Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Veggie Stir-Fry

Fresh summer vegetables are always such a treat!  Whether you grow them in your garden, buy them at the farmer's market or local farm, we enjoy all of summer's bounty in a variety of ways; steamed, baked, grilled, shredded or boiled!
I recently fell in love with Pattypan Squash, and I'd never had any before this summer when I purchased some while on a visit to Thames Farm to pick up some pastured chicken and fresh eggs.  Amy had some Pattypan squash sitting out to buy, so I bought some to try. Never did I imagine I would like it so much. It's mild and delicate in flavor, and is awesome fried or in this stir-fry.
This was so good, I had it for lunch and it filled me right up!

1 tbls. butter
1 Pattypan Squash, skin on, cut into cubes
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 large handful or two baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Splash or two of Soy Sauce (to taste)
Cooked rice, to serve with veggies

In a sauce pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add celery and onion and cook several minutes or until butter is slightly browned and vegetables are softening. Add Pattypan squash, reduce heat to medium-low, stirring squash to coat in butter; cover and simmer 2-3 minutes. Remove lid, add baby spinach, stirring to combine; top with salt, pepper

and a splash or two of Soy sauce (to taste).  Cover and let cook another 1-2 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and serve over hot, cooked rice.This recipe is easily doubled.

Servings:  2


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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Grilled Swordfish Steaks

I grew up most of my childhood in New England, in a few small towns located on the coast. My dad would go down to one of the local fish markets several times per week, and depending on the season, or what was "fresh off the boat," bring home swordfish, cod, haddock, clams, quahogs, lobster and more. 
We had fish steamed or grilled, clams and quahogs steamed or in chowder, (my dad's clam chowder was amazing), baked-stuffed lobster and so many more fresh delicacies! I loved it all, with the exception of something my mom called "Finnan Haddie," which was dreadful to me. Do you know it? All I know is that was the only seafood I didn't like as a child, because I absolutely adored all the rest of it, and do to this day!
Recently a "new to me" seafood market opened locally, and I'd been trying several times to check it out. Finally I went on a day they were open and it didn't disappoint at all. Fresh wild caught shrimp, sea scallops, sea bass, salmon and more awaited me, along with this awesome swordfish. I didn't hesitate one minute, but bought it and brought it home.


1 - 1-inch thick swordfish steak
1 fresh lemon
Couple sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
Course-ground black pepper (to taste)
1 tbls. butter

Rub hot grill grate with a thick slice of fresh lemon, reserving the remainder to squeeze over swordfish. Sprinkle swordfish with course-ground black pepper and squeeze fresh lemon juice over top.  Grill on direct medium-high heat approx. 7 minutes per side, or until swordfish is cooked through and flaky. Remove from grill and top swordfish with 1 tbls. butter and let it melt in. Serve immediately.

Yield:  2 servings


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Roasted Root Vegetables with Smoked Sausage

I love easy, and this is an easy one-dish casserole to make.  A few root vegetables, sliced smoked sausage, olive oil and spices come together to make this delicious dinner. PS - my grandson loved this and went back for seconds!

1 lb. smoked sausage or kielbasa
4  med-large Yukon gold, red or Kennebec potatoes, cut in 1- to 2-inch chunks
3 to 4 large carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into wedges
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1-2 tsp. Cajun or Creole seasoning (I used Cajun)
1 large clove garlic, crushed and finely minced (or 1-2 tsp. jarred minced garlic)
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
2-3 tbls. olive oil

Heat oven to 425°. Grease a 3-quart baking dish or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine the sausage pieces, potatoes, carrots, and onions in a large food storage bag or bowl; toss with the pepper, salt, Creole or Cajun seasoning, garlic, thyme, and olive oil. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, until vegetables are fork-tender, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately. 
Yield:  4 servings

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Cherry Balsamic Sauce

I just love, love, love my small, local family farms and what they provide for me and you.  Pastured chicken is the BEST ever!  Most farmers typically raise pastured chickens in "chicken tractors or trailers" that move from place to place all over the pasture so the chickens can scratch and eat bugs and other goodies from the pasture. These chickens aren't raised in a "factory farm" setting, but rather are allowed to free range and roam within the confines of the chicken trailer as it moves from place to place.  They are then brought into the coop at night for protection against predators. The chickens at Thames Farm are raised this way, and are so delicious. "Pastured poultry is a sustainable agriculture technique that calls for the raising of laying chickens, meat chickens (broilers), and/or turkeys on pasture, as opposed to indoor confinement. Humane treatment, the perceived health benefits of pastured poultry, in addition to superior texture and flavor, are causing an increase in demand for such products." (source: Wikipedia)

1-2 large pastured chicken breasts, split in half
Cherry Balsamic Sauce

Marinade split chicken breasts in 1/2 cup Cherry Balsamic Sauce for 30 minutes to 1 hour prior to grilling. Remove chicken from sauce, discarding sauce and grill over direct high heat for 30 minutes, turning chicken breasts occasionally and basting with more sauce as its cooking. Remove from heat and serve immediately, spooning more sauce over top of chicken breasts.

