Wednesday, December 31

Wednesday Farm Photo: Cheers!
(and the Knit Two Giveaway Winners)

Never Drink Alone on New Year's

And the random winners of the five hardcover copies of Knit Two by Kate Jacobs are:

Angelbis: I learned to knit as an adult and it has now been about 12 years and I'm going strong. I love to knit because I find it hard to do just one thing at a time, so knitting allows me to do something productive with my hands while reading, watching movies, sitting through academic talks or flying. I adore cables! As others have said, knitting is a great way to relax!

Uhmanduh: I love to knit baby things for all my friends havin' babies. ^_^ You can make stuff cuter than can be found in a store, and best of all, you're done in just a few hours. I have yet to attempt a sweater for myself! I always enjoy your farm foodie blog!

Soldierdeb: I have tried to learn several times - But this time I am sticking to it!

Zoomer1: I've just learned to knit in the last year and love it! I'm still very much a beginner, but it's a very relaxing and satisfying way to spend an evening by the fire.

Christine: How awful to have the flu over Christmas. It doesn't seem fair does it? I'm glad you had your mom there (and Joe, of course) to take care of you and I hope by now that you're feeling much better. I used to knit up a storm (and crochet, and do needlework), way back in the day when my kids were little. Until this winter I hadn't picked up a knitting needle in years. Now I'm feeling a bit "full circle-ish" as I've been bringing out my knitting needles and an old how-to book, thinking I just may start again. And what better way to begin again than with your generous giveaway of Knit Two. Happy New Year!

Congratulations! Please e-mail me your shipping address so I can send you your book. My e-mail address is farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com. And thanks to everybody for entering this fun giveaway. I loved reading about how so many of you are such avid and enthusiastic knitters!

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where some of us are indulging in glasses of champagne for New Year's eve, and some of us must settle for slurping up fresh spring water out of buckets. And we all wish you a very Happy New Year—no matter what you're drinking!

Tuesday, December 30

Recipe: Simple & Healthy Swiss Chard Artichoke Soup (and Crazy Crossover Foods)

Healthy, hearty, low fat, high flavor, and packed with vegetables? Homemade soup!

I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater. I always look forward to delving into the local food scene when I'm away from home, whether it's a couple hundred miles or a couple of continents away. I've eaten everything from bowls of black rice pudding in Bali to a bag of fried okra at a gas station in Louisiana.

Maple syrup in Vermont, macadamia nut ice cream and fresh pineapple in Hawaii, lobster in Maine? Of course. Pan-fried squirrel for dinner? A local Missouri specialty that I discovered is surprisingly good. Then again, pretty much anything rolled in flour and fried (which is the standard way of preparing things around here) tastes good in my book.

I don't do much traveling now that I live on a farm with dozens of animals, but I still get out enough to know there's something weird going on with our food these days—and it has nothing to do with culture or location. Always desperate to come up with something new and exciting, marketing departments everywhere are inventing some really strange stuff.

Banana nut bread cereal? Chili cheese taco dogs? Toasted coconut cream pie latté? Philly cheese steak pizza?

I can't be the only one who finds these things, which are all real by the way, a little freaky. Pizzarito. Why? Personally I prefer my food in its natural state; I want banana bread in a loaf, chili dogs in buns, and pie with a crust in a pan where it belongs—though I'll admit that latté did sound kinda good.

No foodie is infallible, though, and one blustery day last winter I took an upside down ride on the recipe roller coaster. I had a bumper crop of Swiss chard in the greenhouse and a craving for soup in the kitchen, so I turned my popular Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip into something more slurpable.

It was tasty and healthy and—dare I admit it—even a little exciting. And while I did once top a homemade pizza with the cooked onion, Swiss chard, and artichoke base of the dip mixture (update: you'll find the Swiss Chard Artichoke Pizza recipe here), I promise I'll never create a Swiss chard and artichoke flavored latté or breakfast cereal. I can't, of course, speak for those desperate marketing departments.

