White Bean, Grilled Asparagus, Fried Egg Stacks (reblog)

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Sometimes I see a blog post and my jaw just drops. And then I start drooling. This is a little embarrassing when I’m checking on blogs at work, but whatevs. Today is such a day. I saw a Facebook post from fellow blogger, Let Them Eat Healthy, that combines creamy white beans, grilled asparagus, a fried egg and bacon crumbles. Oh. My. Goodness. I love roasted asparagus topped with a poached or sunny side up egg, but this looks like a little party for your mouth. And what a great Mother’s Day brunch idea!

I reworked one meal this week to include a variation of this amazing, awesome recipe. Every ingredient in this dish is a favorite of mine and all except the white beans are available from local farmers! We roasted the asparagus instead of grilling and used some local, thinly sliced, smoked country ham instead of bacon–DELISH!!! The photo above is our version!

HERE is the link to the blog post and recipe. Definitely check it out. This is way better than anything I had ready to post today!

One of the wonderful things about connecting to the larger blogging world is all of the wonderful people and new ideas!

Week 19 Budget and Menu

Our little family is unbelievably busy this spring! Between softball, Girl Scouts and homework, our evenings are chock full of activity. Rather than drive myself to distraction trying to race home and cook a big supper, we are focusing on easy, healthy meals that are also quick to prepare.

We are right at our budget of $100.00 this week. While we aren’t spending a lot more at the farmer’s markets, staples that we buy at the grocery sure have gone up! Have you noticed this as well? Yikes!

Most of our budget for week 19 went to The Produce Box. I have to say, they pulled out the stops this week. I’ve never had local, fresh bamboo shoots! They take a bit of preparation, but it will be fun to try something new. We will also have fresh snap peas and local goat cheese from Hillsborough Cheese Company. Can’t wait!!!

Speaking of excitement, SOLE Food Kitchen now has a Facebook page! Click HERE to find us on Facebook and “like” us if you want to get more SOLE Food goodness!

Budget [$100.03]

  • The Produce Box (strawberries, spring onions, spring garlic, romaine lettuce, tomato, purple and green asparagus, bamboo shoots, snap peas and herbed goat cheese): $47.50
  • Trader Joes (roast beef, chicken thighs, prosciutto, rice, frozen fruit, yogurt, soymilk): $38.53
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, salsa, pickles, roasted tomato sauce): $14.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Scrambled farm egg burritos with homemade salsa
  • Thursday–Roast beef wraps with herbed goat cheese spread, strawberry/pineapple salad
  • Friday–Grilled cheese and jam sandwiches, green salad, strawberry cobbler
  • Saturday–Chicken and vegetable stir fry with organic rice, leftover cobbler
  • Sunday–Pasta with asparagus and prosciutto in a goat cheese sauce, Linzer muffins
  • Monday–Chicken salad sandwiches, homemade pickles
  • Tuesday–Asparagus soup, salad

Have a happy and healthy week ahead!

Understanding Pricing at Your Local Farmer’s Market

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We have been buying local fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs and cheese for over a year now, and I don’t think we would ever go back to grocery store shopping for those foods. Occasionally, I am tempted by a super sale at my local grocery store, but more often than not, when I break down and buy what I think is a bargain, I end up disappointed. It just doesn’t taste like anything. But I do hear other parents talk about how “expensive” it is to shop at the farmer’s market. Is it really??? In the end, it depends on what you want.

With farmer’s markets in full swing here (and gearing up in other parts of the country), I thought it might be a good time to look at why prices differ from grocery store to farmer’s market.

I came across this wonderful article on the Western Wake Farmer’s Market website. Thanks to Madison Whitley for giving me permission to reprint it here. I think it does an excellent job of describing why prices for fresh, locally grown food differs from what is charged at the grocery. For additional insight into why prices differ (and why fresh food is worth it), watch Food, Inc. It’s available on Netflix and is really an amazing documentary.

The Inside Scoop of Product Pricing at the Farmer’s Market

by Madison Whitley and Juliann Zoetmulder

Ever wonder why farmers’ market eggs cost $4 a dozen? Are you curious about why meat and produce cost double what it costs in the grocery store? These are valid questions that are on many customers’ minds as they shop the farmers’ market. With a little explanation, you may come to find that what you get for your money is really worth it.

Comparing farm fresh eggs and industrial big-box eggs is not an apples-to-apples comparison. You have to lift the veil a bit to understand what you miss from industrial, “cheap” eggs. You may pay more for farm fresh eggs; however, you get more value for the price. In a 2007 testing project, Mother Earth News compared farm fresh eggs taken from hens raised on a pasture to the nutritional data designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for commercially produced eggs. In this test, it was found that the farm fresh eggs contain one-third less cholesterol, one-quarter less saturated fat and two times more omega-3 fatty acids. Furthermore, the farm fresh egg contains two-thirds more vitamin A and three times more vitamin E. Beta carotene, an immune booster, is found in seven times greater proportion than the egg off the big-box store shelf. In general, the eggs from hens that roam around a pasture are richer in nutrients than typical supermarket eggs.

