Thursday, December 22

Recipe: Easy Cranberry Christmas 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 come back and 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. . .

Friday, December 9

Easy Holiday Recipe: How To Make Homemade Chocolate Biscotti (and Rave Reviews)

It wouldn't be December on the farm without a shout out for this simple, scrumptious, and super popular chocolate biscotti, which makes a wonderful holiday gift (recipe here).

Looking for a heartfelt holiday gift that looks impressive, tastes delicious, and doesn't cost a fortune? Think homemade biscotti! I've been making and giving (and eating) this Easy Chocolate Biscotti for over 16 years, and it's always a huge hit.

I have to warn you, though; sharing it with friends and loved ones may start a holiday baking tradition you'll be forced to carry on each year. I have people who expect this biscotti for Christmas (and any other time I'm willing to make it for them).

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 taste best if allowed to rest at least a day after baking and 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. . .

Monday, November 21

Recipe: Quick and Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan (and Rave Reviews)

Classic, simple, healthy, and delicious! (recipe here)

Need a last-minute vegetable dish for your holiday table? These Quick & Easy Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan are a simple and scrumptious solution. I've been making them for years and still can't get enough.

This super popular recipe calls for just one bowl and one pan. There's no need to cut a little X in each stem or boil the sprouts before roasting. You don't even have to turn them while they're cooking.

And if, like me, you discover how easy it is to put away an entire pound of these thankfully healthy little things yourself (and/or you like eating leftover brussels sprouts for breakfast), you can just double the recipe. 

Try the slightly gussied up version with garbanzo beans and dijon mustard, or make it a main course by tossing the roasted sprouts with farfalle (bowtie) pasta and plenty of freshly grated Romano or Parmesan.

For a real treat, fry up some bacon, then sauté some coarse fresh breadcrumbs in a few Tablespoons of the bacon grease over medium heat until golden and crisp. Toss the pasta and brussels sprouts together, then top with the crumbled bacon, breadcrumbs, and cheese. So good.

Need more convincing? Here's what Farmgirl Fare readers are saying about this recipe:

—I ended up making this last night as the vegetable accompaniment to our meat and it was a great hit! Even my younger brother who is an avid veggie hater ate these up!

After reading your blog, I put a pan of these little cabbages in the oven last night. They never made it into a bowl. I had to try one, then two...Crunchy outside and butter soft inside.

I did the "simple" version with Orecchiette pasta and lots of parmesan. So savory and perfect! I never thought to cook them at such a high temp, but I loved it. Thanks!

Just made the "gussied up" version for a mid-morning snack :) My house smells heavenly and I am one happy camper. I stuck a handful of split fingerlings around the edge of the pan that were due to be eaten, and life is indeed good. I am sharing this recipe with everyone who will listen!

Made these slightly gussied up (no chickpeas) for Thanksgiving to rave reviews. Just delicious. And so easy!!!!!!!!

Wishing you a happy and filling Thanksgiving!

More Thanksgiving vegetable recipe inspiration from Farmgirl Fare:

©, where vegetables, donkeys, and dessert live peacefully ever after.

Tuesday, November 1

Recipe: Honey Ginger Pear Bran Muffins Made without Bran Cereal (and Rave Reviews)

These moist and healthy whole grain bran muffins are sweetened with honey and contain oat bran and wheat bran instead of bran cereal (recipe here).

My foodie mom and I came up with the recipe for these 100% Whole Grain Ginger Pear Bran Muffins back in 2007 during one of her eat-a-thon farm visits, and we've been loving them ever since. At one point she declared them to be the best muffins she's ever eaten. Not just the best bran muffins, but the best muffins.

A scrumptious variation of my super popular 100% Whole Grain Bran Muffins, they're moist and flavorful and are made with hefty portions of both soluble fiber (oat bran) and insoluble fiber (wheat bran). They're sweetened with honey—although there is some sugar in the candied ginger—and they don't call for any store bought bran cereal, which is a pet peeve with me and bran muffin recipes.

