Tag: my veg table

nc-mountain-view-myvegtable
A view from the top of Wayah Bald Lookout Tower: Franklin, NC.

My family and I always seem to be eating our way through some city or another. Our summer trip to North Carolina was a bit different. Because this was our longest road trip to date with our 8 year-old son, Everett, the car was full of snacks and food packed for on-the-go; there was no stop every two hours for food. We stayed in the Franklin, North Carolina mountains, about 20 minutes out of town; instead of a hotel, we rented a cabin. Cooking in our cozy digs for the week made us feel more like residents than tourists. As a result of not eating out five times per day, we did not do our usual whirlwind culinary tour of town–however, we did do some drinking.

Living in St. Petersburg has spoiled us; we have coffee places and local breweries around every corner. When we venture out of our little town, those are the top two things on our radar. Rule number one: no coffee shop chains that we have at home–sorry, Starbucks. Rule number two: local craft beers only–no imports. With the current craft beer boom, we had no problem sticking with number two. To get the full mountain-town experience and to search for proper beverages, we ventured out to several of the other cities within a sixty-mile radius of Franklin: Bryson City, Sylva, Highlands, and Cashiers. On the route home, we drove through Greenville, SC and Savannah, GA all on the same quest. Here were our favorite drink stops along the way:

Travel

rhubarb1-myvegtable

Green rhubarb pies. It’s one of the fond food memories I have from living in Pittsburgh as a kid. My friend’s mom would pay a visit to her garden and later resurface with a sweet-tart pie that made me pucker with every bite. Since rhubarb was a foreign ingredient in my family’s kitchen, her green pies were all I knew. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties before I discovered that rhubarb is most commonly red. About five years ago, I introduced that red rhubarb into my kitchen.

Inspiration

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Peanuts and Berbere: the two signature flavors in peanut stew.

I noticed during today’s weekly grocery trip that the landscape of the produce section is changing. Squash and apples and citrus were more abundant than usual. Summer berries are in scant supply. Potato bins were filled to the gills with russet, red, yellow and sweet potatoes. Fall is approaching; I wish the Florida weather would follow suit.

Old habits die hard; therefore, my first dish of the fall season is always my butternut squash soup. I feel inclined to go a different direction this year. Don’t worry, you’ll still want to cozy up and eat it in a big bowl while on the couch. The only difference is that I’m reaching across the globe for this fall’s inspiration: African peanut stew.

Inspiration

cauliflower-soup-myvegtable
Mouth-watering soup made with leftover lemon brown butter cauliflower pureed with a bit of veg stock; topped with pine nuts, smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

Leftovers and I are not friends. I’ve given them multiple chances, but we just don’t click. Sure, the food is fun the first time around, but by the next day, they just become a nuisance. Besides hanging around–and stinking up–my fridge, leftovers take up precious space for other things like produce and all of the craft beer that we never seem to have enough room for. Despite my best attempts at being friendly, I typically end up showing them the door–of the trashcan. Every once in a while, I will come across a leftover that is extra special and feel the need to keep it around for one extra meal. I need to be more accommodating to my fridge-dwelling acquaintances; I want us to be friends. The only way that’s going to happen is if I disguise them as something else. Something new. Something different.

Inspiration

okra-myvegtable
Red and green okra fresh from the market.

Slimy: the first word that always came to mind when I thought about okra. My relationship with that funky pod is a fairly new one. I used to think you could only eat okra fried or use it in gumbo. The fried are tasty–but often greasy–and after one bad gumbo experience, that slime memory was all that I needed to cross okra off my list. Except for the occasional piece of fried okra that my mom will put on my plate at Cracker Barrel, this stuff was never on my radar. It took one meal to change my mind…

Inspiration

blueberries-myvegtable
14 CUPS of blueberries–methinks I’ve gone too far…

Ok, so maybe a bunch of blueberries: maybe even a truckload. Since it pretty much feels like varying degrees of summer all year ’round in Florida, I rely on produce to tell me when summer has officially arrived: corn, cherries, melons, and stone fruit are in abundance. Best of all, it’s finally time when organic berries don’t cost an arm and a leg for a half-pint. Florida’s strawberry season comes sometime between December and February, but summer is when blackberries, raspberries and blueberries come into their own here. Last month, I found an entire pint of blueberries for $3.99…I bought two. I should have bought four. I went back to Publix a couple of weeks after and they were $3.00…I bought six. Six pints of blueberries; that’s about 14 cups! I laughed as they practically filled an entire shelf in my fridge. I was feeling so ambitious, I didn’t want to freeze a single one. And so the baking commenced!

Inspiration Tidbits

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Almond bath: the only two ingredients you need to make your own almond milk.

Paleo, vegan, lactose-intolerant, allergies: whatever your reason for dumping dairy, it will inevitably leave a nagging void in the milk department. Although nut milks seem to reign as the “other” milk of choice, those with nut allergies can rejoice as there are hempseed, rice, soy, coconut, and oat milks all trying to make their mark. They each have their own unique flavor; choosing one is a matter of taste and nutritional restrictions. Of the lot, almond milk is the go-to staple in my house.

The first time I saw an article about homemade nut milks, it was in a Martha Stewart Living magazine. Of course she makes her own nut milks: it’s such a Martha thing to do. I filed that one under “someday” in my mental file–like sooo many other things. As time passed, I started seeing it more and more on blogs and Facebook posts. I would have never thought I had the time to make homemade milk, but it turns out that soaking time aside, it took less than 10 minutes…10 MINUTES! I only needed four things to make my first batch: almonds, water, a blender and a nut-milk bag. This was so simple; it made me wonder why I didn’t Martha it up sooner.

Inspiration

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Our hotel for the week: Le Chateau Frontenac.

Ah, Quebec City…land of poutine, cheese curds and maple. We visited QC for a week during Spring Break for some snow, some culture–it was my son’s first trip out of the country–and, of course, for some food. Eating our way through Quebec City was, by far, the biggest culinary challenge to date; this town wasn’t exactly a vegetarian’s paradise. The Québécoise fare with a blend of French and Canadian cuisine was big on game; meat and seafood dominated nearly every menu we perused. With so many of the menus in this town being in French, learning enough of the language to translate them proved to be the most important thing I did to prep for this trip. In French, everything sounds amazing: even lapin–rabbit, wapiti–elk, cerf–venison, canard–duck; if I hadn’t focused so much of my time learning foods in Francais, who knows what would have landed on my plate! After much research, in the midst of all the carnage, we managed to find several spots that really made it count.

Travel

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My grown-up egg sandwich…

Oh, the simple egg. Used in just about everything, savory or sweet, it is the most versatile food on the planet–and one of those few things I don’t think I could live without! Back in my quiche post, we talked about the importance of a good egg; good quality will make all the difference in your dish! Topics on the Table today are the three ways I love eggs: fried, soft-boiled and hard-boiled. Let’s break them into sections–I just can’t resist a good pun!

Inspiration

zucchini-bread-myvegtable

Today is National Zucchini Bread Day! It is a great excuse to discuss my least favorite vegetable–which is technically a fruit: zucchini. I’m not exactly sure who designates these national food holidays, but given the fact that summer squash is starting to pop up everywhere, it makes perfect sense why today’s feature would highlight a way to use up the overabundance of zucchini that we will be seeing in the upcoming months.

Why don’t I like zucchini? Well, in a word, it’s bland. When it is cooked, its texture is nothing short of mush. Despite its lackluster qualities and the fact that few chefs do it justice, it’s amazing to me that zucchini has been crowned king of the token ingredients used in vegetarian dishes on soo many menus. Blah

I have big plans for zucchini; I want to find more ways to make it palatable, maybe even cravable. Despite my gripes, I need to give zucchini the proper credit: it is one of the most versatile ingredients. This squash can be eaten raw, roasted, fried, or grilled; it can be baked into breads and muffins; it can even be pureed into a soup. My favorite zucchini recipes cover the gamut from savory to sweet.

Inspiration