Saturday, August 16, 2014

County Fair recap

Our summer wouldn't be complete without spending some time at the Stearns County Fair. Riding the rides, visiting with friends, checking out all of the exhibits, noshing on corn dogs, and showing our cattle – we love it all.

Now that the calves and heifers are all back in their pens and the show halters are back in the show box, I thought I'd share a few photos from the shows. Looking back at the photos from our first year of showing, I can't believe how much our little exhibitors have grown. I'm sure I'll look back at this post one day and think the same thing again.

We didn't show at the Central Minnesota Youth Dairy Days Show this year, so our only show this summer was the Stearns County Fair Open Show. Dan showed Lego and Monika showed Sparkle. Lego is an April crossbred calf out of Lucy, Dan's favorite cow. Sparkle is a March Jersey calf out of Star, one of Monika's favorite cows. Dan and Monika knew from the moments Lego and Sparkle were born that they would be their fair calves.

Even though we didn't spend as much time walking the calves as I thought we should have, the show went well. Dan and Monika did a great job telling the judge about their calves. They practiced watching the judge and walking slowly, too.

Photo by Tammy Frericks
Monika was excited to get a ribbon from Stearns County Dairy Princess, Sabrina Ley.

Photo by Tammy Frericks

Lego and Sparkle weren't the only calves from our farm that went to the fair. Our nieces and nephew showed several of our calves and heifers, too, in both the 4-H Dairy Show and the Open Show.

Photo by Tammy Frericks

Hailey showed Java, a crossbred spring junior yearling (above), and Gael, a Holstein spring calf.

Kallie showed Penny, a Holstein fall calf (above), and Honey, a crossbred spring calf.

Photo by Tammy Frericks

Bryce showed Wiggle, a Holstein spring calf.

Photo by Tammy Frericks

Hailey, Kallie, and Bryce all did a great job showing this year, too. Bryce had a lot of fun in the Cloverbud show. Hailey and Kallie did very well in 4-H showmanship.

Photo by Tammy Frericks

I wasn't organized enough to get a picture of our kids together after the show, but I love this picture my sister-in-law, Tammy, took of Hailey, Kallie, and Bryce.

Dan and Monika will join 4-H this fall, so next year's fair will be a whole new adventure for us, with both 4-H and Open shows and stalling our calves at the fair for the whole week, instead of just bringing them in the day of the show.

Dan wants to take two calves to the fair next year – and chickens – so we're already thinking about which cows will have possible fair calves next spring and which of this year's calves will go on to show next year.

Did you go to your County Fair? What's your favorite part of the fair?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Toaster Pancakes

Hearty, wholegrain, portable pancakes. Perfect for busy school day mornings.

Summer is winding down and the new school year will soon start. There will be new teachers, new classrooms, and new school supplies. It’s an exciting time of year for Dan and Monika.

We’ll also be starting a new morning routine. Monika will go to Kindergarten this year, which means our mornings will have to start extra early. Our kids get on the bus at 7:20 a.m. When it was just Dan getting on the bus, I could rush in from the barn, wake him up at 7:00 and get him to the bus with matching socks, some breakfast in his tummy, and clean teeth.

There is no way I can get Monika ready for school in 20 minutes. She takes longer to get dressed. She takes her time eating. And then there’s her hair. Monika’s curls can’t just be brushed quick on the way out the door.

Our new morning routine will also include my new recipe for Apple Cinnamon Toaster Pancakes. These wholegrain pancakes are perfect for school day mornings. Just take a couple of pancakes out of the freezer, pop them in the toaster or microwave, pour a glass of milk, and breakfast is served. Plus, they’re super portable for eating on the go.

The idea for these pancakes started when Grandma brought over a package of frozen toaster waffles from the store. The kids loved them and I liked their convenience, but I wasn’t about to put them on the grocery list. I figured I should be able to come up with a healthier, homemade version. As it turned out, the kids think these toaster pancakes are even better than the toaster waffles from the store.

I included applesauce in the recipe, both for its flavor and because we have an abundance of applesauce, thanks to Grandpa’s apple trees and Grandma’s kitchen. Combined with cinnamon, whole wheat flour and oats, these pancakes taste as good as the aroma that wafts out of the toaster.

The brown sugar in the recipe provides just enough sweetness to make these pancakes tasty without syrup. And, they’re sturdy enough to hold up to freezing, reheating and eating with your hands, if necessary. I make a double batch on the weekends and stash the extra pancakes in the freezer.

For a special breakfast treat, when there’s time for sticky fingers, top these pancakes with LAND O’LAKES Cinnamon Sugar Butter Spread.

