Posts Tagged ‘farm’

Fresh from the Pumpkin Patch (and Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread)

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Fall is my favorite time of year, especially here in Virginia where we are blessed with beautiful weather and picturesque colors this time of year. After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, with those infernal evergreen trees, the brilliant shades of fall leaves here never fail to impress me. And of course it’s not truly fall ’till we’ve ventured to the pumpkin patch. This year, with two kids in tow — and unlike her big brother’s first trip, the Foodie Bebe didn’t sleep through the whole experience. Of course, that may be because we spent the entire day at the farm… But when your farm is part working farm, part Disneyland (right down to the crazy insane lines for the hayrides and food), what else can you expect?

the great pumpkin hunt at Butlers Orchard

the great pumpkin hunt at Butler's Orchard

The past two years we’ve gone to Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Maryland. It’s large, but activities are spaced out so it doesn’t feel quite as crazy as some of the other local pumpkin extravaganzas. It’s a 60-year-old, family-owned farm, and they actually grow things there. I have nothing against farms who turn into amusement parks if that’s what they need to do to lure people in and turn a profit, I just ask that they actually still grow something. When so many places just plop pumpkins from who knows where into a field, it’s nice to see some honest-to-goodness pumpkin vines. I don’t know if all the pumpkins were grown there (there was a remarkably high percentage of “ginormous” pumpkins, as the boy would say), but close enough for me. There’s a farm store where you can get all sorts of apples, baked goods, canning supplies and other harvest accoutrement as well. On weekends in October, there’s live music, bouncy houses, giant slides, caramel apples, barbecue, apple cider, pony rides, a corn maze …. even pedal tractors and a pumpkin coach pulled by mice (with a little help from a tractor).

A long day of play on the farm demands a hearty breakfast first, and this pumpkin loaf is a perfect start. (Made with our homemade pumpkin puree, not the carving pumpkins we got on the farm.)  I used whole wheat pastry flour to add just a smidge of healthfulness, but you can use white if you prefer.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Maple Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • ~ 1 teaspoon water

Instructions:  In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. In the mixing bowl, beat the eggs on low speed until combined. Add pumpkin, sour cream, butter, vanilla and sugar and mix on medium low until smooth. Add dry ingredients, mixing on low until just combined. Pour batter into a lightly greased bread pan (9x5x3), level off the top, and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

To make the glaze: Whisk together powdered sugar and maple syrup, then add water until a thin consistency is achieved. (If you have maple extract, add 1/4 teaspoon.) Drizzle over the cooled loaf and let stand a few more minutes before slicing.

Makes 1 9-inch loaf. Enjoy!

whole grain pumpkin bread

Fresh from the Fields of Athenry

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

If you’ve ever taken a close look at the lamb that floods the grocery stores around this time each year, you might have noticed that it nearly all comes from New Zealand or Australia. Even our neighborhood butcher, who sources most of his meat from here in Virginia, gets his lamb from outside the area.  But looking to create a more sustainable Passover/Easter menu last year (we celebrate both, so Easter dinner is usually leavening-free, though not strictly Kosher), I was thrilled to meet the “lamb lady,” Elaine Boland, at our local organic grocer, MOM’s. We served her leg of lamb last Easter and found it to be the freshest, most tender, and flavorful lamb any of us had ever tasted.

Sadly, MOM’s no longer stocks Elaine’s lamb (they have a largely vegetarian customer base), so on a recent sunny spring day my sister-in-law, the toddler and I hit the road to visit the farm in person. Fields of Athenry, near Middleburg, Va., is just over an hour’s drive from the District. The family farm is nestled in the foot hills of the Bull Run Mountains, and the drive through Virginia’s horse country with freshly blossoming trees and new spring grass just popping up could not be more refreshing.

sheep

Pulling up to the stately country house, a troupe of friendly dogs rushed out to greet us. A voice called from down the hill, beckoning us down to the watering station and chicken coop. Geese chased each other in the pond, while ewes and lambs lazed about in the sun. A chicken sauntered up and lured the toddler to follow him over to see the chickens and (heritage) turkeys nesting. Two llamas and a horse rounded out the menagerie, all looking content as they soaked up the sun on the grassy hillside.

chicken farm virginia

After visiting with the animals, we ventured into the store. A children’s area with chalk and crayons kept the boy entertained while Elaine and her assistant filled me in on the freshly processed, 30-day aged Black Angus beef that had literally just arrived from the butcher. (Cows and additional sheep are pastured at other locations nearby in Virginia and Pennsylvania.) I picked up some NY strip and short ribs, and selected a lamb shoulder from the freezer. They had just sold most of the lamb to one of the local restaurants they supply. (Last summer, we sampled the phenomenal Baa Baa Black Sheep pizza, with Athenry’s lamb sausage, feta, tomatoes, spinach and balsamic glaze, at Fireworks Wood-Fired Pizza in Leesburg – which, incidentally, has an impressive craft beer list as well as locally-sourced pizza toppings.)

puppy As we witnessed, all the animals raised by Fields of Athenry are able to roam and graze freely, grass-fed and well cared for. In fact, their methods met Alice Waters’ exacting standards and Athenry’s lamb was served at Waters’ exclusive Inaugural dinner party earlier this year.

