The most delicious appetizer. Ever.

I’m a BIG fan of appetizers.  And it’s now Appetizer Season, a.k.a. Football Season!  Looking for something new to try?  I’ve got a great one for you!  I discovered this dish of deliciousness last spring at a Taste of Home Show in Kearney, NE where I was working at a booth for CommonGround Nebraska.  The Nebraska Beef Council was handing out samples and I may, or may not, have made multiple stops at their booth.

So what do I call an appetizer this good?  Supper!   And it’s also called No-Noodle Lasagna Beef Dip.

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And even more good news – it’s a great way to use leftover roast beef!  I’m going to start from the very beginning… first you have to cook roast beef (or buy the packaged fully-cooked… but I guess I’m a little old-fashioned and like to do it the old way). Since we raise beef and have a freezer full of our own beef, our package looks a little different than you buy in the grocery store.  I happened to grab a rump roast, but any cut of roast is good.  I think the proper way is to thaw the meat prior to cooking… but I don’t normally plan that far in advance 🙂 so I just put it in the crock pot frozen, add a glass of water, and sprinkle our favorite meat spices on the top.  Oh – and don’t forget to turn the crock pot ON low.  Yes, I’ve made that mistake!

 

 

IMG_9668Cook on low for about 8 hours.  Then serve for a meal!  Or use it for this recipe if you’re afraid there won’t be any leftovers!IMG_9670

Use your leftovers (or about 1 lb of roast beef, or whatever you have), pull the beef apart so it’s shredded, and add 1 1/2 cups pasta sauce and 1 clove garlic (minced).   Spread 8 oz cream cheese (softened) into a 9 inch pie plate.  I mean really… what’s an appetizer/dip without cream cheese?!?!

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I love using this garlic press… but you can use garlic in about whatever way works for you!  If I don’t have fresh garlic cloves, I just sprinkle some garlic powder or something like that.

Next, the recipe calls for 1/2 cup sliced green onions, which would be fantastic, if I had them.  But I didn’t, so I went without.

Spread the meat mixture over the cream cheese.  Then sprinkle with 2 T parmesan cheese (grated)

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Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  You could probably even do this in the crock pot.

Serve with crackers, toasted bread or chips.  Wait for the fans to cheer… never mind, their mouths will be full… at least until it’s gone!   To my surprise, one of my kids was not a big fan of this… which worked out well for the rest of us.  Let’s just say there was no concern with leftovers!

Find the official recipe here.

 

 

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So much more to say

2 minutes.  For someone passionate about agriculture, that’s not very much time to sum it all up.

I recorded a 2 minute interview with a T.V. station yesterday for a segment geared toward moms.  What a cool experience.  Our topic was family farming.  Simple, yes.  2 minute simple?  Maybe.  But I had so much more to say!!

Like that 96% of the farms in the US are family farms!

That we feed our family from the same grocery stores that most non-farmers shop at!  (Just the regular ‘ole food at the regular ‘ole grocery store).

That I’m a mom, and I care about what I feed my kids too!  And there’s too much pressure out there today to be on some special “diet”… whether that’s weight loss or just the way you eat.  And too much pressure to be a perfect mom.

That I trust our food!  Do I wash my veggies and fruits off?  Yes!   Do I cook my meat to the proper temperature?  Yes!

That farmers are regular people with a passion.  And values.  We care about our land, our livestock, and our families.  Why?  Because the land and livestock are our livelihood, our passion, our heritage, and our legacy.

I guess it’s not really that complicated.  But for some reason, emotional marketing has muddied the water.  And it saddens me that some people believe it, and make food choices and opinions based on wrong information or emotions.

Why don’t they just ask a farmer?  Because we are now 3-5 generations removed from the farm, and there’s no one to ask.  Wrong.  It’s just not as easy as asking while at grandpa’s farm.  But almost!   You can ask here!  Or many other ag websites that connect you to real farmers.

We don’t all raise the same products.  We don’t all farm the same way.  But we know more about what we’re doing than your friend that posted on Facebook or the restaurant marketing department or the talkshow host.

Just because you see big equipment or a lot of grain bins doesn’t mean it’s not a family farm.  It might mean that several members have been able to get along well enough to do business together.

Maybe there’s a farm name with the three letters Inc. behind it… that still doesn’t mean it’s not a family farm.  Many farmers incorporate for business, tax, and liability purposes.

Family farming is alive and well.  And we love what we’re doing… feeding our family, and yours!

 

Are we there yet?

This time of year, I start to ask my husband questions similar to what kids ask on long (or short) trips.  Although I’m not technically asking “are we there yet?!”, I’m usually asking a similar question to gauge a different destination: harvest.

