20+ South Jersey Food Deals for Small Business Saturday

Shop local this Sat. & score some sweet food deals at area restaurants & shops.

Every year, shoppers come together to kick off their holiday shopping while supporting local businesses. Small Business Saturday, which takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, began as an American Express campaign that quickly gained nationwide support.

Step away from your smartphone and resist the urge to order everything from Amazon. If you’re brave enough to bear the arctic chill in South Jersey’s air, shop small at local stores. While you’re at it, grab a bite to eat from your favorite area restaurants.

Below are just a few Small Business Saturday foodie deals in South Jersey for this Saturday, November 24.

If you know of any I missed, please comment below and I will add them when I get a free moment. I will personally be shopping in downtown Mount Holly today, which is home to a vibrant arts district (Mill Race Village Shops) and one of my favorite cozy coffee shops (Breaking Grounds).

Palmyra

*Print out this flyer to redeem the following coupons:

Franco’s Cafe – 10% off (with flyer coupon)

Kaffir Thai – 15% off (with flyer coupon)

Mama’s Homemade Cookies – 13% off (with flyer coupon; I’m not sure how they arrived at 13%, but hey, who am I to question someone offering delicious homemade cookies?)

Hammonton

Casciano Coffee Bar & Sweetery – purchase 4 gift cards, get 1 free

Annata Wine Bar – offering specials on gift cards and wine purchases

El Nuevo Mariachi Loco – Spend $30 and get free flan (my FAVORITE Mexican restaurant)

El Mariachi Loco's Enchiladas Verdes (Hammonton, NJ)
El Mariachi Loco’s Enchiladas Verdes


Ohana Juice Bar –  20% off select merchandise

Mannino’s Cannoli Express – raffle giveaways and free mini cannoli with every order

Monroeville Winery –  10% off any purchase & 15% off a case of wine

Tales of the Olive – specials on various olive oil and vinegar products

Mount Holly

Breaking Grounds – owner Jenny Lee will be dressed up as an elf and hiding throughout Mill Race Village from 1 – 2 pm for Mount Holly’s Selfie with the Elfie event

Robin’s Nest Restaurant – buy $100 of gift cards and receive a $20 gift card

Medford

Offering $2000+ in raffle prizes from Medford’s Main Street Merchants

Braddock’s Tavern – buy $100 in gift cards and receive a $20 gift card

Harvest Coffee – free Harvest tote bag when you spend $50

Haddonfield (free parking)

Downtown Haddonfield, NJ

Tre Famiglia Ristorante – $20 gift card when you buy $100 in gift cards

The British Chip Shop – I couldn’t locate any special promotions for the British Chip Shop, but they did announce some great news recently, so fans rejoice: they’re NOT closing as previously reported!

Collingswood

Earlier this year, USA Today declared Collingswood the Best Small Town Food Scene in America. They’re also hosting a holiday parade at 10 am on Small Business Saturday.

L’Oceano – buy $100 of gift cards and receive $20 gift card

Indiya (you made need to purchase online) Buy $50 in gift cards and get $10 gift card; buy $100 in gift cards and get $20 gift card; buy $200 in gift cards and get $50 gift card

Millville

Print out this flyer to redeem this coupon:

Bruni’s Breakfast & Burgers – $2 off a 6-pack of take-out burgers (with flyer coupon)

Pitman

Win prizes with when you shop with Pitman’s Passport

Rancocas Woods

Rancocas Woods is also hosting their Made and Found Market this Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm. While I couldn’t find any specific information about food vendors, in previous years their market has included a couple of unique food trucks.

South Jersey Family Outings: Visit Fernbrook Farms & Eat Lunch at Properly Fueled

Fernbrook Farms and Properly Fueled are family-friendly destinations offering locally-sourced, healthy food and fun.

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Properly Fueled’s Jasmine Green Tea ($2)

Highlights:

  • Fernbrook Farms in Chesterfield, New Jersey (near Bordentown) offers a CSA program, kids’ summer camp, hiking trails, and a farm market selling produce and other locally-sourced goods
  • Downtown Bordentown boasts a vibrant downtown area with a number of restaurants, including Properly Fueled
  • Properly Fueled serves locally-sourced, healthy breakfast and lunch items, kids’ meals, smoothies, coffee, tea, and baked goods. They also cater.

Fernbrook Farms

This year, I discovered something new. Well, really only new to me. I’ve lived in New Jersey my whole life, and until 2018, I’d never explored Bordentown.

It started as a quest to find a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program. In the spring, we went to Smithville Park’s annual Earth Fair where we met the friendly people from Fernbrook Farms just outside Bordentown. At their vendor table, we learned about Fernbrook’s CSA. After reading some positive reviews about their program, our family enrolled.

