Market Monday…er Tuesday (and 200th Post Giveaway!)

Forgive my Market Tuesday post. I had some technical difficulties and didn’t want to wait until next week!

Happy Independence Day to you, and Happy 200th Post to me!

I’m here to break my unintentional two-week blogging hiatus. My summer job scoring writing tests will be over tomorrow morning, and I did not anticipate the amount of time it would take up. I am so looking forward to Wednesday, and making some headway on those projects I wrote about last month.

Two weekends ago, I didn’t make it to a farmers’ market. Dexter’s family had a reunion at his mom’s place, so although we didn’t make it to a market, we did spend a day ingesting cake pops, apple cake, and even a s’mores pie topped with bacon. (Dexter’s family is serious about desserts. Entire tables are devoted to desserts at their gatherings–the meal-like foods are just a ruse in case any “outsiders” make it in to the reunion.)

Dexter got to meet (for the first time as an adult, anyway) his great-uncle Bernie. We discovered that Bernie’s vocation was graphic design and that he still sketches daily to keep his skills sharp. (Really, “sketch” seems like a silly word. He makes amazing color drawings and even takes a portfolio filled with fancy pencils and other drawing tools with him wherever he goes.) It was cool to find out that Dexter’s artistic interests could be a genetic echo of Uncle Bernie’s skills.

Fast forward to this weekend–I made it to the farmers’ market!

We bought some delicious iced coffee from Capanna (not that we’re biased) and apple cider doughnuts, which are our incentive to get out of bed early on Saturday mornings when we forget that we really do like the vegetables enough to get up early to buy them.

From our CSA, we got a dozen eggs, a bunch of turnips, several very dirty farm-fresh-looking potatoes, two heads of red romaine, a cabbage, and two heads of garlic. We also stopped at a mushroom stand and bought a carton of portobellos.

Two weeks ago, I cooked up a storm every night. We ate delicious, balanced meals, and I was constantly exhausted from trying to clean the kitchen. Last week, we were so busy I barely cooked. When our schedule slowed down, however, my desire to get in the kitchen didn’t come back. Dexter made oatmeal raisin pancakes and eggs on Friday night. Then, he made crepes filled with farmers’ market portobellos, potatoes, and turnips for dinner on Saturday night. They were delicious, and I was glad to get to run instead of cook. Dexter is the things-made-with-eggs master around here.

Since then, I have cooked, and it has been okay, but I’m still not excited about it. I do have a plan to use what remains of our farmers’ market finds. We’ll grill the potatoes tonight and serve them alongside the coleslaw I’ll make with our cabbage. The romaine will make lots of salads for side dishes in the evening and lunches for me now that I’ll be home during the day. The garlic will go in just about everything, and we’ve been eating so many eggs that they’re practically gone already!

Now, for the good stuff.

To celebrate my 200th post and in light of my recent controversial, freshly pressed post on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals, I’ve decided to give away a copy of Eating Animals.

How to Enter:

Leave a comment below telling (or linking to a post where you tell) what you’ll be cooking this week and if you found any of the ingredients at a farmers’ market.

For up to three bonus entries (leave a comment for each), tweet, facebook, or blog about this giveaway.

The giveaway will close on Sunday, July 24 at 11:59 pm CST.

Thanks for reading! Here’s to 200 more posts!


Market Monday

I didn’t start making the rounds at the farmers’ market on Saturday until close to 11:00. After dropping Dexter off at 6:45 to help man the coffee shop stand, I went home and dozed on the sofa, read, and ate a chocolate chip cookie and some trail mix for breakfast. (In my defense, I didn’t fall asleep until 2 am the night before, and I thought I would be a much better wife if I had a little more than four hours of sleep. I was.)

By the time I got to our CSA stand, they were out of eggs and several of the veggies they started the day with. I bought a big bunch of radishes and some garlic scapes (see my post from last year to learn what they are).

