Monthly Archives: November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Harvesting timeThanksgiving happens to be my favorite holiday; what could be more beautiful than a celebration centered on eating together and remembering all that we have to be thankful for? It is easy to allow ourselves to get wrapped up in the preparation and production of the day or any of the other multitude of issues the holidays can bring up. But this is what I find to be incredibly beautiful about Thanksgiving: there is something inspiring about taking time to be thankful and to love those around us. When we realize the abundance we have become accustomed to, the relationships we have taken for granted, it is one of the most humbling experiences we can have. Being aware of how lucky we are to have family, to have food, to have shelter, makes it hard to sit idly by while others are going without. There is a power behind preparing food for and eating food with other people. It fosters this awareness, it removes us from our insular, single-minded daily lives, and puts us on the same level as the person next to us, the person who grew our food, the person who prepared it; and we notice the person who is hungry. Eating is an act of communion and when we pay attention it connects us with every single other person and animal on this planet. I cannot think of a more valuable celebration than one that reminds us of our dependence on other people and on the earth, we are not as separate as we like to think we are and that is a beautiful thing. So this Thanksgiving let us remember everything we have to be thankful for, let us remember our brothers and sisters around the world, and let us take action to make this world a better place in whatever way rings true to each of our hearts. We cannot do everything, but we each can do a little bit, and taking time to be thankful is the first step.

“…to speak of the pleasure of eating is to go beyond those categories. Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend. …”—Wendell Berry

And in the true spirit of sharing celebrations, here are some fantastic Thanksgiving recipes from the Papa Spud’s staff:

Roasted Beer-Brined Turkey with Onion Gravy and Bacon from Rob

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
8 bay leaves
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup kosher salt
2 onions, cut into thick wedges
1 pound slab bacon, skin removed and meat sliced 1/3 inch thick
Six 12-ounce bottles Guinness stout
One 12- to 14-pound turkey
1 cup turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

  1. In a very large pot, combine the mustard seeds, peppercorns and bay leaves and toast over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and salt and remove from the heat. Add 4 cups of water and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved; let cool completely.
  2. Add the onions, bacon, Guinness and 16 cups of cold water to the pot. Add the turkey to the brine, breast side down, and top with a heavy lid to keep it submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° and position a rack on the bottom shelf. Lift the turkey from the brine, pick off any peppercorns, mustard seeds and bay leaves and pat dry. Transfer the turkey to a large roasting pan, breast side up. Scatter the onion wedges in the pan and add 1 cup of water. Using toothpicks, secure the bacon slices over the breast. Roast the turkey for about 2 hours, turning the pan occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted deep into the turkey thighs registers 150°. Remove the bacon and return the turkey to the oven. Roast for about 1 hour longer, until the breast is browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in a thigh registers 170°. Transfer the turkey to a carving board.
  4. Pour the pan juices and onion wedges into a saucepan and boil until reduced to 3 cups, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey stock and return to a boil. In a small bowl, mash the butter to a paste with the flour. Whisk the paste into the gravy and boil until thickened slightly, about 5 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut the bacon crosswise 1/2 inch thick. In a large skillet, fry the bacon over high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes.
  6. Carve the turkey and serve with the gravy and bacon.

Green Bean Casserole from Justin

Serves 6

  • 5
 pounds French green beans, ends trimmed
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • 1 
cup shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3
 tablespoons flour, divided
  • 8 
ounces mushrooms (shitake and baby bella or mixed), sliced
  • 2 
tablespoons butter
  • 2
 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4
 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4
 cup dry white wine
  • 1
 cup vegetable broth (or chicken)
  • 1
 cup half and half
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Wash and trim green beans. Blanch in boiling, well-salted water. Immediately transfer to ice water bath and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 to 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep, medium skillet.
  4. Pat shallots dry, then toss with 1 tablespoon of flour. Season with salt and pepper. Fry shallots in oil (in batches) until golden brown, then transfer to a plate to drain on a paper towel.
  5. Melt butter over medium heat in a medium pan or cast iron skillet. Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are golden brown.
  6. Add garlic and nutmeg and cook for another minute or two. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Slowly add white wine, cook for a minute and stirring to break up any flour lumps. Slowly add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Boil the mixture for another 2 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low.
  8. Add half & half and cook, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken. Take off heat.
  9. Add green beans to mushroom mixture. Add 1/4 cup of the fried shallots. Mix to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer green bean casserole to a 9×9 baking dish or bake in cast iron skillet. Sprinkle remaining shallots on top or around edges of casserole.

