Tag Archives: whole foods

Reflections on June… our first month of Local Food.

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Loving his Rhubarb Yogurt Parfait Snack

The first month of our local food year was beautiful, trying and full of a few surprises as well. We have received so many questions about it so far that I am excited to share what felt great and what we are still working to improve. It should be worth noting that while I love to plan and write lists and figure out all the details in advance, this adventure has had some outlining, but it was more about diving in and seeing what might transpire.

At the start, we quickly realized we needed to gobble up the existing food in our kitchen even if it was lacking local origin. This was a bit of a godsend as the month was busy with two different camps that kept the kids and I driving around the metro area every day for a couple of weeks and because fruit and vegetables are not quite abundant yet. I really thought we would have finished all of this non-local food by now, but we are still nibbling away on a few things.

The month also felt rather ‘built around meat‘. I realize the Standard American Diet practically requires meat at nearly every meal, but our family’s normal diet is a bit more on the semi-vegetarian side. Personally, while our delicious grass-fed beef and a handful of other options have been delightful, I plan to embrace more beans that I have been acquiring recently. Both for the sake of our tummies and our wallets.IMG_6187

In many ways, I have felt strapped to the kitchen. I have a feeling this is no surprise to most of you. I hesitate to lay this out as a complaint, but seriously dining out once a week (or more!?) has been missed by both of us if only for the break from cooking and cleaning. Part of this is because I have felt seriously uncertainty about the food that is coming and going. I must humbly share that I have not been effectively meal planning. I feel a bit ashamed to admit this publicly, since I meal plan as a profession, but, the transition to all local has thrown off my game. July is leaving me a lot of hope that if I make one change, just one significant improvement, it is to focus on meal planning. For reals!

As much as we miss the break offered by dining out, we do NOT miss the food received from restaurants. We have enjoyed some incredibly satisfying, goofy smile producing, do a little food dance in celebration meals. In many ways this was a driving force of this whole year. To be forced into creative new meals and ways of eating. This has been the best part by far.

IMG_6220Some of our favorite meals, include:
Meatball Sliders
Grilled Asparagus + Garlic Scape Potato Salad
Whole Wheat Tortillas stuffed with beans + grilled veggies
Sourdough Waffles (OMG… where have these been our whole lives!?)
Veggie Packed Sloppy Joes (tasty, but so simple to make no wonder lunch ladies love these!)
Lentil + Beet Salad
Rhubarb Coffee Cake

The kids favorites:
Eggs in a Hole
Strawberry Steamers
Donut Muffins stuffed with Creme Fraiche + Grape Jelly
Peanut Butter + Honey Ice Cream
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Pancakes ‘in shapes’
Homemade Pickles (made by our visiting Tucson buddies!)
Cherries (not a meal, but their faces have become permanently stained, so worth noting their love)

We have also explored our food system in cool ways. On the second day of our Local Food Year, we drove to the Western Slope of Colorado. It made us reevaluate what we eat when we travel and I wrote about it here.

IMG_6268The kids and I also went berry picking twice. The first time came in the nick of time before our son’s 3rd birthday. Strawberry is his favorite for pretty much anything and thank goodness his birthday was the day after the first strawberry picking day at the Berry Patch Farm. The cake was delightful, all-local and sweetened only with honey.

We had a couple of meals with friends this first month and what was so delightful was how they were eager to figure out this local food thing with us. Our first meal with friends they brought the most delicious meat from their Uncle’s ranch that we grilled into burgers. Then dear friends were brave enough to have us over for dinner at their house where they served a gorgeous grilled Tri-Tip from Western Daughters, Fruition Cheese, a salad from their garden, tomatoes and we brought the Grilled Asparagus + Garlic Scape Potato Salad.

We also camped for about 24+ hours with our farming friends from Tucson who were visiting. They made homemade Colorado pickles and we collaborated on several meals including a Sausage Dinner made under a tarp in a heavy downpour, a scrumptious local Lentil + Potato Salad, a veggie hash with scrambled eggs for breakfast and a couple of lunches featuring local goodness and veggies to go on top of my Honey Whole Wheat Sourdough.

