Friday, September 30

Friday Dose of Cute: Got Any Weekend Plans?

Donkey Gnat Relaxing on Gus' Ears -

Or will you just be hanging out?

©, where I'm seeing a batch of easy chocolate biscotti and maybe some buttery little cranberry scones in our future, with mugs of steaming tea and big cups of coffee with lots of steamed milk—and plenty of donkey treats of course.

Thursday, September 29

Recipe: Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread Made with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil & a Few of My Favorite Bread Books

Whole wheat sourdough bread made with fresh tomatoes and basil -
Fresh tomatoes & basil in freshly baked bread—a winning combo (recipe here)

This interesting yet easy sourdough bread recipe says hello! to hearty bread baking season while waving goodbye to two iconic flavors of summer. Chopped fresh tomatoes take the place of most of the water, and the whole wheat flour adds flavor and depth.

If you have a sourdough starter living in your fridge, this is a fun way to use it. I created my starter years ago using the simple directions in one of my favorite bread books, Bread Alone: Bold Fresh Loaves from Your Own Hands, written by my bread baking hero, Daniel Leader.

Daniel's second book, Local Breads: Sourdough and Whole-Grain Recipes from Europe's Best Artisan Bakers is wonderful, too—and includes several authentic European sourdough starter recipes. Part travelogue, part bread making class, and part gastronomic history lesson, it's the culmination of dozens of trips to Europe over the past two decades in search of bakers who are still using time-honored methods and ingredients to create loaves unique to their towns and cities.

Bread Alone is also the title of one of my favorite novels, a bestseller written by my friend Judi Hendricks and so named because she loves Daniel Leader's book as much as I do. I just finished reading Judi's Bread Alone for the fifth or sixth time, and now I'm rereading the sequel, The Baker's Apprentice. (Meet Judi and her adorable dog Blue in the short video, 'A Writer's Life'.)

Warning: these books all make you want to bake bread!

Not up for starting sourdough just yet? My simple homemade pizza dough recipe is a great place to start with yeast, and my Farmhouse White is an easy sandwich bread recipe that's pefect for beginners.

You might also enjoy my Ten Tips on How To Bake Better Artisan Breads at Home, which includes several other bread books I really like. And you'll find more of my favorite bread recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

Do have any favorite novels that feature bread or baking?

©, where freshly baked bread never goes out of season—and I'd better get back to baking tonight's loaves.

Wednesday, September 28

Recipe: Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad (Fattoush) with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Chickpeas, Feta, Fresh Basil, Parsley, and Mint

Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad (Fattoush) 1 -
Even if you forget the traditional toasted pita bread, this simple and flavorful tomato salad still tastes great.

Autumn is in the air, and green tomato season has begun. My two most popular posts right now are Got Green Tomatoes? Try My Super Simple, No Sugar, Salsa-Like, Green Tomato Relish Recipe and How To Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors the Really Easy Way. Gardeners are getting desperate.

We had a crisp 38 degrees on the farm Monday morning, but I'm not giving up on more vine-ripened tomatoes just yet. My six late-planted Roma tomato plants started flowering during the extended heat wave that lasted half the summer, so it was too hot for them to set fruit. The blossoms all simply dropped off, but now the sprawling vines are loaded with fat green tomatoes.

It's back up in the 80s, and our Missouri Octobers are often mild, so I'm hopeful that at least some of the green tomatoes will soak up the sun and turn red.

I need to make more of this salad.

I finally stopped making the Greek Style Panzanella with Kalamata Homemade Croutons I've practically lived on this summer, but only because my three enormous volunteer cherry tomato plants quit producing.

Now I'm hooked on another tomato salad recipe from Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips. I'm really loving this cookbook.

Recipe below. . .

Sunday, September 25

Sunday Dose of Cute: Take a Wild Guess

Bert and the big dogs 1 -
Who stayed up all night guarding the sheep against coyotes and monsters. . .

Lots more photos below. . .

Tuesday, September 20

Recipe: Easy Rosemary Focaccia (Italian Flatbread) with White Wine and Pecorino Romano or Parmesan

Are you new to bread baking? This scrumptious focaccia is a great place to start, and so is my easy pizza dough recipe. My popular Farmhouse White is a basic white sandwich bread that's perfect for beginners. You might also find my Ten Tips on How To Bake Better Artisan Breads at Home helpful.

Easy Rosemary Focaccia 1
Homemade focaccia goes with almost everything—or just enjoy it alone.

