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 336–Starting Week 49–Budget and Menu

Those of you who have children or grandchildren know that May and December seem to be the craziest months of the year. Every recital, performance, ceremony and exam seems to be crunched into these two months, as though February weren’t sitting there, all forlorn without any major holidays except Valentine’s Day. So this week will be a busy one, with PTA meetings, a winter band concert and a major holiday event for me at work. I’m planning to cook ahead on Sunday so we can have easy, quick (but healthy and local) dinners all week!

Our food expenses this week are $46.58 although one meal will be out since I’ll be working, so that figure is not indicative of our total spending.

Budget

  • Mitchell’s freezer (roasted tomato sauce, frozen tomatoes, frozen jalapenos, frozen yellow squash): $11.00
  • Mae Farm (ground beef, Italian sausage): $20.00
  • Trader Joes (manicotti noodles, cheese, chili powder, canned organic beans): $10.58 (
  • Farmer’s Market (lettuce, cucumber, broccoli): $5.00

Menu

  • Sunday–Veggie manicotti with local cheese, salad
  • Monday–leftover manicotti and salad
  • Tuesday–Chili and yellow squash muffins
  • Wednesday–Leftover chili
  • Thursday–State Tree Lighting (dinner at a food truck)
  • Friday–Stuffed butternut squash
  • Saturday–Shrimp and roasted red peppers with Melina’s spinach fettucine

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!

Day 315–Starting Week 46–Budget and Menu

Well, here we are in the big lead up week to Thanksgiving! I can’t wait! I love Thanksgiving–love having my family together, love my house smelling like roasted turkey, love cooking up a storm. I have ordered a local turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm and will pick that up next week. Otherwise, I’m still planning! Until then, though, I have a great week of recipes that will lead us up to the big day!

Sadly, this is our last week of Produce Box delivery, so I’ll be back at the farmers markets pretty regularly after this. I like the markets, though, so it’s worth the effort and time it takes to get down there! Since it is our last week, I ordered extra, so our Produce Box bill is a bit larger than usual. Still, our weekly food bill is $92.17–under our projected budget for the week. Mostly, this is because I cooked so much last week that we are still eating leftovers! We are determined not to waste the food we purchase and are committed to getting the refrigerator cleaned out before we pick up the Bird!

Here is how our budget worked this week:

  • Produce Box (apples, double broccoli, cauliflower, beets, lettuce, rutabegas, butternut squash, double purple Irish potatoes, apple cider): $36.75
  • Mae Farm (pork loin roast, ground beef, fresh eggs): $29.00
  • Farmers Market (carrots, onion): $4.00
  • Trader Joes (pumpkin ale, frozen fruit, oatmeal, canned pumpkin) $22.42

Our menu this week looks like this:

  • Wednesday–Scout night; leftover sweet potato quesadillas
  • Thursday–Tom’s birthday leftovers
  • Friday–Spaghetti squash with homemade tomato sauce, salad
  • Saturday–Drunken pumpkin chili, homemade cornbread
  • Sunday–Pork loin roast, purple mashed potatoes, roasted cauliflower
  • Monday–Purple potato pancakes and leftover pork roast
  • Tuesday–Leftover chili

Day 273–Starting Week 40–Budget and Menu

Here we are, the first week in October and my garden already has its first casualty. I checked the raised beds yesterday afternoon and the kale was GONE!! All that remained of an entire bed of kale was a couple of little stubs. Grrrr. Bunnies. Apparently the coyote spray didn’t survive the torrential rains we have had over the past week. I haven’t decided whether to replant or just let it go, but at least the swiss chard, chinese cabbage and collards are still going strong. Until the bunnies sniff them out. If nothing else, we are certainly improving the overall health of our small mammal population.

This week’s menu is looking good and I’m excited about having our substantial fall vegetables in the mix. Like last week, we have quite a few vegetarian nights this week, but I don’t think we’ll miss the meat. At least, we haven’t so far! Our budget is rocking this week at $70.03. WHAAAAAT???? I’m not sure how that happened, but we are carrying over one meal (stir fry steak and peppers) and some yellow squash muffins that we froze last week. Still, I think we’re doing pretty well! And most of our meals are healthy, with the exception of the sweet potato pound cake, which is one of our all-time favorite desserts in the WORLD. Will post the recipe this week!

Budget

  • The Produce Box (spaghetti squash, apples, kale, yellow squash and zucchini, field tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, green cabbage): $23.00
  • Mae Farm (pork tenderloin, bacon pieces, ground beef): $18.00
  • Homestead Farm (eggs): $4.00
  • Mitchell’s pantry (our sticky fig jam): $3.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, beans, pie crust, cheese, onions, yogurt): $22.03

Here is what $70.03 is feeding us this week:

Menu

  • Wednesday–beef and sweet pepper stir fry with rice (carryover)
  • Thursday–Spaghetti squash with sautéed tomato sauce, green salad
  • Friday–Baked and loaded sweet potatoes, salad
  • Saturday–Pork tenderloin with sticky fig jam, sautéed kale, sautéed squash and onions
  • Sunday–Chili, yellow squash muffins (carryover), sweet potato pound cake
  • Monday–leftover chili over pasta
  • Tuesday–Tomato tart, sautéed cabbage and apples

Have a happy and healthy week!

