On choosing a farmer’s market

To market, to market!

It’s that time of year again — summer farmer’s market season. While we in Indianapolis are abundantly blessed with a wonderful Winter Farmer’s Market that gives us access to local food from November through April, many towns only have them in the summer season. Our warm-weather markets will be starting up next weekend (we had a single weekend past with none, and I began showing withdrawal symptoms by mid-afternoon Saturday). It seemed a good time for a post to get everyone ready for fresh, local produce shopping.

But not everyone wants the same thing out of a farmer’s market, right? And some cities have lots of markets to choose from while others have just one option. I’ve caricatured a few different types of shoppers below, with tips on finding the best market to suit each of their needs.

  • Just looking to support something local rather than a big box store, plan to visit occasionally.
    If this is you, then you might just want to hit up the market closest to you. Make a walk or bike ride a part of the trip, and you’re getting your exercise at the same time you shop. It’s a win-win. Take a good walk through the whole market, making notes of prices before you buy — that way you’re sure to get the best deal from your very first visit. Make friends with your favorite farmer, and she might hold a quantity of hot-ticket items on a day you know you’ll be behind the crowds.
  • Wanting to try and get most of your produce at the market, eat more seasonally, and transition away from the grocery store as much as possible.
    You’re gonna really want to get to know your market options. Start first with one closest to you, but if it’s not large or diverse enough you might want to try others around town as well. The bigger the market, the bigger the price competition and potential diversity of offerings. You might even consider shopping at more than one market to get the best items (I shop at two markets every Saturday!)
  • Concerned with buying local, but also prioritizing organic and/or sustainably-farmed.
    This is where you need to be prepared to research all market options, and ask lots of questions of the vendors. Some farmer’s markets have across-the-board standards for vendors (our market in Georgia required all produce sold to be sustainably-farmed, so we knew that anything we bought was going to be chemical-free). Some only require that produce be produced within a local radius, and others still have no requirements at all. So you’ll want to pay attention to signs that say “chemical-free” or “sustainably-farmed,” and don’t be afraid to ask questions on top of that (many vendors will not be “certified organic” even though they are growing food organically — this is simply because certification is a time-consuming and expensive label to garner).

One thing that many people don’t realize is that some markets pretty much let anyone sell anything — a vendor could go buy produce anywhere, and sell it as their own. They’re not necessarily being dishonest — they’re just not advertising that they didn’t actually grow the food. And in most cases, their produce is sold at the same price as the farmer a few booths down who grew everything himself and did so without using chemical pesticides. It definitely pays to ask questions of your farmers — and the best ones are more than happy to talk about their growing practices (they usually have signs advertising those practices as well).

If you live in Indianapolis, you can look here for a comprehensive list of options. If elsewhere, you can give farmersmarket.com a try, though I believe they can only show locations that have registered on their site.

But the most important thing is to enjoy getting out of the house on a Saturday morning, shopping outside, and supporting something local. Most markets open around 8 am so you can beat the heat in the heart of summer — and the vibe is always much better than the produce section of your local Kroger. Grab a cup of coffee, put on a hat, and make it a regular part of your weekend.

The secret to really good dairy-free ice cream

My dreams are of cheese and yogurt and ice cream. Great pools of them all — I swim in currents of dairy.

Ok, I haven’t actually had that dream — but maybe I can tonight, if I think hard enough about it? I certainly spend enough time during my conscious hours, pondering a list of cheeses I miss most, ordered in various arrangements of preference according to menu and quality.

And last night, after both our kids read their poems at the downtown library, I talked Emily and her family into a celebratory ice cream jaunt to Goose the Market instead of the chain frozen yogurt shop. I wasn’t even going to eat it, but darnit if I wouldn’t rather vicariously eat some good local-ish gelato over a cup of trucked-in frozen reconstituted powdered milk that oozes out of a spout in the wall (I know — they have toppings — and wisely so, because by the time you choose a bunch, weighing in at 49¢ an ounce, your ice cream cup costs about $8).

See? I even have strong opinions when I can’t eat the stuff.

Dairy-free ice cream is tough. The store-bought attempts I’d had years ago did nothing to satisfy my primal ice-cream needs — and these days I pretty much make all varieties of this dessert in our house, using my trusty thrift-store Cuisinart and David Lebovitz’s ice cream book.