Yield: 2-4 servings


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Monday, July 14, 2014

Farm Outing to Carolina Bay Farms

James and Sharon Helms
So we were off again, a group of friends and I, who love to explore and learn about our small, local family farms in South Carolina.  On a sunny day in mid-July we found ourselves headed out to Carolina Bay Farms. We'd planned this trip for what seemed like months and months, so everyone was excited to visit this 1700's homestead, being lovingly restored to its former splendor. In a word, it is a true gem, well-worth visiting and didn't disappoint.

Hidden just off the road through some live oak and pecan trees, the road in opens up quickly to a large cleared area where we could see chickens, quail and turkeys.  We parked our cars, and were quickly met by our hosts, James and Sharon Helms. After introductions all around, and some "ohhhhhhs" and "awwws" from the group as we glanced around to see some ducks splashing in a small kiddie pool, turkeys, quails and chickens pecking for bugs, and some goats in the background, Sharon welcomed the group and began to explain their farming beliefs and practices to us.

"We started Carolina Bay Farms 3 years ago with the purpose of raising heritage breed
animals and heirloom vegetables. 
We established our farm on a 5-acre tract of land that is part of our family property dating back to 1760. James says I have been the main catalyst for the goal of the farm since I have been a nurse for 30 years and have seen first-hand the decline of people's health as our food system has become more influenced by commercialization and chemicals. Our belief is that mother nature is in charge of our farm and we are simply there to assist her, so we do not use any antibiotics, added growth hormones, herbicides or pesticides on our farm."

Carolina Bay Farms raises heritage breed chickens, to include single comb Rhode Island Reds, Buckeyes, Jersey Giants, Russian Orloff, and Orpingtons. 

Other poultry include Standard Bronze Turkeys, Rouen
Standard Bronze Turkeys
Ducks, Pharoah Quail, and Guinea Fowl. 

Their pigs are American Guinea Hogs and they also have a pair of milking goats. 

The American Guinea Hog is the ideal sustainable heritage farm pig, known for its moderate size, excellent foraging abilities, friendly temperament, excellently flavored meat and indispensable lard.  While the American Guinea Hog is smaller than industrial hog breeds, it is a good-sized farm pig providing a nice, well-marbled carcass.
American Guinea Hogs
The American Guinea Hog is a true American heritage breed of domestic farm pig, perhaps over 200 years old. They developed as a landrace breed (landrace is a local variety of a domesticated animal or plant species which has developed over time, by adaptation to the natural and cultural environment in which it lives) throughout the southeastern states of the USA. Anecdotal evidence suggests a European ancestry with other possible influences. It has been determined though genetic testing that the American Guinea Hog is a distinct breed.
At six months, the American Guinea Hog may provide a nicely marbled carcass of up to 75 pounds hanging weight of gourmet-quality highly-flavored meat. (source: American Guinea Hog Association)
Carolina Bay
Their produce in production, or what they have seed stock for, includes Bradford watermelon, 3 varieties of okra found in the 19th century midlands area, peas from Senegal and Italy, as well as others. All of it is heritage or heirloom and contain no GMO's.
After a wonderful tour of this small farmstead, which included a walk back to a "Carolina Bay,"  and the reason for the name of the farm, (considered to be a freshwater wetland, most often isolated. The bay's depression fills with rainwater, usually in winter and spring, and dries in the summer months. This water level determines the plants and animals that inhabit the bay) past pastures, fields of sunflowers, turkeys and guinea hogs, and over a boardwalk, everyone was looking forward to shopping for some goodies.

Some bought pastured pork, others bought fresh garlic, and still others (including me) bought eggs, which included a choice of Quail, Guinea, Turkey, Duck and Chicken eggs, and everyone received a freshly cut sunflower to take home.

I bought a variety pack Sharon put together which included Guinea, Quail and Turkey Eggs and I traded one turkey egg for a duck egg another friend bought. I was anxious to get home and cook some up for a comparison of each. This was going to be fun since each egg has its own unique qualities as I quickly learned.  
Did you know?
Guinea, Quail and Turkey Eggs
Quail eggs: are packed with vitamins and minerals. Even with their small size, their nutritional value is three to four times greater than chicken eggs. Quail eggs contain 13 percent proteins compared to 11 percent in chicken eggs. Quail eggs also contain 140 percent of vitamin B-1 compared to 50 percent in chicken eggs. In addition, quail eggs provide five times as much iron and potassium. Unlike chicken eggs, quail eggs have not been know to cause allergies. Regular consumption of quail eggs helps fight against many diseases. They are a natural combatant against digestive tract disorders such as stomach ulcers. Quail eggs strengthen the immune system, promote memory health, increase brain activity and stabilize the nervous system. They help with anemia by increasing the level of hemoglobin in the body while removing toxins and heavy metals.
Guinea Eggs
Guinea eggs: are smaller (weighing about 45 g), but richer in content of dry matter, lipid, vitamin “A” and carotenoids. They are pear-shaped, with thick and strong light brown shell, large yolk has pleasant taste. Guinea fowl eggs are usually overlooked, but their eggs are full of protein and full of superior taste, They are ideal for baking, in salads and cooking. Their eggs are rich in protein and have a rich yellow yolk and quality white. 

