Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Grape Day in the Morning

I was terribly disappointed that the sweet older couple at the farmers' market this year had no Concord grapes to sell. After last year's bonanza and juice-making spree, I really had set my heart on having more juice in the freezer this winter. But to no avail.

So I moped a bit, consoled myself with the thoughts of one lone jar of blueberry-raspberry juice already in the freezer and of fresh oranges to arrive from My Wonderful Parents around the holidays.

Still, those thoughts are hardly substitutes for the rich sweetness of unsweetened local grape juice, and I moped a little more.

But when a friend took me to my favorite local fruit farm on Sunday for a jug of truly flavorful apple cider, I discovered an exciting surprise in the cooler one shelf below the cider: gallon jugs of Concord grape juice.

Though the farmer warned that the juice had not been pasteurized, I worried not, since I knew I'd be taking that jug home, heating the juice to a simmer, and then canning and freezing the jars.

I didn't get around to doing that Sunday immediately upon my return as other things clamored for my attention, but after work yesterday, I rolled up my sleeves, fired up the range, and slowly worked my way through that entire gallon. By leaving headspace in the jars for expansion, I ended up with 4 quart jars and nearly 2 pint jars full of juice for winter.

(I know, I know... how a gallon jug can yield 5 quarts of juice, even accounting for head space, is something of a mystery to me, especially when I'm sure there was a slight evaporation of liquid during the simmering process. But I'm not complaining.)

One pint ended up in the refrigerator as I really just couldn't wait to enjoy that grape sweetness. So this morning, instead of reaching for the cider, I pulled out the juice.

The verdict? It's just as good as last year's batch, with no sugar needed to enhance the fruit's natural sweetness. And I didn't have to do nearly as much work to get it!

Sounds like a grape deal to me!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sweet Rewards

For a couple of weeks now, I've found that the perfect way to cap a visit to the farmers' market is to stop at the Hungarian pastry shop to warm up with a coffee and a sweet little something.

This morning I stopped by and unloaded my bag and basket at a small table, and as I stood at the counter, admiring all the tasty treats and pondering my selection, the dear lady who owns the place saw me and greeted me with surprise and delight. "My, you are very fresh and early today!" she declared in her exquisite, slightly exotic way.

Naturally, I told her about my finds at the market, and she became even more animated, saying that she would have to get out there to pick up more produce. It was then that she said the magic words: "I've been getting the vegetables for soups there. They taste so much fresher, you know?"

Ah yes, well I know, Dear Pastry Lady! And you have no idea (well, maybe you do now!) how happy it makes me to hear that you are using more local produce in the food you serve to customers!

For that news alone, I was tempted to buy an entire walnut torte to thank her, but I settled for coffee and a walnut croissant (or beigli) that I took up to my loft to savor in the comfort of my new home.

But fear not, Pastry Lady. I'll be back for those luscious soups (and more pastries, of course!) very soon.

After all, I have to show my appreciation somehow, right?

End of the Harvest

October is drawing to a close, and you could feel winter hard on its heels in the frosty air this morning, underlining one sad but undeniable fact: this year's growing season is also coming to an end.

Few people were out early this morning, braving the chilly dawn to visit the farmers' market. Of all my favorite growers, only the Amish folks and the Cheerful Lady (plus one son) were out with their tables laden with the last produce of the year. Surprisingly, the Sheep Lady also showed up for one last round at the market, so I was able to stock up on parsnips again.

The Cheerful Lady had little left save for garlic, potatoes, and other long-term-storage items, but you know me... I can't get enough garlic or potatoes, so I bought more of those along with a jar of honey and a couple cookies. (The garlic, of course, had to replenish my range-side stash.)

The Amish folks had a wider range of produce, so I was able to fill in the green and orange blanks with them: broccoli, celery, parsley, acorn squash, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. Surprisingly, I didn't see any beets out on their table, so I didn't get those as I had planned.

A lengthy discussion with the Cheerful Lady revealed that though the farmers' market wouldn't start up again until June, she would probably have produce beginning in early May (greens and asparagus), and she invited me to call her next spring to get some of those early goodies. (You know I don't need to be asked twice on something like that!)

It's a little depressing to see the end of the growing season and the farmers' market for the year, even though I know the farmers need their time to rest and prepare for next year, too. I'm glad I've stocked up on a lot of good things, and I hope I can make it further into the winter this year before I need to buy vegetables at the grocery store.

