Monday, February 26

Finding More Foodies
& A Chance To Win $6,000

Hand Delivered California Sunshine

A few weeks ago my mother flew in from California for a week-long stay on the farm. Despite the fact that I was 45 minutes late picking her up at the airport, it had started to snow, and she really, really needed to pee, two seconds after a big hello hug she said, "I want to show you something!" and excitedly dove into her carry-on bag.

With a triumphant smile she pulled out a square plastic container the size of a sandwich and carefully pried off the lid, murmuring that she hoped "they didn’t get smashed." Nestled inside the container were six exquisite petits fours. Three looked like tiny pastel-colored, gift-wrapped packages, and three were shaped like animals. If I had squealed any louder I probably would have been escorted from the terminal by airport security.

Because I provide my mother with everything from overalls and turtlenecks to work gloves and rubber boots during her farm visits, there is plenty of available space in her luggage for transporting other, more important things. So along with the petits fours she arrived bearing two boxes of See’s Candy (custom-packed with my favorite varieties),
The Garlic Lovers’ Cookbook Volumes I and II (which look absolutely delicious), a couple of baking books, the empty container that had held her homemade lunch, and 26 freshly picked limes from the little tree in her front yard. She never travels without an ice pack and a small insulated zipper pouch and once presented me with a chilled piece of pink and white wedding cake she'd nabbed from a recently attended wedding reception.

Since there is no point in returning home with an empty suitcase, when I dropped my mother off at the airport, her various bags were painstakingly crammed with four
blueberry bran muffins, ten cranberry scones, a bag of baby coconut cookies, two dozen molasses ginger spice snaps, four chocolate walnut streusel bars, two apricot almond bars, two blueberry almond bars, half a dozen experimental ginger crunch things I’d made using a recipe clipped from a 1999 issue Gourmet magazine, a hunk of Chocolate Emergency Cake, a homegrown lamb salami sandwich on Farmhouse White (I swear I really will get around to posting this much requested recipe one of these days) with thinly sliced sharp cheddar and lots of mayonnaise, and two cans of pie cherries she found at the supermarket (because they cost so much less than they do back home). She once carried home a container of leftover roast leg of lamb and four loaves of my sourdough bread.

As you can see, foodieism runs in our family--and the secret is out. Knowing I would no doubt have the answer, last summer I received this concerned comment:

"This may sound a bit ridiculous coming from someone who has only just made her first batch of granola, and who only recently discovered breadmaking, but...... what are some of the symptoms of becoming a foodie? I fear I am beginning to develop them. Please, do tell!"

Rather than simply list a few of the characteristics that I personally think classify someone as a foodie, I decided it would be much more fun to put the question to Farmgirl Fare readers--and it was. Here are some of the responses I received. (Click
here to read the rest.)

You know you’re a foodie if. . .

--You’ll only eat chocolate your Dutch friend brings you directly from Holland (unless it is a DIRE emergency, and then you’ll resign yourself to a local specialty shop).

--You own five or more kinds of vinegar.

--You own five or more kinds of salt.

--You put the final touch on a dessert by saying "It just needs a little orange blossom water," and you actually have a bottle of orange blossom water in the cupboard.

--All the magazines you subscribe to are about food.

--You’re lying awake at night because you can’t sleep from the excitement of conjuring up a new recipe.

--Your first word (before "mama" or "dada") was "cookie"--and your spouse’s first word was "cheese."

--You work at a bookstore, and when one of your colleagues excitedly tells you that five gorgeous young men have arrived, wearing only aprons and tight boxer shorts, to promote a new cookbook, your response is: "Ooh, did they bring food?"

--You return home from a family Christmas and take your entire bag of presents straight to the kitchen to unpack it.

--Your husband is embarrassed to take you out to eat because of the moaning noises you make while eating something incredible.

--You just won’t stop fiddling with old family recipes--and your mother actually thinks your versions are better.

--Before traveling to a new destination, the first thing you do is scour the Internet (and your friends’ brains) for information on the local dining scene.

--All your friends who are traveling call you first to ask if you know a good place to eat at their destination.

--Your husband has put you on a condiment moratorium, telling you that you must use up all the fancy-ass stuff you buy when you travel before you bring home any more.

