Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring cooking: Wilted Spinach Salad over Fried Eggs

This post also appeared on the Land O'Lakes Blog as Welcoming Spring on the Dairy Farm.

The windows are open. The laundry is on the clothesline. After flirting with us for several weeks, it appears that spring has finally arrived here in central Minnesota.

There’s so much excitement during springtime on our dairy farm. Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

Fresh grass. The most anticipated event of spring on our dairy farm is the day we open up the pasture gate and turn the cows out onto the fresh, green grass. The day is like a holiday, for both us and the cows.

Fresh grass also means that the snow is gone and the mud is mostly dried up, so our children can play outside without layers of winter clothes and mud boots. I love the freedom of letting them come and go without dressing and undressing as much as they do.

New life. When the cows go out to pasture, I add a new chore (except it's hardly a chore) to my morning routine: walking the pasture to check for newborn calves. Since our cows don't give birth during the coldest part of winter, we have lots of newborn calves during the spring.

My daughter's favorite cow, Star, gave birth to a little girl calf last month. Her name is Sparkle. My son's favorite cow, Lucy, just had a little girl that he named Lego. As soon as our driveway dries out, Dan and Monika will be leading Lego and Sparkle around in circles, practicing for the county fair later this summer.

Newborn calves aren't the only babies on our farm during spring. Usually, a hen or two will hatch out a clutch of chicks. The first sight of a proud mama hen parading her little chicks around the yard is almost as exciting as watching the cows kick up their heels when they first run out to the pasture.

Spring also brings new plant life to the farm. Our hay fields are waking up after slumbering for the winter. We'll soon be harvesting our first crop of hay. Seeds will be planted in the soil, with hopes for timely rains and abundant sunshine, so that we can grow enough food to feed our cattle for the next year.

Fresh food. I had a very small garden a couple years ago, but between chores and chasing after our kids and chasing the chickens out of the garden, I gave up on it. I think it's time to try again. My kids are fascinated with gardening and they’re old enough now to help — and to shut the gate that keeps the chickens out.

With so much going on this time of year, I don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen. This recipe is one of my favorite quick spring meals. I love the combination of spinach and bell peppers, as well as the way the cream and Parmesan cheese bring all the flavors together.

You can serve this recipe for breakfast or brunch, with warm biscuits and fresh fruit. It's equally good for supper, with oven-roasted potatoes.

Wilted Spinach Salad Over Fried Eggs

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes


For the salad
1 Half-Stick (1/4 cup) Land O’Lakes® Butter
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large sweet yellow onion, diced
pinch salt
1/2 cup Land O’Lakes® heavy cream (or half and half)
4 cups (6 ounces) baby spinach

For the eggs
8 eggs
salt and pepper, if desired

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


To make salad
Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-low heat in a large skillet (a 12" skillet works best). Add bell pepper and onion and cook until onions are translucent and just starting to brown. Stir in cream and salt. Once cream starts to bubble, add half of the spinach to the pan. Using two large spoons, toss the spinach with the cream until the spinach is half wilted. Then add remaining spinach to pan. Continue tossing until all spinach is wilted. Cover pan and remove from heat.

To make eggs
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in skillet over medium heat. Crack three or four eggs into pan, leaving a little space between each egg. Break yolks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Cook until eggs are half set, then turn and cook until completely set. Remove eggs to plate; keep warm. Repeat with remaining butter and eggs.

To serve
Place two fried eggs on each plate. Top each plate of eggs with a quarter of the salad. Sprinkle each serving with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Not the only one who loves milk

When I was an Aitkin County Dairy Princess, back in the day, one of my duties was serving free milk to visitors at the Aitkin County Fair. I stood in the booth with two giant milk coolers and filled cups of milk while chatting with those who stopped for a drink. When I wasn't chatting, I'd smile at the people walking by and call out, "Would you like a free glass of milk?"

My memories of handing out free milk are mostly positive — children smiling at my crown, their parents asking questions about my family's dairy farm — except one.

That afternoon, a man and woman walked by together. I smiled and said, "Would you like a free glass of milk?"

Without stopping, the man growled back, "Milk is for babies." And they kept walking.

I shook off the comment. But it saddened me. Not just because milk and dairy cows were such a big part of my life. But also because milk and dairy products were (and still are) such important parts of my diet.

Since that afternoon, I've come to accept that everyone has a different relationship with milk and dairy products. Some, like me, can't live without them. Others make room for them in their diet because they value the nutrients dairy products provide. Some cannot tolerate consuming them. Whatever the relationship, it should be respected.

But what about that man's comment? Or the other statement commonly made by milk-haters: "Humans are the only animals that continue to drink milk after infancy."

Well, I just don't think those statements are true. But, then again, I'm biased.

But my animal friends aren't biased. I'm not an animal scientist, but I suspect that animals' food choices are influenced by nutrient density, taste, and little else.

Our dog, our cats, and our chickens are all provided with water and food (i.e. dog food, cat food, and chicken feed). And they all have access to whatever else they can find to eat. Our dog gets bones from the house and finds numerous other treats around the farm. The cats, at least the motivated ones, hunt for mice and birds. Our chickens free-range for spilled grain, insects and other small animals. In fact, our chickens eat more mice than our cats.

But every morning, when I bring milk to the shed to fill the cats' dish, they all come running.

I'm not the only one who loves milk.