Alright everyone, pardon my rant for the next several minutes we have decided that our blog this week will tackle a subject that I am very passionate about, REAL FOOD. I’m going to try my best to provide an informative post that will inspire you all to think about what you eat without preaching, because I know for a fact that no has a perfect diet and I in fact consumed an embarrassing amount of candy and highly processed sugar in the past several days, all in the name of Halloween. But back to the point, what is real food? I’m not sure that very many people even know what real food looks like these days and it certainly isn’t what you get at McDonalds, or what you find in the frozen food isle at Food City.
            The majority of us eat a large amount of food that comes packaged from the grocery store and is filled with preservatives, sugar, salt, and sadly just plain old chemicals. Over time our bodies and taste buds have been conditioned to accept and enjoy the taste that these additives provide, so much so, that we don’t even know what real food tastes like anymore. It certainly doesn’t help that large food corporations market synthetic products as healthy alternatives to real food (margarine vs. butter, sugar replacements in diet soda, low fat…..EVERYTHING). Sadly these additives which we have come to enjoy and crave have been proven to contribute to the development of cancer, asthma, hyperactivity, heart damage, obesity, diabetes, and endless other debilitating and fatal health problems that many Americans suffer from.
            When we eat real food, not only do we avoid these problems, but we receive many health benefits that just can’t be gained by eating processed foods. Hundreds of vitamins, nutrients, healthy fats, and antioxidants are just waiting for us to eat them in the form of fresh healthy foods. For example, the healthy fats found in nuts, avocados, leafy green vegetables, and fish play an important role in the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and nervous systems.  Several benefits of consuming healthy fats include, improved brain function, increased ability to fight infection, and a greater chance for normal development in children. Oats contain beta-glucans, which stated simply help the body fight off bacteria and other sickness causing viruses. Whole milk provides necessary fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and 22 minerals, which have been found to reduce the risk of colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Bananas contain potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin B6, they help to keep you full, regulate digestion, and increase bone health. See where I’m going with this? Breakfast! Why not swap out your morning donut or bagel for a bowl of oatmeal topped with a bit of whole milk, some sliced banana, and a handful of nuts? I’m pretty sure you can’t say no after learning about all the great benefits these foods provide you with!
But most everyone will probably read this and then go grab a bag of cheetos for an afternoon snack, which brings us to the biggest challenge, how do we get people to care? Part of the mission of Grow Appalachia is to provide real and healthy food and educational opportunities to people in Central Appalachia, however we have recently realized that before we greatly increase our efforts to provide food and education, we have to find a way to get people interested in these issues. How do you make someone want to eat good food when they are perfectly happy with what they have, and how do you make people care about the local foods movement when organic local products are more expensive and taste so different because they lack the aforementioned additives that we have come to enjoy? As of now we can’t answer these questions, I guess we just have to try our best and hope that slowly the passion for real food will catch on, and in the meantime we will make our Grow Appalachia cookbook in the spirit of real, local, healthy food, and hope that you all will help us and find your own passion for great food.

So PLEASE send us your wonderful recipes, we know they are out there, and make yourself something real for dinner tonight!

Carrots, sugar snap peas, and pecans sauteed in honey and butter

Here are several real food recipes we have been using lately with our late season crops and cellar stored foods

Kale Chips
Preheat oven to 300° F

Wash and pat dry as much Kale as you want to use

Toss kale with enough olive oil to coat

Sprinkle kale with salt

Line cookie sheets with wax paper and lay out kale in a single layer on the wax paper

Bake for about 20 minutes until kale is crispy

Enjoy your healthy and tasty (I swear they really are good) snack!
Sweet Potato Fries

Preheat oven to 400° F

Slice up as many potatoes as you want in fry shape (I leave the skin on the potatoes, it makes preparation easier and the skin is the healthiest part of a potato!)

In a cake pan toss the potatoes with enough olive oil to coat

Sprinkle with any desired seasoning (I like to use a mixture of sea salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, and curry powder)

Bake for at least 45 minutes (longer if you like crispy fries) tossing every 15 minutes.