--When you walk into Sur La Table with your teenaged daughter, she calls it "The Mothership."

--Some of your best friends are farmers, ranchers, and chefs.

--Your family knows better than to touch a beautiful plate of food until you’ve had a chance to photograph it.

--You’ve caught yourself dreaming of food and chewing it in your sleep.

Let's add to this list. Are you a foodie? How do you know? Was there some defining moment in your life when you realized you had crossed over the line between living on food and living for food--or did you gradually just keep coming down with more and more symptoms until the diagnosis was blatantly obvious?

Do you routinely harvest dinner in the dark? Has it been suggested to you that if you want your salad that fresh perhaps you should be out grazing with the sheep? After a week long visit with your mother, did your significant other turn to you and say, in a slightly uneasy whisper, "All you two talked about was food!"? Those would all be me. So what about you?

Win A New Kitchen Contest!
Now, what foodie couldn't use some extra cash to upgrade the state of his or her culinary preparation space? There's a wonderful new place for foodies to mingle called Group Recipes, and they're giving away $6,000 toward a new kitchen to celebrate their official launch.

All you have to do is
join Group Recipes (which is free, takes about 2 minutes, and is something you'll want to do anyway), and you'll automatically be entered in the contest. The winner will receive a $6,000 gift card to their choice of one of the following stores: Lowe's, Home Depot, or Sears. (If you're outside the U.S. or don't have access to any of these stores, you'll receive the monetary equivalent.)

What is Group Recipes?
In their own words, "Group Recipes wants to be the world's neatest food site. The project's goal is to harness the tastebuds of the masses to create a really useful resource for food lovers."

At Group Recipes you can create your own food page, meet other foodies, have Roger the Recipe Robot learn about your tastes and predict recipes you will like or dislike, share & discover great places to eat in your home town, join and/or create groups of like-minded foodies (Food Styling & Photography, Chocolate Dreams, Comfort Foods, and Organic Sustainable Farming are some of the groups I belong to), and of course discover oodles of new recipes.

Don't want to commit to keeping a food blog? Share your recipes on Group Recipes instead!

Sounds pretty tasty, doesn't it? The contest ends at midnight on Tuesday March 6th, so don't delay--click
here to join Group Recipes and enter the $6,000 New Kitchen Giveway today!

Saturday, February 24

Farm Photo: 2/24/07

Curious & Oblivious (Also Known As Patchy Cat & Robin)

A year of Farm Photos ago:
2/24/06: Falling To Pieces
2/23/06: Cold Heart
2/22/06: It's A Boy! It's A Girl! It's A Boy!
2/21/06: Note To Self Re Snowstorm Preparation: Think Tarp
Snow Dance
And Chickens On Snow (Not A Recipe)

And out of the kitchen came:
Susan's Super Spinach Soup

Welcome new visitors!

here for a brief introduction to this site.

Wednesday, February 21

My Best Healthy Bran Muffin Recipe With 100% Whole Grains, No Refined Sugar, and No Cereal

100% whole grain blueberry bran muffins made without cereal -
Moist and delicious, fiber-filled blueberry wheat and oat bran muffins made without bran cereal—healthy never tasted so good.

Update: The flavor possibilities are endless! See the comments section for all sorts of tasty variations. You may also enjoy my 100% Whole Grain Ginger Pear Bran Muffin Recipe or my 100% Whole Grain Carrot, Raisin, and Zucchini Bran Muffins.

You might think that someone who once packed up all of her belongings and moved, sight unseen, a couple of thousand miles away to a place where she had no job, no family, and no real idea of what she was doing would be quite an adventurous eater—always anxious to try something new, never ordering the same thing twice.

And while I'm sure people like this do exist, I am definitely not one of them. The pursuit of good, honest food may be the central theme around our farm and in my life, but the truth is that I'm the type of person who will happily fall into a very deep food rut.

I don't find it tiresome to eat the same dinner four or five nights in a row, and I happen to believe that one of the tastiest things in the entire world is
homemade leftover anything.

These are handy qualities to have if much of your food comes from the farmers' market or the kitchen garden, as I've come to realize that the true definition of eating seasonally means you devour something for so many meals on end that you don't even want to think about it until next year.

