farmers market · fruits · healthy eating · organic

Enter the Dragon (fruit)

~On my last trip to the grocery store (Mariano’s, my favorite!) I went home with items I had on my list and a few that weren’t. One of those was a dragon fruit. As strange as it was sitting in my cart next to the dried apricots and packages of Noosa yoghurt, there were good reasons behind it:

  1. How often do you find dragon fruit in a mainstream grocery store?! I thought you could only find those in an Asian specialty market or overseas.
  2. Dragon fruit has been one of those things that I’ve wanted to try but was too chicken to in the past. My sister’s tried it before and didn’t think much of it, so I was kind of hoping to convince her otherwise.
  3. Because what the hell?

There were actually 2 sections of dragon fruit in the produce department, those that were organic and those that weren’t. Of course I went with the organic one, even if it was a titch on the pricey side (over $3/lb). Plus the conventionally grown ones looked withered away.

DSCF3314

Before I ended up buying the dragon fruit, I hadn’t know much about them beside that they came from Asia and that they looked really pretty on the inside. After some research I learned that dragon fruit can also come from South America, Mexico and Israel. The specimen I purchased happened to be from Vietnam. And apparently it’s a type of cactus! Also know as ‘pitaya’, it comes in 3 colors: pink skin with white flesh (as pictured), pink sink with red flesh, and yellow skin with white flesh.

After I had cut into the fruit, but right before I pulled apart the two pieces, I did an imaginary drum roll in my head, hoping that it would look as I had predicted. It sure was!

The kiwi like black seeds were speckeled
throughout the fruit as if an artist had taken a calligraphy brush and meticulously placed each individual seed inside the flesh.

DSCF3328
Pitaya

Now the next question: how do I eat it?
I took a spoon, inserted it just behind the flesh up against the skin and scooped it out. Cutting each half into pieces, it was tasting time.

 

 

 

 

DSCF3335

I took a bite, and another….and another…. and nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. It literally had no taste whatsoever. It was like one of those popular girls in high school: pretty but with no substance.

 

*Check out these pitaya pics and more in the Photo Garden!*

Environment · healthy eating · Healthy Living · organic · vegan · veggies

Return to VeggieFest: 2017 edition

~Last year I discovered VeggieFest, a unique lifestyle festival honoring those who have the courage to refrain from meat. This time around I wanted to take my boyfriend with me to share in the experience. Truth be told, it didn’t go as well as I had imagined.

The ran fell on our proverbial  parade (it was a really nice day, not a cloud in the sky) in the form of parking. It was absolutely horrendous. When we had approached the venue, cars snaked around the lots back and forth desperate to find a spot. Unfortunately we got stuck in one of the coils and by the time we made it to the parking garage and found a spot, almost an hour had passed. Nevertheless, I was still trying to make this a positive experience for the both of us.

Once we got to the grounds where the festival was held, it was nothing but tents and a massive crowed of people sprawled before us. I immediately bee-lined for the international food court, which is what I was most looking forward to. You pay for food at the food court in the form of food tickets, where the exchange was $1= 1 ticket. I bought $20 worth of tickets, hoping to try a few different things, especially stuff I didn’t try or get the chance to try last year.

The first thing I tried as soy beef & broccoli with noodles and veggies for 6 tickets from a Chinese stand. It must have been popular because there was a long line. And for good reason because it was delicious! Even though I knew it wasn’t beef, it tasted just like beef! My boyfriend thought it was pretty tasty too, mentioning that he liked the beef alternative BETTER! But I still think he’ll stay a carnivore ;P

Next was a selection of his choosing: veggie burgers. I’ve had a few veggie burgers in the past (mostly at the cafeteria in college) and they weren’t that great, so I was a little on the fence about it. But that too turned out to be delicious!

After we ate our way around the food court we wandered around the rest of the festival peering at the different vendor’s tents while live music played in the background. One thing I noticed was really popular among festival goers was boxed water. Essentially it was purified water in a carton rather than a plastic bottle to be more environmentally conscious. I liked the idea of it, and it was refreshing. I wondered where i could find it?

