Thursday, December 13, 2018

Candied Ginger, Ginger Syrup, and The Perfect Ginger Cookie

I have the perfect Ginger Cookie Recipe.  It is everything that a ginger cookie should be...chewy in the center, slightly crisp on the edges, and so gingery that it makes your tongue tingle.  It tastes like the warm cozy December of your Dreams, not the Insanely Expensive Overly Scheduled Decembers of your Reality.  It uses ginger root in four forms:  ground, chopped, candied, and syrup.  The challenge with this recipe is that, to do it justice, it takes a really long time.  For real.  Peeling ginger is tedious work.

Have I scared you?  I hope not!  You can certainly buy all of the Ginger Ingredients "ready made" --- I always purchase the ground ginger---and the cookies will be super delicious.  It's just that you will not get to enjoy the side benefits of extra candied ginger (great for digestion) and some seriously delicious Ginger Syrup (add Club Soda to make a killer Ginger Ale).  Gift yourself with a day in the kitchen and process 2 pounds of ginger root into candy, syrup, spicy sugar, and finally....a cookie that hugs you!

Prepping the ginger root is not complicated:

First, peel two pounds of ginger root.  It is an irregularly shaped root with lots of knobs and twists, so a spoon is the easiest -- and safest -- way to peel the skin.  This is the mind numbing part of the process and I find that a good podcast or a nice glass of wine helps.


The hard part is over!   Let's make some Ginger Syrup!

You will need:

8 cups of sugar
6 cups of water
2 pounds of ginger sliced into very thin rounds

NOTE:  Save a couple of knobs of ginger to grind up if you are going to make the Ginger Cookies featured in the recipe below.

Heat the sugar and water at medium high temperature using a wide, low pot that is large enough to accommodate the ginger.  Stir continuously to avoid burning the sugar.  Bring to a boil and carefully add the ginger.  Return to a low boil, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes.  Cover and give the ginger time to cool.

Once the ginger has cooled enough to be workable you can strain out the liquid, which is your Ginger Syrup.  Use a colander over a big bowl and let the ginger strain for at least 30 minutes, stirring the ginger around gently once or twice.  NOTE: If time permits, I let the ginger and syrup sit overnight to maximize the infusion of ginger into the syrup.
This recipe yields about 1 1/2 quarts of Ginger Syrup.
Now for the Candied Ginger!

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

You will need:
2 cups of sugar, more or less
Baking sheets lined with parchment paper and baking rack

Put a cup of sugar into a bowl and add a few handfuls of the strained ginger.  Mix it until it is well coated and then put the slices on the baking rack.  A lot of the sugar and the tiniest pieces of ginger will fall through the baking rack so parchment paper helps with clean up.  The recipe will fill up four baking sheets.

Place the ginger in  a 200 degree oven for about 30 to 40 minutes to insure that the candy is no longer sticky.  The sugar balances the fire of the ginger.  Added bonus: The ginger sugar that has collected on the baking sheet can be saved and used to roll your ginger cookies!
I was able to fill a gallon jar with candied ginger with this recipe.

Add a few tablespoons of ginger syrup to club soda for instant, and delicious, ginger ale!

Now that you have done all of this work, the Ginger Cookies are an absolute breeze!

Yield: 3 dozen large cookies

Rosie Belle Farm's Quadruple Ginger Cookies

These amazing cookies utilize ginger root four ways: ground, chopped, candied, and in a fiery syrup.

ingredients

5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups of butter, room temperature
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup sorghum molasses
1/4 ginger syrup
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup of sugar, more or less, for rolling the cookie

instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour, candied ginger, baking soda and salt in a bowl.  Add butter to electric mixer and beat for 2 minutes or so, until butter is creamy.  Add brown sugar and beat for another 3 minutes.  Add eggs, molasses, ginger syrup, fresh ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.  Beat until well blended.  Add flour mixture slowly at low speed until just blended.

Put sugar in a small bowl.

Make a golf ball sized ball of dough and roll it in the sugar to coat it, then place on the cookie sheet.  Leave several inches between cookies as the dough will spread as it bakes.  Don’t crowd…make about 8-10 cookies per sheet.

Bake cookies until the surface cracks, about 15 minutes.  The center should be soft and chewy while the edges are a bit crisp.

Yield approximately 3 dozen cookies depending upon the size.

