Farmers Market Challenge: New Discoveries

A new week, a new discovery.

Collard Greens: I had never heard of them, I had never eaten them, but they were green, and I was intrigued. They were one of my first purchases last week and I knew they would be featured somehow in the resurgence of the market-fresh market meal.

My husband was working all weekend and I decided to take on dinner duty; this rarely happens. I fired up Pinterest and searched out collard recipes. I found recipes for stir fries, collards and grits (apparently it’s a Southern thing), dips, soups and sautées. But the most frequent recipes I found were for stuffed collard greens. Stuffed with rice. Stuffed with meat. Stuffed with beans and lentils. Pretty much anything you wanted could go into those greens.

For my family, I chose an Italian-based recipe that had chicken sausage, quinoa, onion, garlic, basil and mozzarella cheese, baked in a bed of marinara sauce and topped with parmesan.

Italian stuffed collard greens: So good!

The original recipe can be found here. Instead of brown rice, I used cooked quinoa, and because I didn’t have Italian chicken sausage, I added dried oregano to the filling.

It was an easy recipe to follow: I blanched the large leaves, boiling them in a pot of water for three minutes, then in a sink of a cold water immediately after to make them more pliable for folding. I stuffed and wrapped them like you would any old wrap. And put them atop a layer of marinara sauce and then in the oven with foil on top for 35 minutes. Finally, I plated them and grated parmesan over top.

I’m not going to lie, it looked pretty fancy, like restaurant fancy. I was somewhat concerned my husband and son would turn their noses at first bite, as they can be somewhat picky when it comes to their produce choices. I don’t know if it was the excitement of me making the meal, but both enthusiastically dug their forks right in.

The taste was fantastic. Every bite we were breaking it down. Every bite we had exclamations of how this is a recipe we could confidently serve our friends, and have them believing so much work and effort went into its creation, when really there wasn’t much at all.

I paired the meal with a simple salad made of the various greens I acquired at the market: Arugula. Mustard greens. Fava tips. Spring mix. This salad was so flavourful, it did not require dressing.

The beauty of fresh-cut greens is all in the taste.

The beverage of choice was a cold glass of Steel and Oak’s new flagship Roselle brew. I was sure I tasted hints of apricot, but upon further research (re: Steel and Oak’s website) I discovered the taste wasn’t apricot but was a mix of banana and raspberry combined with hibiscus, rosehips, a touch of spice, and floral notes.

Beer me up, baby!

Finally, our dessert was a bowl of super sweet, super local, super strawberries.

Ron at Wild West Coast Seafoods first tipped me off to the presence of strawberries; yes, he totally shared! I love our vendors!!!

Let’s break the meal down quantitatively. The collard greens cost $4 and gave our family of three a full dinner, plus two single lunches, so individually they cost 0.80 cents per meal. We had all the ingredients on hand for the filling except for the chicken sausage ($3.50) and the marinara sauce ($4) that we got from Donald’s Market. We shared a beer, which cost $3.25 per can. For our greens, I spent a total of $15 at the market. This will last us approximately 10 days give or take with three full-sized salads eaten per day. That means the two-serving salad cost about 0.50 cents each. The container of strawberries was $6 and we ate about half amounting to $3 worth. Add that up and our super fancy, super tasty, market-fresh meal cost us a whopping $5.43 each.

Not too shabby.

Market Loot:

• Zaklan Heritage Farm:

– 1 bag arugula $4

– 1 bunch ruby streaks mustard greens $3

– 1 bag fava tips $4

– 6 large-leaf collard greens $3

– 1 bunch radishes $2.50

• Country Village Market – Mandair Farms:

– 1 carton strawberries $6

• Ossome Acres:

– 1 bag of 3 baby lettuce heads $4

• Steel and Oak

– 4-pack Roselle wheat ale $13

Total spent: $39.50

Good things galore at the New Westminster Farmers Market

For more market-fresh meal ideas check out my Pinterest Farmers’ Market Recipes board. 

