Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Eat Locally and in Season - Part1, Find Your Farmer's Market

fresh vegetables
Photo Credit; Alistair Williamson

When I first started out on this healthy eating journey, one of the things that was recommended to me was to eat locally and in season. The way to do that was supposedly to look up what foods are in season where you live, and go find them. Sounds logical, right?

I soon found that was a lot harder to do than it sounded. On most websites that claimed to tell you what was in season and what wasn't, I soon found that despite the fact that the state I live in has an economy largely based on agriculture, many sites told me that there was nothing being grown for months out of the year here! Even the best one I have found told me earlier this year that there was nothing available but lettuce, snap peas and strawberries, when even my local chain store was carrying locally grown asparagus. In fact, other than a few lucky finds like the asparagus, even if you are buying foods that are in season, you are very likely not buying locally at all, even if your part of the world is capable of producing it.

So what are we supposed to do for the months in the year when next to nothing is listed? Are we stuck relying on large chain stores to provide us with imported mono-cultured crops? What about growing our own food? While this would not be a bad idea, many of us simply do not have the resources available to do that in any significant quantities, especially not in the middle of winter.

Enter the actually local farmer. The farmer who is often too small to have their crop bought by chain stores even locally due to the fluctuation in crop type, size, shape and quantity. Too small to afford an organic certification even if their practices are 100% organic. (Post on this coming soon!) But this natural variation is exactly what we are after! Unfortunately for us, they are also too small to advertise in any significant way. So how do we find them?

farmer's market
Photo Credit; Terence O'Brien

We go to our local farmer's market! Yet even these can be an elusive beast.

These sites do a pretty good job of listing many farmer's markets;


But they are often outdated or incomplete, as they rely on people to update them personally. Even if you find your town's market listed the hours are often vague, missing or flat out wrong. There is typically no coordinator, no phone number to call, no one to ask for directions. Maybe you drive up to where it is supposed to be and either find it practically empty or missing entirely. And what are you supposed to do for the months in the year when it just isn't there?

For me, the experience of trying to find the farmer's market was a great lesson in what community actually looks like. These things thrive on things like trust and word of mouth, and you typically have to delve into that in order to find them. Start by talking to people - ask your friends, your family, your neighbors, the clerk at the grocery store. Do they go to the farmer's market? Do they know where it is? Do they know someone who does? Where is it? When is it? How do you find out more? I was personally surprised when these questions were answered by my mother in law. I thought she would be the last person to know about it since she lives in a neighboring town, refuses to eat healthily even as a Type 2 diabetic and thinks organic food is cost prohibitive, but she is a school teacher, and as such is very up to date on what is happening in her community. 

It turns out, as the towns around here are quite small and close together, our "local" farmer's market is actually hosted in her town. Sure, our town has one or two stands on a Saturday, but I don't want to live on zucchini, summer squash and pickles, especially not for the entire summer! Thankfully, the farmer's market where everyone shows up on a Saturday is full of delicious varieties of fresh fruit and vegetables, even pastured chickens and eggs! It is a great opportunity to see what our area is capable of producing, to invest financially in the community here, but also to invest in it socially. We have the chance to talk to the people producing the food, to ask them where their farms actually are, to find out if and when they do come to the farmer's market in our town during the week, and to see if we could come out to the farm and buy from them directly. We can share gardening tips for the exact climate that we live in, commiserate on the effect the weather that week is having on our crops or livestock, and just generally get to know each other. This is a big part of our plan for food security. (More on that soon.)

This all sounded very daunting to me to start with, but I encourage you to get out there and give it a go. We are raised in a very strange society that doesn't talk to our neighbors, and I think that is an important skill that needs to be regained. Sure, it will probably feel awkward at first, it did to me, but it is a skill and you will get better at it and very quickly start enjoying yourself.

If you do ask around and no one in your circle knows about any farmer's market, or can only give you very vague ideas about it, try looking in your local newspaper, yellow pages, or even your local TV station. Right around the time of year that they start up (usually late spring, but it will depend on your area) there is usually a little push to get some advertising out there, but as I said before they typically don't have the resources to do anything big, so they tend to target the people who are already looking - keep your eyes and ears peeled!

Last but definitely not least, it is worth going straight to the source - search for the actual farms near you. (Try looking on and Call them up directly and asking if they go to a farmer's market, and if not, how you could go about buying from them.

How did you find your local farmer's market? Are you still looking? What did you find when you got there? Have any tips for getting the most out of the experience?

Stay tuned for Part 2, How to Eat Locally and in Season Through Winter.

