Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

This week would have marked the 87th birthday of Grandma Betty, who passed away in December. We loved her dearly and miss her tremendously. But we are happy knowing that she is in the Lord's hands with the love of her life, Manley, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 87.

An e-mail began circling around family members of words the cousins put together at Grandpa's funeral, and I had to share with all of you. Whether you live on a farm or not, I hope you find it inspiring.

Grandpa Manley, one man, who with the help of Grandma Betty, turned 13 grandchildren from the city into self-proclaimed farmhands.

That’s probably enough to leave many people in awe of what our Grandpa accomplished during his life but does not do justice to the impact he had on all of our lives.

It’d be easy today to allow ourselves to mourn the loss of a man who, for many of us, was our pillar of strength. Grandpa Manley was one of the best people I’ve ever met, and I know God was smiling on me the day he decided to make him my grandpa. But I don’t think Grandpa would want us to be too sad today. Grandpa Manley’s life was a rarity, one that was full of love, compassion and deep faith. He lived a full and happy life, blessed with a loving family, a wonderful wife and 87 years of good health

Grandpa Manley was one of the greatest men I will ever know and I can only hope to become half the man he was.  His influence on the family will be everlasting as his qualities radiate throughout the members of our family and those who came to know him.

Grandpa was a man of faith.  He taught and led prayer at the dinner table and taught us all Christian values through his actions and words.  We always anticipated Grandpa’s reading of the Christmas story where the whole family gathered to listen to the Word. Grandpa always reminded us of the true meaning of the holiday, and we all learned from his quiet, unshakeable faith.

Grandpa was one of the most loving, caring, and respectful people we knew.  He treated every person he met as if they were family and listened intently to their thoughts.  He always let you know you were special, putting the needs of those around him first while pushing his own willingly to the side.  No matter how many times he needed to charge the batteries on the lawnmowers or fill the tires with air, he put what he was doing aside so we could have fun driving the lawnmowers around the farm and into trees.  Grandpa and Grandma made the time to make it to our events and show their support and he even made it in on a couple homework projects.

The strength of our Grandpa was immeasurable.  Maybe it was from always carrying five gallon pails full of feed or water around the farm day in and day out.  Or maybe it was from turning wrenches while he wasn’t carrying pails.  The real strength of our grandpa was something that came from within himself that always made us feel like everything was going to be alright.  Even after the fire on the farm, that strength that Grandpa exuded erased any question or doubt that things would have to change or that the farm would never be the same.

Grandpa was one of the most honest men a person could know.  I remember being at the farm during the sale and listening as Grandpa talked with a potential buyer of one of his tractors.  One of the first things my Grandpa told the potential buyer was that it was a great tractor but it drank a lot of oil.  I remember thinking to myself “Grandpa, how are you going to sell a tractor starting the conversation like that?”  As I looked at my Grandpa, I smiled inside and remember telling myself that I wanted to live my life the same way.

I’m sure Grandpa would say it was the other way around, but Grandma Betty sure got lucky when she found Grandpa Manley. Then again, I know it wasn’t luck—I’ve never seen a couple perfectly suited for one another or more devoted to each other. Their marriage serves as a wonderful example to each of us for what we should be searching for in our lives.

Grandpa Manley always told us girls never to settle for a guy who wouldn’t clean out his car for her, or didn’t treat her with the respect she deserved. But it wasn’t just his words that made us want to marry a man just like him—it was the way he looked at Grandma Betty and the way he called her his sweetheart after 60 years of marriage. Grandpa Manley was never a man to talk big and never follow through. Everything he said and did he believed in with his whole heart.

Grandpa instilled strength and confidence in his grandchildren through the trust he showed us.  Some people may have thought he was crazy including us in some of the duties on the farm, but he was always there and always kept us safe.  He included us in working with the animals, taught us to drive and operate the bobcat and tractors, and gave most of us our first driving lessons in the freshly disked fields and down the gravel roads.