Fernbrook isn’t close – about a forty-minute drive –  to where we live in Medford. But throughout the whole season of shuttling back and forth to Fernbrook for our CSA share once a week, I never minded the drive. In fact, although I usually loathe driving, I almost always looked forward to the scenic trip up Route 206.

Yesterday was our last visit to Fernbrook for the year. I’ll miss cooking with the fresh produce we got there each week, but our final haul was much bigger than I expected. In fact, I hadn’t realized just how many crops could still thrive in New Jersey when the temperature drops so low. My son and I brought home bags of deep green kale, cabbage, butternut squash, potatoes, parsley, sage, turnips, radishes, carrots, and celery.

When we arrived for our final CSA pickup, the Fernbrook Farms staff had a campfire burning outside. As always, they greeted us upon our arrival. Beside the campfire sat a picnic table offering free samples of lavender-spiced cookies. (I’m still undecided on whether I like lavender in food.) Beside the basket of cookies sat a decorative fall centerpiece and a few bourbon pecan pies for sale. Inside the shop, Fernbrook also sells locally-sourced goods like dairy products, meat, frozen ravioli, eggs, potato chips, iced tea, coffee, and barbecue sauce.

Before we picked up our produce, my son (who is almost four) wanted to go hiking one last time despite yesterday’s bitter temperatures. (Okay, maybe not bitter, but I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold.) Fernbrook does a lot more than just grow vegetables. In fact, they do a little of everything – from weddings to summer camp for kids. The farm’s’ property is also home to a number of scenic hiking trails, and as a result of walking the trails each week, my son has a newfound passion for hiking.

Fernbrook is also home to a number of farm animals. Earlier in the season, we got to see the pigs they raised for meat. Explaining to my son why they were no longer at the farm in an age-appropriate way provided a bit of a challenge, but I’m glad he knows that his food doesn’t just magically appear at the grocery store. The rest of the animals at Fernbrook – goats, sheep, chickens, a cow, ducks, and rabbits – are for educational purposes only. We said our final goodbyes to the animals as my son petted the friendly goats.

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Saying ‘goodbye’ for the year to Fernbrook Farms’ cow

Properly Fueled

Driving away from the farm, I got one last look at the unique historic buildings on the farm (shown above). By the time we left, we were both famished. Over the summer, we had enjoyed a meal at Properly Fueled in downtown Bordentown, so I suggested we dine there again. After I reminded my son about their kids’ fruit kebobs, he agreed.

Bordentown has a beautiful and vibrant downtown area. Although we had to park a distance up the street from Properly Fueled, we didn’t mind the walk. But once we got to Properly Fueled, we were grateful for how quickly our food arrived.

Properly Fueled is a small, cozy cafe-style eatery that specializes in locally-sourced health food like quinoa and vegetable bowls. Their menu also offers breakfast items, smoothies, sandwiches, and seasonal specials. A wall in the cafe boasts a list of their local partners that supply everything on their menu – from honey to vegetables to coffee. (Fernbrook, of course, is one of their local suppliers.)

My son ordered his kids’ Fruit Kebobs ($5) – strawberries, bananas, and apples served with a side of sweetened cinnamon yogurt for dipping. I opted for their Rad Thai Bowl ($10.50). Although I didn’t enjoy it as much I enjoyed the Asian bowl I ordered there earlier in the year, it was still a tasty choice. To drink, my son had iced water served in a Mason jar, and I had a mug of hot jasmine green tea. Before we left, we both ordered to-go items: a gluten-free smores cookie for him and a decaf coffee for me.

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Properly Fueled’s kids’ fruit kebabs ($5)

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Properly Fueled’s Rad Thai Noodles ($10.50)

Right now, we’re undecided on whether we’ll join Fernbrook’s CSA again next year. As my son gets older and participates in more activities, a weekly forty-minute drive might prove too hectic for our family. However, I highly recommend Fernbrook to anyone who lives close to Bordentown (or who doesn’t mind driving there each week.) The CSA is not only affordable but also great for families who want to teach their kids more about where food comes from.

You can signup now for Fernbrook’s 2019 CSA program, which costs $660 for 26 weeks, from Memorial Day through Thanksgiving, approximately $25 a week. We always had plenty to eat each week – and some leftovers too.

Even if we don’t join the CSA again, I’m positive we’ll be back to Fernbrook for a visit in the spring. Afterward, I look forward to another relaxing lunch at Properly Fueled.  If you love to eat local, make the trip to explore Bordentown. I can’t imagine anyone would regret it.

