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Practicing Gratitude on the Farm Even When It’s Hard

Through the Door

There is more to running a successful small farm business than harvesting lettuce or baking scones. Success is also a state of mind.

One night over a meal of green beans and new potatoes we talked about how grateful we are for Five Feline Farm. The country home and business we have established here. Most of the food for that meal was grown steps from the back door. Planted, tended, harvested, and cooked within a 100-yard radius of the table. To have such a level of relationship with the food we eat is a gift. At the same time, we have the distinct impression we have been entrusted with something that not only nurtures us but also the people who visit. 

But sometimes it is hard to remember to be grateful.

Like when things go wrong.

Did you ever have one of those days that nothing quite works out the way you hoped? 

It’s the little things that drive me nuts. 

The toilet paper holder falls apart when I’m in a hurry to get somewhere.

The coffee grinder is not on the shelf where I swore I left it. 

It’s cold outside on the day I scheduled to work outside.

A planting of new seeds did not germinate as advertised. 

In those moments, I have to work harder to be grateful. Experience has taught me that if I adjust my attitude and look for things to be grateful for, the little aggravations are easier to manage. 

I remind myself to be grateful for my life and the things I have acquired to make my life easier. Or that make life better. 

I am grateful for the toilet paper that I can put on that holder that fell apart. I can savor the fresh ground coffee that fills my cup. Property that provides a place to exercise creativity. The abundance of seeds that did germinate and produce fresh, tasty produce. 

As I often do when thinking about a concept, I turn to the dictionary for a new perspective. What does the definition of gratitude teach me? What does it mean to be grateful, full of graciousness? 

Merriam Webster lists the essential meaning of “gratitude” as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks” with the full definition being “a state of being grateful: thankfulness”. 

According to the thesaurus, gratitude is the opposite of censure. “Censure” is condemnation, judgment, blameworthy. 

Gratitude is not just what you do, but a state of being. A chosen attitude to combat feelings of condemnation and judgment. 

I can offer gratitude to others. I can be grateful for things. I can practice appreciation for all that surrounds me. I can accept gratitude from others.

It is a state of being that I can choose each day.

For today, whether the biscotti works out or not, I choose to be grateful for the opportunity to bake. 

I choose gratitude for Five Feline Farm and the fullness it offers my life. Even when the days are long and the work is hard. Even on the days that things don’t quite work out as planned. 

What would happen if we all practiced a little more gratitude? 

Delicious Flavored Vinegar

Gourmet potatoes dressed with chive blossom vinegar.

Here at Five Feline Farm, we have started experimenting with infusing vinegar. We start with either white or apple cider vinegar, then add ingredients from our gardens to steep. We started with chive blossom and garlic scape infusions. The chive blossoms turned the vinegar a beautiful pink color. Garlic scapes keep the original color of the vinegar. But the flavors are phenomenal!

Now we are trying other fruits and herbs.

Small batch with farm-fresh flavors beats those fancy specialty oil and vinegar shops any day.

The next question is always, “How do you use these delicious vinegar infusions?”

The first obvious choice is on a salad.

Pile your favorite greens and salad toppings into a bowl. Drizzle a good quality, flavorful olive oil across the top. Then splash with an infused vinegar. Add some fresh cracked pepper and sea salt to taste.

This simple dressing allows the flavors of your salad ingredients to shine.

You can also make a quick vinaigrette dressing. Start with blending dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and infused vinegar in a bowl. Blend in olive oil with a whisk drop by drop, then in a thin stream to create an emulsion. You can adapt the proportions to taste.

But you do not have to limit yourself to only topping a traditional green salad. Here are some more ideas:

—Scrub new or small heirloom potatoes and cut them into bite-size cubes. Boil in salted water or steam until tender. While still warm, toss with olive oil, infused vinegar, and salt to taste. The potatoes will pick up the gentle underlying notes from the infused vinegar.

—Or slice colorful raw beets very thin. Use the same dressing ingredients plus some freshly ground pepper.

—Splash infused vinegar over grilled chicken breast.

—Make a pan sauce after roasting chicken or fish. After cooking, remove the meat from the pan and return the pan to medium-high heat. Deglaze the pan with infused vinegar, then add butter to thicken the sauce. Serve over the meat.

As you can tell, infused vinegar is delicious any time you need a bit of acidic tang to your meal.

Hooray for Gourmet Potatoes!

This is the first week of our Gert’s Garden 2 Go© delivery that includes gourmet potatoes.

We call them gourmet because they are. Small spuds of varying colors and textures, specially bred to be small and flavorful.

