Join Me At The 1st Annual Food Writer Day at the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market

Oh, the produce. Oh, the baked goods. Oh, the smoothies and crepes and all those other things I just couldn’t live without. Must be Saturday at the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market.

This Saturday I’m pleased to be among four writers taking part in a panel discussion at the market on food blogging and food writing, covering topics such as how to start a food blog, what it takes to be a food writer, and why anyone would want to write a food blog (that last one makes me smile!).

My esteemed co-panelists include:

  • Katie Parla, author of Parla Food and the travel app Katie Parla’s Rome
  • Pat Tanner, author of the Dine With Pat column that offers advice and restaurant recommendations to Central Jersey diners
  • Rachael Weston, the author of Gutsy Gourmet and In Season columns in The Star-Leder and

Join us at 10:00 am and then shop the market before heading home. I know I will be, and writing about it too!

The Market opens at 9:00 am and runs until 1:00 pm every Saturday through the Saturday before Thanksgiving. You can find it in the Vaughn Drive lot of the Princeton Junction train station in West Windsor, NJ.


My Favorite Sautéed Mushrooms With Shallots And Thyme

We are lucky to live as close as we do to Kennett Square, PA, a lovely suburban community not far from Philadelphia that is also known as — wait for it — The Mushroom Capital Of The World. Lucky because purveyors from Kennett Square frequent local farmer’s markets — like the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market, a fantastic Saturday market just minutes from our home — with pint after pint of both common and exotic varieties throughout the year. We’re never far from fresh, flavorful mushrooms and the farmers who are excited to talk about the varieties they grow.

We’ve long been enjoying mushrooms from Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms — we last wrote about them in our Butternut Squash and Chicken Risotto with Sautéed Leeks and Mushrooms post — but were happy to see Princeton’s own Shibumi Mushroom Farm join the vendors at the farmer’s market this year. Mushroom junkies like me love to try new strains and species, and Shibumi focuses on cultivating proprietary fungi grown indoors on artificial logs that use no animal products or pesticides.

At the West Windsor Community Farmer's Market with Davidson's Exotic Mushrooms and Shibumi Mushroom Farm

At the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market with Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms and Shibumi Mushroom Farm

Since mushrooms are used in dishes around the world and have long been served at mealtimes on all contents, they seem like the perfect ingredient for this globally-inspired family. I’ve been on a bit of a mission to get The Stout Sprouts to try mushrooms under the presumption that trying may eventually lead to liking. Mushrooms, I’ve found, are one of those foods that improve with age…and by that I mean there is a direct correlation between age and likelihood to consume mushrooms, with the lowest correlation occurring at the youngest ages (some might even say there is a negative correlation during those early years, with mushrooms actually repelling the youngest eaters with a polarizing force akin to an atom splitter).

Sure, we could simmer the mushrooms in a kid-friendly cream sauce or mince them finely and hide them in a burger, but my husband and I want our daughters to experience mushrooms as mushrooms. To appreciate their rich umami taste and the flavor variations of different mushroom types. And, after having cooked up several batches of my favorite sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme already this year, we made another batch this weekend specifically for them to try.

A dish that is welcome on any table: sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme

A dish that is welcome on any table: sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme

You’ll want to try this recipe too! Keep reading for more on our farmer’s market visit and My Favorite Sautéed Mushrooms With Shallots and Thyme.

Twice-baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Three Cheeses

Hot potato, hot potato. Brings back memories, no? I kind-of felt like we were playing an uber round of it this week when we cooked up a batch of russets for some twice-baked potatoes that were packed with things our girls (and we!) love: butter, cheese, sour cream, and broccoli.

Food geek that I am, I was excited that we worked in some local ingredients too: broccoli from Cherry Grove Organic Farm and fresh ricotta cheese from Fulper Farms in Lambertville, NJ, that we picked up at the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market. The ricotta alone would have made the dish – it is so creamy and light I could eat it right out of the tub. Which, I’ll admit, I actually did. Well, a spoonful anyway. So good.

