Snow and ice put the winter back into Saturday’s final Winter Farmer’s Market of 2016. But Jason, at Gary’s Kettle Corn, wasn’t feeling the frosty temperatures.
In fact, he was so comfortable he was wearing just a t-shirt as he hovered over the propane burners heating the 80-quart kettle where the kernels are popped full of sweet and salty flavour.
“I definitely have the warmest spot on the block,” he chuckled as his shivering assistant served a customer just outside their booth’s heat zone.
Since moving uptown and outside last year, the Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market has been anything but wintery. Oh sure, there’s been plenty of rainy and cold market days, but Saturday’s setting of snow and ice was a first for many of the vendors. And they were doing everything they could think of to stay warm.
Like Tara at Roasters Hot Sauce; she was thinking about enjoying a hot toddy in her warm apartment to take the icy edge off that her six layers of shirts and sweaters couldn’t.
Layering is the key, said Michelle and Kathryn at Kiki’s Kitchen. They each topped a half-dozen layers of undershirts and cashmere with matching orange puffy jackets. Experience helps too, said Kathryn. She’s originally from Montreal so she spent plenty of time having a good time in the snow and cold.
“You’ve got to dance around, keep moving,” she said as the pair bopped around a propane space heater at the back of their booth.
Over at A Bread Affair, Cierra’s dancing was more like rocking back and forth from foot to foot. But her kiosk is closest to the Tim Horton’s so she was able to steal away for a hot coffee and a few moments of thawing out whenever traffic slowed.
“This is better than rain,” she said, optimistically.
Many of the vendors had the cold well in hand. They had chemical warming packets stuffed into gloves and socks.
“I love that we’re all in this together,” said Amanda at Honey Bee Zen.
But for Aaron at Ossome Acres, the frigid temperatures presented a new and unexpected challenge.
“We have to keep our eggs in the coolers to keep them from freezing,” he said.
This week’s $40 haul was all about indulgence. After all, ’tis the season:
• 2 pieces of strudel, 2 Schrippen buns and 3 poppyseed buns from Gesundheit Bakery – $10
• box of mixed cookies, that will be used as a Christmas gift, from Sweet Thea Bakery – $10 (These market fixtures have hit a bit of a financial speed bump, so they’ve started a gofundme page to help them weather the storm and ensure they can keep baking)
• tuna loin from our favourite fish guy, Ron, at Wild West Coast Seafood – $20
The next Royal City Winter Farmer’s Market will be January 7. So enjoy the holiday, and the treats from this week’s chilly market!
Last week was the final week of the summer market bringing the $40 market-spending challenge to a close. And in proper, good Katie form, I went all out.
Early in the challenge, I would never have purchased an $8 loaf of bread, chocolate or not. My spending was based on a strict budget where veggies took precedent. But, as the summer market started preparing for fall, the veggie selection became less vast, and, well, sometimes you really do need a reward for doing a great job.
I think I did a great job; chocolate bread was my reward.
Sadly, I did not read the ingredients. I did not realize there was orange infused into that bread. I do not eat orange-infused sweet treats; haven’t since I was about five years old and some totally evil person decided to underhandedly slip marmalade onto my toast – blech! In my mind, orange does NOT belong in chocolate.
FINAL WEEK’S LOOT:
Zaklan Heritage Farm:
2 bunches of mustard greens: $5
1 mini lettuce: $2
2 purple onions: $2.65
1 bunch parsley: $2
1 zucchini: $2
Ripple Creek Organic Farm:
1 garlic: $3
A Bread Affair:
Chocolate bread: $8
Wild West Coast Seafoods:
1 lb tuna: $16
Total spent was $40.65.
When I started this challenge 16 weeks ago, I didn’t know what exactly it would present. I considered our family on the upper scale of health prior to going in, but admittedly we were a bit stale and stagnant in meal planning, eating the same-old, same-old week after week.
The market changed that.
It gave us new foods, new recipes, new cooking adventures, new menus, new tastes, new perspectives.
This is what the market gave my family:
In my first post of this challenge, I asked if the market was true to its negative stereotype of being “too expensive,” a sentiment I have heard echoed several times by my fellow Food, Nutrition and Health peers at UBC. After 16 weeks, I can handedly say that yes, some of the product is pricier than you’d get at grocery stores. But, and this is a huge but, the quality, flavour and freshness is bar none far superior to that of the chains.
When you know your food was picked that day, when you know your food hasn’t undergone chemical procedures to stall the ripening process, when you know every bite is going to be infused with an intense flavour that tickles your differing taste buds, when you know it’s going to last longer than a few days, as long as a FEW weeks even, that has to be factored into the budget.
When you know how to shop the market, as I quickly learned, when you know how to search out the best deals (two for $5 mustard greens made my list EVERY week), when you know how to plan, when you build relationships with the farmers, when you know how to use so-called wastes to your advantage (onion stems was a favourite discovery), you DO see a savings.
We stopped going to the veggie stand three times a week; our foods were lasting. We stopped buying salad dressings; the intensity of the greens didn’t require added flavouring. In meal planning, we started looking at multiple ways of using the entire vegetable – limited waste, so an environmental savings as well.
