Tag Archives: produce

Wait, Is All of This An April Fools’ Joke?

So, yesterday was probably the best April Fools Day on record. Well, the best April Fools’ day in my personal history. And I’m pretty sure none of this was part of an April Fools’ joke.

money tree

1. Student Loan Refund Checks were distributed- Self-explanatory. I’m no longer in the proverbial poor house. I mean, I’m still broke. But at least I’m not scrounging for pennies under seat cushions. Ok, I’m still doing that. Whatever, I CAN OFFICIALLY PAY MY RENT LET’S CELEBRATE.

 

2.  Jessamyn Not Jasmine Takes On The World- Yesterday was packed with a lot of REALLY exciting blog-related developments. Some of them are so exciting that I can’t talk about them quite yet. But one thing that made me super pumped was my mention in Backyard Produce’s weekly newsletter! I wrote a review of their service earlier this week, and they were kind enough to give me a shout out in their publication. As a result, I have quite a few new readers- HELLO NEW READERS! I hope you realize that I get as much from  you as you do from me- if you ever have any suggestions, comments, complaints, requests, ideas, magic tricks, hula hooping tips, etc., feel free to blow up my comment boxes or e-mail me (jessamyneatspraysloves@gmail.com). I’m so glad to internet-meet each and every one of you.

wgbh

3. WGBH- Yesterday I found out that I am going to be a WGBH/Kenan Institute Summer Fellow. This fellowship is beyond the cat’s meow- I’m going to spend my summer working at the WGBH headquarters in Boston, as well as spending time at Seftel Productions in NYC. I’ll be working on a project about- well, actually, I don’t know if I’m allowed to reveal the details of the project. Just know that the topic is EXTREMELY interesting, and it is going to involve a lot of interaction and conversation with people from all walks of life. I don’t think there’s a way to express how stoked I am. My excitement about this opportunity extends to every aspect of my personal and professional life. Plus- did I mention I’m going to be in one of my favorite cities all summer?

Speaking of Backyard Produce, have y’all seen some of their offerings this week? Here are three I’m especially excited about:

tatsoi

Tatsoi, a green I’ve wanted to try for a long time. I’ve heard the flavor is similar to a hybrid of bok choy and mustard greens. I love both of those plants, so I’m really excited to try tatsoi. BY PRODUCE POINTS: 7

collard greens

I went off on an extended tangent about proper collard green preparation after my trip to Milner’s restaurant last week. This week, I am really excited to make some collard greens the way my grandma taught me. However, I’m crafting a  vegan friendly version of my family’s famous ham hock-soaked greens. This week I’m going to put in some time with this recipe, and Backyard Produce is going to play a huge role. BY PRODUCE POINTS: 5

purple sweet potatoes

Um, purple sweet potatoes. Need I say more? Smile BY PRODUCE POINTS: 5

If you’re still on the fence about trying Backyard Produce, try this on for size- tell them Jessamyn referred you, and we’ll both get 10 extra points. Is that a win or what?

I’d love to stay and chat, but the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds which means it is a perfect Farmer’s Market day. If you’re racing today, I’m sending you lots of positive vibrations. Actually, I’m sending everyone positive vibrations. Smile

Have a great weekend, y’all!

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Food, Inc., Corporate Farming, Online Farmer’s Markets, and Backyard Produce- An Exercise in American Consumerism

Last weekend- remember  when I went on a pilgrimage to Charlotte and lost my mind at Trader Joe’s? Remember when I mentioned that I didn’t buy very much produce, but that the reason would be explained in the future?

Well, the reason is about to be revealed- but first, let me give a little back story.

(STOP: By reading below this disclaimer, you are allowing yourself to read a stream of conscious and potentially nonsensical rant. You were warned.)

I don’t know how clearly I can state this- I am a cheapskate. I hate paying more money than is absolutely necessary. It’s not just because I hate spending money- it’s because I don’t have a lot of money to spend. There’s never been a point in my life when I haven’t been on a very restrictive budget.

