Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - North Iowa Baconfest

On Sunday, My Farmer and I attended the 1st North Iowa Baconfest at the iconic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.  My favorite bacon samples were the Cookies BBQ Infused Bacon from Fareway Grocery Stores and Webster City Meats and the Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Cupcakes from Grandma Sugar's Cupcakery of Mason City.  We had a great time and look forward to seeing the event get bigger and better for next year!

Enjoying some BACON!
Got Bacon???
My Farmer and I made sure to wear our bacon/pork shirts to the Baconfest

Do you want to learn more about Bacon?  Be sure to check out these other posts on bacon then:

Have you ever been to a "Baconfest" before?  Do you have a favorite bacon treat?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Pork Chop Party! + Pork Chops 4 Ways Infographic

It is very common for our family to cook up pork chops when we have family and friends over.  Pork chops are easy and delicious to prepare.  I enjoy to cook them with a simple rub or marinade.  I love cooking pork and sharing about our hogs at home, and tomorrow I'm excited to share about pork at Jethro's BBQ n' Pork Chop Grill in Johnston as part of the Iowa Food & Family Project's "Join My Journey" program.

Iowa Food & Family Project "Join my Journey" Meet Iowa Girl Eats at Jethro's in Johnston Friday, April 11th

I'll be joining Kristin Porter, Iowa Girl Eats (pictured above) and Nicole Patterson, Farm Girl Facts of Life at the event from 11am to 1pm.  If you are in the Des Moines area you should stop by for lunch, eat some pork and register for prizes!

If you can't come to Johnston tomorrow, or even if you can, I highly recommend you make some pork chops for your family tonight!  Spring is the air, which means that our grill and smoker are fired up on a regular basis.  Enjoy the weather and prepare your pork chops outside, or cook them the traditional ways of oven baked or pan fried.  Anyway you do it, be sure to enjoy this nutritious, lean protein with great company (and maybe a side of baked beans!).  Here is an infographic with cooking basics for pork chops:

Pork Chops Cooked 4 Ways - Grill, Smoke, Oven, Stove Infographic

What is your favorite way to prepare pork chops?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Crazy Family Traditions

For the last 11 years my extended family had decided it was a good idea to jump in my uncle and aunt's farm pond on the Saturday closest to April 1st.  This year LP became the youngest person ever to participate in the April Fools' Pond Plunge with 36 degree water and 45 degree outside temperature!  LP said it was cold and a lot of fun!

The "plungers" getting ready to go in
Costumes have become a growing tradition over the years
The "plungers" calling all of the observers whips
(My Farmer "volunteered" to take photos and hold MP...)
LP and I are going in!
LP & I all warmed up after taking the April Fools' Pond Plunge!
Does your family have any unique or even crazy family traditions?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Comments for a Cause - Prairie Ridge Church Honduras Mission Trip

Happy April 1st everyone - remember to watch out for April Fools' Day pranks today!  No prank here, it is a new month which means it is time to give my Comments for a Cause results from the past month and introduce a new cause.  So, first thing first, in the month of March I had 51 comments, equaling $25.50 to the North Central Iowa Ag in the Classroom program!  I am so happy that I'll be able to make this donation to such a great organization working so hard to increase agriculture awareness and literacy to over 9,000 students in North Iowa annually.

Now, for April's cause!  I am happy to announce that in the month of April I will be donating $0.50 for every comment to help support our friends, Matt & Jantina, on their upcoming mission trip with their church, Prairie Ridge, to Honduras.  Every time I have been on a mission trip I have received so much wholeness, joy and love from the experience and from God.  I think Matt and Jantina are amazing people and parents, and that is why I wanted to support their mission trip with four of their children this summer.  This is what Jantina shared about their mission trip:

In July, most of my family will be traveling to Honduras as part of a short term mission trip.  We will be staying at the Honduras Children's Home and will be serving alongside them for a week doing things like painting, serving meals, loving on children, playing games, Vacation Bible School (VBS) and general outreach.  Honduras is on of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere!  The country is about the size of Tennessee and has around 7.9 million people.  Approximately 64.5% of the people live below the poverty line.

Facts about my family:  Veronica (12), Jon (8), Halleah (7), Matty (6) and Matt and Jantina are going.  Our youngest son, Barak (4), is staying home.  We are full of hopeful anticipation about this trip!

