Dust In My Coffee

Dust In My Coffee

Monday, October 30, 2017

I've Moved

Greetings friends!  I have moved my blog over to Wordpress. You can still get my old posts with all the links here.   To read any new blogs you will need to go to my new site https://dustinmycoffee.net/

Thanks for joining me on my journey!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

He had me at "I've Got a Horse"

Who knew Steve's pick up line, "I've got a horse..." would be the catalyst leading to a relationship that has lasted nearly 37 years?  It was early October in 1980 when Steve used that line on me at a wedding dance in Snyder.  I sat across from him at a table full of alumni from a college in Curtis, NE.  We were all sharing our stories about instructors, dorms and night life.  During the conversation Steve learned I had a love for horses.  He must have thought it was his chance to make a move when he commented, "I have a horse that can turn on a dime!"

Throughout the course of the evening, whenever Steve had the chance he would go back to telling me about his horse named Duffy and his family's farm north of Snyder.  I admit I enjoyed looking into Steve's blue eyes as he talked and before I knew it the dance was over.  I couldn't remember Steve's name so when he stood up I looked at the back of his belt and saw "STEVE" imprinted on it.  I had a first name and, yes, I was looking at his belt.

The following morning I drove to Omaha to visit my aunt.  Aunt Kathy was my mom's only sister and a favorite aunt of mine from childhood.  Aunt Kathy was known to bring my siblings and I gifts for birthdays and Christmas's and she was a fun adult to be around.  I sat down on a stool at her counter and told her all about a guy named Steve I had met the night before.  She was the first person to hear about this guy with a great horse.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my family with my Aunt Kathy in it. 

On Monday morning, two days after I met Steve, I was unlocking the vet clinic door where I worked.  As I jiggled the key in the lock I heard the phone ringing and I rushed to get inside to answer what I thought was a large animal call for our veterinarian.  It was Steve.  He wanted to know if I would like to ride his horse sometime.   I laughed and said yes. We made plans for me to drive to the farm that Saturday.

I guess Steve couldn't wait for Saturday to arrive.  He stopped in at the vet clinic on Thursday afternoon to see me.  I needed to meet our vet on a nearby farm to treat a horse so Steve offered to take me.  What a gentleman!

Saturday arrived and I headed out to Steve's farm.  When I arrived Steve met me at my car and we walked over to the horse pen.  We caught the horse, saddled him up and off I went.   I had plenty of space to ride.  As I rode through the nearby fields I noticed how well kept their farm was.  When I rode back up to the barn Steve was waiting and asked about riding along.  Before I could say anything he was up in the saddle sitting behind me.  We began our riding tour of the farm until the rest of his family had left for Saturday night mass.  I don't think he was ready to have me meet the family yet!

That first date kindled the spark that had been lit at the wedding dance.  We continued to date, talk about our common interests and then plan for a wedding.

As we searched for a place we could live Steve's uncle approached him and asked if we would consider living on the farm where Steve's grandfather had raised a family of thirteen children.  The uncle, Roman Ruskamp, had retired, moved to town and married late in life.  Steve took me to the farm located about eleven miles from his own family's farm.  It was a bit rustic after having two bachelors living in the house for twenty years.  Steve saw beyond the broken fences, weeds and run down house.  His enthusiasm was contagious and I supported the decision to not only live on the farm but also buy the 40 acres the house and barns were on.

This aerial photo was taken in 1991.  We had added some new
cattle pens and lived right in the middle of all the activity.  The
highway shows up as dirt because it was worked on that year.

This aerial photo was taken in 2007.  We built a house in 1996
to the west end of the feedlot when our old house was beyond
repair.  Another dream for Steve was to have a fish pond and
that is located to the right of the house.
 The excitement about having our own farm dimmed when we learned my Uncle Melvin, was diagnosed with cancer.  We made several visits to see him in the hospital in Omaha.  On one late night visit the conversation was about our wedding.  Steve wanted the wedding in Snyder since they had farm chores to work around.  Uncle Melvin was very persuasive in telling Steve the wedding should be in the bride's hometown.  On our way home Steve apologized to me for his lack of understanding and the wedding was moved from Snyder to Resurrection Catholic Church in Grand Island.

Uncle Melvin is the first one in the back row.  He is standing next to my
dad.  This is my dad's family with Grandpa and Grandma seated in the middle.

Another tragedy hit us when Steve's brother, Ed, died suddenly in a car accident.  Ed was Steve's partner with the feedlot they built up.  It was surreal for me to be sharing this grief with Steve and his family. I felt a little out of place since I wasn't really a part of the family yet.  As I lay in a sleeping bag the night before the funeral Steve's mom came over to me, touched my shoulder and said, "I'm so glad you are here."  I was family.

