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Locally Yours: Trip to farmers' market offers menu-making inspiration

By: Carol Arnold
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I am spending less money on food and my family is eating better. What's my secret? Over the past year I have been doing more and more of my shopping at the Foothill Farmers' Market. Yes, I am at the market every week, but by choice. Why? Because I know where the food was grown and who grew it. Because it is an amazing value. When food tastes good it is more satisfying. Everything is much more flavorful and at the peak of nutrition. We as a family are eating much less junk and instead eating many more vegetables and fruits. That's partly because I don't shop as often where one is tempted by the big store displays, but I think even more it's the richness and sweetness of the fresh, ripe produce, satisfying in a way that eliminates most of those cravings. I have been gradually working out methods to incorporate the local food into our family breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Key components of this plan include menu planning based on what is seasonal, cooking simply, and using meat products for more than one meal ” we rarely cook and eat whole steaks. I walk through the market on Saturday and look at the stalls. I see mint and I add Lebanese hamburger and rice to my mental menu. Flying Mule has lamb and I remember Snow's Citrus Court has a great marinade. Dan Macon (the lamb guy) suggests that stir-fried red bok choy will go great with his all-natural grass-fed lamb. So it's right over to Bryan Kaminsky from Natural Trading Company and his beautiful red bok choy. I bought the potatoes from Twin Brooks farm, where I also picked up some broccoli. The broccoli will be excellent steamed and served with tender and flavorful pork tenderloin from Coffee Pot Ranch on another night. Pretty soon I have a full week's menu in my head, and I have the ingredients in my basket. Recent additions to the market include wonderful bread and cheese vendors, which is making the planning process even easier. We already have a variety of choices at the market, but there will be much more available now that spring is in the air. The following months will bring more tips on how to cook simply, eat fresh locally produced food, and save some money while shopping at the Farmers' Markets. See you at the Auburn Farmers' Market this Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. Don't forget ” market hours, beginning March 15, are 8 a.m. to noon. Remember to buy local! Marinated Lamb and Potatoes on Rosemary Skewers Ingredients: 6 8-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary (Snow's Citrus Court) Mandarin Orange Marinade (Snow's Citrus Court) 3/4 pound lamb sirloin, cut into 1-inch cubes (Flying Mule Ranch) 1/4 red onion, cut into 1-inch square pieces 18 small red finn apple fingerling potatoes, washed (Twin Brooks Farm) 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and pepper Strip off all but two inches of the rosemary leaves. Soak skewers in water for 1/2 hour before using. Toss lamb with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Boil potatoes in lightly salted water for 8 minutes. Toss with olive oil and a dash of salt. When ready to assemble, skewer lamb, potatoes, and onions, alternating each until rosemary skewer is full. Repeat. Barbecue the skewers on medium-high heat for 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare lamb. Stir-Fried Bok Choy Ingredients: 2 heads red bok choy, rinsed clean and dried (Natural Trading Company) 1 clove garlic, minced 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and pepper to taste Rough chop bok choy, about 1-inch pieces. Heat olive oil in pan and cook garlic on medium heat for 1 minute. Do not brown the garlic. Add bok choy to pan. Lightly salt and pepper. Stir-fry just until the bok choy wilts and thick white ends soften, about 2 to 4 minutes. Place bok choy on platter, top with skewers and serve. Carol Arnold is the general manager of the Foothill Farmers' Market Association. She can be reached at clarnold@yahoo.com.