North Country Farms

Blog: Food for Thought

Banana Muffins

the muffin munchers circa 1992

While Nell is away, I find myself stretching to remember the era when I pulled off three healthy meals a day, with copious amounts of snacks in between, for a family of five and lots of friends of all sizes. I rest on her culinary laurels when she is on the farm and in the kitchen. Since this summer finds her far away and creating those culinary delights for clients, instead of the lucky ohana, I am pulling out some old tricks.

First stop—banana muffins. I remember days when, fresh out of the oven, these were devoured by my children and their friends, as they skipped off to play on the farm or in the woods and stream nearby. I have several different approaches to them, but this is a favorite. I’ve tweaked it some from the fabulous cookbook by the folks from Earthbound Farms called Food to Live By. This cookbook is crammed with wonderful fresh family food recipes, as well as the sweet story of this farm family and their adventure in organic farming.

When you find yourself with an abundance of ripe bananas make this treat. And enjoy!

Banana Maple Walnut Muffins

2 cups flour ~ 1 1/2  tsp baking powder ~ 1/4 tsp baking soda ~ 1/4 tsp salt ~ 1/4 tsp ground ginger ~ 1/4 tsp cinnamon ~ 2 large eggs ~ 1/2 cup pure maple syrup ~ 1/2 cup brown sugar ~ 1/3 cup milk ~ 1/4 cup canola oil ~ 1/4 tsp vanilla extract ~ 1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 4) ~ 3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375. Line 12 muffins tins or grease tins. Place flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, ginger and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Place eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, oil, and  vanilla in another bowl and whisk to combine. Add bananas to wet mixture and stir just to combine. Fold in walnuts with spatula and don’t overmix. Spoon batter into muffin cups and fill to the brim. Bake until they are golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean – about 20-25 minutes. Delicious! I had too many today with coffee!


Kids Grow Up – and do the damndest things!

Remember that show ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things?”  Well, if you do, you are dating yourself, but nonetheless, I remember it from my youth. It was cute little ones, saying cute and sometimes outrageous things.  Now, my kids are grown up and how that happened in just the blink of an eye is utterly beyond me. And, now they do the damndest things.

Take my amazing 23 year old daughter, Nell, for example. She is the chef this summer on a private charter yacht in Southeast Alaska. That is outrageous for starters. But, not the point of this, really. This week she managed to slice her hand open with a fish filleting knife while in the wilds of SE Alaska.  This was not your average ouch-I-cut-my-finger happening — she has had plenty of those in her culinary career — this was a wow-we-have-to-get-you-stitches-NOW happening. Float plane called by captain on the radio, Nell flown to Sitka, stitched up and flown back to the boat. All good, yes. But, happening miles and miles away from her mama. Cell phone conversations in emergency room. Very calm and collected daughter. Very stressed and sad mama. Daughter concerned about meals having to happen on the boat without her. Mama concerned that daughter is alone.

My children have grown up. Sometimes I believe they have done so in spite of me and my mama shenanigans. It is totally impossible for me to stop being their mama. It is out of the realm of possibility that I could be anything but fretful during this experience of Nell’s, despite her mature and composed demeanor throughout the entire thing.

Kids grow up. And they do the damndest things. And sometimes far away from their mama. Sigh. Why did no one ever tell me about what it would look like to be the mama of grown kids off in the big wide world? In fact, now that I mention it, no one ever gave me the map for this wild ride at all!  But, despite floundering through it day-to-day all these years, it still remains my most treasured path. And my children still my cohorts in this crazy-beautiful-heartfelt course.

Slow Down

SLOW DOWN.

Slow down in your life. Watch where you are going. Focus on what you are doing.  Slow down on our road and in the farm driveway. Watch for other cars and animals and kids. Slow down on the highway. Watch for the other guy.  SLOW DOWN. Really, what’s the hurry, anyway? I know my attention is pulled in several directions at once, much of the time. Now, I’m a great multi-tasker. But, how often do I really need to do that? How much more pleasure might I get if I just gave attention to one thing at a time. Would my day be less stressful?  Perhaps. If I’ve learned anything recently, it is just to pay attention and SLOW DOWN. When I’m walking down the stairs, I need to be walking down the stairs. Not thinking where I’m headed when I get to the bottom. When I’m slicing carrots for dinner, I need to be slicing carrots for dinner. Not thinking of what comes next in the recipe process.  When I am driving, I need to be driving. Not doing anything else.

Forgive my slight rant here. But, I feel certain in sharing this that I am not the only one who needs to be reminded.

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And now that you have taken a deep breath — What’s for dinner tonight?

If you have never tried fennel before, please do so. I shied away from it for a long time, but am glad I have busted another culinary myth. Fennel, when cooked, does not have an overbearing licorice flavor. Rather it is more subtle and complex. Raw it is refreshing with citrus and arugula in salads. But, try this simple delicious way to prepare it –

BRAISED FENNEL

2 fennel bulbs, quartered

2 tbsp butter

Cup of chicken or vegetable broth

½ cup grated parmesan

Saute fennel in butter for five minutes. Add broth. cover and cook over low heat until tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Sprinkle with cheese and toss before serving. Great with pork, chicken or fish.

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Half our life is spent trying to find something to do with the

time we have rushed through life trying to save.

~Will Rogers, Autobiography, 1949

Yoga in Life

Yoga has been an integral part of my life for many years. I first discovered the joys of the practice when I was pregnant with my oldest son, Sky. That was over 26 years ago. Depending on where I have been in my life, I have had diverse immersions in my practice. It was challenging to find time to devote to yoga with three little ones and a farm to start and house to build! But, now I find the spaciousness in my life to include yoga, virtually daily. But, it looks different. By that I mean the thrust of my practice has been recently to bring my yoga to my life, not to have to set aside time to do my asanas each day.  How does that look? It means when I’m at the sink doing dishes, I am aware of how I’m standing. —Are my feet firmly planted on my wood floor? –Are my shoulders dropped? It means when I am walking down the beach, I bring my attention to the front of my body and lengthen it intentionally. It means when I feel like reacting to something in my orbit, be it a person or an event, I consciously take a deep steady breath before responding.  It means when I sit down to eat I attempt to do it mindfully—saying a quiet prayer of gratitude for the food, for the farmer who grew it, for the sun and rain that nourished it.

Mindful eating focuses our attention on the tastes, smells and sanctity of food. It’s one

of the simplest ways to improve digestion and delight the senses.”

From the book The Joy of Mindful Eating.


I still adore a wonderful yoga class, as well as solo time reverently spent moving through poses. And I am in constant appreciation to the amazing yoga teachers I have had in my life who have helped take my practice to deeper levels. But, it truly has come back, at this plentiful and pondering time in my life, to me. To my responsibility to bring it all home, each and every day, in each and every way. Yoga is about strength and flexibility, but not only in our bodies—in our minds and spirits as well. And it comes through in finest fashion when we are in a place of conscious mindfulness.

sometimes

Sometimes the enormity of just how much I love my children overwhelms me. This week the loss of a vivacious young woman in the community in a car crash focused all that love into a pinpoint of poignancy. I was deeply sad. And deeply glad. Sad for her senseless and early death and the mammoth void her family must be experiencing. Glad for the love the surrounds me. Truly aware of taking the time to listen to my children. To talk and share with them.  To remind them of their inner beauty and worth. To hold them, either in my arms when possible, or in my heart when they are far away. And to remember to take none of it for granted. Ever. And, then to take that intense and joyful love and spread it around some.

The night of the car accident I had dinner with a dear friend and she turned me onto a vocalist I had never heard, Beth Nielson Chapman. I immediately bought two of her albums on ITunes. Playing one that next day, which was a quiet and pensive one around here, as we all integrated the news, I wrote down this part of the lyrics of one of the songs _

“Life has  taught me this –

Every day is new

and if anything is true

All that matters when we’re through

Is how we loved.”


