Sunday, June 28, 2015

Celebrate dairy people

I have thoroughly enjoyed June Dairy Month this year. I love seeing dairy celebrated for all that it contributes to our world: nutritious foods, good jobs, and both domestic and international economic development.

But what really makes dairy worth celebrating are the people. Who are these dairy people? Well, dairy farmers, of course, but there are so many more dairy people beyond farmers.

This is Glen. He's my favorite dairy farmer!

The people who work for the cooperatives that market our milk or provide us dairy farmers with services and supplies…they’re dairy people.

Research & Development Pilot Plant
This is Carle. He's been helping Land O'Lakes
develop new dairy foods for the past several decades.
He LOVES what he does.

The people who work for universities and associations and agencies that support dairy farmers… they’re dairy people.

for Minnesota Dairy Herd Improvement Association
This is Dan. He's been helping dairy farmers
improve milk quality for 30+ years. That's dedication.

All of us dairy people are connected by our love for what we do, by our shared values of hard work, faith, and dedication, and by how much we care.

This connection is evident in the camaraderie that is present whenever dairy people gather.

Central Minnesota Youth Dairy Days Show
Dairy people at the Central Minnesota Youth Dairy Days Show:
exhibitors, parents, grandparents, show organizers, the judge.

Our kids had their first dairy cattle show of the year earlier this month. I’ll be honest, it’s a lot of work to get both calves and young children ready for a show. But the effort is 100% worthwhile. The show gives us moms and dads a chance to reconnect with fellow dairy farmers. More importantly, it gives dairy kids an opportunity to develop friendships with other dairy kids. These kids are the future of dairy and the connections they forge now will last forever.

Paul and Ally from Land O'Lakes.
New dairy people who embrace dairy values.

A couple of new employees from Land O’Lakes, the cooperative we belong to, came out to tour our farm earlier this month. As we visited about the work they're doing, I was reassured that our cooperative embraces the same values we do. And I know our cooperative is not alone; I have friends who work for other dairy cooperatives and their enthusiasm for and commitment to dairy are just as strong.

at WDE Dairy Girl Network event
This is Laura (and me).
Laura is on a mission to help women in the dairy community connect.

How much do dairy people care? More than you can probably imagine. And we care about so much: Giving cows the best lives possible. Protecting the land and our natural resources. Contributing to our communities. Supporting our fellow dairy people. Providing quality dairy foods for consumers.

I am so proud to be part of this community of caring, hardworking, dedicated dairy people.

The next time you think about cows or milk or anything dairy, please remember the people who make dairy worth celebrating.

Friday, June 26, 2015

100+ Reasons to Love Dairy

For me, there are a million reasons to love dairy. So when Midwest Dairy asked if I wanted to be part of this 100+ Reasons to Love Dairy blogging project, I immediately agreed. It should be easy to write about something that means so much to me, right?

But then I started listing the reasons I love dairy: dairy farming is an amazing way of life... dairy farms are the best place to raise children... dairy foods are incredibly nutritious... dairy farms do so much to protect the environment... the dairy industry is an important contributor to local communities... and the list goes on. Then it occurred to me: How could I pick just 10 reasons for this post?

So instead of trying to narrow my list down to 10 reasons, I'm going to focus on the number one reason I love dairy: Dairy foods taste great. Because none of the other reasons on my list would matter if milk – and the numerous other foods milk is turned into – didn't taste great.

I found this graphic created by Rachel Glaves earlier this month and instantly loved it. It's pretty amazing that so many different dairy foods can be made from milk.

So, with that, here are my 10 Reasons to Love Dairy.

In no particular order, of course, because it would be dang near impossible to rank them...

1. Milk

glass of milk

Milk is where all of this amazing dairy goodness starts. It's also delicious just as it is. My family of five consumes a gallon of milk a day. We drink milk with every meal; it's our favorite beverage for washing down everything from hamburgers to brownies.

2. Butter

I'm so glad that butter is once again being recognized as the high quality fat that it is, because we eat a lot of it. Glen and the kids love buttered toast and I do all of my sautéing and baking with butter. Butter just makes everything taste better.

3. Cream

one-minute budino in cones

Heavy cream wasn't something we normally had on hand when I was a kid. If my mom wanted cream for a recipe, she would let a jug of milk sit for a day and skim the cream off the top. But heavy cream is now one of my favorite ingredients; I pick up a carton every time I get groceries. It gives recipes incredible flavor and texture. One our favorite quick and simple desserts – One-Minute Budino – is made with heavy cream.

