123 Marinade

Guest post by Angel White

Angel White is a recent graduate of Johnson and Wales University with a degree in Culinary Arts.  After graduation she began working for Bells Best Berries managing the picking and packing of produce for our local chefs as well as our CSA.  She assures that anything we pick, pack and send to customers is beautiful.  She has great creative cooking ideas for the produce we grow and will likely be a frequent contributor to our website.  

1-2-3 Marinade for grilling veggies, meat and fish:

  1. Acid: Start with your favorite acid.  This could be fresh lemon juice, orange juice, lime juice, or vinegar.  The acid allows for bright clean flavors in your marinade.
  2. Oil: Choose oils with great health benefits.  Olive oil is great for your heart.  Coconut oil can increase energy expenditure, helping you burn more fat.  Grapeseed oil is full of vitamin E and has a high smoke point, making it ideal for grilling.  
  3. Lastly, add some great flavors such as herbs, aromatics (garlic and onion), and spices.  Cilantro, smoked paprika, and curry powder are all very different flavors but work beautifully together.  Don’t forget to add salt to taste.  Sea salt adds necessary minerals to your diet and enhances natural flavors of all foods.  

SFC_eggplant_american_labeledYour acid and oil should be in about a 50-50 proportion.  Add as many herbs, onions, and spices as you like.  Make this your own, and the possibilities are endless.  Try slicing squash and eggplant and marinating them overnight, then grill them up for a flavorful side dish.  

 

Keep eating healthy!
Angel

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Zucchini Primavera

Getting tired of zucchini yet?  Summer brings lots and lots of zucchini!  Try this rich, delicious and low carb recipe for zucchini primavera to cure even the most zucchini weary.

SFC_zucchini_labeledIngredients:

  • 3 medium zucchinis spiralized
  • Bunch of chopped veggies such as carrots, broccoli, or mushrooms (greens don’t work well in this)
  • Garlic
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Arrowroot powder

Instructions:

Sautee the chopped veggies in butter and remove from pan and set aside.  Sautee the garlic in a few tablespoons of butter in a large pan.  Add one cup of milk mixed with a tablespoon or arrowroot powder.  Add ½ cup of parmesan cheese and stir until melted.  Add ½ cup of sour cream.  Add the spiralized zucchini and veggies and heat through.  Serve it up with a nice salad!  It is so creamy and yummy!

Eat your veggies!

Robin

Zucchini Parmesan
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium zucchinis spiralized
  2. Bunch of chopped veggies such as carrots, broccoli, or mushrooms (greens don’t work well in this)
  3. Garlic
  4. Butter
  5. Milk
  6. Parmesan cheese
  7. Sour cream
  8. Arrowroot powder
Instructions
  1. Sautee the chopped veggies in butter and remove from pan and set aside. Sautee the garlic in a few tablespoons of butter in a large pan. Add one cup of milk mixed with a tablespoon or arrowroot powder. Add ½ cup of parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Add ½ cup of sour cream. Add the spiralized zucchini and veggies and heat through. Serve it up with a nice salad! It is so creamy and yummy!
Bell's Best Berries http://bellsbestberries.com/
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Update on the New Farm

Several people have asked me how things are going at the new farm near Mint Hill, so I thought I would give you an update.  This spring, we decided our goal was to get the permanent crops planted.  This included blueberries, blackberries, grapes, and chokecherries.  We also decided to plant some vegetable crops for our CSA, just to see how the soil was and get a feel for the land.  Now that it is June, all I can say is that we did it, but it wasn’t without problems.  I suppose that should have been expected.  

Back in March, we got all the permanent crops planted.  In the process, we discovered that a good amount of the land was really shallow rocky soil.  The soil is also nothing like the red clay we are used to working with.  It is sort of a rocky sand!  That is very unusual for our area.  We were blessed with good spring rains and nearly everything we planted grew and did well, despite the poor soils.  I’m convinced it won’t be doing well for long though.  The land looks almost barren.  I told Jay it looks like it needs “life”.  So, we have begun the task of building the soils with beautiful compost, to add that life.  

