Saturday, July 31, 2010

What's For Breakfast?

In a continuation of my efforts to branch out and create new breakfast dishes, I concocted a little appetizer to go alongside the first course: individual apricot "boats" filled with a single boysenberry, and dribbled with blueberry-lavender-lemon verbena jam, and garnished with a borage flower, a lemon verbena sprig, and blueberries. This was served alongside our farm fresh scrambled eggs with butter-fried garden sage and chives.

The second course was our Cherry-Fennel Granola served over fresh yogurt and decorated with boysenberries.


I really wish I had made enough for me...sigh...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Woman In Charge

Cooking for the B&B is pretty much my job - Ryan's domain is his famous sourdough rolls, but it's my task to handle all of the other foods.

Until now, I have not felt confident enough to branch out into any new menus beyond my tried and true dishes. I never want to serve a terrible meal, and thus far I never have. However, today I branched out into a new dish, and it was a roaring success! I made fresh scones using an old recipe, and over this I poured homemade tomato-ginger jam (all ingredients except the ginger came off of our property!). I garnished this with a generous dollop of freshly whipped goats milk cream (thank you, Zilla!), and over this I sprinkled cilantro leaves. Let's just say that our guest didn't leave anything left on her plate!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Newest Conquest

Business has been a bit slower than I would like to see this year, so I have not had the opportunity for many "fun" purchases. However, I am determined when it comes to my hat addiction. For quite a while, I had been squirreling away money from egg/jam/etc. sales, as well as B&B tips. Finally, I was able to afford the next specimen in my vintage hat collection: a beautiful feathered hat from FabGabs. The hat was love (or should I say lust?) at first sight. I had been worried that it would sell before I would be able to afford it, but thankfully, it was meant to be mine!

I can totally work the ridiculous feathered hats.

And now, as business has suddenly decided to pick up with a madness bordering on sadomasochism (at least in terms of my health, sanity, etc.), I have promised myself that if I can get 7 nights worth of reservations for our B&B this August, I will splurge on another pretty hat. May seem silly, but every now and then you need to get yourself something fun to brighten up the never-ending drudgery that is summer tourist season (and farm life in general). Not that I don't enjoy my job (I very much do, though that is far more true when we have the awesome guests), but I work insanely hard for what amounts to (when all things are said and done) very little pay - and that pay tends to go swiftly to other farm & business related expenses. I have decided that if I hit or exceed my goal for August, it's time to do something nice for myself. Sort of a pat on the back, if you will...or at least an ornament on the head.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July in the Garden

Here's a glimpse of what's growing in the garden this month!

What a SWEET sight: the first of the sweet corn has arrived! I have only raised about 12 plants this year in the new, 2nd Garden patch. Most of my corn energy has been focused on a large (roughly 10'x40') crop of Oaxacan Green Dent corn at the other end of the property. This dent corn makes a delicious green cornmeal, and I am so excited to incorporate it into my culinary experiments!

The Dragon's Tongue is my favorite bush bean, not only for its unique appearance (which is gorgeous as a final decoration on dinner entrees - don't cook it or the beans will lose their purple stripes!) but also for its productivity. A small patch of these beans will produce enough to feed a family of four all summer long and through the winter - assuming you preserve them, that is!

Zucchini fever has begun! While I've been getting raised eyebrows from the spouse, I planted roughly 15 zucchini plants this year, and I am looking forward to a great deal of zucchini. Unlike most of the rest of the populace, I can eat cold zucchini soup with purslane alllllllllllllllllllllllll summer long!

All of the wild Yellow Dock has gone to seed, and I have been hard at work harvesting the seeds, cleaning, winnowing, and grinding them into a delicious flour, which I then use for guest breakfasts at our B&B. I have even sold some of the flour to a local restaurant.

Over at the herb garden, the Clary Sage is in full bloom (the citrusy scent of the blossoms is amazing!) and beginning to go to seed. Normally a biennial, I tricked my Clary Sage into flowering this year by planting it out in the very early spring.

The Cordao (a relative of the Wild Dagga) is beginning to bloom! It's so gorgeous! The brilliant orange flowers are a shocking contrast to the greens of the garden.

