[Review] Middle-class dreams of healthy eating come true with Green BEAN Delivery

My bounty from Green BEAN Delivery.

(Blogger’s note: For one week, Green BEAN Delivery is offering Ashlee Eats readers 50 percent off the price of a produce bin for new and reactivating customers. Just type in ACLapc in the promo code area. The deal doesn’t include grocery add-ins.)

I keep my life goals realistic. So realistic, in fact, that I don’t even call them “goals.”

I have “Middle-Class Dreams.”

My top Middle-Class Dream? To be the weekly recipient of a CSA bin.

Community Supported Agriculture, aka CSA, is a way to buy local, seasonal and/or organic food directly from your friendly neighborhood farmer. Here are the basics of the idea, courtesy of localharvest.org:

A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

Sounds nice, right? But the price point of the CSAs I have come in contact with have kept me from signing up. So I was thrilled when Green BEAN Delivery contacted me to review their program because of my appreciation of CSA and similar programs and my love of free stuff.

Green BEAN (not a CSA, buy similar) serves Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio participants with bins of (mostly) organic produce, much of which is from local farms, and natural food. It’s easy to get started with the program. You pick which size bin you would like to receive (ranging from a $35 small bin to a $49 large bin) and the frequency you would like to receive your bin. You can also select certain natural food brands to add to your bin.

For my review, I signed up for the small produce bin that the Green BEAN website said is “perfect for 2-3 people.” The picture at the top of the page is everything that came in the bin, and here’s the list:

  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 1 bunch of carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • 24 oz. klamath pearl potatoes
  • 1 lb. green beans (the only non-organic item)
  • 4 bosc pears
  • 4 gala apples
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 3 tangerines
  • 1 head of bibb lettuce

The produce comes in an insulated bin complete with a cold pack, so everything arrived looking fresh out of the farmer’s market. Just opening the lid was like walking down the first aisle of the supermarket.

As soon as I washed and stored all the food, I peeled right into one of the deep-orange tangerines. It was juicy and tangy, a nice preview for the rest of the produce I would eat.

I spent the next week experimenting with all fresh food that packed the shelves of my fridge. Much like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get in the CSA bin each week, so a little research and flexibility are key.

After a call to my mom, I threw the green beans in a slow cooker with some bacon, onion, salt and pepper for a delicious side dish:

I also referred to my favorite cookbook and a recent issue of Better Homes and Gardens to create this dish of herb-roasted root vegetables that used the potatoes, carrots, red onion and a few sweet potatoes already in my house:

My husband and I ate the rest of the items in the bin straight out of the refrigerator in salads or just by themselves. Each piece of fruit or hunk of vegetable tasted better than the previous. Everything was fresh and fragrant, crisp and cool. Not a brown spot in the bunch.

The small bin is a great size for an adult couple and could last two weeks if you supplement your produce with other groceries. I also ate more fruits and vegetables during my time with the bin because I couldn’t escape all of the produce in my face.

The small $35 bin received on a bi-weekly basis is an expense I’m willing to work into my family’s grocery budget in exchange for healthier, fresher, more seasonal eating. There is enough variety and surprise in your selection to keep things interesting. I could easily seeing myself getting the majority of my produce from Green BEAN and The Root Cellar, another excellent resource for local, seasonal food.

The only thing left of my Green BEAN bin is the broccoli, and I don’t want my glimpse at achieving a Middle-Class Dream fade to black.

 

Use a wooden skewer to remove the pits from cherries

Nature's candy? Indeed, my friends.

This is a great time of year to get a pint of delicious cherries. Too bad you have to eat around those lousy pits.

Some folks use a cherry pitter, but you know how I hate those tools that only do one job. I usually pop cherries into my mouth, chew around the middle, then spit out the pit.

This summer, I wanted to enjoy my cherries minus the mess and spit.

I found this blog post from the writers at The Kitchn, who recommend using a chopstick to de-pit a cherry. I don’t have any chopsticks laying around, but I found something similar in my kitchen — wooden skewers.

I have a huge bag of wooden skewers left over from a barbecue kabob recipe from a few years back. The blunt end of a skewer is perfect for removing the pesky pits and enjoying a heap of cherries. Here’s how I MacGyver my skewer/pitter:

  1. Remove the stem of the cherry.
  2. Take the blunt end of the skewer and push it through the cherry. Use the spot where you took out the stem as a guide.
That’s it. Pretty easy. Have a couple of small bowls handy — one for pits and one for cherries. It can get a bit messy, so put down some paper towels. I like my cherries plain or thrown in some yogurt or sangria. What’s your favorite way to enjoy pit-free cherries?

When it pays to buy organic: 3 questions to ask before you splurge

Official seal of the National Organic Program
Image via Wikipedia

A woman I met in the hills of New York state had a simple view on eating meat.

She only ate animals who lived a happy life.

It’s been a couple of years since I heard this mantra on meat-eating, and I still apply her attitude toward my food purchases. I want meat, veggies and fruit that have lived the good life — no hormones, no pesticides, no unhealthy mass production. This translates to buying organic.

