quick & easy pickled beets


tis the season of beets!

today i thought i'd share my favorite quick-pickled beets recipe - perfect as a topping on salads or eaten straight from the jar.






ingredients:
2 cups vinegar (plain vinegar or cider vinegar is just fine)
2 cups water
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon whole cloves
2 teaspoons black peppercorn
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf per jar 
roughly 3 pounds of red beets, peeled & cut into large chunks

directions:
in a medium-sized saucepan, heat up your vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, cloves, peppercorn, thyme & oregano to a boil & allow to simmer until your beets are fully cooked.
in a large pot, submerge your beets into salty water. bring to a boil & cook until tender, roughly 10 minutes or so. test for doneness with a fork.
once your beets are tender, drain them & stuff them into your jars along with a bay leaf. pour brine over beets using a stainless steel funnel until beets ar fully covered with liquid. screw on lid & place in the fridge. allow beets to marinade with brine for a day or so ... if you can wait that long.

please note: this recipe is not shelf-safe so keep in the fridge for freshness. enjoy!

love,
natalie

p.s. my quick-pickled sugar snap peas are a favorite around here - click here to find the recipe.

our weekly salad bowl




i've been working toward establishing weekly routines in an effort to be more intentional with my days, weeks, months, years & truthfully - life. for so long i disliked routine & schedules. just recently, though, i've grown to appreciate a thoughtful rhythm to my work & home life.

some of the chores & habits i've introduced into my week include purchasing (or harvesting when the time comes) a fresh bouquet of flowers every week, planning our weekly menu on sunday night, shopping for groceries on monday afternoon & harvesting/building an extra large garden salad each week.

the harvesting & building of our weekly salad is quite labor intensive on the front end, but it saves me so much time come lunch & dinner. 

i harvest a variety of greens from the garden - lettuce, mesculin mix, kale, swiss chard, spinach & arugula - & wash them thoroughly in our kitchen sink. once they've been washed & chopped, i fill up the largest bowl i own & mix. i chop up an assortment of in-season vegetables, too, & add them to the top. i cover my large bowl & pull it out for lunchtime & dinnertime salad needs, adding additional toppings & salad dressing at that time.

 it's been such an easy way to encourage more greens into our diet & the peaceful time outside in the garden is quite wonderful.

what weekly chores & habits to you make room for within your weekly rhythm? i'd love to learn a handful of your tricks! please share in the comments below.

love,
natalie

summer wishes + a day at the buffalo river


on sunday we snuck away for a day at the buffalo river. we packed up our swimsuits, snacks, reading material, chairs & blankets. the weather was so beautiful! 


the buffalo river is an absolute gem & we consider it such a gift to live so close! we spent time at steel creek, a perfect family-friendly spot with access to the water and nice bathrooms. 




we hiked the nearby trails and then spent several hours by the water. we read, snacked, napped & savored every minute together. 


this summer we hope to be very intentional with our weekends. we want to ride our bikes more & sneak away for more one-day adventures. we want to eat outside on the patio & spend the last hours of sunlight in the garden together. we hope to soak up the sun & spend many afternoons in our backyard pool. 

what are your wishes for the season ahead? i'd love to read your summer fun ideas!

love,
natalie 

u-pick strawberries + three easy ways to process berries at home


last week we carved out a couple of hours for strawberry picking! we packed a few baskets with snacks, picked up our sweet nephew for the adventure & headed off to our favorite u-pick farm, dickey farms in tontitown! 


on saturday we spent the morning hours in the kitchen baking bread (luke) & processing strawberries (me). we harvested about 12 quarts of berries - quite a bit less than our usual but a manageable amount given our current season of life. 

there are so many ways to process a large volume of strawberries - shrubs! liquor! baked goods! - but i thought i'd share the three ways i processed our berries last saturday morning!


1. strawberry jam - i pulled out one of my favorite canning cookbooks, preserving by the pint, & made her honey-sweetened strawberry jam with a hint of thyme. i would highly recommend this canning book for processing small batches, but i actually found the recipe online here if you're interested. 


2. strawberry shortcake - we met with friends for an evening of feasting & card playing on saturday night. nothing quite beats strawberry shortcake with fresh-from-the-farm berries. i purchased the shortcake at the grocer & paired it with sliced strawberries. don't forget the homemade whipped cream. simple & sweet!


3. frozen berries - we love having farm fresh berries all year long so i make sure to always harvest more than we can eat. we enjoy smoothies, muffins & other baked goods with the berries i freeze in the spring. i freeze my berries on a baking sheet to prevent sticking & then once they are fully frozen, i bag them up for the freezer. don't forget parchment paper or a silpat between the berries and your baking sheet - this makes for much lighter work. 
 

 there's nothing more enjoyable than picking berries on a beautiful spring day & rewarding yourself with the bounty for months to come!

i'd love to read the many ways you process strawberries in your own kitchen. please share your ideas in the comments below!

love,
natalie

Planting Summer Flowers


i am so excited to have my husband, luke, in this space sharing his tips for planting annual flowers! if you have a garden-related topic that you'd like us to blog about, please comment below! thanks!
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When we first moved to our farm and were planning out the garden Natalie had to convince me to devote space to flowers instead of planting it all to vegetables. I was reluctant, but conceded to her request. By the time the zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers were in bloom I was so glad I let Natalie persuade me. Seeing our summer garden with flowers in full bloom always brings a smile to my face.

Here I’m going to discuss seeding summer flowers like zinnias and sunflowers, which we just planted in our own garden this week. For those of you in our region (Zone 6) it is time to plant summer flowers! For those of you North of us, wait to seed until soils have warmed or transplant after you’ve passed your last spring frost date. 


