Saturday, February 13, 2016

Kick-Ass Cheesy Biscuits

Kick-Ass Cheesy Biscuits

A long time ago, Glen combined a handful of recipes to come up with his famous biscuits. He named them Kick-Ass Biscuits. It's abbreviated K-A Biscuits on the scrap of paper he scribbled the recipe on.

It's taken me six years to figure out how to make biscuits as good as Glen does. But I've finally done it. (A lot of it came down to the differences in how each of us measures flour.)

Then I did what I always end up doing to recipes: I tweaked it. I added cheese to Glen's biscuit recipe. Lots of cheese. The resulting Kick-Ass Cheesy Biscuits are so delicious. They really are worthy of their naughty name. They're also pretty darn easy to whip up when you're short on time. And nothing makes a meal seem special like warm, homemade biscuits.


Start by combining the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. The recipe below includes flour measurements in both cups and grams, because I've learned that everyone measures flour differently. I stir the flour up in the canister with a butter knife, scoop the flour, and level with the knife.

Then slice the butter into pieces and toss with the flour mixture. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until the butter is pea-sized.


Stir the cheese into the flour-butter mixture. You can shred your cheese yourself or use pre-shredded cheese. I use pre-shredded cheese because it saves time and means fewer dishes to wash.

Beat the egg lightly. (I use the same measuring cup for the flour, cheese, egg, and milk. Fewer dishes, again!) Dump the egg into the bowl, then pour in the milk. I stir the egg and milk together a little on the surface of the flour, then start mixing it all together.


The dough is half-mixed in the picture above. I forgot to take a picture when the dough was completely mixed. My little helpers took over mixing for awhile and I got distracted (imagine that!). The dough will be very stiff before all the flour is incorporated. I use a cutting motion at the end to mix in the last of the flour. You can use your hands to knead it in, too.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and shape it into a ball. Then, use your hands to gently press the dough out into a 1-inch oval. Add more flour to your surface and hands as needed.

Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter – or a drinking glass – cut biscuits from the dough. Place the biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 1 inch apart. I can usually fit all 12 or 13 biscuits on a 12-inch by 15-inch baking sheet.


Slide the pan of biscuits into the oven for 12 to 14 minutes. I rotate the pan after 10 minutes to make sure the biscuits brown evenly. Take them out when the tops are golden brown.

lots of Kick-Ass Cheesy Biscuits


Kick-Ass Cheesy Biscuits

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 12 - 14 minutes
Makes: 12 - 13 3-inch biscuits

Ingredients

2½ cups all-purpose flour [350 grams]
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, cold [½ cup]
2 cups finely shredded colby-monterey jack cheese [200 grams | approx. 7 ounces]
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk

Directions

Place rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in large bowl.

Slice cold butter into 8 - 10 pieces, add butter pieces to flour mixture, and toss to combine.

Using a pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until pea-sized.

Add shredded cheese to flour-butter mixture and stir until cheese is coated with flour.

Beat egg lightly in measuring cup, then add to flour mixture. Pour milk into flour mixture as well. Stir with fork until wet and dry ingredients are fully combined, cutting through dough as needed or kneading with hands at end. Dough will be very stiff.

Turn dough out onto well-floured surface. Using well-floured hands, shape dough into ball and then gently press dough out into 1-inch thick oval.

Cut biscuits from dough using floured, 3-inch round biscuit cutter and place on ungreased baking sheet, at least 1 inch apart.

Gather scraps of dough together and shape into ball, press out, and cut biscuits. Repeat until all dough is used.

Bake biscuits until tops are golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes.

Serve with butter and jam. (Yes, jam! Cheesy biscuits are delicious with jam!) Or eat them right off the pan. Or make them into bacon-egg-and-cheese biscuit sandwiches. Or... the possibilities are endless. We eat these with supper as often as we eat them with breakfast.

biscuits with butter and jam

P.S. There should really be a big glass of milk in this picture, too. You're going to want to wash these babies down with ice cold milk.



Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Simple Tequila Spritzer


I don't know about you, but this mama enjoys a drink every now and then. Between three kids and farm chores and writing projects, this life can get a little crazy.

