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!

Affiliate links were used in this post.

My food tribute to Leontien

I know a lot of you have followed along with Leontien’s blog. I guess a day doesn’t go by that quite a few of us farmwives and friends pause to pray for her. Think of her. Text her. Smile about the gift she has been to us. I know sometimes we have all felt helpless on how to help ease her pain, both physical and emotional.


But, as I moved a few weeks ago, a friend was helping me pack up food in my pantry. She came across a box of dark chocolate sprinkles. Seems pretty simple. But they froze me in place. I felt a lump develop in the back of my throat. Sort of like the one I have right now. It was a box of the sprinkles from that February day we drug Ms. Leontien with us to meet The Pioneer Woman. We also took her to Jungle Jim’s. And there she found her sprinkles. And ketchup. And cookies. All from home. All from The Netherlands.

There is something about food that triggers comfort. Whether it is a smell or a taste, it is crazy how food can take us back to days when we were young. And that day, as Leontien picked up a bottle of her favorite ketchup, which is actually German, we all saw that memory on her face. It was as if she was back home again.
As we all continued to walk up and down the aisles of Jungle Jim’s, she pointed out other foods she loved. Then she nonchalantly walked by what seemed like thousands of bars of chocolate and pointed to the top row where two types of chocolate sat. She looked at us and said, “This is the best chocolate.” It was as if she had let the hounds out to go hunting. We attacked that chocolate. It was as if she was the global chocolate czar. We were her minions. I am sure the checkout workers thought we were crazy.
Now, when someone makes a trip to Jungle Jim’s, I beg them to pick up a few bars for me. I smile as I savor the chocolate. I smile not because the chocolate truly is the best I have had, but I smile because God blessed us by letting us have Leontien for a while on earth.

Bastiaan and Leontien

Girl, you are such a blessing. You have given so much more than we have been able to give to you. We cherish what we have learned from you. We bask in the rays of your light you give this world. We are all better people because of you. Love you, Sweetie.


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
A crisp sangria that is perfect in the fall.
  • 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
  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.

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.

30 days on the prairie farmAffiliate links were used in this post.

Tips for Buying Meat on a Budget

It seems like Meatless Monday isn’t a fad. Yet, I can’t seem to convince my family that no meat all day long is a good idea. Maybe it is because we have two full freezers of meat that was raised by our family. Maybe it is because we enjoy B-12. If you are like me and not totally convinced going meatless is reducing anything, except maybe your budget, here are some tips for reducing your meat budget.

Meatless Monday

1. Buy in bulk

Whether it is at Sam’s club or from a farmer directly, buying in bulk reduces your cost per pound. I can buy pork shoulder in 20 pound whole pieces for $1.77 a pound at Sam’s. I paid my brother $2.75 per pound for a half of a beef. Either way, it is cheaper than buying beef or pork in smaller sizes. Beef is more expensive because it comes down to numbers.





These are the average feed efficiencies. What does that mean? The pounds of feed an animal has to eat to gain one pound of weight. So, these numbers are in order of most efficient to least efficient, of fish, chickens, pigs, and beef cattle. Yes, fish will gain a pound for every pound of feed they eat. Chickens will convert half of the feed they eat into body weight gain. And, cattle eat a lot to get one pound of weight gain. It cost more to get one pound of beef than pork or chicken or even fish.

2. Cut and grind at home

If you are buying all of your meat at the grocery store, it will be cheaper to buy it all in whole pieces of meat. Buy whole pork loins and slice them at home to make pork chops. Buy a beef chuck roast and grind it at home to reduce the cost of ground beef. Whole chickens are cheaper per pound than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The store adds cost to the per pound price the more they handle the meat to cut it, remove bones or grind it up. You can do it at home to save money.

3. Go Lean

While it may look like an 80/20 ground beef is cheaper on the label, 20% of the beef will be poured out when you cook the meat. The 20% is just fat. This is why your hamburgers shrink or you have so much grease in your skillet when you brown beef. If you don’t want to through away 20% of the fat, buy leaner meat products.

4. Buy quick sales

I have noticed that most grocery stores have meat that is expiring the day we are shopping. They will have this meat marked down at great prices. This meat is still perfectly safe to buy and freeze at home. Don’t be afraid to pick up a cut of meat you haven’t tried before either if the price is right.