At breakfast time my routine pattern of eating is more like a bottomless pit. It's a good thing I don't live anywhere near a Chinese bakery, since I could probably eat a warm baked pork bun every morning for the next 20 or 30 years.

Because life on a farm is defined by a never ending series of surprises, you really can't plan ahead or count on much of anything. This, of course, is what makes it so interesting. It also means that I find a great deal of comfort in something as simple as knowing exactly what my morning meal will be for the next several months.

For a while I was stuck on oatmeal with wild blackberries from the freezer. Then I latched onto a tasty banana bran muffin recipe, but it took me longer to wash the muffin tin than it did to make the muffins. Using paper liners didn't help, as ridiculous amounts of muffin stuck to them. Of course none of this kept me from consuming a couple hundred of them—or motivated me to come up with a non-stick version.

After the bran muffins came whole grain cold cereal with milk. But not long after buying 11 boxes of cereal on sale, I got a hankering for bran muffins. I refused to go back to those annoying pan stickers, so I set out to create an entirely new recipe. Thankfully it didn't take long to come up with a winner.

My long held pet peeve regarding bran muffin recipes is that they almost always include bran cereal. Why make muffins from scratch using overpriced (and often over-processed) cereal when pure organic bran is available for a few cents per serving? I recently came across a recipe that had the nerve to call for two different kinds of cereal.

My bran muffins are made without cereal. They are made with 100% whole grains, including plenty of both oat bran and wheat bran (giving you soluble and insoluble fiber at once), yet they don't taste like sawdust or have the consistency of little bricks.

I baked up a batch of the blueberry bran version during my foodie mother's most recent visit
, and she declared them the best muffins—not just the best bran muffins—she'd ever tasted. The honey and molasses add moisture and flavor and are better for you than refined sugar. (Update: my mother has since become the Queen of Bran Muffins, baking them for everyone from the staff at her dentist's office to visiting houseguests. Her current favorite flavor is mixed berry.)

You can start with the basic plain version or go straight to one of the variations listed at the end of the recipe. The blueberries will deliver copious amounts of antioxidants along with bursts of juicy flavor. Adding mashed bananas to the batter will give you a very moist muffin. I think they all taste better the next day.

My favorite way to eat these muffins is cut in half and spread with peanut butter and jam. Add a glass of milk, and I'm good to go for four or five hours. They make an excellent breakfast on the run or afternoon pick-me-up snack for both kids and adults.

The best thing about them is that they freeze beautifully.

This is health food of the highest order, disguised as simply good tasting food. When you serve these muffins there's no need for justification or explanation. No one has to know that you're packing them with nutrients and possibly increasing their life span—only that you baked them with love.

I have some ideas for other muffin flavor variations, but for now I'm more than set. Check back with me in a couple of years.

Update: Thanks so much to all of you who have left comments below, letting me know how much you enjoyed this recipe—and, more importantly, for sharing all the wonderful different variations you've made!

100% whole grain cranberry orange bran muffins made without processed sugar and bran cereal -
Cranberry Orange Bran Muffins—say goodbye to store bought

Farmgirl Susan's Basic Bran Muffin Recipe
Makes about 9 large muffins

** Click here to print this recipe **

It doesn't take long to whip up a batch of these delicious, healthy muffins. This is not a temperamental batter, so feel free to experiment by stirring in whatever fruits or nuts or other things you like into the basic recipe—or try one of my other versions listed after the recipe. You can also check the comments section below for more tasty variations from Farmgirl Fare readers.

I've included the weights of each of the ingredients, so if you have a digital kitchen scale (I love my
Oxo Good Grips 11-pound scale) you can simply place your bowl on the scale and pour stuff in without having to mess with measuring cups. Just be sure to zero out the scale after adding each ingredient.

Update: Over the past few years I've noticed that the texture and weight of wheat brans can vary considerably, and some are much heavier than others. This can also happen with oat bran. If you're weighing your brans, you might want to also portion them out in measuring cups the first time, (which is how I measured them when I first created the recipe) and if you've weighed out significantly more or less bran than the recipe calls for, consider altering the amounts.