Unlike last year, I only purchased a bottle of peppermint oil from the doTERRA vendor. I was also disappointed to find that the people selling the mango nectar and Doug & Katia from Waterfall Glen weren’t at the festival.

While this year may not have been as fun as last year, VeggieFest is still something I would definitely check out and recommend to anyone who is either vegetarian, vegan or wants to do something fun and free (free admission and parking!)

 

eggs · farmers market · healthy eating · organic

What the duck (eggs)

~For the past year or so I’ve been on the hunt for duck eggs. Searching market after market with no luck, my hope was starting to dwindle. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago when I finally hit the jackpot, but it wasn’t at a farmer’s market. They came from my boss!

When he’s not doing incredible veterinary work, the owner of my clinic raises ducks in his backyard. He told me he had about 15 ducks and they were chewing up his lawn while he was in the middle of repairing an obese Lab’s ruptured cruciate ligament (the animal equivalent of a human’s ACL). After taking an updated set of vitals, he asked me if I wanted some eggs. I jumped at the chance! With a smile he said he would bring me some next time they were laying.

About a week later, I was cleaning the treatment area and he asks if I was going to be there for a while. I said yes, and he disappeared. After about 15 minutes, he arrived back at the clinic with a half dozen duck eggs with my name on it. My face lit up and thanked him for the awesome (and soon to be delicious) gift.

The next morning before work, I opened the carton and marveled at the size comparison of the eggs to that of chicken eggs. I decided to make over easy duck eggs served on toast. Instead of butter, I coated the pan with ghee until it melted. Next, I cracked 2 eggs into the pan and cook them over medium low heat. Once the egg whites were cooked through, I tried to delicately flip them in the pan, but it was a rather clunky task. Nevertheless, they didn’t break. Once flipped, I turned the heat off and let the other side cook from the residual heat.

While I was cooking the eggs, I was toasting some bread in the toaster. They reached a perfect golden brown where I lightly buttered them and placed the crown jewels on top. Finally, the eggs were decorated with a garland of fresh micro greens and salt & pepper.

 

img_0876

I broke into the center and out poured a lovely waterfall of yolk. I was worried that I might have over cooked them since I had trouble flipping them (needed a bigger pan). I’m so happy they came out so well, and the taste was amazing!

*Check out my pictures in the Photo Garden and I’ll post the recipe in the Recipes menu very soon!*

farmers market · healthy eating · Healthy Living · organic · veggies

Behind the Scenes at Drover’s Trail

~A couple of weeks ago I had the awesome opportunity to travel to the farm of one of my favorite market vendors: Drover’s Trail Natural Farms. They are a family run business operating on a 100+ year old farm rich in history and delicious vegetables. One of the owners, Koren Finnestad, took me on a tour of the farm. First she showed me the lettuce patches, where at least 6 different varieties were being cultivated.

DSCF3179

There were your usual cast of characters such as spinach and red leaf lettuce, but there were mixes of different greens that were newly planted. What’s new is their meschulun mix, which isn’t available just yet, but I got a sneak peek!

DSCF3181

DSCF3180
Spinach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DSCF3189_LI
Meschulun mix, currently not available for sale

After spending some time in the lettuce fields, I moved on to one of two chicken coops. Drover’s Trail sells both the meat and the eggs of the chickens, in the white and brown variety. When I asked her what the difference between a white and brown egg was, she said that there was none at all! They taste exactly the same, the only difference between them (other than shell color) is the earlobe of the chicken determines of the shell will be white or brown. Reminds me of Punnett squares back in my high school biology class haha.

DSCF3206

And last but certainly not least, Koren showed me her pride and joy, her own personal garden! Currently she has spinach, onions, Swiss chard and a strawberry patch at the end next to an old farm building.
I loved exploring around the farm and diving headfirst into Koren’s world of sustainable, organic gardening. She is definitely an inspiration not only to be but other fledgling gardeners wanting to keep their piece of Earth green, the way nature intended.

I encourage all of you not only to eat organically, but actually take the time to find out where your food is coming from! It’ll give you piece of mind knowing you are putting the best possible ingredients into your bodies, and the farmers raising these crops or animals are doing so in a responsible and respectful manner. Thank you again to Koren and the folks of Drover’s Trail Natural Farms!! 🙂

*For more information on Drover’s Trail, visit their website http://www.droverstrailnaturalfarms.com

And you can see more of my pictures from my Drover’s Trail visit in the Photo Garden!

cheese · eggs · farmers market · healthy eating · organic · vegan · veggies

A soggy start to market season

~Today was the day I’ve been waiting an entire year for: opening day of the Frankfort farmer’s market!!! This is my Christmas! I’ve been counting down the days for weeks and it finally came, but at a small price that I was willing to pay. This weekend the weather has been nothing but cold and rainy, which I normally love but not during a market. I checked The Weather Channel app on my phone before heading over there and it said that it wouldn’t rain til more in the afternoon. It was about 9:30-10am when I checked, my hope was to get there early enough to avoid the downpour to come. My boyfriend picked me up around 10:30 and off we were to Frankfort. The short ride there I was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement and he looked over at me and smiled. When we got there, there was a very light drizzle and only a handful of vendors, those brave souls dedicated to their craft and crop to withstand the less than ideal weather.

Our first stop was at Stamper Cheese Company. As usual there was a line of cheese connoisseurs clambering to get the freshest of the fresh. After waiting about 10 minutes (although it felt longer) it was finally my turn. Chad, the guy that runs the stand at the Frankfort market, recognized me and asked how I was doing and how the blog was doing. I’m kind of surprised that he remembered me! After some small talk, I ended up purchasing a small chunk of my favorite goat Gouda, a package of cheese curds and a package of smoked mozzarella string cheese for my mom.

We then moved a few tents down to Drover’s Trail, aka some of the best produce you’ll ever find! (I’ll be posting about them in particular at a later date). One of my favorite things I get from them is their microgreen mixes, either mild or spicy. Today I went with their mild blend, but I might be adventurous next week and get the spicy. I also tried one of their green smoothies called Sickness Slayer, which combined peaches, pineapple, banana, swiss chard and carrot tops. It was green alright, like fresh-cut grass green. After a moment’s hesitation I took a sip and it was actually really good! You could hardly taste the greens since the flavors of the banana and pineapple dominated. My boyfriend admitted that it didn’t look appetizing at first but liked it once he tried it. Just because it’s green doesn’t mean it’s gross 😉

The last two stalls we visited were prehaps my favorite, the first being Doug from Waterfall Glen Soap Company. He was very excited to show off the changes he had made to some of his popular soaps and premiere some new ones. One of the ones I liked in particular was called Riverside, a newer flavor infused with honeysuckle. It was the bar I kept coming back to and sniffing, Doug even said that it had my name on it. And so it was meant to be! I can’t wait to shower with it tomorrow morning! The final stall we went to was a complete and very happy surprise. American Pride Microfarm, aka the quail guys, were making their debut at the Frankfort market! (I had only seen them at the Downers Grove market). I was beyond excited that I was even tugging on my boyfriend’s jacket and pointing “Oh my God it’s the quail guys!” He was utterly confused but went along with it, such a good sport 🙂

There was no question I was going home with a dozen quail eggs, but I also wanted to sample some of the greens. The one that drew my eye almost immediately were the onion greens. They’re a thin green with a fragile black bud at the end. One of the guys of American Pride, Bradford, had said “if you love onions then you’ll really love these” as he hacked off a few pieces with a miniature axe, which I thought was charming and reminded me of one of my favorite shows, Vikings. The onion greens were exactly as he said they would be, very onion-y. I got and ounce of those and sugar snap pea shoots.

The rain started to pick up, so we knew it was time to go. But overall I am completely happy with my purchases and meeting up with the vendors was awesome.

Happy Market Day my little sprouts! ❤

 

 

healthy eating · Healthy Living · organic · Uncategorized · veggies

Garden Gathering

~I, like most of you I’m sure, have come down with a case of spring fever. Last week I was accepted into 2 different gardening groups on Facebook, Chicagoland Gardening and Self Sufficiency and Garden Obsession (check them out in the links below!). Upon acceptance into the groups my spring fever reached a fever pitch. I would plant my own garden this year! Last year my mom was kind enough to let me have a spot in her garden to plant something of my choosing. But this time around I want to take things into my own hands.

