Sunday, October 30, 2011

Yogurt Waffles

So, this week's share comes with the following:

1/3 lb lettuce mix
1/2 lb spinach
1 bunch Tokyo turnips
1 bunch French breakfast radishes
1 bunch of arugula
1 pint yogurt
1 7oz container of garlic-herb chevre
1 dozen eggs

The first meal using the share was yogurt waffles and fried eggs for breakfast this morning.  Some of our CSA members have commented that they don't eat yogurt, or on occasion forget that they have it and are concerned that it may be too old to eat.  I LOVE yogurt, especially our goat milk yogurt, so I seldom ever have a problem considering how to use it.  I'm happy to have it with a little honey for breakfast or an afternoon snack.  However, yogurt, like buttermilk is great for baking, acting as a leavener to give bake goods a nice fluffy appearance and texture.

Here's the recipe for yogurt waffles:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 Tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tsp honey
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups yogurt (plain, whole milk is our preference)
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat waffle iron.  Mix flour and baking powder and set aside.  In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.  Add wet ingredients to the dry, mixing just enough to get the batter blended.  It will be thick.  Do not over stir the batter.  Doing so will make the waffles tough.

Add a little oil to the waffle iron, pour batter on (1/3 cup for standard size waffles).  Waffles are done when they are a light brown.  Once cooked, enjoy with yogurt and fresh fruit or with butter and maple syrup.

This recipe makes 10 standard size waffles.  Though we don't eat that many, I cooked all of the batter and froze the leftover waffles.  They'll be good for a quick breakfast another day, placing them in the toaster to heat them up.

Yogurt works well as a replacement for buttermilk in most of your favorite recipes.  I use it in corn bread, biscuits, Texas chocolate sheet cake.  Oh, sheet cake!  That sounds good!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Sunday meal planning for the week of Oct 2-8

Sundays are our weekly meal planning days. We take inventory of what we have already, look at the calendar to see what who is available and for how long to fix dinners, and then we decide what we’ll have each night. A new commitment to having healthy, low cost options for lunch at work means that I will also be considering what I can cook that will ensure leftovers, or what I can prepare ahead of time to have on hand to take to work. Once meals are planned, we make a list of the things we need from the grocery store (we can’t, after all, provide our own flour yet!). This is an especially important step for us, though we aren’t always good about sticking with it, because we are 9 miles from the nearest grocery store. Although I do pass several on my commute to and from work, our time is limited enough that making one trip for all that we need for a week really helps. We’re trying to get better about that.

I did an inventory today. I walked through the kitchen with a pad and pen and wrote down all that we had on store that could be used for meals. It took about five minutes to do it, and already that five minutes has saved time (and, I suspect, money) on the meal planning front. While doing the inventory, I was able to identify several things that I could potentially make this week. Here’s what we’ve got to work with:

CSA Share

The shares provided a lot of fun stuff to work with this week….some of my favorite things since it’s greens season.

  • ½ pound of broccoli rabe and/or ½ pound of Asian braising mix (contains bok choi, red mustard, pea shoots, and broccoli rabe) (My share has both so that I can provide recipes for each.)
  • ½ pound of baby arugula
  • 7 oz each of a choice of two cheeses: feta, cottage cheese, plain chevre, jalapeno chevre, and garlic herb chevre (My share has feta and cottage cheese.)
  • A few sweet peppers and/or two servings of okra (My share has both, again to provide recipes that use each.)
  • 1 pint of yogurt
  • ½ gallon of goat’s milk
  • 1 dozen eggs


Here’s what we already have on hand in the pantry (not including spices, oil, etc.):

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • 2 cans of crushed tomatoes
  • Corn meal
  • Flour
  • White rice
  • Brown rice
  • Pinto beans
  • Great northern beans
  • Spaghetti noodles
  • Polenta
  • Barley
  • Lentils
  • Dried morita chilis

Our freezer is a little bare right now, except for a few frozen roasted peppers from last summer (2010) which probably should be thrown out, a couple of pounds of pork fat, and several packages of lamb ribs, about three or four bites of homemade salted caramel goat’s milk ice cream in two containers that need to be eaten or thrown out, and Lisa’s empty ice cream bowl and spoon (when you have an ice cream craving, you don’t want to have to walk the extra steps to the cupboard, you know).

