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Coffee time with Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Today is National Banana Bread Day.  Banana Bread Day is one of those made-up holidays that I have way too much fun with.  I especially like to learn the history of the dish or recipe, it’s really fascinating how things develop.

Banana Bread got it’s start during WWI when there were few ships to export the fruit from Hawaii.  People were looking for different ways to use bananas so that the fruit wouldn’t go to waste.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention!  One of the first recorded recipes was printed in The Maui News on April 12, 1918.

2/3 banana
1/3 flour
Yeast, coconut milk or water

My favorite recipe isn’t nearly that old, I’ve had since about 2002.  It was hand written on a sheet of paper that ended up stained and torn from being pulled out so often.  I finally had to retype it before it disappeared completely.   While typing I realized that it’s one that you might really like too.  Rachel, who was working for us 15 years ago, gave me this recipe.  I plan to share more of her wonderful recipes in the future.  Quark, as I’ve said before, is fabulous for developing a moist, tender crumb in quick breads.

Banana Bread

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Quark
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Gather your ingredients.  I know that you know that already.  You are smart.  I am telling you this because I wasn’t being very smart and was already getting started when I realized that I only had 1/3 cup of flour.  So here are the ingredients.Banana Bread Ingredients

Mash up the bananas.  It takes about four small bananas to get 1 1/2 cups.

Mashing bananas

Whisk together the dry ingredients.

Whisking dry ingredients for banana bread

Beat the sugar and oil for a few minutes, then add the eggs, Quark, and vanilla and mix until well blended.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients all at once and mix just until all the flour is just incorporated but don’t over-mix.  Fold in the walnuts if desired.

Mixing Banana Bread Batter

Scoop the batter into a loaf pan or mini loaf pan.  This batter makes one normal size loaf, or 8 mini loaves.

Banana Bread Batter

Bake at 350  for 50 to 60 minutes for a full-size loaf or 25 to 30 minutes for mini loaves.

Banana Bread Loaves Cooling

Aren’t these cute?

Banana Bread Loaves

Serve warm!  Here’s a printable version

Banana Bread

I made mini loaves to give away as gifts.  Like I said: CUTE!

Mini Banana Bread Loaf

Saag Paneer and Basmati Rice

Saag Paneer

They say that you eat with your eyes first.  I totally get that!  If something looks good, you expect it to taste good, and vice versa.  Unfortunately, to a lot of people this dish does not look good.  In fact, it can look a little bit slimy.  Don’t be fooled, it’s totally yummy!  The fragrant spices, mild spinach, tangy yogurt, and creamy Paneer are a heavenly combination.  Saag Paneer is a traditional East Indian dish with a balance of flavors.

Paneer is the go-to cheese for weekly vegetarian nights at our house.  It is so versatile, I can use it in all types of dishes from Asian stir fry to sandwiches ( I will have to share that with you sometime).

Saag Paneer

Cut the Paneer in one inch cubes and place it in a seal-able bag.

Cut up paneer cheese

Mix the turmeric, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl.  Whisk in 3 tablespoons of oil.

Indian spices and salt

Pour the marinade in the bag with the Paneer and gently massage the bag to evenly distribute the marinade.  Let that marinate in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients.

Marinate the Paneer Cheese

Lightly saute the Paneer until it just begins to brown.  YUM!

Saute paneer cheese

Set the Paneer aside, then add more oil to the same pan and saute the onions and chile.

Saute onions

Keep sauteing the onions until they are well caramelized.  They should be a lovely toffee color.  This brings out the sweetness in the onions.  Once the onions reach a golden color, add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, coriander, and cumin.  Saute 3-5 minutes.  Add water as needed to keep it from drying out and the spices from burning.

Cook onions until well caramelized

Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir in the yogurt.

Add spinach and yogurt to onions

Mix spinach, onions, and yogurt in saucepan

Add the Paneer back in and cook for another 5 minutes or until heated through.

