Friday, November 30

Recipe: What To Do With Kohlrabi? Purée It!

And Eating by Silly Food Rules

These resprouted purple kohlrabi plants are very, very safe.

Life is complicated. Something as basic as eating shouldn't be, but leave it to us humans to let this vital, natural act all but take over our lives. Even though most of us now have the luxury of hunting and gathering our food from the farmers' market and garden and grocery store rather than out in the wilds, we nevertheless think about it constantly.

But instead of worrying whether we'll be able to take down a bison to feed us through the winter, our days are now dominated by smaller, more specific—and yet still often overwhelming
details, such as figuring out how to produce meals that will simultaneously support our health, our budget, and the never ending desire to lose ten pounds.

But it's the often ridiculous rules and rationalizations we've come up with that really send us over the edge of edible obsession. You know, those little things that make perfect sense only because you've conveniently convinced yourself that they do.

For instance, some people believe that calories don't actually count if you've snitched the food from someone else's plate. Or that a healthy breakfast can consist of an enormous hunk of chocolate cake as long as it's accompanied by a large glass of milk (this would be me).

Nitrate-fearing health nuts will gleefully wolf down a mile-long hot dog if they're sitting in a sports stadium, and people who would never allow a bag of refined sugar into their homes are routinely seen walking around carnivals with their faces buried in clouds of cotton candy.

Some people are more practical, only consuming certain foods if they're in season, or setting spending limits and refusing to pay more than a dollar for a can of tuna or 89 cents for a bunch of parsley.

Then there's the inordinate number of us who know that when it comes to eating, anything goes if you're on vacation.

The beauty of vegetables is highly underrated.

Ever since I moved to the country and started planting an enormous kitchen garden, many of my self-imposed food laws have to do with buying fruits and vegetables. If I don't
or can'tgrow something, then I have no problem paying for it.

But plunking down cash for so-so stuff that I have in great abundance at certain times of the year? Can't do it. Swiss chard from the supermarket? Certainly not. Kale? I can't. Tomatoes? No way. It's the same with basil, turnips, arugula, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, sweet peppers, pak choy, radishes, strawberries, and all sorts of other stuff.

In a moment of weakness last summer I forked over two dollars for a miniscule packet of fresh dill—which grows wild in my garden but never when the cucumbers are ready—and the stress almost killed me.

I do, however, make a few exceptions for year round essentials that I grow but not well (or not enough of), such as onions, broccoli, and parsley. And if I could find a decent source for it, I would probably buy kohlrabi every single week.

Kohlrabi, from the German words kohl (cabbage) and rabi (turnip), is not actually a cabbage or a turnip. Cultivated in Europe since at least the mid 1500's, this cold loving member of the brassica (cabbage) family is low in calories, high in fiber, and a good source of several vitamins and minerals. Although kohlrabi has been grown the U.S. since at least the early 1800's, it still has yet to become very popular.

Sweet and mildly flavored, kohlrabi can be braised, boiled, stuffed, sliced, scalloped, steamed, julienned, roasted, and sautéed. You can grate it into slaw, toss it into salads, slip it into soups and stews, snack on it raw with dip, and stir-fry it. You can even wrap it in foil and grill it.

I've seen recipes where kohlrabi was covered in cream, sautéed with anchovies, stuffed into empanadas, fried into cakes, served with hollandaise sauce, and turned into a cinnamon brunch bake. This vegetable is versatile.

(2011 Update: Farmgirl Fare readers offer up even more ideas for what to do with kohlrabi in the comments section of this post.)

Unfortunately all of these cooks are wasting their time
and their kohlrabi. For in my opinion, the only thing you should ever be doing with kohlrabi is turning it into purée. Trust me.

So what are your silly food rules? Come on, I won't tell anyone.

Purple Kohlrabi in the kitchen garden - Farmgirl Fare
Purple kohlrabi in my kitchen garden (read about growing kohlrabi here)

Kohlrabi Purée Recipe
Serves up to six
Adapted slightly from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins (authors of The Silver Palate Cookbook)

**Click here to print this recipe**

The Silver Palate ladies, who are self-described kohlrabi fans, say that "kohlrabi, once tasted, can become an obsession, for it seems to exude freshness," and liken it to an almost peppery version of broccoli. They do include two other kohlrabi recipes besides this purée in The New Basics Cookbook (which is one of my all time favorite cookbooks), but I figure that's only because their editor told them they had to.

Kohlrabi is usually available from May to December and comes in both white- (which is actually green) and purple-skinned varieties. The insides of both are white. Since my motto is, Why go with green if you can choose purple instead? I always grow the purple variety in my organic kitchen garden.

Look for kohlrabi bulbs that are about 2½ inches in diameter. Any larger and the skin may toughen and need to be peeled, and the insides can be woody. Freshly picked kohlrabi will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

You'll need both the bulb and the leaves for this recipe, which is where my problem comes in. By the time the bulbs have formed on the plants, insects have usually ravaged the leaves. They'll grow back if given the chance, as you can see in the top photo of these old plants I discovered buried under weeds last fall, but by then the bulbs will no longer be edible. Fortunately the young leaves are wonderful in salads.

