for the love of goats

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One of the New Kids on The Block at Yellow Springs Farm

Ha! That title caught your eye, eh gentle readers?

Good! I love my Yellow Springs Farm goats! Well they aren’t really my goats but I love them. And every year, this time of year Yellow Springs Farm has open farm weekends :

Sat, 05/18/2019 – 10:00am to 4:00pm
Sun, 05/19/2019 – 10:00am to 4:00pm
Yellow Springs Farm Native Plant Nursery and Artisanal Goat Cheese Dairy, will be having our Springs Native Plant sale over 2 weekends in May. Originally a dairy farm 150 years ago,the farm and nursery consists of an historic farmhouse, dairy barn, a springhouse with pond on 8 acres of land. We grow native plants, design and install native landscapes and produce over 25 varieties of fresh and aged artisanal goat cheeses. So come on out and take a picture on our Open Farm day weekends(May 11th/12th and May 18th and 19th) with our Nubian Goats, sample cheeses, and see our blooming wildflowers! Plant experts will be available to help you select plants for your garden or landscape plan.

It’s a little slice of heaven. The goats are total characters. The plants are awesome – I have planted three gardens with them now. And the goat cheese and yogurt? Award winning for a very good reason – totally delicious.

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People visiting with the goats this weekend.

I have known the farmers Catherine and Al Renzi for years.  I remember back to circa 2001 when they decided to start their farm and when they bought it.

Over the years a well-deserved following has developed and the event has grown…as in the number of visitors increases every year. And this is where I am going to open my big mouth because it is a distinct privilege being able to visit Catherine and Al’s farm. And no, I don’t work or speak for the farm, I am speaking my mind based upon what I saw out of guests this year that I thought wasn’t the best behavior ever considering these farmers open up their farm (where they live and work) to all of us. 

Let’s start with parking.  They know their farm and their road so they tell you quite politely where to park.  That doesn’t mean the road and it doesn’t mean parking in roped off areas of the farm or blocking people in or even taking what amount to multiple spaces. Be polite, you are a guest.

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This is a farm. Not a dog park.

Pets.  This weekend people bought their dogs. Yes their dogs like it was a dog park.  It’s not a dog park, it’s a working farm with valuable animals including the farm’s own dog.  It is simply not fair to presume YOUR pets are welcome.  Keep them at home. Please. That’s like bringing uninvited guests to a sit-down dinner party.

The goats.  The goats are lovely creatures who are independent minded.  So listen to the goat herders. They know their charges.  And please do not feed their charges.  They have plenty of their own food.  Yes, they look at you with those big brown eyes but resist LOL, resist!

The plants. The plants are awesome!  Around 200 varieties of native plants. From all over the Mid Atlantic and Northeast.  I bought my first witch hazels ever here years ago.  On Saturday I had an impulse buy: one of my favorite kinds of oak trees, a Chestnut Oak. It was here at Yellow Springs that I discovered one of my favorite native perennials called Indian Pinks. Also flame azaleas.

And the cheeses? Mmmmmm mmmmm mmmm.  I recommend the goat cheese with mushrooms that was recommended to me this weekend. I can’t remember it’s proper name but it was delicious.

Yellow Springs Farm is located at:

1165 Yellow Springs Rd  
Chester Springs, Pennsylvania 19425
 (610) 827-2014
 www.yellowspringsfarm.com

Enjoy the goat photos and thanks for stopping by.

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snow day baking: applesauce cake

Over the weekend I wrote about a little vintage recipe box with recipes in it that I bought. Another thing I bought was a vintage aluminum 9″ Mirro clampless side pin release spring form pan. (Model 1359 M if you are interested.)

The pan looks like this:

The little side pin just slides on and locks into place. The pin is an easy piece to lose, so the spring form pans I usually see around have a latch. I hadn’t seen one with a pin intact for years. Needless to say that made me psyched to find this pan, which was completely in round and in perfect working order.

Yesterday in a fit of pre-snow domesticity that included a batch of chili for later this week, I decided to bake.

In my little recipe box there is indeed a recipe for applesauce cake, but the one I am sharing is my own recipe that I use. My mother and grandmother used to make applesauce cake all of the time, so this was basically the recipe they used but I tweaked it to my liking.

My mother and grandmother used to bake their applesauce cake and a 13″ x 9″ rectangular pan. I like the tube pan better for simple cakes like this. Besides, it looks prettier for the presentation of it all. (Yes, sometimes I have to let my inner Martha Stewart shine absurdly.)

