The Delicious and Versatile Homemade Crouton

I try to bake bread each week.  The first few days the bread is delicious and soft.  The next few days it needs to be toasted.  The next few days we forget about it.  Then I make croutons!  Croutons are a great way to preserve stale bread and can be made with store bought bread as well.

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Simply cut into half inch pieces and place on cookie sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Use a large spoon and stir while flipping the pieces over (the best you can, don’t do every single piece, you’ll go crazy) and drizzle with a little more oil and salt and pepper.

For these I used a little sage and onion infused olive oil from Drizzle and Dip in Southlands along with good olive oil.  Rye bread was made into croutons this week and it goes very well with strong flavors like garlic, sage, and onion.  You can also add minced herbs if you wish.

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Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.  Shake the pan after 10 minutes.  Then again when it comes out of the oven.  Let cool on pan completely.  Store in a paper bag.  These are delicious on salad, in soup, or as a snack.  These crispy, salty, savory croutons taste great with a little holiday red wine.  Add a few slices of good cheese and you have fast hors d’oeuvres.

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Here is a link to one of my bread recipes. Click here

The Entertaining Farmgirl-Christmas Time

I used to be known for my Christmas party.  I had one every year.  Hundreds of dollars spent on food.  Friends from all facets of our life were invited.  Each year I spent so much time in the kitchen, serving, cleaning up, trying to talk to everyone, that I actually didn’t get to spend any time with my friends.  I was more of the roaming, stressed hostess.  The last time we had a party, I hired someone to come do the dishes and help serve.  I had more time to talk to a few friends  before I noticed that all the food was gone and some of the guests were so drunk and obnoxious that they started offending and scaring off the other guests.  We needed to change something.  (Not the friends, I love those goofy guys.)

The only good thing about those parties was my ice breaker.  People talked about it and looked forward to it all year.  I split the guests into groups of unaffiliated couples.  They were given a sheet of paper with all of our animals’ names on it and told to tell what movie each name came from.  Back then we only had eight cats and one or two dogs.  It would be a hoot to do it now with sixteen chickens, two goats, two alpacas, along with eight cats, and two dogs!

We decided to have individual dinners with each group of friends.  I could be more present and really enjoy my friends.  We often go to a restaurant with Monte and Erik to exchange presents and celebrate our friendship and the year.  Toast the year ahead.  We’ll meet Margie and her family tonight at the wine bar.  Rodney, Pat, Kat, Rod, and Mark will come over Christmas night.  Last night we hosted Nancy and her crew.  Farmgirls reunited.  We made it through a treacherous summer of farmer’s markets.  Didn’t kill each other and came out stronger.  I was delighted to have her and her husband, daughter and boyfriend, and Nancy’s nephew who was home on leave from the Marines over for dinner.  My girls were here, the twinkly lights, candle lights, and oil lamp seems to shine brighter and sweeter with friends over.

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Here are some tips for putting together a seamless holiday dinner.  Everything is done in advance.  Don’t choose a day you work or will be running around to host ten people for dinner.

1. Clean the house during the day or the day before.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Candlelight and friends are forgiving.

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2. Set the table hours in advance.  Shoo cats off the table for the rest of the day.

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3. Prepare coffee pot and place after dinner cups on a tray.

4. Choose the menu a good week before and make sure you have the ingredients for it.  Let friends bring things.  They truly don’t mind (after all, their house is staying clean!).  Drinks, or an appetizer, or dessert could be taken care of if you only ask.

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5. Get creative with table settings.  I used an old lace curtain, topped with a round lace tablecloth, topped with a large, vintage doily.  Candles along the table.  Mix matched Christmas china…..let’s stop there.  I know that it is tempting to use Christmas paper plates but it is so much prettier and makes people feel special if you go all out with presentation.  I had everyone wash just their plate and I have considerably less dishes to do this morning.  Or Doug does anyway.  A canning jar acted as a water cup with a wine glass next to it.  Instead of cloth napkins, I threw in a bit of humor with cocktail napkins with funny sayings.  People started laughing immediately upon arrival as soon as they saw them.

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6. Back to the meal.  I always choose something like soup or pasta that can be made and sit in a pot on warm in the oven until ready to serve.  No more cooking while folks are over.  I made goulash last night in a cast iron pot and placed it in the oven.  A jar of sauerkraut, a jar of apple and pear sauces, and Nancy’s crisp salad rounded out the meal.  (It sure is nice having a full root cellar of canned food.  It is like having a grocery store in the basement.)

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7. Open up the wine and have a glass.  ‘Tis the time of year to celebrate!

Let’s see how you fare on the ice breaker.  Reply with your answers.  They are characters from a movie, play, or commercial.

Bumble-

Windsor Wizzer-

Snuggles Sheer Khan-

Ichabod Crane-

Zuzu’s Petals

Frankie and Louie (from a commercial)-

Clara Belle-

Mr. Boogedy Boo (Boo boo)-

Eliza Doolittle-

Farmgirl Cocktail

Everywhere I look, people are presently changing jobs, or moving (or trying to), ending relationships, or having babies, or other really big life changes.  It’s like the earth shifted some and our realities and plans with it!  What everyone seems to have in common though is that we are all working really hard and pinching pennies!  I am exhausted just thinking about all of the farmer’s markets, shows, last few months of running the shop, preserving enough food to get us through the winter, saving enough money to get us through the winter, and keeping up with regular farmgirl chores.  I could use a cocktail.  But I can’t be running around to wine bars with my friends anymore.  Time to settle in.  Invite some folks over and sit on the back deck and take a break!  And pull out my friend Rodney’s easy margarita recipe.
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Rodney’s Excellent Easy Margarita

1 tube of limeade frozen concentrate

Stick in fridge until it is about half thawed then pour contents into blender.

Fill tube twice with water and pour in, once with tequila and pour in then fill tube 1/3 with triple sec.  Blend, serve, mmmm……

(Now mind you, Rodney makes these a tad stronger but this is my variation so that I do not get too tipsy.  Not pretty.)

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Combine plain goat cheese with chopped green chilies and serve with crackers or chips.  Chop up tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and garlic for easy salsa.  Take one container of sour cream and add tons of garlic powder, onion powder, nutritional yeast, taco seasoning, anything really, and blend well for a fantastic easy dip.  Fresh fruit or grilled corn are easy accompaniments.  Enjoy your summer and friends!