Of course, we like “new” potatoes too.

What is the difference?

New potatoes are from varieties like Kennebec, Pontiac, and Yukon Gold. Most of these varieties are grown for size and storage. Before each hill of potatoes is harvested, the gardener gently digs around the plant. She is assessing the progress of the potatoes and pulling out a few of the early small ones. “New” refers to these early harvest culling of the plants that will be left to grow large potatoes.

A few of the gourmet varieties are Adirondack Red, French Fingerling, German Butterball, and All Blue. These potatoes are designed to be harvested when the potatoes are small in diameter. They have very thin skin similar to “new” potatoes but will not develop thick enough skin to store long term.

Many people have asked over the years how we fix these potatoes. It is a common question when presented with unknown varieties.

My favorite way to cook these is to oven roast in a cast-iron skillet with either garlic cloves or small new onions. We happen to have bunching onions available too, so it makes for a perfect dish.

To roast this way, preheat the oven to 375º, melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter in a cast-iron skillet. Scrub the potatoes but do not peel. Cut larger potatoes into pieces approximately the same size as the smallest potato. This ensures even roasting and that all potatoes in the skillet are done at the same time. Add potatoes and peeled garlic cloves or onions to the skillet. Toss to coat, season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until done as tested with a sharp knife.

Another great option for these potatoes is to scrub and cut as above but simmer in salted water until almost done. Drain and allow to dry. Smash each potato flat and then brush with olive oil and season to taste. Grill or oven roast at 450º until the outside is crispy but the inside remains tender. Turn at least once, but try not to turn too many times as the potatoes will fall apart.

The third way I prepare these is in a vinegar dressing-based potato salad. Add crispy crumbled bacon, hard-boiled eggs, chopped dill pickles, salt, and pepper to taste. Dress with a combination of flavorful olive oil and tasty vinegar. This is pretty when red, white, and blue potatoes are available around the 4th of July.

So get cooking with gourmet potatoes. Let us know your favorite preparation.

Roasted Garlic

 

Roasting garlic is one of my favorite ways to eat it. Roasting mellows the flavor and creates a smooth textured paste. Roasted Garlic is delicious on almost anything.

The first time I had roasted garlic was in an Italian restaurant in Destin, Fl. The waiter presented the table with a whole head of garlic, still warm from the oven. A slice had been removed from the top then it was drizzled with olive oil. The waiter squeezed the cloves from the papery covering and added more olive oil. Salt, a couple of cranks of the pepper grinder, and parmesan rounded out the topping for our soft Italian bread.

I was smitten.

Roasting garlic is easy.

Since that first experience, I knew I must do this at home. I even acquired a cast iron garlic roaster in the shape of a bulb of garlic with a flat bottom. This was touted as a tool to use on the grill or over a fire.

Sometimes I cut a slice from the top of the garlic head, drizzle it with olive oil and wrap the whole thing in foil. Roasting in the oven at 350º for about 35 minutes seems to do the trick. After it cools enough to handle but is still warm, follow the same plan our waiter in Destin did.

Delicious.

A note about roasting.

You don’t have to risk slicing your fingers trying to get the top cut off the whole head. Go ahead and separate the cloves, but leave them in the papery outer covering. I recommend you do this with several heads of garlic at once because you can never have too much roasted garlic.

Toss the cloves with a healthy amount of olive oil, then add another drizzle for good measure. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty foil with enough length to cover and seal over the top of the garlic. You are making a packet.

Bake at 350º for 35 minutes or until the aroma drives you crazy. If you aren’t sure the cloves are done, open the packet carefully to avoid a steam burn. Gently press on one of the cloves with a knife. If it gives easily, it is done. Otherwise bake another 5-10 minutes, until soft.

Once the garlic is roasted, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Set a fine-meshed sieve over a bowl and force the garlic through with the back of a spoon. Discard the exterior paper casings of the cloves. You may need to scrape the bottom of the sieve with a rubber spatula to gather all that garlicky goodness. Add more olive oil as desired.

Now spread that roasted garlic and olive oil on everything.

This week, I put it on a homemade pizza. I always pre-bake my homemade pizza crust on a baking stone so it gets crispier. After pre-baking, I spread some of the roasted garlic/olive oil mixture over the crust, then topped with pizza sauce. On this occasion, I added sliced green olives, tablespoonfuls of cream cheese, and a parmesan/romano/asiago cheese blend. Then back into the oven to finish baking. You can use whatever toppings or cheeses inspire you.

No matter the toppings, the addition of roasted garlic makes this pizza extra delicious.

Let us know how you enjoy garlic.