Category Archives: Weekly Updates

How Joyce Farms Got Naked


Before you stop reading or hide this article from your kids, I want you to know that this kind of naked is family friendly. While I have respect for Burroughs as a writer, thankfully, Joyce Farms naked chicken is about as far as one can get from Naked Lunch – wholesome, straightforward, not dosed with foreign substances (true, but also another Naked Lunch joke), and something you’ll be glad to see your children ingesting.

Joyce Farms started back in 1962, but back then, it was called Joyce Foods. It was started by Alvin Joyce as a poultry wholesaler dealing with mom and pop type grocery stores. He was joined in the endeavor by his son Ron Joyce only nine years later. In 2010, it became a third generation farm when Stuart Joyce joined the ranks. If you’re wondering why this timeline is all about when various generations joined the farm, it’s all about Joyce Farms philosophy. They want to bring the best tasting chicken possible to the table, and they believe that comes from the best chickens raised by family farms who give the animals superb care. At Joyce farms, they know the heart of their business is their farmers, and the animals the soul.

Though it’s different than a typical definition of soul care, Joyce Farms takes great care of their ‘soul.’ As they say, “Happy, healthy animals produce the best meat.” And for the best meat, Joyce starts with the best breeds. To find the best breeds, they looked far and wide. As the business grew, so did their travels, and the people of Joyce Farms realized something: Americans were missing out when it comes to chicken. They felt that typical, US commercial stock was unsatisfactory, so they brought home old world breeds (like their increasingly well-known poulet rouge) and old school techniques.

When I say old school, I mean traditional, not conventional. Joyce Farms’ focus is on the comfort and health of their animals, and that involves several things. For starters, that means low stress environments with plenty of space. They get to move freely, spending life either free range or free roaming, and are free to seek shelter in climate-controlled barns to protect them from rain, snow, heat, and cold if they so choose. When they are indoors, they’re still free to roam, and are actually allotted twice the square footage of most ‘organic’ requirements. The chickens are allowed to what they want, and if they partake of the feed provided, you can count on it being germ free without antibiotics since they food is heated to kill any possible bacteria. In fact, no hormones, antibiotics, growth stimulators, or animal products are ever added to the chickens or their food. For the best for the chickens (and their final consumer), Joyce Farms allows their chickens to grow to maturity naturally and in comfort. Add to this humane care fitting to the highest standards and sustainable practices, and you’ve got a solid formula for the health and happiness of the chickens, and of the consumer, too (as far as eating chicken is involved). As they say, “everything we do, we do for the animals.”

And that’s the essence of what Joyce Farms does. OK, cool, so where’s the naked part come in. Easy. I’ve seen sweaters on dog’s and such, but as far as I know, chickens are always naked. OK, so maybe that has literally nothing to do with it. It’s really because Joyce Farms keeps their chicken as au naturel as it gets. At Joyce Farms, they don’t put anything unnatural, and the chickens aren’t put in little boxes or anywhere else they didn’t put themselves. Joyce Farms believes this is just part of the formula for great chicken, and I think they’re right. If you’ve tried it, you know what I’m talking about, and if not, there’s only one way to find out. To assist you in such an endeavor, here’s a great recipe from Papa Spud’s:

Food Waste 2: The Pragmatists StrikeBack

No, this isn’t a movie script, or even a review. But it is a sequel. The last article left us with staggering facts about food waste and a glimpse of hope. This time I want to talk about how we have a chance to help combat massive food waste that leaves people starving and the environment a wreck. I know the title sounds a bit like a movie you might watch on the sci-fi channel, if at all, but this is no Dora the Explorer type solution. No shouting answers at the TV and her pretending to hear you and saying, “That’s right, ___” no matter what one says. These are just two topics in the food waste issue with fairly pragmatic opportunities to help oneself, the environment, and others.

The first issue I want to address is one of aesthetics. I’ve touched on it in the previous article, so I’m just going to give it a quick look before going on to the other topic. Of the 31% of food wasted in this country , 0% percent of that is food left unharvested because of aesthetic reasons. This isn’t to say that no food gets rejected because it’s only an 8 or 9 instead of a perfect 10. No, it’s just that food doesn’t even get counted, bringing the waste total closer to horrifying 40% .

So what can one do about this? Well, I suppose one could eat food that’s perfectly good but doesn’t give you butterflies in one’s stomach when one looks at it. The truth is, unless one is eating something both raw and whole, food doesn’t generally resemble its original form once prepared. If it did, there’d be no such thing as mashed potatoes. True, your cousin couldn’t mash up a banana and stir it into said mashed potatoes to see what people will do when they eat them, but how often does that happen really? By eating food that doesn’t look like it came from a lab, we can do our part to cut down on a substantial portion of wasted food. Anyway, if we took nature out of food, eventually, we’d be left with Soylent Green.

The second issue hinges on food that gets harvested but never eaten. The solution? Pre-selling produce. Normally, a group or individual guesses how much of a given product should be grown, harvested, or purchased at each level of the farmer -> distributor -> retailer -> consumer chain (and any steps in between). Anyone who guesses wrong gets left holding the bag for a potentially sizable loss. With pre-selling, produce stays ‘on the vine’ until purchased. The farmer then harvests only what’s needed, and the rest of the produce stays fresh in the field instead of rotting unwanted somewhere. Ok, cool, but how does that help anyone?

For starters, food stays fresh longer while it’s still, well, alive; that way, food that can be eaten later can still be eaten later. Not only does the supply of food in a starving world improve, but both the environment and humans benefit. Environmentally, natural resources like water and land are better used, because resources don’t go to food that slowly moves to the landfill. Speaking of landfills, less food ends up there, reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses produced in the United States. Economically, we should see an improvement, too. Reduction of waste means a reduction of overhead, which I would hope in turn reduces price. A plethora of reasons to reduce food waste is out there, but that’s really more of a subject for another article .

In most cases, each layer between the farmer and consumer adds waste, ranging from just a bit to a sizable chunk. Now, each individual contacting each farmer directly to order precisely what one needs and then going to pick it up is hardly pragmatic for anyone involved. But if you could find a single entity to speak to all the farmer’s for you, then pre-selling produce could become an effective way to reduce waste while guaranteeing you the freshest produce possible. If you’re reading this, you probably already know the easiest and most effective way in our area. Yup, it’s Papa Spud’s. You order, we tell the farmers, they harvest, and we bring the goods to your door. Pre-selling produce is a major tenant of the way we do business because it lets us help the environment, local farmers, and you. Whenever you open your box, you’re participating in an agricultural model that benefits your society and your planet as a whole, all the while receiving produce harvested just for you.

To wrap things up, I want to get honest with you. I’m no caped crusader fighting food related societal problems or someone trying to get in your face about your personal responsibility in some big issue. Really, it goes something more like this: I become aware of a problem. I do some research, and maybe even get slightly worked up about the issue. Then life happens and my efforts may start to fall to the wayside. But when I write about it, I have to do something about it. I don’t want to be a food waster, but I definitely don’t want to be a hypocrite. That might sound stupid or weak-willed, but life is exhausting and every little bit of motivation helps. So on the one hand, articles like this are a pledge to try and do a little better in my own life. But they also serve as an invitation to join together with me in trying to make a difference, even if it seems like a small one. We won’t always do things perfectly, but every little bit helps. Oh, and on the plus side, this time the responsible choice may actually be easier than the alternative.

How to Stay Fresh: Storage Tips to Maximize Produce Shelf Life


With several holidays ahead plus the normal quantity of birthdays, anniversaries, and the like, lots of people are trying to hide lots of presents. Closets, attics, trunks (of cars), trunks (at the foot of the bed), cabinets, the office, away from the dog, under the cat, and a myriad of other places are being put to use for the purpose. But stashing presents isn’t the only storage we have to worry about. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m talking about fresh produce. Whether the produce is grown out in the cold or in the warmth of a green house, don’t let the weather throw you. With these handy storage tips, you can take worry out of at least part of the seasonal storage equation.

Apples: Each variety of apple will have a different storage life, some will stay crisp longer than others. Apples will keep longest when stored in the refrigerator. To prevent moisture loss while in the refrigerator, store apples in a plastic bag. Most varieties will keep 2-3 weeks if stored in the refrigerator. Apples can also be stored at room temperature, but may only keep up to 7 days before they start to turn soft or mealy.

Arugula (5-7 days): Arugula is actually an herb in the mustard family. It is generally used similarly to salad greens, either as a substitute or as a complement. Arugula should be kept in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss, and refrigerated. It will keep for just a few days. Arugula tends to be gritty, so don’t forget to wash it just prior to using. If cooked, it should be added in just the last few minutes to prevent flavor loss and overwilting. Arugula makes a great pizza topping!

Broccoli: Broccoli should be stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for 4-5 days. Like most vegetables, broccoli will lose moisture as it ages, which you want to protect against, but you also want the broccoli to be able to breathe, so it is not a good idea to enclose it in plastic. A perforated plastic bag, or just an open plastic bag are usually the best options. During commercial transport, broccoli is packed on ice which keeps moisture level high, and temperature as close to freezing as possible, while still allowing the broccoli to breathe. However, this usually isn’t practical at home. Broccoli takes very well to freezing (if blanched first), so you may consider freezing broccoli if unable to use it within a few days.

