Farmers Market Challenge: Winter Edition

I realized as soon as I stepped foot on the market grounds, the $40 challenge would be facing an added challenge this season. The winter market is not the same as the summer market – there’s more preserves and baked goods, less veggies, and all but no fruits on display. The greens are limited, and root vegetables aplenty.

Note, the other adult of the house tends to turn his nose up at the root veg. Shocking, I know.

Tis the season for being frugal with the wallet, and creative in the kitchen.

I had anxiously awaited the rebirth of the market during the long four weeks it was on break as it transitioned from summer to winter. I missed my greens. Like, really missed them. The spicy flavours of the mustard greens, mixed with the chewiness of kale, and the lemon-infused purslane, all but filled my dreams! Without, I was again relegated to dumping dressings on our salads to bring up some iota of flavour with the blandness of the store-bought spinach leaves.

The first winter salad
The first winter salad

The first bite back of that winter-infused, market-fresh salad had sugar plums dancing in my belly and angels praising hallelujah on my tastebuds.

But, unlike the summer market, the variety at first glance is lacking. The bundles of mustard greens are gone, and in their stead, we have bags of mixed greens, arugula, and butter lettuce, along with a selection of kales and microgreens. The bags are not as voluminous as they were in the summer; it’s the last of the greens until the greenhouse crops kick in, much to my salad-loving dismay.

Yet, look a little closer, and you may be as thrilled as I was to discover there are greens everywhere: turnip tops, carrot tops, rainbow chard leaves, oh that pretty chard. And the best part, it’s two for one.

I love two for one!!!

Market Loot:

Ripple Creek Organics

  • 1 bunch rainbow chard $3
  • 1 bunch kale $3

Sweet Earth Organics

  • 1 red onion $2
  • 1 bunch turnips $3
  • 1 bunch rainbow carrots $3.50
  • 1 bag mixed greens $4
  • 1 bag arugula $4
  • 1 bunch tatsoi greens $3
  • 1 leek $1.50 ($3/lb, rounded down from $1.65 because farmers don’t like nickels and dimes)

Ossome Acres

  • 1 celeriac $2.50
  • 50 grams sunflower, pea shoots, and wheat grass mix $2.50

Muy Rico

  • 1 container pico de gallo $5

Baguette & Co.

  • 1 French baguette $3

Total spent was $40 on the dot.


You will notice the presence of turnips and carrots on that list. You may recall the aforementioned note about the husband not liking root vegetables. Well, when my boy saw the rainbow-coloured carrots, he had to have them, and when I heard the tops could be used alternatively in pesto, I had to have them. Mario was dubious; he really does not like carrots. We tried the tops in our salad: I thought a little mixed with other greens was complimentary; he, however, thought them too bitter. We were both, however, pleasantly surprised with the carrot-top pesto. We’ve made pesto previously, using typical ingredients, but something about this pesto, I can’t exactly pinpoint what exactly, really sent the flavour through the roof. It was so good, I was dipping my finger into the pesto bowl after dinner had already been devoured. We used the pesto in a pesto chicken dish with sun-dried tomatoes and asparagus one night, and also on salmon fillets two nights later. It has also been scheduled for yet another appearance on the dinner circuit for next week.

It was that good.fm161201pesto

This pesto was unreal.
This pesto was unreal.

I was also intrigued by the turnip tops. I have only ever seen the turnip root, not the stalks, it never occurred to me they would have stalks, and when I saw the stalks, it never occurred to me they could be used in salads. But really, it makes sense doesn’t it. They’re a bit chewier than your typical greens, and have a slightly spicy nature to them. Added to the varietal greens, along with the arugula, the chard leaves, carrot tops, sunflower and pea shoots, and our salads were bursting with a smorgasbord of flavour!

I also roasted a turnip for a side dish one night, and added turnips to one of my lunch salads. But I wanted to somehow incorporate them into a recipe that my boys could enjoy as well. That was a going to be a tough sell. The boys in my family want nothing to do with turnips, not even cheese-doused turnips. I needed to come up with a recipe that would make them palatable (read: hidden) for all to enjoy. On a whim, I picked up a celeriac. I had never seen this before. I had no idea what it was. Truthfully, I probably should have clued in it was of the celery family, what with its name and all, but nope, I needed confirmation from Ossome Acres. When I got home I fired up Pinterest and searched out recipe after recipe before finding a soup recipe that, with a few alterations, incorporated both the celeriac and turnip, as well as the leek.

