Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stock up on spring butter

Once the cows begin eating all the fresh spring grasses, we will make a huge batch of butter and we suggest you all stock up! While we can make butter year round, early spring is the only time there is this much beta carotene in the cream.

Why does beta carotene matter? Beta carotene is another term for Vitamin A. As a fat soluble vitamin, Vitamin A is not very well absorbed when ingested in plant forms alone. In BUTTER however, the Vitamin A is ideally absorbed by your body.

Vitamin A is helpful for bone health, thyroid function, and is a powerful antioxidant. To maximize your intake, stock up on spring butter from our grass fed cows!

Sources: Various articles on the Weston A. Price foundation website

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Now is the time to plant peas!

Note: This post was originally published last year, but it bears repeating!
When it comes to fresh-from-the-garden vegetables that cause you swear off grocery store knock-offs, peas are at the top of the list. Fresh from the pod, peas are exquisite! They are easy to grow, easy to pick and if you have never eaten a fresh pea still in the pod, you are in for a great treat. Now is the time to plant peas.

Peas don't require much in the way of fussiness. Good, well drained soil and a good sturdy trellis or fence to climb on are the components of good pea-keeping. Well rotted compost will ensure loads of thick pods but don't fertilize much more than that or you will get more vines and less pods.
Here is a bed that begged to be a pea bed; long, straight and thin. I opened up the soil with a U-bar so no tilling was necessary and set a good straight trench in the middle of the bed. I plant my peas in single rows on each side of the proposed space for the fence. I have tried the double rows in the past with less than desirable results each time so I stick with the tried and true single row.

I filled the trench with compost and planted the peas 4" apart with my two rows a mere 8 inches apart. Once the peas were spaced in the row I covered with the loosened dirt and began the work of putting up the trellis.

Peas can and will climb so be sure to set up a fence or trellis. In the past I have tried fence posts with string - don't try it - it doesn't work. I have tried utilizing coral panels from the co-op and they were great for shorter beds. They come in 16 foot lengths and they are inexpensive and last forever. For a longer bed though I felt that I had to use actual fencing. We strung it tight with two t-posts which is very important for picking time. You don't want the weight of the peas to pull the trellis over.

Once that hard work was over we transplanted spinach on one side and planted lettuce seeds on the other. As long as you keep the peas twining up the trellis you can keep weeds out of the bed by planting another crop on each side. Remember that mother nature will try to cover the soil if you don't. Also the lettuce and spinach will shade the soil and I will need much less water to maintain the growth of peas. As we get closer to picking I will post several recipes for fresh peas!

For your own garden we still have few different varieties of pea seeds for sale in the store. You will even find some varieties that thrive in pots for those who want the delicious taste of fresh peas but lack the space. So, there's a pea for everyone.

Have Fun!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Highland Babies

Highland babies are being born almost on a daily basis on the farm and oh, they are the cutest things. Since our herd of Highlands are all different colors, we have a full array of shades of babies on the ground already. This is the perfect time for babies since the mamas are just starting to fresh grass which will help with their milk production. If they calve much later the babies grow too large and then we have big problems. We found that once the cows were allowed to act like cows, breeding when they are ready, eating what come natural - grass only - we haven't had any birthing problems. In 13 years we have only pulled 4 calves and all were twins. That is stress free farming! Stress free for the farmers and the cows.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cut of the Week: Rack of Lamb

There is not much that rivals the look of a rack of lamb plated, just waiting to be cut up and served barely drizzled with a succulent sauce. This impressive looking cut can also be very intimidating to those unfamiliar with how to prepare this wonderful cut of lamb. I once had the wife of a chef purchase 5 racks for a dinner party and she had never cooked lamb - ever! In fact she had never cooked for her husband before this evening. She was incredibly brave and the birthday party for her husband was a huge success due mainly to a few simple pointers that kept the meat tender and juicy.

The rack of lamb comes from the rib section and is usually cut into sections containing 8 ribs. This cut of meat is so tender that it takes well to grilling or roasting.

