Archive for Localvore

The Green Goddess Nursery is the place for outdoor living spaces

egg supplies

The Green Goddess Nursery sells plenty of supplies for the Big Green Egg in North Phoenix, AZ (Photo By: Christina Thompson 2012).

One of the great places to shop for desert and greenhouse plants is The Green Goddess Nursery located in North Phoenix, Arizona.  Its location is on Bell Road between 40th Street and Tatum Boulevard.  They are open seven days a week, Monday-Friday 7am-5pm and 8am-5pm, Saturdays and Sundays.  This is a strictly local business, which provides great customer service and helps customers design the best outdoor living space for their homes.  They also provide customers with the option to follow them on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook.  They also have a company blog and they offer coupons to their patrons and new comers on their website.  One product they offer to outdoor cooking and kitchen enthusiasts is the Big Green Egg, an oven, a smoker, and a grill all in one.  “Grilling Prickly Pear cactus is one preparation for it,” says Green Goddess Nursery Manager, Aaron Grimm.

mini egg

This Mini Green Egg is available for purchase at The Green Goddess Nursery and great for small spaces in Phoenix (Photo By: Christina Thompson 2012).

This place has something for everyone in the North Phoenix and Scottsdale location.  Shop and buy local, as always.

 

cacti

These Prickly Pear cactus are available, along with many other cacti at The Green Goddess Nursery in North Phoenix, AZ (Photo By: Christina Thompson 2012).

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Specialty Supermarket for Mexican Food in Phoenix

 

Bull

This is the “Welcome to Pro’s Ranch Market” bull sign that invites you to explore the store in one of the Phoenix locations (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

chicken

This man is cooking some marinated chicken outside one of the Pro’s Ranch Market stores in Phoenix (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Chicharrones

These are chicharrones (fried pork rinds) which are a traditional ingredient in many Mexican dishes found at Pro’s Ranch Market in Phoenix (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Most of the desert southwest borders Mexico and therefore has a lot of Mexican influence on food and drink.  There is also a higher population of Mexican-Americans in the area, especially in larger cities like Phoenix, Arizona.  One company realized this and created Pro’s Ranch Markets with seven locations across the Phoenix metro area, two in El Paso, Texas and two in New Mexico.  The grocery store company of Fry’s also created a specifically Mexican store in Phoenix called the Fry’s Mercado.  The food that is in these stores relates to Mexican cuisine.  A small list of ingredients is found at IndyWeek.com.

 Mexican cuisine like all the other cuisines found around the world is a culinary adventure and it is nice when specific stores become dedicated to serving the people that like to serve their cuisine.

Agua Frescas

These are two flavored aqua frescas made with traditional Mexican ingredients found at one of the Pro’s Ranch Market stores in Phoenix (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Virgin Guadalupe

This is a Virgin Guadalupe statue surrounded by her Prayer Candles inside one of the Pro’s Ranch Market stores in Phoenix (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

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Local Arizona honey sold at Farmers Markets

Mesquite Honey

Absolutely Delightful Mesquite Honey available at the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market on Saturdays (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Desert Wild Flower Honey

Absolutely Delightful Desert Wild Flower Honey available at the Roadrunner Park Farmers Market on Saturdays (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

The desert southwest is certainly the last place some people would think of as a place that produces honey.  The National Honey Board says, “The color and flavor of honey differ depending on the bees’ nectar source (the blossoms).  In fact, there are more than 300 unique kinds of honey in the United States, originating from such diverse floral sources as Clover, Eucalyptus and Orange Blossoms.  In general, lighter colored honeys are mild in flavor, while darker honeys are usually more robust in flavor.”  There are some distinct pollen sources in Arizona.  One company called Absolutely Delightful Honey offers, “Uniquely delicious, natural flavors to include orange blossom, alfalfa, mesquite, desert wild flower, Flagstaff wild flower, catsclaw and camelthorn. From time to time we get small batches of rare honeys like prickly pear or staghorn (cholla) cactus honey.”  They are found at four Phoenix-area farmers markets throughout the week.  The Benefits of Honey website says, “Honey is a great natural source of carbohydrates which provide strength and energy to our bodies. Honey is known for its effectiveness in instantly boosting the performance, endurance and reduce muscle fatigue of athletes.” One way to incorporate this energy booster into a diet is to use it as a substitute for sugar.  It could be added to teas to make them sweeter and to pastries for a great unique flavor.

Clover Honey

Clover Honey available at any health food store like Sprouts or Whole Foods Market (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Alfalfa Blossom Honey

Alfalfa Blossom Honey available at any health food store like Sprouts or Whole Foods Market (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Honey is a great product for everyone to eat.  Just make sure if someone is allergic to bees, not to include the honeycomb in their honey.  The desert southwest has honey distinctive to the area, but so does honey that is produced in other parts of the country and around the world.  It is like people can go on adventures just by tasting honey.

