Late summer marks the start of apple season, and plenty of the tasty and popular fruits can be found in the North Bay, especially in the area around Sebastopol in western Sonoma County. Sebastopol is the de facto apple capital of the Bay Area, and it's justifiably famous for its Gravenstein apples, a variety that you won't find grown commerically anywhere else. While it's fun to eat and cook with apples, it's even more fun (and educational) to head out into an orchard and pick them yourselves!
If you're not lucky enough to have an apple tree growing in your backyard, then head up to one of the local apple farms that offers a u-pick experience. It's a fun family outing, and prices and quality are usually bettter than you'll find in the supermarket. There's nothing quite like an afternoon on the farm, too.
Marin Mommies presents a guest article by Marin personal trainer and nutritionist Gina Parenzan.
Drink Lots of Water
Listen to your thirst; it’s there for a reason! Often signs of hunger are mistaken for dehydration. Before grabbing a food snack, try downing a glass of water. Water will fill your stomach and ease those hunger signals. It is essential for keeping the body hydrated and will reduce water retention. The general recommended daily amount is 64 ounces, so don't be afraid to drink up!
Mild to moderate dehydration can include these signs:
I usually try to buy organic produce for my family because I'm very concerned about the dangers of pesticides used on fruits and vegetables. I recently read an article that discusses the dangers of pesticides and how they can adversely affect people, especially during periods of fetal development and childhood when exposures can have long lasting effects.
The scientists at the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are concerned, too, and they tested for pesticides on fruits and vegetables collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For 2016, the EWG has categorized produce into either the "Dirty Dozen" or the "Clean 15"—the 12 fruits and vegetables (plus two extras) that you should always buy organic and the 15 with the lowest pesticide levels.
Some of the produce with the highest pesticide loads included family staples like strawberries, apples, celery, peaches, spinach, grapes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Needless to say, you should always seek out the organic versions of these foods. It's a great argument for knowing where your food comes from and knowing your farmer.
Spring has arrived, and that means it's time to head to your nearby farmers' market to buy fresh organic produce and other locally grown and produced goodies. Marin has some year-round farmers' markets, but the majority of them start up again in spring after going on hiatus in the fall. Here is a list of of year-round and opening dates for a variety of local farmer's markets throughtout Marin and the North Bay. Please note that not all dates and times are finalized, so make sure you check before you go.
Year-round Marin County farmers' markets:
Civic Center Farmers' Market in San Rafael takes place every Thursday and Sunday morning from 8 am–1 pm. They have lots of organically grown produce, breads, eggs, and fresh cut flowers. The Thursday farmer's market is located next the Civic Center duck pond and the Sunday one is located in the Civic Center parking lot.
Corte Madera Farmers' Market takes place every Wednesday from noon–5 pm. This farmers' market is located at the Corte Madera Town Center off Highway 101.
Coloring Easter eggs is a fun spring tradition, but do you really know what's in those commercial dye kits that you pick up at the supermarket? Dying your Easter eggs with your own homemade natural dyes is easier than you think, and the results can be really beautiful. You'll find plenty of recipes and formulas out there, some of which work better than others.
Over the years, we've experimented with various mixtures and figured out a few that really work well. You can make these plant- and food-based dyes with many of the things that you have on hand in the pantry or refrigerator, or can pick up at the farmer's market, so why not give it a try?
The terms "fast food" and "health food" have never really been synonymous—until Amy's Drive Thru opened last summer in the Sonoma County town of Rohnert Park! Created by the same people who run the Amy's Kitchen, famous for its vegetarian and vegan frozen pizzas, mac-and-cheese, burritos, and other prepared foods, Amy's Drive Thru is like a traditional fast food restaurant with, as the name implies, a drive through, but everything is either vegetarian or vegan, as well as made from sustainable, local, and organic ingredients. We've stopped by Amy's for lunch a few times when up in the area, and really enjoyed their unique healthy take on traditional fast food treats.
Whenever we visit Petaluma, we like to stop by the farm store at Green String Farm to do some grocery shopping. Located just east of town on Old Adobe Road, this sustainable local farm is just overflowing with wonderful fresh produce, especially in late summer. Their fruits and vegetables are amazing and affordable, and their farming practices actually exceed organic guidelines—they even have their own "Green String" certification program. If you haven't shopped here, it's definitely worth the trip up to Petaluma.
Green String Farm's farm store is situated in the middle of their 140-acre agricultural plot, where you can take in sweeping views of cultivated fields, orchards, vineyards, and the Sonoma County hills beyond. The farmstand carries just about every local seasonal fruit or vegetable you can imagine, from apples, Asian pears, and stone fruits to peppers, heirloom tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, string beans, greens, beets, squash, and fresh herbs.
In addition to produce, the farm store stocks other items including grass-fed beef, eggs, cheese, olive oil, nuts, artisan bread, handmade beeswax candles, vinegar, and more.
For breakfast, nothing beats delicious pancakes hot off the griddle. We love to make pancakes for breakfast, and it seems like we make them every weekend. We always make our pancakes from scratch, and keep a carton of buttermilk in the refrigerator at all times in case the need arises. While it's not hard to make pancake batter from scratch, it does take some time, and it usually makes a mess, so it's not something that's suited to quick weekday breakfasts before school.
That's where local startup Batter World comes in. Created by Leigh Judson and Nicole Palmer, two Mill Valley moms, Batter World offers a line of frozen all natural pancake mixes that you just defrost, shake, and pour. We had a chance to sample all three flavors offered by Batter World—original, multigrain, and gluten-free—and they were all light, fluffy, and delicious. I hate to say it, but they all tasted just as good as our homemade from-scratch pancakes, but were much easier to make… and clean up, of course.
No matter how many battles there are over broccoli, if you want your kids to eat wholesome food, and build a lifetime of good eating habits, don’t dare say it’s “healthy.”
The sad truth is this: healthy sells to adults but not to kids. As parents, our spending on what we perceive to be healthy food for our families has skyrocketed—to the tune of nearly $80B a year. We’re reading labels, and demanding to know what is in our food. But our intense focus on healthy isn’t helping our kids.
It turns out that to get our little ones to eat what’s good for them, we need to take a page from the junk food marketing playbook. We need to stop talking about “healthy.” Take the focus off the food, and make it fun.