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Meal Planning Part I: Before the Grocery Store

17 Jul

Some of the most popular questions I get are meal planning-related. I am a firm believer in the cliche saying “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” As a dietitian, self-proclaimed foodie, and grocery shopping lover, even have a hard time staying healthy when I’m forced to wing it in the kitchen. Planning ahead, especially when it comes to food, makes for seamless mornings, easy snacks, and {almost} effortless dinners. So here’s a rundown on how I meal plan…

I start by taking inventory of what we already have and make note of any obvious gaps.

Oats!

Coffee!

Bananas!

(3 things that seem to disappear in an instant at our house!)

I also make note of things that need to be used up.

Then I fill in the blanks with our staple breakfast/snack/lunch foods. Yogurt, “milks”, bars, bread, and hummus are some staple food examples.

In the warmer months, a farmer’s market trip typically falls between the kitchen inventory/staples step and the meal planning step. It’s fun to get what looks good without the restriction of a shopping list! (In the winter, I skip this step and go straight to meal planning).

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Farmer’s markets are also great for meal inspiration.

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Next comes what many probably consider the most tedious step- actual planning of the meals. This is also the most commonly skipped step! And the key step! I check the calendar to see what the coming week entails. Does JWD have a late ____ (fill-in-the-sport) game? Do I have an early morning/late evening clients? Any fun plans for going out? I make note of anything that will disrupt a normal dinner time and plan accordingly. Meals with longer prep times will fall on weekends or on days that I have a light client load, quick + easy meals (link) will fall on busy nights, and so on. I also try to mix things up so we aren’t having the same foods back-to-back.

As for recipes, I scan my Pinterest board, cookbooks, and magazines for new inspiration. And I always mix in a few memorized staples for ease! (more on these types of meals at a later date!)

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After the meals are scheduled, I add required ingredients to the shopping list. I make weekday lunches a breeze by planning for leftovers with certain recipes! I use this nifty planner from May Designs, a company I’ve blogged about before.

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(We write our grocery list in code 🙂 )

After my list is complete, I take my book to the grocery store and stock up!

Stay tuned for more!! Thanks for reading 🙂

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Recently…

13 Jul

Yay, it’s finally the weekend! I love that cozy place between last week’s craziness and preparation for next week. Saturdays are where the magic happens!

After a glorious 8 hour slumber, we headed out for breakfast and the farmer’s market.

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fruit/yogurt/granola parfait, scrambled egg, Companion 5-Grain toast, and coffee.

Today’s haul included eggs, beets, peaches, blackberries, green beans, sweet corn, broccoli, heirloom tomatoes, and summer squash.

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We also made a quick stop at the mall (before it got crazy busy) and made it home by 11a.m. Love Saturday mornings like that!

Let’s reverse– some highlights from last week…

Overnight oats with the sunrise. Blueberry/peach is my new favorite combo! I’m also loving Wallaby greek yogurt. This batch of oats is topped with toasted crushed walnuts.

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Christmas in July! French press for one with Nutcracker Sweet inbru that I found in the depths of the cabinet.

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Gracie wishing I’d made French press for two…

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Food For Life Ezekiel Flax toast, scrambled eggs, and peaches +blueberries…

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My new favorite snack: frozen banana slices with a schmear of coconut almond butter.

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Popcorn + almonds

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A few epic salads were devoured last week….

This one is a mix of greens, roasted corn/green beans/onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons, and tofu. Baked salt & vinegar chips on the side.

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And this one is greens, a crumbled veggie burger, brown rice, cucs, tomatoes, and dolups of hummus and greek yogurt. The salt & vin chips made another appearance!

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The best dinner of the week was this Mexican bowl, hands down!

Brown rice, smashed pinto beans, sautéed summer squash and onions seasoned with chili powder/cayenne/paprika, tomatoes, greek yogurt, cilantro, and a heap of nooch! So. Good.

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Also had some fun with the spiralizer. More on that later!

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Also last week….

Mornin’ garden gazin’ (check out that bedhead, hehe)

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And a midweek Dave Matthews Band concert! Out past 8pm on a Wednesday night? Who are we??

