Heirloom Tomato Salad with Red-Eye Vinaigrette

I’d mentioned earlier this summer that I was helping out with the Chincoteague Bay Field Station’s Serving Up The Shore event this year. I created the salad course, which was a simple green salad topped with big hunks of heirloom tomatoes and crispy ham – with, get this…a red-eye vinaigrette. It was pretty amazing, and well received!

For me, the coolest part was getting to know so many of our local farmers and producers. The folks that are out there, fighting the good fight for sustainable and ethical farming and production procedures – right in my own backyard!Lettuces @ Terrapin Farms (Berlin, MD)Big shout out to Johnny at Terrapin Farms, who donated the gorgeous hydroponically grown greens. They’ve got an awesome operation at their farm in Berlin, MD. Was such a treat to visit and see everything in action!Perennial Roots FarmNatalie & Stewart at Perennial Roots Farm, for the absolutely perfect ham for the job (I’m sold on Mulefoot, ya’ll) and the epitome of summer in the form of those tomatoes. They’re a wonderful couple who are so passionate about sustainable and biodynamic agriculture, just a wealth of knowledge! We are so fortunate to have them here on the Shore. Be sure to follow them on Instagram too. Their feed is full of wonderful goodness from the farm, that makes me smile on a daily basis.Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting CompanyKristen & Jamie at Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Company. You guys seriously rock my world. The Fogcutter was just  perfect for the vinaigrette. Loved having that bold coffee flavor shine through! Guys, their coffee is ahhhmazing…and, now available for purchase online. Go buy some!Assawoman Bay Brewing CompanyThe good people at Assawoman Bay Brewing Company, for keeping us in good beer all evening long. Keep on doing what you’re doing guys, looking forward to visiting the brewpub this fall.

And finally, to everyone who came out! It was such fun, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what next year will bring.

I wanted to incorporate as much local flare as I possibly could in my dish. Red-eye gravy is something that’s more common in the deep south, but it’s always been a favorite for me. It’s usually served in the form of a ham steak, that’s been browned in a skillet. Then, the pan deglazed with coffee. Served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner – it’s a classic that’s stood the test of time.

I kept this same theme, but diced up the ham so it got super crispy. Think – meat croutons! Deglazed the pan with the coffee, then added in traditional things you’d find in salad dressing…red wine vinegar, dijon, olive oil. Paired with the simple fresh greens and big hunks of heirloom tomatoes, it translated so perfectly to a summer salad. But, I’m fixin’ to use the same dressing over a roasted vegetable salad this fall. The flavors would definitely mingle very well there, too. Will report back!


Stuffed shells are one of my favorite comfort meals. Pasta encasing a bunch of fluffy ricotta and gooey, cheesy goodness? You just can’t go wrong. Not to mention the variations and combinations that you can use to “mix up” your filling is endless.

So, when Sugardale Foods reached out to me about creating a recipe using their delicious pepperoni – my mind immediately began brainstorming. And, led me right to the thought of  a pepperoni-studded stuffed shell (say that 3x fast!). All of your favorite flavors in a pizza, but in pasta form. Genius!

Pepperoni is something that I always have on hand in the fridge, it’s a great way to add a little bit of meaty flavor to recipes. I’ll often add it to skillet pastas, or baked pasta dishes…as well as just for snacking purposes. Love having it around for a quick anti-pasta platter when unexpected guests drop in. A few slices of cheese, some pepperoni, maybe a few olives? Bam! Awesome easy appetizer.

But, finding a good-quality pepperoni can be a little bit daunting – to say the least. So many are full of so much fat, by the time you cook it…there’s nothing left. Not the case with Sugardale’s pepperoni.

Sugardale Foods is a family-owned company that’s been in business since 1920. Right here in the good, old US of A too! That’s a feat that seems to be harder and harder to come by these days. You can find their products  (ham, pepperoni, bacon) at many retailers nationwide, in various size packaging. With 3 little boys, I can blow through one of their 1-lb bags in no time. It’s a brand I know I can always turn to for quality! Make sure you stop by their recipe page for a bunch of great recipe ideas.

I kept the filling simple: Ricotta, chunks of mozzarella, a little oregano. Placed the whole pepperoni slices into the shells, then stuffed with the ricotta mixture. Baked with my favorite quick marinara sauce and a little extra mozzarella on top. Perfection, I tell ya!