This Week’s Plan for the CSA Share

So here’s what I plan to do with the CSA share this week:

  • The ½ pound of broccoli rabe will be braised with an anchovy paste and served with creamy polenta and marinara sauce. This will feed the two of us for dinner and provide some leftover for lunch the next day.
  • I’ll make an Asian salad with the Asian braising mix (it’s young and tender and can be eaten raw) with miso dressing and serve it with fried tofu and rice. Again, it will serve the two of us for dinner, and provide some leftover for lunch.
  • The arugula and peppers will be used for two salads for lunch and one for dinner to be served with pan-fried okra, lentils and rice. The rule in our house is that salad dressing has to be homemade, so I’ll post a recipe for a basic dressing.
  • I’ll take the cottage cheese to work to have on hand for a quick afternoon snack.
  • Eggs and yogurt are for breakfast.
  • Goat’s milk will be used in coffee and will be heated with vanilla and honey or almond extract and honey for a warm evening beverage before bed. I may use it for other things as well.

Pictures and recipes will be posted as I cook this week. What are you planning for meals?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A year of eating seasonally

The conversation usually starts something like this:

Lisa: What do you want for dinner?
Linda: [After a quick mental note that “I don’t know” usually results in disappointed glares] Ummm…what do we have to cook with?
Lisa: The usual. The same kind of stuff we harvested for the CSA. Cheese. Eggs. Lentils. Rice.
Linda: Well, I could make lentils and rice with feta. That’s one of my favorites.
Lisa: Why don’t we have soufflĂ©, braised greens, and some roasted potatoes.
Linda: Sure, that sounds good. I’ll make the potatoes.

What’s behind all of this, of course, is the difference between the way an average cook, used to shopping in a grocery store for what she fixes, a wide array of options available to her on the shelves of the store, anything to feed whatever craving may strike, and a trained chef, who has the creative ability to see a fabulous meal in the oddest combination of ingredients, function when it comes to meal prep. Unless I plan ahead and know exactly what I’ll be fixing and can assure that we have the ingredients on hand, I’m stumped, driven only by a craving that can’t be satisfied, or so I think, and unable to see a simple, healthy meal in the beautiful food growing in the garden. I want to get over that stuckness and expand my cooking skills enough to have a much wider repertoire of dishes I know how to prepare so that I can more fully participate in meal preparation at our house and more fully live into the values I claim and which drove my desire to be closer to the source of my food.

I live on a farm, with a farmy chef for a partner who raises all (and, believe me, I mean all…well, almost all, until she figures out how to raise crab in the ponds out here) of her favorite foods. I have an abundance of good, healthy food at my disposal and all too often I’m struck with culinary dumbness. I have no idea what to fix for dinner and after 15 or 20 minutes of mulling it over, by which time I’m usually starving, I’m ready to go out for cheap Mexican in the next town over, food made tolerable only by the immediate gratification of chips and the slightly spicy ketchup with passes for salsa and the dulling of the margarita consumed before the food arrives. That’s a habit I want to break. I have much better use for that $25.

We are a farm that operates largely from a CSA model. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. The idea behind the CSA is to have a community of consumers who wish to support local, small farmers and have access to good healthy fresh food on a regular basis. CSA members pay a fee at the beginning of planning and planting for a coming season. In exchange, they receive a weekly share of the harvest. Being a CSA member requires a person to be willing to cook 4 or 5 nights a week, to try new things and be open to whatever is available seasonally, and to understand the highs and lows of farming, such as the effects of extreme heat on the egg production of laying hens or the rampant infestation of squash bugs on the zucchini and squash harvest.

I have asked Lisa and Kathleen to harvest an extra CSA share each week beginning next week. That food will serve as the basis for my meal planning for the week. I plan to do this for a year. So, in effect, it will be a year of eating seasonally. I know that the CSA share does not cover all meals for an entire week and so there will be room for the occasional out of season, not local indulgence, but the discipline of cooking with a CSA share should help me focus on learning better to prepare meals using the bounty of the farm, and thus, to better live into the values that led me to a life of farming to begin with. I’ll share the experience here, including pictures and recipes, what worked, what didn’t, solicit ideas, and provide a space for our CSA members to exchange ideas as they seek to be as creative with their shares as well.

