a good harvest
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Education and Values
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Sunday, 3 November 2013
Pizza as Art?
Topic: Recipes

Pizza as Art?

One of the best convenience cooking ideas is to keep pre-made pizza dough in the freezer. One frozen wad of this dough will make a super-sized 16+ inch pizza crust. And it's so affordable--I pay about $1.50 at my local store. You just have to remember to defrost in the refrigerator the day before you intend to use it!

One other reminder to get a real crispy pizza crust (since not all of us are blessed with a pizza oven in our kitchens) is to pre-bake the crust in a 425 degree oven for a few minutes until browned before you dress the pizza.  Lightly brush the raw, rolled out pizza crust with olive oil before baking. You've seen this technique used in the refrigerated or room-temperature pre-made pizza crusts. Your results will be better if you take this step before assembling the pizza.

Now, just in case you have any basil left outside—why not make a fresh pesto for the sauce? Or maybe you canned or froze some pesto—this is a great time to use it.

For a quick pesto: Pulse about 2 cups of cleaned, loosely packed basil leaves in a mini-food processor, adding ½ cup of pine nuts (or almonds or even walnuts), ¼ cup of parmesan-romano cheese (or equivalent Italian cheese blend) with ½ cup of olive oil. Add fresh garlic cloves to pulse in and salt to taste. The pesto should be spread-able, add extra olive oil if needed.

Of course, you can use standard pizza sauce on your pizza and top with your family's favorite toppings. You can also use taco sauce and top with cooked, seasoned ground beef, jalapenos, chopped tomatoes and onions and use taco cheeses to make a “Mexican pizza.” Or try Alfredo sauce and make a “white Pizza” topped with cooked chicken and cooked, drained mushrooms and onions. As long as you have pre-baked the pizza crust before topping and then baking a second time, your pizza crust will support any toppings allowing your creativity to burst forth!

I chose to top my PESTO PIZZA, half as a vegetarian, half with meat, using cooked, drained , crumbled Italian sausage. Both sides were topped with sun-dried tomatoes, minced red onion, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning blend. I used 8 oz of shredded Mozzarella over the entire pizza. (Here again, you can use any cheese you'd like—or even omit the cheese and maybe add carmelized onions for more texture and moisture.)




Remember any meats and large vegetables should be cooked and drained before use as a topping.

Remember too: This is a great activity to engage children in--let them create their own healthy pizza and learn a bit about food safety at the same time! (Explain why we wash our hands before handling food, why we cook meats before using them on the pizza, why we cook at such a high temperature)

Then, bake the topped pizza at 425 degrees for an additional 12-15 minutes until cheese is hot, melted, and browned.

Remove from oven and let set 5 minutes before cutting.

Then have a generous slice of that creative pizza with a side salad and you've just upgraded the humble pizza into a simple, fun dinner plan.




Posted by Karen at 07:32 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 3 November 2013 07:36 CDT
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Sunday, 27 October 2013
Our New Addition--Zoey the Llama
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
Meet Zoey!
...or "Zoey Monster" as she is referred to by her former foster family.


We recently started a flock of sheep with 11 ewe lambs. You can see them in the background behind her.Needless to say, we were nervous parents of lambs, especially when the coyotes howl in the dead of night and the sheep barn feels miles away. We really wanted a guardian animal to live with them and a llama is a perfect choice.


I went to my favorite source for adoptions first, that's www.petfinder.com where many of my friends and family have started when they want to rescue an animal. That resource led us to Southeast Llama Rescue. 
Southeast Llama Rescue  actually has multiple satellite foster farms all over the United States. Looking through the available llamas, we couldn't help but think that Zoey would be a good fit for us. She was at a foster farm in central Illinois which was about to receive another shipment of 16 llamas the following day, so we were lucky to see her before that farm's busy following day. We all might have gotten lost in that llama explosion.
She's won our hearts and seems right at home with her paddock and barn. However, I can see she is yearning to roam the many fenced pasture areas the sheep have available. For the first few days however, she'll need to stay close to understand this is her new forever home.

Thank you Southeast Llama Rescue . We just love this redhead!

Posted by Karen at 13:51 CDT
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Saturday, 26 October 2013
Drying herbs (and flower petals and leaves???)
Topic: Education and Values

Dry some herbs? (Or petals or floral leaves?)

