Fruit varietals: Identity crisis in the produce aisle –

The feedback mechanism that allows consumers to identify varieties that they like, and ask for them by name has been lost. Why? And, why is it important to know which variety of fruit you are buying?

Fruit varietals: Identity crisis in the produce aisle –


Sunday morning bounty amongst my reusable produce bags.

The weather forecast for today is 100 so I was up early watering and getting a few chores done before my 7:30 bicycle getaway to the Farmers’ Market. Another beautiful ride and this time I had my trusty little camera with me. The market was packed when I got there; evidently everyone else had the same idea. I made the rounds and found another vendor with fresh corn. The corn I got last week, although touted to be excellent, wasn’t much better than field corn. To say I wasn’t impressed would be putting it mildly. Sweet corn is serious business. This looked to be, not only fresher, but also sweeter. Of course only tasting would answer that. My market bag filled quickly with white nectarines, Donut peaches (more on these later), apricots, several kinds of summer squash, green and yellow wax beans, a couple of tomatoes, two Walla Walla onions and two ears of that beautiful corn.

Tower Bridge and the Sacramento River

Delta King and the I Street Bridge

On the way back I stopped to snap a couple of pics so you could all see the nice views of the river that I have on my ride. The first picture was taken just south of Old Sacramento and the second shows the Old Sacramento riverfront area. Quiet this morning, but this afternoon it will be busy with lots of folks enjoying the river.

Once I was home I laid out my bounty for a couple of quick pics then stored it all away. Since it was now close to 10 and I hadn’t eaten yet, I thought it would be nice to have brunch. Actually I wanted to have the corn I bought so I rationalized that it was late enough for brunch. And, since I was dining alone I could pretty much do what ever I wanted. My version of brunch included some leftover BBQ chicken and grilled veggies from yesterday and the corn. OH, THE CORN! I wish now that I had bought at least six ears. I would have skipped the the chicken and veggies and just had corn, slathered in butter and sprinkled with just a tiny bit of sea salt. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Of Note: Farmers’ Market Accessories (via TinyPants — tiny pants. big ideas.)

Look at these really cool Farmers Market accessories Allie, found on Etsy. I love the personalized market bag. What a great gift idea. And, if you’ve read my blog before you know how I feel about reusable produce bags. The ones featured here look like they’d be great. You can find my other posts on that subject here and here.

Allie wirtes the blog Tiny Pants and is a wedding photographer, all-around theatre gal, crafter and mummy(her words). She lives in Toronto and loves going to the Farmers’ Market. Thanks for the great post Allie!

For those of you who may not be familiar with Etsy it is a web site that features hand crafted items and always has some incredible products.

Of Note: Farmers’ Market I am in love with Farmers’ Markets, but the most popular one in Toronto is a bit picked over by the time we can make it there after walking baby and dog on a Saturday morning. Luckily, Toronto has an open-almost-7-days-a-week-market so we people with dogs and babies can get fresh produce without having to drag our asses out of bed super-duper early on a Saturday. And we have other farmers’ markets around, but correct me if I’m wrong—you sh … Read More

via TinyPants — tiny pants. big ideas.

A tangelo and zucchini met one morning and formed a beautiful partnership.

Like most mornings I awoke bright and early Sunday and ambled into the kitchen to make my morning tea. It was beautiful outside, not too cool, which it has been for the last few days, you could feel that summer just might be really going to come. Teacup in hand I found myself in my garden puttering around as I am apt to do. Often puttering involves watering the many potted plants that line the patio and that’s where I was when I found myself thinking about the many errands that I needed to run after I finished my weekly trip to the Farmers Market. But, it was so nice out. Was I really going to drive to the Farmers Market then continuing driving around doing errands? NOPE! Not this Sunday. As soon as I finished my puttering, I was off to the garage, to check the air in my bike tires and attach my

The ride was really beautiful. I decided to check out the new section of the Sacramento Riverfront bikeway which runs parallel to the river and then cross over the freeway on the newly opened pedestrian/bike way. The new section of trail is really great.  I wish I had taken some pictures so I could show you. From the Riverfront trail and freeway overcrossing it is just a few blocks, through urban streets lined with beautiful mature trees, until I arrive at the market where my focus would be to see if I could pick up a few tangelos and for a muffin recipe I would make upon my return. Oh, and get some fruit and veggies for the week, which I did; a couple ears of corn, assorted summer squash, some green and yellow wax beans, two red onions, eight white nectarines and peaches, and three tangelos.

Today is the first day of summer and with its heat comes the real beginning of the summer squash season. In about another month the newness of summer squash will have started to wear off and those of us with squash plants will be getting more than we need much less want. We’ll be eating it often and giving the excess away. And then, there will come that day when we and even our friends and neighbors have had enough squash. Before it comes to that and while we’re all excited about summer squash I wanted to give you idea for another way you can use it. Bake up a nice batch of Tangelo-Zucchini Muffins. Bake them in the morning like I did and serve them warm, preferably on the patio or in the garden. A beautiful, and I might add tasty, way to celebrate a summer morning.

Tangelo-Zucchini Muffins

makes 12 muffins

1 cup shredded summer squash (I used zucchini but any summer squash will do. If the squash is really large discard the seedy part before shredding.)

2 eggs

½ cup safflower or other high-quality vegetable oil (I used canola and a little olive oil since I didn’t have enough of the canola.)

2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed juice (I used tangelo. You could use orange if you’d prefer.)

1 ½ teaspoons grated zest (I used the zest from one tangelo.)

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups unbleached flour

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ cup chopped pecans (you could use walnuts instead)

½ cup dried cranberries (you could use golden raisins instead)

Preheat oven to 35o° F. Grease 12 regular-sized muffin tin or I used paper cupcake liners

Beat the egg in a mixing bowl until lemon colored. Add the sugar, oil, juice, zest and vanilla. Beat until thick and smooth.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, pecans and cranberries. Fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture, stirring just until well blended. Spoon batter into the prepared muffin-tin, filling each hole about three-fourths full. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of a muffin tests clean, about 20 – 25 minutes. Cool in the muffin tins for about 3 minutes before turning out. Serve warm.

Variation: To bake as a loaf, pour the batter into a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out.


It’s Friday night and I’m tired. I really don’t want to take a lot of time to cook something and the urge to just snack on junk is strong. I’ve had a busy week and have been fighting off a sinus infection so my energy level is real low and my attitude is not a pretty thing. Pushing myself into the kitchen I avoid the pantry, where the snacks are, and browse the fridge for ingredients. There are 4 small zucchini, a few mushrooms, carrots and some salad greens. Ok that’s easy. I’ll fix a zucchini frittata (or open-faced omelet if you prefer) and a nice little salad. Sometimes  I forget how meditative preparing a meal can be for me. It gets me out of my head, out of feeling sorry for myself and into caring for myself. This week that’s a good place for me to be.

For the frittata I slice a shallot and some garlic and brown then add the sliced zucchini, add a little water, cover and steam for a few minutes till almost tender then I add 2 eggs that have been beaten and some shredded cheese. I put the cover back on and cook over a medium heat until the egg is cooked. At this point if you want to go the extra mile, which tonight I didn’t you can put the frittata under the broiler to brown it, or you could fold it into an omelet.

For the salad I sliced several mushrooms thinly and grated some carrot then added some vinaigrette, then tossed the mixture with the greens and topped the salad with some toasted sliced almonds.

The meal was just right and I’m really glad I won’t be going to bed tonight with “snack guilt”.

I’m looking forward to getting to the farmers’ market this weekend where I hope to buy some white peaches and nectarines and of course a nice selection of veggies.

Homemade Herbal Lemonade (via Straight from the Farm)

Wish I had found this last weekend when the weather got up into the 90s. For all of you folks out there who are experiencing the same, here’s a wonderful post on making Homemade Herbal Lemonade. Thanks to Straight from the Farm for this timely post.