This spring all the leaves remained untouched, but most of the plants never formed bulbs. Apparently this cool season vegetable doesn't care for our drastic late winter and early spring temperature fluctuations. But I did manage to harvest kohlrabi enough to make one batch of this glorious purée.

You can read more about my experiences growing kohlrabi (with other gardeners chiming in in the comments section) here.

If you don't have any kohlrabi leaves, kale would probably make a good substitute.

Kohlrabi plants are beautiful. Kohlrabi purée is not, which is why I haven't included a photo. This is actually a good thing, because if you believe that guests should only be served food that is pleasing to look at, you can save this recipe for a time when you only need to feed yourself.

Rosso and Lukins suggest serving kohlrabi purée alongside your favorite meatloaf instead of mashed potatoes, but I turned it into a main course and managed to devour an embarrassingly large amount while standing in the kitchen.

I've adapted the recipe slightly, mostly because I'm not the type of person who ever has 3 Tablespoons of chicken stock hanging around in the fridge. The mushrooms add a nice flavor, but I've left them out before, and the purée still tasted delicious.

4 kohlrabi bulbs with leaves
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion
, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces cultivated mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas), quartered
3 Tablespoons cream (or milk, chicken stock, olive oil, or water)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Trim the kohlrabi bulbs, peeling them if the skins seem tough. Rinse the leaves (discarding any that are yellow) pat them dry, and coarsely chop. Set aside. But the bulbs into 1-inch chunks.

2. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, and add the kohlrabi chunks. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, another 1 to 2 minutes. Don't let the garlic brown.

4. Add the mushrooms and the reserved kohlrabi leaves to the skillet. Cover, and cook 5 minutes. Then uncover, and cook, stirring, until all the liquid has evaporated, 3 minutes. Set the skillet aside.

5. Drain the kohlrabi chunks and place them in the bowl of a food processor (I love my 12-cup KitchenAid processor). Add the mushroom mixture and the cream (or whatever substitute you're using). Purée until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

6. Transfer the purée to a saucepan and reheat over low heat, stirring, 2 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 6 portions. (I love that they don't actually say it will 'serve' six people, but that it does indeed make six portions.)

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

©, the fresh veggie foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres
—and we're nuts about kohlrabi.

Sunday, November 25

Farm Photo 11/25/07: Looking For Some Action

10:46 am


Six-year-old Lucky Buddy Bear is half Australian Shepherd and half English Shepherd, and he likes to stay busy. I know he enjoys his life on the farm, but sometimes I get the feeling he's severely underworked.

Want to see more? Here are photos of Bear (mostly) in action:
10/16/05: Evening Roundup
2/3/06: Stock Dog Extraordinaire
I'll Spring To Life If There's Trouble
3/5/06: Add Babysitting To Bear's Job Description
Resting But Ready For Anything
Now That's A Dedicated Dog
10/1/06: Bodyguard or Nanny Bear?
10/15/06: Veggie Patrol
Sheep Shearing Day Duties
Gang Activity
3/27/07: Hanging With Newborn Twins
Dog Inspection
9/3/07: Squirrel!
9/30/07: It's A Stock Dog's Life

And you'll find more Bear photos & stories

©, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Friday, November 23

Easy & Delicious $6 Holiday Gift Idea: Homemade Beer Bread Mix In A Beautiful Baking Pan

Plus Get A Free Subscription To Bon Appetit or Gourmet!

I Love These Chicago Metallic Commercial Loaf Pans

Bake them a loaf of beer bread, and they'll eat well for a day. Give them a package of homemade beer bread mix, a beer bread recipe, and a handy dandy loaf pan, and they'll eat well for the rest of their lives.

Two years ago I put up a post called Beyond Easy Beer Bread: A Warm Crusty Loaf In Under An Hour, and it's been my most popular blog post ever since. There are a lot of you out there wanting to know how to make your own beer bread. Like about 700 a week. Who knew?

Many people first taste beer bread that was made from a mix. Then they start wondering if they can make their own beer bread from scratch. The answer is yes! In about five minutes. In fact, once you realize just how few ingredients there are in beer bread (flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, & beer), it's difficult to believe that anyone would have the nerve to market beer bread mix. And yet I've seen packages of it selling for upwards of eight dollars.

So why not make up a few batches of your own signature homemade beer bread mix to give away during the holidays? Just tuck a zipper or ribbon-tied bag of the dry mix into a colorful tin or even a brown paper bag tied with a festive ribbon and voila!--a charming, scrumptious gift suitable for practically any occasion. Include baking instructions written or printed out on a simple card: all they have to do is stir a 12-ounce bottle of beer into the mix, spread it in a pan, and pop it in the oven.

