Fresh Blackberry Sheet Cake with Soft Caramel Icing

This recipe is for Eric. Enjoy!

FRESH BLACKBERRY SHEET CAKE*

INGREDIENTS

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

1 cup canola oil

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

2 cups fresh blackberries

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup raisins, optional

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13 x 9 x 2 inch cake pan  with nonstick cooking spray with flour.  In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and allspice. With an electric mixer, blend the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, beating well after each addition. Fold in the blackberries, pecans, and raisins. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan.

(I didn’t add raisins.)

SOFT CARAMEL ICING *

INGREDIENTS

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter

1 cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1 3/4 cup powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Turn off the heat and mix in the brown sugar and milk until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the powdered sugar and beat until  smooth. Pour onto the sheet cake and spread.

* Used with permission from The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook by Maggie Green

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WHO WE ARE

DSCF2725 NAME: Clint Kappesser

DAY JOB: Full time student at NKU pursuing a B.A. in Geology, B.A. in Criminal Justice, and minor in Environmental Science

FAVORITE DAY AT THE FARM: I enjoy coming to the farm on Sunday because it’s the only day I have when the farm is the only thing I have to do.

WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING ON THE WEEKEND IF NOT AT THE FARM: I would be spending time with my girlfriend Abby at the zoo or at the archery range.

MOST PRIZED FIND IN YOUR SHARE BAG LAST WEEK: I haven’t gotten a share as of yet but I enjoy the farm fresh eggs immensely.

A VEGETABLE YOU RECENTLY DISCOVERED: Haven’t got to try them yet, I’ve only gotten to plant them.

FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGET: My favorite gadget is the charcoal grill. I find it wonderful in its simplicity and adds a complexity in taste that can’t be replicated by a propane grill.

I ate lunch with Clint at the farm on Sunday. We shared a bowl of Gretchen’s  homemade potato soup. I was curious about how this guy came to be working on the farm for college credit.  He is, like everyone I meet there, concerned about the food he eats. He likes the idea of knowing the person who grows his food.  The concept of sustainability in  the production of our food supply is important to him.

Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

– United States Environmental  Protection Agency

BLUEBERRY SAGE MUFFINS

I grew up eating bread dressing made with lots of sage. It was a family favorite recipe. Later in life, when I planted a perennial flower garden, I included a sage plant in the flower bed. It was hardy and added a different texture to the flowers. When you gently rub the leaves, a lovely fragrance will linger on your fingers. But I never cooked with it. I recently found a recipe using fresh sage and tried it out. The recipe came from the cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini: a Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce*. It was the hard work of a coalition of CSA farms, farmers, and community activists in the Madison, Wisconsin area.

Enjoy!

BLUEBERRY SAGE MUFFINS

INGREDIENTS
2 cups blueberries
2 tablespoons minced fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1egg beaten
1/2cup plain nonfat yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
11/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon each baking soda and salt
Topping: 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, combine blueberries, sage, sugar and lemon zest. Let sit for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line standard-size muffin cups with paper liners. Stir egg, yogurt, milk, oil, and lemon juice together and then into the blueberries. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Pour the blueberry mixture into the flour mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix. Fill each muffin cup to within 1/2-inch of the top. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle some on each muffin. Bake for 25 minutes, or until muffin tops spring back when lightly touched. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

*From From Asparagus to Zucchini: a Guide to Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce, Madison Area CSA Coalition, 2003.

Composting

It was just by chance that I came across Victory Garden on TV yesterday. I always feel a little tug in my heart when I think of the role victory gardens played during “the war,” so I was drawn into watching it.

Anyone who has watched Victory Garden knows that it is “just” another garden show. Still… one of the segments was on composting. I love composting! For several years now, I have composted my vegetable and fruit scraps as well as coffee grinds and tea bags and egg shells.  I have a small city yard and didn’t know how I could fit a composting bin in it. When I talked to the Campbell County extension about this, they said it would be ok to dig holes in my yard to bury my kitchen scraps. I did that with great results: enriched soil and no critters dug anywhere except when I buried corn cobs (never did that again, sorry raccoon).  I eventually bought a small composting bin to tuck in the yard under the large leaf oak hydrangeas.

