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Garden fresh flavors with a twist

By Staff | Jul 24, 2009

Jan Libbey from One Step at a Time Gardens near Kanawha plans lunch around the fresh produce coming out of the garden. She enjoys fresh salads and a flavorful sesame noodle dish.

KANAWHA – At One Step at a Time Gardens near Kanawha, lunch is provided daily for the work crew, with most of the meals based around produce from the garden. The employees’ unique dietary needs and preferences, however, take the noontime fare way beyond a typical salad.

“Our daily eater count runs around10, which is a sizable crew to cook for,” said Jan Libbey, a former Wright County Conservation Board naturalist, who runs the business with her husband, Tim Landgraf. “Within that crew we have two vegetarians, one of whom is also a gluten-sensitive eater, and another one with sensitivity to beans, which are often a core substitute for vegetarians.”

Menu planning has been simplified by the crew members themselves, since the farm’s three interns, along with Libbey and Landgraf, handle many of the cooking duties, with each taking a day’s shift. The rest pitch in with preparation and clean up. Lunches have included spinach and broccoli frittatas, quinoa salad (quinoa is a high-protein grain), taco salad, sesame noodle dish and more. Now that Libbey has stocked up on gluten-free ingredients, she’s finding the meal planning process to be a little less intimidating.

That’s important, Libbey said, since this long-time Practical Farmers of Iowa member has many other business concerns to manage. She sells fresh produce from the farm’s 6-acre garden at the Mason City Farmers Market each Tuesday and Saturday, in addition to operating a community supported agriculture venture that she and Landgraf started in 1996.

Libbey delivers boxes of produce to customers in the Des Moines area each Wednesday and she also makes deliveries to Clarion, Belmond, Clear Lake, Mason City and Garner each Thursday.

Farm intern Sally Hertz prepares to serve a rhubarb cake for lunch.

“We eat seasonally here at the farm and we haven’t had a bad meal yet,” Libbey said.

Spinach and broccoli frittata

(Like a crustless quiche, this frittata cooks quickly and is easily adaptable to most vegetables, says Mallory Inman, who avoids using very wet vegetables like tomatoes in this dish.)

6 eggs

3 cups spinach, chopped

1 cup broccoli, chopped into small florets

1 small onion, diced small

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup shredded cheese, such as sharp cheddar or parmesan.

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (more if fresh)

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven-safe skillet over medium-low heat. Coat bottom of pan with olive oil and add onions. Cook until soft. Add garlic. Cook a few more minutes. Add spinach. You may have to add it in batches if it doesn’t all fit. When thoroughly wilted, add broccoli and cook briefly.

Meanwhile, beat eggs and season with salt and pepper. Make sure that sides and bottom of skillet have a thin layer of oil, and stir vegetables so that they evenly coat the bottom of the skillet. Preheat broiler to low. Slowly pour eggs over vegetables. Cook over low heat until the bottom seems set. Sprinkle evenly with cheese, and move to broiler. Frittata is done when the eggs are set and the cheese is melted and browned.

Sesame noodle dish

(from “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison)


1/2 cup sesame oil

3 tablespoons dark sesame oil

7 tablespoons tahini sauce

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons chili oil

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Mix all ingredients together. This can be done ahead of time.

Noodles and vegetables


2 pounds vegetables asparagus, snow peas, broccoli, carrots – your choice.

1 14-ounce package rice noodles

10 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted until lightly browned

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add salt and vegetables. Cook until bright green and tender, but still firm, just a few minutes. Scoop the vegetables out, rinse under cold water and set on towel to dry.

Add the noodles to the boiling water and give them a quick stir. Boil until tender, but not overly soft, tasting them often as they cook. It should take only a few minutes. Pour the noodles into a colander and immediately rinse under cold water. Shake off the excess water.

Toss the noodles with all the marinade and most of the scallions, sesame seeds and prepared vegetables. Mound them in a bowl or on a platter, then garnish with the remaining vegetables, scallions and sesame seeds.

Quinoa salad

(This is a very adaptable recipe, says Andrea Rissing from One Step at a Time Gardens. Try chopped asparagus, bell peppers, radishes, turnips, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, corn kernels, cooked beans, etc. instead of or in addition to the vegetables listed below.)

1 cup raw quinoa (2 1/3 cups cooked)

2 cups shredded carrots

5 green onions, chopped

1 cup peas

Handful raisins and/or almonds to garnish, if desired

For vinaigrette

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine raw quinoa with a pinch of salt and cover by an inch of water in a medium size saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add more water as needed until quinoa is soft, between 12 and 15 minutes. When quinoa is done, drain any excess water and combine with shredded carrots, peas and green onions.

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in separate bowl, then add to salad. Taste for salt and pepper, and add more vinegar if needed – salad should be somewhat tangy.

Garnish with fresh herbs, raisins and/or almonds if desired.

Creamy garlic dressing

3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley (optional)

Put the garlic, oil, vinegar, basil, salt, Parmesan cheese and pepper into a blender and whirl for a couple of seconds. With the blender still running, slowly add the milk, whirling until dressing is thick and smooth.

Add lemon juice, if desired, for extra tartness. Add parsley for extra color with no added flavor. When covered and refrigerated, this dressing will last for a week.

Sal’s rhubarb coffeecake

5 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey

2 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup milk

1/2 cup agave nectar or honey

2 tablespoons molasses

2 cups flour, or 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose baking flour (gluten-free)

1 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon


1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup flour (for gluten-free, try Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose or rice flour)

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or sliced almonds (optional)

In a medium-sized bowl, stir rhubarb together with honey, set aside. Add eggs, butter, olive oil, vanilla, milk, agave nectar or honey and molasses.

In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Pour into greased 8-by-12-inch pan. Mix topping ingredients together with fingertips and sprinkle on top of cake.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

(Note: Batter may be refrigerated overnight in pan to be baked in the morning.)

Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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