Yellow Squash Muffins

There are some food combinations that immediately speak to me–chocolate and hazelnut, tomato and garlic, bacon and, well, anything. Other combinations make me wonder–is this a joke? This recipe falls in the latter category. Yellow squash and applesauce? Blech. Since I had some homemade applesauce and large, lovely yellow squash on hand, I thought I’d throw caution to the wind and give this a try. This recipe is from Food.com, but was shared with me via our weekly Produce Box. How was it? Abso-freakin-lutely delicious. These taste more like corn muffins, but they don’t have any corn in them. We loved them. They are moist and light and not too sweet. Perfect with our acorn squash and apple soup and they would be delicious with chili as well. We ate our fill and froze the rest for some future fall soup nights!

Yellow Squash Muffins (makes 18)

2 lbs. yellow summer squash
2 eggs
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. applesauce (we used our crock pot applesauce)
1 c. sugar
3 c. flour (we used whole wheat pastry flour)
5 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with liners or lightly grease cups.
2. Wash squash, trim the ends and cut into 1-inch slices.
3. Put squash in a medium saucepan along with 1/2 cup of water and cook for about 20 minutes or until very soft.
4. Drain squash very well and mash with a potato masher.
5. Measure 2 cups of the cooked squash into a medium mixing bowl and add eggs, butter and applesauce. Stir well and set aside.
6. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of mixture and add wet ingredients. Mix until just combined.
7. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.
8. Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9. Cool 5 minutes in the tin and remove muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.

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Week 30 Budget and Menu

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Some weeks are full of culinary inspiration and others are just pure survival. We are in the throes of back-to-school, so this week’s menu is nothing extraordinary, but it is mostly healthy and local food. Ellie starts school on Monday, so we are busy this week celebrating her birthday and getting ready for 8th grade! We are also on a major household purging mission–getting rid of old toys, appliances we don’t use and anything that is not of use to us, but may be of use to someone else. It’s a good feeling to pare down to essentials, but it is also exhausting going through everything. And it is hot. Very hot. So our menu is more survival than exciting, but it still focuses on the local and organic foods that are fresh here. We may not be making anything adventurous, but we are still eating healthy! Our budget is helped along a bit by some carryover items purchased for previous week dinners that we never made. The pimento cheese ravioli from Melina’s Pasta and the chorizo from Mae Farm have been in the freezer, so we’re going to use them up this week.

Speaking of using things up, I have, like 7 pints of pickles left from last summer. This is after eating pickles during the winter. Why on earth did I make so many pickles??? I guess it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m making a note this year to chill out on the pickle business. I mean, they’re good and all, but we do not consume that level of pickle. Guess I’ll have an office giveaway this week!

Budget [$110.93]

The Produce Box (cantaloupe, watermelon, blackberries, blueberries, peaches, herbs, organic garlic, sweet onions, eggplant, new potatoes, heirloom cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, and bell peppers): $54.00

Trader Joes (organic roasting chicken, tortillas, avocado, frozen fruit, yogurt, almond milk, Ezekiel bread, organic frozen pizza, crescent rolls):$47.63

Mitchell Family Pantry (pickles, jam, salsa): $9.00

Menu

Wednesday–Pimento cheese ravioli w/corn and cherry tomatoes

Thursday–Chorizo, corn and black bean ring, fruit salad

Friday–Sandwiches, pickles, fruit

Saturday–Sandwiches for lunch, Out for Ellie’s birthday dinner

Sunday–Roast chicken, potatoes, eggplant and cherry tomatoes

Monday–Chicken quesadillas

Tuesday–pizza

Summer Ravioli with Corn and Tomatoes

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Even though it is still in the 90s outside, I needed a change of pace from all the cold salads we have been eating. We had some frozen pimento cheese ravioli from local pasta maker Melina’s Pasta, so I concocted a new recipe using that wonderful ravioli and some fresh corn, sweet onion, garlic and cherry tomatoes that came in our Produce Box. The result? We will definitely make this again! You can use any cheese stuffed ravioli, it doesn’t need to be pimento cheese (although that was pretty terrific). Definitely add the crispy prosciutto if you are not vegetarian–it really brings everything together.

Summer Ravioli with Corn and Tomatoes (serves 2)

8 large stuffed ravioli
2 slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large, sweet onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 fresh ears of corn (preferably organic)
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt and ground, black pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Being a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta.
While water is coming to a boil, shuck the corn and use a sharp knife or a corn scraper to remove the corn from the Cobb. Set corn aside.
Wash cherry tomatoes and cut each tomato in half. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the prosciutto and cook until crispy and slightly browned. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and reserve.
Add the ravioli to the boiling water and cook according to directions, about 7 minutes.
While ravioli is cooking, add the onion and garlic to the hot sauté pan and cook until soft, but not browned, about 2 minutes.
Add the corn and tomatoes to the pan and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Stir frequently and season to taste.
Add the cooked ravioli to the sauté pan, toss carefully to coat the pasta.
Plate the pasta and vegetables, topping with crumbled prosciutto and Parmesan cheese.
Serve immediately.

