When I was up north last time, I cooked and cooked. But we went to the original Famous Dave's, located outside of Hayward to celebrate my birthday, a few days late, on Saturday night.
I made a wax bean and roasted red pepper salad that had an oil and vinegar dressing. To accompany focaccia bread baked by a farmers market vendor, I chopped up radishes and used what the recipe described as a dip, as a spread instead. This was a favorite of my husband's when we enjoyed lunch on a boat cruise.
Before heading for home I took out my rarely-used-at-the-cabin electric beater and made some wonderful zucchini and carrot bars with lemon cream cheese frosting (a recipe shared in my column a year ago).
For Sunday brunch, I baked a batch of zucchini cups — egg with shredded zucchini in a cupcake tin, while I cooked a stir-fry with bacon, potatoes and fresh veggies.
Then I packed up the leftovers for food to eat once I got back home and was too busy again to be cooking.
However, when I got home, I made my first batch of dilly green beans — Logan had picked a tub of green and a tub of yellow beans for me. The following evening, I made a batch of dill wax beans.
It was a good thing I had all those leftovers!
There are days when the weather is lovely and I have gardening I'd like to be doing instead of sitting in a desk typing in numbers on the 10-key computer pad for my job. It has gotten harder and harder to sit at my desk for a four-hour stretch.
Sometimes I think back to the days when I didn't work at a job for a living and had the luxury of staying home caring for my kids, gardening, spinning wool, sewing, canning pickles and cooking meals for my family.
There is a memory that is intertwined with that picture, which I feel needs to be shared. When my husband was stricken with cancer, for a while it seemed like everything would continue as it had been. He was our family's only wage earner.
Ross looked good except he'd lost his hair during radiation and subsequent chemotherapy. Oddly, he never lost his bushy beard. The months marched onward; he kept going to work between medical appointments.
Then things changed with the reality of his more limited physical abilities. He ran out of vacation and sick leave. His doctor signed paperwork declaring his disability. He had paid to have private disability insurance, but it took time to process.
I started panicking, wondering how we'd pay the bills and put food on the table for our four children. I applied for food stamps and received them.
Our needs were met as the medical appointments continued and as months passed, we made a choice to have hospice care at home. He was 37 when he died and I was 34. It has been nearly three decades since that happened, but I learned more from those experiences than in getting a college degree.
One of the things I learned was that getting assistance to make it through difficult times is OK. For most using EBT/SNAP, as food stamps are now called, is transitional and giving one a “step up” through the hard times.
At the farmers market that I manage in Eyota, we accept EBT. Since doing away with food stamp paper coupons a decade ago, benefits are now loaded on a plastic card, the same type used for credit and debit cards.
Once food stamps were widely used at farmers markets, but once they became electronic, their use disappeared at most markets. However, as time has passed, this lack was realized. Eating healthy food is important even when incomes are limited and it's also an important factor in staying healthy.
A process of using coin-like tokens at farmers markets was developed so only one card reader machine is needed at a market. The USDA has offered grants to pay for wireless card reader machines for markets that accept EBT.
At our market, one can use a debit, credit or EBT card in exchange for wooden tokens one spends instead of cash, normally necessary at a farmers market. Many don't carry cash anymore.
In addition, the Minnesota Center of Prevention for Blue Cross Blue Shield has given grants to assist markets accepting EBT. To make it even more attractive, they sponsor a program called Market Bucks, where the first $5 run on one's EBT card is matched with $5 in coupons to spend at the market. Each week one comes, they can receive an additional $5 to spend on food.
Because of my personal experience and knowing there is a genuine need for EBT, I am pleased to be offering this service and Market Bucks to my customers.
Right now, snap beans are plentiful at the market. There are bags, buckets and tubs filled with beans for sale — pole beans, string beans, purple beans and lovely golden wax beans.
They can be blanched and frozen for use next winter. Canned in a jar with dill, vinegar and salt, they become dilly beans. Cold and blanched, they can be eaten in a pasta salad or with an oil and vinegar dressing.
My favorite bean dish is simply cooked beans with butter. They are easy to wash, de-stem and cook, then adorn with a bit of butter, salt, pepper and tossed with chopped parsley. If one has it, cook the beans with summer savory, a thin leafed herb, also known as the “bean herb” in Germany.
Get to your nearest farmers market and pick up some beans —you might find yourself eating them raw before you can get home to cook them or pack them in jars with sprigs of dill.