The garden was coming along quite nicely, we were excited about the possibilities and then we were hit hard by hail. We were not wiped out, but heartsick as we were excited to rely on our own produce. Fortunately, there are farms beyond our small area that were not damaged and we can continue to buy produce as needed. We are also starting to see some leaves that are giving us hope.

This is what we missed the most in our first month:
Xerxes: Convenience. Being able to buy food in a pinch.
Juliette: Sweet Cow (our favorite nearby ice cream shop)
Zed: Kombucha (This is confusing as we actually have been drinking it on occasion. 3-year olds are goofballs!)
Lilly: Eating out occasionally to take a cooking break.

What we most loved in June:
Xerxes: Sourdough Waffles and the delicious steaks + burgers
Juliette: Homemade Ice Creams
Zed: Homemade Ice creams and Yogurt Parfaits (see top photo).
Lilly: Whole Wheat Tortilla Tacos (although, I think I am going to make them sourdough soon) and the Grilled Asparagus + Garlic Scape Potato Salad

Things I am still figuring out and plan to work on in July:
snack plans for the kids
meal planning!
sourdough everything… well, if it is wheat based, but seriously those waffles made me want to sourdough everything up!

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Donut Muffins Filled with Creme Fraiche + Grape Jelly

What questions do you have about our first month of eating local?

Dan Moore of Farmshares Interview (part 1)

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Spring has sprung and if you are curious as to how you can eat better and support your local farmer, a CSA might be the perfect solution for your family. Recently, I asked Dan Moore of Farmshares.info a series of questions that will help you dive further into whether a CSA is the right choice for your family.  I also asked a few of you in the community if you had further questions about CSA’s and those questions and answers will be in the next post.

danscsaLilly: What is a CSA and what is the main reason to join one?

Dan: CSA stands for community supported agriculture and is a direct relationship between a farmer or rancher and the end customer with a risk sharing component.  You give the farmer money early in the year, and they give you produce, meat or other food throughout the growing season.

The main reason to join a CSA is to learn more about who grows your food and how it is done.  CSA provides a level of involvement with your food that is deeper than anything other than gardening.

Lilly: What is the most common question or concern you hear from people interested in starting a CSA?

Dan: The most common question is “how do I pick the right farm?”.  Just as with any major purchase (share prices are typically in the hundreds of dollars and can be up to three thousand) you have to both know what you are looking for and do your research.  

To the first point, many people are romantic about “getting food directly from the farmer” and ignore that they don’t like to cook, or travel often during the season, or work a job that will make a weekly pickup hard.  There is enough variety in CSAs available, so think about what you need. If you want to learn the basics of CSA, I have put together a free email course

To the second, while there are similarities, each CSA differs in what they expect of their members, the types of food they provide, and where you can pick up the share.  So while tools like farmshares.info can help, you really need to review each farm’s website, talk to current and past members and mesh what the farm/ranch offers with your needs.

Lilly: What has been the biggest change you have noticed since you first became a CSA member in 2007?

Dan: Two big changes: 1) the widening of the CSA market, both in number of farms and products offered.  It’s amazing to see new farms and new products be available in the CSA risk sharing model. 2) the turnover of CSA farms.  I think the skills needed to be a successful CSA farmer include all the skills of a regular farmer, plus marketing and sales skills (plus management once the farm is a certain size).  I see a lot of CSAs start up and run for 4-5 years and then shut down, either because the farmer is moving off the land or because they are focusing on other markets (farmer’s market, direct sales of a product, wholesale markets).

Lilly: How soon after joining a CSA did you realize the need to create coloradocsa.info which has recently expanded to become farmshares.info? What was the driving motivator?

Dan: I started out with a list of farms on which I had done research, and quickly realized that it would be helpful to others.  A friend also joined a CSA in Denver about the same time and shared her list.  After combining the two, I had a simple web page that received some traffic, indicating there was interest.  After about two years of updating that page and fielding questions about CSAs in Colorado, I decided to build ColoradoCSAs.info in 2010.  In 2015, my wife and I decided that the existing national directories were not as useful as they should be, and spent some time and money re-working and re-launching ColoradoCSAs.info as FarmShares.info, as well as pursuing affiliates and sponsorships.  

