Monday, August 31, 2015

Tradition: A Good One

It's a tradition around our house each year to make a special "holiday blend" of warm, comfortable spices. Each year it's a little different although the major elements remain pretty familiar. This year the focus is on cinnamon and ginger... It just doesn't get more "holiday" than that now does it?

Rustic Tart

Sweet spices are the soul of Holiday Blend 2015: Two kinds of cinnamon (Saigon and Ceylon) are highlighted against a festive background of gingery freshness. The sensual fragrance of nutmeg, cardamom, and clove rounds out the experience in a comforting way.

Ingredient list for Holiday Blend 2015 in alphabetical order:

  • Cardamom, Green
  • Cinnamon, Ceylon 
  • Cinnamon, Vietnamese Saigon
  • Cloves
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg

Looks simple; tastes rich, spicy, and complex. We're using fresh, whole spices to make this, and all our blends, so you get the complexity. Whole green cardamon, whole sticks of cinnamon, whole cloves, whole nutmeg... You get the picture. Yeah, it matters. 

Our blends don't sit around in a warehouse for months (or years), or on a shelf, or out in the parking lot in a trailer for days on end either. We small batch process each week to ensure that freshness makes it to your table. Yes, "fresh squeezed" every week! 

Holiday Blend 2015 is guaranteed to be a hit with sweet potato or winter squash, tomato sauces, cookies, cakes, pies, candies, gingerbread, custards, oatmeal, pancakes or waffles, spiced tea, apple cider, hot chocolate, & eggnog. We're really excited about this one. You'll love it.

Another tradition involves "the bird." No, not that kind, we're talking turkey, chicken, duck, goose, dove, quail, and just about anything else with wings and feathers on it.

Each year we create a little something special; something a little different but always on target for holiday poultry. It's "Bird Rub" and we're mighty proud of it.

Ingredient list for Bird Rub in alphabetical order:

  • Bay Leaves
  • Celery Seed
  • Garlic
  • Marjoram
  • Onion
  • Oregano
  • Paprika, Hungarian
  • Peppercorns, Tellicherry Black 
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme Leaves 

People who come by our booth at the Canyon Farmers Market or visit with us on Facebook know that some of these herbs are grown right here at Smiling Coyote Farm. We offer them for sale, fresh, at market and at the farm as well as in our blends. Always fresh, always make from whole spices, never any salt, MSG, sugar, additives or fillers of any kind. Just herbs and spices. 

Bird Rub is aromatic with the distinctive fragrance of celery playing off against a richly herbal background of bay, thyme, oregano, sage, marjoram, and rosemary. There's a richness underlying it all from a really high quality Hungarian sweet paprika, along with garlic, and onion. It's a classic.

Used as a rub or in marinades with anything bird-like, Bird Rub is straight-up magic. It's also an excellent addition to any dressing, gravy, or sauce and it's perfect in soups and stews (especially with leftover bird) and sprinkled on sandwiches.

Some traditions are better than others and these two are, in our opinion, keepers.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Keeping It Fresh

Herbs, greens, and similar items are sometimes a challenge to keep fresh at home. Here's a technique that works with most and keeps food fresh in the refrigerator for many days and even weeks. Really: This works.

Fresh (really fresh) herbs
We're illustrating this technique using fresh herbs but keep in mind that the technique works just as well using greens, lettuce, celery, green onion, radish, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and just about any vegetable. Fear not, this is simple!

Black and soggy

Many people throw their vegetables in  a plastic bag or leave it in the plastic bag-thing that came from the store. Maybe washed, maybe not, it goes in the fridge wrapped in plastic. 

This results in a very disgusting scenario very quickly... A biological experiment gone awry. Black soggy spots, gray spongy mold. We've all seen that (shudder).

Well we haven't seen it here at our place in years, now. Why? Because we treat our vegetables like the living plant they are. It's a simple concept and here's why plastic, except as we describe later, shouldn't come near your fruits and vegetables.