Steve's family.   Front row: Julie, Teri, Barb, Louise, Marguerite
Back row: Steve, Jerry, Francis, Bernardine, Ed, Joe, Rosie

We said goodbye to Ed in July.  We said goodbye to my Uncle Melvin in August. 

In early September we took Steve's horse and a 3 year-old filly I bought over the summer to the Labor Day Parade in Omaha.   We had joined the Dodge Saddle Club and one of the first events we attended was the parade.  I was a little apprehensive about taking a young horse to a parade but I had been reassured the older horses would keep my horse in line.  Our third traumatic experience before the wedding was about to unfold.

The horses were saddled and excited.  We were in downtown Omaha with lots of people and unfamiliar sounds all around us.  Our saddle club mounted up and started walking towards the parade route.  While we waited for the parade to start, a high school band decided to warm up.  I could feel my horse trembling inside as I kept a flag folded tight around the pole in my right hand.  Suddenly she reared up and I felt the both of us go over backwards as she fell on the right side of my hip.  In my mind all I could think about was getting my feet out of the stirrups and letting go of the flag.  As she stood up I looked at my right hand and saw one of my fingers bleeding and then I tried to stand up.  Pain immediately shot down my back, hip and legs.  Steve jumped down to my side with a look of fear on his face.  Someone called a rescue squad and soon we were whisked away to the hospital.

I did not ride my mare in anymore parades and I did not
sell her.  She did produce some nice foals like this one!

While Steve and I waited for the x-rays we talked about what we might be facing.  My hip could be broken.  I could feel pain so that was a good sign.  My leg could be broken.  We had a wedding in three weeks.  What would we do?  Was this a sign?  If it was a sign, what did it mean?

The doctor returned with good news.  Nothing was broken.  I was going to need crutches for awhile for the bruising that had occurred.  We could handle that.  If there was a sign, it was that someone special was watching out for us and we could go ahead with the wedding.  I was fitted for some crutches and sent home to heal and get ready for the wedding.

Cheers!  September 26, 1981

From, "I've got a horse," to saying, "I do," Steve has kept his commitment to love me and honor me all the days of my life.  We've shared 13,140 days together as husband and wife.  Those 13,140 days have been filled with more blessings than burdens.  I can only hope God blesses us with thousands more days together that start with Steve's daily greeting, "Goooooood Morning Joanie!"

The gift of faith has helped us weather the storms of married life. 
The Holy Spirit is truly the glue that keeps us together.  

 "All things work for good for those who love God, 
who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Two became one leading to a family of seven and now a family of fifteen!

"Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD. "   Psalm 128:1-4

Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Nature's cruel, but we don't have to be"

"Nature's cruel, but we don't have to be." is one of my favorite quotes from Temple Grandin.  If you don't know who Temple Grandin is, I highly recommend watching the movie "Temple Grandin" so you can learn more about her life with autism and how she has helped cattle producers like Steve and I do a better job of low stress cattle handling.  Steve and I work with nature to try to minimize some of her harsher moments as we seek to give our cattle a comfortable environment to live in.

I had the privilege of spending over an hour with Temple Grandin and other
beef board friends at a convention in Denver.  Temple chatted with us about giving
presentations as she had observed several that day in need of some improvement.

On our farm we administer vaccinations and treat our cattle as needed using Temple Grandin's cattle handling design.  The curves, solid panels and flow of the cattle is all calculated to enable to the cattle to walk in with the least amount of stress to the animal and to people.  The old days of cowboys whooping and hollering are long gone.  The hum of the hydraulic chute is the only noise we want to hear or an occasional "shshsh" sound to move a stubborn steer.    The ability to know what cattle can see and how they respond to our movement goes beyond the barn and works just as well in the pen.

Steve and I are bringing a group of cattle up to our barn.  They walk through
the curved alley and then enter the barn through two openings that eventually
narrow down to one alleyway.  We use ATV's to sort and move cattle on our
farm.  Some folks use horses.  The key is to move the cattle with low stress.

In addition to using Temple's low stress cattle handling design we also believe firmly in the value cattle have to the environment.  Cattle can eat a variety of ingredients like grass, cornstalks and grain to make protein because they are ruminant animals.  From almond hulls to potato starch to corn distiller's grain cattle convert unusable byproducts into great tasting beef.  Temple has said “I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.”  Steve and I do our best to give the cattle a decent life in the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter.

The cattle are utilizing a shade tree made from steel and a canvas cover to help
keep them cool on hot summer days.  This year we added thirty more shades so
we could use that as a primary way of keeping cattle comfortable in the heat and
use the water only if needed like high temps and no wind type of days.

On our farm we work hard to provide a decent life for our cattle and for the wildlife that lives here, too.  When our grandchildren visit we are quick to notice any new birds, frogs in the pond and many other wild animals that have made our farm their home.  On a recent visit, our two granddaughters were able to watch three Robin eggs hatch and become three little baby birds.  They didn't get to see the empty nest the next day due to a possible cat finding a late night snack.  Someday I will share this quote from Temple with my granddaughters, “unfortunately, most people never observe the natural cycle of birth and death. They do not realize that for one living thing to survive, another living thing must die.”

