Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pimento Cheese-Stuffed Peppers

Is your mouth watering yet? Because this post's promises are all going to come true...

While at the Atherton Market last night, I ran into a new (to me) vendor, Coto Family Farms, that had an amazing variety of peppers as well as herbs, squash, tomatoes and gourds. They have your standard bell peppers but they were also selling some beautiful anaheims, seranos, jalapenos and pimentos which gave me the idea for something I've never tried from scratch: pimento cheese.

So with my trusty smart phone, I looked up then and there a recipe for southern pimento cheese. I found one that not only uses pimento peppers but also jalapenos. Since just down the aisle Queen City Pantry (formerly Simply Local) sells amazing cheddar cheese from Ashe County Cheese, I knew I had about half of what I needed at my fingertips before walking out of the market. I also had the requisite amount of my homemade mayo which I make from Windy Hill Farm eggs, olive oil and lemon which gave this pimento cheese a real citrusy kick. Below is the recipe for the pimento cheese but I then stuffed some halved anaheim peppers and baked them at 350 for about 10 minutes to soften the outside. This was half of our meal but would also be great as an appetizer.

Southern Style Pimento Cheese (v)
2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese
8 oz cream cheese
1 pimento pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1/2 cup of mayo
1/4 teaspoon of each of the following: garlic powder,  ground cayenne pepper, celery salt
  1. Combine all in a large bowl.
  2. Using a hand mixer, blend for 20-30 seconds or until the cream cheese is completely mixed in.
  3. Serve immediately and keep refrigerated.
I served the stuffed anaheims with a sliced tomato from the Lomax Incubator Farm and fresh salsa and chips made with more tomatoes from Lomax. I then made a tomato and pimento cheese sandwich for lunch the next day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Easy Peasy Meals

One of the biggest complaints I hear about local food is that it takes more time to prepare raw ingredients than pre-made or out of the box meals. This is true but should not scare away those that haven't gotten their frying pan or dutch oven out of the cabinet for months. With just a couple common ingredients, you can make almost any local vegetable delicious. Here are some of my go-to preparation methods when I'm not following a specific recipe or can't just throw a salad together. I've listed some vegetables I prepare these ways off the top of my head but the options are endless!

Olive Oil, Garlic and Onion (V) 
This method works for summer squashes, zucchini, turnips, rutabagas, mushrooms, peppers, and many bitter leafy greens (ie bok choi). I use a normal yellow onion but if spring onions or garlic scapes are in season, throw those in too. Soy sauce is another good option to add an Asian-inspired kick to the meal, especially if you're going to serve this over rice like I usually do.
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet on high.
  2. Mince garlic and onion and add to the skillet. Cook till onions are soft. (If you want to add meat, add it with the onions and garlic and cook till almost done).
  3. Add your vegetables, hardest ones first. Toss in the oil until covered then stir often until they reach your desired tenderness. 
I made both zucchini and bok choi for this meal with basmati rice.
Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper in the Oven (V)
For your winter squashes, harder vegetables, or those that just don't soften adequately in a skillet, this is a great low-fat method. I use this for beets, winter squashes like butternut and acorn, and any and all potato varieties. It really allows the vegetables' natural flavors to shine.
  1. Sprinkle olive oil in a brownie-sized baking dish.
  2. Cut desired vegetable in approximately 1" pieces and place in pan. Drizzle with more oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cook at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until they've reached your desired tenderness. For harder vegetables or large pieces, cover with tin foil for the first half of the cooking time then remove to get a nice outer coating on the veggies.
Cheese or Greek Yogurt (v, LPO)
Cheese can save so many meals from being boring and we have some amazing cheeses in North Carolina. Cows, goats and sheep live all over the U.S. so no matter where you live, you probably have access to local cheese. For those that are watching the calories, try Greek-style yogurts instead, also available from many dairy farmers. Yogurt can often be added to sauces to both bolster the flavor as well as the portion and protein content.