There were challenges. A vegetable one week was not guaranteed the next; something you had hoped would be there, didn’t make the cut that week; if you weren’t there early, chances were the items you wanted were all gone.
Our final market meal was a trusty favourite we discovered the third week of the challenge – tuna loin. Unfortunately it had jumped in price since the beginning of the summer; what cost $12 in June, cost $16 in October due to a “crummy” season. It meant fennel was scratched from the list. It meant none of the maybes on the list would get into our bag. But man, that tuna – a drool-worthy, dream-worthy delicacy! Worth every sacrifice. Worth every penny.
Dear summer market, so much of you I shall miss.
Luckily, winter is coming!
Winter market starts November 5, and runs the first and third Saturday of the month, uptown on Belmont street until the end of April.
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-sizedchunk 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.
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!
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?
Last week’s market day may have been the first day of fall, but my brain was not letting go of summer. With the sun shining, warming my skin every time it peeked around the clouds, I could not shake summer from the mind.
Neither could my shopping list.
Roma tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and hot pepper filled the definites.
You see, I had recently been gifted Thug Kitchen, a vegetarian cookbook, with, ahem, rather racy language. I love cookbooks, I love looking at the pictures (pictures are key), and I love setting a new cooking challenge for the chef of the house, which is usually not me.
But perusing through the pages it was me who was drawn to the mid-summer, pico de gallo style salsa– everything in it reminded me of summer; everything in it reminded me of market freshness; everything in it screamed I could make it.
I was dubious at how it would turn out at first, I mean, I’ve been all sorts of loving Muy Rico’s pico de gallo all summer long. What if I didn’t pick out the most perfect tomatoes; what if I didn’t chop the onion the right way; what if I didn’t use enough garlic; what if I made it too spicy, or not spicy enough? Yes folks, these are the questions that dominate my brain when taking over the meal-making reins. Baking, which I love to do, is exact, cooking is subjective – too much room for interpretation.
But here’s the thing, this recipe was crazy, crazy, crazy easy. I made it with a four-year-old running all around me and didn’t get frustrated once. Chop a few veg, don’t burn your fingers or eyes with the hot pepper, mix it together, throw it in the fridge, and BAM, done!
Some might associate easy with lacking – don’t do it!
I know I’ve said it before, but wow, the power of ultimate freshness – grabbing those ingredients right off the market tables, ingredients that have been picked fresh that day, and plopping them into your mouth hours later – is HUGE! So fresh. So flavourful. So marketlicious!
All but two of the ingredients (salt and lime) were acquired at the market.
We decided to appropriately pair the salsa with our vegetarian Mexican stuffed peppers (featuring market tomatoes, corn, and cilantro) that we discovered awhile back through this market-buying challenge. I made what I thought was a huge batch of salsa; it said it was good for 4-6 servings. We ate ALL of it. We had leftover fillings for the stuffed peppers, but no leftover salsa. We had leftover tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and hot pepper, but no leftover salsa.
The kitchen was most definitely calling for more!
This week’s loot:
Zaklan Heritage Farm:
~ 2lbs roma tomatoes: $2 per pound
1 red onion: $2.50 per pound
2 sweet peppers: $2
2 bags mustard greens: $5
1 head red lettuce: $3
1 Macedonia hot pepper: $0.20
Ripple Creek Farm:
1 bunch cilantro: $2
2 Georgian Fire garlic bulbs: $3.50
1 zucchini: $2.50
1 delicata squash: $3.50
Bose and Sons Family Farm:
2 corn: $1
1 bag microgreens: $5
1 bag green beans: $2
Jam Shack Preservery
1 jar pear and pineapple ginger jam: $5
Total spent was $41.40. We had 90 cents to spend from the previous week, leaving us in the red for 50 cents.
You may have noticed I don’t have exact dollar amounts for the produce acquired at Zaklan Heritage Farms; I admittedly got excited, and distracted, by the Macedonia hot pepper, which I had never seen before!
Other market-lovely meals of the week included paella that featured the green beans, onion, garlic, and peppers from the market; weekend frittatas that also used peppers, zucchini, and onion; and a whole thwack of lunch and dinner salads.
My husband and son drooled happily over their morning (and snack) toasts thick with the pineapple and pear with ginger jam from Jam Shack Preservery.
We had hoped to get a loaf of chocolate bread from A Bread Affair, but sadly it wasn’t on the shelves due to quality control. It will again be on the list for this week with fingers crossed.
The expenditure wasn’t all summer, though. With a few of our definites for the week dashed, we had some unexpected money to spend to fill up the budget. On a whim, I grabbed this delicata squash off the Ripple Creek Eco Farm table; I have no idea what to do with it.
Please help – I am looking for any and all suggestions! With the dwindling days of the summer market, just one more left to go (don’t forget, the winter market starts November 5 in Uptown New West), any items you’ll be missing?
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THIS WEEK’S LOOT
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
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.
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.
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!
How have you been handling foods for back to school?