My Other More Exciting Self

Farm Raised, Shoe Enthusiast, Turkey Talker, Wine Lover, Mom

Jalapeno Turkey Meatballs | via #SwitchToTurkey #TurkeyEveryday #JennieO

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted a turkey recipe on the blog but I am happy to report that’s changing today. My oven was fixed last Friday (broken glass on the inside of the door – weird) and after we came home from the lake, I knew I wanted to make these meatballs for Sunday night supper.

The recipe comes from my friend Sharlene; she and her husband raise turkeys in the Alexandria, Minn., area and I’ve known them both for close to 20 years. I actually featured the recipe at the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association Summer Conference in June – it was part of our “Turkey Taste-Off” event and it won 3rd place in the voting for best turkey recipe. (Incidentally, the sriracha turkey burger recipe I love won 2nd place!) The meatballs were also served at a Congressional “Meat and Greet” reception in Washington DC a couple of weeks ago for the National Turkey Federation.

Jalapeno Turkey Meatballs | via #SwitchToTurkey #TurkeyEveryday #JennieO

These turkey meatballs are tremendously flavorful – definitely a spicy kick with a little sweetness from the jelly. I made our meatballs pretty big since this was our main entree for supper tonight, but you could easily make them smaller and serve them as appetizers out of a slow cooker. If you make them big like I did, I’d say you’ll generally get 3 full servings out of the recipe – maybe 4 depending on who you’re feeding.

Our meal tonight included some garden bounty as well: yellow beans, cherry tomatoes, chives for my favorite summer pasta salad, and even the onion minced up for the meatballs. I love this time of year!

Jalapeno Turkey Meatballs | via #SwitchToTurkey #TurkeyEveryday #JennieO

Hope you enjoy some turkey today or anytime this week.

– Lara –

Jalapeno Turkey Meatballs

  • 1 (20-ounce) package JENNIE-O® Lean Ground Turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup dry plain bread crumbs
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or Sharlene’s original recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon minced garlic)
  • 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 jar jalapeno pepper jelly (I used a 10 oz. jar of Archer Farms California Red Pepper Jelly from Target)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

In bowl, combine all the ingredients except jelly and butter.  Shape into meatballs. (Hint: I use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop which works like a charm.) Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees until done – meatballs should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. as measured by a meat thermometer. (This takes about 30 minutes, depending on size of meatball).

In a small sauce pan melt the butter on low heat and then add the jelly. Stir until the jelly has turned to a liquid.  Place meatballs in a dish and pour the jelly mixture over them. Serve.

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.

My Teacher Man | via

I arrived home today from the lake, completely relaxed and stress-free from my mini-vacation (click here for my post yesterday on this) – and consequently I am not at all ready to get back to the office tomorrow. It’s probably an understatement to say that I’m ready for a real vacation – a total get-away that allows me to unplug and hang with my family away from home and away from responsibilities. I am getting this in less than two weeks (can you say Hawaii?!) and it can’t come soon enough. (Although there is a part of me that doesn’t want it to come too fast because then it will be over already and that will make me sad.)

Did you catch all that? I’m a complicated woman.

Anywho, back to today. After lunch, I immediately headed outside to check on my gardens and get some weeding and harvesting done. Late July provides such a bounty – my raised bed vegetable gardens are starting to overflow and all my perennials are in full, colorful glory.

Harvesting Garlic | via

I harvested my garlic today! I think it looks pretty amazing – I mean, I’ve never grown my own garlic before so I am pretty psyched about this. (And it really wasn’t hard to grow, either!) Now I’ve got it all hanging in my garage to dry so I’ll be able to use it well into the fall.

Bobo Hydrangea | via

My cute little “Bobo” hydrangea is doing quite well. I planted it last August in the front of our house and it’s been a great addition to my hydrangea collection – I’ve got 5 different types so far.

Zinnia | via

The first of my zinnias to bloom this summer – a lovely salmon-pink color.

Limelight Hydrangea | via

I rather like this combination of a “Little Lime” hydrangea and a rudbeckia (commonly referred to as “black-eyed Susan”). Here’s my little secret: the rudbeckia self-seeded right next to the hydrangea so it’s not really supposed to be there. I should probably dig the rudbeckia up and transplant it somewhere else, but I kind of like the two of these together.

David Phlox | via

This “David” phlox is so bright white that it’s actually hard to take decent photos of it. I have this phlox in several places because of it’s stunning color – it’s a showy plant that looks amazing in the evening, especially.

Sunflower | via

Both Joe and I love sunflowers. His preference is for the mammoth yellow sunflowers (which I did plant this year) but I also like some of the other varieties – like this one, which I think is “Mrs. Mars”. It grows to about 2-3 feet tall so it can fit into smaller spaces, and it has these lovely blooms.

Cherry tomatoes | via

My cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen! We love these in our favorite summer pasta salad – tomatoes, chives and Parmesan cheese with shells and olive oil. Yum!

Becky Daisy | via

Oh “Becky” daisy … so many reasons I love this classic flower. I mean, really, who could ever get tired of looking at daisies?