The term "Frenching" refers to the technique of trimming the fat from all eight bones up to the first section of meat. This gives the cut its distinctive look.

The rack always comes with a thick layer of fat cover which helps to keep the meat tender and juicy during roasting. The problem with this fat when grilling is that it tends to ignite and char the rack, so trim off any thick layers of fat but don't trim too closely, always leave a small layer that will render throughout the meat during grilling.

Only cook the meat to an internal temperature of 120F and then tent the meat with foil for 15 minutes to allow the protein in the meat to uncurl and relax. This is a big secret to cooking all meats.

When using a marinade don't apply it at the beginning of the cooking period or it will burn and char. Keep the lid on for the first bit of cooking and then grill directly above the coals with the lid removed to get a nice brown crust on the rack. Brush on the marinade before this final phase.

Don't miss this week's recipe - Grilled Rack of Lamb

Monday, March 14, 2011

Grilled Rack of Lamb

Grilled Rack of Lamb - Charcoal Grill


Large disposable aluminum baking pan (12 by 8 inches)

4 teaspoons olive oil

4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
2 grass fed racks of lamb (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds each), rib bones frenched, meat trimmed of all excess fat

· 1. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal (6 quarts, or about 100 briquettes) and allow to burn until coals are fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash, about 20 minutes. Place aluminum pan in center of grill. Empty coals into grill, creating equal-sized piles on each side of pan. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, and heat until grate is hot, about 5 minutes; scrape grate clean with grill brush. Grill is ready when coals are medium-hot.
· 2. Combine 3 teaspoons oil, rosemary, thyme, and garlic in small bowl; set aside. Rub lamb with remaining teaspoon oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place racks bone-side up on cooler center of grill over aluminum pan with meaty side of racks very close to, but not quite over, hot coals. Cover and grill until meat is lightly browned, faint grill marks appear, and fat has begun to render, 8 to 10 minutes.
· 3. Flip racks over, bone-side down, and move to hotter parts of grill. Grill, without moving, until well-browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Brush racks with herb-garlic mixture. Flip racks so bone-side is up and continue to grill over hotter parts of grill until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Stand racks up and lean them against each other; continue to grill over one hotter side of grill until bottom is well-browned and instant-read thermometer inserted from side of rack into center, but away from any bone, registers 120 degrees for medium-rare or 125 degrees for medium, 3 to 8 minutes longer.
· 4. Remove lamb from grill and allow to rest, tented with foil, 15 minutes (racks will continue to cook while resting). Cut between ribs to separate chops and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Simple Living: How Connected Do You Want To Be?

In pursuing a simple, thoughtful life, have you given much consideration to how connected you want to be?

Our culture currently places premium value on being connected to everyone everywhere all the time. You have an internet connection, an email account, a Facebook profile, a cell phone, a BlackBerry...is there, in fact, any time when you are NOT accessible to the world at large in one way or another?

Connectivity is not all bad. We want to be deeply connected to our families, our friends, and our local communities, and we need those relationships. But does your technology use foster those deep and meaningful connections or does it in fact detract from them?

I recently read the fabulously titled Hamlet's BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age and found it a helpful framework for examining my own use of technology. The author examines thinkers and innovators from history who lived during similar times of technological change in order to consider ways we might use our technological connectedness as an advance rather than becoming enslaved to it.

On this blog we have long advocated for simple and deliberate living. For most of us, pulling the plug entirely is not really an option, so it behooves us to give careful thought to how we might best navigate our hyper-connected society. If you've considered these things for yourself or your own family, how have you found ways to take the best of technology while still maintaining space for depth and reflection?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Baby Calf News!

Well after waiting for 3 months longer than expected, Sweet Pea finally had her baby, a RED baby boy. So it turns out that she wasn't bred by a dairy bull but instead by our Devon. Oops! When Debbie gets her camera out of the shop she will send out baby pictures.