Bake for 20 minutes until green beans are warmed and mixture is a little bubbly.

Sweet Potato Casserole from Alex’s Mom
3 cups raw sweet potato, grated
1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cups melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Mix well.  Turn into casserole dish.


1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 TBS melted butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Sprinkle on top and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

**May double for large gathering.  This serves 6 people

Spicy Vegetarian Collards from Lindsay
Before you cook collards make sure to wash them very thoroughly, they tend to hold grit and dirt more than other greens.

1 bunch collards
1 large yellow onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
Apple Cider Vinegar
Yellow Mustard
Red Pepper Flakes

Chop the onion and garlic and sauté them in olive oil with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Meanwhile take the stems out of the collards and chop them up (the smaller you chop them the faster they will cook, I usually chop them in 1 inch wide strips). Once the onions are translucent add the collards, put water (or vegetable stock for even more flavor) in, enough to cover the collards. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook on medium-low heat. At this point add in two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of mustard. I continue to add spices by taste testing as the collards cook down, it’s really up to you how vinegar-y you want them to taste! Make sure to keep adding water as the collards cook. Cook until tender.

Samosa-Style Stuffed Baked Potatoes from Kristina


  • 2 large Russet or baking potatoes
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, vegetable stock or water
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 to 2 fresh green chilies or jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced


1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2/3 teaspoons chat masala (see note)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
pinch of asafetida
2/3 teaspoon sea salt
olive oil for brushing

Scrub the potatoes, pierce with a fork, and bake in a 400° oven for 1 hour or until fork tender. Remove from heat and let cool. When the baked potatoes are cool, slice in half lengthwise and gently scoop out the center into a medium bowl, leaving roughly 1/4-inch of the potato in the skin. Mash the scooped out potato with the cream, vegetable stock or water. If using fresh peas, boil them with some water in a small saucepan for a minute or two until just tender. If using frozen peas, just rinse in a strainer briefly. Set aside. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds to the pan. Stir for 30 to 60 seconds or until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Now add the onions and carrots and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until the onion begins to brown. Add the garlic, chilies or jalapeños, and ginger to the pan and stir for 1 minute. Now add the spices and salt and stir for 1 minute. Add a tablespoon of water to deglaze the pan, then add the mashed potatoes and cook, stirring often, until the potato is heated throughout. Add more cream or water if the mixture seems too dry. Stir in the peas and cook for another few minutes. If you are adding lemon juice instead of chat masala, stir it in now (see note below). Remove from heat. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat an oven to 400°. Brush the potato shells with some olive oil and transfer the mashed potato mixture to the shells, pressing the filling down gently with a wooden spoon until the mixture sits firmly.

Bake the stuffed potatoes for 20 to 30 minutes or until the tops are lightly browned. Remove from heat, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and serve hot, topped with your favorite chutney and garnished with fresh parsley and finely chopped chives if desired.
Note: If you don’t have chat masala powder on hand, use fresh lemon juice from one small lemon and add when the potatoes and peas are heated throughout in the frying pan.

Makes 2 servings

Cranberry Apple Casserole from Chris           

1 & 1/2 c peeled, sliced tart apples
1 c fresh cranberries
1/2 c sugar, white
1/4 c chopped nuts
1/2 c uncooked oatmeal
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c melted butter
1/8 c flour

Mix first apples, cranberries, and white sugar. Pour into greased 8×8″ baking dish. Blend oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, and flour. Sprinkle nuts on top.  Bake 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Caramel Swirl from Alex’s Mom

1 1/2 cups gingersnap cookies
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cups melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 9 inch springform pan. Wrap outside of pan in aluminum foil.
Finely grind cookies, pecans and brown sugar in food processor. add butter and blend.  Spread and press crumbs onto bottom and partially up sides of pan.

4 8 oz. pkgs cream cheese , room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree ( 1 12 oz canned pumpkin)
4 TBS whipping cream
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
4 eggs

Beat cream cheese and sugar til light and fluffy. Reserve 1 cup and refrigerate for topping.  Add whipping cream, spices, pumpkin- mix well. Beat in 1 egg at a time.  Pour into crust.  Bake approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cheesecake center moves only slightly when shaken. Open oven slightly and leave cake in oven for 30 minutes.  Run sharp knife around cake pan sides to loosen cake and cool on counter before covering tightly and placing in fridge overnight or at lease 8 hours before serving.

