Tag Archives: Real Food

Jerk Shrimp Orzo Salad

7 Sep

Can you tell I’m a sucker for shrimp? I’m pretty sure I could eat them all day long. I know I’ve posted many a shrimp recipe, but I make no apologies. While I’m Florida, the shrimp are bountiful, and I welcome them to my kitchen with open arms.

I had a box of Orzo hanging out in my cabinet, along with some corn and a bit of asparagus, so I put them all together and found this Grilled Jerk Shrimp Orzo salad recipe on Taste of Home. At the time, I didn’t have a grill (although thanks to the cow, a little tabletop grill is now cozied up on our porch). I also didn’t have a red pepper, but I was pretty happy with how my adaptation turned out. It calls for jerk seasoning, but I was batting zero on that as well, so I just mixed up some of my own with this Homemade Jamaican Jerk Seasoning.

Corn and Asparagus

Jerk Shrimp Orzo Salad

Adapted from Taste of Home

Serves 2 as a main, or 4 if you’re adding sides

  • 1 large ear sweet corn, husked
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup uncooked whole wheat orzo pasta
  • 6 fresh asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 1/2 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, chopped (optional)


  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (lemon works as well)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Rub the shrimp with the jerk seasoning and set aside.

Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water; set aside.

Place the corn cob base in a shallow bowl and cut kernels off of the cob (the bowl helps to catch stray kernels). Discard cob. Heat 1tbsp butter and a little bit of coconut oil (if you have it) in a skillet over medium heat. Add the trimmed asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until the asparagus is just starting to get tender (about 2 more minutes). Add the corn kernels. Cook until the asparagus is cooked through and the shrimp turn pink, turning once. Remove from heat.

Cut asparagus into 1-in. pieces (I found that kitchen shears were the easiest since the asparagus is already mixed with the other vegetables). Place the shrimp/veggie mixture, orzo and pepper (if using) in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients. Pour over salad; toss to coat.

Enjoy, preferably with the back door propped open and your feet kicked up.

 Real Food Wednesdays

Girl Meets Cow

31 Aug


Last night, we got a cow. Ok, part of a cow. It all happened so fast, and somehow I went from getting a random text message a few weeks ago to driving home with part of Betsy (that’s what we named her) in the back of my car.

I’ve been interested in buying part of a cow for a while. We actually don’t buy red meat very often because it’s hard to find local meat that isn’t extremely expensive. Buying a whole cow makes local, free-range beef much more affordable, but we’ve never had the freezer space to tackle one on our own. Mr. Jones and I had talked about splitting one with someone, but just hadn’t done the legwork to make it happen.

Cut to my friend Brenna sending me a text message at the beginning of the month asking if we wanted to go in on one. I was a little gun-shy at first, but we talked it over and decided to give it a shot. It meant a bigger up-front investment from our grocery budget (although not as much as you might think), but it also meant cutting our subsequent weekly food budget quite a bit. The cost per pound is incredibly low, and as long as you have a decent freezer (or at least, a friend/relative with a decent freezer), you’ll be set on your meat-buying for a good long time.

We didn’t know when exactly we were picking up “Betsy” (that’s the name she ended up with), but I figured we’d get the freezer space ready a few days ahead of time. Instead, due to some random events, I got another text on Monday telling me, “The cow is here!” I headed over to pick up my portion, which was 60 pounds of meat. I don’t know quite what I expected, but we ended up with a nice mix of cuts (sirloin, rib steak, ground beef, t-bone and more). They were each individually wrapped and neatly labelled, thanks to the local family butcher shop.

The cow came from a family who raises about 6 at a time, then sells them. They’re a mix of grass and grain fed, and only fed antibiotics for the last few weeks before being butchered (as required by state law). I love that we didn’t have to take care of that end of it, and that the butcher who did it was part of a small family shop that’s been around for a long, long time.

I was a little nervous about how well all of the meat would fit, but between a shelf in Caleb’s grandma’s freezer and some re-shuffling in ours, it all went in quite well. Overall, it was an amazingly smooth experience, even with the last-minute meat arrival. While it may seem overwhelming to purchase a quarter (or even an eighth) of a cow, if you can, give it a shot! You’ll save a good bit on meat in the long run, have the knowledge that it was raised in a healthy way, and enjoy the delicious taste that comes from real, fresh food. If you’re interested, my advice would be to contact your local Slow Food or WAPF chapter; or just start asking around!