Farmers Market Challenge: Summer 2017 Week # 1

Have you ever eaten a string bean without actually eating one? Bear with me here folks, I know it sounds like an odd question, but I swear that is exactly what I did this week!

For the first of the summer market season, I went in blind. I did not have a list, in fact, I had no idea what I needed and what I did not. All I knew was that the market was back and I was itching for any form of green I could get my hands on to.

Unfortunately, it is still early days. There was a lot of potted produce, tomatoes and cucumbers, up for grabs, as well as fresh and dried herbs galore, but little in the way of veggies. With that in mind, I set my eyes on items I may otherwise pass by.

And here we are: fava tips.

“What are fava tips?” I asked Gemma at Zaklan Farms.

After more than a year suffering, er, answering my questions, the two of us have developed a pretty good Q&A banter.

“Tips from the fava bean,” she laughed.

Yep, I deserved that one.

She told me that fava tips have more substance than your typical salad green, a bit of a beany taste with a wheat texture, she said. They add a belly-filling oomph to your salads, and sautéed in the grill with garlic and oil would be a lip-smacking treat sure to please, she advised.

It took until Monday before I had my first taste of the fava; the bag got lost in the fridge. When making food, I am a perpetual sampler, irregardless of savoury, sweet, veggies, herbs – I sample it all. So when I was making a lunch salad and discovered the fava tips, I plopped a cluster of them in my mouth. And then I stopped.

Full stop.

There is a bean in my mouth, I thought. I do not recall putting a bean in my mouth, in fact, I do not even think we have beans in the crisper, I know we do not have them in the garden. How is there a bean in my mouth?

There was not. It was the fava.

Yet another market-fresh discovery that I would either have never found or tried at the local supermarket.

Fava bean: beany taste, indeed.

Market Loot:

• Zaklan Heritage Farm:

– 1 black chocolate cherry tomato plant $3

– 1 valley girl tomato plant $3

– 1 bag fava tips $4

– 2 giant sized boc choi $2.75

• Seed of Life:

– 2 bags edible flowers $3

• Ossome Acres:

– 1 bunch red ursa kale $3

• Vale Farms:

– 1 ring garlic sausage $9.55

• Baguette and Co.

– 1 Swiss pastry (large enough for two) $4

• Golden Ears Cheesecrafters

– 1 hunk of chive havarti $7.50

Market loot: Total spent was $39.80

I stepped a little outside my comfort zone this week. Tomato plants, edible flowers, garlic sausage are not things I would ever thought to have purchased in years past.

My husband and I are not exactly winning gardeners. Every year we try and every year, pretty much, we fail. But this year I am determined to snatch that green thumb and never let it go. When I saw the tomato plants at Zaklan, and I read their names – Chocolate Cherry and Valley Girl – they like had me at chocolate.

Growing tomatoes: My garden babies tucked away in their wee beds.

The edible flowers at Seed of Life were like sparkling diamonds on a street corner. It may have been a frivolous purchase; I did not really need them, but they were just so darn pretty, I had to have them. Unfortunately, though, as they were one of my first purchases, they ended up on the bottom of a bag filled with heavy items. By the time I got home, the majority were crushed 🙁 Good thing they were only $1.50 each.

We made a charcuterie plate with the garlic sausage from Vale Farms and the chive Havarti cheese from Golden Ears Cheesecrafters to share with friends. Both were a hit, and a nice combination accompanying Belgian beer. My husband grilled up the sausage to which he declared enhanced the flavour even more. And with the remaining portion, we are intending to make sausage sandwiches for lunch one day this week.

Garlic sausage: Great with beer

The next market is on Thursday, June 1 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Tipperary Park. See you there!

Farmers Market Challenge

Greens! I saw greens! So many greens!

There was kale and kalettes, Brussels sprouts, leeks, spring mix, arugula, chives, cabbage tops, cukes, onions, radishes – I wanted it all!

It seemed poetic, almost, the last market of the winter season had finally brought forth several venders featuring the first of the spring veggies and greens. Two vendors – Greendale Herb and Vine and Ripple Creek – I hadn’t seen since the first market of the season.