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Enjoy the rest of your weekend! I’ve got some good stuff in the drafts folder! Thanks for reading 🙂

So Many Mini Vacations

6 Jul

Hey, hey! How was your holiday weekend? Mine was very relaxing! Let’s hop back to Friday and see what I did…

I usually kick off my weekend with yoga, but my favorite Friday class was cancelled (boohoo), so JWD and I walked to the park where I led us through our own practice. With the temp nearly 90, it quickly turned into a hot yoga practice!

After yoga, we whipped up a very quick and delicious creation- Veggie Burger Bowls with Avocado Citrus Sauce (sauce recipe post coming soon!).

In the mix: brown rice, crumbled Amy’s veggie burger, and veggies, topped with one of my favorite super easy creamy sauces.

The veg: Anaheim pepper, carrots, zucchini, and parsnips (use what you have on hand!)

The rest of the evening was spent packing and prepping for the weekend.

Saturday morning started bright and early with Kaldi’s Highlander Grogg (my favorite coffee!) and another outdoor yoga practice. My farmer’s market offers a donation-based yoga class, how great is that?! I get to practice under the trees, then meet up with JWD to buy produce and listen to live music. This is why Saturday morning is my favorite time of the week!

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This practice was particularly challenging and sweaty. Perfection. Yoga in the heat is the best because your muscles get very loose and stretchy. I was triumphant in three challenging poses.

crow, birds of paradise, and one legged king pigeon

After the market, we packed up and got on the road to JWD’s parent’s house. The trip was spent reuniting with our oldest friends, hanging at the lake, eating incredible food, and enjoying some great family time.

Our Fourth of July meal was especially incredible!

Roasted beet, tofu, spinach & walnut salad, tomato with basil, Asian slaw, salmon, and broccoli- almost all cooked on the grill. Enjoyed with a Schlafly Pale Ale. So yummy!

We are only going to be home a few days this week and our cupboards are bare! JWD’s mom was nice enough to send us home with her pantry surplus. When we got back to the cocoon, I set to work making a meal plan for the week with the ingredients we have.

M- We made farmer’s market grilled veggie sandwiches. Yum! Mine was open-faced.

+ a TJ’s Reduced Guilt Brownie from the freezer. (Tip: I freeze brownies individually in parchment paper for pre-portioned treats that last longer. It’s much easier to pull one serving out of the freezer than it is to resist diving fork first into a giant brownie pan! Eat them frozen or microwave for 10 seconds.)

T- Grilled Stuffed Zucchini

I sliced this GIANT zucchini in half lengthwise and scooped out the inside. Then I diced up the zucchini insides and mixed it with cooked lentils, spinach and Lemon Parsley Cashew Cream (I’ll post this recipe soon). We stuffed the hollowed-out zucchinis with the mixture and threw them on the grill!

(sorry about the sad, dark iPhone photo)

W- Veggie burger bowls + kale chips (I’m filming a kale chip video for you!)

TH- Tomato basil frittata with all the beautiful basil from JWD’s parent’s garden. (This video is coming soon too)

This week in fitness:

M- Weightlifting session actually happened after driving home and before dinner. JWD motivated me.

T- Hot and sweaty run

W- Weightlifting session

TH- Yoga practice + a run

F- Squeezing in a run before the kickoff of another full weekend

Stay tuned for more adventures, recipes, and videos and LIKE the Running on Sunshine Facebook Page for some brain food!

So many food shots, not enough humans! Must take more people pictures.

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

A Weekend For The Books

19 Jun

Hey there! I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend!

I started my weekend with a Friday afternoon community yoga session. {community yoga= donation-based class}. It was fabulous. I’m working on perfecting my crow.

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Then JWD and I inhaled a Vegged Out pizza from PW Pizza. This place is a new fave. We had plans to meet friends for drinks, but we ended up relaxing at home and making it an early night. Just what I needed.

Saturday morning started off bright and early with a crazy 6 a.m. thunderstorm. I crawled out of bed to start the coffee pot, then snuggled with the kitties and listened to the rain. Thankfully the rain stopped just in time for the the farmer’s market!