Now, we just have to find a grill…

Real Food Wednesdays

Mexi-Shrimp Bowl with Garden Fresh Veg

29 Jun

abundant tomatoes!
(or, “What to do when you have tomatoes coming out your ears”)

This year, my friend Brittany let us plant a small garden in one of her raised beds. My main focus was tomatoes, since I’d never grown them on my own before (and I just straight up love tomatoes). I don’t know what I was expecting, but not that the plants would flourish so well that we’d have a giant bowl of tomatoes every week. Amazingly, they do and we do.

I’ve been trying to find little ways to add them into the dishes I cook. On Monday, I made up a random dish from an assortment of what we had in the fridge, and those extra ‘maters really made it sing! The recipe is below–apologies in advance, I completely forgot to take any pictures of it before I ate the whole thing (it was pretty delicious). Feel free to adjust as needed, since this is a pretty thrown-together recipe to begin with.

Mexi-Shrimp Bowl

Serves 2

• 1 Tbsp. butter or coconut oil
• 1 lb. peeled, deveined shrimp
• 1 tsp. blackened seasoning
• a can of black beans
• two ears of corn
• two handfuls of cherry or grape tomatoes (10-12)
• a handful of grated cheddar cheese

Heat the black beans in a small pot (you may want to drain some of the extra liquid from the can) over medium low heat. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat butter or coconut oil over medium heat. Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Sprinkle generously with blackened seasoning.  Add shrimp to pan, cook until pink. With a serrated knife, cut kernels from the ears of corn (it helps to cut over a bowl so it will catch all of the kernels). Add to the pan, along with the tomatoes.  Cook for two or three more minutes, until the shrimp is opaque and the tomatoes are just starting to soften. Remove from heat. Put a scoop of black beans in a bowl, top with shrimp/tomato/corn mixture and sprinkling of cheese. Garnish with cilantro or avocado slices.


Real Food Wednesdays

Unclutter Your Real Food Workspace

6 Apr


One of the biggest obstacles that gets in the way of eating real food is the actual act of cooking. Though there are plenty of real foods that can be eaten straight from the fridge or pantry, it’s often preferable (and more appetizing) to combine or prepare them.

Don’t get me wrong–I love to cook. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But there are times (especially when I’ve just battled traffic for an hour) that the thought of snapping my fingers to an instant dinner is mighty appealing. And when those times come, it’s much easier for me to jump the mental hurdle and begin cooking if my kitchen is a place that I actually want to be.

In a way, your kitchen isn’t much different than an office or a studio. It’s a place that you create; a place that you bring things together in ways that take inspiration, planning, science. There are measurements to be made (or guesses to be thrown together), things to arrange, multiple items to be combined in a way that makes them greater than the sum of their parts.

kitchen on design*sponge


Everyone has their preference for the ideal working space, but with kitchens, the common thread seems to be space. Flip through any home magazine or blog and you’ll see images of spacious, sun-filled kitchens with counters that go on for days, sinks deep enough to bathe in…you get the idea. Something about the freedom to spread out just speaks to the inner chef. Obviously, for many of us, the dream kitchen is only a dream (mine usually involves this one). But there is a way to make your kitchen a happy, roomy place–even when you live in a one bedroom apartment (ahem…like me). What might that be, you ask?


It’s my theme for the month. Yes, spring cleaning and all that; but mostly because (thanks to Sara Janssen) I discovered Miss Minimalist and have been devouring her blog (and now her book) like crazy. She’s definitely on the more radical side of the minimalist scale, but for me it took seeing the lengths that she went to truly notice how much I am being owned by my possessions. I have so much STUFF, stuff that I haven’t touched or used in years but am still holding on to just “because.” Stuff that could be used by others who actually need it, or sold so that I can buy thing I really will use, or stuff that is nothing more than junk (and should be sent to the dump, where it belongs).