Onion Rye Beer Bread

There are endless flavor variations of beer bread possible, including dill & cheddar, garlic & herb, and Italian. Simply add whatever you desire to the basic dry mix. You can also make whole wheat and onion rye versions. Click here to read my recipes for beer bread and the dry beer bread mix, as well as several flavor variations.

For an even niftier gift, create an all-in-one Beer Bread Kit: nestle the beer bread mix and a bottle of beer in one of my favorite Chicago Metallic commercial loaf pans, which come with a 25-year warranty and are also great for baking yeast breads and cakes. They're on sale right now at for a ridiculously low $5.75 each, with no tax and free shipping on orders over $25. Plus they're part of the 4-for-3 promotion that is currently going on: Buy any 4 eligible items and get the lowest-priced item free. So if you buy 4 loaf pans, you'll get one of them free. (There are over 100,000 eligible products including select Books, CDs, DVDs, Single Copy Magazines, Home & Garden items, and Home Improvement tools. Click here for more information on the promotion and to see all the products.)

11/24 Update: Well, rats. I was afraid this might happen. has run out of stock of these loaf pans again, so they're temporarily being offered from a different seller at a higher price ($9.95, which is still a good price) and aren't eligible for free shipping or the 4-for-3 promotion. Hopefully they'll be back in stock and on sale again soon--you might check back in a day or two. My apologies for any confusion or disappointment. 11/29 Update: They're back in stock at $5.75 but are selling out fast!

This means a loaf pan, the beer bread mix, and a nice bottle of beer will set you back less than $6.00. Empty gift bags often cost that much! Now you'll be able to give delicious, useful gifts this holiday season and still have money left over to send to the local animal shelter or your favorite charity. Looking for a worthy one to support? I happily send much needed (and tax deductible) donations to A Place To Bark (grab a tissue before you read about the absolutely amazing Bernie Berlin and how she singlehandedly saves and finds homes for hundreds of abandoned and abused dogs and cats who are literally destined for death) and The Wild Animal Sanctuary (forced to close their doors to visitors and on the brink of shutting down completely last year, they're now back open thanks to all of you who helped spread the word of their plight and kindly sent donations).

And if all this isn't tempting enough, right now if you spend $25 or more in the Home & Garden Store, you'll receive a free one-year subscription to Bon Appetit, Gourmet or Domino magazine with your purchase. You can have the subscription sent to anyone or even extend your own subscription if you already have one. Click here for more details.

A number of my other favorite kitchen items I've written about before are also part of the 4-for-3 promotion (and all include free shipping on orders over $25):

--Chicago Metallic Commercial Baking Sheets I refuse to bake on anything but commercial baking sheets, and once you try using them you probably won't either. There's simply no comparison. Are you a closet cookie burner? These might very well cure you. I've had some of mine for over 15 years.

--Baking/pizza stones A must for homemade pizzas and crusty freeform breads; I've been baking on the same one for over 12 years.

--Salter 5-pound digital kitchen scale I use mine every day!

--KitchenAid Bench/Pastry Scraper So useful mine rarely make it back into the drawer where they supposedly live.

--Lodge cast iron 10-1/4 inch pre-seasoned skillet Talk about something that'll last forever and ever--they only get better with age! Such a deal at $11.99.

--FoodSaver Continuous Roll Bag Material A much better deal than buying the pre-made bags. Last week we sealed up an entire deer in custom made bags. Click here to read more about what I do with my FoodSaver and why I love it so much.

I already placed my 4-for-3 order and am looking forward to receiving a Chicago Metallic Commercial Large Cooling Grid ($8.99), an OXO Good Grips Y Peeler ($9.99), and a set of 2 Chicago Metallic Commercial Perforated Pie Pans ($7.00). My Vic Firth French Rolling Pin ($8.99) arrived Wednesday, and I can't wait to roll out a pie with it. Am I the last person to discover Vic Firth's beautiful, made in Maine, solid maple rolling pins?

All of the items (except the FoodSaver bag material, which can actually be used over and over) should last for years and years if you treat them right.

I don't know about you, but in my opinion, at this time of year online shopping is the way to go. Even if (unlike me) you're still used to the everyday hustle and bustle of city living, the mall can be a scary place. A few years ago I was driving my mother to the airport on the day after Christmas, and we were rear ended at a stoplight. We were more shook up than anything, so we decided to walk around the gigantic mall across the street while our nerves settled down. Now that was a bad idea.

May your holiday shopping this year be an enjoyable, affordable experience. And thank you so much for supporting Farmgirl Fare by shopping through any of these links.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Thursday, November 22

Farm Photo 11/22/07: Enjoying A Feast

Whitey & Her Chicks Back On July 30th

May you eat well today and every day of the year. Happy Thanksgiving.

A year of Farm Photos ago:
11/23/06: Thankful To Call This Place Home

Two years ago:
11/24/05: Year Round Thankfulness
11/24/05: Happy Thanksgiving To You

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Monday, November 19

Recipe: Colorful Carrot Herb Rolls and a Beautiful Bread Book for Beginners

Packed with carrots and perfect for the autumn (or spring!) table.

Some of my personal goals for this year included delving into the numerous (and mostly unused) cookbooks on my shelves, baking new kinds of breads, and making much better use of all the beautiful herbs in my kitchen garden.

I've been doing okay, but with this new recipe I hit the personal goal jackpot. It's a variation of the carrot bread in Bread: Artisan Breads from Baguettes and Bagels to Focaccia and Brioche by authors and cooking instructors Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno (he's French, she's Italian).

I've been reviewing this book, and my opinion of it can be summed up in one word: wonderful. Wait, make that two words: wonderful and inspiring. This is the second recipe I've made so far, and the first bread, a round Italian Rosemary Raisin Loaf, is as pretty as it is delicious.

Here's a little blurb from the book jacket, and it's all true:

Bread mixes delicious recipes with essential techniques to provide the home cook with practical reference and inspiration. From mixing and shaping to proofing and glazing—each stage of the bread-making process is clearly explained, with problem-solving tips and a complete illustrated guide to key ingredients and equipment to help you succeed. Bread's step-by-step demonstrations of the principles and practices of bread-making will give you the confidence and skills to try its tantalizing range of over 100 breads.

If you learn best by looking at pictures, then this is definitely the book for you because it's packed with gorgeous, full-color photos. And while it's a perfect book for beginners (I already know at least one budding bread baker who'll be receiving a copy for Christmas), I think many experienced bakers would also enjoy it.

I've already discovered all sorts of handy tips and useful nuggets of information, and there are several more breads I'm planning to make, including the Hungarian Potato Bread, Dark Chocolate Bread (1¼ cups of cocoa powder!), Swedish Dill Bread (made with cream cheese), and the Prune and Chocolate Bread ('a deeply indulgent loaf, chock-a-block with juicy prunes and melted chocolate').

There's also an intriguing recipe for a straight dough (as opposed to sourdough) Pane con Pomodori e Cipolle Rosse (Tomato and Red Onion Bread) which looks similar to the Fresh Tomato & Basil Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread I wrote about last month.

One of the nice things about it is that many of the breads start with the same basic recipe and build on it, which means trying all sorts of different breads suddenly becomes much less daunting.

Variations on the same recipe are also often given. For example, you can take the American multi-grain bread and turn it into sunflower and honey bread, cracked grain bread, or shape it into rolls. The pita bread recipe includes a whole-wheat version as well as instructions on how to make Lavash (Armenian Flat Bread).

A new holiday tradition?

Farmgirl Susan's Carrot Herb Rolls
Makes sixteen 3-inch rolls — Adapted from Bread: Artisan Breads from Baguettes and Bagels to Focaccia and Brioche

**Click here to print this recipe**

The carrot bread recipe this is adapted from came from the chapter in Bread called Flavored Breads, and what caught my eye was its use of raw shredded carrots. Other variations included are: spinach bread, beet bread, chili bread, onion and caraway bread, and herb bread (which didn't include the carrots).

First I made the plain carrot dough, shaping half into a round loaf and the rest into rolls. The second time around I dove into the herb garden first, emerging with fistfulls of fresh parsley, rosemary, and thyme which I tossed into the mix. I also substituted 1 cup of white whole wheat flour for 1 cup of the bread flour.

The result? Flavorful, healthy, autumn-colored rolls that I think would be a welcome and interesting addition to any holiday table. They have a soft but substantial crumb and a chewy crust that crisps up nicely when reheated. They also freeze beautifully. You can really taste the carrots, and a taste-tester friend I gave some to reported that they're great with goat cheese.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. At around a dollar a pound and readily available, organic carrots are a bargain. Look for organic flours in the bulk sections of natural food stores.

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—I usually line mine with sheets of unbleached parchment paper, which is wonderful stuff—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, not to mention baking thousands of cookies.

3 cups organic bread flour (15-3/8 oz, 437 g)
1 cup organic white whole wheat flour (5 oz, 143 g)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) instant yeast
1½ cups warm water (12 oz, 335 g)
2 Tablespoons organic butter, melted (1 oz, 28 g)
2¼ cups organic carrots, finely shredded (13-7/8 oz, 380 g)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (3/8 oz, 10g)
2 Tablespoons (30 ml) chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) chopped fresh thyme
2½ teaspoons (12 ml) salt

At first it may seem like there are too many carrots. There aren't!

Mix the whole wheat white flour, bread flour, and yeast in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the water and melted butter. Stir until combined. Mix in the carrots, parsley, rosemary, and thyme and stir until a soft sticky dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead 5 minutes, sprinkling on a little more bread flour if necessary to keep dough from sticking to your hands and the work surface.

Kneaded dough read for a rest (autolyse).

Cover dough with bowl and let rest 20 minutes (this rest period is called the autolyse).

Sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead for another 5 minutes, until the salt is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and still slightly sticky, adding more flour if necessary.