Fear Less, Hope More

“Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more;

Love more, and all good things will be yours.”

namaste

This quote, apparently an old Swedish proverb, I found when I googled “positive thinking.” I’ve been working on the notion of envisioning more hope and happiness in the world, instead of taking on all the negativity that is currently so pervasive and somewhat popular.

I am all-too-aware of the state of the planet. One would have to be completely unconscious not to feel the wounds of the world–from the oil spewing in the Gulf of Mexico to the hate spewing in the Middle East. And I am surely clear that the choice I made many years ago to live on Kauai, where the impact is softened by the pristine environment and purposeful aloha spirit, has made my personal world more isolated and insulated. But, the savvy and smart me knows scoop and much of it is not pretty.

My thoughts have spun around and around and landed me in a place of renewed energy. Energy to live my days with honesty, humility and humor. To really be attentive to making the simple act of me-being-me count for something in this world where madness and greed have run amok and seemingly eclipsed kindness and goodness.

In my approach to each aspect of my life, I am choosing to fear less and hope more. Not in a vacuum, but backed by solid acts of caring, of conscious consumerism and activism. Activism by my lifestyle, grounded in compassion and awareness. Awareness of the insanity that is prevalent in this world and my antidote to it of choosing the high path every day, in every moment.  Whining less and breathing more. Talking less and saying more. And, above all, and perhaps the most healing of all–loving more.

Note to Self

It seems time is flowing at a pace that I often find unbelieveable.
This came to my attention today when, upon my return to the farm,
I saw this bromeliad blooming again –
bigger and better than ever before.

another year, another bloom

It only comes on once a year – in the early summer.
Seems to me it just bloomed its subtle riot of soft color.
But, no, another year has indeed passed.
Note to self: treasure each moment, hour, day.

Meaningful Work that Fits my Life

My writing is a motley combination of personal and professional reflections. I have never been able to completely separate the two. Working out of home in businesses that are so inter-related to each other and to my life style, has blurred the boundaries. Sometimes this is unsettling, but mostly it is precisely what I strove to craft over the years of creating work that was both meaningful and mama-friendly.  I cannot imagine doing anything else. And, as I have assembled a team here on the farm that believes in the work, I have been able recently to step more and more into a position of orchestration. This provides me with more time to take a deep breath and design my days with more space. I’m supremely grateful. I know this is a reoccurring theme in my writing, but there it is again. Gratitude. Ever-present in my truly graceful life. It is a gift to be able to say that my work provides me with abundance on all levels. And, at the same time, offers something sustainable to those who partake in it, either by visiting with us or by buying produce from us. How fortunate am I?! My life is golden.

As are the carrots we are harvesting this week. This recipe was first offered to my by a darling dear Parisian friend. It is nothing short of divine.


French Glazed Carrots

1 lb of young carrots, scraped and quartered lengthwise

2 ounces of butter

salt and pepper

pinch of sugar

parsley

Melt butter in the pan. Add carrots, salt, pepper and sugar. Cover with water and cook slowly for 15 minutes, until carrots are tender and water has evaporated, leaving carrots with a glaze. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley and a smidgeon more butter. Delicious! Divine!


The Decision to Remain Small

Many times folks have said to me that If I can do such a successful business with such moderately-sized gardens under till, why don’t I expand, Valid question . . .to which I offer this story which came my way some time ago and is ready for a re-run . . .

The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied, only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said that he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?” The fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat,  with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But, what then?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions . . . Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll into the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos.”

While I may not get to sleep very late–I do greatly enjoy this lifestyle and meaningful work I do here on the farm and in our community. It seems like worthy work. Each and every one of us needs to remember to play more with our kids, take more siestas, and sip good wine and make more music with our friends.

Home again, home again

When I was a little girl growing up in suburban Connecticut, my mother drove a ’56 Chevrolet station wagon. My dad drove an Army surplus Jeep to and from the train station commuting to New York City, but this Chevy was our family car. We’d sit in the back and the way back, sans seatbelts, my four siblings and I. Each and every time we drove back into our driveway from an outing, be it a 15 minute one or a two week one, my mother, either from the driver’s seat or the front passenger seat if my dad were driving, would say “Home again, home again, jiggedy jig!” in her sweetest southern accent.  It was ritual.  It was comforting. It meant we were home, safe and sound.

