Cooking With Kids – Tip #1


First in a 4-part series on cooking with kids
By Jamila T, chief area manager & veggie fairy godmother:

(TIP 2: Let them do hard things)
(TIP 3: Set kitchen ground rules)
(TIP 4: Use common sense)
(PS: Clean up & celebrate!)

Confession: I love to cook. I HATE cooking with my kids.

I have four of them, and every adventure that begins in the kitchen ends in a mess. A big one. They eat half of what I am preparing and poke holes in the rest. Boredom is inevitable, which leads to wandering during tasks or frustration. It is borderline terrible, but in my eyes, it is terribly necessary.

Learning to cook is an important life skill and will empower kids to make wise food choices. Time in the kitchen is also an opportunity to model practical applications of math, reading, and following instructions. It gives my girls time to hone fine motor skills, explore food science, and practice the art of patience. Cooking with kids is important, even if it drives me crazy.

Does cooking with the kids in your life make your brain hurt? Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my favorite tips. Here’s the first one.

1. Start with projects

Family meals tend to be more time sensitive than cooking projects. Projects like zucchini muffins will allow your child to experiment with new skills, without ruining dinner. Once skills like grating, chopping, tearing greens, and peeling garlic (my personal favorite), have been mastered, they can graduate to meal prep. Trust me, your children will revel in simple tasks. Plus, it is very helpful to have little fingers peeling garlic cloves while you sauté chicken.

Ready to dive in?

Challenge the kids with grating zucchini and make these zucchini muffins. Instead of Greek yogurt, substitute Seasonal Roots’ Trickling Springs Creamery yogurt made from grass-fed milk for extra goodness. You can also use yellow summer squash instead of zucchini — pretty much the same taste and texture.

Mission accomplished?

Celebrate by posting a picture on our Facebook page!

Want to be ready for next week’s recipe?

Add honey and summer fruit like strawberries, blueberries, or peaches to your basket when the Seasonal Roots home-delivered farmers market menu opens on Friday.

A Sustainable Valentine

By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist

At Seasonal Roots, we believe in that old saying, “You reap what you sow.” When you help local sustainable family farmers, you don’t just reap fresher, more delicious, nutritious food. You also reap a healthier environment.

Here’s why. The Flores Farm on Virginia’s Northern Neck is typical of the differences between small family farms we partner with and big corporate agriculture.

Gerardo Flores emigrated from Mexico more than 20 years ago. Now he and his son Omar farm 50 acres that are sustainably planted with an amazing variety of crops: herbs, greens, lettuces, root crops, and dozens of different peppers. That’s Gerardo pictured next to a row of his crops side-by-side with a field of wild flowers. Compare that to the factory farms of big corporate ag, which plant acres upon acres of land with the same thing. Out in California, those monocrop deserts stretch as far as the eye can see.

Nature doesn’t work that way. Neither does a small family farm that uses sustainable practices. Gerardo and Omar’s diverse plantings create more natural ecosystems that are good for our soil, water, and air. Their rich patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, and ponds are the perfect habitat for native plants and wildlife. That’s much better for our environment than monocrops or yet another suburban development.

In addition, grocery store produce typically travels 1,500 miles from where it’s grown to get to you. Gerardo and Omar’s locally grown harvest travels less than one-tenth that far. Shorter trips produce less pollution from transportation. And that’s good for the environment, too.

By choosing to buy local food from sustainable farmers like the Floreses, you’re helping them, the environment, and yourself. That’s like giving the whole planet a valentine!


By Kristin Henderson, chief veggie conversationalist

Our food system is broken, but word-of-mouth is changing it. People are telling each other about their personal experience with local food, one friend at a time.

For Margo LaMarsh, it started at Bible study. That’s when a friend told her how Seasonal Roots was connecting local families with local farmers.

“Eating better is all about cooking with fresh ingredients,” says Margo. “And there’s nothing fresher than local food.” So Margo joined her friend and became a member of Seasonal Roots.

Because local food is fresh, it has more nutrients and tastes better, so those good nutrients are more likely to get eaten. That’s what Margo discovered when she served Seasonal Roots beets to her high school daughter.

