In praise of farmer’s markets

No matter how hectic my week is, I know I’ll feel special almost every Saturday morning.

I know I’ll be greeted with a smile by people who know my name, and at the same time I’ll load up my cloth bags with fresh, delicious foodstuff.

My local farmer’s market hosts local vendors offering fresh produce, grass fed meats, free range eggs, herbs and even beeswax candles and homemade soaps.

One vendor, Just Peach Farms, offers regulars like me the option of email response to their list of offerings that they send out on Friday. I simply reply with a list of what I want, and then on Saturday when I get there, most of my items are bagged up and ready to go. It saves me time, and also means my order is filled early.

That makes me feel special, too.

Special, because I have the good fortune to eat well. Special because the produce I bring home is fresh and local. Special, because while I support local farmers, they provide me with the best eggs, veggies and fruits.

It’s a weekly ritual that leaves me feeling nourished, connected to my community, and grateful that I know the people who grow my food.

And that is the most special feeling of all.

Lunch lessons

At the risk of sounding like a nagging mother, you should never be too busy to eat well.
I know it’s hard to find time to cook with that full-time job, that silly commute, that passel of children or others who need constant care. I know you like to see your floors, have clean clothes to wear and retain some semblance of a social life.
But, really, you owe it to yourself to drive past the drive-thru.
Consider making weekend batches of soup that can be jarred and frozen, then reheated quickly in a workplace microwave.
Take some time to prep a pile of fresh greens, veggies and toppings and then divide it into Ziploc bags with small containers for dressing. Simply pour, mix and shake out onto a paper plate.
If you’ve made a roast, meatloaf or grilled chicken over the weekend, make extra for sandwiches. Even cheeses or spreads with fresh greens make a tasty sandwich or wrap.
And in the winter months, earthy stews in a wide-mouthed thermos can make your whole day better.
For the time it takes to watch a rerun or talk to your Aunt Gertrude, you could have some tasty lunches for the work week—packed and ready to go.
And if you do that, there should be time in the morning to make yourself a quick hot breakfast.
See?
Sometimes Mama knows best.

To get you started, here’s my Tried-and-True Meatloaf recipe:
Package of grass-fed ground beef or ground turkey
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal or dried bread crumbs
1 egg
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 envelope of onion soup mix (preferably without MSG or hydrogenated oil)
½ cup ketchup or barbecue sauce

Mix well, pack very lightly into a greased glass loaf pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, or until cooked through.

Warm and wonderful—potato soup

Is there anything more delightful, food wise, than realizing a dish you’ve just prepared also happens to be the best version you’ve ever tasted?

Today I made potato soup. I hadn’t planned on it. As often happens, I had leftover ingredients and wanted to do something different with them. Potatoes are versatile little tubers, and I love them prepared any which way.

Or course, it helps that I love soups. Creamy and hot, they’re perfect for cold weather—satisfying in a warm and cozy way. Served with crispy crackers and a tasty cheese, or with warm homemade bread, soup is a wonderful meal.

And wonderful food should be shared.

So, here’s a (lovely) potato soup recipe (that includes step-by-step instructions) from The Pioneer Woman website:

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/01/perfect-potato-soup/

Enjoy!

The kitchen as sanctuary

I once thought that cooking was just another chore: something else to do so the family could eat. Most days, I’d look at the clock wonder what I’d make for my seemingly-always-hungry loved ones expecting some kind of food for dinner.

My, how times have changed.

I recently turned down dinner out with my beloved, just because I had a beautiful salmon filet in the fridge. I chose messing up my kitchen, making dirty dishes, in favor of salmon baked in coconut oil and coated with freshly ground seasonings.

And I don’t regret it.

Now, with a full work schedule and four times-a-week training on the bike, I don’t have as much time to cook as I wish I did. But by golly, when I do have free time, I have my humble little kitchen with the double window over the chipped enamel sink where I can play with ingredients.

