My Yummy Local Life











{January 30, 2010}   Man Chili

It’s snowing for the first time all winter here in Raleigh.  I thought this recipe would be appropriate to share today, as it is simple, warm and comforting.

This recipe is for all the guys out there who think they can’t cook.  It is so incredibly easy and also yummy and fresh. I am calling it “Man chili” because it contains beer, an entire jar of salsa and corn chips.

Man Chili in the Crock Pot

Man Chili (kinda sorta adapted from Alton Brown)

Ingredients:

~2 cups Beans, cooked (or 1 can of beans)

1 lb beef; stewing beef works best, but ground beef will do (from our CSA from Rare Earth Farms)

1 jar salsa, mild, spicy, hot really doesn’t matter (I got a local brand from Earth Fare, made in Winston-Salem, NC)

1 bottle of beer (this time we used Sam Adams Winter Lager)

1 chipotle pepper, whole

1-2 Tbsp chili powder, to taste (we use homemade, made from my daddy’s dried chilis)

1 Tbsp cocoa powder (fair trade, organic from Equal Exchange)

1 Tbsp instant coffee (crap we try to use/get rid of when it doesn’t need to taste like coffee)

1-2 handfuls tortilla chips, organic

Method:

  1. Cook the beans if they are dry- about 1 1/2 cups will make 2-3 cups of beans cooked. Basically boil in water until they are tender. About 20 minutes gives them a good head start, they will continue to cook in the chili.
  2. Get crock pot ready to dump ingredients into.
  3. If you are using stew beef, use a food processor to grind it up into slightly smaller chunks. This prevents the need for a knife with your finished chili.  Ground beef will work just as well.
  4. In a hot pan, brown the beef. This will take about 5 minutes.
  5. Put the browned beef, jar of salsa, bottle of beer (the husband usually leaves about an ounce to drink left in the bottle), chipotle, chili powder, cocoa and coffee all into the crock pot.
  6. Add in the beans, and their liquid.  If needed add more water so that everything starts out covered.
  7. Crumble 1-2 large handfuls of corn chips into the chili. This helps to thicken the chili, you can always add more if you want it thicker later.
  8. Set the crock pot for the length of time you want it to cook.  We usually do 4-6 hours on high.  If you prep it in the morning, you can do 8-12 hours on low.
  9. Serve over cornbread, or rice.  This time I made corn bread muffins using corn bread recipe found in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

    Corn bread muffins from Bread Baker's Apprentice (Bacon on top)

  10. If desired, garnish with cheese and sour cream.
  11. Warning: Unless you are nuts, don’t eat the whole chipotle.

So guys, make this for you wife, fiancé, girlfriend, mother, sister… whoever.  It is so easy and will earn you mega brownie points. Even if you never cook, you can use this recipe to jump-start your yummy local life!



{January 26, 2010}   Sweet Potato Quesadillas

I warned you about the sweet potatoes… here is one of my very favorite not-a-casserole ways to have them:

Sweet Potato Quesadillas (MUST TRY)

I have probably made these a dozen times and they never get old or boring.  I got this recipe from the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbra Kingsolver.  This is one of the books that has been pivotal in inspiring us to knock processed foods out of our diet and make as much food as possible form scratch.  If you want to get a glimpse of farm life, and living off your own food supply, this is a great read.  I highly recommend it.

Sweet Potato Quesadillas (from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle among many other delicious recipes)

*The recipe says it makes 4, but I usually use the filling to make 2 big fat ones*

1 large (2 medium) sweet potato, peeled, chopped (from Cane Creek Farms)

1/2 onion, chopped (also from Cane Creek Farms)

1 clove garlic, diced

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp cumin (you can experiment with other spices, cinnamon, coriander, everything is good…)

1 pinch chili powder

Tortillas (2-4)

~4oz goat’s milk brie

Greens (ideally swiss chard, but any greens seem to do…i used organic baby romaine from earth bound this time)

Method:

  1. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes.
  2. Add to a pot of water, boil until soft.
  3. Drain and mash.

    Cooked and mashed sweet potatoes

  4. Use a little extra virgin olive oil to sauté the onion and garlic.

    Saute onions and garlic

  5. Once they are soft and slightly brown, add the sweet potato and spices and mix everything together.
  6. Pre heat the oven to 400 F.
  7. Spread the filling on one side of each tortilla.
  8. Tope with a few greens and the brie.

