SOLE Food Eating

Follow us on the next level of our journey at http://www.solefoodkitchen.com. We’re having fun with new recipes, more local eating and all new menus and weekly budgets for farmers market eating!

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Day 363–Our Year In Review

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What is going on with the time? It seems like the months are moving in warp speed. It is hard to believe our year experiment is almost up! I’ll be reworking the blog a bit (and hopefully not crashing everything!) and returning on January 1 to start again, this time with a new challenge and a slightly different twist.

This is the time of year when everyone is doing some kind of retrospective on the past 12 months and since we started out with a year challenge, it seems fitting that we will do this, too.

The goals of our family challenge were threefold:

  • Eat at least 75% of our food from local and/or sustainable sources
  • Spend no more than $100 per week on groceries
  • Increase our walking destinations.

How did we do?

Well, we did pretty well for our first time out! Overall, we kept our average spending to just under $100, but missed our mark of 75%. Here’s how the numbers break down for the 43 weeks that I recorded our budget and menu (I’m missing 9 weeks due to schedule craziness, vacations, and whatever else was going on, but I believe those weeks would probably even out to about the same numbers).

  • Total amount spent on groceries:          $4,199.51
  • Grocery $$ spent on local food:             $2,684.91
  • Percent of food budget that was local:  64%
  • Average spent per week:                            $97.66

That averages included our Christmas and Christmas Eve feasts, which were way over budget (but also supremely awesome). I did not include trips to Whole Foods as local, although they were organic and sustainable, because they did not reflect a direct payment to farmers. So for the year, almost $2,700 of our food budget stayed within our community. I’m pretty proud of that!

Where we have not done so well is increasing our walking to local destinations. That is definitely going to be on the agenda for next year.

I personally had some good health outcomes this year. I dropped 15 pounds, lowered my overall cholesterol by 17 points and raised my good cholesterol by several points.

More importantly, I have met some wonderful new people, reconnected to eating seasonal foods, reignited a love of cooking, learned how to can my own food and all around, just had a great time!

What’s next?

Here are some goals for next year:

  • Work on my food photography skills
  • Incorporate more plant-based dishes into our diet
  • Visit our local farms and include our experiences outside the farmer’s market

What would you like to see in this blog for next year? More recipes? Fewer recipes? More research-based information?

I’ll see you back here in 2013–just a few short days away. Have a happy and safe New Year!

Day 355–A Local Holiday Menu

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I love cooking at Christmastime, but the rush of the holidays sure does make it hard to carve out large amounts of time to really get focused. Still, whenever I do have the time, I enjoy it so much. We have a pretty standard menu for Christmas Eve (our fancy meal) and Christmas supper (more casual), but we do like to change it up a little. This year, I am trying to cook our meals from local foods that are available at this time of year or that I froze/canned this summer. Here is what we’re having!

 

Christmas Eve

 

  • North Carolina seafood casserole (recipe to come tomorrow)
  • Mini tortieres (Canadian pork meat pies)
  • Brussel sprouts with apples
  • Local garden salad
  • Virginia rolls from Great Harvest Bread Company
  • Peppermint ice cream and chocolate pie (not local–just good)

 

Christmas Supper

 

  • Smoked mini boneless ham from Mae Farm
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Collard greens cooked with Mae Farm jowl bacon
  • Field peas
  • Virginia rolls from Great Harvest Bread Company
  • Pecan pie

 

What about you? What are your favorite holiday foods? Do you have a traditional menu or do you experiment each year?

 

Day 354–Reindeer Pancakes

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How cute is that?

We’ve been talking about the need to add a “breakfast for dinner” night to our menu and I found a way to make a pancake supper that also celebrated winter (although it’s still in the 60s here) and Christmas. Enter, the reindeer pancake. I saw this idea online somewhere and couldn’t wait to try it. The version I saw used candy for the eyes and nose, but I subbed out some of our frozen fruit instead. So easy, so cute and it put everyone in a cheery mood at the table–given the news this past week, that was really needed.