Fernbrook Farms:

142 Bordentown Georgetown Rd
Chesterfield, NJ 08515

Properly Fueled:

1 1/2 Crosswicks St
Bordentown, New Jersey

Monday – Friday: 7 am-8 pm

Saturday: 7 am-3 pm

What are your favorite things to do in Bordentown?

Make Room for Dessert with These 9 Tantalizing Recipes

Tired of plain pumpkin pie? Me too. Give boring holiday sweets the boot. Whip up one of these mouthwatering Thanksgiving desserts instead.

Tired of plain pumpkin pie? Me too.

Last week, I posted a roundup of unique stuffing recipes. This week, we tackle Thanksgiving dessert.

Give boring holiday sweets the boot. Whip up one of these mouthwatering fall desserts instead:

If you like your pumpkin with a boozy kick…

Thanksgiving dessert recipe with bourbon
Photo by Tim Wright on Unsplash

Try Food and Wine’s Bourbon Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Streusel (I haven’t tried them myself, but Cooper River Distillers– the first legal distillery in Camden – produces a handmade, from-scratch bourbon.)

….or this French Apple Cake with Rum from Once Upon a Chef.

If you can’t wait to get in the holiday spirit…

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Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian on Unsplash

Make this Festive Cranberry Topped Cheesecake from Taste of Home. (Remember to buy local New Jersey cranberries!)

If you don’t want to put another thing in the oven…

Banana cream pie recipe
Photo by Whitney Wright on Unsplash

Check out Taste of Home’s no-bake Old-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie.

If you love to bake from scratch…

Bake this Snickers Cake from Brown Eyed Baker. I can personally attest that this one is a HIT. It’s a lot of work, but your efforts will pay off. Even if you burn the turkey, your Thanksgiving guests will forget all about it when they taste this decadent treat. If you don’t like coffee in your desserts, don’t worry: you really can’t taste the coffee in this recipe, and it makes the cake super moist. (Buy coffee roasted in South Jersey: my favorite local coffee roaster is Harvest in Medford.)

If you want to make your dessert before the big day…

Spend Thanksgiving Eve putting together this make-ahead Cool, Creamy Chocolate Dessert from Cooking Light.

If you love a good ice cream float…

Root_Beer_Float
Arnold Gatilao [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Drink up this Caramel Apple Float from Taste of Home.

If stuffing just isn’t enough bread for you…

Put together Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise. (Got all that? It’s a mouthful.)

If you think chocolate and orange are a match made in culinary heaven…

Try your hand at this Orange Macaron with Dark Chocolate Clementine Ganache recipe from PBS. (I’m planning to make these on Thanksgiving – my first shot at macaron-making, so wish me luck.)

And finally, if you like to keep things super simple…

Put a toothpick in some fresh cranberries and dip them in some store-made caramel dip for an easy, delicious dessert. My almost-four-year-old will be making these while I’m making the macarons. We sampled them at Murphy’s Fresh Markets recently, and we both loved them.

What sweet recipes did I miss? Comment below with your favorite Thanksgiving desserts. 

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Photo by Marie Grob on Unsplash

9 Unique Stuffing Recipes to ‘Wow’ Your Thanksgiving Guests

Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away? Time to finalize your dinner menu and put together a shopping list before the big day arrives.

If you’ve been cooking the same stuffing recipe for decades, you might be ready for a change. Check out these nine stuffing recipes to wow your guests with this Thanksgiving:

If you love ciabatta bread….

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Photo by Dave Takisaki on Unsplash

Check out this gourmet Ciabatta and Sausage Stuffing from Saveur.

If you like to combine sweet and savory flavors…

apple cranberry stuffing with New Jersey cranberriesTry this Apple, Onion, and Cranberry Stuffing from Eating Well. Cranberries are in season here in New Jersey, so if you’re using fresh cranberries, buy local. I know Murphy’s Fresh Markets in Medford and Shoprite in Medford both have local cranberries right now.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan…

 

Cook this Chestnut Stuffing from Vegetarian Times. I actually made this years ago, and as I recall it was a hit.

If you like Southern-style cuisine…

Consider this Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Collard Greens from Bon Appetit. Collard greens are still growing in South Jersey. I know Fernbrook Farms in Bordentown had collards last week when I was there.

If you don’t feel like making another side dish…

Combine your sweet potatoes and stuffing in this Sweet Potato Stuffing with Bacon and Thyme dish from Bon Appetit.

If you’re watching what you eat…

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Photo by Miguel Maldonado on Unsplash

Whip up this healthy Whole Grain Apple Cranberry Stuffing from the Food Network.

If you can’t get enough fennel…

I love fennel, which is why I’m planning to make this Sausage and Fennel Stuffing recipe from Food and Wine.

