Cooking

PSX_20150921_205058I LOVE food, cooking and most of all eating. I am very passionate about sharing that love with my children. Food education and cooking provide an excellent example of how unschooling can work.  I feel strongly that food education is lacking in the public school system. I remember when I was in school, I had home economics by middle school.I enjoyed home economics in school because my mom had us involved in cooking at home, so I found it easy and fun. I was saddened to hear that any type of food education is often delayed until High School. Often this is after bad eating habits have already been formed and many children are already obese.

I remember watching Jamie Oliver on TV going into public school classrooms and the kids weren’t able to identify the most basic of fruit and vegetables. I thought maybe it was staged, sadly I’ve run into some children since then, that proved it was a sad reality. Trying to give children very basic tidbits when they are in a high school classroom on the importance of a good diet and asking them to color a food pyramid isn’t going to cut it. Leading by example is important, if I make healthy choices for myself and my family, hopefully, they will go on to do the same. Walking through the grocery store and asking them as toddlers to find a green vegetable, including them in my daily activities such as my trips to the market, and prepping dinner was giving them an education.
 Unschooling is it’s a great way to share your passions and knowledge with your children in a very natural way. So at an early age, my kids were given a knife and taught the safe way to use it, they were taught to be excited at the farmers market when they spotted a new fruit or vegetable they wanted to try. This isn’t because I sat them down and showed them pictures of proper knife handling or did flashcards of vegetables. It’s because it was a natural part of our life. Cooking together started at a very young age. Now with three teenagers, they all are involved in our meal planning and they are active participants in cooking, and they find pleasure in it.
I think cooking is an important skill for all people to have. Understanding your way around the kitchen can be beneficial in so many ways. Clearly so much learning happens when children are involved in cooking. They are learning skills they will use for their entire life. Reading is involved when they use a recipe, Math is involved when measuring the ingredients, clearly they are learning about nutrition and making wise choices for their health. Baking is a perfect example of chemical reactions (that sounds like science to me). That’s what’s great about organic learning, it happens naturally and joyfully.

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The Place Where I Can Say "YES!"

Welcome to the August 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Farmer’s Markets
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about something new they’ve learned about their local farmers.
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The farmer’s market at New Harvest Park is a relatively new farmer’s market in the Knoxville area. It’s not the largest market around, but at least, I can find a parking place, the kids can jump in the fountains and it’s close to my house.

There are so many reasons to love your local farmer’s market. It’s a great place to foster a sense of community and to get to know your local farmers. Each week our market usually offers some sort of educational experience to accompany our trip, so it’s educational too. There is also a small community garden that is taken care of by a few volunteers and home school students. The kids and I have loved the learning opportunities provided by Ijams Nature Center.  Learning about the birds and bugs in our area has provided some awesome opportunities for nature study.
Do you  feel like you’re always saying “no” to your children? “No!” to the junk food everywhere. “No” to the processed food on every corner. I love that I can say “yes!” at the farmer’s market. We do enjoy the homemade treats each week at our market. I know these are local folks, with small businesses who put their heart and soul into their product. Here are some of my favorites:

VG’s Bakery is our treat spot each week. We usually bring our treats home and enjoy them with a cup of tea in the evening before bedtime. It’s become a family ritual.  We look forward to it! My favorite this year is the blueberry roll with lemon glaze. YUM! Dave (fondly known as ‘the bakery guy’ in our house) brings the goodies to most of the markets around town, we’re lucky enough to have a market somewhere around town almost every day of the week. He barters with local farmers to get the freshest fruits to have VG make the best hand pies and rolls.  So you’ll see the fruit that is in season reflected in the assortment of treats available that week. Best of all I love that he knows my kids’ favorite cookies and I can say “yes” to these made from scratch goodies.  I dare you to visit VG’s bakery website and just look at their photos…I’m drooling at the very thought! You know Michael Pollen’s food rule that says “eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” Well, I kind of extend that rule a bit to include these handmade goodies.

Cruze farms is a local, family dairy. They have the BEST ice cream with flavors like lemon buttermilk and salty caramel. Their  flavors of ice cream are also reflective of the local, seasonal produce available.  Their milk has a cream top and tastes delectable. My kids look forward to a cone of ice cream from one of the Cruze farm girls. They are a staple at many of the market’s around town. With fall around the corner, I’m already looking forward to heading out to Cruze farms and having a blast at the corn maze.