One of the biggest problems with the Western food industry is that it is SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive to eat whole foods than it is to eat processed foods, from potato chips to factory farmed “Idaho Potatoes”. I’ve spent the past three years actively trying to resolve my budget issues with a healthy balance of organically produced food and cheaper options. Up until about four months ago, I thought I’d finally struck the perfect balance.

That was before I saw this:

food, inc

If you are able, rent/buy this film. It’s on netflix instant right now- when you are done reading this entry, WATCH IT*. As one of my friend’s recently said, Food, Inc. should be broadcast on CNN 24/7. EVERYONE needs to see this film.” I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told to watch Food, Inc. who’ve told me that they’ve held off on watching it because they don’t want to feel guilty about or grossed out by their eating habits (i.e.- they will feel guilty about eating meat). I understand this dilemma. But here’s the thing- the movie does not seek to shame anyone. It is not very visually graphic. It doesn’t promote vegetarianism, or any specific diet. It puts the food industry into colors so vivid that you can’t help but wonder why we’ve become so complacent in our food choices.

Here’s the truth- if you didn’t buy your food directly from a farmer, you probably have absolutely no idea where it came from and you CERTAINLY don’t know what’s in it. I’m not just talking about the center aisles of your grocery store- you know, “foods” that come in boxes, or that arrive to your store frozen. I’m talking about the “healthy” fruits and vegetables, the dairy products, and every piece of “fresh” meat and fish homogenously wrapped in plastic for your enjoyment. There is a deliberate veil between food manufacturers and food consumers, and when you start looking behind the curtain you’ll be repulsed by what you see. It’s not just about the literal ingredients of your food- this film exposes all of the unseen costs of producing the food you eat, from distorted food laws and travel costs, to the horrific exploitation of ALL food industry workers. We’re not just talking about exploitation in other countries- the things happening to our American brothers and sisters (hell, our NORTH CAROLINA brothers and sisters) will make your head spin.

And we support them. Every time we go to the grocery store or a restaurant, we support corporations which deliberately try to mislead us. Every time you buy fruits and vegetables produced in far-reaching parts of the globe (which is more than often the case), you are directly furthering deep set afflictions between farmers, workers, governments, and the international oil industry. It is important that, as consumers, we make ourselves aware of the real decisions we’re making, and change our actions in order to affect a balanced economy and work-force.

The balance I struck in my personal eating/buying habits was not where it should be. I was perfectly happy purchasing food that wasn’t produced in an ethical fashion simply because it made my wallet feel less pain. However, the source of pain I feel now has much less to do with money and more to do with the power of my individual dollar. It is much more important for me, as a tax-paying American consumer,  to buy foods which do not support unhealthy corporate farming, which are organically produced, and (whenever possible) support my local economy. In my opinion, this is the most important decision I can make as a consumer. I know how easy it is to say, “I can’t afford to do this” or “I can’t afford to do that”. And it’s true- there are millions of Americans who simply can not afford to make the necessary changes to their lifestyles. BUT I AM NOT ONE OF THEM. And I have to lead by example.

Anyway, one of last week’s groupons was $18 for delivery of one box of local and organic produce from Backyard Produce, a North Carolina online farmer’s market. I have read extensively about online farmer’s markets, and was already well aware of Backyard Produce- but, to be frank, I’ve always thought fruit  and vegetable delivery was a luxury I couldn’t afford. Though this groupon deal was a steal, the typical price of a medium box of produce is $23.49, not including the $12 annual packaging fee. However, after critically looking at my produce buying habits, I decided it would be worth it to try out Backyard Produce with this groupon.

Here’s how it works:

You choose from three different sizes- small, medium, and large. Each package size equates to a certain number of points- 20, 40, or 60. You then use the points to choose from their weekly selection of food options. The options rotate every week, and are subject to availability- while not all selections are locally produced, they are organic, fresh, and arrive to your front door the following Wednesday in refrigerated boxes to ensure freshness.