A Note About Spring Milk:

As the grass start to come in and the cows change their diet there will be some change in the taste of milk. Don't be alarmed, it will be a bit sweeter than usual. Also, with the higher beta carotene in the grass you will notice the color changing back to a yellower tint. Again, no need to be concerned, it's just higher levels of vitamins.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Pan Seared NY Strip with Mushroom and Red Wine Sauce

From Debbie's Kitchen:

  • 2 boneless Grass-fed strip, rib eye, or filet steaks (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches thick)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Pat steaks dry with paper towel. Cut each steak in half vertically to create four 8-ounce steaks. Season entire surface of steaks liberally with salt and pepper; gently press sides of steaks until uniform 1 1/2 inches thick. Place steaks on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet; transfer baking sheet to oven. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of steak registers 90 to 95 degrees for rare to medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes, or 100 to 105 degrees for medium, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Heat oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place steaks in skillet and sear steaks until well-browned and crusty, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat underneath each steak. (Reduce heat if fond begins to burn.) Using tongs, turn steaks and cook until well browned on second side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer all steaks to wire cooling rack and reduce heat under pan to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 steaks on their sides. Holding steaks together, return to skillet and sear on all sides until browned, about 1 1/2 minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 steaks.
  • Transfer steaks to wire cooling rack and let rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes while preparing pan sauce. Arrange steaks on individual plates and spoon sauce over steaks; serve immediately.
Prepare all ingredients for the pan sauce while the steaks are in the oven. Once the steaks are done, tent with foil and prepare the sauce.
  • 1tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 8ounces button mushrooms , trimmed and sliced thin (about 3 cups)
  • 1small shallot , minced (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1cup dry red wine
  • 1/2cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2tablespoons cold unsalted butter , cut into 4 pieces
  • 1teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Pour off any fat from skillet in which steaks were cooked. Heat oil over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown and liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Increase heat to high; add red wine and broth, scraping bottom of skillet with wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Simmer rapidly until liquid and mushrooms are reduced to 1 cup, about 6 minutes. Add vinegar, mustard, and any juices from resting steaks; cook until thickened, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in butter and thyme; season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over steaks and serve immediately.
  • Adapted from Saveur Magazine

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tips for Cooking a Great Steak

From Debbie's Kitchen:

  1. Decide before you start cooking on how you want the steak done. A few people like "blue" steaks but most tend to prefer their steaks from medium rare to well-done. If you decide in advance, you're more likely to pay attention to it and remove the meat in time. A meat thermometer is one of the best kitchen tools for us omnivores.
  2. Give your meat time to come to room temp. When the meat hits the pan you don't what it to have cook longer to overcome the cold from the fridge.
  3. Dry the surface of the meat well with paper towels. Again, you don't want the oil in the pan to cool down from the moisture on the surface of the meat.
  4. Try to avoid turning the meat too many times. Ideally, you should have one flip — two at most. Resist the temptation to touch the meat too much.
  5. Use a set of tongs to turn the steak. Poking it with a fork puts holes in it and allows the juice to seep out — and then you're just asking for dry beef.
  6. Don't mash on the steak with your tongs. That's just as bad as poking it with a fork, and presses out all the juices. If you're testing for doneness, just gently press with the flat part of your tongs. The harder the meat is, the drier it will be.
  7. Give your steak at least 10 minutes rest before cutting. Put it on a plate or rack, tent it with foil and let it rest for a few minutes. You'll notice that a lovely juice oozes out as it settles which I like to use in my pan sauces.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cut of the Week: Thick Cut Steaks

From Debbie's Kitchen:

Whether you are trying to pan fry filets, rib eyes, NY Strips or chops of any variety it is important to know how to cook your steaks to retain all of the moistness and tenderness. The bane of all pan frying is the thick gray band of meat that is tough and chewy and depending on how much you overcook your steak determines how wide a band you end up with. You can't imagine how desperately I want to explain expanding and contracting proteins, retention of enzymes etc. but I will save that for another time. Suffice it to say that if you cut open your steak and find that treacherous gray band you can be certain that you are going to have to chew a little harder and you will certainly need to add a dollop or two of butter to replace some of the lost moisture.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Chicken Piccata

From Debbie's Kitchen:

This recipe is a real confidence builder; almost foolproof and very impressive. I have made it with both chicken and veal and it is absolutely delicious. I like to pound the meat with my French rolling pin to keep it nice and even. Keep tasting the sauce if you use organic lemons because the flavor tends to be stronger and deeper so you don't need as much.

