Strawberry Season: A Fond Farewell

It’s almost that time.  There might be a few left in the field or some delicately overripe pints at the market.  We anticipate their arrival and we mourn their departure–strawberries.  They are the sure sign that spring is officially here.  As we prepare to say farewell to this sweet little berry, I wanted to share a fantastic no-cook strawberry ice cream recipe I discovered recently.  This recipe most certainly can be adapted to other fruits as the seasons progress, and it makes a creamy, delicious dessert with little effort.

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If you were prepared enough to freeze some strawberries, remember that you can make this recipe later with those.  I added a little vanilla extract to this recipe, and I am sure there are other fun flavors that would lend to even more complexity and creativity.  Here are a few thoughts:

  • Add some mini-chocolate chips for a “chocolate covered strawberry” dessert
  • Mascarpone cheese mixed in with the cream would add a lovely decadence
  • Don’t forget the booze! Add in your favorite liqueur for a fun twist (Gran Marnier, Chambord, Cointreau, etc.)

Find the recipe here:  Perfect No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream

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Earth Fare: Food with Philosophy

Although I love to shop at farmers markets on Saturday mornings, it is impossible to get everything I need in this one place. It is my mission to purchase as much of my produce, meats, and cheese from local sources as possible. My belief in #EatLocal is strong, but I am not anti-grocery store. There is a middle ground, and honestly, for me it boils down to options. Stores with a buy local or sustainable mission are my first choice. Unfortunately, the list of stores with this business practice is quite short. One of my favorites is Earth Fare. This is usually the first stop on our way in to Asheville, NC. We can load up on snacks, local produce, and drinks for our stay.

Organic, local, and regional produce are some of the options at Earth Fare.

Organic, local, and regional produce are some of the options at Earth Fare.

I was excited to hear that one would be opening much closer to home in Park West Village. Earth Fare began in Asheville, NC in 1975…I was surprised it has been around that long! Originally a restaurant called Dinner For the Earth, the owners soon branched out into a market format with local products and produce as their focus. What most impressed me about Earth Fare is their Food Philosophy. The products they carry contain:

NO High-Fructose Corn Syrup

NO artificial fats or artificial trans fats

NO artificial colors

NO artificial flavors

NO artificial preservatives

NO artificial sweeteners

NO antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones in our fresh meat or dairy

NO bleached or bromated flour

The bulk section has a large variety of grains, beans, flours, nuts, and more.

The bulk section has a large variety of grains, beans, flours, nuts, and more.

This sign denotes items that are sourced locally.  Mapleview Farms milk is in the dairy case at Earth Fare.

This sign denotes items that are sourced locally. Mapleview Farm milk is in the dairy case at Earth Fare.

On a recent behind the scenes tour of their newest store in Cary, they shared that this philosophy means that they read the labels so the consumer doesn’t have to. They also work with local producers to bring in produce within a 100-mile radius of the store. You’ll also see products that are local to one of their over 35 stores but offered in all stores—this is a great way to help local businesses grow regionally! Signs point the way to conventional and organic produce, locally sourced items, and gluten-free options in every section.   They have a wellness area, a bakery, a nitrate-free deli, a café and a juice/smoothie bar.   It is truly one stop shopping you can feel good about.  Check out the Earth Fare website for ways you can save at Earth Fare. They even have an app and will text coupons to your smartphone.  Their goal is to reduce paper waste while still saving you money.

Earth Fare support local NC breweries, too.  Glad to see Fullsteam Brewery or Durham represented!

Earth Fare supports local NC breweries, too. Glad to see Fullsteam Brewery of Durham represented!

Nearly every aisle has a gluten-free section.  In between those signs, customers will find gluten-free options.

Nearly every aisle has a gluten-free section. In between those signs, customers will find gluten-free options.

These soaps are one example of an item that is local to one of the over 35 stores.  It is carried in other stores as part of the Earth Fare family products.

These soaps by Biggs and Featherbelle are one example of an item that is local to one of the over 35 stores. It is carried in other stores as part of the Earth Fare family products.

The best way to experience what Earth Fare offers is to visit their newest NC location in Cary—and what better way do it than with a $50.00 gift card! I am giving away a $50.00 gift card to one lucky reader. Enter for a chance to win below by leaving a comment below with your email address.  Winner will be drawn at random on April 27th and contacted via email.  Good luck!!

Sugar Cookies and Kids: A Winning Combination

When you are invited to bake holiday cookies with a precious curly-haired four year old, you know you must be someone special.  So, I packed up my favorite baking pans and rolling pin and headed to the home of friend and fellow blogger, Leigh Hines (Hines Sight Blog). Have rolling pin, will travel?  Absolutely.