Ice cream is one of those things where the dairy isn’t easy to convincingly replace.

Ice cream needs fat. And the best non-dairy fat I’ve found is coconut fat.

I’d made a dairy-free vanilla ice cream a few years ago — but these days, I am only allowed honey as a sweetener, and unless I want honey-flavored ice cream (not always a bad thing), strong flavors are in order. Inspired by a casual flipping through the well-worn pages of The Perfect Scoop, my bag of frozen sour cherries from last year’s harvest came to the rescue.

Sweet-tart and creamy, with just a hint of coconut. A splash of almond extract (don’t measure over your bowl — it comes out fast!) gives it the perfect finish. While I won’t claim that coconut milk can eternally replace the wonders of cow’s milk cream, this recipe will do me just fine until that glorious day when I once again swim in daily pools of dairy.

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Recipe: Sour Cherry Coconut Ice Cream (dairy-free, refined-sweetener-free, GAPS-friendly)

: makes about a quart

Do not use lowfat coconut milk, or delicious ice cream you will not make. You can sub unsweetened coconut cream for the canned milk, but do not add water to thin or it will make the frozen dessert icy.

I have no qualms about using raw egg yolks in this ice cream — but only do so with eggs from pastured local chickens that are happy and healthy. You can omit the egg yolks if raw eggs cause concern, or if you do not have no access to fresh local eggs.

Ingredients

  • 1 (14oz) can full-fat coconut milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 cups tart cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen, no need to thaw)
  • 5 Tbsp mild honey (I used clover)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 2 pastured egg yolks (optional, see note)
  • pinch salt

Instructions

  1. In a blender, combine all ingredients, and blend until smooth.
  2. Refrigerate until chilled, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to its instructions. When serving, allow to soften a few minutes at room temperature to restore creamy texture.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.

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Apricot chutney

chutney-serving

I had forgotten about chutney.

I’m not sure how it happened. But it just popped back into my head one day, like I walked down into the basement, moved a few boxes around, and saw it laying on the floor, forlorn & discarded, and remembered, CHUTNEY!

(Metaphorically, of course. While there are lots of food items in my basement, there is, to my recollection, not a random jar of chutney lying at the foot of my never-used golf clubs.)

chutney-ingredients

I love this spicy-sweet condiment. It was once my go-to topping for a pork roast, and a frequent side to curries. It’s one of those condiments that provides a huge return on investment — ingredients are easy to keep stocked, can be modified to your liking, and keeps for many days refrigerated.

As a bonus, people are always impressed with chutney — it’s just not something that gets made at home very often. And what are we doing when we invite people for dinner if not simply trying our darndest to impress them?

chutney-inpot

I tend to cook dried fruit chutneys, because that’s the easiest fruit to keep lying around. But by all means, if you have an abundance of fresh fruit, this is a great way to use it (you’ll need to change up the ratios a bit, a quick google search should help with that). I’ve been lacto-fermenting my jar by reducing the vinegar and adding a little whey after it’s cooked — this just adds a probiotic benefit. Read the note with the recipe to see this optional step.

I’ve served this as a vegetarian meal with my red lentil and squash curry — the fresh ginger works well with Indian spices. But this week we’ll have it with a pork roast (I’d forgotten about those, too — makes me wonder if a traumatic incident sometime in 2005 had me repressing my love for this meal?) — it’s just that versatile.

And not to be forgotten again.

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Recipe: Apricot Chutney

Makes 2 1/2 – 3 cups

To lacto-ferment the chutney, reduce apple cider vinegar to 3 Tbsp, and add an additional 2 Tbsp water. After chutney is cooked and cooled, stir in 2 Tbsp whey. Let sit covered at room temperature for 12 hours before refrigerating.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots (unsulphured if possible)
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • (1) 1″ piece fresh ginger, cut into strips
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 apple, peeled and finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except apple in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a very low simmer. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped apple, re-cover, and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, or until apple is tender.
  3. Serve at room temperature (remove ginger strips before serving). Keep leftovers in a capped jar in the refrigerator for up to a week (or longer for lacto-fermented option).