Add Paneer to spinach mixture


Saag Paneer and Basmati Rice

For your convenience, here’s a printable version.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe by one of my favorite Food Network cooks: Aarti Sequeira

Creamy Peanut Butter Dip with Cinnamon Chips

Creamy Peanut Butter Dip

The thing uppermost in our minds on the farm right now is a snowstorm that hit this week.  We haven’t had a snowstorm close to this bad since 1995 and it makes all the jobs on the farm so much harder.  On the other hand, it is so beautiful that John and I were speechless as we were driving around the side roads.  Okay, John was speechless, I was busy pointing out the obvious: “Look at the snow!”  “Look at the icicles!”  “What are you looking at?  You should be watching the road!”  I’m very helpful that way.

Since the parking lot is a mire of ice and snow, it’s been too dangerous to have the store open.  I miss my customers and my crew.  I also have way too much time on my hands so I’ve spent most of the week taking pictures of snow, icicles, and my cats.



Henry in the sink

No matter how much you spend on toys and beds, cats do what they want.

I also had some fun playing with recipes, which my family is really, really happy about right now.

Here’s a simple recipe that I’ve been wanting to try.  It turned out fabulous and share-worthy.   I was in a Valentine’s mood, so I made heart shaped cinnamon chips to go with it, but we liked it better with the apple slices.  This would be a wonderfully healthy after school snack served with fruit or celery.

Creamy Peanut Butter Dip

Spoon three tablespoons of peanut butter into a small bowl.

Peanut Butter

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey.  Our yogurt is naturally sweet, so it only needed one tablespoon.  If you use Greek Yogurt, you will probably need more, depending on how sweet you like it.


By now, you may have noticed that I am left handed. 

Pour in 1 cup Appel Farms Yogurt.

Appel Farms Yogurt

Mix well.  That’s it!  It’s so easy that it hardly counts as a recipe.

Appel Farms Yogurt, Peanut Butter, and Honey

Creamy Peanut Butter Dip

Cinnamon Chips

Cut out whatever shapes you desire.

Flour Tortilla Cutouts

Brush on melted butter.

Tortillas and Butter

Spread them out on a parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.

Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar

Bake at 400ºF for 8-10 minutes.  The smaller shapes cooked much faster, only about 6 minutes.  I should have baked them separately.

Bake on parchment for 8-10 minutes


Creamy Peanut Butter Dip with Apples


Chicken Nachos with Squeeze Cheese

Chicken Nachos

John and I are not very good about entertaining people in our home.  I say “John and I” so that he can shoulder part of the blame, that’s what husbands are for, even when they are blameless.  I get nervous about entertaining partly due to never realizing my unrealistic expectations of being the next Martha Stewart and partly due to the fact that anything I serve will probably include a liberal seasoning of cat hair.  If I could get all the cat hair under control…and if I could overcome my feelings of inadequacy…and if we had a football party…this is what I would serve.

The Squeeze Cheese is a recipe that I have shared before but I am so in love with it that I had to share it again!  It is so fast and easy to make!  I like to keep a bottle in the fridge for those moments when I really need to squeeze some cheese on something.  That happens a lot.

I made these nachos for my family a couple of times recently.  Something like this is easy for Sunday afternoon snacks, whether there’s a game on or not.  I kept the chicken in a crockpot set on warm and everything else in bowls nearby.  This would also work with a big bowl of lettuce for a taco salad, if you are in the mood for that, but I wasn’t.

Chicken Nachos

Squeeze Cheese

Start by pouring 1 cup of whole milk in a small saucepan and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of gelatin over it to soften.  Let it soften for about 5 minutes, then heat slowly over low heat until the gelatin dissolves and the milk start to steam.  Do not boil the gelatin or it will not set!

Dissolve gelatin in milk


Shred 6 ounces of Appel Farms Cheddar or Gouda in a food processor.  I used Jalapeno Gouda for one sauce and Sharp Cheddar for the second.  Depending on what you are making, there’s tons of flavor choices!