Reindeer Pancakes

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels or a tea towel. Sit a wire cooling rack on top of the towel and put in the oven.
  3. In a frying pan, cook bacon until crisp. As bacon is done, lay strips on the cooling rack in the oven to keep warm. This will keep your bacon crispy yet let it drain as well.
  4. Clean the pan, coat with a thin layer of butter or cooking spray and heat over medium/low heat.
  5. Make one 8-9″ pancake per person and one 3-4″ pancake per person, plus extra for eating later. As pancakes cook, add them to the cooling rack in the oven to keep warm.
  6. When ready to serve, arrange a big pancake on the plate, with a smaller pancake (to be the muzzle of the reindeer) on top and toward the bottom of the larger pancake.
  7. Arrange bacon antlers on either side of the large pancake.
  8. Add blueberry eyes and raspberry/strawberry nose.
  9. Serve immediately with warm maple syrup and plenty of good cheer!

Day 348–Farmer Spotlight–Carolina Bison

English: Bison bison. Original caption: "...

While I like to think I have a creative brain, some things are difficult for me to envision. Take clowns for example. I can’t imagine them NOT being creepy. likewise, I have a hard time imagining a fall without football. Or Lindsay Lohan without drama. Add to this my difficulty imagining the western North Carolina mountains and foothills teeming with bison. Well, that’s not quite the same as Lilo without the po-po following her, but still. Bison?

Yet, it is apparently true. At one point, millions of American Bison roamed the plains of what is now the United States. I’m not sure they ever called North Carolina home, but that is changing quickly. Several farmers in North Carolina are raising bison as a healthy alternative to beef. Carolina Bison in Asheville is one such business. The business began in 1985, when founder Dr. Frank King noticed that his patients who ate a diet of grass-fed bison noticed substantial health improvements. And so, a business was born!

Why did bison offer those benefits? Well, bison has less fat than beef (almost on par with chicken) and an extremely high amount of digestible protein. So, you get the taste of grass-fed beef with the health effects of eating white meat.

Carolina Bison offers grass-fed, steroid-free and antibiotic-free bison in the form of steaks, ground meat, roasts and stew beef. Since Asheville is a good 5 hours from Cary, I’m going to try the mail order service and see how that works. In the meantime, at least one North Carolina farm is selling bison at our farmer’s market, but I don’t know much about their protocol. We did pick up a pound to try this weekend as burgers for our famished selves after the 2012 Reindeer Romp 5K this Saturday!

For information about Carolina Bison, click HERE! For anyone in NC, they will offer ranch tours in the spring and I definitely want in on that! Maybe it will help with my visualization issue!

Day 344–Stuffed Butternut Squash

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It doesn’t look all that spectacular, but this dish is flexible, easy, inexpensive and full of fall goodness!

I love winter squash and for me, stuffed squash is a great way to turn one or two squash into a family meal. Stuffed squash is one of those crazy, flexible meals that can vary depending on what you happen to have handy. For me, that’s some awesome Mae Farm sausage, onions, leftover sage, breadcrumbs and cheese. You could add sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, kale–the possibilities are endless! Here is the process: roast, saute, scoop, fill and bake.

Stuffed Butternut Squash

1butternut squash
1/2 lb. sausage
1 yellow onion
2 carrots
1/2 c. dried breadcrumbs
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Put squash cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until squash is soft, but not mushy.
3. Remove casing from sausage and cut into bite sized pieces. Brown in a saute pan over medium heat until all pink is gone.
4. Peel and dice the onion and carrots.
5. Remove sausage from pan and cook onion and carrots in pan drippings (add olive oil, if needed). Cook about 4 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent.
6. Add sage and bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add sausage back to pan.
Keep warm until squash is done.
7. Remove squash from oven and, using a towel to protect your hand, hold each half and scoop flesh out of skin and into the saute pan. Take care to leave the skin intact!
8. Mix the squash into the stuffing and combine. Fill each squash half with stuffing, mounding over the top. Top with parmesan cheese.
9. Put squash back in the oven for 20 minutes or until stuffing is hot and cheese is melty. Serve immediately.

Day 332–Turkey Hash with Egg

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Turkey hash is one of our favorite leftover dinners following Thanksgiving. It really is pure comfort food–a mix of onion, celery, carrots, turkey, broth, and potatoes. You could even add rice or southern dumplings to this and it would be amazing. Actually, you could add pretty much whatever you want or whatever you happen to have handy. This dish is all kinds of flexible. I like that about it.

