Wednesday, September 29, 2010

peanut butter chocolOTT cupcakes

I had this terrific idea for something sweet and sentimental to make for my 2 year Anniversary to Ott, E.  I wanted to bake a cake and decorate it to match the top tier of our wedding cake.  (Since last year we ate the top tier on our 1 year Anniversary, I thought it would be cute to keep the tradition going.)  I was standing in the Hobby Store and looking at cake pans, fondant, icing tips, icing bags, icing color mixes, and I don't even know what all else.  When all of a sudden it occurred to me......

I don't know how to decorate/ice a cake.  I've never used fondant before.  I have no idea what tips to use or how to use the tips when I get them.  What am I thinking???  This would never work!

Then..... I found these.

After seeing these cute cupcake liners that looked like flower petals, the gears in my brain switched directions and I started thinking perhaps I could create a cupcake inspired by our wedding cake.  The liners already look like a flower and I figured even me and my limited decorating skills could pull this off.

I baked a chocolate peanut butter chocolate cupcakes.  Here is the recipe.
1 pkg. (3 oz) cream cheese
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 T. milk

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, peanut butter, sugar and milk until smooth; set aside. 
In a bowl, combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs, water, milk, oil and vanilla.  Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (batter will be thin).
Fill paper-lined cups half full with watter.  Drop teaspoon of peanut butter mixture into center of each; cover with remaining batter and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Frost after cooled.
I used my jumbo cupcake pan to set these liners down in.

Then I mixed up frosting using 1/3 cup butter, 2 cups powdered sugar, 4 T. Milk.  I then scooped out about 1/2 cup of frosting and set it aside.  To the remaining frosting I added yellow food coloring to the mix.  This is the frosting I used for my petals.  To the frosting I set aside I added 3 T. of cocoa powder and this is what I used for the brown centers.
Making the flowers was easy, as I used a number 21 tip (if that means anything to anyone who decorates cakes.)  If I can do it, you can do it, and I think they turned out really cute, and who doesn't like the taste of chocolate and peanut butter?!?!?!  Of course I also had to break out our Campaign Flutes and the napkins that we used during our reception to help us celebrate.

This post was linked to:
Delicious Dish on It's a Blog Party,  Cupcake Tuesday on Hoosier Homemade, Works for Me Wednesday from We are That Family, Penny Pinching Wednesdays at The Thrifty Home, Look what I made at Creations by Kara, Show us What You are Working on at Me and My Bucket, Make it Yours Day on My Backyard Eden, Bargarin Brag Wednesdays at Bargarin Shopping Paradise, Whats Cookin' Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

i canned a whole lOTT, now i'm baking in my bistro.... applesauce bars

Back this week with another recipe from something I canned.  Now if you'll recall I canned applesauce, so this recipe is for applesauce bars.     
This is a great fall time recipe which I could easily whip up with the applesauce sitting in jars on my pantry shelves. 
Applesauce Bars Recipe
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
4 eggs, beaten
1 pint applesauce
1 cup cooking oil

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 8 oz. pkg cream cheese
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
4 cups powdered sugar
3-4 tsp. milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cloves.  Stir in eggs, applesauce and oil until combined.  Pour into ungreased 15x10x1 inch baking pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the3 center comes out clean.  Cool in pan.  Mix up cream cheese frosting and spread on top. 
For other great recipes and ideas for canned goods check out these other two blogs.
From Mess Hall to Bistro
From the Hive

This post was linked to:
Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms, Tasty Tuesday Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace, Tuesday at the Table with All the Small Stuff,  Hearth N' Soul with the Girl Chef, Delicious Dish at It's a Blog Party, Twister Tuesdays with GNOWFGLINS, Anything Related Tuesday at All Thingz Related.

Monday, September 27, 2010

2nd Anniversary for the Ott's

Today marks our 2nd Anniversary!!!!!!!!!  It's had to believe Ott, E and I have been married that long, but when every day is absolute wedded bliss, the time just flys by.  So last year, for our first Anniversary, I took Ott, E to a Packers game in St. Louis.  This year Ott, E took me to Ohio to the Longaberger Homestead.  (Isn't he just the best!)  I've been there a couple of times before, as I am a huge Longaberger fan and own several baskets.  So I was surprised when he suggested going there, and of course said YES!!!!

While we were there we made a basket together.  Ott, E picked out the colors and tacs to have a fall theme.  There are brown and black splits and little oak leaves a acorns for the tacs.  We had to wear safety glasses while we made it and took turns weaving the splints over and under. 