So, stay tuned for my new culinary adventure. You might find some interesting recipes. You might learn a lot about what NOT to do. I suspect you’re pretty much guaranteed an occasional laugh, and who knows, maybe someone else out there will be inspired to live much closer to the source of their food.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The ridiculousness of hope: A sermon for the fifth week of Lent

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Audio recording of this sermon delivered in Meinder's Chapel at Phillips Theological Seminary, April 7, 2011.

Is there a more vivid image of utter hopelessness than a valley full of dry bones? The lifeless structure of what has been, left behind, bleached and brittle, nothing more than a reminder of what has been lost. It is not just a scene of death. It’s a scene of annihilation, perhaps a battlefield or the scene of a horrible disaster. The explanation for the bones’ presence in the valley is unimportant. The vision of the dry bones is given for its impact on our psyche, for the feelings of hopelessness that it evokes. Unlike Lazarus, in the gospel text for this week, who has been dead a mere four days and, in the words of the beloved King James English, stinketh, the life that inhabited those left behind in this scene of destruction in Ezekiel is long gone. With Lazarus, we’re tempted to think like the wise Miracle Max from the movie The Princess Bride, “He’s not dead….he’s MOSTLY dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead there’s only one thing you can do. Go through his clothes and look for loose change.” Lazarus still had flesh and muscle and sinew, signs that blood flowed through his veins and breath through his nostrils, an indication that maybe life could return, a ridiculous prospect, true, but perhaps more believable than seeing the potential for life in dry bones.

Have you ever known hopelessness? The kind that sucks the life out of you, sapping you of any energy, leaving you wondering if you can go on. Perhaps you’ve seen it in others when tragedy strikes or when years of suffering and struggle catch up with them and begin to turn their vision away from the future and back to the past. Hope, in the words of pastoral theologian Andrew Lester, is “the configuration of cognitive and affective responses to life that believes the future is filled with possibilities and offers a blessing.”[1] He explains that theologically speaking, it “describes a person’s trusting anticipation of the future based on an understanding of a God who is trustworthy and who calls us into an open-ended future.”[2] There are times when that sense of God is lost and when the future seems overwhelming, for it,in our mind,promises nothing more than what we’re already experiencing, more suffering.

Ezekiel explains to us in this passage that he is speaking of Israel. We understand that Ezekiel’s vision came at the period in the history of the Hebrew people when their nation had been destroyed and they’d been sent into exile. All that they had hoped for as a people was lost. The future no longer held for them any possibilities. Their trust in God’s goodness and justice was lost.

How does it feel when you’re confronted with hopelessness? What goes through your mind on your way to sit with a family who’s suddenly lost a loved one? Or when someone talks to you about their experience of being without work for months? What about when you see children and youth caught up in cycles of violence and abuse?

What must it have been like for the prophets, like Ezekiel, looking at the destruction and hopelessness of the people of Israel? When I stop to consider the times when I’ve looked hopelessness in the eye, Ezekiel’s vision takes on a distinct quality of ridiculousness! Speaking to dry bones of life? Saying words of hope to the hopeless? Sometimes ministry is ridiculous. It calls us to trust in a transfinite hope, to use a concept from Andy Lester again, one that defies reasoning, a hope and trust in a God we are sure keeps promises of deliverance, liberation, and salvation. It assures us that what is now will not always be. That trust compels us to stay present with those who are suffering, to offer the smallest dose of hope that can be tolerated.

The process of bringing the dry bones to life in the Ezekiel text mirrors that of the creation stories in Genesis. First the body is created, then God breathes into the form the breath of life. The measured way in which the dry bones are returned to life reminds us that the process of returning to hope is one of recreation, enlivened by the spirit of God, and the minister’s task sometimes is simply to speak the ridiculous words of life in the midst of lifelessness, to be a non-anxious presence, sites fixed on the future promised by a God who does liberate and save.

Now, before we get too excited about participating in this work of restoring hope, I want to ask us to slow down and make an observation about this passage’s presence in our Lenten journey. There’s some introspective work required here, I believe. If we have any expectation whatsoever about staying with the hopeless in their efforts to regain hope, we must first face whatever hopelessness exists within us. There is a risk in life that we get so preoccupied with the tasks facing us in the present that we bury our own hopelessness, paying no attention to it, ignoring it because to look at it carefully is to feel our very breath being sucked out of us. What makes you hopeless? What steals your confidence in the possibilities for the future? Where do you need to experience the breath of God blowing through you like a strong Oklahoma spring wind, fueling fires that burn up all that’s dead, making room for newness and life? Are you willing to uncover it and face it?