Usually I make this with thinly sliced red potatoes, but this year I have lots of sweet potatoes on hand, so I decided to change things up a bit. We also have some amazingly delicious, farm fresh eggs from pasture-raised chickens. I saw THIS recipe on Sugar Dish Me’s blog and thought–hmmmm, eggs on hash. Yes, that sounded like a great plan! Although Ellie wasn’t sure about the changes to one of her favorite seasonal meals, we all thought this was delicious and different enough that we didn’t feel like we were eating leftovers!

Turkey Hash (serves 4)

  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 ribs of celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine or 1 tbsp. dried sage
  • 2 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2-3 cups chicken or turkey stock, divided
  • 4 fresh eggs
  • Kosher/sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium or medium high heat. When oil is warm, add onions. Cook for about 4 minutes, until translucent and soft.
  2. Add the celery and carrots. Stir well and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Add diced sweet potatoes, 1 cup of stock and sage and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Add more stock if pan begins to dry out.
  4. Add turkey and continue cooking for about 20 minutes. The mixture should be very thick, almost like a super thick stew. Check for seasoning and season again if needed. Keep warm.
  5. In a smaller saute pan, cook eggs to according to your preference (Ellie likes hers fried, I like mine over easy).
  6. Spoon hash into serving bowls, then top each with an egg.
  7. Serve immediately.

Day 327–Starting Week 48–Budget and Menu

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Ellie making stuffing, which we are still enjoying!

This week following Thanksgiving is a “use up what we have” week. We have lots of leftover bits of things–vegetables, turkey, ham, bread–and this week is going to make good use of them rather than spending more money on groceries! Thankfully, my family loves turkey leftovers 🙂 By mid-week, I should have a fair amount of turkey stock put up in the freezer to use later as well! Since I’m trying to really use just what we already have, I’m making some recipe substitutions here and there and hope that in the end, it will all work out 🙂

Our spending for this week is low–$31.54! That includes “paying” ourselves back for stock up vegetables that we froze over the summer!

  • Trader Joes (tortillas, cheese, noodles, onions, Greek yogurt): $16.54
  • Mitchell’s freezer (green beans, jalapeno, tomatoes, field peas, corn): $15.00

What are we having? Here is our post-Thanksgiving week leftover festival 🙂 Recipes to follow.

  • Monday–Turkey and sweet potato hash with egg (a variation of THIS recipe) and broccoli
  • Tuesday–Ham and field peas, sweet potatoes
  • Wednesday–Scout night–everyone’s on their own
  • Thursday–Southwestern turkey and veggie casserole
  • Friday–Leftover casserole
  • Saturday–Turkey noodle soup, grilled cheese

What is your favorite way to use up holiday leftovers?

Day 324–Talking Heritage Breed Turkey

Turkeys, man. There is a lot of pressure on the turkey at Thanksgiving. Even if you make a million roasted chickens (which does help), you can’t help but be a bit on edge when you are responsible for everyone’s Thanksgiving turkey. Now, I have an awesome family, and they are always great about whatever turkeys I’ve cooked, even when they haven’t been all that great. But still, I like to make something that is worth the 5 hour drive to my house. So this year made me especially nervous. I was cooking a new (old) kind of bird.

This year, we ordered a Bourbon Red heritage breed turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm in Wake Forest. Jan raises a limited number of birds with lots of sunshine, grass and love. I’ve heard a lot about heritage breed turkeys and how different they are from the standard grocery store variety, but I’ve never had one, so when I had the opportunity to place an order this summer (yes, this summer!) at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market, I jumped at the chance.

Our bird, Mr. Gibbles as he was named by Ellie, was “processed” Monday, picked up Tuesday and served on Thursday. I’ve never in my life had a turkey so fresh. At 17 pounds, he was quite a good sized bird! Our first observation was that he looked pretty different from the grocery variety. He seemed longer than a grocery turkey and he was not in that strangely uniform, compact shape. Ellie remarked that he really looked like a “real” bird. We got him all ready for his last journey in the oven and served him up to a delighted family. So how was it? Pretty darn fabulous. Very juicy, lots of rich, turkey flavor and great texture to the meat. I don’t think we’ll ever go back again.

