Meal Making Mommy

Feeding my family, Feeding cows, Feeding the world


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I can’t control the President, but there are 3 things I can control.

Over the past six months I feel like all I ever see on social media is people complaining about politics, who did or didn’t win, why the US is going to go down the toilet and how politicians should run the county.  I am no politician, I vote religiously and have an opinion on politics, but I choose to keep my opinions to myself, not because I don’t care, but because I think once the election is over a lot of it is out of my hands.  I know that I can reach out to my legislators, but lets be real, I don’t have time for that.  There are a few things that are in my control however, and they have a much greater impact on both my and others’ lives.

1- I am in full control of my attitude.  I can’t control how my senators, congressmen or legislators vote on a daily basis, but I can control how I react to situations.  I may have a customer who flies off the handle because their feed bill is too high.  I regularly have calves that are stubborn that don’t want to eat. In fact, I got a black eye last weekend because a calf head bunted me in the eye while I was trying to give her fresh bedding.  I also can’t control when my three year old pees in her bed, followed by a 9 month old ‘talking’ in bed for 45 minutes at 3:00 am.  The only thing I can control in these situations is how I react to them.  I could freak out, lash out or fight back, but I don’t, because I am an adult and hope I am setting a better example than that for my kids. (I have to admit I had a few choice words for the calf though).

2 – I can control how hard I work.  We all have that one co-worker.  You know, the one that you feel like you’re carrying so they get a gravy train job and you’re stuck busting your hinder.  No matter what the task might be, I don’t want to be that person for anyone.  When it comes to my customers, I know my expectations, and do my best to meet them.  As a farmer, I bust my butt to harvest  wholesome food for people to enjoy, even though it’s hard to make ends meet.  As a mom, I struggle to get the laundry and dishes done, but at the end of the day, no one controls how much I get done, or how much I need a break, more that I do.

3 – I control how I manage my time.  I get asked a lot how I do it all.  My response is usually pretty simple.  I only spend time doing things I want to do.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t love spending my time scrubbing toilets, scrubbing calf pens or trying to make cows pee to do urine pH’s (yes that is a thing, and no it isn’t fun).  But they are all things that come with the territory of being a mom, farmer and nutritionist, and those things are what I have chosen and love to do.  Do things that ‘fill your cup’ or give you more energy to do the next thing because they are things you love to do.  I’m not a church choir director, preschool board president or dairy farmer because I have to be.  I do all of the things that I do because they make me who I am and are what I love to do.

The next time you read a political post, or are ready to write one, think about if you can control what you’re complaining about or not, and if you can’t, maybe try to spend energy on things that you can.  It is much less exhausting and usually ends with much better results.

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Some days I suck at life…

I assume I am not the only one who on occasion feels like they suck at pretty much everything they try to do.  Whether it’s parenting, my job or farming, some days seem like no matter how hard I try, I tend to suck at life.

Kids do not come with a manual, and there is no one right way to raise a child, but some days the little victories are what matters.  A few weeks ago, I ended up doing heifer chores at our other farm after we finished milking cows because Phill was in the field.  By the time I got done milking it was almost 8:30 pm and by the time I got home from taking care of our heifers it was 9:21 pm.  Remember I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old who are usually in bed by 9:00 pm (I know, later bed times than ‘normal’ kids, but we do the best we can).  I was having a ‘I suck at life’ mom moment when I fed my kids peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the car on the way to do heifer chores for supper.  They did get baths when we got home (they were filthy) but by the time they were in bed it was almost 10:00 pm.  Another ‘I suck at life’ mom moment.  I can’t help but wonder if I’m scaring my children for life by feeding them PB&J for supper in the car at 9:00 pm instead of serving healthy, balanced meals at 6:00.  As it turns out, I’m human, and I’m just doing the best that I can.  My kids had food in their bellies, they got baths, and since they both are very good nappers (most likely because of the not before 8:00 bed time), they both most likely slept a little longer at the babysitter’s the next afternoon instead of sleeping later in the morning.

