Cascadian Farm Organic Goodness

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

In September I took on the task of making my own sourdough starter, and ever since I've been obsessed with the act of making bread. Something about the process has been rather meditative. Plus, there's something about the smell and taste of fresh baked bread that just doesn't compare to store-bought. Here are a few things to know as you get started:

  • Be sure to use your eyes. If it has been the allotted rising time, but the dough hasn't risen, let it sit longer.
  • Invest in a kitchen scale. Flours change in moisture levels as they sit on shelves, which can mess with their cup measurement. A scale will provide more accurate measurements.
  • Practice makes perfect. Starters die, dough doesn't always rise, the crust is too hard or not crusty enough. Don't let mishaps get you down. Bread baking is an art, and with time you'll get better at the crafting of it.

Pain au Levain adapted from Makanai

¾ cup (210 g) sourdough starter (80% hydration)

1 ¾ cups (420 ml) water

3 1/3 cups (500 g) whole wheat bread/pastry flour

1 ¼ cups (130 g) rye flour

2 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt

 

Mix together the sourdough starter, water and flours in a glass mixing bowl. Let it stand covered at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Using a stand mixer or by hand, add salt and mix until dough starts to become smooth and uniform in texture. Fold the dough four times and let rest. Repeat this folding and resting every 15 minutes for one hour.

Place the dough in a bread bowl or mixing bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise one hour in a warm place. Push the dough down in the center, remove dough and fold four sides into the center. Turn the dough over so the seams are on the bottom. Form into one or two loaves, either oval or round. You could also divide dough between bread pans, if desired, filling 2/3 full. Place on dough baking sheet or on paddle. Cover with a towel and let them rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until dough is doubled.

Preheat the oven to 435º F. Slash the dough lengthwise just off center and dust with a bit of flour. Place dough in oven on baking stone with a pie plate filled with ¾ cup of water just beneath it. Closing immediately. Bake for 45 minutes. Dough should be 200º F when finished cooking. Allow to cool before eating.

Makes 2 loaves.

 

Photo by Shaina Olmanson

Here at the Cascadian Farm blog, we always look forward to providing you with more of the stories, tips, and recipes that help you on your path toward organic living. As we count down toward 2011, we joyfully look back at your favorite recipes of 2010. These are the recipes that you all enjoyed the most based on the wonderful comments we received.

5. Almond Butter Honey Nut O's Bars: This update on traditional cereal bars including Cascadian Farm Honey Nut Os cereal, and many ingredients that you may already have in your pantry.


4. Vanilla Blueberry Almond Bread: How can you go wrong with such tasty ingredients? Some of you even made this one into muffins for a sweet breakfast treat! If you can’t find fresh organic blueberries this time of the year, look for our Cascadian Farm frozen organic blueberries in your grocery’s freezer section.


3. Lemon Quinoa Salad with Feta and Wilted Spinach: This quinoa salad is not only a great option for our gluten-free friends, it is also a delicious spring meal or side for everyone!


2. Avocado Wraps: Perfect for kids and adults alike, this quick meal packs avocados and cranberries into a tortilla. Some readers suggested substituting hummus or bean dip for the cream cheese and romaine leaves for the tortilla… both great ideas!

And our number one recipe of 2010:



1. Steamed Apple & Blueberry Ice Cream Topping: No surprises here… who doesn’t love ice cream? Some of you even used this recipe to top waffles, pancakes, or oatmeal, making it perfect for any time of day!

 

What were some of your favorite recipes of 2010? Did you try any of the ones listed above?

The table is busy, with arms in the air passing dishes and receiving others. Everyone is vying for the creamy one with the golden brown top. It's been baking for at least the last 2 hours, but waiting through the smell has made the minutes long and fluid, and the moment has arrived to finally taste it. Hastily, you dig the spoon in deep and claim a corner of the potato pie for yourself, as does everyone else.

Potatoes au gratin are one of those classic dishes with several variations. Mine is light on the cheese and spruced up a bit for Christmas with fragrant herbs. My favorite for this time of year is rosemary, as there's usually rosemary somewhere else on the table, and it pairs well with the other flavors of the season like oranges and cranberries.

 

Herbed Potatoes au Gratin

4 pounds potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons fresh herbs (rosemary, oregano, parsley), finely chopped

Kosher salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

 

Preheat oven to 350º F. Rub the crushed garlic around the inside of the baking dish or dishes. You can choose to use a 2-quart dish or individual dishes for single-serve options. Set aside garlic. In the dish, place potatoes in a single layer. Sprinkle lightly with rosemary, salt and pepper and then about 1 tablespoon of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Continue layering up the dish: potatoes, herbs and salt, cheese.

