here on the farm

I have been quiet these past few weeks. Mostly because you don’t really need another kale salad or pan of roasted veggies, but because change was in the air! You see, last Sunday, I moved from our city apartment in Belltown, Seattle to a small family farm on Vashon Island.

chickens from the lower coop

At the beginning of the year, I was offered a season long internship/apprenticeship on Plum Forest Farm. In the six months after graduating from architecture school, I looked for all types of jobs. Jobs as an Americorps volunteer, jobs involving community gardening, and, yes, even jobs as an architect. I spent the summer and fall volunteering at several community gardens and farms, growing food for Seattle area food banks. How fun is that? I really enjoyed spending my days outside, planting, harvesting, and even weeding. Then, I watched the documentary The Greenhorns. It was so inspiring to see young American farmers at work and witness the beginning of change in American food values. If you are near a showing of The Greenhorns, definitely try to catch it.  Farming began to seem like something I could do.

freshly planted peas

And now, I am starting my farming education! There are two of us interns working with the main farmer and we are really gearing up for the season, building a new hoophouse, sowing lots of seeds, and prepping beds for planting. A batch of cute, fluffy baby (meat) chicks arrived last weekend and in ten short weeks, they will be ready for slaughter. Two flocks of chickens are laying more and more eggs each day, really heralding in the beginning of spring.

seedlings growing up in the greenhouse

Farm food is a bit sparse right now and we are eating a lot of kale, mustard greens, and eggs. This blog will become part food blog, part farm blog and hope you all will stay, read, and buy lots of beautiful food from your local farms! After all, no farms, no food.

 

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meyer lemon and kumquat marmalade

March is an impatient month for me. Signs of spring thaw (and rain!) pop up everyday, but it is not yet time for the first bright spring vegetables or even rhubarb. You would think winter is a bad time for the home preserver, but it is the peak time for citrus and tropical fruits. As much as I try to eat locally, the pop of citrus during the winter is much appreciated and needed with the monotonous parade of cold storage apples, root vegetables, and kale.

In Houston, there was a small kumquat tree in the community garden where I gardened at. While I never got the opportunity to make marmalade with those kumquats, the thought stuck with me until this year. Kumquats are the opposite of most citrus fruits and have a sweet peel and sour flesh. This makes kumquats the perfect candidate for making marmalade. Meyer lemons are also in season now and lend an exceptional fragrance and sweetness to this recipe. Because you are using the entire fruit in marmalade, try to buy organic fruit.

Small Batch Meyer Lemon and Kumquat Marmalade

adapted from pbs food

Note: This recipe made the perfect amount for 3 Weck 1/5 liter tulip jars, which are a bit under 8 oz.

24 oz (by weight) kumquats

1 large meyer lemon

about 1/3- 1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup water

Place a small ceramic plate in the freezer (this will be used to test the thickness of the marmalade). Slice each kumquat in half (latitudinally) and remove the seeds. Usually there are one or two large seeds that pop out easily with the tip of your paring knife. Then slice each half thinly; I usually got four slices per half. For the meyer lemon, halve and remove any seeds and slice thinly as well. In a small saucepan (I used a 4 qt), combine the fruit, honey, and water over medium heat. Keep an eye on the pot and stir frequently and bring the mixture up to a boil and cook until everything is thick, about 15-20 minutes of total cooking time. Taste to make sure the marmalade is sweet enough. Pull out your frozen plate and drop a small spoonful of the marmalade on the surface. If the mixture sets up within a minute, it is done. If canning, fill your processed jars and can in a water bath for 10 minutes.

What to do with your delicious marmalade? I confess that I am really liking the combination of marmalade and cream cheese on toast for breakfast! Or use it fill thimble cookies, use it as a filling for a plain sponge cake, or use it to add sweetness and acid to a marinade.

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blueberry thyme muffins

Everyday I crack open the freezer and see stacks and stacks of frozen fruits and vegetables that I harvested or purchases in bulk from last summer. Part of me wants to horde this stash of produce for special occasions or when we don’t have anything fresh in the house. However, we are at the start of a new season of a new growing year and now is the time to use everything up! Here in the Northwest, we are at the time where most of the winter crop is out (leeks, carrots, potatoes, etc.) and before any of the new crops are ready for harvest (asparagus! tender greens!). Each week at the market, we peruse through piles of cold storage roots, dwindling mounds of kale, and the last of fall’s apples and pears. It is great to be able to supplement these reliable winter vegetables with tastes of the bountiful days of summer, by cracking open jars of all types of pickles, jams, and salsa and defrosting frozen green beans, corn, and berries.

Muffins are a quick and easy way to use up your own stash of Summer 2011 berries! These muffins make an easy breakfast or a substantial snack and are full of whole grains, while still being light and fluffy. The addition of thyme is gives these muffins a interesting hint of herbal flavor, but does not overpower.  The crumble topping is optional, but very much recommended.