Grated Jalapeno Gouda

Turn the food processor on low and slowly drizzle the hot milk mixture into the cheese.  Keep it running until the cheese is melted and very smooth, about 30-60 seconds.

Pour warm milk onto Jalapeno Gouda

Blend Gouda and Milk


It is just that easy, can you believe it?  Immediately pour the mixture into two 8 ounce squeeze bottles.  The bottles are available at craft stores in the candy making section.  The sauce will start to set up right away, so you need to be quick!

Pour cheese sauce into bottles

The squeeze cheese will flow at room temperature, but is too stiff when chilled.  Trust me, I know.  Store in the refrigerator.

Chicken Mixture

Place 1 pound cooked shredded chicken breast in a large saucepan.  Confession time: I cook and shred chicken in large batches to keep in the freezer.  This chicken was previously frozen.  I’m not Martha Stewart.

Cooked shredded chicken

Sprinkle on one packet of your favorite taco seasoning.

Add taco seasoning to chicken

Pour on 8 ounces of tomato sauce and 1 cup water.

Add tomato sauce and water to the chicken.

Stir it all together and heat on low for 15-20 minutes.  Continue to heat and stir until the sauce thickens.  If it get too dry, add more water.

Stir and heat the taco mixture

While the taco mixture is simmering, go ahead and chop up your toppings.  Whatever you like on your nachos!  Go wild!  Have fun!  You can’t go wrong!

Chop up toppings

Now you can put the chicken mixture into a crockpot and let people make their own nachos, or make a big plate to share.  Throw on whatever you like.  Go wild! Have fun!  You can’t go wrong!  Unless you put avocado on mine, that’s wrong.

Building a plate of nachos. Step one: the chips

I know what you are thinking, those aren’t the right napkins for this year’s Super Bowl.  I’m not bitter at our team losing, those are the napkins that I happened to have in my cupboard.

Building a plate of nachos. Step two: toppings

Okay, maybe a little bitter.  I did have white napkins too.

Time for the Squeeze Cheese…

Building a plate of nachos. Step three: Squeeze Cheese

…and more Squeeze Cheese!

Building a plate of nachos. Step three: Squeeze Cheese

I thinned some sour cream with water and poured it in a squeeze bottle as well.  If I were smart, I would have labeled the bottles, but surprises can be fun too.  Sprinkle on cilantro if you like.

Building a plate of nachos. Step four: sour cream and cilantro


Chicken Nachos with Squeeze Cheese

Low Carb Chicken Divan

Low Carb Chicken Divan


In the middle of all the craziness of the last few months, I was asked to write an article for a Low Carb Magazine and share a recipe with their readers.  I was very honored and more than a bit intimidated, but since cheese is naturally low carb and since I have stacks and stacks of cheese recipes, I decided to do it.  As I was sorting through my recipes I realized that I love carbs. I really love carbs. My recipes have a lot of carbs! Did I mention that I am prediabetic and should watch my carbs?  Writing the article was convicting.

Things have been a bit crazy starting in September with lots of little things going on. We remodeling the room over the garage.  Elizabeth (my blogging cohort) left to focus on her own business.  My daughter got married.  Our new creamery opened.  Little things like that. Okay, those aren’t little, those are big!  Then the holidays hit so my one month break from blogging stretched into four months.

I missed this so much.  Testing and tasting and sharing are so gratifying.  Writing the article reminded me of why I love sharing.  I’m really happy to be back and I have a bunch of new ideas for recipes that I think you will love!

Because of the article and my pangs of guilt, I was inspired to share a low carb recipe today.  It may be the only one and I will go back to eating lots of carbs, but I’m still basking in the enthusiasm of my New Year’s resolution to eat healthier.  Recipes like this make eating healthy a whole lot easier.

Chicken Divan

Prep the ingredients:

First, cook some chicken and cut it into bite size chunks.  I used boneless, skinless chicken breast, but chicken thighs would be good too.

Cut up chicken

Steam some broccoli.  It will cook more later so don’t overcook it!

