Stir Fried Scallops and Bok Choi


We are increasingly finding that in a world of complicated, specialty recipes, some of the best dishes we make have just a few basic ingredients. This super easy stir fry is an example of this. It focuses on fresh North Carolina scallops from Locals Seafood, a small farmer’s market-based seafood delivery service that supplies our family with all of seafood. Their North Carolina scallops are the best I have ever had, no question. So this week, we treated ourselves to fresh, NC scallops while using up some of the extremely prolific Chinese cabbage from our garden and a leftover portobello cap from our little “pizzas”. Turns out, this is a great combination we’ll make again. The sweetness of the scallops and the greens balance well with the earthiness of the mushrooms. Tom and I ate the whole thing by ourselves!

Stir Fried Scallops and Chinese Cabbage (makes 2-3 servings)

  • 1 lb. fresh scallops, sourced as locally as possible
  • 1 head organic Chinese cabbage or bok choi, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 large portobello mushroom cap, wiped clean and sliced
  • 1 organic onion, peeled and diced
  • 1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp. organic coconut oil, divided
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
  • Organic rice or Asian noodles, cooked
  1. In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 tbsp. coconut oil over high heat.
  2. Add onion and stir fry quickly for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms and continue stir frying quickly for 1 minute. Add greens, ginger and garlic and continue stir frying for another 2 minutes, or until greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove vegetables to a bowl, wipe wok and heat remaining 1 tbsp. coconut oil over high heat.
  5. Add scallops and stir fry 1-2 minutes (this will depend on how thick your scallops are).
  6. Add vegetables back to wok, heat for 1 minute and turn off heat.
  7. Serve over hot, cooked rice or noodles or just by itself.

Week 12 Budget and Menu

This week, we are continuing our “use it up” mode from last week. We are using lots of ingredients from our canned and frozen summer foods as well as what is in our garden (will the greens EVER die????). Our budget is low this week because we are celebrating a very successful grading period for Ellie, who is tracking out this week. So, she gets to pick where we go to eat, which should make things interesting! As a result, we have one less dinner on the menu.

Our budget this week is $73.35, so we are below our goal for the week. Overall, we are doing much better with our budget than at this time last year!

Budget [$73.35]

  • Farmer’s Market (cabbage, potatoes, carrots, apples): $13.00
  • Whole Foods (corned beef roast, salmon): $19.00
  • Trader Joes (Ezekial bread, lemon, frozen fruit, soy milk, yogurt, breakfast burritoes): $43.35
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (fig preserves, strawberry preserves, frozen peas): $8.00
  • Garden (Chinese cabbage, Swiss chard): FREE!


  • Sunday–Happy St. Pats! Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots
  • Monday–Working night–Last of the frozen ribollita soup
  • Tuesday–Leftover corned beef
  • Wednesday–Baked and stuffed sweet potatoes, sauteed Swiss chard
  • Thursday–End of quarter celebration–Ellie picks!
  • Friday–Chili dusted salmon with figs, rice and peas, sauteed Chinese cabbage
  • Saturday–Pasta with sardines and lemon

Roasted Vegetable Pasta


This is from our former blog Year of Healthier Living. I’ve been thinking about this dish and can’t wait to make it again!

Did you know that there is an Italian Food Day? I have no idea why this isn’t an entire month–I know I could do it. In spite of the Americanized version of Italian food, which tends to be very heavy on the cheese and meat, most Italian food in Italy is locally-based, impossibly fresh and creatively resourceful. I know this because I once tried to eat my way across Tuscany (I am an expert–don’t try this at home).

This is one of my favorite vegetarian pasta dishes. It is delicious, healthy and easy to make. Plus it uses up a lot of random vegetables that may be living in the refrigerator. This recipe is actually based on a dish made by The Cake Boss (go figure!) and its simple beauty comes from using whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables are available. Roasting the vegetables brings out their natural flavor and sweetness without any additives other than olive oil and salt. That is truly Italian cooking!

You can vary this dish throughout the seasons by using what is ripe and delicious at the time. You can also vary the

pasta you use. I like orecchiete (little ears) pasta because it holds the sauce well. As a mom, I think this is one of those healthy, versatile recipes that could be a regular (and by changing it up, maybe no one will notice I am basically recycling the same dish). Score!

  • 1 lb. fresh pasta (we used orecchiete pasta)
  • 1 organic onion
  • 2 organic tomatoes
  • 2 c. organic broccoli florets
  • 3 organic carrots, peeled and cut into 2-3″ planks
  • 2 c. cubed organic butternut squash
  • 2 handfuls of kale (from our garden!) or other greens–arugula is good, too!
  • About 1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (we used Hillsborough Cheese Co. garlic and chive ricotta)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pignolis (pine nuts), parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. Put a stock pot of salted water on the stove to boil.
  3. Cut all vegetables except kale into bite sized chunks and toss with olive oil and a little kosher salt and pepper.
  4. Chop kale into little bite sized pieces and reserve.
  5. Put all vegetables except kale in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking. Add kale to pan during last 5 minutes.
  6. While vegetables roast, add pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente. When pasta is done, reserve 1 c. pasta water for sauce and drain pasta.
  7. In a large bowl, add cooked pasta, roasted vegetables, kale, ricotta and pasta water and mix together. The cheese should melt and make a light sauce. The pasta water is essential and will thicken the sauce and help it stick to the pasta.
  8. Serve with pignolis (pine nuts), parmesan or whatever makes you happy!

