Organic, Seasonal, Local…on a Budget!

I hope you are having a happy and healthy Fourth of July!

There are so many benefits to organically grown foods! According to the Toxic Free NC organization, organic farming reduces pollution, uses no pesticides or chemicals, promotes biodiversity, and bring a fairer price to farmers for their hard-earned produce. I enjoy purchasing organic products whenever possible; however, I often find that purchasing organic produce, meat, and eggs at the supermarket is too expensive for my “graduate student budget.” How have I solved this problem in my daily diet? I now purchase the majority of my food at a local farmer’s market, or I get it straight from the farm in my weekly CSA box!

Buying at the farmer’s market eliminates the “middle man,” and lets you buy produce that is grown just a few miles down the road from your home. Prices on organic produce are often much lower than in a retail store, not to mention they taste so much fresher! Another great perk of buying from a framer is knowing where their food is grown, what their labor practices are like, and how to best prepare and serve their produce.

When I shop at the Farmer’s Market, I feel like a kid in a candy shop- there is to much healthy food to choose from! This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Midtown Farmer’s Market in North Raleigh. Not only did I find some delicious produce, but I found some unique specialty items that are hand-crafted and made with local ingredients. Here are my top finds for local and fresh items, made just for you at the farmer’s market!

1. Best BBQ sauce and rubs: J-Rod’s Backyard Grill

I am not a big meat- eater, but J-Rod’s Chipotle Brown Sugar Rub and BBQ Sauce makes any local meat taste amazing! This sauce is best used on chicken, beef, pork, seafood, and burgers. They are a locally operated company in Morrisville, NC and include natural ingredients such as sea salt, paprika, peppers, ketchup, onions, vinegar, and tomato paste.

One tablespoon of BBQ sauce has only 15 calories and 2 grams of sugar, compared to Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce which contains over 16 grams of sugar! The brown sugar rub doesn’t contain any sugar. J-Rod’s rub and sauce have a sweet, tangy, even spicy taste and is so delicious you will be coming back to the farmer’s market for more!

2. Best dessert: Prodigal Farm’s goat cheesecake

Prodigal Farms is well-known for their rich and creamy goat cheeses. They have recently taken their specialty one step further by making homemade cheesecakes, made from goat cheese instead of cow’s cheese! I was a bit skeptical at first…but after tasting a sample of the Mexican chocolate, I was sold! Goat cheesecake has a rich and tangy flavor, and a creaminess to die for! I would much rather indulge in this cheesecake over original cheesecake. The flavors offered this week at the farmer’s market were Mexican chocolate and Lemon Creme. An 6″ homemade cheesecake costs $8…which provides 4 slices of rich cheesecake. This is a must have for special occassions!

3. Favorite daily snack: Senora Dixie salsa

This spicy salsa comes in three flavors: Mild, medium and hot! Every jar of salsa is made with fresh and all natural ingredients. The best thing about this salsa is it is a low calorie and low sodium snack, especially when paired with vegetables. Salsa is a very versatile ingredient and can be paired with chips, rice and beans, eggs, or used as a marinade.

4. Best baking ingredient: The Pleasant Bee Honey

This honey is made locally in Raleigh by two certified beekeepers. They sell regular honey and creamed honey, as well as various lotions, soaps, and lipbalms! This week, I tried creamed cinnamon and wildflower honey, and this was quite amazing! So far, I have tried this honey on toast, in slow cooked oatmeal, and on top of grilled peaches. It adds a unique and sweet flavor to any snack. In addition, this local ingredient has helped my terrible summer allergies, because it acts as a natural antibiotic, antihistimine, and anti-irritant.

5. Favorite selection of produce: Wild Onion Farms

Besides its adorable name, Wild Onion Farms is a small and sustainable family produce farm that focuses on quality, variety, and consistency. During this particular trip to the market, I purchased eggplant, squash, and cucumbers. Believe me when I tell you that this farm produces the BEST cucumbers I have ever tasted…and they’re only $1 each! Check out Wild Onion’s great summer selection of tomatoes, squash, zucchini, potatoes, peppers, carrots, and berries as well! Everything is grown using strict organic methods. This week, I have made eggplant parmesean, roasted squash, and sliced cucumbers and hummus…all of which were hearty, fresh, and flavorful!

6. Favorite sweet treat: The Chocolate Flower, Chocolates and Truffles

This had to be my favorite item of the day, and although this is not the best food to be trying samples of at 9am, I was immediately drawn to this stand. The chocolate flower is owned by Jennie Orcutt, who rents a church kitchen weekly in order to work on her “truffling” skills. These truffles and chocolates are made with fresh and local ingredients, and are melt in your mouth delicious! The Chocolate Flower rotates their flavors weekly, and offers flavors suchas Green Tea Ginger, Basil Pistachio, Orange Honey Caramel, and Elderflower…just to name a few. Truffles are $1.50 each or 8 for $10, and homemade chocolate bars are only $2 each. My favorite flavors this week included the Mexican chocolate and pumpkin seed bar, Kai Kai Peanut Butter truffle, and the Equal Opportunity Banana truffle. Yum!

Do you have any farmer’s market treats that you enjoy? If so, share them here!


1 Comment »

  1. Kate said

    This is a wonderful blog! And the Midtown Farmers Market is my favorite place to pick up local goodies and spend time hanging out listening to local musicians and learning from weekly educational events on Saturday mornings. Thanks Ashely for posting this!

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