Blueberry Basil Salad Dressing

Blueberry Bail Salad Dressing

Blueberry Basil Salad Dressing

I awoke from my post-farmers’-market nap Saturday with a start.  I had been pondering what to feed some farm volunteers (and us) who were planning to come by Sunday morning, as well as how best to emphasize the produce we’re harvesting now.  And it came to me in a flash.  Or a dream.  I can almost never remember my dreams…

It’s getting into mid-July, and we’re starting to get some good variety in the harvest, but not really high summer.  Some exciting stuff is coming in – we’re harvesting lots of blueberries, cucumbers and zucchini are coming in strong buy we’re not sick of them yet, and the basil is really getting going.  Wait a minute!  Blueberries and basil might go together!

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Blueberry Buckle

Blueberry Buckle

Blueberry Buckle

I’m  not sure where my blueberry buckle recipe originates from.  I think it might have been 7th grade home economics class…  Nonetheless, I’ve been making it for years, with a few alterations along the way.  It’s a great way to celebrate blueberry season!

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X-Factor Muffins

Wild Black Raspberry muffins

The Wild Black Raspberry version of X-Factor Muffins

I’ve long made muffins using the “Old School Muffins” recipe in Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for More Food.  I like the tender texture and the more moderate sweetness of his recipe, as compared with more typical modern recipes, which are more like cupcakes.  However, I wanted to make muffins to celebrate Wild Black Raspberries, but had not had time to make yogurt.  It turns out our local “grocery store” doesn’t actually sell plain yogurt(!), so buying some was nixed.  My wife, Xenia, suggested substituting sour cream instead.

The substitution was inspired!  It did require a bit of fiddling with the leavening, because sour cream is not as acidic as yogurt.  But the result is even better.  Hence, in honor of Xenia, I dub these, X-Factor Muffins.

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Black Iron Black Raspberry Cobbler

Wild Black Raspberry Cobbler in a cast iron skillet

Black Iron Black Raspberry Cobbler: a decadent celebration of early summer, baked in a cast iron skillet.

Nature provides us with many wonderful and important things.  Among the most important are oxygen and wild black raspberries.  Truly, I can’t think of many things better, and nothing that makes a better celebration of early summer than Wild Black Raspberries.    Yes, that’s in title caps intentionally.

Picking them is a metaphor for life.  Good things don’t come easy, and some of the best come with a good deal of itching: our raspberries grow in the same niches favored by poison ivy, stinging nettle, wild blackberry, wild roses, and mosquitoes, and the tiny berries take a long time to pick.  But the reward is wonderful.  This cobbler takes a bunch of berries, so I tend to reserve it only for special people, like myself and my wife.  I bake it in a 9″ cast iron skillet, because I like it that way! Continue reading

2017 Week 21 – Week of 22 May

Iris blossom

Our irises bloomed this week

I’m a little late getting a menu plan posted this week.  That’s because last weekend was Alumni Reunion weekend, and extraordinarily busy for band director/rifle coach/corps of drums director/Lancer Band director type folks.  Barely a moment to breathe!

However, our asparagus has recovered from the wacko weather, so we’re back to harvesting twice a day, and distributing it widely.  I’m actually a bit tired of eating it already this year, which is strange.  I think the weather had us actually eating a bit more, because there wasn’t really enough harvest to sell during the frosts and freezes, but there was some to eat.

Keeping up with the meal plan combined with busy season both at work and on the farm, plus the start of the farmers’ market season, has been rough.  I just don’t have the energy I used to before developing this autoimmune thingy.  Nonetheless, I feel good that we pretty much stayed on menu last week through Wednesday.  This week is a transitional one, then the following will be grad week – the most insane of the year.  But summer is in sight!

MonZucchini BreadLeftoversBiscuits & Sausage Gray

Lancer Band Auditions

Thaw chicken
TuesZucchini BreadBiscuits & GravyChicken Burritos SuizaLancer Band

Thaw Ribeye Steaks
WedZucchini BreadChicken Burritos SuizaRibeye Steak

Baked Potatoes

Grilled Asparagus
No Lancer Band!
ThurAmaretto Nut BreadSteak & PotatoesDining HallRetreat & Late Lessons
FriAmaretto Nut BreadDining Hall or Leftovers
Homemade Frozen PizzaThaw Cheesy Rigatoni Bake
SatAmaretto Nut BreadMunching at the MarketCheesy Rigatoni Bake (from freezer)Farmers’ Market



On the RoadNCO Parade

New from the farm: The asparagus and radishes are the main fare right now.  Hopefully salad greens will be along shortly.  Can’t believe they’ve been this long.

Groceries: Whole Foods – $13.  Kroger – $128.17.  Park N’ Shop – $42.92.

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 –