a week of farmer's markets: sunday.

here in the san francsico bay area, we're lucky to have lots of options for farmer's market-ing. more often than not, there are multiple markets taking place on any given day--we decide which ones to hit based on what we need and which direction we happen to be headed on the freeway. we have our favorites (and no-so-favorites), and there are many markets that we've never visited at all. this week i'll be checking out a bunch of different markets in the area--you know, the whole compare/contrast thing. see what's out there, what we've been missing. the good, the bad. the ugly.

today we hit the marin sunday market. this is my go-to favorite at time being. it's a big market by any standard--nearly 200 booths. we arrived around 11 (way late--our goal was 9!). distance from home: 18 miles.

do any of these people look familiar? yeah, me neither. but check out all of the plastic bags! gah!

we bought:

small container of organic strawberries ($4)
a pound of over-ripe/cosmetically-challenged organic peaches (on discount--$2)
1 lb sausage from humanely-raised pork ($7)
pint of wannabe organic (practiced, but not certified) blueberries ($8)


the petting zoo was there. sounds cool, right? um, not so much when it costs $3 to go in and the petting zoo consists of 6 chickens and a bunny. no joke.

there were pony rides ($5). lucy is an animal lover, but wouldn't climb up on a pony if you paid her in cookies. no dice on the pony, mom. sorry.
hudson tasted his very first plum (thumbs up).

after the market--what we made:

well, most of the blueberries got eaten on the car ride home (guilty as charged), but there were still enough to attempt this blueberry cake recipe i've been longing to try. so, from farmer's market to cake plate--here's how it went down:

when the market gives you berries (first-of-season!)...

get yourself a helper (and a stick of butter)...do some measuring (keeping ingredients in the bowl is not entirely necessary)... do some mixing...
throw a bit of flour around (it's good for the berries).
bonus points if your helper can prepare the pan without assistance... stand around and wait for awhile...

and soon, you may have cake. which looks (and tastes) like a really big muffin. (trust me--this is a good thing).

weekend find...

i'd been looking for a new (old) casserole dish. vintage pyrex, specifically. with lid. they're often pricey at antique shops--i've been holding out for a good deal. this bright & cheery little piece caught my eye while i whizzed past a garage sale yesterday on my way to a birthday party. u-turn! i hopped out with the only cash that i had--$2--hoping that it was enough. and it was. lucy's comment as i jumped back into the car, giggling over my new prize? "mama, you silly."

yes, lucy. now you know where you get it from. :)


worse than peter rabbit...

i set this little guy down in one of our raised beds yesterday, and turned my back to pull some weeds. it wasn't long until he was in full-on attack mode. the spinach and arugula stood no chance against his curious hands!

a troublemaker, maybe, but way, way cute. who could get mad at this (dirty) face?


dinner from the blogosphere...

while many parts of america may be stepping into summer, we here in california have been "blessed" with unseasonably cool & wet weather. thunderstorms. downpours. a general deluge. great for the reservoirs, kinda crappy for outdoor playdates, lounging on the deck, running on the grass. instead we run around the house making massive messes, all the while wearing swimsuits on our heads. no really, we do. see?

anyhow, we needed a summer-inspired dinner in order to boost our sodden spirits. and all i had to do was poke around a couple of favorite blogs in order to find it.

so i give to you gorditas with easy beans... the dinner of the past two nights here at the valley girl home, with enough leftovers to get us through lunch tomorrow. i followed the recipes pretty exactly (doubling both), though i used dried beans instead of canned for the easy beans. kicking the canned bean habit is a recent (6 month?) development around here. i always feel proud when i cook something with dried beans, since it does require a bit of advance planning. it's the whole domestic goddess thing--to actually know what's for dinner before 5 o'clock rolls around = success in my book. additional bonus points for reducing packaging waste and not serving my family a side of bpa with their food.

in the ever-evolving, spirited attempt toward a can-free kitchen, i also made my own creamed corn for the gordita batter. um, wow. not so good for my diet but super, super tasty. i haven't had creamed corn in at least 10 years but i sure don't remember it tasting so fatty & rich & generally delicious. yum.

the spinach and cilantro atop the gorditas were from our garden. this has been our first time growing any type of salad green and i must say i am 100% hooked! pretty & easy & healthy (to combat all of that creamed corn)--what's not to love? we've got to plant another few rows soon.

thankfully a bit of sun is in the forecast soon. i hope so--someone veeeeery close to me has a thirtieth birthday coming up next week. gulp.


hudson is six months!

half a year? half a year? older, even, because i'm tragically late with this post? sigh. though, like every mama, i lament the fact that time goes too fast, i have to say that this little guy gets more and more fun as the weeks and months go by. on to the photos...