  1. Cook pasta till it's just on the raw side of al dente.
  2. Follow the olive-oil-onion-garlic method above, then toss the pasta in the frying pan with the onions. 
  3. Put whatever cheese or yogurt you have and stir in a bowl then add the pasta and mix. For hard cheeses, shred the cheese first. Stir until covered.
  4. Optional: place entire bowl in the oven to warm through.
One of my new favorite recipes is this one that uses quinoa, an ancient grain that's incredibly good for you, and kale which is abundant this time of year.

1 cup raw quinoa
1 1/4 cup water
2 large handfuls of kale, sliced small
3 tablespoons pine nuts
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup goat cheese
  1. Boil water then add the quinoa. Let simmer at medium-low heat for 10 minutes covered.
  2. Add the kale just on top of the quinoa and leave covered for 5 more minutes to soften the greens.
  3. In a ceramic bowl, place lemon, pine nuts and cheese. 
  4. Add the quinoa and mix well. Salt to taste.
This is one of the easiest meals and has lots of protein!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Beet Revolution

Ok, so maybe I'm not changing lives here but I am really excited that beets are back at the market. I've never experimented with them much but a friend brought a beet salad similar to the one below to a dinner party recently and they were just so pretty that I went out and bought a huge bundle of them from Houston Farm. These things were absolutely gorgeous even before cutting them open:
All of that was just $3!
So what does one do with beets? The two things I'm most familiar with is salad, where the beets can really stand on their own, or roasting them as a side dish. Here are the two recipes I've used most recently.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad (v)
3 medium beets, trimmed, cleaned and cut in quarters
1/2 cup goat cheese
1/4 cup mint, chopped
3-4 tablespoons pine nuts (optional)
Salt to taste
  1. Put the quartered beets in a large saucepan and cover with water.
  2. Boil for 20-30 minutes or until a knife cuts easily. Remove and put in a large bowl in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Combine goat cheese, mint and pine nuts. 
  4. Cut the beets into 1/2 inch pieces and add to cheese mixture. Mix well (helpful to use your hands).
Doesn't look amazing in pictures but this is a beautiful salad!
Roasted Beets (V)
3 medium beets, trimmed, cleaned and cut in 3/4 inch pieces
Olive oil for coating beats
Thyme (or other herb of choice) and sea salt to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees  and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the beets, olive oil, and thyme in a bowl until beets are coated, and arrange pieces of beet on baking sheet so that they don't touch. Sprinkle the beets with sea salt.
  3. Roast in the preheated oven until the beets are tender, 10 to 20 minutes. A fork inserted into a beet cube should come out easily.
I served my roasted beets with a slice of my tofu quiche. Delicious!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My Discovery of Kale

As an IBS sufferer, I have all sorts of weird things I can't eat. Red meat, fried and spicy food are pretty common across the board but I also don't digest preservatives or seeds very well. Unfortunately, most lettuce that you buy in a store or in a restaurant, no matter how organic, has preservatives on it which means that all traditional salads are on the NO list for me. 

However, I have discovered during the last couple weeks that kale, for whatever reason, doesn't bother my stomach like spinach, arugula, or other leafy salad greens. This is a huge deal for me because I can start adding this dark green to my diet which will increase my iron count and open up so many culinary opportunities!

Here are two recipes I have tried and loved over the last week using fresh kale straight from Houston Farms or the Lomax Incubator Farm. The kale really adds a natural saltiness and heartiness to the dishes and they both only took minutes to put together. The tomatoe in the first recipe was a local one I had frozen at the end of last summer. This is a perfect use for them because their consistency isn't key to the dish. I got the turnips in the second recipe from Houston Farms as well and the gnocchi from the pasta guy at Atherton Market. The dill is also from the market - various vendors have had herbs on and off the last several weeks, most likely green-housed or grown inside.