Might be your last chance

It's not too late to salvage some of your woody herbs and other perennial herbs before they go dormant. And maybe you are lucky enough to still have some parsley or cilantro or even basil  tolerating the colder weather. Why not harvest a bunch of these herbs and dry them-- then make your own "soup-and- stew" blend to use throughout the winter months...and don't forget you can even make a fine tea out of your dried mint leaves while you're at it!

Cut full stems of herbs and then wash in a cool water bath, changing water as needed. You can then spin them in a salad spinner, if you have a lot, or layer them between paper towels and pat dry. Cut off the stems of parsley, cilantro, mint because you just want dried leaves. But leave thyme, oregano, and rosemary on the stems until they are dried because they will be easier to strip from the stems when dried.

Then it's time for drying. I use a food dehydrator, well worth the initial expense because you can dry herbs with minimal heat but adjust up the heat as needed to dry other products like fruits and jerky. (And maybe some rose petals or pine needles for potpourri)



It's versatile. However, you can also make your own dehydrator for herbs with a simple box fan and using a sanitized window screen on which to layer the herbs --in a warm room or porch.

Using the food dehydrator, it will take about eight hours (overnight) to dry sprigs of thyme, parsley, cilantro, mint, and basil leaves, oregano, rosemary and similar herbs. High water content, larger leaves such as sage will take twice as long.

Layer the leaves in a single layer and dry. Sprigs should dry first, then “strip” the leaves off. Combine your dried herbs and store in a glass container.

Now—for some REAL fun—look at this wonderful idea my friend and piano teacher, Sonja Bauer, gave me this week.

How about drying the leaves of your remaining scented geranium plants and then layering them in pure cane sugar? If you dry the leaves, layer them in sugar in a glass jar and let them set for a few weeks....



You'll have this amazing geranium scented sugar to lace your favorite tea with as the snow flies next month! And –doesn't that look like a wonderful hostess gift for the holidays???


Posted by Karen at 19:31 CDT
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Saturday, 19 October 2013
Winter Squash--Turban Squash Soup
Topic: Garden

Winter Squash

Did you grow some of these this year?


I am talking about Winter Squash...such as Spaghetti squash, butternut, acorn, pumpkin or this new find of mine...the TURBAN squash. (that blue corn will show up in a winter post!)

We know that Spaghetti squash is cooked either baked (whole or in halves, cut and face down on a baking sheet) or boiled or microwaved. Afterwards, the squash is cut open, seeds scooped out and then the flesh is scooped out in these “spaghetti-like” strands. These squash strands can be used wherever you might think about pasta. (See earlier post for Meatball Stew over Spaghetti Squash.) Spaghetti squash has been a Mom-secret way to get kids to eat vegetables for awhile.

But it's not often that we look at the other Winter squashes and utilize them to their fullest. The firm flesh Winter squashes can basically be substituted for each other in casserole and soup recipes. Because this year is the first in which I grew these Turban squash, I was anxious to try one as soon as I could.

The Turban squash has a dark orange (pumpkin colored), dense flesh. The seeds are compactly located in the center and can be cleaned and roasted like you would roast pumpkin seeds. The flesh can be baked or peeled and cut up, and boiled or microwaved.

One of the easiest ways to cook and use Turban squash (or any of the dense winter squashes) is in a soup. Try this simple recipe for a rich, creamy soup packed with nutrients and right out of your edible garden!

Turban Squash Soup

1 large Turban Squash, slice in half, scoop out seeds

(reserve and make roasted squash seeds or reserve for your chickens)

4 cloves of garlic

Cut the squash into quarters, coat cut sides with olive oil. Place on a lined baking pan and roast the garlic and squash until soft, about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.


In a soup pot, cook 1 stalk of finely chopped celery and ½ small onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until softened. Add 1 quart of organic chicken broth and set aside until the squash is cooked.

Remove the squash and garlic from oven when cooked. When cool enough to work with, scoop out flesh, adding it to the soup pot along with the garlic cloves. Discard the skins.

Reheat the entire soup pot and season with fresh or dried parsley, Italian herb blend, salt and pepper to taste. (optional—use a few shakes of nutmeg instead of pepper)


Using an immersion blender, pulse several times until the squash and other vegetables are completely pureed and the soup is creamy. Serve warm. 




Posted by Karen at 10:43 CDT
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Friday, 18 October 2013
Gluehwein and Savory Strudel: Get ready for cold!
Topic: Entertaining/Party

Mulled Wine (Gluehwein) and Savory Strudel

This is unquestionably the time of the year when you will get a chill you just can't shake...