Cooking Mr. Gibbles was very different from cooking a frozen bird. First, it does not take nearly as long to cook a fresh, heritage breed turkey. Our 17 pound turkey took 2 hours and15 minutes. For reals. And I used a thermometer backup to make sure. Second, heritage breed turkeys have a wonderful layer of thick fat under the skin, so basting is completely unnecessary. He basted himself, which was terrific, although when serving, the fat freaked my dad out a bit.

We used the recipe below, which was suggested by Homestead Harvest Farm and it worked beautifully. Being a skeptic, I allowed more time than I really needed, which made for some quick hurrying around when the turkey was done so soon, but it all worked out in the end.

Roasted Heritage Breed Turkey

1 fresh heritage turkey at room temperature
Kosher salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup butter, softened
Fresh sage and rosemary, chopped
4 cups chicken broth or white wine

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix the butter and chopped herbs until well combined.
Rub the butter mixture over the turkey skin and under the skin if you can.
Sprinkle the bird with salt and pepper
Put the turkey in a large roasting pan. Add broth or wine to the bottom of the pan.
Butter a piece of parchment to fit over the turkey. Use the parchment to make a tent over the turkey.
Insert a meat thermometer into the breast.
Put the bird in the oven and roast until the breast meat is 145 degrees. Do NOT open the oven door during this time.
Remove the parchment tent over the turkey and continue cooking until the internal temperature is 155-160.
Remove turkey from the oven (the meat temperature will continue to rise after removing it from the oven).
Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
Carve and serve the turkey with trimmings.

Voila!

Day 320–Purple Mashed Potatoes

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Poor potatoes. For years, they were maligned as the source of all dieting evils. Eat a potato and you were sure to get a muffin top and diabetes. Maybe simultaneously. I never really liked potatoes all that much until I tried fresh, organic potatoes from Hill Top Farm. Those little potatoes are like a whole other food group. It made me realize how tasteless most grocery store potatoes are. Now, I have a new appreciation for them, although we don’t eat them a great deal.

I think that perhaps part of the potato problem is how we cook potatoes more so than the actual potato itself. Potatoes do have vitamins and minerals that are good for us, so why not? Fried potatoes, potato chips and potatoes slathered in gravy and/or cheese are not health food. If you buy good potatoes, though, you don’t have to do anything much at all for them to be amazing and satisfying.

We recently received some purple potatoes with our Produce Box, so I did some potato experimenting. I had never had purple potatoes before, but apparently the rest of the world loves them! These potatoes have flesh that is a deep bluish purple–mine were very dark. Purple potatoes are high in carotenoids, which offer some cancer protection. Carotenoids are not found in white potatoes. Early studies with purple potatoes also show a correlation between the dark potatoes and lower blood pressure.

For our cooking experiment, I quartered the first batch and roasted them with some olive oil and kosher salt. YUM! I did notice that like beets, the purple potatoes bleed their color. It’s a little disconcerting to look down and see your bluish hands!

Ellie and I decided to make purple mashed potatoes with the second batch. I was worried that the dark color would bleed out into the cooking water, leaving me with gray potatoes, so we boiled the potatoes whole (they were pretty small anyway) and mashed them with their skins on. The result? Cool looking purple mashed potatoes! We served them with a local pork roast and roasted local winter veggies!

Purple Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 lbs. or so of purple potatoes (go for the smallish ones)
  • 1/2 cup organic milk
  • 1/2 cup organic butter, melted
  • Kosher salt and pepper for seasoning
  1. Scrub potatoes, but do not remove the skins. Put potatoes in a large Dutch oven.
  2. Fill the Dutch oven with water to cover the potatoes by about 3″.
  3. Heat pot over medium high heat until boiling. Turn heat down if necessary and continue boiling potatoes for about 15 minutes. This will depend on how large your potatoes are, so check the potatoes and cook longer if needed. They should be very soft.
  4. Drain the potatoes and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the potatoes back to the pot and put the pot back on the stove eye that is cooling. Toss the potatoes around until they are fairly dry.
  5. Mash the potatoes with a masher. Add the butter and milk and mix together with a wooden spoon (you can also use an immersion blender for this). If the potatoes are too dry, add the reserved cooking liquid.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately!