Helena Farmers Market

Helena Farmer's Market

Helena Farmer's Market at the Lewis & Clark Fairgrounds

My friend Julian and I went to the Helena Farmers Market this morning.  It has moved from the summer location of Fuller Avenue to the Fairgrounds in the new grand stand building.  It will be held there for the next 5 weeks. 

The new space is great for this particular use.  The wall of windows on the southeast side of the building let the bright morning sun shine through into the market space.  I almost felt like I was back at Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Almost. 

There is still some fall produce being sold.  I bought some crisp, deep green spinach, fresh arugula, thick leeks for a crazy minimal price and a huge red onion from one vendor.  I found my favorite free range eggs from another Sheep Spring Farm

Farmer's Market purchases

My spinach, leeks, arugula, onion and free range eggs from the Helena Farmer's Market.

I got home loaded down with my “harvest” and got busy making breakfast.  When I sat down to eat, I realized that my meal was all local.  Now, the coffee beans obviously weren’t from here BUT they were roasted by Firetower Coffee here in town. 

There is some opinion that when you have an opportunity to either buy local or organic brought in from distant areas, your best option is to buy local.  The reasoning is that less fossil fuel is used to bring the goods to market, there’s a good chance that the producer is growing organic but cannot afford the certification nor the chemicals that would make it non-organic and that lastly you are supporting a local economy.  I also like the fact that you have the opportunity to actually talk to the producer and ask any pertinent questions about the goods.  I even ask if I can visit their farm/facility.  I always get a resounding “yes!” response.

Local Breakfast

My mostly locally sourced breakfast.


Primal Eating

Back in July, my friend Jenny came home from a work function where she had run into a co-worker that she hadn’t seen in a while.  The co-worker had lost weight and Jenny asked her how she had done it.  The co-worker referred Jenny to the website Mark’s Daily Apple.

Jenny told me and a few other girlfriends about the site. I immediately checked it out and liked what I found. The idea is to live “primally”, emulating our long ago ancestors through diet and exercise.

I got serious about primal eating at the beginning of August when I got back from Sayulita, Mexico. I cut out all grains, most starches and legumes, and as much sugar as I could. I noticed a dramatic effect in my feelings of satiety, energy and well being. I simply felt content.  And I wasn’t so bloated.

I am still eating a primal diet consisting of lots of organic greens and vegetables, grass fed meats from local producers and berries for my fruit. I cook with bacon fat, coconut oil and a little bit of olive oil.

In transitioning to this lifestyle, I have had great adventures in learning to cook differently so that I am not consuming the grains and starches that I was habitually consuming through breads, crackers, potatoes and beans.

One such recipe is shepherd’s pie. It’s a dish that I tend to make every fall when there is a bounty of game meat that I receive from hunting friends. That and the amazing fall harvest produce that is available at the farmer’s market and from my garden.

The top of the shepherd’s pie is generally made with potatoes and the “gravy” for the filling made with flour. Well, that needed to be changed. This recipe is based loosely on one that was posted on Mark’s Daily Apple by Cherie Randall.  You may notice that the topping is very similar to my cauliflower parsnip gratin in my post “What’s for Dinner? 11/8/2009”.  It is Cherie’s post that got me rolling on the gratin creation.  Thanks Cherie!


Serves 6 – 8


  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-3 tablespoons cream (optional)
  • salt & pepper taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided into 1 tbsp each
  • 1 beet, peeled and cubed into ¼ “ cubes
  • 2-3 parsnips, peeled, cut into 1” lengths, the fatter lengths then quartered
  • 2-3 carrots, cut into 1” lengths, the fatter lengths then quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground grass-fed beef, bison, goat, antelope, etc.
  • 1 tablespoon almond flour
  • 3/4 cup beef, veggie or chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Break the cauliflower into chunky pieces and steam until just tender, approximately 10-12 minutes.

While cauliflower is steaming, heat butter in small saucepan over medium low heat.  Add garlic to the butter and keep on low heat, infusing the butter with the garlic flavor.  Don’t get the butter too hot or it will burn the garlic.  Let the garlic and butter mixture sit on low heat for approx 4-5 minutes, swirling the mixture on occasion.

Put the cauliflower in the food processor with the garlic butter and grated parmesan and process until smooth. At this point, you may want to add cream to give it a smoother consistency.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

Heat 1 tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add beet cubes and toss to coat with the butter.  Cook beets, stirring occasionally, until slightly browned and just fork tender.  Place beets into a medium bowl and return pan to heat.  Add the remaining 2 tbsp butter and add the parsnips and carrots.  Toss to coat and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and just fork tender.  Add to the beets.  (It’ll take about 15 minutes to cook each the beets and the carrots/parsnips.  Don’t turn the heat up too high otherwise you’ll brown the veggies before they are done on the inside.) (Don’t over cook the veggies either, you want them just fork tender because they’ll continue cooking in the pie mixture as well and “finish”).

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté several minutes until soft. Add beef and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to break up the meat so it browns evenly. Add beet/parsnip/carrot mixture and cook another five minutes.

