I hope your holiday was filled with joyful family memories, good eats and lots of laughter! As I watched our children this holiday learn new skills, become more independent and make new friends- I realized that my husband and I are just part of the their journey. We are their teachers, we are their role models and we are their leaders, but every person they meet along the way provides an additional influence. It’s so important to ensure we are active parents who allow our children to make mistakes and learn from them, let them display independence, let them be challenged, let learn from doing, and most important- LET THEM BE KIDS and PLAY! I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, but I do make goals. My goals for 2015 are centered around my family and my own well-being, and they are simple ones. Sometimes we must focus on the simple things to get back to what really matters most.
Last year I made 5 lbs of fudge for gift baskets and gift giving. That’s a LOT of fudge! This year I hit a new record- 7 lbs of fudge. Let me tell you…I am a fudge making machine.
I’ve had a lot of folks ask me for the recipe, which is always a compliment to the cook. My mother’s fudge is rich, but it’s not that stick in your mouth rich. It’s more like a so rich I want another piece and a frozen mug of milk rich…make sense?
Give it a whirl this holiday- it will be a perfect compliment to your holiday table.
Baldwin’s Fantasy Fudge
By my mother
4 cups white sugar
1 tall can of evaporated milk (12 oz)
2 sticks of butter
On medium-high and in a large pot, cook and stir constantly, until mixture forms a soft ball. Best way to do this is with a candy thermometer. But, be sure and continue to stir this all the way through the soft ball stage.
When a soft ball forms, remove from heat and add:
For milk chocolate fudge, (add 12 oz. of chocolate chips)
For richer, darker fudge, (add ¾ of a 24 oz. of chocolate chips)
2 cups of nuts of your choice (pecans are the very best though)
1 tsp. vanilla
Fold mixture, until all dissolved. Cool fudge in a buttered 13×9 dish. You can freeze the fudge as well.
Leeks are a vegetable that I have a great love for, but are many times overlooked. Maybe it’s because they are green, maybe it’s because many consider them like an onion- but I think leeks are a very versatile veggie. From breakfast casseroles, to soups or even used for flavoring stock…this is one vegetable you don’t want to skip.
I must becoming “well-aged” like my wine, as a recent article I read about why your 40s is the best time of your life stated that only 40-year-olds know how to cook leeks. Maybe I’m ahead of the rest, either way you slice it, I’m happy 30ish home cook.
Today’s soup is adapted from Julia Child’s recipe and includes fresh options that are found at your local farmers market each week. Julia, who I believe is the MASTER of all cookery, says to only use water, not stock in her original recipe. If you want the true taste of the leeks, go for it, but I prefer my local wine and stock to make this a richer soup.
Don’t forget to clean your leeks throughly, as sand and dirt is found between the skin layers. This is a step that many leek-newbies are unaware of. Don’t skip it- or you might enjoy some sandy bites in your smooth, silky soup.
Blend until smooth, either using an immersion blender or by carefully transferring to a blender in batches. Add the cream, and season to taste with salt and lemon juice. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a healthy sprinkling of minced parsley or chives.
I’m convinced everyone can make a homemade pie crust. I’m 33 years old and I’ve learned everything about cooking from my mother and grandmother. I have gone through many pie crust recipes, trying to find the perfect one that is fool-proof. And here is what I’ve found- none are fool-proof. HA! But, what I have learned is that there are a few recipes that are just plain better than the rest.
My mother-in-law passed this recipe along to me a couple years ago. It’s from Julia Child (which I will say I do believe is the best cook ever). She taught Martha Stewart everything Martha knows about cooking and entertaining. Julia is what I would call the Goddess of Cooking and I remember watching her as a child whip-up amazing creations on her tv show. Even then I was fascinated with cooking and food. I’ve read every one of her cookbooks TWICE and these books are found in my kitchen with notebook papers, pages soiled with sauces and even a few of my own notes written on the pages.
Here are some of Julia’s pie crust tips that I live by. This is the crust I use when I have a lot of baking, but it’s my Great Grandmother’s recipe that is my typical Go-To recipe. That recipe will have to stay a family secret!
Perfect Pie Crust
(makes 4 single crusts)
5 1/4 C. of flour
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 3/4 C. Shortening, chilled (Crisco)
1 C. ice water
Place flour and salt in large deep bowl and stir. Cut cold butter up and then with your fingers or a pastry cutter crumble the butter and flour together. There should be no lumps in the mixture and it should resemble coarse crumbs. Next, cut up the cold shortening and cut it into the mixture as your did with the butter. The dough will come together and you’ll be able to form a ball. Take the ice water and pour into the mixture. You will be worried that it’s too much water, but keep mixing with a spoon or your hands, and eventually the water will absorb into the dough. Roll dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Keep in the frig for at least 2 hours.
