Day 149–Pasta with Ham and Roasted Asparagus

We are nearing the end of our NC asparagus season. Asparagus and strawberries always seem to leave too soon! We received a beautiful bundle of local asparagus in our Produce Box this week and I’m using it to make one of our favorite dishes–pasta with ham and asparagus. You can saute the asparagus for this dish, but I love roasting it–roasting really brings out the flavor. This is a quick and easy weeknight dish. We’re using the last of our Christmas smoked ham that has been living in the freezer. I tell you, that was one wonderful gift! Instead of a  ham steak, you could use pancetta or prosciutto instead. You don’t need a lot–just enough for flavor. Here is the recipe:

Pasta with Ham and Roasted Asparagus

  • 1 smoked ham steak, diced and bone removed
  • 1 lb. fresh asparagus, rinsed of sand
  • 8 oz. fresh or dried fettucine
  • Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated (about 1 c., but more if you like)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Put water in a stock pot and heat to boil for pasta.
  3. Trim tough ends from the asparagus. Cut asparagus spears into 2″ pieces. Put asparagus pieces in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  4. Put asparagus in a baking dish in an even layer. Roast for 20 minutes or so, until they are soft and a little browned.
  5. Heat a skillet and cook the ham pieces until browned.
  6. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, reserving 1 c. of pasta water for sauce.
  7. Add pasta back into pot, along with ham, asparagus pieces and cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese and stir. Add pasta water if needed to make a light sauce.
  8. Serve with a green salad and you’ve got dinner!
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Day 148–Pickled Beets with Dill and Mustard

CDC beets

I am in mourning today for the lovely, lush squash, zucchini, bell pepper and cucumber plants that I found mangled and ruined in my garden today. HATE voles. HATE them. So this weekend, I will be digging out my raised beds and putting gravel and/or weed mat in the bottom to stop those things from destroying anymore plants. UGH!!! Thankfully, two of my raised beds are new and I was smart enough to put weed mat down before filling them. So sad to see all that promising food go bye bye. Sad and maddening.

This afternoon I managed to get my beets cooked and sliced and ready for pickling. We have the remnants of tropical storm Beryl outside, so it’s a good time for an indoor activity. This is a promising recipe–I love beets and dill. I added some mustard seed as an experiment–I love what mustard seed adds to homemade pickles!

Pickled Beets with Dill and Mustard (makes 3 pints)

  • 2 pounds beets (roasted or boiled, peeled and sliced)
  • 1 c. distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. fresh dillweed
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard seed
  1. Set aside your prepared beets.
  2. Combine the vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt. Remove from heat.
  3. Pack the beets into clean, hot pint jars and leave enough room for the dill and for the brine to circulate.
  4. Divide the fresh dill and mustard seed among the jars. Pour the hot brine over the beets to cover by 1/2″. Leav 1/2″ of headspace in the jar. Release any trapped air in the jars.
  5. Put clean lids and bands on the jars. Either refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or process in a hot water bath for 30 minutes and leave in the canning pot with heat off for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check the jar seals and store for up to 1 year.

 

Day 147–Fresh Beets with Dill

I seem to have amassed a collection of beets in my refrigerator–the result of two weeks worth of Produce Box deliveries. I really wasn’t sure what to do with them–I love them roasted, personally, but that doesn’t seem to do it for me now that the temperatures are in the high 80s and low 90s. I also need to use some of my dill before it starts flowering and going to seed. Here is a delicious, refreshing way to use up some beets and make a cold salad that will taste great with burgers or chicken off the grill. If having overcooked beets as a child is still scaring you away from them, try them again–who knows–they may become your favorite vegetable (or at least not so scary!). Tomorrow I’ll share my canned pickled beet recipe!

Dilled Beet Salad

  • 1 bunch of fresh beets, greens trimmed off leaving about 1/2″
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1/8 c. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. ground clove
  • 1/8 tsp. ground allspice
  1. Cook the beets by either roasting them or boiling them until tender. Let cool and remove the skins (they should come off easily). But the remaining green tops off.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients and stir to dissolve sugar. Set aside.
  3. Slice beets and add to vinegar mixture. Make sure all beets are coated.
  4. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
  5. Serve chilled.

