Tips & Tricks for the Farmer’s Market

Shopping at a farmer’s market is a great way to choose healthy products that are locally grown and sourced by farmers and merchants that are passionate and knowledgeable about what they’re providing to consumers.

Farmer’s markets are also a great way to meet and interact with the same people that are producing your food.

Here are some tips and tricks for visiting your local farmer’s market:

Go early: Vendors present all items at once so oftentimes products disappear fast! Plus, there are great people to meet and talk to, both that produce the products you buy and those who are also shopping!

Bring a reusable bag: Bringing your own bag isn’t only good for the environment, it’s a great way to ensure you can carry all of your items easily. Having an insulated bag or cooler is another great way to keep perishable goods fresh while traveling.

Don’t be afraid to try something new: Sometimes root vegetables like carrots and beets can be presented at a farmer’s market whole and with greens still attached. Don’t worry! This helps the vegetables stay fresh for longer. The same goes with products that you haven’t tried before. Just because they may look different or contain an ingredient you’ve never heard of doesn’t mean they won’t be delicious. Chances are there’s a great recipe for whatever you’re about to purchase!

Take a lap: With brightly colored fruits, vegetables, jams and more displayed it is easy to miss something the first time around. Make sure you circle back to all vendor tables to ensure you didn’t skip over something worth buying!

Ask questions: This may seem like a no-brainer, but asking questions is the best way to learn about what you’re buying, how to pick the best item, and where your food was sourced. Learning more about healthy, local foods helps you achieve healthy eating goals!

Take a friend: Farmer’s Markets make the perfect day-date: good company plus lots of great food!

You can find farmer’s markets all over the metro-DC region by doing a simple Google search. Hometown Harvest will host its first Farmer’s Market on Friday, May 20th at the warehouse on Wedgewood Blvd. in Frederick. Don’t have time to stop by? Try having the market delivered!

Find out more online at www.hometownharvest.com!

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How to Conquer Our 30 Day Healthy Eating Challenge

Our #HH30Day challenge isn’t just about food. It’s about a food revolution!

HH30Days-logoSaying yes to a new challenge is never easy. And our #HH30Day challenge isn’t just about food. It’s about a food revolution! We hope to challenge you to redefine the way you think about food and how you choose what you eat every day. Can you eat whole, natural and local foods for 30 days? We think so! We’re here to empower you to conquer our challenge and achieve your goals! Here are some tips so you can be ready on May 1st:

  • Challenge a friend: Encourage your friends to participate with you and touch base each week to track your progress. You can hold each other accountable and celebrate small successes! We suggest using social media as a platform; it makes it easy to connect!
  • Set up recurring orders: Having healthy and nutritious items delivered on a regular basis can help you stay on track. Fresh produce, meats, dairy and more can easily be delivered on a recurring basis!
  • Try new recipes: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring! Our blog provides recipes that accommodate the 30 day challenge and our friends at 100 Days of Real Food offer full meal plans!
  • Plan in advance: Going out to a restaurant? Look at the menu online before you go. Leaving for vacation? Pack healthy snacks and water for the trip so you’re less tempted to buy junk food on the road! Planning in advance isn’t always fun but is a great key to forming healthy eating habits.
  • Celebrate: This, like any other challenge, is difficult! Celebrate the small and big wins because choosing better foods for you and your family is a great accomplishment!

Are you up for the #HH30Day challenge? We’re here for you and are happy to answer any questions along the way. Plus, we’ll have great prizes throughout the month of May to celebrate!

For more information and to pledge, visit our website! And don’t forget to use the hashtag #HH30Day on social media.

3 Perfect Recipes for Spring

Warmer weather. Later nights. Blooming flowers. Time on the patio. What’s not to love about Spring? We think these three recipes are perfect for family dinners, entertaining and everything in-between! Plus, they use local and nutritious products sourced by Hometown Harvest. What’s not to love?

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  1. Seared Tuna Medallions with Citrus Salsa: A fresh and light take on tuna, this dish combines a homemade season salt infused tuna medallion with a burst of flavor (and color) in the citrus salsa.
  2. Green bean and penne pasta salad: This simple side can be prepared in under 15 minutes with less than 10 ingredients (including seasonings). The green beans add a nice crunch, too!
  3. Squash Fries: Crispy, crunchy and much more healthy than traditional fries this snack can be made with any type of squash! Helpful hint: bake the fries on parchment paper for an extra crunch!

