How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

The farmers market is my happy place for meal inspiration. When I feel really stuck in a cooking rut, I head to local weekend markets. Collecting fresh seasonal produce always helps me combine flavors in interesting ways (what grows together goes together), BUT it can be a little daunting to think on the fly at the market… especially if your goal is to come out with the ingredients to make that night’s meal. In the past, I’ve written about stocking up on produce and making a cooking plan for the week, but this time I’m going to focus on one task: how to go to the farmers market and gather ingredients for dinner that night.

For this post we’ve partnered with Sub Zero’s Fresh Food Matters initiative to share these ideas for cooking and eating real, fresh, locally-grown food – obviously a topic that I’m passionate about! Shopping local markets is my favorite way to connect with local growers and to support the community around me.

Now about dinner… A few Sunday’s ago, Jack and I headed to the Logan Square Farmers Market in Chicago. Having just moved from Austin to stay in Chicago for the summer, this market is pretty new to me (as is getting used to the midwest climate again) so I had no idea what produce to expect once we got there. During this little trip, I stuck by these guidelines, which work no matter where you are:

1. Have a plan, sort of.

Before you go to the market, have in mind some super basic meal formats that are adaptable to a wide range of produce. Things like pasta, pizza, tacos, frittatas, and big grain salads. Of course, you don’t have to stick to these exactly. Let inspiration hit you. But I find it helps to have a framework in mind so that my mind isn’t all over the place. For example, tons of spring vegetables can be grilled and tossed into a lemony pasta. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs, leeks, etc. can be baked into a big frittata. Lots of vegetables can be chopped and creatively combined atop a pizza. You don’t have to reinvent the meal wheel to feel creative while cooking.

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

2. Walk the market once before making purchases.

This might sound obvious, but once I start seeing pretty vegetables, I get tempted to start collecting. Resist the temptation! It helps to take one inspirational lap before you start narrowing down a plan. This is also a great chance to talk to the vendors – you can ask where and how their produce was grown or ask them how to cook a particular ingredient that you’re not familiar with. In my case, I asked the guy at Sandbox Organics – “how do I use these gorgeous chive blossoms?” It turns out, you can use them just as you would the chive stems, they have a mellow onion flavor.

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

3. Build a meal around the 1 or 2 ingredients that look the best and that you were initially drawn to.

On this particular day – those chive blossoms had my heart the second I saw them, so I knew I would get those. At the same stand, the radishes also looked amazing, and later I came across some beautiful asparagus. Once the meal came together in my head, I went back and got them all.

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

4. Stop for a snack if you need a few minutes to jot down ideas.

If you feel stuck, grab a beverage, snack or lunch at the market (during our trip, we took a falafel break and enjoyed some music) and give yourself a few minutes to collect your thoughts. I like to write down all of the vegetables I was just inspired by before narrowing down to what I actually want to buy.

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

5. Finalize your plan and choose supporting items.

At this stage, I was thinking about perhaps an asparagus Niçoise salad with fresh eggs and chive blossoms. I remembered some potatoes that looked good that could fill out the meal. Asparagus soup with chive oil also sounded good – I had seen a vendor with some great baguette that would be yummy on the side. I also thought about a big veggie pasta dish (similar to this one), or a strawberry grain salad. Decisions, decisions…

How to Shop the Farmers Market for Dinner

Stay tuned for Thursday’s post to see what I made!

This post is in partnership with Sub Zero. Check out freshfoodmatters.com for some great seasonal guides to buying, storing, and preparing fresh produce and join the online conversation using #FreshFoodMatters!

Vegetarian Memorial Day Recipes

Mix & Match Crostini Bar

Memorial Day is coming up next weekend! Whether you’re hosting a gathering or simply bringing a side dish (hi, I’m Jeanine – the family salad maker), here are a few veggie-ful party recipe ideas. Click on the links or directly on the photos to go to the recipes:

First up: Instead of meticulously assembling appetizers, you can set out a bunch of ingredients for this Mix & Match Crostini Bar so your guests can assemble their own toppings. Include some gluten free crackers and at least one vegan spread (like the vegan pesto shown above) and you’ll have all of your bases covered.