Leigh’s daughter had requested this event not long after meeting me last summer.  She and I share a special bond–we’re both curly headed girls!  It was an instant connection only made stronger by the fact that I could converse with her about ALL of the Disney princesses.

Baking with children is not only fun, but it can be a great way to teach math, kitchen safety, and share a life skill that will stay with them forever.  Having baked with my own children, who are now grown, I knew engaging my curly-haired friend in hands-on work would be important.  I chose easy to decorate shapes: candy cane and snowflake.  I opted for colored sugar and three colors of icing to keep in simple.  She was a pro at helping me roll out the dough and cut the cookies.  Decorating is the best part, but it can be difficult for a little one to wait for that task.  So, while the cookies cooled, she assisted me with measuring the ingredients for the icing.  When waiting became cumbersome, she was easily reengaged rolling out some of the excess dough and cutting out a few more cookies (to be baked while we decorated).

The whole event was captured by her mom, Leigh, and placed on Leigh’s Hines Sight Blog.  Check out the fun, the smiles, and the recipes here.  I can’t wait to return next year for Holiday Baking 2.0!

These Christmas trees were last year's design.  Maybe my curly-haired friend and I can conquer these next year!

These Christmas trees were last year’s design. Maybe my curly-haired friend and I can conquer these next year!

One Year…and Counting!

A year ago I embarked upon this blogging journey.  After years of longing to write about farmers markets, using local produce, and great restaurants, I finally created my first post on November 30, 2013.  I cannot believe it has already been a year.  I admit, I would love to write more often.  In a perfect world, I would spend every day in the kitchen–cooking, creating recipes, and snapping photos of my creations.  Perhaps, some day…my perfect world will exist.  Until then, I will settle for perfect moments.

I am certain that my purpose in life is to be a connector.  The satisfaction I feel when I share a resource with someone or connect two people with similar interests is what makes life worth living! I appreciate the opportunity to give readers my favorite recipes or enlighten them with creative ways to use local produce.  I find joy in supporting local farmers and businesses by telling everyone about their products.  Thank you for reading my posts, sharing them with others, and continuing to walk with me on this food journey.  It wouldn’t be the same without YOU!

What better way to say thank you than a plate of heart shaped palmiers?

What better way to say thank you than a plate of heart shaped palmiers?

This is one of my favorite recipes because it is so good and SO easy.  Check out Ina Garten’s Palmier recipe, and impress your friends!

Food Memories

“How is everything?” the server asks.

“Oh, she hasn’t even taken a bite yet,” my husband responds rolling his eyes as I rotate my plate to get the perfect shot.  The server smiles knowingly and promises to check in with us soon.

“Honey, can you give me some light?” I plead.

“Sure,” he says as he pulls his iPhone from his pocket.

He always obliges my need to take a picture.  That…is true love!  I take a few photos and dig in to my meal.

This is a typical scene when I dine out.  Whether I am with my husband, a group of friends, or alone–I am constantly snapping a photo of my meal.  Actually, to be honest, I take an enormous amount of food pictures. At times, my friends and family who do not understand my need to capture a meal in photos, have probably thought an intervention was warranted. My need to capture a recipe in action or the perfectly plated homemade meal or an exquisite dining experience is deep within my soul. No intervention necessary because I doubt it would work! I have found that many people are committed to capturing the meals they make and the meals they enjoy while dining out. Some want to catalog their food journey while others simply want to share the meal and the experience with others. “We eat with our eyes first.” The incredibly insightful person who originally made this statement nailed it. We see a plate of delicious creativity, and we know immediately that we want to dig in. Our eyes tell our stomachs, “This should be amazing. Go for it!”

Food is also a memory; it is nostalgia; it is fellowship. Familiar food scents often spark a memory or a feeling of nostalgia. Photographs can do this, too. I remember my travels through the dishes I ate at every destination. I recall holidays and times with my family through the meals we have created together.

But still, some may ask, “why in the world would you take a photo of your food?”  Well, for me it is about the memory.  The visual creativity of the plating.  The mouth-watering appearance of the food. The aroma of the dish.  All of these things are captured in a photo and later can evoke the memory of that meal.   I keep these photos and stroll through them, much like one would a travel diary, reminiscing about the flavors and experiences. I have never been one to keep a written journal.  I guess my journaling is through the photos I take.  I am a “visual journalizer” of sorts.  We journal what is important to us and food is a huge part of my life.  From homemade, to dining out, to special occasions–I have a photographic history of my food journey.

Sharing these photos with others is a wonderful way to connect.  Social media also allows me to see the food journeys of others.  It has been an amazing way to meet people in my community who are passionate about food, cooking, and local agriculture.  When I see a photo of a delicious homemade creation, I immediately want the recipe.  When I see a beautifully plated meal from a local restaurant I have yet to discover, I immediately want to go there.

