Friday, June 21, 2013

A Mid-Western Market, from This Homemade Life

Today's post comes Alison at This Homemade Life, mid-Western mama who enjoys the beauty found in simplicity.  Here blog is filled with love, great recipes, and vibrant pictures that capture LIFE.  Thank you Alison for sharing your take on going to the farmers' market with us!
Farmers' Market season.  Where I live, in the midwest, this generally runs from late April/early May until Mid-October.  As a family we anxiously await the growing season and all the wonderful produce and flavor that comes with it.  Visiting our downtown market is something we make time for each weekend.  It's just as much about spending time together as a family as it is about the food.

When talking to people about visiting the farmers' market each weekend, they often ask me what I get for my money.  Often, as I rattle of the list of goodies from our latest visit, they are amazed by what you can get for the money.  Eating seasonally doesn't have to be expensive.  Here are a few tips on how to get the most for your money.  
1.  Make the rounds
Take a stroll around, looking at what different farmers/vendors have to offer.  Find out what they're selling and for how much.  Why is their swiss chard more than the next vendors? 
2.  Strike up a conversation
There is nothing a farmer loves more than to tell you about their crops.  People that grow food are passionate about what they do.  Ask them questions.  Their enthusiasm is contagious.
3.  Organic vs. Conventional
At our market there isn't a noticeable price difference between organic and conventional.  This may not be the case everywhere.  If there is a price difference, decide what is more important to you...eating organic or supporting local food.

On our trip this past weekend I took $10 to see what that would give me.  Due to a late, chilly spring our market is really just getting started and this week the beauty of the produce was bountiful!
Here is what we got...
$.75 1 bunch (8) French Breakfast Radishes
$2.00 2 heads of spring garlic 
$2.00 2 bunches green onions (they were $1.00 each)
$3.00 1 pint of snap peas
$2.00 a bundle of rhubarb
Total $9.75

For another $5.00 I got a 1/2 lb of mixed salad greens (a favorite I just couldn't resist) taking the grand total to almost $15.  At this point of the growing season, this is not the total amount of produce my family of 5 consumes during the week.  As the season wears on we will spend more at the farmers' market and shop at the grocery store less.  A wonderful, flavorful trade off that makes the months of April-October some of the best eating months here in the midwest.
More time at the market, less time at the grocery store... I love that.  I would rather be hanging out the farmers' market than pushing a large cart through a crowded store any day!  And that price?  Excellent.  That's what the farmers' market is all about, folks!!!

Be sure to visit her using one of the links below to see more of what is going on her neck of the woods and try some of her mouth-watering recipes.  All of her pictures are so beautiful, you will want some of what she's got for SURE :)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Food Truck Fabulous! {Plouf Plouf}

Yesterday I finally got to cross something off of my food-bucket-list.  Visiting a gourmet food truck!

My blog has been empty for awhile, yes.  That is because I have been here, there, and everywhere.  Shoot -- I still am.  And so the cooking has been kicked to the curb.  It is pretty hard to cook when you don't have a kitchen...

But this no-kitchen thing has allowed me to find food sources in other places.  Restaurants primarily.  Until yesterday when a friend I stumbled upon this food truck.  Which looked FABULOUS.

We had already had a big meal that day, but hand-cut frites with parmesan, parsley, and truffle oil?  Yeah, we couldn't pass that up.

A spot on a park bench was found, green all around with beautiful brick buildings popping up here and there... no, this was not a California taco truck experience.  This was the real deal.  And now I am hooked.  Any food truck I find like this must be visited.  It is decided.

Visit the Plouf Plouf Gastronomie page here and then let me know about YOUR experiences with food trucks :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mountain View, CA & Strawberry Arugula Salad

When I found Jess's blog CookSmarts I instantly loved what she was doing. Her recipes are fresh and easy, the directions are clear enough that anyone can cook (yes, YOU!), and her graphics were eye-catching. The more I followed her and tried her recipes I knew I found something great. What I didn't know was that we were neighbors awhile back... until I got her farmers' market post! This market that she is sharing today was the one I used to visit in my neighborhood. What a small world! Enjoy a glimpse into OUR Californian market :)

Hi there! Jess from Cook Smarts here, and I was lucky enough to be asked by Tiffany to contribute to her Farmer’s Market Friday series. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t get to the farmer’s market nearly often enough. Weekends are often packed with travel and social plans, but on the rare occasion when I’m home and free, I have the hard decision of choosing from 4 different markets. Luckily, the largest and most vibrant one also happens to be the one closest to me, the Mountain View Farmer’s Market.

This last visit to the market was at one of my favorite times of the year when summer produce is just arriving. Every fruit stand vendor is handing out samples of their sweet harvests. Tomatoes, asparagus, and strawberries blanket the market stalls. The sun is out and an outing to the farmer’s market feels more like a trip to the county fair than grocery shopping.

