Bird in Hand Farm

Bird in Hand Farm is an imaginary place.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pesto Palooza!

 My skin may turn green but I will be happy and well fed.

The farmer went to the Farmer's Market this week.  
"What should I get?" he asks.  "Scapes!" He hit the jackpot.  He found a pound and a half of garlic scapes for $2.  They filled the mini food processor 4 times.  Add to that, that it was time to prune back the basil.  Pesto heaven.  We actually wound up mixing the scape and basil pestos.  It was good.

There are a million pesto recipes out there, but they all boil down to 4 basic ingredients: green stuff (basil, scapes, or whatever), nuts (pine, almonds, walnuts...), cheese (Parmesan or Romano), and olive oil.  How much of each is really up to what tastes good to you.  Get fancy and add garlic. 

Spread it on crusty bread or 
mix with pasta and hunks of tomatoes.  We sometimes substitute spaghetti squash for the pasta.  Make sure that you lay plastic wrap directly on top of any leftovers that go in the fridge so that it does not oxidize and turn brown.  Or, freeze it and when the leaves fall from the trees, pull it out and bite into the taste of pure, green summer.  You can almost feel the sun on your shoulders.  Okay, that was really hokey, but you know what I mean.   Just make sure there is not any air in the container, 'cause freezer burn is not the flavor we are going for here.   

Trust me on this.  Just make it.  Be green, happy, and well fed..

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Honey Wheat Beer Soap

When all was said and done, this was what went into the recipe.  I had the Majestic Mountain Sage Lye Calculator open so I could adapt as I went along, cause I kept running out of ingredients. 

Two bottles FLAT beer - Spaten - Someone brought it over for a picnic a few years ago.

10 oz lye

41 oz olive oil
16 oz lard
9 oz castor oil - used up what was left in the left in the bottle
9.5 oz coconut oil - used up the rest of this one too
Essential oils: Orange, Lemon Grass, and Rosemary - used up the last of these three as well.  Soaping and decluttering...  :)

At trace, add in essential oils , 2/3 c wheat bran, and 3T honey.

You can follow any basic cold process soap making instructions, keeping in mind the following:
1. beer must be flat. A lye volcano could be really, really dangerous.
2. beer soap traces FAST - be ready to add and pour! 
3. honey soap gets HOT: don't insulate, leave space between molds and consider putting molds on racks to prevent the bottom from over heating.

Friday night:  I left the beer out overnight, and the farmer and I made our first attempt at a loaf soap mold.  I like it.

Saturday:  Mixed it all up.  The beer was FLAT and I popped it in the freezer for a bit before I added the lye and it still foamed like mad.  This batch wanted to seize as soon as I poured the lye into the oils.  It started to get that applesauce appearance.  I'm hoping that the wheat bran will give it some scrubby feel.   The loaf mold has hit gel stage.  I'm fussing over it because a batch recently overheated and I'm worried about the honey in the wood mold.  Still has a beer smell.  Hoping that will get better.

Sunday:  I took the ends off the molds.  It is soft.  Really soft.  I was hoping that the lard would harden it up.  I keep fussing with it. It won't come out of the wood mold. I know I need to leave it alone.

Monday morning.  It is sweating and still soft.  The humidity is not helping.  Need to leave it alone.  But, oh it smells good.  The deal with the sweat is not that moisture is coming out of the soap, but rather that the humectants in the soap (glycerin and honey) are drawing moisture out of the air.

Monday night: I pried it out of the mold.  I left finger print marks.  The underside has the beer stench.  Still need to leave it alone before I cut it.  We turned on the AC, so at least it has stopped sweating and is hopefully drying a bit.

Tuesday morning: Better, but still soft.  We opened up the house and it's still humid from overnight so it is starting to sweat again.  This is going to be a very long cure...

Tuesday evening: I could not take it anymore.  I cut it.   I could have waited another week...  For now it will sit on the dining room table.  Soon it will go roost at the top of a bookshelf for a month or two.  Or six...  I'm happy overall.  I got 16 six oz bars and 8 of the dragon bars.  It has that dorky home-made look, but it smells great!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Tooth Fairy Cometh

She lost her first tooth a few weeks ago. She has been claiming that she has a loose tooth for months. She wanted to keep the tooth in the worst way. Forever. She was alternately worried that the Tooth Fairy would come and "steal it" and bummed that she couldn't get any money. What a dilemma.

The next morning the letter above was discovered under her pillow. She thinks the Tooth Fairy is brilliant and agrees to leave the tooth under her pillow. Thank goodness she does not recognize handwriting! The Tooth Fairy went to the bank and got five of the most shiny dollar coins and v.e.r.y. c.a.r.e.f.u.l.l.y. put them under her pillow. There was some debate among Association members as to when the coins should be left. Sometimes when we check on her before we go to bed, she is still awake or will sleepily answer us when we tell her that we love her. On the other hand, in the morning you could set off a bomb in there and she would not even roll over. She seemed to be asleep at bedtime so we took the risk and made the pillow deposit. This is a good thing; because at 5:15am she was dancing at the side of the bed waiving what I think were coins in the air. Mumfh.