The driving motivation for the redesign is that CSA membership, for me, was a fundamental shift in how I viewed food and the food system.  I wanted to share that with people beyond Colorado.photo-52

Lilly: What is the advantage of using a tool such as farmshares.info versus just jumping on the Google?

Dan: Farmshares.info gathers data from farms, standardizes it, and makes it very easy to compare farms that meet your needs.  I always advocate contacting the farmer directly once you have narrowed your choices to two or three, since CSA information can change from day to day (for example, shares can sell out).  

When you start at Google, you find farms that are best at showing up in Google, as opposed to the farm that might be closest to you, or have the type of share you want.

Lilly: How has the transition from coloradocsa.info to farmshares.info been? Can you give us a sneak peek of what to expect in the coming months or years?

Dan: The transition from coloradocsas.info to farmshares.info has been smooth–the launch affected our traffic slightly, but it has bounced back as we head into the prime signup season for the mountain west (Jan-May).  

In the future, you can expect more features, greater coverage of the mountain west and eventually the entire USA, and more partnerships with companies that support local food.  

Lilly: Most of us now think of CSAs in terms of produce, but ‘community supported’ has evolved in recent years to include other products. What are some of those changes?

Dan: I’ve seen two main changes in the offerings from CSA farms over the years.  The first is a far wider selection of  farm-to-consumer products available.  These range from soap to meat to fish to bread to coffee–at least 40 different types of food are available via CSA.  This is fantastic because it lets consumers support local farmers and ranchers even if they can’t commit to a season of vegetables.

The second is the rise, especially in farms selling produce, of the market share.  Instead of the farmer picking out vegetables and boxing them up for you, you pre-pay for credit at farm stands and farmer’s markets.  It’s a way to support a farm and share the risk of poor crops without losing choice.  (The customer still shares the risk because if the farm has a poor season, or doesn’t produce much of a popular crop like tomatoes, the customer is still committed to purchase from that farm.)

Lilly: Can you forecast any predictions for the future of CSA’s in the US?

Dan: I think that CSAs will rise and fall as interest in home cooking rises and falls.  CSAs just don’t make sense if you aren’t eating at home.  The recent trend of people re-learning how to cook (see Michael Pollan’s books) makes me optimistic about the long term future of CSAs.danpam

Harvest Lentil Salad

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Recently, I was invited to do a cooking demo and cook for a local Food Bank to celebrate the harvest + World Food Day. It brought back so many memories of when I was the coordinator of Tucson Food Day just a few short years ago.

This event was a beautiful celebration! First, I cooked all day with lovely friends and volunteers, my children were nearby most of the day content + happy (yes, I was stunned, too), and then I did a cooking demo that was light-hearted + well received. But, my favorite part happened a few weeks earlier when I walked into the Food Bank and they showed me all of the foods available to their clients that they were eager for me to cook with and share.

Barely wilting cabbage, banged up winter squash, onions and carrots– the recipe ideas were pouring out of me onto my handy clipboard. But, then they opened a large bag with teeny-tiny black seeds and asked me “What in the world are these?”

“Beautiful beluga lentils” I seriously had to exclaim!

These lentils are unique and they get their name because they look just like beluga caviar. What a treasure to find in the Food Bank! I took some home to test out a new recipe using the other produce and goods available to the Food Bank clients.

The result was this simple salad. Consider this a base recipe. A recipe that would happily enjoy a bit of sparkling up with bits of dried fruit such as minced apricots or cranberries or even the jewels of pomegranates. The crunch of various nuts or seeds, such as toasted almonds, crumbled pecans or last week’s Candied Chipotle Pepitas would settle in nicely with these lentils. Roasted veggies, roots, or shreds of leaves could be folded in as well. A crumble of feta or shavings of parmesan would also do well in this dish. It calls for water, but cooking the beans in broth adds yet another layer of flavor.

This can be a simple weeknight meal or a side dish to an elaborate holiday dish. Let me know how you glam up these simple belugas.

