Shopping at the Winter Farmer’s Market

Assumptions. I know better than to make them, yet I still do. Before we started eating local, the winter farmer’s market (in my mind) was a place of leftover collard greens, cabbage and sweet potatoes. Sad. Lonely. Bereft of good eats. I should just give up and head to the grocery store, right? Wrong!

Visiting our winter farmer’s markets always amazes me and disproves my assumptions. At least in NC, there are lots of great foods waiting for us at our local markets.

Not only is the State Farmer’s Market busy, but I am really amazed at the variety of fresh vegetables and fruit (apples) that were still available. Thanks to a very mild winter (at least in NC), farmers are still growing and harvesting white potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (mostly locally grown hothouse), salad greens, turnips, kale, spinach, green peppers, apples, fresh beans, broccoli, collard greens, beets and more. And the prices were definitely lower than the grocery stores on just about everything.

I was glad to find Scott Smith of Heaven On Earthorganic farm at the market. He was awesome! He and his wife have a farm outside of Wilmington and they love organic farming. Farmer Scott let me taste test my way though his vegetable stand so I could discover the difference between dino kale and curly kale (dino kale is thicker and spicier), how turnip greens with a little bit of yellow (from frost) are sweeter than the bright green leaves (the frost brings the sugar to the tips of the leaves) and more.

In the end, I did buy vegetables, including the dino kale (the name alone makes it interesting). Scott suggested that the dino kale makes terrific kale chips, something I had heard of, but hadn’t tried before. OH. MY. GOODNESS. They were devoured by my family and my pre-teen daughter (who eats vegetables grudgingly) decided they were amazing. Light, crispy and salty, these are the perfect antitode to potato chips. The recipe is below.

  • 1 bunch fresh kale (we used dino kale, but any kind would work)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vinegar (we used balsamic)
  • Kosher salt to taste (we used about 1 Tbsp.)
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Wash and dry the kale.
  3. Cut off the lower woody stems and compost.
  4. Cut the kale into pieces about the size of potato chips (2-4″ or so).
  5. In a bowl (or a plastic bag, if you don’t want your hands oily) put the chopped kale and add 1 Tbsp of the olive oil.
  6. Toss the greens with the oil until leaves are covered. (If you use the bag, massage the bag until the leaves are covered).
  7. Add the vinegar and toss again to coat.
  8. If needed, add the remaining Tbsp. olive oil (depending on the thickness of the leaves, you might not need this).
  9. Carefull place leaves on an oven safe baking rack or on a cookie sheet (I used a rack). Don’t overlap leaves.
  10. Sprinkle leaves with salt.
  11. Put rack/baking sheet in the oven and roast leaves for 20-30 minutes (this will depend on how thick your leaves are, so check on them after 20 min.)
  12. Remove from oven and enjoy immediately!

 

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Pasta with Kale, Sausage and Tomato

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It has been a long time since I’ve posted to my little blog, and much has happened to shake things up around here. First, the weather–how ridiculous has that been? I keep expecting a summer snow-nado to come barreling down my street followed by a plague of locusts. It could still happen. In the midst of crazy weather, Ellie and Tom have started softball season, which throws us all into a temporary crazy schedule. But the final, and bigger thing, is that Tom and I are training for a marathon this fall and registered for the Disney Goofy Challenge in January. Because, you know, nothing else is going on. So we need quick, easy dishes that are healthy, locally based and filling.

This dish is a very soul and tummy satisfying meal that we through together with ingredients we had on hand. You could substitute chard or spinach for the kale if you like, depending on what is in season. It freezes well, so it can be ready in a snap on those busy nights!

Pasta with Kale, Sausage and Tomato (6-8 servings)

  • 13 ounces dried tomato penne pasta (or your favorite pasta shape)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 lb. locally produced Italian sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 bunch kale, washed, trimmed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil pesto
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. Soak the tomatoes in hot water according to the directions. Drain and reserve.
  2. Bring a stock pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
  3. While water is heating, warm the olive oil in a large skillet to medium.
  4. Add the chopped onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until onions are soft. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring well so garlic does not brown.
  5. Remove the onion and garlic from the pan and reserve.
  6. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook to al dente.
  7. While pasta is cooking, add the sausage to the pan and cook until browned with no pink remaining.
  8. Add the kale, sun dried tomatoes, onion/garlic mixture and pesto, stirring well to coat everything with pesto.
  9. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
  10. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss everything well. If pasta is dry, add some of the pasta liquid to the skillet.
  11. Serve topped with grated cheese.

