Day 117–A Locavore’s Lunch–Sarah Cecilia Good Food Company

We love buying our fresh, locally produced vegetables, meats, cheeses, etc. and cooking at home, but sometimes the drive to cook just isn’t there. And sometimes dinner is so good that we don’t have leftovers for lunch the next day. I found myself hungry and bereft of lunch options yesterday while also visiting the newly reopened Downtown Farmer’s Market in Raleigh. I considered buying enough basic ingredients to make my own lunch, but then I came across the Sarah Cecilia Good Food Company Booth and decided to let someone make my lunch for me! I have seen the Sarah Cecilia booth at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market, but usually I’ve just finished breakfast and am not feeling up to buying prepared food. This day, however, was different. I was hungry!

The Sarah Cecilia Good Food Company is a small business run by Kim Hunter and Kelly Hatch. The name of their company comes from their two moms–Sarah and Cecilia. Sweet, no? Their dedication to preparing locally sourced, sustainably produced foods in healthy and nutritious ways drives their budding catering and food delivery business. They are present at many of the local farmer’s markets in the Triangle area and they also deliver meals to your home or office! I understand that Kim and Kelly are also interested in opening a cafe in Raleigh–I’m looking forward to that!

For lunch, I had the Asian noodles with greens, cilantro, chicken and onion. Wow, was it good. Flavorful and healthy and bursting with all kinds of fresh flavors. A nice portion for lunch, too and at $6, it didn’t break the piggy bank. The other option today was shrimp rolls, which sounded good also.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to find a healthy, local lunch while shopping for vegetables and that I could support a local, woman-owned business. And I felt virtuous enough with my super healthy lunch to have some strawberry cobbler later 🙂

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Day 113–Starting Week 16–Budget and Menu

This week, the farmer’s markets were just teeming with people and chock full of wonderful strawberries and spring vegetables. I didn’t buy as much at the market as last week because we now have our weekly Produce Box delivery. Still, it was great to be out seeing the farmers so busy after a quiet winter. Our total for the week was $101.65–just $1.65 over our weekly goal. Not too bad!!

  • The Produce Box (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, lettuce, strawberries, cucumbers): $22.00
  • Rainbow Farms (roasting chicken): $13.00
  • Farmhand Foods (kabob beef): $15.00
  • Farmer’s Market–various (onions, sugar snap peas, asparagus, cucumbers, tomatoes): $18.00
  • Trader Joes (organic soy milk, rice, frozen fruit, bananas, mushrooms, Ezekiel bread, cous cous): $33.65

What are we having this week for $101.65? Here is our weekly menu:

  • Sunday–Roast fresh chicken, sweet potato wedges, roasted asparagus spears, buttermilk biscuits, strawberry cobbler
  • Monday–Curry chicken and spinach over whole wheat cous cous
  • Tuesday–Pasta salad with roasted vegetables
  • Wednesday–Sandwiches with leftover pasta salad
  • Thursday–Veggie stir fry over rice
  • Friday–Leftover cleanup night
  • Saturday–Grilled beef and vegetable kabob with whole wheat cous cous

Have a terrific and delicious week!

Day 112–A Strawberry Workday and Strawberry Fruit Leather

Saturday was all about strawberries at our house. We managed to get up and out of the house early and meet some of our fellow scouts at a local strawberry patch. The morning was beautiful and the berries were plentiful. It’s fun to watch everyone’s strawberry picking strategies. I pick the closest spot and start picking. Tom checks out the field and picks the spot where he thinks most people won’t have picked and Ellie gets as far away from us with her friends as she can. I’m thinking this mirrors our personalities fairly well 🙂

There is something about an entire field of ripe strawberries that makes me tend toward hoarding. I want to pick them all! In the end, we had four large buckets of beautiful, ripe berries and two pints of locally produced Maple View Farm ice cream. Two excellent treats! Once we got home with our bounty, the work began. We rinsed and checked our berries and immediately started hulling them for jam.

We made eight half pints of strawberry jam in all. The jam started out as old fashioned, slow cook jam with no pectin. After 90 minutes of cooking the berries, lemon juice and sugar, I couldn’t really tell if the jam had jelled, but I canned it using a hot water bath thinking that surely 90 minutes was enough time. The next morning, I re-cooked it and canned it a second time because it was too soupy. A lot of extra work, but I think I’ll be happier with the results this winter. And in the future, I may just use pectin with strawberries. They seem to have a lot of juice in them and it doesn’t cook down very well. Maybe blueberries are better?