Getting back to the TV segment… they were talking about how composting helps the atmosphere. By keeping decomposing food out of the landfills, we cut down on the build-up of methane gas and subsequent release of carbon dioxide into the environment. The chemists among you will have a better understanding of how that works and what it means.  For me, it is an added benefit to composting.

We compost on the farm. There are several areas around the gardens where we collect refuse and let it decompose throughout the year.

Which reminds me of another good reason to compost: you know what goes into your soil and that it is chemical free. Oh, and the cost is way better than store-bought compost!

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The chickens enjoying one of the composting piles at Greensleeves.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Apple

While the chill breeze of fading winter chafes our skin, you should really try this soup.  Some of you may still have a butternut squash left over from the fall garden.  It is so delicious and a look at the ingredient list tells you how healthy it is.  (OK, some cream…  I used 1/2 cup because that was all I had and I couldn’t imagine it tasting any better.)

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH SAGE AND APPLE *

INGREDIENTS

1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks

2 medium carrots, quartered

1 medium onion, quartered

2 gala apples, cored, peeled and cut into quarters

3 cloves garlic, quartered

2 tbsp olive or canola oil

2 bay leaves

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried sage

1/4 tsp white pepper

32ozs. vegetable stock

1 cup heavy cream

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, toss the squash, apples, carrots, onion, garlic and the dried herbs in the olive oil and spread them evenly on a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the squash is tender and lightly browned (about 40 minutes.) Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a large stockpot set over medium heat. Add the vegetable stock, bring the contents to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to marry.  After 15 minutes, remove the soup from the heat and purée with a food processor in batches.  If the soup is too thick add a little more stock. Add the heavy cream (be sure to remove from heat first.) Taste the soup and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.

*Used with permission from The Soupbox Cookbook: Sensational Soups for Healthy Living by Dru Melton and Jamie Taerbaum.

The authors own the restaurant Soupbox, with two locations in Chicago. I read this description of their book on Amazon: “The book, like the restaurant features multiple vegan, gluten-free and low sodium options, showing a commitment to the health needs of its broad range of customers…and now readers.”  The awards they have received attest to the taste factor.

Blackberries and Chickens

The blackberries are ripe. Ava and Dani, Brenna and Celia have been waiting for this day albeit impatiently. They are going to the farm with me, their grandmother, to pick the berries. Armed with buckets we approach the berry patch only to see that the chickens are there already, weaving in and under the bushes. I didn’t think the girls could have been more enchanted.

They take the low branches and I the high ones. An occassional berry doesn’t make it to the bucket. Giggles and clucks fill the sunny morning. These berries will make a sweet cake and the day a sweeter memory.

Is It Spring?

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”

– Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

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This budding farmer gets it.

Last weekend at the farm, the bees were out of their hives. Without much to pollinate, they were just buzzing around enjoying the spring-like day. There was, however, much for the human population to do.

Jim and Laura were busy in the high tunnel weeding the strawberry plants. Amy and Clint were taking down the low hoops over the winter vegetables. Gretchen was taking a young family on a tour of the farm. They had bought a farm in Pendleton county with similar topography and were looking to see how this hilly farm conserves rainfall water. There was a student from the University of Cincinnati hoping to incorporate her farm experience into class credit.

The asparagus plot needed fertilizing. Under new mulch, the garlic was popping up! And in the green house and germination closet the seeds planted a couple of weeks ago were thriving! Mother Nature may taunt us with a few more blasts of cold air, but we are marching forward into spring. Our steps are lighter, our smiles are warmer, our outlooks are on the rise. We welcome this growing season!

Some of the plants coming our way: purple pak choi, tatsoi, mustards, salad burnet, cilantro, oregano, chives.