If you have indoor or outdoor plants, go right now and wrap them all tightly in plastic. Even in the cooler temperatures of fall or winter, what do you imagine is going to happen? Yep, you got it: Black soggy spots and gray, spongy mold. There is a reason for this.

Plastic touching the leaves, roots, stems, or stalks of plants results in condensation (moisture). That moisture has no where to go. It's sealed in a thin film between the plastic and your squash. 

That thin film of water has little or no oxygen. It's anaerobic and bad, bad beasties grow under anaerobic conditions. 

So the squash is under a thin layer of water in the dark without oxygen. What happens in moist, dark places in the absence of oxygen? Black soggy spots and gray, spongy mold. 

It happens every single time without fail within a few days. Why are we eating this stuff? Even if it isn't visible, it's growing. But, take heart, black soggy spots and gray, spongy mold are remarkably easy to avoid and here's how we do it.

Clean this thing

We recommend washing fruits and vegetables as soon as they come in the house with a vinegar and water solution. About 3 parts water to one part vinegar is fine. Vinegar is a great antibacterial so this step really helps. Here's a good article with detailed instructions along with all the reasons why this is a good idea. 

After they're washed, get rid of any excess moisture. Shake 'em out, towel 'em off, use your salad spinner, or let them air out on a clean towel for a few minutes. We don't want them too dry (more on that below) but we don't need soggy stuff going in the fridge either. 

It's a plant

Fresh picked vegetables are plants and plants don't like drying out. Refrigerators are very dry places. Vegetables dry out and become unappetizing, if not downright inedible, very quickly if left open on the shelf or in a drawer. So, don't do that. Let's treat our vegetables like the plants they are.

First, get them hydrated. Stalks separated from their roots and roots separated from their soil have lost their source of hydration. So, the first thing we do is give it back to them in a way that makes sense to the plant.

Hydrate your stalks!

Got stalks?

OK: Cut the stalk ends cleanly, even them up if needed. If it's celery, trim the root end just enough to expose fresh cells. For big greens like kale or Swiss chard, trim the stalks down a bit to fit upright on the shelf in your fridge.

Now wrap those fresh cut stalk ends with some paper towel, secure with a rubber band or some twine, and dip in cold water. If it's a hot day and you just got back from the store, dip in ice water. Ah, what a relief.

This is the way we sell our herbs and greens at farmer's markets. It's already wrapped and moist.

Got roots?

OK: For small, rooted vegetables like green onions, radishes and leeks, treat them in the same manner as the stalks (above). Leave the leaves on.

For beets, rutabaga, turnips, and the like, treat the same as broccoli or cauliflower (more on that below).

No roots; no stalks? 

Cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, broccoli, squash, peppers, and other fruit/vegetables don't need trimming, just washing and wrapping. We'll get to them. Hang on.

How does your garden grow?

In our garden plants grow with root-ends down, stems, stalks, and leaves pointing up. Stand up your wrapped stems in a container. Put your roots down. Let those stalks stand up tall. Treat your vegetables like the plants they are.

For stalks, stems, and smaller things with roots like green onions, as well as cilantro, parsley, and most herbs put just enough water in a glass or jar to keep the wrapping moist. A half-inch or so--even less--is fine. Stand them up.

We're still going to use some plastic here but before we do that the plant requires protection. We use either paper or cloth to create a barrier between the plant and the plastic.

The paper or cloth is both absorbent and permeable. That means water doesn't build up on the veg and air can circulate around it. That's good.

But we don't want too much air circulation or the vegetables dry out. That's where the plastic comes in. It's a barrier that helps create a favorable environment around the plant.

What kind of paper? The easiest thing to use is paper towel or newspaper. Tissue paper works as well.

We also recommend cheesecloth or "flour sack" towels. They're both light weight, very absorbent, and easy to obtain. The choice is yours--paper or cloth--and it works either way.

We prefer cloth because it's reusable. If you choose to use cloth, make certain it is 100% cotton or other natural fiber. This matters. Really.