This post was shared through Simple Lives Thursday.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ingredients; Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti Squash seems to be getting a bit of a name for itself! I keep seeing it pop up in recipes, but few of those recipes talk about how to find and prepare this little known food, so it took me a while to take the plunge and try it. Now that I have, I wish I had tried it sooner as it is so easy (and fun!) to prepare, a wonderfully nutritious alternative to regular spaghetti as the name implies, and it is naturally gluten free.

This is what a whole, uncooked Spaghetti Squash looks like;

As the name implies, it is a member of the squash family of foods, and the taste, texture and cooking methods follows suit. It is also known as vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, spaghetti marrow, and gold string melon.

Most grocery stores are carrying varieties of squash like this, often in a mixed bin of assorted squashes like butternut and acorn. Locally, my HyVee and Skagway both sell it year round. I have not seen it at Walmart, but I don't go there very often, and even less often to buy groceries. 

So how do you cook Spaghetti Squash?

If you don't want to have to deal with cutting something this big and solid you can bake it whole for an hour at 375F, or boil it (submerged in a very large pan/pot of water) for 20 to 30 minutes.

To cook it a little faster you can cut it in half. Do this by poking the end of a big chefs knife in, then twisting/pressing it around until you have "sliced" the squash in half - if the end with the stem on it is being stubborn, just slip the knife out and just pull the two halves all the way apart with your hands.

It is easier to scoop the seeds out after the squash is cooked, so I left them in;

You can see the texture of the squash even before it is cooked;

Then you can either bake it at 375F for 30 to 40 minutes, or microwave it face up in a microwave safe pan with about a quarter inch of water in the bottom for 9 to 12 minutes. 

Whichever method you choose, make sure to poke holes in it with a fork before cooking it to prevent it from exploding!

It is done when you can poke a sharp knife into the skin easily and it comes out all nice and stringy and golden;

Let it cool until it is a safe temperature to handle, 10 to 20 minutes, then scoop out the seeds with a spoon;

Then use a fork to fluff up and separate the strands of squash out from the skin.

One large squash will easily feed four people.

Some people eat it pretty plain with a little bit of butter, salt and pepper, but most people find that it is bland enough to require a good strong sauce. (Ever eaten pasta plain? Me either!) I like it with the traditional spaghetti bolognese sauce:

Recipe: "Spaghetti" Bolognese

It would be good with anything you typically serve with spaghetti or noodles including alfredo sauce and oriental style soups!

As with all squashes, you can save and roast the seeds, just like pumpkin seeds.

How do you deal with intimidating looking foods, especially hard gourds? Have you tried anything new lately?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Living Without Chocolate

living without chocolate morsels truffles

Shockingly, it has been much harder to write this than to actually do it;

I no longer eat chocolate.

As a former chocoholic that could easily eat a bar a day and often did just that, this is quite a turnaround. And I'm not talking about one of those tiny little "bars" of "chocolate" from Hershey's (yuck!) either, I'm talking 100g Green & Black's rich dark chocolate, maybe with some kind of decadent flavor like ginger and orange thrown in... Mmm..!

So why on earth would I give up something I enjoy so much?

This time, it's actually not because I can't eat it - my body physically processes it just fine. My brain on the other hand doesn't seem to like it at all. Since I gave birth to my daughter, it makes me feel something like this;



Extremely annoyed at absolutely nothing;

pissed, extremely annoyed

And flat out stark raving mad.

angry, stark raving mad

Sometimes, all at the same time! Not a pretty picture. Especially for the loved ones around me. 

Honestly? I think I might still indulge occaisionally if I was the only one dealing with the consequences. Chocolate is one fine tasting food, and curling up on the couch with a movie and feeling sorry for myself every once in a while... well, sometimes you just feel that way anyway, so why not enjoy the chocolate? But when you put other people into the picture - a daughter I need to be patient with, a husband I need to be emotionally there for, and so much more for both of them... it's just not worth it. Chocolate could be the elixir of the gods, but if it made me feel and act like this I would still turn it down.

The last piece of chocolate I had was in this Recipe; Black Bean Brownies. It was a test after eliminated it for a bit to see if I had been right about what it was doing to me. Sure enough, I had been, and my husband happily finished off the rest while hiding from the monstrosity that is me on chocolate.

These days, I am happily enjoying a little legume called carob in place of chocolate in my life. It is misleading to say it tastes like chocolate, rather it has a similar flavor palate - rich, dark, complexIt is a similar enough flavor that it can be made into carob chips and used in place of chocolate chips in recipes, or left as carob powder and used as a substitute in equal parts for cocoa powder.

