Experiences with Community Supported Agriculture!
Granola is one of those foods that we tend to buy, believing it is a healthy choice. Add up all the sugar and fat you might be surprised at the what is hiding in those oats!
This recipe is super easy, made with a healthier grapeseed oil, with added wheat germ, flax meal and flax oil.
This granola recipe is not only yummy – It’s amped… amped in nutrition.
Our family has tree nut allergies, so we used pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Adding almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts would also work great.
4 1/2 Cups of Oatmeal
1/2 Cup of Wheat Germ
2 Tablespoons of Flax Meal
1 1/2 Cups of Puffet Millet
1 Cup of Sunflower Seeds
1/2 Cups of Pumkin Seeds
2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon of Salt
1/3 Cup of Coldpressed Grapeseed Oil
1/3 – 1/2 Cup of Agave Nectar, Brown Rice Syrup or Honey
1/3 Cup of Water
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
1/2 – 1 Cup of Raisins or other Dried Fruit
1 Tablespoon of Flax Oil
Heat oven to 300
In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the dry ingredients.
Using a large measuring cup, combine wet ingredients (I measure at the same time!)
Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredient well and mix together. It should look almost like you are making an apple crumble topping!
Pour onto two cookie sheets or cake pans – place in oven, stir and rotate every 10 minutes and bake until golden brown – 35-45 minutes.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool and add dried fruit or raisins, drizzle the flax oil and combine well.
Store in an airtight container.
By Tania Reuben
Quesidilla is a quick and easy meal that is on most mom’s go to list when they need something on the table fast.
The only trouble is that most quesadilla recipes are not healthy.
White flour tortillas with mounds of cheese - not that nutritious and full of fat. Using a whole wheat tortillas, diced mixed vegetables, black beans and less cheese makes this version a much healthier choice.
Easy Quesadilla Recipe
4-5 Whole Wheat Tortilla’s – We use Trader Joe’s Organic
1 1/2 Cups of Diced Mixed Vegetables
10oz Refried Beans – We use Refried Black Beans from Trader Joe’s
1/2 – 1 Cup of Shredded Cheddar or Light Mexican Blend
Cheese Chicken or Beef (Optional)
Light Sour Cream
Microwave mixed vegetable for 4 minutes or saute in a small amount of olive oil until soft.
Spread Beans on one half of the tortilla, sprinkle vegetables on the other side, add about 2-3 Tablespoons of cheese.
Place in a hot skillet and cook on both sides.
Serve with Salsa, Light Sour Cream, and more Beans for Dipping.
Adding the vegetables, black beans and whole wheat tortilla up the nutritional value of the meal. Reducing the amount of cheese and using lowfat cheese and sour cream also helps lower the saturated fats. I don’t like the fat free cheese, who knows what is in that, but a cheese or sour cream made with reduced fat milk – I’m OK with that.
I’m lucky because both of my kids love black beans. You can make this a vegetarian meal, or add some already cooked, diced or shredded beef or chicken for variety and added protein. You could also add a side of Brown Basmati Rice (I realize it’s indian rice, but IMO this is the best tasting brown rice).
If your children are picky eaters, start light and build up to more with the veggies and black beans. They are more likely to accept a few speckles of veggies vs a whole lot… start small and build up.
This recipe will serve 4 light eaters… adjust your measurements accordingly.
By Tania Reuben
While Dude won’t touch pumpkin pie, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without it!
With something in the range of 90% of all pumpkins grown used for decoration then trashed, I like to use our Halloween Sugar Pumpkins for the pie.
We bake our pumpkins. Start by cutting the pumpkins in half, scrape the seeds and stringy bits, then bake upside down in a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes at 350 Degrees.
Pumpkin Pie Recipe
2/3 Cup of Sugar
1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon of Nutmeg Pinch of Ground Cloves
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups of Pumpkin
1 1/2 Cups of Evaporated Milk (Non Fat)
1/4 Cup of Brandy
1 ready made whole wheat pie crust (a worthwhile shortcut in my books).
