Monday, April 18, 2016

Yacon: my sweet savory savior

Gluten free? Vegan? Lactose intolerant? Vegetarian? Pescatarian? Nut allergy? Paleo? Low-carb? Sugar-free? Onions give you heart burn? Nightshades sour your stomach? We’ve got you covered!
When guests stay at North Fork 53, they know that the focus of their breakfast will be farm-fresh but as for the menu, they are in for a surprise. I like to say that we play a little game of roulette in the morning. Omelette? Benedict? Huevos Rancheros? Quiche? French Toast? Savory waffles? Crepes? Each day the ball lands on something different, and it keeps guests and the cook on our toes. So far it has gone over well. The carefully grown ingredients speak for themselves and no one has walked away disappointed or hungry (phew!).
But despite the morning surprise, we do make a point of asking guests their dietary restrictions and considering them when planning the next day’s meal. Last weekend posed a special challenge when we hosted Carolyn who follows a strict no-sugar, no-grain, low-carb diet and another guest who is vegan (the purist kind—yep, no honey). It took both Sara and I some time to wrap our brains around it. Baking with no sugar, grain, eggs, honey, or carbs. Uuuuhh….?
I stared at the shelves in our pantry, glass jars dimming one by one as I deemed them unsuitable for use. Thankfully, one ingredient reached out, shone as a lighthouse beacon through thick fog. Yacon! Last year, our skillful farmers, Lily and Kayleigh, painstakingly grew, juiced and reduced this sweet South American root into a decadent syrup. Thick and deep brown in color, with a sweet yet savory flavor, the syrup is perfect for barbecue sauce or as a replacement for molasses. So in it went: into the coconut chocolate date bars, into the gluten-free pumpkin muffins and into the vegan banana nut muffins. The following recipe is one that many guests have asked me to share. Not shy on the spices and featuring yacon syrup for depth, this squash bread is reminiscent of pumpkin pie. I’m completely off season, but who needs fall to enjoy squash? Not I! 
*Disclaimer: this recipe contains all of the things: eggs, grains, cane sugar, etc. Gluten-free, sugarless and vegan recipes coming soon...
2 cups roasted pureed squash (any sweet variety will do: kabocha, butternut, pumpkin, hubbard, etc. I use squash that we slow roasted in the oven, but a can of pumpkin also works)
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil, melted coconut oil or melted unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar
½ cup yacon syrup or molasses
3 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 TBS ground cinnamon
1½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground allspice
Grease and flour 2 9x5 loaf pans with your choice of oil or butter, tapping out excess flour. Preheat oven to 325°F for nonstick pans or 350°F for metal.
In a large bowl or food processor, mix together squash puree, eggs, oil, sugar and yacon syrup until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when center is set and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for five minutes in pans, then remove and cool completely on wire rack.
This bread is perfect for baking ahead and storing in the freezer. After the loaves cool completely, wrap in plastic wrap or place in an air-tight container and store in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.  I like to warm them in the oven after thawing. Goes great with apple butter!

Breaking Routine: the ever-changing farm life

Wake up, set the fire, brew coffee, boil water for tea, fold butter into flour, sugar, cheese and kale, cut scones to bake. Mornings on the farm are early ones. Before the sun, even before the first trills of songbirds returning to our northern corner of Oregon, we are up greeting the day with stretches and intentions.
In a culture full of routine: the 8-5, Monday through Friday, commute to work, follow the schedule—farm life remains quite contrary. Seasons change and we flow along with it. We plant different crops to reflect the temperature and hours of sunlight. Each week we plan our breakfast menus to utilize these new crops. The farmers might be turning on heat pads for baby tomato plants or otherwise rolling up the sides of the hoop houses to let air flow if it's warm enough. Within this seasonal, yearly cycle of growth, bloom, decay and rest, we experience more frequent change. Each day there is something new and different to work on. Earlier this week we began installing the new permaculture gardens around the farmhouse, yesterday we harvested crops down on the 2 acre farm plot, today we are baking bread and greeting customers at the farm store, tomorrow we will host an Easter brunch for a houseful of community members, and coming up this week is the construction of a new cob oven for pizza parties to come!
Living on a small-scale farm we are constantly listening and watching. We let the plants, the bees, the birds, and the rains tell us when it’s time to get going, to start the next phase of work, or to slow down. And there are always surprises, outcomes we couldn’t have predicted and little glimpses of magic, as when fuzzy-feathered chicks appear under a mama hen after weeks of dedicated sitting or the moment a cherry tree opens all its pale pink buds to the sun.
At North Fork 53, we invite you to share in these experiences, this day-to-day hopscotch and seasonal rhythm. And through this weekly blog, we hope to scoop you up into the fold so you can watch our little farm bed and breakfast grow. While you’re watching and listening to your home environment, we welcome you to also follow us in the seemingly chaotic life of the farmer, where every day is different, each a droplet of water adding to the cycle from river to ocean to sky and back again.