Sign-up is really simple, and you have up until Sunday night to decide which fruits and veggies you want in that week’s delivery. I made my choices, sent in my order, and waited with bated breath until Wednesday.

Yesterday, after a very stressful day, I was pleased to see this waiting on my front porch:

3312011 001

I gave very specific directions on how to reach my apartment (which can be a little confusing), and I was super pleased to see that the delivery person had no trouble figuring it out.

As promised, the produce was protected by refrigeration insulation:

3312011 005

Just in case you were wondering, the annual $12 packaging fee helps them reduce the amount of packaging they use. Every week, they pick up your packaging from the previous delivery and reuse it. Great system.

3312011 008

Let’s see what I ordered, eh?

3312011 009
Granny Smith apples, organic WA – 2 count- 4 points

Baby Carrots, organic CA – 1lb- 5 points

Navel Oranges, organic FL – 3 count- 5 points

Tommy Atkins Mango, organic Ecuador – 2 count- 3 points each  (6 points total)

Salad Mix, Cottle Farm NC organic – 1/2 pound- 4 points

Kiwifruit, organic Chile – 2 count- 3 points

Bibb Lettuce, Green Haven Farms hydroponic NC – 1 head- 7 points

TOTAL POINTS USED: 34

As you can see, I only used 34 of my 40 points, leaving 6 points for a future delivery. I was extremely pleased with the quality of my items- bruise free, chilled, and clean. The mangos are nice and large (which is not always the case with mangos), and everything smells great.

At this point I can’t decide if it will be worth it to use Backyard Produce in the future. I still think it’s a little too expensive- but is it really?

I mean, I spend a lot of money on produce every week. In fact, I’m probably spending more than $23.49, not including the gas to/from the grocery store/farmer’s market. Though I’ll keep going to these spots for the rest of my items (and any incidental vegetation I might want), it is really awesome to have fresh, local, organic produce arrive at my door and ready for the week without having to judge by sale prices. I can change up my order every week, depending upon my weekly meal plan. Hmm.

All in all, I’m very pleased with my Backyard Produce experience thus far. This particular company only services the North Carolina Triad, Triangle, and Charlotte area. However, there are online farmer’s market delivery services all over the country- I’ve heard about them in urban centers, and in other parts of America. At the very least, they are worth a try-the convenience factor is unbeatable, and the price might be in your ballpark.

*And yes, that was an inadvertent plug for netflix. I love netflix- and so should you.

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The Couch to 5k Challenge: You Woke Up At WHAT time?!

As I mentioned earlier, I have been on a metaphorical ‘roll’ today. I don’t usually need to wake up quite so early, but when my alarm started blaring at 5am, I rolled out of bed without a hint of reluctance (ok, maybe there was a hint. Actually, it was more like a generous dash of reluctance). Anyway, today was the first day of my Couch to 5k Challenge adventure, and I wanted to make sure I had my game face on before I hit the gym.

First day verdict? I’m not going to lie: I still don’t like running….yet. In general, I find that when I’m running I can’t find a good point of focus- my mind is zooming around and I start to think ‘I can’t believe I’m running/how long have I been running/how much longer do I need to do this/etc’. I think I’ve spent the last 23 years translating these th0ughts as “I don’t have the right body type for running and I suck at this”. However, after my experience this morning, I just think I get bored really easily and this tendency to get bored results in self-deprecating thoughts. All in all, the run wasn’t so bad. I was definitely breaking a sweat, and I think there are few things which feel better than breaking a sweat from effort that you want to exert (as opposed to breaking a sweat from standing in the sun wearing all black- that definitely doesn’t feel good). At this point, I think I just need to work on distracting myself from the task at hand. Getting inside my own head and thinking crazy thoughts is becoming my Achilles heel.

