Easy, Cheesy Breakfast Casserole

Serving breakfast to a crowd this holiday season? Looking for something quick, easy and delicious?  Well, look no further!  This simple-to-make breakfast casserole will have your guests coming back for more!

The best part about it is that it includes the two most important food groups; meat and cheese. Here is what you need:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 lb of pork sausage (ham or bacon also works)
  • 1 bag of thawed tator tots
  • 2 cups of cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Gather your ingredients and let’s have a little chat about cheese. Cheese is probably the greatest dairy product there is and I include cheese in just about every meal I cook! I can’t get enough of the stuff.

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Maybe this is because I am a dairy farmer from Wisconsin?

I dunno.

Cheese is a great, healthy snack when consumed in moderation. A one-ounce slice of cheese provides the same amount of protein as an 8-ounce glass of milk.

The problem is, I haven’t figured out this whole “moderation” thing yet.  In fact, the motto in our kitchen is “When in doubt, add more cheese”.

Which is probably why my pants are a bit tight.  But, hey, life is short.

Did you know that Wisconsin leads the nation in number of cheese plants and that there are over 600 varieties of cheese made in Wisconsin? For real, over 600 varieties of cheese…mind blown.

Ninety percent of Wisconsin’s milk is made into cheese. In fact, the milk from our farm is made into cheese.

We milk our herd of 550 cows three times per day and fill one of these tankers with milk every day. That comes out to about 95 lbs of milk per cow per day.  The milk is harvested from the cow, cooled and directly loaded into the tanker.

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Each morning, the milk hauler brings an empty tanker to our farm and picks up the full one( Every day; even on Christmas!). The tanker full of milk is brought to the creamery where it is weighed and tested.  A variety of tests –including antibiotic testing– are done to our load of milk to ensure safety and quality.

After passing the safety and quality tests, it is pasteurized and then made into cheese!

It takes 10 lbs of milk to make 1lb of cheese. By providing our cows with comfort, care and quality nutrition they are easily able to exceed the pounds of milk needed to make you a pound of cheese!

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Alright, enough cheese talk; let’s get crackin’. Get it, because one of the first steps is to crack the eggs?

I’m hilarious.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Cook the sausage thoroughly and set it aside.
  • In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and 1 cup of cheese. Add salt and pepper.
  • Arrange tots on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Next, add the sausage. Finally pour the egg mixture on top.
  • Sprinkle on the remaining cup of cheese. Feel free to add more cheese. Remember our motto, “When in doubt, add more cheese”.
  • Cover and bake for about 30 minutes or until bubbly.

This is a simple dish that can be made ahead of time. If you really want to cheat and save time, replace the sausage with precooked and cubed ham! #timesaver

Enjoy!

Crockpot Beef and Broccoli

Man, do I love me some Chinese food!  When I was in college, I lived right next to the best Chinese buffet-style restaurant.  Oh, the wonderful smells I would smell as I walked to and from campus.  As you can imagine, it was extremely difficult for my room-mate and I not to eat Chinese take-out at least once per week and it probably contributed to my weight gain.  But whatever, at least we were walking to class (That’s what we told ourselves, anyway).

Now that I live out in the boonies and I am miles away from a Chinese restaurant of any kind, I have to make my own Chinese cuisine.  Which is probably for the better because I can monitor my salt and fat intake and tend to eat less.  I like to throw around the phrase “tend to eat less” pretty loosely and still eat more than I should….

Anywho, here is a super easy and delicious recipe for Beef and Broccoli that will be perfect for dinner this week!  After all, May is Beef Month; support your local beef farmers! 🙂

Ingredients:

1-2lbs beef roast, cut into little chunks with fat trimmed

2 cups beef broth

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp. sesame oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 tbsp. flour

2 cups of frozen broccoli florets (or as many as desired)

1 cup sliced carrots (optional)

1 package of fresh mushrooms (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In the insert of your crockpot, whisk together broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and garlic.
  2. Add the beef slices and carrots.
  3. Turn crockpot on low and cook for 5 hours or until meat is tender.