Cover the stalky vegetable or herb loosely with paper or cloth. It's ready for the fridge now.

For squash, cauliflower, head lettuce, broccoli, swiss chard, spinach, or other similar produce, wrap it up, too. First in paper or cloth and then plastic. Refrigerate.

For big root vegetables like beets, carrots, rutabaga, and turnips, the drill is the same: Wrap them in paper or cloth, then plastic, and refrigerate.

Put it down, you're done.

Yep, it's just that simple. So simple you probably don't believe it works. Well, it does. It won't cost much to give it a try and could save considerable over the course of a year, so give it a shot. You'll see.



For herbs, try a "frog." They're intended for flower arrangements but work very well indeed for anything with a stalk.

We use this in our market display for fresh herbs and in our refrigerator as well. It will work for you.

Just wrap, add a little water, and cover as described above.
That's it. Nothing to it!

Herbs in a frog

Friday, August 14, 2015

Market 8/15/2015: Photos

A quick peek at some of the freshness. We're headed to the Canyon Farmers Market tomorrow morning with this stuff and it won't last long.

Herbs: They're magic!

Do you make pizza or pasta at home? You won't believe what happens when you make it with Smiling Coyote Farm's just-picked fresh herbs. Try some oregano, marjoram, or basil. It's magic, that's what it is. Your friends and family won't believe how good this tastes. Magic: Really.

Chilies: Jalapeno, Tabasco, Cayenne, and Poblano

If you make salsa, pico de gallo, tacos, burritos, nachos or any other Mexican or Tex-Mex specialty, our selection of fresh chilies will make yours really stand out. Impressive. Really. Your salsa will be like no other. Bring on the magic!

The "Americas" selection

Add a little dash of our Sizzling Southwest spice blend to an omelette and see what happens. Hint: It's that "magic" stuff again wink emoticon And, rub a steak or a chicken breast with it before flopping that baby on the grill. Yep, magic.

Young, tender yellow crookneck squash

 Nice tender yellow crookneck squash? Check!

Wow: Tomatoes!

Tomatoes? Check!

Coyote Tea

And wash it all down with some iced Coyote tea, right? Yep.

Should be a great market!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Eye Candy: Color, Flavor, Nutrition

More than "garnish"
There's an easy, and often overlooked, way to add flavor, color, and nutrition to just about any meal without adding a lot of extra calories. Add fresh herbs, other green or colorful vegetables, and edible flowers to the meal plan. Doesn't take much to make a huge difference as you can see in the photo above.

Color is everywhere
In your garden, at the farmers market, or in the produce department of your local grocer, color is everywhere. Take advantage of that and shop for color.

Color is nutrition as well as eye candy. The pigments that determine color contain powerful nutrients.

The red/purple antioxidants called anthocyanins are one such example. They're found in red and blue grapes, blueberries, strawberries, beets, eggplant, red cabbage, red peppers, plums and red apples to name a few.

Orange pigments, found in carrots, mangoes, cantaloupe, winter squash and sweet potatoes, contain the cancer-fighter alpha carotene, along with beta carotene, a substance that protects the skin.

And that list goes on. Yellow/orange, green, and even white/green vegetables such as garlic, onions, leeks, celery, asparagus, pears and green grapes all contain powerful nutrition.

The "trick" is getting enough of them in our daily diet. One way to help with that is to think of colorful fruits and vegetables as "eye candy" on the dinner plate. Something that, by virtue of its good looks, draws people into the plate... Something that contains a promise, through visual appeal, of great flavor to come... Something that, with its tantalizing aroma, starts the juices flowing... Eye candy, in other words.

Your eye candy might be, like the first photo above, a "course" in the meal plan. Raw tomatoes--especially in the summer when they're found at your local farmers market in abundance--are a good start. Here's another, very similar, use of tomato and peppers as eye candy in a very simple manner with a brunch frittata.