Spicy Jalapeño Margaritas.

It’s not a summertime party without a margarita – this is my go to recipe for Spicy Jalapeño Margaritas (above). And of course, you can’t have a margarita without chips – let’s go with a super green Kiwi Avocado Salsa Verde. (below)

Kiwi Avocado Salsa Verde

Every party needs a great salad that can sit out at room temperature without wilting, so this Tart Cherry Tabbouleh is a great option:

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh

For the main course, skip the grill but get all of that smoky goodness with these Vegan Tempeh Club Sandwiches. I know tempeh sounds scary to some of you, but wait ’til you try it with this marinade!

Tempeh Vegan Club Sandwiches

Another main course option – Cauliflower Stuffed Poblano Peppers. Smother them with cheese or with cashew cream (see the recipe for more details) – vegetarians and meat eaters alike will love this one.

Cauliflower Stuffed Poblano Peppers

For dessert – Strawberry Pistachio Crumble. This is an easy recipe that’s great for parties because the crumble can be made ahead of time. Assemble and bake in skillets (or a baking dish) as you’re ready to serve.

Strawberry Pistachio Crumble

Or skip the baking and make Boozy Root Beer Floats with homemade ice cream (or without homemade ice cream… I won’t tell).

Boozy Root Beer Floats

CSA Box Strategies + a Farmhouse Salad

CSA Box Strategies + a Farmhouse Salad

I’ve talked about this over and over on here, but one of my favorite ways to incorporate fresh produce into my meals is through my local Texas CSA delivery that I get bi-weekly. The fruits and vegetables are grown from local farms and when my “bushel” arrives, the contents are always a surprise! There’s no better way in my opinion to eat hyper local than by signing up for a local CSA box – and they can be found all over the country. BUT – I’ll be honest – sometimes it can be a bit daunting. Finding ways to eat and store the vegetables before they go bad is something that stresses me out a little. Knowing that someone near me carefully grew and picked that lettuce or those beets makes me feel responsible for treating them well.

Today I’m partnering with Sub Zero on their Fresh Food Matters initiative to share tips about how to eat more real, fresh food. These days there’s an overwhelming amount of information when it comes to what we should and shouldn’t eat, but I think everyone can agree that fresh, whole foods are central to health, culture, community, and the environment. The goal for today is to share a few simple tips about how I utilize the fresh food in my CSA delivery.

Pictured above is the box I received a few weeks ago. I have to say – this one was a beaut. Soft butter lettuce, fresh blueberries, radishes, carrots, kale, and the biggest beet I’ve ever seen. Buried under those things was a fennel bulb, a pile of zucchini, and summer squash.

CSA Box Strategies + a Farmhouse Salad

Here’s how I approached this box, and how I generally approach every box:

1. Sample. Try out the merchandise so you really know what you’re working with. Look at those blueberries! These were the first of the season, so I ate most of those before I could put them away.

2. Sort & Store. Sort everything into bags and store (most things) in the fridge while you figure out what to make. Cut the tops off of carrots and beets and store them all separately so that each piece of the vegetable will last longer. I store sweet potatoes and winter squash on the countertop, but most spring produce does best in the fridge.

Right now, I re-use the grocery store produce bags but I really want to try out a more sustainable solution. Vegetables from the farm can often be really dirty, so mesh or cloth bags aren’t going to be my solution – if you have a suggestion, feel free to leave it in the comments!

Also, contrary to what most people say, I don’t like to wash my produce right when I get it. I find that it lasts longer if it is protected by its dirt. Once it’s washed, veggies start to get soft and limp faster.

3. Plan & Brainstorm. Make a list of the contents of the box and start brainstorming what to make. It’s easy to forget what came once it’s stowed away in the fridge, so I like to sort this out on paper. My general rule of thumb is to start thinking about the softer vegetables first (lettuce, greens) and worry about the sturdier vegetables (beets, radishes), second. If you need help deciding what to make, browse our recipe index “by ingredient,” and that will help get you started.

