A Cooking Spot: Stuffed Mushrooms

What do farming and running have in common?

What about any form of work and any form exercise? What do they have in common?

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My answer to both is “food!” You need food to fuel everything you do. I usually have great intentions in the kitchen, and I’m also lucky to have a giant deep freeze full of meat, plus assorted frozen and canned veggies, fruits, and sauces. (Most of the produce is thanks to the hard work of my parents and my sister Linda because my garden was almost non-existent this past summer.) Our spice cabinet is always fully stocked, and JR and I rack up what I think is a ridiculous grocery bill for just two people. We love to eat.

Even being blessed with plenty of food, it’s easy to get stuck in a food rut. Combinations are endless, but sometimes I still go into panic mode because “I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO MAKE!”

This anxiety is compounded if we’ve had a late night at the farm. Wondering what to make at 9:00 p.m. when you’re completely ravenous is way worse than 6:45.

We do share cooking duties some, just depending on who gets home first and who’s feeling inspired to make something. I try not to take my husband’s cooking skills for granted, even though they rarely extend to clean-up. :-)

If we plan ahead it’s usually me, and I’m also the one who mostly uses our beloved slow cooker.

The point to all this is I suspect I’m not alone when I stew about what to make! When I do have a good idea or just cook a tasty staple, I’ll try to share it here on the blog. Maybe it will be a dish you want to try, or maybe it will just give you ideas on seasonings or flavors to incorporate in your own meals.

I’m not promising there will be a “Cooking Spot” on a super consistent schedule, but watch for it at least once a month.

With that, I give you a mushroom creation JR and I collaborated on earlier this year. We made a big batch that almost doubled as a meal. You could easily halve this to serve with a regular meal or double it for a larger gathering appetizer. We used venison summer sausage because it was in our fridge, but bacon would also be excellent. Measurements on seasonings are approximate. Use your own taste as your guide!

Stuffed Mushrooms

16 oz. whole mushrooms
1 small sweet onion, diced
1 tube of crackers, crushed
1 cup cubed salami/summer sausage OR cooked and crumbled bacon
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp parsley flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Lots of fresh cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash mushrooms thoroughly. Break stems out of mushrooms, leaving just the caps. Set aside the caps. Chop up stems and put them into a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. If you like you can also add 1 tsp red pepper flakes for some more zip.

Set mushroom caps on a baking sheet greased or lined with aluminum foil. Fill each mushroom cap to heaping with the prepared mixture.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until mushrooms are soft and golden brown. You can turn on broiler for the last few minutes of baking if desired.

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Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Cooking and Foods | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Winners!

Happy spring! I hope the vernal equinox brings you whatever weather you like best.

It’s mellow, cloudy, and brown here today, which suits me just fine. It is perfect cow weather and running weather. I can remember many springs that started with lots of snow!

Thanks to all who entered my Team Chocolate Milk giveaway. I have an old t-shirt that says “Winners drink milk,” and I think you are all winners no matter what. :-)

Only a few people can get the goodies though, and I usually use random.org to help me pick.

The first winner is Ellen, and the second winner is Lisa. Congratulations ladies! The first winner will get the shirt with her prize, and I’ll let the second winner choose which color hat she prefers. You can both watch your email for a message from me soon.

Spring has sprung, and I hope you can all get outside and enjoy your favorite activities.

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Mild March

Greetings on this fair Monday!

I suppose it’s not fair weather everywhere across the country, but here in the heartland it has been a mild few weeks. It seems hardly possible we were enduring 15 below zero during the first days of March because since then it has been sweatshirt weather — with short sleeve weather mixed in. Yesterday we nearly hit 70 degrees.

We didn’t have much snow to melt in the central part of Minnesota so the melt and accompanying mud has disappeared quickly. This is my kind of spring!

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IMG_2062 Boo and Calvin also have spring fever!
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You’d think I would be enjoying outdoor running more than ever, but instead I’m wondering why my body won’t cooperate. I started the year thinking a marathon and maybe even a 50K were in my future, but the past month has been a struggle. My hip flexors are sore, tight, and painful when I run too fast or too far. Then last week, I started having the same throbbing pain in my left shin that plagued me last spring.

Three weeks back I took almost a full week off, and I tentatively ran two miles the first day back. A few days later I went out for an hour easy run on the weekend. I felt better, but I know I’m still not 100%. It’s been up and down since then. I’m keeping my training at 2-3 easy to moderate runs during the week and going as far as I reasonably can on the weekend. I’m also doing some yoga, stretching, and core work throughout the week, which I should make time for everyday. I kept debating and assessing as I ran this past Saturday morning, but ultimately I knew I wanted to see how three hours felt.

The answer was not great. Nineteen miles and change later I had a very angry left leg, but my body and lungs felt in shape for the distance.

I wore my good compression socks in the barn (ug!) on Saturday afternoon to hug my sore shins, and I’ve decided this spring my race schedule will have to be “wait and see.” I’m not ruling anything out just yet, but some days I really wonder why I do this to myself.

The lows are hard, but I also know how glorious the highs are. :-)

On Saturday I journeyed far down the bike trail, and while I was running in short sleeves I saw some brave fisherman still enjoying ice fishing on a smaller slough. The ice near the shore is far too thin to drive over, but you can pack up your gear and walk to a spot to drill your hole. If you’ve never been ice fishing on a beautiful spring day it really is neat. No need for a house and a heater when it’s 45 degrees! The big game fish aren’t in season anymore , but you can still catch tasty smaller fish. JR actually went out last weekend, and we enjoyed sunfish later for supper.

