Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Kale, Bacon, Corn and Tomatoes

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We’re at that point in winter when there isn’t a tremendous variety in what we can find at our local farmer’s markets. Lots of greens–kale, collards, cabbage–and sweet potatoes. All great, but I start to crave some variety about this time in the season, and that’s where our freezer comes in. We freeze fruits and vegetables during the spring and summer growing seasons so we can stretch our local foods over a longer period of time. After the holidays, I dig into that freezer with great enthusiasm. Strawberries, blueberries, peaches, green beans, corn, tomatoes, peppers, pesto…just what I need to make it though the boring late winter.

This dish takes advantage of local sweet potato gnocchi combined with kale from our garden, bacon from Mae Farm and corn and onions from our freezer. Add some grape tomatoes from the grocery, and we have ourselves a hearty dinner that is also fairly healthy and definitely delicious.

The idea for this came from a recipe I saw on Pinterest by blogger Teaspoon of Spice. At the time I was cooking, I couldn’t find the recipe (note to self: organize your Pinterest boards), so I made this up instead–they are pretty close though. My version uses kale instead of collard greens and I cooked the greens in the sauce instead of boiling them separately.

The flavor is very fresh and delicious. I hope you enjoy!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Kale, Bacon, Corn and Tomatoes (serves 4)

  • 12 ounces sweet potato gnocchi, undercooked by a few minutes
  • 1 cup pasta liquid
  • 3 strips smoked bacon
  • 1 organic, yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cups of kale, washed, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 cups of frozen (or fresh) corn
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Set cooked gnocchi aside while you prepare the dish.
  2. In a large skillet, brown the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on some paper towels.
  3. Return the skillet with the bacon drippings to the stove and heat at medium. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes or until the onion is soft.
  4. Add the chopped kale and toss well (I use tongs) to keep the kale wilting. Cook kale for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the corn, gnocchi and tomatoes. Toss well and continue cooking until the gnocchi is cooked through.
  6. Add the reserved cooking liquid as needed to make a thicker sauce. Stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Plate the gnocchi, top with cheese and enjoy immediately.

Warm, Brussels Sprout Salad

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This salad wasn’t on my weekly menu, but I made it anyway. Those of you who are Brussels sprout haters will not understand, but I was completely craving these little cabbages. This is one of my favorite winter salads because it is packed full of flavor and served warm, which is comforting on a chilly evening. I am not sure where this recipe originated–I thought I dreamed it up, but it is everwhere, so I’m guessing I am not such a genius!

One note: use FRESH sprouts, not frozen. It makes all the difference in the world. We can get Brussels sprouts fresh at our farmers markets during the cooler months, but we also buy them still on the stalk at Trader Joes for about $2.99, making this a very economical as well as nourishing meal. If you can’t find fresh sprouts, you could substitute broccoli, and that would be tasty as well!

Warm Brussels Sprout Salad (serves 4)

  • 4 cups cooked grains (quinoa, barley, or rice)
  • 1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, washed and cut in half, lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced thin
  • 3 strips local, pasture-raised smoked bacon
  • 1 cup new crop pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 lemon, zested and and juiced
  • Good quality balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the Brussels sprouts with the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, gently stirring sprouts every 10 minutes.
  3. While sprouts are roasting, cook the bacon until crisp. Crumble bacon and set aside on paper towel to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of bacon fat in the pan.
  4. Heat the pan over medium heat and add the sliced onions to the bacon fat and sauté for 20 minutes or so, until onions are caramelized. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When sprouts are roasted and browned on the edges, remove them from the oven.
  6. In a large bowl, gently toss the sprouts, onions, blue cheese, cranberries, crumbled bacon and pecans.
  7. Divide cooked grains among serving bowls and top with warm salad mix.
  8. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Sautéed Cabbage and Apples

Apples are an all-American success story-each ...

We had our first day of actual, chilly weather today. Really, it was just morning chilliness, but still, it made a believer of me that fall is actually coming! Last year, we had a late freeze that took about 80% of our state’s apple crop. It was a sad fall. North Carolina apples were tricky to find and pricey, so we didn’t cook with them much and I definitely didn’t can any apple butter. Dishes like this one made the most of our apples, by using them as part of a larger dish.