Harvest Lentil Salad
Beluga Lentils can be found in specialty shops, gourmet groceries, co-ops or health food stores. Another lentil such as French, Green, or Brown lentils can work instead. The only lentil I would avoid are the thinner lentils, such as the red, which are better for soups than salads. 

1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, sweet potatoes or winter squash, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup beluga lentils, or french or green
3 cups water, or unsalted broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 apple, cored and finely chopped
1/4 cup sage, washed and finely chopped, or thyme or parsley

Place the onions, lentils, and chopped carrots (or squash/sweet potatoes) in a pot covered with the water and a lid. Bring up to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 40-50 minutes until tender to the bite. Once the lentils are nearly done, add half of the salt. If there is extra water, increase the heat to boil it off quickly or strain off the liquid using a wire mesh strainer.

In a large separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar and honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking rapidly. Add the remaining salt. Fold the cooked lentils into the dressing and then add the apples and fresh herbs. Serve warm or cool and serve chilled.

Cheddar Squash Bake

squashcheddarbakeYou have cut them in half, chunked them into pieces and roasted winter squash before, but…
Have you tried shredding it?

Now is the time!

Out of all the squash possibilities, butternut is a great place to start shredding as the skin peels easily with a veggie peeler, the seeds scrap out without issue and then a big hunk can be shredded on a box grater.

However, if you are lazy like me, big peeled chunks can be placed in a food processor with the grater attachment and in a few minutes you will have a mass of bright orange shreds and… as a bonus you are less likely to scrape up your fingers as I manage to do on box graters!

Once you have these shreds, you can fold them with leftover quinoa and a few otherbutternutquinoapatties ingredients to make these beautiful Butternut Quinoa Patties as are featured in this week’s meal plan.

But, even easier is to toss the mass with olive oil, salt and bake it in the oven until it starts melting into itself. While the heat takes care of it, shred up a bunch of sharp cheddar.

Toss and press it together. More oven time.

Then dip into this gooey side dish which can become the main dish alongside your favorite fall salad.

Did I mention there are only FOUR ingredients… one of which is just salt! Roll up those sleeves and grab a grater!

Cheddar Squash Bake

One pound of squash with about two ounces of cheddar makes a decent serving, so adjust the recipe according to the number of people and squash you have available. Also, Lilly’s Table offers a handy-dandy way to adjust servings in this recipe as well. Give yourself about an hour to let the squash properly melt with the cheese in the oven. 

3 pounds butternut squash
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces cheddar

Preheat the oven to 400.

Cut the squash into four chunks: first through the middle just above the round, seed-filled part. Next, cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Peel the skin away with a vegetable peeler or paring knife. Shred the chunks with a box grater or cut smaller and shred in a food processor.

Toss the shreds with the olive oil and salt. Pile high in a baking dish. As the squash bakes it shrinks down significantly so a smaller dish works best. A larger dish will give you a very thin finished product. If you are concerned it will overflow in the oven, place a baking sheet underneath. Bake for about 20 minutes. Toss and bake for another 15 minutes until the squash is starting to fall apart.

Meanwhile, shred the cheddar. Toss half of the shredded cheddar with the squash as soon as there is room in the dish. Press down, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake 10-20 more minutes until the top is golden and the center is tender when you spoon into it.

Declare Your Food Independence

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Are you a patriot of the food revolution or a
loyalist to the Standard American Diet? 

Food Loyalist [food loiuh-list]
noun
1. a person who is loyala supporter of the sovereign or of the existing food system especially during this time of revolt.

Food Patriot [food pey-tree-uh t] 
noun
1.  a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her local food system and its delicious, sustainable interests with devotion.

As a nation, we have passively given our own diet to a very large system that no longer has our land, our families, our ideology, or even our health at heart.

Our craving to eat ‘right’ is often cleverly disguised by marketing that flashes claims of heart-healthy, fat-free, free-range, sugar-free, gluten-free or natural with very little nourishment or sustenance. This Standard American Diet (SAD) has been on the menu for decades and WE the people are the ones suffering with the growing list of diet related diseases, syndromes and deaths.