Find more great recipes on our website: http://www.hometownharvest.com!

5 Things You Can Do With Time You Save Not Grocery Shopping!

According to a report by the Time Use Institute, the average length of a grocery shopping trip is 41 minutes.

41 minutes in the store – not making a list, loading family in the car, driving from home, or any of the other things you have to do just to get to the front door. Worse yet, Saturday and Sunday, the most common grocery shopping days of the week, average 45 minutes per trip. Accounting for pre and post grocery activities, that’s an estimated hour per trip. A once per week trip adds up to 52 hours a year. That’s more time than a week’s vacation!

With the revolution of online grocery shopping that time can be curtailed to nearly zero. Online retailers provide you with fixed (or custom) bags of assorted fruits and vegetables that can be accompanied by meats, eggs, dairy, canned goods, cake in a jar (yes, that’s a real thing), and most all essentials you grab at the physical store each week. Items can even be set up on a recurring basis, the “set it and forget it” mentality! Best yet, it’s delivered to your doorstep.

Spend 52 hours doing something fun and rewarding. Here are 5 ways to reuse your grocery shopping hours:

  1. Tour a museum. Or 30!
  2. Staycation! Take a personal time out. And there’s always vacation. Bora Bora anyone?
  3. Learn a new language. Rosetta Stone offers core classes that only take 30 minutes each!
  4. Give Back. Here are 25 Ways to Volunteer.
  5. Spend time with family.

Save time, stress, money, gas, and a whole lot of headache by ordering your groceries online. Hometown Harvest offers a free membership & hassle-free service in the greater metro DC region with local products (including cake in a jar) and a commitment to healthy eating. Learn more and get discounts on your order by visiting www.hometownharvest.com.

Ginger Peach Compote

Please enjoy our newest guest series from Coach Sarah K., wellness expert, health coach, and Hometown Harvest customer! Her recipes and hints will help you use your bag items to maximize the healthy impact of eating local!

Ginger Peach Compote

Bag items: peaches, ginger, honey, yogurt

One of my favorite snacks has to be Greek yogurt and fruit. The yogurt has a little more protein than regular yogurt, plus it is thick and creamy and provides a great base for the fruit. The problem is that it can get expensive buying individual yogurts with fruit to mix in. Well, never fear! Here is a delicious way to use all of those fresh peaches, a source of Vitamins A and C, and to save yourself money at the grocery store!

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This ginger peach compote is a lovely spicy-sweet complement to the yogurt, though I found that it was good on other things as well, like pancakes; as if pancakes weren’t delicious enough by themselves (especially the pecan pancake mix that Hometown Harvest offers in the “Pantry” section). Truthfully, I could have eaten it by the spoonful. The fresh ginger gives it just a little kick, then the honey and natural sweetness of the peaches mellow the flavor out a bit.

Also, this compote is one of the easiest recipes I have ever made. Simply chop your peaches, add the remaining ingredients, and let it simmer until it is the consistency you like. It couldn’t be any easier, or more delicious!

Here is just how easy it is:

First, peel and chop your peaches:

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Second, add the other ingredients:

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Then just let it cook down:

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That’s all there is to it!  Enjoy it on yogurt, pancakes, or anything else that strikes you!

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Ginger Peach Compote

4-6 medium sized ripe peaches

2 Tbsp honey

2 Tsp freshly grated ginger

Instructions
1.) Peel and chop the peaches. Don’t worry if they aren’t all the same size. They will cook down quite a bit and any bigger pieces will just be yummy chunks in the compote.

2.) Add ginger and honey and stir.

3.) Bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then turn down to medium heat

4.) Let the fruit cook down for about 10 minutes, or until the consistency is what you like. Mash the peaches a bit with back of a wooden spoon as you stir, if you’d like.

