Day 347–Butternut Squash and Kale Pizza

Winter squash is one of those fall vegetables that can make the transition from sweet to savory very easily. Butternut squash is one of my favorites because it has a great flavor, but it’s not overpowering, making it a nice partner with all sorts of other foods. We had stuffed squash earlier this week and it was hearty and very delicious. Since I still have one squash left from our last Produce Box delivery, I was hoping to find a good way to use it up along with some lovely fresh kale we bought at the farmer’s market.

Ta-da!! Heather at Sugar Dish Me came through again. I love her blog–it’s funny, insightful and chock full of great recipes. Which is good because this is my Christmas crunch week with something scheduled every night except Friday night and while I want to cook, I’m in need of some inspiration. I’m going to make this pizza with our homemade whole wheat pizza dough. The combination of bacon, caramelized onions, and cheese is enough to make me go for it. But it also has butternut squash and kale, two amazingly healthy foods that are in plentiful supply at our local markets!

Get the recipe HERE!

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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 45–Roasted Vegetable Pasta

Ricotta cheese.

In case you missed it, Monday was national Eat Italian Food Day. I have no idea why this isn’t an entire month–I know I could do it. In spite of the Americanized version of Italian food, which tends to be very heavy on the cheese and meat, most Italian food in Italy is locally-based, impossibly fresh and creatively resourceful. I know this because I once tried to eat my way across Tuscany (I am an expert–don’t try this at home).

So in honor of Meatless Monday and Eat Italian Food Day, we celebrated with a vegetarian pasta dish that is delicious, healthy and easy to make. This recipe is actually based on a dish made by The Cake Boss (go figure!) and its simple beauty comes from using whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables are available. Roasting the vegetables brings out their natural flavor and sweetness without any additives other than olive oil and salt. That is truly Italian cooking!

You can vary this dish throughout the seasons by using what is ripe and delicious at the time. You can also vary the pasta you use. I like orecchiete (little ears) pasta because it holds the sauce well. As a mom, I think this is one of those healthy, versatile recipes that could be a regular (and by changing it up, maybe no one will notice I am basically recycling the same dish). Score!

  • 1 lb. fresh pasta (we used orecchiete pasta)
  • 1 organic onion
  • 2 organic tomatoes
  • 2 c. organic broccoli florets
  • 3 organic carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3″ planks
  • 2 c. cubed organic butternut squash
  • 2 handfuls of kale (from our garden!) or other greens–arugula is good, too!
  • About 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (we used Hillsborough Cheese Co. garlic and chive ricotta)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pignolis (pine nuts), parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. Put a stock pot of salted water on the stove to boil.
  3. Cut all vegetables except kale into bite sized chunks and toss with olive oil and a little kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Chop kale into little bite sized pieces and reserve.
  5. Put all vegetables except kale in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Add kale to pan during last 5 minutes.
  6. While vegetables roast, add pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente. When pasta is done, reserve 1 c. pasta water for sauce and drain pasta.
  7. In a large bowl, add cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, kale, ricotta and pasta water and mix together. The cheese should melt and make a light sauce. The pasta water is essential and will thicken the sauce and help it stick to the pasta.
  8. Serve with pignolis (pine nuts), parmesan or whatever makes you happy!

Buon appetito!

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 6–The Winter Farmer’s Market, Part 1

The winter farmer's market still has plenty to offer!

Assumptions. I know better than to make them, yet I still do. In my mind, the winter farmer’s market was a place of leftover collard greens, cabbage and sweet potatoes. Sad. Lonely. Bereft of good eats. I should just give up and head to the grocery store, right? Wrong!

I decided to check my assumptions at the door and visit the State Farmer’s Market on my lunch hour yesterday. I am so glad I did!

Not only was the State Farmer’s Market busy, but I was really amazed at the variety of fresh vegetables and fruit (apples) that were still available. Thanks to a very mild winter (at least in NC), farmers are still growing and harvesting white potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (mostly locally grown hothouse), salad greens, turnips, kale, spinach, green peppers, apples, fresh beans, broccoli, collard greens, beets and more. And the prices were definitely lower than the grocery stores on just about everything.

Wilmington-based Scott Smith of Heaven On Earth Organics

I was glad to find Scott Smith of Heaven On Earth organic farm at the market. He was awesome! He and his wife have a farm outside of Wilmington and they love organic farming. Farmer Scott let me taste test my way though his vegetable stand so I could discover the difference between dino kale and curly kale (dino kale is thicker and spicier), how turnip greens with a little bit of yellow (from frost) are sweeter than the bright green leaves (the frost brings the sugar to the tips of the leaves) and more.

In the end, I did buy vegetables, including the dino kale (the name alone makes it interesting). Scott suggested that the dino kale makes terrific kale chips, something I had heard of, but hadn’t tried before. OH. MY. GOODNESS. They were devoured by my family and my pre-teen daughter (who eats vegetables grudgingly) decided they were amazing. Light, crispy and salty, these are the perfect antitode to potato chips. The recipe is below.

Kale Chips! Crunchy little antioxidant chips--howgreatisthat?

  • 1 bunch fresh kale (we used dino kale, but any kind would work)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar (we used balsamic)
  • Kosher salt to taste (we used about 1 Tbsp.)
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry the kale.
  3. Cut off the lower woody stems and compost.
  4. Cut the kale into pieces about the size of potato chips (2-4″ or so).
  5. In a bowl (or a plastic bag, if you don’t want your hands oily) put the chopped kale and add 1 Tbsp of the olive oil.
  6. Toss the greens with the oil until leaves are covered. (If you use the bag, massage the bag until the leaves are covered).
  7. Add the vinegar and toss again to coat.
  8. If needed, add the remaining Tbsp. olive oil (depending on the thickness of the leaves, you might not need this).
  9. Carefull place leaves on an oven safe baking rack or on a cookie sheet (I used a rack). Don’t overlap leaves.
  10. Sprinkle leaves with salt.
  11. Put rack/baking sheet in the oven and roast leaves for 20-30 minutes (this will depend on how thick your leaves are, so check on them after 20 min.)
  12. Remove from oven and enjoy immediately!

Next post, local meat producers at the farmer’s market!