When I want to sit down for a second and chill, I do so with my favorite drink: a Simple Tequila Spritzer. Why is it my fave? Because it's really easy to make, it's super tasty, and it's as healthy as a cocktail can get.

Easy. Three ingredients: flavored sparkling water, lime juice, and reposado tequila. All mixed together. No special ingredients or tools required. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

Tasty. Tequila has always been my liquor of choice and it really shines in this drink. The flavored water and lime together with the tequila give this spritzer a refreshing, sophisticated taste. If you like drinks that aren't loaded down with sugar – drinks that allow you to appreciate the flavor of the spirits – then this Simple Tequila Spritzer is perfect.

Healthy. When made with one ounce of tequila, this drink comes in at whopping 70 calories with no carbs, no sugar, no anything. An ounce of reposado tequila averages 60-70 calories; sparkling water and lime juice come in at zippo.

Plus, some health gurus claim that the lime juice helps minimize the body's insulin response to the alcohol and the carbonation in the sparkling water helps speed the absorption of the alcohol so you don't have to consume as much to feel chill. (Just search online for NorCal Margarita if you want to read more about why this drink is considered one of the leanest around.)

Here's what I use to make my Simple Tequila Spritzer:


Sparkling water. Before my sister introduced me to LaCroix Sparkling Water, I made my Simple Tequila Spritzers with club soda. Now I'm completely hooked on these flavored sparkling waters. They're naturally flavored and contain no calories, no sodium, and no artificial sweeteners or colors. They come in lots of flavors; I like coconut, berry, lime, cranberry-raspberry, orange, and lemon. The best part, though, is that the variety of flavors lets me subtly change the flavor of each spritzer. Use the flavor that appeals most to you or try another brand of sparkling water. I still use club soda, occasionally, because it gives the spritzer a little more of a margarita taste due to the small amount of sodium it contains.


Lime juice. I make Simple Tequila Spritzers with either bottled lime juice or freshly squeezed lime juice. Freshly squeezed lime juice is lovely, but I usually use bottled lime juice because it's simpler. Sometimes all this farming mama has time for is something simple.


Tequila. Reposado tequila, to be exact. Reposado tequila is also called rested tequila, because it's slightly aged, somewhere between two and eleven months. Reposado falls between silver (or blanca) tequila, which is usually bottled directly after distillation, and anejo tequila, which is aged over a year in wooden barrels. Gold tequila made from 100% agave is a blend of silver and either reposado or anejo tequilas. Gold tequila without a 100% agave designation is silver tequila that has been mixed with colors and flavors to make it taste and look more like a true gold tequila.

When I started making these spritzers, I used Patron because I could get it in little sample bottles. Patron Reposado made good spritzers, but the frugal voice inside my head said there had to be other tequilas that offered a better balance of taste and price. Now, every time I need tequila, I try to look for a new brand. What I've found is that there are hundreds of brands of reposado tequilas and they all look pretty decent. Right now I have Camarena Tequila Reposado and Agavales Tequila Gold in the cupboard. I wouldn't have bought the Agavales, because it's not a reposado; but the liquor store manager said it was as smooth as gold tequilas get – and then he proved that by offering me a sample. If you need helping picking a reposado, ask someone at the liquor store for help or check out reposado reviews online. The next tequila on my list to try is Lunazul Tequila Reposado.



After that, it's as simple as deciding how strong I want my drink and then mixing everything together. Occasionally, I make my spritzer a little stronger, with two ounces of tequila and an ounce of lime, because I really like the stronger taste. Most nights, though, I opt for a lighter spritzer, because two ounces of tequila is enough to put an end to any plans for getting something done after the kids go to bed. If I really want the stronger taste, I'll mix the smaller amounts of tequila and lime with half a can of sparkling water. The bottom line here is that this drink is easily customized to personal preferences.



If I'm feeling fancy, I'll mix up my spritzer in a tall highball glass. Most of the time, it ends up in a pint jar.