We had arrived near closing time, and Elaine was rushing out to pick up her kids from school, but took a minute to invite the boy inside the house to meet her 14-day-old puppies. He had been pretty excited by the geese and sheep, (singing “We’re going to the sheep farm, the sheep farm…” as he got dressed that morning) but the look of pride and wonder as he gently held a tiny puppy under his arm was truly priceless. (Click here for more photos from our visit.)

Fields of Athenry is open this weekend (Sat. 10am-3pm, closed Sundays), and is accepting orders for Easter weekend until noon next Weds., April 8. (Note that they will be closed Easter Saturday, so all orders will have to be picked up by Friday, April 10.) They deliver to various drop-off points in Loudoun County (see below), and with enough interest, may be able to arrange a drop-off in Northern Virginia – so do sign up for their email list and let them know if you’d be interested. And if you’d like to visit the farm, be sure to check the event schedule for upcoming “Farm to Community Health Outreach” seminars.

Where to Find: Fields of Athenry’s sustainable meat products (lamb/beef/chicken and heritage turkey for Thanksgiving) are delivered by pre-order to locations in Broadlands, Ashburn, Leesburg and Reston, and are available at the farm five days a week (Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri. and Sat.).

And, their meats are served at Equinox in DC and these Loudoun County, Va., restaurants: Good Stone Inn, Tuscarora Mill, South Street Under, Fireworks, Midas Touch, Bluemont Vineyards, Natural Mercantile of Hamilton, thewinekitchenVintage 50, and American Flatbread.

Lastly, one of my favorite Passover/Easter lamb recipes is “Roasted leg of lamb with Artichokes” from Gourmet. I’ve also made one with a shallot red wine sauce, but can’t find it at the moment.

(Shared with Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday – check out the round-up for great info and ideas from fellow real foodies.)

Fresh from Feezers Christmas Tree Farm

Monday, December 8th, 2008

This weekend we enjoyed a brisk (to put it mildly) trip up north to Feezers organic Christmas tree farm in Mariottsville, Maryland.

It was just a little further than the farm we went to last year, and we actually paid a little less for a lovely blue spruce. One caveat, there weren’t a whole lot of taller trees to be found as most topped out around 5-6 feet. They do supplement their offerings with (non-organic) Fraser firs from Pennsylvania. And the complementary hot chocolate and candy canes are just the thing to warm up little hands after the hard work of hauling ones tree back up the hill is complete!

Last week I noted the Green Promise organic tree directory; if you don’t have an organic farm nearby and still need to find a tree, consult the National Christmas Tree Association’s search feature. Even if they’re not organic, a locally-grown tree helps support green spaces and fresh air near your hometown!

Creamy Apple Celery Soup

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

We recently ventured out to Stribling Orchard‘s Apple Festival to kick off fall with fresh-plucked apples. It didn’t feel particularly like fall as it was a scorching 95 degrees. Stribling is a sixth-generation family farm with a lovely view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The occasional train passing by below the orchard provided an added thrill for the kids.

The toddler picked a few apples, had some fun with the picking stick, and then we headed back to the shade of the country store to indulge in a caramel apple.

We got some beautiful young celery in our CSA bag last week, and I was planning to use it in some sort of soup when I had the thought to use some of our apples as well. This can be served hot or chilled, in case you also live somewhere where the weather and calendar aren’t always in sync.

Recipe: Creamy Apple Celery Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4 large apples, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • black pepper to taste

Instructions: Melt butter in stock pot over medium low heat. Add onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add celery and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in apples and broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with immersion blender. Serve with freshly ground pepper warm, or chill for at least 1 hour to enjoy cold. Makes 4 servings.

Notes: This creamy soup is lower in fat than your traditional cream of celery, and the sweetness of the apples will appeal to kids and adults alike.

Pacific NW Snapshots: Barking Dog Farms

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

On last year’s trip to the Oregon coast, my mom and I visited the Lincoln City Farmers Market and came across the largest zucchini I’d ever seen. This year, we headed to the source, Barking Dog Farms, just south of Lincoln City at the base of the Siletz River. This was perhaps the greenest, lushest little farm I’ve ever seen, clearly benefiting from the cool, damp climate. The toddlers snacked on watermelon and picked dandelions while the rest of us checked out the offerings.

My sister-in-law chatted with the owner about their heirloom seed supplier as we drooled over the beautiful tomatoes, zucchini, and cut-to-order herbs and greens. I brought back a large, freshly harvested leek, garlic chives, romanesco zucchini, black russian tomato, pluots and some local goatzarella cheese from Fraga Farm. The leek and chives were used in my oven-roasted salmon, and I made a roasted zucchini, tomato and goatzarella salad to serve on the side. Just two of those hearty zucchini fed the entire family of 10!

Hitting the road soon? Check out Culinate’s “Local 50: Good things to eat in every state.”