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Monthly Archives: January 2012

Empowerment Through Dairy-Making

Hi friends! My English Lessons column for Verve magazine has a new post up for February. Today Butter, Tomorrow World Peace touches on the way that dairy-making made me feel I could take on anything. Really. It honestly did. And does.

You can read the post here. I’d love to know if taking on some sort of food-related project empowered you, too. Funny, the things that empower us. For some, it’s Tae Kwon Do or getting inked or running a marathon. For me, it’s making yogurt.

Holy Trinity Muffins

Ever since I became a nursing mom, my appetite has been off the charts. I eat like a growing teenage boy, it seems. Each morning, “pre-breakfast” (a glass of water and a bowl of plain yogurt with honey and seasonal fruit) is followed by breakfast, which in turn is followed by a succession of small meals all day.

Partly I do this because I’m the sort of person that has to. Meaning I get low-blood sugar pretty quickly if my stomach is empty, making me feel equal parts like I’m going to pass out and like I could punch a brick wall. When I’m hungry, watch out (oh, poor, beleaguered Hubs while I was pregnant!). I also eat this way because I’m simply hungry. Even before I started nursing Huxley, I was a regular grazer, nibbling here, chomping there. Once I started nursing, though, my appetite went into overdrive, and hasn’t waned since. My meals and snacks are all healthy ones, mind you, so, while I’m eating more than ever, I actually weigh less than I did before I became pregnant.

All of which leads me to telling you about the muffins pictured above. Three factors combined over the weekend that resulted in the creation of these beauties. Firstly, I was hungry (see above). Secondly, I’d just been flipping through my much-loved copy of Jamie Oliver’s imminently inspiring Jamie At Home and found his recipe for Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top (the titles of the recipes in the book are worth the purchase price alone). Thirdly, I had a butternut squash sitting on my kitchen counter, begging to be rendered into something magnificent. And so, the holy trinity of hunger, inspiration, and availability combined, culminating in a perfect, mid-winter snack.

I tweaked and played with the recipe a bit, cutting back on the brown sugar, adding some fresh nutmeg, substituting yogurt for sour cream, and omitting fresh vanilla beans (the ones I had on hand had gone all dry and shriveled). I mixed it by hand in a large mixing bowl instead of in a food processor as indicated, since the batter quantity seemed far too much to fit comfortably in my food processor basin. Also, the recipe indicated it would make a dozen, but 12 muffin tins in, I knew I had a good deal more batter on hand. My finished tally was 21 muffins, filling each paper liner with a heaping 1/4 cup helping.

What I love about this recipe is its ease of construction coupled with its use of seasonal ingredients. Butternut squash is partnered up with fresh, winter citrus. The end result is subtly sweet and pluckily puckery. Marry these muffins with a steaming mug of strong black tea and you’ll tame the hungriest of eaters, like me!  

Butternut Squash Muffins with a Frosty Top (adapted from Jamie Oliver)
Yield: 21 or so muffins.

The Goods
(For the Muffins):
-14-16 ounces butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and roughly chopped
-2 cups light brown sugar
-4 large eggs
-1 teaspoon sea salt
-2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
-A handful of walnuts (broken into rough pieces)
-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

(For the Frosted Topping):
-Zest of 1 Clementine (or an orange; I used a Honeybell)
-Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 a lemon
-1/2 cup yogurt (or sour cream)
-2 heaping teaspoons powered sugar
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways and seeds scraped out)
- Lavender buds, fresh orange zest, or rose petals, for topping (optional)


The Deal:
1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper cups (if you only own one muffin tin, simply fill and bake the batches in the tin in succession). Set aside.
2) Put the chopped squash into a food processor. Pulse until it is finely minced. Add the sugar and eggs and blend until combined.
3) Place the salt, flour, baking powder and spices in a mixing bowl. Sift to combine. Add the walnuts, squash mixture, and olive oil. Stir with a mixing spoon until fully incorporated. Be sure not to overmix.
4) Fill the muffin liners with 1/4 cup each of batter. Bake in the preheated over 25 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting either a knife or wooden skewer into the muffins. It should come out clean. If it doesn’t, bake an additional 5 minutes and check again for doneness.
5) Remove from the oven, cool in the muffin tin for 5 minutes, and then transfer muffins to a wire rack. Cool completely.
6) Once cooled, make the frosting. Combine the Clementine (or orange) zest, lemon juice and zest, yogurt (or sour cream), powdered sugar, and vanilla extract (or seeds) in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk to fully combine.
7) Place the cooled muffins onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper. Spoon the frosting evenly over the muffin tops. If desired, sprinkle lavender buds (that’s what I used, from my plants growing in our entrance way), citrus zest, or rose petals on top of the frosting.
8) The frosting will harden a bit as it sits (and will harden completely if refrigerated), so give them time to set up before serving. Serve with hot tea or coffee and kiss your hungry monster goodbye!

