Cascadian Farm Organic Goodness

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

I have always had a thing for coffee shops, even as a child. The dimly-lit atmosphere with small nooks that are fitted with comfortable chairs just waiting for you to curl up on them with a book or a notepad and pen. The smell of coffee, the sound of the steam hitting the milk, bustling baristas filling mugs, pouring shots and pumping flavored syrup into white cups with brown paper sleeves.

I try to consciously make decisions as a consumer that reflect my values. These lead me to send my kids to school with lunches packed in cloth lunch boxes that are filled with bento boxes and insulated stainless steel, and it causes me to ration my coffee house outings, opting instead to carry my insulated cup, filled with free trade coffee brewed at home and a bit of organic cream.

Still, each and every fall a drink appears in the coffee houses that has the masses flocking to them: the wonder that is a pumpkin spice latte. Here, I encourage you to give making your own a go. It's not as hard as you think, and the rewards are tenfold. Plus, you can enjoy it on your warm and comfy couch without having to make your way across town to find one. This one can be sweetened with molasses or honey or even sugar, if you like, but just remember that molasses isn't quite as sweet as sugar and honey has a distinct flavor. Adjust the amounts of either or a mix of them as you prefer to fit your personal taste.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

1 tablespoon pumpkin puree

1/4 cup molasses or raw honey (or substitute sugar)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon allspice

Espresso beans for 4-5 shots

Milk

 

While pumpkin puree is still hot, mix in molasses. Push puree mixture through a fine sieve, straining any chunks or strings. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to espresso grounds before brewing, grinding together with the beans if possible. Brew shots and steam milk. Add desired amount of pumpkin and molasses syrup to cup, pour in 1-2 espresso shots and top with steamed and frothed milk.

Makes 2-3 pumpkin spice lattes

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

As the weather cools and I start harvesting the last of my garden's bounty, I'm trying to branch out in my methods of using it up and making it last. When one of my husband's coworkers ended up with 10 jalapeño plants, we started receiving bags of them on a weekly basis. I used them in salsas, and I stuffed them for appetizers. I've frozen them and cooked with them and then we hit a wall.

My husband came up with our next plan of action, one that involved actually requesting all the red jalapeños his coworker could find and wrangling a few off of our plant as well. Finding red ones in our garden didn't prove to be too difficult as I had been letting them sit there for quite some time. After we'd located them, we went about smoking them into chipotles.

And once we had chipotles the door was opened to all the other things we could do with them, and high on the list for me were tamales. After learning that my favorite tamale restaurant had started using shortening for better shelf life, I knew I'd have to start making my own, starting with a big batch of chipotle-style.

Chipotle Chicken Tamales

Chipotle Chicken Filling:

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup diced onion

20 chipotle chilies, stems removed

1 cup tomato sauce

2 cups water

¼ cup cider vinegar

3 ½ cups shredded cooked chicken

2 cups chicken broth

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add in onion and cook for 7-10 minutes until translucent. Add the chipotles, tomato sauce, water and cider vinegar. Cook until liquid is reduced to a thick sauce, about 40 minutes. Add in shredded chicken and continue to cook for 4 minutes until chicken is heated through. Reserve ¼ cup of the adobo sauce for the tamale dough.

Masa Dough:

3 cups masa flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3 ¼ cups water

½ cup chicken broth

¼ cup reserved adobo sauce from filling

½ cup lard, melted

Mix together flour, salt and baking powder in a large boil. Add the water, chicken broth, adobo sauce and melted lard. Mix together to form a soft paste-like dough. Taste the dough and add salt if necessary.

Putting it together:

1 package corn husks soaked in water

Masa Dough (above)

Chipotle Chicken Filling (above)

Take one corn husk at a time and spread with 1/4 cup of masa dough into a 4"x4" square at the wide end of the corn husk and off center so that you leave a good inch of uncovered husk. Add two tablespoons of filling or so in the center of the masa dough and spread into a line. Fold the edge of the corn husk lengthwise so that both ends of the masa meet. Fold the extra tail of the corn husk up and finish rolling the overlapped corn husk. Secure with corn husk ties.

Add water to the bottom of a large stockpot, with a steamer basket at the bottom so the tamales are not sitting in the water. Line with a tea towel and then fill the pot with the tamales standing up, wrapped side down and open side up. When the pot is full of tamales, cover them and place over medium heat and steam for one hour. Remove from heat, allow them to cool slightly and serve.

