October 31, 2011

Pumpkin Pinto Bean Tacos

While my husband was in photography school in Massachusetts, I worked at a quaint little insurance agency in a small town. You probably think it's odd to describe an insurance agency as quaint, but seriously, have you been to New England?  It was a little three-room brick building with a basement, surrounded by evergreen trees. In the summer, from the bathroom window, you could see sheep grazing behind the building.  The office didn't close for lunch, and all of us ate lunch together in the conference room-slash-my office most days.

I usually brought some sort of leftover from dinner the night before.  At the time we weren't locavores, but I cooked at home almost every night.  The couple who owned the agency (some of the friendliest, funniest, most charming people I've ever met, by the way) usually got take-out from a local restaurant: sandwiches mostly, but sometimes Chinese food, pizza, salad or something else.  There was a 50-something agent there who was really trying to lose weight.  His wife packed his lunch: an apple, an orange, popcorn and peanut butter.  He'd cut up his apple and slather peanut butter on every single piece.  He must have gone through a jar of peanut in less than two weeks.  There was a fifty-something gal there who was also trying to lose weight.  She seemed to like those Campbells soups that you drink from the cup.  She also had a good supply of 100 calorie packs of cookies and light yogurt most days.  Then there was this skinny, fifty-something gardener-type.  She ate more kale salads than I would have thought possible.  Sometimes she stirred up the routine and went with some kind of grain-based salad.  She was very good at what she did and interesting to talk with, but most of her food wasn't tempting to me at all.

Six years later, I look at what I eat (Pumpkin-Pinto Bean Tacos for lunch today) I wonder if everybody thinks I'm a freak.


In my quest to determine whether or not we want to invest in this local, raw milk herdsharing thing, Jason and I took the girls to friend's house to taste the milk.  The verdict:  It tastes like milk.  We're going to go for it.  And, I was mistaken:  the $28 herdshare fee is an annual fee, not a monthly fee, so we're stretching our food budget, but not as far as I thought initially.  For two gallons of milk each week, we'll be paying $76, not $105.  Except that I've also signed up for a share of cream ($10 a pint).  I don't think we'll buy that every week, just once in a while.  We'll see how it goes for a year.  I'd rather invest in supporting local farms than spend that money at the grocery store.  If we determine that it's unaffordable in the future, we'll deal with it then.

While we were there, we also tasted a fresh batch of kombucha. (If you follow that link, be warned:  that really is what it looks like.)  We talked about going to a meeting of the local chapter of the Weston A Price Foundation.  I don't know much about the Weston A Price Foundation, but my impression is that the organization is all about real, local foods, with an emphasis on pastured animals and animal fats (cod liver oil, anyone?).

With all my talk about local foods and raw milk and whatnot, you people probably think we eat pretty healthy at my house.  I mean, even I ask myself, "When did I become the girl who likes plain yogurt with granola for breakfast?"

For the record, these Pumpkin-Pinto Bean Tacos are wicked greasy and they have two kinds of (store-bought) cheese in them.  And, for the record, yesterday I watched my two-year-old happily pour herself a bowl of Frosted Flakes.  The locavore, whole foods side of me was a little bothered, but then I remembered that the day before I had sat her down in front of the TV with a bowl of Frosted Flakes to keep her occupied so that I could take a shower.  My seven-year-old eats Frosted Flakes too.  And school lunches.  And she starts most days with a popsicle, a brightly-colored store-bought popsicle, not a homemade juice pop (though I think I should make those some time, don't you?).  I only allow that because she consistently says she has a sore throat.  And really, is that any worse for her than the cup of coffee most American adults rely on each morning?  Of course, my own personal Ben & Jerry's fetish is no secret.

So just to set the record straight, we're "balanced."


Pumpkin-Pinto Bean Tacos
Because you can put anything in a crispy fried corn tortilla, and call it a taco, right?  
Freshen up the leftovers from Fajita Night (beans, cheese, sauteed peppers, and salsa) with fried tortillas and sweet, earthy roasted pumpkin, or start from scratch:

1.  Prepare pinto beans. Use more oregano, black pepper and salt than you think you need.

2.  Toss half-inch cubes of Cinderella pumpkin flesh with olive oil or coconut oil and plenty of kosher salt.  Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning and stirring once.