If you love soft pretzels…

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Photo by Wesual Click on Unsplash

If you’re from the Philadelphia area, you know good soft pretzels. Go Philly style this Thanksgiving with this Soft Pretzel Stuffing from Philly Grub and Zachary’s BBQ and Soul Kitchens. Thank you to Marilyn at Philly Grub for sharing this one!

And, finally, if you like to keep things traditional…

Check out the Kitchn’s guide to classic stuffing.

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Photo by Chelsea shapouri on Unsplash

Farm-to-Table Dining at Rastelli’s Newest South Jersey Store

Disclaimer: Rastelli Market Fresh at Hill Creek Farms invited local bloggers to a free tasting event on Tuesday, November 13. They also provided us with a complimentary insulated bag, pie, caramel-coated apples, and apple cider donuts – all available for purchase at the farm.

Highlights:

  • Rastelli Market Fresh opened their newest location at Hill Creek Farms in Mullica Hill, New Jersey in July 2018
  • The new location serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and features a Lounge Cafe, coffee shop, bakery, and wine from Auburn Road Vineyards
  • Rastelli at Hill Creek Farms’ farm-to-table menu features ingredients grown at Hill Creek Farm

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Pictured (from left): Chris Mentzer, Director of Operations; Krista Mentzer, Marketing Coordinator; food blogger Amaris Pollock; and Lauren Rastelli DeMarco, Director of Marketing & Events

“No shortcuts,” says Director of Operations Chris Mentzer, referring to Rastelli Market Fresh’s cooking philosophy. Metzner helped design Rastelli’s newest location at Hill Creek Farms in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, which opened in July of this year.  On Tuesday, November 13, the Rastelli team hosted a tasting for food bloggers at their new location.

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Rastelli’s new Mullica Hill store employs a true farm-to-table concept, with many of their ingredients coming straight from Hill Creek Farms where the store is housed.

Rastelli at Hill Creek Farms is “literally the definition of farm-to-table,” says Tony Luke Jr. of Tony Luke’s Cheesesteaks fame, who also attended the tasting. Prepared by Director of Culinary Joe Muldoon and Corporate Executive Chef James Liuzza, most of the ingredients for the food we sampled – including the wood to smoke the meats – came from the farm.

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At the sampling, the Rastelli culinary team featured a spread of classic barbecue fare that included smoked brisket, smoked ribs, and homemade baked beans. Toppings like white truffle oil, apple cider bacon, sundried tomatoes, sliced jalapenos, shredded brisket with chipotle barbecue sauce, and scallions accompanied the macaroni-and-cheese station. The meats and macaroni were full of flavor without being overly greasy, which is often a flaw with these menu items at other restaurants.

Our meal included tacos with mango salsa and feta cheese. I was skeptical of putting feta on a taco. But I gave it a try, and I’m glad I did. Guests quenched their palates with apple cider, which was a real crowd pleaser. I opted for fruit-infused iced water. For dessert, we enjoyed cake pops and shooter-style sweets.

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We ate upstairs in Rastelli’s cozy, rustic-style Lounge Cafe, where you’ll find tables to dine and a coffee shop similar to the one at Rastelli’s Marlton location.  Although I didn’t have any coffee during the tasting, the Marlton cafe’s lattes are my favorite of every coffee shop in the area.

In the lounge, you’ll also see couches and a large-screen television, perfect for relaxing with friends with a glass of Auburn Road Vineyards’ wine. Downstairs, you’ll find a small shop selling prepared foods, baked goods like pies and apple cider donuts, meats, and seafood.

As I ate, I perused Rastelli’s menu and was particularly impressed by their kids’ meals. While they still offer the usual kids-fare like hot dogs and fried chicken tenders, the kids’ menu also features unique options like an organic chicken and veggie meal, organic short rib beef burger, and Farmer Fred’s apple dippers.

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I plan to return to the farm this month with my soon-to-be four-year-old in tow. Hill Creek Farms is open March through December and is home to a number of kid-friendly farm activities such as a playground, pick-your-own fruit, and barrel train rides.

If you haven’t been to Mullica Hill, which is located in Gloucester County off Route 55, be prepared to drive through miles of rural, scenic South Jersey farmland to get there. Although I haven’t been to Mullica Hill’s downtown area, fellow blogger Marilyn Johnson of Philly Grub says it’s a vibrant neighborhood full of antique shops.

Rastelli Market Fresh has two other locations in Deptford and Marlton. I haven’t visited their Deptford store, which is the oldest of the three. The new store is much smaller than their Marlton location, but its small size lends itself well to a charming, farmhouse vibe. If you’re a fan of Rastelli’s other locations, a trip to the new Mullica Hill location is worth the drive.