Chipotle Chicken Tamales can be frozen or refrigerated in airtight containers. Be sure to fill completely to avoid overexposure to air, and allow them to cool before freezing.

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

Growing up we always had a giant jar of honey in the cupboard. My grandma's sister and her husband had a beehive on their property, and when they would harvest, they'd send honey to all of the kids, which included our house. I grew up with a giant glass jar and a chunk of honeycomb, never knowing that honey supposedly came in a bear-shaped plastic bottle.

When I was in the position to start stocking my own cupboard with honey, the plastic bear just wouldn't do. I'd been spoiled with fresher, more complex honey my entire life. I soon sought out the honey vendor at the farmers market. There I found multiple varieties of honey, processed and unprocessed, ranging in color from dark to light. Nowadays I tend to buy two or three varieties for different purposes, but my go-to favorite is buckwheat. I love the dark, molasses-like flavor on biscuits and cornbread.

I recently had quite a bit of unprocessed honey gifted to me, and it is fantastic to work with. The texture is between a liquid honey and creamed honey, with a bit softer texture. I started off with the pannekoeken, and then I moved on to baking. For these muffins I chose a blueberry blossom honey, which is just slightly reminiscent of blueberries.

These muffins are dairy free, using coconut oil and coconut milk in place of the butter and milk you'd generally find in muffins. They're soft and moist, and are a great way to serve the last of the raspberries as we head into fall. No fresh raspberries there? Substitute peaches, blueberries, cherries or any frozen fruit you have on hand.

 

Raspberry and Coconut Cream Muffins

1 egg

½ cup coconut oil

¼ cup honey (I used unprocessed)

2/3 cup spelt flour

¾ cup whole wheat flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup coconut milk

1 ½ cups fresh or frozen raspberries

 

Preheat oven to 350º F. In a large mixing bowl, mix together egg, coconut oil and honey. In a separate bowl mix flours, baking powder and salt together. Add to the egg mixture and mix together. Stir in the coconut milk just until all is incorporated. Fold in raspberries.

Line 12 muffin cups and fill with batter. A large-sized scoop works perfectly for this. Bake at 350º F for 20-25 minutes until tops are lightly brown and bounce back when tapped in the middle. Allow to cool partially. Top with coconut cream icing (below) and garnish with fresh raspberries, if desired.

Coconut Cream Icing adapted from Elana's Pantry

¼ cup coconut milk

3 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch

½ teaspoon water

1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil

 

Heat coconut milk and honey in a small saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Mix together arrowroot powder and water to form a paste. Whisk into saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut oil. Freeze for 20-30 minutes. Whip again and add to piping bag. Pipe onto muffins.

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

 

After carefully testing and tasting and testing some more, I came to the conclusion that what I didn't like about most homemade salsas was the level of chunk and the lack of flavor. Sure, the ratios changed here and there, but the overall recipe remains the same, and the taste is always a bit too raw for me, even when the salsa had been simmered on the stove sufficiently.

Roasting and grilling the vegetables that are added into the salsa gives it a whole new dimension. Instead of a one-note wonder, you get a full mouthful of flavor. Plus, it smells divine, uses up all the tomatoes you just pulled out of the garden and cans nicely so that you can relive the experience six months from now when the air is cold.

Grilled Hot and Spicy Tomato Salsa

5 pounds meaty tomatoes (about 7 cups)

2 large whole red onions

5-6 jalapeños

5-6 garden salsa peppers

1 green bell pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

5 cloves garlic

1 ½ cups lime juice (bottled)

1 tablespoon salt

¼ cup packed cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon cumin

Wash your hands before touching anything that will be canned. Cut large tomatoes in half and rub skins with olive oil. Place on grill over medium-high heat, turning once, until skins blister and char slightly. Slice peppers in half and remove seeds if desired. Wear gloves to avoid getting capsaicin on your hands. You can leave the seeds in for hotter salsa. Rub peppers and onion with oil and grill until charred. You can also roast the tomatoes, peppers and onions in the oven at 400º F until charred.

