Friday, September 30, 2011

A Farmhouse Visit

Good Evening and Greetings from Our Farm!

(September 29th) Our family is standing out in the chilly breeze this evening packing your shares...I'm down at the house checking on a batch of bread that is almost done for the bread shares. The house smells yummy and the warmth of the stove is making my hands tingle...home...the word brings with it many fond memories.

We are praying for protection from the forecasted frost this weekend....the yellow, patty pan, and zucchini squashes I'm packing this evening will die quickly with an early frost. So please pray with us, for this is "your farm"!

This week we've planted around 11,000 strawberries as a family. It is always fun to have a big project to work on together. Adam's innovative idea on how to create raised beds with the equipment we all ready owned saved us a lot of money and possibly crop loss if we planted on flat beds. You can see the new crop of berry plants when you visit the farm for our fall farm day.

Speaking of the fall farm day, It has been announced officially now for October 15th from 3 p.m. until dark. We're very excited to meet you and your family. For you see, most of our family doesn't get to see you each week at the markets. We hear stories of each family, ways you are cooking your vegetables and funny stories of market "happenings", but we don't have a face to put most of the stories with. This is "your farm" , so come out and enjoy it. We are making plans to make it a fun evening together, so please be courteous and R.S.V.P. us as soon as possible. For those of you whose Momma didn't teach you what that means, it means répondez s'il vous plaît, meaning “reply please” or "please respond". The easiest way is to e-mail us...that way we can keep track. Last minute phone reservations will also be taken. I just REALLY need to get an approximate count so I can plan the meal. Thank you!

We will be providing the meat and drinks for the evening. We ask that each family bring a side dish (preferably with vegetables from your share and the recipe to share). For the comfort of your family please bring jackets, boots or sturdy shoes for children, blanket or lawn chairs, and a flashlight. We usually have singing around the fire at dusk, so if you play the guitar, mandolin, or banjo, please bring it with you also. We love to sing!

I'm also going to give a plea for help this year. We've found that the more our shareholders get involved, the more fun they have. If you'd like to help set up, serve, run the farm sale table, or plan/lead a children's activity, just write me at stevecovlin99@gmail.com. Our farm sale table will be located on the porch where you sign in and Lord willing we'll be selling jams, relish, bread, granola, pumpkin and apple cinnamon rolls,wooden children's toys for Christmas, and more.

It's after 9 p.m. and we just finished our supper...Fridays are very busy here as we like to pick the majority of our vegetables for your shares the day we pack. You can't get much fresher unless you have your own garden. As I was grilling our hamburger "steaks" I grilled the Italian frying peppers (long red ones) that were in shares last week. I filled the halves with mozzarella cheese as they neared completion and they were a special treat. We've also enjoyed bartering for mushrooms at 2 of our markets (Market Square and Dixie Lee) and have enjoyed the following dish:

Val's Mushroom Brown Rice

Enough rice to feed your family (I cook up 4 C. brown rice to 8 c. water)
1 large onion, sliced
1 lb. farm fresh mushrooms (available from other vendors at both markets)
2 garlic cloves (put thr0ugh the handy "musher")
1/4 c. butter
1/8 c. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Since this is just a made up concoction, do all the above to your family's taste and size.
Cook brown rice as directed. I have a rice cooker and I highly recommend them. When the rice is nearing completion melt the butter and oil together. Add "mushed" garlic. Next add a layer of onions. Place sliced mushrooms over onions. Cover and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir at this time. Watch carefully and serve when onions are still a bit crisp and mushrooms have begun to "wilt". Season with salt and pepper. Spoon over rice. I will also be stuffing peppers with this mixture next week.

Stuffed Peppers
Using the above recipe add 1/4 lb. browned breakfast sausage.
Cut the tops off sweet peppers and clean out the seeds and membrane as much as possible. Spoon warm rice mixture into the pepper cavities. Place them upright on a casserole dish. Bake until the peppers are el dante. (That's the secret..we don't like mushy peppers.)

We are now proud grandparents! I've delivered 13 children; each a miracle...but this was different! The admiration that surged through my heart for Hope as she labored to bring Samuel into the world was overpowering. He stole my heart first thing by looking right through me...he found his place in my heart, and now is Grandma's little boy. We've committed him to Christ...the giver of life.

Introducing....

