Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Altadena Farmers' Market Challenge

The challenge: to feed a family of four using only $25 at the Altadena Farmers' Market. Since we're a family of two, I thought, "no problem!" Not only was it not a problem, it was a pleasure to find good things to eat at the Market—enough to make us a meal with leftovers and then some.

A beautiful November day in Altadena.

We started with meat as the main dish. Novy Ranches had grass-fed beef fajita strips for $8.00 a pound. That's grass-fed, $8/pound. I can pay $6 for miscellaneous-fed hamburger at the grocery store.

The rest of the meal wasn't easy! There are too many temptations at the Altadena Farmers' Market. Here's something amazing I sampled at the Bread Lounge booth.

We also tasted several flavors of jam from Coldwater Canyon Provisions. I'm going back for more of this stuff.

There's honey, ice cream, vegetables, hummus, prepared foods (like prepared fresh right then and there) and much more. Yet the market is friendly, open, and doable. Not too big, and not mingy either. Just right.

I'd go back to the market for this booth alone.

We brought home a loaf of sesame/honey bread from the Bread Lounge, one green pepper for our fajitas, two organic avocados, three organic heirloom tomatoes, and a little over a pound of the Novy Ranch fajita strips.

We had some stuff on hand that needed to be used: one red pepper, fresh garlic, onions, some flour tortillas we hadn't eaten yet, and a container of pico de gallo. We thought we'd make fajitas and a tomato-avocado salad, and we'd toast the bread and have it with jam for dessert.

But avocados are one of my favorite foods, and I had that pico de gallo. I make lazy-butt guacamole by smashing my avocados and stirring in as much or as little pico de gallo as I want. You can add stuff like lime or garlic or salt or none, or all three.

I marinated the meat with spices, olive oil and Worcestershire Sauce. (There's a guy at the market who sells flavored olive oils, but we had already spent our $25 before we found him so he's another reason to go back.) By the way: not a hint of gristle in that meat.

The tomatoes lurked in the background. They don't belong in a fajita, and I didn't need them in my lazy-butt guac. I felt guilty about them, not sure what my "family of four" was going to do with them.

I sauteed the onion and fresh peppers in the same pan as the meat was cooked in, with some salt and pepper. I'm not giving you a recipe here, trust me, you're better off finding one on line and deciding how you want to use it.

The bread awaits its destiny.

Fajitas, lazy guacamole and random chips, plus a lime from our neighbor's tree. We ate our fill, it was delicious, and we didn't have room for bread for dessert. Hey, I never said I was some genius meal planner. But somehow, we always manage to get fed.

So the next day we had Bread Lounge bread for breakfast: toasted, buttered and jammed. Yum! For lunch we had left-over fajitas (they get jiggy in the fridge, in a good way), and we figured out what to do with our tomatoes. Duh! Sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper. You can't beat that.

Two and a half meals for us is more than a meal for four people, so the challenge to feed a family of four was no challenge at all. My math's not so good but I think we fed a family of four and a half.


22 comments:

Bellis said...

You've inspired me to go to the Altadena market tomorrow. Looking forward to more of your shopping and cooking blogs.

altadenahiker said...

Nice snaps! My favorite is the oyster booth. Best oysters in all LA. I think eight on a half shell would just about eat your budget.

Petrea Burchard said...

It's a perfect little market, Bellis. My new favorite.

Karin, we skipped the seafood in order to stay on budget, but all the friends we ran into there said the oysters were the best.

William Kendall said...

Your market's quite busy. Our market had its final weekend in the location where it's been on Sunday- a minute's walk from my front door. It goes back to its permanent location for three Christmas market weekends starting at the end of the month.

Laura Monteros said...