Tutorial Tuesday #6: What to Do With All That Squash

I was working on a post about summer vegetables that seem to reproduce as you look at them, filling your garden, refrigerator, CSA boxes, etc. Then I saw this awesome post from Chef Jay Pierce at Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen–one of our favorite locavore restaurants. We seem to be on the same thought train, except his train has reached its destination and I’m still writing. So here is Chef Jay’s thoughts on summer squash, plus a recipe!

One thought: did you know you can grate summer squash and zucchini, squeeze out some of the water and freeze it? Coming tomorrow is one of our favorite ways to cook grated zucchini (thanks to Julia Child) and later this week, a recipe for yellow squash muffins (STOP making that face! They are amazing–really!).

Oh no! Here comes the squash!

LOCAVORE’S DELIGHT: The Series # 32. Follow us as we explore the bounty of our region’s farms through the eyes and palate of Chef Jay Pierce.

by JAY PIERCE

With summer squash season upon us, I can’t help but recall this ongoing prank that when around when I lived out west. Zucchini would grow so big and so fast that you’d find them on your windshield and on your doorstep, in unmarked bags and in your mailbox. Lots of folks had gardens and enjoyed growing squashes but you can’t control how prolific these things get. Since I’ve always considered zucchini bread as the fruitcake of Oregon; I suppose I had sort of a dim view of summer squash in general, because I just took it for granted. Now fast forward a few years and I’m the guy who now looks forward to the seasons and their respective bounty.

To read more click here!

Summer Ratatouille and Pasta

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I have found myself both busy and distracted in the past few weeks, and as a result, I haven’t been posting (or cooking) as much as I would like. Life is like that–full of surprises, choices, decisions and turning points. I’m feeling pretty good about some decisions I’ve made lately, although they have taken my attention away from SOLE Food Kitchen for just a teeny minute. I’m trying to get back in the groove!

This dish is a wonderful vegetarian creation based on the dish ratatouille, although it’s a bit messier than the neatly sliced and arranged dish. It is hearty, but not heavy and, if you use soy cheese (or no cheese), it is also a vegan dish. We served just the vegetable mix as a side dish with fish this week and served the leftovers over organic bucatini pasta–a thicker, chewier version of spaghetti. You could use any vegetables you want in this dish as long as they are fresh. We used the traditional eggplant, tomatoes, fennel, onions and garlic. It was very good, and used up a lot of vegetables we had from our Produce Box this week.

Summer Ratatouille and Pasta (makes about 6 serving)

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small fennel bulb, washed and sliced thin
4 medium or large tomatoes, washed, trimmed and quartered
1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and stems removed
1 large eggplant, washed and cubed
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb. bucatini pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of water on to boil for pasta.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium low heat.
Add onions and garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes until onions start to soften (do not let the garlic brown).
Add the fennel and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes. Lower heat if necessary to keep garlic from scorching.
Add the quartered tomatoes and sauté for about 3 minutes or until tomatoes start to release their juices.
Add eggplant and cherry tomatoes. Season with herbs, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook over medium low heat for about 15 minutes.
Add capers, stir well. Correct for seasoning, if necessary.
Season boiling pasta water with a generous amount (3 tablespoons) of salt. Cook pasta according to directions (the bucatini take about 8 minutes).
Drain pasta and toss with the vegetable mixture.
Serve hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan or soy cheese.

Week 29 Budget and Menu

We are in high tomato and fruit season here in central North Carolina. Our constant rains are gone and the sun is bringing everything back to life. It’s going to be a super tomato-licious week this week! We are having tomatoes in all kinds of ways–baked, sautéed, in salad and in sandwiches. I can’t wait! I love tomatoes! What is your favorite summer vegetable?

Our budget this week is coming back into line with our goals. It is taking a LOT of self-restraint on my part because everything looks so wonderful! The thing that saves me is that it is so hot, I do NOT want to cook anything.

I do have some fun plans this week. For the first time ever, I am roasting a whole fish. I’ve never done that before, but I hear it is very, very good. We had whole fish all the time in Paris, and somehow I managed to figure out a fish fork, but at home we usually buy fillets. Fillets are easy, but they are also more expensive than buying a whole fish, so I hope we like it! I’m also going to try a terrific panzanella salad idea that I picked up from Gravy, a Raleigh restaurant. The salad involves peaches, tomatoes, whole grain bread croutons and pork belly–I mean really, how could that combination possibly go wrong??? Will post recipes for whatever is successful this week!

