Wordless Wednesday: Boo Boo

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Individual No-Bake Ginger Nutella Cheesecake

A couple summers ago, I was obsessed with these. I made them every week, all the neighbors were gifted them, it was slightly ridiculous.  Then I burned out on them, I stopped making them, and honestly, I kinda forgot about them. Until a few days ago, when THE CRAVING came back. I’m posting them here because hopefully I can practice some moderation, not burn myself out on them and remember to make them more often.

Get in my belly!

Get in my belly!

Individual No-Bake Ginger Nutella Cheesecakes

Crust
Gingersnap Cookies (about half of an 10 ounce package)
1.5 tablespoons melted butter

Filling
1 package room temperature cream cheese
1 cup nutella
½ teaspoon running over vanilla extract
1 cup fresh whipped cream (I guess you could use that frozen stuff, but man, really?)

Ginger snaps are better as a crust anyway.

Ginger snaps are better as a crust anyway.

Use your cuisinart to pulverize the ginger snaps. Mix with butter (you might have to use more or less butter) until you get some cohesiveness with your crust. Add about 2 teaspoons of crust into the jar and use the back of a spoon or the mortar from your pestle to tamp it down firmly.

Tamping the crust, this is important! No one likes a loose crust.

Tamping the crust, this is important! No one likes a loose crust.

Meanwhile place the cream cheese, the Nutella and vanilla extract in your stand mixture and mix until blended. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Place the mixture in your jars and garnish with more whipped cream.

I could eat the creamcheese - nutella mixture with a spoon, as is, with no shame.

I could eat the cream cheese – nutella mixture with a spoon, as is, with no shame.

Serve immediately or put a lid on it, hide it under some vegetables in your refrigerator and eat it when no one else is home and won’t judge you.

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Monsanto: Evil Empire or Sustainable Ag Company?

In certain circles it’s still trendy to attack or insinuate Monsanto is this giant, faceless, company hell bent on world destruction and/or take-over (take your pick).  This stance always puzzles me. My personal experience with them has been the complete opposite. (Also for the record, Monsanto is not that giant, Whole Foods and Monsanto are pretty close in size)

For the third time in so many years, I have been able to tour their facility in Woodland, California. Each time has been different, and quite frankly, eye opening. I have walked away from these tours with a whole new appreciation for what the company does and what it stands for.

I got to take peppers home. This pleased me to no end.

I got to take peppers home. This pleased me to no end.

Most people are under the misconception that all Monsanto produces are GMO crops. But in actuality they breed over 20 (non GMO) crops. There is much misunderstanding and fear when it comes to our food supply these days. More often than not, it seems like companies will use fear and our ignorance to sell us a product. I can’t stand that. I appreciate Monsanto opening their doors to me, multiple times. Despite the negative press and online movements that urges me to boycott them and sign petitions against them, they have been continually transparent and welcoming to me.

Monsanto has made it a point to urge bloggers, journalists, farmers, and even average consumers to engage with them! In fact the company’s chief technology officer, Dr. Robert T. Fraley has invited celebrity activists like Susan Sarandon to St. Louis! Since I love to stand on my soapbox and preach about transparency, this is something I appreciate!

My tour group learning about tomatoes.

My tour group learning about tomatoes.

This trip was my favorite. A small group that included bloggers, teachers, and scientists were all invited to spend the day learning about and touring the Woodland Monsanto Farm. We spent about half the day out in the field speaking with their growers and seeing beautiful produce! The next part was learning about how to set up a food tasting and participating in a melon tasting.

Janice Person was our host. I’ve known Janice for years now. We met on twitter and eventually met in real life -she has even been out to the ranch!

I loved this trip because, I love interacting with the plant growers and breeders. These experts were literally outstanding in their fields, ready to share their knowledge with us and answer our questions. My inner gardener was deeply pleased and I’m going to highlight my favorite things for you below!

 

The Field

So much fame in this picture! Terry the Pepper man! I was a whisper star-stuck!

So much fame in this picture! Terry the Pepper man! I was a whisper star-stuck!

We started with peppers. Terry Berke was our pepper expert. He also is the man that breed the Nacho Jalapeno plant, which is currently in my garden and my favorite. I had a huge fan girl moment. Terry taught me that peppers need lots of Nitrogen, something I have been neglecting. He also mentioned that peppers use the Scoville Scale to measure their heat. Peppers are my current garden obsession, I’ve been growing, canning, pickling and fermenting them all summer. I loved the pepper portion of our tour and was sad to move on. Since I was gifted with so many peppers, I had to can some! So look forward to that recipe being posted soon!

Monsanto had super efficient drip watering systems. Again, this made me so very happy.

Monsanto had super efficient drip watering systems. Again, this made me so very happy.

We moved on to Bill Johnson, the squash breeder. Bill changed my squash growing game. I learned that “if you don’t harvest, you don’t get to harvest” squash, meaning if you let your squash plants grow into baseball bat sized squash, it is going to affect the rest of your harvest. This is why my zucchini plants are all screwed up now! I wasn’t home and didn’t harvest!

