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Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella SquarePanzanella sounds like such a fancy dish.  Ironically, it’s a rustic preparation that perfectly showcases the simple flavors of toasted bread, olive oil, vinegar, and ripe seasonal produce in what amounts to a bread salad.  This is peasant food of the very best kind, most likely created when there wasn’t much to serve for dinner other than stale bread and whatever was growing in the garden.  It’s just the sort of farmhouse style cooking that I love to create, serve, and enjoy at our family table.

While I have enjoyed versions of panzanella that feature fresh onions, cucumbers, and all manner of other delicious additions, my favorite is a dish that centers on the heirloom tomatoes we grow in our garden.  I turn to this dish when tomatoes are aplenty.  I am always amazed at how delicious it tastes given its humble ingredients and preparation.

It’s really no wonder that I love this dish so much.  I’m a person who firmly believes that the dressing served at Thanksgiving dinner is the star of the meal. So, this salad of crusty cubes of seasoned bread tossed with juicy tomatoes, garlic, and basil is like my summer recipe dream come true.

This dish comes together easily.  It’s a no muss, no fuss sort of preparation.  While there is a good amount of slicing and chopping to prep the bread and tomatoes, it can all be prepared ahead of time and assembled before serving. 

This recipe is ideal for using up a variety of types of ripe tomatoes.  I use large slicing tomatoes alongside cherry and grape tomatoes.  Large tomatoes can be cored and diced while smaller cherry and grape tomatoes are sliced in half or quarters depending on their size.  The result is a gorgeous dish full of a variety of flavors and textures that you’ll enjoy eating right down to the last bite.

Speaking of last bites, don’t allow any of this delicious panzanella to go to waste.  While it is most delicious the day it is made, leftovers can be transformed into a delicious savory bread pudding or reheated under the broiler before being topped with a poached egg.  Like so many dishes, the flavor is even better the following day.  Much like that Thanksgiving dressing I look forward to every year, I often make a double batch of this panzanella so that I can be certain that there will be leftovers to enjoy the next night for dinner.   It’s simply too delicious not to dream of eating it on a second night!

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella
I like to garnish panzanella with a bit of balsamic vinegar glaze. It’s thick and delicious, a perfect pairing for the other flavors in this salad. I find the glaze in my grocery stores stocked near the specialty vinegars or in the Italian food section. If you are unable to find it, you can certainly use a splash of good balsamic vinegar or simply omit the garnish when serving.
  1. 1 large loaf of crusty bread (about 1 pound)
  2. 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  3. salt and pepper
  4. 1 pound heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces
  5. 1 teaspoon sea salt
  6. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  7. 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  8. 2 tablespoons sundried tomatoes packed in oil, julienned
  9. 1 tablespoon oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes
  10. ½ cup basil leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
  11. 1 ounce Parmesan cheese
  12. salt and pepper to taste
  13. balsamic vinegar or glaze
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the bread into bite sized pieces (approximately 1” in size). Add the bread cubes to a large bowl. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the bread cubes. Season the bread cubes liberally with salt and pepper. Toss the cubes, adding another tablespoon of oil if needed. Spread the cubes out on a large baking sheet.
  2. Transfer the baking sheet to the preheated oven. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes until crisp and lightly browned. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the bread cubes to cool to room temperature.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes by coring large tomatoes before dicing or simply slicing cherry or grape sized tomatoes in half or quarters. The tomato pieces should be bite sized, slightly smaller than the cubes of bread. Place the tomato pieces in a bowl and toss with the teaspoon of sea salt. Transfer the salted tomatoes to a small colander set over the bowl to catch the juices as they drain away from the tomatoes.
  4. In a small pot over low heat, warm the 3 tablespoons olive oil, sliced garlic, sundried tomatoes, and tablespoon of oil from the sundried tomatoes until fragrant. Continue to cook over low heat for 2-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. The flavors of the garlic and sundried tomatoes will infuse the olive oil with their delicious flavors.
  5. All of this prep work can be done hours ahead of time. The bread, tomatoes, and olive oil infusion can be allowed to rest at room temperature until you are ready to assemble the panzanella. I recommend assembling the panzanella about 30 minutes before you intend to serve it. This will allow the bread to retain its texture and give the flavors time to meld and be absorbed by the bread.
  6. To assemble the panzanella, place the toasted bread in a large bowl. Add the reserved tomato juices, tossing gently. The bread should absorb the tomato juice and soften slightly. Add the diced tomatoes, olive oil infusion, basil, and Parmesan to the bowl. Toss gently to evenly distribute the ingredients. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
  7. Allow the panzanella to sit for up to 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature, garnishing with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or balsamic vinegar glaze if desired. Enjoy!

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Nut Free Chocolate and Sunflower Seed Butter Bars

Nut Free Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Bars at 1840 FarmWe have been living with food allergies here at the farmhouse for more than a decade. Peanuts and tree nuts are off limits, but we don’t let that stand in our way of our celebration of the seasons and the holidays.  The candy parade that begins with Halloween and carries right through to the end of the year was tough to adjust to when we began to live nut free.  Living with serious food allergies meant that many of those candies simply weren’t safe for us to welcome into the farmhouse.

One of my childhood favorites was definitely off limits:  peanut butter cups.  While they were one of my favorite candies before nut allergies came into our lives, I gave them up for many years until I started making these delicious and completely nut free snack bars.  They’re so simple to make and taste amazing.  Every bite delivers that nutty flavor and texture of a peanut butter cup without the risk of an allergic reaction.

These bars are very popular at our house and make a fantastic addition to our holiday collection of cookies and other homemade sweets.  They come together quickly and don’t require baking, making them a perfect warm weather treat. 

Speaking of warm weather, these bars are absolutely scrumptious served with vanilla ice cream.  You can even cut a portion into small bites, freeze for a few hours, and mix those frozen gems into a batch of homemade ice cream or a softened pint of store bought ice cream.  If you miss the combination of peanut butter and ice cream as much as I do, you’ll be delighted at how delicious it is.

For families like mine who live and eat around food allergies every day, these bars are a real treat.  If your family doesn’t have to consider food allergies, you can certainly substitute your favorite nut butter with equally delicious results.  No matter how you choose to make these bars, I hope that you will give them a try.  I’m willing to bet that your family will enjoy these delicious bars as much as mine does!