For years, I have felt the paradox of a holiday that celebrates our collective ability to stand up for what we believe in, meanwhile the ‘American’ food that shapes nearly every backyard party is some of the most suppressive, industrially processed food that we could possibly consume.

Hot dogs. Burgers. Buns. Sugar-laden ketchup. Trans-fat mayonnaise. And plastic tasting vegetables dipped in white mystery sauces.

Why do we celebrate our freedom with this type of ‘cuisine’? 

We are not to a point where the Standard American Diet is comprised of real food that nourishes us, that offers fair work to those who produce it, and that is grown within our own local economies. The SAD is not a sustainable food system that will protect us and our children into the future.

Passively consuming the SAD lifestyle should no longer feel like an option for you. It is time to rise up and be a Food Patriot, not a Loyalist. Vote with your food dollars. For every quarter you spend on local + real food, instead of corporate food products, you are sending a clear message that you are ready to embrace your own food freedom.

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I invite you to rebel against the S.A.D. I invite you to
celebrate food with truth! 

As we prepare to watch fireworks and celebrate the bravery of the Declaration of Independence, why not take a break from corporate food for one holiday?

Why not take a courageous stance against a food system that could care less if you lived, died or suffered from what you consume?

Take the 4th of July and claim your right to food that is made on our own land, more precisely on the land as close to you as possible.

Here are my four favorite dishes that are a perfect way to revolt against the food status quo

Grilled Sweet Potato Fries + Yogurt Ranch Dip
Grilled Potato Salad
Watermelon Salad
Pulled Pork Sliders

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In addition, here are FOUR ways to celebrate the 4th without the S.A.D. weighing you down: 

  • Shop at a Farmers Market this week! Gather whatever veggie goodness is available and toss it into a beautiful salad, skewer it on to kebabs or grill them whole to stack on to buns.
  • Want meat? Find a local butcher or rancher and see if they sell hot dogs, sausages, burgers or even big slabs of pork (perfect for the Pork Sliders mentioned above!)
  • Find a local bakery! Yes, the bill will most likely cost more than the $2 or less bags than the addictive white flour buns, but I have a feeling you will be in for a treat, especially if you find a new bakery to love in the future.
  • Dessert can be as simple as these Red, White + Blue Berry Necklaces (see photo below) or popsicles made from a puree of whatever local fruit you can find and pour it into the molds.
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Needle + thread bring together strawberries, cherries, blueberries + blackberries for a playful 4th of July dessert!

 

Simplify and defy the food of the 4th of July!

What is on your menu that will blow up the typical ‘American’ party food?

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Celebrate food,

Chef Lilly

Summer Virtual Progressive Dinner Conclusion…

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Thank you to each beautiful blogger this week who made this Summer Virtual Progressive Dinner exactly what we all needed to see: inspiring, delicious and packed with all of the essential summer produce from my new Summer Meal Planning Worksheet! If you have yet to download it, please do so now, just sign up for my Seasonal Bite newsletter in the top righthand corner on this page and you will receive two downloads– print both of them out for the easiest, smoothest summer meal planning you have ever done.

YOU ARE INVITED TO ANOTHER PARTY! This one is LIVE and VIRTUAL. On Friday June 19th, at 6pm MT, I will be leading you through the Meal Planning Worksheet. Within a short period of time, you will have a weekly meal plan based entirely on your family, the season and the goodness available in your kitchen. You will also be set up with the tools you need to meal plan on a regular basis– whether you are a member of Lilly’s Table or not.

Join the party! Even if you cannot make it live, sign up, because I will be sending out the recording for you to get the entire scoop on the slickest new way to seasonally meal plan.

However, if you do attend live, you will be entered into a prize for further meal planning services from me (hint, hint– it will include some one-on-one attention from yours truly!) and I will be answering all of your questions live, too!

