The Mindful Foodie

How often do we look at a plate of food and think about where it comes from?  How often do we think about a food’s origin when grocery shopping?  In this busy world, it’s easy to grab and go.  Often the thought is to buy foods that are quick and easy to prepare.  The book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver changed my whole outlook on food.

I’m a huge Barbara Kingsolver fan to begin with.  I absolutely LOVED the Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer.  This book still carries Kingsolver’s voice, and so even though it’s a work of nonfiction on subject matters that are sometimes scary (in the case of big chemical companies like Monsanto), this book is a comfortable read.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the true story of Kingsolver’s family living a year eating locally.  Each family member was allowed one “non-local” food, such as coffee or chocolate, but aside from that, they grew or purchased all of their food within 100 miles of their farm.  It can be done.  Of course, eating locally is easier in some areas of the country than others. 

The book is told by Kingsolver, her husband and her oldest daughter.  The husband tells the heavy content–Monsanto, Kingsolver tells of the day-to-day progression of eating locally, and the daughter shares seasonal recipes.  When you eat locally, you tend to eat what’s growing at the time.  No year-round asparagus, for instance. 

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I have become much more mindful of my grocery purchases, and grow a lot more in my garden to store for the winter.  I even bought citrus trees to have “local citrus”– something unheard of in Western Colorado!  I have NOT given up coffee.  : )   

Right now, I can’t see myself being a complete locovore, but I am when I can.  I shop the farmer’s markets in the summer, I try to get my eggs directly from a farmer.  I try to “tread lightly” in my food choices.  I can and store as much garden produce as I can.

To help foods last through the winter, the Kingsolvers canned and froze foods from their garden.  The pasta sauce recipe in the book is fabulous–my BFF Becky and I use it each fall as the tomatoes ripen in our gardens.

Following their recipe exactly makes a sauce that will keep all winter….until you run out.  We always run out before there are enough tomatoes to make more sauce!  It’s best to make it in large batches, to have all the work at one time, but the tomatoes sort of dictate how large a batch you do.  It’s important to stick to the recipe if you’re canning it to maintain a safe pH.

10 quarts tomato puree (about 30 pounds of tomatoes)

4 large onions, peeled and chopped

1 cup dried basil

1/2 cup honey

4 TBSP dried oregano

3 TBSP salt

2 TBSP dried lemon peel

2 TBSP thyme

2 TBSP garlic powder (or more to taste)

2 TBSP dried parsley

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Soften onions in a heavy 3-gallon kettle–add a small amount of water if necessary but NO OIL if you are canning!  Add pureed tomatoes and everything else.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce has thickened to your liking.  Stir frequently, especially near the end, to avoid burning. 

If you are canning, sterilize your jars, and start the water to boil in your canner. 

To maintain proper pH, you MUST add 2 TBSP of lemon juice OR 1/2 tsp citric acid (Fruit Fresh) to each quart.  Half that much for pints.  Ladle hot sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Cap jars and process quarts for 35 minutes.  25 minutes for pints.  Remove, let cool, check the seals, and store for the winter! 

This is a yummy sauce that can be used for spagetti, pizza sauce, over meatloaf….anywhere you’d use a store-bought sauce!  You can add all sorts of fresh peppers, mushrooms, and meats when you cook with it–you just can’t can it with those things in it.  While you’re waiting for garden season, get yourself a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle!

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