As I comb through my stuff (and my life) to get rid of things that don’t belong, what better place to start than the one where I spend most of my time and energy? It’s also the place where unused gadgets, utensils, dishes and even food hide in counters and cabinets, just waiting to spill out at the slightest touch. So I’m going to be ruthless and take back my space. This week, I challenge you to do the same. Here are a few tips to help you reclaim your kitchen, and turn it in to a space where you will always be happy to prepare and create.


Set aside a chunk of time. It doesn’t have to be a whole evening, just start with an hour or so, and choose as much of your space as you feel you can take on. Don’t be put off by thinking that you’ll never have time to do it all–an hour here or there going through one cabinet or the next will add up quickly.

Remove everything. Yes, everything. This is a tip straight from Miss Minimalist herself–in order to truly go through each thing that you have and determine if it should be taking up your precious space, you need to take it all out and put back only those things that you need and use. It might sound scary, but it’s surprisingly easy (and refreshing) to start with a blank slate.

Get rid of duplicates. Unless you host parties on a weekly basis, you probably don’t need five sets of appetizer plates. Or three potato mashers. Or (gasp) an entire shelf of drinking glasses. I know, I know–the glasses were the hardest thing for me to let go of. But honestly, there is no reason that Mr. Jones and I need 15 drinking glasses. If we’re having that many people over, we’ll be using disposable cups. We can definitely get by on eight (or even just four). There’s this awesome thing called a sink, where you can wash the dirty glasses and then reuse them again.

Get rid of the things you aren’t using. You may have gotten that electric turkey knife from Aunt Selma for your wedding three years ago, but if you haven’t even assembled it, lose it (true story). Same goes for the Foreman Grill, tomato slicer, or whatever other item seemed like a great idea at the time but turned in to a permanent fixture above the fridge/beneath the oven/in the highest cabinet. If you don’t use it, it’s not useful.


Put the most used things within reach, where you use them. Minimizing your stuff also means maximizing the things you DO use. Keep bowls and utensils close to where you cook, knife and cutting board within easy reach, etc. If you’re constantly running back and forth in the kitchen, grabbing the same few things, condense them all in to one easy-to-snag place.

Clear your counters. Now that you have some lovely empty space in your cabinets, clear off your countertops so that you have lots of room to chop, mix, and knead as you please. Stow the toaster that only gets used on Saturdays, hide the blender that doesn’t show its face every morning. It’s just as easy (if not easier) to pull an appliance out of your cabinets as it is to be constantly  working around it, wiping off food drips, and checking to be sure it’s unplugged. And when you’re taking it off the counter, ask yourself if you really do need it–you can replace many appliances with a good oven and a sharp knife.

Be just as ruthless with your food. Your food should be just as edited as the rest of your kitchen. Clear the fridge of those questionable things (olive tapenade from two years ago? container with leftovers that look like they’re about to start walking?) and arrange what’s left in a way that makes sense for your cooking style. When you buy a random spice or condiment for a recipe, keep it on a list on the side of your fridge and work it in to recipes in the upcoming weeks. Use things up before they get swallowed by the bowels of your pantry. And keep in mind one of the key properties of real food: it has an expiration date. Use it while it’s fresh and you’ll reap the best taste and the best health benefits.


Real Food Wednesdays

Real Food Basics: The Perfect Omelette

30 Mar


Sometimes, you just have to go back to the basics. Farm fresh eggs, 100% real butter, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Yup, I’m talkin bout omelettes.

They’re perfect for a midnight snack, breakfast, dinner, lunch…ok, so pretty much any meal. I love them alone, or with any number of tasty fillings (mushrooms, green onions, tomato–yum!).

I’ve always been a big omelette fan, but it wasn’t until the summer before I left for college that I started making them myself. The entire summer, at exactly 11pm, I would cook an omelet. I ate it on the couch, watching TV (and probably relishing in my freedom from high school). Perfection.

Last week, while I was watching season one of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I started looking up clips from Jamie’s older UK shows on YouTube. I stumbled on this short video, in which Jamie does a great job of showing how to cook the perfect omelette.