Hydrangea | via

Another hydrangea … this one starts out white and morphs into a lovely pinkish color. I think it’s “pinky winky” but I need to dig up the original tag to be sure. If I was more organized I’d keep a garden journal with all this information. Huh.

Daylily | via

This peachy-pink daylily is a very nice departure from all the yellow and deeper red daylily varieties I have.

Yellow Beans | via

Yellow beans, anyone? I picked my second harvest today and you really can’t tell from this photo just how many beans I brought in to the house. A LOT of beans. As in, I may have to share some with the neighbors or we will be eating yellow beans at every meal for the next five days. We love yellow beans, but even that might be a bit much. ;)

That’s a small snapshot of what’s happening in my gardens right now. I’d love to hear about your gardens – do you plant perennials, containers, vegetables or a combination of all three?

Watch for a new turkey recipe post on Tuesday, as well!

– Lara –


I can’t remember the last time I simply sat outside on a Saturday morning, sipped coffee, and read a magazine. Usually at home I’m always thinking of the next thing that needs to get done or I’m on some kind of schedule – generally self-imposed, mind you.

Not today.

My brother and sister-in-law borrowed (okay, lent is the proper term, actually) us their lake cabin for the weekend and it is blissful out here.

We arrived last night, picked up pizza along the way, did some swimming, and enjoyed the pretty sunset. 


Quiet. Restful. Family time.

Today Teacher Man is golfing in a tournament with my brother and his kids. Joe and I are going to spend the day in the lake – swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, and goofing around. 

Now this is Minnesota lake life. :) 

Happy Saturday, friends!

– Lara –


Bill Maher is Not an Egg Farmer| via

It’s true.

I know this may be hard to fathom for some folks, but Bill Maher – the comedian – is really not even close to being an egg farmer. He does, however, want you to think he knows an awful lot about raising egg layer hens, according to an opinion piece he wrote for the New York Times recently that urged Costco to go cage-free with all their eggs.

I read parts of the article out loud to my husband when we were driving out to my parents’ farm a couple of weekends, and I have to tell you, we laughed at the absurdity of Bill Maher telling us what chickens would prefer when it comes to how they are raised.

Do people really believe a celebrity has more knowledge about this than the farmers who raise poultry? Do people really distrust farmers that much? (I hope not.) And if so, where did this level of distrust come from? (I worry about this issue almost daily.)

Bill Maher is Not an Egg Farmer| via

Rather than regurgitate the tired language of the animal activist groups who want nothing more than to end animal agriculture as we know it, I wish Bill Maher had done a little research and reached out to the folks at the Center for Sustainable Egg Supply, who recently studied several types of layer hen housing to get an honest look at what housing system(s) might be best for the birds.

Yes, that’s right – best for the birds. Not best for Bill Maher or Costco or anyone else – but truly what is best for the birds.

He might be interested to know that there are pros and cons to ALL housing systems.

In his New York Times opinion piece, Mr. Maher advocates for cage-free. Well, guess what – cage-free can mean higher mortality rates for hens, thanks to general meanness and cannibalism. It’s all about the pecking order with chickens – yes, this is how chickens behave, so it stands to reason that having fewer chickens housed together can minimize the issues with the pecking order.

In a recent letter from the National Association of Egg Farmers to Costco, the research is explained this way:

The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply, a cooperative effort of animal scientists investigating the published research concluded recently that different housing systems (cage-free, enhanced colony cages, and the conventional cages used today by nine-five percent of egg farmers) are not significantly different in the stress among the chickens. This compliments earlier findings by The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2010 which released a report on different housing systems.The report concluded consumers need to balance the hen’s freedom against exposure to potential hazards such as disease vectors and the cannibalism caused by pecking. Certainly cannibalism and pecking are welfare issues, and in conventional cages where the number of chickens is minimized, these concerns are reduced compared to the enhanced, colony cages or aviaries. “

Regarding providing safe eggs for consumers, the research shows this:

In considering food safety, eggs laid on the floor in an aviary system have more pathogenic bacteria from contact with manure. This is virtually eliminated in conventional cages where … the manure falls below the cages and away from the eggs.  The claims that cages are creating health risks from increased incidence of Salmonella is unfounded and illogical.”  

My point here is that there is no black-and-white answer to which housing system is best for chickens. The research (you can read the full report here if you are so inclined) shows there are cons – and most definitely pros, as well, to each system.

I have seen very happy chickens in cages – in very clean barns, mind you – with my own eyes. I also know that chickens in other housing systems – be it enriched colonies or free range or pastured – can and do live good and healthy lives as well. Even more than the production system, the health and well-being of chickens depends on the farmers who are there, 24-7, to do the right thing by their animals.

We need all these housing systems to provide eggs to the consumer marketplace. Some folks can afford to buy organic pastured eggs at the farmer’s market, while others are on a tight budget and need a more affordable option. I personally don’t worry about buying the cheapest conventionally-raised eggs at Target because I know farmers, by and large, are doing the best they can by their birds. No one should be made to feel bad about their egg choices; we are lucky to live in a country where we can make these choices for our families.