For those of you whose farmers' markets or CSAs last a little longer, I envy you! But I also hope you will have plenty of good local produce to carry you into winter as well.

For the rest of us, we'll just have to be patient and wait for next year!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Quiche and Tell

By the end of the week, I was tired. Flat-out, knocked-down, dragged-out, exhausted beyond belief. And there I was with a refrigerator full of produce from last week's farmers' market, mocking me with its disheveled appearance.

But I felt a certain relief when I remembered that earlier this week I had cooked a pumpkin in preparation for the next new pumpkin recipe, and after that, the prep time would be negligible.

And so, I made a pumpkin quiche.

I don't reach for eggs too often as a comfort food, though I confess to enjoying the occasional hearty diner-type breakfast that features one whopper of an omelette. But when my strength has petered out and the weather is chilly to boot, a quiche sounds like just the thing to pick me back up.

That's not to say that it didn't wear me out in the making. It took me two sessions in the kitchen just to make the crust, but once I had the pie plate lined and set aside, whipping up the custard filling was a breeze. The usual egg and milk mixture, thickened with pureed pumpkin, took on a deliciously savory aroma with the addition of thyme, nutmeg, and grated Gruyère cheese.

While the quiche baked, I shredded some of the red cabbage I'd found at the market, and I braised it in a simple balsamic vinaigrette and some water, just to have a tangy sidekick to the rich creamy quiche.

The quiche itself, though tasty, disappointed me in that the pumpkin flavor was completely lost. (As you can see, there's not even a speck of orange to tell you it's there!) But the combination of cheesy quiche and vinegary cabbage made for a comforting meal.

And I'm feeling much better now.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Taken for Gratin

It's the whole premise behind lucky shirts, lucky baseball bats, and other such talismans: if something works for you once, you tend to stick with it for future success.

I don't really have any such items that I consider "lucky" for me (though I confess to using only one particular type of pen when I work on my writing), but I'm a firm believer in the principle when it comes to the kitchen.

When I realized that I got fluffier pancakes by using a whisk to mix the batter, I never went back to a wooden spoon. Certain recipes require certain ingredients to satisfy my tastes, and if I can't find those ingredients, I won't make the dish.

And when a technique works for me, I stick with it.

That's why after making last night's pumpkin gratin, I was ready tonight to tackle one of my longtime favorites: gratin dauphinois.

I've told you about this wonderful French potato dish before, and there's really very little I can add... except for the visuals.

Sorry I can't include the aroma in this medium. But then, I wouldn't want you drooling on your keyboards.

Here's my entirely unscientific theorem: If potatoes = comfort food, then gratin dauphinois = bliss. How can you go wrong with lush quantities of potatoes, garlic, butter, cream, and good cheese? Even the leftovers make a person swoon with culinary delight.

A lucky recipe? Perhaps. All I know is, it works for me.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Priming the Pumpkin

Who can think about October without imagining pumpkins? Whether you grew up in or near the countryside and close to farms with acres of orange-dotted fields and markets with giant pyramids of pumpkins, or you've always been a city dweller who saw jack-o'-lanterns on porches every year at this time, surely you know that you just can't have this month without this favorite squash.

Goodness knows I simply can't resist them myself. For the past few weeks, I've been buying one or two small pumpkins a week from the Gentleman Farmer, knowing that I would end up using the squash in my baking or cooking and being very satisfied with the results.

I don't usually make a pumpkin pie, mind you. Instead, I like to use the pumpkin puree in quick breads or cakes or cookies, and I also enjoy the cubed, steamed pumpkin in savory dishes like the squash sauté I served up to Phoenix and Mr. Nice Guy.

This year I found an article in Vegetarian Times that offered five different ways to eat pumpkin, and I'm slowly working my way through the lot. First up, I decided that the pumpkin gratin would be a simple, satisfying dish for a dreary Sunday evening.

Gratins are simplicity itself. Grease a casserole dish, layer in your prepared vegetables and other ingredients, pour liquid over the lot, and bake. How can you go wrong?

This particular recipe didn't call for a baking liquid, just plenty of olive oil. (Technically, I suppose you'd call this roasted pumpkin instead of a gratin, but I'm not usually that fussy.) It also required lots of garlic (I think I added 10 or 12 cloves) and fresh sage, both from the farmers' market.