You see, this time of year is typically (although nothing is typical when it comes to a farming year) a small window of time for switching gears from summer to fall farm activities.   I learned of this small window while planning our wedding several years ago – late August usually has about 1 week when time might be open.   So I chose that window for our wedding date, instead of winter, the other window of time.   It’s a good thing we didn’t have a crop year then like we have had this year or I would’ve had a very preoccupied groom.

So why the window of time?  We farm irrigated land, and usually by this time of year, the irrigation is complete, and there’s a week or 2 before corn is cut for silage and the push to prepare for harvest begins.    This year, the crop was late getting planted, and due to unusually cool weather in August (until now) the corn is a little behind.   And so I ask… “so when do you think you’ll be done irrigating?” and  “when do you think harvest will start… just a ballpark timeframe?”

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So what difference does it make?  Probably not a big difference, but I like to know for several reasons… 1. So I can semi-intelligently answer someone who asks me, so that I sound like I know what’s going on.   2.  So I can mentally prepare for harvest time (it’s an intense time of year for my husband and when I do my best to allow him to focus solely on the task at hand).   3.  So I can know when a good time is to show him the “honey-do” list I’ve been compiling all summer while he’s been irrigating, with hopes that he’ll be able to complete all 85+ items before he goes into harvest mode.  🙂  I do try to narrow that list down to my top 5.

The answers to my questions… in case you’re also wondering… are no – we’re not there yet.  Yes, we’re still irrigating for another week or so.  (Have you picked up on the lack of precise timeframes and time commitments in farming?!)  Yes, harvest will be later than last year (which was an early harvest compared to “normal”) but not real late.  We’ll be chopping corn for silage sometime within the next couple of weeks.   I translate all of that to this – don’t give him the honey-do list now, and in fact there might not be a good time for it this year.  🙂   Well played smart husband, well played.    That’s ok – I don’t think I’d survive a week, let alone a summer doing what he’s doing in 90+ degree humid heat.    The list can wait.    And just like my parents used to tell us in the car, and that we now tell our kids… “we’ll be there when we get there.”

You never know what you might learn!

I love it when God sends people into our lives, unexpectedly, and they make a profound impact on our lives, and even more so when they also positively impact the lives of our children.   Who would’ve thought that horse riding lessons would be an avenue for learning so many life lessons in a reasonably short period of time?  Not me.   I just expected my girls to learn how to ride a horse.  I also hoped that I could learn how to properly saddle and handle a horse.

We learned all that and so much more.

We all learned way more than we imagined about horse care, horse handling, and horse riding.   So what?

Here’s what… my girls learned many important life skills in the process.  And they soaked in because they were being taught by someone they had grown to love and admire after the very first riding lesson.

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So what more can you learn at a riding lesson?

Respect and appreciation for your parents.   The girls were reminded to say thank you (like when I got them a drink of water while riding)… not by me, as usual, but by Paige.   A small example, but when it comes from someone your kids admire, it goes a long way!

When you’re around horses, you’re gonna step in horse manure.  Get over it.  There was no prissiness about being around the horses… and I like that.   My youngest daughter was a little grossed out while rinsing her horse… but Paige didn’t let her get away with being girly about it.  🙂

Don’t freak out.  Stay in control.  Face your fears.  Get back on and ride.   We had an instance where one of the horses got spooked and took off with my 4 year old.   Thankfully she got him stopped, and thankfully Paige was there to coach her because I felt helpless and terrified watching her ride across the field.   We both faced our fears… I made her get back on and ride, and she did.   I was ready to sell the horses but we would’ve already missed out on so much if I had given into my fears.  And so would she.

You have to work hard to get where you want to go.   The girls are so blessed to have found a mentor that has so much drive and determination for getting what she wants.   Not only with her horses but in life.

Never stop learning and trying new things!  You never know what wonderful people God will put in your path and bless you with.

Thank you Paige for the difference you’ve made in our lives!  We’ve learned so much from you – about horses, about riding, and about life.

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I Scream, You Scream…

We all SCREAM for ICE CREAM!

Where’s your favorite ice cream shop?   So many great ones to choose from!!  Of course there’s the yummy national chain stores like DQ and Cold Stone Creamery… but how about the local Daisy Queen, Dairy Treat, or other version of a similar name?   One of our favorites is near Pioneers Park outside of Lincoln, NE.   I don’t know what makes it so good, but it is.  Although I’m not sure I’ve met an ice cream shop I didn’t like!

A refreshing treat at one of our favorite ice cream shops after playing hard at the park!

A refreshing treat at one of our favorite ice cream shops after playing hard at the park!

This is one of those walk-up-to-the-window kind of ice cream shops.  And although they only offer 2 choices of flavor of ice cream, they offer about anything you can think of to pour on top of it or mix into it!

Anyone else ready to go have a dish?!   Just writing about it makes my mouth water!