3.  Saute sliced onions and sweet peppers in cooking oil.  Set aside.  Fry corn tortillas in your favorite cooking oil until crisp. Sprinkle hot tortillas with salt.

4.  Assembly:  Top each tortilla with beans and pumpkin.  Top with peppers and onions.  Garnish with your favorite cheese.  For some spice add salsa or serve with jalapeno carrots on the side.

October 28, 2011

Are local foods worth the cost?

I don't want to be a fanatic.  I really don't.

We buy are vast majority of our fruits, veggies and eggs at the farmers market.  Certainly, we grow some in our garden, and infrequently, we'll buy something--a carton of eggs, or a bag onions or some mushrooms--at a grocery store, but the vast majority of our produce comes from local farmers.  I do this primarily because I believe in the value of having a local food shed.  We believe it's also better for the environment to shop locally, safer for us as consumers to know from whence our food comes, and we think it tastes better.  I don't even think about the cost any more, but my guess is that it's actually cheaper than buying organic food at the grocery store (but probably more expensive than buying conventional food at a discount grocer).

We haven't purchased meat at the farmer's market for the last few years because of the cost.  Chico Meat Locker is our butcher of choice lately.  The meat is not necessarily local, but it is a local business and the quality is better than that at a conventional grocery store.

Most often we buy organic milk at Trader Joe's. I prefer it to other organic grocery store milks because it's not ultra-pasteurized.  I don't like ultra-pasteurized, because I think it kills enzymes that might be good for us.  Sometimes, when money is tight, we buy conventional milk, but I always make sure it says that it is "not from cows with growth hormones."  And sometimes, when money is not so tight, we buy organic milk from the natural food store.

Anyhow, I recently found a source of local, raw milk.  I know a lot of people are freaked out about raw milk.  I'm not going to go into the arguments for and against it here.  At least not right now.  Suffice it to say that I'm open to the idea of raw milk from happy grass-fed cows.  And locally produced milk would be preferrable to conventional stuff (or conventional organic stuff) from who-knows-where.

The thing is that this new source of local, raw milk is a herdsharing program, meaning there's a set monthly fee, kind of like a membership fee.  Currently this fee is $28 per herdshare (approximately one gallon of milk per week), but additional shares can be purchased (until October 1st, 2011) for $1 more.  On top of the herdshare fee, each gallon costs $7, and there's a weekly delivery fee of $5.

Oh, and each consumer provides their own containers.  In fact, if we wanted two gallons of milk per week in half-gallon containers (for easy pouring), we would need to provide eight half gallon jars (approximately $10 for canning jars at a hardware store).  And we need to provide a soft-sided cooler and ice packs ($ ??).

You see, the process is this:  We drop off our clean, empty containers in a cooler at the drop off point in Chico on Monday morning.  At 9:00am the delivery van picks up the containers and drives them to the farm.  It takes about three hours for four people to fill the containers and pack them back into the van.  They are driven back and dropped off at the drop off point in Chico.  After work I can pick up my cooler full of farm fresh milk.

Some people might see all those fees as price gouging, but that's not so.  This dairy recently cancelled their contract with Land O'Lakes because the big company wanted all their milk or none of it.  Now this small dairy is trying to stay afloat selling directly to consumers.  The herdsharing fee is income they can count on year round.  The $7 a gallon is only about a dollar more than a gallon of organic milk at Trader Joe's, and no one that I am aware of has been able to verify whether the cows that produce Trader Joe's milk are "happy."  And by happy I mean farmed-responsibly, with enough acreage to support them,eating grass in a pasture, not "feed" in a lot.  The delivery fee covers the cost of the couple who drive their van from Oroville to Chico to Redding and back each Monday to delivery the milk.  When you break it down all those amounts seem reasonable.

