Friday, August 19, 2011

Local Gold Mines

Growing up, I remember going to farmers markets with my mom and sister.  I didn't really understand why we went to a farmer's market when we could just go to the grocery store and get the same food.  Now, I really appreciate and LOVE going to farmer's markets.  There are so many in the Northern Va area, so pretty much any day, I can find a market close by! Just look at some of the stalls and the beautiful displays of fruit and veggies!  One thing I love about farmers markets is that the food is local.  We don't always think about the fact that sometimes, our organic watermelon was grown on a completely different continent and probably cost a LOT of money to ship it here.  Then, there's also the fact that there was probably a lot of pollution created by having the food shipped so far away.

Another thing I love about farmer's markets is that a lot of the time, the farmers are right there!  You can ask them all sorts of questions.  I've asked them if they are organic or if they use chemicals... I've asked where they are located... I've asked what type of vegetable I'm holding... I've even asked what I could cook with a certain vegetable.  Most of the time, the farmers love answering questions and having the opportunities to brag a bit about their products.

Also, sometimes, local markets have other goods besides just fruits and vegetables.  This market had a beautiful and large selection of flowers!  The prices were very good and the arrangements were really big.  A lot of markets have local ranchers too.  I'm not sure what the difference is between a farmer or a rancher, but I always thought a farmer grows veggies and fruit and a rancher grows animals... so that's the context I'm going to use here.

I actually get my grass fed beef, pork, and chicken eggs from a local place called Chicama Run Farms.  They raise everything themselves and everything is hormone free, chemical free, and free range!  Their products are delicious and they sell products at their farm or at the farmers markets they attend.  The quality is amazing, the prices are great, and the taste is wonderful.  The eggs they sell have deeper yellow yolks and their shells are browns, whites, and soft tans.  Also, they are guaranteed to be laid by their free range hens that week, so they stay good for 60 days!  Which leads me to my next point...

Food that you get from a farmer's market usually stays fresh for longer!  I hate it when I buy some veggies from a grocery store, then 2 days later when I want to use them, they have gone bad!  Doesn't that suck?! If you think about it, when you pick up veggies from a farmer's market, they have been picked recently and brought to market on a truck that day!  Then compare that to veggies that may have been grown in a different state, picked then put on a truck to a distributing center, then taken on a different truck from that distributing center to another store, then maybe it sat in the back for a day, then displayed, then sat there for a day when you pick it out and take it home.  It's easy to see that farmer's markets are more fresh! 

Farmer's markets also offer opportunities to try new things!  Did you know that there are several different types of avocados?  This nice guy actually cut up 2 different types of avocados, Reed and Haas.  Then he told me I had to try them both and taste the difference.  The Reed were very sweet - perfect to put on a salad or eat lightly dressed.  The Haas were what I am used to.  They were very good too, but I definitely noticed a very distinct difference!  You learn something new every day!

Look at all the vendors that lined the street!  There were even people selling hand crocheted blankets and goat cheese (made by the guy who was at the booth - he milks the goats 2 times a day! - delicious!!!!)  Then there are also those people who sell cookie and breads and other glutinous stuff that I stayed away from... mainly because of the gluten, but also because there was a kinda creepy guy that was trying to flirt with me >yuck<

One last picture- look at those artichokes! I didn't know that they had flowers to them!  According to the farmer, you cut the flower off, boil it in water, then strain it and drink it as a tea... I think I might stick with my favorite mint tea personally... but at least now if I'm ever on one of those extreme cooking show where I get a flowered artichoke, I know what to do!

So... there you have it!  The best local gold mines ever - farmer's markets.  If you haven't checked one out, you definitely should.  I think the ones on Saturdays tend to have a bit more vendors at them, but you never know! 

If you don't know of any near you, just google your city or county and then farmer's markets. 

Good luck and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Roasted Poblano Vinaigrette

I've never really been a salad person.  I was never one of those girls who, on a date, would eat a big bowl of lettuce and miraculously claim that "Wow, I'm stuffed!"  When I went out, I was more of a ribeye and asparagus girl.  However, since going paleo, I've had a new appreciation for salads! 

One of the problems was that I used to count calories (I know! pointless! but that was my pre-paleo days).  Anyway, for me to like a salad, I needed to add so many toppings (cheese, croutons, spiced pecans, those toasted noodle thingeys).  After all of those things were added, the calories were totally not worth it!  Now, I've realized that I CAN eat a whole bowl of lettuce and throw on all sorts of toppings (paleo friendly of course!)   Now that I can be creative and not have to worry about pointless calorie counting, I've started to actually like salads!  With this in mind, here's a paleo friendly salad dressing in case you want a change from the old oil and vinegar :)

Roasted Poblano Vinaigrette
(Bobby Flay's recipe!)

  • 2 poblano pepers, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup spinach leaves
  • 1 teaspoon honey (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper 

I've seen people roast poblanos and other peppers before, but I'd never  actually done it before.  The other day when I was grilling up these babies  I just threw on the fresh poblanos that I bought from a local farmer's market.  You just throw them on the grill and let the outside char... they will look like you burned them to a crisp, but it's ok... it's just the skin that's black, the inside is nice and roasty and yummy.  Anyway, you throw the peppers on the fire and let them get nice and black.  Afterwards, throw them in a ziplock bag because this helps the peppers to steam and the skin to loosen.  Then, you can scrape off the skin, then remove the stem and cut the seeds out. Then you'll have peppers that look like the picture above.

