Day 320–Purple Mashed Potatoes

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Poor potatoes. For years, they were maligned as the source of all dieting evils. Eat a potato and you were sure to get a muffin top and diabetes. Maybe simultaneously. I never really liked potatoes all that much until I tried fresh, organic potatoes from Hill Top Farm. Those little potatoes are like a whole other food group. It made me realize how tasteless most grocery store potatoes are. Now, I have a new appreciation for them, although we don’t eat them a great deal.

I think that perhaps part of the potato problem is how we cook potatoes more so than the actual potato itself. Potatoes do have vitamins and minerals that are good for us, so why not? Fried potatoes, potato chips and potatoes slathered in gravy and/or cheese are not health food. If you buy good potatoes, though, you don’t have to do anything much at all for them to be amazing and satisfying.

We recently received some purple potatoes with our Produce Box, so I did some potato experimenting. I had never had purple potatoes before, but apparently the rest of the world loves them! These potatoes have flesh that is a deep bluish purple–mine were very dark. Purple potatoes are high in carotenoids, which offer some cancer protection. Carotenoids are not found in white potatoes. Early studies with purple potatoes also show a correlation between the dark potatoes and lower blood pressure.

For our cooking experiment, I quartered the first batch and roasted them with some olive oil and kosher salt. YUM! I did notice that like beets, the purple potatoes bleed their color. It’s a little disconcerting to look down and see your bluish hands!

Ellie and I decided to make purple mashed potatoes with the second batch. I was worried that the dark color would bleed out into the cooking water, leaving me with gray potatoes, so we boiled the potatoes whole (they were pretty small anyway) and mashed them with their skins on. The result? Cool looking purple mashed potatoes! We served them with a local pork roast and roasted local winter veggies!

Purple Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 lbs. or so of purple potatoes (go for the smallish ones)
  • 1/2 cup organic milk
  • 1/2 cup organic butter, melted
  • Kosher salt and pepper for seasoning
  1. Scrub potatoes, but do not remove the skins. Put potatoes in a large Dutch oven.
  2. Fill the Dutch oven with water to cover the potatoes by about 3″.
  3. Heat pot over medium high heat until boiling. Turn heat down if necessary and continue boiling potatoes for about 15 minutes. This will depend on how large your potatoes are, so check the potatoes and cook longer if needed. They should be very soft.
  4. Drain the potatoes and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the potatoes back to the pot and put the pot back on the stove eye that is cooling. Toss the potatoes around until they are fairly dry.
  5. Mash the potatoes with a masher. Add the butter and milk and mix together with a wooden spoon (you can also use an immersion blender for this). If the potatoes are too dry, add the reserved cooking liquid.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately!
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Day 319–Locavore Pumpkin Chili

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I totally get it now. All that work, all the canning, all the freezing. I get it. Because now when the days are cool and there is nary a green bean, peach or tomato to be found at the farmer’s market, I can make something like this awesome chili with lots of my own, local vegetables. It’s pretty awesome. And it makes all the sweaty afternoons in a steaming kitchen totally worth it. I wondered at the end of the summer if I would ever do all that work again and now I know the answer. Yes.

This chili is completely delicious. It was posted by The Scrumptious Pumpkin as Drunken Pumpkin Chili. I like the name, but since I made this for a sleepover my daughter had, I thought I’d tone down the beer reference and focus on the local. I did, however, use the pumpkin ale she recommended and it was a great addition 🙂 Typically, I serve pizza for a sleepover, because who in the world doesn’t like pizza? As it turns out, we all liked this chili–so much that our plans for a second dinner are out (but I do have a fabulous lunch packed for work tomorrow!).

I changed up the original recipe a bit to suit the local ingredients I had on hand, like fresh oregano, frozen whole tomatoes, frozen roasted red peppers and frozen, roasted jalapenos, but the original recipe is HERE. Check out the otherScrumptious Pumpkin recipes, too. She does a great job using spices and natural flavors to tone down our use of fats and sugars!