Blueberry Thyme Muffins

Inspired by Bon Appetit

Muffins:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup brown sugar or sucanat

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax + 6 tbsp warm water, mix and let thicken) or 2 chicken eggs (lrg)

1 cup yogurt+ 2 tbsp milk to thin out a bit

1 tsp vanilla

2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves

zest of one lemon

1 generous cup blueberries. If frozen, do not thaw!

Crumble:

3 tbsp oatmeal

3/4 cup almonds

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp brown sugar

pinch of salt

2-3 tbsp oil

 

Preheat oven to 375. Line or grease a muffin tin. If you don’t have any muffin liners and want them, use squares of parchment paper cut into squares.

In a small food processor or blender, make the crumble. Pulse the oatmeal, almonds, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt until the almonds are finely chopped. Slowly drizzle the oil while pulsing the mixture until it comes together and is, well, crumbly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and thyme. In a separate bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar (to release the lemon’s oils). Then whisk in the coconut oil, flax eggs, yogurt/milk mixture, and vanilla. Toss the blueberries with a bit of the flour mixture (this prevents the berries from sinking to bottom). Fold the wet mixture into the flour mixture, just until everything comes together; do not overmix! Fold the blueberries into the batter and spoon into the prepared muffin tin. Top each muffin with a spoonful of the crumble mixture. Dust everything with a bit of sugar and bake in the center of the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out of the center cleanly. Cool and enjoy!

 

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cardamom pear and almond bread

This time of year is hard for creative cooking. We are on our fourth month of kale salads, vegetable soups, lentils, and root vegetables. It is hard to not keep wishing for spring to arrive, along with asparagus, strawberries, and snap peas! I am definitely grateful for all of the work that I put in last summer, canning, preserving, and freezing produce for these months. Nothing perks up a simple meal like a ramekin of dilly beans or pickled carrots!

Baking is what I turn to in the winter. Not only do I get a treat afterwards, but the apartment is warm and cozy for the next few hours! This is an easy tea bread that makes use out of another winter storage staple: pears. A lot of pears are good cold storage types, allowing farmers to keep coming to the market with local fruit all through out the winter. If you do not want to go through the (very little!) effort of making pear sauce, you  are more than welcome to use a commercial applesauce; just make sure it is unsweetened. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices and here it compliments the pear and almonds quite nicely. I decreased the sugar from the original recipe a bit because I intended on eating this sliced, lightly toasted, and spread thick with last year’s apple butter. Delicious for a light breakfast, with a cup of afternoon tea, or as a not-to-sweet dessert.

Cardamon Pear and Almond Bread

adapted from eatliverun

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup sucanat or sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cardamom

1 egg or flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaw + 3 tbsp water)

1 cup pear sauce (about 2-3 ripe pears, diced, and cooked for about 5 minutes or until soft and pureed until mostly smooth) OR applesauce

2 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil

about 1 cup of almonds, ground almost finely in a food processor or blender

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, egg, pear sauce or applesauce, and melted fat. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry mixture, until just combined. Fold about 3/4 of the ground almonds into the batter and pour into the prepared pan and top with the remaining almonds and a sprinkle of sugar. Bake about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack and enjoy!

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almond jam thimbles

Here is n, but festive looking cookie that is not only delicious, but also relatively healthy. I know a lot of people are still settling into the new year with more whole grains, less refined sugar, and fewer animal products so I wanted to highlight a few recipes with those qualities in mind. Coconut oil is one of my favorite oils to cook with and is solid below body temperature, making it perfect to use as a butter substitute for baked goods. Jam thimbles or thumbprints are also a great way to showcase homemade jam! Instead of rolling these cookies in ground almonds, I think shredded coconut would also be tasty, but watch them so they do not burn in the oven. Also, if you use chocolate instead of jam in the centers, I won’t tell anyone.

Almond Jam Thimbles

Adapted from lottie+doof

1/3 c coconut oil or butter

1/2 cup applesauce. I used a quick homemade pearsauce.

1/2 cup sugar or sucanat or brown sugar

1 flax egg, 1 tbsp ground flax seed + 3 tbsp water, mixed and let stand until thick

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp almond extract

1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

pinch salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup almonds, ground until almost fine in a food processor or blender

about 1/4 cup jam of your choice. I used some of my blackberry apricot jam.

Preheat oven to 325 and grease a large cookie sheet.

Cream together coconut oil or butter and sugar. When creamy, add the applesauce. Beat until smooth. Add the flax egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat until well incorporated. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Combine the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and stir until the dough comes together. Roll the dough into tablespoon size balls. Roll each ball in the milk and then in the ground almonds. Place on baking sheet. With the handle of a wooden spoon, make a same indentation in the center of each cookie and fill with a bit of jam. Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on a rack and enjoy!

