Wednesday, December 23

Recipe: Easy Christmas Cranberry Scones (and Rave Reviews from First Time Scone Bakers)

They're moist on the inside, with a nice light crunch on the outside (recipe here)

A little shout out for another long time favorite recipe from the Farmgirl Fare archives. . .

Beautifully golden brown and dotted with jewel-like dried cranberries (and optional chopped pecans), these cute little scones are sure to brighten any holiday table. I named them Christmas Cranberry Scones back in 2002 when I baked them all afternoon at a kitchen store holiday open house, but they're tasty any time of year.

Buttery and crumbly and rich, try them for breakfast, brunch, or afternoon tea. They also freeze beautifully.

If you've never made scones before, have no fear! This easy recipe is the perfect place to start, as you can see from the rave reviews from Farmgirl Fare readers below.

Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to comment on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest!

Wishing you a joyful, peaceful, and delicious holiday season!

Read the rave reviews below. . .

Tuesday, December 22

Recipe: Really Easy Baby Shortbread Cookies with Mini Chocolate Chips and Toffee Bits (and Rave Reviews)

A scrumptious cross between butter cookies and shortbread, these are one of my all time favorite cookies. Perfect for giving and munching! (recipe here).

Think there's no time left for holiday baking? Think again. These cute baby chocolate chip and toffee cookies are perfect to have on hand this time of year, and the batter comes together in less time than it takes the oven to heat up. I've been making them since 2009 and everyone always loves them.

They keep for several days and travel well, making them a wonderful choice for holiday goodie boxes mailed to faraway loved ones. They also freeze beautifully, so you can bake them now and enjoy them later.

Pile them on a pretty plate and serve them to guests as a light dessert with coffee, or add them to an afternoon tea tray. Pack them in little cello bags tied with a colorful ribbon for handy holiday gifts, perhaps tucked into oversized cappuccino cups.

I'm a sucker for any recipe that calls for English toffee bits, but these cookies would also be good made with all mini chocolate chips, or mini chips and finely chopped pecans. And for shortbread purists, I bet they'd be very nice without anything extra added at all.

Below is a sampling of what Farmgirl Fare readers have said about this recipe. Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to comment on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest!

— Oh, how dreamy and delicious they are - many, many, thanks!

— I made SEVERAL batches of these last week—for dessert for guests, for a church meeting, and then for a bake sale. Of course, I had some here and there and they are marvelous. One of my favorite cookies now.

— I made these cookies and they are awesome! They taste even better the next day. My husband couldn't stop eating them.

— I made these as part of the Christmas cookie assortment that I make for my coworkers. First, they were easy. Second, they came out looking just like yours. And third, they are fantastic! Everyone loves them.

— I made those cookies a little over an hour ago. I think I ate half the batter and thereafter half the cookies. I'm currently typing this out of sight of the freezer so I won't go steal more.

— I just wanted to send a heartfelt THANK YOU for this recipe. I make lots of people happy with it!

— These are now a regular in my holiday cookie baking. They are amazing!

Baking up a holiday storm? These recipes all keep well and make nice gifts:
Christmas Cranberry Scones (tasty any time of year!)
Easy Chocolate Biscotti Cookies (a great recipe for first time biscotti bakers)
Toasted Almond Chocolate Chip Biscotti (one of Joe's favorite cookies)
Quick and Easy Raspberry Almond Bars (made with raspberry jam)

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

©, where cute is a way of life—right down to dessert.

Wednesday, December 16

Recipe: Easy Chocolate Biscotti (and Rave Reviews)

Easy Chocolate Biscotti Recipe - perfect for holiday gift giving! —
Homemade chocolate biscotti makes a delicious holiday gift (recipe here).

Looking for a last minute holiday gift idea? Think homemade biscotti! I've been making and giving (and eating) this Easy Chocolate Biscotti for over 15 years, and it's always a huge hit.

Have you ever wondered how to make biscotti? These twice baked, crunchy Italian cookies always look so elegant and perfect, especially when packed up in little cello bags and tied with a pretty ribbon, but they're easier to make than you might think.

This simple recipe is ideal for first time biscotti bakers for two reasons: the buttery dough is easy to work with, and the chocolate makes it dark, so no one will be able to tell if all your cookies aren't the same exact shade of golden brown.

These biscotti stay fresh for several days, making them perfect for gift giving. They also freeze beautifully. The cookies have a nice (not break-your-teeth) crunch that stands up to dunking in coffee, but they also taste great on their own.

But don't just take my word for it. Below is a sampling of what others have said about this recipe since I originally shared it back in 2005. I especially love hearing about all the signature touches. Mint chocolate chips mixed in to the dough? Yes, please!

Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to comment on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest!

More below. . .

Friday, December 4

Recipe: Old-Fashioned Molasses Spice Cookies (Big and Soft or Small and Crunchy)

Big and Soft Old-Fashioned Molasses Ginger Spice Cookies -
An old-fashioned treat that brings back—and  makes—sweet memories (recipe here).

I baked up the season's first batch of these Big, Soft, and Chewy Molasses Ginger Spice Cookies a couple of weeks ago and they disappeared in a flash. It seems there are a lot of molasses spice cookie lovers out there but not a lot of molasses spice cookie bakers!

I've been making this easy recipe all year round for at least 15 years, but they always seem so festive during the holidays, reminding me of ice skating and red mittens and crackling fires and early Christmas morning.

There's something about really big cookies that people just love. I started baking and selling oversized cookies 30 years ago and everyone from little kids to big tough men always goes crazy for them.

Old-fashioned molasses ginger spice snap cookies -
Even better by the little dozen? (recipe & molasses ginger cookie lore here)

What's especially nice is when one cookie dough will give you two completely different cookies, just by changing the size. These 2-inch Molasses Ginger Spice Snaps are cute and crunchy, and one batch bakes up 12 dozen cookies that store really well, making them perfect for gift giving. I like to pack them up in little cello bags and tie them with a colorful ribbon. Both versions of these cookies also freeze beautifully.

Happy holiday baking!

Can't survive on just cookies? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

©, where it was 19 degrees F this morning and looked like an icy wonderland out there. It's time to fire up the wood furnace and celebrate the coziest, tastiest time of year!

Thursday, November 19

Recipe: Easy Savory Cheese and Scallion Scones with Cream Cheese and Feta (and Rave Reviews)

These simple yet impressive scones are perfect for the holidays (recipe here).

I created these Savory Cheese and Scallion Scones during a 1993 scone craving when there was no butter in the house, and they've become one of my most popular recipes both online and off. I brought them to a big Thanksgiving feast last year and they were a huge hit.

Made with softened cream cheese in place of the butter, they're light and moist on the inside, with a pleasant little crunch on the outside. They're perfect for the holidays, but they mix up so quickly you don't need to wait for a special occasion to serve them.

Offer them warm from the oven instead of rolls: plain, buttered, or with cream cheese, goat cheese, or homemade herbed yogurt cheese. I like to split and toast them in the toaster oven for breakfast, then slather both crunchy halves with butter. They're great for making little sandwiches, and I've even used them as burger buns.

They also freeze beautifully, so you can make them now and serve them later. Defrost them at room temperature and heat at 375° for about 5 to 8 minutes.

Not a feta fan? You'll find the chive and sharp cheddar version here.

Still not sure about this recipe? Maybe these rave reviews from Farmgirl Fare readers will help turn you into a savory sconehead. Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to comment on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest!

Read the rave reviews below. . .

Friday, October 23

Friday Farm Photo: Have a Picturesque Weekend.

Breakfast in the front field.

Any plans this weekend? We're finally getting a little bit of much needed rain and are hoping for more tonight or tomorrow. It's mostly dusty and crunchy and brown out there, and the cool season grasses that the sheep and donkeys usually graze on this time of year simply aren't growing. Fortunately we've reduced the size of the flock so much in the past few years that we—knock on wool—should still have plenty for everyone to eat, plus the moisture from the early morning fog we often get down in our little valley helps a lot. But I think many of the local cattle farmers are going to have to start feeding out their hay much earlier than they'd planned.

