On Tuesday I ventured to our local farmers market
in search of pumpkins that I could turn into pumpkin puree since I can't seem to find any in the stores. I knew that I needed a different kind of pumpkin than the ones you carve jack-o-lanterns with, I just wasn't sure what kind, or if they would even have
any at the farmers market, since the grocery store only had the little decorating pumpkins so far this year. The town I live in has a farmers market of sorts, but its not much to speak of and is more a place for people who have placed orders with the co-op
online to pick up what they ordered. So, I drove the 30 minutes to downtown Little Rock where there is a space that the city created just for the farmers market. It gets used for other things too, but its a pretty neat area, and definitely admirable that the
city cared about having a place to host the market. It goes on 2 days a week, Tuesday and Saturday, with Saturday being much bigger of course.
This is the building that runs next to the outdoor area where the market is. Inside this building is an
interesting array of food vendors. It kind of reminds me of a food court, but without the obligatory chick fila. There is an Indian place, a Cajun place, sandwiches, vegetarian, Asian... lots of interesting stuff. You could even buy uncooked bacon to take
home, or cupcakes from a local bakery. This is a picture of the inside. Its open every day, but closes at about 4pm, I think.
Anyway, the only thing I bought from inside was some coffee. Normally, I just buy plain old coffee from
the grocery store. I drink way too much of it to spend a ton of money on it. I do, however love me some hazelnut, so every now and then I splurge on an expensive bag of hazelnut coffee.
I wandered inside and stood before a display of coffee. The bags had the name of the retailer on them,
as well as the place where the coffee was roasted. I asked the man at the counter where it came from, and little did I know, there is a place in Jacksonville, AR that they get it from. I bought a bag of my treasured hazelnut, and it was cheaper than any specialty
coffee I can get at Kroger, thats for sure. This is where the coffee came from. http://www.biffscoffee.com/ I brewed
a pot this morning, and its pretty good. I always feel good about supporting a local company, and am glad I found this. I may just order coffee directly from this website from now on. Hooray for finding things you didn't know existed before!
I went on outside to get down to business... I did after all, come for pumpkins. It wasn't very busy because
of it being tuesday, but I spotted some pumpkins right away. I started asking about which kinds of pumpkins I needed, and quickly found out that I need "sugar" or "spice" or "pie" pumpkins. All the same thing, just called different names depending on who you
are. They are smaller than regular pumpkins, but not teeny. Apparently, the big pumpkins are usually too big and stringy to bake with good results. Here is an AR article about baking with pumpkins. http://allrecipes.com//HowTo/baking-with-fresh-pumpkin/Detail.aspx< The
farmers were very helpful in explaining to me that the greener the stem on a pumpkin or squash, the fresher and more recently picked it is, which is a good thing right? As it turns out, none of the pumpkins available at the market were the ones I needed. One
farmer said that they just weren't ready to harvest yet, but that he should have some in the next week or so. I ended up buying quite a few things anyway, since I was there and all.
Downtown Little Rock is actually kind of quaint and cute, so I took a few photos of the scenery.
It was a nice, warm but overcast kind of day, so I took the time to wander around downtown by myself a
bit. I stepped into a few shops, and had a bowl of soup for lunch. Sometimes its nice to explore a little.
I got home and unloaded everything. I ended up with enough stuff to keep me busy creating fresh foods
for myself this week. It may not look like much, but its just me here this week, so its plenty, and all for about $14. Including the coffee.
A few tips for a happy farmers market experience:
Bring your own grocery bag. Otherwise, every single time you buy something, they will bag it individually in those plastic grocery sacks. I have a giant canvas one that I got from Kroger that I love. I can fit all my farmers market finds in one bag. I usually
bring a few plastic grocery bags as well, in case I buy a bunch of something small, like cherry tomatoes, or if something is damp, like greens.
2. Don't be shy. Ask the person running the
table if they are the farmer. If not, where did the food come from? Do they know if the farm is organic? How long ago was it picked? Ask lots of questions and get to know and trust the farmers you buy from. They will appreciate your loyalty, and you will appreciate
knowing where your food came from. This will also help you avoid the bigger sellers who truck their stuff in from who knows where. One guy had georgia peaches the other day, complete with stickers.... I can get those at the grocery store, thank you very much.
3. Understand that some things
are going to be more expensive than they are at Wal-Mart. This is is simply because you are paying for quality. Major grocery stores get their produce from large farms who are able to produce things cheaper. If you are getting an organic product from a nearby
small farm, then chances are, someone worked really hard on it. You may pay more, but the health benefits are better for you and your family, and you are helping to support the local industry.
4. The earlier you go, the better,
especially on a busy Saturday. By noon, most of the good stuff will be picked over.
Also, understand that you may not be able to get strawberries and spinach in October, or squash and apples in May. This is because those things aren't in season at the time. (They may be in certain areas where the weather is warm year round). When you get
those things from a grocery store out of season, they have likely come from very far away (or were grown indoors).
6. Have fun! I am not saying you should buy
everything from a local farmer, just that in most places, its available to you in the summer, so why not take advantage. We don't have things like apples here yet this year, so I still have to go to the grocery store for certain things.
What to do with all this loot??