Homemade Herbal Lemonade The heat is on, woowhee!   Really, it's the humidity that's pumping here in Philly right now.  I was wringing my clothes out this morning in the garden.   Still, a quick chug out of my icy jug of Homemade Herbal Lemonade was so cool and delicious that I was able to keep at the weeding for five whole hours!   Well, I did take a break to pick some blueberries and raspberries somewhere in the middle there…recipes to come for those.  In any case, t … Read More

via Straight from the Farm

A little of this, a little of that and you have the one-pot option.

Have you ever found you have just a few carrots, maybe a little spinach and just a handful of green beans in the refrigerator but there’s not enough of any one of them to feed two people much less three or four?  Here’s an easy solution; The one pan option, or as some might call it stir-fry.

I love stir-fry. I don’t always use it to solve the little of this, little of that problem. Sometimes I choose it because I can cook everything in one pan, which a lot of the time is a huge motivating factor. Whichever reason, I’ve been keeping track of some of the ways I made quick, tasty, easy to clean up meals over the last month and here are the results.

Version 1

A curried version using Crimini mushrooms, onion and garlic, zucchini, carrots and leftover chicken served over brown rice mixed with a little curry sauce.

Version II

An Asian version using Shitaki mushrooms, onion and garlic, snow peas, spinach, yellow summer squash served over brown rice flavored with a little oyster sauce.

Version III

This one I came up with after my experience with the fava beans. In this version I used Crimini mushrooms, onion and garlic, chard and feta cheese served over left over rice penne pasta.

Version IV

A celebration of the first green beans of the season was the occasion for this simple stir-fry of Shitaki mushrooms, onion and garlic, green beans all flavored with bacon bits and served over brown rice.

I start by sautéing the mushrooms, then add the onion and garlic, sometimes I remove those ingredients to a serving bowl then brown the longer cooking veggies like the squash, green beans or chard stems, then I’ll add back in the mushroom/onion mixture put what ever greens I’m going to use on top, add a little liquid (water, broth, wine) to create steam and cover until the greens just wilt and the thicker veggies are just right. If I really don’t want to clean another pan I will sometimes put the rice or cooked pasta in with the thicker veggies and the liquid, cover and let it all steam for a little while then add the greens to wilt them right before serving.

This is one of those things that you’ll want to play around with. There is no wrong way. Just think of the colors and textures of what you have on hand and what might taste good with them as a flavoring. I used curry sauce, oyster sauce, feta cheese, and bacon in these versions but  you might want to try soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or even a BBQ sauce. Herbs are also a good addition.  Nuts and seeds are good ways to add protein if your not adding cheese or leftover meats. And, don’t forget tofu. Tofu is really great in these stir-fry dishes. I usually don’t cook rice or pasta for this dish I usually have some leftovers that I use. If you do cook pasta especially for this, use some of the pasta water when you do the steaming.

I am using a wok style pan but a large fry pan can work too. Just make sure you have a lid that fits the pan you are going to use. For oil I use either olive oil or canola oil. The addition of a little sesame oil to an Asian style version is very nice.

Just use your imagination, the options are endless and now that we have a whole new selection of summer vegetables coming to market I’m sure I’ll be trying some new combinations. How about you? Let me know what you come up with. I love trying new ideas.

