Farmers Market Challenge: Week Ten

Last week I had my heart set on pierogies, I even started this post before the purchase, only to discover the Old Country Pierogi stall was nowhere to be found.

This week, the pierogi table was back and the flavours were aplenty.

fmpierogies
So many flavours, so hard to choose.

I’ve been doing this challenge for 10 weeks, and have become a face known to several of the vendors – mostly of the veggie ilk. I love my veg! But farmers’ markets aren’t just produce. There’s meats, baked goods, prepared foods, beverages, even high-end crafts.

It’s those vendors that have mostly eluded my attention.

It was time to go out of my comfort zone – pierogi style!

To be honest, pierogies aren’t that new to me. Coming from a family with a Russian background, pierogies and borscht were prominent features on the weekly menus. But as I grew older, and more health conscious, I started sneering more at the unhealthy components of those crescent-shaped dumplings than longing for their taste.

Can you blame me? My history of them involved smothering them in sour cream and butter!

But, after walking past the Old Country Pierogi table several times over the last few weeks, I started to wonder, are they really that unhealthy? Could I find a balance between their yummy goodness and my desires for being on the up and up with good nutrition?

I was determined to find out.

I had initially wanted a more risqué flavour, like the spinach and feta, but with a four-year-old in mind, we ended up with the potato and cheese. We boiled and baked them instead of sautéing in a vat of oil. The first two bites I took were as is, no topping.

They were dry.

Too dry.

And so, with a salivating mouth, and no other options coming to mind, melted butter was poured on top.

D’oh.

In hindsight, a dollop of salsa, or balsamic vinegar, or whipped avocado would have been great healthy toppings.

The $9 bag contained 12 HUGE pierogies. Did I mention they were huge? They were huge! I thought I would have five; I was full by the last bite of the fourth. My son had two, exclaiming their yumminess with every bite, and my husband had six.

Besides the butter, they were a hit.

This week’s loot:

Old Country Pierogi:

  • 12 cheese and potato pierogies: $9

Zaklan Heritage Farm:

  • 1 head of lettuce: $3
  • 1 bunch dandelion stems: $3
  • 1 garlic bulb: $1.70
  • 1 bunch cilantro: $2
  • 4 roma tomatoes: $2.50

Ripple Creek Organics:

  • 2 cucumbers: $2.50

Harvest Direct Farms:

  • 4 jumbo Jonagold apples: $5

Fresh Quality Produce:

  • 1 zucchini: $1
  • 2 corn: $1

Bread Affair:

  • 1 baguette: $4

Muy Rico:

  • 1 pico de gallo: $5

Total spent was $39.70, leaving 30 cents extra for next week.

Bruschetta made from this week’s market tomatoes, garlic, and baguette.
Bruschetta made from this week’s market tomatoes, garlic, and baguette.

Also new to us this week was the discovery of dandelion greens.

As soon as I saw the dandelion greens mixed in with the mustard greens under the Zaklan tent, I was intrigued. (Odd factoid about me, I am one of the few in this world that love dandelions as a flower; they’re the only flowers I don’t kill!) Owner Gemma McNeil suggested we mix them with an anchovie-based dressing, but I’m not one for caesar salads, so I mixed them with the other greens and drizzled lemon on top.

The taste was strong and bitter. I tried them again the next day with an apple-cider, oil-based vinegar dressing that was much more effective in tempering the bitter. But overall, my husband’s assessment was perfect: they’re nowhere near as good as mustard greens.

You win some, you lose some.

The challenges series. 

Farmers Market Challenge: The Greens are Greener at the Market

The start of the series is here if you have missed it so far.

Let’s talk about salads.

I eat a LOT of salads. And not because it’s the trendy thing to do, or because it’s the healthy thing to do, I genuinely like the taste of greens and raw veggies. I eat salads for lunch, I eat salads for dinner, and sometimes I even have salads for breakfast.

This isn’t new. I’ve been loving on salads for years. But what is new is the level of super tasty greatness that market greens have added.

Seriously, the salads I’m creating these days are so crazy rich with flavour, I’ve stopped adding dressing. Salads before the market always had balsamic vinegar or oil and vinegar. Market salads get a squirt of fresh lemon, or parmesan shavings, or nothing at all.

They are that good.

What’s the difference?

Before the market, my greens were either solely spinach, or a mixed container variety. I have no idea when they were picked, how they were picked, where they were picked. I have no idea how long they were in transport, how long they were in a cooler or freezer, or how long they were on the floor before I grabbed them.

At the market, my greens have either been picked that morning, or at the latest, the day prior. It is the ultimate freshness.

On top of that, I’m getting varieties I’ve never had before. I’m mixing my straight up lettuce greens, with kale, and spicy mustard greens, and red spiky lettuces, and microgreens, and purslane, and rainbow chard. On average, I’ve got four or five different greens in my salads at once – plus all the fresh veggies and herbs, and pretty much anything else I can find in my fridge too!

