Day 118–This Week’s Produce Box

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This week, our veggie fairy named Terri delivered a beautiful box of vegetables plus organic strawberries PLUS cheese. Right to my doorstep. Yes she did. We are set to go with another week’s worth of fresh vegetables, including two kinds of lettuce, two pounds of carrots, beets, an herb bouquet, two quarts of strawberries and a local cheese that is similar to asiago. YUM!

So, what to do with two pounds of carrots? I’m thinking of…pickling! But of course! Pickled carrots sound yummy and will be a continuation of my learning all things pickle. These are supposed to be spicy pickles, which sound pretty good to me. I’m NOT posting this idea on Facebook 🙂 If that doesn’t work out for some reason, I’m thinking carrot soup.

What would YOU do with 2 pounds of carrots???

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Day 75–Toxic Free Pest Control

Ok, my house is finally clean and I’m ready to take on pest control without the use toxic chemicals. Most commercially available pest sprays are neurotoxins that work by destroying the central nervous system of bugs–and pretty much all other living things. Although I don’t have a toddler anymore, it still doesn’t seem like a great idea to spray neurotoxins throughout my house.

Thanks to Toxic Free NC, we have some recipes for neurotoxin-free pest control. We will give these a try this spring and summer and report back on our experience. With our exceptionally warm winter and early spring, I expect we will have a bumper crop of bugs this year, so good to get prepared now!

NOTE: Most of these recipes use borax or boric acid. This powder is safe to handle, but inhaling it in large amounts can irritate the respiratory tract, so keep open containers of powder away from pets and children.

Ant Bait

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp borax
  • 3-6 small screw-top jars (baby food jars would work well)
  • Cotton balls
  1. Mix all ingredients together and divide the mixture evenly among the jars.
  2. Loosely pack the jars with cotton balls.
  3. Screw the jar lids on and seal with tape.
  4. Poke holes in the jar lids and place jars on their sides near where ants are entering the house.

Roach Balls (this elicited much laughter from my daughter–always good to know body humor is still in fashion)

  • 1 cup borax
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  1. Make a paste of all ingredients and roll into little balls.
  2. Place 2-3 balls in a sandwich bag and leave open.
  3. Put the bags wherever you have a problem with roaches. They will eat the balls and carry them to their nests where they will die.

Herbal Insect Repellent (Do not use if you are pregnant)

  • 15 drops lavender oil
  • 15 drops tea tree oil
  • 10 drops citronella oil
  • 10 drops eucalyptus oil
  • 10 drops cedarwood oil
  1. In a small bottle, mix the essential oils with about one ounce of unscented skin oil (you could use almond oil, olive oil or a massage oil).
  2. Apply to skin as needed.

For more information and recipes, go to http://www.toxicfreenc.org

Day 73–National Chicken Noodle Soup Day

A homemade chicken noodle soup with bread

In honor of the March 13 holiday, National Chicken Noodle Soup Day, I will be making a nice pot of soup for my family. Nothing uses a bounty of fresh, local vegetables like soup (well, a good stir fry will use some veggies, too, but it’s not stir fry day). Did you know that a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup has only 8% chicken? I don’t know about you, but I like more than that in my soup, so I’ll be making my own.

The first component to good chicken soup is having homemade chicken stock. I love making my own chicken stock because it makes use of something (the chicken carcass) that would otherwise be tossed away and turns it into something that is far superior to anything you can buy in a can or box at the grocery. I also love making stock because I can do it while I do a half-dozen other things like cleaning, doing laundry or (my favorite) watching football. Football is sadly over for another six months, but I’ll be spring cleaning the house and working on some volunteer projects instead. If you finish a roast chicken, but don’t have time to make stock, wrap up the chicken bones and freeze them until you are ready. It’s totally worth it.

