Back to Earth Tacos | Got To Be NC Beef

This post has been sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. I received both monetary and product compensation in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

Nestled along the banks of the Uwharrie River near Asheboro, North Carolina is the picturesque home of Tom and Janice Henslee. They share their home with Janice’s mother, as well as a number of bees, free-range chickens, three adorable Brussels Griffon pups, and a field of grass-fed cows. There is plenty of wildlife, too, on the 110 acres that is Back to Earth Farm.

I had the pleasure of spending a morning with the Henslees. They welcomed me into their home to chat about the history of the farm, explain how their farm operates, and share their plans for the future. As I hung onto their every word, I was excited to hear that we share similar beliefs in holistic health and nutrition.

Tom and Janice Henslee
(
photo courtesy of Back to Earth Farm)

In 2013, Tom and Janice moved to North Carolina from Texas to establish Back to Earth Farm. They wanted a place where they could regain and maintain their health: body, mind, spirit, and environment. They “walk to talk,” so to speak, by reconnecting with nature to promote a well-balanced life. Tom and Janice are passionate about renewing the health of the land through regenerative farming practices, connecting communities with a healthy food source, and offering a place for people to learn, rest, rejuvenate, and have fun.

Tom and Janice explained the details of their sustainable farm model. They focus on healthy soil, which produces healthy plants, that will be eaten by healthy animals. That combination makes for healthier people. I was fascinated to learn that Janice had acquired a microscope specifically for viewing soil samples. She explained that she would look for live microbes, which promotes a healthy environment.

These microbes are often nonexistent in farms that use artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. However, the Henslees do not have a need for artificial fertilizers because they choose to utilize managed grazing. Simply put, their cows are contained to an area to feed for a certain period of time. The cows are moved before all of the grass is eaten, allowing the grass in that area to regrow before the cows return to that specific part of the pasture. Using this method allows the cattle to spread their own manure as natural fertilizer.

Did you know that grass-fed beef has 80% less total fat than grain-fed, along with more antioxidants and vitamins? Tom and Janice’s cattle are also GMO free and raised without growth hormones or antibiotics.

After our morning of great conversation, I received a guided tour of the property. There is a serene beauty the encompasses the still-growing farm.

Map of Back to Earth Farm

(image courtesy of Back to Earth Farm)

As we neared the river, the hidden gem of the farm appeared. It’s a hand-crafted cabin made from cedar and pine. The 2 bedroom, 1 bath retreat is available for rent, and includes a full kitchen, heating and air, fireplace, TV, wraparound lower porch, 2 upper-level porches, and a carport. It sleeps 6 comfortably but is not child-proofed.

BTE Cabin

I immediately fell in love with the charm of the cabin. From the gorgeous dining room table handmade by Janice herself to the hammock on the wraparound porch overlooking the river, guests are sure to fall in love with this peaceful getaway. Janice went on to share her dreams for Back to Earth Farm. In addition to their sustainable farm producing nutrient-dense food, she envisions one day offering wellness retreats and educational workshops. For now, she is focusing on growing her most recent inception – a wedding venue! [I plan to write a future blog specifically about Janice’s wonderful ideas.]

BTE Cabin Kitchen

When we arrived back to the house, it was time for me to become Farmer Tom’s chief farm hand. He and I headed out to the pasture to move fencing. The cows heard his whistle and hurried through the field to meet him at the fence line. Like well-trained pets, they knew what was about to happen; it was time for fresh grass to eat. As he reeled in the line, I removed the temporary fence posts from the ground. The cows were very interactive, and seemed just as interested to see me as I was to see them. Tom took the fence posts from me and started to reset them in their new location. I followed behind, securing the line to the posts. And just like that, I became a tiny part of their efforts to leave the land healthier than when they arrived. Restorative farming at it’s best.

BTE cattle
BTE newborn calf
(
The newest member of Back to Earth Farm, a 5-day old calf.)

Before I said goodbye, Tom filled a bag with a selection of meat, from ground beef to filet mignon. I admit that I was a little sad to leave my new friends and the amazing farm that they have created, but I was equally as excited to head home and prepare something tasty with local, grass-fed NC beef.

I love simple, whole food recipes and from-scratch meals. I decided to make tacos with organic, non-GMO ingredients to pay homage to the Henslees and the holistic philosophy that we share.