This Italian dish illustrates the cooking technique known as pan frying. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are pounded into tender cutlets for even cooking and quickly pan fried. Then a flavorful sauce is prepared in the same pan.

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, each 8 to 9 oz., cut in half horizontally and pounded 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 Tbs. capers, drained
  • 2 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and dredge the chicken in it. Shake off the excess.

In the nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm 2 Tbs. of the olive oil. Place 2 pieces of chicken in the pan and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter or individual plates. Warm the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in the pan and repeat to brown the remaining chicken.

Reduce the heat to medium and melt 1 Tbs. of the butter in the pan. Add the shallot and cook until softened and golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, lemon juice and broth, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining 2 Tbs. butter, the capers and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the sauce over the chicken and pass any remaining sauce alongside. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cut of the Week: Skinless, boneless chicken breast

Our customers tend to fall into two very distinct and separate groups of chicken lovers. They either cook chicken breast only and are intimidated by the idea of a whole chicken or, like Debbie, aren't excited at the thought of dry, tough chicken breast smothered in some sauce for flavor.

Debbie's thoughts on chicken:

And then Chicken Piccata! A chef in Indiana made it for me and I left with a new determination to conquer this fear of frying - pan frying that is. All my favorite things in one dish - chicken, wine, lemon and capers!! Need I say more?

What I needed to find out was how to keep my chicken from drying out and becoming tough. Most people tend to look to poaching or brining but I like the idea of pounding chicken breast to a thickness of 1/4" and very quickly pan frying.

While poaching works for some recipes I love the bits of caramelized crust left stuck to the pan that make your sauce or gravy have a depth of flavor that you just can't get any other way.

The trick to pan frying success is the thickness of the meat, making sure that the oil in the pan is very hot and only turning the chicken once. Also, using a heavy bottomed pan will keep the burning to a minimum.

It is also important not to crowd the pan or the flour coating will come off due to the steaming rather than frying of the meat.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Grass Fed Lamb Chops

The honey does not sweeten the chops-it just helps them brown. For an authentic accompaniment, uncork a bottle of the pungent Greek wine called retsina, or simply opt for a favorite Sauvignon Blanc.

You can make these year round by just throwing them under the broiler in bad weather.

3/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
8 1- to 1 1/4-inch-thick loin lamb chops (about 2 1/2 pounds total), fat well trimmed
2 tablespoons honey

Mix first 7 ingredients in large glass baking dish. Arrange lamb chops in single layer in dish; turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, turning and basting often. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.) Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Transfer lamb to plate. Mix honey into marinade. Grill lamb to desired doneness, turning and basting with marinade often, about 10 minutes for medium-rare.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Transfer lamb to plate.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cut of the Week: Grass Fed Lamb Chops

I am amazed at how many people are intimidated by this succulent piece of meat but that may be a by-product of the confusion that surrounds all the cuts of lamb that can tout the name of chop. There are leg chops and shoulder shoulder chops which do best with some marinating and then there are the juicy, beyond tender loin chop and rib chop.

The loin chops have the very distinctive T-Bone that separates the filet from the NY Strip. While these are a bit more work to remove all the meat from the bone, it is definitely worth the work. The Rib Chops on the other hand are best known as the chops you will see in an 8 bone Frenched Rack of Lamb. The "Frenching" removes the meat, cartilage and fat from the long bone for a neater presentation.

Here is a rule of thumb for feeding your crowd lamb chops.

