Monday, August 03, 2015

Baker's Blues by Judi Hendricks: A Giveaway and Conversation with the Author

One of the best things about writing Farmgirl Fare for the past ten (!) years has been making friends and meeting so many wonderful people from around the world.

I was already a huge fan of Judith Ryan Hendricks' Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice when Lisa Munley at TLC Book Tours contacted me back in 2009 to see if I was interested in being part of a tour for Judi's new book, The Laws of Harmony.

Of course I jumped at the chance (and loved the book), and Judi and I have been great friends ever since, emailing back and forth and chatting on the phone every couple of months for hours at a time—mostly about food.

Judi, who lives in Santa Fe with her husband Geoff and dog Blue, has a degree in journalism and worked as a journalist, copywriter, computer instructor, travel agent, waitress, and baker before turning to fiction writing.

Her first novel, Bread Alone (so named because she's a fellow Daniel Leader fan), was a national bestseller and a BookSense 76 pick. It was followed by Isabel's Daughter (which I also love), The Baker's Apprentice (book two in the Bread Alone series), and The Laws of Harmony, which was nominated for The Santa Fe Reporter's "Best of Santa Fe." Her work has been translated into 12 languages and distributed in 16 countries.

Bread Alone is the story of thirty-one-year-old L.A. executive wife Wynter Morrison, whose upper class life is turned upside down when her husband announces one evening that their marriage is over. Emotionally devastated and desperate for a change of scenery, Wyn escapes to Seattle and takes a job as a bread baker, rekindling her love of baking and discovering that making bread possesses an unexpected healing power.

Bread Alone is one of my favorite novels, and for years I've been anxiously awaiting (and pestering Judi about) the publication of part three of this bakery trilogy, Baker's Blues. This new book is just as good—and just as food-filled—as all of her others, and I've already read it twice.

Baker's Blues can be read on its own, but you'll enjoy it much more if you read Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice first.

I'm so happy to be kicking off this 19-stop TLC virtual book tour for Baker's Blues with a book giveaway and an in-depth interview with Judi, recorded during one of our marathon phone chats.

Giveaway and interview below. . .

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Easy Blueberry Bonanza Bars with Streusel and Oats — Recipe and Rave Reviews

Celebrate a blueberry bonanza with this super popular triple layer, anytime sweet treat (recipe here).

These scrumptious Blueberry Bonanza Breakfast Bars are my favorite way to celebrate blueberry season. They can be made with either fresh or frozen blueberries, and they don't have to be eaten for breakfast. I originally wrote about them back in 2006, and they've been one of my most popular recipes ever since.

Don't let the three separate layers scare you away; they come together quickly and you only need to dirty up two mixing bowls. They also freeze beautifully. With the oatmeal crust and streusel topping, these bars remind me of an eat-with-your-hands cross between blueberry pie and blueberry crisp.

If you only have a small blueberry haul (maybe because you ate half of them in the car on the way home), you could try the Just Peachy version or the Apple Blueberry version, which call for just two cups of blueberries each. Or use your imagination and what you have on hand; Farmgirl Fare readers have reported delicious success making these bars with blackberries, black cherries, frozen cranberries, stewed apricots, and raspberries.

Still not sure? Maybe the sampling below of rave reviews will get you on the blueberry bonanza breakfast bar bandwagon.

Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to come back and report on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest too!

Read rave reviews for Blueberry Bonanza Breakfast Bars below. . .

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Recipe: Savory Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Pesto Pie with an Easy Cheesy Biscuit Crust

Scared of pie dough? This easy biscuit crust is perfect for beginners (recipe here).

It wouldn't be summer on the farm without a shout out for this longtime favorite recipe from the Farmgirl Fare recipe archives. Enjoy!

Are there ripe tomatoes in your neck of the woods yet? I was really behind with spring planting in the kitchen garden this year (no surprise there!) so it's still going to be a while before we're picking any tomatoes from our 23 plants, but that's okay. We had a whopping five inches of rain in three days last week (unheard of in July; the creek is even running again), and if there had been any tomatoes on the vines, they wouldn't have liked all that water. The basil plants are going gangbusters though, so when we finally do get our tomatoes the pesto will definitely be ready.

Do tomatoes and basil say summer to you? Do you love pesto and savory pies and melted mozzarella cheese? Then you'll want to celebrate the bounty of summer with this Savory Tomato and Basil Pesto Pie.