Food memories are the delicious moments in my life.  I am thankful for all of those moments and the ones that are yet to come.

The banana turron with purple potato ice cream at Mango Hut in 29 Palms, CA. I can still taste that wonderful ice cream!

The banana turron with purple potato ice cream at Mango Hut in 29 Palms, CA. I can still taste that wonderful ice cream!

This Breton butter cake with ginger ice cream and stone fruit was decadent.  If you are in La Jolla, CA, go to Whisk n Ladle...please!

This Breton butter cake with ginger ice cream and stone fruit was decadent. If you are in La Jolla, CA, go to Whisk n Ladle…please!

My dear friend Bryanne took me to the seafood market in Washington, D.C. one October. We ate these beauties at about 10:00AM.  Crawfish are best for breakfast!

My dear friend Bryanne took me to the seafood market in Washington, D.C. one October. We ate these beauties at about 10:00AM. Crawfish are best for breakfast!

Last year, I decided to eat beef again when I could find it pasture raised.  This was a beautifully prepared hangar steak with deconstructed chimchurri from Little Hen in Holly Springs.

Last year, I decided to eat beef again when I could find it pasture raised. This was a beautifully prepared hangar steak with deconstructed chimchurri from Little Hen in Holly Springs.

My first attempt at Mapo Tofu last year.  Love those Szechuan peppercorns!

My first attempt at Mapo Tofu last year. Love those Szechuan peppercorns!

My mom gave me figs from her tree in Eastern NC.  These were perfect paired with vanilla yogurt and some local honey.

My mom gave me figs from her tree in Eastern NC. These were perfect paired with vanilla yogurt and some local honey.

One of my favorite places in Raleigh is Fiction Kitchen.  This was a lovely heirloom tomato salad they did last summer.  We dine with my bosses--loved to see them experience this place for the first time!

One of my favorite places in Raleigh is Fiction Kitchen. This was a lovely heirloom tomato salad they did last summer. We dined with Dan and Diana Saklad from Whisk–loved to see them experience this place for the first time!

This wonderful focaccia from Dough in Asheville was our lunch atop Mt. Mitchell in the midst of a thunderstorm.  Awesome!

This wonderful focaccia from Dough in Asheville was our lunch atop Mt. Mitchell in the midst of a thunderstorm. Awesome!

Thanksgiving Dessert: Gluten Free Spiced Acorn Squash Bars

It is tough to eat locally in the winter.  Squash, greens, root vegetables, and sweet potatoes–that about sums up the winter harvest that starts in November and takes us into early March. It’s a long time to eat the same thing over and over again.  Being creative is the key to embracing the limited choices at the winter farmers markets. So, let’s talk squash.

Acorn squash has a similar taste, texture, and sweetness to pumpkin, so why not use it for desserts? It will be around long after the pumpkins are gone from the market tables.  If the urge hits you to bake more pumpkin bread in January, you don’t have to turn to the canned stuff.  You can use acorn squash or butternut, too.  As for for the gluten, I am not a gluten-free eater.  I love bread.  I love pastries.  I love pasta.  I am thankful that I can eat these things without issue. I know many people who cannot.  Eating gluten is harmful to them.  Gluten-free is more than a fad or a choice.  For many people, it is a health issue.  I have had some amazing gluten-free pastries and cookies.  I am still learning how to adapt recipes to make them without wheat flour.  I have found that almond meal or almond flour works well for more dense cakes like these bars.

My family had no idea these were gluten-free when they devoured the first batch.  I’d call that a success!

Gluten Free Spiced Acorn Squash Bars with Mascarpone Cream

  • ½ c. acorn squash puree
  • ½ c, brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup almond flour or meal
  • ¼ c. arrowroot powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F
  2. Place dry ingredients: almond flour, arrowroot, baking soda, salt, and spices in a bowl. Using a whisk, combine thoroughly.
  3. In another bowl, combine squash puree, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to incorporate.
  5. Line an 8×8-baking pan with parchment paper. Pour batter into the pan and spread evenly.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until springs back when lightly touched.
  7. Cool on a rack.  When completely cooled, cut into squares.

For the Mascarpone Cream:

  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 3-4 tbs. powdered sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract

Place ingredients in a chilled mixing bowl and whip until stiff peaks form. Spoon into a piping bag with a star tip.  Pipe on to each bar.  Grate a little nutmeg or sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon over the top and serve!