While I was letting the peppers steam, I juiced the limes... I think it took 2 small limes to get the right amount of juice.  For this recipe, you definitely want to use fresh juice.  The stuff that you can buy from concentrate never tastes the same, and especially since we aren't cooking this recipe, you'd really be able to taste the freshness!

Next, I pulled out my trusty mini food processor and threw in the 1/4 of the onion (Bobby used red, but I only had a white onion, so that went in).  I also put in the garlic, honey, and the roasted poblanos. Then, I whirled it all together until everything was about the same consistency.

It will all look like this when it's pureed to the right consistency.  Doesn't look much like salad dressing yet, but just wait!

Next, you'll want to stream in VERY SLOWLY the olive oil.  This little food processor had 2 tiny little holes in the top of the lid, so I slowly poured the olive oil in.  You have to do it slowly so the salad dressing can get to the right texture.... it's called emulsification.  I'm not 100% sure of the science behind it, but I know that it won't turn out right if you don't do it!

Next, you want to add in the spinach leaves.  I'm not sure why this was a part of the recipe... maybe to give it more green color?   Either way, I followed the recipe and I thought it worked out :)

So you puree it again until everything is pureed until its nice and smooth.  Basically, you don't want big chunks of garlic or spinach in your dressing - at least I didn't, but if you do, then just go for it!

So here's the dressing on a steak salad.  It's just some greens with sliced steak and the vinaigrette.  I typically put more stuff in my salads (onion, carrots, peppers, etc) but this one was for Curt and he likes just lettuce and meat haha. 

Overall, I thought this was a great recipe! It was easy and made about 1 1/2 or 2 cups.  I saved it in this little mason jar and stuck it in the fridge for the rest of the week.  It would go well with a spicy meal... like fajitas or tacos or something else similarly delicious!!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Grilled Beef Kabobs

It's been FOREVER since I've made a posting! Sorry about that... my camera decided to call it quits and then my computer decided to do the same... anyhow, everything is up and running and we're back in business! So here's a yummy recipe I made recently!

Summertime, for me, is all about grilling.  It's such an easy way to make a meal... and, unless you burn the food, it's pretty hard to mess up.  Have you noticed that? You can pretty much marinate anything in anything else and come up with a yummy meal.  I had a lot of beef tips that were perfect for kabobs, so that's what I decided to make.  I did some research on Bobby Flay's website (because he's the king of the grill) and found this recipe!

Garlic Mustard Grilled Beef Skewers

2 lbs beef tips (or cut up roast)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup grainy mustard
2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
any veggies you like grilled

This was super easy peasy!  In a small bowl, mix the mustards, paprika, salt, pepper, soy sauce, garlic, white wine vinegar, and honey.  The honey is optional, but I'm not a huge fan of mustard, and I think the honey cuts up the spicy taste of the mustard.  I bought 2 different types of mustard: 1 is a grainy mustard with the big mustard seeds and the other is a dijon mustard.  I'm still slowly trying to make myself like mustard, but it's a slow process! I've gotten myself to like onions, pepper, and red wine, so I figure I'll try to add mustard to the mix.

Anyway, when all of the ingredients were combined, I threw the beef in the bowl and tossed it all together to make sure that each piece was nicely coated in the marinade.  I then covered it and let it marinate for 30 minutes.

While waiting for the meat to marinate, I set out to cut the veggies.  This is really easy... it just depends on what you like to eat!  I love grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms, potatoes... almost anything!  I did just visit a farmer's market the day before, so I already had a red, yellow, and green pepper, a red onion, and some zucchini, so I washed them up and cut them into big sized chunks.

When the meat had fininshed marinating, I threw everything on skewers.  Typically, you are supposed to soak the skewers in water so that they don't burn when they go on the grill.  I didn't have time to, though, so I just skipped that step.  I threw the ingredients onto a skewer and set them on a foil lined pan.  I had the grill heated up to a pretty high temperature. 

Before throwing the kabobs onto the grill, I took the extra marinade and brushed it over the whole kabob, including the veggies.  This is how the veggies were seasoned since I didn't season them with anything else. Might as well make use of all the yummy flavors we created, right?!

 So here the kabobs are on the grill.  It didn't take very long at all.  Curt likes his meat charred on the outside but medium rare on the inside.  Hence, why I put the grill on high.  When the heat is high, the outside can get a nice char, just keep turning it so there is char on all sides.  Then, you can either turn the heat down, or you can move the kabobs to a part of the grill that isn't so hot.  Overall, they only took about 10 minutes to grill.

Here they are!  Super easy and pretty tasty too.  You could definitely taste the mustard.  I think that next time, I might add a bit more garlic, just because I LOVE garlic.  The flavor was really good and it was just an easy dish to make.  It was perfect for a hot summer day.  There wasn't much prep work or clean up either!  This is definitely a must try!  You could probably use it on chicken or just brush it on a regular steak too.

I have a few more kabob recipes up my sleeve too! Keep your eyes open for them!