Enjoy this summer weather and get out to those farmer’s markets!

Budget [$100.37]

  • The Produce Box (eggplant, heirloom cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, blackberries): $24.50
  • La Farm (sandwich bread): $6.75
  • Locals Seafood (red drum, white perch): $17.30
  • Various organic vendors (peaches, blue potatoes, green beans, zucchini, squash, tomatoes): $21.50
  • Trader Joes (limes, avocado, frozen fruit, organic butter): $24.32
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, barbecue sauce): $6.00

Menu

  • Wednesday–Pulled chipotle chicken sliders, corn, garden cucumbers
  • Thursday–Egg salad
  • Friday–Roasted whole red drum, green beans, corn
  • Saturday–Eggplant and tomatoes al forno
  • Sunday–Pan seared white perch, roasted baby blue potatoes
  • Monday–Tomato and peach panzanella salad with bacon
  • Tuesday–ABT sandwiches (avocado, bacon and tomato), parmesan zucchini chips

Tutorial Tuesday #5–What Does That Label Mean?

Tutorial Tuesday #5–What Does That Label Mean?

Many, many years ago, I had breakfast at a diner in upstate New York that was cute and kitschy and seemed like the place you could get a mean plate of hash or scrambled eggs and sausage. On the menu, I noticed that they served “fresh squeezed” orange juice. It was on the menu just like that, quotes and all. I had just moved from Florida, where fresh orange juice was never in quotes, so I did not understand this. I asked the waitress, does this mean the juice is really fresh or does it mean that it is not fresh? She did not have a great deal of patience, but I hate orange juice from a can, so I kept asking her questions. After a round of this, she gave up and brought me the can (ta da!) so I could see that on the label, it said “fresh squeezed”. For reals.

Food labels. There are so many of them, but only a few have actual meaning. Even at the farmer’s markets, farmers are more savvy about giving us information about their products. But what should we look for and what labels are just marketing? Here in our Tuesday tutorial is a synopsis of food labels you should look for and what they mean!

Labels to Look For

sustainable seafood

Certified Sustainable Seafood

This logo and certification is given by the Marine Stewardship Council and guarantees that the fish in question was caught using sustainable harvesting protocol and that the entire chain of custody of that fish was sustainable (click HERE to see the protocol). Becoming an MSC certified fishery is a voluntary process and only applies to wild-caught fish, not farm-raised fish.

AWA

Animal Welfare Approved

Animal Welfare Approved audits, certifies and supports independent family farmers raising their animals according to the highest animal welfare standards, outdoors on pasture or range. Factory farms cannot apply to be AWA certified. The AWA seal ensures that all animals are treated humanely from birth to slaughter and that the animal did not receive antibiotics unless they were sick. This is considered the gold standard for animal welfare labels.

Certified Humane_

Certified Humane Raised and Handled

This is a slightly less rigorous standard developed by animal scientists and veterinarians and applies to more than just family farms. Like the AWA certification, this covers animals birth to slaughter and guarantees that animals did not receive antibiotics unless they were sick. To see more information, click HERE.

USDA-Organic-Seal

USDA Certified Organic

This seal, given by the United States Department of Agriculture, guarantees that at least 95% of the ingredients in a given food product are certified organic. This means that those organic items are produced without synthetic fertilizers, most synthetic pesticides or GMOs (genetically engineered crops). Meat that has this label comes from animals that did not receive antibiotics, growth hormones or genetically modified feed. This cannot be used for seafood.

AGA

American Grassfed

The American Grassfed label applies to beef, bison, goat, lamb and sheep. This label, given by the American Grassfed Association, requires that farmers met the following criteria: Animals are fed only grass and forage from weaning until harvest; Animals are raised on pasture without confinement to feedlots; Animals are never treated with antibiotics or growth hormones; All animals are born and raised on American family farms. For more information, click HERE.

Labels That May Be Ok

Some other labels that are not guaranteed, but may be at your farmer’s market are those below. This becomes a trust issue as you cannot verify that the statements are true, but here is what they should mean:

Pesticide-free–crops may have been grown conventionally or include GMOs, but were grown without synthetic pesticides.

Grown with organic protocol–Crops may be grown using organic methods, but the farm itself is not certified organic.

Raised Without Antibiotics, USDA Process Verified–this means that an animal received no antibiotics during its lifetime. This ONLY means something if the “USDA Process Verified” is included. This means that the USDA confirms that this is true.

Labels to Ignore

Free-range–This label for poultry products means absolutely nothing. A supplier can claim this as long as they provide 5 minutes of fresh air per day, even if the animal is still contained in a small cage in a building.

Antibiotic Free–This is not a recognized label with criteria and verification.

Fresh (animals)–The label of “fresh” in animal products is meaningless. Chicken can be labelled “fresh” as long as the temperature of the bird never goes below 26 degrees farenheit. That is below freezing! Fresh when used for vegetables actually meets certain protocol.

Heart Healthy–There is no standard for claiming something is “heart healthy”.

Natural–There is no standard or criteria for any food product being labelled “natural”.

Roasted Okra

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When I say “okra”, people either respond positively or wrinkle up their faces and express their hate for “slimy” vegetables. Few people are undecided about okra. The funny thing is, when fried or roasted, okra has none of the viscous texture that it has when sautéed or stewed (I still like it that way, too, though!). We found that roasting okra in the oven makes for a crispy and delicious summer side dish that has the crunch of fried okra without the fat (or the mess). We have roasted okra as a french fry replacement with sandwiches and with grilled food. Here we are having it with BLT sandwiches with local bacon. All the yummy, salty crunch of fried food, but with fiber and vitamins, instead of fat. A summer win-win!

Roasted Okra (makes 3-4 side servings)

  • 1 quart of okra (younger, smaller pods will be more tender)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (optional).
  2. Trim the stem ends of the pods and wash the okra.
  3. Dry well with a tea towel and put the dry okra in a medium mixing bowl.
  4. Add oil and salt to the bowl and toss so all the okra is coated.
  5. Spread okra across the baking sheet in one layer.
  6. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir okra. Roast for another 15 minutes or until okra is crispy and browned (your timing will depend on the size of the okra pods).
  7. Serve hot.

Chili Lime Shrimp Salad

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There is nothing like fresh shrimp, straight from the coast. It is hot here on North Carolina–not as hot as usual, but it is definitely summer. This salad is another in our summer series of foods that will help you stay cool and healthy in the hot weather. I love shrimp salads, but I don’t like a lot of mayonnaise on a hot day. This salad uses lime juice to keep the salad flavorful and interesting, but not heavy. I may try this again with some butterfly pasta and make a shrimp pasta salad version of this. Soooo yummy!

The original version of this recipe came from Gina’s Skinny Recipes (here). I added some fresh cucumber and some fresh corn to the mix (who doesn’t love shrimp and corn?) as well as some smoked paprika to the dressing. I also added more lime juice and left out the cilantro because I have not acquired a taste for it. All good! The version below is my version, but you could alter this to suit your own tastes!

Wondering where to buy your shrimp? Before you head out shopping check THIS past SOLE Food Kitchen post on why local shrimp is important!

Chili Lime Shrimp Salad (serves 4 as a main dish)

1 lb. shrimp
1 medium tomato, washed and chopped
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
1 jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
1 cup fresh corn (about 1 ear)
1 avocado, peeled and diced
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 3 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

Peel and devein shrimp. Put shrimp in a deep sauté pan, cover with water and poach for 2-3 minutes, until shrimp is pink and opaque. Drain and let cool.
While shrimp is cooling, mix lime zest, juice, oil, paprika, salt and pepper together. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.
In a medium sized bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except avocado. Pour dressing over all and carefully stir the salad so all ingredients are coated with dressing.
Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Just prior to serving, add the avocado and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and correct if necessary.
Serve chilled.

Other shrimp dishes:

Pasta with Shrimp, Green Beans and Tomato

Roasted Broccoli and Shrimp

Pasta with Shrimp, Asparagus and Mushrooms

Local Shrimp Pad Thai

Week 28 Budget and Menu

This week I am playing catch up of sorts. I haven’t been blogging as regularly because I have been canning and freezing much of our summer fruits and vegetables. I have recipes to share coming up! We’re slowly getting closer to our budget goal of $100 per week, but we are still a bit high. Due to the heavy rains and unseasonably cool temperatures this summer, many of our farmers have lost their tomato crops and watermelons aren’t doing so well either. Hopefully things are turning around, but the end result is that prices at the farmer’s markets are a bit higher than last year. That’s life, right? We still have some great summer treats in store this week–a wonderful local shrimp salad, fruit salad and grilled kabobs. I can’t wait!

Budget [$111.32]

The Produce Box (watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, peaches, blackberries): $25.00
Locals Seafood (shrimp): $10.00
Mae Farm (bacon): $8.00
Rare Earth Farm (kabob beef): $12.00
La Farm Bakery (sourdough bread): $6.00
Various farmers market vendors (onion, okra, tomato, peppers): $12.00
Trader Joes (avocados, organic rice, organic chicken, organic sugar, frozen fruit, yogurt): $38.32

Menu

Wednesday–shrimp chili lime salad
Thursday–BLT sandwiches, roasted baby okra
Friday–tuna salad in tomato cups, fruit salad
Saturday–birthday party (out)
Sunday–grilled beef kabobs, rice, grilled peaches
Monday–pasta with ceccha sauce
Tuesday–chipotle chicken salad in avocado, fruit

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