Spring Gardening | Tomato Tips

May 17, 2016

Heirloom Tomato

I was flipping through a gardening magazine over the weekend and came across an advice column with the following tips for growing beautiful tomatoes. Thought you might be interested, ’cause who doesn’t love fresh summertime tomatoes.

I also wanted to share a song with you ‘Steady Heart‘ that I recently discovered through my yoga class playlist. One word. Repeat.

Here are 6 ways to maximize your tomato harvest!

Support your plants
Sturdy metal cages or wooden ladders keep plants upright, prevent broken stems and make harvesting easier.

Water deeply
Keep the entire root zone evenly moist by watering slowly and deeply – a soaker hose is ideal. Avoid daily sprinklers, which result in a shallow root system. This was a new concept to me but I tried this approach last summer and I think it made a huge difference.

Apply mulch
Once the soil warms up, a supply of 2″ or 3″ layer of organic mulch, such as straw, to conserve soil moisture. This helps minimize blossom end rot, which is caused in part by fluctuating moisture levels. I rake my weed free (okay kind of weed free) grass clippings and spread a layer around the tomatoes. It also helps keep the weeds under control.

Fertilize regularly
Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Fertilize plants monthly throughout the growing season to keep them strong and productive. I also plant my tomatoes with a couple Tums (two or three per plant).

Prune suckers
Pinch off suckers (the shoots that form where side branches meet the stem), especially those that grow below the first flower cluster. Allows more energy for producing delicious fruit!

Examine plants daily looking for signs of trouble – chewed leaves, for example, or spots on foliage or stems. Get to know the insect pests and diseases common in your region so you’ll recognize them early, when control is easiest. I just cross my fingers on this one. No, I am trying to learn more and more with each season. It takes time, like anything.

Cooper Hereford Ranch

Crab Apple Blossoms

Mini Apple Crisps with a Salted Pretzel Topping

May 18, 2015

individual apple crisps

tea and treats

It has been wet and drizzly for about a week or so now. The perfect weather to accomplish a little spring cleaning and baking. So between ranch and construction work last week, I managed to reveal the bottom of my garage freezer. I found a couple jugs of fresh pressed apple cider, beet greens pesto, bone marrow broth, a bag of prepared rhubarb and a bag of apples from last year’s harvest along with blackened corn from the cob and some specialty meats. So with garden fresh ingredients nearly around the corner, I thought I better start making use of what’s left in the freezer. So here is a recipe for mini apple crisps with a salted pretzel topping. The pretzels add a lot of texture and crunch, which I really like in a crisp. I also like this recipe because it’s incredibly quick. You will be in and out of the kitchen in no time. Plus it’s great for entertaining because it can be made ahead of time and easily transported. My apples were frozen but don’t worry if you want to use fresh, the recipe is forgiving. Hope you can find the time to enjoy with a cup of tea while it’s still chilly outside!

Mini Apple Crisps with a Salted Pretzel Topping // Serves 6

1/3 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. mini salted pretzels
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 stick (8 Tbs.) unsalted butter, chilled

2 lb. frozen apples
1 Tbs granulated sugar
2 Tbs arrowroot
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 lemon for juice
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a medium glass bowl and toss to combine. Spray six (6) ramekins and equally divide filling into ramekins. Depending on ramekin size, this may be plus or minus one ramekin.

In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients for the topping and mix until combined. Cube the butter and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until clumps together when squeezed with fingers.

Spread topping evenly over ramekins. Place on a baking sheet to avoid a bubbly sticky mess and bake for approximately 40 minutes. The filling should be bubbly and the topping should be golden brown. Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.

mini apple crisp

The mini ceramic pie dish shown in the above photo is from Home Goods but here is a similar looking one. I really like these dishes because they are fairly shallow and have more surface area for the delicious crunchy topping!

I am sure the rhubarb in my freezer will show up in this cheesecake.
Probably going to make my charred corn chowder soup this week. Thinking of adding a little smoked paprika to it.

Since I spend almost every day working outside, or at least some portion of the day. I have found it extremely important to protect my skin from the elements. I was recently turned on to a moisturizer and pressed powder by a friend. The moisturizer is SPF 30 and the pressed powder is SPF 20. I have never added protection with a pressed powder. Normally I use a sun screen and call it good. But a pressed powder is incredibly effective because it

The moisturizer is the Red Currant by Eminence Organic Skin Care. Eminence products are made with the finest natural ingredients using whole fruit pulps and botanical ingredients without chemical preservatives. The skin care line is organic and incredibly fresh.

