Listings of what's available at the farmers' markets and how to use the produce available.
December 11
Nuts Star in Holiday Appetizers

​Nuts are right up there on my list of essential holiday ingredients. Pecans, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts and hazelnuts star in so many dishes. I had a Christmas luncheon tea for some ladies the other day and realized that there were pistachios in the scones, pecans in the brussels sprouts salad, almonds in the chicken salad and there were supposed to be pecans in the gelatin salad and almonds in the dessert - but I thought that might be overkill! I put nuts in everything from salads to appetizers to pecan crusted pork loin to sweet potatoes to desserts.

Pecan, Olive and Parmesan  Rugelach web.jpg  

There is one cardinal rule for nuts in cooking - always toast them first to bring out the flavor. You can use a dry skillet and place over medium high heat, stirring often until they sizzle and you can smell them. The other method is to put them on a baking sheet in the oven at about 375 degrees F. and toast until lightly browned, sizzling and deliciously aromatic. Whichever method you use, watch them carefully as they will burn in a snap and you don't want to burn a whole expensive bag of nuts. When nuts are warm they are softer so it is easier to chop them warm and then let them cool before using. I usually toast the entire bag at once and then they are ready to go when needed and I don't have to stop and toast them for each recipe.

Nuts are full of oils and will quickly go rancid. So if you are not going to use them right away, store them in the freezer. They unthaw quickly when you need them (or I often just throw them in frozen).

The holidays often call for appetizers for parties or tree decorating or Christmas or New Years' Eve. Rugelach is traditionally a Jewish cream cheese pastry filled with nuts or poppy seeds or jam and baked - usually used like a cookie. These little appetizer Rugelach use crescent roll dough for a quick and easy little bite that is packed with flavor. They are just as good for breakfast as an appetizer too! If you don't like green olives try using chopped up dried apricots for a sweeter version. Happy Holidays!

Pecan, Olive and Parmesan Rugelach

1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted

1/3 cup finely chopped green olives

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

1 (8-ounce) tube crescent roll dough


Combine pecans, olives, cheese and thyme in a medium bowl.  Unroll crescent rolls onto a lightly floured cutting board.  Sprinkle pecan mixture evenly over dough, pressing firmly into dough.  Using a sharp knife, cut dough along perforations.  Cut each triangle lengthwise into 2 equal triangles.  Roll up each triangle, starting at wide end.  Place rugelach, point sides down, on an ungreased baking sheet, curving them into a crescent shape.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until browned.  Serve hot or room temperature.​

June 14
Salmon Piccata from the Farmers Market

​I went to visit the Franklin Farmers Market the other Saturday and picked up a frozen side of Alaskan Sockeye salmon. It is sustainably caught by the company in Alaska and then flash frozen and delivered either by mail order online or at a few farmers markets across the country and Franklin is one of those. Even though it is not local (we don't have any wild salmon around here), it is the next best thing. And paired with the sugar snap peas and green onions from the market, made a great early summer meal!

Salmon Piccata web.jpg

When I think of summer meals, fish is definitely on the radar.  It's light and refreshing and pairs so well with all of the summer vegetables. It is quick cooking so you don't heat up the kitchen too much. It is also very good for you, especially cold water fatty fish like salmon which is high in omega 3 fatty acids. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services, US Department of Agriculture, American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association all recommend at least 2 (8 ounce) servings of fish each week.

So I made Salmon Piccata. It has a lemon sauce studded with capers for a tangy, salty complement to the fish. The salmon is simply baked and then the sauce is made on the stovetop and poured over the fish. Add some rice and vegetables or a side salad and you have a lovely summer dinner - quick and easy! The sauce would work with any firm, white fleshed fish as well.

Salmon Piccata

2 (6-ounce) fillets  salmon

kosher salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons butter, divided

2 green onions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons white wine

1 teaspoon flour

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons drained capers

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh flat leaf parsley

Line a baking sheet with foil.  Pat the salmon fillets dry and place skin side down on foil.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Bake at 375 degrees about 10 minutes or just until flesh flakes with a fork.  Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and saute green onion onions until tender.  Add wine and cook until almost evaporated.  Sprinkle in the flour and cook for a minute.  Add the chicken broth and lemon juice and capers.  Whisk until smooth and bring to a boil, cooking until slightly thickened.  Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and whisk until melted.  Stir in parsley and serve over salmon fillets.​

June 05
Cherry Frangipane Tart

​So I started with a healthy salad with my fresh cherries from Forgie's Fruit Farm.  Then it was on to dessert.  I love to watch the baking championships on the Food Network (Spring, Holiday, Halloween - you name it).  They quite often talk about frangipane layers in their desserts and so a few months ago I started experimenting with frangipane.  Let me say first of all that it's intriquing just from the name - and fun to say too (fran·juh·pein​). But even more importantly, it is delicious, sweet and almondy.