“I’m happy to be back,” said Chris Kay, owner of Ripple Creek Organic Farm.

I picked up a leek and asked about the dark green leaves: can I use them? Because the leeks were still young, their leaves had not yet reached the fibrous, stringy stage. They were delectably edible, Kay told me. He suggested I use them in a blended soup or chop them up and roast them.

“They’ve got plenty of flavour,” he boasted.

So much soup, so much taste-a-licious!

I was not the only one excited over the greens.

A woman at Ossome Acres was practically jumping up and down over the cabbage tops. I had never had cabbage tops; I was intrigued. She told me they paired excellent in stir fries and eggs. She told me their season was super short. I had a nibble of a leaf and oh man, where have these been my whole life? They were like no other green I have yet tried. So tender, so sweet. I had them in frittatas and soups. But by far my most favourite way was mixed with other greens in salad.

When I spotted the bags of arugula, I saw visions, not of sugarplums, but of Neopolitan pizza. There would be quiche with the leeks and chives. The kalettes and kale were destined for the roaster. And the French breakfast radish (okay, so I may have totally picked those radishes over the others for the name alone), which were more sweet than heat due to the months of cold, were a perfect addition to our nightly salads.

The most economical purchase of the shop was the potted garlic acquired from Greendale Herb and Vine. The pot was already abundant with garlic leaves that I have been using in our salads, omelettes, garlic bread, free standing even, and anything else I can think to put garlic in – so much flavour! By mid June, we should have the early makings of garlic scapes growing out from the centre of the bulbs, which also feature an intense garlic flavour and are perfect for grilling, hummus, or fresh in salads. And by July, the three planted bulbs will be ready for picking.

That’s like three for the price of one. Win-Win.

Potted garlic: three uses for the price of one

Market Loot:

• Ossome Acres:

– 1 bag kalettes: $3

– 1 bag cabbage tops: $4

• Ripple Creek Organic Farm:

– 1 bag arugula: $4

– 1 leek: $3.50

– 1 bunch radishes: $2.50

• Outwest Ranch

– 1 bunch chives: $2

• Greendale Herb and Vine:

– 1 potted garlic plant: $8

– 1 bag meadow bouquet tea: $4

– 1 container snacking cucumbers: $3

– 1 artisan garden spoon: $4

• Sweet Thea

– 1 chocolava cookie: $2.25

Total spent: $40.25

Greens! Greens! Greens!

The weekly summer market starts this Thursday at Tipperary Park from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and I hear it is booked solid. Can’t wait to see the greens that await.

Farmers Market Challenge: Finding New Things

One of the cornerstones of the $40 market challenge has been exploration: exploration not only in the savings to be found at the market, but also in the local foods available, and the wonders of curiosities those foods bring to the kitchen. Prior to this challenge, I had never consumed morels, or stinging nettles. I had never heard of kalettes or celeric. But rather than fear the unknown, I’ve embraced it. My family has discovered a whole new realm of recipes thanks to those ingredients. We’ve not been limited (re: bored) week in and week out by the same, old menu plan. We’ve had failures, and we’ve had successes.

This week, we had success.

The first thing that caught my eye at the last market was the fresh fiddleheads over at Your Wildest Foods. These guys had some serious positives. I had never had fiddleheads. I had seen pickled ones at the market prior, but never fresh ones. My husband and I were debating if we had ever seen them in the grocery stores; he says no, but I’m pretty sure I saw them once years ago. Still, they’re not exactly something you see every day. These guys were beyond fresh. Matt, the local forager, had picked them alongside his batch of stinging nettles up in Hope. And that name: Fiddleheads! How can you go wrong with a name like that?

Fiddleheads: they kind of look like edible tubas!

We cooked the fiddleheads like we do asparagus, marinading in olive oil and sea salt. We first grilled them on the barbecue, which gave them a charred sweetness. The next round we sautéed them in a cast-iron frying pan, which transformed the flavour beyond sweet to a more spring-like zest, almost like a crunchy spinach. Our four-year-old loved the looks of them, but after the first bite lost interest, which meant more for me!

