Today, I’d like to thank the sun for shining and the cool breeze for blowing. I’m sitting outside. The sun has begun to set and the sky is unmasking the comforting orange-hue that becomes more pronounced as fall arrives. As the cool weather bustles in, it brings some of my favorite vegetables- winter squash and greens, apples and pears, and colorful roots and tubers. Although my fall-favorite food changes quicker than the leaves go from green to orange, burgundy, and golden yellow…today, I’m in love with arugula.

Maybe I like it for it’s fiery pepperness. After all, arugula gained nationwide recognition after conservatives touted it as a pretentious liberal green eaten by then Mr. America hopeful and now president,Obama. I’ve pondered who decided to label arugula as a holier-than-thou green in the first place. After all, it is just low-calorie vitamin and mineral-rich bunny food. Sadly, the average grocery store choose to promote its popular cousin loved first by popeye and now favored by health-conscious citizens nationwide—>Spinach.

It’s not that I have anything against Spinach, but it’s so…what’s the word: dull, overused, lackluster or just plan blah. If you really want to treat your taste buds to something exciting, arugula is your vegetable. Arugula lasagna has more depth than the traditional Italian favorite. Arugula pesto makes you forget the heady basil version. And don’t get me started on arugula pasta with walnuts, white wine, and Manchego. Lordy, I’m too hungry to think about this without going to the refrigerator and stuffing my mouth with the tender green leaves.

If there’s anything you should do this fall, it’s branch out and discover your arugula wild side. When it gets cold, we all need a little excitement in our lives, rather than relying on your boyfriend, just eat some arugula. Too cheesy, too cheesy. I sincerely apologize, but that’s what happens when I listen to Robinella and munch on a lemon cookie simultaneosly. But let me leave you with this. It’s my favorite arugula recipe for you to try, so you don’t have to find a sub-par recipe that fails to put arugula on the pedestal it belongs upon. And please, if you have a favorite arugula recipe share it with me. After all, I have so much arugula and so little time.


Life and a latte

I’m not sure what it is about coffee shops paired with rainy days… maybe the melancholy clouds and grey skies paired with the ominous drizzle stirs frantic emotions within my soul, but it seems every time I drink a latte, I try to figure out life and more specifically, what the heck I’m supposed to do with myself.

My parents value goal-setting–mapping out a five-year plan for the future. It’s all about stability and future financial security. I had all the dots of my future connected. I had a foolproof plan in which I told destiny what she would bring me.

1. Stay in Knoxville- intern and the farmers’ market, attend culinary school, learn Italian

2. Go to Italy for graduate school in gastonomy–eat and drink wine for two years

3. Get a real job in a far away country and avoid the  United States of America for as long as possible

But alas, someone up above took my overly-detailed plans and turned them upside down, making me question the whole purpose of planning. What is the true benefit of planning your path regulating your thoughts to a box with no windows of opportunity or doors to the unknown. Doesn’t it make more sense to let destiny take you where she pleases. Aren’t you more likely to miss the details and the sights if you just set your eye on the final destination?

Realizing these things are like being born again or knowing a secret that the rest of the world will probably never catch onto. The thought of living a plan-less life leaves me anxiously giddy, my heart beats faster and I feel lighter. I no longer carry the weight of my future on my shoulders., I know everything works for a reason- in some mysterious way nonetheless. I don’t know who or what to attribute it to- God, fate, myself or mother nature…but I like it.  I like how giving up control on my life has shown me feelings, people, and opportunities I may have bypassed.

So, here’s my big self-realization and announcement to the world- I’m staying in Knoxville. I’m not sure why or exactly how long I’ll be here, but it feels right and my heart belongs to this progressive city. My love of artisan agriculture will thrive here. I’m surrounded by people like Charlotte Tolley, John Craig, Kristen Faerber, Shaun and Meg Parrish, Sarah and Katie Ries who are the best heroic figures I could ask for and they are right here in Knoxville, takin’ names and killing corporate america. I’ve fought my ties to this Eastern TN city ever since my dad made apply here for college. It was a last minute decision to come here. I loved it but was ready to leave it. Then I stayed post-graduation. And here I am smitten with the hidden jewels of the greater good I’ve found here.

Thank you Old City Java, for the double-shot latte that helped me stop pondering my destiny and start living in the moment.

