Friday, July 27, 2012

double chocolate zucchini bread

This blog post is dedicated to my friend, Adrienne.

Wednesday night Holiday Brook Farm held their first CSA member potluck.  It was a wonderful night filled with great friends and fantastic food - not only do farmers know how to grow food, they also know how to transform it into a gastric delight!  I'm still trying to figure out why my grilled eggplant doesn't taste *that* good ('that good' referring to the eggplant I consumed prior to the arrival of fresh goat cheese on the scene, when I promptly plopped a dollop on top of a slice of grilled eggplant, rolled it up and proceeded to eat it with my bare hands).  

Within a day or two of finding out about the potluck dinner, I received an email from my friends at King Arthur Flour sharing this recipe for double chocolate zucchini bread. Fast forward a couple of days and I'm at the farm picking up our weekly vegetable (CSA) share and lo and behold zucchini was amongst the offerings.  My fate was sealed.

I followed the aforementioned recipe exactly, save for a sprinkling of coarse sugar on top (because let's face it, coarse sugar on top makes most any baked good better).

The bread was a hit and honestly, you would never know there was zucchini tucked inside!  It simply adds moisture to this delectable dessert.  I'll be making this again in the days ahead so I can share it with the gals at work.  I may also have to put a slice aside for my friend, Adrienne, who took her zucchini bread 'to go' Wednesday night, only to have a certain member of her household, who shall go unnamed (but who happens to be her marital partner), eat every last bite!

Tip:  It took nearly 80 minutes for my bread to finish baking and next time, I'll line my pan with parchment so I can remove it from the pan with ease.   

I'm already looking forward to the next potluck.  Farm life is soothing to my soul and eating amidst the crops and livestock are particularly so.  As we drove down the driveway that evening, my son asked, 'are we going to do this again'?  And for a moment in time, all was well in the world.

Bon Appetit! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blueberry Mint Lemonade Slush

It's not big news to say it's been a hot summer here in New England.  It's hot.  Oppressive, even.  I'm not particularly keen on hot days--I'm more of a spring or autumn gal.  But, as much as I'd like to, I can't just huddle inside buildings with air conditioning.  I feel compelled to bring the kids out from time to time.  Which is why you'll find me at zoos or amusement parks or blueberry patches on 95 degree days, when I'd much prefer to be hiding in a cave (note:  I took the kids on a cave tour two weeks ago.  Half of which required walking around outside on a 90+ degree day.  The inside part of the tour, though, was a nice place to recover.  I hated to leave!)

When it gets too hot, I like to make a cold drink.  While blended coffee drinks have long been my go-to favorite, they're not exactly kid-friendly.  So I decided to make a lemonade slush the kids and I could all enjoy.

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently took the kids blueberry picking (yes, when it was over 90 degrees out!), so this recipe continues with my trend of throwing some of the 6 and a half pounds of blueberries we picked into nearly everything I make.  But no worries, blueberries go great with lemonade, so it's a good match.

And let me explain why I'm throwing mint in everything.  I have a lot of mint in my garden.  Well, that was a shorter explanation than I thought I'd need.  Oh yeah, and I really like mint.  That's the other reason.  But if you aren't faced with an overabundance of mint and/or you aren't particularly a mint fan, feel free to leave it out.

I like my slushy drink thick enough to eat with a spoon.  You could make yours more of a drink by adding more water/using less ice.  Or do what I do:  start out with a thick slush and bring it outside.  Before you know it, it'll be largely melted!


  • Lots of ice
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup water (or more or less to taste)
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (it's okay to use fresh if that's all you have.  As soon as I pick blueberries, I throw a ton in the freezer as we mostly use them for smoothies so we always have plenty of frozen blueberries)
  • Couple of mint leaves (maybe 10 or so)


Fill your blender about 3/4 full with ice.  Add all the other ingredients.  Blend until slushy.  You'll probably have to stir it a few times between blending.  If it's too thick and the ingredients just aren't getting pulled into the blade, add some more water, 1/4 cup at a time.

Taste and adjust lemon or sugar quantities to make it more tart or sweet, if necessary.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blueberry Salad Dressing

The kids and I went and picked 6 and a half pounds of blueberries yesterday.  It didn't even take long, the picking was that good. 

Oh, I'll make blueberry pie, and blueberry muffins, and blueberry pancakes, and blueberry smoothies.  Not to worry!  But we'd just picked up our CSA share and had a huge head of lettuce, not to mention other salad fixin's.  So salads it is for the next few days.

I've been trying to make more of my own salad dressings. I've found a couple of really great HFCS-free, artificial color- and flavor-free options for salad dressing at the grocery store.  But, it's just so easy to make salad dressing.  And I can jazz it up how *I* like it.  And only make enough for a day or two, instead of having bottles sit in the fridge for months.

It's quick, easy, and delicious.  The hardest part is cleaning the food processor after dinner!


