‘Ode to Saturday

produceMan does this make me smile.  Ear to ear and forehead to chin.  I love this  day.  LOVE it.

Pictured here is the result of my weekly pilgrimage to my PHS favorite farmers market.  LOVE that place.

It never ceases to amaze me how a spread like this dissappears each week–but I don’t question it.  LOVE good produce and so does my family.  Yeah for us!

Today is a gloriously warm late-summer-feeling-but-actually-it’s-fall SoCal day.  This is the kind of day where the cost of living ’round here is warranted.  (As my Midwestern transplant extended family and I have been known to say, “Sure the schools are underfunded, the health care is in shambles, it’s crowded, expensive and overwhelming… but it’s so nice outside!”)  I LOVE California!

This afternoon is the Fall Festival at my kiddos’ school.  We will arrive in costume to set up our fun booth that we created with some friends and will arrive back home several hours later, hair spray-painted, faces decorated, bellies full of popcorn and tacos… and a whole week’s full of this rainbow produce scene to look forward too.  I LOVE rainbow produce!

LOVE!  LOVE!  LOVE!

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Say “Hello” To My Little Friends…

melons

Summer melons from my local farmers market.  Want to make me smile?  This should do it.

We’ve been enjoying some summer excursions–which have been a total blast–that have caused us to miss our weekly fave farmers market–which is a total drag.  But this week we were in town!

From time to time I post my treasured farmers market produce for your viewing enjoyment.  This photo features the famous hand of my farmers market sidekick, Josie.  She wanted me to say that.

I am not one of those healthy-foody-type gurus who make people feel guilty by saying things like “You should really be buying your produce from a local farmers market.”

There are high points in every growing season, though.  Right now is one of those moments.  Summer fruits and vegetables are at a real peak in So-Cal.   Besides these gorgeous melons, stone fruit (peaches, plums, etc…), tomatoes and green beans are also in a real state of cha-cha.

If you haven’t been to a farmers market in a while, my advice for well rounded summer bucket list is to hit one in the next three to four weeks.  In other words: You should really by buying your produce from a local farmers market!  Maybe not every week, all your produce, all the time, as a life style.  If that ain’t your gig; fine.  I’m not judging.

However, if you don’t get your hands on one of these farmers market melons soon, I’m here to tell ya: you will be missing out on a real treat.

Spring Fruit! It’s Here!

spring!

So at the farmers market this week Josie and I were doin’ the “cherries and apricots” dance–which basically consists of holding hands in a ring-around-the-rosey fashion and jumping up and down squealing “Cherries and apricots!  Cherries and apricots!”

SPRING FRUIT HAS ARRIVE TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA!–and I don’t mean by way of air travel from Chile…

I hold out.  Plums, peaches and other stone fruit have been available at Whole Foods all winter long, but I refrain from buying.  I do this partly because I believe in supporting the local economy and partly because I live in southern California so there actually are other produce options year round.  (Believe me, the “supporting the local economy” notion would likely go right out the window each winter if I still lived in Minneapolis…)

I also hold out because there’s just something about it.  Waiting.  Anticipation.  Build up.  I like this stuff.

We’ve been tiring of the winter citrus that is very tasty, but has now been in our fruit bowl for months.  (I’m such a whiner, right?  Can you imagine complaining about endless amounts of delicious locally grown oranges?  This is what I’ve become, I’m afraid.)

Holding out was worth it.  Holding out actually made it all the more de-lish.  We gobbled up the cherries right quick and are motoring through the golden, sweet apricots.  I only bought a couple of peaches which weren’t the greatest, but were still pretty darn good.

We bought the flowers at the market too–aren’t they a nice touch?  At our house, this is how we celebrate spring!

Fruit Salad: Yummy! Yummy!

fruit salad

Here you see the remnants of my strawberries that taste great but are already turning soft (will have to talk with my farmers market vendor next week… just got these on Saturday!), my oranges that Rhea says have “too much white stuff around them” and some on-the-verge-of-banana-bread bananas.

And what does a economizing mama do with all the above ingredients?  Cut off the “white stuff,” sift through the berries and toss a few pieces of each banana–and then make a fruit salad, of course.

Served in the fanciest breakfast establishments, one would think that fruit salad is a tad high brow.  But I have my suspicions that people more along the lines of my frugal Grandma Millie came up with this concoction.

“What shall we do with all this fruit that has bad spots here and is starting to turn, ma’am?”

“Cut out the good pieces and put it in a pretty glass bowl.  And we shall call it: fruit salad!”

Many vendors at farmers markets have special buckets for people (yes–people like me) who are willing to cut out a spot here and overlook a mark there; and pay 1/3 the price of the pretty produce.  For example, I often purchase organic apples for $1.25 lb just because they aren’t picture perfect.  Then I chop’em up, throw out the few brown parts, and make apple sauce.

Beautiful, delicious, healthy, economical–these are some of my favorite things!

Willy Wonka’s Garden

raddish

If Willy Wonka had a garden, he would definitely grow radishes like these:  multicolored, peppery, crunchy radishes in rainbow hues.  Oh yeah.

green-yellow cauliflower

Next to the radishes Wonka would grow yellow and green cauliflower we are pretty sure.  These colors grow naturally, by the way.  It’s the white cauliflower that has to be specially grown.

red carrots

And what sort of gardener would Wonka be if he didn’t grow red carrots like these?  Unfortunately they didn’t taste all that great by themselves, but it was fun to try’m and I used them to decorate our weekly coleslaw that I still can’t stop making (I may need to seek help soon…) and tossed some into my red sauce.  Worked fine.