Nothing beats local honey. Doug’s Other Honey is one of our favorite sources for local, raw, unfiltered honey. He has a wildflower honey that is so my absolute favorite at the moment. Local honey has so many health benefits. The taste of their honey is astounding. They offer free samples each week and he has the cutest labels of any honey I’ve ever seen.

We love Mountain Meadows Farm. We are members of their fruit and veggie CSA. This is the third farm where I’ve used their CSA program. I am most impressed with the quality of Mountain Meadow Farms, I love that we get fruit in our CSA. We’ve enjoyed the most amazing peaches, grapes, blueberries and blackberries so far this year. They use non-GMO seeds, pick their produce the same day as market the food travels less than 25 miles to get to market. We pay ahead for the season and then we pick up our share each week. I love the variety and look forward to the fruit and veggie surprise each week.

Wisner Farms is a farm that is close to our heart. This is where we bought our lovely ladies, our laying hens! They are a small family run farm. We always enjoy ourselves when we visit their farm. There are happy chickens, turkeys, and cows around every corner. They sell grass fed, pasture raised meats, eggs, and homemade bread.

We just had a new aquaponic greenhouse start coming to the market. Greater Growth is a local, sustainable organic company that harvests fish (tilapia)
and greens here in Knoxville.
The true advantage of shopping at the farmer’s market each week is truly the people. The vendors, as well as the customers, are gems. I always run into a friend from Holistic Moms, La Leche League or a homeschooling friend while I’m there. It really does foster a sense of community each week to be around the people the plow the fields, that raise the animals and that care about our planet and the food we eat.
If you’re new to shopping at farmers markets, I highly recommend bringing cash though many of the vendors will accept checks. The market has also started to accept EBT cards, isn’t that fabulous?  I’ve also learned that I should bring more cash than I think because you never know what new and exciting options may be there each week. I do get frustrated if I end up running out of money and didn’t get everything I wanted. I also recommend bringing a cooler. It’s a good idea to keep your fruits, veggies, treats and meats cool in the hot weather. It also prevents you from getting an overload of plastic bags to lug home.

Most of the farmers are not certified organic, which can be quite expensive. This really doesn’t present a problem because once you talk to your farmers and learn about their farming practices you’ll see that many of them are chemical and pesticide free. Many small family farmers are also dedicated to sustainability and practice environmentally friendly farming. If you’re not sure, ask! Many of the farmers are Certified Naturally Grown which is a grassroots organization that makes certification for organic, small farms much more attainable.
So the next time your Knoxville on a Thursday afternoon between the hours of 3:00-6:00 I hope you’ll consider stopping by the New Harvest Park Farmer’s Market. Pick up a cinnamon roll, a cone of ice cream or a basket of organic vegetables, you won’t be disappointed.
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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon August 14 with all the carnival links.)

