Day 211–Regaining Our Locavore Mojo and Roasted Tomato Sauce

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We are back from a week at the beach and Ellie has started middle school, so it’s time to get organized and back on track. We didn’t do too badly on vacation. We did take huge amounts of local fruit salad and potato salad along with homemade chicken salad and assorted frozen Trader Joes meals. We did, however, have ice cream and brownies and fried seafood and while they were all good, my scale is showing that ice cream + no gym workouts are a bad combination. Time to get back on track!

Before we left, I did go to a big produce sale held by The Produce Box. I stocked up on Roma tomatoes and jalapeno peppers, both of which I froze whole and red bell peppers, which I bought for .50 each (and they were HUGE!!). I roasted them on the grill, peeled and sliced them and froze the roasted peppers in little bags for later. In hindsight, buying all that produce right before leaving for the beach was probably not the best idea since I was already stressed about making our food in advance of the trip, but it all worked out in the end.

I have officially reached the point where I honestly need a freezer. I think I can manage an upright freezer in my laundry room, once I scootch some things around. And when I do, I’m making some more of this unbelievably delicious roasted tomato sauce. This sauce gets frozen, rather than canned, and it is so thick and bursting with flavor that it may become my new “go-to” pasta sauce. I love it because it is very flavorful, but also, it pretty much makes itself. You can add whatever spices you want while the tomatoes are roasting, or you can keep it simple and add specific spices when you use the sauce. And I have to say, your house will smell AMAZING!!!! Give it a try!

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Romas are best for this sauce as they have less water, but any tomato will do–you will need to adjust your roasting time for very juicy tomatoes!

  • Any amount of tomatoes (I have been roasting 2-5 lbs. at a time)
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, sliced thin or minced
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Wash tomatoes and cut into halves (romas) or quarters (for larger tomatoes).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line one or more baking sheets with foil.
  3. Put tomato pieces on a foil lined baking sheet.
  4. Sprinkle garlic pieces, salt and pepper over tomatoes.
  5. Drizzle olive oil over the tomatoes.
  6. Put baking sheet in the oven and roast tomatoes for about 2 hours. Check on them periodically and stir them around a bit.
  7. Roast tomatoes until the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are a bit charred and shriveled.
  8. Put all tomatoes and garlic pieces in a bowl.
  9. Use an immersion stick blender and puree the tomatoes until they are to your liking. I like mine fairly chunky, but you can make this as smooth as you like.
  10. Store in freezer safe containers in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Day 200-Heading to the Beach/Foodie Vacation

I’m getting ready to head to the beach with my family and one of Ellie’s friends. A WHOLE WEEK!!! Haven’t had a whole week off in a year. Can’t wait!!!

Now, we are taking some local produce with us in the form of potato salad, fruit salad and cucumber salad. We’ll also take some fresh tomatoes for sandwiches, and I’m bringing homemade peach salsa and tomato sauce. Other than that, though, my goal is to not work at cooking and not worry about food so much. We still won’t have soda, Doritos, Cheetos or other highly processed snack foods. We will however, have refrigerated biscuit dough, marshmallow fluff, frozen chinese food from Trader Joes and brownies. I think we’ll survive.

My goal is for Ellie and company to make dinner two nights during our stay. Their menu items include monkey bread pizza and spaghetti tacos, both served with s’more hand pies. I plan to enjoy every second and not count any calories or point out any nutritional deficiencies in our meals. We’ll see if I live up to that!

So have a wonderful week and I will post again on day 210!

Day 198–Cats and Vegetables

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We have a stalker in our home. A compost stalker. That stalker of veggie peelings and shavings is Cosmo, our young cat. Despite all the cat books that stress cats as carnivores, this suburban feline apparently also likes a good salad. We are careful to make sure he does not have any onions or garlic (which can cause a life threatening anemia in cats), but the boy sure can put on a pouty face when I’m cutting up cucumber. And broccoli. And kale. And who can refuse that face?

I have a friend whose dog would beg for baby carrots, but I’ve never seen a cat actually beg for vegetables. Maybe it’s the variety or maybe he’s trying to keep his boyish figure, but I like that he wants to indulge in the fresh, local veggies we’re bringing home. The problem? Keeping him out of our little compost basket where we put our evening’s extras before taking them outside.

Now if only I could get the dog involved…

Day 196–Grilled Wahoo with Local Tomato Sauce

English: Super Sweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes

When it comes to cooking fish, my repertoire is a bit limited. I can pan fry a mean cornmeal dusted catfish or flounder and I like to grill teriyaki tuna steaks, but otherwise, I have a bit of trouble with my creativity. I found some locally caught wahoo at Locals Seafood this weekend and thought I would give it a try.

This recipe from Bobby Flay seems like a terrific combination of summer flavors, most of which come from the farmer’s market or my garden! It has a salty, lemony, tomato sauce that reminds me so much of Italy. I would actually make this sauce just for pasta as well. The flavors go so well with the fish–it is really delicious!