Steamed broccoli

Put the broccoli and chicken in a large bowl.  Set aside.

Chicken and broccoli

Make the Bechamel:

Bechamel sounds so much richer than cream sauce, doesn’t it?  Start by melting some butter in a skillet.Melted Butter

Once the butter is completely melted and most of the water is cooked out*, add the flour.  Yes, I said this is a low carb recipe, not no carb.  Please forgive me, I’m doing my best.

*Most butter in the US contains 15-17% percent water, generic brands have the most.    European butter has significantly less.

Cook the flour and butter until the raw flour taste is cooked out.  It only takes a couple of minutes, but it makes a world of difference in the flavor.


Stir in some half and half.  You can use lowfat milk if you want, I won’t stop you.

Add half and half to the roux

Cook, stirring continually, until the bechamel starts to thicken.  Add the Maasdammer a little bit at a time.  Maasdammer is in the Swiss family and has a lovely flavor that is creamy and sweet, making it perfect for a sauce.


Grate on a little bit of fresh nutmeg.  This is optional, but highly recommended.


Put it all together:

Add the sauce to the chicken and broccoli.

Cheese sauce

Mix together.  Doesn’t that look luscious!

Chicken Divan

Grate some Parmesan.  The Parmesan adds a sharp nutty flavor to the divan.

Grated Parmesan

Spread the chicken and broccoli mixture into an oven proof casserole dish and sprinkle Parmesan over the top.


Make that LOTS of Parmesan.

Chicken Divan

Bake until bubbly and golden brown.  Enjoy!

Low Carb Chicken Divan

For your convenience, here’s a printable version.


Nokkelost Quiche

Nokkelost Quiche

I am really excited for you to meet two new kids on the block!  We are now making Havarti and Nokkelost.

Our newest cheeses at Appel Farms

Nokkelost means “Key Cheese” in Norway and goes by the same name in Sweden.   It is very much like the popular Dutch Leyden.  Nokkelost is flavored with cumin, caraway, and cloves, making it perfect for a Christmas treat.  Close your eyes while you let it roll around on your tongue and visions of sugar plums will dance in your head.  It’s also one of the prettiest cheeses we have (don’t tell the others, they might get jealous).

Look for Nokkelost in select grocery store chains around the Pacific Northwest during the holidays.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait for Christmas to enjoy this cheese!  Nokkelost is available right now at our Cheese Shop and at Everybody’s Store.   Everybody’s Store has it available online.

We can talk about the Havarti next week, right now, let’s get baking!

Making Nokkelost Quiche

“That’s too much cheese” said nobody ever!

Nokkelost Quiche ready for the oven

Nokkelost Quiche

  • 1 unbaked pastry shell
  • 10 ounces Nokkelost, grated
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 pound Quark
  • 4 tablespoons chives, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 6 sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the grated Nokkelost onto the bottom of the pastry shell.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, Quark, 3 tablespoons chives, salt and pepper.  Carefully pour over the cheese in the pastry shell.  Spread to cover all the way to the edges.
  4. Sprinkle the bacon and remaining chives over the Quark mixture.
  5. Bake on the center rack of the oven until firm, approximately 30-40 minutes.


A little tip: If the crust is browning too much before the filling is set, tent with foil for the last 10-15 minutes.

Nokkelost Quiche and Salad

Recipe adapted from Food.Com





Meet the Cheese Shop Girls: Jennie

Everyone, meet Jennie! If you have taken a tour in the new shop or sampled some of our cheese in a grocery store, she has probably already made you smile at least a few times! This lady has been a constant source of encouragement and joy in the shop. As soon as she walks in you can tell she really cares about people and puts their needs above her own. Every time. Though we don’t see her as often as we would like, she’s always there when we’re in a pinch. As much as we possibly can, we’ll never let her leave completely!

Jennie Pickens

What is your role at the Cheese Shop and how did you come to be here?

A couple of years ago when the new Cheese Shop was getting ready to open I heard that they wanted to hire some holiday help. I go to church with John and Ruth, so I told her I was interested. Once I got started, I didn’t want to stop! She hasn’t been able to get rid of me since. My role at the Cheese Shop lately has been to fill in when they need extra help, to give tours to groups such as schools, and to do cheese demos at events. It’s a really fun job and I love it!

What is your favorite part about working at the Cheese Shop?

The people! I love our customers. They are fun to talk to and I love giving out samples and seeing people enjoy trying something new. The kids are my favorite though! When I do a school group tour and watch them absorbing new information about where their food comes from, it’s really a joy!

What is something you have learned since being here?

I have learned a lot about the cheese making process and I am amazed at level of precision and quality that goes into making the cheese so delicious. It has completely spoiled me–now I can’t eat the low quality stuff. I have learned how much fun working can be in the right environment.

Tell us about your life outside of work! What makes you tick?

My life outside of work is full of time spent with my husband, Jeremy, and our two awesome kids, age 10 and 13. I am a home-school mom and we are currently remodeling a house we just bought. We can often be found at our church, Good Shepherd Community, where Jeremy is the pastor. I love Jesus, and what makes me tick is serving Him and helping others to know Him more.


Easy Spanakopita Pockets

Easy Spanakopita Pockets

Once again, my friend Linda from Sound Harvest Delivery shared a winning recipe with me.  I am always delighted to learn a new recipe!

Spanakopita has never been a favorite recipe for me because of the fussy Phyllo dough.  I love the flavor, but making them can be tedious, especially if the dough is a bit dry.  This recipe makes it extra easy by using crescent roll dough but keeps the wonderful flavors of the traditional Greek appetizer.

Spanakopita Pockets

  • 10 oz. fresh spinach or 2 10 oz. packages frozen spinach
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 oz. Appel Farms Feta of your choice
  • 4 oz. Mozzarella
  • 4 tablespoons Appel Farms Parmesan, divided
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dill (or 1 tablespoon fresh dill)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 2 cans crescent rolls

Steam and drain spinach. Chop coarsely. Sauté garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Combine garlic, spinach, Feta, Mozzarella, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, dill, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Making Spanakopita

Lay foil onto cookie sheet and spray with non-stick spray. Roll crescent roll flat onto cookie sheet. Separate each roll into four rectangles. Divide the filling evenly between each of the rectangles.  Place the filling on half of the rectangle. Fold together to make a pocket and pinch the edges together.

Making Spanakopita

Lightly brush with milk and sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan.  Bake 18-20 minutes until golden.



Farm Time

Have you ever heard the phrase “Farm Time”? Some of you farmers are of course nodding your heads while sipping your coffee, but others may not be quite so familiar with the term. Allow me to explain!

Farm Time: a point of time as measured in hours past the originally appointed hour of completion.

“He said he would be in the house for dinner by 5:00, so according to farm time, I will have it ready by 6:00.”


12998636_10207169595453159_2775610778356678956_n“Farm Time” is mentioned with a little bit of a wink around here. It’s something farm wives use to estimate when they will actually see their husbands, or even the rest of the family. Farmers often have a reputation for being late, but if it’s important enough they will be there. Our dad specifically made it a priority to be in church every Sunday. Though we were sneaking in the back often enough, we knew it wasn’t an option to miss a service.


Farmers do not have a 9-5 job, they have a list of things they would like to get done, and a list of things that NEED to get done. If it’s a good day, they manage to cross a few things off the first list, but if it’s a bad day the latter list will unexpectedly grow. When you have a whole herd of cows depending on you for their basic needs, you can’t just clock out. Even if you have employees to help out, their scheduling needs come before your own. Farm time can be used jokingly to say farmers are always late. However, it also means they are doing what needs to be done. Putting their animals above their personal schedule. Only when the cows are taken care of can they even think about taking care of themselves.