Making soup is a forgiving process. With few exceptions, you can make substitutions and use whatever you have on hand and it will be good. My favorite soup to make is an Italian Ribolita–I’ll post that recipe at some point–because it uses up a lot of leftover fresh vegetables and is incredibly satisfying in the fall and winter. But today is chicken noodle soup day, so let’s get started…

Chicken Stock

  • 1 chicken carcass or leftover chicken bones
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves organic garlic, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
  • 2-3 organic celery stalks or leftover tops, cleaned and cut into large pieces
  • 3 organic carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Put all ingredients into a large stock pot and fill pot with water to cover all.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  3. Skim any foam off the surface and reduce heat to low.
  4. Simmer on stove for 1-2 hours.
  5. Take pot from heat and allow to cool about 30 minutes.
  6. Strain contents of pot through a colander into another large pot or bowl. Discard chicken bones and vegetables.
  7. Cover strained stock and chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  8. Skim fat from the top and either use or store in freezer.
  9. You can freeze this stock for up to 6 months.

NOTE: I don’t add salt to my stock because I’m never sure how I will use it. You can add it if you like, but I prefer to add salt to the finished dish.

Chicken Noodle Soup

This is my basic chicken soup recipe, but by all means feel free to add, substitute or eliminate as you wish. I tend to like my soup very thick, so you can add more stock, water, wine or whatever makes you happy so you have the right consistency for you.

  • 12 cups of homemade chicken stock
  • 2-3 cups of cooked chicken (usually whatever I have left over), cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 4 organic carrots, peeled and cut into roughly 1/4″ slices
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh organic peas
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 organic celery stalks, cleaned and sliced thin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 16 oz. pasta (fettuccine noodles broken into pieces, orzo or any pasta you like)
  1. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil at medium/high heat.
  2. Add vegetables and cook until slightly tender, about 5 minutes or so.
  3. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add chicken and chicken stock, stir well and simmer.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Simmer on medium/low heat for about 1 hour.
  7. Add pasta and cook another 10-15 minutes until pasta is done.
  8. Serve with a salad or with a good bread.
  9. Soup can be frozen for up to 6 months.

Happy chicken noodle soup day!

Day 71–Starting Week 11–Budget and Menu

This has been a roller coaster week, full of highs and lows, bottoming out with the temporary “loss” or our cat, but ending on a super high note with an award from Sugar Dish Me and a fun, family learning event.

Our family trek to the Dig In! community gardening conference was fun, informative and inspiring. Tom and Ellie are working on their guest blog posts for this week and we have made contact with a couple of community gardens in our area. And Ellie wants chickens, which she will share with you later. And we’ll be sharing with you some of what we learned about canning, worms and herb spirals. Not necessarily in that order.

All this excitement has re-energized us and given us some great ideas for spring. Which means we have a lot of work to do!!

Somewhere in the chaos of this week, I made it to the State Farmers Market for our weekly shopping. We had our most efficient shopping week yet, spending just $88.95. This was in part due to our cat escaping and subsequently one dinner being carried over. We’re also making recipes from two fellow bloggers! 

Shopping List for the Week:

Rainbow Farm (chicken breasts): $12.00
Mae Farm (eggs): $4.00
Farmer’s market (broccoli, collards, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion): $13.00
Farmhand Foods (skirt steak): $15.00
Trader Joes (frozen fruit, lime, soy milk, Greek yogurt, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil): $28.02
Lowes Foods (chipotle sauce, sriracha sauce, ginger, black beans): $16.93

Total $88.95–$11.05 under our weekly goal!

