Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Whole lot of cookin' and bakin' going on at this pig pen

Thanks to an amazing mother-in-law and aunts on my husband's side of the family, all I had to make for Easter weekend was 2 desserts and 2 appetizers.  Truthfully, 2 of my most favorite things to make.  Although I have a few good standbys, like my cheese ball, I usually try to do something new and different for family gatherings.

Since my new Gooseberry Patch cookbook, Sunday Dinner at Grandma's, hasn't arrived yet, I was quite thankful that my mother-in-law had just helped work behind the scenes at a Taste of Home Cooking Show and brought us each home a goodie bag from the show.  Lucky for me, the goodie bag contained 2 of Taste of Home's magazines:  Cooking Schools and Simple & Delicious.  I was able to find all 4 of my needed recipes and many more that I would like to try.

3 of the 4 recipes were super easy as one utilized the crock pot, another only required 10 minutes of baking and only dirtied one dish and a cutting board, and the other didn't require any baking, but all 4 appeared to be a hit.

For my appetizers, I made the Olive Pepperoni Spread and the Reuben Spread.  Now I must admit I am not a reuben fan, but The Farmer and his mom love them so I thought this would be a good way to make Reubens for them.

Olive Pepperoni Spread
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup pizza sauce
1 c. (4 ounces) shredded Italian cheese blend
1/4 c. sliced and quartered pepperoni
2 T. sliced ripe olives

First spread the cream cheese into a 9-inch pie plate.

Layer with pizza sauce, Italian cheese, and pepperoni.  (I probably used a bit more of each of these than the recipe called for as I went off of appearance.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.  (10 minutes is what it took in my oven.)

Sprinkle with olives and serve with bagel chips.

It's a long story, but I didn't even get to try this as I never made it to this Easter celebration and there were no leftovers so I think it pretty much speaks for itself.

Reuben Spread
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, cubed
3 3/4 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1 can (14 oz.) sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
4 pkg. (2oz. each) thinly sliced deli corned beef, chopped
1/2 c. Thousand Island salad dressing
Snack rye bread

After cubing the cream cheese, shredding the Swiss cheese, rinsing and draining the sauerkraut, and chopping the corned beef, combine the first 5 ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours, stir to blend.  Serve with snack rye bread.  (Notice, I used one of those amazing crock pot liners... a must for this recipe.)

The Farmer said he would only tweak this recipe by toasting the rye bread before serving.

So needless to say, these will be recipes I will be holding onto since they appeared to be liked and were quite easy to make.  Hopefully that will be the case with what what we are cookin' and bakin' up for this weekend as we will be celebrating Big Sissy's First Communion on Saturday.  I sure hope I can keep up with the dishes and my emotions.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Farmer Fridays - We are truly blessed

As we celebrated Earth Day today, I was reminded that truly every day for a farmer is earth day.  As farmers, we are true stewards of the land and it is our job to make sure it is around for future generations.  Additionally as livestock producers, our family's other top priority in addition to taking care of the land is the care of our livestock as they are our family's livelihood. 

"Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees."
Revelations 7:3

As farmers we are also constantly reminded that God is in control of our lives. Farming requires a lot of faith as we are at the mercy of the weather in order to raise our crops.  As we approach the end of April, The Farmer and his dad are starting to get quite antsy.  The rainy weather we have been experiencing the last few weeks have kept them out of the fields and planting season has yet to begin.  This is just another reminder that we must have faith and patience as God is in charge and what a great day today was to reflect on this.

"There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.  A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.  A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.  A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.  A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.  A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.  A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake

As you know, Ott, A has challenged me over the last few months with the secret ingredients for her Iron Chef Challenge.  The last 3 months have each resulted in cooking firsts for me:  duck, lamb, and canned tomatoes.  So I must admit, I was pretty excited when it was announced that Clabber Girl baking powder was the secret ingredient for April. 

Although, I have baked many times with baking powder, I decided to be adventurous and try a new recipe.  In preparation for my upcoming venture with The Real Farmwives of America and Friends and Gooseberry Patch, I thought I'd try a new recipe from one of my current Gooseberry Patch cookbooks:  Church Suppers.

Sour Cream Chocolate Chip Cake
6T. butter, melted
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
8 oz. sour cream
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Blend together butter and sugar in a medium bowl.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and set aside.

 Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a separate bowl. 

Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with sour cream. 

Mix well.

 Pour into a greased and floured 13 x9 baking pan.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until golden and toothpick tests clean.  




Monday, April 18, 2011

Cooking with an 8 year old - Chinese Chicken Wings

In honor of Little Sissy's 2nd birthday, Big Sissy decided to get busy in the kitchen and make a new appetizer for the festivities. We decided to turn to our new Quick & Easy family favorites Gooseberry Patch cookbook for Chinese Chicken Wings.

2-3 lbs. of chicken wings
1/2 c. soy sauce
1 c. pineapple juice
1/3 c. brown sugar, packed
1t. ground ginger
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. pepper

To help Big Sissy out, I cut each chicken wing into 2 parts and we pre-measured all of the ingredients before we started filming.  She also divided the chicken wings between 2 bags as we doubled the recipe.