Cabbage: If possible, do not remove outer leaves from cabbage. Outer leaves protect interior from damage and from moisture loss. However, if refrigerator space is an issue, you can remove the outer leaves, and will have a smaller head of cabbage, just know that it won’t keep quite as well. Cabbage can be used in portions, but once you cut into the interior of the cabbage, you will need to wrap the remaining portion tightly in saran wrap. Cabbage is a versatile vegetable that can be used raw as in coleslaw or cooked in a variety of ways. Cabbage is a food staple and is used in many types of cuisine.

Carrots: Carrots are hearty vegetable that will keep for an extended period of time. They will keep best if you can avoid moisture loss. Do this by storing carrots in a plastic bag, and by cutting off the greens about an inch or two above the carrots. Carrot greens will suck moisture out of the roots if they are left on. Carrots should also be stored away from fruits, which emit ethylene gas that may cause carrots to develop a bitter taste over time.

Greens – Collards, Kale, Chard (1-2 weeks): Greens should be placed in a plastic bag, and stored in the refrigerator. If greens start to look wilted, you can revive them by snipping the base of the stems, filling a tub with cold water, submerging the greens in the water, and placing the water tub in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours. The freshly snipped stems will soak up the cold water, and revitalize the greens. Grocery stores commonly use this trick before placing greens on their produce shelves.

Herbs, bunched: Commonly bunched herbs include basil, cilantro, and parsley. Remove band or tie, and pick out any stems or leaves that have been damaged from banding. Snip the base of the stems, wrap in damp paper towels, and store in plastic bag in the refrigerator. This will help herbs to retain moisture, and extend storage life.

Lettuce, heads: Lettuce loves moisture. Remove any wilted leaves, and dampen interior remaining leaves. Place in plastic bag, and store in refrigerator. If lettuce becomes wilted, you can revive it in a cold water bath similar to the method described for greens. However, 1 hour in the bath is usually plenty, more can result in oversaturation and wet-rot.

Strawberries: Check for any damaged or bruised strawberries, and remove them from the container. Damaged fruits release ethylene gas which signals other fruits to ripen at a faster rate. This means that one bad apple really does spoil the bunch. Berries can go bad quite quickly, so make sure they are covered, and store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. However, strawberries will be at their juiciest at room temperature, so if possible bring them to room temperature prior to consuming.

Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes should be stored at room temperature. They attain maximum sweetness 1-2 months after being pulled from the ground and stored above 45F. Sweet potatoes often keep for over 6 months, just don’t forget about them!

Good storage practices lead to a good shelf life for great produce. It won’t be like that episode of Eerie Indiana where the people stayed young forever by sleeping in giant Tupperware containers, but it will maximize the shelf life of your food. I recommend following the detailed instructions above to increase the longevity of your produce, but below is a quick reference refrigerator vs counter list with estimated times to help you stay fresh:

3-5 days:
• Salad Mix – Refrigerate

5-7 days:
• Arugula – Refrigerate
• Beans, Green – Refrigerate
• Broccoli – Refrigerate
• Greens, Collards – Refrigerate
• Greens, Kale – Refrigerate
• Greens, Mustard – Refrigerate
• Greens, Turnip – Refrigerate
• Greens, Chard – Refrigerate
• Lettuce – Refrigerate
• Spinach – Refrigerate

7-10 days:
• Beets, Red, w/ tops – Refrigerate
• Bok Choy – Refrigerate
• Cauliflower – Refrigerate
• Cucumbers, Slicing – Refrigerate
• Eggplant – Refrigerate
• Peppers – Refrigerate
• Squash, Yellow – Refrigerate
• Squash, Zucchini – Refrigerate
• Tomatoes, Grape, Cherry – Refrigerate
• Tomatoes, Roma – Counter
• Tomatoes, Slicing – Counter
• Bananas – Counter
• Grapes – Refrigerate

10-14 days:
• Cabbage, Green – Refrigerate
• Carrots w/ tops – Refrigerate
• Kohlrabi – Refrigerate
• Radishes, Daikon – Refrigerate
• Radishes, Red – Refrigerate
• Turnips, Purple Top – Refrigerate
• Apples – Refrigerate
• Pears – Refrigerate

14-21 days:
• Potatoes, Red – Counter
• Squash, Acorn – Counter
• Squash, Butternut – Counter
• Sweet Potatoes – Counter

State Vegetables? – NC and the Permeating Presence of the Sweet Potato

sweet potato diced

If you’ve had a somewhat typical Thanksgiving, you’ve probably seen a lot of sweet potatoes in the past few days. Over the theoretically long weekend and four Thanksgivings, I know I’ve seen my fair share. Mostly in casseroles, but available in a variety of forms. With fries, pies, chips, marshmallows, and more upcoming holidays, chances are we’ll see plenty more. Though the US has seen a veritable boom in sweet potato usage and production in the past fifteen years, there’s actually a long-standing history with sweet potatoes and our state, country, and continent.

