Archive for the ‘Shopping and Planning’ Category

Shopping at the Farmers’ Market: Week 9

Well, this weekend, to make up for the hail last weekend, it was 80 degrees Farenheit, and people were out in FORCE.  It was totally packed at my market on Saturday. 

I picked up a few things, but also knew I still had some stuff at home.  So my “cart” looked like this:

Eggs, 1 doz @ $2.25
Onions, 2 lbs for $4 total
Artichokes, 2 LARGE ones for $6 total
Apples @ $3/lb = $3.50

And that was it.  I had some pasta still leftover from last week, and I decided to roast that half a chicken and the potatoes (Wednesday’s recipe).  I’ll steam the artichokes and probably eat one of those for lunch with a little mayonnaise (homemade, and I think I finally figured out a recipe that I like, so I’ll share that soon). 

I’ve got a little celery left at home, and might try making a salad with celery and sweet onions.  I saw a recipe for it, and I’m thinking I’ll alter it and see what happens.  I’m not at ALL sure about the raw onions, but maybe if I soaked them first to take out some of the bite . . . ?

And I still have those darn radishes, so I’ll fix those, too.  Also, remember all that chard I bought?  I saved the stems.  Apparently you can make salad with them, so I’m going to mess with that, and I’ll let you know what happens.  (I’m highly dubious about this one, but since I would have thrown the stems out anyway, I figure there’s nothing to lose, right?  Well, maybe a little dressing, but other than that, nothing.  ;D)

I did buckle yesterday and buy some sugared creamer, though (from the regular grocery, obviously).  Every once in a while my sweet tooth rears its head (at least once a month!), and I want some freakin’ sugar.  So that’s stashed in the back of the fridge, and I’ll end up using the half-and-half (organic, not raw) for something else.  Maybe I’ll make Onion Pie . . .


Recipes from the Farmers’ Market: Chickpea Dip with Ciabatta Toasts and Veggies

Ok.  Due to some personal upheaval, I missed my “Shopping at” post on Monday. I didn’t even have a chance to pre-write and schedule it, which bummed me out because I had news!  I went to the Market on Saturday – and IT HAILED.  HARD.  For a while, actually.  I was almost ready to throw in the towel and leave, when the skies cleared – well, not CLEARED, exactly, but switched back to light rain instead of death-hail. And later that day, a few miles from my house, it SNOWED!!!!  That never happens here.  It was AWESOME!  😀

But!  What you really want to know is what I bought, right?  Well, not much.  I had some stuff going bad in my fridge, and I’m trying REALLY hard not to throw things away, so I needed to eat that (more on that later this week).  But I did buy:
1/2 chicken @ $4.50/lb = $10.50 (ouch)
Celery @ $1.50/bunch (for a potluck on Sunday)
Bread – normally $4 each, but I got a deal because of the hail and bought 3 for $10: Sourdough, Ciabatta and Irish Soda Bread
Apples – various kinds and prices/lb = $4 (They were small apples, about 1/4 the size of chain-store apples, and I only bought 5.)

And  what did I make?  (You read the post title, right?  Ok, then.)

First things first: the chickpea dip recipe is adapted from a Rachael Ray recipe (I know, I know, but some of her stuff really is good).  I used more oil (shocking, I know), more garlic (also shocking) and supplemented the fresh thyme with dried.  But it was SUPER easy:

2 cans chickpeas
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how much you like garlic)
zest and juice from 2 juicy lemons, or 4 not-so-juicy ones.
10 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
1 Tbs dried thyme (about a palmful), crushed between your fingers
1/2 – 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but that left the dip too dry and grainy for my taste.  I used about 3/4 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste

The Recipe
Ready?  Are you sure?  This is complicated . . .

Put everything but the oil, salt and pepper in the food processor and blitz it.  Add the oil in a stream through the top funnel.  (Note: do NOT add it in and try to blitz everything at once.  Instead of a dip, you will end up with a really nasty, oily, chunky mess.  Take my word for it – and let us never speak of how I know this.)  Take the lid off, stir, add salt and pepper.  Stir again.  Taste.  Add more salt and pepper if you need to, stirring (or blitzing) until you get a taste you like. 

