Growing Organic Potatoes

Growing Organic PotatoesI don’t have a green thumb, but thankfully when it comes to things like growing organic potatoes and tons of other produce, my mother, sister and brother-in-law do.

Two weekends ago it was time to start digging up the potatoes in the big garden on the homestead. My mom’s a seed-saver, which means she carefully keeps seeds from the produce she’s grown (mostly heirloom and all organic) to use for planting the next season’s crops.

Digging up organic potatoes by hand

In this case, all the potatoes in these rows are from just a few russet, white and red potatoes she kept and planted. There are various machines you can use to unearth the potatoes (which ideally grow just a couple inches under the soil), but my mom pulls hers out by hand – or by pitchfork.

Voles eating organic potatoesMy urban farmer sister, Josie, happened to be visiting from Brooklyn this weekend, so she was giving some of the odd-looking potatoes a once-over.

Some had a greenish hue, which means they grew exposed to light. You don’t want to eat those – they become toxic and can give you an upset tummy.

Other potatoes had been chewed on. Yes. CHEWED. The spuds with bite marks were completely underground (a little deeper than the un-gnawed ones), which means whatever was eating them also had to live underground. The culprits? Well, we don’t know for sure, but my sister believes them to be voles, which are little mouse-like rodents.

The good news is, when you have inedibles pulled from our garden, they don’t go to waste. Some scraps head to be composted, but many get delivered to the chickens – which they LOVE.

Chickens eating organic potatoesConvenient, right?

My mom planted only a handful of potatoes. When all’s said and done, and each row was unearthed, we ended up with a bounty that weighed in at over 100 pounds. ONE HUNDRED POUNDS! Just from a few organic potatoes.

I love sustainability.

Honey Lemon Zucchini Bread

Honey Lemon Zucchini Bread

I’ve been staring at two giant zucchini in my fridge for a couple weeks now.

One came from our garden here on the homestead, and the other came from my co-worker who had no use for it. Obviously when fraught with what to do with this giant zucchini she thought, “Liza will take it.”

Because, obviously. I’m like Mikey with the Life cereal when it comes to garden bounty.

Giant Zucchini

I spent 15 minutes shredding those two suckers, and ended up with a little over 6 cups of zucchini bits. Two cups got frozen, and the rest was used for zucchini bread.

We love zucchini bread over here. It’s one of my daughter’s favorites for lunch, two slices slathered with cream cheese and eaten like a sandwich. My son happens to like his plain OR warmed up with a little butter. (YUM!)

Honey Lemon Zucchini Bread

I could eat zucchini bread any way it’s served, any time (although I do have a soft spot for a warm buttered slice).

Today I tried a new variation on my regular ol’ zucchini bread recipe: the addition of honey and lemon. It has a sweet brightness that’s both unique and mouthwatering.

Of the 4 loaves, I gave one to my parents (Hey – my mom did grow one of those zucchini, so I feel like I owe them. Plus, food’s always more fun when you can share!), saved one in the fridge for this week, and froze two to use over the coming weeks.

Can’t wait for breakfast tomorrow! Mmm….

Honey Lemon Zucchini Bread
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 cups shredded zucchini
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • ¼ cup honey (preferably local)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Use non-stick spray to coat 4 large loaf pans.
  2. Use a whisk to combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk the eggs and oil until they turn a creamy color, then add the sugar, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla and continue whisking the ingredients for 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Fix the paddle attachment to the mixer. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture about a cup at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next cupful. Once all the dry ingredients have been added, mix until it's just combined. The batter will be very thick!
  5. Add the zucchini to the batter, and using the mixer on low, gently incorporate the two. The moisture from the zucchini should loosen up the batter and make it easier to mix.
  6. Pour the batter into your prepared pans about half-way, and then bake them for about an hour (or until the top springs back when you press gently with your finger, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).
  7. Let the loaves cool for about 15 minutes in the pan, and the remove them. Continue letting them sit on a rack until they've cooled completely.
Notes
TIP: If you plan on freezing these, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap once they've cooled, and then put them into freezer zip top bags.

