Warm Winter Whole Grain Salad

Warm Winter Wheat Berry Salad

Winter, for me, is a season of cleansing and stark beauty.  The simplicity of the silhouettes of bare branches against a steely grey sky speaks softly to my heart, also in need of a restful moment or two.  Snow is a constant wonder to me, though not in the same way it was when I was a kid barreling down the long steep hill behind our farmhouse on a wooden sled that surely was dangerous with its rusty metal rails.  In fact, a new unblemished blanket of white has just fallen overnight and my current home’s window frames a comforting innocence, the usually busy city street out front muffled.  Soon a gaggle of neighborhood kids will be sliding down the gentle slopes of the school yard next door.   I suppose the wonderment I have for winter white is that it is a great equalizer.  An eyesore and a masterpiece look nearly the same under a mantle of snowflakes.   Neighbors who may do no more than nod hello in every other season gather together with shovels on shoulders to clear the alleyway connecting all their homes, shouting stories about their kids or the city’s sports teams over the scrape of shovels against asphalt.   For at least a few hours, everyone in the world seems a little more considerate.  A little more wholesome. 

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January 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm 28 comments

Apple Crisp

Classic Apple Crisp

I visited the farmers market this weekend, walking the block between my home and the market at top speed, trying unsuccessfully to stay warm in the whipping winter winds.  I love that so many of the farmers markets here in Philadelphia have decided to hold winter markets, most every other week instead of weekly and for just an hour or two so the farmers don’t turn completely into icicles.  Being able to still buy local sweet potatoes, onions, broccoli, kale, and apples directly from their growers is such a treat and a sure cure for the winter blues. 

Classic Apple Crisp Diptych

I purchased eight large russet-hued ‘Winesap” and a few bicolor ‘Honeycrisp’  apples, having a hard time counting out my bills with my numb fingers.  I didn’t really have a plan for them at that moment, but given apples keep for quite some time, I thought I’d just store them until I had a grand idea.  Once I got home though, I realized I didn’t want to dream up a wild creative dish for them.  Instead, all I really wanted was a simple delicious traditional Apple Crisp. 

Apple Crisp

Surprisingly, I don’t make fruit crisps very often so I didn’t have a go-to recipe already.   So, after a quick online search, I came across the one below.  It seemed ridiculously easy, I already had all the ingredients in the pantry, and the recipe got great reviews.  Away I went, peeling apples and crumbling the topping.  Indeed it was easy and delicious.  This is a keeper, though this particular crisp is likely to be gone real soon…

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December 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm 25 comments

A Chocolate Review

John Kira Chocolate

I’ve been shamefully neglectful of this lovely little blog of mine.  Fortunately it looks like a lot of you have still been coming around and leafing through the archives for some tasty seasonal fare.  I wish I could promise there will be regular updates moving forward, but, the truth is, I’m just not sure.  Life sends you down unexpected paths sometimes that steer you away from past passions (such as this blog).  I’m doing my level best to recalibrate my course and get back to blogging about food, but it might take awhile.  Please keep looking through those recipe archives in the meantime!

On the eve of the year’s biggest food day here in the States, I figured I’d best put up a post to say hello.  And since a local Philadelphia company sent me some samples a few weeks back that would make perfect holiday gifts for the foodie in your life, let’s talk about CHOCOLATE!  To be more precise, let’s talk about the crème de la crème of the chocolate world right now: John & Kira’s.   

John and Kira Spiced Pumpkins

I’ve known of John & Kira’s for several years now since the company has graced several of the same farmers markets as has my own farm.  Ironically though I’d never gotten to try a sample of their adorably cute chocolate ladybugs or other chocolate creations even though they generously give samples to many a market patron.  I was always manning my own market table and didn’t have time to scoot over for a nibble.  Lucky for me, they recently launched a new collection of chocolates called The Enchanted Garden and they asked me to review them along with a bar of their Mighty Urban Garden Mint chocolate. 

Let’s’ start with the Mighty Urban Mint chocolate bar.  You may notice the absence of a photo of it in this post.  That’s because I’m a mint-loving maniac who devoured the whole bar, with its dark chocolate richness and subtle-yet-highly-addicting fresh minty-ness.  While the first bite of this bar didn’t blow me away, it proved to be one of those foods that sits at the back of your tongue/brain and about an hour after you’ve had that initial bite, you find yourself craving more.  And so the whole bar is gone… 

JK Spiced Pumpkins in box

The Mighty Urban Garden Mint chocolate bar is indeed tasty, though the price tag is also a bit might at $9 a bar.  The solace here is that John & Kira’s donates five percent of the sales back to the urban city gardeners and kids that grow the mint used in the bars.  Seems like a nice way to donate to charity, don’t you think?