The little birds were so cute with their little feathers.  I'm not sure why the mother
Robin chose to build her nest on top of a post and exposed to the elements.  I
would think the hot summer days would have been tough on the little family.

Through continued research funded in part by the Beef Checkoff Program, cattle producers like Steve and I can take our story from the farm to the fork with the nutritional value beef has as first food and last food for people including the latest research from the Beef WISE Study.  The Beef WISE Study shows how lean beef can be used in a weight loss diet.  You can read more about this study here.  If you'd like a fact sheet on how to use the Beef Wise Study then click here.  The fact sheet explains the 16 week/three phase plan.  WISE stands for weight improvement, satisfaction and energy.  That's a pretty wise acronym!

You can find the recipe for this grilled southwestern steak and vegetables here.

There is much wisdom to be found through research Temple has done on cattle handling and research the Beef Checkoff has done on beef nutrition.  I am grateful for all Temple Grandin has done to help farmers and ranchers like Steve and I provide quality care for our cattle.   I am also grateful for the research Steve and I help pay for through checkoff dollars to help us share the benefits of including beef in a healthy diet.  Ongoing research helps us continually improve cattle care so we can give you quality beef.

Here is another one of my favorite quotes from Temple  “my favorite of Einstein's words on religion is '"Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind."' I like this because both science and religion are needed to answer life's great questions.” 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Camp Ruskamp

Our farm becomes "Camp Ruskamp" each summer when nieces and nephews come to visit.  This camp experience gives our extended family members a chance to learn about farm life and have camp style experiences.  We recently hosted our nieces and nephew Tabitha, Maria and Elijah. Our granddaughters, Ella and Harper, joined us for added fun on one of the afternoons.

Climbing hay bales-our hay is preserved in large, round bales rather than the
small, square bales our children climbed on when they were young.

Maria and Elijah surprised me when they told me they had never been beyond our house and fish pond.  We toured the feedlot via the Ranger to see how the cattle live.  A load of Synergy (modified wet distiller's grain) arrived as we drove around so we watched the product unload via a belt inside the trailer.  The tour continued to the barn where we assess cattle that might need treating and the kids met Tonja, the barn cat.   The kids learned how the cattle move through the low stress handling system as seen in this interview. We made plans to watch the movie "Temple Grandin" that evening with some of Steve's homemade popcorn.

Here are some of the other farm/camp activities the kids participated in:

Fishing-notice Elijah's fish in the bottom right corner.

Trampoline Jumping-our granddaughters made an afternoon visit.

Tractor rides-Maria rode along with Steve to box scrape pens.

Crop checks-Steve checks the corn as the kids enjoy
the stream running through the field.

Elijah loves to put puzzles together and found a dolphin
puzzle to work on with Steve.
 One of the reasons our nieces and nephew were with us was their parents were enjoying some time away for their 25th wedding anniversary.  The kids and I decided it would be fun to make a gift for their parents.  We decided to make a flag using wooden pallets.  My thought process led us to get four flags going using an assembly line process.   Tabitha stayed on task while the younger two fought over sweeping the shop.  This was a win/win project since Steve had his shop swept while we worked on the flags.  I hope their parents are pleased with this special gift!

The kids put on the final touches of paint and remove the tape!

Do you or your children have access to a farm to enjoy some of the experiences my extended family members have?  If not, I would encourage you to find a way to connect your kids to those of us growing your food.  If you have questions about how food is grown I would encourage you to talk to a farmer or rancher and using websites like CommonGround or FactsAboutBeef 

What is a farm/camp experience without animals to love on?  We aim to please and had three little kittens for these three kids to love on while they were there.  Yes, we will be looking for good homes for these kittens in the next month or so!

"The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature."  Anne Frank

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

For God and Family

As we near the end of  "May is Beef Month"  I would like to share with you another beef recipe from a woman who is a great cook and who places God and her family above all else.  This woman is my sister-in-law, Julie Heftie.  Julie is Steve's youngest sibling.  She is married to Kelly and has four amazing kids.  I would like to tell you more about Julie and share with you the beef recipe she has given me.

This is Julie with her family.  From left to right are Kelly, Tabitha, Julie
Simon, Maria and Elijah.  This photo was taken after Julie completed
a marathon race in Lincoln.

I met Julie in 1980 when I started dating Steve.  Julie was in high school at the time and was friendly to me right from the start.  Julie cooked many of the meals I enjoyed when I visited Steve on the weekends. I only recently learned that Julie loved cooking with her ingredients measured out in many different bowls like the chef Julia Child used.  In those days cooking shows were rare and only found on PBS!  Julie continued to amaze me as she entered college and persevered through the required courses it took for her to become an Occupational Therapist.