It's so easy to see if the rising dough has doubled in size.

Put the dough in a clear, straight-sided food grade plastic container with a snap-on lid and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1½ hours. I mark the height of the unrisen dough and the doubled height on the side of the container with a felt tip pen (it comes off when scrubbed with a sponge). You could also use a piece of tape.

The ideal temperature for rising dough is about 70 to 75 degrees F. If the air is cooler, you can use warmer water when mixing the dough or simply let it rise longer (which will actually improve your finished bread).

An instant read thermometer, like the one you can see poking into my dough in the photo above, is an inexpensive, handy little item that is extremely helpful when baking bread. Use it to check the temperature of your ingredients (water, milk, even flour) before adding them. Then use it to check the temperature of the dough while it's rising.

You can even check the air temperature in your kitchen by putting the thermometer in a glass of room temperature water (this is also a good way to accurately check the temperature inside your refrigerator).

You may be surprised at just how much such a small investment will change your kitchen experiences. Once you start using one, you'll probably wonder how you ever lived without it. These thermometers are called "instant," but it does take a few seconds to get a reading. There are also digital versions available, but I've never used one.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down by pressing down with your knuckles into the center of the dough. Turn the dough out of the container onto a lightly floured work surface, then let it rest for 10 minutes.

Shaped rolls ready for proofing.

Divide the dough into 16 pieces, about 3 ounces/84 grams each. To shape round rolls, press down on the pieces to expel any air bubbles. Cup the palm of your hand over each piece and roll it over an unfloured surface until it forms a smooth ball.

If you don't want your finished rolls to end up touching each other, simply space them farther apart on two baking sheets. Either bake both sheets at once, or set the second one in the refrigerator or someplace cool while the first one bakes. Alternatively, you can place the dough balls closer together and in a circle to make decorative pull-apart rolls.

Risen and ready for the oven.

Place the rolls on a heavy duty baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper.

Sprinkle rolls lightly with flour and cover with a tea towel. Proof until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

About 20 minutes before baking, heat oven to 400 degrees (205C).

For a light shine and crisp baked crust, brush rolls with lightly salted water immediately before baking. I use a silicone pastry brush.

Perfect for mini sandwiches, too.

Bake in preheated oven until the tops are golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container or freeze. If desired, reheat at 350F (175C) for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. The crust will crisp right back up.

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

©, the crazy for carrots foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Saturday, November 17

Farm Photo 11/17/07: Random Barn Shot

For Those Who Wanted More Fall Color (Taken 10/26)

A year of Farm Photos ago:
11/15/06: Autumn Oriental Greens
11/16/06: Yep, Bear's A Leaf Roller
11/17/06: Sometimes Everything Else Is Just Background

And two years ago:
11/15/05: And They're Off!
11/16/05: Same Scene, New View
11/17/05: We're Having A Bit Of A Cold Snap (I love this photo)

And out of the kitchen came:
Oatmeal Toasting Bread (Today is Homemade Bread Day!)
Beer Bread Recipe Update: The Whole Wheat Version

© 2007
, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Friday, November 16

Farm Photo 11/16/07: Exercising With A View

Out Enjoying The Fleeting Autumn Scenery

And fleeting it was. A few blustery days have stripped nearly all the trees bare. I took this photo back on November 4th while my mother was visiting. When I dropped her off at the airport one of the last things she said was, "We didn't go walking enough!" True. We were pretty busy cooking and eating, but we did manage to do the short walk (two miles rather than the entire four) at least half of the days she was here.

The beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery were certainly reason enough to get us out of the kitchen and hiking up our steep driveway and along the hilly ridge above the farm, but it was also an easy way to work up an appetite for our next meal!

As far as this photo goes, I don't know if I should be afraid that I'm repeating myself, or feel comforted in the fact that I'm consistent. Joe and I were looking at photos I'd posted this time last year, and I pointed out how similar one of them was to the photo above. Then he pointed out that I'd actually photographed the exact same bend in the mile-and-a-half-long stretch of road, just from a little further back.

It's funny how many times I've found myself taking pictures of the exact same thing. But in this constantly changing world of ours, I think the real comfort comes in knowing that certain things around the farm, rather than my eye, remain steadily consistent from one year to the next.

Want to see more?
Youl'l find plenty of autumn color here.
All sorts of farm landscape photos here.
And lots more pictures of Lucky Buddy Bear here.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Wednesday, November 14

Wednesday Farm Photo: Ram Lamb Transport

All in a Day's Work

A year of Farm Photos ago:
11/1/06: Frozen Breakfast On The Run
11/2/06: Autumn Sunflower
11/3/06: Autumn Color One Week To The Next
11/4/06: Grace & Beauty Are Everywhere (one of my favorite photos)
11/5/06: Self-Portrait In A Puddle
11/6/06: Little Cary Is Six Months Old Today!
11/7/06: Walk In The Woods
11/8/06: Donkey Doodle Dandy Is Quite The Dainty Eater
11/9/06: Big Sky
11/10/06: 240 Acres & He Wants To Be On Your Foot
11/11/06: It's The Little Things
11/12/06: Beyond This Door There Be Treats
11/13/06: Petite Rouge Heirloom Lettuce In The Garden
11/14/06: Did You Say Snow? (I'm so glad we don't have snow predicted yet this year!)