Cookies are love.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Farm Dogs, Farm Babies, and The Pefect Summer Cole Slaw

Grand Dame Daisy is an incredible Mother to every baby on the Farm!
We are small time organic Farmers.  We have two tractors but not much else in the way of heavy equipment.  The Farmer tends to his vegetables one row at a time, eschewing chemical spray for old fashioned Weed Pulling.   I hand milk  Elsie the cow as well as the 10 goats currently in milk, preferring the intimacy that comes from sitting and talking and getting to know my girls.  I have a milking machine and it would save me a few minutes in a Too Busy Day but I would lose much!  The time spent milking gives me the opportunity to observe each of them....do Stella's hooves need to be trimmed? Has Dolly lost weight?  Is aging Daisy getting arthritic?   Farming is a very busy business.  Neither the Farmer nor I are afforded much in the way of leisure time, but we are gifted with a window into a funny world that many do not see.

There are meaningful and deliberate interactions between the species on Rosie Belle Farm.  1200 pound Elsie lumbers into the Dairy Barn for morning milking while five or more hungry chickens dance beneath her clumsy feet and pendulous udders.  They are all racing for the same destination....the Feed Trough.  Elsie is a Pastured Cow and only gets a bit of grain at milking time.  She is as gentle as she can be, making sure not to hurt any of the silly hens scattering under foot.  She eats quite contentedly alongside them, giving a gentle nudge with her massive head if one needs a bit of redirection.  Elsie seems to be aware of her powerful strength, for which I am grateful!



There is enough for everyone to eat!
 We had some new babies born on the Farm this week.  The little ones were born to Alien 2, a goat that has a reputation for being bossy and bad tempered.  She was a rather indifferent mother the first time around so I didn't have high hopes with her second freshening.  Happily, she could not be more devoted.  


So much so, in fact, that she has been terrorizing poor Georgie, my youngest dog. Georgie came to us about a year ago...we spotted him racing down a rural highway, dragging a heavy chain attached to a too tight collar cinched around his neck.  The end of the chain was attached to a plastic milk container, filled with rocks and sand.  His tag was illegible and there was no microchip.  One of our old farmer friends said that he was "dressed for a drowning."  We took him home with us and he proceeded to pee on every wall in the house, apparently deciding that he was going to be the Alpha.  And so it is.....He is wickedly annoying to everyone but the Farmer and me, who find his antics adorable. Anywhoo...Georgie is the Farm Baby Ambassador.  

The little goat pictured at left was unable to walk when she was first born.  Georgie did not leave her side.  He was the nurturing Mom in her world.  She is now a healthy and happy member of the team.
There is not a baby that he does not mother and most of the Farm Moms accept his ministrations to their brood.  Not so Alien 2.  She goes ballistic every time he gets close to her little ones, which seems to make him ever more determined to get to them.  She will occasionally leave them for a bit of grazing time and Georgie makes his move.  He settles in with them for a snuggle and soon the fight begins.  Mom returns to the barnyard and he won't let her near her babies.  She head butts him, he snaps at her.  The foolishness continues until I call him into the house.  Same routine every day....they both seem to enjoy it.

The heat has finally come to Middle Tennessee and I am thrilled.  I am inspired to work in the yard and am currently building rock walls for the garden in the front yard.  Our first year on the Farm was spent dealing with critical infrastructure issues so it is lovely to concentrate on beautification projects!  Late afternoons in the garden mean that I want something fast and cool on the table....we have been enjoying cabbage salad quite a bit lately.  It is a No Mayo Coleslaw that I have dubbed The Best Coleslaw in the World.  Pretty big statement, I know, but I really believe it to be true.  It is a beautiful dish, with peppers that sparkle like little jewels and a dressing that is fresh, clean, and bright.



The Best Cole Slaw in The World

Ingredients

3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustar
2 teaspoons chopped shallots
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
1 head of green cabbage, julienned
1/4 head of red cabbage, julienned
1 red pepper, 1/4 inch dice
1 green pepper, 1/4 inch dice
1 yellow pepper, 1/4 inch dice
1 carrot, shredded
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions


Whisk the first seven ingredients together to make the vinaigrette.  Toss all of the shredded vegetables in a bowl and add the vinaigrette.  Toss and Chill for a bit to allow the flavors to meld.   Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Good Egg, One Bad Egg, and the Ultimate Egg Sandwich

Eggs are a big deal on our farm.  We make a living by supplying farm meat, dairy products, veggies, and prepared meals to the members of our CSA.  The vast majority of them request a dozen eggs with their weekly order, so it is important for us to have healthy, happy chickens laying wholesome, delicious eggs on a consistent basis.  Unlike eggs from "Prison Chickens," Free Range eggs tend to have a bright yellow yolk due to the nutrients they are able to get as they forage along the pasture.  They are fresher and definitely taste better.  Eggs are a wonderful source of protein as well as 13 essential vitamins and minerals---and all for about 70 calories.  The Good Egg is the perfect food!

