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When Chipotle first arrived in Nashville, I didn’t immediately understand all the hype. The company has a huge and loyal fan base and many in Nashville were thrilled about their arrival. When the crowds died down a bit, I finally tried it out. And then I understood. Chipotle puts a tremendous amount of effort into their food sourcing and it really comes through in the quality and taste of their food. Plus, sofritas, y'all! And a good, cheap kid's meal.

Aside from the food tasting great, Chipotle has won support because of their commitment to sustainable sourcing, accommodating various diets, and partnerships with charitable organizations. In Nashville, Chipotle works with The Nashville Food Project, whose mission is “Bringing people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city.” The organization does so through their organic gardens, through their kitchen (where they also use donated and “recovered” food), and through their food trucks, which they use to distribute meals and produce to those in need.

The Chipotle partnership dovetails nicely with Chipotle’s Food With Integrity program, in which Chipotle seeks  to create better food from using ingredients that are fresh as well as sustainably grown and Responsibly Raised™ (with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food). Throughout the year, Chipotle holds and sponsors fundraisers for The Nashville Food Project. In April, the restaurants raised money for TNFP and just a couple of weeks ago, sponsored Nourish, a benefit dinner held at Green Door Gourmet.

I didn’t get a chance to attend Nourish (tickets for the event sold out well in advance), but my friend, Tabitha of A la Mode Media was able to attend and get some cool “backstage” photos of the event. What’s cool is seeing some of the city’s (and the country’s) most celebrated chefs working together (and having a good time) to prepare this dinner. I think her photos clearly capture the spirit of the event (and The Nashville Food Project, in general). At the end of the night, the event raised $140,000 for TNFP. A huge success!

image courtesy of A la Mode Media
image courtesy of A la Mode Media
image courtesy of A la Mode Media
image courtesy of A la Mode Media

For details on future collaborations between Chipotle and The Nashville Food Project, keep an eye out here or on Bites. And be sure to read the wrap-up of the Nourish event (including pictures of the food that was served) by my Bites colleague, Chris Chamberlain.

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juicecollageHey—juice. It’s a thing. How do I know it’s a thing? I get, on average, about 3-4 emails a week promoting books about juicing, the advantages of juice, and juice products. And not just any juice; the kind of juice that requires special equipment and can actually serve as a meal replacement. Just last week, there were three separate posts on the Bites blog about juice shops. And one of our local foodbloggers writes primarily about juice (and related topics, plus some restaurant reviews) at The Nashville Juice.

So yeah, all of a sudden, juice joints are popping up all over the place. And, frankly, I’m really glad. A lot of these places are just like coffee shops, but serve juice and related products instead. I don’t drink coffee, so I appreciate the option of having a place to hang out with friends or have meetings where I can actually purchase something I want to drink rather than a $3 cup of tea. So, here are the juice options that I know of:

Juice Nashville
Juice Nashville is kind of the grandaddy of the Nashville juicerias, though it doesn’t yet have a brick and mortar location. They’re working on that, though, with plans to open in June in The Gulch. But what’s unique about Juice is that they offer comprehensive cleanse plans and delivery of their products. So if you need to detox, you can order one- or three-day cleanses with just the right combination of nutrients you need. Or you can order any of the (currently) 13 different juices separately. These juices are good, y’all. I mean, I don’t even like beets, but the “Whoa.” was truly delicious. The ginger helps a lot.Though I will say that if you spill any, it will look like a dang crime scene. And the “Carrot.” was great, too. Nothing but carrot, but good, sweet carrots.

Until they get their shop opened up, you can order online or buy selected bottles on Saturdays at the West End Farmers Market.

The Juice Bar
I wrote about The Juice Bar for Bites already and I am so excited that these guys are here. But I have to say it’s less for the juice and more for the food (salad, spring rolls, and daily specials). Before I heard about them opening The Juice Bar, I already knew of Veggieland, thanks to The Traveling Vegetarian. My real hope is that they expand into a bona fide restaurant. There’s as much room here for good quality, healthy food as there is for juice bars. As in, a lot of room. In the meantime, they’re focusing on juices and smoothies (often using organic and local produce; choose from the menu or blend your own) and gluten-free food and snacks that keep in line with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The Juice Bar
128 Pewitt Drive, Brentwood

The Urban Juicer
I haven’t been to Urban Juicer yet, but those I know who have been really liked it. They got their start with juice bars set up in the YMCA locations in Bellevue and Green Hills and recently opened a standalone location on 8th Avenue South.  In addition to juices, they serve “frushies,” smoothies, snacks, and a couple of salads and wrap sandwiches, many of which are vegetarian or can be prepared vegetarian. The menu on their site also includes nutrition facts, which is a big bonus for people counting calories.

The Urban Juicer
2206 8th Ave S

Whole Foods
Both Nashville-area locations (Green Hills and Franklin/McEwen) have juice bars, which I believe use mostly or all organic ingredients. I haven’t had any of these juices, but Vui Hunt (of the aforementioned The Juice Bar) previously manned the blender at the Whole Foods in Franklin and it’s what prompted her to feel like the market was “ripe” (sorry; couldn’t resist) for a juice bar just a bit further north in Brentwood.

