Participating in co-op style produce keeps us coming up with new recipes and new flavors using fruits and veggies we may not ordinarily buy at the grocery store. For example, didn’t know I was so passionate about figs until this summer, and now I want a fig tree. ~ Christina Stock
It seems we keep running into members who say, “My friend Christina Stock sent me…” If you’re a part of Urban Acres, there’s a good chance you found out about us from this fascinating gal. So we thought it was high time we introduced her to the rest of you…
Christina, tell us a little about yourself.
I live with my family in Richardson. I have my Master’s degree and am a board-certified music therapist but am currently taking time off from my career to be a stay at home mom. I have a blog called Since I Have No Wings that is still in its infancy but will be covering motherhood, community, food, gardening, and making music. My favorite thing in the world is to have friends over so that we can cook and eat together, then retire to either the back yard or the living room, pull out our guitars, ukuleles, drums, and whatever else and make music. In true Dharma-and-Greg fashion, my husband Kyle is a manager at Pariveda Solutions, a local IT consulting company.
What inspired you to become a part of Urban Acres?
My husband and I have been looking for several years for ways to source fresh, local, organic food in the Dallas area. We checked out local farmers markets and several websites, including Slow Food Dallas and Edible DFW, and found several CSAs and Co-ops that we wanted to try out. Then serendipitously at a Christmas party at our chiropractor’s office (Café of Life), we won a membership with Urban Acres in a raffle. The rest, as they say, is history.
When and why did you decide to start eating real, wholesome food?
The best way I can describe this “decision” is more like an evolution of the way we approach eating. I think it started in high school after I was horrified reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Through college, trips overseas, and graduate school I read Supersize Me, books by Michael Pollan, The China Study, watched Food, Inc. and Forks over Knives. At the same time, my mom was facing some serious health issues as a result of environmental toxicity. She attended the Hippocrates Institute in Florida and came back all jazzed about raw food and veganism, which opened my eyes to how integral diet is to our physical and mental well-being. The most significant event that sealed my belief in real, wholesome food is that after the birth of my daughter I experienced post-partum depression and hated being on anti-depressants. I went raw for a few months and was eventually able to wean myself from the meds, noticed higher energy levels (a MUST for new mamas!), and finally started feeling like myself again. Hippocrates once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” I’m a big believer in that.
What is your favorite part about the “co-op style” produce?
Urban Acres lines up with our food goals, and is also tremendously convenient. The less time I have to spend at the grocery store with a toddler, the easier my life is. We also enjoy learning about the subtleties of seasonality, like when exactly blackberry season ends and fig season begins. It helps us plan what we want to grow when in our own garden.
What’s your favorite produce tip/trick?
Pickling. We have a book called Simple Fresh Southern by the Lee Brothers, which we highly recommend if you’re looking for great recipes and inspired pickling ingredients. From our produce shares we have pickled cucumbers, beets, radishes, chard stems, asparagus, and squash. We also either compost everything we don’t use or use the ends of onions, celery, carrots and the like to make our own chicken and vegetable stock.
If/when you do eat out, what is one of your favorite restaurants in Dallas?
Bolsa in Oak Cliff is our go-to special occasion place to eat. We love that the menu changes seasonally and they locally source everything they can. Also, their cocktails are out of control.
Do you grow any food at home? If so, what’s growing in your garden right now?
We are currently growing lots of herbs and greens in our partially shaded back yard: bright lights chard, oregano, basil, thyme, curry, lemon balm, and patio tomatoes. We have a great swath of lawn in our front yard that gets full sun all day every day, and we are slowly but surely tucking edibles into the landscape, including blackberries, okra, and peppers. Our goal is to eventually plant our entire front yard with edibles.
What is your favorite fruit? Favorite veggie? Why?
Peaches, figs (especially with goat cheese – YUM), okra, brussels sprouts, and greens are our favorites. We love these because they are so versatile, have so much flavor, and you get a lot of nutritional punch for not a lot of work. Our favorite preparation of the above veggies is just roasting or sautéeing them with olive oil, salt and pepper. We are also always tossing chard into anything we happen to be cooking – topping pizza, into white bean soup, anything. Now I’m hungry.
What is your favorite site to get recipes from?
We have a ton of recipe books and subscribe to Real Simple magazine, so we use those more than websites. Since I am now cooking for my daughter, I do look to Pinterest or Weelicious for new fun food inspiration.
Do you have any produce tips for our other members? What would you say to other members who are still trying to figure out this “co-op style produce” thing? Anything to inspire them?
We have been trying to reduce our grocery bill the last couple months and we’ve been “shopping” what we already have in our pantry…and that plus our Urban Acres share turns mealtime into an episode of MacGyver. Participating in co-op style produce keeps us coming up with new recipes and new flavors using fruits and veggies we may not ordinarily buy at the grocery store. For example, didn’t know I was so passionate about figs until this summer, and now I want a fig tree. My husband Kyle suggests that if you don’t know what to do with something from your produce bin, throw it on a pizza. With bacon.
Please share your current favorite “real food recipe” with us.
This recipe comes from the our above mentioned favorite cookbook: Simple Fresh Southern by The Lee Brothers. It’s a little decadent but so much fun!
3 pounds plums (any fruit will do)
Two 1-inch-long pieces of cinnamon stick
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups VSOP brandy
1. Fill two 1-quart glass jars with water. Place the jars in a deep stockpot, and fill the pot with water up to the shoulder of the jars, about an inch beneath their rims. Remove the jars from the pot and discard the water inside them. Bring the water in the pot to a boil.
2. While the water is heating, prepare the plums: Prick several holes around the stem ends of the plums. Pack the plums into the jars, quartering and pitting any plums that don’t fit and placing the quartered pieces in the gaps between the whole plums. Add a cinnamon stick to each jar.
3. In a 2-quart saucepan or skillet, bring the sugar, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil. Then turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow the syrup to cool for 10 minutes, then stir in the brandy. Immediately pour the liquid into the jars up to 1/2 inch from the rim.
4. Partially close each jar (to leave a gap for steam to escape), and place them in the pot of boiling water. Let the water boil for 10 minutes.
5. Carefully remove the jars with a jar lifter or tongs, and close the lids tightly. Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes; then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Christina’s note: Once you have the brandied plums, you can add the brandy/plum juice to champagne for an interesting new drink. Our favorite thing to do with the plums themselves is to either cook them down and pair them as a side for pork chops or put some vanilla ice cream on them for dessert.