Rabbit Eye Blueberry Planting

Rabbit Eye Blueberry Planting

Our high school helpers have been out there shoveling loads and loads of compost around the new baby plants.  The land is so desperate, it seems the compost disintegrates into the ground almost as fast as we put it out.  Continual composting is going to be a long term project.  Luckily, we made friends with a local tree trimmer who has kindly dumped lots of wood chips in a huge mountain out there.  Over time, this will break down into more beautiful mulch that we will spread around the bushes.  So far so good.  Almost everything is alive and growing.  We are starting the well this week, so with water and mulch, things are going to get better and better.  I can’t wait to see things grow.  

When we bought the farm, we sketched out where we wanted everything to be and went about putting everything in the planned places.   We have discovered that it is time to redo the plan.  We put the winter vegetables in an area that was quite rocky and not great soil for veggies.  We made the best of it and did manage to get quite a lot harvested, but have identified another place on the farm with much better loamy soils, that will be the home of our fall vegetables.  We have from now until August to mark out the site and get some compost out there.  I think the new site will work well.  Meanwhile, the old rocky site looks like a great area for parking, equipment, a shop, or maybe a store!  Probably not so great for crops though.  Live and learn.  

well3

Jay overseeing the new well placement

You can tell the land was worked in cotton, beans and corn in the past because of the weeds that are present.  The land is covered with pig-weed and mares tail.  Pig-weed is hard to get rid of and makes about a zillion seeds.  It is going to be a long-term project to get these weeds managed.  For now, we are hand weeding/hoeing all of these bad guys out of our cropping area.  The plan for the rest of the land is to simply bush-hog it over and over again, so the weeds cannot grow enough to make seeds.  Hopefully over time, this will begin to solve the problem.  It is going to be difficult.  

Last week Jay bush-hogged all the land we didn’t plant.  That step is starting to make it look like the farm we have in mind. Everything looks so neat and tidy.  With the weeds mowed down, you can see the pretty little blueberry bushes and the veggie area is beautifully green.  This farm is a labor of love that just keeps getting better and better.  It won’t be easy, but it will be great!  

Eat your veggies!

Robin

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Dandelion Greens with Coconut Milk

This year we grew red stemmed Italian dandelion greens, and included them a few times in our CSA bags.  The truth is, dandelion greens don’t taste that great.  They are a little bitter, but are extremely good for you.  They have been used historically as a medicinal green, and are thought to have a diuretic quality, detoxify the blood, support liver function, as well as treat digestive disorders, arthritis, and eczema.  I chose the red stemmed variety because the red phyto-nutrients add an even bigger punch to this potassium rich plant.  

dandelion greens

It takes a little bit of care to cook these in a way that your family will eat them.  Try this recipe that includes coconut milk and lime, that is adapted from a kale recipe in Cook Smarts.   It nicely hides the bitterness of the greens and tastes great!

Ingredients:

  • Coconut oil
  • Real coconut milk 
  • Garlic
  • Lime
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • Bunch of dandelion greens.

Instructions:

Chop the greens and garlic.  Add a few tablespoons of coconut oil to a large frying pan.  When hot, toss in the garlic and sauté a few minutes until fragrant.  Add about 1/3 cup of coconut milk and the greens.  Let simmer until the greens are wilted and the coconut milk has reduced into a nice sauce.  Add a good squeeze of lime, and a sprinkle of red pepper and salt.  Serve up the nutrition!

Eat your healthy veggies!

Robin

Dandelion Greens with Coconut Milk
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Ingredients
  1. Coconut oil
  2. Real coconut milk
  3. Garlic
  4. Lime
  5. Red pepper flakes
  6. Salt
  7. Bunch of dandelion greens.
Instructions
  1. Chop the greens and garlic. Add a few tablespoons of coconut oil to a large frying pan. When hot, toss in the garlic and sauté a few minutes until fragrant. Add about 1/3 cup of coconut milk and the greens. Let simmer until the greens are wilted and the coconut milk has reduced into a nice sauce. Add a good squeeze of lime, and a sprinkle of red pepper and salt. Serve up the nutrition!
Bell's Best Berries http://bellsbestberries.com/
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A retreat for women dealing with cancer

My cousin, Mary, is an amazing lady and a cancer survivor.  You can read her story here.  We both enjoy talking about nutrition and spending several evenings every month cooking fresh beautiful meals together.  We are fully convinced of the critical role food plays in our quality of life and in avoiding degenerative diseases such as cancer and diabetes. 