...but I digress!  

Eggs are important to the Farm, for reasons of both Nutrition and Finance.  The condition of the egg shell can often reveal information about the health of our flock and when an egg looks funny, it is time to check the gals closely to make sure that nothing is amiss.

See the egg in the middle?  The funny wrinkled one? What's up with THAT?
Nothing to worry about, in this case!  The ripples and wrinkles you see on the pointy end of the egg are indicative of an egg that has been "body checked."  This is typically seen with older hens and results when an egg has been damaged, and then repaired, during production.  It tastes just fine and is perfectly safe to eat.

We have about 85 laying hens, which means a whole lot of egg collecting.  There are eggs in the barns, eggs in the coop, eggs in the tool shed!  The biggest challenge we face is getting to the eggs before the dogs find them!  Egg collecting has also been impeded by the four broody hens who have taken up residence in the nesting boxes.  A broody hen is one who wants to sit on her eggs until they hatch, which takes 21 days.  Broody hens will steal eggs from under other chickens to increase the number of eggs in their clutch, which can get ridiculous.   Some will actually carry the egg in her beak or roll it a long way to the desired destination.  

Once they start sitting, broody hens will only leave for a few moments each day to eat and drink.  I decided to label the nests after The Farmer came into the kitchen one day thinking that he scored the Mother Lode of Egg Hauls.  Truth is, he had just swiped a broody mama's clutch while she was taking a two minute break to eat!   Yikes!  Can you imagine a CSA shareholder baking  with her child, cracking an egg and having a half formed chicken fall into the Brownies? 

It is important not to disturb a broody hen because she might decide that it isn't worth the trouble and will abandon the nest for good.   Our broody gals have been in some sort of competition to see which can sit on the most eggs....they flatten down their bodies and puff out their wings in a futile effort to keep 30 eggs incubated.  Once the babies start hatching they will be so busy chasing the little ones that many eggs will remain unhatched and will have been wasted!
Rosie Belle Farm Grilled Ham and Cheese 
One of my favorite comfort foods is a grilled ham and cheese and yesterday  I made a more grown up version using goat cheese and an easy Goat Cheese Mornay Sauce. It is fast and delicious...the best part is that almost every ingredient can be found in a Rosie Belle Farm CSA box!
Good Bread is the Start of a Great Sandwich!
Ingredients for 2 Servings
3 Tablespoons of Butter, plus more for pan
2 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour
2 Cups of Milk
1 teaspoon of Salt
1/2 teaspoon of Pepper
1/2 teaspoon of Nutmeg
One Cup of Farm Goat Cheese
4 slices of White Bread
4 teaspoons of Dijon Mustard
6 slice of Cooked Pork Product of your choice...ham, bacon.  I used Collar Bacon, a leaner, sweeter cut.
2 large eggs

First, gather the ingredients to make the sauce.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over moderately low heat.  The butter should NOT brown.  Whisk in the flour and stir constantly for three minutes or so.  Slowly whisk in the milk and bring to a boil, whisking the entire time so as not to scorch the milk.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and about 1/2 of the cheese and stir until melted and incorporated.  The goat cheese is not a super melty cheese and you might see pieces of goat cheese in the Sauce...no worries!  It will be delicious.  Remove from the heat.

Now for the Sandwich!  I am going to keep directions simple by building one sandwich.  Get two slices of bread.  One will be your Foundation Slice and the other will be the Top Slice.  Spread Mustard on the Foundation, then cover with a generous slather of Cheese Sauce.  Put half of the goat cheese on top of the sauce, reserving the rest for the second sandwich.  Add bacon/ham/pig part of choice on top of the goat cheese and finish off with another generous dollop of Cheese Sauce.  Repeat with the other Sandwich.

Preheat the broiler.
Heat up a frying pan and melt some butter.  Add the sandwiches and grill them on medium high heat until the Foundation slice is nice and brown.  Take the sandwiches out of the pan to melt a bit more butter and grill the other side.  Looking tasty, isn't it?  We aren't done yet!


