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


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


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


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.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Southern Food Bloggers Retreat + Buttermilk Pound Cake

Southern Buttermilk Pound Cake with Plum Sauce
The amazing pound cake recipe I brought home from Alabama.

Blogging has led to a number of really neat experiences for me, but the best experiences have resulted when friends, farming, and food combine. Last month, I participated in the Southern Food Blogger Retreat in Prattville, Alabama. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect of the retreat, but it turned out to be one of the most incredible experiences ever.

Charolais heifers at Pintlala Cattle Company

I made a whole bunch of amazing new friends, got to visit a beef cow-calf farm, and learned so much about how to be a better blogger.

Enough Movement

One of the retreat's sponsors was Elanco. Elanco is the company that's coordinating the Enough Movement, which is working to create conversations about and solutions to food-insecurity, both now and in the future. As both a blogger and a dairy farmer who relies on modern and innovative farming methods, Elanco invited me to participate in the retreat.

Southern Food Bloggers Retreat participants

I was a little nervous about signing up for the retreat, mostly because I didn't know what to expect and I sometimes feel awkward around food bloggers. But I shouldn't have been nervous at all! The retreat organizers and other bloggers were so incredibly friendly and welcoming. They really did epitomize southern hospitality. And since the retreat was limited to a small number of participants, it was easy to get to know everyone. The retreat participants and presenters were Sarah from The Magical Slowcooker, Ashley from The Hill Hangout, Beth from BethCakes, Mary from Chattavore, Paula from Call Me PMc, Kyle from The Blogger Network, Melissa from Served Up with Love, Jennifer from Bake or Break, Cris from Recipes that Crock, Brandie from The Country Cook, Liz from The Farmwife Cooks, Stacey from Southern Bite, Leah from Beyer Beware, Stacy Lyn from Game and Garden, Christin from Spicy Southern Kitchen, Brooke from Rural Gone Urban, Taylor from Household Management 101, Christy from Southern Plate, and (not pictured) Stephanie from Plain Chicken and Kim from Kim Box Photography.

retreat center

To make the retreat even more enjoyable, it was held in this cozy cottage tucked into the woods. Even though I was learning lots, the casual atmosphere really made it feel like a get-away.

friendly Charolais heifer

One evening of the retreat was spent learning more about farming and family traditions with the Henry family of Pintlala Cattle Company. The beef cow-calf farm is home to the curious Charolais heifer above and a host of other Charolais and Angus cattle.

The Henry Family
Mike and Denise Henry and family

The heifers we met were certainly friendly, but not nearly as friendly as the Henrys themselves.

Mike Henry and sons

After the Henrys showed us around their cattle handling facility and explained their farm, we drove over to their house for dinner.

cow in window

I couldn't resist taking a picture of the window painting that greeted us when we arrived at the house. The bossy in the window is a reference back to the days when the Henrys were dairy farmers.

Dessert at the Henrys' farm

In addition to their cattle business, Mike and Denise Henry also have a catering business. So I wasn't surprised by the amazing dinner they prepared for us. I didn't get a picture of dinner, but I did take a picture of the pound cake. It was SOOO good! Denise said the recipe was passed down from her mother. I thought a family recipe was a fitting end to a dinner conversation about the heritage of farming.

Denise was kind enough to share the recipe for her buttermilk pound cake. The buttermilk gives this cake incredible flavor. You can find the recipe below.

blown glass bird and vase

After three fabulous days with my new friends, I didn't really need another sign that I had made the right decision in attending the retreat. But I got one anyway during the shopping trip for those of us with later flights. We went to an antique mall that was nothing like anything I've ever seen in Minnesota. I found several pieces I loved, but the vase above is the most remarkable. The bird figure above was my grandmother's – the same grandmother whose love for baking I inherited. The bird was passed to me after my grandfather died and now sits in my kitchen windowsill. I didn't think I would ever find another piece of any sort to match it. But here was a matching vase!

So now the list for my visit to Alabama includes friends, farming, food, and family heirlooms.