Sweet potatoes were already being cultivated on this continent when Columbus arrived in 1492 and were a common part of the diet and a cultivated crop of the settlers by the 1600’s. Some believe they were even eaten by dinosaurs. Since then, sweet potatoes have continued to grow in use and production, with production increases from 2000 to 2014 ranging from 100% in California to a whopping 185% in North Carolina. At first glance, this may seem like supply and demand would have the value of the sweet potato dropping; however, usage and consumption have grown almost as much, with the US consumption per capita increasing by 80% in the same period, 2014 has the highest consumption per capita on record. In fact, 2014 also had the second highest price per hundred pounds on record, only fifty cents behind the all-time high in 2013.

OK, so national sweet potato production is up. How does that affect our state? Well, last year, North Carolina produced 53% of the nation’s sweet potatoes, so there’s that. As it turns out, our ties to the sweet potato go even deeper. In 1993, a fourth grade class in Wilson NC decided to become more politically involved. They began writing letters to the state legislature to get sweet potatoes made the state vegetable of North Carolina. After two years and what grew into a community effort, it passed, and sweet potatoes became the state vegetable of North Carolina. I didn’t even know state vegetables were a thing, but with NC responsible for 53% percent of the nation’s production, I suppose it makes sense that the sweet potato would be ours. We may not have a monopoly, but we probably control two sides of the board. And at over half, I’m guessing one of those sides contains Boardwalk and Park Place.

As far as actual production is concerned, sweet potatoes are planted from seed potatoes in March. They’re ready to be cut and transplanted to fields in April, and grown from May to late October, prospering best in 70-90 degree days and 55-65 degree nights. They grow best in loamy soil, but only with proper drainage; excess water can damage the crop. After around 120 days, the sweet potatoes are ready for harvest. Some are sold immediately as the ‘green crop’, while others are cured and stored until needed. Curing sweet potatoes requires storage in a stable temperature of roughly 85 degrees for up to a week. The process of curing tightens the skins and converts the starches to sugars. This process makes the sweet potatoes sweeter, but also makes them harder to skin.

One may wonder why such a huge increase in production is taking place, or maybe just why there’s a boom to consumption. On the one hand, sweet potatoes are finding an ever-increasing list of uses. Not only are they becoming ingredients in more and more recipes and products, but they’re also used as an ingredient source for flour, starches, pectin, and pastas. While the uses continue to increase, health benefits play a big role in consumption as well . The large quantities of vitamin A are great for vision, and the abundance of both vitamins A and C serve as both an anti-inflammatory and as free radicals that can help fight the risk of cancer. The fiber content is great for digestion, and the complex carbs provide lots of energy. Sweet potatoes are even diabetic friendly, due to their low glycemic index and their ability to help stabilize blood sugar .

Considering all the health benefits of sweet potatoes and their myriad of uses from fries to recipe ingredients, it’s no real surprise that sweet potato production is growing, especially in a state where climate and soil conditions are ideal for sweet potato cultivation. And just in case you’re not convinced about sweet potatoes and their myriad of benefits and versatility of uses, check out this delicious recipe for African Peanut and Sweet Potato Stew, featured earlier this Fall in a Papa Spud’s recipe kit:

African Peanut & Chicken Stew

Inspired by West African cuisine, this hearty dish combines chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, and a spicy peanut flavor, for a filling stew that is perfect for a Fall day. Full flavored and easy to prepare!
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 60 mins
Serves 3-4

• 1/2 cup & 1/2 cup roasted peanuts – included
• 2 tsp. olive oil
• 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 lb. chicken thighs, bone-in- included
• 1 cup yellow onion, chopped- included
• 1 Tbsp. ginger, peeled, minced- included
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed – included
• 1 pint chicken broth
• 1 ct. tomato, chopped- included
• 2 tsp. coriander, ground – included
• pinch of red cayenne pepper
• salt & pepper
• cilantro, chopped- included

1. Prepare your peanuts and peanut paste. Measure our 1/2 cup of whole peanuts and set aside. Combine the other 1/2 cup of peanuts with 2 tsp. olive oil in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Wash chicken thighs, and pat them dry with paper towels. Season well with salt and pepper, and brown them in the hot vegetable oil. Remove from heat once nicely browned, about 5 minutes per side.

3. Reduce heat to medium and add onions to the pot and sauté for 3-4 minutes until soft. Stir frequently and scrape off any browned bits from the chicken. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for another 1 minute. Add sweet potatoes, and stir to combine all ingredients.

4. Stir in chicken broth, then add chicken thighs back to the pot, as well as tomatoes, whole peanuts and peanut paste (from step 1), coriander, and red cayenne pepper. Stir well to combine.

5. Bring to a simmer and taste seasoning. Add more salt or cayenne pepper if desired. Simmer, covered, for about 50-60 minutes, until chicken is cooked and comes easily off the bone.

6. Remove chicken from the pot, and when cool enough to handle, cut meat from the bone. Chop meat into bite-size pieces, and return to the pot.

7. Add fresh ground black pepper, and additional salt to taste. Serve topped with chopped cilantro.

The Story Behind Thanksgiving Dinner – A Micro-History of Locally Grown Thanksgiving Staples


Thanksgiving is at hand, and many of us have already begun preparing some of traditional favorites: corn, shellfish, roasted meat, and deer. Ok, so those probably aren’t the most traditional Thanksgiving foods in most people’s minds, but they were the fare at the first Thanksgiving . I suppose they weren’t traditional for the pilgrims, either, given that it was the first Thanksgiving, but that’s neither here nor there. While your Thanksgiving feast may differ from the original, there is something you can share in common with our societal ancestors. The people at that first Thanksgiving had local fare, and they knew where their food came from. Even if you didn’t raise your Thanksgiving turkey, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy local North Carolina produce with a history. While I can’t cover every dish you may have this Thursday, here’s the history behind a few Thanksgiving staples you may have in your box.

Apples. Pies, crumbles, turned to applesauce or apple butter, or in a recipe kit with bacon. No matter how you fix them, apples have strong ties to fall and the harvest. This week’s apples are from Deal Orchard. Deal Orchards is located just outside of Taylorsville, North Carolina in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains. The Orchard has been operated by the Deal family for three generations. They started in 1939, when Brack Deal and his wife Thelma Isabelle planted their first fruit trees. The Deals started with just 15 acres of orchard, but have grown over the years to over 100. Today, the orchard is run by Bracke and Isabelle’s son Lindsay and his son Alan, who oversee orchard operations along with their family .

Butter and Milk. Whether it’s in casseroles, baked goods, spread on warm rolls, or in a tall glass with dessert, butter and milk are key players in a Thanksgiving spread, even when they aren’t seen on the table. Your milk and butter from Papa Spud’s comes from Mapleview Farm. Mapleview Farm has been around since the 1800’s, originally located in Maine before moving to NC. Mapleview cows produce over 2,000,000 pounds of milk a year. The cows are raised, milk bottled, and butter made all on the farm in Hillsborough, NC. Mapleview products are hormone and antiboiotic free. They even make ice cream .

Potatoes. Thanksgiving potatoes come in a variety of forms, ranging from mashed to salad to French fries (I mean, someone probably has fries on Thanksgiving). Regardless of their final form or consistency, one would be hard pressed to find a Thanksgiving spread without potatoes unless a potato allergy runs in the family. And though potatoes come in a myriad of varieties, any red skinned potatoes in your box come to you from Britt Farms. Britt Farms is family owned and operated by Vernon and Jennifer Britt, and the farm has been in Vernon’s family since the days of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather – land that has been in his family since the 1600’s . The Britt family has been farming in Mt. Olive, NC ever since.

Pumpkins. One can’t forget pumpkins when discussing Thanksgiving staples. Perfect for pies, these pumpkins come from Dean Farm. Located in Wilson, NC, Dean Farm has been around since 1965. Not only are they the source of your holiday pumpkin fix, Dean Farm provides an experience as well as produce. Dean Farm has seasonal activities year round, and if the movie theater or skating rink aren’t your thing, even has a place to host birthday parties. Whether you in search of food, a field trip, or even a hayride, Dean Farm may have just what you’re looking for .

And that’s the history of Thanksgiving – wait, let me try that again. That was a partial, local micro-history of some of the foods you’ll be eating this Thanksgiving. It may not have included everything, but at least you know a few more people you can thank for your Thanksgiving bounty.
While it may not have included buckles on hats or how to use fish to grow corn, but it is short enough to read during commercials of the game. Anyway, size isn’t everything – something I plan on remembering when my belt has to be one notch looser on Friday.

Culinary Sleight of Hand – Recipe Substitutions that Could Save Your Meal

Hand with tweezers beans

You know that feeling when you’re about to make a recipe – or worse, you’ve already started – and you realize you’re missing a vital ingredient? Maybe someone finished off the eggs even though there were some half an hour ago when you checked. Maybe, like me, estimating how much of something you have left isn’t your strong suit. Maybe something got knocked off the counter and exploded. No matter the reason, whether guests are on their way, the birthday cake needs to be in the oven, or a snowstorm has stranded you at home, don’t panic. There’s hope for your recipe. With this handy list of ingredient substitutions, you may be able to have your meal while avoiding a snow-soaked hike to the grocery store.

