Monday, December 29, 2014

A Look Back at the Year

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season with your friends and family! We enjoyed Christmas Day at my parents. This year we were lucky to have my sister and her family join us. Since they live in Canada, this is the first year in many that we have all been together for any holidays.

It's been such a busy year for us on the farm. I do take picture after picture, to track all the progress we have made since becoming homeowners. One quiet day I decided to try and put them all together into a fun movie to share!

Hope you enjoy a little peak into what has gone on for us this year!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Icebox Cookies

A couple years ago a friend and I started getting together to do some holiday baking together. We usually crank out several recipes after work, and divide them up. We have used my recipes, and hers, so it is also a great way to try some new recipes. The first year we did this get together, I fell in love with her Ice Box Cookies. It is an old fashioned, simple recipe, and I love it. 

Just plan ahead a bit as you have to let the dough chill over night.

Icebox Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
8 oz dates, finely chopped**

In large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well.  In small bowl, combine baking soda, salt and flour. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, mixing well.  Add walnuts and dates, mix until evenly distributed through dough.

Line 9x5 pan with plastic wrap. Press cookie dough into lined pan. Smooth top of dough until level. Cover with additional plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Refrigerate at least 8 hours, but no more than 24.

When ready to bake cookies preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove dough from pan. With serrated knife, cut dough crosswise into 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick slices**. Then, cut each slice crosswise into 3 cookies. Place cookies, on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

Store in airtight container. 


**To help chop the dates, sprinkle with a teaspoon of flour. That will keep them from sticking to your knife.

**If the dough gets to warm, it won't slice properly. Put it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes to get it chilled.

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Rotary Lights

One of the closest cities to me in Wisconsin has a wonderful tradition that has been going on for twenty years. Their beautiful Riverside Park, on the Mississippi River, is transformed into a winter wonderland of lights. 

The Rotary Lights is a fundraiser to "Feed the Hungry"

There are more than 3 millions lights on in this park!

You never know what you will find in the lights.
Maybe even a spaceship!

I love the snowman. He is one of my favorites, year after year.

The prettiest fireplace I have seen all season!

If you are ever in my neck of the woods, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, 
you should visit the Rotary Lights!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

French Silk Pie

If someone asks me for something, I generally try to accommodate them and help out as needed. When someone asks for food, I got it! Any reason to bake or cook more than for the two of us, and I am all over it! When lining up our Thanksgiving menu, and my dad said that 2 pies weren't enough, he wanted three, I just asked what kind he wanted. He wouldn't give me any input on flavors, and I already had pumpkin and pecan on the list. Chocolate, gotta have some chocolate.

Once again, I turned to one of my amazing blogger friends for a recipe. Michaela, from An Affair from the Heart, had just shared her French Silk Pie and it sounded so good. French Silk Pie was always my go to dessert at a pie joint in the Twin Cities. I have certain standards when it comes to French Silk Pie, and I was always disappointed at holidays, back in the day, when the pie's came from the wrong place (Yes... I used to buy my pies instead of baking them!  Don't tell...) So, whether to try a new recipe for a holiday meal was a big leap for me, but I went for it.

I really didn't over indulge on Thanksgiving until it came to this pie.  This pie is so amazingly decadent.  The chocolate was perfect and silky in every bite. And you know what else about this pie? It's easy to make! Your mixer does all the work for you!

Yes... this recipe uses raw eggs. I eat enough raw eggs in other things (like cookie dough) that it doesn't worry me. If you aren't ok with it, you can always use pasteurized eggs.

Note... If you are making this pie ahead of time and transporting, do NOT, I repeat... do NOT forget to take the chocolate curls you made for garnish!

French Silk Pie  (Source: An Affair from the Heart)

1 9 inch pie crust, baked and cooled
3 ounces unsweeted chocolate, melted and cooled (be very sure chocolate is not warm!)
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
Whipped cream
Chocolate curls for garnish (optional)

Following directions on package, melt unsweetened chocolate, and set aside to cool.  Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add cooled chocolate and vanilla, mixing well. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 5 minutes after each addition. Set that timer! After 15 minutes, your filling is done. Pour into cooled pie shell, and let chill overnight.