So what's the most bizarre crossover food you've ever come across?

Susan's Healthy Swiss Chard Artichoke Soup
Makes about 9 cups

**Click here to print this recipe**

Many of you know—because I'm constantly mentioning it—that Swiss chard is one of my favorite vegetables in the garden. One of the things I love about it is how incredibly large the leaves can grow, but when I step inside the greenhouse and feel as if I've suddenly been transported to Jurassic Park, it starts to get a little scary.

That's when it's time to whack them down and hit them with some heat, because even the most enormous leaves will shrink down to practically nothing if you cook them.

It never ceases to amaze me that a bowl of bounty nearly too big to get through the door will fit inside a teacup once you cook it. The concentrated amount of nutrients that must be contained in that teacup is mind boggling.

Swiss chard is both amazingly heat and cold tolerant, and this year I had a bumper crop growing in the greenhouse up until the last day of fall, when I harvested it all in preparation of that night's low of 2°F.

The first thing I did with my freshly picked crop was whip up a batch of this scrumptious soup. Unfortunately it's also the last thing I did with it, since I've spent the past week flat on my back with the flu. But now that I'm finally on the mend and ready to get back to cooking, a big bowl of warm and healthy goodness sounds like the perfect prescription.

Swiss chard is easy to grow from seed, and it does exceptionally well in containers, so even apartment dwellers have no excuse not to try growing some. Three or four plants will fit comfortably in a 14-inch-wide pot. You'll find detailed growing information in this post on my kitchen garden blog: How To Grow Swiss Chard From Seed and Why You Should.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. Canned organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas) are a versatile pantry staple that add richness and a nutty flavor, as well as protein and fiber to this soup. I toss them into all kinds of things and buy them by the case.

I can't say enough good things about my KitchenAid hand blender; it's one of the best things I've ever bought for the kitchen.


2 to 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound yellow onions
(about 2 medium), peeled and coarsely chopped
4 to 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts in water
(about 8 hearts), drained and rinsed (frozen would probably work, too)
1 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
4 cups organic chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bunch Swiss chard
(about 1 pound), leaves and stalks separated and both chopped into pieces (save a few stalks for garnish if desired)
1 to 1½ cups organic milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional garnishes:
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Thin slices of cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream or yogurt
Chopped chives or scallions
Swiss chard stalks

Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot on medium heat, then add the onions and Swiss chard stems. Stir to coat with oil, cover, and cook until soft and starting to brown, stirring frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add another Tablespoon of olive oil or splash of water to soak up any flavorful brown bits sticking to the pot.

Make a space in the center of the pot and add the garlic, stirring so it all touches the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the artichokes, garbanzo beans, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, and Swiss chard leaves and stir to combine. It may seem like you're trying to fit way too much Swiss chard in the pot, but it will quickly cook down.

Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, with the lid barely cracked for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the milk, adding up to 1/2 cup more if you prefer a thinner soup.

Purée with an immersion hand blender, or transfer in batches to a counter top blender and very carefully purée, then return to the pot.

Salt and pepper to taste and serve hot, garnished however you like. This soup tastes even better the next day, and it also freezes beautifully.

Care for some homemade bread to go with your soup?
Beyond Easy Beer Bread (my most popular recipe)
Farmhouse White Classic Sandwich Bread (makes great rolls & buns too)
Oatmeal Toasting Bread (makes scrumptious rolls too)
Carrot Herb Rolls (and a wonderful bread baking book for beginners)

Love cozy soup season? You might also enjoy these Farmgirl Fare recipes:
Susan's Super Spinach Soup (made with fresh spinach)

What else can you do with Swiss chard?
Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad with Garbanzos & Cottage Cheese
Swiss Chard Tuna Salad with Scallions & Kalmata Olives
Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip

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

©, the slurp happy blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and one of the nicest things you can do during winter is curl up with a hunk of bread and a cozy bowl of homemade soup.