Spread more sauce on the top of the sandwiches, put them on a cookie sheet, and put them under the broiler for two minutes or so.

While the sandwiches are in the broiler, fry up the eggs in the pan you used to grill the sandwiches.  They should be just about perfectly done when the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Slide the egg on top of the sandwich, grab a fork and a knife, and enjoy!
I just took a break to check on my broody hens...our first chick of the year has hatched!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Goat Balls, Spinach Balls and Finding Udder Peace....

The Cow almost did me in....I can handle 12 dogs, 75 chickens, 45 goats, and a bunch of hogs, but one little old Jersey cow damn near made me turn in my muck boots and high tail it back to suburbia.  Yeah, I know.  I was very excited by the prospect of The New Cow just a few short weeks ago, but that was way back when I was young and naive.

I am a hardened realist now.

Elsie came by way of an Animal Trader....not a recommended way to buy an animal, by the by....it is just one step up from the Sale Barn, which is where old/infirm/bad tempered animals are often sold for meat. The Trader mentioned that her teats were "kinda tore up" but our budget was limited, the timing was right, and SHE WAS IN MILK...so we took a chance.

Frankly, it was much tougher than I thought it would be.... physically demanding and Kind of Scary.  She was in pain when I tried to milk her and acted out accordingly.   Turns out that the Animal Trader used her to feed six hungry calves.  She was tied up and the ravenous little mouths went in for mealtime twice a day.   Animal Traders view animals as commodities that must be monetized and a cow in milk helped keep feed costs down.  Most cows feed one or two babies, so six put a lot of pressure on Elsie and her teats were a chewed up mess.   One of her teats looked like it might actually slough off from the damage.  Regardless, she needed to be hand milked twice a day to keep the milk flowing and to guard against the development of mastitis.  Ugh.

Milking  was clearly very painful for her and I was an inept Newbie.  She bled and she kicked. I dodged and swore and dodged some more.  It is a bit intimidating to have one's head in the direct path of a 1200 pound kicking animal, yet I needed to apply medication and earn her trust.  

DOES GEORGIE SEEM DISDAINFUL OF MY MILKING EFFORTS?
The situation was made more challenging by the fact that the muscles in the forearm that are used to milk cows are very clearly not muscles that I have ever used in my lifetime.  Plus, I am really old.  Too old to be learning new tricks?  It surely seemed so!  One frustrating morning I dropped the milk bucket because my hands were rebelling. I watched the milk literally go down the drain and I leaned against Elsie's big warm cow body and cried.  Pretty pathetic but True nonetheless.  Fortunately, Georgie was the only one around to witness my shame and he was too busy lapping up the spilled milk to pay me much mind.  

I slogged forward.  The Farmer gave me pep talks and did a great job of keeping Elsie entertained and well fed while I bumbled and fumbled through those first weeks. A tense time was definitely had by all.  

Happily, we seem to have gotten to the other side.  Elsie's injuries have healed and the kicking has stopped.  We have developed a nice rhythm and she stands patiently while I milk her.  

Whew!  Ya know, I think I've got this!

IN THE FARM KITCHEN....
A few week's ago I pulled out a well loved recipe for our CSA shareholders.  Spinach Balls are a tasty treat with a very  pedestrian name.  Try it in French...

Boules d'Epinards.  

Much more sophisticated, dontchathink?   Spinach Balls  stand alone as an appetizer or can be added to pasta for a meal.   The recipe will make about four dozen balls. They freeze really well and are consumed with gusto, so don't be afraid to make a big batch!
A BIT OF FARM GOAT CHEESE GARNISHES THIS QUICK APPETIZER

INGREDIENTS:
6 cups of chopped spinach (About 8-9 generous handfuls of fresh spinach)
6 cups of panko
15 eggs, beaten
3 cups Parmesan Cheese
2 cups of Softened Butter
4-6 cloves of garlic
3 cups of chopped onion

THE SPINACH VOLUME IS GREATLY REDUCED BY CHOPPING
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Chop the spinach.  I did it in batches in my Food Processor.  Don't pulverize it or turn it into juice, just pulse a handful or two at a time. Put all of your ingredients in a really, really, big bowl and mix well.
Once you have the ingredients well mixed, stick the bowl in the refrigerator for an hour or so.  The butter will firm up just enough to make it easy for you to work with the spinach "batter."  I rarely follow my own advice in this regard because I am always short on time.  C'est La Vie. They always taste great, they simply fall a bit flat on occasion.  Happens to the  best of us.

