Why I Love Greenling

Photo by Phaedra Cook
Made from a Greenling meal kit: vegetarian tortilla soup with black bean, cheese and salsa quesadillas on the side

UPDATE: December 3, 2014: After this blog went live, we received some questions about Greenling and local farmers. In a followup post, we went straight to the source to find out what "local" means and to answer the following: does Greenling really help local farmers?

It's always lame to hear about people talk about how busy they are. We're all busy these days. With that being said, as someone who's currently juggling a dual career as a writer and as an IT consultant, I'm probably busier than most.

My days usually start between 4 and 6 a.m. I get up, write for a few hours, then put on my consultant garb and go downtown to take care of my IT clients.

Lunchtime is almost always a "working" lunch. I may interview a chef or check out a new restaurant. Houston's dining scene is so incredibly active that there's almost always some kind of event or review visit in the evening. To retain some personal sanity (and get to see my college-aged kids who are still living at home), I try and stick to a rule that I only go out on assignment every other night.

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First Look at True Food Kitchen, A Restaurant Based on Dr. Andrew Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Photo by Mai Pham
Heirloom tomato and watermelon salad -- just beautiful, at True Food Kitchen.
It's sad, but true: When you think of the "healthy" food options available in Houston today, there aren't many exciting options that come to mind. Enter True Food Kitchen, the Phoenix-based chain that is poised to take the nation by storm (they currently have eight open locations; Houston will be the ninth). Founded in partnership with Tuscon-based physician, professor, and holistic health guru Dr. Andrew Weil, the restaurant menu was created based on the tenets of Weil's anti-inflammatory diet.

This is where True Food Kitchen excels: Where many "healthy"-type food restaurants fall short in the taste department, True Food Kitchen's food is fresh, visually appealing, ample-portioned, and tastes fantastic. In other words, not only will you want to eat what's presented in front of you, but you'll enjoy eating it and leave feeling satisfied.

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Eat Local Food & Support Planted: Houston at Benefit Pop-Up Dinner

Photo courtesy of Edible Earth Resources
Head to Haven on Sunday to feast on local food and support an urban garden project, Planted: Houston.
Edible Earth Resources is a local edible landscaping firm that installs home gardens and landscapes, as well as many restaurant gardens, like the ones found at Haven and Coltivare. On Sunday, July 27, from 5 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., Edible Earth will hold a benefit pop dinner at Haven as the kick off to the campaign funding their urban farming project, Planted: Houston.

Nick Panzarella, community liaison for Edible Earth Resources, says the firm approached the city of Houston to lease abandoned lots in order to build urban gardens as a means to redevelop those neighborhoods and combat food deserts. Instead of shipping all of the produce to restaurants outside of these communities, 10 percent of the food grown in the gardens will be sold at corner stores and convenience stores within the neighborhoods at grocery store prices, or lower if possible. Edible Earth will also have a produce share similar to a CSA box where people receive a box of produce every week; for every share sold, one will be donated. The rest of the produce will go to restaurants on contract with them.

While part of the project is being funded by chefs who are pre-purchasing produce from Edible Earth, the other half is crowd-funded. The pop-up dinner on Sunday marks the kick-off to this two-month campaign benefiting Planted: Houston.

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Sign Up for One of Houston's Many CSA Boxes for Fresh Produce Year-Round

Photo courtesy Farmhouse Delivery
Sign up to receive a box of fresh produce every week of the year.
There's something fun about wandering around a farmers' market on a Saturday morning, perusing the produce and deciding what to make later that evening to best showcase your fresh finds. But there's also a thrill in picking up a pre-packed box from a local farm, taking it home and discovering what's inside. Every week or month it's a surprise, but it's always local and always as fresh as can be.

That's the concept behind CSA boxes, popular in California and (surprisingly) the Midwest, but just catching on here in Houston. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and the idea is simple: A farmer sells "shares" of the farm (often in the form of these boxes full of treats) to community members. The arrangement benefits the farmers, who get paid up front and have a chance to market directly to their customers, as well as the people who own shares in the farm and get a piece of its bounty on a regular basis.

In Houston and the surrounding area, a number of farms participate in Community Supported Agriculture, providing boxes of produce that can be picked up at various spots around town.

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Ripe Cuisine Set to Launch Vegan Food Truck With Help From Kickstarter

Photo courtesy Ripe Cuisine
Stephanie Hoban wants to bring vegan food all over town with a new food truck.
When Stephanie Hoban moved back to Houston after living in New York for a few years, she was struck by the disappointingly small number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in town. Rather than complain about it, she got to work.

