I don’t know about you, but I have thoroughly enjoyed the abundance of locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables during the past few weeks. Local vegetables are at their peak right now, so I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.
I try to visit the Robeson County Farmers Market, located at the corner of Eighth and Elm Streets, at least once each week. I invite you to join me in that practice every Wednesday and Saturday morning. It is amazing to see the great variety of fruits and vegetables our local farmers have to sell. You don’t have to know a whole lot about vegetables to tell that what you see at this market is about as fresh as it can get.
There are also many local vegetable farms and roadside stands across the county. I also encourage you to seek those opportunities to buy local — a list can be found by visiting http://www.gottobenc.com/find-nc-products/farm-fresh/farms. Not only can you buy fresh, local fruits and vegetables, you can actually see where they are being grown and, sometimes, even meet the grower.
There is growing evidence that Americans are cooking less and eating more, and the intake of many of those calories are from processed foods and fast foods. Now don’t get me wrong, I have eaten my share of fast food and continue to rely on eating out more often than I should. But I am also making an effort to eat more meals at home and eat those meals with family as often as possible.
Eating out usually means larger portions, more calories and fat, fewer fruits and vegetables, fewer whole grains, and, of course, usually a higher price. In fact, there is evidence that says when we eat out we are likely to eat more calories than we need and more likely to be at an unhealthy weight. So think about it, when we eat out, we are probably paying more for our food, and we are more likely to be unhealthy. That sounds slightly backwards, don’t you think? But how do we change those habits and start eating at home more?
Maybe the first step is to keep it simple. Eating at home just one night is a step in the right direction. Choose simple recipes that can be prepped ahead and take very little time to prepare. My new favorite way to prepare those fresh vegetables I purchase from the farmers market is to roast them in the oven.
Simply cut them up; add a little olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and your favorite seasonings; then pop them in a 400-degree oven and roast for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. You can stir them after about 10 to 15 minutes to ensure they are cooking evenly. The best part about roasting is that you can roast almost anything. With a little trial and error, you can find your favorite combinations. Then add a little protein, like chicken, and you are all set.
An easy way to have protein available is to get in the habit of cooking a little extra at one meal and refrigerate the leftovers. For example, when grilling chicken for supper one evening, grill a few extra portions to have for another meal later in the week. When you pair the grilled chicken with the roasted vegetables you prepare from your fresh, farmers market finds, you have added an additional meal at home that is healthy, low cost, portion controlled, and delicious.
Christy Strickland is the County Extension Director and Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in
Robeson County. She can be reached at 671-3276 or by email l at Christy_Strickland@ncsu.edu.