Cherry Frangipane Tart web.jpg

Frangipane is a filling normally made with ground almonds, sugar, butter and eggs. It bakes up to a pillowy, soft filling for tarts and other baked goods. The filling is super easy to make, especially if you are using almond flour.  If you don't have this (which I didn't), just use blanched, slivered almonds and grind them in a small food processor with the flour and sugar.  I have also used just sliced almonds with the skins still on and it works just fine only it's browner in color and not as pretty. The almond flavor pairs well with all sorts of fruits like peaches, pears, blueberries, rhubarb, and, of course, cherries.

For my tart, I used a pâte sablée dough. It is sweet and crisp and more like a shortbread cookie than a flaky pastry crust – perfect for tarts. It holds up well, crumbles apart with a sandy texture and is a crisp contrast to the tart filling. The dough is pretty sticky when first made but it will firm up in the refrigerator and roll out beautifully between 2 sheets of parchment paper (I use my body to hold the paper against the edge of the counter and then roll away from me, turning to get a round shape). It is baked empty (blind baked) to get it almost done and crispy on the outside. There are a couple of tricks to blind baking. First, line the dough with parchment paper once its in the tart pan. This is easier to do if you crumple up the paper and then flatten out and crumple again and flatten. It will be much more pliable and conform to the rounded shape. Secondly, I don't have any pie weights. I simply have a jar of dried beans that I use for pie weights (don't cook them to eat, just keep them in a jar for this purpose). I fill the parchment paper lined tart dough with the beans and then bake until the dough is set. This will keep it from puffing up. The beans and paper are carefully removed and then it is baked a little longer to get the dough cooked through.

After the crust has been baked and cooled, then the frangipane is added and cherry halves are placed on top and it’s baked again with the filling until the frangipane is golden brown and set.​  You may need to cover the edges with strips of foil to keep them from overbrowning. I have a ring cut from a disposable aluminum pizza pan that fits a 9" round pie or tart pan that I keep just for this purpose - it's easier than putting several strips of foil around the edge.

I love cherry pie, but this is a great alternative and will disappear quickly from your table. Store the tart in the refrigerator, but it is best served at room temperature.

Cherry Frangipane Tart

Tart Dough:

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cups flour


In a stand mixer, cream butter, sugar, egg yolk and salt until smooth. Add flour and slowly mix until dough is uniform. Turn dough out and using your hands, form into two discs. Wrap and chill dough 15-30 minutes. Roll one disc of the chilled pastry between two sheets of parchment paper to an 11" circle and place in a 9" removable bottom tart pan. Press the sides into the flutes and cut off excess dough around the top. Chill 30 more minutes in the pan. Line with crinkled up and flattened parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or beans). Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 10 minutes. Remove weights and paper and bake another 5-10 minutes until the center of the bottom is lightly browned (may need to cover edges with foil to prevent over browning).  Let cool.  (You can freeze the other round to use later.)



1 cup slivered almonds

1 tablespoon flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 cups pitted and halved red cherries


In a small food processor, grind the almonds, flour and sugar together until finely ground. Place in a stand mixer bowl and add butter, mixing well. Add eggs and almond extract and mix until smooth and creamy. Spread into tart shell. Top with a single layer of cherries, cut side down. Bake at 375 degrees until golden, 30 -40 minutes (may need to put foil around edges to prevent crust from over-browning). It will be browned on top and a toothpick will come out clean. Let cool slightly and then place on a large can and remove ring. Let completely cool. Store in the refrigerator but let come to room temperature to serve.

June 04
Last of the Cherries

​Saturday was a happy day!  I finally got some local grown, fresh, beautiful cherries from Forgie's Fruit Farm over near Lewisburg!  The last few years there have not been many (or any) cherries.  Frost, birds, you name it - cherries are not easy to grow in the south but boy are they delicious, juicy and red!  I drove over on a beautiful morning and picked up six quarts.  Some I froze for later in the year to make pies.  About a quart I left out to eat and use fresh.  They are wonderful just out of a bowl with another bowl for the pits!  But I also made several things using the cherries, including a fresh salad.  

