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Happy Spring!  It is once again time for Farmers Markets to begin.  We will be at the first Sonora Certified Farmers Market this Saturday, 5/19, from 7:30-11:30, along with many other great farms and local vendors.  For sale this fist week, we will have tons of lettuce (baby lettuce, oakleaf heads, bibb heads, red and green leaf lettuces), french breakfast radishes (not too spicy yet!), spinach, white russian and lacinato/dino kale, and lots of eggs from our chickens.  It should be a great market, and we’re excited for this new growing season to get underway.

Farmers Markets!

We are happily swinging into farmers market season here, with our CSA ending this week and our second and third markets starting.  We have begun, and will continue to be at the Sonora Certified Farmers Market, at the corner of Stuart and Theal streets in downtown Sonora, 7:30-11:30, until mid-October.  This Friday we will be attending the first Twain Harte market in Eproson Park from 4:00-6:30, now a Certified Farmers Market for the first time, and sure to be a very sweet neighborhood market as always.  We’re particularly excited, though, to start the Tuolumne Village Certified Farmers Market this Wednesday.  Along with a dedicated group of farmers, we’ve put a lot of work into growing this beautiful evening market.  We hope more people will take advantage of the free concert in the park that happens every week with the market.  The Tuolumne Parks and Recreation Department has gotten some really good bands lined up for this year, which are listed in the flyer below, and there will be yummy prepared food to eat as well as all the fresh fruits, veggies, flowers, meat, etc. to buy at the market.  We also will be the first farmers market in Tuolumne County to accept EBT/SNAP/food stamps (hopefully starting this week, but if not, then very soon)!  Hope to see you all this summer!

We have been busy lately, in a good Springtime sort of way!  The farm is green, we have lots of veggies in the ground, and the wildflowers are just beginning to bloom.  Our good friend and professional photographer Rory Thompson came out with her camera a few days ago and took some beautiful pictures, some of which I’ve shared below here.  If you’d like to come out and see the farm for yourself, we’re going to be having an Open Farm day and Easter Egg Hunt this coming Saturday, April 23, the day before Easter.  We would be glad to show you what’s growing around the farm and how the chickens are doing.  We may even have a baby goat by then!  Children are welcome for the Easter egg hunt, and I hope a few will come because I have very fond memories of Easter egg hunts on the property when I was growing up.  The grass is between 1 and 3 feet high, so the eggs will be well-hidden.  We will also have an egg carton decorating station for kids to make egg carriers as pretty as their eggs.  Everything is free, but we do ask that you please bring some of your own decorated or filled eggs to share if you want to participate in the egg hunt.

Open Farm 12:00-4:00

Easter Egg Hunt to begin at 2:00


eggs from today

poppies growing between our greenhouse glass and a layer of insulating agricultural fabric

Moskvitch tomatoes, our earliest Russian heirlooms

sweet pepper starts

part of our full greenhouse

tiny tomatoes about to be transplanted

plants getting a head start in our big glass house

fava beans

6 month old garlic plants

a field of spring crops

The farm just missed being snowed on the last couple of days, but we’ll see what happens tonight.  We’re covering some crops that are a little delicate, like lettuce, and some that we’re going to harvest tomorrow morning and don’t want to have to dig out of the snow, like carrots.  It should be an abundant Thanksgiving week, though, no matter how dark the weather.

With all the rain and snow we’ve been having, I have been baking almost daily.  Even if it’s just a squash or two, I’ve been finding any excuse I can to turn on our oven (when we have power, that is…).  So here are some recipes for a couple of things I’ve been baking with our veggies lately, and some soup too: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown-Butter Frosting, my favorite Spiced Pumpkin Pie, and Winter Vegetable Chowder.  You can substitute any variety of winter squash for any other in these recipes (and any recipe calling for pumpkin, really).  I especially like delicata pie, which tastes a lot like sweet potato pie, and pumpkin in soup.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown-Butter Frosting

(Cupcake recipe adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World)

Makes 12 cupcakes

Cupcakes:

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/3 cup oil

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

¼ cup milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour, or all purpose flour

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. cloves

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

¼ tsp ginger

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp. sea salt

Frosting:

8 T. butter (can be salted or unsalted)

2-4 T. milk

2 cups powdered sugar, approximately

pinch salt, if using unsalted butter

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers, or grease it well.

2.  Mix together the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

3.  With an electric mixer, thoroughly beat together the wet ingredients, minus the milk.

4.  Add half the dry ingredients to the wet and mix gently until almost combined.  Add the milk and mix until almost combined, then add the rest of the dry ingredients.  Mix until totally smooth, but not too long.

5.  Using a ¼ cup measure, scoop the batter into the cups; they should be about 2/3 full.  Divide any extra batter between the cupcakes.

