Easy to Eat Local: Six Stories of Local Products & Recipes, too!

Heidi Billotto Food LogoI’m proud to say when it comes to eating and shopping local I don’t just talk the talk, I make every effort to walk the walk as well.

I love shopping at local farmers’ markets every week, so that I can incorporate  much local product, produce and protein as possible into daily menus at home, as well as in my regular schedule of cooking classes and catering jobs.

If you follow this blog and my social media streams regularly you already know that I write a lot about local produce and proteins from across the Carolinas.   This month, I’ve shared some fun recipes for local pumpkin and told the story of A Way Of Life Farm and their fabulous pasture raised pork and organic vegetables available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers’ Market each week on Saturday mornings.

I started this “Eat Local: Open a Package, Jar, Bottle or Box” series  because shopping and eating local food is about more than meat and produce from the farmers’ market.

Its about locally produced food products as well – those you might find at local farmers’ markets or farm stores, but more often than not, you’ll see them at area grocery stores and specialty shops or you can purchase online directly from the producers and the chances are good you had no idea they were locally made.

This month’s Eat Local edition of the series features six wonderful brands. I do love the part I play in sharing these wonderfully delicious packaged products and the stories behind them. These are all brands I use on a daily basis and are definitely brands I believe in.  Read on and you’ll see how it’s oh so easy to Eat “Got To Be NC” or “Certified South Carolina” Local, just by opening a package, bottle, jar or box!

I showcased the line up as a preview to this blog post on Thursday October 26 on Charlotte Today, a midday variety show which airs weekdays on WCNC-TV between 11 am and noon. Lookin’ good CackalackyShe’s PestoOlive CrateBradford Watermelon CompanyPostre Caramels and Smiling Hara Tempeh !

In case you missed it, I’ve posted the video from the Oct 26, 2017 Charlotte Today show here. Following the 5 minute segment, read on to find out more about each of these delicious brands, recipes that use each product and where-to-buy info as well.

Whoops!! A lot can happen on a live television segment and sometimes, in the less than one minute you have to talk about each product, words come out wrong. As you watch – see if you can find one funny mistake I made…  Here is a hint,  it has to do with a definition – see if you can catch it –

If you guessed my funny little miss speak had to do with the definition of the word “cackalacky” you would be correct!

The word “cackalacky” is a slang term often used in identifying the Carolinas -as in ” That product is from North Cackalacky or South Cackalacky.”  The brand Cackalacky, featured in this tasty line up of local product, started with a decidedly unique original sauce made from North Carolina sweet potatoes, but the word doesn’t mean sweet potatoes at all… oh my – it just refers to the Cackalacky from North Cackalacky…gotta love it!

Six Local North and South Carolina products you are going to love!

Here;s where you’ll find more on each of  these great local products – each a delicious way to support local producers from across North and South Carolina and keep your everyday shopping dollars in our local community – enjoy and get ready to eat local!

Olive Crate logo

Olive Crate Kores Estate Olive Oil, Greece, by way of Waxhaw NC

Our first product this month is actually from Greece, but the Olive Crate company had North Carolina roots as the owners of this family farm of olive trees live in Waxhaw, NC. They import their families ultra premium, single estate, extra virgin  Kores Estate Olive Oil, and a host of products produced near their family farm and sell at local markets and shops in and around the Charlotte area. The oil is current harvest and is among some of the finest extra virgin olive oil you can buy in Charlotte.  Look for all of the Olive Crate products on Saturday mornings at the Cotswold Farmers’ Market ( ’til the end of the 2017 season) ,  The Atherton Farmers’ Market and during the winter season at the Waxhaw Farmers’ Market. You can also purchase the Kores Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil at Grace Roots, a farm store in Waxhaw right off Providence Road and at any one of my At Home with Heidi  or Heidi Billotto’s On the Farm cooking classes.  You can also make purchases online for olive oil, vinegar and other Olive Crate products.  For a 20% discount online (use the secret code, HeidiB20!)

