Thursday, July 26, 2012

White Cheddar Chicken Pasta

So this week I was feeling creative so I decided to try a new recipe from Pinterest (yay!).    I am a huge pasta and chicken fan so decided to go with a White Cheddar Chicken Pasta and I really liked it. It wasn't hard to make it just has a few more indgredients than I'm used to! (Hello broke college kid here) And for that reason about 2 or 3 of the ingredients didn't make it in, I'm sure if I had used them it would've been even MORE DELICIOUS.

But the Dairy farmer in my LOVVVEEDDDD this recipe; milk, butter, and cheese, I mean that's like my version of heaven!

The only problem with my batch was that it could have been more runny, it was  tad dry but that's because I used whole milk instead of skim or 1% . Next time I plan on using some whole milk but also some 1% to fix this.

So here it is.. Hope you enjoy

White Cheddar Chicken Pasta

For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp dry mustard
1 T fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Mix together mustard, thyme, salt and pepper and sprinkle over chicken pieces. When pan is hot, add chicken and brown about 3 minutes per side until cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.

For the pasta:
1 pound rotini or other short cut pasta
2 T butter
2 T flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 T Dijon mustard
8 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
2 cups milk (the dairy farmer in me MADE me use whole milk but any kind would work)
1 T fresh thyme
1 T fresh oregano
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

Heat water to boil in a large stock pot for pasta, add salt and pasta and cook to al dente and drain according to directions. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Add wine, garlic, onions, and mustard. Cook about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Reduce heat to low and slowly add milk, stirring to combine. Cook about 5-7 minutes more until mixture begins to thicken. Add cheese and stir to melt. Add chicken and pasta and toss to incorporate sauce. Add thyme and oregano and serve topped with crushed red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It Just Comes Naturally

This past weekend when I was home we did one of my favorite things; Preg checking cows! Saying that out loud doesn’t seem nearly as cool as I think it does I’m sure. But it’s so exciting waiting for the vet to confirm pregnancies, all us kids stand around and bet on which cows are bred, hoping that our personal cows are on that list! As I was standing around I thought about something I once read on Ellen DeGeneres’ website. Now I absolutely love Ellen (so does my 16 year old brother, his favorite afterschool TV show) and I loved watching her do crazy fun things with her audience and the people that were on her show. But I recently found this on part of her website. It was a page dedicated to going Vegan, which if that’s what you want to do great but don’t do it for the wrong or untrue reasons! There is one paragraph that says “Dairy cows are considered the most cruelly treated animals in factory farms. They are kept constantly pregnant, and their calves, considered byproducts, are put to death almost instantly.”

Ohh those two lines just burn me up! So I’m just going to give you  a few thoughts that I have about that!

Our cows will have their first calf a little after they are 2 years old (after a 9 month gestation period), it’s then that we can first start milking them. After about 3 to 4 months we will breed them back. If a cow isn’t fully healthy then she won’t breed back, simple as that, if there is even the slightest problem or she hasn’t fully bounced back from calving then we won’t even try to breed her until she is healthy! A unhealthy cow is going to give you unhealthy calves which is not good for anyone! Every year after that we want to make sure that our cows get bred back and have a calf in about 1 year and every year after that. To me that’s not cruel, it's natural, because if these cows were out in the ‘wild’ they would have calves every year, just like lots of other animals that live in the wild. Another great thing about cows having calves every year is that about 2 months before they calve they get dried up (stopped milked) and go on a vacation of sorts. They spend their days lying around and eating, pretty tough life.

There is a couple other reasons we want our cows to have calves every year: one reason is that if they don’t have a calf every year then their milk production will drop drastically! A cow will be milking about 70-90 lbs during her peak lactation (60 -90 days after calving) and after about 10 months will drop to about 20 lbs a day. Having a calf is a way to rest then jump start her lactation cycle! Secondly it allows the farmer to way to get replacement heifers or build his herd.

A brand new mom with her twins, trying to beat the summer heat 

As for putting  calves to death right away why would any farmer do that? That farmer spent a lot of money, time, and feed (9 months worth of feed for two, semen straws run $5 - $50 per straw, etc). And these calves are the future of their operation, the heifers will be replacement cows and the bulls will either be kept for breeding or sold for beef. So to say that a calf is an unwanted byproduct is untrue, they are the most important part of dairy farming. These calves will receive the best care to ensure that they are healthy successful cows and mothers.
Alex LOVES helping me take care of the babies

So needless to say I'm not a big fan of Ellen anymore, and I have shown her webpage to numerous friends,  farmers or not, and they are not impressed. I just tell them that it's time to tell their story!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Blog: Tell your story!

