Day 82–Saladpalooza

Our inaugural saladpalooza ingredients!

Spring is salad time! Spring greens are so fresh and tasty here–the lettuce is still sweet and not in danger of bolting, carrots are in and broccoli is still coming in from the winter gardens.

My family loves a salad bar–it’s nice to have choices and build a salad just the way you want it. But restaurant salad bars tend to use bagged lettuce and pre-cut vegetables shipped halfway across the country. And don’t even ask where those eggs on the salad bar come from. So, I wondered to myself, how can we make a better salad bar concept at home?

Enter Saladpalooza! Why “palooza”? No reason except it sounded good to me at the time. It’s all in the marketing, right??

Saladpalooza night featured our farmers market finds, all cleaned, chopped and ready for salad-building.

We had:

  • Organic Red leaf lettuce from Ben’s Produce
  • Broccoli from the state farmers market
  • Organic mushrooms (leftovers)
  • Hothouse tomatoes and cucumber from the state farmers market
  • Organic carrots from Coon Rock Farm
  • Avocado
  • Organic spring onions from Heaven On Earth Organics
  • Hard boiled eggs from Water Oaks Farm
  • Leftover grated cheese
  • Homemade ranch dressing from Creative Noshing’s recipe

    Spring is the time when fresh lettuce shines! This red leaf was sweet, crunchy and delicious!

Similar to our pizza challenge, everyone gets to choose what goes on their salad and no one gets pestered to eat something they don’t like. When there are only good choices, it doesn’t matter who chooses what! And the mini-salad bar uses up small amounts of leftover vegetables, making it a good “clean up” meal.

I’d love to say Ellie ate loads of vegetables, but in truth, she didn’t eat with us last night, so that is still untested territory. Tom and I declared it a delicious success and will be trying it again soon!

Try a saladpalooza night this spring and see if it’s a hit with your family. As for us, this is all that was left!

Day 77–A Farmer’s Market Conundrum

I don’t mean to be grouchy, but Poole’s Diner, will you quit buying all the organic broccoli at the Farmer’s Market? For the second week in a row, I’ve headed out to the state farmer’s market and made a beeline for the only organic farmer out there on weekdays. Both weeks, I have arrived just after the buyer from a local restaurant has cleaned them out of organic broccoli and swiss chard. UGH!!! And GRRRR!!!

Now, as a responsible adult, I know that really, all the broccoli and chard is for sale and that’s life, right? Snooze, you lose. A farmer has to make his/her living and chefs have people to feed. But shopping ettiquete would dictate that you don’t show up and take everything, especially when you could make an arrangement with the farmer for a commercial purchase. And selling ettiquete would seem to be that you don’t sell your entire stock of a popular item to one buyer, leaving your regular customers with…beets. Now I loves me some beets, but not in place of broccoli.

This wouldn’t be a big deal, but apparently no one else at the market has broccoli or swiss chard, organic or otherwise, leaving me here, whining and bereft of spring veggies. Hopefully the Western Wake Farmer’s Market can do me a solid today. ‘Cause I really can’t stand my own whining and it could be a long week.

Some of you who read this blog are farmers and some of you are farmer’s market shoppers. So what do YOU think? Is the ettiquete rule silly? Do I need to take my lunch hour at 9:00 a.m. so I can secure the coveted vegetables? As the demand for organic, local vegetables increases, I can definitely see this kind of thing becomming an issue.

So be prepared for some competition if you’re headed out to the farmer’s market this morning. As for me, I’ll be tying on my track shoes and putting a Ben Hur spike on my recycled shopping bag. Get outta mama’s way, peoples. I’m in it for the broccoli…

Day 68–Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp a la Jerry

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Roasted Broccoli, Peppers and Shrimp--Easy and Healthy!

My friend Jerry sent me this recipe (thanks, Jerry!) and I finally had a chance to add it to our weekly menu. Fresh, local, organic broccoli and NC shrimp–a simple, and amazingly good combination. Although it wasn’t in the original recipe, I added some sliced red bell pepper since I had it handy. This recipe is light, but satisfying and quite tasty. Don’t skimp on the coriander seeds or hot pepper–they infuse the entire dish and make it something special. Healthy, quick and easy to make, this recipe hits all the marks for a succesful, weeknight dinner. And even better, it only uses one bowl, a cutting board and one baking sheet, making cleanup super quick.

A note about shrimp. I bought large-sized shrimp and 10 minutes was just right for roasting. If you buy medium or small shrimp, you may want to back off on the roasting time. If you don’t have access to local or U.S. shrimp (or you just don’t like shrimp), you could probably try this with a thick, locally available fish (here that would be tuna or swordfish) cut into chunks. Scallops might be good also!

You could also play around with what vegetables to include, and make this a truly seasonal dish. I can’t wait to see how we can work our Produce Box veggies into this dish over the spring and summer!

Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp a la Jerry

This makes 3 servings or 2 servings for hungry seafood lovers!

