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 213–Local Shrimp and Pasta

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My wonderful daughter brought a gift to me a couple of months ago and I am just now delving into it. Knowing how much I absolutely LOVE Italy, she brought me the “Under the Tuscan Sun Cookbook.” Not only are there wonderful recipes using fresh vegetables and seafood for summer, there are lots of hearty baked dishes to try when the weather turns cold. YUM!

When I say I love Italy, you need to understand that I love it so much I changed my will to have my ashes sprinkled in the olive groves of Cinque Terre. The food we had during our trip around Tuscany featured fresh, local foods that were cooked simply and were absolutely amazing. No crazy food towers with mystery ingredients and very little, if any, processed foods. And, of course, wine. With everything. Well, not breakfast, but you get the idea.

This recipe is adapted from the Tuscan Sun Cookbook using what we have locally. We had this last night and we agree that this is definitely a “do again” recipe. It is super healthy, quick and very, very easy to make. We use only local shrimp, but any US shrimp would be fine. We steer clear of shrimp not wild caught in the US because of the environmental degradation caused by many oversees shrimp farms, but you could also substitute almost any shellfish here or sub fresh mozzarella cubes for the shrimp and make it ovo/lacto vegetarian!

Buon appetito!

Local Shrimp and Pasta

  • 3/4 lb. orricchiete (“little ear”) or small shell pasta
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh shelled peas
  • 1/4 c. onion, diced
  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. local, wild caught shrimp
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When water is boiling, add a generous helping of kosher salt and the pasta. This pasta will need to cook about 12 minutes.
  2. While pasta is cooking, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to a saute pan and heat at medium low.
  3. Add the shelled peas and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the onion, salt and pepper and continue sauteing for another 3 minutes until peas and onion are just softened.
  4. Add pea mixture to a bowl and puree with an immersion (stick) blender (you could also use a food processor). Set aside.
  5. In the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil and add the shrimp, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until shrimp are just pink and remove from heat.
  6. When pasta has cooked, drain and reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Add pasta and all other ingredients to the pot and stir to combine.
  7. Serve and eat up!

Day 68–Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp a la Jerry

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Roasted Broccoli, Peppers and Shrimp--Easy and Healthy!

My friend Jerry sent me this recipe (thanks, Jerry!) and I finally had a chance to add it to our weekly menu. Fresh, local, organic broccoli and NC shrimp–a simple, and amazingly good combination. Although it wasn’t in the original recipe, I added some sliced red bell pepper since I had it handy. This recipe is light, but satisfying and quite tasty. Don’t skimp on the coriander seeds or hot pepper–they infuse the entire dish and make it something special. Healthy, quick and easy to make, this recipe hits all the marks for a succesful, weeknight dinner. And even better, it only uses one bowl, a cutting board and one baking sheet, making cleanup super quick.

A note about shrimp. I bought large-sized shrimp and 10 minutes was just right for roasting. If you buy medium or small shrimp, you may want to back off on the roasting time. If you don’t have access to local or U.S. shrimp (or you just don’t like shrimp), you could probably try this with a thick, locally available fish (here that would be tuna or swordfish) cut into chunks. Scallops might be good also!

You could also play around with what vegetables to include, and make this a truly seasonal dish. I can’t wait to see how we can work our Produce Box veggies into this dish over the spring and summer!

Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp a la Jerry

This makes 3 servings or 2 servings for hungry seafood lovers!

  • 2 lbs. broccoli
  • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • One red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp. of ground)
  • 1/8 tsp. hot chili powder (I used red pepper flakes)
  • 1 lemon, zested with lemon reserved for serving
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
  • Rice, quinoa or other cooked grains
    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    2. Cut the broccoli into large florets with some stem remaining.
    3. Cut the red bell pepper into strips and cut each strip in half crosswise.
    4. In a bowl, toss the broccoli florets and bell pepper with 2 Tbsp. olive oil, coriander, cumin, hot chili pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.
    5. Put broccoli and pepper mix on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes.
    6. In the bowl, toss shrimp with remaining 2 Tbsp. of olive oil, lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.
    7. Add to the broccoli mix and pop back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the shrimp is pink and opaque, but not overcooked.
    8. Serve over rice with lemon wedges and you are done!