 

Spring House Manor Farm Visit

A couple weekends ago my husband and I were invited to visit Spring House Manor Farm, about 10 minutes away from our old house in Frederick. The owners of the farm are Abby and Tony Brusco, ALSO known as the owners of Hometown Harvest (blog sponsor and organic+local grocery delivery service extraordinaire!).

Spring House Manor Farm

The Brusco family moved out to Spring House Manor Farm a little over a year ago, and they wanted to share the experience with me and fellow blogger Rachel. The farm’s property is stunning, backing up to the watershed and full of lush, green pastures.

It was quiet, serene and only a stone’s throw from downtown Frederick. Perfect, right?

A group of 12 of us (including the Brusco kids) gathered to tour the small farm, complete with chickens, a family garden and big plans for moving the Hometown Harvest offices and warehouse to a chunk of their acreage in the next couple of years.

We ate a large farm-style dinner outside under a tent, adjacent to the beautifully restored farmhouse and the small orchard. Two of the recipes (lasagna rolls and summer couscous salad) were inspired by recipes on my blog – a terrific surprise!

Hometown Harvest Farm Lunch

Rachel, who grew up in the city, wrote a really great recap of our visit here (complete with lots of photos), and since I’m still getting our house in order after the move to my parents’ farm and don’t have time to write a longer post (yes…it has happened!! More to come….), I’d suggest you visit hers for all the details. We had a tremendous time!

Hometown Harvest is a blog sponsor, which means I’m being compensated for things like spreading the word about what they do. Interested in learning more about their delivery service in Maryland, Washington DC and Virginia? Click here for all the details!

We’re Moving to The Farm

Wagon Ride at the Farm

This summer we’re leaving Frederick.

I KNOW.

I’ve had people tell me when they think of Frederick, they think of me. It’s funny, I didn’t grow up here, but I’ve certainly planted roots since moving to Frederick in 2001. Our kids were born here. My husband grew up here.

All good things come to an end, and so our next chapter starts.

We’re moving to The Farm.

You  know, the place where my parents live, raise chickens and have huge, beautiful organic gardens? And also the place where Josie and Shawn started Truffula Seed Produce, before moving on to other farm adventures? That farm.

Chickens at the Farm

Truth be told, it’s not really a “farm” in the traditional sense, so I feel like I’m misspeaking when I call it that. It’s more of a farmette – five acres with about an acre devoted to the gardens, chickens and a big high tunnel. We’ve all just called it “The Farm” since my parents moved there from the DC suburbs 10 years ago, and the name stuck.

The rest of the land is filled with my parents’ house (the original farmhouse, built in the late-1800s), a summer kitchen adjacent to the farmhouse that was converted to a one-bedroom apartment (my paternal grandfather lives there), a three-bedroom house that was built in 2009 (my maternal grandmother lives there), and a cute log cabin.

Log Cabin at the Farm

The log cabin will likely be where a lot of my blog’s food photos will be captured – the light is stunning, and you can’t beat the exposed log walls! It’s where I filmed my video for the casting of “America’s Best Cook” on Food Network.

Liza Filming the Casting Call Video for "America's Best Cook" on Food Network

But, we won’t be living in the cabin. Don’t think our family of four would manage well in a one-bedroom space, even if it’s horribly cute!

My grandmother is moving to an assisted living home, which means her house will be empty. When they all moved out there, the idea was that it would remain a family property, a homestead, a compound of sorts. Compound sounds a little creepy, but you know – embracing the whole “it takes a village” concept. Working together as a family to keep things running.

It’s a good thing we get along so well with my parents. We’re lucky!

Kids in the Trees

Which also means on-site childcare in the form of my parents. {It’s okay to be jealous.}

You’ll be seeing a lot more farm-to-table style posts from me one we’re out there, which I’m totally excited about! My goal is to still keep my life easy to relate to even though our situation will be unique.

I still work full-time and I’m not leaving my day job. I’ll only be about 30 minutes from my current office, which makes the commute (on country roads!) manageable.

We’ll have access to the gardens and all the produce my mom grows (she still works full-time too, by the way), but I’m also going to keep my delivery from Hometown Harvest. Mmmm….

Maybe I’ll try my hand at gardening too. Or harvesting.

Raspberries on the Farm

Or maybe I’ll just stick to cooking.

The times they are a changin’.

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