The trouble is the total.  Based on these numbers if I wanted to purchase two gallons of milk a week (assuming four weeks in a month) through the herdshare, the monthly cost comes out to $105.  (That's $29 for the herdshare, $7 times 8 gallons, plus 4 weeks of $5 delivery.)  If I purchased two $6 gallons of organic milk per week from a grocery store, the monthly cost comes out to $48.  If we decide to go for this raw milk thing, we'll have to more than double our milk budget.

And that's assuming that two gallons would be enough for our family.  When I talked to the delivery man on the phone and said I thought we'd want two gallons a week, he laughed good-naturedly and informed me that his family of three goes through five or six gallons a week!  They make their own cheese, yogurt and butter.  That sounds crazy to some of you, but loyal readers know that that's the kind of stuff I am into.

So is it worth it?  What do you think?

October 25, 2011

Rustic Apple Galette

I am no expert on pie crust, so I won't pretend to be.  I usually pull out my trusty old Betty Crocker for that; every once in a while I'll use a refrigerator pie crust from a grocery store.

There's something about making a pie that is a bit intimidating to me.  I don't know what exactly.  Maybe it's the pressure to get the crust right.  Or all the time it takes to peel enough apples or pit enough cherries for a pie. Speaking of cherry pie, once I made a cherry pie with frozen cherries that I neglected to thaw. Well, of course, they thawed in the oven inside of the pie.  All the liquid they released ruined the bottom crust leaving me with a beautiful lattice-topped mushy disaster.  Maybe that's it.  Maybe that's why I haven't made pie in years.

Or come to think of it: the last time I made a pie my grandma was at my house. I'd recently unearthed the KitchenAid mixer she'd given me as a wedding gift and I'd been looking through the enclosed cookbook, where I found instructions for making pie crust.  So, to show her that I was using and appreciating her gift, I followed the instructions and started measuring ingredients into the bowl of my mixer.  When she saw this, she scoffed and rolled her eyes and told me I was failing at pie dough.  As she pulled the half-mixed dough out of the mixing bowl and onto a wooden board she said, "Not to worry, all it takes is practice."  Then she determined that I haven't made enough dough and asked for shortening. Shortening?  I mean I know that people still use the stuff, but I'm more of a butter or oil cook.  Luckily, I did have some shortening, because I do use shortening in my Granny's favorite chocolate chip cookies, but...


But sometimes I get a hankering for something apple-pie-like.  And this is what I turn to:

On a non-insulated cookie sheet:  a single recipe of pie crust, rolled out a little more thinly than one would for a traditional pie, with one or two apples (cored but not peeled), sliced thinly and tossed with cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg, fanned out in the center of the crust.  Fold the edges of the crust up onto the apples leaving most of the apples exposed.  (If you want to get fancy, brush the crust with egg wash.)  Bake at 400 until the crust is golden brown and delicious, about 20 minutes.

You could certainly serve this as dessert with a scoop of ice cream, but I prefer it just slightly warmed as a coffee break snack.

October 21, 2011


Nine roasted peppers--I held them under water and pulled out the stem and seeds, peeling off the skin while they thawed--in a frittata. With nine farm-fresh eggs, a handful of sliced green onion, and about a cup of Trader Joe's shredded Italian cheese.  Delicious and quick.

Serves 6.

Seriously.  If you haven't roasted and frozen some peppers yet this year, I must urge you to do it.  It's super-easy and time is running short.  As the nights get colder, pepper production slows and when the first frost comes, it's all over.  So please, roast some peppers.  Throw them in a Ziplock bag and freeze them. 

October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Coffeecake

Four or five years ago about this time of the year I was in the mood for pumpkin muffins, so I googled "pumpkin muffins."  And what happened kind of changed my life.  I discovered Smitten Kitchen.  Until then I didn't know food blogs existed.  Suddenly, in Smitten Kitchen, I had a trustworthy source for new recipes.  Of course I followed links on her blog and discovered other great blogs and a new world opened to me. (Kind of cheesy, but true.)

