Blog a la Cart

Category: Recipe

Cherry Season // 2015


Last week was Cherry Week at Cartwheel Farm. Our dozen trees ripened and were speckled with red, signaling the all-too-brief yearly harvest of sour cherries. It took us 3 days to pick and then pit the 10 cups of cherries that we put in our annual Sour Cherry Pie. So much work. But a tasty 4th of July treat.

This recipe from the Smitten Kitchen is now our go-to. That almond crumble for the top is everything!

We may need to consider investing in a cherry picker, because right now only the birds benefit from the spoils of the higher branches. And Penelope and the chickens delights in those that fall. It’s a delicious week for all critters, particularly the pie beneficiaries.

Caramel Corn


This weekend, in between marathon hours of knitting and a few holiday soirees, I whipped up a batch of homemade caramel corn. I’ve been making this recipe for years, and it never disappoints. It makes great hostess slash holiday gifts. Sunny will be doling it out to the 8 babillion teachers (think not just her classroom teachers, but her music, art, gym, library, computer teachers and her bus driver) she’s determined must receive gifts this season, and rather than bankrupt our family (or disappoint our Kindergartener), this recipe stashed inside a few mason jars with a festive red bow will do the trick.

For her classroom teachers (and Courtland’s), we actually made personalized notebooks through Minted. I’m eager to see them in person, but think the personal touch is an added bonus.

ANYWAY, this recipe. SWOON CITY!

Granted, it makes an outrageous sticky mess, as I still (after five years) have not mastered a graceful way to make caramel, but it’s worth every sugary blob scattered around the kitchen.

10 c. of fresh popcorn (I cook it in a big pot on the stove with a little bit of oil and salt)
1 c. brown sugar
¼ c. light corn syrup
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. chopped peanuts

Preheat the oven to 250°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Coat a large mixing bowl with butter or nonstick spray, and dump the popcorn into the bowl.

Before you begin making caramel over the stove, have the baking soda and vanilla at the read (pre-measured, ready to pour). Then, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Continue to simmer, whisking often, until the mixture reads 225°F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, and whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. I find that the caramel nearly doubles in size at this step, so do use a larger saucepan than you think you need as I inevitably underestimate and then am scrambling as hot caramel bubbles all over the kitchen floor. Quickly pour the hot caramel over the popcorn. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the caramel into the popcorn, taking care to distribute it as evenly as you can. Stir in the peanuts, and transfer the mixture to the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring and turning the popcorn with a spatula every 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and place on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Gently break up the popcorn, and serve.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Kale Soup Recipe


Pediatrician asks about her favorite food. She replies, “Kale soup.” Doctor smiles approvingly toward me and James. What she doesn’t realize is that the “kale soup” is really Parmesan cheese and sausage soup with a side of kale. But we’ll take affirmation about our parenting wherever we can get it. Especially from a physician. Recipe below, because it really is that delicious (and is an easy way to use up the abundance of kale that is our last vegetable standing after Penelope went on a Swiss Chard raid. The pig figured out how to lift the vegetable garden gate off its hinges so she’d have easy access to the Swiss Chard bed. When James discovered this, he proceeded to chase after her in his boxers with a pooper scooper but it was too late. The Swiss Chard was gone. And Sunny wept dramatically because “SWISS CHARD IS MY FAVORITE VEGETABLE!” Maybe we are doing something right.)


Hearty Kale-Potato Soup from “The Cleaner Plate Club”

1 tbsp canola oil
3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage, chopped very small
2 garlic cloves, chopped (we mince ours through a garlic press at home)
8 c. broth (veggie or chicken)
1 lb potatoes (chopped to 1/2 in pieces)
1-2 Parmesan rinds, if available
6-8 stems of Kale (although we often use more)
1/2 lemon
1/4 c. Grated parmesan

1. Cook sausage in oil. Add garlic for last minute of cooking. Set aside.
2. In pot, add broth & potatoes. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.
3. Add kale leaves and parm rinds and simmer for another 12-15 minutes
4. Remove parm rinds. Use an immersion blender to purée kale, potato and broth. (or scoop into blender or food processor to purée)
5. Add sausage to mixture. Squeeze lemon juice into soup and dust with parm, salt & pepper as desired!


