A Celebration of Summer

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Another holiday is upon us. The last of the “summer” holidays, celebrating the American labor movement. As we head to the beach, mountains or relax at home, this weekend serves as an appropriate time to reflect. I have written about reflecting in the past and feel it is important for mind/body health. Take a minute to reflect and be grateful for everything that has happened over the summer, embrace the change of season that’s about to make its way across the county and focus your mind and body on your goals and ambitions for the last four months of the year.

Last week I started class, however, this semester is different. This is my LAST class of graduate school! Yes, it is true! After four years of balancing work and school, I will have my Masters in Nutrition in December. The experiences I have encountered while completing assignments has molded me into who I am today. I started grad school for the purpose of learning. There was always the question of “What will my practicum project be?” Or “What are you going to do with your degree?” I can say that those questions have been answered along the way and will continue to be as my path unfolds.

If you’ve followed me over the summer, you can imagine how enriching working with Elena from Biscuits and Such has been. Networking with so many amazing people while researching this gorgeous state, becoming even more comfortable and confident in the kitchen with recipe development and developing my voice on social media has opened doors I could only dream about before. This practicum isn’t just a project anymore, it is becoming life!

As summer winds down, (although here in NC it sure doesn’t feel like it!) we’ll be shifting our focus from okra, green beans and tomatoes to sweet potatoes, greens, and apples. Ok, I have to admit I’ve been eating sweet potatoes all summer long, but apples….now that’s a food that proclaims “it’s fall” like no other!

This morning my boyfriend, Michael and I, visited the Lenoir County Farmers Market and saw first hand how the produce is winding down as we start to transition seasons. Peppers were on my mind and luckily there were still a few waiting for me. While I was making the stuffed peppers tonight I realized how my ingredients were from all around NC. The lamb, from Rainbow Meadow Farms purchased from the State Farmers Market in Raleigh. The zucchini and red onion from the Midtown Farmers Market in Raleigh. The rosemary from my backyard. The corn, peppers and tomatoes from Lenoir County Farmers Market in Kinston. This cumulative dish illustrates my summer. Traveling from Raleigh to Kinston every other weekend to visit Michael, shopping at farmers markets most Saturday mornings, and experimenting with flavors, recipes and photography. It has been such a rewarding experience and I am ever so grateful to have this opportunity, while looking forward for what’s to come!

Lamb and Rosemary Stuffed Bell Peppers

Serves 3-4

 Ingredients:

1/2 pound ground lamb

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 sprigs rosemary, minced

4 medium bell peppers – your preference in color

1 ear white corn, boiled 3-5 minutes and cut off the cob

1 medium zucchini, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

cinnamon, dried basil, crushed red pepper to taste

ghee or butter

Optional sauce: Stewed tomatoes using Mother Earth’s Homegrown Beer or tomato based sauce of choice

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Rinse the peppers and halve, cutting from stem down, discard the core and set in greased baking dish face down. Bake in oven for 15-20 min until soft enough to be pierced with a fork.

3. Meanwhile, heat a medium sauce pan to medium high heat and coat with butter or ghee.

4. Saute the onions, garlic and rosemary until the onions start to turn clear or slightly brown.

5. Add the ground lamb and spices, brown 2-3 minutes.

6. Add zucchini and corn to mixture, turn heat to low for a light simmer. Taste to adjust spices as needed.

7. Once peppers are done, flip over and fill peppers with mixture.

8. Bake in oven for another 3-5 minutes.

9. Enjoy!

Optional sauce: Stewed tomatoes or tomato based sauce of choice

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Food for thought: What is your favorite way to stuff peppers? How are you celebrating Labor Day Weekend?

 

Thank your farmer and celebrate National Farmers Market Week!

Have you been indulging in summer’s fresh and local produce lately? I hope you have. If not, now is the time to start. The USDA recognizes this week as National Farmers Market Week. There’s nothing better then taking in the sights and sounds of the market, tasting samples, meeting your farmer and going home to sink your teeth into juicy peaches, savory green beans and vibrant heirloom tomatoes alongside grilled grass-fed meat. In honor of this week, here are a few of the farmers I visit quite frequently in the Raleigh area. I am so thankful for their passion to grow wholesome, quality food!

Peaches

Michele’s Fresh Fruit at Raleigh Farmer’s Market

Walker Farms, Franklinville, NC

Amy from Walker Farms at Raleigh Farmer’s Market

Mae Farm Meats

Mae Farm Meats at Raleigh Farmer’s Market

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Brock and Mary Beth from Coon Rock Farm, Hillsborough, NC

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Sandra from Rainbow Meadow Farms, Snow Hill, NC

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Audrey from Two Chicks Farm, Hillsborough, NC

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Produce from Wild Onion Farms, Johnston County, NC

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Produce from Rob’s Fresh Produce, Bailey, NC

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Bruschetta made with Heirloom tomatoes from Edible Earthscapes, Moncure, NC,  baguette from La Farm Bakery, Cary, NC, basil from Wild Onion Farms, Johnston County NC.