Maybe you were out raking leaves with the blowing wind, or just running through the mist to the mailbox for the mail, or taking the kids out for trick-or-treating in the cold, or you just got your flu shot and you're one of those who feels a “mini”flu hit them.

Or-maybe you were lucky and “no chill for you” but you'd like a recipe for the imminent Winter months or to reward one of those hard-workers doing yard chores on the weekend--

How about making mulled wine, which is called “Gluehwein” in Austria and Germany? And, because you should never drink on an empty stomach—make a savory strudel to accompany it?

I can just see you calling your hubby and the mini-army of guys raking leaves on the block over to your front porch—and serving this “hot toddie” and its accompanying snack! A well-deserved "thank you" for keeping the neighborhood beautiful!

As always, you can adapt these recipes to your tastes and your ingredients!



  "Gluehwein" or 

Mulled Wine

1-750 ml. Bottle of red wine (any will do, including that sweet red wine you want to get rid of!)

Make a sachet or “Tea ball” filled with assorted spices—including: crushed cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, dried orange and/or lemon peel)

2 tbsp honey (acc. to your taste)

Optional: ¼ c dried raisins, ½ tsp almond extract (this is a nod to Swedish glugg and yes, I used it in my batch)

Also Optional (though I did put it in my batch): Additional 1 cup brandy or Schnapps (this is a nod to German holiday festivals)

Heat to warm, cut off the heat and allow the spices to permeate the liquid for several minutes before serving as a warm beverage. Reheat as needed but keep under boiling. You can also put this in a small crockpot.

Serve in punch cups or small thermal hot cups.

Savory Strudel

Keep it simple !

Defrost a sheet of premade Puff Pastry, roll it out on a floured board.

Fill with your choice Cheese slices and sauteed vegetables.




I used: Swiss cheese, 8 slices.

1 onion, sauteed in olive oil until translucent

then added:

2 cans of sliced mushrooms, drained and cooked with the onion

1 tbsp. Flour

Italian blend seasonings, salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a pan with parchment paper.

Roll out your sheet of puff pastry. Layer 4 slices of cheese down the middle.

Top with vegetable mixture. (You can use the equivalent amount of ANY cooked and drained vegetables or –even try something wild like sauerkraut and shredded corned beef—use your imagination!!!)

Top with remaining slices of cheese.

Rollover the sides of the puff pastry. Cut slits on top as shown in the picture above.

Bake at 400 degrees until the crust is browned about 18-20 minutes.



Let it set outside the oven about 5-10 minutes.

Cut into slices and serve with that amazing warm wine drink you made!

Posted by Karen at 18:33 CDT
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Saturday, 12 October 2013
Welcome the new Ewes!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Sometimes I wonder if it's possible to start a blog with something other than, "it's been so busy around here."


And then I remember we're on a Farm and it's still Harvest time. Yes, the grapes are in, most of this year's steer are sold. The Summer interns are long back to school and August's Vacation Bible School and the family reunion seem like a decade ago.

Thankfully the hay's all in (fourth cutting tucked up in the barn today) and lots of the garden has been blanched or cooked or eaten or given away. Winter squash will be dispersed to family and friends this week. 

Today, we still managed to harvest a bunch of herbs and they're in the dehydrator for their overnight drying--to be made into some blends tomorrow, hopefully.

And , after Church tomorrow, maybe we'll get another batch of potatoes up--if not, then certainly this coming week! OK--we probably have another couple of weeks' worth of gardening to contend with.

But, the high point of this week for me was the arrival of the Ewe lambs.

Meet this amazing group of girls who will be the foundation of our Katahdin meat sheep. We'll raise them in strict accordance with the Animal Welfare Approved, American Grassfed Association rules so they can provide our customers with quality lamb in the future. 





Definitely cute--go ahead and get attached--these girls are going to be around for years to come! 






Posted by Karen at 21:52 CDT
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Thursday, 10 October 2013
Meat and Potatoes- always a winner!
Topic: Recipes

A great Fall dinner is one that can be pulled together quickly—hopefully it will still allow you to use the grill so there's little clean up and your meal has that fresh, outdoors-y ambiance.




If you were thinking ahead, then maybe you had a piece of beef in mind for this day.