    Filled quesadillas: sweet potato, baby romaine and goat cheese brie

    Filling: Sweet potato mixture, baby romaine, and goat's milk brie

  9. Fold tortillas to close and make sure  to oil the outside.
  10. Bake in the oven until brown and crisp on the edges.
  11. Slice into wedges and serve. (we like ours with some sour cream for dipping).

I am so ready for spring and more variety coming back to our farmer’s market.  In the meanwhile, sweet potatoes (and beef and pork) are sustaining my yummy local life!



{January 21, 2010}   Egg Salad

“Eggs, Eggs, E-double-G-S- eggs!” – Dr Seuss.

I have actually purchased eggs maybe twice in the past 6 months, but nonetheless I have a seemingly endless supply of eggs.  I get two dozen eggs a month as part of my beef CSA from Rare Earth Farms. (I know, cows don’t lay eggs, but they do have chickens as friends).  I also have friends who have more eggs than they can handle, so I obligingly take the eggs off their hands.  If I have less than a dozen eggs in my refrigerator at any given time, I probably am about due for my CSA box again.

Of course eggs are quite versatile, useful in baking and cooking alike, but sometimes, I feel the need to just let them be eggs.  Today I made some egg salad.  My egg salad is all about the eggs, no vegetables and very little of much else.  I think I learned this from my daddy, but it is ingrained in my brain. I had to think very hard while preparing it today to figure out how much of what goes into it!

Egg Salad (2 servings)

*I always make enough for 2 lunches because my husband doesn’t like the smell of boiling eggs*

Ingredients:

3 chicken eggs, local (These are from my CSA from Rare Earth Farms)

Salt and pepper, to taste

~ 2 tsp sugar, raw

~1 tsp vinegar (I usually use rice or apple cider)

1 Tbsp mayonnaise (my off-brand non-hydrogenated stuff in from VA)

1 tsp mustard (I use the coarse grind, but you could use the yellow stuff too)

Method:

  1. Place eggs in a pot of water so that they are just covered; add a pinch of salt and about 1 tsp of vinegar. Bring to a boil.
  2. Keep the water at a slow boil for 10-12 minutes (longer if your eggs have large yolks).
  3. Remove from heat and let cool (I run mine under cold tap water to speed this process).
  4. Crack the eggs and remove their shells.

    Good for compost, not good for tummy.

  5. Place eggs into a bowl and crush with a fork.

    Very good for the tummy!

  6. Add in the rest of the ingredients; stir with a fork and break up any large pieces of egg.
  7. Taste and adjust salt, vinegar and sugar as desired.
  8. Enjoy on toast or english muffins, open-faced or closed!

If you eat eggs at all, this is a great place to start with going local.  Most farmers that have anything at all will also have eggs.  They usually sell for between $3.50-$4.50 a dozen, which is $0.29- $0.37 per egg. I know this is probably more expensive that the eggs in your grocery store, but it is not breaking the bank. Cheaper than a dollar menu breakfast or lunch option! (Or you can find a friend with chickens and off to relieve them of their over-stock for free!).  The yolk in farm fresh eggs is a much darker yellow and more nutritious than the pale yellow of conventional eggs.  Plus, the chickens probably actually know how to (and do) wander freely on their farms.  “Cage-free” eggs come from chickens that are not housed in individual cages, however they are still housed all cooped up, in the dark and may never see the sunshine.  “Pastured” eggs, which is what most small farmers will sell you, come from chickens that wander the green pastures, see sunlight, eat bugs from time to time and have an overall better quality of chicken life. Next time you need eggs, see if you can work some pastured, local eggs into your yummy local life!



{January 19, 2010}   Gnocchi and Battle Wounds
My husband made dinner last night.  He made gnocchi from scratch.  I helped with preparing the sauce that we were going to eat them in.  My job was simple really: make some crispy bacon, cook mushrooms in the fat and then get out of the way. Note to self: Do not toss mushrooms into hot bacon grease; it is still hot, even if the burner is turned off!

This was my kitchen flaw- and now I have grease-burn blisters all along my left forearm to prove it!

This is what the worst of my grease burns looks like!

Gnocchi is a potato based pasta that is very tasty, and a bit messy to make. This is the precise reason that my husband was making it instead of me.  If you feel so inclined sometime- try it out (we make a double batch and freeze some to not go through the hassle more than is necessary).  My husband thinks it is kind of fun; I think it is a hot mess; if you try it let me know what you think!