Anywhooo...Grab some mixture, form it into a ball, and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  I use an ice cream scoop so that the balls are a uniform 1/4 cup.  Pack those little suckers close and personal.  The proximity will keep them from spreading out and losing their shape if you have skipped the refrigerating step. 

Pop they cookie tray(s) into the oven and set the timer for twenty minutes.  This is a good time to clean  your mess, put on a load of laundry, or have a glass of wine.  Tick tock, tick tock.

Timer went off!  Check your balls!  They should be nice and crispy on the bottom.  Take the tray out of the oven and use kitchen tongs to turn over each one of them.  Don't try to do this while the tray is in the oven.  You WILL burn yourself, which will make you not want to make Spinach Balls  Boules d'Epinards...which would be sad....because they are really, really good!
NOTICE THE NICE BROWN CRUST?   MMMMMM!

Once you have flipped the balls, set the timer for another 20 minutes.  Rotate the cookie sheets if you are using more than one and wait patiently.  Tick tock, tick tock. 

Prepare to be dazzled!
YUM
So while I was cleaning up my Spinach Ball mess it occurred to me that I had out two of the six ingredients necessary to make another favorite appetizer, and figured out that I might as well make that one, too!

I present to you.....
GOAT BALLS
Goat Balls are ridiculously simple to make but the process does involve Deep Frying.  Don't judge me.



INGREDIENTS
1/2 Cup Panko
1/4 Cup Flour
Salt/Pepper/Garlic Powder
Goat "Farm Cheese"...available from your local goat farmer
Oil for frying
Chili Aioli 

Combine the panko, flour, seasoning in a bowl.  Take 1/4 cup of Farm cheese and form into a ball, then dredge ball in panko mixture.  Repeat.
Heat oil in a deep fryer or small pot, bringing temperature to 350 degrees. 

While the oil is heating, take a minute to whip of some quick Chili Aioli by blending a spoonful of Mayo with a bit of Sriracha sauce. Voila!

Has the oil reached the proper temperature?  If you don't have a thermometer, sprinkle some panko into the oil to see if it sizzles.  Using tongs, gently release the balls into the hot oil.  Cook just until golden brown and drizzle with the Chili Sauce.

Life is better with Goat Cheese...and melted Goat Cheese is just about the best thing around!


Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Farmer Tells his Tale and a Recipe for Goat Cheese Pesto Bread

The Farmer's Tale

So Mrs. Farmer has asked me to participate in her blog and so here we go....

Waking up as a Farmer.....such an unlikely career choice for a Jew from Manhattan. How did it happen?  As is true for all of us, life is often times challenging. Circumstances intervene and paths taken, or roads wandered, are inexorably altered. When these Momentous Events cascade into our way how do we respond? Do we rise to the occasion? Do we succumb and bemoan our fate, letting life's undertow take us and deposit us headlong into the maelstrom of tidal whirlpools ?  Hard to tell and hard to know until that day comes knocking at your door..

For me, I was busy and financially successful, going to work each day developing and building Lowe's, Walmart's, Targets, McDonald's, Burger Kings, etc... etc...I seemed to be pretty darn good at it! I was taking in a seven figure income and building up an eight figure net worth.  I accumulated a bevy of goodies....eight cars, three houses and untold amounts of STUFF...... EXPENSIVE STUFF!!!   But then along came one of those aforementioned Momentous Event:  The Great Recession of 2007/2008.  Funny thing was I had nothing to do with that darn cataclysmic event. I was just chugging along minding my own business but in the blink of an eye...voila....  no more income...  a minus eight figure net worth and a heap of troubles on the horizon... What was a fella to do???  Beats me...

I owed a whole lot of money to a whole lot of banks. The banks wanted to get all of their millions of dollars back so the first thing that happened was the bank that held the two and one half million dollars in mortgages on the three homes asked me if I'd like to keep one of the houses (I suspect it was better for them if they could find me and it seemed like a good idea to me :-)  So which house to pick? I chose the Fancy Little Designer Farm in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee. I figured that if was going to be poor at least I should learn to feed myself... so that's exactly what I did.  I decided to learn to grow and produce food!
By a bit of luck and more than a bit of divine intervention, I met some Mennonite and Amish farmers who welcomed me into the world. Each day I would religiously drive out their way;  partaking in their lives of labor and on Sunday, a hard bench seat in church (an odd place for a New York City Jewish guy to end up).  And what did I learn? I learned how to grow food, raise animals and take care of myself in a way I had never been able to imagine .  I learned a bit about God and a spiritual life. It was the beginnings of learning to be a farmer.


