Market Menu: September 30 – The EAT LOCAL Challenge!

Throughout September, the central Illinois chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is hosting the Eat Local challenge.  The challenge is to spend $20 a week on locally grown food during the month of September.

A week of meals based on $20 of local food? We’ve got this!

Five Days of Breakfast:

Carrot and apple smoothie – from Oprah.com
Market items: carrots, apples

Local oats (or wheat berries!) with your favorite toppings – from Epicurious. Oats are inexpensive and store easily, and it just might be chilly enough this weekend for a hot breakfast. The next time I make oatmeal, I’m going to try adding in some of my homemade applesauce — which is basically just chopped up apples left in a crock pot until they’re soft.
Market items: Oats! 

Crispy egg on toast – from Smitten Kitchen
Market items: eggs, bread

Scrambled tofu with greens – from Yup it’s Vegan. This is a great way to incorporate vegetables in your breakfast, if that’s a thing you want to do. You can also add in leftover roasted vegetables – sweet potatoes are delicious in a breakfast scramble, too.
Market items: greens!

Freezer-friendly breakfast burritos – from The Kitchn
Market items: eggs, potatoes, peppers, bacon or sausage

 

Five days of Lunches

Carrot Salad – This is a fantastic grated carrot salad with parsley and lemon, from Once Upon a Chef. While not a meal on its own, it would go well with some cheese and fruit and/or another assortment of things.  I’d put money on this going well with feta cheese, in particular. 
Market items: 
carrots, parsley, cheese, apples

The Peppers and Sausages below make great leftovers, if you chop up the sausages before packing into individual serving containers. Add some rice or bread for a hearty lunch.

My favorite and most reliable lunch these days is chicken and sweet potatoes and applesauce. We’re in the heart of sweet potato season now, so I suggest that you stock up. I like to peel and cut my sweet potatoes into large chunks and boil them (and then mash), or else cut in small-medium (1/2″) cubes and roast. I’ll bake the chicken with a glug of italian dressing and foil over the baking dish, and then retain some of the liquid that remains after cooking (otherwise the chicken can get dry). If you’re going to chop the chicken up after cooking, be sure to let it rest first — otherwise, you’ll definitely have dry chicken.

 

Five days of Dinners

Spicy Stuffed Cabbage Rolls – filled with rice, spicy pork, and fresh napa cabbage. Made by the Serious Eats folks, in their “Cook the Book” series, from Faith Durand’s Not Your Mother’s Casseroles. As the Serious Eats staff note, the filling can easily be customized for your family’s tastes:  less or more spicy, different vegetables, substituting ground beef for pork, etc.
Market items: Ground pork

Peppers and Sausages – done in the slow cooker, to serve in a bun or over rice.

The recipe is dead simple, and takes only 10 minutes in the morning.  Slice the peppers and onion (I’d probably do this the night before, and wrap gently – who wants to go to work with onion hands? not I!). Then you add whole-grain mustard and beer, and put the whole sausages on top, and let it cook for the day.

Not only has the weather turned perfectly just in time for hot dinners, but this has been an AMAZING season for peppers! Just check out these beauties at the market!!
Market items: Peppers, onions, sausages

 

 

Sheet Pan Chicken Thighs and Cabbage – from Food52. This calls for a head of green cabbage, and chicken thighs or drumsticks, and a simple quick marinade of sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, sriracha and salt and pepper. The cabbage goes in later – this is the key with sheet pan dinners, is getting the timing right. If you haven’t roasted cabbage or brussels sprouts before, you’re in for a treat. If it were me, I’d make some mashed potatoes to go along with this hearty dinner.
Market items: cabbage, chicken, potatoes

Roasted Root Vegetables and Hummus – if you’ve ever felt like making a dinner of appetizers, then this is your recipe. A combination of roasted vegetable chips and three different hummus recipes, to which I’d add some cooked quinoa and roasted broccoli, and maybe a hard-boiled egg. Some crusty bread, maybe.
Market items: beets, turnips, radishes, broccoli, eggs, bread

Vegetable Mulligatawny Soup – I adore this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian. I’m not a vegetarian, but I make this at least once every fall, with an array of local vegetables. It calls for a long list of vegetables, but a small quantity of each: potatoes, carrots, turnips, basil, garlic, onion, plus fennel, cumin, coriander and peppercorns that you dry-roast in a pan and then grind fresh. It calls for vegetable stock, but chicken would be just fine if you eat chicken.
Market items: potatoes, carrots, turnips, basil, garlic, onion

The Eat Local Challenge: Eating Well at the Market, On a Budget

Throughout September, the central Illinois chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is hosting the Eat Local challenge.  The challenge is to spend $20 a week on locally grown food during the month of September. When Buy Fresh Buy Local asked us to collaborate on the Eat Local Challenge, Steph and I jumped at the chance to share some resources and ideas for eating well at the market without breaking the bank.

