First Principles of Agriculture

I am SO excited to share the latest addition to our home library:  Goff & Mayne’s First Principles of Agriculture ©1904.  That’s right – 1904!  And it’s all mine to enjoy, thanks to my friend Ali Koide over at Oldies & Goodies.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Oldies & Goodies, check it out – you won’t be disappointed!  Ali has created a unique blog that features her yummy baked goodies, as well as vintage books of all kinds that she’s rescued and now sells online in her Etsy store.  When this little gem popped up on her store, I had to have it!

Handwritten on the inside front cover reads, “Property of Sconnelltown School – East Bradford Township – August 30, 1909”.  How amazing is that?

Filled with delightful sketches of weeds, insects, toads, roots, etc., it’s not only a historic treasure, but offers a wealth of information and tips on how to have a successful garden or farm of any size.

Thank you so much, Ali, for saving this book from being destroyed and for creating a way for people like me to find it and keep it safe forever.

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Carrot Cupcakes

I have to say, I’m not usually a big fan of cake.  But I do have my exceptions and carrot cake is one of them!  I’m not sure whether it’s the extra moist cake, the added texture of the shredded carrots, or the incredibly luscious cream cheese frosting.  (Who am I kidding… it’s totally the frosting!)

So I recently went to a birthday dinner to celebrate our dear friend Ole’s birthday.  I wanted to contribute something to the meal, and since I heard Ole is a big fan of carrot cake, I thought it would be fun to make some carrot cupcakes for dessert and top them with hand-made marzipan carrots!

I found these awesome lime green polka dotted cupcake papers at Sur La Table and thought they would be the perfect addition.

The cupcake portion of this recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food blogs. The resulting batter is super moist and delicious, due in part to the carrots being finely grated before going into the batter.

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe Source: Smitten Kitchen
Makes 24 cupcakes.

For the cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups peeled and finely grated carrots (from about 1 lb. of carrots)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners.  If not using paper, then make sure to butter and flour the pan.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger until blended.  In a separate large bowl, whisk together sugar and oil until combined.  Whisk in eggs one at a time to oil and sugar mixture.  Add flour mixture and mix until evenly combined and all the flour is incorporated.  Stir in carrots and walnuts.

4.  Divide batter among cupcake molds and fill to 3/4 full.  Bake cupcakes 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of one comes out clean.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For Frosting:
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1.  In standing mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Slowly add confectioner’s sugar and once incorporated, beat frosting on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes until fluffy.

2.  To assemble, place frosting in large piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe a generous pillow of frosting over each cupcake.  Finish by topping with a marzipan carrot!

For the marzipan carrots:
1 (7oz.) box of marzipan
Red, yellow and green food dye, preferably gel

1.  On a clean surface, take half of the marzipan and gently knead it until softened.  Add a small and equal amount of  red & yellow dye to marzipan (start off sparingly, you can always add more color if needed) and knead until fully incorporated and marzipan has turned a beautiful orange color.

2.  Divid into 24 small pieces.  Take each piece and roll into a cylinder, tapering to a point at one end.  Repeat with remaining pieces and set aside.

3.  Take another small portion of marzipan, gently knead, and color with green dye.  Pinch off a pea-sized piece and roll out to form a thin cylinder about an inch long.  Lay cylinder along top end of a carrot, and using a toothpick, press the center of cylinder into the top of the carrot, forming two “leaves”.  Repeat with remaining carrots.

4.  To create the “wrinkles” in the carrots, gently score the sides of the carrots with a small paring knife.

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Parmesan Chicken – My Husband’s Favorite Meal

Occasionally, I like to try to surprise Chris with dinner.  Half the time I’m making something totally new, and the other half I’m re-creating some of his favorite dishes.  This chicken dish has always been one of Chris’ favorite meals.  I try to make it a surprise, but I never can.  I have to pound out the chicken, which is so loud and obnoxious it practically shakes the house and is a dead giveaway.  But I guess hearing the, “Oh my god, YEESSSSS!!!” billowing from upstairs a second or two after my first ‘thump’ is just as gratifying had it been a total surprise.

This is also one of my favorite ways to eat chicken.  With each bite you get a delicate, thin piece of juicy chicken, that has the perfect little bit of breaded crunch to it.  Spear a few tender leaves of lemony-dressed greens, add a shaving of Parmesan cheese, and it is a wonderfully light and savory meal.  A little wine never hurt either… 😉  I hope you enjoy it just as much as we do!