After taking the kiddos to the pumpkin patch last weekend, I was in the mood to bake something pumpkin-y.  Luckily, I had some pumpkin puree in the freezer from last year, and I had company coming after church on Sunday, so I decided to make pumpkin muffins.  Except I wanted to add a cream cheese swirl.  And, except that I couldn't find my muffin tins.  What a random thing to lose track of, eh?

So I made a some adjustments to the recipe, subbed whole wheat pastry flour for half of the all-purpose, and I didn't have pumpkin pie spice, so I used a mixture of what I had on hand.  And (long time readers won't be surprised by this) I surfed the net to find an appropriate baking time and temperature... and then I fudged it.  This coffee cake was a hit.  In fact, we cut it into small squares and when I got to it in the buffet line there were only a few squares left.  I think the boys had come back for seconds before the cooks got in line.  But I can't blame them.  This coffeecake is moist and full of pumpkin-spice warmth.  Totally fitting for an autumn morning.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Coffeecake
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine via Smitten Kitchen 

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or a mixture of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, mace, allspice and/or nutmeg)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream Cheese Swirl
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar

Spray or grease and flour a 9" square baking pan.  Preheat oven to 350.  In small bowl sift together flours and baking powder. In larger bowl, whisk together wet ingredients: pumpkin, vegetable oil, eggs, spices, sugar, baking soda and salt.  In separate bowl, whisk together Cream Cheese Swirl ingredients. Set aside.  Quickly whisk dry ingredients into wet ingredients.

Pour half of batter into prepared baking dish.  Pour in cream cheese swirl as evenly as possible.  Top with remaining batter. At this point you could run a knife through the batter to create a true swirl, but I prefer a more pronounced layer of cream cheese.  Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, if desired. Bake at 350 in center of oven for 45-50 minutes, until the center is set.  A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with moist crumbs.  Let cool 15 minute before removing from pan.  Slice into 24 squares and serve.

October 19, 2011

The Pumpkin Patch

When I was a kid going to the pumpkin patch usually meant driving a long way down West Sacramento Ave, taking a couple turns and arriving at a big pumpkin patch.  Trails looped through what was probably about an acre of pumpkins.  My mom and I usually walked all the trails searching for the best pumpkins.  We always wanted at least one really big one, a small one, a narrow one and a good round one.  If I remember correctly, we usually came home with about eight pumpkins. A couple days before Halloween, we would carve them.  I remember lots of newspaper covering the table, lots of pumpkin guts being scooped out and constant complaining that the knives we were using were not ideal.  When it was time to set out and light up our flock of jack-o-lanterns, Mom preferred the relative safety of a string of white Christmas lights to the fire hazard of small candles.  She'd cut a hole in the back of each jack-o-lantern using an apple corer, we'd line the pumpkins up in front of the house, run an extension cord from who-knows-where and shove a Christmas light into each pumpkin. 

Mom roasted the pumpkin seeds too, so that while we passed out candy to trick-or-treaters we could snack on salty roasted pumpkin seeds.

Nowadays it seems people are willing to drive a lot farther to pumpkin patches decked out with all kinds of extras: hayrides, bounces houses, pony rides, corn mazes.  That's all fine with me; I suppose anything that gets consumers out to farms is (theoretically at least) making them more aware of where their food comes from.  As a family we haven't made the trek to Bishops or Hawes yet, but I did take Grace to TJ Farms, which has a bounce house and a hayride.  It was at the same farm that Grace went to Farm Camp at this summer, so, as we bounced around behind the tractor, it was fun to hear her tell about her time at farm camp.  But we didn't buy any pumpkins there.  We looked. And looked.  But most of the pumpkins were one generic narrow shape and we didn't find any that we felt were worth the $5-$8 they were charging, so we spent our money on the hayride and bounce house instead.  I promised Grace we would go to a different pumpkin patch with Daddy and Sister later in the month. 