After an hour of baking, I pulled out the dish and added bread crumbs (from the last white-wheat loaf of French bread I made last weekend) and shredded Gruyère cheese, then slid it back in to finish baking and to brown.

Simple and satisfying. And though I might tweak the proportions and add more herbs and flavoring the next time around, I know it will make a good lunchtime dish to keep me warm in the cold weather predicted for this coming week.

I still have three pumpkins left, so stay tuned to find out what else I decide to make.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Diminishing Returns

The mornings grow colder day by day, and the rainy weather and blustery autumnal winds have stripped many trees bare. October –- usually such a cheering month, with sun-struck colors, brisk sunny days, and a steaming cup of spiced cider after a vigorous romp through the leaves –- has shown its melancholy side this year.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than at the farmers' market as the crowds of vendors and customers dwindle. Today only about half a dozen farm stands sprawled out over the square, and a couple of the farmers expressed doubt that they'd be back next week to round out the season.

Still, what they brought to sell was choice:

From the Amish farmers, I bought another big head of broccoli, a large head of red cabbage, a big bunch of my favorite curly kale, and two quarts of good-sized Kennebec potatoes.

The Cheerful Lady had a "sale" to move some of her surplus produce, so I stocked up! Her garlic, usually two heads for $1, had a price of four heads for the same amount, and though I probably have a few dozen bulbs at home already, I bought another dozen. I also bought Austrian fingerling potatoes and sage (not one of my favorite herbs, but during this damp fall it seems particularly bracing and healing).

The Old Apple Man (not to be confused with the Orchardist) had his last apples for sale, so I stopped to talk with him about the merits of some of his less familiar varieties as well as his opinions on the care of his orchard (minimal spraying) and the flavor of homegrown apples. He kindly put together a peck bag of Freedom apples (good for eating as is) and Northern Spy, an old variety I've heard about but never before sampled.

The Gentleman Farmer and his Lady Wife had their usual array of produce, so I indulged myself and bought the last tomatoes of the season, a trio of small eggplants, two more pumpkins, four sweet onions and three red ones, and two small Delicata squash. Since the Gentleman Farmer said they probably wouldn't be back next week, I lingered to talk with them both and to express my appreciation for their work and their produce. He even asked what other vegetables I'd like to see them grow next year –- now that's really working with your local growers!

Only one week left this year of this fine local bounty –- and I'm really going to miss all this good food, fresh from the farm. Sure, I've tucked a lot away (frozen, canned, dried, and as is) from this year's market, and that should carry me well into winter. But I'll also miss the weekly conversations with the farmers, finding out how their work is going and learning something new each week.

One more week. I'll be there. Will you?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pesto Friends

You may have noticed that in my visit to the farmers' market yesterday, I bought basil twice: once in a pot, to satisfy my cravings for fresh basil throughout the winter, and once in a bag, to satisfy my immediate craving for pesto.

I love pesto, and since I've been dipping into this year's store of pesto cubes in the freezer already, I thought I'd better replenish my stores while I still could.

But even as I had that prudent thought, I also found myself tempted by the incomparably sassy Spicyflower's recent post about homemade pizza, thinking that since I didn't have pizza sauce at hand, perhaps a pesto pizza would be a nice treat.

What to do, what to do? Well, if you're me (and you're not, else you'd be the one writing this), you go ahead and make that batch of pesto... and smear it all over a homemade whole wheat pizza crust. Then, not satisfied with that, you'd slice a couple of ripe tomatoes and arrange them on top, with a mixture of good Parmesan and Asiago cheeses from the local deli sprinkled over them.

And once that fragrant basil and garlic and yeast aroma filled your home, you'd fairly swoon over the thought of lunch until the pizza had cooled enough to be eaten without blistering the roof of your mouth. Just one large wedge would be enough to satisfy your hunger, and you'd think that no store- or restaurant-bought pizza could possibly beat this meal, especially since you'll have it for lunches for the rest of the week.

At least that's me. And since you're not me, I am truly very sorry for you, because you're missing out on some truly fine pizza.

But the next time I make pesto, I'll let you know.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Beauty and the Feast

Another week draws us closer to the end of the farmers' market for the year, and the selection of vendors continues to dwindle. This morning I counted no more than 10 tables set up with end-of-season produce or baked goods.

