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A Fresh Focus

Call to Action: Volunteers Needed for Trails in Woodbridge, Museum in Manassas

Good morning – Capital Caring is starting a new program and is need of artists, musicians, people with certified pet therapy animals, and regular, amazing people with time to share to bring wonder of creating something beautiful to their patients. Contact Rachael at 703-957-1785 or rlyddon@capitalcaring.org.

· BEACON Adult Literacy needs volunteers to work with ESL adult learners. No prior experience is needed as you will be given all the tools needed to make a successful partnership with your student. The next training is August 23rd. Please call Caroline at (703) 368-7491 to learn more.

· Coming August 12-14! It is National Health Center Week and the Greater Prince William Community Health Center will hold its 6th annual celebration under the tents at Ridgewood Health Center between 8am and 2pm. Volunteers are needed to help. Please call Richard at 703-680-7950 Ext. 3107.

· Manassas Museum is seeking docents for their fall schedule. If you have love of history and like people, the Museum is the place for you! Make the past come alive by joining this great team – call 703-368-1873 for details.

· Have a positive impact on your community through teaching! Volunteer with Catholic Charities Hogar Immigrant Services. Call Jackie at 571-208-1572 X104.

· Leesylvania State Park wants to know if you have what it takes to be a TrailBlazer? Show them on August 16 – each year volunteers set out to build, mark, and maintain trails. Help keep the trails accessible. You need sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Find a hiking stick along a trail and bring it back to the Visitor center afterward to decorate. Call 703-583-6904 for details!

· House of Mercy launches shoe drive to benefit children in need: The No Shoes/New Shoes program is underway. Look for this Manassas non-profit organization’s collection boxes, located throughout Manassas and Gainesville or call 703-659-1636 to find out more.

· Brain Injury Services is looking for PALS. Michele will match you in a mutually enriching friendship for monthly outings in the community with someone close to your age. For more information please email: mthyen@braininjurysvcs.org – you don’t know how special you are until you make someone smile.

· Saved Hands Foundation offers a number of services to homeless individuals in Woodbridge. Volunteers are needed to teach Microsoft Office during traditional business hours. They also need a grant writer to help solicit resources to help their clients and a Human Resources Director to manage resources services, policies, and programs. Learn more by visiting them on the web at www.SavedHandsFoundation.org and click on Volunteer Opportunities. Come be part of this expanding team – please call Pamela at (703) 895-6681 to learn more.

· Hey students, get a jump on those community service hours for school! SERVE in Manassas has a need for volunteers age 16 and up who can help Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons from 12:30pm to 3:30pm assembling packages for clients seeking food services. Training is provided! Fight hunger in the community! Call Jan at 571-748-2621.

· Transitional Housing BARN needs adult volunteers to help sort and organize donations for their monthly yard sales. Come join the team that works during the week between 8am-2pm. They also need volunteers the second Saturday of each month to set up from 6am-8:30 am and then take down late morning. This is perfect for all the early birds out there and then you can get your round of golf in. Please call Tammy at (703) 369-1325 for more info.

· If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Coleen can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 207, Shelley can help with any individual or group project and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 201, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 202. Please visit our newly re-vamped website at www.volunteerprincewilliam.org. Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

Autism Walk Sparks Competition for a Good Cause

Mom on the Run

It’s a beautiful day, sunny and crisp, and I’m at the 9th Annual Walk for Autism Virginia. My company has sponsored a team and there’s a good-sized group of us here, co-workers with spouses and kids, wagons and strollers, happily, chattily making the laps around the Prince William Fairgrounds.

I’ve had a lot of fun. I like my co-workers, and it’s been good to meet the family members I hear so much about. Since I’ve been in Manassas for a long time I’ve run into other people I know, too – it was terrific to catch up with Charlene, who I haven’t seen for almost 10 years.

Now we’re on our third and final lap. Our work group is hanging loosely together, more spread out than when we started, lollygagging little kids towards the back, striding grown-ups in front, and older sisters darting up and down along our group. There are refreshments (pizza! Chick-fil-A!), games, and a moon bounce to celebrate the end of the walk, and the kids are excited, ready to wrap up this boring walking.

Aniya, nine, is particularly frustrated. Her moving on to the after-party is being held up by her mom, who is being held up by cranky five-year-old Julius. So Aniya splits off from them and bounces up to me a few yards ahead. “I want to run,” she complains to me. “I want to run and get there fast, and get to the games and food.”

I consider it for a minute. We’ve just started the third and final lap. I took a spin class this morning, and one last night. I feel fine … but ugh, I hate running. And everyone I work with is here and will be watching me do it. It’s not really far, though, and I think I’m in decent shape. Aniya is hopping up and down. She won’t be allowed to run alone, so … “OK,” I tell her.

I’ve just started to think about it – put one foot in front of the other, my husband counseled in May when we did the Warrior Dash, a 5K run broken up by obstacles – when Aniya grins at me and takes off. With a whirl of her purple jacket she zips away, darting between people and up the hill. (Of course we’re at the base of a hill. Because running isn’t going to be difficult enough.)

Oh no! I really have to do this, and right now! Automatically I take off too, chasing Aniya, following the trail she’s breaking.

The first people we pass, of course, are the president of our company and her husband, and “Oho! Look at this! They’re running! Go, Lianne!” “Look at Lianne run!” Their voices trail behind as Aniya and I get farther away, but ugh, people are watching! And I’m wearing a bright yellow jacket. I’m not going to blend in very well. I’m afraid this is going to be embarrassing. Why did I suggest this? Running?

I catch up to Aniya – I’m glad she’s short, with short legs, and already played a soccer game today! – and we race along for a while, dodging around clumps of walkers. It’s warm in the sun so her coat is open, and it’s flapping as she runs. She’s got her pink hat clutched in her hands and it’s swinging back and forth and she’s chatting, prattling on about how she wishes she didn’t have her coat, and she wants to get to the games, and this has been fun but all the way around three times is long, and she’s hungry.