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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The elusive grain-free muffin

blueberry-grainfree-muffin

When I first gave up eating grains, I searched high and low for any and all recipes that would replace bread products in my life. Pizza dough, muffins, scones, sandwich bread, crackers. I googled, experimented with alternative flours, and baked like my life depended on it.

And day after day, I was sorely, even desperately disappointed. Gluten-free is one challenge; grain-free is a whole other ball game — and when it comes to beloved sandwich bread, it’s a game I have forfeited. Nut flours are an entirely different creature than their grain counterparts, and in most cases do not behave remotely the same.

I had to learn to change my expectations. For the most part, I think I’m there (though I still long for the day when I can once again have pizza, because right now there’s nothing grain-free that compares to an airy, stone-baked crust).

So far, the thing that seems easiest to replicate is the muffin. But it’s not as simple as replacing wheat flour with almond flour — you’d end up with a crumbly, dense almond ball. My local GAPS-friend Jen shared a banana muffin recipe that called for no flour at all — just almond butter and eggs — and it had the lightest, most delicate crumb of any recipe yet. Wanting a blueberry muffin, with a little less banana, I decided to develop my recipe from that no-flour starting point. After a few failed tweaks, I ended up with a keeper (though a 1/4 cup of almond flour did find its way back into the mix). So good, my kids beg for the muffins, even though they know they are “mommy’s special breakfast,” (I *might* guilt them every time their greedy, fat little fingers unwrap one for snack — while also secretly loving the fact they want them, being the high-protein, low-carb treat they are).

Not too dense, not too eggy — these muffins are just right. Goldilocks would have gobbled them up.

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Recipe: Blueberry Crunch Muffins (grain-free, dairy-free, GAPS-friendly)

: makes 10-12 muffins

Since this batter can be thin, it works best for blueberry distribution if half of the berries are reserved for dotting on top of the batter (otherwise they all sink to the bottom of the cups). Feel free to substitute ghee or butter for the coconut oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup almond or cashew butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp coconut oil, divided (room temperature ok)
  • 3 Tbsp honey, divided
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp blanched almond flour, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped nuts
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Have ready a standard 12-cup muffin tin, either very well-greased or lined with muffin cups.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mash the banana to a pulp. Add the eggs, nut butter, 1/4 cup coconut oil, 2 Tbsp honey, vanilla, and cider vinegar. Using a fork or whisk, mix vigorously until well-combined.
  3. Sift together 1/4 cup almond flour, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda. Add to the liquid ingredients and mix well.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the chopped nuts with remaining 1 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp coconut oil, 1 Tbsp almond flour, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
  5. Add half of the blueberries to the batter, and fold in. Scoop batter into muffin cups, filling 3/4 full. Divide the remaining blueberries among the cups, pushing into the batter.
  6. Break off small pieces of the honey-nut paste and dot on top of the batter, dividing evenly.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tops are golden and centers are set.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.

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Mama’s Candy

coconut-chocolate-candy

Last week I mentioned that one thing I really miss these days is dark chocolate. My historic go-to treat for a quick dessert or afternoon pick-me-up, I always have a stash of good-quality chocolate on-hand — most of it purchased from my favorite fall-off-the-truck store for $1 a bar (while I dream of the day I find a coveted Olive & Sinclair bar, I’m currently happy to walk away with brands like Chocolove, Endangered Species, or Green & Black).

On the whole, I’m a huge fan of dark chocolate, and would much rather offer my kids a square of that over a piece of candy. But the problem for me right now, while on the GAPS diet, is that most all dark chocolate, even high-end brands, contains sugar. And sugar is on my no-list.

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve walked into my kitchen since January, usually around 9pm, looking for something that would take the place of a square of dark chocolate. Most often I ended up with a spoon full of peanut butter with honey drizzled atop.

But it’s just. Not. Chocolate.

Then a couple weeks ago I read about this chocolate-coconut candy made by Wardeh at GNOWFGLINS (a highly-recommended resource blog for anyone interested in a traditional-foods diet) — and, while my hopes weren’t high (GAPS-friendly recipes are often painfully disappointing), I gave it a try. I am delighted to report that it is completely, totally addictive. Like a candy bar — chewy, full chocolate flavor with the texture of coconut and dried cherries, and an optional crunch of nuts. I call it “Mommy’s Candy Bar,” and have resorted to hiding it from my family.

