Thursday, September 30, 2021

Spiced Cappuccino Cookies

It's appropriate to serve cookies with Hugs and Kisses for a bridal shower, isn't it? These Spiced Cappuccino Cookies fit the bill.  And now that summer finally seems to be loosening its grip on the weather, cappuccino flavor sounds good for fall, too, don't you think?

True confessions: I save WAY too many recipes. I will never get all of them tried on the County Line. But a church bridal shower gave me plenty of reasons to dig through my recipe pile for inspiration. The cappuccino cookies were from Taste of Home. And you just never know what recipe is going to appeal to you in a given moment. You (OK, I) just might need it.

Of course, those printed recipes are another problem. I spent part of the pandemic clearing out extra paper and other minutia from our farm house. I did all right for awhile, but I'm back to printing recipes that again threaten to topple over in a kitchen cabinet. (The younger generation I know all use their phones for their cooking adventures. I like having that printed recipe in front of me ... mainly so I don't have to touch my phone with sticky fingers.)

The original recipe called for a Hershey's Hug. But when I stood in the candy aisle and saw the Cookies and Cream Kisses, I chose those instead. And they added a little extra crunch to the cookies.  

I am a coffee drinker, so I really liked the mild coffee flavor the espresso powder added to the cookies. With the cinnamon-sugar coating on the outside, it does taste like a spiced cappuccino. (Not that I have fancy coffee drinks very often.)

If you try them, let me know what you think!

Spiced Cappuccino Kiss Cookies
Adapted from Taste of Home
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
24 striped chocolate Kisses or Hugs
Beat butter, brown sugar and 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, espresso powder and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Refrigerate, covered, until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar. Shape dough into 24 1-in. balls or use a cookie scoop. Roll in cinnamon sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets or put on parchment paper.

Bake until lightly browned, 10-12 minutes. Immediately top with chocolate kisses, pressing lightly. Cool slightly on pans. If your kitchen is hot, you may want to have space in your freezer to place your cookies to set the chocolate Kiss or Hug. 

Makes 2 dozen.  Note - I doubled the recipe.

Taste of Home Test Kitchen Tips

  • Add the espresso powder with the egg and vanilla instead of the flour mixture to ensure that it dissolves.
  • This dough is a little sticky, but it can be rolled into balls after chilling for an hour.
  • These cookies taste like a snickerdoodle with a hint of espresso.


    Tuesday, September 28, 2021

    Follow the Yellow Brick Road?


    I saw a sweatshirt on Facebook recently that seemed made for me: Farm Uber. It was just another case of Facebook seemingly spying on my life. 

    During my repeated trips to, from and yon in my Farm Uber role, I've been singing "Follow the yellow brick road, follow the yellow brick road" in my head. 

    Granted, there's not a brick to be seen. But some of the road shoulders are "paved" with yellow. The gold in "them thar hills" may not have much street value or what most people might call a hill. But it sure has eye appeal (unless you're about to get your car stuck on poorly maintained roads ... but that's another story). 

    Roadside sunflowers are producing a bumper crop.
    It's just one of the glimpses of beauty that's all around us - free for the taking if only we pause and really see it.

    On one evening trip to the field, I also loved the yellows (and all the other colors) during Golden Hour, that time right before the sun goes down. I had just talked that morning to the yearbook class at Stafford High School about advantages of light during the Golden Hour. There were examples all around me just a few hours later.

    One milo field was illuminated by sunset.

     Another was catching a whole different light perspective looking to the east.

    Peace Creek, looking east
    One of my favorite local photo spots - Peace Creek along the Zenith Road - was looking especially peaceful as the sun was setting and the wind was settling down for the night.

    Peace Creek, looking west

    I couldn't resist one more stop before I headed for home. A windmill about a mile from our farmstead as the crow flies is a favorite western vista when there's a dramatic sky brewing.

    Some curious bystanders came to check me out.

    They definitely have a "room" with a view.

    Thursday, September 23, 2021

    Pretty on the Inside?


    I think wheat fields are beautiful at pretty much every stage - from bright green sprout to those iconic "amber waves of grain" waving in the Kansas wind. 

    However, to me, corn is not a "looker" at harvest time. But we always hope it will be pretty on the inside. (I wrote about ugly corn syndrome in June. Evidently it didn't get a complex because it did OK in the end.) 