Southern Buttermilk Pound Cake

Making this cake myself was my first attempt at baking with Crisco (or any other brand of shortening). Normally, when I find a recipe that calls for shortening, I automatically substitute butter. I do keep a small container of shortening on hand for making dipping chocolate, so I used that for this cake. I made Denise's recipe again using butter and it yielded a fabulous cake, but it wasn't quite the same. Also, none of the stores in my county sell butter and nut flavoring – actually, I didn't even know what butter and nut flavoring was – so I substituted vanilla extract and hazelnut extract.


3 cups sugar
1 cup Crisco shortening
5 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon butter and nut flavoring


Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a tube pan.

Cream sugar and shortening together in large bowl. Add eggs and mix well. Stir baking soda into buttermilk. Alternately add flour and buttermilk mixture to bowl. Stir in flavoring.

Pour batter into tube pan and smooth surface. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until top of cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Southern Buttermilk Pound Cake

Recipe courtesy of Denise Henry.

Group photo by Kim Box.

Brand names mentioned are purely for educational purposes.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dollop & Scoop – No. 1015

All about October...

Halloween 2015

kids in Halloween costumes

Halloween is all about dressing up in costumes for us. Dan and Monika are lucky enough to go to a school that still lets kids dress up in costumes for Halloween, so they transformed into a witch and Spiderman for their class parties. Then, Monika cast a spell and turned Daphne into a frog on Halloween day. And since Halloween was on a Saturday, we could start trick-or-treating early, which meant that we were done trick-or-treating in time for me to help with the evening milking. That was the night's real treat.

Glen and I both dressed up for our Halloween party, too, but I'm not posting pictures of that. ;-)

carving pumpkins

Halloween wouldn't be complete without jack-o-lanterns, but more years than not, our pumpkins sit on our porch, uncarved. Partly because the project always looks too big to tackle, partly because I don't like the smell of pumpkin innards, and partly because our schedule is so full. But this year our porch was decorated with real jack-o-lanterns.

We had dinner with our friends in the Twin Cities and they asked if carving pumpkins would be a good activity for our kids after we finished our meal. I said, "Absolutely!" I knew my kids would be over-the-top excited, because every year they ask, "When are we going to carve the pumpkins?" (Talk about a full dose of mommy guilt!)

The pumpkin carving party was the perfect way to carve pumpkins! If anyone is interested in teaming up next year, let me know.

Last days on pasture

cow silhouettes at sunset

We had so many breathtaking sunsets in October. I like to think that it was Mother Nature's way of reminding us to pause and enjoy the last mild days of what has been a beautiful fall. This beautiful fall followed an incredible growing season; we were doubly blessed. But the grass doesn't stay green in Minnesota. The cows have been eating less grass and more of their mixed ration, which tells us that the grazing season is about to end. (As I write this, the grazing season has officially ended. We closed the pasture gate early this week.)

Beautiful new calves

newborn red and white calf

The beautiful fall weather was the perfect time for the birth of some beautiful new calves. In years past, we avoided births in July and August when the hot weather makes calving more stressful for the cows. That meant we always had LOTS of calves born in September and October. But Minnesota weather is unpredictable at best, so we often had hot Junes and Septembers. This year, we didn't cross July and August off the calving calendar, so we had a handful of calves born in each of the summer months. September and October had much more average numbers of births, too, which reduced stress levels for the farmers.

Sure, Daphne

Daphne and baby Jersey

Daphne enjoyed our balmy October weather and all the new calves, too. For Daphne, every calf is a "gril" (girl). She can often be found in the pen with the calves – barefoot, of course. (And, yes, that's an ice cream cone in her hand. Ice cream cones are year-round treats for us.)

Her animated expressions and stories have become a constant source of comic relief. And not just for us. She makes her grandparents and cousins laugh. She makes other shoppers at the grocery store laugh. The funniest thing she says right now is "Sure". If you ask Daphne to do something, she used to say yes or yeah. Now she says sure. Except her sure is a bit German or Russian in pronunciation so it sounds like "tchure". It sure cracks us up.

