There’s one thing Serena Thompson loves more than a vintage cookbook – discovering handwritten notes inside.
“I love finding those at yard sales because a lot of times they’re right,” she says.
Teri Edwards remembers her shock when she first noticed her mother writing in cookbooks. “Books were her thing and she took such care … She put bookplates in all of them,” Edwards says. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh …’ but I don’t know, maybe it gave me permission, because now I write in all my cookbooks.”
Recently, they’ve come to see those hasty scrawls as the ultimate compliment. Thompson and Edwards, who are also known as the Farm Chicks, are celebrating the release of their own book this week.
“The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen: Live Well, Laugh Often, Cook Much” (Sterling Publishing, $27.95) hit bookshelves Tuesday, but fans who preordered the book have been cooking and crafting from it for weeks.
For those who don’t know, the Farm Chicks are really just two stay-at-home moms who met through church and became fast friends after a couple of “junking” adventures. Thompson is the mother of four young boys. Edwards’ two daughters are grown and she became a grandmother this year.
They held their first antique show in a neighbor’s barn in 2002, when they dubbed themselves the Farm Chicks. Since then, their farm chic style and passion for reclaiming old stuff has gained a national following. That antique sale has outgrown the barn and the small town of Fairfield, and will be held next month at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center. The moms are now entrepreneurs with their own line of clothing, jewelry and stationary, book authors and contributing writers to Country Living magazine, who helped them create the book.
The whole sweet, serendipitous story is written in their own words in the pages of the book. The authors also share stories about their equally quirky, yet opposite upbringings in the book.
The genesis of the book was really when Country Living editors came to Spokane for their first Farm Chicks antique show. Edwards says they stayed at a bed and breakfast on the South Hill and by the end of the visit were talking about teaming up for a book.
“So that was three or four years ago,” she says. “And Serena and I both love baking and cooking for our families and so it was just a natural evolution that it would be us in the kitchen.”
If there’s one thing they want people to know, it’s that they’re farm chicks, not food experts. The recipes are a compilation of recipes their families love to eat, whether something they discovered in a cookbook, gathered from friends and family or clipped from the newspaper.
“They are very simple, family-type recipes, neither one of us profess to be pastry chefs. It is just what we do for our families that we wanted to share,” Edwards says.
“We’re really encouraging people to tweak the recipes, to write in the book and make things work for them,” Thompson adds.
While writing the book, they had fun whipping up recipes for each other and sharing the goodies with friends, neighbors and their husbands’ co-workers. They’re already in the midst of work on their next book, which will have a Christmas theme. (The recipes are also double checked in the County Living magazine test kitchen.) On a recent morning, Edwards had sent a double batch of cookies she was testing to work with her husband for feedback.
To call “The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen” a cookbook is only half the story. It includes kitchen crafts the Farm Chicks have written about for County Living magazine as well as some they created just for the book. There are instructions for making fabric food covers, apron appliqués, cloth cookbook covers, utensil holders, shelf edging and even a scone cozy.
Inside the front cover, there’s a plastic stencil featuring a Farm Chicks apron logo, which can be used for decorating the top of a cake, cutting out a pie crust, painting a tray or box or creating a pattern for embroidery on a tea towel or apron.
The Farm Chicks also share memories and stories about people they’ve met along their journey: Lois and Vern who invited them to explore an old Palouse family home for treasures before it was burned for practice by the local fire department; and Floyd and Margaret who sell them old stuff from their farm and have taught them about life-long love.
The new book also comes with a free one-year subscription to Country Living magazine.
The Farm Chicks say their thriving business often keeps them away from their first love of junking, and the attention has been surreal at times. The women were in the midst of talks with “The Early Show” to appear on three segments of the morning news broadcast. Producers were planning to find an old barn in New York that the Farm Chicks could search for treasures. They were still finalizing details about the appearance at press time.
More than anything, they’re proud of the national attention they’ve brought to this corner of the world. They hope their book will encourage families to slow down and enjoy each other more.
Edwards says: “It’s about sitting down with your family no matter what you’re eating.”