Despite how many times I have harvested off of the plant, my Blue Vervain continues to send up new shoots and flowers. Looks like I won't need to worry about having enough dried plant to get us through the winter!

And finally, my 2-year-old Marsh Mallow plant has begun blooming. I didn't realize how beautiful mallow flowers are! Too bad they only last a day...

Monday, July 19, 2010

What's for Breakfast?

Saturday's breakfast menu consisted of individual melon cups with fresh local blueberries and chocolate mint (garnished with chocolate mint sprigs and borage flowers), and was followed by Maple-Ginger Waffles with Yellow Dock Flour (grown from seed, collected, cleaned, and hand-ground by me). I had just finished cleaning a large bunch of Yellow Dock seeds the day before, and - after grinding - had obtained a perfect 1/3 cup of flour (exactly the amount needed for the recipe!)!! It was as though I had planned it! The original waffle recipe calls for 1/3 cup oat bran. However, I love to experiment with my plants, and I thought that Yellow Dock, which is related to buckwheat, would make a fabulous substitution! What do you know: I was right! The waffles were absolutely phenomenal in flavor, and the fresh local blueberries we topped them with added the perfect amount of sweetness to compliment the "wheaty" flavor of the waffles. Hands down, best breakfast meal I have ever made or eaten! Can't wait to cook up more!!

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Lately, I have been posting a great deal of entries with quite a few pictures and very little information. Today, you are going to get a great deal of information and very few pictures.

I like to mix things up.

Harvest season has begun, and I am scrambling to keep up (notice I say "keep up" and not "stay on top of things"). First came the chive seed harvest, then the spinach seed harvest, then the valerian seeds, sage seeds, sorrel seeds, yellow dock seeds, black cumin pods, and now the great medicinal herb harvest has begun (did you see how it began to snowball?). Every day, I am picking vast quantities of calendula blossoms, comfrey leaves, mullein, marsh mallow (the leaves have the same medicinal qualities as the roots, just not as potent - but you need to harvest the leaves before the plant blooms), mint, horehound, wormwood, blue vervain, sweet woodruff, yarrow, etc. As my official harvest room has not been built yet (my antsy husband is still waiting for the local saw mill to finish milling his black walnut), I am confined to my outdoor potting bench and my indoor enclosed-porch-turned-mud-room (which, unfortunately for me, is the first thing that B&B guests see when they walk around the house to the front door! I have taken to posting an apologetic sign about the mess on the window of the Boutique/Mud Room/Temporary Harvest Room). For now, it's crowded and messy, but I manage. Most of my bundles of yellow dock tops have finished drying, so lately I have taken to spending the afternoons (when it's too hot to do anything else) in my shaded work area, cleaning the seeds and winnowing them. I have about a 1/4 cup cleaned and ready for grinding into flour right now, which represents a good day's work. Yes, I know what you are thinking: a full DAY of labor for one measly little quarter cup?!?!? Well, look at it this way: that is about the same amount of labor for cleaning amaranth, and much less work than quinoa (I know, I grow both). I have yellow dock growing in abundance (both cultivated and wild), and it seems a shame to waste it when all parts of the plant are useful (the leaves and seeds are edible, and the root is medicinal). Yellow Dock is related to buckwheat, and the seeds can be ground down into a flour that resembles buckwheat flour in taste. You only have to use a little bit at a time. I use it for our Maple-Ginger Waffles recipe when making guest breakfasts at our B&B.
I hate to see any edible plant go to waste.

This is the first year I have grown Moldavian Dragon's Head, and the minute I saw the beautiful blue flowers and smelled the heavenly lemon-scented leaves, it was true love. I had read that it made a good substitute for lemon balm, but to me it more closely resembles the sweet, lemon zest flavor of lemon verbena. I have used it to make a sun tea (which I then served with borage blossom ice cubes), and that was an enormous hit with everyone.