Friday, December 26

Holiday Giveaway:
Win a Copy of Knit Two by Kate Jacobs!

If you get the flu for Christmas, it helps to have an interesting novel handy to take your mind off things, like the fact that you feel as if you're going to die. Fortunately I still had nearly half of Knit Two, Kate Jacobs' brand new sequel to her bestselling book The Friday Night Knitting Club, left to read when I got sick on Christmas Eve. Since I'd just finished The Friday Night Knitting Club a month or so ago, it was extra nice to be able to dive right into the sequel.

I really enjoyed both of these books, though I have to admit that I didn't love them quite as much as Kate's second novel, Comfort Food, but that's probably because they didn't revolve around eating. The audiobook version of Comfort Food, read by Barbara Rosenblat, is also wonderful. And if you like reading about what other people eat, don't miss the 200+ mouthwatering comments in this previous Comfort Food post.

Since I know so many of you are knitters, I'm giving away five hardcover copies of Knit Two. To enter, just leave a comment in this post (by scrolling down to the bottom of this post and clicking where it says "___ comments") and tell us something about The Friday Night Knitting Club, or knitting in general (what you knit, why you knit, anything about knitting!), or if you're not a knitter, then tell us about one of your favorite novels—and don't worry, knitting knowledge is not required. You'll still enjoy these books even if you've never picked up a ball of yarn in your life.

One entry per person, please. I moderate comments, so if I'm away from the computer it may be several hours before yours actually appears. If your comment doesn't show up right away, there's no need to leave another one.

You can enter until next Wednesday, December 31st, and I'll choose and announce five random winners sometime on New Year's Eve. Please check back to see if you've won, especially if I have no way to get a hold of you (for example, if you have a blogger profile, is it public and does it list your correct e-mail address?). If I don't hear from you by Wednesday January 7th, I'll have to pick another winner. Sorry, but the books can only be shipped to U.S. addresses.

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where this is the first time I can ever remember not setting foot outside for an entire day—and I didn't even realize I hadn't until my visiting foodie mom (who hasn't been eating nearly as well as she usually does while here, but right now is happily munching on a hunk of homemade Italian sausage stuffed focaccia I finally remembered was in the freezer) actually pointed it out.

Sunday, December 21

Sunday Farm Photo: Very Cool

Not as Long Lasting as a Rock Heart, But I Love
Them Just the Same

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where I suppose it's fitting that the first day of winter is our coldest yet, but I still have trouble with forecasts of '1 degree' and 'wind chills as cold as 15 below.' Earlier this evening I changed from my boots into my slippers, which I usually tuck next to the woodstove but had left by the side of the bed this morning in a rush to answer the ringing phone. As one of them made a sort of sucking sound and seemed to be stuck when I picked it up, I thought of the water I'd accidentally spilled from my glass in the wee hours of the morning. My slipper was frozen to the floor. Just don't tell my California foodie mom—she's arriving tomorrow for a holiday visit (packing custom-filled boxes of See's Candy and limes from her tree of course), and I don't know if she can handle that kind of cold. There's nothing like vacationing in an uninsulated Missouri shack.

Saturday, December 20

Saturday Farm Photo: An Early Christmas Gift

Another addition to my beloved bird nest collection!

Want to see (and read about) a few more of my nests?
9/1/05: Don't Build Your Nest Deep Inside the Hay Baler
1/29/06: The Latest Addition to My Collection
8/4/06: A Warm & Wooly Nest
8/14/06: Another New Bird Nest
1/9/07: Bird Nests Are Like Snowflakes

©, the empty nest foodie farm blog where I'm thrilled to have found three new nests (all unable to be reused by birds again) in the last five days, including one that literally flew onto me as I pulled a bale of hay down from the open-sided barn—and the one pictured here appears to have some dog or donkey hairs carefully woven into it. My most prized bird nest contains a strand of my long hair.

