Aug 20 2014

Great Food Fermentations

I am sort of new to fermenting foods but my husband has been making beer and sourdough bread for about 25 years. He even made tempeh, which is a tasty protein alternative made with fermented soy beans. I have been a long time fan of Sandor Katz and have explored his book ” Wild Fermentations” I dreamed of all the delicious foods that I could make and was aware of many of the benefits of live cultures (friendly bacteria) in fermented foods which helps boost immune systems but that was the extent of it.  Last fall that changed, I entered the mysterious, bubbly world of fermentation. In Asheville, on Haywood Road, a new store called Villagers opened and I had the pleasure to meet owner, Natalie Pollard. In her beautiful shop, Natalie has a variety of crocks and other helpful resources to help get someone started making fermented foods. She told me that fermentation is a gentle way to successfully begin preserving foods and gave me tips plus the confidence that I could give it a try. I went to the West Asheville Tailgate Market purchased some cabbage, Brussel sprouts and carrots. I layered them in my newly purchased crock and added some salt to preserve it (Sandor has suggestions how to ferment without the usual amount of salt but the first time trying I wasn’t going to chance it). I left the crock on the counter and checked it out periodically and several weeks later, I had some beautiful, tasty sauerkraut which was delicious on open faced tempeh reubens. I soon became to new fermenting expert in the household. However, I have not tried to replicate it. The good news is someone else got inspired to give it a try, my husband went to the market and got a large number of local cucumbers (in addition to our garden cucumbers) and gave the crock a try! The pickles have been wonderful and this time I took a picture. The crock is now empty so I will have to now save face and make my “famous sauerkraut”. I guess there is room for a pickle maker and a sauerkraut maker.

Fermentation is a friendly way to get started in home food preservation because it does not need a lot of equipment and it is relatively easy. If you live in Asheville, stop by Villagers to pick up your crock and see Natalie! Check out the classes that she has coming up! Sandor makes a visit to Asheville periodically also and he has even taught a class at Villagers. Another book that he has written that you may want to explore is “The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved”

Give Fermentation a try!

Happy Healthy Cultures to you,





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Jul 16 2014

Farm Fresh Tomatoes Are Here!

Published by under local food nutrition

2014-07-16 08.27.27


Its tomato time! My favorite time of the year! This picture was taken this morning of a Cherokee Purple from our vegetable garden. This year we have the best tomatoes in our garden that we ever have had and it is not thanks to me. Bruce has been spraying the tomatoes on a regular basis with an organic fungicide and picking off yellow leaves. As you can see he mulched it with straw and waters them when it doesn’t rain.

He has had obstacles to his success, other living creatures try to eat them before he does. The dog pulled off about four huge tomatoes and took a bite ought of each and threw them to the ground as he tore off the vines. (Who would have thought that a 14 year old dog would jump a fence and tear up tomatoes.) And he had accomplices, the next day or so Mr. Squirrel got in there and took a bite out of several also. I tried to comfort my husband by fried a few green ones after cutting out the damage and making salsa out of the just ripe damaged fruit.

We have enjoyed every bit of what was left. There are a lot more green tomatoes out there to wait patiently for their time to pick! We are anticipating all the wonderful things to make out of our locally grown tomatoes and we savor every minute of the season because we know that it will be too short but vibrant and delicious!

Here are just a few of my favorite ways to eat tomatoes:

-Fresh chopped tomatoes with basil, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and mozzarella salad. You can also add this to pasta for a wonderful sauce.

-Fresh tomato sandwich with grill eggplant and basil.

-Add to fresh corn, zucchini or yellow squash and onion for a simple but flavorful saute

-Chopped in a Greek Salad with a lemon, olive oil dressing

-Add to a cucumber and onion salad

-Add chopped tomatoes to a pizza.

These are so simple, you do not even need a recipe and you can experiment with different fresh herbs and variations.

Enjoy the local tomatoes while they are here!


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Jul 09 2014

Local Food Menu and Farm Tour Fun

We had a wonderful time at our garden party and farm tour at First Blossom Farm with Veronica and Garrett! I have been delayed sharing our menu and update you on the event.

Veronica took everyone on a tour of the farm which looked absolutely beautiful in the early evening before the sun went down. Guests had the opportunity to purchase produce right on the farm and even had the chance to pick it out in the garden for Veronica to share with them. Gaining Ground Farm also farms in this location and we had the opportunity to meet Aaron and Anne also.