Rumour has it, Your Wildest Foods will soon be offering maple blossoms. You know, those beautiful flowers covering the trees lining our streets at the first glimpse of spring – apparently you can eat them! Who knew?

Market Loot:

• Fiddleheads: (1/2 pound) $8 (Your Wildest Foods)

• 1 bag microgreens: $5 (Nutrigreens)

• 1 jar rhubarb jam: $3 (Anne’s Gallery)

• 3 cans sockeye salmon: $16.50 (Wild West Coast Seafoods)

• 6 eggs: $3 (Outwest Ranch)

• 5 blueberry lemon scones: $ (Simply Scones)

Canned salmon is not a new discovery for me. My grandfather ran Canadian Fishing Company for decades and several in my family worked there as well. We may not have always had a lot of food luxuries in my house growing up, but we always had canned fish. For me, canned fish is something that typically goes into a sandwich, or atop a salad, maybe even into soup. But after purchasing salmon burgers at the market, I was intrigued to make my own.

We kept it simple: shallots, bread crumbs, eggs, salmon and Old Bay seasoning, that was it.

Full disclosure: our son was having a complete meltdown over this dinner. He wanted real burgers, not salmon burgers. It was a full-on, 10-minute tirade. He finally, begrudgingly, came to the table determined he would only eat the red peppers accompanying his meal. When he didn’t think we were looking, he took a bite: “YUM!” he exclaimed, completely forgetting his moments ago stubborness. He ate every last crumb and asked for a second helping (he never asks for a second helping), and when he didn’t finish that second helping he made a point of telling us to save it for later. He came back five minutes later and finished it off.

He wasn’t the only one that enjoyed the meal. Both my husband and I were pleasantly pleased with how well it tasted, how simple it was to prepare, and how affordable a meal it was as well.

Salmon burgers: Definitely a future repeat

I also used the salmon on a salad, in a salmon melt sandwich, and for snacking with crackers. In the past, I’ve had issues with the bones in canned salmon; they creeped me out. I don’t know if it’s a level of taste maturity, or the way Wild West Coast Seafoods prepares their canned salmon, but the bones didn’t bug me at all. (Wild West Coast Seafoods doesn’t double process; instead of canning from frozen, they can from fresh.)

Canned salmon producing a variety of quick-fix meals.

The last discovery of the day wasn’t so much a food discovery, but a person. Anne from Anne’s Gallery bulldozed me with her love for local. The Irish native pointed to every one of her jams and told me exactly where the ingredients were sourced, nearly all in her Burnaby backyard or her son’s yard in Coquitlam. What she doesn’t grow herself, like plums and boysenberries, her friends have supplied. Her marmalade is the only product she “compromises” on for going outside the local wheelhouse, and only because the oranges used can’t be grown here.

For Anne, eating local is a value that goes back to her Irish roots. “I grew up in rural Ireland; everything we had grew around us,” she told me. “We ate what we grew.”

So simple, yet so strong.

Blueberry-lemon scones (Simply scones) paired with rhubarb jam (Anne’s Gallery).

Farmers Market Challenge: They Stung Me!

Did you know that by soaking your nuts, seeds, and grains, it makes them active, frees them from their less nutritional, dormant state, and releases them into a far superior, easy-to-digest state? I had NO idea! Sure, my Oh She Glows cookbook told me to do this overnight with my goji berries, pumpkin seeds, and almonds before plopping them into my morning oatmeal, but I didn’t know why, I just did it. This, my friends, is called sprouting.

And I learned all about it at the last New Westminster Farmers’ Market!

Monika Serwa, founder of Growing Fresh, a company that produces organic, raw, vegan snacks in a certified organic, home-based kitchen, gave me an enthusiastic lesson in clean eating. She does not believe in grains; they are not real food, she said. Instead, she uses sprouted buckwheat seeds, which come from the rhubarb family, in her granolas. She uses fresh fruits, dried fruits, and fresh fruit juices as sweeteners in her products, no refined sugars. None of her products are cooked above 46˚C in an effort to preserve their nutrients and living enzymes. And the purpose of sprouting is to remove enzyme inhibitors that may compromise digestion and nutrient absorption.