After making the jam, we made strawberry fruit leather, based on a recipe in Sherri Brooks Vinton’s Put ‘Em Up cookbook. I was interested in this because fruit leather is a nice snack, but we don’t buy fruit rollups–they’re pretty full of junk and very low on actual fruit. The fruit leather drying process took longer than the recipe called for (about 4 hours instead of 2), but the end result was totally worth it. Our strawberry leather is chewy, tart and bursting with strawberry flavor. Soooooo good. Apparently, the fruit leather will keep in an air tight container for up to one month, but it will not last that long in our house! The recipe is below.

While we were canning and drying, I also froze 6 quarts of berries. I rinsed them, hulled them, then put them on parchment lined baking sheets, which I popped into the freezer for about an hour. When the berries were frozen, I put them in quart sized freezer bags. This way, they don’t get mushed and frozen in a big block.

After all that, you would think I’d collapse, but no, I decided to make a strawberry cobbler (recipe to come). Inspired by a similar recipe from Creative Noshing, I took our peach cobbler recipe and substituted strawberries as a test. It was amazing–especially when served hot with our Maple View Farm ice cream. Wow!

So our final total was 8 half pints of jam, 6 quarts of frozen berries, one batch of fruit leather and one strawberry cobbler. For good measure, I pickled 4 pints of asparagus spears (more on that this week). Needless to say, my house smelled great all day and at the end of the day, I slept very well. It was nice to take a day to devote just to cooking, canning and enjoying the literal fruits of our labor!

Berry Fruit Leather

  • 4 cups of berries (any will do!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  1. Wash and dry the berries. Combine them with water in a large skillet and bring to a boil. Simmer until the berries begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Puree the fruit by mashing it with a potato masher or using a stick blender (my personal choice).
  2. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Line a rimmed backing sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Return the berry puree to the pan and simmer over low heat, stirring frequently until it thickens to the consistency of baby food. Add the sugar and still to dissolve.
  4. Spread the sweetened puree onto the baking sheet, tilting the pan or using an offset spatula to create an even layer about 1/8″ thick.
  5. Dry in the oven until tacky to the touch, about 2 hours (for me this was 4 hours).
  6. Cool to room temperature. Side the parchment onto a cutting board and roll the leather into a tube. Slice the fruit into 2″ strips and store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Day 109–What’s On Your Plate? Review

Worlds can be rocked by a single, ripe tomato.

The transformative nature of fresh tomatoes is the start of a wonderful documentary by two New York 11year olds titled “What’s On Your Plate?”. The documentary starts with two middle school girls on vacation wondering why their farm fresh tomato tastes so much better than the tomatoes they buy in their local neighborhood market in New York City. Their journey takes them to farms, farmer’s markets, their school cafeteria, and their local grocery wondering where their food comes from, how it impacts their bodies, why access to fresh food is not equal across all neighborhoods and lastly, what the heck is a funion.

I went to the screening with my family and some of our scout troop expecting a nice and probably quirky documentary. I did not expect the level of depth, analysis and research present in the film. To say I was impressed is an understatement. These two girls (and the people who helped them) did a wonderful job of taking a complex topic like our food production system and breaking it down into understandable, but still thoughtful segments. The screening was sponsored by Advocates for Health in Action and the Town of Cary. Thanks to them for making this resource available!

Even better, the What’s On Your Plate Project website has games, activities and now there is even a book to help families keep learning! You can also watch a 10 minute piece of the film.

This is highly recommended watching!

Day 95–Easter Menu and Honey Dijon Ham

Easter eggs

I love making Easter supper. Maybe it’s the cute bunnies and eggs that decorate our table, maybe it’s the ham. Maybe it’s that all my holiday cooking is a safe 4 months behind me and I’m ready to tackle a big meal again. This year, we are having a locavore Easter feast (dessert is our exception) and I am ready!

The centerpiece of our Easter supper is a locally produced, mini boneless ham from Wilson County. We had one of these back in January and it was AMAZING. The recipe is below. Here is our menu:

  • Honey Dijon ham from Wilson County with NC honey
  • Roasted asparagus from Johnston County
  • Broccoli salad w/organic broccoli from New Hanover County
  • Deviled eggs from Durham
  • Whole wheat buttermilk biscuits w/wheat from Benson and buttermilk from Chapel Hill
  • Nutella silk pie (homemade from grocery store ingredients)

Whether you celebrate Passover, Easter, the Spring Equinox or Earth Day, I hope you have some wonderful celebrations centering on the local spring bounty from your area farms!

Honey Dijon Ham

5-6 lb. boneless, uncooked ham

1/2 c. local honey

3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 c. water

  1. Remove ham from refrigerator and packaging and let stand for 60 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place ham in a shallow roasting pan. Add water to bottom of the pan and cover the ham with foil.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes covered.
  5. Combine honey, mustard and brown sugar in a small bowl.
  6. Uncover ham and baste with honey mustard. Continue basting every 30 minutes until ham is cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees. In my oven, this is about 1.5 hours more.
  7. When ham temperature reaches 160, remove from oven, baste again and let rest 10 minutes.
  8. Carve and serve to your astonishingly hungry family!