Remove charred skins if desired. Add tomatoes, peppers and onions to a food processor and pulse until chunky. Place in a large pot over a medium burner. Add in garlic, lime juice and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil for 10 minutes. Add in cilantro and cumin and continue to simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Can salsa in 8-ounce or pint-sized jars. Ladle salsa into sterilized jars, leaving ½" of space at the top. Wipe rims and place pretreated lids on. Process cans in a boiling water bath canner for 20 minutes. Remove salsa from the water bath and allow to cool on a cloth-covered surface.

Any jars that do not pop and seal properly can be stored in the fridge and eaten within a week. Sealed jars can be stored in a dark, cool place until ready to consume within 12 months.

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

 

Now that we’ve talked about why to can and preserve food, let’s look at the process of how you can. If you haven’t canned food before, the process can be pretty overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. Here are the basics, broken down step by step for you.

What you need to get started:

Canning Jars and Seals – mason-style jars with sealed lids and rings work best and can be found at most grocery stores

Wide-Mouth Funnel – to fill jars with sauces or jams without making a mess and having to constantly wipe down the jars (optional)

Lid Wand – makes removing lids and rings from boiling water easier (optional)

Ladle – to fill jars

Large Pot – for boiling preserves and jams, fruits, tomatoes and pickled vegetables

Pressure Canner – used for canning vegetables and meats for its ability to reach a higher temperature

Tongs of Jar Lifters – rubberized lifters make removing cans from their water bath less slippery, but a good pair of tongs can work just as well

Clean Towels – used to wipe down jars, lids and rims of jars

  • Sterilize your jars.   Start by washing your lids and jars in hot soapy water. From there, move them to a large pot with boiling water for ten minutes to sterilize. Remove the jars from the water, but leave lids in until you’re ready to use. This will ensure they don’t become contaminated prior to sealing.
  • Canning fruits and vegetables immediately after you harvest them gives you the highest nutrient concentration. The longer a fresh piece of produce sits the more vitamins it loses. Fruits and vegetables can be sliced and diced; prepare your jams and preserves using your favorite recipes, and pickle vegetables before placing in the jars. You can also stew tomatoes and precook depending on the variety you’re making.
  • Tomatoes often have lemon juice or another citric acid added to them prior to canning to ensure their pH level is above 4.6. Ascorbic acid solutions can also be added to fruits to prevent browning prior to placing in jars. Not all tomatoes need an acid added, but be sure to check for the variety you’re using.
  • Iron, aluminum and copper should not be used when preparing your fruits and vegetables to can. So, leave those gorgeous copper pots and pans on the pan rack and the shelves for this one. These metals can cause discoloration of the produce.
  • Now it’s time to fill your jars. Be sure not to fill them completely. Produce expands during the boiling process, so leaving adequate space at the top prevents the jar from leaking and making a mess. Usually about a half inch of space is recommended.
  • When filling your jar with produce and not liquids like jams, jellies and preserves, pour liquid over the top to submerge the fruit or vegetables. Pickling solution or juice should cover to the top of your produce.
  • Make sure there are no air bubbles along the sides of the jar. Run a knife along the side to remove any bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars down with a clean cloth and cap with the flat sealing lids and rims.
  • Preheat water in your pot or pressure cooker for processing your jars.  For hot food like jams and jellies, water should be preheated to 180º F, and for cold produce like canning whole tomatoes, it should be around 140º F.  This prevents cracking of the jars as you introduce hot liquid to them.
  • The water in your pot should be an inch or two above the top of the canning jar. A pressure canner should be used according to the manufacturer’s directions to determine the amount of water needed for the type of food you’re making.
  • Add the jars using your tongs or jar lifter into the pot or pressure cooker so they are not touching. Add the lid. For hot water canning, bring the water to a slow boil. This is where you start your timer and process. How long you process is determined by the vegetable or fruit you’re canning and the altitude where you live. The same is true of pressure cooking.
  • Let your jars cool.  Place them on a flat wood or cloth-covered surface to let them cool. They will start to pop while cooling, creating the vacuum seal. Once they have cooled, (usually leave a full 24 hours), press down on the center of your jars to check for proper sealing. Any lids that spring back have not sealed and can be placed in the refrigerator and eaten first.

Now it’s time to store the fruits of your labor until later. Canned food is perfect for those long winter months to break up the winter squash and root vegetable monotony. Do you can food?