Thursday, December 18

Thursday Farm Photo: Bottoms Up!

That Buttery, Crunchy, Cast Iron Skillet Crust is My Favorite Part

Congratulations to Kristin of Going Country (where "city girl+country boy=one bizarre life") who is the random winner of a signed copy of The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon! In her comment she said, I can't control myself around cornbread. Especially warm with butter and honey. Yum. I'm the same way. This book is probably a little dangerous for both of us.

A big thanks to everybody for entering and sharing your cornbread recipes, stories, and memories. I always feel like I'm the real winner when I hold a giveaway because I get to read all these heartwarming, hysterical, and just plain wonderful comments.

Stay tuned because I have several more great books to give away. In the meantime, if you love (or think you might love) homemade cornbread, then The Cornbread Gospels is for you. Besides containing over 200 scrumptious cornbread and goes-with-cornbread recipes, it's packed with all sorts of fun cornbread facts and stories—and is a bargain at just $10.17 from The cast iron skillet is optional but highly recommended. They're one of the best kitchen buys on the planet because they last forever and only get better with age—and besides, just look at that crust.

And now if you'll excuse me, I think I hear that one last hunk of cornbread in the kitchen loudly calling my name.

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where I've decided I really haven't eaten enough cornbread in my life (and am embarrassed to admit that I don't think I've ever had it with chili, which so many of you said is delicious) so as of today I'm aggressively setting about to rectify the situation.

Tuesday, December 16

Six Things:
Sites, Sounds, & Stuff I'm Loving Right Now

Measuring Up & Then Some—The Pull-Out Display is Awesome

1. This scale (voted #1 by me & America's Test Kitchen).

2. This South Carolina bear rescue story from the wonderful Wild Animal Sanctuary (grab a tissue and your checkbook).

3. This song, 'I'm Yours,' by Jason Mraz (can't get enough of it).

4. This Menu for Hope food bloggers' fundraiser (the prizes get more incredible every year—and it's all for a great cause).

5. This $5 off holiday magazine sale at (the easy gift that gives for a year—feed loved ones for $10 or decorate for $7).

6. This Food & Environment Electronic Digest newsletter (FEED, get it?) from the Union of Concerned Scientists (such a cool organization).

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where this morning we loved warming up by the woodstove after tromping around breaking ice on water troughs and feeding hay in the 16-degree (that would be farenheit) weather.

Saturday, December 13

Gift Idea: A Cornbread Lover's Kit for Under $25 & A Giveaway—Win a Signed Copy of The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon!

Is Anything Better Than Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread?

Give someone a hunk of cornbread and they eat for a day. Give them a cast iron skillet and a copy of The Cornbread Gospels and they'll eat for the rest of their life.

Okay, enough dilly dallying around. I'm going to make a long and pathetic story short. Almost a year ago I received a review copy of The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon. I tried recipes, took photos, happily ate hunks of warm cornbread with honey and tall glasses of cold milk for breakfast for days on end, fell in love with this wonderful book, started wishing I lived next door to Crescent because her stories kept making me laugh out loud—and never got around to telling you about any of it.

Shame on me. It pains me to think of all the scrumptious cornbread you and your loved ones could have been devouring during the past year if I'd been more on the ball. Not to mention all the fun you could have been having learning tons of stuff about cornbread and getting to know Crescent (who adores cornbread so much she spent six years working on this book). So let's forget the 'proper' review this book deserves and the recipes I've been meaning to share, and just cut to the chase.

I love The Cornbread Gospels and am giving away a copy signed by Crescent Dragonwagon to one lucky Farmgirl Fare reader.* To enter, leave a comment in this post telling us something (anything!) about cornbread—a favorite family recipe, what kind of cornbread you like, how you like to eat it, your first cornbread memory, a funny cornbread story, or simply why you want to win a copy of this book.

