Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Daily Dose of Cute:
Meet Our New Hay Inspector


Topaz takes her job seriously

© FarmgirlFare.com, the scrutinized foodie farm blog where Topaz, who spent 15 months at the animal shelter before we adopted her last December (along with Sarah Kate and Mr. Midnight), decided to move outdoors and is loving her new life as a farm cat. She even rode around the farmyard on the hay trailer before I snapped this picture.

Oh yeah, and I lied — a brief explanation of the whole haying process will accompany the next photo, not this one. Plus I still need to get you caught up with the rapidly growing livestock guardian puppies (yes, they finally both have names!), the new bread bakery building, and some other stuff I'm forgetting at the moment. There are more recipes to share and lots of wonderful new cookbooks to give away, too.

Sheesh. How did I get so far behind? It's been almost a week since the last Daily Dose of Cute. And you haven't even met Sylvester the cat — or the cows! At least we had cake and cookies. That makes everything better, right?

Monday Farm Photo: View From a Hay Bale


Taking a Break from Loading Up the Trailer

A year of Farm Photos ago:
6/30/07: Stormy Weather On My Mind but not On My Farm

Two years ago:
6/29/06:
It's Not the End of the Day Yet
6/30/06: Martha & Her Twins Keep Sneaking Into the Hayfield

Three years ago:
6/28/05: Last of the Hay Bales - We Start Cutting Today
6/29/05: It's Best to Cut Hay On a Hot Sunny Day
6/30/05: This Way to the Hen Houses

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where the next photo will include a brief explanation of the haying process for those of you who have been wondering about it — and then the hay photos will be over for a while (for those of you who have been wondering if they were ever going to end, which is pretty much how it feels during haying season).

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Growing Purple Basil and What To Do with It, Plus My Purple Basil Pesto Recipe & the Easiest White Bean Appetizer Dip / Spread Ever

purple and green basil growing in my kitchen garden - FarmgirlFare.com
When it comes to basil, purple is the new green.

Got (or want) basil in your garden? You'll find links to all of my basil growing posts, as well as more of my favorite basil recipes, at the end of this post.

2011 Update: Farmgirl Fare readers offer up even more ways to use fresh basil here.

I have no idea how it happened, but spring 2007 found me and my kitchen garden completely basilless. Thankfully a gardening friend—whose tiny city garden I usually supply with plants—was kind enough to share a couple of basil seedlings with me, including a purple one.

I'm not very adventurous when it comes to herbs, and I'd never grown purple basil, but begging gardeners can't be choosers so I gratefully took what he offered and stuck it in the ground.

The purple basil plant flourished. It was gorgeous, but I didn't know what to do with it. I love fresh basil in all kinds of dishes, and I loved the color of these leaves, especially how they're outlined in green, but the thought of blackish purple basil pesto—or blackish purple basil anything for that matter—just didn't seem appealing.

My dear friend Kat, who writes the scrumptious blog, She's In The Kitchen, suggested I make basil vinegar with it: You fill a large jar with half white vinegar, half cider vinegar, stuff it with purple basil, and let it steep for a week. Then you strain it and pour the resulting gorgeous magenta vinegar into a pretty bottle with a few sprigs of fresh basil.

That sounded nice, but I wasn't sure what I would do with the vinegar either.

Growing and harvesting green and purple basil in the kitchen garden 9 - FarmgirlFare.com
First harvest of the 2011 season: a pound of Red Rubin basil from three plants.

I decided to appeal to my garden blog readers, begging them to tell me what they would do if they had a beautiful purple basil plant in their garden. They quickly came to my rescue with all sorts of delicious ideas, including:

—Add it to a white bean salad with some red peppers and green onions

—Throw it into a pot of beans, tomatoes, potatoes, zuchinni, and onion

—Put it in a red sauce made from fresh tomatoes

—Garnish anything that the flavor of basil will complement

—Stir into a slaw of chopped carrots, fennel bulb, and garlic just before serving

—Make purple basil lemonade or, better still, purple basil watermelon/honeydew melon agua fresca

Soilman in England suggested I put it in Mussels à l'Italienne and even offered up his recipe: Chopped onions sweated in olive oil for a few minutes. Add a few glugs of white wine and lots of chopped tomatoes plus tomato purée. Pour your mussels (cleaned and de-bearded) in, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes. Put into bowls with lots of chopped purple basil.

I couldn't wait to tell my city friend that I'd figured out what we could do with our purple basil. He listened patiently with a slight smile on his face as I recounted all these creative ideas. Then he said, "I turned mine into pesto."

"Oh yeah?"

"It was the best basil pesto I've ever had."

"Really?"

"It was like pesto on steroids."

"Wow."

"And it wasn't even that weird of a color."

"Huh."

So I skipped all the wonderful suggestions and turned my entire purple basil plant into the best pesto I've ever tasted instead.