Day 92–Starting Week 14–Budget and Menu

After last week’s budget buster, we are back on track with plenty of fresh vegetables and good things to eat. We were glad to find fresh spinach fettucine by Melina’s Pasta at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market. We can’t wait to try it! This weekend was spent at the market and getting our own garden ready for action. We’ve planted a salad garden of tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers and some Japanese eggplant. I love eggplant, but a large, full-sized eggplant is a lot for us to eat. The Japanese variety are the perfect size for us (and they ripen quickly!).

Here is how our budget played out this week, with a total of $95.62:

  • Local’s Seafood (summer flounder): $18.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (fresh mozzarella): $6.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (chicken and fresh eggs): $21.00
  • Farmers Market–misc (asparagus, swiss chard, broccoli): $10.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (spinach fettucine): $6.00
  • Trader Joes (organic garlic, ground turkey, tortillas, frozen fruit, soy milk, cous cous, onions): $34.62

And here’s the scoop on this week’s menu!

  • Sunday–cornmeal dusted flounder, sautĂ©ed kale (the end of our garden kale), homemade cornbread w/NC cornmeal
  • Monday–Chicken curry cous cous w/chopped veggies, salad
  • Tuesday–Turkey taco night w/quinoa
  • Wednesday–Eggs nested in swiss chard and mushrooms
  • Thursday–Pasta w/ham and spring asparagus, salad
  • Friday–Leftover pasta, salad
  • Saturday–BLT sandwiches with carryover Mae Farm bacon

Not bad for $95! Looks like we are back on track again! Thanks to everyone who read Ellie’s guest blog post and commented. It was a real boost to her (and a boost to her chicken advocacy efforts!).

Day 91–Chickens (a post by Ellie)

Ellie and the Silky Chick at the Dig In! Conference

Hi, I am Ellie, Deanna’s guest blogger for today, and I am writing about chickens. Chickens are very good pets to have because of the protein in the eggs. Sadly, I live in Cary so no chickens for me, especially because my mom (Deanna) won’t let me have them (hopefully she will give in).

I did some research on chickens and found out that chickens are related to dinosaurs, so their feet look really weird. Chicken eggs have good protein and pasture raised eggs have more protein and omega 3 fatty acids, which are really good for your heart. So if you live in a city that allows you to have chickens, maybe you should get them. At this conference I went to called “Dig In!”, I got to hold a hen and a chick. The chick fell asleep in my hands immediately and buried its beak between my thumb and forfinger. But the hen surprisingly would not let anyone hold her but me, and soon fell asleep in my arms. She woke up to a boy petting her the wrong way and she crowed at him then fell asleep again. Chicken eggs range in size, some the size of a robins egg and all the way up to the size of eggs that we buy from the farmers market. My favorite type of chicken is a Polish chicken because their feathers on the top of their heads look like a sideways mohawk.

Polish chicken at the Garden Girl, on the Roxb...

I don’t suggest you get a rooster unless you like to wake up at 5:00 am or you really want to annoy your neighborhood. You can always volunteer on a farm if you can’t or don’t want chickens roaming your front or backyard 24/7. Chickens, like any animal, need feed, water, grooming, and a shelter. So that is a little bit about chickens.

Day 89–Industrial Products in Food–Ok or Troublesome?

Orthophosphoric acid H 3 PO 4

In an effort to be more efficient, I often look for “two fers”–that is, one solution that will address more than one issue. Sometimes this works wonderfully and other times, if I try to force a solution where it doesn’t quite fit, I have (as Ellie says) an “epic fail.” In the food industry, these “two fers” often use industrial products and ingredients to address issues with processed food stability or to lower the cost of food production. This isn’t illegal and in many cases may not be harmful, but maybe you want a higher standard than “not necessarily harmful” in your food supply. If you are trying to eat more whole foods and limit your intake of highly processed ingredients, it is interesting to see how these ingredients are used elsewhere. Thanks to Experience Life magazine for this information.

Olestra–This chemical is used to make fat-free potato chips and snack foods. It has no flavor or nutritive value. Olestra works by bonding to fat and preventing it from being absorbed in your body. But that method can have drawbacks, including diarrhea and abdominal cramping, especially for people with sensitive digestive systems, with irritable bowel syndrome or for small children. Interestingly, olestra is also used in paints and lubricants. 

