SOLE Food Eating

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Day 348–Farmer Spotlight–Carolina Bison

English: Bison bison. Original caption: "...

While I like to think I have a creative brain, some things are difficult for me to envision. Take clowns for example. I can’t imagine them NOT being creepy. likewise, I have a hard time imagining a fall without football. Or Lindsay Lohan without drama. Add to this my difficulty imagining the western North Carolina mountains and foothills teeming with bison. Well, that’s not quite the same as Lilo without the po-po following her, but still. Bison?

Yet, it is apparently true. At one point, millions of American Bison roamed the plains of what is now the United States. I’m not sure they ever called North Carolina home, but that is changing quickly. Several farmers in North Carolina are raising bison as a healthy alternative to beef. Carolina Bison in Asheville is one such business. The business began in 1985, when founder Dr. Frank King noticed that his patients who ate a diet of grass-fed bison noticed substantial health improvements. And so, a business was born!

Why did bison offer those benefits? Well, bison has less fat than beef (almost on par with chicken) and an extremely high amount of digestible protein. So, you get the taste of grass-fed beef with the health effects of eating white meat.

Carolina Bison offers grass-fed, steroid-free and antibiotic-free bison in the form of steaks, ground meat, roasts and stew beef. Since Asheville is a good 5 hours from Cary, I’m going to try the mail order service and see how that works. In the meantime, at least one North Carolina farm is selling bison at our farmer’s market, but I don’t know much about their protocol. We did pick up a pound to try this weekend as burgers for our famished selves after the 2012 Reindeer Romp 5K this Saturday!

For information about Carolina Bison, click HERE! For anyone in NC, they will offer ranch tours in the spring and I definitely want in on that! Maybe it will help with my visualization issue!

Day 345–What’s Fresh at the Market

Brussel sprouts

The weather here in central North Carolina is having a case of indecision. Although we have had some chilly days, most of December has been in the 70s. I’m not complaining, mind you, but it is a little hard to get in the holiday spirit when you’re wearing shorts and a t-shirt. And flipflops.

One of the wonderful side effects of this warm weather is that our farmers are still harvesting lots of great vegetables! Here is what’s fresh this week!

  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Bok choi
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Pecans
  • Sweet potatoes (orange and white)
  • Greenhouse tomatoes
  • Winter squash–acorn, butternut, pattypan
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Rutabegas
  • Radish

Have a wonderful week and don’t forget to support your local farmers as you make your holiday meal plans!

Day 344–Stuffed Butternut Squash

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It doesn’t look all that spectacular, but this dish is flexible, easy, inexpensive and full of fall goodness!

I love winter squash and for me, stuffed squash is a great way to turn one or two squash into a family meal. Stuffed squash is one of those crazy, flexible meals that can vary depending on what you happen to have handy. For me, that’s some awesome Mae Farm sausage, onions, leftover sage, breadcrumbs and cheese. You could add sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, kale–the possibilities are endless! Here is the process: roast, saute, scoop, fill and bake.

Stuffed Butternut Squash

1butternut squash
1/2 lb. sausage
1 yellow onion
2 carrots
1/2 c. dried breadcrumbs
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
2. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Put squash cut side down on the baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until squash is soft, but not mushy.
3. Remove casing from sausage and cut into bite sized pieces. Brown in a saute pan over medium heat until all pink is gone.
4. Peel and dice the onion and carrots.
5. Remove sausage from pan and cook onion and carrots in pan drippings (add olive oil, if needed). Cook about 4 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent.
6. Add sage and bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add sausage back to pan.
Keep warm until squash is done.
7. Remove squash from oven and, using a towel to protect your hand, hold each half and scoop flesh out of skin and into the saute pan. Take care to leave the skin intact!
8. Mix the squash into the stuffing and combine. Fill each squash half with stuffing, mounding over the top. Top with parmesan cheese.
9. Put squash back in the oven for 20 minutes or until stuffing is hot and cheese is melty. Serve immediately.

Day 343–Starting Week 50–Budget and Menu

Although winter is just around the corner, we are still experiencing daily temperatures in the 60s and 70s. The farmer’s markets are still offering a wide variety of fall and winter vegetables, no doubt helped along by the unseasonable weather! This week’s budget is $63.46, far below our $100.00 limit. While I would love to say this reflects some creative frugal spending on my part, we have two evening events to attend this week, so that’s two fewer nights for me to cook dinner. On a real plus side, I found two NC farmers/ranchers who are raising bison and we will try some bison burgers as our celebratory meal after the Reindeer Romp 5K next Saturday!

Budget

Mae Farm (bacon): $8.40
Rare Earth Farm (eggs): $4.08
Farmhand Foods (small steak): $5.00
General farmers market (sweet potatoes, kale, onions, cauliflower, brussel sprouts): $13.50
Greenland Farm (bison): $8.60
Trader Joes (burger buns, spiced pecans, soy milk, cheese, sour cream): $23.88

Here is what we’re having during what I hope is our last super busy week before the holidays!