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Another ‘I suck at life’ mom moment came right around Mother’s Day.  Lucas filled out a ‘all about my mom’ sheet at school and brought it home, and it nearly brought me to tears, and not tears of joy.

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In case you can’t read it, not only does he think the only thing I’m good at making is peas and I’m 42 years old (really 30), most of the answers have something to do with me working.  Part of me wanted to cry knowing that thru my 4 year old’s eyes I basically don’t do anything but work, but the other part of me is hoping I’m instilling a good work ethic in him in the process.  I’m not sure which way to take it, but since I’m a really ugly crier, I’m going to bank on the latter and convince myself that I don’t totally ‘suck at life’.

At work I deal with a lot of numbers.  Though the majority of my job is ‘consulting’ the real back bone to all of it is nutrition, which means I balance each diet for well over 40 different nutrients.  If you know my personality at all, you know that focusing on every single detail is not my forte.  I’m more of a ‘big picture’ type person, but when I’m balancing diets I try hard to make sure I don’t overlook something.  That being said, when it comes to details, I still ‘suck at life’.  This morning alone I had to do the same diets over 3 times because I over looked something the first two times I did them.  In the end, they were correct and I know the Diets were balanced the way I wanted them, but from changing forages to editing cow numbers per batch, sometimes, I ‘suck at life’ and end up making more work for myself.

The same goes for me in the barn when taking care of our animals, where attention to details is the difference between life and death and paying bills and not paying bills.  A few weeks ago I had a sick heifer (girl) calf that I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.  She wasn’t ever the most aggressive calf, and though she always drank her milk, she wasn’t gaining weight like she should have been.  I had been keeping an eye on her, and I finally decided to treat her for pneumonia.  After treating her for that, she got scours (diarrhea) and started to dehydrate.  I continued to give her medicine, asked a few different people their professional opinion, and made sure she was comfortable.  After 5 days of treatment, my little black heifer calf died.  I really felt like ‘I sucked at life’.  Sometimes in farming, no matter what you do, you don’t end up with the outcome you want.  I don’t think there was anything else I could have done to keep the calf healthy, but having a calf die under you care really sucks.  It turns into a learning experience for our kids, as I have to explain that the calf had to go to heaven because I couldn’t make her better, but those days are some of the hardest on the farm.  I love taking care of animals, but I hate feeling helpless when one is sick that I can’t fix.  I know I did everything I knew how to do, but it still feels like ‘I suck at life’ when something like that happens.

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The good part about ‘sucking at life’ is that there is always something to learn from whatever I felt like I sucked at.  I’ve learned that it’s ok to have my kids go to bed late once in a while, as long as they know they’re loved and have all of their needs met.  I know that I am human and will make mistakes, but I will be a better person and nutritionist as long as I learn from my mistakes and continue to pay more attention to details everyday.  I also know that with life comes death, and that’s okay, even if it does mean emotional and financial loss. The next time you think you ‘suck at life’ take a step back and think about what you have learned by not being perfect, and remember, somewhere, someone else is doing the same thing thinking that they ‘suck at life’ too.


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Top 10 Ways to Celebrate June Dairy Month

June Dairy Month has been near and dear to my heart my whole life, and this year is no exception.  Here are a few ways I have loved celebrating June Dairy Month, and will continue to do so every year.

10 – Cows on the Concourse: Every year in Madison cows and cow experts cover the square for people to meet and greet, as well as learn about how farmers take care of their cows.  No matter what your knowledge of dairy going into this event, you’re sure to learn something.

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9 – 4-H grocery store giveaways: As a kid, 4-H was a very big deal to me.  I can’t wait for my kids to be in 4-H so I can watch them learn and grow from all of the opportunities available to them thru this timeless club.  I always remember our June Dairy Month ice cream giveaway at our local grocery store where we would give free ice cream sandwiches to the customers.  I remember freezing in the produce aisle as we handed them out, but it was a lot of fun, and people seemed to really enjoy the treat.

