Month: November 2014

A Reflection on Holiday Eating

Every year at Thanksgiving time, we spend a week with Dan’s side of the family.  When I first joined the Perkins’ family 12 years ago, Thanksgiving week involved extremely competitive board games, outdoor adventures, a lot of laughter—and eating tons of food.  My sister-in-law made delicious, home cooked meals each night for dinner, but during the day (and after dinner), we ate whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted.  It was vacation after all, you know, the holidays, a time to let go of the daily routine and discipline and just relax.

Our holiday eating habits weren’t reserved solely for Thanksgiving.  I remember one summer vacation in Maine, a few of us adults went to the grocery store, and we took along my baby niece.  Our cart contained a wide variety of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream containers and specialty beer.  Yep, ice cream and beer, that’s all.  I didn’t think too much of it until we got to the register.  The cashier looked at us with these accusing eyes, and I could just hear her thinking, And what are you young gluttons going to feed that baby, huh?  Well, the baby would return back to the house and eat something like pureed sweet potatoes and kale, while the adults consumed their once-a-day healthy, home cooked meal and filled in the rest with Italian sandwiches and cheese bread, brownies and bakery treats, chips and take-out.

As “fun” as this type of eating was, at some point the family began to realize it was not sustainable.  One family member was diagnosed as pre-diabetic.  Another with high cholesterol.  Food allergies came into play.  And as more and more children joined the family, the adults had less and less energy to stay up late playing Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, or whatever new game Dan’s brother introduced to the family.  It wasn’t just lack of sleep affecting our energy levels—it was the food we were eating.

So the menu began to change.  The Perkins’ family dived into one food trend after another, each one a step closer to a healthy perspective.  The first year it was the Schwarzbein Principle, the next, Maker’s Diet.  Then came green smoothies, and, for some, gluten-free.  We haven’t arrived at a 100% clean eating Thanksgiving, but I don’t think that was ever the goal.  We eat healthfully for the most part—oatmeal or eggs for breakfast; salads or sandwiches for lunch; dinners ranging from risotto to shish-ka-bobs to chili, depending on which family’s in charge of the evening meal.  We still enjoy the treats that come with the holiday: pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies; Snowflake Mix; Tazo chai; ice cream; home-brewed beer. 

As we approach Thanksgiving 2014, I’m expecting to eat well again this year, and, in doing so, to feel good.  Good enough to ice skate with my sons and go on crazy, bumpy four-wheeler rides in the bitter cold.  Good enough to play a lengthy game of Heads Up with the whole family and sit in front of the wood-burning stove talking late into the night.  Good enough to sing lullabies to the children and songs of thanksgiving.  Our holiday is still, in many ways, centered on food.  But instead of thoughtless indulging, I feel like we, as family, practice mindful thankfulness for the food we have in such abundance.

The day before we leave, Dan and I will harvest fresh spinach and baby salad greens, carrots and beets to share for the Thanksgiving week.  This year, I’m thankful for a family who not only appreciates the nutritious benefits of such veggies, but also truly enjoys eating them.




Recipe: Thanksgiving Salad with Apples, Beets, Brie and Candied Pecans

Believe it or not, we’ve arrived at our final week of fall share distribution! Week Seven of sweet spinach and buttery salad greens, candy carrots and sturdy beets, savory green onions and crisp radishes.

BeetsHead Lettuce 1Gardenjust the carrots166daikon in the ground before harvestIMG_1079cropped-200.jpg

As we approach Thanksgiving, I’d like to share how thankful I am for you, our farm members.  I appreciate your willingness to try new foods (like beets and green smoothies!), for your feedback on recipes, for remembering our goats with sweet treats, for chilly-afternoon conversations, for jars of homemade goodies. It’s truly a pleasure to grow for you.

Farm Member MontageI’d also like to leave you with a recipe you can use as part of your Thanksgiving meal.   We make a variation of this salad for pretty much all of our fall/winter get-togethers, be it an annual friend get-together known locally as Friendsgiving,  a church potluck, or the big Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.

This salad packs a punch when it comes to vitamins, fiber, and texture. Let’s dig in and get started with the beets.  (For those of you who still are on the fence about beets, this salad can survive without them!)  We’re going to do the same thing we did in the very first recipe of this series—thinly slice and gently steam the beets.  A few of you have asked about peeling the beets–good question!  I rarely peel mine, but you’re welcome to if you have a texture preference. When the beets are finished steaming, set them aside to cool.

Meanwhile, melt a little butter over medium-high heat in your cast iron skillet or frying pan.  Toss in your pecans, add a little brown sugar, and stir until your pecans are caramelized, about 5 minutes.  Set the pecans on a sheet of wax paper to cool. When you sample one right out of the skillet, try not to burn your mouth (ahem, not that I’ve ever done that before).  If you don’t have time to caramelize your own pecans, you can always substitute a store-bought variety.

Pecans 2

Next, make your dressing.  I made a variation of cider vinaigrette from this Taste of Home salad recipe.  Whisk together apple cider, apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard, and oil with a little salt and pepper.  Set aside.


Slice the brie into 1/2″ pieces and place in a microwaveable dish. I chose the Président brand for its mild taste and smooth texture. You’re welcome to leave on or cut off the rind according to your preference.


