June 15, 2010

Market Day

Posted in Food, Friendships, Health, Money, Recipes tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:06 am by Liliana

Market Day

Market Day

Grocery shopping in modern supermarkets is not one of my favorite chores. In fact, I don’t like doing it much at all.

But I love, LOVE, shopping at our local farmer’s market.

Maybe it reminds me of my childhood. My mother, sister and I went shopping several times a week at the nearby farmer’s market in Belgrade. Mother carried a large wicker basket and my sister and I carried little wicker baskets. We bought food that smelled tantalizing and tasted delightful, was in season, ripe and delicious. We had our favorite farmers. They let us try samples. They told us what was best. They gave us ideas on how to prepare new dishes.

I am lucky to live in a town, here in Michigan, that has a lively farmers market. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, from early March until the end of December, it is the center of our downtown area. For me, going there is a gratifying adventure.

I usually try to be at the market by 8 am, not only so I can find a parking spot easily, but also because the selection of the seasonal bounty is not picked over yet. I quickly walk through the aisles, look over the offerings, compare the prices, and greet the farmers I have gotten to know.

Frequently, I meet my friend Ann at a nearby café, for coffee and some much needed girlfriend conversation. Ann is not just one of my dearest friends, she is my market buddy. We drink hot coffee, share a delectable pastry, and talk about anything that comes to mind that particular morning. Then, we go to the market together.

I haven’t found a wicker basket I like, but I always carry several canvas bags so I can store all my purchases. I always bring cash, mostly in small bills. Farmers don’t take credit cards or personal checks. I don’t’ haggle with farmers over the prices. My grandparents were farmers and I know how hard these people work for a living. I talk to farmers, just like my mother did. I ask them what they recommend. When I don’t recognize a particular vegetable or fruit, I ask about it. Sometimes, I get new recipes.

Our market has a lot more to offer than fruits and vegetables. I frequently buy fresh eggs (from a lady everyone calls grandma,) artisan cheeses, meat (from an Amish family,) flowers (from a friendly lady who makes beautiful wreaths,) herbs, coffee. I bought a large leather bag from a woman who designs and makes them from the softest leather. At Christmas time, we come here to buy fresh trees.

I miss the market terribly during those dark, cold winter months when it is closed. But when spring arrives Ann and I are ready.

May 26, 2010

Fresh Herbs

Posted in Food, Garden, Health, Recipes tagged at 7:03 am by Liliana

Lavender

Plant an assortment of herbs in your garden this spring. They are aromatic, delicious, nutritious and environmentally sustainable in most temperate regions.

A selection of herbs to plant:

  • Basil – has a strong, pungent, sweet flavor. It is a wonderful addition to many recipes, especially pastas, Italian sauces and tomato dishes. Basil is a good source of vitamin A, and can act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Parsley – used to flavor and garnish a wide variety of dishes, such as soups, salads, stews, and infinite others. Parsley is rich in vitamin C and has carcinogen neutralizing capabilities.
  • Sage – a peppery herb, excellent for seasoning meats, roasts, etc. is a beautiful resident of any garden.  It is a member of the mint family. Sage is believed to boost brain functions and enhance memory.
  • Rosemary – native to the Mediterranean region this fragrant herb is used to flavor meats, stews, roasts, etc. High in iron, calcium and Vitamin B6. In Ancient Greece, young scholars placed rosemary sprigs in their hair when studying, as it was believed to aid memory.
  • Thyme – a light flavor that blends well and does not overpower other herbs and spices . Widely used in countries from the Caribbean to the Middle East in flavoring meats, soups and stews, it is also a good source of iron.
  • Dill – subtly aromatic leaves used to flavor foods such as fish, soups, and pickles (where the dill flower is sometimes used). In Serbia we use it to make glorious white sauces, and best potato salads. Native to Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and Western Africa, dill adds a tangy, refreshing flavor to any dish.
  • Oregano – tastes range from spicy to sweet to pungent. Its delightful flavor is famous in Italian and Greek dishes.  Oregano is also an effective anti-bacterial.
  • Peppermint – a refreshing addition to summertime meals, its flavors produce a cooling sensation.  It is excellent for making tea, and soothes stomach problems.
  • Lavender – adds a lightly sweet flavor to food, but most people grow it for its singular aroma and the beauty it adds to any garden. Lavender oil is excellent for healing burns, wounds, and insect bites and is used to produce balms, salves, lotions, and perfumes.

My dream is pull out all the grass from the front lawn of my cottage and plant nothing but lavender.

April 23, 2010

Building a Raised Garden Bed

Posted in Food, Garden, Health, Home, Money tagged , , , at 7:03 am by Liliana

Raised Garden Bed

Raised Garden Bed

Growing fresh herbs and vegetables provides a wonderful sense of pleasure and accomplishment for many people. By planting your own garden, you can save money as well as grow produce that cannot compare in taste or freshness with vegetables bought at supermarkets. It is a wonderful feeling to walk out of your kitchen and pick fresh tomatoes for your salad. Or fresh parsley for your soup. Or some berries to go with your yogurt.

Raised garden beds are easy to make, plant and maintain. Here is a short lesson on how to go about building your own.

Decide how big you want your garden to be. If you are unsure, start with a 4×4-foot square.  It is a manageable size and easy to reach on all sides. Then level the ground by raking it so that your raised bed will lie flat.

The supplies you will need are: four one-foot-long 4x4s for the corner posts; four four-foot-long 2x6s for the side rails; and four two-foot-long 2x2s for the center stakes.

Once you have your supplies, position your 4x4s at each corner of the square. Then align your first 2×6 to a corner  post. Line up the next 2×6 at a right angle to first. The ends of the 2×6 boards should be level. Make sure the rails form a right angle by using an angle-square. Then screw the two side rails to the post, making sure that the ends of the rails are even with the sides of the posts. Check again to be sure that the frame is square. To make your frame sturdy, place the four 2×2’s at the middle points of the outside walls. Pound them into the ground until they are level with the sides of the bed. Fasten each stake with a screw.

Fill your raised bed with rich, black topsoil and mix in some compost or peat moss, You are now ready to plant.