Locavore Pumpkin Chili (adapted from The Scrumptious Pumpkin’s Drunken Pumpkin Chili)

  • 1 pound local, grassfed ground beef (Mae Farm)
  • 3 cloves organic garlic, minced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1 cup pumpkin ale (I used Kennebec Beer Company Pumpkin Ale)
  • 15-ounce can organic pumpkin puree
  • 5 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped
  • 4 roasted jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • 15 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  1. In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and saute for about 4 minutes or until onions are translucent.
  2. Add the carrots and bell pepper and saute for about 5 minutes more, until carrots begin to soften.
  3. Add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon, and brown. Stir often.
  4. Add the spices and tomatoes and stir well.
  5. Add the beer and stir again. Let simmer about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the pumpkin puree and peppers. Season to taste. Add the drained beans.
  7. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 45 minutes (because I used the frozen tomatoes, my chili had a lot of liquid and needed to simmer a good while to reduce and thicken). Your house will smell truly amazing.
  8. Drink the remaining beer. Marvel at your domestic skills. Remember to be thankful for other bloggers who share their recipes.
  9. Serve alone or with grated cheese.

Day 311–Pork Roast with Apples, Cider and Thyme

Onions, apples and cranberry make a nice base for this slow cooker roast!

Last week my friend Sarah commented on a dish she made involving pork roast and apple cider. Hmmmmm, sounded pretty good to me, so I decided to take a try myself and use the leftovers for our football tailgating lunch. This slow cooker roast takes advantage of our fresh, local apples and apple cider. I also added some dried cranberries, which were tasty. We served it with our delish purple potatoes!

Pork Roast with Apples, Cider and Thyme

  • 1 pork roast or Boston Butt
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 granny smith or fuji apples
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup organic, dried cranberries
  • 3 cups fresh apple cider
  • Olive oil
  1. Peel onions and slice thin. Put in bowl of a slow cooker.
  2. Peel and core apples. Slice thin and add to bowl of the slow cooker.
  3. Sprinkle dried cranberries and thyme over onions and apples.
  4. In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Brown pork on all sides.
  5. Place pork roast on top of onion/apple mixture. Pour cider over all, cover and cook on low for 7 hours or on hi for 4.
  6. Serve pork sliced or pulled with apples on top!

 

Day 310–Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

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Practicing with my food photography!

I know, right? Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. This is the breakfast that should be eaten in flannel pajamas in front of a cozy fire. Those kinds of mornings are limited for me these days, but I feel cozy just eating it, even if I am on the run.

I love pumpkin in all kinds of recipes, but I agree with fellow blogger In Her Chucks that pumpkin has a statute of limitations ending on November 30. December belongs to gingerbread and peppermint. And chocolate. So, I’m getting as much pumpkin in as I can because in 3 weeks my pantry will give way to winter holiday flavors.

This recipe is adapted from In Her Chuck’s version and you can see her original recipe, which features rolled oats instead of steel-cut oats HERE. I adapted the recipe to use my crock pot for overnight oatmeal and it worked very well. I make this overnight, so this morning I had nice, hot oatmeal all ready for me and a supply for future mornings put up in the refrigerator. I did up the spices a bit because I was making a larger quantity, and added some brown sugar, but you can alter to your tastes. So check this out and get your pumpkin on because there are only 3 more weeks before gingerbread season begins!

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

  • 1 15 oz. can of organic pumpkin puree (unseasoned)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4 cup organic dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/4 c. toasted pecans, chopped
  • Maple syrup, for serving
  1. In a bowl of a slow cooker, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, water and seasoning.
  2. Add steel-cut oats to the cooker and stir to combine.
  3. Adjust the heat on your crock pot to its lowest setting (I use the “keep warm” setting on mine), cover and leave for 7-8 hours. Before serving, stir well as the pumpkin separates to the top.
  4. Alternately, you can cook your oatmeal on the stove–this takes about 30 minutes.
  5. To serve, spoon oatmeal into bowls and top with pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Day 309–Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Quesadillas

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Farm fresh sweet potatoes from our NC farmers!

Our Produce Box local veggie delivery service is ending next week (just for the winter), so I ordered a stock up box of sweet potatoes to take me through the holidays. Now I’m realizing this is a LOT of sweet potatoes! Thankfully, I keep finding new and inventive recipes for incorporating more of these healthy sweeties into our diet. This recipe is adapted from a vegan recipe you can find HERE at Ohmyveggies. I’m sure the vegan version is great, but I had chorizo from Mae Farm and I love cheese, so we tossed vegan out the window this time. We also subbed Swiss chard for the kale in the recipe because that is what we have this week.

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Quesadillas (makes 4)

  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pierced with a fork
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 c. Swiss chard (about 1 bunch), trimmed and chopped
  • 1 lb. chorizo sausage
  • 1/2 c. black beans (cooked or canned–not dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheese
  • Salsa for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast sweet potatoes in oven for about 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly (you can do this the night before).
  2. Remove potato skins, transfer potato flesh to a small bowl and mash until smooth.
  3. While potato is cooking, crumble the chorizo into a large skillet and cook over medium heat until brown. Use the back of a wooden fork to break up any large pieces. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
  4. Reserve 3 tbsp. of drippings and discard the rest. Heat reserved drippings over medium low heat and add onion. Saute onion until caramelized, about 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in Swiss chard and sausage and continue to cook until greens are wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Combine black beans and paprika in a small bowl.
  7. Divide sweet potato, sausage mixture and beans evenly onto 1/2 of each tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese. Fold empty half over the filled half.
  8. Put quesadillas on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet and brush tops with olive oil.
  9. Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes.
  10. Serve with salsa and a green salad!

Day 306–Poached Salmon in Apple Cider

English: Flesh of an Atlantic Salmon.

Typically, we buy our seafood only from North Carolina fisherman through a local vendor Locals Seafood. The fish, scallops and shrimp we have had are so fresh and delicious that we haven’t looked elsewhere. A recent Tweet from Whole Foods, however, encouraged me to veer off course and pick up some sustainable, Scottish salmon that was on sale. I hadn’t had salmon this year except for occasional restaurant meals, and it is sooooooo good for you that I just couldn’t resist. Salmon is low in bad fats, but high in Omega 3 fatty acids, protein and vitamin D.  I’m so glad I listened to my inner foodie, because that salmon was some of the best I’ve had in a very long time.

Buying a 2 lb. fillet of salmon required some quick thinking on my part. I hadn’t planned it into our meals for the week and needed a quick and healthy preparation that would allow the true flavor of the salmon to come through. I’m also on a budget, so I needed to keep extra expenses to a minimum. So necessity being the mother of invention, I decided to poach my salmon fillet using what I had on hand, which was fresh, local apple cider. I’ve only poached with white wine before, so I wasn’t sure how this would work. In the end, it was simply delicious. The salmon was moist with just a hint of apple sweetness. Now I’m wishing I had really splurged and bought two fillets!

Poached Salmon in Apple Cider

  • 1 large salmon fillet
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. fresh apple cider
  • Aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Tear off a sheet of aluminum foil that is large enough to wrap completely around your fillet without any additional seams. Lay the foil on a rimmed baking sheet.

Lay your fillet on the foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Make a foil packet for your fillet by folding the two long sides of foil over your fish, creating a little “tent”  and crimping the edges (this will keep the steam in your foil tent).

Seal the short ends by folding them over several times. Before you seal the final short edge, pour the cider into your packet, then seal the last edge.

Pop the baking sheet into your prepared oven and bake/steam for about 25 minutes (a larger fillet like the one we had, took 40 minutes). When the fish is just opaque, it is done.

We served our salmon with local kale and local potatoes!

Day 303–Ribolita–Italian Twice Cooked Soup

White Cannellini beans

Ribolita uses white beans and leftover bread as thickeners, instead of cream.

Italian cooks are amazing. So many Italian recipes are born of necessity, frugality and making the most of whatever you have handy. And when you have a little of this and a little of that, plus some leftover bread, this Italian soup recipe is the bomb. Why “twice cooked?” This is one of those awesome recipes that tastes better the day after it is made, so you cook it once, park it in the fridge, then re-boil (ribolita) the soup the next day for a feast.