This is one of my most popular recipes, and men seem to especially like it. Last summer my friend Susan in Vermont said, "I'm making your tomato pesto pie for dinner tonight. I made it last week, and my husband fell in love with me all over again." You'll find more rave reviews below.

When my pal Finny, who has been known to live by the motto All pie, all the time, first made it back in 2006, she added a layer of insurance for her meat loving husband—cooked and crumbled Italian sausage. How brilliant is that?

If you want to try adding some, too, you'll find my easy recipe for homemade Italian sausage here (no casings required!), and there are helpful step-by-step photos of Finny's version of this pie here, which she makes every year with Brandywine and Better Boy tomatoes from her garden (warning: Finny uses bad words).

If you're scared of pastry crust, you're going to love this recipe. The  biscuit dough is practically foolproof, and the pie itself is easy to make but looks impressive and tastes delicious.

Don't believe me? Below is a sampling of rave reviews from the comments section. Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to come back and report on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest too!

Read the Savory Tomato Pesto Pie reviews below. . .

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Farm Photo: Have a Colorful Weekend.


Any plans this weekend? I'm hoping to spend some time in the kitchen garden sowing a bed of Swiss chard and cucumber seeds (did I really order five different varieties this year?), finally getting the rest of my poor tomato and pepper seedlings in the ground (can you tell I'm a little behind?), pulling approximately 3,000 more weeds, and mulching everything I can with grass clippings—now that it's finally dry enough out there to cut the grass—and that wonderful, nutrient-rich manure/bedding hay from the sheep barn.

I'll also be savoring the fact that our hayfield no longer looks like it does in the photo above because there are 225 square bales of hay now stacked in the barn (we didn't cut the entire field, just what you see here). We'd hoped to get a lot more bales, and it's not the best hay we've ever put up, but it's nowhere near the worst.

Fortunately we still have a lot of big round bales left over from last year (because for the first time we cut Donkeyland as well as the hayfield) so no matter what Mother Nature throws at us this fall and winter, we should hopefully have enough hay to keep the sheep and donkeys fed well into next spring.

Even so, depending on the weather, the rain fall, and what grows up in the hayfield over the next month or two, we may try to go ahead and put up some more round bales just in case. Because if you have a farm full of grass eaters, an always unpredictable climate, friends and neighbors with herds of cows but no hayfields of their own, and some room still left in the haybarn, there's really no such thing as having too much hay.

Wondering how you put up hay? Have a look here and here and here.

© FarmgirlFare.com, hanging out on the bright side of life.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Friday, June 05, 2015

Friday Dose of Cute: Have a Well-Balanced Weekend.

Mr. Midnight hunting at the edge of the hayfield.

Any plans this weekend? We have a heat wave coming, so I'm going to harvest the rest of the lettuce in the kitchen garden—which looked a whole lot better before being pelted by last week's hailstorm—before it bolts any more than it has, and then hopefully catch up with all my spring transplanting before it's actually summer. My stunted basil and pepper plants and overgrown heirloom tomato seedlings will be thrilled.

A friend who came by the other day for a quick visit said he'd heard that a lot of people's tomato plants were rotting because of the unseasonably cool and wet weather we've been having, so this time my garden laziness procrastination may actually pay off.

Meanwhile we're still waiting for some favorable hay-cutting weather. All the rain we've been getting has been great (the wet weather creek is running!), but the hay, which the sheep and donkeys eat for several months each year, is already past its prime. We need at least three dry, hot, and sunny days in a row in order to get the hay dry enough to cut, dried once it's been cut, baled, and brought into the barn, and we're just not getting them.

We were out running around several days this past week and saw a lot of people baling up acres and acres of hay we knew couldn't possibly be dry enough. And yesterday our Amish neighbor told us that he and his brother have had a bunch of their cut hay laying on the ground for three days because these scattered thunderstorms just keep blowing in and opening up on it.

Rather than risk putting up (literally) 10 tons of moldy feed, we're just going to wait. The fescue and orchard grass have already gone to seed, but we should keep getting more leaf growth in our "Missouri mixed salad" fields. And as Joe reminded me the other day, we've cut hay in the past as late as October.

Or as the donkey peddling (and cattle raising) cowboy likes to say, "Any hay tastes better than a snowball."

I figure we'll end up hauling in hundreds of square bales (pretty much the most exhausting job on the farm) on the same day the sheep shearer finally calls to let us know he'll be in our neck of the woods. It's happened before.

