My Other More Exciting Self

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

I’m just going to leave these two photos right here and share some zinnia trivia with you:

  • These varieties are why zinnias are among my top 5 favorite flowers.
  • At the rehearsal dinner the night before my wedding, we had arrangements of zinnias on each table.
  • If I owned my own retail store, which would be an eclectic mix of clothing, home decor, and random fun items, I might be inclined to name it Zinnia.
  • The varieties below are Queen Red Lime and Dancing Girls.
  • I grew six varieties of zinnias from seed this year – most did well and but a couple didn’t.

These two …. perfection.

Lara

I live in Buffalo, Minnesota, a community of about 15,000 people that’s a short drive to the suburbs of Minneapolis. I don’t consider Buffalo a suburb in the true sense, however; it’s a town with a long history and its own personality. And from our home, we can see horses, cows (both dairy and beef), and fields of corn and soybeans. I love the juxtaposition of town meeting countryside, and I hope our little city doesn’t outgrow that – at least not too much.

Last night, the wind died down (it was howling all day long) so I snuck out of the house for a short run around 8 p.m. The sunset was glorious as it peaked over the corn fields and I took a few photos along the path I run on several times a week. You wouldn’t even know we live in a housing development with many houses by the looks of it – and that’s just the way I like it.

Lara

P.S. If you’re on Instagram, you can follow me via @MNGobbleGal and you’ll see more photos like this, plus plenty of our pug, Earl, who is quite popular in his own right on Instgram. (Go figure!)  I often use different filters on my photos, as well. Most of these below were created with Snapseed, a free photo editing app I downloaded on my iPhone.

Go Buffalo Bison!

  Corn.  Soybeans.
  Cattails leading toward a little pond.  Uh oh. The sumac is starting to show its fall colors. Already?
 A soybean #selfie? :)

I’d like to share a few observations from the course of the past few days or so. These will be random observations, so if you were hoping to read a well-constructed blog post tonight, you’re a bit out of luck. My brain is just not working that way right now. ;)

  • We found out today that this is what Joe remembers most from our trip to Hawaii. (How do we know this? Eavesdropping, of course, when he was talking to one of his best friends. Shameless parents.)

“When we were in Hawaii, we went to a luau and there were hula dancers there. But we saw people in Hawaii that had – literally – WAY LESS on than the hula dancers did. It was weird.”

  • Conventional wisdom would tell you that dogs can’t tell time. However, Earl the pug has a very precise body clock. Every day at precisely 5:00 p.m., he wakes up from his afternoon nap and begins to stalk his food bowl. Every single day at 5:00 p.m. I’m not even kidding about this.

  • I like cinnamon roll coffee cake way too much. I think I ate half the pan after making this today. (Full disclosure: it was an 8×8 pan.) I even turned down Dairy Queen ice cream tonight because I wanted to have more cake tonight. I may have a coffee cake problem. (The recipe I made today can be found here; another good one is here.)

  • Are these not the cutest little zinnias you ever did see? I need to look up what variety I planted so I remember for next year. This would also be a good time to remind myself to start a garden journal so I’m more organized about remembering the varieties of everything I plant. Um, yeah. Always seems like such a good idea … until I forget.

  • Speaking of my garden … our mammoth sunflowers survived the deer and wind damage!

  • And …. I found a monarch butterfly cocoon on a milkweek this week – look at how cool this little guy is!

  • Plus … my cherry tomato plant is happily out of control. :)

  • I still want to blog about our trip to Hawaii but I just haven’t had time to really get all my photos and thoughts together yet. Plus, I want to see my mom’s photos, too, in case she has some good ones I can share. One of these days …
  • That said, I’ve been watching Beachfront Bargain Hunt all day on HGTV (the weather was horrible in Minnesota today) and now I’m wishing I could afford my own beachfront cottage. Sigh.
  • Saturday night, I tried a new recipe from a blog I try to follow, IowaGirlEats.com. It’s called “Sweet Corn Risotto” and it’s quite fantastic. The fresh sweet corn really gave it a fun taste, along with the leeks and garlic from my garden. I’d highly recommend – I’m a total risotto nut case, almost to the point of my coffee cake obsession, by the way – so I’m sharing the recipe below. Don’t be afraid of making risotto – it’s not hard, but you do have to stay by the pan to monitor and stir a lot.

Thanks for partaking in my complete and total randomness tonight. Have a great start to your week!