Cherry Beet Salad web.jpg

After stopping at Forgie's I headed up I-65 to the Franklin Farmers Market.  I hadn't been at all last year and wow - what a treat again.  It is bustling with shoppers and farmers and music and food trucks with awesome smells coming from them!  A happy place indeed.

So while I was there I picked up some romaine lettuce and some small fresh beets.  I roasted the beets with a little olive oil and salt and pepper for about an hour at 350 degrees wrapped in foil.  Then I let them cool and peeled and roughly chopped them.  Yum!  They make a great side dish just like that or, in this case, I threw them onto my salad.  The fresh romaine lettuce was tossed with some Blush Wine Vinaigrette (from the grocery shelf) and then topped with the beets, halved cherries, toasted almond slices and crumbled blue cheese.  What a beautiful and tasty salad for dinner.

The Bedford County Farmers Market is opening next week, June 13 at 2:30 p.m. until around 4:30 p.m. at the Celebration Pavillion, under the blue water tower on the Celebration grounds.  We hope to see you there to kick off the fresh, local produce season!  We will be doing the Farmers Market Fresh program again with recipe cards, samples and information on fresh produce so stop by for a free recipe and goodies!

So now for the sad news.  I received an e-mail from Forgie's that they are going pull up the cherry trees and replace them with peaches - much easier in the south than cherries.  Understandable - but I'll miss those juicy, red, sweet cherries:(

May 03
Hoisin Chicken Lettuce Wraps

​Last week our regional Family and Consumer Sciences Agents toured the Tanimura and Antle hydroponic greenhouses where they grow butter lettuce.  It was fascinating to see all of those beautiful heads of lettuce developing from a seed to the clamshell package ready for the grocery store.  While lettuce is available all year at the stores, I think of those beautiful, tender leaf lettuces, spinach and butterhead lettuce in the spring when its cool. These heads were so clean and such a vibrant green they just called out to be filled with some chicken with an Asian flavor and crunchy peanuts. Voila - the next day's dinner - Hoisin Chicken Wraps.  The chicken has a sauce with hoisin, which is an Asian sauce kind of like barbecue sauce, a little sweet and tangy. You can find it in the international section at the grocery store and it lasts a long time in the refrigerator after opening.  Many Asian recipes call for hoisin sauce so you'll use it up if you make stir fries very often.  Sesame oil also adds a great flavor to the sauce. This is a dark sesame oil that comes in a small bottle in the international section. It is for flavoring (not for frying things in) and has a very distinct, strong flavor so a little goes a long way.  The only other unusual ingredient is fresh ginger root. This is found in the produce department and looks like gnarly knobs with a light tan skin. You simply use a metal spoon to scrape off the skin and grate the fiberous flesh - your kitchen will immediately be filled with a gingery perfume. It is different than dried ginger but has a little bit fiery bite to it that is just wonderful in stir fries. Be sure to let your chicken cool just a bit before putting on your lettuce or it becomes hard to handle. You can also combine some soy sauce and a little sesame oil for a great dipping sauce if you want, although the chicken has a lot of flavor to it already.  So grab some beautiful, fresh lettuce leaves and wrap up your dinner tonight!

Hoisin Chicken Lettuce Wraps web.jpg 

Hoisin Chicken Wraps

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large chicken breast, 1/4" diced

6 ounces mushrooms, 1/4" diced

2 green onions, sliced and divided

1 carrot, shredded

1/2 cup cocktail peanuts

butterhead lettuce leaves

In a small bowl, whisk together the hoisin, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil and ginger root.  Set aside.  In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Add chicken and cook, stirring often, just until cooked through.  Remove to a bowl.  Add the mushrooms and half of the green onions to the skillet.  Cook until mushrooms lose their liquid and are cooked down.  Add the chicken back to the pan with any juices and the sauce mixture.  Cook until everything is coated and sauce is cooked down and thickened slightly.  Remove from heat and add remaining green onions, carrot and peanuts.  Stir to combine and let cool down a little before serving in lettuce leaves.  You can dip in soy sauce with a little sesame oil and green onions, if desired.​

April 25
Local Wines Make a Tasty Meal

​A couple of weeks ago our Family and Consumer Sciences Agents across Tennessee held their annual state association meeting in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  I was in charge of one of the tours and we visited several places that had to do with fermentation.  We visited a spa and kombucha tap room at Float Alchemy.  Kombucha is a fermented tea that is full of pro-biotics and good stuff for gut health.  It has a tangy flavor, almost effervescent and comes in all kinds of flavors like ginger and blood orange.  We also tasted water kifir (strawberry - yum), beet kvass and some delicious sauerkraut.  

