Secret Farmer Handshake

Raspberry Quark Muffins

I was chatting with my new neighbors the other day as they rested under the tree by the fence that separates our properties.  They are a dwarf beef breed and the little bull calf was beyond adorable. I wanted to take pictures of the little guy but Mama was giving me a suspicious glare. I reassured her that I wouldn’t post the pictures on social media without her express written consent.  She looked dubious.  It was at that moment that my husband drove by in his pickup, he also looked dubious.  I get that look a lot.

Little Bull Calf

A farmer cares for his cows, loves them, feeds them, and keeps them healthy and comfortable, but he seems to draw the line at palaver. I think there is a farmer’s club where you lose your membership if caught discussing the weather with livestock.  I, on the other hand, have held some meaningful conversations with my 1,500 pound, four hoofed friends. Maybe that’s why I’m never invited to the farmer club meetings. I don’t know the secret handshake anyway.

Some local farmers occasionally meet in the back room of our store so I thought a bribe might be helpful to get into the secret club. I made Raspberry Quark Mini Muffins adapted from a Taste of Home Recipe.  I plunked a bowlful of warm, fragrant muffins on the table and requested entrance into the club. I got a thank you for the muffins, but they wouldn’t divulge the secret handshake, they even tried telling me that it doesn’t exist.  Now it was my turn to look dubious.

Raspberries from Boxx Berry Farm

Raspberry Quark Muffins

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Quark (I used lowfat)
  • 1/2 cup cup canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add in the berries and toss to coat.

Combine the wet ingredients in another bowl.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until moistened.

Fill greased mini muffin cups about 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack.  Serve warm.

Fourth of July Picnic

John and I have been taking advantage of the nice weather and going on picnics on my day off. John starts work at 4am so we like to head to the park at 8 or 9am.  That makes it a late breakfast for me and lunchtime for him.  I thought it would be nice to come up with an easy stuffed sandwich that I could make the day before.  That way we could hop in the car as soon as John was done with his morning cheese chores.

John making feta
This is an old picture of John making feta. He doesn’t like having his picture taken so I have to sneak up on him.

I had my recipe books open which makes my son very happy.  I told him what I was looking for, he suggested using his favorite salad recipe.  This recipe was contributed to “A Taste of Tradition” Mt. View Church recipe book in 1998 by none other than my sister-in-law Ann.  We make this salad all the time as a light supper, especially during the summer.  Stuffing it into a loaf sandwich turned out perfect!

I also like this salad/sandwich because it uses three of our cheeses, Quark, Maasdammer, and Cheddar.  What’s not to love about that?

Elizabeth making cheddar
Making cheddar is a physically demanding job, just ask Elizabeth.

I do recommend choosing your bread carefully.  We loved the sourdough artisan loaf for flavor, but the chewy crust forced the filling to squish out a little bit.  It’s okay to get a little messy on a picnic, right?

Layered Basil Salad Sandwich

Layered Basil Salad Sandwich

  • Artisan bread loaf
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup quark*
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Lettuce, shredded (the amount will vary depending on the size of the loaf)
  • 1/4-1/2 pound deli ham slices
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup Maasdammer** grated
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar, grated
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced

Mix the carrots, peas, quark, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.
Cut off the top third of the loaf and dig out the center, leaving an inch of crust to make a bowl.  Fill the bread bowl with lettuce all the way to the top, this layer will compress.  Layer the quark filling evenly over the lettuce, followed by the ham, red onions, cheeses, and eggs.
Cover with the top of the bread loaf and wrap tightly in saran wrap.  Chill for a minimum of four hours, can be made 24 hours in advance.  Slice in wedges for a round loaf or thick slices for an oblong loaf.

*you can substitute sour cream
**you can substitute Swiss cheese

Larrabee State Park
Relaxing at Larrabee State Park

What is going on in the kitchen?

The Cheese Shop has been open for more than a year now and sometimes I have to pinch myself because I feel blessed beyond belief.  I am also blessed by my wonderful crew.  My crew is like family to me, some actually are family to me.  The teamwork here is phenomenal!  Everybody enthusiastically pitches in with all tasks (except weeding the flower beds).  We team up to bake the muffins, cookies, and biscuits fresh every day.  Strong teamwork is vitally important because one person may start a batch of muffins, then get called out to help a customer so someone else will need to take over.  We occasionally have a mess-up like missing an ingredient or adding double the amount of salt (oops) but for the most part the system works beautifully.

There may be a little bit of goofing off too…

Goofing off in the kitchen
Elizabeth is starting to get almost as goofy as her Aunt.

