Opening Day

2015 Opening Day Shopping List

Woo hoo! It's finally upon us--Opening Day of the Thursday Bellevue Farmers Market. And just in time because I ran out of meat yesterday, I ran out of honey the last time I made granola, and I'm pretty tired of cabbage and carrots and mushy apples and no-longer-very-tasty Satsumas.

What's on your fresh and local shopping list? Here's mine:

1. Asparagus! Picked-in-the-last-24-hours asparagus is flavorful and almost nutty. I roast it with some olive oil or throw it on the grill. (Or see this Crawford Farms article for other recipe ideas.)

Crawford Farms pic

2. Spring Salad Fixings! Yes, it's time for a break from coleslaw and winter salads based on grated carrots and cucumbers. Grab whatever greens you find and dress them simply--fresh doesn't require a lot. The Food Network offers this suggestion. Great add-ons would be a tomato or some cubes of fresh cheese.

Food Network pic--it practically dresses itself!

3. Apples and Pears that have been properly cold-stored. There's a reason the grocery-store offerings are mushy now (or from Argentina).

4. Honey. Since I make my own granola, we go through a lot of honey. Time to re-stock. My daughter still remembers the chunk of honeycomb Cary Therriault of Cascade Natural Honey gave her when we visited him and his bees at work.

She even licked the cardboard

5. Meat. As in ground beef, ground pork, bacon, beef stir-fry, pork stir-fry, beef stew meat, sausage, and chicken. We are unabashed carnivores in our house, but we do like to think of our animals as happily fed and strolling about until Death comes for them.

6. Salmon. Brushed with a little teriyaki sauce and thrown on the grill alongside the asparagus.

7. Tuna jerky. A favorite family snack, and we're entering summer swim season, when I always need a little cooler full of snacks. Fishing Vessel St. Jude isn't at the Market every Thursday, but they're scheduled for Opening Day! See the website for other dates. And don't forget their volume discount, if you need to stock up on the world's best canned tuna!

Little Maggie knows what she's doing

8. Eggs. If I'd been thinking, I would have put this higher up the list. Because our family eats eggs like they're going out of style. And the eggs at the Market have the lovely, cohesive whites and bright yolks that signal more nourishment.

9. An impulse snack. Hmmm.... after such a long hiatus, will it be a soft pretzel? A piece of pizza? A hum bao from The Box? A cookie or pie-let? Ice cream or a pop? I can't say, because then it wouldn't be an impulse buy...

10. Dinner itself? This Thursday is already packed with kids' practices and a swim team meeting, so I'm not sure how cooking dinner will even happen. What better excuse to wave the white flag of surrender and just grab something at the Market? We could do soup and bread. Or a whole pizza. Or karagi chicken. Or a new discovery. And then we'd just plot right down at a picnic table, with the Haggis Brothers providing toe-tapping mood music, before we rush off to the next place we have to be.

So grab your own list, and we'll see you at the Bellevue Presbyterian Church parking lot from 3-7 pm this Thursday, May 14!

A Salad for All Seasons

Lilac season is already nearly over. And I will say again that I wish those interested in genetically modifying plants would hurry up and work on lilacs. Why the heck is there no ever-blooming lilac? Or at least twice-blooming? Would that not bring as much joy to the world as crops that survive being sprayed with Round-Up or seedless oranges? (Really, how annoyed are we nowadays to find seeds in our oranges or grapes or watermelons? Spoiled.) And once they figure out lilacs, my next vote would be for twice-blooming rhododendrons.

Because lilacs usually bloom a few weeks later, I can't help but feel like the Bellevue Farmers Market should be opening right about now. The lilacs turn brown, and off we go to the Market, right?

Hang tight, everyone. I count 15 more days until the first Thursday Market of the season, with its flowers and tender greens and new and familiar vendors to see. May 14!

In the meantime, I've discovered a passable salad that would certainly taste better in July but will have to do for now. Apart from the storebought cherry tomatoes, which were hard and flavorless and truly awful, this isn't bad:

Faux Summer Corn-Avocado Salad

most of 1 bag of frozen corn, cooked in microwave and drained
half of a red onion, diced
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 Tbsp - 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine in a bowl.

2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix dressing ingredients and toss with salad. 

Apart from biting into one of those awful cherry tomatoes once in a while, you'll think it's the 4th of July! In fact, I can't wait to make this with our homegrown tomatoes in August.

This salad can be varied with basil. Or with diced carrots and celery and cucumber in place of the cherry tomatoes. Have at it.

And on a final, random note, if you enjoy Food channel shows, especially ones where they travel around the country and find unique food experiences, you'll probably enjoy this book:

A fun series of essays ranging from eating contests to serious barbecue (reminded me of Michael Pollan's Cooked) to tailgate parties and food salvage. If you're headed for L.A. or the Bronx, consult this book first, for its mouthwatering secret Filipino, Korean, and Caribbean restaurants.

Until next week!

Noteworthy Notes, April 2015 Edition

Future Deviled Eggs

It's April 15th - Tax Day! That would be the bad news. The good news is, we have less than one month till Opening Day of the 2015 Bellevue Farmers Market season! The Thursday Market kicks off on May 14th with food, fun, and festivities. If you'd like to get involved as a vendor or volunteer, here's the link you need.