Buon appetito!

Week 9 Budget and Menu

So my week went like this: I experimented with cooking stinky buckwheat one night and the next day, my daughter wrote an essay extolling many wonderful aspects of our relationship. Except cooking. Her words were “I would like to send my mom to cooking school.” Well, ouch!

I hadn’t realized that in my zeal to try new, healthier recipes and foods, she had gotten lost in the transition. She missed having some of her old favorites–tacos, meatloaf and pasta without a thousand vegetables squished in. For me, our new recipes have been “fun” and “adventurous.” For her, some of them were “weird” and “gross”. Time for reflection.

This week’s menu represents some of our favorites–beef stew with lots of potatoes and carrots and breakfast-for-dinner night. I’m taking a half-step back and working on how we can make our old traditional meals more healthy without taking away the comfort. I can’t promise I won’t squeeze some veggie puree into meatloaf, but I’m trying to do better with slowly working our new foods into our weekly menus! We’re also going to make a more concerted effort to let her do some cooking (this is harder than it sounds with a teen’s busy schedule).

Our budget this week is just a bit under our maximum of $100.00, so yay! And we’re still having lots of locally produced, organic and sustainable foods. Hopefully, they are not “weird.” We’ll see.

Budget [$94.03]

  • Rare Earth Farms (stew beef, Maple View Farm buttermilk): 18.00
  • Mae Farm (pork tenderloin, maple sausage): $16.00
  • Misc. Farmer’s Market (sweet potatoes, white potatoes, broccoli, apples, carrots): $12.50
  • Trader Joes (red curry paste, barley, frozen fruit, organic soy milk, organic bananas): $27.53
  • Mitchell family pantry (fig preserves, strawberry jam, field peas): $9.00


  • Sunday–Red curry chicken and vegetables with organic rice
  • Monday–Pancake supper (whole wheat buttermilk pancakes, Mae Farm maple sausage, sauteed cinnamon apples)
  • Tuesday–Figgy pork tenderloin with sauteed garden greens and summer field peas
  • Wednesday–Leftover buffet
  • Thursday–Beef stew with root vegetables
  • Friday–out for girls night
  • Saturday–Leftover beef stew

Week 8 Budget and Menu


Snow falling on collards!

Snow! We finally have a real snow here in central North Carolina! And the fact that it came on a weekend makes it even better. No missed work days. No stressful rush hours. Just relaxing and enjoying the snow, while planning for our spring garden! 

Our budget for this week does not include salmon purchased last week, but still in the freezer. That’s a carry over. And the collard greens and Swiss chard are from the garden. Still, we are doing fairly well at staying below our $100 limit. We are making some new recipes this week, many of them adapted from the magazine Clean Eating. Breakfasts this week include more oatmeal and some oat granola breakfast bars we’re trying this weekend. Will let you know what our favorites are!

Stay warm and start planning for spring gardening–it will be here before we know it!

Budget [$73.72]

  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, organic soy milk, cheese, coconut milk, tortillas, lemon, lime): $36.22
  • Mae Farm (uncured ham steak, jowl bacon): $13.00
  • Farmers Market (broccoli, acorn squash, onions): $6.50
  • Rainbow Farm (chicken): $12.00
  • Mitchell Family Pantry (jam, summer corn): $6.00


  • Sunday–Poached salmon, collard greens, summer corn
  • Monday–Ham and swiss stuffed acorn squash
  • Tuesday–Tamari Honey Chicken, broccoli with almond butter sauce, turmeric rice
  • Wednesday–Thai tomato soup, leftover chicken
  • Thursday–Whole wheat pizza night
  • Friday–Spicy egg tortillas, black beans
  • Saturday–Pasta with roasted tomato sauce, sautéed greens

Week 4 Budget and Menu


This week ended with a snow fake-out (so much for sledding) and sunny, cool weather that was more like spring. this next week promises to turn bitter cold–real winter? I’m going to harvest most of our tender greens this week and we will eat up as much as we can. Did you know you can cook your greens (chard, beet, turnip, mustard, etc) and freeze them? I think I’ll be trying that as well! Our collards will only get better with the below freezing temperatures–the cold brings out their sweetness, so I’m leaving them parked in the garden. Happily, our farmers market was full of activity today and we had a lot to choose from even with the cold weather! And even more happily, the market was teeming with people out buying fresh food in the cold!

Now that we actually have some winter weather coming on, I’m breaking out my Julia Child Boeuf Bourguignon recipe. It makes a ton, so we will have lots of leftovers this week. Somehow I don’t think anyone will mind!

