Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Super Easy Pizza Casserole

5 or 6 ingredients.  One skillet or micro cooker and one 9x13 pan.  35 minutes and you are ready for one super easy pizza casserole for dinner.  This may just be The Farmer's favorite.

Remember when I was lucky enough to have Ann-Marie from Chaos is Bliss  visit our family farm... well we were lucky enough to meet up again recently thanks to Indiana's Family of Farmers.  A few weeks ago, Ann-Marie and I visited 3 grocery stores with the help of a wonderful dietitian, Kim.

Our mission was to buy the ingredients for one recipe at 3 different stores to compare the selection, prices, and such.

It was so much fun and tiring.

We visited Kroger, Trader Joe's, and Meijer.

The selection and prices at Kroger and Meijer were very similar.  In fact if I wanted, I was able to purchase the same brands of all of the ingredients at Kroger and Meijer,.  Trader Joe's was a little different, but I was able to find all of the necessary ingredients with a little bit of improvisation.  (They didn't have any bulk Italian sausage, but they had Italian sausage links.)

Now different sales were taking place at all 3 locations, but on the day that I purchased my groceries I spent $13.52 at Meijer, $15.82 at Kroger (my receipt shows $18.82 as I bought an extra package of pepperoni), and $18.83 at Trader Joe's.

I must admit I had never been to a Trader Joe's prior to this visit.  The closest Trader Joe's is over a half hour away and a full-time off-farm working mom of 3 busy kids, I tend to shop at the local Walmart where I can get almost everything we need from deodorant to milk without breaking the bank.  It was interesting to visit Trader Joe's and I could see if you were looking for something specific, it might just be the place to go.

Now the best part of all of this was getting to visit the stores with Ann-Marie and Kim.  I think I can speak for Ann-Marie when I say we learned so much from Kim.

One of the things we discussed were quick and easy way to increase the nutritional value of a recipe.  Specifically in regards to this super easy pizza casserole we talked about adding diced tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and many other veggies much like you would a pizza.  Based on this conversation, I did decide to add diced tomatoes to my recipe.

We also talked a lot about how confusing all the labels are at the grocery store since some of them are marketing labels and some are nutritional.  It can be so confusing so it was nice to have Kim with us.
It truly was a great day and then it was time to head home to use all those ingredients we bought.

So let's talk about the super easy pizza casserole that is The Farmer's favorite.  This truly is such an easy recipe that won't disappoint.

Super Easy Pizza Casserole


  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 12 oz. wide lasagna noodles (prepared per directions)
  • 2 14oz. jars pizza sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 6 oz. sliced pepperoni
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

Cooking Directions

  1. Brown Italian sausage; drain.
  2. Drain tomatoes and combine with pizza sauce in a batter bowl.
  3. In lightly greased 9x13 pan, layer one half noodles, one half sausage, one half pepperoni, one half sauce mixture, and one half cheese.
  4. Repeat with second layer of noodles, sausage, and remaining ingredients, reserving several pepperoni slices to garnish top.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.



This post was sponsored by Indiana’s Family of Farmers, but all words and opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

One Pot Spaghetti

One pot.  3 ingredients.  30 minutes.  What more could you ask for in a family dinner recipe that pleases every time.

 Recently I was lucky enough to have Ann-Marie from Chaos is Bliss visit our family farm for a one-on-one tour thanks to Indiana's Family of Farmers.  Ann-Marie and I talked about all kinds of things from the similarities in our families, how we raise our pigs, and my favorite pork recipes. Although my all time favorite pork recipe is a good ole pork burger, I must admit I'm quite fond of this one pot spaghetti with pork Italian sausage and it is definitely becoming a go-to recipe at this pigpen.

I must give props to Ann-Marie's excellent self-timer abilities for this photo.
It was very exciting for me to have Ann-Marie visit our farm.  As you know, I'm very passionate about agriculture and our family farm and love talking about both anytime we get.  I realize I'm probably a little biased when I talk about our farm so I encourage you to visit Ann-Marie's recap of our visit as I assure you she asked a lot of great questions as nothing was off limits.  (You might even find a yummy pork recipe when you visit.)

Now that being said, let's get back to this one pot spaghetti.  I'm not lying when I say this is so easy as it truly only uses one pot (OK.  I may have used 2 as I used my micro cooker to brown the italian sausage to speed up the process.) and 3 ingredients.

