Spring Field Trip: Pawtucket Winter Time Farmer’s Market

From time to time, I hope to take some Field Trips as part of this blog journey.   I consider myself to be a “foodie” in that I spend a lot of time and care figuring out what food I’m going to put into my body, onto my family’s table and into my children’s lunch boxes.  In our house, as a team (and it truly is a 4-person effort), we all work at menu-planning, recipe research and shopping.  As part of this blog, it is my hope to share all of that with you.

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter and I made a long-desired trip to Rhode Island for the Saturday morning Pawtucket Winter Time Farmer’s Market.  We had already formulated our plans and then an article appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe Magazine featuring the market and sealing the deal.  The Pawtucket Winter Time Farmers’ Market is absolute legend.   It’s held in the Hope Artiste Village from November to April each year on Saturday mornings from 9 am until 1 pm..  Then, beginning the first Saturday in May they move the market out of doors to Hope Street on both Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings (so you can still experience the treasure that I am about to describe.)

What took us so long to find this true gem?  Oh – that’s right!  I just remembered that I’m a busy Mom with no time for strolling Farmer’s Markets languorously on Saturday mornings!   We took advantage of a rare break at our ballet school to make this trip.  And by the way – it’s all of about 15 minutes from Mansfield – and worth every minute and mile of that drive and time!

My daughter also brought along her best friend, so I had two up-and-coming foodies in tow.  We met my mother there (a Rhode Islander and Pawtucket Winter Farmers Market Veteran).  My daughter’s BFF (also a PWTFM Veteran – had a list of favorites from her family and knew exactly what she wanted to get).  

So, what’s at the Market?  A lot!  Over 80 vendors are there.  Plan to get there early – like at the 9 am start (they have amazing coffee and you can get one of those first).    I was so overwhelmed by all of the amazing vendors and their fresh produce, baked goods, prepared foods, plants, seafood, desserts, eggs and more – that I had to take one complete lap before buying anything.  Everything must be local.  In order to be a vendor, at least 80% of what you sell must be grown on that farmer’s farm and 100% must be sourced from RI, MA or CT.

What were some of our favorites?  Well, first my favorite local farmers are there:  Ward’s, Langwater – and some of my Rhode Island favorites too, such as Mello’s and Schartner.  I love, love, love the Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Vegan vendor Two Little Buns.  The scallops that we bought from Bomster Scallops were the sweetest I have ever tasted.  I loved that I found purple carrots! The girls loved La Creperie – and had their breakfast there.  They also loved the Greek vendor and her delicious olives, hummus, etc. My mother would second those scallops and she loves the German baker and Olga’s from the East side of Providence.

Pawtucket Winter Time Farmer’s Market is a true treasure.  I’m so glad we finally made the trip.  We’re definitely going back soon to check out the outdoor version of this Saturday treat.  

Last Call: CSA Sign Ups!

By Melissa Schlenker

There are so many reasons to look forward to the warmer weather.  One of my favorites?  Farm fresh fruit and vegetables!  I love the farmers’ markets so much.  Maybe a little too much.  When my daughter and I hit the Easton Farmers’ Market on Saturdays during the Summer and Fall, we come home with bags of fruit, vegetables, plants, bread, cheese, and sometimes dessert!  And an empty wallet.  I go a little overboard at the Farmers’ Market.

This year, for the first time, we are participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  It is a system in which people invest in their local farm in return for a share of the produce during the growing season.  When I told my sister this, she asked me if that meant we were going to work on the farm.  Um, no.  I’m going to pick up a box of fresh produce on my way home once a week!  Although there may be arrangements out there where lending your labor on the farm is part of the deal, I did not see that in the research that I did.  

There are a lot of reasons why I have NOT done a CSA before.  The biggest one was cost.  I used to think that dropping over $400 for a share was a lot.  However, when I look at the math – we are spending $440 for our CSA – and we will get twenty-one weekly boxes.  That is roughly $21 per box.  I spend waaaaayyyy more than that when I go to the Farmer’s Market.  

The second reason was finding a pick-up time and location that was convenient for me.  However, I have finally found one that is on my way home (Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon).   If you can’t make it there on Friday before 6, you can pick up on the weekend.  You can also have someone pick up for you.

One last thing keeping me from taking the plunge was my fear of coming home with a box full of dandelion greens, rhubarb and kale.   However, after talking with some friends who have participated in this CSA before, I was assured that the Summer boxes offer a wide variety of produce and include a good amount of the blueberries and strawberries that have made Ward’s famous.  

Also on my short list for CSA candidates were these three local favorites:

In the end, my choice came down to pick up time and location.  But I encourage you to check them (and others) out.  Options are more flexible than ever with half shares, farm stand debit cards, and even flower shares.  

My last little piece of advice as I venture into this unchartered CSA territory?  Talk to other veggie lovers.  Find out what they like and dislike.  Chances are you’ll find someone to swap with when you do get those dandelion greens.  I already have a taker for the week I bring home too much rhubarb.  

If you are thinking of doing a CSA – don’t delay.  Most farms have deadlines of mid-April or so.

Question of the Day:

Do you CSA? What’s been your experience?


Is Turmeric the New Kale?