I’m chugging silently along, listening and nodding, trying to keep a steady pace and looking worriedly ahead. We have a long way to go before we finish, nine-year-old girls seem to have limitless energy, and everyone is watching me! One foot in front of the other, Lianne ….

And shortly after we round the corner, and are part-way up the hill, wham! Aniya stops running. I slam on my own brakes, locking my knees and lunging forward. “OK,” she pants. “That’s enough for now. We can walk for a while.” Yes! I don’t punch the air, I don’t do a victory dance, and I don’t call back to my team, “She stopped first!” Instead, I smile, and we walk, Aniya and I, on this beautiful, sunny, crisp day, for a good cause.

For more information on improving the lives of all affected by autism in Northern Virginia, see asnv.org.

Farmers Market Vendors Maintain Smiles Even in the Rain

Rainy day? That's okay!

Rainy day? That’s okay!

Last Thursday and Saturday were sad days at the Farmer’s Market.  It was cold and rainy.

Cold and rainy does not typically inspire patrons to come out and walk around to buy vegetables. If you did walk over to the Harris Pavilion or to Lot B, you could find many vendors, bravely sitting under the pavilion bundled up but maintaining smiles. Rain or shine, they’re out there.

I’ve come up a list of reasons why the Farmer’s Market is still awesome even when it’s cold or raining (or both):

-You have a good excuse to use your legs on a day when staying in bed feels like the right thing to do. Huzzah for being active!

-You can buy coffee at the Farmer’s Market.  Cold problem: solved.

-Things like chili and soup require ingredients that are sold at the Farmer’s Market. Why not make yourself some amazing comfort food with the freshest ingredients?

-Vendors wake up very early and come with a smile on their face.  If they can do it, so can you!

-Rain or shine, you should feed yourself local, fresh, and healthier food.

Fortunately, the weather is better this week. We do hope to see you out at the market! We’ll be there waiting for you! 

Five Fall Favorites at the Manassas Farmers Market

If you've never had a Honeycrisp apple, you're missing out! They're incredibly crisp and fresh and delicious. These apples make a delicious snack.

This week we’ve found five of our vendor’s fall favorites.  Check out these delicious products at the Thursday and Saturday markets

If you've never had a Honeycrisp apple, you're missing out! They're incredibly crisp and fresh and delicious. These apples make a delicious snack.

If you’ve never had a Honeycrisp apple, you’re missing out! They’re incredibly crisp and fresh and delicious. These apples make a delicious snack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Pumpkin Mini Galettes- They are delicious and pumpkin flavored.

Pumpkin Mini Galettes- They are delicious and pumpkin flavored.

 

 Mums! Beautiful and are the epitome of the fall flower.

Mums! Beautiful and are the epitome of the fall flower.

 

 

 

 

Morning Glory muffin from Bread House bakery. This muffin has carrot and other dried fruit. They also have pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pound cake.

Morning Glory muffin from Bread House bakery. This muffin has carrot and other dried fruit. They also have pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pound cake.

 

Pumpkin butter from Wildwood Farm. Great on slice of toast in the morning with your cup of coffee.

Pumpkin butter from Wildwood Farm. Great on slice of toast in the morning with your cup of coffee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support Your Home Team Farmers Market this Season

A Fresh Focus — Sponsored Content by Historic Manassas, Inc. 

I’ll admit it, I’m a Ravens fan. I realize this makes me an outsider in Redskins territory, but I’m not from here originally.

From a suburb of Baltimore, everyone seems to “bleed purple” there, and it’s rubbed off on me. 

I’m also, admittedly, a fair-weather fan.  Last season was a great season to be a fair-weather fan, seeing as we won the Super Bowl. So while I don’t follow player statistics or even know when games are going to come on, I do enjoy some of the things that football season represents. 

Football means fall, and tailgating, hot beverages, chips and dip, and wearing sweatshirts. Football is a nice distraction from the painful cold of January.  It’s a good excuse to get out of the house to watch the game, or to invite people over for a watch party. 

I can’t say that men tackling each other and women wearing next to nothing jumping around with pom poms is particularly exciting to me, but I do appreciate the fact that this activity brings people together from the area. And when people come together for football games there is almost always some delicious food to be had. In the same way we have a tendency to support the teams that hail from our hometowns, I’d like to suggest that you support those farmers and artisans in your area that grow and create things in your home state.  

Our farmer’s market has everything you need to grill delicious meats and veggies, locally roasted coffee beans, homemade treats, and more! Plan to support your team and your community by shopping the Farmer’s Market this football season.  What’s your favorite thing to eat during a game? Comment on this post and let us know! 

Easy to Find and Enjoy, Virginia is for Apples

091213-apples

Virginia is known for its wonderful apples and guess what—they’re in season!  Not only does an apple make an excellent afternoon snack or commute snack, but they’re probably one of the most versatile fruits around.  Don’t believe me? Well, I’ve made a list of twenty ways to love an apple. Find your favorites on this list, hit the market, pick up some apples, and enjoy!

20 Ways to Love an Apple:

-Apple Pie

-Apple chips (dehydrated apples)

-Pork and apples

-Applesauce

-Apple cider

-With brie on a baguette

-Apple turnovers (Becky’s Pastries sells great ones if you don’t want to make them from scratch!)

-Apples and peanut butter

-Apple fries

-Caramel apples

-Apple fritters

-Apple donuts

-Apple cobbler

-Apple chicken

-Red cabbage, bacon, and apples

-Apple wine

-Apple-scented potpourri

-Apple cake

-Bobbing for apples

-Apples in your salad (for example: Waldorf salad)

 Our Tuesday market is over for the season, but Thursday and Saturday are still going strong through the beginning of November. Then, you can expect your year-round market on Saturdays in the winter.

Come out and spend your fall Saturday mornings with us! 

Pumpkin Frenzy Hits Farmers Market

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004A Fresh Focus

Labor Day has come and passed.  Do you know what this means?  Yes, school is in session again, but that’s not all.  Yes, traffic is terrible again, but that’s not what I’m talking about either.  