Dry Ingredients:
• Baking Powder- 1 tsp = ¼ tsp baking soda + 5/8 tsp cream of tartar, or ¼ tsp baking soda + ½ cup buttermilk (reduce liquid by ½ cup)
• Brown Sugar – 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tbsp molasses or dark corn syrup
• Cornstarch (for thickening) – 1 tbsp = 2 tbsp flour (simmer for around 3 minutes after thickening for prevent raw flour taste)
• Cream of Tartar – ½ tsp = 1 ½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar
• Flour, Cake – 1 cup = 1 cup minus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
• Flour, Self-Rising – 1 cup = 1 cup minus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour + 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt
• Flour, Corn – 1:1 ratio all-purpose flour
• Flour, Pastry – 1 cup = 7/8 cup all-purpose flour
• Flour (for brownies) – 1 cup flour = 1 cup black bean puree
• Sugar (for baking) – 1:1 ratio unsweetened applesauce (reduce liquid by ¼ cup for every cup of applesauce)

• Butter – 1:1 ratio unsweetened applesauce (Works for sweet breads, muffins, and box mixes. Best as a partial substitution, if you’ve got some butter but not enough), or pureed avocado 1:1 ratio, or 1 tbsp chia seeds + 9 tbsp water (let sit combined for 15 minutes)
• Butter, Melted – Oil, 1:1 ratio (only for melted butter)
• Buttermilk – 1 cup = 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar + enough milk to make a cup (let sit combined for five minutes before use)
• Cream, Half and Half – 1 cup = 7/8 cup milk plus 1 tbsp butter
• Cream, Heavy – 1 cup = 1 cup evaporated milk or 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter
• Cream, Light – 1 cup = 1 cup evaporated milk or 3/4 cup milk plus 3 tbsp butter
• Eggs – 1 egg = 2 tbsp mayonnaise or, 1 tbsp chia seeds + 1 cup water (let sit for 15 minutes)
• Sour Cream – 1 cup = 1 cup plain yogurt, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar + enough cream to make 1 cup, or 3/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter

Assorted Ingredients:
• Bread Crumbs – 1:1 ratio finely crushed cracker crumbs, corn flakes or quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
• Corn Syrup – 1 cup = 1 ¼ cup sugar + 1/3 cup water, or 1 cup honey
• Dry Mustard – 1 tsp = 1 tbsp prepared mustard
• Ketchup – 1 cup = 1 cup tomato sauce + 1 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp sugar
• Lemon Juice – 1 tsp = ½ tsp vinegar, or 1 tsp white wine, or 1 tsp lime juice
• Mayonnaise – 1:1 ratio sour cream, or yogurt, or cottage cheese (pureed in blender)
• Oil (for baking) – 1:1 ratio unsweetened applesauce
• Saffron – 1:1 ratio Turmeric
• Tabasco Sauce – 4 drops = 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or ¼ tsp black pepper
• Tomato paste – ½ cup = 1 cup tomato sauce cooked uncovered until reduced to 1/2 cup
• Tomato Sauce – 2 cups = 3/4 cup tomato paste plus 1 cup water
• Tomatoes, Canned – 1 can = 2 ½ cups chopped, peeled fresh tomatoes, simmered about 10 minutes
• Wine – 1 cup = 1 cup chicken or beef broth, or 1 cup juice + vinegar (use grape or cranberry for red, apple or white grape for white)
• Worchester Sauce – 1 tsp = 1 tsp bottled steak sauce or 1 tbsp soy sauce, 4 drops tabasco sauce, 1/8 tsp lemon juice, dash sugar

Whether you’re baking, cooking, frying, or even grilling, there are plenty of ways recipe substitutions can be a huge help in a pinch. The best part is substitutions can, at least theoretically, be combined Inception style. Need self-rising flour, but you’ve only got all-purpose? Substitute it. Don’t have the cream of tartar for that? Substitute that, too. I can’t promise about the outcome when substitutions get stacked since I haven’t tried it, but it works on paper. The possibilities are as vast as one’s bravery or desperation. If you’re still unsure about some of the substitutions above or how they may turn out, know that others have substituted weirder. Chia seeds instead of eggs may not be your thing, but I’ve heard from multiple sources that Richard the Lion Hearted’s chef substituted captured enemy for pork. Compared to the shutter and nausea inducing thought of (alleged) cannibalism, black beans in brownies sound pretty good. (Cannibalism is not good, but black bean brownies actually are).

Texas-style Linguiça and Kale Stew


Portuguese Linguiça sausage from the Weeping Radish Butchery comes together with black eyed peas, bold spices, chiles, and fresh local kale in a slow cooker dish that is super easy to make, but full of flavor. The ingredients take just a short time to prepare, then toss them in the slow cooker, and come home to a meal that will feed the whole family! A delicious Fall stew! Prep time: 20 mins / Slow Cooker Time: 5-6 hours / Serves 4-5

• 6 oz. black eyed peas, dried
• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 lb. linguica sausage, sliced
• 2 ribs celery, chopped
• 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
• 1 dried guajillo chile, stemmed and seeded
• 1 dried New Mexico chile, stemmed and seeded
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 tsp. ground cumin
• 1 tsp. dried thyme
• 1 tsp. paprika
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. pepper
• 2 cups chicken broth or substitute water
• 1 cup water
• pinch of cayenne Pepper, optional
• 4 oz. kale, stems removed, sliced into bite-size pieces

1. Prepare your black eyed peas by soaking them in water overnight (8 hours). Or, cover them with two inches of water in a pot. Bring the pot to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let them soak in hot water for 1 hour. Drain black eyed peas and pick through them.

2. Prepare your chiles by cutting off the stems, then cutting down the side to open the chile and remove all of the seeds and membrane.

3. Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook sausage slices until well browned on both sides. Remove sausages from heat. Add chiles to the pan, and toast for 2-3 minutes.

4. Put black eyed peas, sausages, celery, onion, chiles, garlic, bay leaf, cumin, thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chicken broth, and water in the slow cooker, mix well. Turn slow cooker to low, and cook until black eyed peas are soft, 5-6 hours.

5. As you near the end of cooking, remove the chiles from the slow cooker, put them in a blender or food processor, along with a few tablespoons of the stew broth. Blend until pureed, then return chile paste to the slow cooker. Mix well.

6. When the stew is done, add kale pieces, mix well and cook for 5 minutes.

7. Serve stew in bowls with a side of rice.

The Quest for NC Apples


When I started researching apple production in North Carolina, I wasn’t sure what aspect would catch my attention for the weekly update. I expected the subject to fall somewhere in between production numbers and why apples are grown where they’re grown. Then someone pointed out that you never see North Carolina apples in the store. Why doesn’t one see NC apples in the store? I decided this was the line of inquiry to follow.

My great grandparents had an apple orchard when I was growing up, so I never questioned the fact that North Carolina produces apples. Maybe we don’t produce as many apples as I assumed. It turns out NC is in the top ten states for apple production, usually falling around 7th . Of course, if the US doesn’t produce that many apples or almost all come from one state, then seventh place may not be that many. I started digging through the first of many documents, charts, and Excel files to find some actual numbers. In 2010, North Carolina actually produced around 134 million pounds of apples . So a lack of apples shouldn’t be the reason for their absence in box stores.

Perhaps the reasons are geographic. If the area for apples is clustered, they may not get distributed evenly throughout the state. Apple production in the state clusters into five major areas: Henderson, Haywood, Mt. Mitchel, Northwest, and South Mountain areas . The areas aren’t massively spread out, but the spread is big enough and transportation accessible enough that geography shouldn’t be a problem. The reason for the clusters actually dates back as early as the 19th century. Apples have been grown in thermal belt areas of North Carolina since pioneers in the 1800’s discovered that growing apples on hill slopes instead on mountaintops or the bottom of valleys made for a longer growing season . In southwestern NC, there is an average rainfall of over ninety inches (versus an average of forty to fifty-five inches east of the mountains) because a barrier formed by the mountains forces moist, southerly winds over it . Overall, the thermal belts make an excellent place to grow apples.

So if North Carolina has plenty of apples and geography doesn’t prevent them from being moved around, what’s the problem? Poking through some more USDA spreadsheets, I found that in 2010, 50.7 million pounds of NC apples were used for canning. That’s a decent chunk. Excel file revealed that an additional 21 million pounds get turned into juice or cider. So, around 72.1 million pounds of the 134 mil don’t even reach the final consumer as a whole apple (most of this comes to you in the form of juice or apple sauce). What about the 40-ish percent that do reach the last step of their journey still intact? One-fourth of US apples are exported to other countries , and since a breakdown by state isn’t readily available, let’s just use the average. So 30% of 134 million pounds equals a lot of apples still unaccounted for (around 40.2 million lbs.).

The most commonly grown apples fall into one of four types, but there are actually over forty other types grown in the state; however, these are almost exclusively found in roadside stands . Any others will generally be found at the farmer’s market. That’s the ‘where’ of finding North Carolina apples, and the ‘why’ has been answered to a certain numerical degree, but for the bigger ‘why’ one can’t find NC apples in stores, I don’t have an exact answer. With the apple production in North Carolina being spread over around three hundred orchards, maybe it’s easier for stores to import apples instead of dealing with multiple suppliers. Stores may think apples sound more exotic if they come from places that are usually cold. Or perhaps history plays a role. Thinking on the roadside stands and stories of how my great grandfather used to get on his bike and peddle apples, maybe NC likes to keep things old school. Or maybe North Carolina likes to keep its local apples truly local.

Carolina apples may not be as convenient to find as imports in the store, but NC apples are worth looking for. The weather in North Carolina’s apple growing regions is ideal for producing apples with a great combination of crispness, juiciness, and sweetness. Finding North Carolina apples may not always be easy, but like the overlooks and hiking trails in the land where they grow, a bit of effort pays off.