Ingredients:
1lb grass-fed beef
1/2 small onion (organic)
1/2 bell pepper (organic)
1 zucchini (organic)
3/4 cups water
1T chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1T olive oil

Additional Organic Ingredients:
1 tomato (diced)
black olives (small jar, sliced)
shredded lettuce
guacamole
non-dairy shredded cheddar cheese
gluten free taco shells and/or gluten free soft tortillas

Instructions:
Prepare by dicing the organic vegetables. I love adding fresh veggies to any main dish. They provide extra nutrition as well as offering more flavor and texture to a meal.

vegetables

Add olive oil to a medium-sized saucepan; heat on high. Then add diced vegetables. Sauté until tender.

saute

Remove the sautéed vegetables from the saucepan and set aside. In the same saucepan, add the grass-fed ground beef. Brown thoroughly.

beef

When the beef has finished cooking, drain grease (if there is any; my Back to Earth beef had very little!) and return beef to saucepan, along with sautéed vegetables and taco spices.

combine

Side note: I use spices instead of a prepackaged taco mix. However, there are several great choices available if you do not have individual spices on hand. Check out: Wick Fowler’s Taco Seasoning or McCormick Organic Gluten Free Taco Seasoning. Both are available at local grocery stores.

Add water, mixing ingredients well, and heat to boiling.

taco mix

Reduce heat; simmering uncovered 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until thickened.

To assemble taco, select preferred taco shell. I used both a Garden of Eatin’ brand yellow taco shell and an Udi’s brand plain tortilla, which mimics a soft taco shell.

Add beef mixture, then layer with lettuce, tomato, olives, guacamole, vegan cheese, [I prefer Daiya brand cheese.] or any other topping of choice.

Back to Earth Tacos

There you have it! A simple, whole food taco that is delicious, healthy, and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook.

I have had so much fun learning about local grass-fed beef. There are a lot of choices for consumers when it come to NC Beef, available throughout the state in farm stores, at farmers’ markets, and online. Back to Earth Farm offers online shopping, as well as scheduled deliveries. If you’re interested in learning more about Back to Earth, or scheduling your own farm tour there, please visit their website: Back to Earth Farm

As I mentioned earlier, this post was sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. It is an honor to be featured alongside eight amazing bloggers who also toured NC farms and shared their recipes. Please check out their posts below.

Got To Be NC Beef Farm Tours

And What To Make with Your NC Beef

Red Lentil Spaghetti {with Sauteed Vegetables in Tomato Basil Sauce}

Feed A Cold, Fuel Your Body

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I started to feel under the weather. I started taking cold medication, hoping to ward off any germs but apparently I was too late. On Monday, I was diagnosed with a sinus infection – my first in nearly four years – and given a prescription for antibiotic.

I did nothing on Monday but sleep, hence the reason for the missing blog post. Apparently my body was exhausted, and the only way to slow me down was to knock me off my feet with this “crud”, as I call it. It’s Thursday, and I’m still not feeling well. (Although I am feeling better!)

I had planned to blog about another topic today, but this sickness has really be interesting to me from a food perspective. I thought I would delay the other post and share with you my cravings, and my take on them.

When 21 months pass between sinus infections, you would think that I wouldn’t remember the details. Oh, but I do! I am quite certain I picked up something on the plane to Haiti and, while I spent the week in the third-world country,  it developed into the worst double ear infection and sinus infection of my life. I knew I was sick, but I had no idea how sick until the day I flew home. The truth is, I probably shouldn’t have flown home. I was THAT sick. It took a month of strong antibiotics and lots of rest to recover. I will spare you any other details. In the next year, I developed other health problems and eventually learned of my food allergies. After learning that I had to give up dairy forever, I was told by my physician that I would likely see a decrease in sinus infections… and I did. I was actually surprised at this one. But she did say “decrease” and not “an end.”

When I learned of my food allergies, I obviously adopted a new way of eating… but it wasn’t entirely due to the elimination of gluten, casein, and whey. I started to eat more whole foods. I try sticking to the simple, natural ingredients when I can. I figure the less stuff, the less chance of worrying with food allergies. I avoid genetically modified foods and shop organic and local when I can. I now eat farm fresh eggs “right out of the chicken”, honey that is harvested and bottled by a coworker, and produce grown by farmers that I’ve built relationships with and know now on a first-name basis. I didn’t view it as a fad diet, like some who eat this way on occasion to drop a few pounds. It was my new way of life. I did see immediate changes: weight loss, more energy, and better skin, to name a few. But two years later, I am still seeing changes.

