Cannon Beach Farmers Market

Last month was our 5th wedding anniversary.  My husband and I take turns each year planning for these events, and it was his turn this year.  We had talked about doing a road trip down the coast of Oregon for sometime, so this year’s anniversary present was a surprise trip to Portland and along the coast.  We had an amazing time.  The weather was perfect and when the fog bank rolled out in the afternoons, the view was spectacular.  We had nothing in particular on the agenda, except for eating and drinking.  Two of my favorite things.

One of my favorite places on the trip was Cannon Beach.  I think we were there for less than an hour when I informed my husband that we would be returning for a longer stay, sometime in the future.  The town is right on the beach, immaculately maintained, and full of quaint shops, great restaurants, and friendly faces.  The icing on the cake…the Farmers Market was open on the day we were there.  Bonus points for the Mister.

cannon beach farmers market_berries

Local berries on display

cannon beach farmers market_vegetables

A rainbow of fresh produce

We left with a good haul from the market.  Gouda from Jacobs Creamery, Greek-style salami from Olympic Provisions, a French baguette, blueberries, sugar peas, and tomatoes.  The best were the peaches though.  We were given the hard sell from two young girls, probably around 8 or 9 years old.  They were smart and had samples ready to go; one white fleshed and the other yellow.  We were told they tasted like “candy” and “real peaches”, respectively.  The girls were right.

cannon beach_peaches

The “candy” and “real peaches” on display

We had a quick walk around the town and to the beach.  If you are an 80’s kid like me, you will probably recognize the rock formation in the picture below.  Although, The Goonies was filmed in a town a bit farther north, a few scenes were shot at Cannon Beach.

cannon beach rock

Probably a different landscape than the one that ‘One-Eyed-Willie’ experienced

cannon beach_cute house

Cute houses with white picket fences. Could you be more quintessential-small-coastal-town, Cannon Beach?

We left Cannon Beach and headed south.  Our market purchases were enjoyed on the tailgate of the truck in another town, the name of which I can’t remember.  It was really windy, so we didn’t stay long.  When we made it past the sand dunes, it was time to stop driving for the night.

tailgate snacks

Tailgate party, market style.

Sand dunes from above

Sand dunes from above

If you get the chance to head down the coast of Oregon, I highly recommend it.  Cannon Beach would be the destination I suggest, but really it’s all lovely.

What’s your next road trip destination?

Fresh Pick Friday – Raspberries

Well, it’s happened.  The leaves on the trees have started to change colour.  I have mixed feelings about this time of year.  On the one hand, I do love the crispness in the morning and evening air, but I also know that once fall passes the rains will come.  And the grey.

The good news is that summer is not over just yet.  There is still time to enjoy what the season has to offer.  With that in mind, this week’s Fresh Pick is raspberries.

Raspberries

According to the BC Raspberry Industry Development Council, the Fraser Valley produces over 10 million kilograms of raspberries each year.  That adds up to more than 80% of all of Canada’s raspberries.

Season
The raspberry season in BC is typically from July to mid September.  Like other berries, raspberries do not hold up well in long-term storage unless they have been preserved by freezing or other methods.  I was fortunate to have a lot of raspberries produced from our plants this year and most of them ended up in our freezer.

Purchasing Raspberries
You can still find raspberries at some of BC’s farmer’s markets and many berry farms allow you to purchase direct. Krause Berry Farm in Langley has fall raspberries (and even some late season strawberries) available at their market. Raspberries are quite delicate, so look for berries that are plump and brightly coloured.  Although there is nothing wrong with the squished ones either – they still make a great tasting pie!

How to Store Raspberries
Raspberries don’t last long once picked, only a couple of days when stored properly.  They should be refrigerated as soon as possible.  Avoid washing them until just before use.

What to Make with Raspberries
My favorite way to enjoy raspberries is on their own, but they also make a great addition to granola and milk.  Of course, raspberry jam is always a classic.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy raspberries?

Mel’s Box – Week 11

The CSA box is back!  I was really happy to pick up our vegetables after our trip to Oregon.  As I mentioned last week, it’s time to get back to basics with eating habits around here and having fresh produce on hand is a big help.

CSA box_week 11

Here’s what I made with last week’s CSA box:

Basil:  You get three guesses to figure out what I made with this, and the first two don’t count.  Yep – pesto.  Except this week we enjoyed it fresh.  I used most of it in a pasta dinner and the rest as the sauce on homemade pizza.

