Posts Tagged ‘farmers market’

The Flexitarian Next Door

Veg

You may have heard the term “Flexitarian” tossed about in the last decade or so. In case you are not familiar with the meaning, a flexitarian is not a vegetarian.  It refers to a person who eats a primarily vegetable/fruit diet that is supplemented with grains and legumes and, yes, still eats meat…occasionally.  That is the key differentiator from a vegetarian.

Although the name has gained a little momentum in the last few years, most people still do not know what a flexitarian is/does. In fact, a large portion of the population is already living as flexitarians with no knowledge that there is a name for it.  Many people favor a diet that limits meat consumption strictly for the health benefits.  That makes a lot of sense, since red meat has long been attributed to a host of health issues when over-consumed.  However, there is no proof that a person must completely sacrifice their favorite steak or burger, totally eliminating red meat.  Just practice a balance and make that the sporadic treat.

Another great benefit of the flexitarian lifestyle is the ability to practice social responsibility. If you have a diet high in fruits and vegetables, you have the option to purchase large quantities of these items locally—at least seasonally.  We live in Minnesota.  We are not going to find many fresh vegetables grown locally in the winter!  But we sure can do our part the other seasons when we don’t have to look too far for great fresh foods that are supporting local growers.  And the same can be said for your occasional meat/fish option, just look a little closer to home.

Still not sure a flexitarian diet would work for you? Try this great meatless soup.  I swear you won’t miss the meat!

Southwestern Meatless Chili

1 cup wheat berries—find by rice/lentils at supermarket or at whole foods bulk store

1 can/bottle beer-I use light                           1 can tomato soup

1 green bell pepper diced                                1 can creamed corn (14.75 oz)

1 sweet red pepper diced                                 1 can tomatoes w/chilies (14.5 oz)

3 stalks celery-with leaves-diced                   1 can black beans-rinsed

½ onion diced                                                   3 T dry ranch dressing mix

Big pinch of red pepper flakes                       2 T dry taco seasoning mix

 

Soak wheat berries overnight with at least two inches of water covering them. In a soup pot sauté peppers, celery, and onion until softened.  Drain and rinse wheat berries and add them to the pot with the remaining ingredients.  Simmer covered, stirring often, over low heat for about 1-2 hours.  (You could also put all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low all day.)  To serve, add a dollop of sour cream, broken tortilla chips and shredded cheese.

 

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Maximizing the Farmers’ Market

Salad Spinner

Although I’m not much of a summer person, I do love all the farmers’ markets and road-side stands that pop up.  There’s not much better than that fresh-from-the-garden food that is only available to us in Minnesota for a limited time.  So while that time is here, let me introduce you to one of the most used tools in my kitchen, Sally the Salad Spinner.

Don’t let the name fool you, Ol’ Sal is a true multi-tasker.  For example, when you buy fresh greens, they need a really good bath.  If you put the greens inside the basket of the spinner and fill the whole thing with cold water, you can swish them around and get all the sand and goop (yes, that is the technical term!) off the leaves.  Give them a couple rinses and repeats and then just lift out the basket, dump the water, and spin away the excess moisture.  Perfection!

How great are fresh summer berries?  They’ll tell you not to wash berries until just before eating.  Pshaw.  As soon as I get home I give mine a bath.  The trick is you need to dry them completely before putting them away in the fridge.  I pop them in the spinner, swish ‘em around in the nice cold water, and then shake out the basket carefully to remove as much water as I can.  Then I put them on a baking sheet lined with paper towel and leave them on the counter.  Spread them all out into a single layer, shake occasionally to dry all sides, and store in a paper towel-lined container that is not tightly sealed.  Mine usually last a week to two weeks.  If I can keep the caboose out of them.

 A couple other tidbits of info:

  • You don’t need to buy expensive vegetable/fruit spray to wash them. In a spray bottle mix one part white vinegar to two parts water. Spray fruits or vegetables completely, let sit for about thirty seconds, and rinse well. And no, you will NOT taste vinegar! Also, if you use this to clean berries it will extend shelf life.
  • Freeze your extra berries after they’re washed and completely dried. Flash freeze in a single layer first on a baking sheet/plate. Once solid, bag and label them and store in the freezer.
  • Make sure you wash the outside of your melons before you cut them. Even if they’re organic, you never know what’s been crawling around them! Once your knife moves from exterior to interior, it’s too late.
  • Store greens in a paper towel inside a zip-top bag. If the towel gets damp, replace it. Squeeze out as much air as you can before putting away again in the fridge.
  • When you get celery home, wrap it in paper towel, then tightly in aluminum foil. It will keep for weeks like this in the fridge.

SaladAnd my favorite salad to spin up in Sally?  A couple of cups of spring greens, blueberries, strawberries, tiny sprinkle of feta, some pecans and Ken’s fat free raspberry pecan dressing.  Oh yes, summer is definitely here.  Enjoy!

Autumn Produce…It’s Gourdgeous!

Well here we are, that time of the year again.  The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping fast.  Next week is Halloween; and in no time the holidays will be here.  I am not a fan of the heat, so I won’t pretend that I’m sad to see the mercury falling.  But I was loving all the fresh local produce that we’ve been enjoying over the past few months.  It made me sad to think we reached the end of another growing season.

In Minnesota we have very sharply defined seasons.  This time of the year we are wrapping up the last harvests of such delicious eats as apples, pears, and sweet corn; definitely some of my favorites. But recently I’ve been exposed to some other wonderful autumn vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash.  We never ate much of those when I was growing up, so I never really developed a taste for them.  But as I get older and find myself straying from meat and leaning to a more flexitarian diet, I am becoming more adventurous in my food choices.

Last week my husband returned from the grocery store with a squash.  I asked him what he was going to do with it, having never experimented with cooking that myself.  What we had for dinner that night was surprising and delicious!  So in honor of autumn harvests, the last of the local farmers’ markets, and another growing season coming to a close, here is the recipe for the winter squash and chicken stew that we ate last week.  If you don’t like squash, you’re going to love this!

Winter Squash and Chicken Stew with Indian Spices

2 tsp olive oil

6 chicken thighs, skin removed (we used chicken breasts)

 

1 1/3 C chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ tsp curry powder

1 ½ tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground cinnamon

4 C 1-inch pcs peeled butternut or acorn squash

2 C 1-inch pcs peeled russet potatoes

1 C low salt chicken broth

1 can (14-16 ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid

2 T chopped fresh cilantro

 

Heat one teaspoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Add to Dutch oven; sauté until brown on all sides, about eight minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Heat remaining oil in same pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic; sauté until golden, about five minutes.  Add curry powder, cumin, and cinnamon; stir one minute.  Return chicken to pot.  Add squash, potatoes, broth and tomatoes.  Cover and simmer fifteen minutes.  Uncover and simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked through and liquid is slightly reduced, about eight minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with cilantro.

8 Servings      223 calories    7g total fat     2g saturated fat        41mg cholesterol

 

From Bon Appétit ◊ November 1995