What Makes Chow Locally So Special?

Over the past few years buying locally is a trend that is on the rise. People want fresh food with a known source and a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is an answer to both desires. While a CSA offers fresh produce, there are some drawbacks to the system including a large upfront cost and a limited selection of produce as the shares are restricted to what the individual farm is growing. Chow Locally solves both of these problems. Like a traditional CSA, Chow Locally Shares offer fresh produce from local sources. However we address the two big problems with CSAs:

  • Members will pay weekly for their Share as opposed to shelling out a large seasonal cost. This allows families to budget and our weekly email gives members a heads up as to what is coming in the box so you can plan your grocery store visits too!
  • Chow Shares promise variety because we work with about 30 different farms throughout the state. If one farm had a bug problem or the crop was affected by storms, we are able to pull from other sources ensuring quality each week.

In addition, Chow members are able to put their accounts on hold if they are traveling or just don’t desire a box a certain week. This added flexibility makes Chow Locally unique in the local food movement.

We strive always to being the fresher local produce to local tables. If you are currently a Chow Member share the love and invite a friend to join you!

Also check back here on the blog next week as we share what Chow Locally is doing to help local farmers!


We love to hear what you do with your shares, so when you whip up something you’re proud of, please post it on our Facebook page or Twitter.  And use #mychowshare!

This week, we shared a pic of a great kale salad we threw together using many of the most recent Chow Share items. Here’s the recipe for that:

Kale, Carrot, Radish, Microgreens, and Parsley Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette Dressing.

7 cups kale, chopped with stems removed
3 carrots, chopped
2 radishes, sliced thinly and halved
1 small container microgreens
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup steamed lentils (cold or hot)

Dressing (from allrecipes.com)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon-style prepared mustard
2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Prepare all ingredients, toss, eat, and enjoy how delicious sustainable, healthy eating can be!

Sweet Potato and Braised Kale Pizza!

Recently, we posted a pic on Facebook of a pizza we were throwing together using items from a recent Chow Share.  We got lots of requests for the recipe, so here it is!  It’s easy and quick, so enjoy!

(Quick disclaimer: the crusts you see in the pic on Facebook were actually purchased from Gluten-Free Creations Bakery, which has a booth at the Ahwatukee Farmers’ Market as well as a cafe location in Scottsdale.  Check them out here.)

Ingredients – Crust (adapted from Alice Waters’s excellent cookbook: The Art of Simple Food)
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
3 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold water
1/4 cup olive oil

Ingredients – Topping and reduction
2 sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small bunch kale
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions – Crust

  1. Stir together yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved.  Add 1/2 cup flour and stir well.  Allow the mixture to sit until very bubbly, about 30 minutes.
  2. In another bowl, mix together flour and salt. Stir this into the yeast and flour mixture and add cold water and olive oil.
  3. Mix thoroughly by hand. Place the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until the dough is soft and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough is too wet and sticky, add more flour, but only enough to form a soft, slightly sticky dough.
  4. The dough is the right texture when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, but still adheres to the bottom. You are looking for a very soft, slightly moist dough.
  5. Put the dough in a large bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2-4 hours (depending on how long you can hold out).
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 or higher (the hotter, the better).
  7. Divide the dough into two balls and roll out to desired thickness.

Directions – Toppings

  1. Bring water to a boil in a pot.
  2. In the meantime, wash and chop sweet potatoes into 1-2 in. cubes.
  3. Place cubes into boiling water and for roughly 8-10 minutes, or until easily pierced by a fork.
  4. While sweet potato is boiling, wash and remove kale leaves from thick stems.  Toss with oil, then place directly into a pan at medium-high heat.  Cook briefly (roughly 3-5 minutes) until kale is cooked down and a bit wilted.
  5. Drain sweet potatoes, place in a bowl, and mash.

Directions – Putting it all together

  1. Bake rolled-out pizza crusts for about 10 minutes, then pull from oven.
  2. Spread sweet potato mash evenly on each crust, then top with braised kale.
  3. Return to oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, add balsamic vinegar to a small pan and bring to a boil.
  5. Immediately reduce to a simmer, then add and mix in brown sugar.
  6. Let the mixture reduce until it becomes just a bit syrupy (you’ll notice it sticking to your spoon).
  7. Remove from heat and let cool (it will thicken more as it cools).
  8. Once pizzas are done baking, remove from oven and drizzle each with balsamic reduction.
  9. Serve and enjoy!!

Food Label Terminology

For many of us who think a lot about food, how healthy it is, where it comes from, and how it was produced, we tend to rely on food labels to give us at least a little bit of that information.  We look for information on nutrition, for instance, in the Nutrition Facts labels, or we read the health and nutrient content claims on food packages.  And when it comes to production practices, we might look for terms like “Organic,” “Natural,” or “Farm-fresh.” We might even look for information that might tell us something about animal welfare.  The term, “cage-free,” for example, would seem to suggest a hen that has the ability to roam around a pasture and perform its natural behaviors.

The US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration both have a role to play in regulating some of this terminology.  The problem is, some terms are well-regulated, some are poorly regulated, and some are entirely unregulated.  And that not only leads to consumer confusion, it opens up a grey area for companies to paint a picture of their food that might not be totally accurate.