Delicious Duos – A La Carte Desserts from Contrarian Farm to Your Table

The term ‘duo’ may bring a variety of pairs to mind. Some are fictional, like Batman and Robin. Some are famous, like Simon and Garfunkel. Some are infamous, like Bonnie and Clyde. Yet no matter what one thinks of, a duo is a pair ( says so). But what about other kinds of pairs? Say, poached pears with ice cream? Or farm and table? Or fruit and tarts, hazelnut flourless chocolate cake and ganache, or even chocolate mocha layer cake and crushed toffee topping? If anything after “Bonnie and Clyde” comes to mind, or you want it to, Duo may be just the thing for you.

At its core, Duo is the team up of a chef, Cino Donati, and a farmer, Brittany Kordick of the sustainable Contrarian Farm. Cino was an executive chef at Noble’s Grille and has embraced local produce and the farm to table process for the last 25 years. Even when shipping produce in from all over was the norm, Donati was devoted to using local produce from the Carolinas. Now the dietary director at an assisted living facility, he met Brittany Kordick while they were working a part-time gig at a restaurant. They formed Duo, which takes its name from both combining the elements of farm and restaurant and the fact that Duo is a team of two.

Duo ( brings food from the farm to your table in two ways. The first is through catering. Duo’s catering is steered by what the customer desires, though sample menus are available on the website. Duo also provides the delicious service of desserts a la carte. Duo takes dessert orders a la carte, because, as they say, “Why wait for the excuse of an event?” While Duo now makes phenomenal desserts, Cino actually used to hate baking. This changed when he began working as the dietary director for an assisted living facility. He found that freshly baked goods added a nice touch, provided something special for the residents, and even gave a nice smell. Through this, Donati has comes to terms with the joys of baking, and now Duo not only offers a la carte desserts, but will also customize your order to your taste preferences.

Providing catering and desserts a la carte isn’t the only cool thing Duo does. Whenever possible, Duo uses produce direct from Brittany Kordick’s own Contrarian Farm. Much, if not most, of their produce comes from Brittany’s farm. That means that, not only is your dessert specially (and possibly custom made) for you, but much of it is under the care of Brittany and Cino from seed to package. In the event that an ingredient needed isn’t currently available at Contrarian Farm, Duo seeks to stay as local and sustainable. So, if something you order requires saffron, it might come from the belt running from Spain to India as there’s not a lot of other options; but any other ingredients will be as local and sustainable as possible.

So, knowing Duo’s origin and where they are now, one may wonder where Duo is headed; and the truth is, it may not be where one expects. Despite the awesome set-up of bringing food from her farm to their kitchen to your table, Duo isn’t planning to take the corporate world by storm. Actually, they want to stay small and use what they can from Contrarian Farm’s growing season. They’re a duo, and it works. Changing it would be like adding horseradish to “chocolate chip” and “cookies.” As Cino told me, they’re a duo, and that’s all they’ll ever be. They’ll remain just the two of them. And really, who can blame them? After all, three’s a crowd.

Shepherd’s Pie


This classic British dish is the perfect meal for Fall! Local, pasture-raised ground beef from Firsthand Foods, cooked with onions, carrots, and fresh herbs. The flavors come together for a balanced, delicious filling that’s not too heavy. Topped with mashed potatoes and roasted in the oven for a golden crisp! This dish hits all of the food groups and is very easy to prepare. With 4-5 servings it’s a perfect family dinner, or make it for yourself and a friend and you’ll have plenty of leftovers!

Prep time: 45 mins
Cook time: 35 mins
Serves 4-5

• 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
• 2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, cubed
• 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup milk, any fat
• 1/2 tsp. salt & 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 lb. ground beef
• 1 yellow onion, chopped
• 1 carrot, chopped
• 1 cup beef or chicken broth
• 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
• 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
• 1 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, minced
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add russet potatoes and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain once they are done. Add milk, butter, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mash with a fork until smooth. Add additional salt to taste.

3. While the potatoes cook, heat vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add ground beef, chopped onion, and chopped carrot. Cook until ground beef is browned and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

4. Drain the fat from the pan, then add broth, tomato paste, rosemary, Italian parsley, bell pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir and simmer until the liquid thickens, about 10 minutes. Add additional salt to taste, remove from heat.

5. If your pan is oven-safe, you can bake the Shepherd’s Pie in it. Otherwise, transfer meat filling to a baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes over the filling, crosshatching and spreading them evenly with a fork.

6. Bake Shepherd’s Pie in the oven for 30-35 minutes until potatoes are turning crisp on top. Turn on broiler to high, and cook additional 1-3 minutes until topping is golden brown. Keep a close eye on the potatoes while broiling, so as not to burn them.

7. Remove Shepherd’s Pie from oven and allow 5 minutes to cool. Serve!