One entry per person, please. I moderate comments, so if I'm away from the computer it may be several hours before yours actually appears. If your comment doesn't show up right away, there's no need to leave another one.

You can enter through next Wednesday, December 17th, and I'll choose and announce a random winner on Thursday, December 18th. Please check back to see if you've won, especially if I have no way to get a hold of you (for example, if you have a blogger profile, is it public and does it list your correct e-mail address?). If I don't hear from you by Monday, December 22nd I'll have to pick another winner. Sorry, but this prize can only be shipped to a U.S. address.

Good luck! I can't wait to read all your cornbread comments. And in the meantime, if you're flailing around looking for a practical and delicious gift to give the food lovers on your list, consider buying them a cornbread kit. It will last forever and set you back less than 25 bucks. Simply place a copy of The Cornbread Gospels in a 10-inch cast iron skillet (which of course has a million other uses) and tie a big red bow around it. Done! If you want to go all out, you could include a pretty package of organic cornmeal and a jar of local honey.

*Monday update: My apologies for any confusion—the giveaway is for a signed copy of The Cornbread Gospels. The cornbread 'kit' is a fun gift idea I just tossed out as a suggestion.

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where things are always better when there's a pan of homemade cornbread around.

Tuesday, December 9

Tuesday Daily Dose of Cute: Three's Company

Soaking Up Some Sun After Breakfast in the Front Field

Want to see more flora and wooly fauna?
Farm Landscape Photos
More Farm Landscape Photos
Hayfield Photos
Sheep Photos
More Sheep Photos
Lambing Season 2006 Photos & Reports
Lambing Season 2007 Photos & Reports
Lambing Season 2008 Part 1
Lambing Season 2008 Part 2

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where, thanks to the new high dollar (and high maintenance) portable electric net fencing we've been using in the front field since May (which I hope to tell you more about someday), there's still some decent grass left to graze on out there, but everyone will be munching on square bales soon—even though it kind of feels like we just put the hay up!

Wednesday, December 3

Wednesday Daily Dose of Cute:
The Notorious Scratching Post Gang

Hard At Work Scratching

And Off To Find Some Trouble

Need a lot more cute in your life?

Lambing Season 2006 Photos & Reports
Lambing Season 2007 Photos & Reports
Lambing Season 2008 Part 1
Lambing Season 2008 Part 2
The First Daily Doses of Cute
Daily Doses of Cute Part 2
Daily Doses of Cute Part 3
Daily Doses of Cute Part 4
Daily Doses of Cute Part 5
Daily Doses of Cute Part 6

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where we've been sorting through old photos (thousands!) and finding all sorts of fun ones that somehow never got posted, like these two that were taken back on September 28th.

Monday, December 1

Monday Farm Photo: That's Not a Heavy Frost

I Wasn't Expecting Snow Just Yet—But I Guess I Should Have Been

A year of Farm Photos ago:
11/25/07: Looking for Some Action

Two years ago:
11/27/06: Look Up and See This & You're About to Get Wet
11/28/06: Cary Considers the Flock
11/29/06: Off to that Great Henhouse in the Sky
11/30/06: Wild Mullein in the Creekbed
12/2/06: Snowstorms & Snowfall

Three years ago:
11/27/05: Bear & I Finally Got the Garlic Planted
11/28/05: So You All Ate Turkey on Thanksgiving, Right?
11/29/05: Autumn Artwork
11/30/05: Llama Llama
12/1/05: Warm Wash, Cool Dry (still one of my favorites)

And out of the kitchen came:
Kohlrabi Purée! (yes, this incredibly scrumptious but dowdy-sounding recipe deserves an exclamation mark!)

© Copyright 2008, the award-winning blog where we had a freezing Sunday of soppy flakes and a light, powdered sugar dusting of snow last night, and even though once the sun popped out late this afternoon melted most of it off, it was technically still snowing in November. It seems that fall, my favorite season on the farm, is already over.