Loin Chops:
2 chops per person (6 oz. chops for small appetite)
10 x 6 oz. = approx. 5 people with small appetites
8 x 10 oz. = approx. 4-5 people with large appetites Rib Chops:
2 chops per person (6 oz. chops for small appetite)
8 x 6 oz. = approx. 4 people with small appetites
16 x 6 oz. = approx. 8 people with small appetites

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dairy News

Well Dara had her baby. A wee baby boy that looks more like Daddy than Mommy. One major thing that separates us from the big dairy guys is that we keep babies and mommas together for as long as possible. If the baby isn't too rough on mommas udder he can stay as long as they want. Once they start to hurt the udder we keep them in a separate area but they still get momma's milk until they can get all they need from grass. This little boy is a cute but he's already keeping Brayden hopping. He escaped through the fence when only hours old and of course, Dara had to follow and since she can't quite fit under the fence, she goes through it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Grass Fed Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Topping

When a magazine asked Debbie to cook for a grilling article this is the recipe that she contributed. She has made this recipe so many times that she might be able to make it in her sleep! This recipe can be used with all of the more tender cuts, including lamb chops.

2 grass fed beef tenderloin steaks, cut 1.25 - 1.5 inch thick (about 1 pound)
1 large clove garlic, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons cream cheese
4 teaspoons crumbled blue cheese
4 teaspoons plain yogurt
2 teaspoons minced onion
Dash ground white pepper

1. Combine topping ingredients in small bowl. Rub
beef steaks with garlic.
2. Place steaks on rack in broiler pan so surface of beef is 2 to 3 inches from heat. Broil 13 to 16 minutes
for medium rare to medium doneness, turning once. One to two minutes before steaks are done, top evenly with topping.
3. Season with salt; sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cut of the Week: Filet

Usually when Debbie needs to know something about cooking she grabs Larousse Gastronomique
or Escoffier: The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery but the information found there regarding the grand tenderloin is a bit outdated and can be slightly confusing. Those true cooking geeks out there can email the farm for a detailed explanation of the cuts and their specific uses.

A lesson in vocabulary is where we should begin. What we in the United States call the tenderloin — the lower portion of the sirloin — the British call the fillet, and the French call le filet. You will usually find it either whole, cut into small round medallions or as part of the famous Porterhouse or T-bone steak divided by the t-bone from the NY Strip.

The broad end of the tenderloin yields fairly large steaks, which are generally cut thin. The French call these le bifteck, while some people in this country call them ch√Ęteaubriand. In the United States, filet mignon is a well-known and well-loved term, and is used for any and all cuts regardless of where they come from within the tenderloin. At the Farm Shoppe we have always cut out medallions 1.25" thick. This helps to keep the center of the medallion nice and rosy pink.

When cooking the whole tenderloin we prefer to sear the tenderloin in butter until a good crust is formed. Then put it into a 250F oven until it reaches an internal temperature of around 115-120F and finally crank up the temperature to 500F until the desired internal temperature is reached. ALWAYS tent the tenderloin and let it sit for at least 15 minutes to set.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Farm News: An update on the cows

We are purchasing some very expensive silage for the girls and they seem to be responding very well to the change in their diet. Silage bales are baled wet and wrapped in plastic to keep the moisture in and to allow for some fermentation of the grass. These bales usually weigh somewhere around 900lb and approximately 55% is water.

No babies from Sweet Pea yet but she is getting bigger and bigger so it shouldn't be long now!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year From the Farm

As this farming year comes to a close there is pure amazement and thankfulness that so many Tennessee farmers are still standing. Too much rain in the spring and no rain in the summer is a recipe for disaster in the agricultural world and that was our weather pattern last year. Indeed we lost several good farmers who just couldn't find their way past the flood and our new local food economy will surely suffer for our loss.

We have certainly had our ups and downs this year but the things that really matter, family and friends remain steady and strong. We were all very healthy and haven’t even been plagued with so much as the flu this year.

Our animals are healthy and happy in their new surroundings and with Rocky as the new boss of the herd all the girls are pregnant and expected to calve between August and October.

The sheep are sheared and bred and we expect lambs to start hitting the ground sometime in May. Next spring we will start to milk our dairy sheep and my mouth is already watering just thinking about sheep's milk quark and yogurt.

Thank you for your friendship and support in 2010 and we wish you all a happy and healthy new year!