    Last Friday, we completed our annual quest to discover the "inner beauty" of the crop.

    We are relative newcomers to corn and have only had it in our crop rotation since 2013. (Randy has been producing alfalfa for 50 years and wheat for almost that long.) Our 99 bushels/acre 2021 corn crop was almost identical to the verdict last year:

    2021 - 99 bu/acre
    2020 - 98 bu/acre
    2019 - 66.6 bu/acre
    2018 - 82 bu/acre 
    2017 - 43.6 bu/acre
    2016 - 71 bu/acre
    2015 - 43.88 bu/acre
    2014 - 108 bu/acre
    2013 - 57 bu/acre (This was the first year we added corn into the crop rotation).

    We began corn harvest on Thursday, September 2. There was an abrupt pause the next day, when it was foggy and humid. Friday night (September 3), we got 3 inches of rain at our house, which stopped corn harvest in its tracks. While the corn was dry earlier, we couldn't get over the ground with the combine again until Wednesday, September 8. We stayed home from the K-State football home opener September 11 to cut corn. We had to be at the state fair on Tuesday, September 14, for Kansas Master Farmer and Farm Homemaker Day. As presidents of our respective branches of the organization, both of us had parts in the meeting and program. Then it rained that evening. 

    However, it was pretty from the grandstand as we watched the storm roll in.

    We made it through about 45 minutes of the Logan Mize concert before nearby lightning strikes shut down the music for awhile. (We drove home instead of waiting for Sawyer Brown. Looking at radar, we weren't sure the concert would continue, but it did.)

    It took until Friday (September 17) for the ground to dry out out enough again for cutting. And we cut the last load of corn for 2021 that afternoon.

    This spring, we planted 294 acres to dryland corn. (See the blog post about planting here. The corn was a lot higher than knee high on the 4th of July. And for photos on how it was looking later in July, click here.)

    Our acres don't amount to much in the overall statistics of production for Kansas. 

    According to the Kansas Corn Commission, a third of our corn stays in Kansas to feed livestock; a third is made into ethanol and dried distillers grain at Kansas ethanol plants; and a third of our corn leaves Kansas to be used in other states or exported overseas, along with corn products. 

    Only five states produced more corn than Kansas in 2020. However, since our primary crop here on the County Line is wheat, we don't contribute much to the state's total. For us, corn is one of the crops used in our rotational program to keep soil quality good and weeds down. For my brother and parents in a neighboring county, corn is a primary crop.

    Whether it's wheat, corn or milo, Randy still likes being in the combine seat. And I like to go along for the ride.

    I think the dry corn cobs look a little like missiles as they get propelled into the header. The corn ears are pulled off the corn stalk and are dragged into the combine with rollers. Inside the combine, the corn kernels are separated from the husks and cobs.


    The cobs and debris are dispersed out the back of the combine. And the corn kernels go into the semi for a trip to the co-op elevator.

    Many farmers have a grain cart pulled by a tractor to transfer the corn from the combine to the grain cart to the truck. 

    But we unload from the combine directly into the truck.


    Here's a little video, but the combine cab window is kind of dusty. It's probably not particularly "pretty on the inside."

    It's always good to have the sun set on another harvest season.


    Unrelated to corn, we discovered that Randy's wheat entry in the Kansas State Fair wheat show had done well. He got second in one of the classes on his Bob Dole wheat variety. And the cycle continues: He began planting our 2022 crop on September 21, the final day of summer (at least, according to the calendar).

    Tuesday, September 21, 2021

    High Tea for Low Brow?


    It's not every day that a bunch of farm folk have high tea on fine china.

    Well, it's not that way at our house anyway. I suppose I can't speak for every farm family. 

    Our National Master Farm Homemakers Guild conference attendees were treated to high tea at the Iowa governor's mansion, Terrace Hill. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and First Gentleman Kevin Reynolds do live in the mansion, but we didn't see them.

    Even the back of the house was fancy!