Eye candy can be quite simple
Yes, it's as simple as slicing up some green and red, then arranging them on the plate. Or, it could be yellow, orange, and red, green and yellow, or any other combination you like.

Put colorful things together that taste good together. Yes, if the colors look good together and the combination tastes good together, then that's it. Simple.

There's no need for fancy slicing and dicing devices or a widget that puts frilly edges on everything. Really: Forget about it. Use a knife. It will be beautiful on the plate.

Beautiful because the vegetables and fruits are beautiful. You picked them out yourself because they were fresh, bright, and ripe so, of course they're beautiful. Let's go with that. It's works.

If you'd like to see some of the fancy stuff, check out John Poon's photos.

Yes, eye candy can be fancy, too
Once you begin doing this, it becomes a habit. So, start now. Go to your local farmers market or grocer and get some color. Scan the produce section for those small additions that turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Don't forget fresh herbs. A few sprigs of fresh basil next to those fresh, ripe tomatoes is a classic combination. A little oregano with it puts the whole thing over the top. People will talk about that one for years.

Want more ideas on using fresh basil? Try this quick read over at Food Network: 10 Great Ways to Use Up Fresh Basil

Get some chives or flat-leaf parsley. Go for the cilantro. Stick them, whole--stalk and all, in containers (a small drinking glass works) with a bit of water in the bottom. Drape them with paper towel and then cover with plastic (wrap or bag) and keep in the fridge.

Frog lids for mason jars (used for flower arrangements) can be found at craft stores and work well also. Herbs stay fresh for days--even weeks--as long as you keep the stem ends wet and the leaves away from the plastic.

Steamed artichoke, celery remoulade salad,
apple topped with mango salsa
Fruits are colorful, nutritious and lend themselves to use as eye candy as well... Everything from berries to mango and apple.

In fact, just about everything and anything edible is fair game in the eye candy department. There aren't any limits except your own tastes and preferences.

So, it's healthy, nutritious, beautiful, and easy to do. How can you go wrong with low fat, fiber rich, colorful additions to any meal that contain powerful, natural disease fighting chemicals?

Start adding some eye candy to your next meal... See, smell, and taste the difference it makes.

A landscape of color

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Market Saturday August 15

Smiling Coyote Farm will be on the square in Canyon, TX this Saturday morning from 8:00 am to Noon enjoying a lovely late summer day, seeing our friends and neighbors and bringing you our natural garden produce, artisanal spice blends, and Coyote Tea.

Look for this guy at the Canyon Farmers Market

Garden is looking great so we'll have fresh herbs and vegetables. Tomatoes (Sweet 100 and Roma), young, tender yellow crookneck squash, and a selection of several pepper varieties are among the expected vegetable offerings and there could be more.

Roma tomatoes

Fresh herbs include basil, parsley (flat leaf), chives (two kinds), marjoram, sage, thyme, and oregano. Fresh herbs have a different flavor profile than dried and these guys are really cranking out some flavor right now. Great in marinades for meat and vegys, salads, and cooked with vegetables like summer squash. Try a sprig or two in your favorite dish and, if you make pizza at home, you really (really) need some fresh oregano, marjoram, and, perhaps, some basil.

Thyme, oregano, and marjoram with native ornamentals

We'll have the Coyote teas. Occasional Mention is based on blended black teas with orange zest and spices. Kick It Back is an smooth herbal blend of chamomile, spearmint and peppermint. Both come either in individual tea bags or the big, reusable muslin bags that make 6 cups.

20 tea bags, boxed

Coyote herb and spice blends will be in the house. House Creole, Sizzling Southwest, Old #18 Chili Powder, Provencal (France), Belle Erba (Italy), Garam Masala (India), and The Five Elements (China).

Selection of spice / herb blends

Find out more about our teas and spice blends under the "Pages" menu (this page, right-hand menu)

We're working on our holiday spice blend selections so let us know what you'd like to see.