Apple Cinnamon Toaster Pancakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes (depending upon griddle size)
Yield: Makes 18-20 4-inch pancakes


1 cup uncooked rolled oats (quick-cooking or old fashioned)
1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour (or regular whole wheat flour)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt

1 LAND O’LAKES Half Stick Butter (1/4 cup)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce*
2 eggs
½ cup packed brown sugar*
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups milk

*You can use sweetened applesauce, too. Just reduce brown sugar to ¼ cup.


Grind rolled oats in food processor until fine. Combine ground oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in small bowl.

In large microwave safe bowl, melt butter in microwave. Stir in applesauce, eggs and sugar. Then mix in vanilla and milk.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

Heat griddle to 350°F (or skillet to medium – the pan is hot enough when a few drops of water bubble right away but don’t instantly evaporate).

Using a ¼ cup measure, pour batter onto hot griddle and nudge into 4-inch circles. Cook until bubbles in pancakes just start to pop. Flip and cook until dark golden brown.

To freeze: Lay cool pancakes on cookie sheet or cooling rack in single layer. Place cookie sheet in freezer until pancakes are frozen (about 20 minutes). Transfer frozen pancakes to airtight container or zip-top freezer bag.

To reheat: Place frozen pancakes in toaster and heat on lowest setting. Use the frozen option, if your toaster has one. You may have to toast twice to heat through. Alternatively, heat frozen pancakes in microwave for about 45 seconds.

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner. I received compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, August 1, 2014

3KC Salad with Simple Teriyaki Chicken

Kale, Cabbage, and Carrots dressed with an Asian Vinaigrette
and served with Simple Teriyaki Chicken

This salad redefines recipe evolution. It started out as my sister's recipe for ramen noodle cabbage salad – the kind you dress with oil, vinegar, sugar and the ramen seasoning packet. I loved that dressing, but I don't like ramen noodles in my salad. After accumulating a dozen or so packages of ramen noodles without seasoning packets, I decided that I needed to figure out make this dressing without the ramen seasoning packet.

After a few trials, I inked this recipe into my recipe book. It's really just rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce, sugar/stevia, onion, garlic, ginger, and pepper. I use a combination of sugar and stevia, but either can be used. Sometimes I use Braggs Liquid Aminos in combination with the soy sauce, but a little less since liquid aminos are saltier than the reduced sodium soy sauce I use. I've also made the dressing with freshly grated ginger, which was wonderful, but more work.

I was perfectly happy with my new cabbage salad just the way it was until I watched this thought-provoking TEDx Talk. The speaker talked a lot about kale. I knew kale was a superfood. (My college nutrition professor ingrained the holiness of cruciferous vegetables into us.) But I had never tried kale. The TED Talk prompted me to find a way to include kale in my life. I figured it would pair well with the cabbage and dressing, so I added it to this salad recipe. I started adding carrots, too. Why not knock three colors off my eat-the-rainbow list?

The resulting kale-cabbage-carrot salad, which got nicknamed 3KC Salad after one of the vaccines we give to the cows, was amazing. The only problem was that the recipe I put together makes a very large batch and I was the only one in our house who ate it. (Daphne eats it with me now.) So after a week of salad for lunch every day, my love for this salad would start to wane a little.

Then, one day while I was looking to add some protein to my lunch, I threw some oven roasted almonds on top. The salad went from fantastic to out-of-this-world. Even after a week in the fridge, this salad has great texture, but the crunch from the almonds takes it to another level.

The final step in the evolution of this recipe happened after I heard that Land O'Lakes was coming out with a teriyaki version of their Sauté Express. I've been cooking with several of the Sauté Express flavors for awhile now, so I was thrilled to see teriyaki added to the lineup. I used to make my own teriyaki sauce, because I didn't like the taste of store-bought sauces. But the flavor of the teriyaki Sauté Express won me over instantly.

I had a pail of 3KC Salad in the fridge when I first made teriyaki chicken with the Sauté Express. I tried the salad and chicken together, sprinkled with almonds, sesame seeds and nori chips. I don't think I can adequately describe how amazing this combination of flavors and textures is. Just know that it's really, really good.

3KC Salad with Simple Teriyaki Chicken

Serves: 8 (one serving being about 2 cups of salad with 4 ounces of chicken)


For the salad

1 bunch kale (about ½ pound or 3-4 large leaves)
1 pound carrots
1 pound shredded cabbage

For the vinaigrette

1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 packets of stevia*
2 tablespoons sugar*
6 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup rice vinegar

 *To use just sugar and no stevia, increase sugar to 6 tablespoons.