The prep is almost done! Chop up the apple of your choice–I prefer Honeycrisp or Gala for something sweet or Granny Smith for tartness. Find a bowl appropriate to the size of your gathering, and fill it with a combination of baby spinach, baby salad greens, and/or torn head lettuce.  (If you’re feeling daring, throw in a little mesclun too!)

Right before serving, gently warm the brie in the microwave so it’s just beginning to melt.  Then place about two-thirds of each salad topping–including the warmed brie–on the greens, and toss everything together. The idea is to make sure the last guest to be served still gets the goodies! Lightly drizzle a few tablespoons of dressing over the salad.  Then sprinkle on the remaining toppings and make your salad sparkle with a little more dressing.

You can feel the satisfaction of serving a delicious and nutritious dish to complement your holiday feast.

Plated 3 (From Top)

A few notes:

1) A lot of the salad prep can be completed ahead of time, like the beets, pecans, and dressing.  You can even chop up the apples the day before—just make sure you toss them with lemon juice to keep them from browning.

2) Pour the remaining dressing into a small pitcher or serving dish and place on the holiday table for those who prefer even more flavor.

3) This salad is ripe for variations.  Don’t like brie?  Use gorgonzola, camembert, or a good cheddar.  Instead of apples or beets, try dates or pears.  Choose toppings that make your mouth water!

Leave a comment and let me know about your experience with the Thanksgiving salad!

Photographs and Food Styling: Anne Kingma

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Recipe: Roasted Chicken with Herbs and Carrots

There’s almost no better way to eat a homegrown, cool-season carrot than raw. 

harvesting carrots

crated carrotsRenowned winter grower Eliot Coleman writes, “The tastiness resulting from fall growing and cool-soil storage elevates the humble carrot to another plane.”  Dan and I agree.  During a busy harvest morning, we’ll pull a carrot from the ground, brush it off, and enjoy a crunchy, sweet snack in the middle of the garden.

Dan enjoying a freshly harvested carrot

harvest with a smile

In my opinion, however, there is another “best” way to eat a garden-fresh carrot, and that’s roasted.  You can roast carrots on their own, tossed with a bit of olive oil, sea salt and herbs, or you can roast carrots the way I like to do it—beneath a chicken.

Start by completely thawing your chicken in the refrigerator.  (For me, this means taking the chicken out of the freezer two days ahead of time.)  When you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge and let set for 30 minutes on the counter.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, then get started on the prep work.

First, you need to make the herb butter that makes this chicken so delicious.  Cut 6 tbsp of butter into a bowl (or food processor if you want to speed up the process).  Beat the butter with a spoon or fork until it’s soft and smooth.  Chop up fresh parsley, fresh thyme, a green onion (all from your share!), along with 3 cloves of garlic.  Toss all this deliciousness into the butter, and add the lemon juice and a touch of salt and pepper.  Stir it all together and set aside.

herb butter

Next, prep your vegetables.  Peel and quarter the onion.  Trim the carrots (you’re always welcome to trim a little extra for a snack!).  Spread the carrots and two of the onion quarters evenly in your roasting pan, and spoon the sherry over the vegetables.

Now back to the chicken.  Start by patting the skin dry with paper towels.  (In order for the chicken to roast crisply, the skin needs to be dry.)  Place the two remaining onion quarters inside the chicken cavity, then tie the legs together with kitchen twine.

Spread half the herb butter over the breast side of the chicken like so:

breast side up

Then turn the chicken upside-down (breast-side down) on the roasting rack, and carefully dab on the rest of the herb butter:

breast side down in pan

Roast the chicken in this position for about 20 minutes, until browned, then remove both the chicken and the vegetables from the oven.

Turn the chicken breast-side up, where it’ll stay for the rest of the roasting process.  Baste the chicken with the juices from the roasting pan.  Flip the carrots and onions so that they’re thoroughly coated with the basting juices, then return everything to the oven.

Roast for 55-70 minutes longer, depending on the size of your chicken.  During this time, baste the chicken and vegetables once or twice more.  If the chicken’s getting too crispy for your liking, tent the bird with tin foil to protect it from burning. The chicken is done when the internal temperature at the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees. 

After removing the chicken from the oven, wrap it in tin foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, keep those carrots and onions hot!  I often leave the veggies in the oven to continue to roast because I like them best when they’re at the transition point between well-browned to beginning-blackened.  If that’s not your preference, remove the veggies and wrap in tin foil.

roasted carrots

Admittedly, this recipe is somewhat time-intensive, but I think the end result—fall-off-the-bone chicken, literally-melt-in-your-mouth carrots—is worth every single minute.

plated herbed chicken

For the printable of this recipe, scroll down.

A Couple Notes:

1) For this recipe, I used a chicken that we raised on pasture here at our farm.  We’re not currently raising or selling broilers, although we might in the future!  We encourage you to purchase chickens that are raised humanely, such as Miller Poultry sold at Tysens in DeMotte.  

2) You know I’m not finished with a post until I’ve mentioned something about green smoothies!  Carrot tops are full of nutrients, and while I don’t recommend using only carrot tops as your green, I do suggest throwing a few fronds in with your spinach or kale.  Let me know what you think!

Photographs and Food Styling: Anne Kingma

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