Enjoy the rest of your November, friends.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ms. Frank Bars

(aka Buttery Caramel Crisps)

A number of my family's favorite recipes bear the name of the friend who first introduced us to the dish. We have Suzanne Salad, Clara-style Braised Carrots, and Kathy's Cookies. And now we have Ms. Frank Bars.

These caramel-coconut-almond bars were an instant hit with everyone in our family. There's a hint of cinnamon in the recipe that gives these bars exceptional flavor. They're a little crunchy and a little chewy at the same time. And they're SUPER easy to make.

Like almost every recipe, this recipe has a story. My friend Jen, who is also known as Ms. Frank because she was Dan and Monika's Kindergarten teacher, gave us this Land O'Lakes recipe booklet right before school started. The booklet, which was printed in 1979, had belonged to Jen's grandmother. Jen knows that we sell our milk to Land O'Lakes and are active in the cooperative, so she thought we should have it.

I flipped through the booklet and marveled at how recipe writing and food photography have changed in 30-some years. Recipe sharing has changed, too. Land O'Lakes doesn't publish booklets like this anymore; almost all recipes are shared on their website and blog.

Even the back cover of the booklet made me pause and reflect. Look at how the butter packages have changed since then! And I love that Land O'Lakes used a picture of a farm for a backdrop to the butter. From its very beginning here in Minnesota, Land O'Lakes has a been a farmer-owned cooperative, created to turn milk from family farms like ours into butter and cheese. Land O'Lakes was also the first creamery to make butter from sweet cream (instead of sour cream). Today, Land O'Lakes is still a cooperative owned by family farms and we're still committed to making the best butter.

I scanned the ingredients in the recipes and the recipe for Buttery Caramel Crisps caught my attention. The preparation method reminded me of the Crackle Bars that are so popular at Christmas, but I had never seen a recipe with this combination of flavors. I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I gave them a try.

Some recipes are like one-hit wonders on the radio. You make them once, enjoy them, but they never show up in your kitchen again. NOT this recipe. These thin, simple bars are one of those recipes you stick in your back pocket and pull out whenever you need a quick dessert to share with family or friends. I've already made them so many times that I have the recipe memorized.

My kids have them memorized, too. When I made the last pan of bars, I was sprinkling the marshmallows over the graham crackers as Dan walked into the kitchen. "Are you making Ms. Frank's bars, Mom?" he asked. He knew that the recipe came from the book Ms. Frank gave us, so he gave the bars her name. Honestly, Ms. Frank Bars is a better name for these bars, anyway, because nobody can remember Buttery Caramel Crisps. Glen calls them graham cracker bars.

Whatever you call them, they're delicious. They're so delicious that I haven't tweaked anything in the recipe. (That's saying something!) The only part of the recipe I changed was the number of graham crackers in the first layer. I don't know if graham crackers were smaller in 1979 or if 10x15" pans were bigger, but I couldn't fit 12 whole crackers in a pan, so I just used 9. I also used unsweetened coconut, because that's what I usually use. I'm guessing the original recipe used sweetened coconut.

The only hard parts of this recipe are waiting for the bars to cool after they're done and then keeping them around long enough to share with friends.

Here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Ms. Frank Bars
(aka Buttery Caramel Crisps)

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 12 minutes
Yield: One 10x15" pan of bars


9 - 12 whole graham crackers (one sleeve)*
2 cups miniature marshmallows
¾ cup LAND O LAKES butter (1½ sticks)
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flaked or shredded, unsweetened coconut (sweetened would work, too)
1 cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Arrange graham crackers in single layer in ungreased 10x15" jelly-roll pan, breaking crackers as needed to fit. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over crackers.

Cut butter into chunks. Combine butter and brown sugar in a small (2 or 3 quart) saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Once butter starts to melt, add cinnamon and vanilla to saucepan. Continue stirring until butter is completely melted, sugar is dissolved, and mixture resembles caramel sauce. Don't boil.