During Julie's college years she was also a doting aunt to our children.  Julie loved to play games and eventually would host one of the kids at a time for weekend sleepovers.  Julie also met a young man and fell in love.  Julie and Kelly were married and started their life together in Lincoln.   We were aware of the desire Julie and Kelly had to start their own family.  They were both so very good to their nieces and nephews and it seemed they would be the perfect parents.  Several years passed with our own children saying daily prayers for Julie and Kelly to have a baby.  The love Julie and Kelly showed one another and extended family continued as they placed their trust in God.

Prayers were answered when a family chose Julie and Kelly to be the adoptive parents of a little girl to be named Tabitha.  Our entire family was elated when this beautiful little girl became part of the extended Ruskamp family.  More prayers were answered as Julie gave birth to a son, Simon, daughter, Maria and son, Elijah.  Each new baby brought more love, joy and laughter into their home and into all of our hearts.  A new trial for the family came when little Elijah needed heart surgery.  Prayers, trust and love were very evident as Julie put her baby in the hands of the doctors and nurses.

This is a photo of Elijah enjoying a roast beef sandwich at our house last fall. 

Elijah came through the surgery very well and all four children continue to grow and thrive.  We've had the oldest two, Tabitha and Simon, at the farm for "Camp Ruskamp".  Tabitha has been a great assistant for some of our farm tours including a television interview.

One of the activities at "Camp Ruskamp" is fishing.  This photo is from
a few years ago. Tabitha is proudly holding up her fish while Simon
and our son, Jeff, look on. The fish can be fried in an area just behind them.

I know that new challenges will continue to face the Heftie family because that is how life is.  Julie has shown me in so many ways that she embraces her womanhood and her faith.  She is truly a woman after God's heart and she brings that into her home and into her workplace.

Maria Heftie was baptised in 2009.  Every family needs a Maria!  This photo
captures more than words can say about faith and family.  

Here is a recipe she has shared with me that her family loves.  I have proof of that because the recipe has "Yummy!" and a star by it!

Barbecue Meatballs
3 lbs. ground beef                                    1/2 cup onion-chopped
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk                 1/2 t garlic powder
1 cup oatmeal                                           2 t salt
1 cup cracker crumbs                               1/2 t pepper
2 eggs-beaten                                            2 t chili powder

Combine all meatball ingredients (mixture will be soft) and shape into walnut size balls.  Place meatballs in a single layer on a wax paper cookie sheet.  Freeze until solid.  Store until ready to use or can be used right after you make them.

2 cups ketchup                                           1/2 t garlic powder
1 cup brown sugar                                     1/4 t onion chopped
1/2 t liquid smoke or to taste

Combine sauce ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved.   Place meatballs in 9x13x2 baking pan and pour sauce over top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  May take longer to bake if using frozen meatballs.   Julie notes that she doubled this recipe for a church event and it made 191 meatballs.

"She is clothed in strength and dignity, she can laugh at the day to come. When she opens her mouth, she does so wisely; on her tongue is kindly instruction.  She keeps good watch on the conduct of her household, no bread of idleness for her.  Her children stand up and proclaim her blessed, her husband, too, sings her praises:  'Many women have done admirable things, but you surpass them all!'  Charm is deceitful, and beauty empty; the woman who fears Yahweh is the one to praise." Proverbs 31:25-30

Sunday, May 28, 2017

National Hamburger Day

National Hamburger Day falls right in the middle of the perfect holiday weekend for grilling.  Matthew McConaughey says "Man who invented the hamburger was smart; Man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius”  and I have to wholeheartedly agree!

My niece, Tabitha, has been a great assistant for me in a variety of ways
to support beef through farm tours and television interviews.

If you have plans to grill this Memorial Day Weekend I would like to encourage you to find the beef counter at your grocery store for a variety of items that will please your family and friends!  When it comes to burgers beef has the "fake" burgers beat nutritionally besides taste.

Sometimes people substitute ground turkey for beef thinking it is a better
option but this chart shows you that beef is the healthier choice!

Hamburgers are a great choice for large groups with children.  I have a recipe suggestion that offers  topping choices called "Slider Sundaes".  This recipe gives everyone an opportunity to build their own burger and by using slider sized burgers you can have two burgers with different toppings and stay right at that 30 grams of protein.   Here is the recipe:  

1 pound lean hamburger or ground round (makes 8 sliders)
1 tsp Lawry’s Garlic Salt
1 Package Slider Buns


Mix hamburger in ¼ cup sizes.  Flatten to ½” thick. 
Grill at medium high heat for 3 minutes on each side.   
Grilling baskets work great to easily grill several at a time.