I’m still fairly new to radishes, and before this year hadn’t been a fan. The radishes I’ve bought this year have been fairly mild, and they’ve worked well to give a little crunch to salads at lunch time. Brecca, a schoolmate from years ago, posted a recipe for radish-thyme spread on her blog last week that I’m itching to try. It involves butter and bread, so I think it will be a winner.

I’ll probably throw some garlic scapes into some scrambled eggs, but I’d also like to try the pesto recipe here.

Before making our way back to the coffee stand, we bought a breakfast burrito from the “local burrito” stand. It was delicious, containing eggs, potatoes, carrots, and greens, among other things.

Remember two weeks ago when I got the basil plant from Jocelyn who owns Pickle Creek Herbal? Remember how I was keeping a “watchful eye” on it? My eyes did fine–my brain, not so much. It held a place of honor in the middle of our kitchen table for a week, in the plastic pot it came in, until I realized it was turning brown, possibly because it had no sun. I (over) watered it and spent the next few days moving it into the sunlight outside. But it was too late.

However, for some reason I have a new determination not to be defeated by gardening. I mean–God created these things to grow, and everything they need to grow is all around me. This should not be that hard.

So, this week, I went to visit Jocelyn again. I admitted that I destroyed the plant she had successfully nurtured from a seed (probably from another plant she had grown from seed), and she was very kind, asking me questions and helping me figure out how I had killed the previously thriving plant. I bought another basil plant–this time it had three plants in it, to my surprise! When my friend Amy told me how easy mint was to grow (and that she thought it would survive even if she mailed a clipping to me) I thought, “I should be able to keep something alive that could survive in a dark envelope for a few days,” so I bought a mint plant, too. I almost went a little crazy and bought more herbs, but I figured I should take care of what I have first.

We stopped at a hardware store on the way home. I picked out some organic potting soil and three terracotta pots for the basil. I killed some tomato plants a few years ago, so I decided to use one of those larger pots, at Jocelyn’s suggestion, for the mint since they grow so prolifically. As soon as I got home, I re-potted everything. This afternoon, I’ll set up Dexter’s desk in front of a window and put the basil there to hopefully thrive. The mint is staying outside on the front porch. And I will remember to give adequate sunlight and not to over water.

My new basil plants, hoping for survival.

I’m counting on the reputation for hardiness mint has. Fun fact: This Cuban variety of mint is the same mint Hemingway drank in his mojitos while he lived in Cuba.

What did you find at the market this week? Do you have any tips for an obtuse, novice gardener?

Greek Yogurt with Berries

A long time ago, I think I tried Greek yogurt. (Either that, or I formed an opinion that it was gross without trying it.)

Then, I kept hearing people talk about it like they really liked it. I assumed they were just trying to sound cool, but I’m not one to be left out of a yummy food situation, so when I saw it on sale at our local health food store, I bought a 32 oz. container.

I mixed in some honey and topped it with berries. After my first bite, I considered renouncing ice cream for good because I loved my new bedtime snack so much. Even Dexter agrees, and he’s not one to mess around with desserts.

I tossed a quart of Greek  yogurt into my cart every time I went to the store during the weeks it was on sale. For some reason, I went to the store much more than usual, and I purchased a lot of Greek yogurt. And I am not tired of it.

Last night, I even had it without honey. I felt like a good, healthy grown up.

I’ve saved the remains of my last quart in hopes of using the cultures to make my own yogurt in the crockpot. I’m know I could make thick yogurt with another starter just by straining it a little when it’s done, but I decided not to risk it!

How do you feel about Greek yogurt?

I’ve linked up at Try New Adventures Thursday and Things I Love Thursday.

Market Monday

This spring, I read a little about detox diets or cleanses. Before heading to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning, I made a mental note that I’d probably want to buy food that I would make into a healthy meal rather than…ahem…rhubarb, which just begs to be paired with butter and sugar.

I bought some cute and delicious organic carrots from Grinnell Heritage Farm, one of the oldest family farms in central Iowa. They offer a CSA delivered to several cities across the state. If you’re considering joining a CSA but aren’t sure it would be the right fit, you can check out the newsletter archives to see what each week’s box contained for the past two years. I can vouch for the carrots; they were delicious, and the two pounds I bought are now gone.