Her daughter was not a veggie eater. “I don’t like beets,” she said.

“When did you ever have beets?” Margo asked – knowing full well that before then she’d only ever had pickled beets from a jar. “You have to take one bite.”

When she finally took that bite, she exclaimed, “These are so good!”

Margo hadn’t done anything special with them. She just wrapped them in foil, roasted them in the oven, and peeled them afterward when the peel practically falls off. “When it’s fresh, you don’t have to do much. They taste good all by themselves,” Margo says. “So I’m a firm believer that the only reason she liked them was because they were so fresh.”

Now her daughter eats pretty much anything veggie. And Margo, who used to work for NASA before becoming a stay-at-home mom, now works for Seasonal Roots. She’s a neighborhood market manager, pictured here with Josh of Harvest Hill Farm on delivery day, making weekly deliveries to members in York County.

Margo acknowledges that eating more fresh local food requires a little more planning than eating processed food out of a box. “But having it delivered saves you time,” she points out. And as her husband says, “We use that time to cook more, which is a lot more fun than going to the grocery store.”

7 Ways OUR Local Food Will Change Your Life

By Duane Slyder, founder & head veggie fairy:

Can local food really change your life? It can… but only if it’s done right. Here are 7 ways our Seasonal Roots veggie fairies will change your life here in Virginia.

1. Convenient home delivery = a total time saver! All those perishables that have to be restocked the most often? We bring them right to your home or office. That equals fewer shopping trips.

2. Vetted farmers market fare = peace of mind. We know our family farmers and we know they use healthy, sustainable practices and treat their animals humanely. At a traditional market, you’re on your own, and it’s hard to know who to trust.

3. Guaranteed freshness = good taste and good health. We can guarantee it because everything is local or regional. It’s harvested and delivered in a short period of time, so it’s still packed with flavor and nutrients.

4. Dedicated customer service = more serenity, less aggravation. If there’s ever an issue, just email or call 757-351-4565 and we’ll make it right. At other markets, there’s no one to help you between market days.

5. More variety = less boredom, a more balanced diet, and a healthier eco-system. Whew! This is a big one. Unlike a CSA, we partner with dozens of small family farms and food artisans, all growing and making different things. Whether you customize your basket or opt for the default, you’ll experience 7 kinds of sweet potatoes, 4 kinds of kale – hey, have you ever tried creamline whole milk? The list goes on and on. And our farmers’ sustainable practices include growing a wide variety of crops. Much better for the soil and the local eco-system than monocropping.

6. Reliable staples = save your energy for the exotic stuff. Every week you can count on us for your fruit, veggies, bread, grass-fed milk, cheese, meats, eggs, and other basics, all of them fresh!

7. A team that loves what they do = more joy for everyone! Studies show that happiness and good health are closely connected. Smiles are contagious, so we pass ‘em on!

The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 5 “Make it work!”

By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:

About 10 months ago, I decided to give meal planning one more shot, determined to MAKE it work. I can happily say, it’s here to stay! I’m rarely stressing at 4:30 about what we’re having for dinner, I have reduced our food waste, and we’re saving money! Meal planning is one key to my family’s happiness each week.

Over the last four blog posts I wrote about my family’s meal planning secrets:

1. Throw away the rules (not the fresh veggies)! Find a plan that works for your family. Chances are, prefabricated plans will not fit your life perfectly, and that’s okay. You CAN change it!

2. Before you shop the grocery store, shop at home! Before you go shopping, know what you have and what you ordered from Seasonal Roots. Being aware of inventory is a step towards saving money and reducing waste.

3. Each week, know your family’s schedule! Schedules are always changing. Maybe you have an odd evening appointment coming up. Instead of forgetting about it and scrambling, be aware and prepare.

4. Each member of your family can be helpful in the process. If your spouse/partner doesn’t enjoy cooking, have them help with shopping or choosing meals. Get your children involved and help them learn valuable life skills. Involvement gives ownership regardless of age. Don’t forget, teamwork makes the dream work!