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Thanksgiving is all about family, friends and delicious food. Luckily, the food blogging community is all about these things as well. To celebrate the holiday, Meghan from Cake ‘n’ Knife and Susannah from Feast + West are hosting Blogsgiving Dinner. There are 20 awesome blogs sharing 52 recipes

The idea is based on the old-fashioned progressive dinner party, in which you’d eat each course at a different guest’s home. Each blogger is bringing one or more dishes to the party on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week, so be sure to stop by each one and get some ideas for your own Thanksgiving meal.  Today’s bloggers have recipes for dessert and after-dinner drinks, as well as ideas for eating leftovers.

We’ll be posting to social media with the hashtag #blogsgivingdinner. Hope you can join us!

Blogsgiving Progressive Dinner Menu

Friday, Nov. 14

Dessert

Grandma’s Pecan Pie from The Wetherills Say I Do

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting from My Cooking Spot

Gluten-Free Apple Berry Crumble from Twin Stripe

Paleo Pumpkin Pudding from Wit Wisdom Food

Cranberry Almond Coconut Bars from Love & Flour

Torched Marshmallow Pumpkin Pie with Olive & Sinclair Chocolate from The Local Forkful

Poached Pears with Salted Maple Caramel Syrup from Home at Six

Sweet Potato Pie from Think Fruitful

Nutella Pumpkin S’mores Tart from bethcakes

Gluten-Free Acorn Squash Spice Bars from I Cook. I Eat. It’s Life.

Drunken Pecan Pie Bars from The Speckled Palate

After-Dinner Drinks

Slow Cooker Cranberry Apple Cider from A Savory Feast

Cranberry Bourbon Granita from Feast + West

Leftovers

Cheesy Potato Croquettes from Hello Little Home

Leftover Stuffed Egg Rolls with Cranberry Dipping Sauce from Cake ‘n’ Knife

Freezer-Friendly Turkey and Rice Casserole from Betty Becca

Turkey and Cranberry Quesadilla from Glamour Girl Gourmet

Stuffed Crescents with Thanksgiving Leftovers from My Cooking Spot

Sweet Potato Crunch

A Thanksgiving staple in our home growing up was sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallow topping.  The sweet potatoes were actually yams..from a can.  My mother doctored them with extra brown sugar and butter.  Then, she adorned them with mounds of marshmallows and carefully toasted them under the broiler.  It was a family favorite.

I have graduated to a more homemade sweet potato side dish albeit one that is just as sweet as my mom’s old standby.  I believe you need a little sweet on your plate at Thanksgiving–but don’t eat too much–save room for the pie!

Sweet Potato Crunch

  • 8 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

Topping:

  • 1 cup chopped raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into cubes.  Place in a stockpot of water and bring to a boil.  Boil for 15-20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender.  Drain and place in a food processor.
  2. Process the sweet potatoes until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and add the butter, spices, salt, and maple syrup.
  3. Spread the mixture into a 12″ cast iron skillet or 9×9 baking dish.
  4. Mix the pecans, brown sugar.  Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture.
  5. Bake in a 350 F oven for 25-30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are bubbly and pecans are toasted.

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Thanksgiving is all about family, friends and delicious food. Luckily, the food blogging community is all about these things as well. To celebrate the holiday, Meghan from Cake ‘n’ Knife and Susannah from Feast + West are hosting Blogsgiving Dinner. There are 20 awesome blogs sharing 52 recipes

The idea is based on the old-fashioned progressive dinner party, in which you’d eat each course at a different guest’s home. Each blogger is bringing one or more dishes to the party on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week, so be sure to stop by each one and get some ideas for your own Thanksgiving meal.  Be sure to check out today’s recipes for entrees, salads and side dishes.

We’ll be posting to social media with the hashtag #blogsgivingdinner. Hope you can join us!

Blogsgiving Progressive Dinner Menu

 Wednesday, Nov. 12

Salads

Pomegranate & Goat Cheese Salad from Feast + West

Persimmon & Pear Salad from Wit Wisdom and Food

Roasted Butternut Squash & Gorgonzola Salad from Hello Little Home

Entrees

The Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey from My Cooking Spot

Roasted Turducken from The Speckled Palate

Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Orange-Cranberry Reduction from Home at Six

Beer Brined Turkey with Bacon Gravy from Cake ‘n’ Knife

Smoked Mushroom Steaks with Herbed Bread Crumbs (Vegan) from Betty Becca

Side Dish

Turkey, Apple & Sweet Potato Pot Pies from Love & Flour

Creamy Pumpkin Apple Pasta Bake from My Cooking Spot

Mushroom Spinach Farro from Think Fruitful

Bacon and Cornbread Stuffing from Chez CateyLou

Sweet Potato Crunch from I Cook. I Eat. It’s Life.

Blue Cheese & Bacon Mashed Potatoes from A Savory Feast

Sausage Stuffing from the Wetherills Say I Do

Butternut Squash Grits from Homespun Seasonal Living

Wine

Thanksgiving Wine Pairings from Twin Stripe