Very slowly, drizzle caramel sauce evenly over crackers and marshmallows. Sprinkle coconut, then almonds, over sauce.

Bake on center rack of oven at 350°F for 12 minutes, rotating pan after 8 minutes. Bars are done when marshmallows and coconut are lightly browned.

Cool completely before cutting into bars.

*UPDATE: I made a double batch of these bars in my big baking sheet (15x21") and it took closer to 24 graham crackers to cover the bottom of the pan. Which leads me to believe that my 10x15 pan might just be smaller than it should be. So, I updated the number of crackers to include a range. (Also, the double batch worked perfectly. The only change I made was increasing the baking time since it took longer for the entire pan to be nicely browned.)

Recipe from Land O Lakes Cookie Lover's Cookbook © 1979 Land O'Lakes, Inc.

I am a Land O'Lakes Cooperative member-owner. I did not receive compensation from Land O'Lakes for this post. All opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Life lessons

This piece about the lessons I've learned working with my life coach first appeared as one of my columns in the Dairy Star. I hesitated for a long time before writing this piece. But after it was published, I got thank you messages from so many fellow farm women that all my fears were forgotten. I hope it resonates with you just as much.

In middle school and high school, I was lucky enough to have excellent guidance counselors – people who helped me wade through all the muck that somehow builds up between middle school girls and later helped me wade through all the important life decisions a high school student needs to make. When I look back at those years, having trusted advisors like my guidance counselors made all the difference between sinking and soaring.

I’m also sure that in 10 or 20 years, when I look back at this time in my life, I will say the same thing: having a trusted advisor to turn to with life’s challenging situations has made all the difference between enduring life and enjoying life.

For almost a year now, I have been working with a life coach. We meet once a month to talk about strategies for better dairy farming, parenting, communication, relationships, stress management, and just about every other topic under the sun. My life coach isn’t a dairy farmer herself, but she’s a mom and a small business owner, so she understands most of my challenges.

One of the great quotes my life coach has shared with me.

I don’t adopt every strategy we talk about, but there are several which have had a big impact on my life.

One of the topics we talk about most is time management, because that’s my biggest weakness. My life coach has helped me understand that extroverts, like myself, tend to overschedule themselves. But if my values and my time expenditures don’t align, it results in a constant state of stress. So, now, when I’m invited to participate in an activity or event, instead of just asking myself if I have time, I also ask myself, “Is this really important to me?”

One of the discussions about time management with my life coach had a huge impact on the way I think. We were talking about being overextended – not the financial kind of overextended, but the time and energy kind of overextended. I explained that when life gets extra busy, I always think to myself that one of these jobs or activities has to go. But that’s really hard for me to think about because I love everything I do – being a mom, dairy farming, writing, volunteering – so how could I give one up? That’s easy, she said. “If you were diagnosed with cancer tomorrow, what would go?” I’m sure you could substitute some other serious condition, but the word cancer hit me hard. Cancer killed both of my grandmothers, at relatively young ages. I thought long and hard after that meeting about my values and how I was spending my time.

Another strategy that has helped me immensely is one that I call “finding the middle ground”. I tend to think in terms of all or nothing – it’s a symptom of perfectionism. For instance, I used to think that if I didn’t have time to do a full workout, then I didn’t have time to exercise at all. Now, I look for something in the middle of all or nothing, like exercising for 10 or 15 minutes. I constantly remind myself, “Something is better than nothing.”

I’m also working on tackling one task at a time, instead of multi-tasking. A fair amount of research has shown that multi-tasking reduces productivity. I think we all have a story that goes something like: I went into the shed to get a pail of grain for the heifers, remember that I forgot to collect the eggs earlier, go to the house to get an egg carton so I wouldn’t forget again, see that there’s a new message on the answering machine, go find Glen to relay the message (so I won’t forget), along the way notice the float malfunctioning on the stock tank, go up to the shed to get a screwdriver to fix the float, see the empty pail and realize I haven’t fed the heifers their grain yet.

