Day 245–End of Summer Baked Corn Casserole

In preparation for the winter, I’ve been blanching and freezing corn. A LOT of corn. I do believe we have enough frozen corn to last us clear to next June! It’s so good in soups, stews and casseroles that I am confident we will be able to use it all up. But last night I found myself with some extra ears of corn, but lacking the will power to blanch them. So, I made a casserole to welcome fall instead. This is a bit hilarious since “fall” in North Carolina is still about 8 weeks away and all week our temperatures are in the 90s. But still, we made it work!

This recipe is a weird but wonderful combination of creamed corn and corn pudding. It is very rich and creamy and definitely a repeat in our house. In the future, I will probably add some chopped chili peppers. You could also use a milder cheese like Gruyère and sprinkle the top with nutmeg and I think that would also be pretty super. 

Baked Corn Casserole

  • Corn kernels from 6-8 ears of corn (about 6 cups)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. whole milk or half and half
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (we used leftover pepper jack)
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a small casserole dish or 8 x 8 baking dish.
  2. Over medium heat, melt putter and cream cheese in a saucepan.
  3. Mix in the corn, cream, salt and pepper.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared dish and smooth the top.
  6. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.
  7. Cook for about 30 minutes, until top is lightly browned.
  8. Let cool slightly and serve.
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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 128–Garden Update

Our burst of 90 degree weather seems to be making the garden happy! The tomatoes are putting out flowers, as are the bush cucumbers. Our squash plants are just now recovering from our cold snap and have started growing again. Although my little side yard gets the most sun of any location in my yard, it is clear that one side is doing much better than the other. My two plastic raised beds are going gangbusters, but the wooden beds are just puny looking. Weird.

Overall, though, things look pretty healthy. The herbs are doing especially well, with parsley, dill, mint and lemon balm starting to go a little crazy (time for cutting!). Ellie has decided to dry the herbs we don’t use and try making her own teas. Should be a fun project!

Interestingly, the plant that is doing the best is not something we intentionally planted. We have a volunteer squash or cucumber that must have survived the compost bin and it is growing in our flower garden among the hydrageas! Not only did it survive, it looks like it came out of Jurassic Park. It is HUGE!! Too early to tell if it will actually produce something or if it’s all just

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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!

Day 119–What’s Fresh at the Market?

Our spring weather in central North Carolina has been downright odd. Most of the winter we were in the 70s and now that it’s spring, we’re in the 50s and 60s. Or mid 80s. The weather for the weekend farmer’s markets was chilly, cloudy and windy, with temperatures in the 50s. Blech. If the weather is confusing to us humans, it has absolutely stunned most of our vegetable plants. As a result, we have more greens at the market, but the diversity of vegetables for most of the organic farmers isn’t all that great yet. But still, it is spring, and there is much to celebrate. Here’s what I found today:

  • Strawberries–still plentiful!
  • Lettuce–red, green and romaine
  • Greens–swiss chard, kale, spinach, tatsoi and bok choi
  • Spring onions
  • Spring garlic
  • Radish
  • Carrots
  • Greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Beets and rutabegas

If you love salads, this is a great time to get your lettuce and other greens before the summer heat hits us (which, given our weather extremes, could be any minute now). Get out to your markets this weekend and let me know what you’re finding in your area!!

Day 72–Learning to Can-Can

Preserved food in Mason jars

When I was in my mid-twenties, and had vast stretches of free time, I learned to make apple butter. I liked it, but that’s about as far into canning as I ventured. I think a trip to the mountains of North Carolina spurred that experiment. Faced with an abundance of apples that were brought back as tasty souvenirs, I decided to do something constructive with them. Along the way, I stopped canning apple butter and moved on to other things.

At the Dig In! conference last weekend, Ellie and I took a class on home canning and I was reminded of how satisfying it was to can my own creations. Now we are inspired to make the most of our spring strawberries and summer tomatoes and–the most fun part–we will be doing it together as a mother/daughter project. Hopefully this will help us make the most of our local produce and eliminate our need to purchase preserves (although the preserves we currently purchase are all locally made).

