Warm Fall Squash, Kale, Salad, CSA, Fresh, Fall, Recipe, Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy Free, Nut free, egg free, organic

What’s In My CSA? Warm Fall Squash, Quinoa, Kale Salad

What’s In My CSA? Fall Squash and Kale Salad Recipe

Food first (because I hate searching for the recipe), Talkie Second (enjoy! It’s lovely and short) :
Warm Fall Squash, Kale, Salad, CSA, Fresh, Fall, Recipe, Vegetarian, Vegan, Dairy Free, Nut free, egg free, organic

Warm Fall Squash, Quinoa, Kale Salad
4 servings (modest), 2 servings (hearty)
Vegan and vegetarian friendly*

1 small butternut squash
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried sage
1 cup vegetable broth
½ cup dry quinoa
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups lacinato (dinosaur) kale
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp Raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) plus more to spray baking sheet if needed
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Pinch of sea salt
⅓ cup dried cranberries (I prefer unsweetened, many brands pack with excess sugar)
Optional: 1-2 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds

  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF, place top oven rack as high as it will go (unless you are using a convection oven)
  2. Wash butternut squash, peel, and cut into ½” cubes
  3. Spread out butternut squash cubes evenly on lined baking sheet (*Use parchment paper to line baking sheet, or spray with fine mist of olive oil)
  4. Lightly sprinkle with sage and paprika
  5. Roast squash for 30-40 minutes until corners begin to brown (*Small cubes shouldn’t need to be stirred or turned, but if you cut them larger you may want to halfway through)
  6. While squash is roasting, in a medium pot bring vegetable broth to a boil, add quinoa and salt, cover
  7. Cook quinoa for per package instructions, or until broth is gone, stirring every few minutes
  8. Place torn kale leaves into a medium bowl
  9. Make dressing: add dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, EVOO, black pepper and a pinch of salt to a small bowl
  10. Whisk dressing ingredients until well mixed, drizzle over kale leaves
  11. Once squash is roasted, quinoa is cooked, and kale has been marinated, assemble:
  12. In a fresh serving bowl layer quinoa, 1 cup of roasted squash, kale, and cranberries
  13. Mix thoroughly, add salt and pepper to taste
  14. Bonus: top with 1-2 Tablespoons toasted squash seeds, or slivered almonds

Serve Warm

Each season brings out something different in us. This is one of the reasons I highly encourage eating and cooking with what is in-season for your region. Our bodies have different needs based on the weather and temperature, and for this reason I believe some of our cravings are really our body’s request for fulfillment of those nutrients. Fall in Ohio means root vegetables, squash, and dark leafy greens. I want to fill my home with the scent of paprika, cinnamon, and sage. I want foods that will nourish my body, but bring my family and friends together too.

This is what I think about as the air gets crisp and I have to add another layer of clothing in the morning. I love cooking with fall weather foods, but I feel like sometimes they get a bad wrap for being high calorie, food-coma causing dishes. Warm, rich, cool weather foods can be heart-warming and stomach-filling without the guilt and burden of lots of butter and sugar.

A truly vine-ripened butternut squash is unbelievably sweet when roasted in the oven, it can be cubed and added to a side dish or salad like I did here, or pureed with some warmed apples for an amazingly simple soup. Deep orange colored squash carries tons of potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. These high antioxidant foods are good for our bodies head to toe – vision to strong bones. Bonus: all that potassium and magnesium helps to prevent pregnancy muscle cramps!

Fall cooking is also incredibly simple, so often it involves a little roasting, which while that may take a few more minutes, fall roasting and spices can fill your house with lovely scents that beat any candle. Personally, taking that time to roast vegetables makes me think about taking more time to slow down myself. Summer can be so busy and hot that I forget to relax. This year especially, as things in my life are changing, chapters are ending and new ones beginning, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about my priorities. What am I being called to and where is my time best spent? Cooking healthy, real, whole foods is something I love and something that is a blessing to my family and a way to share time with friends. Cooking to me creates balance and helps me recharge. Enjoy!

What do you love about fall? Where does it help you recharge and create balance in your life? Let me know what you think about the recipe, comment below.