We run around for an hour working on parts of eight different jobs and feel like we get nothing done. When I’m working outside, I now use the mantra: “Focus where your feet are.” And if I think of something else that needs to be done, I write it down on my arm. I believe this idea of focusing and being present is also a big part of living fully. When I'm milking cows, I focus on milking cows; sure, my mind wanders while I'm milking, but I steer it away from thinking about what jobs I need to do next. When I'm helping the kids with their homework, I try to focus on my kids, not the pile of mail on the table or the dishes that need to be put away. When I'm writing, I resist the urge to check email in between paragraphs or check the tracking on the package that's on it's way.

When I’m working on the everyday, less-enjoyable jobs, like e-mail, laundry, processing the mail, etc., I set a timer for 15 minutes and focus on just that job until the timer goes off. Then I switch to the next job. I can get a lot more done when I focus. Plus, since I’m a deadline-oriented person, the timer gives me a deadline for jobs that otherwise don’t have set deadlines.

Some of the most important conversations I’ve had with my life coach have been on the topic of making time for family and making time for self.

When summer started, my coach asked, “What are you going to do for fun, each week, with your kids?” It was a much-needed question. When the 2014-15 school year started, I looked back at the summer and realized that we had taken the kids to the lake exactly two times. So this summer, we made it a priority to make time for family fun. We went swimming as often as we could, we took the kids fishing, we went to a collegiate league baseball game, we actually went out to eat for Father’s Day, and we went camping. There’s never a time when we feel like we have enough of our farm chores done to justify taking the afternoon off, but we had to get over feeling like that. A quote one of my friends shared recently sums it up: “In business, what you don't get done today can likely be done tomorrow, but with family, what doesn’t get done today is gone forever.” (from Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden)

Life is both challenging and joyful and I believe it’s meant to be that way. But sometimes a little coaching can help us minimize the challenges and maximize the joys.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Dollop & Scoop – No. 0915

Highlights from September...

Jersey attitude

I always love it when a cow is in the mood to pose for photos. I snapped a number of great photos of Lily one afternoon in early September, but this photo was my favorite. Jersey cows (and calves) have such unique attitudes and this photo epitomizes that attitude.

Curious cows

When our neighbors' grandchildren come to visit, they often bring them over to see the calves and chickens or take them out to the pasture to see the cows. This time, they got an up close visit from the cows. Cows are naturally curious, but their curiosity really piques when new people come into the barn or pasture. Most of the time, one cow will come up close to check visitors out; a grand reception like this one is pretty rare.

Barefoot in the barn

Daphne doesn't get dressed up very often. If she's wearing clothes at all they're usually barn clothes. So I couldn't resist taking this picture when she showed up in the barn in her town clothes to help me finish cleaning stalls. When I posted the photo, though, most of the comments were about Daphne being barefoot in the barn. Well, Daphne is almost always barefoot outside. And I think most farm kids can remember running around barefoot for at least part of their childhood.

Chopping corn

Harvesting corn silage was September's major event. Thankfully, we had lots of help from family and friends and everything went extremely well. I wrote about our incredible harvest in one of my recent Dairy Star columns. It was amazing to see what crops can do during a summer of near-perfect growing conditions. The highlight of chopping for me was riding along in the chopper for the first time.

Mama Duck and her duckling

You might remember Mama Duck as the white duck that lived on our pond for most of 2014 and then moved into our barn on the eve of Snowmageddon '14. She then went to live at Glen's home farm for the winter and returned here this summer. She spent all winter setting on a nest of eggs, but none of them hatched. She made a new nest when she moved back here, but no ducklings ever emerged – until two weeks ago. Finally, one duckling hatched and Mama Duck earned her name.