The pressed powder is by Jane Iredale. Jane Iredale products have earned the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation. To earn this seal, a manufacturer must provide scientific data showing that its product sufficiently and safely aid in the prevention of sun-induced damage to the skin. It is a mineral powder made without talc, FD&C dyes, synthetic preservatives, parabens or synthetic fragrance. I am not one to wear much makeup but if it helps protect my skin then I am all for it!

I also recently purchased this sun hat from Everything Golden.

I think I am ready for the summer sun!

Spring + Gardening

May 4, 2015

Potato Frittata

I started gardening about 3 weeks ago. A neighbor and master gardener told me that Good Friday is a date worth noting for planting root and frost tolerant vegetables. I was about a week behind but still feeling ahead since last year I didn’t start working the ground until mid May. Veggies that can be started outside earlier than most are the root vegetables like potatoes, radishes, beets, carrots, turnips, kohlrabi and rutabaga with the addition of some frost tolerant veggies like peas, the cabbage-family and collards. So my first planting of the year included peas, radishes, beets, kale and spinach. I may have been on the cusp with my collards, so I am keeping my fingers crossed. The radishes were the first to germinate, followed by the peas and then beets. The weather has been favorable so I am hoping for a growing spurt.

I started my indoor seedlings about two weeks ago. This included an assortment of peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. The cucumbers germinated first and the melons and tomatoes followed suit shortly after and the pepper family has been little slow. I think they may need a little more sun and warmth than what my home may be providing. I will keep you updated. I plan to transplant these starters outside around the end of May or early June. Basically once there is no chance of a frost, which in Montana, is a really hard date to predict!

I ordered all my seeds from Gurney’s and Rare Seeds and purchased some packets from Home Depot. If you haven’t flipped through a Rare Seeds catalog, I highly recommend you request a free catalog. It is a 200+ page color catalog that is sure to inspire you in the garden. Rare Seeds also pledges as a company that they do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants.

Goliath Spinach, Gurney’s
Black Magic Kale, Gurney’s
Chioggia and Golden Beets, Rare Seeds
Cherry Belle Radish, Home Depot
Sugar Ann Snap Pea, can’t remember where I purchased this seed packet. It was leftover from a year or two ago.

Heirloom Rainbow Blend, Gurney’s
Chocolate Cherry Tomato, Gurney’s (of favorite of mine)
Habanero Hot Pepper Blend, Home Depot
Big Thai Hot Pepper, Home Depot
Tangerine Sweet Pepper, Home Depot
Cucumber Muncher, Home Depot
Sugar Baby Watermelon, can’t remember where I purchased this seed packet. It was leftover from a year or two ago.

Note: It is important to store any leftover seeds in a cool, dry and dark place. I usually place them in my fridge but a cool basement would also work. The seeds must be dry so if you are concerned add a small packet of silica gel to the container or any other moisture absorbent like powdered milk or rice. Certain seeds have a longer shelf life than others. For example, corn and onions may only last 1 or 2 years at best while beans, carrots, lettuce, peas and radishes may keep in your fridge for multiple years. Below is a list of common vegetables and their respective shelf life.

5+ yrs…..Beets, cucumbers, tomatoes.
3 to 5 yrs…..Beans, peas, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, carrots, lettuce, okra, peppers, radishes, spinach, turnips and watermelon.
1 to 2 yrs…..Sweet corn, leeks, onions, parsnips and parsley.

Above are some gardening essential from the Mercantile. Click to shop.

I used this boot tray from Target to hold my indoor starters so I wouldn’t ruin my wooden table when watering.
DIY chalkboard seed makers here or just buy these simple markers for $6 or these copper markets for $10.
These watering cans are worth showing off.
Dreaming of summer picnics with this handwoven tote.
Saving for this porcelain berry bowl.
Still looking for a great pair of gardening gloves that do not make my hands stink.


Baked Potato Frittata

I also thought I would share another asparagus recipe. This is my go to when I have a baked potato leftover from the night before. It might be a good addition to your Mother’s Day brunch menu!

Baked Potato Frittata with Asparagus & Lemon // Serves 2 or 3 as a meal or 8 to 10 as a side

6 eggs
1/2 c. whole milk
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
Handful of asparagus spears (9 oz. or 25 skinny spears)
A baked potato from the night before
1/3 c. feta

Preheat broiler.

In a glass mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, whole milk, cayenne pepper, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Set aside.
Wash and snap off ends of asparagus spears. Cut into 1/4 inch pieces and add to egg mixture. Thinly slice potato.
Spray or butter a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Layer potato slices on bottom. Pour egg mixture over the top. On medium heat, cook until egg starts to set and you can run a spatula around the edge of skillet, about 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the top with feta and broil until the top is set and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let the frittata stand 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, loosen the frittata from the sillet and slide onto a plate or cutting board.