Absolutely Delightful Logo

Absolutely Delightful Local Arizona Honey available at four Phoenix-area farmers markets over the week (Photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

 

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Luau makes a splash for kids and adults a like

Water Slide

Young boy running up one of four blow-up water slides at the City of Chandler luau celebration (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

Kona Truck

The Kona Ice Truck was very popular at the Chandler event with their Hawaiian sno cones (Photo by: Christina Thompson)

This past Saturday in downtown Chandler, Arizona, there was a luau put on by the City of Chandler and the San Tan Brewing Company.  Outside in the town square, there were gelato, ice cream, and Kona Ice booths, along with giant blow up water slides, where kids could slide down and cool off from the blazing hot Arizona sun.  Many adults headed indoors to the San Tan Brewing Company restaurant, where they could enjoy one of the company’s seven year-round and six seasonal microbrews.  The seasonal microbrew available during the luau, was Mr. Pineapple, a brew specifically made for the annual event.  Mary DeBiase out of Corona, California, made a special trip to the event with her niece.  “My niece really likes pineapple and she likes to drink beer.  She told me about this event and asked me to join her and would not shut up about this beer,” Mary said.  “It is pretty tasty and the pineapple that is attached to the glass really brings out the pineapple flavor.”  There was roast pig and coconut haupia for dessert.

ice cream

This lady was scooping her company’s ice cream out to a luau event go-er, who was eagerly awaiting the cold treat on the hot day (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

Firemen

The City of Chandler firemen were hanging out by their truck talking to people and at the event in case an emergency arose (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

The City of Chandler Fire Department, Radio Disney, and other food vendors were there too, but everyone was at the restaurant and playing on the slides.  “The slides for kids was a great touch to make it family friendly,” Mary said.  “Family food events are always better.”

pig

The luau pig roasting on the spit at the San Tan Brewing Company restaurant waiting to be eaten by guests (Photo by: Christina Thompson 2012).

Age Demographic

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Travels to Metamora,Indiana

Departing from Grand Central Station in Connersville, Indiana, is the scenic Whitewater Valley Railroad.  It travels along the Whitewater River and Canals to a town called Metamora, Indiana and it only does this once on Saturday and once on Sunday, so the trip is sure to be special.  Once in Metamora, there is plenty to see and do.  One place to stop and eat is called, The Smelly Gourmet, where samples of family grown popcorn is given to patrons while they wait for one of many homemade Panini sandwiches and pita chips.  They are also known for their coffee bar.  Tasty dessert places can also be found around town like Mr. Fudge’s Confectionary that features an antique soda fountain and Grannie’s Cookie Jars and Ice Cream Parlor where over 2400 different cookie jars are on display and ice cream is scooped into homemade waffle cones.  Throughout the year, Metamora also has food related festivals.  The first weekend of June, they have the Strawberry Daze festival.  In October, they have the ever-popular Canal Days event where vendors of all kinds come to celebrate the town with the canal.  Finally, in November, they have a Chili cook-off.  Metamora, Indiana is a town for people who love antiques, trains, history, haunted houses, and most importantly, great homemade food.

 

 

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Cinco de Flying Pig

People from all across the Tri-State area come to Cincinnati for the Flying Pig Marathon and what better way to combine the festivities of Cinco de Mayo and the Flying Pig than to have a giant party on Fountain Square. There were drinks, food, live entertainment, and pig décor for people to enjoy. There was even a giant pig piñata that was going to be hoisted up for people to take a whack at it!

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Farmers’ Markets

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Food labeling is important for everyone’s health and well-being

Everyone knows about the labels on food and why it is the most important information that consumers can get about what they are eating.  Consumers are not the only ones reading product labels, so are the chefs preparing the food in restaurants.  Everyone is looking out for each other when it comes to food.

Why is it important for chefs to read the labels?

Food labeling has come under a lot of scrutiny.  It was even brought up in a court case against McDonalds.  A statement in the case read, “Thus Congress provided that essentially all packaged foods sold at retail shall be appropriately labeled and their contents described.”  A chef needs to know what is in their food because although it may not seem like, restaurants are food retailers and nutritional information is important.  Chef Margaret Thompson said, “I always ask about food allergies before I make my menus for private parties.  I want my customers to be happy with their food and know every piece of nutritional information that I can give them.  It is important for their safety and my reputation that proper food labeling is taken.”

There is a company called Monsanto that is producing Genetically Modified food crops and has therefore been put under condemnation because they do not want to label their products as such.  They were recently issued a court-ordered mandate to remove a genetically engineered sugar beet crop.  Not only is Monsanto being put under examination for their GM foods, but so is all food labeling.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest released a report addressing the problem with food labels.  “Problems with food labels can be broken down into three basic categories:  the Nutrition Facts Panel needs to be improved, ingredient labels need to be modernized, and Health-related claims need more stringent regulation.”  Chef Margaret said, “I know the labels on the food are not the best.  I research as much as I can to make an informed decision on the products I buy for customers.  I also petition the FDA and other government organizations to reform product labels to give all consumers the best possible information.”

So what do chefs serve, if labels are not correct?