After we left the homestead we went to Downtown Dresden to do some more shopping see the Worlds Largest Basket.
Then, we stopped by an Indian Mound in Newark, Ohio.  This particular mound is about 2 miles long and the picture shows a mound with a ditch that was built for protection. 
Overall, it was a great weekend trip that we both enjoyed!!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

from the lambing barn in work boOTTs to the state capitol in stilettos: how I got into ag

I grew up in family with a strong Agricultural background. Both of my parents came from families with farming in their blood and still own farm ground to this day. I spent countless hours working on the family’s farms, studying agriculture in college and now work in the agriculture as a profession. Because of my strong farming roots I have a passion for the tradition, technology and trade that is American Agriculture. I enjoy sharing with others information and facts about where their food comes from, how it is produced and how efficient American farmers are. In random posts on this blog I have shared bits and pieces of my agriculture knowledge and experience. It’s no secret I love to eat, cook, bake, can and grill and thanks to agriculture I can do all those things with confidence because I know exactly where my food comes from and how it is produced. So in today’s post I simply share with you the story of my family, their farms and how I grew to appreciate Agriculture and make a career out of it. Don’t let the business suit and heels fool you as it took a lot of hard work, studying, and yes even farm chores (in muddy work boots) to get to where I’m at today.

Growing up I often times heard the story of when my great grandfather, on my mothers side, bought a farm in Fulton County, Indiana in 1919. He raised crops, milked cows and had a flock of purebred Shropshire Sheep. As fate would have it, his daughter (my grandmother) ended up marrying the neighbor boy whose farm lay adjacent to theirs thus merging the two into one farm of 150 acres. Today on this same farm they still raise crops and purebred Shropshire Sheep.

My great grandfather, on my father’s side of the family, was a tenant farmer on a rather large farm for that time period in Marshall County, Indiana where they raised crops and cattle. His son (my grandfather) worked alongside him on the farm until he graduated from high school and went to Purdue University where he graduated in 1947 with a degree in Agriculture. (His graduation from Purdue is an important item to note which you’ll see throughout the story.) He worked in education, and after a few years of teaching he purchased a smaller farm in Fulton County, Indiana and raised corn, soybeans and Christmas trees.

My father went to Purdue and graduated in 1974 with a BS in Forestry. He still works as a District Forester for the state of Indiana and assists landowners with timber stand improvement, tree plantings and timber sales. As a second job he took his fathers Christmas tree business and developed it into more of a Landscaping business. He raised a variety of ornamental shrubs and evergreens and did installation work as well. He married my mother in 1978 and they lived in Fulton County to be near both sets of parents.

Now we are entering the part of the story where I come in.

Growing up I spent a lot of evenings and weekends either helping my dad with the landscape nursery or helping out on my maternal grandparents farm with their livestock. When I was little I get easy jobs like filling water buckets or watering seedlings. And as I got a little order the jobs got a little bigger like feeding the livestock, pruning the bushes, unloading hay, moving potted shrubs, etc. There was always plenty of work to be done either place but whenever I was given the option of helping out with the landscaping or helping out with the livestock…. I’d choose the livestock every time.

With my interest in animals I enjoyed showing livestock in 4-H. I showed sheep all 10 years, cattle 2 years and hogs 5 years, along with a couple of rabbits, some geese and one year some chickens and turkeys. I never minded having to feed the animals, walking them, shear or clipping them and I certainly didn’t mind showing them. I exhibited sheep at the state fair, open shows and even in Louisville 2 years.

With raising livestock there always comes that time of year when you load up the animals and take them to be sold. I grew up knowing that animals were raised for meat consumption, so the thought or idea of selling them did not bother me one bit. In my mind that was there purpose and this was a business. I never cried or felt attached when my father sold a juniper and the same went when my grandfather sold sheep. No tears. No worries. It was all a business proposition to me. I know a lot of young kids (even adults) struggle with that concept but when you think about it from that perspective you realize what their purpose is.

