Day 153–Lemon Blueberry Pie

Homemade lemon curd

Some fruits magically combine to make wonderful flavors. For me, the combination of lemon and blueberry is just amazing. This pie is easy to make, doesn’t require much oven time and packs well for a picnic. Lemon curd (above) makes all the difference in this pie. The double bottom crust packs a surprise of sugar/cinnamon and pecans that sets off the tart fruit really well. I love the fresh flavors that, to me, say “It’s Summertime!!!!”

Lemon Blueberry Pie

  • 2 pie crusts for a 9″ pie (I actually buy these pre-made in the refrigerator section because my crusts are not so good)
  • 1  c. organic cane sugar, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 3 c. fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. quick cooking tapioca
  • 1/2 c. lemon curd
  1. Unroll 1 pie crust into a 9″ pie pan. Brush the bottom and sides of the crust with the melted butter.
  2. Mix 1/2 c. sugar with the cinnamon. Sprinkle over the butter on the pie crust.
  3. Top cinnamon/sugar mixture with chopped pecans. Drizzle with any remaining butter.
  4. Top with the second crust. Crimp the edges of the crust and trim. Using a fork, poke holes in the top level crust.
  5. Bake crusts for approximately 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  6. In a saucepan, add 1 cup of the blueberries, 1 c. of sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and tapioca. Mash blueberries a bit. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 5 minutes (until thick).
  7. Add remaining blueberries and stir well to combine. Remove from heat.
  8. Spread lemon curd over the bottom of the cooked crust (I LOVE lemon curd, so I probably use more than what is listed in the recipe).
  9. Top lemon curd with the blueberry mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
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Day 61–Coon Rock Farm

Lately I have been buying produce and eggs from Coon Rock Farm, a family owned farm on the Eno River in Hillsborough. From Harukai turnips to fresh carrots and tatsoi greens, everything I’ve purchased has been delicious. At the Western Wake Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago, I tried a sample of their chorizo (it is impossible to pass their tent without trying it since you can smell it cooking and for “some reason” I am always hungry). It was amazing. I keep forgetting to add it to our rotation, but maybe next week.

Coon Rock Farm (www.coonrockfarm.com) is the epitome of “farm to fork”. The Holcomb family not only operates the farm (which dates back to the 1800s), they also operate two highly reputable restaurants, Zely & Ritz in Raleigh and Piedmont Restaurant in Durham. Both restaurants feature the vegetables, fruit, eggs, lamb, beef, pork and eggs produced on the farm.

According to the Holcombs, farm produce is all organic and mostly heirloom varieties (which explains why my carrots were unbelievably “carrot-y” in flavor). All animals are pasture-raised and grass-fed, with no hormones or antibiotics. I love that this is a family all working together to bring us good food while nurturing the young farmers who will continue to feed us into the future.

Coon Rock Farm sells at three local farmer’s markets–Midtown Farmer’s Market at North Hills, Western Wake Farmer’s Market in Cary and the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market. They also have a CSA which you can read about on their website.

As for the name? Apparently, the name Coon Rock Farm comes from a large rock that juts into the Eno River and has the historical name of “Coon Rock”.  Regardless, the food produced by this family is wonderful, sustainable, healthy food, and I for one am looking forward to some chorizo on Saturday!

Day 53–Fruit Smoothies

fruit

What’s for breakfast???

In our house, we like to have breakfast together at the table, even though we are not all…ahem… “morning people”. One of the highlights of our morning is a frozen fruit smoothie. When local fruit is in season, I buy it fresh and store it in the freezer. By this point in the winter, however, it’s all store-bought, organic frozen fruit because the local fruit is long gone. I highly recommend the frozen fruit at Trader Joes, if you have one. Their prices are far below any regular grocery and they have a decent selection. Whole Foods has a better overall selection, but per ounce, their fruit is more expensive.

You can use any fruit for this recipe, but I recommend using frozen fruit instead of raw fruit because the consistency of the smoothie becomes very thick–almost like ice cream. If you’re using bananas, just peel them and stick them in the fridge overnight. But if you like it slushy, then you can adjust the recipe and use raw fruit with ice and make yourself happy! We do not add honey or sugar to our smoothies–the yogurt adds some sweetness and really, fruit is pretty sweet as it is.

We make our smoothies in a blender. Not just a blender, but the blender. A couple of years ago I invested (and I do not use that word lightly) in a VitaMix–the queen of all blenders. VitaMix blenders are flat-out expensive. I purchased mine on Amazon and got the previous year’s model (new) for $250 instead of $450. We have used the heck out of that thing, I tell you. It will puree frozen fruit in about 15 seconds with no huge fruit pieces floating around. As expensive as it was, it has been worth every penny. And at two years of daily use, our per day cost is .34. I can deal with that.