Use Olive Crate’s Kores Estate Olive Oil with some fresh rosemary as the start to a perfectly wonderful pot of French Onion Potage – check out the recipe below.

She's Pesto logo

She’s Pesto, Weddington, NC

Olive oil is one of the main ingredients in making pesto and the other all so important ingredient in classic pesto is fresh basil. But if you are like me, my kitchen garden crop of basil has gone  to seed – what’s a pesto lover to do?

Enter the fabulous She’s Pesto – a locally made frozen product from master gardener Ellen Stevens from Weddington. She’s Pesto is produced in small batches using locally sourced basil and other high quality ingredients. It’sdivided into portions, packed and frozen to make it easy as pie for you to take home and use in all of everyday recipes . Just toss over hot pasta and it melts into the perfect sauce. And, its equally as good blended into hot roasted or mashed potatoes or as a condiment to baked chicken or fish. Purchase She’s Pesto at Vin Masters in South Charlotte or Provisions on South Main Street in Waxhaw and this weekend ( as it is the end of their  season) at Wise Acres Farm in Indian Trail, NC.

Also this weekend, you can meet Ellen and pick up a bag or two or three of She’s Pesto on Saturday Oct 28 at the Atherton Farmers’ Market as early as 9 am! Use your She’s Pesto as the seasoning and spice in my recipe at the end of this post for a a local twist on Steak and Salmon Fiorentina – enjoy!

Smiling Hara Tempeh logo

Smiling Hara Hempeh, Asheville, NC

If you enjoy a plant based diet, you’ll agree with me that sometimes its hard to find interesting sources of protein that don’t take a long time to prepare, and that are satisfying in terms of filling you up and packing in the flavor. I’m delighted  to tell you that your search is over and you only have to go as far as the refrigerated case of your local supermarket to find Smiling Hara Tempeh & Hempeh out of Asheville, NC.

This family run company has taken the standard recipe for tempeh, most commonly made with soy, and has recreated it to offer soy-full and  soy- free variations, all fortified with hemp protein to make Hempeh, a high protein, gluten free, plant based protein you are going to love.  They make tempeh for food service sales and the public can also buy tempeh from them online; but for the retail market Smiling Hara Hempeh comes packaged and marinated in a trio of delicious variations:  Asian Miso Ginger ( which comes sliced), Raspberry Habanero BBQ and Smoked Salt & Pepper Steak.  Made from only the highest quality ingredients, grown without GMOs and sourced as locally as possible, this hempeh may be enjoyed right out of the package but is probably at its best steamed or sautéed before serving. We love and regularly enjoy all three varieties on sandwiches or in stir-frys and you will too! See my favorite fall recipe for Smiling Hara veggie chili below and then check out a host of other terrific recipes on the Smiling Hara website.

In and around Charlotte, Smiling Hara products are available at EarthFare, Whole Foods, Earl’s Grocery and Common Market;  and just outside of Charlotte at most Ingles Markets.

Bradford Watermelon Logo

Bradford Watermelon Rind Pickles and Molasses, Sumter, SC

Perhaps you have read my article on the famous Bradford Watermelon in the Fall issue of Charlotte Living Magazine , its a true story of what growing  local product and preserving heritage seeds and breeds means to each and every region of the country. We are lucky in Charlotte, NC that South Carolina product, produce and proteins are just as local as North Carolina product is and so we can absolutely embrace the Bradford Watermelon Company line of products in our own Eat Local portfolios. With the farm in Sumter, South Carolina, Nat and Bette Bradford continue their families 200+ year tradition of growing their world renowned  late harvest melons. After the watermelon season has come and gone, Nat continues to plant and harvest other heirloom and heritage breed veggies, and in his spare time has found a way to extend the taste of the popular Bradford melons all year long.