In the perfect world, my cabinets and refrigerator would be dotted with the green and white USDA organic seal. In the real world, my wallet cries each time I reach for the free-range brown eggs plucked from the butts of happy chickens.

I can’t afford to buy exclusively organic. Most folks I know can’t, either. But here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to buy organic:

  • Do you eat the skin of the fruit and vegetable you are buying?
    • Yes: Choose organic. The Environmental Working Group recommends choosing the organic option in this instance to decrease your exposure to pesticides. The group, a non-profit that focuses on public health, reviewed nearly 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to determine what fruits and vegetables have the highest, and lowest, amounts of chemical residue, according to CNN. All of the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides are foods that you eat whole, such as blueberries, lettuce and cherries.
    • No: Regular is fine. Produce with a thick outer layer has a naturally high defense level against pesticide contamination, the Environmental Working Group. These foods include onions, avocados and sweet corn.
  • Are you pregnant or buying food for children?
    • Yes: Choose organic. There’s some debate about the health effects that pesticides have on your health, but children and fetuses face the biggest risk for contaminants, according to this article on organic foods from BusinessWeek.
    • No: Regular is fine.
  • Are you buying meat, dairy products or eggs?
    • Yes: This one’s a toss up. Only 16 percent of grains and 15 percent of meats tested by the USDA in 2002 had detectable pesticide residues, according to BusinessWeek. The main concern for shopping in this category is widespread use of antibiotics and growth hormone. The FDA says the use of hormones is OK, but some consumer groups disagree. This week, I bought non-organic eggs, and I often buy other non-organic meat products because of my budget. FYI — I feel fine.
    • No: Carry on with your fruits and veggies.

19 farmers’ markets to visit in and around Louisville (and counting)

Peppers at a farmers' market.

Updated 6.16.10

It’s that time again.

Farmers’ markets have sprouted up across Louisville, displaying a rainbow of produce more brilliant than anything in an art gallery — cardinal red peppers, mustard yellow melons, kelly green pea pods.

I plan to visit my first farmers’ market of the season this week. Here is a list, courtesy of Local Harvest, of some markets in Louisville and southern Indiana.

  • Old Louisville FarmWorks Market, 1143 South Third Street (parking lot of Walnut Street Baptist Church)
    • 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays, June through mid-October
  • Gray Street Farmers’ Market, 485 E. Gray Street
    • 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Thursdays, June 4 through Oct. 29
  • Bardstown Road Farmers’ Market, 1722 Bardstown Road
    • 4:00-6:30 p.m. Thursdays
    • 8am-noon Saturdays (year round, different hours in the winter)
  • Rainbow Blossom Farmers’ Market, 3738 Lexington Road
    • Noon-4 p.m. Sundays, May through October
  • Beechmont Open Air Market, Southern Parkway at Wellington Avenue
    • 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, June through September
  • Broadway Baptist Church Farmers’ Market, 4000 Brownsboro Road
    • 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, now through September
  • Mid City Mall Farmers’ Market, 1250 Bardstown Road
    • 4-7 p.m. Thursdays, now through October
  • St. Matthews Farmers’ Market, 4100 Shelbyville Road (parking lot of Beargrass Christian Church)
    • 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, May through September
  • Suburban Christian Church Farmers’ Market, 7515 Westport Road
    • 3-7 p.m. Thursdays, May through October
  • Phoenix Hill Farmers’ Market, 829 East Market Street
    • 3-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, now through October
  • Jeffersontown Farmers’ Market, 10434 Watterson Trail
    • 3-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays
    • 7 a.m.-noon Saturdays, May through October
  • Jewish Family and Career Services, 3587 Dutchmans Lane
    • 12:30-4:30 p.m. Sundays, May through October
  • Okolona Farmers’ Market, 7405 Preston Highway
    • 4-7 p.m. Tuesdays, June 23 through Sept. 8
  • Southwest Farmers’ Market, 10200 Dixie Highway (Valley High School)
    • 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, June through October
  • St. Andrew United Church of Christ, 2608 Browns Lane
    • 3-6 p.m. Thursdays
  • Norton Commons Farmers’ Market, corner of Norton Commons Boulevard and Meeting Street, Prospect, Ky.
    • 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, now through Nov. 6
  • St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church Farmers’ Market, 6710 Wolf Pen Branch Road, Prospect, Ky.
    • 4-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays
    • 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays, now through Oct. 30
  • Jeffersonville Farmers’ Market, Corner of Chestnut and Locust streets at Wall Street Church, Jeffersonville, Ind.
    • 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays (June 1 through mid-October)
    • 3-6 p.m. Tuesdays (June 1 through mid-October)
  • New Albany Farmers’ Market, 202 E. Market Street, New Albany, Ind.
    • 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays (May through October)
    • 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays (May through October)

Have I missed something? Please forgive me if I have omitted your favorite market. Just shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment.