Wondering how to boost your overall happiness and creativity? Try cooking with local produce. Local fruits and vegetables are healthier because they haven’t been frozen, so the flavors and nutrients are more complex. Fruits and vegetables will start losing their nutrients a day after being picked, and they sit in trucks for days while being shipped to different parts of the country. If you start purchasing from local farmers, you might begin to notice your body feeling different. You may feel brighter and more energized.
Buying local produce also helps you develop a richer connection with the food. You know where the food comes from and you start to know the farmers, as well. Your food now has a story behind it. There is love that goes into the soil that grows the vegetables that you eat, which pours nutrients and feel-good chemicals into your brain.
Additionally, many fruits and vegetables are rich in Vitamin B, C, and antioxidants that boost “happy” brain chemicals like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. Scientifically speaking, eating local produce can improve your happiness, creativity, and curiosity. Your brain loves these fresh ingredients because it is able to soak up all the vitamins and minerals the fruits and vegetables have to offer without it being diluted by travel and refrigeration. A healthier body leads to a healthier brain, which will be far more active. Your imagination will light up because your mind has the fuel to work at full capacity.
Using local produce can also inspire you to get your creative juices flowing in the kitchen and discover new ways to prepare these locally grown fruits and vegetables. Local St. Petersburg chef and baker, Dallas Bowling (@salladgnilwob on Instagram) uses produce from Little Pond Farm to create her mixed vegetable gnocchi. Here is what she had to say:
Quarantine happened, and along with paper products I was shocked to see fresh produce shelves bare virtually everywhere! Local farmers quickly stepped up to fill the need, namely St Pete’s Saturday Morning Market, where local farms began adapting to this new way of life! These weekly boxes of straight from the farm produce were a beacon of inspiration for me.
This recipe can be easily adapted for fall or winter produce as well! Add the veggies you like, and take away what you don’t!
-your favorite dry italian seasoning blend, 1/2 teaspoon
-2 16 oz packages ready made gnocchi
-1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
-1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
-6 small eggplants, sliced into medallions (you could also use zucchini or squash!)
-1 large diced white onion (feel free to add extra onion, leeks, or spring onion if you have those around—-the more the merrier!)
-4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
-1/2 stick butter
-1 cup dry white wine
-1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese
•preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
•lay your eggplant, squash, and/or zucchini medallions in a single layer on a sheet pan, sprinkle generously with salt and leave to sit for about 10 min to draw out their liquids, then wipe them off with a damp paper towel.
•sprinkle your eggplant with the italian seasoning and 2 tablespoons olive oil on both sides.
•make sure your eggplant is in a single layer on the sheet pan, then place in the oven for 35-40 min, flipping halfway through, until they are golden brown.
•Put a pot over medium heat, add 2 generous tablespoons olive oil and allow it to warm up, about 2 minutes.
•add your onions (and other onion type vegetables, if using) allow them to fry in the oil until translucent and starting to turn golden brown, then add the chopped garlic and cook 2 minutes more.
•stand back, and the butter to the pot, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom, then add the white wine to the pot, it will bubble aggressively as the alcohol evaporates.
•add the gnocchi and parmesan cheese, stir, turn the heat to medium low and with the lid on, allow to cook for 4-7 min longer, or until the gnocchi is soft.
•Finally, add the roasted eggplant (and any other vegetables!), cherry tomatoes, and chopped basil
•Season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!
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Alli is our office manager and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University, just recently moved to St. Pete and is enjoying paradise. Her interests include painting, nature, and learning about other people.