Market Monday & 200th Post Giveaway Winner

heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market

I wanted to buy everything at the farmers’ market this week. We’re actually getting both sun and rain here in Iowa (finally!), which means that the more colorful vegetables of summer are finally ready to harvest.

I went to our CSA stand first thing on Saturday morning to get eggs. We’ve become pasture-raised egg snobs around here. First, we love buying the eggs directly from the man who raises the chickens so we know that they really are pasture-raised–we’re not just relying on a sticker on an egg carton at the store. Second, the yolks are brighter, the whites cook up more tender, and we pretty much devour the carton of eggs within a few days of purchase.

From our CSA, we also bought four tomatoes, three cucumbers, three eggplant, a pile of tomatoes, a red onion, a head of garlic, and fennel.

I bought another bottle of Lemon Basil Balsamic Vinegar from Pickle Creek Herbal. We’ve been following the simple (1:2 vinegar to oil ratio with a drizzle of honey) recipe for salad dressing Jocelyn gave us when I first met her and have exhausted our first bottle. She also recommended using it on caprese salad, which I think will be a good use for those four tomatoes. (Or three tomatoes. See how the top one looks a little funky? It looks really funky now.)

I also stopped at a stand to by goat cheese for a muffin recipe I wanted to try for Sunday morning breakfast. I’ll share that recipe with you soon so you can see if you want to start waking up to goat cheese.

We bought the cherry tomatoes and yellow squash from an organic stand that was very friendly and helpful to Dexter one morning as he was getting his stand set up. Dexter loves these cherry tomatoes and will enjoy having them in his lunch in place of the carrots I usually send.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should tell you that we also bought apple cider doughnuts and a savory tomato auf lauf at the farmers’ market. They were devoured much to quickly and ravenously to make it onto the camera.

Some of the cucumbers will probably make it into a salad, but we’ve been using them to add some pizzazz to our drinking water. I fill the pitcher in our fridge with water and add five slices of cucumber and half a lemon, sliced thinly or cut into wedges. (Wedges make it easier to squeeze the juice directly into the water, but I’ve found that slices flavor the water well enough if left to sit.) I usually refill the pitcher without replacing the cucumber and lemon slices once or twice so we can extract all the flavorful goodness from them before tossing them in the garbage disposal. Dexter doesn’t like plain water, but he was enamored with this water when I made it once last month and has been drinking it almost as enthusiastically as he drinks coffee.

I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I really want to like it. I plan to bake it (like in the first half of this recipe) and then serve the crispy slices on top of spaghetti. It’ll be my adapted version of eggplant parmesan. (My beef with real eggplant–or chicken–parmesan is that everything gets soggy, and I don’t want to go to the trouble of making something delicious and crispy if I’m just going to dump sauce all over it. Does anyone else feel this way? Am I the only one who has soggy-parm issues?)

The large pile of yellow squash will go into Sunny Summer Squash Soup, which I found on Once A Month Mom’s August Vegetarian Menu. The onion, some garlic, and two of the potatoes will go in the soup, and the rest were eaten, grilled in slices, with Monday night’s dinner.

What I’m left with, however, is a bulb of fennel. I didn’t have any plans for it. It was sort of an impulse purchase. (You know you’re kind of a kitchen dork when fennel is your impulse buy.) Any suggestions for my fennel?

Finally, before I hit the sack on this barely-got-it-posted-on-Market-Monday, I want to announce that Sarah is the winner of the Eating Animals giveaway. Your book will be in the mail as soon as I confirm your address.

Repurposing Lasagna

I was so excited about making a healthy, cruelty-free dinner. I bought organic eggplant and zucchini. I bought cruelty-free mozzarella and I made ricotta from scratch. I put everything together in the crockpot the night before and assigned Dexter to turn it on the next day. It was supposed to be beautiful.

Fast forward to dinner time. I have nothing to go with what’s inside the crockpot. We have recently acquired a (very gracious) housemate, so the pressure is on for me to make an actual meal and not flake out an eat cheese or trail mix for dinner. It had been a long and stressful day, the contents of the crockpot were expensive, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to taste good.

The plan was to eat Vegetarian No-Noodle Lasagna. There were two problems with this idea.

Primarily, no one really wants to eat lasagna without noodles. Lasagna exists so you can prepare your pasta meal the day before and toss it in the oven when you get home from work. I solved this problem by serving it over spaghetti noodles.

The second problem came from my efforts to be cruelty-free and a little more frugal. Cruelty-free mozzarella is EXPENSIVE, so I left out the mozzarella cheese that was supposed to be layered in with the mushrooms, spinach, ricotta, and sauce. There was cheese on top and ricotta in the middle.  I hoped it would be okay. It wasn’t. We ended up with a pot full of tomato-saucy vegetables. I did NOT want to eat them again, but I had invested a lot of time and money in that bland food.

Then it hit me…if I can puree steamed vegetables to sneak into other foods, why can’t I slip in crockpotted veggies cooked in sauce with ricotta?

A few days later, I dug the stoneware out of the fridge, scooped out everything that didn’t stick to the sides too much, plopped it in the food processor, and turned it on.

 

I stirred a little less than a cup into a few cups of jarred spaghetti sauce, and voila! My failed pasta-free lasagna was now a nutritious spaghetti sauce. I was a little apprehensive about how it would taste, but my dinner table posse heartily approved, and I thought it was surprisingly good too. I’ve got two more dinner’s worth of puree in the freezer for later.