Chad’s Soft Molasses Cookies

Aunt Lola, my great-aunt, made wonderful, soft, chewy molasses cookies that I loved as a child – almost as much as the date pinwheel cookies, or her apple jelly.  Somewhere along the way, well after she passed, I came across her date pinwheel recipe, and make those on occasion, but they are a ton of work.  I never did find her molasses cookie recipe, though.

So, about 10 years ago, I conducted a 6 month long series of trials, attempting to re-create her recipe.  My mentees and colleagues at Culver ate lots of bad cookies in the process!  What I came up with is not the same as Aunt Lola’s.  But they’re really darn good. Continue reading

2017 Week 20 – Week of 15 May

macro photo of medlar blossom

Our medlar trees are blooming profusely!

The weather really kicked us last week.  4 days of frost and a 29 degree frost, meaning we lost about 50 pounds of asparagus harvest.  Sigh.  Also, our almond trees, tree cherries (but not bush cherries), peaches, and nectarines all failed to bloom this year!

On the other hand, our medlar trees are blooming like crazy!  Medlars are a fruit that was very popular during the medieval era.  Similar to persimmons, they are left on the tree to ripen and soften (actually, bletted – over-ripened and softened.  They are inedible until this occurs), giving fruit at a time of year it often is not available locally.  I actually don’t know if we like medlars or not.  Our trees are new, and we had one set last year. We waited until it was ready to eat, but something else ate it before we had the chance…  Rare fruit can be a challenge. Our hazelnuts are also blooming!

Tractor tire in truck

Getting this thing off, rolled up hill, and into the truck by myself nearly killed me. In addition to the rim, hub, tire, and tube, the thing was filled with about 380 pounds of water and calcium chloride for ballast!

This week will be an enormous challenge.  It’s crazy busy at work, with alumni reunion weekend taking top billing in the mind of band directors.  Lots of ceremonies and performances from Thursday all the way through Sunday.  We’re also crazy busy in the garden – way behind planting and transplanting due to the weather, my illness, and having a flat tractor tire last week at a horribly inopportune moment (is there ever a good time to have a tractor problem?).  Also, I’m going to need to set up irrigation – despite the flooding of the past couple of weeks, our sand is already dry, and it’s not supposed to rain again for at least a week.  Can’t transplant seedlings into a desert and expect them to take hold!

This menu is ambitious given the schedule, but I think I stand a chance of making it happen…

MonZucchini BreadLeftoversChicken Curry

Jasmine Rice

Dal Maknni
Lancer Band

Cover veggies ahead of hard freeze
TuesZucchini BreadChicken Curry


Dal Makhni
Jerkish Chicken

Grilled Asparagus

Rosemary Roast
Lancer Band

Comment Sheets due tomorrow!
WedZucchini BreadJerkish Chicken

Rosemary Roast Potatoes
Cheesey Rigatoni Bake (from freezer)Lancer Band
ThurAmaretto Nut BreadCheesey Rigatoni BakeDining HallRetreat & Late Lessons
FriAmaretto Nut BreadDining Hall
Dining Hall if I’m luckyNo Classes

Alumni Reunion Weekend- abandon all hope

Honors Presentations & Recital

Person of the Year Ceremony

Iron Gate Ceremony
SatAmaretto Nut BreadMunchies at the MarketPizza w/ Corps of DrumsFarmers’ Market

Alumni Open Shoot w/ rifle team

Alumni Parade

Corps of Drums @ Class of 1992 dinner
SunBiscuits & Sausage GravyDining HallBiscuits & Sausage GravyHonor Orgs performances

New from the farm: The asparagus is starting to make a comeback.  Rhubarb is being harvested, as are radishes.  Fresh herbs are starting to come in as well, adding a great boost to flavors.  Normally we’d be awash in salad greens, but they’re still at least a week from harvest.

Groceries: Kroger –

2017 Week 19 – Week of 8 May

A bunch of fresh asparagus

Some of our Asparagus harvest. We usually harvest about 800 pounds of asparagus a year!

Last week, the asparagus really started to come in.  This is always an exciting, if somewhat exhausting time on the farm.  We’re focused on getting much of our planting done, but also harvesting asparagus at least once a day.  Sometimes twice a day!