 Me, Andi, and Caitlin
 (Both attended NAYI for the past 2 years, so proud of these girls!)

 So one of my favorite events was this last week here in Lincoln; the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (NAYI). I was lucky enough to attend it the two years as a delegate and got the priviledge to serve as a Counselor for two more years. But today my good friend Caitlin, who attended NAYI last week as a Returning Delegate, wrote a blog about her experience with NAYI and what it means to her!

Hey all! My name is Caitlin Ohnoutka and I am from Valparaiso, Nebraska. I recently had the opportunity to attend the 41st Annual Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (NAYI) for a week on UNL’s East Campus. NAYI is a week long conference for Nebraska juniors and seniors to come learn about Nebraska’s agriculture! This year there were around 160 delegates that attended and also 3 delegates from Taiwan! This institute is planned and counseled by the Nebraska Agriculture Youth Council (NAYC), which consisted of 18 dedicated college students from across Nebraska.

The great group of Counselors (NAYC)
All the delegates at NAYI
NAYI is filled with many group discussions about various commodities, current agriculture issues, farm management competition, and is highlighted by the State Dinner with keynote speaker, Governor Dave Heineman. (HSUS, if I were you, I’d watch out for that man…) Many of these discussions are interactive and also give you many success tips, such as how to network, how to present yourself as a professional, and how to overcome the dreaded “I don’t know which bread and drink is mine” at formal meals.
All the delegates are divided into 8 smaller groups with 2 head counselors.
This was my group!

If you ask many of the delegates, aside from meeting 159 new friends, the highlight of their week is listening to “Advocates for Agriculture”, Troy and Stacy Hadrick. Troy and Stacy are a young farm & ranch family from South Dakota, who travel the country and Australia telling their story about the importance of agriculture. The Hadrick’s have seen first hand the destructive power of the media and have also learned the influential power of social media. In my opinion, the best piece of advice the advocates gave was: “There are too many people out there trying to tell your story. If you want your story told, you better do it yourself.” So begin developing your 30-second elevator speech and get your story out there!

The delgates listening to Troy and Stacy Hadrick
The delegates during a session
NAYI has been an important part of my life the last two years. I’m blessed to have met amazing people, learn how to tell my story, and become an important part of what’s at the core of many Nebraska families, agriculture.

There is always lots of games and 'bonding' time at NAYI

The Street dance on the last night we were in Lincoln

Just your typical farm boy dance off

To learn more about NAYI and NAYC (and see more pictures) visit their website or like their Facebook page!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Long, Hot Summer

This last weekend was a trying time here in Nebraska for Farmers. We experienced 100+ degree temperatures, with no rain and high humidity. The heat we can handle but humidity is hard for cattle to handle. I just read somewhere the other day that a Human can handle high temperatures but not combined with humidity, I would imagine it’s the same for cattle. Luckily humidity is something that we’re pretty used to out here and are ready to take care of our cattle.

Some of the baby calves we moved outside
Baby calves aren’t usually something we worry about when it gets hot because they each have their own individual pen with a hutch, water, and feed readily available however this weekend those hutches acted like saunas. The calves would stay inside them because they thought that the shade was better than sitting out in the breeze (they didn’t know any better). The Holsteins (black and white ones) seemed to get over heated quicker than the Guernseys; they would be breathing hard and panting like dogs. So this weekend we decided to pull all the calves out of their hutches and put them in group pens in the shade. But to ensure that they were ok we went over numerous times a day to give them cold fresh water and pour water over them!

My little cousin Alex helping me check the baby calves.
He LOVES the farm!

