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The real value meal: Home-cooked and cheaper than fast food

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By Jackson Holtz
Herald Writer
It's time to put the value back into the value meal.
That's the rallying cry of a new movement that's sweeping the nation's dinner tables.
Slow Food USA's $5 Challenge is part of a larger Food Day celebration scheduled for Oct. 24.
Organizers are inviting people to dump the fast-food meal -- typically a burger, fries and a soft drink -- in favor of a home-cooked meal that costs as little as $5 a person.
"Let's take back the value meal," Slow Food USA President Josh Viertel said. "Cook slow food for less than it costs to buy fast food."
For $28, about what it costs to feed a family of four with empty calories at a fast-food joint, people can cook a nutritious meal at home and still have leftovers.
It's a trend that is gathering steam at community gatherings, potlucks and family tables.
"It's not only about nourishment, it's also about community," said Laura Wild, a nutrition instructor at Everett Community College who is organizing a local free Food Day event Oct. 24.
Meals shared with friends and family can be opportunities to build relationships. "We have such intimate connections over food that we don't get in a fast-food restaurant," Wild said.
Recipes including hearty soups, inventive pastas and wholesome beans and rice are coming back, thanks to their nutritional value and their low impact on the pocketbook.
Meat is not excluded, simply appropriately proportioned.
The Slow Food movement, as it's called, has been serving up events around the country to get more people involved. Slow food typically is defined as locally grown, sustainable and healthful food. It's the opposite of fast food.
Even the White House is getting in on the $5 Challenge.
On Nov. 29, White House chef Sam Kass plans to cook a family meal for $10 (the amount allotted under SNAP, the nation's food stamp agency), and will whip up gourmet dinners for about $4.50 a plate (the amount a family typically can afford), according to The New York Times.
You can get involved too. Cook a meal at home, invite friends or attend free cooking demonstrations, garden tours and more at EvCC.
The goal of Food Day is to get people thinking more about the entire chain of food production, harvesting and cooking, Wild said.
"We need everybody to be aware and make good food choices," she said. "We could change our food systems if we just educate people about better food choices."
Many people believe that big corporate food companies and factory farms have resulted in higher calorie meals, environmental degradation and lower wages for farmhands.
Empty calories laden with sugars, fat and artificial flavors often come cheap and quickly.
Many people think healthful foods are expensive and hard to make, said Lilia Smelkovia, a spokeswoman for the Food Day campaign. Food Day is organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Several celebrity chefs contributed recipes for people to try that are simple and affordable.
"You don't need a degree to prepare them, and they're all healthful," Smelkovia said.
That's also the driving force behind Slow Food USA, Viertel said.
Making smart food choices is less expensive in the long run, too, he said. It's about being part of a community that cares about health, the environment and workers' rights.
"There's this myth that pleasure and responsibility are opposites," he said. "Food has the possibility of overcoming that myth."
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447;

EvCC Food Day
Cooking demonstrations, garden tours and more from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Oct. 24, White Horse Hall, Everett Community College, 2000 Tower St., Everett.
For more information, call 425-388-9056.

Tuscan kale and white bean ragout
This recipe easily can be enhanced with leftover chicken, a stewed chicken carcass, or pasta. Make it a soup by adding more broth.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 small red onion, sliced
1½ pounds Tuscan kale,* rinsed, patted dry and cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide slices
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more if needed
2 15-ounce cans no-salt-added cannellini beans or white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with their juices
½ cup vegetable stock or canned low-sodium vegetable broth
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the bay leaf, garlic, crushed red pepper and red onion. Cook until the onion begins to wilt and the garlic begins to turn golden around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the kale and pepper, and cook for another 2 minutes. Then add the white beans, tomatoes and stock. Cover, and cook until the kale is wilted and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Taste and season with up to ½ teaspoon salt.
Transfer the ragout to a serving dish, and drizzle it with extra-virgin olive oil. Serve hot.
Per Serving: calories 410; fat 16 g; sat fat 2 g; protein 17 g; carbs 53 g; fiber 13 g; cholesterol 0 mg; sodium 410 mg.
*Tuscan kale is also known as lacinato kale, black kale and dinosaur kale.
Makes 4 servings
Adapted from "Farm to Fork" by Emeril Lagasse
Courtesy of Food Day
Story tags » NutritionFoodLocal FoodFamily



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