Gnocchi (double batch):

*vegetarian, if you want it to be vegan, leave out the eggs, but I like eggs and need protein*

Ingredients:

2 lbs russet potatoes (2 large),  organic (from Earth Fare)

salt and pepper, to taste

2 eggs, beaten (from Cane Creek Farms)

~ 2 cups AP flour (King Arthur Flour)

Method:

  1. Boil potatoes whole  in salted water for about 45 minutes, until they are very tender. (I suppose you could cheat and use a microwave, but we don’t have one so I have no idea how long it would take.)
  2. Peel the skin off the potatoes. (my husband used a kitchen towel to do this- messy bit number one!)
  3. Place the potatoes in a bowl and mash with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add in 2 eggs (should be about 3 T of egg per potato)
  5. Begin to add flour about 1/2 a cup at a time, until you can work the dough with your hands (it will still be a bit sticky-messy bit number two!).
  6. Divide the dough into about 8 smaller pieces.
  7. Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2 inch thick, and then cut into 1 inch lengths. (Use as much flour as you need)
  8. If you want to freeze some, place them on a lined cookie sheet and put in the freezer overnight, then store in plastic bags or containers.
  9. To use immediately, boil some water with salt and a little oil and carefully place the gnocchi in- they are done when the float to the top of the water.

Gnocchi can be used in pretty much any sauce where you might use pasta.  The sauce that we made last night was a blue cheese sauce.

Blue Cheese sauce for gnocchi (adapted from Sam the Cooking Guy’s recipe)

*Not vegetarian, unless you are me and you think bacon is a vegetable*

Ingredients:

3 strips of bacon (Earth Fare brand)

8 oz mushrooms (bought at Earth Fare, organic from PA)

1 T AP flour (King Arthur Flour)

1 cup whole milk (Earth Fare brand)

1/4 blue cheese, crumbled (from Earth Fare)

Method:

  1. Cook bacon on medium-high heat until crispy.
  2. Remove bacon and drain on paper towels.
  3. Slice mushrooms and gently place into the bacon grease.

    The mushrooms that splattered my arm with bacon grease!

    (Remove me and my burn wounds from the kitchen.)

  4. Saute until brown and then stir in the flour (this will soak up the rest of the grease)- cook for about 1 minute.
  5. Add the milk, and stir quickly to get rid of any lumps. The milk should boil and will thicken.
  6. Add the blue cheese and melt into the sauce.
  7. Crumble the bacon and add back to the sauce.

    This amount of bacon makes A LOT of grease!

  8. Add the cooked gnocchi as soon as they come out of the boiling water.

Even though I got a battle wound from this recipe, I am still not deterred from learning and cooking in my yummy local life!



{January 16, 2010}   Sweet Potato Pie Cookies

I mentioned in my last post that I had extra pie filling left over.  It was not quite enough to make a second pie, and I did not want it to go to waste.  So I experimented a little and made them into cookies.  They turned out a little more chewy than I would have liked but were overall pretty yummy.

Ingredients:

Leftover sweet potato pie filling

~ 1 cup of flour (I used about 1/4 whole wheat and the rest all-purpose flour)

3/4 cup rolled oats (from Earth Fare‘s bulk section)

3/4 cup chocolate chips, organic (from Earth Fare’s bulk section)

Method:

  1. Pre heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mix in just enough flour that the dough is not runny.
  3. Fold in oats and chocolate chips.
  4. Use a tablespoon to drop on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the edges are starting to brown.

I don’t like to throw away food unless it is necessary.  This was a good way to use up the extra pie filling, and turned out to be a yummy, filling snack!



{January 13, 2010}   My Sweet Potato Pie

I love sweet potatoes.  I know when you think of sweet potatoes your first thought is probably the “candied yam” casserole your mom makes every year at Thanksgiving that’s covered in marshmallows, right? Well here I am to tell the world (and my mom) that is probably my least favorite way to have a sweet potato. There are so many tastier and healthier options out there.  North Carolina is the number one producer of sweet potatoes in our country. Sweet potatoes are also one of the only vegetables that are always in season here in NC, so be forewarned: I use them a lot!

To introduce the sweet potato to this blog, I now present to you a from scratch, gluten-free sweet potato pie!

As of now in my searching, I have not found any sources of gluten-free flours that are locally produced. For the most part I buy Bob’s Red Mill brand because they have not been bought out by a macho industry, they don’t add unnecessary preservatives to their products and they strive to produce quality kosher and organic products.