My grandma also swore off chocolate many years ago, so my introduction to carob was at quite a young age. Someone who has never had carob before will probably find it like nothing they have ever tasted before, and might take a few tries to not be surprised by the flavor, as it really does look like chocolate. Nonetheless, it is a good flavor; I don't think I have ever met someone who has tried it and actually disliked it.

Have you ever tried carob? Interested? Here are some recipes to try;

Have you ever sworn off a food for the sake of others?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Recipe; Carob Brittle

carob chocolate brittle

This Recipe make a fabulous chocolate treat substitute for those of us that can't eat chocolate - click the link to see why I don't eat it anymore. It also avoids the ever persistent soy in commercial carob products.

I know this recipe probably breaks most of my rules about ingredients being easily available for many of you, but I hope you will forgive me this time for the sake of chocolate!

A big thank you to Megan for her Easy Raw Chocolate Bark Recipe, it was the inspiration and starting point for this one.

4 Stars
Prep Time; 4 minutes
Cook Time; N/A
Ready In; 24 minutes

Serves; 2

  • 1 Small Bowl
  • Measuring Spoons
  • 1 Flat Dish
  • Parchment Paper
  • Freezer
  • 2 tablespoons melted Coconut Oil
  • 2 tablespoons Carob Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon room temperature Honey
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  1. Measure out all your ingredients into the small bowl, mix well.
  2. Put the mixture in the fridge for 30 seconds at a time, stir, and repeat until it holds together just enough to stop the carob powder from settling to the bottom of the mixture as it cools.
  3. Line your pan with parchment paper, spoon the mixture onto it and smooth out.
  4. Put in the freezer to set for 20 minutes.
  5. Break into bite sized pieces and enjoy directly from the freezer!
  • It is important that all the ingredients are at least room temperature, or else the coconut oil will set up next to the cold ingredients and won't mix properly.
  • Some people find that they get good results with the coconut oil soft but not melted, I personally think it distributes the carob powder better if it starts out melted, but you could try it that way and see how you like it - if it doesn't work out you can always melt it back down and try again!
  • You can set this up in the fridge for a softer texture and a more intense flavor, but be aware that it will melt much more quickly out of the fridge, and it won't have that "brittle" texture.
  • You can substitute cocoa powder for the carob powder in equal portions. Carob powder is naturally sweeter though, so you may want to adjust how much honey is in this - just taste and adjust accordingly.

Please Note; Homemade chocolate will never come out as smooth textured as the factory produced stuff due to several processes, but especially the conching machine - a machine that runs for a minimum of four hours for cheaply produced chocolate, up to seventy eight hours for the finer kind!

The coconut oil and carob mixture;

As you can see, my coconut oil  is already melted because of the crazy summer heat this year, we are keeping our thermostat at 78F at the moment - coconut oil melts at temperatures above 76F.

Oops, left it in the fridge too long. (Hey look, my knife's made in Japan!)

After being outside for a minute and stirred back together it is softened back up just enough without being melted again;

Spread out on the parchment paper, ready to go into the freezer;

So glossy!

Frozen up nicely;

Don't worry about any "blooming" that takes place, it is natural and doesn't affect the flavor at all.

All snapped up and ready to eat;

So good!

It really does melt pretty quickly, so I find it best to only take out a small portion from the freezer at a time, especially as I find my cravings for something sweet are much more quickly met by this recipe than with typical chocolate - it is very rich.

This post was shared through Monday Mania.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Breastfeeding Past Six Months

During a middle of the night feeding with Kitchen Baby, I realized something; I have never seen a baby her size being breastfed.
Now, this wouldn't be too shocking - I intend to breastfeed for at least two years, so I knew I would hit this point at some point during our breastfeeding relationship, except for the fact that I didn't expect it to be so soon - Kitchen Baby is only seven months old.

This means that I have never seen a baby older than six months being breastfed. Anywhere.

Sure, I've seen pictures of (gasp!) "Extended Breastfeeding!" with three and four year olds, but real life? No. Movies? No. Childbirth and parenting education? Nothing. The only babies I have ever seen breastfeed are the tiny, little newborn helpless ones.

Lactivists often say that a big part of the problem for our lack of breastfeeding success as a nation, both England and America, is that we just don't see it. Without seeing women breastfeed it is hard to view it as normal, and it is very difficult to learn how it's done. I always agreed with this statement, but the realization that I am now breastfeeding a baby that is older than I have ever seen someone else feeding really made it hit home.