We bought a bag of mint from one market stand for $1, the carrots for $4, two cucumbers for $5, and everything else from our CSA. We took home three heads of bok choi, a bag of spinach, green onions, radishes, and a dozen eggs.

So far, because of the cleanse, I’ve burned through this delightful produce. We’ve had stir fry with carrots, bok choi, and store bought organic red peppers on top of brown rice coated in pureed spinach and broth. We’ve had salads topped with carrots, radishes, cucumbers, and beans. The onions went into salads and fried rice. I plan to use the mint in a batch of iced tea.

I’ve been tossing my radish greens. Does anybody know if they’d be good in a green smoothie?

What did you find at the farmers’ market this week?

Market Monday Begins

I have a confession to make.

Those of you who might consider me your connection to youthful-vegetarian-hipster-environmental culture may be disappointed. And it’s not just because I’m past the quarter-life mark and sometimes throw away my tin cans.

Until last year, I didn’t like farmers’ markets. Don’t get me wrong. I like farmers and I like food, I just hated going to my city’s farmers’ market. I only went occasionally on a weekday night to pick up my CSA box, exhausted from a day at work, and in a hurry to get home. The aisle between the vendors was interminably filled with strollers, old people, and chatty gawkers.

One Saturday morning last summer, we were lured downtown by free coffee (a benefit of Dexter’s job which we possibly appreciate as much as the insurance premiums my job pays). Our secret free parking area is just steps away from the farmers’ market, and for some reason we decided to go in. We had no time constraint and no goal other than to look around. We took one lap around to take it all in. We took another lap around to distinguish who was advertising spray-free or organic produce.

I think it was the point at which we bought our first pastry that I fell in love with the farmers’ market. One week we found handheld apple pies. The next week we discovered cherry turnovers. We have developed an addiction to the apple cider doughnuts.

Our Saturday morning addictions are from Barb’s Pantry.

My curmudgeonly distaste for farmers’ markets has turned into a somewhat fanatic enthusiasm. And only in part because farmers’ market day can also be referred to as coffee and doughnut day. I looked forward to the beginning of the farmers’ market all spring, and looked forward to going all through the work week. My beginning ESL students have all known what a farmers’ market is since last fall when we eased into Monday mornings with a “What did you do this weekend?” conversation and all their teacher could talk about was food.

Fortunately, I have also become aware of the vegetables and other products that are sold at farmers’ markets. We decided to forgo our traditional CSA for a variety of reasons (which I will delight you with in a future post) and make a point to shop at the farmers’ market this summer.

This week, I bought a dozen eggs from pasture-raised hens. (I actually bought them from a man, but they originally came from hens.) Last week, I bought these same eggs but used them all up in baking projects. My goal this week is to eat the eggs alone or make omelets so I can find out what these eggs really taste like!

I also bought a bunch of rhubarb. Last week, I made rhubarb crisp. Print off this recipe and make it. If you’ve never tried rhubarb, buy some now and follow this recipe. You will be changed. I thought my mom was crazy for years because she like it, but I made her a mothers’ day dessert with it once and now I have a slight obsession.

Finally, I bought a bunch of radishes. I don’t have a radish obsession by any means, but the the combination of green leaves, red bulbs and white tips was just irresistible. We used the radishes in this delicious salad:

Spring Market Salad

Serves two as a generous side dish

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 small head romaine, rinsed and dried,
  • 2 handfuls spinach, rinsed and dried (leftover from last week’s farmers’ market purchase)
  • 1 handful radishes, trimmed and washed
  • 2 oz. feta cheese, broken into small pieces

Dressing:

  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. cold water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • a drizzle of honey or agave

Instructions:

  • Combine dressing ingredients in jar. Secure lid on jar. Shake.
  • Chop romaine and spinach into bite sized pieces.
  • Slice radishes
  • In a large bowl, toss dressing with lettuce.
  • Divide lettuce into two salad bowls. Top with radishes and feta.
  • Add meat, nuts, and/or dried fruit to make into main course salad.

