Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

I have lived in Madison for over 10 years and frequent about 3 grocery stores. The Willy Street Coop is the place where I shop the most. It is conveniently located, I am a member and the organic produce selection is affordable, and local when available. I also go to Whole Foods for a few key items and now that Trader Joe's has arrived, well, I have to make a run there every once in a while, too. Both of those stores are on the west side, so I don't get there very often. I also love the Jenifer Street Market on Madison's east side, but did not include it in this survey as I do not frequent there enough. This is my compiled "dream" grocery list. The following items have the best quality and taste for cost (according to me:). I would love your feedback!

Willy Street Coop:
*fresh, organic and local produce--fruit: right now I'm buying apples, oranges and bananas. Very non-local, but what other options are there this time of year? The citrus is good, I have to say....
Vegetables: I am sorely missing the bounty of the summer farmers' markets, full of greens, squash, herbs, locally made soaps, honey, fresh flowers, etc. Should I stop reminding you? But luckily many local items are still available including garlic, potatoes, and winter squash. Even sprouts and some greens. My staples right now include potatoes, carrots and celery. Soup anyone?
* Bagels Forever (7-grain) I get a couple packages and freeze- .99 for 5 bagels made here in Madison.
* Yuppie Hill Farm eggs-about 2.50/dozen. Free range, local. Can't get 'em much cheaper, even at the farmer's markets.
* Bulk Coffee-My favorite these days is Just Coffee Electric Monkey Espresso. About $8.00/lb.
* Bulk Water
* Bulk Dry goods. Flour (unbleached white, buckwheat, spelt and rice flour are among my staples), beans, grains, oatmeal and sugar. Willy Street's bulk goods are plentiful and usually cheaper than Whole foods.
* Organic local Beef, and local bison. Organic ground beef/bison starts at about $5.50/lb.
* Fresh Fish (though Whole Foods also as a great selection). We usually choose salmon and tilapia. From $8 to $$$ per pound.
* Deli Meats (Turkey and ham)
* Lots of local cheeses and good prices (cheddar starting at about $4.00/lb).
* Sparkling water
* The Willy Street bakery also makes some decent baked goods including a few gluten free options. I especially like their gluten free brownies for $1.49 (our babysitter's favorite!) and their GF pumpkin apple muffins. YUM!
* Natural Ovens bread. If I don't make my own, then I buy this. Made in Wisconsin, about $3.50/loaf.

Whole Foods:
Sometimes called Whole Paycheck! Yeah-the food is good! I don't get a lot here, but these items are essentials:) The prices listed are very approximate as I have not been there in a while.
* Whole Foods frozen sausage links-any flavor. The best precooked sausages I have ever had.
* Usually they have some fresh meat on sale. Since it is not prepackaged it definitely is healthier! Ground beef, fresh sausages, ground bison, chicken, all reasonable priced. Some of the cuts of meat get expensive, but excellent quality. I have bought the beef stew meat to use for , well, stews and stir fry. It is under $5/lb and very tender.
* Whole food handmade tortillas. about $2.50/dozen.
* The samples. Can I include the samples? YUM!
* The fruit quality is the best. You will not find a dry orange here! But you pay for that quality. I have found that most stores will let you sample the produce if you ask nicely.

Trader Joe's:
I just returned from a trip to Trader Joe's. I usually stock up on packaged good here and srteet clear of the produce. It traveled way too far to get here and is wrapped in Saran wrap on styrofoam. Yuck! The staples are:
* Pasta sauce. Basic marinara, very good flavor, $1.69/jar.
* Eggs. Cage free, raised in WI $1.69 dz
* Frozen fruit and veggies. Organic blueberries for $2.69? Can't beat that! I also get frozen spinach which I put in everything.
* Frozen waffles $1.99 a box.
* Snacks such as fruit leather, cheese puffs, chips are all reasonably priced.
* Salsa. Their basic salsa is under $2.jar and very tasty. Not too hot, either. Want a not too basic salsa? My favorite is their habanero-lime salsa.
* Pasta. You can get whole wheat, rice or white pasta for very, very good prices (starting at under $1/bag). Rice pasta here is the cheapest I have found.
* Cereal. Hard to believe how much cereal costs, but you can still get a box here for under $3.
* Dairy, such as butter, yogurt and milk are also good deals here. There are organic options, and they do carry local brands.

Winner-Child-friendly shopping--1st place goes to...Willy Street Coop. Fun play area, nearby seating so you can sip coffee while your kids play. Kid sized carts--so they can race around the store? 2nd place...Trader Joe's. Find the hidden stuffed animal and win a prize. Keeps the kids busy. Plus great samples for kids and kid sized carts.

Alright, well that may or may not be of use to anyone, but it is always fun to think about food! I would love to hear any other opinions or ideas about places to shop in Madison, or where you think the best deals are. Especially for local and organic foods. Anyone frequent the Jennifer Street market? I love it because it is locally owned an operated and has a great wine and meat selection. What do you like to get there?

Enjoy your holidays. Happy shopping and happy cooking....

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chard Cheese Pie


This year, I planted a deckside garden, tired of dragging the hose across the yard to water a small bed in the back. It is wonderful and bountiful, and the vegetable plants fit in well with the shrubs and flowers that define the space. The bed is not huge, but I managed to plant peas, chard, beets, lettuce, spinach (already pulled out as it was going to flower) and carrots (I haven't actually seen a carrot yet--I think they did not make it.) In addition, I planted calendula and zinnia from seed, while the resident shrub rose, day lilies as well as barberry and yarrow create some permanent structure and color in the bed.

I am still harvesting lettuce. It is protected from the sun by the day lily leaves, and I think that has prevented it from going to seed early. The chard and beet greens have really taken off with the recent rains and hot sun, and I thinned them the other day. It so happened that our local paper, the Isthmus, printed a recipe for Chard Cheese Pie and I thought I would give it a try. Mmmmm...Delicious! It is adapted from The New Laurel's Kitchen by Laurel Robertson.

Chard Cheese Pie

Serves 4-6

2 cups cottage cheese (I used 1.5 cups cottage cheese and 1.2 cup grated provolone)
2 eggs beaten
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cup lightly cooked chard, or other greens (I used chard and beet tops)
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
paprika

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together cottage cheese, eggs, lemon and salt. Stir 1 cup of this mixture into the chard and pres into 8 x 8 baking dish. Spread remaining cottage cheese mixture on top of and sprinkle with bread crumbs and paprika. Bake until set, about 1/2 hour. Let stand to cool for several minutes before serving. Guten appetit!