Wednesday, August 29

Farmhouse White: An Easy Sandwich Bread Recipe for the Perfect BLT (or PBJ)

(19-1) BLT on freshly baked bread with bacon from our local butcher hog, garden tomatoes from a friend, and homemade pesto mayonnaise -
Does anything taste better than a BLT on old-fashioned, homemade bread?

The beginning of BLT season is something we eagerly and impatiently anticipate all summer long. For us, it's a momentous occasion that ranks right up there with birthdays and Thanksgiving.

The sandwiches, which we have for dinner, are always made the same way, with juicy and flavorful heirloom tomatoes from the organic kitchen garden, meaty smoked bacon from a locally raised hog we had butchered to our specifications, crunchy iceberg lettuce (hey, it's August in the Midwest), plenty of Hellman's mayonnaise, and perfectly toasted slices of freshly baked Farmhouse White.

We've eaten more BLTs this summer than we have in years, and neither of us is tired of them yet.

If you've been longing to learn how to bake your own sandwich bread, my easy Farmhouse White is the perfect place to start, and the recipe includes detailed instructions for beginners. I also offer lots of bread baking tips here and here.

Made with milk instead of water, this is a simple, traditional loaf that's nice and soft, but not too soft. It's great for just about any kind of sandwich and brings peanut butter and jam—a staple around here—to a whole new level. It's wonderful toasted, smells heavenly while toasting, and makes an awesome BLT.

The best part is that once you're comfortable with the basic recipe, you can go on to experiment by adding other ingredients to the dough. This can be a lot of fun, as even a slight change will often give you a completely different loaf. The bread in the BLT photo above was made using several cups of white whole wheat flour in place of some of the all-purpose flour.

I've been baking this bread for 12 years and have watched plenty of people who claim they never eat white bread gobble slices up. It's one of my most popular recipes, and I've heard from so many former nervous novices who are now confident bread bakers thanks to Farmhouse White. Maybe you'll be the next one!

Have you been enjoying BLTs this summer? How do you like yours?

More bread posts on Farmgirl Fare:
Carrot Herb Rolls (and a wonderful bread baking book for beginners)

©, where it's not just a sandwich, it's a freshly baked, bacon-filled adventure.

Monday, August 27

Recipe: Big Bite of Fresh Basil Herb Dip or Salad Dressing

Farmgirl Susan's Big Bite of Fresh Basil Dressing & Dip -
This simple, healthy dip is packed with fresh basil, parsley, chives, and garlic.

This has been a pretty challenging year in my kitchen garden, but despite the heat, drought, Japanese beetles, blister beetles, flea beetles, cabbage worms, the brazen herd of deer that isn't afraid of dogs, and probably some other things I've already blocked out of my mind, I've still managed to harvest a fair amount of bounty.

The tomatoes and sweet peppers are finally ripening, and before that there were three kinds of kale, several varieties of Swiss chard, three types of bush beans, four kinds of onions, along with garlic, potatoes, and fresh herbs galore, including Greek oregano, basil, parsley, chives, lemon thyme and English thyme, rosemary, and lemon balm.

Sometimes there's more than we can eat in the garden, but of course that doesn't stop me from buying extra bounty from other gardeners. The first day our Amish friends opened up their little front porch farm stand, I loaded up with bags of green beans, new red potatoes, Japanese cucumbers, several big zucchini, and 13 ears of just picked sweet corn.

My kitchen is usually overflowing—in a good way.

Recipe below. . .

Thursday, August 23

Recipe: Easy and Healthy Roasted Eggplant with (or without) Red Onion and Sweet Red Peppers

Easy Roasted Eggplant with Red Onion and Sweet Red Peppers 1 -
My favorite way to cook eggplant is great tasting and great for you (recipe here).

I still haven't harvested any eggplants from the eight sorry looking little plants in my kitchen garden (two words: flea beetles), but I haven't given up hope. I also haven't stopped thinking about this Easy Roasted Eggplant with Red Onion and Sweet Peppers I made over and over last summer.

You can't go wrong with roasting, and this has to be one of the least complicated—and the healthiest—ways to eat eggplant. Forget the cumbersome peeling, salting, and draining that so many eggplant recipes call for. Want to know how to roast eggplant? Just dice it up, toss it with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, and stick it in the oven. Additional vegetables are optional.

So simple, yet so flavorful. Exactly what summer eating should be.

No eggplants yet either? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

©, roastin' to the mostin'.

Sunday, August 19

Tail End of the Week: Get Your Friday/Sunday Farm Fix #23

Welcome to the Friday Farm Fix, where I share a random sampling of what's been happening around the farm during the past week (mostly on Fridays). Just joining us? You'll find all the Friday Farm Fix posts here and here.

(23-1) I'm saving seeds from this heat resistant mystery volunteer tomato plant -

This past week we had some blissfully cool nights and not nearly as hot days. It feels like we've finally turned a corner. And after nearly two weeks without any rain (and hardly any before that), a big storm blew through Thursday night and gave us two whole inches. We haven't had that much rain at one time in at least a year.

We also finally got the biopsy results back, and everything looks fine (yay!). It's not cancer, and there is nothing else left to test for. Unfortunately the doctors still have no idea what is causing all this debilitating female pain. Thank goodness for homeopathy and Chinese medicine and beautiful healing meditations.

I haven't forgotten the lemon rosemary zucchini bread recipe I promised you last week (it is so good toasted), and I have a few more new summer recipes I'm hoping to share soon too. I may still be spending a lot of time lying down, but we also still have to eat! I guess I'd better get snapping; fall will be here before we know it.