You see, we’re getting close to Easter, a time when the focus is on resurrection. Many of us sitting here is this room right now know the dread that comes every year, that dread of focusing on something we’re not really sure we believe in anymore. We get caught up in theological arguments about where the notion of Jesus’ resurrection originated, was it in an actual true event? Or was it a story told by those closest to him for any number of reasons? And while I am the first to line up for a good a theological debate on this very issue, I wonder if our preoccupation with it doesn’t sometimes keep us from believing in resurrections that are truly possible for us right now, ones that come when hope is restored in what seems to be the most hopeless situation. The person who has been hopeless and has experienced the return of hope knows resurrection is real. If we don’t confront the hopelessness pushed aside in our own lives, we will never have the confidence to stand as Ezekiel, calling forth the breath of God from the four winds to restore life where it seems it will never exist again. Are you willing to do that? To make yourself truly ready to hear the message of resurrection when we get to that empty tomb on Easter morning?


Lester, Andrew D. Hope in Pastoral Care and Counseling. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995.

[1] Andrew D. Lester, Hope in Pastoral Care and Counseling (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), 62.

[2] Lester, Hope in Pastoral Care and Counseling, 62.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Exposing the editor in my head

I wish I could download the dialogue going through my head right now. Exposing it might shut it down. Let me give it a try:

Linda the blogger: I wonder what I should write about today.
Linda the editor: Don't write about the farm. People are going to get tired of hearing about that.
Blogger: I doubt they're getting tired of it.
Editor: Okay, maybe they aren't but people at work might think you don't like your job anymore.
Blogger: Why would they think that?
Editor: All you ever write about is the farm.
Blogger: That's silly.

Am I the only one who has conversations like this in my head? I know better than to pay attention to them, but I'll admit to getting shut down by them from time to time. Sometimes the conversation doesn't even get past "What am I going to write about?" The thought of arguing with the editor in my head is too exhausting, so I move on to reading the newspaper or Facebook or something else entirely and give up on writing. I thought I'd write about this craziness today in an attempt to steal some of the editor's power and move beyond getting shut down. I'm not looking for advice. I know what to do. I'm just being honest about what goes on in an attempt to change it.

I think I have to make up my mind that writing is my choice. Whether or not anyone reads it is her or his choice. Writing for me serves a purpose well beyond entertaining a reader. It's a way of capturing my experience in the world and making meaning from it, however tentative and fleeting that meaning may be. To the extent that it connects with someone else, a reader, is going to vary from time to time, but that doesn't make the process any less valuable to me. Like all good disciplines, just doing it on a day when the greatest meaning I find is "Well, I did that," helps ensure that I will be where I need to be to do what I need to do when the times come for finding treasure in my experience, for new understanding to emerge out of the words that flow from my mind onto the computer screen or paper, sometimes with barely any consciousness of them before they appear in front of me.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011


I did a quick interview with a local radio station yesterday. A friend texted me saying a reporter he knows was looking for someone who commutes into Tulsa from a rural area. He wondered if I'd be willing to talk to her. I agreed to do it.

It was a short interview, only about two minutes, maybe three. She wanted to know how far I commute, why I do it, whether or not I have any special vehicle, and how I pass the time. What more is there to say about commuting? Not much, but I'm blogging about it anyway.

I commute 100 miles round trip four days per week. I don't really think about it much anymore. I do it because we have this amazing opportunity to lease the farm we're on, a place that's a great match for what Lisa does. Anytime I get bummed about how far I have to commute and how much time I spend in the car, I think about the cabin where we hold the dinners and the ohs and ahs of guests when they see it for the first time. I think about walking in the woods when there is time for a hike. In my mind I see sheep grazing on rotation and goats running up from their pasture when I call them. It's really hard for me to stay bummed when I think about all that I have here. A long commute is a small price to pay.