  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon (remember to zest the lemon BEFORE cutting and juicing!)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon agave nectar
  • ~4 or so mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste (optional)


Add the blueberries, lemon zest and juice, apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, and mint leaves to a food processor.  Blend it all up.

Drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to food process.  Stop when it's salad dressing-y.

Serve over the salad fixin's of your choice (I had lettuce, arugula, cherry tomatoes, and radishes from our CSA, plus some avocado and sunflower seeds.  Then I threw in a handful of extra blueberries--believe me, with 6 and a half pounds in the house, I'm putting blueberries with every meal!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Turn the ordinary into the extraordinary!

As my friend, Sally, said - 'When you have quality ingredients, even a simple meal tastes like a masterpiece'.  Such was the case when I found myself with a fresh loaf of oatmeal bread from Cricket Creek Farm, plus a head of fresh-picked leaf lettuce and pastured pork bacon from Holiday Brook Farm on hand. It was clear to me that my lunchtime mission was to prepare a BLT;  once I accepted this mission, I set off to pick up a lovely heirloom tomato from Berkshire Organics.

Now the realization that I had these ingredients on hand coincided with my desire to try the Baked Brown Sugar Bacon recipe in the Savory Sweet Life cookbook. I've been a big fan of baking bacon for quite some time.  It's the no-mess, set-it-and-forget-it method!  Normally, I would line my jelly roll pan with foil, lay the bacon in the pan and bake for 20 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees until the bacon is nice and crispy. 

For this recipe, you preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place a wire rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet (I used my standard jelly roll pan).  Toss one pound of bacon slices with 1/4 cup of brown sugar in a medium bowl.  then lay the bacon slices on the wire rack and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until crisp.
Note:  If desired, you can add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne powder to the brown sugar for some added heat.

While the bacon was baking, I toasted two hardy slices of farm-fresh oatmeal bread.  Once everything was done, I assembled my masterpiece.  I slathered one slice of toasted bread with mayonnaise (which I'm going to try making myself with farm-fresh eggs one day soon)!  I topped this with with several leaves of lettuce, two generous slices of heirloom tomato, four slices of brown sugar bacon, followed by another piece of toasted bread.

PERFECTION!  The perfect combination of sweet and savory and oh, so satisfying goodness.  Fresh, local ingredients really DO make a difference.  In so many ways.

Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tomato, Basil and Cheddar Egg on a Bagel

Sometimes I get home from the Westford Farmer's Market with so much delicious food, I don't really need a recipe.  I just eat things raw, or lightly steamed or sauteed.

Today was one of those days.  I just threw a few things together in a couple of minutes, and it was perfection.  Everything was fresh and flavorful and I didn't need to fuss.  An everything bagel from Bagel Alley, cherry tomatoes, eggs, and basil from Dragonfly Farms, and farmhouse cheddar from West River Creamery.  When you have quality ingredients, even a simple meal tastes like a masterpiece!


  • 1/2 of an everything bagel (or bagel flavor of your choice)
  • Couple of cherry tomatoes, sliced into 3 or 4 pieces (or a slice of a regular tomato)
  • 4 or 5 basil leaves
  • 1 egg
  • butter
  • salt and pepper
  • A few thin slices of cheddar (or other cheese of your choice)


Toast bagel.  Top with sliced tomato and basil.

Meanwhile, melt a little butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Crack one egg into the pan.  Fry until done to your liking (over medium for me).  Season with salt and pepper.

Place fried egg on top of the tomato and basil.  Put the cheddar slices on top of the egg--the heat of the egg will melt the cheese slightly.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My favorite smoothie recipes

Smoothies are my 'go to' meal in the morning.  They're quick, easy and delicious!  Oh, and they're portable too!  I take mine with me in the morning as I run out the door after getting everyone else off to daycare, school or work.

The key to a good smoothie (aside from using fresh ingredients) is a great blender.  I have a commercial grade Waring bar blender, which I love.  It has served me well for many, many years.  You want a blender that's able to crush that ice into a smooth, delectable treat or else your smoothie won't be a smoothie.*

Most of the time, I don't have a 'recipe', per say for my morning smoothie.  I just toss in whatever fruit I happen to have on hand, add a little yogurt, raw honey, ice and blend.  Some of the results have been more pleasing to the palate than others, 'though honestly, I've never met a smoothie I didn't like.

Here are a few of my favorites!

Peach AlmondEnergy Smoothie from courtesy of Cate. Sweet and savory at the same time, this almond-butter and peach energy smoothie is a good choice for breakfast, dinner, or both. These ingredients make two servings; share with a friend, refrigerate half for later (but not longer than 24 hours), or halve the recipe.

1/4 cup almond butter
2 cardamom pods or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups pure water
1 cup frozen peaches (I always use fresh)
1 to 2 teaspoons agave syrup (I more often than not use raw honey)
1/2 cup ice

Blend everything except ice until smooth.  Add ice and blend again.