Samuel Christopher Biggs
September 29,2011
8 lbs. 9 oz.
21 inches long
Proud Parents:
Bryan & Hope Biggs

We've all been enjoying the winter squash in the shares, but I wanted to share something with you about them. You don't have to use them up now while there is an abundance of vegetables in your shares. They keep real well in a cool dark place for months! The acorn squash (small green with ribs) will the be first winter squash to be used up as it has the shortest shelf life. So if you still have a few of them in your larder at Christmas, enjoy them for a special meal. In fact I'm putting small onions and squash aside now for those meals. I love creamed onions and they are a traditional side dish from my childhood.

One of our favorite recipes for winter squash is to bake, and whip it. I often serve squash this way for Sunday dinner during the winter. I can do all the work on Saturday, and then pop the casserole dish in the oven or microwave on Sunday.
Whipped Butternut Squash

2 ½ lbs. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (see my alternative method)
3 c. water
¾ c. t. salt
2 T. butter
1 T. brown sugar
1/8 t. nutmeg
In a saucepan over medium heat, bring squash, water and ½ t. salt, if desired, to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. Drain; transfer to a mixing bowl. (I like to take an easier method of cooking the squash. I cut the squash in half lengthwise, lay it cut side down on a cookie sheet. I then place the cookie sheet in the oven with a rack pulled out slightly. I take a small pitcher of water and pour enough onto the cookie sheet to cover the bottom with about 1/4” of water. I then bake until a knife inserts easily into the outer shell, 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours depending on the size of the squash. I then can easily scoop out the seeds and membrane and discard. I use an ice cream scoop to scoop out the flesh of the squash into my mixing bowl. This same method can be used for baking pumpkin.) Add butter, brown sugar, and nutmeg and remaining salt if desired; whip until smooth. (If I am serving this immediately I treat it like I would mash potatoes by placing it into a deep serving bowl. But if I’m serving it at a later time, I put it into a casserole dish and cover. Place into the refrigerator. When ready to reheat, simply place into the oven or microwave to reheat.)
Variation: I have made this into a casserole by putting browned, seasoned ground pork or sausage into the whipped squash and placing it in a shallow baking dish. I’ve topped it two ways and once combined the two! Either top the casserole with buttered bread crumbs, or shredded cheese. Bake 20 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.
Winter squash takes some forethought, but is well worth the effort. I’ve even prepared several at one time and frozen Ziplocs with enough for one meal inside. That way you heat the oven once and make a mess of the kitchen one time.

Squash Pancakes
2 eggs
1 c. mashed, dark yellow squash
1 ½ c. milk
2 T. vegetable or canola oil
1 t. vanilla
2 ½ c. biscuit mix
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
Beat together eggs and squash. Add milk, oil and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients and stir in. Fry on a hot, lightly oiled skillet.

Frosty Day Squash Casserole

2 c. mashed winter squash
4 slices of bacon
½ c. chopped onion
2/3 c. grated cheddar cheese
¼ t. salt
dash Tabasco or black pepper
¼ c. buttered bread crumbs
Put squash into medium bowl. Fry bacon until crisp; crumble into squash. Leave about 1 T. drippings in skillet. Fry onion in drippings until transparent; add squash. Add cheese. Add salt and Tabasco sauce or pepper; mix well. Put in a buttered baking dish; top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees until heated through and crumbs begin to brown –about 25 minutes.

(October 6th)As usual this blog is taking me two weeks...there is SOOOOO much going on in our lives! We are not publicity seekers...but folks have been coming to us this year...The Knox News Sentinel, John Deere magazine, The Furrow, and our new friends from Cobblestone Entertainment that are spending time with us videoing our farm and family. Between our "guests", school, canning, baking 2 days a week for the market in Crossville, and meeting my family's needs, my life is rich and full of the Lord's blessings. I would like to apologize to our shareholders for not keeping this a weekly blog. Our old shareholders may be like me and miss the personal touch of The Farmer's Wife...last year I printed off weekly letters "From the Farmer's Wife" and signed each one...then they were put in each share. This worked fine for about 40 shareholders and the ink cartridge was full...but when our numbers grew to 88 and our new printer's cartridges were small it became a burden. This year with about 165 families, this is the best way for me to communicate with ya'll. I'm definitely not the cyber-Granny type, so please be patient with me as I learn.

There is no particular theme to this week's blog, just a short visit with your farmer's family....so here is what has been going on!

We've begun planting for next year. Strawberries are in the ground and doing well. We have approximately 11,000 plants for early spring harvest. Be watching for details on how you can be guaranteed our sweet and tangy berries. (Well, Lord willing almost guaranteed.)

We are also planting around 13,000 plus garlic bulbs. My boys smell sooo good these days. When they come in the farmhouse on breaks the spicy aroma of Italy wafts through my kitchen! We so enjoy the fresh garlic and you'll be enjoying it too if you join us in 2012.

We are in the process of negotiating on acreage for farm expansion! This is a large step of faith for our family. It is approximately 63 acres and has about half that acreage in tillable fields. There is a year round creek that we can keep the pond full with. That is a BIG improvement for us as we ran out of water here on the farm in August this year and were unable to water. This put a BIG damper on seed germination. It looks like the perfect property for our family...separate tillable fields with even a great field for wheat, oats, soy beans and dry bean production that allows our "new" large combine direct access from the road. Our boys are VERY excited about the possibilities if the Lord allows us to purchase it. Please pray with us for the Lord's will in these weighty matters.

The men are still planting for your last weeks of shares. Today Bok Choy went in and tomorrow, Lord willing lettuce will be planted. I can all ready taste the late fall stir fries we'll be able to have! Ha ha!

The other day the boys topped a few Brussels Sprouts plants as the little "cabbage like" sprouts are now ready to fill out. They brought me home the tops...I thought they had cut me some miniature collards, so I made a great breakfast of Green Eggs and "Ham" (If you don't have that recipe do a search on the website for it.) with it. After we had eaten, the boys asked how I liked the greens...I really did as they were mild and collards are my favorite. That is when they told me we had just eaten Brussels sprout tops! What a great surprise! Most farmer's just cut thetops and drop them in the paths, but we know that most of the brassica family's (broccoli/cabbage family) greens are edible...why waste anything? Look for them in your share this weekend, and use them like any other green!

One vegetable that continually shows up on my counter each summer is green tomatoes...I have fond memories of pickled green tomatoes as they were the adults special pickle in my childhood home...that means I rarely got any. So nowadays I sit them on the windowsill or put them in the fridg with good intentions. Well, I've got a recipe that I think will bring smiles to my family and we'll be having it tonight. It calls for several items in your share boxes, so you may want to try it also with that green tomato that has been siting in your fridg for weeks also :)

Green Tomato Rice

This is a delicious rice dish to serve with pork or beef, and it's a great way to use green tomatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced, with most of green (6 to 8)
  • 4 medium green tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • dash dried leaf thyme
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • dash Tabasco sauce, optional
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Preparation:

In a medium saucepan, saute the bacon over medium heat until crisp; remove to paper towels to drain. In 1 tablespoon of the bacon drippings, saute green onions for 1 minute. Add green tomatoes and saute for 1 minute longer. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper; saute for another 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, rice, thyme, pepper, and Tabasco sauce. Bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in Parmesan cheese just before serving, if desired. Sprinkle with the cooked bacon


I know there is cauliflower in a few of your shares this week, and others will enjoy it in the coming weeks. Like all the other vegetables we grow, our family enjoys them best just simply steamed. Here are some basic ideas to get you started:


Steamed Cauliflower

Bring one inch of water to a boil. Add 4 C. cut up cauliflower. Add 1/2 -1 t. salt if desired. Return to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 5-8 minutes. Drain. Cooking a whole trimmed head takes 10-15 minutes and is great for a special occasion. Serve plain, buttered or with one of the following butters or cheese sauce.


Lemon Butter

1/4 C. melted butter

2 T. Lemon juice

1/2 t. grated lemon rind

Mix ingredients and toss with 4-6 cups cooked cauliflower just before serving. Also Good on carrots, broccoli, green beans, squash, spinach and other greens.


Parmesan Butter

1/4 C. butter

2 t. Parmesan Cheese

Melt butter. Add cheese. Serve over cooked cauliflower. Also good on asparagus and broccoli.

Many years ago when I was learning to cook, my dear husband came alongside me and rescued me from a flopped cheese sauce. He wrote out his directions for me and my cheese sauce became a success! At the time I was buying expensive frozen Green Giant broccoli and cheese sauce! I used this to make Chicken Diavan. (see recipe below) Now I use it for whenever I want a cheese sauce..and I don't use the sliced cheese anymore...I just use shredded.