One Pot Spaghetti


  • 1 lb. ground Italian sausage
  • 7 oz. package spaghetti, uncooked and broken into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 24 oz. jars spaghetti sauce

Cooking Directions

  1. In stock pot over medium heat, brown sausage for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Drain; stir in broken spaghetti. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add spaghetti sauce and stir until well blended. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer about 20 minutes, until spaghetti is tender.

This post was sponsored by Indiana’s Family of Farmers, but all words and opinions are 100% my own.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

We grow it, so where can you buy it?

So it is no secret by now that you all know we raise corn, soybeans, wheat, and pigs on our family farm.  We feel very blessed to be able to raise food for our family and all of yours.  So that being said, I'm often asked where can you buy the food we raise and grow on our family farm.

The answer is really quite easy, but it may not be obvious.

You see you can buy the food we grow and raise at the grocery store or mega big box store.  We don't have our own label or anything at the grocery store, but when you buy pork at the grocery store that is helping our family farm and fellow farms just like ours.

Our family sells the majority of our pigs to Tyson Foods who then distributes the pork in the grocery stores across the country.  So there is a good chance when we sell our pigs to Tyson Foods in Indiana, our pork ends up in a grocery store near you especially if you are in Indiana and the Midwest.   

Pork Chops I purchased at Walmart --- could have been ours

My mother-in-law and I also sell some pigs each year under our own private label at 2 local Farmer's Markets, a local orchard, and an online food hub as a way to educate others about our family farm and help pay for Big Sissy, Bubby, and Little Sissy's college education.

The cost of college for the three of them is scary!

So what about our corn, soybeans, and wheat?

Well all of the corn we grow on our family farm is used to feed our pigs so we don't sell any corn.

Big Sissy delivering a snack to my father-in-law driving the combine during corn harvest.

We do sell all of our soybeans; however, we sell them to a local soybean processor that makes soybean meal from our soybeans and we buy soybean meal from them to mix with the corn to feed our pigs.  (Soybean meal is what is left after the oil and hulls are removed from the soybean and is a protein source for out pigs.  The oil that is removed is used for cooking oil and the hulls are used as a fiber source to feed other animals.)

Soybeans in the pod in the field

Actual soybeans

As far as our wheat goes, we only grow a small amount of wheat each year.  But what we do raise, we sell to a local elevator where it is milled and turned into flour.

Partially harvest wheat field

So as a proud Indiana farmer, you can support our family farm and fellow farms just like ours by buying pork at the grocery store or by contacting me directly if you prefer to purchase our private label.  Either way we provide the best care possible to our pigs as they are our top priority.  So whether it is providing a climate controlled barn for pigs to live in to be protected from the elements or predators or using precision when planting or harvesting our corn crop, we truly feel blessed and honored to be raising food for our family and yours!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Super Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

This super-easy chicken tortilla soup really is super-easy and a perfect go-to meal that adds just the right amount of kick.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

As a farm family, the words super and easy in a recipe always catch my attention especially if the crock pot can be used.  As I was flipping through my new Gooseberry Patch Mom Knows Best Cookbook, this Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe definitely caught my attention.  And it was just what our family needed for lunch yesterday.

As you know we are in the midst of planting season which is often crazy and chaotic.  The Farmer has essentially been in the fields non-stop the last few weeks.  But thanks to some much needed rain on Saturday, The Farmer got to spend yesterday at home with us.  Now when you've been working like crazy the last thing you want to do is come home from church and wait to each lunch.  That is why this recipe was absolutely perfect.

With very little prep time, I was able to mix together this soup and throw it in the crock pot before we left for church and it was ready to eat when we got home a little after noon.  And based on the fact that everyone went back for seconds and there were no leftovers, I would say this Chicken Tortilla soup was a big hit at this pigpen.

Super Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup


  • 1/2 c. onion, chopped
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 10.75 oz. can cream of chicken soup
  • 10.75 oz. can Cheddar cheese soup
  • 10.5 oz. can chicken broth
  • 10 oz. can red enchilada sauce
  • 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
  • 1 deli roast chicken, boned and shredded
  • Garnish: shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream fresh cilantro, tortilla chips/strips

Cooking Directions

  1. In a stock pot over medium heat, saute onion in oil until tender and golden. Add remaining ingredients except garnish; stir. Bring to a boil. Add to slow cooker and cover and cook on high for 2 hours. At serving time, ladle into soup bowls; add desired toppings.
  2. This recipe can also be prepared in a dutch oven by following the above directions except after bringing everything to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

As a side note, I actually did my grocery shopping on Saturday morning and they didn't have any deli roast chickens hot off the rotisserie; however, they did have some in the refrigerator case and this was perfect for this recipe.  Also had I planned ahead I could have made my own chicken broth thank to this handy dandy tip in the Gooseberry Patch cookbook.  