Grandpa was a hard-working individual who never seemed to be able to sit still and if by chance he did, he could be found immersed in a newspaper, book, or medical journal.  Even when our grandparents moved off the farm, he found his way back to help the Pistorius boys with the fields.  Age was what you made it to our Grandpa.  Nothing could stop him from getting immersed in what he was doing, even if that meant getting on your hands and knees and crawling or climbing to uncomfortable places.  When Grandpa and Grandma were moving off the farm and into town Grandpa helped with all of the loading and unloading of furniture and appliances.  We had finished putting the last big load of appliances including the washer and dryer, into the back of the truck and Grandpa and jumped up into the truck to help with loading.  All of a sudden I heard my Dad yell “Manley!  What do you think you are doing?”  Grandpa had tried jumping off the opened tailgate of the truck and found himself on the ground.  Grandpa looked at my Dad with a smile, brushed off his knees, and jokingly told my Dad it was a bit of a bigger step than he thought and got right back to loading furniture.

Grandpa never let anything go to waste.  If he came across something that could be used for something else or somewhere else he made use of it.  Nothing was discarded that could still be used.  I remember a pile of steel posts that Grandpa had at the sale of the farm that grandpa probably put more money into painting chrome than the posts were probably worth.  He applied the same principle to eating.  There was never a time Grandpa left food on his plate and those of us that did provided a treat to the cats on the farm he loved so dearly and could hardly stand to be away from. Those cats were probably the best fed farm cats in the whole state.

With all the love Grandpa showed to Grandma and the rest of the family you’d think his love would have been stretched thin, but one of Grandpa’s favorite pastimes, besides watching the Twins or boxing, was playing cards.  He always kept us honest while playing cards and would only let you win to keep you playing and learning to get better. Grandpa was famous for his unsurpassed skill at Whist, and if you’ve ever played cards with him, you will never forget his face- wide-eyed, innocent and holding back a smile- when he pulls out a surprise card or when he laid down what he taught us all to call “The Queen of Sheba.” I can still hear his voice, saying, “Now where did that come from?” in a very shocked tone, always followed by a laugh and a wink.

I will always remember Grandpa Manley very vividly. I can still see him, sitting in the blue recliner in the corner of the house, with piles of health magazines surrounding him. He was always telling you about the latest medical marvel he had just read about- his oxidated water purifiers or the natural herb supplements that were sure to cure about all your illnesses. And of course, “Dr. Rydell” never needed to go to the doctor because he had all the answers, a trait he passed along to his other sons.

Perhaps one of the most distinct characteristics of Grandpa was his shake.  We often joked with him about his shake, but looking back on it, it only seemed to do him good.  It allowed him to flawlessly sprinkle sugar over his tomatoes, provided the patented comfort pat on the back during hugs, and gave fishing lures the perfect action to keep the fish biting.  Above all, it gave him a very unique signature, as unique as the incredible man we love with all our hearts.

Thank God for you Grandpa Manley!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Baked Brie with Almonds and Honey

I made this baked brie with almonds and honey the other night for a party, and it was the perfect easy dish that came together in less than a minute. We have TONS of amazing honey thanks to a local beekeeper who has his hives on our pasture, so this was a great recipe to use- we have honey coming out of our ears!

I should have taken a picture, but by then, the wine had already broken out. :)

But that doesn't mean you should be deprived of a great recipe- so enjoy! I used this Pampered Chef garlic and brie baker- it worked great!

Baked Brie with Almonds and Honey
1 wedge of brie (about 12 ounces)
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. toasted sliced almonds
1 large French baguette or crackers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice top rind off brie and place in a baker. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Bake for 10 minutes. Serve with thick slices of French bread or crackers.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Grandma D's Lefse

I meant to post this a while back when Dan and I went to visit his grandma, Alvina, right before Christmas. She taught us how to make homemade lefse, and it will now be a yearly tradition for us! You need plenty of specialty items to make (see instructions and links below) but I promise it is well worth it, especially if you grew up eating lefse on special occasions at home. I promise to do a more in-depth post next time we make it - with better pictures! :)

If you're looking for a great video tutorial, check out Lefse Lars on YouTube. There are some great troubleshooting tips on his website as well. 


Grandma D's Lefse
8 c. riced potatoes (hot)
1 stick butter, softened
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 c. evaporated milk
1 Tbsp. salt
1 to 1.5 c. flour

Cook potatoes until fork tender. While hot, use a potato ricer to rice the potatoes. Add one stick of softened butter, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 c. evaporated milk, 1 Tbsp. salt and combine until smooth. Refrigerate overnight.

