Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Farm Show 101 & No-Bake Energy Bites

   There are two unexpected gifts of making the long drive out to the Pennsylvania Farm Show. One is the scenery. You forget that there is beauty in winter until you are reminded by seeing delicate snowflakes falling on old stone houses against an uncluttered horizon. There is a charming starkness to January in this part of the country. 

   The other gift is getting to stop briefly at one of our denominational thrift stores and donate three boxes of gently used clothes, books, and household goods. Some people feel better when they acquire things. I feel better when I get things out of my house. 

   "Enjoy ladies! It's all for you!" I chortled as I waved at two Amish bargain hunters. From the safety of the car, with the windows up, of course. Then, we're back on the turnpike. 

   We finally hit Harrisburg around noon. This year we brought along my mother-in-law. It made the day extra special for Little Mister, especially. "This is going to be the best going to the farm show, ever!" he declared when we told him about our special guest. 

  In photos, here were some of the highlights:

You wouldn't judge a man for napping with his cows, would you? 

Alpaca kiss.
He broke something on it so we had to buy it. Just kidding. 

The butter sculpture theme this year was stewardship. 

Potatoes. They do so much for us!

Sometimes you see a 13-pound sweet potato and feel a strong sense of justice when you see the blue ribbon.

The Mister's mother kept me good company while we sat through the very long whoopie pie judging contest. I thought maybe the Whoopie Pie contest must not have been very important because it was held in a dark corner where the overhead light runs out. You must have good vision to judge on appearance. The woman with the microphone who announces it deserves her own one-woman show. Well over an hour is spent with judges quietly tasting baked goods at a long table behind her, and the host entertains the crowd with interesting trivia about the Farm Show. She might have had the hardest job that day. Even harder than actually baking anything. The wait pays off in the end when they slice up the whoopie pies and set them out for anyone and everyone to sample. 

I recently bought a copy of Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse KitchensThis isn't your mother's baking book, more like your Great-Grandmother's. Mostly containing forgotten recipes from over a hundred years ago, it calls for a fair amount of specialty ingredients. Even the sugar we bake with today isn't the same consistency as it was in years past. Anyway, I shopped the spice market at the show where I could cheaply pick up small quantities of spices I rarely use and try my hand at baking some of these interesting cakes and cookies from long ago. 

 The Farm Show this year was sponsored by the state's apiaries, so honey and bee exhibits were very present. To celebrate that, and to provide something extra for the snack stockpile, we made these simple no-bake Energy Bites containing honey. It was a fun kid's cooking project, although it turned out Little Mister mainly wanted to sit on the counter and ask important questions like "When are we moving to the jungle?" and "When are we going to hunt a real live dinosaur?"

I don't know if these delicious treats really provide much energy, but they were very tasty.

One note: Keep these refrigerated until you plan to eat them, and keep them away from heat. 


1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup peanut or almond butter
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips 
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup ground flaxseed

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Scoop out with a small spoon and roll into 20-24 small bowls onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for about an hour, and then keep refrigerated in an airtight bag. 

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Chewy Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate



   The frost on the ground crunches beneath my rubber boots. I'm walking our two dogs, and my eyes still scan for the third we lost in November. My heart is still tender. It took a few days to realize that my eyes were constantly scanning to see her, seeking her distinctive red coat. It was as if she had gone missing, and I missed her so badly that I was still looking for one more glimpse. I find solace in the relief of knowing that our old Cattle Dog with the wonky ear and arthritic legs is at rest. 

   Cattle dogs have a distinctive bark that I describe as the sound of a polar bear attacking a seal. High pitched, unusually annoying, and unbearably shrill. It's not nails on a chalkboard. It's a 747 crashing into the RMS Titanic. Oh, I long to hear it just one more time! 

   I hustle my dogs inside and hear the Carol of the Cough that has hounded us since the day after Christmas. The sniffles and the blowing, the quest to uncover yet another pack of cold relief tablets and a ready stock of tissues. 

   The one-year diary I purchased some years ago with such faithful intentions now serves as a multi-year diary because I seldom update it. When I think of it, I simply write the current year next to the correct date and write my brief note. Christmas and New Years always gets an entry. Every new year I think, this will be the year when I remember to write down when things happen. I can start right now. I'll probably forget, but it's better to live in hope. 

   The first seed catalog has arrived and I am in my glory. Only a New Year's baby is a better symbol of renewal than a seed catalog on January first, so sayeth me. As a chilly rain drips by the window, I'm transported to warm barefoot days of planting and harvest. It speaks of earthly renewal, a timely message as the calendar begins anew. I can't help but wonder what will grow in my heart this year, what seeds will I plant that will bear eternal fruit?  What a way to start the year, to know that there are unseen possibilities at the hand of a God who can make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19) 

I'm sure you have all completed your to-do lists for Christmas, and those with tasks gone incomplete have given up and moved on. Don't be a quitter! Bake one more batch of cookies. Here's a comforting chewy oatmeal cookie that has a wintry combination of sweet and citrus. I make them every year at the holidays, and plenty of other times because they are so good. These go great with a cup of tea and a seed catalog. 

Note: This recipe makes a lot of cookies, I think around 3 dozen. You may want to cut the recipe in half. 
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. orange extract
3 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugars with the butter until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in eggs until light. Stir in oatmeal. 
In a separate bowl, sift the measured flour with salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir into oatmeal mixture. Mix in vanilla and orange extract. Stir in white chocolate and cranberries thoroughly.

Drop by the teaspoon onto a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes. 


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