Homemade purple basil pesto on homemade pizza (my easy pizza dough recipe is here)

Farmgirl Susan's Low Fat, Full Flavor Purple Basil Pesto
Makes about 1½ cups

**Click here to print this recipe**

This lower fat, reduced calorie pesto, which calls for less olive oil than most recipes, is bursting with freshly picked garden flavor. The tomatoes are a healthy way to replace some of the olive oil while adding a subtle new flavor.

When portioning out basil (and so many other ingredients), it works best if you weigh it rather than pack it into measuring cups. A digital kitchen scale is a worthwhile and useful investment, and once you have one you may wonder how you ever lived without it. I often use my Oxo 11-pound kitchen scale several times a day. The pull-out display is awesome, and it's also great for weighing postage.

Don't have any purple basil? Just use green instead!

1/2 cup (about 2½ ounces) roasted & salted whole almonds
3 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled
4 ounces fresh purple (or green) basil leaves (about 4 cups packed)
1 ounce (about 1/2 cup) finely grated Pecorino Romano (or other hard cheese)
10 ounces fresh tomatoes (about 3 smallish) any kind, quartered
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste

In the bowl of a food processor use the S-blade to whiz the almonds and garlic until finely chopped.

Add the basil, cheese, tomatoes, and salt, and process until thoroughly combined and the consistency you like.

With the motor running running, slowly drizzle the olive oil through the chute. Add more salt to taste if desired. Store your pesto in the refrigerator for several days or freeze.

Except for the fact that purple basil isn't as pretty as the green and does make a rather oddly colored pesto (as you can see in the photo above), I would probably quit growing the green stuff altogether. Mixing a few green leaves into the pesto does help brighten it up a bit.

Unfortunately my friend couldn't remember what kind of purple basil we were growing, so I figure I'll just work my way through every purple variety I can find and do some scientific taste comparisons. There are even certain types of basil plants that are half purple and half green.

I didn't forget to plant basil seeds this year, though I did get a rather late start. Five different types of basil, including Purple Ruffles and Purple Osmin, plus a mixed variety surprise pack are just now sprouting in little containers, but I have high hopes for a bumper summer crop. (And besides, my tomatoes won't be ready for ages either.) 2011 Update: I had really good luck growing Red Rubin basil (see photo above).

I might even turn part of my purple basil harvest into something other than pesto. But don't hold your breath, especially since I've discovered such a delicious way to use it.


Homemade pita chips: tastier than store bought & made in minutes

Really Easy White Bean Pesto Dip / Spread

**Click here to print this recipe**

Opening a bag of cheez doodles and pouring them into a bowl would probably be a slightly easier appetizer to make than this, but they wouldn't taste nearly as good - or be as good for you. This stuff isn't exactly beautiful, but trust me when I say that no one will notice.

The consistency of this spread will vary depending on the type of beans you use, how well you drain them after rinsing, and the thickness of your pesto. I made one batch with Great Northern beans and a slightly thinner pesto and ended up with a dip rather than a spread.

If it's too thick for your liking, simply thin it out with a little olive oil or water.

Cans of organic beans are an organic bargain and a handy staple in my farmhouse pantry; I buy them by the case. I really like Eden Organic brand beans, which are organically grown in the U.S.A. on family farms, have no salt added (I prefer to add my own), and are packed in BPA-free cans.

1 15-ounce can organic white beans, such as cannellini (also called white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
1/2 cup homemade or purchased basil pesto
1/2 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or other hard Italian cheese
Salt to taste

Combine beans, pesto, and cheese in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the 'S' blade and whiz until smooth. Salt to taste.

Serve with pita chips (check out my easy recipes for homemade pita chips and pita bread, plus easy pita pizzas), crackers, raw veggies, or a spoon.

This spread improves with age, so try to make it a day ahead. Of course then you'll also have to try not to gobble it all up before serving time comes, but fortunately the recipe can easily be doubled.

After coming up with this recipe while my foodie mom was visiting last fall, I've become slightly obsessed with white bean dips. Sometimes I even have them as a main course (because I eat so much I don't have any room left for the actual main course).

It turns out that almost anything can be successfully mixed with a can of white beans (where have I been?), and I'll be sharing some of my other favorite creations soon.

More posts about basil:
9/21/06: How To Keep Your Basil Growing Into Fall
5/4/11: Bad Luck with Basil and Some Basil Growing Tips

More Farmgirl Fare recipes that call for basil:
Savory Tomato Pesto Pie with a No-Fail Biscuit Crust (one of my most popular recipes)
Simple Fresh Tomato Pizza Sauce (no blanching or peeling required)


Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where there can never be too much fresh basil, no matter what the color.

