From the Farmers Market: Farm Fresh Thanksgiving

BY  |  Saturday, Nov 17, 2012 7:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)

My childhood Thanksgiving table was colorful, but not with cornucopias and table decorations. The vibrancy instead came from gloriously prepared vegetables. Honey glazed carrots, sautéed Brussels sprouts with diced pancetta, slow cooked cranberry sauce, creamed spinach, cauliflower smothered in a sinful cheese sauce and double stuffed potatoes accompanied the turkey while livening up our tablescapes.

Thanksgiving may not be Thanksgiving without a sweet potato casserole or mashed potatoes. But whatever your tradition may be, boost the flavor by incorporating farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Whether you sauté or roast, mash or whip, the farmers’ market beckons with an endless fall harvest waiting to be served as hearty, flavorful sides at your Thanksgiving table.

Instead of using canned yams for your sweet potato casserole, bake some fresh. Call them what you like, sweet potatoes have been a staple ingredient in America since pre-Columbian times.  Savory or sweet, whipped or baked, they are a fixture on the Thanksgiving table. The traditional super sweet potato casserole made with brown sugar, evaporated milk, pecans or marshmallows freezes like a charm. But for something a bit different, how about a savory sage and Romano cheese sweet potato side dish? Or concoct your own using your own blend of spices.

Aside from my childhood favorites, here’s some ways to use Farm Fresh finds for the Thanksgiving holiday:

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From the Farmers’ Market: Revolting Roasted Halloween

BY  |  Friday, Oct 26, 2012 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

A Halloween party isn’t complete without some creepy foods that will add a terrifying touch to your freaky festivities. You have the classic mummy dogs, mummy pizzas, wormy hot dogs and deviled eggs, but those can get a bit tiring year after year. Plus, they’re not the healthiest choice before your kids ingest loads of sugar and candy. This year, consider a Farm Fresh Roasted Halloween, which will lure guests to the table with its creativity, using local produce from the farmers’ market. It’s a terribly tasty, frighteningly satisfying and horribly healthy way to kick off your eerie evening.

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From the Farmers’ Market: “A” is for Apples and All You Can Do With Them

BY  |  Thursday, Oct 18, 2012 12:00pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

Winesap, Macintosh, Granny Smith, Empire, Red Delicious—shades of red, yellow and green apples fill crates, bins and buckets in every nook and corner of the farmers market. Whether you like them tart and crisp, or sweet and soft, you have plenty to choose from. I am pretty sure apples come in more varieties than any other fruit or vegetable.

We’ve been told our whole lives, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and offered our teachers tokens of this delectable fruit to show gratitude. This “forbidden fruit” has proved itself magical, tempting and tantalizing in literature, history and the lives of so many people. Apple Pie has become a symbol for American patriotism and we call our loved ones the “Apple of my eye.”

Whether you spend a day in the orchard, or gathering at the market, the challenge is always what to do with the many pounds of this sacred fruit once you bring them home. Of course it’s always fun to run them through a food mill and make homemade applesauce, but I worry I’ll go through them too fast—even 50 pounds of them!

You can slice them thin and enjoy them with a sharp cheese like a Spanish Manchego or Vermont Cheddar (my favorite), dip them in a dollop of creamy peanut or almond butter (my second favorite) or slather them in some warm dulce de leche (my kid’s favorite). But you can also bake them in a gazillion different ways. My favorites, which always include cinnamon and sometimes nutmeg, cloves or cardamom, are: apple upside down cake, apple bread, caramelized apple muffins, apple empanadas, apple bundt cake, apple pie filling, applesauce pancakes, apple fritters, apple chips and apple ebelskivers. And of course, since it’s Halloween time, you could also bob for apples. What are your favorite ways to use apples?

Here’s one of my new favorites—Caramelized Apple Muffins:

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From the Farmer’s Market: Souper Snacking

BY  |  Saturday, Sep 22, 2012 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (4)

From the Farmer’s Market is a series on Barista Kids written by Alison Bermack the founder of Cooking With Friends.

Hope you’re enjoying the frenetic Back to School season and adjusting to all the crazy changes that come with it.

How’s it going in the food category, making healthy breakfast, snacks, lunches and dinners? I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re juggling multiple kids who happen to be attending different schools. I’ve got one at each stage — elementary, middle and high school – and am getting pulled in three very different directions. The youngest doesn’t like his food to touch anything on the plate, the middle one refuses multi-grain breads and the latter is a typical teen craving all things junk food.

So what’s a parent to do?

Get ‘em while they’re hungry. That’s part of my philosophy to get kids to eat nutritiously. It works at home with my kids and it works at school, with classroom snacks and other food initiatives I’ve helped with, like “pesto fest” and the Healthy Breakfast program.

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From the Farmer’s Market: Back to School Breakfasts

BY  |  Friday, Aug 31, 2012 11:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Who doesn’t love lazy summer mornings, sleeping a tad later and not worrying about feeding the kids’ (and ourselves) breakfast? Alas, the end is near. Just next week we’ll be setting our alarms and rummaging for healthy breakfasts to start our days on the right track. And as much as the kids will try to convince you otherwise, artificially sweetened cereals won’t cut it. What we need is quick, easy Back to School breakfasts!

As I wandered around the farmer’s markets and farm stands these last few weeks of summer, I couldn’t help but think about breakfast. Piles of zucchini triggered images of homemade bread, stacks of colorful carrots muffins, tart apples could so easily become a moist coffee cake and orange pumpkins would be yummy in spiced pancakes.

