This week’s Sweet incorporates three of the Ingredients on this year’s list: Oatmeal, Onions and Sheep’s Milk Cheese. These muffins are my current favorite from the entire year. I got a little teary-eyed in the kitchen while eating them warm from the oven, I didn’t expect them to be so good as the combination of ingredients didn’t seem particularly appealing to me. But oh my….these were a delicious surprise!
My friend Mandy suggested two ingredients used in these muffins, Oatmeal and Onions. When she suggested this ingredients, she was in her last month of pregnancy with her little guy who is 11 months old now. Mandy told me oatmeal and onions sounded good, just not necessarily together. Not one to walk away from a challenge, I knew the moment she suggested those ingredients I would find a way to combine them. But it was only within the last two weeks that it struck me to combine sheep’s milk cheese with oatmeal and onions. I was thinking about the delicious sheep’s milk cheese from Green Dirt Farm we had taste-tested over a year ago while shopping at The Mercantile in Lawrence, Kansas and pondering ways to incorporate it into a sweet. Putting a healthy schmear of it on a muffin seemed like a great application and these yummy muffins were born.
Oh, wait…I left out the best part of these muffins. Well, okay, the second best part. The first best part is for sure eating them but the second best part is my trip to Green Dirt Farm last week. Josh at Green Dirt Farm was kind enough to meet me and John at the farm and show us around while answering all of my questions. I always have lots of questions at farms, I’m fascinated with how food arrives on our plate!
We went on a beautiful drive, just about 30 minutes from home. It was a chilly, grey day but we still enjoyed the change of scenery. Even this time of year, I am struck but how pretty it is where we live, rolling hills and lots of trees.
At the farm, we saw several varieties of sheep, most of them pregnant, so there’s no milking happening right now. We also saw several of the working dogs. I’m not sure what kind of dog Mudge is (the black one in the background) but the beautiful white dog is a Maremma. As much as I love dogs, I was even more captivated by the llamas. That’s right, they’ve got llamas at Green Dirt Farm. Llamas! I had no idea llamas were used for herding/guarding duties on farms. We could see a long llama neck way up high on a hill, peeking out from behind a large hay bail, watching our every move. Fascinating.
I asked lots of questions about nutritional content of sheep vs. cow milk, sheep vs. goat milk and environmental impact of raising sheep vs. raising cows. I wanted to understand why I am more tolerant of sheep and goat milk than of cow’s milk. The knowledge I collected is more than I could post here, my head was full of information, every tidbit of it making me more conscious of how I buy food, of what I choose to eat. We talked about how the land is managed, how the grazing areas are rotated. Josh mentioned that if the sheep were allowed to eat all over instead of being corralled into smaller areas at a time, they would eat all of their favorite stuff and move along. He referred to this as Brussels sprouts vs. ice cream. I wonder if there are sheep like me, the ones who would choose Brussels sprouts over ice cream? I see it with our hens everyday, they don’t all like the same foods, and I’m surprised at this. And so I wonder if animals not allowed to graze are forced to eat food they don’t really like every single day?
So there’s my little peek into Green Dirt Farm. I plan to go on a tour during the milking season and will share more then. It’s really a fascinating place and the cheese is unlike anything I have had elsewhere. It is not only tasty but I feel good about eating it. Plus the sheep are such happy ladies and you know how I love seeing happy critters being allowed to romp around on a well-kept farm. Should we all plan a Spring-time field trip?
In selecting which cheese to use with these muffins, I spoke to the fromager at The Mercantile. He said if he were using one of the Fresh spreads from Green Dirt Farm on the Oatmeal Onion Muffins, he would choose the plain variety. That variety isn’t available right now and won’t be until the sheep are producing milk again in the Spring, so the second choice was the Lovage. I associate the flavor of lovage with celery, however this cheese spread has a nice herb quality to it with just a little freshness in the aftertaste, a little effervescence of lovage. It works perfectly with the oatmeal onion muffins. I’d like another right now.
I still haven’t convinced you that you want to eat Oatmeal Onion Muffins, have I? Would it help if I told you they were all gobbled up here, that I had to HIDE the remaining four muffins to take to a friend? I don’t have to do that around here even with chocolate-y goodness, but the Oatmeal Onion Muffins were a big hit. I hope you’ll try them. Here’s the recipe:
Oatmeal Onion Muffins (Makes 12 muffins)
Inspired by this recipe by Beth McCasland
1 cup gluten-free rolled oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick Earth Balance or butter, melted and cooled
1 cup of my favorite all-purpose flour blend
1/2 t. guar gum
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 cup caramelized onions (learn how here, it took 3 medium onions for 1/2 cup)
In large mixing bowl, combine oats and almond milk. Let sit for at least one hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, guar gum, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
Add to oats and milk the egg, brown sugar, melted Earth Balance or butter. Mix until well combined. Stir in dry ingredients. Last, fold in the caramelized onions.
Pour approximately 1/3 of a cup of batter into each well of an oiled muffin tin. Bake at 400 degrees for 14-16 minutes. A toothpick or cake tester inserted into the middle will come out clean.
Serve with Fresh spread from Green Dirt Farm. These muffins are tasty warm from the oven, but also keep very well, if you can manage to keep them away from your family. I’m excited to experiment with this recipe, incorporating sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives next!
Green Dirt Farm is located near Weston, Missouri. They host Farm Table Dinners, workshops, tours and more. You can buy their cheese in many Kansas City area stores or order on-line. Visit their website for more information.