Sunday Farm Photo: Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'


Keep Those Hay Bales Comin'

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where the most important thing we learned during haying season this year is that you always need to double check the shear bolts (and anything else) the kid at the local hardware store picks out for you, because returning the ones that are the wrong size makes for an hour of driving, a lot of frustration, and some very expensive bolts considering the price of gas these days. But thanks to my hunky farmguy's masterful skills with duct tape, at least baling operations didn't have to shut down during the mad dash back to town.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Farm Photos: A Slight Haying Delay


Old Tractors Don't Always Start on the First Try



But the 20th Time's a Charm!

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where sometimes we fix our well worn tractors and haying equipment with duct tape and baling twine — then hold our breaths and repeat our soothing mantra while waiting to see if they'll make it through one more year: They may be old, but they're paid for. They may be old, but they're paid for.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Farm Photo: Antique Haying Equipment


Oldies but Goodies (Who Needs Brakes?)

A year of Farm Photos ago:
6/17/07: Whitey & Her Baby Chicks
6/19/07: Caution Foodie Forming
6/23/07: Looking for my Strawberries, Turtle?
6/25/07: Echinacea by the Cat Cabin

Two years ago:
6/25/06: Weekend Turtle Blogging
6/26/06: Who Needs TV When You Have Cary & DDD?
6/27/06: Snugglebunny's Twin Girls Heading Out for Breakfast

Three (!) years ago:
6/24/05: Makeshift Fence
6/25/05: J2 in the Cat Cabin - Where's Breakfast?
6/26/05: Glance & It's Mundane, Look & See Reflected Beauty
6/27/05: Sweet Teddy Boy

And out of the kitchen came:
Three Onion & Three Cheese Pizza and My Easy Pizza Dough Recipe (plus Loving Leftover Pizza)
Decidedly Different Chocolate Chip Cookies (and how to hug a sheep)
Blueberry Breakfast Bars

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where scrolling through the late June archives reminds us that some things do stay the same around the farm - outside right now are little lambs (including Snugglebunny's twins - boys this year) and little chicks (well, not quite so little anymore), strawberry-munching turtles (they're everywhere!), a hungry J2, and a showy mass of cheerful echinacea flowers. Now if only there was a homemade pizza and a pan of blueberry bars in the kitchen.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Book Giveaway: Win a Copy of Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs — and a Nifty Totebag!

I love books almost as much as I love food, so of course I immediately said yes last March when I was offered an advance copy of a new book called Comfort Food, "about a celebrity chef about to turn 50." The timing was interesting, too, since I'll be turning 40 (!!) next month and had just been contacted by a production company about developing a show for Food Network.*

When my copy arrived, I was surprised to discover that Comfort Food is actually a novel, and not a memoir as I had for some reason thought. I was hooked from the first paragraph — which mentions five kinds of birthday cake — and stayed up way past my bedtime that night reading. This is the kind of book you want to both devour and savor, and after I finished the last page I was tempted to turn right back to the beginning and start all over so I could keep hanging out with the characters. When I saw the unabridged audio version at the library the other day (I'm addicted to audio books!) I immediately snapped it up - and was doubly delighted to discover that it's read by Barbara Rosenblat, one of my favorite recording artists. The book is just as delicious the second time around.

Kate Jacobs' first novel was the runaway bestseller The Friday Night Knitting Club, which I'm looking forward to reading. (Have you read it?) Kate says that Comfort Food is about "food, family, friendships, and overcoming frustrations," and that's all I'm going to tell you except that the book made me laugh, cry — and hungry. If you get annoyed when the characters in novels continually go out to eat but the author never lets you know what they order (or they never seem to eat at all!) then you're going to love this book. It revolves entirely around food. The characters don't just go to the farmers' market — they discuss what they could do with all the fresh bounty while they're there. Gus, the main character, "loved to talk about food. Late at night, if she couldn't sleep, she would read cookbooks out loud to herself until she relaxed."

Ready for more than a taste? I have two hardcover copies of Comfort Food to give away, and each of them comes with a special bonus - a handy dandy canvas totebag emblazoned with the gorgeous book cover art. It's the perfect size for packing your groceries, goodies from the farmers' market, or practically anything else. I use mine constantly.

Just leave a comment in this post between now and next Thursday, July 3rd, and tell us about your favorite comfort foods. I'll randomly pick two winners and announce them a day or two (or three or four) after that. Sorry, but the books can only be shipped to U.S. addresses.

I can't wait to see your comments. And if you're like me and love to read about what other people eat, check out my Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant book review post from last year, where dozens of readers revealed what they secretly eat when they're all alone in the kitchen. If you haven't contributed yet, please feel free to add to the wonderful list.

* I've decided this isn't something I'm going to pursue now, but I sure was thrilled to be asked!

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where we never get tired of reading or eating - and prefer to do them simultaneously.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday Daily Dose of Cute: Sisters in Paws


Not Off-Duty - Busy Growing (taken 4/13)

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where the daily cuteness hasn't stopped, just slowed down in the heat — and most of us around here feel like sprawling under a nice big shade tree (or in front of an air conditioner!) and doing a bit of 'growing' ourselves (for about the next three months).

