Sunday, September 30

Sunday Dose of Cute: Ready for Monday?

Beagle Bert in the hay and ignoring the world (1) -

And the whole picture. . .

Have a great week!

More beagle Bert? Here.
More of the whole picture series? Here.

©, always above the fray, but not always completely sure what day of the week it actually is.

Saturday, September 29

Recipe: 100% Whole Wheat Coconut Zucchini Bread

100% Whole Wheat Coconut Zucchini Bread (1) -
A healthy zucchini bread recipe that still tastes like a treat.

Another zucchini bread recipe? Yep. It's not all pumpkins and apples and pears out there yet, because How To Freeze Zucchini and My One Claim to Fame is still one of the most popular posts on Farmgirl Fare this week. (You'll find the rest of the top ten posts listed in the left sidebar.)

So if the Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread didn't tickle your fancy, maybe this recipe will. Made with 100% whole wheat flour, plus coconut oil, unsweetened coconut, less sugar than many zucchini bread recipes, and of course, zucchini, it's a healthy indulgence that still tastes like a treat. I can't seem to stop eating it.

If you've never tasted natural, unsweetened shredded coconut, you're in for a pleasant surprise. The coconut flavor really comes through, and unlike the highly processed sweetened stuff, it doesn't contain preservatives like propylene glycol and sodium metabisulfite. Look for unsweetened coconut at the supermarket or natural foods store (check the bulk section); I really like Bob's Red Mill brand.

Unsweetened coconut tastes great in baked goods, like this scrumptious Lemon Coconut Quick Bread and these Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies. You can also soak it in warm water and use it in place of fresh coconut. It keeps best in the refrigerator or freezer.

Coconut oil can be used for all kinds of things, including as a moisturizing lotion and hair conditioner. It's antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, is an excellent anti-inflammatory, and has even shown promising results as a treatment for Alzheimer's. We started putting several tablespoons of coconut oil in our morning smoothies last January while doing a detox cleanse, but it's also great for cooking, frying, and baking.

Coconut oil is solid below 76°F and doesn't need to be refrigerated. It melts at 76°F (set the jar in hot water to liquefy), so the trick when baking with coconut oil is to let your refrigerated ingredients warm up to room temperature before adding in the melted coconut oil so it doesn't solidify.

For this recipe, I combined the sugars, yogurt, egg, and vanilla together, let the mixture sit on the counter to warm up, and then stirred in the melted coconut oil. Too much hassle? Just use your favorite neutral oil (I like safflower) or melted organic butter instead.

Recipe below. . .

Thursday, September 27

Thursday Farm Photo: Found Love

Heart rock found in the creek bed -

More heart rocks? Here and here.
More Lucky Buddy Bear? Here.

©, where I still keep finding heart rocks, and the love still keeps on pumping.

Wednesday, September 26

Wednesday Dose of Cute: Check It Out

Checking each other out (1) -

Sheep breeding season started on September this year and will last for 37 days. This is a month earlier than we started last year, which was earlier than we started the year before. It means, of course, that lambing season will also begin a lot earlier than usual, in (yikes) late January. It's an experiment.

We currently have two rams, Da Big Guy (born in the 'D' name year) and The Kid (aka Hey Kid; yep, that's his 'H' name). For 328 days a year these two guys live together, separate from the rest of the flock, and get along just fine. When it's cold they even snuggle. Add in some girls to fight over, though, and things would get really ugly. So when we're breeding, the rams are each locked up with their own ewes, and the two mini flocks are kept apart from each other, never even sharing a fence.

This set up keeps the peace and makes everybody happy. But it can't hurt to have a little look every once in a while, can it? After all, you know what they say—the sheep are always cuter on the other side of the fence.

More photos below. . .

Sunday, September 23

Sunday Dose of Cute: Beagle Bert, Chicken Catcher?

Beagle Bert, chicken whisperer (1) -
Do you see any thumbs on these paws?

For 11 years we used an old, short-handled fishing net to catch wayward chickens. It worked great, so when we saw this big, bright, seemingly better version in one of our favorite livestock supply catalogs, we couldn't resist. We splurged.

And what did we quickly discover? That it is impossible to sneak up on an unsuspecting chicken while holding an enormous red net. The thing is like six feet long.

