Carrot Loaf with Ginger & Walnuts

IMG_1756With the warm spring sun these past few days I am hoping that the interminable rains of this last January & February will be gone from my memory. Those soggy months had us out in the weather far more than usual, trying to keep our magic, flying cows at home!

Long before we became the owners/custodians of our beautiful farm, there roamed a herd of about forty Belted Galloway cattle, across about 100 acres of what a half would become our farm. Around the whole of the property ran a three-strand barbed wire fence with split cedar posts. Over the years we’ve been here, almost this entire fence has been replaced with 5-strand & treated posts. Just over 2.5 km. That’s a lot of fence. We are somewhat experts. One small stretch of the original fence still stands, is still in great condition, and for some inexplicable reason the cows believe that it is as strong as a 5-strand.

One area that was a difficult place to build a fence is where the fence runs up the rocky soil to the cliff face. It is so steep, that when I stand on a deer trail my hands steady myself by putting them on the ground in front of my face. Somehow the deer zigzag up these trails with no problem. The cows are heavier and taller, so their trails stop a bit further down where the slope is not so steep. Their trails are about 6” wider than a deer trail. We have always managed this area by pulling deadfall to brace behind standing trees, and stacking up lots of dead branches, knowing that the animals could not climb up and over the piles, when climbing up a slope. We tend to it every few years, adding more to our stacked deadwood walls.

On many of those rainy days early in the year, our late afternoons were spent finding the herd of flying, magic cows, trying to figure out where they could possibly have got through the fence. Our fences are in such great state of repair after many days of fixing what could even possibly be a breach point. But still, they were getting out.  Which is when we became concerned that they’d learned how to fly.

One late afternoon, I did the usual search. While walking the fence line in the valley, I saw a tiny white face at the far end of the valley, at the far reach of our neighbors’ land. As I watched, the whole herd emerged from the distant trees, and slowly made their way towards our property. With opening wide a nearby gate, and a bucket of grain, we were able to get them back home. We locked them up in an 8-acre area, until we could at last find just where it was they’d been getting out.

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Waiting for the waters to recede.

We waited until the waters had receded somewhat from the valley bottom, and got across into the cliff bottom. Climbing up, we found that the property line that is way up the slope had been re-surveyed. Our only guess is that the surveyors had broken through our carefully piled stacks to work the line, creating an access point for the cows. We ran ropes all the way down the hillside, tied from tree to tree; at about waist height over bases of dead fir & cedar, and wove branches and reworked stacks all the way to the top.

That day was for me, the first day of spring. The sun was shining the whole day while we worked in our shirtsleeves. I was hesitant to let the cows out of their incarceration, but knew that we needed to. Spring has continued on, with the cows quietly grazing on all parts of our property, with no venturing to far off places.

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So in celebration of this newfound time (meaning not having to search fences day after day), I made a delightful carrot loaf with walnuts and candied ginger. I hope you enjoy it. It is perfect made using either all-purpose wheat, or gluten free flour. It is also dairy free, an added bonus if feeding those with dairy issues. Continue reading

Mushroom Soup with Chestnuts & Apple

IMG_1494The first time I ever witnessed someone actually swoon over food was at Pino Posteraro’s “Cioppino’s”. On the other side of sixty, she had walked in wearing a swanky denim pantsuit, with a blond flip of a hairdo. She sat talking with her friends as they poured over the menu, just as we were, one table over. We had been considering the Mushroom & Chestnut Soup on offer. The chef had recently won the Gold Medal Plate Award for this very soup. While waiting for our dinner to arrive, she was served a bowl of this same soup. She lifted a spoonful into her mouth, and she just stopped. People at her table kept talking but she only had eyes for her soup. I think she ate the whole of it without speaking. I could hardly wait for my serving. It was the best soup I have ever eaten. This restaurant is well known for its incredibly fresh produce. Racks of tomatoes stand ready for sauces, with huge boxes of other veg, ready to go.