I'm happy to report, though, that some of my favorite farmers are still holding on strong and bringing good produce for me (and my fellow eaters!) to buy:

The Gentleman Farmer and his son greeted me with a grand sweeping gesture toward the pots of leggy basil plants, brought after my gentle reminder last week. I looked them over and chose one hardy specimen to take home with me, along with another beauty of a small pumpkin, two bunches of salad greens, four onions, and a glossy eggplant.

The Cheerful Lady and Handyman Joe stood out in the cold, nursing their coffees, but gave me a warm greeting as I strolled over to examine their offerings. After much bantering and laughter, I walked away with a bunch of fresh basil, a box of Russian fingerling potatoes, yet more garlic, and a bag of spinach (minus any fears about E. coli).

The Amish farmers next to them had more broccoli as well as lovely heads of cauliflower, so I bought one of each.

Not a huge amount of produce, I admit, considering that in past weeks I've been spending almost twice as much on good food. But my pantry has filled up nicely, thank you, and I didn't want to go overboard this week with perishable items.

I did, however, have a need for some items to be used immediately as I had company coming for dinner: the lovely Phoenix was in town for a brief visit, and Mr. Nice Guy accompanied her as always. Phoenix has been itching to cook in my new kitchen with me, and she had her chance at last tonight.

Knowing how jealous she was of Mr. Nice Guy's opportunity to test a new dish a few weeks ago, I decided to reprise it for her. So before they arrived, I steamed cubes of fresh pumpkin, chopped a red onion and some garlic, and browned a couple of vegetarian breakfast patties, ready to make a delectable squash sauté for good friends.

When they arrived, we enjoyed a couple of good cheeses from the local deli (Morbier and my favorite Gruyère) with crackers, homemade French bread, and grapes. After a good nosh, Phoenix followed me to the stove and did all the stirring while Mr. Nice Guy washed greens and I threw in the necessary ingredients.

With a simple salad of mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette on the side, a bit more French bread, and a couple thin slices of Gruyere on top, this squash dish made the perfect "welcome back" feast for a fair friend.

A celebration... of good local food, of good friends, of new beginnings. What could be better?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

S'chee, What a Souper Meal!

The balmy temperatures of earlier this week plummeted quickly last night, giving me a brisk walk to work this morning. And as I looked out my office window this afternoon, I found myself dumbfounded by the appearance of a light flurry of drifting snowflakes.

How is this possible? It's not even the middle of October yet! How did we go from late summer to early winter with barely a passing wave at autumn?

By the time I made it home from work with my hands full of groceries and a cold nose, I was heartily glad that I had planned to make a small pot of soup this evening with produce from last week's farmers' market: to wit, s'chee.

Last fall I discovered the joys of a simple cabbage soup on a chilly day, and when I found a small head of cabbage at the market last week, I knew I'd better buy it and be prepared for the cold weather. Somehow, I just knew I'd need a comforting dish of fresh vegetables and warming broth very soon.

One of the happier characteristics of this Russian soup is that it can be made very quickly with a relatively short amount of prep time and a long simmer while you clean up. And let's not forget leftovers: I ended up with approximately two quarts of soup, which will keep me going well through the weekend.

A hearty bread and a glass of red wine (or a stout ale) would have been perfect with the s'chee, but I settled for a few crackers and a glass of cider, with a dollop of nonfat yogurt on top of my soup bowl.

I'm not quite ready to give up the last remnants of summer and to turn my face into the chilly winter wind. But I am ready for good homemade soups and stews to keep me warm as the temperatures drop.

S'chee... why not?

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Frosting on the Cupcake

When it comes to baking desserts, cake isn't usually high on my list. It's not that cakes are difficult to make: just whip up a batter, pour it into a pan, and bake. And yet, I would far rather make a finicky pie crust than frost a cake.

Sure, there are plenty of wonderful cake recipes that require no frosting. I'm particularly fond of an orange-almond cake that is topped with sliced almonds, a sprinkling of sugar, and a drizzle of Grand Marnier. But the cakes I love to eat are usually those with a creamy frosting that I save to the very end and eat last for a final sugar rush.

The Chef Mother's legendary carrot cake falls in that category. Though the cake itself can stand easily on its own with its lavish use of a full pound of carrots and lush spices, in my view there's simply no point in making it if you're not going to indulge in the thick cream cheese frosting.

So you'd better believe that if I'm going to make this carrot cake myself (a scandalously short month and a half after my birthday!), I'm going all the way, frosting and all.

In sampling another carrot cake recently, I was inspired to take on the challenge of –- dare I say it? -– improving the Chef Mother's recipe by three simple means: replacing the sugar in the cake with maple sugar, replacing the raisins with chopped dates, and replacing the confectioner’s sugar in the frosting with a lesser quantity of maple syrup.

Last night I felt rested enough from the move and the unpacking to give the oven a workout, and I whipped up the cake batter, spooning generous amounts into paper muffin cups for cupcakes to share at work.

I mixed up the cream cheese frosting while the cakes baked, not waiting until the cream cheese and the butter had come up to room temperature and softened considerably. (There's a major part of my problem with making frosting: not getting the butter soft enough to cream smoothly.) I worked hard to beat the frosting into shape, but in the end the frosting won and remained slightly lumpy (though thoroughly tasty).

I allowed the cupcakes to cool overnight, and this evening I took a deep breath, pulled out a knife, and frosted every last one.

Granted, they're not magazine-photo-worthy, being on the homely side. (I have got to take lessons from the incomparably sassy Spicyflower for fabulous cupcake decorating!)

But I've never been one to make good looks my priority. All I want is for my cupcakes to taste incredibly good.

And they do. Oh, my, yes, they do.

I don't think I can claim that my version outshines the Chef Mother's original recipe, but it definitely ranks right up there with hers. And that's all I ask: a comparably delicious and satisfying dessert.

Oh, and I also ask for happy people tomorrow when I share.

That would be the frosting on my cake!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A Moving Experience

Well, I've done it.

After seven and a half years in my cozy cottage, I decided to give it all up and return to apartment living. As much as I've loved having my spacious, light-filled kitchen and studio, an herb garden right outside my kitchen door, and a large vegetable garden –- a place to call my own –- I realized that it was simply too much and made the choice to streamline my way of living. The reasons (financial, physical, environmental, social) are legion, and I'll not detail them here, but the die was cast at the beginning of the year, and today, my friends gathered to help me move the last of my things into my new place.

Though I know I'll miss the house, there's much to love about my loft. After all, it's not everyone who gets to cook in a beautifully tricked-out kitchen like this, with stainless steel countertops, racks for pots and pans, and a wicked good gas range with vent hood.

I might also add that the countertops and the range are higher than those at my house, making cooking much more comfortable for me at my height!

And though this smaller kitchen space has much less storage space than the kitchen at the house, a nearby coat closet has provided a convenient and creatively arranged pantry.

So after the farmers' market this morning, I started working in the kitchen to prepare a couple of favorite Indian dishes for my hard-working movers. I started a pot of channa saag (spinach and chickpeas, an homage to a favorite Indian restaurant) and threw a potato dish (alu ki sabzi) into the crockpot, then cleaned up before heading back to the house to finish packing and to do some cleaning.

After three loads moved with the help of two good friends, I called it quits for myself and devoted the rest of the afternoon to finishing the dinner and unpacking more of my boxes. My three faithful guys –- Mr. Nice Guy, the Tall Guy, and Linux Man –- continued the push, setting up the sound system so that I could have music while I cooked, and then packed up the rest of my furniture and hauled it over and up to the new place.

Though the Tall Guy had to duck out early, I packed up a "takeaway" dinner for him before serving the other two. These fellows may be notoriously easy to please, but they appeared exceptionally satisfied with the meal, accompanied by my homemade blueberry-ginger chutney and some cider from the local market.

And when it came to dessert, well, there's no doubt that they had their just reward: all the chai spice shortbread and ginger molasses cookies they could eat, with more to take with them.

Now that everything is here and I can start to get settled in a new home, I can kick back this evening with a few more cookies of my own. It's been a hectic month or so –- a year of living in limbo, really –- and it's good to see the end of this change in sight. I count myself very lucky to have had the support and help of so many good friends throughout all of this.

Let the next adventure begin!

Harvested Interests

Welcome to October, when the colorful maple leaves gleam in the morning light and your breath hovers in the air for an extra moment before dissipating in the chill. And welcome to the last month of our local farmers' market!

Everyone was bundled up against the cool breezes, though they all remarked on how much they preferred the chill to last week's rain! And though the early cold snap may mean the end of a few crops, the autumn produce is still abundant.

The grist mill folks were back, to my surprise, so I bought another bag of buckwheat pancake mix for my Dear Papa (his birthday is next month and I am, after all, a Good Daughter).

