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Buying food that is good for you can be harder than it seems… harder than it should be. Grass-fed, organic, natural, pastured, gluten free, no added sugar… the list of dietary needs can go on and on, and the more restrictions you add the harder it can be to find edible food. I’ve heard and read a lot about different places CFESers shop, so let’s talk about where we get our goods.
For me, I found that once I got going on the Whole 30, the Sacramento Natural Food Co-op was the best place for me. As their name suggests, their food is (almost) totally natural and reading the list of ingredients on their products doesn't require a lab coat to understand. It is a little bit more pricey than a Raley’s or Safeway but it’s got a great selection. And no, you don’t have to be a member to shop there. Although, they do seem to look down upon you when you answer “no” to that question at check-out. Just remember, you’d probably be able to kick the shit out of them to steal their special member-only-privileges (whatever they may be) if the apocalypse ever came.
During the Whole 30, I relied a lot on this list here from the makers of the Whole 30 to help me decide where to spend the extra money, and where to skimp (Hint: go “clean” on the beef and lower your standards on most produce). Here’s a brief rundown of what’s on my list every time I stop by:
Eggs. I eat A LOT of eggs, and sometimes probably not even enough. As an easy protein source they were a staple for me on the Whole 30 and I know a lot of Zone and Paleo folks would say the same. But did you know there are a wide variety eggs? And trying to tell the difference between all of them is like trying to tell the difference between a hang power clean, power clean and a clean when you first start out. I mean, the first couple of times you see it written out you have to ask your friends what the big fricken difference is. But after a few stabs at it you can differentiate. Same thing with the eggs. The first couple of times I went to the store I had to refer to this guide . But once I made a couple of trips to the store I had it down: Pastured eggs is what I want to throw in my cart. Yeah, they’re more (okay, a lot more) expensive ($6.99/dozen) than the regular kind. But to me, the taste and the clear conscious is worth it. The co-op is one of the only stores (meaning, not a farmers market) that I’ve been able to find the pastured kind.
Meat. Grass-fed is the preferred way to go for a variety of reasons- all of which can be more intelligently explained on the world-wide interwebs. Google it. And take a look at the Meat, Fish and Eggs portion on the above mentioned guide. The co-op has a pretty big selection of grass-fed buffalo and if you pick through the goods you can find some pretty cheap grass-fed beef skirt steaks (just make sure it says Grass-fed on the label). My all-time favorite thing at the co-op is their Chicken Chorizo sausage. I don’t ask exactly what part of the chicken it’s made out of (because really, no one wants to know), but they list their ingredients clearly on their labels and this is one of the handful of sausages that doesn’t have any added sugars. I like to buy a couple of links, break it free of it’s casing in a frying pan, brown it up with some sweet potatoes and onions (and hidden zucchini- more on that later) and salt and pepper… a Chorizo-Potato hash if you will. It’s great for a post-work out meal: a good amount of protein and a big portion of acceptable carbs. I prefer it with a poached egg on top (love the rich yolk).
Also on my list for the co-op is turkey jerky (no added nitrates, minimal sugar), single serving packets of almond butter (good for the road) and a cupful of olives from their olive bar.
So I shared my secret shopping place, now I want to know where do you shop? Where are you getting your Zone/Paleo/Whole 30 approved grub? What’s your favorite thing to buy? What are your staples?
We had some tri-tip Roger pre-marinated and froze. He thawed and grilled. From our veggie box we had red and white turnips, which I boiled in chicken stock, mashed with a fork and seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper. I sauteed some kale in olive oil, then added to the pan some chicken stock and covered (to soften the tough stems). Chicken stock packs a little more flavor punch and there is some non-adulterated stock at Costco at a good price. The sides took about 10 minutes total, most of which was spent trimming the turnips. But those little bitter guys make for a nice mashed potato substitute and cut the richness of the beef to leave a nice clean palate. Also from the veggie box were two stems of "green garlic". I brushed with olive oil and they went on the grill with the meat.
We find our meals are rarely planned. In particular we served up this meal because they were all things that need to get cooked and consumed. It turned out to be a perfect blend. The wine was a Dobra Barbera from Plymouth, probably what should be the destination of our next CFES adventure.
It's that's time of year when root vegetables are in season. But, like, how can we make them taste better? Riverdog included this recipe with the box a couple weeks ago and I tried it. Provided a nice twist.
Toss in ovensafe baking dish, bake at 375 until tender 35-45 minutes.
Garlic parsnip fries
Preheat oven to 425. Toss the parsnips in a bowl with the oil and garlic then add salt and pepper. Lay parsnips on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Keep the bowl for later. Bake for 20-30 minutes, turning with a spatula occasionally until it reaches the desired crispness. Remove from the oven and toss in the reserved bowl. Add the cheese, rosemary and additional salt (if needed).
Someone try this and tell us how it went.
Where can I get some meat? HA!
There has been a lot of discussion on organic and grass fed meats lately and I thought I'd jump in. The thing to remember is that you want to buy a quality product and NOT a label. Sometimes that means organic, or grass fed and sometimes that doesn't. Just because something is labeled organic or grass fed does not mean it's better. Small producers are often not well regulated and it is known that some of them play fast and loose with the labels and claims. I would be willing to bet that Costco meats are better and healthier than most small beef, pork and chicken operations. Costco may not fit under a nice, feel good label and they may not give you that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you pay Whole Foods up to three times the price for the same product that you then pile into the back of your Prius feeling all smug that you just saved the world.