That may sound like a mouthful for some, but when your mouth is being offered up sample after sample of pumpkin pie granola, and chocoroons, and uber beer snacks, and flax crax, you listen.

Market Loot:

• Growing Fresh:

– 1 bag of Pumpkin Pie Granola $8

• Your Wildest Foods:

– 1/2 lb bag of fresh stinging nettles!!! $5.50

– 1/2 lb bag of organic oyster mushrooms $4

• Bob Ali Hummus:

-1 container dill/tarragon hummus $6

• Ossome Acres:         

-1 container sunflower shoots $2.50

• Wild Westcoast Seafoods

-1 lb tuna $15

Total spent: $46

Yes folks, you read correctly, I bought fresh stinging nettles. The same kinds of stinging nettles that stung the heck out of me nearly every day I lived on a farm as a kid. I swear those suckers targeted me the second I walked out the door. And I was not the kind of kid to leave them be – I rubbed at the instant pain, and then scratched the bloody hell out of my arms and legs from morning to night. Seriously, I was head to toe stinging nettle scabs for about five years!

Fearing the nettles

But the thing is, spring has arrived, and with spring comes allergies. Ever since having my son in 2012 I have been riddled with allergies. Last year was the worst. I spent from March to July with a stuffed head. Word on the street is stinging nettles is the perfect remedy, a natural histamine that easily combats the pollen in the air.

The wild nettle tops were young spring shoots that were foraged in Hope. Nettles are full of nutrients including vitamin C, A, K, iron and magnesium, a powerhouse combination that has been associated with alleviating joint pain and stimulating digestion. It was suggested I cook them like spinach and throw them in a quiche, or eat them raw in a smoothie, or as the main ingredient in pesto. With the help of Pinterest, I made an earthy-flavoured nettle tea, which was really fun when I added lemon to the mix and turned the tea a shade of pink. I also made a yam-nettle soup. This is where the nettles and I went into all-out battle mode. The nettles won. Despite putting on my husband’s heavy duty gardening gloves, those suckers managed to get their stinging chemicals into my thumb – it stung, it grew numb, I did not like that version of memory lane. But fear not folks, I got my revenge: the soup was super tasty and those nettles went in my belly!

Nettle soup: I used salad tongs to get those raw nettles on the wooden spoon.

We also purchased a half pound of fresh, oyster mushrooms, a variety that we don’t commonly see in the grocery stores. We contemplated throwing them into pasta, or making a pizza featuring them, but in the end, we just wanted to eat them. Onto the barbecue with olive and sea salt they went. The dinner talk the first night we had them was all about oyster mushrooms. The flavour and texture was so beyond what we’re used to with button mushrooms. Plus, they just looked really cool.

Our market adventure was finalized with a trip through the Wild Westcoast Seafoods truck. I was with my four-year-old and husband. As soon as we walked in, my son was like a broken record player: “yum-yum-yum-yum-yum-…”

Needless to say, the Bartels love their fish.

Tuna!!!!!

Happy marketing!!!

Farmers Market Challenge: Locavore

What does it mean to be a locavore? And is it truly feasible? This is a question I have been asking myself over the last several months.

For years I have considered my eating practices on the upper echelon of health. Lots of greens, lots of fruits, lots of wholesome snacks, very little refined sugar. We regularly shop the farmers’ market. We try to support local as much as we can. We have a small patio garden through the summer months. My son and I have Sunday morning baking adventures to fill up on healthy, unprocessed snacks during the week. And my love for kombucha has become an ongoing, super successful, chemistry experiment in my pantry thereby reducing my carbon footprint.

But still, we have a long way to go.

Food citizenship, a buzzword in foodie circles, is the act of engaging in food-related behaviours that consider all aspects of the food – its affect on personal health; its effect on the environment; on animal welfare; and on sustainability of our local farmers. Its premise is knowing where our food is grown, how it is grown, and make consumption decisions accordingly. This applies everywhere – at the grocery store, in restaurants, and yes, even at our farmers’ markets. Essentially, we need to stop being passive food consumers, and start being advocates of our local food system.

But is it possible?

This winter, we have been challenged in this endeavour every which way we turn. The winter has diminished our farmers’ crops, if not obliterated them. We are lucky if we get local microgreens and potatoes at our bi-weekly market. Our fridge, I’m not going to lie, has produce from California, Mexico, Washington, and who knows where else. Not really locavore-like, at all. Sixty to seventy years ago, though, families regularly faced such hardships. Prior to industry taking over the shelves with its processed goods, nearly all foods were at the whim of environment. If the weather was not sustainable for fresh foods, they relied on stocked up preserves. They survived… and so shall we.

Market loot:

• Nutrigreens: – 1 5 oz bag microgreens $5

• Old Country Pierogi – 2 vegan burgers $8

• Lilise – 1 475 ml jar apple butter $10

• A Bread Affair – 1 loaf French Kiss bread $7

– 1 brown butter cookie $2

• Salt Dispensary – 1 2.5 oz cherry-smoked salts $8

Total spent: $40

The farmers’ market is brimming with preserves these days. I purchased the apple butter for my four-year-old who loves applesauce on its own, in his oatmeal, and mixed up in plain, Greek yogurt. We also used it in a few of our baking adventures to make avocado brownies, spinach “monster” cupcakes, and chickpea chocolate cookies as a way of reducing the refined sugar content. I was most surprised with how well the brownies turned out. The avocado was used as a healthy fats alternative, and the apple butter, along with pure maple syrup, as a sweetener. So gooey, so chocolatey, so not avocadoey.

Lilise also has a super tasty ginger-infused variety, but because the sauce was for my kid, not me, I opted for the traditional apples-only flavour.

The vegan patties were like none I have ever tasted. So many textures and flavours: crunchy with pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and kaniwa (similar to quinoa, but with a crunchier texture); creamy with mashed yams and black beans; a little kick of spice; some smoky undertones;, and I think, but I am not 100% sure, there was cumin in the mix as well. I have determined to recreate this recipe on my own. A new market-fresh challenge, dare I say. First stop: sourcing out kaniwa in New Westminster.

A splurge of the shop was most definitely the salt. We did not need a flavoured salt, and frankly I had no idea what I would add it to. But it was intriguing. The most adventurous I usually get with salt is Himalayan sea salt. The Salt Dispensary had probably 30 flavours on its table, and you better believe I smelled each and every one of them before choosing the smoked cherry. The fellow at the stand suggested sprinkling it on tomatoes and avocados, or rubbing it onto meats, or sprinkling it onto a cheese plate. We did the tomatoes and avocado; sprinkled it onto salmon, over top of fried eggs on toast, and into a shrimp stir fry. The taste was lost in the stir fry; there were likely too many competing flavours. I preferred my salmon without. But on the avocado, tomato, and fried eggs, it was absolutely lovely – another tasty dimension.

Market-fresh Sunday Sandwich and sides featuring French Kiss bread, microgreens, and cherry-smoked salt

At every table I went to, I talked to the farmers, the vendors, the owners. I learned about the processes used, and the ingredients sourced for the breads at A Bread Affair, I was told about the my loaf’s “peasant” origins, that it was a mix of whole rye and wheat fermented over three days to give it a slight tang. And I was heavily encouraged to pair it with either a hearty bowl of borscht, or a slab of Montreal smoked meat on top. I discovered that even in -20˚C weather, the microgreens growers tended to their greenhouse-grown crops every morning no matter how much they would have preferred the warmth of their beds. I also learned that the stuffed bag of microgreens I got had been harvested that morning prior to the market, giving them a solid 7-10 days of freshness in the fridge. I learned the apple butter included the apple skins to retain optimal sweetness. And the story of The Salt Dispensary first began with a man who had lost his job and had discovered a new set of creative juices with a wood plank and salt.

With every question I asked, with every producer-consumer relationship I made, with every purchasing decision, I grew closer to food citizenship.