The Cheerful Lady had her usual selection of produce, and I stocked up on yet more potatoes (both Kennebec and Austrian fingerling) and more garlic (I can never have enough).

The Amish folks had more fresh broccoli... how could I resist my favorite vegetable?

The Orchardist had more Wolf River apples, and since those made such a lovely apple tart a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'd try baking with them again.

The Gentleman Farmer's stand was full yet again with a wide variety of vegetables, so I splurged: two small pumpkins, three bell peppers, more tomatoes, four more red onions, and a small basket of Hungarian wax peppers.

And since I knew I wouldn't have time to bake this weekend, I picked up a loaf of rye bread from the bakery stand, as well as a pumpkin cookie and a ginger snap sandwich cookie from a Mennonite lady.

Yes, I know I love to buy a lot of good, fresh food.

But it's in the farmers' best interests as well as my own!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

In Times of Truffle

I know it's clichéd by now, but there really is something about chocolate that makes me feel better. Perhaps it's the theobromine, a mild stimulant related to caffeine; perhaps it's just the velvety richness. But if I'm feeling down, worn out, or stressed, a little bit of good dark chocolate works wonders.

Since September was an all-out wild and wacky month, with major upheavals (cleaning out and relocating) both at work and at home, it's no surprise that I've been feeling both worn out and stressed. And since I've been cleaning out the kitchen cupboards, using up what I can to avoid packing everything, I could see a chocolate remedy looming.

You see, tucked in the back of the cupboard has been the remains of a Scharffen Berger bittersweet bar -- just enough for a truffle recipe I've been eyeing for some time. With the other ingredients at hand and the time to devote to the project at last, I finally gave it a whirl today.

The truffle recipe in question came from The Millennium Cookbook and is, believe it or not, vegan, relying on soy milk instead of cream. And what really intrigued me about the recipe was the addition of Earl Grey tea, a combination I've only had once before.

So after lunch, I pulled out my saucepan and heated the soy milk before adding two bags of organic Earl Grey tea infused with lavender. Once the tea had "brewed," I whisked in the finely chopped dark chocolate until I had a thick, smooth chocolate paste. Two hours of refrigeration later, I scooped out spoonfuls and shaped them into soft, chocolatey orbs before chilling them again.

How remarkably easy! And how worth the effort: just one morsel made a luscious finish to dinner, a treat to heighten the senses and soothe the spirit.

Life can get pretty crazy at times, and this past month has been a prime example of that, with still more chaos, confusion, and hard work to come.

But that's okay. Really.

Just give me chocolate, and I'll be just fine.

Eat Like You Live Here: October

Ah, bittersweet autumn -- a time for endings, for gathering in what is necessary, for huddling against the growing chill and darkness.

I love it! Though I'm not crazy about having to turn the furnace on already, I'm happy to curl up in my big wool sweater, walk out into the crisp fall air, and fill my stomach with sweet apples, warm squash, and ginger-molasses cookies.

There are still lingering remnants of summer, of course. At the farmers' market yesterday, I picked up a fragrant cantaloupe, a pint of lush red raspberries, ripe tomatoes and fresh basil, all intended to give me one last chance to savor warm-weather flavors. But I've also been stocking up on onions, garlic, potatoes, squash, and a late round of greens to satisfy my increased cravings for comfort foods.

The farmers' market is entering its last month, though, since the harvest season is drawing to a close. And while I know I'll miss these good folks during the winter and spring, I plan to support them as much as possible through the month so that I can enjoy good local produce further into the winter this year.

If you're still with me during this year-long challenge, thanks! I hope this month's suggestions will help you enjoy the harvest.

1. Visit your farmers' market early and often through the end of the season. You never know what surprises you might find!

2. While you're at the farmers' market, why not show your favorite farmers how much you appreciate them? Buy them a cup of coffee or, better yet, take them a little home-baked treat, especially if it showcases some of their produce. (It's been my experience that no hard-working farmer turns down cookies!)

3. Go visit a local farm and have some fun while you're picking up more produce. Some of our local farms have corn mazes or offer hayrides -- worth a day out!

4. Share this good local food with someone new. (Your friends and family are already converted by now, right?) Show them that local really does taste good!

The cold weather is coming soon enough, but you've still got time to enjoy the local bounty and make plans for winter.

So what are you waiting for?

P.S. Updates will be scanty for another week or two... please be patient!