After a busy workweek, I can knead bread dough while I watch birds at the feeder. After work, I can peel, slice, chop and marinate, season, sear, simmer and taste a whole world of flavors and smells. On weekends, I can feast my eyes on colorful vegetables and fruits, comforting whole grains and farmer’s market meats. I don’t have to leave my little nest to savor good meals. And I have the privilege of sharing nourishing food with my beloved—gifts of the heart and hands created to please as well as sustain.

Cooking also has a way of reminding me of past meals, and the people I shared them with.

Since I’ve learned that the pleasures of food begin well before mealtime, I’ve learned to savor the preparation more. My kitchen is a sort of sanctuary from the outside world, a place where good food and memories are made.

Pie crust as it should be

It’s all because my boyfriend likes apple pie.

And because my past apple pies, while tasty, didn’t knock my socks off.

So I went to the Food Network website, which is often where I begin searching for recipes when I want to try something new.

And there it was—Apple Pie As It Should Be. That recipe title alone—kind of conceited, kind of intriguing—got me curious. When I saw the addition of red wine vinegar in the buttery crust; I was ready to bake.

Usually, I think of pie crust as something that holds the good stuff together. I often eat only part of it, sometimes none at all.

But not this one.

The filling of this pie was lovely; but it was the crust that delighted me the most. Slightly sweet, flaky and flavorful, it was everything I’ve ever wanted in a pie crust.

It’s just too good to keep to myself.

So cradle your next pie filling in something special—pie crust as it should be.

Enjoy!

Apple Pie As It Should Be, from the Food Network website: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/apple-pie-as-it-should-be-recipe.html

Warm and wonderful—potato soup

Is there anything more delightful, food wise, than realizing a dish you’ve just prepared also happens to be the best version you’ve ever tasted?
Today I made potato soup. I hadn’t planned on it. As often happens, I had leftover ingredients and wanted to do something different with them.

Potatoes are versatile little tubers, and I love them prepared any which way.

Of course, it helps that I love soups. Creamy and hot, they’re perfect for cold weather—satisfying in a warm and cozy way.

Served with crispy crackers and a tasty cheese, or with warm homemade bread, soup is a wonderful meal.
And wonderful food should be shared.
So, here’s a (lovely) potato soup recipe (that includes step-by-step instructions) from The Pioneer Woman website:
http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2013/01/perfect-potato-soup/
Enjoy!

Make your own mayo

I’m on the warpath against high fructose corn syrup.

In a recent ingredient-reading flurry, I discovered that two of the condiments I was using on sandwiches had HFC in them: sweet pickle relish and mayonnaise.

Store bought relish and pickles are easy to replace—I now buy them at the local farmer’s market. I pay more, but I’m satisfied knowing that the product is free of cheap, unhealthy sweeteners. Plus, the flavor and freshness are superior to anything I’ve tasted from the grocery store.

But HFC-free mayonnaise is slightly harder to come by, so I’ve been experimenting with making my own. It isn’t hard to do. The only drawback is that it doesn’t keep for as long as commercial brands. Meaning, it can’t sit in the fridge for two months. Raw eggs spoil. And with no preservatives, it’s not a good idea to keep homemade mayo around too long.

I’ve used a combination of grape seed oil with a splash of extra virgin olive oil with excellent results. I like fresh lemon juice for its bright flavor. I love being able to control the consistency, and the pride I feel in making something that tastes so fresh. What I don’t love is how much whisking it takes to get it to emulsify. So, I talk loved ones into being the whisk wiz, which allows me to add the oil slowly.

I’m not above using bribery to get an extra hand in the kitchen.

Sandwich anyone?

 

Here’s the Epicurious mayonnaise recipe I use:

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 3/4 cup canola oil, divided

Preparation

Combine egg yolk, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Whisk until blended and bright yellow, about 30 seconds.

Using 1/4 teaspoon measure and whisking constantly, add 1/4 cup oil to yolk mixture, a few drops at a time, about 4 minutes. Gradually add remaining 1/2 cup oil in very slow thin stream, whisking constantly, until mayonnaise is thick, about 8 minutes (mayonnaise will be lighter in color). Cover and chill. do ahead Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.

Makes ¾ cup.

See the recipe at: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Homemade-Mayonnaise-241868