About Honduras Children's Home:  The Children's Home currently houses 15 children, ages 5-17.  They all attend public school, share in the chores around the grounds and participate in daily Bible stories.  The children do their homework and house chores before participating in their favorite activities, playing in the playground or on the soccer field.  They have a number of buildings on the property and God blessed them with their own church building, which was finished in January 2008.  The building is used for worship and fellowship, as a cafeteria for the people who live there, as well as for the popular feeding program.  It also serves as a clinic for our annual medical/dental team visits.  The school building, which doubles as Sunday school classrooms, was completed in 2012 and has an office, six classrooms, girls and boys bathrooms, and a garden for the children to maintain.  Lastly, they have their own water well.  The well system stretches 195 feet underground and has an output of 50 gallons of water per minute.

Asking for financial support is difficult.  As a family we do not believe in any free rides, so we take this trip and our fundraising efforts very seriously.  And yet, God reminds me time and time again, that we are a body.  While we are called to travel and do action, He is preparing the way and calling others to give prayers and financially.  And frankly, to stand in the way of God, because I am prideful and want to take on the risks myself, well, it just seems foolish.

We are humbled and thankful to be featured as the Comments for a Cause for April.  To be chosen among the many great groups and organizations that you highlight is truly an honor.  Thank you.

If you feel led to give toward support of this trip, you can make your checks out to Prairie Ridge Church and mail them to the church with an accompanying note explaining for whom the funds are given and that it is for the July Honduras Trip.  The church address is:  Prairie Ridge Church, Attn: Dan S., 825 NW 36th Street, Ankeny, IA 50023.  Or access our gofundme site.  As of the end of March we have $800 left to raise.

So be sure to Comment for a Cause this month to help this family and their church's mission efforts in  Honduras.  Also, be sure to check out Jantina's blog as she write beautiful, heartfelt posts on parenting, fostering, adoption, her family's faith journey, and life in general!

Have you ever participated in a Mission Trip?  Where did you go?  What feelings did you feel while on the mission and afterwards?

Friday, March 28, 2014

8 Tips To Save Time in the Kitchen + Recipe

A week ago I had the pleasure of having Farm News, a weekly agriculture/rural newspaper publication in Iowa, come into my kitchen and interview me for their Farm Cook series.  It was so much fun having them come in and ask me about my passion for food, family and farming.  I love being a stay-at-home mom and being able to prepare home-cooked meals for my family twice a day and all week long.  Not many people have that opportunity and I'm proud and lucky that I do.

Before they came to our farm they told me that they wanted to ask me about recipes I make being a busy, farm cook and mom.  That prompted me to think about ways I save time in the kitchen and I came up with my top 8 tips (I couldn't narrow it down to just five and couldn't think of ten, so eight it is!):