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8 – Natural air freshener: With June comes hay making, and to some, (me included) freshly chopped hay is one of the best smells in the world, right next to a freshly bathed baby and a bakery in the winter (for some reason baked goods smell better to me when it’s below zero outside).  So if you get out to the country during the month of June and a farmer happens to be making hay, take a moment to enjoy one of my favorite simple pleasures in life.

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7 – Weber’s Farm Store cones: 4 of my top 10 have to do with ice cream, but I think it’s legit because I believe sharing ice cream brings happiness.  At Weber’s Farm Store in Marshfield, you can get a HUGE soft serve ice cream cone (even the smalls are huge) for less than $2.  The best part is they have a drive thru, and you can even buy their farm bottled milk and an ice cream cone without even getting out of your car.

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6 – Nasonville cheese curds: In Wisconsin we take fresh cheese curds for granted because we have easy access to them, but other parts of the country don’t even know what they are.  Nasonville has the best fresh cheese curds, that you can buy still warm and squeaky.  I took them to a birthday party in the Twin Cities with me once, and a couple from Montana was there and had no idea what they even were.

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5 – Order ‘with whip’: I enjoy a good espresso drink every now and then, but I rarely order it ‘with whip’ to save calories.  Once during June Dairy Month every year, I order a drink ‘with whip’ just for the fun of it, and because I can.  I see that Starbucks has a few new frappuccinos to try them out on too.

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4 – Try a new cheese: Wisconsin is home to over 500 varieties of cheeses, so use June dairy month to branch out and try a new kind, it may just be your new favorite.  A few of my favorite random kinds are Olive Jack and Buffalo Cheese from Nasonville Dairy and Salsa Assiago from Sartori.

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3 – Ice cream at he big cow: Cedar Crest Ice Cream is my all time favorite brand of ice cream, no matter what the flavor.  The Cedar Crest store in Manitowoc, WI has a huge cow statue in the front, so it was always a fun place to go get ice cream.  I still love Blue Moon, even if it does turn my mouth blue.

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2 – Pine River Dairy cones: Pine River Dairy in Newton, WI has $0.25 ice cream cones, and in the month of June you can get a free ice cream cone with any purchase in the store.  There for, getting two ice cream cones for $0.25 if you want.  I don’t think there was another place we wanted to go more in June as kids, and you can’t beat the cheese spread they sell either.

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1 – Dairy Breakfasts: Breakfast on the farm was always a June tradition I loved growing up whether I attended as a breakfast eater, Dairy Princess, 4-H member clearing tables or FFA member parking cars.  It was always a very anticipated day of the summer and even more so this year, because we are hosting the Greenwood Dairy Breakfast on Sunday, June 28th. We are very excited to host and can’t wait to showcase our farm.  All are welcome, we are serving from 7:00-1:00, pancakes, potato pancakes, sausage, applesauce, cheese and ice cream.

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Whether you like ice cream, cheese or just want to know more about where your dairy products come from, June is a great time to enjoy dairy products and learn more about the farmers who produce it.  All of the farm families working hard to put dairy on your tables want you to know how much they care about making a wholesome product and for the care of their animals.  Happy June Dairy Month, and don’t forget to #milklife!


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Mom, does food come from the grocery store?

Almost every night when we sit down to supper, whatever they type of meat we’re having that night, Lucas asks me where it comes from.  Lucas knows bacon and ham comes from pigs, chicken comes from chicken and hamburger comes form cows, and since we’ve butchered cattle for hamburger before, he completely understands that the animal is sacrificed for him to be able to eat.  Living on a farm makes it about 1000 times easier for me to explain how food gets to the grocery store, but for most moms out there, I don’t think it is probably quite as easy.

I have to admit, sometimes on Sunday afternoons, I get lazy, and we have pizza and breadsticks from the Cenex in town for lunch.  This weekend was one of those days, and there is always marinara sauce with the breadsticks.  Lucas was eating one and asked where the sauce comes from, and I quote; “Mom, is this stuff the juice from tomatoes like ketchup?  And what’s that green stuff?  Is that lettuce?”  I don’t think I’ve had as proud of a mom moment yet, since I’m pretty sure there are some grown adults that don’t think about or know about their food that much, and Lucas will be 4 years old this weekend.  If their child asks where something comes from, they simply say “the grocery store”, and there lies the problem.