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Whole Wheat Cookie Recipe: Yip Yap Organic Banana Snaps with Chocolate Chips, Raisins, & Nuts

With Apologies to Tania, Garrett, Garrett's Grandma Capune, and My Dogs


These giant cookies are a hit with both kids and adults.
Before I became a farmgirl in rural Missouri, I was (among other things) a graphic designer in urban Nortnern California. I had a collection of Rapidograph pens and subscribed to magazines with names like Communication Arts and Print. Now I collect pitchforks and rocks and read Progressive Farmer and the quarterly bulletins put out by the USDA.

I've also forgotten nearly everything I once knew about photo screens, acetate overlays, paste-up boards, and type indication (just coming up with this list was a challenge), but fortunately all that stuff is pretty much obsolete anyway. So much for my college education.

One thing I do remember after all these years is an article where a bunch of designers was asked what they thought was the most well designed food, and somebody said bananas. Yes! Bananas come with their own handy packaging so they transport well and you don't have to worry about washing them before eating—which you can easily do one-handed. And, unlike oranges, they aren't messy and therefore don't require a napkin.

Bananas also happen to be one of the World's Healthiest Foods, and are packed with vitamin B6, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber. According to the WHFoods website, they're one of our best sources of potassium—an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function—and can help do everything from build better bones to protect your eyesight. They also happen to be inexpensive, plentiful, and delicious.

Carrying around a healthy, protected snack is all well and good, but everybody knows the best way to enjoy a banana is after it's been baked into something like muffins or cookies or cake. The key to baking with bananas is to let them get really, really ripe — more ripe than you've probably had the nerve to let your bananas get.

I don't mean yellow with a few dark spots; I'm talking blackened skins with insides that have turned to mush. A little mold on the outside is even okay. Sure they look disgusting, but you won't believe the amazingly sweet banana flavor they'll give your baked goods. And guess what? Research conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Austria suggests that as fruits fully ripen, "almost to the point of spoilage," their antioxidant levels actually increase!

Organic bananas can now be found in many supermarkets, and they usually don't cost much more than the conventional ones. I find that organic bananas taste better, and of course they're better for your health, farm workers' health, and the environment.

Organic advocate and cookbook author Jeff Cox recently published a fascinating article called "How Organic Are Organic Bananas?" on Organic To Be, a wonderful group food blog created by Dave Smith, author of To Be of Use - The Seven Seeds of Meaningful Work, cofounder of garden tool company Smith & Hawken, and all around very cool guy. Here's a brief yet frightening excerpt:

After harvest, bunches of conventional bananas are floated in tanks of sodium hydrochlorate solution to dissolve the drips of latex sap that can discolor the fruit. Experiments have shown that fungicide-treated bananas can develop off-flavors. Yet "hands" of bananas (the small bunches we see in markets) are conventionally treated with fungicides by being placed in polyethylene bags with blocks of vermiculite treated with potassium permanganate to absorb the ethylene ripening gas that bananas give off. This allows the bananas to be stored and shipped over a month's time before they start ripening.

And that's just what happens after they leave the soil-destroying, chemical laden, disease- and fungus-ridden plantations. Yet according to Cox, when bananas are under organic cultivation "the soil improves in health, amount of soil life, availability of nutrients, resistance to soil pests and diseases, and its ability to produce extra high quality bananas and plantains." Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Unfortunately locally grown bananas aren't an option for most of us, but if you choose to buy imported bananas, the organic ones are well worth seeking out. When you find some, buy an extra bunch to ripen on the counter (if you put them in the fridge they'll make everything else in there taste like bananas) and when they start to look really scary, whip up a batch of these flavorful, cake-like cookies.


Say it with me now: Yip Yap Banana Snaps!

Susan's Yip Yap Organic Banana Snaps for People
Makes about 30 very large cookies (which freeze beautifully)

Last fall I was thrilled to see that Tania had started posting again on her Canadian food blog, The Candied Quince. One of the first recipes she put up was for Yip Yap Banana Snaps dog treats in honor of her little dog's third birthday, admitting she chose them because she liked saying the name. The name hooked me, too, and I immediately decided I needed to make some for my own dogs.

But then I saw the recipe for Garrett's Grandma Capune's Banana Cookies on Vanilla Garlic, and making treats for people quickly won out over making treats for dogs (I know, I know, animal abuse). The name Yip Yap Banana Snaps, however, stuck. In fact I couldn't stop saying it.

One night I crawled back into bed after getting up for a drink of water and excitedly announced to an only slightly coherent Joe, "I don't want to build a bread bakery anymore. I think we should sell Yip Yap Banana Snaps instead!"

"Go. To. SLEEP."

