Friday, May 8, 2009

Au Naturale

Aaron and I have a yearly goal: every year we choose one thing in our lives that we want to work on. At the beginning of our marriage we made a commitment to treat each other with the same kindness and patience we would offer a stranger (isn't it sad how we often forget to respect our loved ones with little common courtesies?). A few years ago we made a pact to give sacrificially of our money and resources. It hurt at first, but we're slowly getting to the point where we don't see our money, our possessions, or even our home as our own. And this year we've decided to take better care of ourselves and our family--by upping our activity, eating healthier, and going organic as much as possible.

I won't lie to you. It's hard. At 12:30 when my kids are hungry, tired, and more than ready for their afternoon nap, you can bet a box of Mac n' Cheese is the fastest and easiest way to pacify them. But have you ever looked at the so-called nutritional value? I might as well feed them cardboard spread with butter. Eating healthy takes a work, and a lot of creativity--especially when two eaters in your family are little and think nothing could compare to a pudding filled long john with buttercream icing and chocolate stripes. Mmmm... I'm not sure I think anything could compare to that!

Anyway, in a grand effort to change my family's eating habits, I just bought a half-share in a summer program run by a naturally grown vegetable farm in my community. Every week I get to look forward to a box of fresh, homegrown, organic vegetables that have been harvested directly from sweet Iowa soil. The first pick up is this coming Tuesday, and I've been told I can look forward to lots of greens, spinach, asparagus, radishes, and other early spring offerings. In the coming weeks my box o' veggies will change to reflect the season, from broccoli and cauliflower mid-summer, to tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers near the end. It's kind of silly, but I'm giddy with excitement. Over vegetables.

I love buying things that are locally grown. I love it that our summer will be filled with fresh, pesticide and herbicide free foods. I love it that I'll be expanding my culinary horizons, and I'm even looking forward to eggplant--a food I've never tasted in all my 31 years. I love it that we're taking steps, however small to living a more simple, healthy, and green life.

I'll keep you updated as the summer progresses. Apparently, in addition to receiving an overflowing box of fresh produce, I'll also receive recipes and ideas for how to prepare it. As I come across good ones, I'll pass them on. And I'll let you know how my kids are reacting to fresh crudites and homemade dips for their after-nap snack. Sorry Keebler. Your elves have been officially banned from the Baart house. Well, I suppose they could still sneak in for the occasional visit.

How about you? Do you have any good recipes? Any tips for eating healthy and reducing environmental impact by buying locally? I think my next step is to join the local food co-op, but Aaron's afraid that I'll make him stop cutting his hair and force him to wear clothes made out of hemp. Come now, I can't imagine I'll ever lose my love for my hubby in a slim-fitting J. Crew dress shirt. But hey, never say never...


  1. Yay! I am excited that you are getting the veggies too!
    We will have to swap ideas for cooking this summer...

  2. We're moving this summer, to a place where locally grown produce is very much available and we are SO excited about that. We also try to eat as organic and all-natural as possible, but living in Southern NM, where nothing grows, makes it very difficult and expensive!

  3. Thanks for the phone number, Janelle! I was thrilled that I could still buy into the program. :) Jana is such a sweetheart.

    Hi, Amanda! I'm surprised that nothing grows in NM... I would have thought the climate to be perfect. Is it a soil problem? We have awesome soil in Iowa, but I live in the "old" part of town where the trees are all over a century old. We get too much shade for a vegetable garden--I tried two years in a row and only had spindly, sick-looking plants to show for it.

    Anyway, my favorite veggie recipe right now is asparagus on the grill: Clean asparagus and snap off the bottoms. Lay in a shallow dish, drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle sea salt and fresh ground pepper all over. Grill for 3-5 minutes, turning every minute or so. So yummy!

    Have an awesome weekend!

  4. I am so jealous! I can't get home-grown fresh produce without driving an hour to dallas to the dallas farmer's market on saturdays. Well, let me give you a couple good veggie recipes...

    asparagus in proscuitto
    wash and snap asparagus and put into bundles of 5 or so. Get a few slices of proscuitto, thinly sliced, and cut into strips about an inch thick and wrap around the asparagus bundles to make little "ties". drizzle light olive oil (not the extra virgin kind)over bundles on cookie sheet. Bake in a 400* oven for about 10 minutes (or until done to your preference)!