Note: If you do not have a leftover baked potato you can use one or two Yukon Gold potatoes. You will need to soften the potatoes by parboiling or sauteing prior to layering the slices on the bottom of the pan. If you choose to saute in olive oil, be sure to just soften the potatoes not fry. You don’t want crispy potatoes. The recipe turns out equally delicious but this step does add a little time to otherwise an incredibly quick recipe.


Spring + Salad

April 24, 2015

I think Spring has finally sprung at the Cooper Hereford Ranch.

We finished seeding the spring wheat last week. The pastures are showing signs of life; hopefully this means we can stop feeding hay in the next couple of weeks if Mother Nature delivers some moisture. We are busy servicing pivots and wheel lines and burning ditch in preparation for the irrigation season. And, I almost forgot, since it feels like a decade ago, that we are just about finished breeding all the heifers and cows. The process started in mid March after the Annual Bull Sale. Whew, it’s time consuming.

If you enjoy the ranch updates, I typically post more photographs on Instagram. Follow me here if you want to get your daily dose of ranch life!

Cooper Hereford Ranch Mountains

Cooper Hereford Ranch Sunrise

Since it’s officially Spring, that means there is an abundance of asparagus spears available at the markets. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and I especially like to incorporate it into salads. I made a side salad using asparagus for Easter dinner and since then I have made it a couple different ways.

My sister’s are always requesting more salad recipes. I make salads often but find myself rarely writing the recipes on paper. I am typically a very detailed and precise person but when it comes to salads the recipes usually sound something like this; a lot of asparagus, a couple handfuls of spinach, a splash of extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of feta. Not the easiest recipe to follow, unless of course that is exactly how you like to cook….a little of this and a little of that! So this recipe, or lack of, is my way of encouraging you to color outside the lines. So I am merely providing you flavors and textures that compliment each other and I am asking you to  add as little or as much as you like until the salad looks and tastes just right. Who really likes to follow a recipe anyways. Don’t we just want to be inspired?


Spring Salad

A lot Asparagus
One pickled red onion (see below)
A couple handfuls of spinach
One cucumber, seeded and cubed
As much hard boiled egg as you like
Enough feta
Enough crispy Prosciutto Bits (see below)
A couple cups of cooked Farro

The first couple of times I made this salad I simply tossed the asparagus, pickled red onion, spinach and cucumber with equal parts of quality extra virgin olive oil, white balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Then I garnished with quartered hard boiled eggs, feta and crispy prosciutto bits. It doesn’t get any easier!

A later version included cooked farro in lieu of the crispy prosciutto bits. If you haven’t tried farro yet this salad is a great introduction to the grain. Not only is it delicious in salads but I also like to use it in soups and baked pasta dishes. I buy the quick cooking farro that only takes about 10 minutes on the stove top. I tossed this salad with a four herb vinaigrette. Basically I whisked together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and zest, dijon mustard, garlic and finely chopped rosemary, tarragon, thyme and oregano. Very fresh and clean, the essence of Spring.

Pickled red onion is delicious and something I eat often on tacos, burgers and tartines. Something about the tangy bite from the vinegar that I just can’t get enough of.
To make, it’s quite simple. In a bowl, add 1 c. of vinegar and 2 Tbs granulated sugar. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Add 1 tsp. whole mustard seeds and salt and pepper. Add one thinly sliced red onion to the pickling liquid and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Prosciutto bits are equally delicious and can be used to garnish just about anything. It gives a dish that salty crunch that everyone loves. To make, set the oven to broil. Spray a baking sheet and lay a couple strips of prosciutto on the greased baking sheet and broil for about 3 to 5 minutes until crispy. Transfer prosciutto to a plate lined with paper towels. Crumble.

Spring Salad

Salad with asparagus

Looking forward to learning from Jody Engstrom with My Nutrition Living next Tuesday April 28th at Bridger Kitchens. She is teaching her dairy and non-diary ferments class. Think yogurt and beyond!
If you are local to Bozeman, join me at the Emerson Cultural Center on May 7th for this event.
Recently purchased these jeans and this swimsuit. Tip: Recycle your old jeans at Madewell stores and you’ll get $20 off a a new pair.
Don’t forget about the Derby. Check out this L.A. based hat designer here and make mint juleps with this recipe and use these pewter cups.