10 Things I Learned About 10 Days of Real Food

Bulk Section of my Local Food Co-op

Well, the 10 Days of Real Food is over. I’m very glad to have had so much support in taking this food journey with our family. I thought I’d wrap up my final post about the challenge with a list of 10 things I learned through the process.
#1 Convenience– It is so much easier to buy a box of cheese crackers than it is to make them. This also applies to bread. Finding that balance between keeping your sanity and making wise food choices is important. If you have a busy life and want to feed your family real food, being organized and having a meal plan is be essential. I think I’ll keep buying my bread from the Old Mill Bakery because I love it and they grind their own grains, and that’s more than I can do at the moment. I will still make some of my own bread. I plan on starting my sourdough this week. I’d like to keep an index card of a few simple, real food meal ideas I can make quickly on hectic evenings.
#2 Money-Eating a diet rich in organic, healthy whole foods can cost more than a diet of less quality foods. If your family eats meat, then that is an additional expense. We eat a diet rich in eggs(our own), legumes and fresh veggies. These are budget friendly foods. We do purchase local raw milk and cheeses, these are a bit more pricey – but worth it in my book. Taking advantage of buying in bulk for rice, beans, and grains can really save you money. Making your own foods such as yogurt and bread can really save you money too. Buying into a CSA or shopping at your local farmers market are budget friendly ways to put a priority on fresh, local produce. The best way to save money and have fresh produce is to grow your own garden. I am making it a priority to learn how to can this year and learn more about food preservation.
#3 Keep it Simple-Apples, cucumbers, carrots, and strawberries are very simple snacks that children LOVE. No need for a lot of prep work. Slice, dice and serve. My kids ate so much raw fruit and vegetables this week, it was wonderful. Why wasn’t I doing this before?
#4 Kids eat what you feed them.- I keep repeating this to myself as I’m walking through the grocery store. If I don’t buy boxed snacks, they won’t eat them. Lisa had an excellent article on the subject called Kids Eat Processed Food Because Parents Give It to Them. 
#5 Inspiration– I was feeling bored and tired with the food I was feeding my family. This 10 Day Challenge got me excited about food again. Using my Pinterest board along with a few healthy cookbooks as guides, I was filled with inspiration to get me out of my boring food rut. We ate creative, fantastically flavorful food all week. No one went lacking. I tend to get into a rut when I don’t have access to all the fresh veggies, I guess it’s the winter food blahs. I’m so pleased the farmer’s markets are starting up again. They serve as weekly inspiration for me.
#6 Food can be fun.-This kind of goes along with #5. Being uninspired makes for boring food. When you are inspired by your ingredients you make great food. Adding fruit chunks to a bamboo skewer and calling it a kabob makes kids happy. Getting your children involved in preparing the food makes it fun for them. They are also more willing to try what you’re cooking if they helped make it.
# 7 Connect to your community.- I get very excited to find a new real food provider in the area. I love the farmers market and knowing the names of the farmers. I love knowing Dave made my bread or Morel grew my lettuce. I feel better that my money is going directly to the farmers and their families. This means the money goes directly in my community. Knoxville has some amazing food providers such as Green Chin Farms ( they currently have milk shares open) , A Place of the Heart Farm, West Wind Farms, Wisner Farms, Mountain Meadow Farms, Cruze Farms and so many more.
#8 Eating out is the hard part.- The biggest struggle to eating real food according to the rules of the challenge was eating out. It’s very hard to know what is in each sauce, dressing, and bread. Knoxville has some fantastic food places that focus on local, healthy foods such as 31 Bistro, Harry’s Delicatessen and don’t forget the Old Mill Bread Company for lunch. I plan to support these businesses more when eating out.
#9 Health benefits– Not consuming processed sugar for 10 days didn’t turn my children into perfectly behaved angels and we weren’t miraculously healed of all aches and pains. However, I do believe that the standard American diet filled with refined sugar, salt and artificial colors and flavorings does cause illness. Diabetes, cancer and a host of other diseases are in many cases directly related to diet. So I really hope to stick to my guns and eliminate the excuses when it comes to junk food. I want my kids to have a real food immune system. I learned sugar is everywhere. At least I’m aware now and I’m on the lookout.
#10 Definition of Real Food– Lisa set up some rules for the 10 Day Real Food Challenge mostly based from Michael Pollen’s books. I think setting boundaries was essential for the challenge, however, my personal definition of real food varies a bit. I won’t be following the 5 ingredient rule, if I can read the ingredients and they are whole foods, it’s alright by me. I’m sure we’ll be eating sugar though I’m hoping to get cooperation in following a rule of 5 grams or less in any packaged products we purchase. Have you come up with what defines real food in your home?
The challenge was a positive experience for my family. It brought to our attention a few weaknesses in our diet and helped us make some changes.  It was a springboard for a lot of discussion on real food with my children, friends, and family. I am really thankful for all of my friends who joined along with me. Thank you to all of the bloggers that joined me (Couponing in Critical Times, Simply Natural MomCoupon Katie, Frugallisa Finds, Blue Frog CreationsLiving Peacefully with Children and The Artful Mama) your insights and honesty were inspiring.
Rebecca at Simply Natural Mom wrote a wrap-up post for the 10 Day Challenge which includes some yummy recipes. Gabe from Couponing in Critical Times also wrote a post telling what she learned from the Challenge. I hope you’ll check them out.
What are your favorite real food local resources? Please share!!
This post is part of Real Food Wednesdays and Simple Lives Thursday