5. Buy out of season

Have you noticed that you don’t eat as many post roasts in the heat of summer? Or that you don’t grill as many steaks or brats in the dead of winter? Many times, there may be a large supply of “out of season” meat so grocery stores will be encouraged to run sales on these cuts of meat. Buy them up and freeze them for later or eat them for a change up! I have noticed chicken wings get mighty expensive the closer we get to the super bowl. I always buy them six months out and freeze them!

6. Know your labels

It seems that the marketing world has filled our food packages with lots of labels. But what do they all mean? Educate yourself. Labels like all-natural or hormone free are bogus labels that are not regulated and have false meaning. All meat has hormones in it. Meat comes from animals. Animals, just like you and me, have hormones that naturally occur in it. It has been illegal to feed hormones to chicken and turkeys for over 50 years. So, all poultry is free of artificial hormones. All meat chickens and turkeys are also raised in cage free environments. All of them. So, if a commercial or label says chicken meat is cage free, it isn’t anything special.

Additionally, all meat, eggs, and dairy is antibiotic free. Animals that have been treated with antibiotics have strict withdraw periods and processing facilities follow guidelines and rules that are enforced by the FDA and USDA to guarantee the products do not have any antibiotics in it. So, once again an antibiotic free label is meaningless. All of the products are antibiotic free. Now, if you want to have meat, eggs or dairy that came from an animal that was never given medicine, you may just want to stick with certified organic. However, this will cost you, since organic farms can’t treat sick animals with medicine.

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

30 days on the prairie farm

5 Gifts for the Foodie {or food, wine & coffee addict}

I am not a fancy cook. I just like food. A lot. I like good food with good wine. And let’s be honest, I am a coffee junky. I could live a long time without a lot of things, but coffee is not one of those things. While, I am not counting on getting any of these items, I have a short list of gifts I would recommend to any husband looking for ideas for their wife.

1. Crock-Pot 6-Quart Programmable Cook & Carry Oval Slow Cooker

Every busy mom must have a programmable crock pot. What I love about this one, it also can be transported without a big mess. If you don’t have one and are crock pot lover, get one now.

2. Cuisinart Brew Central 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker, Black/Brushed Metal
Every coffee junky has to leave their college coffee pot in the past at some point. I wrestled this coffee pot when I visited my friend, Katie in North Dakota. It did make some great coffee. Now, I have coffee pot envy.

3.Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven, Cherry

I have wanted this, well, I don’t know how long I have wanted this, but I drool over these cast-iron puppies every time I see them on display. Their color names are even enticing: Flame, Caribbean, Marseille, Cherry, Dune, Fennel, Cassis, Dijon. I want one. Pretty, pretty please with a CHERRY on top!

4. Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler

This thing is just cool. From burgers like it shows to panini sandwiches to eggs and bacon, the griddle is the answer to a woman’s winter blues. When the outside grill is buried in snow, this would be a great pinch hitter.

5. Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator

I have a confession. I have this already. I have been known to carry it with me. I have no patience to wait on a decanter. This is a must for the red wine lover.

foodie christmas gift ideas

Do you have any other gift ideas for the busy foodie?

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

30 days on the prairie farm

Affiliate links were used in this post.

Are we fat, uppity Americans?

Let me be frank, we are fat, happy Americans. We bicker about what is the “right” way to raise everything from pigs to tomatoes. We pay more attention to the label on our food than the empty shelves at the local food pantry. And we don’t just use our dollars to express what we think we push for more and more regulation on what food we deem not trendy enough for our liking in the name of fear. Yet, we are in the minority, dictating what those in the majority will all be impacted by in the long run.

If you have food in your fridgeYeah, that describes me. I am feeling pretty blessed right now. We could dive into why 3 billion people  who can’t read is unacceptable. Or we could go on and on about the fact that a million people dying each week from illness is inexcusable. But, I want to talk about hunger. So, think about it, 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night. Three Americas. A little less than all of China. Double that number and now you have all the malnourished. Do you think the 2 billion malnourished are a large portion of the 3 billion people who can’t read? Do you think they could be connected?