“Home Grown” Love

Issue No. 6 Trailer from Anthology Magazine on Vimeo.

Our little homestead is featured in the new issue of Anthology magazine! Editor Anh-Minh Le writes so beautifully about our place and what we’re up to out here in her piece titled Home Grown. I’m so excited by this, as I just adore the publication. Photographer Jen Siska visited us this past October for a fun-filled afternoon of photo-taking. I’m super pleased with what she came up with.

Anthology is available domestically and internationally at these fine retailers, as well as online at Anthropologie and at West Elm stores. Check it out. You’ll be so glad you did!

What I’m Digging

Happy Friday friends! Hope your week has gone well. Ours has been characterized by unusually warm weather and a sniffling, sneezing, coughing baby. We’ve been making the most of the balmy days, taking walks down the driveway to the creek that runs alongside our driveway’s entrance and opening up windows in the house during the day (in JANUARY! It boggles the mind…).

As for Huxley, I’ve been giving him this herbal children’s tincture mixed with this cough syrup. I’ve combined those things with hot showers with me during the day (during which I shake some of this along the shower walls for inhalation purposes) and steamy baths at night, after which I rub a little combination of lotion and this balm on his chest and back. Coupled with loads of nasal bulb intervention on his tiny nostrils, it all seems to be helping. I’m also excited to try out this essential oil blend that Katie sent. It smells AMAZING!

Here’s a round-up of tidbits that made me think, made me smile, and made me hungry this week:
*Totally smitten with Camille’s rural northwestern Oregon off-grid homestead.
*Forest gardening has completely captivated me.
*Waste wood into recycled furniture!
*The future of food is a radical one.
*Finally, a way to recycle old gift and credit cards!
*Picked up a box of these biodegradable trash bags (I’ll give a progress report soon).
*The cove really needs a wood-fired hot tub (via here)
*Eat your wild greens!
*Lisa’s farm photos are exquisite.
*Winter citrus is here!
*A thrifty, low-fi means of creating mini-greenhouses outdoors (thanks to Meri for the link!).

The weekend forecast looks pretty nice, so I’m imagining more walks are in store. I’m also plowing my way through a mountain of kumquats, Key limes and Meyer lemons my sisters brought during their recent visit. Nine half-pint jars of my Kumquat 5-Spice Marmalade are done, with many more to come. I think I’ll make some of my Meyer Lemon & Lemon Verbena Curd next (both recipes can be found in my book).

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, may it be grand!


*I can’t get over these constellation jammies Huxley has been sporting. They glow in the dark, lighting up our bed at night like a tiny map of the universe (albeit one punctuated with starry guitars and elephants!). They’re insanely cute and fit really nicely. I highly recommend them, should you encounter a pair (although it looks like only size 3-6 months is available).

Recent Acquisitions

I didn’t really need another reason to love Larry’s Beans. A coffee roaster across the state in Raleigh, Larry’s already has so much going on for their beans and their business. They use organic, shade-grown beans (which is better for birds and bugs), they engage in fair-trade practices (wherein people are treated like, well, people, and not commodities), they heat their building with solar panels and they slow-roast their beans in a passive solar, rainwater-harvesting warehouse. Sounds good, right?

And now, to really up the ante, their coffee bags are biodegradable. This means a lot to me. Typically, I try to reuse the same coffee bag every time I need more joe. After a while, though, the bag starts to fall apart. I’ll then rip it up, add it to the compost pile, and grab a new one the next time I’m picking up bulk beans. On occasion, though, I forget and leave the bag at home. When that happens, or sometimes if a specific blend that I really like is on sale, I buy a prepackaged bag of coffee. I recently found another local supplier I adored and wrote them on Twitter to find out if their bags are recyclable. Sadly, they aren’t. With Larry’s, though, I needn’t worry, as the bag will break down on its own.

I make a good deal of purchase choices based on the “end of life” cycle of a product. I’d like to be able to recycle, upcycle, repurpose, reuse or biodegrade something after I’m done using it. Business decisions like this one from Larry’s make my purchase decisions so much easier.