We made just two wahoo fillets (the original recipe calls for 4), but we ate every bit of the sauce, so I would recommend making extra sauce if you are serving 4 steaks. The tomatoes and garlic came from our Produce Box this week and the herbs came from our garden! Tom has an olive aversion, so no olives for us, but they would add a nice flavor if you like them! I also added 1/2 of a chopped onion with the garlic and serving this with sauteed summer squash.

Grilled Wahoo with Tomato Sauce

  • 2 wahoo fillets, 6 ounces each
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 anchovies in oil, patted dry and chopped
  • 1 pint local cherry tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp. capers
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives (we left these out)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 tsp. chopped, fresh oregano
  • 1/4 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Heat the grill to high. Brush both sides of the fish with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Grill fish until slightly charred and almost cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.
  3. While fish is grilling, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, anchovies and tomatoes and cook until slightly soft, about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the capers, olives, lemon juice and herbs and cook for about 30 seconds. Transfer the fish to the sauce and let cook for 1 minute.
  5. Transfer to a serving plate and serve!

Day 195–Slightly Badass Blackberry Jelly

It is somewhat misleading to call this recipe “jelly”. Jellies are lovely, crystal clear productions that have no pulp or fruit particles visibly present. So this recipe I am presenting to you is not like that. This recipe is a fun, full of itself cousin to true jelly. Think of it as that rogue cousin who shows up at a family funeral with a six pack of beer instead of a pound cake. You know exactly who I’m talking about, don’t you?

While this jelly won’t earn any ribbons for beauty at the State Fair, it is delicious, full of flavor and would be good on a biscuit or on a pork tenderloin. The reason it isn’t crystal clear and sparkling, is because I use a food mill instead of cheesecloth to extract the seeds. This leaves in some of the fruit pulp that makes the jelly opaque instead of clear. I don’t care. When I have blackberries, I’m using every little bit of them I can!

Slightly Badass Blackberry Jelly

8 cups of fresh blackberries
3 tsp. calcium water (this comes with the Pomona Pectin)
3 cups pure cane sugar
3 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin
1/4 cup water

Rinse the berries and put in a nonreactive stock pot. Add the water. Mash the berries with a potato masher and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes.

Put a food mill with a fine blade over a large bowl. Fill the food mill half way with the cooled blackberry mixture. Process until there are just seeds remaining and dump the seeds into a container for composting. Continue until you have processed all the berries.

Pour 3 cups of the processed blackberries into the pot and bring to a boil (NOTE: if you have more than 3 cups of processed blackberries, adjust the amounts of the remaining ingredients accordingly).

Add the calcium water and bring to a boil again. Mix the pectin and sugar in a bowl. Add to the boiling blackberries and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Scrape off any foam.

Either refrigerate the jelly or ladle into clean, hot half-pint jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow jars to rest in the hot water for 5 minutes. Remove from the canner and set aside. Check seals after 24 hours and if seals are good, store for up to 1 year.

Day 194–Win/Win at the Farmer’s Market

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Those of you who know me are aware that I have very little “gambler’s luck”. I am lucky in many things–lucky in love, lucky to live in a wonderful town, lucky to have a solid home and a great job. But take me to Vegas, baby, and it’s all over. I’m not sure why I don’t have that kind of random luck that results in people winning bingo, slots, the lottery or the free week of groceries from Trader Joes. My mom has it…my brother has it…but me? Not so much.

Still, every once and a while, Lady Luck smiles on me. Today, she smiled at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market. I was hoping to buy some blackberries because the blackberry jam I made earlier this summer is about out and we really do need more. Really. Blackberries here are about $4 a pint at the farmer’s markets. I figured I had enough to buy 4 pints and make one batch of jam (about 3 or 4 half pints). Not too bad, but kinda pricey. Still, I love blackberries, so it’s worth it.

Enter Lady Luck. While I was talking to the very nice (and VERY funny) guys at the Godwin Farm stand, Mr. Godwin (I’m guessing) pointed to the bed of his truck and said “See that bag of blackberries? We picked them for today and then someone dropped the bag, mushing some of the berries.” They had been carefully going through the large plastic grocery bag, trying to pick out the prettiest berries to package and sell. Hmmmmm… “How much for the whole bag?” I asked. “I’m making jam–I don’t care how pretty they are. They’re just going in a pot anyway.” I didn’t think I could afford the bag, but it never hurts to ask, right?

“How about $8?” Mr. Godwin said. He looked genuinely happy not to pick through any more berries (and I’m sure happy not to take home spoiled berries in berry juice). SOLD! Before he handed over the now triple bagged berries, he said, “Let’s just weigh them for fun!” Nine pounds of blackberries. HOLY MOLY. That is a king’s ransom in blackberries. His grandson looked less amused with the transaction, but I promised to be back next week for the wonderful figs they will have.

So here we have a win/win–the farmer gets rid of blackberries that wouldn’t last the day, I get to make a TON of blackberry jelly and some very lucky people will get blackberry jelly for Christmas! Mr. Godwin will get some jelly next Saturday 🙂

So what does 9 lbs. of blackberries look like? Well, it’s 23 cups of blackberries, which made 12 half pints of jelly and an additional 10 4 oz. gift jars. That is a LOT of jelly!

