Day 357–NC Seafood Casserole

I wanted to post this recipe yesterday, but I was pulled into the swirling vortex of holiday shopping known as “the mall”. It was exhausting, but I did finally finish up the last bits of Christmas shopping on my list. I did do a good amount of local shopping, but I couldn’t avoid the mall entirely. I need to plan better next year.

This seafood casserole is a passalong recipe from a volunteer at a previous job. I’ve made it every Christmas Eve for the past 12 years and it has become part of our Christmas tradition. It is very good, very rich and not what I would call healthy food. This year, we are using as many fresh, local ingredients as we can, including all of the seafood.

1 cup rice
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound scallops
1 pound raw shrimp
1 pint shucked oysters (you can omit if you really don’t like them)
1 pckg. frozen fake Krab
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1 8 oz. pckg. cream cheese
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs or crushed butter crackers
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
Chopped fresh parsley
Lemon for serving

1. Cook rice according to directions. Stir in egg and 2 Tbsp.of the parsley. Set aside.
2. In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery, stirring occasionally. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
3. Stir in 1/2 tsp. of dill and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl.
4. Wipe skillet clean. Pour 2 cups of water in the skillet and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Add scallops and poach until just opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove scallops and add to the bowl.
5. Poach shrimp in the liquid for about 3 minutes or until pink. Remove shrimp to the bowl.
6. Poach the oysters in the liquid for about 2-3 minutes. Remove oysters and add to the bowl.
7. Reserve 1 cup of the poaching liquid and discard the rest. Wipe the skillet clean.
8. Chop the Krab into bite sized pieces and add to the bowl.
9. In the skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not let flour brown.
10. Gradually whisk in reserved poaching liquid and milk. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, until thickened. Whisk in cream cheese, remaining dill, salt, pepper and thyme and cook an additional 3-5 minutes until cheese has melted and sauce is smooth.
11. Stir sauce into the seafood mixture along with remaining parsley.
12. Line bottom of a greased 13 x 9 baking dish with the rice mixture.
13. Pour seafood mixture on top of rice. (At this point, you can cover and refrigerate up to 2 days)
14. Mix bread crumbs or crushed crackers and 2 Tbsp. butter. Sprinkle over the casserole.
15. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or until heated through and topping is golden and crunchy. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

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Day 62–A Locavore’s Lunch–The Busy Bee

The Busy Bee is located in what was the Busy Bee Cafe in the 1920s.

I have to say that lately, I’ve had such great lunches from home that I haven’t been eating out for lunch much (good for my health and my wallet!). But when I do get lunch out, I typically frequent one of our many downtown lunch spots that serve local food. The Busy Bee on Wilmington Street (www.busybeeraleigh.com) is one of my all time favorites. They were, in fact, the catalyst for my new love of the fish taco!

Located in a former cafe of the same name, the Busy Bee features fresh, local, organic produce and NC sourced seafood. Their beef apparently comes from a distributer (according to my server), but much of the rest of the menu comes from local and/or sustainable sources. My favorites are the fish tacos and the spinach and artichoke burger (a hand-made veggie burger with spinach, artichoke and feta). Their sides are also wonderful. If you are a mac & cheese lover, get thee to the Busy Bee! Lighter than many mac & cheese dishes, it is very flavorful and filling. I usually go the unhealthy route on the sides with either the mac & cheese, tater tots (seriously–so good) or the fried green tomatoes.

I’ve also gone to the Busy Bee for staff happy hour, and the place has a terrific vibe in the evening. If you like beer, they have a pretty incredible selection of artisanal brews. If you don’t like beer, I can vouch for the Queen Bee martini with local honey and elderflower (a note: I do not sample adult beverages at lunch. Not that I haven’t been tempted, but still…).

If you’re in the Triangle looking for wonderful, fresh, locally sourced food, give the Busy Bee a try! And if you’re not local, check out their menu for some great flavorful inspirations that you might try at home!

Day 57–Starting Week 9–Budget and Menu

English: Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. ...