“My restaurant (Lime Covington) serves only local organic products,” said Gina Puopolo, Executive Chef/Owner of the Covington, Kentucky restaurant.  “I don’t buy pre-packaged ingredients; I make them from scratch, so I know everything that goes into my food.” There are plenty of nutritional facts that chefs have to look at especially when it comes to food allergies.  One of the biggest allergies that chefs are dealing with now is wheat allergies, which has brought about the whole gluten-free movement. Chef Gina said, “I used to serve corn tortillas, but I changed to flour and our burritos can be made with lettuce for people with gluten allergies.”

Learning how to reading and understand food labels is important because after all, knowledge is power.  Everyone must do their part to change by being educated consumers and take the time to contact the proper agencies to bring about food label reform.  Chefs are only a small part of a bigger consumer picture.

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Fruit and veggie farming battle

Every produce consumer is a part of the debate about organic food because it is in every grocery store, mega mart, and produce stand.  It is up to consumer preference to what they purchase: organic fruits and vegetables or conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

Organic vs. Conventionally Farmed

Dragonfruit

Conventionally farmed dragonfruit taken at a local grocery store (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

Is it true that organically grown fruits and vegetables are better nutritionally?  A CNN Article gave people some insight on this issue.  It said, “A few small studies have shown that some organic foods contain higher nutrient levels than conventional ones. For example, a recent study showed that organic ketchup had 57 percent more of the antioxidant lycopene than regular ketchup.”

Lenons

Meyer Organic Lemons taken at The Fresh Market (a strictly whole-food) grocery store (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

In an article posted by Grist about this debate they studied strawberry crops.  “The study design was both careful and comprehensive in scope. The strawberries were grown on 13 conventional and 13 organic fields, with organic/conventional field pairs located adjacently in order to control for soil type and weather patterns. The data was drawn from repeated harvests over a two-year period, and the strawberries were picked, transported, and stored under identical conditions to replicate retail practices. And just as farming is a complex business, scientists contributing to the study range from soil and food scientists to genetics experts and statistics specialists, who analyzed 31 soil properties, soil DNA, and the relative taste and nutritional quality of three strawberry varieties in California.  The results are pretty convincing: organic strawberries are healthier, tastier, and better for the soil than conventional strawberries.”

The bottom line

Peas

These organic peas were bought at a local farmers' market (photo by Christina Thompson 2010).

The Grist article also offers this, “Its findings only apply to strawberries — but they do point the way to the kind of research that can, and should, be done with other crops as well.”  The studied only offered that strawberry crops are better organically for us.  The CNN article has Charles Benbrook, a Ph.D. scientist with The Organic Center saying, “Read labels and look at each product in its own right. An organic potato chip may contain as many calories and saturated fat grams as a conventional chip. The price premiums associated with processed organic food are not as great as the premiums charged for organic whole foods.”  In the article too, they have Professor Alan McHughen, Ph.D. of botany and plant sciences at the University of California, Riverside with this understanding, “Focus on foods’ benefit to your immediate environment — i.e. your body — first.  A good diet means variety, balance, and moderation, regardless of the farming method that produced the food.”

Sea beans

These delicious sea beans were found at a local grocer, but not in the organic section (photo by Christina Thompson 2011).

There really is some difference to organic and conventional farming, but other things maybe added to the organic food to make it worse for you then conventionally farmed produce.  Like Benbrook says, “Read labels!!”

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Food brings Cincinnatians together

Ceramic Bread Oven

This is a pizza baking in the ceramic bread oven (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

The Cincinnati Tri-State area is filled with diversity.  There is a large community of people with special needs and the area is divided by race and socio-economic strife.  The Cincinnati Riots of 2001 did not help certain tensions in the area, but on Saturday all those things were put aside.  There was a “Community Bake Day” put on by Gorman Heritage Farm that brought people from all over the area.

Mom & son Pizza

A mother and her son are talking and enjoying the pizza they just made (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

 

Gorman Farm employee Jamie Stoneham built the fire the community used starting at 7 AM.  She continued to keep it stoked until 11 AM when people started to arrive with pizzas, pretzels, and six different kinds of breads.  “The best type of wood to use is Osage Orange trees because they burn the hottest,” Jamie Stoneham told the crowd gathered around the hand-built ceramic bread oven.  The oven was then opened for the crowd to look in and see where they would be baking.  Jamie said, “We are going to start out with pizzas because they cook the fastest, then move onto pretzels, and finally breads.”  The crowd hustled inside and began to feverously build their pizza creations.  “I am putting olives, mushrooms, and cheese on my pizza,” said Kentucky native participant Sheryl Eichelberger.

Elderly Couple

An elderly couple enjoying their tasty pizza (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

Overall, people with special needs, children, the elderly, and people who were just generally hungry made twenty plus pizzas. “I am trying out a new pretzel recipe today in this oven.  Baking together is fun and interesting,” Sheryl said.  Jamie said gleefully, “This is the biggest turn out we have ever had to this event!  Last time we only had three people!” Everyone seemed to enjoy the “Community Bake Day.”  Food always brings people together and it did on Saturday.

Special Needs People

Even special needs people are having fun creating their own pizzas (photo by Christina Thompson 2012).

 

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