goat cheese

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A brief respite in the cooler weather made for a perfect opening to have a room temperature salad for dinner last night. With warm air streaming through the windows, I got to work breaking down a pumpkin from our visit to Verrill Farm to serve as the star of the show.

sugar pumpkin

The second I cut into the pumpkin, that smell hit me, and I was suddenly standing there daydreaming about sitting around our dining room table as a little kid, newspapers laid out to take the pumpkin guts and seeds. In that moment I literally felt like I shouldn’t be holding the knife, that my dad should be doing the carving while my sister and I drew our designs and our mom brought out cider or snacks.

I hadn’t planned on toasting the seeds, but that happy memory said that I had to, the later taste and crunch again bringing me home. It’s pretty amazing how senses can do that.

pumpkin carving

Once I snapped out of my daydreaming, I got to work once again on dinner, starting with the pumpkin. I simply roasted it at 400 degrees until the flesh was tender, then peeled the blistered skin off and chopped it into cubes.

roasted pumpkin

To finish off the pumpkin, I sautéed it in brown butter and a sprinkle each of cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

roasted pumpkin with cinnamon and brown butter

Next I got my salad dressing ready, mixing apple cider, maple syrup, olive and oil, and hot paprika until it tasted just right.

maple apple cider dressing

I also cooked a cup of lentils and then got started building the salad on beds of Olivia’s Organics baby kale.

baby kale

I topped the mix of pumpkin, lentils, and kale with creamy goat cheese and the toasted pumpkin seeds. The combination was absolutely delicious! It felt great to eat salad without feeling cold inside, and I loved the mix of seasonal ingredients.

roasted pumpkin salad

I saved the remainder of the pumpkin to toss in a smoothie in the morning, a blend of vanilla soy milk, yogurt, cinnamon, pumpkin, and steamed spinach. With less than three weeks until NYC Marathon time, I need all the nutrition I can get!

I am excited to be participating in a Vouvray tasting with TasteLive tonight. So far it’s been a good week, and I hope keeping that positive attitude will only make it get better.

What’s making you happy this week?

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Tags: dinner, easy dinners, goat cheese, healthy recipes, lentils, pumpkin, quick dinners, quick meals, recipe, salad, Vegetarian

File this recipe under “make this weekend”. The name of the recipe is quite the mouthful isn’t it? The recipe itself is full of flavor, comfort, and nutrition. With the ridiculously cold weather we’ve been having lately, comfort is all I have been craving. Can’t I just eat grilled cheese every day?

In addition to coming up with something cozy and healthy for dinner on a chilly gray day, I also needed to utilize the delicious  tortillas sent to me earlier this summer by the great people at Tortilla Land. Tortilla Land makes fresh tortillas that are great in all sorts of recipes. I’ll admit, I may enjoy them the most heated up in a pan with a glob of Nutella in the middle, but these tortillas are definitely for more than just dessert.

cumin and paprika

I don’t know where the idea came from, but I dreamed it up when I wasn’t sleeping the other night. Insomnia usually leads to some sort of recipe for me!

It’s an easy one.

Start by chopping and boiling two large sweet potatoes. Toss those, along with a cup of crumbled goat cheese, a teaspoon of cumin, and a teaspoon of paprika into a blender and puree until smooth.

crumbled goat cheese

I absolutely love my Ninja blender. It’s not a Vitamix, but it makes purees very smooth in a very short time. You could really stop right here and eat the goat cheese and sweet potato puree. As you can see, I definitely dipped a spoon in just for quality control.

sweet potato puree

Once the sweet potato is done, add about two cups of soaked lentils to olive oil, garlic, and tomato paste, all to taste. I used a small can of tomato paste because I love the flavor and the lycopene it adds to recipes.

Tortilla Land

Heat a stack of Tortilla Land tortillas in a hot pan until puffy and lightly browned, and then layer ingredients: tortilla, sweet potato mixture, lentils, repeat. Top with enchilada sauce, bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees and serve with shredded sharp cheddar and salsa.

enchilada pie

As I said earlier, this recipe is pure comfort. The creaminess of the sweet potato really makes it so. I love making enchilada pies because the construction is so quick and easy. Fresh tortillas like the ones that Tortilla Land makes add something a little extra special.