Turnip salad was a winner!
Turnip salad was a winner! Recipe
Soup Success!
Soup Success! Recipe

Note: While the recipe does not call for turnips, we added them for enhanced flavour. It also does not purée the mix, but if you like creamy, thick soups, puréed is the way to go. If you are lactose intolerant, however, I would highly recommend using another source other than milk. (Cough-cough).

The last purchase made was a French baguette from Baguette & Co. I had heard Bernard speaking to customers in his customary French dialect, and was instantly drawn to him. I have a love for languages, a love for Europe, and a love for European bakes. There was a lineup, but it was not a worry; listening to him was like being in the thick of the Champs Élysées. When we were up, I learned he was from Lyon, France, located on the border of Belgium, north of Paris. We spoke of my family in Belgium, and of his “poor” English. He fed us delectable palmier samples. I did not want to stop the conversation. When we got home, and heated the baguette up to accompany our dinner that night, memories of Paris filled my heart. The freshness, the crispness of the shell, the chewy inside, the yeasty aroma, the connections made at street markets – it is incredible what food can do.

Baguette: Très bon
Baguette: Très bon

Take it from me folks, do not be intimidated by the winter market’s offerings. There is lots to be discovered, and it’s a great motivator for trying new foods, new recipes, and meeting new people.

Let’s get creative.

RCFM’s winter market runs the first and third Saturday of the month from November to April and is on Belmont Street in Uptown New West from 11-3.

Farmers Market Challenge: Week 14

Last week’s post was all about summer; this week’s is all about fall.

The air is crisp, the orange, red and yellow leaves are blowing in the wind, children screeching with glee as they scatter through the organized piles, hoodies and winter leggings taking over shorts and tanks, hot chocolate fast replacing ice cream.

‘Tis the season for belly warming, hearty recipes.

The Bartel menu has officially embraced fall – tortilla soup; quinoa, kale and squash stew; stir fry; and cheesy, cheesy quiche were staples of the week – made all the more comforting by market-fresh goodness.

To be honest, I didn’t know we were going all in with fall, in fact, our market shopping list this week was quite lacking. We had our usual meal-planning session, but both husband and I were stumped as to what to put on it. Meals were suggested, but ultimately rejected – we were not inspired.

So we went in with a list of our staples: greens and a few veggies, and that was it. We left it to the market to decide.

This week’s loot:

Zaklan Heritage Farm:

  • 1 mini purple cabbage: $1
  • 1 leek: $3
  • 1 purple onion: $1.60
  • 1 bag arugula: $4
  • 2 bunches mustard greens: $5

Greendale Herb and Vine:

  • 1 eggplant: $2.50

Country Village Market:

  • 1 basket Brussels sprouts: $3

Golden Ears Cheese Crafters

  • 1 medium-sized  chunk of smoked gouda $8

Wild West Coast Seafoods

  • 1 pound petrale sole: $12

Total spent was $40.10.

Of the loot not on the original must-have list were the Brussels sprouts (screams fall), red cabbage, leeks, eggplant, onion, smoked gouda, and petrale sole.

Smoked gouda
Smoked gouda

We knew we wanted a fish, tuna to be exact, but unfortunately, due to a “crummy” season, what was $12 for a pound a month or so ago is now $18 to $20. Sadly, out of our price range. Ron “the fish guy” suggested we try the petrale. We were hesitant at first because every time we’ve purchased sole from the grocery store it has significantly shrunk upon grilling.

That’s filler, Ron told us, all water. Apparently most fish sold in chains have added water filler to beef up their appearances!!! Ron assured us it was a tasty fish that would retain its size, and at $12 a pound, it was within our family friendly budget.

Because it’s a lighter fish, we didn’t want to overload it with seasoning – keep it simple, Ron advised.

We splashed it with olive oil, added dill, salt and pepper, wrapped it in tinfoil and threw it on the barbecue, along with tinfoil wrapped veggies, including the eggplant and zucchini from last week.


My only concern with the fish, which by the way, my four-year-old devoured without any prodding, is the bone content – there were a lot of small, fine bones littered throughout. Good thing the boy doesn’t care about appearances of his foods just yet; it was quite mangled by the time I was through with it.

The Brussels sprouts and eggplant were grilled on the barbecue – sooo yummy! A portion of the leeks and cheese were used in the quiche; the remainder of the leek was used in a quinoa stew that also used the delicata squash, tomatoes and tatsoi from last week, as well as the Russian garlic from two weeks ago, and the onion, and purple cabbage. Pretty much I threw everything I had in there!

