Go local.

Few things make me happier than a good Farmers’ market.  It’s not just the fantastic produce and the interesting collection of other delicious local products.  There’s something so simple, good and heartwarming about the people who work at Farmers’ Markets.  Good people, not afraid of hard work.  Not afraid of taking chances.  Most are people who love people and most are people who love food.

Today, and every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through October, Ty and I are working at the Farmers’ Market in beautiful downtown Grapevine.  It’s not a huge market but it is a good one.  We’re painting pumpkins and gourds and will soon start selling cookbooks.  The stage is historic and charming, the scene is beautiful and the cast of characters is delightful.

Take Trena, the Olive Oil and Vinegar girl.  A young mother of two, athletic, moody but focused.  Her product is delicious and I honestly can’t wait to purchase some of her fig infused balsamic vinegar….  She thinks I’m a wuss because I take my coffee pot camping.  I think I could teach her a thing or two about using those products she sells.  Maybe she should be more pleasant.

Then there’s Keith, the man who grinds his own grains.  He sells Granola, Muesli and Fresh Milled Oats.  He’s very interested in my procedure for making cornbread croutons.  Wouldn’t be surprised if he’s selling Hatch Chile-Cornbread Croutons tomorrow.  More power to him.

There are the two guys (I’m guessing father/son by the resemblance) who are selling homemade canned goods, local honey (from Colleyville) and all sorts of nuts.  Their Hatch specialty is Hatch-Chile Caramel Corn.  It really is delicious.

There’s a group selling traditional produce.  I’ve only tasted the peaches and they are still amazing.  I’m sure time is running out on them.  You should get some while you can.  Evidently tomorrow there will be people actually here and roasting Hatch chiles.  If that’s your thing, you should come on out.

Today there is also a local vendor selling Organic Angus Grassfed Beef.  I’m sure it’s delicious and anxious to try it.

And then theres Tommy Tamale.  Actually his name is Steve but I agree that Steve Tamale just doesn’t have quite the same ring.  A 52-year-old former realtor who was hit hard by the recession.  He’s channeled his talent for sales into some amazing tamales and is doing all he can to survive.  They are incredible tamales and I plan to buy some for myself.  Nine different flavors today.  My favorite so far has been the four-cheese jalapeno and the spicy pork.  Incredible.  He’s looking into taking over a sno-cone stand on Grapevine Hwy for the next 5 months.  I may never make tamales again.

As I’m struck by the passion these people have for their products, I feel moved to help them out.  I understand struggle.  I understand doing anything you can to keep your head above water.  Sure, a few are here because they want to be but more are probably here because they need to be.  I get that.  I am, afterall, about to go brush a glue wash over a pumpkin painting of Dora the Explorer.  If you had told me I’d be doing this 10 years ago…. well… I’d have laughed.

Next weekend, my son’s baseball team is going camping and canoeing.  I’m in the process of planning the dinner at the camp.  A couple of Dutch ovens will be my tools….  My goal is to incorporate at least one product from each of these vendors into the meal.  I want to be able to walk down the line next week and buy something from everyone.  I want to help them out.  They’re good people.  I’d much rather support them than a big chain grocer.

The following is a great Dutch Oven recipe that I plan to make on Friday night at the camp.  This is how it was originally written though I will tweak it about to include a few things I buy out here.  It can easily be made in a conventional oven at home and I suspect that your whole family will enjoy it.  You could also make it using local products from hard working people.  It’s going to be a beautiful weekend in Grapevine, Texas.  Come on out and treat yourself to some great food and interesting conversations.  Maybe get a pumpkin painted while your at it.  We’re usually good for a laugh or two.

Dutch Oven Calico Chicken

6 boneless/skinless chicken breast halves

1 packet taco seasoning

8 oz. Pepper Jack cheese

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup corn flakes, crushed

4 oz. green chilies, chopped and drained

1 (11-oz.) can Mexicorn

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (16 oz.) can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup black olives, sliced

1/2 cup chopped green onions

Place 1 chicken breast between 2 pieces of waxed paper and gently pound with a meat mallet until about 1/8″ thick. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp. of taco seasoning on the boned side of each breast. Place a 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ slice of pepper jack cheese on each chicken breast then roll up jelly roll fashion. Tuck in ends and seal well with a toothpick. Dip each chicken roll in melted butter then roll in corn flake crumbs, turning to thoroughly coat each roll. Place in a lightly greased 12″ Dutch oven. Bake using 10-12 briquettes bottom and 16-18 briquettes top for 35-45 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned. Remove chicken from oven and remove toothpicks. Wipe the oven clean with a paper towel.

In a large bowl mix together green chiles, mexicorn, black beans, tomato, olives, green onions and 2 Tbs. of the taco seasoning. Spoon vegetables into Dutch oven. Place chicken rolls on top of the vegetable mixture. Grate the remaining cheese and sprinkle over the chicken rolls. Cover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until vegetables are warmed thru and the cheese has melted.

Serves: 6

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