What are we having? Here’s the menu:

Eats for the Week

Sunday–Chicken pot pie, sautĂ©ed greens, triple chocolate raspberry “cheesecake” squares from The Scrumptious Pumpkin
Monday–Leftover pot pie, salad
Tuesday–Stuffed sweet potatoes, salad
Wednesday–Grilled cheese and homemade chicken soup
Thursday–Asian spicy chicken salad from Creative Noshing
Friday–Chicken soup and buttermilk biscuits
Saturday–Grilled skirt steak and red pepper fajitas, black beans, quinoa

Whew! Well, that’s a wrap. Have a great week–may all your vegetables be organic and may all your kittens be safely corralled inside 🙂

Day 61–Coon Rock Farm

Lately I have been buying produce and eggs from Coon Rock Farm, a family owned farm on the Eno River in Hillsborough. From Harukai turnips to fresh carrots and tatsoi greens, everything I’ve purchased has been delicious. At the Western Wake Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago, I tried a sample of their chorizo (it is impossible to pass their tent without trying it since you can smell it cooking and for “some reason” I am always hungry). It was amazing. I keep forgetting to add it to our rotation, but maybe next week.

Coon Rock Farm (www.coonrockfarm.com) is the epitome of “farm to fork”. The Holcomb family not only operates the farm (which dates back to the 1800s), they also operate two highly reputable restaurants, Zely & Ritz in Raleigh and Piedmont Restaurant in Durham. Both restaurants feature the vegetables, fruit, eggs, lamb, beef, pork and eggs produced on the farm.

According to the Holcombs, farm produce is all organic and mostly heirloom varieties (which explains why my carrots were unbelievably “carrot-y” in flavor). All animals are pasture-raised and grass-fed, with no hormones or antibiotics. I love that this is a family all working together to bring us good food while nurturing the young farmers who will continue to feed us into the future.

Coon Rock Farm sells at three local farmer’s markets–Midtown Farmer’s Market at North Hills, Western Wake Farmer’s Market in Cary and the Chapel Hill Farmer’s Market. They also have a CSA which you can read about on their website.

As for the name? Apparently, the name Coon Rock Farm comes from a large rock that juts into the Eno River and has the historical name of “Coon Rock”.  Regardless, the food produced by this family is wonderful, sustainable, healthy food, and I for one am looking forward to some chorizo on Saturday!

Day 50–Starting Week 8–Budget and Menu

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...

It’s hard to believe we’re at Day 50 of our sustainability challenge already. Starting our eighth week of sustainable eating and healthier living, many of our changes like shopping at the farmer’s market, carefully reading the labels of those things we buy from the store, and cooking meals at home have become part of our regular habit. We have detoxed our cleaning supplies and replaced our plastic food storage with glass. And we have changed some of our health and beauty products to kinder versions without phthalates and parabens. What we need to work on is walking more, but I think that will improve when the weather is consistently warm.

This week, we did well on eating what we purchased. We have some beets that might not make it, but that’s it. I’m getting better (I think) at anticipating how much food we will eat. That was a bigger problem before we had a budget. I was so tempted by all the beautiful vegetables at the farmer’s market that I would over buy and then feel frustrated that we were basically composting money! In truth, we eat a lot less than I would have thought and it has taken me a while to adjust my buying to what we will really eat, not to what looks appealing. Knowing I am accountable to my budget each week has definitely made me a more careful shopper!

Here is how our shopping budge worked this week:

  • Coon Rock Farm (carrots, sweet turnips): $6.00
  • Locals Seafood (fresh monkfish): $17.00
  • Farmhand Foods meat box (beef braising ribs): $15.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (fresh Greek yogurt): $4.00
  • Whole Foods (ground bison): $12.97
  • Trader Joes (Ezekiel bread, zinfandel, burger buns, soy milk, frozen fruit, broth, harvest grains, etc): $39.97

The total for this week is $94.94! A tad under budget this week! And what are we eating for $94.94? Here is the menu for this week:

Sunday–Zinfandel braised beef ribs with rosemary, garlic mashed potatoes, sautĂ©ed kale with pine nuts

Monday–Pan seared monkfish with lemon, risotto with leftover butternut squash, sweet turnips

Tuesday–Carryover ribs and potatoes, broccoli

Wednesday–Scrambled egg tortillas, leftover risotto, leftovers

Thursday–Bison burgers, harvest grain cous cous

Friday–Broccoli pesto pasta with pine nuts

Saturday–Homemade pizza night, salad

Here’s to another great week!