Essentially, a kitchen-sink stew
Essentially, a kitchen-sink stew

The stir fry incorporated the green beans, red pepper and garlic from last week, as well as this week’s onion. And with one more day to go, a little bit of onion and cheese remaining, I am heavily considering making a single-serving French onion soup.

Fall, it’s a beautiful, tasty time of year, don’t you think?

Farmers Market Challenge: Week 12

Ask and you shall receive.

Two weeks ago there were at least two, possibly three market vendors displaying large, beautifully green and white fennel bulbs, this week, there were none. I was about to settle into panic mode, I was frantically stalking table after table looking for the feathery fronds.

I did NOT want to veer from this week’s plan.

With desperation in my voice, I asked Noella Oss of Ossome Acres if she had any, knowing full well there were none on her tables.

A winking smile spread across her face.

“We have one, but it’s old, from last week,” she said.

She opened up a plastic bin from behind the tent and pulled out a giant bulb. The fronds weren’t the luscious green of the week before, rather a light green, bordering on brown in spots. But the white bulb was large and thick and that’s exactly what I needed.

I told her my plans.

She told me the bulb would suit them perfectly.

Even better at the week-old, discounted price she gave!

And with that, the first cioppino of the season was born.


For cioppino, I usually use the Bon Appetit recipe as it has never steered me wrong. But this time I got a little adventurous and veered from the word-for-word recipe. While I kept to the base, I changed things up a bit to make it more market-fresh.

Because cioppino is usually a cold-weather meal, the veggie content has never been market-fresh. It’s always been canned tomatoes, shipped in fennel, onions, and seafood too. But with Saturday’s forecast calling for heavy rain, I thought it a perfect opportunity to experiment with my cioppino.

Instead of canned tomatoes, I used fresh roma tomatoes that I crushed in the blender; my onion, garlic and fennel were also fresh and local. The major seafood component, pacific cod, was acquired from Ron “the fish guy” at Wild Westcoast Seafoods.

In recipes past, I’ve used halibut for the white fish, but halibut is crazy expensive right now. Ron steered us towards the pacific cod (“chunkies”) that is similar to halibut, albeit a bit chewier, and at a fraction of the cost.

Technically the crusty bread wasn’t acquired at the market, but we did pick the loaf up from Bread Affair at Granville Island, which also has a booth at the market, so it, too, had a market connection.

Honestly, I don’t know if the taste was any better, but I do know it wasn’t worse. I love my cioppino. I’ve loved it ever since my first recollection of it when in San Francisco years ago, and this batch did not disappoint. Every slurp was a savoury adventure of glorious goodness.

Another market score!


This week’s loot:

Wild Westcoast Seafoods:

  • Pacific cod: $8

Ossome Acres:

  • 6 German butter potatoes: $2.30
  • 1 bag of dragon-tongue beans: $2.10
  • 1 fennel: $2.25

Zaklan Heritage Farm:

  • 1 onion: $0.70
  • 4 sweet peppers: $4.65
  • 2 mustard greens: $5
  • 1 garlic bulb: $1.80
  • 4 roma tomatoes: $2.28

Harvest Direct Farms:

  • 5 ambrosia apples: $5

Muy Rico:

  • 1 container pico de gallo: $5

Total spent was $39.10, leaving 90 cents to spend on next week’s $40 budget.

Last week Aaron Oss encouraged me to take a chomp out of one of his purple and white dragon tongue beans. It was crisp, it was juicy, and by golly that colour tugged at my pretty little taste buds.


I had hoped to throw the beans into a salad, but got so bogged down with my first week of physics, I didn’t end up using them beyond mixing them into a stir fry and eating them raw with hummus. Both of which were fine, but I wanted to really showcase their uniqueness. So for this week, I tracked down a salad recipe that called for fingerling potatoes, which I switched out for German butter potatoes.

I baked the potatoes, made my own viniagrette, blanched the beans, which were supposed to change from their pretty spots to green, but in the end only partially changed, mixed it all together.


Every bite was an explosion of succulent flavour. So tasty. So good. So going to be making again.

Dragon Tongue Salad (recipe from:
Dragon Tongue Salad Recipe

Can you guess what I’m making next week?

I’m on the hunt for tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro and salt. It’s something already offered at the market, but something I’m going to try my hand at making market-fresh, homemade.

What are you on the hunt for?

Farmers Market Challenge: Market Fuels Back to School

Last week Facebook was chock-a-block full of back-to-school pics: first day of preschool; first day of kindergarten; first day of Grade 1, 2, 3, you name the grade, the kids were representing. Mostly littles, some crying, some pouting, some high-fiving the sky with extreme excitement.