Over the years we've (slowly) started getting less stressed out about (most of) the many things we have no control over. Strength and stamina are essential when you live on a farm, but I've come to believe that patience, flexibility, and a big sense of humor are probably even more vital.

More Mr. Midnight? Here.
More farm cats? Here and here.

© FarmgirlFare.com, keeping calm with the help of all this cute.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Recipe: Easy Orange Yogurt Cake and Growing Strawberries

A simple, classic orange cake that tastes great with strawberries (recipe here).

One of the nice things about living in a very sparsely populated rural area is that when the first local strawberries of the season arrive at the only store in town, the owner is likely to personally call and give you a heads up because he remembers that you bought something like 20 quarts of strawberries last year and are a sucker for rarely available local fruit.

"One of the Amish down the road just brought in 40 quarts of strawberries that he picked this morning and needs to sell today because he can't sell on Sundays. Do you want some?" When he said they were grown by one of the two brothers who built our new sheep barn and hay barn a few years ago, and who I know gardens organically, I was sold.

More story below. . .

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Looking Back: A Tiny Tail for Mother's Day

Baby Cary in the greenhouse on May 19, 2006, age two weeks.

Once upon a time I had a little lamb. Her name was Cary, and she followed me wherever I went.

This is my twenty-first year living with sheep, and those few months back in the spring and summer of 2006 were definitely the sweetest and most special for me (and for the Nanny Bear).

If you'd like to read (or reread) our story, written on Mother's Day a week after little Cary was born, you'll find A Tiny Tail here.

Baby Cary and the Nanny Bear in the kitchen garden on May 27, 2006.

A very Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

Other Mother's Days:
5/12/07: Just in Time for Mother's Day. . .
5/11/08: Mother To Be
5/11/08: Newborn Bliss
5/8/12: Green Grass, Hungry Twins
5/13/12: Chomp, Chomp
5/12/13: Happy Mothers, Lots of Lambs
5/11/14: Lokey and Her 11 Baby Chicks

Cary and the Nanny Bear in the front field on September 4, 2006.

P.S. Cary is doing just fine, and at age nine, she is now one of the oldest members of our flock. (My big pet wether, Teddy, at 11, is currently the oldest sheep on the farm, and my first two pet wethers, Chip and Chip, who lived to be 13 and 15, hold the all-time farm record.)

I decided not to breed Cary again after that first traumatic experience, but she is still an important member of the group. I've noticed lately that she seems to be the new head ewe—at least where decisions regarding eating are concerned.

P.P.S. The Tail of Two Mothers, my other favorite Mother's Day story from the farm.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where there can never be too many mothers (or too much cute).

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Tuesday Dose of Cute: Marta Beast

Living up to her name.

It's hard to believe it's already been over six months since the last time we spent several hours shearing our beloved guard dog Marta—until you look at her. It's time to get some more doggy downers from the vet and do it again before she gets more matted and the job gets even more difficult.

She actually wouldn't look too bad if she would just stay away from all those dirt pits, mud puddles, and manure piles she loves to roll around in, but where's the fun in that?

We used to haul her to the groomer 40 miles away (which was an adventure in itself) for a yearly spring spa day cut, but the last time it took them over five hours and cost a small fortune—and they didn't seem real excited about ever seeing her again—so we bought a set of professional clippers (which cost much less than the visit to the groomer), asked the vet for some drugs to knock her out (the growling makes Joe nervous), and started doing it ourselves.

More Marta photos and story below. . .

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Dose of Cute: It's Monday?

Baaaaaaaaaa!

Wishing you a calm and peaceful week.

More sheep? Here and here.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the really wooly (when is that sheep shearer going to call?) foodie farm blog where I'm pretty much the only one around here who actually knows what day of the week it is. Everybody else thinks it's always the same one: Treatday.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Farm Photo: Have A Sweet Smelling Weekend.

Lilacs blooming in the kitchen garden.

Any plans this weekend? Mine are simple: spend as much time near the lilacs as possible.

Because of late spring frosts and early budding during winter heat waves, we don't often get many blooms on the lilac bushes down in our little valley. But this year the show is spectacular. It might just be the best one I've seen during my twenty-one Aprils in Missouri. Everybody's lilacs look fantastic.

