Friday, January 21, 2011

Food.

What does the word "food" mean to you?
Does it mean simply what you eat?
Or does it mean what you fuel your body with?

 
Food is an important subject to me. I love to eat. I love to eat good food. I love to eat good food that is both good tasting and good for me.  I also strive to feed this doubly good food to my childcare children. With some encouragement I have spent most of 2010 thinking a lot about the food we eat around here. 

 
In the past few years, I have chosen to avoid aspertame, high fructose corn syrup, most soy & bpa from an abundance of canned products for my childcare children.  This has been an educational experience for all of us. Here is what I do & why I think its 'so great' :) wow was that hard to type w/a straight face LOL 
I:
  1.  Shop local when at all possible. Even if it *is* a bit pricier initially.  Why? Because its local, it was picked when it was meant to be picked not 2 weeks ahead to ripen on the way to the store, I know who grew it & they will honestly tell me what they used on the dirt & plant to get it to grow, they grew it for me with love & concern with their own two hands, not just because they were paid to plant, transplant, pick, & load it, never caring where it ended up or what condition it was in when purchased. Fresh has such a better flavor! I get to help support a local producer.
      1. Shop the farmer's markets. What a fun experience! To get to talk to the 'farmers' & ask questions.  They are all more than willing to tell you how to clean, prep & cook their produce. They are often times, untapped resources. I shop the local Clarke County Farmer's Market June-October, Saturday mornings & Tuesday afternoons, I also visit the Downtown Farmer's Market a couple of Saturday mornings thru the summer months & finally, I have gotten to visit the Winter Market both November & December weekends it was open.  This year I hope to get to explore nearby markets too. 
      2. In peak season, get bulk purchases of tomatoes that I used for canning sauces last year (a first for me). I also bought a bulk amount of peaches & habaneros that combined, make a yummy jam/meat topping.
      3. After the squash & pumpkins have out-lived their season of decoration on the front step, they came in one by one to be split & baked for pureeing & freezing in portions for baking with in the winter.
    1. Join the Iowa Food Coop.  This is new for me and I am loving it! Shortly after the first of the month the online cart opens as the producers have entered what they will have available for the pick up day on the third Thursday. Everything is labeled on the site; free range, grass fed, corn fed, hormone-free, Iowa grown, etc. Very straight forward. Some even have links to their websites with easy access to email the producer directly with any questions or concerns.
      1. Today for example, our lunch was: scrambled eggs w/bits of chicken, fried potatoes, apple wedges, homemade onion bread topped w/pumpkin butter & milk.  Eggs, potatoes & pumpkin butter-Coop, chicken - private purchase from a free range farmer, apple wedges & milk were the only store bought items. :)
      2. 2 mornings this week we have had oatmeal (steel cut from an Iowa farm) & the other 2 mornings we had homemade wheat pancakes. I feel great knowing I am serving them a grain item that will stick with them & isn't loaded with junk.
    2. I order my grains (breakfast granola, steel cut oatmeal, wheat & white flour & assorted beans) from an Iowa organic farm.  It is like Christmas morning for me when it arrives although I do pity my mail carrier that day.
  2. I make all the bread I serve in my childcare from scratch.  I might cheat a little by using the bread machine to mix it but then I raise it on & bake it in the oven but its still from scratch. I purposefully put each ingredient into that mixing pan. I plan to add tortillas, bagels & english muffins to my baking list this year.
  3. Barter. I have found a couple of people willing to make noodles in exchange for a loaf or 2 of homemade pumpkin bread. (remember that pumpkin I talked about above-24cups of it in the freezer) Great trade to me!  I have also bartered childcare services for beef products we didn't have in the freezer as well as jam for jam. Everybody wins.
  4. Grow our own.  We have a very small organic garden producing green beans, cucumbers, lettuce, green onions, assorted peppers & tomatoes.  We hope to use the 3 sisters method in our new area this year as we are moving into the play yard & will be a little tight on space until we figure it all out.
  5. Know our farmer.  We get a full beef(460ish pounds) from my grandpa every fall. We are comforted in knowing where it's coming from, what it has eaten, how it was treated & THAT it is coming.
  6. Be alert.  I found a raspberry vine on our old property last summer that I never knew was there.  I spent a couple of hours on a couple of evenings picking but then chickened out & let them dry up in the fridge instead of using them. I will change that this year.
  7. Keep my ears open, chat it up & don't be afraid to ask.  This past summer we were able to collect apples & pears from a couple's tree for free. I am ashamed to admit I didn't do anything with the pears but the apples, I cooked down, made into applesauce & froze for the childcare this winter. Later in the year, I found some mulberry trees to pick in the spring/summer for free and am hoping to find some wild plum to make jams.
 Not to say I don't shop at the grocery store because I do. I do a lot. I just very much prefer to shop small, local and fresh.
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