Zina's Produce

  (Williamsburg, Virginia)
A Country Affair Farm
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Fish in a Bag Soap!

This is a great project to do with the kids! It is so easy and you won't believe the double takes you get when folks walk by. They look so life like! We make these to sell and it is one of our party on the farm activities. This is a clear melt and pour soap! We leave them unscented, scents will alter the color. It really encourages kids to wash and wash and wash, just to get to the fish! We make 10 at a time, so we use a dowel rod and rest it on two salt containers. I tape the dowel on so it does not roll off.( If making one soap use two glasses ,bag in the middle and attach with two pins ,one on each glass). Then we attach a clear birthday bag with a close pin, leaving the bag resting a bit on the counter. Melt the soap, pour 2.5 oz. in bag (I use a funnel) spritz with alcohol (this will get rid of bubbles) wait until it sets Maybe 30 min.. Place fish in bag pour remainder soap (I adjust fish with a skewer) tie with a twist tie while it is liquid and hang back up to harden. That’s it! Picture is of first stage before second pour.  



Making Butter in a Jar !

You will need;

      A quart jar with a tight lid

      A handy dish towel

      3 cups heavy cream, at room temperature

Pour your cream into the jar and screw on lid tightly.  Hold dish cloth around the lid and begin to shake your jar of cream. Shake back and forth and within 20 minutes you’ll start seeing little yellow specks of butter forming. Keep on shaking, and you’ll have a nice size lump of butter in your cream. Drain off buttermilk (the leftover cream from the butter) into a container and put the lump of butter (which will be very soft and pliable) into another container with lid. Place in your refrigerator or somewhere cool so it can harden. It is ready to use at any time, soft or hard. Then with your leftover buttermilk you can make a good ole batch of buttermilk biscuits or cornbread to have with your fresh butter!

   We often like to sit on our porch swing or in a rocking chair and read a good book while we’re shaking our butter. I have a friend that told me a story about her parents putting the jar in the trunk of the car. Several “country mile dirt roads" later. Butter! This is a great idea to keep kids busy. My daughter even rolled the jar under her foot while watching a movie. She must get this from my mom, she does this with oranges at Christmas (to really get the juices flowing, same concept as rolling a lemon to juice it up) then she sticks an old fashioned peppermint stick in it for drinking the juice up! We call that a "hard candy Christmas"! That’s a whole other blog. Anyone besides my mom, get a brown sack with oranges, walnuts and hard candy under the tree? When we have our Christmas Hoe Down at our farm, I can’t help myself…..oranges, walnuts and old fashioned peppermint sticks have to be on the venue! I know this has nothing to do with butter , but I love Christmas!



Yellow Jackets, Fruit Flies and Ants" Oh My !" NATURAL Remedies!!

Last year was a first for me to have to contend with yellow jackets. I am a bee keeper; the idea of them really doesn’t bother me so much. But we run a fruit stand selling 50-60 boxes of peaches a week. So this was something I needed to address! Now after much research (and trial and error), I’ve   a better understanding of just what I am dealing with. As with the” Tomato Worm” I wrote about last week. It appears yellow Jackets have their place in nature too. Killing and feeding off other pesky pests. Last year I bought traps that were expensive and not effective. I also had tried to follow them back to their nests, just before dark and from their nests in the morning. I had been told I could fume them. Not being big on pesticides and not really wanting to be chased by these guys, I opted out of this idea. Oh, I watched every night to see if I could follow them and see where they lived, never to any avail. I even had one person tell me that her dad had tied a string to one’s leg, and they would fly awhile and rest. She said her dad followed one right home one night! The colony was so big, that when he lit the match to throw “It Lit up Like Shea Stadium”! Hey, I totally believe her, but did I want to try and pin a yellow jacket down to tie a string to its leg. I don’t think so! We did June bugs that way when I was a kid, but they didn’t sting!  Trying natural ways over chemicals is always my goal. A good friend and naturalist, mentioned to me a natural way to get rid of these pests.  A bowl of vinegar and a drop of dish soap. That is it! I concocted this very simple inexpensive remedy.  The next morning I had caught hundreds! If you set the trap out before you have a problem, you are more likely to catch the queen. No queen no colony. The other thing that keeps me going is. The remaining ones die at the end of the Summer and the nest is not reused! Yeah! I’m ready this year; my homemade natural traps are set. This is great for fruit flies in your kitchen too! Soak a piece of stale bread in vinegar and place in a bread bag, with some small holes in it. They can get in but they can’t get out!  Cover a bowl with plastic wrap, add vinegar and a dot of dish soap, some small holes and you have another indoor trap. Ant will not crawl over cinnamon so sprinkle it around your kitchen; around the outside of the house anywhere you have a problem. Bonus, you have a wonderful smelling house!  Please remember all wasps defend their nests, but the yellow jackets and hornets are most aggressive. Be very careful, which ever method you choose!