Polenta with Mushrooms, Kale and Egg

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This dish made a rather unconventional Valentine’s Day supper for us this year. Tired of the usual “let’s grill a steak,” we opted for a simple, but delicious dish of polenta (in our case we used local stone ground grits), winter greens, rich mushrooms and onion, topped with a farm egg and shaved Parmesan cheese. It was a delicious, almost-vegetarian meal that was both warming and nutritious.

Polenta with Mushrooms, Kale and Egg (serves 2)

2 cups water
1/2 cup stone ground grits or polenta
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cream or almond milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cups kale or Swiss chard, cleaned and chopped
Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

2 fresh farm eggs

Add the water and salt to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
While water is heating, add the olive oil to a skillet and heat to medium high. Add the onion and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until the onion is soft.
Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium.
Add the mushrooms to the skillet, stir well, add some salt and pepper and sauté for about 5-6 minutes.
While mushrooms are cooking, add the grits to the boiling water, stir well and cook according to directions (about 6 minutes). Add the milk and butter. Stir well and keep grits warm.
Add the kale to the skillet, stir well and cook 5 minutes or until the kale is wilted. Correct seasonings, if needed.
Heat a small, non-stick skillet over medium heat and cook the eggs to your desired doneness (I like them to have runny yolks).
Assemble the dish by adding hot grits to two bowls. Top with the mushrooms mixture. Add an egg and some shaved Parmesan cheese to the top of each bowl.
Serve immediately.

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.

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!

Hummus and Kale Salad

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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.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

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Food cooked in its own bowl–does it get any easier than that? I love making stuffed squash–not only is it cozy and delicious, but stuffed squash is a great way to use up small bits of leftover fresh vegetables and turn them into something amazing.

All winter squash are high in fiber, low in fat and an excellent source of vitamins, including beta-carotene, vitamin B, vitamin C and potassium. It is also filling due to its high fiber content, and very inexpensive! Win-win-win-win! A serving of stuffed squash is 1/2 of a squash–we usually make more though, since a stuffed squash half makes a completely amazing lunch later.

There are endless combinations of foods for this dish, and I almost never make it the same twice, but this is one of our favorites. It has a nice, Italian flavor that spices up the squash without being overpowering. So grab an acorn squash (or two) and make your own delicious creation!

Stuffed Acorn Squash (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 acorn squash
  • 4 tablespoons fresh, grass-fed butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small, organic onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves organic garlic
  • 4-6 sun dried tomato halves
  • 1 small bunch kale, washed, trimmed and chopped (about 4 cups raw)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lb. organic chicken sausage (ours was Italian sausage)
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup organic, mozzarella cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  2. Cover the sun dried tomato halves with very hot water and let soak.
  3. Wash the outside of the squash and dry carefully. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the squash in half widthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. To make sure each half will stand up properly, trim a little bit of the squash ends, making a flat edge.
  4. Rub the inside of the squash with 1 tablespoon of butter each and put the squash, cut side up on the baking sheet. Roast the squash for 45 minutes or until the squash flesh is soft.
  5. While squash is roasting, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the sausage from its casing and add to the skillet. Cook until sausage is no longer pink and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the sausage and add the onion to the pan. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
  7. Remove the sun dried tomatoes from the water, chop, and add to the pot.
  8. Add the kale, sausage and water to the pan, tossing all ingredients well. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 10 minutes or until squash is cooked.
  9. Remove squash from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle (about 15 minutes). Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
  10. Scoop roasted flesh from the cooked acorn squash, leaving about 1/4″ of flesh to keep the squash shell stable. Return the squash shells (scooped side up) to the baking sheet.
  11. Add the kale mixture to the bowl and combine everything well. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
  12. Stuff the squash halves with the squash-kale mix, top each half with 1/4 cup of shredded cheese, and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  13. Serve immediately.

 

Apple and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

20131010-083842.jpgNorth Carolina, where I live, is the king of sweet potatoes. While it is a challenge to find organic sweet potatoes, I’ve found several farmers who carry them. Potatoes are delicious and nutritious (especially sweet potatoes!), but farmers often use carcinogenic fungicides and sprout inhibitors that penetrate beyond the skin of the potato and into the flesh. So no amount of washing or peeling is going to eliminate them. These babies are definitely worth buying organic, if at all possible.

