Get Cooking With The Farmers Market

This much you know already. When it comes to finding a good meal in Downtown — morning, noon or night — Market Square offers a tasty smorgasbord of choices that ranges from the classic Primanti's sandwich to traditional, rustic Italian dishes at Bella Sera. From Cajun cuisine and Mexican comfort food to all-American burgers and piping hot pepperoni pizza, the Square serves up something for just about any appetite — with even more eateries set to open soon.

But we want to point out that the Square is the perfect place to pick up fresh produce, organic meats, fresh spice mixes and other locally produced items to whip up a last-minute meal while you adjust to the start of the new school year. Of course, you can find all this and more every Thursday at the Farmers Market in the Square from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. So whether you're a  a parent on the run or a budget-minded student looking to eat healthy, the Farmers Market is the place to find everything for a variety of meals you can prepare in 30 minutes or less. We're even going to help you out with some easy-to-follow recipes. So read on.

Let's start off easy with a Greens and Beans meal. All the fixins are cabinet staples, you just need to add the fresh greens. You can find a slew of choices at Harvest Valley Farm's stand. With more than 50 types of just-picked fruits and vegetables, this Market favorite has just about everything you need for a delectable vegetarian treat. For a different flavor you can add a little lamb sausage available from Clarion Farms Organics, which also carries vegetables, eggs, dairy products and locally ground flour. (Just make sure you cook the sausage first, then follow the Greens & Beans recipe.)

September means it's back-to-school time. But this month also kicks off the Steelers season. To celebrate as you watch the Black and Gold tackle the Ravens in Baltimore, why not hold a pizza party for your family and friends. Visit the booth of Callifonte Foods for tips on how to convert their sauce and dough (white or wheat) into pizza magic. But when it comes to the toppings, let's get creative and crazy.
  • For a meatless pie, stock up your reusable shopping bag with green or yellow squash, hot peppers, red onions and whatever catches your eye and give them a quick saute before piling onto the crust. 
  • Don't forget to pick up some cheese at Clarion River Organics.
  • For the carnivores in your life, stop by Billy's Country Smokehouse for sausages, jerky and bacon bursting with flavor. Using the smoked meats eliminates cooking time so you can get to that game faster!
  • On the other hand, all the ingredients you need might just could be in your fridge, like that leftover container of general tso's.
  • If that's not enough, we're suggesting a totally Pittsburgh Pizza topped with Gosia's Pierogies. 
  • If you're planning a cozy date night and really want to impress, create your own gourmet margarita pizza with feta cheese, smoked salmon, cherry tomatoes, arugula and balsamic vinegar. Grab a bouquet of flowers from Ridgeview Acres Farms and a bottle of vino at the Greendance Winery table to complete the romantic tableau.
Speaking of creative... we've got some great ideas to stretch your local food dollars and use up all your perishables.  Like bread.  Occassionally even the best bread gets hard and stale.  Well, fear not!  Go out, buy an armload and devil may care! We've got four ways to reclaim bread that has been partially petrified but there are tons more all over the internet.  So buy some local bread from Rise Above Bakery and have no fear. Or, rejoice that you have a use for all the leftover hot dog buns from your Labor Day BBQ. Grab some eggs for these recipes at Clarion River Organics - at only a few cents per egg and a great source of lean protein eggs are a smart component to a healthy, budget-conscious lifestyle.)

Of course, no matter what you serve, dessert is the perfect way to end any meal. As you select the ingredients for your dining table, stop by Colaizzi's for a heavenly slice or two of specialty cakes.  Or head to the Sandhill Berries stand for a fresh fruit pie or Little Athens for out of this world Greek pastries. The choices are nearly endless.  For the health-conscious, take some of Sand Hill's fresh berries or some fruit from Harvest Valley and cook it down ina  small pot with a dash of water, cinnamon, sugar and lemon juice. Serve on top of plain yogurt or ricotta cheese. Dee-lish!

For some lite bite ideas, we've got a few tips. Grab a loaf for bread from the Rise Above Bakery as your base for any number of toppings. Pick up some salsa and chips at Cinco de Mayo or taste the Mediterranean with hummus from Little Athens scooped up with a cucumber from Harvest Valley.  For wow factor without the work, try this recipe for Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta, with all ingredients purchsed at the market.

If you're looking for even more ideas, make sure you visit our booth in the Square this Thursday to talk to the experts from the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. They'll be on hand to help you celebrate September as National Local Food Month. And hey - if you're at the market you're already doing some celebrating!

And please stop by the Renewal by Andersen booth later this month. Along with manufacturing amazing energy-efficient windows, the folks from Andersen are the generous sponsors of the Farmers Market and they bring all this local food to you!

Remember, the Farmers Market sets up every Thursday in the Square through November 17.

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