The market was in full bloom! We sauntered around for a long time and hung out to watch the performer. She sounded like Ingrid Michaelson. It turned into such a peaceful morning, we didn’t want to leave!

The loot:

{eggs, fingerling potatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, tomatoes, beets, green onion, radishes, broccoli, kale, and Companion bread}

Lunch was Local Harvest– an egg sandwich on a sunflower wheat bagel with a slice of tomato and Ah Zeefa lentil spread.

After our morning full of foodie fun, we braved the humid STL weather and went for a run. Then we spent the evening BBQing and playing games with friends. I brought my own veggie burger to grill and we tried a new beer from JWD’s favorite brewery- New Belgium Somersault. It was light and fruity, a perfect summer beer. It was great night 🙂

Today was a classic Sunday. It began with Kaldi’s Birds & Bees coffee served in one of my great grandma’s mugs.

I had this:

and this:

waiting for me. Two blank canvases and my great grandma’s paint box {I was missing her today}. I set to work.

I broke for a little Father’s Day brunch with my dad at a favorite spot of mine. I’ll give you the scoop later this week. The rest of the afternoon was spent painting, trip planning, strolling, and cleaning. Perfect Sunday.

The game plan for the week:

Dinners

Monday: Parchment fish + fingerling potatoes + kale chips

Tuesday: Protein Power Goddess Bowls

Wednesday: out to dinner

Thursday: Lazy Day Peanut Noodle Salad

Friday: TBD dish with orzo. Any suggestions??

Workouts

Monday: early morning bike + weights

Tuesday: run

Wednesday: weights

Thursday: run

Friday: weights + yoga

Time to put clean sheets on the bed and wind down with a little yoga!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Just Like Christmas Morning…

10 Jul

I can hear the birds chirping all around me as I inhale the cool, crisp air. The dewy grass wets my feet as I trudge through it in my flip flops. I am filled with excitement and anticipation.
Wait, that doesn’t sound anything like Christmas morning?! It’s not, it’s the Saturday morning farmer’s market in Tower Grove Park. Monday through Friday, I announce the countdown to this Saturday morning “holiday” to jwd (lucky him). On Friday night I feel the same giddiness I felt as child (or still feel…) on Christmas Eve. I lie in bed wondering what I’ll find under the tall blooming trees of the park- “Will they have asparagus? Watermelon? Will the blackberries be ripe and ready this week? What kind of greens will I find?” Ughh, the anticipation! We’ve gone to jwd’s parents’ house (out of town) for the past few weekends, so I’ve been missing my Saturday morning local food fix. We decided to stay in the city this weekend and the farmer’s market was calling my name today!

The plan was to take advantage of the free yoga they offer at the market (how great is that??), but I awoke with an itch to run. I think it’s important to be flexible with yourself when it comes to workouts, otherwise you begin to resent it. After my wonderful sweatfest and a delicious bowl of oats, I headed to Tower Grove Park.

yoga, music, local food, and a bunch of happy people– what more do you need??

Why Buy Local?

  • Support your community. When you buy local, you keep your money circulating within your own community. You are supporting the livelihoods of your neighbors and in turn boosting your local economy.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. “Food Miles” refers to the distance your food travels from farm to plate. More food miles usually = more carbon dioxide emissions and more wasteful packaging. Local food doesn’t have to travel very far and the packaging is usually non-existent or minimal. I actually return all of my berry and egg cartons to the farmers for reuse.
  • Get personal. Local business owners are experts on their products. The farmers at my market can answer any questions I have about their produce– how to choose it or how to cook it for example. They also welcome you to taste produce before you buy to ensure its quality. I got to taste a slice of watermelon before I bought mine today! Also, in a world that is becoming more and more impersonal everyday, it’s so nice to walk into a store or up to a stand and be greeted like a long lost friend. Local businesses make an effort to get to know their customers and do anything they can to keep you coming back. One of the farmers knows me so well now that he throws in some free-bees now and then. Today I got a few extra peaches 🙂
  • Conserve your community’s quirks. Every community has unique locally-owned restaurants and shops. If you only eat at Apple Bee’s and only buy your groceries from Wal-Mart (places where the food/merchandise is standardized across the country), community diversity will disappear and the local businesses will fail. So support the chefs, farmers, and craftspeople in your community!
  • Get more bang flavor for your buck. In my opinion, local food simply tastes better! Those hard, bland superstore tomatoes don’t stand a chance against a juicy local heirloom. Chances are the produce was picked within the last few days (or even the same day you buy it!) As soon as produce is picked, it begins to lose nutrients. Most grocery store produce is grown in other countries and ripened on a truck. Yuck. Local eggs also far surpass their store-bought counterpart. The shape and color of the shells are varied and the yolks are the most vibrant shade of orangey-yellow.

