Loris Sofia Gregory, Healthy Kitchen Coach, Apple Valley, MN
Valley Natural Foods, 13750 County Road 11, Burnsville, MN 55337
There is absolutely no excuse for not eating your vegetables this month. Stand in VNF’s Produce Department, breathe in the delightful aromas of FRESH & LOCAL and be dazzled by the bountiful healthy rainbow of pure energy. We all tend to overestimate the number of vegetable and fruit servings we eat in a day. At every meal, reserve half your plate (at least) for fresh produce. Have you or anyone you know ever been in danger of eating too many nutrient dense, calorie sparse vegetables? Go ahead and immerse yourself in bushel baskets of the earthy deep-hued beets; crisp yellow and greens summer squashes; and the dark green broccoli crowns, cucumbers, and dandelion greens, topped off with the succulent yellow, orange and red varieties of melons and you won’t gain a pound.
What you will gain from plenty of FRESH & LOCAL this month are rich inner stores of anti-inflammatory nutrients, cleansing fiber and ample water for your thirsty cells, plus peak flavor and pure pleasure. As you abundantly nourish your body unprocessed fresh foods, you might be surprised how your aches and pains diminish and your energy soars. Who can’t use more energy for enjoying more summer fun with friends and family?
Enjoy chemical-free produce totally fresh and raw, or play with these “cooking without recipes” ideas for fresh produce, courtesy of Amy Colter in “The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Foods.” Plunge raw vegetable(s), all cut to the same size, into rapidly boiling, salted water, or steam them in one inch of water using a steamer or covered pot until they reach their brightest color. If including potatoes in a medley of vegetables, cut potatoes smaller or put them in the water early, as they need to cook longer. When veggies are bright, remove one piece with a slotted spoon and check doneness (keep close watch: better undercooked than overcooked). Drain into a colander, enjoy hot or plunge into a bowl of icy water until cold to touch. Use bright crisp vegetables for salads or dipping or refrigerate for quickly heating them later in a wok or skillet. Dress cold vegetables with your favorite dressing; a little light oil, a tiny drizzle of vinegar or fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve veggies hot with butter, salt and pepper or drizzle with oil simmered briefly with garlic.
Here are some ideas for enjoying the luscious FRESH & LOCAL green and yellow summer squashes, such as the playful Patty Pan (green striped, star burst shaped) and elongated green Italian zucchinis fresh from Harmony Valley farm in Viroqua, WI. 1) Slice and sauté over high heat with light flavorful oil, shaking the pan to partly brown the squash and intensify flavor. Sprinkle with salt, hot chili pepper flakes and a touch of Parmesan or nondairy nutritional flakes (found on our Bulk Trail). 2) Slice lengthwise, toss in oil and grill alone or with other veggies. 3) Layer in a casserole with Harmony Valley’s fresh eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, local cheeses, basil or other herbs, etc.
To cook FRESH & LOCAL greens, such as the colorful rainbow chard, dandelion or collard greens from Harmony Valley or the ever-crisp kales from Gardens of Eagan, consider braising or sautéing. First strip leaves from tougher spines and discard spines. Tear or cut greens into bite-sized pieces. 1) Braising mellows and softens hearty greens such as chard, kale or collards. Heat oil and garlic in a skillet until fragrant but not brown. Plunge greens (and onions, scallions or leeks if desired) into a large pot of salted, boiling water and immediately drain them into a colander (or cook for up to 10 minutes if you like milder flavor). Press water out with a spoon. Toss greens with garlic oil and season to taste with salt, pepper and, if desired, vinegar or lemon juice. 2) Sautéing: Heat oil over medium heat in a wok or large sauté pan. Add chopped garlic and/or onions. Stir occasionally until garlic is fragrant and onions are translucent. Add the greens and cook, turning them with tongs until greens are warm and wilted, about 2 minutes. Season as above. Variations: Drizzle braised greens with hot vinaigrette or browned butter. Wok greens with tomatoes or bacon, or season with an Asian dressing or hot sauce.
FRESH & LOCAL from Wisconsin Growers: Chioggia beets offer striking red-and-white–stripes, more sweetness and are so beautiful that they might win over beet doubters. Also take note of their beautiful gold and red beets. Betacyanin, the pigment that gives beets their color, is a powerful antioxidant. Sauté the greens. Roast beets in the oven until just tender. Beets complement avocados in salads. Slice raw beets paper-thin and add to soup. Also check out Wisconsin Growers’ cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, their lavender, green and white peppers and their Yukon Gold and red potatoes
FRESH & LOCAL from Gardens of Eagan: Five generations of farming experience goes into each crop at Gardens of Eagan. The flavorful fresh taste of GOE produce reflects their farming philosophy. “Feed the soil well and it will feed you well. Plant with care; pick and pack at its peak; deliver daily. Not secrets, just good sense!” Get healthier in August with GOE green broccoli crowns, kales and cabbages, sweet corn, and their Sweet Crimson, Icebox Yellow and orange watermelons. Shopping Tip: The stickers on the melons will tell you the color of melon on the inside. Find delicious recipes for all GOE produce here.
I look forward to meeting you at my FRESH & LOCAL August events. Registration is required 36 hours in advance for all films and classes. Call VNF Customer Service at 952.891.1212, ext. 221 or see more details and register online here.
“Eat More Whole Foods” FREE DEMO, Tuesday, August 7, 3 to 6 pm: Roasted Squash, Eggplant and Tomato Medley
Summer Fresh Friday Film, Friday, August 10, 6 to 8 pm, FREE: “Farm to School: Growing Our Future” and “The Love Lunch Community”
FRESH & LOCAL FREE DEMO, Tuesday, August 14, 11 to 2: : Sweet Corn & Blueberry Salad
CLASS: FRESH & LOCAL Flavors of Late Summer, Tues, August 21, 6:30-8:30 pm, includes prep, cooking and seasoning demos with fresh produce and plenty of delicious sampling! Register by Friday Noon, August 17.
Based in Apple Valley, contact FRESH & LOCAL health coach Loris Sofia Gregory at 952.431.5586 or on the contact page. Loris would love to hear your ideas and questions about eating FRESH & LOCAL. Request her earth-friendly recipes and healthy seasonal eating tips if you miss her monthly demos and classes at Valley Natural Foods.