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red lentil soup with coconut and aleppo pepper

A snow storm makes for a difficult departure! Last weekend, we flew down to Texas for a much anticipated wedding weekend. It was the first time most of our studio got together since graduation and it was so fun to see everyone. We had a lot of trouble getting out of Seattle, and basically had to fly out a day early or miss the entire trip. Eventually, we arrived in Houston and went immediately to Mai’s for a late dinner/midnight snack. Just like old studio nights! The wedding took place in San Antonio on Saturday and I am sad to say that I did not get to take any photos because I forgot to pack my camera during our packing frenzy. The wedding and reception were lovely, heartfelt affairs and we are all so happy for the bride and groom!

Before I knew it, it was Sunday and we were back in the cold, breezy Northwest. The snow turned in rain over the weekend, saturating the soil and making certain tasks like digging for potatoes difficult and muddy. When I come home from working at the farm, a soup like this is usually what I want for dinner. This lentil soup comes together quickly, is packed with protein and veggies, and is faintly exotic with flavors of coconut milk and chile peppers. I purchase Aleppo pepper at my local Penzeys and have really been enjoying the fruity, moderately spicy heat from these Turkish peppers. I imagine that you could also make this in a slow cooker. Leftovers keep well and make for a tasty lunch the next day.

**When I first posted, I forgot to link to this article by Slow Food USA president Josh Viertel, discussing the farmer and the eater. Thoughts?

Red Lentil Soup with Coconut and Aleppo Pepper

inspired from Serious Eats

2 tbsp olive oil

3 leeks, rinsed very well and sliced

1/2 medium onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

3 carrots, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp ginger, grated on a microplane

1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed if you want, and finely chopped

1 tsp EACH ground cumin and ground coriander. I actually used about 1 1/2 tsp Ras el Hanout, a Moroccan spice blend.

2 bay leaves

1 3/4 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over

water or vegetable stock

about 1/2 can of coconut milk. I used light coconut milk, but full fat coconut milk should also be fine.

1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes. I used a fire roasted variety.

juice from 1 large lime

finely chopped cilantro to taste

Aleppo pepper and unsweetened shredded coconut to garnish

Heat the oil over medium high heat in your soup pot. When hot, add the leeks, onion, celery, and carrot and cook until soft. Add the jalapeno, garlic, ginger, and spices and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant. Add the rinsed red lentils to the pot and cover with water or vegetable stock. After you add enough liquid to cover the lentils and vegetables, add the bay leaves, coconut milk and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Check every now and then to make sure there is enough liquid and stir. When the lentils are tender (about 20 minutes), check the seasoning. Usually I have to add more salt. Turn the heat off and stir in all of lime juice and cilantro. Ladle into bowls and garnish generously with Aleppo pepper and coconut.

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Filed under from the pantry, legumes, soups

Snow day and some chickpeas

In case you haven’t heard, it is really snowing today in Seattle. Weather reports are predicting that two back-to-back snow storms will dump anywhere between 7-15 inches on snow on this hilly city. It has been snowing on and off since last weekend, but today is really the first true snow day, complete with fishtailing cars, trapped metro buses, and very quiet offices. Yesterday, I stopped by QFC to pick up some toothpaste and it was packed with people sweeping the shelves clean of water, milk, and bread.

(Apparently this happens every time it snows. The Queen Anne Counterbalance is thankfully already closed.)

I wish I had a super cozy, hot chocolate recipe to share with you all today, but truthfully, I usually just heat up some chocolate almond or soy milk (on hand for a post workout treat) on the few occasions that I want some hot chocolate. But! Here is a “recipe” that I make all the time and I wanted to share after asking for more quick, healthy recipes.

Roasted chickpeas! These spiced up chickpeas are completely worth the ten or so minutes of cook time. I like to make roasted chickpeas as high protein nibbles, use them as a salad topping, or as a component for a rice or grain bowl. Most recently, I made this harissa (a North African chile mixture) spiked version. I can’t even really call this a recipe, but more of a technique. Many, many flavor combinations are up to your own imagination, but in the past I have made a  cumin, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper version, a lemon, pepper, and garlic version, and soy sauce/tamari and sesame oil version. Curry spiced chickpeas also sound delicious!

**You still have one more day left to comment and win some homemade jam here!**

Roasted Harissa Chickpeas

2 cans of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed. Or, cook your own.

1/2 – 1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp harissa or more if you like it spicy

1 tsp smoked paprika

salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Shake out as much liquid as you can from the chickpeas and dump them out onto a clean kitchen towel or dishcloth (my favorite ones, often on sale at the end of each season)

Dry off the chickpeas as best you can. This ensures that all of the seasonings stick. Carefully dump the dry chickpeas into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss to coat. If using canned chickpeas, you may or may not need to add the salt. Transfer the seasoned chickpeas to a large baking sheet, making sure they are in a single layer. Roast for about 8 minutes or so, until the chickpeas are a bit crunchy on the outside, but still relatively moist on the inside. Serve hot or at room temp.

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Filed under from the pantry, healthy, legumes, roasted