For the chicken

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1/4 cup corn starch
4 squares teriyaki flavored Sauté Express


For the salad

Tear kale into small pieces, discarding ribs OR discard ribs and shred with sharp knife (check out this pictorial on shredding kale from The Pioneer Woman). Place kale in bottom of 4-5 quart container – one that has a tight fitting lid (I use an ice cream pail). Peel carrots and shred in food processor. Place shredded carrots on top of kale. Place shredded cabbage on top of carrots. If necessary, press vegetables down to fit in container.

Combine all vinaigrette ingredients in glass jar. Screw lid on tight. Shake vigorously until blended.

Pour vinaigrette over salad. Put lid on container and shake to coat salad with dressing. Refrigerate salad overnight, shaking again after a couple hours, to allow vegetables to marinate. Salad volume will reduce. Toss salad with forks after marinating to combine vegetables.

Top salad with teriyaki chicken, oven roasted almonds, sesame seeds, and/or nori chips.

For the chicken

Cut chicken pieces in half and flatten to uniform thickness. Dredge chicken pieces in corn starch.

Melt 2 Sauté Express squares in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the sauté starter is bubbly, add half of the chicken pieces. Cook until chicken is done in the center, turning pieces at least once. Remove cooked chicken from pan. Melt remaining 2 squares of sauté starter and cook remaining chicken.

Slice chicken into strips.

Note: The salad will keep in a covered container in the fridge for at least two weeks.

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner. I did not receive compensation from Land O'Lakes for writing about Sauté Express or from any other company for mentioning any other product. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Becoming a farmer

Ask a dairy farmer why they chose to become a farmer and you'll likely get an answer similar to:

"Farming is in my blood."
"This is what I was called to do."
"My roots are in farming."
"I grew up with it." 
"I love cows."

For me, dairy farming is what gives me my greatest sense of purpose. In the jobs I held before we started farming, I always felt something was lacking my life.

But, I'll admit, it took me a long time to understand what prompted those feelings. To understand that my place in this world is on a farm, that I am happiest when I'm with the cows.

Looking back at my childhood, I know that I became a dairy farmer long ago. The connection to cattle became part of who I am during the hours spent milking cows and feeding calves with my family.

This past winter, I watched Monika become a dairy farmer. She may not choose dairy farming for her future, but she has developed a connection to cattle that will always be a part of her.

Every time a calf is born, she excitedly asks, "Is it a girl or a boy?" She knows we will keep the girls and sell the boys.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, Monika is beaming with happiness when she's in the barn. But in the picture below, she's mad. When Misty had her calf, Monika wanted the calf to be a girl in the worst way, because she thought it was cute. But Misty's calf was a boy. We argued about the calf's gender. She kept insisting it should be a girl. I'm sure she understands that gender can't be changed. I think she just kept arguing to exercise her stubbornness.

Monika's love for the cows and calves has turned into a desire to help care for them. She always asks to help feed the calves.

And takes it upon her self to move feed around for the cows when they're fed inside the barn.

Monika is willing to help with anything in the barn, but I think her favorite job – at least right now – is milking cows. Star, Sandy and Garnet are known as Monika's cows and if Monika is in the barn, she gets to milk them.

Monika was so excited this spring when she could go to the barn without her snowpants on because it meant she would have pockets to keep her paper towels in and hang her dippers on, just like her dad keeps his towels in his back pocket and hangs his dippers on the side of his front pocket.

That was the same day she told Glen, "Dad! Don't let Star out. I didn't get to snuggle with her yet."

She recently declared that she can milk her cows by herself – and that I don't need to stand next to her.

Monika has also developed a precocious ability to remember cows and calves. She can see a cow in the distance and know that she is Maia or Helen or Willa. When I showed her the picture of Misty's bull calf (who was sold months ago) while I was writing this post, she knew right away that it was Misty's calf. (I had to look the calf's mom up in my journal app.)

Monika's connection to cows brings great joy to both my heart and Glen's. And I am forever thankful that we can give her these opportunities to cultivate that connection. Wherever her life takes her, I hope she will hold these memories of becoming a farmer dear to her own heart.

*     *     *     *     *
"Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable. They love to live where they work and to work where they live. ...they like to work in the company of their children and with the help of their children. They love the measure of independence that farm life can still provide." - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The bugs of summer

Monarch caterpillar
Monarch caterpillar

The most famous bug in Minnesota might be the mosquito, but there are lots of other cool bugs living here, too. And they don't all bite. Here's a peek at all the buggy fun the kids and I have been having this summer.