I knew I’d want to blog about my farmers’ market finds. I also knew I’d want to hear about what friends and strangers on the world wide web were finding at their local markets, and maybe more importantly, how they were using those finds in meals throughout the week. Because buying kohlrabi is a cool thing to do, but cooking with it and subsequently eating it is much more impressive.

marketmonday

And so begins Market Monday. I plan to share with you each week what I found at the farmers’ market and how I plan to cook with it. Here’s how you can play along:

  • Leave a comment below telling what you found at the farmers’ market and your plans for cooking and eating it. Or link to a post you’ve written addressing the same things. (Then, link back to me in your post so your readers can get in on the fun.)
  • Couldn’t make it to the farmers’ market? Tell us about what was in your CSA box, or even what seasonal produce you found at your grocery store. Did you choose local tomatoes over imported? The goal here is learning and progress, not farmers’ market snobbery.
  • Read the comments below for inspiration. Visit the links and comment on those people’s blogs because comments are so exciting to get. Seriously, I get palpitations when I see a notice in my inbox that I’ve received one.

So, what did you find at your farmers’ market this week?

P.S. – Want to grab the cute Market Monday button my handsome graphic designer husband made for me? Use the code below:

<a title=”marketmonday by kjacobs729, on Flickr” href=”http://mrsdexter.wordpress.com/category/market-monday/”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5308/5748976749_a03567b98d_m.jpg&#8221; alt=”marketmonday” width=”150″ height=”150″ /></a>

Homemade Salad Dressing

I’m a bit of a salad dressing snob. When I was a kid, I only liked French dressing, and only a certain brand. Eventually, I tired of the sweet red dressing on my salads and ate my lettuce leaves plain. Or, preferably, with lots of cheese. When I was in high school, I discovered Panera’s poppy seed dressing that they use on their fruity summer salad.

In the past few years, I’ve branched out and included a few vinaigrettes in my repertoire, green goddess dressing, and even some gingery Asian dressings. However, all these have come from the salad dressing aisle at the store. When we decided to eat more whole foods, I realized that the list of hard-to-pronounce ingredients on the back of my beloved ready-made dressings probably aren’t considered “whole.” For a few months, I bought some expensive organic dressing, but that didn’t agree with my budget.

One summer afternoon, I was assigned to bring a salad to my house church for dinner. The dressing I bought wasn’t gluten-free, which was a need for one member of my church, so I did some quick thinking. I threw apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a jar and shook it up. Maybe my gluten-free friend was just being polite, but she said the dressing was great.

A year and a half later, I realized, “Hey, I could do that for myself and probably save some money.” So I did. And it worked. And it was quick and easy. And you should try it too.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1-2 pinches of salt
  • a pinch (or grind) of pepper
  • a small pinch of onion powder and/or garlic powder (optional)
  • 1 clove of garlic minced or grated (optional)

Instructions:

  • Put all ingredients in a jar.
  • Seal jar.
  • Check to see if the jar is really, really tightly sealed.
  • Shake.
  • Pour on top of salad and enjoy!

This has been so successful and so convenient that I’ve even tried my hand at other recipes. For example,

Orange-Lime Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. orange juice
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 3 oz. olive oil
  • 1-2 pinches salt
  • 1 pinch ground ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Instructions:

  • See super complex ingredients from Balsamic Vinaigrette recipe.

I’d really like to find a french dressing recipe since I don’t even know of a healthy brand to buy. I’m thinking of trying this one or this one.

Have you ever made salad dressing at home? What salad recipes do you love?

For more new adventures, visit Alicia’s Try New Adventures Thursday. Also, visit Jill at Diaper Diaries for Things I Love Thursday.

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I didn’t know about spinach-artichoke dip until I was in college. I first had it at a wine-tasting party that my friend Amy hosted. I was wary at first.  A food with two vegetables as the name of the dish? No thank you. There is no amount of wine that could make me think that is a good combination. What I didn’t realize was that wine isn’t the key to making vegetables taste good–cheese is.