Dandelion Greens:  I chopped these up and added them to morning smoothies.  This is a good strategy for sneaking in some extra vegetables in your day.

Beans: All the beans were chopped up and used in a huge stir-fry.  I love making stir-fry for a quick weeknight meal.  Typically I make a double batch so that I have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Tomatoes:  We received a nice variety of tomatoes last week – some cherry, some heirloom, and a couple Roma.  All the tomatoes made their way into salads or wraps this week.  I don’t think that we will see any more basil this year and now I am regretting not making a salad with the tomatoes, fresh basil and some bocconcini.  Oh well, there’s always next summer.

Carrots:  The carrots are getting bigger!  I used a couple in the stir-fry and still have the rest stored in my crisper.  I remove the tops right away so they last a long time. I have a soup recipe that I am working on for this fall and I’ll need all the carrots I can get! Continue reading

How to Make Your Own Pesto

Traditional pesto is made with basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese. It’s delicious served with pasta, spread on sandwiches, and as a base for your favorite homemade pizza. The problem is, it can be expensive to make. Pine nuts are not cheap and those tiny plastic containers of basil at the grocery store can set you back a few bucks too. Of course, you could always grow your own basil, but I thought I would share a way for you to make pesto out of whatever green that you have on hand. Whether it be fresh herbs or something more hearty like beet tops, you’ll be able to put your own stamp on things.

garlic scape pesto with crostini_top view

I make pesto from pretty much anything that’s green. Basil, parsley, beet tops, dandelion greens, and my all time favorite – garlic scapes. I also like to mix up the type of nut that I add in, not only to save a bit of money, but also add some variety to the flavour of the pesto. At any given time, you can find at least one batch of pesto in my freezer. I like to make it in bulk from fresh ingredients as they are available throughout the summer, and then freeze it for use in the winter. It’s best to leave the parmesan cheese out if you are going to freeze the pesto (just add it to thawed pesto prior to using). Freeze the pesto in large portions if you have a big family, or in empty ice cube trays for individual portions.

Here’s how to make your own pesto. You can make pesto vegan friendly and/or nut free if needed (see recipe notes).

CHOOSE A Green – dandelion greens, beet greens, radish or turnip tops, basil, cilantro, parsley, garlic scapes
Choose a Nut – pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts
MIX WITH PARMESAN cheese, garlic, & olive oil
That’s it!

garlic scape pesto

Homemade Pesto

Ingredients
2 cups greens, chopped
1/3 cup nuts
1/2 cup parmesan
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil

Preparation

  1. Add greens, nuts, parmesan, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped. You may need to stop the motor and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.
  2. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil until the desired thickness is reached. You may need to add more than 1/4 cup of olive oil if you prefer your pesto on the thinner side.

Recipe Notes

  • Omit the parmesan cheese if you plan to freeze the pesto
  • You can substitute half the amount of nutritional yeast for parmesan cheese if you are vegan
  • Omit the nuts if you are allergic

What’s your favorite way of serving pesto?

Fresh Pick Friday – Beets

Today I am starting a new weekly series called Fresh Pick Friday where I will feature a local and in-season whole food. It could be a fruit, a vegetable, some local seafood, or even a nut (yes, we grow nuts here). Follow along and you will learn what foods are in season in BC throughout the year, new ideas for meals and snacks, and maybe a nutrition tidbit or two. Don’t forget to add the Fresh Pick to your grocery list!

Beets

This week’s Fresh Pick is the mighty beet. Beets are a good source of fibre and potassium and their leafy greens, which are edible, are a great source of Vitamin A.

beets

Season
We are right in the middle of beet season in BC. They are available fresh from June through December. Since they are a root vegetable beets can be stored long-term, so you can still find them in some stores at other times of the year. There are several varieties of beets, including red, golden and candy cane, which are white and red striped inside like the name suggests.

 

Purchasing Beets
You will definitely have no trouble finding beets right now at your local farmer’s market. You may even be receiving some through your CSA box, if you receive one. Independent grocers and bigger chains also carry beets this time of year, although there is no guarantee that the beets are from, so be sure to check the sign or ask the produce manager. Look for beets that are firm and have the green tops still attached. Just note that you won’t find beets with the greens off-season.

How to Store Beets
To lengthen the shelf-life of beets at home, cut the tops off before storing in the crisper. Otherwise, the greens will draw nutrients and energy stores from the beetroot, making them soft. Brush off any dirt before storing, but don’t wash them until just before using as moisture speeds up spoilage. It’s best to use the beet tops as soon as possible.

What to Make with Beetsbeets coming up
Beets can be eaten raw, roasted or steamed. Grate them raw and add to a salad or wrap, or cook them to enhance their sweetness. Cooked beets can still be sliced and used in salads, in soups, or as a stand alone.

Don’t Forget the Greens!
Beet greens are similar to chard in their texture and flavour. In fact, chard and beets come from the same family. Thus, you can use them any way that you would use chard. They are great sautéed with garlic and chili, chopped up in a frittata or omelet, and make a great pesto. Try them in my turnip hash recipe in place of the chard.

What’s your favorite thing to make with beets?

Back to Basics: 7 Tips for Eating Better

Normally on Wednesdays I write a post about my CSA box describing the food I received the previous week and what I made with it. It was our 5 year wedding anniversary last weekend, and my husband surprised me with a trip down the coast of Oregon and to Portland. It was a wonderful week and an amazing trip. Since I didn’t have the CSA box last week, I thought I would write about getting back to basics with eating habits.

It’s been an indulgent summer for me, and I expect that some of you have had a similar experience. Sure, there has been lots of good, fresh produce from our garden, Farmer’s Markets, and CSA box. There has also been a lot of summer treats. Ice cream, wine, cheese for the wine, chips, cocktails, doughnuts, wine (did I already say that?) have been regular features on the menu. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with these types of food, so long as they don’t comprise the majority of your diet. This summer, and last week in particular, I had more than my fair share. Looking ahead, I have a busy semester and full schedule this fall. With this in mind, it’s time to hit the reset button and get back to good habits.

Here’s what I’ll be focusing on:

Drink More Water
For me, drinking enough water is something that requires a concerted effort. Drinking a large glass first thing in the morning, adding lemon or cucumber slices, and carrying a reusable water bottle with me during the day helps me get enough. The amount of water that each person needs per day depends on various factors like diet and physical activity. Dietitians of Canada recommends a fluid intake of 3L for men over 19 years and 2.2L for women over 19 years. I use the pee test – if it’s clear or pale yellow I know I’m getting enough water.

Plan Ahead
I’ve been a bit lazy the last few weeks about meal planning, but I’m going to get back to doing it. I’m just too busy to leave it to the last minute, and eating well is too important to not make time for. (How does the saying go – food, shelter, and water?) When I plan our meals ahead of time, we save money, waste less food, and generally eat better. See my post here for tips on how to make your own weekly meal plan.

Start Your Day Strong
We have all heard it a million times before – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It’s true, so don’t skip it. My favorite go-to breakfasts, which are quick and easy, include: smoothies, homemade granola or cereal with yogurt or cottage cheese, whole wheat toast with almond butter and banana, or homemade breakfast bars.

Snack Smart
I’m relearning the difference between a snack and a treat. A snack is to keep your energy levels up between meals (and not always needed). A cookie because you “feel like it” – that’s a treat. Veggie sticks and hummus, apple slices with almonds or cheese, and homemade trail mix are all good options. A cookie from time to time…that’s fine too.

green tomatoes_bright

Half Your Plate
While I do eat a lot of vegetables, I think that there is always room for more. Some good advice for making sure that you get enough is to make sure that half of your plate is comprised of fruits and vegetables. In fact, Canada has an entire website dedicated to this concept. I like to add some spinach, kale, or other green to my breakfast smoothie or weekend brunch as a way of getting vegetables in the morning. Fruit for dessert is a great way to get your sweet fix. I like to freeze grapes, sliced peaches, and berries and eat them plain as freezing them makes them taste even sweeter.

Eat at the Dinner Table (When You Can)
During the week breakfast happens on the go, and lunch while working. That’s the way life goes and I am okay with that. When the weather is nice, we eat our dinners outside, but too often during the cooler months (like, most of the time) dinner gets eaten in front of the TV. As of now I’m setting a house rule: weekday dinners and weekend brunches MUST be eaten at the dining room table. Why? Because it’s guarantees some face time with the hubby, allows me to actually taste and enjoy my food, and prevents the mindless overeating that always happens when I’m tuned out of what’s going in my mouth and tuned in to the TV.

The Kitchen Closes After Dinner
Speaking of mindless eating. How is it that I can polish off an entire bag of chips during an episode of The Big Bang Theory? (Nerd alert). I’m going to follow the lead of the French and stop eating after dinner is over. Starting au demain.