I have also mentioned before that I try to use fair trade products when I can find them.  In this recipe I experimented with one of my newest finds: sucanat. Sucanat is a contraction for “Sugar Cane Natural” and is totally un-refined cane sugar.  If you don’t have this product, you can substitute brown sugar in the recipes that follow.

Both my sweet potatoes and my eggs that I use in this recipe come from Cane Creek Farms.  I am very grateful to Bobby, who has continued to keep a farmer’s market stand open at the North Raleigh Farmer’s Market once or twice a week even during some of the terrible weather we have had lately.  It seems like it always rains on the market days; either that or it is windy and cold.  As the market gets back into full swing in the spring and summer I have my favorite growers for certain vegetables, but for now this is my go-to guy for local produce.

Gluten Free Pie Crust:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rice flour

1/2 cup sorghum flour

1 Tbsp tapioca flour/starch (you can substitute arrowroot or even cornstarch if needed)

1/4 tsp xanthan gum (or guar gum)

1 Tbsp sucanat (I would perhaps use a bit more next time, the dough could have been a bit sweeter)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cold

3-4 Tbsp water, cold

Method:

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients and mix together.
  2. Cut the butter into small pieces, work into the flour mixture (by hand) until the butter is evenly distributed.
  3. Add the cold water, mixing in about 1 Tbsp at a time until the dough just comes together.
  4. Put dough in refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Dust a surface with a little extra flour (either rice or sorghum).
  6. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thickness (the gluten-free dough will crack and break, but I still like to roll it out to give myself a head start in getting it even in the pie pan).
  7. Place pieces of dough into pie pan and pinch together to make an even crust.

Sweet Potato Pie Filling: (Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe)

Ingredients:

Approx. 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed (measures ~5 cups) (from Cane Creek Farm)

*Not all produce is good… use this:

not that:

1 1/4 cup yogurt, plain (I totally wanted o use my homemade yogurt, but as it turns out, that was an epic fail, so I used Greek Gods Yogurt instead)

3/4 cup sucanat (fair trade)

1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground (organic)

1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground

5 egg yolks (Cane creek farm)

pinch salt

Method:

  1. Place the peeled, chopped sweet potatoes into a pot of water and bring to a boil.
  2. Boil potatoes until a fork goes through them without resistance (about 10 minutes).
  3. Drain and place into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350 F.
  5. Mash the sweet potatoes.
  6. Use an electric mixer to beat the potatoes until they are smooth.
  7. Add in all the remaining ingredients and again beat until smooth.
  8. Pour the filling into the pie crust so that it is even with the top of the crust. (I had filling left over…)
  9. Bake for 50-55 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).
  10. Let rest as long as possible before devouring the yumminess!

Enjoy the yumminess of a local sweet potato pie!



{January 10, 2010}   Roasted Broccoli

So I had the afterthought that I didn’t tell you what I did with the broccoli heads (from Cane Creek Farm) when I used the stems in my Duck Stock.  Broccoli is in season now, so it shouldn’t cost too much even if you don’t have a farmer’s marker to go to. Roasted broccoli is one of my favorite snacks and also makes a great side dish, which is how we had it last night.Here’s what you do:

Ingredients:

Broccoli heads (as many as you want, I usually make 1-2 lbs at a time and fill a cookie tray with them)

garlic, fresh, minced

kosher salt

fresh ground black pepper

lemon peel, dried (optional, I just happen to have a ton lying around from last years canning and try to use it; you could also use fresh)

Extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
  2. Chop broccoli heads into bit-sized pieces and scatter on a cookie tray.
  3. Stream about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over the broccoli.
  4. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, pepper and any other seasonings you want to use.
  5. Place in the middle of the oven, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the edges are starting to brown/crisp.
  6. Remove from oven and enjoy. They are also good cold in salads for a couple of days after you roast them.

Even if you think you don’t like broccoli,  I urge you to try them this way- it just may change your mind. Broccoli is definitely a part of my yummy local life!



{January 9, 2010}   Duck Stock

We are not too fond of turkey, so for Christmas dinner we brought a duck to Florida from Jan Campbell at Homestead Harvest Farm.  My husband prepared the duck deliciously, and then we froze the carcass and toted it back to North Carolina with us to make stock.  We use stock in many recipes, so I thought it would be the right recipe to post to begin with.  You can make stock out of any bones you have available (duck, chicken, beef) or without bones at all for vegetable stock.  Unless you are going for a purely vegetarian meal, you can use any stock interchangeably in recipes that call for stock.