The longest day of the year and the celebration of Summer Solstice is happening on Sunday! This Summer Virtual Progressive Dinner was the perfect way to set the stage for the beautiful possibilities with all of the luscious veggies and fruits that summer provides.SeasonalVegHead_Drinks-2

Whether you need a way to quench your thirst throughout the day with the Peach Cucumber Basil Infused Water or you want to get an outdoor affair started easily with the Watermelon Rum Fizz, Jaime at the Seasonal Veg Head has the recipes for you.

The Ratatouille Crostini with Goat Cheese is perfect as an appetizer or an easy vegetable side dish that will serve you throughout the week. You can pair it with a grilled meat such as my Peaches n’ Chicken. Alternatively, keep it a vegetarian meal with an extra side such as my Kombucha Cherry Green Beans and a whole grain starch such as cous cous, quinoa or another grain.ratatouille_crostini

The Grilled Halloumi + Zucchini Herb Salad from Nourish Real Food can be a simple week night main dish, too. Especially with a crusty French bread, grilled corn on the cob, or a favorite steamed grain. This salad proves how simple summer cooking can really be.

Finally, Lynn’s Kir Royale is just about the easiest, yet elegant, summer dessert I can imagine. I have been threatening to not buy ice cream this summer and instead just make it from scratch. Her sherbet is the true inspiration I need to make my not-buying-store-bought-ice cream a reality.kir royale 5

Many sincere thanks to each contributor to this week’s Summer Virtual Progressive Dinner, this week was shaped by your creativity and deliciousness.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Summer Meal Planning Hangout!

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Live well,

Chef Lilly

The Benefits of Seasonal Eating

I am thrilled to be welcoming Stefanie Davis of Simple Acres Blog to talk about the Benefits of Seasonal Eating. Just last week, you received some of my thoughts on the subject and we are so lucky to have this perspective by a Mom of three cuties, Registered Dietician, farm wife + blogger. Please welcome Stefanie! 

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The season is upon us! The sun is out, the birds are singing and the soil is crying for some lovin’! Green thumbs….your gardens are calling you! If you are a gardening newbie like me it can seem overwhelming, so start simple. The picture above is of our growing garden. We just started with corn at first and slowly have added tomatoes and cucumbers! Ever since I was a child I thought being able “to eat off the land” was…well, magical! As an adult there is actually some truth to the positive nostalgia home grown, IN SEASON foods can offer. Whether you plant a garden or choose to just arrange your menu around seasonal foods and buy it, below is list of a few benefits to motivate you.

5 Reasons Seasonal Eating Is Worth the Effort

  1. Fresh and full of flavor! Often local and farmer markets will have picked their produce within 24 hours of your purchase which allows them to be at peak ripeness. I wonder how long that produce from another country has been “in-waiting” through the shipping and storing process? I can guarantee more than 24 hours!
  2. More nutrient rich! Nutrient value decreases when produce is stored for lengthy time frames. Fresh, seasonal foods offer more nutrients thus more benefit to your health and disease prevention.
  3. Safer food supply! The more steps there are between you and your food’s source the more chances there are for contamination.
  4. Good for the environment and local economy! Supporting local farmers is an economical plus. Reduction in the pollution created from production & shipping allows you to be the earth loving tree hugger you have always yearned to be! (hehe…if you already are you will be even better at it)
  5. More cost effective! Food is easier to grow and generally offers more abundant crops thus the prices will naturally be lower for the foods in season. If you garden….it almost feels like FREE FOOD (minus the seeds, fertilizer and sweat).

I want to encourage you towards Finding Your Healthiest You! Read my health articles herehere, and here for more tips and tools for success.

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Hi there, I’m Stefanie from Simple Acres blog. I am a wife to a hard workin’ man, mommy to 3 “littles”, 10 year Registered Dietitian, writer, artist and hopeful inspirer! My passion is to bring the journey of simplicity to others through focusing on the things that really matter….the ones you love, the dreams you BELIEVE, and living in the moment with true JOY! As a RD I believe in  body love and acceptance, intuitive eating and savoring and nourishing the body with wholesome foods! I’m excited to be able to  grace the pages of Lilly’s Table and look forward to joining you more as your new personal Dietitian! Please come visit me at Simple Acres and come to know me more personally on my facebook fan page, instagram and twitter! Dovidenia. XO

Cooking the Season into Asparagus Soup

asparagussoupCook seasonally. Eat consciously. Live well.