Stir in the almond flour. Add broth and herbs and reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from skillet and put into a medium glass or metal casserole dish. Spread the cauliflower over the top.

Scatter 2 tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces on top of the cauliflower. Bake 30-35 minutes until top is browned in places and pie mixture is steaming hot.



Thai Cooking Classes

Thai Class Setup

Ready for class. Ingredients and tools are set up in stations for each recipe.

My friend Heather asked if I would be interested in doing a Thai cooking class for her bridal shower.  The idea intrigued me, I love a good challenge and had been bandying around the idea of hosting cooking classes.  I said yes.

In the end, the bridal shower was themed “Thai the Knot”.  It was held in Butte, MT at a local church kitchen.  We had approximately 20 guests in attendance.  Fifteen of those participated in the “class” and the others sat back, chitchatted and observed the activity in the kitchen.  All total, they made a Vietnamese Meatball appetizer, Thai Cucumber salad, shrimp Panang curry, Tom Yum Goong (Thai shrimp soup), and for dessert a sticky rice pudding.

It was a fantastic way to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding.  In the end, we had a full Thai meal and everyone walked away with a better understanding of Thai cooking.  For me, the fun was in the details; I answered many a question about where particular ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves, Panang curry, and lemon grass could be found.  I was able to highlight their local market, Front Street Market, for some of those ingredients.

A few weeks later, my friend Amy asked if I would put on a Thai cooking class for her aunts, mom and sister who were coming to visit Helena for Amy’s birthday. I agreed and adjusted the menu for 8. We held it on our usual Thursday Martini night. In addition to Amy’s family, Erin and Cooper joined us. Erin helped with dishes, Cooper took photos.  It was an amazing evening; drinking, cooking and finally eating a wonderful meal with great people.

Van Dam Class Participants

Amy and family. Chai martinis in hand.

Prep for Cucumber Salad

Prepping for Thai cucumber salad


Erin's dishpan hands. Thanks Erin!

If you have any interest in hosting a cooking class put on by me, email me at shalonhastings@hotmail.com. There are many options for classes (Indian, Thai, Sushi, Mexican, American, etc) and for numbers of attendees. Classes will range from $30 to $50 per person depending on the class subject.

What’s for Dinner? 11/8/2009

I just finished a yummy dinner of leftovers from the previous night.  They were from a dinner that I shared with my friends Cooper, Erin & Jeremy before we went to the last showing of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at the Myrna Loy Center

It was a lovely time replete with gin martinis expertly mixed by Cooper for a pre-dinner cocktail,  a Fess Parker chardonnay with dinner, and good conversation over delicious food.  Ah yes, the food.  We had Souvlaki beef skewers made with tenderloin steaks from MT City Meats, Greek yogurt tzatziki, a cauliflower/parsnip gratin and a “house” salad with homemade salad dressings.

As for my rendition of the leftovers, I simply sauteed the remaining beef and onions with the marinade over high heat to make a “gravy” out of the marinade while cooking the beef.  I reheated the cauli/parsnip gratin at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  I added sauteed cubed sweet potatoes as another side dish.

Souvlaki Leftovers

Rendition of leftovers. Plate by Emily Free Wilson.


serves 4-6


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/2″ square pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons crushed, dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 pounds beef steak, cubed into 3/4″ cubes


  • 8 oz Fage Greek Whole Milk Yogurt
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced lengthwise, deseeded and shredded
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.  Place cubed meat and chopped onions into ziplock bag.  Pour marinade over meat and onions, seal bag and work the marinade around in the bag so that it completely coats the beef and onion.  Lay bag flat in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to overnight.

Mix the tzatziki ingredients until well combined.  Place in refrigerator to let flavors meld. 

30 minutes before you are ready to make skewers of the beef and onion, pull the marinating bag out of the refrigerator and let sit on the counter.  When ready to start creating the skewers, light your outdoor grill or start heating the Cuisinart Griddler (what I used).  Skewer the beef and onions.

Cook over searing heat, turning every couple of minutes.  Grill for 8-10 minutes.  Place on serving plate and let rest for a few minutes.  Serve with Tzatziki sauce.


Serves 4 – 6

  • 1 large head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 4 – 6 parsnips, peeled, cut into 2″ long pieces, the thicker pieces further cut into halves and/or quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan; divided
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Place cauliflower and parsnips into steaming basket and steam over boiling water for 12-15 minutes until very tender when pierced with a fork.  When done, pull off of heat and let them slightly cool.

Meanwhile, make garlic butter.  Melt butter over medium heat  in a small saucepan.  Once melted, add minced garlic and swirl pan.  Turn heat to low and let the garlic meld with the butter.  Do not brown the garlic.  Let sit on low heat for 3-4 minutes, turn heat off.

Put steamed vegetables into mixing bowl of large cuisinart.  Pour 1/2 cup cream over the top.  Add garlic butter and 1 cup parmesan.  Puree mixture until you reach a desired consistency, adding more cream as necessary.  I like mine to be that of mashed potato consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spread mixture into buttered 9″ round metal baking pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese on top.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Broil for 4 minutes.  Serve hot.