Simple Tequila Spritzer

Time: 60 seconds
Yield: 1 drink
Calories: 70 - 140

Ingredients

12 ounces sparkling water (flavored or unflavored) or club soda, chilled
1 - 2 tablespoons lime juice (bottled or freshly squeezed*)
2 - 4 tablespoons (1 - 2 ounces) 100% agave, reposado tequila**

*1/4 of a medium lime will yield 1 tablespoon of juice
**I do not recommend using blanco or "silver" tequilas as they are too harsh for a simple cocktail. Most "gold" tequilas are too harsh, as well.

Directions

Pour sparkling water into pint jar or tall highball glass.
Add lime juice and tequila.
Stir briefly.
Enjoy.



cheers!

Cheers!


I was not compensated for mentioning any of the brands in this post; these brands don't even know who I am.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Baby Calf Names of 2015

I had a lot of fun putting together our Baby Calf Names of 2014, so I decided to do it again this year. We returned to tradition this year and gave all of the baby girls names that start with the same letter as their mothers' names.

Some of the names were decided on pretty easily; Monika named several after her classmates. Other names took a little research and some polling.

Ghee
Ghee

Glen wanted Georgia's calf to have a southern name, so we did a little Googling and found Glynn, which is the name of a county in Georgia.

Galangal was a name suggested by a reader after I asked for suggestions for Garam Masala's calf. Garam's mother was Garlic and her grandmother was Galena. We named Galena after Penzeys Galena Street Chicken & Rib Rub; she was born at the same time as a whole group of spice girls: Vanilla, Basil, and Ginger. Galangal is the name of a spice in the ginger family. One of the other suggested names – Ghee – was given to Garlic's calf. I jotted the rest of the suggestions down for future use.

Here are all of the names we picked for our baby calves in 2015, followed by the calf's mother's name.

January

Gemma
Gemma


Gemma – Gem

February

Gina
Gina


Gambler – Gypsie
Windy – Whisper
Maggie – Marble
Madison – Mahina
Gina – Ginn

March

Stephanie
Stephanie


Stephanie – Star
Macadamia – Mango
Popcorn – Pumilum
Mary – Midori
Lanky – Lana
Mac – Morgan
Melody – Mellow
Cheeky – Char
Thorn – Thistle
Gaga – Geisha

April

Ice Cream
Ice Cream


Donut – Donah
Whorl – Wink
Galangal – Garam
IceCream – Icicle
Jelly – Java

May

Ghee with Garlic
Ghee with Garlic

Dolphin – Dove
Stella – Stormy
Junie – Julep
Ghee – Garlic
Sissy – Shine

July

Ulyana – Ursa
Glossy – Goose
Iris – Ivy
Ghost – Golly
Noah – Noelle

August

Glynn
Glynn


Beatrice – Beauty
Glynn – Georgia
Astrid – Aloha!

September

Delta with Dawn
Delta with Dawn

Minne – Marge
Mistelle – Moscato
Delta – Dawn
Lauren – Lass

October

Dynasty
Dynasty

Wisp – Wilma
Whistle – Wilma
Dynasty – Divine
Janet – Judy

November

LaVida
LaVida

Cherry – Cherub
LaVida – Luna
Louisiana – Liberty

December

December
December

December – Duchess



We also house a handful of Jerseys for a friend of ours. He had three heifer calves born here this year. Sometimes he names them, sometimes our kids help name them.

Legacy
Legacy with Glen

Lydia - Loopy
Hannah - Holli
Legacy - Lily

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Strawberry Ice Cream Day Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

When I resorted to sending e-letters two years ago, instead of tangible Christmas cards, I called this post The Christmas Letter. Last year, I was a tad bit later with my letter, so I named it The New Year Letter. Well, I'm really late this year. By the time I sat down to start this letter, it was National Strawberry Ice Cream Day. So, since it's too late to call this a New Year letter and it's too early to call it a Groundhog Day letter (barely!), this will be The Strawberry Ice Cream Day Letter. Seems fitting to me!


all of us


2015 was a fabulous year for our family. We had lots of fun and made lots of memories. A couple highlights include a wedding in the family and our first year of 4-H. We set a goal of making more time for fun and we did pretty well. We did more swimming and fishing, we camped and we waterparked, we did more snow tubing and sledding, and we learned that fun can be last-minute and uncomplicated.