Menu

Sunday–chipotle steak and sweet potato quesadillas, kale
Monday–quiche lorraine with brussel sprouts
Tuesday–Evening event
Wednesday–leftover quiche, roasted purple cauliflower
Thursday–evening event
Friday–pasta con sarde (prep for the Reindeer Romp 5K)
Saturday–bison burgers, mashed cauliflower, kale

Day 159–Peach Butter!

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When I was little, I hated peaches. Would. Not. Eat. Them. It wasn’t the taste, I just couldn’t get past the fuzzy skin. I was a nectarine girl all the way. Then I moved farther south, where peaches grow everywhere and you just can’t resist the sweet fragrance coming from the market stalls. Fuzz you say? What fuzz? I am totally over it. When peach season hits, it’s like striking gold for me. Peach cobbler, peach ice cream, peach crisp and just plain ol’ peaches–the super ripe kind that drip juice down your chin and make you a target for every yellow jacket in the area.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that eating locally means putting up the goodness of the season so that you can continue to enjoy locavore eating all year round without having to depend on just a few seasonal crops. I’ll be freezing peaches, for sure, but I found a recipe for peach butter that, judging from our taste of what was left in the pot, will be heaven in the middle of winter. Just open a jar and spread some summer on my morning toast. Yum. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

Peach Butter (makes about 5 half-pints)

2 c. water
1/4 c. lemon juice
8 lb. ripe peaches
2 c. sugar
1tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

Combine the water and lemon juice in a non-reactive pot.

Peel and chop the peaches, adding the fruit to the water/lemon juice. Compost peach peels.

Bring the peach mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes (peaches will be soft). Puree with a food mill or stick blender.

Return the peach puree to the pot and add sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Simmer until thick (this took 50 min for me). Stir frequently so the puree doesn’t burn.

Store your peach butter in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks or can using the hot water bath method.

Ladle puree into clean, hot jars (I used half pint jars), leaving 1/4″ headspace. Release trapped air, wipe jar rims clean and put lids on jars. Screw bands onto jars just to finger tightness.

Process for 10 minutes in a hot water canner (jars should be in boiling water 10 min). Open canner, turn off heat and let sit 5 minutes.

Remove jars and set aside 24 hours. Check jar seals and set aside in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months.

Day 157–Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina

One of the most memorable meals I have ever had was in Corniglia, Italy, while Tom and I were hiking the Cinque Terre (if you haven’t done this, consider putting it on your bucket list). We had a simple lunch at a small restaurant operated by a woman in her 70s. She made everything herself and grew the vegetables in her garden. There was no menu, just a few daily specials that took advantage of what was in season.

A huge part of what made the experience so wonderful is that we ate on a patio outside looking out at the Mediterranean Sea. Far from the Olive Garden, billion calorie, sauce laden pastas in America, the pasta we had was typical of the region–homemade pasta tossed with a light basil pesto and bits of potato and green beans. Delicious, satisfying and fresh. After hiking an hour and climbing almost 400 stairs to get to Corniglia, we were famished and ready to tuck in. When we finished our wonderful meal, we continued on our hike with renewed physical and emotional energy.

This recipe calls for all that is wonderful about summer–fresh potatoes, green beans, basil and (I veered from the traditional recipe) tomatoes. Yum!

Pesto Pasta e Fagioli e Patatina

  • 1 lb. fresh or dried capallini or fettucine pasta
  • 2 c. basil pesto (see below)
  • 1 potato or about 8 small red potatoes
  • 1 c. green beans, topped and tailed and cut in 1/2
  • 1 large, fresh tomato
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  1. Put a stock pot of water on the stove to boil.
  2. While water is heating, cut your potatoes into bite size pieces.
  3. When water comes to a boil, add a handful of kosher salt and the potatoes. Boil potatoes for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the green beans to the pot and continue to boil for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the pasta to the pot and cook according to directions.
  6. Cut up tomato into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
  7. Reserve 1 c. of the pasta water and drain the pasta and vegetables.
  8. Put pasta and vegetable mixture into a large bowl. Add pesto, parmesan cheese and tomato. Mix to combine, adding pasta water if needed to thicken the sauce.

Basil Pesto

  • 3 c. fresh basil
  • 1 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. pine nuts
  • 2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 Tsp. lemon juice
  1. Put basil and about 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend into a paste.
  2. Add pine nuts, cheese, garlic and remaining oil. Blend until smooth.

Basil pesto should be made fresh and used the same day. Or, you can freeze pesto (this works very well if you buy a plastic ice cube tray and freeze the pesto in the trays–just pop out a cube and use in a sauce!).

Day 155–Starting Week 23–Budget and Menu

green beans

We’re in that golden time right now–beautiful fruits and vegetables are plentiful and the oppressive humidity of summer is not yet here. Yes, there are mosquitoes and voles and an apparent flea epidemic, but there are also soft rain showers, cool evenings and the joy of finding new green tomatoes on my plants. Life is good!

Our budget is pretty good, too! We spent just $97.82 this week and that included some really yummy Spanish mackerel a whole chicken and extra peaches for grilling and making cobbler. YUM! Have a delicious and healthy week!