Not only is this dish a delicious way to enjoy local cabbage and apples, but it also is very economical and deeply satisfying. Unlike some vegetable dishes, this seems to taste even better warmed up later, so make plenty! We are making it again this week with some local smoked sausage for an early Octoberfest supper. You could also serve this as a main course by itself with some crusty bread and have a terrific rustic winter meal! If you want a vegetarian version, omit the bacon and use 3 tbsp. of olive oil and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Sautéed Cabbage and Apples

  • 8 slices thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 3 large apples (granny smith or gala), peeled, cored and sliced thick
  • 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander seed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, cook bacon pieces over medium heat and stir often to keep them from sticking. Cook until browned, but not too crisp (about 6-7 minutes).
  2. Remove bacon from pot and set aside. Reduce drippings to about 3 tbsp.
  3. Add onion and carrots to the pot and cook over medium/high heat about 4 minutes until onion is translucent.
  4. Add apple cider vinegar and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits.</li
  5. Add the cabbage and stir to combine. Cook about 10 minutes until cabbage softens. Add apples, stock and coriander. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Check frequently to make sure the cabbage is not sticking. Add a bit of water or more stock if needed.
  6. Add bacon back into the pot and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve!

Grilled Swordfish with Bacon Onion Marmalade

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Yes, yes, we are putting bacon onion marmalade on everything these days. It’s so darn good and we have plenty from the batch we made last week, so we are trying it out on all kinds of food. Not dessert. Well, not yet, anyway 🙂

I love any kind of fish or seafood, but this fresh, line-caught swordfish from our North Carolina coast was hands down the best fish I have ever had. EVER. Thanks to Locals Seafood for providing impeccably fresh, local fish, clams, scallops, shrimp and crabs. They have truly revolutionized how we buy and eat our seafood. These swordfish steaks were thick, which kept them from getting dried out on the grill, plus the grilled skin added a wonderful crunchiness that was to die for.

This recipe is unbelievably simple. It showcases fresh fish at it’s best. When you have something beautiful and fresh, why muck it up with a lot of unnecessary ingredients? Keep it simple and let the star be on stage.

Grilled Swordfish with Bacon Onion Marmalade (serves 3-4)

  • 2 large swordfish steaks, about 1 1/2″ thick
  • 1 or 1 1/2 cups Balsamic vinaigrette dressing (see below or use your favorite)
  • 1/2 cup Bacon Onion Marmalade
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Put the swordfish steaks in a glass pan or in a large zip loc bag. Add the vinaigrette, turn steaks to coat, and let marinate for about 20 minutes. I put my pan on the counter so the fish comes almost to room temperature (I find food grills better that way), but if that makes you nervous, pop the fish into the refrigerator to marinate.
  2. Preheat your grill.
  3. When grill is hot, remove fish from the marinade and wipe off excess with a paper towel. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired.
  4. Cook fish at medium high on the grill for 4-4.5 minutes per side. Let rest for about 2 minutes.
  5. In a pan or in the microwave oven, heat the bacon onion marmalade and set aside.
  6. Top each fish steak with a few tablespoons of bacon onion marmalade and serve immediately.
  7. Lick your plate.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

  • 1 cup good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (I used peach flavored white balsamic)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a whisk or an immersion blender.

Not sure about grilling fish? Here are 4 easy grilling tips:

  1. Keep your grill hot. Starting with a hot grill will help your food from sticking.
  2. Dry your protein before grilling. Marinades are great, but pat your meat or fish dry before grilling. Why? Because if your protein has a lot of liquid (like a marinade) on it, you will spend your grilling time steaming your food as the liquid evaporates instead of grilling your food. Cooking will take longer and your food will not have that wonderful seared exterior. A light brush of olive oil is ok, but nothing more than that.
  3. Add sauces at the end. If you are using a barbecue sauce, add it in the last few minutes of grilling so the sugars caramelize, but don’t scorch.
  4. Let your protein rest. Letting your meat or fish rest after grilling gives the protein time to redistribute moisture and relax. The end result is a moister, more tender meal.

 

Grass-fed Beef Burgers with Bacon-Onion Marmalade

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Bacon.Onion.Marmalade. You’re welcome.

On Memorial Day, I ran my first ever 10k. Since there wasn’t an actual race on Memorial Day, we made our own faux race on a new section of greenway here in Cary. My farthest previous distance was 5k, or 3.106 miles, so this was surprising, to say the least. To celebrate this victory, we had lovely grilled burgers with ground beef from a local farm, Black Hoof Run Heritage Beef. We hadn’t made hamburgers in a loooong time, and they were so incredibly delicious!

Are you wondering what the big idea is about grass-fed beef? Is it just another trendy foodie fad? Another way to part you and your precious paycheck? Click HERE for a primer on grass fed beef. Not only does grass-fed beef taste better, it is lower in bad fat and higher in omega-3 fats (good fat).

With our delicious grass fed burgers, we treated ourselves to one of our favorite condiments, bacon-onion marmalade. This is basically a caramelized onion reduction with bacon and it is very delicious.

I first had bacon onion marmalade during my locavore’s lunch at Chuck’s. It was incredible. The idea of making it myself intrigued me–how hard could it really be? Turns out, not hard at all, although it is time-consuming. Sadly, it’s not recommended to can this lovely concoction, but you can refrigerate it for a couple of weeks and use it on many different dishes. Or share some with friends. You’ll have to work out for yourself who is “marmalade worthy” :-)

We made this with locally produced onions and locally and humanely produced bacon from Mae Farm. I cannot possibly say enough good things about the pork we have purchased from Mae Farm. It is always incredible. Yes, bacon is not health food, I do realize that. But what you end up using is in such small quantities that any health effects of the bacon fat are pretty negligible.

If you like bacon and caramelized onions, you will love this-it is sweet, onion-y, tangy and rich. Just the way to celebrate a super day!

Looking for a Deviled egg recipe? Click HERE!

Bacon-Onion Marmalade

  • 4 strips thick cut bacon
  • 4 lbs. yellow onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 c. apple cider
  • 1/4 c. white or wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you don’t like spicy heat)
  1. In a saute pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve, but keep the bacon drippings.
  2. Add sliced onions to the bacon drippings and cook on medium-high for about 10 minutes, until all onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add all remaining ingredients to the pan. Stir to combine. Simmer until mixture is almost out of fluids and is thick and jammy–about an hour.
  4. Reduce heat to low and cook another 10 minutes until mixture is very brown and sticky. You may need to add a bit of water if the mixture is too dry.
  5. Serve what you need and refrigerate the rest in a covered container for up to 2 weeks.

 

Tomato, Avocado, Bacon, Lettuce and Egg (TABLE) Sandwiches

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The weather has finally turned toward summer, and this week I ramped up my running schedule. I love getting out on the greenways, but a side effect of more exercise is that I am STARVING. Not just a little peckish–I am “I could rip someone’s head off” hungry. Trying not to eat like a linebacker, though, ’cause if I do, I won’t be running anywhere. This version of a spring BLT sandwich (a TABLE sandwich) is more satisfying than the regular variety without being bad for me (like the 5 Guys burger I was contemplating). This is definitely a thick, Dagwood-style sandwich and it makes a meal on its own.

Why TABLE? Well, TABLE sounded like a better acronym for the ingredients than BLEAT, right? All of these ingredients except the avocado came from our local farmer’s market and were locally produced–even the whole grain, multigrain bread from La Farm.

Speaking of bread, if you are watching your carbs, this sandwich could also be served open-faced, if you wanted to eliminate one slice of bread (when the bread is fresh and truly whole, multigrain, I’m up for both slices!).

For supper, I sautéed some fresh asparagus in about 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat until they were just tender, and served that with our sandwiches. The sandwiches were so filling on their own, we didn’t need an extra vegetable, but it was delicious all the same. Yum!

Spring TABLE Sandwich (makes one sandwich)
One sandwich has 560 calories and 23 grams of protein. It is a meal by itself!

  • 2 slices whole, multigrain bread (La Farm)
  • 1/4 organic avocado
  • 1 slice local raw cheddar
  • 1 organic Roma tomato
  • 1 leaf organic lettuce
  • 2 slices cooked local bacon
  • 1 farm egg
  • 1 teaspoon organic mayonnaise
  1. Toast the bread slices and set aside.
  2. Mash the avocado with a fork until it is guacamole texture. Set aside.
  3. Slice the tomato and set aside.
  4. In a small nonstick pan, cook the egg to your desired done-ness. I like lightly fried with a slightly runny yolk.
  5. Assemble your sandwich by spreading the avocado on one slice of bread. Top with cheese, bacon, tomato, egg and lettuce.
  6. Spread mayonnaise on the remaining slice of bread and put that slice, mayo side down, on your sandwich.
  7. Dig in!

 

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!

Wilted Salad

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Bacon. Bacon makes pretty much everything better. We don’t eat a lot of it, but when we do buy it, we go for the best quality, locally produced bacon from Mae Farm or Coon Rock Farm, both located here in central North Carolina. It has a smoky, “real meat” flavor that grocery bacon just doesn’t have.

As part of the challenge, A Salad A Day, I found several ideas for wilted salads. I hadn’t made one in ages, but they are really good. Traditional wilted salad uses spinach or even iceberg lettuce and little else–maybe some radish or egg. Since bacon loves all vegetables equally, I decided to go outside the traditional lettuce and radish and really load up our salads with local vegetables. The end result was pretty darn delicious and a definite “do again.”

We served our salad with fresh rosemary sourdough bread that we toasted with some delicious mozzarella from Hillsborough Cheese Company. The bread came with our produce box this week and is from La Farm bakery. Sooooo delicious!

Wilted Salad (serves 4)

2 smallish heads of local romain lettuce, washed and dried
2 radish, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1-2 tomatoes chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced

5 slices bacon
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced (white parts only)
Black pepper

In a large salad bowl, tear leaves of romaine into bite sized pieces. Add radish, carrots, tomato and cucumber.
In a sauté pan, brown the bacon, rendering the fat. Remove bacon when crisp and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Reserve.
Add the vinegar, sugar, onions and pepper to the pan of hot drippings. Wisk together and cook 1 minute.
Pour dressing over greens in the bowl and toss well to coat all the leaves and vegetables.
Plate the greens and top each serving with crumbled bacon and chopped eggs. Season with additional pepper, if desired.
Serve immediately.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese (and bacon)

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So there I was, minding my own business, catching up on foodie blogs, when I saw it–the recipe for butternut squash macaroni and cheese. I love squash–all squash. And this seemed like a fun and delicious new way to incorporate some squash into winter comfort food. Ellie rolled her eyes when I mentioned it, but in the end, she had two helpings so I figure it must not be the end of the world 🙂

The original of this recipe was on Sugar Dish Me’s blog, and I know if she has posted it to the universe, it must be good. I made some modifications to allow for what I had handy and what I needed to use up in the refrigerator (namely, bacon). I also roasted my squash instead of peeling it and boiling it because I am both lazy and unable to cut the rind off squash without causing myself bodily injury. HERE is the original recipe, which qualifies for Meatless Monday and is lower in fat than my version–you can probably make up your own delicious variations of this to suit your taste and what you have handy.

The end result was a bit sweet from the squash, but also smokey from the bacon and caramelized onions. This is going into my “must repeat” file!

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon (makes 6-8 main dish servings)

  • 1 12 oz. package of mini rotini pasta (or your favorite shape)
  • 2 organic butternut squash
  • 4 strips uncured, local bacon
  • 1 organic, yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup low fat milk
  • 2 cups Swiss/Gruyère cheese, shredded (Trader Joes has an excellent blend)
  • 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  3. Cut both squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Put the squash pieces on the baking sheet, cut side down and roast in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. When squash is tender, remove from the oven and let cool. Scoop the pulp into a bowl and mash. Set aside. NOTE: squash can be roasted ahead of time and refrigerated up to 3 days.
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  6. Cut the strips of bacon into small strips, about 1″ wide. Brown in a skillet until crispy. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon pieces to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  7. To the bacon drippings, add onion slices and cook on medium heat about 10-12 minutes, until they begin to caramelize. Remove onions to plate with the bacon.
  8. In a large bowl, mix the squash, bacon, onion, milk, spices, salt and pepper.
  9. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Set bowl aside.
  10. In a large stock pot, bring pasta water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente, according to the directions on the package. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
  11. Return pasta to the pot and add the squash mixture. Stir well to blend. Add some pasta water if the mixture seems too dry.
  12. Pour pasta mixture into a casserole or baking dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Mix the butter and bread crumbs together and sprinkle on top.
  13. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of your baking dish (mine took a full 45 minutes).
  14. Serve immediately.

Pierogi with Crispy Broccoli and Brown Butter Sauce

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It is very cold here in central NC (in the mid-20s) and icy. And all my boeuf bourguignon is gone (dang). I’m craving carbs and comfort food, but I’m too busy during the week to make a big pasta production. So this week I experimented with cooking some locally made pierogi.

At last week’s farmers market, I visited the booth for Melina’s Pasta and found some delicious-sounding pierogi stuffed with blue cheese and bacon. I had never made pierogi before, but I was assured that it was easy. Boil like pasta and toast lightly in butter. I can do this.

You can use this basic recipe with any kind of pierogi or ravioli. If you live in central NC, find Melina’s Pasta–I HIGHLY recommend the blue cheese and bacon pierogi (how could that combination go wrong, I ask you?). It was a terrific blend of flavors–not too strong on the blue cheese.

Pierogi with Crispy Broccoli and Brown Butter Sauce (serves 2 as an entree or 4 as a side)

  • 12 fresh or frozen pierogi
  • 2-3 cups finely chopped organic broccoli florets
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
  1. In a stock pot, heat water for pasta until boiling.
  2. Add pierogi to water and cook according to package directions (8 minutes for our frozen pierogi).
  3. When pierogi are almost done cooking, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. When foam subsides, add the finely chopped broccoli to the pan and cook.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the pierogi from the water and add to the saute pan. Cook pierogi on each side until lightly toasted and browned,about 1 minute per side.
  5. Remove pierogi and broccoli to a warmed bowl and top with chopped parsley.
  6. Serve immediately.
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