Brace yourself- because it’s the time of year that people anticipate for many months. It’s pumpkin season.  Starbucks has featured the pumpkin spice latte again, and grocery stores are stocking the shelves with Halloween candy (really, who’s buying it this early?). However, consider getting your fall pumpkin fix at the Farmer’s Market instead.

Ricks Roasters Coffee Co. has featured a pumpkin iced coffee that is delicious. You can purchase an actual pumpkin from Roberto’s Produce to use to make a homemade pie, or to decorate you porch. Soon you’ll find pumpkin in some bakery treats at the market.

My first year post-grad, I lived in Spain. While I loved the experience, there was something missing from my fall—pumpkin. What was considered to be pumpkin in Spain is what we know as butternut squash. Not the same, friends, not the same.  When my parents came to visit me that winter, they brought me a can of pumpkin, which I used to make a pie. My Spanish friends had never seen anything like it (but definitely enjoyed it).

So as it turns out, pumpkin is a very American treat.  I learned recently that in the last two years, pumpkin mentions on menus is up 38%.  So show your pride for the great American pumpkin obsession and get your pumpkin fix at the Farmer’s Market!    

Why Choose the Farmer’s Market Over the Grocery Store?

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A Fresh Focus

Top Ten Reasons why the Farmer’s Market is Superior to the Grocery Store

0041.You can enjoy the fresh air while you shop.

2. The odds that you’ll see someone you know while perusing the Farmer’s market, as opposed to the grocery store, are much greater.

3. Since there are no carts, you don’t run the risk of getting in one of those awkward cart-traffic-jams which are ever-present at 5:30 p.m. on a weekday in Wegmans.

4. There are no lines as infuriating as those when there is only one checkout line open and approximately 15 people ahead of you with food to feed a dozen teenage boys.

5. You can chat with the personalities who make or grow the food and believe in it.

6. You’re supporting the local economy!

7. The food is fresher. Like, just picked yesterday freshness–which is healthier.

8. You can find new inspiration for dinner…like that provided by Lavender Retreat.  They are hosting cooking demos at a handful of our Thursday market.

9. It’s better for the environment. Those strawberries you eat in November from the grocery store are not from Virginia. Imagine all the fuel that could be saved from shipping produce cross-country or internationally if you shopped the Farmer’s Market.

10. You’ve got variety. You’ve got community. You’ve got health at your fingertips.  What more could you want?

Why Our Customers Shop the Market

Barrett

A Fresh Focus

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my own feelings about the Farmer’s Market—what it means to me and why I feel it’s an important aspect of the community. So this morning, I decided to take to the streets with a clipboard and ask some strangers shopping at the market why they choose to shop at the City of Manassas Farmer’s Market.

Peacock

Peacock

Dan Peacock, a Manassas resident, said “I like to buy high quality produce.”  He continued, “Now with the Tuesday market, it gives people an opportunity to buy something healthy on the way home.”  Peacock also noted that he likes to support the local economy.

A new resident of the area, Stephany Barrett, said she comes to the market for “fresh vegetables and fruit. I’m tired of guessing when I go to the grocery store.  I know it’s going to be delicious.” She listed kind vendors, reasonably-priced quality wine, and affordable beautiful cut flowers among other reasons why she comes out on Thursdays.

Barrett

Barrett

Nancy and Richard Redfearn can be found at the market almost every week.  When asked what brings her out to the market, Nancy replied, “I like fresh food. It’s sort of a social thing. You get to meet your neighbors.”

Like I’ve said week after week, if you like fresh, if you like community, the Farmer’s market is for you. But don’t take my word for it, listen to Dan, Stephany, Nancy and Richard.  One of my favorite responses of the morning was, “They got iced coffee! They got bread! They got BBQ! It’s fresh!”  Check out the market and see what we

Redfearn

Redfearn

have to offer.

Manassas Farmers Market’s Favorite Faces

A Fresh Focus 

One of the main reasons that folks attend the Farmer’s Market is to purchase their meats, treats, and produce from the faces they’ve come to know and love week after week.  I thought I’d take the opportunity to share with you some of my favorite faces at the market.

Sessou of Becky’s Pastries.  Sessou is one of the most animated and friendly faces to be found on Thursdays and Saturdays. Originally from Togo, Africa, Sessou started his family business the year his daughter, Becky, was born (now you understand the name).  His apple turnovers are delicious.

Lane

Lane

When you meet Patrick Lane of Wildwood Farm, prepare yourself for his silly banter. He will most certainly showcase his wit during your conversation.  He’s originally from Virginia but he’s fluent in German and has a way with bees.  Honey is one of the main products he and his wife, Bettina, sell, yet he rarely wears a bee suit and almost never gets stung. Was he a bee in a past life? I think so. They also sell beef, eggs, moisturizers made with honey, and more.

Medina

Medina

One of the most colorful produce stands at the market is run by Roberto Medina. Roberto learned everything he knows from his father, who was also a farmer.  He works incredibly hard, but is still cool as a cucumber at the markets. Roberto’s Produce is at our Thursday market.

You can’t miss Shelby of Cakes by Shelby at the market for two reasons: 1. She’s got beautiful bright red hair (and so do all of her girls). 2. She sells her goodies out of a gingerbread house.  It’s not literally made out of gingerbread, but it’s really adorable and in no way makes you feel like you’re going to be pushed into an oven by a witch (Hansel & Gretel reference).  You can build your own cupcakes at her cupcake bar or enjoy one of her

Shelby

Shelby

fantastic cakes or pies. My personal preference is her death my chocolate cake, which is to die for (hence the name).

 Valerie of Piedmont Growers has been a fixture at our market.  She’s been selling her plants and produce at our market for years and has built relationships with many shoppers.  Her husband is the grower, and Valerie helps out, and works many of the markets. Their fruit is delicious and the hanging baskets are breathtaking. If you walk around Old Town Manassas, you can observe their beautiful work hanging on light poles.

Valerie

Valerie

You can find all of these fabulous people and more selling high-quality, locally-produced goods at the Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. To find out more about our vendors , please visit our website.   

Spaghetti Squash a Summer Farmers Market Delight

A Fresh Focus

What I love about July is that so many delicious fruit and veggies are in season.  This makes the possibilities endless for great summer dishes. Last weekend, I had two friends visiting from out of town. 

Our hodgepodge salad!

Our hodgepodge salad!

They brought some items from their CSA box, and I had some veggies from the Manassas Market, so we combined our efforts to make the world’s greatest salad! Okay, maybe not the world’s greatest, but most likely the second greatest.

We ended up cooking almost everything we had and throwing it into a bowl- and it was yummy and healthy.  So here’s what the finished product included: squash, eggplant, potatoes, spinach, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, corn and couscous. We roasted the eggplant, squash, and potatoes; sautéed the green beans, and chopped everything else up and tossed it all together. Filling and delicious.

My friend, Jen, scooping out the spaghetti squash,

My friend, Jen, scooping out the spaghetti squash,

After they left, I was nearly cleaned out farm fresh goodies—but I had spaghetti squash, some tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and tomato sauce in the cupboard.  That evening, I had a dear friend over, and we roasted the spaghetti squash. If you’ve never had one, it’s called spaghetti squash because you can pull out the meat of the squash and looks just like spaghetti noodles. 

While it doesn’t necessarily taste like pasta, it’s pretty close, and it’s much healthier for you. It’s a great way to sneak veggies into the meal if you have picky kids.  We cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds and loose pulp, and roasted it at 375°, rind side up for 40 minutes.

DSC_0525Once the squash was cooked, we pulled out the insides with a fork, and tossed it with tomato sauce, cheese, oregano, cayenne pepper, fresh tomato, and chopped spinach. You can tell that the squash is done by testing to see if the flesh is tender with a fork. 

We placed the mixture into a glass 8×8 oven safe dish and baked it for 15 minutes, until the cheese was completely melted.  It turned out great. For a small spaghetti squash, it could have fed about three people.

The other great thing about July is that peaches, watermelon and cantaloupe are sweet and farm fresh and make a delicious dessert by themselves.  I hope you can use some of my meals from this week as inspiration to get out to the market and buy some great produce!

As I mentioned last week, we started up our Tuesday market.  It was a success!  Stop by and see us from 4-7 p.m. in parking Lot F on the corner of Main Street and Prince William Street.  

Win Free Stuff at New Tuesday Farmers Market in Manassas

Tuesdays are typically a “blah” day of the week.  You still haven’t exactly caught up on your sleep from the weekend, but it’s not quite “hump day.” 

I like to think of Tuesday as the purgatory of the work week.  However, as of yesterday, my Tuesdays have gotten a little better.

Why, you ask? Because there is now a Farmer’s Market on Tuesday afternoons.  I can pick up the bread, meat, or produce I need for dinner. I can get a treat of mini galettes from Jackie of Les Mini Galette or a sea salt brownie from Peggy at Catlett Confections. 

Or, if I don’t feel like cooking, I can buy some delicious BBQ from Absolute BBQ to take home or over to the Harris Pavilion for their Take Out Tuesday concert.  I know, I know, I’m the market manager, so you’re wondering:  “Is this just a shameless plug for the new market?” 

Believe it or not, this is not just an article written for promotional purposes.  In my own kitchen, I often want to cook with local produce, but, when you are cooking for one, you can’t go to the store one time a week and expect fresh produce for your “later in the week” needs. 

The solution: shop for fresh produce more often.  That way you don’t overbuy and possibly waste food and your money.  I go to the grocery store a couple of times a week to buy veggies, but with this new Farmer’s Market, I can cut this store shopping in half.  Especially since this market is conveniently open directly after work.   Who wouldn’t be excited?

No grocery store lines and fresh, delicious produce to enjoy mid-week. If your Saturday mornings are busy or your favorite day to sleep in, we’d love to see you at our Tuesday market. Or maybe you have ravenous teenagers and need to get another watermelon. 

Make sure to stop by and support your local growers and artisans.  Next Tuesday (July 30, 2013) Historic Manassas, Inc. will host a ribbon cutting celebration at 4:30 p.m. to launch this new market.  Join your community in celebrating this venture and enter to win a raffle of FREE market goodies! 

Peaches in Red Wine Make Bachelorette Watch Parties Fun

My roomie enjoying the dessert (she's such a good sport).

The finished product!

The finished product!

A Fresh Focus

I don’t watch much television. It’s probably because my frugal self has never seen it necessary in my adult life to spend money on a TV or cable bill.

That’s the kind of thing that you buy when you have an excess of disposable income and that’s not really where I’m at right now in life. However, when I moved in with my most recent roommate, she had a television and a cable subscription, so I started to watch TV once a week.

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Since I’d pretty much cut it out of my life, it’s hard for me to sit down and watch a complete show without getting antsy to go for a walk or perform some other physical activity.   There is one show that I watch on a consistent basis (please, refrain from judgment): The Bachelorette. 

I’ll admit it’s a terrible show; but, I find it to be extremely entertaining and excellent for poking fun.  Leyla and I make the weekly “Bachelorette watch” into an event. We alternate who cooks dinner, we get a bottle of wine and we allow ourselves to indulge in a treat of some sort for dessert. It’s really a nice ritual, especially for the first day of the week. 

This week, since peaches are in season, I decided to keep it simple with this recipe from the New York Times. It’s an elegant looking mixture of wine, spices, peaches, and blackberries. I picked up peaches and blackberries from the market last Saturday in preparation. Truly, there was not much active work required for this treat.

Apart from peeling some peaches and stirring a few ingredients together, it was quite simple. I let the wine mixture and peaches chill before serving them—the treat finally made its appearance during the rose ceremony.  SPOILER ALERT: Poor Zak W. was dumped this week. I bet some peaches would have assuaged his heartbreak.  I’ll admit, it sort of tastes like it sounds. Nothing particularly magical: peaches in sweet red wine.   

I’m more of an ice cream or chocolate girl when it comes to my sweet tooth, but this was a light and refreshing change.  I made a few slight changes to the original; my version of the recipe is below.  

Also, you’ll note in my photos, that I forgot to put the blackberries that I purchased into my mixture. If you would like to make something  light, refreshing, and uncomplicated, I would certainly recommend this recipe. You can find delicious fruit at this week’s market. 

Our markets are open on Thursday and Saturday, and starting next week, we are launching a THIRD market!  Check us on Tuesdays in Lot F (on the corner of Prince William St. and Main St.) from 4 – 7  p.m. If you want to find out more on the new market, check out our website.

Peaches in Red Wine  

Ingredients:

2 cups medium-bodied dry red wine.  I used Cabernet Sauvignon because it was on sale.

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 lemon rind of grated lemon zest

Pinch ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 large ripe peaches or nectarines

1/4 cup blackberries, for garnish (optional)

 Instructions:

1. Put wine in a glass or stainless-steel bowl. Add sugar and stir to dissolve, then add lemon zest, nutmeg, ginger and black pepper. Chill well.

2. Peel peaches and cut into 1/2-inch wedges. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

3. To serve, pour  1/2 cup chilled wine mixture into 4 to 6 wide-mouthed wineglasses. Add sliced peaches to each glass, dividing them evenly. Garnish each portion with a few blackberries, if desired.

YIELD 4 servings

What’s New at the Farmer’s Market?

Ron, the Market Master and I setting up for the first market of the year.

Ron, the Market Master and I setting up for the first market of the year.

Both the “market master” (our on-site coordinator) and I are new this year to the City of Manassas Farmer’s Market. While it’s certainly been a learning curve for us both, we are excited to bring a new perspective to the market. I practically have the “What’s In Season?” 

Virginia Calendar memorized now, whereas before I signed on as the market coordinator, I could give you a rough timeline of when things came into season.  It’s both fun and overwhelming to learn so much about farming and produce.

I wanted to share with you some of the exciting additions to this year’s market:

-The market newsletter. Perhaps you’d like to know when sweet corn and tomatoes come into season (they’re in season now, by the way).  Or maybe you’re wondering how to serve kohlrabi, since you’ve seen it at the market but feel a bit intimidated to give it a try.  You can find all of this information and more in the market newsletter. We let you know which vendors will be at the market each week, provide recipes, and do a “vendor spotlight” that focuses on the wonderful people that make the market what it is. Sign up here.

-The market booth.  Staffed with super volunteers (if you’d like to get involved, let me know), the market booth at the Saturday market provides you with the opportunity to ask questions about the market and vendors, as well as provide us with feedback. Stop by and say hello!  Just look for the banner with our logo on it.  

 - The logo. We decided to try and “brand” our market this year by creating a logo.  As the local food movement grows and more markets pop up, we want you to easily identify our market and our efforts.  Creating community recognition was our goal, and we decided on an apple as the symbol since Virginia is known for its wonderful apples.

-The “Show Me Your Produce” Promotion.  With presentation of your purchase from the Thursday market, stop by the lovely boutiques and shops in Old Town Manassas for a small gift or discount with purchase. Coolers are provided in select stores for you to store your market goodies while you shop.

-This blog! It’s nice to have an outlet to share in greater detail the benefits of farmer’s markets and healthy eating.  I am also fortunate to share stories and musings about my experiences with the market here!

-Music in the Market. Almost every week, we try and showcase local talent at the Saturday market.  It adds both a lovely ambiance and fun feel to the markets. Alan Byrd, who plays the blues, plays our market frequently.

-More to come…. Keep your eyes peeled because we have some great things coming down the pipeline.  Our Thursday market will feature cooking demonstrations and sampling in the fall.  We’re also looking to start a Tuesday afternoon market. Tuesdays are a great day to get more fresh groceries and make the Farmer’s Market a staple in your weekly shopping. We’ll keep you in the loop as these things unfold.  Information is always available on our website, and you can sign up for the newsletter there as well.

Please share with us your thoughts on the market! It’s important for us to make it as valuable for the community as possible.  As I’ve mentioned before, Farmer’s markets bring people together for a fabulous common cause and we are hoping to do justice to a community staple.  You’re welcome to comment on this post or shoot me an email. Thanks for your patronage!

Ice Cream Ends Unprocessed Foods Streak

I cheated. I may have splurged on some ice cream.  And, possibly some chips. Forgive me, readers, I had company visiting. 

While I could have offered them ants on a log and carrot sticks as an afternoon snack, I knew that such healthy appetizers are not “special occasion food,” particularly for those who are not willingly participating in the unprocessed food challenge. So, even though I didn’t complete a flawless 10 day “real food” stint, the experience still gave me some food for thought (look I made a pun).

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

It has been a fascinating and sometimes trying adventure these last 10 days.  First, being forced to make many things from scratch that I wouldn’t ordinarily make on my own, like last week’s tortillas and this week’s granola, made me realize that a marginal amount of extra effort can make me healthier and make my food more delicious. It’s worth it. I’ve felt stronger this week.  I’ve felt motivated to get to the gym, and while working out, I have more energy. 

Yes, there are other factors that could contribute to this, but I think it’s likely that putting pure things into my body helps me to feel better and work harder for a healthier me. On a deeper level, this challenge started me thinking about the human relationship with the body and the earth. 

Our new ways of eating create more space between ourselves and our planet.  Chemically created or genetically modified foods sever a relationship that has existed for many years between animal (yes, I am referring to us humans as animals here) and environment.  We live on a land that provides for us, through fruits, vegetables, grains, and grazing land for animals. What a gift! Why are we trying to substitute natural foods for unhealthy creations? 

This Eve Ensler quote reinforced my thoughts. I found it while doing some food blog reading the other day.

“If you are divided from your body, you are also divided from the body of the world. Which then appears to be other than you, separate from you, rather from the living continuum to which you belong.”