      The broccoli and peppers before roasting--so pretty!

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The final product just before the feast!

Day 64–Starting Week 10–Budget and Menu

Well, we are beginning week 10 of our journey with lots of good eats and with an eye toward spring and all the delicious fruits and vegetables that will be coming our way in another 4-6 weeks! So rather than look at sweet potatoes as “sweet potatoes…again??” we’re looking at them a bit nostalgically, knowing that it may be another 5-6 months before we see them again. Here is how we did at the market–a pretty typical week by this point. We went $4.00 over, but I splurged on two fresh, pasture-raised chickens, which just seemed too tempting to let go!

  • Heaven on Earth Organics (sweet potato, tomatoes, broccoli, onion, greens): $16.00
  • Mae Farm (chorizo): $8.00
  • Rare Earth Farm (local buttermilk): $4.00
  • Rainbow Farm (fresh chickens-2): $28.00
  • Lowes Food (pastry): $5.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, limes, grated cheese, organic sugar, peppers, lettuce, etc.): $35.00
  • Earps Seafood (NC shrimp): $8.00

Our total for the week: $104.00

So what’s to eat this week? We have a mix of hearty home cooking and fresh spring dishes–that seems to match our weather as well! In honor of National Pound Cake Day, I’ll be making a lemon pound cake–yum!

This week’s menu

  • Sunday–Roast, fresh chickens, sweet potatoes, sautéed kale, whole wheat buttermilk biscuits
  • Monday–Chicken and chorizo taquitos, multigrain mix, salad
  • Tuesday–Leftover taquitos
  • Wednesday–Roasted broccoli and shrimp over brown rice
  • Thursday–Chicken pot pie, salad
  • Friday–Leftover pot pie and greens
  • Saturday–Chicken noodle soup and biscuits

 Have a wonderful, healthy and delicious week!

Day 58–Small Shrimp, Big Footprint

Shrimp Boat

I love good shrimp, especially over grits or in pasta. Living in a state that produces shrimp for the rest of the country, I used to think that most of my shrimp was caught within a two-hour drive from my home. Checking grocery store sourcing, though, I found that most of it is imported. Imported!! Shrimp comes from 120 miles away, but it’s imported from Asia??? Now we get all our seafood local, thanks to Locals Seafood and Earp’s Seafood Market. I recently read a report that has me even more convinced that local shrimp is the way to go.

The article is from Mother Jones Online and it proclaims that “Shrimp’s Carbon Footprint is 10 Times Greater Than Beef’s”. Say what??? I thought grain fed South American beef was the worst food in regards to carbon footprints, but apparently not. Highlighting Taco Bell’s $2.79 shrimp taco and Red Lobster’s “Endless Shrimp” feasts, the article focuses on America’s love of cheap, plentiful food and the practice of farm raising shrimp in Asia. Twenty years ago, 80% of the shrimp Americans consumed came from wild domestic fisheries, with an additional 20% imported. Today those percentages are flipped, with more than 90% of the shrimp we consume coming from outside the U.S. and mostly from shrimp farms throughout Asia.

Why is that bad? Well, to read about it, apparently these foreign shrimp farms are increasingly built on former mangrove forests across Asia. The devastation of the mangroves is huge. Mangrove forests are biodiverse fisheries, where many species lay their eggs and where young fish can develop in clean waters. The cutting down of these mangrove forests results in “fetid dead zones” that are devoid of life except for what is farmed there. Mangroves are also rich in carbon. When the mangroves are destroyed, that carbon is released into the atmosphere as global warming gas. And since the farms can only be used for about 5 years until the water is too toxic and laden with pesticides, viruses and antibiotics, these shrimp factories are not at all sustainable.

So, what is a shrimp lover to do? Well, first, back away from the shrimp taco and all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet, because the odds are good that those shrimp came from someplace pretty gross. And then buy U.S. shrimp, which are plentiful and which will support jobs in fisheries here. Domestic shrimp may be more expensive when measuring by the dollar, but they are less costly in terms of the environment and your own health. Now I just need to find a good recipe for shrimp tacos!