The Market won't be a moment too soon. Supermarket apples are mushy, the pears are Argentinian, and the strawberries of the giant, flavorless variety. Even the winter standby of oranges is getting hit-or-miss. For smoothies I've been falling back on frozen fruits, since they at least were ripe when processed.

Speaking of flavor, did you see this very interesting article on how naturally flavorful foods are actually higher in nutrients? It's based on a book I'm looking forward to reading:

As some of us have noticed, widely-available produce found out of season and grown on an industrial farm does not have anywhere near the flavor of the fruits and vegetables our local farmers or own backyards produce. Try one of the "sugar bomb" strawberries at the Market in June, and you'll turn your nose up at Watsonville's baseball-sized grocery-store offerings ever after. Well, it just so happens,

For more than 50 years, the food that we grow has been getting blander. As our crops and livestock become more productive, affordable and disease-resistant, they keep losing flavor. As any grandparent can tell you, tomatoes, strawberries, chicken—all taste like cardboard these days.
As flavor diminishes, so does nutrition. According to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, modern tomatoes have half as much calcium and vitamin A as they did in the 1950s. We compound the nutritional insult by drowning bland food in the only things that can make it taste good—ranch dressing, whipped cream, ketchup or barbecue sauce.

Because we still love and crave flavor, we add it back in to food--usually favor cooked up in a chemistry lab.

Not only is the Market a convenient source of flavorful, nutritious food, but I've also noticed some of our vendors do a great job of riding food trends. We've had kale chips and gluten-free baked goods and fresh juices. Greek yogurt and hand pies and kim chee. Can't wait to see what this season's offerings include!

Food trends follow an arc, as this article notes, moving from Discovery to Popularity to Mainstream (Ho-Humness) to Been-There-Done-That. I'm glad to read that eggs, butter, and whole milk are back in, since we consume plenty of those. Sadly, also trending are pre-made sauces which you dump in a pan and heat. Today's version of Hamburger Helper.

Kicking it old school, for you lovers of fake home-cooking

Ah, well. You win some, you lose some.

Whatever you're eating--flavorless or flavorful, trendy or classic--I leave you with these handy reminders of "5 Healthy-Eating Strategies That Will Outlast Any Trend" from a recent Huffington Post. 

Do a self-test. I scored 1 out of 5.

  • No, I don't use small plates. 
  • No, I don't eat twice as many vegetables as protein/grains. 
  • Yes, I eat colorfully. 
  • No, I don't try to "quash" unhealthy snacking. 
  • And, no, I don't eat mindfully.
Looks like the Market can't come soon enough...

Spring Has Sprung!

Greetings on this sunny morning, fellow foodies!

Spring has sprung, and in the spring this blogger's fancy turns to the Bellevue Farmers Market Opening Day: Thursday, May 12. Once again we meet in the parking lot of First Presbyterian Church from 3-7 p.m. Saturday markets kick off Saturday, June 4, in the parking lot by Washington Square (same location as last year) from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Glory be!

For those of you food producers who might be interested in a booth at our Market, it's not too late to apply! For those of you marketgoers who have been wanting to get more involved, it's not too early to volunteer!

In the meantime, while the apples in the store grow increasingly mushy and we watch the migration of asparagus season from Mexico northward to California, I bring you the week's interesting food tidbits culled from Twitter.

  • Curious where your milk or other dairy products come from? This fun website can tell you! I learned my Organic Valley milk (bought at QFC) hails from Swan Island Dairy in Portland, Oregon. My Darigold sour cream from Boise, Idaho. I'd love to hear where some other brands come from. Why isn't Organic Valley milk that is sold in Washington coming from Washington dairy farmers???
  • If you're concerned about antibiotic use in industrial farming, this Wired article is worth a read. It seems "chickens, chicken meat and humans in the Netherlands are carrying identical, highly drug-resistant E. coli — resistance that is apparently moving from poultry raised with antibiotics, to humans, via food." Yeeks! While the Netherlands feature "conservative human antibiotic use, [they also have] the most liberal agricultural antibiotic use of any EU member," (italics theirs) and in the Netherlands, "the percentage of E. coli that was found in the guts of chickens and was carrying ESBL went up five times over between 2003 and 2008." Best to skip the buffalo wings in Amsterdam, then.
  • Speaking of E. coli, Food Safety News reports that "phage-based EcoShield" might be the next step in fighting E. coli contamination. E. coli being a bacteria, why not sic bacteriophages (bacteria eaters) on them? These naturally-occurring viruses target, infect, and kill bacteria. Very old-school and new-school, low-tech and high-tech at the same time. Sounds promising, but for now, cook that beef, whether grain- or grass-fed to the recommended 160F.
  • And finally, I've been trying to do more olive oil in the diet, but my next bottle of "yellow" vegetable oil will probably be safflower. Researchers at Ohio State claim a daily dose of safflower oil "improved such cardiovascular health measures as high-density lipoprotein, the 'good' cholesterol; blood sugar; insulin sensitivity and inflammation in obese post-menopausal women who have type 2 diabetes."

That's a wrap. Now get away from your computer and go enjoy that sunshine!