I was very proud of myself for not quitting, even though there were a couple of moments when I wanted to start walking a little sooner, or lower the treadmill speed. I kept my breathing relatively in check, and when I was struggling to focus, I just tried to train my thoughts on my breathing. And actually, simply thinking about the constant passing of air through your own lungs is pretty therapeutic. With that as my guiding light (and Missy Elliott providing the soundtrack, natch), I think I might actually look forward to Friday morning.

Before bed last night, I threw together my version of Danica’s Crockpot Steel Cut Oats, only I scaled down the recipe a little. The original recipe creates a giant pot of steel cut oats- Because I doubted both the capacity of my crockpot AND how many containers of steel cut oats I wanted to parcel out into my freezer, I decided to make two cups of oats instead of the original three.

steel cut oatmeal

This was a great decision- when I checked the pot this morning, it was packed to the brim with steaming oats and peaches (I didn’t have any blueberries on hand so I omitted them- personally, I’m not a big fan of blueberries. If they are not in liquid form I’m kind of weirded out by the texture.)

I really enjoyed the oats. Cooking them overnight insures that they are cooked thoroughly, and you don’t end up with any chunks of undercooked grain. I added a teaspoon of both Smart Balance and brown sugar to my serving of oats, and the whole bowl was still only 4 WWpoints+ .

I also ate two egg whites (1 WWpoints+), and I drank a giant Green Monster.

1192011 Breakfast 022

My mom turned me on to green monsters over a year ago, and I can personally swear by the health benefits. Some people claim to be really turned off by the texture, but what’s really happening is just a case of old-fashioned food color prejudice. It’s a tale as old as time- we’ve been taught from childhood that green comes in a solid, usually leafy, form. You don’t DRINK green. But let me ask you two questions:

(Imagine me dressed as Billy Mays. Go ahead, I dare you.)

Do you like the taste of fruit juice?

Do you like cold, delicious, fruity smoothies?

Then you, my friend, are about to become a member of the Church of the Green Monster! Yes, there are vegetables in your drink- lots of them, in fact. But guess what? YOU CAN’T TASTE THEM AT ALL. Do you know why? Because you can’t TASTE a color- Ok, I’m starting to channel Billy Mays a little too much and now I’m not making sense. What I’m trying to say is that just because a certain vegetable (say, spinach) has a very dominant color, it does not have a more dominant flavor than say, apples. So if you put the flavor of apples and spinach in a blender, you’re going to have a really delicious glass of green apple juice in no time.

The great thing about a Green Monster is that everyone has a different way of preparing theirs. Some people like to make something akin to a smoothie, and they’ll add a dairy product (yogurt, milk, etc). Some people are looking for a specific mix of vitamins, and so they’ll choose fruits and veggies based on what they need on a given day. There are two secrets to my green monster:

jack lalanne juicer

(Source)

boku

Since I don’t have a super blender (feel free to buy me a vitamix anytime you feel like it), my juicer is basically the best thing since sliced bread. A couple of years ago, my mom inherited a Champion juicer– that meant I got to inherit her JACK LALANNE POWER JUICER.

Y’all, Jack Lalanne is a beast- the guy is almost 100 years old, and he does one armed push-ups on the regular. He claims that juicing is basically the elixir of life. I’m not going to lie, and maybe I’ve been drinking the Jack Lalanne kool-aid, but I think he’s right (actually, it would probably be the Jack Lalanne radish and beet juice- dontchathink?) The Jack Lalanne juicer is so strong that you can put an entire orange in the shoot, and it will juice it whole. Did you hear me?

AN ENTIRE ORANGE.

Anyway, if you want really fresh and smooth Green Monsters and you have a lackluster blender, an excellent juicer is really helpful. I didn’t say this juicer was cheap (let me be clear- I DEFINITELY DIDN’T SAY THAT), but it’s worth every penny.

My second secret weapon to the best Green Monster is Boku Superfood. Boku contains way too many excellent ingredients to list them all here (including spirulina), but just know that even one scoop in your daily monster will quadruple your vitamin intake. Plus, a scoop of Boku is only 1 WWpoints+.

