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Saturday, May 3, 2008

From Scratch.

The greatest things start with the smallest steps.

It is never too early to start planning your backyard farm. One of the most important things is finding out what exactly you want to grow. If you truly want to have a "kitchen garden", you need to be ready to use what you grow.

A good place to start is to look in your kitchen cabinet or refrigerator & see what you can replace with a homemade version. Our family made a goal this year to replace one item a month with an alternative made entirely from scratch. It has actually been easier than we imagined it would be & we are so far exceeding our goal & adding multiple homemade items to our kitchen every month. We started with salad dressings. We looked at the different types we most frequently ate & either found a recipe for it online or made one up! We then bottled them in leftover cooking wine bottles we had saved. We then moved on to breads, ketchup, frozen pizzas, ice cream, tomato sauces, corn tortillas & cereal! !

The one thing that everything we made had in common was that they were all way more delicious & much healthier than the store bought alternatives. The main rule of thumb when we make something is that we have to use all fresh, whole ingredients. No canned soups or mixes. The main advantage this has is eliminating the additives & preservatives found in pre-packaged foods. This has been quite liberating for our family. The boundaries have been broken as to what can be done in our home with food. Starting every thing from scratch allows you to explore combinations of flavors & to get to know ingredients in their true form. Your imagination is sparked by the smells & textures & your palette becomes accustomed to the challenge. You are freed from the limits of preservative laden & additive heavy seasoning & sauce packets

Once you get comfortable cooking from scratch you will begin to get an idea where to start with your backyard farm or garden. What ingredients do you use most that would be better replaced by a homegrown version? Curious about something you've seen in a seed catalog? Test it out by buying that ingredient from your local market & testing out a few recipes with it. It is always fun to add a new fruit or vegetable to your menu. Remember not to overwhelm yourself. It may even be best for you to start with a simple herb garden or even some trash can potatoes! The funnest part for us is removing an item from our grocery list! Our pantry is filled with less boxes each month but our dinner table has more variety than ever! Don't forget that backyard farming doesn't have to stay within your own backyard. Branch out in your community & find out what local farms are growing or even plan to swap with a neighbor!

Whatever your motivation is for the homegrown/homemade revolution, the benefits far outweigh the extra effort it takes. We started from necessity due to my severe son's MSG allergy & have been rewarded not only with his good health, but in his diverse palette & love for creativity in the kitchen. It has become a family habit that we grow to love more &more as we reach greater strides in our little kitchen. Once you take the first step & get started, your eyes will be opened to a whole new world of eating & a brand new appetite for diversity in the kitchen!

~meghan s.


Kristi said...

This is a great idea. I have recently been trying to learn to make bread and baby food, it is so liberating to not have to freak out if we are out of baby food. I know that is like the easiest thing to make but before it didn't occur to me to just smoosh a banana and add water, or blend up the extra green beans, etc. It's so fun!

Jennifer said...

I love your idea of replacing one thing a month. That's such a manageable -- and measurable -- way to make great changes. Your asparagus dish looks divine. What kind of fries are those? Do post your recipes!

As for baby food, I rather prided myself that I made it through my last child's babyhood without buying a single jar. His diet came from fresh fruit and vegetables in season, or from fruit I had canned (without sugar) the summer before. I also ground oatmeal and rice to cook cereal for him. With my current baby, though, I got snookered into buying a whole bunch of commercial food just because the price was good.

This shopping spree was just in the last couple of weeks, and I've already noticed any interesting trickle-down effect. I used to always make sure I had enough fresh produce to whirl into something for Samuel. Without this need (due to a glut of tiny jars in the pantry, which yes, are healthful in and of themselves), I haven't bought the same variety of produce, and the eating habits of the rest of my family have seemingly suffered.

I've realized anew that if it's important for my baby to eat things without preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup and so on, then I should do the same for the rest of us.

Thanks for a good reminder!