Mike’s Star Market: Local Meats Equal Good Eats

In business since 1990/1991, Mike’s Star Market in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, offers beef, lean pork sausage and brats, as well as handmade condiments and custom spice mixes. All their beef is hormone free, and they also offer some grass-fed beef. They have hormone-free chicken and local lamb too.
The “Mike” in Mike’s Star Market is Mike Maier.

“I actually got into the meat business because I needed a job in the late fall of 1987. My grandfather was working for a guy that was looking for help with venison processing, cutting, and wrapping. I gave it a try. My grandmother first taught me how to wrap steak and ground venison. Then after a bit, my grandfather taught me how to cut. Being a farm kid, I already knew a little about it, just not how to do cuts. I for some reason picked it up quickly. Then after that first season I was kept on part-time to cut and learn how to make some sausage items. I came back in the fall to take over my grandfather’s spot as he moved to Arizona. I cut and learned more cutting and then sausage making from Jan, who owned the shop.”

Of the various meat markets in the area, Maier feels his stands out, primarily due to the great employees. He notes, “It is not just a Mike thing, it takes others to help.” Another thing that makes the market stand out is a desire to always learn more and to strive to make already good products better. Maier notes that their products undergo only minimal processing. He adds, “We also, like other small businesses, care about our customers. Being in business this long, many customers can be called friends.”

Mike’s Star Market provides meat to some local businesses, and they also have a retail counter and freezers. Maier says, “You can stop in and buy what you like or order in large amounts. Not much we can’t do or offer. If we can’t do it, we know other meat shops in the area that can, and we will point you in that direction.”

What is important to Maier and his staff is to provide good meat to customers. “I want you to be satisfied with first quality and flavor,” he says. “Because we make sausage here, we can control the quality. We try to hold ourselves to a higher standard and offer a good price for what the consumer buys or wants—which is always changing.”

Mike’s Star Market also offers venison processing, from cutting the whole deer to making a very wide variety of sausage items. They offer custom smoking of most anything, excluding fish. They can do custom cut animals for farmers who bring them in or have them butchered on the farm or another facility. As Mike says, “Not much we can’t or won’t do, meat related.”

Baby Food 101

By: Emily Schwartz, Festival Foods

Food introduced in the first year of life can impact future nutrition habits. For the first six months of life, breastfeeding is widely recommended. However, between six to eight months of age, most infants are developmentally ready to try pureed, mashed, or “lumpy” foods to compliment breast milk (or iron-enriched formula). These new foods and textures may take multiple offerings before acceptance. So to start, it is important to gradually offer a variety of foods one-at-a-time to help the infant’s palate and digestive system to adjust.

Jarred baby food is a quick and convenient way to help growing infants get the nutrition they need. It offers a consistent texture and flavor that may be better received by “picky eaters,” and they are produced under strict food safety guidelines.

Homemade baby food is another option. Compared to commercial baby food, homemade baby food may be a more affordable option and may offer a wider variety of flavors. Whether looking to supplement or replace commercially produced baby food products, one of the easiest ways to start is to simply mash foods that may already be on your grocery list, like bananas or avocados. Or, try incorporating nutrition-packed foods that wouldn’t necessarily be found in jarred varieties, like pureed eggs, broccoli, kiwifruit, or no-salt-added canned beans.

Regardless of the food served, infants and young children are very impressionable. The actions and behaviors of those around can impact the development of food preferences and eating behaviors. Whenever possible try eating (and enjoying!) the same food your baby is eating.

Steps for Making Baby Food

  1. Start with clean hands, cooking surfaces, and equipment.
    1. Even though infants and children are more susceptible to food-borne illness, it is always a good practice to wash hands with warm, soapy water and sanitize any surfaces or equipment before food preparation.
  2. Prepare food; washing, peeling, and trimming, as needed.
    1. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Peel and trim, if necessary. If preparing meat or fish, remove all skin, bones, gristle, and excess fat.
  3. Cook and/or process food.
    1. Cook food, if necessary, until very tender. Boiling, steaming, or microwaving food with water is often ideal. When preparing meat or fish, cook to well done. Allow cooked food to cool slightly before pureeing or mashing to reach desired consistency. Adding a small amount of water may be necessary to achieve an appropriate texture.
  4. Serve or store.
    1. If food is not going to be eaten right away, store it in the refrigerator for up to two days, or freeze for use within a month. Freezing baby food in ice cube trays can help provide baby-sized portions when they’re needed. Small portion sizes are important because any leftover food, regardless if it is homemade or commercially prepared, should be thrown away due to exposure to bacteria.

Some combinations to try after introducing individual foods:

  • No-salt-added canned black beans (drained and rinsed) and avocado
  • Kiwifruit and banana
  • Baby cereal and berries
  • Sweet potato and applesauce

Emily Schwartz is a nationally accredited, registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) serving the Eau Claire and La Crosse communities as Festival Foods’ Western Wisconsin Regional Dietitian.

WIC Helps Keep Families Healthy

By Susan Krahn, MS, RDN, CD, CLC – Public Health Nutritionist, Eau Claire City-County Health Department

What does healthy eating mean to you? To the WIC Program, healthy eating means healthier moms and babies, happier families, and brighter futures. The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program is a public health nutrition program that provides wholesome foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, and community support for low- and moderate-income women and children up to the age of five years.