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One-Minute Budino

1 cup milk
1 3 oz package of instant pudding
1 cup heavy cream

Pour milk into single-serve rocket blender cup. Add pudding mix to milk and stir briefly. Pour cream into cup and put blender lid on cup. Blend for 30 seconds. Serve immediately for soft-set budino or refrigerate 15 minutes for thick-set budino. Serves 4 - 5.

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4. Cottage Cheese

Did you know that ½ cup of cottage cheese provides 12 grams of protein? It's one of my favorite sources of on-the-go protein. Paired with fresh fruit or vegetables, cottage cheese makes a great snack. My kids like to mix cottage cheese and yogurt together for a snack. I also use cottage cheese to make these Butter Crunch Lemon Cheese Bars – one of Glen's favorite treats.

5. Yogurt

Greek yogurt fruit dip

I have to admit that I'm not much of a yogurt fan. I prefer viili – a Finnish-style yogurt I make myself – in my morning smoothies. But the rest of my family loves yogurt, especially when it's blended into smoothies. I do enjoy yogurt, though, when it's made into Greek Yogurt Fruit Dip.

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Greek Yogurt Fruit Dip

½ cup Greek yogurt
approximately ¼ cup aerosol whipped cream

Place yogurt into small bowl. Top yogurt with whipped cream and gently fold cream into yogurt. Serve immediately with fresh fruit. Serves 1.

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6. Sour Cream

From twice-baked potatoes to tacos, so many of our favorite dishes benefit from a dollop of sour cream. Even one of our favorite pancake recipes is made with sour cream.

7. Mozzarella Cheese

mozzarella cheesy bread

I always keep my refrigerator stocked with a large bag of shredded mozzarella cheese. I know some people prefer to grate cheese themselves, but I don't have time for that. A number of my quick meals are Italian dishes that call for mozzarella and the reason why they're quick is that the cheese is ready to add the minute I take it out of the fridge. One easy, healthy meal that we really love is Broiled Cheesy Bread with Marinara Sauce.

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Broiled Cheesy Bread with Marinara Sauce

9 - 12 slices whole wheat bread
2 - 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 - 2 cups marinara sauce, warmed

Set oven rack to second highest level and preheat broiler. Arrange bread on baking sheet. Top each slice of bread with about ¼ cup of cheese. Set baking sheet under broiler until cheese is melted and lightly browned, approximately 5 minutes, rotating pan if necessary. Let cool slightly and serve with a small bowl of marinara sauce for dunking. Serves 4 - 5.

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8. Parmesan Cheese

Parmesan cheese adds such great flavor to foods! Most people pair parmesan with Italian dishes, but I like to add parmesan to eggs and broccoli. I sprinkle grated parmesan on the eggs over-easy and cooked broccoli I often eat for brunch. Parmesan is also the star of another eggs and veggies dish: Wilted Spinach Salad over Fried Eggs.

9. Co-Jack Cheese

co-jack cheese and apple

Like mozzarella, co-jack cheese is super versatile. It goes with everything from scrambled eggs to apples. I keep both shredded co-jack and these snack-size packages on hand. I use co-jack whenever a recipe calls for cheddar cheese because my family likes the mild taste of co-jack better than cheddar's sharpness.

10. Ice Cream

homemade vanilla ice cream

Sundaes, milkshakes, ice cream cream is the one dessert everyone in my house can always agree on. And, really, what's not to love about ice cream?

So there you have it: my 10 Reasons to Love Dairy.

Check out the 100+ Reasons to Love Dairy post for links to additional reasons from other dairy farmers and dairy friends.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Staying Connected and Informed – Dairy Farming with Tech

This is a guest post I wrote for the Verizon Wireless Midwest Area Blog. The folks at Verizon Wireless were looking for a way to recognize June Dairy Month and highlight ways dairy farmers use mobile technology.

One of the first things my husband and I did when we started dairy farming ten years ago was cancel our mobile phone service. We had left our 9-to-5 jobs in the city and would be working together side-by-side. We usually only used our mobile phones to call each other; why would we need them anymore?

Fast forward to today and if you asked us to get rid of our phones we’d look at you like you’d lost your marbles.

We were able to farm for a couple years without mobile phones, but we quickly realized just how important it is to be informed and connected in today’s world of dairy farming.