Nut Free Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Bars
My favorite nut butter substitute to use in this recipe is Sunbutter. It is made in a peanut and tree nut free facility and tastes delicious. I like to use ¾ cup of the creamy Sunbutter and ¾ cup of crunchy Sunbutter in these bars, but you can use whatever you have on hand. I reach for Vermont Nut Free Chocolates when I bake and this recipe is delicious topped with their milk chocolate or dark chocolates. I like to mix a bit of heavy cream into the chocolate to create a velvety, fudgy chocolate layer. You can use melted chocolate without the cream if you prefer a crunchy chocolate layer on top.
  1. 4 ounces (1 stick) butter
  2. 1 ½ cup sunflower seed butter
  3. 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  4. 1 cup powdered sugar
  5. 2 ounces heavy cream
  6. 1 ¼ cup chocolate chips
  1. Prepare a 9x9 pan by lining with parchment paper or waxed paper. Lining the pan will make it much easier to remove the bars in one large piece and cut into individual portions.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium to large saucepan over low heat. Add the sunflower seed butter and stir to combine with the melted butter. The mixture should become very smooth as the sunflower seed butter warms. Remove the pan from the heat and add the graham cracker crumbs and powdered sugar. Stir until well combined. Transfer the mixture to the lined pan and spread evenly to the edges of the pan.
  3. Warm the heavy cream in a small pot or in a microwave safe container. The cream does not need to be boiling hot, so 20-30 seconds in the microwave should be sufficient. Add the chocolate to the warm cream and allow to sit for about a minute before mixing to combine the cream and melted chocolate. Stir until completely smooth before adding to the pan and spreading to cover the sunflower seed butter layer.
  4. Place the pan in the refrigerator to help set the bars. When the bottom is cool to the touch and the chocolate has set up, lifting the bars out of the pan using the parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to cut into portions. The bars can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for several days although they never last that long at our house!

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Farmhouse English Muffins

English Muffins at 1840 FarmI have fond memories of English muffins from my childhood.  I grew up in Kansas City and there was a Wolferman’s Bakery a short drive away.  Every so often, we traveled there to treat ourselves to their delicious fresh muffins.   The store was a beautiful shop and I loved to wander, looking at every type of muffin, at each spread and jam offered to top those thick muffins.  I loved every single moment of those trips.  For a kid who loved food, who dreamed of eating and creating decadent meals, those trips were like being set loose in a candy store.  Sadly, the store closed when I was 11 and those trips came to an end.

Many years later, I found myself craving an English muffin yet unable to find those thick, delicious muffins I treasured during trips to the bakery as a child.  The “artisan” style English muffins that I found at specialty shops weren’t a viable option for our family due to food allergies.  If I’ve learned one lesson during our decade living and eating around food allergies, it’s that if you can’t find a safe option, you just figure out how to make it yourself.

So that’s what I set out to do.  I looked at several different recipes and tried a few.  In the end, I combined elements from a couple of those recipes and added a few adjustments of my own.  After a few tries and a few tweaks, I had indeed created an English muffin as delicious as those I remembered from my childhood.

These English muffins are simple to make and so delicious toasted with plenty of butter and your favorite jam, jelly, or honey.  It has those tiny nooks and crannies to capture the melted butter and toppings in the most delectable way.  One bite and you’ll wonder where these muffins have been all your life and then you’ll make plans to make a second batch. With any luck, you’ll continue making them for years to come and create your own memories of delicious homemade muffins enjoyed around your family table.

Farmhouse English Muffins
The process of making homemade English muffins is unique. The dough is unlike any other I work with, often seeming too wet and sticky to possibly create lovely muffins. Don’t worry, they always do! Unlike most other breads, these muffins aren’t baked in the oven. Instead, they cook beautifully in a cast iron skillet or on a griddle. Whatever you use to prepare pancakes in would be ideally suited. In fact, the process has a lot in common with pancakes. The trick is in being patient, cooking over low to moderate heat, and not flipping the muffins any more than necessary which helps to preserve their soft texture. Many people use biscuit cutters or muffin rings to create perfectly round muffins. The rings often stick and you need to have 12 of them on hand to make a batch. I have used rings in the past, but have decided that I like the handmade farmhouse style version better. They’re much less fussy to make and I don’t mind that they aren’t perfectly round. If you do, then you can simply place the dough rounds in an oiled muffin ring when you place them on the pan to rise. Transfer the muffin in the ring to the skillet and cook in the same manner. No matter how you shape them, you’ll have beautiful muffins to share at your table.
  1. 1 ¼ cup milk
  2. 1 Tablespoon honey
  3. 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  4. ½ cup buttermilk
  5. 1 large egg
  6. 2 Tablespoons butter, softened
  7. 1 Tablespoon lard
  8. 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  9. 4 ¾ cups bread flour
  10. cornmeal for dusting
  1. Warm the milk to lukewarm in a small pot over low heat or by microwaving in 30 second intervals. It should be warm but not hot to the touch, around the temperature of bath water. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm milk and honey. Stir to incorporate and then sprinkle the yeast over the top of the warm liquid. Allow the yeast to proof for a few minutes as you gather the remaining ingredients.
  2. Add the buttermilk and egg to the bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter, lard, salt, and flour to the bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix for 5 minutes at low speed. The dough will become very stretchy and sticky, clinging to both the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
  3. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Place in a warm spot or in a bread proofer and allow to rest for 60-90 minutes or until it has almost doubled in size.
  4. English muffin dough is very sticky at this point. It has an incredible amount of stretchiness and is quite wet. It doesn’t look like biscuit dough or dinner roll dough. Don’t worry about its seemingly gluey texture. Mine looks the very same way. They’ll cook up beautifully.
  5. Prepare a sheet pan or tray by sprinkling liberally with cornmeal. The cornmeal will help to prevent the very sticky dough from becoming stuck to the pan. More is better; use plenty of cornmeal for this step.
  6. Divide the dough into 12 portions. I use my digital food scale and make balls of dough that weigh between 90 and 100 grams. If you don’t have a scale, you can portion the muffins using approximately ½ cup of dough for each. Shape each portion of dough into a round disc and place on the cornmeal lined pan allowing at least 1 inch space between muffins. Repeat until all of the dough has been shaped.
  7. Set the muffins aside and allow them to rest and rise for about 30 minutes. You can also place them in the refrigerator overnight. If you choose to refrigerate them overnight, cover them loosely with plastic wrap or parchment lightly sprayed with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  8. When it’s time to cook the muffins, warm a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. The skillet needs to be warm enough to brown the muffins without burning them during their time in the skillet. When the skillet is warm, lower the heat to low and sprinkle a bit of cornmeal into the bottom of the pan. Gently transfer a few of the dough rounds to the warm skillet taking care not to crowd them.
  9. Cook the muffins for 5 minutes before carefully peeking underneath to see if they are evenly browned. Cook for 2-4 additional minutes until they have browned sufficiently. Use a spatula to flip them over and cook on the other side in the same manner. The muffins should puff up nicely and begin to resemble the most gorgeous English muffins you have ever seen. If you have an instant read thermometer, the perfectly cooked muffins will register between 190 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. They will feel fairly firm to the touch yet still spring back when pressed in the middle.
  10. Transfer the fully cooked muffins to a wire rack to cool. Repeat the skillet cooking method for the remaining muffins. Adjust the heat as needed to achieve browning without burning and add more cornmeal if necessary. My cast iron skillet heats up and holds the heat so well that I often need to reduce the heat a bit with each successive batch.
  11. Serve your English muffins toasted with butter and topped with your favorite delicious toppings. Room temperature muffins can be stored in an airtight container for several days or frozen for long term storage.