Asparagus is an important marker on our farm.  It starts the season of great fresh eating.  It also marks the point where we start to have a positive cash flow.  And, because the market hasn’t started yet, we get to visit a lot of our customers as we deliver the asparagus.  It’s also pretty.

Last week was a bit tough keeping on-menu, so you’ll see some repeats.  They’re repeats on the plan, not so much repeat meals, because I never made them.  This next few weeks is going to be extraordinarily crazy as we pack three months worth of activities into four weeks of school, plus the farmers’ market  starts up (I’m the vendor coordinator, so in addition to being a vendor ourselves, we’re organizing the other vendors).  If I can manage even eating one home-prepared meal a day over the next several weeks, Ill consider it a success!

MonZucchini BreadDining HallSausage & Fennel Ragout


Tiny asparagus (what didn't get freeze damage, but was too short to sell)
Lancer Band

Cover veggies ahead of hard freeze
TuesZucchini BreadOn the RoadHomemade Frozen Pizza
Lancer Band

Comment Sheets due tomorrow!
WedZucchini BreadSausage and Fenel Ragout

Sausage Spaghetti Pie (from freezer)

Asparagus in Garlic Butter
Lancer Band
ThurAmaretto Nut BreadSausage Spaghetti PieDining HallRetreat & Late Lessons
FriAmaretto Nut BreadDining Hall
Punt - probably munchies at RelayFischoff National Chamber Music Competition winners masterclass.

Relay for Life/Corps of Drums & Band perform

Harvest for Farmers' Market
SatAmaretto Nut BreadMunchies at the MarketBagels w/ Pesto SchmearOpening Day of Farmers' market
SunBagels w/ Pesto ShmearDining HallSwedish Meatball Soup


Mother's Day

Make Applesauce Spice Cake

New from the farm: The asparagus is reaching it’s peak.  Rhubarb and radishes are coming along.  Salad greens are running a bit behind due to all of the cold weather lately…

Groceries: Kroger – $98.13

2017 Week 18 – Week of 1 May

Macro photo of an old fashioned bleeding heart blossom

Old Fashioned Bleeding Heart blossom

We survived parents’ weekend! Actually, it was a very successful weekend, musically.  It wasn’t pretty as far as following the meal plan (and, in truth, involved way too many cookies, too much ice cream, and too many dining hall meals).  This week, I need to get refocused on following the meal plan.

Also, you may have noticed the addition of a lilac photo last week.  I decided to add a bit of photo gratitude to the menus, so each week I plan to include a photo of something on the farm that is indicative of the week and makes me happy.  The last week was rainy, and started a change in the types of flowers that are blooming.  I spent a bit of time in the rain Saturday morning playing with my macro extension tubes.  The wind was annoying (when you’re 1/2″ from your photo subject, and it moves just a little bit, it’s gonna go out of focus), but I enjoyed the quiet time in the midst of a crazy weekend.  Had a hard time deciding on the one to use for the post, though.  Here are others I thought were worthwhile.  Which should I have used?

MonZucchini BreadCarnitasSteak & Potatoes


Grilled Asparagus
Lancer Band

Thaw Sausage
TuesZucchini BreadCarnitasSausage & Fennel Ragout


Lancer Band
WedZucchini BreadSausage and Fenel Ragout

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

Friday Schedule

Lancer Band (early call)

Grades due 9:00 am tomorrow!

Thaw lamb chops
ThurAmaretto Nut BreadBeef Stroganoff
Biscuits & GravyRetreat & Late Lessons

Marinate Lamb Chops
FriAmaretto Nut BreadBiscuits & Gravy
Lamb Chops w/ Browned Onions and Tomatoes
Asparagus over Millet
SatAmaretto Nut BreadBagels w/ Pesto SchmearSpaghetti w/ Marinara Sauce

Garlic Bread
SunBagels w/ Pesto SchmearDining HallSwedish Meatball Soup


Make Applesauce Spice Cake

New from the farm: The asparagus is really coming in strong!


Crockpot Chicken Tika Masala

Chicken Tika Masala with Jasmine Rice

Crockpot Chicken Tika Masala

Who doesn’t love Indian food?  And, among Indian food lovers, Chicken Tika Masala must be one of the absolute favorites.

