Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Green Wagon

Article & Photographs by Carolyn Manney

I think it’s pretty safe to say that we all want the Earth to have a nice, long, healthy life. There’s the quintessential checklist of earth-saving duties: recycle, shop local, bring your own bag, don’t leave the lights on, turn down the heat, compost, don’t litter - some of which I do better than others. But there are times when I feel like this list is exactly that, duties, instead of what it actually is, basically an exercise in living creatively. Of being more engaged with life. 
I understand that things these days are serious. What with the ice caps melting, the weather patterns changing, the honey bees vanishing, it’s no time to mess around. The health of our planet depends on us and each choice we make really does matter. 
But I am of the multi-tasking mindset that we can fully understand the magnitude of the circumstances we’re in, do our part to help save this planet, challenge ourselves to be better stewards of the earth, all while having a good time and maybe even learning a thing or two along the way. And lucky for me, you, East Nashville and the Earth, Tara and Johnny Shields, owners of The Green Wagon, feel exactly the same way.
And they throw really great parties.
Tara and Johnny are cool, down-to-earth, real people who feel passionately that sustainable living should be simple. And easy. And fun. And free of guilt and finger-wagging. Their shop, in the big white house at the corner of Forrest and 11th, the one with the beautiful rain garden and the front porch that beckons you to just sit and stay for a while, is full of products that are 100% sustainable and over 70% are made right here in Tennessee. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend stopping in. 
There are everyday products like toilet paper and trash bags, handmade soaps that smell like pure fragrant bliss, lip balms, natural make-up and nail polish for the ladies. You can also find natural toys for kids, clothes made from repurposed materials, naturally dyed scarves by ASK Apparel and local art adorning the walls. And did I mention that Aunt April’s Bakery, the unbelievably delicious all gluten-free bakery, is also housed inside The Green Wagon? I’m not even gluten-free but the muffins she makes - pumpkin chocolate chip, blueberry, poppy seed, etc. - are the absolute best. With one bite, all notions you may have had about gluten-free food being scary or bland, will be banished forever.

The word that comes to mind when I think of The Green Wagon is community. When Tara and Johnny became the owners in January of this year, they brought with them their mission to turn The Green Wagon into a community hub. Part of the way they do this is through 3Funding America where you get to pick from a whole slew of non-profits including CASA, Sound Forest, Soles for Souls, and each time you buy something, 5% of that purchase goes to the non-profit of your choice. Who knew spending money could feel so good.
And if I could be so inclined as to plan your day for you, might I recommend swinging by The Green Wagon either before or after you hit up The East Nashville Farmers Market, since each Wednesday they donate a percentage of sales to a local East Nashville non-profit that represents a branch of sustainability, such as Friends of Shelby Park. And while we’re at it, I might as well plan this Saturday for you as well since as I mentioned earlier, Tara and Johnny throw really great parties.
This Saturday, June 25th is where it’s at. Be there or be square, as they say. The Green Wagon Summer Block Party starts at noon with a workshop on edible landscaping by Jeremy and Eliza of Nashville Foodscapes. They’ll teach you how to grow and maintain three types of gardens: culinary herbs, vegetables and medicinal herbs. After that, grab yourself a Yazoo or Nashvillion beer at a suggested donation price of five bucks for two beers and listen to some music, as there is a pretty incredible line-up of bands playing all afternoon and well into the evening. And if you’re hungry, have no fear, you can choose from Nashville’s finest food trucks: The Grilled Cheeserie, Mas Tacos, Terra Delicious, Bang Candy and Herbal Lemonade. See, suddenly your Saturday is shaping up to be pretty sweet. 
The moral of this story, to me anyway, is that choosing to live in a sustainable way, to have even the slightest bit more awareness in your everyday life, in the way you choose to eat and shop, means more fun, more simplicity, a bit more knowledge and more great people sprinkled throughout. And lucky for me, you, East Nashville and the Earth, The Green Wagon is right there at the center of it all, keeping it real. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Recipes for your CSA Box

Article & Photographs by Carolyn Manney

Back in January I started a Dinner Project on my blog where each week I write down what I eat for dinner then post it up there, usually accompanied by a photo of one of my more memorable meals. Or if I happen to forget to take a photo of a meal you may find a random picture of a plant, or maybe even a goat. Like this guy from Noble Springs Farm

I didn't really think much of it when I started this project, I just thought it would be kind of fun, which it is. But now I'm entering week twenty-something and as I go back through these last few months, it's become apparent that I may in fact have an actual cooking style. One that makes me realize even more how much I am like my mother, in the best way. If there's one thing she taught me about cooking, it's that ideally a meal should be as easy to make as it is delicious. So now that's how I roll in the kitchen. 

This is also the first year I've ever had a CSA and even after a mere two weeks of picking up my weekly box, I feel as though the whole CSA concept was designed specifically for me. It's like having a personal shopper. Did I mention that the other trait I inherited from my mom is my tendency to dislike grocery shopping? I like farmers markets because the options that are laid out in front of me are the best of the best and there are always just the right amount, never too many. And combining that type of shopping experience with a CSA really makes the whole grocery shopping/what-to-cook-for-dinner decision-making process rather enjoyable. I crave simplicity, if you haven't already noticed. 