The beauty of the Bradford melon ( besides being absolutely delicious) is that it is thin skinned and thick rind making it perfect for pickling – so there is no waste. Nat and Bette use the awesome rind ( which in it’s raw state tastes much like a sweet cucumber) to make their famous sweet Watermelon pickles and they boil down pulp to make the most incredible watermelon molasses you will ever taste. Currently you may purchase the pickles and the molasses directly from the Bradford Watermelon website, but soon you’ll be able to purchase both in Charlotte at any one of my At Home with Heidi or Heidi Billotto’s On the Farm cooking classes – stay tuned for details. Meanwhile serve the pickles on crackers slathered with Bette’s Pimento Cheese and enjoy the molasses with melted butter on hot baked biscuits – both recipes below!

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Cackalacky Sauces and Nuts, Pittsboro, NC

I had the pleasure to  meet Cackalacky owner and creator Page Skelton just after he began producing his original sauce made from North Carolina sweet potatoes years ago.  To say Page is enthusiastic about his business is an understatement and its his enthusiasm that makes this line of products so much fun! They even have their own song!

The original Cackalacky sauce – which is still my personal favorite of the products in the line –  is deliciously spicy and rich with flavor. I love it as a marinade, and a condiment and you will too. As people started asking for a slightly sweeter version of the spectacular sauce, Page partnered with another iconic North Carolina brand, Cheerwine, and produced what could possible be the general public’s favorite sauce in the Cackalacky line. New to the family and debuted in the segment I did on TV is the brand new vinegar-based version of Cackalacky – its a keeper for sure. Which one will you love? You’ll just have to try all three and then let me know – there’s not a bad choice in the bunch and my prediction is you will love them all!

But as man ( and woman) cannot live by sauce along,  there are Cackalacky Snax- two versions of just-can’t-stop-eating-them peanuts, one slightly sweeter than the other but both made with NC peanuts keeping the line as local as can be!  Cackalacky products are available in and around Charlotte in Harris Teeter, Publix, Food Lion, Whole Foods and Fresh Market stores and across the Carolina’s in all the Mast General Stores and locations of Cracker Barrell. You can buy the large family-sized of the Cheerwine Cackalacky sauce at area Costco stores; and you can taste the Cheerwine Cackalacky sauce at any location of Biscuitville ( on the Cackalacky Chop Sandwich!

You may shop for all the products ( as well as some snazzy swag) at the Cackalackly website. Before the shopping begins, check out my recipe for Cackalacky wings – its a winning recipe for sure and could be  perfect for your next tailgate or fall family gathering!

postre caramel logo

Postre Caramels, Asheville, NC

Always best to end things on a sweet note and I have a wonderful way for you to do so! Its all just a squeeze away Postre Sea Salt Caramel Sauce, sold in a tube – in a tube, I tell you!

Made in small batches with high-quality, organic ingredients, and NO preservatives it’s a brilliant, simply brilliant, and delicious idea that hails from Asheville NC. This family run business is all about the sea salt caramel – Jamie Sastra is in charge of caramel production while hubby Joe Scott handles the operations of the company.  In addition to the tubes of the sweet succulent sauce, they also produce caramel candies in a variety of flavors and even make lollipops for the kids in us all.

I had the pleasure of meeting Joe  at a tasting of all things local at the Ingles Market in Black Mountain this past summer. I immediately recognized the tubes of caramel as I keep one at nearly all times not only in my pantry to add a sweet caramel-y touch to desserts or lattes, but also on my desk – just never know when you’ll need a sweet little treat as a quick pick-me-up and for me one squeeze is all it takes!  The recipe for Postre’s unbelievably delicious sea salt caramel sauce  was originally developed as a topping for a rich chocolate dessert served in a restaurant, but it was just so good that when Jamie and Joe moved to Asheville, the decided to give up restaurant careers and build a company around the sensational sauce.