6.  Bake for 20-24 minutes, or until the tops spring back and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool a few minutes in the pan, then move cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

7.  While the cupcakes are baking, make the brown butter.  Put the butter in a small pan on medium-low heat and melt.  Continue cooking the butter until it stops foaming, turns golden brown, and smells nutty.  There should be little brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan; don’t let them become too black.

8.  Immediately pour the brown butter into the bowl of an electric mixer and let cool.

9.  When the brown butter is room temperature, beat in 2 cups of powdered sugar.  It will look very crumbly.  Add a couple of tablespoons of milk and beat until the mixture smoothes out.  Add a little more powdered sugar or milk if needed to achieve a frosting consistency, and beat for at least a minute, or until very fluffy.

10.  When the cupcakes are completely cool, frost generously with the brown butter frosting.

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

(Adapted from a recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens baking book)

Makes 2 large, deep-dish pies

5 cups pumpkin puree

1 to 1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar (depending on how sweet the pumpkin is)

2 T. flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 T. cinnamon

1 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. cloves

2 T. vanilla extract

6 eggs

1 pint cream

2 deep-dish pie crusts (unbaked)

1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, and spices.

2. Mix in the brown sugar, then the pumpkin, then the eggs (1 at a time), then the vanilla.

3. Slowly whisk in the cream, mixing until completely combined and smooth, but don’t incorporate too much air.

4. Divide mixture evenly between pie crusts.

5. Bake at 350 degrees until the pie is set on top, and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted just off-center in the pie, about 50-60 minutes.  It’s OK if the toothpick comes out a little wet when inserted into the direct center of the pie; it will continue to set as it cools, and it will be moister if it’s not over-baked.

Winter Vegetable Chowder

This is more of a guideline than a recipe.  You can use whatever you have on hand, and it will be a little different every time.

1 ½ lbs. root vegetables, approximately, such as carrots, beets, potatoes, turnips, or celery root

1 ½ lbs. butternut squash, approximately, or pumpkin, other winter squash, or sweet potatoes

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves, approximately

2 T. olive oil

¼ cup fresh herbs, such as sage, thyme, parsley, chives or rosemary

1 head broccoli, or 1 bunch cooking greens such as chard, kale, spinach, or arugula

1 can white beans, or 1 cup cooked, shredded chicken

1 quart broth, chicken or vegetable

1 quart water

1 tsp. salt

¼ cup cream, optional

1.  Scrub or peel and rinse the root vegetables and cut into chunks.  Peel, seed, and cut the squash into chunks.  Chop the onion and mince the garlic and herbs.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and half of the herbs.  Cook for another minute or so, until the onions are translucent.

3.  Add the root vegetables, squash, broth, water, and salt, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down and simmer until everything is soft, about 15-20 minutes.

4.  While the soup simmers, rinse the canned beans, if using, and wash, remove the stems, and chop the broccoli or greens.

4.  When the vegetables are soft, puree about ¼ of the soup in a blender with the vent open on the lid and a dish towel held firmly on top, being careful not to burn yourself.  Return the puree to the soup and add the beans or chicken and the broccoli or greens.  Taste and add more salt if needed (this will depend a lot on what broth you used).

5.  Bring the soup to a gentle simmer and cook just until the broccoli or greens are tender, about 3 minutes.  Add the cream if using and the second half of the herbs and stir well.  Serve while hot.

Summer Panzanella

We have been busy at the farm lately!  It has quickly become the time of year when we have so much food we can barley pick/sell/eat it all.  Yesterday we loaded up the truck and our SUV with as much food as we could, drove to the Sonora farmers market and set everything up, and then Larry immediately went back to the farm to continue picking peaches and green beans while I stayed at market.  We are also selling at the Twain Harte and Tuolumne farmers markets, and preserving our leftover food whenever we have time, often late into the night.  Despite the crazy schedule, August is indisputably one of the best months on a farm.  All of the long-awaited summer crops are super-abundant, constantly ripening and being picked and ripening more…We can’t help but eat well right now.  One of the most popular things I’ve made lately is a panzanella, an Italian tomato and bread salad.  It’s quick, a great use for both summer tomatoes and slightly stale bread, and the perfect lunch on a hot day.  I’ve made a few versions for my family recently, but below is the recipe for what I took to the annual La Leche League picnic/potluck/parade at Pinecrest Lake, which was last week and lots of fun.

Summer Panzanella

1/2 loaf crusty kalamata olive bread; day old bread is actually better than fresh here

(or use regular french bread and add a handful of chopped kalamata olives)

approximately 3 lbs. perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes (a variety of colors is nice)

1/2 bunch purple basil (green would be fine, too)

1/2 bunch chives

4-5 ounces good-quality mozzarella cheese

extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the bread into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces, place on a baking sheet, and drizzle evenly with olive oil (a couple of tablespoons).  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, toss to combine, and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until toasted and golden brown.  Let cool.

