Thursday, January 27, 2011

The plus side of mommy guilt

Mommy guilt visits me quite often as my full-time job often requires me to travel. 

As much as I hate the mommy guilt and would give anything to be with my family, I must admit there are a few perks to my travel.  One of them is the locations I get to visit on occasion.  Now I will admit traveling to warm, sunny places when it is cold and snowy at home is quite nice; however, it is not the same if your family isn't with you.  I tried to explain this to my family before I left on Wednesday morning, but all Bubby could say is "Mommy's going to Florida."

So as much as I miss my family, the plus side of my mommy guilt is that I'm in sunny Florida and this was my view during breakfast today.

So while I'm already suffering from mommy guilt, I will just add some more guilt as I'm not going to have a Farmer Fridays post tomorrow so stay tuned until next Friday. 


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Farmer Fridays - Protecting our pigs from the elements

In other Farmer Fridays posts, I have explained some of the reasons that we raise our pigs on our family farm in climate controlled buildings.  The past two days have been prime examples as to why we do it. 

Yesterday, it was 23 degrees and snowed all day long.  Although the snow stopped overnight, the cold temperatures remained and today we reached a high of 10 degrees.  Meanwhile, our pigs were living in our barns that are kept anywhere from 65 to 80 degrees depending on the age of the pig.

I realize this may be hard to picture and actual pictures can't do it justice so see if this helps explain why we do it...

Hope you and your family are keeping warm tonight just like my family and our pigs.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

It's not pork, but duck for dinner at this pig pen

I have always known that Indiana was one of the top duck producing states just like it is a top pork producing state; however, I must admit I have never, ever cooked with duck until today.

My good bloggy pal, Ott, A, is hosting her very own Iron Chef Challenge just like they do on the Food Network and the secret ingredient for the month of January is duck so I decided to step up to the plate and cook with duck.

I knew all along I wanted to use duck from Maple Leaf Farms as they are Indiana's largest duck producer, but I must admit, I was at a loss for how I was going to prepare the duck.

Thanks to another great bloggy pal and friend, Gal in the Middle, I found a kid friendly and easy to make duck leg recipe at Itty Bitty Foodies.

Thanks to this recipe, I now had a mission to make some scrumptious duck leg; however, I couldn't find any Maple Leaf Farms duck leg quarter at the grocery store.  So what's a girl to do... online shopping, of course.  Thanks to Maple Leaf's website, I was able to order my duck legs online and they were delivered to my house yesterday afternoon.  It truly can't get much better than that.

Much to my delight, the duck leg box had a recipe on it that was much like the one Gal in the Middle had found me.  Now, I will admit, I am a recipe stickler, need exact measurements, and am not very inventive or liberal in the kitchen with recipes like Leah at Beyer Beware, but today I decided to be brave, I mean I was cooking with duck for goodness sake so why stop there.

So I morphed the two recipes into one and have to admit I have quite possibly never prepared something quite so tasty or easy in my kitchen before today and it only took 4 simple ingredients.

4 Maple Leaf Farms Duck Leg Quarters
Kosher Salt
Garlic Powder
Black Pepper

I simply sprinkled the kosher salt on each of the duck leg quarters and then rubbed it into the already scored duck skin.

Sprinkled with garlic powder.

  Added freshly ground black pepper.

Then it was time to cover with foil and put in the preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

After the first 30 minutes, I removed the foil and baked for another 60 minutes.

The duck legs after baking for 30 minutes covered with foil.

I mean it truly can't get any easier than this... can it?!?

Although they looked done after 1 1/2 hours, I still used my trusty meat thermometer to check the internal temperature to be safe that they had reached 180 degrees.

Lucky me, they had reached 180 degrees and then some in that 1 1/2 hours.

Now was the moment of truth.  Who would actually eat the duck legs at this pig pen?

Big Sissy loved her duck leg and Little Sissy even had a few bites which was huge since she hasn't eaten since Saturday after battling the stomach flu bug.  Unfortunately, Bubby missed out on the duck fun as he is now taking his turn in the sick rotation at this pig pen.

All in all, the duck legs were a big hit at this pig pen.  The Farmer even went for some presentation points on his plate.

Thank you to Ott, A for making us live outside our comfort zone.



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

MeMe's Peanut Butter Balls

When Big Sissy turned 8 in October, my Aunt D and Cousin R made her a recipe book with family recipes from my dad's side of the family.  In addition to the recipe book, they also gave her all of the ingredients to make MeMe's Peanut Butter balls.  (MeMe was my great grandmother that never let anyone know how old she was.)

6 T. peanut butter
3/4 bag of powdered sugar
1 stick of butter
1 t. vanilla
1 bag of coconut

So Big Sissy opened up a box on her birthday with all of these ingredients including the butter.  She was very excited as she loves to bake.  We decided we would make the peanut butter balls for Christmas.

To make the peanut butter balls you mix together the peanut butter, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla.

Now this is where is got interesting for us and I don't have any pictures of this as my kitchen soon became a bit messy as the mixer was throwing powdered sugar everywhere.  It was like there was nothing else in the mixing bowl besides the powdered sugar.

After a brief freak out moment, the light went off in my brain.  I wondered if perhaps when calling for 3/4 of a bag of powdered sugar it was referencing the 1 pound bag of powdered sugar and not the 2 pound bag that my Aunt had bought for Big Sissy.  I knew this had to be it so we quickly doubled the recipe and soon we were back in business with a slightly messy kitchen.

So once you have mixed together all of the ingredients but the coconut, roll the mixture into balls.

Then, if desired, roll the balls in coconut and store in the fridge or freezer to keep longer. Needless to say during Christmas break, Big Sissy made 2 batches of these (one being a double recipe) and none made it to the freezer.



Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Favorite Cheese Dip from the pig pen

It's amazing to me at times what a small world it really is.  I am almost reminded of this daily.  Well one of those reminders came to me about 8 1/2 years ago.  8 1/2 years ago, The Farmer and I were appointed to our state's Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher committee.  This was a 2 year commitment that absolutely changed our lives.

Any way, one of our fellow committee members was a good friend from college.  I hadn't talked to her much in the few years since we graduated, but it was sure good to see her familiar face when we walked into the meeting room for the first time and we have most definitely stayed in touch since that meeting 8 1/2 years ago.

After seeing my good friend Cris' queso dip blog post, my long, lost friend told me about  a cheese dip recipe that she said "we had to try."

Well we tried it over the weekend and it was delicious.  In fact, no leftovers made it to the next day.

Now, I had about 5 other things going on as I was making this dip so I forgot to take a lot of pictures, but here's what I got.

3 simple ingredients:  2 bars of Cream Cheese (full fat, reduced fat, or fat free will work), 1 can Rotel (undrained), and 1 pound ground sausage (browned)

After you brown the sausage, combine all 3 ingredients in the crockpot so the cream cheese can melt and all 3 ingredients can combine together.

Stir occasionally and Enjoy with tortilla chips.

 The best part of this recipe is thankfully I remembered to use one of the greatest inventions ever... a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner so when we had eaten all of the dip all I had to do was take out the liner and I had a clean crock pot.

Hunk of Meat Mondays


Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Book Review or Two from the pig pen

Buying good presents isn't always one of The Farmer's good traits.  Now I love him just the same, but he either knocks it out of the park like he has several times with jewelry and we all know diamonds are a girl's best friend or it can often be a big dud.

Well, this Christmas, he really knocked it out of the park and I was completely surprised.

Since Martini introduced me to her Kindle 2 years ago, I have secretly wanted one.  I never really discussed it with anyone but her and I just kept telling myself that my reading binges didn't justify me buying a Kindle.  Plus when I do read, I usually check the book out from our county library as opposed to buying one.  

Well much to my surprise, I opened up a Kindle on Christmas morning from The Farmer.   I was in complete shock especially since we had just given one to his mom the day before for Christmas from us and his younger brother and his girlfriend.

Come to find out, The Farmer had ordered my Kindle right after Thanksgiving and everyone had been keeping the secret since then even Big Sissy.

Needless to say, I was excited and couldn't wait to start using it on the drive to my mom and aunt's later on Christmas Day.  On the drive there, I downloaded a few free books; however, I didn't start reading on it right away as just before Christmas I had checked out 2 Christmas books from our county library that I wanted to finish first. So I hurried up and read them so I could start reading from my Kindle.  (The books I checked out from the library were The Gift by Nora Roberts and Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.  I would recommend them both for a quick Christmas read.)

Since Christmas, I have read The Potluck Club by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson and Fireflies in December by Jennifer Erin Valent on my Kindle.  

The Potluck Club follows a group of women that get together once a month for a potluck lunch to pray; however, things don't always go as planned.  A nice touch to this book is it even includes some of the recipes they make for their potluck lunches.

Fireflies in December is set in 1932 in Virginia during segregation where the Lassiter family, a white family,  takes in Gemma, a black girl, after her parents are killed in a fire and raise her as one of their children.  This decision, which was the right one, changes everyone's life forever.

Although these books were very different, I really liked both of them and would recommend them.  The real extra bonus is both of these books were the first one in a series so I can continue my reading adventure with The Potluck Club and learn more about the Lassiters and Gemma on my Kindle thanks to my in-laws as I got an Amazon gift card for Christmas to buy books for my Kindle from them.

What book recommendations do you have?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Farmer Fridays - It can be a stressful time for the momma

Today was an interesting Friday for this Farm momma.  I started the day early in San Antonio, Texas as I had been there for meetings this week.  It had been in the high 60s while I was there.  When I landed back in Indiana late this morning, it was 25 degrees and snowing.  It snowed pretty hard until about 3pm and then the sun came out but it remained in the low 20s. 

This climate is one of the reasons we raise our pigs indoors in climate controlled buildings that are kept at 70 degrees year round.  So as it was cold and snowy outside today, our pigs were warm and dry inside the barn.  This is important all the time, but was especially important today.

We have new pigs born on our family farm almost every day, but today we had a gilt, which is a female pig that has never had a littler of pigs AKA a first time mother, go into labor and she was having a really difficult time.  Thankfully we did not have to worry about the cold, snowy weather adding to her stress level.  In fact, we were able to provide her with a lot of one-on-one care today since we raise our pigs in climate controlled rooms and they farrow (give birth) in individual stalls. 

The care of our pigs always comes first on our family farm and today was no exception.  I can only hope that we were able to provide this particular first time momma the extra special care that the wonderful nurses at our hospital provided me when I had our children. 

This is in one of our sows and litter in the farrowing stall in one of our farrowing rooms.  As I said above, this is where the mother will give birth to the baby pigs.  We keep the rooms around 70 degrees year round for the comfort of the sow (a female pig after she has had a litter of pigs) and baby pigs.  We track each sow beginning the day they arrive on our farm.  We keep track of each time she is bred, when she farrows (gives birth), how many pigs she has, how many pigs she weans and the amount of assistance given to the sow during farrowing (the birthing process).  The stall you see here provides protection for the newborn pigs so the sow doesn’t lay on her pigs.  It also keeps the sow in a safe environment during the birthing process.    The heat lamps provide the piglets with added warmth.  Our farrowing rooms are washed with every turn of the barn, when 1 group of sows weans their pigs, we wash and disinfect the barn before the next group enters the room. 

P.S.  On a different note, be sure to check out my friend Cris' Gooseberry patch give-a-way at GOODEness Gracious
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