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!

5 Tips for a Healthy Morning Routine

5 Tips for a Healthy Morning Routine

After such a positive response to this post that I wrote last month, I’m back with some more healthy little tips – this time I’m giving a little sneak peak at what my morning routine looks like. Yours might be more or less busy/hectic than mine – I work from home and don’t have kids to get off to school – but hopefully there are a couple of tidbits in here to inspire.

5 Tips for a Healthy Morning Routine

1. Wake up & take a sec to cuddle with the dog.

I’m one of those people that doesn’t need an alarm clock because we have 2 hungry dogs that wake us up pretty early. After they’re fed, the little one bounds back in and lays by my head. They say dogs can help lower anxiety so before I get up to start my to-do list, I make a point to pause and take an extra minute to cuddle with the pup.

5 Tips for a Healthy Morning Routine

2. Fuel up on a protein shake to start the day.

With 15 grams of plant-based protein and 4.5 servings of vegetables,* Burt’s Bees™ Protein + Healthy Radiance is a healthy way to embrace the day. Their formula is carefully crafted from a mix of pea, rice, oat, flaxseed and sunflower seed protein. I mix it with water or almond milk, or blend it into my favorite smoothie. I prefer the vanilla flavor but it comes in chocolate as well. While I drink my shake, I usually finish up that day’s blog post and take a first pass through my email.

5 Tips for a Healthy Morning Routine

3. Skip the gym and go for a walk outside instead.

I have an old injury that prevents me from doing high impact workouts, but I love to walk. It’s not only great exercise but it helps me clear my head and work through whatever problems or projects I might be working on. I swear more “ah ha” moments happen during my morning walk than any other time of day. Weather permitting, I like to walk as many mornings as I can.

   5 Tips for a Healthy Morning Routine

4. Breakfast!

By at least 10am, I’m hungry for a post-walk breakfast. It’s not always the same, but it usually involves avocados. They say that healthy fats are good for the brain and skin. I make my avocado toast with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. Sometimes I sprinkle on some nutritional yeast and hemp seeds as well.

  5 Tips for a Healthy Morning Routine

5. Take a few minutes to clean up my work space.

Ok, to be honest I wrote this one here as a reminder for myself because I typically have 7 empty glasses and a bazillion post-it notes all over my desk. I’m not a neat worker, but I feel SO much better if I can take 5 minutes to tidy up my desk space before diving into work for the day. Next year’s goal will be to do this clean-up before I end the work day, but for now, baby steps.

Do you have a morning routine that works for you? Let me know!

*Based on vitamin content. 4.5 servings of fruits and vegetables would be needed to reach 25% Daily Value of Vitamins A, C, E, K and the B vitamins listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

This post is sponsored by Burt’s Bees. All words and photos are my own. Thanks for supporting the sponsors that keep us cooking!

Happy New Year! This is usually the post where I would list some sort of New Year’s Resolution… but today instead of talking about how I wish I would floss more or how I’m going to hit the gym more regularly (spoiler alert: I’m not), I thought I’d share some of the small things that make me feel happy and healthy throughout ANY week, new year’s or not.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

1. Start the day on a healthy note.

I find that when I have something healthy in the morning it sets me up to make mindful food choices throughout the day. I often make smoothies but right now I’m loving Burt’s Bees™ new Protein + Healthy Radiance Shake. It’s especially wonderful for those mornings when I need something quick and don’t want to make a fruity mess out of the kitchen. I’ve been a fan of their products for years, (I swear by their lip balm!). This protein powder is packed with everything necessary to fuel up in the morning: 15 grams of plant-based protein, 4.5 servings of fruits & veggies.* It’s made with ingredients like pea protein, flaxseed and sunflower seeds. It’s dairy-free, gluten free, and it’s naturally sweetened with honey, monkfruit extract, and Stevia leaf extract.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

2. Find exercise in everyday routine.

It’s the new year and I’m probably the only person who just quit the gym! My favorite way to “work out” is to find ways to move within my daily activities. Jack and I like to take walks around our city or hike to the farmers market on Saturdays. Of course these walks are weather permitting – when I lived in Chicago, I’d take the stairs up to class instead of waiting for the elevator.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

3. Sign up for a CSA Box

This is the easiest way to incorporate more vegetables into your life. It’ll also get you out of your cooking rut because you’ll be forced to try new produce. Don’t be scared when you get kohlrabi – I’ve got you covered.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

4. Prep ahead for weekday lunches.

Make grain salads or kale salads ahead of time for weekday lunches. Here are a few that are sturdy enough to sit in the fridge for a few days without wilting:

Spring Broccolini and Kale Quinoa Bowls
Roasted Delicata Squash Kale Salad
Maple Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Farro
Kale Salad with Avocado Tahini Sauce

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

5. Set aside time to be creative.

Over the years, I’ve learned that I do my best work during the late morning. You might be a late-night person, but my mind is the most clear during the morning hours of the day. I use this time to get my most important work done. Mindless photo-editing, emails, and other busy-work tasks can wait until later, but I try to tackle my more creative projects at this time with my computer’s internet browser closed. These projects may include a book proposal, a plan for next month’s recipes, or really just anything that requires new fresh ideas.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

6. Keep healthy snacks on hand.

No-Bake Almond Oatmeal Bites, chopped vegetables with hummus, or tamari roasted almonds (find them in most bulk sections), are a few of my favorites.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

7. Try a new healthy restaurant in your town. (bonus if you walk there!)

I’m pretty sure no one else’s new year’s guide involves eating out more. I obviously love to cook but when I get burnt out, I like to try new restaurants to collect new recipe inspiration. In Austin, some of my healthy favorites are: The Steeping Room, Snap Kitchen, True Food Kitchen, Piknik, and Casa De Luz.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

8. Take a break for fresh air in the afternoon.    

Since I work from home, it’s easy to plunk myself in front of the computer without getting up for hours. I try to make a point to get up and stretch or move around every hour, but I also love to get up and out in the afternoon. Even a 10 minute walk in the neighborhood helps me clear my head and make room for new ideas.

9 Tips for a Healthy & Happy New Year

When life gets stressful, I love to calm down by making soup. Chopping vegetables is so cathartic. Simmering and tasting soup as it cooks is comforting and cozy, and the finished product is so healthy and nourishing. Next time life gets hard, drop that chocolate bar and try making soup!

These are my little New Years tips, what are yours?

*Based on vitamin content. 4.5 servings of fruits and vegetables would be needed to reach 25% Daily Value of Vitamins A, C, E, K and the B vitamins listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel.