Winter Markets Bounty: Prepared Foods

Falls Church Times Staff

January 14, 2011

Two weeks into the New Year, and how are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions? If one of your resolutions was to cook more meals at home, and have the family sit down to at least one dinner a week, the New Year with all its obligations may have derailed your best intentions. Yours truly became susceptible to the need for a few – ok, many – prepared meals this winter after an especially grueling holiday season. So do you order out? Too expensive for every night. Or do you reach for something in the frozen food section? Too many health consequences. So what are your other options? One option is to visit the farmers market to take in some of the winter bounty of prepared foods.

During the fall, I was pleasantly amazed by the prepared foods at the Falls Church Farmers Market. My first entrée into this was the Smith Meadows chicken pot pie. At first I was not impressed with the item until the young lady told me that they have a following and people come to the market just to buy their pot pies. Now you may ask if I am always so gullible, but I have shopped at this stand for years, so I knew I could trust her.  I bought two pot pies and later than evening enjoyed a delicious entrée that only took 20 minutes. One pot pie was enough for two and when paired with a simple salad it was a perfect meal.

On a recent visit to the Falls Church Farmers Market, I decided to take a look at who else had prepared foods and was astonished at the bounty available. There are some vendors who you would naturally think of as having prepared foods such as Cavanna Pasta with their lasagna, and eggplant parmesan, or Chris’s Marketplace with his crab cakes, empanadas and turnovers but there were other vendors who supplement their winter offerings with soups, stews or side dishes.

Atwater’s Bakery has a nice weekly selection of soups. On New Year’s Day they had the holiday favorite of Hoppin John soup, and more recently Mushroom Goulash. What better way to enjoy a weekend lunch or midweek dinner than warm sourdough bread, fresh butter from Blue Ridge Dairy and homemade soup.

Bonaparte Bakery has vegetables tortes which look like a supped up vegetable lasagna as well as a Pumpkin Soup. Mother Earth Mushrooms of course has Mushroom Soup and later in the season will have chili. Sunnyside Farms has greatly expanded its offerings of prepared items this year to include vegetable polenta, dirty Cajun rice and twice baked sweet potatoes. In chatting with Sunnyside Farms vendor, they shared that the foods are prepared during the week as the winter farm is not as demanding as the summer farm. And aren’t we always saying that we would love to have someone cook for us? Who better than the farmers who raise the food, have the know-how, the ingredients and the knowledge to store the ingredients.

Another vendor who frequently has prepared items during the summer season is Dragonfly Farms. Claudia’s items range from Bolognese Sauce that would go great over Cavanna or Smith Meadows pasta, Dirty Cajun Rice, Buffalo Soup and my personal favorite, Thai Pumpkin soup.  Dirty rice is something that I was not familiar with being from California, but was pleasantly surprised by this traditional Southern rice recipe of white rice sautéed with chicken or giblets and celery, onion or shallots. When I heated this up to accompany a roasted root vegetable stew, there was an immediate tussle as to who would get the larger portion. Needless to say I am going back for more next week!

Back to the Smith Meadows Kitchen chicken pot pies; yes there were none left last week as I bought out the entire inventory to share with my neighbors. I happened to run into Smith Meadows Kitchen chef Nancy at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market on Sunday and she shares that she is experimenting with a beef and turkey recipe that will be coming out soon. Now I was not a big pot pie fan growing up as most had a chewy crust but these are light and airy with a nice filling of chicken and vegetables. The sauce is light and not gummy as some of the frozen food selections can be.

Smith Meadows Kitchen Chicken Pot Pies

And of course, we are going to have the same old conversation – “but these are so much more expensive that what I can get at the supermarket”. First you have to remember that there is a drastic difference in the kind of ingredients between your supermarket frozen food selection and a value added winter market dish: the meat or poultry in the supermarket frozen food selection most likely will be laden with antibiotics, hormones and chemicals; the vegetables were raised with pesticides and the preservatives that are part of the frozen entity are meant to keep the “meal” intact for months maybe years. Whereas at the farmers market you can talk with the vendor, ask where the ingredients are from and how long the item will keep. And then there is the old demon – time. Some will say it is easier to stop off at the market on the way home from the market to pick up a pot pie or Hungry man meal, or stock up on a month’s worth of frozen meals at the regular Sunday night shopping frenzy at the grocery store. This last Saturday, I was able to pick up items for each dinner and a few lunches for the week in less than 45 minutes while I wandered the farmer’s market, socialized with friends, and got to know more about my community. To me this was a much better time investment of my 45 minutes, but that is just me.

January 14, 2011 


5 Responses to “Winter Markets Bounty: Prepared Foods”

  1. Mike Smith, Falls Church on January 14th, 2011 9:19 am

    And how about those sausage guys? Mrs. S. says their kielbasa reminds her of her childhood (now if only we can find some good pierogi.) Great column, I know where I am headed tomorrow morning!

  2. FallsChurchFarmersMarketChef on January 14th, 2011 9:26 am

    Yes sausage can be found both at the Stachowski’s and at the Cibola farms stand. At Cibola’s I really like the buffalo hot dogs which have a nice subtle spice that is a nice addition to any stew, soup or sauce. The half smokies are nice as well but they need to be cooked.
    Smith Meadows also has some nice sausages as well.

  3. SB on January 14th, 2011 10:10 am

    Oh wow, the Farmers Market had dropped off my radar a bit during the winter. This all sounds great, I will definitely swing by tomorrow. Thanks for the great article!

  4. FallsChurchFarmersMarketChef on January 14th, 2011 10:15 am

    Glad we could be of help! Yes there is a great variety of items prepared and available at the winter market. One of the special things that I do is to buy my bread for the week, cut the loaves in half and freeze them. I take the loaves out the night before I am going to use them to let them thaw.

    This last week, I bought a wide variety of scones to consume throughout the week. It has been lovely to have a nice warm fresh scone each morning with my tea on these chilly mornings.

    Enjoy the market tomorrow! I will be there picking up my pot pies!

  5. Lindy Hockenberry City of Falls Church on January 18th, 2011 1:48 pm

    We bought etouffee and dirty rice with beans from Sunnyside Farm—great quick meal. Also, at most places the more you buy the lower the cost for each item.

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