We’re in definite soup weather. Although our days are mostly sunny and cool, our evenings have been pretty brisk. For me, that is weather just calling out for soup. Ribolita is one of my all time favorite soups to make, especially when I have winter vegetables in the refrigerator and need to do something with them. Quick. When I make this, I chop all the vegetables first and have them ready to go. At the start, it seems like my counter is overflowing with veggies–the kale seems to really like taking over everything. It’s so good that I let it. As I continue to add ingredients, the pot gets to the point of brimming and the whole kitchen smells amazing. Gradually, I find my counter again.

Did I tell you this makes a ton of soup? I haven’t exactly weighed it, but I’m pretty sure it’s near a ton. So be prepared to freeze some unless you have a big family or some potluck to go to. And don’t be intimidated that this has a lot of ingredients–most of them are vegetables that you can find at your local farmer’s market this time of year. You do not need to serve anything with this soup. It is a complete meal all by itself!

Ribolita

  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • 4 cups water
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into rough chunks
  • 3 large stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 white potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 c. green cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 bunch kale, trimmed and chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 1 can)
  • 12 slices French bread, lightly toasted (or slice it and leave it to dry overnight)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, for serving
  1. Place the beans, broth, garlic, sage, bay and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 20 minutes.
  2. Remove 1 cup of the beans and discard bay and sage leaves. Using an immersion blender, puree the reserved beans and set aside.
  3. In another large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook about 10 minutes, until transparent. Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, cabbage, Swiss chard and kale. Stir in the tomatoes. Season to taste.
  4. Cook vegetables until greens have wilted (about 20-30 minutes), stirring often.
  5. Stir in the pureed beans and cook about 20 minutes, until the mixture is thick.
  6. Stir in the remaining beans and stock. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add the toasted bread slices and cook about 10 minutes.
  7. Cool and refrigerate overnight.
  8. Reheat the soup over low heat about 20 minutes or until heated through. Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with some Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

Day 302–Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Praline Glaze

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My sweet T’s birthday cake!

For the record, cake is not health food. I get that. Really. But as we prepare for Thanksgiving (3 weeks from today!), I’m trying to include as many fresh, local ingredients into our Thanksgiving meal as possible. And for the record, that meal involves cake. And pie.

Don’t judge–you know you want cake, too. Or pie. Or maybe both.

Here in North Carolina, we produce sweet potatoes. A lot of them. Not only are sweet potatoes naturally sweeter than their other tuber cousins, they are packed with vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. After watching THIS video about sweet potatoes, we typically buy organic sweet potatoes because who wants a “bud nip” cake? Not me. Not even with ice cream.

This cake is my “go-to” cake for holiday parties, autumn pot lucks and any time I want to look super fabulous to my family. The sweet potatoes make for a very moist cake. The original recipe is from Southern Living, but I’ve tweaked it a bit over time. I do use whole wheat flour, so my cake doesn’t have a super fine crumb, but it is still tastes great! It is not health food, but it is far better for you than grocery store cakes, which substitute hydrogenated oils and lots of sugar for more expensive (and flavorful) ingredients. They hope you can’t tell the difference, but there is a reason those cakes all taste more or less the same.

You can make this cake without the praline glaze, but I highly recommend making the glaze. The cake itself is not very sweet, so the glaze adds a lot without making the cake too sugary.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Praline Glaze

Cake

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups organic cane sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (2 large or 3 smaller potatoes)
  • 3 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour (I love King Arthur’s flour)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt cake pan.
  2. Using a standing mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together until creamy.
  3. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Add sweet potatoes and vanilla and mix well.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix well.
  6. Gradually add the flour to the wet mixture, beating at low speed (unless you plan on wearing the flour) and mix just to combine.
  7. This batter will be very thick!
  8. Pour the batter into the greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 70 to 75 minutes.
  9. Remove cake pan from oven and cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove the cake from the pan onto the wire rack and cool for 1 hour.
  11. When the cake is near the end of its cooling time, make the glaze.