I'm also hoping the rain will wash away these unseasonably warm temperatures (after two frosty nights we're back up in the 80s) and the thousands of little yellowish-green beetles with black spots that have been decimating the several beds of beautiful autumn greens in the kitchen garden that were supposed to keep us fed for the next couple of months. In 21 years of gardening in Missouri I've never had any trouble with—or seen so many of—these incredibly destructive bugs. This has been a really strange year in the garden. (Update: They're spotted cucumber beetles, which unlike striped cucumber beetles, feed on over 200 crop and non-crop plants. Crap. Thanks for the pest ID, Candy!)

Meanwhile we're working our way through the several pounds of only-slightly-nibbled lettuce and kale I managed to salvage that are stashed in a giant cooler in Joe's workshop (he's thrilled). Every night is Giant Salad Night! But between the fresh crisp greens and the last of the vine-ripened garden tomatoes, neither of us minds a bit.

©, home of the half hidden donkey.

Monday, October 12

Monday Dose of Cute: It's a Brand New Week.

Bring it on.

©, powered by The Jaspernator, who is currently sprawled across the top of one of the chest freezers downstairs, staring at the wall.

Saturday, October 10

Attention Farmgirl Fare Feedblitz Email Subscribers!

Battered cattle gate on the property up the valley from ours.

Hello! For those of you who receive Farmgirl Fare posts via the Feedblitz email subscription service, I just wanted to let you know that all those extra ads that have been appearing in your newsletters lately aren't my fault!

In exchange for offering free email subscriptions to Farmgirl Fare (and to millions of other blogs), Feedblitz runs its own ads in the email updates that it sends you.

I have no control over these ads, nor do I receive any revenue from them. Unfortunately Feedblitz recently increased the number of ads in all of its subscriptions, and in my opinion they've gotten a little excessive.

If you still want to keep up with everything on the farm (and I sure hope you do!) but the Feedblitz email ads are too annoying, there are a couple of things you can do:

1. The easiest option is to keep receiving your Feedblitz email subscription, but as soon as you open each email, just click right through to the Farmgirl Fare site and read the new post there instead.

Simply click on the title of the new post, which appears in blue near the top of the email (right under an ad!) and that will bring you to Farmgirl Fare. So for this post it would be the catchy title: Attention Farmgirl Fare Feedblitz Email Subscribers.

2. Or you can follow along via Facebook. I announce each new Farmgirl Fare post on the Farmgirl Fare Facebook pageTo make sure you receive the new post announcements, click LIKE on the Farmgirl Fare Facebook page, then under LIKED click on Get Notifications and Add to Interest List. The new post announcements are the only things I post on Facebook, so you won't be bombarded with a bunch of other stuff in your feed.

Unfortunately you may still not receive the new post announcements because Facebook really wants me (and everybody else) to pay to reach fans, so you might check the Farmgirl Fare Facebook page or once in a while to see if you're actually getting the updates. I've heard from readers who thought I'd stopped blogging for a year when I was actually putting up several posts—and Facebook announcements for each post—every week.

3. You can also subscribe to Farmgirl Fare content updates via FeedBurner (in things like My Yahoo!, Newsgator, Bloglines, etc.) but I'm embarrassed to admit I never learned how that whole (now pretty antiquated) RSS feed thing actually works. There's also something called BlogLovin', but I have no idea how that works either.

I hope this helps. As always, your comments, emails, and feedback are greatly appreciated.

See you around the farm!

©, the totally low tech foodie farm blog (no smartphones—or even cell phone reception—down here!) where our mostly well-behaved bovine neighbors can sometimes get a little rambunctious.

Friday, October 2

Friday Dose of Cute: Have a Happy Weekend.

Hanging out by the new chickens (who are laying four six dozen eggs a week!)

Any plans this weekend? When we're not eating as many of the last vine-ripened tomatoes as we can (tacos! BLTs! hot melty cheese and tomato open-faced sandwiches on homemade sourdough rye! enormous salads!) we'll be spending as much time as possible outdoors enjoying this gorgeous fall weather, Joe mostly out on the big tractor bushhogging down the fields and me in the kitchen garden.