Day 30–Western Wake Farmers Market

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Madison Whitley is the friendly of the Western Wake Farmer's Market

Any of us can get into a pattern of behavior, especially when it comes to shopping for groceries. So we are trying to extend our reach a bit and try other farmers markets and suppliers of local food. This week we had a great time at the Western Wake Farmer’s Market in Morrisville. A fun and totally friendly experience! Just a 15 minute drive from our house, the Western Wake Farmer’s Market has a terrific supply of locally produced cheeses, pasta, vegetables, seafood, and meat. Smaller than the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh, this market focuses on high quality, mostly organic produce and no growth hormone, antibiotic free meat. The winter hours are Saturdays 10-12 and the market is located in the Carpenter Village shopping center parking lot.

Family Friendly Mom Power

We were greeted enthusiastically by Market Manager Madison Whitley, who quickly gave us information about the market and answered my many questions about vendors and how the Market works. The Market was actually founded by a group of moms who wanted the western part of our county to have the same access to fresh produce that others have from the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh. Never underestimate the power of a group of moms! Everyone at the market was friendly, engaging and more than willing to answer my questions from The Sustainable Table question lists.

Improving Food Access

The WWFM, which was started by a group of dedicated moms, shares a concern that low income families in our county do not have adequate access to quality fresh produce (or in some cases, any fresh produce). The Market takes monetary donations, which it uses to purchase produce from the market vendors. Market vendors also make donations of produce themselves. The Market works with the Interfaith Food Shuttle, which picks up donations and distributes them to food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. This system allows them to contribute fresh produce without having to develop a new (and costly) distribution plan. In the last growing season, they donated more than 3,000 pounds of produce! LOVE this!

The Shopping

Ok, so this is a winter market, but the selection was still very good, with about 15 vendors. According to Madison, the summer market (starting in April) more than doubles the number of vendors. We purchased NC shrimp, locally roasted coffee, organic carrots and tatsoi, and two kinds of cheese (we’ll be back for more!).

So, if you’ve been wanting to try something new, seek out a new farmer’s market or co-op store that you haven’t visited before. You may be pleasantly surprised and, if you’re lucky like we were, you’ll have a new favorite as well!

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Day 29–Starting Week 5–Budget and Menu

It is hard to believe we are already beginning the second month of our family sustainability challenge. While we have made some adjustments in our lives, the overall process has not been as hard as I thought it would be. We are finding new resources all the time, eating better quality food and meeting new people. All good things! We’re also doing pretty well at not wasting food. We did have to compost a bunch of dino kale, but we’ve been pretty good about eating everything we buy during the week!

In week 4, we did pretty well with our meals, eating all meals except breakfast from locally produced sources. This puts us right at 75%. I’m not sure if we’ll always make that target, but it worked well this week! So, how is our budget for next week? Here is what we spent:

Week 5 expenses:

  • Farmhand Foods meat box (3.5 lb. mini boneless ham): $15.00
  • Water Oaks Farm (eggs): $4.00
  • Coon Rock Farm (carrots and tatsoi): $7.00
  • Locals Seafood (NC shrimp): $10.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (Eno Sharp and mozzarella): $10.00
  • Heaven on Earth Organics (sweet potatoes, tomato, broccoli): $13.00
  • Bushy Farm (apples): $5.00
  • Trader Joes (Ezekiel bread, organic butter, organic tomato soup, free range chicken broth, frozen fruit, organic soy milk): $26.11
  • Great Harvest Bread Co. (honey whole wheat): FREE with coupon

Total for week 5: $90.11!! We are under our goal of $100 for the first week! Some of this is due to carryover we have (frozen ragu sauce, carryover local grits, carryover whole grain rolls) plus a coupon for free bread (!), but I still think that’s great. What are we getting for our budget?

Week 5 Menu

  • Sunday–Roast Duplin County ham from AD Jones, oven roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli with pine nuts, apple cake
  • Monday–Grilled cheese (Great Harvest bread and local Eno Sharp cheese), organic tomato soup [Meatless Monday!]
  • Tuesday–Ham and bean soup with kale, whole grain rolls
  • Wednesday–All NC shrimp and grits
  • Thursday–leftover soup
  • Friday–ham, cheese and leftover veggie fritatta
  • Saturday–whole wheat pasta with leftover ragu from freezer

Here’s to another fun and adventurous week! Next week, we’ll be planning our Super Bowl menu!

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!