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The Secret to Making Perfect Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk Biscuits at 1840 FarmBiscuits.  Just reading the word brings up thoughts of flaky, tender biscuits still warm from the oven topped with a pat of butter and a drizzle of honey.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.

I hear from readers quite often who have struggled to make flaky pastries to their liking.  Most often, the recipes they have been disappointed by are pie crust and biscuits.  They have tried to no avail to produce the flaky, tender pastries that they dream of.

When it comes to flaky pastries, less is more.  Working the dough as little as possible is the key to creating a flaky texture.  Too much stretching and working the dough strengthens the gluten structure of the flour and creates a stretchy, strong dough like pizza crust instead of the flaky, tender dough for biscuits or pie.

Any overworking makes a flaky biscuit completely impossible to achieve.  When biscuits are cut into traditional circles using a cutter, the scraps are reshaped to create additional biscuits.  That seemingly insignificant amount of handling completely changes the texture of those secondary biscuits.  For that reason, I simply cut my rectangle of biscuit dough into square or rectangles rather than using a round cutter.  Doing so ensures that each biscuit is worked only once, that no additional shaping is necessary, and that every biscuit is as light and fluffy as the others.

In order to create that delicious, flaky texture, care must be taken to build layers of fat suspended in the dough.  When that layered dough hits the hot oven, the fat begins the melt and moisture is released, creating small pockets of air and the light, flaky texture that makes for an amazing biscuit with a pillowy texture.

If you live above the Mason-Dixon line like I do, your brand of All-purpose flour may also be conspiring against you. Delicious biscuits are a staple in the South where the All-purpose flour is traditionally milled from soft winter wheat.  White Lily brand is known for its lower protein content, soft texture, and ability to create delicious, tender biscuits and pastries.  Soft winter wheat has a low protein content around 8 – 9% which helps to make a flaky biscuit.

Here in New England, hard winter wheat is commonly milled into the brands of All-purpose flour available at our grocery stores.  The hard winter wheat creates a flour that has a higher protein content between 10 and 12% and also contains more gluten.  Higher protein and more gluten are great for bread doughs and pizza crust, but make the prospect of creating a light and flaky biscuit a struggle.

While I had learned the technique necessary for making an amazing biscuit, the higher protein content of my flour wasn’t helping matters.  In the past, I have milled my own flour for biscuits with good results.  Yet, the texture still wasn’t quite what I was aiming for.

After reading scores of articles about the protein content and gluten properties of different types of flour, I decided to try an experiment.  I substituted cornstarch for ½ cup of the All-purpose flour called for in my biscuit recipe.  I know from my experience creating a homemade cake flour substitute that this combination works very well to create a light, airy cake batter.  So, it made sense that this combination might also make a delicious biscuit.

The dough came together beautifully.  It was easy to work with and the raw biscuits looked very promising when I placed them in the oven.  I couldn’t wait to take a bite.

Thanks to a decreased protein content and carefully folding the dough to increase the layers in the dough, these biscuits are exactly what I was dreaming of.  They’re light, flaky, and tender.  They come together easily and are always a welcome sight at our farmhouse table.  We might live well above the Mason-Dixon line, but we enjoy biscuits that taste like a Southern dream.  Now that you know the secret to making perfect flaky biscuits, I hope that you will too!

Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Grating the butter will make it easier to work it into the dry ingredients. Placing the biscuits on the baking sheet next to each other will create a softer, pillowy biscuit. If you prefer a biscuit with a more dry and crisp exterior, simply place them on the baking sheet with a few inches of space between them.
  1. 1 ½ cups All-purpose flour
  2. ½ cup cornstarch
  3. 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  4. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 4 Tablespoons butter, grated
  7. 2 Tablespoons lard
  8. ½ cup buttermilk, chilled
  9. 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the grated butter and lard. Gently work the fats into the dry ingredients using your hands or a pastry blender. Remember that less is more and take care not to overwork the dough. The dough should include small globules of fat, so stop when tiny pieces of lard and butter remain.
  3. Add the cold buttermilk and gently combine. The dough should be shaggy and quite wet. If it seems too dry, simply add a Tablespoon or two of buttermilk. Turn the shaggy dough out on to a well-floured surface. Gently gather the dough together into a square shape taking care not to stretch or compress it more than necessary. If needed, sprinkle the surface with a bit of flour to make it easier to work with. Grab two opposite ends of the rectangle and fold them towards the center, stacking the ends on top of each other. Turn the dough and repeat the folding process.
  4. Gently shape the dough with as little working as possible into a rectangle before cutting into 6 to 8 biscuits. Carefully move each biscuit to the prepared baking sheet. I like to place my biscuits next to each other as it creates a very moist and soft textured biscuit. Brush the tops and exposed sides of the biscuits with melted butter before placing the baking sheet in the hot oven. Bake for 12-14 minutes until the tops are lightly browned and dry. Remove the biscuits from the oven and allow to cool slightly before separating and serving.

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Two Minute Mason Jar Pancakes

Two Minute Mason Jar Pancakes at 1840 FarmSaturday morning pancakes are a real treat.  Waking up to the smell of fresh pancakes cooking on the griddle in the farmhouse kitchen is one of the few ways to make this non morning person hop out of bed happily.  Pancakes are one of those rare foods that I love as much in my adult years as I did when I was a child.

Busy schedules (and my preference to sleep in) don’t always lend themselves to making a fresh batch of pancakes for breakfast.  Luckily, I can sleep in and still make pancakes for the entire family thanks to this simple microwave method.  

