Our Growing Roots: Slow Cooker Warms the Tummy

Cooking Up Some Winter Warmth

In this installment of “Our Growing Roots: Real Food, Real Connection,” Cheryl explores how to create simple, food-based connections during the cold winter months as she shares some of her favorite family-friendly slow cooker recipes.

I lose a lot of people when I talk about how much I love winter. I honestly do. The chilly weather, endless mugs of hot chocolate, and lazy weekend afternoons curled up on the couch…isn’t this what being a New Englander is all about? Regardless of your stance, I think we can all agree that the declining temperatures offer a perfect opportunity to connect indoors through cooking and togetherness. Plus, warming up beside a toasty oven is a definite bonus! It’s also the time of year when kids get increasingly antsy with cabin fever and, this year, a lack of snow to keep them occupied. Children are constantly searching for things to do, so gather them up and allow them to get their hands dirty!

Some of our favorite family meals during the winter happen through the magic of a slow cooker. It’s a winter staple in our home now, however, my love of the cherished Crockpot hasn’t always run deep.

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Our Growing Roots: Resolve to Connect to Real Food this New Year

A Real Food Resolution

With the holidays behind us, there’s a lot of talk around the water cooler about New Year’s resolutions. If you listen, you’ll notice that most of them center largely on calorie restriction and losing weight. We resolve to be thinner, and use the pressure of the upcoming beach season to feed a false sense of motivation. Before we know it, the pressure gives way to frustration, regret, and self-defeat. Just as food creates an avenue of connection to others, it can also enhance (or inhibit) the connection we have with ourselves.

In the hustle of everyday life, it can be easy to forget that food is, ultimately, our life source. We may not think of this as we rush by the take-out window, because food has become something we don’t have to think about. But at what cost? One of the most critical components in improving our relationship with food is knowing where it comes from and what’s in it. We have drifted from the cherished process of cultivating, planting, and preparing foods in a way that was commonplace a hundred years ago. That said, it’s never too late to make a new start and chart a new course. Given that food is our most basic right and necessity as human beings, it makes sense that cultivating a connection with food is one of the most essential components of creating lasting change. It begins with mindfully shifting the focus from what we eat to how we eat.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Connecting Across Generations Through Food Traditions

A Holiday Reflection

This holiday, start a new tradition… dig out your old recipe cards, and host a Holiday Food Share, where family members and friends cook a recipe that’s most meaningful to them, while sharing a memory of what makes it so special. What a great opportunity to bake that casserole your great aunt was known for, and to share stories rich in history and nostalgia.

The inspiration for this month’s column came a few weeks ago when my grandmother surprised me at work with a fresh batch of her homemade applesauce. Coincidentally, I had forgotten to bring breakfast that day so you can imagine my delight! As I sat at my desk and enjoyed this unexpected treat, and all of the love and labor she put into it, I felt a heart swell of emotion. I imagined her in the kitchen, peeling each apple by hand, slicing, cooking, stirring, cooling…just to give it away to the people she loves. She bakes pies for the holidays, and surprises us with stuffed cabbage because she knows it’s our favorite.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Food Gifts and Giving Make Real Connections

The Spirit of Giving

When I think of everything a holiday should be, Thanksgiving has all the bases covered. There are few joys greater than the smell of a home cooked meal, and the warmth of family and friends gathered around the table to enjoy it. This holiday isn’t about wish lists or battling long lines and huge crowds in search of the perfect gift. In fact, Thanksgiving gives us the unique opportunity to give something greater – the gifts of time, presence, laughter, and love.

Each year around this time, we begin to reflect on how we might celebrate the spirit of giving beyond just our family table. This usually includes neighbors, teachers, and even the larger community. This year, we picked up a few mini loaf pans that we plan to fill with banana and pumpkin breads before handing them out to a few of our neighbors. The kids also decided they were going to create hand-written tags, naming something about the recipient that they were most thankful for. These notes will say thank you to the teenagers who smile and wave each time my children shout hello to them out the window, to the neighbor who brings our trash barrels in from the street each week while we are at work, and to the surrogate grandmother next door who never forgets their birthdays.   Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Beyond Pumpkin Pie

Beyond Pumpkin Pie

There aren’t many things I love more than autumn in New England. The crisp air, brightly colored leaves, and oversized sweatshirts provide the perfect backdrop to this amazing time of year. Now we can’t talk about fall without mention of the most synonymous symbol of the season – the almighty pumpkin. They’re everywhere, and they’re used to make everything from coffee to pancakes to pie.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Farmers’ Markets Feed a Sense of Community

Our Growing Roots: A Market Analysis

Finding community connection at our farmers’ markets!

Next time you walk into your local supermarket, take a moment to notice the perfect symmetry of it all. Under the bright fluorescent lights, you’ll find endless rows of neatly packaged foods, ready to eat, easy to prepare, no thought required. A plethora of colors and flashy logos jump out at you, while commercial cartoon characters are strategically placed on cereal boxes and fruit snacks to lure your children into their sugary grasp. Ingredient labels are long and indiscernible and we are often unaware of where in the country or the world these products originated from. The big box grocery store landscape can give us a limited and detached sense of how food and community are related.

Personally, I have always enjoyed the unrefined simplicity of farmers’ markets. I love the atmosphere of small tables draped in mismatched cloth, crates overflowing with fresh fruits and veggies, and the sense of true community. Upon first glance, these joys are simple ones. However, farmers’ markets offer us a unique experience unrivaled by most conventional grocery stores.  Read the rest of this entry »

Our Growing Roots: Real Food, Real Connection

Our Growing Roots: A Debut

As I share my first post as a Contributing Writer for Hilltown Families, I am aware of the heart swell of emotion I feel for the opportunity to unite with the larger community. You see, Western Massachusetts is a place I have always called home; a place my husband and I have chosen to give our own children roots. My connection to the area is strong and I am honored to share my thoughts and experiences of food-based connections as it relates to our local habitat and culture.

When I was younger, I did not have the same appreciation for the richness of this region as I do today. What I have come to love most about our little corner of the world are the abundant farm lands, orchards, apiaries, and local merchants that provide our very basic and fundamental life source – food. All of these threads are woven throughout our rural areas, small cities and towns, like a stitch that holds us together. Whether it’s a special holiday, family gatherings, or a barbecue with friends, food plays an important role not only in our survival, but in the way we connect with those around us.  Read the rest of this entry »

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