Two days ago it's like a switch was flipped and we went from hot and humid and thinking about a late afternoon swim in the river to cool and crisp and looking for a heavy long-sleeved shirt.

The nights are dipping into the low 40s, but we're still sleeping with the windows wide open. Cozy blankets, vintage quilts, slow-roasted dinners, hot cups of tea, invigorating breezes flapping all the laundry on the line, and the sounds of the first geese already heading south.

Autumn wakes us up and always seems so full of possibility. It feels completely different both outside and in our hearts. The sheep are suddenly feisty and full of energy, jumping around and playing like little kids. The kitchen beckons, and so do the woods. Firewood and flannel sheets. Pitch dark by seven o'clock. Fall has arrived. It's time to slow down and savor every minute.

©, the gracefully aging foodie farm blog where it's hard to believe our beloved Lucky Buddy Bear will be fourteen years old in January. His eyesight is fading, his hearing is going, and he now spends most of his time in the house, but this retired old stock dog hasn't lost his shine or his smile—and he still likes nothing better than to be surrounded by members of his feathered, furry, and wooly farm flock.

Tuesday, September 29

Tuesday Dose of Farm and Cute: Good Morning Light

The 20-year-old homemade swing in the hayfield keeps getting higher as the tree gets bigger.

I haven't been taking any pictures lately, but a few mornings ago I decided to grab my camera as Bear, Bert, Henry, and I headed out to check on the donkeys, the chickens, the big dogs, and the sheep. Before we'd even left the farmyard I was seeing photos everywhere.

It's all in the light.

15 more photos below. . .

Monday, September 28

Monday Dose of Cute: No Comment.

And not happy about it.

Hi Everybody,
Just a quick to let you know why Henry and I aren't smiling.

First I want to thank you, as always, for taking the time to leave so many nice comments on my blog posts. You know I always love hearing from you, and I do my best to answer your questions in a timely manner, especially if they're about one of my recipes.

Unfortunately for some reason, Blogger, which has hosted Farmgirl Fare since I started it back in 2005, hasn't been letting me leave any comments (on my own blog!) for the past few weeks. Not on my ancient desktop—which is so old and cranky that most days I want to toss it out my second story office window—not on Joe's new Chromebook (no more Windows updates!), not in any way, shape, or form that I can figure out. *head* *desk* So if you've been waiting for me to reply to a comment you've left recently, I apologize.

I'm hoping this is some sort of bug that Blogger will figure out and fix soon, but since it's now going on something like four years since I've actually been able to change things in my Farmgirl Fare template like background colors and font sizes (I'd really like to make the main column text bigger and easier to read!) who knows.

In the meantime, you're always welcome to email me at farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com, and I'll try to reply as soon as I can. Thanks so much!

More farm dogs (including some that are smiling)? Here and here.
Want some wordless farm critter cute? Here and here

©, where tech is definitely a four letter word.

Wednesday, September 23

Wednesday Farm Photo: Hello, Autumn!

Looking past the recently rebuilt antique tractor and into the front field.

Happy first day of fall! Has your weather changed seasons yet? It's hot and dry and still seems like summer here, but some of the leaves have started turning yellow, and the nights are dropping down into the blissful 50s.

These cooler mornings feel fresh and energetic, with the promise that all those wonderful crisp autumn days are just around the corner. I can't wait.

©, falling into autumn faster than seven donkeys heading towards the treat trough.

Friday, September 18

Friday Farm Photo: Have a Well Constructed Weekend.

Morning art installation.

I'm not sure why, but every September our resident spider population seems to increase by about five thousand percent. There are spiders—and spiderwebs—everywhere. You can see them best in the morning sun, still all perfectly intact and glistening with dew, a fat spider often sitting proudly (or resting after a long night's effort?) in the center. (This web's owner scurried out of sight when I pulled out the camera.)

There are so many different shapes and sizes of spiderwebs, including little roundish ones that appear by the hundreds in the newly cut grass in the hayfield, and others that consist of simply a few several-foot-long strands that have been magically draped between two stationary objects, usually at face level.