This has been the slogan for Lilly’s Table since its inception. Honestly, it is a personal mantra for me as well. However, I feel I don’t actually talk about what it really means, why it is important, essential, why I cannot live without it.

‘Healthy eating’ has become this very distorted, confusing, pretty much diluted phrase in my humble opinion. As a personal chef, I interviewed every client prior to cooking for them, I always asked “What is your definition of healthy eating?” It was as unique, beautiful and convoluted as each lovely client. Several of my clients had a balanced sense of what they needed for themselves and their family, even if I struggled to agree. Occasionally, I was jealous of how my clients ate better than me. Sometimes my client’s definition of healthy took both of us on a journey of insanity that looks a bit like the health food industry today– those were exhausting lessons to learn.

It seems, in this information age with it’s plethora of food products, as soon as we are comfortable with one philosophy of eating, the next comes our way. I am specifically referring to the demonizing of macronutrients. The fat-free craze of my teenage years lead to an obsession with white rolls, soda, fat-free yogurts, red vines, and fruit amongst my ballet dancing peers. Today’s fear of carbs has lead to a surge of fat consumption, only the ‘good fats’ mind you. I must say I am happy to be able to indulge in butter & avocados with unleashed abandonment, but what is happening to our bodies as we tip the scales of our plates in these confusing directions.

What are we doing, people!?

We spend so much time considering what we are “supposed” to be eating that we ignore the foods that are truly capable of bringing us joy.

I believe in the philosophy of listening to your inner desires and cravings. This doesn’t mean, as I gleefully subscribed to in college, eating a bag of cheetos just because that sounded yum, not to mention brainlessly easy to grab. But, rather getting a bit quieter with yourself and listening to the place where we all came from, a place that will always nourish us, goodness grown from this beautiful planet.

Recently, I watched this fabulous Netflix series ‘Chef’s Table’. If you are a food geek on any level, I recommend this show. The author of The Third Plate, which was my favorite food book in 2014, is featured in the second episode. Dan Barber’s drive as a chef is to find produce that tastes better & better and that serves the planet as well. Within the search for deliciousness, the nutrients follow. Healthy food can actually be that simple.

In general, I think a lot of people agree that a vine ripened fresh-from-the-garden tomato is just about heaven. And that a store bought version in December is a pale, pathetic impostor. Personally, I have avoided purchasing an out of season tomato for years. There are just too many other plants that taste great when tomatoes are not at their prime… such as dark leafy greens, citrus, avocados and more.

One of my dearest friends and a farmer in Tucson, told me how she has a similar relationship with carrots as I do with tomatoes. She said she has not bought carrots from the store for years. Her husband and her actually grow these carrots that revile candy, so I quickly understood her sentiment as we munched on their goodness and further discussed the possibilities for the leafy carrot tops as well (Pesto? Carrot Top Carrots?). Flavorless baby carrots will never, ever compete.

What if as a collective force we demanded more from our food? What if, instead of looking for out of season shippable year round produce that we proclaim to be so easy on our time & wallets, we demanded vegetables grown closer to home? Vegetables that were breed and selected for their ability to taste as deep and authentically good as their name implies.

Now. That may seem a tall order, but there is an easy way to make this happen.

Simply eat with the seasons. This means waiting for tomatoes. This means gorging on cold weather vegetables in winter. This means coming together to celebrate when food is delicious & abundant, not just shippable & available.

Through Lilly’s Table, we have been committed to the seasonal + follow your taste buds movement for several years. And we are continuing the journey by making it simpler and easier to think about cooking seasonally, eating consciously, and living well.

In the comments below, tell me why you love eating seasonally or where you struggle. It is a balancing act, but the health of our food system, our bodies, our community and our planet collectively depend on the choices we make about what we cook & consume.