When lefse griddle is hot, remove lefse mixture from refrigerator and add between 1 to 1.5 cups flour. Combine and form into logs (about 8 inches long). Keep other logs refrigerated while working with one at a time.

Slice a puck from the log (about an inch wide), form into a circle and pat onto a well-floured, cloth-covered pastry board. Using a grooved lefse rolling pin covered with a cotton rolling pin cover, roll out the lefse until it is thin but not sticking to the pastry board. Roll out from the center moving outward, and try to keep it round. Using a lefse stick, carefully slide it underneath the lefse, make sure it is not stuck to the pastry board, and flip over. Roll again gently and transfer to griddle.

Let cook for a couple of minutes until light brown spots start to form. Using the lefse stick, flip the lefse and cook for a couple more minutes.

Once cooked, place lefse on a clean kitchen towel and cover with another kitchen towel to avoid drying out. Continue until complete. If at any time lefse dough is stuck to the pastry board, scrape off with a knife, flour generously and continue.

Let lefse cool, then spread softened butter and sprinkle with white or brown sugar. Enjoy!

Source: Alvina Dalager

Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Can you feel spring in the air? Here on the farm, we are loving everything about April. Beautiful temperatures, happy baby calves, the promise of green grass again... how can you not have a big smile on your face?

New bulls on the farm
Day-old baby calf
I spy...
I'm in such a good mood I couldn't resist making some chocolate raspberry cupcakes this weekend- for absolutely no reason at all. The downside to this is no reason to bake means too many cupcakes sitting around my kitchen. But the upside? Cupcakes for breakfast!

I love this recipe from Annie's Eats (great blog, check it out!) for chocolate raspberry truffle cupcakes. It makes about 16 cupcakes (I got a couple more out of it but ran out of frosting) and they are everything a cupcake should be. Lovely, rich and a tad extravagant. These babies have a raspberry jam filling, a raspberry buttercream frosting, and inside each adorning raspberry is chocolate-raspberry ganache. Over the top? Perhaps. Delicious? Absolutely.

These are a bit time-consuming to make - I spent about three hours from start to finish - but when your options are watching basketball or making cupcakes, I would say it is time well spent! I bought some new jumbo-sized Ateco tips, and they make all the difference when it comes to creating bakery-esque cupcakes. I purchased the Ateco #786 12-piece large tube set, a large Ateco coupler (necessary for swapping out tips) and an Ateco large star tip.

The next time I make these, I might skip the ganache-filled raspberries truffles- to me, it was an extra step that, while impressive, was unnecessary. The cupcake is so rich as it is, and the freshness of a regular raspberry might help lighten it a bit. But otherwise, I wouldn't change it a bit. The buttercream tasted rich but not too sweet, and held up beautiful for piping the cupcakes. The chocolate cupcake was rich and decadent, but not overly sweet. Put them in a pretty cupcake box (like one of these from Michael's) and make your cupcakes the perfect gift! (Or, you know, eat them for breakfast.)

Enjoy! :)

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
9 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup strong coffee (or water) - I used Keurig Breakfast in Bed coffee
1/2 cup whole or low-fat milk - I used whole
For the filling:
Seedless raspberry jam
For the raspberry truffles:
2 pints fresh raspberries
5 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/3 cup heavy cream 
For the frosting: 
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
Pink icing color (optional) 
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a small bowl sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.  
In a liquid measuring cup, combine the coffee and milk.  Add half of the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Stir in the coffee-milk mixture and mix until combined.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients, again mixing just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners, filling the cups about 3/4 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, heat some raspberry jam just enough to allow for easy stirring and smooth texture (I do about 20-30 seconds).  Transfer the jam to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, poke into each cupcake and pipe a small amount inside.
To make the raspberry truffles, rinse fresh raspberries and transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Gently shake the berries around to remove excess water.  Place the chocolate and jam in a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan.  Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate and jam.  Let stand for about 3 minutes.  Whisk together gently until smooth.  If any unmelted lumps remain, microwave a few seconds and whisk again.  Let the ganache cool a bit until it has thickened slightly (enough to be piped through a pastry bag).  Once it has reached the right consistency, transfer the ganache to a pastry bag and pipe into the center of the clean raspberries.  Refrigerate at least 15 minutes to set.
To make the frosting, place the butter and jam in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Cream on medium-high speed until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.  Sift in the powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Tint with icing color as desired.
To finish the cupcakes, frost with the raspberry jam buttercream and top with a few of the raspberry truffles.   
Source: originally adapted from Hello! Baker, originally from David Lebovitz and Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

Holy Guacamole!