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Tags: dinner, easy dinner, enchiladas, Food, goat cheese, healthy, recipe, sweet potatoes, Vegetarian

Most of the time (except in the winter of 2011) I feel pretty lucky to live in the amazing Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We’ve got some of the most beautiful beaches and coastline in the Northeast, lovely countryside, delectable seafood, and some stunning seasons, especially fall and summer. I guess the winter is nice too, if you are into that sort of thing.

Since I started blogging, I have made it a priority to discover Massachusetts businesses and to support them, getting food from farmers markets, wine from local winemakers, and taking day trips all around the state and region to truly appreciate what it has to offer.

As a result, I was delighted when I received an invitation to take a trip along the Massachusetts Wine and Cheese Trail to toast its expansion along with Governor Patrick. A small group of us departed from Boston and made our way out to Hardwick for a great day of touring, tasting, and networking.

Our first stop was Ruggles Hill Creamery in Hardwick, MA to learn about their award winning goat cheese.

Ruggles Hill Creamery

First we got to meet some of the goats who were friendly, gentle, and smart. They even know their names!

goats

This is Rose, who is snacking on beet pulp which happens to come from Great Britain because US beet pulp is not guaranteed non-GMO, and Ruggles Hill is a non-GMO farm. Rose is on the milking platform; farm owner and cheese maker Tricia Smith brought Rose into the milking room just to demonstrate for us but did not actually milk her. Tricia told us a little bit about the goats. In exchange for being able to milk them for 22 months, the goats here are allowed to stay with and raise their own kids which I thought was nice. All of the goats seemed quite happy!

milking goats

We said goodbye to the goats, took off our shoes, and entered the space where the cheese making happens at Ruggles Hill Creamery. It was absolutely pristine, slightly chilly. Ruggles Hill makes small batches of fine, French-style cheeses.

goat cheese making room

making goat cheese

Ruggles Hill cheese

At the creamery, we tasted the Chabicou-style cheese which was only 4% butterfat but still very creamy and rich. . . and absolutely delicious! Tricia noted that the creaminess of this cheese was due to the fact that it’s a lactic acid cheese. The balance of the acidity keeps the cheese from becoming chalky as some lower butterfat cheeses tend to be.

You can see by the awards below that Ruggles Hill Farm is a favorite! If you live in the Boston area, you can get Ruggles Hill cheese at Formaggio Kitchen and Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, as well as at some farmers markets.

goat cheese awards

Our next stop was at Robinson Farm, also in Hardwick, to try raw cow’s milk cheese. The brief tour started with another tasting. The signature cheese at Robinson Farm is Robinson Family Swiss. Owner and cheese maker Ray Robinson told us that they decided on the name first and that dictated the type of cheese they made.

Robinson Farm

Before we could go into the creamery, we all got suited up with plastic booties over our shoes and paper nets over our hair. Then it was time to check out what goes on in cheese making.

Below is the press, used to remove excess liquid from the cheese.

cheese press

The cheese curds are actually made in this temperature controlled vat below. Milk is pumped right from the cows through pipes in the wall, minimizing the amount of exposure to the outside the raw milk receives.

Massachusetts cheesemaking

Once the cheese is made, it’s taken to one of the cheese caves to age. All of the cheeses made by the Robinsons are washed rind, aged at least 120 days, made with raw whole milk, and hard or semi-hard in nature.

For a complete list of places to find Robinson Farm cheeses, you can visit their website, which contains a complete list.

Robinson Farm

Before we left the Robinson’s, we took a quick trip to see where it all begins for their cheese, the cows. Beautiful calves kept their distance from us, but it was still so fun to be able to be out in the country to see the source of the food we all enjoy. Experiencing this artisan food making process really made me stop to appreciate how well-made, quality food comes to be and the people and animals behind it.

Robinson Farm

It’s exciting that Massachusetts is really starting to have a resurgence in local food and wine, with farmers markets, CSAs, food festivals, dinners in the field, and agritourism taking off.

calves at Robinson Farm

There’s so much going on right here in my home state, and it’s great for residents and visitors alike. For more information on all of the delicious food being grown in Massachusetts and to learn about farms and other places to visit, check out the MassGrown website.

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Tags: agritourism, farms, Food, goat cheese, local business, local food, Massachusetts, media events, Travel

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