Shopping Placerville Farmers’ Market, Backroad Exploring and Baking Pudding Cake

After some late in the week conversations I decided to spend the weekend with my sister in Nevada. I left for her place early Saturday morning, stopping in Placerville to shop the Farmers\’ Market. I love this little market and often stop when I’m headed up Highway 50 on a Saturday morning. It has a delightful assortment of offerings; of course there’s a good selection of fruit and vegetables, this weekend there was also a nice selection of vegetable plants in various stages of development, several craft, jewelery and import vendors and some producers of very yummy foods. One of my favorites is Spicegrills, specializing in East Indian foods. They have great salesman and he’s very generous with his tasty samples. He’s very patient and explains everything with such beautiful adjectives it’s hard to resist trying everything, of course I never do. After a generous variety of tastings I promised I’d be back to buy a couple of items. A meander through the rest of the market filled my basket with one-half dozen duck eggs (which I haven’t had since I was a kid), 1 dozen free range chicken eggs, ½ lb sugar snap peas (which were oh, so sweet), 1 basket small, very fragrant strawberries and 1 lb rhubarb (which I needed for the recipe that is ultimately the subject of this post), then back to Spicegrills for a couple of samosas for my eat-and-go breakfast, a jar of Mango Ginger Chutney, Garlic Naan and 8 ozs of Pickle Chilli Chicken, which later became lunch.

After lunch we loaded up Miss El (Judy’s black lab) and took off for a backroads drive in an area around Monitor Pass. The views of the snow-capped peaks were spectacular and the high desert wildflowers added a rainbow of colors to the grey-green palette of the chaparral-studded hills. We stopped often to wander and photograph the wildflowers. Some were large and showy and others were very small and discrete, trying their best to hide from discovery. As we wandered  we came across a large patch of very fragrant wild onion in full bloom and after much concentrated effort, without the aid of a shovel or proper digging tool, we extracted a handful of the little beauties. Little they are, with the whole plant only standing about six inches or so, with a bulb the size of a walnut. I brought them home and will give them a try this week.

When we got back to the house we decided to make the Strawberry Rhubarb Buttermilk Pudding cake that I had recently seen on a post by Sassy Radish. Working as a team we chopped, measured and mixed and in no time the cake was ready for the oven. There was some discussion about the temperature, 400° F seemed pretty hot for baking with a glass pan, but we decided to give it a try and just keep a close watch while it was in the oven. The other thing that didn’t seem quite right was that the strawberry-rhubarb mixture contained, what seemed to us was, too much liquid. I always give a recipe the benefit of the doubt the first time, so into the oven it went, concerns and all. The results were spot on. It was beautiful and tasted wonderful. That night we had our pudding cake warm topped with vanilla bean ice cream (definitely good). The second night we had it warm again but this time with whipped cream topped with lemon zest. I really liked the last version and next time I think I’ll add lemon zest to the cake batter. I’d also like to try a blueberry-peach version when peaches come into season.

Rhubarb Strawberry Pudding Cake

Adapted from Gourmet Today by Sassy Radish
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
2 cups chopped rhubarb stalks (about 3-4 stalks)
1 cup chopped strawberries
1 cup AP flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (don’t discard the butter wrapper, use it to butter the baking dish!)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400F. Butter an 8 inch square glass or ceramic baking dish, using the butter wrapper from your stick of butter – it’ll have enough butter for adequately buttering the dish.

In a small saucepan, stir together water, cornstarch and 1/2 cup sugar, then stir in rhubarb to coat evenly. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Once simmering, stir occasionally and let cook for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in strawberries. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining sugar.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture until just combined – careful do not over mix.

Add 1/2 cup of the fruit mixture to the baking dish, spreading it evenly over the bottom of the dish. Pour batter over fruit, spreading it evenly. Don’t just pour the batter in one spot, pour it over fruit throughout the dish and then use a spatula to make sure it’s spread out evenly. If you just dump the batter into one spot and then try to distribute the batter throughout, you’ll run into mixing the fruit with the batter. Spoon the rest of the fruit mixture over the batter, making sure to distribute that evenly as well.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a wooden toothpick or a cake tester inserted into center of cake (not fruit!) comes out clean.

Cool in pan on a rack for 5 minutes before serving.

Here’s the info on the Placerville Farmers’ Market: Since they’re a seasonal market they opened May 8 and will close October 30. They are located at the Corner of Cedar Ravine and Main Street (Google map) every Saturday from 8 AM – Noon.