Day 345–What’s Fresh at the Market

Brussel sprouts

The weather here in central North Carolina is having a case of indecision. Although we have had some chilly days, most of December has been in the 70s. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it is a little hard to get in the holiday spirit when you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And flipflops.

One of the wonderful side effects of this warm weather is that our farmers are still harvesting lots of great vegetables! Here is what’s fresh this week!

  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Bok choi
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Pecans
  • Sweet potatoes (orange and white)
  • Greenhouse tomatoes
  • Winter squash–acorn, butternut, pattypan
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Rutabegas
  • Radish

Have a wonderful week and don’t forget to support your local farmers as you make your holiday meal plans!

Advertisements

Day 334–What’s Fresh at the Market

turnips

turnips (Photo credit: Joanna C Dobson)

Our farmer’s markets are definitely in winter mode. At the NC Farmer’s Market, many farmers who feature summer crops are gone and have been replaced with Christmas tree and firewood vendors. Our weekend markets have reduced their hours because, really, who wants to get outside at 8am when it is 30 degrees outside to score some fresh kale. Not me, that’s who. Even though the markets have lost their summer bounty and a bit of their festive air, they are still full of goodness!

Here is what is available now at central NC markets:

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Turnips (and turnip greens!)
  • Beets (and beet greens!)
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Lettuce
  • Greenhouse tomatoes
  • Rutabegas
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Pumpkins
  • Butternut squash
  • Acorn squash
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Pecans
  • Apples

Day 308–Starting Week 45–Budget and Menu

What a fun week we have ahead of us! It’s making for some challenging meal planning, but we are going to enjoy it! Our farmer’s market is chock full of squash, sweet potatoes, kale, collards (which are better after a frost, so we’re leaving them for now), Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Apples are in supply, but pricier than usual. In preparation for Thanksgiving, I have ordered our heritage breed turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm and have a small, boneless ham from Mae Farm as well. But in the weeks before Thanksgiving, we are still managing to eat well and make the most of our fall crops!

Our budget this week is $94.82, but we are eating out one night (Tom’s Birthday!!!), so that’s one dinner that is not on our menu (and I can guarantee it will cost more than $5.28), so we’re not really ahead food-wise, but we will have fun celebrating. Also, Tom #besthusbandever surprised me with tickets to my first ever NFL football game to see my beloved Broncos play in Charlotte (awwwww!). Since food at the stadium costs a small fortune, we are planning to save money by emptying our fridge tailgating with our pork roast leftovers and some other yummy homemade foods! I figure we are probably saving about $1,000 $50 not buying food at the stadium, so we are technically ahead this week, right? Right? I think this is why I am not an accountant.

Regardless of how you count your pennies, have a healthy and happy week!

Budget

  • The Produce Box (chestnuts, carrots, broccoli, apples, purple potatoes, grape tomatoes, cilantro, spinach, cauliflower, Swiss chard, apple cider, sweet potatoes): $29.00
  • Mae Farm (pork roast, Italian sausage, chorizo): $26.00
  • Rainbow Farm (chicken thighs): $7.00
  • Trader Joes (rice, rolls, cheese, tortillas, frozen fruit, soy milk, dried cranberries)$26.82
  • The Mitchell Pantry (canned marinara sauce, peach salsa): $6.00

Menu–Here is what we’re having this week!

  • Wednesday–Sweet potato/Swiss chard quesadillas w/homemade peach salsa, quinoa
  • Thursday–Chicken-veggie stir fry with rice
  • Friday–Slow cooker pork roast w/apples, cider and thyme; roasted potatoes, squash
  • Saturday–Out for Tom’s Birthday Celebration!!!
  • Sunday–NFL Tailgating Special–Pulled pork w/cider slaw on rolls, broccoli salad, apples, and sweet potato pound cake
  • Monday–Baked pasta with homemade marinara sauce and Mae Farm Italian sausage
  • Tuesday–Leftover pasta

20121110-131805.jpg

Day 293–Sauteed Cabbage and Apples

Various apples

Apples combined with cabbage? Yummy and soul satisfying!

I am simply loco for apples and pumpkins this time of year. I think Trader Joes has about 20,000 new pumpkin flavored foods this fall and I’ll probably try about 5,000 of those before December. Yum.

In spite of our late freeze this year, which took a major toll on our NC apple crops, we’re still finding delicious, local apples at our farmer’s markets. The prices are higher, but they are so delicious that I’m willing to splurge on apples to eat in hand and to use in recipes, but making apple butter or canning apples probably won’t happen this year.

We made this recipe a couple of weeks ago when we received a lovely head of green cabbage in our Produce Box. Not only is this dish a  delicious way to enjoy local cabbage, but it also is very economical and deeply satisfying. Unlike some vegetable dishes, this seems to taste even better warmed up later, so make plenty! We served this with pan seared pork chops from Mae Farm in Louisburg, NC and it made for a simple, but incredibly good meal! You could also serve this as a main course with some crusty bread and have a terrific rustic winter meal! If you want a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use 3 tbsp. of olive oil and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Sautéed Cabbage and Apples

  • 8 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 3 large apples (granny smith or gala), peeled, cored and sliced thick
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon pieces over medium heat and stir often to keep them from sticking. Cook until browned, but not too crisp (about 6-7 minutes).
  2. Remove bacon from pot and set aside. Reduce drippings to about 3 tbsp.
  3. Add onion and carrots to the pot and cook over medium/high heat about 4 minutes until onion is translucent.
  4. Add apple cider vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits.
  5. Add the cabbage and stir to combine. Cook about 10 minutes until cabbage softens. Add apples, stock and coriander. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Check frequently to make sure the cabbage is not sticking. Add a bit of water or more stock if needed.
  6. Add bacon back into the pot and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve!