Slowly, but steadily, I became self reliant, self sufficient and self sustaining. There were some amazing and unexpected changes along the way. I realized that I was becoming a different man, a more peaceful man.  Quietly, a small glimmer of a light began to take form in my being and I realized that for the very first time in my life I was rich.  I was rich in a way I never knew existed.  I didn't have two nickels to rub together but it turned out for me, money wasn't what made me rich. What made me rich was peace, contentment, a strong spiritual faith, a sense of purpose and a life well lived rather than a life of living well.  


Slowly but surely all the STUFF started to disappear...repossessed or sold to pay bills until one day all that was left was that Fancy Designer Farm.  And what of that fancy farm?  I remember how often folks would come through the front door and express in glowing terms how beautiful the house was.. The lawns were no longer well manicured, the trees overgrown, and the creek beds gone wild, but the house still had a stately beauty and elegance that couldn't be denied.  All of the farming aspects, the gardens and animals were quietly tucked out of view so as not to disturb the aesthetic congruity of the Fancy Neighborhood.  While surely it was a house and a grand house at that,was it really a farm and a home?
It turns out for me it was just a house. The nascent farmer was living in a house but desiring a farm. The act of coming through the front door became an uncomfortable and strange ritual and day by day it felt more and more that I was living in someone else's house. I'd look at Pat and ask if it felt like home to her She would simply shake her head. We didn't belong in that fancy house growing $3 carrots on land that sold for $30,000 an acre! We couldn't afford to leave and we couldn't afford to stay. Quite the conundrum!

One day a lovely woman showed up and asked if I would be interested in selling the house? Keep in mind the house wasn't listed for sale....more divine intervention?  I jumped at the opportunity, despite selling for about $500,000 less than I had paid. It was enough to pay off the mortgage, the mountain of gathering of bills and get me on the road to finding where I really belonged.


I dug into the work of finding my future home with frenetic gusto because the new owner want us OUT quickly.  I looked at hundreds and hundreds of farms.  They were too big, too small, no water, no barn, no fencing, too expensive, too far away... too, too and too..... Eventually I found our farm.  It was seventy miles down the road and had been for sale for four years just waiting for us  -  another tinch of divine intervention?...It surely seems so and we are grateful!
Sixty Five acres of rolling hills with a simple old farm house, a few rickety barn buildings, some worn and tattered fencing and a never ending laundry list of chores and challenges in order to bring the farm around to being a good sound working farm and a refuge for all of the animals we steward. But its my farm and our farm and as such it is perfect!! My farm, my home and my life!!! What an amazing gift to share! I'm thankful for the gift of it.
I love walking through the front door.  I never get tired of looking at the simple plywood floors, the 100 year old wood on the walls with all its perfect imperfections. I love the wood cook stove and the incredible soul warming heat it provides from the split oak wood piled in its belly. The Amish rockers strategically placed to enjoy the warmth  of the cook stove while I fall asleep at the end of dinner having finished evening farm chores. And somehow, when the weather is its fiercest, and I slog through evening chores getting feed and water to all the various barn residents, the simple act of sitting by the wood stove is heightened and I'm not sure there is a greater, simpler pleasure in life. 

 Now I am a Farmer..I have a life that is far bigger then my needs.  Pat and I care for hundreds of others.  Our sheep, goats, cows, chickens, hogs, horse, dogs and whatever else roams into our world. No matter what, no matter if its convenient, I'm too tired, I'm grouchy, or the day hasn't gone well.  Whether I'm sick or want to get a night out... no matter what.... the needs of the farm come first and foremost.  I am a Farmer.
Oh and by the way a sidebar thought.... a funny  thing happened along the way: When I had a bunch of money I would sometimes like to think of all the things I had bought and owned.,,"owned" being a term of art when there are loans and mortgages attached to those possessions.   But sitting at my farm, in my home, I had the stunning realization that for the very first time I did actually own something!! A small little house with no mortgage and two old trucks with no payments... Hmmmmmm.... Life sure is funny....
Sorry can't help myself... one quick little diddy before I head out to feed the animals..... One day early in my walk towards a simpler life I was  talking to an Amish fellow and going on and on, waxing enthusiastically about how much I admired their simple life and how I longed and yearned for it.  The nice Amish fellow waited patiently till I exhausted the topic and myself and then quietly said “simple life” I think you're mistaken”.  “Our life isn't simple...yours is.”  You go home and flip a switch and you have light. In your home you turn up the thermostat and you have heat.”  “In your home you turn a dial on the oven and you cook.”  We need to get a lamp lit and then haul in split wood to stoke up the wood cook stove for our heat and to to cook our meals.  “You turn a valve and have hot water - not us.”  Now I heat with wood and cook on the wood stove.  We have oil lamps.  The Amish fellow was right.  It's definitely not as simple as flipping a switch or turning a dial but I wouldn't change it for all the tea in China!!!!