8 Tips to Save Time in the Kitchen

  1. Menu Planning - On Sundays, I review sales ads and what I have in the freezer and then plan seven days of meals.  Having a plan for the week helps me save time by not guessing what I should make each night for supper - I already have a plan in place!
  2. Grocery List Easily Accessible - After I make my menu for the week, I make my grocery list.  I put the ingredients I need on a magnetic grocery list pad on the side of my refrigerator.  I also add items that I finish and need more of on the list throughout the week.  Having this list on my refrigerator makes it easy to write down my needs for my next grocery run, because I only go to the grocery store once a week, since I live 15 miles from a large grocery store.
  3. Organize Grocery List in Order of Grocery Store Aisles - My Farmer thinks this is crazy but the night before I go on my grocery run I take my grocery list from the refrigerator and organize it in the order of the aisles in the grocery store.  Doing this saves me tons of time in the store!  That way I don't go half-way through the store and realize I forgot something back in aisle one...  This might take me a couple minutes to do before my trip but it saves me even more time, and running around, while in the grocery store.
  4. Don't Grocery Shop During Rush Hours - I realize many people grocery shop after work because it is convenient, but changing to a non-rush time might save you more time than you think.  The busiest times at a grocery store are 5-7 p.m. weekdays and anytime on the weekends.  The slowest times are before 9 a.m. and after 8 p.m.  I personally get my groceries typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m., which is a pretty slow time and nice when I have two kids in tow!  By grocery shopping when I do I'm easily able to access each aisle and usually am able to check-out immediately (every once in awhile I might have to wait for one other shopper in front of me).
  5. Use Frozen Vegetables - Using frozen vegetables is a huge time saver.  The vegetables come peeled, trimmed and are ready to cook, plus they are just as nutritious as fresh!  I always have a nice stock of frozen sweet corn, cauliflower, broccoli and peas in my freezer.  Also, I like to use different mixed vegetable bags in several dishes.
  6. Wash and Prepare Fresh Vegetables & Fruits Right Away - Now, there are certain vegetables and fruits that you just can't find frozen, and I love buying fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season.  So when I do buy fresh vegetables and fruits I wash them, and cut them up if needed, as soon as I bring them home from the grocery store.  Have you ever bought some celery, put it in your refrigerator, and then by the time you got around to actually washing it, it wasn't crisp anymore?  Well, if you would have taken just a little time when you first brought the celery home and washed, cut it up and stored it in a sealed container, you number one, probably would have started eating the celery sooner and number two, it stays crisper, longer, in a sealed container.  This tip in the end saves you time and money!
  7. Organize Kitchen Drawers and Cabinets - Having organized drawers and cabinets in your kitchen will save you time, and frustration, while cooking.  I like to keep utensils I use a lot when cooking on the stove, close to the stove, and a big thing for me is having an organized "Tupperware" cabinet.  All of my lids are organized by size and kept in a small wooden crate inside the cabinet, and my containers are are organized and nested inside of similar styles and sizes.  Also, everyone once in awhile clean out all of your containers and lids and see what containers don't have a matching lid anymore and vice versa, what lids don't have a container anymore and toss!
  8. Have Kids Help (with the dishes...) - I love having my kids in the kitchen with me and having LP in particular, help me cook and bake, but this does not save time.  It is fun! but it usually adds time in the kitchen.  But having LP help me with the dishes does help me save time!  He loves putting dishes in the dishwasher and handing me dirty dishes from the kitchen table, and at the same time he loves putting away clean dishes from the dishwasher and handing me bigger things to put away.
I hope these tips will help you save some time in the kitchen!  Also, I wanted to share one of the recipes I shared as part of my Farm News article with all of you.  This is my twist on my Great Aunt Mary's Shrimp Dip.  This is an easy appetizer to put together, plus it is delicious!  This is definitely a staple for any of our family get togethers - I think it is just expected that I am suppose to bring Shrimp Dip, along with whatever else I am in-charge of ;)

Shrimp Dip Recipe - Easy & Delicious Appetizer

Shrimp Dip

Shrimp Dip Ingredients
1 8-ounce container cream cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 large onion, chopped
8 ounces salad shrimp
Crackers, to serve with dip

Shrimp Dip - cream the cream cheese and mayo

Cream the cream cheese and mayonnaise together.

Shrimp Dip - stir in shrimp, onion and green pepper

Stir in green pepper, onion and shrimp.

Shrimp Dip recipe

Refrigerate at least two hours before serving.  Serve with crackers.

What are some of your tips to help save time in the kitchen?  Or do you have any signature dishes?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Little Free Library Coming to Latimer

Look what arrived at my door the other day:

Little Free Library coming to Latimer, Iowa
Little Free Library
My Little Free Library!  For those that follow my blog's Facebook page, you know I have been working since the beginning of the year to bring a Little Free Library to my local community of Latimer, Iowa.  I've had to do some work to make this possible and after receiving the Little Free Library, it made it all more a reality!

My love for my community and passion for childhood literacy is what drove me to set up a Little Free Library in the community of Latimer.  Reading is really important to me and raising my kids.  My kids and I read every day and always have books around.  The town of Latimer doesn't have a library and I know there are many kids in town that don't have an opportunity to go to a library, especially in the summer.  So I thought bringing a Little Free Library to Latimer would be great for all the youth of the community, and for the adults who love to read too.

So how does it work?  After working with the Latimer City Council, I will now be installing the Little Free Library in Downtown Latimer sometime in the next month or so.  I got approval from the Council to use city property for the Little Free Library at their February meeting.  The Little Free Library will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.  It will be filled with a collection of books for both children and adults.  The Little Free Library works by the "take a book, leave a book" philosophy.  When someone goes to the Library and picks out a book, they are asked to replace it with another book.

The Little Free Library movement began in Wisconsin five years ago and now has nearly 12,000 locations world-wide, over 100 of which are in Iowa.  I first read about Little Free Libraries through the "Parade" insert in our newspaper a few years ago and in the last couple of years I have started seeing them in the communities of a couple of my family members.  After finding out about an opportunity with Post Alpha-Bits cereal where I could apply to receive a Little Free Library and a starter book collection through them, I then put my love and passion together with this opportunity and decided that I should bring a Little Free Library to my local community.