Deals at the Market: Buying in Bulk

September is an amazing time to get deals at the market. Vegetables like summer squashes, peppers, and tomatoes are nearing the end of their season but are still producing at a prolific rate. Traffic at the market also sometimes slows down, so farmers find themselves with a lot of produce that they are willing to sell in bulk, which is a boon to shoppers.

Keep your eyes peeled for signs that offer “two for one” bunches and “bulk” anything! The key is knowing which veggies are “bulk-ready” and using those items in your meal planning.

Prices on vegetables at the market can also change over time. According to Katie Bishop of PrairiErth Farm, when a crop first comes into season, there isn’t much of it but there is a lot of demand – think of those shoppers lined up for first-of-the summer tomatoes. Farmers may leverage this demand (that is, charge a little more). After a few weeks, they will drop the price because the supply is so much greater and they need to sell it. Tomatoes that were $4 per pound in July are now $3.25 in September – and they are probably available for far less if you’re buying in bulk. (Click here and here for ideas on preserving bulk tomatoes for later use.)

Potatoes also tend to cost less as the season goes on. “New” potatoes must be hand-dug and washed, says Katie Bishop. It takes a lot of hands-on labor to get those beautiful spuds out of the ground. But potatoes in October are mechanically harvested and machined washed. There is less work for the farm, so they can drop the price. (And who doesn’t love potatoes?!)

Ask For Seconds

Most farmers put only their most beautiful products out at the market – but they’ve probably got a few bins in the truck that hold less-than-perfect but still perfectly edible items. Farmers would far prefer to sell those items than to compost them (especially if they don’t have to haul it back to the farm). Ask your favorite farmer if they can offer any deep discounts on these veggies. With a few extra minutes of prep (to cut off bad spots, for instance), you’ve saved a lot of money but still ended up with great food.

One great item to ask about is carrots. “Juice carrots” might not look beautiful but can be pureed, juiced, peeled, shredded, etc. – and the taste is just as good as the cosmetically perfect carrots. Peppers are another item that can be incredibly cheap in bulk and as seconds (try cutting them up and freezing them in small amounts to use later in soups, a stir fry, or chili).  Peppers can also be roasted and frozen for a range of uses later.

Resources for Eating Locally On a Budget

Our blog focuses on easy meal preparation that features great, fresh, local food. For that reason, we love Lee Ann Brown’s Good and Cheap – a cookbook designed for families utilizing SNAP benefits (formerly known as good stamps). Shoppers can use the Illinois Link card to purchase items at The Downtown Bloomington Farmers’ Market every Saturday.

Good and Cheap is available at no cost here. Brown’s website is also fantastic, featuring an extensive recipe index and other great tips. Her recipes are for everyone who likes tasty food with easy prep!

Buy Pantry Staples in Bulk, Too! Other good things to buy (and cook/prep/freeze) in bulk include:

Both Green Top Grocery and Common Ground Natural Grocery in Bloomington have extensive bulk selections. (Green Top is a cooperative grocery, and is owned by members – and anyone can shop there, no membership needed.) We’ve got some great ideas on prepping and freezing in earlier blog posts, too. (More tips on buying in bulk here.)

Recipes for the Eat Local Challenge

You might be surprised how far you can make $20 go at the market. We are also happy to feature a number of recipes from Good and Cheap below.

Five Days of Breakfast:

Lunches and Dinners:

Did you accept the Eat Local Challenge? We would love to hear from you.

Have a great week, and see you at the market!

 

 

 

Market Menu: September 16

by flickr user simpleprovisions

While there’s plenty of grain, flowers, lavender, meat and other produce at the market, the theme of this week’s Market Menu focuses on all those hearty late-summer vegetables that we love to ROAST.

Pretty much everything you could ever want in your midwest farmer’s market is available right now, and it’s getting to be the last chance for some of the summer vegetables, so seize the opportunity! Gazpacho season is passing quickly. But personally, I’m excited to see all the winter squash and cooler-weather root vegetables, because they all take to roasting so well — and it’s such an easy way to enjoy fall flavors.