Our bug adventures started with a bug show hosted by our school's community education program. Bruce the Bug Guy entertained Dan and a bunch of other kids (and their parents) for over an hour with an assortment of live insects and arachnids, including cecropia moth caterpillars and adult cecropia moths, giant cockroaches and millipedes, and tarantulas.

cecropia moth caterpillars
Cecropia moth caterpillars

cecropia moth
Adult female cecropia moth

cecropia moth
Adult female cecropia moth

giant cockroach, giant millipede
Giant cockroach from Madagascar, giant millipede from South America

Dan holding tarantula
Dan holding Rosie the tarantula

I bought Bruce's new book – Minnesota Bug Hunt – for Dan at the bug show, both because it's a very well done book and because I'm doing everything I can to encourage summer reading. It's hard to sit down and read when the sun is shining outside.

Bruce told the kids to keep their eyes open for bugs. He also said he'd be happy to help with bug identification – all we had to do was snap a picture of the bug in question and email it to him.

We were home from the bug show no more than 15 minutes when Dan yelled from outside: "Mom, bring your phone and take a picture of this bug!"

I went outside to see what bug Dan had found. It was a woodtick. I took a picture for him anyway.

Common woodtick

Interestingly, I didn't sign Monika up for the bug show because she had a bad encounter with a woodtick this spring. Bad, at least, from her perspective.

I had sent Dan and Monika down to the pond to count the ducks. A few minutes later, Monika was pounding on the front door, screaming hysterically. (I have to lock the front screen door to keep Daphne from going out.) I got to the door – and, honestly, from the horrified look on Monika's face, I thought something had happened to Dan. She could barely breathe enough to answer me when I asked her what was wrong.

"THERE'S A WOODTICK ON MY SHORTS!" she finally cried.

Without laughing, I plucked the woodtick from her shorts and got rid of it, but Monika refused to go back outside. And for several weeks after that, she refused to walk any place where the grass was taller than her ankles.

Since we couldn't go to the bugs because Monika refused to go anywhere with grass, we started paying more attention to the bugs that come to us, like these damselflies that we found in the milk house.

blue dragonfly
Adult male damselfly, one of the Bluet species

black dragonfly
Black damselfly

I found these White-marked Tussock moth caterpillars while I was picking raspberries. I put them in an extra bucket and brought them home to show Dan and Monika. We have a 24-hour rule for most bugs which states that bugs can stay in the house (in the Bug Jar or another container) for 24 hours and then they must be released. We released the little tussock moth caterpillar the next day. But the bigger tussock moth caterpillar had pushed the lid off the bucket during the night, escaped into the kitchen and was nowhere to be found. I figured he would show up again as a moth, but I found him crawling on my dish drainer three days later and sent him outside.

White-marked Tussock Moth caterpillars
White-marked Tussock moth caterpillars

I identified them as tussock moth caterpillars by sending a picture of them to Bruce the Bug Guy. I also sent Bruce a picture of the pale green caterpillar below. The kids found this caterpillar a couple summers ago on our front lawn and came running to the barn, yelling something about a poisonous thing in the grass. I had never seen a caterpillar like her before, so I took a couple pictures and we let her go on her way. Bruce emailed me back right away and said she's a type of sphinx moth caterpillar.

Sphinx moth caterpillar
Sphinx moth caterpillar

Monika finally got over her woodtick scare about a week ago – just in time to start searching for Monarch caterpillars. We have several milkweed stands out in the pasture along the fenceline. I found one Monarch caterpillar last summer while bringing the cows in, but when I brought the kids back to see it, it was gone. So I was really excited when Dan found this one on our first caterpillar search of this year. I was busy trying to take a picture of the blossoms on another milkweed plant when Dan noticed this caterpillar.

Monarch caterpillar on Milkweed blossoms
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed flower buds

We have another stand of milkweed out by our silage bags, so we decided to check those plants for Monarch caterpillars, too. We didn't find any caterpillars, but we did find these Red Milkweed Beetles.

Red Milkweed Beetles
Adult male and female Red Milkweed Beetles

We still have lots of summer bug hunting left to do. We haven't spotted a Monarch butterfly yet – the picture below is from a couple summers ago – but they must be out there if we found their babies.

Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly

We found a sphinx moth, but I couldn't tell for sure which kind it was, because it was floating in a pail of milk in the milk house. I'd like to find one that's not soaked. I'd also love to find another sphinx moth caterpillar.

We've also got our eyes open for another Tiger Swallowtail butterfly.

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly
Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly
Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

And I know there are many more Minnesota bugs for us to discover.

What's your favorite bug?