I was sure it would work well in the crockpot, but it took me several tries to get a result that had the flavor I liked.  In the end, I actually found the answer in a cookbook I already owned, Neela Paniz’ The New Indian Slow Cooker.   Continue reading

Cream of Asparagus Soup


Bowl of Cream of Asparagus Soup

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Asparagus.  Harbinger of Spring.  One of the first harvests from the garden.  The flavor of green.

We grow a bit over an 1/8 of an acre of asparagus, which gives us 800-1000 pounds of harvest each year.  Even though it comes in before the farmers’ market opens, we usually sell all that we produce.   Because, Asparagus!

When dealing with such an iconic food, it’s usually best to prepare it simply.  It’s a treat, so make it shine that way.  This very simple soup brings out the best in asparagus. Continue reading

2017 Week 17 – Week of 24 April

Close up of a lilac flower

Lilacs are blooming!

The asparagus is finally coming in!  We ate asparagus for 4 meals last week (though it wasn’t on the menu yet).  The harvest is picking up, and so are the pre-orders.  I imagine we’ll be fulfilling asparagus pre-orders this week, and need to begin marketing it next week.  Exciting/exhausting times!

Meanwhile, this week will be packed.  I was unable to do much while I was sick for 5 weeks (which is the reason I started this whole meal planning adventure), and this past several weeks has involved constant pushing to get caught up – at school, on the farm, and with my graduate classes.

Yes, I’m working on another degree, this one an MA in Public History.  I was in the early part of one of the classes I was most excited about in the whole degree program, Theory and Practice of Oral History.  Alas, missing 5 weeks of an 8 week class is problematic.  So I was given a 30 day extension to make up the work.  Wouldn’t have been too much of a problem if I wasn’t behind on everything else in life.  At any rate, that extension ends Sunday.  We also have parents’ weekend at school beginning Thursday, and that doesn’t offer much in the way of time to breathe for band director types!

Despite all of those challenges, we’ll try to both celebrate asparagus, and get as many home-prepared, all-organic meals in as possible this week.  Thankfully, I prepared a couple of freezer meals over the past few weeks, and have a slow cooker.  I wasn’t too happy with how the Crock Pot Chicken Tika Masala turned out last week, so I’m going to make a few changes and try again this week.  We are down to only 4 chickens left in the freezer (which probably makes X happy…), though, and 1 of those will lose its thighs for this…

MonZucchini Bread

Lunch meeting - box mealMini Shepherd's Pies (from freezer)

Cream of Asparagus Soup
Lancer Band

Thaw chicken thighs (from 2 chickens)

Finish Oral History Evaluation - last major project for HIST523
TuesZucchini Bread

Mini Shepherd's Pies

Cream of Asparagus Soup
Crockpot Chicken Tika Masala (another attempt)

Asparagus over Millet
Lancer Band

Thaw pork shoulder
WedZucchini Bread

Chicken Tika MasalaCarnitasspecial schedule - pm drill period

Lancer Band

Make Amaretto Nut Bread

Need to have finished all makeup work for HIST523 from when I was ill - extension ends Sunday, but no time with parents' weekend duties
ThurAmaretto Nut BreadCarnitasDining hall (if lucky - probably no time to eat)Retreat


Parents' Weekend begins
FriAmaretto Nut BreadDining Hall
Homemade Frozen PizzaParents' Weekend
SatAmaretto Nut BreadCheesey Rigatoni Bake from freezerSnacky things from the Fine Arts Honor Society induction reception - no other time to eatParents' Weekend
SunDining HallDining HallPuntParents' Weekend


Make Zucchini Bread

Extension for HIST523 ends

Groceries:  Kroger – $99.38

New from the farm:  Asparagus!  Also, rhubarb is starting to fill in, so that might make a dinner appearance early this year.  We’ll see.  Lettuce, spinach, and arugula germinated slowly this year, and is still probably 3 weeks from harvest.

Crockpot Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Chad's version of a philly cheesesteak sandwich

Chad’s Crockpot Philly Cheesesteak

I’ve had Philly Cheeesesteak Sandwiches in many places, though ironically never in Philly…  Nonetheless, the combination of beef and cheese with a flavorful au jus, peppers, and onions is certainly a winner.

My version uses the slow cooker to braise the steak all day.  Then you can simply assemble and broil the sandwiches and be eating in just a few minutes. Continue reading