Day 270–Yellow Squash Muffins

There are some food combinations that immediately speak to me–chocolate and hazelnut, tomato and garlic, bacon and, well, anything. Other combinations make me wonder–is this a joke? This recipe falls in the latter category. Yellow squash and applesauce? Blech. Since I had some homemade applesauce and large, lovely yellow squash on hand, I thought I’d throw caution to the wind and give this a try. This recipe is from Food.com, but was shared with me via our weekly Produce Box. How was it? Abso-freakin-lutely delicious. These taste more like corn muffins, but they don’t have any corn in them. We loved them. They are moist and light and not too sweet. Perfect with our acorn squash and apple soup and they would be delicious with chili as well. We ate our fill and froze the rest for some future fall soup nights!

Yellow Squash Muffins (makes 18)

2 lbs. yellow summer squash
2 eggs
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. applesauce (we used our crock pot applesauce)
1 c. sugar
3 c. flour (we used whole wheat pastry flour)
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners or lightly grease cups.
2. Wash squash, trim the ends and cut into 1-inch slices.
3. Put squash in a medium saucepan along with 1/2 cup of water and cook for about 20 minutes or until very soft.
4. Drain squash very well and mash with a potato masher.
5. Measure 2 cups of the cooked squash into a medium mixing bowl and add eggs, butter and applesauce. Stir well and set aside.
6. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of mixture and add wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.
7. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.
8. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9. Cool 5 minutes in the tin and remove muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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 262–What’s Fresh at the Market

Tomorrow is the first official day of fall and in spite of all the hot weather we had this summer, it looks like fall produce is right on cue! Peaches and berries are a memory and more hearty vegetables like sweet potatoes and squash are here in earnest. Also, many savvy farmers have jams, jellies and fruit butters made from their summer produce. If you can’t (or don’t want to) make your own, buying local jams and jellies is a great way to eat local and support your farmers all year long! Fall is still a great time to explore your farmer’s market  so get out there and happy shopping!

Here is what’s available in central North Carolina this week:

  • Apples (not many, but totally worth the price)
  • Grapes (muscadines)
  • Melons (they are fading out, won’t be around too long)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Squash–acorn, butternut, gourds
  • Pumpkins (I know they are squash, but they are in a class all their own!)
  • Broccoli
  • String beans
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes (we’re at the end here with field tomatoes)
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Turnips and greens
  • Field peas
  • Collards

Day 257–A Fall Garden

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So this weekend was Garden Weekend. Not quite as thrilling as Shark Week, our garden weekend involved pulling up our tomatoes and eggplants, refreshing our raised beds with certified compost, and planting fall and winter vegetables. Also, we spread compost over our front yard, which has been a clay pit, and planted grass seed. Crazy weekend. But 10 cubic yards of compost later, we are ready for some fall growing action! And, we have had some good workouts!

What do you plant in the fall? We have collards, Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, book choi, and two kinds of kale. Are we missing something good?

Enjoy this late summer/early fall weather and plant a fall garden for yourself and your family! If you have room for just one thing, I’d plant kale. You can cut it and it will continue to grow so you can harvest all winter! Also, it is an amazing super food.

Happy fall gardening!

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Day 240–Farmer’s Spotlight–Hilltop Farms

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Fred Miller of HillTop Farms!

If you have been reading along with us for a while, you may remember my lament at being such a terrible CSA participant. The CSA I belonged to was with a wonderful, very local organic farm called Hilltop Farm in Willow Spring. We had terrific produce (at least what I remembered to pick up was great) and farmers Fred and Virginia Miller were always helpful with produce information, cooking tips and nutritional information. Well, even though I have abandoned the traditional CSA for a delivery service (for now), I still buy organic fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs from Fred at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market. If you visit the market, Fred has the freshest and best quality basil I have seen anywhere. Pesto, anyone?

Hilltop Farms is one of a growing number of Certified Organic, sustainable farms in our state and it is the first and only USDA Certified Organic farm in our county. In fact, Hilltop recently received the Pioneer Award from the Wake County Soil and Water Conservation District. Yay! From talking to a lot of farmers over the past year, I have learned a lot about the expense and time involved with becoming a Certified Organic farm. Hats off to any farmer who puts that time and effort in. The fifteen acres at Hilltop used to be tobacco land, so it’s gratifying to see land used for such a toxic crop now used to produce organic vegetables and herbs for local families.

Recently Fred mentioned a new winter CSA coming up. Hmmmm, I’m tempted… Maybe there is an iphone CSA pickup app?