Recently, she hosted a wellness retreat here in Charlotte, for ladies who were dealing with cancer.  We played chef and sous chef, and taught the ladies how to increase their gut health by making their own probiotic foods.  We made naturally cultured butter, crème fraiche, kefir, kvass, and sauerkraut.  It was such a fun time preparing and eating all those yummy creations.  These ladies were all amazed at how easy it is to include tasty cultured/fermented foods in your diet! 

Retreat women

The keynote speaker for the retreat was Dr. Nasha Winters with Optimal Terrain Consulting.  She guides her patients to support a healthy body (terrain).  A healthy body increases the effectiveness of conventional cancer treatments and can help patients stay on schedule with their treatment, by treating the awful side effects of chemo.  She investigates the underlying cause of the cancer, and implements a diet and lifestyle that aim to prevent reoccurrence.  While Mary and I were playing chef and sous chef with fermented foods, one of Dr. Winters’ topics was gut health and the importance of keeping your “microbiome” healthy.

I was honored to be a part of this group of courageous and super cool ladies.  Although I do not have cancer, I felt a strong comradery with these women, because we are all in a fight for our health, with good nutrition at the center of it.  Shouldn’t we all be?

DSC_0002

Eat your veggies! And add some fermented ones. 
Robin

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Charlotte’s First Vegan Farm Dinner

We were really excited to host Chef Julia Simon and her team from Nourish, at the farm this past Friday night, for Charlotte’s first Vegan Farm to Table Dinner.  You can go to their blog post and see more of their pictures here.  Don’t let this “vegan” thing throw you off!  Jay and I are not vegan, and I can honestly say that every single course was delicious and would have pleased anyone, vegan or not!  I loved the creative use of spices, as well as super fresh produce.  My body felt great about it!

The evening started with her crew showing up around 4:00 pm to start their preparations.  They proceeded to turn our rose garden into an elegant dining space for an intimate gathering of only 26 people.  It included china, linen table cloths and napkins, wine and water glasses, and place settings for multiple courses.  Flowers from the farm were on each table, as well as little tea lights for just the right ambiance.  They set up another table as the “bar” and another area to stage the food as each course came out.  The cool thing was that the staging area where Julia was working her magic was right where everyone could see the magic happening.  No secrets here!  You could see the fresh beauty come together.

The guests began arriving around 6:30 and had time to sip some wine and stroll around the farm before dinner began at 7:15.  There were people there from all walks of life.  One of the most memorable was Maryanne, who was 93 years old!  We had a nice shady seating area all prepared for her, but she never even stopped there.  She took her cane and toured all around the farm with her glass of wine!  There were friends from the market, as well as people we had never met, but were happy to get to know.  

The farm really was showing off for the event.  The blueberries were just starting to get ripe, so people could pick handfuls as they walked by.  The broccoli was at the perfect stage with little green heads, peeking up from their leaves, watching everyone.  The birds were out in force, singing every song they knew, and the roses and wild flowers were in full bloom.  At first we were concerned that it might be a little too hot and humid, but as the sun set, a cool breeze blew in and it was the perfect evening.  We even had a full moon and a sky full of stars.

By the time dinner was over, all the bellies were full, the bonfire was making a soft glow and everyone was able to sit and chat and enjoy a last glass of wine before the evening ended.  Chef Julia and her team were smiling because they could tell that Charlotte’s first farm to table dinner was truly a success.  We had a great time, along with everyone else, and will welcome this great bunch back to the farm any time. Keep a look out.  You never know, there might be another one this fall!  Here is the website for Nourish where you can find out about upcoming events as well as order some yummy dinners! 

Jake Yount took these beautiful photos:Bonfire main course nourish salad Nourish soup 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eat your veggies,
Robin

 

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Peaches & Cream

SFC_peaches_labeled

Fresh Peach Crisp

Peaches and cream just go together perfectly, and there is no better way to serve it than with a sweet crunchy crisp on top.  Jay and I do not eat wheat flour, so this is made with oats, nuts, and real butter.  You will love it.

Ingredients:
4 big peaches washed and sliced
1/2 cup of honey (will be used as ¼ and ¼)
½ tsp of vanilla extract
1 cup of oats
½ cup of chopped nuts (I like pecans)
½ cup of real butter (softened)
½ tsp of cinnamon
¼ tsp of salt
1 pint of real cream 
½ tsp of lemon zest

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 375.  Place the sliced peaches in a buttered baking dish.  Drizzle with ¼ cup of honey and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, mix up the other ¼ cup of honey, oats, softened butter, nuts, cinnamon, and salt until crumbly.  Use a fork for this.  Crumble this mixture on top of the peaches, and bake for 45 minutes, or until brown on top and bubbly. 

While it is baking, whip the cream using a mixer, until it forms soft peaks.  Gently fold in the lemon zest.  Serve the peach crisp in a bowl, with this cream on top.  You gotta love summer!

Fresh Peach Crisp
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Ingredients
  1. 4 big peaches washed and sliced
  2. 1/2 cup of honey (will be used as ¼ and ¼)
  3. ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  4. 1 cup of oats
  5. ½ cup of chopped nuts (I like pecans)
  6. ½ cup of real butter (softened)
  7. ½ tsp of cinnamon
  8. ¼ tsp of salt
  9. 1 pint of real cream
  10. ½ tsp of lemon zest
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375. Place the sliced peaches in a buttered baking dish. Drizzle with ¼ cup of honey and vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, mix up the other ¼ cup of honey, oats, softened butter, nuts, cinnamon, and salt until crumbly. Use a fork for this. Crumble this mixture on top of the peaches, and bake for 45 minutes, or until brown on top and bubbly.
  2. While it is baking, whip the cream using a mixer, until it forms soft peaks. Gently fold in the lemon zest. Serve the peach crisp in a bowl, with this cream on top. You gotta love summer!
Bell's Best Berries http://bellsbestberries.com/
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Farm to Table Dinner

Every spring we host a “Farm to Table Dinner” for our CSA members.  The reasons for doing this are many, but it’s mostly because CSA members want to know where their food comes from.  Our CSA members want to see and experience where their food is grown, and make that “farm to table” connection. The farm dinner is the perfect opportunity for us to mow the grass, set up some tables, and host a wonderful meal for our friends. 

Farm Dinner Roots4

 The evening always starts with plenty of time to walk around the farm and see the fields and flower gardens.  The fields look a little better for the farm dinner than they normally do.  We make a special effort to spruce things up, hoe every weed, and even put away all the tools, boxes, and bins.  I sort of like it!  In the toil of farming, I can forget how pretty the farm really is.  It is especially nice at sundown, in the spring, during our farm dinner!

Farm Dinner Desert

Dinner is served about a half hour after everyone arrives, and normally consists of a beautiful salad, a main dish that includes lots of veggies, and finished with a desert that highlights the fresh fruit of spring.  This year it was strawberries.  Last year, the dinner was a little later and it was blueberries.  Chef Craig Barbour with Roots-Good.Local.Food always does this dinner for us and never fails to impress.  Normally Dana Ramsey, at Organiceater helps us with photography.  She has a true talent for capturing the beauty of food.  She wasn’t able to join us this year, so I gave it a try, and will be happy to have her resume her post next year.  Good photography is important and that obviously is not my talent.  

Farm Dinner Fire2

The evening is finished with time around a big bonfire.  This gives time to sit and chat, and get to know everyone.  It is one of my favorite times.  I know everyone is busy, but I really cherish this one time when we stop the farm and are able to share a meal with those who mean so much to us.  Thanks to all of you who are a part of our farm and who were able to join us for our Farm to Table dinner.  We plan to do it again next year!

Eat your veggies! 
Robin

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Miss Minimalist

I have a reputation in my family as an almost crazy minimalist.  At holidays, when people normally get gifts, the people who love me know I really don’t like stuff.  It stresses me out.  So they almost always give me things that I can easily eat or use up.  Things like nice olive oil, unusual spices, gift cards for e-books, beautiful soaps and lotions, or they take me out to eat at one of the many great restaurants in Charlotte.  I like it that way!  