I usually start zinnias from seed in the greenhouse, but this year I wasn’t able to so I’m just going to be talking about directly seeding in this post. Like with our directly-sown vegetable crops I start by digging a shallow furrow with a triangle hoe to plant into. I like having my drip tape laid out first so that I can use it as a guide to keep my rows straight.   


Zinnias might just be our favorite garden flower. They are so vibrant and colorful and make beautiful summer bouquets. Especially since we can’t buy zinnias at the store, they are such a special treat to grow in the garden and have in our home.


Because zinnia seed is light and non-uniform I find it easiest to sprinkle by hand. Zinnias should be sown 2 inches apart and then thinned to 9-12 inches between plants once they are starting to crowd. I recommend using a ruler at first to get a good handle on the correct spacing. They only need to be buried a 1/4 inch deep, so be sure your furrow isn’t too deep.


Sunflowers are a must for our garden as well. Not only are sunflowers a gorgeous accent in the garden, they are great for attracting and feeding pollinators which are vital for your flowering summer vegetable crops.


Because sunflower seed is large and fairly uniform I find it easiest to use the seed packet as a little seeder. I fold the lip of the packet so that the seed comes out one at a time and I tap the side of the packet to control how fast the seed slips out. Sunflowers can also be sown at 2 inches between seeds, 1/2 inch deep. Thin to 4-6 inches between single-stem varieties and 18-24 inches between branching varieties once the seedlings have started to grow.


Once the seeds have been dropped in the furrow I will use a trowel to scrape the soil back into the trench and cover the seed. Be careful not to bury the seed too deep. And make sure there is good seed-soil contact when you cover the seed, even taking the flat end of the trowel to pat down the soil to make sure it is firm.


Lastly, be sure to water in the seed thoroughly giving the beds a good soak with a water hose. I use drip tape for irrigation, but I will still water in my seeds with a hose-end sprayer to make sure they have plenty of soil moisture for germination. And be sure to keep the beds from drying out until the seedlings emerge. At this point it is critical that your seeds have plenty of moisture.


Stay tuned to see how our zinnias and sunflowers do this year. I can’t wait for those summer blooms!

-Luke

P.S. If you'd like to purchase flower seeds for your own garden, we have our favorite varieties for purchase at Freckled Hen Farmhouse. Click HERE to shop our selection of garden seeds!

in the garden: april 2016


goodness, we are so grateful for our flourishing spring garden! april is such an exciting month for us in arkansas as we welcome a productive growing season for many months to come.


this spring season we started most of our seeds in the greenhouse & then transplanted the small plants into the ground as the soil warmed up. we directly seeded sugar snap peas (shown above), radishes & mesculin salad greens, but most everything else was transplanted. 

see luke's spring planting guide HERE for more information on planting techniques. 


our choice to transplant does create some extra work, but the uniformity of the plants is so lovely & it is space-saving, which we value in our productive yet relatively small garden plot.


our flowering winter cover crop has been such a bright spot in the garden. this year we planted mustards & red clover to build soil health & add nutrients back into the soil before planting this summer's tomatoes. bonus - beautiful color in early april! 


you better believe we're thoroughly enjoying spring salads with greens, radishes, green onion, boiled egg & our homemade balsamic dressing. the true delights of spring eating!



just last weekend we planted herbs in our perennial flower beds. i'm excited to dry & preserve herbs this fall. i hope to gift family & friends herb-infused olive oils this holiday season with home-baked bread!

what is happening in your april garden? please share!

love,
natalie

our favorite slow cooker, on-the-go chili recipe



we are entering into a season of living more of our day out rather than in. when the spring rainstorms  let up & allow it, you will find us puttering about the garden, sharing meals with others on the back patio, spending the evening around the bonfire & if we're lucky, running away to a nearby campsite for a weekend retreat.



we love easy, portable meals for sharing with others at home or packing up for a weekend getaway. today i thought i'd share our family favorite slow cooker chili recipe that's healthy, simple to prepare & ideal for on-the-go moments. 



the morning of, i simply prep a bit of meat in our cast iron & then throw everything in the crockpot while i pull together breakfast & pour my coffee. right before dinnertime, i gather our enamelware cups with handles (ours are from 1canoe2 & they are so cute!), cloth napkins & utensils.


if we're on the go, i pack our chili up in thermoses & throw everything else in our vintage picnic basket. if we plan to share a meal at home with guests, i set up a little chili bar with all the toppings & invite our friends to gather by the bonfire with their hearty meals in hand!


it's such a fun way to enjoy a warm meal while soaking up the longer spring days! adapt our chili recipe to your liking & it's sure to become a meal plan staple. 

our favorite slow cooker chili recipe
serves about 5-6

ingredients:
- 1 lb ground meat of choice (we prefer turkey or chicken)
- 1 teaspoon good olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 1 diced red, yellow or orange bell pepper
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 can cooked black beans
- 1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernels
- 1 small can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
- 1 small can thick tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon each of cumin, chili powder & paprika (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

directions:
1. in a large cast iron skillet, heat up the oil & add your ground meat of choice. brown the meat until no pink is visible. 2. drain any excess fat from the skillet & add your browned meat to the crockpot. 3. sauté your chopped onions, minced garlic and diced bell pepper for just a couple of minutes & add on top of the meat in the crockpot. 4. add your black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce & seasonings to the crockpot & mix well. 5. cover & cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 hours. 6. top with cilantro, salsa, lime & avocado. serve alongside tortilla chips & enjoy on the go or at home with others!

love,
natalie
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