When I have my beef butchered, I always ask for the tenderloin to be kept whole. Why? Because I know we'll always have a family event that will demand an important main course, or give a dinner party that will need filet. So, I prefer to cut my own meat and make that choice. Doing so also allows me to trim the tenderloin so that the narrower tail end can be cut off and tucked away for a recipe like today. The tail of the tenderloin is just big enough for a great grilled main course beef dinner for two. 

But this recipe can be made with any grill-able beef cut ! 

This dinner plate went together as follows:

Beef: Grill the piece of beef-for-two  medium rare, add salt and pepper. Remove to a cutting board. Slice into medallions and transfer to a serving plate. (Note, if you are using ground meat patties, then no need to cut into medallions. Leave the patties intact.)



In a saucepan, saute a small can of mushrooms (drained) and ½ small onion, finely chopped in a couple tsps. of olive oil. Add about a tablespoon or two of port (or brandy) and reduce. Add some chopped parsley, salt, pepper as desired.

Spoon over the grilled meat medallions. 

Chopped Salad: Use what you have available- you'll want a chilled, almost chutney-like savory salad. I used some red cabbage, Romaine lettuce, green pepper, onion, tossed with a vingarette.

Potatoes: Easily prepared “smashed” potatoes are simply boiled potatoes, drained, butter, salt and pepper. They're a bit colorful here because I used red, white, and blue potatoes. 


What's nice about this simple and colorful dinner is...



Posted by Karen at 09:41 CDT
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Sunday, 6 October 2013
Loads of Eggplant? Try this crockpot Eggplant Stew
Topic: Recipes

It seems we wait all Summer for Eggplant and get a few at a time--enough to add to a grilled vegetable medley--then maybe a few more for Roasted Eggplant dip, then a little casserole. But at the end of the season,  BAM!- the last several all mature at the same time and we're loaded.

 If that's the case, then make a batch of this  



Middle East-inspired Eggplant Stew

in the Crockpot! 



 Middle East-inspired Eggplant Stew

Prep a large, 5 quart crockpot with spray oil.

You'll need at least 6-8 eggplant of the Japanese or Ghost varieties or 2 large Black Beauty or Italian variegated globe variety eggplants (select enough to yield about 4 quarts of raw, cubed eggplant.)

Peel and cut eggplant into large cubes. Sprinkle with salt, let set for 30 minutes, rinse and place in a large bowl.

Add to the cubed eggplant, 2 tbsp of olive oil and toss in the large mixing bowl. Then, add the following ingredients:

1 (14.5-16 oz) can of diced tomatoes with the juice

1 small can of tomato paste

1 Tbsp. Lemon juice

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 red or yellow onion, chopped

½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp tumeric, 1 tsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp dried Herbs de Provence blend

Combine together in large bowl and then transfer to the crockpot. The 5 quart crockpot is basically filled almost to the rim. Cook on “low” for 6-7 hours. The volume will have reduced by half.

Add ½ cup of split yellow peas and 1 can of rinsed and drained chickpeas. Cook one more hour.

Serve over organic, brown basamati rice. Perfectly vegetarian!




Posted by Karen at 14:44 CDT
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Saturday, 5 October 2013

Thank You”—“I Love You”

OK- this has been one busy time of the year.

At the Farm, we've gotten the wine grapes harvested, the wine made, The fourth (!) cutting of hay will happen this week. The ewe lambs arrive in a few days. I've been blanching and freezing the remaining peppers (mind you, they will be worth their weight in gold in a couple of months) and even managed to get a repetitive work injury with my tomato projects—and here we are, at the peak of harvest!

We started harvesting our potatoes this week, though the weather didn't cooperate for too long. I got all my eggplants in and started to prep, and most of the winter squash harvested. Next week, the rest of the potatoes (I hope) and maybe the corn I've left on the stalks for my winter project of making my own corn meal—that will be a lesson for the winter months--,

Today—I am so happy. I wanted to thank so many people for their help and also just because it's that time of the year...

Our students are well into their college classes.

Our friends are up to their ears in fall preparations.

Our co-workers are trying desperately to hit end of the year targets,

We all need ...a treat!

So this month, we need to celebrate Fall and Friends and Family.....MAKE SOME TREATS!!!!

And just randomly, drop them where they will be appreciated!

Here's what I did this weekend-- I made a trio of goodies for the ER to share and dropped a similar plateful to friends working on their dissertation. Why not????