Dan at piano recital


Dan is rocking third grade this year. And when we celebrated his birthday last month, I realized through tears that he's half-way to being an adult. He still loves engineering things outside – this year he hand-carved a sword out of a cedar branch and imagined the rows of bales behind the barn into castles and pirate ships and forts. His indoor activities still include reading and LEGOS. Dan also started piano lessons this year, which inspired me to start playing again; it is a delight to hear piano music in the house again.


Monika fishing


Even though first grade has meant a lot more homework for Monika, she has taken it all in stride. She became a full-time dancer this year and is now talking more seriously about gymnastics. She still loves to help milk cows and name the new calves. Her list of calves to take to the fair next year would fill two trailers. I've found her playing LEGOS more and she's been teaching herself piano with Dan's music.


Daphne in mud puddle


This was a big year for Daphne. She really found her voice and has been exerting her independence. However, she'll still tell you that she's "Dad's girl" and "Mom's girl". She'll also tell you that she's a dragon, which is sometimes a good simile for her behavior. She thrives on spending time in the barn and in the tractor. She loves LEGOS as much as her brother and sister; it's incredible to watch her little fingers build.




Glen continues to be steady as a rock, stabilizing us all as life tosses us in a million different directions. He puts in long hours outside and his hard work is evident in the well-being of our cows and the quality of our crops. His ability to analyze situations and think outside the box keep our farm business moving in a positive direction. In his spare time, Glen took up tinkering on old tractors this year and looking for old anvils at auctions.


Me with Glory

I'm still splitting my time between farm chores, keeping up with the kids, writing, and agricultural advocacy. I'm also finishing up a year-long dairy leadership program. My off-farm adventures brought me to some really cool places this year. I am incredibly thankful for all of the people who pitch in at home so I can be away.

This year is shaping up to be just as full as any other year. My goal for this year is More Together. That doesn't mean "get it more together", although there are days when I feel that way. The goal is to work more together and play more together. Dan and Monika are becoming capable of helping with more chores outside, not just their chores in the house. I believe it's critical for them to continue learning that work is important and so is play. And both are more fun when done together.

the kiddos

If you want to keep up with our work and play, and what's happening on the farm, you can follow along here on my blog (you can sign up to have blog posts delivered to your email inbox), on Instagram, and on Facebook.

I hope the remaining 48 weeks of 2016 are full of joy and togetherness for you and your loved ones.

Love,
Glen, Sadie, Dan, Monika, and Daphne

Thursday, December 10, 2015

#DairyChristmas: Festive Parmesan Frico

parmesan frico topped with spinach and apple
Petite, lacy Parmesan cheese crisps topped
with lemon-herb marinated spinach and apples.
Don't let their fancy name fool you;
these appetizers are super simple to make.

Dairy has always been part of our Christmas celebrations – from oyster soup (think fresh oysters swimming in whole milk and butter) and cheese balls with crackers to homemade eggnog and butter cookies to grasshopper and pink squirrel ice creams (for the adults only, *wink*). It only makes sense, seeing that Glen and I both grew up on dairy farms.

white Christmas on the dairy

That also means that Christmas has always been spent with our cows and calves. Dairy cows and calves need care every day, regardless of what the calendar says. Since we continued the family tradition of dairy farming, our holiday traditions continue to include cows and calves.

December the calf

Because I'm balancing chores with holiday celebrations I like to have a repertoire of make-ahead recipes. That way I can still share something delicious with family and friends, even if I'm always rushing to get everyone ready and out the door. These Festive Parmesan Frico are one of the most flexible recipes I have: I can prepare all of the ingredients the night before and assemble the appetizers right before a gathering, or make the whole recipe from start to finish in about 30 minutes.

bite-sized parmesan frico appetizer

But what I really love about these appetizers is how good they taste.