Rolling The Dough Out
The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. When you are ready to roll out a pie, cut dough ball into four quarters. Take one quarter out at a time and place the rest back into to he frig. This dough needs to stay cold. Roll out dough on a well floured surface and when dough is the correct size for the pie plate, roll it up around your rolling pin (see link for images of this). The link I’ve included gives great images on how to roll out dough and putting it into your pie plate.
How to Give Your Crust the Perfect Final Touch
Ever wonder why some people’s pie crust is perfectly golden and shiny? Well listen closely, I’m going to let out the secret: 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of water or heavy cream. Whisk together and you have a perfect baste for a pie crust. Baste just the tops of the pie crust with the mixture before placing your filling into the pie and place in the oven. I guarantee you’ll have a beautifully golden crust when it comes out.
When Caston told me he wanted a Lego Party for his upcoming 5th birthday I was a little worried about pulling it off, but with the help of Pinterest and a few friends, the party was a blast for all our little guests.
The Lego Movie was our inspiration and I made these fun photo booth masks for all the kids. Legos placed in Mason jars were a great prop decoration, along with a few Lego Heads and awesome Lego Movie wall clings I found online.
Food choices for our little guests included: Fruit Salad, Krackle Punch, Lego Roll-Ups, Lego Candy, Cheesy Puffs, Lego Head Marshmallows Pops, Trail Mix with M&Ms, Lego Cakes, and more.
Decorating for this Awesome Lego Party brought me back to my own childhood, as I recalled building with Legos with my older brothers as a kid. I pulled the decorations together by using the base of the Lego colors: red, blue and red. I found this great banner at a dollar store and made the letters to look like the Lego logo and taped the letters on the banner. The paper fans and pom balls were a steal on Amazon, blue table linens and serving ware all stayed true to the Lego primary colors.
Thanks to some very kind friends we were able to make the perfect table setting for Caston’s little guests (just their size).
This was the first year I had games created for the kids to participate in and BOY were they a hit! We started with having the guests make their own Lego Man with crayons and a mini lego man cut-out I had on their tables. Then we played “Find the Lego Man,” which we had hidden in the house. They wanted to play this a couple times. We also had a “Guess how many Legos are in the jar” game for the kids.
Caston had a blast with his friends and I can’t wait until the next Lego Party!
The last two weeks I feel as though I’ve been brought back into debate class from high school and college. All thanks to the scare tactics, false information and ridiculous cartoons opposing Amendment One, “Right to Farm.” I will say, I was a bit skeptical if we really needed an actual amendment to solidify a right that we as citizens already have (or do we have?) Recently, Missouri has seen out of state groups trying to push their way into our great state to push their own legislative agendas, (remember Prop B the Puppy Mill legislative measure)? If you need a refresher, read my blog post from March 19: Farm Girl’s Perspective on the New Face for HSUS.
My vote that will be cast next week will be a HECK YES on Amendment One! After much research, talks with farmers of all shapes and sizes, phone calls to a few agricultural lawyers I trust and a prayer or two…I feel completely confident in this decision.
I’ve had many friends, farmers and family conversations about this bill over the last month, and I’ve seen a mountain of falsified information being spread online through social media platforms or from opponents of Amendment One, like the Truth is Local FB page and the Missouri’s Food for America FB page, who both have deleted accurate comments from readers on their pages. Word to the Wise: don’t participate in Social Media if you can’t handle comments from others that differ in your opinions. Therefore, after watching these actions of others and educating myself on the facts, I’m taking this opportunity to “clear the air” on a few myths about Amendment One, Right to Farm.
Myths about Amendment One
1.) This bill would NOT allow farmers to break the law.
This bill does not give farmers a “free pass” when it comes to breaking the law; the bill clearly states that producers are subject to authorized powers as stated in Article VI of the Missouri constitution. In addition, throwing the law out of sight farmers and ranchers have an ethical and financial obligation to care for their livestock, land, water and air. Crop farmers ensure they don’t deplete soil or erosion because their yield will decrease and they will see less money in their pocket books. Any livestock producers knows that an animal that is well-taken care of will be less sick and be an efficient grower- making that farmer’s bottom-line increase.
2.) This bill is too vague.
