Here are my top 10 Homegrown Year recipes from 2020.
2020 sure was an interesting time to start an ambitious project like the Homegrown Year. Frankly, 2020 was an interesting time to start anything. The Homegrown Year is such an audacious goal, and 2020 was such a 3-ring-disaster-circus, we had several heavy conversations in our household about it. Was this the right time to start? Did this make sense with a job, two babies, and a barnyard in the middle of a pandemic?
But, I lept, and here we sit, five months in. So far, it’s been so much harder than I thought but so much more gratifying. I have had some incredible health benefits – I’ve lost 47 pounds and sleep better than I can remember. However, one of the best parts is that I’ve had to get creative with recipes through the Homegrown Year’s particular constraints. Here are a few of my favorites in 2020 – let’s see what crazy stuff we cook up in 2021!
10 – Eggs on eggs
The Homegrown Year was even a possibility because, between eggs and goat milk, I produce enough calories to at least survive almost every day on the farm. But eating eggs every day means that you have to get creative. Luckily eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen.
I made an egg quiche bottom in my little dutch oven and then topped it with . . . more eggs (poached). The quiche laid a sumptuous but fluffy base juxtaposed with the brightness of the tomatoes. The yolks of the poached eggs on top acted as a “sauce.” Most good sauces are yolk-based anyway.
Quiche egg base
1 Tablespoon goat cream
3 Tablespoons goat whey ricotta
1/2 C. grated or zoodled zucchini
Salt to taste
1/2 C. vinegar
Preheat oven to 375. Melt butter in the dutch oven over a stove. Beat eggs until creamy. Fold in cheese, cream, and zucchini. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes – checking occasionally.
Bring half a pot of water and vinegar right over the precipice of a boil. Ensure it’s not rolling, but you should see bubbles. Gently crack an egg over the liquid. There will be some strands from the white, but you should see the egg white start solidifying in a shell around the egg yolk. Using a slotted spoon, gently roll the egg over in the liquid, ensuring a consistent finish. Once the white is cooked, and the yolk is still soft, remove the egg from the liquid using a slotted spoon and drain. Repeat.
(If you don’t eat eggs several times a day like I do, plan a few extra eggs with which to practice poaching. Eat your mistakes.)
Assemble the eggs on top of the . . . eggs. Add a few tomato slices and enjoy.
9 – Taziki-style dipping sauce
Our growing season was beautiful for me this year because I couldn’t walk through the garden without finding at least two or three cucumbers to stow away in my overalls (cliché farmer outfit). Those that didn’t go straight to a fresh salad mostly ended up in pickle jars. A select few of the cucumbers with the best flavor became the perfect cooling addition to a Taziki-style sauce. Homemade goat yogurt adds a particular depth of flavor that perfectly compliments a greek-style dip. Plus feta cheese, because cheese.
1 C. goat yogurt (drained)
1 small cucumber peeled and grated
1/2 head of fresh dill finely chopped or 1/2 tsp. dill seed
1/4 C. crumbled feta
Squeeze of lemon (I had some from my Uncle and Aunt’s tree in AZ) or 1/4 tsp. white vinegar
Salt to taste
Whisk all the ingredients together except salt. Allow it to chill for an hour to allow the flavors to settle before you taste and salt. The feta will add saltiness, and if you don’t wait, it’s relatively easy to oversalt. Serve it with fresh chopped veggies, or just a spoon.
This leads me to the main ingredient, #8 . . .
8 – Homemade Goat Yogurt
I didn’t know until I got goats how incredibly EASY it is to make yogurt at home. Obviously, the first step of “homemade goat yogurt” is “milk your goat.” I realize for most people that’s not realistic. However, if it’s from your local farmer or a small food store, there are many places to get fresh and non-homogenized milk.
Like almost everything in food, the quality of the ingredients determines the flavor of your dish. Fresh goat milk has such a high butterfat content; the resulting yogurt has a stunningly creamy mouthfeel. It’s as if the yogurt was a cultured custard. During this challenge, I’ve learned that many of the simplest meals are the most delicious.
4 C. goat milk
2 Tablespoons of the yogurt of your choice or a yogurt culture (I use the creamy yogurt culture from here)
Fruit or topping of your choice (I used the pears shipped to me by my friend, Mary Katharine.)
Heat milk to 185 degrees slowly in a saucepan stirring to prevent scorching. Cool to 112 degrees and add yogurt of your choice or culture and whisk gently into a mixture. If you eat lots of yogurt and want individual cups, I suggest this yogurt maker. For occasional yogurt-making, pour into a thermos or crockpot on the “keep warm” setting. You want to maintain 110 degrees for 6-12 hours. Refrigerate and enjoy!
7 – Deer and goat cream zoodle “stroganoff”
The first month of the Homegrown Year was almost entirely vegetarian for me. It wasn’t out of some newfound ethic – it was a practical decision. August was a month where the garden was poppin’. Eating fresh meant that I was saving all the food banked in the freezer for when I needed it, and it lessened the load of what needed preserving.
