Cascadian Farm Organic Goodness

WELCOME TO OUR ALMANAC! READ ABOUT ALL THINGS ECO FROM ORGANIC VEGGIE
GARDEN TIPS TO GREEN FAMILY ACTIVITIES.

It is definitely winter around these parts, and it's even more apparent as I used the last of the season's fresh apples I had stored this past weekend.  I'm still working my way through a stockpile of winter squash, however, as it stores a bit longer.

With the holiday season upon us, my mind is turning to gatherings and parties and lavish holiday meals, and with a pantry stocked full of dried cranberries for shortbread cookies, I suddenly found myself making an impromptu meal from one of those squash.  Whether you're looking to serve this for a holiday party or just have it for a warm dinner one winter night, this quinoa and squash combination will definitely satisfy. 

 

Cranberry Quinoa Salad with Delicata Squash

2 delicata squash

Sea salt

Olive oil

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

½ cup dried cranberries

2 tablespoons olive oil

5 scallions, finely chopped

6 ounces chevre, cut into small ½" chunks*

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat oven to 375º F.  Rinse delicate squash and cut into ½"-thick rings.  Spritz or brush both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle with sea salt and place on baking sheet.  Bake at 375º F for 20 to 25 minutes or until squash is tender.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat bring quinoa and water to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until all water is absorbed and quinoa are slightly translucent with a tender bite about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.

In a large sauté pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add chopped scallions and sauté for 2-3 minutes.  Add in cranberries and quinoa.  Remove from heat and add in chevre.  Stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper as desired. 

When squash rings are done, scoop quinoa salad into the center and serve as a side dish or appetizer.  This can also be served as a vegetarian meal in larger portions.

 

*Vegan variation: Omit chevre and add toasted, chopped hazelnuts instead.

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

I love baking for the holidays, and it wouldn't be the same if I didn't include the little people in my life in the fun of rolling out dough, tasting sweet treats and cooking up savory dishes.

Cooking and baking with kids underfoot can be stressful, though, both for you and for them. I've found that having a plan and giving them their own activities to work on throughout the process can help make the time in the kitchen a pleasant time for all.

Here are some age-appropriate ideas for getting your kids involved in the kitchen:

Up to Age 4:

  • pour pre-measured ingredients like flour or milk into mixing bowls
  • stir dry ingredients together in large bowls
  • place cookie cutters in rolled dough and press down with assistance
  • smash crackers and cookies into crumbs for crusts with the bottom of non-breakable cups

 

Ages 5 to 7:

  • all of the above, plus…
  • cut soft fruits or peel oranges, clementines or potatoes
  • measure dry ingredients with cups and spoons and add to mixing bowls
  • wash fruits and vegetables and remove stems
  • cut out cookies from rolled dough, slice rolled cookies, scoop drop cookies
  • crack eggs into separate containers
  • decorate cakes and cupcakes with sprinkles and nonpareils
  • load utensils and measuring cups into the dishwasher

 

Ages 7 to 9:

  • all of the above, plus…
  • measure all ingredients, both wet and dry
  • frost cookies, cupcakes and cakes
  • wipe down surfaces during the cooking process
  • roll cookie, pie and pastry dough into different sizes
  • load and unload the dishwasher
  • separate egg whites and yolks into small dishes

 

Age 10 and Over:

  • all of the above, plus…
  • use small kitchen appliances like mixers, a food processor or blender
  • chop fruits
  • add/remove cookies sheets and pans from the oven
  • use the stovetop to make sauces and ganache: stir, add ingredients, watch
  • everything!

Things to remember:

Don't forget that all children are unique in their own way. What may be appropriate for one 5-year-old to do would frustrate another. Know your children's different skill levels and abilities and choose activities that will interest them and get them engaged without being burdensome and tiresome for them. Remember the goal is to have fun and create long-lasting, loving memories.

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

Last year we accidentally grew two zucchini plants. We ate a lot of zucchini. We baked it, sautéed it, stuffed it and shredded it. In fact, we had enough zucchini to blanch and fill the freezer and then continue to eat all winter long, and this past spring as we were choosing seeds and deciding on what to grow, only one zucchini plant was on the menu.