I pretty much followed Grandma Capune's recipe the first time I made these, then I doubled the recipe so I could make my signature giant size cookies and started making various other changes, including adding a little vanilla, swapping out half of the all-purpose flour for white whole wheat flour, and using a mixture of white and brown sugars instead of just white. They aren't health food, but they aren't terrible for you either.

You can make these cookies with raisins or chocolate chips and/or nuts or with nothing but the spices. Joe loves the raisin version; I like them with mini chocolate chips the best. As always I urge you to use local and organic ingredients whenever you can.

1 cup organic butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 real farm eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2¼ cups mashed very, very ripe organic bananas
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 cups organic white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (a little less if freshly ground, which I recommend)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt

Optional additions (I usually split the batter in half and make two kinds):
2 cups raisins or 2 cups chocolate chips (per whole batch)
2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (per whole batch)

Heat the oven to 350F. Using an electric mixer (I use a hand-held mixer), cream the butter and sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until well combined. Beat in the vanilla.

Combine the baking soda and mashed bananas in a small bowl and let sit for 2 minutes to froth a bit. According to Grandma Capune and Garrett, the baking soda reacts with the acid in the bananas to give the cookies their lift and rise.

Mix the bananas into the butter mixture, then add the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and mix on low speed just until combined. The batter will be more like a thick cake batter than traditional cookie dough.

Stir in the raisins, chocolate chips, and/or nuts. Use a 1/4-cup scoop or 1/4-cup measure to drop cookies onto a heavy duty baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper. I can fit 6 cookies on one half-size commercial rimmed sheet pan.

(I highly recommend investing in a couple of heavy duty commercial rimmed baking sheets. At less than $14 each, they're one of the best kitchen deals around. Treat them well and they'll last for ages. I've been using the heck out of some of mine for 20 years for everything from baking scones to roasting Brussels sprouts.)

If the batter gets too gooey to handle, put it in the freezer for a few minutes to stiffen up. Bake cookies until nicely browned, about 16 to 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container or freeze. I think they taste even better the next day, after the flavors have had a chance to mellow and mingle.

Other sweet recipes on Farmgirl Fare you might enjoy:
My Best Banana Bran Muffins (and other flavor variations)

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

© 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the sweet-toothed blog where it was recently decided by unanimous vote that the ratio of cute animal photos to scrumptious dessert recipes is far too high, and have set about remedying the situation.

Friday, June 20, 2008

An Easy Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake Recipe in the Kitchen and Strawberries in the Garden

Easy orange yogurt loaf cake recipe - FarmgirlFare.com
A simple, not overly sweet orange loaf cake that tastes great with strawberries and stays moist for several days.

Last year I filled one of the 4' x 8' raised beds in my kitchen garden with 30 Cavendish strawberry plants, and after diligently snipping off every blossom and runner that appeared during the summer (because no berries the first year means bigger and healthier plants the next), nestling the plants under a protective bed of hay in fall, dreaming of glistening strawberries throughout the winter, and happily monitoring the flourishing plants come spring, I was finally rewarded with a juicy and jewel-like harvest that began the end of May.

I savored the first strawberries of the season while standing in the garden, and it doesn't get much better than that—unless you happen to have a nice orange yogurt cake, some freshly whipped cream, or a scoop of French vanilla ice cream (or all three!) handy.

A slice of this moist, not overly sweet cake is delicious by itself, but it goes particularly well with strawberries, and it also tastes divine with blueberries.

Sadly, most strawberries today don't even taste like strawberries. They've been manipulated and modified to look big and pretty and travel well, with flavor barely a consideration.

In order to find a good strawberry you must look to your own or a generous friend's garden, a small U-Pick farm, or a farmers' market. And organically grown is a must.

Commercially grown strawberries are #2 on the Environmental Working Groups list of most contaminated produce (apples are #1), and years ago I read that in one laboratory test a single commercially cultivated strawberry was found to contain residue from 22 different toxic chemicals. That's so sad it doesn't even seem possible.

Oranges are #31 on EWG's list, and since the skin of citrus fruits often contains lots of toxic chemical residues, it's best to seek out organic fruits when using the zest in recipes.

Easy orange yogurt loaf cake - FarmgirlFare.com
Freshly picked strawberries with a side of homemade cake for breakfast.

Susan's Easy Orange Yogurt Cake
Makes one 9"x5" or 10"x5" loaf — inspired by this recipe on Pinch My Salt

**Click here to print this recipe**

This is the kind of simple recipe I love to have in my collection. It mixes up quickly, can be eaten plain or gussied up, and stays moist for several days. Like most baked goods it also freezes beautifully—and can be easily sliced when frozen. It tastes even better the second day.

One of the nicest things about cake recipes is that there are basically an endless number of them; change one or two things and you'll often end up with an entirely different dessert. You could certainly make a lemon version of this, and I'm thinking about a combination of lemon and lime, or maybe even lemon, lime, and orange. A Meyer lemon yogurt cake would probably be delightful.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference.