I also knew from a young age that I would go to Purdue (there’s that school again, but wait there’s more). A couple times a year the family would head down to campus for a game or just a Sunday afternoon get-a-way. There was no doubt in my mind I was going to end up there just like my father and grandfather. There was also no doubt I was going to study Agriculture. It was what I knew, what I was interested in, passionate about and I was ready to make a career out of it. So the fall of 1998 I signed up to major in Animal Science. I didn’t want to become a veterinarian necessarily, but did want to work in the livestock industry. After a couple of years I decided Poultry Science was the route to go. The University of Wisconsin offers a Poultry Science major, so the summer of 2001 I went up to Madison and took 3 courses in Poultry Science which then transferred back to Purdue to give me some more specialized training in this area. I had every intent to go to work for a large company in the poultry production, but I lucked into a job with a US Congressman who was on the House Ag Committee and needed someone back in Indiana to handle all of his ag constituent inquiries. It was such a great opportunity that I could not pass it up and worked for him for 4 years. During that time I also handled grants as well and helped numerous communities and non-profits find federal grants to apply for.

It was this experience with grants that led me to start working at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture in late 2006. I apply for federal grants to fund various programs and initiatives the department has. This entails working daily with USDA to ensure all applications, reports, and criteria for the grants are being met. I also use my grant knowledge and contacts to assist individual farmers and producers, as well as state wide agriculture Commodity groups, farmers markets, and SWCD’s with various aspects of federal, state and local grant funding opportunities. This is done through ISDA’s website, social media sites, and news releases to the ag. media and through a blog ( Lastly, I also oversee all the daily operational aspects of the department such as the accounting, procurement, human resource, technology and vehicles.

Although I don’t directly work with livestock, what I do can have an impact on livestock producers and the livestock industry in the state through obtaining funding for programs to assist them. Indiana’s livestock industry contributes over $2.5 billion to the states economy. As consumers in foreign countries continue to increase their income levels and change their diets from vegetables to animal protein this will drive the creation of opportunities for livestock producers, processors and jobs for future Animal Scientist.

While at Purdue (by now you get the point that I’m a 3rd generation Boilermaker. We all graduated from the College of Ag and my brother also graduated from Purdue in 2007 with a degree in Ag. Communications and works for a winery on the south side of Indianapolis.) I met Ott, E. We had Biochemistry together and you can read the rest of our story here. He majored in Agronomy and stayed at Purdue to get his Masters in Weed Science in 2006. One of the things I love about Ott, E is that he too has a passion for agriculture but more in the area of how crops are raised. He works each day doing research on Agri-chemicals to ensure crops can grow in the most efficient and productive way possible. Just about every day we talk to each other about our jobs and what’s new in our areas of agriculture. We have a general knowledge base about each others areas but always learning and sharing more with each other. I hope to use this blog to share some of our knowledge of agriculture with you as well.

Thanks for letting me share my history and story of agriculture with you. There are some other great bloggers out there who have their own story about agriculture to share with you as well. Allow me to introduce you to the “Real Farmwives of America.”
And believe me the housewives on Wisteria Lane and the OC have nothing on them.


Heather at 3 Kids and Lots of Pigs
Amy & Liz at 2 Maids A Milking
Marybeth at Alarm Clock Wars
Leah at Beyer Beware
Jeanette at Fence Row to Fence Row
Lauren at Four Ransoms and a Farm
Cris at GOODEness Gracious
Meggie at Hoosier Farm Babe
Jent at My Front Porch
Katie at On the Banks of Squaw Creek
Whitney at Life is a Highway and Mine’s Surrounded By Corn
Lana at Walking the Off-Beaten Path
Denise at Who is the Grown Up

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

i canned a whole lOTT, now i'm baking an upside down apple cake

Back again this week with another, "I canned a whole lOTT, now I'm baking in my Bistro" recipe. This time I will be utilizing my canned Apple Pie filling to make an Apple Upside Down Cake. That's right, you can use canned apple pie filling for more than just pies. See how versatile canning food makes your recipe box?!?! This is a quick and easy cake, and when I say quick and easy.... you know it is.

And the best part is how few ingredients you need to make it. Besides the canned apple pie filling there are only 3 other ingredients you need (and one of those is optional) a spice cake mix, molasses, and nuts (optional). (see I told you this would be easy.)
Spray your cake pan with cooking spray and add apple pie filling and nuts. In a bowl mix up spice cake mix as directed on the box, except only use 1 cup of water. Add 3 T. of molasses.
Pour cake mix over apple pie filling in the pan and bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. When cake is done let sit for 10-15 minutes then flip out of pan and onto a plate.
Served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream this will make for a great dessert at your next fall party.
For other great recipe ideas with what you canned be sure to check back every Tuesday, and be sure to stop by Jen's blog to see what she is cooking up.