Penne Pasta with Tomato, Kale and Dill (V)
1/2 pound penne pasta (about half a normal box or bag)
2 large handfuls of kale, stems removed, cut into pieces no larger than 2 inches
1 tomato, cut in 1/2 inch chunks
2-3 tablespoons fresh dill
2-3 tablespoons olive lil
Juice of one lemon (optional)
  1. Prepare pasta.
  2. In large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium/high heat.
  3. Add kale, tomato, dill and lemon juice. Saute until kale has darkened.
  4. Add made pasta and saute until pasta is covered with kale and tomato.
  5. Serve hot.
Turnips and Kale side dish (V)
2 medium turnips, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2-3 good handfuls of kale, stems removed, cut into pieces no larger than 2 inches
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in large frying pan (I used a non - non-stick pan) on high heat.
  2. Add turnips and cook on high until nice and brown on both sides.
  3. Add handfuls of kale so they are layered over top of but not mixed in with turnips. Reduce heat to medium and let kale soften and darken.
  4. Once kale is dark, mix in with turnips. Add salt and pepper.
  5. Serve hot.
I served this with gnocchi and basic tomato sauce. Delish!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Root Vegetable Casserole

Spring is just around the corner which means you may want to grab your favorite Fall/Winter favorites while you can. I will miss them because, pound for pound, cold weather produce is cheaper than warm weather produce (think sweet potatoes versus any tomato) and they're just so comforting to eat. To celebrate the end of root vegetables and comfort food in general, I tried my hand at Root Vegetable Casserole this weekend. My friend Corinne makes this for Thanksgiving for our family and it's just delicious. I have backed off the original amount of heavy cream in the below but you could easily dump a little more into the pan! The potatoes are from Houston Farms and the turnips and green onions are from the Lomax Farm.
Root Vegetable Casserole (v)
1-2 turnips
1 medium sweet potato
1/2 leek, sliced
1 medium baking potato
1 green onion, chopped
~1 cup heavy cream
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cups broth
  1. Parchment paper (cut into pieces that will fit snuggly inside the dish you are using)
  2. Peel all vegetables and slices into 1/8 thick slices. For large pieces like the baking potato, also cut in half.
  3. Combine all vegetables in a large mixing bowl and add garlic, broth and all but 1/4 cup of the heavy cream. Mix carefully until veggies are coated well.
  4. Put whole mixture in a 8x8 baking dish and cover with Parchment paper.
  5. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40-50 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and remove Parchment paper. Turn oven to Broil, drizzle the rest of the heavy cream over the top, then stick back in the oven for 5 minutes. This will make sure the top is moist.

This makes a small dish but you can size up easily for larger portions.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Charlotte Local Eats Turns 2!

I can't believe it was two years ago that I wrote my first post on our local food journey. Since then, I have posted almost 100 items including recipes, guest bloggers, and book reviews on the advantages of eating locally and today is no different...

Recently I visited the Atherton Market and saw the most beautiful squash:

Congratulations to Anna Mallett Stewart for knowing that this is a Pennsylvania Dutch Crooked Neck Squash!
This thing weighed easily seven or eight pounds and was approximately the size of a large purse. I learned quickly that I needed to sharpen my chef's knife to get the squash down to size. But, like its close cousin the butternut squash, as soon as I had 3-4 inch chunks, it baked easily and was soon ready for soup. I used my butternut squash soup recipe but increased the other ingredients by about half because there was so much squash to go around. It ended up making close to a gallon of soup!

Just a friendly reminder that I love getting recipes or hearing about local food experiences so send them along to I can't wait to see what will happen in the next two years of local eating!

Thursday, January 31, 2013


To most people, cabbage either evokes images of starving Irish immigrants huddling around a kettle or celebrity weight loss secrets. For me, cabbage is one of the only leafy greens that I can actually eat (see also: bok choi and all its cousins) so I really love cabbage.

So it should surprise you that until last weekend, I was only using the outside half of a head of cabbage (unless I'm making cole slaw). I always thought the inside was too bitter to eat when not covered in mayo or vinegar so I always stuck to the big leaves on the outside of the head. But then, like a knight in green armor, a vendor at the market Saturday said that I could use vegetable broth, olive oil and a little patience to make the whole head of cabbage not only edible but delicious. You can get cabbage all over this time of year, I got the butter from Simply Local and the seasonings from the Savory Spice Shop.

