One of my favorite things to do on Sunday is take a trip with my kids to our farmers’ market to stock up on fruits and vegetables for the week. My baby looks around in awe and my older daughter helps me load up on veggies, listing off ingredients like kale, beets, spinach, potatoes, and fresh herbs that I try to buy every week.
A few years ago this was not part of my world. I passed by a ton of farmers’ markets, but the apples I saw there seemed just like the apples in my grocery store. I didn’t understand the complicated dynamic of our food system, nor did I realize how many chemicals, pesticides, and hormones were introduced into our food. The reason why? Nothing was/is labeled to tell us (the public) that this was/is happening.
It wasn’t until I became a mother and read more to (try) to understand exactly what is placed into our food, that I viewed food in a completely different way. It terrified me to learn about the chemicals bred into crops and the proliferation of GMO foods taking over the industry. As I mashed up my daughter’s food, I started to understand that feeding her the avocado, pear, apple, or spinach that I prepared might be laced with harmful ingredients. But what also became clear to me was that my purchases were both supporting the system and allowing it to succeed by making even more money off people like me who didn’t truly understand it.
It took time to figure out exactly what I should focus on in terms of organic eating weighed with what I could afford. I learned more about my local food co-op, scouted deals on milk and other dairy products, and then shopped at another organic grocer if I saw a cereal, fruit, or a particular yogurt on sale. Soon after, I started incorporating weekend trips to my farmers’ market. I was excited by how much better the fresh fruits and vegetables I cooked with tasted, and I loved meeting the farmers and members of the community that were involved in selling the food.
As a way to support the community, shopping at local farmers’ markets is a great way to ensure a smaller carbon footprint, as well as support the community businesses and farmers. I also love the experience of taking my girls to the market as a fun way to focus on positive eating habits and help them learn more about healthy food. This has been remarkable with my four year old who loves to talk about the herbs, spices, and vegetables she sees, and even grabs the raw kale and eats it!
With the colorful collection of farmers’ market veggies, I like to prepare meals that will last 2-3 days to help make dinnertime a little easier. For months we’ve made a vegetable-packed pesto pasta (see recipe below) that the entire family loves. My daughter even calls in our “famous pasta.”
Eating well is all part of the path to living mindfully, and by educating yourself, being active in your community, and making small changes you can understand what you are eating and where your food is sourced from. Knowledge is power, and with food it also means your health and longevity.
Vegetable Packed Pasta
1 box of pasta of your choice (I usually use a whole-grain one)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4-5 long carrots, cut up
1 zucchini and/or squash, cut up
1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, cut up
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
1 bunch of kale, thick stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
3-4 sprigs of fresh basil, cut up (can be dry)
3-4 sprigs of sage, cut up (can be dry)
1/2 cup fresh pesto (see recipe here)
drizzle of olive oil
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese, optional
Cook pasta as directed on the box. While the pasta is cooking, start preparing the vegetable medley. Using a deep saucepan, add the olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and kale. Keep on a low flame as you add in the remaining vegetables (carrots, peppers, squash, zucchini), fresh herbs, and pesto. Cover and let cook for about 10 minutes, turning it periodically. When the pasta is done, add it to the veggie mixture and let cook together for about 10-15 minutes. Add in the Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and serve!
~ Serena Norr of Mama Goes Natural
A Brooklyn-based writer and mom of two, Serena Norr believes living naturally doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Serena also serves the managing editor of Momtrends and the creator of Seriously Soupy, a Web site devoted to soup making. She loves to cook, travel, explore the city with her kids and learn more about green living, which she chronicles in her blog, Mama Goes Natural. Follow her on Twitter as @MamaGoesNatural.