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How is it Friday already, dear reader? This summer is flying by, and I don't know where the time goes. In Western Pennsylvania, it is the start of tomato season. My bib overall-wearing buddy enjoys a good homegrown tomato. Last night, we celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary, and he was thrilled that Luigi's Restaurant is now offering its seasonal tomato salad. A few staple meals must be made during tomato season, or my bib overall-wearing buddy considers it a crime against nature. One of these meals is stuffed tomatoes.


There are many recipes for stuffed tomatoes. I have found recipes for tomatoes stuffed with beef or sausage, rice or quinoa, a combination of grains and meat, or mushrooms and cheese. However, GramBarb has always made tomatoes stuffed with traditional bread stuffing and cheese. GramBarb, or GB, as we call her, does not have an official recipe that she follows. Like most good cooks, her recipes are committed to memory, and they are a pinch of this, a dash of that, and no real measurements.


I try to replicate her stuffed tomato recipe every summer, but I fail miserably. This year, instead of trying to replicate GB's recipe, I went rogue and made my own. I was pleasantly surprised with how well they turned out. The Bibbed Wonder ate all the tomatoes, so I consider this recipe successful.


As is the focus for my Foodie Friday blogs this summer, all the ingredients were purchased at The Ligonier Country Market. The tomatoes were purchased from Jeff's Produce. The sourdough bread used to make the stuffing came from Seasons of Sourdough. The cheese is from Pleasant Lane Farms. The onions came from Yarnick's Farm. The spices were purchased from Nature's Life Spices, and the butter is from Lone Oak Farm. I am thrilled to support all the local farms and vendors. It's easy to eat fresh and local when surrounded by such quality producers.


My recipe is relatively simple. The tomatoes are ready in under an hour, making a simple, delicious meal. My bib overall-wearing buddy was happy with a full tummy, and I am not guilty of committing any crimes against nature this tomato season. I hope you enjoy this recipe.


Stuffed Tomatoes


Ingredients:

-6 Large, fresh tomatoes cored with seeds scooped out and pulp set aside

-1 Loaf of sourdough bread

- 1 Large onion, chopped

-2 Cloves of garlic, minced

-1 Cup butter, divided

- 2 Teaspoons Italian seasoning

-1/4 Teaspoon salt

- 1/4 Teaspoon pepper

- 1 Cup grated mozzarella cheese

- 1/2 Cup parmesan cheese




-Set oven to 400 degrees and lightly coat a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil.





-Melt 1/2 cup of butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the onion, garlic, tomato pulp, salt, pepper, and Italian spice mix.


-Sautee until fragrant, about 6 minutes.


-In a large bowl, tear the sourdough bread into small pieces.


-Add the cheese to the bread crumbs,


-Pour the tomatoes, onion, and garlic mixture over the sourdough bread. Melt the other half cup of butter in the same skillet over low heat. Pour the melted butter over the bread, and, using your hands, mix thoroughly.


-Create small, loosely compacted balls of stuffing and fill the tomato cavities.


-Place the stuffed tomatoes in the baking dish. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil.


-Cover loosely with foil, and bake for 45 minutes in a preheated oven.


-Allow to sit for five minutes before serving.


I served this meal with a small salad. The meal was simple, fresh, and delicious. It tastes even better if you can source your ingredients fresh and locally. I hope you enjoy this recipe and can take advantage of the growing season.


On this lovely summer day, stay safe, be smart, eat fresh, local produce, enjoy simple summer meals, and keep washing your hands.









Thank you to our friends, fellow vendors, and producers from Ligonier Country Market.


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  • Writer's pictureTina

The porch is often the spot for our tough decision-making meetings.



Welcome to Thursday, dear reader. This morning, the birds are singing, everything is damp from a brief rain storm, and everything looks a bit greener and refreshed. Although there was not as much rain as needed, the small amount we got perked up everything on the farm. Running a small business is a lot like farming. As farmers, we must rely on circumstances beyond our control, like the weather. As small business owners, we, too, have to rely upon outside elements that dictate our choices.


The Bibbed Wonder and I have been fighting an uphill battle. The Smiling Goat Soap Company began in 2016. We made the uncertain and frightening jump to run our business full-time in 2019. My values for this endeavor have been straightforward: provide superior-quality products made with simple, clean, high-quality ingredients, treat our goats as family, treat our supporters as family, and demonstrate transparency in all we do. My commitment to upholding these standards is unwavering. So, today, I will share a tough decision we have reluctantly made and explain why.


After almost nine years in business, we have fought hard not to raise our prices, and to date, we have maintained that. However, as you all well know, everything, absolutely everything, has increased excessively. When I began making soap in 2016, I paid $17 for a gallon of olive oil, $50 for a five-gallon pail of coconut oil, and anywhere from $15-$60 for a pound of various essential oils. Now, dear reader, I pay $35 for a gallon of olive oil, $160 for a five-gallon pail of coconut oil, and $30-$450 for a pound of various essential oils. That list is just an example of the price increases we are experiencing, but every ingredient in our products has almost doubled, some tripled. Also, it doesn't factor in the increase in feed and supplies for our goats. That, too, has increased exorbitantly.


I refuse to lower the quality of my ingredients. For example, I could use overly processed coconut oil or olive pumice instead of olive oil. I could also switch to fragrance oils instead of essential oils. All of these changes would lower my overhead, but they would also reduce the quality of my products. I refuse to lower the quality, end of story. We have made choices to lower costs in areas that don't necessarily affect the quality of our products. For example, I have chosen a different supplier for my boxes and labels. I now buy labels in bulk to lower the cost. I notice a slight difference in the quality of the packaging, but as for the quality of the product itself, I refuse to budge.


As my soap family, you consciously choose to support small, family-owned, farm-based, and, in some cases, we're a local business. You could shop in big box stores, buy from discounters, or shop mainstream, but you don't. For this, I am eternally grateful. When we say we appreciate you, truer words were never spoken. I am astounded by the support, love, and care you all demonstrate. Because of you, I commit to creating the best products, focusing on simplicity, purity, and quality. You can pick up chemical-laden garbage from any of the discount stores, but you choose us. The power of that does not escape me.


With trepidation, I now share with you that on August 1st, we have no choice but to increase our prices. Effective August 1st, our price list will be 4.5 oz. bars/$9, 3.5 oz. round bars/$7, 8 oz. moisturizers/$14, and 4 oz. jars of scrubs and masks/ $14. This is not a decision we have made lightly. Believe me, if we could avoid this, we would. However, our costs and overhead are not showing any sign of lowering, and the cost of living continues to increase. Because of you, our soap family, we have worked hard to keep costs down without sacrificing quality. However, dear reader, we feel as if we are stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place.


Your support has grown, and your commitment to helping our small, farm-based family business succeed has been substantial. My hope is that by sharing this tough decision, you will understand why we have made this choice. All I can say is I hope you do, indeed, understand and can continue to support our small, family farm endeavor. Please allow me to finish by saying we appreciate you and your support over the past eight years. We look forward to serving you for many years to come.


On this cooler, overcast Thursday, stay safe and be smart; thank you for your support. I hope you understand our decision, and keep washing your hands-hopefully, with great goat's milk soap.




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  • Writer's pictureTina



Reflecting on the weekend's events, I know we can do better—as a community, a society, and a country. This hatred, disrespect, and disdain for those with opposing views that has spread throughout our communities and taken over our country is shameful. I have said before that the glory and beauty of America is that we have the freedom to disagree. What a boring world it would be if everyone thought the same thoughts, shared the same ideals, and embraced the same values. We would never grow, see the beauty of new ideas, or create new inventions if we weren't challenged. Art, literature, and music would not exist without freedom of thought. Problems would not be solved, innovation would cease, and we would come to a standstill as a society.


Our founding fathers built this country on the ideals of those who suffered oppression and lacked freedom of thought, expression, speech, and religion. They desired to create a land free of tyranny and oppression. As the stewards of this land, we cannot lose those ideals and values by getting caught up in angry rhetoric, narrow-minded agendas, and blaming the opposition. We certainly can't resort to violence to oppress those who oppose us. It is beyond archaic to believe that if someone does not share our thoughts, morals, and values, then they must be silenced with violence.


What have we regressed to thinking that destroying those who disagree with us is acceptable? If I am being transparent, there is no single party I affiliate with and believe has the best interest of all Americans at heart. A perfect party will never be created because we are a country built on diversity. We are one big melting pot of beautiful differences, backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, morals, and values. Over the decades, we have adopted and adapted what is now the gorgeous fabric of our country. Is it a perfect tapestry? No. Are there flaws, holes, and areas of discord? Absolutely. However, those are as much a part of our history as the victories and triumphs. We cannot allow such a beautiful tapestry to be destroyed.


I may be simple-minded, but I cannot fathom hating an individual whom I don't know personally enough to destroy them. These candidates embody an idea. They personify a party's ideals. I don't believe either candidate can be anything like what they portray to the public—at least, I hope not. They are figureheads and nothing more. Taking down an individual is not going to stop the political machine. Wounding and killing innocent bystanders is not going to eradicate the opposition. It merely leaves a wife without a spouse, children without a father, and parents without a child. Nothing has been accomplished but the destruction of innocent lives. The large political (broken) machine will continue to grind on, and a new figurehead will replace the one destroyed.


However, I remain hopeful that we can do better. I believe that we can exercise our freedoms and think as individuals. I hope that common sense will reign. If left to their own devices, individuals will choose right over wrong. Of course, checks and balances need to be in place. Individuals need to be held accountable for their actions. The balance in our country needs to be restored. Perhaps the one glimmer of hope in this deplorable situation is that the balance will be reset. Everyone can step back and realize that what has happened is not serving us as a country. We don't need outside enemies to destroy us; we are doing a bang-up job on our own. Perhaps, just perhaps, dear reader, this will be a siren to restore the balance. Once again, we can respectfully disagree and engage in authentic communication, and the people will truly be represented in both parties.


I hope we will do better. We will look to the past for inspiration, respect the foundation our founding fathers laid, and pass on a legacy to future generations. A legacy we can be proud of and one that will add another layer of beauty to this lovely and diverse tapestry we call America. Stay safe, be smart, do better, let common sense reign, and keep washing your hands on this beautiful summer day. Seriously, I feel my closing has never been more relevant.


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