I made a few tweaks/additions to the original recipe. Some ingredients are shamelessly obscure (coconut butter, cacao butter) — but for anyone on a grain-free, sugar-free diet, they are highly-recommended investments toward chocolate-loving sanity (and can be useful in other treats as well). Like homemade Larabars, this recipe is made for customization — you can utilize whatever flavors float your candybar boat. Mine happen to be dried tart cherries and pistachios.

Store these morsels in your refrigerator for longevity. Though mine might end up in the freezer soon for safer keeping. Safer, of course, from me, and my chocolate-loving hands.

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Recipe: Coconut-Chocolate Candy with Cherries (grain-free, refined-sugar-free, dairy-free)

: Based on this recipe at GNOWFGLINS

Coconut butter is the pureed meat of the coconut — not the same as coconut oil. I have bought this brand — it is expensive — but will soon be trying a slightly less expensive version of the same product. Cacao butter is the fat from the cacao bean — it lends a velvety-smooth, extra-chocolatey flavor to the candy, my “secret ingredient” — I use this brand, it lasts a long time.

Ingredients

  • 7 Tbsp (a shy half-cup) honey
  • heavy pinch sea salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut butter (see note)
  • 1/2 cup finely-chopped cacao butter (see note)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder (I like this raw, fair-trade bulk brand)
  • 1 cup dried unsweetened coconut
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup dried unsweetened cherries, chopped nuts, etc (optional)

Instructions

  1. Have ready an 8-inch square baking pan, lined with parchment paper.
  2. In a 1-quart saucepan, heat the honey and salt until boiling. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, boiling for two minutes (set your timer). Reduce heat if necessary to keep from boiling over.
  3. Remove from heat, and add the coconut butter, cacao butter, and cocoa powder. Stir until smooth.
  4. Add the coconut, vanilla, and optional cherries or nuts. Stir to combine. Pour candy into prepared pan, smoothing the top to level.
  5. Refrigerate for half an hour, or until firmly set. Loosen sides with a knife, and pop out of pan. Cut into pieces (let warm to room temperature to make this easier). Store in refrigerator in an airtight container (freeze for longer storage).

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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Goings-on

coc-choc-candy-emptypot

Spring is gaining a reputation of feeling crazed (I’m realizing as I type the only season now left un-modified by this adjective is summer — which I will now be guarding with the steely tip of a blacked-out google calendar).  I don’t know if it’s the fact that we come out of the slumber of January, or the sick bed (in our house) of February — but by the time March hits, I’m dropped on a treadmill that’s already tracking at a 9-minute pace, and I don’t even have my shoes tied.

We have two family birthdays in early March, and then there’s spring break, and of course Easter. It all converges into a stream of seeming non-stop activity — which can leave this introvert a bit frazzled, even when most of what we do is counted as “fun.”

I’ve been doing a little extra work, too — taking on my first freelance design job in a couple years, and also doing some (paid!! I’m getting paid!! with real money!!) writing for NUVO, the alternative news weekly in Indianapolis. I’ll be contributing with some regularity, about foodish things. This week my story is all about food-swapping, with an interview with Kate Payne (she’s returning to Indy next week to party with the Indy Food Swappers — check the schedule for an event near you!)

A little cherry atop the sundae of spring hullabaloo was last Friday, when our kitchen reno (yes, the one I covered in painstaking detail, right here, in four posts) was featured on The Kitchn and Apartment Therapy websites. Because, you know, those sites are pretty much the epitome of cool. I *might* have squealed like a 14-year old when I saw the feature.

Meantime, I continue to cook, because as much as it still surprises me, my family keeps getting hungry. I’ve been getting more and more accustomed to my grain-free, sugar-free diet — having been on it now full-force for over 3 months. One thing that I’ve missed the most is chocolate — it’s not allowed, not even dark chocolate, because it contains sugar. I can have cocoa powder, but have discovered that that ingredient alone is not able to give the punch that you get from a good piece of chocolate.