In two minutes, a Mason jar pancake is ready to top with butter and maple syrup and serve at our breakfast table. Now each and every family member can have a hot pancake breakfast when they wake up.  Everyone can add the toppings they want to make exactly what sort of pancake they’re craving.  A handful of chocolate chips, frozen blueberries, and ripe banana slices are always popular at our house.  

I like to use our homemade pancake batter, but you can certainly use your favorite recipe or mix.  I make a batch of batter and keep it at the ready in the refrigerator in a large Mason jar with a reusable lid.  The batter can be kept for several days in the refrigerator and tastes just as delicious on the last day as it does on the day it is made.

A microwave pancake has a texture a bit different from a traditional pancake.  Because it steams quickly in the glass jar, it is moist and cakey.  The flavor is exactly the same, but its texture and appearance will be different from the flat pancakes you’re used to.

This batter is also scrumptious prepared as a traditional pancake cooked on a griddle or pan.  When we griddle pancakes, I make extra so that I can stock the freezer.  A few frozen pancakes can be warmed up quickly and served for a hot breakfast, lunch, or dinner. No matter how many I make, they never last very long at our house.

With a batch of pancake batter, a Mason jar, and a microwave, I think that you’ll agree that this easy method is the perfect way to make any day pancake day.

Two Minute Mason Jar Pancakes
This pancake batter is equally delicious prepared as a two minute Mason jar pancake or griddled as a traditional pancake. I like to mix my batter in the blender to make a perfectly smooth batter that is light and airy. You can easily mix it by hand with equally delicious results. If you don't have sparkling water on hand, simply substitute an equal amount of still water.
  1. 2 ¼ cups All-purpose flour
  2. ¼ cup cornstarch
  3. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  4. ½ teaspoon baking soda
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 2 large eggs
  7. ¼ cup (2 ounces) plain yogurt or sour cream
  8. 1 ½ cup (12 ounces) buttermilk
  9. ½ cup (4 ounces) sparkling water
  10. 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Measure the dry ingredients and combine them in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl or the container of your blender, add the remaining ingredients. Mix until the liquids are smooth. Add the measured dry ingredients and mix until the batter is free of lumps and completely smooth.
  2. From this point, the batter can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days. It can be prepared as traditional pancakes or as two minute microwave pancakes.
  3. To prepare a microwave pancake, lightly spray the inside surface of a pint size (16 ounce) Mason jar with cooking spray. I use a wide mouth jar as it makes removing the pancake much easier. A regular mouth jar can also be used. Add 4-6 ounces of pancake batter to the jar. The jar’s embossed markings will make measuring the batter even easier. You can add a sprinkling of chocolate chips, fresh or frozen fruit, or other pancake additions if you’d like.While the jar may look underfilled, it will allow the pancake to cook and expand fully without overflowing and creating a mess in the microwave.
  4. Place the jar in your microwave. Each microwave oven model cooks a bit differently, so a bit of trial and error may be necessary to determine the right length of time to cook a perfect pancake. I find that 2 minutes is just right for ours, so I would recommend beginning there and making adjustments as necessary on subsequent jars.
  5. As the pancake cooks, you will notice that it expands greatly and may even rise up past the top rim of the jar. Don’t panic as the pancake will settle back down into the jar when the microwave finishes cooking.
  6. Remove the jar from the microwave taking care as the jar will be quite hot. You can top the pancake with butter and syrup and enjoy it straight from the jar or tip it out onto a plate and enjoy every last bite!

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Ratatouille at 1840 FarmFor me, ratatouille is a celebration of our summer garden harvest.  I often think of this dish as I’m planning the next year’s garden, adding seeds to my shopping cart in anticipation of planting, tending, and harvesting the fresh ingredients that put this meal on our dinner table.  I choose seeds that will be ideally suited for creating this beautiful, delicious dish.  Yes, I really do love ratatouille that much.

Ratatouille has humble origins.  It began as a rustic, thick vegetable stew.  In its early days, eggplant was still exclusive to India and both zucchini and tomato hadn’t found their way into cultivated gardens. Those components would not have found their way into the cooking pot hung over an open fire.  Instead, a little of this, a little of that, heat, and time combined to bring together the flavors and textures of what was in season together into a thick stew that could be eaten and enjoyed for many days.  No written recipe was needed and the results would have varied slightly every time it was made thanks to the dish being dictated by what was at its most ripe and delicious.  It was true peasant food, elevating the individual ingredients into a combination that was delicious and versatile.

What was a rustic stew in 18th century France evolved over time into a more refined dish in the Mediterranean.  It is unclear if the dish we know originated in Spain, Italy, or the South of France.  The flavors suggest that it could be from any of those individually or it could have been a regional dish, blurring the boundaries and borders of the three countries.  

Around 1930, a written recipe for ratatouille first appeared.  In this more modern take, eggplant (often called aubergine) and fresh herbs were added.  These early written recipes instructed cooks to prepare each of the components separately, cooking them fully before eventually combining them to create a dish full of their individual flavors.  The dish was named “ratatouille”, a name derived from the French term “touiller,” which means “to stir up”.Ratatouille Squash at 1840 Farm

Julia Child referred to ratatouille as “eggplant casserole” in her epic tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She details how to slice the zucchini and eggplant into thin strips, cooking them to perfection before layering them with the fresh tomato sauce and herbs into a casserole.  She introduces her recipe by writing “Ratatouille perfumes the kitchen with the essence of Provence and is certainly one of the great Mediterranean dishes.”

I never question Julia’s wisdom and was intrigued by the idea of slicing the zucchini and eggplant into ribbons rather than the cubed versions I had been making for years.  I knew that the flavor would be unchanged, but I loved the idea of the thin strips of squash adding beautiful color to the serving of ratatouille on our dinner plates.  Yet I didn’t love the thought of baking the ratatouille lasagna style, hiding the very colors that I wanted to make the focus of the dish.

During a morning of garden chores, I realized that there was a simple solution: stand the thin slices on end, wrapping them together in a round pan over a bed of the fresh tomato sauce.  The beautiful color of the skins isn’t just visible.  It’s a gorgeous sight worthy of an oil painting.  It was even more stunning than I had hoped for.

This dish is a show stopper.  Be prepared to find yourself marveling at just how lovely it looks as it comes together.  I’ve made it several times this summer and it still amazes me how gorgeous it is.  The bright yellow of the summer squash, deep green of the zucchini, and purple eggplant are such a beautiful combination especially when added to a deep red tomato sauce.  It truly is a celebration of the best fresh flavors of summer.