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I realize that people today are more removed from agriculture than ever, having less than 2% of the population feeding the world as farmers, but I challenge all of the moms, dads and teachers, or anyone out there that’s been asked the question “where does this come from?” actually give a thought out answer.  If you don’t know where something comes from, ask a farmer, they’d be happy to tell you!

This concept can go even farther with my job, because Vita Plus, the nutrition and feed company that I work for, is Safe Feed/Safe Food certified.  That means that a third party audit is done at all of our feed manufacturing locations to make sure we can trace every ounce of feed, whether it is corn, protein, mineral or anything else, back to its origin.  This is important to us to make sure we are supplying a safe product to our farmers, to ensure that they can harvest a safe product for people to eat.  Not only to I know how my food gets to the grocery store, but I know how my cows’ feed gets to the feed mill!

As a farmer, it is second nature to know how corn turns into milk or meat, and how milk turns into cheese, butter and ice cream, but that isn’t always the case for every person that is shopping at the grocery store.  If you’re ever wondering how your food gets from the field to the grocery store, or if the food you’re eating is safe (all of it is :))  ask a farmer!  Most of us don’t get to talk to people as much as we talk to animals, so we welcome the conversation. 🙂


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Time-management: Why wasn’t this a class in college?

Everyone is busy.  People have jobs and families and hobbies and responsibilities.  There are only 168 hours in a week, and we’re put on this planet to make the most of them.  Lately I have had a few curve balls thrown at my time budget, but proving to myself and others that I can ‘catch’ anything thrown my way has made me think a little bit more about what’s the best way to juggle everything life throws at me.

First of all, I’ve learned to plan ahead.  I’ve always been more of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ kind of girl, to the extent that Farmer Phill and I left for our honeymoon without a plan other than knowing we eventually wanted to make it to Montana and back.  As my career gets busier, I’ve scheduled my time more religiously and I set time goals for myself.  I’ve also gotten better at judging how much time it actually takes me to drive somewhere, rather than thinking I’m always 15 minutes away from the next farm.

Second, I’ve become a multi-tasking maniac.  If I’m not doing more than one thing at a time, be it folding clothes while singing songs with Lucas or giving baths while I’m waiting for water to boil to make supper, I’m thinking about what I need to do next or ways to become more efficient at what I do.

Third, I’m getting better at not over-committing myself.  I used to be notorious for trying to be two places at once, leaving one place early just to get to another place late.  I’ve become more honest with myself about what my actual physical limitations are, since we do only have 168 hours in a week, no more, no less.

Finally, and most importantly, I’ve learned how to prioritize what I need to do.  Saturdays are usually my day to catch up on my house (even if that just means getting the dishes and laundry done), but last Saturday, Lucas woke up not feeling 100% and asked if I’d cuddle with him on the couch.  I had 100 other things I needed to do; taxes, laundry, dishes, clean the bathroom, order music for choir, etc., but at that moment, watching Frozen while cuddling on the couch with Lucas and Jane was the most important and best use of my time.  I’ll never get those moments back, and they are what keep me going on a daily basis.

Farming is a very demanding job and in turn is very rewarding, but at the end of the day, the best part about it is being able to spend the time you are working, doing so with your family.  I may have a full time job, full time farm, full time husband and full time kids, not to mention other part-time volunteer commitments, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.DSC03408DSC03405


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How to keep your new year resolutions, Meal Making Mommy style :)

New Year’s Eve has never been my favorite holiday, in fact, it has probably one been of my least favorite for a few reasons.

1- I never totally understood the hype of staying up past my bed-time to watch a big ball drop on TV in Times Square, only to make me too tired to keep my eyes open during all of the football games I want to watch the next day.