1 cup reserved cream cheese mixture, room temperature
5 TBS whipping cream
Mix well

Caramel Sauce  (**easier version- buy caramel topping for ice cream)
1 cup brown sugar
2TBS water
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1TBS cream

Boil sugar and water stirring constantly until smooth, approx 5 minutes on medium to low heat.  Add butter, return to boil.  Stir in cream and vanilla. Cool before use.

Remove cheesecake from fridge. Release and remove sides of pan. Spread cream cheese topping onto cake. Pour caramel sauce in lines on top. Use knife to swirl caramel sauce. Serve residual sauce with cake.

Dog (not in focus) licks itself and sitting in front of big tast

Forks Over Knives–A Documentary Review

“Let thy food be thy medicine” –Hippocrates

I’ve heard praise for the documentary Forks Over Knives for years, so I finally took the time to watch it and was not disappointed. Forks Over Knives explores the danger of the Snacks in cafeteria - UniversitySan Jose, Costa RicaAmerican diet and introduces the idea of using good, whole foods as medicine. It follows the research of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the Cleveland Clinic. While working in their fields for years, both doctors came to the same conclusion separately: the reason there is so much illness in the US is because of our overly-processed diet that is high in animal products and by-products. So, they set out to study what a healthy diet is, and found that many severe degenerative diseases can be prevented, and even cured, by a plant-based diet.

It is easy to see this movie and be turned off by the seemingly extreme suggestion of following a vegan diet, but I think there is a lot of wisdom to be gleaned. Firstly, the criticism of the American diet is spot on, here are a few disturbing facts that the documentary brings up:

  • Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, is the most prescribed drug in the world
  • We spend $2.2 trillion a year on healthcare
  • Since the turn of the century, we are now eating twice the amount of meat and dairy, and three times the amount of sugar annually than we were before
  • 500,000 bypass surgeries are performed each year in the US
  • Almost one in four American four-year-olds are considered obese
  • One out of three people born in the US today will develop diabetes throughout their lifetime

These are daunting and extremely problematic issues that are continually ignored or tackled with massive amounts of medicine. In order to survive our arguably fatal diet and lifestyle choices, our country has become dependent on pharmaceuticals. A large portion of Forks Over Knives follows the healing process of several cardiac patients who have switched over to a plant-based diet to avoid being dependent on pills; all of these patients were in critical condition and are now living a completely healthy life without medication. Supported by Dr. Esselstyn, they have learned how to eat a whole-food, plant-based diet, and are open to discussing the difficulty of the transition from processed food to whole food. It seems, however, that the transition was all worth it. They eagerly express how good they feel now and their intention to never go back to eating animal products or by-products for the rest of their lives. As overwhelming and extreme as that may sound initially, I think we can all agree that the American diet is far too centered around meat.

As a person who was vegetarian for many years, lived with a household of vegans for a veggiesmonth, and studied sustainable agriculture, the topic of a vegan diet is far from foreign to me. I’ve been on every side of the issue: an adamant meat-eater to a, albeit short lived, passionate vegan, and everything in between. It is a huge topic to even begin to tackle, and I’m sure I’ll always be reassessing my stance. I have come to the conclusion, for now, that not everyone needs to give up meat and animal by-products; however, the amount of meat we eat in this country is astounding. We have evolved eating animals and dairy products, but nowhere near to the amount we have become accustomed to. Before convenience and efficiency became the main focus of the meat industry, meat was a treat, eaten maybe once a week. When we were more in touch with our farmers and their lifestyles, we knew the massive amount of energy and work that went into producing meat and dairy products and therefore ate it less frequently and with far more appreciation. It makes perfect sense that research has shown the damage that our excessive consumption is causing and when it comes to people who are in severe condition because of this diet, a vegan diet seems an essential, and even a welcome, treatment in comparison to drugs. Whether or not you come away from this documentary with the intention of becoming vegan, the self-reflection it causes is important. I have decided to pay more attention to how much dairy I consume daily and to focus more on eating whole foods. It is easy to watch something like this and feel a need to instantly jump into a completely different lifestyle, but it is ok to take one step at a time. Pick one thing in your diet you would like to cut back on, figure out how to do so in a way that works for you, and move from there. Honestly, if you’re eating local produce, then you’re already ahead of the game and part of the conversation. There is an increasing interest in eating food that uses meat as an accent instead of the center, this is a great article from the Wall Street Journal on chefs beginning to shift their focus while cooking.