Farmer Steve's Cheese Sauce

2 T. butter

2 1/2 T. flour

1 cup milk

either

4 slices American Processed Cheese

or

1/2 C. Shredded Cheddar Cheese

1/4 t. Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Dash of salt or garlic salt & pepper


1. Melt butter in saucepan & blend in flour.

2. Add milk and other ingredients

3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly 'til smooth and thick. Approximately 7 minutes

4. Serve over cooked cauliflower or broccoli.


As I was learning to cook while I was learning to be a wife, this recipe has grown with me. Nowadays there is boneless chicken breasts in the grocery store that make this recipe easy to make. But 30 years ago, in my little trailer kitchen I boiled leg quarters that I bought for 19 cents a pound (!!) and de-boned it to make my chicken recipes. In fact, we still do this as the meat is not as dry as boneless chicken breasts and I can now sometimes find leg quarters for as low as .49- . 59 cents a pound. I've served this over egg noodles, over brown rice, but our favorite way is over nothing. :)

Chicken Divan

2 cups deboned chicken
1 large head of broccoli or 2 packages of frozen
Steve's Cheese Sauce
2 T. mayonnaise
2 t. lemon juice

Chop broccoli up into mouth sized pieces. Steam broccoli lightly. Drain. Stir mayonnaise and lemon juice into broccoli, and then add cheese sauce. Pour into a large casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Optional: top with buttered bread crumbs.



I have an Amish waterbath canner from Lehman's that helps me save time in the kitchen all year round! It was designed with waterbath canning in mind, but I use it for many things. I can boil 100 pounds of chicken leg quarters in it to debone for recipes! When the chicken is removed I have several gallons of rich chicken broth to can for my chicken and dumpling recipe. I also have frozen this broth in small portions to use for cream of chicken soups that I make. There are so many uses for this broth. It's real handy for a quick chicken noodle soup in the winter. Check out the link to see what I'm describing. Husbands, it makes a great Christmas gift for a serious cook and shareholder. :)

I've been using this handy canner for years and this year I've put up to 84- 1/2 pint jelly jars into it!! I rarely use my 7 quart canner anymore as I can usually do one or two batches in my Amish canner and be done with it! It holds 15 quarts or 27 pints.

I also use it for a blancher! I thought I had come up with something new this year as I blanched my mixed greens and broccoli to freeze. I took an old thin pillow case and filled it with broccoli spears or chopped greens. With my Amish canner half filled with boiling water I dunked my 1/2 filled pillow case into the water. I then used a long wooden spoon to submerge the greens into the water then watched for the water to boil. When it started to boil, I set the stove timer for 3 minutes. When the timer went off I pulled up my bag (the end was layed over the side to keep it dry) and let it drip a bit. Then I used the wooden spoon to press the bag of greens against the side of the canner until it stopped dripping badly. Next I carried it over to the sink which was filled with cool water and dropped the bottom of the bag in again. I swish it around with my hand and let it cool. When it's cool, I lift it up into the dish drainer (that I've washed!) and press the water out of it. Then in just in a matter of minutes I pour the greens from the bag into labeled gallon bags. I've used this method for blanching for broccoli and for mixed greens with GREAT results! When my mother-in-love called the morning I tried out "my invention" I told her what I was doing...she exclaimed, "Oh I loved my blanching bag! It was all stained up, but it sure saved me time!" I guess I stumbled on an old idea that somehow has been lost in the age of fancy gadgets! Try it out this fall!

(Saturday October 8, 2011) Well the boys are all back from the markets in the big city. They are bubbling with stories and are also excited that many of you plan to join us for our fall farm day. We're excited too! The little ones are all had their Saturday night baths, and are tucked into bed. The boys and Steve are in the living room planning next year...I think it's funny how next year holds sooo much promise....we are like that each year. But with all the plans for expansion, their dreams may come true. They're about to start accepting share reservations for 2012, so reserve your spot. There will be a limited number of shares at each market accepted and we have a waiting list all ready.

Good night! I hope to visit with you soon in my farm kitchen!

"If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee..."
Psalms 130:3,4a


Abundant Blessings,
The Farmer's Wife
Val