Spicy Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal


I love steel cut oats on a chilly morning and I really love chocolate. This spicy chocolate pecan oatmeal tastes decadent, but is actually super healthy. You could leave out the maple syrup for an even healthier version. We used raw cacao powder, which I like better than processed cocoa because it has so many antioxidants and a richer taste.

Spicy Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal (makes 4-6 servings)

  • 1cup steel cut oats
  • 4 cups organic, vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup raw, organic cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried, ground cinnamon
  • 1teaspoon dried cayenne powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  1. Add the first 5 ingredients to the bowl of a slow cooker. Stir well.
  2. Cook on the lowest setting (I use the “keep warm” setting on mine), cook oatmeal 7 hours or overnight.
  3. Stir well (the cacao may rise to the top– just stir it back in) and add additional almond milk if the oatmeal is too dry.
  4. Serve with a sprinkle of pecans and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Broccoli Potato Soup


We have loads of fresh broccoli available from our local farmers right now and it is absolutely delicious! I’ve never been able to grow broccoli myself, so I appreciate the efforts of those who have the right touch. Broccoli is one of our favorite vegetables, and we are eating as much as we can while it’s in season.

This broccoli soup is very heart healthy, low in fat and (if you leave off the sprinkle of Parmesan), vegan! It is thick and creamy, but uses no cream at all. Instead, potatoes fill in for cream and also add a hearty weight to this dish.

Broccoli Potato Soup (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 organic, yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 quart homemade or organic vegetable stock
  • 1/2 lb. organic baby red potatoes, washed and cut in half
  • 1 large head of fresh broccoli, florets and stems chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the onions in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes or until soft and translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
  4. Add the vegetable stock and increase heat to medium high.
  5. Add the potatoes and boil for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the broccoli to the pot and reduce heat to medium. Add water if necessary to just cover vegetables. Cook for another 10 minutes.
  7. Use an immersion blender to VERY CAREFULLY blend all ingredients in the pot. Taste and correct seasonings as needed.
  8. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Great Green Smoothies


It has taken me a while to try the veggie smoothie. Maybe it’s the green color or the fear of new things or maybe it was the kale, but I was a little skeptical that a veggie smoothie would taste good.  I held off making them for months, all the while checking Pinterest for green smoothie recipes. Now I wonder why on earth I didn’t give it a go sooner.

These smoothies are not sweet like their fruity cousins, but they have a fresh, clean flavor that is wonderful and energizing. We are experimenting with different flavors to find a balance that is sweet enough for Ellie, but not all fruit. I’ll post our successful recipes here, so check back! One reason I like the blended smoothie over a juiced variety, is that I still have all the fiber in the vegetables and their skins–it really does keep me full a long time.

The texture of these smoothies is very thick, and they are best enjoyed through a straw unless you like a nice, green mustache. We found these great, compostable straws at Whole Foods!

Great Green Smoothies (makes one smoothie)

  • 2 organic apples, washed, cored and cut into 6-8 pieces each
  • 2 stalks organic celery, washed and trimmed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 organic cucumber, washed (not peeled)
  • 1 large handful organic baby spinach, washed
  • 1 tablespoon organic maca root powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  1. Put all ingredients in a high-powered blender.
  2. Blend on high until all the ingredients are pureed.
  3. Serve chilled or over ice.

Thanksgiving Menu 2013

Cranberry Sauce 003

We’ll have organic cranberries two way–in salad and in sauce!

Do you obsess about Thanksgiving dinner? It’s hard not to once Halloween is over. Every food blogger and Pinterest pinner is sharing lovely, tantalizing dishes for the food glutton holiday season. It’s easy to get carried away with planning a meal that is both too expensive and too much food.

This is our second year of producing a locavore Thanksgiving dinner. We’re adding a couple of new dishes, but mostly we are sticking to what works and makes people happy. In addition to our heritage breed, free range turkey, we’re picking up a mini boneless ham from Mae Farm. These are absolutely amazing! The kale and carrots in our salad will be local and the rest will be organic. This salad is new–I’ve seen it floating around Pinterest and can’t wait to try it! I love having a fresh salad to balance all the rich, roasted foods we’ll be having.

