Apple orchards and pumpkin patches are a popular destination in the fall.  They are also a great place to stock up on fall produce. 

5) I like to buy a couple small pumpkins early to roast the seeds, and then get more later for seeds and carving.  This year I would like to get a baking pumpkin, and make an attempt at muffins or fresh pumpkin cookies.  Stay tuned on that one, my baking skills are legendary for being bad!  One thing that even I can't mess up is homemade applesauce.  If the apples are organic, I just core and slice them, otherwise you can peel them.  Throw them in a sauce pan with a half cup water and a small amount of brown sugar (1/4 cup for about 10 apples), and then let them simmer in medium heat until soft.  If you mash them part way through it goes faster.  I like to add a couple of handfuls of strawberries for an even better flavor.  Another popular item in fall is squash. My family loves squash, and I am a little lukewarm about it. I do like cooking spaghetti squash upside down in water on a baking sheet (slice in half first).  When it is tender, you can take a spoon to shred the meat.  We use it like pasta, just put sauce over the top!
6) Pop my own popcorn - I know that this doesn't sound like any great change, but it actually is for me.  In the past I have bought organic microwave popcorn for convenience, but I am not a big fan of the microwave or the extra ingredients in the bags of popcorn.  At the apple orchard, I purchased fresh grain popcorn, and what a flavor difference it makes.  I popped it in sunflower oil from the farmer's market, so I didn't have to put butter on it.  I like to try different spices besides salt - garlic and Cajun flavors are my favorite. 

Next week I hope to make some changes that I haven't tried before.  As a side note, I always feel good about supporting farmer's markets and orchards - it not only helps small, local business owners, but it also gives a nod to organic living.

I am going to get started on this blogging adventure by incorporating some changes that are timely. Because farmer's markets and apple orchards are nearing the end of their seasons in Minnesota, I am giving ideas that can be used right now.

1) Freeze fresh, local, organic produce:  Now is a great time in Minnesota to freeze items for the winter.  My favorite produce to have on hand is frozen peppers.  Peppers are in the top twelve most pesticide laden crops, according to the Environmental Working Group's web site.  When I find organic peppers at the farmer's market, I clean them in warm water, devein them, chop them up and put them in freezer bags.  They are great to pull out of the freezer and add to stir fry dishes, soups, crock pot meals and more.  I know that plastics are questionable for the chemicals they contain, so I am open to an alternative method for freezing.  I also like to freeze tomatoes, green beans, sweet corn, and beets.  Some vegetables freeze better if they have been blanched, so do a search if you are unsure of how to prep the veggies. This is a great money saver, also.  A green bonus: I reuse the plastic bags to pick up after my dog.

2) Buy all natural lip glosses:  I mention this item now because I was able to buy some at the farmer's market.  The glosses are made with coconut oil, beeswax, essential oils-nothing artificial.  The ones that I found were $2 a tube.  These are worth stocking up on and keeping in the freezer until needed.  I think this one small change can have a significant impact.  Many of us apply lip gloss numerous times during the day.  With a product that contains chemicals, when we put them on our lips, we absorb the chemicals through our skin and ingest them.  You can also find chemical free products at health food stores.

3) Use locally made maple syrup and honey:  many times the lip gloss can be found at the honey booth.  The benefits to buying honey and maple syrup locally are numerous.  Honey from local bees carries the local pollens which can help alleviate seasonal allergies.  Fresh maple syrup has a strong flavor, which allows us to use less.  There are more minerals in fresh maple syrup.  The next time you go to the store, take a look at the ingredient list for manufactured syrup - it can definitely not be considered a health food.

4) Grind your own flax seeds:  The other day I bought whole flax seeds at an apple orchard.  I usually buy ground meal flax at the grocery store, but the whole flax was about a third of the cost, locally grown, and organic.  I put flax on salads for the fiber benefits, fatty acid content, and the good nutty taste.  I recommend storing them in the fridge to retain freshness.  Other ideas for use are putting them on cereal, in smoothies and in stir fry dishes.  It is important to grind the flax to get the health benefits.

Next week- options for fresh fall produce