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Farm mom favors simple meals

What’s for dinnner? Allen County mom lets the ingredients decide

Motherhood didn’t change Michelle Howell’s cooking habits immediately. “I was working full time. I was like a lot of people, overworked, overwhelmed,” says the Tri-County Electric cooperative member from Allen County. She relied on fast food or processed food from the supermarket. But with child No. 2, Elizabeth, Michelle learned that breastfeeding is the best “first food,” begging the question, “What’s the best next food?” she says.

Shopping at the farmers’ market, trying to cook more seasonal produce, Michelle began to change. But it took tons of time—finding the local products required driving far and wide. Making the dishes required planning and more ingredients.

Now a mom with four young children who home-schools and farms full time, Michelle often looks at recipes and thinks, “This recipe calls for eight–12 ingredients, and half of them I will never use again. I think that’s why people think it’s expensive to cook with fresh ingredients—because of the additional ingredients fancy recipes call for.”

Finally, she had an epiphany: she would let her ingredients tell her what’s for dinner tonight. “Instead of using recipes, I use cooking skills,” she says.

Armed with olive oil, salt, a good skillet, and a sharp knife, Michelle now can make dinner with whatever is on hand—no time spent planning menus, no trips to the grocery store for special ingredients. And these days, husband Nathan is raising much of the food on their 20-acre farm. Vegetables and eggs are always available and the couple raises chicken and pork, too, selling vegetables and meat to families at the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green.

Between parenting, work, and community activism, Michelle knows the challenge of preparing a family meal. Keeping the technique simple helps.

Sautéed Broccoli

Spinach and Sausage Strata
Recipe by Sarah Fritschner

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