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Hill Creek Farms Hours:

Wednesday – Sunday: 10 am – 5 pm

Rastelli Market Fresh at Hill Creek Farms Hours:

Sunday – Thursday: 8am – 7pm

Friday – Saturday: 8am – 9pm

Rastelli Market Fresh Loft Cafe Hours:

Friday – Saturday: 8am – 9pm

Sunday – Thursday: 8am – 7pm

Address:

1631 State Highway 45

Mullica Hill, NJ 08062

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Pictured (from left): Director of Culinary Joe Muldoon and Executive Chef James Liuzza

9 Ways to Help Feed the Hungry in South Jersey

Help feed those suffering from hunger in South Jersey by donating your time or money to these causes.

Note: The following list is very biased toward the area where I live, as I didn’t have much time to put this one together. If you know of another hunger cause in South Jersey that needs assistance, please comment below. I will add it as soon as I can. Thank you!

In honor of World Kindness Day, here are 9 ways you can help alleviate hunger in South Jersey:

If you’re near Mount Holly or Berlin, help stock pantry shelves and pack bags at Oaks Integrated Care, which needs assistance with their Thanksgiving food pantry.

In Audubon, Meals on Wheels seeks volunteers to help shop and deliver meals to Camden County senior citizens.

In Pennsauken, the Food Bank of South Jersey is looking for volunteers to teach healthy cooking and nutrition classes in a variety of settings.

Hunger Helpers in Camden and Jersey Cares need volunteers to serve hot meals in a restaurant-like setting to people suffering from hunger.

Stock the shelves of Touch New Jersey Inc’s. food pantry in Camden.

If you’re a teen or know one who wants to help, check out Quixote Quest’s Qaravana initiative, which aims to feed hungry children in Camden.

The Salvation Army in Vineland needs help with their food pantry.

Learn more about hunger in South Jersey by reading the Press of Atlantic City’s Growing Up Hungry series.

Host a food drive at your school or workplace to benefit the Food Bank of South Jersey.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Cheese Education at Whole Foods Marlton, Dessert at Murphy’s Market Medford, & Homemade Empanadas

Whole Foods Marlton educated customers on all-things-cheese this Saturday.

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Image by: (WT-fr) Regiondesaintjeansurrichelieu at French Wikivoyage [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Cheese Terroir

Often applied to wine, the French word terroir refers to the environmental factors – climate, soil quality, sunlight, and local wildlife – that can affect a food’s appearance or taste.

Ed Reynolds knows all about terroir. As a part-time Whole Foods employee, he has logged more than 4,500 hours of cheese experience. On Saturday, November 10 from 1 pm – 3 pm, he led a talk at Whole Foods’ Marlton, New Jersey location for their free Flavors of the Moment cheese tasting, an educational event that taught me a lot I didn’t know about cheese. Reynolds’ passion for all things cheese shone as he introduced the word terroir – as it relates to cheese – at the start of the tasting.

“What grows together, goes together,” he explained to our small group of eager cheese samplers. In general, when foods – like honey and cheese – are grown or produced in the same geographical area, they tend to complement one another. Before the presentation, Reynolds and the rest of the Whole Foods’ cheese team used the concept of terroir to pair several varieties of cheese with the accompaniments that complemented each.

The History of Cheddar

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The tasting began with a sample of Keen’s Cheddar, a mild, unpasteurized cheese. Keen’s Cheddar is a “farmstead” product, a label given to cheese produced on the same farm where the cows are raised to make it. Producing farmstead cheese is a terroir practice that lends cheese unique properties depending on where it is made.

Reynolds and his team served the cheddar with a side of Cremenelli Tartufo Salami, an uncured Italian meat lightly dotted with black truffle. Beta-carotene lends Keen’s Cheddar its deep yellow color as a result of the cows’ grass-fed diet. While cheeses made from goat’s or sheep’s milk are often grass-fed, their cheeses do not produce as vibrant a color because goats and sheep do not secrete beta-carotene in the same way cows do.

Cheddar cheese originated in the village of Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, England, where cheesemakers used caves to mature it. Since 1899, Keen’s has produced cheddar and the farm remains in the same family today. They are one of only three farms still producing raw-milk cheddar in Somerset. The taste was decidedly mild and distinct from the mass-produced varieties of cheap shredded cheddar I often toss into my family’s scrambled eggs and tacos.

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Cheddar Gorge, Somerset, England Image, the birthplace of cheddar Image by: Diliff [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Sweet Italian Cheese

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Moliterno al Tartufo cheese with Mitica Acacia honey and a cracker

Next, we sampled a pecorino-style Italian sheep’s milk cheese called Moliterno al Tartufo, a sweet, salty cheese that contains black truffle. For Reynolds, Moliterno al Tartufo recalls memories of growing up in Philadelphia eating salted pretzels with sweet ice cream.