The vintage Fiestaware round platter in the photo I already owned. A few years ago I swapped out all of my “every day china” for vintage Fiestaware. I don’t know what it is about the dishes but they make me happy. Probably the colors.

However like any other vintage plate, I never ever put it in the microwave. In the case of the Fiestaware it also has to do with the old glazes. (Check out this article from Smithsonian and The Spruce.) Old plates were designed pre-microwave and pre-dishwasher.

My Fiestaware is fine in the dishwasher, although sometimes I just hand wash it. Other old plates I have like Limoge never, ever go in the microwave or dishwasher because of the glazes and the metallic gold leaf touches. But having to do a few dishes by hand never hurt anybody.

However this post is not a primer on vintage dishes is it? It’s about the applesauce cake. (Yum)

I will note that yesterday this cake took 50 to 55 minutes to bake. So once you hit the 45 minute mark you have to keep an eye on it depending on your oven.

(And yesterday, shhhh don’t tell I didn’t have applesauce but I did have homemade apple butter I had made. And what is apple butter except more cooked down applesauce, right?)

And here is your hack for flouring and greasing a pan. Depending on what kind of a cake it is sometimes instead of dusting with flour if it’s a chocolate cake for example, I will grease the pan and dust with unsweetened Cocoa. Or I will dust with almond meal otherwise known as ground almonds. But for a cake like this, I am just going to dust with flour but I prefer the flour you use when making a roux: Wondra.

Wondra is super fine. That’s what makes it quick mixing for a roux or a gravy. That’s what makes it ideal in my opinion when you have to grease and flour a baking pan. I sometimes use it for dredging meat to brown for a stew.

But again, sorry, I got off track. Here is the recipe:

Applesauce Cake

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted but slightly cooled

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 1/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

2 cups applesauce

1/2 cup white raisins

1 cup chopped walnuts

Powdered sugar to dust cake when cool

• Preheat oven to 350°F degrees

• In a big bowl whisk white sugar, brown sugar and mix well.

• Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla, then mix until well blended and fluffy.

• Add to the creamed mixture salt, spices, baking powder, baking soda, then the applesauce. Add the flour.

• Finally fold in the raisins and walnuts.

• Pour batter into a greased and floured tube pan and bake until firm to the touch, about 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan, then pop it out of the pan and dust with powdered sugar.

like a little pandora’s box: the old recipe box

I love to cook and everyone who knows me knows I collect vintage and old cookbooks, so today I added an old recipe box to my repertoire.

It was a funny little thing and probably no one else would have bought it because it’s like a piece of some other woman’s history but it has all her cherished recipes in it, which I find really cool. I also found it really sad that no one in her family wanted it.

Old Fashioned Walnut Loaf? Sounds pretty good!

These are just a few of the recipes. The owner of the recipe box seem to like pineapple because there are a lot of pineapple recipes. But there are also a couple of old-fashioned fudge recipes too!

Pot pies. Green bean casserole (which I will keep in the recipe box but will never cook because I think it’s gross.) And more!

Now that I have this recipe box and it’s a nice one I am also going to add my late mother-in-law’s recipes. She was a legendary home cook and it was because of her I learned how to make an amazing gazpacho.

I love old recipes. Especially the handwritten ones. They are history. Someone took the time to write these down, which is what makes them special.

These old handwritten recipes are a thing. There is actually a blog called Handwritten Recipes but the creator hasn’t posted since December.

Now most prefer the ease of simply going to the internet and letting your fingers do the walking but nothing beats an amazing old cookbook. Or a recipe someone thought enough of to write down.

Old cookbooks and old handwritten recipes are a little like going on a mystery history tour. And if you want to master a basic recipe in the kitchen, this is how to do it. New cookbooks are lovely but it’s the old ones that really teach you the art of cooking. Not just a new recipe.

Tips and tricks. That is also what you will find in between the pages of old cookbooks and recipe boxes. It’s kind of cool when you find one. You also learn about the food trends of the past. (HINT: check out a cooking show from Ireland you can find streaming on Netflix called Lords and Ladles.)

In 2018 Food and Wine wrote an article on cookbook collecting:

Before you throw your old cookbooks away, it might be worth getting them appraised. Antiques Roadshow’s latest season, which premiered this past Monday, will make a stop in one of America’s most beloved food cities: New Orleans. While shooting in the well-known southern travel destination and former Louisiana capital’s convention center last summer, Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Brattle Book Shop owner Ken Gloss revealed to Forbes that our old family cookbooks are worth more than we realize….According to Gloss, some of the earliest American cookbooks (dating back to the 1790s) are selling in the $1,000 range, while books from as far back as the 1400s and 1500s go for thousands of dollars. Some other pricey collectibles are glossy cookbooks about cake decorating from the 1920s, first editions signed by cooking legends like Julia Childs and Fannie Farmer, and even some hard to find recipe pamphlets once included with newly purchased appliances. Gloss states that although seemingly mundane, their high price tag is due to how these items serve as historical documents—about places, people, cultures, and, of course, the food of the time.