Good baking pans make all the difference. I love my Chicago Metallic 10-inch commercial loaf pans and my heavy gauge 9"x5" USA Pan. Both pans are also great for baking sandwich breads, such as my popular Farmhouse White.

3/4 cup (1½ sticks/6 ounces) organic butter, softened
1¼ cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup organic orange juice
2 Tablespoons finely chopped or grated organic orange zest
(I use a vegetable peeler & a sharp knife)
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
(make sure it's fresh!)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt


Optional syrup:
1/3 cup organic orange juice (strained if freshly squeezed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar


1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and use an electric mixer (I use a hand held mixer) to cream until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Add the eggs, vanilla, yogurt, orange juice, and orange zest and beat 1 minute.

4. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix well.

5. Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9"x5" or 10"x5" loaf pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Ovens vary, so start checking for doneness after about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes and then carefully remove it from the pan.

6. If desired, combine the orange juice and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves, then spoon or brush it over the cake. Slice and serve, preferably the next day if you can wait that long, plain or piled high with fresh strawberries and whipped cream and/or ice cream. This cake will keep at room temperature for 3 days or can be frozen.

Related Strawberry Posts:
Growing and Enjoying Strawberries
5/21/06: A Beautiful Breakfast!
5/27/06: The Turtles vs. Me, Cary, and Bear
10/28/07: Growing Strawberries & Preparing Your Bed for Winter
Garden Journal 5/28/08: Successfully Growing Strawberries!

More Farmgirl Fare cake and quick bread recipes:
100% Whole Wheat Coconut Zucchini Bread
Heavenly Lemon Coconut Quick Bread
Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread
Quick Chocolate Emergency Loaf Cake

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet & savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index. Enjoy!

© FarmgirlFare.com, the sweet and juicy foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, & photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and every freshly picked berry is a cause for celebration (and cake).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thursday Farm Photo:
Back in the Hay Days (Already?)


It Feels Like We Were Just Doing This

Want to see more haying photos?
6/28/05: Last of the Bales - We Start Cutting Today
6/29/05: It's Best to Cut Hay on a Hot Sunny Day
8/29/05: Raked Hay Ready to be Baled Today
8:30/05: From Here to the Barn Seems to Take an Eternity
8/31/05: Each Bale is Handled Four or Five Times
6/9/06: Cary at the Start of Hay Pick Up Day #1
6/10/06: Cary Guards a Hay Bale
6/11/06: Hay Inspector Samples the Harvest
6/11/06: Farm Boss Patchy Cat Has the Final Hay Say
6/11/06: Cary & the Nanny Bear Take a Haying Break
6/12/06: Baby Cary in the Hay Truck
6/13/06: Not a Hay Bale in Sight - It's a Beautiful Thing
6/15/06: How to Ensure a Happy Haying Crew
7/14/07: In the Hay, Be Back Soon
7/17/07: Haying Supervisor
6/27/08: Antique Haying Equipment
6/28/08: A Slight Haying Delay
6/29/08: Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'
6/30/08: View From A Hay Bale
6/30/08: Meet Our New Hay Inspector

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where as soon as the Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguettes are finished baking (they smell so good!) I'm headed back out to help pick up bales - then we'll be out of the hay and hopefully I'll have time to share a bunch of tasty new recipes that have been piling up, including three simple and refreshing vegetable salads, my new favorite orange loaf cake, and the easiest white bean appetizer spread ever.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tuesday Daily Dose of Cute: Playing Hide and Seek


He's Still Learning the Game

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where we couldn't decide which was cuter, yesterday's photo of Dinky or this one (which was also taken last September), so we decided to simply post them both.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday Daily Dose of Cute: Mother Love


Dolores and Her Son Dinky, Age Two Months (Taken Last September)

Need to see more cute?
The First Daily Doses of Cute
Daily Dose of Cute Part 2
Daily Dose of Cute Part 3
Lambing Season 2006 Photos & Reports
Lambing Season 2007 Photos & Reports
Lambing Season 2008 Part 1
Lambing Season 2008 Part 2
Farm Stories & Farm Life Tidbits

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where we've been discovering some forgotten and never shared favorite photos while sorting through (and somehow trying to organize) about a zillion of them (yep, somebody's hard drive is ridiculously full).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saturday Farm Photo: Grass Fed Donkeys


Daphne & Dan by the Front Field Last September


Want to see more?
Daphne Photos
Donkey Doodle Dandy Photos
More Donkey Photos
Farm Landscape Photos
Same Scene, New View Photos

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where we're wondering if it really is possible to sweat to death in June, but are comforted by the thought that if we survive after summer it'll be fall — and Daphne just keeps getting more pregnant.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Farm Photos: Cloudy Morning Sparkle