Now,  let’s move on to The Enchanted Garden collection of chocolates.  These artfully hand-painted chocolates are exactly why John & Kira’s has become iconic here in Philadelphia and elsewhere.  It is amazing to think that someone sat and painted the little bit-sized chocolate mound I’m about to pop in my mouth.  Reminds me of that dish Zen garden I had at work once where an unknown co-worker would always come by and smooth it out while I was a lunch…

Spiced Pumpkin

To my surprise, I was sent two beautiful – I mean truly BEEUTEEFUL! – boxes of chocolates: Spiced Pumpkin and Chocolate Cherries.   The packaging along makes you feel like a million bucks.  I felt a bit guilty as I dared to open them.  The chocolates inside were equally stunning.  Each practically sparkled since John & Kira’s uses a glossy tempered chocolate to coat each confection.  The “pumpkins” in particular were extra adorable as each had been given an individual curly-cue stem of green chocolate. 

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November 24, 2010 at 11:27 am 11 comments

Contest Entry: Partying with Food & Flowers

Flowers and Food Party

Entry #3 :: Foodbuzz.com “Project Food Blog” Contest

Challenge Prompt from Foodbuzz: Celebrate! You’ve made it this far, and the next challenge is to hold a party for your friends and family (at least four guests, you can include yourself in the 4 person count). Whether you’re an experienced host or an entertaining newbie, get creative and host a luxurious dinner party where your guests will discover new tastes and exotic flavors. Share your hosting secrets with readers, like how to cook for a crowd, plan a menu, or involve guests in the prep. And don’t forget to document the party with pictures including one of your Project Food Blog Menu using the provided template.

VOTE FOR ME HERE 

Menu 

The reality of my life is that it’s entirely too overloaded with priorities.  It seems there’s never enough hours in a day and certainly not enough days in a week.  As such, I’m always looking for ways to multi-task and objects that are multi-functional.  For example, in my garden, the best plants are those that are edible, look beautiful in the garden, make good cut material for bouquets, and come back every year so I don’t have to take the time to replant.  Sometimes it takes some creativity to get all this multi-tasking and functioning rolling, but it’s well worth it in the end. 

The trio

My passions for food and for flowers have been merging a good bit lately.  When Foodbuzz issued the challenge to throw a luxury dinner party, my first reaction was “Oh no!  How am I going to fit this into my schedule??”.   Then, as I mused about the possibilities, I decided what a great opportunity it would be to combine local seasonal food with a flower design class using local seasonal flowers that I was already scheduled to host.  See, my business, Love ‘n Fresh Flowers, is focused on growing flowers sustainably and using/selling them locally in gorgeous lush floral designs.  My clever tagline is “from seed to centerpiece”.  Fun, huh?    

The Spread

While the combination of a floral design class and a dinner party might not be feasible for most folks, it IS worth considering how you can involve your guests in a fun activity while they munch on your fabulous fare.  In this case, it was a match made in heaven since the lovely ladies that attended the class were very appreciative of both the delicious food and the beautiful blooms.  We even trekked out into the garden to take stems of herbs {sage, rosemary, lavender, dill, fennel} and apples, among other things, that were then incorporated into our floral designs.  Ah, how it made my multi-functional heart happy to see these delicious edibles so beautifully displayed. 

Food and Flower Party

All of the food was uniquely seasonal and easy to grab a bite between bouquets.  There was the French Fig Clafouti you’re all familiar with already from the last post.  And the dense moist Pumpkin Bread that’s made an appearance on the blog already was once again a hit.  Slices of perfectly ripe Asian pears and decadent blue cheese were simple and delicious nibbles.  And the recipe featured in today’s post actually used some of the same elements from our floral arrangements — sage, rosemary, and apples — and joined them with pumpkin and garlic on an Autumnal Pizza

Pumpkins and Herbs

Add to the mix some local cider and a few glasses of wine, the evening proved to be a delightful success with a chorus of excited “Thank you, let’s do this again soon! I had so much fun!”  and happy hugs.  The moral to this delicious and beautiful tale is that even if you are a busy bee, don’t presume you can’t squeeze in a dinner party. Think a little bit beyond the traditional table and place settings to incorporate some of your other passions and talents.  I bet you’ll find your guests to be all the more engaged and satiated in the end. 

VOTE FOR ME HERE 

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October 3, 2010 at 4:20 pm 30 comments

Contest Entry: French Fig Clafouti

French Fig Clafouti

Entry #2 :: Foodbuzz.com “Project Food Blog” Contest

Challenge Prompt from Foodbuzz: Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post.

VOTE FOR ME HERE 

Even though I don’t speak the language and I’ve only traveled there once, I have an undying love {obsession} with the French lifestyle.  How can you not appreciate rich food, beautiful art, bright scooters, intrinsic romance, classic but flirty style, and an abundance of al fresco cafes?  When I visited the manageably sized city of Lyon for a dear ex-pat friend’s “hen night” weekend {the equivalent of a bachelorette party in the States} , I didn’t have any idea I was in for a fast and furious love affair with the city and French life.  I immediately gravitated to the eclectic street artists, the open-air produce market that lined the river bank, the lusciously verdant flower stands at nearly every turn, the delicious coffee and flavored sodas, the decadent brunch dishes, the pockets of parks and tiny enclaves, and the flirty but classic styles displayed in shop windows.  I sat on park benches and bistro chairs, letting the rush of energetic French conversation wash over me.  I couldn’t get enough. 