Here are some of today’s goods:

blackberries, red leaf lettuce, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, peaches, and a watermelon. As I lugged the melon to the car, I remembered that jwd is not a melon guy. I’ll be taking that baby down all on my own 🙂 no problem

A closer look…

I got a bargain on the peaches! They were marked down because of hail damage, but only a couple of mine are blemished 😀 I always keep my eyes peeled for deals.

After the farmer’s market, I went to Whole Foods to pick up a few essentials. I got a lot of deals there too. Whenever any of my staple items are on sale I stock up! (if it won’t perish). If you know you’re going to buy it next week anyway, you might as well get it when it’s cheap. When I finished stocking the kitchen, it was time to pause for lunch. With no leftovers in sight (except for the leftovers I mention below), I turned to a regular: Greek salad.

Chopped fresh spinach (on sale!), local cucumbers, local heirloom tomatoes, chopped green olives, chopped fresh garlic, a sprinkle of local goat cheese, and a few dribbles of Annie’s Organic Goddess Dressing (also on sale!). Post-salad, I meandered over to the pool on campus to study a little and read the new Sauce Magazine. I have a little blog/challenge project in the works relating to the latest Sauce so stay tuned for that! Then I tended to my second child- my little garden plot. (Kitty is my first child). I won’t say too much about the garden here because I think it deserves its own post.

Here’s the harvest for today:

A cucumber, a Beefsteak tomato, a Roma tomato, three serrano peppers, and a banana pepper.

With such a bountiful selection of local veggies, it was only natural to have a farmer’s market dinner:

gluten-free pasta with a homemade spicy sauce full of local produce and leftover lentils

  • First I chopped the produce: 1/2 a zuc, 1/2 a squash, 2 serranos, 1/2 heirloom tomato, a Roma, and a Beefsteak.
  • I sauteed all but the tomatoes with garlic and olive oil
  • Then I added the tomatoes, some fresh parsley, dried basil, salt and pepper (and maybe a few jigs of Cholula hot sauce)
  • While that simmered on med/low, I boiled the pasta

I LOVE this pasta! Too much wheat doesn’t agree with my tummy, so this is a great alternative to wheat pasta. It’s made out of organic quinoa and and corn. The texture is great (unlike most gluten-free pasta). Quinoa is an ancient grain. It is the most complete non-meat protein source. A complete protein source is a food that supplies all of the essential amino acids in adequate amounts. The essential amino acids are ones that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be provided by the diet. It is rare to find complete protein sources amongst plant foods, so quinoa is a wonderful grain to add to your diet!

  • While the pasta cooked, I added about 1 cup of leftover cooked lentils (used early in the week in a lentil veggie stew) and some chopped fresh spinach
  • Next I drained the pasta and added it to the sauce along with some goat cheese

It was fabulous!

The plan for the rest of the night: spend some quality time with my yoga mat and a few candles, watch the “You’ve Got Mail” marathon on TV work on a paper, then dig in to that big green H2Omelon!

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend! I encourage everyone to rush to their nearest farmer’s market and take advantage of the fresh local food. Find local markets, farms, and restaurants here. And I always welcome company on my farmer’s market trips 🙂

Anyone have recommendations for “must-see” farmer’s markets or local businesses?

Happy weekend! And thanks for reading 🙂

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