So last weekend we met a friend and her two kids at the Chico High FFA pumpkin patch.  On the way there I told Grace that it was just a pumpkin patch, no rides, no bounce house, no frills, but that if she was well-behaved, and if we didn't find any good pumpkins, we could try a different pumpkin patch after lunch.  She whined and complained; she earned a time-out and had to stay in the car when the rest of us got out.

Then we went looking for pumpkins.  There are a lot of pumpkins there, and though one of the girls at the table said they only planted two varieties, there is a good variety of pumpkins.  Big round ones, big narrow ones, medium round ones, medium narrow ones, warty ones, smooth ones, and little squatty ones the perfect size for a two year old to carry around for days on end.

All four kids enjoyed being towed out to the far end of the pumpkin patch in the wagon, those who were allowed to use the loppers to cut their pumpkin off the vine enjoyed that part too.  All of us enjoyed poking through the field, turning pumpkins over, setting them upright and asking each other, "Is this what you want?"  Forty-five minutes later our friends each had a pumpkin and our little family of four had five pumpkins for which we spent $13.50: a big round one for dad, an slightly bigger one for Grace, a tiny one for Abby, a small one to take to Grandma and a medium-sized round warty one for me.  

As we loaded the pumpkins into the back of the car, Gracie was beaming.  "Did you have fun?"  I asked.

"Yeah, that was great!  When do we get to carve them?"

October 13, 2011

Dinner: Okra & Sausage

An easy one-pot meal:

Start with three Sante Fe Chicken Sausage links (about 12 ounces).  Peel off the casing.  Saute with half of a red onion, diced, in a splash of olive oil.  Add one diced sweet red pepper and one pound of okra, sliced into 3/4" pieces.  Season with salt and pepper and maybe some tomato powder if you have it. Saute a couple minutes.  Then add 1/4 cup water or broth, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer approximately 20 minutes.  Stir in 2 cups leftover cooked rice* and one clove of garlic, minced, in the last five minutes of cooking. Serves 4.

Super simple.  Easy clean up.  Autumn-appropriate comfort food utilizing summer's bounty.

*Don't have any leftover rice?  This would be great spooned over hot-from-the-oven cornbread.

Basil Oil

I bought basil last week simply because it was the end of summer and I thought I better get some before it was no longer available.  I had planned to make pesto with it, but lately I have been very good at starting recipes and then figuring out I don't have all the ingredients on hand.

I couldn't find pine nuts in my freezer.  I know people who've made pesto-like sauces with walnuts or pistachios, but the only nuts I had on hand were whole almonds.  I thought they would be too hard, not oily or soft enough, to make a good pesto.  (I remembered trying to make this peanut sauce with my food processor.  The taste was wonderful, but I couldn't get the peanuts to liquify like they were supposed to.  In reading the comments after the fact, maybe I needed to process them longer, but my meager little food processor seemed like it didn't want to go on.) So in my "pesto" I nixed the nuts and decided to just infuse some olive oil with the basil.  I think it was a good choice.

Basil Oil
Basil oil can be drizzled on bruschetta for holiday hors d'oeuvres or over scrambled eggs for Saturday breakfast.  It can also play nicely in a salad dressing or maybe even be used to fry rice for a Thai-inspired variation.   Makes 2 cups.

2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch basil, trimmed of any black parts, rinsed and dried in a salad spinner or with a towel
2 garlic cloves

Pour oil into a saucepan.  Tear or bruise basil leaves. Crush garlic cloves with the side of a chefs knife, remove the papery skin. Add basil and garlic to oil. Turn the heat to low or medium low.  Cover so that the basil can wilt into the oil.  Simmer, covered (or covered with the lid ajar), and do not allow to boil for 20 to 30 minutes.  Let cool.  Strain out the garlic and basil and pour oil into a storage vessel.


I have no idea what a safe storage time frame would be, as I have no prior experience with infused oils.  Does anyone know if this should be refrigerated?

October 11, 2011

2011 Tomato Sauce & Tomato Powder

Yowzers! How about that storm last Wednesday?  I have never seen hail that size in California.