 

Day 43–Starting Week 7–Budget and Menu

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There’s something about this time of year, when winter stubbornly refuses to let go and the trees look bare and forlorn. I remember the story of Persephone the goddess of spring, and her bargain with Hades. In exchange for being his reluctant bride in the underworld, he would grant her six months of freedom on the earth’s surface. It seems the earth is all in anticipation of spring’s return.

Our menu feels the same weary anticipation. A little tired of collards, sweet potatoes, cabbage and apples, we are wishing for spring lettuce, asparagus and tender peas. And strawberries… We’re sticking with the plan though, and have resisted strawberries from Mexico and greens from California. They will sure taste wonderful when they’re available locally again!

We did just barely go over our budget this week. Here’s how it broke out:

Fickle Creek Farm (pork loin): $16
Locals Seafood (rockfish): $13
Heaven on Earth Organics (collards, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, beets, cucumber): $20
Hillsborough Cheese Co (ricotta, sweet ash): $12
Trader Joes (frozen fruit, yogurt, beans, shallots, organic diced tomato, ground turkey): $43

Total for week 7: $104

Here’s the menu for the week:

Sunday–turkey chili and cornbread
Monday–pasta w/roasted vegetables and ricotta
Tuesday–grilled pork loin chops, sweet potato, collards
Wednesday–pan seared rockfish, brussel sprouts
Thursday–leftover chili
Friday–pasta con le sarde (w/sardines)
Saturday–date night

Have a wonderful week! Here’s to being one week closer to Persephone’s return!

Day 39–Backyard Farming–Can We Grow Our Own?

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My Pheonix-like kale is either a complete anomaly or a sign of hope...

You can’t get any more local or sustainable than growing your own vegetables or raising your own chickens. Some have wondered why I spend so much of my time tracking down local, organic farmers, when I could just grow produce myself. Well, there’s a story behind that, but before I go there, I want to thank someone who has made my blogger soul bloom.

I want to thank Creative Noshing for bestowing the Liebster Award upon my little blog. The Liebster Award is given from bloggers to new bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. What means so much to me is that I love the Creative Noshing blog myself and if you haven’t checked it out, you should! Terrific recipes and wonderful writing. Now I get to share the award with up to 5 other bloggers! A nice way to pass along positive encouragement!

I am in turn selecting the following blogs for the Liebster Blog Award, and I hope you will visit their sites. They are well-written blogs that share great information and have a good sense of humor and style.

Stay Healthy with Samantha

The Lovely Locavore Ladies of Boston

Hillsborough Cheese Company

Congratulations to them and many thanks to Creative Noshing. You made my day!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program …

In regards to growing my food, I would say I have a black thumb, but I don’t think that is accurate. My yard has a black thumb and I am sticking to that story. I’ve had wonderful gardens in my past–vegetable gardens and herb gardens chock full of heirloom tomatoes, squash, okra and lettuce. My current house, however, exists in some Bermuda Triangle of gardening. I have beautiful, mature oak trees, which provide shade–something humans enjoy more than vegetable plants. On the flip side, the few open spaces I have seem to be real hot spots. And then there are the bunnies. Not sure what it is about Cary, but our wild bunnies proliferate like, well, rabbits. They are really cute, but not so much when they are eating all your broccoli plants.

Despite these challenges, I see a small ray of hope. The kale we planted last fall has come back rather Pheonix-like from its earlier bunny attack and looks lovely. It’s just enough to get me looking at seeds again. Knowing I have a membership to The Produce Box certainly helps take the pressure off having to feed my family from three raised beds of sad little plants. Then again, maybe herbs are a better choice considering my hot, mediterranean-like sunny spots.

The weather is warm(ish), the sun is out, and hope springs eternal…Maybe this year…

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 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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