Sep 24 2014

Farm Fresh Nutrition

The Essential Guide to Local Food and Health is Here!

Eight years ago, I moved to Asheville, NC and as a nutritionist, I began to make local food connections in Western North Carolina. I began volunteering and working on projects with Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project and I created a series of local food classes at the North Carolina Arboretum. I began shopping at our wonderful variety of farmer’s markets which now have become almost available year round to purchase more and more of my food and I have eaten at some wonderful restaurants in Western North Carolina where the main course is local food. Along the way, I have had the chance to meet some incredible people who have made our local food movement thrive. Five years ago, I began to think how I could share the story of these food heroes and the way that they help shape a healthier American Diet. That is when I started to blog about local farmers and provided ideas to my readers on food ideas based on seasonal foods. As a college professor, I want to teach others how to spark their local food movements and make them grow and help students make these connections. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I have the desire to help people eat a healthy diet based on fresh food where they live. As a researcher, I want to know if local food is really healthier than food trucked across the United States or shipped from overseas. As a parent and more recently a grandparent, I want the best for my family which includes access to healthy, clean food, a thriving local economy and a clean environment. I also grew to have a reverence for the farmers, chefs, bakers, food advocates and others who made the commitment to bring these foods to others and know “if we don’t support our local farmers” who will grow our food? If we get in a disagreement with a country growing our food will the food still get to us? Having access to food where we live in a form of national security, local community security and even food security.  In the chaos of a major kitchen remodel (which was leveled to the ground), I sat down at the computer to write my book Farm Fresh Nutrition which is available on October 11. This self-published book contains contains seasonal menu ideas, farmers’ market shopping lists, tasty, healthy recipes, stories of local farmers and other food heroes in Asheville and across the Southeast, farm facts, nutritional information and some simple steps for everyone to begin more local, seasonal food where they live. The book contains the Local Green Plate which is a guideline that I have created to help plan seasonal meals. Sharing the success stories of how other people do things helps give us the tools to help us do things our own unique way. If you pick up a copy of Farm Fresh Nutrition, I hope inside its pages that you will find it full of inspiration to eat healthy, green & clean and local! Share these ideas with others and let them know about the book! Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me to write this!


book release partyfacebook book cover

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Sep 21 2014

Squash Season Means Healthy Season

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I wanted to share a few pictures of the squash available at Flying Cloud Farm and some other varieties that I picked up from Mountain Harvest Organics

The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler and now there is an abundance of fall squash at the farmers markets and there are now more varieties  available than ever. Some types of fall squash include amber cup, autumn cup, buttercup, carnival, delicate, butternut, gold nugget, hubbard, kabocha, sweet dumpling, turban squash and acorn.
Here in Western North Carolina, we have the native candy roaster.  I have also grown the rare green striped cushaw.
Fall squash are rich in vitamin A, B6, C, E, magnesium, potassium, maganese.

Here are two wonderful guides on many of these varieties of squash that are a helpful learning tool to get yourself familiar with them:

Here is a little bit of information on the candy roaster:

Here is a little more about the green striped cushaw:

With so many squash varieties to choose from, I wanted to share some of my favorite ways to prepare them. Yesterday, I made this tasty dish at the North Asheville Tailgate Market in celebration of the Fall Equinox. The biggest challenge is peeling the squash. Feel free to substitute one fall squash for another.

Kale and Butternut Squash Saute
Fall squash and kale are rich in vitamin A and are low in calories. Squash is rich in vitamin C and kale is a good source of calcium. Apples are rich in fiber and the phytochemical, quercetin.
4 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 pounds butternut squash, about 3 1/2 cups cut into ½ knobs
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 1/2 cups chopped fresh kale
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon thyme
½ cup chopped apples
4 tablespoons chopped local nuts if available
4 tablespoons crumbled local goat cheese

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add squash, onion and apples. Cook, stirring constantly, until squash is lightly browned and slightly tender, about 7 minutes. Add kale, thyme, salt and pepper and cook until kale is wilted and squash is tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add cheese and nuts; toss to combine. Sprinkle with goat cheese.

Butternut Kale Lasagna

Winter Squash Soup with Black Beans and Corn

Butternut and Sage Risotto

Penne with Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese

Black Bean and Butternut Squash Quesadillas

Butternut Squash and Duxelle’s Casserole

Duxelle is a French term for finely chopped mushrooms and herbs which pair well with the fall squash.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas

I hope that you try one of these new recipes and also a new variety of squash or two from your local farmers!





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Aug 29 2014

End of Summer Barbeque Celebrating Local Food

Published by under local food nutrition


As we enter the kick-off of the long Labor Day weekend, we say goodbye to summer even though it is not officially over until the end of the month. It may be our last chance for a summer bash. Here is one of my favorite summer meals using almost 100% local ingredients:
Grilled Fish Tacos with Sun Burst Trout
Fresh Pico de gallo
Tray of Fixings with thinly sliced, cabbage, cucumbers, daikon radishes and cucumbers
Shredded Yellow Branch Pepper Cheese
Grilled Peaches with Oak Moon Goat Cheese and Raspberries
To Make:
1.Here is a quick way to grill the trout Add a little chili pepper and cumin also.
2.A little more about Yellow Branch Cheese
3.For the pico take the proportion of local tomatoes, onions, hot and peppers. Add a dash of lime, cilantro and salt. Chop it up fine or process in the blender. Make it as mild or spicy as you desire.
4.This recipe shares how to grill your peach. It tops the peach with honey cream but I recently discovered that Oak Moon makes some wonderful dessert cheese that would be great to top the peach also
If you aren’t feeling like tacos, local cookbook author Ashley English has some great celebrations in her cookbook Handmade Gatherings, she also has a new book coming out in October
In October, my book called Farm Fresh Nutrition be available (look under publication tab), stay tuned for some fun events that we have planned to give you a chance to see the book and meet some of the farmers and other local heroes who are featured in the book. You will also have the chance to sample some foods made from local, seasonal ingredients. More info about that coming soon with will include a event schedule, information about the release party and where you can get the book!

Enjoy the last weeks of summer!

Denise and Victoria

My back yardLittle fiesta!



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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

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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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