I've worked in the insurance industry for seven years and I don't think I'd ever seen a hail claim before last week.  Hail is more of a problem in the Midwest, but in Chico, it's usually just exciting to watch because it looks like snow, and it "never" snows in Chico.

Last week's storm was certainly exciting to watch, even a little scary.  At our house the thunder and lightening happened simultaneously a couple times and the hail pounded on the roof for somewhere between twenty minutes and an hour.  It was all I could do to keep Gracie from running out (underneath the metal porch) to collect measuring cups full of the pea-size hail.

Further north, but still in town, a lot of cars were damaged by walnut-size hail.  In our insurance office we've reported close to twenty claims.  Most are dented vehicles, but a couple clients suffered storm damage to their mobile home, carport, porch or sky lights.  It was a quite a storm.

My little garden was understandably destroyed.  Though a noticed a couple cilantro seedlings rising up over their shredded counterparts this weekend, so I am not giving up all hope.  I can only wonder how it effected local farmers.  So far, what I've heard is that the worst of the hailstorm was in North Chico residential areas. Of course, there was rain all over, and that delays almond, walnut and rice harvests, but don't we get rain every October?

In any case, after days of dark, cold rain, I was thankful for beautiful weather this weekend.  It was nice to see the sun and be outside.  We went to the farmers market, the playground and a pumpkin patch.

And I found time to turn those ten or twelve pounds of tomatoes into sauce and tomato powder.  Unfortunately, in the mess that is my garage, I couldn't find my water bath canning kettle, so I ended up freezing the tomato sauce.  This method is easier than canning and it doesn't require a special recipe, but generally I prefer the shelf-stable method of canning. 

Tomato Sauce

I cut off the stem ends of the tomatoes, cut off any bruised parts, and oven roasted the tomatoes at 350 with a couple heads of garlic for an hour or so, until the tops of the skins were darkened.  (I did this step Thursday evening and chilled the roasted tomatoes until I was ready for the actual sauce making.)

Saturday I chopped two onions, two sweet peppers and a hot pepper and sauteed them in oil.  I peeled most of the skin off of the tomatoes, and added the tomatoes, garlic and their accumulated juices to the pot, along with a couple bay leaves, a handful of basil and a few sprigs of thyme.  I also added a couple shakes of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  (I almost wish I hadn't added the red pepper flakes, because I'm afraid what I intrepret as "solid zestiness," will certainly be called "too spicy" by our seven-year-old.)  I simmered the mix over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, to meld the flavors and let some of the liquid evaporate.  Then I ran it all through the blender in batches, reheated it briefly and let it cool.

Finally I poured it into freezer bags.  I have three gallon-size freezer bags that each have about two pints of sauce in them.  I was careful to freeze them on a flat surface, so that the sauce is less than an inch thick.  That way should be able to break off a chunk just the right size for saucing a pizza or making a spaghetti sauce and avoid defrosting more than I need.  Now I just need to remember to label the bags, so I don't get them mixed up with all the other unlabelled bags in that freezer.

Tomato Powder
adapted from The Cheap Vegetable Gardener

I like The Cheap Vegetable Gardener.  He has a lot of fun ideas for preserving produce.  I made this as an afterthought when I saw the size of the pile of tomato skins that I would have otherwise just composted.  It's simple to make and now I have a spice jar full (about 1/3 cup) of Tomato Powder.  But what would you use it for, you ask?  Add it to any dish that needs some a little tomato flavor without liquid.  The Cheap Vegetable Gardener mentions omelettes.  I used it in this quick one-pot dinner.  IF you have a dehydrator, refer to the original post, if not, use your oven. 

Spread leftover tomato peels on a lightly greased rimmed sheet pan.  Set your oven to it's lowest temperature. Let the tomato peels dry in the oven overnight or all day. Remove from oven and let cool.  Touch them to be sure that they are thoroughly dried.  If not, return them to the oven for a few more hours.  Because of the low temperature, there is a long grace period between dry and burnt.  When the peels are dry and cooled, pack them into a coffee/spice grinder.  (If you leave them out too long, your kid might find them, taste them, and call them Spaghetti-O Chips.  That should give you a good idea of what the finished powder tastes like.)  Grind, while shaking, until the peels become a powder.  Pack into a storage vessel and store in a cool dark place up to six months. 

