I’m headed to Atlanta today for a quick business trip – as in I’ll be back home tomorrow night. (Yep, that quick.) I’ll be meeting with others in the turkey industry to continue plans on some exciting new ways to promote the consumption of more turkey all year long.
Before I leave, though, I wanted to be sure to post my latest #TurkeyTuesday recipe try-out. I loved this one because A) It’s meatballs, B) It’s slow cooker meatballs, and C) It only has 5 ingredients (6 if you count the blue cheese dressing).
Did I mention I’m a big fan of meatballs?
This recipe would make an awesome party appetizer, or do what we did – make buffalo turkey meatball sliders! (Full disclosure: I didn’t have hoagie buns on hand but I did have smaller dinner rolls, so that’s why we made sliders. Not what I was originally planning, but hey, it worked.)
Blue cheese dressing and celery sticks for serving
In large bowl, combine the ground turkey, egg, bread crumbs and celery seed; mix until well combined. Use cookie scoop to form 1-inch meatballs.
Heat 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the meatballs; cook on all sides until lightly browned. Place meatballs in slow cooker. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
Pour 1 cup Buffalo wing sauce over browned meatballs in slow cooker. Cover; cook on low heat setting 2 to 3 hours or until meatballs are no longer pink in center and the temperature of the ground turkey reaches 165 degrees F.
Serve meatballs with blue cheese dressing and celery sticks on the side, or scoop a few into your favorite hoagie bun, sprinkle with some freshly grated cheese on top, and you’ve got yummy a meatball sandwich.
I was reading the Sunday Star Tribune newspaper this morning and this article caught my eye in the business section – “Going Small Pays Off,” a question-and-answer article about a manager of a Twin Cities farmer’s market.
As I would expect, she was asked how her business compares to the (and I quote here) “large farm/industrial market.”
Hmmm … I wonder where this interview is going?
She was also asked about why she thinks farmers’ markets and local production are growing, to which she replied:
“Prominent writers such as Michael Pollan have drawn attention to the industrial food system. Monoculture crops. And a steer raised on a feedlot, fattened with corn and pumped with antibiotics compared with a diversified farm with animals raised over a long period and with some room to roam. It’s not just “inputs in a factory.”
Sigh. Here we go.
I get so tired and, let’s face it, completely annoyed with people who feel the need to go there.
“Inputs in a factory.” “Industrial Farming.” “Factory Farm.”
No. Just no.
What’s sad is this person grew up on a farm, and instead of taking the opportunity to bring different types of agriculture together, she does the opposite. I honestly don’t think farmers’ markets need to criticize commercial agriculture production – and the opposite is quite true as well. We’re all in this together.
Are there different production systems? Of course. Are there farms of a variety of sizes? Yes, definitely. And all are needed to feed our hungry planet. Some folks can only afford what’s on sale at a grocery store, while others can pay a little more for organic or like to visit the farmer’s market. Some – like me – do a little bit of everything. I buy conventionally-raised meat and produce in my large supermarket – and often watch for sales and coupons. I also buy organic occasionally – not because I think it’s any healthier for me but because I might like a certain product. I happen to love farmers’ markets when I can get to them, and I also grow my own vegetables on a couple of small garden plots behind my home.
Don’t tell me that any one way to buy food is any better for me than the other. It’s about choice and what I buy (or raise on my own) depends on a number of factors – whether it’s good for my pocketbook or if I like a particular heirloom tomato or what simply happens to be available at the grocery store.
I do agree with the interviewee on this statement:
All of this discussion can become heated very quickly.
It sure can. Especially when you throw around the demeaning term,”factory farm,” with no regard for the family farmers behind those farms or the choices they offer to many consumers.
If you live in Minnesota and watch or read the local news, it’s been pretty hard to miss the almost daily reports of a deadline avian flu hitting turkey flocks in Minnesota. I’ve written about it for Agriculture.com (most recently here) but I haven’t covered it too much on my blog.
It’s hard to put into words what this outbreak is like for those of us who work with turkey farmers on a daily basis. For so many people right now, this is all we’re working on. This is priority #1.
It makes us all worry. No doubt about it. This deadly strain of influenza – which hasn’t been seen in the U.S. until this year – kills turkeys within a few hours of finding its way into a barn. A turkey farmer I know told the Star Tribune, “It’s kind of similar to knowing that there is a burglar in the neighborhood, but you don’t know where he’s going to hit.”