Our menu featured things growing on First Blossom Farm which included:

Cucumber and Squash appetizers with Local Goat Cheese and dill

Mini Quiches with Squash and Kale

Sliced Carrots and Fennel

Blueberry Kabobs (from Aardvark Farm) with a Vanilla, Cardamon Yogurt Dip

Lavender Lemonade (the lavender was from my garden)

If you haven’t got on our pinterest, we are posting some good things on there. Check out the garden party board  at

and you will find some ideas very similar to what we did at the party. The quiche that I made did not have the cream, just the eggs and they turned out great.

All of us took time to eat and drink and sit out on the beautiful evening to hear music from Noah Barratt, guitarist and songwriter.

Thank you to all who attended! The evening could not had been more lovely. Sharon Findlay shared some beautiful pictures of the event. Thank you Sharon! We have some more of these on our face book page also!

If you missed coming this time, we will have more events coming soon! Check out our calendar of events for more information:

Happy Summer!

Denise and Victoria

farm houses 2

First Blossom Farm: Thank you Sharon Findlay for taking this photo!


Below are some of the foods from the Garden Party and the First Blossom’s Farm Stand taken by Victoria.


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Jun 17 2014

Recipe at West Asheville Tailgate Market Using Local Honey

I had the opportunity to do a food demo at the West Asheville Tailgate Market. My tent was next to the bee keepers who educated us on bees. They showed us a sample bee hive and other important equipment for bee keepers. Asheville has been the first designated city honored with the title “Bee City USA” and this week is “National Pollinators Week”.

Bees, bats, butterflies and some beetles are an important piece of our food chain because so much of our food is dependent on them for pollination. Pesticides have been linked to the reduction in these beneficial insects so each of us should do what we can to save them.  I created a recipe just for this event and used local honey from Green Goddess, local blue berries from Thatchmore Farms, local balsamic vinegar from Highland Gourmet, basil from Herbs and Roots and a baguette from Simple Bread. Try this cool and refreshing treat while it is in season!

Blueberry and Goat Cheese Crostini
Featuring local honey, blueberries, balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, fresh basil and bread
1 cup fresh blue berries sliced in half
2 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chiffonade fresh basil
4 ounces soft goat cheese
1 small baguette sliced
In a bowl, add honey, vinegar, and goat cheese. Cream these together and lightly add blueberries and basil. Top on top of a slice of baguette and serve. Approximately 8 servings.

Denise and Victoria

Vine Ripe Nutrition

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Jun 10 2014

Vine Ripe Nutrition and First Blossom Garden Party and Farm Tour

Published by under local food nutrition

LogoColorCMYKYou Are Welcome to the Garden Party & Farm Tour

Thursday, June 26th

5-7 pm

First Blossom Farm

230 Sluder Branch Road

Leicester, NC 28748

Join Vine Ripe Nutrition for an evening at First Blossom Farm

All are welcome to this free event featuring:

Farm Tours with Veronica Sotolongo

Local Refreshments by Vine Ripe Nutrition

Live Music and Door Prizes

Recipes and More!

Fresh produce from the farm will be available for purchase.




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Jun 10 2014

Meet Our Local Food Nutrition Interns!

Published by under local food nutrition

Vine Ripe Nutrition welcomes our interns who have been working with us. Marisa Romeo and Gabriel Whitlock are students at Warren Wilson College double majoring in Biochemistry and Psychology. Marissa and Gabe work on the Allies in Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) Crew which is a crew that helps prevent the use of substances on campus and promotes healthy lifestyle choices for students. Marissa is also on the women’s soccer team and the Athletics crew. Gabriel competes for the Fighting Owls cross country and road cycling teams. Both students want to pursue a nutrition profession with Marissa interested in sports nutrition and how food and affects performance, and research studies concerning gastrointestinal diseases. She plans on attending graduate school for Nutrition, Food Science, and/or Public Health. Gabriel is interested in brain and body functioning especially how food affects athletic performance and other laboratory research. This summer Marissa and Gabe are volunteering at Wake Forest University but will be back in the fall helping us with a variety of local food and nutrition projects. Thank you for your help and see you soon!

Marissa and Gabe

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May 27 2014

Local Food Nutrition: Shop at the Tailgate!

Published by under local food nutrition

I  just had a great afternoon at the West Asheville Tailgate Market and met a lot of great people! Kate, thank you for letting me come to make strawberry kale salad.  In case you missed coming by the market or I ran out of recipes when you came by, here it is. Thanks to Three Graces Dairy for sharing the feta, Highland Gourmet for the handcrafted balsamic vinegar, McConnell’s for the strawberries and John’s Berry Patch for the kale and black walnuts. They made a delicious combination!