After being "assisted" by Little Sissy, Big Sissy added garlic salt not garlic sauce and added freshly cracked black pepper.

Then it was time to add the sauce to the wings.

After marinating for several hours or overnight, she arranged the wings in a single layer on an ungreased jelly-roll pan.  (I think we should have lined it with parchment paper as the pan was a bit sticky after baking.)  Bake at 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden and juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork.

Since we needed to keep the wings warm, we used the crock pot with one of those handy dandy liners to keep them warm for serving; however, they didn't stay in the crock pot for long as everyone was anxious to try them.  They were a big hit.

Hunk of Meat Mondays


Friday, April 15, 2011

Farmer Fridays - Guest post from The Hoosier Farm Babe

Welcome to a special guest post edition of Farmer Fridays.  

Hi, this is Meggie from over at Hoosier Farm Babe Tell Tails, where I blog about living and loving life on a hog and grain farm with my hubby Big D and our darling daughter Baby RayRay (hey I’m allowed to be biased!). And I’m proud to say that we are the 5th and 6th generations on Big D’s side and mine to farm BOTH of our family’s farmland (in Indiana and Ohio, respectively.) Yes … we haul our equipment back in forth between two states. Some call us a little crazy – but I figure we’re young and if we have the time and desire to do it – we might as well. For Big D and I, it is important to continue the family tradition, and if possible, ensure that opportunity can be made available to our children someday if they so choose.

Officially, it is spring here in the Midwest (yay for warmer weather!) and for this Real Farmwife of America, that means it’s time to start cooking to-go dinners or picking up take-out for the boys in the fields just about every evening for the next couple weeks. But we’re not there quite yet …way too many April showers for that to happen.
Just as many of you are gearing up to get in your gardens and get your hands a little dirty – it’s really a very similar emotion here in our household.  But in a way it’s sorta a year-round attitude and way of life.

In fact, preparation for spring planting actually starts in the fall when Big D assesses what worked and what didn’t work and comes up with a planting POA or plan of action!
So how do we make these sorts of planting decisions – specifically what seed where, what kind and why?

First, we decide what crop we want to plant in what field. In our case, it’s either corn or soybeans. We’re pretty focused on corn because we need that grain to feed our hogs. Did you know that around 50 percent of the U.S. corn crop is grown to feed livestock, while the remainder ends up in foods such as corn chips or fuel such as ethanol.

Very soon we will plant this bag of seed corn.  All of the corn on our farm is grown for use as livestock feed, not corn chips or other food products made from corn.  
Next, we make decisions about tillage or how we’re going to “work” or in some cases “not work” the soil. On our farm, we do a combination of conservative tillage practices such as no-till (no tillage) and chisel plowing. We chisel plow some of our fields to allow organic material such corn stalks to begin to decompose so as to better prepare the soil for planting.

Our seed is actually delivered to our farm in these fancy Pioneer Proboxes.  There are around 55 bags of seed in every Probox.  
Third, we select the hybrid seed that we feel best suits the soil types on our farm. (Hybrid seed is produced by artificially cross-pollinated plants. Hybrids are bred to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity or improved disease or pest resistance.)

Stacks upon stacks of Proboxes at our seed salesman's farm.  Wowsers!!
We make our seed selection for each individual field by sitting down with our local seed sales rep and discussing what worked and what didn’t work in previous seasons. 

Our seed salesman.  As sort of younglings in our industry, it is great to have such good relationships with the folks we do business with.  
Together, we also look at the positives and negatives of every field – including soil type, fertility, water-holding capacity and drainage type. There are a lot of factors to consider when making seed choices. We’re lucky to have a very knowledgable and friendly guy on our side to help us sort through these decisions! 

Well of course Baby RayRay is involved in the process.  After all, we wouldn't do what we do if it wasn't to ensure the same opportunities can be made available to her someday!
Big D also looks closely at the characteristics of the corn variety. According to our seed sales rep – there are over 400 varieties of corn available for farmers in North America. In our area – there are really about 12 different varieties that we consider. Since most of our corn goes to feed our pigs, the texture, test weight and relative nutritional value is very important.  One of Big D’s favorite varieties is 34F97 (great for fields that are planted in corn after corn, year after year), but if you were in Texas or North Dakota (Hi! Katie from Pinke Post!) – this variety may not be climate and/or soil appropriate.

Pioneer seed bags- amazing that in North America there are over 400 different varieties of corn seed.  
So as we creep ever so close to getting our tractor wheels in the dirt – much of Big D’s ground work has already been laid. Now all we can do is hope for some warm, dry days to dry up the fields a bit and get this planting season underway!

Big D during the first year we started farming on our won.  Dirt and sweat drenched clothes with calloused hands and this farmer's still got a smile for me! :)
To learn more about me or follow the planting season on our farm, come by and visit me sometime!

Thanks for a great guest post, Meggie!
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