It takes an emotional toll on farmers. Imagine watching hundreds of the birds you are caring for die quickly with absolutely nothing you can do to ease their discomfort. It’s horrible. And I’m not talking about the financial aspect of losing birds – I’m talking emotionally, as human beings. Then imagine having to put the rest of your healthy birds down in order to stop the chances of the virus spreading. It’s the worst thing imaginable for a farmer – to have to euthanize healthy birds.
And yes, there are financial repercussions. It would be foolish not to mention the financial repercussions of this virus. Turkey farmers don’t buy insurance for disease – there is no such thing. They also do not get reimbursed for any birds that die of avian influenza. Farmers do get some funding back from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for any birds they have to euthanize, but it doesn’t cover the entire loss. These flocks represent the livelihood of a farmer and his/her family, and it’s entirely conceivable that a farm hit by avian influenza may not recover from the financial hit.
It’s tough to watch everything enfold. I go to work, wondering whose flock I will hear about next. I wake up in the middle night, worrying about the farmers who are hit with this and hoping they will be able to bounce back. My organization (Minnesota Turkey Growers Association) is doing everything we can to help the industry through this but we still feel helpless sometimes.
This is not about turkeys “crammed” into barns. I see the snarky comments on Facebook that this is all because farmers cram thousands of birds in their barns. That it’s somehow payback for “factory farms” that don’t care about the animals. To this I say, stop it. Seriously. (I’m not going to get into the whole factory farm thing here, but let me just say turkeys aren’t crammed into barns without regard for the space they need.) All poultry is susceptible to HPAI, whether we’re talking about barn-raised, pasture-raised, or small backyard flocks. All farmers, no matter what size, need to be vigilant about keeping their birds safe and exercise biosecurity measures (like these for backyard flock owners) that limit transmission of the virus. And if you don’t think farmers are doing all they can for their poultry, then I wish you could read the emails and texts I receive from the turkey farmers I know.
We’ve got friends and they have our back. The good news in all of this – if there is, indeed, good news – is that there is a team of experts from industry, our organization, the University of Minnesota, and government agencies all working together day and night to figure this thing out and help everyone involved. In this day and age, when we often see disconnect and discord between private and public entities, it is reassuring to see so many people coming together to fight this problem.
That’s my boss at the podium at recent press conference about avian influenza, flanked by folks from the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, DNR, and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
Minnesota’s turkey industry is big – it’s the #1 turkey-producing state in the U.S., after all. But generally everyone knows each other – I’ve heard it described often as “a family” – and most everyone knows someone who’s been impacted by this virus. Minnesota will get through this – turkey farmers are a resilient bunch – and until then, the worry and, most importantly, the work will continue.
For more information on avian influenza and Minnesota turkey farmers, click here.
Note: There is absolutely no food safety issue and a very low threat to human health with this virus. Birds confirmed with HPAI do not enter the food chain at all.
I don’t mind telling you that I’m not ready to start a new week. Do I have to? I believe I’d like to continue my state of denial at least through Madam Secretary and The Good Wife tonight. You don’t mind, do you?
So first of all, the sun actually shone in Minnesota the entire weekend – this after a week’s worth of dreary, chilly days. (Cue the angels singing, please.) And in honor of our favorite golf tournament of the year – The Master’s at Augusta National – Teacher Man and I grabbed Joe along with a few golf clubs and spent a little time on the driving range on Saturday morning.
The driving range just outside of Buffalo is, shall we say, a little more rustic than a fancy schmancy golf course – and that’s just the way we like it. It’s also on the honor system most of the time – the buckets of balls are always ready to go in the red shed, where we also leave the cash ($8 for a large bucket) even if no one is working.
Apparently Joe grew a few inches since last summer and his own junior clubs are too short for him. I don’t know how we missed that? Here, he is trying out my driver, which was definitely a better fit. (And I have no idea what the story is behind the RV parked by the driving range. It’s just there.)
As if there wasn’t enough golf during the day, Teacher Man got out his indoor putting green, which apparently needed to be ironed so it would lay as flat as possible prior to our putting contest. Joe was thrilled to be a helper.
Next: a cutthroat putting contest ensued with Earl the pug taking his seat in the gallery and providing coaching tips as needed.