I'm I’m a big believer that there is a time and place for shortcuts in kitchen.

Sticking to one-pot meals? Don’t blame you. Using the “spin and tuck” method for closing a bread bag? I’m no stranger to it. Pre-washed lettuce in a bag? Go crazy.

Buying store-bought guacamole? I don’t think so.

Guacamole is one of those delicious dips that takes next to no time to prepare and requires just a few standard ingredients. Full of healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber and vitamins, homemade guacamole is actually an incredibly healthy choice, provided you keep the serving size in check and choose vegetables like carrots, celery or jicama over tortilla chips (and, let’s be honest, margaritas). Using only fresh ingredients, you can easily control the flavor by adding jalapeño or serrano peppers for heat, extra lime juice or zest for brightness or more garlic for extra bite.

In my mind, there’s no point in buying premade guacamole. Sure, it may save you a bit of time, but too often it misses the mark – too bland, too spicy, the wrong texture. I have discovered a few brands – like Wholly Guacamole – that can work in a pinch, but homemade guacamole is so easy and fun to make that I never bother with store-bought when I can help it.

If you’re new to making guacamole, here are a few tips that may help. Peeling and dicing an avocado can be tricky at first, but a friend turned me on to an easy trick that makes handling avocados a snap. Cut the avocado lengthwise, which will produce two long avocado halves connected by the seed. Take both halves and twist in opposite directions until they split into two. Remove the seed, and use a small paring knife to cut a cross-hatch pattern into the flesh. Use a spoon to scoop out the avocado into a bowl. It’s also important to point out that red onions work best in guacamole, not yellow or white. My personal rule of thumb? Red onions are best when using raw, while yellow onions are the most common variety for cooking.

If you’re like me and love show-stopping dishes, I highly recommend purchasing a molcajete, which is the traditional Mexican version of a mortar and pestle. The molcajete is a three-legged round stone bowl that is used to crush and grind spices, as well as prepare salsas and guacamole. Molcajetes become naturally seasoned over time, similar to cast iron skillets, which gives guacamole made in a molcajete a unique flavor and texture. I purchased mine from Sur La Table and paid a bit extra for its pig face, but plain molcajetes can be also be found from other retailers for less money.

This is a great basic guacamole recipe that can be easily tweaked to meet your own tastes. Sometimes I will add a few extra ingredients, like jalapeños or cilantro, but this is my tried and true recipe I rely on most often. Don’t forget to taste and season as you go!

4 Haas avocados, seeded and diced
1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
½ of a large red onion, diced
5 large garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Generous sprinkle sea salt, to taste
1.5 limes, juiced (or to taste)

In a large bowl or molcajete, mash avocado to desired consistency. Add in diced tomato, diced red onion, minced garlic, sea salt and lime juice. Stir to combine, and continue to mash if smoother consistency is desired. Season with additional salt and lime juice to taste. Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Creamy Garlic Pasta

I really wanted to share with you a recipe that announced springtime had arrived. Honestly, I did.

But when temps dip well below zero and your dedicated husband heads out at all hours of the day and night to check his bred heifers and comes back feeling like a frozen popsicle, you kind of get the feeling that a great kale salad – no matter how delicious you make it – isn’t going to cut it.

Let’s face it, folks: It’s March in South Dakota. The weather could start to warm up— or we could experience a nasty blizzard that extends winter until May. Summertime food is just going to have to sit on the backburner for another month. I’m feeling a call to arm my fellow foodies and farm wives with one last comfort food recipe that will sustain them until warm weather arrives.

Luckily, I have just the right recipe for this sort of situation. Creamy garlic pasta is a favorite cold-weather meal at the Cwach farm for several reasons. First and foremost, everything can be made in one pot. No racing around to find a colander when the pasta is suddenly al dente, no awkwardly cramming odd-sized mixing bowls into the dishwasher. Not only does the method of cooking the pasta in the chicken stock reduce unnecessary dishes, but it also enhances its flavor. Does it get any better than that?