Farm Jewels As Farm Art








Want to see more farm art?
8/28/05: Discard On Display
9/26/05: Well Seasoned
9/29/05: Heart Of Vine
11/27/05: More Found Art
12/15/05: The Weathered Look Is Very In Around Here
1/29/06: Bird Nests Are Definitely Works Of Art
3/30/06: More Old Stuff Just Hanging Around
8/9/06: Feather Wait
8/29/06: Seeing Things
9/16/06: The Farm Is My Canvas
9/29/06: Perfect Landing
11/19/06: Farmyard Still Life
1/6/07: Precious Farm Jewels
12/15/07: Still Life With Barbed Wire & Buck Brush
1/27/08: Fence As Farm Art

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where we don't wear many baubles these days, yet we're surrounded by precious gems — and we keep seeing a cow in the top photo and a stingray in the second one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

More Fast Farm Food: Healthy Swiss Chard Tuna Salad Recipe with Scallions & Kalamata Olives


Tuna Salad Goes Green

What do you get when you have a greenhouse full of Swiss chard, a bumper crop of scallions in the garden, long days of hunger-inducing farm work, not much time to cook, and a really annoying heat wave? Three batches of this tasty tuna salad in the last ten days — and no sign of us tiring of it anytime soon.

I created this simple yet satisfying recipe last year for NPR's Kitchen Window but never shared it here, and now I know why — I was waiting until I made it even better. It seemed a little odd to apply my More, More, More motto to one of my own recipes, but in this case it worked beautifully. This new greener version is better looking, better for you, and even better tasting.

I've mentioned before that Swiss chard is one of my favorite vegetables. In fact, if I were allowed to grow only two things in my organic kitchen garden they would be tomatoes and Swiss chard. This nutrient-packed chameleon of the vegetable world comes in a variety of colors and is a superb, year-round stand-in for lettuce, spinach and celery. When the spinach is suffering from heatstroke or the lettuce is keeling over from frostbite, my hardy Swiss chard doesn't even flinch. It's also easy to grow from seed and does exceptionally well in containers. And if you grow your own Swiss chard, you'll be able to enjoy the young, tender leaves which are rarely available for sale.

Swiss chard is bursting with nutrients, including vitamins K, A, C and E, plus several B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, potassium, iron and dietary fiber. It's a good source of calcium and contains promising cancer-fighting properties. Throughout history, various parts of the plant have been used to treat everything from ulcers to dandruff.

But more importantly, it tastes delicious. Peak season in most areas is from June through October, though in milder climates you often can find interesting varieties of just-harvested bounty at farmers' markets from early spring until late fall. Look for crisp stalks with shiny, unblemished leaves.


Swiss Chard is the New (Gorgeous) Celery

One of the best things about Swiss chard is that it's actually two crops in one — the crunchy stalks can be chopped up and used in place of celery in many recipes, which is especially nice since conventionally grown celery ranks number four on the Environmental Working Group's list of most contaminated produce. Choose colorful varieties of Swiss chard such as Pink Lipstick, Canary Yellow, and Orange Fantasia and you'll have some of the prettiest 'celery' around.

Tuna salad is the kind of thing I like to keep on hand in the fridge for quick meals and easy snacks, especially during the summer months, and this twist on the old standby will tempt even the most overheated appetites. If you don't have any Swiss chard handy you could substitute another sturdy leafy green such as spinach, kale, cabbage, or even some finely chopped broccoli or kohlrabi leaves (talk about healthy) or collard greens. Lettuce wouldn't hold up, but a handful or two of arugula would add a snappy bite.

This is one of those recipes that adapts easily to whatever you have on hand, so don't be afraid to be creative. Any type of olives would work — cracked green, oil cured, even the plain old canned black ones. Chopped purple onion in place of the scallions would be very nice. Some red cabbage would be tasty, and I almost tossed a shredded carrot into the latest batch. After taking these photos I did stir in a few handfuls of drained and rinsed organic kidney beans, which added protein and fiber and made this salad even more of a meal.



Susan's Swiss Chard Tuna Salad
Serves 2 to 4

If you have a chance, mix up your tuna salad and let it sit in the refrigerator at least a few hours before serving; it'll be even tastier. You can put it on sandwiches, stuff it into pita pockets, spread it on crackers, or serve it on a bed of lettuce. You could make baby sandwiches on Carrot Herb Rolls, Italian Olive Cheek Rolls, or Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones, or use Swiss chard leaves in place of tortillas to make easy low-carb tuna wraps. I often eat it straight from the bowl with a fork. Feeding a crowd? Just double the recipe. As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients whenever you can.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (I like white balsamic)
1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives (about 10 olives)
2 teaspoons brine from the olives (or more balsamic vinegar)
2 6-ounce cans tuna (oil or water packed), drained
3/4 cups chopped Swiss chard stems
2 to 3 cups chopped Swiss chard leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh parsley, preferably Italian flat leaf
1 cup (or more) chopped scallions (green onions), white and green parts (about 10 small)
Salt & pepper to taste

Optional:
Few handfuls of canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Combine mayonnaise, dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar and olive brine in a medium bowl and mix well. Stir in olives, tuna, chopped Swiss chard stems and leaves, parsley, and scallions. Add salt and pepper to taste and more mayonnaise and/or vinegar if desired. Stir in kidney beans if using. Tuna salad will keep for three days in the refrigerator.