The recipe makes 12 large muffins that taste even better the second day and freeze beautifully. I just toss them into a zipper freezer bag and pull out one or two the night before so they're defrosted for breakfast the next morning. They make a filling and wholesome snack and are the perfect thing to have on hand during the busy holiday season.

Need more convincing? Here's what Farmgirl Fare readers are saying about (and how they're adapting) this recipe:

Read the rave reviews below. . .

Wednesday, October 19

Recipe: Really Easy Low Sugar Pear Butter Cooked in the Oven

Very ripe pears are the secret to this flavorful, foolproof pear butter that keeps in the fridge for a few weeks and freezes well. No canning required! (recipe here).

Pears are in season, and there's nothing like homemade pear butter. This popular Really Easy Low Sugar Pear Butter I've been making for years in the oven is so simple and it tastes divine.

To make this recipe, you will not have to:

- Peel and core your pears.
- Fill up a sink with dirty pots and pans.
- Boil your fruit in water to cook it and then pour that flavor- and nutrient-filled water out.
- Babysit a simmering pot on the stove for hours, stirring every few minutes so that it doesn't scorch.
- Use anywhere near a cup of sugar per each cup of fruit (as many recipes do).
- Tell the lucky eaters of your fabulous homemade pear butter just how little effort it actually took to make it.

You will need a food mill and about two and a half hours of time, though the total hands-on work is maybe 20 minutes. You will also need very ripe pears; the riper they are, the sweeter they are. This is a great way to use up bruised and battered pears, which taste extra sweet.

Pears are plentiful and cheap right now, and in many places they're available locally grown. Unfortunately pears are also high on the Environmental Working Group's list of Most Contaminated Produce (strawberries and apples are #1 and #2 this year), so it's especially important to seek out organic pears if at all possible.

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.

If you're facing a mountain of ripe pears, making pear butter is the perfect way to use it up. You can process jars of pear butter in a water bath canner, but it will keep unprocessed in the refrigerator for at least a couple of weeks (I never have any around longer than that), and it also freezes well.

Homemade pear butter makes a wonderful gift, and if you don't want to bother with the canning process, simply tell the recipient to stick their jar in the fridge and enjoy it right away.

Thursday, October 6

Recipe: Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies Made with Unsweetened Coconut

Buttery and full of coconut flavor, these cute little oatmeal cookies are an old-fashioned sweet treat everyone will love (recipe here).

I came up with the recipe for these Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Coconut Cookies back in 2012 and they've been getting rave reviews ever since. They're thin, chewy, easy to make, and really hard to stop eating.

If you've never tasted natural, unsweetened shredded coconut, you're in for a nice 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. A couple of years ago I discovered Saigon cinnamon, and the flavor is amazing.

These cookies taste even better the next day and they freeze beautifully. Pack them in lunches, try them with a cup of tea, or serve them up with a glass of cold milk for a satisfying after school snack. I even like them for breakfast.

Thursday, September 22

Recipe: Arugula Salad with Pan-Fried Herbed Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Feta Cheese & Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette

A flavor-packed main course salad bursting with seasonal bounty (recipe here).

This scrumptious Arugula Salad with Pan-Fried Herbed Potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olive Vinaigrette is one of those dishes that becomes much more than the sum of its parts. And it's a perfect way to celebrate the flavors of late summer and early fall from the garden and farmers market.

Despite my Irish ancestry, I'd never been big on potatoes—often going literally years without eating any—until I moved to the country and for some reason decided to try growing my own. Wow, what a difference. Though what possessed me to plant 250 feet of potatoes that first year I will never know. I didn't even know what a potato plant looked like.

This year I have a much more reasonable 16 feet of Yukon Gold and (some already forgotten variety of) red potatoes in my organic kitchen garden, but they went into the ground so late I still haven't dug any up yet.

These crisp, herby potatoes also taste great on their own, and the quick kalamata olive dressing is nice on other salad greens too.