    Also, this is probably my favorite recipe for veggies ever - so simple and so tasty!!
    Roasted Leeks
    Slice leeks from bottom (white) to top (green) down the center, then cut the whole leek into four sections. (discard any wilty ends) fill your sink up with cold water (I put ice in mine to make it very cold) and put the leek pieces in the sink and separate each piece with your hands, wiping any dirt free between the pieces. let sit in the sink for ten minutes or so, then remove the leeks before draining water (you will see all the dirt on the bottom, and the cold water will revive any wilting greens) and spin in your salad spinner to dry (or let air dry). you can do the next part either on the stove or in the oven - i prefer the oven.
    Oven: in a large casserole dish, put all the leeks and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and combine so the oil is covering most pieces. It will look like A TON of leeks, but they will wilt down considerably. put in a 425 degree oven and bake, turning every 5 minutes or so, until some of the edges are browning and the leeks are wilted considerably but still vibrant green (about 20 minutes). Serve and eat!
    Stove - same thing, on medium heat, just put in a large pot and cover with lid, turn the leaves every few minutes until brown on edges and wilted. Seriously, such an elegant and beautiful dish, and the leeks melt in your mouth, they are sooooo delicious and not onion-y at all! Let me know if you try either one and if you like them!

  5. Oooh... There's another veggie I've never tried: leeks. Actually, I'm sure I've had them in other dishes, but all alone like this... nope. What do they taste like? For some reason I have artichokes in mind, but I don't think that's right. Mmmm. Artichokes. My stomach is growling. :) Anyway, I will definitely try these recipes! In fact, the asparagus one might make an appearance tonight. I have asparagus in the fridge and proscuitto is only a grocery store away. Sounds like the perfect dish for tonight. (Aaron and I are celebrating our 10th anniversary today! I can't believe that a decade ago today I was walking down the aisle... Sigh. It only gets better.)

  6. leeks, when cooked that way, are buttery and smooth and fresh...oh i can't describe it. but delicious! i've never had artichokes...i just can't seem to try them. i'm massively picky. about the eggplant - its good if it's cooked right. eggplant is INCREDIBLY absorbent, so you have to be really careful about any liquid/oil that it is cooked in, because it will get soggy faster than you can say it. go to youtube and watch alton brown's eggplant episode, he shows you exactly how to cook it properly. enjoy the asparagus tonight!

    wow congrats on your 10 year anniversary! our first anniversary is only 9 days away! i love being married, don't you?!?!

  7. also, i forgot to say on the leeks, two leeks will feed my husband and i in one dinner, so for your family you might want to do three (one for you and aaron, and then one for the boys to split). it looks like a TON of leeks, but its like spinach when it wilts, gets very small.

  8. Wow - I should not have read this post before breakfast - my tummy is a 'rumblin! Your post made me want to eat vegetables instead of cereal! It also made me excited for the farmer's market. My hubby would love that program - he loves vegetables. He eats brocolli likes it's going out of style. Raw brocolli with no dip - he can eat it by the handful. Sometimes he'll eat raw spinach plain too - he'll just grab some leaves and start munching. I think he's nuts.

    Have you ever had Texas Caviar? There is no caviar in it (no idea who came up with the name) - it's a lovely concoction of yellow peppers, pinto beans, celery, pimentos, green onions, white corn, black eyed peas, and jalapenos. Oh my - it's wonderful. You marinate it in a combination of oil, vinegar, and sugar (which isn't the healthiest... I suppose) and eat it with Tostidos Scoops (although I've seen some people put it on cucumbers). I've never met a person who didn't love it!

  9. Oh, I love Texas Caviar. It reminds me of a dish that a good friend of mine makes--succotash (did I spell that right?). I could eat it by the ladle-full. And I have no problem dressing up my veggies with oils, dips, and other unhealthy yummies. I figure all in moderation. :)