Top with whipped cream and chocolate curls.


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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mounds Bars

It's time to Fill the Cookie Jar! The theme for December is Christmas/Hanukah. When it came time to bake for this month, I immediately thought of the bars my friend Terra, over at Cafe Terra, had shared a while ago on facebook. These bars were a family recipe that Terra's mom has been making for years. I knew that her bars were going to be in my holiday baking line up, so what better time to try them out?! 

Do to the fact that I live a bazillion miles from the grocery store, I have to improvise one ingredient with what I had on hand. Terra's original recipe used Hershey bars, and I didn't have any and wasn't about to drive back to town for candy bars, so I tweaked her chocolate layer a bit to be just chocolate chips.

These bars immediately got Truckin' Man's seal of approval! Even though we were testing them before they were completely set, and had to use forks! The perfect balance in each layer. I really need to bake with coconut more than once a year!

If you are interested in joining Fill The Cookie Jar group on facebook, fill out the form that can be found at Fill The Cookie Jar. Each month we bake a different theme for the cookie.
We bake, we share and we enjoy our cookies!

Mounds Bars (Source: Cafe Terra)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and melted butter. Mix until completely combined. Press evenly into 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.

While crust is cooling, mix together coconut and sweetened condensed milk. Stir well. Pour over cooled crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool.

When cooled slightly, melt chocolate chips following directions on package. Spread melted chocolate over top coconut layer. 

Let cool and set for a couple hours. Cut into squares. Store in airtight container.


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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Still a bit of November Weather

Last weekend we had a bit of a thaw.  The temperatures rose, and the snow melted. 
It was really nice to take a walk outside without all my layers. 

I took a stroll out back to check our wood supply. 
Not nearly enough, so Truckin' Man is going to be spending some time cutting this week.

Hazel loves to follow along with me, and always stops to scratch on a slab of wood.

 Then chickens were THRILLED to be out and not have the winds pushing them around.

This young lady is so beautiful. She has an attitude though, and I am NOT allowed to touch her. Someday I will convince her it's ok to be nice to me :)

 This young lady must have been rolling around in the mud?

I found this last bit of color out by the berries. 
A raspberry slipped past me, and will now be a treat for a bird!

Hope you enjoyed today's walk around the farm!  What kind of temperatures do you prefer? 
Hot? Cold? Or like me, somewhere in between?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chocolate Bliss Cake

It's been a long time coming, but we finally bought a new stove last week. We desperately needed one, I just couldn't make up my mind on what features we should have. After looking at tons of stove, at tons of stores, weighing all the options, I finally narrowed it down to "the one". Just had to wait for Truckin' Man to have time to go shopping with me, and make sure he agreed. No debate from him, as long as I was happy, it was all good!

Of course, once it was installed I HAD to bake. So, chocolate cake it was. This cake was so freaking good, I couldn't believe it. Was it really that good, or had it just been that long since we had chocolate cake? Based on what my co-workers had to say, it's really just that good! It is such a moist cake, and the perfect amount of chocolate.

I had to make it twice, just to be sure I loved this as much as I thought I did! Truckin' Man isn't going to be happy about this, but I already have half of the second cake packed up and ready to go to a friends house. We don't need to eat that much cake! Besides that, I need to bake some cookies!

I'll share this frosting with you another time, I need to test it a bit more. Trust me though, it will rock your world!

Chocolate Bliss Cake

1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 Tbsp butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, plus one egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 9 x 13 pan, and dust with flour (or extra cocoa), set aside.  In small saucepan, whisk cocoa into water. Bring to boil over medium heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and set aside.

In large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add white sugar, mix well. Add eggs, salt, and vanilla. Mix until smooth and creamy. Add cooled cocoa mixture, mixing until completely combined.

In small bowl, mix sour cream with milk and baking soda.  Add milk mixture to batter, alternating with the flour. Mix well after each addition.

Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a tooth pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.