The best thing about arugula is that you can quickly and easily grow this cold tolerant and nutritious peppery green from seed (baby leaves are ready for picking in about a month) and if you let some of it bloom, it will reseed itself.

No arugula? Try some crunchy romaine lettuce instead; or use some of each. For the last few years my favorite variety of lettuce to grow has been an heirloom romaine called Parris Island Cos, which tastes great and is amazingly heat tolerant. I wish I'd discovered it 20 years ago.

The combination of ingredients and the vinaigrette are what's most important with this salad, not the specific amounts. So once you've made the recipe, you'll be able to toss everything together more quickly next time. To make it a more substantial meal, simply add some slices of leftover grilled chicken or steak.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients. They really do make a difference. I don't, however, recommend planting 250 feet of potatoes for two people, no matter how much garden space you have available.

Thursday, September 8

Green Tomato Salsa Relish Recipe: No Sugar, Super Simple, Totally Delicious!

Wondering what to do with green tomatoes? Try my no sugar, super simple, salsa-like green tomato relish. No blanching, peeling, or canning (unless you want to) required.

It's become a Farmgirl Fare tradition to re-post this little shout out each year, and in the sales pitch below you'll find rave 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!

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. 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. Below is a sampling of what others have said about it over the years. Thank you all so much for taking the time to come back and comment on my recipes. And thanks for pinning them on Pinterest!

Read the green tomato relish rave reviews below. . .

Tuesday, August 30

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

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 heirloom tomatoes from the organic kitchen garden, meaty salted and smoked (without nitrates) bacon from a locally raised hog we have butchered to our specifications, lots of my favorite (and amazingly heat tolerant) Parris Island Cos lettuce from the garden if we're lucky, but most likely crunchy iceberg from the grocery store (hey, it's late summer in the Midwest), plenty of Hellman's mayonnaise, and perfectly toasted slices of freshly baked Farmhouse White.

We've already had BLTs several times this month, and we're nowhere near 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 breakfast 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 16 years and have watched plenty of people who claim they never eat white bread gobble slices up. It's been one of my most popular recipes since I originally shared it back in 2011, and I've heard from 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:
Easy French Bread Recipe: Four Hour Classic Parisian Baguettes

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

Tuesday, August 23

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

Bye bye, V8 juice! This healthy, homemade V4 version will blow you away (recipe here).

For the first time in ages (decades?), I actually managed to get some of my tomatoes planted early on time in the kitchen garden this year. And although it's been a strange tomato season so far (for one thing, I've plucked off more massively destructive—and totally creepy—tomato hornworms this year than in the last 20 years combined—yuck) a couple of reliable varieties have done really well, and we've been enjoying them on everything from BLTs and tacos to big dinner salads and frittatas.

And yet at last count I still have eight big colanders and bowls of tomatoes in various states of imperfection (cracks, big bite marks, just plain rotting) covering every flat surface in the kitchen. What to do?

Make a batch of this easy homemade tomato vegetable juice! It's a refreshing way to drink your garden veggies and keep up your stamina while working out in the heat, plus it'll help you quickly use up all those overripe, imperfect, or just plain ugly tomatoes.

This flavorful, rejuvenating juice is like Campbell's V8 juice but much better, and it's been one of the most popular recipes on Farmgirl Fare all year round (hello readers in the southern hemisphere!) since I originally shared it back in 2008. Did you know V8 juice is mostly made from water and tomato paste, plus a frightening amount of salt?

Technically my gardener's delight version is only V4, though you could certainly add more vegetables, such as beets, spinach, carrots, or sweet peppers, if you like. Either way, the homemade version will blow that V8 away.

To make it, all you do is chop everything up and toss it into a pot, simmer until soupy, then put it through a food mill.

This juice will keep for at least a week in the fridge, or you can preserve it in glass jars (canning instructions are included in the recipe) to enjoy the taste of vine-ripened tomatoes on a deep winter day, when the heat and sweat of summer are nothing but a distant memory.