The Source Report: The Tuscarora Organic Growers Coop (Pt. 1)

Mila, our produce buyer, recently toured the Tuscarora Organic Growers Coop farms with a group of local buyers. After several seasons of buying top-quality local organic produce from this group, it was great to be able to capture photos and notes for our customers (plus spend a beautiful day out on the farms)!

new.morning.farmWhenever we’re talking with growers, it’s always nice to see all the various groups that also support our local food movement. On this day, the tour group was particularly diverse–I met chefs from the DC-area restaurants, farmer market managers, a lawyer who is considering starting a finance company to assist small organic farms get certified, coop and small grocery storeowners and employees, as well as many of Tuscarora Organic Growers Coop’s employees and farmers.

Located in a beautiful rural area outside McConnallsburg PA, the TOG is tucked away at the end of winding back road in the foothills. New Morning Farm is next door, owned by Jim Crawford, who founded TOG in 1988 and is its current president.

 Jeff Taylor (GM of TOG) gave us the history and tour of the coop. One of the main reasons Hometown Harvest orders TOG produce is because of the consistently high quality and freshness, a feat achieved through frequent harvesting from over 40 farmer members and large walk-in coolers that are regulated at different temperatures depending on produce types. TOG is a mix of older farmers who have been farming since the 70s, like Jim from New Morning Farm and the owners of Shoestring Acres & Harnes, many multi-generational Amish growers like Back Forty, Country View Acres and Country View Farm (brother owned), as well as new and younger farmers who have been farming for 3-5 years. All maintain Certified Organic growers status from the state, following strict regulated guidelines.

Due to its success and quality standards, TOG’s business model is being duplicated all across the US. Each farmer follows over 32 pages of quality standards for each variety of produce, resulting in only a 1% QUALITY loss for the group (meaning produce rejected at the loading dock). This is virtually unheard of for most produce distribution standards.

Stay tuned for more info on the various farms included in the coop in Pt. 2!

Winter Farming: “Farming isn’t rocket science…It’s more complicated than that.”

I did not grow up in a farming family. But I have spent many years– from the age of 16–on and around a farm working as a farm hand, feeding and tending to cows, calves, and so on. Fieldwork on a farm tends to have lots of volunteers, and pretty much all of the volunteers had more experience in the tractor seat than myself. So I often stayed back on the farm, doing the necessary jobs of feeding the animals, scraping the barn, and other grunt work.

Fast forward to over 20 years later, my wife and I, now farmers, have decided to take another step with our own farm and add a produce operation. With this new endeavor I must learn a completely new set of skills and level of understanding. I am certainly capable of driving a tractor, but learning how everything else works is a bit overwhelming.

At the end of January, I spent several days up in Hershey, PA, at the Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. This convention pulls together many local area farmers, college students, and agriculture professors, as well as industry folks (machinery, packaging, supplies, etc.). I found a wide variety of very in-depth conversations and workshops on many surprising topics.

dripDrip Irrigation – I am a preschooler and the workshops I took on this topic were on the college level. I was hoping to get a basic “plug Part A into Line B” type of instruction, but instead I heard conversations on soil sensors, Irrigation theory, pond management…so much to consider for the sustainability of any irrigation system I set up.

Soil HealthDirt is the stuff we sweep under the rug; it is not the stuff we grow your food in. Soil is the medium in which plants grow. The soil is probably the most complex ecosystem in the universe. It also one of the least understood. A teaspoon of native grassland soil contains 600-800 million bacteria of up to 10,000 different species, several miles of fungi of 5,000 species, 10,000 protozoa of 5000 species, and 20-30 beneficial nematodes that are members of up to a 100 different species. This list does not include the big critters like earthworms. The $64 question is what do all these little guys do and what happens to them when we start farming a soil?soil

  • I also spent some time learning about another farm’s “Agritourism” operation.  We are planning to construct a multipurpose building on our farm to host our customers, hold farm events, and locate our delivery operations closer to home, so this topic was very helpful for us to start the planning.
  • Finally, I learned about how and efficient produce farm grows particular crops like celery, lettuce, and other popular field greens.

tunnelsHigh Tunnels – A high tunnel is basically a green house with a soil floor, and no heat. Sustainable produce operations use high tunnels to extend the growing season, and we have a grant pending to build tunnels on the Hometown Harvest Farm this summer.