This recipe can be made in an oven safe skillet, creating the sauce and then adding the squash before transferring to the oven. I love to use my 9” cast iron skillet for this purpose. You can also assemble the ratatouille in a spring form pan, adding the sauce to the bottom before placing the squash. After removing the spring form pan from the oven, simply run a sharp knife around the perimeter and remove the ring before slicing and serving.
For the sauce
  1. 1 red bell pepper
  2. 1 yellow bell pepper
  3. 1 orange bell pepper
  4. 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  5. 1 clove garlic, minced
  6. 1 large shallot (or small onion) minced
  7. 1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced
  8. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  9. 1 bay leaf
For the squash (select similarly sized small to medium squash for the best results)
  1. 2 zucchini
  2. 2 yellow summer squash
  3. 2 eggplant
  4. 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  5. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  6. salt and pepper
Make the sauce
  1. Cut each pepper in half, removing the stem, seeds, and ribs. Place the halves cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 15 – 25 minutes until the skins brown and blister. Remove the peppers from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. Using a sharp knife, remove the skins from the roasted peppers before dicing into ½” pieces.
  2. In a large skillet (I use my 9” cast iron skillet), heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 2-4 minutes until translucent, stirring to prevent scorching. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant for one minute, taking care not to brown. Add the tomatoes, diced peppers, and thyme to the skillet. Stir to combine.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and continue to cook gently until the ingredients soften and combine. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.
  4. Transfer 1 cup of the tomato sauce from the skillet to a small pot. Add ¼ cup bone broth or stock to the pot and warm over low heat as you assemble the ratatouille. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Add 1 Tablespoon butter and stir to incorporate as it melts. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting and keep warm until serving.
Prepare the squash
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the stem and blossom ends from each of the squash. Using a sharp knife or a mandoline, slice each squash lengthwise into thin strips. The strips should be thin enough to allow the slices to be flexed into shape without breaking. I set my mandoline on the 1/8” setting for this recipe. Set the slices aside.
  2. Spread the remaining tomato sauce to evenly cover the bottom of the skillet or spring form pan. Select a small slice of squash to form into a tight coil and place in the center of the pan, nestling it into the tomato sauce. Alternate the different colors of squash, wrapping thin slices around each other. Overlap the slices slightly and hold them together if necessary. As the coil grows larger, it will be held together by the sides of the pan. Continue to add squash slices until the pan is so full that additional slices cannot be added.
  3. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the surface of the squash with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and the fresh thyme leaves. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Transfer the pan to the hot oven and cook for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook for another 20-30 minutes until the squash has softened and browned slightly. If you prefer a deeper browning, place the pan under a broiler for 1-2 minutes taking care not to burn the squash.
  4. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting into wedges.Place a wedge of ratatouille on the plate and spoon a bit of the sauce over the top.
  1. You can adjust this recipe to fit what is in season in your garden or at the local farmer’s market, adding more or less of a particular squash or pepper if needed. When time is short, I often make this ratatouille in a more rustic way. You can easily chop the peppers and cube the squash, sautéing the combination of squash before adding the peppers and then tomatoes to the skillet, allowing the tomatoes to become a sauce around the other ingredient squash. Ratatouille is equally delicious served hot or at room temperature. Any leftovers can be used as a base for delicious pasta, rice, or couscous dish the following day.

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Hibiscus Lavender Iced Tea

Hibiscus Lavender Iced Tea Banner

After a long day of working in the garden, an icy cold beverage is always a welcome sight.  Iced coffee, lemonade, and iced tea are in a regular rotation on the front porch and back patio here at the farm during the warm months.  This summer, we’ve been featuring lavender hibiscus iced tea when we want something cold and refreshing.  It’s as beautiful as it is delicious and perfect for beating the summer heat.

As a bonus, this iced tea is simple to make once you have the tea concentrate and lavender simple syrup on hand in the refrigerator.  I like to make the concentrate on the strong side to prevent the drink from becoming waterlogged as the ice melts on a hot summer’s day.  I also love to add our favorite lemonade to the iced tea.  Together, the herbal tea, lavender, and lemon combine to create an absolutely delicious drink full of flavor. 

I cold brew our tea concentrate.  It’s such a simple process and saves me the step of heating up water, timing the brewing of the tea, and cooling down the tea before using.  Instead, I simply fill a large Mason jar with two cups of cold water, add the tea bags, place a lid on the jar, and store the jar overnight (or longer) in the refrigerator.  The resulting tea concentrate is just as colorful and full of flavor. We love the flavor of Tazo Passion herbal tea with its hibiscus, passion fruit, and orange undertones, but any tea that would benefit from a touch of sweetness and the floral notes of the lavender syrup would be delicious in this iced tea drink. 

Have a little fun, adjusting the components for your perfect iced tea drink.  Try out a few different teas, up the amount of tea concentrate or lavender syrup to create a drink that is exactly what you want to be reaching for on a hot day.  Most importantly, enjoy every single sip.  Like summer, it won’t last forever so we might as well enjoy it while it lasts!

A few of the ingredients and tools we use when making this recipe:

Hibiscus Lavender Iced Tea
The tea concentrate can be kept for several days in the refrigerator. With the tea concentrate and lavender syrup at the ready in the refrigerator, you’ll be able to make this delicious drink any time you need an icy glass of refreshment. You can adjust the components based on your taste preference, adding more tea, syrup, or lemonade to create your perfect summer drink.
For the tea concentrate
  1. 2 cups water
  2. 5 Tazo Passion tea bags
For the lavender simple syrup
  1. 1 cup water
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 sprigs fresh lavender (including buds) or 1 Tablespoon dried lavender
For each drink
  1. ice
  2. 1-2 Tablespoons lavender simple syrup
  3. ½ cup iced tea concentrate
  4. 1 cup Lemonade
To make the tea concentrate
  1. You can make the tea concentrate using either heat or time. The warm brew will be a little more flavorful while the cold brew has a milder flavor but requires 8-12 hours of resting time. Both are delicious.
  2. To warm brew the tea, bring 2 cups of water up to just below the boiling point (around 212 degrees Fahrenheit). Add the tea bags and allow them to steep in the warm water for five minutes. Remove the tea bags and allow the tea concentrate to cool to room temperature before using or storing in the refrigerator.
  3. To cold brew the tea, place 2 cups of cold water in a container with a lid. Add the tea bags, cover, and place in the refrigerator overnight or at least 8 hours. Remove the tea bags. The cold brew tea concentrate can be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator for several days.
To make the lavender simple syrup
  1. Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Place over low heat and stir the sugar and water to help prevent the sugar from settling on the bottom of the pan and burning. Warm the pan, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the lavender, stirring lightly to help infuse the syrup with the oil released from the lavender. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Remove the lavender before transferring the syrup to a container with a tight fitting lid. The syrup can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks.
To assemble the iced tea
  1. Add a cup of ice to a large glass. Add the 2 Tablespoons lavender syrup, ½ cup tea concentrate, and 1 cup lemonade to the glass. Stir and enjoy!