Do you need to get back to better eating habits?  What challenges do you have?

Bush or Pole?

Excuse me?

Beans. I’m talking about beans.

Beans are a great addition to your garden. They fix nitrogen in the soil, which I am told is a good thing, and can provide some much needed shade for your more delicate crops, like lettuce or spinach. According to West Coast Seeds, there are over 19,000 types of beans. That’s a lot! In this post, I’m going to focus on the good ol’ fashioned green (or purple, or yellow) bean and won’t discuss beans for drying, such as black or kidney beans.

bush beans

Bush Beans vs. Pole Beans

Bush beans grow lower to the ground, about 2′, compared to the pole variety which can grow taller than 6′. Pole beans, like the name suggests, require a support structure. The advantage with the pole variety is that you can use vertical space to grow a lot of beans. On the other hand, the bush beans spend less time growing upwards, so the plants start producing sooner.

This year I planted bush beans in my garden. Not because I prefer them, but because I didn’t really pay attention to the package when I, a) purchased them and, b) planted them. Imagine my surprise when the bean plants tapped out and stopped growing not even a third of the way up my make-shift butcher’s twine and bamboo stick support system. I was so proud of that ugly thing too. Once I realized that the plants were intended to be small (you know, about the size of a bush) and I hadn’t actually messed them up, I planted another round. We were getting about a handful or two beans per week, which was fine, but not exactly the abundant harvest I had been hoping for. The second planting are just starting to produce there first set of flowers now, so the beans will follow shortly. I think next year I will plant pole beans. I never had the chance to test my construction skills.

Growing Tips

  • Beans like well-drained, warm soil. Be sure to wait until the soil warms up (about mid-May) to sow.
  • Avoid planting beans near onions, garlic, leeks, or scallions.
  • Continuously harvesting the beans will ensure the plant keeps producing.
  • When the plant is finished producing, let it die and work the roots into your soil.

What to do with all those Beans

  • Snack on them raw
  • Make kimchi with them
  • Add them to a stir fry
  • Add them to a salad
  • Steam them and serve as a side with your favorite omelet
  • Pickle them (they are great for Caesars!)

Do you grow your own beans?  How do you like to use them?

Mel’s Box – Week 9

This week was our most colourful bounty yet!  This is because we have finally reached tomato season, which I am pumped for.  My own tomatoes were an epic fail this year and I was too stubborn to purchase seedlings when they died.  I regret that decision.  Big time.

CSA box_week 9

This week’s breakdown:

Cabbage: I’m on a bit of a kimchi kick right now.  I’ve been making batches all month with green beans and now I’ve moved on to the more traditional cabbage.  I have a batch on the go right now.  I think it will go really well with some fried rice when the time comes.

Kale/Dandelion Greens:  This was a nice mix; two kinds of kale and some large, but tender dandelion greens.  I made a salad with the kale and opted to add the dandelion greens to a few breakfast smoothies.

Basil: I have used most of the basil not for pesto, but in salads.  It adds such a nice kick.  The bunch was large so I did manage a small batch of pesto after all.

Tomatoes:  Lovely, little Roma (I think) tomatoes.  These were used in two salads; one with the kale and cucumbers, the other with sunflower shoots, our own lettuce and more of this week’s cucumbers.

Beets:  I steamed and sliced the beets and served them on a platter with black plums, basil, ricotta cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil and white wine vinaigrette.  A great summer salad based on a recipe I saw in a Martha Stewart magazine.  It was, indeed, a good thing. Continue reading

Green Bean Kimchi

Earlier this month, I was inspired by Desiree Nielsen to make kimchi. I had seen her whip up a quick batch on Breakfast Television and thought it was time that I give it a go. There was only one problem: I didn’t have any cabbage in the house. Although we have several grocery stores within walking distance of our house, I hate having to run to the store unless it’s absolutely necessary. The convenience is alluring, but it stifles ones creativity.

Thankfully, my beans were a success this year and I had a couple handfuls on hand when I wanted to experiment with the kimchi recipe. I have made this kimchi a few times since and it is neighbour and husband approved. It does have a bit of kick to it, so if you don’t like a lot of spice I recommend reducing the amount of red pepper powder. Conversely, if you enjoy a five-alarm fire in your mouth, you could add a little extra.

kimchi_label

Continue reading