Bill in his squash - he taught me my new favorite word, puduncle!

Bill in his squash – he taught me my new favorite word, peduncle!

Squash farmers have a short window for everything (remember this is coming from a cattle rancher), the female flowers only bloom once for four hours! That’s such a small window to be fertilized! They must be harvested quickly too (as we learned above).

We got lovely infusion water bottles, which we all promptly put watermelon in!

We got lovely infusion water bottles, which we all promptly put watermelon in!

Watermelons were next. Samples were given, my favorite, by far, was called Summer Breeze. We spoke at length about watermelon pollination, how they breed seedless melons, and how to pick a good one (look for a yellow spot or “belly”).

I loved learning about watermelon breeding! It was soooo very different from cattle breeding!

I loved learning about watermelon breeding! It was soooo very different from cattle breeding!

The one common theme that was constantly mentioned by all of the plant breeders was how different regions (or countries) demand different varieties of produce (check out this watermelon infographic for an excellent overview). Monsanto works very, very hard fulfilling consumer demand. For example, what American’s look for in a jalapeno is not the same as what Mexican’s look for and they breed accordingly. This totally makes so much sense to me, as food is such a major part of cultures, and every culture has it’s own tastes and preferences.

Just look at those beautiful peduncles! (The peduncle is a stem that connects the fruit to the plant)

Just look at those beautiful peduncles! (The peduncle is a stem that connects the fruit to the plant)

Allan Krivanek and fresh market tomatoes were next on our tour. Fresh market tomatoes are the kind you buy in a store. Processing tomatoes (we also have a lot of those in my area), are used to make ketchup and sauce. It was fascinating to learn how and taste the differences in tomatoes!

My friend Shannon (she lived on the ranch during college!) and I got to take melons home too!

My friend Shannon (she lived on the ranch during college!) and I got to take melons home too!

The Tasting

After we spent time in the field we headed back inside for lunch and Dr. Chow-Ming Lee. We got to have lunch with all of the employees of this location. Yes, that’s right, they turned me loose on everyone. This is when I got to visit with some of the other guests. I met Maria from Fitness Reloaded, Danyelle from The Cubicle Chick and Sarah from The House that Ag Built . I love these opportunities because I get exposed to blogs and writers that normally would not be on my radar.

A proper melon tasting!

A proper melon tasting!

After our lunch we got to meet Dr. Lee. Let me tell you, if he ever decides he doesn’t want to be a sensory and tasting expert, he could easily be a comedian. I have never been so entertained  during a powerpoint in my life.

Dr. Lee administered a taste test for us. We got to sample different types of melon and compare our results with the rest of our group. I’m pretty sure I could do that for a living, it was super fun. After that we learned how to perform a proper taste test. This is relevant to me because I am a big fan of taste tests and do them often with my pork and beef. Now I can perform tastes tests with better accuracy!

 

The End

In addition to all the amazing produce I got to take home, Monsanto did provide paid travel for this tour. And the most badass watermelon knife you've ever seen!

In addition to all the amazing produce I got to take home, Monsanto did provide paid travel for this tour. And the most badass watermelon knife you’ve ever seen!

Our day was almost complete after our melon experience. We had one more questions and answer session before we went home. We did cover more topics, and hopefully I will write a blog post about those too. Every time I have been able to tour this facility I leave in shock and awe. I learn so much, I get so excited about the future of my industry! Monsanto gets a bad rap from its critics, and that is unfortunate. If they could put the hearsay and fallacies aside and take the time to explore and learn for themselves, I know their world would be far less terrifying, mine has been.

After interacting with the employees of Monsanto all day, talking to them about their families (some have single sons!!!), and seeing their passion about their jobs and the plants they are breeding, I wanted to apply for a job! I enjoyed my time there immensely, my garden will certainly benefit from it and so will my readers. Again, if you are on the fence about this company, let’s chat about it. I feel like there are so many “unfacts” out there, it can be hard to cut through all the bullshit sometimes, and that is why I work so hard and spend so much time doing fields trips like this.

*I received a travel stipend for this tour (it covered my gas from Indian Valley to Woodland and back). I also received a crapton of veggies. However, may I just note that this did not sway my opinion in any way, that would take pigs!

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Wordless Wednesday: The View from Shims Flat Cemetery


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Bacon Broccoli Salad

This is a deathrow food for me (you know, if I ever have to request a last meal, this will be it). It’s simple, no frills – yet absolutely delicious. If it had carbs and chocolate all my favorite food groups would be represented. People have been know to hide bowls of this in the refrigerator from other family members. I love to take it to potlucks because it is always a hit. It’s also really easy to change depending on your tastes and preferences. You can use raisins instead of grapes, omit the onion, etc. I also enjoy using flavored vinegars. Fruity flavors such as pineapple or mandarin work well. Just go make this, and hide a bowl for yourself…

Here it is, in all it's glory - Bacon Broccoli Salad

Here it is, in all it’s glory – Bacon Broccoli Salad

Bacon Broccoli Salad

  • 2 cup seedless red grapes
  • 1 pound good bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cup fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1.5 cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vinegar  (I like to use a mix of a fruity and a balsamic)

    I like it because it's colorful too, almost makes it seem healthy!