    The construction of Terrace Hill began in 1866 at the height of B.F. Allen’s fortune. In October 1866, a local newspaper announced the employment of workers to prepare a 29-acre site for Allen’s new home. It described “a country residence in modern French design with a mansard roof.”  Another early newspaper source referred to a “fairy-land castle with towers and turrets.” ... Allen selected Chicago architect William W. Boyington to design Terrace Hill. Additionally, Job T. Elletson, a landscape gardener from England, was hired to design the grass-plats, flower banks, vineyards and orchards with graveled walks and drives throughout.  It was completed in 1869.
    From the Terrace Hill website


    The mansion has been used as the governor's residence since 1971. 

    Even though it was opulent, there were a few signs that it's occupied by a family with young grandchildren. The pool area had a couple of bright-hued beach chairs, just right for watching the grandkids play in the water.

    For high tea, our group was seated at tables of eight in the various public rooms of the mansion. 


    The tables were already set with china place settings and the high tea fare, which was stacked three plates high on servers.

    The treats were prepared by Chef Sharon Van Verth and her staff. She has served several of the state's governors.

    After tasting her scones with lemon curd, I can see why. The scones were moist, different than the dried-out texture of many scones I've had in the past. Of course, the moistness was helped along with the lemon curd we smeared on the scones.

    The tea sandwiches ...

    ... and the other sweets were tasty as well. Another favorite at our table was the Scandinavian Almond Bars (which you can barely see in the center of the plate below).

     My friend, Millie, got a better photo of her plate. (The almond bars were at the lower left in her photo below.)

    Photo by Millie Dearden
    Once we'd emptied one of the plates, we discovered this farm scene. Maybe we weren't so far from the farm after all!

     The tea servers did a wonderful job in tight quarters.

    Photo by Millie Dearden

    Photo by Millie Dearden

    True confessions: Randy may not have gotten filled up with this meal. But he also didn't want to go to Iowa and not have a pork tenderloin sandwich. So, after we got back from our bus tours, he drove to Smitty's, which was supposed to have the best pork tenderloin sandwich in Des Moines. 

    He had some time to let his tea fare settle before his extracurricular trip. Our group toured the public floor and the gardens (and, of course, the gift shop).


    They were renovating on the second floor, so it wasn't open, but the stained glass at the top of the staircase was beautiful. 

    We took our turn on the courting chair. 

    After we got home, I Googled, trying to find Chef Sharon's recipes online. But then I decided I'd go to the source. I requested the recipes from the governor's mansion itself. And I was delighted they shared them. They also noted the ones that I asked for are the most popularly requested. 

    I thought I'd share with you, too. I haven't tried them here at home yet.

    Scones from Terrace Hill
    2 cups flour
    2 tbsp. sugar
    1 tbsp. baking powder
    1/8 tsp. salt
    4 oz. butter, cut in eighths
    2/3 cup cream
    1/3 cup dried fruit (blueberries, cherries, cranberries)
    Additional cream and sugar
    Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in food processor. Process until butter crumbles and is distributed. Add cream and process just until dough starts to form. Place the mixture in a bowl. Add dried fruit. (The scones we were served had cranraisins.) 
    Form into circle on floured surface, about 1 inch thick. Cut into eight wedges.
    Let sit for 15 minutes. Brush with additional cream and sprinkle with raw sugar.
    Bake at 400 degrees about 15 minutes or until light golden brown.
    Lemon Curd from Terrace Hill
    1 cup butter
    1/2 cup lemon juice
    2 cups sugar
    1 tbsp. (at least) grated lemon peel
    3 eggs, lightly beaten
    In double boiler, melt butter. Stir in sugar, eggs, lemon juice and peel. Cook over simmering water for 1 hour or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Pour into container and store in refrigerator. Spread over scones, biscuits or toasts. Makes 3 cups.
    Scandinavian Almond Bars
    1 3/4 cups flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/2 cup butter
    1 cup sugar
    1 egg
    1/2 tsp. almond extract
    1/2 cup sliced almonds
    Almond icing
    Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Beat together butter and sugar. Add egg and almond extract, beating well. Add flour mixture and beat until dough forms. Divide dough into fourths. Form each into a 12-inch roll. Place 2 strands on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten until 3 inches apart. Repeat with rest. Brush with milk and sprinkle with almonds. 

    Bake at 325 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes. While still warm, cut crosswise at a diagonal into 1-inch strips. Cool and drizzle with icing.

    1 cup powdered sugar
    1/4 tsp. almond extract 

    Combine powdered sugar with extract. Add enough water to make icing that can be drizzled on cooled bars.