Now, the next tooth is loose and she is hoping for another letter. Aside from not knowing what to write, I'm beginning to worry that we are raising a future conspiracy theorist. There is a secret society of beings with special powers who spy on her and send her impersonal, bureaucratic, correspondence...

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Why am I baking when it is 83 degrees?

Because I forgot you can freeze zucchini.  Oops.

We got a small zuke and a mini yellow summer squash in the box this week.  They were the last lonely veggies in the bin.  I make a tomato sauce with summer squash that is to die for.  But it is too darn hot and humid for a pasta recipe.  We also talked about a zuke and tomato saute, but we only have canned tomatoes.  Nah.  So I decided to bake with them.  Having the oven on for an hour when it is 80+ degrees sounds like a really good idea, doesn't it?  Yeah, not so much.  I realized that I could have grated and froze it once it was already in the oven. 

I found a promising zucchini bread  recipe on  It has 5 stars with 2,000+ reviews.  Cannot go wrong there, and yet I still tweaked it a bit.  The link above takes you to the original recipe.  Below is my version.

It's So Hot, Why Am I Baking? Zucchini Bread


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 Splenda quick pack
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini


  1. Grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
  3. Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugars together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool. 
Other stuff: We also did another "hot" activity today.  We "blew up" the kid's volcano.  It's supposed to be baking soda and vinegar.  Did you know that the second ingredient in Frank's RedHot Sauce is vinegar?  It makes amazingly realistic lava.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


I know it is not the season for making applesauce, so let me explain.  Every fall we go apple picking.  I love it.  Beautiful, deep blue sky, crisp air, blushing apples, and my favorite people.  The farmer's and my first date was apple picking  We let the little kid go nuts.  She can pick bags full.  We try to go slow, but we enjoy picking too.  We always come home with lots of apples.  LOTS.  Eventually, we end up making applesauce.  At the time we pat ourselves on the back for our thrifty-ness. 

Now it is June and in three short months, we will go apple picking again.  It is inevitable.  We still have many jars of applesauce.   I am afraid to go down and count how many.  The kid says she likes the stuff, but when I offer it to her, she almost always chooses something else.  I did start bringing applesauce with my oatmeal for my breakfast at work every morning.  It is helping, but still the jars taunt me from the basement.

In an effort to redeem us, the kid and I made applesauce coffee cake this morning.  It takes forever to cook with her.  I need to relax and just let the flour snow scene unfold in our kitchen.
Applesauce Coffee Cake from Cookie Madness.  She adapted it from the Texas Hill Country Cookbook.

Easy Applesauce Streusel Coffee Cake

1 2/3 cups cake flour or 1 ½ cups all purpose
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup applesauce
1/4 cup sour cream**
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg

1/4 cup cake or all purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash fresh nutmeg (1/8 tsp)
4 tablespoons cold butter
1/4 cup chopped pecans (don’t need to toast)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 inch round springform pan or an 8 inch square metal pan with flour-added cooking spray.

In a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly stir together flour, soda, cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar; set aside.

In a large bowl, mix melted butter, applesauce, sour cream, vanilla and egg. Add the dry ingredients to the liquid ingredients and stir until mixed. Pour into pan.

Make streusel. In a mixing bowl or food processor, mix together all dry ingredients then cut in butter. Sprinkle over top of cake. Sprinkle nuts over top of streusel. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown around edges.

Cool slightly. Remove sides of pan and cut into triangles.
Serves 6
** Can omit and use 1 cup applesauce

It tastes way better than it photographs.  I did brave the basement pantry to see how many jars there are.  Seven.  Time to get cooking.

Friday, June 25, 2010

We spent how much on food?!

There was some drama on the farm this morning.  I looked at the bank account and added up all the money that had been spent at grocery stores in the month of June.  $840.  The month is not over yet!  Holy &*%$!  The farmer says that cannot be right and does the math himself.  $737.  One charge from Walmart - he went there, I didn't - was not for food.  Add to this, the $565 we spent on our CSA share for the season.  $1,300 spent on food in a month.  *thud*

We agreed that this is too much.  He shops too often.  We need to limit it to once a week with an agreed upon list.   The more you visit a grocery store, the more you will spend.  One of the secrets of saving money is to stay out of the darn stores.

So then I start wondering what is reasonable?  Google is my friend and pulls up one of my favorite sites:  The Simple Dollar. 