I don’t think this amendment is any more vague than other amendments our country was built upon. Agriculture is the one industry our country has relied on, from the very beginning. Things might not be broken in Missouri (YET), but it’s happening in other states…and those states can thank HSUS and other out of state activist organizations for that.
3.) This bill is a blanket to let farmers do whatever they wish, without recourse.
The intent of RTF is to preserve local control of farms for farmers and ranchers, which is great for all farmers – both large and small, because the amendment allows each individual the decision-making power for their own farm. Saying that, again there are county health ordinances that will still be enforced to ensure producers are doing right. We have the “Right to Bear Arms” and the “Right of Freedom of Speech”- are these detailed and specific? No. Now, we have the Right to Farm as a ballot issue. Why? BC farmers are having rights taken away, rights in which I believe they deserve.
4.) This bill would force GMOs to all farmers.
FALSE- Did you read this anywhere in the bill? If you did, please show me where. This law doesn’t outlaw organic or GMO labeling, moreover it protects the right of those farmers to farm how they wish! There is room for all of us at the table, we need to wake-up and realize that and stop with the organic – GMO finger pointing.
5.) Large Ag Companies are sponsoring Amendment One.
No, no, no! I suggest you take a look at the supporters for Right to Farm: Mo Cattlemen’s Assn, Mo Pork Assn, Mo Farm Bureau, and the list goes on…these are all organizations that are complied of small, medium and large family farms, just like my own family. And for those of you who see Monsanto’s name as a supporter and say, “Monsanto is supporting this, so it has to be ONLY in their favor,” Get a CLUE! Monsanto supports farmers of all sizes as farmers are Monsanto’s customers, of coarse they are going to support this. In addition, Monsanto produces a LOT of vegetable seeds, which many growers use and then sell their harvest at markets across our great state. Producers have the right to choose to use seeds from a number of sources to fit the demand for their customers. And, farmers deserve that right to choose, as do the customers on their family’s food choices. FOOD FOR THOUGHT…
What I hate more than anything is I’ve seen HSUS Missouri Ag Committee draw a line even further between tradition and non-traditional farmers in my state. I’ve seen their speeches, their comments and their marketing and it’s very disheartening. It’s very sad that we are an ag industry that is becoming more divided in a time that we should be coming together as one.
A little advice for those who don’t farm, who don’t come from a farm, or don’t have anyone in their family that farms- ask a farmer what they think. A real farmer who makes their living from their farm. Someone who pays their mortgages from their farm, who’s car payment comes from their farm, who’s college funds for their kids come from the farm. And, make sure the farmers you talk to are ones that represent different productions of agriculture (livestock, produce, row crops, etc). Knowledge is Power- you have that power, don’t cast your vote without knowing ALL THE FACTS FIRST!
GREAT blog post from a farm family in Missouri on why they are voting YES on Amendment One.
Confusion surrounds MO Constitutional Amendment 1. I have had many ask how they should vote. I believe you should inform yourself and then make the decision on how to vote. I definitely have an opinion but I want to share just the facts with you first. Next Tuesday, one short week away, voters in Missouri will have the opportunity to cast their votes on Constitutional Amendment 1 – MO Right to Farm. If approved by voters, the measure would explicitly guarantee farmers and ranchers the right to engage in their livelihoods and produce food for others. The fair ballot language states “A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to guarantee the rights of Missourians to engage in farming and ranching practices, subject to any power given to local government under Article VI of the Missouri Constitution. If approved, this amendment will add a section 35 to Article I of…
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Cora, my youngest, turned T-W-O on July 12th. While I was planning her party there was a point where I was in disbelief that she could already be hitting this major milestone of becoming a toddler. Bye-bye baby years…hello tantrums, potty training, major independence, talking and the list goes on. I wanted to just yell, “Keep my baby, a BABY!”
Cora is what I refer to as my market baby. She was born the same year as when my farmers market started-up, therefore I was building our market, Farmers Market of the Ozarks, while I was also growing a baby. So, I guess you could say- I was growing two babies at once. Lucky for me I had a beautiful pregnancy, supportive husband and great help from an amazing little brother- Caston.
My kid’s birthday parties are very special to me. It’s a time when I can make the entire day all about THEM! Life takes a backseat and fun and magic happen.
Since Cora’s birthday is in the middle of the hot summer, I knew we had to have a water party, therefore, the Splish & Splash party it was! Slip ‘N Slides, toddler pools, water guns, watermelon on a stick, pink lemonade, sunscreen, sprinklers, bubbles were all a hit with the party guests. Pink lemonade cupcakes, beach ball dessert fruit pizza, mini sandwiches, veggie tray, Ariel Mermaid cake, beach mix, cookies, watermelon jello cups, cheese and crackers, colorful pink and orange candies- all homemade, just like my momma always did.
We decorated the entire house and backyard in pink and orange pom balls and white lanterns. Decorations had a slight vintage theme with Ball Mason jars, white milk glass serving pieces, pennants that I made and pink fabric with burlap runners and lace.
The kids loved playing all afternoon in the water, grabbing a juice box from the old metal tin bucket that was used at our wedding or filling-up a cup of pink lemonade. Each guest left with a beach pail filled with beachy snacks, water guns, bubbles and glow bracelets.
Cora was blessed with family, friends and water fun all day long! Here are photos from the beautiful day…
Roasted Leg of Lamb is one of my favorite dishes…paired along with a Missouri Norton. My mother-in-law, who is from Spain, has taught me a lot of things in the kitchen – including paella (which is another favorite in our house), but cooking a leg of lamb to perfection was one of my favorite lessons. She is adamant that lamb MUST be cooked to a medium-rare, but I’ve included doneness categories for you to choose your own.
My mother-in-law asked me why more Americans don’t eat lamb, as she stated in Spain it was common. We are a country that consume very little lamb…which is a shame…because I think it’s absolutely delicious! The U.S. eats over 100 lbs of chicken a year, but only about .8 lbs of lamb. People don’t know what they are missing!
I would highly suggest visiting your local farmers market or finding a local rancher to purchase your product from, they will also be able to offer tips and techniques in preparation.
Doneness levels for lamb are pretty much the same as for beef:
And just like with beef, I personally recommend cooking to at least medium rare—it’s hot enough that the abundant fat in the meat begins to melt, lubricating and flavoring the meat. Rare lamb is tougher and less flavorful. And, if you don’t already have one in your kitchen arsenal- purchase a really good digital thermometer to make your job in the kitchen easier.
Lane’s Roasted Leg of Lamb
2 lemons, juiced
2 T. garlic powder
1T. onion powder
4 springs of fresh Rosemary
5 springs of Thyme
¼ c olive oil
Mix all together in bowl. Coat a 5-7 lb. leg of lamb with the mixture and place lamb in bag and place in refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place roasting tray in a roasting pan and place lamb on tray.
Roast for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for another 1 to 1 and half hrs. longer to medium rare. A digit thermometer will read 145 degrees. Remove lamb and let the meat rest for at least 15 minutes.
Place roasting pan on stove and turn heat to medium. Add to the pan:
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. dry red wine
1 tsp. Herb De Provence
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. sea salt
Deglaze the pan to release the pan drippings from the leg of lamb by cooking mixture and scraping with a wooden spoon. Cook the mixture down, while continuing to scrape drippings on the bottom of pan. Strain mixture and drizzle sliced lamb with sauce.
Miss fancy pants turned 20 months over the weekend and we decided a trip to Andy’s Frozen Custard was fitting! Why was it fitting…because nothing is sweeter than Cora’s little face. Well…maybe one thing her big brother’s dimples. Well shucks- let’s call it a draw!
Since Cora has entered our lives she has been a blessing and joy. Her expressions are priceless, her giggles are contagious and her stubbornness is reminds me of myself.
If I could describe her in three words at this point in her young life it would be: determine, lovable and a fashionista! Yes, bet you didn’t expect that term, did you?
My baby girl loves shoes as much as she loves her milk! I catch her in my closet trying on my heels- constantly. And, when I go to put her play clothes on in the morning she shakes her little blonde head at me and walks over to there closet and points at one of her fancy dresses. Did I also mention she has a tiara. She took it from her princess doll…guess she thought she deserved the tiara instead of her dolly. LOL
Now I know what you are thinking…it’s all me that has created this fashionista. But, I had LOTS of help from daddy, big brother Caston, grandparents and friends. You all know who you are…
But…when I see her with three pairs of shoes in her hands, a tiara on her head, necklaces dragging from behind and her favorite tutu – I say, “Let them be young. Let them be children. Let them imagine.” A smile comes to my face and I jump in to the princess action, or the hunting or Super Hero action…depending on which we are pretending to be at the moment. Nothing is more priceless than being PRESENT daily for your children.
I find this challenging on a daily basis. There is always a load of laundry, dishes to be clean, phone calls to be made, work to be done on your computer…but remember they are only little for a little while- enjoy these moments, savor the time spent being silly with them and be a Present Parent.