From Mess Hall to Bistro

This post was linked to:
Make Ahead Meals for Busy Moms, Tasty Tuesday Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace, Tuesday at the Table with All the Small Stuff,  Hearth N' Soul with the Girl Chef, Delicious Dish at It's a Blog Party, Twister Tuesdays with GNOWFGLINS, Anything Related Tuesday at All Thingz Related.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nothing makes the house smell better than a big batch of applebutter simmering in your crock pot.  It is far better than any candle!!!  A great activity for one of those weekends you are hanging around the house watching football. 

When Ott, E and I went to the Apple Orchard one of the items I made and canned with our apples is applebutter.  It's really easy to make in your crock pot.

I start by peeling, coring and slicing the apples.  I use as many apples as my crock pot will hold.

Then I place them in my crock pot for 10-12 hours on low.  (I did this on a Saturday night so the apples could bake on low while we slept.  Then when I woke up Sunday morning.  I added some more ingredients and continued to let it cook on low while we were at church.  Once we got home from church the applebutter was done and ready to be canned.  The timing worked out great.)

After cooking the apples overnight, I add 2 cups of brown sugar and 2 cups of regular sugar, 4 Tablespoons of cinnamon, 4 tsp. of ground allspice and 4 tsp. of ground cloves.  Then I bake on low for another 6-8 hours.  After 2-3 hours I remove the lid of the crock pot so the butter will continue to cook down.
Once it is all done baking I ladle the applebutter into my canning jars, place the lids and rings on the jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. 

Don't just think applebutter is just for toast and biscuits, here is a recipe for applebutter sweet potatoes that can diversify your applebutter usage.

This post was linked to:
Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch, Just Something I whipped up Mondays on the Girl Creative, Made by You Mondays on Skip to my Lou, Motivate Me Monday at Keeping it Simple, The DIY Project Parade on the DIY showoff, It's so very Creative at It's so very Cheri.

Friday, September 17, 2010

gOTTa get the ram in

I meant to write this post a couple of weeks ago, but I am just now getting around to it now. 

Labor Day Weekend growing up back home, usually meant one thing.... we would be doing some kind of farm labor.  And usually that labor involved the family's flock of purebred Shropshire sheep.  I personally didn't tend to mind it too much as I always enjoyed working with animals.  Around this time of year, the state fair would be over and the weather would start to get a little bit cooler so it was an ideal time to put the rams (male sheep) in with the brood ewes (female sheep).  Sheep are seasonal breeders. Their fertility increases as the length of daylight decreases (photoperiod). They breed in the fall, carry the lambs for 5 months and then deliver the baby lambs in the spring.  We tend to like our lambs to come in the months of February and March.  This is mainly due to the show season and allows us to get the lambs to a good market weight by the time 4-Hers' need them for summer shows.  On our farm we wait until a ewe is almost 2 years old before they get bred for the first time.   

One ram will get one group of ewes (a flock) and the age of the ram, depended on how many ewes we put in with him.  A younger ram would get 12-15 ewes while an older ram could get 25-30 ewes.  Back when I was still at home we would run 3 flocks in 3 different fields nowadays we just have one flock.  My job was to help determine which ewes got put with which ram.  To do this I would look over our flock records and see what blood lines our ewes had.  I would then compare what kind of offspring the ewes had in the past with what strengths that ewe possessed in the terms of frame, carcass traits and breed characteristics (basically I would play Match Maker) and then place her with a ram that would complement her strengths to give us the best offspring.
While we were sorting the ewes we would usually use this time to deworm the flock.  Sheep eat a lot of grass and can easily get internal parasites, which cause the animal to lose their appetite or become ill.  Not to worry though, because a good shepherd will deworm their sheep a couple times a year to prevent this from happening and now is a great time to deworm, since you are getting ready to put the sheep out to pasture.
Once the ewes are sorted and dewormed it's time to add the ram and put them out in a nice pasture with plenty of grass, shade trees and clean drinking water.  The flock will stay there until it starts to snow, which is usually around Christmas or New Years. 

I blogged a little bit today about things that happen on my farm, but for a weekly dose of farm life be sure to check out Farmer Fridays on 3 Kids and Lots of Pigs.  She gives factual information about life on a hog and grain farm.

This post was linked to Saturdays On the Farm.

"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness."  -Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

two shOTTs of alaska

I promise this will be the last of my pictures from our Alaska trip.  I don't consider myself to be a photographer but I did snap these two shots while in Alaska and I just had to share them.  I think they are quite artistic.

This is the fireweed plant in front of Mt. McKinley.

