Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lord Help Me, I've Discovered Instagram...

     OK, not really "discovered..." And not really "Instagram..." but I have discovered a free photo editing app that lets me turn my pictures all hipster and junk and I totally went to town on it during our last trip...  I didn't use any camera except my iphone and set out to take some of the hipsteriest pictures of all time.  I won't mention the name of the app.  You probably haven't heard of it.  Just kidding.  It's a free one called BeFunky.  It's not perfect, but it's a fun little beginner thing to mess around with and easy to figure out.  Anyway, I've got some food-related pics from our trip home...

     "Home" is Ashe County, NC.  Right at the corner where Virginia and Tennessee meet.  It's the white breadest, tater eatenist, soda drinkinest place you'll ever want to find.  Where all the vegetables are boiled past recognition and a salad is iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing.  Where the people are hard working, God fearing, friendly, and will give you the shirt off their backs whether they know you or not.  Where the vendors play the music at the farmer's market, the farmers grow food, tend animals, raise kids and have a "real" job, gardeners somehow coax life out of orange dirt, and everybody's Grandma makes the best 'nanner puddin'. Where the Summer smells like fresh dirt before a rain, peep frogs herald Spring, Fall sounds like shuffling leaves and school buses, and Winter tastes like woodsmoke on freshly fallen snow.  A place you should visit precisely because you never knew you wanted to.

    One of my favorite things to do every Summer trip home is to make it to at least one farmer's market.  Besides supporting the local farmers, many of the grocery store are shockingly deficient in healthy staples like whole wheat bread and properly raised eggs and meat.  Fortunately, Ashe County's farmers and bakers are more than sufficient.

     I visited the Ashe Farmer's Market as well as the small Lansing Market this time.  

     We also visited a produce stand that had been known as Buster's for decades, but had been bought and renovated and was renamed "Used to be Buster's" because that's what everyone would call it anyway.  They advertised free range pork and we found locally pastured eggs as well.  It's only been open about a month.  Further into the season, she plans to introduce locally grown produce as well, though now, most of it comes from further down in the state.  I hope she does well, we'll definitely be visiting again on our next trip!

     One of Ashe County's culinary claims to fame is the cheese plant.  It's the only one in operation in North Carolina and it's the best place to get squeaky cheese curds on the entire planet.

  After our visit to the market and the Cheese Plant, we had a nice picnic at the park.

     And then I went home and took pictures of mah loot...

During one of the many downpours that came blustering in and left almost apologetically, as they are wont to do during the Summer in the South, the boys and Daddy had lunch at Good Ole Days followed by a crazy colorful ice cream.  They used to serve very good vegetarian pinto beans here, unfortunately they had changed their menu, so I just took pictures.  And I got one of my favorites of the whole trip:

This is a close second.:

These blackberry blossoms were going strong when we got there.  They are huge!  Almost as big as a rose.  And they make delicious berries.  I am sad I won't get a sample this year, but not sad enough to brave NC in July again any time soon...
My brother and his girlfriend came down for part of the time we visited.  We left the kids at home and spent a day hiking in Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia and then hiked two miles on the Appalachian Trail

Grayson Highlands famously hosts a herd of wild ponies.  They are decidedly tame and so beautiful.

One of the many vistas on the AT:
We also canoed the New River, though I didn't take any pictures.  Didn't want to chance losing my phone in the river!  We were starving afterward and headed into town to try out a new brewery.  Boondocks Brewing Tap Room and Restaurant has opened recently and is a great addition to the community.

     My husband and I had eaten here before under a different name and were pleased they had kept the old menu, but added the brewery.  Unfortunately, they were completely out of house brewed beer for the day, which our waitress said happens every day!  For my part, it was the best restaurant meal we had.  Solid and good. 

The salad was Ashe County sourced, with the possible exception of the pears.

We got a beer flight to try some of the other area beers.  It is a tap room after all...

This black bean burger is one of the best I've ever had at a restaurant.  I don't know if it's house made, but if it's not, other restaurants need to pick up on this one.

