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Farm Fresh Feasts: Recipes to Nourish Body and Soul

June 26, 2024

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Farm Fresh Feasts: Recipes to Nourish Body and Soul

The Transformative Power of Gardening

Fifteen years ago, I traded in my fixation with food rules and obsessive body comparisons for something else – a life-giving relationship with food and my body. Mindful cooking and a lingering dining experience became my path to freedom. It was one of the most freeing things I’ve ever done for myself, and it was also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was WORTH it.

No more counting calories, fat grams, punishing or rewarding myself based on the scale. In fact, I threw out my scale. If you rely on a scale to dictate what you eat and how you exercise every day, you’ll never arrive at true freedom with food and your body. I stand by that statement wholeheartedly. So, I decided to ditch the scale and begin to look inward for connection with myself instead of outward.

It wasn’t easy to just wake up one day and stop counting calories and fat grams. After obsessing about them for years and having manic control over food, who can really just do that? Not me. So instead of trying to stop doing something, I decided to add in nourishing practices, trusting they would eventually crowd out the not-so-nourishing habits and mindset.

One of the things I added in completely transformed my relationship with food. At the time, I had no idea it was going to be such a monumental experience for me. My husband and I, newly married, created a vegetable garden in our backyard. We tilled the soil, planted seeds, watered them, and day after day, we waited. Oh, my goodness, have you ever observed a garden grow from start to finish? I marveled at the process.

Growing a garden for me was like marveling at the miracle of a life from conception to birth and beyond. From this itty bitty seed into something so beautiful. Not only did it taste amazing, but it nourished me from the inside out. It brought new meaning to the term “Mother Nature” to me. Just as an expectant mom nurtures that life inside, I found myself nurturing this garden as an expectant mother. My hands in the dirt, watering, weeding, watching the small, tiny vegetables and fruits growing to completion, fiercely protecting them from predators, talking to them lovingly, harvesting that food, and getting as close to the source as one can – it was a very spiritual experience for me.

There’s something that happened the day I walked outside, picked a basket of Roma tomatoes, a serrano pepper, cilantro, and an onion, and walked inside my house and made a delicious bowl of salsa and ate it for dinner. BOOM! Something shifted inside. It’s the truest meaning of “farm to table, table to soul.”

What happened for me that first summer with my new garden was nothing short of transformational in my relationship with food and my body. No amount of therapy in an office or dietician recording my intake or weighing me on a scale helped my healing journey with food and body as did my first gardening experience.

Nourishment Beyond Calories

Spending more time in my garden, big shifts started taking place. Food was not a burden. Food wasn’t the enemy or a stressor or a problem. Food was not confusing. Food lost its caloric value and was replaced with a different kind of value. Food took on the role of nourishment far beyond what you calculate on the plate.

Gardening became my place of healing and of meditation. Ever so slowly, I began moving away from a distorted relationship with food and discovered something new. I began pausing and listening to my body and trusting her more – asking her what she desired and letting her be more my guide than the “shoulds” in my head. She’s intuitive and smart, just as your guide inside is smart and intuitive for you.

A lot of people assume that I eat healthy because it’s the “right” thing to do to be healthy or to manage weight, have better energy, and manage symptoms. A lot of people assume that my work is about helping people move away from snacking on tortilla chips and instead grab the kale chips because I’m just passionate about eating healthier.

But what I’m really passionate about is teaching women how food is a spiritual experience and invites us into something so much bigger. Do I love quality? Absolutely. Am I an advocate for real food? Of course. Do I care about you eating healthy food? I do. But I also deeply care about holding space for you to realize that eating, cooking, buying local, fresh, organic veggies isn’t a fad or a measure of good parenting and whether or not you’re doing “good” or “bad.”

It’s simply an invitation. Inviting you to be a part of something so much bigger. To feel connected to a source of provision, to a creative act, to the larger story, to feel connected more deeply to nature, to the sun, clouds, rain, seasons, soil, people, earth. Something so much bigger than just yourself and how food is not just a number or a bottom line necessity. It’s also nourishment on a whole new level.

