A spread of different vegetables including brussel sprouts, carrots, bell peppers, potatoes, and garlic on a white table.
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Locally grown foods aren’t shipped thousands of miles, which reduces the carbon footprint, supports our local growers, and offers tastier, more nutritious food. When food doesn’t have to travel far, it can be picked ripe, and eaten soon after harvest, retaining more nutrients and flavor than food picked unripe and stored for a longer period.

When sourcing local ingredients, start with a plan. Begin searching for recipes that use fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and shop at the indoor farmers market or buy directly from a local grower. Sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, onions, garlic, leafy greens, brussels sprouts, apples, carrots, and horseradish, are just a few examples of seasonal produce grown in Illinois. This might mean forgoing the traditional green bean casserole made with canned ingredients and opting for a side dish using fresh veggies, such as Brussel Sprouts with Mushroom Sauce or Kale Salad with Apples. Instead of a can of candied yams with marshmallow topping, try fresh sweet potatoes in the Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Toasted Pecans recipe. Sound like a lot of work? You don’t have to do it all; use local bakeries to bake the breads, rolls and desserts for you.   

Once you have your menu, develop a back-up menu. What will you do if you can’t find certain ingredients? Can you substitute sweet potatoes for butternut squash, for example, or do you need to go with a whole new recipe? Locally grown food is available for all, no matter the budget. Check out this list of Illinois farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer venues accepting SNAP benefits. Buying local turkey and produce is a win-win, so take the Local Thanksgiving Challenge and prepare a locally sourced Thanksgiving meal!

 

Autumn Salad

1 small butternut squash or 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

½ Tablespoon olive oil

2/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1 cup water

2 cups chopped kale, stems removed

¼ cup dried cherries or cranberries

¼ cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 large apple, cored and sliced thinly

 

Dressing

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

½ Tablespoon honey

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place squash or potatoes on baking sheet and toss with oil. Roast 25-30 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, combine quinoa and water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until water is absorbed. In a small bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Place kale in a large bowl and pour dressing over it; using clean hands, massage the dressing into the kale. Stir the cooked quinoa and dried cherries or cranberries into the kale. Before serving, toss kale salad with walnuts, feta cheese and apple. Refrigerate leftovers.

Yield: 5 servings

 

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 350 calories, 17 grams fat, 240 milligrams sodium, 46 carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 8 grams protein

 

Photo Credit: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.