Eating Healthy and Fancy on a Budget

Since my wife and I were treated to a taste of the good life at Carolyn Binder's Cowlick Cottage Farm, we've been a lot more health conscious. Why? Because she made eating veggies look that much cooler! To demonstrate how fun, easy and affordable it can be to eat fresh local produce, I'll show you how we got bunches of fancypants veggies for $14 and just how far those groceries can go.

Since we live at an apartment complex without much direct sunlight to work with, growing our own food like Carolyn hasn't been much of a possibility. I have planted gardens on the grounds but have been limited to ornamentals for obvious reasons so unlike so many lucky gardeners, we have to buy our produce.

I know that the boring selection of veggies at the nearest Wal-Mart or grocery store is technically every bit as healthy as the fresh and locally grown stuff at the farmer's market, yet knowing that my watermelon radish was harvested the very same morning by area farmers makes it that much cooler. In any case, I would have a hard time finding unusual radishes anywhere else.

Watermelon radish

The Farmer's Market

I remember complaining to Carolyn about the lack of decent farmer's markets here in Jacksonville, but today we discovered that freshly harvested local veggies were right under our noses at the Riverside Arts Market. Every other time that we went there the selection wasn't really that special, but with new vendors turning up, we were thrilled to see treats like arugula, rainbow beets and Chinese broccoli.

The Riverside Arts Market takes place every Saturday from March to the middle of December under the Fuller Warren Bridge, and (thank goodness) the farmer's market continues in January. We could see the Jacksonville skyline under a shroud of fog, and vendors sold eggnog and cider to add a holiday vibe.

For lunch we went to a vendor called Alligator Pear and shared a bank mi sandwich with spicy Korean beef, topped with pickled daikon radish, aioli sauce, along with cooling cucumber and cilantro. It was divine and worth every dollar, but not really affordable enough to fit in with this post. Our dessert was a poppy seed pastry that brought me back to my childhood in Germany but was neither affordable or healthy enough to really match this post. But they were so good!

But we were talking about eating healthy, right? For fourteen dollars we ended up with a head of cauliflower the size of a watermelon, a big head of oak leaf lettuce, a bunch of fat carrots with billowing leafy tops and lots of fresh radishes with their nutritious leaves still intact. This will be enough to keep us fed for a week if necessary. By the way, the coolest veggies could be found at Black Hog Organics and Down to Earth Farm, if you happen to be looking around yourself someday.

When we got home we snacked on slices of the watermelon radish, which smacked us with a nice kick of spice after about ten seconds. They would be great dipped in ranch dressing!

Cabbage is so much prettier with the outer leaves
Freshly dug carrots. They were brushing the dirt off behind the table.
Cauliflower, bigger than a basketball
Chinese broccoli
Oakleaf lettuce
Long radishes
These radishes remind me of easter eggs
I think these radishes added up to $4.50

The Easiest Homemade Chicken Soup Ever

Tonight I used a small portion of our haul to make some delicious chicken soup. I had to get some rotisserie chicken and a shallot from the grocery store, but the rotisserie chicken cost little more than an uncooked chicken. Carrot and radish leaves are normally overlooked by most, but they turned out to be the 'secret ingredient' in my dish and even had nice texture.
Monday we'll make a salad with the oak leaf lettuce, carrot greens and radishes, followed by the roasted cauliflower that Carolyn taught us to make. Throughout the week we'll use the greens and radishes in sandwiches, and by the end of the week we'll likely still have cauliflower to cook.

To make the soup, all I did was combine the rotisserie chicken (Precooked and affordable) with a sliced shallot, two sliced carrots, a couple cups of cauliflower florets and some rinsed off carrot and radish tops. The leafy tops add nutrition and flavor to the soup, but mostly they add color and interest. I've also added bay leaves, (which will be removed before eating) salt and pepper to taste.

The soup was brought to a boil and has been allowed to simmer on low for a couple of hours as I write this, but you don't have to wait that long. It's ready when the veggies are tender and the broth becomes cloudy.

Tasting time, and it was the best soup I’ve ever had. My wife was surprised to learn that the chicken ‘broth’ was not from a can, but rather two hours of simmering on low. The chicken was wonderfully tender, the cauliflower light and fluffy and the carrot greens ended up with a texture akin to the cooked chicken and with just a hint of flavor.

The best part? We have four servings of that decadent chicken soup left over and a fridge full of veggies. Our twelve dollar Chinese takeout dinners are starting to look pretty expensive compared to the farmer's market.



  1. I can only imagine the crisp taste of these rounds with butter and sea salt!!yum!!

  2. I never thought of cooking carrot tops in soup - I will have to try that. I am interested to see how you do the roasted cauliflower - my hubby once did roasted cauliflower with capers, anchovies, olives etc. Oh my! it was awesome, but we have lost the recipe, and never seemed to quite re-create it!

  3. Sharon: I'll have to try that!
    Africanaussie: I'll let you know what we do with the cauliflower, but it will likely involve garlic. I'm also interested in doing a dish with Thai spices and coconut milk.

  4. Totally agree with you that shopping at the Farmers Market is the way to go - exciting and beautiful vegetables that make for affordable and delicious meals!! Plus you have the added satisfaction of buying local, which is better for the environment (much less fuel involved in getting the produce to market) and good for the community too!

  5. Nice to see someone promoting radishes, they are so often a forgotten veg. I personally love them when grated and mixed in with other salad items - you get the crispness, but also the slight bitter taste without it being overwhelming.


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