Earth Fare: Food with Philosophy

Although I love to shop at farmers markets on Saturday mornings, it is impossible to get everything I need in this one place. It is my mission to purchase as much of my produce, meats, and cheese from local sources as possible. My belief in #EatLocal is strong, but I am not anti-grocery store. There is a middle ground, and honestly, for me it boils down to options. Stores with a buy local or sustainable mission are my first choice. Unfortunately, the list of stores with this business practice is quite short. One of my favorites is Earth Fare. This is usually the first stop on our way in to Asheville, NC. We can load up on snacks, local produce, and drinks for our stay.

Organic, local, and regional produce are some of the options at Earth Fare.

Organic, local, and regional produce are some of the options at Earth Fare.

I was excited to hear that one would be opening much closer to home in Park West Village. Earth Fare began in Asheville, NC in 1975…I was surprised it has been around that long! Originally a restaurant called Dinner For the Earth, the owners soon branched out into a market format with local products and produce as their focus. What most impressed me about Earth Fare is their Food Philosophy. The products they carry contain:

NO High-Fructose Corn Syrup

NO artificial fats or artificial trans fats

NO artificial colors

NO artificial flavors

NO artificial preservatives

NO artificial sweeteners

NO antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones in our fresh meat or dairy

NO bleached or bromated flour

The bulk section has a large variety of grains, beans, flours, nuts, and more.

The bulk section has a large variety of grains, beans, flours, nuts, and more.

This sign denotes items that are sourced locally.  Mapleview Farms milk is in the dairy case at Earth Fare.

This sign denotes items that are sourced locally. Mapleview Farm milk is in the dairy case at Earth Fare.

On a recent behind the scenes tour of their newest store in Cary, they shared that this philosophy means that they read the labels so the consumer doesn’t have to. They also work with local producers to bring in produce within a 100-mile radius of the store. You’ll also see products that are local to one of their over 35 stores but offered in all stores—this is a great way to help local businesses grow regionally! Signs point the way to conventional and organic produce, locally sourced items, and gluten-free options in every section.   They have a wellness area, a bakery, a nitrate-free deli, a café and a juice/smoothie bar.   It is truly one stop shopping you can feel good about.  Check out the Earth Fare website for ways you can save at Earth Fare. They even have an app and will text coupons to your smartphone.  Their goal is to reduce paper waste while still saving you money.

Earth Fare support local NC breweries, too.  Glad to see Fullsteam Brewery or Durham represented!

Earth Fare supports local NC breweries, too. Glad to see Fullsteam Brewery of Durham represented!

Nearly every aisle has a gluten-free section.  In between those signs, customers will find gluten-free options.

Nearly every aisle has a gluten-free section. In between those signs, customers will find gluten-free options.

These soaps are one example of an item that is local to one of the over 35 stores.  It is carried in other stores as part of the Earth Fare family products.

These soaps by Biggs and Featherbelle are one example of an item that is local to one of the over 35 stores. It is carried in other stores as part of the Earth Fare family products.

The best way to experience what Earth Fare offers is to visit their newest NC location in Cary—and what better way do it than with a $50.00 gift card! I am giving away a $50.00 gift card to one lucky reader. Enter for a chance to win below by leaving a comment below with your email address.  Winner will be drawn at random on April 27th and contacted via email.  Good luck!!

Celebrating the Images of NC

You all know by know how much I love to take photos of food, but my passion for capturing a moment in time goes beyond just capturing a meal or a recipe in action.  I take pictures when I travel, and those travels take me throughout my state of North Carolina.  I am always lagging behind on a trail hike in the wooded mountains or far down the beach studying the waves through my lens.  I want to see my world, my state…with intention and pause.

I appreciate the way others see the world through their photos, so I was intrigued by The North Carolina Blogger Network’s NC Photographer Awards 2015 sponsored by the Mast Farm Inn.  It is a contest for both professional and amateur photographers that celebrates the images of North Carolina.  If you would like to see some of my favorite images of NC, check out my submissions by typing (ssprenz) in the search bar on this page. I urge you to browse the amazing images that people have submitted, vote for your favorites, and submit some of your own by March 23rd!