Tomato Horn Worms! Yuck!


Last year was my first year dealing with Tomato Horn Worms. First I noticed the damage on the foliage and then the worm! A new word for ugly! The daunting task of removing the worms is so slow. They are hard to see, and what to do with them? They are so fat I hated the thought of stomping them. When allowed to mature the worms fall to the ground to bury themselves and turn in to Emerald Moths. If they live that long. Predatory Braconid Wasp attaches eggs to the worms, which looks like rice. What to do? The wasp helps with pollination and the worm destroys. Remember the leaves are normal fare for these guys. Solution.... Use a black light to find them they glow and really stand out. Making plucking fast and easy. Place them in a jar with the lid off. The worm will die, wasps will hatch! I learned this from a home-school group that comes to our farm. Turns out that they had just studied these guys. I have heard if you plant Dill you will have Tomato Horn Worms?  Just so happens I planted Dill last year. Anybody know if this is true or just a coincidence?



Ploughing ,planting and dreaming! And yet another strawberry recipe!

My husband Gary has been busy ploughing the garden for his beautiful flowers and vegetables. Nine years of working this soil and it is finally perfect for what we grow. The girls (hens) had their hand at it after he was done. We have clay soil so it has been a challenge. We are now starting the process of becoming certified organic. We have plans for a you- pick-it fig farm, and local organic flowers. Great for summer weddings! We had another great day of weather. It makes me feel compelled to buy seeds, all the time! I love em, can't get enough. If I am not buying seeds or plants, I am looking in seed catalogues. We are growing beets for the first time this year. I bought some red and white striped Seed Saver type. One of my produce customers brought me some brown leafed lettuce from Monticello .Lettuce is one thing that really loves our soil. Last year we did a "Pick Your Own Salad Day" and the kids picked a cucumber, lettuce and a few radishes. They really enjoyed pulling those babies out of the ground. Who doesn’t? It is great fun. Swiss Chard is a new fav. with me, especially the rainbow. Not much can contend with the beauty of the Sun shining thru rainbow Swiss Chard. With strawberry season right around the corner, I have included yet another recipe (like you could ever have enough, right?)Enjoy! This recipe is a no bake cheese cake that is out of this world! You do have to put the crust in oven for 10 min. Great for this time of year. You can serve this cake 4 hrs after you make it,but it is best if made the day before. This recipe is adapted from the chef Curtis Stone.

                         No Bake Strawberry Cheese Cake

For the Crust:
1 cup very fine graham cracker crumbs (from 7 1/2 rectangular graham crackers; 4 ounces)
2 tablespoons sugar
5 1/ tablespoons unsalted butter melted
nonstick baking spray
For the Filling:
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup cottage cheese (pressed through strainer)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
8 ounces fresh strawberries (hulled and thinly sliced)
For the Topping:
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
12 ounces fresh strawberries (hulled and quartered)
2 teaspoons 10- to 20-year aged balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the graham crackers crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl.

Slowly mix in the melted butter to form a wet sandy texture and until the mixture clumps when squeezed together.