My kids like to start their days with something a bit sweet – a piece of banana bread, a crumbly muffin or pancake with maple syrup. That works for me, especially if I have my freezer stocked and ready to defrost and serve. Farm fresh ingredients – carrots, apples, pumpkin, zucchini, pears, peaches, blueberries – along with some whole wheat flour and all natural ingredients will result in a tasty, satisfying breakfast.  All it takes is a few baking dates and a bit of freezing knowledge to stock your freezer with a variety of easy, healthy and different breakfasts. A few seconds on defrost in the microwave and you’ll be starting your kids day with something bed and breakfast worthy.

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From the Farmer’s Market: Shop by Color

BY  |  Saturday, Aug 11, 2012 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (2)

So much about food shopping involves the senses. We sniff, eye and taste our way through a vast amount of choices. It’s no different at the farmer’s market, as we meander through displays of unfamiliar foods and head towards the same vendors to select the usual suspects — corn, tomatoes or cucumbers — we know our families will eat. It’s not that we don’t want to try something new, but we seem to be pre-programmed to buy the same old things week after week. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism to prevent an information overload. But I’ll admit (as I also get stuck in a shopping rut) selecting something new and different can be a crazy idea.

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From the Farmers’ Market: Pickled Magic

BY  |  Friday, Jul 27, 2012 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

From the Farmer’s Market is a series on Barista Kids in its third year written by Alison Bermack the founder of Cooking With Friends.

“Ickle me, pickle me, tickle me too.” ~Shel Silverstein

It’s pickle time! Crisp. Crunchy. Refreshing.

This weekend at the farmers’ market, put on your creative hats and look for veggies that can be magically transformed into pickles. Cucumbers may be your favorite, but they aren’t the only veggie that can (and should) be pickled. And as you transform your cucumbers into dills, cabbage into Kimchi or string beans into dilly beans, you’ll also be part of science and history. If your kids’ brains are turning to summer mush (like my kids), this makes an appealing activity to do with the kids.

Sure, you can get your pickles from the Pickle Guy, but it’s really simple and a blast to make them yourselves. And if you make them in small quantities, you don’t need to bother jarring them and can store them in the refrigerator for several days.

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From the Farmers’ Market: “I Spy” Squash

Thursday, Oct 27, 2011 10:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Grab your kids and head to the market for some “I Spy” squash fun.*

Farmers’ markets are teeming with squash of all colors, patterns, shapes and sizes. And since pumpkin is considered a gourd like squash and it’s almost Halloween, squash is the topic of the week! Of course there are the mainstream squash like spaghetti, with its stringy flesh that makes it super fun and delicious for kids to eat and butternut.  But there are also many unusual varieties like the long striped delicate, the short squat kobocha and the yellow freckled carnival ones.

To prolong the “I spy Squash” activity, come home and cook them with your little discoverers. You’ll be amazed how this hunt and gather approach will get kids to try new foods. Roast them, puree or throw them into a hearty soup and season with butter, olive oil, salt and herbs like parsley, garlic and sage. Squash are in season so you might as well use them!

Here are my favorite ways to prepare squash:

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From the Farmers’ Market: Go Fishing

Tuesday, Oct 11, 2011 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (4)

A few weeks ago while shopping at the Montclair farmers’ market, Steve Shuckman, Montclair’s town arborist was inquiring into what I’d be writing about next. He asked if I’d tried the scallops from Shore Catch, exclaiming that they were a must have and one of his favorite finds.

So I took his advice and tried the scallops. And man he was right!

I know the Montclair Farmers’ Market has some great discoveries but if you’ve not yet tasted the scallops from Shore Catch, you’re in for a real treat. They are hands down the best scallops I’ve ever purchased and cooked myself. Plus, if you’re looking for ideas to entice your kids to like seafood, these scallops are the perfect entrée: mild and tasty with a beautiful consistency. Plus, scallops are rich in Vitamin B12, Omega 3 Fatty Acids and magnesium, all of which are good for your heart and for fighting cancer.

You can’t find fresher scallops anywhere (unless you go deep see diving down the shore yourself and dredge some up). Shore Catch, the fishery at the Montclair Farmers’ Market, does the fishing for you. In fact, they’re out on the boats the day before they bring the fish up to us on Saturdays. How’s that for fresh!

Here’s how I like to cook my scallops:

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From the Farmer’s Market: Cookie Cutter Potatoes

BY  |  Monday, Sep 26, 2011 8:30am  |  COMMENTS (1)

When ordinary foods are transformed into various shapes it has a remarkable effect on kids. Sit back, relax and marvel as kids have fun arranging crispy potato letters into words. You may just want to let your kids drop their forks and eat with their hands for this edible art project. My daughter invented this great activity over the summer and I described it my blog, quoted below:

A culinary highlight of our summer vacation this year was my daughter’s homemade french-fries or “batatas fritas” as they’re called in Portugal. She spent hours cutting her potatoes into perfect squares and sticks, cooking them lightly in olive oil, seasoning them with salt and then arranging them on a plate, which she would proudly present to her hungry family. My mother was her sous chef, standing by to help out and make sure that she was safely handling the hot oil.

The fries had no chance of course, devoured in a matter of seconds by her family, like ravenous piranhas. After the feeding frenzy, the only trace of her hard work was the damp paper towel used for straining the oil.

One day, I joined her in her potato making extravaganza. I was inspired by her perfect squares and began carving letters to form my three kid’s names. She didn’t know what I was up to at first but when she saw the letters sizzling she began to help me cut. Together we cut, salted and sizzled until we had created perfect potato names for each of my three kids.

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