According to our instructor, beginning canners should heed a few rules:

  • Cook from well-tested recipes to start
  • Use real canning jars (not other recycled jars from home)
  • Buy canning tongs–do not remove hot jars with your hands (from the chuckles around the room, this is apparently more common than I would have thought)
  • Use the hot water bath method, not the inverted jar method of sealing jars as it is more reliable and consistent
  • Make your own pectin or cook the old-fashioned way (cook your food longer) so that you don’t need it. Commercial pectin has very suspicious origins that involve slaughterhouse by-products.

The first two points were very useful, the third and fourth had never occurred to me and the fifth was just gross.

I also learned that, at least in NC, food stamp (EBT) recipients can use their grocery funds to purchase vegetable or fruit plants. I had no idea! There is a movement afoot to get this information out to folks so they will have the opportunity to have, for example, tomatoes all summer for the same price as a few tomatoes. And if folks can preserve their food, that extends the quality and availability of local, sustainable foods for people in food desert areas.

Do any of you can your own produce? What works well for you? We won’t have any strawberries to start with until next month, so in the meantime we will be reading up on the process and on interesting recipes!

 

Day 63–Heaven on Earth Organics

This week, I managed to make it to the State Farmers Market on my lunch hour, something I hadn’t been able to do in a few weeks. Since my weekend is booked shilling Girl Scout cookies, I was glad to get my shopping done a day early.

I quickly found my favorite organic farm, Heaven on Earth Organics, and commenced to shopping. Farmer Scott Smith is eager to share nutritional information, and patient at answering my many questions. Like most farmers at the market, he lets me try samples of tomatoes, for example, so I can figure out which varieties I want and he often gives me a recipe idea or two. Try THAT at your local grocery!

We are in a strange mid-point with produce here in NC. Winter crops are on their way out, but spring crops haven’t quite come in yet. Still, I was glad to find plenty of lettuce, spring onions, and carrots along with collard greens, sweet potatoes and cabbage.

And SCORE! I was able to get two beautiful fresh roasting chickens from Rainbow Farm. Typically, if I can find them, they are frozen. Can’t wait to make roast chicken for Sunday supper!

Now I just need to figure out what we’re doing with the rest of this bounty!

Happy farmers market shopping! May you score your own fresh treasures today!

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 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 55–Community Gardens

Austin TX

“It is what it is, but will become what you make of it.”  Pat Summit

Spring is just around the corner here in North Carolina, and we are looking forward to planting our garden. I have mentioned before that we have some challenges (some extreme shade, some hot spots, horse-sized mosquitoes and LOTS of tree roots). I’m not only interested in having a successful gardening year for our family, but I am also interested in expanding access to fresh food. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been rewarding to find new local sources for our food and to post recipes and blog about our journey, but a larger issue is nagging at me. While I’m frolicking at the farmer’s markets, packing organic produce in my “green” Trader Joes bags, other families are having trouble finding any access to healthy, fresh food. Living in “food deserts,” these families, children, elders are often dependent on highly processed, overpriced foods available at local convenience stores. And there are many more folks who might have access to fresh food, but have no idea what they are eating (e.g., me six months ago). Food access and food literacy. Two huge issues affecting the health of many families in my area.

So I can let it nag at me, or I can see this as an opportunity for another part of our journey. Maybe I just have the zeal of the newly converted or maybe this is where I’m meant to go. Hard to tell at this point 🙂 In any case, an opportunity came our way and we are seizing it and we will see where it takes us.

Advocates for Health in Action is hosting a “Dig In” workshop focusing on building, maintaining and sustaining community gardens in our area. Topics for the 1/2 day program include garden planning, school gardening, legal issues, fundraising, organic gardening, bee keeping and more. The program looks like so much fun that our whole family is going! I feel fortunate to have this level of enthusiasm for not only improving our garden, but helping with a larger community gardening initiative. The event is in March and we will definitely blog about what we learned!

Taking this locavore journey is shaping us in ways we never expected (but I guess that’s why it’s a journey!). And taking up Lady Vols coach Pat Summit’s challenge, we will see what we can make of it.