Sunday, September 22, 2019

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins

Lightly sweetened and made with 100% whole grain, these Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins are scrumptious.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Muffins


¼ cup butter, melted [half a stick]*
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2¼ cups diced apples**
    OR 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
    OR 1¼ cups apples + ½ cup applesauce
½ cup whole milk

1 cup quick cook oatmeal
1½ cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray muffin tins*** with nonstick cooking spray or grease as desired.

In a large bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla. Stir in apples (and/or applesauce) and milk.

Mix together oatmeal, flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

Add dry ingredients to apple mixture. Fold together just until dry ingredients are mixed in. Don't over mix.

Spoon batter into prepared tins, filling tins ¾ full.

Bake for 14 to 16 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.****


*As always, I recommend Land O' Lakes butter. And not just because the milk from our farm goes to Land O'Lakes. Land O'Lakes truly makes the best-tasting butter, which makes baked goods taste better.

**I leave the peels on the apples when I dice them. Less work, plus more fiber.

***I use my Grandma Jeanie's vintage Comet muffin tins. I suspect these tins make smaller muffins than modern muffin tins. This recipe makes 18 vintage-size muffins.

****Muffins made with fresh, diced apples will bake faster than muffins made with applesauce.

When the bees out-pollinate themselves. And it rains all summer long. So you have more apples than you know what to do with. And the apples are as big as your hand. You pull out all the apple recipes you have. This apple muffin recipe has been a favorite for many years now.

If you like these muffins, you might also like these Apple Cinnamon Toaster Pancakes.

Enjoy, friends!

Monday, April 8, 2019

Dan's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Dan's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes approximately 48 cookies


1½ cups Land O Lakes® Butter [3 sticks]
1¼ white sugar
1¼ firmly packed brown sugar (I use dark brown sugar.)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon lemon juice

4¼ cups all purpose flour [510 grams]
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups chocolate chips [18 ounces] (I use semi-sweet or milk chocolate or a combination.)


Preheat oven to 375°F.

Cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla and lemon juice.

Stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together. With mixer running, add flour mixture to butter mixture, about a half cup at a time. Mix just until flour is fully incorporated. Add chocolate chips and mix briefly.

Drop by heaping tablespoons (#40 scoop), 2 inches apart, onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until cookies are puffed up and just starting to brown around the edges. They will flatten into chewy cookies as they cool.

Cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet. Remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Serve with a big glass of milk.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars: Mix ingredients as if making cookies. Spray half sheet baking pan (11 x 16) with cooking spray. Press dough into prepared pan using butter wrapper. Bake at 375°F for 25 - 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and cut into bars. Serve with a big glass of milk.

The Story Behind the Recipe

One day, after I finished making a batch of my most-loved Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, Dan asked me, “Can you make plain chocolate chip cookies? Like, with no nuts or anything like that?”

I didn’t have a tried-and-true recipe for plain chocolate chip cookies.

I thought for half a second about doing an internet search. But the idea of sifting through thousands of versions of chocolate chip cookies didn't appeal to me. (Out of curiosity, I just did a Google search for “chocolate chip cookies.” It yielded over 20 million results.)

But I know a baking guru who's far better than the internet. And she happens to be a dear friend.

I sent a quick message to Becky.

Until recently, Becky was the director of the Land O’Lakes Test Kitchen. I know the folks in the Test Kitchen test and tolerance test and test again each recipe before it becomes part of the Land O’Lakes recipe collection. I knew that if anyone could recommend the best "plain" chocolate chip cookie recipe, it was Becky.

Becky and I together in the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen a couple years ago.

Becky recommended two recipes from the Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen: Chewy Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies and Five Star Chocolate Chip Cookies.

The recipes are essentially the same. The only difference is the size of the final cookie. I gave the recipe a try and baked the smaller-sized cookies. Dan – and the rest of my family – loved them instantly.

I agreed with my family. But I thought, "I can make these better."

Better. This a common theme for both my life and our farm.  Our farm motto is: "Better for our cows, better for our land, better for our family, and better for our community." I'm always asking, "How can I make this better?"

So I did. Borrowing the concept from my own favorite chocolate chip cookies, I added extra chocolate chips, a pinch of cinnamon, and a dash of lemon juice. You can’t taste the cinnamon and lemon, they just add dimension to the flavor profile – much the same way good tea and fine chocolate have nuances of flavor above and below the main flavor notes.

I shared the "better" cookies with my friend, Summer, and she said, “There's something special in these, isn’t there.”

"Yeah, there is," I grinned. "Butter!"

Then I let her in on my secret. There’s no point in keeping a good recipe a secret.

Here's the best part about these cookies, though. I've made this recipe with too much flour, too much sugar,  milk chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, without the cinnamon and lemon juice, with dark brown sugar and light brown sugar... No matter the mistakes or variations, these cookies are delicious.