We leave you, as always, with a grin,

The Coyote smiles for you!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Market Days

Market Days!

That's me (Mr. Coyote), the booth, and some folks having a great time in Canyon, TX

Smiling Coyote Farm, along with Honey's Farm Fresh, is proud and excited to serve you at the Farmers Market Under the Stars this Tuesday evening from 7 pm - 9 pm as well as on Saturday from 8 am - Noon for the weekly morning Canyon Farmers Market.

Honey's brings their (always) farm fresh chicken and duck eggs. And, speaking of duck eggs, if you haven't seen this, take a look at what we did with a couple of duck eggs and some fresh herbs in our "Herby Morning Potato Frittata."

Smiling Coyote uses no chemical pesticides at all. Ever. We've been growing naturally in this location since 1983. We started our first garden at the ripe old age of 11 and sold our first lot of organic produce to a distributor in Ft. Worth, TX in 1973. We've been at it ever since and you can taste the difference.

Cayenne peppers

We have fresh and flavorful herbs--Basil, marjoram, thyme, oregano, chive, parsley, and garlic chive--to make everything you do taste better. Check that "Herby Morning Potato" thing for ideas about using fresh herbs.

Herbs and native ornamentals
Peppers and Chilies: We got 'em. We have several different varieties including jalapeno and cayenne with tabasco peppers just about ready. We may have some of those tabasco peppers Tuesday evening and for sure by Saturday. They look, taste, and grow a lot like a chile pequin so if you're a pequin fan, you'll want to give these a try.
Tabasco peppers

Tomatoes (several varieties) and,maybe, some fresh, young, tender yellow crookneck squash as well could be on the table Tuesday evening. Maybe more, the garden is looking fine right now.

Roma tomato
Our Coyote teas are wonderful hot or iced and if you haven't tried them both, you should. Coyote teas, like our herb/spice blends, are hand-crafted fresh every week right here on the farm from the freshest ingredients. These teas are what fresh tastes like.

"Occasional Mention" is a black tea, orange zest, and warm spice blend--it's Dyna's favorite. My favorite is the "Kick It Back" herbal blend of chamomile, spearmint, and peppermint. We have both single serving tea bags (boxed) as well as larger bags for iced tea or making a full pot.

We meticulously hand craft spice and herb blends weekly in small batches using fresh, whole ingredients--some grown right here on the Farm--for maximum shelf life, freshness, and flavor. We'll have them for you Tuesday evening and Saturday morning at the market. In these blends there is no added salt, sugar, MSG, preservatives, or fillers either so it’s all natural and highly concentrated—a good value. Learn more about what herb/spice blends we offer and how they taste.

For those who use our spice blends now, please let us know what you think either in the comments below or on the Smiling Coyote Farm Facebook page. If there's something you'd like to see us offer, let us know about that, too.

Thanks, and a big coyote smile to you!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

An Herby Morning Potato Frittata

Fresh herbs on a fresh morning after a fresh summer shower. Relaxing late breakfast--almost brunch--on the weekend. Easy to do; soul satisfying.

Easy, in our case, to be casual about using fresh herbs, you might think. We grow, harvest, and sell fresh herbs as well as dried herb and spice blends so familiarity brings with it an easy going attitude. That attitude brings many delicious meals but some people don't share that attitude and are, consequently, a bit more reticent. 

It's time to allay your fears and set aside that reticence. This is neither rocket science nor is it dangerous. Get friendly with your herbs. Your food, and family, will thank you. 

This morning, as we went to the fridge for eggs and fresh herbs, we found broken off leaves and stems from several herb bundles laying about in their container. It's just something that happens when working with fresh things and nothing to worry about... Serendipity in this case.

It struck us that the mix (some marjoram, a touch of thyme, a little oregano, parsley leaves, and a sprig of basil) sounded like a great blend to use with potatoes in a frittata--that "casual" attitude, right? So that's what we did.

Do it

This recipe serves two people a great frittata. Each serving is about 374 calories with 20 grams of protein. Good start to the day.