Today’s Green Monster consisted of the juice from 3 apples, 1 orange, and 1 pear, blended with 2 big handfuls of spinach and a scoop of boku. I meant to juice some carrots and a couple of celery stalks, but I got so caught up in the “I’m on such a great schedule this morning!” mood that I forgot to throw them in the juicer. Whatever- since fruit and most vegetables have a ZERO WWpoints+ value, the entire GIANT Green Monster only equaled 1 WWpoints+. Yeah, that’s right. You definitely need to get into this.

full breakfast 1192011

Anyway, my entire breakfast totaled up to only 6 WWpoints+, and I don’t know about you, but that’s a number I feel really good about.

Also, OH MY GOD, I can’t believe I mentioned blueberries and I didn’t talk about this video. After watching this clip, you will never think about blueberries the same way again*.

* I realize this makes the video sound like it’s going to show something gross about blueberries. It’s definitely not. This video is….well, just watch the video.

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Say it Ain’t SNOW: A Recap of New Purchases, and Why Corporate Farming is Destroying My Judgement

Today I was reminded of one of the side effects of living in a world dominated by corporate food manufacturing: it’s very easy to forget that weather directly affects farming opportunities. I mean, when you can buy peaches and strawberries in the middle of December, why the hell would anyone be thinking about the fact that those items are out of season and didn’t come from a farm nearby?

(It’s probably because we live in the Matrix. Or America. You know, semantics.)

Therefore, if there’s been an unusual amount of snow and ice in your area, there will be a very meager selection of produce at your local farmer’s market.

Let me make this a little more simple:

This:

(Source)

+This:

(Source)

=

Whatever, I’ll hit up the market later in the week. Anyway, while I was at home with my parentals and little bro, my mom and I went on a mother/daughter grocery shopping expedition and I found steel cut oats at ALDI:

Um, what? I had difficulty finding a selection of steel cut oats at Harris-Teeter, and there’s a giant display at ALDI for half the typical price? I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but that strikes me as slightly amusing. Now, these oats are quick cooking, so I don’t know how they will compare to these oats:

I’ll be sure to let you guys know how the taste testing goes down with these two items. Whole Foods versus Aldi– this ought to be very interesting.

Also, my mom hooked me up with a new kind of tahini:

I’m pretty excited to try it- Mama Bear got it for a great price using amazon.com, but some of the reviews say it’s kind of bitter. Do you eat tahini? Do you have a favorite way of preparing it? I, for one, am about to embark on a series of hummus experimental adventures.

Also, when I arrived home in Cancer City, guess what was waiting for me?

And Yes, I did pose these photos on top of my record player.

🙂 🙂 🙂 I love new purchases, especially when they come in the form of an Eat Smart Precision Pro Kitchen Scale and an Omron GoSmart Pocket Pedometer.

Because I’m Jessamyn and I have the patience of a two year-old, OF COURSE I had to immediately start weighing everything in my kitchen using my lovely new scale. I won’t bore you with all my testing, but I was very impressed with the scale’s accuracy and ESPECIALLY the great convenience of the tare function. By using the tare button, I can easily place a plate/bowl on the scale and zero out its weight before measuring my actual food. There’s no silly math involved at ALL. It’s a REVELATION, y’all.

Plus, doesn’t it look so pretty next to my coffeemaker? Now my kitchen is semi-color coordinated.

(Ok, I’m making an ass of myself.)

I’d have taken more photographs of my pedometer, but I immediately adjusted all the settings, clipped it to my shirt, and walked around my kitchen like an idiot for ten minutes. Things I’ve learned so far? Apparently I have a very short stride, and walk too slowly. I’m sure more lessons will be learned as soon as I start walking and acting like a normal person again. Ok, that’s probably asking a bit too much- everyone knows I’m nowhere near normal.

How was your Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day? Did you act more or less silly than I did?

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Oats and Quinoa and Grocery Stores: OH MY!

As I write this entry, I’m sitting in the deli/mini grocery/coffeeshop my girlfriend works in, and I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have a store so close to my apartment which sells bulk spices and grains.

Wait a minute, let me back up and give a little free publicity: the store of which I’m speaking is called Washington Perk , and it’s fulfilling a serious grocery shortage in the Winston-Salem, NC area.

Ok, I’ll be more specific- yes, there are tons of grocery stores in W-S. Harris Teeter and Food Lion pretty much dominate the grocery options, though many people also utilize other big name chains (Costco, Wal-Mart, etc.) In my immediate neighborhood, we have a very substantial Spanish-speaking population and are lucky enough to have a Compare Foods Supermarket. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Compare Foods specializes in items which are specific to Latin cuisine. There’s a great Spanish bakery, vast crates of bulk beans, as well as an extensive butcher and deli. There’s also a multitude of options in food categories which are typically sparse or bare in your typical “American” grocer- where else can you find ten different kinds of Mexican hot chocolate? Also, on the scale of “expensive grocery stores”, CF ranks on the very low end of the spectrum.

However, Compare Foods is not a great source for organic produce (or any other organic item), and it can be cost in-effective to shop for items which are not prominent ingredients in Latin food culture. For example, though cheese is used in different types of dishes, traditional cheese (cheddar, etc.) produced “for” American cookery is EXTREMELY expensive. This is very similar to Super G Mart, a store in my hometown of Greensboro, NC, which specializes in Asian cookery. Super G Mart’s produce and meat selections are an unbeatable price/quality equation. However, I’ve seen packages of cheese costing nearly $7.

Of the available stores, there are very few which are locally owned. There are also very few which offer a large selection of local and/or organic products. And in my actual neighborhood, there are absolutely no coffee shops, and very few restaurants. This is where Washington Perk comes in. The Perk is locally owned, and features fair trade coffee, a small (but growing!) selection of locally produced dairy and produce, as well as a number of organic grocery options. There’s also a fairly inexpensive deli, and the aforementioned bulk spices and grains.

These are all very important features because one of the only other organic grocers in town is Whole Foods Market, and it’s not near my apartment AT ALL (though, for the record, I’m a fan of Whole Foods and everything for which they stand.)

Wow. Um, ok. Shall we get back to the point of this entry? 🙂

Anyway, there are a number of foods which I want to endeavor to make part of my regular diet during the next few months. Several of these foods hold nutrients and vitamins which I’m definitely not getting enough of, and I think they will help provoke my urge to create new recipes and meal ideas. Here are three with which I can’t wait to get more familiar:

(Photo Credit: Stacey Boyer)

Steel cut oats

My father has sworn by steel cut oats for a number of years, but I’ve always been turned off by how long it takes for them to become soft and chewy, as opposed to tough chunks which get stuck in your teeth leading to a morning of being called ‘oatmeal mouth’. I’m also turned off by the price, but most foods which are actually good for the human body tend to fall outside of my budget. I’m coming to the conclusion that instead of choosing unhealthy options because of the price, I need to re-work my entire food budget.

Danica of Danica’s Daily has a great recipe featuring steel cut oats which I am extremely psyched to try.

(Photo Credit: Stephanie of Noshtopia)

Quinoa

Quinoa is the new love of my epicureal life. I can’t believe I’ve let my food discrimination keep me away from this delicious delicacy for so long! The texture is an excellent substitute for rice or couscous, and it is unbelievably versatile. It can be savory, sweet, salty, or all three and more!

(All these exclamation points are making me feel like Billy Mays. (!))

(Photo Credit: Benefits of Spirulina)

Spirulina

I’ve been reading a lot about the positive health benefits of adding spirulina into one’s diet. Spirulina is a complete protein, and contains all essential amino acids. It’s stronger than the average plant protein, and it’s rich in a host of vitamins and minerals. Of course, the color and flavor can both be rather off-putting, but I get the impression that spirulina powder can be painlessly added to food and drinks.

What about you? What foods/recipes are you excited to try out this year?

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