Trying to use it reminded me of the high dollar, halter-trained llama I bought to guard my newly purchased flock of sheep back in 1995. Oh yes, he was defiinitely halter trained. Every time he saw the halter, he immediately took off running in the other direction.

Fortunately we kept the old fishing net—much to the delight of the three little kids who were visiting yesterday.

As for Bert, if he wanted to catch a chicken (and he doesn't), I doubt he'd need the net. All the young chickens love him, and he loves to sit in the farmyard and watch his chicken TV. They even let him steal their treats.

More photos below. . .

Sunday, September 16

Recipe: No-Cook Fresh Tomato Pasta Sauce with Basil, Capers, and Kalamata Olives

My version of the simple, flavorful pasta sauce made with chopped raw tomatoes and uncooked seasonings that is eaten in country houses all over Italy.

A hint of autumn may be in the air, and apple, pear, and pumpkin recipes are popping up all over place, but some of us gardeners are still hoping for a little more summer and a lot more vine-ripened tomatoes (and peppers and eggplant).

Did you know that tomato plants won't set fruit if the daytime high temperatures are above 90 degrees? The heat makes the pollen inside the blossoms tacky and non-viable, preventing pollination. I didn't learn that until last year (thanks, Cynthia!). Fog, smog, high humidity, dusty conditions, and nighttime temperatures below 55 degrees can also make tomato blossoms drop off instead of turn into fruit. It's a wonder some of us harvest any tomatoes at all.

But now that the months of devastating heat and drought have thankfully come to an end (we're actually getting some rain!), the poor tomato plants in my kitchen garden are heaving a big sigh of relief and finally loading themselves up with green fruit.

The same thing happened last year with six late-planted Romas, from which I harvested about 60 pounds of fat green tomatoes in October. Thankfully it's easy to ripen green tomatoes indoors, and of course there's always my popular Super Simple, No Sugar, Salsa-Like Green Tomato Relish, but nothing tastes as good as vine-ripened.

One of my favorite ways to celebrate the amazing flavor of homegrown tomatoes is in a simple, raw tomato pasta sauce. For those of us still waiting for the bulk of our summer bounty, here's to a ripe and juicy start to fall!

Recipe below. . .

Thursday, September 13

Recipe: Greek Salad Pita Bread Sandwiches with Baby Spinach and Quick Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Greek salad pitas with kalamata olive tapenade (1) -
Pita breads are stuffed with crunchy Greek salad, baby spinach, and a quick and easy kalamata olive tapenade for a healthy light supper or lunch.

Once upon a time, before I moved from Calfornia to Missouri and became a clueless farmgirl, I worked as a freelance graphic designer. Many of my clients were restaurants, so I created a lot of logos, menus, and various promotional materials. The work was challenging and mostly pretty fun, and it's always nice working for businesses that serve food, especially if you're not actually working at them, which is something I also spent a lot of time doing.

One of my long time clients was a cavernous micro brewery that offered an extensive menu of homemade pub fare, including some of the best beer-battered fish and chips I've ever tasted. The menus were handwritten in fairly small letters by yours truly (because the owner liked my writing) and printed on 11"x17" sheets of very bright yellow paper (because the owner also liked bright yellow, and sometimes there's no arguing with the client). I still have a laminated copy of one around here somewhere.

The owner, who ended up becoming a good friend (which meant I got to drink a lot of free beer while perfecting my dart game) used to joke that they really only served a couple of items; they just rearranged ingredients and turned them into lots of different dishes.

That's not necessarily a bad thing—and the other day I realized it's pretty much how I operate in summer. You take cucumbers and tomatoes, add various other ingredients, and serve them up all season long.

For instance, if you add feta cheese, kalamata olives, red onion, oregano, and pan-fried croutons to your cucumbers and tomatoes, you have Greek Style Panzanella Salad, which I love so much I even eat it for breakfast.

Swap out the oregano and red onion for some fresh basil, mint, parsley and scallions, then toss in some garbanzo beans and pita bread, and you've got Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad (Fattoush), which is really good even without the pita.

Whiz your tomatoes and cucumber in a blender with some sweet red peppers, onion, and garlic and you've turned them into Quick & Easy Gazpacho, a healthy and refreshing chilled vegetable soup.

Or you can stuff some Greek salad into pita bread and have a delicious light supper or lunch.

