Friday, September 25, 2009

Follow up from the Dinner on the Farm Series

My husband Joe and I have learned so many things from our guests and loved having the opportunity to do some community outreach on behalf of the Ag Industry. Some of the guests came prepared with questions and had some knowledge of what farmers do. They asked very intelligent, sometimes hard questions. Others really didn't have much of an idea of exactly what we did, but were just generally interested in what farmers do and why. Knowing this now, will help us define how best to create the kind of learning/sharing experience to benefit those groups for future dinners. Visiting over dinner in a relaxed atmosphere is a perfect medium and helps sets the stage to foster good rapport with those who may not understand the Ag industry. We found that the perfect number for the event was 4-6 people, and that another farm host couple really helped . It also helped to have someone else taking pictures as I would get involved in a conversation and forget to snap photos.

I wanted to thank the businesses that helped us along the way. A special thanks to:

Pacific Northwest Farmer's Cooperatives (formerly Genesee Union) who donated the 2lb bags of lentils that were given to our guests, the Pea & Lentil Commission for donating magnetic clips along with recipes, to Panhandle Artisan Bread Co. for donating their yummy bread for our dinners, to Allegra Printing for giving me a discount when printing my posters for this event, and lastly to Kristi and Kris Peterson for donating their time and talent in designing the poster and taking the wonderful photographs during the 2nd dinner event.

I want to thank our good friends who agreed to help out and be our other farm hosts, and they are Wayne & Jacie Jensen, Russ & Kathy Zenner and Randy & Cindy Schlee. We could not have done it without these wonderful people. It helped to have an extra set of hosts at the dinners, not only to share their perspectives but to help ensure the evening flowed smoothly.

Russ visiting with a guest.

Kathy pouring wine for dinner.

We hope this blog will catch on and inspire others in the Ag industry to try something along these lines. We also have a couple of national organizations who are interested in our outcome, so I'll be touching base with them in the near future.

We will be sharing some special bottles of wine (given to us by our new friends from the dinners) and will gather the other farm host couple friends to visit more about and critique ourselves and as always strive to look for ways to better promote Ag and reach out to people.

3rd Dinner on the Farm, September 26

Our 3rd Dinner on the Farm was held September 26, 2009, and it was bittersweet, knowing this was the last one for the year. Two of the three couples attending were hand picked by me due to their prominence and standing within the community. I felt it would be beneficial for us to develop a good rapport with these leaders and together could be a resource to one another. So when I extended the invite, both couples graciously agreed to attend and helped me get the word out about our dinner series which got the attention of our third guest couple, a University of Idaho professor and his wife.

The weatherman was right on target when he said Saturday would have gusty winds. Our guests were given the option to brave the winds or stay in the kitchen and drink wine, they opted to have a quick lesson about the tractor and the drill attached to it that would be used for the fall seeding process. One week makes so much difference in the Fall as to when the sun sets, and even though we were basically conducting the outdoor tour at the same times as previous sessions, we ended this outdoor tour in almost complete darkness.

The old saying about 'it ends with a bang' was very descriptive of our evening. We had topics ranging from concern of depletion of natural resources & sustainability in every one's lives to GMO's (genetically modified organisms). Conversation was fast paced, passionate and lively. The guests themselves coined the phrase that we had a "sparkling conversation", which is true. Our guest farm hosts were the Schlee's, who were very well suited to this group and contributed to the engaging conversation and viewpoints expressed. Visiting over dinner and wine is very conducive to share opinions, visions, passions and perspectives in a comfortable setting. We had a couple of toasts during the meal to meeting new friends. After dinner, one guest mentioned something along the lines of I should either open a food business or at least take orders for dinners.... I think it's fair to say he enjoyed the hearty meal set before him.

The menu was the same from last week's dinner:

Honey Lemon Chicken, Spinach Lasagna and Lentil Chili
Garbanzo and Zucchini Salad
Wild Rice Bake

Ciabatta & Miche Bread (donated by Panhandle Artisan Bread Co.)

I made some of my favorite desserts:
Lemon Tart, Chocolate Zucchini Cake and Peach/Blueberry Crumble

Our farm host couple also contributed 2 bottles of local wines from the area

Again as in the past 2 dinners, the guest left armed with as many left overs as I could pawn on them, as well as a 2 lb bag of Clipper lentils donated by Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative, a magnet clip and lentil recipe cards donated by the Pea & Lentil Commission and homemade lentil brownies made by me.

We felt this dinner series was a step in the right direction to connect with those in our community and fostering many new friendships and alliances. This was a great adventure and experiment, one of which we will do again next year. I've already started a list of people who want to attend. I've received many lovely thank you notes and emails from the participants.

Spinach Lasagna

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
3 ¾ cups half and half
1 cup whipping cream
1 ¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese, divided
2 eggs
32 oz of ricotta cheese
2 pkgs frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup shredded carrots
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced and each slice cut in half
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
12 lasagna noodles, cooked per directions
2 lb of shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
½ cup plain bread crumbs
½ cup Parmesan cheese (the dry kind that comes in a plastic bottle)

In large saucepan, melt butter, stir in flour until smooth; gradually add creams. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in ¾ cup of the fresh Parmesan cheese. Remove from heat, set aside while preparing vegetable mixture.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, spinach carrots, zucchini & mushrooms.

Pour a thin layer of the white sauce mixture in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, then layer 4 noodles on the bottom, then 1/3 of the ricotta/vegetable mixture, then pour around 1 ¼ cup of the white sauce, layer with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat process 2 more times. Once all three layers are done, mix the bread crumbs with the dry Parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the top.

*Cover and bake at 350 for 45 min, uncover and bake 15 minutes longer or until bubbly. Let stand for 5-10 min before cutting. Enjoy!

Hint: * to avoid the cheese on any covered casserole sticking to the foil, simply put a piece of plastic wrap over the cheese mixture, careful to stay within the perimeters of the casserole dish, then completely cover it with foil and bake. The cheese will create an oil barrier with the plastic wrap and will not allow the cheese to stick, and the foil protects it from melting.


Honey Lemon Chicken

8-10 boneless chicken breasts
2/3 cup of honey
1/8 cup lemon juice
8 teas minced garlic, divided
1 1/2 teas dried Rosemary

Lemon pepper
2 lemons, sliced
Olive oil

In small bowl mix honey, lemon juice, 2 teas garlic, set aside. In 9x13 drizzle a small amount of olive oil to barely cover the bottom of the pans. Next arrange the sliced lemons in the pans and add 1/2 teas minced garlic throught out the pan. Arrange chicken in pan making sure at least 1/2 teas of garlic and at least one slice of lemon is under each of the breasts. Next with a pastry brush, brush the honey mixture over the chicken breasts to coat, then sprinkle lemon pepper over top and sprinkle the rosemary over the chicken. Bake covered in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes or until no longer pink.