CAUTION: Don’t over-cook the beef or it will fall apart. Crockpot temperatures may vary, so you may want to keep an eye on the beef if it is your first time with the recipe. 

  1. Add flour and stir to create a thicker sauce.
  2. When you reach the desired sauce thickness, toss in the broccoli and mushrooms. Cook for another 30 minutes.
  3. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

Ahhhhh, what a perfect Saturday.  The sun peaked out and the temperature finally got up to 22 degrees.  It doesn’t sound like much, but after days of below zero weather, twenty-two felt like a heat wave.  It made morning chores much more enjoyable and the day oh so much better.  The pup and I went on a NEATure walk in the woods behind our house and then went home and made chicken and wild rice soup.  It was DE-lightful. 🙂  I thought I would share the recipe with you; it is fairly simple.  I took a bajillion pictures of my dog playing in the snow, but I did not take on single picture of the soup!  My apologies.

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Ingredients:

2 quarts of chicken broth

1 cup of whipping cream

1 cup of water

4 cups of shredded chicken

(I tore apart a rotisserie chicken.  It worked great, however I did find a few bones in my soup.  Ooops.)

1 cup of wild rice (uncooked)

1 package of fresh mushrooms

3 stalks of celery

2 carrots

2 tbsp of butter

2 tbsp of flour

Season as you go with garlic, onion powder, thyme, salt and pepper.  Or whatever else floats your boat.

Steps:

  1. Start by dicing up the carrots, celery and mushrooms.
  2. In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the veggies and sauté until almost tender.
  3. Add chicken broth and simmer for about 20 minutes. Don’t forget to season!
  4. Next, add the cup of water and bring to a boil. Throw in the rice and chicken and reduce heat to simmer on high for another 15 minutes or until the rice is tender.
  5. Lastly, add the cream. Thicken the soup with flour.

BOOM.  You made chicken and wild rice soup!  I am a figure-it-out-as-you-go kind of cook, but this is good general recipe. I sure am glad we have some leftovers; the weatherman is saying 30 below zero with the wind-chill for tonight!  Yikes.

What Do Dairy Farmers Do On Holidays?

There are no days off on the farm.  Cows don’t care if it is Christmas and that you have eggnog to drink; they still need to be fed, milked and cared for.  It may be business as usual at the farm, but we still make time to celebrate with family and friends.  The whole crew works together to get chores done and we all find time to eat, drink and be merry.  Each year is different, but here is how Christmas went down at the farm this year.

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Christmas Eve morning started with all hands on deck.  My father-in-law fed the cows as usual, my mother-in-law and her helper fed calves, and my husband and I cared for the hospital cows,  newborn calves and their mothers.  Meanwhile, other employees worked in shifts to get the cows milked and pens cleaned.

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Morning chores were soon complete and things settled down.  Slowly, but surely, everyone was able to take a break and prepare for Christmas celebrations.  My husband and I left around noon and headed to my mother’s house a couple of hours north.  The farm would be in the good hands of my in-laws and a few others while we were away.

Every year my mom throws a big Christmas party for nearby friends, family and neighbors.  My sisters and I do our best to help her plan and prepare.  This year we presented a pasta bar to our guests!  Using recipes from the Pioneer Woman, we offered a variety of noodles and three different sauces: Marinara with Beef, Vodka Sauce with Chicken and Alfredo Sauce with veggies.  Oh, and of course plenty of cheese!  Brushetta, garlic-cheesy bread and other yummy appetizers were also on the menu.

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While the food is always delish, what our guests really come for is the holiday cheer.  And by cheer I mean booze.  We usually whoop it up pretty good at the Christmas party.

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Christmas morning quickly came, presents were opened and my husband and I trucked on back to the farm.  Morning chores were taken care of by the time we arrived home, but there were pens to clean and new calves to care for, as well as evening chores.

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  My mother in-law and I fed the baby calves a Christmas dinner of warm milk!