Liquid ingredients are listed by weight—not fluid ounces—so you can pour them straight into the bowl on the scale, too. When adding the baking soda, baking powder, and salt, I recommend weighing in grams or using measuring spoons, as most home kitchen scales are not precise enough to accurately weigh such tiny amounts in ounces.

As always, I urge you to seek out
organic and local ingredients whenever possible. Organic wheat bran, oat bran, and whole wheat flour are often bargain priced when purchased from the bulk bins at natural food stores.

Organic milk and yogurt are available nearly everywhere (you might even try making homemade yogurt, which tastes wonderful and is really easy to do
). Look for interesting flavors of local honey at farmers' markets.

Every summer I buy
5 gallons of fresh blueberries from a nearby organic grower and freeze them in one-gallon zipper bags to be enjoyed all year long. An outing to a pick-your-own farm is a wonderful way to spend the day with kids and take home some delicious bounty. Click here to locate one in your area (includes listings in several countries).

2 cups (5¾oz / 164g) organic wheat bran
1 cup (5oz / 141g) organic oat bran
1 cup (6oz / 170g) organic whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons (12g) baking soda
1 teaspoon (6g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (4g) salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (5oz by weight / 156g) milk
2/3 cup (5½oz / 156g) yogurt
1/3 cup (2¼oz / 65g) safflower oil
(or other neutral oil or coconut oil or melted organic butter)
1/3 cup (3¾oz / 108g) molasses (not blackstrap) or cane syrup
1/3 cup (3¾oz / 108g) honey
1 teaspoon (6g) pure vanilla extract

Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 375°. Grease a standard size muffin pan or line the cups with unbleached baking cups. I love my Chicago Metallic commercial muffin pans—I spray them with coconut oil spray and the muffins come right out of the pan, leaving hardly any mess.

Combine the wheat bran, oat bran, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the eggs, milk, yogurt, canola oil, molasses, and honey in a small bowl and mix well. (Note: you can use all honey or all molasses instead if desired.)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until combined.

Generously fill the muffin cups with batter. I use a large stainless steel scoop, which is also great for portioning out cookie dough. I have several sizes and have been using some of them for 25 years.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the muffins in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes, then carefully remove them and serve warm, or let them cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy your muffins plain, drizzled with a little honey, or spread with peanut butter and a slather of your favorite jam (apricot is very nice, as is strawberry; I love Trader Joe's Organic Reduced Sugar Preserves).

Store muffins in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze. (I think they taste even better the second day.) Defrost muffins at room temperature, or in the microwave if you're in a hurry.

Blueberry Bran Muffins
Makes about 10 large muffins. Follow Basic Bran Muffin recipe, but gently fold 1½ cups (7½ oz/214g) fresh or frozen blueberries into the batter. There is no need to defrost frozen berries, but do quickly rinse off any ice with cold water. Note to blueberry lovers: I made a batch of these yesterday and, using my MoreMoreMore philosophy, crammed 2 cups of big fat blueberries into the batter—yum.

Blueberry Banana Bran Muffins
Makes 12-14 large and very moist muffins. Follow Basic Bran Muffin recipe, but stir mashed very ripe banana (2 small bananas, about 9 oz/255g including the peel) into wet ingredients. Then gently fold 1½ cups (7½ oz/214g) fresh or frozen blueberries into the finished batter. Baking time may need to be increased to 25 to 28 minutes.

Cranberry Orange Bran Muffins
Makes about 10 large muffins. Follow Basic Bran Muffin recipe, but replace the 2/3 cup milk with 2/3 cup orange juice and omit the vanilla extract. Stir 1 cup (4½ oz/127g) orange-flavored dried cranberries (I recently discovered these at Trader Joe's and think they're wonderful) or regular dried cranberries to finished batter. For muffins with more orange flavor, stir 1 teaspoon finely chopped or grated orange zest into the wet ingredients.

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

©, the fiber-filled foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories and photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and sometimes we throw breakfast caution to the wind and start our day with a hunk of chocolate cake and a large glass of ice-cold milk instead of healthy muffins. It's good to live dangerously sometimes.

Monday, February 19

Farm Photo 2/19/07: I Love Black Sheep!