Petrea, the meal looks wonderful, but $25 is a fortune to feed a family of four one meal. I used to regularly put dinner on the table for six for $6. Even multiplied by 1.5 to account for inflation, that's less than half per person what you set aside to spend. I could never have fed my family from the farmer's market on a regular basis, or even once, unless it was Christmas or Thanksgiving. When I mention how high the prices are at farmer's markets, the response is invariably "a lot of people are willing to pay more for organic food" or similar. That response completely misses the point: For some families, some individuals, getting anything to eat on the table is a financial challenge. Leaving aside the pro-and-con of organics and free range, many of us simply do not have a choice.

LOLfromPasa said...

Wonderful! Thanks for a great idea for dinner later this week. Of course, ours won't be as great as yours because the Altadena Farmers' Market is a tad far away from Coventry to do our shopping :). Love all the shots!

Petrea Burchard said...

William, we're fortunate that the Farmers' markets here can stay open year 'round. I imagine that doesn't work where you are!

Laura, that's true. It explains the existence of WalMart. But for organic food, I think the quality and prices at this market beat the other organic outlets I've found.

LOL, I'm sure you'll do fine!

Bellis said...

Laura makes a good point. My growing teenage son was getting through 4 loaves of bread a day, and I never had enough food in the house for him. Food was a big expense in our family at that time. I try to restrict my visits to the Farmer's Markets because I was getting through $100 cash per visit. Trader Joe's has good organic meat and vegetables at reasonable prices, but I should really try to buy my meat from Novy, where the animals are well cared for and grass fed.

Irina Rekhviashvili said...

Great food market news from other planet, so juicy illustrated and cooked. I am so glad you had good and tasteful time.

Petrea Burchard said...

It's an interesting discussion, Laura and Bellis. Organics and grass-fed, we're told, are better for our health and for the planet. But they're also more expensive. And 4 loaves a day! Geez.

Thanks, Irina. I guess it is another planet. I'd love to visit yours.

altadenahiker said...

Alt Farmers' Market works in conjunction with many subsidized food programs including EBT, CalFresh, WIC, SSI, and Social Security. Members of these programs can purchase produce, often at a substantial discount. I believe there's one (WIC? maybe) where customers can purchase $20 of fruits & vegs for $10.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, hiker! That's great info. I think the Market should post it. Maybe they do, but I didn't see it.

llandudnopictures said...

Great challenge, and congratulations for passing it with flying colours. That's a delicious, healthy and hearty looking meal... and then some!

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Geoff!

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I think it's a vendors choice if they're willing to take vouchers. I have a couple of homeless friends that take advantage of those kind of programs at the Hollywood farmers market.

Some of the produce you find at the 99 cent store is organic.

btw: great photos. do you always eat by candle light?

Petrea Burchard said...

We always do, PA. We've never liked the light in the dining room. Probably need to paint the walls a friendlier color. So we don't turn on the lights, just the candles.

Laura Monteros said...

altadenahiker, the Altadena Farmers Market only matches up to $10 in SNAP. And SNAP is not limitless, just like cash. It still works out to needing to get the most out of your dollar or voucher when you don't have a lot of money. Saying someone takes SNAP is like saying someone takes quarters, there's really no difference in buying power.

Petrea Burchard said...

Something akin to a comment I made on Facebook:
Farmers' Markets don't claim to be discount shopping. At a Farmers' Market you're buying organic produce and other products from local farmers. It's more about sustainability than feeding the needy, and unfortunately it can't do both, at least not all the time.

Ms M said...

Looks like a wonderful market. And your food pics were great! Good menu!

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Ms M. I'm not a menu maven so John and I do the cooking and shopping together.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

You and Laura both make a good point. Poor people go to the 99 cent store. And more and more people are taking advantage of their fruits and vegetables. As a result, the 99 cent store is stocking a larger supply of them. And not all outdoor markets are the same. Vendors go to where those that can afford their product are. Example - Home Boy. They used to be at the Highland Park ODM but left because the population couldn't meet their prices (as told to me by a former gang member manning their booth).

Re candles: Mr V won't allow it. Made everyone hate him when he pitched a fit at a family Thanksgiving dinner over the use of candlelight.

Petrea Burchard said...

Couldn't see his food? We use lamps on the side to help.