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

 

As summer wanes it’s time to start thinking of what we’re going to do with all the produce that comes from the garden, but not only the garden. While I’ve explained why I choose to garden and expose my kids to it, you may not have the time, space or the ability to tend your own garden. Food preservation – canning, freezing and drying food – is for you as well. The farmers market is a wonderful place to stock up on fresh and local produce while it’s in season.

Why Preserve the Harvest?

*Preserving saves you money. Buying produce in season is always cheaper than buying produce that’s been shipped in from somewhere else. You can take advantage of low prices now by stocking up, canning and preserving fresh produce for use in sauces, casseroles and stews during the winter months.

*It is environmentally friendly. Much less energy is expended growing fruits and vegetables during the local season. Trucks can carry produce to local markets, rather than shipping them from different hemispheres.

*Preserving cuts down on waste. I grew up with a very frugal family, and we were always taught not to waste. In a day and age where so many people are hungry and looking for food, I feel that it is a social responsibility to make sure I’m using all the food I have available to me.  Letting my tomatoes rot because I couldn’t eat them fast enough just isn’t an option for my family.

*It’s fresher and tastes better.  Using produce that’s at the peak of freshness always tastes better than produce that’s been picked before it is ripe and then ripened using ethylene gas. Canning and freezing your food preserves it at the freshest point.

*No BPA.  So many companies still line their canned products with BPA. Canning in jars at home ensures you know exactly what you put in the jar, not only the salt content and extra ingredients, but also the lack of chemicals and byproducts.

Do you preserve food in the summer and fall for the winter?  What are your favorite canning recipes?

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

 

Also known as a Dutch baby, pannekoeken are Dutch pancakes baked in the oven that become puffed along the edges. They are then filled with every variety of fruit, jams, baked apples and savory varieties with bacon and sautéed vegetables and a bit of shredded cheese and served for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

These were a favorite of mine when I was younger, made by the neighbor across the street. She shared her recipe with my mom one day and my love affair with the simple pancake was set in stone. Pannekoeken are easy to throw together, and they bake just long enough that you can whip them up, toss them in the oven and sneak in a morning shower while they bake.

We are finally seeing peaches here, and I have been patiently waiting for them as others talk of crumbles and cobblers. I ate half of mine fresh with my kids, not bothering with batters and baking, and then the other half were lightly cooked in a pannekoek after being tossed with some raw apple blossom honey for dinner later the same night.

Honey Peach Pannekoeken

¼ cup butter

4 eggs

1 cup milk

1 ½ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

2 ½ sliced ripe peaches

2-3 tablespoons of raw honey

Heat oven to 400º F.  Place the butter in a heat-proof 10" or 11" frying pan with rounded edges or cast iron skillet or a 9"x13" glass baking pan and set in the oven.  Beat together eggs and milk.  Add in the flour and salt and whisk until batter is smooth.

When the oven is preheated and butter in your pan is completely melted, carefully pour the batter into the pan.  Close the oven door and bake for 20 minutes until pancake is puffed around edges.  Mix together peaches and honey.  Place peaches in the center of the pancake and continue cooking 5–10 minutes more until edges are a light golden brown.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

The farmers market is in full swing, with new vegetables and fruits being added each week. Just this past week we returned from the farmers market with eight different varieties of vegetables to use in our family meals, among them a large bunch of radishes and 3 heads of kohlrabi.

After using radishes on a steak sandwich and making a kohlrabi slaw, I moved on to pickling the rest. I appreciate pickling because it extends the life of the vegetables, but I also like having a bit of tangy crunch on the side of my plate at dinnertime. Something about the taste of a freshly pickled vegetable, still crisp and with a distinct bite.

I like to use pickled radishes and kohlrabi on burgers and barbecue, as well as to top off midday salads or in place of pickles on a sandwich. They're also wonderful alone, just sitting as a salad on the side of my dinner plate.

Pickled Radish and Kohlrabi Chips

1 bunch radishes (10-12)

2 heads kohlrabi

3 small onions

¼ cup pickling salt

1 ½ cups vinegar

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon celery seeds

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1 tablespoon mustard seed

Peel the green portion off the kohlrabi. Cut the bulb in half and thinly slice. Thinly slice radishes and onions. Add pickling salt and one quart of ice water together. Pour over the sliced vegetables and allow to sit for at least two hours. Drain the salt water and rinse vegetables thoroughly.