Well, here I am 50 years later, uttering those same words with joy . . . “Home again, home again, jiggedy jig!” Nell and I are back from a whirlwind jaunt to the East Coast. It was a joyful time filled with family. I got to meet the children of some of my cherished nephew and nieces. Hard to believe that I had not had that honor and pleasure before in the case of some of them. Time is so fleeting and the distance between Kauai and the East Coast seems often too mammoth. We played together and laughed together. We shared stories and pictures. I got to remember all the wonderful  times I spent with my nephew and nieces when they were small. I had glimpses of them in their children. I tempted all of them with the notion of all of us playing here on Kauai on the beaches together.  Sometime soon, I hope.

And, here is the punchline in this familial rambling ~ each of them, as we pulled into their own driveways after an adventure together, said it ~ yep, “Home again, home again, jiggedy jig,” came rolling off their tongues with the same inflection and affection as it did all those years ago when I was small. Somethings are too good to let go of. Somethings are meant to be passed down through the generations.

Ritual and Rhythm

My thoughts today revolve around a book I read some time ago and just picked up again today by Anne Scott entitled Serving Fire about rituals and rhythms of the hearth. Now, rituals and rhythms are both subjects near and dear to me, as is my kitchen, which I view as the hearth of our home and often the center of, not just our family, but a community life. In the space of our kitchens we create. Not only meals, but memories. It is there that we spend so much time and energy together.  It seems important that there we can also craft ritual to feed our souls, as well as our bodies.

Our lives are so often devoid of nourishing ritual. It is easy to loose our focus, to not pay attention. Listening to jarring music, talking on the telephone, watching television, thinking of tomorrow while we chop and stir in the kitchen are all habits that can get in the way of the deeper practice of cooking. Bringing some ritual into the kitchen is actually a way of coming back to the center of you. And the food you then offer becomes richer nourishment for those to whom we offer it.

Before I prepare a meal, I like to pause and remember where the food comes from, to appreciate the sun and rain, the soil, the farmer who grew the seeds, and my farm team, including my children, who helped to till, plant and nurture the seedlings, my daughter who so often is the one preparing marvelous food for us. Usually we have a bunch of herbs on the counter to bring fragrance, or a small vase of flowers for a visual feast. All this helps to focus and calm us,  often in the midst of the chaos that is our full lives.

We need to remember that the “practical” things, like housework and cooking, need not be separate from the “impractical” things like creativity and meditation. We can dig deeper and find the nourishment for our souls in the mundane. When I hang laundry on the line in the sun and trade winds, I see items of clothing from my children and can hold them in my heart while hanging that tee shirt. I can be thankful for the guests who have enjoyed our farm while staying in our cottages when I hang the freshly washed sheets. I can remember a refreshing swim at the beach while putting up a towel I laid on in the sun that afternoon.  With that same reverent attitude we can prepare the family meals and bring all who eat those offerings toward wholeness.

As Anne Scott says in her lovely book which I’m mulling over, “Learning to nourish, learning to be nourished, takes place at the hearth. When we tend the hearth, we open ourselves to receiving nourishment that feeds us—body and soul.”

Blessings on your families, your homes, your kitchens, and your meals.

greens at kitchen sink

I never imagined . . .

I never imagined years ago that my oldest son, Sky, would ever take any interest in farming. Sure, he liked to work alongside us on the land, but mostly because he wanted to be with us and feel useful, but only when he felt like it.  Now, he is an integral part of North Country Farms, having become inspired by sustainability and our part in that movement. Sky is an idealist and an intellectual. Those attributes, coupled with some damn hard work, have brought him to a point where his contribution to our farm has taken us to a whole new level of production. I am grateful every day for his impeccable research on so many topics that have elevated our awareness and our output. I find myself smiling to see him on the tractor that has been on the farm since its inception 23 years ago (and has been working hard since 1957!) I am sure that his sensitive nature and sustainable nurturing will always serve him, our farm and our world well.