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?

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Day 175–What’s Fresh at the Market

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My favorite tomato–German Johnson!

We are at zero hour here in NC. Two days of blissfully wonderful, spring-like weather and starting tomorrow temperatures are predicted to be over 100 degrees for the remainder of the week and weekend. If you have lived in the South, you know what that means–you can’t walk, talk or move without coating yourself in a sheen of humidity and sweat. Makeup? No way, Jose. Those cute little “summer sweaters”? Put ’em up or pack them in a suitcase and head to Maine. Like manic people before a snowstorm, everyone is scrambling around to get their “outdoor errands” done before tomorrow.

And for me, that means grocery shopping. Taking advantage of the lovely weather, I headed out to the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market to finish my shopping for the week. I managed to get everything done on my lunch hour while the temperature was still in the low 80s. I’m planning to make some peach chutney, so I was especially interested in peaches and some jalapeno peppers (since the voles so kindly ate the roots of my plants). I also stocked up on raspberries because their season is just about over. Will make more jam tonight!

What’s fresh in central NC? Here’s a list of what I found!

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries (stock up–season is almost over!)
  • Peaches
  • Summer squash
  • Patty pan squash
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes are ready!!!)
  • Cucumbers (all kinds)
  • Green beans
  • Wax beans
  • Butter beans
  • Purple hull beans
  • Black eyed peas
  • Eggplant
  • Herbs (all kinds–can’t keep up)
  • Potatoes (red, white and blue!)
  • Celery
  • Green peppers

Day 173–The Dirty Dozen Plus

I’ve posted before about the wonderful list of high and low pesticide foods called the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15. GREAT shopping resource. Most of us can’t afford to buy everything organic, so it helps to know which foods are higher in residual pesticides (after washing and standard prep for eating) and which are the lowest. This list is compiled by the Environmental Working Group, an organization that doesn’t get nearly enough press.

The 2012 Dirty Dozen list is out and this year it is called the Dirty Dozen Plus. What is the “plus”? This year, the EWG added a new category to the Dirty Dozen list for crops that don’t meet the standard criteria used to identify a “dirty” crop, but contained enough neurotoxic chemicals to be of concern. Ok, all you kale lovers (I am definitely included in this category), take notice! Kale and green beans are on this new “plus” list!

My only complaint with the new list is that they have not yet updated the phone app, which is very helpful when I’m at the farmer’s market. I have enough to remember–the app is a great help! Maybe soon?

http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/

Day 169–Starting Week 26–Budget and Menu

We are almost halfway through the year already! Where did the time go? I feel like I will blink and it will be Christmas again (I think I just depressed myself). If time flies when you’re having a good time, I must be having the mother of all good times (and I think maybe I am!). The markets are just loaded with goodness this week–I’ve really had to curb my food hoarding tendencies. We came in under budget this week at $95.69. Our menu includes one night of Ellie cooking (hence the spaghetti taco menu, which she assures us is amazing).

Here is how our budget breaks down this week:

  • Produce Box (peaches, blueberries, green pepper, eggplant, onion, tomatoes): $23
  • Homestead Farm (1/2 chicken): $9.00
  • Calico Farm (fresh mozzarella): $4.00
  • Locals Seafood (skin on flounder fillets): $18.00
  • Hilltop Farm Organics (squash, zucchini, potatoes): $6.50
  • DJ’s Produce (okra): $2.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen mango, yogurt, soy milk, taco shells): $30.19
  • The Mitchells (paying ourselves back for 1 jar of jam): $3

What are we having for $95? Here is our menu for the week!

Menu

  • Wednesday–Farm fresh salad with cukes, tomatoes, green peppers and blue cheese
  • Thursday–Cornmeal dusted flounder, corn, sautéed okra and tomatoes
  • Friday–Panini alla Margherita, cucumber spears, peach cobbler
  • Saturday–Spaghetti tacos
  • Sunday–Balsamic marinated chicken, grilled eggplant and squash
  • Monday–Quiche, sliced tomatoes
  • Tuesday–Leftover buffet

Day 168 B–What’s Fresh at the Market

This may be the first day of summer, but from the looks of our farmers markets, summer is already in high gear! This is what my brain sounds like while I’m walking through the market:

Ohhh, look at those tomatoes…tomatoes are on my list and…

Wait! Eggplant! Not on my list, but it looks so…

Blackberries! Gotta have some! Would make really good jam and…

Is that OKRA??? Hmmm, would be great with tomatoes…

Wait–where are the tomatoes again???