Related posts:
How To Grow Swiss Chard from Seed & Why You Should
Recipe: Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip (and lots of other ways to use Swiss Chard)
Grow Arugula — Seed to Salad Bowl in Less than a Month
How To Grow Your Own Gourmet Lettuce from Seed
What To Do With 125 Scallions

To go with your tuna salad:
Four Hour Parisian Daily Baguettes
Beyond Easy Beer Bread
Oatmeal Toasting Bread
Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones
Carrot Herb Rolls (and a bargain bread book for beginners)
Italian Olive Cheek Rolls
How To Make Your Own Pita Bread & Pita Chips

Other Farmgirl Fare recipes you might enjoy:
Sour Cream & Onion Dip (and foodie travel)
Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip (and factory tours)
Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw & Quick Vegetarian Tacos
Colors of Summer Salad
Summer in a Bowl
The Easiest Greek Salad Ever

Still hungry?
You'll find links to all my sweet & savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the sidebar of the Farmgirl Fare homepage under Previous Posts: Food Stuff W/ Recipes. Enjoy!

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, & photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres — and we feast on homegrown Swiss chard almost year round.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tuesday Daily Dose of Cute:
Another Bear Inspection














Looks Like He Passed!

Want to see more stock dog scrutiny?
4/22/07: Dog Inspection
1/6/08: Stock Dog Inspection
4/7/08: Surprise Inspection

Other Inspections:
6/11/06: Cary the Hay Inspector
8/2/07: Wall Inspection & Farmgirl Inspection

© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where the tremendous heat and humidity have been keeping us from taking any cute photos lately, but fortunately we keep a back-up supply on hand - including these pictures taken in the barnyard in April.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Wanted: Your Favorite Recipes & Ways to Use Green Onions (Scallions)


Just picked bounty from the Kitchen Garden

I'm in a bit of a pickle. Actually it's more of an onion - scallions to be exact. I remembered to double plant my onion sets in the kitchen garden this year so I could thin them out and reap a bonus crop of spring scallions, and my plan worked beautifully.

But despite my tossing extra scallions into pretty much everything except dessert for the last few days, I still have about 125 that really need to be harvested now.

There are a zillion recipes that include scallions - which are also called green onions - but these mild and tasty alliums never seem to be the star of the show. I thought I remembered seeing a delicious sounding recipe somewhere for stir-fried scallions (maybe with a teriyaki sauce?), but a quick online search resulted in lots of stir-fried things with scallions added to them, but no recipe for just the scallions themselves.

When I reported my scallion situation to my foodie pal Beth (aka kitchenMage), she suggested I toss a pile of them with some olive oil and then slow roast them in the oven at about 325° with some thinly sliced garlic. I haven't tried this yet, but I think the idea it has serious possibilities.


Aren't spring onions pretty?

When green onions begin to form bulbs they're called
spring onions, or sometimes salad onions. I have plenty of those, too.

So what would you do if you were faced with an enormous quantity of gorgeous scallions and spring onions?

While I'd love to know any of your favorite ways to use them, I'm particularly interested in recipes that call for large quantities, like 10 - or even 40. You're welcome to leave recipe links from your own blog in the comments section. Thanks for the help!

Oh, and because I'm so desperate, I'm posting this plea on my kitchen garden blog as well, so if you're looking for more fresh scallion ideas (or want to see what they look like while still in the ground) check the comments section of Garden Journal Entry 6/7/08: What To Do with 125 Scallions?, which also includes links to some of my posts about growing your own onions.

Up next on Farmgirl Fare (well, probably after a Daily Dose of Cute or two) I'll be sharing my recipe for Swiss Chard Tuna Salad, a refreshing twist on the classic standby that calls for a healthy dose of Swiss Chard (one of the best vegetables you can grow from seed) along with plenty of scallions.

In the meantime, here are some of my other favorite ways to use them:
Sour Cream & Onion Dip
Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones
Fiesta Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip
Mexican Jumping Bean Slaw
Summer in a Bowl
Colors of Summer Salad
Sprinkled on top of Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip
Three Onion & Three Cheese Pizza (starring spring onions)

© FarmgirlFare.com, the onion loving foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres - and we're always thrilled when there's an overabundance of food in the garden, even if we're not always sure what to do with it.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Daily Dose of Cute:
Water Babies - A Story in Pictures


Eager Anticipation - The Water Tank Has Arrived!




























© Copyright 2008 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where pool season has officially begun - and the poor, disgusted, decidedly non-swimming sheep are now being forced to drink contaminated dog water.