Ralph and I didn’t make a conscious decision to slow our lives down. There was no shared epiphany where we marveled at our ‘like’ minds. We fell in love with the idea of a project. It really was that simple. The outcome, beyond the renovation, is an entirely new way of living. We’re surrounded by immeasurable beauty – I still can’t bring myself to hang a curtain anywhere in the farmhouse – that humbles us into submission. It’s impossible not to allow yourself the time needed to breathe it in. We’re caught in a middle world between the pace of the lives of our family and friends and the groove of our future at the farm.
Ralph’s allergies were a huge motivation to explore living outside our urban address. We live in an industrial city with what feels like an unusually high percentage of cancer related deaths. My observation may be paranoid but the possibility of breathing clean air was too tempting. The scent of sweet grass, pine needles and wild roses trumps industry rot.
Beyond the air we breathe – that sounds so tree huggy – we think a lot about food production. Not what happens in my kitchen but rather what happens to the food I’m working with, in my kitchen, before it gets to me. With popular food documentaries like Food Inc, Farmageddon and Super Size Me, my trips to the grocery store feel like I’m walking into enemy territory. The voluptuous choices in the produce and meat departments scream cosmetic augmentation. I don’t want chicken that could be related to Dolly Parton!
Long before the ‘slow food movement’ began, I cooked slow. I’ve had a vegetable garden for years. Since we’ve been at the farm, I’ve expanded what I grow to include herbs and fruits. Now, feels like the time to slow it down more by growing our own protein. Laying hens and honey bees are definitely doable. I’m not sure about raising meat. Ralph thinks as long as I don’t name anybody we’ll be fine. We’ll see.
We’ll need to live here full time, to make this happen. At this point, we’re just talking. Another project to write about. Another project to photograph. To create good work you have to live a good life. This feels good.
If you’ve never had rhubarb with chocolate, don’t wait another day! The sour from the rhubarb is fantastic with the sweet of the chocolate. Also, ALERT, ALERT, ALERT – I’ve uncovered the secret for making muffins dome-topped like fancy coffee shops sell. Home cooks no long have to settle for itsy bitsy muffins. You increase the porportion of baking powder to flour to the max – before it produces a chemically taste – then fill the muffin cups to the top and start them in a hot oven for five minutes. The extra baking powder in the batter and the hot oven-air cause the muffin to bolt. You then decrease the oven heat and allow the muffin to finish baking. I didn’t invent this, sadly, but figured it out after reading a zillion muffin recipes. I’ve used the base for this muffin with a slew of fruit and stuff combinations. It works every time. Have fun!
RHUBARB CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS
Preheat oven 425*F.
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 cup soured milk*, at room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil – I use canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup fresh rhubarb*, cut into ½ “ pieces
* To make sour milk, place 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in the bottom of a one cup measure then fill with whole milk. Leave mixture for ½ hour until well curdled.
- Spray muffin tin with a non-stick spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, granulated sugar and brown sugar until well combined.
- Whisk in milk, oil, and vanilla extract.
- Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and gently mix, by hand, until all the flour is off the bottom of the bowl and no big pockets of flour remain. The batter will be thick and a little lumpy.
- Fold in the chocolate chips and rhubarb pieces
- Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling all the way to the top.
- Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Bake at 425*F degrees for 5 minutes.
- Keep the muffins in the oven, reduce oven temperature to 375*F and continue to bake for 20 minutes until tops are lightly golden. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
- Allow muffins to cool for 10 minutes.
- Store muffins at room temperature in an airtight container.
THE LOVE: Use the smallest stalks of rhubarb that you can find to ensure it has enough time to soften while it’s in the oven.
one year ago: strawberry rhubarb pie
two years ago: off to Italy
three years ago: homemade ricotta with strawberry rhubarb marmellata
Thanks for reading.
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