What I gleaned from this quote was that to be comfortable in our bodies, our vessels through which we navigate life, we must find a way to connect with our world—through eating fresh, real food, and by spending time in the wonderful environment around us.  Make yourself a part of this “living continuum.”  

One of the best starting points for this life change is at the Farmer’s Market.  Take your kids to walk around a market filled with nature’s bounty.   Soak up the sun and the fresh air and experience the joy of biting into sweet corn or an heirloom tomato or a juicy peach.  It’ll be worth it.  And more than anything, this experience will help you and your family to find “roots,” to reconnect with the body and discover the bountiful world in which we live.

Taking the Pledge for 10 Days of Unprocessed Foods

My roommate, Leyla and I enjoy eating similar things. This makes both of our lives easier, as we can share food and alternate cooking meals (she’s an exceptional sharer). 

Last week, Leyla shared with me that she was planning to take the 10-day “Real Food Pledge.”  Since it sounded like something I would be on board with, I immediately said, “Oh, I’ll do that too.” I wasn’t too sure what exactly I just signed up for, but I’m always up for a healthy dietary challenge. I’m currently on day four.

This shiny apple is my afternoon snack for today!

This shiny apple is my afternoon snack for today!

When I went to the website for the challenge, it still had not sunk in just how difficult it would be to follow all the guidelines.  It wasn’t until I went grocery shopping, that I finally understood just how many processed foods I eat every day. So many things are processed.  

Essentially, everything in the middle of the grocery store that has a lengthy expiration period falls under this category.  When you check the ingredients label of something in the grocery store, nine times out of 10, it’s extremely long and has lots of unrecognizable ingredients. 

From a health standpoint, I can see the merit in staying away from foods that have lots of fat, salt, and preservatives—the closer to the source and fewer the ingredients, the better.  Shopping at the Farmer’s Market is one of the recommended aspects of the challenge. It makes shopping so much easier and less time consuming when all of nature’s goodness is right in front of you.  Not to mention, local food is fresher and healthier.

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

My first meal plan of the week was for quesadillas. However, the tortillas found at the grocery store are processed with preservatives in them. So, I used a recipe to make my own. Which, as it turns out, are not very expensive or difficult to make (no crazy or rare ingredients needed!).   I felt a great sense of accomplishment when my quesadillas came together. 

I could literally list every single ingredient that went into my meal.  Who can say they can list every ingredient they have eaten in the last four days?  It’s refreshing and liberating to know I’m feeding my body the right way. My first work day participating in the pledge was a little rough. 

Lunch is usually my biggest meal of the day and something about sitting at my desk makes me extra hungry (it must be all the calories I burn typing).  If 3 p.m. hits and I’m out of snacks, I’ll allow myself the occasional treat to curb my appetite. Most of the time, it’s ice cream.  Which, when you work less than a block from cheap and delicious ice cream, a person can’t be faulted for the indulgence. 

However, my dreams were shattered Monday afternoon, when I realized sugar is processed and most definitely in ice cream. A tad bit hungry and poorly prepared for my first day, I decided to make some adjustments for day two.  

The key to every diet change is to know your bad eating habits and look for substitutes that will get you through those moments.  This way you can continue your healthy eating, without feeling deprived. 

Day two, I brought some extra carrots and fruit, which was exactly what I needed for a filling afternoon snack.  So far, I’ve been holding up my part of the pledge, but I’m not even half way through yet — tune in for part two next week. I’ll give you my review of how I feel, and what (if any) lifestyle changes have originated from the pledge. If you’re interested in taking the challenge, check it out here. Let us be your resource and come the City of Manassas Farmer’s Market on Thursdays and Saturdays!

A Little Practice Allows for Cooking Outside the Lines

A Fresh Focus

I was sitting in the airport a few weeks ago during a long layover when I was lured into one of those stores that has everything from tacky souvenirs to gum and magazines. Since it had been a long day of travel, I decided to treat myself to a magazine for the plane.  Struck by the delicious looking pesto pasta on the cover, I decided to spring for Bon Appétit.

Flipping through Bon Appetit...

Flipping through Bon Appetit…

I flipped through the pages of food stories and recipes like a newly engaged woman would flip through a bridal magazine.  The vibrant colors of well-prepared veggies, desserts, and meats made me giddy. I felt compelled to start writing a grocery list immediately. Not to mention the kitchen tools I’d yet to acquire—yes, I have a food processor, but I’m still missing so many cooking necessities, like a mortar and pestle and a mandoline.

While I love food blogs, cookbooks, and magazines, I have long been afraid of branching out on my own to paint outside the lines of the given instructions and ingredients. I am so impressed by people who are able to do this, putting spices and flavors together in a way that tastes incredible.  I have visions of serving up a dish that I’d conceptualized and created entirely on my own, inspired by what I picked up at that weeks Farmer’s Market and any leftover ingredients sitting in my fridge. 

It wasn’t until I started cooking with friends that I learned that I could bravely change things up a bit.  Don’t have the cheese the recipe calls for? Well, use whatever cheese you have and see how it goes!  Think the batter looks a little thick? Add an extra splash of milk!  Worst case scenario of culinary creativity is an inedible product.  But most of the time, little changes to a recipe won’t make it so different that it turns out terrible.

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.

In the past, I had a Monday tradition of baking bread. Homemade bread is so delicious and definitely superior to the bread you can find at the store, which is typically loaded with preservatives.

After you practice doing anything enough, you start to understand subtle differences between when it’s going to turn out well and when it will be a little lackluster.  This applies to both bread, and cooking in general. When you better understand the subtleties of the produce, meat and flavors, you can easily get a little spontaneous with a good end product.  

So this is my goal for the year: Become so familiar with my favorite foods and flavors that I can cook outside the lines a little. I want to look at magazines like Bon Appétit for inspiration on how to make my own creation and only follow directions when something really grabs me. Wish me luck; I’m sure I’ll need it starting out, but the reality is, this is how amazing food is created.  I encourage you to take this journey with me and explore the Farmer’s Market for inspiration.  Ask our friendly vendors for help or suggestions and then create your own master pieces for you and your family to enjoy.