The Turnip Truck
The Turnip Truck location in the Gulch has a juice and smoothie bar and like The Juice Bar and Whole Foods, they use organic and local produce as often as possible (seasonality and cost are the two major factors preventing all concoctions from being 100% organic). They’ve got a list of really delicious-sounding specialty blends, but I believe you can get blend-your-own as well.

The Turnip Truck
321 12th Avenue South

Alright. As far as I know, that's a comprehensive list of juicerias and juicers (aside from Smoothie King and Orange Julius) here in town. Though this list is only current as of today. As a friend mentioned, juice is the cupcake (ha!).

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Food_Bloggers_Against_HungerA while back, Jennifer Justus emailed a few food bloggers here in Nashville about Food Bloggers Against Hunger. Word spread and brainstorming started. Now, not only do we have a number of Nashville-based food bloggers participating, but Jennifer was also able to set up a local screening of A Place at the Table later this month.

So, what’s this all about? We’re trying to make more people aware of the food crisis here in the United States. The nation’s food stamp program is at severe risk for cuts and even those families who do receive assistance often have little access to fresh, real food and only about $4 a day to purchase groceries. According to No Kid Hungry/Share Our Strength, 1 in 5 children struggle with hunger. Sixteen million children aren’t getting the food they need. In the greatest country in the world…

My family is fortunate. We have enough money not only to eat, but eat well, occasionally dine out and even have a little garden (that mostly feeds the squirrels who steal from it, unfortunately).  But I do have to keep to a budget and I have a number of meals that are “budget-friendly.” I usually only post individual recipes, but I’ll share ideas here for complete, healthy (or healthier) meals based on previous posts.

Blackeyed Pea Burgers
These veggie burgers are great sources of protein, plus they are filling and good. And they only cost about $.65 each, including a whole wheat bun! Add some leafy green lettuce or leaf spinach and a tomato with a side of sweet potato fries and/or roasted broccoli and you have a really nutritious and inexpensive meal.

Garden Lasagna
This lasagna is packed with protein and vitamins, and has rather inexpensive ingredients. If served with a small salad, you can easily feed six to eight people for about $16. The splurge is the already-shredded carrots, but it's one worth making (plus, you only use half the bag). Shredding or matchsticking carrots is just not fun, easy or quick.

Toasted CousCous Salad
This is a great way to pack in a lot of different vitamins and minerals and protein sources in a single dish (chickpeas are a great source of lean protein) or use it to accompany a main dish of baked tofu (tofu is generally less expensive than meat).

Enchiladas
To me, enchiladas are the lasagna of Mexican cuisine. You can cram just about anything into a corn tortilla and cover it in sauce and you’ve got a good, satisfying meal. My post has a list of ideas for fillings. Burritoes and tacos can also be stuffed with a lot of these same fillings.

Vegetables and cornbread
Just a couple of generations ago, this was a fairly standard and common meal (particularly in the south). People just didn’t eat meat at every meal like they tend to do now. Just serve beans, cornbread and whatever seasonal vegetables and fruits that are available and you’ve got a meal. Just like the vegetable plate at Cracker Barrel. Though I suggest getting some color on your plate instead of just shades of yellow (macaroni and cheese is not a vegetable).

Those are just a few of my ideas for budget-friendly meals. I’d estimate that the majority of the meals I cook are budget-friendly, though. So here are a few tips I use for shopping:

  1. Keep up with the sales. Many grocery stores offer amazing deals during promotions such as 10 for $10 and Buy One Get One Free. I stock up on staples that I store in the pantry or freezer (cheese freezes well!).
  2. Shop the international markets. I can often get great canned items like pigeon peas and chickpeas, couscous, rice, tortillas, and even produce at much better prices at the international markets. I got a huge bag of baby bok choy (that’s delicious roasted!) for less than $3. Took two weeks to eat all of it!
  3. The Crock Pot is your friend. Buy dried beans and peas for cheap and cook them in your slow cooker instead of buying canned beans. Also helps with sodium since canned vegetables tend to have far too much sodium.
  4. Buy seasonally. Here’s a link to determine what’s in season where you are now.  Check out you local farmers market, which is likely to have have seasonal fruits and vegetables for much cheaper than the grocery stores. If you don't have easy access to fresh vegetables, frozen vegetables are nearly as healthy, generally less expensive and much better for you overall than canned vegetables.

Finally, we need your help. Please take half a minute fill out this form to send a letter to Congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation. Not only will I be doing that myself, but I plan to do all that I can to prevent the state of Tennessee from continuing with plans to reduce welfare benefits to families with children who are not performing well in school. Which, of course, would only make them perform worse in school, not to mention punish children who might be doing well.

Also, see for yourself. As I noted above, Jennifer arranged for a screening of A Place at the Table here in Nashville. On Monday, April 29, you’ll be able to view the film at Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church. The event starts at 6 p.m., the movie starts at 6:30 p.m. followed (tentatively) by a panel discussion. There will also be several local chefs attending to prepare a healthy dinner with inexpensive but healthy ingredients. Pricing is TBD, but I will definitely have more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, you can view a trailer of the film here.

Also, be sure to check out the blogs of other participating food bloggers on The Giving Table's website.