In the large bowl on the left: 10 ounces (280 g) diced red potato. It's a couple of small red potatoes.

Top two bowls from left to right: 2 duck eggs plus one (chicken) egg white--We get eggs from Honey's Farm Fresh, and about 1 3/4 ounces (46 g) Boars Head Monterey Jack cheese. You can use three chicken eggs instead of the two duck eggs. No problem. Really. 

In the three middle bowls from left to right: A handful of roughly chopped, fresh parsley leaves, about 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs--marjoram, thyme, and oregano, and about 1/3 cup (89 g) diced white onion.

In the two lower bowls: A couple of tablespoons chopped fresh basil, and about 1/3 cup (46 g) roughly chopped poblano pepper. If you don't like poblano, use whatever pepper you have. 

If you don't have fresh basil, parsley, or other herbs, you can always get some from the Smiling Coyote. Just come see us at the Canyon Farmers Market or let us know what you need on our Facebook page but, in any even, just use whatever you have on hand.

Get Ready

Not being afraid of your food is part of the casual attitude. It's just food, probably harmless and quite delicious even though, sometimes, it may not be exactly what we expect. 

Never mind, be casual: Use what's on hand, use what's fresh, and use what looks good. Don't get tied down. That's what we did here and we'll probably never recreate this exact formulation again. And, that's OK, the next one will be just as awesome.

OK: Prep that stuff. Get it all chopped and ready. Then preheat your oven to 350 F (177 C) or Gas Mark 4. Get out a small skillet--one that you can cover, along with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Ready. Set. Go!

Cook it

With a dash of olive oil (1/2 tbsp), a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper, saute the onions and peppers, stirring frequently, over medium-high heat until onions become translucent. About 3 - 4 minutes should do it.

Now add potatoes, a pinch more salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 5 - 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes start to become tender but are still "toothy." 

That means the potatoes are neither crunchy nor mushy--they're in the Goldilocks zone between those extremes when they're just starting to become tender. Timing on this varies depending on how small you diced the potato.

Don't worry, put the lid on and cook this stuff.

Remove cover, turn heat up to medium, add the chopped herb mix (thyme, marjoram, and oregano--or whatever you have). Stir to combine and cook briefly (1 - 2 minutes) until fragrant. People around the house will start to notice what you're cooking now. It's like incense.

Add the parsley and basil (or what you have on hand) and stir briefly to combine. 

Taste this stuff right now. Make sure the seasoning (salt and pepper) is right. Adjust as needed. 

Evenly pour the eggs into the pan, rotating the pan if needed to distribute the liquid. Don't stir it (really, don't), we're not after scrambled eggs this time. 

Top with cheese and allow the eggs to cook briefly until the edges are set and you can see the bottom of the eggs are firming up a bit--about 2 minutes should do it.

Now put the skillet in the (preheated) oven on a middle rack and cook for 6 - 8 minutes just until the eggs "set" completely. Don't overdo this or the eggs dry out. 

Timing varies here depending on the size of your skillet (how thin or thick the mixture is). Let it cook until the eggs don't slosh around any more and just become firm. 

When the eggs are set, turn your broiler on high and open the oven door a bit. Broil just until the cheese browns a bit--about 3 minutes. 

Get it out now. 

What you have should look like this. Eggs still moist, cheese nicely browned, potato tender all the way through (not mushy), and the fragrance of fresh herbs perfuming the kitchen. You're awesome: Good job!

Plate and serve

We split the frittata in half and served it with tomatoes (yes, fresh from the garden) and a fresh green chili--cayenne from garden. A little fresh cracked pepper on top makes it look even more fabulous. 

Did you try this? Then let us know what you think and leave a comment!

Two Pods on a Stem

From the Facebook page:

I thought it was "two peas in a pod" but apparently it's two pods on a stem... We're talking chile pods, of course ;)...
Posted by Smiling Coyote Farm on Friday, July 31, 2015