CSA Box Strategies + a Farmhouse Salad 4. Chill Out. If you’re overwhelmed by certain ingredients, it’s ok to freeze them for later. I’ve been eating a lot of kale salads lately, so this time I froze the kale for my morning smoothies throughout the week.

5. Prep, cook and eat. Make some food! Here’s how I used the various ingredients in this bunch:

– Kale: this time, since I had so many vegetables in this box, I froze the kale for my morning smoothies along with some of the leftover blueberries. (More kale recipes here).

– Zucchini and yellow squash: I made a dish similar to this recipe – I tossed thin slices of zucchini and yellow squash with pesto and lots of lemon. Here are some other ideas: a knockout Summer Squash Tian, a One Pot Pasta, or Zoodles!

CSA Box Strategies + a Farmhouse Salad CSA Box Strategies + a Farmhouse Salad

– Beets: I just made a simple beet hummus that I used throughout the week for sandwiches and snacks.

– Fennel: I thinly sliced it and baked it on top of cheesy flatbread with the remainder of the blueberries.

– Lettuce, carrots and radishes: I made a big tangy Farmhouse Spring Salad that I brought to Jack’s family’s Sunday dinner. (Scroll down for the recipe).

CSA Box Strategies + a Farmhouse Salad

Jack’s mom loves radishes so I sliced the radishes and carrots really thin. I then tossed them in a simple dressing with some pickled onions and let them soften while I washed and dried the butterhead lettuce. I tossed it all together with pine nuts, sunflower seeds, and feta cheese. It was a great, crunchy, light side salad.

CSA Box Strategies + a Farmhouse Salad

Do you get a CSA box? What are your tips?

Healthy Easter Brunch Recipes

Avocado Almondaise Tartines

This blog is nothing if not seasonal, so let’s celebrate the holiday where rabbits lay the most delicious eggs – Easter!

In all seriousness, this holiday means two things to me – brunch with family & friends and the start of berry season (yay!). So I’ve picked out a few recipes you could serve at an Easter brunch, and a few that are less Easter-y and just scream spring me to me (I’m looking at you, Sunshine Chia Bowls).

You can click directly on the photos to go to each recipe:

Avocado Almondaise Tartines (pictured above)

Shakshuka with Spinach and Harissa

Shakshuka with Spinach and Harissa

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh

Tart Cherry Tabbouleh

Blueberry Coconut Baked Oatmeal

Blueberry Coconut Baked Oatmeal

Roasted Artichoke Avocado Toast

Roasted Artichoke Avocado Toast

Vegan Raspberry Coconut Scones

Vegan Raspberry Coconut Scones

Prettiest Spring Vegetable Crudités

Prettiest Spring Vegetable Crudités

Carrot Quinoa Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Carrot Quinoa Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Sunshine Citrus Chia Bowls

Sunshine Citrus Chia Bowls

Spinach & Sun Dried Tomato Frittatas

Spinach & Sun Dried Tomato Frittatas

Romanesco Chickpea Salad

Romanesco Chickpea Salad

Ginger Kombucha Cocktails

Austin Restaurant Guide: SXSW 2017

Austin Restaurant Guide 2017

Since I know some of you are heading to Austin this week for SXSW, I thought I’d share an updated list of favorite places to eat and drink in my town. I’ve written a few of these posts in the past, but things change so quickly!

Here are some of our newest favorites as well as some old stand-by’s. I’ve also included some of my favorite shops and other activities in case you would like to see some sights in between meals 🙂

LUNCH:
(although many of these are great for a casual dinner)

Saigon le vendeur (pictured below)
This truck is our newest obsession so I’m putting it up first. They have a permanent location on east 7th street, but we first discovered it at the Saturday farmer’s market. Their vermicelli bowls are the best in town! I love how lemongrass-y the lemongrass tofu is and their sauce is two emoji thumbs up.