So here is our draft menu. We may tweak it slightly depending on what is actually available at the farmer’s markets that week, but the basics should stay the same. What is on your menu for Thanksgiving???

  • Herbed Roasted Heritage Turkey (Homestead Harvest Farm)
  • Honey Mustard Glazed Mini Ham (Mae Farm)
  • Kale, Cranberry and Edamame Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette
  • Deviled Farm Eggs with NC Shrimp (Mae Farm and Locals Seafood)
  • Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts (Mae Farm and CSA)
  • Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes (CSA)
  • Thomas Jefferson’s Sweet Potato Biscuits (CSA)
  • Giblet Gravy
  • Cinnamon Cranberry Apple Sauce (CSA)
  • Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie (Trader Joes Pumpkin Ice Cream)
  • Pecan Pie (homemade)

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Quesadillas

20121108-090257.jpgFarm fresh sweet potatoes from our NC farmers!

Our Produce Box local veggie delivery service is ending soon (just for the winter), so I’ll be ordering a stock up box of sweet potatoes to take me through the holidays. This will be a LOT of sweet potatoes! This recipe makes good use of them, along with chorizo sausage from Mae Farm and Swiss chard (you could also use kale). We even made these ahead, wrapped them in foil and took them tailgating with us (if you do this, I recommend making these as burritoes instead–easier to eat). You could substitute the chorizo for soyrizo or just leave it out and you would have a great vegetarian meal.

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Quesadillas (makes 4)

  • 4 whole wheat tortillas
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and pierced with a fork
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 c. Swiss chard (about 1 bunch), trimmed and chopped
  • 1 lb. chorizo sausage
  • 1/2 c. black beans (cooked or canned–not dried)
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheese
  • Salsa for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roast sweet potatoes in oven for about 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly (you can do this the night before).
  2. Remove potato skins, transfer potato flesh to a small bowl and mash until smooth.
  3. While potato is cooking, crumble the chorizo into a large skillet and cook over medium heat until brown. Use the back of a wooden fork to break up any large pieces. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.
  4. Reserve 3 tbsp. of drippings and discard the rest. Heat reserved drippings over medium low heat and add onion. Saute onion until caramelized, about 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in Swiss chard and sausage and continue to cook until greens are wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Combine black beans and paprika in a small bowl.
  7. Divide sweet potato, sausage mixture and beans evenly onto 1/2 of each tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese. Fold empty half over the filled half.
  8. Put quesadillas on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet and brush tops with olive oil.
  9. Bake at 400 for 8-10 minutes.
  10. Serve with salsa and a green salad!

Tutorial Tuesday #10–Buying and Preparing a Heritage Breed Turkey

burbon redThis is a bit of a repost from last year’s turkey experience, with some additional consumer information thrown in. We have our heritage turkey on order for this year and plan a repeat of last Thanksgiving!

Turkeys, man. There is a lot of pressure on the turkey at Thanksgiving. Even if you make a million roasted chickens (which does help), you can’t help but be a bit on edge when you are responsible for everyone’s Thanksgiving turkey. Now, I have an awesome family, and they are always great about whatever turkeys I’ve cooked, even when they haven’t been all that tender. But still, I like to make something that is worth the 5 hour drive to my house. So this year made me especially nervous. I was cooking a new (old) kind of bird.

This year, we ordered a Bourbon Red heritage breed turkey from Homestead Harvest Farm in Wake Forest. Jan raises a limited number of birds with lots of sunshine, grass and love. I’ve heard a lot about heritage breed turkeys and how different they are from the standard grocery store variety, but I’ve never had one, so when I had the opportunity to place an order this summer (yes, this summer!) at the Downtown Raleigh Farmer’s Market, I jumped at the chance.

What is a heritage breed turkey?

Heritage breed turkeys can trace their lineage back at least one hundred years.