When all potatoes are layered evenly, pour cream over until it just comes to hit the very top of the top layer. You want the potatoes to be covered with cream, but they should not be floating. Place in the oven at 350º F and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until top is crispy and brown and cream has become creamy pockets and is no longer pooling. Smaller dishes will need slightly less baking time, approximately 20 minutes less. Halfway through the baking time, open the oven and push potatoes down under the cream again with the back of a spoon to ensure the cream is evenly distributed while baking. Remove from oven and allow to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Photo by Shaina Olmanson

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

Here are five delicious organic appetizer recipes to try at your next gathering. Best of all, they won’t break the bank! After you’ve tried them, come back and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you!

Blackberry-Almond Bruschetta

Blue Cheese Quesadillas with Peach Salsa

Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Asian Green Beans with Almonds

Corn and Black Bean Salad

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

With Thanksgiving on the way, we thought it would be the perfect time to take a closer look a classic turkey day vegetable –winter squash. We grow plenty of squash on our farm in preparation for this time of year. What would Thanksgiving be without this delicious vegetable?

Because squash is a frost-tender vegetable, the seeds do not germinate in cold soil. Winter squash can be harvested whenever the fruits have turned a deep, solid color and the skin is hard. It’s usually harvested in September or October, before heavy frosts hit.

Other than being delicious, squash has many important health benefits. It’s a good source of complex carbohydrates, such as starch. It is high in vitamins A and C. Not to mention, high in beta-carotene.

Here is one of our favorite squash recipes, perfect for the holiday season. Enjoy!

Curried Squash Soup

Creamy and rich with a hint of curry, this squash soup is simply outstanding!

 

Photo by: Nociveglia

Hi friends! Our cereal is one of our most popular selling products, and although it’s great right out of the box, or with a little milk, there are many other delicious ways to enjoy it. Whether you’re looking for a snack to munch on at school, or to enhance a desert, there are endless uses for our organic cereal. Here are a few of our favorite recipes. Enjoy!

Honey-Nut Marshmallow Bars

These gooey cereal bars combine marshmallows and honey nut cereal to make an after-school treat the kids will love.

Raspberry-Granola Bars

These old-fashioned layered crumb bars are simply irresistible!

Maple Brown Sugar Granola Cookies

Mmm! Filled with goodies like raisins and nuts, these chewy maple granola cookies are a must-try.

Triple-Berry Granola Crisp

Warm mixed berries topped with a crispy granola topping—it's simply delicious!

Honey Nut Snack Mix


Honey nut cereal, peanut butter, banana chips and chocolate-covered raisins—this snack mix has it all.

Multi Grain Snack Mix

Perfect for a party or everyday snacking—you'll love this crunchy mix.

Spiced Cereal Trail Mix

Cereal and dried fruit mixed with a touch of honey and spice makes a great afternoon snack.

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

Over the last couple months we have posted videos from our Home Farm Manager, Jim Meyer, giving advice and sharing his knowledge with us on various organic farming topics such as crop rotation, controlling pests, and planting cover crops. This week, he shares some insights on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

One question we fairly often from you is "Do your products use GMOs?" The short answer is: No. You can know when you see the "certified organic" USDA seal on the front of our package that GMO crops have not been used. The USDA organic standards board does not allow for any GMO crops to be used in organic agriculture. A farmer using GMO seeds would not be able to use the USDA certified organic seal.

We've talked before about the difference between labeling "Organic" vs "Natural" food. While there is no strict requirement for claiming a food product is "natural," the absence of GMOs are one of the things that you can count on when you see the USDA organic seal...

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

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

Coffee is the number one consumed beverage in the world. Over 400 million cups of coffee are consumed each day in the United States alone. It is the 2nd largest globally traded commodity in the world, second only to petroleum. In the tropics, local economies and communities rely heavily on the stability and income from coffee beans. With that said, have you ever wondered what impact your morning cup of joe has on the environment or the people that depend on it for their livelihood? Does consuming only Eco friendly coffee make a difference?

Traditional coffee plantations require vast amounts of cleared land, displacing entire ecosystems of native plants and animals. Many traditional plantations also use pesticides, herbicides and insecticides in mass. These chemicals not only run into local water supplies, poisoning the water, they are harmful (some even cancer-causing) to the low-wage workers that manage the fields.

However, Eco friendly coffee plantations also known as "shade plantations" leave the natural canopy of trees over the plantation that gives animals, insects, birds and reptiles a protected natural habitat complete with native plants. Shade plantations allow the animals and nature to live in harmony with the coffee crops.  

