All About Asparagus

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I do love asparagus.  Here in Michigan, it is the first vegetable that hits the Farmers Market.  It’s usually the only vegetable being sold when the Farmers markets open for the season.

Storage

I’ve heard previously that one should store asparagus as you would flowers, as they are actually a derivative of the Lily family.  I have the best luck with my asparagus stored in a mug or jar with about in inch of water in the bottom.  Place the asparagus in the jar and cover with a plastic bag and your asparagus should stay nice and fresh.

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Selecting Asparagus

Asparagus is expensive.  It’s somewhat difficult to grow and has a very short season.  You will probably only see it at the farmers market for one or two weeks.  Look for nice firm green stalks.  The size actually has no bearing on taste, fat and thin stalks are equally tasty.  There are purple and white varieties as well, but they aren’t seen very often.

Preparation

I know spring has officially began when I make that first batch of fresh local asparagus.  My absolute favorite way to eat asparagus is roasted.  Either on the grill or in a hot oven (400-450 degrees)  Snap your ends off (the flat end, opposite the nice “flowered” end), wash carefully and dry.  Pour some sesame oil and sea salt over the spears and roast for 10 minutes or so, until your desired tenderness is achieved.  Any oil will get the job done, but toasted sesame oil is absolutely amazing for it.

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I would be remiss to talk about asparagus without discussing the smell. You know what smell I’m talking about, the infamous “asparagus pee” smell.

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I’m sure most of us know what I am talking about.  In short time after ingesting asparagus, many people will begin to excrete a very distinct aroma in their urine.  Here is where scientists aren’t exactly sure what happens next.  There seems to be two schools of thought.  The first is that everybody excretes the scent, but not everybody has the ability to smell it.  The second camp believes that some people are not able to smell, and some do not excrete.  The general consensus is that there is a genetic mutation that causes this difference.  I don’t see a lot of research into this, presumably because there are bigger scientific issues to research.

Asparagus is nutritious and delicious!  Go cook some up today, even if it makes your pee stinky!

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Strawberry Freezer Jam

Strawberry Freezer Jam realfoodinarealworld.com

I’ve been a busy girl this week!  I have been elbows deep in strawberries whenever local toddler lets me.  I bought a flat of strawberries from Prochaska Farm at the Canton Farmers Market on Sunday.  I just finished up turning the entire flat into freezer jam.

Why freezer jam?  A few reasons.  The first, is the taste.  Preserved shelf stable jam is very tasty, but to me, freezer jam tastes just like fresh berries.  Secondly, it is much faster and easier.  You don’t have to get the canner going and deal with preserving the jars after you prepare the jam.  I can make freezer jam alone while wrangling a toddler (although I aim for nap time).  I do not attempt to can things alone usually.  I try to wait until I have help with either the canning or the toddler.  It’s convenient to be able to make freezer jam alone, either when my kiddo is napping or mostly this week I made it while he was watching some cartoons.  (Yes I limit screen time, but some well placed Sesame Street works wonders in actually accomplishing things)

Enough with the chit-chat.  Let me get to the reason you are reading!

Low Sugar Strawberry Freezer Jam

Ingredients:

  • One box Sure Jell low sugar pectin (pink box)
  • 3 cups sugar (I prefer the Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sugar)
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups crushed strawberries (approximately 2 quarts of fresh berries)

Directions:

The Sure Jell pectin comes with directions in the package, always check those to be sure that you are following the correct directions.  I will break down the steps here so you can see just how easy it is!

Assemble all the components

Strawberry Freezer Jam realfoodinarealworld.comStrawberry Freezer Jam realfoodinarealworld.com

Large pot and spoon for cooking the pectin mixture, canning funnel and ladle, measuring cups, bowl and potato masher for crushing berries

Mix pectin and sugar well in large pot, set aside.  Clean, de-stem and crush berries, approximately one cup at a time.

Strawberry Freezer Jam realfoodinarealworld.com

Add water to pectin mixture, heat over medium-high heat while stirring constantly.  Once pectin mixture reaches a boil, continue to boil and stir constantly for one full minute.  Remove from heat, stir in crushed berries and stir until well combined.

Pour mixture into jars leaving a half inch of headspace(I usually use a mixture of pints and half pints)  Place lids and bands and let cool for up to 24 hours on counter and then place into freezer for up to one year.

One batch of jam will yield approximately 4 pints, or 8 half pints.

Strawberry Freezer Jam realfoodinarealworld.com

Food Haul 6.20.13

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I’m sorry I have been kind of blog absent!  I can give you 100 excuses why, but I won’t bore you with my life story.  Stick with me, I promise the good stuff is coming!  I try to keep up on social media outlets, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  I just discovered Instagram, it is so much fun!

Anyways, down to the food.

