Celebrating a Local Breakfast

Coming back to the blog has me in a very reflective mood. As does starting a new book Blessing the Hands that Feed Us, Vicki Robin’s experiment with a 10-mile diet. The book has been sitting on my shelf since it was given to me as a gift from a student a couple years ago. Robin challenges to us to reflect on our relationship with our food – a task I try to keep in my heart and on my mind each day.

With this reflection in mind, I am very proud to share my homegrown and local breakfast: West VA heirloom blue corn bread with homegrown eggs and greens frittata. The main ingredients were either grown/raised at my home or purchased locally. (Yes – those are blue eggs from our two Ameraucana chickens in the picture below, we are very proud) But, the most exciting part to me – the other ingredients were local as well – garlic and local WV salt for flavor and cooked with local, organic rapeseed oil.

I have an ongoing thought experiment to see if it is possible to meet all my basic culinary needs locally. Recently, my attention was turned to oil and I was pleased to see a number of local cooking oil options at Chesapeake’s Bounty. I am experimenting with local sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, and butternut squash. These oils have replaced olive oil in my cupboard this winter. I am sure there will be a dish that is diminished without beloved EVOO, but I haven’t found it yet.

Rainy Sunday, Back to the Blog

It has been 4 years since I’ve posted here – and wow! it has flown by. While I have achieved much of what I set out for in 2010 when I first met Deb, I’ve learned that this is a life-long journey and one that is much more successful when it is shared and cherished. It is amazing to reflect on the past decade. I am now working exactly where I wanted to be in 2010 – on farms, food service, farmers’ markets, and local food policy. And yet, there is still so much more to learn and do. What we’ve realized is that our quest for learning and for tackling environmental challenges has only intensified since we first started blogging. So, we are back!

I am glad to be on the journey with you!

Meeting Michael Pollan

POLLA3_130425_346On April 25th, my parents, who live in Arlington, Virginia, invited Jen and I over for a home-cooked family meal inside the tiny window of time after a work day and before we were headed to the heart of Washington, D.C. to hear Michael Pollan speak about his newest book, ‘COOKED: A Natural History of Transformation.‘ Even with the wealth of farm-to-table restaurants in the city, many of their kitchens stocked with products grown and raised by close friends, we felt that the best way to honor the movement and the debut of the new book was to celebrate it quietly at home. And then chase down Michael Pollan with a Willowsford Farm gift bag and our cameras ready to shoot.

Over vegetarian lasagna, greens, and strawberry shortcake served on fresh baked biscuits, we talked about the season to come, about the 8 lbs. sweet potato my parents grew in their backyard garden last year and how we hope to beat their record at the farm this year, and what to write in the card we were slipping in the bag for “MP.”

Then something magical happened. For the first time in my “Pollanated” career, I realized we were going to be late to a Michael Pollan talk. Instead of flying out the door, however, we picked up our plates, double checked our will-call receipts and watched Jen take an extra moment to thank my parents for the meal. Sure, I still kind of rushed us out the door, but being a little bit late because we are busy farmers committed to family meals felt perfectly reasonable. It felt like Michael Pollan would completely forgive our tardiness.

As always, the talk was inspirational and articulated every thought, feeling and goal inside each one of us fighting to regain our connections with nature, the food chain, meal time, and our role as chefs in our own health and destiny.

Pollan referred to the family meal as “the nursery of democracy,” a time when we learn to take turns at the favorite parts of a roast chicken with our siblings, give guests first dibs at the homemade whipped cream for strawberry shortcake, and take back this activity and time from a world perhaps too populated with convenience and choice. He discussed the history, and interesting timing, of the ready-made, frozen meal in combination with the growth of dual-income and dual-career households and in doing so, reminded me of how many “food-like substances” have fueled so many of us along the way. Who hasn’t grabbed a bite of something from the convenience store at a gas station or hurried through a sandwich over the kitchen sink so that they could use that time for a different form of personal enrichment? Heck, even farmers order pizza once in a while.

But on the beautifully bright side, this has led many of us to a place where each meal cooked at home, shared with family and in our case, farm-ily as well, feels like a treat, like a special occasion. Although I long for weeks, months and years when it is simply part of the daily routine of life, I’m more than happy to invest extra time in Willowsford Farm and fields to ensure that our CSA members and Farm Stand shoppers have rich, diverse meals that are good for them and grown via practices that the author of “In Defense of Food” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” would be proud of. And lucky for us, as the bounty of the season is growing all around us, it’ll once again be easy to refuel with fresh peppers, tomatoes, and greens throughout the days and roast, stir fry and grill in the evenings.

The End of Winter’s Kale

Today I harvested the end of winter’s kale from the garden…

20130508_201051I was shocked and impressed with how much I was able to collect (despite today’s rain!)….IMG_20130508_184349 (2)I turned all of the kale into pesto, plus some Kale Pesto White Bean Dip.
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Kale Pesto (adapted from Food Fanatic)

What You Need

  • 7 cups kale (stemmed, washed, and packed)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

What You Do

  1. Remove stems from kale and wash thoroughly. If you are picking the kale from your garden, beware of aphids and aphid eggs on the kale – to clean, wash with hot water!
  2. Add kale to food processor along with the garlic, walnuts and parmesan cheese.
  3. Pulse 5 or 6 times to get everything chopped up.
  4. Turn the food processor on and slowly add the oil while the processor is processing.
  5. If you added ¼ cup of oil, you will end up with thick, spreadable pesto. You can stop here or if you desire a thinner consistency to use the pesto as pasta sauce, continue adding oil (about an additional ¼ cup) until the pesto reaches the consistency you want.
  6. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week (OR you can make the sauce in bulk and freeze it for later).

I am ready for spring and summer vegetables, what about you? 🙂

Spring Garden: After the Rain

I am so happy that I was able to plant so many seeds and seedlings in my home garden last weekend. They are so happy after all this rain (three days in a row, and counting)! Take a look at them this evening…

Happiness!

Tasty Dips

This weekend, I hosted some friends over for dinner and was excited about an idea that came up in conversation a couple weeks ago with my boyfriend: expanding dip options from hummus, eggplant, and cheese spreads. So, I tried two new ones using cannellini beans and red lentils. Both were wonderful. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to snag any photos while cooking them — so you’ll have to trust me on this one.

Kale Pesto White Bean Dip (from Annie Eats)

What You Need

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup walnuts (I didn’t have any – so I omitted them, but next time I will include them)
  • 1½ cups kale leaves, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups cannellini beans, drained (2 15 oz. cans)
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

What You Do

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts (if you are using) and kale.
  2. Pulse until finely chopped.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. With the processor running, add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice in a steady stream through the feed tube until smooth.
  4. Add in the Parmesan, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the beans, the remaining 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar.
  6. Process the mixture until completely smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.  If necessary, pulse in additional olive oil to achieve a smooth texture.
  7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and top with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts.  Serve with pita chips, fresh veggies, etc

Curried Lentil Dip (from Frontier Natural Products Coop)

What You Need

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and diced apples
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

What You Do

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft and most of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions, apples, and garlic with a dash of salt for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the raisins, curry powder, and the garam masala, if using, and continue to sauté for 10 minutes, until tender.
  5. In a food processor or blender, pureé the cooked lentils and sautéed onion mix with the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add the salt and adjust to taste.
  6. Serve at room temp or chilled.

I served the dips with pita chips, a veggie plate, and rice crackers. The best part — I have plenty left-over to enjoy all week.

Chesapeake Compost Works Now Accepting Orders

The remarkable team behind Chesapeake Compost Works just announced that they are open for orders of their first batches of product. Way to go, guys!!

Email them (info@chesapeakecompost.com) with the product you want, the quantity you want, and your zip code and they’ll give you a quote.

Chesapeake Compost: Our original 100% multi-purpose compost, made from recycled brush, garden trimmings, and food scraps.  $32 per cubic yard plus tax and delivery charge, $28 per cubic yard for orders of 10 cubic yards or more.

Chesapeake Garden Mix: A 80% / 20% blend of Chesapeake Compost and fine sand, perfect for raised beds and other plantings where you are planting directly into this soil.  Holds water and has a rich, soil texture.  $37 per cubic yard plus tax and delivery charge, $34 per cubic yard for orders of 10 cubic yards or more.