The thing the interview didn't touch on (it was a FOX news radio station, after all) is how I feel about the environmental impact of my driving. I really regret that part of it. It runs counter to what we're about on the farm. I have a truck. I've toyed with the idea of trading for a more fuel efficient vehicle, but then I think about all the times that it helps to have both trucks here. I start doing the math and realize, while I could save some money, a more fuel efficient vehicle will not be so significantly less that it's worth giving up the value of having the other truck on the farm. I don't know of anyone in this area who commutes into Tulsa, so at this time, carpooling is not an option, though it's something that I remain open to if I make the right connections. If I had the extra cash, I'd consider a compressed natural gas conversion for my truck, but I don't so that is not an option right now either. For the time being, I'm stuck being a gas-guzzling, long commuter.

Any thoughts on other ways I could cut back on the environmental impact?

Monday, January 03, 2011

A change of pace

It's been a quiet week on the farm. I've been home for 10 days, except for a couple of days early last week when I went up to my mom's. Lisa and I have relaxed a lot and while I don't doubt we needed it, there were a few moments when we got a bit stir crazy. Apparently we like to be busy.

One day from last week illustrates the change of pace. Lisa worked in the greenhouse and I did odds and ends around the farm. We knew there was a hole in the fence where the goats were getting out. It hadn't been a huge cause for alarm. They always come straight to the back yard and stand by the gate until someone let's them back in the barnyard. Nevertheless, most of them are pregnant and a little on the wide side. We had some concerns that a couple of them might get stuck trying to get through or under the fence. So, I went in search of the hole.

Ordinarily, such a search happens an hour before both of us are about to leave for the day. It's a little frantic. When the hole is found, everything within 20 feet of the hole is fair game for blocking it until a couple of hours can be spared to fix it properly. The repair is made and then we dash off to whatever demands our attention next, praying the fix holds and we don't return to find goats in the hen house or garage.

On this day, I headed out to the pasture and noticed that Jai, the miniature dachshund was following me, on the other side of the fence, right into the woods that border the pasture on the south side. Coyotes live in those woods, so it's not a good idea for him to go traipsing around in them. I went out the gate and around the fence to the area where he was now chasing a rogue chicken. The hen was running wildly in circles around and through the trees, doing her best to lose him, but he matched her step for step, paying no attention at all to my calls. I called and called. Nothing. He disappeared for a few minutes and after what seemed like an eternity, reemerged, head high, panting and tail wagging. A tired chicken could be heard squawking in the background. Jai sat down 20 feet away from me and refused to come. I took one step toward him and he started running around again, so I stopped and waited until he was tired of his game and finally came to me. I picked him up and took him to the house.

On my return to the pasture, the goats followed me out. I walked slowly along the fence line and found a spot not far from the barnyard. It's an area where water rushes into a dry creek after it rains. There has been a lot of erosion. The dirt under the fence crumbled away just enough to allow for the goats to get out. A couple of the goats were curious about what I was doing. I stood back to watch what they did around the hole. One pawed at it and started to go under, then turned and saw me and pulled back. I knew then that I had the place they'd been using.

I pulled the fence down, took a thick branch that had fallen to the ground, weaved it through a few sections of the fence and pulled on it until it weighted the fence down and kept it at ground level. Then I put some other debris in front to prevent the goats from breaking my fix. Two or three of the goats hovered around me while I worked, occasionally nudging my arm, an attempt to distract me perhaps or just to beg for a little attention. Goats are curious animals, never satisfied to leave us alone if we're anywhere close.

With nowhere in particular that I had to be after I finished the "repair," I turned my attention to the goats. I sat on the ground and waited for them to come to me to rub their necks and jowls. Several crowded around me, butting others out of the way to get to a position in front of me. I love sitting where I can look them in the eye and see the soulfulness deep inside each animal. It's a treat to spend that kind of time with them, but such moments usually have to be stolen here and there. On this day, I had no concern for the work that was being neglected while I spent time with the animals. It was pure pleasure.

While I was occupied with a few of the younger goats, I looked up to see Teeny Tiny, one of our milk goats, head for the place in the fence where the hole used to be. She stood staring at it for a good while, then pawed at it, trying to get the branches and debris out of the way. Obviously, she's the leader of the break outs. I have suspected as much. Frustrated with my work, she gave up and turned to a broken down round bale of hay. A chunk of the bale rested on the ground, creating a small hill. She climbed on top, ready to challenge any goat who dared to get up there with her. Others grazed nearby, eating dried leaves and the occasional acorn off the ground. I sat back and watched, feeling the warm sun and breeze on my face.