So here is how we made the duck stock:

Ingredients:

1 Duck carcass  (Homestead Harvest Farm)

Vegetables (Use any non-starchy vegetables you have on hand in addition to onion, celery and carrot)

1 onion, quartered (from Cane Creek Farm)

2 carrots, quartered

2 celery stalks, quartered

broccoli stems (from Cane Creek Farm)

Seasonings: (Keep it simple)

smoked sea salt, to taste (we usually don’t use too much and add salt to recipes later)

whole black pepper corns (about a tablespoon)

red chili flakes, to taste

Method:

  1. Place bones into a large stock pot.
  2. Roughly chop vegetables and add to the pot. Add seasoning as well.
  3. Fill with enough water to just cover all ingredients.
  4. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. After about 5-10 minutes, you will see a foam on the top of the stock.  This is the impurities, and you want to use a spoon to remove as much of the foam as possible.
  6. Continue to let the stock simmer for 4-8 hours.  You will want it to go longer for bones from darker meat, and shorter if it is just vegetables. You want to make sure it continues to simmer, but does not boil.  If it boils, your stock will become cloudy. You know it’s done when the bones break easily.
  7. At this point, turn off the heat, get a large bowl and a colander to strain the stock.
  8. Strain the sock and then place into the refrigerator over night.
  9. The next day, take the stock out of the refrigerator and carefully remove any fat that has solidified on the top.  You can simply discard this, or save it to use for cooking with later.
  10. Now your stock is ready to store.  We save wine bottles that have a screw-cap instead of a cork and keep our stock in there.  It will last in the refrigerator for several weeks.

This time we had 3 bottles of stock plus about 6 cups.  We used the stock that was left to make Mushroom and Barley Soup, a recipe I found on Two Peas and Their Pod’s Blog.  As you will see in her recipe she used vegetable stock, but I simply replaced it with the duck stock since that is what I had this time.

Making your own stock is a great way to prevent waste in your kitchen.  You can use up bones and vegetables that may have otherwise just get thrown away.  Homemade stock is a simple way to move one step closer to a yummy local life!



{January 3, 2010}   So here’s the plan…

Over the past year, my husband and myself have embarked on a food journey which involved buying more whole foods (not pre-made/processed), finding them from local sources whenever possible, and making our food from scratch so that we know what is in it.

We now buy food in this manner:

  1. Obtain as much of our fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses (an other items if possible) from the local farmer’s market that is closest to our home. For us this is the  North Raleigh Farmer’s Market.
  2. Get ingredients that are in season, but not at the farmer’s market, from our local grocery store.  I read the labels to find the product that had to travel the least distance to get to the store. We shop mostly at the Earth Fare- Raleigh store at Brier Creek.
  3. When I need an ingredient that is not available locally, I try to purchase a fair trade or organic option.  Most of the coffee, chocolate and sugar we buy is now available from fair trade sources, meaning that the workers who produce the product are treated fairly and earn a fair wage.  I am not the type that MUST have organic food, but I do try to buy it when possible since it is grown in a way more sustainable to the environment.
  4. I am also very fond of the barter system, and will trade food products, such as herbs, spices, eggs and the like from anyone who is willing.

So with this blog I hope to show that local food can be just as yummy, if not more so, as prepared foods that come from the store.  My goals are as follows:

  • Post at least one recipe per week made primarily or entirely from  local ingredients.  I hope to include pictures as well.
  • Educate my readers about where my food is coming from, in the hopes that you will then explore the local food options where you live.
  • Use REAL, whole foods in my recipes, not substitute foods, while making sure they are obtained from a local and/or sustainable source.  All of the meat that I use will be from Animal Welfare Approved or other Certified Humane sources, not from industrial “farms”.  If a recipe calls for cheese, it will be real cheese, not a soy or other substitute.

The recipes that I make will not be diet food, but they  will be healthy dishes made from local ingredients.  Also, I do not follow any specific special diet, but I do make many things that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and allergen-free.  I will try to include notes as to how dishes can be adapted for allergen related diets when possible.

I hope to inspire you to try to find local foods that you think are yummy and also to try new things. Feel free to comment and tell me what you are doing to have a Yummy Local Life where you live!



et cetera