How to feed the future
Even though this infographic doesn’t come right out and say it, the breakthroughs are GMOs. Genetically Modified Organisms. Yeah, those. Those things that some folks are worried could potentially be bad for us to eat. I am not a scientist. I don’t understand all the science. Yet, I think technology is a good thing in other areas of my life. So, why wouldn’t I want to have food utilizing biotechnology to make food even more beneficial? Especially to those who have food shortages.

Think about eating just rice for every meal for weeks on end. Nothing else. I am pretty sure besides being bored to death of the food, I would also start having other issues. And my kids, who knows what impact that would have on their growth and development. Now, imagine having a rice seed available that has nutrients that occur in the plant naturally thanks to biotechnology. Thanks to it being a genetically modified organism.

Vitamin A deficiencyDr. Alfred Sommer
Professor and Dean Emeritus
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

And that is golden rice. If you were a mother in Asia or Africa who had one of the 2 million malnourished children in the world, would you want access to this rice? Would you be worried about long term effects of the GMO on your child who was malnourished?

Before you jump all over me, I am not saying you shouldn’t be able to avoid GMO foods. Eat what you want. I am just asking should you force an end to GMO foods, thus ending research and development for new GMO crops that could help nourish and feed the world? After all, some of the smartest people in the tech world are thinking it is important to invest in biotech to feed the growing world.

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

30 days on the prairie farm

Hunk of Meat Monday: Philly Cheese Sloppy Joes

Holy price of meat, Batman! I buy the majority of meat directly from the farmer. All of my beef comes from my brother, and the pork in the freezer is from my one of the show pigs. But every now and then I will just glance in the meat case at the grocery store. Was I surprised to see the price of ground beef. Wowsers.

This is so shocking because, when I buy a half a beef from my brother, it is around 350-400 pounds of meat. We get steaks and roasts and stew meat and ground beef. A lot of ground beef. About 1/4-1/3 of all the meat is ground up. And, since I talk to the person butchering the animal, it is very lean meat. And what does this very tasty, packaged the way I want beef cost me? Around $2.75-$3.50 a pound depending on what the cattle price currently is when I buy the animal. That’s right $2.75. And what did the 80% beef 20% ground beef you just bought at the grocery cost you? Over $4? Most likely. After all, we have the shortest cattle inventory on record in the recent past. Combine that with the long growth time, you have expensive, sought after beef.

But if you are like me, you have to have your beef still. And I have a lot of ground beef. Which is why I love making new things to use ground beef. This week, I am sharing my latest creation, Philly cheese sloppy joes.

Philly Cheese Sloppy JoesThe one thing to note about buying beef in bulk to get a better price, is that it is frozen. So, when I go to make supper, I have frozen pound packages of ground beef.

frozen ground beef in skilletI put the frozen hamburger in the skillet and poured 1-2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce. Add one cup of beef broth to help the beef brown without scorching.

Pouring Beef BrothOnce, part of the ground beef started to brown, add diced red peppers.

Diced Peppers in Browning BeefContinue browning the beef, once the beef is almost completely browned, add diced onion and garlic.

browned beef with onions and garlicAnd now it is time to add some herbs. I recently bought my first order of Penzey’s Spices. One of the recommendations from my friend over on Pinke Post was to order a large bag of Pasta Sprinkle.

Penzey's Pasta SprinkleI tossed a small handful into the beef. Continue to sauté until all the liquids are evaporated. Then the fun begins. Add butter please. I make a well in the middle of the pan and put the butter there to melt.

melting butter in beefOnce the butter is melted, add the flour on top of the butter and stir to combine with all of the beef and veggies.

Flour for rouxAdd milk once the flour and butter are combined. Stir the milk into the beef to form a thick sauce mixture.

Beef roux mixtureNow for the cheese. Shredded, glorious cheese. Use provolone or Monterey Jack or Mozzarella. Use white cheese. Get it?

Shredded Cheese for Philly CheeseStir together to combine and all the cheese is melted. Then dive into the tasty sloppy joe a top a hamburger bun.

Philly Cheese Sloppy Joe

This is one was a great way to get your favorite flavors of Philly Cheesesteaks, sans the steak cost. Hope your family loves it too.