Jamie Oliver’s Perfect Omelette

• 2-3 large eggs, preferably free-range or organic
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• olive oil
• pat of butter
• a small handful of grated Cheddar cheese (optional)

Place your pan over medium heat. Add a little bit of oil and a knob of butter. Let it melt and give it a few shakes to coat the pan. Break the eggs in to a small bowl, add a pinch of salt and pepper. Whip with your fork and pour the eggs in to the pan. During the first 20 seconds, use your fork or spatula to draw the eggs in a bit so that the uppermost egg gets redistributed (this allows the eggs to cook more evenly). After 30 seconds, use your fork or spatula to loosen the egg one last time. Turn the heat down a little, and grate a bit of cheese on top of the omelette. Let it set over low heat a bit more, until the softness of the eggs just begins to turn. Go around the edges to loosen the omelette, then tilt the pan so the omelette slides slightly away from you. Put the spatula under one side and flap it–and you’re done!


You can do what I did this morning, and savor the simplicity of the eggs, butter and cheese–or go crazy with some of the following fillings:

Turkey/Chicken Sausage, Soyrizo, Bacon, Zucchini, Bell Peppers, Scallion, Mushrooms, Basil, Onions, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Avocado, Sundried Tomatoes, Sour Cream, Salsa

I love Jamie’s method because it’s quick and easy, without using fancy techniques. Of course, there are plenty of different approaches, but this one produced the best omelette I’ve ever made.

Of course, I guess I’ll have to try it at 11pm to really be sure…

Real Food Wednesdays

My Favorite Freezer Meal: Sweet Potato Burritos

23 Mar

sweet potato burritos lined up

It’s nice to have a go-to recipe for new moms, sick friends, or your own freezer stash. Something that is somewhat inexpensive and easy to prepare, a snap to reheat–and of course, delicious! These sweet potato burritos are definitely the first thing I turn to when I need an easy freezer meal. I love to keep a stock of them in our freezer for grab-and-go lunches, or for nights when one of us is doing dinner on our own.

I was actually inspired to find a recipe for them after Mr. Jones had one at our farmers’ market. There are always some great eats there, and we stumbled on a small local restaurant that had sweet potato burritos on their specials board. Caleb ate one and couldn’t stop raving about it, so I was determined to find a similar recipe. When I found one on AllRecipes, I also noticed that a number of the reviews suggested making the batch and then freezing the leftovers. Brilliant!

Since that discovery, they’ve graced my freezer with their presence time after time. I love dropping off a big bag of them to friends who recently had a baby or need an easy meal.

sweet potato burrito contents


Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos

(slightly modified from this version)

• 1 tablespoon EVOO
• 1 onion, chopped
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 (14.5 oz. or 15.25 oz.) cans canned black beans, drained and mashed
• 1.5 cups water
• 3 tablespoons chili powder
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin
• 4 teaspoons prepared mustard
• 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
• 3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 4 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (about four medium roasted sweet potatoes–be sure to remember it takes about an hour to roast them)
• 12 (10 inch) flour tortillas, warmed (homemade is best, but often I just use the ones in the Mexican/Ethnic aisle)
• 8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Heat oil in a medium skillet, and saute onion and garlic until soft. Stir in the mashed black beans. Gradually stir in water, and heat until warm. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper and soy sauce, then remove from heat.
3. Divide bean mixture and mashed sweet potatoes evenly between the warm flour tortillas. Top with cheese. Fold up tortillas burrito style, and place on a baking sheet.
4. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven, and serve. We usually eat two and freeze the rest. Be sure to try them with some sour cream or honey mustard on top (or guacamole/salsa if that’s more your style).

sweet potato burritos


Storing and Reheating:

Wrap each burrito in foil, allow to cool, and place in the freezer.

To reheat in the oven: from frozen. 30 mins wrapped in foil at 350 degrees, then 15 mins unwrapped to crisp them up. For the best crispness, heat in the oven (or microwave, below) and then brown each side in a skillet over medium heat.

In the microwave (if you’re like me and don’t have access to a stove/toaster oven at work): wrap loosely in a damp paper towel or cloth. Heat for 1 minute on each side, unwrap and cut in half, and heat for one minute more.


Real Food Wednesdays

Easy Homemade Chicken Stock in the Crock-Pot

16 Mar

chicken stock

When cooking, there are times when you have to use substitutes. Imitations. Almost-but-not-quite-as-good-as The Real Thing.

However, chicken stock shouldn’t be one of those items.