We sampled the cheese with a drizzle of a raw Italian honey called Mitica Acacia, which Reynolds called “low-glycemic,” ideal for people who are watching their sugar intake. (I was unable to find an online source that verifies this claim.) Boasting a long shelf-life, this light-bodied honey rarely crystallizes. Mitica Acacia comes from an acacia tree, which is native to Bulgaria but also grows in Italy.

Steps to Cheese Tasting

As we sampled, Reynolds talked about the process of professional cheese tasting. Professional cheese tasters practice what is called ‘retronasal breathing,’ a practice that uses exhalation during the swallowing phase to aid the perception of aromas in the back of the throat.

Because professional tasters, such as competitive cheese judges, often sample hundreds of cheeses in a single weekend, they don’t always eat all of the cheese they judge. Instead, they use other senses – like smell – to judge the quality of the cheese.

Reynolds also discussed the importance of food temperature in relationship to taste. Few foods, he said, are meant to be eaten cold. The temperature of a cheese, for instance, can alter the cheese’s entire taste profile. Reynolds argues that most cheeses should be consumed at room temperature, a belief shared by many other experts – like the team at Serious Eats.

Sweet Partners: Jam and Cheddar

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La Clare Farms’ Chandoka cheese with Bonnie’s Jams’ Bourbon Berry Jam

The Whole Foods team brought out Chandoka cheese from La Clare Farms Family Creamery in Wisconsin next. Like Keen’s, La Clare is a farmstead cheese producer, and they have been in business since 1978. Aged inside a cave, this cheddar cheese is mixed-milk, meaning it contains both cow’s and goat’s milk. The team paired it with a sweet jam called Bonnie’s Jams’ Bourbon Berry Jam, popular with Whole Foods customers.

Stilton: “Gateway to Bleu”

Next up was an English Stilton, a cheese that can only be produced in the British counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, or Leicestershire. Candied pecans accompanied the Stilton. Reynolds called Stilton the “gateway to bleu cheese” because Whole Foods’ employees often suggest this mild, beginner cheese to customers who are new to the world of bleu. 

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Stilton cheese

Types of Rennet

Most cheeses are made using rennet, which is traditionally obtained as a byproduct of veal. Today, the vast majority of today’s cheese producers are moving away from animal-based rennet and instead using a genetically-engineered, vegetarian rennet grown in a lab. In fact, about up to 90% of the world’s cheeses are now made with lab-grown rennet, which Reynolds says is “100% identical” in chemical composition to its animal-based counterpart.

Dessert at Murphy’s Market

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay for the rest of Whole Foods’ informative presentation. But later that day, I took my son to Murphy’s Markets in Medford for their free Taste of the Seasons sampling event. (I like free samples, okay?)

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Lars Ginger Snaps with Murphy’s Pumpkin Dip

We sampled Lars Swedish Ginger Snaps with Murphy’s pumpkin dip, which Murphy’s often has available for sampling throughout the season. The dip, which is made at Murphy’s, is a creamy, delicious blend of pumpkin puree, sugar, and cream cheese. I’m not usually a big pumpkin-spice gal – despite my love for all-things-fall – but this one had me reaching for more.

Murphy’s also had out a basket of their brownies to try (pictured above). This chewy, enticing brownie has become locally famous, and if the crumbs on the floor were any evidence of their popularity, I’d say a lot of people enjoyed them on Saturday.

My son’s favorite Murphy’s sample was the caramel cranberries – fresh cranberries dipped in gooey caramel, which would make for a delectable, light Thanksgiving appetizer or dessert. We also tried several of Murphy’s seafood spreads and dips with crackers, including their buffalo chicken dip.

My experience at Whole Foods and Murphy’s gave me a lot of ideas to think about for Thanksgiving dinner – cheese grazing boards, desserts made with locally-grown cranberries, imported Italian meats. I might think twice next time I reach for the cheap shredded cheddar at Wal-Mart.

But I think even processed cheese has its rightful place, and no one was complaining this weekend when I used Target cheese on my homemade empanadas. If you ever make empanadas, be sure to use this dough recipe from Laylita’s Recipes. I used frozen butter, and the result was a flakey, buttery crust. I stuffed mine with shredded chicken, canned corn, canned tomatoes, and Mexican spices (chipotle, smoked paprika, salt, and chili powder).

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My homemade cheap-cheese empanadas

South Jersey Family Outings: Lunch at the Red Barn Cafe & Hike at Batsto Village

Dine at the Red Barn Cafe in Hammonton and then enjoy a family hike at historic Batsto Village.

