Thursday, November 10, 2011

Give Thanks: Part 3

Serving Fork by jessicaNdesigns

My Story
Anyone close to me knows me as a bit of a food nazi. Since watching Food, Inc. and reading Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan 2 years ago I've gone organic and never looked back. Food is not something highly valued in my family. Even though both my grandparent's grew up on a farm, I've quickly learned they really don't know a whole lot about farming, or cooking. I think they grew up farming more out of necessity than profit. My grandma recently said "I'm not much of a cook". I can agree to that. I guess my mother followed in her footsteps.

Growing up we never ate anything all that tasty. We ate a lot of  bland tasting casseroles. (Or as my sister calls them, craperoles). I never thought food was all that good. The food budget was also always a problem in my family. We occasionally ate black eyed peas on white bread. So my perception of food was tainted by my parent's food budget and my mom's horrible cooking skills.

When I moved out on my own for the first time I didn't know what to feed myself. I kept to my mom's food budgeting skills. (Although I never ate beans on bread ever again. Funny thing is when my parents came to visit once they took me grocery shopping and were all excited over the black eyed peas that were on sale.They bought me a bag and suggested I cook it and eat it over bread. I think it sat in my cupboard for a year when I decided to make soup from it instead). I did most of my shopping at Aldi. I got a thrill out of how much food I could get for as little as possible. I never did much couponing, but I still knew how to find all the best deals. Then my sister suggested I watch Food, Inc. This changed my perception of food forever. I wanted to know more so I read Omnivores Dilemma. Since then I've done a lot of research on food and I spend more money on food for 2 people (my husband and I) than I think my family has ever spent for 6 people. It's worth it!

The Food
So with Thanksgiving coming up and food is a major part of this holiday I wanted to focus today's post on how to find healthy food. I believe in supporting local sustainable farmers as much as possible.

The most important part of the meal. Your local farmer will have the best tasting turkey you will have ever eaten. You can click on your state at and a list of local farms will come come up from there. You may also be able to pick up a dozen eggs from this farmer for your holiday baking.

Go organic as much as possible. Fruits and veggies take up nutrients from the soil that are not available in synthetic fertilizers. Synthetic Fertilizers only contain 3 key nutrients, NPK; Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium. These nutrients are all that is required for a plant to grow. Our bodies need far more nutrients than those three and a healthy soil fertilized naturally contains more nutrients than we are even aware to exist. Not only that the pesticides used on plants damage the soil, requiring the use of synthetic fertilizers, and do harm to our water, the farmers who have to spray the chemical and to us who eat the food.

Find veggies at your local farmers market if possible. If you live in the north as I do and the markets have closed for the season, shop at your local co-op or natural foods store. Food co-ops do an excellent job of doing all the research on where your food comes from so you don't have to worry about it. If you live in a small town like I do you may have to buy what you can at your local grocery store. The more you support organic, the more it will become available.

This brussel sprout recipe on epicurious was a family favorite last year when I made it. My grandma who hates brussel sprouts even came back for seconds.

Cranberry sauce. A favorite side dish for many people. I live in cranberry land now so its easy for me to find affordable fresh cranberries. I can think of many years when my family bought it from the can and sliced it up. (like I said my family isn't much into cooking). If you are one of those families, read your labels. Many canned cranberry sauce is is loaded with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). This stuff has taken over our food pantries and I recommend avoiding it whenever possible. It raises glucose levels to dangerous levels, which is a major cause of Type II Diabetes. Hopefully you are smarter than my family and make your cranberry dish from scratch. Food made from scratch is the only way to know exactly what is going in your food.

Hopefully you are making your gravy from the turkey you are cooking anyway. I assume that is what my family does when they cook the turkey. If you get your gravy from a packet, again, be sure to read the label. Not that it will make much sense what is going on, but I think it will make you aware of how many chemicals are put into your food. The list is long and to explain what each ingredient really is would require another post. I'll take the easy way out and send you over here. A chemist can explain the ingredients much better than I can.

I know I sound redundant, but I hope you will be making this from scratch. The ingredients list on the boxed stuffing mixes will take another scientist to decipher. I didn't find another chemist, but I did find a health site that can explain the ingredients and their affects on our bodies.

By now you're too full for pie, but who cares, it's Thanksgiving and we are going to stuff our bellies full. As I mentioned in my first "Give Thanks" post you can pick up an amazing pie crust recipe at Chef Chez Pim's blog.

As for the filling I make my pumpkin mix from scratch. It's not difficult but it does take some time. If you can find pie pumpkins at your local farmer's market or grocery store get a few. Having extra to freeze is a great way to make pumpkin related goodies throughout the winter. This pie recipe on AllRecipes explains how to make your own mash in the notes at the end of the recipe.

Be sure to save those seeds. You'll never have had better tasting seeds than with these recipes on 101Cookbooks. My favorite is the Sweet and Spicy.

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