Doing what you love, sometimes means…

do-what-you-love-quote

Missing you…

Hey, hi there…have you missed me?

I didn’t mean to be away so long, but I’ve had to prioritize lately….

1.) Family, 2.) Real Estate, 3.) Social Media Consulting, 4.) Holiday Baskets…volunteer work…cats…eat….sleep…repeat…

B & W Barn

Yeah, it’s that time of the year.  The world switches into hyper-drive; what’s that about “falling back”?  Does that work for you?  Me, most days I feel like there’s not enough minutes in the day to get it all done.  But I’ve gotten really good at lists…and prioritizing…and not getting distracted.  It’s hard, with the majority of my businesses being online.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ ….all things I help my clients navigate through, all things I have to stay away from myself, for fear of falling down the rabbit hole and next thing I know, I’ve wasted an hour (or more!) of my life.  Do you feel this way somedays?  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do!  I wouldn’t change any of it, not for a minute!  Oh, expect for maybe getting to do more of this…cooking & sharing with you!  We LOVE this recipe and I hope you will too!  Oh and please forgive the crappy iPhone pictures…I had just barely enough time to take them at all!

Chicken & Cabbage Panade

So,  back when I was younger, alot, and without kids, and not married, I worked at the most wonderful Bed & Breakfast in the upper Midwest.  If you haven’t been, you must go….it’s called The Rosewood Inn, in Hastings, Minnesota.  I’ve stayed in many of the rooms, and cleaned all of them at one time or another.  When you work at a B & B, you end up doing many different tasks, something I’ve always enjoyed.  I learned to clean rooms (and almost every one of them had a fireplace-wood burning and a jacuzzi, so I got a really good at cleaning both!) do laundry, and not everyday, but many, I would find myself at the end of my shift, helping to prep the welcome snack (fresh baked cookies) and sometime’s the evening’s meals.  If my shift started early enough, I would get to make breakfast…and oh, how I loved those breakfast’s!!! Swiss Biscuit Eggs… Popover Pancakes…Minnesota Wild Rice Quiche…Caramel Apple Bread Pudding…oh my!

But dinner is where I fell in love, with the recipes that I still make today.  I learned my love of Spinach Salad with Strawberries, fresh Parmesan topped with a sweet & sour Poppy seed dressing.  I sautéed my first Shallots there…made my first ever Mushroom Pate which I placed gently inside my first ever Beef Wellingtons.  Oh. My. Gosh.  We used to make this crazy dish called Pasta Torte; it was a spaghetti dish, mixed with lots of other delicious things (herbs, cheese, including cottage cheese etc.) and baked in a springform pan.  I’ve never actually made it at home, but have the recipe if you want to give it a shot!  I just might have to now that I am thinking about it…give my pans another use besides cheesecake!

But let’s talk about this dish.  It’s a take on the French Onion Soup.  Baked at the Inn, in large soup tureens.  But it also has cabbage…lots of it…and carrots…and onions.  And Chicken and bread and cheese, oh my!  I’ve used fresh cut green cabbage and sometimes I’ve cheated and grabbed a bag or two of the Coleslaw mix you find in the salad section at the grocery store.  Here’s what you need:

Chicken Cabbage Panade:

Green Cabbage, diced as small as you like it

Carrots, thinly sliced

(or as stated above, grab a bag of coleslaw mix from the salad section at the grocery store!)

one medium yellow (sweet) onion, diced

2 tablespoons butter

2 +/- tablespoons of Olive Oil

Chicken…yes, whatever kind you want, however much you want!  (don’t freak out…the original recipe called for the meat off of one whole bone-in chicken breast, but if you’ve been following along this blog for awhile, you’ll remember that I prefer Thighs over Breasts, so I used two nicely sized Thighs, skin-on, that I baked, cooled, removed the meat from and chopped beforehand and oh yeah, I chopped up that crispy skin in small pieces and used that too!)

Loaf of French Bread, sliced and lightly toasted on both sides

Swiss Cheese, finely shredded, 1/2 cup +/-

Parmesan Cheese, finely shredded, 1/4 cup +/-

Chicken Stock/Broth, 3 cups +/-

salt, pepper, fresh chopped garlic

Saute Cabbage & Carrots-Add Chicken

Once you’ve chopped everything up, heat up a deep sauté pan, and add the butter & olive oil.  Once hot, add the onions and sauté until they start to turn translucent.  Then add the carrots.  Sauté this a bit, maybe five or so minutes and then add the cabbage.  I like to cook this awhile, until everything is tender.  It will cook a bit more in the oven, but I like most of the work to be done in the pan first.  Season with salt, pepper & chopped garlic.  Remove from heat.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toast Bread-Place one layer in bottom of Casserole dish

While you are sautéing the veggies, you can toast your bread, either in the toaster if you prefer, or placed on a pizza/cookie sheet and under the broiler.  Get both sides golden brown…this just helps to add flavor and keep the bread from getting too soggy and disintegrate in the dish.  Take a casserole dish and place a layer of toast in the bottom.

1st layer, top with bread, then cheese

On top of the first layer of toasts, add a layer of the cabbage/carrot/onion mixture.  Then another layer of toasts, and sprinkle some of both cheeses over this.

Finish layering, top with cheese, pour stock over

Continue this process, until you’ve reached the top of the casserole dish and hopefully run out of ingredients!  (oh, also, I like to be sure the very top has a couple pieces of toast, so they get topped with cheese)  Take the chicken stock/broth and pour slowly over the dish, attempting to get all of the dish somewhat saturated.  It shouldn’t be too “soupy” if that makes any sense.  You  want moisture, but not soupy…got it?  Pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.

After the first twenty minutes, carefully pull out and place more cheese on top, if you have any left….so you are making a second crispy layer of cheesy goodness! 🙂  Pop back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Plated Chicken & Cabbage Panade

You’ll know it’s done, when its bubbly and the cheese is a gorgeous golden color.  Remove from oven and let cool for ten minutes or so.  It will be easier to remove from the dish if you wait a bit.

Some of my other fall favorites I want to share with you…….

Are you looking for a new twist on the traditional Chili?  Then you have to try The Realistic Housewife’s Apple, Squash & Sausage Chili…  It’s SO good!

And if you haven’t had your fill of Pumpkin recipes yet, be sure to give Ambitious Kitchen’s Spicy Black Bean Chicken Enchiladas with a Pumpkin Sour Cream Sauce a whirl.  Fall with a Mexican spin!

Fall always gets me craving anything with (red) Cabbage and I blogged about Red Cabbage braised in Cider & Beer for one of my Beer for a Year posts last year.  More cabbage = fall deliciousness!

I am looking forward to trying these Crispy Risotto Balls with Truffle Honey this holiday season! I’ve pinned it to my “Small BitesPinterest Board, which has lots of other great “small bites” ideas!

confidence-quote

The above picture is one I have on my Social Recipes Pinterest Board…it’s been repined over a hundred times!  I’d love to have you follow me on my Your Social Recipes blog as well!  I love pictures with quotes…

Well lovelies, until next time…not sure when that will be…but hopefully soon!

Cheers, Shawn

It’s Minnesota State Fair time…visiting with a farmer & more!

MN State Fair Logo

Hello food-lovin’ friends!  I have finally emerged from the “rabbit hole” this week (more on that later…) and am happy to celebrate the start of our beloved Minnesota State Fair!  And, as most of us can appreciate, the temperatures are making their way back up into the high 80’s & low 90’s just in time for the Fair!  Come on, you know you love the great Minnesota “sweat-together”…. the packed streets of the Fair when it’s hot & muggy….the constant barrage of smells from the food stands, mixing in with the earthy (= sweaty) farm animals, filling the air.  Corn dogs & Pronto Pups…mini donuts & funnel cakes…French fries & chocolate chip cookies in buckets (although not together…hmmm, but that might be good!!!)…fresh roasted Corn and more things on a stick, than, well, you can shake a stick at!  Sorry, I couldn’t help myself 🙂

Screen Shot 2013-08-19 at 2.49.46 PM

And of course, everyone is always excited when the New Fair Foods list is unveiled…this year, surprisingly there is only one thing on that list I am going to be sure to get; the Pork Belly Sliders at O’Gara’s…along with an order of Blarney Beans (above…can you guess what they are?) and likely a cold Finnegan’s at the same time!

Collins Family Farms logo

This year however, I have a couple new stops on my list of must do’s, and one of those is to meet up with a local farmer who will be at the Minnesota Farm Bureaus’s building, the day my family & I visit the Fair.  His name is Nathan Collins and along with his brother Sean, they operate Collins Family Farms, located in Murdock, Minnesota.  I love sharing little peeks into the lives of those I meet, and emailed Nathan a few questions I thought my readers would like to know more about.  He very quickly agreed, and provided me with some really great insight & honestly, into all things Minnesota family farming.  Here’s our interview:

Me:  How long have you been on (working) the farm and was it something you always (knew) wanted to do?
Nathan:  I grew up on the site where the farm is currently located. I did not have a passion for the farm growing up but came to appreciate what it offered when I was in college and decided at that time to go home and farm.   I have been farming now for 10 years with my brother and our family .
Me:  On your website, the farm is referred to as a “family owned, cash crop operation” can you tell me what that means?
Nathan:  My brother and I own the farm and we raise crops, corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and cattle, that we sell on the open market. My brother and I operate the farm but it is a true family business as other siblings and parents are also involved.
Me:  Tell me a bit about what you grow/raise….
Nathan:  On our farm we raise corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and cattle. The corn and soybeans are sold locally and then shipped to other markets. The corn is sold to ethanol plants, feedlots, a local dairy and foreign markets. The cattle we have are used for breeding and the meat market.  The sugar beets are sent to the cooperative where they’re converted into sugar and other byproducts that are used to feed cattle and other livestock.
Me:  Tell me something you want my readers to know about Collins Family Farm…
Nathan:  We are a family run farm that is very committed to promoting agriculture while growing our business to provide a future for the next generations to come . Farmers are some of the best conservationist in the world because we need the land to live on. Therefore we take the best care of everything we have because our life depends on it.
Me:  There’s all this talk about GMO’s and for the average home cook, it’s hard to wrap your head around that and make educated decisions regarding the food we buy for our families.  Can you simplify that for us and tell us where you stand on it?
Nathan:  GMO’s have been around for centuries. If it were not for GMO’s there be a lot of starving people in this world. They have allowed us to produce more with less and that is a very common theme you’ll find with most any farm. I also would not grow anything that I would not feed to my own children. They enjoy walking through the fields with me as do my brothers children. There is no way we would grow anything that would harm them. Since I have started farming we have produced more with less year after year and will continue to do the same to provide the lowest priced high quality food of anywhere in the world.
Unloading Cows-Collins Family Farms
Nathan:  If you look on our About Us page on the website you’ll see our mission statement. We are committed to God and our family. We feel very blessed to be able to raise our children in the best place on earth, teach them work ethic and provide a living for ourselves and those that work with us on the farm everyday. I haven’t worked a day in 10 years because I love what I do and have a passion to provide and enhance the business of Agriculture to those in the general public.
Me:  Thank you Nathan for letting us get to know you & your family farm!  I look forward to meeting you on Tuesday, August 27th, at the Fair!
Side note:  if you are interested in learning more about GMO’s you can visit a new website dedicated to answering questions about just that:  www.gmoanswers.com
MN Farm Bureau at the Fair
In addition to being able to meet Nathan and other great Minnesota Farmers, the MN Farm Bureau is excited to announce the return of the Ag Cab Lab Virtual Tractor and Combine!  
The Minnesota Farm Bureau (MFB) Foundation has brought back the chance to virtually cultivate, plant and harvest a field at the Minnesota State Fair with the Ag Cab Lab. The Ag Cab Lab – Combine is located in the Farm Bureau building and the Ag Cab Lab – Tractor is located in the CHS Miracle of Birth Center, giving kids and adults two chances to sit inside a real tractor or combine cab and learn about farming today.  Both the CHS Miracle of Birth Center and the Farm Bureau building are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for kids and adults to visit the Ag Cab Lab during the 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair, August 22-September 2.
Whistling Well Farm Levi's Lost Calf
And also exciting for the kiddos is The Great Minnesota Book Bonanza!  It’s a free activity for kids, (held weekdays) where Minnesota children’s book authors will read at 10:30 am and 1:00 pm in the Minnesota Farm Bureau building.  Great books include:  Levi’s Lost Calf  will be featured on August 22nd and 23rd, Emmy of Whistling Well Farm will be featured the 27th and 28th and If I Were a Farmer is on the 29th and 30th.  They are hoping to have a few readings of Little House on the Prairie mixed in as well.  Be sure to “like” Minnesota Farmers CARE on Facebook to stay up-to-date on all the happenings at the Fair!
minnesota-care
As always, thanks for reading along and if you see me at the Fair, be sure to say hello!  And I will share a little peek into what’s been happening in my life real soon, I promise!
Cheers,
Shawn

My Oink Outing…

Recently, my husband & I signed up for a CSA with Natura Farms.  (more details on that in a future post) Yes, we have a pretty big garden of our own, but my husband had the opportunity to tour this farm, (located in gorgeous Scandia, Minnesota) and is doing some business with them already.  We were excited to not only support another local business, but have the opportunity to enjoy some things we weren’t already growing.  We usually amp up our veggie intake in the summer, but this summer, we are eating some nights, nothing but veggies!  It makes me realize I could really become a vegetarian.  But then I come to my senses…how could I not ever smell my most favorite smell, taste my most favorite food…wafting in from the grill, smoker or on a lazy weekend morning…the kitchen!  Yes, people, I am talking Pig.  Pork, glorious Pork!A friend recently posted a picture on my Facebook wall (not going to share that here, as some of you might get emotional once see how cute it was) of an adorable piglet, all pink & fuzzy.  The caption read “I love you!!!  Okay, now you can’t eat me.”  Ha!  I found the humor in it, and yes, for just the smallest of moments I thought “how could you eat something so cute?”  But that’s what makes my relationship with Pork so amazing; I can appreciate and adore the tiny precious little piglets, still a pretty pink color and all soft & fuzzy looking.  And I can appreciate the Sow, the Mama pig, who bravely bears (called “farrowing” in pig farming) those little piglets, that someday will grow to be somewhere around 270+ pounds that will eventually make it’s way to my dinner table, and finally my belly.  Until recently, I had no idea the steps involved.  That was, up until I went on my very first Oink Outing!

Last summer, some of my Minnesota Food Blogger friends (now officially known as the group Fortify) were posting pictures from their Oink Outings and I asked how I could participate in one.  Well, this spring I got an email asking if I was still interested (YES!) and what dates worked best for me (ANY!) in June.  So yes, this happened last month…and truthfully, I don’t know what happened to July…can someone tell me?  I had this awesome posting calendar all set up and the summer derailed me.  Anyway, hope you’ll forgive me and let’s talk some Piggy now!

Oink Outings, sponsored in part by the Minnesota Pork Board, brings together families & pig farmers, educating both on how pigs are raised and what Mom’s like me go through when choosing how & what to feed our families. For my Oink Outing, we were excited to partner with farmer Judy Bode’s farrow-to-wean pig farm, Rebco Pork and Executive Chef Bryan Schouten of Brackett’s Crossing Country Club.  My day began at Brackett’s Crossing where Chef Bryan prepared a mouth-watering Pork Carnitas Salad (isn’t that red taco shell gorgeous!) for our lunch and provided us with several recipes to take home and enjoy with our families. Chef Bryan was able to join us for the day, as we toured the gorgeous southern Minnesota towns of Courtland & Nicollet .  We made a pit stop on the way down, at Schmidt’s Meat Market where we were given the honor of seeing some of their huge smokers and product being prepared for the retail coolers out front.  I was even given a gift of their award-winning Raspberry Chipotle Bacon, which I used to make this Brown Butter Bacon Ice Cream.

      

From there, we moved on to the Bode family farm, home to Rebco Pork.  The Bode’s have 900 acres of farmland in the Courtland area.  In addition to their fifth generation pig farm, they also grow corn & soybeans.  I was very impressed with the measures they take to keep their pigs healthy; every employee showers as they enter the building, at the beginning of their shift.  They each have their own supplies for doing so, along with clothing & uniforms they must keep at the farm.  Everything gets washed there, to again protect the pigs.  So, we acted like employees, all though we didn’t shower, we did have to suit up…here’s a picture of our whole crew ready to enter the building!

First up on the tour was the farrowing barn.  Rooms where Sows were placed to give birth.  I couldn’t wait to see some of the piglets, sweet, pink & brand new!  Pig farming has changed over the years.  Technology has enabled pig farmers to know pretty close to when a Sow will be giving birth, so they can move her to the farrowing barn before her big moment.  That same technology has also enabled pig farmers to choose the type of pigs they raise; consumer demand dictates this mostly, but today’s pigs are leaner and tastier than they have ever been.  As we entered the first farrowing barn, the piglets were about three weeks old.  They’ll be weaned shortly from the Sow and headed to the finishing barns, on another part of the Bode family farm.  From their they will grow to be pushing 270+ and will shortly thereafter make it’s way to the grocery stores we all shop at.  The next farrowing barn we entered had Sows just about ready to give birth, and as my luck would have it, one was giving birth right as we came in!  I know the picture might be a little graphic, but how amazing is that!  It’s crazy to see the difference in size from those tiny little piglets and the Mama laying on her side giving birth to them.

After pulling me away from the piglets, we moved to a different area of the facility; the gestational barn.  This is where the pregnant Sows are kept until they are ready to move to a farrowing barn.  I have to admit, it was difficult for me to see the Sows, lined up, all inside cages.  Of course I thought it would all be “Wilbur-like” and they’d be roaming free, eating grass and hanging out with the ducks, geese and other barnyard animals.  But there’s good reason they aren’t.  First, we can go back to the strict measures the Bode’s take to ensure their pigs stay healthy.  Free roaming pigs can pick up all sorts of diseases from just roaming about outside.  In this environment, everything is monitored; from the water they drink, to the feed they get.  Also, they are protected.  Pigs, believe it or not, can be a lot like humans, behavior-wise.  If they were left in an environment where each pig can freely eat what & when they want, bigger pigs can bully smaller pigs and they end up not getting what they need nutritionally speaking.  So for what they are trying to do, provide healthy, nutritious Pork to families all over the country, Rebco Pork & the Bode family are doing an incredible job!

The day came to close and as I drove home from my tour, I was happy to have learned as much as I did.  It’s good to know where your food comes from.  We should all learn that someday!

So let’s talk about some of my favorite ways to eat Piggie meat!  My most favorite Pork product is Bacon.  Ah, Bacon.  What ever would I do without Bacon?  I am also not a Bacon snob.  I like any Bacon… Although I am not sure I can stomach any of the “Bacon” themed crazy products out there right now. (see below) But I will eat it in salads, on Panini’s (if you don’t own a Panini press-get one), in pasta, dipped in chocolate (aka “pig-lickers”), try it in braised Mustard Greens, Kale or Swiss Chard, I’ve put it in ice cream (see above), I’ve put it in cookies.

Someday I hope to get Bacon Roses for Valentine’s Day…who wouldn’t love that!  Hint-hint…

Since getting my smoker for Christmas we’ve smoked Ribs (see previous blog post here) and just this past weekend, finally smoked myself a Pork shoulder for pulled Pork.  I will admit, it didn’t go as well as I had planned (we ended up putting it in the oven inside for another hour + to cook) but in the end, what resulted was the most incredible, juicy, tender pulled Pork!  My husband’s comment (after it was all said and done) “this was pretty good, but if you tried my pulled Pork recipe from work, it would curl your toes”.  Uh, really? I asked why he’s never brought home any samples???  Tease.

A note about cooking pork; most people kill it.  And I don’t mean in the good way…to safely eat Pork, you need to cook it to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.  (unless it’s ground Pork, which should be 160) LET IT REST before slicing into it and you should have a juicy, delicious piece of Pork!  If you want/need more info on cooking with Pork, check out the Minnesota Pork Board’s website HERE.

      

And my other favorite way to eat Pork is slathered with Mustard (Dijon & whole grain), chopped garlic, olive oil & tons of fresh Tarragon (ok in the winter it’s dried from my garden) you have to try it this way!!  We usually either bake these in the oven or sauté them.  In the summer, definitely throw them on the grill.  We also usually do this on Pork chops, but it would be incredible on a gorgeous Pork tenderloin or roast.  (salivating just thinking about it) And for another idea with Pork tenderloin, check out my Rhubarb Beer Jam post from last month.

So yah, there’s no chance of becoming a vegetarian with all the delicious Pork available today!   Thank you to the Minnesota Pork Board, the Bode family of Rebco Pork, Chef Bryan from Brackett’s Crossing and Oink Outings for letting me participate!  Eat Pork people!!

UPDATE ON THIS POST:

Just wanted to be clear, the thoughts expressed above are my own…since taking this tour, I have read & watched articles & videos on both “sides” of pig farming.  I have no answer to solve the problem faced by consumers & farmers today. The farm I visited was very clean and appeared to really care about their pigs.  I was compensated for my time (as I did take an entire day off of work to go) but I still wrote what I wanted to.  If given the choice, I would buy the best meat available to me; free range pigs and all.  We each do what we can, to feed our families in the responsible way we see fit.  Thanks for reading 🙂