We had an unexpected hard freeze on Monday night, but most of the flowers on our bushes survived just fine. 
Even the scraggly old lilac that sits at the base of the hill by the sheep barn, marking the site of one of the many houses that were down here when this was a thriving sawmill community in the 1920's and 30's, is full of flowers this year. And of course the air outside smells amazing.

During my first spring on this farm with Joe, I dug up several starts that had sprouted up around our ancient little lilac bush by the laundry line and put them into small plastic pots. I temporarily set them near the entrance to my newly enclosed kitchen garden while I figured out where I wanted to permanently locate them.

Fifteen years later, there is no moving that one nine-foot-tall—and at least that wide—bush which, despite its abusive beginnings, is much larger and healthier than its mother plant, no doubt due to the fact that for years it was flanked on three sides by compost bins. I still feel a pang of guilt, though, whenever I see that cluster of plastic pots, half buried in the ground and long broken apart by the now massive branches at the bush's base.

My original plan was to have a whole group of lilac bushes somewhere that created an overwhelming spring show of beauty and scent. For some reason, I never thought to dig up any more starts after that first forgotten batch settled into the ground; I guess it just seemed like it would take too long for them to grow. So instead I have this one giant bush that is pretty much always in the way of the door to the greenhouse and the garden gate.

I'll take it.

Want a bigger bouquet?
4/5/07: Lilacs! (and dozens of your lilac memories and stories)
3/22/08: Leaves on the Lilacs (plus lots more lilac memories)
4/11/10: Color Me Happy (and yet more of your sweet lilac stories)

© FarmgirlFare.com, where things rarely go according to plan, but that never stops us from making them.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Dose of Cute: Have a Fun Weekend.

Visiting young friends (and donkeys) enjoying treat time in Donkeyland. (Love longears? Lots more donkey pics here.)

Any plans this weekend? We're staying around the farm as usual (by choice). Joe will be busy with lawn care and yet more vehicle maintenance (not by choice). Last week we had to sneak along the gravel back roads into town in our back up back up vehicle so we could go vote. Sometimes I wish the guys at the auto parts store didn't know us quite so well.

On the other hand, lawn care means the grazing fields are also growing up, and that's just what we want this time of year. The sheep and donkeys are very tired of eating hay, especially when they can smell all that fresh green grass.

It looks like my mantra this weekend is going to be Garden, garden, garden, with hopefully lots of nice clean laundry blowing on the sunny line, or if it starts to cloud up, I'll hang it out as rain bait. We need as much moisture right now as we can get.

Between the warm weather and a few little thunderstorms over the past week, everything is growing so fast you can practically see it. In no time the woods are going to be completely filled in and leafed out, which even after all these years always kind of blows my mind.

Lots more farm and garden news below. . .

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Dose of Cute: Bear's Annual Tradition


He tiptoes through the tulips. . . and then he pees on them.

Wishing you an enjoyable week!

Want to get to know Bear better? Look here and here and here.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the real life foodie farm blog where we don't document everything that happens.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Recipe: Confetti Egg Salad with Salami, Olives, Scallions and Pimentos

Egg salad gets pepped up with black olives, pimentos, salami, scallions, and parsley. Colorful, fun, and it uses up a dozen hard boiled eggs! (recipe here)

I've been making this protein-packed Confetti Egg Salad since 2007 and still love having a bowl of it in the fridge. It's a fun dish for a picnic or potluck, makes a quick and filling lunch, and is a great healthy snack. I've even eaten it for breakfast.

The grated eggs give it a very nice, spread-like texture, and you can adjust the amount of mayonnaise to suit your taste. Put it on crackers, use it as a sandwich filling (perhaps on some freshly baked Four Hour Baguettes or easy to make Farmhouse White Bread?) or eat it straight out of a little dish with a spoon. It tastes even better if allowed to chill for a couple of hours before serving.

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

© FarmgirlFare.com, where egg production from our old laying hens (who pretty much took all of last summer, fall, and winter off) is miraculously ramping back up—now that we have 15 baby chicks coming in a couple of weeks. I see a lot of egg salad (and fried eggs, and scrambled eggs, and frittatas) in our future.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Recipe: Easy Chive and Sharp Cheddar Cheese Scones


These simple yet impressive scones are perfect for breakfast, brunch, and beyond (recipe here).

Light and moist on the inside, with a pleasant little crunch on the outside, my Savory Chive and Sharp Cheddar Scones are full of flavor and made with softened cream cheese instead of butter.