Sundae Toppings:

Cherry Tomatoes (a tooth pick in one end allows tomato to sit on top of the bun)
Fried Onions
Sautéed sliced mushrooms
Fried bacon strips cut in thirds
Shredded cheddar cheese
Blue Cheese Butter*
Hamburger Sauce*
Peanut Butter-smooth

Blue Cheese Butter:  Mix one stick softened butter, ¼ cup blue cheese crumbles and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Hamburger Sauce: ¼ cup mayonnaise, 2 tsp ketchup, 1 tsp mustard, 1 tsp pickle juice, ¼ tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp garlic powder-mix well

Slider Sundaes make mealtime fun by letting every dress up their own burger according to individual tastes.  This is a great way to cut food waste by using smaller portion sizes.  Each slider is about 15 grams of protein before the toppings.  Suggested combos include:  Beef, Bacon, blue cheese butter and peanut butter; Beef, Bacon, Cheese, Onions, Pickles and Hamburger Sauce; Beef, lettuce, mushrooms, bacon and Hamburger Sauce.  Make sure to top each bun with a cherry tomato!

You can also have Hawaiian or Mexican themes for your Slider Sundaes by adding other ingredients like sliced pineapple and brown sugar for one and black olives, salsa, sour cream, taco seasoning in the ground beef for the other.  There is no limit to the creativity you can have with beef!  

In Nebraska we will have a beautiful weekend for grilling.  Even though we experience all four seasons, sometimes in one day, my husband can be found grilling all year 'round.  If you need more information about grilling the perfect burger you can read this terrific blog post from a friend of mine here.  We like to use Lawry's Garlic Salt for seasoning or Mike's Seasoning (found at Graybeal's Grocery Store in West Point). 

Enjoy this Memorial Day Weekend by grilling up some beef burgers today and make time to remember those that have died, especially our veterans.  

This is a picture of Steve's dad, Francis and my dad, Clem,
who both served in the military and have both left this earthly
life.  Our hearts still grieve the loss of their love and laughter
but our faith fills us with hope and joy of seeing them again.

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, 
and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
Psalm 34:18 
The Lord is ready to listen and help those who are brokenhearted 
and He saves those who are broken in spirit. 
It is a special hope to all who have lost a loved one.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Where's My Beef?

I enjoy having family gatherings and our home works well to host gatherings.  We made plans to gather my mom from Grand Island, our newly married daughter, Kim and her husband, Richard, from Lincoln, my sister and two of her children from Gretna and Steve's mom from Snyder over for a steak dinner to celebrate Mother's Day.  I would like to share with you one of the salads we enjoyed eating that day as part of my "May is Beef Month" series of family beef recipes.

My sister, Sharon, has a great Taco Salad recipe and had volunteered to bring this dish to our Mother's Day celebrations, as we were in the middle of planting corn.  However, Sharon was delayed in arriving to our celebration because of some missing beef. 

This thank you was sent to us from Sharon's daughter,
Nichole, several years ago after she spent some time
with us on our farm.

Sharon is my younger sister and has five children.  We have many stories between us that bring us laughter and tears as many sisters often do.  I admire Sharon in the way she has encouraged her children to keep after their dreams.  Sharon has never been one to accept defeat as she modeled the virtue of tenacity in making sure her kids had what they needed.  Sharon is a single parent and is witnessing the fruits of her labor as the children graduate, go to college, get jobs, etc...  All good parents struggle to provide the best care they can for their children and that includes meals that nourish and are easy to make.

Sharon and her five children left to right:  Oliver, Megan, Sharon, Anna,
Nichole and Michael.

We came up with the idea of meeting at our house for Mother's Day because it seemed the easiest way to be together.  I knew my time would be limited for house cleaning and food preparation.  I was tied up in various farm tasks and asked for help with the food preparation.   Sharon offered to bring a taco salad and a fruit salad.  Sharon lives close to Omaha and has access to a grocery store 24/7.  Sunday morning she shopped for her ingredients and went home to get the salad ready.  When she looked for the ground beef there was none to be found.  "Where's my beef?" she asked her children and then realized it must have been left at the grocery store.  A quick call and return visit to the grocery store enabled one of the kids to bring her the ground beef so she could finish her recipe.

I hope you enjoy this salad as much as we did!

Taco Salad
by Sharon McCoy

1 lb hamburger 
1 taco seasoning
Cook hamburger, mix in seasoning. Remove from.pan, set aside to cool.

1-2 heads of lettuce, chopped or 1 large bag of lettuce mix
       (I'm all about making it easy so I just buy the mixed lettuce)
2 avocados, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped 
1 can of medium pitted black olives, sliced
2 cups of cheddar cheese
Mix together 

1 large bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos  (some for salad and some to snack on)

Dorothy Lynch dressing 
Ranch dressing

Mix meat with salad. Add dressing  (I do a couple swirls of each) and about 1/2 cup of salsa. Toss together.  When ready to serve, crunch a few handfuls of chips, sprinkle on top and mix in.

