Fresh Food

Using Fresh Ingredients in the Kitchen

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Living real food starts with fresh ingredients. Whether you get them from your local farmers’ market, grown them in your own garden, shop at a neighborhood grocery store or a large chain supermarket, filling your fridge with fresh foods is the first step to living real food.

When you’re stocked up with fresh ingredients—even if you just bring a few items home to start—means you’re sure to have something to build a quick meal around. For example, if you’ve got a chicken breast, some fresh peas, and a lemon, as well as a purposeful pantry (read our blog on Building a Purposeful Pantry), you’ll be all set to make a number of satisfying and delicious meals.

Fresh foods can be categorized into 7 main categories:

Aromatics (onions, garlic, chives, fresh ginger, chiles, scallions, and shallots)

Fresh herbs (such as basil, cilantro, mint, parsley, and dill)

When your pantry is stocked with fresh ingredients, a quick, satisfying meal is always just minutes away

When your pantry is stocked with fresh ingredients, a quick, satisfying meal is always just minutes away

Fruit (strawberries, apples, bananas, peaches, melons, and more)

Citrus fruits (A subcategory of fruit, citrus is often used for adding flavor to dishes and providing acid to balance out other flavors in cooking. These include lemons, limes, and oranges.)

Vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, celery, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, squash)

Proteins (chicken, beef, pork, bacon, shellfish, fish, eggs, tofu, beans)

Dairy products (cheese, milk, cream, yogurt, butter)

With an item or two from 3 or 4 of these categories, you will be well on your way to a delicious and satisfying meal.

What Do We Mean by “Real Food”?

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When we talk about real food, we mean food that is that is grown locally, on farms and ranches that don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It is food that is eaten fresh when it is in season. It is food that is grown and produced using sustainable practices, treating both workers and the environment with respect. It is food made of real ingredients, things you can pronounce that come from honest to goodness places—farms, gardens, ranches, and kitchens, not laboratories or drive-thru windows.


What sets real food apart from processed, additive-laden, ready-made food is that it doesn’t just satisfy your hunger, but nourishes your body and keeps it vital and strong, supports the community, and helps to protect the environment. It doesn’t just feed your body, but also nourishes your life and the world around you. It transforms eating from an item on your to-do list into a pleasurable habit that’s nutritious, delicious, easy, and fun.

Living real food isn’t about what you can’t eat, but rather about eating more of the good stuff—food that is good for your body, your community, and the Earth. This means fresh organic fruits and vegetables, ideally grown locally and purchased from independent grocers or farmers markets, organic dairy products, organic whole grains, wild-caught fish and seafood, organic meats, and minimally processed natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, and fruit.

At its core, living real food is about eating what you love, savoring the sense of accomplishment you get from creating meals yourself, and feeling good about what you put in your body. You are in the driver’s seat. Our job is to provide the knowledge, know-how, tools, and inspiration you need to transform the way you eat.

Eating real food is easier than you think. With a bit of knowledge and a few simple tools, anyone can make and eat great meals.


5 Tips for A Successful Farmers’ Market Foray

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This time of year, there is no better place to do your grocery shopping than your local farmers’ market. You’ll find stalls piled high with peaches, cherries, melons, tomatoes,  squashes, corn, eggplant, and other luscious  fruits and veggies. Not only will you get a great selection of fresh, locally grown, in-season produce, but you’ll also get to talk to the very people who grow it and find out how to tell when it is perfectly ripe, how to store it for best flavor and longevity, and how to prepare it.

Here are our top 5 tips for getting the most from your farmers’ market trip:

  1. Come prepared with large shopping bags.

Some vendors don’t provide bags and those who do often offer only flimsy plastic bags. Keep your treasured produce picks in perfect shape by bringing your own sturdy cloth bags.

Come to the farmers market prepared with small bills

Come to the farmers market prepared with small bills

2. Bring small bills.

Some stalls can get super busy. Make things easy on the vendors and yourself by bringing small bills so that you can give exact change. And don’t rely on plastic since many vendors are cash only.

Come to the farmers market prepared to find whatever is fresh and in season and build your meals around those items

Come to the farmers market prepared to find whatever is fresh and in season and build your meals around those items

3. Do your research.

Before you go, check out our <link to the “What’s in Season” article> to find out what fruits and veggies are at their peak now. Have a general idea of what you’re looking for. Planning to make roasted summer squash gratin? A fresh tomato sauce with the best San Marzano’s you can find? Or maybe you’re thinking a spicy eggplant stir-fry with lots of garlic, fresh herbs, and chilies. You’ll find all of these ingredients in the market this time of year, and having a plan in mind will help you remember everything you need for your meal.

4. Be flexible.

Its great to have a general plan of what you want to cook with your farmer’s market haul, but keep an open mind and allow yourself to nab a pile of cherries just because they look perfectly succulent, or to load up on fiddleheads after hearing the vendor talk about how delicious they are sautĂ©ed in butter with a bit of sliced garlic.

5. Ask lots of questions.

The people who grow/produce the food you are buying are the ultimate experts. You can bet they’ve tried cooking or preparing it every way imaginable and they know the best way to store it, how to select the perfect ripeness, and more. Try to hit the market either early or late in the day when it’s not too busy and vendors will be able to give you more individual attention, and then don’t be shy!


Top 5 Quick and Easy Ways to Use Your Summer Tomatoes

By | Fresh Food, In-Season | No Comments

Months go by—the entire winter and spring—with nothing but mealy, pale, tasteless tomatoes in the supermarket. Then one summer morning, you pop over to your local farmers market and holy moly! Piles of beautiful, luscious tomatoes in every hue from red, yellow, and orange, to green, purple, and nearly black. If you’re like us, you respond by loading up your reusable shopping bag with a pound (or three) of every type you see. How can you resist all that tomato-y promise?

Here, our top 5 ways to turn that haul into great summer meals:

San Marzano Tomatoes for Sauce

San Marzano tomatoes are thin-skinned, meaty, and flavorful


  1. Get saucy with this Simply Delicious Tomato Sauce.

For the best, easiest tomato sauce, melt a few tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add half a diced onion and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add a minced clove of garlic or two if you like. Throw a couple pounds of peeled and diced (ideally a good sauce-making plum variety like San Marzano) tomatoes, along with their juices into the pot. Sprinkle in a couple of healthy pinches of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally and smashing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon, for about 45 to 60 minutes. Taste and add additional salt if needed. At this point, you can also stir in a handful of minced fresh herbs—basil, oregano, mint, thyme, or savory will all add their own distinctive twist. Serve tossed with cooked pasta and sprinkled with freshly grated cheese.

  1. Go raw with an easy no-cook Raw Tomato Sauce.

Sometimes in the heat of the summer what you really want is to not cook. This quick, no-cook tomato sauce is the ideal solution. Dice two pounds of good meaty tomatoes (no need to peel them) and put them in a big bowl, along with their juices. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, 2 to 3 tablespoons of good olive oil, a minced clove of garlic, and a couple of pinches of salt (taste and add more as needed). Let this mixture stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes to let the flavors meld and then toss it with cooked pasta (warm or at room temperature) and serve. For variety, add some diced fresh mozzarella or crumbled feta, sliced Kalamata olives, or fresh, chopped basil, oregano, or mint.

  1. Spice it up with Salsa Fresca.
    Salsa Ingredients

    Assorted heirloom tomatoes, fresh chilies, red onions, cilantro, and lime make a bright, spicy, and delicious Salsa Fresca

In a bowl, toss together 3 or 4 large tomatoes (like >>> or >>>) with half of a red onion, finely diced, 1 or 2 finely diced Serrano or Jalapeno chiles (leave the seeds and ribs in for a spicier salsa, remove them for a milder version), the juice of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, and salt to taste. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour before serving with tortilla chips for dipping/scooping or dolloped onto tacos or other Mexican fare.

Multi-colored heirloom tomatoes pair beautifully with ripe watermelon, bright herbs, and tangy feta cheese

Multi-colored heirloom tomatoes pair beautifully with ripe watermelon, bright herbs, and tangy feta cheese

  1. Combine summer favorites in Tomato and Watermelon Salad with Fresh Mint, Chives, and Feta.

In a medium salad bowl, combine about 3 cups of diced watermelon and 2 or 3 large, diced heirloom tomatoes. In a small bowl, whisk together about 2 tablespoons each of red wine vinegar and olive oil with 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Drizzle the mixture over the watermelon and tomato, then sprinkle the salad with about 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, 2 tablespoons finely julienned fresh mint, a couple ounces of crumbled feta cheese, and 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts. Grind black pepper over the top and serve immediately.

  1. Go slow with Slow Roasted Tomatoes.

When you’ve got way more tomatoes than you can eat before they spoil, the best thing to do is slow roast them in a warm oven, then you can divide them into meal-sized servings in resealable plastic bags and pop them in the freezer to save for the inevitable long, cold season devoid of good tomatoes. Your winter self will thank you! Halve your tomatoes, arrange them cut-side up on a large, rimmed baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and then roast in a 200-degree oven for about 8 hours. Serve warm or at room temperature with toasted baguette rounds and cheese, or puree into a sauce for pasta or pizza.