Strawberry Kale Salad
4 c local chopped kale
1 c stemmed, sliced local strawberries
2 TB locally made balsamic vinegar
1/3-½ c olive oil
1/3 c locally grown nuts
¼ c local feta cheese
¼ tsp salt or season blend
Pepper to taste if desired
In a large bowl, add kale and strawberries. In a small bowl add balsamic vinegar, olive oil and seasonings. Mix in lightly with kale and strawberries. Top with feta and nuts.
Makes 4-5 servings.

I look forward to shopping the West Asheville Tailgate Market soon! Stayed tuned for more tasty, healthy, local food to come!

Denise and Victoria




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Mar 12 2014

Community Supported Agriculture in Asheville Area

Published by under local food nutrition

Victoria surveyed the farms that offer a CSA in the Asheville area and here is a list of the farmers who got back with us and what they offer. We thought this might be helpful to see which CSA works best for you and your family’s needs. Many of them will be at the CSA fair tomorrow!


Community Supported Agriculture in the Asheville Area

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Mar 12 2014

Connecting with Local Food and Your Health

March is National Nutrition Month and today is Registered Dietitian’s Day! Tomorrow I will be doing a food demo using foods local ingredients from farmers at the ASAP Annual CSA Fair on March 13 from 3-6 at the Jubilee Community on 46 Wall Street I will be making a kale salad from local ingredients donated by farmers for the event. Thank you to Ivy Creek Family Farms for the kale and potatoes, Flying Cloud Farm for the sweet potatoes and Earth Echoes Farm

First, let’s talk about what is a CSA: Community Support Agriculture (CSA) is a membership that some farms offer to consumers. A membership ahead of time helps farmers purchase things needed for the harvest season and the customers share in the bounty.  In a drought or flood where crops are lost, members help ease the burden of a natural disaster by sharing in it with the farmer.

If you have not joined a CSA in the past, it may be a challenge to select the one that meets the needs of your family. Here are some things to consider when deciding which farm to choose.

1.      1.  Location, Location, Location. Is the place to pick up your share convenient to your home? Do the times for pick up work with your schedule?

         2.  Variety is the spice of life. Are you adventurous and want a lot of different produce to try or do you want the basics. Find out what your farmer leans towards growing.

3.       3. How big is your family? If there is only one or two of you, see if farm sells half shares.

4.       4. Organic or conventional? How is the food grown and does it meet your needs?

5.       5. Price. What is your budget? Although many CSAs are similar in cost, one may better meet your cash flow. There may even be some CSAs that barter farm work for food.

6.       6. What other services are included? Do farms include recipe ideas or menus?

7.      7.  Take time to smell the flowers. Would you like a fresh bouquet each week to make your day? Some farms include flowers too!

What to do with all those fruits and veggies? In the next few weeks/months, I will be teaching a cooking series “Taste the Season: Making the Most of Your CSA Box” to help you learn how to use all your produce in your CSA box over the growing season (you don’t have to join a CSA to register). This is one of the many projects we will be doing with Vine Ripe: Home Grown Nutrition which is created to help people eat healthy, local and green. We are partnering with local farmers, tailgate markets, businesses, and chefs to bring to programs that will completely change how we eat and think about where we get our food. Vine Ripe will offer variety of cooking classes/events, food and nutrition workshops, local tailgate market and farm tours, food tastings, visits to farm-to-table restaurants and individual and group nutrition counseling with a local twist for those who want to know more about seasonal meal planning and shopping.  Sign up for our newsletter and like Vine Ripe Nutrition to find out more about what we will be doing. We look forward to becoming healthier together!

Denise and Victoria

Vine Ripe: Home Grown Nutrition

pepper picture

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Feb 06 2014

Eating Local and Healthy this Winter

     One wonderful investment that I have made is joining Winter Sun Farms, a winter food CSA with frozen local fruits and vegetables. During the summer during the peak of the season, the staff at Blue Ridge Food Ventures at the AB Tech Enka campus prepares the wares of local farmers so we can enjoy them when they are usually unavailable. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, eating my 5-9 a day of fruits and vegetables is very important and wintertime can be slim pickings, especially for people trying to eat more local. I love being able to do a monthly pick-up of frozen fruits and vegetables during the cold, winter months. If you have not had a chance to join this year, you can sign up for next winter. Meanwhile, you can still stop by Blue Ridge Food Ventures at the AB Tech Enka Campus on February 12   for the monthly winter food fair.  Next week’s farms and food entrepreneurs featured include:

Baker’s Box Baked goods, Asheville Goods Gift boxes, Home Free Bagels, Bonny Bath Body products, Riverview Farms, Joe Brittain eggs and poultry, Wright Farms and Threshold Provisions Power Bars. We will have the opportunity to try out the products and purchase them.  You can also visit one of the winter farmers markets that are going on weekly for even more local food. Spring is coming but for now, you can still eat local!


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