Monthly Archives: October 2014

Meet Your Driver, Halloween Edition: Michael Lobacz

michael lobaczMeet Michael Lobacz, always smiling and friendly, easily the cheeriest face to see in the warehouse at 6:00 AM as we distribute produce. He is originally from Marietta, GA and moved up to NC to study Music Technology at Elon. He now works at Papa Spud’s because he enjoys, “providing a great service that helps connect local agriculture to the community.” His light-hearted manner and impeccable meat-packing skills make him an easy person to work with; not to mention the blues and funk music he plays to accompany cleaning and packing. When he’s not working, Michael plays lead guitar in a local band called Frank Hurd. They play around North Carolina and surrounding states, check out their website for tour dates and to hear their music.

Halloween is coming this weekend, which happens to be Michael’s favorite holiday. He loves dressing up, scaring people, visiting haunted houses, watching horror movies, the whole experience. “Ever since I was little, my parents would decorate the house and put on a neighborhood Halloween party.  Not only that, but my mom would turn our entire house into something that resembles a haunted nightmare: ghouls, coffins, graveyards, spiderwebs, the whole nine yards.  So as a kid, I got used to the scary nature of the season very quickly and developed a love for Halloween.  It’s stuck with me ever since!” Last week Michael and I had a very in-depth conversation about horror films as we weighed out and bagged green beans to be distributed. He gave me suggestions of horror films I need to see–The Exorcist and Pet Cemetery–and we agreed on the brilliance of The Shining (but, really, who doesn’t love that movie?). So, those of you with your fantastic Halloween decorations, know that you’re probably making Michael’s day when he delivers to your house.

 

Fall Recipe Extravaganza

This week I decided to attempt a fall recipe extravaganza using several of the different fall vegetables that we offer. This all started when I found a recipe for Crock Pot Pumpkin Spiced Latte and then continue to think about more interesting ways to use the vegetables in my refrigerator than my typical stir-fry. So I decided to create a whole meal (granted, a HUGE meal that could be split into several meals) all around fall. The pumpkin spiced latte doesn’t quite fit into the meal, but who doesn’t want a delicious, autumnal coffee drink to start out their day? I will preface all of this by saying that I have realized that I have a complete inability to follow a recipe perfectly and, for some reason, always feel like I should add some twist to it. This works well sometimes and others not so much, so I’ll share with you the recipes I found, tell you what I did and explain how it turned out. So, here you’ll find an appetizer, a salad, a soup, and a dessert. Enjoy!

pumpkin spiced latteLet’s start with this recipe for a crock-pot pumpkin spiced latte from Thriving Home Blog. This was delicious, very sweet, and made a huge amount. I shared it with my roommates, my mom, everyone who came over and I still have a nalgene bottle full in my fridge. The pureed pumpkin is so easy to make on your own, you do not have to go to the store and buy a can. Just cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, and bake it at 375 for about 30-45 minutes, or until you can easily stick a fork in the pumpkin. However, make sure that you do blend the pumpkin before you use it in this recipe. I decided to not blend it and just mash the pumpkin with a fork because I was feeling lazy and thought it would cook down in the crock-pot—unfortunately that is not the case. While it still tasted delicious, there were strings of pumpkin floating around in my drink—most people are not inclined to prefer a chewy latte. Secondly, the recipe calls for 4-6 cups of strongly brewed coffee, I used 6 cups and still wanted to taste the coffee more. If you want a stronger coffee taste I would recommend using less milk. I’ve actually been using the leftovers like creamer and adding it to my cup of coffee in the morning, I think I might like it even more that way.

croquetas3The appetizer is something I’ve wanted to try to make for quite some time, it’s a Spanish dish called croquetas, often made with chicken, but you can use whatever you want. I first had croquetas while I was working on a farm in Maine alongside a woman from Spain named Steffi; she would make them when we had a huge amount of a vegetable left over after market—usually zucchini or kale. I attempted to use her recipe and mixed it with some other recipes I found online (because my Spanish is a little rusty) and here is what I came up with. I used mustard greens as my vegetable of choice. What I found was that croquetas are all about proportions and texture, so depending on how watery the vegetable you choose is, you may have to alter the amount of flour or milk you add. This was definitely the biggest experiment of everything I made, so here’s the recipe I used online to compare in case you prefer actual measurements.mustard greens

  1. Dice one yellow onion and sautee with butter.
  2. Chop up mustard greens as small as possible (I used about a pound and a half total) and add to the onions. Add whatever spices you’d like to this mixture–I used salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin, but remember you can always salt fried things after they come out of the pan so don’t stress too much about how much salt to use.
  3. Sprinkle flour into the mixture and continue to add flour until it forms a slightly moist ball.
  4. Add milk until it has the same consistency as cake batter. **I made the consistency thicker than cake batter and it worked well, I think the more milk you add the creamier the inside of the croquetas will be after they are fried.
  5. Put in the refrigerator for 24 hours, this makes the croquetas easier to form.
  6. Roll the “dough” into balls or cylinders and roll in flower. Meanwhile, scramble two eggs in one bowl and put 1 cup of bread crumbs in another. Dip the croquetas in the egg and then roll in the breadcrumbs to completely cover them.
  7. Fry in a pan and serve hot!

croquetas2

Other than the few that I burned, I thought that these turned out great! The spice from the mustard cooked out almost completely so it tastes a lot like kale, it might work to experiment with adding cayenne or sriracha if you want the spice to stay. You can make this recipe with any meat or vegetable combination so don’t be afraid to get creative!

Autumn Cobb Salad with Smoky Pumpkin Dressing: I usually don’t think of salads when I think of fall, so when I came across this delicious salad from Heather Christo I couldn’t wait to try it.  I was a little skeptical about the pumpkin vinaigrette, but it turned out to be delicious, I would highly recommend this salad. It is the perfect combination of fresh greens and vegetables with the warm, roasted flavor we crave as the days and nights begin to cool down.

salad

Butternut squash soup: Once summer ends and it is not so unbearably hot, I almost butternut squash soupinstantly crave soup. So I wanted to try an interesting version of butternut squash soup and found this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats. The chickpeas are a fantastic addition, also a fantastic snack. I tend to like soups that are at least a little chunky, so they add a nice texture as well as a great flavor compliment. I did not use bacon (I know, that’s almost sacrilegious to some people) and instead added sweet potato. I really like the way that sweet potato and butternut squash go together; so I just chopped up three sweet potatoes, boiled them, blended them, and stirred them into the soup as it was simmering. Soup-er easy, soup-er delicious.

Finally, we have an Irish Apple Cake from The View From Great Island. I unfortunately did not get to make this recipe, everything else took longer than I planned! But I wanted to share this with you anyways because it looks absolutely delicious. I’d love to hear how this recipe turns out for you. Post pictures and comments on our facebook page or on the blog and tell me what you thought!

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I did, and the best part is that I don’t have to cook for the rest of the week! Happy eating!

Fall Is Here

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This past Tuesday morning I went to the State Farmers Market with our Assistant Manager, Justin, to meet some of the farmers we work with. Tuesdays and Wednesdays we pick up produce from Cox Farms, Walker Farms, and Wise Farms at 6:30 AM. The Farmers Market doesn’t open until 9:00, but at 6:30 (or even earlier) there are several farmers in the parking lot in front of the market with boxes and boxes of produce set up to sell to their customers who buy in bulk. These farmers were kind enough to talk to me and answer all of the questions I had about their farms—something I’m sure they were not thrilled about so early in the morning. But there’s something reassuring and grounding about talking with farmers, their rhythm of speech, their subtle jokes, their deep love of what they do. All three of these farms are family farms, they’ve been working the land their whole lives. When I asked the owner of Walker Farms how long he had been farming he quickly responded, “75 years…”and then smiled wryly and said, “and I’m 74, but my mom was farming before me and I was there.” It’s in their blood, the soil they were born upon and have lived in their whole lives. As I walked around to talk to the different farmers they seemed a little confused about why I was there but quickly warmed up, offered me scuppernogs to try, and called me back over to ask more questions.

As we transition into fall these farms will shift into their fall and winter crops or into just caring for their livestock. Wise Farms continues to grow through the winter and is currently in a slower point of their season (believe it or not) as they wait for their seedlings to grow and their work to pick up again. Toward the end of October and beginning of November their greens will finally be getting big and ready to be harvested. The end of summer means the end of tomatoes, okra, summer squash, eggplants, and peppers; but it also means the beginning of beets, greens, carrots, winter squash, and other root vegetables. We’ve grown accustomed to the convenience of being able to buy produce at any time of the year from whatever zone we desire and have lost the knowledge of living by the seasons. Farmers have not, their lives are defined by the ebb and flow of mother nature: the energy of high summer, the rest and rejuvenation of winter, and the exciting transitions of fall and spring. A lot of wisdom can be gained from paying attention to the seasons and listening to the ways each one is beckoning us to live.

I think the first step to understanding and noticing the seasons (because they affect us whether we pay attention or not) is by being aware of what is in season. In Barbara Kingsolver’s memoir-of-sorts, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she recounts a year of eating food either grown by her family or grown in their geographic area. At the beginning of the book she discusses her family’s decision to move from Tucson, AZ, a land of stolen water and very little natural vegetation, to West Virginia, a land abundant in both. Living in a place so disconnected from agriculture it became glaringly obvious to Kingsolver how separated our culture is as a whole. In a desire to seek lost knowledge and to learn how to provide for themselves under the laws of mother nature, they take on the task of learning what it truly means to eat locally. One of the first issues that Kingsolver tackles is the lack of understanding we have of what vegetables grow in which seasons. This is such simple knowledge that we are no longer taught and our easy access to food from all over the world has hurt our ability to understand nature’s rhythms. Kingsolver came up with what she calls the “vegetannual”, a visual representation of seasonality.

vegetannual

 

“To recover an intuitive sense of what will be in season throughout the year, picture a season of foods unfolding as if from one single plant. Take a minute to study this creation—an imaginary plant that bears over the course of one growing season a cornucopia of all the different vegetable products we can harvest. We’ll call it a vegetannual. Picture its life passing before your eyes like a time-lapse film: first, in the cool early spring, shoots poke up out of the ground. Small leaves appear, then bigger leaves. As the plant grows up into the sunshine and the days grow longer, flower buds will appear, followed by small green fruits. Under midsummer’s warm sun, the fruits grow larger, riper, and more colorful. As days shorten into the autumn, these mature into hard-shelled fruits with appreciable seeds inside. Finally, as the days grow cool, the vegetannual may hoard the sugars its leaves have made, pulling them down into a storage until of some kind: a tuber, bulb, or root” p 64.

The season is changing and I don’t know about you, but fall is my favorite of all. Let’s celebrate the transformation by taking time to notice nature’s abundance as the leaves fall and the nights get cooler.

New Chicken Options from Joyce Farms

roast chicken

We’ve had many Papa Spud’s members request a desire for more and cheaper chicken options for delivery.  Unfortunately, North Carolina has limited poultry processing options for small farmers, so there are very few options for NC chicken outside of large commercialized operations that have very low standards for animal care (those commonly found in the grocery store).  However, we recently linked up with a larger NC based poultry operation, Joyce Farms, that does put high emphasis on animal welfare.  Through them we will have access to more chicken options from small family farms in NC as well as Georgia. We will be offering two new chicken options, the “Naked Chicken” (from Georgia farms), and “Poulet Rouge Fermier” (a French Heritage Breed raised in NC).  We hope to get your feedback on the new options, and will gladly expand out into the areas that people are most interested in.