First, simply because no powder, concentrate, or watery shelf-stable wannabe will even come close to matching the flavor of real, homemade chicken stock. That’s just the honest truth. Second, because it’s extremely easy (and cheap) to make! Third, because if you don’t know how, I’m going to tell you. See–no excuses. (Well, except for the sad photo above. It was taken quite a while back, in bad lighting, so don’t come down too hard on it. But back to the chicken stock…)

Every few weeks, I buy a whole chicken. The best will come from a local farm, but usually I have to compromise by getting an organic, free-range bird from Publix. Yes, it will cost more than the conventional brand, but not much–and I promise, the flavor you’ll get will make it completely worth it (not to mention the benefits of eating a chicken that was actually raised as a chicken).

After roasting the chicken with an assortment of vegetables, eating dinner, and setting aside the rest of the delicious meat for a few more meals, I do the following (from Keeper of the Home):

Chicken Stock

I pull out my crock-pot and put the carcass/bones in, along with any drippings from the pan. Next, I add a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (this helps draw the minerals out of the bones) and pour a few quarts of cold water over the bones (until the crock pot is almost full). Set the crock-pot on low and let it simmer overnight. Before I head to work the next morning, I add some vegetable scraps (carrots, celery, onions, etc.). I try to save my scraps in a container in the freezer, so I always have some I can dump in.

The crock-pot continues to simmer on low for the rest of the day. When I return home in the evening, I add a little bit of parsley, sea salt, an herb or two if I’m feeling the urge, and let it simmer for about 15 more minutes. I turn off the crockpot, and strain the stock in to jars (usually in two cup portions) to freeze. I also do some smaller sizes, put them all in the freezer (once it’s cooled a bit), and voila! I now have my very own stock…of chicken stock.

Real Food Wednesdays

Simple Real Food Goal: Drink More Water

2 Mar

cup of water

When I was younger, I hated water. I didn’t just dislike it, or prefer other beverages. Nope, I hated it. I don’t know what it was–because after all, water doesn’t really taste like anything, does it? It wasn’t even as though I grew up here in the south, or near the beach, where water can have that nice tint of sulphur to it (yum). I think I had just decided I couldn’t stand the stuff, and only drank it when I absolutely had to. It took me until college to get to the point where I started drinking decent amounts of it, and now (surprise surprise) I love it.

So what changed?

Well, other than my maturity level, I think it was the fact that I just decided it was something I needed to do. That’s how a lot of eating decisions are made–once you decide that you’re going to power through it, it gets easier and easier each time. I knew that I should be hydrating my body rather than drinking sugar and additives (sodas/fake juices). Don’t get me wrong–100% real fruit juice, raw milk, and tea are also great ways to hydrate and get valuable minerals and vitamins, but it’s good to balance those things with the pure and simple H2O.

Now that I’ve been gulping the good stuff for a while now, I thought I’d share some of the easy tips that have helped make it simple for me to drink a healthy amount of water each day.


clean water

Get a Filter

I know, it might sound a little pretentious. And when it comes down to it, tap water probably won’t kill you. However, there are a number of chemicals and additives that can travel into tap water, and it’s best to filter them out. Plus, sometimes filtered water just tastes better–which is especially helpful if you’re one of those “don’t like the taste of water” types. A faucet-mounted filter is best, so that your water is purified right from the tap. Faucet filters are also more convenient for cooking, and you don’t have to wait for a pitcher to fill up. Still, filtered water in a pitcher is better than straight tap water, especially if you keep it filled and cool in the fridge. I also know a number of people who use AquaRain (or similar) gravity filtration methods and have heard they work quite well.


water bottle

Use a Water Bottle

The easiest way to increase your water intake is to keep it within reach. A water bottle is a great way to keep your water cool and handy, while saving you from the waste that is single-serve bottled water. It also allows you a simple way to see how much water you’re drinking–filling up the average water bottle just twice a day will usually provide you with plenty of hydration. It’s best to stay away from plastic bottles, even the ones that say they’re BPA-free. There is still much being discovered about the dangers (and environmental harm) of plastic, so if you have an alternative, use it. Target and REI have some great, inexpensive options, both for aluminum and stainless steel.