Brazil Bound

I haven’t left country of sweet liberty in two long, long, long years. After residing in Kiwi-ville for six months I found the transition back to God country appalling and unbearable. When studying (or traveling) abroad you find a sense of self. This happens because you remove the familiar–parents, friends, pets, cars, technology, news sources, and in some cases language. And what are you left with? You. It’s a wonderful feeling to rediscover that person. It’s hard to be that person in Knoxville, McMinnville or Jackson.

My time in Knoxville, post-NZ, has been a whirlwind of adventures, friendships and jobs. I love this little-big city and know that we have a unique bond. However, I need to get away for a short time to find myself again. I need to plan for the future, figure out what I can’t live without, and remember how to live joyfully again. That is why when my friend Ben inquired about my interest in going to Brazil last week? I replied, hell yes. I’m still pinching myself because the reality hasn’t set in–even though the airline fee has settled, quite heavily on my bank account. But alas, rejuvenation is coming in February.

I’ll land in Rio de Janeiro and traverse around the area. The pinnacle will be Carnival and then back to Tennessee. Now just to fill in the blanks.

I am the proud owner or a new MacBook Pro thanks to my parents and uncle sam’s oh-so-generous tax-free holiday.  I love to take it everywhere. I whip it out of the durable waterproof messenger bag I purchased and sigh as I look at the sleek ergonomic design. Yes, I’m in love with this little electronic gadget. I hope it keeps me more accountable in the cyber world–no, not chat rooms or e-harmony, just more in touch with reality and myself through the blog. Oh yes the blog, I really must get to business and stop bragging.

Who knew organic green passionfruit could grow in Knoxville? Not I, probably not anyone other than the farmer who grew it. But, the good ole reliable market is always full of surprises. So, here I am with 12 lovely passionfruits, fragrant beyond belief. I really had to do some soul-searching to decide what I would make with these green jewels. I want to savour their flavor, be able to worship the chemical reactions that fill my mouth infinitely. I’m going to use the fruit in two dishes. One a simple ode to the passionfruit, the other an appreciation for the complexity it takes on when paired with other ingredients.

1. The Locavore Roll at Nama: Jaime, goddess of flavor creator of delicious hybrid sushi, is going to make me a roll using the passionfruit, tomatoes, buckwheat sprouts, thai basil and bell peppers (all grown in local soil).

2. Passion Fruit with Cream – Deborah Madison’s recipes in Local Flavors never disappoint. Here you cut the top of the fruit, add a spoonful of cream and eat. Take pleasure in the small things.

I know the passionfruit was listed last in the title, but I just couldn’t help myself, I had to start with it first. So, now I’ll restart from the beginning by telling you about the grapes at the market. They are perfect. It reminds me of the grapes I drew as a child with my deep rich purple crayon. They are muscadines, and muscadines are known for their tough skin and sweet fruit. Although many people dislike them for their skin, they are a joyous memory from my childhood. My grandfather grew grapes (muscadine) and created the most delicious grape jelly and juice from his vines. We were only allowed to drink the juice in the kitchen because the color stained everything it touched, including my lips which is I can honestly say I’ve had a purple mustache. After purchasing the grapes, I’ve tried to keep myself from eating them (they’re addicting) because I plan on making grape juice as an ode to my grandparents legacy  using this recipe I found at Chowhound:

1 cup of grapes
1cup to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of the grapes)
placed in a 1/2 gallon canning jar
filled with spring water 
topped with a hot canning lid and ring
boiled for 20 minutes
Let sit for 2 months before drinking
Strain Grapes out of Juice before serving

Finally, after a trip down memory lane, I’ll tell you about the flour. The dear boys at the Colvin Family Farm are the most motivated teenagers I’ve ever met. They flaunt creative talent like that of a senior advertiser. They are well-read, preferring historical prose as opposed to modern day smut. They strive to be better today than they were yesterday. But their kind hearts deserve the most praise. With a bunch of carrots and a bag of freshly ground whole wheat flour, they made my horrible day worth facing. It was a tough day full of turmoil, angst, confusion and self-pity. But the small act of kindness they showed me, made me smile and leave my troubles behind (at least for a little while). But enough emotion, here’s what I’m going to make for my best friend Heather’s going away all-local potluck using the flour

Caramelized Apple Tart with Cinnamon Custard. Bravo

Well, I have nothing else to say except leave you with a quote I read today.