Speaking of borage, my plants are VERY happy. I am harvesting handfuls and handfuls of blossoms daily, which I then either freeze into ice cubes or candy for use in decorating guest breakfasts. Those are the two best ways to preserve the flowers. I love the subtle cucumber flavor that the flowers impart to water. VERY refreshing, and the perfect way to cool down and hydrate after being out in the hot sun! The leaves (along with rosemary) make a fabulous flavoring for red wine sangria.

Well, I managed to trick my Clary Sage into blooming this year! The plant is a biennial, which means that it normally blooms in its second year. However, by starting the seeds during the winter and setting the plants out in the very early spring, I tricked it into thinking that it was a two year-old plant. So, I get to enjoy Clary Sage flowers this summer! I only wish that trick had worked with my evening primroses...

On the vegetable side of life, we have been eating a few ripe tomatoes every day for the past week or so. The tomatoes haven't officially "come on line" yet, but they are beginning to approach that point. I planted roughly 150 tomato plants of about 7 different heirloom varieties this year, and those plants are absolutely loaded with green fruit. I have no doubts that I will be able to can my goal of 120 pounds of tomatoes this year off of my own plants.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What's for Breakfast?

Today's breakfast consisted of Ryan's famous sourdough rolls - hot from the oven - and with a choice of butter or four different types of our homemade jam (Peach-Rosemary, Strawberry-Tarragon, Dark Cherry & Oh-So-Sweet Woodruff, and Blackbery-Basil-Cinnamon). This was followed by the first course of farm fresh scrambled eggs (the eggs were collected last evening from our own hens) with butter-fried garden sage and chives (from my herb garden). I nestled the eggs in a multi-pointed star of orange wedges, and topped the eggs with 4 fresh chive leaves, and a strawberry cut into a flower and with a beautiful (edible!) borage blossom peeking out (all from our garden). The second course was our famous "Goat Grain Granola" (rolled oats, oat bran, wheat bran, sunflower seeds (our own), flax seeds (soon to be our own), dried cherries, fennel seeds (our own), and local honey) and our own fresh goats milk yogurt, and topped with strawberries and candied borage flowers.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Dark Cherry & Oh-So-Sweet Woodruff Jam Recipe


About 8 cups (pitted & de-stemmed) dark red sweet cherries, pureed

12 fresh sprigs of sweet woodruff
2 cups of sugar


Slowly bring all ingredients to a gentle boil on low heat (this will probably take about 10-15 minutes). Because the cherries are so juicy, you will want to boil them for a further 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and strain out sweet woodruff sprigs. Pour jam into sanitized jars.

Makes roughly 2 pints of jam

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Communing with the herb plants...

A fun afternoon in my plant fort!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

July 1st Potato Harvest

I really wanted to make some potato gratin tonight, so I went rooting around (har de har har) in some of my potato beds to see what I could come up with. The results were happy (and surprising!):

I managed to grab tubers off of the Adirondack Blue, Purple Cowhorn (aka "Bear Poop"), Yukon Gold, and Russian Banana Fingerling plants. I tried to be gentle about not hurting the roots while I went digging for tubers, but I am a bit worried that I might have accidentally killed a few of them. Sigh. We shall see. Most of my potato plants are late season varieties (120 days+), so I plan to refrain from harvesting any tubers until the frost kills the tops of the plants.

In other news, my Ajawiri plants are flowering!! I hope they go to seed! What an absolutely fantastic planting experiment that would be!!

Here are photos of the two individual varieties, along with my gardening notes, that I plan to grow again next year. The Purple Cowhorn is a very rare heirloom potato variety.

Adirondack Blue

Purple skin, dark purple flesh. Planted in April. A hard frost completely killed off the plant tops at least once. 90+ days later, bringing in the first of harvest. Multiple medium-sized tubers per plant - better than I expected this early. This is a late season potato variety. I would definitely plant this again. The flavor is very wonderful, and I would say it's a mid-range producer.

Purple Cowhorn (aka "Bear Poop")

Larger tubers seem to have brown skin, while smaller ones have purple skin. This harvest was off of a single plant, and there were actually many more tubers on the plant, but I was worried about damaging the roots too much by spending any more time rooting around. VERY prolific producer. This potato was planted in May. The tops of the plant are already beginning to turn yellow and die back a bit.