So how old is seven months? Well, this baby is seven months old, so Kitchen Baby is the same age as him.

Photo Credit; tantawan on

What is your reaction to this photo? Child? Toddler? Baby? I know that I would not hesitate to call him anything other than baby.

Nutritionally speaking, the advice these days has been that "solids before one are just for fun," which means that while it is important to start solids somewhere around six months, babies are supposed to get the majority of their nutrition through milk, either breast or formula, until one year old. Assuming that every mother is following this advice, and knowing that 22.7% of babies in the United States are still breastfed at a year old, that's a whole lot of babies being breastfed for at least six months behind closed doors.

On one hand, I totally get that. Kitchen Baby is incredibly distractible, and unless she has a quiet place to feed, she just won't, no matter how desperately hungry she is. Out and about is no place to try and find an appropriate place with a hungry baby, so we schedule going out between feedings and naps. Even if she wasn't distractible, she is getting quite big now, so we do need a nice big chair to feed in these days.

On the other hand, wouldn't it be nice to be able to go out whenever, not worry about timing or pumping a bottle or if the weather is hot enough that she'll get dehydrated before you can get her back home again? I know I would love it if every store had a nice clean, quiet mother's lounge, where we could just pop in for a quick top off in hot weather, or a good long feed when she is a bit older and goes down to one nap a day.

Did you or your partner breastfeed? If so, was the lack of available space for feeding an "older" baby a factor in how long you decided to or ended up breastfeeding?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Recipe; Banana Milkshake

Kitchen Own Recipe; Dairy Free Banana "Milk"shake

Prep Time; 3 minutes
Cook Time; N/A
Ready In; 3 minutes OR a couple of hours if you need to wait for some ingredients to freeze

Serves 1
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Milk
  • 1 very ripe Banana
  • 6 Coconut Milk ice cubs
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Essence
  • Local Raw Honey to taste - if your banana is very ripe you may not need any!
  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.
  2. Serve!
  • Freezing chilled coconut milk usually only takes about an hour in my freezer if you don't have any already frozen. If you do not, you might want to consider keeping some in there, it is very useful and can be defrosted in portions for whatever you need.
  • If you want a thick shake like a Mr. Frosty, (seriously, the texture is identical) peel, chop and freeze your banana overnight, then blend as usual.
  • For a thinner shake, use more coconut milk.

As you can see, I enjoyed mine with a slice of banana nut bread. Can you tell I needed to use up a bunch of bananas to use this week?

Mmm, frothy!

Thanks again to Ari over at The Diva Dish for her  Coconut Vanilla Chai Recipe, it was the inspiration for this recipe that has practically become a morning ritual!

This recipe was shared through the Barn Hop.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Healthy Eating Community's Acronyms Explained

As with any community, the healthy eating, healthy living and green communities have developed their own lingo, and digital communication lends itself wonderfully to shorthand and acronyms. While this is great to speed up a conversation if everybody is on board with what they mean, many of these confused me a lot to start with, so I hope that they will help someone who is trying to figure out what on earth we're all talking about!

I will update this list periodically as I come across more.

ACV - Apple Cider Vinegar
BE - Body Ecology
BED - Body Ecology Diet
BO - Butter Oil
BS - Baking Soda
CD - Celiac Disease
CF - Casein Free
CLO - Cod Liver Oil
CO - Coconut Oil
CSA - Community Supported Agriculture
ETL - Eat To Live
EVCO - Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
FCLO - Fermented Cod Liver Oil
FODMAP - Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides And Polyols; a diet low in fructose used to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
GAPS - Gut and Psychology Syndrome
GF - Gluten Free
GFCF - Gluten Free Casein Free
HVBO - High Vitamin Butter Oil
IBS - Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBD - Inflammatory Bowel Disease
IF - Intermittent Fasting
NCGS - Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
OCM - Oil Cleansing Method
PUFA - Poly-Unsaturated Fatty Acids
SAD - Standard American Diet
SCD - Specific Carbohydrate Diet
SF - Sugar Free (usually used to mean refined/white sugar free)
TCM - Traditional Chinese MedicineTTC - Trying To Concieve
WAPF - Weston A. Price Foundation

I will be doing a series of posts explaining what all these different diets entail soon. If you have experience with any of them and are interested in sharing what the diet entails or what it means to you, let me know by commenting below!

In an effort to be accessible to everybody, both experienced and inexperienced, I will strive to minimize my use of these acronyms and always link to an explanation page when I do use them.

Did I miss any? Let me know if there in an acronym that still confuses you.

This post was shared through The Barn Hop.