It's easy to see why spiders and spiderwebs play a big role in Halloween decorating; somebody probably just looked around at the end of September and said, "Yep, these things could be really creepy."

I like the intricate, showy webs like the one above the best. They look like so much work that I always try to avoid breaking them as I traipse across the farmyard with a basket of laundry to hang on the line, or over to the chicken coops carrying overgrown arugula and cucumber treats from the kitchen garden. But because of the way the light plays on them, you can often only see the webs from one direction, so more often than not I will carefully duck my head and slip under so as to avoid a sticky mess and then mindlessly crash right through on my way back.

It's best to walk around the farm with a hat on and your mouth shut.

I'm always amazed at how fast the spiders can create those complicated webs, which makes me feel a little less guilty when I accidentally destroy one. Watching a spider at work is mesmerizing, and taking a few minutes to stop and really see how something is literally being built out of thin air should probably be on everybody's Need To Do This Someday life list.

The longer you watch, the more in awe you'll be.

More spiders and spider webs? Here.
More views around the farm? Here and here and here.

©, always in the middle of a building boom.

Monday, September 7

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

My favorite way to cook eggplant is great tasting and great for you (recipe here).

Got eggplant? Wondering what to do with it? You can't go wrong with roasting, and this has to be one of the least complicated—and healthiest—ways to eat eggplant.

Forget the cumbersome peeling, salting, and draining that so many eggplant recipes call for, not to mention the often huge amounts of oil. How do you 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 late summer eating should be.

Still not sure? Here's what Farmgirl Fare readers are saying about this recipe:

—This was way more delicious than I could have imagined! Great caramelized flavor. I also added in some halved cherry tomatoes and served it all over pasta with pesto.

—Such an easy recipe and so delicious. I was looking for a healthy eggplant recipe that didn't have tomato sauce or cheese. Thank you!!!

—Yummy! Made it today and couldn't wait to eat it — it was almost gone before I took it off the cookie sheet! I sprinkled some nutritional yeast on it before baking - mmmmm!

Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to come back and report on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest too. Enjoy!

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

©, where the standard operating procedure is: when in doubt, roast it (or go outside and hug a couple of donkeys).

Tuesday, August 25

Recipe: Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread

Lemon zest and fresh rosemary add a flavorful twist to this just-sweet-enough quick bread (recipe here).

Zucchini bread recipes are a dime a dozen, but this Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread really stands out from the crowd.

This is not a savory quick bread, but it calls for less sugar than many zucchini bread recipes, along with some whole wheat flour and olive oil, so 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 bread tastes even better the next day, will stay moist for several days, and freezes well. I like it best thickly sliced, toasted (I use a little toaster/convection oven), and slathered with butter. Enjoy!

P.S. 100% Whole Wheat Coconut Zucchini Bread (made with unsweetened coconut) and moist and healthy 100% Whole Grain Carrot, Raisin, and Zucchini Bran Muffins (made without bran cereal).

©, where we are way down on our zucchini—and zucchini bread—eating quotient for the year.

Thursday, August 13

Recipe: Greek Style Panzanella Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Pan-Fried Olive Oil 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 (recipe here).

I'm so happy that the pretty little fruits on my two big Sun Sugar cherry tomato plants have finally started to ripen because this Greek Style Panzanella Salad is one of my favorite summer recipes. I'd never been a fan of panzanella, which I always thought of as soggy bread salad, until a few years ago when I came across Ina Garten's Greek style version.

I have five words for you: pan-fried olive oil croutons.

This colorful salad is made with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, kalamata olives, feta cheese, red onion, and crunchy homemade croutons, all tossed with a flavorful red wine vinaigrette.

It makes a great side dish for grilled meats and a perfect light supper or lunch. I've even eaten the leftovers for breakfast. To make it more substantial, try stirring in some organic garbanzo beans. Enjoy!

P.S. Easy Italian Countryside Raw Tomato Pasta Sauce with basil, capers, and olives and Greek  Salad Pita Bread Sandwiches with baby spinach and quick kalamata olive tapenade.

©, where the kitchen garden tomatoes are even better late than never.