Turkey eggs: contain 9.4 grams of total fat, which contributes 63 percent toward the eggs' total calorie content. This fat provides energy to fuel a healthy and active lifestyle, serves as a source of fatty acids needed for healthy cell membranes and also helps you absorb nutrients. Turkey eggs each contain 10.8 grams of protein, which accounts for 32 percent of their calorie content. Protein maintains your immune system, promotes new tissue growth and helps your body hold on to muscle mass. Turkey eggs are low in carbohydrates, at less than a gram of carbs per egg. The bad is they are high in cholesterol, so should only be eaten as an occasional treat.Turkey eggs used to be a menu staple in North America. Wild turkeys roamed the continent before the arrival of humans, and archaeologists have found turkey-egg shells at the encampments of pre-Columbian Americans. Hopi Indians consider the eggs a delicacy. (The Navajo ate only the flesh of turkeys, however, European settlers noted). Europeans took domesticated turkeys across the Atlantic in the 16th century, and turkey eggs were soon a part of Old-World cuisine, particularly in England. Americans also served them until fairly recently. Turkey egg omelettes were a regular offering at New York’s legendary Delmonico’s restaurant in the late 19th century.
Duck eggs:  boost your vitamin intake and provide considerable amounts of vitamins A and B-12. The vitamin A from your diet promotes new cell development to keep your tissues healthy and also maintains good eyesight. A duck egg contains 472 international units of vitamin A -- one-fifth of the recommended daily intake for women and 16 percent for men. The vitamin B-12 in duck eggs keeps your nerves healthy and promotes red blood cell function. Each duck egg boasts 3.8 micrograms of vitamin B-12, more than your entire daily recommended B-12 intake. It also contains small amounts of several B-complex vitamins, as well as vitamins D and E.

Guinea, Duck, Turkey and Quail Eggs

So which one did I like?  I liked them all!  

I was most surprised by the Turkey egg.  It had an awesome creamy yolk, very rich-tasting, smooth and delicious, but with the highest cholesterol, it's probably one I would only eat occasionally. 

The Guinea egg was also really good, with a dark, rich tasting yolk and the tiny Quail egg was equally delicious. 

The Duck egg has a slightly larger ratio of yolk to white and it too had a smooth, creamy taste. 

Really, all of them tasted very much like chicken eggs to me, with only some subtle differences and I would definitely buy them again, but I'll admit is was pretty cool cooking a turkey egg, which I had never eaten before.

In parting James and Sharon thanked us all for coming and James told me "when we get discouraged, it's people like you who are concerned about where their food comes from that keeps us motivated and for that we say thank you."  

Believe me when I say "it's small family farms like them doing so much for you and me I appreciate and THANK YOU for doing what you do every day."  

Please support your local farms, and help them continue to provide delicious eggs, fruit, produce, grains and pastured-meats for you and me. One bite of "fresh from the farm" products and you too will be convinced there's nothing better!

Visit Carolina Bay Farms on Facebook
Check them out on Local Harvest
Find them on Local Hens

Until next time...


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Friday, July 11, 2014

Chili Cherry Sauce

Another great little recipe to make with fresh cherries!  It's sweet and bold with a little kick. Delicious on roasted pork or lamb.

1 pound cherries, pitted
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you want more heat)
2 tbls. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and gently simmer for 1/2 hour. Take off the heat and mash with a potato masher. Set back on heat and simmer for another15 minutes, stirring constantly.

Note: This sauce can be bottled and kept in the refrigerator for 4 weeks.

To can:  pour boiled sauce into sterilized pint or half-pint jars leaving 1/2" head-space. Adjust lids and process in a Boiling Water Bath for 10 minutes. 

Yield: 2 - 8 oz. jars or 4 - 4 oz. jars


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Cherry Balsamic Sauce

Lovely fresh cherries, a little balsamic and red wine vinegar, some herbs, sugar and Dijon mustard and you have this great marinating or grilling sauce for pork or chicken.  It's so darn good, and a great way to "put up some cherries," other than pie filling or jam. And I just love the jars I bought from Fillmore Container.  This is the 8 oz. size and is perfect for small batches.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup pitted and chopped  sweet cherries
1 tbls. Dijon-style mustard
1 tbls. sugar
2 tsp. chopped fresh sage
1 tsp. each chopped fresh tarragon and thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 cup pitted and halved sweet cherries

Mix vinegar's and olive oil; reduce mixture to 1/2 cup over med-high heat.

Add chopped cherries, mustard, sugar, herbs, salt, and pepper; simmer 10 minutes. 

Add halved cherries to remaining sauce; return mixture to a boil and simmer about 1 minute. 

Pour into sterilized half-pint or pint jars, leaving 1/4" head-space. Apply lids and process in a Boiling Water Bath for 5 minutes.


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