Farm To Table Dining Is Healthy and Delicious
During the first two decades of this century, time travel of a sort is taking place in cafes and cafeterias, restaurants and hospitals, homes and hotels.
In eras past, almost everyone knew where the foods they enjoyed came from, but somewhere along the way we strayed from that with heavily processed convenience foods.
Today, food lovers of all stripes are returning to a simpler time via the Farm-to-Table movement when a focus on fresh, flavorful and healthy food reigns.
There are no better people to share insight on this than Sally Williams, DO, Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine specialist and Chef Nicholas Skajewski, Executive Chef with Avera.
“From weight loss to better sleep – and for many other reasons – people are really coming to realize that what you eat does matter,” said Williams, who in addition to her medical practice is an avid gardener on her family’s farm home in southeastern South Dakota. “I see the impact of better, fresher food daily in my clinic as people change habits. Local produce is better for you, and it’s getting easier to obtain.”
Skajewski said the abundance of local, fresh products in the Midwest goes beyond what people might expect, and not just in terms of what’s available.
“Everyone knows the Midwest for our top-shelf livestock, but don’t forget about the produce – there are so many local growers doing amazing things, all year long,” he said. “Indoor growing allows us to have fresh mushrooms and microgreens, as well as root vegetables grown in hoop houses. We’re incorporating many of these local foods in our menus (at Avera) and a key is prepping them when you have abundance and preserving that supply for use year-round.”
Vacuum sealing and freezing can give you fresh-cut tastes-like-summer dishes in the midst of a snowy February day.
Choices abound throughout the area. Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, an online food hub, seasonal farmers markets and even grocery stores are trying to keep it local.
Williams said as more people realize how certain foods, especially processed ones, can lead to increasing inflammation, and how those internal irritations are often associated with chronic diseases, they start to change the way they eat.
“It’s quite well-known that the typical American diet lacks nutrients and can be pro-inflammatory, so it makes sense to seek foods that would reduce that irritation by removing some triggers,” she said. “For some that means removing gluten or dairy. We can all benefit from adding more nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, nuts and other whole foods to our daily meals. I’m passionate about using food as medicine – and I see the results.”
So start a garden, head to the farmers market or just to the grocery store and think local.
“Practically anything you grow yourself is going to be healthy and anti-inflammatory,” Williams said. “It seems to taste better, too.”
Multi-Veggie Hash With Eggs
- 2 bell peppers, any color, but mixed is best, chopped
- 1 shallot, diced
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced to ¾ inch dice
- 2 fresh-from-farm eggs
- ½ pound locally produced sausage, bacon or uncured bacon
- 3-6 ounces of locally made shredded cheese, such as Colby
- Salt, pepper
- Grapeseed or avocado oil
- Salt and freshly cracked pepper
- Fresh herbs as available, chopped
- Microgreens for garnish and to add crunch
- Prepare a non-stick skillet for the hash and sautéing, and another small non-stick to cook the eggs.
- Peel and chop vegetables.
- Cook meat in skillet at medium-high heat; judge the remaining fat in the pan and either add oil or omit it..
- As meat finishes, add sweet potato, shallot and pepper and cook until tender; if using bacon, remove it and allow it to drain excess fat on paper towels while finishing the vegetables. If using link or patty sausage, do the same. Bulk sausage can be left in the pan.
- Once cooled, chop the removed meat and set aside as you finish the vegetables.
- Using the second skillet, prepare eggs individually as desired. Once cooked, remove pan from heat.
- Once veggies are soft and thoroughly cooked, add shredded cheese and toss so it melts. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Plate the hash and top with cooked egg, fresh microgreens and more pepper as desired. Enjoy!
Source: Chef Nicholas Skajewski, Avera Executive Chef
Springtime Fresh Salad
- 1-2 bunches of Bibb, baby or other spring lettuce, torn to bite-size pieces
- 1 hefty bunch (about 6 ounces) fresh spinach or baby spinach, torn to bite-size pieces
- 1 yellow pepper, chopped to ½ inch pieces
- ¼ red onion, sliced
- 1½ cups strawberries, sliced
- 1 medium cucumber, sliced
- ¼ cup almonds, sliced and toasted
- 2-5 ounces local Parmesan or other hard cheese, or cheese of choice, shredded
- Fresh locally baked sourdough, torn to craft rough croutons (optional)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup sugar (or use honey or agave nectar)
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- Mix together all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl until well combined. Set aside.
- Combine salad ingredients in this order: Greens, veggies, cheese and croutons.
- Serve as a large “family style” salad or on individual plates.
Source: Chef Nicholas Skajewski, Avera Executive Chef, and Sally Williams, DO.