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Lavender Simple Syrup

Lavender Simple Syrup BannerI first met lavender simple syrup in a cocktail at Moxy many years ago. It was such a delicious addition to my martini. It added a subtle flavor and aroma that was surprising and delightful. Long before I finished my drink I had decided that figuring out how to make my own lavender syrup had to be added to my to do list.

Luckily, making lavender simple syrup is, well, simple. It comes together in minutes and tastes delicious made with summer’s bounty of fresh lavender or with dried lavender during the cooler months of the year. I snip stems of lavender from our herb garden to hold over the fall, winter, and spring to make sure that we can still create batches of this delicious syrup to enjoy all year long.

Lavender simple syrup tastes delicious as a sweetener in cocktails, iced tea, and other cold beverages. I love to use it to sweeten my hibiscus lavender iced tea on a hot summer’s day. We also flavor glasses of lemonade with a Tablespoon of lavender syrup for a nice change of pace.

I continue to discover new ways to use this syrup with delicious results. Just the other day, I used a bit to sweeten fresh berries before spooning them over a slice of homemade pound cake. With every bite, I was reminded of how glad I am to have discovered this delicious lavender syrup years ago.


Lavender Simple Syrup
This recipe is so simple to make and only contains three ingredients. You can adjust the amount of lavender in your syrup to suit your taste. I find that adding the lavender off the heat creates the best syrup. Remove the spent lavender from the cool syrup before storing it. Doing so will extend its shelf life.
  1. 1 cup water
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 2 sprigs of fresh lavender including buds or 1 Tablespoon dried lavender
  1. Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Place over low heat and stir the sugar and water to help prevent the sugar from settling on the bottom of the pan and burning. Warm the pan, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the lavender, stirring lightly to help infuse the syrup with the oil released from the lavender. Allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Remove the lavender before transferring the syrup to a container with a tight fitting lid. The syrup can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks.

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Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard

Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard BannerIt’s difficult not to fall in love with ice cream.  It’s so delicious and such a welcome treat on a warm summer day. Ice cream is certainly delicious, but you haven’t lived until you have been treated to frozen custard.  The difference may seem subtle on paper, but one taste and you’ll understand the distinction between the two. At our house, vanilla custard almost always takes the place of standard vanilla ice cream.  Once we tasted frozen custard made with our hens’ fresh eggs, there was simply no going back.

So, what’s the difference between ice cream and frozen custard?  To begin with, ice cream is a frozen concoction that does not necessarily contain eggs.  In fact, Philadelphia style ice cream specifically excludes them.  During our egg free years due to a food allergy, Philadelphia style ice cream was our go to.  Those simple recipes that were intentionally egg free allowed us to make batch after batch of homemade ice cream that tasted delicious and didn’t carry with it the potential of causing an allergic reaction.

According to the USDA, something labeled “ice cream” should contain at least 20 percent milk solids and 10 percent milk fat by weight.  Premium brands tend to include a higher percentage of fat, using a combination of milk and cream to deliver a smooth texture.  Eggs can be used, but they are not required and often omitted as they add steps to the ice cream making process and increase the cost to produce each batch.

Frozen custard relies on egg yolks to deliver a velvety texture and richer flavor.  The lecithin in the yolks naturally emulsifies the custard, creating a creamier texture.  The USDA requires food billed as “frozen custard” to contain at least 1.4 percent egg yolk by weight.  Some brands include more than required and deliver a richer, fuller flavor thanks to the extra yolks.

It’s hard for me to argue against adding egg yolks to your frozen concoction during this time of year.  Our chickens and ducks are leaving us full nests every day and making batches of frozen custard seems like a great way to enjoy our fresh eggs and create a delicious treat for dessert that doesn’t heat up the farmhouse by baking in the oven.  On a warm summer’s day, nothing seems quite as decadent as a scoop of creamy, delicious homemade custard made with fresh eggs collected from our own hens.

Over the years, I have made several different types of ice cream and custard.  When it came to vanilla bean frozen custard, I had used a few recipes, but we didn’t have a clear favorite.  This year, I decided that with a mountain of fresh chicken and duck eggs accumulating in the farmhouse kitchen, it was high time to develop a recipe we would love.

I gathered the four recipes I had tried in the past and then went in search of a few new ones to consider.  They were all remarkably similar combinations of cream, egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla.  I tried a few of them and set my family to the task of tasting the different variations and registering their opinions about the taste and texture.  Each batch was slightly different.  They were all yummy, but there wasn’t a clear front runner. 

Luckily, I remembered that a book in my cookbook collection had a custard recipe that Thomas Jefferson had written.  While it had been years since I had read the book, that recipe stuck with me.  It was hard to forget the fact that Thomas Jefferson had the distinction of being the first American to write a recipe for ice cream.  In 1780, he detailed the ingredients and the steps required in his day to create vanilla Jefferson Ice Cream Recipebean ice cream.  While he called it ice cream, the recipe is in fact custard due to the high number of egg yolks in the batch.  Thanks to Thomas Jefferson, I made a few changes to my own recipe and gathered the ingredients to make the next batch.

Jefferson references using “2 bottles of good cream, 6 yolks of eggs, 1 ½ pounds sugar, and a stick of vanilla” in his recipe.  I decided to use 6 yolks which was one more than I had used in any of my recipes.  With regard to the sugar, I didn’t need nearly as much.  Instead of using all heavy cream, I used a mixture of heavy cream, whipping cream, and half and half.  I hoped that the result would be just as decadent and delicious but with a slightly lighter, creamier feel. 

We watched as this batch churned away in our ice cream maker.  As it began to freeze and come together, we could no longer resist the urge to dip a spoon in to grab a taste.  One taste was all it took for us to decide that this version was a showstopper.  We had found our perfect vanilla bean frozen custard recipe.

Since then, I have made this recipe countless times.  It always comes together beautifully and delivers a delicious, creamy, rich frozen treat that our family just loves.  With each batch, I can’t help but marvel at the fact that the recipe I am making in our farmhouse kitchen isn’t much different from the recipe Jefferson wrote down nearly 250 years ago.  I guess that this delicious custard recipe proves that sometimes you simply can’t improve upon perfection.

