Finding Real Food
In my real food journey, it’s taken me some time to figure out where to buy fresh, locally grown and produced food. I have a lot of sympathy for those at the beginning of their efforts to eat a healthier diet.
Most of the real food blogs out there advise eating produce that is local and organic, and animal products that are free-range. But every location is different, and people often receive little advice as to where to actually find these food items.
That’s one of the reasons I started my blog. To help all the real-food newbies know where to begin.
I started out buying everything from local supermarkets, but after a year and a half of living in South Carolina, I have now figured out where to find locally grown foods.
I purchase raw, grass-fed, organic milk from the Milky Way Farm drop off. Milky Way has 15 drop-off locations within South Carolina, so if you’re from this state, you’ll probably find a drop off location close by. (Those not from SC can go to realmilk.com to find a place to purchase raw milk.) When I go to the milk drop off there is also a farmer selling local grass-fed beef and free-range chicken from the trunk of his car. On Craigslist, I’ve found local free-range eggs. And for fresh produce, I order farm boxes filled with local produce from a private business called Fresh From The Farms.
April’s Mini-Series ~ A Look Into Farmers’ Markets Around The Country
For the month of April, we will be taking a trip around the country to share with you different farmers’ markets around the country. How cool is that?
Every farmers’ market has something unique to that market and to that area. We are going to dive into that.
Here is a list of the farmers’ markets that we are going to explore:
- Tucson AZ ~ April 2 Countrywide Farmers’ Markets ~ A Peek Into Tucson, AZ: Roasted Salsa – It Has A Kick!
- Seattle ~ April 4 Countrywide Farmers’ Markets ~ A Peek Into Seattle And Why Raw Cultured Butter (Homemade from the Farmers’ market) Is So Good For Us
- Florida ~ April 9 Countrywide Farmers’ Markets ~A Peek Into Florida and Boiled Peanuts
- South Carolina ~ April 11 Countrywide Farmers’ Market ~ Farm Share Boxes and Cheesy Paprika Garden Casserole Recipe
- Phoenix AZ ~ April 16 Countrywide Farmers’ Markets ~ A Peek Into Phoenix, AZ: Handspun Wool and Prickly Pear Syrup
- Missouri ~ April 18 Countrywide Farmers’ Markets ~ A Peek Into Missouri and A Farmers Market Expo
- Washington DC ~ April 23 DC Farmers’ Markets Plus A Recipe With Wild Greens (Nettles, Dandelions, Mustard Greens)
- Wisconsin ~ April 25 Countrywide Farmers’ Markets ~ A Peek Into the Dane County Farmer’s Market….And A Delicious Asparagus Recipe
So come back often this month to enjoy our trip around the country and all the unique finds that we find at our local farmer’s markets.
The Local Produce Situation
There are four local “farmer’s markets” that I know about. I say that in quotes because they are nothing like Jenna’s magical Tuscon Farmer’s Market, which to me looks like a lovely outdoor carnival filled with friendly people and an endless variety of locally produced items.
Three of my farmer’s markets consist of just one tent-like structure, and what they sell is definitely not all local. I was less than impressed to see “Produced in California” on a bag of carrots. California??? I live in South Carolina! Seriously; the next thing I know my farmer’s market will be selling “local” produce from Alaska or Hawaii!
But it’s not all bad, and there is some local produce, as well as handmade pasta (from Ohio…), cured pork, jams and jellies, and honey. But neither is it quaint and cute and guaranteed local. Which is why I purchase my produce from farm boxes.
Springs Farm is known in Fort Mill for their peach orchards and strawberry fields. In the summer their “Springs Farm” Farmer’s Market location sells fresh peaches and strawberries, and other local produce, plus the option to pick your own in their beautiful fields. Their “Peach Stand” Market (an odd marriage of gas station and grocery store) is open year round but right now the produce selection isn’t overly exciting. Probably the best resource there is the butcher shop, which sells local organic grass-fed beef and handmade sausages.