Dr. Janie Burney, UT Extension Nutrition and Food Safety Specialist, spoke about Pro-biotics and then it was off to MTSU to learn about their new Fermentation major with applications to all kinds of food products, beverages and even ethanol production.  Dr. Tony Johnston, head of the program, showed us the labs and talked about the uniqueness of this program.  

Finally we made a visit to Steel Barrel Brewery at Hop Springs to see the sensory labs for the MTSU program as well as the production facility for the brewery and the tap room/event center at this beautiful place.  Some participants did a taste testing of several types of the Steel Barrel brews.  

Fermentation affects our lives in so many ways and those tiny bubbles create many different healthful, delicious and useful products.

Red Wine Cherry Shortcake.jpg

So as a part of the tour, I prepared a lunch featuring wines from Bean's Creek Winery in Manchester, Tennessee including a strawberry salad with a blackberry wine vinaigrette, a chicken lasagna with white wine wine in the sauce, red wine cooked mushrooms and cheesy wine biscuits.  For dessert we had this delicious shortcake featuring dark, sweet cherries cooked down with red wine, sugar and orange marmalade.  We used the Tennessee Chambourcin Reserve from Bean's Creek but a cabernet sauvignon or merlot type wine will work just fine.  We made a hot milk spongecake to serve it over or you can just use a purchased angel food cake as well.

Tennessee has so many wineries that are producing lovely local wines that are great to use in cooking or to have with dinner.  Take a tour on one of the wine trails and find your favorite Tennessee wines.

Red Wine Cherry Shortcake

1 (14 1/2-ounce) can pitted dark sweet cherries with juice

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon orange marmalade

1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in a couple of tablespoons of water

hot milk sponge cake, see below or angel food cake

whipped cream

toasted sliced almonds

In a medium saucepan combine cherries (and juice), sugar, red wine and marmalade.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 15-20 minutes or until juice is reduced by half.  Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and bring back to a boil.  Cook until thickened.  Allow to cool and refrigerate until ready to use.  Place a piece of the sponge cake on a serving plate, top with some of the cherries and whipped cream and sprinkle with almonds.


Hot Milk Sponge Cake:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup hot milk

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Beat eggs well.  Add sugar and beat again.  Add flour, sifted with salt and baking powder.  Add vanilla.  Finally beat in hot milk and butter.  The batter will seem thin, but its ok.  Pour into a greased 9 inch square pan.  Bake at 350 degrees about 35 minutes.  Let cool.



October 15
Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

​Hasselback potatoes are accordian cut potatoes bathed in butter and sprinkled with breadcrumbs and baked until crispy on the outside and creamy in the center.  It is a technique that comes from Sweden and the Hasselbacken Restaurant in Stockholm.  The slicing creates a mixture of a baked potato and the crispiness of roasted potatoes.  They are fancy looking but relatively simple to make.

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes web.jpg

So I had some sweet potatoes from the farmers market the other day and decided to give this technique a try.  The result was absolutely yummy!  Sweet and melting in the middle with the crispy skin around the edges of the slices - I ate every little slice.  The toasted walnuts give it an acidic crunch that is very complementary.

There are only two things to remember.  First, make it easy on yourself when cutting the potatoes.  You need thin (1/8" or so) slices that don't go all the way through the potato.  Hence, two long handled wooden spoons.  Place one on each long side of the potato and cut away.  The handles stop you from cutting all the way down.  Perfect.  Number two is that sugar and molasses burn at 425 degrees pretty quickly.  So add the sugar glaze right at the end.  So our basting comes in three steps - two with butter and spices, 20 minutes apart and then a final brushing of sugary sweetness at the very end.

There are many variations on Hasselback potatoes and Hasselback sweet potatoes from cheesy to garlicky to sweet.  Take your pick and give these accordian style potatoes a try!

Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

1 long sweet potato

3 tablespoons butter, divided

1/2 teaspoon five spice powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon molasses

1 teaspoon brown sugar

pinch kosher salt

1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Wash and dry the potato.  Place the potato between the handles of two long wooden spoons.  Cut 1/8" slices across the potato down to the spoon handles (this keeps the potato still intact).  Place on a baking sheet.  Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the five spice powder and cinnamon.  Brush about 1/2 onto the potato.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.  Brush again with remaining butter mixture, getting into the slices as they start to open up.  Bake again for 25 more minutes or until tender.  Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and add the molasses, brown sugar and salt.  Brush over potato, getting as much as possible into the slices.  Bake for 5 more minutes.  Remove to serving plate and sprinkle with walnuts.​

July 16
A Four B Salad Bursting with Flavor

​Mid summer fills the farmers market with all kinds of richly colored fruits and vegetables.  This past week it was beets and blueberries.  Full of nutrition and beautiful color, it got me to thinking about using these together in a salad.  Then came the other Bs of blue cheese and balsamic viniagrette.  Sweet, earthy, salty and tangy - what could be a better mix?