It’s the time of year where we find ourselves turning to comfort foods, and this one is definitely a new favorite in our home. Add it to your menu soon, you won’t regret it!

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Roasted Vegetable Quiche

This summer was insanely hectic. I feel like it passed it a blur of beaching, boating, and warm summer nights. I wasn’t in the kitchen making new things to share with you as much as I’d like, but now that the days are becoming cooler – it’s my favorite time of year to be in the kitchen. Not to mention it’s the best time of year to work with the bounty that your garden, or local farmers in your area have produced.

I’ve always been passionate about gardening, and particularly varietal history and seed saving. So when the good folks at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello reached out and asked me to share the details on their 10th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival happening this weekend, I was delighted to do so!

Thomas Jefferson championed vegetable cuisine, plant experimentation, and sustainable agriculture. In today’s modern world,  they are continuing that tradition at Monticello – and have been doing so, for many years. They were kind enough to send me a beautiful box of garden goodness fresh from the fields.


I mean – what an honor. Talk about tasting history! Eggplants (Listadia di Gandia and Black Beauty), Peppers (Marconi and Fish Hots – a variety that was used in seafood houses in my region for hundreds of years), a Green Nutmeg Melon, fresh sesame, and some of their locally made Hickory Syrup and Peach Butter available from their online shop. I can’t thank them enough for sending that box of loveliness my way, it was a real treat!

I ended up tossing the eggplants Marconi peppers with a little olive oil and salt, and added a tomato and some garlic from my dad’s garden for good measure – then roasted. That’s a great way to get out excess moisture, that can lead to soggy situations in whatever dish you’re preparing. Plus, it really intensifies all of the flavor.

Used my favorite pie crust recipe to line my tart pan, and blind bake. Then piled in the roasted vegetable goodness and a rich egg-custard to fill in all the nooks & crannies. And a little goat cheese for good measure. A local farmer has been selling his goat cheese at the farmer’s market here on Chincoteague, and it’s insanely wonderful. Have been enjoying it every chance I can get!

A quick bake for about half an hour, and you’re good to go. Paired with a simple green salad, it’s the perfect meal for this time of year. Could also be made in a pie plate without the crust!

And, if you’re in the vicinity and looking for something to do tomorrow – make sure you check out the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. The’ve got a great lineup of speakers, activities for kids, gardening info, seed saving, good eats….they’ll have it all! A great day to get outside and live, breathe, and taste history.


Iced Coffee Tonic

The dog days of summer haven’t hit us yet, but I wanted to be prepared when they do. My friend and coffee roaster Kristen, down at Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Company, had made us these refreshing concotions after a long day on the road – literally all over the Eastern Shore. It was for a farm tour hosted by the good people at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station. Last year they had their first Serving Up The Shore event, and it was a great success. Local farmers and producers donate an array of items, and local chefs donate their time. Last year I attended, and have anxiously been awaiting this year…

Imagine my surprise when the folks at the Field Station asked me to come and prepare the salad course! I’m excited, and a little nervous – but I think we’ll have great fun! It’s really an honor to be in the kitchen with the chefs and farmers/producers they have lined up…go buy your tickets!

Anywho, I’ve long been a fan of ESCR and their coffees. So to get to know Kristen and Jamie, and to have them take the time to show us a roast from start to finish – was just such a treat! And then, to end it all with an amazing treat like this iced coffee tonic – well, that was just the icing on the cake for the day! If you’re local, look for their coffees at Poseidon’s Pantry as well as Wine, Cheese & More (downtown) here on the island,

Kristen used their Marsh Mud cold-brew blend, which is phenom. But whatever your favorite method or brand for cold brew is will be fine. Look for a post on that here soon! So, about 3/4 parts cold brew to 1/4 cup tonic or seltzer. I kind of liked the slight “twang” that the tonic water lent, but have since made it with seltzer and it was equally delightful.

A little sugar or simple syrup. And maybe a splash of half & half, if that’s your thing. I’ve also added a splash of coconut milk, and it was absolute perfection! Garnish with some sort of herbacious sprig – we used rosemary, and really enjoyed that little herbal note lingering in the background.

The perfect summer sipper to put a little pep in your step during these warmer months!

Source: I get by with a little help from my friends at ESCR. Thanks, guys!