Parmesan is my favorite cheese – it's the one I can't be without in the house. I keep both finely grated Parmesan (for sprinkling on cooked veggies and pasta) and shredded Parmesan (for salads, mostly) on hand. The shredded Parmesan we eat is made right here at the Land O'Lakes cheese plant in our town, with milk from our cows. I think that's pretty cool.

parmesan cheese, apple, spinach, vinaigrette

When the Parmesan combines with the apple and the spinach and the lemon-herb vinaigrette, something magical happens. These bite-sized appetizers are both sweet and savory, while at the same time being light and fresh. For me, they help balance out all the cookies and treats I find myself nibbling on while baking.

parmesan frico with marinated spinach and apples


If you're looking for something fresh to balance out your holiday treats, give these Festive Parmesan Frico a try. Maybe they'll become part of your repertoire, too.

P.S. Frico is the Italian word for a dish made with cooked cheese wafers. It's pronounced freak-o; if you really want to sound Italian, roll the R.

Festive Parmesan Frico

Festive Parmesan Frico
Parmesan Cheese Crisps topped with Marinated Spinach and Apples

Yield: 48 bite-sized appetizers

Ingredients

1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (NOT finely grated)
1 large apple (preferably with red skin)
1 cup baby spinach, packed

For the vinaigrette:

½ teaspoon dried thyme
⅛ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon hot water
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 teaspoon sugar
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon mustard powder
dash of black pepper

Directions

To make the Parmesan crisps (photo below):

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Place mounds of Parmesan cheese 3-4 inches apart on pan, using 1 level TEASPOON of cheese for each mound. Using your fingertips, gently flatten the cheese into a thin, 2-inch circle. The cheese shreds should be touching, but there should be gaps within the circle.

Place baking sheet in oven for 5 minutes, watching carefully after 4½ minutes to make sure cheese doesn't overcook. Crisps will be light golden brown when done. They will be bitter if overcooked, so it's better to err on the side of undercooking.

Remove pan from oven and let crisps cool for several minutes. Using a thin spatula, transfer crisps to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to finish cooling.

Repeat with remaining cheese until you have about 48 crisps. I can make 16 crisps at a time with my super-big baking sheet, so it takes three turns. I do not recommend putting more than one sheet of crisps in the oven at a time.

To make the vinaigrette:

Crush thyme and rosemary with a mortar and pestle, if you have one. Combine herbs and hot water in small jar. Cover with lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Add juice, oil, sugar, and spices to jar. Cover tightly and shake vigorously to blend vinaigrette.

To make the frico toppings:

Coarsely chop the baby spinach and toss with one tablespoon of the vinaigrette. Let marinate for 15 minutes or overnight.

Core and slice the apple into 8 or 10 wedges. (I use my apple wedger.) Don't peel. Then, slice each wedge, cross-wise, into ¼ inch slices. Toss with remaining tablespoon of vinaigrette.

To assemble the frico:

Arrange Parmesan crisps on serving platter. Using your fingers, place a small pinch of marinated spinach on each crisp. Then, place one or two apple tidbits on top of the spinach.

Festive Parmesan Frico is best assembled as soon before serving as possible, but it can be assembled and refrigerated for a short time before serving. Store leftovers in the fridge; the crisps will soften slightly, but the appetizers will still be tasty.

Any extra spinach and apple can be tossed together with a bit of Parmesan cheese for a yummy salad.

Make it ahead: The Parmesan crisps can be made up to two days in advance; once completely cool, place them on a baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap; store at room temperature. The apples and spinach can be prepared the night before serving; store, covered, in refrigerator; the lemon juice in the vinaigrette will keep the apples from browning; note that herb flavors intensify with time.

Make it fancier: Replace the dried thyme with ½ tablespoon chopped, fresh thyme. Replace the dried rosemary with ½ teaspoon chopped, fresh rosemary.

Make it simpler: Replace the vinaigrette with 2 tablespoons of your favorite prepared vinaigrette.

Variations: Make the flavor of the vinaigrette milder by omitting the rosemary. Change up the flavor by using basil, sage, or another herb in place of the thyme and rosemary. Omit the herbs all together if herbs aren't your thing; this vinaigrette is delicious without the herbs, too.

making parmesan cheese crisps



#DairyChristmas

Looking for more holiday inspiration? Sixteen of my fellow dairy bloggers have joined me for #DairyChristmas. You can find their holiday recipes and stories by following these links:


#DairyChristmas #HappyMooYear


I am a farmer-member of Land O'Lakes Cooperative. Affiliate links were used in this post.