Every kid likes trains, right?  We visited The Ashe County Museum's scale model of the Virginia Creeper that used to wind its way through the Appalachians, so called because of how slowly it made its way pulling heavy loads uphill and around a winding track.

We also spent a fair amount of time just horsing around at the kid's Grandparent's homes.  We are very lucky that both my husband and I's parents live within 15 minutes of eachother.  This is at my family home:

He laid himself down in the mud so this is totally on purpose.  It ruined the shirt, but I think it was worth it...

On the road to my parent's house is a cave which was once, at least seasonally, used by Native Americans.  Pottery shards and arrowheads have been found here and is on the national registry of historic places.  The boys enjoyed exploring until the mosquitoes got the best of them.

My husband's Dad's claim to fame is that he can flip pancakes in the air.  The boys wouldn't let me make them any, but instead waited until Grandpa woke up to see him perform his trick.  It was worth it.

The day we left was rainy again.  It set the mood.

Many hours and thousands of miles later, we were greeted with a lovely welcome home present.

My Grocery List in Ashe:
For pork: Rose Mountain Farm (Available at both the Lansing and Ashe County Farmer;s Markets)
For Bread: Bob's Goodies (Available at both markets)
For Goat Cheese: Heritage Homestead (Available at the Ashe County Farmer's Market only)
For Gifts: Vagabond Images (Beautiful photography available at the Ashe County Farmer's Market)
For Bread, Soap, and Honey: Mathomhouse Farm (Ashe County Farmer's Market)
For Eggs: Bingham Farm, Laurel Springs (Available at Used to Be Buster's)

     We had a lovely visit.  Thank you for indulging me.  And if you'd like to indulge a little bit this Summer, I've got just the thing...

I love these dark chocolate Petit Écolier biscuits by LU for making s'mores.  It's easier than handling separate pieces of chocolate, plus you get dark chocolate, and you get double!  You can find them in most grocery stores and for our family, one box is just the right amount. You don't wind up with an entire box of graham crackers you have to deal with.  Of course, there's the entire bag of marshmallows...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Prettiest Thing at the Farmer's Market Today...

Because the farmer's market is now in full swing and more than a few people mentioned this series from last year, here again is The Prettiest Thing at the Farmer's Market!

Butter Lettuce from Anthem Farm

Friday, June 7, 2013

Heritage Chicken, Organic Potatoes, Garlic Scapes, and Lemon Kale

     As you all know I have an ongoing love affair with my farmer's market.  I plan to do another post soon bragging about the new farmers who have joined the market since last time, but until then, I thought I'd share a meal we had tonight using all farmer's market food!  

     This is a heritage chicken, thus the longer leg and smaller breast.  With heritage birds which haven't been soaked in an anti-microbial water solution, it is important to cook them "low and slow."  Fortunately, the ones I have been buying are also smaller than the other birds I was finding, so they still take about an hour to bake even at 350°.

Roast Chicken
1 Small Heritage Chicken
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.  Pat chicken dry and place in a small oven proof pan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake 30 minutes per pound until juices run clear, about an hour.

Roasted Potatoes and Garlic Scapes
4 medium sized baking potatoes, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
1 pound of garlic scapes, cut in 1 inch pieces*
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Place potatoes and scapes in a 9X13 inch roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste, then toss with a spoon to combine.  Cover with aluminum foil, bake at 350° for about 60 minutes or until scapes and potatoes are soft, removing foil about half way through.

*The bottom half of the scapes I got were pretty woody, so I had to cut them off.  The thinner the stalk, the more tender it will be, or at least it was in this case.  If you steam your scapes, this is less of an issue than when roasting them.

You can put the pan in at the same time as the chicken, though it may take a little longer for each dish to finish cooking.

Sauteed Kale with Lemon
1 lb Kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
1/3 lemon, juiced
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

In a large pan, heat a dollop of olive oil then add kale, salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until kale is wilted but not browned.  Dress with the lemon juice.

     This is a nice, relatively quick meal.  Mostly prep work and shoving stuff in the oven.  My kind of cooking!  My boys loved the chicken and potatoes, but it was a little hard to sell them on the scapes and the kale.  More mature palates will enjoy them, rest assured. 
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