You can meet Jamie and Joe and taste and buy the sauce and caramels ( think wonderful stocking stuffers for all the gourmet and gourmands on your holiday list)  at the 2017 Southern Christmas Show in Charlotte NC, November 9-19. If you need to satisfy your sweet tooth before then, head uptown to Orrman’s Cheese Shop for a couple of tubes to tide you over. Outside of Charlotte, you’ll find Postre caramels in the local section of many Ingles stores or order online directly from the Postre website.  Then use the caramel in a fun single serving recipe for chocolate caramel mug cake -the easy as can be directions below!

Now lets Get Cooking here is how to use all this local product in your day-to-day recipe prep… enjoy!

IMG_6302Cooking with Olive Crate Kores Estate Single Harvest Ultra Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Heidi Billotto’s Kores Estate EVOO Local Onion Potage

3 medium sized local or organic onions, thin sliced

2 cloves local or organic garlic

5 Tbsp. Olive Crate Kores Estate EVOO

6 cups organic or local beef, mushroom or chicken broth

1 cup dry white wine

a bouquet garni ( made with a bay leaf and sprigs  other fresh herbs like thyme and parsley encapsulated in two two-inch stalks of celery and tied in a bundle)

½ cup Tawny Port

For finish and gratinee:
1 baguette of French bread
 and 1 cup grated swiss cheese ( Jarlesberg, Emmenthaler or Gruyere are always good; but if you want to keep it local use any aged North Carolina cheese)

Sweat the onions and garlic in the Kores Estate EVOO over medium low heat for 20-25 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.  Add the stock and wine and bouquet garni. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Add Port, cook over low heat 10 minutes more.

To serve: Pour soup into individual ramekins. Top each with a slice of the baguette. Sprinkle with the Swiss cheese. Run under the broiler until the cheese melts. Serve Hot.

 

Cooking with She's Pesto

Cooking with She’s Pesto from Weddington, North Carolina – this recipe is a play on the classic Bistecca Fiorentina mad easy with the its-as-close-as-your-freezer She’s Pesto...

Heidi Billotto’s Steak and Salmon “She’s Pesto” Fiorentina

4 frozen She’s Pesto nuggets
1 (2 1/2 pound)  porterhouse steak or wild salmon filet (or do both for a tasty She’s Pesto surf and turf)
Sea Salt and pepper
2 juicy lemons, cut into wedges

Melt the She’s Pesto nuggets for 30 seconds in the microwave. Season the steak and the salmon to taste with salt and pepper.  Take half of the melted She’s Pesto and  rub over the seasoned a fillet of wild salmon; use the other half for the beef
Place the steak on a preheated hot grill, and cook until a dark, golden brown (not burnt) crust forms, 5 to 10 minutes depending on thickness of meat. Turn over, and continue cooking until golden on the other side, 5 to 10 minutes more. Slice off the bone for serving to a group of 4.
The salmon will cook in approximately half the time of the beef – cook for 10 minutes per inch of thickness on the fillet, flipping once halfway during the total cooking time. Cut the fillet into portion sized servings, garnish with the lemon wedges and enjoy!

cooking with Smiling Hara Hempeh

Cooking with Smiling Hara Hempeh from Asheville, NC

Heidi Billotto’s Smiling Hara Help-Yourself Hempeh Chili

2 packages of your favorite Smiling Hara Hempeh

2 large local or organic carrots

1 lb. local or organic mushrooms

2 Tbsp. Kores Estate EVOO

1 (28 oz) can organic diced tomatoes

1 can organic red kidney beans

1 Tbsp. organic chili powder

1 Tbsp. organic ground cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Crumble the Smiling Hara Hempeh by hand or in a food processor, reserve. Mince the carrots and mushrooms in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until the veggies resemble the texture of ground beef. Saute the carrots and ‘shrooms in the olive oil until tender and slightly caramelized. Add in the crumbled Smiling Hara Hempeh and stir to combine.  Add in tomatoes and beans, with the liquid and the  spices. Stir and simmer 30 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste and enjoy!

Cooking with Bradford Watermelon Molasses

Cooking with Bradford Watermelon Company Watermelon Rind pickles and Molasses

Two great recipes for quick and easy appetizers -all you need are jars of the Bradford Watermelon Pickles and Bradford Watermelon Molasses on hand.