The Naked Chicken is comparable in price to grocery store chicken, despite higher and more transparent standards for animal welfare by the Naked Chicken option.  However, the Naked Chicken is not raised in NC and is only free roaming in barns without access to the outdoors.  The Poulet Rouge Fermier is a premium chicken option that is pasture-raised on NC farms at animal welfare standards exceeding organic and free-range, but it is more expensive than standard grocery store chicken.  Below are the details on each label:

Naked Chicken:

  • Raised on Georgia Farms
  • No antibiotics, No hormones, No animal byproducts EVER
  • Raised on all vegetable diet
  • Free to roam in barns, never caged

*While the Naked Chicken is free-roaming in barns, and meets organic standards for space allotted per animal and other animal welfare standards, they do not have access to the outdoors, which is a downside to this label.

http://www.joyce-farms.com/naked-chicken-story

Naked Chicken Prices (through Papa Spud’s):
– Breasts, boneless skinless:  $6.00 per lb.
– Breast Tenderloins, boneless skinless:  $5.00 per lb.
– Thighs, boneless skinless:  $4.00 per lb.
– Thighs, bone-in:  $3.00 per lb.
– Drumsticks:  $2.50 per lb.

Poulet Rouge Fermier (through Papa Spud’s):

  • Raised on NC farms
  • No antibiotics, No hormones, No animal byproducts EVER
  • Raised on all vegetable diet
  • Heritage breed bird, considered to be one of the best tasting birds in the world
  • Free ranging and independently audited as a Step 4 (pasture-based production) by Global Animal Partnership standards – standards that exceed organic and free-range for animal welfare (http://www.globalanimalpartnership.org/the-5-step-program/)

http://www.joyce-farms.com/poulet-rouge-fermier

Poulet Rouge Fermier Prices:
– Whole Chicken w/ giblets:  $4.75 per lb.

Storage Tips for Late Summer/Fall Crops

RED & GOLD BEETS11Beets: Beet roots will keep best if the greens are separated from the bulbs. However, the greens will keep longest if kept on the bulb, which will provide the greens with moisture. Beet greens will keep for up to a week, whereas bulbs will keep 2-3 weeks. Beet greens can be used similarly to spinach or chard, and are the most nutritious part of the plant.

 

Arugula

Arugula: 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!

sweet potatoesSweet 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!

 

greensGreens, Collards, Kale, Chard: 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 ice, 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.

 

applesApples: 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.

Colorful Organic Heirloom TomatoesHeirloom Tomatoes: Heirloom tomatoes should be stored at room temperature, and will be at the juiciest, most flavorful if you allow them to ripen until they are very soft. Heirlooms have great flavor, and are best used fresh on burgers, sandwiches, etc. Heirlooms are very delicate, so keep an eye on any damaged or bruised spots.

Growing tomatoesSlicing Tomatoes: Tomatoes are best stored at room temperature. Refrigerating causes them to become mealy and lose much of their flavor. Check tomatoes occasionally for softening, and use softest tomatoes first. Softness is a sign of ripeness. In good condition, tomatoes will keep for 2+ weeks, but keep an eye on any bruised or dinged spots, as these will deteriorate faster than the rest of the tomato.

 

Rows of Young, Fresh Mustard GreensMustard Greens: Mustard greens are considered to be just as healthy and nutrient packed as other cruciferous vegetables, like collards and kale, but haven’t gotten the same kind of press for it. They can be prepared as you would other greens, sauteed, boiled, or steamed. For more interesting options, consider taking a look at Indian or Chinese cuisine where they are use frequently. Like other greens, it’s best to store mustard greens in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss, and they should be refrigerated.

Fresh white turnipTurnips: Turnips have a sweet, slightly peppery taste. They should be stored in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss. Smaller turnips are sweeter, and more tender, but tend to lose moisture and go bad the quickest. Use small turnips first. Larger turnips are not quite as tender, and will need to be peeled, but will keep for 1-2 weeks. If the greens are attached, remove them and store them separately, as they will suck moisture out of the turnip root.

fresh Pea pods in a bowl on wooden TableSnap Peas: Snap peas should be stored in a paper bag and refrigerated. Snap peas only keep for a few days, and have the best flavor when used very fresh, so use them as quickly as possible.

 

 

winter squashWinter Squash (Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti, Pumpkin): Squash will quickly go bad if stored in temperatures lower than 55, it is best stored in a cool, dark place like a cabinet. Length of storage life varies for different varieties; acorn squash will last about a month, butternut 2-3 months, spaghetti 4-5 weeks, pumpkins 2-3 months.