That’s it!  Ready for the Ciabatta toasts?

8 ciabatta squares (or so) – don’t use domed round loaves, or you’ll be sorry when you have to start cutting them into smaller bits.  For real.  It will be an ENORMOUS pain.  Get the flattest ones you can find.
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt, pepper, and if you’re like me, garlic powder, to sprinkle

The Recipe:
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Cut the ciabatta (should that be capitalized?  I never know . . . ) into bite-size/appetizer-size bits.  (This is easier and speedier than it sounds, since Ciabatta (I’ll split the difference on the capitalization) is mostly air.  😉  Tip: cut them so that the bread insides are facing up.  I cut my squares in half, as though I were creating 2 pieces of sandwich bread, and then cut each half down the middle (so now I have 4 pieces), and then cut each piece into thirds ( = 12 pieces per square).

Spray two (foil-lined, if you’re so inclined) baking sheets with nonstick spray and arrange the pieces on the sheets.  You can pack these in tightly – they’ll be fine as long as they’re in a single layer.  Drizzle olive oil over them (just a little bit or you’ll have greasy, stodgy little hockey pucks at the end), and LIGHTLY sprinkle some garlic powder over them.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over them, to taste.

Bake for 10 minutes, switch the pans (bottom to top and vice versa) and bake for 10 more minutes.  Let cool and toss in a plastic bag to store.  They’ll keep for several days – if they last that long. 

Serve the dip with the Ciabatta Toasts (or just pita chips if you don’t want to mess around) and veggie sticks of your preference.

How Did it Go?
Well, honestly, I had my doubts.  Especially when 1/2 cup of olive oil left me with a dry, chunky mess.  But! Another 1/4 cup left me with something smooth, though not quite creamy, and enough dip to take to a party of 12 and STILL bring leftovers home.  And no, NOT because they hated it.  People snapped that stuff up and LOVED it, so THERE.  😉 

This was great with the toasts and the celery (the only veggie I provided, because I. am. lazy. like that), and would be amazing – AMAZING, for real – as a spread on a roasted chicken sandwich (especially if you added some roasted red peppers and maybe some arugula).  I’m inclined to toss it with some pasta, just to see what would happen (will it thin out? will it stay chunky? THE SUSPENSE, IT KILLS ME), and it would be good as an egg-salad binder too, though much more substantial than mayonnaise (it would work on chicken salad too, for that matter).   I actually spread some on sourdough toast this morning and ate it for breakfast, and even THAT was good: the bright lemon flavor really went well with the sourness of the sourdough.

So, there you go!  A shopping trip and a recipe, all in one go!  The only thing left to say is: try this.  You won’t be sorry.

Shopping at the Farmers’ Market: Week 7

You know, titling these Monday posts by week seemed like a way better idea back when I didn’t have to go scrolling through old posts to figure out what freakin’ week  I was on.  (I’m not changing it – just complaining.  ;))

I only picked up a couple of things this week because I still had a ton of food left over from last week.  Why, you ask?  Well, mostly because I didn’t feel like cooking. But that led to an interesting discovery/revelation this week, which is: if I don’t cook, I don’t eat.  Now that I’ve cleaned out most of my fridge and some of my cupboards; now that there isn’t anything left in the freezer that’s premade; now that I can’t just open a can of soup and call it a day – if I don’t cook, I DON’T EAT.  And last Saturday and Sunday I ate the last of the frozen diet dinners from the freezer, and I didn’t cook, because I didn’t feel like it.  And Monday I had a bad day, got home, opened the refrigerator and realized that there was really NO FOOD.  There were plenty of INGREDIENTS, but no FOOD, if that makes sense.  So I ate Top Ramen (don’t judge!). 