It’s like a Whole Foods salad at a fraction of the cost!

Market salads: so rich in flavour, they don’t need dressing!
Market salads: so rich in flavour, they don’t need dressing!

This week’s loot:

  • 1 bag of ruby streaks mustard greens: $3 (Zaklan Heritage Farms)
  • 1 head of green leaf lettuce: $1 (Bose & Sons Family Farm)
  • 1 green pepper: $1 (Fresh Quality Produce Ltd.)
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard: $3 (Ossome Acres)
  • 2 cucumbers: $2.50 (Yarrow Ecovillage)
  • 6 eggs: $3.25 (Rockweld Farm)
  • 1 block of smoked cheddar cheese: $8 (Golden Ears Cheesecrafters)
  • 1 bottle of 2014 pinot gris: $20 (Blind Tiger Vineyards)

In total we spent $41.75, but had $1 leftover from the previous week, leaving us over budget by 75 cents.

This week’s market meal was centred on the celebration of me completing a chemistry course I had dreaded/avoided for 1.5 years. It was a hard slog this summer, and pass or fail, I deserved a reward. As such, the brunt of our expenditure went to the bottle of pinot gris from Blind Tiger Vineyards, an organic-certified vintner located in the Okanagan.

To compliment the wine, my husband cooked up a peasant-style French meal of simple omelettes with basil, green onion stems, and sharp cheddar, and a side of boiled nugget potatoes drizzled in browned butter.

Market Meal: a French-inspired peasant’s meal of omelettes and boiled potatoes.
Market Meal: a French-inspired peasant’s meal of omelettes and boiled potatoes.

The only thing missing from the meal was we should have been eating it on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean in the south of France.

Ahhh, dreams…

The great thing about eggs, they’re a surefire win with the toddler age.
The great thing about eggs, they’re a surefire win with the toddler age.

The week in meals:

  • 3 breakfast smoothies – with rainbow chard
  • 1 breakfast portobello and egg “sandwich” – with ruby streaks, purslane, smoked cheddar
  • 1 breakfast frittata – with rainbow chard, Italian onion, smoked cheddar
  • 4 full-plate lunch salads – with green lettuce, rainbow chard, kale (from last week), pizzo mustard greens (from last week), purslane (from last week), cilantro (from last week), ruby streaks, cucumber, onion stems (from last week), and Italian onions (from last week).
  • 1 full-plate dinner salad
  • 6 half-plate dinner salads
  • 2 1/4-plate dinner salads
  • 2 servings grilled green pepper
  • 2.5 servings shrimp quinoa – with rainbow chard stems and leaves
  • 3 servings omelette – with 6 eggs, basil (from last week), green onion stems (from last week), smoked cheddar
  • 2.5 servings boiled potatoes (from last week)

The lesson learned this week: get to the market early.

In week’s past, my husband and I have arrived at the market around 3:30, shortly after it opens. Parking is ample, atmosphere is relaxed, and booths are stocked full. This week, however, we arrived closer to 5. Several vendors had sold out of items we wanted.

Farmers’ markets aren’t supermarkets; they don’t have an endless supply of product in storage; they’re going to run out. If you snooze, well, you lose.

Duly noted.

Farmers Market Challenge: The Best Laid Plans

Going into market day, I try to plan as much as possible. I research the website, price out as much as I can, and plan our meals and shopping list accordingly. We only have $40 to spend, I want to make sure we’re spending it wisely, getting everything we need, and hopefully a couple extras on the list, too.

Sometimes, however, plans just don’t go according to plan. Because the products at the farmers’ market are so reliant on weather and crops, you’re not guaranteed the same stuff week in and week out. What you loved last week may not be there the next week. Something new may be stacking those tables instead – throwing your plan completely off kilter. And that’s the adventure of it.

For us, purslane was the culprit this week. Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: The Best Laid Plans”

Farmers Market Challenge: The Value In Knowing Your Farmer

This post is part of a series. Check it out!

With protein back on the definites list, my husband and I marched straight to the albacore tuna at the Wild West Coast Seafoods truck the second we got to the market.

After a week of veggies only, we were itching to try out some new meaty options. In our house, fish is tops. Not only do my husband and I love it, it’s one of the few protein options we don’t have to fight our three-year-old on, whether it be salmon, shrimp, cod, or halibut, the boy loves it all. But tuna, I’ve always associated it as being more expensive. I think in the seven years of our marriage, we’ve cooked it maybe once. Beyond a can, the only tuna eating we do is take-out sashimi. Shame.

Yet, in my research of Wild West Coast Seafood’s pricing, a pound of tuna for $14 was the second least expensive option on the menu.

Hmm… Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: The Value In Knowing Your Farmer”

Farmers Market Challenge: Go Veggie or Go Home

This post is part of a series – take a look at the last one. 

This week was ground zero.

