What do farm kids do all summer?

I grew up on a small dairy farm in the era when we still had to physically walk beans to cut weeds. While I loved summer break because that meant county fair, it also meant work. And today I find myself in conversations with friends and parents of my children’s friends about what the kids will be doing over the summer. Then it hit me one day when I was texting with a group of friends who are also all farming, how different our lives are from the majority but yet how my kids will look back with a grateful spirit for being raised working hard and playing hard. So, here my friends is a glimpse into our farm kids’ summer.

Planted Sweet Corn and Watched It Grow

Planted Sweet Corn and Watched It Grow

Played with the Pigs

Played with the Pigs

Summer swim meet

Summer swim meet

Wrote a Pen Pal and Mailed the Letter

Wrote a Pen Pal and Mailed the Letter

Biking During the Columbus Triathlon

Biking During the Columbus Triathlon

Placing in the top 3 of the Columbus Youth Triathlon

Placing in the top 3 of the Columbus Youth Triathlon

Another Swim Meet

Another Swim Meet

Did I Mention Sister LOVES Swim Meets?

Did I Mention Sister LOVES Swim Meets?

Watching Corn Grow

Watching Corn Grow

Walking 4-H Pigs

Walking 4-H Pigs

Finding Wild Bunnies In the Yard

Finding Wild Bunnies In the Yard

 

4-H Project Work

4-H Project Work

The Girl and Her Dairy Calf

The Girl and Her Dairy Calf

 

Showing Dairy in His White Clothes

Showing Dairy in His White Clothes

Showing His York Barrow Pig

Showing His York Barrow Pig

Excitement After Winning

Excitement After Winning

 

Fun In The Greased Pig Contest

Fun In The Greased Pig Contest

And that gets us till mid-July. So, what do they do? Head to more fairs…

Off to Illinois to Watch Cousins Show

Off to Illinois to Watch Cousins Show

She Loves the Fair

She Loves the Fair

No, Really She Does

No, Really She Does

Country Walks Near Our House

Country Walks Near Our House

And then my boy had a big weekend…

 

Another Swim Meet... The STATE Meet

Another Swim Meet… The STATE Meet

The Brickyard NASCAR series

The Brickyard NASCAR series

What are your kids doing this summer?

The Secret to Quick Meals on Busy Nights

You know when you have a way to save time in the kitchen, but don’t yell it from the the mountaintops because you think your friends already know it? Well, that happened to me recently. A few of us were sitting around when one of my friends said “Thank goodness someone told me about Leah’s secret of making browned meat from frozen meat in seven minutes in the microwave.” Which was no big deal until another friend said, “Yeah, and I am also glad she told me how to cook pasta in the microwave.”

Blank stares from those who most not know about my secrets. My secret weapon more specifically.

It’s a simple little thing.

microwaving ground meatOn the nights when you have to literally throw dinner together in 15 minutes because you have soccer or ballet or chores or cross country or corn to harvest or just no energy. You need a secret weapon.

how to microwave pastaYou can microwave ground meat that is froze solid in two increments of three and a half minutes that result in browned meat.

how to microwave meatViola. Add seasoning for tacos or taco salad. Pour into spaghetti sauce for a quick spaghetti meal.

But you are still wondering on how to microwave pasta aren’t you? There is a small are to the pasta. I normally do a cup and a half of water and pasta into the large micro cooker. For most pasta I just double the cook time. So, if it takes 5-6 minutes to boil to al dente, I cook on high in the microwave for 11 minutes.

microwaved cooked pastaMost times the pasta will absorb all the water, but if not go ahead and dump the extra water out before adding the cheese, milk and butter for mac and cheese. I mean, after all what else do you make with pasta?

microwave mac and cheeseMicrowave for second intervals until the pasta and cheese is smooth.

microwaved mac and cheeseAdd bacon for that completely irresistible meal in no time flat!

Microwave mac and cheese

What are your secret tips or recipes for the nights you are on the go?