So, let’s wade through at least some of the more popular terms out there to get a better idea of what they actually mean, and how they’re regulated.

ORGANIC: Let’s start here because it is probably the most well-regulated by USDA.  If you see “100% Organic” on a label, that means the product contains only fully organic ingredients.  If you see the word, “Organic,” without any other qualifiers, that signifies the product contains 95% or more organic ingredients.  If you see, “Made with Organic Ingredients,” then the product contains at least 70% organic ingredients.  So, even if you didn’t know the percentages related to the terminology, you at least get a sense of the organic nature of a product.

NATURAL or NATURALLY RAISED: Things get pretty dicey from here on out.  For instance, the term “natural” is really poorly regulated.  The Food Safety and Inspection Service of USDA maintains a legal definition for “natural”: that the product contains no artificial ingredients or added coloring and is only minimally processed.  There are some requirements to using this term: the food product label must explain what is meant by using the term “natural.”  BUT, this definition only applies to meat and poultry products…and that’s it.

“Naturally raised” is a similar term used on food products, but one that means even less than “natural.”  Another branch of the USDA maintains the definition for “naturally raised,” meaning an animal is raised without growth promotants or antibiotics.  This definition, however, doesn’t require any sort of label with an explanation of the term.  AND, an animal can be raised without the use of antibiotics or growth promotants, but could still be raised on feedlots and can be processed into a product that is in no measurable way any “healthier” or more sustainable than a comparable product.  So, even though you might think “naturally raised” would proffer some sort of health or other benefit, it doesn’t necessarily.

FARM FRESH: “Farm-fresh” is all together unregulated.  It’s just a marketing term, so really if a product originated at a farm and wasn’t spoiled when it was bought, it probably could be considered ‘farm-fresh.’  This is a very nice example of what some people call ‘green-washing.’

GRASS-FED, CAGE-FREE, and FREE-RANGE: Terms like ‘grass-fed,’ ‘cage-free,’ and ‘free-range,’ are all dubious in their usage.  Each has some regulation behind it, but that regulation is lax and doesn’t reflect the image most people have when they see these terms on food packaging.  ‘Grass-fed’ only means an animal was fed 100% grass (it does not have to be out on pasture all the time; rather it could be fed harvested grass within a feedlot).  It could also have been fed hormones and antibiotics.  So, even though the term ‘grass-fed’ suggests a cow out on a green hill munching on grass, this is probably not close to the reality in many cases.

‘Cage-free’ and ‘free-range’ are both poorly regulated terms as well.   If a hen is cage-free, it is raised and lays eggs outside of cages.  However, it is still likely living in a barn or warehouse, quite possibly in very crowded conditions (which often require de-beaking, or the unanesthetized cutting off of the birds’ beaks).  It might or might not have actual access to the outdoors, and if it does, it can just as likely be an enclosed concrete area as actual pasture.  Similarly, with ‘free-range,’ outdoor access must be provided the animal, but the length of time and the quality of that outdoor area is not regulated.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Since we buy food far from where it was produced, we can probably rely on organic labeling to tell us at least a little bit about how a product was produced.  But we can’t rely on terms such as ‘natural,’ ‘farm-fresh,’ ‘cage-free,’ or ‘free-range’ to tell us much about the healthfulness of a food product, its environmental impact, or how animals were treated in the production of the food product.  I would go so far as to say you should avoid putting any stock in these green-washing type terms.  Instead, and especially for animal products, the best thing to do is to try to purchase from local producers who you can question about production and animal handling practices.  When it come to fruits and vegetables, relying on organic labeling is at least a step in the right direction.  But better yet, knowing where they come from, who produced them, and how they were produced, is the absolute ideal.

It’s hot! Drink locally!

The groans were audible this week as we entered the triple digit zone.  Summer is just around the corner, and that means we’re turning on the A/C, cleaning up the pool, and frantically taking advantage of those last few temperate days before Mother Nature cranks it up to “broil”.

Eating locally is our specialty, but today I want to remind you how important it is to drink locally.  I mean water, of course!  It’s a precious resource in these parts, and it’s important to use it wisely.  Water in plastic bottles is exposed to bisphenol-A, a hormone disrupting chemical.  BPA is especially prone to leaching into fluids in plastic bottles when it is hot, so if you must drink from a plastic bottle, please do so without exposing that bottle and its contents to the heat of your locked car.

Find a BPA-free plastic bottle (they are marked as such), or a metal bottle, and carry filtered local water with you throughout the day.  Be sure to drink proactively.  It is so dry in our climate, especially in late spring and early summer, sweat evaporates before we see it and we are not easily cued that we are losing water.  If you wait until you’re thirsty, it may be too late.

And, as summer drags on and it gets hard to drink enough plain water to stay adequately hydrated, here’s a suggestion from customer Erica Goble.  Her first Chow Share was the one with the beautiful bag of herbs.  She has been using them, even the bay leaves, to flavor her afternoon water!  “My coworkers now ask me what’s going in the water today,” she shared, “but I think they are intrigued.  I am starting to look forward to the fresh flavors and I find it to be a great, refreshing break.”

We’ll get into other hydrating ideas like gazpacho, fun beverages, etc., as summer progresses.  If you have any you’d like to pass along, please do!  We love to hear from our customers.