Introducing the Vogue Gardening Summer Series

July 16, 2014

Vogue Gardening

I try to eat seasonally. It’s the only way to taste food in its purest form. I believe recipes should be inspired by the colors of farmer’s markets and gardens. Depending on where you live, this is easier said than done. When I lived in California, farmer’s markets were a weekly ritual for me. Now residing in the countryside of Montana, I find it rewarding to eat from my own garden. The growing season is short, starting with lettuce varieties in May and ending with a plethora of squash in October. So I have decided to celebrate the colors of summer and my gardens bounty with a Vogue Gardening Summer Series. Each garden harvest will feature a recipe and fashion photo pairing. Why food and fashion, because both are a beautiful display of color, texture and pattern. And I like the juxtaposition of a fashionable woman in a country garden. So brace yourself for vibrant outfits and food flair in the coming weeks.

Vogue Gardening Summer Series

I planted my first batch of leafy greens in early May. Maturity dates varied around 40-60 days. So I was eating fresh garden greens in early June. I harvested two cuttings on almost all the varieties. After that some of the varieties started to bolt. I planted a second group that included my favorite varieties in early June. So that batch has been ready since early July. You can imagine how many fresh salads I have been making in the last couple of months. And there seems to be  no sign of slowing down. So if you are local and want a fresh bag of garden greens give me a shout. I would love to share the bounty!

Some of my favorite garden greens planted this year include:

Goliath Spinach, think spicy green harissa
Black Magic Kale, eat stems and all
Tangy Mesclun Mix, perfect for salads
Black Seeded Simpson Heirloom Lettuce
Marvielle of Four Seasons Lettuce, a reliable butterhead variety
Bibb Lettuce, delicious crispy leaves

Garden Greens

With garden greens being the featured harvest, I have included the recipe for my go-to vinaigrette. My sisters are always asking me how I make such tasty salad dressings. I think the key to any dressing is quality oil. Most my dressings include olive oil but certain salads might call for a mild less flavorful oil like grape seed or on the flip side an oil with a dominant flavor like sesame or walnut. But in my opinion,whatever oil is being used buy quality. For the use of condiments and vinaigrettes I think it is important to select an Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a dark container with a natural peppery finish and a deep green aroma of grass. I look for less expensive oil for cooking. Look for labels like cold pressed, unfiltered and organic. There are lots of specialty stores that allow you to taste the different varieties before purchasing. This is important since they are so expensive. And remember to store the oil in a corner in your kitchen that is cool, dry, and dark.

I make this vinaigrette a lot. Right now with all the lettuce varieties from my garden I make it weekly and refrigerate it. This way I always have quick lunch or dinner on hand. Its simple, fresh and tangy. In my opinion, it makes all garden greens pop. It’s also quite versatile. I often drizzle a little on my morning fried egg or add to beans and asparagus. I think you will find all greens take a liking to it, just get creative!

Kate’s Go-To Vinaigrette

1/2 c. lemon juice, approx 2 lemons
1 Tbs Sauvignon blanc or another crisp clean white wine
1 Tbs Dijon mustard
1 tsp grated ginger root
1-2 garlic cloves (to taste), grated
1/4 c. olive oil

Add lemon, wine, mustard, ginger and garlic and give a quick whisk. Continue whisking as you pour in the oil. It’s that easy! I like to grind salt and pepper on the salad rather than in the dressing.

Kate's Go-To Vinaigrette

Rhubarb Raspberry Swirl Bread

June 24, 2014

Rhubarb Raspberry Braided Bread

I entered a baking challenge hosted by Joy the Baker and King Arthur Flour. The four part challenge is a way to bring bakers together. Fun right. So all I had to do was bake this Triple Berry Cinnamon Swirl Bread, take photos of the end product and then post them on Instagram using hashtag #bakingbootcamp. You can read more about the challenge here if you want to join in for the next three.

I didn’t have too many berries at home when I decided to make this sweet treat. But I still have, what seems, an endless supply of rhubarb. So I decided to make this a rhubarb raspberry swirl bread. I highly recommend trying this recipe. I can best describe it as a large rhubarb cinnamon roll. And since I love cinnamon rolls and by now you should know how much I love rhubarb, this is probably my favorite sweet treat to date. It basically gives you a reason to wake up in the mornings! You can find the recipe here.

Rhubarb Raspberry Twist Bread

Rhubarb and Raspberry

On a side note. Montana is looking stunning. Mother Nature has blessed us with ample moisture. The fields and hills are lush and green. The amount of feed available this year is exciting. The photos below were taken in what we call our dry land pasture. This means we do not irrigate it. Mother Nature does her work and we hope for the best. So far she is doing some of her best work for us.

It has been at least 1o years since I have spent an entire summer in Montana. And I rarely visited in June. I have no idea why not. Like I said it’s a gorgeous time of year and good energy vibes are everywhere with summer finally arriving. I recommend visiting this time of year. Just pack your rain slicker and boots.