Yeah, it takes me a looooong time to get through the market. I’ve been to the State Farmer’s Market and the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market this week and here is what I’ve found:

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Peaches
  • Summer squash
  • Patty pan squash
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes are ready!!!)
  • Cucumbers (all kinds)
  • Green beans
  • Wax beans
  • Butter beans
  • Eggplant
  • Herbs (all kinds–can’t keep up)
  • Potatoes (red, white and blue!)
  • Celery
  • Green peppers

I’m sure there is more that I’m forgetting! This time of year, it is hard for me to stick within my budget because everything is sooooo tempting! And distracting. And lovely. Happy shopping!

Day 152–What’s Fresh at the Market?

green beans

I love June! Love it, love it, love it. Summery weather, cute shoes and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to find at the local markets here in NC. Like much of the southern U.S., we are a few weeks ahead of schedule due to our unusually warm winter. For the past 2 weeks, this has meant the unusual convergence of strawberry, blueberry AND blackberry seasons! I have definitely not been taking this for granted.

So what else is available right now? Here’s a list!

  • String beans
  • New potatoes
  • Corn
  • Hothouse tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Summer squash
  • Zucchini
  • English peas
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Basil
  • Strawberries (this may be our last week)
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Peaches
  • Corn
  • Broccoli

I managed to put up 13 half-pints of jam this weekend! Am looking forward to making peach butter next weekend and maybe some pickles! Oh, June, I really do love you…

Day 150–Starting Week 22–Budget and Menu

Does spring seem to put time into warp speed for you? I find myself stunned that today is June. What happened??? Between end-of-school-year ceremonies and performances, sports, last-minute projects that are due and weekend outings to take advantage of the weather, I feel like I’m struggling for some level or normalcy. I’m not sure I’m getting it this week, but I’ll keep trying!

Here is our menu for this week. You’ll notice I’m already two days behind in posting this, but whatevs. I’m just rollin’ with the spring tsunami of activity…

Menu

  • Wednesday–Egg salad sandwiches (a bachelorette night for me)
  • Thursday–Pasta with ham and asparagus
  • Friday–Tuna salad bowls
  • Saturday–Shrimp w/broccoli over rice; blueberry/lemon pie
  • Sunday–Grilled burgers, squash and zucchini, potato salad
  • Monday–Chicken salad in pita, leftover potato salad, carrots
  • Tuesday–Leftover buffet

Budget

Our budget this week is under control and within our goal of $100 or less! We spent $92.90 this week (and as you can see, we are eating pretty well!).

  • The Produce Box (squash, zucchini, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, blueberries, new potatoes, asparagus): $27.50
  • Rare Earth Farm (ground beef): $12.00
  • Great Harvest Bread Co. (whole grain burger buns): $6.00
  • Locals Seafood (fresh NC shrimp!): $15.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, yogurt, soy milk, rice, lemon curd, pie crust): $32.40

Have a wonderful week, enjoy the strawberries, blueberries or whatever else is growing in your area right now. This is truly a glorious food time of year!

Day 135–Week 19–Budget and Menu

After a few days of bad eating, we are back in the swing of things with another week of healthy, local food. I’ve missed cooking on something other than a fire or propane stove and look forward to cooking fresh vegetables again! I’m excited to see fresh zucchini and yellow squash at the farmers market. I know by July I’ll be sick of it, but it’s a new welcome addition to our menu! Also, it’s always super to see strawberries AND blueberries at the market. Unlimited deliciousness come from those two combined! I went over budget this week due to a weakness for fresh crabmeat. The last time we had crab was for our Super Bowl party and that came from India, which seemed really weird. The pork roast I picked up from Homestead Farms is huge and will carry over into next week, which should hopefully save us some money and bring us back into our $100 budget.