    I like it because it’s colorful too, almost makes it seem healthy!

In a large bowl, combine  grapes, bacon, broccoli, onion, cheese and sunflower seeds; set aside. Mix together mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar; pour over broccoli mixture and toss to coat.

Cover and chill for at least 1 hour. Stir before serving.

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Wordless Wednesday: The Eagle and the Indian

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CropLife America: Green Thumb Challenge

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Last year I had the pleasure to go back to Washington DC and be apart of CropLife America’s 2014 Policy Conference. It was an incredible experience and I walked away with so much respect for this organization. When I heard they are supporting the Food Recovery Network (you guys know how I feel about food waste) by asking people to use social media and show their “green thumbs” – I was even more impressed with CropLife.

My favorite "selfie" from my trip.

My favorite “selfie” from my trip.

CropLife America is holding a social media initiative called the Green Thumb Challenge. They are asking those of us who support all forms of sustainable farming methods and U.S. farmers (and ranchers!) to tweet  @CropLifeAmerica, a simple picture of your green thumb, why you support agriculture. Make sure you use the #GreenThumbContest to enter!

I stole this picture from CropLife America because it was the only one of me on stage!

I stole this picture from CropLife America because it was the only one of me on stage!

Now this is the cool part for every submission on twitter they receive “CLA will donate $1 to the Food Recovery Network.” This is an organization “that unites students on college campuses to fight waste by donating the surplus unsold food from their colleges and donating it to hungry Americans.”

CropLife America is willing to donate up to $10,000 to this organization. Think how much food that would save and how many hungry people that would help. In addition to that donation they are also offering a pretty cool prize to the “best” green thumb – an Apple watch!

My very first entry! This was after a day of working calves so I was very dirty and stinky!

My very first entry! This was after a day of working calves so I was very dirty and stinky!

Again, all you need to do to enter is tweet to  @CropLifeAmerica a picture of your green thumb, tell them why you support ag and use the hashtag #GreenThumbContest. Easy peasy! Go here for complete rules and guidelines  www.croplifeamerica.org/green-thumb-challenge.

Please support this wonderful initiative!

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Wordless Wednesday: Pretty Girl

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UMAi Dry – Lomo Part I

One of the perks of having a blog is sometimes companies contact you to review a product. I’m pretty picky about what products I’ll review, it generally has to fit into the wine, meat or boots categories. Back in May I was contacted by the UMAi Dry company. I had never heard of them before, but once I lurked them a whisper, I got super excited. This was right up my alley.

My UMAi charcuterie kit.

My UMAi charcuterie kit.

You see, ever since I’ve gotten into heritage pork, I’ve developed an intense interest in charcuterie. I really want to make some superior pork products. You know, like super fancy iberian ham that I can’t afford. But I have a healthy fear of listeria and other food born illnesses. That’s why I’ve been rather hesitant to dip my toes into the cured meat party.

My loin before and after the cure was applied.

My loin before and after the cure was applied.

UMAi Dry sent me a kit with everything I needed (except the meat) to make my own charcuterie. I started with Lomo because it took the least amount of time to cure. I figured I would work my way up to prosciutto and bresaola as my confidence grew.

My cure mixture.

My cure mixture.

I was able to watch some videos before I actually started the curing process. Their website had plenty of resources. Which made me feel pretty confident about what I was about to do and definitely took much of my hesitation about this away. I went to my local butcher shop, and bought my pork loin. Next time I will use my own pork, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw this up before I do that.

After my loin cured for two weeks and then in it's coat of paprika.

After my loin cured for two weeks and then in it’s coat of paprika.

Once the pork was purchased, it was as easy as mixing all the ingredients together, rubbing it on the meat and leaving it alone. No intense math, no fancy equipment I can’t afford, nothing scary at all! To quote the great Tom Petty “the waiting is the hardest part.”

My Lomo in the special curing bag included in the kit.

My Lomo in the special curing bag included in the kit.

In three weeks my Lomo will be done. I’m already planning the wine and cheese-board that will accompany my cured pork product. In the meantime I’m going to start my prosciutto and bresaola! I’ll keep you all updated on how things go!

My Lomo resting in my refrigerator for four weeks.

My Lomo resting in my refrigerator for four weeks.

I’ve had fun with this kit. I’ve already learned a lot about charcuterie, and can’t wait to get more involved. This kit is perfect for someone like me, someone that has an intense interest in cured meats, but is just a little too timid to jump right in. My next blog will cover the taste of my lomo and my full review of this UMAi Dry product.

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Wordless Wednesday: The Secret Lair

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