After diving into the recipes in Jessica Robinson's new book, I’ve officially become a wannabe farmgirl. In "New England Farmgirl: Recipes & Stories From a Farmer's Daughter," Robinson makes it sound (and look) idyllic—canning tomato sauce and harvesting fresh corn; tapping maple trees during sugaring season; watching fireflies from grandpa’s screened-in porch. And while I can’t very well re-create my suburban childhood, I can—thanks to Robinson’s rustic recipes—travel via kitchen to picturesque New England.
The recipes, which range from savory soups to maple-nut fudge, are organized into ten charming chapters, all of which are prefaced with a list of local farms. Chapter themes include “A Fruitful Harvest” (orchards and farm stands) and “Tapping the Source” (a quick summary of sugaring), among others. And while not all of the recipes are “light,” per se, they celebrate freshly picked produce and simple ingredients, and remind us of the joy of old-fashioned cooking.
1. Farmhouse Cinnamon Raisin Bread
This is everything you want in a loaf of cinnamon raisin—swirls of cinnamon sugar rippling through fluffy, chewy bread. If you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls, the technique will be familiar—rolling out the dough, sprinkling it with sugar, and rolling it into a log. While it needs some time to rise (about 2 hours total), the result is well worth it—a bakery-style loaf that’s addictive when warm. I’ve been enjoying it thus far with a smear of jam and butter, but once the weekend hits it’ll make a decadent French toast.
What makes this recipe particularly delicious is the use of maple sugar—which is the crystallized result of boiling sugar maple sap. (If you're looking to cut costs, you can substitute granulated cane sugar.) The only trouble I ran into was how quickly the bread began to brown in the oven, but I covered it with foil and it came out just fine. You'll have some leftover cinnamon-sugar, too, which would be great sprinkled over a morning slice of toast.
2. Strawberry-Raspberry Popsicles
After seeing the gorgeous image at the beginning of the book, I knew I wanted to try Robinson's strawberry-raspberry popsicles. With only five ingredients, they're a cinch to whip together, and they'll keep in your freezer for at least a few weeks. Robinson suggests straining out the seeds, but I skipped this altogether and didn't mind the added texture.
I was initially worried about these being too sweet, but the lemon juice adds the perfect punch of tartness. They'll be a fabulous treat on a hot summer's day, especially if they're made with freshly picked berries.
In the midst of diet-driven and trend-based cookbooks, Robinson's "Farmgirl" is immensely refreshing. By combining nostalgic family recipes with a local, seasonal approach, she has created a reliable, hands-on book that will be on regular kitchen rotation.
Please be advised that the cookbooks featured in Cooking Light’s Cookbook Review Series do not necessarily meet Cooking Light nutrition standards.