Frost or decorate as desired.


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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Road Trip to Peck's Market

The things you learn online, even on facebook, are amazing. Back in October, one of my online friends from the UK, shared some pictures taken at Peck's Farm Market in Spring Green, Wisconsin. That's about an hour away from my house! How did I not know about this place, and what are the odds I would learn about it from my UK friend? Strange, but we now had a weekend roadtrip lined up! 

Truckin' Man has driven by Peck's Farm Market like a bazillion times, but he really didn't think of it as more than a place to pick up vegetables, and a traffic hazard because of all the traffic and accidents he unfortunately see's there.

I LOVED this place. I will be waiting to see if they get all decked out as much for Christmas as they do Halloween! AND... I have since learned that they have two locations! Next trip down maybe we will go to the other market.

I loved the creativity of the different squashes to make these horses!

Aren't the hay bales cute?

Garden of Eaten? Clever! They had so many varieties of squash, I loved this shopping trip!

I have never seen so many varieties of popcorn. We decided on Apple Blossom, it's a new favorite!

Biggest pumpkin I have ever seen!

 I won't tell you how many years since I have been to a petting zoo, or I will be giving away my old age, but it has been a LONG time! 
It was so much fun seeing all the animals! 

I wanted to bring this little miniature cow home with us!!

 The goats were so clever, they knew how to work their stuff to get as many treats as possible!

I don't know if this ol' gray goose was as ornery as he looked, but I certainly wouldn't try to pet him/her!

Geese everywhere!

I loved the colors on this lil' goat.

So many rabbits!
 Do you see the shape of the pond?

 Look at those eyes!

Guinea's are such a unique bird. Honestly, they scare me a little bit!

I have never been so close to a swan before!

So many pumpkins!

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Pumpkin Bars with Pecan Crunch

 It's time to Fill the Cookie Jar! The theme for November is Thanksgiving.  There was lots of room to come up with idea's on this theme, so it was up to me on how to interpret. Pumpkin is a key Thanksgiving flavor in my opinion.  But when it comes to desserts, pecan is right there, too. So, what about a bar that would bring both of these flavors together? With that, these bars were born.

Just enough pumpkin, but not so much that the pecans are lost. And the crust just completes it all into a Thanksgiving worthy theme!

I am still using my South Carolina Pecans that my friend Missy so amazingly shared from her family's supply.
I smile every time I break into my supply, and hope that some day I have my own pecan tree!

Pumpkin Bars with Pecan Crunch

1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour

Pumpkin Filling
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pecan Topping
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup roughly chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare crust by mixing softened butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add flour and mix until completely incorporated. Press into 8x11 baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes, until just turning golden. Remove from oven, set aside.  **Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Filling: Mix together 1/3 cup flour, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In separate bowl, mix together eggs, brown sugar, pumpkin and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture, stirring until all ingredients are completely combined.  Pour mixture over top of prepared crust.

Topping: In small bowl, combine butter, brown brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir until mixture is somewhat crumbly. Add pecans, stir. Sprinkle mixture over top of pumpkin filling. Bake at 350 degree's for 20 minutes. Bars are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool completely. Cut into bars.


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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Turkey Chili with Roasted Butternut Squash

We love squash. Somehow though, we have never had butternut squash. I think I had it once many years ago and didn't care for it, so I have just stayed away from it. With all the amazing butternut recipes going around online, I knew that I had to give it a fair shot, and try it.

To give it a fair shake, we decided to try it in chili, and it was wonderful! The flavor really reminded us of pumpkin, but it has a slightly firmer texture so can hold up well as an addition in chili.

Turkey Chili with Roasted Butternut Squash

4-5 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (See note below)
1 1/4 pound ground turkey
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 Tbsp plus 2 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced
2 14.5 oz cans Diced Red Gold Tomatoes
2 cups water
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 t. oregano
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In large baking pan, toss squash with one tablespoon of olive oil, and one teaspoon salt. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. When done, set aside.