Instead, we opted to grow a few squash that would ripen later in the season, leaving us with their bounty long after the zucchini had settled down. The first of these was a spaghetti squash. A large vine that tried to take over the entire garden bed, climbing the trellis meant for the cucumbers and coming over the edge and making its way over to the pumpkin.

The result of my prolific squash was a hearty bounty of yellow orbs, all waiting for me to do something with them, and do something I did. Not only did I roast a few with shallots and herbs for a simple side dish, but I stuffed them and pulled them and enjoyed watching my kids squeal with delight as their squash turned to nature's pasta with the tongs of a fork.

Sausage Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

2 spaghetti squash, cut in half

½ pound spicy Italian sausage

½ lemon, juiced

8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced

1 red bell pepper, diced

3 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced

1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced

½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375º F. Scoop out insides of spaghetti squash and discard. In a large roasting pan, place spaghetti squash face down and add ½ cup to ¾ cup water until it comes up the sides ¼". Bake at 375º for 30-40 minutes until strands pull apart easily with a fork and have a soft bite.

While the squash is cooking, cook sausage in a medium sauté pan until crumbled and cooked through. Remove and set aside. Drain all but about 1 tablespoon of grease. Add mushrooms, red pepper and lemon juice. Over a medium-high heat, sauté until tender for 5-7 minutes. Return sausage to the pan and cook for an additional 60 seconds to combine flavors. Stir in fresh herbs and feta.

Scoop sausage filling into spaghetti squash and use a fork to pull squash strands apart. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

 

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Curried Soup

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2" chunks

¼ cup olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon garam masala

½ teaspoon coriander

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup dry red lentils

1 teaspoon kosher salt

5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1 cup of coconut milk

1/2 cup of water

Preheat oven to 350º F. In a medium bowl, toss sweet potatoes and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Bake for one hour or until fork tender.

About 30 minutes into the sweet potato cooking time in a medium saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in diced onion and sauté for 5 minutes until onions start to sweat and become tender. Add garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds more. Add in garam masala, coriander, cumin, turmeric and red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds. Add in lentils and stock. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

When sweet potatoes are done, mash lightly and add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or cooling slightly and using a regular blender or food processor), mix soup until smooth and no lumps remain. Add in coconut milk and simmer over medium-low heat for five minutes.

Serve warm with a dollop of Greek-style yogurt or sour cream.

Makes 4 servings.


Photo by Shaina Olmanson

In my family, we travel for Thanksgiving more often than not. We have a large group, and hosting is passed around year after year, so no one person or family is left with the responsibility all the time.  As it so happens, the delegated dishes also change.  Some years you'll be asked to bring the mashed potatoes.  That is, until you put garlic in them and Cousin Frieda makes sure you never end up with that dish again.  (Never mind you think her mashed potatoes are bland without loads of butter and gravy.)  Other years you may be in charge of sweet potatoes or dinner rolls, and of course, inevitably you'll end up with desserts as well.

I remember the first year I was given the desserts.  Immediately I felt a great deal of pressure.  Would my pies look good?  Would they taste okay?  What if I screw them up?  Perhaps I should just purchase them.  In the end, I made three: a pumpkin pie, a classic apple and a pumpkin cheesecake.

All of the desserts were eaten with heavy forkfuls and full bellies singing their praises.  I was in.  I had mastered the Thanksgiving Day pie, second only to the perfect turkey in the traditional meal.  Here, my friends, is my pumpkin pie recipe, fiddled with and tinkered with and perfected until it was just right for one small slice of indulgence on Thanksgiving.

 

Maple Pumpkin Cream Pie

Pie crust for 1 9" pie using your favorite recipe

2 cups pumpkin purée, homemade and strained

¾ cup maple syrup

¼ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

4 ounce softened Neufchâtel or cream cheese

½ cup cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 

Preheat oven to 350º F.  Roll out the pie crust and press into the bottom of a 9" pie plate.  Using pie weights or dry beans to hold the pie crust down, bake for 10 minutes at 350º F.  Take the pie weight off and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

Mix together the purée, syrup and salt together in a food processor or mixer.  Beat in Neufchâtel.  Add in both eggs, yolk and heavy cream until incorporated.  Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg.  Pour the pumpkin mix into the prebaked pie crust and bake at 350º F for 60-70 minutes until a knife inserted 1" from the edge of the crust comes out clean.

Makes one 9" pie

 

Photo by Shaina Olmanson

Growing up I loved what we here called "bars." Maybe it's a Midwest thing, but cereal bars, cookie bars, bars with pretzels crusts and raspberry toppings, 7-layer bars were all things you'd see at a church basement potluck or even off to the side during Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

My mom would melt chocolate and mix marshmallows and scoop peanut butter, and pretty soon there'd be a chewy snack for after school or sitting around on a lazy Saturday afternoon. These bars are modeled after some of my favorites, but I've swapped corn syrup for honey and almond butter in place of peanut.

Almond Butter Honey Nut O's Bars

3 cups Cascadian Farm Honey Nut O's

½ cup sugar

½ cup honey

2/3 cup almond butter

4 ounces of dark chocolate

Measure cereal into a large mixing bowl. In a small saucepan heat sugar and honey just until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the almond butter. Pour over cereal and stir to combine. Press into an 8" square dish. Allow to cool.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate. Drizzle over the top of the bars. Allow to set. Cut into 2" squares.

Makes 16 bars.

Photos by Shaina Olmanso

Thanksgiving is still three weeks away, but it's the perfect time to start thinking about your turkey, especially if you plan on ordering it. From free range to heritage birds, there are several things to consider as you look for the one that will grace your table come Turkey Day.

Below I've looked at a few distinctions between organic, free range and heritage turkeys that might help you decide which fits best for your family.

Organic Turkey

Organic turkeys are different than free range and heritage turkeys, although you will find turkeys that carry all three labels. The term organic when talking about meat production is looking at the use of chemicals, pesticides and growth hormones that are not used in the farming practices. The USDA states,

Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards.

 

That is to say that not all farms who raise their poultry organically will have organic certification. Your local farmers market is a great place to talk to farmers and find out what their practices are. If you don't have access to the farmer directly in person, always check out their website or call to see if you're comfortable with the turkey you're purchasing.

Heritage Turkey

Heritage turkeys are domesticated birds that have characteristics that were found in wild turkeys years and years ago, such as they mate and lay fertile eggs, have a long lifespan and a slow growth rate. They are said to have a richer flavor than the average domestic turkeys of today, and they can also be quite pricey. The Heritage Turkey Foundation can provide more information and direct you to popular sources. However, there may be farmers in your area that also sell heritage turkeys, so be sure to investigate other possible avenues. Order soon because most farmers and vendors will sell out within the next week or two.

Free Range Turkey

Free range birds are allowed to graze out in the open or have access to the outside. USDA regulations are not strict on this requirement for meat-raised birds, saying only that poultry must have access to the outside, so it's best to source free range turkeys from farmers that you trust so that the birds have access to pasture and not just gravel or dirt.

What are your Thanksgiving Day plans?

Will you be serving a turkey, or do you have a favorite turkey substitute as your main dish?

What holiday traditions do you and yours participate in?

Perhaps you're a movie-going family, or maybe you like a nice, quiet meal with just immediate family members, and even still, you could get together all the aunts and uncles and cousins for a family feast.

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

Halloween is nearly upon us, and as my ghouls and goblins head to the streets for some trick-or-treating, I am preparing to have a little autumnal gathering for all their monster-clad friends with all kinds of soup and bread to warm small bellies and a few trick-or-treats of my own before they embark off into the cold night.

Before I send my dragon, dragon slayer, black cat and trooper off into the neighborhood, I'll be filling them up on mom-approved treats. These granola bites are perfect for small mouths, and they are a hit with kids both young and old.

Do you have any Halloween traditions in your family?

Granola Boo Bites

2 boxes Cascadian Farm Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate or 12 ounces white chocolate or a bit of both

½ teaspoon coconut oil

Paper popsicle/candy sticks

Black Decorator's Icing or Gel

Cut the granola bars into thirds. Stick a popsicle stick into each granola piece and press granola bar around it to secure in place. Roll the granola pieces and mold with fingers to round the edges. Place the granola pieces in the freezer while you melt the chocolate.