And over the course of the week, I noticed something else: after eating those diet dinners and after eating the ramen soup, I didn’t WANT real food.  I just wanted to eat cookies and toast and chips and pasta and salt and bacon and chocolate and cake andandand . . . Even when I wasn’t hungry, I just wanted to EAT.   I’d just finished The End of Overeating, by Dr. David Kessler, which talked about the food industry and what gets added to our food in order to activate the right hormones in our brains to encourage us to keep eating (the term is “craveability”), and I had to wonder if that was part of what was going on here.  I hadn’t been feeling that overwhelming impulse to eat when I wasn’t hungry, but after those frozen dinners, I couldn’t think about anything else.  A couple of nights I went to bed without dinner at all, because all I wanted was ramen soup (for the salt) and after 2 nights of that, I frankly didn’t want to keep eating that much junk food. 

So.  All that to say that the list this week was short, short, short:
1 doz eggs: $2.25
1 lb ground beef (for the freezer – I just like to have it on hand): $6.50
2 jars fermented sauerkraut (1 garlic, 1 “regular”): $20

And that was  it for the week.  But I still have some vegetables from last week, and a couple of recipes: one came out pretty good, and one came out AMAZING.  So I’ll post those later this week!

Shopping at the Farmers’ Market: Week 6

The weather here has been warm lately – warmer even that it usually is this time of year.  When we have this kind of weather in Southern California, it means one of two things: either winter will come back with a vengeance (right about the time we’ve decided that the rain is over) or it will just keep getting warmer and we’ll end up with a ridiculously scorching summer.  I’m kind of hoping for the former, mainly because summer temperatures in the triple digits SUCK.

But I’ve learned that this kind of weather also means a third thing: spring and summer vegetables at the Market!  I went on Saturday, intending to pick up some onions and potatoes and maybe some sausages.  I figured I’d cook the onions and the fennel and serve that with sausages.

But then I got there.  And there was ASPARAGUS.  And STRAWBERRIES.  And piles of Meyer lemons (I go through 5-10 a week – I really need my own tree), and artichokes and all kinds of good stuff.  So basically I shot my list down and now I’ll have to figure out what to do with what I bought.  😉

So here’s what I came home with:
Asparagus – 2 bunches @ $2 each
Fennel – 1 @ $1.50
Bread – $4
Lemons – 10 for $5
Eggs – $2.25
Radishes – $.75
Swiss Chard – 1 bunch @ $1.50
Strawberries – 2 containers for $5

I also stopped at Trader Joe’s for cheese and ended up picking up more mushrooms.

So the plan this week is to cook the fennel with the leftover fennel from last week, along with some onions.  I have a recipe that I’m using as an idea, although the end product will be significantly altered.  I’m thinking I’ll make lemon curd with the lemons, although I may not.  I’m going to try sauteeing the radishes in some butter and garlic, with their leaves.  I’ve heard it’s supposed to be good, but haven’t ever tried it.  (And I’m not sure how I feel about eating pink food, since I know the radish color will cook into the whole dish.)  I’m going to sautee the chard in butter (or olive oil) with salt and pepper.  Mainly I just want to know how it tastes, since I’ve never had it before.  I’m not sure about the strawberries, although I’m thinking of making a crumble.  (I wonder if I could make a strawberry-lemon crumble.  I’d have to cook and sweeten the lemons first, somehow.  Hmmm . . . that could be fun.)  And I’ll either steam or roast the asparagus (depending on my mood), and squirt some lemon over it.  Maybe dip it in some homemade mayo (I’m still refining that recipe).  YUM.

And of course, the ever-present egg salad on toast.  😉

Oh!  I almost forgot the mushrooms!  I’m going to try that mushroom-butter-onion-garlic thing again.  I’ll see how that goes.

And I may end up with a few “bonus” posts over the next couple of weeks.  I’m starting to cook more than I’ve been posting, and I’m going to fall behind if I’m not careful!

Shopping at the Farmers’ Market – Week 5

Shopping from the Farmers’ Market this week . . . didn’t happen.  Mainly because I spent my entire Saturday morning clearing a virus off of my computer.  Good times.  NOT.  (Man, I just totally dated myself with that “not,” didn’t I?)