“[Cookbooks] offer a view into society at the time,” Gloss told Forbes. “What were the foods people were eating? What was available? How were they preparing them?”

Old cookbooks and discarded recipe boxes can be found everywhere. Thrift stores, garage and estate sales, eBay, Etsy, Thriftbooks, used book stores local to where you live, library book sales and more. Church rummage sales are one of my go to sources for old cookbooks.

Step away from your keyboard next time you need a recipe and dust off a cookbook or crack open an old recipe box. You never know what treasures you will unearth!

the cookie chronicles continue: new cookie for christmas 2018!

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So maybe some of you out there have baked with mint chocolate baking chips and my new recipe is not so revolutionary.  But I never have and I think I have come up with a cookie that can be described as if a peppermint pattie had a cousin. And truthfully, if you had the patience you could chop up little peppermint patties I am sure, but hey I have a lot of baking to do, so thanks, but no.

You will notice I am for the most part a drop cookie baker.  Can I roll and decorate with royal icing? Sure, but I am more about the flavor profiles of the humble drop cookie or biscotti.

Here is the recipe:

Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup sweet butter softened

3/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons peppermint extract

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 package chocolate mint baking chips (mine was 10 ounces I think Ghiradelli , Hershey, and Nestle Make them seasonally and you can find them at wholesale nut folks like Nuts.com or Edwards Freeman Nut Company in Conshohocken)

1 cup mini white chocolate chips (mine are the Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value)

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur and if your flour is more than 2 or 3 months old, spring for fresh.)

1/3 Cup of Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder

Glittery baking sugar – today I used Christmas green from Wiltons

So How Did I Do it? Here are the mixing steps: 

So ……cream butter and BOTH sugars until smooth.  Beat in peppermint and vanilla extract.  (Buy good baking extracts, imitation extracts leave an after taste you will not like in your baking.)

Add eggs, mix until blended. Add cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Do this slowly and not all at once or you and your kitchen will be cocoa coated.

Add flour in three or four doses – don’t know how else to describe it.  Again, blend sort of on a lower blender speed or flour will fly.

When your dough is smooth and well blended, blend in your chips, cover your cookie dough and refrigerate an hour or two.

When dough is chilled pull out of refrigerator and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. And FYI if you chill cookie dough before you bake it will keep cookies from doing the super spread and will also mean you get softer and more firm cookies.  Or at least that has been my experience.

IMG_1426I use jelly roll sheet pans and silicone baking sheets.  I use the aluminum (silver-colored NOT dark coated they make your cookies BURN).  Mine are Chicago Metallic Commercial Baker’s pans and the Nordic Ware Commercial Baker’s Pans are also good.  These are the pans that have a raised edge of about an inch and are rectangular – they are the size of regular cookie sheets more or less. I use Velesco Premium Silicone Baking Mats.  They are 11 5/8” x 16 ½”.  They are best price hands down on Amazon but like the baking pans I mentioned sometimes you will find them at Home Sense or Home Goods.

In any event, silver NON-coated baking pans lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets are truly the way to go. Buy good pans. They last longer and the end result is preferable. Some of my friends swear by the insulated baking sheets (“air-bake” or something)

O.k. back to the baking of these cookies.

Break off bits of dough and form 1 ½” round balls.  Dip top in glittery baking sugar, and put on cookie sheets 2” apart.

Bake 8 – 10 minutes depending on your oven .  Tonight I started out at 10 minutes a batch for two batches and then went to 9 minutes for the final two batches.

Cool on baking pans a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  I store my cookies in old school metal tins.

This recipe makes a little over 4 dozen cookies.

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happy place: four dogs tavern/ marshalton inn

Don’t you just love this Chester County treasure? Four Dogs Tavern/Marshalton Inn?

Whenever another development is proposed in any part of the county, I think of places like this. You can’t create this out of Tyvec.

Marshalton is a happy place. Come visit and see the festive decorations and have a meal at Four Dogs!

thanksgiving 2018

Thanksgiving. The ultimate all-American holiday. I will note however, “Thanksgivings” are also throughout history a common thing in many cultures after bringing in the harvest.