Reconnecting to the Rhythms of Nature

Calories and fat grams are just one way to look at food, but if you’re honest, that’s a really boring, one-dimensional way to look at food. And no amount of calorie counting is going to provide you with the freedom you are truly looking for. So, I invite you into a whole new way to look at food – the much larger, more complex, life-giving story.

Here’s my invitation to you this week: Visit your local farmers market. This is the BEST time of the year to visit. Pick up some veggies from local farmers and make a meal. Give thanks for all the hands that prepared the soil and grew and raised that food. Imagine the people that harvested that head of lettuce. With their own hands, they picked that head of lettuce or pulled those snap peas or gently removed those raspberries from the earth just for you.

Be mindful of the sun, the rain, the soil that gave life to those plants, and feel the difference in your body when you take time to sit down and take notice of all that went into giving you nourishment from that one meal. And you are invited to do this three times a day, every day. It’s pretty spectacular.

I used to struggle with eating meat. I was a vegan for several years, and I didn’t eat red meat for almost 10 years. I learned about the inhumane practices of animals – stories of downer cows being beaten, chickens with extra body parts, and butchers cutting around cancer tumors and still selling the meat. Hearing these stories from actual farmers, it didn’t feel right to be mindless about knowing where my meat came from.

So, I stopped eating meat altogether. The problem was, as a vegan, I didn’t feel great. Over a few years’ time, I realized that my body felt better eating animal protein. So, I went searching for farmers who had a reverence for animals and honored their lives to nourish ours. I encourage you to search where you live to find these thoughtful farmers who practice farming this way. These farmers exist, and they need our support to continue.

Connecting with Local Farmers

Before meeting Jill and Mary of Crane Dance Farm, I did not eat pork. Ever. After I met them, my family visited their farm, met their heirloom pigs, listened to their farming practices, and have declared that if we were to eat pork, this is the most wonderful, cleanest pork from animals who lived a happy life outdoors, roaming freely. Now, they visit our local farmers market every Saturday, and my family loves their bacon, breakfast sausage, brats (their jalapeno brats are amazing!), Dirk’s Tuscan sausage for soups, and sweet Italian sausage for pizzas, spaghetti squash marinara, and the sausage skillet recipe below.

They are also well-stocked with a variety of 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised beef cuts, including beef sausage and beef brats. Did I mention I was a vegan 13 years ago? Lol.

When I think about how difficult it is to run a small, organic, local farm, I feel compelled to make sure you are aware they exist. Together, we can support them to continue to grow and thrive. This serves my family of 5, but feel free to adjust the recipe to fit the needs of your family.

Sausage Skillet with Seasonal Veggies

– 2 pounds Crane Dance Farm Italian Sausage links
– 2 onions, sliced
– 4 potatoes, sliced thinly
– 2 packages shiitake or mini bella mushrooms, sliced thin
– 1 small zucchini, sliced
– 1 small yellow squash, sliced
– Assortment of green, red, orange, and yellow peppers, sliced thin
– 3 large handfuls baby spinach
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 teaspoon dried basil
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1 teaspoon dried parsley
– 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
– Freshly cracked pepper

1. Sear the Italian sausage links on medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until fully cooked. Remove from skillet. When cool enough, slice into 1/4-1/2 inch slices.
2. Keep the sausage bits in the skillet and add 2 TBS water to deglaze the pan, then begin sautéing the onions in its juices. Sauté until glossy and translucent, stirring occasionally.
3. Add potatoes. Cook until softened, stirring often. Add mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and squash, and cook until softened.
4. Meanwhile, add garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl and stir to make a paste. Add to the dish and combine thoroughly.
5. Lastly, add spinach until wilted. Return sausage to the pan and heat through, then serve.

This recipe is one we use at the end of the week with whatever produce is left in your fridge. Other veggies that are worth experimenting in this dish include leeks, kale, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, shredded Brussels sprouts, and more.

By supporting local, organic farms like Crane Dance Farm, we can nourish our bodies and souls with the freshest, most flavorful ingredients. Connecting to the rhythms of nature and honoring the hands that grow our food is a truly transformative experience. So, let’s dive into these Farm Fresh Feasts and savor every bite!

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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