Ricotta from Fulper Farms

Ricotta from Fulper Farms

The kids really got into this recipe too, helping scoop potato flesh out of the baked potatoes and mixing it with all the other ingredients. I actually had to mediate who got to add what as we went along, and realized the more that went into the bowl, the more they both wanted to taste the mixture we were making.

Scooping out the potatoes - perfect job for small hands

Scooping out the potatoes – perfect job for small hands

Oooo, with all this cheese these are going to be good

Oooo, with all this cheese these are going to be good

Until the scallions.

Who knew what havoc could be wrought by those unsuspecting little Alliums. I’ve always kind-of enjoyed them as a milder alternative to onions and I found myself thinking that our dinner smelled an awful lot like ranch-flavored potato chips as the potatoes baked. And I mean that in a good way.

But…apparently the scallions were the deal breaker for Daughter 1 and Daughter 2. After the happy scooping/mixing/tasting party, I was actually surprised to meet resistance at the table as the great “hunt for the scallions” began. Daughter 1 loves broccoli (yea!) and fished it out of her potato in order to eat it. And then she proceeded to eat around the scallions, if that is even possible. Daughter 2, who had happily taken a few bites when we served the potatoes, took up the torch on behalf of her sister and declared that she, too, “didn’t like scallions.”

Hot out of the oven, cheesy and broccoli-y

Hot out of the oven, cheesy and broccoli-y

So those hot potatoes…turned into “not” potatoes. However, all was not lost. My husband and I really enjoyed them. And I mean really. So much so that (don’t tell anyone) I found myself sneaking bites of the rejected potato from Daughter 2’s plate. When I asked Daughter 1 whether she thought she’d like them without the scallions, I got an enthusiastic “yes” in reply. I bet if we added bacon that would seal the deal…though I rather like that these are vegetarian-friendly just the way they are.

So next time we make these I’ll do two batches: one with scallions, and one without.

Hmmmm, I wonder how they would feel about chives….

Twice-baked Potatoes with Broccoli and Three Cheeses

2 russet potatoes
1 cup broccoli florets, washed and trimmed into bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon butter. melted
1/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 scallion, sliced into thin rings
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

Bake the russet potatoes in advance: pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Wash the potatoes well and stab several times with a paring knife or fork. Place potatoes on a baking sheet in the oven and bake for 90 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Steam the broccoli in a steamer set over boiling water until just tender – no more than 5 minutes. Remove broccoli from steamer and set aside.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, split each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out as much of the flesh as possible into a medium mixing bowl, keeping the potato skin intact. Set skins aside.

Gently mash the potato flesh – no need to mash too finely as a bit of chunky texture is good. Add the butter, sour cream, ricotta cheese, shredded cheddar and Monterey Jack and all but 2 teaspoons of the scallion rings and mix well to distribute all ingredients evenly. Season with salt and pepper to taste and gently fold in the broccoli. Mound the potato mixture back into the potato skins.

Place the filled potato skins back on the baking sheet and return to 375-degree oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until filling is hot.  Set oven to broil for two minutes to brown the tops, taking care not to burn the potatoes. Remove potatoes from oven as soon as the filling begin to turn golden.

Serve potatoes with a sprinkling of the remaining scallions — if your kids will let you!

Serves: 4 (one-half potato per person)

We're going on a scallion hunt....

We’re going on a scallion hunt….

Parent rating: five stars. Really, with butter, sour cream and three additional cheeses it’s difficult NOT to like these. But this is just the right amount of dairy – lots of flavor, but all in moderation. The potatoes are creamy and well-seasoned, but unlike other versions, aren’t dense with cheese.
Kid rating: oh, how I’d like to award five stars to this recipe, which is what I thought it would get when Daughter 1 and Daughter 2 started eating the filling right out of the mixing bowl. But that was before the scallions got folded in. Oh, those evil scallions. Somehow they tipped the kid balance from “yummy” to “don’t like it.” So maybe two stars for this particular version, though Daughter 2 told me that next time, if I keep the scallions out of her potato, she thinks she’ll enjoy it. Like, five stars worth of enjoyment. So if you have scallion-haters in your house, be warned. But if not, go for it!