By Melissa Schlenker

Have you tried turmeric? This powerful spice has been touted for so many benefits (reducing inflammation, improving circulation and digestion, preventing cancer, warding off viruses) – how can you not? Unless you are on certain medications (blood thinners, for example), it might be worth a try.  It seems to be the healthy super-spice of the moment, with recent features in Oprah Magazine and on the Today Show.  If you want to try turmeric in everything from a bedtime drink to a face mask, check out this post on the Wellness Mama blog.  My colleague swears by this pre-bed Paleo turmeric drink to help with insomnia.

At our house, we’ve been finding new ways to use turmeric in recipes and this soup recipe is one of our favorites.  It may officially be Spring, but is has been cold!  Soup will be on our menu until June.

Through all the cooking, tasting and eating we have done with turmeric, we have found that it does have one downside:  staining properties.  We had to work hard to get the yellow spots out of our white kitchen island and even our granite countertops.  And one thing that it stains permanently?  Elastics on braces!  My daughter’s white and blue elastics turned yellow and green – and never turned back.  I asked her if it meant that she would give up eating this soup.  Her response?  No way! She’ll take the soup!  

This soup is incredibly creamy (without any cream added to the recipe).  We also added some cracked black pepper, which (along with oil) reportedly enhances the health benefits of turmeric.

Creamy Carrot Turmeric Soup

A simple vegan recipe from Feastingathome.com.

1 Tablespoon coconut oil (or vegetable oil or olive oil)

½ cup chopped shallots (2 shallots or ½ an onion)

2 Tablespoons chopped, peeled turmeric (if using ground turmeric, start with 1 tsp and add to taste)

4 garlic cloves, rough chopped

1 pint fresh carrot juice (or 2 cups veggie or chicken stock)

1 lb chopped carrots

½ tsp salt, then more to taste

¾ - 1 can coconut milk

1 tsp curry powder

½ tsp apple cider vinegar or lime

½ tsp soy sauce

1 tsp maple syrup

Pinch or 2 or cayenne to taste

Garnish with mint, cilantro or edible flowers

For cooking instructions, see the recipe at the Feasting At Home blog.

Question of the Day

Have you tried turmeric? As a supplement or in recipes? What do you think?


Welcome to our new blog!

By Melissa Schlenker

Hello Friends! I’m thrilled to be here, back with my laptop and my camera, collaborating with Tom on the new Sheehan blog.  Let’s rewind a bit.  For about 4 years, I wrote a pretty-well-followed blog (as part of my day job) – chronicling my journey as a mom, fitness devotee and foodie as I navigated the grocery aisles, cooked nutritious recipes – and basically just tried to make it through the week!  One of my personal goals, as part of that process, was to somehow instill my passion for making healthy choices around food in my children (and my husband too).   My kids were young when I started A Better Bag of Groceries – and it felt like I was living in a non-stop frenzy of juice boxes, pizza birthday parties, Goldfish crackers and chicken nuggets.

Over the last couple of weeks, as I thought about what the Sheehan blog journey would be, it finally came to me when I opened the refrigerator and found my daughter’s lunch.  (Note:  my kids, ages 13 and 11, pack their own lunches – oh, believe me – THAT was a journey).  Anyway, the photo above of the beautiful salad in a jar is my daughter’s creation. She’s 11.  That is what she chooses to take for lunch.  I achieved my goal.  My family is making healthy choices – not because I tell them to – but because it is the lifestyle they have learned all along.

If you are reading this blog right now, it’s highly likely that you have made a commitment to exercise.  What is your commitment to healthy eating?  What do you want for you?  What do you want for your family? One thing that I have come to accept, through many years and some ups and downs with food, is that eating healthy is a commitment.  There is some work, some time – but I promise that through this blog I will help you along the way.

Before we get started, I wanted to offer up a few tidbits on where I’m coming from – and where we will be going on this journey:

  1. I have had some chubby times in my life.  Let’s just say that I really liked the dining hall at college (um, why?)   If you are a Sheehan member, you know me as the Pilates instructor, barre class early riser and ballet dancer.  Like just about every woman I know, I have a thing or two (or three) that I would like to improve, but my point is that I’m thinner than I used to be.  About 15 lb less than I was at my wedding.  I’ve been a Weight Watcher (many times).  I know how to count points.  I don’t do any of that any more.  It’s all just lifestyle now.

  2. My family eats healthy – but they also love pizza.  As in every Friday night.  (I don’t eat pizza regularly, but we’ll get to that.  My point is – we are not perfect.  I like dark chocolate.  I like wine.  We fit it in – in moderation.

  3. I have a cranky gut.  I’ve been gluten free for about 5 years and dairy free for 2 years.  I’ve been recently diagnosed with IBS (good times!) and under my doctor’s advisement, I am beginning a trial of the FODMAP diet.  However – since my husband and I cook for our whole family – you won’t necessarily see those restrictions in recipes.  

  4. I have been working in the grocery biz forever.  My career has gone from consulting to corporate to start-up to where I am now (I work for a co-op of grocery stores in strategic sourcing).  I love grocery stores (we’ll visit some), new food trends, and food news.  

  5. I promise not to make you buy $15 spices or forage for your own mushrooms.  We are all time-crunched.  I truly believe that while healthy eating takes commitment – it can be simple.  We’re going for easy here.

So – get ready for some fun new recipes, planning tips, some field trips, new food finds and more.  I can’t wait to see where this journey takes us!