I knew that I couldn’t possibly replicate the recipe, even with it at hand, as buying produce of that quality and freshness can rarely happen at our local produce market. But, even with knowing that mine would never measure up, I have religiously made this soup once a year since (when chestnuts are available). Always tweaking it a bit, but it wasn’t until this year when I added some apple that it became so very, very close to the soup we had that evening. All I can think is that the apple added in the freshness that it had been lacking before. Continue reading

Traditional Poultry Stuffing

 

Ready for stuffing the bird.

Ready for stuffing the bird.

When I was very small, I remember watching with fascination, as Mom & Dad would put the turkey in the sink, and proceed to stuff it full of the mixture they’d cooked earlier that morning. They’d skewer it closed, stretching the skin to fit. Hefting the bird into a roaster that we never used for anything else, they would then put it in the oven. This would all happen before lunch, as it would take hours for the bird to roast. As soon as it was in the oven, Dad would drive off to go pick up Grandma to spend the holiday with us. The smell of the herb-laden stuffing would fragrantly scent the house all day.

As we grew, we took on a bit more of the holiday cooking each year, learning to simply make dinner, perhaps with a quick glance at the well-thumbed Joy of Cooking, but usually just following what Mom did, which was probably essentially the same as her mom did, and her mom before that.

Although I now buy a bag of coarse breadcrumbs, when growing up we never did. Slightly stale crusts and bits of bread would be kept until there were enough to either break apart to make a coarse crumb, or put folded into a tea towel to be rolled and crushed into fine crumbs. Today our bread trimmings tend to go to the chickens with their morning feed.

As stuffing is a bit of this and a bit of that, I needed to narrow it down to the essentials for the recipe; herbs, vegetables, a bit of fruit, egg, a bit of liquid, and sometimes the treat of oysters, and dry breadcrumb. This is essentially how I make it year after year, occasionally adding something new just to switch it up. Continue reading

Farmhouse Coleslaw

IMG_5055Our summer started weeks ago; usually we have a sunny month of May, followed by a very unsettled month of June, weather-wise. But so far this June, we’ve only had sunny skies, and not a drop of rain. As a farmer, I want some rain. The perfect pattern for me is sunny warm days, cool nights, and a good rain every 10 days or so. But I don’t control the weather; no matter how many dances I do, nature comes as nature does.

These last weeks, we’ve been gathering on the front porch for a late supper, overlooking a field with three very happy, pretty horses in it, waiting to see a doe with her twin fawns.

Dinners seem to be directly related to how hard we’ve been working each day. A quick, filling meal for long, tiring days, and more inventive, complex meals when we’ve had more time to consider what’s going to be on the table. Coleslaw is a quick, filling side dish, that’s easy to prepare, and goes well with hamburgers, grilled meats, pulled pork, and other summer favourites. Continue reading

Roasted Carrot & Apple Purée

IMG_8745Textures and colours have always been important to me when it comes to food. I’ve had two memorable meals that were so off the mark that they made hospital food look good. Both were served on plain white china. Just setting the mood.

The first was served in a small home eatery on one of the Gulf Islands. Dinner was sliced chicken breast, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Sounds great, yes? No added herbs, sauce, gremolata, or anything resembling colour or flavour, bland, bland, and bland. I could not believe that someone was proud to serve this to paying guests. Of course, maybe they weren’t. Maybe they didn’t care.

The second was at a major restaurant chain. We stopped in for a quick supper during a shopping trip. I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo, looking forward to a velvety sauce full of flavour. What I got: soft noodles smothered in a cream sauce. I couldn’t detect any cheese flavour at all. As well, there was nothing else on the plate, no sprinkling of herbs, not even a sprig of parsley. Disappointment prevailed.

When I plan a menu, I love to incorporate lots of colours and textures, as well as great taste. I’m happiest when I hear people exclaiming how beautiful it all looks, and then look forward to the silence as they all tuck in.

When planning a buffet, I like to have a purée of some sort as part of the mix, nothing soft and mushy, but something with deep, interesting flavours that is firm, as well as having a velvety texture. For an upcoming job, I want to have carrot purée tucked in amongst the other vegetable dishes, to compliment them in colour, but also that has enough flavour of its own, that people will go back to it for seconds.

So here’s what I’ve come up with. Continue reading