The Art of Meaningful Gift Giving, How to Preserve a Child and some Yummy Market Fresh Recipes

We’re at the time of year when everyone is in a hustle and bustle of the Holidays.  For us the Farmers Market is filled with beautiful gift items and our market friends are all too happy to stop by and pick up that beautiful, one of a kind, hand crafted item to give their loved ones.  There’s an art to gift giving.  Some folks like the idea of gift cards- quick & simple and they don’t have to worry about the ‘did they like it or not?’  Others love the thrill of searching and finding just the right thing for that special person.  Then there are those that take the time to actually create something unique for each individual… and all three are fine! I don’t think there is any wrong way to give a gift, especially when it’s given with love.  We are all different and we need to do what fits our personalities… and those that love us will know that whatever the gift is, it was given with heart. I hope this post will help all of the above and you will find something that helps you in this typically crazy time of year.

Homemade gift tags add a special touch. Use
old greeting cards or seed packets.

Here are some easy to create as well as purchased gift ideas that are special and will last a life time… and won’t get broke and tossed the day after Christmas…

In my previous blog (12/15) I wrote about creating one of a kind beautiful gift ‘baskets’, today I will touch on gifts that can be purchased, but more on the side of Hand Made with Love.  Hope you can all find something useful here to help you through the next few days of trying to find that perfect gift!

*Go to the Farmers Market! Of course I have a very biased opinion here- I’m selling at the Farmers Market and I run one where I have lots of vendors who have great items that would make incredible gifts.  If you want to find one of a kind, hand crafted baskets, bowls, water color paintings, quilts, jewelry, pen & pencil sets, photography, centerpieces, metal work, bird houses, rolling pins and ice cream scoops, we’ve even got gifts for your pets and coffee beans for the stockings… The Old Winery Farmers Market is the place to be.  Check us out at http://www.theoldwinerymarket.com and like us on facebook! You won’t be dissappointed!

*Give a Gift Certificate to a local Nursery in the gift recipiants area. Tell them the certificate is to be used for a tree in honor of the family, the birth of a child, a house warming gift or any other reason you can think of.  Arrange a day when you can all be together in the Spring to plant the tree and have a family bar-b-que.

*Homemade Potpourri:  here are several recipes
What you will need: cellophane bag, ribbon, twisty tie, homemade tag.
“With Love…”  Ingredients: Rosebuds for love, Chamomile for patience, lavender for devotion, marjoram for joy and rosemary for remembrance.  Place 4 cups of mixture in bag, twist and secure with twisty tie, then put pretty ribbon around and attach gift tag, be sure to lable the ingredients on the tag as listed above.
“Herbal Garden” Ingredients: 1 cup EACH: dried parsley, sage, thyme, mint- your choice of scent, cranberries, 2 cup dried rosemary, 10 medium size pine cones.
“For the Love of Lavender” Ingredients: 4 cups dried lavender blossoms, 1 cup EACH: dried ivory globe, blue salvia bloosoms, rose petals, 3 Tbsp. orris root, amaranth blossoms, 4-6 drops lavender essential oil. Mix ingredients and store in a sealed container for 6 weeks before using or giving.
“My Rose Garden” Ingredients: 3 cups dried rose petals- mixed colors, 1 cup rose hips, 7-8 drops of rose essential oil, 12 ivory strawflower heads, 1 cup star anise. Mix all ingredients and store in an air tight container for 4 weeks before using or giving


 

Sunflower Wreaths:  If you saved your sunflower heads like Ryan and I did this Fall (see photo) you can make this easy and beautiful wreath to give your bird feeding loved ones & friends.  This works best with Mammoth or Giant Grey Stripe heads.  Heres how:  Take the sunflower head and cut a hole our of the center- where the stem would have been- about 4″ in diameter; Take some evergreen boughs and make a small bouquet; glue gun or wire it on the sunflower wreath; put a piece of raffia or twine so it can be hung.   