Spray the sides and bottom of a 9-inch-diameter springform cake pan with nonstick baking spray then line with parchment paper.

Press the crumbs onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is pale golden brown about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool the crust completely before filling.

To Prepare the Filling:

Sprinkle the gelatin into a small saucepan. Pour the water over the gelatin and swirl to blend. Let stand until the gelatin softens about 5 minutes.

Blend the cream cheese in a food processor until smooth and creamy scraping down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl occasionally to ensure no lumps remain.

Add the cottage cheese and continue to blend until smooth and creamy.

Add the sweetened condensed milk sugar and egg yolk and blend well. Set aside.

Stir the gelatin mixture over medium heat until the gelatin dissolves about 1½ minutes.

With the food processor running slowly pour the hot melted gelatin mixture through the feed tube and into the cream cheese mixture in a thin stream.

Continue to process to ensure the gelatin is very well blended.

Transfer the cream cheese mixture to a bowl and fold in the strawberries.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the prepared crust.

Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold and set preferably 1 day.

Carefully peel away the parchment paper from around the sides of the cheesecake
Using the small offset spatula loosen the crust from the bottom of the cake pan and the paper. Using 1 or 2 long wide spatulas remove the cheesecake from pan bottom and transfer the cake to a cake plate. You can use the small spatula or a knife to smooth the sides of the cheesecakes if necessary.

Spoon strawberries on top for garnish.
Cut the cake into wedges and transfer to plates. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the cheesecake and serve.

Sounds wierd but the clash between the strawberries and the balsamic vinegar is wonderful.


Sun Shinny Day! Daffodil Cake

We have been so blessed with great weather over Spring break! The kids have really enjoyed themselves this week. The produce season starts soon and my kids know first-hand how much work is ahead! Life is good and we are enjoying all that God has blessed us with! To celebrate today (My Birthday) I thought with all this beautiful sun shinny weather. I would share a recipe for a delicious Daffodil Cake. This orange-scented spring cake displays a light and airy texture and features a sweet-tart cream cheese glaze. For a presentation that wows! Alternating the yellow and white batter this cake really is stunning .Garnish the cake plate with beautiful daffodils, or edible pansies! Enjoy!

1 1/2 cup(s) sugar
1 cup(s) cake flour, (not self-rising)
6 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon(s) orange juice, fresh squeezed
2 teaspoon(s) orange zest, grated
1/2 teaspoon(s) orange extract
12 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon(s) fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
4 ounce(s) cream cheese
2 tablespoon(s) orange juice, fresh squeezed
2 teaspoon(s) (additional) fresh orange juice
3/4 teaspoon(s) grated orange zest
3 1/4 cup(s) confectioners' sugar, sifted
Strips of orange peel, julienned, for garnish
Cake: Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, whisk 1/2 cup of the sugar with cake flour; sift onto a piece of waxed paper.
In a bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the sugar 3 minutes. Beat in orange juice, zest, and extract.
Thoroughly clean beaters. In a large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat egg whites, lemon juice, and salt until foamy and beginning to hold their shape. Increase speed to medium-high; beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until soft, glossy peaks form. Quickly beat in vanilla. Sift one third of flour mixture over beaten whites; gently fold in with a large rubber spatula, just until blended. Repeat 2 more times with the remaining flour mixture. Gently scrape half the batter into another large bowl. Gently fold in egg yolk mixture, just until blended.
Using a large spoon, alternately spoon batters into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom; swirl batters slightly with a thin knife.
Bake 40 minutes, or until cake is firm in center when gently pressed. Immediately invert center tube of pan onto the neck of a bottle; cool completely. To loosen, run a knife around sides of pan and tube. Invert cake to unmold onto a serving plate.
Glaze: In a bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of the orange juice, orange zest, and 1/2 cup of the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Beat in the remaining 2 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar, half at a time. Add more orange juice as needed to make a thick glaze. Beat until smooth. Spread glaze over cake. Let stand until set; garnish with orange peel or flowers!
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