Browsing Tag

Farmers Market

Produce Picks, Recipes

Crazy ‘Bout Cucumbers: Recipe Round-up

 

Kirby cucumbers

Just a handful of our cucumber haul from the farmers market.

Cucumbers are in abundance right now. So much so that many vendors at our local farmers market have been selling them by the bucket!

This is great news for me. Cucumbers have always been my favorite vegetable ever since I was a little kid. I was a picky eater then, and not a huge fan of veggies in general, but I was always in the mood for some sweet, crunchy cucumber. I would often ask for an entire cuke to myself and try to eat it whole like an apple!

I still enjoy just snacking on a plain cucumber. I also add them to almost every salad I make, and it’s my primary vehicle to transport hummus to my mouth. Last night I took some thinly sliced cucumbers, tossed them with some rice vinegar, salt and pepper, for a super easy salad that took literally a minute to make.

Since it’s prime time for cucumbers, we decided to pick up 10 lbs. of them at the farmers market last Saturday. What are you going to do with 10 lbs. of cucumbers?! I’ve got plenty of ideas, but I wanted to try something new. Here’s a list of some great plant-based recipes I found featuring cucumbers as the star ingredient.

Cucumber Recipe Round-up:

Cucumbers are at their peak flavor right now. You’ll also find them cheaper in the summer than any other time of year, especially if you pick them up at your farmers market.  Last year, Josh and I joked that we ate our body weight in cucumbers over the summer.

What are your favorite ways to prepare cucumber? Let us know in the comments!

Books, Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Produce Picks

Farmers Markets Make Plant-Based Eating Cheaper

$21 worth of whole, plant-based food from the local farmers market.

Farmers markets make plant-based eating even more affordable. This is what $21 worth of food looks like from our farmers market.

A whole-food, plant-based diet is already the cheapest way to eat. During farmers market season, it’s even cheaper.

Our introduction to the whole-food, plant-based lifestyle came from an unlikely source. Some years ago we became more serious about saving money, so we started participating in online finance forums. We found that quite a few of the most frugal members ate a plant-based diet. At first they started with a plant-based lifestyle because it saved them so much money, but in the end they kept it up because it made them feel so good and energetic.

A quick look at the numbers

Of course this was old news for those who had been plant-based before us. John McDougall has been plant-based for 40 years and specifically addressed the money-saving benefits of the lifestyle in his classic best-seller, The Starch Solution. He also put together a striking comparison between the costs of conventional diets versus plant-based eating, where he explained that you can enjoy a plant-based diet on just $3 per day. Following up more recently on his comparison, Rosane Oliveira wrote an article entitled “Cheap or Expensive? The REAL Truth About Plant-Based Diets.” She showed that the cost of an omnivorous meal is roughly three times higher than that of a similar plant-based alternative. Michael Greger, author of How Not to Die, has also addressed the topic on numerous occasions, both in his book (briefly) and in videos posted on his website. In these three videos he specifically talks about how the cheapest foods can represent the best long-term investment.

$14 worth of plant-based food from Midtown Farmers Market.

This haul cost only $14. It’s amazing to think that you can eat so many delicious plant-based foods at such low prices.

Farmers markets make cheap food even cheaper

Simply having access to fresh, delicious fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods is fantastic on its own. Thanks to farmers markets, they are also at their lowest prices of the year right now. It’s the middle of summer, we are enjoying the life-giving bounty of the best the earth has to offer, and yet somehow we are spending the least amount of money on food that we will spend all year. Cucumbers are 50 cents per pound, bell peppers are 63 cents each or even less, potatoes can be cheaper than 25 cents per pound, collard greens cost six times less than grocery stores or coops (see below), beets with their greens average less than $1 per pound, and so on.

We are fortunate to live near what I believe is the most reasonably priced farmers market in all of Minneapolis. The Midtown Farmers Market is active throughout the season, but this is the time of year when prices start to drop the most, since yields and competition keep increasing from now until the end of October. Competition is best on the main market day, however, so if your market meets more than once per week, be sure to go on the primary market day. For us that’s Saturday. It also meets on Tuesday, but there tend to be far fewer vendors and customers. Because of this, they don’t always discount their food as much as when the market is full. There is little incentive to offer discounts when both merchants and buyers are scarce.

Purple cauliflower from the Midtown Farmers Market.

Be sure to look out for exotic produce at your local farmers market. Purple cauliflower is a lot like regular cauliflower but with an earthy taste.

Farmers markets let you buy more “exotic” foods

Although kohlrabi is not really exotic at all, it is prohibitively expensive in grocery stores near us. Buying it at the farmers market, however, makes it affordable, since it costs about five times less. Other farmers market foods like heirloom carrots, purple cauliflower and purple potatoes are generally priced about the same as their traditional counterparts, so rather than spending more for the exotic color of purple potatoes, for example, you simply pay the traditional potato price. In grocery stores this is rarely the case, so you’ll find yourself paying a premium for the added color.

While they are also not exotic per se, hearty greens are so inexpensive during farmers market season that we eat them nearly every day. Kale, Swiss chard and collard greens cost $1 per bunch at our farmers market, compared to up to $3.50 per bunch in a grocery store or co-op. Not only are the grocery store bunches more than three times as expensive, they are also usually about half the size. Collard greens are currently my favorite vegetable, and I love being able to eat them more often during farmers market season.