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To celebrate the ease & simplicity of cooking seasonally, I want to share a soup with you that is as easy as a smoothie, that I make year round simply by changing the shining star ingredient. Since I am writing this in spring, I am sharing our asparagus version. Asparagus holds a beautiful spring memory for me as my sweet father would forage asparagus on the side of the road when I was a child. He would arrive home with a big bundle wrapped in his burlap bag. More recently I found out that this habit of his started after reading the book Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons.

I have made versions of this soup with cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, carrots and in the summer our favorite is the very similar Zucchini Soup. A dollop of something creamy is always welcome on these simple pureed soups whether that creaminess is a Homemade Creme Fraiche, store-bought sour cream, a whipped nut cream or the scrapped off fat from the top of coconut milk. Play with these soups adding fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, spices or other goodness as you desire.

Asparagus Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 onion, minced
1 pound asparagus
1 lemon
2 cups broth, such as chicken or vegetable
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 pinch black pepper, to taste

In a saucepan over medium heat, drizzle in half of the olive oil. As soon as it shimmers, add the minced onions and sauté until just translucent, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, break the tough stems off of the asparagus. Chop into pieces reserving a few of the pretty tips for garnish.

Add in a splash of the olive oil and sauté the asparagus lightly with the onions until it is a brilliant green. Pour in the lemon juice. Transfer to a blender, pour in the broth and blend until smooth. If you want it even smoother, pour through a wire mesh sieve or strainer.

While you blend the soup, lightly saute any asparagus tips in a splash of olive oil, just until bright green.

For hot soup, return the soup to the pot and bring up to a simmer. Taste. Season with the salt and pepper.

For chilled soup, season with salt and pepper. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes, stirring periodically. Alternatively, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Place the smaller bowl with the asparagus soup in the ice bath, stir periodically until chilled. If you are making well in advance it can also chill out in the fridge for 4-6 hours.

My Birthday Party featuring Spring’s Chips + Dips!

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I love birthdays. Not just my own, but it is probably my favorite. I especially love the fact that since having children, my birthday marks the start of “birthday season” in my home as my daughter’s follows close behind mine and my son’s is a month later. Their poor father’s birthday is more of a Thanksgiving thing, but he does have Father’s Day to enjoy so no one is feeling too sorry for him.

My birthday week has begun and I am planning a party where as many people as possible are celebrating FOOD! It is easy. On Tuesday the 28th (aka my big bday!), I simply want you to find something delicious, something totally worth celebrating and then take a picture of it and put it up on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest wherever you roam in this wild online realm and tag @lillystable. That’s it! I want to see all of the food you love to celebrate… it may be your morning cup o’ joe, your favorite piece of toast, or something more involved. And honestly, the more the merrier. Take this as an opportunity to get a little silly with the food photos. Let’s celebrate food in all of it’s delicious glory!

Once the food photo dust has settled, I am going to select a few posts (at least one at random and one because I love it) and then I will be gifting the winners with some goodness from Lilly’s Table!

In the meantime, I love taking my food for a dip, especially when they are outside of the box. In the spring for me, whole artichokes with my favorite dippy goodness is the way I like to do chips + dips, but also thinly sliced raw sweet potatoes with my Guacamamae Salad or my favorite Feta-Guacamole.

We make this dip/dressing frequently in our home as a ranch-style addition to the pull-able leaves off of whole artichokes. The best part is that it can be made entirely with whatever fresh herbs you have available in your home or garden.

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1 lemon*, juiced
1 clove garlic, minced fine (optional if you want a more subtle dressing)
1/4 cup fresh minced herbs (including basil, thyme, oregano, sage, sorrel, parsley, dilll, carrot tops, etc.)
1 cup plain yogurt
2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt + pepper, to taste

Whisk the garlic and lemon juice together. Allow to mellow for a minute. This is a great time to pick, wash and dry the herbs if you have not already done it. Whisk the yogurt and freshly minced herbs into the garlic & lemon juice. With one hand whisk rapidly, while slowly drip by drip drizzle in the olive oil. Add as much olive oil as you like, to taste. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

*If you have a microplane or zester, zest the lemon into the bowl for an extra lemony boost.

Happy week to you! And don’t forget to celebrate this Tuesday the 28th!

Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Live well,

Chef Lilly