As is our summer ritual, we started Sunday off at the Canton Farmers Market.  I forgot to take a picture of everything together, but we bought some Swiss chard from Hand Sown Farm, some cinnamon honey baked almonds from Nana’s Nuts, and chocolate chip cookies from Kapnicks.  The real star of the show was my flat of non-GMO pesticide free strawberries from Prochaska Farm.

ImageAs of this writing I am halfway through the flat turning them all into low sugar freezer jam.  Total at the Farmers market was $33, of which $25 was the strawberries.

Click here to learn more about Farmers Market shopping!

Because Sunday was Fathers Day, hubby got to choose what we did.  He wanted to go to Holiday Market on our way home from the farmers market.

ImageWe bought coffee from the coffee bar and strolled around the store.  He picked out some spinach dip & chips, and cannoli.  We also picked up some marked down organic blueberries, avocados, and a few boxes of pectin for my jam making.  Can’t find my receipt anywhere, I’m guessing we spent $30.

Last up is Door to Door Organics.  As always, a cute story first.  Local toddler and I were picking up our box and the only item in the extras bin was peaches.  Local toddler refers to Door to Door Organics as “oranges” and all the workers know him as the orange monster.  The always awesome Mike got my boxes and brought kiddo an orange.  He held it on the way home, when at a stoplight I noticed my car smelled delightful…

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And now the food!  My counters are covered with jars of cooling jam, so lame pics today.

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The ever present Calder Dairy milk and some Thomas Organic Creamery blueberry yogurt.

ImageLastly we have the bitty box of goodies.  Yay corn!  Added some Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory chips and Avalon 313 whole wheat bread since I do not have the time to be bread baking right now.

Spent $39 at Door to Door Organics this week, so our total for the week is $102.  Not too shabby because I’m expecting to have 16 pints of local organic low sugar strawberry jam to show for that as well.

Food Haul 6.13.13

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I can say with great certainty that when I do math at the end of this post, this will be the highest number ever.

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We started off this week with a delivery from Garry at Pure Pastures late Thursday night.  Garry delivered a 1/4 grass-fed local cow.  The hang weight was 166lbs, for a total price of $512.94.  Yes, we spent over $500 on beef.  I feel confident that our beef eating rate, we should be stocked up for a year.  I can do a separate post all about buying a side of beef if there is an interest, and detail the cuts and amounts.

Sunday we went to  the Farmers Market (Canton Farmers Market on Sundays 9-1)

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Got some spinach from Hand Sown Farm, some strawberries from Prochaska Farms, and some peach salsa from Pure Pastures.  (Garry gave us the salsa for free along with some eggs when I went in to pay for my side of beef)  We also bought three types of jerky from Captain John’s Smokehouse.

Total from the farmers market was around $23

 

Finally, we have the Door to Door Organics order this week.

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Just a bitty box this week.  Lots of yummy fruit

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   Garden Fresh artichoke garlic Salsa,  Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory chips,  Calder Dairy milk, Once Again almond butter and Zingerman’s magic brownie.  Yummy!

Total from Door to Door Organics this week was $44.

Grand total, just about $580.  Whew.  My credit card is a little sad.  My freezer is very happy 🙂

Farmers Market 101

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The whole concept of a Farmers Market can be a little intimidating to those that are only used to shopping at the local supermarket.  Today I will walk you through the process and hopefully get you inspired to check out your local food culture!

First step, we need to find a local market. 

Thanks to the internet, this is a fairly easy process.  Check out www.localharvest.org, Google, and your local community organizations.  Try to check out the website for the market before you go.  This will give you some base information about the market you are going to visit.  Pay special attention to parking information if any is given.  Parking is the one sometimes tricking thing about Farmers Markets.  Some have special parking, some have small lots or street parking.  Others you may need to use a structure or meter.  I’m a neurotic planner I like to be prepared ahead of time.

What to bring?

Depending on the size of the market, it may be a short trip or an all morning adventure.  You will be walking around outside so be sure to dress for the weather and don’t forget your sunscreen!  Although most vendors provide bags if needed, I always bring a nice big reusable shopping bag.  I could wax philosophic all day about my Envirosax bags.  Totally worth the somewhat steep price tag (I buy when they run a big sale), and I’m pretty cheap.  Local toddler even has a bag of his own that he loves to carry.  I also try to remember to bring small bills, I don’t often run into vendors not having change but I try to be considerate and not pay for a $2 item with a $20 bill if I can help it.

Walk and talk the market

This is probably the hardest part.  When you go to the grocery store, usually your only interaction is with the checkout person.  At the farmers market, you are dealing directly with the person that grows your food or one of their associates.  This can be slightly uncomfortable for the terminally shy type, but it can be such a great source of information.  When you are buying your food from the source, you have access to anything you would want to know about it.  You can learn how much, if any, pesticides, fertilizer etc has touched your food.  Where it was grown.  What is a good way to prepare it.  How to store it properly.  Heck, you can even learn the farmers names that grew your food.  I’m naturally shy, so this has taken me some time to overcome.  Once I started getting more interested in my food, it became very natural to strike up a conversation with the vendors.