One of our fabulous team members has her last day this Saturday.  We are like family here, so it’s hard to see any member of the crew leave.  I feel like a proud Mom!  Mars has been working the Saturday morning shift since we opened.  We will miss her bright cheery face and easy laugh.  Mars graduated from Whatcom Community College and is moving on to an exciting future.

Mars is baking
Mars is testing a recipe for plum upside down cake. It was much too dense so we will keep working on it!

The crew also helps out with testing recipes for posting here.  We have to make a recipe several times to get it right and we take copious amounts of notations.  A new recipe that we tested and LOVE is Strawberry Scones with Brown Sugar Glaze.

Strawberry Quark Scones

Strawberry Quark Scones

  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking poweder
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup strawberries, roughly chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Appel Farms Quark*
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  cut in the butter until it looks like course bread crumbs.  Add the strawberries and toss until the berries are coated.

Whisk together the egg, quark, vanilla and milk.  Fold the quark mixture into the flour mixture to form a moist dough.  Add more milk if necessary.  Turn out the dough and pat it into a circle about 1 inch thick.  Cut the dough into wedges and transfer the wedges to a greased baking sheet.

Place the scones in the freezer for ten minutes to chill.   Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Let the scones cool before spreading on the glaze (recipe below).

Making Scones

Brown Sugar Glaze

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Once the sugar has dissolved then add the cream, vanilla, and salt.  Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool until thickened.

*I you don’t have access to quark, then you can substitute sour cream.

Why you should get your local strawberries right now!

The beginning of summer for me is heralded by Boxx Berry Farm opening their doors.  When I was growing up, the only time I ever set foot on a farm was our annual trip to Yelm to pick strawberries for mom’s freezer jam.  I have fond memories of grimy knees, stained fingers, and the heady smell of berries warm from the summer sun.  I may have met the farmer that owned those fields, but I don’t remember him/her. I did hear stories of farmers: their hardworking life, patience, and general steady character.  Being constantly around farmers now, I have come to take these traits for granted, but it was brought home to me again as I visited Boxx Berry Farm the other day.  I parked out front and wandered through the patchwork quilt of fruit and vegetable fields, with dust from the road swirling around my ankles.

Alyssa working at the upick stand
The yield this year is small, but the berries are large, juicy, and sweet.

The u-pick stand was manned by Alyssa, the daughter of Roger and Vonda Boxx.  It’s been a delight to see her grow from the skinny little thing running around the farm to the beautiful woman she is now.  Roger paused in his own labors to greet me and we gazed down the rows of strawberry plants.  I asked him how it was going and he confessed that it’s a disappointing year.  They are expecting less than half their usual yield of strawberries.  The winter, though mild, was harsh on the strawberry plants.  But farmers are a stoic breed, he brushed the worry aside like brushing the dust from his shoes and shrugged, “there’s always next year.”

Because the harvest will be small this year, I am relishing each and every berry.  There’s nothing like the imminent danger of paucity to make you cherish what you can get, don’t you think?  I made freezer jam on Monday, just like mom’s, and today we are having Panna Cotta.  My son describes Panna Cotta as offspring from the marriage of gelatin dessert and ice cream.  Panna Cotta is light, creamy, and easy to make but looks absolutely elegant.

Panna Cotta

Strawberry Quark Panna Cotta

  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup lowfat quark
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place half and half into a medium pan.  Stir gelatin in gently and set aside.

Blend quark, strawberries, seeds from the vanilla bean, and sugar in a food processor until smooth.

Heat half and half and gelatin stirring constantly until almost simmering, do not overheat or the gelatin will not set.  Remove from heat.

Fold 1/3 of the hot half and half into the strawberry/quark mixture, then gradually add in the remainder.

Divide into serving glasses, the number of glasses depends on their size and if you are doing layers or all one flavor.  For two layers, I like to tilt the glasses in a muffin tin (use crumpled paper towel to keep the glasses from sliding around) for the first layer then set the glasses straight for the second layer.  Allow to set for 4-6 hours before adding second layer.

Elizabeth cutting strawberries

Vanilla Quark Panna Cotta

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup lowfat quark
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Place half and half into a medium pan.  Stir gelatin in gently and set aside.

Stir together the quark and seeds from the vanilla bean, set aside.

Heat half and half and gelatin stirring constantly until almost simmering, do not overheat or the gelatin will not set.  Remove from heat.

Fold 1/3 of the hot half and half into the vanilla/quark mixture, then gradually add in the remainder.

Divide into serving glasses or carefully pour on top of the first layer.  Chill 4-6 hours before serving.