March 26, 2012

When In Rome...

...or Florida, to be more exact.  I may not always succeed, but I do try to practice what I preach.
On my recent visit to the Sunshine State, I wanted to find a local farmer's market and was pleasantly surprised to find one that is a permanent fixture as opposed to only being set up once or twice a week.

Marando Farms offers not only local produce, but they also have local honey, farm fresh eggs and the best part of all...  a community garden.
If you are in the area or vacationing nearby it's worth the trip to see this little gem.

Supermarkets simply do not carry the varieties of produce that are available at Farmer's Markets. 
Because the food we buy there isn't mass produced, the farmers are able to bring in smaller quantities of different  crops.

In other words, more variety...  and isn't that the spice of life? 
Who wants to have a Red Delicious every single day when you could have a Honeycrisp, Senshu, Winesap or Pink Lady? 
Another added bonus to eating locally is supporting the local economy;  money spent supporting local farmers stays in the community.

Eating locally (especially on vacation), provides an opportunity to try new things by giving you the chance to see fruits and vegetables that may be different than what you see at your own market.  It allows you to experience local flavors and try foods that you may not have had before.

AND...  because you're eating locally, you are getting food that is fresh because it did not have to travel halfway across the country (or PLANET) to get to you, thereby retaining it's nutritional value.
So, whether it's your neighborhood Green Market that gathers every Saturday or scouting out a local Farmer's Market on vacation, eat locally! 

Food just tastes better when it's fresh...

March 20, 2012

My Lost Shaker of Salt...

Vacation.  Just the word alone makes us feel lighter, happier and less stressed.  Why is it that we allow ourselves things on vacation we rarely would otherwise?

We indulge in foods we normally deprive ourselves of, we sleep late, we are a little more laid back and allow ourselves a few adult beverages with colorful umbrellas peeking out of them or in my case, a salted rim.

Coming back to reality from vacation is rarely a pleasure, but what I'm trying to learn is how to have a "vacation" frame of mind even when I can't get away.

Not that I'll be quitting my job and spending my days on a beach, as lovely as that sounds, but trying to allow myself a bit more leeway when it comes to certain things.

We tend to get so caught up in our everyday stresses that sometimes it feels as if life is passing us by while we are paying bills, cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking dinner, washing clothes, doing yard work, etc.

Perhaps it is because I'm getting older and realizing that the dishes can wait until tomorrow once in a while or the laundry isn't going anywhere.  I am going to try to be less rigid with the demands I make upon myself in hopes that even when I'm stuck at work and have no hope of feeling the sun on my face or the sand beneath my toes that I can still close my eyes, taste the salted rim of my margarita glass and have a vacation frame of mind...
My Girl Margarita
 makes 2
  • 2 1/2 - 3 oz good quality tequila
  • 2 oz triple sec or Grand Marnier
  • 3 oz freshly squeezed lime juice (save a lime to wet the rim of the glass after you've juiced it)
  • kosher salt
  • ice cubes
  1. Fill a small saucer with kosher salt.  Just deep enough to coat the rim of the glass.
  2. Run the lime around the edge of the glass then dip in salt.
  3. Combine tequila, triple sec/Grand Marnier, lime juice and ice in a stainless steel cocktail shaker and shake (vigorously) for 5 - 10 seconds.
  4. Pour evenly into 2 glasses.  Salud!

March 07, 2012

All Grown Up...

 I turned 40 a few days ago (gasp) and when I was younger I had always used that particular age as a benchmark for being "a real grown up".   I would venture to say that it technically makes me one by my way of thinking but to be perfectly honest, that is entirely debatable.

 That being said it led me to thinking about some of my favorites from childhood.   We all grew up with soup in that red & white can and while I am a steadfast lover of tomato, one that was always in the regular rotation for me was beef barley.   I know...  most kids would've picked chicken noodle and given my adoration for all things starch it would be the obvious choice, only it never had enough noodles.

There was just something about that broth, it was sweet and tangy from the tomato and the barley was just chewy enough to give it texture.  It may not be haute cuisine or even slightly elevated, but I loved it.

Feeling a bit nostalgic, I thought that it might be time to revisit a favorite from the past...  and like me, my soup should be grown up as well.

Beef Barley
  • 1 lb stew meat (beef)
  • 4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium onions,  finely diced
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I used petite cut)
  • 32 oz beef broth or stock
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 1/2 c. pearled barley
  • 2 bay leaves (fresh if available)
  • 2 - 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper

  1. In a medium to large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add beef and sear on all sides.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. When beef has a good sear on all sides, remove from pot and set aside.
  4. Add onions and cook until translucent, season with salt and pepper
  5. Add celery and carrots,  cook until softened (about 6-8 minutes)
  6. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables and stir to coat.  Let flour cook out for a few minutes, then add beef back into the pot and pour in the beef broth/stock.
  7. Add remaining ingredients and let soup simmer until barley is cooked (about 45 minutes)
  8. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.