How can you help?  I am still looking for some adult books to help fill the Little Free Library.  If you have any good, gently used books you are willing to share with the Library let me know!  I'd love to add them to our collection.  Also, I am planning on putting together a "ground breaking" party for the Little Free Library after it is installed.  I hope the Little Free Library is a resource for all the Latimer community and that it helps them connect with a neighbor they maybe wouldn't have met otherwise.

I would like to thank Post Alpha-Bits cereal for the Little Free Library and a starter collection of youth books for my Library.  I think what they are doing with the Little Free Library program, the Super Why! television show and other literacy programs is really great.  You can encourage literacy skills in your home too by eating Post Alpha-Bits cereal.  Here is a fun breakfast treat that I make at my home, which isn't only good to eat, but also helps LP recognize his letters:

Trying something fun, easy and different for breakfast - Breakfast Banana Split recipe

Breakfast Banana Split
Breakfast Banana Split ingredients
1 banana
1/2 cup yogurt (vanilla, strawberry, strawberry-banana are all great flavors)
1/4 cup halved grapes
1/4 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup Post Alpha-Bits cereal

Peel and split banana lengthwise.  Place in sundae dish or cereal bowl.  Top with yogurt.  Sprinkle with fruit and cereal.  Makes 1 serving.

Enjoying a Breakfast Banana Split
And enjoy!
Do you have a Little Free Library in your community?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday Norman Borlaug on National Ag Day

When I was in college I had the privilege to intern for one of Iowa's senators in Washington D.C.  My main role was working with the legislative team, but I also helped give Capitol tours when large groups came through the Senator's office.  There are many interesting facts about the US Capitol; one of which is that placed within the Capitol are two statues representing each state.  Each statue is donated by individual states to honor persons notable in their history.  It was always apart of the tour to show both of Iowa's statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection to visitors - Samuel Kirkwood and James Harlan.  Now I have to admit, I really didn't know too much about either Iowa figure before my summer of giving tours.  Both names were familiar, but I wasn't able to tell visitors too much about them until after some research.  Samuel Kirkwood was the governor of Iowa and also a U.S. Senator; his statue was given to the collection in 1913.  James Harlan served in the US Senate and also as US Secretary of the Interior; his statue was given to the collection in 1910.  I tell you all of this why?  Because...

I've very proud to say that today, after a few years of work and dedication, Iowa will replace the statue of James Harlan with one of Dr. Norman Borlaug.  Since 2003 when the law changed to allow states to remove a previously placed statue from the collection and replace it with another, only four other states have replaced statues.  Today Iowa becomes the fifth and I can't think of a better representative and historical Iowa figure other than Norman Borlaug.  And the really cool part, it's happening on Borlaug's would be 100th birthday and National Ag Day.

Norman Borlaug was an innovator, farmer, humanitarian and Iowan.  Born on a farm south of Cresco, Iowa, he is considered the "Father of the Green Revolution" and is estimated to have saved 1 billion lives through his agricultural innovation advances in wheat breeding preventing a mass famine.  He is also known for founding the World Food Prize, which is also known as the "Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture".  The World Food Prize inspires and recognizes achievements in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world.  Norman Borlaug is also one of only three Americans to have received the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal (others are Martin Luther King, Jr. and Elie Wiesel).  He also received the National Medal of Science.

After graduating from Cresco High School, he went to the University of Minnesota to study agronomy and plant pathology.  He then went on to dedicating nearly 60 years to ending world hunger by working on agricultural productivity in developing countries, most notably Mexico, India and Pakistan, and later other Asian and African countries.  He developed types of high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties to help alleviate hunger.  He also worked on improving crop management practices in these countries so they could produce more wheat, one of mankind's food staples.

Norman Borlaug helped pave the wave for agriculture innovation to help feed a growing population, a goal that today's farmers and agricultural scientists are still aiming for.  Just think how the world would be now without his contributions?  Food security is still an issue around the world, but if Norman Borlaug hadn't taken the initial step to help provide food for countries that had no other means or resources to get it, think what situation we'd be in then?  On our farm we are using new technologies to help us be more efficient on our land: corn that is resistant to insects, soybeans that are resistant fungus, precision planting and GPS, etc.  The work and improvements of today continue to build upon the foundation that Norman Borlaug set back in the 1940's.

I am a proud Iowan and farmer today to have Norman Borlaug recognized for all of his agricultural and humanitarian efforts.  If you would like to learn more about Norman Borlaug be sure to check out #Borlaug100 and you can watch a live webcast of the statue being unveiled at 10 am CST.

What do Norman Borlaug's contributions mean to you?

Remember to Comment for a Cause!