And then there was me.

Katie’s First Day at UBC
Katie’s First Day at UBC

Yes folks, last week was back-to-school for me too, and the first day at UBC. It was a big day, an exciting day, a day I’ve been waiting for for years – years!  But it was also a stressful, unsure, somewhat bordering on sad day.

Living in New Westminster, last year’s 10-minute walking commute to Douglas College has now become a one-hour (if I’m lucky) transit commute to UBC. That means crazy early mornings (three days start at 8 a.m.!!!), some late evenings, and a whole lot of time away from my family.

It means a lot of time grabbing breakfasts to-go. A lot of time eating on transit. A lot of time eating in class. A lot of time eating out of my backpack.

I need quick, easy-to-prepare, grab-and-go, transportable snacks and meals – all without compromising taste and nutrition. I am not going to be your stereotypical frosh wasting away at the nearest McDonald’s.

How could the farmers’ market help?

At the market two weeks ago, I met James Lewis, a Red Seal chef that is the mastermind behind Active Granola. When I first approached him, I thought for sure these bars were strictly for heavy-duty activity. I mean, one bar alone is upwards of 60-70 grams of carbohydrates. If I were regularly hiking for hours and hours, or on some crazy, long trail run, or bike ride, I wouldn’t think twice about gobbling one up. But, currently injured, with minimal energy being expended, and with diabetes always at top of mind – that is a LOT of insulin.

But then I got to talking to him. Lewis showed me the ingredients, all clean and wholesome, all things I could pronounce, all things I knew. Throughout the conversation, he had me sample the three flavours, small, bite-size samples. I kid you not, my stomach started to feel the effects of fullness with just those three bites. I had eaten a quarter cup of almonds 1.5 hours prior to the conversation; my stomach was nowhere near full state before those bites.


With a protein content of 10-11 grams and fibre of 6 grams per bar, not all that surprising really.

These bars do NOT taste like most other marketed bars; no unnatural, chemical taste, no lingering, ugly aftertaste, just pure goodness. (Ps. my favourite is the Day Tripper)
These bars do NOT taste like most other marketed bars; no unnatural, chemical taste, no lingering, ugly aftertaste, just pure goodness. (Ps. my favourite is the Day Tripper)

And then it hit me. Early mornings. Long days. These bars, even at half their size (which is how I personally would consume them) and mixed with Greek yogurt or a banana or some other fruit, could be a student life/belly saver!!!

Bam! Ten dollars later and I had the start of my back-to-school fuel program.


Active Granola

  • 3-pack granola bars: $10

Zaklan Heritage Farm:

  • Bag of arugula: $4
  • Mustard greens (tatsoi and amara): 2 for $5
  • 3 roma tomatoes: $1.40

Bose & Sons:

  • 2 ears corn: $1
  • 1 head red-leaf lettuce: $2

Ripple Creek Organic Farm:

  • 1 cucumber: $1.25
  • 2 bulb garlic: $3.50

Harvest Direct Farms:

  • 5 gala apples: $5

Ossome Acres:

  • Bag of dragon tongue and red swan beans: $3.10
  • Bag of sunflower shoots: $4

Total spent was $40.25.

Full disclosure: I purchased the bars two weeks ago, not last week. Lewis mentioned he wouldn’t be at the market this past week, and those three bites had me completely sold, I needed these bars. So I technically went $10 over budget last week, but counted it towards this week, giving me $30 left to spend.

Next up.

Apples! Apples! Apples!

It is apple season my friends, have you been stocking up?


Harvest Direct Farms has galas, Jonagolds, Macintosh, red delicious, ambrosia, etc., etc.. I’ve tried the galas and Jonagolds to date; the galas have become a family favourite.

If you’ve been keeping up with these posts, you may recall me saying at the beginning of this challenge that the market fruit was a bit too pricey for my fruit-loving family to take advantage of given how much we eat. But here’s the thing, my husband doesn’t eat apples, leaving just the boy and I to share. And frankly, in-season apples, how can we not indulge? They are 5,000 times tastier than store-bought. Even now, when apples everywhere are local, you still have to factor in transportation and storage time and storage atmosphere for store-bought apples. But at the market, these apples are either freshly picked that morning, or the day before. They are not uniform in shape, texture or size; they have actual character, which in my opinion adds to their quality.

Snackwise, they are super easy: cut them up for no waste, or throw a whole one in your bag if low on time. Taste-wise, they are intensely sweet, super juicy, crazy crisp, and the majority are huge in size too, often the equivalent of two apples in one.