But!  It worked out ok, because I still had some broccoli and some fennel that I hadn’t gotten around to fixing, so I’ve still got recipes for the week!  I also have an update on that recipe that I was super-excited about, which . . . did not go so well.  😦  But I think I know how to fix it!  *rubs hands together in excited glee*

I DID go pick up some raw dairy, so I’ve got milk, butter and cheddar cheese now.  MAN, that stuff is expensive!!  I bought 32 oz of milk, 8 oz of cheddar cheese and 1/2 pound of butter for the low, low price of . . . $14 and change.  For serious.  (On the plus side, this means I will probably stop eating so much dang butter.)

Amd since I have no shopping list to share, you’re going to have to put up with some of my thinky thoughts today.  Bummer for you!  😉

I’m currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  In a nutshell, it’s about how she and her family picked up and relocated to a farm in southern Appalachia in order to live off the land – literally.  They didn’t buy anything that came from outside the state border, with very few exceptions (each family member got one “luxury” item, like coffee, and they bought olive oil from out of state).  They raised crops and livestock, and what they didn’t produce themselves they bought from local sources (farmers’ markets, neighbors, etc.)  If they couldn’t find it locally, they couldn’t have it.

And I thought *I* was hardcore.

But it got me to thinking.  One of the (many) reasons for this experiment of mine is the idea that trucking food across the country (or countries, plural!) isn’t exactly sustainable in the long-term.  We’re already starting to see the impact of it, andwe’ve only been doing it since about the 1940s.  So I figured that eating from the Market would start to cut down on that.  (Plus, the longer food is off the tree/bush/out of the ground, the more vitamins it loses, so there’s a health component here, too.)  So I started wandering through my kitchen, pulling jars and bottles out to look for “Product of [x].”

MAN.  There is a LOT of stuff in my kitchen, and most of it did not come from the U.S., let alone California!  In my cursory inspection, I came across Morocco, Lebanon, Italy (a couple of times), Mexico and Canada (a couple of times).  My bottle of clam juice came from San Diego, so that’s local, but I don’t know how those clams were raised (humanely or not).  Yikes.  Eighty percent local food might be harder than I anticipated.  (I was relieved to find that my Sriracha chili sauce is made about 20 minutes away from here, though.  I go through that stuff like CRAZY, so WHEW.)

Now, I realize that this experiment did not start out as 80% local food – it started out as 80% Farmers’ Market food.  But do condiments and such count?  Because if I count those, I’m not even CLOSE to 80% Market food.  So I think I might start using things up and not replacing anything that’s not local, just to see what happens.  (Although I might have to carve out some exceptions for coffee and olive oil.  Also chocolate.  PRIORITIES, people.)  And (having said that,) I’m sure I’ll end up replacing some of the stuff I use all the time, but at the same time, there probably isn’t any good reason for me to have 6 different kinds of mustard.  (For real.  SIX.  I like mustard, ok?)

Anyway.  It’s just something I’ve been thinking about since reading that book.  I’m not sure how gung-ho I want to be, but I might start moving slowly more in that direction.

Shopping at the Farmers’ Market – Week 4

Week 4!  That’s almost a month!  (Ok, not QUITE, since I started counting at the beginning of the first week.  But it’s getting there!)

This week I picked up some extra stuff at Trader Joe’s, as well as the Market.  I needed some half-and-half (and raw cream is about $10 for a pint – and it only keeps about a week!!!), and some mushrooms, which are $10/lb at the Market, or $4 for 1 1/2 lbs at TJ’s.  I was a little broke this week, so I went with Trader’s.

So the breakdown is 2-part this week – some stuff at the Market, some stuff at Trader Joe’s:
Onions (yellow) – 2 lbs/$2
Pastured Eggs (I almost always need eggs – I go through a lot of them) – 1 doz @ $2.25
Sourdough Bread – 1 loaf/$4
Fermented Sauerkraut – 1 jar/$10
Broccoli and Fennel – approx. 4 lbs/$6.50 (they were both $1.50/lb, and they were weighed together, so I’m not actually sure how much each was individually.)