Bird Suet Feeders: Another gift for your bird loving friends.  You can make super cute suet cakes, here’s how:
Ingredients: 1 part Peanut Butter, 2 parts bird seed, 5 parts cornmeal, 2 parts melted lard.
How to:  Melt lard on low heat; add peanut butter, stir till melted in; remove from heat and immediately add remaining ingredients, stir with wooden spoon till evenly mixed.  Line cupcake cups with paper liners; press mixture into cups and place in refrigerator until firm.  Using a thin pencil, press through center to make a hole right through where a wire can be put through so it can be hung.Transfer to plastic bags and keep in freezer. 
When you’re ready to give as gifts, place in cellophane baggies and tie with ribbons. These make cute stocking stuffers.

 
Gift of Food:  Most of us make jams, jellies, relishes or salsa’s each year. Why not give a few as a gift.  If you don’t do this, again you can find these types of goodies at The Farmers Market as well! Hope to see you there! 
If you are interested in making something now, that you can still get ingredients for here a few easy and yummy recipes.
These recipes were taken from Taproot Magazine, Issue 3:: Retreat http://www.taprootmag.com

Lavender Infused Honey5-6 cups fresh or dried lavender flowers, chopped
48 oz. Honey
1 drop lavender essential oil (optional)

Place the flowers in a soup pot. Put the honey over them, packing with a long handled wooden spoon to ensure that all the flowers are covered.
Allow this mixture to sit overnight, or even up to 3 nights, covered with a lid.
Place the pot on very low heat.  When the honey turns to a liquid (just a few minutes), immediately strain into jars.
Press the herbs to release every bit of the honey, and compost eh herbs.
Add the essential oil, if using, and stir.
Cap the jars and sore them in a cabinet



Peppermint Ginger Pancake Syrup1/2 cup fresh peppermint leaves, chopped
1/2 cup fresh ginger, chopped skin is fine
3 cups water
1/2 cup honey

In a large saucepan, combine the peppermint, ginger, and water. Bring to boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the volume has decreased to approximately 1 cup.  this creates a strong, fragrant eat. 
Strain the liquid and return it to the pot.
Add the sweetener, and heat gently until completely blended.
Store the syrup in a 1 pint jar in the refrigerator.





I thought this was cute and wanted to share it here…
“How To Preserve Children”
Take one large grassy field
1/2 dozen or so children, all sizes
3 small dogs, and a few big ones- a cat is fine too!
one narrow strip of brook, pebbly if possible
several large trees for shade… and of course a tire swing on one
a large picnic basket filled with goodies

Mix the children with the dogs and cat, empty them into the field, stirring continually;  sprinkle with field flowers, pour brook gently over pebbles, cover all with a deep blue sky and bake in a hot sunshine.
After done, place under tree, take turns swinging and have a yummy snack.
Enjoy them while they’re little, for they won’t be little long.

Pick up these ingredients at the Farmers Market all year long… we’ve got em’ at The Old Winery!
Thyme Grilled Vegetable

16 baby potato– about 1 quart
1/2 c chicken broth
1/4 c Olive Oil
2 tbsp fresh Thyme, minced
1/2 tsp salt
3 large peppers, sliced– use different colors to make it pretty!
2 c sliced onions

In an un-greased 9×13 inch baking casserole, combine the potatoes, broth, oil, thyme & salt.  Grill, covered over medium heat for about 25 minutes.
Stir in peppers & onions.  Grill 25-30 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender.

Soft Boiled Eggs in a ‘Green’ Nest
1 Bunch of Chard, Kale or Spinach from Garden Gate, stems & ribs discarded
1 1/2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 tsp Red Pepper
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 Tbsp. fresh snipped Parsley
4 Eggs from Garden Gate

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Chop your greens into bite size pieces and toss in the oil and seasoning to coat evenly. Spread evenly in the bottom of a 10″x10″ glass baking dish and bake for about 30-40 minutes, till crisp.  Remove from oven and divide into 2 bowls and create a ‘nest’ with a hole in the center.
2. While greens are baking, bring a 2 quart pot of water to a rolling boil and gently lower eggs into water, turn off heat and cover.  Let eggs sit in water for 6 1/2 minutes for soft boiled eggs.
3. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water and let sit for about 1/2 minute.  Working carefully and quickly, peel eggs, and place in center of nests.  Season with a bit of sea salt and serve immediately.