Focaccia is a delicious, easy to make, versatile Italian flatbread that for some reason I had never made—or eaten!—until just a few years ago. I tried my friend Stephen's rosemary focaccia recipe while working on an article about bread and fell in love at first bite.

Basically a cross between a thick pizza crust and bread, focaccia makes fun burgers or sandwiches but is also nice eaten on its own or alongside a meal.

There are countless focaccia flavors and toppings, from the basic olive oil and sprinkling of salt variety to complicated tomato, onion, potato, herb, vegetable, and cheese topped versions that turn it into more of a thick crust pizza.

Recipe below. . .

Monday, September 19

Friday, September 16

Friday Night Dose of Cute: Listen Up!

Gus' donkey ears -

Have a great weekend.

Anything interesting on the menu this weekend? I'm hoping to play around with a couple of muffin recipes tomorrow (when I'm not in the kitchen garden sowing seeds for fall greens), and right now there's a big batch of homemade chicken stock cooling on the counter and a giant homemade pizza topped with sliced homegrown tomatoes just about ready to come out of the oven.

There's a hint of autumn in the air, and all I want to do is cook and bake. And eat.

©, where I'm so used to those big, beautiful (and soft!) donkey ears that whenever I see a horse I think their ears look too small.

Thursday, September 15

Thursday Dose of Cute: Little Sun Worshipper

Molly Doodlebug soaking up the sun -

©, where as soon as there's a hint of autumn in the air, the cats, who have avoided the sun all summer, now seek out the warmest spots on the farm. This morning we had 42 degrees. I thought it was blissful. My 16-year-old, 3½ pound Molly Doodlebug (aka The Doodle Monster) thought it was freezing.

Wednesday, September 14

Recipe: Greek Style Panzanella Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Kalamata Olives, Feta Cheese, and Homemade Croutons

Greek Style Panzanella Salad with cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and homemade pan-fried croutons -
This traditional Italian bread salad is given a Greek twist with feta cheese and kalamata olives. Crunchy pan-fried olive oil croutons are hard to resist.

I never understood the appeal of panzanella. Why would anyone toss soggy bread into their beautiful tomato and cucumber salad when they could have it warm and crusty on the side and slathered with butter instead?

I get it now.

What made me finally cross over? Four words: Ina Garten and homemade croutons.

Panzanella is a traditional Italian summer salad that was created as a way to use up leftover or slightly stale bread. The bread absorbs the tomato juices and vinaigrette, freshening it up. I've even seen recipes that called for soaking the pieces of bread in water first, then squeezing them 'dry' and mixing them into the salad.

None of this ever sounded appealing to me.

But chunky homemade croutons that have been coated with olive oil, sprinkled with salt, and pan-fried to perfection? Now that caught my attention. Toss in some feta cheese and kalamata olives and I was sold.

At the age of 43, I finally made my first batch of panzanella. And now I can't stop eating the stuff.

Recipe below. . .

Wordless Wednesday Dose of Cute

Bear and Bert on Mole Patrol -

More wordless cute? Here.
More Mole Patrol? Here.

Tuesday, September 13

Tuesday Dose of Cute: Never Drink Alone

Beagle Bert tanking up at the sheep water trough -

Thirsty for more cute?
Beagle pics here.
Sheep pics here.

©, where the bigger the water dish, the happier the dog—or the cat.

Monday, September 12

Monday Dose of Cute: Charging into the Week

Kicking up their hooves in Donkeyland -
Kicking up their hooves in Donkeyland

Love longears?
You can see lots more of Donkeyland here and here.
And The Daily Donkey
is full of cute donkey pics.

©, where our three donkey boys are doing well after their recent surgeries. Thanks for all your well wishes. Photos from the big day and an update should be up sometime this week.

Sunday, September 11

Saturday, September 10

Recipe: How To Make Your Own V8 Juice (Easy Homemade Vegetable Tomato Juice)

Easy Homemade V8 Juice (Vegetable Tomato Juice) -
A cool and refreshing way to drink your veggies: this easy homemade tomato vegetable juice is like V8 juice, but better (recipe here).

Would you rather have your refreshing summer vegetables raw? Check out my quick and easy gazpacho recipe. Is your garden full of green tomatoes that are never going to ripen? Turn them into my super simple, super popular salsa-like green tomato relish or learn how to ripen green tomatoes indoors the really easy way.

I have a sheep farmer friend who recently told me that she swears by Campbell's V8 juice when working out in the heat. She says it's more rejuvenating than drinking water or Gatorade and literally makes the difference between wanting to keel over and being able to keep going for hours.