“Fresh From The Farm” Farm Boxes
Fresh From The Farms is a private business that collects fresh produce from local farms within 30 miles, then delivers a box straight to my door. The price is very reasonable, especially considering the home delivery, and the produce is guaranteed local and seasonal. They deliver every other week during the winter months, and once a week during the summer.
Our boxes typically contain:
- Sweet potatoes
- Fingerling potatoes
- Hydroponic lettuce
- Carolina sweet onions (My personal favorite!)
- Herbs and micro greens
It’s like Christmas every other Thursday when my box arrives!
Fresh From the Farms also offers the option to order additional locally produced items like goat cheese, free range duck and chicken eggs, honey, pasta, and whole grain bread.
Since I started receiving my farm boxes I’ve had to adjust a few of my weekly menu choices to accommodate the seasonal produce I’ve been receiving.
Some of my favorite recipes this season are my Sweet Onion Salsa, Strawberry Bunny Milk Real-food-ified, Wilted Bacon and Kale Salad, Southwestern Roasted Sweet Potato Salad, and Liberian Greens and Rice made with kale and palm oil.
The last recipe is from West Africa, where I grew up. It’s a real memory food for me. In Liberia, collard greens or other indigenous greens are typically used, but kale makes a great substitute and I like having a recipe that uses palm oil, which is a very nutritious tropical oil.
My newest seasonal recipe creation is my Cheesy Paprika Garden Casserole. I think you’ll really like it. It’s got a lot of the crowd-pleasing tastes and textures of a classic potato casserole but has a much more sophisticated flavor due to the addition of smoked paprika.
It uses white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and spinach. I love one dish meals so I threw in a pound of ground beef, and of course some bacon. Bacon makes everything better.
Then all of these ingredients are bound together with a creamy sour cream and cheese based sauce. Since there’s no canned “cream of the artificial ingredient” soup in the recipe, it’s suitable for a grain-free and gluten-free diet. Not to mention the rest of us who are trying to avoid processed foods!
A Few Notes About This Recipe
The recipe takes a number of steps, so it’s a little more complicated than most one-dish dinner meals. But each step can be done in advance and the entire casserole can be frozen before baking or after baking.
I think this recipe would do great in the crock pot, though I’ve not had the chance to give it a try. If using the crock pot, I would cook it on high for 1 to 2 hours, depending on your crock pot, or on low for 3 to 4 hours.
I’m all about flexibility in my recipes, so feel free to experiment with what you have on hand or other veggies you’d prefer over the ones I’ve included:
- I’ve called for white potatoes, but additional sweet potatoes could be used, as well as possibly carrots or another root vegetable.
- Spinach is a good mild green in this recipe, but just about any dark leafy greens would work.
- A number of cheeses would taste great in this recipe. I think mixing in some Parmesan or Pepper Jack would add good flavor.
- 3 medium all-purpose potatoes, or about 1 lb. potatoes of choice, peeled and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, (about 1 lb.) peeled and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces
- 4 cups loosely packed fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed if freshly picked
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
- 2 cups (16 oz) sour cream
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons paprika, preferably smoked paprika
- 1/4 chipotle chile pepper, or additional paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 2/3 cups shredded Cheddar or Colby Jack cheese, divided
- 4 to 5 slices bacon, fried till crisp and crumbled
- Begin by placing both kinds of chopped potatoes in a pot and covering with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are just tender but still firm. Remove from heat and drain. Set aside.
- In a saucepan bring 1/4 cup water to a boil. Add the spinach leaves and stir, just until the leaves have wilted. Drain the water and set the spinach aside.
- Brown the ground beef in a skillet with the onion and one teaspoon salt. Set aside.
- In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the sour cream, cream cheese, garlic, one egg, pepper, paprika, chipotle powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine, making sure the cream cheese is well incorporated. Stir in two cups cheese and the bacon crumbles.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the boiled potatoes, spinach, ground beef, and sour cream mixture.
- Spoon into a greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining 2/3 cup shredded cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and the cheese has developed some brown spots.