I remember when I returned from Haiti, sick and pouty, all I wanted was comfort food. My brother had picked me up from the airport, and I begged him to stop and buy me french fries & a sweet tea on our drive home. When I got home, I recall waking up from naps on the couch and eating things like grilled cheese with mayonnaise, mac & cheese, or Doritos. I was out of work for nearly a week following my return because all I wanted to do was sleep. Granted, I was more sick than I am now, but I suffered from fatigue in addition to the infections.

Jump ahead to this week. It dawned on me last night that I have only reached for comfort food once during this sickness, and it was at the very beginning on Sunday morning. And it was eggs, gf/df toast and milk gravy. One meal. One proportioned meal of decent ingredients. Comfort food doesn’t have to equate to junk food! The rest of the time, I haven’t really been able to taste anything. (My nose is so stuffy that it has affected my smell and taste.) However, I have noticed that I still crave certain things: fruits and vegetables! The only things I wanted to eat after that comfort food meal were oranges and bananas, so I listened to my body and ate those. The following day, I continued to crave the same thing but also ate small portions of rice. I couldn’t taste anything, but my tummy wanted it. By Tuesday, I had an insane craving for a giant salad. I filled it with veggies, tossed in some hard boiled eggs for protein, and topped it off with banana peppers and jalapenos, hoping their kick would offer up some flavor. Despite not being able to taste it either, I enjoyed the crunch of the fresh veggies that I wasn’t getting with the fruit. I only missed one day of work, and have had more overall energy than I expected with this sickness. I can’t help but to think that the fuel that I’ve been feeding my body this time around has played a key role in recovery. Because of that, I am planning to blog more about whole food and the benefit of food as fuel for our bodies in upcoming posts.

This morning, I woke up with one thing in mind… spaghetti with sautéed veggies! I know I must be feeling better to actually want to prepare a meal. 🙂 Luckily, this is an extremely easy meal to prepare.


I love sautéed fresh vegetables as a base for almost every meal.


Red lentil pasta has two ingredients: lentil flour and brown rice flour. It is low in carbs, sodium, and sugar, and high in protein.


Doesn’t this look delicious? I save leftovers to make homemade pizza! (I use a store-brand sauce from my local grocery store.)

Ingredients:
2 oz of red lentil spaghetti
1 medium-sized zucchini, halved and sliced
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
coconut oil
tomato and basil spaghetti sauce

Instructions:
Boil 1 qt of water in a medium saucepan
Add pasta and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally

While waiting on water to boil, prepare vegetables
Heat frying pan and add 1 T of coconut oil
Sauté vegetables in coconut oil
Reduce to low and add in spaghetti sauce
Simmer until warmed thoroughly

When pasta is cooked to desired consistency, empty saucepan into strainer. Allow water to drain from pasta thoroughly, then place pasta back into saucepan. (Optional step: add butter or vegan substitute to pasta to help spaghetti to not stick together.)

*Some people prefer to combine the pasta with the sauce and mix. I plate mine separately so that I can use leftover sauce!

Serve as is or with a simple side salad. Quick, easy, allergy-friendly, and nutritious!

Honey Veracha Chicken & Rice

This post has been sponsored by True Made Foods in conjunction with NC Blogger Network. I received compensation in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I’m not one to use Sriracha in recipes because my tolerance for super hot sauces is a bit lower than most folks. I love spicy foods but when things are too hot, I feel like they lose flavor over the heat of the spice.

That is why, when I was ask to give True Made Foods’ Veracha sauce a try, I was a bit reluctant at first. However, I quickly learned that Veracha stands for Vegetables + Sriracha. That’s right… the secret to True Made Foods sauces is that they contain vegetables! For a conscious eater like myself, I love the idea of products combining flavor and nutrition. The Veracha sauce contains carrots, butternut squash, and spinach. I know what you’re thinking, “But can they really hide vegetables in their sauces?” I had to find out!

