Day 241–What’s Fresh at the Market

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We still have fresh seafood at our farmer’s markets–yay!

Nothing says fall like pumpkins and for the first week, they have made an appearance at our farmer’s markets. Pumpkins!!! In August!!! Time for me to suck it up and realize that summer really is winding down. The good thing is football season starts this weekend in earnest with some serious NC college football. So, when one door closes, a stadium door opens. I guess I’m ok with that 🙂

Here is what you can find this week at our local, central NC farmer’s markets:

  • Apples
  • Figs
  • Grapes–scuppernog and muscadine
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Field peas (all kinds)
  • Field tomatoes
  • Hothouse cucumbers
  • Butternut squash
  • Acorn squash
  • Pumpkins!
  • Bell peppers
  • Green beans
  • Hot peppers–all kinds
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White potatoes
  • Corn (we’re coming up to the end of the season here)
  • Okra
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant

Day 240–Farmer’s Spotlight–Hilltop Farms

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Fred Miller of HillTop Farms!

If you have been reading along with us for a while, you may remember my lament at being such a terrible CSA participant. The CSA I belonged to was with a wonderful, very local organic farm called Hilltop Farm in Willow Spring. We had terrific produce (at least what I remembered to pick up was great) and farmers Fred and Virginia Miller were always helpful with produce information, cooking tips and nutritional information. Well, even though I have abandoned the traditional CSA for a delivery service (for now), I still buy organic fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs from Fred at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market. If you visit the market, Fred has the freshest and best quality basil I have seen anywhere. Pesto, anyone?

Hilltop Farms is one of a growing number of Certified Organic, sustainable farms in our state and it is the first and only USDA Certified Organic farm in our county. In fact, Hilltop recently received the Pioneer Award from the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District. Yay! From talking to a lot of farmers over the past year, I have learned a lot about the expense and time involved with becoming a Certified Organic farm. Hats off to any farmer who puts that time and effort in. The fifteen acres at Hilltop used to be tobacco land, so it’s gratifying to see land used for such a toxic crop now used to produce organic vegetables and herbs for local families.

Recently Fred mentioned a new winter CSA coming up. Hmmmm, I’m tempted… Maybe there is an iphone CSA pickup app?

Day 239–Starting Week 35–Budget and Menu

What is it about school starting that throws the world into a tailspin? Or maybe it’s just MY world that goes into mild chaos… Suddenly, there are evening meetings, tutoring, extra-curricular clubs and ridiculous amounts of laundry. I really enjoyed the lazy pace of summer, and my adjustment to the school year…well, let’s just say it hasn’t gone well. So this is another easy menu week that takes advantage of what is available at the farmers markets. I’m not tackling anything crazy or time-consuming because I’d like to keep what little grasp on reality I still have! The good thing is we’re on budget at $95.42 for the week and that includes some very fresh, lovely NC fish. Yay!

Budget

  • The Produce Box (apples, watermelon, tomatoes, corn, sweet peppers, organic zucchini/yellow squash, sweet potatoes): $23.00
  • Hilltop Farm ( organic cherry tomatoes, organic basil): $9.00
  • Homestead Farm (eggs): $4.00
  • Locals Seafood (black sea bass): $19
  • Farmhand Foods (hangar steak): $12.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, yogurt, soy milk): $28.42

Menu

  • Wednesday–Pan seared sea bass with cherry tomatoes, creamed corn, roasted okra
  • Thursday–Barbecue quesadillas (carryover from last week), roasted okra, field peas
  • Friday–Pasta with cherry tomatoes and roasted vegetables, salad
  • Saturday–Red pepper tart, cucumber and onion salad; peach pie
  • Sunday–Leftover red pepper tart, oven baked sweet potato fries
  • Monday–Grilled hangar steak, peppers and onions, corn; peach pie
  • Tuesday–Southwestern black bean pizza with leftover steak, veggies and cheese

Day 237–Baked Pasta with Three Cheeses

We had one of those freakish weekends where the weather was downright chilly and I must say, it didn’t take me long to kick into cool weather food! This baked pasta used our homemade Roasted Tomato Sauce, pesto from our garden basil, a green pepper from our little garden and Italian sausage from one of our favorite farms, Mae Farm. It was easy to make once the sauce was done and it made enough for two dinners and a lunch (and none of us had just one serving at dinner). If you’re looking to welcome fall, but still have plenty of tomatoes (or have some frozen/canned sauce) this is a great bet!

Baked Pasta with Three Cheeses

  • 1 lb. penne pasta (rotini would be good, too)
  • 1 quart Roasted Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 c. basil pesto
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, removed from casing and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 8 oz. fontina cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 8 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, toasted
  1. Heat a pot of water for pasta. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions, but take pasta off heat 2 minutes before directions call for since pasta will bake in the oven. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water for sauce.
  3. In a saute pan, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat. Cook sausage until no longer pink.
  4. Add onions and green pepper and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the Roasted Tomato Sauce, basil pesto and reserved pasta water. Stir well and reduce heat to low.
  6. Mix together pasta, basil/tomato sauce, and cheese, reserving 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese for topping.
  7. Oil a 13 x 9 baking dish. Pour pasta mixture into baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until bubbly and hot.

Day 232–Starting Week 34–Budget and Menu

How in the world is this week 34 out of 52? There are only 18 weeks left in the year? It seems impossible, yet the apples and butternut squash at the farmers markets tell me otherwise. We’re at the cusp of a food shift that will usher in fall vegetables and fruits and send us pining for peaches and strawberries again.

Last week’s menu was a lot of fun. Many of the recipes came from other bloggers and all of them were wonderful! I had planned to do that again and then I looked at the calendar. This is one of those frenzied food weeks where we all have something going on in the evenings, so I’m planning some quick meals this week instead.

I am just over budget this week at 103.70. This overage is due to an indiscretion of mine. I made a frivolous purchase this week through The Produce Box. They are carrying some locally produced nut butters and when I saw “Coffee Vanilla Peanut Butter” I could not resist. I probably should have ignored it, but I didn’t. So that will somehow be worked into dessert this week. Any suggestions? Thankfully I had some Mae Farm Italian sausage in the freezer. That’s a carryover from a previous week.

We’re also using our own tomato sauce and barbecue sauce this week–YUM! Since I didn’t add the cost of making these into our weekly budget, I am paying us back by charging those against our grocery account for this week.

  • The Produce Box (lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, grapes, butternut squash, corn, coffee vanilla peanut butter): $40.75
  • Mitchell Pantry (one jar jam, one jar barbecue sauce, 1 package tomato sauce): $9.00
  • Locals Seafood (scallops): $12.00
  • Mae Farm (pork shoulder, eggs): $15
  • Trader Joes (oatmeal, rice, cheese, yogurt, soy milk, tortillas): $26.95

What are we having this week? Here is the list, which reflects a bit of fall!

  • Wednesday–Egg salad sandwiches, pickles (Girl Scout night)
  • Thursday–Mixed green salad with leftover pork loin and homemade ranch dressing from Creative Noshing (Girl Scout leader night)
  • Friday–Pan seared NC scallops on butternut squash risotto; salad
  • Saturday–Crockpot barbecue with homemade roasted pepper barbecue sauce; roasted okra
  • Sunday–Barbecue quesadillas, carryover quinoa
  • Monday–Pasta baked with roasted tomato sauce and Mae Farm Italian sausage
  • Tuesday–Leftover pasta (PTA night)

Day 231–What’s Fresh at the Market

This is the first week I have noticed a big shift at the farmer’s markets. Peaches are hanging on, but will be gone very soon and most of the berries are gone as well. You know what is taking their place? Apples! A sure sign that fall is right around the corner. We’re moving into early fall and the markets are starting to reflect our waning summer. Here’s a sample of what you can find in central NC right now:

  • Apples–green and red varieties
  • Grapes–scuppernog and muscadine
  • Figs
  • Peaches
  • Field peas–butter beans, crowder peas, black eyed peas, pink eyed peas, purple hull and more
  • Tomatoes–they are all just beautiful right now
  • Hothouse cucumbers
  • Sweet peppers–red and green
  • Hot peppers–all varieties
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Butternut squash
  • Acorn squash
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Herbs
  • Garlic
  • Okra
  • Melons–cantaloupe, watermelon, sprite

 

 

Day 228–Summer Southern Field Peas

I like pretty much all kinds of peas and we here in North Carolina are high into field pea season. If you haven’t tasted home cooked field peas, you really must get in your car NOW and head south. Unlike tender, fragile spring peas, field peas are hearty, soul satisfying and meaty. They are amazing in chili or with collards or just cooked with a ham hock until rich and creamy. I was going to do some research on field peas, when lo’ and behold, I saw this blog. Done and done. This is a great resource about field peas, how to store them for later and how to cook them. Now I just need to buy some ham hock 🙂

http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/08/17/have-you-ever-heard-of-summer-field-peas/

 

Day 227–Planting a Fall Garden

Although it is still hot and humid here, we have visions of fall veggies growing in the garden. As much as I hate to see summer go, I do love me some fall vegetables. Broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, autumn squash, pumpkin, kale, collards…yum!