Don’t be fashionably late!

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Good food moves quickly!  Want to catch some fresh asparagus in late May?  Don’t be late to the market!  When we wait all year for that first bundle of asparagus, or that fresh picked berry, we pounce when we see it.  Vendors will run out of popular items.  Good for them, tough for you if you came later in the day.  I know we aren’t all morning people (although most markets have a coffee vendor) but you do need to arrive earlier in the day when there are very popular things in season.  A few weeks ago, the Canton market was out of asparagus by 10:30am!

Expect more

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The Farmers market is food-centric, but it certainly isn’t only about food.  The market is a great community event and will usually showcase the talents of many people and organizations.  Jewelry, soap, candles, wood crafts and other handmade items can usually be found at a market.  Many also provide some entertainment in the form of local musicians and local organizations.  Many times there will be cooking demonstrations or lectures.  There are often children’s activities of all types.  The local market is a great resource for other resources.  There will almost always be an information table where you can ask questions.

I hope this post helps you to get out there and see what is happening in your local food culture.  It’s a great place to be!  Have a question I didn’t cover?  Ask me in the comments!  I love to help!

Food Haul 6.6.13

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So much food!  Local hubby is working approximately 987 hours a week right now so food has been super important.  He works really hard at work so we need to keep him fueled.

We started off on Sunday at the Farmers Market (Canton Farmers Market on Sundays 9-1)

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Got some Bok Choy and red leaf lettuce from Hand Sown Farm, some asparagus from Kapnick’s and some chicken from Pure Pastures.  Total was somewhere around $20, I’m not good at keeping track when I use cash.

Oh yea, last market I went to I picked up these fun things:

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A new water bottle to try out for local toddler.  We currently use stainless steel which is great, except it heats up fast in the sun.  The amazing find was this all natural finger paint.  It’s made by Love Bubs and it is awesome!  Sure I could hop on Pinterest and make my own, but she saved me the time and mess so we could get right to playing.  It rocks!  I’ve had it for a few weeks and I just tossed it in the fridge this week.  Still fresh!  I think I paid $5 for the finger paint and $5 for the water bottle, but I can’t remember for sure.

Next up this week was a trip to Kroger.

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We spent about $90 and got a cart full of a million protein bars.  Some random other goodies for local hubby: Gatorade, bread, chips etc.  Lots of yogurt, almond and coconut milk and some other random goodies.  A good mix of healthy and junk I think.

Finally, we have the Door to Door Organics order this week.

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Just a bitty box this week.  Nothing too crazy, really excited to have some stone fruits coming into season.

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Lots of delightful goodies here!  Graham’s Organics sausage, Garden Fresh Wild Mild Salsa, The Brinery sauerkraut, Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory lime chips, Creswick Farms eggs, Mitten Munch fudge brownie bars, Mama Mo red pepper hummus, Calder Dairy milk, and some Great Lakes Potato Chip Company BBQ chips.  So much delicious in one box!

Total from Door to Door Organics this week was $60.

Our total for the week was about $170, which is actually better than I thought.

Know Your Fats: Ghee

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Disclaimer: Pure Indian Foods provided me with a free press sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review.  I’m my own person, I just tell you what I think.

I have to tip my hat to Ghee, I never knew that I could eat it.  I have a dairy allergy, and all I knew about ghee was that it was “clarified butter.”  Well, butter comes from cow milk.  I always assumed it was on the no no list.  Turns out, the clarification process removes almost all of the milk solids.  So even though ghee is made from fresh happy cow milk, it’s not actually much of a dairy product.

Why choose Ghee?

I love the taste that butter imparts on some dishes, but butter doesn’t love me back, and butter burns.  Ghee is very stable at high heat. It has a very high smoke point, so it doesn’t burn like butter. . When you saute and fry with ghee, there is no splattering. (yay less clean up) It also has a sweet aroma and the flavor will deepen as you cook with it.

According to the Pure Indian Foods website: “A well-prepared ghee has very little moisture content and is very shelf-stable. You do not need to refrigerate it for 2-3 months if you keep it in an airtight container. When kept in a refrigerator, ghee can last up to a year.”

The flavor of ghee is awesome.  It’s almost sweet and nutty.  I have been using it to scramble eggs, and even to spread a little on toast from time to time.  Also awesome for sauteing veggies.  A little goes a long way, no need for huge dollops.  (Is it just me or do you find that with more natural foods?  I use less and still get better flavor)

I give ghee two thumbs up, particularly this brand.  Organic, grass-fed, sweet, nutty, non-burny (yes, I make up words) and delicious.  Paleo and GAPS friendly.