Implementing these four things helped us transition from a family that eats on the fly to a family that plans. Hopefully it will help you too!

Check out the Seasonal Roots Pinterest page and newsletter this week for some of the recipes I use in our meal planning rotation — including one for the delicious stuffed gluten-free sweet potato pictured with this post!

The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 4 “Teamwork”

By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:

Teamwork makes the dream work! Five words that never fail to bring my family smiles and remind us that we are in this together. But if teamwork is so important to our family, why was meal planning and cooking ALL on me?! Involving my family in the planning process was a game changer.

I was selecting all the meals when I was following prefabricated meal plans. It was easier this way, but I found myself frustrated when my family (mainly my daughter) wasn’t interested in eating what I had prepared. We all have unique palates and I was only cooking to mine. Meals became more enjoyable for everyone once I started asking my husband and daughter for their input. This is yet another example of why following someone else’s meal plan is not always sustainable. Simple changes really do make big differences.

My family helps plan meals each week, which keeps us on track because we are all invested. Involvement gives ownership. This is important for children as well. Including children in the planning process helps them to learn healthy eating habits and will make them more excited about what’s on the table for meals. They’re more likely to try new things if they helped choose them.

My daughter helps me choose the items in our basket every Friday when the Seasonal Roots menu comes out. Not only is she helping me plan, she is learning where our food comes from. Many children are not aware of how our food production system works. Food doesn’t come from the grocery store — that’s simply a place where we can purchase it. When we order from Seasonal Roots, we can choose our items and see which family farm it’s coming from.

Knowing where our food comes from and how to prepare it are important life skills. I’m helping my daughter learn by inviting her into the kitchen. In turn, she’s more willing to try new foods and eat what we prepare together. A win-win situation!

So this week I’m challenging you to get everyone involved with as much of the planning and cooking as possible. Teamwork makes the (meal planning) dream work!

10 Ways This Simple New Years Resolution Will Help You Live Better

By the Seasonal Roots Veggie Fairies:

If you make a New Years resolution to eat local, sustainably produced food in 2017, you won’t just live better – you’ll actually help change the world. So without further ado, here are the top 10 ways this one simple New Years resolution will change you and your world. (Just wait till you get to #1!)

Resolve to eat local, sustainably produced food, and you will…

…waste less of everything, including time.

The short distance between a local farm and you means less storage, no middleman, and that means less wasted food and packaging. And with home delivery from an organization like Seasonal Roots, you’ll save time, too.

…relax and enjoy the view.

Use some of that time you save to relax and enjoy the open space you’ll be helping preserve. That’s because buying local food saves nearby farms from getting turned into yet another suburban development. Since our farmers use sustainable methods (unlike factory farms that plant miles and miles of monocrops), our farmers create ecosystems that are good for the soil, water, and air, a rich patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, and ponds – the perfect habitat for wildlife and a peaceful space for recreation.

…reduce unemployment and taxes in your community.

When you buy local, your food dollars stay in your community instead of going to some faraway corporate headquarters. Buy local food and your dollars create jobs at local farms, food processing facilities, and distribution systems. Plus, studies show that, compared to development, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services. Chickens don’t go to school and rutabegas don’t call 911. That helps keep taxes from going up.

…achieve peace of mind.

Local food is safer and more secure. You’ll get to know the farmers who are growing and handling the things you eat. They’re not anonymous, and neither are you, and our farmers take that relationship seriously as they grow and handle your food. Plus, if there’s ever a breakdown in the global food system – which relies on fossil fuels to produce, package, store, and distribute food – your local farmers will still be here, still supplying you with safe, fresh food.

…eat more delicious food.

Most Seasonal Roots food comes from farmers and artisans within 150 miles (one-tenth as far as supermarket produce). Because local food doesn’t travel very far, farmers can grow varieties for their flavor, not for shelf life and ability to withstand getting drop-kicked halfway around the world. And since the stuff our local farmers grow will be eaten in days instead of weeks, it can be picked at the peak of ripeness — mmmmm. As for locally made products like cheese, bread, and coffee, they’re handcrafted for best flavor and not pumped full of preservatives and artificial flavors.