We’ve also become big fans of smoothies at our house!    It’s much easier than trying to whip up a batch of homemade ice cream, and is a great healthy breakfast or snack.  You can also use about any combination of fruit you have available in your refrigerator.   One ingredient I’ve found to be yummy, and a great addition to the nutritious side of the smoothie is plain yogurt.

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Some smoothie making tricks:

1.  Use some or all frozen fruit

2.  If your blender stalls out (won’t blend) that means your mix is too thick – add more liquid (milk or juice).

3.  Freeze your fruit in snack size bags to have a nice portion to add.   I like to freeze bananas, pineapple, and mango.  I also use purchased strawberries and blueberries.

4.  A little (1 tsp) of vanilla is another ingredient to add

Berry Smoothies:

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 cup frozen strawberries

1 cup plain yogurt

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup milk

** Check consistency (because I don’t usually measure, just estimate and dump it in, then adjust accordingly by adding more liquid or more frozen ingredients).

Some great healthy smoothie recipes can be found at http://www.heavenlyhomemakers.com (that’s where I got the idea of putting plain yogurt in smoothies).  She’s a big fan of BUTTER, just like me!   But not in smoothies.  Hmmm… guess I haven’t tried that.

Happy Dairy Month!

A one track mind

Yep, my husband has a one track mind.   Not necessarily the one track that most men are accused of however.

It’s May 6, a time of year when we’re usually on the down hill slide of planting.   Not this year.  We’re still working out the kinks for getting started planting.    But we’re not going to complain about the moisture.  (Although I did happen to complain about the moisture that came in the form of snow last week!)

So what’s that got to do with a “one track mind?”

Let me give you an example.  Yesterday, as we were on our way home from church, our 3 kids were all making loud & crazy noises of some sort, hollaring for our attention… I was mentioning something to my husband about something cool I saw in the Target ad :)… and when I looked at my husband, he was looking out the window, all around us, with a contemplative look on his face.  His phone was ringing with phone calls and texts.  I quickly realized he was in the zone.  The farming zone.

He was formulating a plan for the day.  A couple of farmers were already in the fields that appeared to be too wet earlier in the day. (If you didn’t know, seeing someone in the field when they’re not will send most farmers into a frenzy).  His farming partners and other friends were talking/texting back and forth about their thoughts on the field conditions and if it would work to get in the field.  He was in the zone.

I’ve finally learned that when he’s in the “zone” to just let him be.  No use in getting annoyed or upset.   I knew in my mind that as soon as we got home, he was going to change his clothes and head out, and that’s exactly what he did.   And that’s exactly what he should do.  Farming is our livelihood, and our life.   You have to take advantage of the timing when it presents itself… weather is one of the biggest risks we deal with.

I’m still amazed how he can focus so intently on farming.  I’m so thankful he can.   I just have to remind myself of that from time to time!  🙂

This morning he’s planting corn, he’s in the zone, and life is good!

 

Go to the source!

What is the best way to learn about something?  From a book?  Sometimes.  From a movie?  Maybe.  From a show on t.v.?  Maybe.  On the internet?  Possibly.  We are fortunate to have many resources at our disposal for learning about whatever topic we might have interest in.

What if you want to learn more about food?   Yes, there are also many resources out there for learning about food.  The BEST resource, for learning about where your food comes from, is not a book, not a movie or t.v. show, or the internet… but by going to the source… a REAL FARM!   Although we don’t have posted hours that we’re “open”… most farms would (and should) be open to having you visit.  Who knew, right?!    So simple that it may not have even crossed your mind!

So how do you find a farm and how do you visit?  You might start with the internet – then you can search by location and by what type of farm or ranch they have.  For example, if you want to know more about how the beef is raised that is used in your hamburgers – look for a ranch (where the calves are born and raised) and/or a feed yard (where the animals are fattened).   Granted, not all types of farms are available in every location, but you can still learn a lot by visiting what is available near you.   Don’t just take someone else’s word for it – learn for yourself and make your own decisions!

I grew up on a dairy farm, but farming practices can change over the years, so I have learned a lot about milk and how the cows are fed and cared for by visiting a local dairy.  In fact, they are a progressive business and they put on a community event in which they open their farm to the community for tours, games and activities for the kids, and ice cream!   What a great concept!  Especially the ice cream!  🙂P1040602

If you aren’t able to visit a real farm, or not sure how to go about it, you can at least start by getting to know a real farmer.  There are several organizations for connecting farmers with consumers – one that I’m involved with is called CommonGround (www.findourcommonground.com).  I recommend looking at websites and blogs to find someone to connect with and to ask them questions about what they do (let me know if you’d like me to help connect you to someone!).  You might be surprised about what you learn about your food – we’re real people, feeding our families, and feeding you!

“We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them.”  – Dave Ramsey

Don’t Fear Your Food!