Soft Cabbage (V)
1 head of cabbage, cut in ~1" pieces, heart removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
Seal salt, Pepper, Celery salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon of each)
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. 
  2. Add the cabbage and stir for about 5 minutes, covering all cabbage with oil.
  3. Add broth and cover. Bring to a boil then turn down to medium/low.
  4. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until the cabbage is tender without being soupy.
  5. Add spices and serve hot.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cauliflower Pizza

Raise your hand if you thought I was going to recount a recipe where you just put cauliflower on it. Ok, put them down. Now raise your hand if you believe I can make a pizza crust without any flour products that stays together. I'm guessing there were a lot for the first one and none for the second. Well, prepare to be blown away by the most delicious home made, from-scratch pizza you'll ever make.

My boss (who was actually trained as a chef and worked in the catering business for many years) has Celiac's Disease which means she can't digest wheat. Thus, she always has interesting gluten-free recipes to try and share. The one below she found on Pinterest as a great alternative for those trying to avoid conventional carbs. I got the cauliflower from Houston Farms, eggs from Windy Hill and cheddar from Simply Local. I haven't found a local mozzarella but you could easily find the rest (tomato sauce, mushrooms and garlic) from around Charlotte and throughout North Carolina.

A side note: Since the oven already has to get to 400 degrees, I roasted the cauliflower and garlic slices for 5-10 minutes while I was preparing the rest of the ingredients. This gave them a bit of a smoky flavor which was really nice.

Cauliflower Pizza (v)


1 head of cauliflower, roasted, chopped very fine or minced in the food processor

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese

  1. Combine all and spread on a jelly roll pan (aka a cookie sheet with a rim on all 4 sides).
  2. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.
1/2-3/4 cup tomato sauce of choice
1 cup mozzarella
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced very thin
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced very thin

  1. Apply tomato sauce, then cheese, then garlic, then mushrooms.
  2. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cheese has brown just a tiny bit.
This is a half batch from my first attempt.
I served my second pizza with roasted yams and rutabagas and a broccoli salad.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Recipes: Random Winter Produce

So far, this has been a very interesting winter in North Carolina. It got very cold very late and then this week it's been in the 60's and the weatherman says tomorrow it will be 75 degrees. I can only imagine what this is doing to the latent winter crops! Luckily, farmers markets still have some great hearty offerings right now including winter squashes, greens and root vegetables.

This week, Lomax Incubator Farm had a product I had never tried before: the mighty rutabaga!

At first, I mistook this beautiful vegetable for a turnip because it also has purple shoulders and luscious greens. The difference is that rutabagas are often much larger and somewhat sweeter than your average turnip. They can, luckily, be used in much the same ways. I consulted Fresh from the Farmers' Market and found that the best way to prepare these is alongside complimentary root veggies like sweet potatoes and carrots because of their slight sweetness. Below is how I prepared just one large rutabaga which went a lot further than you'd think. The sweet potatoes can be gotten from pretty much anywhere right now but I usually buy mine from Houston Farms.

Rutabaga Bake (V)
1 medium/large rutabaga
1 medium/large sweet potato
~1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Peel both the rutabaga and potato and slice in 1/4 in pieces.
  2. Drizzle a little olive oil in a brownie-size baking dish.
  3. Layer rutabaga and potato slices, adding a little oil here and there.
  4. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until at desired tenderness.
  5. Salt and pepper to taste.

A couple vendors in Charlotte are still selling bok choi or bok choi-like greens. I keep meaning to ask if these are greenhouse-grown or have been stored from warmer months but regardless, I buy it whenever I see it. Because of my IBS, I can't eat most lettuce or very dark greens so these are a great replacement for the vitamins I'm missing from those. I threw the following together last night which has bok choi from Houston Farms, Simply Local's medium sharp cheddar and Windy Hill's amazing eggs. It had a great salty flavor without the addition of actual salt so I'm calling this a healthy recipe.

Bok Choi Omelet (makes 2) (v)
About 1/2 head of bok choi, diced
1/4 onion, minced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs
  1. Whisk eggs. Pour into medium-high heated frying pan.
  2. When cooked mostly on the outsides, add cheese. 
  3. Once cheese is melted part way, add the onions and bok choi and flip one side over the other.
  4. Cook until brown on the outsides.