Cherry Harvest

It’s been over two months since my last post. I was at the point a few times in the last month where I stressed because I didn’t know what I’d say for my return post. It’s been too long, too much has happened, and I didn’t think I’d know where to begin when I posted again. But I’m just jumping in today and here is what I’ll say: I’ve been busy. And this blog has definitely fallen to the bottom of the priority list. I have lots of content for you, either in my head or carried out, but unedited. None of it has made it to this site, but I promise that I am slowly, slowly, but surely trying to get some stuff out to you. 

I’ve been making a lot of food, but honestly, not for you, not for this site. The food I have been making has been out of necessity, not out of the desire and ability to share it here. I will get back to that point, because I want to. I’m not sure when, but hold tight.

So today, a farm post! A lot has happened around the farm since my last post, and I am fully enjoying getting to witness it all. The blossoms have turned to fruit. Right now, and for the past week, cherry harvest has been happening. Greg is fully immersed in the harvest, and with that has brought even longer hours for him and a decrease in sleep for both of us. Even so, I love it. I love what is happening and that I get to experience it in the way that I do.

Most of my photos today are of cherries on trees. I think they are beautiful and this is the first time in my life seeing something like it. For those interested in the actual harvesting, it was difficult to photograph the process because the equipment used is so massive. So I took a video! This is the first time I’ve put a video on my blog so I am pretty excited, even though it is not the greatest. Expect more in the future, especially with farm related things.

A few tidbits on harvesting cherries:

These are sour cherries. These are the cherries that are used to make canned pie filling and generally, other cherry desserts.

These cherries are being mechanically harvested. Some cherries on the farm are still handpicked, but these ones, that go to the factory to be processed, are done with this machine.

Here is my non-farmer, non-professional description of the process. The first time I saw the harvest equipment, before I knew what it was, I thought it was solar panels (ha!). There are two tractors, each with a massive solar panel looking attachment. When harvesting, each tractor takes a side of the tree and the two “panels” come together,  forming a V. One panel grabs the tree and shakes it. The cherries fall off the tree and into the V formed by the panels. The other tractor has a conveyor belt attached to it which takes the cherries up and over into a connecting bin (that contains ice water) which will get filled, taken to the factory and replaced.

Each bin holds approximately 1,000 pounds of cherries, which can take about 3-15 trees, depending on the tree size and crop. For the trees pictured below, it took about 3-5 trees to fill a bin, due to the fact that they are large, full production trees.

One of the coolest parts of the process to me was watching how quickly a tree turns from red to green while being shaken. In the video, it’s hard to tell how fast the tree is shaking, but pay attention to how quickly the tree changes color.

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Adams County, Spring 2015

I’m going to keep the words brief today because there are many photos to follow. 

Greg took me for a drive around the farm on Sunday, which was a perfect spring day, the bluest sky there could be, and here is what I thought:

How lucky am I to be a part of this? How lucky am I to be here to look at this and to photograph this? How lucky am I to know that the very blossoms I am showing you today will produce fruit that will feed many, including myself? I hope that no matter how many springs I am in Adams county, I never stop realizing just how special this is. These trees aren’t here just to be pretty  (although they’re doing an excellent job at that, too) they are here to produce food, they are here to feed people. I love that.

{for the curious, you are seeing blossoms of peaches, apricots, cherries, pears and the very first photo is apples}
{Also, the day I took these photos, Sunday, was my parents 35th wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary Mom + Dad, love you very much, these photos are for you!}

Here is what I saw:

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Almond + Peanut Butter Energy Bites

Hi everyone! It’s been awhile. I’m back today with a little recipe that has become a recent love of mine. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated, but special anyway. Almond + peanut butter energy bites. Let’s talk about ‘em.

I have been making + loving these little energy bites for months and it has just now occurred to me to share them with you. Last week while I was rolling a batch out, I thought, I should share these on the blog. I know that there are many, many “energy bite” recipes out there and that this one isn’t anything revolutionary, but after many experiments in different flavor/ingredient combos, this is the one that I have come to know and love and it makes me happy to share it with you today.

Here is why I love these:

1) I haven’t had to buy granola bars in the store. And that makes me so happy. Since I have been eating these, granola bars from the grocery store just won’t do the trick. 2) They satisfy a sweet tooth craving. I have had a major sweets craving lately. Like, I never want to pass up dessert. And guess what, these satisfy that craving perfectly. 3) Not only do they healthfully satisfy my sweets cravings, they are filling. Whenever I am feeling drained in the afternoon and lunch is long past and dinner is far away, these save me. They fill me up until dinner and give me the evening energy that I need. Love it. 4) I know every ingredient. No mystery ingredients here. Also – every ingredient is one that I keep on hand and every ingredient is one that is good for me. Can’t get much better than that!

If you are looking for something to replace store bought granola bars, or looking for a snack that is super healthy + filling, please make these energy bites. This little snack has brought me much happiness and I know that it can do the same for you!

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*Recipe inspired and adapted from How Sweet Eats – click link to view her recipe.

Almond + Peanut Butter Energy Bites
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Ingredients
1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup ground flax
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Extra almonds or peanuts, finely crushed, for rolling, if desired
Instructions
In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter and honey. Microwave for 15 seconds, then stir well to combine. Add the almond extract and lightly stir. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, sliced almonds, ground flax, chia seeds, salt and cinnamon. Stir well to combine.
Add the peanut butter mixture to the dry oat mixture and stir well to combine all ingredients. Mixture should be wet + slightly sticky. If it seems overly sticky and won't roll into balls, add more oats.
Using your hands, form the mixture into balls, rolling each ball in crushed almonds or peanuts, if desired.
Enjoy!
Notes
For best results, store in the refrigerator and serve cold. They can be stored/eaten at room temperature, although they will be much softer. I highly prefer them right out of the fridge.
This recipe yields 15-20 energy bites, depending on the size you make them.
I prefer to roll the bites in crushed almonds over crushed peanuts - just a personal preference. Use a food processor to finely crush the nuts.
The Dreaming Foodie http://www.thedreamingfoodie.com/

Late Winter Pasta: Homemade Noodles with Crispy Canned Artichokes and Lemon Parsley Pesto

Remember when I shared with you my late summer pasta, homemade noodles with tomatoes + pesto? Today I bring to you my (very) late winter version – homemade noodles with crispy canned artichokes and homemade lemon parsley pesto.

I’ve kept up with the homemade noodle habit. Not for every time we’ve had pasta (not even close) but I’ve done it several times over the past few months and I’m feeling more and more comfortable with the process. I wanted to create a wintertime pasta with homemade noodles to share with you. The idea for the dish came from a craving I’m having for simplicity – I wanted to use few, simple ingredients that would come together to create a powerhouse of flavor. And that is just what came to be.

This pasta is bright, it’s fresh. Taking a bite of this pasta is like taking a bite of sunshine. And who doesn’t love sunshine?

But in case you want a more specific description of what this tastes like (you know, in case you don’t know what sunshine tastes like) it is lemony. And parsley-y. Neither of those ingredients are cooked in this dish so their flavors are strong and bold. If you aren’t the biggest fan of those strong flavors, this pasta may not be for you. But if you are (like me), get ready to be in love. The bold flavors are complemented by the artichokes, that are baked in the oven with just a bit of olive oil and salt, until tender and crispy.

I want to mention that I have tried two different noodle recipes since my first noodle post. While I loved that recipe, I felt the need to try other things. One time, I followed the directions for the noodles exactly as you see in that first post, except that I replaced one cup of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. I wasn’t happy with the outcome. The noodles were edible, but extremely tough. It wasn’t the most pleasant of eating experiences and I wouldn’t do just that again. The second recipe I tried resulted in the noodles that you see pictured today. I followed the ingredients and directions from Garden Betty, as you see here (for the fresh homemade egg pasta). I must admit that I did have some trouble with the dough. It was very stiff and a bit difficult to work with and I actually had quite the tough time kneading it and rolling it out. I was regretful of my decision to try it out, that is, until I tasted the noodles. While I did have a difficult time rolling out the dough, once it was rolled, cut, cooked and in this dish, I must say that the noodles not only tasted great, their texture was amazing. The end result was worth the difficult time and I would definitely try this noodle recipe again, hoping that the challenge I had with the dough was just a one time fluke. For this dish, feel free to use the noodle recipe I describe in the recipe below (form Garden Betty), the recipe from this post, or even non-homemade noodles (it would still be great!). With homemade noodles, for me, this is definitely a weekend, take-your-time dish. With non-homemade noodles this could quickly and easily be a meal made during the week.

When I developed and photographed this recipe, we were still in the dead of winter. It was a yearning for spring. Now, it’s clear that spring really is just around the bend. This is still a winter pasta – not much fresh produce here – but it is bright and fresh, just like good ol’ springtime. Come to us soon, spring.