Our girls are at an age where they really enjoy helping cook and prepare meals. It has been fun to discover new and delicious recipes, and teach our daughters the pleasure of creating meals from scratch. I am beyond excited thinking about this year’s vegetable garden (our most ambitious yet! Green Thumbs crossed!) and the meals that all that fresh food will inspire. Plus, we have a flock of 12 chicks arriving chez Cart in late April. Half will be added to our laying flock, the others we will process for meat around 10 weeks of age. There is no better way for us to ensure healthy meat than to raise it ourselves – so we’re going for it. We primarily eat a vegetarian diet, save for, at most, one meal a week. When we do purchase meat, we now buy it exclusively from local farms with locally grown and organically raised animals. We visit these farms and see firsthand the happy, healthy lives these animals lead before they make they’re way to our plate. Plus, visiting farm animals is always a great way to entertain the kids on a restless weekend.

Side story: In November, I visited Sunny’s preschool classroom to see the classroom turkey the children had constructed out of a colorful array of construction paper feathers. On the feathers, each kid was asked to describe their families’ Thanksgiving traditions. When asked where one gets a turkey for Thanksgiving, most children answered, “the grocery store.” Sunny answered, “the turkey farm.” Which is true, as we use a local farm that specifically raises an immense flock of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner. The farmer processes the birds on the Monday before Thanksgiving, so we have one very fresh bird for our meal. When asked how one prepares a turkey for dinner, most children answered, “Mommy or Daddy cooks it in the oven.” Sunny answered, “You kill it, cut it up, and put it in the oven.” While mildly alarming to see the word “kill” on my 4-year olds art project, I am also incredibly pleased how clearly she understands from where her food comes.

We’ll see how interested she is in helping us process the chickens this summer. But as long as her beloved Dora (one of our original hens still in the flock) is safe, I think she’ll be cool with the plan.



And on that delightful note of poultry slaughter, let me offer up these recipes that we’ve made over the past week. They’re too good not to share, especially if you can find your appetite despite my stories above.

Kale Pesto with Walnuts (the easiest way to get Kale into my girls’ diet without complaint)

Kale Sausage Soup (we’ve been making this recipe for years, and it is a household favorite. Another great kale disguiser for the kids, and so comforting and filling during this (still) cold weather)

Quinoa Spinach Mac and Cheese (comfort food but with a healthy twist)

Spinach and Chickpeas (we eat a heck of a lot of chickpeas in our household – and there’s just something about this recipe – the fried bread is likely the something).

Broccoli Beignets with an insanely delicious remoulade (I’m a sucker for anything with capers)

Chewy Chocolate Cookies (we substituted a 1/4 c. of natural peanut butter (so used 1c butter, 1/4c pb) and cut the sugar by 1/3 using 2/3c white sugar, 2/3c brown sugar and didn’t use any chocolate chips. SO good)

Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting (we made our own espresso powder like this)

Currently Reading

My daughter’s little brain is making sense of the world every single second, taking in verbal and non-verbal cues about how things work and what things mean.  And when it comes to exercise, I want her to grow up seeing it as a joy, and not a utility…as a gift, and not a chore…as an opportunity, not an obligation.  I want her to do it for the love of it, not to fit into a dress.

YUP! Full post here.

Sweet Treats


This weekend, I’ll be baking up a storm with my family, filling our household with sweet treats for Santa on Christmas Eve (and my belly. Obviously.). These four recipes are my tried and true Holiday Treats. I’ve been doling them out at holiday parties and as gifts all December. They are guaranteed to generate lavish compliments and moans of contentment (in a totally non-sexual but satisfied way. Promise.). I have the genius of friends and former students to thank for this line up. I thought I could share the yumminess with all of you. Seriously, those Molasses cookies are the best you’ll ever bake. Oh and the Caramel Corn! True yummy caramel corn with the perfect blend of salty and sweet.

You can download this recipe card printable to add these recipes to your holiday cookbook. Merry merry, yummy yummy to all!