Menu

  • Wednesday–Broiled Spanish mackerel, sautéed zucchini, tomato and squash, steamed green beans
  • Thursday–Melina’s pasta with pesto, potato and green beans (recipe to come)
  • Friday–Salad with grilled peaches, blue cheese and peach balsamic vinegar (thanks mom!)
  • Saturday–Roast chicken, corn on the cobb, sautéed squash and onion
  • Sunday–Grilled pork chops, roasted new potatoes, butter beans
  • Monday–Leftover stir fry over brown rice
  • Tuesday–Scrambled egg burritos

Budget

  • The Produce Box (peaches, blueberries, strawberries, corn, green beans, tomato): $23.00
  • Locals Seafood (Spanish mackerel): $13.00
  • Homestead Farms (pork chops, chicken): 25.00
  • Various farmer’s market (new potatoes, butter beans, peaches, basil): $15.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, yogurt, soy milk, blue cheese, butter): $21.82

Day 154–On Obesity and Industrial Food

Newsweek just featured a story on why the obesity epidemic is so pervasive (hint: it’s not that we’re lazier as a society) and now the Huffington Post has published a thoughtful article about why we diet but can’t lose weight. I’m reprinting part of it here with a link to the whole article. It is definitely worth a read! Click HERE for the Newsweek article and see below for the Huff Post piece.

The Last Diet You Will Ever Need

by Mark Hyman, MD

Why is it that we believe we can feed our bodies industrial, nutrient-depleted food-like substances empty of life and be healthy? How did we come to believe that food industry chemicals and processing could replace nature-made foods?

A hundred years ago all food was organic, local, seasonal, fresh or naturally-preserved by ancient methods. All food was food. Now less than 3 percent of our agricultural land is used to grow fruits and vegetables, which should make up 80 percent of our diet. Today there are not even enough fruits and vegetables in this country to allow all Americans to follow the government guidelines to eat five to nine servings a day.

What most of us are left with is industrial food. And who knows what lurks in the average boxed, packaged, or canned factory-made science project.

When a French fry has more than 20 ingredients and almost all of them are not potato, or when a fast food hamburger contains very little meat, or when the average teenager consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day, we are living in a food nightmare, a sci-fi horror show.

The very fact that we are having a national conversation about what we should eat, that we are struggling with the question about what the best diet is, is symptomatic of how far we have strayed from the natural conditions that gave rise to our species, from the simple act of eating real, whole, fresh food. When it becomes a revolutionary act to eat real food, we are in trouble.

The food industry, which is the second biggest employer in America after the federal government, heavily influences the media and government agencies that regulate it (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Congress) and intentionally confuses and confounds us.

Low-fat is good — so anything with a “low-fat” on the label must be healthy. But Coke is 100 percent fat-free and that doesn’t make it a health food. Now we are told to eat more whole grains, so a few flecks of whole grains are sprinkled on sugary cereals. That doesn’t make them a health food either.

The best advice is to avoid foods with health claims on the label, or better yet avoid foods with labels in the first place.

In the 21st century our tastes buds, our brain chemistry, our biochemistry, our hormones and our kitchens have been hijacked by the food industry. The food-like substances proffered by the industrial food system food trick our taste buds into momentary pleasure, but not our biology, which reacts, rejects and reviles the junk plied on our genes and our hormonal and biochemical pathways. We need to unjunk our biology.

Industrial processing has given rise to an array of addictive, fattening, metabolism-jamming chemicals and compounds including aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), high-fructose corn syrup and trans fats, to name the biggest offenders.

MSG is used to create fat mice so researchers can study obesity. MSG is an excito-toxin that stimulates your brain to eat uncontrollably. When fed to mice, they pig out and get fat. It is in 80 percent of processed foods and mostly disguised as “natural flavorings.”

And trans fat, for example, is derived from a real food — vegetable oil — chemically altered to resist degradation by bacteria, which is why modern cookies last on the shelf for years.

But the ancient energy system of your cells is descended from bacteria and those energy factories, or mitochondria, cannot process these trans fats either. Your metabolism is blocked and weight gain and Type 2 diabetes ensue.

Your tongue can be fooled and your brain can become addicted to the slick combinations of fat, sugar, and salt pumped into factory-made foods, but your biochemistry cannot, and the result is the disaster of obesity and chronic disease we have in America today.

No wonder 68 percent of Americans are overweight. No wonder that from 1960 to today obesity rates have risen from 13 percent to 36 percent and soon will reach 42 percent. Over the last decade the rate of pre-diabetes or diabetes in teenagers has risen from 9 percent to 23 percent.

Really? Almost one in four of our kids now has pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes? And 37 percent of normal weight kids have one or more cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar, because even though factory food doesn’t make them fat, it makes them sick!

It is time to take our kitchens and our homes back. Transforming the food industry seems monumental, a gigantic undertaking. But it is not. It is a small problem. In the small places in our lives, our shopping carts, the fridge, the cupboard, the kitchen and on our dining room table is where all the power is.

Read more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/food-industry_b_1559920.html

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!