Navigating the Farmers’ Market

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The arrival spring means that the Newburyport Farmer’s Market will start operating every week outside! I’m pretty lucky that the market does run a bit during the winter, but I am so excited that starting May 2nd I can go every weekend.  The farmers’ market is different every week — different vendors, different offerings — so its important to learn how to navigate the market before you make your purchases!

1) Always do a loop when you first arrive
The same vendors don’t come to the market every week, so every time you visit there are different offerings. And based on production and supply, some vendors may not offer the same products each week! Its important to do a lap around the market to see whats being sold.  You may see that multiple vendors offer the same products too, so you’ll want check out who has the freshest fruits and veggies for sale that day.

2) Make notes of what you need
As noted in #1 above, I don’t know what will be for sale at the market, but I usually have good idea depending on the season. Before I head off to the market I like to make a note of some of the things I need for the week, leaving it a little “open ended” due to the nature of the market. I may decide I need a few vegetables for side dishes, flowers, and some meats — and then I wait to see what the market has to offer. If I can’t get what I want (usually a specific type of meat or veggie) then after the market I head over to the farm to pick up any leftover items.

3) Be open!
Some days I’ll end up trying/buying some things I didn’t even have on my radar. Recently a local cheese shop came to the market and I tried some of their fresh mozzarella — the best I had ever tasted!! I ended up buying a 1/2 lb. to have during the week and it was awesome. I hadn’t planned on buying any cheese that day, but it was so great I had to go for it.

4) Have fun
The market usually has live music playing and some vendors that sell breakfast sandwiches and fresh brewed coffee, so I like to leave some time for me to enjoy these parts of the market.  I ensure that we have enough time to wander around, chat with some of the vendors, try out some of the products, and have a coffee or sandwich before we head home.

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Do you have a local farmers’ market?

Newburyport Brewing Co.

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One of the really cool things about living in Newburyport is the craft micro-brewery right around the corner from our house. Now I am not a huge fan of beer, but the Newburyport Belgian White has been a staple in our house ever since we took a brewery tour and had a chance to try out some of their offerings.

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Tours of the facilities are on Saturdays at 5pm and you can also catch local bands playing in the tasting room.  Word on the street is that on Thursdays a taco truck parks outside so you can have the best of both worlds!

Newburyport Brewing Company
4 New Pasture Road
Newburyport, MA 01950

Indoor Chef

Our grill has been buried outside for months, so Doug and I needed to switch up some of our cooking methods this winter. We’re still waiting for the rest of the snow to melt, so last week when we had fish for dinner I cooked it inside using an aluminum foil packet method. This is how we cooked our fish when we took the French cooking class on my birthday at La Cuisine Paris, but Doug also tells me that this method is also very popular when camping. I’m more of a “glamper” than camper, so I stick to making this while indoors! Pressed for time before my coaching school telesclass last week, I decided to just use a simple lemon pepper recipe for our mahi-mahi filets.

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Mahi-mahi filets
Lemon pepper seasoning (McCormick makes a great one)
Fresh lemon slices
Non-stick spray, or olive oil in a mister
Aluminum foil

Spray a tiny bit of your non-stick spray or olive oil (we have this oil mister, and its great!) on the middle of each aluminum foil sheet.  Place a filet on each sheet and mist with a tiny bit of oil. Add your lemon pepper seasoning on top of each filet. Place a few slices of lemon on top of each filet, leaving a few on the side for a garnish later.

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Wrapping up the aluminum foil packets is the most important part — you want to make sure you seal them up properly so that the moisture stays inside the packet and your fish doesn’t dry out.  Pull up both sides of the aluminum foil and make a small fold on the top, like you were folding closed a paper lunch bag. Carefully keep folding the foil (tightly!) over until you’re a 1/2 inch or so away from the filet.

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Next, move to one of the sides and pinch it closed, like you did to the top, and start folding it tightly towards the filet. Do the same to the other side.  Now you should have a little foil packet, tightly sealed and ready to be cooked!