Lara

Sweet Corn Risotto

Source: IowaGirlEats.com

  • 6 cups chicken broth (I used low salt)
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups sweet corn kernels (about 3 small ears worth)
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced in half then into thin half moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot or 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan then turn heat down to low to keep warm and place a lid on top.
  2. Meanwhile, melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat then add sweet corn, leeks, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until leeks are tender, 10 minutes. Remove mixture to a bowl then set aside.
  3. Melt remaining Tablespoon butter in extra virgin olive oil in the skillet then add the shallots and saute until starting to turn tender, 2 minutes. Add rice then stir for one minute. Add wine then stir until nearly absorbed by the rice. Add two ladlefuls of chicken broth then stir constantly (not too fast, not too slow) until nearly absorbed then add another two ladlefuls and stir, etc until rice is creamy and al dente, 25-30 minutes (you may not use all 6 cups of chicken broth.)
  4. Remove skillet from heat then stir in parmesan cheese and corn and leek mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste then serve.

 

 

I’m sitting here eating a big bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce.

Which makes me think about dairy farmers.

Which leads me to thoughts of the completely amazing malts (hot fudge, please!) at the Minnesota State Fair.

Which brings me to this blog post.

You know, about farmers and the State Fair.

See how my mind works? I know. Scary fascinating.

Anyway, I think I’ve mentioned before that I have worked in some capacity at the Minnesota State Fair for 20 years, thanks to my long-term employment deal with the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. I’ve done everything from selling turkey nuggets at our “Turkey To Go” concession stand (this would be Joe’s DREAM job – nuggets for all!) to hauling a live turkey in a wagon across the fairgrounds for an appearance at a TV station.

My favorite day at the State Fair, however, is always Gobble Gobble Cluck Cluck Day.

Yes, there is such a day and as you can imagine, it’s a veritable poultry love fest.

Joe comes with me for this and pretends to be bored (as if!) for four hours while my fellow coworkers and I ply fairgoers with free prizes for trying their hands at poultry trivia games and contests, and we watch fairgoers dance their tailfeathers off (get it?!) to the Chicken Dance.

After we wrap up Gobble Gobble Cluck Cluck Day, Joe and I are free to wander the fairgrounds at our leisure, during which time we ALWAYS hit up these spots:

  1. Cheese curds stand. Or two. (Joe is a connoisseur of cheese curds; in other words, white cheese always wins over yellow cheese. This seems simple enough, but his taste buds are more complex than you might imagine.)
  2. Sky ride. We have been known to take this ride two three times and say hello to the staff who remember us.
  3. Handwriting analysis and personality reading, printed out via a dot-matrix printer in the Grandstand. It’s an old-school bargain at $3 and is always spot-on, of course!
  4. The Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation building. I like this spot because I tend to run into people I know (of course). Joe likes it because he checks out the crops, reads all the facts about agriculture, and usually comes away with a cool giveaway or two.

Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Building at Minnesota State Fair | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

This year, I happen to have a heads up on all the activities happening at the Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) building that you will want to check out:

  • You’ll find a gorgeous flower display and find out why it’s appealing to pollinators such as bees. This is part of an on-going effort by farmers to provide more plants for pollinators. Planted in the garden are Sunbird Coneflowers, Angelface, Gazania, Dianthus, Petunias and Rose Salvia.
  • This year’s crops are for a Pico de Gallo garden – how cool is that? You can grab a free recipe card, too, while you are learning about these vegetables grown in Minnesota.
  • You can meet an actual, honest-to-goodness farmer! Now for me, this is no big deal – I mean, my Dad and my brother are farmers plus I work for a bunch of farmers, so I see folks like this all the time. However, since more than half of Minnesotans have never met a farmer, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation will bring in farmers for all 12 days of the State Fair. All are volunteering their time to talk to you and answer your questions about raising and growing your food. Seriously – ask away!
  • Did I mention giveaways? It’s the State Fair, after all.  Each day of the fair, there will be a drawing for a children’s book on an agriculture-related topic. MFBF will also have a drawing for a rain barrel. (While entering to win the barrel, learn how farmers have decreased their water usage in the past 20 years. See how they sneak in interesting facts like this?) And I also happen to know they will be giving away their popular insulated lunch bags or ice cream scoops (mmmm, ice cream) to kids who learn four new facts about agriculture and talk to a Minnesota farmer.

Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation Building at Minnesota State Fair | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

Last year, my sister and niece, Miss Morgan, joined us for Gobble Gobble Cluck Cluck Day as well as for the rest of our excursions (read about it here – totally worth a click if you love cute baby pictures). Looks like this is the plan again this year, too – Joe and I can’t wait!

How about you and your family? Are you fairgoers where you live?

-Lara-

———————————————————————————————————————

The MFBF State Fair building is located at 1305 Underwood Street, directly across from the Food Building and behind the giant slide.

About MFBF:  Minnesota Farm Bureau representing Farmers • Families • Food is comprised of 78 local Farm Bureaus across Minnesota. Members make their views known to political leaders, state government officials, special interest groups and the general public. Programs for young farmers and ranchers develop leadership skills and improve farm management. Promotion and Education Committee members work with programs such as Ag in the Classroom and safety education for children. For more information on the Minnesota Farm Bureau log onto www.fbmn.org, www.Facebook.com/MNFarmBureau or www.Twitter.com/MNFarmBureau.

Note: Opinions are entirely my own; I was not compensated to write this post, although MFBF provided me with photos. :)

 

As I write this, the outdoor thermometer reads 63 degrees and it’s gray and kind of rainy. Flashback three days and I was in Hawaii, gazing in awe for the thousandth time at Ka’anapali Beach, feeling the 85 degree sunshine on my face, snorkeling with Nemo fish (my unscientific term), and wondering why I would think it’s a good idea to fly home. I mean, really? What is there at home besides laundry, grocery shopping and – gasp! – back to work.

Plus, once I get a chance, I’m actually really good at vacation.

But alas, reality and our flight check-in reminder collided and here we are, back in Minnesota. And if there was anyone who was really glad to see us back, it was Earl the Pug. :)

(Although it should be noted my brother and his family took very good care of Earl, who appears to be the senior citizen “alpha dog” when he visits them – my brother’s two bulldogs (English and French) and pug don’t bother Earl and – shocking! – don’t even try to steal his food!)

Earl the Pug | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com

I have way too many photos and GoPro videos to sift through to write a vacation post right now. I need to give myself some time before trying to capture the trip in a blog post. In other words, stay tuned!

In the meantime, I enjoyed making a new turkey recipe tonight, my last night of vacation before heading back to a very busy office tomorrow. I actually first tasted these turkey mini-meatloaves at a reception in Washington DC in July and I thought they were fantastic. I followed the recipe as is, and have a few notes at the end about that, as well.

Enjoy!

Lara
Turkey Meatloaf Muffins | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com #switchtoturkey #turkeyeveryday

Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

Recipe source: Farbest Foods, Inc. (a turkey company in Huntingburg, Indiana)

  • 1/2 cup whole cranberry sauce (I bought a can of Ocean Spray whole cranberry sauce)
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • Dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1.75 pounds of ground turkey (I used JENNIE-O® Lean Ground Turkey – about 1.5 packages)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces (I used pork bacon because that’s what I had handy but feel free to try turkey bacon for this!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray muffin pan with some cooking spray.

In a skillet, saute the onion and mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil for about 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and let cool for about 10 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, chili sauce,  red pepper, and brown sugar. Mix well and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, egg, Panko breadcrumbs, onion/mushroom mixture, poultry seasoning, salt, papper, and garlic powder. Add 1/3 cup of cranberry/chili sauce mixture. Mix well, shape into balls, and place in muffin tins.

Place the pieces of bacon on top of each turkey meatloaf muffin. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and top each muffin meatloaf with the remaining cranberry/chili sauce mixture. Bake for 5 more minutes – or until the meatloaves reach 165 degrees F using a meat thermometer.

Let pan set for 5 minutes before removing the pan; then serve!

Notes:  

  • Teacher Man and I would’ve liked more sauce on top, so next time, I would double the cranberry/chili sauce mixture and be more generous.
  • Joe liked the turkey meatloaves but not the sauce (go figure), so we decided we could warm up the sauce on the stovetop and serve it on the side so that each person would have the amount of sauce they wanted.
  • Original recipe indicated this yields 20 muffins. I, however, am of the “go big or go home” variety in the kitchen, so my output was 15 muffins.

Turkey Meatloaf Muffins | via MyOtherMoreExcitingSelf.wordpress.com #switchtoturkey #turkeyeveryday

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