That was back in 2008.  What about now?

 The USDA still has a calculator.  Updated March 2010

For our family of three, with two adults and one child, the grocery budget numbers look like this:
Thrifty: $443     
Low cost: $575    
Moderate cost: $713    
Liberal cost: $876

Wow.  I really thought that we could eat well on about $400.  I guess I owe the farmer an apology.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"What can we sustitute for sage?"

This is the sage bush that has been growing next to the back step for the past six years,  It has really pretty purple flowers and smells good.  As it turns out, we don't cook with sage much.  So when my husband calls from the kitchen, I go tearing out there to finally be able to go out the back door and cut fresh herbs.  It's a gardener-cooks dream.  

We needed the sage for the tatsoi recipe.  Tatsoi is an Asian green and it came in the CSA box this week.  When we looked up what to do with it, the following recipe came up over and over.

Browned Butter Pasta with Tatsoi
Your pasta of choice, preferably curved or with ridges
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
Leaves of 2 to 3 bunches of tatsoi, rinsed
1/2 cup chopped sage
Freshly grated parmesan
Lemon wedges, optional

Cook pasta to al dente in salted water. When pasta is almost done done, melt butter in a skillet. Swirl the butter in the pan as it foams. (At this point, remove pasta from the heat and drain well in a colander.) When butter begins to brown, toss in pasta and mix to coat with butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Add tatsoi and sage and cook until slightly wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Plate and serve immediately with grated Parmesan and lemon wedges on the side. 

The kid said it was "okay" and served herself about  8 pieces of pasta.   We wished that we had more tatsoi.  That's the farmer's only complaint about the CSA.  You get a list of what is coming, but you really don't know how much of each item.  Asparagus was on the list this week, but did not come.  We got summer squash instead.  So much for the asparagus with ham and Swiss recipe.  Now we know that we make a menu, but don't shop until after the box comes, not before.

On a side note, guess which part of this dinner is organic?  How do they make that cheese glow that orange?

Happy cooking!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Homemade Laundry Soap

We have been making our own laundry soap for over a year. It is relatively easy to make and is wicked cheap.  1-2 cents a load cheap. It also works well. The Farmer's Daughter is a bit messy and it does just fine getting the stains out. 

You need:
~6ish oz of soap - I use homemade lard soap. People also recommend: Fels Naptha, Zoat, or Ivory. Stay away from moisturizing bars.
1.5 c borax
1.5 c. washing soda
5 gallon bucket

Grate the soap. I use a salad shooter that I bought at a thrift store. Melt it in 12 cups of water on low heat. Do not boil. Add the borax and washing soda and stir until dissolved.

Pour into the big bucket and add in 8 cups of hot water. Stir. Add in 2 gallons of cold water. Stir some more.

Whisk after 24 hours. It will gel and look a bit like egg drop soup.  That's okay. We use ~ 1/2 cup per load and it lasts us 2-3 months.

Notes/random stuff:

Washing soda is not baking soda.  Arm and Hammer makes it or you can find it in with the pool supplies labeled as sodium carbonate.  Another name for it is soda ash, but make sure that that is the only ingredient.

Got ants?: Mix 1 T of borax with 1/4 cup of honey or corn syrup.  Leave in a place where the pets and the kids cannot get it.  We used to have big black ants every summer.  Not anymore.

I got the idea to try to make dish washing detergent.  I read online that you can use half a cup of an equal mixture of borax and washing soda.  It did not work.  But, it does work if you use half the amount of regular dish washer detergent, and a third of a cup of the borax/washing soda mixture.  It is an extra step when doing dishes, but it makes the dishwasher stuff last twice as long. 

I make homemade laundry soap using: lard, lye,water, and orange essential oil.  I use the Majestic Mountain Sage Lye Calculator for the amounts.  Animal fats are recommended for laundry soap, but I have not found a good source for tallow.  I just made a batch that produced fourteen 6 oz bars. As you can see, I used a really fancy soap mold.  Estimated cost to produce each bar is less than 25 cents.    We are set for a couple of years.

You can reclaim or "clean" your own lard or tallow.  Free fat!  You know the can of fat that you use for excess bacon, pork, and sausage fat?  Dump it out into a Pyrex bowl and pour some boiling water over it.    Let it cool.  Maybe even refrigerate it.  What will happen is that the pure fat floats to the top and the yucky stuff drops to the bottom or stays in the water below.  You can take the yellow disc of fat off as a single unit when it is cold.  I repeat this one to two more times until I am confident that I have pretty much pure fat.  It is a pale beige/yellow.  The lard from the store is white.  Dunno why.  Then I freeze it until I am ready to make laundry soap.  Some people store it in a jar in the fridge and use it to grease pans.  It might sound gross, but don't knock it unless you have tried it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week one is in the books

We ate every bit of our first box.