To be honest, my head is still spinning a bit with all of the information I learned at the convention. I have begun to apply this new information immediately, as I work to finalize my crop plan for 2015. I had originally planned to grow a very diverse group of crops in our first field, but now with a better understanding of soil health, weeds, insects, and other pests, it might be better for me to simplify that plan by focusing on fewer crops. Once we’ve become proficient in growing those this year, then we continue to convert additional ground next year and add additional plant varieties. Stay tuned, and thanks for your continued support!

Best of Health!
Tony

Tuscan Spaghetti Squash Boats {Plus 3 BONUS S’ghetti Squash Recipes!}

With all of the cooking and baking I’ve been doing lately, I’ve been getting lots of creative inspirations.

This dish was inspired by a meal I had at a restaurant called Food for Thought in Williamsburg when Bill and I went there to celebrate our 4-year dating anniversary.

IMG_1683Cool presentation of my spaghetti squash boat with tomatoes and pine nuts! yummy -)

After roasting some spaghetti squash the other day, I wanted to find a way to use it in a recipe along with a bunch of the veggies I had in my fridge and on my counter.

Inspired by my first spaghetti squash experience, I threw this dish together.

This meal is even better on the second and third days as the flavors kind of marinate together in the fridge. If you don’t have one of the veggies listed below, just try it with another one that you do have! Make it your own and have some fun with it 🙂

After all, cooking is meant to be fun!

Also, I think it’s worth mentioning (as reassurance!) that almost half of the ingredients below are common herbs and spices, so the list may look “longer” but make note of how simple the ingredients are (you might already have all of them on hand!).

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Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash, cooked and shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons grass-fed butter, coconut oil, or ghee
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (look for a BPA-free can or tetra pack)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Optional: 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

Directions

  1. Roast one spaghetti squash in the oven following these simple steps. Save the spaghetti squash shell for serving (optional but it looks cool!).
  2. In a large skillet, saute onions on medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter or ghee if not vegan) until they begin to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and continue to saute another minute or two.
  3. Add broccoli and cook 2 minutes.
  4. Add water and tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add oregano, basil, sea salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper and cook uncovered 4 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender but still bright green.
  6. Add cannellini beans and spaghetti squash strands to pan and toss until heated through. Remove pan from heat.
  7. Meanwhile, lightly toast the pine nuts in the toaster oven being careful not to burn them.
  8. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over squash mixture and top with pine nuts.

Looking for other spaghetti squash recipes? Try one of these below!

  1. Spaghetti Squash with Kale & Chickpeas
  2. Spaghetti Squash with Cranberries & Sunflower Seeds
  3. Cheezy Spaghetti Squash Casserole (Vegan)

#HH30Days in your Green Bags!

Hometown Harvest 30-Day Real Food Challenge

Are you ready for the big challenge? We wanted to share some great resources for preparing your kitchen for a month of real food, including this list of 21 Essentials for Freezer, Pantry & Fridge from the folks at 100 Days of Real Food.

We also thought it would be handy to provide a list of Hometown Harvest products that are challenge-ready. In addition to ALL of our fruits & veggies, the following is a list of links to add foods directly to your bag, which should make planning easier! We will be updating this list as our new products continue to roll in.

Veggie & Fruit Bags All Items
Produce All Items (Including spices!)
Proteins Pastured Eggs
Wild-Caught Salmon
Whole Roasting Hens
Pastured Chicken (all cuts)
Pastured Ground Turkey
Grass-Fed Steaks (all cuts)
Grass-Fed Ground Beef
Pastured Pork Sausages from Grand View Farm (Kielbasa, Fresh Links, Patties)
Free-Range Pork Chops (all cuts)
Pasture-Raised Lamb (all cuts)
Organic Local Tofu
Healthy Snacks Deception Salsas
That’s It Fruit Bars
Crispy Chickpeas
Organic Almonds
Organic Walnuts
Organic Cashews
Organic Sunflower Seeds
Organic Pistachios
The Bakery Multigrain Bread
Seven-Grain Crunch Sliced Bread
Three-Seed Healthy Sliced Bread
Honey Whole Wheat Sliced Bread
BananaLove Muffins
Pantry Birds & Bees Nut Butter
Dried Beans & Lentils
Jacob’s Raw Salad Dressings
Raw Honeys
Organic Whole Wheat Flour
Organic Whole Wheat Bread Flour
Organic Whole Spelt Flour
Organic Whole Wheat Noodles
Pure Maple Syrup
Baba’s Pickles (Agave or Spicy)
Sweet Farm Sauerkrauts (all flavors)
Dairy All Local Cheeses
Plain Whole Yogurt
Honey Greek Yogurt
Beverages Zeke’s Artisan Coffees
Almondmilk

