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Having fun with locally-grown food

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  • | 1:10 p.m. August 28, 2012
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 - by Guest Contributor Sarah Felder.

I grew up in a food-loving Italian family. My mother cooked homemade meals almost every day. I'm sure it's how I came to slowly love cooking. Believe me, I had my unhealthy young and single days. But now as a mother of a two- and four-year-old, I've discovered a new passion for and fun with cooking like never before. One simple way to eat better is to find local, organically-grown foods. We spend time visiting local farms when they're open, but the summertime can be tough here in Florida when it's so hot. The majority of our local farms close for the summer months unlike those in the rest of the country.

We love the Sarasota Farmer's Market in downtown at the corner of Main and Lemon Streets. There are always fresh, locally-grown foods and it's fun! I found out that there's even a free yoga class offered from 8 to 9 a.m. Click here to find out the basics and details of our local market, open from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. every Saturday year-round, rain or shine.

Why shop locally?

The foods you'll find at local markets usually travel short distances and in many cases were harvested withing a day or two of purchase. It also means they're packed with nutrients. Did you know that some foods lose as much as 50 percent of their nutritional value within 24 hours of being picked? If you buy all your produce from the grocery store, try shopping from the local farmers. I think you'll be surprised how much more flavor your food has, too!

You save money buying from local farmers. They don't have to travel far to get their produce to you, which means you're saving carbon output and cash.

You are supporting your friends and neighbors and helping your community grow. I have met some wonderful people who bake birthday cakes and help me fertilize my herbs and vegetable garden organically, and I even found some great holiday and birthday gifts by just wandering on a Saturday morning for an hour.

Bring the kids.

I often bring my kids and let them choose their own foods. They will actually try the foods that they pick out. I ask them to be brave and choose something new to eat. It's the perfect place for everyone because they get to learn where their food comes from (not just the grocery store), and you'll find things that your local grocer doesn't even carry.

How I make food fun.

I struggled a bit with the toddler years and very picky eating when my oldest turned two, and a friend suggested that I start making food more fun and attractive to encourage healthier eating. I use cookie cutters, fondant cutters and tiny Japanese vegetable cutters to make fun shapes for my kids and make trying new foods easier and more interesting for them.


Ingredients in this lunch came from the My Mother's Garden stand at the Sarasota Farmer's Market, one of the places I visited a few times this summer. They have locally-grown herbs, fruit and vegetables that are grown without pesticides. The base of the salad is baby spinach leaves. I placed okinawan spinach leaves (purple and green) on top for color, organic radishes on which I cut out cute little faces with small face cutters, and topped the salad with fresh sunflower sprouts. I had never seen the okinawan spinach before so we had to try it. Besides adding awesome color, it apparently has cholesterol-lowering properties. In the top compartments are organic blueberries and organic red quinoa at the top right (cooked in vegetable broth) packed in an Easy Lunchbox container. I send salads and dishes like these with my husband for work, and I do the same for my small children for school, snacks and even playtime at the park. It makes it easy for them to have healthy choices if you already have the good stuff with you.

I look forward to sharing more fun, local foods with you in the future. Happy local food shopping.


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