Learning first hand

I'm sure I've said this a million times and wrote it just as many: I love having friends from town out to our farm to learn more about dairy farming. I met Kim when I was in Washington, D.C. last month; Kim started working at Land O'Lakes in July and said she wanted to learn more about dairy farming. I'm a firm believer that the best way to learn about farming is to experience it first hand, and that's exactly what Kim did. During her visit she milked a cow and fed a calf and asked lots of really good questions.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chicken 'N Biscuit Casserole

Chicken 'N Biscuit Casserole
This hearty, easy-to-serve meal combines the flavors of
aromatic vegetables, chicken, cheese and buttery biscuits.

My best loved cookbooks are full of scraps of paper marking the location of favorite recipes. And in the margins alongside those recipes are the date I first made it, my thoughts on how it turned out, and all the future tweaks that inevitably happen if I make a recipe more than once.

The recipe that inspired this Chicken ’N Biscuit Casserole comes from a cookbook handed down to me by my mother. Inked in the margin next to the recipe is: “Very good! 2/07”

That means I first made this casserole when Dan was two months old. How is it that he’s now a third grader? And how on earth did I manage to put a real supper on the table with a two-month-old baby who never napped?

Now, I make this casserole while the kids are at school. Sometimes I use leftover chicken, which reduces the prep time. But we like this dish so much that, more often, I cook up a couple chicken breasts while I’m prepping the rest of the ingredients.

Chicken gets the naming rights in this recipe, but this casserole is full of flavors: carrot and celery and onion with sour cream and co-jack cheese. And then all of that yummy goodness is topped with a half-batch of Glen’s butter biscuits. The result is an easy-to-serve, family pleasing meal.

Dan and Monika enjoying Chicken 'N Biscuit Casserole

This is also a fun make-together meal for the weekends. Dan and Monika love to chop vegetables and measure ingredients. Cooking together gives us some much needed quality time that’s hard to find during the week now that Dan and Monika are back in school.

And then when we sit down to eat, Monika, my first grader, always reminds me to write my recipes down so that she can make the same dishes for her kids someday. I sure hope this casserole gets passed along for another generation to enjoy.

Chicken 'N Biscuit Casserole

Chicken 'N Biscuit Casserole

Makes: One 9 x 13 pan
Prep Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Bake Time: 40 to 45 minutes


for the casserole

2 to 3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 3 cups cubed, cooked chicken)

2 to 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1 cup)
2 to 3 stalks celery, trimmed and diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 of a large sweet yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon chicken boullion

1 can (10 1/2 ounces) cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

for the biscuit topping

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup LAND O LAKES butter (one half stick)
1 1/4 cups shredded co-jack cheese, divided
1/2 cup milk
1 egg


for the casserole

Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange chicken breasts in 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake chicken until internal temperature reaches 165°F, 30 to 40 minutes depending upon whether you’re starting with fresh or frozen meat. (If you have cooked chicken on hand, omit this step.)

While chicken is baking, dice vegetables and combine in small sauce pan with water and boullion. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

While vegetables and chicken cook, stir soup, sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, and salt together in medium bowl. Stir cooked vegetables and cooking liquid into soup mixture. Cube cooked chicken and add to soup and veggies.

Spread chicken and vegetable mixture in bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish.

for the biscuit topping

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Cut cold butter into tablespoon-size pieces and blend into flour mixture using a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Lightly stir 1 cup of cheese into flour mixture. Mix slightly beaten egg and milk into flour mixture until flour mixture is completely moistened. Don’t over mix.

Using two spoons, drop tablespoons of biscuit dough onto casserole.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and biscuits are golden brown.

Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and return casserole to oven until cheese is melted.

This post also appears on the Land O'Lakes Blog.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One-Minute Budino

This dessert is so decadent and delicious,
nobody will know that it only took seconds to make.

chocolate fudge, butterscotch, and white chocolate budino in dessert cups

I originally shared a basic version of this recipe as part of my 100+ Reasons to Love Dairy post, but I've had lots of questions about preparing this budino, so here's a little more information about one of our favorite treats.

My One-Minute Budino is a simple combination of milk, heavy cream, and instant pudding mix. All of the ingredients are added to a blender, whirred for 30 seconds, and the result is a magical dessert that everyone loves.

But, really, I should call it "our" budino, because Glen is the one who came up with this idea. All I did was quantify amounts (because Glen never measures) and take some pictures.

Do you really just mix the milk, cream, and pudding mix in a blender?

Yes. We've been making regular pudding (milk + instant pudding mix) in our rocket blender for over a year now. That was Glen's idea, too. We will never whisk pudding again. Making pudding in the blender takes less than 30 seconds to mix. What other dessert can you whip up that fast?

Glen took pudding up a notch one day when he added heavy cream to the milk and pudding mix. Glen is a big fan of heavy cream; so much so that he often makes a big glass of chocolate milk with half milk and half cream. (I wish I had his metabolism.) So I really wasn't surprised when he added cream to the pudding, but I was surprised by the result: it was unbelievably delicious.

Of course, Glen had no idea how much cream he had added, so I experimented with a couple batches and found that half milk and half cream makes the best budino.

What is budino?

Budino is the Italian word for pudding. True budino is thickened with both egg yolks and corn starch. I first had budino at a fancy restaurant in Minneapolis a year ago. When I first tasted this cream-enriched pudding, it reminded me of that budino. Plus, this dessert is not at all like regular pudding – it's much smoother and silkier – so we decided it needed a name of it's own. Technically, you could call this mock budino, but it really is a lot like the real thing. And it's so much simpler to make.

What size rocket blender do you use?

The cups for our rocket blender hold exactly 2 ½ cups (20 ounces) of liquid when filled to the brim. That means I can comfortably put 2 ¼ cups of liquid in them and get the lid on without making a mess. The single serving cups that came with my big blender will not hold 2 ¼ cups of liquid. If your blender cups hold less than 2 ¼ cups, simply reduce the amounts of milk and cream a little, figuring that the pudding mix takes up about ¼ cup when dissolved. Keep in mind, too, that different flavors of pudding mix have different amounts of powder in the package. (See the note below under flavors about making chocolate fudge budino and cookies and cream budino.)

Since there's not a lot of extra room in the blender cup, it's important to put the milk into the cup first, then stir in the pudding mix, and, last, add the cream. The pudding mix won't dissolve in cream, so if you put the cream into the cup first, the rest of the ingredients won't fit.

If you'd rather use a full-size blender, I recommend making a double batch, to make sure you have enough liquid in the blender for good mixing.

What flavor pudding do you use?

Our favorite budino flavor, hands down, is white chocolate (made with Jell-O brand mix). It is pure bliss. It's so good we've talked about using it as frosting or cake filling.

Every other flavor we've tried – vanilla, butterscotch, coconut cream, french vanilla, chocolate fudge, cookies and cream – has been delicious, too. But not quite as divine as the white chocolate.

Our kids love the cookies and cream flavor, but it turns a slightly odd shade of grey because all of the cookie pieces are blended up. This flavor needs to be made as a double batch in a full-size blender; the mix takes up too much room to fit in a rocket blender cup.

The flavor we make the least is chocolate fudge. Chocolate fudge budino has great flavor, but it lacks the silky, smooth mouth feel of other flavors. And texture is part of what makes budino so great. If you do make chocolate fudge budino, use a smaller amount of cream; there's more powder in a package of chocolate fudge instant pudding mix and the powder mixes up thicker than other flavors.

one-minute budino in cones

One-Minute Budino

1 cup milk
1 3 oz. package of instant pudding
¾ to 1 cup heavy cream

Pour milk into single-serve rocket blender cup (20 ounce cup). Add pudding mix to milk and stir briefly to dissolve mix in milk. Pour cream into cup and put blender lid on cup. Blend for 15 to 30 seconds. (The sound of our blender changes when the budino is thick enough.) Serve immediately for soft-set budino or refrigerate 15 minutes for thick-set budino.

If you really want an impressive dessert, top with some fresh berries and/or a layer of freshly whipped cream. Or just add sprinkles.

Serves 4 - 5.

Jell-O has no idea who I am. My mention of their brand is solely my opinion.