Spring is here, with warmer days and shorter nights that move us to a new rhythm. This is the perfect time of year to adopt a detoxifying diet, one that boosts metabolism and clears away the mental fog of a long, harsh winter. By eating an abundance of seasonal produce paired with whole grains, healthy fats, and fresh herbs, we can start our "spring cleaning" from the inside out. Chard is a perfect leafy green to include in a rejuvenating early spring meal.
Chard is a member of the chenopod family, its closest relatives being beets, quinoa and spinach. Known for its broad, almost velvety green leaves and thick stalks of vibrant magenta, crimson red, bold orange, opaque white, and vivid yellow, it seems to come from the mind of a painter and not possibly the seeds of a farmer. And with far less hubris than kale, chard is favored for its versatility, milder and a bit sweeter than collards or mustard greens, but holding up as well to high heat cooking as it does as a raw addition to salad.
Cultivated since at least 350 B.C., chard is an early staple of the Mediterranean diet. The Ancient Greeks believed chard to bear medicinal properties, and this is not without good reason. We know now that chard is rich in antioxidants, metabolic boosters, anti-inflammatories, compounds to support detoxification, and 13 known phytonutrients that protect our heart, lungs, digestive system, and skin -- making chard a especially great for fighting seasonal allergies.
In order to best make use of the bounty of over-wintered and early spring greens available at markets, and bring energy to your first spring meals, try pairing chard with lighter offerings such as fresh herbs, citrus, vinegars. Or try our recipe for swiss chard and quinoa cakes drizzled with basil sauce, lemon chickpeas and roasted red cabbage.
The 2014 Farm Bill was passed by congress just a few weeks ago and it’s sparked some interesting conversations around the Sweet Roots space. We’ll spare you the nitty gritty details of the 900+ page document. Here are a few key tidbits, so that you’re on the ball when your dining companion asks you to pass the Atlantic Spiny Dogfish.
- “It isn’t really a bill just for farmers, it really should be called the food bill because it is the rules for the food system we all eat by.” - Michael Pollan
Even if Union Square is the closest you’ve been to a farm in years, the Farm Bill has more to do with your day-to-day than you’d imagine. From grocery prices and SNAP eligibility to fresh produce in school lunches and general nutrition guidelines, the bill manages to cover a lot of ground.
- Speaking of ground: this year’s bill allocates eight times more subsidies to commodity crop farms than specialty crop farms. What’s the big deal? Farmers of so-called specialty crops, which include fruit, vegetables, and nuts, lose out while farmers of commodity crops - corn, rice, cotton, and soy - reap billions of dollars in government funds. Given that commodity are the basic building blocks for junk food, this is likely to stretch wallets of those who shop the produce aisle and the waistlines of those who don’t.
- Now you see it, now you don’t: Under tremendous pressure to cut costs, policy makers slashed the direct payment program which represented a projected $40.8 billion dollars in subsidies. That sounds impressive - except for the fact that $27.2 billion of those dollars found their way back into the bill in the form of “insurance” against falling prices. That means more money in the troughs of Big Ag and precious little leftover for the kinds of small, organic farms we support.
- Don’t look so sad: Conservationists are celebrating new rules that will link federal financial support to compliance with protocols that protect the land. “We are particularly pleased that the final bill includes a critical provision to prevent soil erosion and conserve our nation’s priceless wetlands, both of which will protect water quality for people and wildlife,” said Julie Sibbing of the National Wildlife Federation.
Want to dig a bit deeper? Here's a link to a comprehensive overview of the 2014 Farm Bill. If you're eager to read the whole thing for yourself, be our guest - you can find the full text of the bill here.
As the Creative Director at Sweet Roots, I craft the menus and write the recipes that are delivered each week in your Sweet Roots bag. Part of our philosophy at Sweet Roots is that if you start with a foundation of high quality, real food, the particulars of one's diet are really a personal matter. The implication is that our clients achieve health by following a wide range of diets and our menus, in turn, must pack nutritional value in as many different ways.
To add probiotics to our plate, for example, we often turn to fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kimchi. Probiotic dense foods are essential “for life” as is the Latin and Greek etymology of the word. These beneficial bacilli and microbes restore balance between good and bad bacteria giving immune systems a healthy boost while keeping your digestive system on it’s A game. We make killer kimchi and fermented pickles at Sweet Roots, so it's a cinch for us to incorporate those items into our weekly meals.
That's great news for our clients who love vinegar and soy, but those ingredients aren't options for our soy-free and vinegar-free menus. Probiotics seem too important to simply omit, so I was delighted to discover a local, family run creamery that combines expert cheese crafting with the lacto-fermentation process. Aptly named, The Amazing Real Live Food Company handcrafts cultured cheeses, including probiotic Queso Blanco and Herbed Boursin Style Cheeses.
How did we put their Probiotic Queso Blanco to work? Baked Empanadas with Black Beans, Sweet Potatoes and Probiotic Queso Blanco served with Tangerine Ancho Sauce and Steamed Broccoli. Yum.
We were introduced to Randi Zinn by one of our favorite entrepreneurial Mamas, so we weren't surprised to discover that she radiates good vibes. After our chat with her, there's no question that Randi is the expert we'll turn to for compassionate wisdom about how to embrace motherhood in the midst of this crazy, beautiful city. If she's a kindred spirit, let her introduce you to a few more at her Beyond Mom Mixer on Feb. 6th.
What’s the most exciting thing about your business?
There is an electric feeling that happens when women who love what they do come together and motivate one another. It’s tangible and it makes us feel alive! I love sharing stories about motherhood and the search for meaning - whether it’s stories about how we take care of our physical health, our mental/spiritual wellbeing, or the development of our passions and businesses. We are powerhouses, as Mamas, we simply need the support of our community to stay focused and energized. Providing that kind of connection through my content and events is for me the most exciting part. If this is ringing a bell for any of you out there, don’t miss my upcoming event on February 6th – it’s going to be super connective and inspiring!
What’s your philosophy on food?
There are so many labels on food philosophy and I can’t say I fit into one. I may be more Ayurveydic than anything else. I believe in eating what is “In Season” – local farmer's markets will inform you whether it’s time to eat tomatoes and berries or whether its time to eat squash and potatoes. I try to feed my family with that in mind. Going another step deeper, I do eat meat and dairy so I make sure it’s as organic and local as possible - not only do I believe in this philosophically, but I can literally taste the difference. I also truly believe in family home cooked meals! It can be so hard to find the time to not only prepare it but also to sit down and enjoy it. But I make it happen. Even if it’s one or two meals a week, it’s so grounding to eat the same food with the people you love most.
What’s your go-to meal?
I have many but I’m going to share a new favorite of mine- it was created by my Mom this past summer as she picked a giant zucchini from our garden and determined what to do with it! I call it Zucchini Pizza because in concept it is a “Pizza” and this word alone makes my two year old very excited to eat it. Here is the recipe:
1 large zucchini
Whole wheat or gluten free bread crumbs
Sliced cheese - mozzarella or Meunster are my favorites
Dried Italian spices - oregano, basil, garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the zucchini in half and scoop out some of the seeds so you have a little space to place other ingredients. Lay the zucchini in a baking pan (preferably on a little rack so it doesn’t glue to the bottom) and drizzle it with olive oil. Cut cherry tomatoes into small pieces and place inside the zucchini. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Italian spices as well as salt and pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for between 45 minutes to an hour. Check it to see that it’s well cooked. Right before you’re ready to serve, place sliced cheese along the top and allow it to melt.
Serve with Rice or Pasta.
Delicious, easy and toddler friendly!