This dish is also chock-full of rich, robust garlic flavor. We’re slightly obsessed with fresh garlic at our house– so much so that Dan’s number one rule in the kitchen is to double (sometimes even triple) the garlic in any given recipe. We’ve amped up the amount of garlic in this recipe to the point where romance is mutually declared off the table for at least 24 hours – but at the same time, there’s no harshness, bitterness or bite to the pasta.

This recipe is also easy to adapt for the carnivores or vegetarians in your life. Serve it with grilled seasoned chicken or sautéed shrimp for the meat lovers, or substitute chicken stock for vegetable stock to make it vegetarian-friendly. Prep everything ahead of time and you’ve got a one-pot signature dish that can be made in 15 minutes or less.

This is an eye-catching, easy pasta that is best enjoyed with a glass of white wine in the company of others. Add a garnish of chopped fresh parsley and shaved or grated Parmesan cheese, and serve alongside a green salad and crusty bread. Serves two.

Creamy Garlic Pasta
Olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 c. chicken stock
1/2 lb. spaghetti or angel hair pasta
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

In a pot, bring the olive oil to medium-low heat. Add the garlic and stir, allowing it to cook for 1-2 minutes. Mix in the butter until melted. Add the salt, pepper and chicken stock. Raise the heat to high and let it come to a boil. 

Once it is at a rolling boil, add the pasta and cook for as long as the box’s directions indicate. Reduce the stove to medium heat and mix in the Parmesan until completely melted. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream and parsley. Garnish with parsley and additional Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Bacon Corn Chowder

As a town kid turned farm wife, I’ve had my eyes opened to many things. I’ve learned what it’s like to have a chicken jump on your shoulder. I’ve learned how to bottle feed a calf. Perhaps most shocking to my town kid sensibilities, I’ve learned what it’s like to unleash bulls into the pasture during breeding season (and let me tell you, they need a few lessons in the romance department).

And this winter, which is our first winter living on the farm, I learned how terribly, dreadfully cold it can get for a farmer raising cows in sub-zero weather.

I thought I knew what cold was. After all, I was raised in South Dakota. I’m no stranger to snow and sleet. But it wasn’t until this month, as I watched Dan plunge his bare hands in frozen water to break up the ice in the cattle water tank on the coldest days of the year, and drive through snow and wind on his four-wheeler to check his cows, that I really started to learn that I have no idea how cold a South Dakota winter can really be.

All I can say is, God bless our South Dakota farmers and ranchers!

Because I’m really no help around cows (they terrify me) and I’ve got a full-time job in town, I’ve had to figure out other ways to contribute to our farming partnership. It didn’t take me long to figure out that Dan was just as happy with a hot meal as having me help bring in cows (like I said, I’m really not much help!)
There’s nothing quite like a bowl of hot soup to warm someone up instantly, so I headed to my mother-in-law Mary for one of her favorite recipes- bacon corn chowder.  It’s country cooking at its finest— a simple one-pot wonder that is thick, creamy and full of flavor – and perfect for frigid South Dakota winters. We used homemade frozen sweet corn from this summer, which added a sweet, buttery flavor to the soup. To serve, garnish with extra bacon, cheese and green onion, and add a hot sandwich or hunk of hearty bread for a complete meal.

Whether you spend this winter outside with the cows or inside by the fire, this bacon corn chowder is the perfect way to escape the freezing temperatures. And next time you see a local family farmer or rancher, don’t forget to say thanks for all of their important, hard work!

Bacon Corn Chowder
4 bacon strips
1 c. chopped onion
2 c. water
1 ½ c. diced peeled potatoes
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
¼ c. all-purpose flour
2 c. milk, divided
1 c. half-and-half cream
1 package (16 oz.) frozen corn
8 oz. processed American cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon; crumble and set aside. In the drippings, sauté onion until tender. Add water, potatoes and bouillon; cover and simmer until potatoes are tender. In a small bowl, combine flour and ¼ cup milk until smooth. Add flour mixture, cream, corn and remaining milk to soup; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until thickened. Reduce heat; add cheese and bacon. Cook and stir until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with leftover bacon and green onions, if desired. Yield: 6-8 servings (about 2 quarts).

Source: Modified slightly from The Best of Country Cooking, 2001.
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