Since starting the $40 market-spending challenge, we had already had a selection of vegetables in our crisper before getting to the market. I didn’t yet have a true gauge as to how far $40 in veggies would get my family. But last Thursday, the crisper was barrren, the salad spinner empty, and the fridge screaming “Feed me! Feed me!”

This week’s theme: Go veggie or go home!

On average, we typically go to the mom-and-pop vegetable stand twice a week, spending around $70 per week to feed our family of three. That includes vegetables and fruit.

How did the market compare?

This week’s loot:

  • Rainbow chard: 2 for $5
  • kale and tatsoi mustard greens: 2 for $5
  • Head of green spiky lettuce: $3
  • Italian onions: $3
  • Radishes: $1.50
  • Microgreens: $5
  • 5 peaches: $5
  • 300 grams cherry tomatoes: $4.25
  • 2 red peppers: $3.25
  • 1 cucumber: $1.50
  • Green beans: $3
  • Fresh fennel and sage: FREE at the information booth

market-tomatoes

We spent $39.50, which was under budget by 20 cents if you factor in that we were over budget last week by 30 cents.

The best deals, hands down, were the Italian onions and rainbow chard.

Onions!
Onions!

When I saw the onions, 3 medium-sized purple bulbs with crazy long stems, I asked the Yarrow Eco Village vendor if the stems were edible. A huge smile spread across her face: “Oh yes, yes, yes,” she said. Stir-fry, salad, tuna sandwiches; just like scallions, but with a prominent eye-watering punch.

I kid you not, the sliced stems alone filled two tupperware containers. These suckers were like getting two completely different items for the price of one.

The rainbow chard was the same.

market-rhubarb

So many people throw the fibrous stalks away, either assuming them not to be edible or having no idea what to do with them. A quick Google search brought forth a ton of recipes: They can be pickled, used in salads, made into hummus, etc..

Ours went into a grilled rainbow chard salad, boiling and blanching the stems, along with the fava beans we acquired last week, and a roasted garlic bulb from two weeks ago, topped with fresh oregano.

The leaves were sautéed with red cabbage one night; added to a shrimp stir fry another night; and threw fresh into a multitude of salads and smoothies throughout the week.

All it took was a little more thinking/cooking outside our norm to obtain greater value from our market purchases.

Sautéed red cabbage and rainbow chard
Sautéed red cabbage and rainbow chard

The disappointment of the week was the yellow zucchini acquired last week. Unfortunately we didn’t do as much grilling as we had thought, and still had two zucchinis leftover by Monday. Given how long our greens from the market have lasted, I started to believe all market veggies were bionic.

They are not.

The zucchinis grew soft and were starting to lose their colour. I had hoped their insides would still be edible; that a little time on the grill would fix all. It did not. They were unbearably bitter.

Lesson learned.

Tally for the week:

  • 4 breakfast smoothies with greens
  • 5 breakfast/snack peaches
  • 1 breakfast with 2 eggs (from last week’s loot), microgreens and cherry tomatoes
  • 4 full plate salads
  • 4 side salads
  • 6 veggie-filled snacks
  • 1 serving sautéed chard red cabbage (from last week)
  • 2 large servings fava bean salad with chard stems and garlic
  • 4 servings chicken sauté with green beans, and onion
  • 4 servings shrimp stir fry with rainbow chard stems and leaves, onion and stems
  • 1 serving grilled green beans and onion
  • 1 sandwich with microgreens and aged havarti (from last week)
  • 4 servings tuna salad with microgreens and onion
market-breakfast
Everything market grown except the added slice of toast and spicy mustard

For the most part, the only salad supplementation we required for the week were carrots, avocado and mushrooms. We ran out of cucumber on Monday, radishes on Tuesday, and tomatoes and red pepper on Wednesday. We required a $22 fruit store run by Sunday (5 peaches was not going to get us far), which included the purchasing of 2 red peppers and an English cucumber.

Salad: 100% market fresh
Salad: 100% market fresh

In total, we spent $62 this week, which is less than our average, and our fridge is still loaded with greens, chard stems and leaves, red cabbage, green beans, 2 onion bulbs, and 1.5 containers of onion stems.

That means, next market, protein is back on the shopping list.

Happy shopping!

Farmers Market Challenge: Microgreens – Small Size, Big Flavour

Not sure what this is about? Check out the intro to our series for info.

“Daddy, why are you putting dead flowers onto mommy’s salad???”

Oh child, those aren’t dead flowers, nope, those are microgreens, and you better be liking them because they’re a new must-have staple in our market-buying groceries. (Note: Microgreens do not look like dead flowers; this was the observation of a three-year-old.)

When I walked past the Nutrigreens tent at last week’s market, I looked at my list and sure enough microgreens were there, but only on the maybe side. That meant that only after we got our necessities for the week purchased could we splurge on the maybes.

We are working with a budget after all; we’ve got to stick to the plan. Continue reading “Farmers Market Challenge: Microgreens – Small Size, Big Flavour”