This sweet potato dish is one of my “go to” recipes for a busy fall weeknight. It has all the great hallmarks of fall–sweet potato, pumpkin pie spice, apples and maple syrup. This would make a great side dish or a light meal in itself. We have an abundance of sweet potatoes at our farmers markets and apples are back in full force, so this recipe takes advantage of all that is fresh and delicious.

Apple Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (makes 3 servings)

  • 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 2 medium apples like granny smith or galas
  • 1 small bunch of kale
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or more, if you like!)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons real maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork and roast in the oven until soft (about an hour depending on how large your potatoes are). Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350.
  3. While potatoes cool a bit, peel/core and chop the apples into 1/2″ chunks.
  4. Wash and trim the stems from the kale. Chop into bit sized pieces.
  5. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add apples. Cook apples for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the kale and cook until wilted–about 4 minutes.
  7. Add spice to the apples and stir. Add more butter if you need it. Reduce heat to low and cook until apples are soft. Set aside.
  8. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut skins and scoop potato flesh into a medium-sized bowl. Add apple mixture and mix together until combined.
  9. Spoon mixture back into the potato skin shells. Top with chopped pecans, put on a baking sheet and bake for another 15 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and drizzle with maple syrup.
  11. Serve!

NOTE: You will have extra filling left over. This makes a great leftover lunch the next day! Pair it with some cooked quinoa and you have a complete second meal.

Week 44 Budget and Menu

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This week is full of fall goodness–pumpkin, acorn squash, chowder, kale–yum! Our weather finally feels like fall, and while I’m sad to see our summer weather go, I’m glad to get my cute boots and sweaters out of storage!

Our markets are full of peppers, squash, pumpkins, lettuce, kale, green beans and hopefully we will have broccoli soon! I am missing our summer berries–that season always seems too short–but we are enjoying apples. Last season, North Carolina had an apple shortage due to a late spring freeze in the mountains, but this year is a completely different story! So glad to see lots and lots of apples out there!

Breakfasts this week include homemade muffins, bagels, and steel-cut oatmeal. Our lunches are typically leftovers and fruit or oatmeal.

The budget this week is good! We are helped as always by Tom supplying us with the fish he catches (one of the benefits of living close to the ocean!).

Budget [$87.51]

  • The Produce Box (apples, green beans, acorn squash, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, peppers, kale): $47.25
  • Trader Joes (Romano cheese, pasta, ground organic turkey, taco shells, avocado, frozen fruit, yogurt, almond milk, whole wheat flour): $34.26
  • Panera (bagels) $6.00

Weekly Menu

  • Wednesday–Green salad with hard boiled eggs
  • Thursday–Leftover pasta with red pepper sauce
  • Friday–Chicken and kale stuffed acorn squash, quinoa
  • Saturday–Baked fish, green beans, salad
  • Sunday–Corn and crab chowder, salad
  • Monday–Pumpkin kale pasta
  • Tuesday–Turkey tacos, spicy rice

Pumpkin-Kale-Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

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Okay, okay, I have jumped on the crazy pumpkin bandwagon at last. I was doing just fine resisting all the pumpkin muffin, pumpkin, cookie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin smoothie recipes. Because, you know, I’m still hanging on to summer. It helps a little that fall hasn’t arrived in NC, at least not in any meaningful way. Fall here is like a teenage girl texting–here one second, completely distracted and bumping into people the next.

Summer seems to focus on us like a laser beam, so I’m sticking with it until fall decides to pay attention.

I did decide to acknowledge fall this weekend, however, when I saw this recipe from Amy at What Jew Wanna Eat. It is easy, delicious, and made the most of foods that are available right now, like fresh bell peppers from our garden, organic kale, sweet onions and locally made organic cheddar cheese. The only substitutions I made from her recipe were to use kale instead of spinach and plain almond milk instead of milk–both worked great! I added the chopped kale raw and it cooked just fine. Next time, I may try this with sweet potato instead of pumpkin since we are typically up to our ears in them by November!

This recipe is flavorful, nourishing, and absolutely delicious. Measurements and cooking times are spot on. All the thing you want in a healthy, fall (or late summer) supper. Click HERE to get the full recipe!

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