The Last Crop

My article in today’s Home and Garden section is small in word count, but big in its importance. For more than half of my life I have driven the freeway between Sacramento and the Bay Area, and have watched the landscape slowly shift from fertile farmland to track home hell. Documentary filmmaker Chuck Schultz produced The Last Crop to shed light on the growing problem of shrinking farmland in the United States. His film features small-scale organic farmers Annie and Jeff Main who farm on 20 acres in the Capay Valley, which is not far from encroaching strip malls and subdivisions of the I-80 corridor. Their story is not unique, yet so important to the future of farming. At the moment none of their children want to tackle the challenges of farming, and the Mains are acutely aware of their dilemma. Currently, farming is not an economically viable profession. It’s also a lot of work. The film not only educates viewers on the need for farms, but introduces new ideas and models that the Mains developed to keep small-scale farms in business and out of the hands of developers. Several screenings are scheduled throughout Northern California. Check out their facebook page to get the latest information on when and where to view the film.

Cranberry-Olive Oil Muffins

It’s easy to assume that once the calendar says “January 1” we purge our shelves and cupboards of unhealthy foods that find their way into our homes and kitchens during the holidays. But not all of us are so eager to turn over a new leaf and initiate a new year goal that is as likely to stick as re-purposed postage stamps. The first couple weeks of January should be set aside for holiday-frosted Christmas cookies bought on clearance, leftover holiday candy that was forgotten when stockings were stuffed, and newly gifted cook books that now tempt us with the promise of perfect pies and sweets.

There were several cook books that tempted me this year, and I happily supplied a few titles as gifts. Thank goodness for the library because the titles that didn’t end up on my shelves are available at my local library. It was probably not a mistake that I chose to “borrow” Heidi Swanson’s new book, Super Natural Every Day, because most of it is filled with healthy recipes. The book is beautiful and full of inspiring ideas, but I will never find Tempeh in my refrigerator. Never. But several of her recipes have inspired me to create spin offs, or my versions with flours I have on hand, oils I prefer to use, or substitutions I know my family appreciates. (See Tempeh.)

This recipe for Cranberry-Olive Oil Muffins is inspired from the above cookbook. I tweaked it a bit and am very happy with the results. (And it doesn’t contain Tempeh.) Enjoy!

Cranberry-Olive Oil Muffins

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened bran cereal

1/4 cup flax seed

1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 eggs

1 6 oz. container of non-fat Greek-style plain yogurt

1/2 cup non-fat milk

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

zest and juice of one small orange

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1. In a food processor, whirl oats, bran cereal, and flax seed until finely ground. Remove from processor and place in a mixing bowl; add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon and mix to combine.

2. In another mixing bowl, add eggs and whip; add yogurt, milk, honey, oil, extract, and zest and juice of orange and mix well. Add dry ingredients and cranberries and mix until batter forms. Place batter into a greased 12-count muffin tin, distributing evenly. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 20 minutes, or when lightly browned on top and cooked through.