Be Local,
Simply Jess


Riehm Farms Simply Jess Blog Local Ohio Farming Organic Farm CSA

Riehm Produce Farm – Sustaining Generations

Multigeneratonal Family Owned Organic Farm

You know your doctor [by name], you know your dentist, why don’t you know your farmer?” Even as a locavore, this statement by John Riehm struck me. This is true! We build relationships with the people we entrust with our health needs: our doctor, dentist, pharmacist; so then why do we not know who is behind one of the most vital elements of your health? Our food and its nutritional value has one of the greatest impacts on our overall health. At the Riehm Family Produce Farm, nutrition and integrity are the reasons behind why they want you to know who grows what you feed your family.

Riehm Farms Simply Jess Blog Local Ohio Farming Organic Farm CSA

I was first introduced to Riehm Farms last year while trying to pick a CSA to invest in. I was having lunch at one of my favorite stops and they had two pamphlets on the counter near the register about local CSA options. The restaurant owner had such wonderful things to say about both farms, it made the decision tough, but in the end the story of Riehm Farms is what really resonated with me. The Riehm family has more than just a produce farm, they have created a multigenerational legacy in Tiffin, Ohio, sharing quality organic food and continually growing towards the future.

Riehm Farms Simply Jess Blog Local Ohio Farming Organic Farm CSA
A little up-close-and-personal introduction to my future tomatoes

Growing food for fine 419 restaurants and loyal CSA members is nothing new for this century old farm. The Riehm family welcomed 5th generation farmer, Phil Riehm, back in 2014 to continue to agriculturally develop the land. His father John has been farming the land since 1978 when he graduated high school, continuing on the legacy of his father who passed away many years prior when John was very young. Through this time the sales center has progressed from a roadside cart, to a lean-to, to a tent and now the farm proudly welcomes guests into its lovely market.

Riehm Farms Simply Jess Blog Local Ohio Farming Organic Farm CSA

The Riehm’s farm focus is on the nutritional value, which is why they choose to undertake the risks and challenges of organic farming practices. At one time, Diane Riehm was a health instructor, and was able to spark John’s interest in changing the conventionally farmed land to less harmful methods. Nutritional tests were later done comparing the nutritional value of their tomatoes vs a neighboring farms’ and hydroponic tomatoes. The results were much higher with the Riehm farms variety. This became their motivation and their focus: Healthy Soils = Healthy Crops = Healthy People

Riehm Farms Simply Jess Blog Local Ohio Farming Organic Farm CSA
Fresh cucumbers? Sure!
Phil Riehm tells me about organic fertilization.

Phil’s return to the family farm brought extended knowledge from his crop science and agricultural business education from The Ohio State University. Together, Phil and John lead the team into their 14th CSA season! In 2002, as CSAs were just beginning to gain popularity in the midwest, Riehm Farms started offering CSA shares to a small community of people in Sandusky Ohio. The first season started with just 12 shares, and has continued to double ever since. Currently, they offer close to 400 shares delivered to 12 different pick-up sites across NW Ohio.

Riehm Farms Simply Jess Blog Local Ohio Farming Organic Farm CSA

So many pick-up sites for their CSA members is just one example of how the Riehm Family serve the people they feed. They don’t just want to grow a mass amount food, hand it over and be done with it. For one, they greatly care about what each CSA member gets in their bag; how you like it, how it lasts, how to cook or preserve it, they even give recipes in their weekly newsletters. It could almost be looked at like they are your seasonally selected, picked at the peak of ripeness, nutritionally balanced food coaches. This past year I included my parents in the Farm-to-Fork dinner event held on the farm. At this dinner, all of the food served was picked directly from the field, cleaned, cooked and served over four courses by professional chefs. At the dinner, they gave us the whole story of how our food was prepared: from Farm to Fork. Guests enjoyed foods that they had maybe never tried before, my parents were quite impressed. I know personally, I am a self proclaimed beet-hater, but the roasted beet, kale, bleu cheese salad was fantastic! Not that I now LOVE beets, but I do enjoy them roasted, and mixed with other ingredients. This also gave me confidence to experiment and create a recipe that included beets (recipe coming your way this root vegetable season). They truly taught me how to use my CSA.

The influence a farm can bring to its community is huge. This job is not cheap, it’s not going to make you rich, it’s hard, and requires tremendous amounts of time and discipline. So I as the Riehms: “Why do you keep farming?”

Phil: “It’s in our blood, it’s built into our family”
Diane: “It’s helping the next generation to make them successful.”
John: “You know your doctor, you know your dentist, why don’t you know your farmer?”

Riehm Farms Simply Jess Blog Local Ohio Farming Organic Farm CSA
Early May Onions

It takes passion to seed, then transplant 40,000 onions by hand. Building the relationship with your CSA customers, and restaurant owners, to tell them your story, and learn about theirs; this is where it’s at. It’s more than feeding people. It’s being local.