So instead of our usual breakfast / lunch / dinner arrangement, I’m going to separate this into some vegetable-specific groups that include roasting:

Carrots:

Winter Squash:

Turnips:

Sweet Potatoes:

Brussels Sprouts:

New Potatoes:

Beets:

What I really love to do with roasted veggies is use them throughout the week as the primary ingredient in Buddha Bowls. Along with homemade hummus or beans, some greens if they’re handy (even finely-chopped kale will work), and some brown rice or farro (or the grain of your choice), they make a really hearty lunch or dinner. If you want more protein, roast up some chicken or bake some tofu and add it to the bowls. A nice garlicky lemon-tahini dressing brings it all together nicely.

Roasted vegetables are also good for quick panini or doctored-up grilled cheese sandwiches. You can toast some nice hearty ciabatta or other bread (the Paesano loaf from Pekara would be amazing for this) and spread hummus and some warmed vegetables, or add the veg to a grilled cheese before putting the second piece of bread on. It’s the one place where I prefer provolone cheese to all else, but I’m sure others like gruyere would be amazing.

 

Bits and Pieces: A New Series on Local Readers’ Perspectives on (Local) Food

Today’s guest: Me (Stephanie)!  Because if you need a guinea pig for a new series, best to try it out on yourself first instead.

what does local food mean to you?

I find that its so easy for my food purchasing and consumption to be thoughtless;  thinking about local means more thinking period. It means trying to be more thoughtful about where the food I buy comes from, about what it takes to grow and get it to us, and how we use it. By learning more about our local farms, their growing seasons and some of their growing methods and challenges, getting to know their produce, adds something that feels more important to me than just eating tastier food. I recently ate a lovely small watermelon, thinking about all the rain that farms didn’t get this summer, knowing that they had to irrigate to produce this waterbomb. They have to pay for water, and I’d rather be on the side of helping them continue to irrigate if they need to, rather than relying on some bigger operation in the tropics. I have a hard time believing that just because we can turn food production into something that’s automated and divorced from the land, that we should.

what do you love most about local food?

I love the surprise of it, that nothing’s ever quite the same. Sometimes that means getting something that spoils faster than you expected it to, or finding that the weather interfered with a crop you were looking forward to. But much more often, it means discovering flavors that are more intense or complex than you expected, or getting your picky-eater nephew to eat a blackberry because he helped you pick them and he got into finding the blackest ones because his auntie told him that those were the sweetest, and that made him curious about how they tasted.

what do you use most often, and where does it come from?

Onions, tomatoes, potatoes. I grow a lot of tomatoes, but I buy the varieties I don’t grow well from the market, mostly PrairiErth Farm. It’s the larger ones, like Kellogg’s breakfast that I don’t grow; we have too many garden critters that like them, so ours don’t make it to ripening!

do you preserve any of your local food?

Yes, when I find time to plan ahead. Buying the quantity, clearing a weekend, deciding what to make and making room for it.

if so, what are some of the things that you preserve, and how?

Freezing: Marinara from tomatoes and garlic; applesauce; soups (red pepper, butternut squash, tomato); pestos and herbs frozen in ice cubes or olive oil.
Canning: Pickled Beets, Jam (berries and peaches), sometimes pickled okra or green beans; occasionally salsas.

is there anything you’ve wanted to preserve, but haven’t yet?

Dehydrating anything; I haven’t done any, really. And I’d like to find more pickled/relish things that I like.

do you grow any herbs or veg at home?

Always kale and tomatoes, basil and cilantro, usually parsley, usually beets and chard

if so, how do you incorporate that into your cooking / meals?

I often forget about the kale, but come fall I use it often. The tomatoes generally get roasted and frozen, the kale quickly sauteed or steamed with fish or meat. Cilantro and Basil gets used in pesto more often than fresh.

what’s your favorite season of local food?

Fall!! I love root veggies! Parsnips, beets, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes! Everything gets sweeter after a frost, and even sweeter in the oven.

what are some of the challenges of using local food / cooking / meals?

Keeping up with the harvest! and buying enough but not too much on Saturday at the market, so that you can use it all before it spoils. doing the right kind of prep over the weekend to be able to incorporate things into our weekly meals. Prep is definitely the thing I have the most trouble with. I like to cook, so I have to keep telling myself to cook meals rather than more jam.

what do you think you do really well around cooking/meals, and how do you do it?

I’m pretty good with making large quantities of soups and sauces and freezing them; it’s a bunch of work all at once, that pays off throughout the winter/spring. And it’s a great thing to be able to quickly defrost and take to a sick friend.

what do you want to learn more about?

Dehydrating! And other meal-prep strategies for making full use of summer produce.

if you could have one fruit or vegetable growing in your backyard right now, what would it be?

A lemon tree!