The cover-it-with-cheese principle has served me well, helping me to include tomatoes, mushrooms, and brussels sprouts in my diet when they never would have made it into my mouth before. As I’ve grown accustomed to vegetables, I’ve reduced the amount of cheese I use to accompany them. It might be too great a shock to my system to completely take it out.

Last week, my April issue of Whole Living Magazine arrived, and inside I found 30 ideas for delicious, nutritious sandwiches. I was inspired by their combination of artichokes and white beans and created my own easy, real-life dinner-time recipe. These sandwiches, while not as decadent as their namesake dip, are a great way to add flavor, fiber, and protein to a grilled cheese sandwich.

Reviews from my table:

“These are pretty good.”

“Mmm…cheese.”

“I don’t like spinach, but I really like this sandwich.”

You’re sold, aren’t you?

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese Sandwich
adapted from Whole Living, April 2011
makes 5 sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 1 can great northern beans (or other white beans)
  • 1 10-oz. box frozen spinach
  • 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise (I used light, made with olive oil)
  • 2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 14-oz. can artichokes in water
  • 5 oz. white cheese in 5 slices or grated (I used organic raw sharp cheddar because it was on sale)
  • 10 slices 100% whole wheat sandwich bread (frozen for easy assembly)
  • 3-4 Tbsp. butter, olive oil, or non-stick spray

Directions:

  1. Thaw frozen spinach in microwave. Squeeze out water in a towel over the sink.
  2. Put beans, spinach, mayonnaise, parmesan, and olive oil in the food processor. Blend for 30-60 seconds until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Drain and chop artichokes into small pieces.
  4. Combine artichokes and bean mixture in a small bowl.
  5. Spread butter on one side of each piece of bread, brush with olive oil, or spray lightly with non-stick spray for a lower fat option.
  6. To assemble sandwiches, put 3 tablespoons of artichoke mixture on the un-buttered side of a piece of bread. (I used a 1.5 Tbsp. cookie scoop to measure.) Top with 1/2 oz of cheese. Place a second piece of bread, butter side out, on top of cheese. Repeat for four remaining sandwiches.
  7. Cook on a griddle heated over medium heat, on a panini press, or in a George Foreman grill until brown and crispy. I put mine on the George Foreman for about 4 minutes.

Pictures to come. Somebody pressed “Schedule” instead of “Save” and forgot about it.

Saturday Stumbles: Current Events, Stress, and Health Tips

I’ve been building up a mental lists of posts I’ve loved for the past month or so, and I thought I’d finally participate in my first Saturday Stumbles to share them with you. Enjoy!

These two posts are from Elise, a long-time friend who is cool in lots of ways I wish I was.

Weekend Reading – Addresses current events that are making headlines as well as human trafficking, always an issue but something I think about a lot.

Releasing Stress’ Hold on Me – Tips about stress relief from her personal experience.

Stephanie at Keeper of the Home has three related articles about stress and depression that I learned a lot from. Although I don’t have depression, I am prone to anxiety and depression, so “be prepared” is my motto.

My Journey to Burnout

Treating Depression Naturally: Supplements, Herbs, and Foods for Feeling Better

Naturally Neutralizing Stress: Herbs that Calm

Sarah at Loved Like the Church, who also recently guest posted here!

Half Marathon Training Guide: It might seem ambitious for the girl who hasn’t completed 5K training to want to do this, but a girl’s gotta dream.

At-Home Coffee Shop Series: Naturally Sweetened Banana Bread

Please welcome my friend Sarah! In my eyes, she’s a super-cool, famous blogger. Someday, when I attend a blog conference where she’s presenting, I’m going to lean to the person next to me and whisper, “Yeah, I’ve done coffee with Sarah.”

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For the past 3 years, I’ve been experimenting with different natural sweeteners in an attempt to cut out refined sugar from our family’s diet. It’s no small feat, especially since most natural sweeteners cost more than refined sugar, making it a costly transition. But thankfully you can typically cut back how much you use because the natural sweeteners are really sweet {so you won’t use as much in a recipe as refined sugar}. One of the easiest ways for me to cut out refined sugar is while making breads. So, I thought I’d pass along my banana bread with agave nectar recipe {which I adapted from Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook}.