Piknik
Their brick and mortar restaurant is new this year – if you’re paleo, gluten free, or have any diet restriction, this is your spot. The food is made of the highest quality ingredients and is very health conscious. If you’re vegan, get the eggplant involtini. If you’re not vegan, get the hash. And don’t miss the matcha drinks.

Elizabeth (pictured above)
My most instagrammed restaurant (I can’t help it!) as well as a place Jack and I go to far too often. I like the tofu mushroom banh mi, the mushroom pho, the breakfast banh mi, and the tofu avocado steamed buns (not on the menu but just ask).

Austin Restaurant Guide

Taco Deli
If you visit one restaurant in Austin, go here. Get the sweet potato taco – if you’re pescatarian, don’t miss the mojo fish taco. Jack eats meat, and his favorite is the Happy Taco. Don’t miss the Doña sauce if you like spicy things.

Casa de Luz
When you’ve had too many margaritas, go here for some wholesome vegan macrobiotic food. Note that this is in no way fancy – there’s no alcohol and you pay up front. But what it has some the most flavorful macrobiotic cooking I’ve ever had, and the sauces they make are amazing. Check out their website for the meal of the day. If “suncheeze” is on the menu – go.

Austin Restaurant Guide

Flower Child
This is one of those restaurants that makes it hard to decide what to order because I want to try one of everything. There are TONS of vegan and gluten free options, but there are sustainable meat options as well. I especially love their green curry soup (if it’s a special that day), the Indian Cauliflower, and the Thai Cashew Quinoa. The gluten free brownies are delectable.

Austin Restaurant Guide

Poké Poké (pictured below)
If you like poke, don’t miss this one. They also have vegan poke with tofu and kale.

Koriente (pictured below)
I used to work across the street from Koriente and ate here literally every day. We love the shiitake tofu, but everything is great. The food is healthy and delicious and the staff is incredibly nice.

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Fresas (pictured below)
Ok, yes, it’s the place with the big, very cute, chicken sign, but you can go here even if you don’t eat chicken. I especially love the Jerez Salad with chickpeas and carrot escabeche. Their patio is big and beautiful, so go here on a sunny day.

Austin Restaurant Guide

Thai Fresh (pictured below)
A neighborhood favorite. I like their green curry, the papaya salad, and their coconut soup. They also have a big selection of vegan and gluten free desserts – the chocolate peanut butter pie is to die for.

Austin Restaurant Guide

Chi’lantro (pictured below)
As seen on Shark Tank, ha! It’s build-your-own Korean BBQ – you can choose your meat (or tofu), sauce, and whether you’d like tacos, a rice bowl, a salad, or a burrito. I get the tofu salad with black beans, avocado, and kimchi with the carrot-ginger sauce.

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BRUNCH:

True Food Kitchen (pictured below)
It’s not a local Austin chain but this restaurant, based on recipes by Dr. Andrew Weil, is on our regular rotation for brunch, lunch, and dinner. Favorites are: the tofu scramble burrito, the shiitake dumplings, the brussels sprout mushroom pizza (Jack’s favorite), and the vegan butternut squash pizza.

The Steeping Room
When we lived a little closer to this place, we were regulars. Jack and I had a Sunday Steeping Room ritual which means that it’s basically our church. I love all of their soups (they rotate daily), the curries, the chocolate crunch tea, and their vegan double chocolate cupcakes. A great spot for vegan and gluten free options.

Cafe No Sé
I’m putting this in the brunch section because it’s widely popular for brunch, even though Jack and I usually go for lunch or dinner (I hate crowds!). I love their gem lettuce salad and the kale salad. Don’t skip the hummus with their homemade flatbread.

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DINNER:

Epicerie (also great for lunch and breakfast)
The cutest little french cafe – great wine, delicious cheese and the BEST cauliflower gnocchi you’ve ever tasted.