This is the kind of stuff I need to know.

What could be even better than V8? Homemade V8! Or in this case V4, though you can add more vegetables, such as beets, carrots, tomatoes, or sweet peppers, if you like. Either way, this easy to make vegetable tomato juice will blow that V8 away. Did you know V8 juice is mostly made from water and tomato paste and salt?

Last week we put up another 180 bales of hay, on one of those insanely hot and humid days where you're drenched in sweat just walking across the farmyard, and it seems impossible that the air can be so amazingly still.

I couldn't conjure up a breeze—because there's apparently some law that says all air movement must stop while you're picking up hay—but before heading out into the hayfield, I found enough tomatoes in the garden to whip up a quick batch of this homemade vegetable tomato juice.

It definitely helped. And it also tasted delicious.

I'm sure V8's revitalizing abilities have something to do with the frightening amount of sodium it contains (because you lose so much while sweating), so this time I doubled the salt in my recipe.

I also used the Oxo Good Grips food mill I finally bought fall after lusting after one for two years. (Thanks to all of you who let me know how much you like yours!) I love it. It is so easy to use and clean, the non-stick legs work great, and the three different sized grinding discs are awesome.

To make this healthy, flavorful juice (recipe here), all you do is chop everything up and toss it into a pot, simmer until soupy, then put it through a food mill. It's the perfect way to make use of overripe, imperfect, or just plain ugly tomatoes, which you can sometimes find for a deal at farmers' markets.

And thankfully you don't have to be heading out into the hayfield to enjoy it.

©, where we're finally done putting up hay for the year! But hopefully we'll still be putting away a lot more homemade juice.

Wednesday, September 7

Got Pears? My Three Favorite Recipes, Plus How To Make Your Own Dried Pears

It's pear season! If you've never tasted homemade dried pears, you're in for a real treat—and they're so easy to make. As for pear recipes, these are still my three favorites, but they now include printer friendly versions. Enjoy!

Really Easy Low Sugar Pear Butter
This Really Easy Low Sugar Pear Butter is made in the oven (recipe here)

It's time to pig out on pears! They're cheap, they're plentiful, they're flavorful and sweet. They're also often available locally grown.

Unfortunately, they're also high on the Environmental Working Group's list of
Most Contaminated Produce, so it's especially important to seek out organic pears if at all possible. (There's a handy wallet-size and smart phone app of the EWG Shopper's Guide to the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 fruits and vegetables available free here.)

A good mature pear tree can literally produce several hundred pounds of fruit each year, so ask around. You might discover that a friend or neighbor would love for you to take a bushel or two off their hands. You can also search for fresh pears near you, or find a U-Pick farm at (which includes international listings).

More below. . .

Sunday, September 4

Two Easy, Crowd Pleasing Dessert Recipes

Are you heading to a party or picnic tomorrow? Did you leave dessert until the last minute? Here are two quick and easy favorites from the Farmgirl Fare recipe archives that also make great after school and lunch box treats. Enjoy!

Easy Raspberry Almond Bars 1

People get so excited over these Quick and Easy Raspberry Almond Bars it's almost embarrassing to admit how easy they are to make. You use one batter for both layers, and the filling is simply jam. They transport well, can be eaten out of hand, won't melt in the heat, freeze beautifully, and always garner rave reviews.

Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies 2

And of course everybody loves homemade chocolate chip cookies. I make Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies two ways, and both are hard to stop eating.

©, where we'll be, appropriately, spending Labor Day morning working the sheep (time to get ready for breeding season!), but taking the afternoon off sounds like a really good plan to me—especially if it involves a nap. And cookies.

Friday, September 2

Thursday, September 1

Thursday Dose of Cute: Recovery

Donkey Gus recovering from being de-jacked -

It was a long, hot afternoon, but yesterday's 'de-jacking' of our donkey boys went very well, thanks to our wonderful vet and farrier (who loved the cake and cookie bribes). Gus, Gnat, and Donkey Doodle Dandy are all recovering nicely, though today they would probably beg to differ.

I have some more photos of the big day I think you'll enjoy (nothing too graphic, don't worry!), but right now I'm headed out into the 100°+ hayfield to help pick up 180 bales of hay—a job we'll be recovering from tomorrow.

©, where I'm thinking the next big farm project should be a nice cool job—like reorganizing the contents of the chest freezers. I should probably start by polishing off the ice cream hiding in one of them. Maybe with some blackberry crisp.