Chesapeake Topsoil: A 50% / 50% blend of Chesapeake Compost and fine sand, perfect for starting new grass plantings or rejuvenating distressed landscapes.  $40 per cubic yard plus tax and delivery, $37 per cubic yard for orders of 10 cubic yards or more.

Chesapeake Potting Soil: Our blend of Chesapeake Compost, spagnum peat moss, and vermiculite, designed to be light and airy yet hold water.  Perfect for starting seeds in flats, trays, or growing in pots.  Coming soon!

Chesapeake Sustainable Potting Soil: Our blend of Chesapeake Compost, coconut coir, and expanded rice hulls.  Made entirely of renewable materials.  Performs just as well as Chesapeake Potting Soil, perfect for starting seeds in flats, trays, or growing in pots.  Coming soon!

Chesapeake Rain Garden Mix: Blended to the specifications of Blue Water Baltimore, this mix is designed to let stormwater infiltrate the ground.  Blue Water Baltimore uses this mix to construct rain gardens throughout Baltimore.  Coming soon!

Chesapeake Castings: Worm castings made from red wiggler worms fed a diet of spent brewery grains and lettuce.  This super rich soil is used as a fertilizer to add life and nutrients to everything from your container garden to your farm.  Coming soon!

Fleetwood Farm

On my way to the farm every morning, I slow down as I pass Fleetwood Farm to see if I can pick out Sam, the Maremma on duty, from the rams and ewes he guards day and night. I usually can’t, but I’m hopeful that one of these days I’ll spot him and then – like riding a bicycle – will be able to spot the dog(s) in a herd anywhere.

Last week, I volunteered to take some leftover produce to the mulefoot hogs so that I could spend a little time with the new lambs and Sam. Walt Feasel was there, working with a border collie in one of the fields, but took a break to introduce me to the new crop of babies, chat about his operation, and even sent me home with sausage that my taste testers ranked above all others. Seriously. Two out of two meatatarians said it was the best sausage they have ever had.

Here are five reasons to love, support and purchase from this farm:

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5. Sam. Fierce when he should be. Friendly when you’ve earned his trust. Once you win him over, he squeezes between your legs, lifts you up, and nuzzles into your heart very quickly.

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4. Diversified livestock. This handsome Bourbon Red tom waddles around with New Hampshire and Plymouth Rock chickens.

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3. The close-knit herd. Seeing them moving around the pasture together will makes you all warm and woolly inside.

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…so will their adorable lambs.

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2. Momma Mulefoot loves Willowsford Farm leftovers.

IMG_5084 resized1. And Sam loves the the Willowsford Farm dog, Bella. They’ve been seeing each other since last fall.

Fleetwood Farm is located at 23075 Evergreen Mills Rd in Leesburg, VA and raises heritage breeds on pasture for meat and eggs. Farm visits are by appointment only. Learn more here.

Microgreens @ home and from the store!

There has been some buzz about microgreens at the USDA and University of Maryland, College Park. Last summer, a new study revealed that microgreens contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.

Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs that are harvested less than 14 days after germination. Typically, they are 1-3 inches long and come in a rainbow of colors (which depends on the seed).  And, best of all, they are delicious!

I was thrilled when I found a small tray of locally grown red-radish microgreens in Mom’s Organic Market in Rockville. I was over-the-moon when I found sunflower microgreens at the Mom’s in College Park today. The greens come in a small tray, still in the soil from New Day Farms in Bealeton, Virginia.

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I just harvested a handful of sunflower microgreens for my salad. IMG_0283

I am so inspired by this new product that I decided to give it a try myself. I purchased 1/4 pound of red radish seeds from Johnny’s Seeds. I set up one of my spare tupperware with a small layer of gravel and organic seed-starting potting mix.
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I wet the soil and disinfected the seeds. I then spread the seeds on the soil in the container and misted them with my water-bottle. IMG_0286

I’ll loosely close the top and cover it with a towel until the radishes sprout. Then, I’ll move the sprouts in with my germinating garden seeds. In less than 10 days, I should have home-grown, beautiful and nutritious microgreens.

We’ll see how they compare to the wonderful microgreens from New Day Farms 🙂