2 – I once was broken-up with on New Year’s Eve, which was not such a happy new year that year.

3- I hate how so many people set all of these new year resolutions, only to have them broken by January 15th.

In the last few years I have actually stuck to most of my resolutions, and I’m actually starting to come around with the whole holiday in general. The following are my top three ways to keep your new year resolutions.  I hope they help you keep yours this year!

1) Set a resolution that’s specific to you.  I’ve learned not to set generic resolutions that everyone tends to set like “I’m going to eat healthier” or “I’m going to save more money.”  I like to set resolutions that will help my everyday life instead of being a cliché.  “I’m going to floss my teeth everyday” or “I’m going to keep my checkbook balanced” are things that will help my well being and are things that I specifically need to work on and are daily occurrences.

2) Give your resolution a value and accountability.  Without having some sort of numeric accountability to your resolution, it is a lot harder to stay on track for more than a short period of time.  Rather than saying “I am going to loose weight” give yourself a guideline to go by such as “I’m going to track my fitness on some sort of app” or “I’m going to exercise three times a week.”  That will help you stick to your goal of “eating healthier” but gives you accountability.

3) Make resolutions for things you should be doing anyway. Having a resolution that is something you should be doing anyway gives you more incentive to keep up with it if you’re eventually going to have To do it no matter what.  Keeping up with my cow records daily instead of weekly, monthly or yearly is on my list this year to insure food safety, animal health and husbandry and traceability.  It is one of those things that I always have to do, but always tends to get  procrastinated on.

Wheather you make one resolution or ten, I hope these ideas help you stick with whatever you resolved to do in 2015.  It is the 15th of January and so far I have been keeping up with my resolutions, and I hope you have too!  Happy new year a little belated; I hope it is a prosperous one!


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15 Christmas Cookie Recipes My Family and Customers Love

One of my favorite holiday traditions is baking Christmas cookies.  When I started working at Vita Plus in 2007, I decided to make cookies for all of my customers for the holidays.  At that time I didn’t have very many customers, because I had only been working there a few months.  I was single and living alone, so I had lots of time on my hands to bake.  That really isn’t the case any more, since I have two small children, a farm and a lot more customers, but I’ve found quite a few easy and yummy recipes that have made it easier for me to keep up with my tradition.

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1. Chocolate Cream Cheese Cookies: These are an Ulness family tradition, and just about all of my siblings’ favorites.  It wouldn’t be Christmas at our house without them, and Santa would be very disappointed if they weren’t waiting for him under the tree.

1 box Devil’s food cake mix

1/4 cup shortening

1 egg

1 8 oz pkg cream cheese

nonpareils for decorating

Preheat the oven at 375, mix all of the ingredients together, chill, roll into balls, dip in nonpareils, and press onto pan.  Bake for 8 minutes.

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2. Holiday bark: This recipe can be altered in a lot of ways, and it’s VERY fast and easy!  Here are some of the variations that are our favorites

1 bag white morsels or chocolate chips

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

Any of the following add-ins:

1 pkg oreos – crushed

peanut butter chips

M&M’s

peanuts

Heath bits

crushed candy canes

cherry chips

Put the chips and oil in a microwave safe bowl.  Melt on 60% power for 1 minute, stir, melt an additional 30 sec at 60% power until completely melted.  Add whichever add-in you choose, mix and spread on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.  Refrigerate or freeze until set, break into pieces to serve.

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3. Peanut butter balls: These are a Grandma Dorothy specialty, and are just as good as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in my opinion.

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tbsp. butter

1 lb milk chocolate

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Mix the peanut butter, powdered sugar, graham cracker crumbs and butter in a bowl.  Roll into 1″ balls.  Refrigerate over night.  Melt the chocolate and oil in a double boiler on low heat (or microwave like the bark if you don’t have one).  Dip the balls into chocolate and let cool on wax paper.