Philly Cheese Sloppy Joes
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1`cup beef broth
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Italian Herbs
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded provolone cheese
  1. Place ground beef in skillet, pour Worcestershire sauce and broth over beef, and sauté over medium heat.
  2. When half the beef is browned, add peppers. Continue to cook over medium heat.
  3. Once all the beef is browned, add onions and garlic. Cook till liquid evaporates. Add ¼ cup Italian herbs, optional.
  4. Form a well in the middle of the pan with beef, add butter. Melt completely and add flour. Stir both completely into beef.
  5. Pour milk into skillet slowly, letting sauce thicken as it is added. Once a thick roux is formed in the beef, add cheese.
  6. Stir till cheese is completely melted and serve on a bun.

Can’t wait to see what you have cooking this week. Link on up your favorite recipes!

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

30 days on the prairie farm

Day 7- Grilling the Perfect Steak

If you are going to spend the money on good steaks you want to make sure you have done everything in your favor. Here are a few tips to help you.

Pick the right steak

The meat counter can be filled with an over whelming amount of beef cuts laid out on the beef.

meat counterBut, when it comes to wanting to grill steak, don’t just be a price shopper. Lately, I have noticed a lot more recipes for flank steaks or skirt steaks. These steaks are not the best choices. These cuts come from the outer parts of the animal’s body. The best cuts of meat come from the middle part of the cow’s body. Look for ribeyes, New York strips, T-bones, or porterhouses. Bone-in steaks often times also have better flavors as the bone helps add flavor during grilling.

USDA Choice Beef Grade

The other thing to look for is the grade of steak. The grade is based on the amount of fat on the steak. There are four quality grades, the most desired is prime, followed by choice, then select, and least desired is standard. You may have noticed advertising or signs that will say select ribeyes or choice ribeyes on sale. Their is a ranking system for beef grades. The more fat, the more flavor. You especially want to see flecks of fat in the muscle of the meat, not just the outside. My recommendation is to only by Choice steaks. Even if select graded steaks are cheaper, you won’t regret the extra flavor and juiciness in a choice steak.

Thickness is also important, if you like your steaks with no pink in the middle, thinner steaks, less than 1 inch thick will be fine. If you like your steaks medium-rare, pick a thicker steak that is over 1 inch.

Prepping the steak for the grill.

If you have an inch thick steak, you want to pull your steak out of the fridge an hour before it hits the grill. If it is 3/4 inch, then 45 minutes. If it is 1 1/4 inch then an hour and 15 minutes before grill time. Make sense? If you ended up getting a choice steak, there is no need to marinade to add flavor or tenderness. If you bought a select steak, then you may want to use a marinade to add flavor as well as tenderize the steak. So, if you just have choice steak, you just need to season it.

Montreal Steak SeasoningMy favorite seasoning is Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormicks. Plain salt and pepper would be just fine as well.

Grill Time

High heat on the grill is key. You need the grill to be hot when you put the steak on it to sear the steak, allowing it to lock in the juices and char the steak. A little flame isn’t bad either. Just make sure you don’t have huge flames. Don’t get flip happy either. You really want to just flip the steak once. Period.

steak griling

How to tell when your steak is done?

Sure, you can just temp your steak when you are grilling it, but then you have to puncture the steak and watch juice run out. Instead, you can just do the palm test. That’s right, you can tell doneness of steak based on what it feel like. Here is what you need to do. Began by having your hand open relaxing your fingers. Press on the inside of your hand below the thumb. This should feel similar to your raw steak. Start your baseline here. Then, decide on the doneness you like for your steak and touch the corresponding finger to your thumb based on the descriptions below. But, basically the closer the finger to your thumb, the more rare your steak.

How to tell steak temperature palm test

Let it Rest

As tempting as it is to cut right into the steak as soon as it is pulled off the grill, let it rest. Resting it for several minutes allows all the juices to redistribute throughout the steak. If you cut right into it, the juices will just run all over your plate. The steak could continue to cook after it is pulled off the grill, so to avoid it from being over cooked, set it on a wrack so air can cool it from all sides.

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

30 days on the prairie farm


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