Calcium Chloride–Calcium chloride is a chemical blend of salt and chlorine that has been deemed safe for food use by the FDA. It has no nutritive value and is not used for flavor. It is used as a stabilizer for some canned foods, an electrolyte in sports drinks and is an agent in some pickling. It can cause upset stomach, and irritation of the digestive tract, especially in people with digestive issues. Calcium chloride is also the key ingredient in road salt and ice melt.

Phosphoric Acid–This chemical is used to make foods–specifically sodas–more acidic. It has no nutritive value. Because it is so cheap, it has become the standard acid in sodas, replacing natural sources like lemon and lime. Phosphoric acid has been linked to decreased bone density and kidney stones, the former is especially a problem for women over 40 who have a history of osteoporosis in their family. Oh, yes, phosphoric acid’s industrial use is as a rust remover known for its ability to rapidly eat rust on metal. Your dentist may also use small amounts to etch/scar your teeth before putting in a filling.

Calcium sulfate–Calcium sulfate is a desiccant (drying agent) and a coagulant. It has no flavor or nutritive value. It is often used in foods, including tofu, to bond molecules together. It is also the key ingredient in plaster of paris. The use of calcium sulfate can cause abdominal swelling and abdominal pain in some people. Industrially, it is used to make plaster and drywall.

Cornstarch–Cornstarch is a thickener that, unlike the above ingredients, is typically found in most households. Cornstarch is made from the endosperm of the corn grain and is a cheaper industrial substitute for the more simply processed arrowroot. It is used in puddings, chewing gum, gravy, ice cream, sauces and some canned foods. Because cornstarch is used so heavily in processed foods, it may pose a hidden sugary carb risk for those trying to eliminate processed carbohydrates or sugars from their diets. Cornstarch is also used to make rubber tires, plywood and some insecticides.

Corn syrup–Corn syrup/high fructose corn syrup is probably the most insidious and highly contested ingredient on this list. It is made from processing corn starch to release all the glucose in the starch, then processing it some more to shift most of the glucose to fructose. Because it is very cheap to produce, it has replaced most beet and cane sugar as well as honey in sweetened, processed foods. It is present in many processed food products, including ketchup and other condiments, cheese spreads, marshmallows, dehydrated soups, cake mixes, snack foods and frozen foods. Both the chemical nature and high level of use of corn syrup have linked the chemical to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and non-alcohol fatty liver disease. Corn syrup is also used to make shoe polish, metal plating and explosives. 

Maybe these all seem ok to you, maybe not. Regardless of what we choose to purchase at the grocery, it is important to make informed choices. In some cases, the “two fer” works in our favor and in others, it isn’t a win-win situation for our bodies.

Day 85–Starting Week 13–Budget and Menu

The title for this week should be “how I blew my budget on fresh scallops.” We are way over budget this week at $136.40. I think that might be a record in our 13 week journey so far! How did we go so far afield this week? Well, there are two reasons (really, three, but I’m not counting my lack of self-discipline):

  1. We ran out of several staple ingredients (flour, organic sugar, butter, vanilla, olive oil) and stocking up the pantry added to our weekly bill. Because I don’t track how these ingredients are used, I don’t cost them out over the weeks so they are reflected in this week’s budget.
  2. Locals Seafood had the year’s first fresh caught jumbo NC scallops. I caved. At $22/lb they were definitely a splurge. I also increased the amount of fish I ordered since we are all big fish eaters and I seemed to have disappointed faces when all the fish was gone.

Here is how our budget worked out for the week:

  • Locals Seafood (fresh NC scallops, fresh NC striped sea bass): $63.00
  • Heaven on Earth Organics (broccoli, swiss chard, onions): $13.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, Ezekiel bread, organic sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, organic lemons, soy milk, sardines, pasta): $50.40
  • Singing Turtle Farm (whole wheat pastry flour): $10.00

That is a whole lotta money. I’ll be under control more next week 🙂 What are we having this week for such a large sum? Here’s the menu:

  • Sunday–fresh caught NC jumbo scallops and lemon zest served on lemon pepper pasta; lemon blueberry pound cake
  • Monday–Pasta con sarde (pasta with sardines), salad
  • Tuesday–Scrambled egg Florentine
  • Wednesday–leftovers
  • Thursday–Pan seared rockfish (striped bass) over greens w/roasted carrots
  • Friday–leftover fish, broccoli and salad
  • Saturday–Pizza

So, austerity it isn’t, but a special feast every once in a while isn’t so bad, is it? With the exception of the pound cake, at least it is all low-fat and healthy–and at least the pound cake is homemade with whole wheat, locally milled flour and not store-bought. But still, when I look at our weekly budget, I’m seeing a lot of rice and cous cous in next week’s menu 🙂

 

 

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!