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Photo by Food for My Family

Eating Habits After the Harvest

The following post is from Shaina of Food for My Family and Olmanson Photography:

Photo by Food for My Family

We’re looking at what the changing seasons means to us and our family dinner routine. Mandi’s making adjustments to cut out convenience foods and Jessica is looking at balancing busy schedules and making dinner as good as possible. Here’s how I’m coping with the end of the harvest:

My summer menu has been full of fresh fruits and vegetables, many enjoyed outside in the warmth of the evening sun. However, as the seasons change and our schedules become more hectic as sports seasons start and stop and overlap, it’s the winter months that seem to take their toll on our menu planning and our ability to eat together as a family.

It makes sense, I suppose. I live in the Midwest, where produce is at a high, well, right now. In just a matter of weeks, the grass with fade to brown, the air will turn cold and the leaves will fall to the ground. With produce more scarce and winter prices rising, I often find that it’s harder to eat the way I would like in the middle of the winter months.

The way I envision my diet and my family dinners is heavily reliant on fresh produce for meal sides and snacks, but fresh produce for six costs more when it’s being flown in from states on the other side of the continent or from a different country altogether. Plus, let’s face it, it doesn’t taste the same as when it’s picked perfectly ripe and harvested in season locally. Ethylene gas does not a happy tomato make.

Still, each year I’m determined to keep my menu as well balanced as possible with an emphasis on fresh vegetables and fruits that play a major part in our home-cooked meals, even if it means a bit of forethought during the already busy fall school season.

Thinking ahead by canning.

We love to can fresh summer fruits to enjoy over yogurt or waffles in the winter. We also try to can as many tomatoes as possible and make tomato sauce and pasta sauces to have on hand during the winter. We just made a final jam, a few jars of salsa and a large pot of stewed tomatoes this past weekend.

Photo by Food for My Family

Freezing partially prepared vegetables.

Another way we are sure to enjoy fresh vegetables and fruits in the winter is by blanching and freezing them. Green beans tossed into boiling water, peaches blanched, peeled and halved and shredded zucchini just waiting to become zucchini orange bread are all keeping each other company in the basement chest freezer.

One of our favorite things to freeze for later, though, is pesto. There is nothing quite like fresh pesto from freshly-picked herbs. We freeze 15 or so family-sized portions each fall that we enjoy well into the next spring.

Adjusting the menu with the season.

While eating fresh berries in the middle of winter is something we splurge on occasionally, we try to rethink our meals to reflect the season, opting for frozen berry sauce instead of fresh strawberries to top breakfast-for-dinner pancakes, for instance. We also rely heavily on frozen vegetables, both store-bought or home frozen, and instead of eating them lightly grilled or steamed, we’re adding them to winter stews and enjoying them in cassoulets.

Winter doesn’t have to mean a change in the amounts of produce and healthy produce we consume. Instead, we view it as a way to enjoy them in a different way. I, for one, am looking forward to warm dinners of soup and chili, roasted root vegetables with a saucy pot roast and breads baked in the oven, making the entire house smell like a French bakery.

As the seasons change, how is your menu changing to reflect that? What autumn and winter meals are you most looking forward to?

Shaina Olmanson is the freelance writer, photographer, and home cook behind Food for My Family. Cooking daily with and for her four kids and husband, Ole, drives her desire to inspire other families to do the same. Shaina is also the author of Desserts in Jars and contributes regularly to a variety of online sites and traditional print magazines.