P.S. Quick and Easy Gazpacho (totally refreshing chilled tomato vegetable soup) and Pasta with Easy Sun-Dried Tomato, Fresh Tomato, and Artichoke Pesto (I love this stuff).

Friday, August 12

Friday Farm Photo: Have a Homespun Weekend.

Any plans this weekend? We're looking forward to the arrival of a big thunderstorm that's supposed to bring a couple inches of rain and some sweet relief from this sweat-drenching heat. I realize it's the middle of August in Missouri, but we're all pretty tired of hearing that it's 96 degrees outside but feels like 109. Bring on that cool rain. Please.

Rainy day plans include bottling three cases of home brewed beer, baking a Mexican Monkey Cake (which freezes beautifully) with some really flavorful organic bananas, and searching through way too many containers of seeds in the freezer (this is after emptying out at least seven or eight containers last winter) for all the fall crops I probably should have started a couple of weeks ago. But it was way too hot.

I think it's too late in the season for the Maxibel and Masai haricots verts we love so much and that I never got around to planting in the spring (I haven't had good luck growing fall bush beans in the past), but I have high hopes that Swiss chard, tatsoi, mizuna, kale, arugula, broccoli, and several kinds of both heat and cold tolerant lettuces will soon be feeding us into the winter. That is if I can find any space to plant in the overgrown jungle that used to be my kitchen garden. Summer rain is always welcome (anything for a respite from watering) but boy, do the weeds go crazy after it. I can hear my hunky farmguy out there weed whacking now, so there's hope.

The weekend menu will be featuring freshly picked tomatoes, tomatoes, and tomatoes!

P.S. Greek Style Panzanella Salad with pan-fried olive oil croutons and Easy Italian Countryside No-Cook Tomato Pasta Sauce with basil, capers, and kalamata olives.

Monday, August 8

Recipe and Rave Reviews: Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Pesto Pie with and 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!

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. My friend Susan in Vermont once said to me, "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 tried this recipe 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. . .

Saturday, July 23

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).

Got blueberries? 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. . .

Friday, July 1

Recipe: Nigella's Big Chocolate Chip Cookies

These scrumptious cookies offer 'tender chewiness with an edge of crisp bite' (recipe here).

Nigella Lawson may be British, but her oversized version of the all-American chocolate chip cookie is one of the best I've ever tasted.

I'll be bringing my expected batch to a 4th of July fireworks bash at the river Sunday night, and if last spring's potluck with the same group of friends is any indication, the plate will be empty in minutes. Any time, any occasion, you can't go wrong with giant chocolate chip cookies.

Wishing you peace, joy, and freedom this American holiday weekend, no matter where you live.

P.S. Easy Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake (wonderful with strawberries or blueberries!) and Big, Soft, and Chewy Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Raisin Cookies (plus how to hug a sheep).

Sunday, June 26

Recipe: Confetti Crunch Coleslaw with Creamy Lemon Caper Dressing

A healthy, crunchy slaw that's made with cabbage, scallions, carrots, and sweet peppers and tossed with a tangy lemon caper dressing (recipe here).

If you like coleslaw but are tired of the same old mayo-heavy recipes, this colorful, flavor-packed Confetti Coleslaw with Creamy Lemon Caper Dressing will liven and lighten things up.

Made with yogurt, lots of Dijon mustard, and much less mayonnaise than many traditional slaw recipes, it goes well with all sorts of summer meals and is perfect for bringing to potlucks, picnics, backyard barbecues, and buffet parties. I like to keep it on hand in the fridge for a healthy snack or the fastest dinner salad ever and have even eaten it for breakfast. It always gets rave reviews whenever I serve it.

The tangy lemon caper dressing can be quickly mixed up a day or two ahead of time, and it also makes a tasty dip. The coleslaw can be fully assembled a day in advance and refrigerated, or you can keep the dressing and prepared vegetables separate, then toss everything together before serving.