Like most things in life, the best ideas come to you spontaneously or out of a failed attempt to execute another idea. I get my best ideas when I’m driving or in the shower. I’m also one of those people that chooses something if it “speaks to them”. And that’s exactly what happened when I traveled to Lowes and Alsip Home & Nursery over the weekend. I didn’t have a cut and dry plan on what I wanted to buy/plant, but I knew I wanted to at least plant some herbs, thanks to one of my research books The Practical Herbal Medicine Handbook. I wanted to find feverfew, a delightful daisy-like herb, in particular to help combat the awful migraines I get from time to time (mostly due to my seasonal allergies).

I first stopped at Lowes, where I immediately bee lined for the garden center. I pondered at all the vegetable and herb options, none too pleased with what I saw. Trying to shake off my disappointment , I went back outside to try and find my dream planter. I had been eyeing this beautiful cedar wood planter for the past week and my disappointment struck again when they didn’t have it in stock 😞

Sparing myself more disappointment and heartache, I ventured to Alsip Home & Nursery, where my mom swears by as the best place to get gardening stuff. The rows and rows of planters stretched as far as the eye could see and the seed options were endless! After a solid hour of going back and forth between seeds and planters, this is what I came home with: 7 seed packets, 2 large planters, one small planter, a watering can and a new toy for the birds (I have 4 parakeets). I’m surprised I was able to fit the planters into my tiny trunk! Haha

Curious to know what I’ll be planting this year? You’ll just have to wait and see….. 😉

https://www.facebook.com/groups/gardenobsession/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/405499733134991/

Environment · healthy eating · Healthy Living · Hot Topic · organic

Everyone deserves a Fair Trade

~The concept of Fair Trade seems like common sense, at least to me it does. When you buy certain products with the Fair Trade symbol, producers in developing countries are paid a fair wage and provided a safe working environment. I first learned of the Fair Trade concept years ago at church of all places. Before Mass ended, someone would come up to the podium and share announcements with the congregation, such as the goings on at the school, Knights of Columbus events, and during certain times of the year, they would sell Fair Trade coffee and chocolate. At the time, I didn’t know what Fair Trade meant, I just wanted some chocolate haha. But that planted the seed in my mind that would sprout many years later.

I had done some research on the topic and thought, “Why doesn’t everyone do this? It doesn’t seem that hard to treat people fairly as they cultivate some our most widely used products.” According to Fair Trade International, the most widely traded products in the world include coffee, tea, cocoa & chocolate, handmade crafts, fresh fruit, flowers and gold. In fact, Fair Trade is established in over 90 countries!

Perhaps my favorite Fair Trade item I’ve come across is coffee. I am a coffee addict, and I have no shame admitting to that! I need coffee to function, as most of us do haha. When I had shopped on Thrive Market, they had a selection of Fair Trade items, most of which were coffee. The majority of the coffee selections were whole bean, and I don’t have a coffee grinder so that option was out. However, there was one company that made coffee in the form of K-Cups! And the cups are 100% biodegradable and compostable! 😀
The company was called Ethical Bean Coffee (very fitting). I purchased a box of medium roast K-Cups and eagerly awaited their arrival. Once they came, immediately I made a cup and enveloped myself in its exotic aroma and taste. It tasted like most medium roasts would, only better, because I knew I was making a difference in someone’s life and helping them prosper due to my coffee habit.

And I just learned that Starbucks’ Italian roast is made from Fair Trade beans! I’ll have to get my hands on it soon. Starbucks isn’t the only mainstream company to use Fair Trade products: Larabar uses Fair Trade chocolate in a few of its bars, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream uses Fair Trade bananas, sugar, vanilla and chocolate in some of their quirky flavors, and Cadbury uses Fair Trade chocolate. Easter will be here before you know it, so when it’s time to fill up those Easter baskets, fill them with Cadbury chocolate eggs. The Easter Bunny would be proud of you supporting Fair Trade 😉

*For more information about Fair Trade, visit fairtrade.net & fairtradeusa.org*