Recipe below. . .

Sunday, September 9

Sunday Dose of Cute: A Look Back at Lokey and Her Little Chicks

Lokey and her ten chicks (1) -
Lokey and her 10 chicks on July 12th (one is hiding behind her).

For the last several years we've kept our flock of laying hens steady at about 12 to 14, along with a couple of roosters. They're split into two groups (that are never let out of their coops together because the two roosters will fight) plus a few hens who live on the loose, including one who hung out for a while with the sheep.

The hens provide us with more than enough wonderfully flavorful eggs, and every year at least two or three of the hens usually hatch out a couple of baby chicks (many of whom turn out to be roosters). I don't know if it's the new feed we switched to a while back or what, but this year four hens hatched out 40 live chicks.

And half of those were Lokey's.

Lots more photos below. . .

Wednesday, September 5

Wordless Wednesday Dose of Cute

Bert, Tuffy, and Mr. Midnight -

More wordless cute? Here and here.
More beagle Bert? Here.
More Tuffy? Here.
More Mr. Midnight? Here.


Monday, September 3

Got Green Tomatoes? Try My Super Simple, No Sugar, Salsa-Like, Green Tomato Relish Recipe

Going green is good—even when it comes to tomatoes.

2012 Update: I'm hoping to still be picking ripe tomatoes in my kitchen garden for at least another month, but re-posting this shout out each September 3rd has become an annual Farmgirl Fare tradition. In the sales pitch below are reviews from fans of my super popular No Sugar, Salsa-Like Green Tomato Relish Recipe, which is a tasty, easy way to use up all those green tomatoes still out on the vine. Enjoy!

If you'd rather have your tomatoes red, check out How To Ripen Green Tomatoes Indoors the Really Easy Way on my kitchen garden blog. And if your ripe tomatoes are still plentiful, learn How To Make Homemade Pizza Sauce Using Fresh Tomatoes or How To Freeze Tomatoes the Really Easy Way (and Why I Don't Do Much Canning Anymore), which includes links to all my tomato growing posts.

When the first frost threatens in fall, I pick all the remaining green tomatoes in the garden that I can. Green tomatoes will eventually ripen when stored indoors at room temperature (don't put them in the refrigerator!), although the flavor won't be nearly as nice as vine ripened (learn more about ripening tomatoes indoors here). Of course any homegrown tomato eaten on Thanksgiving or Christmas tastes fantastic, but why not celebrate their greenness instead?

I created this no sugar green tomato relish recipe years ago for Kitchen Gardener magazine. It doesn't call for the usual raisins or spices and is really more like a thick salsa. It's easily adaptable to what you have on hand, and there's no blanching or peeling required—you just chop everything up and toss it into a pot. And since it'll keep for several weeks in the refrigerator, canning is optional.

But don't just take my word regarding this recipe. Here's what others have said about it over the years:

More below. . .

Sunday, September 2

Recipe: Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread

Lemon zest and fresh rosemary add a flavorful twist to zucchini bread.

Up to your ears in zucchini? Bored with the same old cinnamon zucchini bread? Have I got the perfect recipe for you.

This is not a savory bread, but with less sugar than many zucchini bread recipes, it doesn't feel like you're eating cake for breakfast. (Not that there's anything wrong with eating cake for breakfast.) It also makes a delicious afternoon snack.

The flavors of the rosemary and lemon are pleasantly subtle, but you can bump them up if you like. This quick bread tastes even better the next day, will stay moist for several days, and freezes well. I like it best sliced, toasted, and slathered with butter.

The most popular recipe on Farmgirl Fare right now is How To Freeze Zucchini & Summer Squash and My One Claim to Fame (which is that I'm a complete failure at growing something everybody else spends half the summer desperately trying to give away).

To enjoy freshly baked zucchini bread all year round, simply grate your zucchini (I use a stainless steel box grater), squeeze out some of the liquid if it's really moist (you can use a flour sack towel—these are so handy in the kitchen—or cheesecloth, but I usually just stand over the sink and use my hands), portion it out into the amount you'll need, and pack it into zipper freezer bags or containers. Defrost before using. For more on using frozen shredded zucchini in baked goods, see this thread on the Farmgirl Fare Facebook page.

Recipe below. . .