Happy Summer Days!


2 in 1 Recipe. Rhubarb Rose Lemonade & Rhubarb Curd Tart

June 15, 2014

rhubarb curd tart and rhubarb-rose lemonade

One of my best friends, fourth sister really, was visiting from California for a long weekend. She requested I bake a sweet treat. Normally this is not a problem for me. I have endless options when it comes to baking sweet treats. But, she is gluten free. And if you haven’t tried gluten-free baking, let me tell you it is an art in itself. You cannot take any good old recipe, substitute the all-purpose flour for gluten-free flour and think you are going to retrieve a master piece from the oven. It just doesn’t work that way. You really have to spend time in the kitchen experimenting with gluten-free flour combinations or just refer to the experts. And even then, I still think it’s a challenge.

Since time was limited I decided to refer to an expert gluten free baker for a rhubarb cake recipe. Let me just tell you that the entire cake stuck to the bottom of the pan. Feeling defeated but determined, I decided it was nothing raspberries and powdered sugar could not fix. It tasted divine and looked homemade! But for this post, I am sticking to what I know and that’s gluten. I have made this pate sucree dough many times. It’s tried and true. You can find the recipe here posted under the lemony tartlets.

And since rhubarb is in full bounty and I love it so much, I decided to make this a 2 in 1 recipe. I am giving you recipes for Rhubarb-Rose Lemonade and a Rhubarb Curd Tart. You use the rhubarb simple syrup for the lemonade and the strained rhubarb for the curd. It’s perfect really!


Rhubarb-Rose Lemonade

8 rhubarb stalks
1 ½ c. sugar
½ tsp. rose water
3 lemons
1 sparkling water

Remove leaves from rhubarb. Wash and cut into 1 inch pieces. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, bring 3 cups of water, rhubarb, sugar and rose water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow rhubarb to seep for approx 2 hours. Strain before serving.

In a 1 gallon glass jar, zest 2 lemons and juice 3. Add the rhubarb simple syrup and sparkling water and then fill remaining jar with tap water. Refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with a lemon twist.

rhubarb curd tart and rhubarb rose lemonade

Rhubarb Curd Tart

Strained rhubarb from above simple syrup
4 egg yolks
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350. Follow pate sucree recipe here. Bake crust for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.
Puree rhubarb. I used a food processor. In a glass bowl, whisk together rhubarb puree and egg yolks. Place over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until thickened. About 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add butter and coconut milk. Stir until incorporated.

Spread rhubarb curd into 4″x14″ tart shell. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until curd is set in the middle.

Swiss Meringue / from SF Baking Institute

166 g of sugar
83 g of egg whites

Combine the egg white and sugar in a mixing bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and mix until egg whites and sugar reach 120F. Transfer to a mixer and whip on medium high until full volume and the meringue has cooled to room temperature.

Apply meringue to cooled tart and toast carefully with a blowtorch.

Edible Flowers

June 3, 2014

LilacYes! Lilac blossoms are edible and you should try infusing your water bottle.

The blossoms taste sort of lemony. So if you add lemon to your water, you might give this edible flower a try for a Spring substitute. I recommend sooner than later. But I suppose there is always next year too!

Lemony Chicken Orzo Soup

May 20, 2014

I know soup season is over but May weather in Montana is unpredictable. Mother Nature surprised me with 2 to 3-inches of snow a couple weeks ago and as of late, afternoon thunderstorms have set the mood for a warm bowl of lemony soup.

lemony chicken orzo soup


Raspberry Rhubarb Crostata

June 20, 2013


This vegetable continues to impress me with its ability to transform everyday recipes into something unexpected.

Rhubarb can be picked red or green. And although a common misperception, color does not determine taste but rather is simply an aesthetic choice in color presentation. Personally, I prefer vibrant red stalks. However, I find that most of my dishes contain a medley of red and green. If you really want to “wow” your guests, I suggest using primarily red stalks for a dynamic result.





I made this crostata as a breakfast treat on Father’s Day. It was the perfect addition to morning brunch.  I can confidently profess that thus far, this particular crostata is my favorite baked good rhubarb recipe. I love the rustic, homemade appearance. It plates beautifully, and tastes divine. Achieving just the right degree of tartness will take some time, but a little dollop of ice cream or whipped cream can sweeten the dish in no time at all.  You can also substitute strawberries for the raspberries to achieve a sweeter result.

Important Note. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and should never be used.




Copyright © 2018 Katie Sue Cooper. Theme by Maiden Sites