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.

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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.

Unearth the flavor with dried porcini mushrooms

I discovered them at my local farmer’s market. A vendor sold me the first batch of crinkly dried porcini mushrooms while sharing tips on how to use them.

So I went home and played in the kitchen. First, I poured hot water over a handful of them, let them soften, chopped them fine and added them to a cheese omelet. Delish!

I added them to Alfredo sauce served with homemade pasta. Delizioso!

Then, I poured the soaking liquid into a batch of vegetable soup, along with another handful of dried mushrooms— transforming it from ordinary to extraordinary. Mushroom flavored broth gave the soup a nutty richness that convinced me this ingredient belongs in my pantry.

Perhaps you’ll add it to yours?

Happy eating!

Here’s a link about how to use dried mushrooms from Bon Appétit

http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/how-to-cook-with-dried-porcini-mushrooms

Porcini Mushroom Sauce recipe from Epicurious:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Porcini-Mushroom-Sauce-102883

Fun facts from MushroomAppreciation. Com

http://www.mushroom-appreciation.com/porcini-mushrooms.html

Playing with food

Remember your parent’s telling you, “Don’t play with your food?”

Well, that was then and this is now.

I recommend, no, I invite you to play with food, because experiments in the kitchen can lead to worthwhile discoveries—the kind where your new creation is something lovely, and best of all, delicious.

Today I decided to see what would happen if I browned slices of yellow onion, small red potatoes and chunks of button mushroom in bacon grease in my nonstick cast iron skillet. Once I had the ingredients where I wanted them, I deglazed the pan with a bit of red wine. Then I added about ¼ cup of broth, two cloves of roasted garlic, a handful of chopped fresh parsley, kosher salt and several hefty grinds of pepper. I popped the skillet into a hot oven to finish softening the potatoes, and then I served my new creation with seared wild salmon and a bed of fresh spinach.

And no one admonished me about messing up the kitchen or playing with my food. In fact, the only words I heard were, “thank you, that was delicious.”

Say yes to yogurt!

A recent article points to yet another benefit of yogurt, besides its great taste and versatility. Now researches say that lean people have a wider variety of healthy bacteria in their intestines, and this may contribute to weight management and well being.

Yay for yogurt!

One easy way to add yogurt to your diet is with smoothies.

I prefer unsweetened Greek yogurt, which can be a bit sour for some people. But that tartness adds a refreshing zing when added to smoothies, while boosting creaminess and nutrition. I use dozens of fresh and frozen fruit combinations for recovery drinks after strenuous bike rides. Smoothies supply the post-workout protein and fluid my body needs, and help cool me down as well. Plus, they are easy to make.

Here are two of my favorites:

Fruit Smoothie

 

2 Handfuls of fresh or frozen berries/diced fruit

½ Cup unsweetened fruit juice

½ – 1 Cup yogurt

2 Handfuls of ice

Sweetener – optional

 

Protein Smoothie

1 Cup yogurt

1 ½ Cup plain, vanilla (or for a real treat) chocolate almond milk

2 Handfuls of ice

Protein powder and Sweetener – optional

 

Get creative – enjoy in good health!