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This weekend also included a quick trip to my parent’s farm for Sunday dinner. We got to see our fast-growing nephew, Adam, who gets cuter every time I see him.

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Wishing you all a great spring week! If you want to win some fun Team Chocolate Milk gear don’t forget to comment on this post by March 18th.

Posted in Boo the bulldog, Calvin, Family Fun, Running | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Spring Into a Fresh Start (A Giveaway!)

Your heart is pounding fast, and you know you’re pushing your body harder than it wants to go. Your legs are straining, burning even, and you look down at your watch. Is it possible you’ve only been running for five minutes? Your mind is focused on one thing — how much you want to slow down and walk. Cool dawn air blows over your sweat-soaked face, and you hope this is worth it.

Some time later…

Your heart is pounding fast, and you know you’re pushing your body closer to being the best it can be. Your legs are straining, burning even, but you embrace the hurt as you climb another hill. Is it possible you’ve already been running for half hour? Your mind is focused on one thing — how grateful you are to be able to take a morning run. Cool dawn air blows over your sweat-soaked face, and you know this is worth it.

Who is this girl so transformed by the run? Is she you? Is she me?

Is she in all of us?
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Running is hard. No matter how long you’ve been doing it, you’ll have days where you feel slow and tired and you downright hurt. The beauty is found over time. You will get stronger and faster if you keep putting in miles.

Whether it’s running, biking, swimming, or any type of individual sport, it offers this payback. You will get out of it what you put into it. It may be a long, winding journey with multiple roadblocks, but any step forward is a step in the right direction.

It doesn’t matter what level you’re at or how long it’s been since you have even thought about working out. TODAY is a great day to set a goal and take a small step toward achieving it. Start with five minutes or twenty. The number isn’t important; it’s all about believing.

Spring has seemingly come early to Minnesota, and the black fields and bright sun have farmers across the state thinking about planting.

I’m thinking about it too, but as a runner I’m also embracing springtime running. My routes are free of ice and snow, and I’m pulling out capris and short sleeves again. My water bottles will no longer freeze when I carry them with or stash them in my mailbox!

Whether you consistently exercise right now or not, this early spring is a great reason to get out and walk, run, or explore in the changing season.

To help you do that, I’m happy to announce a spring giveaway! First, a big thank you to my friends at Team Chocolate Milk

I’ve been a member of the team for several years, and I love being part of their vibrant community of triathletes, runners, cyclists, and even professional athletes.
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As a dairy farmer I especially love that they all believe in refueling with the quality protein and nutrients found in chocolate milk! The team provided items for me to share, and I also threw in a few goodies of my own.

What can you win?

I’m giving away one prize pack each to TWO lucky winners to help jump-start your spring training. Each winner will receive:

-Team Chocolate Milk headsweats wicking hat

-Team Chocolate Milk orange hair ties

-Team Chocolate Milk shoelaces

I’m adding in my favorite chocolate peanut butter gu (because it’s hard to send actual chocolate milk in the mail), and one of the winners will also get a Brooks technical running tee. The shirt is size small, so tell me in the comments if you’re interested in winning the shirt in your prize.

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How do you enter?

Entry 1) Leave a comment on this post telling me how you recover and refuel after a workout. Don’t forget to include if you’d like to win the shirt.

Entry 2) Tweet a link to the giveaway. Either tag me (@DairyCowGal) in the tweet or leave a comment so I know you’ve got a second entry. You can also tag @Chocolate_Milk.

I’ll leave the giveaway open through March 18 and announce the winners by the end of that week. I wish you all the very best in your spring activities, wherever they may take you.

Team Chocolate Milk provided some items for this giveaway, but I received no compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.
Posted in Running | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

What is the “Right” Size?

What is the perfect size for a farm?

I wonder what you think, especially if you aren’t a farmer. Are specific characteristics important, or is it just a matter of stats like number of acres or animals?

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There was a time when society definitely equated progress with expansion, and that usually meant growing a business (such as a farm) by adding on and increasing production. Now, the tide has shifted. People are more curious about where and how their food is produced, and along with that has come distrust by some of the growth of farms. Smaller equals better, right? Or does it?

For my part, I’m happy to see increasing interest in food. We should have knowledge about what we eat, and people should be able to choose what fits their budget, taste, and values. I do, however, take issue with calling any size of farm better, simply because I don’t know what it means.

On today’s farms, a huge variety of sizes can flourish and produce quality food. That’s true no matter how you measure size. Certain geographies lend themselves well to small field plots or a few cattle ranging over hundreds of acres. Other highly fertile soils may support enormous fields and be a needed bread basket for less productive areas.

Our modern world is also set up differently than ever before. Farms were smaller on average in the past because of practicality, and more people also raised their own food. Today not everyone can have their own cow, flock of chickens, or vegetable patch in the backyard. I suspect many wouldn’t even want to if they could! And so farmers must fill the void for growing urban and suburban populations. That means we need the farmer with thousands of fruit trees or thousands of chickens just as much as we need the community vegetable garden and the farmer with twenty beef cows.

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I’ll go back to dairy, because that’s what I know best. I love dairy foods. I believe in their nutritional value, and I think raising domestic livestock is a good thing. I think many others would agree with that statement.

It’s my hope that more people can also come to agree that many farm sizes can be the “right size.” Big does not equal bad any more than small equals good or bad. This is why:

On any farm the strength comes from the people behind it, the beliefs held and carried out, and the way land and animals are cared for. Much the same as a school, a town, or a family can function well at various sizes, so can a farm. The reality might be different than the small red barn you picture, but the basics of feeding and caring well for animals remain constant.

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Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Cows | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments