July Locavore Challenge: Three Days In

Local, simple ingredients can turn a quick meal into a savory experience.

We’re three days into our Locavore Challenge — and the caffeine withdrawal is strong. I saw a coffee plant for sale at the Cobblestone Farmer’s Market the other day and I probably would have bought it (even though I know nothing about growing coffee) if the sign didn’t say that the plants require several years to produce coffee beans. Nevertheless, my husband and I bravely fight on as parents of a two-year-old and four-year-old without coffee. Wish us well.

I forgot to bring my lunch to work today. When you aren’t used to eating local, this situation can be just as frightening as a lack of caffeine. I had to go to Camino Bakery for a baguette to make more crostini (we love it), so I figured I’d give their menu a shot. I was so excited to see that their egg salad sandwich was made with fresh greens, dill, and tomatoes from a farmer we’d met at the Farmer’s Market the weekend before. I have to tell you — it was the best sandwich I’ve had in a long time. The fresh bread was melt-in-your-mouth good and you could tell the produce had been grown with love. Plus, I walked out of the bakery with my sandwich and the baguette for just $10.

All of the meals we’ve made this week have been winners, but I guess it would be hard to mess up such fresh and unique ingredients. They have also been really simple. When you’re using fewer ingredients and are familiar with each one that you place in a dish, it tends to come together a lot easier. The flavors are also incredibly savory, which means that Mitch and I have been eating smaller portions than usual, which I love. I can’t say the same for the kids. They aren’t picky eaters, but they do tend to eat like birds unless it’s mac & cheese, hot dogs, or pizza, so having them ask for and finish second helpings of meals prepared with fresh vegetables is super encouraging.

Speaking of things my kids will eat — my daughter really, really loves dip. While other kids celebrate with Paw Patrol, Moana, or Daniel Tiger birthday parties, Josie’s day was filled with every kind of dip you can imagine. There was pizza dip, chicken tenders with several sauces, cheese ball, guacamole, cookie dough dip… Seriously, it was amazing. So when our family decided to take on this challenge, I knew we needed to figure out how to make our own ketchup — and fast. Luckily we found a great recipe from Simple Bites that we tried with Roma tomatoes and loved! Give it a shot — it’s worth the time it takes to make.

So, what’s the best thing we ate this week? Outside of Mitch’s Hamburger Hash (which I’ll share his recipe for in my next post), I’d have to say it was the Spinach Gnocchi we bought from Foggy Mountain Pasta at the Farmer’s Market this weekend. Not only have I never eaten spinach gnocchi, but the idea of it has never crossed my mind. Let me tell you — it deserves a spot on your radar. It was unique, filling and savory. Every bite was a burst of flavor and just the right texture. The only drawback was the price. At $15, it was much more expensive than what I would usually pay for pasta. But, I’m willing to pay more for exceptional food and artisan creativity on occasion, and Spinach Gnocchi is definitely that occasion.

Have any simple summer recipes that can be made with local ingredients that you think we should try? Leave them in the comments — it’s almost time for another meal planning session and I’ll take all the help I can get!

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