I am participating in Indiana’s Family of Farmers Table Talk Series and received a gift in exchange for my participation.

Table Talk Contributor for Indiana Family of Farmers

Microwave Mac and Cheese

Microwave Mac and Cheese

A one dish mac and cheese dish that can be made in 15 minutes in the microwave.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups uncooked pasta
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 4-8 ounces of velveeta, cubed or shredded
  • salt and pepper
  • Crumbled bacon

Instructions

  1. Place pasta and water in micro cooker and cook for 4-5 minutes longer than the box stated boil time on high. Check pasta and cook longer if not cooked to al dente. Add more water if necessary.
  2. Drain any excess water. Add butter, milk and cheese and microwave in 30 second increments till cheese is melted.
  3. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Serve with crumbled bacon on top.
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How to freeze sweet corn

All this talk of freezing corn on my facebook feed is making me wish we had a sweet corn patch this year. Then my cousin even talked about freezing corn with our grandmother’s recipe yesterday. And nothing triggers a memory of grandma like the sweet nectar of sweet corn.
When I first moved to Indiana, I helped my husband’s family freeze sweet corn. I was thrown completely off by the blanching of cob after cob of sweet corn and the cutting of kernels from hot cobs. It seemed crazy. And it was definitely not the way grandma did it. So, here is how to freeze sweet corn the cool way.
ears of sweet cornSo, the way my family has froze sweet corn is cooler on the fingers. You start by cutting all the corn raw off the cob.
How to freeze sweet cornSo, at this point my grandma would blanch the corn. However, my mom discovered a cooler way that successful preserves the corn as well. Once it is cut, put into freezer quart bags. Try to measure how much you are putting in. I usually do small bags of 2 cups (equivalent to a can of corn) or 3 cups.bags of sweet cornThe key is in the brine. A brine is one of my favorite things. I use meat brines all the time.

The brine for freezer corn is a 1 cup water to 2 teaspoons of of sugar to 1 teaspoon of salt. The corn to brine solution should be 2 cups of corn to 1/3-1/2 cup of brine. So, if you have around 10 cups of corn or five bags of sweet corn I would make a brine with 3 cups of water, 6 teaspoons of sugars, and 3 teaspoons of salt. To make the brine, heat the water, sugar and salt until all sugar and salt is dissolved.

heating sweet corn brine

Depending on the amount of corn in each bag do a 4 corn to 1 brine ration. Like I said before I would do 1/3-1/2 cup of brine to two cups of corn. Add the brine into bags. Seal. Freeze. Enjoy all winter long.

How to freeze sweet corn

How to freeze sweet corn

A quick and cool way to freeze sweet corn on a hot summer day.

Ingredients

  • 10 cups of sweet corn, cut off the cob
  • 3 cups of water
  • 6 teaspoons of sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of salt

Instructions

  1. Place two cups of corn in quart sized freezer bags.
  2. Heat water and add salt and sugar. When salt and sugar are dissolved, remove from the heat.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup of brine in each bag of corn.

Notes

To alter amounts, brine solution is 1 cup water to 2 tsp sugar to 1 tsp salt. The corn to brine ratio is 4 parts corn to 1 part brine.

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What Summer Is Like in Indiana

When school gets out don’t we all have all these grand plans. Well, when you are in the country of Indiana this is what ends up happening.

You get a puppy. Yes, he is a GoldenDoodle. His name is Moses. We call him Moe.

Our GoldenDoodle Puppy MosesBut then, you have to deal with a sad little Checkers. The puppy got a little bit more love than him.

Our Teddy Bear Dog, CheckersBut, soon he got over that little bought of jealousy. So, we went back to watching the corn grow…

Corn Irrigation

Like many of you, we spend a lot of time swimming. In lanes. While your parents melt in the stands with absolutely no beer sales at the said swimming meet.

Boo swimming the butterflyAnd all of this fun is then interrupted with the job. The thing that pays for tree houses that cost more than your first car.