Mix it Up

Maybe the taste of water is still something you just plain don’t like. This was part of my problem, and the best way to get past it is to add flavors that you DO like. I always buy a few limes and lemons at the market each week, and treat myself by squeezing some tasty citrus in to my bottle of water. The trick is to really squeeze it, not just put a slice on top like they do in restaurants. You can also infuse your water with mint, lavender, cucumbers, or drop in a frozen berry or two. These things add just a hint of flavor, and are really great when you want to add some diversity to your daily water intake.

I hope those things will help you drink more water! So much of the time, drinking water is just as much about what you’re NOT putting in your body than what you are–water is the opposite of the sugar and caffeine fueled drinks that so many of us use throughout the day. Cutting down your sugar intake (along with all the other chemicals that those drinks contain) is another step towards keeping things simple and keeping your body healthy.

Real Food Wednesdays

Valentine’s Seafood Risotto

16 Feb

seafood risotto

Mr. Jones and I have a Valentine’s Day tradition that I’m pretty fond of. It started when we both had to work on our first Valentine’s together (in college), so we couldn’t go out to eat anywhere. Luckily, we worked together at one of the student hangouts on campus, so we spent most of the evening playing scrabble and serving coffee. One by one, our friends began returning from their dates, complaining about the long waits and crowded restaurants. And we decided — we didn’t want to mess with all of that. Instead, we would cook some sort of crazy, extravagant dinner for ourselves and enjoy each other’s company without reservations or loud dining rooms.

It’s a pretty good plan. I’m sure we’ll end up making adjustments when we have kids underfoot someday, but for now, we have a blast picking out the unusual dish we’re going to cook up and knowing that we aren’t waiting in any lines.

This year, we did seafood risotto, roasted asparagus, and a brie cheese plate. We’ve never attempted risotto before, but it turned out deliciously. Yes, it’s a lot of stirring, but that’s part of what makes it the perfect “team” recipe — when one of you gets tired of stirring, just trade off!

The recipe we used is below, and it turned out wonderfully without any adjustments. Though, I will give you a hint: if you happen to have any brie around, it’s pretty fabulous to put a little on your fork before scooping up a bite of risotto. So scrumptious.

risotto before

Seafood Risotto

Bon Appétit | August 1998
Yield: Serves 6

• 2 1/2 cups water
• 2 8-ounce bottles clam juice
• 6 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 cup finely chopped shallots
• 1 1/2 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 1 14 1/2-ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
• 3/4 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, coarsely chopped
• 3/4 pound bay scallops
• 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

1. Combine 2 1/2 cups water and bottled clam juice in medium saucepan. Bring to simmer. Keep warm over low heat.
Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots; sauté until light golden, about 4 minutes. Add rice; sauté 2 minutes. Add wine; stir until liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add stewed tomatoes; cook until liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes.

risotto after

As you slowly stir in liquid, the risotto will absorb it, becoming gradually creamier

2. Add 1 cup clam juice mixture to rice. Simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often. Continue adding clam juice mixture by 1/2 cupfuls until rice is tender but still slightly firm in center and mixture is creamy, simmering until liquid is absorbed before each addition and stirring often, about 25 minutes. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, scallops and garlic and sauté until shrimp and scallops are opaque in center, about 6 minutes. Mix seafood into rice. Cook 3 minutes longer. Remove risotto from heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl. Stir in chopped parsley and serve.

seafood risotto and roasted asparagus

There are a number of comments in the recipe’s reviews with suggestions and tweaks, and some of them sound pretty delicious. I’m excited to try it again, with some more creative changes next time. Either way, risotto is a great bet when you have someone to keep you company (and help you sitr) in the kitchen.

Real Food Wednesdays

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Farmers’ Market

26 Jan

farmers' market

Now that January is half over, I’m finally getting back in my normal “routine” of everyday life. I loved the break and the traveling of the holidays, but I definitely missed going through some of my weekly traditions. One of the things I was most excited about was getting back in the habit of going to our Old City Farmers’ Market. It’s such a great opportunity to interact with other people in our community, get inspired by all the local/seasonal food, and enjoy making new discoveries (from produce to plants).