Everyone seems to think of dairy farming as milking cows, feeding calves, and driving tractor, but there’s also a lot of information management and decision making involved. Our mobile phones help us make decisions and stay on top of changing information.

Every morning in the barn, Glen will ask me what the weather forecast shows. Before I got my Verizon iPhone, that would require a trip to the computer in the house. Now, I pull out my phone and I have the forecast at my finger tips.

Glen doesn’t have a smartphone, but his phone is no less valuable. He gets daily reports on the quality of the milk we sell via text message from our cooperative.

Our phones also help us take good care of our cows. Glen uses his to record information about our cows’ health. I use mine to reference dairy cattle health care sites. We both use text messaging to communicate with our veterinarians.

But the most important job our phones do is keep us connected. We often use our phones like walkie-talkies – to communicate from one end of the farm to the other. If I’m out in the pasture and need help, I can call or text Glen instead of walking all the way back to the yard and then walking all the way back out. The same is true when Glen is out in the field making hay or harvesting crops and needs a hand.

My smartphone also helps me connect with people through social media. For a little over a year now, I’ve been using my phone to share photos and stories about life on our farm. I believe I have a responsibility to help people learn more about where their food comes from, but I don’t have a lot of time to spend sitting in front of my computer; my smart phone lets me share our farm life while I’m on the go.

I’ve been using my phone to share lots of photos this month in celebration of June being National Dairy Month. I know many of my dairy farmer friends will be doing the same. This is a great time to connect with a dairy farmer through a blog or social media and learn more about dairy farming.

I am a Verizon Wireless customer. I was not compensated to write this post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Pioneer Woman Cooks + Land O'Lakes® Butter Giveaway

What could be better than $100 worth of Land O'Lakes® butter and three new cookbooks full of delicious recipes from The Pioneer Woman's kitchen?

I had so much fun visiting Ree's ranch in Oklahoma. This giveaway is my way of sharing some of that fun. Along with all three of Ree's cookbooks, you can win $100 worth of Land O'Lakes® butter, including the new European Style Super Premium Butter.

Use the widget below to enter. Good luck!

Dairy Good Life Cookbooks + Butter Giveaway

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner. This giveaway is sponsored in part by Land O’Lakes. As always, all opinions are my own.

A visit to Ree's ranch

My trip to The Pioneer Woman’s ranch in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

When Land O’Lakes – the cooperative we market our farm’s milk through – asked me a couple years ago to be a guest contributor to their cooking and baking blog, I had no idea that saying yes would lead to Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, visiting our dairy farm last summer or me visiting her ranch last month. Both visits were amazing and I am incredibly grateful for both opportunities.

(The stories, photos, and recipes from the visit last summer are here, here, and here.)

My visit to Pawhuska included a tour of the Drummond family’s ranch, a chance to hang out with my blogging friends, a recipe showcase, and butter tasting.

The Lodge

The Lodge

After flying to Tulsa, we drove north to the Drummond family’s ranch. We arrived at The Lodge, which was where we stayed for our visit, in the early evening. (By we, I mean me, the other bloggers, and the ladies from Land O’Lakes.)


The Lodge was beautiful. I loved the open space and the view. The Lodge is built on the side of a steep hill, so we could see for miles, looking out over the pastures.

plates and pans

And the kitchen! The Lodge is where Ree films her Food Network show, so it was really cool to see her kitchen in person. One of my favorite parts of the kitchen was how dishes were used as accent pieces to add little pops of color here and there. (I did something similar when I redecorated my kitchen and I am in love with the effect.)

me and chunky bread

The Lodge is also where we enjoyed most of our meals, which featured all of the recipes developed by the bloggers. Sampling everyone’s creations is definitely one of the highlights for me. The other cool part is getting to see that my recipe turned out for another cook. I always wonder about that when I share recipes…if my directions and methods will be successful for others. Links to all of the recipes are included in this post.