Chicon
This is my favorite dinner restaurant right now. It’s owned by the same folks that own Contigo (another favorite), what I love about the menu at Chicon is that the food is incredibly local and seasonal. Its style is Texas farm to table and while there are a lot of meaty dishes, they don’t ignore their vegetable offerings. The menu changes often but some of the best things I’ve had were a vegan sunflower seed risotto, a pho made with spaghetti squash instead of noodles, and a salad made of smoked and raw mushrooms (it’s hard to describe why the salad was so good but it was killer). I can go on and on but I’m going to stop here because I’m going on and on.

Lenoir
This one is a twofer, as they have both an excellent wine garden as well as a phenomenal restaurant. The wine garden not only has a lovely selection of wine, but they also serve yummy light snacks. The restaurant is a tiny cozy place that serves a highly seasonal prix fix menu using local ingredients, and you can choose the dishes you want from 4 categories: land (meat), sea (fish), earth (vegetarian), and dream (dessert).

Other note-worry dinner places: Vox Table, Olamaie, Emmer & Rye, Juniper

BEVERAGES: Coffee/Juice

Juice Society
Love this new juice spot! 

Seventh Flag
I love their homemade almond milk chai

Patika (Wed-Sun for breakfast)
We’ve been loving the breakfast here lately – their avocado toast with jalapeños, breakfast sandwiches, bowls, and their pastries are pretty darn good too. They occasionally have gluten free pastries.

Sa-Ten (they also have food)
A cute Japanese-ish coffee shop with neat squirrel wallpaper. We love the coffee here as well as the simple lunch plates.

other great coffee places: Joe’s, Houndstooth & Cafe Medici

BEVERAGES: Wine

June’s
A new wine bar in our neighborhood. It’s a little pricey but the wines are very very good. Depending on the seasonality of the menu, I also love the whole roasted artichoke appetizer.

Hotel San Jose
Still one of our favorite patios to get a drink and people watch. If you come in the summer, get the Frozé (a frozen rosé slushie).

House Wine
On Sundays, they offer half-price by the glass for opened bottles. Great patio too. Did I mention half-price wine?

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SWEETS:

Sugar Mamas
Yummy cupcakes with vegan and gluten free options.

Cap City Bakery
An all vegan bakery – their peanut butter chocolate cupcake is super yummy.

Skull & Cakeboxes
You can find their baked goods at whole foods and other places around town – but they also just opened a new brick and mortar bakery. don’t miss their Bing Bong Cupcakes.

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STORES:

Kettle & Brine
Hands down, my favorite shop for home goods. I’m obsessed with their ceramic selection.

Wildflower
My second favorite place for home goods, furniture and organic bedding.

Spartan
Another great shop for ceramics and unique gifts.

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THINGS TO DO:

Springdale Farm
Visit their market stand on Saturday mornings. Walk around the farm grounds and have breakfast at Eden East (although it’s not vegetarian friendly – I suggest going to nearby Sa-ten before or afterward if your’e not carnivorous).

Saturday Downtown Farmers Market
It’s at 4th and Guadalupe, and it’s where I get most of my farmer’s market produce for my recipes. While you’re there go to the Saigon Le Vender truck.

Town Lake Trail
Hike, bike, or kayak if it’s a nice day.

Mt Bonnel
A scenic view over Lake Austin, plus get a little exercise hiking up the stairs. Afterward, brunch at Epicerie.

Barton Springs
It’s too cold for me (the water is 67°F year-round!), but I’m putting it on the list because it’s a fun Austin thing to do on a hot hot day.

Stroll down Soco
Visit the eclectic shops and have brunch at Cafe no Se.

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DAY TRIP:

Magnolia Silos
If you’re a fan of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ show Fixer Upper, you might want to take the drive to check this spot out. It’s 1.5 hours from Austin – once you get there, you can shop, have lunch on the picnic tables (the Milo food truck is our favorite, the crepe truck is really good too). Get a sweet treat and an instagram photo of at the super cute bakery before you leave.