Meanwhile, heat one teaspoon olive oil in large skillet. Add ground turkey, chopped red and yellow onions, and one teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until turkey is completely cooked. Drain turkey and set aside.  Meanwhile, add one teaspoon oil to skillet. Add peppers to pan, saute until tender. Remove from heat.

In dutch oven, or large pot, add half of the roasted squash, tomatoes, and water. With immersion blender, puree until smooth. Set over medium heat, and add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and 1/2 tsp salt. Add cooked ground turkey, and sauteed peppers.  Let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add black beans, and remaining squash. Let simmer over low heat for another 30 minutes.  Taste to adjust seasoning as needed.

***Note: I cut half  the cubes bigger that were to be pureed, about 1". The other half of the cubes, that would stay whole in the chili, I cut smaller, about 1/2".


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Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Day With the Chickens

I'm back... again!! Once and for all, I have finally found out what it is I am allergic to. Soybeans (no dietary issues) and Asian Beetles. This is why I suffer so badly this time of year. The allergy clinic I am going to does a treatment to develop a resistance to allergens. Hopefully, by this time next year I won't harvesting today, so I should get some relief in air quality soon.

Sooooo... That's where I am at. In the mean time... we did have a good day with clear air, so I wasn't suffering and got to go spend some time with the chickens. They have started laying eggs! Yeay!! It is so exciting bringing in eggs each day.  We are finally getting enough that I will be checking with my former egg customer and see if they are ready for some eggs!

 Our little bantam rooster

 The Buff Orpington hens, are the most gentle and social chicken I have been around yet.

 No eggs from the American yet.
This lady is one of my favorites. Her personality and coloring reminds me so much of my first hens.

  The gang.

 ALWAYS keeping a watchful eye.

 Surprise! After leaving the coop and walking around seeing what all was going on, 
I found a few raspberries waiting to treat me!

Do you like the "filters" on the chicken photo's or do you prefer a more natural light?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Fresh Apple Cake with Honey Glaze

A long time ago, in a far away place... Ok, maybe only 15 or so years ago, and in Minnesota, there was a store I used to shop at called "Dayton's". It was a Minnesota based store, but I don't know how big of a territory they covered. It was a BIG department store, and a nicer one. One of their stores was in downtown St. Paul, and it was connected to the skyway system, so I could go shopping there for a lunch break once in a while. They had the best marketplace. High end chocolates that were so yummy... I would just buy one... just a treat for the walk. Then.... there was this cake mix that they sold. An apple cake mix. Oh how I loved that cake mix. That was back in the day when I relied on mixes, and I bought several each year. Sadly, somewhere in some mergers, acquisitions, and marketing changes, my beloved cake mix went away.

Maybe this was one of the triggers that got me away from mixes. You find one you love, and then it goes away. I have tried so many apple cake recipes over the years, hoping to find a recipe that would make the cake that I knew and loved. Never even close. I tried a lot of good, applicious recipes since then, but I was never happy because they weren't the one.

Then this past weekend happened. We were meeting some friends for a picnic, and I wanted to make a dessert. I had all these great apples from the orchard, so I pulled up a recipe I had pinned a long time ago, and whipped it up with no expectations other than being delicious. Guess what?!?!?! It is darn close to the cake I had been trying to replicate! Everyone loved this cake. It is amazingly moist, a nice crisp layer on top. If you really like that top layer, skip the glaze and just have some whipped topping.

Fresh Apple Cake (Source: Paula Deen)

3 cups diced apples
1 cup pecans, toasted
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 eggs
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a tube pan, set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together apples, pecans, vanilla, and cinnamon; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In large bowl beat sugar, oil, and eggs with electric mixer until completely combined and creamy. Gradually add in dry ingredients, mixing until completely combined. Fold in apple mixture. Fold until apples are evenly distributed through batter. 

Spoon batter into prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow the cake to fully cool in the pan, then turn out onto a plate.

Honey Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp milk

Add all ingredients to bowl, stirring until smooth.  Drizzle over cooled cake

Can be stored in refrigerator up to 5 days. Wrap tightly and store in airtight container.

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