  • 2 lbs. broccoli
  • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • One red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp. of ground)
  • 1/8 tsp. hot chili powder (I used red pepper flakes)
  • 1 lemon, zested with lemon reserved for serving
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
  • Rice, quinoa or other cooked grains
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Cut the broccoli into large florets with some stem remaining.
    3. Cut the red bell pepper into strips and cut each strip in half crosswise.
    4. In a bowl, toss the broccoli florets and bell pepper with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, coriander, cumin, hot chili pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Put broccoli and pepper mix on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
    6. In the bowl, toss shrimp with remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.
    7. Add to the broccoli mix and pop back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and opaque, but not overcooked.
    8. Serve over rice with lemon wedges and you are done!

      The broccoli and peppers before roasting--so pretty!

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The final product just before the feast!

Day 64–Starting Week 10–Budget and Menu

Well, we are beginning week 10 of our journey with lots of good eats and with an eye toward spring and all the delicious fruits and vegetables that will be coming our way in another 4-6 weeks! So rather than look at sweet potatoes as “sweet potatoes…again??” we’re looking at them a bit nostalgically, knowing that it may be another 5-6 months before we see them again. Here is how we did at the market–a pretty typical week by this point. We went $4.00 over, but I splurged on two fresh, pasture-raised chickens, which just seemed too tempting to let go!

  • Heaven on Earth Organics (sweet potato, tomatoes, broccoli, onion, greens): $16.00
  • Mae Farm (chorizo): $8.00
  • Rare Earth Farm (local buttermilk): $4.00
  • Rainbow Farm (fresh chickens-2): $28.00
  • Lowes Food (pastry): $5.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, limes, grated cheese, organic sugar, peppers, lettuce, etc.): $35.00
  • Earps Seafood (NC shrimp): $8.00

Our total for the week: $104.00

So what’s to eat this week? We have a mix of hearty home cooking and fresh spring dishes–that seems to match our weather as well! In honor of National Pound Cake Day, I’ll be making a lemon pound cake–yum!

This week’s menu

  • Sunday–Roast, fresh chickens, sweet potatoes, sautéed kale, whole wheat buttermilk biscuits
  • Monday–Chicken and chorizo taquitos, multigrain mix, salad
  • Tuesday–Leftover taquitos
  • Wednesday–Roasted broccoli and shrimp over brown rice
  • Thursday–Chicken pot pie, salad
  • Friday–Leftover pot pie and greens
  • Saturday–Chicken noodle soup and biscuits

 Have a wonderful, healthy and delicious week!

Day 39–Backyard Farming–Can We Grow Our Own?

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My Pheonix-like kale is either a complete anomaly or a sign of hope...

You can’t get any more local or sustainable than growing your own vegetables or raising your own chickens. Some have wondered why I spend so much of my time tracking down local, organic farmers, when I could just grow produce myself. Well, there’s a story behind that, but before I go there, I want to thank someone who has made my blogger soul bloom.

I want to thank Creative Noshing for bestowing the Liebster Award upon my little blog. The Liebster Award is given from bloggers to new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. What means so much to me is that I love the Creative Noshing blog myself and if you haven’t checked it out, you should! Terrific recipes and wonderful writing. Now I get to share the award with up to 5 other bloggers! A nice way to pass along positive encouragement!

I am in turn selecting the following blogs for the Liebster Blog Award, and I hope you will visit their sites. They are well-written blogs that share great information and have a good sense of humor and style.

Stay Healthy with Samantha

The Lovely Locavore Ladies of Boston

Hillsborough Cheese Company

Congratulations to them and many thanks to Creative Noshing. You made my day!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program …

In regards to growing my food, I would say I have a black thumb, but I don’t think that is accurate. My yard has a black thumb and I am sticking to that story. I’ve had wonderful gardens in my past–vegetable gardens and herb gardens chock full of heirloom tomatoes, squash, okra and lettuce. My current house, however, exists in some Bermuda Triangle of gardening. I have beautiful, mature oak trees, which provide shade–something humans enjoy more than vegetable plants. On the flip side, the few open spaces I have seem to be real hot spots. And then there are the bunnies. Not sure what it is about Cary, but our wild bunnies proliferate like, well, rabbits. They are really cute, but not so much when they are eating all your broccoli plants.

Despite these challenges, I see a small ray of hope. The kale we planted last fall has come back rather Pheonix-like from its earlier bunny attack and looks lovely. It’s just enough to get me looking at seeds again. Knowing I have a membership to The Produce Box certainly helps take the pressure off having to feed my family from three raised beds of sad little plants. Then again, maybe herbs are a better choice considering my hot, mediterranean-like sunny spots.

The weather is warm(ish), the sun is out, and hope springs eternal…Maybe this year…

Day 25–Oprah and Coco Chanel In My Kitchen

Paula Deen (in any iteration) has never been in my kitchen, but I do have help this week from Oprah. That’s right–Oprah. And Coco Chanel, too. These two ladies are helping me make one stylin’, yummy vegetable quiche this week (see recipe below). In fact, they’re helping me get dinner on the table without hardly a feather ruffled. For reals.