Add VideoAdd Video

recent talents include:

~ showing off a new tooth
~ wowing the ladies with a sweep of blonde hair
~ pulling up on wobbly legs (yikes, are you serious?)
~ belting out "mamamama," when he cries
~ snuggling.i thought no one could top lucy in the cuddling department, but this guy fits next to his mama like a missing puzzle piece.
~ getting onto hands and knees from a seated position. next stop, crawling. time to re-baby-proof, i guess.

half a year of hudson, people. he's definitely changed us all over here at the valley girl home. for better, of course, but you knew that, right?



the yogurt debacle...

well, it's really not so much a debacle as a lesson learned on my part. the problem arose when i shuffled out into the kitchen a few mornings ago, peered into the crockpot, saw that my milk had transformed itself into actual yogurt and got all excited. i dug up a spoon, took a bite. good, plain yogurt. amazing. i feel like supermommy, goddess of the kitchen, having mastered yet another useful, out-of-the-ordinary cooking skill. i will never buy yogurt again. i rock.

and then i offer lucy a bite. she takes a spoonful with gusto--after all, she's a true yogurt aficionado. she makes a slight face. she coughs. she gags. she she spits on the floor. "that not good, mommy. that very yucky." she then proceeds to fetch herself a cloth napkin and--i kid you not--wipe off her tongue. looks directly at me. "your yogurt no good." and goes off to dump puzzle pieces all over my living room floor.


i'm now toying with lots of different flavorings to make the yogurt more toddler-friendly. i don't want to add lots of sugar--it defeats part of the purpose of making it myself. so far we've tried honey (no dice), brown sugar with a dash of vanilla (she ate a couple bites before throwing in the towel), and mashed strawberries with a sprinkling of sugar (half a bowl eaten). the problem (or should i say, funny thing) about lucy is that she's not one to forgive and forget. homemade yogurt is now an absolute no way, mom in her book. which means i'm serving her yogurt out of an old (well-washed) yogurt container i fished out of the recycling. trickery at its finest--she won't touch the stuff from my bowl, but at least she's giving each new concoction a whirl. gotcha, lucy.

all in all, i felt that the crockpot method for making homemade yogurt was great. super-simple (it honestly can't get any easier--watching the clock for a couple of hours was the hardest part). the recipe made a ton--next time i will half it, as lucy is the only die-hard yogurt fan in the house and she only eats 4-6 ounces per day. i love the fact that the packaging for making a half-gallon's worth of yogurt consisted of a glass milk bottle and a ceramic yogurt container--both returnable for reuse. the only actual trash generated was the plastic top on the milk bottle. my total cost was $7--$4 for a half-gallon of local organic milk and $3 for the local, organic yogurt i used for starter. next time i won't need starter, so total cost will be reduced accordingly.

i found the yogurt a bit thin for my taste, so i strained some of the water out using a coffee filter. a messy procedure, but i did like the resulting product a bit more--did i mention i'm not really a yogurt girl? we've got a ton of lemons around the house, so tomorrow i'll try flavoring some with a bit of fresh-squeezed juice and some zest. lucy might not approve, but it sounds good to me.


this moment...

inspired by soulemama...

we are furiously working on hosting a bridal shower at our house this coming sunday. be back soon, i promise.


peanut butter & jelly... fork food?

well, apparently lucy thinks it as such.
we induged in good, old fashioned comfort food this weekend. and it was divine--especially for your loyal blogger, who is attempting to lose the last bit of hudson weight before swimsuit vacations roll around. any and all foods, in moderation happens to be my method of choice. we'll see how it works out.

anyhow, we've found ourselves a good, semi-healthy sandwich bread recipe. the recipe makes 3 extra large loaves (plus a few mini loaves for lucy), so we can enjoy good bread throughout the week, and sometimes even longer--that's where the "moderation" bit comes in, right? we topped our bread with freshly ground organic peanut butter and apricot & peach conserve from frog hollow farm. pb&j perfection.

good to the last little nibble! here's the bread recipe for anyone interested:

2 cups lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk
1.5 tablespoons yeast
1.5 tablespoons salt
1.5 tablespoons sugar
4 cups all purpose flour
2.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup toasted flax seeds, or other whole grain of your choosing

mix all ingredients in a stand mixer until well incorporated. dough will be slightly wet. transfer into a greased bowl and allow to rise for several hours at room temperature. dough can be refrigerated for up to 7 days (make sure to put it in a container/bag with room for expansion).

on baking day, shape dough and place into a well-greased loaf pan. allow to rise several hours at room temperature. brush top with melted butter if you prefer a soft crust. bake at 350 degrees for roughly 35 minutes, or until it's beginning to turn golden on top.


the worst of the worst...

do you know which plastics to completely avoid when it comes to food?

the answers are #3 (pvc), #6 (polystyrene) and #7 (other/polycarbonate). for the purpose of this post, we're talking about #6. and my total shock that it's being used to package foods intended for kids.

stonyfield (mostly known for their manufacture of organic yogurts and smoothies) is, by most measures, a great company. they get their milk from small, family-operated farms. they've made organics easy to attain by getting their products into walmarts across the nation. they give back to good causes. they recycle. they've even got dr. sears (attachment parenting guru) on their website, recommending their yogurt as a healthful option for snacking toddlers.

so why, then, is stonyfield yogurt packaging their yobaby yogurt (marketed directly for young babies and toddlers) in #6 plastic containers? especially when evidence suggests that polystyrene contains an endocrine disruptor that can leach into food? polystyrene is also not commonly recycled by curbside waste management companies (though stonyfield does promise to recycle these containers if the consumer ships them back to the company--at the consumer's expense). generally speaking, this plastic really is one of the worst of the bunch. for great information on all plastics, like what they're used for and what they're recycled into, click here.

i wrote to stonyfied asking for their reasons behind using suspect plastic to contain their yobaby yogurt. here's the response:
Thanks for your inquiry about our packaging. We appreciate hearing from
you. Because the use of any plastic can have an adverse effect on the
environment, we continuously search for packaging materials with lower
environmental impacts. For now, we believe the best option for our small
cups is polystyrene.

Simply put, the best way to minimize the environmental impacts of our
packaging is by reducing the overall amount of packaging material we use -
less packaging means less consumption of resources, less pollution and less
solid waste. We have significantly reduced the amount of packaging we use
through a series of design changes, such as eliminating the lids on our 6
oz. containers. The switch of our 4 oz. multi-packs to polystyrene was
another step. By switching to polystyrene cups, we were able to reduce the
packaging by 37% and prevent the manufacture and disposal of over 2.5
million lbs of material. In addition, we are molding the cups at our New
Hampshire facility, which eliminates the need to have empty cups shipped to
us. This saves fuel, reduces pollution including global warming gases and
eliminates additional packaging used to ship the empty cups.

From a food safety perspective, polystyrene has been determined by the both
the U.S. FDA and the European Union (EU) to be safe for packaging that is
in direct contact with food. The FDA requires the styrene content of the
packaging be less than 5,000 parts per million (ppm). The styrene content
in Stonyfield Farm’s polystyrene packaging does not exceed 400 ppm, or 92%
less than the allowable limit. If the low levels of styrene in our cups
still concern you, our yogurt can also be purchased in 32 oz. containers
made of polypropylene.


The folks at Stonyfield

well written, eh? almost, kinda believable--like, making me think i'm off the deep end with the fear of plastics. after all, i'm not heating her yogurt in these containers. is it really risky, after all? i thought a lot about this email after i got it today. and what i came up with was this:

in the end, i can only make the choices that are ruled by my gut. and that is (and has been) to choose alternatives to plastics, or safer plastics when no alternatives are available. after the trash inventory a short while back, i'd already committed to NOT buying yobaby yogurt, simply because the containers are not recyclable in my community. well, wouldn't you know i happened to be down the yogurt aisle at whole foods during a stonyfield promotion--they were giving away free 6-packs of yogurt. i couldn't resist.

now (despite an extremely well-written, canned response from stonyfield) i'm doubly motivated not to buy yobaby yogurt. and because of our trash inventory of days past (as well as the fact that most store bought yogurts have extra sugar added), i'm looking into making our own yogurt to cut down on waste. we're lucky to have local options for
divine yogurt in returnable glass jars, but it's beyond our budget at time being. if anyone has any tips, tricks or recipes for homemade yogurt, i'd love to hear them!


hudson and lucy...

we found these letters in the parking lot of market hall, an open-air dining, retail and fun-spot that has just opened in our community. no one, it seemed, had any idea what to expect from market hall as it was being built. it turns out to be a pretty nice addition to the area--especially because it now houses the hercules farmer's market on saturday afternoons.

we've been over several times to play at the (small) playground, get an organic latte (or two) and play bocce ball (though the balls were mysteriously missing--next time we'll bring our own). what i like most is the subtle sustainable vibe of the place: vintage airstream trailers, succulent gardens, faux grass on the concert lawn and retail shops made out of abandoned shipping containers. the oversized letters from the hudson and lucy photo-op above were handcrafted out of sheet metal--one of many works by local artisans. perhaps my favorite little addition is a fence covered in antique metal tools. i'm hoping to do a bit of copy-cating soon on one of our fences at home.

now, if only we could get the mobile food vendors to sell better, more sustainable food. the "slow food, fast" kind of thing. or am i hoping for too much?


we've been keeping busy...

it's been awhile since last post. last week was pretty much 100% dedicated to getting our house & yard birthday party-ready, and hitting the local farmer's markets for obscene amounts of produce and other yummy fare in which to serve. lucy's second birthday celebration ended up a perfectly simple bash with gorgeous springtime weather--squeezed in right before two days of drenching rain showers. we got lucky for sure! photos to come.

in other news, hudson fell in love with his first balloon. much like trader joe's, whole foods occasionally offers balloons to the kiddos. we don't usually take them, but the lil' guy was so fascinated with it as we stood in the checkout line--i couldn't say no when the checker offered. the balloons are 100% compostable, including the twine that they use in place of curling ribbon.

as far as our compost bin is concerned, we've moved it to the front yard (setting a good example?) and have been happily using all of our "homemade" dirt in this year's garden. photos of that to come soon, too.

thanks for hanging in while we buzz around like busy bees...