Parmesan Chicken

2 boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Fresh Parmesan cheese for finishing, optional

1.  Take each chicken breast and halve crosswise (like you’re going to butterfly it), so you end up with 2 halves; 4 total between the 2 breasts.

2.  With meat mallet or rolling pin, pound out each breast halve to roughly 1/4″ thick between two pieces of parchment paper.

3.  Lay out 3 large shallow dishes.  In one dish, combine flour with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper.  In second dish, lightly whisk the eggs.  In third dish, mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, oregano, basil, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper.

4.  Dredge and coat both sides of each chicken piece in flour mixture, then egg mixture, then finally in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing lightly to adhere.

5.  Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Lightly coat bottom on pan with olive oil and cook each chicken breast 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.  Adding more oil to pan if needed.

6.  Serve chicken on plate and top with mixed greens dressed in a light vinaigrette.  With a vegetable peeler, shave some fresh parmesan cheese over top of salad, optional.

Serves 4.

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Agave Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’m a dough and batter addict.  I think I have always been one.  I blame genetics.  Yes, it’s genetics that gives me these unstable hands, which “accidentally” drop spoonfuls of batter on the counter that I must then eat.  Or a wrist that is “just not flexible enough” to scrape the bowl too thoroughly…  What can I say, there’s something about raw cookie dough that is so delightful and to which I am forever bound.  Some people say it’s gross.  I say it’s heaven.

So it’s Sunday; cheat day. And I’m in the mood for a spoonful of a heavenly dough, um, I mean a cookie. And I feel okay about it, because ever since I switched up the recipe to be a little more health conscious (as much as a cookie can be) they’ve been a highly sought after treat.  In our house, they are not merely eaten; they’re inhaled.

With whole wheat flour, agave, and brown sugar, the cookies bake a little darker than one might expect, so don’t worry if they look “slightly” overbrowned at first glance.  When cooled, they will have a wonderful crunch on the outside that gives way to a soft, gooey center.

Agave Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from the Totally Cookies Cookbook

1/2 cup Earth Balance, or butter (1 stick) softened
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsweetened grated coconut
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup dark chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  In large bowl, cream butter, agave nectar and brown sugar together until light.  Add egg and beat until incorporated.

3.  In separate large bowl, combine oats, flour, coconut, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  Mix until combined then add to creamed mixture and beat until well mixed.  Stir in chocolate chips.

4.  Using a small cookie scoop, or two spoons, drop tablespoon-sized dollops of batter onto a greased cookie sheet, or silpat mat, 2″ apart.  Bake 8-10 minutes just until set.  Transfer to wire rack to cool.

5.  Serve with a nice, frosty glass of milk, optional.  🙂

Yields 2 1/2 dozen cookies

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Perfectly Roasted Chicken

Roast chicken is a weekly staple in our home.  Not only is it a great meal along with a mixed green salad, but it’s truly a meal that keeps on giving.  Roasted chicken with greens one night; chicken risotto, tortilla soup, or pot pie the next!  Not to mention incredible homemade chicken stock.

Although there are many ways to roast a chicken, the best method I have come across is Jamie Oliver’s method.  Rather than roasting the chicken at a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time, this recipe starts the chicken in a piping hot oven and is then “slow” roasted for about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

This result is the juiciest, most beautifully browned, tender chicken I have ever eaten!  And all of the herbs, lemon, and garlic make the house smell incredible.

Perfectly Roasted Chicken

Recipe Source: Jamie Oliver

(1) 3.5 lb. organic, free-range whole chicken
2 medium organic onions, peeled
2 organic carrots
2 organic celery stalks
1 head of garlic
1 organic lemon
few sprigs of rosemary or thyme
olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

2.  Roughly chop the onion, carrots, and celery stalks into large pieces and place in the bottom of a roasting pan.

3.  Thoroughly wash the inside and outside of the chicken (making sure to remove any gizzards) and pat dry.  Place chicken, breast side up, in roasting pan on top of vegetables.

4.  Half the lemon and squeeze juice from both halves over chicken.  Place lemon halves inside chicken cavity.  Cut the head of garlic in half, crosswise, and place in cavity along with the rosemary or thyme sprigs.  Drizzle olive oil over chicken to lightly coat.  Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

5.  Place chicken in preheated oven, then immediately turn the heat down to 400 degrees.  Roast chicken for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until fully cooked.

6.  Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes before carving.

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