…be super cool.

Compared to the global industrial food complex, food from local farmers and artisans uses less fuel and produces less CO2 – 17 times less! So local food belches fewer greenhouse gases and fights global warming. That’s cool.

…support family farms.

Our family farmers treasure the land as a legacy for their children. They farm with future generations in mind, not short-term profit. That’s good for all of us, for all the reasons listed here.

…be kind to animals.

Unlike factory farms, our family farmers raise their animals humanely. Chickens, cows, goats, and pigs live happy lives in open pastures. It’s good for the animals, who don’t need constant antibiotics and hormones to grow and stay healthy, and good for us people, too. Grass-fed meat, milk, and eggs are much more nutritious than the conventionally produced kind.

…get healthy.

Fresh, local, sustainably grown food is better for you. Take meat, dairy, and eggs from animals raised sustainably on pasture. Grass-fed beef, for example, is higher in “good” cholesterol (and lower in “bad”) than factory farmed beef. Grass fed dairy is higher in vitamins A and E, lower in fat, and contains more antioxidants. As for produce, as soon as you pick it, it starts to lose nutrients. So Seasonal Roots delivers it to you within 48 hours, dirt to doorstep™. (Supermarket produce is typically a week old and has lost almost half its nutrients before you even get it home!) Sustainably produced food also means less (or no) agricultural chemicals (such as pesticides), antibiotics, or hormones.

#1: (Drum roll, please…)
…bring more love and joy into your life!
Resolve to buy local, sustainably produced food and you will have a powerful tool for strengthening all the loving relationships in your life. Let’s say you get a passle of local peaches, so fresh and ripe you can smell them, and you remember the peach pie your grandmother used to make when you were a kid, and you get totally inspired and dig out that recipe and call in the kids. Together you whip up a couple of pies while you tell them stories about your late great granny. Then Mr. Grumpy Pants from next door marches over to complain about the noise of happy children – but you offer him a piece of pie and a strange look comes over his face, and you realize that strange look is a smile, and you get to know each other while eating delicious pie to the sound of the laughter of children. And isn’t that what life is all about?

The Veggie Fairies at Seasonal Roots wish you a happy, healthy New Year!

Share the veggie love with someone you care about! 10% off Seasonal Roots Gift Cards if you order by January 2 — give the gift of living better. Just send us an email with your phone number and best time to call to arrange credit card payment, and we’ll set you up with all the Gift Cards you need.

The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 3 “Know Your Schedule”

By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:

So how did shopping at home go over last week?! Digging through your freezer can be intimidating but hopefully diving in resulted in some inspiration to cook forgotten items and saved you some money at the grocery store!

By the way, if you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, head here
for Part 1 of this meal planning series, and here for Part 2, “Shopping at Home”.

After I finish my home shopping and review my upcoming Seasonal Roots order, I have an accurate idea of what I have on hand and use it to inspire my weekly plan. But there’s one more vital piece to this puzzle: our weekly schedule.

It took me a while to figure that out. Normally families have the same commitments week in and week out, but when I assumed I could follow a plan that had a predictable daily themes, like meatless Monday, taco Tuesday, and so on, I failed again. It didn’t work.

Once a week batch cooking — a.k.a. cooking up a storm one day and using the pre-cooked items throughout the week — also didn’t work. No one in my family is ever stoked about leftovers and it felt like that was all we were eating!

I felt trapped. Yet again, these “tried and true” meal plans were not working for me. I was either trying new recipes on my busiest days, or winding up with a large amount of cooked food that had to be eaten whether or not we felt like eating it just to avoid having to throw it away.

Then it finally hit me. Every week is unique. Duh! It seems so obvious now: If I was going to be successful, I had to plan meals that actually fit our schedule. Rules were tossed again and so was the recipe for disaster that I was following. After all, tacos taste good any night of the week, not just Tuesdays.

So now, Sunday is my planning day. I take about an hour and sit with a cup of coffee, cookbooks, Pinterest (where every week Seasonal Roots posts new recipes that use the most popular produce items for the upcoming week), and my calendar planner.