The one thing I will tell you though is that a CSA box is a whole lot of food. And come Tuesday night when you have to clean out your fridge to make room for Wednesday's box, there you see it out of the corner of your eye, an entire bundle of chard you could've sworn you'd eaten over the weekend. And not only is it just sitting there patiently waiting for you to whip it up into something spectacular, it's also hiding that head of lettuce that you were pretty sure you'd eaten alongside the chard. Such is the life of the CSA member, but there are far worse problems than having too much delicious food. 

That being said, it's important with a CSA to have a steady stream of new recipes coming in to keep things fresh and fun in the kitchen, or else it can get a bit overwhelming. I tend to seek out recipes that allow me to change things up depending on my mood, what I'm craving or what happens to be left in the fridge, but that I know will taste good every time. 

For instance, I am a little bit obsessed with anything delicious wrapped in two soft corn tortillas. I blame Mas Tacos directly for this obsession because when I first had her fried avocado taco, it sort of blew my mind how good a taco could taste. I had no idea. So now, I usually make some sort of taco-related dinner at least two or three times a week. They're virtually impossible to screw up and always taste pretty delicious no matter what. And I find they're the perfect way to use up those CSA leftovers. 

Some of my favorite taco combinations include:  Caramelized Onions & Chard; Chipotle Shrimp & Mango Salsa; Grilled Steak & Onions;  Chipotle Black Beans, Cilantro & Sour Cream; Pulled Chicken & Kale (photo below). Pick your favorite combination, jazz it up with queso fresco, sour cream, yogurt sauce or salsa, and you're pretty much good to go. 

My other recent go-to recipe comes from Mark Bittman's latest cookbook, The Food Matters (By the way, this is a great cookbook full of healthy, delicious, earth-friendly recipes). 

Green Barley Pilaf

This recipe is great as is or you can fancy it up however you want. The other night I added sauteed shrimp mixed with about 2 Tbsp canned chipotle peppers (the amount depends on how spicy you like your food) and then I squeezed a lime on top of the whole thing. It was pretty delicious, if I do say so.

Mark Bittman also recommends adding chopped nuts or olives and serving alongside tacos or refried beans.

Preparation & cooking time: about 45 minutes with pearled barley, or 90 minutes with hulled barley

Serves: 4

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving

1 onion, chopped

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 cup pearled or hulled barley

3 cups vegetable stock or water

Salt and black pepper

1 pound spinach, roughly chopped

1. Put the oil in a deep skillet or large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the barley and cook, stirring, until glossy, about 1 minute. Add the liquid and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper and bring to a boil.

3. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook until the grains are tender and the water is almost entirely absorbed, 15 to 25 minutes for pearled barley or 30 to 45 minutes for hulled. (Add a little more liquid if the grains are not ready but begin to look dry). Uncover, remove from the heat, and stir in the spinach. Replace the lid and let rest off the heat for at least 10 minutes or up to 20 minutes. Combine and fluff the grains and spinach with a fork. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot or at room temperature with a drizzle of olive oil if you like. Enjoy!

Or when in doubt, make a salad, top it with a poached egg and call it dinner. This too, hits the spot.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our Visit to ENFM 6/1/11

Atticus and I had another great day at ENFM!

When we arrived I realized he'd spilled all of his water out of his sippy cup (ooops!) so we went in search of something to drink.  Cumberland Valley Kombucha totally hooked us up!  If you've never had kombucha, I highly suggest trying some.  It's a fermented tea and has tons of great probiotics.  I used to make my own but stopped because we always had more than we could drink.  It's great to know that I can now buy it from a local company!

After our brief beverage break, we made our way around the circle of tents.  I always find it hard to find a starting place so after tying Atticus to my back I just walked a straight line from the direction I was facing.  We ended up at the Fly S Farms tent.  They had sugar snap peas which are a big favorite at our house so we bought a pound.  I'm sad that their season is almost up because Atticus and I love snacking on them through out the day.

Next up was freshly baked bread and a bunch of asparagus from Jones Mill Farm.  The bread was still warm, that's how fresh it was!  I highly suggest trying the Pain Polka bread.  We've already eaten the whole loaf!  It was so hard choosing which variety to try so we'll have to try a different kind next week.

Atticus and I then cut across the lawn to see what was one the other side.  We bought some lentil sprouts from Green Market Farm, another favorite snack at our house!  Bean sprouts are great on salads, sandwiches, omelets, or just plain by themselves.

I'd planned for strawberry shortcakes after dinner so we stopped by Dozen for some brown sugar shortcakes.  We also sampled a cookie.  I think it was gingerbread and  I loved it and I'm fairly sure Atticus enjoyed it too.  He was riding on my back, remember.

We were both getting hot so we made a few more quick stops before calling it a day.   We bought some cherry tomatoes from Delvin Farms, coffee from Roast, Inc.  and 2 mini chess pies from Geraldine's Greatest Chess Pies.  You MUST try Geraldine's pies.  They are super yummy!

I wished we'd been able to stay longer because I heard there would be a yoga class held.  While I don't think Atticus would be up for taking yoga, it would have been fun to see other people enjoying the class.  Maybe next summer he'll be old enough.

Next week will come armed with our water bottles and a blanket and will have snack and dinner!  I saw lots of yummy treats and eats.  We are still working on our goal of visiting and making at least one purchase from every vendor!  So vendors, if we haven't visited you yet, we will soon!

Until next week... Peace, Love, and Good Eats!