It's important for me who is at the table with me; the moment when everyone speaks to each other and everyone listens. If there's good food, it's much better. Andrea Bocelli
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/good_food.html
"It's important for me who is at the table with me; the moment when everyone speaks to each other and everyone listens.  If there's good food it's much better."  Andrea Bocelli

It's important for me who is at the table with me; the moment when everyone speaks to each other and everyone listens. If there's good food, it's much better. Andrea Bocelli
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/good_food.html
It's important for me who is at the table with me; the moment when everyone speaks to each other and everyone listens. If there's good food, it's much better. Andrea Bocelli
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/good_food.html
Me, mom and Sharon on Mother's Day 2017.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mom's Beef Pot Roast

May is full of special moments including Mother's Day, Memorial Day, graduations and weddings.   May is also Beef Month which ties in very well to the food needed for those celebrations.  During the remaining month of May I will be sharing several beef recipes from family members you may want to add to your celebrations.  In this post I will highlight a beef pot roast beef recipe I learned as a child from my mom.
This is a photo of my family from the 1960's.  From left to right:  My dad, 
Linda, Paul, me, Aunt Kathy, Sharon sitting on my mom's lap, Sandy in
my mom's tummy and David with a big grin.  This was probably taken on a
Sunday and mom most likely made fried chicken for the main meal of the day.

My mom was typical of many mom's of the 1960's.  Mom made all of our meals from scratch including many meals with beef.  I am the oldest child of six and I would often help with the job of peeling potatoes.  When my youngest sibling started school my mom went to work full time.  My cooking skills increased as mom started giving me instructions on how to start dinner so it would be ready by the time she and dad arrived home.  One of my favorite meals to make was Pot Roast.

Our fourth child, Jeff, developed a habit of swinging his legs
up on the back of the chair while we were eating meals.  He
would reach up to his plate and grab some food and bring it
down to his mouth.  Roast Beef and gravy is a little more
challenging to eat that way than a sandwich!

Mom taught me to brown the roast on both sides, put the roast in a baking pan (a 9 x 13 pan works well), add carrots and potatoes (peeled and cut), add onion slices, salt, a little bit of water, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees.  I didn't pay attention to how long it would bake as mom would be home by then!

A photo from the archives!  Here I am about
the age I started cooking more meals.

One of the key steps to that recipe is browning the beef.  I have since learned that mom knew the secret to getting the best flavor from the roast by searing or browning as she called it.   Emma Christensen says on her website "Searing meat is 100% about building flavor. And oh, what flavor it is! When that meat hits a scorching hot pan, the surface instantly begins caramelizing. In your stew or braise or roast, this translates into the kind of deep, savory flavor that we crave on an almost a cellular level. This is the flavor that makes us want to lick our plates clean. No sear, no plate-licking good times."

For many families mom is the one doing most of the meal planning.  I am fortunate to have a mom who taught me the basics of cooking and then assisted me during my 4-H baking days as I tried to get that perfect batch of corn bread for the county fair.  My own children have learned as much from my husband, Steve, about cooking-even more when it comes to grilling-than they have from me.  I am blessed to have a husband who enjoys making meals.

Steve is making a stir fry supper using Sirloin Steak.  He loves tossing
vegetables and finding different combinations to put with the
beef.  The sirloin is sliced very thin while still partially frozen.

Through the years I have altered the pot roast recipe my mom handed down to me just a little bit.   I learned about new seasonings that give the beef and gravy a better flavor and it has Steve's seal of approval.  The new recipe goes like this:

Simply Delicious Roast Beef 
3 pounds Chuck Roast
1 package dry Italian salad dressing
1 package dry Ranch salad dressing
1 package dry Brown gravy mix
2 cups water

Turn oven to 325 degrees.  Sear the roast (brown both sides).  Place roast in roasting dish.  Warm the 2 cups of water in pan used for searing and pour over the roast.  Put seasoning packets in a bowl, mix, pour over the roast and in the water.  Add baby carrots and small red potatoes or cut and peeled potatoes.  Cover.   Bake 3.5 hours in oven or bake in Crock Pot for eight hours on low.  

I am so grateful to have a mom that taught me how to cook a recipe that I would continue to use for my own children and now for my grandchildren.  Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all the moms out there doing the very best they can for their families!  

"Do what your father tells you, my son, 
and never forget what your mother taught you.  
Keep their words with you always, locked in your heart.  
Their teaching will lead you when you travel, protect you at night, 
and advise you during the day."  Proverbs 6:20-22

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not: The Food

I don't like to waste food.  I don't like to find containers in the refrigerator with fuzz growing on the contents.  I don't like the fact that I am contributing to the statistic that says Americans throw away 20 pounds of food per person on a monthly basis.  How did Americans like myself get to the point of throwing away enough food to feed 90,000 people each day?  Is there something we can do to change our habits and keep some of that $2,500 that is going into the landfill as food waste?  Yes, there are several things we can do and I would like to share with you a few tips and resources of how we can join together to reduce food waste.  We can increase the sustainability of food production by looking at how we buy, prepare and eat our meals.