Based on what’s actually on our schedule for the upcoming week, I can better decide which nights I should use the crock pot, which nights I can look forward to cooking, and which nights we will need to have leftovers. I enjoy cooking and usually try cooking a few nights in a row. Leftover night is much more fun when you have a choice in the matter. Seeing which meals produce sought-after leftovers and which meals are just no good unless they’re fresh also helps me plan ahead. So your challenge this week is to make your plan fit your schedule, not someone else’s.

The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 2 “Shopping at Home”

By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:
My favorite way to start meal planning is to take inventory of everything I have on hand. In other words, I shop at home.

[In case you missed it, here’s last week’s secret.]

This simple step was one I was missing when I tried to use prefabricated meal plans. Many meal plans have shopping lists prepared for you based on meals selected. I would print these nice little lists and head to the store, completely disregarding what I already had at home or had ordered from Seasonal Roots. This was the opposite of budget friendly! I was also buying weird products for recipes and never using them again. Last weekend I threw away an old jar of tahini I used once to make a sauce no one liked because of a meal plan. No wonder I was throwing so much away!

Now, before I decide what to cook, I determine what I have. Not only was I throwing away produce, but I was throwing away things that were buried in my freezer. You never want to find the last pound of that beautiful, pastured breakfast sausage bundle you ordered from Seasonal Roots covered in freezer burn! I was also freezing vegetables to help reduce waste, but… I didn’t know that they should be blanched prior to freezing. The veggies were almost always freezer-burned by time I remembered I had them. Talk about frustrating.

I’ve made some changes, and now let my order from Seasonal Roots and the freezer inspire my meal planning every Sunday. I have found I am saving money and time! One small change can make a big difference. Give it a shot this week. Before you head out grocery shopping figure out what you actually have. It’s often more than you realize.

Stay tuned for more meal planning tips next week. In the meantime, here’s a quick guide on how to freeze extra produce… the correct way, by blanching first!

    • Prepare a stock pot of boiling water.
    • Clean and roughly chop vegetables.
    • Prepare an ice bath for the blanched vegetables.
    • Place vegetables into a wire basket and lower into rapidly boiling water for a few minutes. The time depends on the vegetable. Here’s a good guide for times.
    • After blanching, promptly put vegetables into an ice bath. Once cool, drain and place in a freezer-safe container or baggie.
  • The Secret to Meal Planning: Part 1 “Throw out the rules!”

    By Shanna Demers, neighborhood market manager:

    It took me a long time to figure out how to successfully meal plan for my family. I kept trying different meal planning systems – trying and failing. I’m a neighborhood market manager for Seasonal Roots’ online farmers market and a busy, homeschooling mom, and I used to be an agriculture research specialist… if anyone should’ve known how to meal plan, it’s me! Why wasn’t it working? What was I doing wrong?!

    The thing is, there are a lot of websites out there that will tell you how to plan a week of meals. I’d get frustrated trying to follow their rules and lose all the joy that came with cooking and eating nutritious food. What happened to meal planning making your life better, right?!

    Well, better means different things for different people. For you, better may mean less time cooking, or less time shopping and more time cooking. Maybe you’re tired of wasting fresh veggies. I was. I would find myself standing in the kitchen at 4:30pm wondering how I could turn a pile of wilty swiss chard and semi-mushy zucchini into dinner. It was often easier to compost it or even worse, throw it away and opt for the broccoli from the freezer. It was NOT working.

    Meal planning IS the answer but everyone meal plans differently. I have diet restrictions and so does my daughter, but my husband can eat anything. Trying to make someone else’s meal plan fit our needs was a recipe for failure. Meal planning only started working when I figured out which rules fit our life. Then I threw the rest away.

    That is my secret to successful meal planning: Throw away the rules (not the fresh veggies)!

    In upcoming posts, I’ll tell you how I meal plan. I’ll also give you tips to help you figure out how YOU can meal plan. In the meantime, check out these free meal planning resources. Just remember: Keep what works, throw the rest away.

    This next one has some sample plans, otherwise it’s a paid service.