Signature Dish

This will be the third time that James and I have hosted Thanksgiving dinner in our own home. Since we first did the honors back in 2008, we’ve locked in two signature dishes that will forever be a part of our gluttonous festivities. And I have a feeling that this Sweet Potato Vichyssoise is about to join the ranks.

Cook ’em: Sweet Potato Vichyssoise via DESIGNLOVEFEST; Fennel Sausage Stuffing via Martha Stewart; Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake via Epicurious

This year, all of the food and decor has been locally sourced, which is a pretty awesome (AND delicious) thing to say. What are you cooking up this Thanksgiving? Any recipes I should be sure to try? How will you be celebrating?

Garlic Scape Pesto

Our first dinner inspired by our very own garden! So what if it is the bastard child of garlic, the Garlic Scape. It’s still homegrown!

I wasn’t sure what to do with these scapes, the swirly curly stems that grow out of garlic in the early summer months. All I knew is that they needed to be snipped to maximize garlic growth.

So snip we did.

After some Googling, I determined that garlic scape pesto sounded like a smart way to put these bad boys to use, guaranteeing that both baby and preschooler would also enjoy the meal. Who knew this swirly stem could be so delish!

1.5 c. garlic scapes
1/2 c. pine nuts, toasted
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
Pinch of black pepper
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Toss all ingredients in a food processor and give ’em a good blend!

And PESTO! We served it over some whole wheat pasta with fresh parm.

Courtland approved. Very much indeed.

And I couldn’t be more pleased that this seemingly useless stem is actually quite tasty!

Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Weeks Cart

Essential Reading

This little library has become an essential part of adapting to life at Cartwheel Farm.

1. Starter Vegetable Gardens, $13.57 – Exactly as the title suggests, a great resource for jump starting your own vegetable garden.

2. Serving Up the Harvest, $12.46 – Recipes for all of the fresh vegetables now coming into our home, with suggestions for how to harvest, prep and even store.

3. The Cleaner Plate Club, $11.88 – For anyone with children, a must have. Heck, for anyone, period. It’ll have you cooking vegetables in positively delicious and unexpected concoctions. Beet brownies, anyone? Of note, a local woman is a co-author of this book who I happened to meet standing in the barn of our farm CSA last summer. Gotta love small town living!

4. The Fresh Egg Cookbook, $11.15 – With 12 chickens, we’re going to be inundated with eggs. This book is filled with recipes and has great tips about keeping a backyard flock. Also written by a local woman, whose husband is the founder/director of MASSMoCA and a fellow Eph.

5. The Backyard Homestead, $12.14 – A more all encompassing book about living off your back yard, from vegetables to poultry, bees to goats.

6. Farm Anatomy, $10.98 – I’d buy this book just for the illustrations. An absolutely gorgeous, simple overview of farm living.

7. Composting Inside & Out, $11.54 – Our Bible for all things compost. Amen.

Frozen Grapes

Yes, I’m writing about grapes. Of the frozen variety.

Frozen Grapes.

This may seem like a rather dull and obvious post to those of you that have been stashing grapes in arctic like vessels of your home, namely a freezer, for some time.

But for those of you, who once like myself, are unaware of the brilliant, delicious and dessert-like perfection of a frozen grape, I urge you, de-stem, wash, and promptly stick those grapes in the freezer. Now!

Your world will be revolutionized. Particularly if you are a woman who must suffer through the third trimester of her pregnancy in the heart of summer (THIS GUY!) or a preschooler with a raging fever (it hit a whooping 105! But all is well. Balance and 98.6 degree body cores have been restored to The Universe, namely chez Cart).

Frozen grapes and marathon episodes of Dora The Explorer are how we all survived this weekend. Our four Barred Rock chickens, Sunny’s favorite, are now aptly named Dora, Boots, Swiper and Diego.


During the sweaty summer months, frozen grapes, I dare say, are more refreshing and enjoyable than a popsicle or bowl of ice cream, and, it goes without saying, far healthier. And it truly couldn’t be a more simple endeavor.

Photos: Courtesy of Ashley Weeks Cart