You see, Oprah and Coco Chanel are hens who have the pleasure of residing with Eric and Lisa Forehand of Water Oaks Farm in Durham (www.wateroaksfarm.org). In addition to heritage breed chickens, Lisa and Eric also love their miniature donkeys and Eric makes a wicked variety of homebrew. I don’t think I have ever seen chickens get so much love and care (I’m pretty sure Eric puts that much love into his beer, as well). If you are a doubter (in which case, I don’t know why you’re reading this blog to begin with), go and see their Chick Cam. Go on! Watch! I’ll wait…

See? When the big ol’ reincarnation happens for me, I want to come back as a chicken or donkey at Water Oaks Farm. Except I want my name to be Angelina Jolie.

Happy chickens laying happy eggs. If you’re not all about “happy,” but you are all about health, consider buying locally produced cage free eggs because:

  • They taste better. WAAAAAAY better.
  • They have more protein than mass-produced eggs because the hen’s diet is richer.
  • You will support your local economy, not an agribusiness.
  • You may help perpetuate heritage breed fowl, which keeps our genetic population of chickens healthier and more diverse.

Here is my “go-to” recipe for quiche. It is by far and away the best quiche recipe I have ever made and is much more like a traditional French quiche (light and custardy) than most dense restaurant quiches. The trick is to use vegetables that are dry, so cook veggies ahead and squeeze the dickens out of them before adding to the quiche. Bon Appetite!

Spinach Quiche

  • Pastry dough or 1 frozen deep dish pie crust
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 8 oz. swiss and Gruyère cheese mix (check Trader Joes on this)
  • 1 bag spinach or other greens cooked and squeezed of all excess water
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  1. Prepare pastry and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Heat olive oil in a pan and cook onions over medium heat until soft and slightly browned (about 5 min.). Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
  4. Add spinach to pan and cook until very wilted. Toss spinach frequently to keep from scorching. When greens have collapsed and are fully cooked, remove from pan and put onto a towel or paper towel. Roll the towel up and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the greens (if you use frozen greens, you will need to do this as well once the greens are defrosted). Do NOT skip this step.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream and milk until blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cheese and stir until combined.
  6. Take the pastry crust from the refrigerator and arrange the onions and spinach on the pastry.
  7. Pour the egg mixture into the pastry.
  8. Sprinkle nutmeg across the top of the quiche.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees about 30-40 minutes–until top is golden and puffy and the quiche does not “wobble” in the center when gently moved.
  10. Serve immediately. Bow and accept the culinary accolades from your family. Make sure to thank Oprah and Coco Chanel.

Day 22–Starting Week 4–Budget and Menu

Well, Week 3, despite my less than stellar shopping experience, ended up a great success. Pizza challenge night and “breakfast for dinner” with our farm fresh eggs were both popular events that we’ll repeat! We even made our 75% challenge! The shopping experience went much more smoothly this week, although we have a TON of greens. We will definitely be getting our fresh greens in! We also picked up our first meat box from Farmhand Foods. The box included a braising cut (2 beef shanks), a grilling cut (hangar steak) and a roasting cut (mini boneless ham) all from local farmers. Since that’s a lot to eat in one week, we’ve frozen the steak and ham and are having the shanks this week. To make budgeting easier, I cut the cost of the box ($45) into thirds and will add each third into my budget as we use the meat. So how did we do budget-wise? Here is the breakdown:

  • Farmhand Food (beef shanks from meat box): $15.00
  • Mae Farm (Italian sausage, eggs): $12.00
  • Farmer’s Market-various vendors (onions, carrots, locally ground grits): $6.00
  • Farmer’s Market-Heaven on Earth Organics (collard greens, kale, salad mix, pea shoots, broccoli, sweet pepper): $23.00
  • Trader Joe’s (organic canned tomatoes, organic garlic, organic apples, soy milk, frozen fruit, wild caught salmon, yogurt, wine): $45.13

Total this week: $101.13 (YAY!!!!)

What good eats are we having this week? Here is what’s on tap at our house:

Sunday–Braised beef and sausage ragu over creamy grits, sautéed collard greens (Recipe will be posted this week)

Monday–Broccoli quiche and salad greens with pea shoots

Tuesday–Poached, wild caught salmon with sautéed greens and red quinoa

Wednesday–Leftover quiche or sandwiches (scout night–everyone fends for themselves)

Thursday–Leftover ragu over whole wheat pasta

Friday–out (date night!)

Saturday–Pizza challenge using leftover vegetables and cheese carryover from last week

As usual, breakfasts are toast, bagels, oatmeal and lunches are sandwiches or leftovers. I see more kale chips in our immediate future!

Have a happy and fulfilling week!