And two years ago out of the kitchen came:
Simple Summer Harvest Soup (The Autumn Version)
Mexican Monkey Cake (made it last week for my mom & she loved it)
Beyond Easy Beer Bread Recipe (my most popular recipe)

© 2007 the heavy lifting foodie farm blog where sometimes it's just easier to pick them up and carry them where you want them to go.

Sunday, November 11

Super Sale On My Beloved
Lodge Enamel Cast Iron Dutch Oven!

We interrupt this food and farm blog to let you know that if you've been thinking about buying a 7-quart Lodge enamel cast iron Dutch oven, now's the time. Although I still haven't gotten around to posting recipes for the delicious things I've made in mine since receiving it as an early Christmas gift last year, believe me when I tell you that this baby cooks like an absolute dream.

I've been impatiently waiting for summer to end so I could pull it out and get back to slow cooking all those wonderful, wintery, cozy comfort food dishes like beef short ribs and lamb shanks (which I made last week while my mother was visiting). Dutch ovens are ideal for the busy/distracted/disorganized cook or farmgirl; there's nothing like knowing that if dinner ends up cooking for an extra two or three hours that it's only going to taste even better.

And you don't even need to follow a recipe to make a fabulous meal. Once I simply browned a few packages of what our butcher had labeled boiling beef (from one of our own grass-fed steers) in olive oil, smothered them with lots and lots and lots of sliced onions, popped the lid on, and put the whole thing in the oven for about five hours. After devouring a large serving of the melt-in-your-mouth results I couldn't believe there wasn't more to this dish. Time and a good Dutch oven are the secret ingredients.

So why am I mentioning all this now? Because I just happened to notice that has the 7-quart Lodge enamel cast iron Dutch oven on sale for an amazingly low $99.99, with no tax and free shipping. The list price is $197.99, and normally sells it for $164.99.

I have no idea how long the sale will last. The other day I got all ready to tell you about how my favorite bread pans were on sale, and an hour later it was over.

It's definitely an investment, but this beautiful Dutch oven should last a lifetime. I know I plan to keep mine forever. It would also make a very special gift, and the gorgeous red couldn't be more festive. It's also available in a stunning dark blue and a bright apple green.

Last year the Lodge enamel cast iron Dutch ovens rated highest in a comparison of similar items in Fine Cooking magazine--including Le Creuset. It also received rave reviews on I went with the larger 7-quart size and am really glad I did, but it does weigh about 17 pounds empty. (The 5-quart version is available at for $139.95, also with no tax and free shipping.)

And now back to our regularly scheduled crazy farm life programming.

Saturday, November 10

Book Review: Cooking with Shelburne Farms & A Recipe for Grilled Lamb Burgers with Roasted Red Pepper, Parsley, & Kalamata Olive Relish

Handmade burgers on homemade buns

It was a blind date. All I had was a name—and the deep down feeling that this time it was going to be something special. And from the moment we met, I knew that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together.

It was immediately apparent that we share the same likes and dislikes, the same dreams and desires, the same unabashed devotion to naturally raising sheep. I felt connected as I never had before. Right from the start it was as if we were reading each others' thoughts.

If Cooking With Shelburne Farms: Food And Stories From Vermont had been a person instead of a publication, I have no doubt that our first meeting would have ended at an all-night wedding chapel in Vegas.

That's how in love I am with this wonderful new book.

I knew fate had brought us together when the first page I randomly opened to was a chapter called Caring for the Flock. It perfectly expressed how I feel about raising animals for meat:

"The Shelburne Farms' Children's Farmyard is an educational farm within the working farm, where visitors can milk a cow or goat, collect eggs, and learn how to carefully pick up a chicken, feed the animals, and maybe even witness a sow or a ewe giving birth. The natural cycle of a farm also, undeniably, includes the other end of life. A poster on the wall of the Farmyard carefully explains the life of a Shelburne Farms lamb and finishes with a photograph of a beautifully plated dish from the Inn.

It is true that lambs are about as cute as food gets, and that makes some people uncomfortable, but, 'we raise animals for human consumption here,' says Sam Smith plainly, a farmer and educator at Shelburne Farms. 'People need to recognize where their food is coming from.' "

It is most important to Sam—and to Shelburne Farms—that the flock be managed to the highest environmental and humane standards, leaving the animals on pasture and the lambs with their mothers as long as possible. 'I raise them in the best way that I can, and I try to educate people,' Sam says. 'You can't force people to do anything, but you can educate them. And I think the farmyard is probably the best place in the world to educate people about what they're eating.' "

Shelburne Farms is a 1,400-acre nonprofit environmental education center, working farm, Inn, and National Historic Landmark on Lake Champlain in Shelburne, Vermont. As part of its mission to cultivate a conservation ethic, Shelburne Farms is a dedicated supporter of local agriculture and is itself a creator of sustainably produced food, including their award-winning Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese.