Note: This article is the first in a new series called South Jersey Family Outings. I’ll combine multiple destinations into one recommended day trip idea for families who wish to explore South Jersey. 

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Delectable, eye-catching pies have made Penza’s Pies at the Red Barn Cafe famous.

Highlights:

  • Artfully-made fruit pies are Penza’s claim to fame.
  • Pies are available for purchase from 8 am – 6 pm, 7 days a week.
  • The shop also sells savory baked goods (like pepperoni bread), flowers, and produce.
  • The cafe serves breakfast and lunch from 8 am – 2 pm, 7 days a week.
  • The shop and cafe are cash-only, but an ATM is available on premises.
  • Owner Evelyn Penza and her staff are friendly and welcoming to visitors.
  • It takes about 10-15 minutes to drive from Penza’s to historic Batsto Village.
  • Batsto Village features hiking trails; a scenic lake; a museum (museum tours available Wednesday through Sunday); a Pinelands-themed gift shop; educational events; and a nature center.

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Produce and flowers are also available for purchase inside the Red Barn.

Everyone from the New York Times to the Food Network has raved about the homemade sweets at Penza’s Pies at the Red Barn Cafe on Route 206 in Hammonton. The quaint, family-owned shop is housed in a red barn where you’ll feel more like you’ve stepped into your grandmother’s kitchen than a restaurant.

Penza’s is open seven days a week from eight am to six pm for pies and flowers, but they only serve breakfast and lunch between eight am and two pm. When I was a kid, my family and I rode our bikes through Waterford and Hammonton to have breakfast at Penza’s a couple times, but I was too young to remember much of those trips. This past Sunday, my husband, son, and I headed to the Red Barn for a late lunch.IMG_5995

Set amidst forest and farmland, the shop’s old-fashioned windmill and floral displays invite drivers to stop and savor the scenery. Outside the shop sits a greenhouse. A wooden sign advertises apple cherry pie, and the colorful mums remind you that fall is, indeed, finally here. When we entered Penza’s, we saw two dining sections: an “outdoors” area in the enclosed porch, and an indoor area in the bake shop. Since the weather was chilly, we sat in the indoor section.

The shop is worth visiting for its charming rustic decor alone, both inside and outside the cafe. Even the pies on display lend an artistic touch to the setting. Old black-and-white photographs of the farm and newspaper clippings highlighting the cafe’s media coverage over the years adorn the walls. Wooden bookcases, cloth placemats, and a tiny kitchen where you can hear the waitress delivering your order to the cook create a cozy, down-home ambiance.

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Farmhouse decor lends the cafe a cozy, down-home vibe.

 

Like many families in Hammonton, owner Evelyn Penza is Italian, the descendant of a farmer who immigrated here from Sicily in the early twentieth-century. In the 1970’s, Penza and her husband began to experiment with turning the old barn into a business. By the mid-1980’s, Penza and her two sons opened Red Barn. Today, Penza owns and operates the entire operation – including the cafe and pie shop.

Still, her family helps with the shop when they can. “Although the boys have their own businesses, they are an enormous asset and help,” Penza says of her sons.

As we waited for our menus, several families came into the bake shop from out-of-town and gushed over the shop’s eye-catching pies. Behind the counter, Penza sold the pies along with instructions on how to “care for” them at home. She also sold pepperoni bread and other savory baked goods. When Penza asked one man what he wanted, he admitted he was unsure because everything looked so appealing.

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Lunch items on the cafe’s fall menu come with a side of homemade cranberry-applesauce.

The cafe’s autumn menu lists just a few items available for breakfast and lunch, including eggs, quiche, omelets, pancakes, hamburgers, soup, and grilled cheese. The cafe doesn’t have a kids’ menu, but our three-year-old gobbled down an order of peach pancakes served with a side of cranberry-apple sauce. My husband ordered grilled cheese and chicken soup, and I ate a cheeseburger with chips and salad. Our waitress informed us that the cafe is cash-only. As people who rarely carry cash, we were relieved to learn they an ATM.

Fresh dill flavored my salad as well as my husband’s soup. We both enjoyed the taste and appreciate fresh herbs in our food, and our meals were definitely homemade. I expected my salad to be the standard, uninspired iceberg-lettuce with bottled Italian dressing that a lot of diners serve as a side. I was wrong. My salad was a refreshing mix of fresh cucumbers, peppers, onions, and plenty of seasoning. We ate every bite, and since we figured our son had ingested enough sugar that day between leftover Halloween candy and pancakes, we declined a dessert course.

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The side salads at the Red Barn are full of fresh dill and flavor.