In a medium saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, peppercorns and mustard seeds to a boil. Boil for three minutes and pour over vegetables. Store the pickle chips in an airtight container in the fridge. They can be processed and canned as well, or they can be eaten fresh from the fridge. Make at least one day ahead for best results if eating fresh.

Makes 3-4 cups of pickle chips with juice.

Growing up radishes to me were crudités on platter filled with more crudités like carrots, celery and cauliflower. I would eat them every once in a while, curious as to what the red orbs tasted like, and I was always surprised when they had a bite. I still am to this day.

For my husband, his radish experience started in the garden and ended atop a peanut butter sandwich. Yes, he consumed many a peanut butter and radish sandwich in his day, a combination I have not yet tried. Though I do have to say I’m intrigued at the texture addition to the peanut butter sandwich.

Then there is the classic bread, butter and radish combo that so many people speak of, and that is what I was considering when I veered my mind in a similar but different direction and landed on this sandwich, one that started in my garden.

As we readied to leave for a few days, I considered what would spoil while we were gone, and I knew I couldn’t let the cucumbers and radishes go to waste, not to mention the large crop of romaine or the tomatoes that seem to be turning red daily now. A few Greek seasonings later, a sandwich was born.

A Radish Sandwich

2 slices of whole wheat bread of choice

3 radishes, thinly sliced

1 whole romaine leaf

3 thinly sliced tomatoes

2 tablespoons feta cheese

2 tablespoons homemade tzatziki

Layer sandwich: bread > tzatziki > radishes > feta > tomatoes > romaine > bread. Cut in half and enjoy. If you’re looking for a bit more, try grilling the sandwich after it’s assembled until the outside is nice and golden brown.

Makes 1 sandwich.

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

I recently had the opportunity to take a trip out to the Cascadian Farm Home Farm in Concrete, Washington. I was traveling for work, and the stars aligned that made it possible for me to get there, and I am so glad I did.

Prior to going, all I'd been told about the home farm was that it was magical, and since my arrival to the Cascades was in the middle of the night, I had no idea what I was walking into the next morning.

It was cold and foggy that morning, but that didn't stop us from heading out to the farm early. We poked around, watching the water in the river and the fog lifting over the rows of blueberries. Not even the roadside stand was open yet.

But the pests and critters were out, making their way across the path, and I may have stepped on a few before I realized they were covering the road. I would later learn from Farmer Jim that one way of dealing with slugs is running them over or cutting them in half.

Our official tour started in the barn and quickly moved over to the strawberry fields that were being picked for sale at the stand and that would later end up in my strawberry coffee cake.

Farmer Jim was a fantastic host, explaining his method of crop rotation, detailing how he cares for each plant that's growing and pest control. I learned several practices I want to put in place for my own backyard garden about my small strawberry patch, the new raspberries I planted and the tomatoes that I struggle to keep under control. The home farm grows tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse to sell at the roadside stand in later months.

And as strawberry season was soon going to come to a close, he gave us the official tour of the new raspberry plants that were just starting to ripen. This was the first full season since planting this variety, and Farmer Jim was excited about the earlier harvest they would yield.

We spent quite a bit of time in the blueberry field, and I got an in-person speech from Farmer Jim on how to grow blueberries organically. I've been dreaming of trying my hand at blueberries, and now I know how to compost and cover my blueberries with sawdust to create the appropriate conditions for them to flourish in.

As my tour and stay at the farm came to close, I instantly called my husband to ask him if we could move there, and then, more seriously, I told him Farmer Jim should be the voice for organic farming across the U.S. I was absolutely smitten as he broke down the hows and whys of organic farming, and it made me think back to my childhood when those methods were still covered in school.

What will my children learn about food production? Will they be told we create seeds in a lab so they can tolerate being sprayed with as many chemicals as we can throw at them? I know that I'm glad I have Cascadian Farm and other organic brands fighting to bring back traditional methods of growing crops and farming for a sustainable future for my children.

If you're ever in the Seattle area, do take the time to make a visit up to the farm. The North Cascades Highway is a great drive, and the farm is well worth the journey up there. Plus, who doesn't want homemade ice cream at the roadside stand? If you happen to be there in the fall, I'm told the pumpkin patch and sunflowers are quite the photo opp.

 

Photos by Shaina Olmanson

Previous Next