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By evening, my husband and I were cleaned up and ready for a cup of cheer!  Around these parts, the Christmas beverage of choice is a Tom & Jerry. It seems as though many folks are not familiar with this drink and that the mix cannot be found everywhere, but if you ever see it…BUY IT!  The directions are right on the container and they are easy to make.  Can’t find the mix? Make your own!  Be warned, these suckers will catch up with you quick!  My husband and I spent Christmas evening together organizing our brand spankin’ new house!

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Christmas celebrations and farming continued through the weekend as my husband’s sisters and their families arrived to town.  Friday was lunch with grandma followed by an evening with my husband’s family.  The entire crew worked to get things done quickly on Saturday so that we could open gifts and feast that night.  While there were a few snags along the way, we eventually all made it inside to see what Santa had brought.

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With one last Christmas/Packer celebration on Sunday, the Christmas week was complete!  While I enjoy the holidays and love seeing everyone, I am glad it is over.  Between moving into our new home, farming and celebrating, my husband and I stayed quite busy!  It will be nice to get back to the daily grind.

We are extremely thankful for all of our employees who help us care for the cows everyday and allow us to take time away from the farm.  If it wasn’t for the great team we have at our dairy farm, we wouldn’t be able to do all the things we love and enjoy.

Hope you all had a VERY Merry Christmas and made dairy part of your celebration

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If Your Belly is Full, Give Thanks.

These days it seems that just about everybody has an opinion on how their food should be grown and produced. Organic vs. Conventional, GMO vs. non-GMO. etc.  With so many food buzzwords, misconceptions and various opinions, debates tend to get heated. I often wonder if folks would have less to say about the food on their plate if their bellies weren’t so full.  I am not saying that you shouldn’t care about how your food is grown or that you don’t have the right to choose.  I think it is extremely important to understand how your food is grown and visit farms whenever you have the opportunity!  But, can we be honest and say that some food requests get a little ridiculous?  “Excuse me, I would like the chicken parmesan, but only if the chicken is free-range and organic.  I would like the noodles to be gluten-free and the cheese to come from cattle that haven’t been treated with hormones.  Oh, and could you tell me if the chicken was on an all vegetarian diet?”.  Seriously people, just eat the damn chicken.   If we offered the hungry children of Africa a meal of chicken and corn, do you think they would care if the chicken was free-range or if the corn was derived from a genetically modified seed?  Probably not.

 These sound like topics of luxury, discussed by a nation who pushes away from the table with a full belly.

– Ashwani Gujral, CEO of an Integrated poultry company in India.

Sure, it would be great if everyone could just grow their own food in whatever way they desire, but that is not reality.  Not everyone has the time, land or resources to grow their own corn or milk their own cow.  The reality is that the population is quickly growing and we have more and more mouths to feed each day.  In the U.S. alone, 15.8 million children live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.  Estimates indicate the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, including middle class growth of 3 billion.  The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts a 60-percent increase in demand for meat, milk and eggs by 2050.  More than ever, we need farmers.

How lucky are we to live in a country that not only has plenty of readily available foods, but also a variety of choices?!  You want a free-range turkey this year for your Thanksgiving feast, well by golly, get yourself one!  Need some fresh tomatoes in January?  Perhaps some strawberries for a Valentines Day dessert?  Not a problem here in the United States!  It is awesome that at any time of the year we have access to a plethora of affordable foods, whether they are in season or not.  I hope you never stop caring about where your food comes from, but the next time you feel the urge to bite a farmer’s head off because he/she chooses to utilize farming practices that you don’t quite understand or agree with, can you just remember that your belly is full.  Full of foods that many don’t have access to or will ever be able to experience.  We may not all agree, but be respectful to each other.

Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

-Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty

Know that farmers are doing their best to ethically produce a safe, quality product for your table   This year I am thankful for my full belly and my right to choose.