There are several reasons I don’t like stuff.  I think it all started when we moved into this very small farm house that was built back in the 1800’s, before people really had a lot of stuff.  This house doesn’t have much space for extras.  The closets are extremely small and there are no storage rooms at all.  As a result, if we don’t live pretty simply, we end up with piles of things around the house and no place to put them.  The piles of clutter were probably the beginning of my dislike for stuff.  I think it goes deeper though.  Almost all possessions cost money, need to be cleaned, need to be maintained, need my time, need space, and ultimately do not bring true happiness.  

What does bring happiness for me involves people.  For that reason, I try not to spend my money on things I need to find a place for in my home.  Instead, I want to spend it on food that nourishes my family, as well as time and experiences with my friends and family.  If you could see my food bill you would probably choke, and that is WITH growing almost all our own produce.  I’m convinced that the food we eat is directly connected to the health and wellbeing of my family, and well worth the dollars spent.  So, I do spend the money on local grass fed meats and dairy, as well as healthy butter, cheeses, and oils.  I’m not a minimalist in the food department because I know the importance of food on our health and quality of life.

Farmhouse

Jay and I also will spend money on time together, time with friends, and time with family.  There is nothing more important in our lives.  Our kids might think we are a little crazy because we live so simply. Yet, we will blast out money for a beautiful dinner out or a weekend together somewhere amazing, and even treat them to come along.  Those moments together are priceless.  One day when I am an old lady and look back at my life, I know those connections will end up being what really mattered in my life.  I wonder if this is one of the reasons people farm.  No one farms because it is so lucrative.  I think it has to do with the connection with the outdoors, a desire for independence and peace, as well as an understanding that happiness is more associated with the people you hug, than the things you hang in the closet.

Eat your veggies,

Robin

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Is Your CSA Too Expensive?

It is interesting the reaction I get when I tell people the monthly cost of our CSA.  A few seem unpleasantly surprised. Since most people do not purchase their produce separately from the rest of their groceries, they do not know how much they spend each week/month on this part of their food budget, so they have no comparison to base the cost of a weekly CSA purchase.  So, this winter, when the farm was all but out of vegetables, I decided to put it to the test.  I went to Harris Teeter to purchase my weekly supply of veggies, and paid for it separately from the rest of my groceries, just to see how it would sort out.  

I noticed several things.  First of all, vegetables from the grocery store were not as fresh and beautiful as veggies fresh from the farm.  Overall selection was scarce, and of course the heirloom varieties were non-existent.  Not only that, the serving sizes were smaller.  The bundle of kale had only about 4 or 5 leaves of kale in it!  Lastly, as hard as I tried, I had trouble sticking with only seasonal produce.  I ended up with a few out of season items that probably came from another country that may not regulate their crops nearly as well as we do in the USA.  Lastly, it was not cheap.  At the end of the day, to purchase about 10 different produce items, it cost about $40.00.  In trying to compare weekly costs, this was more than the cost of our CSA weekly share of about 10 local beautiful items. 

Early April CSa

Cost at the register is never the only thing to consider though.  Some of the reasons I hate those couple of months in the winter, when I purchase my produce at the grocery store, are that I really prefer to support my friends, neighbors, and community with my business.  I wanted a “face” to go with that grocery store produce.  I wanted to know who grew my food. I wanted to know what kind of soil it grew in and what were the conditions of the farm it was grown on. What were the conditions of the workers who harvested this produce? I also am pretty picky about freshness because the fresher the produce, the more nutrients it likely contains.  We had to eat our purchase really fast, in order to go through it, before it started looking sad.  That indicated it was not too fresh when I bought it, which can mean less nutrition.  Lastly, I do not like buying produce from other countries. One reason is that same loss of nutrients. Produce from South America does not get here the next day, maybe not the next week.   Educating yourself on your own seasonal produce  (in the Carolinas) is a great way not to be looking for peaches in the winter, since those peaches probably came from Chile.  I’ll take a fresh local summer peach, and pass on the one that came all the way from another hemisphere, shipped thousands of miles, grown by people I don’t know, and grown in a way that I don’t know anything about the process. In the end, only you can decide if any CSA is “too expensive”, but do not base that expense only on the dollars you spend. There is so much more to account for than that.   Keep it local please!

Eat your local veggies,

Robin

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