Meet the Farmer: Katie Ryks

Everyone, meet Katie! Katie is one of those highly trained people our farm has been privileged to team up with over the last few years. Her family farm is right next door, or across the field, and I spent many a summer evening having dinner and hanging out with her family growing up! Just reading through Katie’s answers  you can tell how much she loves the cows and how much her life revolves around giving them the best care she can!

Katie Ryks

  1. What is your role here at Appel Farms and how did you come to be here?

My role here on the farm consists of taking care of the health and records of the herd. I do all the artificial insemination, treatment of sick cows, assist with calvings, vaccinations, and keep track of all the records.  Almost exactly 4 years ago (end of July) I got a call from Rich asking if I would come help at the farm for the next several weeks. Him and your mom were planning on their big road trip and your dad asked if I could just help out. It was never supposed to be something permanent but it ended up being a really good fit for both of us.


This is Case, Katie and Brady’s son. Pretty much the cutest mini human around, though his little brother is giving him some competition!

  1. What is your favorite part about being a farmer?

I really enjoy working outside and being with the cows. My favorite thing is walking through the barn and seeing what happy, healthy, and content cows we have at the farm.  It is really rewarding to see cows that I have taken care of for whatever reason; a hard calving, a milk fever, or a digestive upset out in the freestalls doing really well. I enjoy tracking our benchmarks and goals for the herd as far as reproduction, health, and production.


  1. Does your family have any history with farming or Appel Farms?

I come from a very long line of farmers.  Both sides of my family have been farmers for many generations. My grandpa Smit (aka Papa) bought the farm adjacent to Appel Farms just one year after Jack Appel did in 1967. My mom grew up next door and was great friends with Elaine and Rena. As a kid I spent countless hours on my grand parents farm and sometimes would travel down the gravel driveway that led to the appel farms. I love that our grandparents put in those driveways because they set an example for the next generations to have good relationships and be good neighbors. My dad also was raised on a dairy and his family moved to Whatcom county in 1971 and bought a dairy in Lynden.

Something a little off subject of the history of farming is this, I really feel like we have to be so grateful to have had such amazing patriarchs in our families. Jack and my grandpa were such faithful, God-loving men. I have heard many times about how your grandpa told the breeder not to come and breed on Sundays because it was the Lords Day. And that breeder to this day (he’s now retired) always says he respected that so much and that no one could tell from his records that he wasn’t getting cows bred. My grandpa was always like that with Sunday too, he would always go and shut off his irrigation on Saturday night and would say God would provide.  He also would always go and feed the cows before he ever ate. He said that God entrusted him with these animals and they cant feed themselves so he would feed them first.

FullSizeRender FullSizeRender (1)

This is Katie’s uncle Paul, and the kid sitting next to him is my dad Rich!

  1. Tell us about your family and your life outside of farming. What makes you tick?

I have two little boys, Case (3) and Jack (1) who keep me and my husband Brady very busy. We spend a lot of time outside and most nights end with a bath because of the mud, dirt, and who knows what else they have managed to collect throughout the day. I also help coach the wa state 4-H dairy judging team, before I had kids I would travel with the team to World Dairy Expo. Now I help set up practices and work with them on giving oral reasons. I really enjoy looking at good cattle, and I feel like the years of judging cows has come in handy now as we buy cattle as well as when I put together groups of cattle to sell for the farm. I don’t know if I can say I know what makes me tick but I do know that being around dairy cattle has always been a pretty big part of my life. I showed cattle in 4-H for many years, got a degree in dairy science, and then ended up here on the farm. Annnnddd I just read the question  over and the part about life outside of farming didn’t register very well 😉


  1. If you could tell the world one thing about farming, what would it be?

The one thing I wish I could tell more people about is to go straight to the source when you have questions about where your food comes from, or how it was raised. Ask farmers! Go and visit a farm! So many times I think people read an article or blog with so many untruths and they believe what they read. If people would just take the time and see with their own eyes how well cared for our animals are they would realize that farmers love their cows and go to great lengths to do a great job. I could go on and on and on about so many other things I wish I could tell people about farming, but I will stop here 😉