Our summer garden was miraculously unproductive. Someone picked all our tomatoes and eggplants before we could get to them, and our cucumber plants bit the dust early (although we did get a decent number of cucumbers before that happened). Our herbs fared better than the vegetables, so that may be the way to go in the future. Because apparently, my neighbors don’t like herbs 🙂

The urge to plant things is apparently greater than the urge to give up until I have new neighbors, so I’m planning on giving over some energy to a fall garden. And maybe installing a video camera.

What about you? What do you like to plant in the fall?

Day 226–Starting Week 33–Budget and Menu

Whole green beans in a carton.

We still have plenty of summer here in NC, and I am enjoying every last second of it. This week’s menu takes advantage of our sweet corn (thank you, rain!), tomatoes, okra and squash.

One of the wonderful parts of this journey is getting connected to so many other people who are interested in locally sourced foods (and cooking!). Most days I make notes of posts that feature stunning recipes or new ways to cook old favorites. Usually, the list is so long that I get overwhelmed. But this week I’m picking some yummy dishes from some awesome bloggers and I plan to do that next week as well. It’s fun to try something new!

We came in just under budget this week at $98.32. Not too bad! Two weeks in a row under budget. Let’s see how long I can continue that! Here’s how it breaks down this week:

  • The Produce Box (all organics this week!–cantaloupe, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, Yukon gold potatoes + conventional okra, scuppernog grapes): $39
  • Local’s Seafood (NC wild caught shrimp): $10
  • Hilltop Farms (organic green beans): $3.00
  • Mae Farm (bacon): $10
  • Trader Joes and Lowes (shallots, rice, shredded cheese, sour cream, burger buns, pita, yogurt): $24.32
  • Farmhand Foods (small pork roast that is a carryover, ground beef): $12.00

So, what are we eating this week? Here’s the menu!

  • Wednesday–Sweet corn and bacon pasta (from Rachel’s Table)
  • Thursday–PTA volunteer night; everyone’s on their own
  • Friday–Shrimp and bruschetta risotto; local peaches (from Local Kitchen)
  • Saturday–Grilled burgers w/roasted pepper ketchup, roasted okra, sautĂ©ed squash
  • Sunday–Pork roast, green beans w/bacon & shallots (from Creative Noshing), roasted potatoes
  • Monday–Southwest black bean pizza (from Sugar Dish Me)
  • Tuesday–leftover buffet

Thanks to these wonderful ladies for sharing their recipes, their ideas and their passion for good food! Have a wonderful and delicious week!

Day 225–A Locavore Birthday for Julia Child

The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appetit!–Julia Child

Two of our three happy eaters!

August is one of those odd months with no major holiday or celebration. June has the beginning of summer, July (for us in the U.S.) has Independence Day, and September has Labor Day and the beginning of fall. August is just hot. And humid. So we thought maybe we could find a new holiday and have a very good time. It was either that or go sit in the pool and not come out until Labor Day. We picked the party.

August 15th would be Julia Child’s 100th birthday. After watching numerous episodes of The French Chef and realizing Julia Child was a locavore ahead of her time, we felt like her birthday was the perfect summer celebration we needed. So we threw Julia Child a birthday dinner using her recipes and our own local chicken and produce. Our menu included all locally sourced ingredients except olive oil, butter, kosher salt, and pepper. I even went crazy and made my own breadcrumbs. We all pitched in to make it happen. It was such a fun success that I think we will do this again.

Ellie making the roasted potatoes!

We dressed up our table, put on nice clothes, lit candles, poured sparkling pink lemonade into wine glasses, sang Happy Birthday and had a pretty awesome time. For an afternoon and evening, we were a remote outpost of Julia Child’s Ecole Des Trois Gourmandes (School of the Three Happy Eaters). We even wore the patches designed by Paul Child! Although the menu seems like a lot, each recipe was very simple and made use of what is super fresh at our farmer’s market right now.

 Here is what we had:

  • Julia’s roast chicken (thank you, Rainbow Farm)
  • Tomates a la Provençal (stuffed heirloom tomatoes)
  • SautĂ©ed Zucchini in Butter and Shallots (and cream!)
  • Roasted new potatoes with rosemary (our recipe)
  • Tarte aux Peches (fresh peach tart)

The Sautéed Zucchini (top) and Tomates Provencal (bottom) were surprise hits!

The chicken was amazing, but the real standouts of the night were the stuffed tomatoes and the sautéed zucchini. The recipe for the tomatoes is HERE and the recipe for the zucchini is HERE. I would make both again in an instant. Ellie devoured the zucchini, which is rich, creamy and amazingly good. Tom, who does not enjoy a stand alone tomato, even ate his stuffed tomato and enjoyed it!

Our one gourmand (happy eater dude) even enjoyed an almost unadorned tomato!

I’m ending with another of my favorite Julia quotes. Have fun cooking, eating, and living! And Happy Birthday, Julia Child!

You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces–just good food from fresh ingredients. Julia Child