In a small double boiler, melt the chocolate (one variety at a time). Add in ½ teaspoon coconut oil for each 12 ounces chocolate to help make the chocolate smoother and easier to dip. Dip frozen granola bites in the chocolate and place the sticks in a piece of foam or a container filled with rice to stand up while they dry. It may be necessary to dip the white chocolate variety twice.

When the white chocolate is dry, pipe faces onto white-covered bites to look like ghosts. For mummies, drizzle extra chocolate around the "head" and then make two eyes. For the semisweet tombstones, pipe "RIP" onto the front.

Serve to ghouls and goblins as a fun and exciting treat they won't forget this Halloween night.

Makes 30 Boo Bites.

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

As the weather cools, it's important not to forget about your garden. Now is the time to finish the harvest, put food up for the colder months and get ready for the growing season to come. So often people just abandon their growing efforts late in the season, figuring they are done, but a little preparation now will go a long way in the spring.

Here are a few things you can do for your garden in the fall:

Perennials

Divide and split plants that have outgrown their space about 4 weeks before the frost date in your area to give the plant time to send roots down before it gets too cold for them to do so. Cut back dead foliage, leaving the basal crown on plants like Shasta daisies and down to the ground for herbaceous plants like hostas and daylilies where all the above-ground foliage dies during the winter. I like to leave my hydrangea flowers up after they've browned and dried to catch the snow. It adds some visual appeal to that part of my garden even after the snowfall.

Composting

Cut foliage and leaves can be added to your compost pile before the frost to break down to use as fertilizer come spring. You can also spread compost on your strawberry plants in the fall after the harvest is over.

Turn the Soil

After you've harvested all your plants, pulled up dead ones to compost and have an empty garden bed, fall is the perfect time to turn the soil. Turning the soil will mix the nutrients and get the ground ready for spring planting.

Plant Seeds

You can plant some reseeding perennials in the fall so that they come up in the early spring. There are fantastic online resources to help you decide which seeds can or should be planted now so that you are enjoying them as soon as possible. You could also try your hand at having a winter garden as well, planting seeds now and growing them in the winter. Your ability to do this will depend on your geographical area and climate, but it can be very rewarding to have winter carrots and leeks to cook with.

What do you do with your garden in the fall?

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

It's apple season. You will hear no complaints from me. I adore apple season and all the fantastic treats you can create with them. We are lucky enough to live near a pick-your-own orchard, and we try to make it there at least once during the season, but our favorite place to get apples is the farmers market.

I have to say I'm biased when it comes to my grower. I befriended a particular vendor early on in my farmers market shopping, and I continue to look to him first before even considering apples from other orchards. His apples are always good quality, and when he sells seconds, they're always fabulous as well. In fact, I recently purchased two full pecks of seconds to bake with.

Applesauce | Applesauce is one of my favorite treats. Sweetened with maple syrup or honey and loaded with cinnamon, I like mine a bit chunky and warm it up to eat it. It's perfect for canning.

Apple Rings | My grandma called these apfelradln or apple radlns for the little ones. She would core and slice apples thinly and give them a bath in sugar and rum. Dip in batter and fry. If you're looking to opt out of the sugar, try just a small amount of stevia mixed with cinnamon.

Apple Crisp | Apple crisp is a must for us. The entire family gets excited when this follows dinner. Warm, steamy apples and a crunchy topping combine for the perfect fall dessert.

Baked Apples | Everyone seems to have their favorite baked apple recipe. I prefer mine cut in half, topped with maple and cinnamon, maybe a bit of nutmeg and a healthy dose of pecans. How do you like yours?

Apple Tarts | Using the galette dough from all those summer tarts, you can move right into the fall season. Just toss 1 cup of sliced apples in a squeeze of lemon juice and a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir in a bit of honey or maple syrup and fill in mini 4" rounds of dough. Fold up the sides and brush with a bit of egg yolk, bake at 350º F for 15-20 minutes until brown. It's a fantastic impromptu dessert for a chilly evening, and it's great for the holidays too.

What are some of your favorite apple recipes?


Photos by Shaina Olmanson

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