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4. Oreo balls: My husband steals these out of the fridge before I can even dip them in the white chocolate most of the time, so if you don’t want to dip them, eat them plain. 🙂

1-8 oz pkg cream cheese

1 pkg oreo cookies (plain or peppermint)

1 lb white chocolate or almond bark

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

Crush the oreos in a food processor or with a rolling pin and gallon zip lock bag.  Mix with softened cream cheese.  Roll into balls and refrigerate over night.  Melt white chocolate and oil in a double boiler (or microwave, because if you’re like me, you’ll always burn the white chocolate. Every time.) and dip the balls in the chocolate and let cool on wax paper.  I sprinkle the peppermint ones with candy cane chips to differentiate.

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5. Thin Mints: If you like the Girl Scout version of these, you’ll love this easy homemade cookies!

2 sleeves Ritz crackers

1 pkg Andes Candies bits

1 tbsp oil

Melt the oil and Andes Candies in a small sauce pan on low heat.  Dip the Ritz crackers and let cool on wax paper.

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6 & 7. Holiday M&M cookies & surprise cookies: both of these are simple twists on a traditional favorite.

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup butter flavored shortening

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 1/4 cup flour

M&M’s or mini Rolos or mini Milky Way

Cream sugars, butter, shortening and vanilla.  Add eggs, mix after each addition.  Add baking soda, salt and flour and mix well.  For the m&m cookies, fold in m&ms, drop teaspoons full of dough on a cookie sheet, bake at 350 for 8 minutes.  For the surprise cookies, instead of the m&ms place the mini candy bars on a cookie sheet, top with a teaspoon full of dough, bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

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8 & 9. Chocolate Peanut Butter or Chocolate Mint Fudge: This is a new one for me this year, but very quick, easy and delicious!

1-14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup white baking chips

1/2 cup peanut butter or marshmallow fluff (for mint version)

1 tsp vanilla divided

1/4 tsp almond extract or peppermint extract

1/3 cup salted peanuts or 1/4 cup crushed candy canes

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/8 tsp salt

Line 8 inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over the edges of the pan.  Microwave 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter (or marshmallow fluff) and white chips in a medium bowl on high one minute or until melted and smooth when stirred.  Stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla and almond or peppermint extract and peanuts or candy cane pieces.  Microwave remaining sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips and salt on high one minute until melted and smooth when stirred.  Stir in remaining vanilla.  Spoon each mixture, alternating heaping tablespoonfuls of both mixtures in the pan and swirl with a knife for marbled appearance.  Chill one hour until firm, cut into 1′ squares.

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10. Iced Mollasses Cinnamon Cookies: These are another new one for me, but are an interesting twist on traditional Mollasses cookies.

1/2 cup butter     2 1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar       1/3 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup molasses 2 tsp cinnamon

1 egg                       1 egg white

1/2 tsp vanilla      1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp salt            1/4 cup heavy cream

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375.  Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, add the egg, molasses and vanilla, mix until blended evenly.  Add the baking powder, salt and flour until the dough comes together, shape into a flattened rectangle, wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour.  In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and brown sugar, set aside.  Roll out the chilled dough on a floured surface into about a 9×13 rectangle, trim edges to make it uniform.  Brush the dough with egg whites and sprinkle with cinnamon mixture as evenly as possible.  Roll the dough as tightly as possible starting with the long edge.  Cut the rolled log in half, wrap the pieces in plastic and freeze for 15 minutes.  Slice the dough in 1/4 inch pieces and place an inch appart on parchment paper lined baking sheets.  Bake at 375 for 11-13 minutes, let cool.  In a small bowl whisk the powdered sugar, cream and 1/2 tsp vanilla, drizzle on the cooled cookies to serve.

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11. Salted Carmel Cookies: another new try for me this year, but some of my newest favorites!

1 cup butter, softened

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 pkg sugar cookie mix

3/4 cup finely crushed salted pretzels

1 jar caramel sauce

1 tsp coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix the butter, egg, and vanilla until creamy.  Add sugar cookie mix and pretzels and mix until combined.  Form the dough into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, flatten with a flour dipped glass.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  When cool, spread the caramel sauce on cooled cookies, sprinkle with sea salt.