Although I know some of you may be veteran farmers market shoppers, there are others who haven’t ventured out or found yours. It can also be a little overwhelming sometimes, with all the people hustling and bustling, so I want to share some tips to help you get the most out of your trip.

pickles and more

Find the Market That Works Best for You

While some towns may only have on farmers’ or produce market, many have multiple places that you can go, on different days of the week. Even in St. Augustine (which is a fairly small city), we have three, each on a different day of the week. Local Harvest has a great resource for locating your nearest farmers’ market. You’ll be surprised how many might be nearby that you had never known about. Be sure to check if there are seasonal dates–the further you get up north, the more likely that your markets are only open during certain months. Nonetheless, many markets are open well in to the fall and spring, even in the coldest climates.

Once you’ve located the nearest markets, try to visit each of them to get a feel for what the vendors are like. Pick the day that works best for you, and be aware of vendors that may only go to one market. If there’s someone you like who only sells at a market you can’t make it to, try and find a friend who visits that market who can help you stock up on what you need.

Each market is different, but even the smallest can offer some incredible deals and things that you’ll never find in a big-box store (or even local grocery).

locally grown

Go Early and Get to Know Your Vendors

Every vendor is different–whether they’re selling raw honey, local produce, or fresh homemade bread, they all have a story and (hopefully) a passion for their products. Take the time and ask about the things you’re looking at. Generally, vendors love to help and answer questions. Whether you have no idea how to cook the heirloom eggplants they’re selling, or you’re curious how they tend to the bees that make their honey, just ask! Getting to know the vendors you buy from not only gives you confidence in what you’re buying (and who you’re buying it from), it also makes it more likely that they’ll hook you up with a good deal now and then.

Remember, not all farmers market vendors are created equal, especially when it comes to produce. Find out where their food is grown and how they grow it. If there are specific concerns that you have (organic, free-range, sustainable, etc.), just ask! Sometimes it’s worth paying a little more if you know you’re getting a quality product, but if they’re buying the same stuff as the grocery store, it’s silly to pay a premium price. Most market vendors have incredibly reasonable prices (I usually get much more produce at the market than I do at the store, for the same amount of money), but the ones who do charge more usually have solid reasons for doing so.

The best way to build a rapport  with your vendors (and to make the best finds) is to go early. Try to hit the market within an hour or two of its opening time. It’s usually less crowded and you’re more able to chat and ask questions. Plus, the earlier you’re there, the better pick you’ll have of food/products!

folk band

Pack Accordingly

You don’t have to bring anything special to the market, but there are a few things that will make it easier:

Cash — You can’t get very far with a debit card: most vendors only take cash. And don’t just grab a twenty! Vendors love small bills, and giving them ones or a five will almost always guarantee a smile.

Your Own Bag (Canvas or Reusable) — Most vendors will have plastic bags if you need them, but bringing a larger canvas or reusable bag makes it easier to carry what you buy. It also eliminates waste and gives you more room for all your stuff.

Your Camera (even if it’s just your phone) — You never know what you’ll find at the market, from crazy produce to music or entertainment. Our market has a group of folk music players who get together and play a wide variety of bluegrass and folk music, and the RAM in Jacksonville has incredible street performers and musical acts. Take a moment to capture what you see, even if the only camera you have is your phone (I forgot to bring my “good” camera to this week’s market, so all of the photos on this post are from my iPhone).

sorbet cart

Make a Budget, But Don’t be Afraid to Treat Yourself!

It’s best to give yourself a budget when you go to the market. Decide on a set amount of cash that you’ll bring, and make a mental (or physical) list of the things you’re on the look out for. Sometimes you may not see the produce that you need and have more to spend on raw milk, local free-range meat or fresh caught seafood.

Finally, don’t be afraid to grab a treat! There’s always something tasty–we have a homemade sorbet vendor, fresh cut boardwalk fries, fish tacos, sweet potato burritos, custom juice blends, crab cakes and more. With the money you’ve saved and the investment you’ve made by buying local, you can spare a buck or two ever now and then for something to savor. Plus, sometimes it’s impossible to ignore the tantalizing smells that waft by as you walk through the market.

I hope these tips will help you venture out and enjoy your local market! It’s so much fun and such a great way to support your local economy and local farmers.

Do you regularly visit a farmers’ market? What’s your favorite market discovery?

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