Vanilla Bean Frozen Custard
If you don’t have a vanilla bean on hand, don’t let that deter you from making a batch of this frozen custard. You can omit the vanilla bean and still make delicious vanilla custard thanks to the vanilla extract. Sure, the resulting custard will be missing the pretty vanilla bean flecks and have a slightly less pronounced vanilla flavor, but it will still taste amazing. I like to use our duck’s eggs in this recipe as they have enormous, rich yolks that impart a beautiful pale yellow color to the finished custard. A version made with fresh chicken eggs is equally delicious and no less beautiful. I reserve the whites and scramble them as a special treat for Penny Lane.
  1. 6 large egg yolks
  2. 1 ½ cups half and half
  3. 1 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 vanilla bean, split
  5. 1 pinch salt
  6. ¾ cup heavy cream
  7. ¾ cup whipping cream
  8. 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Separate the eggs, placing the yolks in a medium bowl. Whisk them briskly until they thicken slightly.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat the half and half, sugar, vanilla bean, and salt over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to encourage the sugar to fully dissolve into the liquid. Remove the pan from the heat once the liquid is nearly ready to come to a simmer.
  3. Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling the warm half and half mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Whisk briskly to combine before transferring the mixture back to the saucepan.
  4. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk as the mixture warms to keep the custard from scorching as it cooks. The custard will thicken as it warms, combing to a pudding like consistency when finished. The properly thickened custard will coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat. Place a fine mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth over a large bowl. Transfer the warm custard to the strainer and allow it to pass through to the bowl beneath. This will ensure that the custard is completely smooth and does not contain any undissolved grains of sugar or cooked egg. Continue until all of the custard has been strained.
  6. Add the heavy cream, whipping cream, and vanilla extract to the bowl. Whisk to combine all of the ingredients. Chill the custard base until it is completely cooled. Attempting to churn ice cream or custard before the mixture is completely chilled will result in a custard with a grainy texture. If you can, allow the custard to cool overnight in the refrigerator. You can also place the bowl of custard inside a larger bowl filled with ice water to hasten the cooling by several hours.
  7. After the base has cooled completely, process it in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s directions. Remove the frozen custard from the machine and place it in a freezer safe container. Freeze until firm and enjoy every single bite!
  1. If you don’t have a vanilla bean on hand, don’t let that deter you from making a batch of this frozen custard. You can omit the vanilla bean and still make delicious vanilla custard thanks to the vanilla extract. Sure, the resulting custard will be missing the pretty vanilla bean flecks and have a slightly less pronounced vanilla flavor, but it will still taste amazing.

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Farmhouse Coleslaw

Farmhouse Coleslaw BannerI love cabbage.  I like it raw.  I like it cooked, especially in the traditional German dishes my grandmother made when I was a child.  Hand me a soft Bierock filled with seasoned ground beef and sautéed cabbage and prepare for me to get misty at the thought of the version she made when I was young.

Ironically, I don’t like most preparations of coleslaw.  As much as I love cabbage, I just don’t usually enjoy the dressing portion of a traditional slaw as much as I would like.  Fortunately, preparing a homemade version is simple and the ingredients can easily be tailored to your family’s taste.

When I decided to create my own version at home, I filled it with my favorite fresh flavors.  Since then, this slaw has become a family favorite here at the farmhouse.  It’s delicious served with burgers, sandwiches, or grilled sausages.  It also makes a great topping for tacos.

I love to include apples in this slaw.  They add such a delicious sweetness to pair with the earthy cabbage.  Their crisp flesh is also a nice texture to include in the mix.  To keep the apples from browning, I used to sprinkle a little apple cider vinegar on them before adding them to the slaw.  Then I had the wild idea to use a bit of the pickle brine I always have on hand in the refrigerator from our batches of Spicy Ginger and Garlic Quick Pickles.  The brine works just as well to prevent browning and also adds a lovely flavor to the slaw.  You can use any acidic brine you might have lingering in the fridge or simple add a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to the apples with equally good results.

This slaw is a great side dish during the warm summer months.  While the main course is cooking on the grill, I make a batch of this slaw and dinner is ready without heating up the farmhouse.  The next night, any leftovers can be served after a gentle toss to redistribute the components.  The colors of the two colors of cabbage and apples are so beautiful on the plate and the crisp texture and flavors are sure to be a hit at your dinner table.

Farmhouse Coleslaw
I love to include apples in this slaw. They add such a delicious sweetness to pair with the earthy cabbage. Their crisp flesh is also a nice texture to include in the mix. To keep the apples from browning, I used to sprinkle a little apple cider vinegar on them before adding them to the slaw. Then I had the wild idea to use a bit of the pickle brine I always have on hand in the refrigerator from our batches of Spicy Ginger and Garlic Quick Pickles. The brine works just as well to prevent browning and also adds a lovely flavor to the slaw. You can use any acidic brine you might have lingering in the fridge or simple add a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to the apples with equally good results. I like to cut the apples into matchstick sized pieces and use a vegetable peeler to create thin ribbons of carrot. You can cut the fruit and vegetables into any size and shape of bite sized pieces based on your preference. I use Head Country spice seasoning blends in my slaw. I have also used other grill blends and even taco seasoning blend when it was all that I had on hand. Your favorite blend of grilling or seasoning spices will be delicious. Add more seasoning if needed and a pinch of cayenne pepper if you’d like a little extra spice.
  1. ¼ cup mayonnaise
  2. 1 Tablespoon seasoning blend
  3. 1 green apple
  4. 1 red apple
  5. ½ cup pickle brine
  6. 2 large carrots
  7. 6 radishes
  8. ½ head green cabbage
  9. ½ head purple cabbage
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise and 1 Tablespoon of your favorite seasoning blend.
  2. Slice the apples into ½ thick slices. Cut each slice into matchstick shaped pieces, omitting the core. Add the apple pieces and pickle brine to a small bowl and toss gently to coat. Allow the apples to remain in the brine as you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots. Use the peeler to cut ribbons from the peeled carrots. Add the carrots to the large bowl with the seasoned mayonnaise. Thinly slice the radishes and add them to the bowl.
  4. Prepare the cabbage by cutting each head into quarters. Remove the core of the cabbage before slicing each quarter into thin slices. You can also grate the cabbage if you prefer. Add all of the cabbage to the large bowl. Using a slotted spoon, remove the apple pieces from their brine and add to the large bowl. Reserve the brine.
  5. Toss the slaw gently to coat with the seasoned mayonnaise. Taste for seasoning. Add more seasoning if desired and a bit of the brine if needed to thin the mayonnaise and coat the components. Serve cold and sprinkle with the seasoning mix before serving if desired.