Pilgrims and Puritans who emigrated from England in the 1620s and 1630s carried the tradition of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving with them to the colonies of New England. Several Thanksgivings were held in early New England history that have been identified as being the first feasts including Pilgrim holidays in Plymouth in 1621 and 1623, and a Puritan holiday in Boston in 1631.

However, there was a regional battle forever as to where the first Thanksgiving was held. Was it New England or in Virginia? You see, in 1619 the arrival of English settlers at Berkeley Hundred in Charles City County, Virginia, concluded with a religious celebration as dictated by the group’s charter. A Thanksgiving.

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” ~ Thornton Wilder

Thanksgiving and as to what it meant carried on into the Revolutionary War Era. A lot of it involved proclamations and political wrangling which is well, an American tradition, correct? As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer.”

Thanksgiving was observed on various dates throughout our history. Truthfully if you research it, the actual date Thanksgiving was observed varied from state to state. The final Thursday in November had become the customary date in most U.S. states by the beginning of the 19th century, and Halloween in 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a presidential proclamation changing the holiday to the next to last Thursday in November, for business and commerce reasons.

Then along came President John F. Kennedy and his Proclamation 3560 on November 5, 1963, which said in part: “Over three centuries ago, our forefathers in Virginia and in Massachusetts, far from home in a lonely wilderness, set aside a time of thanksgiving. On the appointed day, they gave reverent thanks for their safety, for the health of their children, for the fertility of their fields, for the love which bound them together, and for the faith which united them with their God.” He wanted to bridge the gap between the North and South rivalries over who Thanksgivinged first.

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American. ~O. Henry

So now to our family and other Thanksgivings. By “our” I mean everyone out there. Are they ever the perfect holiday we envision from Currier and Ives prints? Or Norman Rockwell? Or the Hallmark Channel movies and reruns of The Waltons?

I know mine haven’t been but I still love the holiday. Some of my favorite Thanksgivings spent as a child were all of the ones we spent with family friends who moved from Pennsylvania to Bethesda, Maryland and then to Summit, New Jersey. The celebrations were large (lots of kids), loud (lots of kids and lots of adults laughing), and happy. The food was amazing and no one was expected to be perfect.

I think the best Thanksgivings are spent with those you choose to be with. Not those you feel obligated to be with.

Childhood Thanksgivings I found less fun growing up were the early childhood ones spent with my parents’ respective siblings. Suffice it to say, the adults really didn’t get along, really didn’t even know each other as adults, but felt free to judge each other. So the end result was stiff, and slightly uncomfortable Thanksgivings. The Waltons we weren’t.

As my sister and I grew into adulthood we also had Thanksgivings we spent with our cousin Suzy and her family. I loved those because Suzy made it fun. Then my sister married first so Thanksgivings were split between our family and her in-laws. I also had the Thanksgiving many years prior to when my sister married where my parents decided they were bringing Thanksgiving to my sister and a then boyfriend in New York City and I was adopted by a friend’s family for dinner. That was one of my favorite years and we did not even have turkey. We had a huge capon. If memory serves that was because my friend’s dad did not like turkey. And my friend’s growing up home was made for holidays. It was old and cheerful and warm.

Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often. ~Johnny Carson

For me there was an 8 plus year period of Thanksgivings I have mostly erased or have tried to erase from my memory. I call those the purgatory Thanksgiving years. The person I was in a relationship with had family outside Mechanicsburg and Allentown.

I loved the Mechanicsburg Thanksgivings because his sister in law and her mom were awesome. They loved holidays and celebrating holidays and it showed. Everything was festive and bright.

The Allentown Thanksgivings were somewhat awful as we were crammed into a skinny townhouse in a development on a public golf course with dark painted walls. The paint made already small rooms seem more close, and the sister who hosted had this trick every time like clockwork to let photos of his ex-wife fall out of a sideboard. Half of the Thanksgiving dishes and turkey were served in aluminum foil pans and the dinner plates were dirt brown Pfaltzgraff. These Thanksgivings were depressing and uncomfortable. The people were all basically unhappy and not particularly nice and you could feel it. You weren’t one of them and they got that feeling across.

After those years, and sprinkled occasionally throughout my life there were other kinds of Thanksgivings. These were the holidays spent in restaurants or clubs like The Merion Cricket Club. Those were fun holidays too, but part of the “thing” of Thanksgiving to me is how your whole house smells while cooking Thanksgiving dinner, combined with the smell of a fire in the fireplace or wood stove.