My typical approach is to take one lap to soak it all in before making any purchases. Once I’ve gotten my share free samples, then I get down to business and start coming up with menu ideas. We just launched a new meal planning service over at Cook Smarts, and it’s always fun to use the market to inspire our menus.

On this last trip after a few laps, I picked out:
  • A pint of strawberries ($3)
  • A bulb of fennel ($2)
  • Basil ($2)
  • Arugula ($3)
  • Fingerling potatoes ($3)
  • Lacinato kale ($2)

When I got home with the bounty, I got to work on making one of my favorite salads - mixing strawberry, fennel, and arugula with a balsamic vinaigrette. The pepperiness of the arugula combined with sweet strawberry and fennel and tart balsamic is one of my absolute favorite combinations. Here’s the recipe below:

Strawberry Arugula Salad
{serves 4}

Fennel, sliced - 1 small bulb
Strawberries, sliced - ½ pint
Basil, sliced - A few leaves
Arugula - 4 oz
Pecans - ¼ cup

Balsamic vinegar - 1 ½ tbs.
Dijon mustard - 1 tsp.
Salt & pepper
Olive oil - 3 tbs.

Clean and prep all salad ingredients. Mix together vinegar, mustard, and a good pinch of salt & pepper. Whisk in olive oil, and toss everything together


See what I am talking about with the fresh and easy recipes?!  My favorite dish right now is Jess's sweet potato tacos, and the chances are if you come to visit that is what I will be serving :)  Make sure you stop over at CookSmarts or find Jess with one of the links below to see what goodness she is cooking up today!  Thank you Jess, for sharing your/our bit of the globe with us and maybe we can hit up the market together one of these days!!!  And to the rest of you, I hope you get out and enjoy your farmers' market this week!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sweet Find: Super Lemony Lemon Bites

I'm back!  Well, not really.  I guess you could say I am just stopping by to say hello and give a quick update on life/ shout out to something fabulous I found.

Can you believe it has been more than 10 days that I have done anything in the kitchen?  Sad for me, I know.  But what I have been up to has been worth it.

First stop?  Colorado.  One of my best friends tied the knot this past weekend.  Pretty bride, handsome groom, lovely day in the Rockies... what more could you ask for?  What a fantastic weekend!

But the traveling did not end there. Oh no, not even close.  And it is fun.  But let me just say this: Man cannot live on restaurants alone, and so I took my summer colleagues to one of my favorite places:

That's right, Trader Joe's.  Man, if I could just have a house with the farmers' market on my left and Trader Joe's on my right I would be the happiest camper of all.  So happy to have found my lifeline while I am far from home!

Which brings me to my post today.  A fab find, from the best store around.

I could go on and on about how awesome Trader Joe's is, but you really don't want to hear it.  So let me focus on one thing today: real ingredients, freshly made.

These lemon bites come home to you from Trader Joe's, but the truth is they first come from a local bakery in the area, that way they are fresh and do not require any preservatives to stay that way.  And the ingredient list?  Cane sugar, unbleached flour, eggs, unsalted butter, powdered sugar, tapioca syrup, lemon juice, kosher salt, baking powder, pure lemon oil, pure vanilla extract, and citric acid.  In other words?  A sigh of relief because you know what?  I have those ingredients in my cupboard at home.  And that is important to me.

And the taste?  Well, it is super lemony, yet very sweet, and kind of addictive.  I should probably hide the these before I eat them all in one sitting.  Since they are made fresh they must be eaten in a few days... so maybe it isn't that bad of an idea if I just eat them all before they go bad ;)

COST: $3.99 for 24 bites

Monday, June 3, 2013

PB&J Milkshake

I am a snob.

A peanut butter and jelly snob, that is.

This was told to me by a friend a few years back as we were shopping for PB&J fixings.  He reached out for wheat bread, I wagged my finger and said, "No."  White bread was what was called for.

He grabbed some Jif, and I put it back.  Creamy Skippy, no questions asked.

He didn't even bother getting jelly, but let me peruse the shelf until I found Smucker's Seedless Strawberry Jam.  It's how I roll.

And then he told me I was a PB&J snob.  I just nodded and smiled.  Because I knew it to be true.

So when it was time to make Joy the Baker's peanut butter and jam milkshake and I read the ingredients that said 'natural peanut butter' I shook my head no.  Which might be odd, seeing as almost everything else I eat is under the 'natural' category.  Ok, so maybe I have given up the white bread.  And maybe I used soy ice cream and coconut milk in this shake instead of the dairy stuff.  But don't mess with my Skippy.  There are some things I don't think I will ever change.

Because I am a peanut butter snob like that...

This is actually two shakes in one.  The peanut butter shake (ice cream + milk + peanut butter + a teeny bit of vanilla extract) is layered with the jam shake (ice cream + milk + a bit of jam + fresh fruit blended in).  When they are brought together they make the perfect milk shake combo.
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