New playset at the new houseHowever, who wouldn’t want to host foreign visitors on a two day tour prior to the World Pork Expo? I mean, seriously, it was awesome. Plus, I got to ride a barge on the mighty Mississippi River and see grain being loaded onto a barge.

Grain Barge on the Mississippi RiverAnd then it is back home to the quaintness of rural Indiana and lazy Saturdays.

Farm WindmillThe best thing about summer is the amazing nights you can spend outdoors with friends. On the 4th of July we had fun with friends and a sky that gave the fireworks competition.

Indiana July SunsetAnd just when you think your life can’t be any better, the corn starts pollinating. Did I mention I am surrounded by corn fields. Eyes have been watering for weeks thanks to all this corn sex…

Corn PollinationThen the letter comes. The letter with the class lists and school supplies. The list that means summer is over soon. The letter that makes you realize you have worked too much and played too little. The letter that makes you sad because you feel guilty for not spending enough time with your kids doing all these big fancy pants things that memories are made of. And then, your kids make you feel loved when you are up in your office having a little pitty party by yourself. My kids did it. They threw me a surprise tea/lemonade party.

surprise tea partyAnd I am going to just assume everyone’s kitchen table looks like mine. It will make me feel normal.

Hunk of Meat Monday: Party Finger Food

Whether you are going out and about tomorrow night or staying home, we will all be making snacks, appetizers, sweet treats and cocktails. So, I thought I would help myself organize. Prioritize what I should make for the festivities of ringing in the new year. Inevitably where ever we go, they request we bring our not so small fry daddy. So, let’s start with all things fried…

Fried Appetizers

Crispy Fried Chicken Wings

Fried Pickles

Fried Green Beans

Dips


Restaurant Style Salsa


Pizza Dip


White Pizza Dip


Bruschetta Dip


Cream Cheese Mexican Dip


Reuben Dip


Ham Dip


Roasted Garlic Hummus

Meat & Bread Appetizers


Hawaiian Roll Ham Sandwiches


Buffalo Chicken French Breads


Jalapeno Bacon Poppers

Bacon Sugar Smokies

Cheesy Sausage Bagels


Pull Apart Bacon, Cheese, Ranch Bread {AKA Crack Bread}

Sweet Treats


Baked Fruit Brie


Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip

Donut Bites


Chocolate Fruit Dip


Saltine Cracker Toffee

Whatever your plans, I hope your food is good, family is close and 2013 is blessed!



7 Awesome Things That Happened This Fall

We have had a big fall.

Both kids are in school full time! At the same school! It is the small things in life to get excited about.

20121206-080159.jpg
Both kids played soccer at the exact same time. Literally the majority of Saturdays they played at the same time at fields that were on the opposite sides of park.

20121206-080424.jpg
Then you throw in ballet and swim and tumbling and all I did was drive back and forth from home to town. Many days two or three 50 mile round trips. But swimming has been so worth it!


Boo loves it and has built up his self esteem. Now if only he would be able to drive himself to all the practices. But seeing the smile on his face makes it so worth it!

20121213-082339.jpg
And in the midst of our craziness, we have taken all of our bikes to training wheel free status.


And of course we had to order her a new bike because cars and bikes don’t seem to coexist in our world. It seems stores don’t carry large supplies of 16″ bikes. So, thank you Amazon and your prime shipping!!

But just when we didn’t have enough going on, we moved. The people buying our house offered to lease our house from us. They got to move in sooner and we got to move closer to school sooner. Double win…except the two week window to move.

20121213-083517.jpg
To cap off the crazy circus life, we decided to take the kids to a Colts game. Since the Colts are doing amazing with their new rock star quarterback, we figured now would be as good of a time as ever! We surprised the kids with new jerseys when we got out of Sunday School and told them we were going to the game. Excitement was so huge that Boo actually cried. Cried tears of happiness. It was better than Christmas morning!

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Must Have Cookbooks

While I am always connected to technology, there is nothing better than a cookbook. And I have plenty of them. But, I have my favorites. The ones I can count on when I don’t want to “try” too hard or just need some comfort food. The cookbooks with generations of family favorites.