Here are some of the recipes from the book that would be perfect for an Easter brunch or anytime.
Apple Puff Pancake
From “The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen.” “We love this old-fashioned recipe, which is really simple… The flavor is similar to an apple pie, just in puffy pancake form. When drizzled with maple syrup, this pancake is impossible to resist,” authors write in the book.
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
5 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of salt
Maple syrup or confectioners’ sugar, for serving
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a 9-inch glass pie plate. Heat in the oven until the butter is melted and bubbly – 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir well and mix in the apple slices. Return to the oven and bake for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, milk, flour and salt in a blender or food processor and process until frothy – 1 minute. Pour over the apple mixture. Bake until the cake is puffed and the center is set – 18 to 20 minutes. Serve warm with maple syrup or sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.
Yield: 8 servings
Nutrition per serving (from the cookbook): 167 calories, 9.4 grams fat, 167 grams carbohydrate, 148 milligrams cholesterol, .6 grams dietary fiber, 70 milligrams sodium.
Sunshine and Sausage Casserole
From “The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen.” This is a recipe from Thompson’s brother and sister-in-law. “When Rick and Alison make this egg casserole, everyone, especially my son Cody, goes crazy. It’s that good,” Thompson writes.
1/2 to 3/4 pound pork breakfast sausage (not links)
10 large eggs
2 cups 2-percent fat or whole milk cottage cheese
8 ounces jack cheese, grated (2 cups)
1 (7-ounce) can diced green chili peppers
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup butter, melted
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until browned – 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Lightly oil a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sausage, cheeses, chili peppers and green onions. Without stirring, add the flour, then the baking powder and then the butter; then stir to combine. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake until set – 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
Yield: 12 to 15 servings
Nutrition per serving, from the book: 262 calories, 17 grams fat, 10 grams carbohydrate, 194.9 milligrams cholesterol, less than 1 gram dietary fiber, 430 milligrams sodium.
Maple Oat Scones
From “Farm Chicks in the Kitchen.” They suggest trying thick-cut rolled oats in this recipe or any recipe calling for old-fashioned rolled oats. They’re more flavorful and chewier, authors write.
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (about 2 ounces)
Maple glaze (recipe follows)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine the flour, oats and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Use the pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of peas. Add the cream, maple syrup and egg; mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. Stir in the walnuts.
Turn out the dough onto an unfloured work surface and form into an 8-inch round, about 1 inch thick. Cut into 8 wedges and place on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned – 15 to 18 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, prepare the Maple Glaze.
For the Maple Glaze: Combine 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 tablespoon heavy cream and 1 cup confectioners sugar in a small bowl and whisk together until smooth.
Yield: 8 scones
Nutrition per scone, with glaze: 492 calories, 26.6 grams fat, 57.8 grams carbohydrate, 84 milligrams cholesterol, 2.8 grams dietary fiber, 155 milligrams sodium.
Tangy Cucumber Cups
From “The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen.” Edwards writes that this cold appetizer is a take on her favorite cucumber salad.
1 large English cucumber (about 18 to 20 inches long)
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (1 ounce)
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon salt
To cut the cucumber, cut off and discard the ends. To make the cups decorative, peel off a strip along each of three sides of the cucumber; then cut crosswise into 3/4-inch thick slices. Scoop out and discard a little from the center of each slice using a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon; be sure not to go all the way through. Set aside the sliced cups.
To marinate the cucumber cups, whisk together the vinegar and honey in a small bowl. Add the cucumber cups; cover tightly and marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, whisk together the sour cream and mayonnaise in a medium-size bowl. Mix in the red onion, feta cheese, dill and salt.
Assemble the cups: Remove the cucumber cups from the marinade and fill each with approximately 1 teaspoon of the dressing. Arrange on a serving plate, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yield: 24 cucumber cups
Nutrition per cucumber cup (from the cookbook): 24 calories, 1.7 grams fat, 1.9 grams carbohydrate, 2.5 milligrams cholesterol, 1.9 grams dietary fiber, 34.3 milligrams sodium.