My two oldest are revving up for their roles in the Spring Musical, Wonka Jr. next month.  As you can see, theater influences are infiltrating all our brains, which is fun and fine with me!

And by the way, Wonka doesn’t need to plant a magical garden.  All these produce items are available at local farmers markets right now (you know, if you’re lucky enough to live in sunny So-Cal…)

Better than a Fudge-ripple chocolate bar?  Well now… 🙂

Salad Recon and Loose Ends…

Mom's salad

OK.  So I popped over to my parents’ house (they’re my neighbors) the other day to borrow something.  Nobody was home but we have the same key (cute, I know.)  While rummaging through the fridge I came across the bucket of salad fixings you see here.

(Sorry Mom!  I may have even neglected to tell you I borrowed something–which I can’t even recall what it was at the moment–much less that I snapped photos of your private produce stash…!)

I, too, prep salad fixings en masse, but holy cow: not like this.  Can you even believe this situation!?  And I thought I was a little overboard with my veggies… seems it may not actually be my fault.  I mean, with genes like this, what real choice do I have?

In this bucket is about the healthiest mixture of  delicious salad fun a person can have on a weekly basis.  Purchased from our local farmers market, in this trough you will find: Swiss chard, cauliflower, carrots, bell pepper, celery… I think that’s it.  Things like onion or tomato should wait till eatin’ time as they don’t keep quite as well.

In case it’s not clear, my parents are pretty darn healthy folks.  This salad chest is but one example of the smart food choices they make every day– choices that are easier to make when whipping up a nutritious salad is as simple as opening the fridge.

Thanks for the positive role modeling, Mom!

Oh–and regarding the loose ends.  Here is Teri’s Baked French Toast recipe from Monday.  I’ll also put it on the recipe page.  Happy Friday everyone!

Teri’s Baked French Toast
Ingredients:
5 cups of whatever bread you have, cut into cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar (divided)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butter (cut into little bits)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8×8 inch baking pan or pie plate.
Line bottom of pan with bread cubes.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, 2 tbsp. sugar, salt & vanilla. Pour egg mixture over bread (try to cover each piece). Dot with butter bits.  Let stand for about 10 minutes.
Combine remaining 2 tablespoons sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle over the top. Bake in preheated oven about 45 to 50 minutes, until top is golden.
Serve as is or with a little maple syrup on top!

DO Try This at Home!

This is Michelle’s kitchen counter on a typical Saturday morning:

Saturday spread

Ahhh…  After my weekly farmers market pilgrimage, I feel ready to start another healthy week with my family.

Routine is the key to my meal planning.  By hitting the same farmers market (usually) I know the vendors, know the prices, know what’s what.

I don’t go to the farmers market to have a Hallmark moment.  OK.  Yes it is more enjoyable to shop outdoors, purchase from local farmers and sample anything I like before I buy it.  But like a lot of mamas of three, I am, uh, kinda busy.  I don’t amble along the market, wicker basket in hand, bluebird on my shoulder.  Often I’m in a bit of a sprint between basketball and soccer games, or maybe a birthday party or heaven-knows-what!

I don’t shove and knock people out of my way, but I cruise along, big cart and reusable bags in front, and get on with my shopping.

I make this weekly trek, out and back, in about an hour.  Another 15 minutes to unload and rinse my pretty produce, and we are set for another 7 days.

And when I look down at the “fruit” of my labor, it makes my heart smile.

Heart raddish

Three Things for This Friday

First off, this is not a pie.  But I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Not a pie

Please indulge me as I take a moment to thanks the MOM’S Club of South Pasadena for inviting me to come speak at their meeting yesterday.  Some hip mamas and I talked–briefly–about some of my fave meal planning tips, some lunch box revelations, and basic “sanity maintenance” in the kitchen.  Good times!  (And while we’re on this topic, I was a local MOM’S Club member for five years when my kiddos were little.  Talk about your sanity maintenance…!  Love this organization.)

Also, thought I’d brag about another blog who asked me to guest post for them.  Check me out if you like on the Costa Rica Blog network by clicking on my “press” page above.   If you like.  If you don’t, that’s OK too.  These cool tourism folks liked my “yo hablo espanol” post from last week so we joined forces.

And now  back to our “not a pie” situation.  Thanks for staying tuned.

Beets are in season right now at local farmers markets and, might I say, are super yumola.  They are pictured here surrounded by some lovely fresh cauliflower.  Both veggies proudly gave their life in service to my family’s happy mouths.  Thanks beets and cauliflower!  We appreciate!

I didn’t cook these vegetables in their current set-up, by the way.  They were placed on a cookie sheet with olive oil, salt and a couple cloves of garlic.  Then put the whole shebang into my oven at about 425 for 25 or so minutes.  You may notice that the beets are cut up much smaller than the cauliflower.  As dense as they are, beets need to be tiny if you want both to be done at the same time as it’s neighbors.

And speaking of “at the same time,” they don’t always end their journey that way.  I think this time I got lucky, but sometimes after 25 minutes the cauliflower might be ready.  Just remove that and put the rest back in for 5 or 10 minutes more.

Have a great weekend!