No guilt chomping on one of those whatsoever.

Lunches: salads, salads and more salads.

this week’s salad featured amarra greens which are an Ethiopian kale that added a nice like kick a few seconds after the first bite, tatsoi mustard greens, which are very similar to spinach, sunflower shoots, that added a fresh crunch, and dragon-tongued beans – look at that colour!
this week’s salad featured amarra greens which are an Ethiopian kale that added a nice like kick a few seconds after the first bite, tatsoi mustard greens, which are very similar to spinach, sunflower shoots, that added a fresh crunch, and dragon-tongued beans – look at that colour!

And let’s not forget dinner. I’m getting home a lot later than I was prior to UBC. We need meals that are going to be easy to reheat, easy for my husband to prepare with a four-year-old under foot, and good for leftovers. A lot of our market-discovered meals have come in handy this week: Mexican stuffed peppers; chicken and bean sauté; and shrimp and chard quinoa. Plus, a little market-fresh pizza indulgence too!

Market ingredients: Arugula, roma tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Beyond the market ingredients: prosciutto, roasted red pepper, fungi, mozzarella and parmesan.
Market ingredients: Arugula, roma tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Beyond the market ingredients: prosciutto, roasted red pepper, fungi, mozzarella and parmesan.

How have you been handling foods for back to school?

The full series. 

Farmers Market Challenge: Road Trip!

My, oh my, how planning for road trips has changed over the years.

Back in the day—the, ahem, less healthier, less grown-up day—road trip snacks were all about the salts and the sweets: chips, chocolate, what more did I need, really… besides a bathroom, that is. Inevitably, a good portion of those trips were spent with a belly ache, not to mention blood sugar readings that had my diabetic specialist cringing.

But now, a prospective dietitian, and a mom of an impressionable youngin’, I am more conscientious of nutritional goodness. The salty, sugar-laden road trip snacks of years past are just that: a thing of the past.

This week’s $40 challenge was all about planning for the road trip.

I was off to Shuswap with my four-year-old son, and his five-year-old cousins the day after the market. Just the three of us in one car for six hours with one meal stop in between. Two of us in the car have type-1 diabetes.

I don’t know about you, but I am always extra hungry on road trips. Maybe eating is my way of passing the time, giving me something to do other than asking that age-old question: “Are we there yet?” Regardless, my mouth is in constant need of chewing when on the road.

The healthier, the better.

The market did not disappoint.

With my cooler in hand, I searched out all snacking possibilities the market had to offer.


This week’s “road-trip” loot:

  • 5 mini cucumbers: $3 (Greendale Herb and Vine)
  • Carrot bunch: $1.50 (Bose & Sons Family Farm)
  • 5 Okanagan gala apples: $5 (Rai Produce)
  • 5 pears: $4 (Outwest Ranch)
  • 12 eggs: $6 (Outwest Ranch)
  • Tatsoi and Pizzo mustard greens: 2 for $5 (Zaklan Heritage Farm)
  • 2 salmon burgers: $8 (Wheelhouse Seafoods)
  • 2 zucchini: $1.50 (Fresh Quality Produce Ltd.)
  • 6 corn: $3 (Fresh Quality Produce Ltd.)
  • 1 Russian garlic $2.25 (Rancho Los Andes)

Total spent was $39.25. We were 75 cents under budget, but last week we were $1.20 over budget.


The cucumbers and carrots were fantastic for the ride up. As were the apples and pears. The apples were so juicy good, my son, who normally takes a few bites of the apple before discarding it ate the entire thing right to the core, and asked for a second one right after exclaiming it was the best apple he’s ever eaten!

Sure it was a bit messier than other snacking options, but when you’ve got a toddler in the car, chances are you’ve also got wipes handy and a garbage for the waste.

And I felt a whole lot less guilty, and my belly felt a whole lot less turmoil eating subsequent mini cukes over subsequent chips and chocolate bars.

A five-day trip also required some foods at the cabin, which is where the eggs, corn, greens and zucchini came to play. The eggs were great for the mornings, and the corn and greens served us well for lunch and dinner sides.

The salmon burgers were for my husband who did not join us for the trip.

We weren’t perfectly healthy on this trip. My nephews introduced me to the world of s’mores, there were ice cream cones, and the grandma of the cabin did a whole lot of tasty fine baking. But, by balancing that all with the nutritional goodness of the market fruits and veggies had me feeling not only balanced, but happily satiated.

The complete series of the farmers market challenge is here.