PESTO GOAT CHEESE ARTISAN BREAD
This bread is a decadent treat!  It is easy to make and works well as a stand alone appetizer.  A friend recently referred to it as "life changing".  I am not sure about THAT, but it sure is tasty!


The basic bread recipe is a slight adaptation from the Olive Oil Bread Recipe found in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis.  I got this book when it was first published almost a decade ago and it quickly became a favorite.  There is no need to be intimidated by bread baking with this as your guide and I have not bought a loaf of bread in years.  It is so much nicer to have freshly baked bread in the house!  I generally have plenty of goat cheese around and there is always Pesto in my freezer, but store bought will work just fine if you don't have access to fresh goat cheese or home made Pesto.

THE OLIVE OIL DOUGH RECIPE
It is helpful to have an electric mixer for this recipe.  I just add the following ingredients to the mixing bowl:
6 1/2 to 7 cups of All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Active Yeast (NOT instant)
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Kosher Salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Sugat or Honey
1/2 Cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2  3/4 Cups of Lukewarm Water

Mix everything on Medium Low just until the ingredients are well integrated and there is no flour stuck to the bottom of the bowl.  I have found that if I mix it for too long or at too high a speed the dough becomes too loose and loses elasticity.  I like the dough to be somewhat "tight" so that a finger pressed into it will leave a dent but not get covered with sticky dough.  If it is too sticky just add a bit more flour.

Place the dough into a plastic container (I used the plastic shoe boxes that sell for a dollar at WalMart) and sit it on a counter and forget about it for a while.  Once the dough has risen to touch the lid, put it in the refrigerator.  It will be easier to roll if it is chilled and will remain viable in the Fridge for a week.  The recipe is enough to make two loaves like the one pictured.

BAKING DAY
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Take out the Box O' Bread and divide it in half to make one loaf.  The remainder of the dough can be used to make another loaf of bread, a pizza or flat bread later in the week. Put the dough on a generously floured surface and sprinkle the top with a bit of flour.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle shape.  I tend to roll it rather thin as I want to see lots of Cheesey Pesto Swirls when I cut into it. I rolled this one a bit too thin and had to make a little Dough Patch which is evident in the picture below. Once the dough has been rolled out, spread a liberal amount of pesto on the surface.  I used about a cup and a half of pesto from my freezer.  
Next sprinkle goat cheese generously on top of the pesto.  I find that one end of my dough rectangle winds up a bit wider than the other.  Start to roll from with wide end, ending with the tapered end.
Don't worry...it is easy peasy!

Yum!  I can almost taste how good it is going to be!  Once it is rolled up, pop it into a bread pan.  I use a lidded ceramic bread cloche, but a metal pan would probably work just fine.  The dough will need to rise about an hour and a half. This is a good time to throw on a load of laundry or peruse Ebay for vintage overalls.  Well, at least that is what I do!

Once the dough has risen,  use a sharp knife to score the bread as pictured,  Finally, brush it with a Baking Soda Wash (Boil a 1/2 cup of water and add a teaspoon of baking soda to make a quick wash.  I didn't even let mine cool for this loaf, although I usually do.  The Wash will last about two weeks in the refrigerator).  
Finally, pop it into the pre-heated oven and set the timer for 35 minutes, open a nice bottle of wine and get ready for a party in your mouth!  Let me know how it works it when you try it....because you HAVE to try it.  You will be glad you did!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Complicated Road to a Simple Life, a New Cow, and Curried Cauliflower Zucchini Fritters

The Farmer and I aspired for a simple life long before we actually tried to live it. 
 Separately, we had each spent too many years and too many dollars pursuing a misguided version of the American Dream.  It was a path that was all about achievement, consumption, debt, and more consumption.  We wanted off that merry go round and when we married we determined to modify our lifestyle to suit our income. Frankly, the income was minimal.   A Too Expensive Mortgage Heavy Home was sold and a modest farm was purchased in its stead.   We longed for a quiet, purposeful Farm-based existence and had a somewhat naive vision of what that would entail ...animals frolicking in green pastures, fields bursting with organic vegetables, a tidy little farmhouse, and the two of us whiling away time rocking on the porch. Umm.....Not exactly!  Although there are frolicking animals, pretty fields, and many quiet, pastoral moments, sometimes it seems more like Mud and Mayhem!