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Late Winter Pasta: Homemade Noodles with Crispy Canned Artichokes and Lemon Parsley Pesto
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Ingredients
2 cans whole artichokes
Parmesan cheese, for topping
For the noodles
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading, rolling and dusting
3 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the parsley pesto
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, rinsed and dried
Juice of 1 lemon
2 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Instructions
Preheat oven to 400*. Drain and thoroughly rinse the canned artichokes. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise, and lay cut side down on paper towels to dry. You want the artichokes to dry as much as possible before going into the oven. Let the artichokes continue to dry, changing the paper towels once, as you prepare the noodles.
For the noodles, I followed the method from gardenbetty.com, linked in the post above. I will describe what I did, but before making the noodles, I recommend studying the original post at gardenbetty.com.
In a large mixing bowl, measure two cups of all-purpose flour. Make a well in the center of the flour, crack three eggs and measure two tablespoons of olive oil into the well. Gently whisk the eggs and olive oil, incorporating a little flour into the well at a time, and continue whisking until the dough starts to come together. Dump the rough dough and any remaining flour in the bowl onto a clean, lightly floured surface and begin kneading the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until dough is no longer sticky and the surface is smooth. Cover the dough with a towel and let rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
While the dough is resting, arrange the artichokes, cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until browned and slightly crispy. When the artichokes are done roasting, turn the oven off, but keep them in the oven until you are ready to add them to the finished pasta.
To make the parsley pesto, in a food processor, combine the parsley, lemon juice, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and pepper. Process for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. Set aside.
Before you roll out the noodles, put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
To roll out the noodles, cut the dough into quarters. On a well floured surface, using a rolling pin, roll out one segment of the dough at a time, as thin as you can get it. Mine took a lot of work but eventually got very thin. Once rolled out, sprinkle each side of the dough with flour. Fold the dough once in half and using a sharp knife, cut thin strips, to form the noodles. Once cut, unfold the noodles, gather together and sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking. Bunch the noodles, set aside and continue with the other segments of dough.
Once all noodles are cut, place the noodles in the salted, boiling water. After the noodles are added and the water returns to a boil, boil for 3-5 minutes, or until noodles are soft and tender. Taste one after three minutes to check if it is done. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your noodle.
When noodles are done cooking, drain well and set aside. Return the pot to the stove and add the parsley pesto followed by the noodles, then toss well to combine. Add the artichokes and toss once again.
Serve pasta and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Enjoy!
Notes
The amount of noodles made provided us with about 4 meals. We each had a serving for dinner and then lunch the next day.
This would also be great with non-homemade noodles. Simply follow the instructions for roasting the artichokes and making the parsley pesto. Cook the packaged noodles according to the instructions on the box, then toss everything together.
The Dreaming Foodie http://www.thedreamingfoodie.com/

Smoked Gouda Tomato Soup

Here’s a little, simple recipe for you today. For me, easing back into the recipe sharing. For you, an almost effortless dinner idea.

Smoked Gouda tomato soup. Nothing revolutionary here, nothing crazy. Simple, classic tomato soup with a (smoked) twist.  This is just a standard tomato soup recipe, one that I have been making for months, with a handful of smoked Gouda cheese thrown in. All blended up to creamy perfection. A way to liven up tomato soup without too much effort. Not that tomato soup needs much livenin’ – I love the classic – but for something just a little bit different, this is it. I reccomend serving with extra shredded Gouda on top and slices of hearty bread – it’s hard to not enjoy.

If I have to do winter, this is how I want to to do it – hot soup in mugs and cozy evenings in. Cheers!

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Smoked Gouda Tomato Soup
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Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Heaping 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
(2) 28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups veggie broth
(1) 8 ounce block smoked Gouda, shredded*
Instructions
Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the chopped onions and carrots. Let cook, stirring several times, for about 10 minutes, or until veggies are just slightly browned and soft.
Add the minced garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, and balsamic vinegar and stir. Add the two cans of tomatoes and veggie broth and stir once more. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down, cover the pot and let simmer 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice to begin to break up the tomatoes. Soup is done simmering when tomatoes are soft and beginning to fall apart.
Add two cups shredded Gouda to the pot and stir. Using an immersion blender (what I did) or regular blender, blend the soup until smooth. If using a regular blender, blend in batches.
Ladle into bowls (or mugs!) and top each with additional shredded Gouda if desired.
Enjoy!
Notes
* I used one 8 ounce block of smoked Gouda and shredded the entire block. I put two cups of the shredded Gouda into the soup and reserved the tiny bit that was left for topping the finished soup.
The Dreaming Foodie http://www.thedreamingfoodie.com/