I will note one Thanksgiving decades ago when my mother had invited SO many we couldn’t handle the crowd my parents made reservations at a restaurant in Radnor called the Greenhouse. Now you know I am dating myself to the late 1970s because that was when we did Thanksgiving there. When you did Thanksgiving at The Greenhouse you could order your own turkey for your group if your reservation group was large enough. And it was a really cool place literally in old greenhouses and a converted stable portion dating back to the 1760s which some historians still say once housed George Washington’s horse. Not George, just the horse. Today the location is known as 333 Belrose and is owned by a high school friend.

Now as the years have past and life and time have moved forward, Thanksgiving has changed again. It’s like an ever evolving holiday in our lives. I truthfully love cooking Thanksgiving. It’s also a time for me to play with my vintage linens and dishes and is the one time of year that vintage ceramic turkey sees the light of day as a centerpiece.

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow, which may mean every day, or once in seven days, at least. ~Edward Sandford Martin

Some Thanksgivings now are just our little family and sometimes expanded with other family and friends. This year it’s a smaller gathering so there will be lots of leftovers!

Right now the turkey gizzards, neck, and vegetables are burbling away on the stove as I make the broth I will use later. The cranberry sauce is made, and so are the sweet potatoes and butternut squash. The potato and squash purée will go into the oven to warm up after the turkey comes out to rest. There will be a pumpkin pecan pie but I am unhappy with the pie crust.

“When you love what you have, you have everything you need. ” ~ Unknown

I am grateful for my life and my family so I love the true celebration of Thanksgiving. A lot of our family and friends are farther flung this year celebrating all over, but celebrating the day wherever they are.

So I hope all of you out there have a terrific Thanksgiving. I will leave you with something to think about. I was thinking about the world we live in today, and specifically the tone of many politicians in this country and rhetoric that is nothing short of anti-immigrant. Think about those first Thanksgivings in this country when the Native Americans served feasts to what were then illegal immigrants from Europe.

“We can always find something to be thankful for, and there may be reasons why we ought to be thankful for even those dispensations which appear dark and frowning.” ~Albert C Barnes

going to france for dinner via chester county

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We have this sort of unofficial supper club with some of our Chester County residing Shipley friends. Last night, we were treated to dinner at the home of one of these friends.  We all went to France via Chester County because another guest at the table was renown local chef, (an actual honest to goodness amazing French Chef)  Sylvie Ashby.

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Chef Sylvie 

Chef Sylvie lives in West Chester. She was born and raised in Normandy, France. She always wanted to share the love and passion for French cooking and comfort food the French traditional way by only using seasonal fresh produce and meats from the local markets.

Last evening’s dinner was one of my favorite meals ever.  I grew up on bœuf bourguignon or beef Burgundy or bœuf à la Bourguignonne is not some ordinary stew, as delicious as they may beef.  It is elevated far beyond that and if done properly like last night, the meat does not disintegrate but melts in your mouth. Last night, it was probably hands down the best I have ever had.

We started with hors d’oevres of belgian endive boats piped with a light and fluffy goat cheese, goat cheese toasts, and one of my favorite purely French treats I have never made, gougères!Related image Gougères are these fluffy puffs of warm pastry made with Gruyère cheese.  (Check out this recipe for gougères from Alain Ducasse.)

After our main course of bœuf bourguignon we had a marvelous salad with fresh greens and a delightful vinaigrette with an amazing blood orange infused olive oil from a Taste of Olive in West Chester. And the bread? Amazing as always from La Baguette Magique in West Chester.

The beef and cheese were also locally sourced.  I forget whose goat cheeses we had, and

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Chef Sylvie Courtesy Photo

I do not know the farm name for the beef but for some reason I think it was from down near Landenberg.

And dessert? Channel your inner Julia Child, it was Floating Island! Floating Island is a light as a feather dessert consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise.  The crème anglaise is custardy and delicious.  Chef Sylvie finished the dessert with a light caramel drizzle.

This dinner was a true mini vacation to France.  I love when we get together to have dinner with our friends, and we loved being introduced to Chef Sylvie.

And guess what? You too can hire Chef Sylvie to bring the taste of France to your home for intimate gatherings.  Chef Sylvie specializes in French country cooking, bringing France to the comfort of your own home for private dinner parties.  And her prices are emminently reasonable. She also will cater events like birthday parties, Girls ‘night out, Crepes bar party, Book Clubs, Wine Clubs…her website is cuisinedesylvie.com . You can also find her on Facebook Cuisine de Sylvie.

One thing I did not ask her is if she teaches cooking classes.  I think that would be super fun!

Stay safe in the snow and ice!

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