Chocolate-Almond Smoothie chocolate for breakfast, does it get any better than this?  Seriously, this smoothie is SO satisfying.
1 ripe banana
1 cup milk (I use raw milk, but use whatever you normally drink)
1/4 cup almond butter (sometimes I'll substitute peanut butter in place of the almond butter)
1 tablespoon honey (I use raw, local honey)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup ice

Combine all ingredients, except ice in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Add ice and blend again.

Ginger Berry and Oat Smoothie -*this is an 'un-smooth smoothie' courtesy of Real Simple magazine.  Oats really add 'substance' to a smoothie on those days when you need a little something more.  
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats (I've been known to use steel cut oats, which work fine, but create a more 'textured' smoothie.)
1/2 cup frozen blueberries (If you don't have frozen blueberries on hand, don't sweat it, fresh will do just fine.)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh, grated ginger
1/2 cup ice

Place oats and 1/2 cup water in a blender, let soak until oats have softened (about 15 minutes).  Add blueberries, yogurt, sugar and ginger; blend until smooth.  Add ice and blend again. 

My original intent was to stop here, but one of my recent smoothie experiments was SO tasty, I just have to share it too!  It all started with some cherries that were a bit past their prime.  I pitted them and tossed them in the freezer with the intent of using them in a smoothie at some point in time.  (I do this quite often with fruit that gets buried in the rotter my crisper.)  Here's the step by step of what happened the next day.

Cherry-Banana Smoothie
3/4 cup of frozen, pitted cherries
1/2 cup of milk (I used raw milk; use whatever you normally drink)
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1 banana (if they're frozen, all the better) 

Combine all ingredients, except ice in a blender, and blend until smooth.  Add ice and blend again.

There are SO many fresh, local fruits available in our region right nowThe possibilities are endless?  What are some of your favorite smoothie recipes?

Bon Appetit! 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Yummy Yogurt

A little over a year ago, I began drinking raw milk.  I had been on the fence about this for quite some time (there are a lot of fear mongerers out there when it comes to raw milk and well, I'm a worrywart by nature).  The tipping point came when I found out that I actually grew up on raw milk, which came to us in glass bottles from a neighbor's cows. 

Now I should confess, I'm not much of a milk drinker.  At least I wasn't.  I didn't really like milk. At least I didn't think so...until I tasted my first glass of nice, cold, raw milk.  DELICIOUS!  I was hooked and never turned back.  The laws on selling raw milk vary from state to state.  In MA, dairy farmers can obtain a license to sell raw milk to consumers on farmYou will find a list of farms that sell raw milk here (along with a list of the benefits of raw milk).

While I may not have been drinking a lot of milk a year ago, I was consuming it in yogurt form.  I would pack a container of Greek yogurt in my lunch on a daily basis and add a healthy amount of yogurt (or Kefir) to my morning smoothie.   The cost was adding up, as was my guilt over tossing all of those individual yogurt containers into our landfill (they aren't recyclable here).

SO....I began to Google homemade yogurt recipes.  It's a simple process, really.  But it did take me some time to get the incubation part down.  I tried using my crockpot (there are many people in the blogosphere who've had great success with this method, but my end result was repeatedly more of a smoothie consistency vs. the sour cream consistency I was aiming for).  

I finally invested in a Yogotherm, which I purchased at the Cricket Creek Farm store.  After trying several different starter yogurts, I also purchased this starter from the New England Cheesemaking Company.  It yields a slightly sweeter (and I use that term loosely), nice, thick yogurt.

With the proper tools, I've been consistently making homemade yogurt on a weekly basis.  Here are the steps I follow.

Heat 1/2 gallon of milk to 185ºF, hold for 5-10 minutes then cool to 112 - 115ºF (you do not want to exceed 120ºF here or you will kill off your culture). I used a enamel-coated cast iron dutch oven to heat my milk. It heats evenly and I've found if I place a few ice cubes in the pan to 'chill' the bottom before I begin making yogurt, it prevents the milk from sticking.  I use a quick-read thermometer to monitor my temperature.  It's what I have and it works!  At 185ºF, the milk will begin to froth like this.

Pour into Yogotherm. Add 1 packet starter culture, let rehydrate 2 minutes then stir.  Cover and let set on the counter for approximately 6 hours or until thickened to desired consistency (the longer you let it go, the more tart it will be). 
Place yogurt in fridge to chill before eating.  Once you begin scooping it out, the whey will be released from your yogurt.  You can strain the yogurt through butter muslin for a couple of hours in your fridge, you can gently pour the whey off OR stir it right into your yogurt.  If you strain or pour it off, don't dump it down the drain!  Here are 16 ways you can use that whey.  

Once it's chilled add fruit, vanilla, maple syrup, honey or whatever your heart desires to your yogurt and enjoy!

 Bon Appetit!