Cooking With Shelburne Farms is, in turn, a celebration of Vermont-grown food, and also of the farmers, cheesemakers, foragers, hunters and fishermen, and maple sugarmakers who cultivate, harvest, or craft it.

The book contains stories from farmers and other food producers along with more than 100 recipes featuring nine iconic Vermont ingredients: Milk and Cheese, Maple, Early Spring and Summer Greens, Lamb, Wild Mushrooms, Game and Fish, Pork, Root-Cellar Vegetables, and Apples. The dishes deliver rustic flavors with a "fresh, comfortable cooking approach."

And while the ingredients and recipes are grounded in Vermont, authors Melissa Pasanen and Shelburne Farms Chef Rick Gencarelli offer variation suggestions to "encourage those of you in other parts of the country to make similar connections in your communities and develop your own sense of place through the food you cook and eat."

Recipes range from the everyday—Sausage Rolls and Deviled Ham & Cheddar Spread—to the extraordinary: Roast Duck Legs with Sour Cherry Sauce and Sage & Garlic Pan-Roasted Quail. Classic dishes are given fresh twists, and unexpected ingredients are paired in contemporary ways.

Crispy Pork Chops with Lemon Parsley Sauce takes a traditional schnitzel preparation and spices it up with coriander and cumin. Lasagne is made with mushrooms, kale and blue cheese, and buttermilk is combined with juicy plums to create a beautiful blushing sherbert.

The recipes are well written and easy to follow. Each one offers a "Before You Start" paragraph that gives helpful advice on everything from sourcing the best ingredients to making substitutions, and the Prepare-Ahead Tips make preparation even easier. The sections of sumptuous, full-color photos will no doubt have you drooling all over your beautiful new cookbook.

Cooking With Shelburne Farms (Hardcover, 296 pages, 2007 Viking Studio, $34.95) would make a very special gift for anyone who loves cooking and food. Ask for it at your local bookstore or order online from order online from for $23.07 with free shipping. April 2012 Update: Used copies are available from amazon for as little as $1.68.

My short list of recipes to try includes Shepherd's Pie with Caramelized Onions & Cheddar Smash; Mexican Venison Chili made with cinnamon & chocolate; Smoked Cheddar Crackers and Tomato-Cheddar soup; Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Puree; and Chocolate-Sour Cream Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting, which, the authors warn, is "not a cake for children."

In the meantime, I've already made the scrumptious Grilled Lamb Burgers With Red Pepper, Parsley, and Kalamata Olive Relish three times. Last week I made them for my foodie mom who's been visiting from California, and I don't think she stopped moaning with pleasure until her burger was gone.

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

Fresh from our farm

Grilled Lamb Burgers with Roasted Red Pepper, Parsley, and Kalamata Olive Relish
from Cooking With Shelburne Farms [My notes in brackets]
Serves 4

Authors' Notes On Lamb:
We recommend searching out local lamb that has been raised on pasture. Although people often think of lamb at two ends of a spectrum—either very delicate or quite strong and gamey—most lamb raised today has sweet, earthy, and light gamy notes. If the flavors are too strong, most likely the lamb is not as fresh as it should be.

We have found that ground lamb is especially variable, and because it will often have a fairly high level of fat, it can develop strong flavors. If you have access to a good butcher counter, it is always best to ask for your lamb to be ground fresh to order. The leanest (and priciest) ground lamb will be from the leg, but a well-trimmed shoulder is often your best bet. Good ground lamb can also come from the neck or a well-trimmed breast.

You just can't beat freshly ground meat

[Susan's note: For these burgers, we used the grinder attachment on our KitchenAid stand mixer to turn some of our own grass-fed lamb stew meat into freshly ground burger. If you're a burger lover, there's simply no comparison to freshly ground meat,whether you do it yourself or have your butcher do it for you.]

Before You Start:
We allow for a 6-ounce burger because even lean ground lamb will shrink quite a bit on the grill. If you don't have time to grill or broil the peppers yourself, the jarred roasted red peppers often found in the Italian sections of well-stocked supermarkets make a fine substitute; just make sure not to buy the marinated kind and to pat them dry before using.

If you can't cook the burgers on a grill, use a good, heavy frying pan, preferably a ridged grill pan, on the stove; lamb burgers can cause dangerous flare-ups in a broiler. [I used my grill pan the last time I made them, and it worked great.]

For the relish:
[A word of warning: If you're the type of person who nibbles while you're cooking and tends to devour condiments as if they're side dishes, this recipe will not serve 4 people. It served me, with a little bit leftover, but it can easily be doubled. This marvelous stuff is truly addictive.