I found a new favorite cocktail for our Saturday afternoon happy hour – this one in honor of The Master’s: the Azalea Cocktail. Recipe is simple: 2 parts gin, 1 part lime juice (freshly squeezed), 1 part pineapple juice, and a splash of grenadine. (Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, shake, and pour over ice into glasses.) It was delish – not overly sweet – and such a pretty color!
A post-putting contest #selfie because, well, we can’t help ourselves. And any selfie is always made immediately better with Earl the pug.
And in unrelated news, my garlic made it through the winter and is now sprouting up! I am fairly excited about this – I’ve never grown my own garlic before. I literally ran back into the house to grab my iPhone to snap this picture and sent it immediately to my mother, who gave me the garlic to plant in the first place. Both of us were worried it wouldn’t make it through our winter, which was devoid of much snow cover. So yes, that was me jumping up and down with child-like glee in my garden on Saturday. (You can see what the garlic looked like last fall here before I planted it in early November.)
Today, my day included the following:
A little bit of garden prep work in 35+ mph winds – which begs the question, why can’t we have one decent 75 degree day without gale force winds?
A nap. A glorious nap.
The final round of the Master’s golf tournament*.
And a new coffee cake recipe. (I am totally obsessed with coffee cake, generally speaking.)
The original recipe called for raspberries but I had frozen blueberries in my freezer so I substituted. It was a winner. How can I tell? Teacher Man had two giant pieces. That’s a win-win in my book.
Are you ready for the weekend, or would you rather be on ignore, like me?
Yep, that’s what I thought.
~ Lara ~
* I must give a shout out to my niece, Audree, who won our family’s Master’s golf pool with her “Hotness Picks.” She also submitted regular picks, but the golf gods smiled down upon her and apparently all of her cute golfers beat out the likes of the more serious picks from the rest of the family. :)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (or raspberries)
Powdered sugar and fresh raspberries (optional for garnish)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease the bottom of a 9 inch round cake pan and line bottom of pan with parchment. Grease and lightly flour pan; set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup of the granulated sugar and butter on medium to high until combined. Add 1 egg and vanilla. Beat on low to medium for 1 minute. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to sugar mixture, beating just until combined after each addition; set aside.
For cheesecake filling, in a small mixing bowl beat cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar with electric mixer on medium to high until combined. Add lemon peel and remaining egg; beat until combined.
Spoon half the cake batter into the prepared pan, spreading to edges. Pour filling over batter, spreading to edges. Dollop remaining batter on filling, carefully spreading to edges of pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed. Gently press blueberries into cake. Bake 25 to 30 minutes more or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Loosen edges of cake from pan; remove from pan. Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with additional blueberries.
Sometimes a mom just needs a go-to macaroni and cheese recipe that isn’t straight out of a box. As much as Joe would prefer the box variety (and generally I’m fine with that), I sometimes get a craving for the homemade stuff.
It’s one of my ultimate comfort foods, for sure.
Pasta. Cheesy goodness. Count me in.
What I love about this recipe is that it adds some delicious smoked turkey sausage into the mix and makes my meat-and-potatoes loving husband happy with it as well. Plus, it’s done in under 30 minutes. (Hello? Weeknight madness, be gone!)
This turkey sausage product – along with its counterpart, turkey kielbasa – is fabulous, by the way. Sometimes I just heat it up as it is and serve with a veggie and some sort of potato side dish. This gets supper on the table for my family of three in record time while also accounting for a myriad of food groups for a reasonable price.
The mac and cheese recipe, by the way, is from one of my favorite food bloggers, Lauren’s Latest – she has a ton of delicious recipes on her website that don’t cause me a stress attack because of a zillion fancy ingredients. As I’ve told you before, I can be lazy in the kitchen – especially on weeknights – but I’m still particular and want deliciousness.
1 lb. macaroni pasta
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
pinch of nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
4 cups grated medium cheddar cheese
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 package JENNIE-O® Hardwood Smoked Turkey sausage, diced
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Replace pot back to medium heat. Melt butter, then whisk in flour. Cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk slowly to prevent lumps from forming. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Cook 5 minutes over medium low heat to thicken sauce without curdling the milk.
Sprinkle cheese in bit by bit until it’s all incorporated into one smooth cheesy sauce. Stir in cooked pasta and JENNIE-O® turkey sausage. Warm it all through 2-3 minutes before serving. Serve hot.
Note: I am part of Jennie-O’s Switch Circle of bloggers, but I do not get paid for my posts. I do receive some complimentary turkey products to try upon occasion. Opinions and topics are entirely my own.