Day 266–Starting Week 39–Budget and Menu

We’re enjoying the last of the field tomatoes!

The weeks sure are speeding past! I always feel like the time between Halloween and New Years is a big slide and woooosh! Before you know it, you’re into the next year, looking around thinking “what the heck just happened?” We are definitely into our fall growing season, although there are still some vestiges of summer left. This week we are getting acorn squash AND a watermelon. Weird, but I’ll take it!

Our fall greens are doing well so far–no bunny damage yet, thanks to some product Tom sprays on my raised beds. I think it’s some form of coyote urine, which baffles me. We are actually paying for pee. If someone’s dog came and sprayed my raised beds, I would be highly irritated, but when it comes from Lowes, it’s ok.

We are rocking this week’s budget, which is mostly vegetarian and totally yummy. In addition, I’ll be making some maple oatmeal bread, which will be breakfast along with some more crock pot applesauce. Now that I have put up about 100 quarts of tomato sauce, my trips to the farmer’s market are a bit more contained, which is helping our budget also!

We spent $87.21 this week on groceries, which I’m thinking is a record low for us, but I will have to check. The eggplant we are using came in last week’s produce box, so that’s a carry over, which helps! Here is how the budget breaks down for this week:

  • The Produce Box (apples, watermelon, green beans, acorn squash, yellow squash, tomatoes, red and green bell peppers): $23.00
  • Farmhand Foods meat csa (Local hangar steak): $12.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Co (mozzarella): $6.00
  • Mae Farm (eggs): $4.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, yogurt, soy milk, olive oil, shampoo, oats): $42.12

What are we having this week? Here is our early fall menu:

  • Wednesday–leftovers or cereal (Girl Scout night)
  • Thursday–Eggplant Parmesan
  • Friday–Acorn squash and apple soup with yellow squash muffins
  • Saturday–Leftover Eggplant Parmesan
  • Sunday–Grilled hangar steak, green beans, mushroom risotto
  • Monday–Pepper steak stir fry w/leftover steak, rice
  • Tuesday–Baked sweet potatoes stuffed with apples and pecans

Enjoy all the wonderful bounty of local vegetables that fall brings us! Happy shopping and eating this week!

Day 259–Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

20120918-125708.jpg

Okra, like eggplant, is the kind of vegetable that elicits strong reactions from people. I personally love it and I’m sad that we are at the end of okra season in NC. We eat it roasted, fried, sautéed, cooked in gumbo and stewed (my personal favorite). There is some special food magic that happens when you combine okra and tomatoes. Actually, there is some wonderful magic when you combine almost anything and tomatoes. And when you cook these two veggie BFFs slowly and stew them together with onions and garlic, oh my. I could eat that for lunch and dinner every day. I keep my okra whole for this–I don’t mind the slight slime factor with okra, but keeping it whole while you cook it does decrease that aspect. This dish is easy and very healthy. If you have some leftover okra and some extra tomatoes you’re not sure what to do with, try this!

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 quart okra (best if they are smallish), washed and stems trimmed
  • 3-4 large tomatoes (about 2 lbs.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to prevent over browning. Saute for 2-3 minutes until onions are soft and translucent.
  2. While onions are cooking, core tomatoes and chop each tomato into 4-6 even pieces.
  3. Add okra to the onions and stir well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium and saute about 3 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes to the pan, turn the heat to medium low and cook about 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes have given up their juices and the mixture starts to thicken. The okra should be very soft. If not, continue cooking, adding small amounts of water if the mixture gets dry.
  5. Correct for seasoning and serve!

Day 248–The Apple Situation

English: An apple tree with apples.

Eating locally means eating big when you have a surplus (can I tell you how many peaches we ate this summer?) and paying attention to shortages when crops fail or the weather doesn’t cooperate. Take apples, for example. A few months ago, I was talking with a farmer at the market and he mentioned that apples would be in short supply this year. Although we had a wonderfully mild winter, we also had a hard freeze very late in the season. So late that the apple trees had already started to flower. That is bad. Very bad. North Carolina lost 80% of its apple crop in 24 hours.

I’ve talked with several apple vendors at the State Farmer’s Market and those who have apples are from areas a little east of the mountains or high up in the mountains. Apparently, the coldest air sank into the valleys, destroying those crops, but leaving some other orchards at higher elevations untouched.

I saw this blog from one of our favorite restaurants, Lucky 32 and thought I would share it with you. It really shows how a committment to eating locally (or cooking locally) can translate into revising your entire fall menu. Sure they could go to Super Walmart and get apples from Mexico, but that’s not what they’re all about. And that’s why we love them! Enjoy the read!

http://lucky32southernkitchen.com/2012/09/06/the-locavores-guide-to-this-seasons-apple-shortage/

Day 241–What’s Fresh at the Market

20120830-171944.jpg

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 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 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, sautéed 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!