Monday, August 3

Baker's Blues by Judi Hendricks: A Giveaway and Conversation with the Author

One of the best things about writing Farmgirl Fare for the past ten (!) years has been making friends and meeting so many wonderful people from around the world.

I was already a huge fan of Judith Ryan Hendricks' Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice when Lisa Munley at TLC Book Tours contacted me back in 2009 to see if I was interested in being part of a tour for Judi's new book, The Laws of Harmony.

Of course I jumped at the chance (and loved the book), and Judi and I have been great friends ever since, emailing back and forth and chatting on the phone every couple of months for hours at a time—mostly about food.

Judi, who lives in Santa Fe with her husband Geoff and dog Blue, has a degree in journalism and worked as a journalist, copywriter, computer instructor, travel agent, waitress, and baker before turning to fiction writing.

Her first novel, Bread Alone (so named because she's a fellow Daniel Leader fan), was a national bestseller and a BookSense 76 pick. It was followed by Isabel's Daughter (which I also love), The Baker's Apprentice (book two in the Bread Alone series), and The Laws of Harmony, which was nominated for The Santa Fe Reporter's "Best of Santa Fe." Her work has been translated into 12 languages and distributed in 16 countries.

Bread Alone is the story of thirty-one-year-old L.A. executive wife Wynter Morrison, whose upper class life is turned upside down when her husband announces one evening that their marriage is over. Emotionally devastated and desperate for a change of scenery, Wyn escapes to Seattle and takes a job as a bread baker, rekindling her love of baking and discovering that making bread possesses an unexpected healing power.

Bread Alone is one of my favorite novels, and for years I've been anxiously awaiting (and pestering Judi about) the publication of part three of this bakery trilogy, Baker's Blues. This new book is just as good—and just as food-filled—as all of her others, and I've already read it twice.

Baker's Blues can be read on its own, but you'll enjoy it much more if you read Bread Alone and The Baker's Apprentice first.

I'm so happy to be kicking off this 19-stop TLC virtual book tour for Baker's Blues with an in-depth interview with Judi, recorded during one of our marathon phone chats.

Read the interview below. . .

Saturday, July 25

Easy Blueberry Bonanza Bars with Streusel and Oats — Recipe and Rave Reviews

Celebrate a blueberry bonanza with this super popular triple layer, anytime sweet treat (recipe here).

These scrumptious Blueberry Bonanza Breakfast Bars are my favorite way to celebrate blueberry season. They can be made with either fresh or frozen blueberries, and they don't have to be eaten for breakfast. I originally wrote about them back in 2006, and they've been one of my most popular recipes ever since.

Don't let the three separate layers scare you away; they come together quickly and you only need to dirty up two mixing bowls. They also freeze beautifully. With the oatmeal crust and streusel topping, these bars remind me of an eat-with-your-hands cross between blueberry pie and blueberry crisp.

If you only have a small blueberry haul (maybe because you ate half of them in the car on the way home), you could try the Just Peachy version or the Apple Blueberry version, which call for just two cups of blueberries each. Or use your imagination and what you have on hand; Farmgirl Fare readers have reported delicious success making these bars with blackberries, black cherries, frozen cranberries, stewed apricots, and raspberries.

Still not sure? Maybe the sampling below of rave reviews will get you on the blueberry bonanza breakfast bar bandwagon.

Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to come back and report on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest too!

Read rave reviews for Blueberry Bonanza Breakfast Bars below. . .

Sunday, July 12

Recipe: Savory Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Pesto Pie with an Easy Cheesy Biscuit Crust

Scared of pie dough? This easy biscuit crust is perfect for beginners (recipe here).

It wouldn't be summer on the farm without a shout out for this longtime favorite recipe from the Farmgirl Fare recipe archives. Enjoy!

Are there ripe tomatoes in your neck of the woods yet? I was really behind with spring planting in the kitchen garden this year (no surprise there!) so it's still going to be a while before we're picking any tomatoes from our 23 plants, but that's okay. We had a whopping five inches of rain in three days last week (unheard of in July; the creek is even running again), and if there had been any tomatoes on the vines, they wouldn't have liked all that water. The basil plants are going gangbusters though, so when we finally do get our tomatoes the pesto will definitely be ready.