Even if the science does not “wow” you, look at the deep orange color of the farm fresh egg and taste its creaminess compared to an industrial egg. It tastes better and is more nutrient dense. For $2 extra dollars per dozen, you get exponentially more health and taste benefits. That’s sixteen cents more per egg or thirty-three cents more for your 2 egg breakfast that will sustain your body much longer than an industrial egg.

Despite these known benefits, customers are still hesitant to purchase their weekly grocery list at the farmers’ market because prices cannot compete with the low prices found at the grocery store. So why is the food at the farmers’ market more expensive? In actuality, it is the cheapest and healthiest food available. Sustainable agriculture does not rely on government subsidies from the Farm Bill and it does not have the huge environmental costs (transportation, for example) that industrial agriculture incurs. Finally, sustainable agriculture is not laden with chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides, and GMO’s. On the flip side, think about what we would be adding to our future health care bill by eating cheap meat, for instance.

Grass-fed beef has a number of compelling health benefits and since America is eating more meat than ever, we need to pay attention. According to a 2009 study by the USDA and Clemson University in South Carolina, grass-fed beef, often sold at farmers’ markets, is lower in total fat, saturated fat and calories compared to commercially produced beef. Grass-fed beef has higher amounts of total omega-3 fatty acids and a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed beef also has higher vitamin A and E (alpha-tocopherol), higher levels of antioxidants, 7 times more beta-carotene, higher amounts of B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin, and higher amounts of minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium. The research also indicates higher levels of CLA (cis-9-trans-11), a potential cancer fighter, in grass-fed beef and higher amounts of vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA). Don’t forget that animals raised on small family farms are often treated more humanely than animals in commercial production facilities.

The nutrient density of products found at the farmers’ market is much higher, producing a much healthier product, which means that you don’t have to eat as much to get the same health benefits. So next time you are at the farmers’ market, don’t think about how expensive the products are and how much money you could save at the grocery store. Think about the quality of product you are getting, how many more nutrients are present in the food and what you are getting for you money.

As someone who has a monthly budget for food, I suggest purchasing the items that are at the front-and-center of your meal at the farmers’ market. You can always supplement your grocery list with items at the big-box grocery store. You will notice a difference in the taste and quality of your food, but not in your wallet. I promise.

Dairy-Free Tomato Bisque

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Full disclosure that the photo above was sprinkled with Parmesan cheese prior to its portrait session, making it an accidental imposter.

This recipe starts with impatience. Apparently, it ended with impatience as well, since I couldn’t control my hand with the Parmesan cheese 🙂

Last summer, I put up quarts and quarts of tomato sauce. Most of it was this amazing roasted tomato sauce, but I also tried my hand at canning marinara sauce. Have you tried this? It isn’t difficult, but I’ll tell you:

It takes for.ev.er.

I started with two large stock pots full of tomatoes that had been cooked and then run through a food mill. When I ended, about 6 hours later, the juice had reduced to about 3/4 of a pot total. It didn’t really seem thick enough, but I was over it (OVER. IT.), because my kitchen at that point was about 95 degrees and 110% humidity. So, I canned what I had and called it a day.

Guess what?
It pretty much stinks as marinara sauce.

But guess what else?
It is magic as tomato soup.

Since spring has still not returned to North Carolina, our rainy, chilly weekend made for perfect tomato soup weather. I took out one of our last quarts of marinara sauce tomato soup and opened up a little bit of summer in a mason jar. There is nothing like the wonderful fragrance of ripe tomatoes to cure a 60 degree, rainy day. Well, maybe a trip to Florida would work.

I used the canned tomato soup to create a dairy-free tomato bisque that was thick and creamy, with a touch of basil thanks to our stash of frozen pesto cubes (those things are like gold, I tell you!).

Want to know the secret?

Cashews.

I know, right?

I am finding that–believe it or not–cashews are a crazy good substitute for cream and milk in some recipes (not baking though!).

The trick is to soften them in boiling water for about 15 minutes, then drain them, purée and add to your recipe! In this case, I added the softened cashews directly to the soup pot along with our frozen cube of basil pesto. I puréed the whole shebang with my stick blender and we were done!

Dairy-Free Tomato Bisque (3 servings)

  • 1 quart tomato marinara sauce (or 1 quart of tomatoes, seeded and cooked)
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons basil pesto
  1. In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, combine cashews and boiling water. Let sit for at least 15 minutes.
  2. When cashews have softened, strain and set aside.
  3. In a medium stock pot, combine all ingredients. Use a stick blender to blend all together. Heat through and use stick blender again, if needed to process the cashews. The soup should be very thick and creamy.
  4. Serve immediately. Garnish with some shredded cheese if you can have some dairy or croutons!

NOTE: You can also put all the ingredients in a good blender and process to completely dissolve the cashews.

Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp

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My friend Jerry sent me this recipe last year (thanks, Jerry!) and it has become a staple for us, especially when time is tight. This recipe features local, organic broccoli and NC shrimp–a simple, and amazingly good combination. Although it wasn’t in the original recipe, I sometimes add sliced red bell pepper when I have it fresh.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!