The registered dietician and graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute for the Health and Culinary Arts in New York City started a blog called Ripe: Healthy Seasonal Cuisine, where she tested recipes and wrote about her vegan lifestyle.

"I wanted to keep up with my passion, and I wanted the outlet," Hoban says. "I got positive feedback from it, but you don't know if people were actually cooking the food. I wanted people to actually taste the food that I made."

The best way to ensure that people are indeed enjoying your recipes? Make the food for them.

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How To: Get, Plant & Grow Your Own Lime Trees in Houston

Photo by andydr
Produce limes for many years by planting your own lime tree.
What's the best solution to avoiding rising prices of any produce? Grow it yourself. Fortunately, the Houston area and climate is perfect for growing citrus, especially limes. Unfortunately, if you plant a lime tree now it won't produce fruit until next year. But, just in case another lime crisis happens (or it continues), here's how you can plant a lime tree at home.

We spoke with Tyler Horne, market manager of the Saturday Eastside Street & Wednesday City Hall Urban Harvest farmers markets, about growing limes in Houston. He says it is super easy to grow citrus in our area because the lime trees are well adapted to our gumbo soil. Horne explains that the rootstock of lime trees will grasp onto this type of soil easily.

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PETA Stages Protest Downtown by Dressing Model in Collard Greens

Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg
A volunteer model is covered in collard greens as part of a PETA demonstration.
Today at noon, the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals took their message in support of a vegan diet to the streets of downtown Houston.

Two PETA members planted themselves (pun intended) at the corner of Milam and Congress and proceeded to dress a volunteer model in a floor-length gown made entirely of collard greens. The volunteer held signage and pamphlets in support of PETA, while the other two people used spray adhesive to stick large leaves to her body suit and stockings.

"We really just want to get out the message that there are alternatives to eating meat," one of the PETA members said.

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Ordering Truffles Out of Season

Photo by Wazouille
The black truffle, when ripe, should have signature white veins running throughout.
"Don't order anything with truffles," my friend said during a recent dinner at an upscale restaurant in town. "It's not truffle season any more. It won't be worth it."

I had, of course, heard the phrase "truffle season" before, particularly in reference to the expensive Alba white truffles, which achieve peak ripeness in October and November and are rarely served outside of those months. But when ordering truffles at a fancy restaurant, I rarely think about them in the same way that I might asparagus or green beans or berries. Truffles look like rocks and smell like an alluring mixture of mushrooms and earth. They're a fungus. How can they not be in season?

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Going Healthy at Snap Kitchen

Photo by Mai Pham
Malaysian curry was like a curried version of ratatouille -- and it's not only tasty, but healthy.

True story: A girlfriend of mine lost 12 pounds doing the Snap Kitchen 21-day challenge. Now, I want to lose 12 pounds, too, but I have to be honest when I say that the thought of eating healthy, pre-packaged foods for any length of time does not appeal.

"I eat with my eyes first," I told concept executive chef Matthew Reinhart and nutritionist Andrea Hinsdale of Snap Kitchen during a recent tasting event held to unveil items from their new spring menu. Our tasting started with snack items, such as house-made smoked salmon served on paleo, gluten-free crackers and something called "devily eggs."

A riff on traditional deviled eggs, the yolks had been substituted with hummus, upping the nutritional factor and reducing the calorie count to just 100 per four halves. I knew that they had done something different to the eggs, but it wasn't until someone told me that it was hummus did I put two and two together. The "devily eggs" were exactly the kind of thing I would eat if I were to embark on a 21-day challenge, and it was a promising start.

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First Look at Dish Society: Casual Farm-to-Table Dining

Photos by Molly Dunn
Every meal served at Dish Society features ingredients from local producers.
Texas (especially the Houston region) is blessed with a multitude of produce farms, breweries, meat producers and dairy farms. While it is common for Houston restaurants to showcase a few local producers' products in menu items, there aren't many restaurants that are solely farm-to-table. And that's why restaurateur Aaron Lyons decided to create Dish Society.

Dish Society was a concept Lyons developed while attending graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin. He originally planned to open Dish Society in Austin, but decided to bring his concept to Houston after finding "greater demand and opportunity" here for his farm-to-table restaurant, according to Dish Society's website.

Each item on the menu features ingredients sourced from local producers throughout the state, including Atkinson Farms in Spring, Houston Dairymaids, Slow Dough Bread Co., and Texas Hill Country Olive Company in Dripping Springs. Most of the menu items list the source of the ingredients in the dish's description, and at the bottom of each menu you will find a complete list of sources.

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