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Brown Sugar Dry Spice Rub

Brown Sugar Dry Spice Rub BannerThe warm weather months are in short supply here in New England.  We try to make the most of them, packing as many outdoor projects and activities as we can into the months of the year when our landscape isn’t covered in a thick blanket of snow.

Between gardening, tending to our animals, working on projects, and trying to find time to just enjoy the sunny days, time often runs short.  It’s not uncommon for us to come inside from a long day of work to then ask the important question:  “What’s for dinner?”

When prep time is short and the temperature is warm, dinner is often cooked on the grill.  On a night when we don’t want to warm up the farmhouse by cooking in the kitchen, the backyard’s grill is a much more appealing option.

Dry rubs are a great way to add flavor to whatever you’re cooking on the grill.  They don’t require hours of resting time like liquid marinades do in order to impart their flavor to the meat.  If you have the luxury of time, dry rubs can be allowed to flavor the meat for a few hours before cooking.  I find that they deliver great flavor even when applied minutes before grilling.

I keep a Mason jar of this spice rub on hand in the pantry so that we can season cuts of chicken, pork, or beef and have them on the grill in minutes.  It’s a delicious blend that appeals to everyone in our family.  The brown sugar caramelizes over the heat and the cornstarch creates a light crust which helps to prevent moisture from escaping from the meat as it cooks.

The result is a delicious dinner that comes together quickly and cooks beautifully on the grill.  During the warm summer months, this spice rub becomes part of our dinner plans at least once a week.  It’s the taste of our summer.  I hope that you’ll make it a part of yours!








Brown Sugar Dry Spice Rub
I mix up a double batch of this spice mix and keep it in a Mason jar so that it is at the ready all summer long. The spices can be adjusted based on your taste preference. When we want something spicy, I often add a bit of cayenne pepper to the mix. I haven’t found anything that isn’t more delicious with this spice rub sprinkled liberally on it!
  1. ¼ cup brown sugar
  2. 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  3. 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  6. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  7. 1 teaspoon chili powder
  8. 1 teaspoon thyme
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a container with a tight fitting lid. Fasten the lid on the container and shake to mix. This spice mix can be kept in a lidded container in the pantry indefinitely.
  2. Before grilling, sprinkle this spice mix liberally over chicken, pork, or beef. Grill as usual and enjoy!

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Raspberry Rhubarb Curd

Raspberry Rhubarb Curd SquareA few weeks ago, I shared my recipe for Creamy Lemon Curd.  It’s a staple here during the spring when we’re all craving the light, crisp flavor of fresh fruit months before our New England gardens will have anything ready to harvest. 

This is also the time of year that we begin evaluating what we have on hand from last year’s harvest.  It’s time to start using the last of the pantry and freezer’s stores of raspberries, rhubarb, and heirloom tomatoes.  Last year’s banner crops of raspberries and rhubarb gave us plenty to enjoy over the winter with enough to carry us right into this year’s harvest.

So, when I made fresh pound cake a few weeks ago, I wondered if I could create a raspberry rhubarb curd to serve with it.  I knew that I could make a delicious raspberry rhubarb simple syrup because we use one all summer long to flavor lemonade and cocktails.  I also knew that I had some of that very syrup in the refrigerator, saving me a step.

In a few minutes, I had a pot of that syrup bubbling along, thickening into a gorgeous smooth curd.  It was sweet with just the right hint of tartness.  It was a beautiful orchid purple color.

Since making this curd, it has become even more popular here at the farmhouse than our Creamy Lemon Curd.  We love to spoon it over slices of Old Fashioned Pound Cake, Daffodil Cake, or on our homemade Lemon Drop Cookies.  It’s as beautiful as it is delicious.  I hope that your family will enjoy it as much as we do!

Raspberry Rhubarb Curd
I keep a jar of fresh raspberry rhubarb syrup on hand in the refrigerator during the spring and summer. We use that beautiful syrup to flavor lemonades and cocktails. When I have plenty of the syrup on hand, I simply use 1 cup of that syrup to make this curd. If not, I make a fresh batch of syrup, using 1 cup to make curd and keeping the rest on hand in the refrigerator.
For the Raspberry Rhubarb Syrup
  1. 10 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen
  2. 6 ounces sliced rhubarb stalks, fresh or frozen
  3. 1 cup water
  4. 1 cup granulated sugar
  5. 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
For the Curd
  1. 1 cup raspberry rhubarb syrup
  2. 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  3. 4 large eggs
  4. pinch of salt
  5. 2 sticks (16 Tablespoons) butter
For the Raspberry Rhubarb Syrup
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan placed over medium heat. Stir gently to combine the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  2. Once the mixture comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth to remove the fruit and seeds. Press the fruit to release all of the liquid.
  4. Transfer the strained syrup to a container with a tight fitting lid. I like to store my homemade syrups in glass bottles with a pour spout for easy dispensing. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Curd
  1. Cut the butter into Tablespoon sized pieces, reserving 2 Tablespoons to be added to the curd after it is finished cooking.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the raspberry rhubarb syrup, lemon juice, eggs, and salt. Whisk gently to combine Place a medium saucepan over low heat. Add 14 Tablespoons of the butter to the pan. Once the butter melts, add the raspberry rhubarb syrup mixture and whisk to combine. Increase the heat slightly and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens. A perfectly thickened curd will be what the French would call “Nappe”.
  3. Nappe is a fancy term for the consistency a sauce reaches when it is thick enough to coat a dish without being too thick. Checking to see if a curd or custard is nappe is simple. Immerse a clean spoon into the mixture; remove the spoon, turning it so that the back of the spoon is facing you. Run a finger down the length of the spoon from the handle to the tip. If a clean path is created and the curd remains on both sides of the spoon, you have achieved nappe. If not, simply continue to cook the sauce while whisking until it thickens properly.
  4. Once the curd reaches nappe consistency, remove the pan from the heat. I like to strain my curd to into a large bowl to ensure that there are no lumps or bits of scrambled egg in the finished curd, but this step can be skipped. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter, whisking to incorporate the butter into the curd as it melts.
  5. Transfer the finished curd to a large bowl or Mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Curd can be kept in the refrigerator for one week.

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