Saturday, December 24, 2011

Buttercreams and Bon-Bons

My column in this issue of the Dairy Star is about making Christmas treats — and memories. [I'll post the link when the online version is published.] [Read the column here.] For now, here are the recipes I wrote about and a few photos to go along with them.

[Can you guess which helper had the red sprinkles?]

Peanut Butter Bon-Bons and Turtle Bon-Bons

Peanut Butter Bon-Bons

This recipe is my less-sweet version of a Buckeyes recipe that we got from our good friends. I dipped the bon-bons like Buckeyes this year for simplicity's sake, but they can be completely covered with chocolate, too.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups (16-18 oz jar) creamy peanut butter
2 ½ cups instant dry milk
3 cups powdered sugar
2 cups milk or dark chocolate chips

Mix butter and peanut butter together until smooth. Combine dry milk and powdered sugar. One cup at a time, add dry ingredients to butter/peanut butter. Dough will be very stiff at end. Roll into one inch balls. (I use a small cookie scoop to measure.) Chill balls for several hours, or freeze. Dip balls in melted chocolate. Place on wax paper-lined pan. Decorate with sprinkles immediately after dipping. Chill to set chocolate. Store in fridge. Makes about 8 dozen.

Turtle Bon-Bons

I created this recipe after seeing a similar recipe in one of my mom's cookbooks.

3 cups finely chopped pecans
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk or dark chocolate chips

In heavy saucepan, mix first three ingredients. Over medium heat, cook and stir for 8-10 minutes or until mixture forms balls around spoon and pulls away from side of pan. Cool 10 minutes. Shape into one inch balls. Chill. Dip balls in melted chocolate. Place on wax paper-lined pan. Decorate with sprinkles. Chill to set chocolate. Store in fridge. Makes about four dozen.


This recipe came from Land O'Lakes. I tweaked it a little.

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 3 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 tsp orange extract*
2 tsp raspberry extract*
couple drops red food coloring*
one drop yellow food coloring*
4 cups powdered sugar**
1 cup real semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup real white chocolate chips (these are getting harder and harder to find)***

Mix butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add extracts and food coloring; continue beating until well mixed. Gradually add powdered sugar. Chill. Roll into one inch balls, then flatten into patties with the bottom of a glass. Place on wax paper-lined pans, cover with plastic wrap and chill again, at least two hours. Dip half of each candy in melted white chocolate. Chill to set chocolate. Dip other half in dark chocolate. Chill to set. Store in fridge. Makes 5 dozen.

*Substitute vanilla, almond, rum, mint, just orange or any other flavor extract. Adjust food coloring to match flavoring.
**These candies are very sweet. Substitute instant dry milk for up to half of the powdered sugar to make them less sweet.
***To tint white chocolate, add a tsp or two of coconut oil or vegetable shortening (not butter, unfortunately) to prevent chocolate from seizing.

Enjoy! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Star-plus status for Dimple

A while back, I wrote in one of my columns that when Dimple calved for the 11th time with a heifer calf to start her 12th lactation, she would attain star-plus status in our herd.

Well, she didn't have a heifer calf, but, two nights ago, Dimple delivered calf number 11 out under the oak trees in the pasture. (At least our brown winter has been good for something.)

Oddly, for as much as I write about Dimple, this is the only decent picture I have of
her. (I'll have to do something about that.) This photo was taken the morning we
moved the herd to Stearns County; she was nine years old. She hasn't changed
much in five years.

The only bad thing about Dimple calving on pasture was the extra time and effort it took to get her into the barn. Glen brought her calf into the barn first so it could warm up. Instead of going to the barn herself, Dimple kept running back to where her calf had been. And by running, I mean sprinting. For being 14.5 years old, she can really move!

It took both of us to finally get her into the cow yard and into the barn.

As Dimple stepped into her stall for the first milking of this lactation, I couldn't help but think of how different the situation was when she started her ninth lactation and we almost lost her.

But she's still here and this lactation is off to a great start. She's certainly earned her star-plus status.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How bad was it this summer?

When farm work piles up outside, the first thing to get ousted from the to-do list is housework.

I was going through the photos on my computer to pick out snapshots for our annual family photo book when I came across these two pictures. Upon seeing them, I immediately remembered taking them with the intention of blogging about them, but never got around to it — for the same reasons that the dishes got so out of hand. Between field work and special projects, we were swamped!

Dish mountain!

I asked our neighbor to watch Dan and Monika one scorching afternoon so Glen and I could haul some soon-to-calve heifers and dry cows home from pasture. I told her to ignore the condition of the house. She said she understood, since she was once a farming mom with young children. I came home to find she had washed every single dish that had been piled on the counter. Needless to say, we have wonderful neighbors!

Oops! That was supposed to be part of supper.

I have no idea how long this dish of vegetables sat in the microwave! They were supposed to be part of a quick supper after a long day of chores. Apparently, I was so deliriously tired I didn't remember to take them out. When I found them, I had a hard time deciding whether to laugh or cry.

The other sign that this summer was truly grueling? I forced myself to drink coffee one afternoon in a desperate attempt to find the energy to complete evening chores. It didn't take long for me to remember why I don't drink coffee; even when mixed 50:50 with chocolate milk, it still made me sick to my stomach.

I'm happy to say that farm chores take a much more reasonable amount of time now. We're still busy, but I'm managing to keep up with the dishes. (I can't say the same for the laundry, but that's a whole different post.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Giving thanks

I added the last of the leftover turkey to big pot of chili yesterday. Another Thanksgiving celebration has come to an end.

It almost seems like Thanksgiving never happened. The retail world packed away the Halloween paraphernalia and jumped right into Christmas, with hardly a nod to one of our most important holidays. Apparently important doesn't always equate to profitable.

Maybe I shouldn't be irritated that Thanksgiving got lost in the rush to start Christmas. Maybe I'm too old fashioned. But I think we need to spend more time giving thanks for what we have and less time focusing on what we want.

As a parent, cultivating an attitude of thankfulness in our children is a daily challenge. Dan wants everything right now – everything he sees at the store or in a catalog or on a commercial. I tell him to put it on his wish list for his birthday or Christmas.

I must repeat that line a lot, because now Monika has started telling me what she wants for her birthday. (I don't think she quite understands, though, because tonight she told me she wanted one of the newborn calves for her birthday.)

This overwhelming desire for everything they see, coupled with the fact that they've never had to go without, makes them less appreciative of what they have.

I think Dan is old enough now to understand what I mean when I tell him that some kids don't have any supper and some kids don't have any toys, but I don't think he can fully grasp the concept. For that matter, though, I have a hard time imagining what its like to live without adequate food or the comforts of belongings.

For that, I truly am thankful. And I'm thankful we can provide for our children.

Some day, I hope they will fully appreciate the abundance in their lives. For now, I try to encourage thankfulness with this bedtime prayer. For as long as I can remember, I've said a prayer of thanks before drifting off to sleep. This is a simplified version of that prayer.

Thank you for our family.
Thank you for our friends.
Thank you for our farm.
Thank you for our animals.
Thank you for our food.
And thank you for our lives.

Sometimes Dan says it with me; most of the time he repeats the lines after me. He almost always interjects after the line about animals because he wants to say thank you for the jungle animals and the ocean animals and the forest animals. Monika joins us for the Amen. (Interestingly, when we come to the end of a story book and say The End, Monika says Amen instead.)

Regardless of how we say it, what's important is that for at least one moment each day we're focusing on what we have instead of what we want.

How do you practice thankfulness in your life? How are you fostering thankfulness in your children?