Warning: Beijing Salad smells horrible the second day. Still make it, because it rocks; but eat it all up.

Garlic Scapes are awesome!  How did I not know about something so delicious?

Makes about 1 cup
10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you'd like)
About 1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt

Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle).  Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese.  If you like the texture, stop; if you'd like it a little thinner, add some more oil.  Season with salt.
If you're not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic against the surface to keep it from oxidizing. The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or packed airtight and frozen for a couple of months, by which time tomatoes should be at their juiciest.

Recipe happily borrowed from
We picked it cause we had almonds and did not have pine nuts or walnuts.  We tried it in the blender and had to switch over to the mini food processor.  It was amazing!  Garlic heaven.  I planned on freezing some to save for when the tomatoes arrive.  We ate every bit on crusty bread.  The farmer likes his with a slice of prosciutto.  <- the farmer had to go to the kitchen to look up how to spell that.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Adventures in kale and radishes...

Still cooking...
Kale and Sausage soup from our CSA email 
12 links of spicy pork sausage  
or any pork for that matter 
1 Tablespoon butter 
1 large diced yellow onion 
4 cloves minced garlic 
3 cups chicken broth 
3 cups sliced kale 
1 cup water 
2 large potatoes halved and sliced 
½ cup heavy cream 
Melt butter in a sauce pan, add garlic and onion and pork- cook until 
brown, add broth, water, potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Add Kale 
and cream and cook for another 7-8 minutes and serve. 
This was a really good soup.  It was prefect for a cool, rainy, early summer day. 
Our only recipe tweak was to add the chopped up Swiss chard stems leftover from the Utica greens.
What to do with radishes...  
Another great recipe from Mariquita Farm:

Beijing Radish Salad
This can be made with watermelon radishes or other types...
1 bunch watermelon radishes or one medium daikon radish
2 tablespoons rice or balsamic vinegar (or a combination)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Wash and julienne radishes. They can be peeled or not as you like. I often use a mandoline to do the julienne-ing, or you can grate them. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and dress the radishes with the dressing.
I did not know what "julienne" meant, so I cut them like matchsticks.  As it turns out that was right. 
I didn't have any sesame oil, so that got skipped.  Finally, I substituted splenda for the sugar. 
It was great! 
So far, so good.  The farmer forgot to wash the spring mix lettuce, so my first lunch salad 
was a little more "crunchy" than I would have liked...  All we have left from our box this 
week are the garlic scapes and some broccoli.  The kid will eat that. I "magically" turn her 
into a dinosaur and she eats the "trees."  We are thinking a pesto recipe for the scapes. 
I did find this video while researching scapes...
Pray that we survive.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kiva and the Girl Effect

We love Kiva.  We have enough 'invested' so that as loans are paid back, we turn the money over and fund a new one.  We are trying to fund loans in as many different countries as we can.  It is a neat way to learn about the world.  This is June's loan.  I hope she does really well.

Kiva - Silvia Posadas Osorio from Honduras has a loan fundraising on Kiva

Thanks to Rory for sending us this clip.  It articulates how I feel about girls and the world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Community Supported Agriculture

We got our first box today! $500 and change buys us fresh, organic, local produce for five months.

Contents: strawberries, kale, spring mix lettuce, Swiss chard, broccoli, radishes, asparagus and some kind of garlic sprout stuff (skapes???).

We are determined to eat it all. For dinner, the menu was Utica greens, radish top soup, and strawberry shortcake. There are tons of Utica Greens recipes out there. I'll spare you a picture, because it came out looking like the dog's breakfast. Still tasted great, though. I was a bit short on the radish tops so I added a few chard and kale leaves.

Recipe from Mariquita Farms website:

Radish Top Soup
Don't throw out your radish greens. Believe it or not, those fuzzy leaves can be transformed into a smooth green soup, with a hint of watercress flavor.
6 Tb butter
1 cup chopped onions or leeks
8 cups loosely packed radish leaves
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
6 cups liquid (water, chicken stock)
1/2 cup cream (optional)
Freshly ground pepper
Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan, add onions or leeks, and cook until golden, approximately 5 minutes. Stir in radish tops, cover pan, and cook over low heat until wilted, 8-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook potatoes until soft in liquid along with 1 teaspoon salt. Combine with radish tops and broth, and cook, covered, for 5 minutes to mingle flavors. Puree finely in a food processor. Add cream if desired. Season to taste with butter, salt and pepper.
Submitted by Jean Pinard

It was great and the kitchen smelled really good.  I don't think we have ever cooked radish tops, kale, or chard before.  Just wait till we figure out what to do with the garlic scapes.  It is going to be an adventure.

Desert was Strawberry Short Cake from The Joy of Cooking. Fresh strawberries are the best!