Hit the farmer's market for fresh homegrown vegetables and this easy recipe will really shine. You won't believe how much flavor plain old raw cabbage can have.

Friday, June 10

Friday Farm Photo: Have a Freshly Picked Weekend.

Any plans this weekend? Summer has already arrived in full force on the farm, with sweat-drenching humidity and temperatures predicted to stay up in the 90's for the next week, so I'll be spending a lot of time watering the kitchen garden and eating mixed green salads.

I also have my eye on the new little gravel-bottomed swimming hole Tractor Joe carved out of our beloved and refreshing wet weather creek, which has been running steady for several weeks thanks to over eight inches of rain in May, though it will probably dry up in the next few days. Tall glasses of fresh mint sun tea that we brew in half-gallon canning jars (we use these jars with plastic lids for so many things), plenty of ice. The spearmint patch is going nuts. Maybe a batch of homemade coconut almond granola, with raisins and organic apple slices I dried last fall and fresh Jersey milk from down the road. A cool and easy, no-think breakfast.

Then there's all that catching up to do in the laundry and dishes department after five days of having no hot water, which actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, probably because it isn't the middle of winter. But it sure is nice having the hot water heater working again. Such a luxury we so often take for granted. The cold showers were tolerable but with the amount of cooking and baking I do, heating up vats of water on the stove to wash dishes got old real fast.

My hunky farmguy will be spending the weekend tackling the never ending spring/summer tasks of mowing grass and weedeating around the farmyard with breaks for woodworking, bottling beer, tractor maintenance, and hopefully installing the final new oak step on the staircase. It looks beautiful! The dogs, cats, chickens, sheep, and donkeys will be hoping for treats and chilling out in the shade.

Garden notes: We've slowly been replacing the rotted wood on my fifteen-year-old 4' x 8' raised beds with 12-inch wide fake wood decking boards from Lowe's. (I'm sure there's a real name for this stuff, but I just always call it fake wood.) The cost is about $100 per bed (verses about $2 in local rough-cut pine boards for each of the original 21 beds which started falling apart years ago), but they should theoretically last forever.

We built the first ones a few years ago, and I love them. The height is great, and it also makes it easier to yank garden hoses around without having them jump onto the plants. (The raised beds all supposed to be filled soil, but some of the new ones were put in place last fall around beds that were already planted.)

The metal hoops are made from inexpensive 1/2" EMT (I think it was about $2.50 for a 10-foot piece), shaped using the handy dandy bender we bought last year from Johnny's. Before that Joe had rigged up a homemade version from plywood, but this one works so much better. You can make the hoops taller or shorter depending on how far you push them into the ground, and they also worked fine in a couple of beds that didn't have any sides on them yet.

We have the EMT on eight garden beds so far, and over the winter I covered them with 6 ml thick clear plastic to make mini hoophouses. Then in early spring I removed the plastic and draped old sheets and frost blankets over the frames at night to protect the plants from cold. And when it started to heat up during the days, I clamped old sheets over the beds to shade the cool season lettuce, arugula, and spinach. Both the clear plastic and the old sheets are attached to the hoops with those little 1" quick-grip metal clamps that are so useful around the farm.

The greens in the closest bed are Swiss chard (except for a lone lacinato kale plant), overwintered as tiny plants and now handling the sweltering heat with no problem, which is more than I can say for myself. Plus unlike kale, which I also grow nearly year round, the ravenous cabbage worms (who are out in force) ignore Swiss chard. Unfortunately the striped cucumber beetles (which pretty much decimated nearly everything in my garden last fall during a freak invasion) and the nightmarish blister beetles do like it. Grass clippings make an excellent weed-suppressing mulch.

Those of you who have been visiting here a while know much I love delicious, nutritious, easy-to-grow-from-seed Swiss chard, and that for years I've been on a one farmgirl mission to convince everyone to try growing it. Fordhook Giant (pictured), which makes me think of Jurassic Park because the leaves get so big, always does well here but I especially like the prettier and smaller (and probably more nutritious) red, yellow, and orange varieties.

Our chickens love to eat Swiss chard too, so excess bounty or bug-ravaged leaves never go to waste. In fact I just fed them a 5-gallon bucket full direct seeded spring thinnings from another bed.

Wondering what to do with Swiss chard? Simply toss young leaves in salads, saute chopped stems and bigger leaves in olive oil, or try some Swiss Chard Tuna Salad with Scallions and Kalamatas, Swiss Chard and Artichoke White Pizza, or Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad with Garbanzos and Cottage Cheese.

Wednesday, May 18

Recipe: Make Ahead No Mayo Tuna Sandwiches with Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Lemon, and Fresh Basil

Make Ahead Lemony Tuna and Artichoke Pressed Picnic Sandwiches with Fresh Basil (recipe here)

These Lemony Tuna and Artichoke Pressed Baguette Sandwiches are perfect for summer—and they aren't just for picnics. Tuna and olive oil are combined with marinated artichoke hearts, lemon, and fresh basil on crusty baguettes (homemade perhaps?) for a flavorful tuna sandwich made without mayonnaise.

They travel well, taste delicious, and can be made several hours ahead. I even like them the next day, when the lemon flavor is more pronounced. They're perfect for toting on picnics or hikes, to work, or just out to the backyard. You can pack them in the bottom of the cooler so that the weight of the other contents compresses the sandwiches and allows the juices to soak into the bread, or simply set them on the counter for about 30 minutes with a cast iron skillet on top.

They're also the perfect way to celebrate the first homegrown basil of the season, especially if it's just a little harvest. Enjoy!

©, the sandwich happy foodie farm blog where somebody just realized she still hasn't seeded any basil for the kitchen garden. Oops.

Friday, April 29

Friday Farm Photo: Have a Peaceful Weekend.

Any plans this weekend? Joe is finishing up replacing the ratty pine construction stairs we've been living with for nearly five (!) years in our "new" house with the locally made oak boards that have been beautifully finished and sitting around for nearly five (!) years. What an upgrade.

I'm hoping to transplant about 40 heirloom tomato seedlings into larger containers since I don't have space for them in the kitchen garden yet. I also need to figure out where to put several pounds of seed potatoes and at least a couple of rows of haricots verts. All that fall/winter bed prep I'd planned to do never happened!

Meanwhile I'm listening to far off thunder rumble and waiting for some much needed rain to start falling any minute (this photo was taken yesterday) while planning meals of eggs, eggs, eggs, and salad greens, salad greens, salad greens (spinach, Swiss chard, beet greens, three kinds of kale, six kinds of lettuce, and some very happy arugula that I'm pretty sure is getting bigger by the hour). I've been craving yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting, and it's time to bake some more hearty loaves of sourdough sprouted rye.

The still very woolly sheep and the donkeys will (finally) be eating grass, grass, and grass. More decluttering and spring cleaning (two year round pursuits) are on the agenda as well; not my favorite things, but it always feels so good once you're done. I'm hoping for a quiet, cozy, and productive weekend at home on the farm, which is just the kind I like.

Thursday, April 7

Easy Recipe: Really Lemony Lemon Bars (Low Sugar)

These easy, creamy dessert bars are made with less sugar and more lemon flavor. Delicious with either regular lemons or Meyer lemons! (recipe here)

I always try to keep a good supply of organic lemons on hand because their fresh juice and zest are such a great addition to so many recipes. We also use lemon juice in homemade cleaning products and have been drinking lemon water every day as an easy, natural way to help alkalize our bodies (I drink mine through a glass straw to save the enamel on my teeth). But our favorite way to use lemons is in these simple yet scrumptious Really Lemony Lemon Bars.

Rather than calling for several cups of sugar like many lemon bar recipes do, this lemon filling (which contains just four ingredients) is made with a can of sweetened condensed milk, which adds creaminess and sweetness while allowing the lemon flavor to really shine through. A generous helping of finely chopped lemon zest bumps up the lemon factor even more.

I like to tell people they're called Pucker Up Lemon Bars and are for serious lemon lovers only. Real farm eggs from happy, free-ranging hens will give your lemon bars a beautiful deep yellow color, and this is the time of year when egg laying is at its peak. Look for fresh eggs at farmers' markets or search on LocalHarvest for an egg farmer near you. 

Wondering what it's like to have your own hens? Check out my Chicken and Egg Farm Tale here. And you can see the Lemony Lemon Bar Whole Photo Shoot here.

We still have several pounds of lemons left from the 25+ pound case we bought a while back (I somehow forgot that I usually only order half a case each winter), so I treated us to a pan of these cheerful bars last week. And when Joe polished off the last one a few days later, I turned around and made a second batch. Enjoy!

More Farmgirl Fare recipes for lemon lovers:
Lemon Coconut Quick Bread (made with unsweetened coconut)

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

©, the constantly clucking foodie farm blog where our 21 hens (including some who are so old they shouldn't still be laying, and some really old girls who aren't laying) are currently giving us nearly six dozen eggs a week. Now if we only had a lemon tree.

Thursday, March 17

Thursday Farm Photo: Irish Line Dancing

Happy St. Patrick's Day from the farm!

More laundry line photos? Here and here.

©, where everything is greening up for spring, including our wardrobes.

Friday, March 11

Recipe: How To Make Classic Cornish Beef Pasties

My version of Jamie Oliver's classic British hand pies are a year-round favorite on the farm (recipe here).

I'm not sure why, but this recipe for Homemade Cornish Pasties with beef, onion, potatoes, and carrots has been one of the most popular posts on Farmgirl Fare since I originally shared it back in 2012.

What I do know is that these easy to make meat pies taste delicious and freeze beautifully. I defrost them at room temperature and then reheat them in our little convection toaster oven (one of my most useful kitchen purchases ever), but you could probably go straight from freezer to oven. If you're in a hurry or at work, you can gently heat them in the microwave.

They're the perfect thing to have on hand for quick dinners or hot and hearty lunches and taste especially wonderful when served with brown mustard and cold beer. I'm planning to make a double batch and stash half of them in the freezer so we'll be guaranteed to have something to eat when lambing season starts next month!

P.S. Everybody loves Cornish pasties!

Wednesday, February 24

Recipe: Sunburst Carrot Soup with Fresh Ginger, Orange, and Carrot Juice

Could you use a flavorful bowl of healthy winter sunshine? (recipe here)

One of the highlights of our winter is the arrival each January of the bulk citrus we order through the friend of a friend. Citrus season is at its peak so the fruit is sweet and juicy, and we've found that eating an orange (or two!) a day is a great way to load up on Vitamin C when it seems like half the people you talk to are sick.

Most of the two cases of organic oranges were eaten straight out of hand, though I did manage to stash a couple of orange yogurt loaf cakes in the freezer. I still have plenty of lemons (partly because my hunky farmguy is still waiting for me to make him some really lemony lemon bars), but we're down to just three little oranges left, and they're earmarked for a batch of Sunburst Carrot Soup with Fresh Ginger, Orange, and Carrot Juice.

This cheerful, low fat soup is packed with carrots and bursting with antioxidants and flavor. It's a big dose of happy for both the body and the mind and it even freezes beautifully. The flavor and color from the fresh carrot juice stirred in at the end add a wonderful brightness, but the soup tastes great even without it.

Adapt my easy recipe to suit your taste: try more fresh ginger, more orange zest, maybe extra garlic—or leave any of them out. A little ground cumin is a very nice addition. However you serve it up, cold and flu season won't stand a chance.

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

©, where our seven donkeys don't get all the organic carrots, just most some of them.