But I don’t think that's the issue. The issue is or at least should be, who can guarantee (not just represent) quality. I'm not so sure that many mom and pop operations can do that consistently, and I know that Whole Foods, etc. cannot do it affordably. In most cases, it's a roll of the dice. You have to do your homework, because after all it is your money and you don't want to pay a premium AND get poor quality product. Just for reference on the price/perceived quality difference, take a look at this informal survey:
If people insist on getting "all natural", "grass fed", or "organic" meats there are a few options. At a minimum, my suggestion would be to stay away from Whole Foods, etc. and let’s see if we can consolidate our buying power and go directly to the producers. So here are my suggestions:
In the Capay Valley CSA Organization (Yolo County), there are a few options for high quality beef, chicken, eggs and pork:
We know the folks at Riverdog and we can talk to them about options/recommendations for getting access to a broad range of high quality local meats at a good price.
There is a Sacramento meat CSA that is being developed: www.sacmeatcsa.com. It's not up and running, but soon. They get their meats from:
There is a full service meat CSA based in Red Bluff that carries and apparently deliver everything: pork, chicken, turkey, duck, lamb and of course beef.
I am thoroughly enjoying doing this. I have finally found an outlet for my favorite things--cooking and CrossFit! For those of you who wish to be involved, but don't necessarily want to be an author, please feel free to email me and I will post on your behalf (firstname.lastname@example.org). We just need to share our ideas. Even if it includes mac n'cheese with Cheetos (Hollis that looked cheat-worthy fo' sho'!).
On Sunday, Roger and I needed a quick lunch. Sauteed salmon burgers from Costco (Trident brand, see nutrition panel). Only questionable ingredient is soybean and/or canola oil, but the good outweighs the bad (?). Added fresh cauliflower (from Riverdog box 8 days ago) which cooked in the rendered oil from the salmon. Tossed arugula (also from Riverdog box 8 days ago) with fresh-squeezed meyer lemon (from my coworkers tree), olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. If you're doing dairy, the salad is definitely well-finished with a couple big shavings of pecorino romano cheese. Best part is, from idea to ingestion was 10 minutes!!!
On Saturday, Scott popped over with his most recent culinary creation. This is a common occurence as neighbors in the last 3 years between both of us. While my absolute favorite is Scott's homemade bread, when this showed up in my kitchen, I shouted "Paleo!" and grabbed my camera. Okay, so it may not be strict paleo, but it's darn close. And it's loosely zone, too. Whole30? Sorry...
The recipe? "Well, it's very simple..." explained Scott. Carmelize sweet potato slices, top with bacon and shrimp cooked in the bacon fat. I modified it a bit.
Ingredients (makes 4)
Cook the bacon first, then cook the sweet potatoes followed by the shrimp, both in the bacon fat. Layer like the picture, serve and enjoy! Thanks for sharing, Scott!
All right you superior fitness, paleo-following, whole-30-subscribing, zone-blocking crossfitters, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is! There was an overwhelming supportive response to the CSA boxes when first announced. But when you found out you had to drive 1.5 miles, most of you bailed. What gives? Everything in that box is on the approved list for any of your diets. It’s tasty, and it’s responsibly grown right here in NorCal (Capay Valley).
So let’s try this again. Those who subscribe to another CSA, thank you! Good job! Those who don’t, please try this one. Look how close we are to the gym and if you start getting a box and think to yourself, what am I going to make with THAT? Email me. Call me. Text me. I will help you figure out what to cook and how to make it tastier. I love food and I love this gym and I want to support your super good eating habits. So why don’t you achieve that goal while helping out a local farm at their own quest?
The process is simple. Sign up. Select the pickup location as 101 44th Street. Mail check. Pick up your veggie box every Friday after 10am on the side of our house. You don’t even have to see us. Can’t get there Friday? No problem! Pick it up Saturday. Pick it up Sunday! Going out of town? No problem! Delay pick up by one week. There are Riverdog Farm pamphlets at the gym. Just try it.
Gia and Roger
Dates: Tuesdays, March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, and April 5.
Time: 7:30-8:30 pm
Required reading and videos BEFORE the first class on March 1:
Book: Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution click here to buy
Movies: King Corn and Food Inc. (Both can be found on Netflix.)
**Also- clean out your pantry, refrigerator, and cabinets of anything containing high fructose corn syrup, sugar and other sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, dairy, legumes, and grains before March 1. If it’s not there, you won’t crave it!
March 1: Nutrition: “Cleaning out the cupboards and cleaning up your life.”
March 8: Nutrition: “Nutrition on the GO!”
March 15: Body Image: “If you don’t like it, change it.”
March 22: Goal Setting: “If that’s the way you want it.”
March 29: Balance: “Staying balanced and staying focused, so you don’t fall off.”
April 5: Change: “Embrace it, Live it!”
Each class will be a presentation of the topic listed followed by a group discussion; time for questions and a time for sharing frustrations and triumphs.
The cost for CFES members is $60 for all 6 sessions or $12 per session drop in. If you have a friend or family member interested in CF and think they would benefit from these classes, the non-member price is $120 for 6 weeks or $22 per session drop in. It is encouraged that you participate in all 6 weeks to get the maximum experience. Checks can be made to Forever Fit Families, LLC and left at the gym for Anne Harty.
Information about Anne Harty:
I have a master’s degree in nursing and I am a Family Nurse Practitioner currently working as the school nurse at St. Michael’s Episcopal Day School in Carmichael. I have a passion for teaching and coaching about health and wellness. I enjoy working with people on making positive changes in their lives. For five years, I managed the care of 135 individuals affected with kidney failure caused predominately by diabetes and/or hypertension. I know first hand that many diseases can be prevented or healthfully managed with a person’s willingness and motivation to make the necessary changes toward optimal health. I walk the walk and am willing to share my frustrations and triumphs with you; none of us are perfect, but striving to be the best we can be leads us toward happiness and a balanced life!
***To Reserve a spot, email/text Anne: email@example.com 916-708-7579