Wisconsin Dairy Farm Crisis

So, I’m leaving out anything kitchen or culinary in this post. For now, anyway.

When I mentioned my blog to people I got introduced to at my new day job and the fact that I live on a dairy farm, it was brought up about how much has changed with dairy farming. We didn’t talk about machinery, cows, family dynamics but how the economy has forced many small family farms out of business.

By no means would I consider my husband’s and sons’ farm a small farm. The farm is what I call medium. It’s not a hobby or small farm. Nor is it a so-called factory farm.

But, over the past 5 years, I feel the farm’s income isn’t medium or what you call middle class. It’s more like less than lower class. Since 2014, farm milk prices went downhill. Over the past few months, I’ve really felt the strain of it all. Or for better words, burned out.

I hate to break the rural living shiny bubble that some people believe in. I hate to cast such a dismal shadow over what I’ve been posting and writing about. Frankly, cooking in the small kitchen has kept me sane despite its shortcomings.

Anyway, getting back to the day job discussion. It was expressed that perhaps a story should be told about what it’s like living on a dairy farm today. I thought this to be a good idea. For some strange reason, it may be therapeutic in between the recipe sharing and other thoughts that are culinary that pop up in these posts and on this site.

Actually, I did write a blog about life on a dairy farm and published a book called Holy Heifer Tales. The book actually was something I just wanted to pass on to my children, kind of like a piece of me in some way creatively. What I wrote about was rather light stuff.

Since the economic downward spiral for dairy farmers in Wisconsin, it’s been difficult to find anything light to write about. Hence, my blogger’s or writer’s block for a number of years. Also, partly because of the death of my local magazine Country Diva which I had edited, owned, published.

You can find numerous articles about what Wisconsin dairy farm families are going through like this one from Journal Sentinel. I can relate very well to the financial and emotional issues discussed in that article. Even the “s” word was brought up. As a result, I’ve even made attempts to see what else could be done with what this farm has.

Industrial hemp looked like a promising alternative, but after having a credible agronomist look into our particular situation it was learned our soil was not the right type. Sadly, that was the only bright alternative. Beef was out of the question–the cost of the transition is not affordable. Crop farming is a huge gamble as well.

I’ve decided to let go and let God. All I can do is pray for my family. I’ve done all I can. It’s time to let it go to a higher power. And the kitchen. My day job helps pay for those gourmet ingredients that I feel Farmer deserves in his home-cooked, gourmet quality meals. Especially when he’s working for nothing.

6 Small Kitchen Must Haves

There are some kitchen tools I absolutely can’t cook without in my small kitchen. I discovered these during the first couple months of embarking on this journey with you.

  1. Pampered Chef salad chopper. If you can find a multi-purpose tool worthy of taking up some small kitchen real estate, this tool is worth considering. You can chop salad and salsa ingredients. I find it’s most useful for pulling apart meat like chicken, beef and pork without a lot of hassle. Its titanium-coated stainless steel blades can handle this.
  2. Pampered Chef Quick Cooker. It replaces appliances taking up space in your already cramped kitchen cupboards and counter tops. This sits on my counter tip ready for cooking that involves steaming, slow cooking and cooking rice or whole grains. Pressure cooking is a breeze. You can even cook up chicken while its frozen. There are settings also for beef/pork, fish/seafood, soup/stock, beans, stew/chili and dessert. I even cooked up boiled eggs in this while I had it out.
  3. Pampered Chef silicone prep bowl with cover. I don’t have to worry about burning myself taking the bowl out of the microwave after heating ingredients mixed up in this bowl. The cover with the bowl allows convenient storage of dips in the refrigerator. Most beneficial is how the silicone allows ease of transferring heated up gooey ingredients to another container without any sticky residual in the bowl.
  4. Pampered Chef Mix ‘N Scraper. This is another great silicone product that can withstand heat. What impresses me most is how I can use it to fold in and scoop out ingredients from a hot skillet with ease. There are comparable silicone scrapers on the market, but this one I feel has them beat. It has a deeper indentation to it that holds ingredients in better during folding/scooping. Tomato products will not stain this scraper either.
  5. Pampered Chef Mix ‘N Chop. I can’t go without this when crumbling up browned ground beef. Hamburger Helper issued a tool similar to this. You get what you pay for though. I find that the closer proximity of the blades on this product performs better.
  6. Bosch Compact Kitchen Machine. I thought the KitchenAid mixer I had was top of the line until I learned about this little powerhouse distributed by L’Chef. It can not only mix up what the full size KitchenAid can but also replace a couple other appliances taking up space–a blender and food chopper/processor. It weighs a lot less. Surprisingly, its bowl has the same capacity as the bowl for the KitchenAid. I’ll be writing more about this little gem in time to come.

Want to find out more about these must haves? To purchase Pampered Chef products, click here. For L’Chef or Bosch, click here.

3 Reasons To Ditch The Rolling Pin

I discovered a cool, easy way to roll out dough using a tool that’s a lot better in my small kitchen than the traditional rolling pin.

Here’s 3 reasons to ditch that rolling pin:

  1. A traditional rolling pin takes up space a small kitchen doesn’t have–it’s either too long to fit in a drawer and fits awkwardly in a kitchen cupboard or cabinet.
  2. Why have it when you don’t have the time or ambition to bake major? It’s not that I wouldn’t love to bake more, but I don’t have the time or space. Baking becomes a major project in a small kitchen.
  3. Why have it when there’s a tool that suits you and your kitchen better?

So, what’s that tool and what’s a better alternative, you ask.

It’s the Pampered Chef Baker’s Roller Tool, #1485. I discovered this little gem works great with rolling out pizza dough from a can. Check out my pics as proof below how awesome this works.

Want to find out more?

  • Find this awesome tool here.

Shrimp Pesto Bowls

Moving forward on my small kitchen culinary journey, I discovered a restaurant quality seafood entree recipe that I could easily prepare at home.   Since that discovery, I have prepared this recipe more than once.

Here’s my take on Tastefully Simple’s Shrimp Pesto Bowl:

  • It’s easy to prepare.
  • There are different ways you can make it.
  • It’s budget friendly at $5.45 a serving for 6 people.
  • You can make it in your kitchen in less time than it takes to go out, especially on a Friday night in Wisconsin when you don’t want to go out because it’s below zero.
  • It’s an all occasion entree.

Like I said, it wasn’t hard to prepare.  The ingredients were not that difficult to get together or find using my iPhone Walmart grocery app (I’ll have to elaborate on that topic further in another post), and you can have them ready close to last minute.

I did tweak the recipe a bit, especially when I found out that spaghetti squash wasn’t quite in season to order it on the app.  I’m thinking that the reason spaghetti squash is an ingredient is because it’s a healthy option over pasta and a good way to get your vegetable quota in.  However, I don’t mind pasta one bit nor does Farmer.  And, a friend of mine who also tried this recipe through the Tastefully Simple 30-Meal Kit opted for the pasta too–spaghetti to be more specific.  With spaghetti you can choose the regular spaghetti or the fine spaghetti, whichever one trips your trigger.  I just grab whatever I have on hand or what’s a good deal at the time during my app shopping session.

I found it to be a nice alternative to Friday night fish fry.  It would be nice with wine if you want to be fancy like Sauvignon blanc to impress someone, have a wine tasting with the girls or want to have an above-average home cooked meal.

Want to find out more?

  • Find the Shrimp Pesto Bowls recipe here.
  • Shop for Tastefully Simple ingredients individually or as part of the 30-Meal Kit or Fix It Fast Meal Kit which come with beautiful recipe booklets here.
  • Discover TS To You delivery service here.

Delightful Rhubarb Strawberry Squash

After making the Rhubarb-Strawberry Glazed Salmon, I accidentally found another way to reap the benefits of the now leftover Tastefully Simple Rhubarb-Strawberry Fruit Spread.

I had purchased acorn squash to accompany a planned meal’s entree, which for some reason I didn’t follow through on. So, I cooked the acorn squash.

One taste of the squash sans seasoning brought one word to my mind–blah. I recalled recipes for squash that incorporated brown sugar to sweeten the squash up. Then, I thought about the fruit spread.

The small kitchen soon turned into a culinary laboratory. Consulting Google in between adding the fruit spread and other ingredients, I tasted my way through the process until I got the result my taste buds desired. I would share with you what that is, but I’d rather you find out for yourself.

Click here to try this recipe. Don’t forget to comment below after you have tried it.