We had settled into a good routine for market shopping and ordering from local farmers. Until this week. With a sick child and busy work week, it was difficult to make time for the farmer’s market and I was tempted to just bag it and do my shopping at the grocery store. But, I didn’t. Can’t say I shopped with a glad heart this weekend, but I know I’ll be glad once we start cooking. We have lots of great eats this week. Our NC fishermen were catching a lot of swordfish, so we’re trying that along with NC scallops. Lettuce is making a strong comeback, so we will also be having more green salads with fresh lettuce and cucumbers. As for our budget we hit right at the mark this week, just four dollars over our $100 goal. Some items like flour will cover us for several weeks, so that’s good. Here’s how it broke out:

  • Farmhand food (meatbox pork tenderloin): $15
  • Locals Seafood (swordfish steaks and scallops): $40
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (Greek yogurt, pimento chevre): $8.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (egg): $4.00
  • Misc. farmers market (lettuce, tomato, cucumber): $8.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, organic whole wheat flour, organic buttermilk, butter, lemons, white wine): 29.19
  • Great Harvest Bread Company (honey whole wheat): free with coupon

Total budget for week 9: $104.19

So, what are we having for all this? Here is our menu for the week:

  • Sunday: grilled swordfish with rosemary/white wine sauce, risotto, sautéed kale from garden
  • Monday: Cheese quiche with garden salad [Meatless Monday]
  • Tuesday: Grilled pimento cheese and Mae Farm bacon sandwiches, salad
  • Wednesday: Whole wheat pasta with scallops and lemon
  • Thursday: Soyaki pork tenderloin with stir fried greens and leftover veggies
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Out–dinner and symphony date night

I am seriously looking forward to the grilled pimento cheese and bacon sandwiches this week. That may be a blog post in itself! Here is to wishing you a happy and healthy week ahead!

Day 36–Starting Week 6–Budget and Menu

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Our farmer's markets are busy, thanks to the warmer weather!

This was a fairly good week, albeit a busy one! The boneless mini ham from Chinquapin was by far and away the best ham we have ever eaten. Oh. My. Goodness. We made it through the week following our menu and definitely appreciated some lighter dishes in the mix. I’m sure the scale will appreciate it as well.

We’re really starting to see a change in the seasons through our food. The apples available at the farmer’s market are not so beautiful and crisp as they were a month ago. Made an apple cake with them, so it wasn’t such a big deal, but they are clearly on their way out. We’re starting to see salad greens and that is a happy thing! It helps that we haven’t had a winter this year–not one flake of snow in our part of North Carolina. Well, yet, anyway. There is still time. Winter can be pretty fickle around here. The unseasonably warmer temperatures are definitely reflected in the early bounty at the farmer’s markets around town, so we’re not complaining.

Our budget this week ran high–mostly our Super Bowl dinner, which featured homemade crab cakes. Crab isn’t readily available here for another two months, so crab was $$$, but we decided to splurge and represent the Ravens at our Super Bowl dinner.Also, I lost my grocery list and had to “wing it” which is never good for the budget. Here’s the weekly rundown:

  • Farmhand Foods (skirt steak from meatbox): $15.00
  • Earps Seafood (NC catfish): $8.00
  • Whole Foods (lump crab meat): $25.00
  • Heaven on Earth Organics (broccoli, green peppers, red cabbage, tomatoes, mustard greens): $18.00
  • Farmer’s Market–various (apple butter, NC pecans): $10.00
  • Lowe’s Foods (pie crust, lemons, organic breakfast burritos, Coors Light): $16.96
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, organic sugar, parmesan cheese, avocado, Ezekiel bread, organic celery, half and half): $42.60

So, our total is a whopping $135.56. I think I just surpassed the savings we had last week, so will try to rein it in for next week!

Here is our menu for week 6. We are looking forward to trying the fish tacos, which I love, but have never made at home!

  • Sunday–marinated, grilled skirt steak, crab cakes, mustard green, homemade pralines
  • Monday–Fish tacos w/cabbage slaw, kale
  • Tuesday–Pasta w/roasted vegetables and leftover steak
  • Wednesday–leftovers
  • Thursday–Cheese quiche, greens
  • Friday–leftover quiche, cabbage slaw
  • Saturday–out for my birthday!

Here’s to week 6 and Super Bowl Sunday. Now, fire up that grill 🙂

 

Day 28–Locals Seafood

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Ryan Speckman and Lin Peterson are ready for your seafood questions!

“Our fish are so fresh we have to slap their little faces.”

Ok, this isn’t the actual sign on the booth of Locals Seafood, but it could be. We visited Locals Seafood at the Western Wake Farmers Market in Morrisville and picked up NC shrimp for this week’s menu. All of the fish, shrimp, oysters and scallops sold by Locals Seafood is caught on NC waters in the area around Manteo. Ryan was great at explaining their protocol to me and suggesting some fish options for fish tacos.

Because their fish is all local caught, the selection varies from week to week, but their website (www.localsseafood.com) lists their weekly catch. I love that you can text your order in advance and pick it up at the farmers market (great for menu planners like me).

Locals also sells at the Wednesday downtown Raleigh farmers market, which starts up again in April. So glad to have found a great source for NC seafood!