Special thanks to Gooseberry Patch for providing me with this great cookbook to try and share with you. If you would like to purchase this or other cookbooks, please visit their store. Additionally, this post does contain an affiliate link.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

For the love of the farm

I've shared what my favorite part of being a farmer is, but often I'm asked what is the kids' favorite part about growing up on a farm.  Their answers often vary, depending on the day and what's on the docket for the day.  I know living on a farm is not always easy, but then there are days like today that let me know for sure they truly love it.

Big Sissy had a track meet today and I know she is exhausted after competing in 3 events:  high jump, 400, and the 200.  (She had personal bests and set new school records in the high jump and 400.)  Yet after getting home from the track meet, she headed to our monthly 4-H meeting and is now out in the barn cleaning the pens of the 4-H pigs.  If that isn't love, I don't know what is.

Big Sissy clearing 4' 5"

Bubby is always wanting to help on the farm and today he received a big promotion.  We aren't quite ready to just turn him lose, but Bubby got to do this

Bubby's solo driving debut

for the first time ever today by himself.  He is still on cloud 9 and is probably going to have a tough time falling asleep tonight.

And then there is Little Sissy who was sad I made her come inside to get ready for bed.  She wants to be right there helping Big Sissy or riding in the tractor with Daddy.  As a half-day kindergarten student that spends her afternoons on the farm, I often think she knows more about what is going on than the rest of us as she listens to every one's conversations.

Seeing their love of the land and animals is an amazing feeling for this mom.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Do farmers go on Spring Break?

Vacation.  It is something we probably all don't do enough of for various reasons:  time, money, and effort may be at the top of the list for many of us.  Farmers are possibly more guilty of this than others so it is no surprise that  I'm often asked if Farmers get to go on vacation?

Yes, we do, but it possibly takes more planning than other professions to accomplish.  In fact The Farmer and I just got back from taking the kids to Walt Disney World for their Spring Break last week.  It was an amazing time, but it took a lot of planning and coordination for The Farmer to be gone.  Thankfully we farm with his parents so vacations are possible as long as we don't vacation at the same time as his parents as one of us always needs to be around to take care of the pigs.  As I've said before the pigs are always our top priority.

In addition to coordinating and planning with The Farmer's parents, it has to be the right time of year to go on a vacation.  In general, the spring and fall are out.  This is partially why I was not ecstatic when our kids moved to a balanced school calendar and now have a 2 week fall and spring break.  In fact when our kids first started school, I didn't think we would ever go away on Spring Break.  We've gotten a little leeway on this since our Spring Break was the last week of March and not in April.  It was nice to be able to get away as a family after the winter we have had this year, but I know The Farmer thought about the farm every day... it is in his blood.

So yes, farmers do get to go on Spring Break, but it isn't always a given, can be very weather dependent, and takes lots of coordination and planning.  And it may come during the winter or summer.

Did you have a Spring Break?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Top 3 reasons why we raise our pigs in barns

I've talked about it before but is one of those questions I get asked a lot as a pig farmer. So here are the top 3 reasons why we raise our pigs in barns.

1.  Climate control
By raising our pigs in barns, we are able to control their climate and most importantly the temperature of the barn. This is critical during the winter especially ones like we've had this year and last year in Indiana.  On Friday, our kids were on a 2 hour delay due to the temperatures and wind chills.  Thankfully our pigs were living it up in their 70 degree barns.  This 70 degree temperature is also important during the summer months when we approach 3 digit temperatures in Indiana.

2.  Protection from the elements
By raising our pigs in barns, we are able to protect them from the elements such as rain, sleet, ice, snow, and hail.  Just since Sunday, we've had about 7 inches of snow followed by some rain today.  Our pigs didn't have to get wet or cold once thanks to our barns.

3.  Protection from predators
Pigs are a prey species and are often preyed upon by coyotes which seem to be more and more prevalent in our area.  By raising our pigs in barns, we are able to keep them away from the predators.

Every day, every decision we make on our farm is about providing the best care possible to our pigs.  Our pigs are our top priority.  We truly feel blessed to be able to raise our pigs in barns as our families used to raise pigs outdoors and it wasn't always fun... especially this time of year.  My Papa passed away almost 25 years ago.  There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of how excited he would be to see us raising pigs in climate controlled barns.

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