Here’s the star of the show:

In a bowl, mash up two to three ripe bananas:

In another bowl mix 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup agave nectar, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt:

Add mashed bananas, 1/3 cup butter, 1 tablespoon milk. Mix:

Then add 2 eggs, 3/4 cup flour and nuts {which are optional}. Mix well. Don’t worry about lumps, that’s just your banana and nuts:

Pour into a well greased bread pan {I usually use butter for greasing my dishes}.

Bake at 350* for 55-60 minutes. Here’s your end result:

Enjoy!

Recipe list:
1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup agave
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon milk
2 eggs
nuts {optional}

Sarah is a wife, mother and follower of Christ. She is married to web genius and funny man Jonathan, and stays at home with her two daughters, Julia {3 yo} and Hannah {1.5 yo}. When not chasing after her hyperactive girls, she loves to cook, run, read and watch movies in her “spare” time. You can follow her adventures at Loved Like The Church.

At-Home Coffee Shop Series: Carmelitas

I’d like to introduce you to my friend and very first guest-poster, Leah. Leah is a wife and stay-at-home mom of three cuties who loves a great deal. She’s talented, entrepreneurial, adventurous, and hilarious. After you’ve enjoyed her post and decadently delicious recipe here, head over to A Momma on a Mission where she blogs about family life, frugal living, and making just about anything you can think of from scratch!

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Two and a half years ago, my husband and I found ourselves with hospital bills from having a baby and another set of bills from an unexpected shoulder surgery.  I was a stay at home mom at the time of our 3 year old daughter and 4 month old son.  Growing up, my mom (also a stay at home mom) was always doing a little something from home to help with the family’s income.  And having my dad be the entrepreneur that he is…. well starting little side businesses was just in my blood.

My husband and I decided to check with a friend who owned a local coffee shop and see if there was a need for some homemade goodies for them to sell.  Sure enough they were interested!  I whipped up a few different samples and we found a winner.  I set up my kitchen,  got it licensed, and a few short weeks later I was well on my way to making these “oh so yummy but terrible for you” Oatmeal Carmelitas.

We moved this last summer so I decided it was a good stopping point for me with this business as we were expecting our third baby.  I don’t think I had made them since this last July.  But thankfully this guest post was the motivation I needed to try them again, just a little “healthier” (can you call chocolate and caramel mixed together healthy? :) ) so I could serve them to my family.  I was not disappointed!  Even with the changes I made- they are still delicious!

Here is the original recipe with the few changes that I made.

Oatmeal Carmelitas

Base:
2 C. flour (I used whole wheat)
2 C. oats
1.5 C. brown sugar (I used 1 C. sucanat)
2.5 sticks melted margarine (I used 2 sticks of real butter)
1 tsp. baking soda
.5 tsp salt

Filling:
1 C. caramel sauce
3 TBS. flour (to thicken the caramel filling)
1 package chocolate chips (I thought about using fewer- but then realized- WHY? ;) )

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350*.
Mix together all of the base ingredients and spread half of the mixture into a greased 9×13 pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  While that is cooking, combine the caramel sauce and 3 TBS of flour.  Take the bars out of the oven, spread the caramel sauce evenly and then sprinkle on chocolate chips.  Top with remaining half of the base mixture.  Bake for an additional 17-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool before cutting.  (Trust me this is very important!  I once took them directly out of the oven and was ready to leave immediately to deliver them to the coffee house.  On the way outside, the corner of the pan hit our van tilting the pan ever so slightly and the ENTIRE double batch of my Oatmeal Carmelitas ended up on my driveway that day!)

Enjoy!

(As a double bonus- these freeze really well!  Since our family did not need to eat an entire pan of these in 2 days, I cut them up and froze them individually so my honey and I can split a late night treat every once and a while.  So good!)

You can check out the rest of the At-Home Coffee Shop Series here!