Four B Salad web.jpg
Beets are an overlooked addition to a salad but add such a great color and earthy, sweet flavor.  Simply wash the beets and trim off the tops.  Place in a square of foil and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Wrap up with the foil and bake at 400 degrees for about an hour or so depending on the size, until they are tender to a fork.  Let cool and then peel and chop.  This is my favorite way to cook beets.  The sweet blueberries make a perfect companion and are offset with the tangy vinaigrette and salty blue cheese on top of romaine lettuce.

Give this salad a try for a stunningly beautiful first course filled with nutrition from the darkly colored beets and blueberries.  It was a hit with my family and I bet it will be with yours as well!

Four B Salad

4 cups romaine lettuce

Balsamic vinaigrette dressing

2 -3 beets, roasted, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup blueberries

2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

Toss lettuce with enough dressing to coat and divide onto four salad plates.  Top with beets and blueberries.  Drizzle with just a little more vinaigrette over the beets and blueberries and sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles.

July 06
Pasta Salad with a Twist

​Intern, Jazmin Esquivel, shares a favorite family recipe that is perfect for a summer lunch or side to a grilled meat.

Jazmin Esquivels Pineapple Pasta Salad web.jpg 


This salad never fails to make an appearance at family get togethers or birthday parties. I have grown up with this recipe but it never gets old. It is fresh and definitely brings out the summertime fun with the pineapple chunks in it. It is a filling dish but it can also be eaten as a side with another main dish. It does have to be kept cool especially on hot summer days so we always keep an ice tray underneath it for food safety reasons. It may be something many may have never eaten before so give it a try. It has many ingredients we eat often just put together in a different way. It will make for a fresh, delicious meal or side dish.

Pineapple Pasta Salad

1/2 pound of elbow pasta


1 (20 oz.) can of pineapple, drained

1 (15 oz.) can of corn, drained

2 cups of shredded lettuce

1 (9 oz.) bag of sandwich ham, cut in squares

Reduced fat olive oil or / light mayonnaise

3/4 cup of Mexican cream

1 package of tostadas or saltine crackers


Cook pasta in salted water until just tender.  Drain and let cool slightly.  Add pineapple, corn, lettuce and ham.  Mix in enough mayonnaise to cover the pasta salad and then add the Mexican cream. Serve on tostadas or eat with saltine crackers.​ 

July 06
Wrap It Up with Tuna

​Intern, Jazmin Esquivel, brings us a summery wrap sandwich full of tuna with vegetables such as corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce.

Jazmin Esquivels Tuna Wraps web.jpg 


I enjoy this recipe because it is quick and easy to make. It requires no stove or pans. It is a fresh dish that is perfect for summer that uses ingredients that are top peak for the month of July. I first made this recipe one day when I was very hungry and just kept looking through our pantry of different things we had. I had seen wrap recipes before and we just started throwing things together. It came out really delicious and we enjoyed it. It is great for summer days because it is full of vegetables and a splash of tanginess and even spiciness if you choose.  

Tuna Wraps

2 (5oz.) cans of tuna in water, drained

1 (15oz.) can of corn, drained

1 -2 diced tomatoes

1 diced cucumber

1 cup shredded lettuce

1 avocado, diced

Reduced fat olive oil/light mayonnaise (optional)

1 lime (optional)

Any hot sauce (optional - to make it a spicy tuna wrap)

A bag of high fiber, low carb wraps

Place drained tuna and corn in a bowl with tomato, cucumber, and lettuce. If you choose to use, mix in mayonnaise and a squeeze of lime and hot sauce. Finish by warming up your tortillas if you want to, and spreading mixture on wrap and rolling up, tucking in the sides.

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 UT Extension Bedford County Seasonal Eating Page
 Franklin Farmers Market
 Rutherford County Farmers Market
 Bedford County Farmers Market

 Favorite Seasonal Cookbooks


​Fresh from the Farm by Susie Middleton

Farm to Fork by Emeril Lagasse

Cooking through the Seasons by Cooking Light