Food for thought: Do you have a favorite farmer or farmers market? What is your favorite dish to make using local ingredients?

Project Progress: Month 2

July is typically the month I start thinking about the start of the fall semester, planning a few end of summer road-trips/vacations and head to a few outdoor concerts. This year, I feel the days are not long enough and my weekends are shortened as I am visiting libraries, restaurants, attending food festivals and talking with locals about the county’s cuisine. Yes, my practicum does involve eating, and no, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The experience has really been eye opening, learning about this great state and county I live in. Here are a few things I’ve been up to since mid-June.

  • Attended the Lenior County Farmers Market
  • Attended the NC Blueberry Festival in Burgaw, NC
  • Bought the domain for my website
  • Posted Farmers Market Series #1
  • Attended Midtown Farmers Market and the NC State Farmers Market in Wake County
  • Enjoyed BBQ at Skylight Inn (Pitt County), Kings BBQ and Ken’s BBQ (Lenior County)
  • Enjoyed dinner at Chef and the Farmer (Lenior County)
  • Posted on my blogging weekend workshop
  • Posted ‘My Mission’
  • Added a NC Food Festivals page to my blog
  • Researched the Moravian culture and Chicken Pie recipes
  • Subscribed to Our State Magazine
  • Researched Wake County – dined at Poole’s Diner and Mecca
  • Enjoyed NC State’s Howling Cow Ice Cream for the 1st time
  • Wrote emails and spoke with various people/organizations in specified counties

While there’s still so much more to accomplish in the next month….it has been a gastronomical few weeks! Check back soon as posts and pictures of my experiences will be making their way to the blog!

 

‘Tis the Season for Farmers Markets! #1

It is officially summer. This may be my favorite time of the year. Not only do we have sunshine for over 12 hours, but the opportunities for in-season, local, fresh produce are almost endless. From farmers markets to roadside stands to CSA’s, each week we can be sure to find a mouthwatering summertime favorite.

As part of my practicum project, I have the opportunity to make it a point to visit farmers markets outside the Raleigh area. This makes me happy, as I get to drive to new places, meet farmers from various counties and most importantly…..EAT! Eat real, wholesome, locally grown food. Anyone who knows me will agree that I absolutely love grocery shopping. It doesn’t get any better when you actually get to MEET the farmer who grew your food. When it comes to waking up early on a Saturday for a market, I’ll be there.

I decided I will start a series of posts of farmers markets I visit over the course of the summer, which will very well lead into fall and winter. I’m so grateful for those farmers who brave the weather all year round! (Thank goodness I live in the South!)

The first ‘non-Raleigh’ market of the year started with a trip to Columbus County. After a drive through back-country roads to meet Elena, not knowing what to expect, I ended up at the pavilion.

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After speaking with a few farmers and buying cucumbers, beets, and turnip greens, grown mostly pesticide free, I was extremely ecstatic when I found a farmer from Higher Ground Gardens selling rhubarb!! Yes, North Carolina grown RHUBARB!!! Being from WI, this was a treat. I have not once found a farmer who was able to grow rhubarb in this state in the past 4 years I’ve lived here. Every time I asked about it, I received the same response: “It’s too hot for rhubarb to grow here.” Well, this farmer has proven that he is able to grow some great looking (and tasting) rhubarb!

The Columbus County Community Farmers Market is surely one I would recommend to anyone who is looking for good quality, wholesome food who lives south of Fayetteville, near Wilmington or even close to the eastern South Carolina border. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter!

Carrot, Beet, Rhubarb Smoothie
Serves 1

1 cup water
½ cup sliced raw carrots, frozen
¼ cup sliced raw red beets, frozen
¼ cup chopped raw rhubarb, frozen
½ tablespoon Coconut oil
Sprinkle of Ginger
Handful of Goji berries

1. Slice and chop carrots, beets and rhubarb after getting back from market. Freeze together in 1 bag for convenience.
2. Pour water into blender, add frozen ingredients and blend to break up.
3. Add coconut oil and ginger, blend. Taste. If the flavor is too earthy, add Goji berries to sweeten.
4. Enjoy!

I thank Elena for inspiring me to add beets to my smoothies and drink them out of blue mason jars!

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 Read more about my ‘Discovering North Carolina’ project here

Food for thought: What is your favorite summertime food or favorite smoothie ingredient?