Do tomatoes and basil say summer to you? Do you love pesto and savory pies and melted mozzarella cheese? Then you'll want to celebrate the bounty of summer with this Savory Tomato and Basil Pesto Pie.

This is one of my most popular recipes, and men seem to especially like it. Last summer my friend Susan in Vermont said, "I'm making your tomato pesto pie for dinner tonight. I made it last week, and my husband fell in love with me all over again." You'll find more rave reviews below.

When my pal Finny, who has been known to live by the motto All pie, all the time, first made it back in 2006, she added a layer of insurance for her meat loving husband—cooked and crumbled Italian sausage. How brilliant is that?

If you want to try adding some, too, you'll find my easy recipe for homemade Italian sausage here (no casings required!), and there are helpful step-by-step photos of Finny's version of this pie here, which she makes every year with Brandywine and Better Boy tomatoes from her garden (warning: Finny uses bad words).

If you're scared of pastry crust, you're going to love this recipe. The  biscuit dough is practically foolproof, and the pie itself is easy to make but looks impressive and tastes delicious.

Don't believe me? Below is a sampling of rave reviews from the comments section. Thanks so much to all of you who take the time to come back and report on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest too!

Read the Savory Tomato Pesto Pie reviews below. . .

Friday, June 26

Friday Farm Photo: Have a Colorful Weekend.

Any plans this weekend? I'm hoping to spend some time in the kitchen garden sowing a bed of Swiss chard and cucumber seeds (did I really order five different varieties this year?), finally getting the rest of my poor tomato and pepper seedlings in the ground (can you tell I'm a little behind?), pulling approximately 3,000 more weeds, and mulching everything I can with grass clippings—now that it's finally dry enough out there to cut the grass—and that wonderful, nutrient-rich manure/bedding hay from the sheep barn.

I'll also be savoring the fact that our hayfield no longer looks like it does in the photo above because there are 225 square bales of hay now stacked in the barn (we didn't cut the entire field, just what you see here). We'd hoped to get a lot more bales, and it's not the best hay we've ever put up, but it's nowhere near the worst.

Fortunately we still have a lot of big round bales left over from last year (because for the first time we cut Donkeyland as well as the hayfield) so no matter what Mother Nature throws at us this fall and winter, we should hopefully have enough hay to keep the sheep and donkeys fed well into next spring.

Even so, depending on the weather, the rain fall, and what grows up in the hayfield over the next month or two, we may try to go ahead and put up some more round bales just in case. Because if you have a farm full of grass eaters, an always unpredictable climate, friends and neighbors with herds of cows but no hayfields of their own, and some room still left in the haybarn, there's really no such thing as having too much hay.

Wondering how you put up hay? Have a look here and here and here.

©, hanging out on the bright side of life.

Friday, June 5

Friday Dose of Cute: Have a Well-Balanced Weekend.

Mr. Midnight hunting at the edge of the hayfield.

Any plans this weekend? We have a heat wave coming, so I'm going to harvest the rest of the lettuce in the kitchen garden—which looked a whole lot better before being pelted by last week's hailstorm—before it bolts any more than it has, and then hopefully catch up with all my spring transplanting before it's actually summer. My stunted basil and pepper plants and overgrown heirloom tomato seedlings will be thrilled.

A friend who came by the other day for a quick visit said he'd heard that a lot of people's tomato plants were rotting because of the unseasonably cool and wet weather we've been having, so this time my garden laziness procrastination may actually pay off.

Meanwhile we're still waiting for some favorable hay-cutting weather. All the rain we've been getting has been great (the wet weather creek is running!), but the hay, which the sheep and donkeys eat for several months each year, is already past its prime. We need at least three dry, hot, and sunny days in a row in order to get the hay dry enough to cut, dried once it's been cut, baled, and brought into the barn, and we're just not getting them.

We were out running around several days this past week and saw a lot of people baling up acres and acres of hay we knew couldn't possibly be dry enough. And yesterday our Amish neighbor told us that he and his brother have had a bunch of their cut hay laying on the ground for three days because these scattered thunderstorms just keep blowing in and opening up on it.

Rather than risk putting up (literally) 10 tons of moldy feed, we're just going to wait. The fescue and orchard grass have already gone to seed, but we should keep getting more leaf growth in our "Missouri mixed salad" fields. And as Joe reminded me the other day, we've cut hay in the past as late as October.

Or as the donkey peddling (and cattle raising) cowboy likes to say, "Any hay tastes better than a snowball."

I figure we'll end up hauling in hundreds of square bales (pretty much the most exhausting job on the farm) on the same day the sheep shearer finally calls to let us know he'll be in our neck of the woods. It's happened before.

Over the years we've (slowly) started getting less stressed out about (most of) the many things we have no control over. Strength and stamina are essential when you live on a farm, but I've come to believe that patience, flexibility, and a big sense of humor are probably even more vital.

More Mr. Midnight? Here.
More farm cats? Here and here.

©, keeping calm with the help of all this cute.

Tuesday, May 26

Recipe: Easy Orange Yogurt Cake and Growing Strawberries

A simple, classic orange cake that tastes great with strawberries (recipe here).

One of the nice things about living in a very sparsely populated rural area is that when the first local strawberries of the season arrive at the only store in town, the owner is likely to personally call and give you a heads up because he remembers that you bought something like 20 quarts of strawberries last year and are a sucker for rarely available local fruit.

"One of the Amish down the road just brought in 40 quarts of strawberries that he picked this morning and needs to sell today because he can't sell on Sundays. Do you want some?" When he said they were grown by one of the two brothers who built our new sheep barn and hay barn a few years ago, and who I know gardens organically, I was sold.

More story below. . .

Sunday, May 10

Looking Back: A Tiny Tail for Mother's Day

Baby Cary in the greenhouse on May 19, 2006, age two weeks.

Once upon a time I had a little lamb. Her name was Cary, and she followed me wherever I went.

This is my twenty-first year living with sheep, and those few months back in the spring and summer of 2006 were definitely the sweetest and most special for me (and for the Nanny Bear).

If you'd like to read (or reread) our story, written on Mother's Day a week after little Cary was born, you'll find A Tiny Tail here.

Baby Cary and the Nanny Bear in the kitchen garden on May 27, 2006.

A very Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

Other Mother's Days:
5/12/07: Just in Time for Mother's Day. . .
5/11/08: Mother To Be
5/11/08: Newborn Bliss
5/8/12: Green Grass, Hungry Twins
5/13/12: Chomp, Chomp
5/12/13: Happy Mothers, Lots of Lambs
5/11/14: Lokey and Her 11 Baby Chicks

Cary and the Nanny Bear in the front field on September 4, 2006.

P.S. Cary is doing just fine, and at age nine, she is now one of the oldest members of our flock. (My big pet wether, Teddy, at 11, is currently the oldest sheep on the farm, and my first two pet wethers, Chip and Chip, who lived to be 13 and 15, hold the all-time farm record.)

I decided not to breed Cary again after that first traumatic experience, but she is still an important member of the group. I've noticed lately that she seems to be the new head ewe—at least where decisions regarding eating are concerned.

P.P.S. The Tail of Two Mothers, my other favorite Mother's Day story from the farm.

©, where there can never be too many mothers (or too much cute).

Tuesday, May 5

Tuesday Dose of Cute: Marta Beast

Living up to her name.

It's hard to believe it's already been over six months since the last time we spent several hours shearing our beloved guard dog Marta—until you look at her. It's time to get some more doggy downers from the vet and do it again before she gets more matted and the job gets even more difficult.

She actually wouldn't look too bad if she would just stay away from all those dirt pits, mud puddles, and manure piles she loves to roll around in, but where's the fun in that?

We used to haul her to the groomer 40 miles away (which was an adventure in itself) for a yearly spring spa day cut, but the last time it took them over five hours and cost a small fortune—and they didn't seem real excited about ever seeing her again—so we bought a set of professional clippers (which cost much less than the visit to the groomer), asked the vet for some drugs to knock her out (the growling makes Joe nervous), and started doing it ourselves.

More Marta photos and story below. . .