Many lunches for me are simply a salad of greens with an assortment of chopped, sliced or diced vegetables dressed with a light vinaigrette. Often I will top the salad with a hard cooked egg for protein. Today I was craving bread. This craving was fueled by the crusty baguette I picked up at the farmers market yesterday from Artisan Oven. The ingredients available for lunch today were my usual salad fixings and the eggs I had left from last week. But then there was the bread-I wanted a sandwich. Of course I could make an egg salad sandwich. Yuck! That mooshed up mayonnaisey concoction glopped onto a couple of slices of bread just does not work for me. It always reminds me of meatless Friday school lunches and the horrible smell of sulfur that permeated the whole school. To this day, I still can’t face an egg salad sandwich. What if I just piled my salad on the bread and called it a sandwich? Now that might work.
The foundation (in my opinion) to a great sandwich is the bread. That baguette was certainly promising offering a crackly crust with a delicate interior. The main ingredient can be vegetable, dairy or protein. Just be sure it is flavorful. The toppings need to complement the main ingredient. For my sandwich I cooked my eggs until the yolks were just set. Overcooking an egg can yield the texture of a superball and a sulfur taste. For my vegetables, I wanted stronger flavors which the barely cooked yolk would mellow out. My arugula is still plentiful along with the slightly hot radish and the licorice flavors fennel bulb that I love on my salads. Those early tomatoes I got at the market would add a slight acidity. I dressed everything with a garlic vinaigrette and lightly coated the bread with mayonnaise. This made for an egg salad sandwich to wipe away those frightful Friday lunch memories! Continue reading
With a week of warm weather in the low eighties and a couple of nice rain showers, my last trip to the farmers market in the Austin area before heading north to Michigan promised to be productive. After an early walk with the pups, I managed to get to the Cedar Park Farmers Market soon after opening time. What a day! Although the sky was overcast, rain was not in the forecast. So with a great growing week and good weather for the market all of the regular vendors were at the market loaded with crops. The strawberries were abundant, along with artichokes, zucchini, tomatoes and even kohlrabi which I haven’t seen in the grocery stores in weeks. Today, for me, it was all about the strawberries. I knew I had to make some strawberry jam this spring.
Several years ago, I decided I needed to try making strawberry jam. For some reason, in my mind, making jams and jellies or really anything that goes in a jar had to be really difficult. Off I went to the store to buy the jars I needed to make the jam. And the jars sat in my pantry. We packed up and moved to Austin. The jars came along. And the jars sat in my pantry. Finally, last summer when I was in Interlochen, I decided to make apple butter. Apparently, having my own fruit tree was the motivation I needed to get going. Apples are abundant in north Michigan and our sad little tree was no exception. Well, I made the apple butter. It tasted good but had a rather unappealing color. Next, it was peaches. More jam and more success. Finally, this spring I got those long neglected jars out of the pantry and now have strawberry jam!
It turns out what had intimidated my for so long was really no big deal. All through the winter I went back to Interlochen every time I spread some of that apple butter on my toast. The peach jam brings back the late summer days of eating peaches morning, noon and night. This strawberry jam will put me back in spring when we head north and go back to those chilly days waiting for the warmth to return. Continue reading
Before the newly college graduated daughter came home to visit she emailed me a few recipes she wanted to try cooking with me during her upcoming visit. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see she was taking an interest in learning to cook. Looking through the recipes, I was intrigued with the chicken and potato curry dish. It called for garam masala which I had heard of but really had no idea what it was. If the college grad wanted to try it, I was certainly game. So off I went to Whole Foods in search of spices. Whenever I need spices, I like to go to a store that sells in bulk. In addition to being able to buy quantities which I will be able to use in just a few months, it is also significantly less expensive. On this particular trip I bought the garam masala, turmeric, and ground coriander for less than a dollar combined compared to the three to five dollars I would pay per bottle of spice.
Oh, that garam masala. My new love. It is everything I ever dreamed of all in one spice mix. Although there are infinite variations of garam masala some of the most common ingredients are cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. The mix from Whole Foods smelled strongly of these spices. The sauce made with this just filled my mouth with warmth, comfort, love. The version we made originally used chicken and potatoes and cream, not exactly eating light! While I loved the flavor profile, I knew I could lighten it up with vegetables and chickpeas in place of the potatoes and yogurt instead of cream. This new version was perfect. This recipe is full of vegetables and very low in fat. All the fabulous taste without out the diet demons! Continue reading
Let me just get it out there. I love garlic. Vampires don’t stand a chance at my house. Most of the year I am content mincing, crushing, pressing or whatever else you can do to a garlic clove. But then spring rolls around and offers up green garlic. If you have never tried it, head to the farmers market and see if you can find some. I was lucky enough to find some at the Mueller Farmers Market in Austin. Green garlic is just young garlic which doesn’t have the papery covering around each clove like the garlic we find in the grocery stores. It also has a milder mellower flavor. To use it you simply cut up the whole head of garlic instead of peeling each individual clove.
One of my favorite meals is a bowl with grain topped with meat and vegetables. When the kids are home I like to steam a variety of vegetables individually so everyone can assemble the bowl to taste. When it is just my husband and me, I usually cook the vegetables all together. He doesn’t get to be picky!
The green garlic just seemed perfect for an Asian flavored stir fry. The almost delicate flavor of the garlic blends with the slightly fatty mellow pork. Often, I will buy a pork butt roast at Whole Foods and cut it up to use in several meals. I was in luck when I found a three pound boneless roast-on sale no less! To keep things simple, I just wanted a few slightly sweet vegetables so I decided to stir fry the carrots I found at the farmers market along with a sweet onion and red bell pepper. To soak up any juices from the meat or vegetables I cooked a pot of brown rice. Continue reading
It’s almost time to head back north to Michigan for the summer, but for now I am enjoying a spring preview in Austin. Many of the spring treats appear two months earlier in the land of sunshine. Sunday’s stop at the Mueller Market in Austin was full of springs treats including beautiful strawberries, fennel and some wonderfully delicate arugula. For me the sure sign that spring is in action is the abundance of sweet red strawberries. None of the giant frankenberries that you find at the grocery store. These are delicate juicy strawberries that you can hardly wait to get home and rinse off before you eat.
As I am being very careful with my diet as I attempt to lose weight, I have been eating mounds of salads. I love the spicy bite of arugula, but if the leaves grow too large, it can be rough and almost pungent. The arugula I found Sunday was perfect. One of my favorite things to eat with arugula is thinly sliced fennel. Top it with a little balsamic vinaigrette and you have a simple salad. But then I also like strawberries with my arugula. Why not have them both on the same salad? Earlier I had infused some olive oil with orange zest. Hmm, how would that taste in a vinaigrette? Well, pretty awesome as it turns out. Put them all together and you have a refreshing salad. We ate this salad with grilled chicken breast and some fresh bread from the farmers market for a light Sunday lunch.
- 3 Cups Arugula
- 1/2 Fennel Bulb
- 1/2 Pint Cleaned Strawberries
- 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
- Zest of one Orange
- 1/4 Cup Aged Balsamic Vinegar
- 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Rinse and dry the arugula and then put it in a large salad bowl. Slice the fennel bulb very thin. Use a mandoline if you have one. Slice the strawberries. Put the fennel and strawberries on top of the arugula. To make the dressing mix together olive oil and zest. Then add the balsamic vinegar and salt. Mix these together. Dress your salad to taste.
Now that spring is here it is time to really start getting excited abut the wonderful array of crops that will soon be appearing at the farmers markets. One fun way to be certain of experiencing what our farmers have to offer is buying a CSA share. To buy a share, you pay in advance for an entire season of goods. Each farmer sets the length of season and determines what will be in each weekly share. In addition to vegetables, some farmers offer eggs, meat or baked goods. CSA Farms of Northwest Michigan provides information on a several farms in the Traverse City area that offer CSAs.
Last summer was my first time to purchase a CSA. I chose 9 Bean Rows as my farm source. As a huge fan of their restaurant in Suttons Bay, I was already familiar with them. Their “Cream of the Crop” share also offered a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread each week. Every Saturday morning I wandered in to Traverse City to go to the Sara Hardy Farmers Market to pick up my CSA, check out what other farmers and merchants had to offer and chat with my farmers market friends. My first stop was always 9 Bean Rows stand to find out what goodies were in my bag. As an advanced warning, be careful of the croissants. Those beautiful little pastries are devious. I go there with every intention of just getting my veggies, but always one (well, usually several) manage to find their way home with me.
It was fun to give up control of my selection of produce. Each week my meals revolved around what crop was most bountiful at the time. Every now and then, I would get something I had no idea what to do with. Or in the case of kale, almost every week. I now can find a way to use kale breakfast, lunch and dinner! That first week I got the giant red kohlrabi, I was stumped. This vegetable simply was not on my radar. I had seen it before, but always green and always much smaller. After verifying that it was in fact kohlrabi I had to figure out what to do with it. Hint, cut it into match stick pieces and eat on a salad dressed in a simple vinaigrette.
Check out the available CSA offerings and sign up for a share that suits your needs. Support a local farmer and enjoy the weekly surprises in your bag!
To celebrate the wonderful farmers market fresh foods, cooking for family and friends and enjoying life at home, I am going to focus on cooking with farm fresh foods, spending time with my family and the quiet life at home. My summer life in Grand Traverse County Michigan is centered around the amazing foods from the farmers markets and the local wineries and a couple of cideries for good measure. After twenty plus years in Texas-first Dallas and the last few years in Austin, I am looking forward to making Raleigh, North Carolina my new home.
Saturday mornings I can be found at the Sara Hardy Farmer’s Market in Traverse City in the summer and fall. During the winter and spring I will be at the Cary or Raleigh North Carolina farmers market. Each week I am amazed at the selection of produce offered by the local farmers. Along with the farmers, there are various sweet treats on offer from fresh baked breads to delicate croissants to honey and maple syrup. It is fun to talk to the vendors and other shoppers to get all sorts of ideas for using these beautiful products from the ordinary to the less known.