Schleef Family Favorites Cookbook

But, besides my family’s many recipes, I have some store bought favorites as well. Here are some of my most recent favorites for those quick and easy, always good recipes for the busy weeknight.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl


Joy of Cooking: 75th Anniversary Edition

 
The Harvest Table” Cookbook from Gooseberry Patch

The Harvest Table

The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook Collection

Big Book of Home Cooking: Favorite Family Recipes, Tips & Ideas for Delicious Comforting Food at its Best

Best Loved Recipes

Now, sometimes you want to be Julia Child. You do. You just want to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Just like Julia. So, you must have some French cookbooks.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set)

The French Laundry Cookbook


And, then there is dessert. I mean, baking. I hate the preciseness of baking. I am more of this looks good type of girl. So, my suggestions for baking are very very broad contrasts from each other.

101 Things to Do With a Cake Mix

Baking: From My Home to Yours

Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

The Pie and Pastry Bible

Do you have a favorite, go-to cookbook? Share your favorite so I can add to my collection!

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Honey Crisp Apple Sangria with Food and Wine Pairing

Let’s be honest with each other. The holidays can be a great time to spend with your families. Lots of food. Lots of catching up on what’s going on in everyone’s lives. Lots of football. Lots of wine. Seriously, how do people who don’t drink make it through the holidays with their families without drinking?

Honey Crisp Apple SangriaThere seems to always be a debate about what to drink with the turkey or the ham or the scrambled eggs. What you don’t start drinking at breakfast? Now, my personal rule is drink what you like and forget all the rules. I am just not crazy about any white wine or sweet wine or pink wine or fruit other than grape wine. I like my wine red, dry and full of body.

Pitcher of Honey Crisp Apple SangriaThere is one exception. It involves unoaked chardonnay, honey crisp apples, honey, a little citrus and some peach schnapps.

Honey Crisp Apple Sangria Ingredients

Start with your chardonnay. Unoaked. You can buy it at WalMart, so it doesn’t have to be fancy pants. Pour it into a large pitcher or bowl.

Unoaked Chardonnay pourThen start quartering an, a lemon and a lime. Then squeeze the juice into the wine while also adding the quartered piece to the wine as well.

quartered oranges for sangriaOnce you get all the citrus into the wine, get your sweetness ready. You will need 1/2 cup of peach schnapps and 1/4 cup of honey.

Peach Schnapps and HoneyPour it right into the wine and fruit. Finish the mixture off with two peeled and sliced or chopped Honey Crisp Apples and two cinnamon sticks. And then let it rest in the fridge for at least four hours.

honey crisp apple sangria concentrateWhen you are ready to serve your wine, strain all the fruit out of the wine. Then add the apples back into the wine. Pour the wine into glasses leaving room for a splash of ginger ale. And enjoy your turkey!

Honey Crisp Apple Sangria

Honey Crisp Apple Sangria

Honey Crisp Apple Sangria

A crisp sangria that is perfect in the fall.

Ingredients

  • one 750-milliliter bottle unoaked chardonnay
  • ½ cup peach Schnapps
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 2 honey crisp apples, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Ginger Ale

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl or pitcher, combine wine, schnapps, honey, orange, lemon, lime, apple, and cinnamon sticks. Stir to combine and refrigerate for at least four hours.
  2. Strain fruit out of wine. Add apples back to wine. Pour wine into glasses, leaving room for a splash of ginger ale in every glass. Garnish glass rims with cinnamon and sugar if you want to fancy it up a little.
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But, just in case you don’t want to make the only white wine drink I will consume, checkout this chart for helping you choose the right wine for any occasion.

Wine and Food Pairing Chart

If you are really interested in learning more about food and wine pairings, check out What to Drink with What You Eat. Would be a perfect gift for the wine lover on your Christmas list as well.

Be sure to check out the other tips and food tidbits as part of the 30 Days on the Prairie Farm Series.

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