 

Day 143–Heading Our for a Healthy Holiday and An Award!

It seems like last month that my Sweet T and I said our vows to each other–I have no idea where the last three years have gone. After two very stressful and hectic weeks, we are heading out to the mountains for some much-needed R&R. Thanks to our Produce Box and a quick trip to the farmer’s market, we’re heading out stocked with yummy local goodies. We’re taking steak, chicken, zucchini, squash, broccoli, asparagus and new potatoes. The lady who rents the cabin leaves us with a wonderful homemade apple cake, so no taking dessert for us! Hope the weather cooperates so we can grill and eat outside!

Before we hit the road, I want to thank Rachel of Rachel’s Table for a wonderful award. After a really miserable couple of weeks, it was a real boost to get her post that she has bestowed on my blog The Lovely Blog Award. I love her blog and you should definitely check it out. She’s another local foodie who is in search of a healthier, more sustainable food system. I feel like I have a kindred spirit in Delaware!

Now, according to the blogosphere award rules, I must share with you 7 random things about myself and pass the award on to others. Ready? Here are 7 random things:

  1. I hate clowns. Really, really hate them.
  2. If I could pick anywhere in the world to live, it would be Corniglia, Italy.
  3. I am a terrible singer. And I sing VERY LOUDLY in the car. This is embarrassing when I forget I have the windows rolled down.
  4. I was once chased by a llama. It haunts me to this day.
  5. I really do think my cat can read my mind. One day he will show up with either a clown or a llama just to torture me for putting that flea stuff on his back.
  6. Babies are the most beautiful creatures in the world.
  7. My guilty pleasure is Nutella and a dishy gossip magazine.

Ok, that’s my 7. Now here are some very cool bloggers you might be interested in following!

Domestic Diva M.D.–You have to love someone whose blog states “My mother raised the perfect housewife…then I went to med school.” Her observations about medical school and food are hilarious and the recipes are wonderful!

In Her Chucks–A young mom, committed to healthy, sustainable food–she is where I wish I had been in our journey 11 years ago!

Trailer Trashtastic–This exploration of how to beautify your surroundings is a valuable blog for those of us who strive to want to make smaller spaces more efficient and beautiful.

Go Bake Yourself–Chocolate…and more chocolate. YUM! This young lady is going places, I tell you! I get so hungry every time I read her blog!

Hot Rod Cowgirl–I have never seen photos more lovely than this blog. Wow. Makes me look at the sky a whole new way.

Soulsby Farm–A sweet story of a little farm and a good view into what is going on at sustainable farms near you!

Check out these wonderful blogs. Thanks again to Rachel’s Table for the award! Now, pardon me, I’m off to the mountains!

Day 141–School Lunch Activism…in Scotland

You know, I am absolutely amazed by the power of young people to advocate for themselves in really clever ways. I recently came across this blog by nine-year-old Martha Payne in Scotland whose calm and thoughtful approach is to do nothing more than catalog what she is actually served for lunch each day. Her blog is causing some controversy in Scotland about school meals. She is really pretty awesome. Check out her blog! 

http://neverseconds.blogspot.com.es/

If you could change something about food in your community, what would it be?

Day 140–Farmer Spotlight–Melina’s Pasta and Pasta With Roasted Vegetables

Melina delivers homemade, frozen pasta to our farmer’s market!

Ok, this post isn’t really a “farmer”, rather a wonderful, local pasta maker who sells her homemade pasta at some of our local farmer’s markets. Melina’s pasta has quickly become a staple in our house. Dried pasta has its place, but buying fresh pasta (we purchase it frozen) has given us the not-so-subtle reminder that when it comes to all foods, fresh is best. Ellie loves this pasta and remarked right away at how flavorful it is and what a great texture it has. So maybe she didn’t eat the roasted vegetables I served with the pasta, but at least she had spinach fettucine!