Thank you so much for all your kind words and prayers and support. I'm slowly catching up with e-mail.

Things are moving in the right direction.

14 more farm photos below. Hover over each image for a description. . .

Wednesday, August 15

Wordless Wednesday Dose of Cute

Who loves their hunky farmguy -

More wordless cute? Here and here.
More sheep? Here.
More hunky farmguy? Here.

Friday, August 10

Tail End of the Week: Get Your Friday Farm Fix #22

Welcome to the Friday Farm Fix, where I share a random sampling of what's been happening around the farm during the past week (mostly on Fridays). Just joining us? You'll find all the Friday Farm Fix posts here and here.

(22-1) Hopeful flock, led by Cary, looking for treats in the front field -

Not much to report this week, except to say that you all are the best. Thank you so much for your outpouring of kind words, encouraging thoughts, and heartfelt prayers after last week's Friday Farm Fix. Your e-mails and comments brought tears to my eyes. I can't begin to tell you how much your support means to us. Thank you.

We had a half inch of rain last Saturday, which was better than nothing. It's like Mother Nature keeps teasing us with just enough rain so that the fields don't completely die and we don't completely give up hope.

If it cools down and starts to rain on a regular basis, there's still a chance we might be able to cut at least a little hay in September (we have no hay for winter right now). But we need a lot more rain than we've been getting for the grass in the hayfield to green up and grow enough.

Yesterday I realized it had been nearly two weeks (!) since I'd seen the donkeys (I'm still spending a lot of time in bed), so this afternoon I tagged along with Joe on his daily treat run out to Donkeyland. Actually we drove and the dogs ran. Evie, who always loves to snuggle, seemed especially glad to see me. (Snuggling donkeys isn't in Joe's job description.)

On the way back to the house I said something about how depressing it is seeing the fields so burned up, and Joe said they actually look better than they did. Today, for the first time in I don't know how long, it was only in the 80s, with the humidity down and a nice big breeze. We turned off the a/c upstairs and opened all the windows. The temperature is headed right back up—it is August after all—but this little taste of relief felt heavenly.

Next summer I bet we'll be looking through these photos saying, "Wow, remember when there was nothing for the sheep and donkeys to eat last year? Look how tall and lush the grass in the fields is now." And then we'll stroll through the farmyard and admire the overflowing barn full of hay.


14 more farm photos below. Hover over each image for a description. . .

Sunday, August 5

Recipe: Greek Style Panzanella Salad with Kalamata Olives, Feta Cheese, and Homemade Pan-Fried Croutons

Greek Style Panzanella Salad with cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, and homemade croutons 2 -
This traditional Italian tomato and bread salad is given a Greek twist with feta cheese and kalamata olives. Olive oil croutons are hard to resist (recipe here).

Do you ever wonder why I don't post more recipes on Farmgirl Fare? Sometimes I do too. It's partly because I'm really picky about the recipes I share with you, partly a time factor thing, and partly because I'm often still making the same (already shared) favorites over and over again. Like this Greek Style Panzanella Salad.

It's cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, kalamata olives, feta cheese, red onion, and crunchy, pan-fried olive oil croutons, tossed with a flavorful red wine vinaigrette. For an extra boost of protein and fiber, you can stir in some organic garbanzo beans.

I pretty much lived on this salad for several weeks last summer and am ready to do it again. It makes a great side dish for grilled meats and a perfect light supper or lunch. I've even eaten the leftovers for breakfast. You'll find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Hungry for more than salad? There are links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

©, where we'll eat pretty much pan-fried anything.

Saturday, August 4

Tail End of the Week: Get Your Friday Farm Fix #21

Welcome to the Friday Farm Fix, a new series on Farmgirl Fare where I share a random sampling of what's been happening around the farm during the past week (mostly on Fridays). Just joining us? You'll find all the Friday Farm Fix posts here.

(21-1) Rainbow in the hayfield after a brief rain Sunday afternoon -
A little rain and a big rainbow in the hayfield late Sunday afternoon.

Same old song, different week. Still too hot, too dry, too much mystery female pain keeping me mostly in bed. I'm starting to sound like a broken record, and not the kind that's messed up because it's your favorite and you played it over and over again.

Part of me thinks I should stop mentioning this terrible heat and drought that has been holding us (and so many others) hostage for months and instead act like nothing is wrong, because everybody has problems and nobody wants to read a depressing blog. But life on the farm isn't always about cute animals and delicious homegrown food, and right now we can think of nothing else. And there isn't much to photograph.

I also know many of you follow Farmgirl Fare because you want to know what it's really like living out here in the country—the good, the bad, and the ugly. This would be the bad and the ugly (though we still have plenty of good food and cute).

I think six of the last seven days have been over 100 degrees, though I stopped checking the thermometer (and the weather forecast) weeks ago. When we drove to yet another doctor's office on Wednesday (we got the CT results and are now waiting two weeks for biopsy results), I couldn't believe how few cattle and how many dried up ponds we passed. Joe counted over 30 big dead trees just along our driveway and a little ways down the road as we headed out.

Most farmers around here water their grazing livestock using ponds, which are kept filled by rain. If your ponds are dry, your animals have nothing to drink. If you have relentless heat and no rain, your pastures burn up and your animals have nothing to eat.

More farm talk and 7 farm photos below. Hover over each photo for a description. . .