There are more women in our community who benefit from WIC than you may think. In fact, over half of the babies born in the United States use the WIC program. WIC is the nation’s most successful and cost-effective public health nutrition program. Nationally, we know that when eligible families use WIC:

  • Moms are less likely to have premature or low birth-weight babies;
  • Moms are more likely to start breastfeeding after delivery;
  • Infants and children are twice as likely to see doctors for well-child care;
  • Moms, children, and infants are less likely to have anemia.

If you think your family may be eligible, contact your local WIC office. A visit to WIC means you will walk away with an EBT card to buy more healthy food for your family. But, did you know that WIC means much more than food? At a WIC appointment, parents are connected with people who truly care about the health and well-being of their children. Parents walk away with the feeling of support, connections to healthcare resources, and inspiration to make healthy changes in their home.

WIC gives you healthy food and teaches you how to use it. Good nutrition during pregnancy and in the first few years of life has long-term positive impacts on health. WIC teaches you about the benefits of breastfeeding and guides you through the process. WIC gives you free healthy food and teaches you how to shop for it, how to prepare it, and ways to help your child enjoy eating it.

We provide a community of support. At WIC you’ll find dietitians, a breastfeeding peer counselor, and others ready to listen, share information, and give guidance and support. WIC is a network built for moms. We connect them, we educate them, and we learn from them.

We connect you to care beyond WIC. Food and nutrition are only one piece of a healthy lifestyle. Through referrals we can connect you with resources outside of WIC, including public health nurses, doctors, dental services, immunization services, and social services. Referrals put you in touch with the care or resources you need to be healthy in every part of your life.

For more information, go to www.ci.eau-claire.wi.us/departments/health-department/wic/how-where-to-use-wic, visit the program office at 720 2nd Ave, Eau Claire, WI 54703, or call (715) 839-5051.

Ta-Da! Dinner is DONE! Meals from Together Farms

by Stephanie Schneider, Together Farms

Imagine it. You walk in the house to the tantalizing aroma of a meal that is nourishing and ready to eat. Instead of hearing “What’s for supper?” or “Can I have a snack?” you hear “Mmmmm…what is that yummy smell?!” and “I’ll set the table!” as everyone shifts into supper mode instead of starving-while-waiting-for-supper mode. Having a dinner that is cooked and ready to be dished up as soon as you get home completely shifts the entire dynamic of how evenings usually play out, taking it from one of stress, chaos, and frustration to one of calm, contentment, and happiness!

Time and organization are also required to feed the family well. After years of frustration and trying different methods, I finally came across the system that worked for me: freezer to slow cooker meals!

The beautiful thing about freezer to slow cooker meals is that you are not cooking them before you freeze them, so they don’t taste like leftovers. You are just labeling a bag, prepping, and freezing. Then, when you need a break from figuring out what everyone should eat, you just pull it out and put it to work.

Here are some of the benefits:

There are no limits. The options are extremely versatile in flavors and meat types and cuts. They can be complete all-in-one meals or just meat and sauce.

Your brain gets a break. I struggle most with making the decision of what to eat. As you know, the classic response of “I don’t know” and “I don’t care” are less than helpful.

No struggle with allergens. All the meals we offer are free from most allergens, including gluten and dairy with soy-free an option too!

Lose weight. I’m not making any promises here, but I lost a lot of weight when I started really relying on these meals. If nothing else, you’ll feel so much better eating home-cooked, no-weird-stuff meals than fast-food crap full of unpronounceable ingredients using meat filled with hormones and antibiotics.

Get out of a cooking rut. Do you keep recycling the same recipes over and over again and need to try something different? Together Farms’ meals are changed frequently, and we currently have eleven different options available in the store.

Enjoy guilt-free ingredients. We use our own high-quality meats, certified organic vegetables, spices, and sauces.

Labels that help. Each meal you receive will have a waterproof label on it explaining how to cook it, showing all the ingredients, and suggesting ways to serve it as well as side dish ideas.

Customized for you. Hate green peppers? Ingredients can be left out at your request.

They make the perfect gift. Struggling to find something a new mom can actually use? Or, maybe you want to prepare before the baby comes? You can stock up now on finished meals to take the stress and worry out of cooking once the new baby arrives.

Pro tip: Moms usually get bombarded with way too much food, help, and attention in the first week or two after baby arrives. The freezer meals are happy to wait in the freezer until she runs out of (or throws out) all the chicken soup.

Host a Party
Get our ebooks and either have a big meal prep day or make it part of your baby shower. Or, leave all the work to us and call/text or email Stephanie today to set up your own private party.

Meals Currently in Stock
Beef Tips with Mushroom Gravy, Chicken Curry, Chicken Fajitas, Jalapeno-Lime Shredded Pork, Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps, Lemon Chicken, Pork Carnitas, Pork Ramen, Sausage & Peppers, Southwestern Pork Chili, Steak Fajitas, Teriyaki Pork Chops.

Order for you (or someone you love) TODAY!
Visit togetherfarms.grazecart.com/store/freezer-meals.