A new year is on the way, and in the spirit of welcoming 2014, I offer some resolutions to consider to have a good food year.
For suggestions on implementing these ideas, I consulted Margo Page, a personal chef in Charlotte. Page holds an associate’s degree in culinary arts and a bachelor’s degree in food service management. She moved to Charlotte from Pennsylvania in 2004 to attend Johnson & Wales University.
Page says her earliest memory is of planting potatoes in the garden with her father, Mitch Morrill, when she was about 4 years old, and she still remembers the earthy smell. Her grandparents owned a 400-acre dairy farm, where she visited several times a week. They grew fruit trees and vegetables in the gardens on the farm. Page made jelly with her grandmother and learned different methods of food preservation, including home canning. “I think that’s a pretty special skill,” says Page, who is considering introducing a canning class to the lineup of culinary services she provides clients.
She and her family also enjoyed foraging the landscape and gathering wild asparagus growing near mountains and streams. Here are five food resolutions to try. In the New Year, resolve to:
- Include more seasonal and local foods in your meals.
Page says one way to add more seasonal and local foods to your diet is by signing up for a CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, in order to receive fresh produce from a farmer. Members typically pay a fee at the beginning of the growing season. Some farms may allow members to volunteer to help with the harvest for a discounted membership, she says. She says it’s a way of buying local and getting things you normally wouldn’t buy, such as heirloom vegetables.Or visit a farmers market you’ve never been to before. In the Charlotte area, a couple of Page’s own favorites are the Atherton Market in Charlotte’s South End and the Matthews Community Farmers’ Market in historic downtown Matthews.
- Experiment with cooking a food you’ve never used before.
Purple broccoli and snake beans are a couple of things Page mentions. She also suggests taking a familiar food and using it in an unfamiliar way. For example, with its creamy texture, artichoke works well in dips and can sometimes be used to replace the mayonnaise in a recipe.
- Add more vegetarian or vegan meals.
Page says that moving to more of a plant-based diet might be a gradual process, but for some of her clients, food allergies or other health concerns motivate them to change. She says it starts with knowing what you’re doing and having some nutritional knowledge. Beans, lentils, and spinach are a few of the protein sources she lists.
- Treat yourself to a new cookbook, or rediscover one you already have.
Page likes The Meat Free Monday Cookbook with recipes by Stella McCartney and others. Another place she looks for recipes is VegNews, a popular vegan lifestyle magazine and website. “I really love VegNews,” she says.
- Preserve treasured family recipes.
After Page’s grandmother, Joanne Gabler, died, Page’s aunt photocopied some of her recipes and distributed them to family members. It was “a priceless thing to do,” Page says, adding that you don’t have to wait until someone is gone to do this. Just get a three-ring binder and get started. She notes that you can also adapt traditional recipes to make them healthier.
Whether you make all five resolutions, or just pick one or two, Happy New Year.
Eggplant Meatless Meatballs
Makes enough to serve six people.
- 2 eggplants
- 2 eggs or egg replacement
- ½ cup hard goat cheese, grated
- ½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh Italian herbs, finely chopped
- 1 cup bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. First, slice eggplant into large coins. Brush with olive oil on both sides, place on cookie sheet, and bake for 20 minutes until eggplant becomes soft. Place eggplant and all remaining ingredients into food processor and pulse until combined and eggplant is finely chopped. Allow mixture to sit for about 5 minutes to stiffen. Use a portion scoop or your hands to make small balls and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve.
Recipe from Chef Margo Page.
Hope Yancey is a freelance writer in Charlotte. She is a regular contributor to the community news editions of The Charlotte Observer.