Trader Joe’s:
White mushrooms (sliced) – 10 oz./$2
Cemini mushrooms (sliced) – 10 oz./$2.29
Half and half (Ummmm . . . $2?  Or so?)
Unpasteurized orange juice – half gallon/$5.50 (I know, I KNOW – it’s crazy-expensive, but I don’t buy it that often.)
Raw cheese (Gruyere) – 8 oz./$7
Salami – 1 lb/$4 (this wasn’t part of the plan, and I almost didn’t buy it: “Sad Pig,” and all that.  But I buckled under the allure of encased meats.  Yeah, go ahead and snicker about that phrase.  I’ll wait.  ;))

Ok.  So here’s the plan: eggs and bread are, as always, to make egg salad on toast for breakfast.  (I’ve been playing around with making my own mayonnaise, too.  I’ll post a recipe as soon as I have one I like.) 

I’m going to sautee the onions with the fennel – I’ll probably carmelize the onions, so I have NO IDEA what will happen to the fennel when it’s cooked like that – guess I’ll find out! 

The sauerkraut I’ll intend to include in a dish, but will inevitably end up eating straight from the jar in great, greedy spoonfuls as an after-work/before-dinner snack.  (What?  I might as well be honest.) 

The broccoli and salami will become a salad!  Mostly broccoli, with a little salami for flavoring and some sort of creamy Italian dressing that I have yet to devise.  (I’ll probably eat some of the salami with cheese as a snack, too.  At least until I decide that eating that much salami is not good for me, and stash the remainder of the package in the freezer.)

That half-and-half was mainly for coffee, frankly.  (Which is why I need it to last longer than a week!)

The mushrooms and cheese are for a SECRET DISH that I’m really excited about!!!  With garlic and butter and more carmelized onions and some of the (pastured) ground beef that I bought a week or two ago.  (Yes, I can tell you all that and STILL call it a secret.)  And possibly other ingredients yet to be determined.  I haven’t . . . er . . . determined them, yet.

Geez.  I just looked at all that.  I wonder if I bought too much food this week?  I’ve noticed that sometimes I do that, especially now that I’m trying to cook by the seat of my pants.  (Um, so to speak.  That’s kind of a gross metaphor, actually.  :P)  But without knowing ahead of time that “I need 1/2 cup of half-and-half and 4 oz cheese and 2 cans of tomatoes . . . ” I do find that I tend to overbuy.  I’m working on it, but it’s an interesting thing to be aware of.  If I figure out where it comes from, I’ll let you know.  😉

Shopping from the Farmers’ Market – Week 2

Well, this week it turned out that I had a bunch of leftovers, and wasn’t going to need to do serious stocking-up at the Farmers’ Market.  I actually love weeks like this, because it means I can pick up a few “big-ticket” items that I can’t always afford otherwise.  Since I still have some fish stew in the fridge, and a little leftover kale (for salad!), I thought I’d round out my shopping list with other stuff.  But I still got out of the Market for about $30, which isn’t awful.

Here’s what I bought:
10 Meyer lemons (for making limoncello) – $5
Sourdough bread – $4
Grass-fed, grain-free ground beef (1 lb): $7
Grass-fed beef Kielbasa (2 sausages): $6
Flat-leaf Parsley – $.75
Fennel (1 head) – $1.50
Fermented Sauerkraut – $10

It was the beef and sauerkraut that put me over the edge on this one, but since I had some extra money to spare this week, I didn’t mind.  I also made a stop at Trader Joe’s to pick up some half-and-half, and some frozen garlic.  (I know I can get garlic at the Farmers’ Market, but I LOVE the pre-minced garlic at Trader’s, and I’m not giving it up.)

So the plan this week is:
Kale salad with the leftovers from last week (kale keeps FOREVER).
Kielbasa and sauerkraut (no recipe there, obviously, but I’m eating it anyway.)
Fennel salad.
Roasted red onions with herbs and butter (I have some red onions I bought at the Market a couple of weeks ago, and I really need to use them up).

And of course, I’ll be finishing that fish stew in there.  MMMMMmmmm, fish stew.  🙂