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Place in the oven at 375* for 13-15 minutes. If your filets are the same size, you can always take one out after 13 minutes, unwrap the foil, and double check if its cooked or not.  If it doesn’t look opaque then pop it back into the oven for a few more minutes!

Hopefully the rest of our snow melts soon so we can get back to grilling our fish, but in the meantime this foil packet method works great!

Doug’s Stuffed Peppers

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Doug made me these stuffed peppers a few months back and I loved them so much that they have become a weekly staple in our house. Made with lean ground beef from our local farm, fresh veggies, and only a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, these have definitely fit into my healthy eating/no added sugar diet! Here’s what you’ll need:

3 peppers (2 cut in half to stuff, and 1 to chop up)
1 Onion
1 lb. lean, grass-fed ground beef
Fresh basil leaves
Mozzarella cheese
Cayenne Pepper
Avocado or homemade guacamole to garnish

Dice the onion. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a frying pan and when hot add the onion.  Slice 2 of your peppers in half to create 4 pepper “bowls”.  Dice up the remaining peppers and set aside. Add salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and paprika to the onions and stir to coat.

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Once the onions start to become translucent, add in the ground beef and begin to break it up using a spatula. You can add a bit more S+P, cayenne pepper, and paprika if you’d like.  Doug usually does! Once the beef is mostly cooked, add in the diced peppers and cook for a bit.  Then, very carefully, drain out as much oil and water as you can from the mix.

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While you’re cooking the beef, place the pepper halves into the broiler to help “dry” them out a bit. This tends to be quite the messy dish, so draining out as much of the liquids as possible from the peppers and the beef mix helps a lot. Once you’ve drained your beef/onion/pepper mixture, you can add it to your pepper bowls!

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Once you add in the beef mix, top it with some pieces of fresh basil — I think this makes the dish! Its the “secret ingredient” if you will, because it adds such great flavor. After you can top with some shredded cheese and stick it back into the broiler for a few minutes. Make sure to watch the cheese carefully to ensure that it doesn’t burn!

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Once you try these you’ll be making them every week too!

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

One of my absolute favorite foods is pizza, but unfortunately its not typically a healthy meal option. However, I learned a cool “cooking hack” to make pizza a bit healthier using cauliflower for the crust.  Sounds crazy, but it was actually really good!  To make one pizza crust you’ll need:

1 cauliflower head
1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese
1 egg
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup fresh parsley
s + p to taste

Chop up the cauliflower and put the florets through a food processor or blender to until it resembles a fine crumbly mixture. Transfer to a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 10-15 minutes until its very soft. Remove from microwave and let it sit for 15 minutes to cool. Place your cauliflower mix on to a piece of cheese cloth to squeeze out any excess moisture.  Make sure to let the cauliflower cool first or else you will risk burning yourself!

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Transfer the cauliflower back into the bowl and add the egg, garlic, parsley, and cheese stirring it until it is all combined. I used a Microplane Herb Mill to shred up my parsley, but if you don’t have fresh parsley you could easily use dried. I also buy my garlic pre-minced at the grocery store — so much easier and saves my hands from smelling like garlic for days!

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Layer a silicone Silpat mat over a baking sheet and spread the cauliflower mixture out, shaping it into a pizza shape. Since my mat is a square, I was going for more of a “Sicilian” style pizza. Put it in the oven on 450* for 15 minutes or so, until it begins to brown. When you take it out you can add your pizza sauce, cheese, and any other toppings.  Then pop it back into the oven with the broiler on until the cheese is melted.

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Be careful not to use a sharp knife or pizza cutter on your Silpat mat! You can transfer it to a cutting board to cut, or I just used a blunt butter knife to gently make slices and then pulled them apart — the cauliflower is pretty soft.  You wont believe how good this pizza is even without any dough.  If you try this out, let me know what you think in the comments below. Enjoy!!