The Building

Part of our tour of the ranch included a trip into Pawhuska to see The Building, which is what the Drummonds’ affectionately call the old main street hotel that they are remodeling into a mercantile, deli, event, and office space.

the building - looking out

I’ve been trying to follow The Building’s progress on Ree’s blog. It was really cool to see all of their plans and what they have already accomplished with the project. The wall below is the old mural they restored.

the building - office

Here, again, Ree’s books – including her cookbooks and her children’s books – were used to add a splash of color to Ree’s half of the office area. I really like it when design and function work together.

the building - books

While we were at The Building we got to reconnect with our inner artists. Ree organized a scone idea contest in which we were asked to illustrate a scone idea using colored paper, crayons, scissors, etc. The winning scone idea would then be featured in The Building’s deli once it opens. I’m happy to say that the winning idea – a rhubarb lemon scone – came from my fellow Minnesotan, Brenda from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles. My idea was the oatmeal-blueberry-dark chocolate scone with vanilla cream icing; it’s a flavor combination I’m sort of crazy about right now.

scone ideas

The Toast

After the visit to The Building and lunch, we got to have some fun in The Lodge’s kitchen. With bread, Land O’Lakes spreadable butters, and an incredible assortment of toppings, we were each asked to create our own gourmet toast. Apparently, gourmet toast is one of the hottest new culinary trends. That was news to me, but not a surprise – toast with buttter is one of my kids’ favorites, with any meal.

toast bar

With my kids and Glen in mind, I set out to create a gourmet toast that I would be likely to recreate at home. I topped my whole wheat toast first with Land O’Lakes® Butter with Canola Oil, then a slice of provolone cheese. On top of the cheese, I spread a layer of Land O’Lakes® Cinnamon Sugar Butter Spread, topped with thinly sliced apples and ham. Then I added sprinkles of chopped pecans and cinnamon.

my toast

Once everyone else had created their gourmet toasts, we set them out for judging. Awards were given to best savory toast, best sweet toast, best presentation, and most creative. My toast wasn’t one of the winners, but we got to eat our toast creations after the judging and mine sure was delicious!

toast bar chefs

The Picnic

picnic view

The fun didn’t stop with the toast. Next up was a picnic on a ridge in one of the Drummonds’ pastures. The view was amazing and it was nice to just relax and chat for a while. The picnic also included two surprises.

premium butter

Land O’Lakes introduced their new European Style Super Premium Butter – and we got to taste it! I didn’t think there would be much of a difference between regular butter, which is made with 80% milkfat, and the European-style butter, which is made with 82% milkfat, but there was a big difference! The premium butter was so smooth and rich. Plus, unlike most European butters, which are made with sour cream, Land O’Lakes’s European butter is made with sweet cream, so it has a great, buttery taste. I am definitely looking forward to experimenting with this new butter in some of my favorite recipes.


The other surprise at the picnic came from Ree. When the picnic was just about over, Ree asked us all over to her vehicle, saying she had a little gift for us. Ree has a great sense of humor, so I honestly thought we were in for a joke of some sort. It was no joke, though. Ree opened up the back of her vehicle and inside was a gorgeous, hand-picked pair of cowgirl boots for each of us.

The Boots

new boots

Talk about being wowed. My own real cowgirl boots! I had borrowed my cousin’s cowgirl boots for the trip to Ree’s ranch, because I didn’t have any of my own. That was after my sister had made it very clear that I needed to wear real boots if I was going to a real ranch.

new boots

Everyone else was amazed by the boots, too. We had to do a little boots photo shoot.

new boots

Together with the yellow rain boots we donned for our tour of the Drummonds’ ranch, my visit to Oklahoma was quite the footwear affair.

The Ranch

Oklahoma sunrise

For me, learning about the ins and outs of ranching was another highlight of the trip. It’s always incredibly interesting to learn about other farmers’ ways of doing things.

Red with cattle

There were a number of pastures filled with cow-calf pairs, bulls, yearlings, and horses.

ranch horses

I loved all the oil pipe corrals, made from Oklahoma’s oil industry leftovers. And the barbed wire fences were strung so tight you could have plucked them like a guitar.

roan horse

What was really cool, though, were all the cattle crossings. The crossings, which they use instead of gates, were everywhere. They reminded me of all the horse and ranching books I pored through when I was in middle school.

cattle crossing

And, on our last morning at the ranch, we even got to meet Walter, Charlie, and the rest of the ranch dogs. No farm (or ranch) is complete without a dog or two.


The Giveaway

cookbooks + butter

As I said before, I am so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to visit Ree’s ranch. I tried to share as much of the experience as I could in these pictures. I’m sharing a little more of the experience with a giveway. Check out the giveaway post for a chance to win autographed copies of all three of Ree’s cookbooks and $100 of Land O’Lakes® butter, including the new European Style Super Premium Butter.

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner. This trip to Ree’s ranch was sponsored by Land O’Lakes, however, I was not required to write this post. The giveaway mentioned is also sponsored in part by Land O’Lakes. As always, all opinions are my own.