Suffolk sheep (which is what I mostly have) are known for having white bodies with black faces and legs, but Suffolk lambs are often born covered with adorable black spots and splotches. (Chip and Chip, my 11-year-old pet wethers, were so named because curled up together as newborns they resembled two scoops of chocolate chip ice cream.)

Some lambs, like Cary and her twin brother, are actually born completely black. But the spots quickly fade away, and even the fully black lambs eventually become white.

More below. . .

Sunday, February 18

2/18/07 Farm Photos: Scenes from Sheep Shearing Day 2007

One-month-old Baby Cary spent Sheep Shearing Day 2006 safely tucked in a makeshift playpen adjacent to all the action.

More below. . .

Sunday, February 11

Farm Photo 2/11/07: Cary's First Woolcut

Scenes From Sheep Shearing Day 2007

Cary before. . .

Cary during. . .

More photos and story below. . .

Wednesday, February 7

Farm Photo 2/7/07: Cary Coming At You!


Baby Cary is 9 months old today—and she's about to get her first haircut!

Don't know who Cary is? Click here to read her story. And click here to catch up with what she's been doing over the years.

Late Afternoon Update: So, um, I messed up for the second month in a row. Cary actually turned 9 months old yesterday. I thought about just trying to let this totally embarrassing screw up slip by, but I figured somebody would bust me.

As for all that lovely snow and ice? Yesterday it was a freaky 67 degrees (with lots of sunshine) and everything melted just like that. Today it was back down in the 30s. Weird.

The biggest news of the day, though, is that Cary and the other 54 sheep have been successfully sheared. But photos will have to wait, as there are treats for the sheep that need to be passed out, and treats for my visiting mother (aka Vital Member Of The Shearing Crew) to be made. I've promised her a dinner of garden haricots verts (by way of the freezer), warm crusty bread, and lamb ribs (yes, we do eat some of the lambs we raise, it's the best lamb I've ever tasted, one of these days I'll get around to writing more about my meat eating practices and opinions as people are constantly asking me about them, and don't worry—nobody is ever going to eat Cary!). Tomorrow night we'll be having her favorite pizza (my mom's, not Cary's).

Then an hour or so ago she casually mentioned she'd never had one of my Emergency Chocolate Cakes, so there is frozen butter softening by the woodstove. Oh, plus there's been a request for cranberry orange scones for breakfast. (Her motto when she visits is, "I work for food!" and over a lunch of Spur Of The Moment Summer Squash Soup—hers topped with thinly sliced Monterey jack cheese & tomatillo salsa, mine with a dollop of sour cream—we mapped out our menu for the week). Okay, I've just been informed that it's 4:30, the living room is still cold, and there's no more firewood on the porch. Now I hear Cary calling to me from outside. I guess I'd better get going. . . (I hope to answer more of your questions soon!)

A year of Farm Photos ago:
2/7/06: My Seed Starting Headquarters (check the comments section in this post for some helpful tips on starting your own seeds). And click here to read about my two favorite seed companies, plus my favorite edible gardening book for the past six years.
2/6/06: Tree Sock Laundry Day?

© Copyright

Monday, February 5

Farm Photo: 2/5/07

Hay Checkoint

A year of Farm Photos ago:
Lucky 13 Still Likes To Be First Through Any Gate
WDB #20:
And You Thought He Just Herded & Protected Them
WCB #35:
New Cat Under Cover

Welcome new visitors!

Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Saturday, February 3

Farm Photo 2/3/07: Sheep Shearing Delays

Lucky Buddy Bear—Stock Dog Extraordinaire

Slight change of plans. Since this is about the least treacherous stretch of our steep and curving (and very icy) driveway, we cancelled last Thursday's scheduled sheep shearing session. We didn't want our sheep shearer to make it down the driveway and then not be able to climb back out.

The last thing I want to do is annoy him in any way, as sheep shearers are few and far between around here, and this guy is really good. When I heard he was out of commission last year due to a broken leg, I started making panicky phone calls looking for a substitute shearer and came up empty.

Fortunately he was a fast healer, and late in the season I managed to sweet talk him out of his convalescence and into coming out and shearing our overheated sheep.

More below. . .