They would be lovely for an Easter brunch or Mother's Day lunch, but they mix up so quickly you don't need wait for a special occasion to serve them.

Offer them warm from the oven instead of rolls: plain, buttered, or with cream cheese, goat cheese, or homemade herbed yogurt cheese. I like to split and toast them in the toaster oven for breakfast, then slather both crunchy halves with butter. They're great for making little sandwiches, and I've even used them in place of burger buns.

These scones also freeze beautifully, so you can make them now and serve them later. No chives? Try my original scallion and feta cheese version instead—and learn how easy it is to grow your own chives here.

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 we're snip chiving away, snip chiving away-ay. Sorry, couldn't resist.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Growing Your Own Fresh Herbs: My Six Easy To Grow Favorites in the Kitchen Garden


Dividing and planting chives, one of my favorite herbs in the kitchen garden. Read more about them and my five other easy to grow favorites here.

Homegrown culinary herbs are an inexpensive luxury. They're easy to grow, cheap to keep, don't require lots of space or attention, and aren't usually bothered by diseases and pests, making them perfect for the organic garden. They're pretty to look at, bursting with flavor, and far fresher than those pricey little packets at the store, which may have been sprayed with toxic chemicals.

Have you always wanted to try growing your own herbs? Early spring is the perfect time to start an herb garden, and I'm here to give you a little push. You'll find lots of helpful information and inspiration in this post I wrote a while back, Growing and Using Your Own Fresh Herbs: My Six Favorite Varieties.

Chives, basil, Greek oregano, lemon thyme, Italian parsley, and lemon balm have been favorites in my organic kitchen garden for years, not only because they taste good, but because they've all done well in our challenging Missouri conditions. The bounty starts in spring, and I'm often still harvesting well into November. And because the chives, oregano, lemon thyme, and lemon balm are all cold tolerant perennials, that means you plant them once and they come back year after year.

Portable pots of heat loving lemon balm and Greek oregano surrounded by easy to grow Swiss chard in the unheated homemade greenhouse.

One of the nicest things about growing your own herbs is that, unlike many vegetables, you don't need a whole bushel to make a worthwhile harvest; just a little bit will go a long way. Many can be grown in pots, and most herb plants actually benefit from from being regularly snipped back, even when young.

You've really got nothing to lose, especially since young herb seedlings can often be purchased for less than those little "fresh" packets at the supermarket. So even if you end up killing all your plants, you'll most likely have eaten more than your money's worth from them first. Let's get growing!

Looking for more kitchen garden inspiration? Check out these posts.

© FarmgirlFare.com, where a little freshly snipped flavor goes a long way.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Farm Photos: Oops.


Looking out the bedroom window yesterday morning.

More photos below. . .

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wednesday Farm Photos: It's Spring!


Jasper is so much help in the kitchen garden. Not.

Spring: The time of year on a farm when it feels like you're already behind before it even begins.

Whew! The weeks of snow and ice finally ended and we went straight up into the 70's. My hunky farmguy Joe and I would actually prefer at least another month of winter—minus the treacherous layer of ice covering everything—but Mother Nature is having none of it.

The birds are chirping, the peepers are peeping, the grass is growing, the daffodils are blooming, and last week we saw at least a couple of thousand geese heading north. The butterflies are out and the rhubarb is up.

The kale and spinach and cilantro (which loves cold weather) and Swiss chard (so easy to grow!) that I managed to keep alive this winter despite single digit temps (some outside in raised beds, some in the unheated homemade greenhouse) are taking off and already finding their way into our nightly salads, along with the first freshly snipped chives.

More photos and story below. . .

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday Dose of Cute: Baa, Baa, Baa!


Merry Christmas!





Wishing you a joyful, peaceful, and beautiful holiday season.

— Susan, Joe, and 53 cute farm critters (including 7 donkeys; Dan just got pushed out of the picture)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Recipe: Quick and Easy (and Healthy!) Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan

Need a last-minute vegetable dish for your holiday table? These popular Quick & Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan are a scrumptious solution (recipe here).

Do you have any plans for Thanksgiving? Joe's brother is arriving from out of town tonight in time for a dinner of freshly ground venison burgers on homemade Farmhouse White buns, and on Thursday we're all going to our friends' house down the road for a big feast, an all-day homemade candy buffet (peanut brittle! fudge! divinity!), lots of laughs, and possibly a team Scrabble tournament. Last year we got there at 10 a.m. and stayed for 14 hours.