October 5, 2011

Summer Turned Into Fall and I went to the Farmers Market

We were on vacation last week.  It was a relaxing week of going to the beach, playing in the sand, taking the kids to Legoland and stuff like like that.  It's always a bit of an adjustment for me to break away from my normal thought pattern which seems to be dominated by work, cooking dinner and getting to bed in time to read a few pages before I fall asleep.

"Why does this customer want earthquake insurance?  They are in Oroville.  I mean, buy earthquake insurance if you live in San Francisco, but Oroville?...  Why does this person who never pays their insurance bills on time have four jet skis?  People need to learn to live within their means...  Speaking of living within our means, what am I going to make for dinner?  I've got beans and I couple of frozen pork chops I could defrost.  I need to use up that lettuce though.  I wonder if we have carrots.  I could use those potatoes I bought.  Pork chops over baked beans with oven fried potatoes and carrots... A quote for homeowners insurance for a secondary home near Lake Almanor?  Is it on the peninsula?  How close is it to a fire hydrant?  What year was it built? Square footage?..." 

But I managed, and by the middle of the week I had learned to enjoy hanging out with the kids on the beach with lots of breaks for reading and eating, helping Grace with homework and, well, watching the Cartoon Network.

We came back to fall weather, so for me at least, autumn came abruptly this year.  With an all-but-empty produce bin in my refrigerator--there's half a head of napa cabbage and three droopy carrots in there--I was anxious to get to the farmers market today.  Here's a quick list of what I picked up as summer turned into fall:

Tomatoes- 12 or 13 pounds/ $5.  They were 'seconds,' so the vendor was selling them for 50 cents a pound, and since it was toward the end of the day, and I wanted the whole box, he gave me a good deal.  As overnight temperatures drop tomato production slows down and when the first frost comes, it will completely stop.  I have neglected to find the time to can tomatoes this summer, but I do appreciate being able to open a jar of homemade tomato sauce in mid-winter.  With the recent autumn weather standing over a boiling water bath canner doesn't sound nearly as oppressive as it did a few weeks ago.  Not that I'm looking forward to the chore, but if I'm going to have homemade tomato sauce this winter, now is the time to make it.

Basil-  1 bunch/ $1.  I don't actually like basil, but I do like pesto.  Since basil, like tomatoes, will be unavailable before you know it, I thought I might as well buy some, make pesto and freeze an ice cube tray-full for winter.  Or I might use some in my tomato sauce.

Okra- one bag, about 1 1/2 pounds.  This is Grace's favorite summer vegetable, so I thought I should get some.  There's more in the bag than I would use for a side dish, but I can make refrigerator pickles with any extra.

Onions-  This is the first time I've purchased onions since we harvested ours in July.  I used the last two last night, so I picked up eight or ten red onions to have on hand (and maybe to go it that tomato sauce that I am trying to psyched up for).

Cherry Tomatoes- one basket (I spent $6.50 for the okra, onions and tomatoes).  Jason and the girls like to snack on these.  If I make a dinner salad later this week (with the first lettuce from our winter garden), I'll use a handful there.

Green Grapes, Black Grapes, White Nectarines and a couple of Persimmons -close to 10 pounds/ $16.  We like fruit.  I'm going to miss white nectarines so much, I decided to stock up.  The girls love grapes, so I stocked up on those too.  I enjoy the little flat persimmons that you can eat like an apple, so I got a couple of those for at-work snacks.

Butternut Squash- 1 small/ $1.50 - The rain we've had the last couple of days put me in the mood for Miso Soup with Butternut Squash and Greens.  I'll make it tonight using chard from the garden and the napa cabbage in the fridge.

Cantaloupe-  1 small/ $1 - One more taste of summer.  I meant to buy a watermelon too since I saw some nice looking ones, but after getting all this other stuff I forgot all about the watermelon.