The cows standing in the free stall barn cooling down
The group we really had to worry about though is the milk cows. Cows will spend on average about 5 hours a day eating at the feed bunk, I mean if I had to eat 90 lbs in a day I’m sure it would take me a lot longer! But because that’s where they a good amount of time we decided to invest in sprinklers above the feed bunk. They actually enjoy these quite a bit, they will stand under them even if they’re not eating. And I’ll be the first to admit they are a pretty big hit with anyone who needs a quick cool down or quick shower (I’ve walked under it more than my fair share of times). We also added a second big watering tank to their pen a couple of years ago. Having hot days means having cows drink 50+ gallons of water a day EACH (that’s A LOT of water!). We realized the need for another water when the cows were standing around waiting to drink, bored and impatient. Impatient and bored cows are good for no one, they tend to cause trouble and break things, so we decided a second water was a good way to keep our farm in one piece. Lastly our milk cows will spend about 12 – 14 hours a day resting. So to ensure that they stay cool where they will spend a majority of their time we have 5 big fans in our barn. We have a free stall barn with sand bedding that they like to lay in. There are studies (and common sense) that say if the rest area is comfortable to a cow then they will lay there. Well these stalls must be like satin sheets because sometimes getting these cows back up is a problem, they really enjoy laying in there all day!

Alex was helping me check the big cows too 
So for the most part we had very few problems with our cows and the high heat this weekend, which is great! But that doesn’t mean that we stopped checking them or doing everything we could to make sure they handled the heat the best they could! However since it was the 4th of July we did get some excellent fence put up and other random projects done around the farm. Dad was glad to see that my indoor air conditioned office job wasn’t making me soft to hot weather!

This is how my genius brothers cool down

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Omaha Adventure

This past weekend we had yet another dairy event here in Nebraska, Moo at the Zoo! It is an event held in Omaha at the Henry Doorly Zoo in partnership with the Nebraska Midwest Dairy Association. It is a fairly new event and I was pretty impressed seeing it for the first time.

Moo at the Zoo

Henry Doorly is one of the top zoo’s in the U.S. (depending on the person you talk to of course). But it really is impressive how progressive and realistic the zoo is. They are always pushing to do new things that no one else has done. But this last weekend was a sort of Ag weekend at the zoo. They brought in tractors and ag promotion groups (pork producers etc) to set up booths and interact with people. And they also set up a huge tent to bring some dairy animals in. They decided they wanted to bring six of the dairy breeds in for people to see and pet. So they had contacted my family about a month ago to get a Guernsey heifer, so we gave them one of my brother’s yearlings “Mini”. Mini was a twin, so she was a little thing, but the other twin was stillborn. My brother would let her out during chores and she would follow him around all afternoon so she became kind of a pet so we hoped she would be social enough to let people pet her.

Nebraska Dairy Princess with 'Mini' talking to
people about dairy

So as a member of the Dairy Ambassador program and a pretty active dairy advocate in Nebraska they asked me to work a few hours. So I convinced my sister, Andi, and brother Vin (Vince) to come to Omaha with me for the afternoon. So Andi and I spent Saturday afternoon just walking around handing out ‘I met a Dairy Farmer’ stickers to little kids, Vin kind of just walked around and stared at people (typical high school boy). We would use this opportunity to answer any questions about the cows or just share some fun facts with them! We got some pretty interesting questions like “Why are these cows anorexic?” or “This cow here (a Brown Swiss) has got to be an ox?” It was actually a really cool event to get so many inner city Omaha people out to see these cows and feel free to ask questions. It was also great that there were over 10 Nebraska dairy families that worked over the weekend talking to people, 60 people total. And it was also a great weekend to have it because the Olympic Swim trials were just a little ways down the road so there were some visitors at the zoo from that event.

Andi handing out stickers and talking to some little kids

Kids trying not to scare away the Holstein

The 'cheesy' sign outside the tent

Moo at the Zoo crew (from left): Vin, Andi,
Anastasia, Me, Emma, Emma's sister

Speaking of Swim trials, two of my favorite aunts (and an uncle) took me to the trial on Saturday night and holy smokes it was awesome!! Firstly these swimmers are sooooo freaking fast, it just blows my mind. Secondly some of the guys are incredibly good looking, I always appreciate a sport where the guys don’t wear shirts and don’t really need to haha. But I do have a favorite (I think he’s probably most girl’s favorites)  Ryan Lochte. But I was impressed with him for a couple of different reasons. One was that after he won one of his events he gave away his flowers, bear, and medal to random kids in the crowd. How awesome is that? Another reason is that on national TV he promoted dairy (it’s not hard to win over my heart haha). So that was a pretty cool experience, can’t wait until London!!

A couple fun facts for you!
- Henry Doorly Zoo draws 1.6 million people per year
-The swim trials had 167,000 people at 15 sessions in 8 days. A new record for the trials (yay Omaha)!