Here is how our budget broke out for the week:

  • The Produce Box (zucchini, squash, blueberries, broccoli, beets, pointy cabbage, sweet onions): $26.00
  • Locals Seafood (fish, crabmeat): $40
  • Hilltop Farm (arugula): $4.00
  • Homestead Farm (pork roast): $24.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (spinach fettucine): $6
  • Trader Joes (black beans, rice, tortillas, fat-free refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, frozen fruit, soy milk): $26.30

Here is our menu for the week!

  • Wednesday–Spinach fettucine with lump crab and arugula pesto
  • Thursday–Penne pasta with roasted squash and zucchini, salad
  • Friday–grilled sheepshead (this is a fish), sautéed swiss chard and beet greens, whole wheat cous cous
  • Saturday–Leftover pasta
  • Sunday–Cuban pork roast, black beans & rice, cabbage slaw, beets
  • Monday–Pork quesadillas, salad
  • Tuesday–leftover cleanup

Have a wonderful and healthy week!

Day 134–Falling Off the Wagon

Hi, my name is Deanna, and it has been four days since my last locavore blog post.

In that four days, I have eaten s’mores, hushpuppies, campfire pizza, vegetables from a can, biscuits from a can and yes, I have ordered Papa Johns pizza with industrial ground beef. I am not proud of this, but, when camping with 11 pre-teen girls, sometimes it is a matter of survival (earplugs would also be a matter of survival, but that’s for another day). The Papa Johns was not so much camping survival as it was post-camping exhaustion. Note to self–take a day off work after camping with a group.

So today is Tuesday, May 15th, and I am making a committment to getting back in locavore action and eating healthy, locally produced foods once again. My cupboard is nearly bare, but tomorrow (Wednesday) is both Produce Box delivery day and downtown Raleigh farmer’s market day, so we should be flush with yummy local veggies, eggs and meats in another 24 hours.

This brings me to a change in how I post our weekly menus. Since our Produce Box comes on Wednesday and the farmer’s market just a few blocks from my office is also on Wednesday, I’ll be posting weekly menus and budgets on that day instead of Sundays, so look for the next menu tomorrow!

In the meantime, I’ll be curled up under my desk napping. 🙂

 

Day 121–Salads and Salad Dressings

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Our Saladpalooza nights feature whatever ingredients are fresh and handy (and sometimes some leftovers, too!).

 

Our Produce Box last week and this week feature lots of salad greens, so salads are BIG on our menu. We’re trying things like our Saladpalooza night (basically an at-home salad bar), mixing up our salad toppings, and having theme salads (Mexican salad featuring black beans, corn and avocado, etc.). What really makes salads a happy thing in my house, though, is the salad dressing. After reading the ingredients in most grocery store dressings, I decided to try making my own so I can control the ingredients and eliminate unnecessary sugars and high fructose corn syrup. Here is what I have learned about making salad dressing:

  1. It is much easier than I thought.
  2. I have most of the ingredients in my pantry already.
  3. My stick blender (immersion blender) is my greatest ally.

With a few handy ingredients and my little, easy-to-clean stick blender, we have been able to create very delicious dressings in about 5 minutes. On the topic of dressings, I have to give a shout out to another blogger who has given me a lot of inspiration to seek fresh salad ideas. A fellow blogger at Creative Noshing has been a great inspiration to me as we explore making different dressings. She has wonderful, fresh, recipes for dressings that have become our staples. Our favorites are homemade ranch dressing and a spicy Asian peanut dressing (which is also amazing on stir fry vegetables).

Salads are a great way to get your vegetables in and this time of year, when lettuce is king, you can get impeccably fresh greens as well as sugar snap peas, carrots, radish and other yummy salad staples. After a winter of cooked greens (not that I mind collards), it’s nice to fill up on salad that does not come from a bag!

Visit Creative Noshing for some superb dressing recipes. Whether you like ranch, Russian dressing, poppy seed or spicy peanut, she probably has a recipe that will have your family happily eating their greens!