This week’s budget reflects some stocking up. Ellie loves homemade whole wheat buttermilk pancakes and we ran out of maple syrup. I buy huge containers at Trader Joes, but they are $16.00! That’s a lot, but the syrup will last a long time. We also ran out of spices, which are not inexpensive either. But who can live without cinnamon? Not me, that’s who. Especially since I am experimenting with some crazy gingerbread oatmeal (stay tuned). So our budget ended up being $114.24 for the week, but I am confident we’ll bring it down next week. Here’s how our food expenses break out:


  • Coon Rock Farm (eggs, chicken, stew beef, carrots): $42.00
  • In Good Hands Farm (Brussel sprouts, broccoli): $6.00
  • Hillsborough Cheese Company (Lebnah Greek yogurt): $4.00
  • Melina’s Pasta (bacon and blue cheese pirogue): $9.00
  • Great Harvest Bread Company (sandwich bread, scones): $7.00
  • Trader Joes (mushrooms, organic onions, cinnamon, pepper, maple syrup, organic soy milk, cheese, sliced turkey, organic potatoes): $46.24

Here’s what we’re having this week. Should be a week full of comfort food goodness!


  • Sunday–Julia’s boeuf bourguignon with roasted potatoes
  • Monday–roasted chicken thighs with honey glazed carrots and Brussels sprouts
  • Tuesday–grilled cheese sandwiches and soup
  • Wednesday–Oatmeal (girl scout night)
  • Thursday–leftover boeuf bourguignon with noodles
  • Friday–bacon and blue cheese pirogue with brown butter, Swiss chard
  • Saturday–out to dinner or leftover buffet

Pesto Chicken Pizza


Did you know that making pizza could make you an environmental hero? Yesssiree. Using up your leftover food not only saves you money, it saves the environment. Americans annually throw away millions of pounds of food that ends up rotting in landfills (read HERE). Most of that is restaurant waste, but families contribute a good chunk as well. That’s why I love basic recipes that can use a wide variety of foods we happen to find left over in our refrigerator. Here are some ideas:

  • Omlettes and quiches
  • Stir fry
  • Quesadillas
  • Pizza
  • Crazy salads

Of all these, our favorites are stir fry and pizza. This week we found ourselves with a little fresh broccoli, 2 cups of leftover roast chicken and some leftover mushrooms that HAD to be eaten or they would be compost. Since I usually have whole wheat flour and yeast, we had pizza night. Ellie made a yummy buffalo chicken pizza and we made this delicious pesto chicken pizza using defrosted pesto that we made and froze this summer. It was so good that Tom thought I should post it. So, here it is!

Pesto Chicken Pizza

  • 1/2 recipe whole wheat pizza dough or 1 ready to heat crust
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped, cooked chicken
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh broccoli
  • 1.5- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. On a baking sheet, shape your pizza dough into something that resembles a circle (or not, it’s your pizza!).
  3. Spread the basil pesto over the dough, extending pesto to 1-2″ from the edge.
  4. Top pesto with the sliced mushrooms and chopped broccoli.
  5. Top vegetables with the chicken.
  6. Top all of it with cheese!
  7. Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is very melty.
  8. Don your superhero cape and serve this pizza to your grateful citizens!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel


Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

I found this recipe today in the New York Times and it may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and some organic olives and capers, I think this will be a winner. When we canned and froze tomatoes over the summer, I envisioned being able to coax a bit of summer in the dead of winter and this may do just the trick. For Tom, I will leave off the olives (actually, I will add them to my plate :-)) so we can both be happy. Will post photos of the final product!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (I’m using NC striped bass)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I will pan sear these babies).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…

Week 1 Budget and Menu


Welcome to 2013! How are you feeling this morning? Energized and excited about the new year? Worried about the fiscal cliff? Hung over? I, for one, can’t figure out where last year went–it was a blur of activity, but it was a lot of fun.

If you are new to this blog, I’ll explain that each week I will post our seasonal menu and our food budget for the week (our goal is under $100). This budget includes food, but not other household goods like laundry detergent or paper towels. Along the way, I’ll also post recipes and information about what is season at the markets here in central North Carolina, new food research or food issues that come up, etc.

Ready? Here goes Week 1!

Budget [Total $69.52]

  • Coon Rock Farm (collard greens cabbage, Italian sausage): $12.00
  • Fickle Creek Farm (eggs): $4.50
  • Locals Seafood (shrimp): $10.00
  • Other farmers market (sweet potatoes, broccoli, onions): $7.00
  • Trader Joes (frozen fruit, coconut oil, olive oil, cannellini beans, Ezekiel bread, noodles): $36.02

What are we eating for $69.52? Here is our menu for Week !!


  • Tuesday–Collard greens, hoppin’ john, corn bread
  • Wednesday–Shrimp pad thai w/local shrimp, veggies and peanuts
  • Thursday–Homemade pizza night w/farmer’s market ingredients
  • Friday–Stuffed sweet potatoes and leftovers
  • Saturday–Leftover ribollita soup
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