Fruit Smoothies (2 6 oz-ish servings)

  • 2 cups frozen fruit
  • 1 container yogurt (vanilla is always a good choice, but so is coconut!)
  • 2-3 cups soy milk or almond milk (the amount you need depends on the moisture of the fruit)

Put fruit, yogurt and 2 cups of soy milk into blender and blend at high speed. If mixture is too thick, add additional milk as needed and blend.

Scoop into glasses and serve with spoons and/or straws!

Day 33–Are You Joining a CSA?

CSA Haul the First

Today is 70 degrees and definitely doesn’t feel like February. But here we are in winter, dreaming of all the wonderful fruits and vegetables yet to come in the next few months.

For CSA (community-supported agriculture) organizations, this is the end of the sign up season. We have just renewed our membership in The Produce Box, which is a modified version of a CSA. I love the concept of the CSA, but the pickup idea just wasn’t working for our schedules (or my memory). Wondering about getting your local veggies this spring and summer? Here are some good options.

CSA

CSAs are membership “clubs” typically organized between a farmer and individual members of the public. In the winter, members purchase  “shares” in the farms future bounty and pay anywhere from $400-$500 up-front. This fee gives the farmer funds to purchase seeds, upgrade equipment and get ready for the busy season. Once the farm is producing, each member receives a weekly box or other amount of whatever is harvested that week and this goes on throughout the growing season. The benefits to the farmer are great–he or she knows has money to invest in the farm upfront and has a ready-made customer base (although members don’t pay for the weekly boxes, there are usually opportunities to purchase other items). The benefits to members include a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables and having a connection to a community farm. If you want all-organic produce, you can work specifically with an organic farmer. This all works really well unless the weather is bad or there is a blight and farm production is reduced. In that case, it is a good learning experience about the gamble of farming.

Modified CSA

Modified CSAs are membership clubs that work with a select group of farmers, rather than just one and they tend to offer a greater variety of products. Like traditional CSAs, there is usually some up-front or membership fee and after that, they vary widely. Some provide one standard box of produce each week, others give members varying degrees of choice in what is in their box.

Benefits to the farms are the same as a traditional CSA, and include also that the farmer does not have to run a separate business. Benefits to members include a wider variety of produce and a small safety net in case one farmer has trouble producing.

Because modified CSAs are run by a third-party, members should ask a lot of questions, including how much of the weekly or annual payment goes directly to the farmer. Other questions to ask might include:

  • Who are the farmers? Where are their farms located?
  • Can I visit the farms? How can I contact the farmer?
  • How are farmers chosen for participation?
  • How sustainable are the farms in the group? What are their farming protocols?
  • How much of the membership fees/payments are used for overhead (management, marketing)?
  • Can I see the most recent annual financial statement?
  • If all fees are paid in advance, how are these funds managed? Is there a board or is this an individual? Who has authorization to spend the funds and how is the risk of fraud addressed?

I know that last question sounds harsh and it might be hard to ask, but some modified CSAs charge an annual fee of up to $500. That’s a lot of money for a family and if the farmer isn’t in charge of the money, you need to know who is. Just sayin’.

Farmer’s Market

The farmer’s market is still a great way to get the widest variety of locally produced vegetables quickly after harvest. Farmer’s markets are springing up everywhere these days, which is great for consumers. To find a farmer’s market in your area you can go to www.sustainabletable.org and search by zip code.

Benefits to farmers include one-stop delivery of their products and a direct connection with customers. The downside to farmers is that farmer’s markets are a lot of work and their customer base is heavily dependent on the weather that day. Benefits to consumers include the ability to price shop among vendors, ask questions to the farmers themselves (or their family members), and see the amazing variety of seasonal products available in your area.

Farmer’s market caveat: make sure the market where you shop requires vendors to a) grow the food themselves and b) farm within 100 miles or less of your market. This prevents commercial food vendors from selling you the same veggies they are delivering to the supermarket, which often come from another state or country.

Grow Yer Own

Ok, this probably should have been first on the list. Growing your own vegetables or fruits is an incredibly fulfilling task. From my experience, I can say that walking out to your own backyard and picking vegetables for dinner is tremendously satisfying. You can’t get any fresher or more local than that! With a sunny patch and a little know-how, you can produce wonderful results for your family.

Gardening in your yard does have a few requirements: sun, consistent water and patience. My yard lacks adequate sun and once the mosquitoes turn out in force, it’s really hard to make myself water every other night, which is what we have to do when the weather turns hot. So, raising veggies has not really worked for me (more on that in another post this week!), but I do have plans…

The only downside to growing your own vegetables is that if you aren’t successful, you pay for the seeds/plants and still end up buying vegetables elsewhere. That’s where I am and why we joined the flexible CSA.

No matter what your resources, there are options for fresh vegetables coming soon! How will YOU get your veggies this year?