The spinach fettucine has by far been our favorite so far. We have tried it with roasted vegetables (see below) and with sautéed scallops and lemon (super yum!). I think next week we might try some ravioli. If you are in Raleigh, stop by the Melina’s booth and sample some wonderful recipes she puts together with ingredients from other vendors at the market! Great way to find out how to put your market treasures together for a meal.

Here is a revised version of an earlier recipe we posted using roasted veggies tossed with pasta. The result of this experiment was light, so flavorful and a great way to use vegetables from our Produce Box! This is what we made with our seasonal vegetables, but you could use any vegetables you have handy. Definitely, don’t leave out the onion!

Melina’s Spinach Fettucine with Roasted Vegetables

  • 8 oz. frozen Melina’s spinach fettucine (1/2 bag); dried pasta works, too!
  • 2 small yellow squash, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 2 zucchini, chopped into 1″ pieces
  • 2 spring sweet onions (white parts only) diced
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 1″ pieces
  • Local asiago-type cheese, grated (about 2 c.)
  • Fresh basil and oregano from our garden, chopped (dried is ok, too!)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all chopped vegetables + herbs. Drizzle with olive oil to lightly coat and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Pour vegetables onto rimmed baking sheet and distribute to make an even layer.
  4. Put sheet in pre-heated oven and roast vegetables for 30-50 minutes (this really depends on how roasted you like your vegetables–we roast ours from almost an hour).
  5. While vegetables roast, heat a stock pot with water for the pasta. Bring to a boil.
  6. When vegetables are about done, add salt and pasta to the boiling water and cook according to directions (fresh/frozen pasta will take only 4-5 minutes). Reserve 1 cup of pasta water for sauce.
  7. Remove vegetables from the oven and put in a large bowl. Drain pasta, reserving 1 c. of liquid and add pasta to the bowl.
  8. Add cheese and reserved pasta water to the bowl and mix well. The heat from the pasta and vegetables will melt the cheese and the pasta water will make a light sauce.
  9. Serve up to your hungry family with a hearty thanks to Melina!

Day 139–Changing My Mind…Again

a slow cooker Oval Crock Pot

I remember an old-fashioned saying that it is a woman’s right to change her mind. Well, dang it, I’m taking that right and running with it this week. After carefully choosing a menu and working out the shopping and budget, I find that the planning gods have been laughing at my attempts to pin down our family schedule. So, for the first week, we are “winging it.”

Since our pork roast never made it out of the freezer in time for Sunday supper, I have changed my mind and we are having it as a crock pot barbecue, pulled pork dinner instead. My family won’t be around for Tuesday dinner, so I’m on my own–abandoned for math tutoring and softball. This means either scrambled eggs or oatmeal instead of whatever the heck I had planned. This week has been so chaotic I don’t even remember anymore.

Here’s the deal though. Whatever I have in the refrigerator or pantry is most likely local, healthy and delicious. So, even if we are three individuals left on our own to scrounge up something for supper this week, whatever it is will not be bad for us and it will certainly be better than anything fast food. This is one week where I am glad to have a freezer full of put up food and a crock pot full of Homestead Farm pork shoulder. The pork quesadillas may end up as burritos eaten on the run or maybe we will all eat cereal and freeze the barbecue, but we’ll all get fed and we’ll all get through this week. Thank goodness for freezers, for farmers and for upcoming holiday weekends!

 

Day 136–Health Data and Arugula Pesto

We have been on our family locavore journey for almost six months now. We feel better, have more energy and we are enjoying our food! So I was very interested to see what my doctor would have to say at my annual physical last week. Last year, she gave me a little warning that at 204, my cholesterol was high for the first time ever, and that I had gained about six pounds in the previous year. I was also having trouble sleeping and was feeling very moody at certain times of the month. I thought I might have a thyroid problem (I didn’t).

While we are more conscious about exercising, the biggest change we have made to our lifestyle is our food. We have eliminated soda and fruit drinks, including things like Crystal Light. We have eliminated almost all processed foods from our diet. We buy locally produced, mostly organic and hormone-free vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy. Do we have dessert? Absolutely! Are we starving ourselves or eating just beans and rice? Not hardly! We’ve been eating pretty darn well. So, is there a physical change?