At the market the other day, someone asked me “Are you a chef? I see you here every week taking notes and buying things.” I laughed out loud, but was secretly flattered.  Perhaps this mistake is sending me some good culinary juju.  If you’re mistaken for a chef, maybe it’s just a matter of time before you become one…at least this is my hope.

Selection Differs at Farmers Markets from Florida to Virginia

One of the really awesome things about living in the United States is that we have a huge diversity of land and climates across the country.  While we are enjoying strawberries and blueberries, other parts of the U.S. are reaping different harvests.

In the last month, I’ve taken a few trips to see people that live in different states. Naturally, I insisted on visiting their local Farmer’s Market.  It’s a great way to get ideas for our market and to see what’s in season there.

The first market I visited was in Vero Beach, Fla.  Vero Beach is located in Indian River County, which is known for its citrus production.   The expensive and delicious brands of OJ in the grocery stores here are most likely from Indian River County.  They can also grow things like mangos and avocados (the large green kind, as opposed to the Haas avocados we see in stores), which cannot grow in Virginia. 

Due to the stifling heat in the Florida summer, not much produce can survive. The summer is “off season” for farms…where as fall, winter, and spring can bring a host of locally grown produce. The market is small, but not all that different than the Manassas City Saturday Market.  There was a man playing acoustic guitar, and many talented artists and crafters showcasing their wares.

The Farmer's Market in Bloomington, Illinois

The Farmer’s Market in Bloomington, Illinois

A few weeks later, I flew to Bloomington, Ill. to visit my brother in the Corn Belt.  I was truly impressed by the Farmer’s Market there. The season is a little shorter than ours; it runs from May to October due to a colder winter.  The vendors had a plethora of fresh veggies, many of which are also in season in Virginia.

The market stretched around the entire downtown square, and had everything from face painting to bluegrass.  I was surprised not to see any corn at the market! While there is a huge amount of corn grown in Illinois, not much of it is used for direct consumption. A lot of corn is grown and sold to be used in other products and used for animal feed.

Visiting these other markets made me feel very grateful for the delicious produce we have available in Virginia. Some of our top commodities in this state, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture, are milk, cattle, eggs, corn, turkey, tomatoes, cotton, apples, grapes, and wheat.  This calendar is especially helpful for seeing what is in season in Virginia.

June is one of my favorite times of year as you can find potatoes, squash, zucchini, raspberries, greens, and blueberries at the market.  Produce at our market is tastier since it’s fresher. A strawberry that is very red and ripe is incomparable to a box of berries shipped to a grocery store from another country.

The common thread between all of these markets is the element of community. Each place was a gathering place for families and friends.

People were greeting vendors that they had built relationships with and bumping into neighbors and friends.  What a joy it is to see your community members out and enjoying the day in town.  

Come out to the market and explore the benefits of Virginia Grown at the City of Manassas Farmer’s Market!

With Potted Plants, Know More about Foods You Put into Your Body

A Fresh Focus

I have killed many plants in my day.  Once, I even killed a bamboo plant, which is actually quite difficult. Bamboo is probably the only plant that would survive the apocalypse.  My inability to keep plants of any variety alive concerns me, partly because I love homegrown produce and partly because this can’t bode well for motherhood (but that’s neither here nor there).

Since I now have great access to plants at the market, I thought I’d give gardening another try.  I imagine there would be a strong sense of accomplishment in cooking something that I grew myself. So I decided to start small — I picked up an eggplant in its infancy one week, and last week when herbs were on sale, I got a rosemary plant and a mint plant.  

Upon purchase of my herbs, I asked many questions to the vendor. What size pot do I put it in? How often do I water it? What are the chances that I can do this successfully? He laughed at me, and shamed me for being a “farmer’s market person” and knowing this little about how to garden.

My eggplant is growing bigger each day!

My eggplant is growing bigger each day!

My first few weeks as a plant owner started out slow.  I forgot to water my eggplant. Which, I would imagine is probably what kills plants.  Fortunately, my roommate also has a plant on our porch that she legitimately takes care of, so she gave my eggplant some water until I finally decided to get my act together. 

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

When I realized that my plants were starting to wilt, I felt motivated to succeed. I stopped by the garden center, bought some terra cotta pots, some potting soil, fertilizer, and asked a lot basic questions about taking care of plants.

A little overwhelming, yes, but I think I can make it work this time. Now that I’ve put some real effort into it, I get home with an excitement to check on my plants. While I am not sure that I’ll become one of those people that names or sings to her plants, I feel confident that I keep these  alive long enough to utilize their fruits in my recipes.

Gardening (and farming) is particularly valuable to me, as I find that we are living in world where there is consistently less trust between producer and consumer.  We don’t often get to meet the producer of the items that we put in our bodies.  Instead, we scan ingredient lists on the sides of boxes, looking for something recognizable (Xantham gum? Soy lecithin? Yellow #5?).  Do we know what we’re eating anymore? Do we understand the impact these things have on our health?

I am excited to use an ingredient that I produced.  There’s confidence in that.  It’s also the beauty of the Farmer’s Market. I challenge you to take the opportunity to get to know the vendors you buy from. Ask them about their farming practices. Ask them about their irrigation practices and their use of pesticides.  Ask our meat vendors about their feed and their treatment of animals.  You have an opportunity to be an informed consumer and take charge of your health.

If you’re interested in starting your own garden, too, and know as little as I did, our market has “Master Gardeners” available to answer your questions every other Saturday. They will be out this Saturday.  Come out and see us! 

Market-Inspired Travel Snacks

A Fresh Focus

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

By ANNIE BLEWETT
Farmer’s Market Coordinator

Something about plane travel makes a person feel like they’ve just come out of a time warp that requires a second round of daily hygiene.  Stale air, a seat that’s been worn by the rumps of hundreds of people prior, and the delicacies of airplane food are the recipe for a body that feels a little “off” the moment you step out of the plane.

