Farmers Market Challenge Summer 2017 Week # 4

I am not a cook. At least, not until recently.

Chicken with apples and sage, and roast potatoes with garlic scapes

I have long avoided the kitchen. I used to live off eggs and grilled cheese before my husband came along. I developed a brilliant backstory of not cooking due to fears of poisoning myself and others. Note, my avoidance is likely more due to laziness than lack of skill that’s kept me off the grill. Whenever my parents, who are brilliant chefs, cooked, the sink would be stacked high of dishes; I hate doing dishes. Whenever I tried my hand at cooking, it seemed to take hours of prep work, hours that I could have been doing something more enjoyable. And so, that’s what I did – anything but cook.

And yet, here I am, one year into this $40 challenge, and last week I cooked a meal not once, not twice, but three times – two meals back to back. That is unprecedented. One meal a week, even, is unprecedented. Seriously, minds were blown. And not only that, it wasn’t just my husband and son I was cooking for, I had my parents over one night as well. What on earth has gotten into me?

The farmers’ market.

Italian stuffed collard greens

The farmers’ market is both exciting and challenging. I love food, I love exploring the world of food, I love learning about foods, and sampling new-to-me foods. The only thing I didn’t enjoy, until recently, was preparing it.

And that’s where the challenge comes to play.

I am competitive as heck. I compete for faster times when running, I compete for the best grades when studying, I compete for optimal health, and when a journalist, I competed for the best-written articles.

What can I say, I love accolades.

The world of cooking is full of accolades.

When I am able to take a food and transform it into something that brings joy not only to my stomach but to others as well – whoa! The smiles it brings to their faces, the verbal amazement that I, the non-cook, could achieve such culinary excellence, the going back for second and third helpings, the sheer bliss of discovering a new food at my hands – it’s like running a marathon and having the loudest cheer crew on the sidelines enthusiastically championing your name.

It doesn’t always come out perfect, sometimes there are criticisms, sometimes they plain don’t like what you put before them, and that sucks. But those times when you present them with a vegetable that they otherwise wouldn’t eat, like say my husband and summer squash, and they wolf it down and start in on a second serving before you’ve even had a chance to swallow your first bite, that is a 10.0 gold medal victory!

Summer squash tian: a side-dish success.

I am not saying I am going to become a regular, every day chef, nope, that’s not in the cards for me. But, it seems, this farmers’ market thing is slowly turning me into a part-time cook.

Whoa. Mind blown.

Market Loot:

• Zaklan Heritage Farm:

– 2 bunches of collard greens $6

– 1 bunch pizzo mustard greens $3

• Ripple Creek Organic Farm:

– 2 basil plants $5

– 1 bunch garlic scapes $3

• Fresh Quality Produce:

– 1 bag English snap peas $5

• Mandair Farms

– 1 small container strawberries $5

– 1 summer squash $1

• Harvest Direct Farms

– 1 small container cherries $6

• Solecito Salsas

– 1 container mild (with a kick) salsa verde $6

Total spent: $40

The three meals this week included a quiche that featured the green garlic I had leftover from the previous week’s market, Italian stuffed collard greens that I discovered a couple weeks ago and had to share with my parents, along with a rhubarb crisp dessert using rhubarb from the previous week, and finally a chicken apple sage dish with roasted potatoes and garlic scapes. I also made Mexican sunny-side up eggs for lunch that featured the salsa verde (oh my gosh, so good) scapes and squash using a recipe that Solecito gave me at the market. Links for the recipes below.

Mexican Sunny-Side Up

Of note, garlic scapes have pretty much been featured in every meal for the past two weeks whether roasted, or fresh in a salad, or sauteed in butter. I love the garlic essence they ooze with every crunch. I never knew garlic scapes existed prior to being introduced to them at the New West Farmer’s Market last year.


Also noteworthy, the English snap peas. I had a choice between sugar snap peas or English snap peas. The difference was the flavour and the fact you could eat the pods with the sugar snap peas, but not the English. Given my self-proclaimed laziness you might be surprised at my opting for the English over the sugar, but funnily the thing I liked about the English snap peas is the time it took to open the pods. I was less likely to eat a whole bag in two minutes like I probably could with the sugar snap peas. Plus, opening those pods and having peas fly everywhere was both fun for me and my son, who, by the way, LOVES them. Veggie win!

English snap peas for the win

Links for this week’s recipes:

 Quiche (this is a go-to quiche recipe that I have altered many times depending on the ingredients I have on hand and it has never failed me.

 Italian Stuffed Collard Greens

• Chicken with Apples and Sage (This one was NOT rejoiced by my family)

 Vegetable Tian

• Rhubarb Crisp

• Mexican Sunny-Side Up Eggs

Dress to Impress

Have a spiffy little number that you’re just waiting to wear out on the town? Wondering where in New West you can get away with cocktail dress on a Friday night?

Pull out your sequined gowns, dust off your bowties, and shine up your best pair of shoes! Feminist New West in Cocktail Dress is happening Friday, July 7!