Serve the molasses, by simply baking a batch of your favorite biscuits and serve them hot, topped with melted butter and a generous drizzle of Bradford Watermelon Molasses. It’s died-and-gone-to-heaven good!

Serve the pickles on a cracker spread with Bette Bradford’s Pimento Cheese – my oh my!

Bette Bradford’s Pimento Cheese

3 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

4 oz. organic cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup your favorite mayonnaise

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)

1/4 tsp onion powder

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)

1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimento, drained

salt and black pepper to taste

Combine everything and blend well. Spread on crackers and top with a chunk of a Bradford Watermelon Pickle – enjoy!

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Cooking with Cackalacky Sauce and Nuts from Pittsboro, NC

Heidi Billotto’s Oven Baked Cackalacky Wings

2 dozen local or organic chicken wings, tips removed ( save those for stock) and wings separated into drummettes and flaps

1 cup of your favorite Cackalacky sauce

1 /2 cup of Cackalacky Beer Nuts, ground

Toss the chicken wings in the Cackalacky sauce and pour into a baking dish. Bake in a preheated  375 degree oven and bake, turning the wings every 10 minutes or so for 40 minutes or until the wings are nicely browned and the sauce has boiled down to a syrup. Roll the finished wings in the thickened sauce to coat well. Remove to a serving plate and top the wings with a sprinkling of the finely chopped nuts for a fun added crunch your armchair quarterback is going to love.

Cooking with Postre Caramels

Cooking with Postre Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

Heidi Billotto’s Chocolate Caramel Mug Cake

This recipe is all the rage for kids and adults to -each recipe makes one single serving cake -and to make it even easier – it bakes in your microwave. For the most delicious results I recommend you use black onyx cocoa, available in Charlotte and online from the good folks at the Savory Spice Shop.

Here is what you will need for each cake:

5 Tbsp. organic all purpose flour (use regular or your favorite Gluten Free AP Blend)

4 1/2 Tbsp. organic sugar

1 Tbsp. black onyx cocoa ( available from the Savory Spice Shop)

1/4 tsp baking powder ( I like the locally produced Baking powder from Caly’s Kitchen in Waxhaw, NC)

Dash of salt

1/2 tsp white vinegar ( the olive crate strawberry vinegar works well here)

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

3 Tbsp. Postre Sea Salt Caramel

2 tsp. organic canola oil

4 1/2 Tbsp. water

Garnish with powdered sugar

You can bake these individual serving cakes in the microwave or in the oven. In the microwave on high it takes about 1minute and 10-15 seconds to bake; in the oven at 350 degrees it takes about 15-20 minutes to bake.

Start with a large microwave safe or oven safe mug, spray the inside with non-stick cooking spray.  Next, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in the mug – use a whisk to blend them well.   Add all of the liquid ingredients and then use a fork to stir the liquid and dry ingredients up to blend. Make sure there is no loose flour in the bottom of the mug or ramekin.  Bake as directed. For a neater finish, mix all of your ingredients up in a bowl and then pour the batter into the greased mug. Top each finished cake with powdered sugar and an extra squeeze of Postre caramel.  Enjoy hot or cold!

Note: Each microwave cooks differently,  so adjust time accordingly!  If you know your microwave cooks hot, then shave off 3-4 seconds of the cooking time; if it doesn’t cook so hot, then you might want to add on 4-5 seconds.

Heidi Billotto Food Logo

If you liked all of these recipes for cooking with local product, then you will loved attending one of my Hands-on cooking classes. Email me directly to sign up for my email newsletter list for an updated list of classes as soon as I put them on the calendar; or sign up to follow the blog so you will get the updated list of classes as soon as they post.

 

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Thanks to all six of the local brands featured in this post for what they do and for partnering with me to make this post possible. Follow the links to visit the websites or stores and be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou

 

 

 

 

 

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