According the the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, heritage breed turkeys must meet all three of the following conditions. First, they must mate naturally and must be the product of at least two generations of turkeys that have mated naturally. Second, they must have a long, productive lifespan (5-7 years for hens and 3-5 years for toms) and they must be able to live outside. Third, they must have a slow to moderate rate of growth (about 28 weeks).

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, except that grocery store turkeys don’t meet any of these. Nope, they can hardly walk and can’t even mate by themselves. Do I want to know? No, I do not.

Most current turkeys on the market are a mashup of different varieties designed to maximize the amount of white meat and reduce the amount of dark meat. As a result, these birds are frequently given growth hormones and filler food to make the breast portion of the bird as large as possible. Heritage breed turkeys have a ratio of white to dark meat that is about 50/50, making them more flavorful and juicy. Because they are not given growth hormones and are typically raised to be…well…turkeys, they are more expensive and harder to find.

Our bird, Mr. Gibbles as he was named by Ellie, was “processed” Monday, picked up Tuesday and served on Thursday. I’ve never in my life had a turkey so fresh. At 17 pounds, he was quite a good sized bird! Our first observation was that he looked pretty different from the grocery variety. He seemed longer than a grocery turkey and he was not in that strangely uniform, compact shape. Ellie remarked that he really looked like a “real” bird. We got him all ready for his last journey in the oven and served him up to a delighted family. So how was it? Pretty darn fabulous. Very juicy, lots of rich, turkey flavor (almost like a wild turkey) and great texture to the meat. I don’t think we’ll ever go back again.

Cooking Mr. Gibbles was very different from cooking a frozen bird. First, it does not take nearly as long to cook a fresh, heritage breed turkey. Our 17 pound turkey took 2 hours and15 minutes. For reals. And I used a thermometer backup to make sure. Second, heritage breed turkeys have a wonderful layer of thick fat under the skin, so basting is completely unnecessary. He basted himself, which was terrific, although when serving, the fat freaked my dad out a bit.

We used the recipe below, which was suggested by Homestead Harvest Farm and it worked beautifully. Being a skeptic, I allowed more time than I really needed, which made for some quick hurrying around when the turkey was done so soon, but it all worked out in the end.

Check your farmer’s markets for fresh and/or heritage breed turkeys. Not only will you know a lot about your turkey, you won’t have a frozen block o’ turkey in your refrigerator stressing you out about when it will be thawed! And, most importantly, you will be getting a turkey that does not have added sodium, artificial coloring or artificial flavoring added!

Here is some shopping information to keep in mind as you shop for your turkey:

Fresh Turkey: “Fresh” is really a misnomer here. Turkeys can be labeled as fresh if they have never been chilled below 26 degrees F. It does not mean that they were never frozen, because if you remember from science class, “freezing” is 32 degrees. These turkeys may have been stored at farms or markets for months before being sold, so always ask when your bird was actually processed.

Frozen Turkey: Frozen turkeys have been stored at temperatures below zero degrees. They can be frozen for many months before being shipped to grocery stores. Frozen turkeys are the most commonly purchased turkey in the U.S. and are the most economical.

Not Previously Frozen Turkey: This means that the turkey was chilled below 26 degrees F, so it can’t be called “fresh”, but above 0 degrees F, so it does not need to be labeled “frozen”. Otherwise, it means nothing in terms of the quality of the turkey.

Natural Turkey: The term “natural” only means that there is no seasoning or coloring added to the turkey. It does not reflect on how the turkey was raised or processed.

Kosher Turkey: Kosher turkeys are raised on grain, and are not given chemical stimulants. Allowed to graze freely, these turkeys are raised, killed and prepared according to kosher regulations, which includes a salt brine soak, which many of us do at home anyway. Keep in mind though, that the brine included in the turkey package adds to the weight of the turkey and increases your price.

Free Range Turkey: Like many labels, “free range” could mean something or it could mean very little. To be labelled “free range,” a turkey only has to have access to outside air for a few minutes a day. Again, ask questions. Grocers can charge a premium for “free range” turkeys–it’s up to you to find out what the label means in your circumstance.

Certified Organic Turkeys: These birds are raised with specifically designated feed, hormones and without any added chemicals.

Here is the recipe we used for our heritage breed turkey. Whatever turkey you choose, we hope you enjoy it with friends and loved ones!

Roasted Heritage Breed Turkey

  • 1 fresh heritage breed turkey at room temperature
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • Fresh sage and rosemary, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth or white wine
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix the butter and chopped herbs until well combined.
  3. Rub the butter mixture over the turkey skin and under the skin if you can.
  4. Sprinkle the bird with salt and pepper
  5. Put the turkey in a large roasting pan. Add broth or wine to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Butter a piece of parchment to fit over the turkey. Use the parchment to make a tent over the turkey.
  7. Insert a meat thermometer into the breast.
  8. Put the bird in the oven and roast until the breast meat is 145 degrees. Do NOT open the oven door during this time.
  9. Remove the parchment tent over the turkey and continue cooking until the internal temperature is 155-160.
  10. Remove turkey from the oven (the meat temperature will continue to rise after removing it from the oven).
  11. Let the turkey rest for about 20 minutes before carving.
  12. Carve and serve the turkey with trimmings.Voila!

Lentil Kale Soup with Sausage


This soup has a lot of great things going for it. First, it is packed with protein and (thanks to some delicious chicken sausage) it is low in fat. Second it is super high in fiber and third it is inexpensive to make. So what’s not to love? If you ask my daughter, it’s the mushrooms, so we’ve listed them as optional in case you have mushroom haters in your house, too. This is one of those soups that came together at the last minute–a little of this, a little of that. Adjust the vegetables and seasonings based on what you have handy. Carrots would be great and so would tomatoes!

Lentil Kale Soup with Sausage (makes 6 servings)

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage (we used chicken with sun dried tomatoes)
  • 1 organic, yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 package baby Portabello mushrooms, sliced
  • Kosher or sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 small bunch organic kale, washed, stemmed and chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups organic small, whole lentils
  1. In a Dutch oven, brown the sausages whole over medium heat and cook through, about 15 minutes. Remove sausages to a bowl and set aside.
  2. Save 2 tablespoons of the sausage drippings (use grape seed or olive oil if you need to).
  3. Heat oil over medium low and add onions. Stir well and cook until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, stir and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add the mushrooms, salt, pepper and Italian seasoning and stir. Cook another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the kale and cook an additional 3 minutes. Cut the sausages into bite sized pieces.
  7. Add the vegetable stock and sausage pieces. Stir well to combine and simmer over low for 1 hour. Lentils should be very tender.
  8. Serve immediately with a salad or with some crusty bread!

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad


We don’t get a huge selection of autumn fruits here in NC. Once grape season is over, we have apples and that’s mostly it until strawberries make their appearance in April. Not that I don’t like apples, but it’s nice to have something different. So I was very happy when Asian pears showed up on our Produce Box menu for this week! I had never eaten Asian pears, which are a bit crisper than Bosc pears and not as cloyingly sweet. These pears though, they have a visual marketing problem. Asian pears look like brown apples, so even if I had seen them at the market, I probably wouldn’t have purchased them. And that is too bad because they are delicious, refreshing and healthy.

We used one of our awesome pears to make this fresh, fall salad of organic, local lettuce, kale, dried organic cranberries, and goat cheese. It was delicious, and a nice break from all the squash we’ve been eating!

Pear and Goat Cheese Salad (makes two servings)

  • 1/2 head of organic, bibb lettuce, washed and chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of organic, red kale, washed, trimmed of stems and chopped
  • 1 organic pear, washed, cored and sliced thin
  • 1/4 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 2 organic radishes, trimmed and sliced very thin
  • 1/2 cup dried, organic cranberries
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup candied pecan halves (you could also use toasted pecans)
  • Dressing of your choice
  1. Toss together the lettuce and kale and divide among two serving plates.
  2. Top each plate of greens with equal amounts of pear, cucumber, radish and cranberries.
  3. Divide the goat cheese and sprinkle over the plates.
  4. Top each plate with pecans and serve immediately with dressing on the side.


Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Praline Glaze

20121110-173653.jpgMy sweet T’s birthday cake!

For the record, cake is not health food. I get that. Really. But as we prepare for Thanksgiving (not even a month away!), I’m trying to include as many fresh, local ingredients into our Thanksgiving meal as possible. And for the record, that meal involves cake. And pie.

Don’t judge–you know you want cake, too. Or pie. Or maybe both.

Here in North Carolina, we produce sweet potatoes. A lot of them. Not only are sweet potatoes naturally sweeter than their other tuber cousins, they are packed with vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. After watching THIS video about sweet potatoes, we typically buy organic sweet potatoes because who wants a “bud nip” cake? Not me. Not even with ice cream.

This cake is my “go-to” cake for holiday parties, autumn pot lucks and any time I want to look super fabulous to my family. The sweet potatoes make for a very moist cake. The original recipe is from Southern Living, but I’ve tweaked it a bit over time. I do use whole wheat flour, so my cake doesn’t have a super fine crumb, but it is still tastes great! It is not health food, but it is far better for you than grocery store cakes, which substitute hydrogenated oils and lots of sugar for more expensive (and flavorful) ingredients. They hope you can’t tell the difference, but there is a reason those cakes all taste more or less the same.

You can make this cake without the praline glaze, but I highly recommend making the glaze. The cake itself is not very sweet, so the glaze adds a lot without making the cake too sugary.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Praline Glaze


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.5 cups organic cane sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (2 large or 3 smaller potatoes)
  • 3 cups whole wheat all-purpose flour (I love King Arthur’s flour)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon or ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt cake pan.
  2. Using a standing mixer, beat cream cheese and butter together until creamy.
  3. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Add sweet potatoes and vanilla and mix well.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix well.
  6. Gradually add the flour to the wet mixture, beating at low speed (unless you plan on wearing the flour) and mix just to combine.
  7. This batter will be very thick!
  8. Pour the batter into the greased and floured pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 70 to 75 minutes.
  9. Remove cake pan from oven and cool the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove the cake from the pan onto the wire rack and cool for 1 hour.
  11. When the cake is near the end of its cooling time, make the glaze.

Praline Glaze

  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp. milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup spiced pecans (you can make these, but I buy them already “spiced” at Trader Joes)
  1. Chop the spiced pecans into rough pieces, but not too small.
  2. In a heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter and milk and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk constantly and boil for one minute.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Whisk in powdered sugar, a little at a time and mix with the whisk until smooth.
  4. Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until glaze begins to thicken.
  5. Pour over cooled cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake glaze with the spiced pecans.

Tip: “clean” the saucepan by dipping more pecans into the glaze clinging to the pan. Eat happily, considering this to be your baker’s reward :-)

Hummus and Kale Salad


We love kale, that super trendy green. We love it cooked in soups, stews and casseroles, but we also love it raw. Once trimmed of its thick stems, the leaves can be chopped and used to make a flavorful salad that is much more satisfying than lettuce. And in the fall when we are increasing our running mileage, we need a salad that keeps us full and sustained.

This salad is awesome! Chock full of antioxidants and protein, it is filling, delicious and fresh. This recipe is based on a recipe posted by Giada DiLaurentis in her weekly newsletter. We decreased the amount of oil and added some cooked chicken breast, but you could leave out the chicken for a vegetarian dish.

Hummus and Kale Salad (makes 3-4 servings)

  • 1 large organic clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 5 cups raw, organic kale, washed, trimmed of stems and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 4-6 sundried tomatoes, rehydrated or packed in oil, each sliced in half
  • 1 can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups chopped, cooked chicken (optional)
  1. In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes, or until garlic is just fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together tahini, pepper and lemon juice. Slowly add the cooled olive oil and garlic, whisking constantly.
  3. Add the chopped kale, sundried tomatoes, chickpeas and chicken. Toss well to coat everything with the dressing.
  4. Serve immediately or keep chilled for up to 4 hours.
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