I was telling Becky one day about how forgiving this cookie recipe is. She said, "That's the sign of a good recipe. And that's why we do tolerance testing – to find the best recipes that turn out every time."

Dan's Chocolate Chip Cookies – as we now refer to them – really are some of the best cookies ever.

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

Easy Cheesy Valentines

Looking for an awesome alternative to candy for your kids' Valentine's Day exchange at school?

These Cheesy Valentines are perfect!

1. Start with your favorite snack cheese or string cheese.

Cheese makes a great Valentine's Day gift because it's so tasty! But, from a mom's perspective, cheese is great because its protein helps counter all of the sugar that comes with traditional Valentine's Day treats.

2. Add a cute label.

Standard mailing labels (Avery 5160 or 8160) fit perfectly on most snack-sized cheese.

The Avery Design & Print online label designer makes designing labels super easy.

Older kids can design their own labels. My littler kids sat with me and picked out the clip-art and fonts they wanted for their labels.

3. Pack the cheese snacks in an insulated lunch bag with a small ice pack so they stay cold until the exchange.

Happy Valentine's Day!

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner; I did not receive compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. I have no affiliation with Avery Products Corporation, nor did I receive compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Fiesta Stoup

Veggies + Meat + Spices = Party in your mouth. But don't try eating it without cheese. Then it's not nearly as much fun.

Fiesta: party or celebration... derived from the Latin word for feast...

Stoup: thicker than soup... thinner than stew...

And that's exactly what this spicy, meat and veggie-rich soup/stew is: a party in your mouth.

But don't try eating it without cheese. Then it's not nearly as much fun.

This stoup comes together in minutes with three easy main ingredients: a bag of frozen sliced bell peppers and onions, a can of diced tomatoes, and shredded meat. I usually use leftover beef roast or pork roast. If I'm really craving this stoup, I'll bake a couple frozen chicken breasts and shred them.

I've been making this stoup for so long, I can't even remember how I first came up with the idea. But I do know what keeps me making it:

✔ Delicious!
✔ Quick and easy to make
✔ Minimal prep with recipe-ready ingredients
✔ Repurpose leftover roast beef, roast pork, or chicken
✔ Keeps and reheats really well! I make a double batch and eat it for lunch all week.
✔ Super nutritious: fiber (from veggies), protein (from meat and cheese), and phytonutrients (from veggies and spices)
✔ Very low carb
✔ Easily customizable: cut back on the chipotle and cayenne peppers for less heat; add a can of pinto beans (drained and rinsed); the variations are endless

Fiesta Stoup


1 cup chicken broth (or 1 cup water + bouillon/soup base)
14 oz bag frozen sliced bell peppers and onions (like Birds Eye® Pepper Stir-Fry)
14 oz can petite diced tomatoes (with juice)
2 cups cooked, shredded beef roast, pork roast, or chicken (approx. ½ pound)

2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon ground oregano
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon chipotle chile pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne red pepper
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste

1 tablespoon lime juice

Co-jack cheese, sliced or shredded (I love the convenience of Land O'Lakes® Co-Jack Snack Cheese.)

Optional Accompaniments: sour cream, avocado, tortilla chips


Combine broth and frozen vegetables in medium pot. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are hot.

While vegetables are heating, combine spices in small bowl.

Add tomatoes, shredded meat, and spices to vegetables. Mix well to distribute spices. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors.

Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Serve with cheese. I like to take a bite of Co-Jack Snack Cheese and follow it with a bite of Fiesta Stoup. It's just as good if you top the hot stoup with shredded cheese and let it melt.

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner; I did not receive compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. I have no affiliation with Birds Eye or Pinnacle Foods Group LLC, nor did I receive compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Just Born – Favorite Newborn Photos and Stories of 2017

There's something abidingly special about newborn calves. Even after 30 years, every new calf still fills me with excitement, awe, and appreciation.
Darcie and Darla
Darcie and Darla

There's something abidingly special about newborn calves. I've been doing this for almost 30 years now. Checking for new calves, fetching new calves from pasture, assisting with the delivery of calves, etc. Every new calf still fills me with excitement, awe, and appreciation.

I could write a blog post about each calf and the story of her birth, the story of her family in our herd, what makes her special, and on and on. Perhaps this year I will. I didn't write much last year, but I'd still like to remember these newborns and their stories.

Plus, I find the challenge of taking newborn photos thrilling. There's nothing more rewarding than capturing a perfect moment in a picture. Cow and calf both looking, eyes open, ears up. Lots of times it all comes down to good timing and good luck, but I have developed a few tricks for getting the picture I want. The photo above of Darcie and her calf Darla from this summer is one of the best newborn photos I've ever taken. However, Glen thinks the photo, just below, of Agape and her calf, Ree, from 2014 is my best photo ever. Which one would you vote for?