The jelly I made is really kind of a cruder cousin of the lovely, clear, sparkling jellies out there. I don’t use cheesecloth, I used my food mill to extract the juice and the seeds, so it’s cloudier than store bought jelly, but man is it good!!

Here’s hoping Lady Luck will smile on you and your local farmers this week!

Day 193–Emotional Health

This has been another busy summer week and I have been thinking a lot about health in a different way. For the first time, my daughter shared with me a Facebook post that was clearly cyber bullying and hate speech (not about her, but about a classmate and it upset her). Fortunately, she still feels comfortable enough to share these things with her parents. Because the post included a teacher’s photo and involved other students, the principal of her school got involved quickly. But, the girl’s family will not respond to any phone calls from the school. So they sent a letter urging the parents to pay attention to their daughter’s Facebook page. Wow. I’m sure she will learn something from that (sarcasm). The whole incident really has me thinking. What in the world are we doing about the emotional health of our young people? And what happens to the victims of these posts when there are no real repercussions to publicly wishing someone dead because you don’t think they are pretty?

Since the offending posts are still out there and apparently no one is able to reach the family, I broke a cardinal rule of mine not to engage in correspondence with other people’s children. I sent this message:

Dear xxxxxx,

You should be aware that your Facebook postings about xxxx are considered hate speech and cyber bullying and they are not ok. In fact, they could be illegal. In life, xxxxxxx, you do not have to like everyone, but you should at a minimum respect the rights of others to exist as they are. You seem like a smart, pretty and creative girl. But when you wish someone dead because they aren’t pretty enough, the one who looks ugly is you. I hope you will show everyone at xxx Middle School that you can be better than what you posted. We will all be cheering you on for a better and more mature 7th grade. In the meantime, you should probably delete the posts about xxxxx. That would be the wiser–and kinder–thing to do.

A Mom

Day 192–When Local is Not Local

Here in NC, we have an initiative called the NC 10% campaign. I’ve posted about this HERE. When we eat out or go shopping, I usually check the list of participants and make sure we purchase from businesses that have made a commitment to serving at least 10% of their food from local sources. I’ve also posted about NC-owned Lowes Foods (HERE) and how I wished they had more local produce. As though they were listening, Lowes Foods joined the NC 10% campaign and started a new initiative to sell more local produce. Yay, right?

This week I realized too late that the remaining tomato I had for BLT sandwiches had deteriorated into mush. What to do? I headed out to Lowes thinking surely this time of year, I could pick up a local tomato. I entered the store and found a huge bin with a sign that said “Local Tomatoes” and small print underneath that said “Grown in SC”. Well, I don’t really consider South Carolina to be local, but in a pinch I figured that’s not too bad. So I picked up a tomato. And I saw the sticker on it. The sticker said…

“Product of Mexico”

I picked up several more tomatoes thinking they were in the wrong bin or something.

“Product of Mexico”

The ALL were from Mexico. Ok, so maybe the sign was just in the wrong place. I looked at the next bin over.

“Product of Canada”.

For reals?

I talked to the young person working in produce. They did not care. I left.

We ended up having some leftovers for dinner instead. There are only a billion ripe tomatoes in North Carolina right now. Why on earth would I buy one that had to be shipped from Mexico.

And when you say you sell “local” produce, I would in fact think that it would come from this country. I love Mexico. Toured the pyramids, went to the beaches, drank beer by the pool. But I do not consider that to be local. I have a message for Lowes:

Local food is not a marketing strategy to sell your international tomatoes. Shame on you.

Day 187–Farming Video

Just a funny for today. This video has been out a while, but I thought it was pretty funny. Too bad they aren’t organic farmers, but still… 🙂

Day 186–Cantaloupe Preserves = Epic Fail

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Sometimes, I see a recipe and immediately think, “That is going to be sooooo good.” Other times I think, “That sounds so weird and gross, that it must actually be good.” In Italy, they serve a tripe sandwich called lampradotto that sounds gross, but is actually pretty amazing. Who knew? So sometimes when you venture beyond your comfort zone, you can really come out the winner. This is what I was thinking when I saw a recipe for cantaloupe preserves. Sounds so strange that it MUST be good, right? Right?

Wrong. Armed with a day off and some very ripe cantaloupe, I thought I would venture into new territory. I mean, there are only so many things you can do with a lot of very ripe melon, so why not try to pack some summer in a jar. Who knows, maybe I would be the one to introduce my friends to this great new phenomenon! Children would finally eat melons! Trendy chefs would be using it everywhere! (My mind is a strange place and it works this way.)

The road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions. As it turns out, cantaloupe preserves are just as gross as they sound. And they look worse. I mean, would YOU eat the jar of preserves pictured above? One of my colleagues said it looked like a weird science specimen from a horror movie. I think that’s spot on. Blech.

I’m not even posting the recipe because it was that bad. Thankfully, I only made four half pints, so I don’t have a lot of food to dump. Chalk this one up to experience. Eat your cantaloupe the way nature intended and leave the canning for tomatoes, cucumbers and berries. And if you’re in Florence, try the tripe.

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