Hurry Farmer!  There is more work to do!

We have found that the path to simple is surprisingly complicated, and at times, a bit scary.  There is always more month than money and too few hours in the day.  We are new to this whole Homesteading Thing and a misstep can have serious consequences.  Fortunately we have been blessed to have developed wonderful friendships in the Amish and Plain communities in our area.  They are quick to offer practical advice, from which wood stove to buy, to how to doctor a sick hog, to how to use jewel weed to combat poison ivy, and beyond!  The little hardships are made easier by the sense of community as well as my end of day glass of wine and porch time!
The men enjoy talking farming!
Anywhooo...The Farmer and I have been in the market for a Jersey cow and when we found out that there would be several Jerseys up for auction in a nearby Amish community, we made plans to attend.  Farm auctions are always a lot of fun and provide us with an opportunity to connect with farming friends that we do not often see.  

A tiny puppy makes Friends of Strangers at a recent Community Auction.

We got to the auction late...just after the Jersey Cows had been auctioned...much to the amusement of our friends. Fortunately, one of them knew somebody who knew somebody and our new Jersey will be delivered tomorrow afternoon.  She is at least 10 years old but The Farmer and I think her maturity might work in our favor.  Although we have over forty dairy goats, we have never milked a cow.   We are hoping that SHE will train US. Regardless, it is going to be an adventure!

IN THE FARM KITCHEN
My daughter, a vegetarian, is coming to visit and I cannot wait to serve her my latest Veggie Fritter.  They freeze beautifully so I am making up a bunch.   It just might be my favorite yet...

Curried Cauliflower and Zucchini Fritters with Feta

First, gather your ingredients:
1 large cauliflower
1-2 zucchinis
1 Onion (I used a sweet Yellow, but any onion will work)
1 Red or Yellow Pepper
1 Cup Feta Cheese 
1 cup flour
5 eggs
2 generous teaspoons garlic
4 Tablespoons Fresh Herbs (I used a combination of Cilantro, Parsley, and Mint)
2 teaspoons of Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups of neutral oil, for frying.

First, cut the florets from the Cauliflower and toss them into a pot of boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the Cauliflower is very soft.  

While the Cauliflower is simmering, prepare the other veggies.  Chop the onion in a 1/4 inch dice and do the same with the Red Pepper, discarding the seeds before dicing. Chop the herbs.  Shred the zucchini, skin and all.  I use one of my all time favorite kitchen tools for this purpose--the Kiwi Pro Slice Peeler.  I got mine at Bangkok Market, a specialty grocery store in Nashville.  The slicer helps make food look pretty!
When the cauliflower is finished, drain it in a colander and let it cool for a bit.  Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and add the Cauliflower, using a spoon to smash it into small pieces. Toss in all of the other ingredients and mix well.

Easy Peasy!

Next it is time to sautee the fritters!   Heat about an inch of oil in a large skillet over high heat.  You will want the oil to be quite hot.  I use an ice cream scoop to spoon out the cauliflower mixture to ensure even sizing, but a 1/4 cup measuring cup would work equally well.  Do not crowd the pan and watch the heat carefully.  It should take 3 - 4 minutes to cook each side through.  If the fritters are cooking too quickly, simply adjust the heat.  Don't try to flip them early as you will be dealing with a gloppy mess. The fritters firm up as they cook and when they are ready to be turned it will be easy to do.

Put a paper towel under a wire cookie rack and put the cooked fritters on the rack to drain.  I find that putting them directly on paper towel serves to steam the fritters, softening the crunch. The rack avoid those issues and allows any extra oil to drain off.

The fritters can be frozen and reheated in the oven.  350 degrees for 15-20 minutes will crisp them right up.  I top them with Tzaziki Sauce made from our Farm Goat Yogurt.



Coming Next Week.....
...
A bread recipe that will make you swoon and a guest Post from The Farmer!