One way to cut waste is to share your food.  In the photo above, our son, Jeff,
 is sharing hissandwich with younger sister, Kim.  Steve and I have learned from
 experience some restaurant portion sizes are large enough for us to share a meal. 

Did you know that 40% of the food brought home in America goes uneaten?  In our home we are only a family of two so the issue of making sure we eat what we buy is more challenging then when we were a family of seven.  My husband, Steve, is very intentional about minimizing waste so we are careful about the amounts, sizes and perishability of the foods we buy.  Rather than buying fresh vegetables we use more frozen vegetables.  When we buy fresh food we only buy an amount we can eat.  Sometimes we buy fruit from the local FFA Chapter at Christmastime which is more than we can eat.  We will usually bake some of the apples to avoid having them rot.  Most of the time we buy items in sizes that give us the best value per serving.  We are learning an item, like milk, is better purchased in the smaller size which we can consume before spoilage.   Making food purchases that follow meal planning can also help us eliminate food waste.

This slow cooker apple and oatmeal recipe is a tasty way
to use up apples before they rot.  This is a breakfast treat
that also makes the house smell good as it bakes!

For many of us, "what's for dinner?" is a challenging question each and every day.  When we had our children all home I would often think of several meals for the week instead of going day to day.  It was also important to know the school activity schedule to accommodate for meals eaten away from home.  One of my biggest challenges was trying to avoid concession food for meals.  As a mom and a cattle farmer I had little energy left to come up with creative meal solutions.  Families today have many advantages to help with meal planning.   We can use our phones to search for recipes as we shop so we know which ingredients to buy,  some of us can receive home delivery of groceries allowing more time to think about what we need and there are meal services that will deliver meals with the ingredients and recipes right to your door.  If you can utilize services that help you with meal planning then you will find it easier to design meals you will eat rather than waste.  We can also find creative ways to use leftovers.  You can find a variety of ways to use beef leftovers here.

Jeff, the cute little boy in the first photo, is now in his 20's and his grandma
likes to make sure we all get plenty to eat at Thanksgiving.  When families
celebrate holidays we tend to make more than enough food to eat. It will help
us manage food waste if we can get creative at using up all of those left-overs.

When I was in high school I worked for a restaurant called "Bonanza".  People loved the "all-you-can-eat" salad bar that was provided with every adult entree.  Over the years buffet style eating and super-sized portions have become the norm while American waist lines continue to expand.  Conversations about what we should and shouldn't eat seem more focused on removing food groups rather than looking at serving sizes. I hear even fewer voices discussing the nutrient density per calorie of what we are eating.  If we are truly concerned about cutting food waste perhaps we need to cut portion sizes and seek to get the best nutrients in the smallest amounts needed.  I have come to appreciate the nutritional value beef has to offer.  Beef is also one of the least food items wasted at 20% versus 30-40% of other products. The beef community believes we can do better than 20% so we have done studies and have a program to help us all reduce food waste. The "30 Day Food Waste Challenge" is a great place to start if you want to cut food waste.

When I was growing up my five siblings and I were fortunate to share many suppers together with meals prepared by my mom including meat, potatoes and a vegetable.  I can recall hearing numerous times "eat everything on your plate because there are kids starving in Africa".   There was little food waste in our family because we were taught to appreciate the food we were served, we came to the table hungry and there were rarely any leftovers. There are still people in the world that don't get enough to eat.  Farmers and ranchers are ready and willing to meet the challenge of feeding an increasing population using less resources.  One way we can each help is to cut food waste in our own lives.  Are you ready to make some changes?  Do you have some great ideas on cutting food waste?  Please share in the comments below so we can help one another fight food waste!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Waste Not, Want Not: The Feed

When my husband Steve and I bought our farm we were able to store our cattle feed ingredients in structures that allowed for as little waste as possible.  Those initial structures were put into place by Steve's grandfather and uncles as they sought ways to cut down on feed waste with better storage and proper handling.  We utilized those bins, bunkers and wooden fence line bunks to continue a tradition in agriculture that seeks to responsibly use resources in a way that allows for little or no waste.

This photo shows how Steve's grandfather fed the cattle hay in the 1950's.  He did
save some feed by keeping the hay on the outside of the pen but, we've come a long
way with nutritional research, genetics and better pen design to help cattle thrive.

I was a brand new farmer in the early 1980's with much to learn.  Growing up in the middle of the heartland with cornfields all around was not enough to fully understand the spirit of the American farmer.  I was drawn to the farm to utilize my experience as a veterinary technician to help with the health care for our cattle.  However, I lacked an understanding of growing, storing and utilizing the crops we would grow.  I would like to share with you a few things I have learned in regards to reducing as much waste as possible from the corn crop we produce each year.

During the early years on our farm I learned how to be a mom, too!  Our son,
Scott, is swinging in front of the house Steve's dad grew up in.  This was our
home for many years until the structure needed to be replaced for safety reasons.

Every late April thru the month of May planting season hits northeast Nebraska. Fields are prepared using less tillage, fertilized (with our feedlot manure), and seeds are carefully chosen to thrive in their designated fields.  The soil type, climate and topography allow farmers, like Steve and I, to grow corn well as partners with Mother Nature's natural resources.  On our farm we hold all of the water from the feedlot in a holding pond so those nutrients can be used on our growing corn instead of going into streams.  The humid summers of Nebraska help those corn plants thrive as they seemingly grow overnight. When football season arrives we begin our corn harvest.

This pivot is taking water from our holding pond that has nutrients like
nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus as well as many micro-nutrients and
giving it to the corn plants to thrive on.

Some of our corn is chopped when the moisture of the corn is around 25%.  We can chop the whole plant with the ear and make corn silage.  We can also chop only the ear with the cob and leaves to make earlage.  When we choose to make earlage we are allowing more of the plant to remain in the soil to help build up organic material.  Our crop consultant helps us decide between silage and earlage by taking soil samples so we can monitor the soil health.  As the corn is chopped it is delivered to a cement bunker for storage.  The material is packed, covered with plastic and sealed down with tires.  By carefully storing the silage in this manner we are able to maintain consistent quality with very little waste.

The chopper blowing silage into a truck.

The truck dumps a load for Steve to spread and pack.

A covered silage pile eliminates spoilage by keeping the rain
and snow out.  Raccoons can tear holes so sometimes you will
see duct taped patches as winter turns to spring!

The rest of our corn is harvested with a combine.  Generally farmers wait until the moisture in the corn is under 16% so it stores well in metal bins.  We also have dryers in some of the bins if the corn needs to be dried down.  It is important to the farmers we buy corn from to prevent waste by monitoring the corn in the bins for moisture throughout the storage period.  On our farm the bins storing the corn are located near the rest of our feed storage area for efficiency and waste prevention.

We use a payloader to put different ingredients on the feed truck.  The rolled
corn is to the left, our distiller's grain are next and then ground hay is
next to that.  We keep our ingredients out of the rain and snow to manage waste.

Storing our corn and other feed ingredients properly helps us show respect for the environment by reducing waste.  Utilizing cement structures like bunkers and fence line feed bunks allow us to store, mix and deliver quality feed to our cattle so those cattle can provide quality protein for us to eat.  Those cattle also give us numerous by-products including manure that can be used to nurture future corn plants for feed.

This is a sharp contrast to the photo at the top!  We have cement bunks to provide
nutritionally balanced rations for the cattle to eat.  They also have a cement
pad on the inside of the pen to keep the eating area free from mud.  A scale on
the feed truck makes sure each pen gets an exact amount so every speck is eaten.

My experiences as a farmer continue to grow as innovative ideas help us take better care of the land, the water and the cattle.  A very important piece of that innovation is reducing waste while maintaining quality allowing us to be more sustainable in the use of resources for food.  In my next blog I will talk about reducing waste on the consumer side and how we can all participate in responsibly using our resources for food production.

This is a Peruvian roast beef recipe that our daughter, Emily, has made for us.
Emily was a missionary in Chimbote, Peru.  When we visited her we saw more
beef heart on the menu then a dish like this.  I would highly recommend the
  "Estofado de Res" (Stewed Beef) versus anticucho (beef heart).  The ability to
export products like the beef heart, tongue and stomach improve our sustainability.

 Estofado de Res (Stewed Beef)


 2.5 lbs beef (chuck roast), cut in about 2” pieces
Salt, pepper, and cumin
Vegetable or olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped finely
1 T. chopped garlic
3 carrots, cut in small cubes or slices
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 T. tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
¾ c. cooking wine
1 c. peas
3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut in halves
3 bay leaves

1.     Heat oil in a pan. Season beef with salt, pepper, and cumin. Place in oil and fry over medium heat until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

2.     In the same pan, cook onion until soft. Add garlic and carrots. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, bay leaves, and wine. Mix and bring to simmer. 

3.     Add meat. Cover and cook about 1 ½ hours.

4.     Add potatoes and peas. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

5.     Remove bay leaves. Serve with white rice.

Enjoy!  Let me know what you think of this recipe.   

"Peruvian food is so simple yet amazingly flavored with their traditional spices" L'Wren Scott

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Peruvian food is so simple yet amazingly flavored with their traditional spices. L'Wren Scott
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/lwrenscot441140.ht