Midweek Options: Bella Bean Organics

My favorite place to be on Saturday morning: a farmers market. I have some favorites, but honestly, I enjoy visiting different markets each month. The variety that my community offers when it comes to seasonal, locally-grown produce and pasture-raised meats is what makes living in central North Carolina so great. From fresh ginger and shitake mushrooms to peaches and heirloom tomatoes—the abundance of produce here is immense.   I can find farm-fresh eggs or pasture-raised pork, lamb, goat, and chicken. Everything I need to create delicious meals can be found at my local farmers markets on Saturday morning. There is, however, a downside to my farmers-market-centered world: I can only buy enough for a few days. By Wednesday, I have usually exhausted all of my supply of fresh local ingredients. I do my best to avoid food waste, so I try to control my impulse buying and only get what I know I can prepare while it’s still fresh.

The solution to this problem was recently revealed to me when I tried Bella Bean Organics for the first time. I ordered by 5:00PM on Friday, and the following Wednesday a box of beautiful produce, herbs, eggs, and pasture-raised meats from Coon Rock Farm was delivered to my doorstep. No weekly menu in my home would be complete without ingredients from local artisans, so I also ordered cheeses from Hillsborough Cheese Company and rice from Anson Mills. The variety of products and produce was not only impressive, but also allowed me the convenience of avoiding the grocery store as my only mid-week option. I came away from my ordering experience thinking, “If this is what they offer in the winter, I cannot wait to see the spring/summer options!” I always feel a sense of victory when I can get the majority of my ingredients from local sources. Bella Bean Organics offers both local and non-local items as well as certified organic options.

Bella Bean Organics is not your typical farm-to-doorstep business. Owners Jamie DeMent and Richard Holcomb also own Coon Rock Farm in Hillsborough, NC and Piedmont Restaurant in Durham, NC. Their passion for sustainable local agriculture and their vantage point as farmers makes them the perfect curators of an online farmers market. A large percentage of the produce, eggs, herbs, and pasture-raised meats offered through Bella Bean Organics are grown and raised on their farm. Because it is farmer-owned and operated, ordering from Bella Bean Organics is much like visiting a farm stand. The great thing about ordering is that you can do it from the comfort of your home and have it delivered to your front door for a small fee. Convenience, variety, sustainable choices, and southern artisanal products—who could ask for more?

If your goal, like mine, is to use as many locally and regionally grown, raised, caught, and made products in your weekly menu, then check out what Bella Bean Organics has to offer.   Here are some recipes to get you inspired to use the last of the winter abundance, too. I promise spring, with its sugary peas, tender lettuce, and ripe delicious strawberries, will be here soon!

IMG_9690WM

Winter Market Stir Fry

  • 3 medium carrots, julienned
  • 2 small heads of cabbage, thinly sliced *
  • 2 small turnips, peeled and diced *
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup Shitake mushrooms, stems removed & sliced *
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 ½ tbs. local honey *
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion (white and green parts) *
  • 3 bundles Rice Vermicelli Noodles
  • Sesame Oil
  • Canola Oil
  1. Prepare noodles according to package. Once drained, toss with 2 tbs. sesame oil and set aside.
  1. In a bowl, combine: soy sauce, honey, garlic, and green onion. Set aside.
  1. Heat 2 tbs. canola oil and 1 tbs. sesame oil in a wok on medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 2-3 minutes.
  1. Add cabbage and sauté for 3 more minutes or until cabbage starts to wilt.
  1. Add the carrots and continue sautéing for 3-4 more minutes or until carrots begin to soften.
  1. Reduce the heat to low and add the noodles to the wok. Pour the soy sauce mixture over the noodles and vegetables, tossing to coat.
  1. Remove from the heat and serve.

* indicates items from Bella Bean Organics

IMG_9745WM

Breakfast Dates

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  1. Place the dates in a small oven-safe baking dish and drizzle with the honey.
  1. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until dates are caramelized and soft
  1. Place caramelized dates in a shallow bowl and top with the lebna
  1. Sprinkle with pecans (and a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg if you desire!), drizzle with additional honey, and enjoy.

Note: To make this dish completely local, use seasonal fruit such as peaches or figs!

* indicates items from Bella Bean Organics