Join some of your best feminist friends for a few cocktails at Wild Rice beginning at 8 PM. Loll around the lounge area looking like a million bucks while raising money for a good cause. The event is a fundraiser to provide childminding at the Feminist Unconference being held in September at the Aboriginal Gathering Place at Douglas College on unceded Coast Salish Territory.

After the event, consider a little stroll down Front Street to check out the first Friday on Front. Enjoy the heads turning in your direction as you saunter around downtown New West looking like a local celebrity in your glam duds.

*Cocktail wear is not required (wear whatever you want!), but is recommended. And after all, why not?

**You don’t need to be a feminist to attend, but feminism is recommended. After all, why not?

Farmers Market Challenge: The Produce is Back!

We made it a meal when it should have been an appetizer.

Last week’s market presented us with a bit of a conundrum. There were plenty of salad greens to be had, and normally that would be top of our shopping list, but because I still had greens leftover from the previous week, and had also acquired salad greens from two farms that I intern at, my fridge imposed a strict greens spending freeze.

My husband got to the market first, and right away he spotted market-newcomer Hibiscus Foods and their Jamaican patties. We had a busy week planned and he remarked it would be an easy meal. We could pair it with a healthy green salad, he suggested.

I was on the fence. I looked at the patties and right away I was jet set back to my Grade 9 year when all I ate were pizza pockets, so many that I vowed upon graduation of that year never to consume another such product. But Hibiscus Foods was a new vendor, and I was intrigued.

Upon sampling, I soon learned Jamaican patties are not the commercialized over-cheesed pizza pockets; they are savoury, meat-filled pastries with loads of heat. Hibiscus Foods had two varieties to sample: curry chicken and beef. I tried the chicken first; my mouth was on fire. I  tried the beef; it didn’t seem to have as much heat. My husband did the opposite and had the opposite effect.

“Jamaicans don’t know how to cook without spice,” laughed Brian Chin, who took over the family business three years ago and perfected his patties with scotch bonnet peppers to give them that authentic Jamaican flare.

I got a box of four and cooked all four for a dinner for two. It was TOO much. Way too much. We got through one each and packed the rest up to be a conversation piece for my husband’s coworkers.

They became an appetizer after all.

Jamaican Patties: Pre-heat oven at 350˚ and cook for 10-12 minutes

Market Loot:

• Hibiscus Foods:

– 4-pack Jamaican patties $15

• Greendale Herb and Vine:

– 4 garlic scapes $1

• Zaklan Heritage Farm:

– 1 bunch green garlic $3

– 4 kohlrabis $3

– 1 bunch Swiss chard $2.50**

• Fresh Quality Produce:

– Large container (2 lb) strawberries $10

– 2 zucchinis $1.50

– 1 bag potatoes ($1.99 lb) $1.60*

– 7 stalks rhubarb (1.99 lb) $3.10*

Total spent: $40

* Note the asterisks above: Each represent savings. Fresh Quality Produce was one of my last stops of the shop, and it was within one hour of closing. The vendor knew I had a hard budget to work with. The strawberries and zucchini were a priority at a fixed price. The potatoes and rhubarb were a luxury, and were priced by pound. My first attempt at the potatoes came under budget. I filled a little more and was 10 cents over budget. Rather than send me back to empty the bag, they gave it to me for $1.50. Same with the rhubarb. I initially went up with four stalks and was way under my $2.50 allowable expenditure. I was advised to grab three or four more; I came back with three and was 60 cents over budget. No questions, they gave them to me at the price I needed.

I love our market vendors!!!

Rhubarb and Kohlrabi: a first time challenge for the $40 challenge

** Savings of the day number 2 came from Zaklan Heritage Farm. Usually the farm sells Swiss chard for $3 a bunch, but last week it was the deal of the week at $2.50. That brings us to a total savings of $1.20 – score!

And what did I do with all that chard? Well, they were the feature of our market-fresh, market meal of the week: Shrimp and Chard Quinoa. So light. So tasty. So refreshingly summery.

Shrimp and Chard Quinoa: Click the picture for the recipe.

When I approached Greendale Herb and Vine, I saw a long list of suggestions for cooking with garlic scapes posted right next to the scapes. Right away I was interested; it took the guess work, and the how-to research out of the equation. Doug didn’t stop there. As soon as he recognized I was interested, he told me to check out his Facebook page where he had posted a how-to video on roasting scapes with asparagus, which we just so happened to have in our crisper.

Now, let me tell you, this video was not only informative, it was hilarious – scapes flying everywhere! I loved it. And the end result on my end were beautifully roasted, super garlic-tasting asparagus and potatoes. Yum. Yum.

Greendale Herb and Vine Facebook. Click the pic to check out a video.

I have yet to work with garlic onions, but am contemplating a quiche, and the rhubarb, which I will likely be featuring in a weekend dessert, possibly a crisp or upside down cake. I shall keep you all posted.

Happy Farmers Market Shopping!

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).