A while back my dear friend Natalie introduced me to a blog called the Zero Waste Home. Author of the blog Bea Johnson and her family live so carefully and thoughtfully that they only produce enough waste to fit in a one quart jar each year. They follow principles to reduce their waste that include buying from their local farmer's market. The author has found that not only does this reduce the amount of trash that they produce, but this style of living is overall cleaner, simpler and more fulfilling. Reducing the minutes we spend on waste management in our homes helps to conserve personal resources that include money as well as time.
Though I do not have aspirations (at present) to live a zero waste lifestyle, I've been tremendously inspired to think carefully about the environmental impact I make with my choices, and delighted anew with how shopping at a local farmer's market makes that easy for me. The following are some of the ways that shopping this way has helped me to reduce waste in my home, save time and money, and live a richer life. What are some ways that shopping at our local market has enriched your life?
When I was little, one of my favorite breakfasts was a spicy, pumpkin muffin. We used to get them from the grocery store bakery in plastic clamshells. Recently I had a craving for one of those pumpkin muffins, but experience has taught me that the processed foods I loved as a kid don't taste nearly as nice now that I eat whole, clean foods. So I decided to develop a version with local ingredients to help me relive that nostalgic breakfast without sacrificing taste or nutrition.
Apple and Squash Muffins
Preheat your oven to 350 and prepare 12 muffin cups by lining them with paper or greasing them with coconut oil.
Whisk the eggs and add in the mashed squash, grated apples and coconut oil. Whisk until combine, then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, salt and sugar. Combine well. Gently fold in the flour, and mix until just combined. (Over mixing will give these higher protein muffins a tough crumb.)
Divide the mixture into your muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minuets, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the muffins comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins.
Two years ago I learned a trick that made cooking hearty vegetables a snap to prepare. The trick? Bake them--whole.
When you bake a whole butternut squash, sweet potato, pumpkin, or other meaty vegetable, all the flavors stay locked in and the skins steam themselves off. I bake them on a sheet tray at 400 degrees until soft through, and--very importantly--I don't pierce the skins first. I've never once had an issue with the vegetables bursting in the oven (nor has the person who gave me this tip).
Cooking time will vary depending on the size and age of your vegetable, so test for doneness with a small, sharp knife. Cool until you can comfortably handle it, then peel the skins off easily with your hands, slice your veggies open and discard any seeds.
This is wonderfully handy for prepping CSA veggies in one go to be used throughout the week, or if you already have your oven on to bake something else, you can bake some whole vegetables in a pan to maximize your energy output. I like to keep these soft baked vegetables around for creamy soups, to stir into eggs for breakfast, to make my butternut waffles, and for use in a host of other recipes, including the one below.
West African Soup
This flavor combination was introduced to me by a good friend who shares my passion for cooking. It's unexpected but addictive, and perfect for the first cool evenings of the fall. If you have a couple of overripe tomatoes hanging around, use them. Otherwise, use crushed tomatoes from a jar (preferably one you canned yourself or a brand with no added sugar or salt).
This recipe is intended to serve four, but just to warn you, between the two of us, my husband and I can disappear the whole batch in no time.
In a medium stock pot, combine the sweet potato, tomatoes, peanut butter and ginger. Over a low heat, stir the mixture well until it is well combined and the tomatoes have broken down well. Slowly add in the broth and cayenne, and stir to combine. Taste and add salt as desired. Serve very hot as an accompaniment to chicken and rice, or in generously sized bowls, topped with toasted peanuts.
Serves 2 hungry people or 4 as a side.
Homemade pizza is fantastic, and the crust can be light and crisp with a few simple tricks. It's helpful to have a baking stone, but you can also use a heavy-duty baking sheet.
Spicy Blue Cheese Pizza
Preheat your oven to 550 degrees with your baking stone or baking sheet inside. (Yep, I'm serious.)
Sprinkle a cutting board generously with cornmeal (you can also use a sheet of parchment sprinkled with cornmeal on a cutting board or other flat surface if you are nervous about transferring the dough to your pizza stone. Gently stretch the pizza dough into a large circle and place it over the cornmeal. Mix together the garlic and olive oil and brush over the pizza crust, then, crumbling the blue cheese with your hands, sprinkle it evenly over the crust. Add a layer of the potato slices to the top of the pizza. Transfer the pizza to the baking stone or sheet by gently sliding the dough off your board (this is where the cornmeal comes in handy) or by sliding the parchment and dough from one surface to the other. Bake for 5-7 minutes (watching closely) until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is entirely melted.
Remove from the oven and top with the onion and chili and greens, if using. Serve immediately.
Lightly oil a large bowl and place the pizza dough inside, covering with a heavy kitchen towel or a piece of plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place for 45+ minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and knead a couple of times and it's ready to use.
I've come home with gobs of jalepenos recently. One way to savor their summer heat into the fall is through pickling. This recipe is quick, easy and perfect on tacos, sandwiches, pizzas, salads or a piece of toast with melted Coppinger cheese.
10-12 large jalepenos, sliced into 1/4-1/8" rounds
1 c. cider vinegar
1 c. water
1/4 c. evaporated cane sugar
1 T. kosher salt
Bring the vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a boil, stirring to dissolve. Remove from the heat to cool slightly. Meanwhile divide the sliced peppers into sterilized canning jars. Place the jars in a rimmed dish and pour the slightly cooled vinegar mixture over the peppers, filling each jar to the rim. Cool for ten minutes then allow to cool completely before sealing the jars in a water bath or refrigerating. These will keep for a couple of weeks or more in the refrigerator.
Makes 2.5-3 c.