Fresh Figs

I have since determined that I am so in love with Lyon that I will someday retire there, at least in part, to live in a little walk-up flat with sun-filled tall windows and a cheerful mix of flea market finds for furniture.  I’ll go to the river’s edge market to buy baguettes and cheese and spend countless hours people watching at cafes.   I’ll take advantage of living on the Continent to travel to any of the remaining European countries I haven’t made it to by then.  It’ll be one long enjoyable holiday! 

Eggs and Fig Halves

In the meantime, I need to work on a few things to prepare for my Franco freedom.  Learning to speak French would seem like a wise step.  But, alas, I’m utterly pathetic at learning languages.  Really, I spent 10 years of school learning Spanish and can barely get past “como se yama?” any more.  I figure I’ll just learn by immersion when the time comes. 

Fig Calfouti

I can, however, start to learn more about French cooking.  It is a cuisine that intimidates me, to be perfectly honest.  It seems so full of sauces and soufflés, all of which require a precise technique.  I decided to start with something more rustic and simple, a dish that embraced seasonal ingredients that would likely show up in that riverside market in autumn.  Figs are heavenly fall fruit and this “clafouti” couldn’t be easier.  I made mine with beautiful farm eggs from Red Haven Farm {isn’t their hand-decorated carton just too cute?}, which created a faultless custard base to amplify the figs’ natural sweetness.   The clafouti did puff up in the oven like a soufflé — so dramatic! — but it’s not meant to stay that way so I didn’t have to deal with the dread of watching it fall and feelings of failure.  This was the perfect introduction to classic French cooking! 

Now, perhaps the remaining nine eggs can be put towards a soufflé…  I think I’ll skip the frogs and snails however. 

VOTE FOR ME HERE 

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September 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm 22 comments

Voting is Open!

Just wanted to let everyone know that voting is now open for Project Food Blog.  I’d really love to have your vote to go on to the next round in this exciting competition!  Just follow this link to vote for Straight from the Farm!   Thank you!!

September 20, 2010 at 8:11 am 5 comments

Contest Entry: Fresh Fig & Raspberry Stuffed French Toast

Fresh Figs and Red Raspberries

Entry #1 :: Foodbuzz.com “Project Food Blog” Contest

Challenge Prompt from Foodbuzz: For the very first Project Food Blog Challenge, we’re asking you to create a blog post that defines you as a food blogger and makes it clear why you think you have what it takes to be the next food blog star. Consider what makes your blog unique and sets you apart from other food blog brands: is it your foolproof recipes, your mouthwatering photos, or your perspective on family meals? Write a post that comes from the heart and is true to you and your blog.


VOTE FOR ME HERE 

Stuffed French Toast with Whipped Cream

Those who have been following SFTF for awhile surely know a bit about my background and the driving force behind this blog.  However, like any good reality TV show, the Project Food Blog contest opens up a whole new world to the players in the game.  If you’ve not dropped by SFTF before, welcome!  The message here is always simple: locally grown fresh produce is artfully delicious, and thus we are always “feasting on fresh” in the SFTF kitchen.

Figs and Raspberries Diptych

I grew up on a farm where we raised a great deal of our own food and only went to the grocery store to pick up flour, sugar and cleaning supplies.  It was a rich upbringing, one centered around eating seasonally and preserving the farm’s bounty, that remains ingrained in me.  My mother taught me to cook from a very young age.  Thanks to her good graces (happy birthday today, Mom!), I learned the blueprint of good cooking and rarely depend on cookbooks or online recipe libraries any more.   Instead, when I see a quart of oh-so-ripe figs at the farmers market and get to pick a cupful of autumn raspberries from a neighbor’s garden, I go home and immediately begin dreaming up the best use for them simply by considering their flavors and my mood.  I find I’m rarely disappointed and neither are SFTF readers. 

Fruit Filling for French Toast

The posts on SFTF are meant to read like the beautifully illustrated pages of an art book.  Each photo is crafted with the intent to both make readers gasp a little and drool a lot.  My photography has evolved exponentially since the outset of this blog, but the purpose is still the same: to inspire others to make the recipe in the post.  Often we are intimidated by unfamiliar ingredients  {a classic case is the misunderstood kohlrabi }.  When I can capture an odd-ball fruit or vegetable’s inner beauty, I find many readers begin to be more daring with their own dinners. 

Stuffed French Toast Triptych

Unlike most other food blogs, SFTF combines artful photography, original recipes, and interesting pertinent tips together in one single pot, all of which is focused on sustainably and locally grown food straight from the farm!   Case and point?  Fresh Fig and Raspberry Stuffed French Toast…recipe after the jump.

 

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September 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm 22 comments

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