” What a power there are in words…Perhaps the basic secret the scientists never discovered, the first fount of life, is that which happens when a thought takes the shape in words.”

Ayn Rand from The Fountainhead

Today I ran the Market Square Farmers’ Market solo. I transformed from merely an intern to the Queen Bee. Armed with just a receipt book and pen, I tried my best to fill Charlotte’s large, impressive and oh-so-humble shoes. I consider it a success because no one died, got arrested, complained, or cried. 

I’m sure you’re aching to know how I handled all that produce power. Well, in a nutshell, it was pure bliss. Here’s a list of all the exciting things that happened. (Charlotte if you are reading this, there were no Hardees girls dressed in French maid outfits or other crazy antics this week)

1. It rained cats and dogs (really big smelly pooches and felines)

2. The 28 vendors dwindled to 10 dedicated individuals

3. Thomas, the overall-wearing 70-something farmer from Grainger Co., pulled up in his truck again this week wanting to sell produce. Although it was wrong of him to come with the “ok”, he produced an completed application and we needed vendors so I said ok. Turns out he’s a sweet man despite that he flicks his cigarette butts on the ground and tends to be somewhat chauvinistic. Although he follows conventional farming methods (non-organic)…he only uses one spray which is a moldacide. He gave me purple okra which was nice…but who knew that even existed.

4. While getting booth fees I landed a new job. Still Waters Farm wants to actually become a big boy farm, and they need my man power and drive to help build raised beds this Winter. I’m excited to get my hands in the dirt. I haven’t warned her yet that I have no green thumbs on my body, in fact I killed my Chia pet. Either I’ll fool her or I’ll be fired.

5. Wilson Family gave me a free aromatic bouqet of flowers. I’ve decided to treat myself to a bouquet a week to enhance the ambiance (and odor) of my apartment.

6. Nancy Kendrick is one driven lady–from former corporate power to chicken-salad-momma, her grub is delish. I’ve already planned to make a market sandwich with her chipotle chicken salad on Saturday. I’m going to make a lettuce wrap with onion, tomato and chicken salad.

Finally, here’s what I bought at the market. I’m sorry it’s been awhile since I shared my purchases and plans with you. My old cranky computer decided it doesn’t want to hook-up with Walter’s internet connection anymore…or anyone else’s wireless for that matter. So, my postings will be sporadic.

Market Purchases for July 29

  • 3 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 Italian and 1 traditional zucchini
  • 1 yellow Melon who’s name escapes me

Freebies from the Market

  • 2 eggplants from Danny
  • 10 peaches from Charlie Parton
  • Okra galore from Thomas

My Farm to Table Meals

  • Curried Zucchini Soup
  • Heirloom Tomato Tart with a Parmesan Crust
  • Eggplant and Sweet Potato Burritos with Goat Cheese
  • Fried Okra
  • Pickled Okra
  • And a to-be-determined peach dessert (I’m open for suggestions)

As always, ask for the recipes if you’d like!

Here’s a great one I made last night

Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes with steamed yellow squash and zucchini mixed with homemade basil pesto and served over whole wheat penne.

Some girls collect coach purses or fancy high-heeled shoes, but not me. No, I prefer practical over pretty. A good cookbook or food magazine consistently make appearances on my Christmas or birthday wish lists. I’ve had numerous favorites over the years including Cooking with Curtis ( beautiful blond hunk in the kitchen…yes please!) or Tyler Florence’s Eat This Book (beautiful flavors featuring global classics). Not to mention the oh-so-Southern Dining with Pioneers given to me by Memaw, but whose delicious recipes I’ve eaten since childhood. But, as much as I love this culinary beauties, I’ve never had a go-to book for any day of the week–a book where even the random produce items lurking in your fridge have a purpose. I didn’t have one of these books in my life, until Sunday.

Local Flavors by Deborah Madison has changed my world- I feel lighter, healthier, happier, ethereal even.

I love this book more than…
Kettle Black Pepper Potato Chips
Fine Boxed Wine from a Recycled Container
Getting the mail
Hunting for Easter Eggs
Dancing Crazy at Sassy Annes
My family (only kidding…)

But really, this book is worth buying because it features beautiful seasonal recipes that utilize local nutritious produce to make aromatic, colorful, and delicious food. Two-days post purchase, I’d already whipped up three dishes. I’ll share these three as a teaser, but you’ll have to buy the book to create the other magical recipes. Enjoy!

Blueberry Lavender Compote

Ingredients: 2 pints blueberries, juice from one lime or lemon, 1 tsp. corn starch, 1/2 cup of sugar, pinch of sea salt, 1 tsp. lavender blossoms

Directions: Pick over the berries, removing any stems, leaves, or rotting berries. Rinse. Then, in a large saucepan, mix the juice with the cornstarch, sugar, and salt. Add the berries and lavender and cook over medium high heat until the fruit gives up its juice and the liquid thickens. It should be ready when the liquid sticks to the spoon without dripping back into the saucepan.

Serving Suggestions: bread, oatmeal, bread pudding, ice cream, or a lemon pudding cake

Nettle Frittata with Green Garlic and Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

Ingredients: 1/2 lb. nettles or spinach (1 plastic bag full), 1 head green garlic (or 2 mature garlic cloves), 1 small white onion finely chopped, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 6-8 market eggs, 1/3 cup pecorino Romano cheese (can substitue Parmesan or Manchego), 1/2 cup sheep or cow’s milk ricotta cheese, 1.5 Tbsp. butter

Directions: Preheat the broiler. Bring a large pot of water to a oil for the nettles. Dump nettles into boiling water until they turn bright green and limp. Do not touch nettles with bare hands or you will be stung. The heat kills the stinging mechanisms. After a minute or two of cooking drain water and chop finely. Then, chop the garlic and onion. Warm 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-low and add the garlic and onion and cook until softened. Add the nettles and cook until all water has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.  Next, beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp. salt in a large bowl. Add nettle mixture and pecorino cheese. Add ricotta but leave it streaky.  Wipe out the skillet that held the nettle mixture and return it to heat with butter. When the butter is warm, pour in the egg mixture. Slide the pan back and forth a few times, then turn the heat to medium-low and cookin for several minutes of until the eggs have set around the edges. Slide the pan under the broiler and cook until set and browned. Cool slighltly before serving.

Nutritional Benefits: Nettles are an extremely healthy green used throughout Europe. They are praised for their immune-building properties and positive cardiovascular health properties.

Three Beat Caviar with Endive and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:6 beets (preferrably 2 golden, 2 Chioggia, and 2 red but any combination of the three or six of the same works just as well), 1 very small red onion diced, 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, 2 tsp. parsley or chervil chopped, 2 Belgian endives sliced thinly, 4 oz. fresh goat or herb cheese crumbled.

Directions: Leaving an inch of the stem and all of the root, steam the beets until they’re tender when pierced with a knife or for 25-40 min. Cool, then peel the skins and cut them into chunk and pulse in a food processor 6-8 times (try not to mush the beets). You can also chop them finely. While the beets are cooking, toss the onion in the vinegar with 1/4 tsp. salt and set aside. Then, toss  each of the beet varities seperately with 1/3 of the onion and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Toss again with parsley and chill. To serve, mound each beet mixture seperately on each plate. Place the sliced endive in another pile and the cheese in a pile in the center. Drizzle with olive oil.  Add pepper and servce. Before eating, toss everything together (if not it will all be beet red!)

Cooking is confusing, difficult, and not worth the effort.

No, I did not just commit foodie blasphemy. Friends, family, and the better part of America share these anti-cooking sentiments—and it breaks my heart.

I decided to counsel my single, hard-working mother and her high blood pressure boyfriend about cooking, eating healthy, and most importantly how to think about where food comes from and how that will impact the mind, body, and soul. I am going to produce a weekly newsletter with recipes, nutrition facts, sustainable eating, and motivational quotes. The method I’m using doesn’t involve deprivation, artificial sweeteners or calorie counting. It’s just eating the best of whats in season and indulging in your vices- bacon, ice cream, hamburgers, fries. After all, it worked for me. I’ve lost 25 lbs. in the past year without exercising, dieting, or depriving myself of indulgences. I hope I can inspire others to make these small changes for themselves. It’s really just about living a better lifestyle for yourself, the community and the environment.

If you have any ideas or would be interested in living a more holistic lifestyle, let me know.