There’s something about living a locavore life which excites me. My husband and I not as frugal as some friends.  We splurged on a 28-week CSA, and I’m willing to pay extra at the farmers markets. But sometimes I like the free stuff.

Free stuff comes and goes all the time here on Whidbey. Last year, I had two or three volunteer squash plants growing in my garden which I enjoyed throughout the fall and into winter. This year, I tried to plant seeds from butternut squash and acorn squash, but I haven’t seen any seedlings grow. Which is fine, I am trying delicata squash, zucchini, kale, spinach, beans, and broccoli. Altogether, those cost me about $8.50. 

Summer usually gives me a plethora of blackberries. I made my first homemade pie (and second and third) from blackberries. I also made infused alcohol, and was pleasantly surprised how good blackberry tequila tastes. I’m pretty sure all my friends are getting blackberry liquor for Christmas this year, provided all the blackberry bushes I am familiar with stay intact.

Fall provides me and Chris with all the apples we could ever ask for. Well, maybe not. By December, they’re all gone and we still want all the apples. But for about three months, our desire for fresh apples is satisfied, and for free. We make cider, applesauce, apple butter, and now that I’ve successfully made my own apple pie, that will be fun to try as well.
This time of year, though, not a whole lot is available to eat, much less for free. My landlord plants hundreds of onions each year (HUNDREDS!) and so there are several dozen left in the basement. She told me I could help myself to onions, so I do. But I thought that was about it.

Until…

While planting my seeds and labeling my garden, I saw a very interesting mushroom growing along the fence line. It looked familiar to me. I could have sworn I had seen these mushroom at the farmers market in the past. 

Susan, the landlord, confirmed what I suspected. They were morel mushrooms, and they were great for eating.

Wait, you mean, there’s something FREE and LOCAL to eat in March and April? Sign me up!

I looked up a recipe with morel mushrooms and found one for pasta with cream sauce. Using my ZooFit Eating Green skills, I made some adjustments to the recipe, and we had it for dinner this evening.

Again, I’m not a frugal girl by any stretch of the imagination, but when I tallied up the cost, my dinner was only $5.00 for the BOTH of us. The mushrooms were free, the onion was free, the garlic was free. I got the gluten-free pasta on sale for only $1, the coconut milk for only $2, and the bacon was on sale for $3, but considering I only used 1/3 of the pack, I brought the cost down a little.

And you know what? That shit was GOOD!

PJ’s Spring Time Mushroom Mania Pasta
Ingredients:
* 10-12 whole morel mushrooms, well rinsed (there are all kinds of bugs living in those suckers), dried, and halved
* 1 package penne pasta/ large winter squash, spiralized
* 1 1/3 cup canned coconut milk
* 5 slices bacon
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 onion, diced

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to directions. If using squash, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet and begin sauteeing over medium heat.
2. In a large skillet, fry up bacon strips.
3. While bacon is cooking, prepare garlic and onions. Once bacon is finished cooking on both sides, remove from pan and add onion and garlic. Cook together, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until aromatic.
4. Add mushrooms to pan. Cook until mushrooms are soft.
5. Open canned coconut milk and pour contents in a separate bowl. Stir together until smooth. Measure out 1 1/3 cup and add to mushroom mix.
6. Cut bacon into pieces and add to mushroom cream sauce. Continue cooking to reduce liquid, about 7 minutes.
7. Once pasta is done, separate into bowls. Spoon the mushroom cream sauce over pasta. Top with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Sometimes, you really win out with trying new things and making the most of what you have available to you. This is definitely one for Poach Eggs, Not Rhinos, and a perfect fusion of Eating Green on a budget.

What are you having for dinner tonight? How can you make it a little greener?