Sunday, July 12, 2009

Broccoli Never Tasted So Good

Yesterday I went to our local farmer's market. I would provide you with a picture, but it was cloudy and began to rain, so I decided to get my veggies and meat and duck out before the clouds exploded. (Which they did, about one minute after I got into my car.)

I'm impressed with how friendly the farmer's market vendors are. Before I make any purchases at a stand, I ask questions. For vegetables and fruit and herbs, I ask whether they have used any herbicide, pesticide, or insecticide on their fields or products. If the answer is yes, I thank them and move on; if the answer is no, I will purchase the produce. If the vendor is selling meat or dairy or eggs, I ask whether antibiotics or hormones were used on the animals. If that's a no, I ask whether the animals are free-range. If they have four-legged critters, I want to make sure the grazers are grass-fed, not corn-fed.

Luckily, we have several "organic" veggie and animal farmers. (I put that word in quotation marks because legally, farmers are not allowed to label their products as organic unless they meet the USDA organic guidelines.) So yesterday I purchased a green pepper (the only one left at the market), the last carton of eggs, some bratwurst burgers, and some broccoli. I would have had a much bigger haul if I had been able to force myself out of bed earlier than 10 a.m. Maybe next week.

The meat is pricey--$4.89 a pound for the bratwurst burgers, which added up to $15.31 for 10 patties. But I am willing to pay extra to know that I am not eating added hormones or antibiotics, and honestly, about $1.50 per burger (they're a good size) is not unreasonable for good meat. I'll supplement my meat purchases with complimentary deer meat from my friend Blake's family's hunting adventures.

The broccoli was incredibly inexpensive. It was priced at $1 per pound, so I asked for two pounds. I ended up with a plastic grocery bag full of broccoli! They had already trimmed the heavy core away from the branches, so what I was getting was completely edible. I steamed the broccoli for dinner, and I could not believe how wonderful it tasted. The broccoli from the store doesn't have a tenth of the flavor that this broccoli had. No more store broccoli for me! I also found out that you can freeze broccoli without blanching (it stores for about 6 weeks that way), so I may have to load up on broccoli and do some freezing.

The eggs were more expensive than I could find at the grocery store, but again, since they are antibiotic- and hormone-free, I'm willing to pay the extra. They were asking $3.50 for a dozen medium eggs. They had one dozen left, with one cracked egg. They offered it to me for $3 if I didn't mind the cracked egg, so I leaped at the opportunity. I'm looking forward to tasting home-grown eggs from free-range chickens.

After the farmer's market, I stopped by Kroger to pick up some organic milk (we prefer Horizon or Organic Valley, but we'll settle for the store brand as long as it's organic). I spied some portobello mushrooms on manager's special for only $1.49 for a 1-pound package instead of the $3.79 regular price. Once I got home, I cleaned the mushrooms and sliced them, then sauteed them in a little bit of olive oil, and packaged them in snack-size Ziploc bags. Then I placed all those bags in a larger 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag. When I need portobello mushrooms for a recipe, I just run the bag under warm water for a minute or so and then empty the mushrooms into the sauce or whatever I'm using them for.

Tomorrow my goal is to pick whatever zucchini is ready and to freeze some and bake with some. The freezer is beginning to fill up with healthy food for winter. I feel a bit like a squirrel, hiding nuts for the lean months.

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