Happy Day,
Jean




 

The Organic Life: How To Get There and More Market Fresh Recipe’s!

What does Organic mean to you?  I think everyone reading this would have somewhat of a different answer.  Personally,  I want ‘organic’ to be the way I breath, eat and sleep… it’s the life style I want for myself and my family… it’s a personal choice… you can’t make someone ‘believe’ it if they don’t want to or they don’t care.  An organic life style isn’t easy by any definition of the word… especially if you live in the city! No offense there my city dwelling friends! I have come to understand your back yard isn’t even your own to grow your food if that is what you want to do… that is unless you get ‘their’ permission.  This is incredulous to me… as many of you who know me personally and have leaned over my market table where we have vented together on these issues!  So many of you ask me for advice on chickens, gardening and canning… I wish so badly I could do more than just give you ‘tips’… but that is where it’s at I guess.  So today I am going to give some reference materials along with more ‘tips’ on how to get a piece of the organic life for yourselves… and of course some more yummy market fresh recipes!  Enjoy friends!
What are most organic minded people searching for in their quest for this life style that is sure to better for them?  How do they change their eating, their basic hygiene habits and all the ‘normal’ stuff they have done for years?  Well in today’s world of the educated consumer and the ready to make a dollar industry, the choices are by far greater than when I started this journey.  Just about every grocery & big box store carries an organic line of everything imaginable.  But this is only the basics right?  What about going deeper… like the know where the stuff comes from… who processed it… who raised it… getting it from the hand that washed that beautiful brown, farm fresh egg… that’s what the search is really about… the knowing!  …and it’s important, no matter what ‘they’ try to tell you! There is this instinct within you that just want’s to raise some of your own food in your very own garden, preserve what you’ve grown… canning some of your own pickles and making your own strawberry jam… bake some bread like grandma use too… have a few chickens, gather those eggs, wash them with your own two hands and then fry em’ up. There are so many roads to this life. I love reading about people who left the rat race and said enough is enough… they go out to reclaim what they know was a part of their ancestory… the simple life… where you can hear the crickets chirping and see the milky way up in the starlit night, where the ‘light’ pollution doesn’t distort it all… dirt roads and pasture fields all around… not screaming sirens and blaring ‘booming’ radio’s… the good life!  I can preach all this stuff because we did it… almost sixteen years ago… It wasn’t and still isn’t easy… there have been many bumps in the road and I realize that not everyone can do this… but I have never regretted it and I will never go back! 
           
Here are some idea’s to grow by…  * Growing your own food is probably the first attempt that most folks make… after all grandma & grandpa always had a garden!  I remember being a child sitting in the middle of the long pea rows eating those beautiful and oh so yummy peas right out of the pod.  Grabbing hold of that carrot top and washing it under the spicket and crunch!  Garden fresh goodness at it’s best!  You will never know more satisfaction in your life than planting a seed or a seedling, nurturing it and then eating from the works of your very own hands… your own sweat and sore back… you will savor every mouthful to the fullest and you will make sure everyone cleans their plate!
           