This post was linked to Outdoor Wednesday and Wordless Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

applebutter sweet pOTTatoes

For this weeks edition of "I canned a whole lOTT, now I'm baking in my Bistro" I will be using canned applebutter to make a delisious side dish with sweet potatoes.  (That's right, applebutter is not just for toast and biscuits anymore.)  This is just another example of creative ways to use what you can throughout the year.
My father grows sweet potatoes in his garden so these came from him.  I took 3 medium sized sweet potatoes and peeled the skin off, then chopped into 1/4 inch coins.

I layered these potatoes on a greased baking dish, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and poured 1/2 cup of applebutter over the top.  I then baked at 350 degrees for for 30 minutes. 

The applebutter gives a nice sweet flavor to the sweet potatoes similar to if you used brown sugar or marshmellows. 
For more tips and recipes on what to do with items you canned check out these other blogs!
From Mess Hall to Bistro
Gourmet Meals for Less
From the Hive
Adriennes Food Adventure 

This post was linked to the following linky parties:
Gratituesday at HeavenlyHomemakers, Tasty Tuesday Beauty and Bedlam, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace, Tuesday at the Table with All the Small Stuff, Two for Tuesdays with the Girl Chef, Delicious Dish at It's a Blog Party, Twister Tuesdays with GNOWFGLINS, Anything Related Tuesday at All Thingz Related.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

our alaskan trOTT: videos

Here are some videos of Ott, E and I in Alaska.  The first is of 3 bears (a momma bear and 2 cubs) we saw in Denali National Park. 

Next is video of a wolf.  SPOILER ALERT: This video contains images of a wolf eating a squirrel and may make some squeamish.

And lastly, here is video of Ott, E crossing the Arctic Circle!

Friday, September 10, 2010

crock pOTT recipe: apple lamb chops

What's that you say; you want more recipes for apples during "Going Local" week?!?!? 
Well of course I would be happy to oblige.

If you'll recall Ott, E and I spent Labor Day picking apples.  We also picked up the newest addition to our freezer; 70 pounds of lamb.  So today I will be sharing with you my recipe for slow cooked apple lamb chops.  (The lamb and apples are both local so I met my quota for Going Local Week)  As always here is one of my handy recipe cards so you can print it off and make this great dish anytime for yourself.
To start with I mix up my dry rub and pat that onto both sides of the lamb chop.  I use 8 lamb chops for both Ott, E and I for dinner.  Planning on 4 per person is a good amount.
Then I slice my apples and place them in the bottom of the crock pot.
I then add my lamb chops, place the lid on and bake for either 8 hours on the low setting or 4 hours on the high setting.
Remember for Going Local Week you are to try and eat one local food item with each meal.
For more great Going Local meal ideas check out these blogs:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

pome picking with the Ott's

Did you know this week is "Going Local" Week?
For one week you should try to eat one locally grown food item for each meal each day this week.

Since Ott, E and I both had Labor Day off we decided to go to a local U-Pick Apple Orchard near us, called Tuttle Orchards.  (It's about 5 miles from our house by way the crow flies.)  It was such a beautiful day, sunny and around 80 degrees, and made for a perfect morning activity for us.  When we got there they gave us a wagon and two bushel baskets to help us carry what we picked. 

I was enjoying the day and the crisp feel of fall in the air and ended up picking around 20 pounds of pomes (pomes is the botancial name for apples; a type of fruit produced by flowering plants in the subfamily Maloideae of the family Rosaceae.)  We picked pomes that were of the Jonathan, Gala and Cortland varieties.

Ott, E's height came in handy as he could reach up and pick the apples higher up in the trees.

Once we got the apples home, we set out to make apple chips by dehydrating them.  Ott, E sliced the apples and placed them on the trays, while I used the apple peeler, slicer, all in one corer apparatus which is very quick and easy to use.  (If you don't have one I highly recommend getting one.)  Once in the dehydrator we left them there for about 16 hours. 

Then we made some apple juice with our juicer.  In go the apples and fresh juice comes out the other end.
I also made some homemade applesauce in my crock pot which I then canned.  (Be sure to check out my recipe for Applesauce Muffins.) Making applesauce is easy as all you have to do is slice the apples and place them in a crock pot with about 3/4 cups of sugar and set the crock pot on High for 4 hours.

Then I turn off the crock pot and let the apples cool for about 1 hour, before I put them in a food mill where the skins come off the seeds are left behind and out the bottom comes the sauce.
I fill my warm jars with applesauce and place the lids and rings on top and process in my pressure canner at 5 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes.
Easy.  Tasty.  And, a great way to spend a fall day together!!!!