Not Your Mama’s Brussels Sprouts! 3 Recipes You Have to Try

Rachel Druckenmiller, health coach and local blogger

Rachel Druckenmiller, health coach and author of Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen

We’re pleased to share a cross-post from customer, blogger, and health coach Rachel Druckenmiller’s blog, Rachel’s Nourishing Kitchen. As a wellness consultant and certified health coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Rachel uses Hometown Harvest bag ingredients to craft tasty, interesting recipes that are healing and nutritious. Enjoy!

On behalf of anyone who has ever subjected you to boiled, steamed, or otherwise overcooked Brussels sprouts…

I apologize.

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Many of us had traumatic experiences with certain foods while we were growing up and have written them off as adults, and rightfully so. Overcooked Brussels sprouts are often one of those foods, and when they are boiled to death, they do smell (and taste) pretty terrible!

Here’s the good news – Brussels sprouts have been reinvented and taste completely different than they did when we were kidsI promise. Those of us who have sworn off these stinky little cabbages since childhood are giving them a second chance as adults…and are loving them!

Not only are Brussels sprouts delicious, but they incredibly good for you! They are:

  • A source of over 20 essential vitamins and minerals our body needs to function at its best
  • Potent cancer fighters. Check out this post for more about the amazing cancer-fighting properties of green, cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts
  • Chock full of fiber. You know, that stuff that keeps us full, controls our blood sugar, and keeps us “regular”

Check out 3 of my favorite Brussels sprouts recipes below!

The first one, in particular, will convert even lifelong Brussels sprouts haters. I prepared it for Thanksgiving last year, and someone who had only had Brussels sprouts boiled tried them and LOVED them. He told his wife he would eat them if she prepared them this way. Happy Cooking 🙂

ImageMaple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts. This is my absolute favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts. The recipe is super simple, too! Follow these tips/tricks for optimal results: flip Brussels sprouts over halfway through cooking time (at the 10 minute mark), so they cook 10 minutes per side. Do not overcook them – they should still be a brighter green (vs. a dull/muted green). These are SO good! You have to try them.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Shallots. Inspired by the mini Brussels sprouts and shallots I received in my Hometown Harvest bag last week, I made up this recipe.

Ingredients & Directions: 2.5 cups Brussels sprouts, left whole (mini ones, if you can find them!); 2 shallots, sliced; 2 cloves of garlic, minced; 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil, melted; sea salt & black pepper, to taste.

I mixed all of the ingredients together and then roasted them on a baking sheet in the oven at 400F for 18-20 minutes, tossing them around in the pan at the 10-minute mark. They were really tasty! The shallots added a subtle sweetness. Bill and I devoured the whole bowl at dinner.

Smoky Lemony Shredded Brussels Sprouts – Smoked paprika has a delicious, deep flavor and is something we just started using last month! It can be tricky to find, so you might have to order it online or find it at Whole Foods, Fresh Market, MOMs, or Wegmans. I modified a few things in the recipe (but feel free to follow it “as is”):

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  • Used coconut oil instead of olive oil since coconut oil is more heat stable
  • Added 1/4-1/3 cup low sodium vegetable broth to help the Brussels sprouts cook down. I did this after the Brussels sprouts had been cooking for a few minutes. Just add it in a few tablespoons at a time until the Brussels sprouts soften.
  • Used 2 cloves of garlic instead of 1 (I love garlic!)
  • Added in 1/4 cup of toasted, chopped walnuts for some crunch!
  • Added closer to 1 tablespoon of lemon juice instead of 2 teaspoons (3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon)

What is your favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts? Feel free to share your recipes below!