One of my favorite parts of this documentary was how much of it shows people cooking and eating delicious-looking food. A plant-based diet does not have to be lacking in flavor and texture, you just have to be willing to experiment. Luckily for all of us the Forks Over Knives website is full of mouth-watering recipes such as this one for Smoky Sweet Potato Burgers or another for Garlic Hash Browns with Kale. The website is a fantastic tool for more information on how to eat a plant-based diet, success stories, and frequently asked questions.

I would definitely recommend this documentary, it’s interesting, informative, and on Netflix!

Meet Your Farmer–Britt Farms

britt2012 copy
Photo by Britt Farms
Field of covered strawberries–photo by Britt Farms

This week I had the pleasure of speaking to Vernon Britt, owner of Britt Farms in Mount Olive, NC, or as he described their location, “the ‘toe’ of Wayne County”. I called him on a dreary afternoon and caught him sitting in his tractor waiting out the rain so he could pull the row covers off of his strawberries. Such is the life of a farmer, you’re lucky to catch them out of the field or in a still moment, but when you do it’s a treat. Vernon was cheery and kind and graciously took time out of his very busy day to speak with me. He has been farming his whole life; as a child his parents grew corn, wheat, tobacco, beans, peppers, squash, and the like. His grandfather raised hogs and cows in the woods which essentially became Vernon’s childhood playground. His father’s last harvest was in 1980 and the farm was run by different family members until 2006. Vernon was working full time doing sales for Lowes in Goldsboro and dabbled a bit in raising hogs until the price of pork dropped. In 2006 he came home and took over the farm himself, 2007 was their first vegetable harvest and they’ve been going strong ever since. Vernon and his wife, Jennifer, are the only full-time workers and they have seasonal workers that come every summer. They still have cows that they sell through Smithfield and their main vegetable crops

Photo by Britt Farms
Photo by Britt Farms

include strawberries, peaches, potatoes, onions, greens, and “a little bit of everything.” Strawberries are their biggest crop with five acres in production currently. They sell their produce primarily at the NC State Farmers Market in Raleigh, have a CSA of their own, and work with wholesale businesses.


The desire for farming was instilled in Vernon as a child from his father and grandfather, but “the way they farmed then wouldn’t work now because of new diseases and insects. The chemicals we use are a lot softer than what they used.” He went on to describe how farmers once used pesticides and herbicides that would kill everything in the field. Now they still use chemicals but instead of coating the field at the first sign of a problem they scout their fields first to see if their crops have a pest or disease and then pinpoint that problem specifically. “There are a lot more beneficial insects than pests,” he emphasized. “Weather is always a challenge. About the time you think you’ve got it figured out you’re totally wrong. Every day is a

ss_5_10_3challenge around here.” But I can tell from his tone, as he looks over his strawberry field in the rain, that it’s all worth it. He finds support in the farming community surrounding his farm, he and about four or five other farmers in the area work together and share knowledge. If one farmer is having a hard time selling all of one crop the others will help him out and vice versa, along with sharing experience and ideas to deal with pest or disease problems. It seems like a model from the past, but just what our local food system needs: collaboration instead of competition.

Photo by Britt Farms

As winter approaches, preparation is the name of the game. The work on the farm will shift from fieldwork to work in the greenhouses and barns. During high summer, when there

Photo by Britt Farms
Photo by Britt Farms

aren’t enough hours in the day, if a tool or machine breaks it’s fixed as quickly as possible. The wintertime is dedicated to maintaining and properly repairing the damage from the summer. They will also begin starting seeds for the spring in December and by January their time is fully dedicated to planting and preparing in the greenhouse. Some crops will still be available in the winter such as previously stored sweet potatoes, pecans, kale, collards, lettuce, broccoli, and cabbage that can take the frost. They are looking into some new projects as well, and winter is the perfect time for scheming and dreaming. On the surface it may look as though things are slowing down, but for farmers, slow is an adjective rarely used and Vernon Britt is no exception.

Photo by Britt Farms
Photo by Britt Farms

When you buy produce from Britt Farms you can rest assured that your produce was grown with care in every step of the process.

The Beauty of Artisanal Pasta and Cheese

This week we have insight from two of our artisanal suppliers, Melina’s Pasta and Hillsborough Cheese Company, on their preferred methods of cooking and/or using their products.

melina's fresh pasta
Photo by Melina’s Fresh Pasta

Melina’s Fresh Pasta is based in Durham, NC. Carmella, the head pasta-maker and owner went on a culinary tour of Italy that ended at an Italian pasta making school. “I have a passion for my heritage, culture and especially the food. My goal is to teach people about authentic Italian food” while, of course, providing delicious pasta! Check out her website for more information about her story, her company, and her pasta (she even offers pasta making classes)! I called Carmella to get some tips on the best ways to cook her different kinds of pasta as well as what to pair it with and here is what she told me:

Firstly, Italians don’t put much sauce on their pasta, Americans tend to drown pasta in sauce, so she recommends not using much. The pasta you get from Melina’s is so flavorful that not much is needed other than oil, butter, or a little bit of tomato sauce for savory pasta. Italians also don’t use a lot of cheese (unlike the pasta smothered in cheese at Olive Garden), just a little bit to add flavor!

Fettuccini or Gnocchi: After you cook the pasta save a few tablespoons of pasta water (because it’s starchy) and sauté pasta, goat cheese, and pasta water to make a thicker sauce. Herbed goat cheese would be particularly good in this recipe.

Photo by Melina’s Fresh Pasta

Sweet Ravioli: Use browned butter as a sauce for the sweeter ravioli. I had never heard of browned butter before this morning and I’ve quickly become excited about it—it apparently has a very delicious nutty flavor. I found this recipe online, but it seems pretty simple. The key is keeping your eye on it and removing the butter from the pan when it is about a shade lighter than you think it should be to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Pierogi: There are two different ways to cook pierogi: you can boil them first and then sauté in a pan with butter and onions until they’re crispy, or you can just pan fry with butter to make them extra crispy. Carmella tends to cook pierogi the second way when she serves it and sometimes she cooks her ravioli this way as well.

cindy & Dorian in cheese shack
Photo by Hillsborough Cheese Company

Hillsborough Cheese Company is based in Hillsborough, NC and focuses on “the art of cheesemaking”. The head cheesemaker, Cindy, is a French-trained chef who makes mostly European-style goat’s- and cow’s-milk cheeses. “She earned a culinary degree from the Memphis Culinary Academy and spent a year at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France where she graduated second in her class with honors and earned a Grand Diplome in Cuisine and Pastry.” Check out their website/blog for more information about their company and their cheese and this article in the Chapel Hill Magazine: Chapel Hill Mag. article on HCC. Also watch this quick video to see a little bit of what their cheese-making process looks like.

I spoke with Dorian on the phone to hear what he likes to do with their cheese and what to pair it with.

All of their cheese (except feta and mozzarella) are delicious simply by themselves with a baguette or water crackers to accentuate the flavor of the cheese. Wine, of course, is fantastic to pair with all cheese.

Farmer’s Cheese and Brie: Great with fruit compote, pepper jelly, or jams.

Farmer’s Cheese and Labne: Drizzle honey or olive oil on top before serving.

Bloomy Rinds: Bloomy rind cheese is cheese that has a rind around it and is softer in the middle, brie cheese is the most well-known of this kind. Hillsborough Cheese Company makes three different kinds of bloomy rinds and all are great with thinly sliced apples or pears. You can also bake the fruit on top of the cheese if you’re feeling adventurous, recipe here.

Grilled Cheese!: The aged cheeses (such as gouda or manchego) with mozzarella make a fantastic grilled cheese—the aged cheese gives it a good sharpness and the mozzarella gives it the stretchiness we all crave in grilled cheese.

Goat Cheese: Great in Mexican dishes, folded into omelets, on top of a burger, or even stirred into grits for all you southerners out there!

One of their favorite things to do is to cut a baguette in half, butter the bread, and add ham and either brie or farmer’s cheese for a simple but delicious treat.

Finally, what’s a pasta dish or a cheese platter without a good wine? For a hearty red wine such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon it is best with an aged cheese or pasta with a light tomato sauce. Semi-sweet white wines such as Reisling, Chignon Blanc, or even Champagne are great with brie and bloomy rinds as well as pasta with oil-based sauce. For a guide to pasta and wine check out this website and a guide to cheese and wine here.

White wine, brie, caembert and grape on the wood surface

Pasta dinner with bread and wineHappy wining and dining!