Penza’s is nestled in rural farmland, just minutes from historic Batsto Village. Batsto features numerous hiking trails, a mansion, a sawmill, a museum, a lake, and a nature center. They also host educational events throughout the year. In the fall, Batsto bustles with activity as photographers snap photos of babies discovering Batsto’s orange and yellow landscape. Throughout the season, couples beam for engagement photos beside a dam where iced-tea-brown cedar water flows beneath a wooden footbridge.

Having savored our lunches at Penza’s, we embarked on a hike at Batsto. My son learned about the Pinelands’ native wildlife and a bit about what life was like for the original inhabitants who lived in Batsto beginning in 1766. The nature center even offered some information on the legend and lore of the Jersey Devil. After seeing the mock Jersey Devil “replica” inside the nature center, we had to remind our son a few times that the Jersey Devil isn’t real (although many locals would disagree).

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Because of its idyllic landscape, Batso Village is a popular fall photography spot.

Our pace slowed as we walked back to our car and watched the sun set behind the Batsto mansion. Daylight savings time ended that weekend, and our bodies hadn’t adjusted yet. What a difference an hour can make on your circadian rhythm.

“Why we don’t come here very often?” my son – who woke up at 5:30 am that morning – inquired. (He’s definitely in the why stage of child development.)

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think we’ll start coming more often, though. Would you like to come more often?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“That sounds good to me,” I said as we drove away.

 

 

Easy Fall Sweet Potato & Chicken Bake

Whip up this easy sweet potato and chicken dish for a tasty autumn meal.

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

Easy Sweet Potato & Chicken Bake
Whip up this easy sweet potato and chicken dish for a tasty autumn dinner.

 

Sweet potato & chicken bake

1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 in. cubes

3 leeks, roughly chopped

2 tbs. Extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, mashed

2 tbs. Lemon juice

½ tsp. CinnamonIMG_5940

1 tsp. Salt (or to taste)

¼ tsp. Black pepper

1 inch. Piece fresh ginger, minced

½ c. orange juice

1/2 tbs. Grainy, old-style mustard (I used Maille brand)

1 lb. chicken breast tenderloins

Parsley, fresh or dried (optional)

Jasmine rice

2 c. white jasmine rice

2 c. chicken broth

1 tbs. Butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine all the ingredients for the sweet potato and chicken bake in a large, oven-proof glass casserole dish. Make sure sweet potatoes and chicken are coated.

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Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20-25 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft and tender and chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

Cook the rice while the sweet potatoes and chicken are baking. I used an Instant Pot for our rice, cooked at high pressure for 4 minutes with a 10-minute release time.

Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with rice.

Fernbrook Farms is one of many Community-Supported Agricultural (CSA) farms in New Jersey. Thirty-five minutes north of our home in Medford, Fernbrook is outside of the Pine Barrens. While it’s a bit of a drive, our family chose to become CSA members at Fernbrook this year for two reasons.

Fernbrook Farms (CSA) in Bordentown, NJ
Fernbrook Farms in Chesterfield (Bordentown), NJ has a CSA program and a number of hiking trails and animals for kids to see.

First, there’s a lot there for kids to do, including seeing animals like goats, sheep, chickens, and pigs, and I always bring my three-year-old son with me. Also, there are lots of scenic hiking trails, and when we go each week to pick up our farm share, we usually spend an hour or two hiking.

The diverse produce we’ve gotten at Fernbrook has always been fresh and delicious. Fernbrook provides a variety of vegetables from which we can pick each week. In fact, I think before we became CSA members, I was a bit ignorant as to how many different crops can grow in New Jersey.

Most people are familiar with Jersey tomatoes and corn, Jersey peaches, and Jersey blueberries, and other Jersey staples like cucumbers, bell peppers, and watermelon. I was surprised, though, by the high-quality kohlrabi, large variety of peppers, napa cabbage, and okra Fernbrook grows.  

Burgundy sweet potatoes and leeks
Burgundy sweet potatoes and leeks are fall crops in New Jersey.

I also didn’t know sweet potatoes came in so many varieties. Recently, we picked up ‘burgundy’ sweet potatoes and leeks as part of our farm share. The flesh inside burgundy sweet potatoes looks and tastes just like any other sweet potato (albeit maybe a tad sweeter). But the skin on the outside is a purplish color. These sweet potatoes were also much smaller than sweet potatoes we usually buy in the grocery store. I don’t know if their size is due to their variety or to the time of year.

I came up with this recipe one night when I needed to prepare a quick dinner. While it takes about 40 minutes to bake, the recipe is hands-off once you get it in the oven. I used that time to clean up the kitchen, so we’d have extra time after dinner to sit outside by our campfire with a cup of hot tea to tell ghost stories. Have I ever told you how much I love fall in South Jersey?