2. Trim any funny or unripe spots from the heirloom tomatoes, and cut into pieces about the same size as the crutons.  Cut the mozzarella into similarly sized pieces.  Place tomatoes and mozzarella in a large bowl.

3. Thinly slice the basil leaves and chives and add to the bowl.  Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and about 1/2 tsp. of salt (more or less to taste).  Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil, about 2 T.

4. Toss the tomato mixture and let it marinate for 15-20 minutes.  Right before serving, add the crutons and toss well.  You want the bread to soak up some of the tomato juice, but if you let it sit too long it gets soggy before you eat it.

Small Share

lettuce – 1/2 lb.

summer squash – 1 1/2 lbs.

beets – 1 bunch

garlic – 1 head

red torpedo onions – 1 bunch

basil – 1 bunch

sungold tomatoes – 1/2 pint

Large Share

lettuce – 1/2 lb.

summer squash – 2 lbs.

cucumbers – 2

beets – 1 bunch

baby rainbow carrots – 1 bunch

rainbow chard – 1 bunch

garlic – 2 heads

red torpedo onions – 1 bunch

candy onions – 1 bunch

basil – 1 bunch

italian parsley – 1 bunch

sungold tomatoes – 1/2 pint

slicer tomato – 1

I’ve been baking a lot lately, which seems ill-timed given the hot weather, but we’ve had quite a crew around between our wonderful volunteers, friends, and family.  So baking a big batch of muffins or biscuits is a great, and relatively quick, way to feed a crowd.  Of course, if you don’t have a crowd, you just get to eat more; these muffins keep especially well, and the biscuits re-heat in the oven well.  So I usually make full or double batches, using a version of one of the recipes below.  The biscuits can be varied by adding almost any herb you like instead of the dill, and for the muffins you can use any combination of nuts or dried fruits that you like.

Green Onion-Dill Biscuits

Adapted from a basic buttermilk biscuit recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour (or use all white whole wheat flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons

approximately 1 T. finely chopped dill (fresh is better here, but dried is OK)

approximately 1/2 cup finely chopped green onions, white and green parts

1 cup buttermilk or sour milk*

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, either in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a food processor.

3. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, your hands, or the food processor.  You should end up with a crumbly mixture, a little like sand with pea-sized chunks of butter in it.  If you use your hands, work fast so the butter doesn’t melt, rubbing the butter into the flour.

4. Mix in the dill and onions, then lightly stir in the buttermilk until the dough just starts to come together.  Don’t mix it too much; it should still be a little crumbly.

5. Turn out the dough onto a large cutting board or smooth countertop.  Gently push it all together and pat it into a rough disk about 3/4 inch thick.  Don’t really knead or the biscuits won’t be tender or flaky.  Cut out biscuits using a cookie cutter; lightly push the scraps back together after you cut out the first batch, but don’t knead them too much.

6. You can bake the biscuits two ways: either evenly spaced on on a baking sheet, or lightly touching in a couple of pie pans.  If they have the space, they will develop more of a brown crust; if they are crowded together, they will rise higher and have a lighter crust.

7. Bake for 12-18 minutes, or until they are golden brown.  Let cool for just a couple of minutes, and serve immediately.

Morning Glory Muffins

Makes 1 1/2 dozen

2 1/2 cups lightly packed, finely grated carrots, apples, and/or beets if you’re feeling adventurous

1/3 cup flax meal (or oat bran, or wheat germ)

2/3 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans, or slivered almonds)

1/4 cup sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds)

2 cups whole wheat flour (preferably white whole wheat)

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 T. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground cardamom (optional but especially good with carrots)

1 cup brown sugar (or 2/3 cup honey)

3 large or 4 small eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk* (1/3 cup if using honey)

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease 1 or 2 muffin tins (enough for 18 muffins).

2. Grate the carrots, apples, and/or beets on the small holes of a box grater, or with the fine grater blade of a food processor.

3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cardamom, and then mix in the fruit, nuts, and seeds.

4. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the sugar, eggs, oil, milk, and vanilla.  Mix in the grated carrots/apples/beets.

5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix gently until just combined.  There should still be some lumps and flecks of flour showing.

6. Scoop scant 1/3 cupfuls into greased muffin tins, and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

7. Let cool in the tins for a few minutes, then remove the muffins from the tins and let cool on a rack.

*To make sour milk, add 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk.  Let it stand for 5-10 minutes, or until it thickens a little bit.  This is a great substitute if you don’t keep buttermilk around.

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