True Made Foods was kind enough to send me a bottle of their Veracha sauce to sample, along with their Ketchup and BBQ Sauce. Since I was unsure as to how spicy their Veracha sauce was, I opted to make a slow cooker version of Honey Sriracha Chicken. [I’ll include that recipe below.] The combination of honey with the hot sauce cuts out some of the heat.

To my surprise, the Veracha sauce is not at spicy as Sriracha. Don’t get me wrong, it still has a kick to it, but the heat of the spices are not over-powering. It is packed full of flavor — delicious, mouth-watering flavor! There’s a hint of sweet to it just before it delivers a wonderfully spicy heat. It is incredible! And did I mention that it’s made with vegetables? This sauce is truly the best of both worlds. I will never make Honey Sriracha Chicken again. From this point forward, I only make Honey Veracha Chicken!

Since True Made Foods created such an amazing hot sauce, I knew that I couldn’t wait to try their Ketchup too. It also contains carrots, butternut squash, and spinach. Their ketchup has 50% less added sugar than most other brands! Y’all… this is amazing ketchup! It is tangy and sweet, and the perfect thickness. It makes other brands taste watered-down and bland. You have got to try it for yourself!

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You can find their products in a number of places. You can place an order online via their website, or you can find them in select Super Target and select Whole Foods. Their Veracha and Ketchup can also now be found in all Lowes Foods!

True Made Foods is making American food healthy, turning empty calorie foods into nutrient dense foods. Their hot sauce is pure Paleo, and their Ketchup and BBQ Sauce are also gluten free and vegan. All are non-GMO!

Fun Fact: The carrots and butternut squash used in these products come from family-owned farms in Eastern North Carolina.

Please follow True Made Foods on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If you’re looking for an easy recipe for these products that highlights their incredible taste, consider Honey Veracha Chicken & Rice!

INGREDIENTS
3 chicken breasts
1.5 cups water
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons TMF Veracha sauce
1 tablespoons TMF Ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS
Place chicken breasts into the slow cooker.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine together the remaining ingredients.
Pour mixture over the chicken breasts.
Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

IMG_1168
When chicken is cooked thoroughly, remove from slow cooker and shred with a fork.
Remove 1.5 cups of the Honey Veracha chicken broth from the slow cooker and set aside.
Return shredded chicken to the remainder of the broth and adjust the slow cooker to warm.

ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS
1 cup white Jasmine rice
1.5 cups Honey Veracha chicken broth
2 zucchini
small onion
coconut oil

ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS
In a saucepan, bring Honey Veracha chicken broth to a boil.
Stir in rice, cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
In a separate saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté diced zucchini and onion in coconut oil.
When tender, add cooked rice to saucepan containing sautéed vegetables.

IMG_1169
Serve shredded chicken with rice, and enjoy!

*Because I absolutely love the flavor and can’t get enough of it, I drizzled a small amount of Veracha sauce directly on top of my chicken for an added kick of spices. 🙂

 

Spaghetti Squash

The first time I purchased a spaghetti squash, it came with a little sticker complete with cooking directions.  The directions said to bake the squash at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. It seemed like the longest preparation time ever. I was reluctant to purchase the squash again because of it. However, the squash had such a unique consistency and a delicious flavor that I decided to try it again.

Years later, I have perfected a fast, healthy recipe for anyone who loves food with Italian flare!

Ingredients:
spaghetti squash
zucchini
tomato
extra virgin olive oil
garlic
Italian seasonings
nutritional yeast

First, split the spaghetti squash in half using a large knife. Depending on the density of the squash, it may be a little difficult. Take your time and be careful. Once the squash is in half, spoon out the seeds and pulp. Place the squash halves face down on a plate and microwave for 8 – 10 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, cube zucchini and tomato. Set tomato aside.

In a saucepan, add just enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add garlic cloves (these can be chopped if you prefer) and let cook for a minute. Then add the zucchini to the pan. Sprinkle with Italian seasonings.

Usually by the time my squash has cooked and slightly cooled, the zucchini is tender. With a fork, begin running in a stem-to-end direction to separate the strands of your spaghetti squash. You will immediately see the resemblance to spaghetti noodles. Remove as much of the squash as you can and place it into a bowl.

Add cooked zucchini and fresh tomatoes, and toss. You may want to add more Italian seasoning at this point, depending on your taste. Top with nutritional yeast.

A small-to-medium spaghetti squash usually makes two servings.

There you have it; a tasty Italian meal in under 30 minutes!