Fresh, Local Inspiration for your Dinner Table

I am honored to have been asked to present for the Cypress chapter of Wine Women & Wellness. The primary goal of this nationwide organization is to create a wellness culture in each community. Members support one another in a platform for business owners to gain visibility and create deep connections in a space designed to create strong bonds & real, substantial relationships.

I LOVE their motto to “Lift Others as we Rise!”

Isn’t this what it’s all about? Creating success, wellness and strong communities? Lifting our fellow (wo)man throughout their journey?

One of the reasons I started our community co-op and my brand, Flourishing Fern, was to lift others on their journey while strengthening equality and access to knowledge of food, herbs and alignment within my GLOBAL community.

I met the owner of my local Cypress Chapter at the 100 Women Who Care CyFair 2nd Annual Galentine’s Day celebration. Kerry Walsh is the owner of Kerry’s Fitness 4 U and Diet Terminator. She provides “empHOURment” hour to her clients by creating a fun environment for women to workout together while also teaching women how to understand their eating behaviors and manage them and avoid using food as a tool to soothe stress and emotion.

The event was held at a local family owned and operated restaurant, Mezzanotte Ristorante, in the heart of Cypress, Texas. This restaurant has long been one of my favorite date night spots and it holds many beautiful memories for me. (Two of my favorite people had their rehearsal dinner in this romantic, quaint space.) Their pumpkin ravioli caught my attention long before my love for veggies flourished and I’m usually torn between their homemade gnocchi and this incredible dish.

Fortunately, the Executive Chef was as excited about this event as I and they agreed to feature some of the Farm to Kitchen Collective’s seasonal summer harvest for the event. I delivered a basket full of veggies a few days ahead of the event and he created the magic!

This delicious salad featured cucumbers on top of mixed greens with a creamy Italian dressing. Simple, delicious & flavorful.

My favorite creation was the Summer Vegetable Bruschetta. Y’all KNOW I am a SUCKER for a family style meal board and this platter was as delicious as it was beautiful. Grilled eggplant with sautéed onion, red bell pepper, poblano and Oyster Mushrooms finished with lemon basil and a black peppered crostini.

FRESH. SIMPLE. DELICIOUS. LOCAL.

Think Fresh

Having a fresh approach to your dinner table is much easier that it seems. The idea here is to consciously decide what local means to you. I have girlfriends who LOVE HEB and are totally happy with supporting their favorite Texas based chain. That’s totally cool.

In this case, the most important thing to know when shopping the produce section are your PLU codes and what each of these means.

Red Bell Peppers in the background and a title page that says Know your PLU codes. The graphoc explains that PLU codes beginning in a 3 or a 4 are conventionally grown. Thise with a 9 in front, followed by 4 digits are organically grown and one with an 8 preceeding 4 digits is a GMO product.

In the seafood section, look for the origin of your food and check the meat & egg department for statements like ‘pasture raised’ and ‘grass fed & grass finished.’

This blog post will dig deep, deep into PLU codes and allll you need to know about things to consider when transitioning from larger grocers to shopping from small, local farmers.

When you start to read labels and look into the origins of your food, the world starts to feel much larger than your own backyard. I recall the need for Red Bell Pepper to make my Black Eyed Pea gumbo for New Year’s Day. I was shocked to learn the only ‘organic’ pepper I could find came to my kitchen all the way from Israel.

Israel, Y’all. That’s FAR from Cypress, TX!!!

Experience Local

What does LOCAL mean to you? Is it buying from small business owners? Or, does it go deeper than that?

Some of the benefits to consider when eating local include:

  • Supporting your local community.
  • Growing your local economy.
  • Helping to cut long distance transportation costs.
  • Fresher Foods.
This is a group of vegetables from the farm box- cantaloupe, onion, Potatoes, rosemary, green beans and a tomato asking What are the benefits of eating local. The benefits are Supporting the local community, Growing the local economy, helping to cut transportation costs and the food is fresher.

Sounds great but are you wondering where to begin???

You can start by visiting your local farmers market once a month and meet the farmers. Ask them questions.

Do they use herbicides, insecticides or fungicides on their products? How do they control pests?

Where do their livestock live? What feed do they provide them? Are their animals rotated?

Dipping a toe into the local farming community is best done by visiting a farmers market, joining a CSA or co-op and even visiting a local farm stand.

You’ve never tasted a better tomato than one fresh off the vine. High quality ingredients need little more than a splash of this and a drizzle of that to pull everything together.

One of the first things I noticed when I transitioned was that I needed fewer ingredients & NO FILLERS when my food was fresh and whole.

Let your inspiration Grow

Allow yourself to be inspired by each season and the nutrition provided. How many times have you asked yourself, “I have chicken in the freezer…what can I make with that?”

Consider reframing your question to make the veggie the star of the show.

“Ok, I have a fresh cantaloupe and some cucumbers in the fridge…what can I make with that?”

Vegetables in season are often compatible on your plate as well. This cucumber & cantaloupe summer salad recipe is the freshest and most delicious example of a seasonal harvest coming together to inspire your dinner table.

This is a single serving of cantaloupe and cucumber summer salad. The recipe of cucumber, cantaloupe, lemon basil and red onion come together on wooden bowls. A wooden spoon and fresh lemon basil frame the image

Involve your family in this experience so they can share in the importance of supporting small farmers with you!!!

Kids are much more apt to try new foods when they are engaged in learning who grows their food and from where it REALLY comes. I have an entire blog post discussing How to get your kids involved in the kitchen without losing your mind!

While the post is geared more toward getting the littles & tweens in the kitchen, some of my most popular cooking classes are high school aged.

Building Kitchen confidence is important at ANY age…and, it’s never too late to learn!

Pulling it all together

As you can see, eating FRESH and LOCAL is easier and quicker than you may think.

My blog, The Flourishing Times, will provide recipes for beginners and experts alike. With a host of recipes at your fingertips and plenty of resources supporting small farmers is easier than ever…The first step starts with you!

Thank you to the Cypress Chapter of Wine, Women & Wellness and Mezzanotte Ristorante for making this a memorable experience!

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