Thankfully, I’ve come across a new chocolate treat that is GAPS-friendly (a secret ingredient gives the cocoa powder that extra boost it needs — full-post and recipe coming Monday!), and able to get me through to the day, sometime this year or next, that I can once again have an occasional piece of chocolate.

Or, at the very least, get me through this hectic spring, to the promising open calendar of summer.

 

An Easter lamb roast & smoked trout deviled eggs

We have friends, who for the second year running on Easter Sunday, have purchased a whole lamb, roasted it on an open fire in their backyard, and invited a slew of neighbors, friends, and friends-of-friends to come share the celebration. This year, the weather was just about perfect — bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky, but a cool breeze warranted an on-again, off-again sweater.

easter-bastinglamb

easter-lambcheck

Host John, along with a couple of neighbors, started the lamb at 5am. They had help basting from cute, egg-hunting little hands.

easter-sandbox

I think that in my 3-year old’s future therapy sessions, there will be questions about why we didn’t have a sandbox like this in our backyard. That she could live in all the time, without anyone else around.

easter-lemonade

Kid-friendly lemonade in the world’s coolest drink dispenser.

easter-mojitos

And of course grown-up “lemonade” (mojitos) which was guarded closely against not-yet-literate, innocent, curious mouths. (Let the records show, that even after that precaution, my own preschooler drank a giant gulp of my white wine when my head was turned, and simply inquired where I got the “sparkly water.”

easter-deviledeggs

If the backyard lamb is becoming a tradition, then so is my contribution: a couple renditions of deviled eggs. These smoked trout gems might be my personal favorite variation to date — I love a smokey deviled egg, and they fit the bill. A garnish of toasted almonds lends just the crunch to avoid the mushies (recipe below).

easter-foodline

A lot of people, from different places about town and the world, many of whom were meeting each other for the first time.

easter-cupcake

easter-kidshiding

easter-runningforeggs

After dessert #1, it was time for the egg hunt. You might think the bigger kids had a decided advantage, but if you did, you would be greatly underestimating the vast number of eggs that were scattered over adjoining backyards.

easter-egghat

easter-egghatgrab

Our friend Kyle had the best hat, and the best egg-hiding place (only found after we led my son to him, and said something to the effect of, “wow, what is that thing on Mr. Kyle’s hat???)

easter-eating

I hope it’s becoming a tradition (ahem, nudge, hint) — perhaps I can pledge to bring deviled eggs every year, never repeating a recipe? Because it’s hard to think of a better way to spend Easter.

I’ll be making these eggs again, Easter or not. I’m a firm believer that you never need an excuse to make deviled eggs — and they fit perfectly on my diet right now (though the smoked fish part is likely a no-no, I’m turning a blind eye). If you’re in Indy, try sourcing the smoked trout from Goose the Market — though if they’re out you can pick it up in a tin at The Fresh Market (look by the sardines).

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Recipe: Smoked Trout Deviled Eggs

: adapted very slightly from this recipe at Food & Wine

If your eggs are very fresh (as in, recently-laid), they might be difficult to peel. To facilitate: after eggs have cooled completely in the ice water, bring a small pot of water to boil. Add an egg to the water for 10-15 seconds — then peel immediately. The heat causes the egg to temporarily contract from the shell.

Ingredients

  • 8 large eggs
  • (1) 3.2 oz can smoked trout (or 3.5-4 oz from your local butcher or fishmonger)
  • 3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp finely-chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp curry powder, to taste
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp finely-chopped toasted almonds

Instructions

  1. To a large pot of boiling water, carefully add the eggs and boil for 12 minutes. Remove immediately to a bowl of ice water, and let cool completely.
  2. Peel eggs, slice in half, and scoop yolks into a medium-sized bowl.
  3. If using canned trout, carefully remove the skin, and flake the fish into the bowl with the yolks. Add the mayo (start w/ 3 Tbsp, adding more if necessary), parsley, and curry powder, and mash with a fork until well-combined.
  4. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary (the trout will add salt).
  5. Scoop filling into a sealable plastic bag, and cut off the tip of one corner. Pipe the filling into the egg halves. Garnish with a sprinkling of almonds, and serve.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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