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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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:
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?
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.
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.
Scared of pie dough? This easy biscuit crust is perfect for beginners (recipe here).
It's become an annual tradition to give this longtime favorite recipe from the Farmgirl Fare recipe archives a little summer shout out. My San Marzano tomatoes are finally starting to ripen and the basil plants are growing like mad; I can't wait to make one of these scrumptious pies. Enjoy!
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. The other day 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'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. . .
These scrumptious sandwiches, piled high with salami, mozzarella, marinated artichoke hearts, and an easy homemade green olivada, combine the flavors of an Italian antipasto platter in a handy, portable form (recipe here).
As we head toward the 4th of July weekend, I thought I'd highlight a few favorites from the Farmgirl Fare recipe archives that are perfect for summer picnics, parties, and backyard get togethers. Enjoy!
The only thing better than a big homemade sandwich? One that actually improves in flavor if allowed to sit for a while. Convenient and better tasting? That's my kind of food.
These Antipasto Baguette Sandwiches taste best when prepared the day before serving, making them perfect for toting on picnics, hikes, and road trips, or even packing in school and work lunches. Or just enjoy the simple pleasure of knowing that a delicious feast is waiting for you in the fridge.
If you're serving a crowd, you can use a 16- to 20-ounce loaf of rustic bread and double the ingredients to make one giant sandwich; serve on a cutting board with a big serrated knife.
Offer a bowl of colorful cherry tomatoes on the side, or make a quick salad by tossing chopped garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers with some of the homemade green olive paste or a simple vinaigrette.
A healthy, crunchy slaw that's made with cabbage, scallions, carrots, and sweet peppers and tossed with a tangy lemon caper dressing (recipe here).
As we head toward the 4th of July weekend, I thought I'd highlight a few favorites from the Farmgirl Fare recipe archives that are perfect for summer picnics, parties, and backyard get togethers. Enjoy!
If you love coleslaw but are tired of the same old mayo-heavy recipes, liven and lighten things up with this colorful, flavor-packed version of an all-American classic. It goes well with all sorts of summer meals and is great to have on hand in the fridge for a healthy snack or the fastest dinner salad ever. I even like it for breakfast.
The tangy lemon caper dressing, which is made with mayonnaise and yogurt and lots of Dijon mustard, can be quickly mixed up a day or two in advance; it also makes a tasty dip. A few months ago I started making my own milk kefir, and this time I used some in place of the yogurt. Yum.
Hit the farmer's market for fresh homegrown vegetables and this easy recipe will really shine. You won't believe how much flavor plain old raw cabbage can have.
This classic, homestyle bread is a staple in my farmhouse kitchen.
Have you ever played FarmVille? Apparently I'm one of the few people who hasn't. Tens of millions of people play FarmVille every month, and over 400 million (!) people have played a FarmVille game. I have a feeling that if I didn't have an actual farm of my own, I'd probably be hooked.
The world of FarmVille is all about creating fresh, country recipes, and it's time to bring the virtual kitchens of FarmVille to life. When Zynga asked if I would like to have one of my recipes featured in their upcoming FarmVille-To-Table Digital Cookbook (and possibly in a FarmVille game itself!) I said sure.
What recipe did I choose? My super popular Farmhouse White of course. There's nothing more rewarding in the kitchen than baking your own bread, and after 20 years, I'm still awed by the process.
The original Farmhouse White recipe post has already been pinned more than 23,000 times on Pinterest(thank you!), and over the years I've heard from countless former nervous novices who are now confident bread bakers thanks to Farmhouse White.
I've been making this recipe for 14 years and have watched plenty of people who claim they never eat white bread gobble slices up.
Heirloom lettuce direct seeded in the kitchen garden the first part of April. Want to grow your own gourmet lettuce from seed? In this popular post I show you that it's easier than you think!
Do you have any plans this weekend? We usually hunker down at home for the holidays, though I do wish I'd thought to buy some potato chips the last time we were out.
In between munching on homemade sourdough rye French bread (a new experiment—so good toasted and topped with melty cheese and freshly laid fried eggs) and as much of this gorgeous lettuce as possible (we're racing the heat clock here), I'll be trying to get 50+ heirloom tomato plants, a few dozen heirloom pepper plants (after a several year break, I'm finally back to starting my tomatoes and peppers from seed!) and a bunch of other stuff in the ground.
Do you like black cats? I've always loved them, and I know I'm not the only one. I even have a book left over from my previous life as a graphic designer called The Black Cat Made Me Buy It!, filled with antique and modern packaging and advertisements featuring black cats.
But black cats aren't so popular at animal shelters. In fact, they're by far the least likely cats to be adopted. There are various theories regarding this sad statistic, including the whole bad luck/superstitious thing. Another reason is because black cats simply don't photograph as well as lighter colored cats, which explains why there's often a surplus of black dogs at shelters too.
Back in the fall of 2007 we were down to just one indoor cat, so my hunky farmguy Joe suggested that I head to our local overcrowded, underfunded animal shelter and adopt a couple of new cats. And then he let me go there alone.
Hi! What have you been up to? We've been busy tackling lots of little outdoor projects, digging in the kitchen garden, mowing grass (already!), playing catch-up after several weeks of both being down with the flu, getting the sheep sheared and the lambs sold, baking lots of sourdough French bread, mourning the death of my camera, enjoying the biggest and brightest daffodil display we've had in years, trying to figure out why I haven't been able to access Blogger (and create blog posts) on my computer in months, snuggling sheep and petting donkeys, picking gorgeous salad greens every night, getting to know our wonderful new (old) beagle, Henry, who is our sixth (!) dog, creating an enclosed outdoor play area for George and Skittles, the two cats that live in The Shack who I don't think you've ever actually met, buying manuals and tracking down all the parts so we can rebuild the engine on our little old diesel tractor that's been out of commission for over a year (because we can't find anyone to fix it for us), watching the deer and wild turkeys out in the hayfield, listening to what sounds like thousands of tiny birds chirping in the trees, eating homemade yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting, building a new cedar potting bench (because my old one collapsed several years ago), hunting for useful treasures at the junk store, admiring the hillsides full of blooming dogwoods, plotting and planning, dreaming and scheming . . . It's already been quite a spring!