- Farm To LunchboxThursday, September 21, 2017
Are there any other parents out there like me who groan internally with the thought of crafting a daily, nutritious, filling school lunch that your children will actually eat? I’m sure there are. I am deeply committed to feeding my family nutrient-dense foods from our farm as much as I can. So for this reason, I roll up my sleeves and do a little planning. At this time of year, there is such amazing, local food available that it is a natural fit to work some of it into your kids’ school lunch.
Vegetables are the go-to most people think of when thinking farm-fresh foods. To avoid tired-looking carrot sticks or slightly slimy cucumbers returning home, I include dip. This can be salad dressing, a creamy herb dip, hummus or whatever makes the veggies disappear down your kids’ throats. Including a dip with fat makes some of the fat-soluble vitamins present in vegetables much more available to growing minds and bodies. Try this super-simple dip recipe and watch those veggies disappear.
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Mix all the ingredients together and store in the fridge for use all week. Feel free to switch up the herbs or substitute with fresh herbs (just double the amount). I find that if I used dried herbs, the dip lasts a bit longer in the fridge.
Also consider “salad in a jar” as an easy way to send vegetables to school. Simply layer salad ingredients of your choice in a canning jar or glass storage container and pack it, along with an ice pack, in their lunch box. I put the dressing on the bottom then put sturdy, crunchy vegetables on top of the dressing such as carrots, cucumbers or bell peppers. This “insulates” any delicate lettuces from the wilting effect of salad dressing. Top your mixture with nuts, dried fruit, cheese or hard-boiled egg to add a bit of protein and fat.
While vegetables provide fiber and many nutrients as well as really healthy carbs, they are not enough to keep active, growing kids fueled up. Depending on their age, kids can go through fairly dramatic spurts of growth in their bodies and in their brains. Brains are not built on vitamin C, they are built on fat. Eating enough of the right kinds of fats are essential to good growth and brain development.
Although seafood, avocados and olive oil are great sources of healthy fats, they do not grow in Southwest Colorado. To get local, low-impact fats and proteins into your child’s lunch box, consider jerky, sliced beef roast, leftover pork sausage, cheese and hard boiled eggs as options. Make sure to check the sources of your proteins and fats carefully. 100% grass-fed beef and dairy have fat profiles that rival wild salmon and are locally available at a variety of locations (yes...at James Ranch, too!).
Take those quality proteins and fats and transform them into something fun and delicious. Package hard boiled eggs with a mini-container of salt and pepper for dipping. Slices of last night's roast make a hearty sandwich with a bit of cheese and fresh, crisp lettuce. Chop leftover roasted chicken and mix with some mayonnaise, dried cranberries, chopped pecans and celery then bundle in a soft tortilla or package with wide lettuce leaves for "make your own" wraps. Invest in stainless or glass containers with sections and create your own meat, cheese and cracker platter. Keeping flavors fresh, ingredients seasonal and as local as possible and throwing in a bit of a "gimmick" ensures full tummies and empty lunch boxes come dismissal time.
For our family, the key to most of our school lunches lands squarely upon the success of dinner the night before. Utilize a thermos for sending nourishing leftovers in your child's lunch. Hot soups, casseroles, meats and sides are a quick and satisfying way to get lunch done. Build your dinner menu around what is fresh and available at local farms right now. Then double your recipe.
With just a little thought and planning, you really can pick up healthy, happy kids from school every day and avoid post-school meltdowns due to blood sugar crashes and grumbling tummies. When you support local farmers to fill your kids lunch boxes, you build up not only strong, growing bodies, but the farmers, the land, and future generations.
- Dryland Corn and Elote Con CremaWednesday, September 07, 2017Four years ago I (Cynthia) was walking through the Durango Farmer’s Market to see what I could buy for the Grill to serve. I stopped at a booth that had a corn stock that was only 4 feet high but had these large, beautiful ears of corn jetting off the sides of it. This was my first introduction to dry land corn.
- Wasps Are Friends, Not The EnemyWednesday, September 02, 2017Since I have been actively working on the ranch the last few years, I have been paying attention to the wasp populations and actively encouraging their numbers by building housing and planting more and more bushes and plants with flowers to feed them. Beneficial wasps, both predatory and parasitoid, are another way we accomplish chemical-free, organic farming.
- It Takes A Village To Feed A VillageWednesday, August 10, 2017The families of the James Ranch provide a well-rounded variety of organically grown food products for the local community: 100% grass-fed beef, artisan raw milk cheeses, pastured pork and eggs, fresh produce and flowers, and our restaurant (Harvest Grill and Greens at the James Ranch Terraces). It's a family affair and we have a lot of moving parts that come together to offer our community the freshest, most nutrient-dense food in the Four Corners. We are also proud to carry products from other local farmers! We'd love to take a second to introduce to you the current lineup of farmers that we'll be supporting and carrying at James Ranch Market and Harvest Grill.