I sauteed a few of the zucchini for my dinner tuesday night along with these baked
chicken nuggets. I just sliced
the zucchini, and cooked for about 5 minutes in a little olive oil with some salt, pepper, and a smushed garlic clove. My computer is trying to tell me that smushed isn't a word, but I don't care. Its a word I use daily! I refuse to correct it. Take that computer!
What were we talking about? Zucchini. I was a little upset because they had a bitter taste. I am not sure what causes this, it could have been a lack of water when they were growing, or that there was some sort of chemical that I didn't scrub off well enough.
Either way, I ate some, but couldn't get over the bitter taste. I hate it when things like that happen, and plan to ask the guy I bought them from about it next time I see him.
The chicken was a new recipe for me, and it was ok. I liked the idea of it, because I love fried chicken
but accept the fact that its terrible for me. I also like chicken nuggets (call me a child, I don't care), but hate that they are usually made with all kinds of processed meats and strange unidentifiable ingredients. I figured I could give this recipe a try,
and eat the leftovers on top of a salad. I didn't follow the recipe because I was trying to lighten it up a little. I used milk instead of butter when breading the chicken. I think that was probably a mistake so if I make it again, I will just use the butter.
I also baked them on a rack instead of directly in the pan, because a lot of reviews said this would make them crispier. However, mine weren't that crispy anyway, so maybe I should just start following recipes. I don't know if I will ever learn. I will probably
try this again, because it was quick and relatively simple, but it needs a little adjusting.
Back to the produce! I roasted the butternut squash on wednesday. I just sliced it in half, scooped out
the seeds, put a little margarine in their place, and baked cut-side down in an 8x8 dish. I think I did 375 for about 30 minutes, and it was plenty of time. You will know its done when you can easily insert a fork.
I ate some of the squash completely by accident!
I got a phone call right as I was taking it out of the oven, and I was kind of hungry, so I stood there and ate it right out of the pan with a fork. It was so good just plain like it was. My plan for it was soup however, so once I realized what I was doing,
I put down the fork and saved the rest.
I made this butternut
squash soup recipe with what was left. My squash was small, so after eating some I only had about 2 cups.
I just cut the recipe down to 2 servings. It is actually a pretty good soup. Next time I will leave out the cayenne, because it just wasn't to my liking in this recipe, but other than that, it was a great way to use a butternut squash. Simple too, I think
it only took about 10 minutes, since I had already baked the squash. I cooked the onion in the margarine and then added all the other ingredients except the cream cheese.
I let that boil for a minute, then lowered the
heat and added the cream cheese. I used the 1/3 less fat variety. Here is where it gets fun. My best friend got me an immersion blender for my birthday last February. (because best friends know you need things like that for those rare times you make soup that
needs to be blended). So, I just got out my trusty immersion blender, and blended it all up right there in the pot.
For those of you who don't know about the immersion
or "hand" blender. Its basically a mini-blender on a stick that you can use to blend up things such as soup without having to transfer it back and forth to a blender or food processor. I have used it for blending up salad dressings and marinades that have
onions and garlic in them as well. My grandparents use theirs for smoothies and powder-type protein shakes. It has many uses, but I will be honest and say that I don't use mine too often. Its nice because you can blend something up a lot, or just a little.
Here is a link to the Oster website. Oster This
is the same one that I have, and unless you will be using it a lot, I don't think there's much reason to pay more for a fancier one.
Back to the soup. After I blended it, I let
it heat just a little, but the recipe directions say not to boil again. Probably because of the cream cheese. I know some dairy products get "grainy" if you let them boil. Then, I tasted it and added a dash of garlic powder. It sure was a pretty soup.
So there you have it, another example of something fresh and tasty that is also quick and easy to prepare. I think it would be a complete meal if you added a grilled ham and cheese, or a salad with some leftover turkey or chicken on it. I was happy with just
a nice slice of bread. Granted, I eat vegetarian quite a bit, but understand that a lot of people need meat to make a meal.
I am not sure what I will end up doing with
the rest of my farmers market produce. The potatoes will probably end up being crash
hot potatoes because I have an obsession with them. I don't usually buy so many cucumbers, so I might
slice them up and marinate in a little vinegar with some of the tomatoes. I am open to suggestions on the eggplant. Anyone got ideas?? And of course, we all know the coffee will be injected daily. lol
I hope enjoyed you glimpse into my local farmers
market. If you want to find one in your area, this is a good place to start. http://www.localharvest.org/ I
searched online and found quite a few cities in the U.S. who have really large farmers markets. Some of them open year round. I wish I lived in one of those places. Check out this site diddit.com. Anyone
live near one of those markets?
I guess it wouldn't be right to leave you without
a pic or two of the pups. Lets see.... this is what Ellie did while I made the soup. She has a bed in the kitchen (red to match my towels of course, lol) because she can't stand to be without me, but gets tired while I'm cooking. Yes, those are my hair ties
in the picture. She stole them from off the couch where I left them earlier because she is a puppy and thats just what she does. Though I am not sure what the appeal was, or why she decided to bring them to bed with her. I stole them back.
And a little later she decided to go bug Miles,
who is easily annoyed, but for some reason puts up with her.
He looks like he is hiding all the toys. Probably
because I'm not the only one Ellie likes to steal things from. I think he secretly likes her, but don't tell him I said that ; ) Thanks for reading again guys! I have no idea what's next, but I will try to make it worth reading.