Praline Glaze

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp. milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup spiced pecans (you can make these, but I buy them already “spiced” at Trader Joes)
  1. Chop the spiced pecans into rough pieces, but not too small.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter and milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk constantly and boil for one minute.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Whisk in powdered sugar, a little at a time and mix with the whisk until smooth.
  4. Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until glaze begins to thicken.
  5. Pour over cooled cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake glaze with the spiced pecans.

Tip: “clean” the saucepan by dipping more pecans into the glaze clinging to the pan. Eat happily, considering this to be your baker’s reward 🙂

Day 300-Pork Tenderloin with Sticky Fig Jam

I love making a big, Sunday supper, especially if it involves some kind of roast or chicken. Not only do we all slow down and savor a quiet dinner before the next busy week begins, but we usually end up with leftovers that carry us through the beginning of the week. If I’m going to cook up a whole mess of green beans, field peas or collards, it’s going to be on Sunday. With the house clean, laundry done and football on, it’s my prime cooking time.

For these dinners, pork tenderloin is very popular in our house. Actually, any form of pork is popular, but tenderloins are great because they are flavorful and quick to prepare. We buy our pork from Mae Farm in Louisburg, NC, and have never had anything that wasn’t amazing.

Side note: If you aren’t buying your meat directly from a local farmer, I urge you to find a source and give it a try. There is no comparison with how tender and full of flavor local meats are compared to store-bought. It will rock your world. Unless you’re a vegetarian.

I made and canned this Sticky Fig Jam over the summer, and the combination of the figs and balsamic vinegar are pretty incredible on pork! You could substitute fig jam and maybe add a little balsamic vinegar to it for a similar effect.

Pork Tenderloin with Sticky Fig Jam

  • 8 oz. jar of Sticky Fig Jam
  • 2 tbsp. minced, fresh rosemary
  • 4 tsp. herbes de Provence
  • 3 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins
  • 12 or so slices of bacon (preferably not thick-cut for this)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  1. Remove tenderloins from packaging and let sit on a plate for about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat broiler to high.
  3. Mix the minced fresh herbes and dried herbs together in a small bowl. Add 3 tbsp. of olive oil and stir.
  4. Rub tenderloins with the herb mixture to cover. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Wrap tenderloins with bacon strips and tuck ends under the meat. Place tenderloins in a small roasting pan.
  6. Broil tenderloins close to heat source for about 3 minutes or until bacon is crisped.
  7. Set oven to 350 degrees, lower roasting pan to center of oven and top tenderloins with the Sticky Fig Jam.
  8. Roast for 30-35 minutes.
  9. Remove tenderloins from the over and let rest for 5 minutes. Carve and serve!

Day 299–Sweet Potato/Apple Hash

The softer, orange-fleshed variety of sweet po...

Orange sweet potatoes are abundant here in North Carolina and they are packed with nutrients and vitamins!

I have a super abundance of sweet potatoes right now, mostly because I keep getting them in my Produce Box and I was too busy to mess around with them. Thankfully, they keep well for weeks, so I could park them to the side and wait until I had more time. Most of the recipes I have for sweet potatoes involve long cooking times or messing about with pots of water–neither of which was possible until this week. But this weekend, I created a recipe that is super easy, quick, healthy, and used ingredients I already had around the house. We served this with a beef roast from our Farmhand Foods meat box and it was really good–savory and a teensy bit sweet, too!

Sweet Potato/Apple Hash

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 3 large apples
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/8 c. pure maple syrup
  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and dice by cutting into planks, then matchsticks, then cutting across the matchsticks for a small dice. Set aside.
  2. Core, peel and dice the apple so that the apple and the sweet potato pieces are about the same size. Set aside.
  3. Peel and dice the onion. Set aside.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan to medium high heat. Add the sweet potato and a pinch of salt. Saute for 2-3 minutes until potatoes start to soften.
  5. Add the onion and continue to saute for another 2-3 minutes until onion is translucent.
  6. Add the apple, salt and pepper to taste and additional olive oil if needed. Saute for about 8 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft.
  7. Drizzle with maple syrup, correct for seasoning and serve!