Agape and Ree
Agape and Ree

Anyway, in addition to the photo of Darcie and Darla, here are the rest of my Favorite Newborn Photos and Stories of 2017.

Double delight

This story has multiple levels of incredible.

The story involves twin sisters Agape and Amore (pronounced Uh-gah-pay and Uh-more-ay; Greek and Italian words for love). Both Agape and Amore were due to have their calves a day apart: August 13 and 14. The odds of them both becoming pregnant at essentially the same time are incomprehensible. Especially considering that they're seven years old now and cows' fertility tends to decline as they age.

Their so-close due dates meant Apape and Amore got to spend their dry period together in the dry cow pasture. (We don't milk cows during the last two months of their gestations; this dry period, as we call it, allows them to rest before their next lactation and devote their energy to growing their unborn calf.)

Agape (right) and Amore

As their due dates approached, it started to look like Agape would calve early and Amore would calve late. With dairy cows, early calves tend to be girls and late calves tend to be boys. We kept our fingers crossed that both Agape and Amore would have heifer calves.

Agape did calve early, on August 9, with a heifer calf. This heifer calf is Agape's fifth heifer calf out of five pregnancies. It's rare for a cow to deliver 100% heifer calves. We named Agape's calf Agatha.

Agape and Agatha
Agape and Agatha

Four days later, and right on time, Amore had her calf. It's also uncommon for cows to calve exactly on their due dates. Joy of joys, the calf was a girl!

Unlike her twin sister, though, this was Amore's first heifer calf out of five pregnancies. The stars must have aligned just right for Agape and Amore to both deliver heifer calves at (almost) the same time.

Amore and Athena
Amore and Athena

No photos, please

Not every cow and calf pair agree with my ideas about newborn photos. Case in point: Georgia and her new heifer calf, Germany. It still turned out to be a pretty neat picture.

Georgia and Germany
Georgia and Germany

Three for you, three for me

Sisters Georgia (above) and Geisha (below) both gave birth to their third heifer calves this year. I didn't get a picture of Geisha with her calf, Glamour.

On our farm, cows achieve a special status when they have three daughters in the herd. Georgia and Geisha's mom, Gyspie, gave us five daughters in the 8½ years she was with us: Geisha, Georgia, Ghana, Gypsum, and Gambler. All of the cows in this family are redefining what it means to never age. Georgia is six years old now and starting to show her age a little, but Geisha, at 7½ years old, looks half her age.


Like mother, like daughter

Sometimes calves come out looking just like their mothers. Sometimes they look like their fathers. And sometimes we just scratch our heads and wonder how exactly their chromosomes combined.

Glee came out almost a spitting image of her mother, Gloriana. Her arrival was met with many hoots, hollers, hips, and hoorays. Milking Shorthorn heifer calves are always exciting – especially roans.

Gloriana and Glee
Gloriana and Glee

Just, just born...

I don't often take pictures of seconds-old calves. Mostly, because during the summer our cows calve on pasture and we're rarely right there when they calve. And in the winter, we rush newborn calves to the incubator to warm them up, so there's no time to dally around snapping pictures. Plus, brand spankin' new calves are wet and slimy, which makes them considerably less photogenic than their dry, fluffy versions.

But, this year I got a couple photos of calves with their mothers immediately after their arrival.

Garnet's heifer calf, Glow, was much hoped for. Garnet is one of our Milking Shorthorns and the kids really wanted a spring Milking Shorthorn calf to show at the fair. Glow did end up going to the fair, with Monika at the halter, and did very well for a baby calf.

Garnet and Glow
Garnet and Glow

We said goodbye to Wink this fall. She will forever be one of Glen's favorite cows. This is the last picture I took of her. I'm glad it was a good one.

Wink and her bull calf
Wink and her bull calf

My niece actually took this picture of Stephanie and her calf, Sky, this spring; I was out of town with the kids when Stephanie calved and my niece knew that Monika would want to see a picture right away. (Stephanie is Monika's Jersey cow.)

One thing I love about this picture is that, if you look close, you can still see the soft white pads covering Sky's little hooves. These soft pads cover a calf's hooves in utero to make sure his/her sharp hooves don't puncture the placenta or the cow's uterus.

Stephanie and Sky
Stephanie and Sky

Last, but certainly not least...

One of the best newborn calf stories of the year is the story of Wonder and Whoops. The story is so good it has it's own separate post. (With even more photos of this adorable cutie!)

Whoops ended up going to the fair this summer, too, with Dan at the halter. She, too, did pretty darn well.

blue roan Holstein x Milking Shorthorn dairy calf