A half CSA share of organic, locally grown food was more than adequate for our family of two, and could have easily fed a small child as well. It greatly impacted our weekly grocery budget and the value of what we picked up from week to week was worth every penny. Please take a moment to check out Riehm Produce Farm at funacres.net or on Facebook. They have full and half share spots open for the 2016 season that will start in about 3 weeks! That’s not much time, so sign up soon!! Please feel free to contact me or riehmfarms@gmail.com for more information as well.

Be Local.

Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog

Be Local and Eat Healthy Under Poverty

Eating Healthy Within Your Community

Shopping local is expensive, especially if you want organic local food, and people in poverty can’t afford to eat well. I have heard variations of this before; between low availability in food deserts and the cost of fresh food, it’s next to impossible to eat healthy if you use food stamps. I’ve had people remark on how I eat such fancy food because I shop at the farmer’s market, and how it must be nice to have the income to do so. For a long time it has bothered me that I see frozen pizzas on sale for $1 apiece, yet a head of lettuce is $2.99 in the ad for our regional grocery store that is located in a more impoverished neighborhood. Why was lettuce so expensive? It’s lettuce for goodness sake; it carries very little nutritional value, and it comes from the ground, it’s one ingredient. Yet that mostly-chemical, fake-crap pizza is $1?

If you have a poverty level budget, could you still eat healthy? The upper end of government food assistance programs provide a two-adult, no children household with $347.00 per month to spend on food. The average American household spends nearly double that on monthly groceries for two adults. This got us thinking, could we walk in the shoes of others for a week, and eat our “normal” diet of chemical-free, organic, fresh food, while not going hungry?

Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog

Part 1 The Budget
After doing some research, and the Ohio Food Stamp benefit calculator, I found that a poverty level food budget is about $5.79 per person-per day; or $1.93 per meal not including any snacks. This gave us $57.90 for two people for five days to spend on food. We made the assumption that most people have salt, pepper, and some form of cooking oil in their home pantry, so these we would not have to buy, but everything else in our home was off limits. All spices, beverages, or other items of consumption had to be purchased with our budget, (including coffee).

Part 2 Location
Food deserts greatly contribute to the issue of making healthy food choices. You can’t assume everyone has adequate transportation to the supermarkets. And you can’t buy what isn’t available. Downtown Toledo is one of the city’s well known food deserts. You have to drive 5 miles to the nearest chain grocery store from downtown Toledo. Attempting to make the best effort possible to understand the needs of people in this type of situation, we decided to limit our shopping to walking distance in the downtown area. This left us with about 3 mini-marts, the farmer’s market, and the newly opened Market on the Green; a small grocery store in downtown Toledo to meet the needs of this food desert community funded by our local healthcare system.

Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)*

Part 3 Food Banks and Programs
Since we were just starting out with $57.90, salt, pepper, and a bottle of oil, we decided to see what assistance we could get from food banks or food assistance programs. We contacted the people at Food For Thought as they carry both shelf stable and fresh food items in their pantries. The assistance* we received from them provided us with some necessary items to get us started. Another underserved group is low-income senior citizens. Senior Citizens have very fixed incomes with little opportunity to earn extra income. There is also a large population in the food desert area we were focusing on. Therefore, upon contacting the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services, we were provided information on the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), a program intended to meet the nutritional needs of the elderly population whose monthly income is below the federal poverty guidelines. This was another resource to utilize* in order to eat as healthy possible when we didn’t have much to work with.

(*We were provided a list of items we could choose from the food pantry, we then purchased the listed items ourselves. We did not accept food items intended for those in true need)
Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog
Food For Thought – Food Pantry Selections*

Part 4 Planning
Planning was the vital step in the entire project. I sat down Friday night and made a grocery list of our “needs”; or at least what I thought our needs were. Then I made a menu. Starting with breakfast Monday through dinner Friday, we discussed what we would eat down to the spices we would use to season our food. We focused on optimizing our purchases so that we would have very little waste and be able to sustain enough food. For example: if I bought a whole chicken to make for dinner Monday evening, I could cook it up for meat Monday, plus have meat left for another meal or two, and have some chicken stock for rice, and soup! If I bought carrots and celery for the chicken stock I can also slice them up to eat with hummus for a snack, and chop the rest for soup. Beans = tacos, rice and beans, and again soup! Versatility and planning. Finally I made my real shopping list of what we actually needed and what I thought we could afford, keeping a few extras marked to the side if we could manage it. I took into account the food we received* from the food assistance programs, and hoped for the best.

Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog
Lunch – Spinach Sweet Potato, Apple, and Egg

With cash in hand, we went shopping Saturday morning because that is the day the farmers market is open. We started with the mini-marts as they were the most unfamiliar to us, and we had no idea what they would carry. Plus, before December 2015, mini-marts and the farmers market were the only options within walking distance of downtown. First stop, reality check. We would literally starve if this mini-mart was our only option. Not much selection in the way of real food, and the things that were on our list were marked up by three times! As a pretty savvy grocery shopper I knew that an off brand can of corn, not organic, packed with salt, should not cost $2.99, and the expiration date was…. a little past due. We bought a bottle of hot sauce for Andy to use for $1.07. Honestly, we were extremely open minded, but we couldn’t shop there with the aim of our project. It made us sad to think that to some, that is the grocery store; we couldn’t eat like that. Next mini-mart was closed.

We headed over to Market on the Green, calculator and list ready. It was a regular grocery store, but could we afford to shop there? Surprisingly, we could. Prices were very similar to our regular stores, and the selection wasn’t huge, but they had everything on our list. I wouldn’t say that we made sacrifices, but we did make well thought out decisions. Select organic greens were 50% off, so we bought spinach, and skipped kale. Medium eggs were $0.99, so we bought two dozen, which was a dozen more than we expected. I planned to buy an avocado but they were all too ripe, skipped that which was what covered the cost of the second dozen eggs. I typically don’t buy Kraft cheese because, last I checked, they still used rBST hormones in their cows, which is something we avoid, but the Kraft Chipotle Cheddar was 50% off. We intended to buy ham to make soup, and it was on sale, but the ham was full of preservatives, and fillers. The ingredients on the package must have had over a dozen things listed. Like earlier at the mini-mart, we couldn’t eat that. It went against how we feed ourselves, so ham was out, but select packages of hormone free, antibiotic free chicken was 50% off! We felt like we hit the jackpot! We bought double the chicken since we weren’t buying the ham and it was discounted. Our biggest deliberation was butter. Real, unsalted butter was $4.00, and that was nearly 7% of our budget, whereas the good margarine was $1.79 on sale. I probably put the butter back three times, but no, I stuck to my guns, no margarine, only real food.

We left having check off most everything on our list, and we had a great conversation with one of the employees. We spent $43.79. This left us with $13.04 left to spend at the market. My main goal for the market was to buy local raw honey for the many nutritional benefits it offers. I also wanted spray-free local apples, and dried herbs. Forking over $8.00 for honey was tough, but like the regular butter, it was the best choice to make. I also had $1.00 left and bought some radishes to go with my hummus. We went home with $0.04 left, but we did it, we got all we needed.

Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog
Our Purchased Goods

Monday involved a lot of prep work, and was the only night that involved more than 30 minutes of active cooking. I boiled all of the chicken, and added the veggies and spices needed to make chicken stock. That chicken produced 7 large jars of stock! It felt like a miracle! I took the opportunity to wash all of my fruits and vegetables for the week to make my life easier, and prepared the dry beans while I was at work. The chicken made several meals, the cumin, cinnamon, and dried Italian herbs I picked up at the farmers market seasoned all of our food well. We ate proper serving sizes, which allowed our food to last, but neither of us ever felt hungry. We had plenty of food and as you can see below, we had food left at the end of our week. I tracked all of our meals on MyFitnessPal as we went, so I could later review the nutritional value of our meals. Our meals were well balanced, and we never went over the recommended daily value for fat, or sugar. I maintained my normal athletic lifestyle, the downside being that I was a little under in calories. I could have eaten more to compensate for exercise, but I didn’t want to take away from Andy or short myself later in the week. We did eat boxed muffin/bread mix that we would not normally buy, but since it was offered by the food pantry we ate it, and we were sure thankful for the dessert everyday.

The Menu – What We Actually Ate

Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog

We had a surprisingly large amount of goods left over at the end of our week. These items would then become pantry items, allowing us to buy a different variety the next week. Eventually, there would be a point of maintaining our general stock. This was how it was when we first got married. We couldn’t buy everything we would like in one week, but we would plan out things like spices, and luxury goods like ice cream, alcohol, or other treats for the weeks we had a little extra. Needs over wants, and quality goods over the quantity of items.

Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog
What Remained

As I said earlier, I wouldn’t say our week was full of sacrifices, but we did make choices, like with the boxed muffin mix. Bread for instance, we chose 100% Whole Wheat bread, it was the best choice we could make, but it was not organic, GMO-free bread, and it had high-fructose corn syrup in it. The eggs were not local, free range farm eggs like we normally buy. We did choose Oasis pita bread and hummus as they are a locally produced product. We typically buy wheat tortillas, and we don’t really like corn tortillas, but the price difference was significant, and they would be sufficient. We chose to use cloth napkins instead of paper, and we put away the paper towels, since they were not purchased this week (note: paper products cannot be purchased with food assistance dollars, but others in this type of situation would have to use this money for such goods). We made sure to eat proper serving sizes, our priority was quality not quantity.

My focus with food has been to try to “Be Local”, with the blog and in our everyday eating habits. I wanted to be sure that we did what we could to buy local, with the focus of our project being to eat as healthy as possible. Late winter/early spring does not provide Ohioans with a lot of local produce for the market or for the food pantry. We bought local where we could. I am truly convinced that if we bought food within our community from local grocers, and local farmers we would see a vast change in many aspects of your community. Did you know that many of the local farms provide food to area food banks or allow food bank employees to come collect produce after the main collections have been made? Also, the Toledo Farmers Market allows those with SNAP/Ohio Direction Cards to buy tokens to be used to purchase locally grown food. They even offer a Double Up Food Bucks program which offers a dollar for dollar match of up to $20 in tokens that you can spend on fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally. The dollars matched can only be used for local produce.  Customers can exchange their EBT funds for tokens at the Customer Service Center at Westgate or Downtown Market. The goal is to get healthier food to local families while supporting local farmers.

Be Local Eat Healthy Under Poverty Toledo Ohio Simply Jess Blog
Chicken Tacos

We tried to get the best picture we could, but we do understand that this was for five days. Just a taste of what many families and individuals have to deal with. This food budget is commonly divided up by necessary medications, toiletries, pet food, and other needs. We were very thankful for the provisions of the food assistance programs, and we do understand that the intention of these is not for weekly shopping, but to provide help when it is needed. They are a great resource for more than just a few food items. The workers and volunteers can help with food education and guidance in many other need-based issues. I know that I will be contributing more often and contributing items I would want for myself, more organic, shelf stable goods, and more fresh vegetables at the Food For Thought contribution table at the Farmers Market.

Our take aways: food deserts are a terrible thing, had it not been for the new grocery store our options would have been far less. Planning, budgeting, and flexibility were crucial. Yes, choices have to be made, but you can eat healthy under poverty.

Be Local.

Our Budget $57.90  Spent $57.86

Market on the Green
Maxwell House Coffee 11oz $4.79
Brown Rice Long Grain Organic $3.49
Cumin Ground Spice $1.49
Cinnamon Ground Spice $1.49
Popcorn Jolly Time 2lb $2.39 (Certified Non-GMO)
Butter 1lb $3.99
Cheese Kraft Natural 8oz $1.74
Corn Tortilla Azteca 10ct $1.09
Hummus Oasis 10oz $2.49 (*Local)
Pita Bread Oasis $1.49  (*Local)
Bread 100% Whole Wheat Nichols $2.79
Medium Eggs 2 dozen $1.98
Carrots 1lb $0.79
Celery 1lb $1.79
Lemon $0.69
Garlic Whole $0.69
Onions 3lb bag $1.29
Bananas $1.65
Sweet Potatoes (2) 1lb $0.49
Baby Spinach Organic $1.89
Chicken Drumsticks $2.40 (No Fillers, Antibiotics or Hormones)
Chicken Leg Quarters $2.89 (No Fillers, Antibiotics or Hormones)
TOTAL $43.79

Hot Sauce $1.07

Farmers Market
Honey Raw Local $8.00
Apples Local $3.00 (Pesticide Free)
Radishes $1.00
Herbs Italian Blend $1.00 (Locally grown organic)

Food For Thought
Dried Cranberries
Canned Peaches
Canned Corn (2)
Egg Noodles
Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup
Apples (2)
Dry Pinto Beans
Chocolate Chip Quick Bread Mix

15oz Diced Tomatoes No Salt Added
65oz Cranberry Juice Unsweetened
3lb Oats Rolled
18oz Peanut Butter Creamy
15oz Unsweetened Applesauce
Dry Great Northern Beans