If you feel that Eco friendly coffee does make a difference, choosing "shade-grown" coffee is the best way to go. There are other types of certifications that are also important when looking for Eco friendly coffee such as; "Bird Friendly", "Rain Forest Alliance Certified", "USDA Organic" and "Fair Trade." Whichever type of Eco friendly coffee you choose, remember that you are making a conscious decision on the impact that coffee beans can have on the environment, humans and wildlife in those areas.

What does it all mean? How to break down what the label says:

1- Shade Grown: Coffee beans that have been grown on plantations with a natural tree canopy above the fields, instead of clear cutting the forest. This allows native animals, birds, insects, reptiles and plants to live in harmony with the crops.

2- USDA Organic: Pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and other chemicals are never used during the coffee bean growing process. Many of these chemicals are known endocrine-disrupting and cancer-causing chemicals, they also are known to kill native animals and poison local water sources and the soil - which is another good reason not to ingest non-organic coffee.

3- Bird Friendly: Similar to the "Shade Grown" certification, it protects migratory birds that will be lost forever due to clear cutting of the rainforest for traditonal coffee plantations.

4- Fair Trade: Fair Trade means that the family farmers are treated respectfully, are paid a fair living wage for their coffee beans, allowing them access to medical care and educational services.

Do you consume Eco friendly coffee?

Do you feel that the benefits of Eco friendly coffee make a difference?

 

photo credits: Coffee Beans, Traditional Coffee Plantation, Shade Grown Coffee Plantation,

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

We are so fortunate here in San Diego, there is at least one Farmer’s Market happening every day of the week in various neighborhoods. One of the newer additions to the Farmer’s Market scene is Little Italy’s Mercato. It started up about two or three years ago and just keeps getting better and better! I have long been partial to the Sunday market in Hillcrest, boasting lots of vendors and long hours, but the Mercato - with its 90 booths and bay views has become my new favorite! I take all my out-of-town guests to it on Saturday mornings, including my mom who was just here last week. She absolutely loved getting an espresso at a locally owned coffee shop, strolling up and down the streets, listening to the live music and enjoying the bay breezes. Once we purchased all our goods we lined up for a delicious breakfast crepe, hot off the pan. Mmmmm.

Going to the Farmer’s Market is not only the best way to get really fresh food and support your local economy, it’s also a great way get to know your community. You start to recognize the faces (and dogs) of the other patrons when you go every week. You learn the names of the farmers at your favorite stands. It becomes a social event! Besides stocking up on my fruits and veggies for the week, I also like to try something new every time I go. Last week I tried some amazing organic, raw cheese – heaven! The Mercato has such a great variety of vendors. From oysters and pastured chicken to olives, fresh pasta and sauces – they have everything a foodie could hope for.

What unique vendors do they have at your local farmer’s market?

Photos by Kari Burks

 

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

Summer is winding down (as much as we don’t want to admit it) and aside from school starting soon; many kids are also getting back on the field for fall sports. Between getting your kids in their uniforms and driving the car pool to practice, the last thing on you mind is packing a healthy snack to keep them going during and after practice. But don’t worry, we’re here to help with a list of quick and healthy snacks that will keep your kids moving all season long. One of which is our spiced cereal trail mix your kids are sure to love.

Do you have any healthy snack ideas? If so, feel free to share them in the comment box.

Half-Time Snacks: Give your kids fruit during half time, this way they’ll get charged up without filling up.

•Orange slice

•Easy-peel Clementines

•Grapes

•Cantaloupe or watermelon chunks

•Strawberries

Post-Game Snacks: After the game, they will have more time to eat and they will surely be hungry.

Early morning games:

•Whole-wheat mini-bagels with cream cheese and jelly

•Mini-yogurt cups

Granola bars

•Whole-grain muffins

Just before lunch games:

•String cheese

•Half sandwiches on whole-wheat bread (PB&J, turkey & cheese, etc.)

•Peanut butter on celery sticks

For afternoon games:

•Popcorn and baby carrots

•Whole-grain crackers and cheese

Spiced Cereal Trail Mix

 

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

 

There’s nothing more synonymous with summer than sweet corn. It has become an essential part of any summertime cook out. We love to eat it and we love to grow it. At Cascadian Farm we grow our sweet corn organically. Which means we don’t use any synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), making it good for you and for the land.

Yes, organic sweet corn tastes delicious, but it also has many great health benefits that you should take note of. It’s a good source of many nutrients including thiamin (vitamin B1), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), folate, dietary fiber, vitamin C, phosphorus and manganese.

Aside from eating sweet corn right off the cob, there are many great recipes to incorporate it into your diet. Here are some of our favorites. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomato- Corn Chowder

Corn and Black Bean Salad

Creamy Corn and Broccoli Chowder

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