Going from a coffee and wine-drinking, fast food-loving carnivore to a fresh, raw food vegetarian literally overnight was a shock to the system. Thanks to my husband and one of my best friends, Matt, who came for the start of the challenge, for tolerating me. Two weeks in, though, my husband, Mark, defrosted the only deer steak without asking me. At that point, I had stretched the limits of my tolerance and our marriage with my withdrawal. If it is possible to send a passive-aggressive message through defrosting, this was it.
Ultimately, his was the right call, as the resulting zoodle dish with cream sauce and deer was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Mark hadn’t yet gotten his deer for the season, so when I saw the last remaining deer from the previous year’s kill defrosted, it felt so precious I needed to do it justice.
1 small onion – chopped finely
3 sprigs rosemary – finely chopped
1/2 C. goat ricotta
2 Tablespoons goat sour cream
1 Tablespoon goat milk
Melt butter and lightly sauté onion and rosemary in a skillet. Add deer, brown to rare. Using tongs, remove the meat and reserve. Add sour cream, ricotta, and milk, whisk briskly until creamy over low heat. Add meat back in.
Serve over zoodles.
6 – The most simple salad
The lesson I keep learning over and over with this challenge is that you don’t have to do a lot of cooking with superior ingredients. Just the act of combining a few things at their peak creates beautiful meals. When I ate this salad, I thought: “I could eat this, exactly as it is, every day for the rest of my life, and be so happy.” That is the perfect meal.
Cucumber from the vine
Chop, combine, and eat. That’s it. The feta adds the salt. This need nothing.
5 – Spicy, creamy, cheesy dip
My Mom used to make a warm, spicy, creamy artichoke dip that was always a hit at parties growing up. I tried my best to replicate it using what I had on hand. None of our artichokes flowered (is that what they do? Fruited? Unclear) this year. In lieu of artichoke, I used some of the zucchini I fermented. Fun fact: fermenting zucchini is was less gross than you think. It’s pretty delicious.
I served the dip with dehydrated squash chips. I promise I am, in fact, losing weight, even with all the dips.
1 C. goat Fromage blanc cheese
1/2 C. drained fermented zucchini
3 chopped jalapeños
1/4 C. shredded goat parmesan
Mix the goat Fromage blanc, zucchini, and jalapenos in a baking dish. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top and bake for 3-5 more minutes. If no one is watching, skip the chips and pull out the spoon.
4 – Tummy warming veggie soup
Soups and salads – salads and soups. When your diet consists mostly of vegetables, meat, dairy, and eggs – these become the staples. Luckily, I love both salad and soup. As the weather gets colder, taking jars from the Homegrown Year shelves in our storage (yes, I have shelves dedicated solely to this project) and combining them, simmering in a pot, to a hearty soup, steels me against Colorado’s winter wind.
1.5 C. crushed tomatoes
2 c. water and combined
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 small crookneck squash, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
3 sage leaves, chiffonaded
Bring all ingredients to a simmer for 30-ish minutes until onion is translucent. Salt to taste.
3 – Salty, sweet, and spicy snack bites
Except for honey, which I use occasionally and sparingly, there’s very little sweet in my diet. However, this fall, I had the great fortune of acquiring some more pears from my friend, Calla, at around the same time I bartered with my other friend, Greg, for some watermelon. One of the things I’m allowed, according to the Homegrown Year rules, is pectin. So, I used the watermelon juice as a sweetener in a pear preserve. The preserves only have pears, watermelon juice, and a little pectin.
For a salty, sweet, and spicy flavor meld, I created these little amuse-bouche snacks. With only three ingredients, they played so well together.
Cherrywood smoked salt
Chop and assemble. Lightly salt.
2 – Everything in the garden frittata
At the height of harvest season, the best meals are merely “take what’s in the basket and add eggs.” They’re a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Carrots (including greens)
Lightly sauté the ingredients that take the longest to soften (carrots, zucchini, chard, radish, and onion) in the goat butter. Pour eggs over the veggies and cook to rare. Sprinkle tomato and feta on top. Cover and allow it to cook through until the top is fully cooked and the feta is soft and melty.
1 – Cornbread deer “pie”
This “pie” ended up being my Thanksgiving meal. I like my turkeys too much to slaughter them. The cornbread base is modeled after this recipe, which I found by googling “flour-free cornbread.” Almost all cornbread recipes have flour and I still have none.
The only reason I have cornmeal is that Mark picked corn when he was deer hunting and bought it home, dried it, and ground it. He got a deer, two, in fact. Although we haven’t yet slaughtered the pigs, I bartered for some bacon with my brother-in-law, who raised a hog and had some left. So I used bacon grease from that. After reading the comments on this recipe, I also added about 1.5 tablespoons of honey.
I topped the cornbread with sautéd onions and deer steak. It made for a perfect Thanksgiving meal.
Follow the cornbread recipe but add 1.5 Tablespoons of honey. Saute onion and deer steak in goat butter and top. Eat the whole thing with a fork, and be filled with gratitude. Wonder if this is what Little House on the Prarie was like. Check your phone and realize no, this is not what Little House on the Prarie was like; you’re much less likely to die.