Food has been on my mind a lot lately for hosts of reasons. As most moms do, I'm constantly seeking novel, healthy ways to feed my brood. As well, I'm entering a "training" phase of my life; while I've always been a fan of mountain biking, I'm starting to swim laps again, and I've started learning how to run as well. Fueling my body well and healthfully for this level of exercise is important to me. And while I'm comfortable with my weight, give or take that ubiquitous ten pounds, I'd like to tone up while swimsuit season approaches. Recently, I've watched some friends employ various tactics to their own weight and health management: low carb, veggies-only 5 days/week, walking 10K steps/day, setting goals of races and climbs, boot camps, yoga retreats, and more. At the end of the day, every person has to find out what works for him/her or for their family, and I know that three things work for me: committing to at least an hour of exercise/day no matter what, preparing healthy ingredients before the week starts to facilitate to healthy eating all week, and employing an "everything in moderation" approach. Since this works well for my family, I thought I'd share what this looks like for ours.
Today's farmers' market haul, pictured clockwise from the carrots: kale blossoms, cauliflower, Italian flatleaf parsley, spaghetti squash, zucchini, celery, assorted sweet peppers, squash blossoms, padron peppers.
My week starts at the Sunday farmers' market, which, glory be, just greatly expanded in size. We can buy absolutely everything we need at this huge market, not just produce-wise but meat, dairy, and much more. As many do, I have my favorite suppliers, and they often remember me enough to know that I take cooking seriously and welcome their novel recipe ideas. Today's trip was no exception, as I ended up with kale blossoms in my basket. The farmer knows that I love dinosaur kale and am not a big fan of broccoli rabe; kale blossoms are in between. I'll be sauteing the top halves of this tonight with a tiny bit of olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice and zest to accompany our main course: sweet Italian chicken sausage, grilled, served with sweet peppers and sweet onions sauteed simply (in a Pam-sprayed pan -- I find no need for extra oil in this case, as the onions sweat so much). For the kids, the meat will be halved, sliced, and tossed with pasta; for me, it'll be over spaghetti squash, which is already roasting.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. When I get home from the market, I first devour what I've brought home for lunch -- today, it was Roli Roti roasted chicken, which I'll often buy whole and shred for the week's quesadilla filling -- and then stay on my feet to chop and chop and chop. This effort yields snacks and useful ingredients all week. A portion of my efforts is pictured below.
Petunia will munch on the fresh carrots (which taste SO much better than the bagged baby ones from the store!), and I'm a celery fiend (straight up -- I don't even need the peanut butter or cream cheese, as the crunch is so satisfying). Packing celery with a bit of water, which I change every day or two, is key to keeping it fresh and crispy all week. The zucchini and peppers will become stir fry and omelette ingredients after tonight's use of some of the peppers for our sausage dish -- and/or are just good raw snacks. (I always have mushrooms, tomatoes, prediced onion, and egg whites on hand, too, for omelettes, one of my lunch staples since that's often my restorative post-workout meal.) I used to keep the roughage from all of this chopping on-hand for our recently-deceased guinea pig (rest in peace, sweet Oreo). Now, I keep celery leaves, kale stalks, and the like on hand for soup base, especially if I have a chicken carcass on hand. (My kids are not soup fans, but I know that if I'm trying to manage weight and eat healthfully, chicken broth or especially bone broth is filling and good for me.)
As for the rest of my market basket, some special treats are in store, including early-season padron peppers; how I squealed when the farm told me they were on-hand, as they remembered my love of these from last year, and they're usually not ready for another few weeks! Padrons are among my favorite snack; 1:10 is hot (slightly), but they're usually sweet, and I kinda love the surprise of not knowing which you'll get as you pop one into your mouth. I blister them in a wee bit of oil (usually canola, but I think I'll try coconut this time for a change) and sprinkle them with saffron salt and lemon zest. I also picked up some unusually-inexpensive squash blossoms, which I'm hoping will last until the weekend (I'll be keeping a careful eye!), as I plan to stuff them with ricotta, delicately batter them (pancake batter is my secret ingredient) and fry them (a decadent indulgence, but an oh-so-yummy annual treat for me and for whomever is my lucky guest).
Of all of the annoyances of living in California -- high rent, high taxes, drought (which scares me for these farmers, actually) -- the farmers' markets are one of the main reasons I'm pretty sure I'll always live here. Don't even get me started on the cheese stalls, or my very favorite Oaxacan food stand, or the honey or olive oils or jams or yogurt or ... yeah, I've got to stop listing and start cooking dinner. Bon appetit!