Vegan Banana Split Ice Cream

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Honestly, I have no idea what happened to spring. Our weather turned from glorious to miserable and has been stuck there for over a week, with no end in sight. When it comes to coffee, I already drink enough to power an army a fair amount, but this week, I am one with the people of Seattle (well, without the hip vibe or public transportation).

Still, we have fresh strawberries, so all is not lost.

And spring will come. Or maybe we’ll go from late winter to blazing hot summer In a matter of days. North Carolina can be like that. Either way, we’ll be ready for ice cream.

Ellie and I love ice cream, but it does not like us. Milk is not our friend. So I have been experimenting with dairy free ice cream recipes because have you tasted some of the dairy-free ice creams from the grocery??? Some are so gummy, you could almost chew them. And they have a LOT of added sugar. And they are super expensive. Who needs that?

Not me, that’s who.

So this recipe is a blend of tricks I have learned from various raw food and vegan sources. Like, did you know that raw cashews soaked in warm water for a few hours can replicate creaminess?

It is true–pinky swear.

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This ice cream is creamy, smooth and sweet, but it also has rich chocolate flavor that is amazing. It really tastes just like a banana split without the gross cherry on top. We used our fresh, local strawberries and local honey! Try this and you will be sold. You do need a very good blender to purée all the frozen fruit, but otherwise, you don’t need any special equipment. I have a Vitamix and love it, but I believe the Nutri Bullet is also a great blender for frozen foods.

I may need to park myself under a grow lamp, jack up the heat in the house and scoop myself some more ice cream. Spring is just around the corner, right?

Vegan Banana Split Ice Cream (makes 3 cups)

1 organic banana, peeled sliced and frozen
2 cups sliced, frozen organic strawberries
1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
2 tablespoons raw honey
2 cups unsweetened, organic soy or almond milk

Put the raw cashews in a medium mixing bowl and cover with warm water. Let sit for 1-2 hours.
Drain the cashews and add to blender.
Add all other ingredients to the blender. Cover and blend on high until all the fruit is puréed and the mixture is smooth. The texture will be like soft serve. Eat it like it is OR
Pour mixture into a freezer-safe container and freeze for about one hour (the thicker your container, the longer this will take). Scoop into bowls and serve!

Got banana haters in your house? We also made a banana-free version that we call “Chocolate Covered Strawberry.” Just take out the banana and replace with another cup of frozen strawberries!

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Arugula Pesto

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My produce box this week arrived with a HUGE bag of organic arugula (also called rocket lettuce). If you haven’t tried fresh arugula, give it a try! It has a super fresh, peppery taste that adds a lot of zing to salad greens, sandwiches, pizza (in Italy we had prosciutto pizza topped with fresh arugula after it came out of the oven–AMAZING!) or on top of risotto (toss a handful on top of cooked risotto–yum! Since this was a softball game night, I used a couple handfuls to make this delicious arugula pesto, which I served in wrap sandwiches with smoked turkey, prosciutto and cheese. The garlicky, salty, spicy pesto added a similar punch to mustard, but with a cleaner, brighter flavor. The best part is, I have leftover pesto to use this week on lunch sandwiches or with our chicken!

Arugula can vary from peppery to downright bitter, so when your shopping, taste the arugula before you buy (farmers are pretty good about that if you ask), or look for “baby arugula” which has a milder taste.

Arugula Pesto (1 cup)

2 packed cups of washed arugula leaves
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup pine nuts

Put all ingredients in a small food processor and purée until smooth.

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Week 18 Budget and Menu

This is the craziest spring I can remember. It is May 1 and I still have flannel sheets on the beds because the weather is so chilly. Last year, we had an early spring and most crops came in 2-3 weeks early. Not so this year! We do have plenty of salad greens, onions, asparagus and kale coming in. And the Swiss chard in my garden is STILL going gangbusters!

This week’s menu reflects our need to use up what is left in the deep freeze as well as take advantage of all the spring greatness that is out there. We have some quick meals on tap due to softball schedules and a science fair–gotta love spring! We are under budget just a bit at $97.45!

Budget [$97.45]

  • Locals Seafood (shrimp): $12.00
  • The Produce Box (organic veggies: broccoli, kale, arugula, sweet potatoes, radish; conventional asparagus): $28.75
  • Homestead Farm (eggs, chicken, chorizo): $20.00
  • Trader Joes (sliced turkey, tortillas, pineapple, organic banana, frozen fruit, yogurt, organic mushrooms, organic black beans): $36.70

Menu

  • Wednesday–Turkey, cheese and arugula pesto roll ups, fruit salad
  • Thursday–Swiss chard and kale with eggs
  • Friday–Roasted broccoli and shrimp over organic rice
  • Saturday–grilled chicken, asparagus, sautéed greens
  • Sunday–Sweet potato/black bean/chorizo quesadillas, harvest grains
  • Monday–homemade pizza, salad
  • Tuesday–pasta with homemade tomato sauce

Have  a healthy and tasty week!

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