Preheat oven to 450 Degrees.
Take the baked pumpkin and scoop the pulp, puree using a mixer or food processor, place it in a sieve lined with cheesecloth to remove the excess water, allow to sit in the fridge at least 4 hours.
In a large bowl combine sugar and spices. Add pumpkin and mix well. I do this in the Kitchen Aid Mixer. Add Vanilla, evaporated milk and egg. Mix until smooth. Fold in brandy.
I like to pre bake the pie crust, line the crust with parchment paper and fill the crust with beans or rice. Bake for 15 minutes.
Pour the pumpkin into the par baked crust and bake for 10 minutes at 450, then reduce the temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 45 minutes. Keep your eyes on the crust, you will likely need to cover the edge with thin strips of foil to prevent over browning.
The pie is done if you can insert and remove a toothpick or knife and it comes out clean.
Another favorite in our family. We love apple pie and I figure it’s worth saving the calories, skipping the crust and making a crumble.
We love more topping than many crumble recipes, so if you prefer less cut the topping in half.
5 Cups chopped peeled apples
1 1/2 Teaspoons of Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon of Nutmeg
1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice
3/4 Cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 Cup sugar or 2/3 Cup of agave
2 Tablespoons of whole wheat flour, add 1 extra Tablespoon if using agave.
2 cup oats (1/2 old-fashioned & 1/2 quick-cooking although either will work)
2 Tablespoons of Flax Meal
1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon of Nutmeg
1 1/2 Cup packed brown sugar
2/3 Cup whole wheat flour
3/4 Cup melted butter (I’ll often use 1/2 Earth Balance)
Pre Heat oven to 350 Degrees
Peel and chop the apples.
Combine all ingredients, use most, but not all of the sugar. Then test the filling for sweetness, depending on the tartness of apples you may want to increase or decrease the amount of sugar.
Combine all the dry ingredients and mix in melted butter until crumbly. If it’s not crumbly enough add additional butter up to 1/4 cup.
I prepare this in advance and store the topping and filling in separate Zip-Loc bags for up to 4 days. Before the turkey comes out of the oven pour the filling in the bottom of a 4 quart casserole dish, add topping.
Before you sit down to eat, pop the crumble in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes, almost the exact amount of time it takes to eat your dinner!
Serve with Vanilla Ice Cream or we like Haagen Daz Frozen Vanilla Yogurt.
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The short answer is; for better nutritional value, to reduce toxin exposure, for better tasting foods and for the environment.
Is it really more nutritious?
In 2001 Virginia Worthington reviewed 41 published studies comparing nutritional values of convention to organic produce. An example of her findings; 5 servings of organic fruits and vegetables would your daily intake of vitamin c, while conventional produce did not. Further studies have had similar findings.
Do the pesticides really matter?
From the consumer health digest:
The most common class of pesticide in the US is organophosphates (OP’s). These are known as neurotoxins. An article published in 2002 examined the urine concentration of OP residues in 2-5 year olds. Researchers found, on average, that children eating conventionally grown food showed an 8.5 times higher amount of OP residue in their urine than those eating organic food. Studies have also shown harmful effects on fetal growth, as well.
Is it really better tasting?
Buy a conventional tomato and an organic one – do your own taste test. My experience is that it often does taste better. I recently bought some full size organic carrots after buying baby carrots for a long time – I was surprised how much better they tasted than baby carrots.
I don’t purchase everything organic all the time. There are certain foods that I buy organic most of the time it is a balance between what is available and how much of a premium the pricing is. I’m trying to get better about leaving foods and making other choices if they aren’t organic, but it’s a process that doesn’t happen over night.
One thing I know for sure – the more I know – the more I try to buy organic!
Some information for this post came from The www.ConsumerHealthDigest.com.