Fancy Macaroni

Smoked Gouda. Bacon. Mushrooms. Butter. Best Macaroni and Cheese EVER! I had purchased a small block of Apple Smoked Gouda and while I normally just eat it by the slice, I wanted to do something amazing with it. I had it narrowed down to bacon macaroni and patty melts, but ultimately took the macaroni route. It was an excellent decision on my part and fairly easy to make. I honestly don’t recall how much cheese I used and guesstimated. There is no such thing as “too much cheese”, so by all means, ADD MORE! I call it “Fancy Macaroni”; real creative, huh? Here is what you need:

INGREDIENTS:
4 cups of penne
8 slices of bacon
2 cups of shredded smoked gouda
1 cup of shredded cheddar
2 4 oz. cans of sliced mushrooms
2 cups of milk
3/4 cup of sour cream
4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1 egg
salt and pepper for seasoning

DIRECTIONS:
1.Pre-heat oven to 375 and grease a baking dish.
2. Start by frying the bacon until almost crispy and give it a rough chop. If you want to reserve a little of that bacon grease and mix it in with the sauce, I won’t judge you. In fact, I will applaud you.
3. Cook pasta al dente and mix it with the softened butter. Pour the pasta into the greased dish and mix with the chopped bacon and mushrooms.
4. To make the sauce, add the milk and sour cream to a pot and stir on low/medium heat. Add the flour to thicken sauce and slowly add the cheese. Be sure to reserve some cheese to sprinkle on top! Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off the heat and quickly stir in the egg.
5. Pour sauce over the pasta and mix everything together.
6. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.
7. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until bubbly.

I made this last night, and my husband and I just about devoured the entire dish. I hope you love it too!

Steakhouse Pizza: The lazy girl version

I previously posted a blog called Modern-day Farmers: Breaking the Stereotype and it got my wheels a turnin’. The post was about how today’s farmers have various hobbies and interests other than farming. I happen to be one of those farmers with other interests. In fact, when I am not farming, I enjoy cooking, getting my craft on, going to country concerts and hanging out with my favorite people. I want to begin blogging about my other interests and hopefully reach a new and different audience. I hope to share recipes, new ideas as well as all things farm related. With that being said, I have a super awesome recipe to share with you!

Steakhouse Pizza: The lazy girl version
The original recipe, Steakhouse Pizza, can be found in the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook. In my opinion, her recipe is a bit time consuming and is enough to feed an army, so I tweaked it to my liking. Here is what you need:

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  • Pizza crust
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Red onion
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • 8 oz. of tomato sauce
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • 12 oz. steak (give or take)

The Pioneer Woman makes her own pizza crust and grills up a giant steak just prior to assembling this pizza.  Well, ain’t nobody got time for that.  In the lazy girl version, we are buying pizza crust and using pre-cooked steak.  Any pizza crust will do, as long as it is thick.  When I make steakhouse pizza it is usually when we had steak a couple of nights prior and have leftovers.  Buying pizza crust and having steak that is ready to go makes this recipe a breeze.  Okay, let’s get started!

Disclaimer: Sautéing the onion will make your house smell like a Mexican restaurant.  Open a window.

Step 1:  Mix a drink.  You can’t cook without a drink.

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Step 2: Slice the steak and onion into thin strips.  Also, prepare your pan and crust at this time.  Set your oven to 400 degrees or to whatever temperature your crust suggests.

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Step 3: Add 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, a tablespoon of olive oil and the sliced onion to a large skillet.  Sautee on Medium-High heat until tender.

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Step 4: While your onions are sautéing, prepare the sauce.  Mix the tomato sauce with 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  I also like to mix in a bit of steak sauce or BBQ sauce.

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Step 5:  Your onions probably aren’t done yet, so take a sip of your drink or mix another if needed.

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Step 6: Assemble the pizza beginning with the sauce.  Put all of it or just some of it on, whatever you prefer.  Next, put a layer of mozzarella on followed by the steak strips, mushrooms and sautéed onions.  After you have all the good stuff on, top it with a layer of parmesan cheese.  Don’t be shy, I have never heard anyone say, “This has too much cheese”.

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Stick her in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  After you take it out, top it with some steak sauce; its delish.  Now, here is the tricky part…let it cool.  I have yet to master this step, I always end up getting after it and burning my mouth.

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There ya have it folks, Steakhouse Pizza.  My first food blog, hot dang.  Hope you enjoy it!

Cooking is hard work

Cooking is hard work