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12. Rocky Road Squares:  These are really good, but I found out the hard way that they don’t travel very well because of the marshmallow fluff.

38-40 Mini Peanut Butter Cups (I used the unwrapped ones, you don’t have to cut them up as much or unwrap them!)

1 cup butter

1 1/4 cup cocoa, divided

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract, divided

1 3/4 cups flour

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow crème

1/2 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 and line a 13x9x2 inch pan with foil, extending foil beyond the sides.  Grease foil and cut up peanut butter cups into pieces.  Place butter in a large microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high 1 minute or until butter is melted.  Stir in 3/4 cup cocoa until smooth.  Add sugar, 3 eggs and 1tsp vanilla; blend well.  Blend in flour, spread in greased pan, bake 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine sweetened condensed milk, remaining 1/2 cup cocoa, remaining egg and remaining 1 1/2 tsps. vanilla.  Pour over baked layer, return to oven; bake 20-25 minutes or until set.  Place marshmallow crème by heaping spoonful over hot surface.  Allow to soften about 5 minutes; carefully spread over surface.  Immediately sprinkle peanut butter cup pieces and peanuts over marshmallow.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack.  Refrigerate until chilled.  Cut into squares using a wet knife to serve.

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13. Peanut Butter Blossoms:  Another family favorite, and one of Lucas’s favorites to help me with, I let him unwrap the kisses and put them on the cookies.

1/2 cup shortening                           1 egg

1/2 cup peanut butter                      2 tbsp. milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar                1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup packed brown sugar          1 3/4 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder                          1/4 cup granulated sugar (I like using red and green to be more festive)

1/8 tsp baking soda                           chocolate kisses or stars

Beat shortening and peanut butter with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Add the 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, baking powder and baking soda.  Beat until combined.  Beat in egg, milk and vanilla.  Beat in a much flour as you can, stir in any remaining flour.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Roll balls in the granulated sugar, place 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned.  Immediately press chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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14.  Butter Sugar Cookies:  I was looking for a recipe for melt-in-your mouth sugar cookies, and these did not disappoint.

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cream of tartar

1/8 tsp salt

3 egg yolks

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 3/4 cup flour

In a large bowl beat the butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.  Beat until combined, then add egg yolks and vanilla, continue beating until evenly mixed.  Beat in as much flour as you can, stir in any remaining flour.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls, roll in granulated or colored sugar if desired, place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes or until sides are set. Do not let the edges brown.  Cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack.

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15. Sugar Cookie Cutouts:  Although these are not my favorite to make, they are very tasty and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without them.  These are my kid’s favorite to leave out for Santa because they help me decorate them.

2/3 cup butter, softened                      Icing ingredients:

3/4 cup granulated sugar                    1 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 tsp baking powder                              1/4 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt                                               1 tbsp. milk

1 egg                                                           assorted food coloring

1 tablespoon milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

Beat butter on medium speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.  Add sugar, baking powder and salt.  Beat until combined, continue by adding egg, milk and vanilla until combined.  Beat in as much flour as you can, stir in the remaining flour by hand.  Divide dough in half, cover and chill 30 minutes or until easy to handle.  On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough at a time until 1/8 inch thick.  Use a 2 1/2 inch cookie cutter, cut into desired shapes (our favorite are trees, stockings, candy canes and stars).  Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are very lightly browned.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.  Ice once cooled if desired.  For the icing, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and milk.  Stir in additional milk, 1 tbsp. at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.

I hope you enjoy these Christmas cookies as much I enjoy making them for my customers, family and friends.  I started making cookies in October this year, and made over 150 dozen cookies to fill over 30 tins with treats.  I’m pretty sure I used more butter in the last 3 months baking cookies than I do the entire rest of the year combined, but I’m happy to support my dairy farm families in any way that I can. 🙂  I hope this holiday season finds you and yours happy, healthy and in the holiday spirit.

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