Well, in the past six months, I have dropped 10 pounds and brought my cholesterol from 204 to 192. My triglycerides are at 89. My iron levels are no longer borderline anemic and higher than they have been in a long time. My blood pressure at 109/60 is excellent. My doctor was very impressed. In fact, she wanted my blog address!

So score one for local foods and all of you who produce them. Thanks for helping me get and stay healthy and for helping my family improve our health outcomes for the future!

Here is a recipe for a lovely arugula and spinach pesto that goes well with pasta, vegetables and is a great topping for grilled fish! If your arugula is very peppery and bitter (if it’s older, it may be), you may want to add more spinach to balance it out.

Arugula Pesto

  • 1 1/2 c. baby arugula leaves
  • 1 1/2 c. baby spinach leaves
  • 1/4 c. chopped pecans
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2-3/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese

Combine greens, pecans, garlic and cheese in a food processor and process until chopped. With processor running, add olive oil, starting with 1/2 c. and using more if necessary to make a paste.

You can freeze this for use later (I like to freeze pesto in ice-cube trays and defrost as needed) or refrigerate and use within 24 hours.

Day 135–Week 19–Budget and Menu

After a few days of bad eating, we are back in the swing of things with another week of healthy, local food. I’ve missed cooking on something other than a fire or propane stove and look forward to cooking fresh vegetables again! I’m excited to see fresh zucchini and yellow squash at the farmers market. I know by July I’ll be sick of it, but it’s a new welcome addition to our menu! Also, it’s always super to see strawberries AND blueberries at the market. Unlimited deliciousness come from those two combined! I went over budget this week due to a weakness for fresh crabmeat. The last time we had crab was for our Super Bowl party and that came from India, which seemed really weird. The pork roast I picked up from Homestead Farms is huge and will carry over into next week, which should hopefully save us some money and bring us back into our $100 budget.

Here is how our budget broke out for the week:

  • The Produce Box (zucchini, squash, blueberries, broccoli, beets, pointy cabbage, sweet onions): $26.00
  • Locals Seafood (fish, crabmeat): $40
  • Hilltop Farm (arugula): $4.00
  • Homestead Farm (pork roast): $24.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (spinach fettucine): $6
  • Trader Joes (black beans, rice, tortillas, fat-free refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, frozen fruit, soy milk): $26.30

Here is our menu for the week!

  • Wednesday–Spinach fettucine with lump crab and arugula pesto
  • Thursday–Penne pasta with roasted squash and zucchini, salad
  • Friday–grilled sheepshead (this is a fish), sautéed swiss chard and beet greens, whole wheat cous cous
  • Saturday–Leftover pasta
  • Sunday–Cuban pork roast, black beans & rice, cabbage slaw, beets
  • Monday–Pork quesadillas, salad
  • Tuesday–leftover cleanup

Have a wonderful and healthy week!

Day 134–Falling Off the Wagon

Hi, my name is Deanna, and it has been four days since my last locavore blog post.

In that four days, I have eaten s’mores, hushpuppies, campfire pizza, vegetables from a can, biscuits from a can and yes, I have ordered Papa Johns pizza with industrial ground beef. I am not proud of this, but, when camping with 11 pre-teen girls, sometimes it is a matter of survival (earplugs would also be a matter of survival, but that’s for another day). The Papa Johns was not so much camping survival as it was post-camping exhaustion. Note to self–take a day off work after camping with a group.

So today is Tuesday, May 15th, and I am making a committment to getting back in locavore action and eating healthy, locally produced foods once again. My cupboard is nearly bare, but tomorrow (Wednesday) is both Produce Box delivery day and downtown Raleigh farmer’s market day, so we should be flush with yummy local veggies, eggs and meats in another 24 hours.

This brings me to a change in how I post our weekly menus. Since our Produce Box comes on Wednesday and the farmer’s market just a few blocks from my office is also on Wednesday, I’ll be posting weekly menus and budgets on that day instead of Sundays, so look for the next menu tomorrow!

In the meantime, I’ll be curled up under my desk napping. 🙂