I felt that it was crying out to be paired with some juicy garden tomatoes, either chopped and mixed into the relish or served sliced on the burger alongside it. It would taste just as wonderful on a beef or turkey or even pork burgers, and I plan to use it as a base for all sorts of salads next summer. You could even toss it with pasta.]

Adapted from the original recipe:
1 cup coarsely chopped red bell peppers that have been grilled or broiled until charred and then skinned and seeded (see Tip below) [I used red and golden peppers from my garden and charred them over a gas stove burner. The flavor was out of this world and definitely worth the few minutes of extra work.]
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, pitted, vinegar-marinated black olives, such as kalamata
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
[they called for lemon juice]
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic [my addition, optional]
Coarse kosher salt to taste [I used semi-coarse mineral salt]

For the burgers:
1½ pounds lean ground lamb
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
[I omitted]
2 Tablespoons finely minced garlic [doubled from 1 Tablespoon]
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt [I used semi-coarse mineral salt]
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare a barbecue grill to cook on medium-high heat.

2. Prepare the relish: In a small serving bowl, stir together the peppers, olives, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, and salt. [This tastes even better if made several hours ahead or the night before.]

3. Prepare the burgers: In a large bowl, gently mix together the ground lamb, parsley, red pepper, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Form the mixture into four burgers, flatten them to about 3/4 inch thick, and gently press your thumb in the center of each one to help them cook evenly.

4. Grill or panfry the burgers carefully for about 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Be forewarned that the fat in lamb can cause flare-ups. Serve the burgers on really good, lightly grilled soft buns, topped with the relish. [I put mayonnaise on mine. Aioli would be tasty, too.]

Tip: After grilling or broiling the peppers, put them in a bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Leave the peppers for bout 8 to 10 minutes and the skin will be much easier to remove. [Resist the urge to rinse the peppers under running water, as you'll end up sending much of the flavor down the drain. Don't worry if there are black specks of skin remaining on the peppers; they taste delicious. Click here for a great tutorial by my foodie friend Elise on how to roast peppers over a gas flame.]

Excerpts and recipes are from Cooking with Shelburne Farms by Melissa Pasanen with Rick Gencarelli and reproduced with permission from the publisher. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2007 by Melissa Pasanen and Shelburne Farms. Article and photos © 2007, the well fed foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Tuesday, November 6

Farm Photo 11/6/07: Hayfield Grazing Rights

Wild Turkeys Up Front, Sheep Toward The Back

Wild turkeys are plentiful in these parts, and there are two females who have been living in the woods at the edge of our hayfield for years. Once when we were walking along the field's perimeter, Robin trotted out of a thicket with an enormous turkey egg proudly clasped between her little beagle jaws. (We put it back.) Each spring the mothers parade around in the grass with their babies lined up behind them. If we're lucky we catch a glimpse of flying lessons.

I think the babies usually venture off on their own once they've grown up, but a few weeks ago a flock of eight turkeys started spending hours each day in the hayfield, happily pecking around for bugs and whatever else wild turkeys like to eat.

They aren't bothered by the sheep in the least, and the other evening I watched as they completely ignored three deer who were leaping around playing right next to them. When Bear and I appear, though, they always run off to the safety of the woods. We did manage to sneak up on them the other day, and I was able to quickly zoom in to 16x with my trusty little camera and snap a few halfway decent photos before they noticed us.

Yesterday morning I was surprised to see them hanging out down by the spring. This time they fled by flight, flapping into the air in their ungraceful turkey way and landing just a few yards into the woods. Then they continued on foot, crashing up the hillside through the fallen leaves while gobbling excitedly to each other.

It kind of feels like turkeys are taking over the farm. I guess they know we usually have beef on Thanksgiving.

Want to see more?
There are more hayfield photos here.
Lots of farm landscape photos
Plenty of autumn color here.
And you'll find all sorts of sheep pictures here.

© 2007, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Friday, November 2

Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip Recipe

This New Twist On An Old Favorite Is Perfect For Parties

Do you love hot spinach and artichoke dip?
My version of this popular appetizer is cooked on the stovetop instead of in the oven and uses chopped fresh Swiss chard leaves and stalks in place of frozen spinach. It's also packed with plenty of onion and garlic for extra flavor. The easy recipe, along with lots of other ideas for what to do with Swiss chard, is over on my kitchen garden blog--just click here.

You didn't know I have a kitchen garden blog?
You can learn why this Farmgirl Fare offshoot isn't just for gardeners here.

The best Swiss chard you'll ever eat is of course that which you grow yourself, and fortunately this versatile vegetable is extremely easy to cultivate. It's both heat and cold tolerant and even thrives in containers. My kitchen garden post,
How To Grow Your Own Swiss Chard & Why You Should, offers detailed growing tips and--thanks to all my fellow Swiss chard lovers--the comments section is full of all sorts of delicious ways to enjoy my number one leafy green. Do you have a favorite Swiss chard recipe you'd like to share?

© 2007