Assuming I can get my act together in the next two days (which is starting to look doubtful), I'm bringing my Easy Chocolate Biscotti and Toasted Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti, Mini Pecan Tarts, Savory Chive and Sharp Cheddar Cheese Scones, and this Napa Cabbage Broccoli Slaw with Radishes & Creamy Dijon Dressing, which I fall back in love with each year.

On Friday I'll be making a couple of pounds of  these Quick and Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts and eating them all myself.

This super popular recipe calls for just one bowl and one pan. There's no need to cut a little X in each stem or boil the sprouts before roasting. You don't even have to turn them while they're cooking. And oh, do they taste good.

Need more convincing? Here's what Farmgirl Fare readers are saying about this recipe:

—I ended up making this last night as the vegetable accompaniment to our meat and it was a great hit! Even my younger brother who is an avid veggie hater ate these up!

After reading your blog, I put a pan of these little cabbages in the oven last night. They never made it into a bowl. I had to try one, then two...Crunchy outside and butter soft inside.

I did the "simple" version with Orecchiette pasta and lots of parmesan. So savory and perfect! I never thought to cook them at such a high temp, but I loved it. Thanks!

Just made the "gussied up" version for a mid-morning snack :) My house smells heavenly and I am one happy camper. I stuck a handful of split fingerlings around the edge of the pan that were due to be eaten, and life is indeed good. I am sharing this recipe with everyone who will listen!

Made these slightly gussied up (no chickpeas) for Thanksgiving to rave reviews. Just delicious. And so easy!!!!!!!!

Wishing you a happy and filling Thanksgiving!

More Thanksgiving vegetable recipe inspiration from Farmgirl Fare:

© FarmgirlFare.com, where vegetables, donkeys, and dessert live peacefully ever after.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Green Tomato Salsa Relish Recipe: No Sugar, Super Simple, Totally Delicious!


Wondering what to do with green tomatoes? Try my no sugar, super simple, salsa-like green tomato relish. No blanching, peeling, or canning (unless you want to) required.

We've already had a couple of light frosts this year, but from the hot and humid weather we've been having lately you'd never guess it was the end of October in Missouri. By the end of the week they're saying it'll dip back down to 30 degrees F, though, and I think I'm ready to focus on the kale and other cool weather greens and finally call an end to tomato season in my kitchen garden.

It's become an annual Farmgirl Fare tradition to re-post this little shout out each year, and in the sales pitch below you'll find rave reviews from fans of my super popular No Sugar, Salsa-Like Green Tomato Relish Recipe, which is a tasty, easy way to use up all those green tomatoes still out on the vine. Enjoy!

If you'd rather have your tomatoes red, check out How To Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors the Really Easy Way on my kitchen garden blog.

And if your ripe tomatoes are still plentiful, learn How To Make Homemade Pizza Sauce Using Fresh Tomatoes or How To Freeze Tomatoes the Really Easy Way (and Why I Don't Do Much Canning Anymore), which includes links to all my tomato growing posts.

When the first frost threatens in fall, I pick all the remaining green tomatoes in the garden that I can. Green tomatoes will eventually ripen when stored indoors at room temperature (don't put them in the refrigerator!), although the flavor won't be nearly as nice as vine ripened (learn more about ripening tomatoes indoors here). Of course any homegrown tomato eaten on Thanksgiving or Christmas tastes fantastic, but why not celebrate their greenness instead?

I created this no sugar green tomato relish recipe
years ago for Kitchen Gardener magazine. It doesn't call for the usual raisins or spices and is really more like a thick salsa. It's easily adaptable to what you have on hand, and there's no blanching or peeling required—you just chop everything up and toss it into a pot. And since it'll keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, canning is optional.

But don't just take my word regarding this recipe. Here's what others have said about it over the years:

More below. . .

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Recipe: Italian Countryside Raw Tomato Pasta Sauce and a Tomato Growing Report


This simple and flavorful fresh tomato pasta sauce with basil, capers, and olives lets you escape to the Italian countryside for an end of tomato season celebration (recipe here).

Autumn already? Yes, please. The leaves have started to turn here in Missouri, and the oppressive heat and energy-sucking humidity of summer are history (I think). But just because we've already had a few nights down in the low 40s doesn't mean I'm giving up on the heirloom tomatoes and basil in my kitchen garden just yet.

As usual, I was late getting most of my tomato plants into the ground this spring, although I did manage to start them all from seed, along with a bunch of pepper plants, for the first time in years. Unfortunately I somehow forgot to start any basil seeds, despite probably having five or six different varieties in my stash, so I ended up with just a few purchased purple plants because by the time I realized I was basilless (new word), everybody was already sold out of green. (Got some beautiful purple basil? Here's what to do with it.)

My four sprawling gold nugget cherry tomato plants, which were loaded with sweet little fruits and planted first so I would get ripe tomatoes as soon as possible, were finished weeks ago; I highly recommend this cheerful variety.

And the usually prolific and flavorful San Marzanos are just about done after battling some kind of wilt all summer and offering up a small and lackluster harvest. It may have been the new (to me) strain of this classic paste heirloom that I tried, or maybe it was just the weather. You never know around here. We haven't been eating them all, so I've been drying a bunch for winter.

But the tasty and reliable VFN slicers (a disease resistant variety I bought from a tiny co-op back in 1995, my first year gardening in Missouri, and have been saving seeds from ever since) and the pink Arkansas Travelers, a pretty, longtime favorite with great flavor that tolerates heat and humidity really well, are finally just coming into their prime.

No problem. A few bed sheets draped over the plants on those cool nights and we're still good to go. After tomorrow night, it's supposed to be in the 80s during the day and stay up in the 50s for at least the next ten days, so I'm looking forward to a little more vine-ripened bounty before I bring all the green tomatoes indoors to ripen

This easy No-Cook Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce is my version of the simple, flavorful pasta sauce made with chopped raw tomatoes and uncooked seasonings that is eaten in country houses all over Italy, and it's the perfect way to celebrate the last juicy tomatoes of the season.

Capers, kalamata olives, garlic, and fresh oregano and basil amp up the Mediterranean flavors, while tossing the hot, drained pasta with some of the tomato sauce juice is a neat trick that makes the whole dish taste lustier. A hunk of crusty bread to sop up every last drop of sauce is optional. Enjoy!

So how did your tomatoes do this year? Any spectacular successes? Massive failures? Tips, tricks, brilliant discoveries? New favorite varieties from the garden or the farmers market?


© FarmgirlFare.com, always garden fresh.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Recipe: Easy Homemade Vegetable Tomato Juice (like V8 Juice, but better)

Easy Homemade V8 Juice (Vegetable Tomato Juice) - FarmgirlFare.com
Bye bye, V8 juice! This healthy, homemade V4 version will blow you away (recipe here).

Wow, it's hot out there. Two weeks in the 90s, blazing sun, and not a drop of rain. I think today it's supposed to hit 99 degrees (Joe won't let me look at the forecast) and stay there into next week. Despite twice daily watering, pretty much everything in my kitchen garden is looking haggard and unhappy. I'm drenched in sweat, and the fields are crunchy and parched. How can it be so dry and humid at the same time?

The sheep spend their days camped out in the shade, and the chickens are laying around panting. This may just be a typical late August in Missouri, but I can't help dreaming of cool breezes and a nice big thunderstorm. I'm sure they'll be here one of these days.

In the meantime, a chilled glass of this easy homemade vegetable tomato juice is a refreshing way to drink your garden veggies and keep up your stamina while working out in the heat.

This flavorful, rejuvenating juice is like Campbell's V8 juice but much better, and it's been one of the most popular recipes on Farmgirl Fare since I originally posted it back in 2008. Did you know V8 juice is mostly made from water and tomato paste, plus a frightening amount of salt?

Technically my gardener's delight version is only V4, though you could certainly add more vegetables, such as beets, spinach, carrots, or sweet peppers, if you like. Either way, the homemade version will blow that V8 away.

To make it, all you do is chop everything up and toss it into a pot, simmer until soupy, then put it through a food mill. It's a great way to use up overripe, imperfect, or just plain ugly tomatoes, which you can sometimes find for a deal at farmers' markets—or languishing in your own garden.

This juice will keep for at least a week in the fridge, or you can preserve it in glass jars (canning instructions are included in the recipe) to enjoy the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes on a deep winter day, when the heat and sweat of summer are nothing but a distant memory.

Stay cool if you can.

P.S. Quick and Easy Gazpacho (totally refreshing, chilled tomato vegetable soup) and Simple No-Cook Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce with Basil, Capers, and Kalmata Olives (escape to the Italian countryside!)