*Canning is typically the next step… I think for reason of necessity because you got a lot out of that garden and now what do you do with it…. along with the sheer desire to preserve some of that goodness that you grew!  There is much to be learned in this field but once you have your main supplies and a couple sessions under your belt, you will quickly become an old pro and look forward to the harvest!
*Finding your local Farmer’s Market… some folks can’t or simply don’t have the space for a garden, much less a chicken coop!  The next best thing is definitely going to your local market and supporting the farmers that work so hard to bring you all those beautiful piles of healthy food every week!  Knowing where your goods come from seems to be by far the most important element in this journey… As all our market friends know, I love to talk… especially about gardening and canning!  Be sure to talk to your farmers and producers… we are all usually pretty excited about chatting about what we do… after all it’s our passions that have brought us to you at the market!   
*Energy saving seems to be right up there in the importance level… wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all go solar or wind powered?  But again, reality needs to set in and that is not a possibility for most either.  Although when you shop local and directly from the farmer/producer you are saving!  You are saving fuel from the transportation of trucking in food from all across the country and the world.  Try using bio-degradable home products and recycling… these all help… every little bit counts! 
*Plastic is a big no-no to most as well… we love when our market friends come with their recyclable grocery bags and we try to encourage all to use them. We also encourage our customers to bring us their clean, empty plastic clam shell containers- we re-use them each week for the produce that goes into our CSA shares!  If you are at the market and you see one of the farmers selling eggs, most will gladly take your clean, gently used old egg cartons and reuse them each week as well.
*Body, Baby & Home care  products aren’t such a challenge any longer either… again, most stores carry organic lines and thankfully there are many on-line catalogs that supply a wide variety of products.  I do believe that this area is equally as important as the food we eat!  The harsh chemicals that we slather all over our bodies goes into the blood stream and I believe will eventually effect us in a very negative way!
*We even have the availability of organic clothing and other fiber products… again you can go to many farmers markets and find fiber producers.  They are often found by lamb, llama or the like farmers… these farmers then have the ability to produce wool, batting, etc. for you.
*You can incorporate these practices right down to gift giving. I know I have been guilty of not wanting to spend that extra couple bucks on so-and-so when they don’t even care about any of this ‘stuff’!  But you know what?  It just might be the seed that needs to be planted in a friends life… if you start the ball rolling with an organic and Eco-friendly gift they may do some deeper research or really like the product and then..

Here is a list of some really good books, magazines and sites that will help you on your way!

“A Slice of Organic Life”, Editor-in-Chief Sheherazade Goldsmith, Foreword by Alice Waters; Published by DK, discover more at www.dk.com

Organic Gardening Magazine, www.organicgardening.com
Countryside  & Small Stock  Journal, www.courntrysidemag.com 
Edible WOW Magazine, www.ediblewow.com
Taproot Magazine,
www.taprootmag.com
Mary Janes Farm Magazine, www.maryjanesfarm.org
Hobby Farm Magazine, www.hobbyfarm.com
Acres USA Magazine
Local Harvest,
www.localharvest.org
Local Dirt, www.localdirt.com
ATTRA, www.attra.ncal.org
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog, www.rareseed.com
Fedco Seed Company, www.fedco.com
Vitacost catalog- body/home care products, www.vitacost.com

More Yummy Market Fresh Recipes!
It’s summer and the bounty is on… lets cook!

Oven Dried Tomatoes
Tomatoes… as many as you like or have room to do.
Sea Salt
olive Oil
Fresh Thyme
Fresh Garlic, minced

1. Coat cookie sheet lightly with olive oil; preheat oven to 200 degrees.
2. Slice tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick; single layer them on coated cookie sheet; sprinkle with salt and fresh thyme leaves; sprinkle minced garlic over top- amount of garlic is a personal choice.  Experiment until you get the desired flavor you would like.
3. Bake for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, checking every fifteen minutes to make sure they don’t dry out. 
4. Store in freezer bag for up to 3 months or in refrigerator in sealed container for about a week.

Summer Time Salsa
10 Roma type tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. lemon juice
tortilla chips

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl; mix thoroughly; chill in fridge for at least 2 hours to let flavors blend.
Serve with chips

Bacon Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
1 lb. Garden Gate Bacon… of course
1 pint cherry tomatoes~ larger types if possible, from Garden Gate
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Set aside prepared bacon on paper towels to drain off excess fat.
2. Cut a thin slice off the top of each cherry tomato- discard tops.
3. Use the small scoop of a melon baller to hollow out tomato; discard pulp.
4. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and blend well; spoon mixture into hollowed out tomatoes. Refrigerated until chilled and serve.

Happy Day,
Jean