Try a different farmers market if yours is overpriced or low in quality

It’s true that some farmers markets in the Minneapolis metro area are significantly more expensive and also offer produce whose freshness and quality seem pretty dubious. If your farmers market doesn’t offer low enough prices or fresh enough produce, try a different one. The main farmers market in downtown Minneapolis is the biggest and is generally as cheap and as fresh as Midtown.

Also, don’t be afraid to touch and even pick up the produce to get an idea of its quality and freshness. I do this all the time, and while I occasionally get confused looks from sellers, they are never rude about it. If I am spending money on something, I am definitely going to guarantee its quality first. If there is a stack of kale on the table, there is no reason not to go through all of it to find a bunch with the fewest blemishes. I find it’s especially important to double check cucumbers and bell peppers as the season goes on, since they easily develop soft spots. I’m always bewildered by buyers who simply ask for produce by name and don’t personally inspect what is clearly laid out before them.

Seize the kale!

Saving money year-round is a nice bonus to the plant-based lifestyle in general, but the biggest opportunity is happening right now during farmers market season. Don’t miss out!

What are your favorite ways to save money on plant-based foods? Let us know in the comments!

Budget-friendly, Recipes

Farmers Market Stir-Fry with Sugar Snap Peas

Shredded cabbage gives this dish an extra bit of freshness and crunch.

Shredded cabbage gives this dish an extra bit of freshness and crunch.

This stir-fry was an absolute joy to make. Nearly everything in it came from a farmers market visit earlier in the week.

The real star here is the sugar snap peas. Be sure to strip off the stem and string from the sugar snap peas before you begin! Our sugar snap peas were very large and firm so we steamed them a bit first before adding the softer ingredients. This works best in a high-sided, covered sauté pan, but it would work equally well in a wok.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable broth or water
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 lb. sugar snap peas, stems removed and strings stripped
  • 2 summer squash, medium, cut into coins and then quartered (we used light green and yellow)
  • ½ lb. broccoli, chopped
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • One package tofu, crumbled
  • 1 tbsp powdered turmeric
  • 1 thumb of ginger, minced
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Green onions, chopped, for serving
  • Green cabbage, raw, shredded, for serving
  • Soy sauce, for serving
  • Sriracha sauce, for serving
  • Miso paste, for serving (optional)

The tofu scramble adds an egg-like texture just like a traditional stir-fry.

Method

Drain tofu by gently squeezing between paper towels. After most of the water is drained, crumble it by hand into a medium-sized bowl. Add the turmeric. Mix with your hands until incorporated. The tofu will turn bright yellow.

In a large, high-sided sauté pan, cook the onion over medium-high heat in a small amount of vegetable broth or water for five minutes. If it sticks, add a little more vegetable broth or water and deglaze with a wooden spoon.

Add the sugar snap peas and stir well. Make sure there is still some water or vegetable broth on the bottom of the pan and cover it. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes to soften the sugar snap peas. If your sugar snap peas are not too thick or firm, you may omit this step.

Add the summer squash, broccoli, red pepper, and mushrooms. Continue to cook over high heat, stirring occasionally but not too much. They will release a lot of water. Cook most of it off, which should take about 7-10 minutes.

Add garlic and ginger and incorporate well. Continue to cook on high until especially fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add tofu scramble and continue to cook until the tofu is hot, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Serving

To serve, put a layer of rice on a plate. Cover the rice with a layer of shredded cabbage, then add the stir-fry. Top with green onions, and season with sriracha and/or soy sauce.

Alternatively, you can mix miso paste into your rice first. When I use miso, I don’t add soy sauce or sriracha. I prefer miso, while Theresa typically uses soy sauce or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.

What do you like to do with your farmers market produce? Let us know in the comments!

Budget-friendly, Lifestyle, Shopping

My Favorite Farmers Market Tips

Farmers Market Haul 7/2016

Here’s what $10 bought us at the market last Saturday: collard greens, summer squash, broccoli, and 5 lbs of potatoes!

For me, eating plant-based isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle.  When I changed the way I was eating, it had an effect on nearly every part of my life, and I mean that in the best way possible.  I started to change my perspective on many things and open myself up to new ideas and activities.

One of the things I started to appreciate much more after becoming plant-based was the farmers market.  Once a casual observer of going to the market, it became a near-necessity after switching to a plant-based diet.  With farmers market season just getting underway here in Minnesota, I thought this would be a perfect time to share my favorite farmers market shopping tips:

Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis on a perfect June day.

Midtown Farmers Market in Minneapolis on a perfect June day.

  • Walk the entire market before buying anything.  Get a feel for the variety, pricing, and quality of what’s available before committing to your purchase.
  • Go later in the day.  This seems counter-intuitive, but this is a tip that has worked well for me.  At the end of the market day, I’ve had an extra squash or two thrown in my bag or a 2 for 1 deal on bunches of kale.  I find that the produce is just as fresh as it was in the morning and very rarely miss out on the variety.  And bonus–you get to sleep in!
  • Get to know your growers!  Not only does this make going to the market more fun, but developing a relationship with the people who grow your veggies makes it even more likely you can get some of the deals I just mentioned!
  • Go as often as possible!  At the height of the summer, our local market meets twice a week and we make it count!  Market season is the best time of year to buy produce that is fresh, affordable and local.  Buying in-season fruits and vegetables ensures the best taste and pricing.

Where we live in Minneapolis, there are tons of neighborhood farmers markets. Many not only offer fresh, local produce, but also live music, games, and food trucks!  I’m a big fan of the Midtown Farmers Market close to our home, which is open every Saturday (and Tuesday starting in June).  Visit this link to find your neighborhood farmers market!