As I was off of work for Memorial Day, I took a long weekend trip out of state. I am actually quite the frequent flyer, and consequently, I have started to get into a routine that prepares me for the best possible start to my trip post-landing.  A few of my personal tips include:

-Pack a pair of cozy socks. It gets cold when you’re flying through clouds. I think the second worst time to get cold feet is on a plane (your wedding being the first).

-Keep your toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste accessible for a quick refresh in the bathroom after landing (make sure you get that sitting-up nap drool off your face).

-Bring an empty water bottle. Without fail, the flight attendant always fills my bottle up with water and I don’t have to keep my tray table down when I want to keep hydrated.

-Most importantly: Bring healthy snacks

It seems so much easier to prepare healthy, delicious, local food when you’re in your own kitchen on a normal day. However, life can be messy, and it’s important to take care of your body and feed it freshness whether you’re on a plane, a greyhound bus, or lounging at the beach.  Trying to maintain a few healthy habits while on your vacation can help to alleviate the struggle that ensues in your first week back to reality.  Here are a couple of market-approved suggestions for your summer travel:

Plane Snacks or Food for a Beach Picnic:

 At our Thursday market, both Wildwood Farms and Great Harvest Bread Co. sell granola.

At our Thursday market, both Wildwood Farms and Great Harvest Bread Co. sell granola.

-Granola

-Berries (rinsed and cut into bite-sized pieces)

-Kale Chips- see recipe below

-An apple (when in season)

-Carrots (when in season; rinsed, peeled, and cut into sticks)

Carrots

Carrots

-Cookies from one of the talented bakers. Everyone needs a little treat and a homemade cookie is   more delicious than a pack of Oreos from the gas station!

-Sandwiches- Made from fresh bread from the Farmer’s Market, home-baked ham or turkey, fresh lettuce, tomatoes and cheese.

Kale Chips-  A friend turned me on to these- they are super addictive.

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Raw kale from our market!

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

-Rinse kale and break off the hard stems.

-Place kale on a cookie sheet in one layer.

-Lightly spray with cooking spray.

-Sprinkle with garlic salt (or your preferred type of seasoned salt).

-Bake for 10-15 minutes in the middle rack, until crispy. Enjoy! 

How I Got My Kitchen Groove Back

A Fresh Focus

Join us at the City of Manassas Farmers Market Thursdays at the Harris Pavilion and Saturdays in Parking Lot B (corner of West and Prince William Streets) from 7:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. 

By ANNIE BLEWETT
Farmer’s Market Coordinator

Two years ago, I was feeling particularly ambitious (or foolish, depending on your perspective) and decided to train for a half marathon. I trained with two other friends, and became astounded with my ability for distance running. I had always viewed myself as un-athletic and had never run more than 2 miles in my life. Running made me feel like superwoman. That is, until I discovered a stress fracture in my leg two days before the race.

annie-04 (1)I was hugely defeated, unable to run or even walk long distances, and couldn’t check “Run a half marathon” off my bucket list. After my two-month rest period, I knew I wanted to get my running mojo back. My solution? Buy myself an expensive and beautiful new pair of running shoes. And, as it turned out, the retail therapy helped me get back into the swing of things.

Over the last few months, I had become insanely lazy with cooking. I could be found microwaving frozen vegetables or eating handfuls of cereal for a meal. I took a hard look at my habits and started to realize that I was a few boxes of Easy Mac short of becoming a frat boy. I realized I needed some external inspiration-some sort of running shoes kitchen equivalent- to get my cooking “mojo” back. A new apron, some new adorable teaspoon measurers, and a trip to the market to see what was in season were all that I needed to get me back into the kitchen.

annie-03Last Thursday at the Manassas Farmer’s Market, I discovered the most the most delicious looking strawberries and rhubarb (which I had never actually seen in person). Rhubarb is perhaps one of the strangest looking vegetables. It’s sort of like giant celery. The new apron, the new measurers and my exciting farmer’s market purchases all inspired me to make a pie! A strawberry rhubarb pie- and I knew exactly when and where I wanted to make it.

My dear friend was hosting a “kitchen warming” party last Saturday to celebrate the completion of her kitchen remodel (when a foodie gets more counter space it’s a cause for celebration indeed). The group of friends that gathered for this extravaganza find just as much entertainment in making things from scratch as I do. So I came with pastry cutter, rhubarb, and strawberries in hand prepared to make a delicious pie with some of my favorite people.

annie-02We started by making dough (we used this recipe) for the crust, and set it in the refrigerator to cool down (making it easier to roll out). After about an hour, we started to assemble the rest of the pie. The filling included strawberries, rhubarb, tapioca, lemon juice, salt, and granulated and brown sugar. While it was certainly a labor of love, the pie turned out great—tart yet slightly sweet and delicious. If you’re interested in giving it a shot, the recipe is listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (Adapted from a Smitten Kitchen Recipe)

1 recipe double-crust pie dough (Your preference. We used the recipe I linked above)

annie-012 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds, untrimmed) rhubarb, in 1/2-inch thick slices

5 cups (about 3 pints) strawberries, halved

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/8 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons whole milk and a dusting of granulated sugar (to glaze the pie before baking)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. We used the brilliant suggestion from Alton Brown to roll out the dough in a large plastic bag (place a handful of flour in the bag) to avoid getting flour on the counter and floor.

Mix rhubarb, strawberries, sugars, lemon, salt and tapioca in a large bowl. Pour the filling into the crust-covered pie pan and place small pieces of butter evenly on the top. Roll second half of pie dough, and place it on top. Take some creative liberties with the crust—cut a few decorative slits and crimp the edges together (with a fork, or a fancier tool, if you have one).

With a pastry brush, brush milk over the dough and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the pie is golden and the juices bubble visibly. Allow the pie to cool and “gel” for several hours before serving. It tastes delicious with vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream.

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