If you have a Parents' weekend coming up, why not bring a plate of homespun treats for your student to enjoy the week AFTER Parents' weekend is over, too?

A suggestion—homemade fudge (the recipe on the back of the marshmallow fluff jar for “No fail Fudge” is a time-tested winner), a great refrigerator cookie (you can find several quickies on line), or sugar coated Cinnamon Pecans (also on the back of the bag) … and maybe try the “Harvest Hills Farm Haystacks” recipe!

Harvest Hills Farm Haystacks

12 oz peanut butter and milk chocolate chips

2 cups peanuts

5 oz Chow Mein Noodles ( large can)

Melt the chips either in a microwave or top of a double boiler.

Stir in peanuts and noodles.

Drop by large tablespoon onto a waxed paper covered pan.

Refrigerate for 2 hours. Ready then to serve.





Posted by Karen at 17:21 CDT
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Saturday, 28 September 2013
Tomato Juice Cocktail
Topic: Garden

One more idea for the last loads of tomatoes...

 A couple of weeks ago, while I was busy making marinara sauce, my piano teacher and friend, Sonja Bauer, gave me a jar of tomato-vegetable juice made from her mother's recipe. It was so wonderfully fresh and healthful! I had to have the recipe. In addition to drinking it, Sonja tells me that she uses it in making chili and as a base for Cream of Tomato soup.

My husband picked a huge basket of ripe plum tomatoes with some yellow pear tomatoes,too-- and I spent the morning making and canning 5 quarts of this drink --with some leftover to refrigerate for use in the next couple of days. I am delighted to share this recipe and hope you have the opportunity to try it.

Sonja's Recipe for Tomato Cocktail

1. Assemble the following in a large stock pot:

½ bushel of cleaned, cored, and quartered tomatoes

1 large onion, rough chopped

1 cup of chopped celery

1 cup of chopped green pepper

handful of fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

2. Bring to a full boil and then simmer with the lid on for an additional 30 minutes.

3. Working with a food mill, extract the pulpy juice and discard the waste seeds, skins, etc.



4. Measure the juice. For every 7 cups of juice, add:

2 Tbsp. Cane sugar

2Tbsp. Lemon juice

1Tbsp. Salt

Pepper, if desired


5. Using a ladle and funnel, fill prepared quart canning jars with the hot liquid, to within ¼ inch of the top, apply lids and rings, avoiding overtightening.


6. Process in a prepared, boiling water bath for 30 minutes. Make sure jars are covered with 1-2 inches of water and judge the processing time from when the water boils again.  Remove jars from water using the tool intended. Allow to cool and dry—and "Ping"-- before labeling and then storage in the pantry.


Because it's a solution of liquid and pulp solids, the tomato juice cocktail will separate with standing. Be sure to thoroughly chill and give the jar a good shake before serving.

I used mainly plum tomatoes at peak ripeness so they were pretty sweet and appropriately acidic. I adjusted down the sugar. However, one thing you can never adjust down is the lemon juice. Lemon juice will make the tomato preparation more acid which is what we want for food safety, in order to be able to process in the boiling water bath. Bottled lemon juice will not cause any adverse flavor change to the tomato juice so do NOT forget to add it. A little extra doesn't hurt, either. If you're unsure of the acidity of your tomatoes, then the current recommendation is to add 2 Tbsp of bottled lemon juice for every 1 quart of tomato juice.

I also substituted red bell peppers for the green pepper, simply because I happened to have one, not the other. I also added freshly ground black pepper, though I've seen recipes with a dash or two of hot pepper sauce and it could even be omitted--again your option.

I am also reminding you about the over-sized,measureable Rubbermaid containers, that make it so easy to process large volumes of liquid. See the above picture with the food mill. You can really cut down on the clean-up when you have the proper sized equipment.

The old-fashioned food mill really works easily with cooked tomatoes and vegetables. I actually bought my food mill at a hardware store.

Remember that tomtoes are high in antioxidants (more bioavailable when cooked!) and the Vitamins A and C. The acidity in tomatoes is mainly from ascorbic acid (aka-Vitamin C) but also from citric acid which is one reason why the bottled lemon juice (mainly citric acid) doesn't change the flavor profile.

If you love the taste of fresh tomatoes off the vine, then you will appreciate this tomato cocktail when the snow's flying in a couple of months! 

Posted by Karen at 13:36 CDT
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