Do me a favor, will you? Don’t take Bill Maher’s word for it. He’s not an egg farmer. And frankly, neither am I. But I have a feeling I know many more egg farmers and have been on more egg farms than he has. I won’t tell you what eggs to buy – heck, I just want everyone to buy eggs and enjoy this amazing protein! All I ask is that you do your research and know what you’re buying and why it’s important to you.

And if you have questions, ask a farmer – not a Hollywood comedian.

I think I can feel my age tonight. After spending 4 days in Washington DC and then another 3 days traveling to/from Iowa City for a family get-together, I am officially beat.

If you could see me now, I am sharing the couch with Joe while he is on his iPad and I’ve got HGTV on – and neither one of us is moving too quickly. It’s been an amazing week, though, and I thought I’d share a few of my favorite photos from the past few days.

National Mall | via

My work trip to Washington DC was a typical whirlwind of National Turkey Federation conference events, a multitude of meetings with our Congressional leaders on the Hill, and some laughs in between with my poultry peeps. On our last night, we happened upon the Marine Corps Band playing on the steps of the Capitol. In a word: incredible. Is there a better place to listen to John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”? I don’t think so.

Washington DC | via

But first I gave a presentation at the National Turkey Federation Summer Leadership Conference on media and crisis communication in the wake of avian flu in the poultry industry. My friend, Gretta, from the Iowa Turkey Federation was in the audience and snapped this picture. It reminds me of a high school teacher who told me I always talk with my hands. :) (And in case you’re wondering the presentation went very well, too!)

Washington DC | via

Several of us from Minnesota enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Woodward Table, a restaurant just a block or so from the White House. It will likely come as no surprise that I especially loved the apple tart with creme fraiche and calvados sauce (a distilled apple cider from the Normandy region of France).

The Dubliner | via

And no trip to DC would be complete without visiting The Dubliner, an Irish pub over by Union Station – and conveniently just around the corner from our hotel. Here is my beloved pint of Harp, which always reminds me of the two trips to Ireland Teacher Man and I have enjoyed. I know I’m mainly a wine kind of girl, but a decent pint of Harp holds a very similar appeal.

Durben Pool Party 2015 | via

Less than 24 hours after returning home from DC, I hit the road with the boys for Iowa City and our annual family pool party at Teacher Man’s sister’s home. If you follow me on Instagram, then you probably saw this photo, with half a frozen margarita gone before noon. That’s the way we roll. (What you don’t see is how I snuck away at 4 p.m. for a much-needed nap!)

Pool Party 2015 | via

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law have the most amazing salt water pool … and apparently nearly as many floaties as they do family members.

Pool Party 2015 | via

Joe was in heaven, having a pool and cousins at his beck and call. That kid could live in the water all day.

Pool Party 2015 | via

It was #babyfix time for me, with two 4-month-olds joining the pool party for the first time. This is Jaxon, who has the biggest eyes and seemed so easy-going.

Pool Party 2015 | via

And this is Miss Madison, who is quite possibly the “smiley-ist” baby I’ve ever seen. (But of course, she didn’t smile for the camera – ha!) Those cheeks, too.

Pool Party 2015 | via

Aside from the free flowing frozen margaritas, there were plenty of other beverage to be had as well.

Pool Party 2015 | via

Another Instagram post … this is two #introverts taking a break and getting some quiet time. Like mother, like son. :)

Multi-colored carrots | via

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon, when we arrived back home after a 5+ hour drive. I went immediately to water  my flower pots and check the gardens. I picked a few of the multi-colored carrots for dinner, and …

Yellow wax beans | via

… our first crop of yellow beans this summer! This is definitely the most favorite vegetable we plant – we just steam the beans in a pot filled partially with water for about 15-20 minutes, drain them, add a couple of tablespoons of butter, and a little garlic salt. So delicious!

And yes, this was our meal tonight – beans and carrots. I wouldn’t normally get away with not providing a protein, but we had been eating well all weekend – including a stop for lunch at Culver’s in Mason City – so I didn’t hear any complaints. (Although Teacher Man couldn’t resist teasing me, “This is some meal you’ve got going for us tonight!”)

Plus, this gave us more room for our Sunday night ice cream from DQ – for #NationalIceCreamDay!

I’ll add that protein back in tomorrow night, promise.

Have a great start to the week!

– Lara –

Charming Farming

We started a farm blog then realized we don't know much about farming, so we also blog about food, family, faith, and the funnier side of life.

Midwest Barbie Blog

A midwestern girl trying to keep up in a barbie world. Becoming her own kind of beautiful on the prarie.

Cook It Quick!

Fast. Healthy. Delicious.

Ask the Farmers

Where does your food come from? How is it raised? How is it grown? Do you have questions or concerns? If so, ask the farmers.

Rural Route 2

The Life & Times of an Illinois Farm Girl

It's MomSense

Using our super-mom powers to call shenanigans on fear-mongering in parenting

The Farmer's Wifee

Loving this life as a dairy farmer's wife.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,527 other followers

%d bloggers like this: