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McKenry Farms

Good Farm Breakfast

Lyssa McKenry“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

Did your mom ever say that growing up? I’ve heard it so many times I’ve lost count. But it still rings true, even if it is an overused saying. But, have you ever asked yourself why it’s so important?

Research indicates that breakfast is so important because it keeps your glucose (or sugar) levels stable. I’ve also heard many people say they need to lose weight, and follow that up with “I should skip a meal or two.” NOOO! Maintaining a healthy weight means eating small meals/snacks throughout the day that consist of quality protein. By keeping your glucose at consistent, healthy levels versus dipping and soaring, weight can be managed easier. Also, if you’re like me, I will eat more than needed when I’m starving. So don’t starve yourself because it will come back to haunt you! But, I’m no doctor, so make sure you speak with your physician.

Now, for the good part — food! If you are like me, mornings are hectic. As in, I’m too tired to care, just get me going, hectic! So having some good options that are easy to prepare can help aid with your breakfast goals.

Anyone who has chickens probably has an abundance of eggs. Eggs are a classic breakfast staple, but when combined with other non-typical foods they become unique and yummy! Here’s a recipe for you to try:

Egg Muffins

Start by whisking 12 eggs together, add 1.5 cups shredded cheese (or more to support our dairies!). Based on your taste preferences, add some ingredients from the following categories:

Meat: chicken, ham, bacon, sausage

Veggies: broccoli, peppers, onions, tomatoes, kale/spinach, potato

Spices: chili powder, garlic powder, chives, parsley, oregano, salt/pepper

Once you have a good mixture of ingredients, spray a muffin tin and fill it up with your egg mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until your eggs are set. Make these the night before and refrigerate or freeze them for several morning meals.

Now you are all set for the protein part of your quick breakfast.Let’s move on to the carb part.

From what I have experienced, there are two types of carbs. We’ve all heard that carbs are bad, but there are different kinds of carbs that are needed for a balanced meal — the slow and the fast. Much like a speeding race car, a fast carb is a doughnut. The slow carb, a bowl of oatmeal, is a turtle making his ever-slow way across the road. But in this case, slow wins the race. You want to consume slowly-digested carbs because it will take your body longer to process these foods, which means you don’t get as hungry so quickly.

Here are some good examples of slow carbs: legumes, apples, grapes, grains such as whole-grain oat cereal & oat bran, yogurt (sugar free), milk (skim), broccoli, tomatoes, green beans, and the list goes on. And again, make sure you speak with your physician before making lifestyle changes.

So pair those egg muffins with a bowl of oatmeal (watch that brown sugar) and be prepared to have a productive day in the field, at the house, or chasing the kids down.

Happy Breakfasting!

breakfast foods

Summer Grilling with Dry Rubs

Lyssa McKenryThis past weekend we grilled a lot of meat for Memorial Day weekend. We do not typically go anywhere on Memorial Day because the hay is still being put up. This year we also had to contend with the crazy storms that came through east Tennessee and caused a lot of damage. So, we stayed home and did some grilling.

Have you ever run out of something you needed in order to cook dinner that evening? And you really don’t want to go back to the grocery store because you’ve already been twice that same day and you are worried the store clerks will think you are nutty? Well, that’s me in a nutshell, literally.

I’ve always heard necessity is the mother of invention, and thus my rib rub was created! We like dry rub ribs at our house, and since I was out of the rub I normally use, I put together the following ingredients and came up with a delicious alternative to the norm.

• ¼ cup brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons paprika
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 2 teaspoons garlic
• 2 teaspoons chili powder
• 2 teaspoons course ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Mix all ingredients together. Coat ribs well while grilling. This would work well for pork or beef ribs; either is delicious, just do both. You can substitute the paprika for smoked paprika if you like to add some smokiness to your meat. The rub will keep well for one month at room temperature.

Now, since I had such good luck with my rib rub, I’ve been trying some blends for other meats.

Since we are a beef cattle farm, we have, you guessed it, a lot of beef to eat, which is not a problem. I have always enjoyed Montreal Steak seasoning on steak, which you can certainly buy at the store, but again, when you’ve already been to the store 15 times that day…you know the rest of the story. So, I put together my own steak seasoning that resembles Montreal Steak, but has some differences. I added more of what I like, and deleted the stuff I don’t like. Simple and easy.

• 2 tablespoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons course ground pepper
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 1 tablespoon garlic
• 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
• 1 teaspoon dill
• ¼ teaspoon ground bay leaves

Mix all ingredients together. Keeps for one month at room temperature. Coat steaks with mix while grilling. This works well for sirloin, T-bone, and rib eye. Better yet, just cook them all and do a taste testing.

Moving on to the chicken. Yes, we as beef farmers do eat meat other than beef. We believe in supporting all agricultural products. Again, I like Montreal Chicken for my chicken grilling, so I made my own seasoning but changed some ingredients out to reflect my tastes.

• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 1 teaspoon chili powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon course ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon coriander seed
• 1 teaspoon garlic

Same story as before, mix all ingredients together. Keeps for one month at room temperature. Coat chicken well while grilling.

Another great thing about making your own seasonings instead of buying them is that most premade rubs come with MSG and other additives. You know your rubs will be fresh and still taste just as great.

All of these rubs work well for vegetables, too. So, get grilling and try some new combinations of spices.

seasoning
Photo by Adobe Stock/sebra

Rough Fleabane in a Pinch

Lyssa McKenry 

Rough Fleabane3

Did you know this plant receives its name from an old superstition that dried bundles of the plant could repel fleas from a home? Unfortunately the superstition is not true, but it does have some interesting qualities that would be helpful when trying to live off the land.

I feel bad for the weeds we have growing around our neck of the woods. It seems weeds always get a bad rap whether they are growing in the garden, pasture or yard; people just want to eradicate them.

It seems like maybe we should focus on the positive aspect of weeds (at least for a few moments prior to spraying them with herbicide…).

Rough fleabane is common in all parts of North America. The little white and blue “furry” flower usually makes its home alongside roads and fences. I’m sure you have seen it around.

It is considered a weed, but it has been known to be used for ulcers, itchy skin, and other skin problems. I am planning to try rough fleabane on poison ivy the next time it strikes (hopefully never)!

The plant not only has medicinal properties, it can also be consumed. I don’t know what you grew up eating, but my grandmother would fix greens from what seemed like random, sometimes poisonous plants, such as poke. (American pokeweed, or poke for short, is another fun weed with purple berries that are extremely poisonous to people and animals. It grows abundantly in east Tennessee.)

I was never impressed with poke since it is so bitter, even when mixed with eggs. It may have something to do with the fact that it can make you extremely sick if not cooked properly. But I can say I have tried it and lived.

In a similar fashion, the leaves from rough fleabane are the only edible part of the plant and are best enjoyed mixed with other cooked greens due to their bitter flavor. They are also a little "hairy" when raw, which does not make for good eating. I would recommend trying them with a mixture of other spring greens such as chickweed, wild onion, dandelion, and winter cress. Now that is true “living off the land!"

This could be considered useful information if needed in dire circumstances, or you can try some new food! Give those weeds a second chance!

All that talk about greens made me hungry for fall greens too! Here’s how I cook my fall/winter greens:

1 part kale greens

1 part mustard greens

1 part rape greens

1 part turnip greens

According to my grandmother, you “look” the greens first, meaning you check them for bugs (no extra protein needed here, thank you very much!). Afterward, you wash them with cool water 2-3 times. Place all greens in a large pot and cook them down. Once cooked down, place greens in a large frying pan to sauté them with some oil and salt. Enjoy with vinegar, a large bowl of beans, and cornbread. Yummy!

 

Love That Lavender!

Lyssa McKenrySniffff! Take a moment from your hectic day, and recall the distinctive fragrance of lavender. See, you are already feeling calmer! When I smell lavender, it makes me feel like I’m in a serene meadow without a care in the world, even if the world is falling down around me. Because of the fresh smell, this herb has a wide variety of uses in your home and makes a great addition to your oil collection, garden, or recipes.

Many people that use essential oils claim lavender is the quintessential oil. If you could only have one oil, make it lavender, they say. This could be because lavender oil is so versatile. Here are some great applications:

1. Relaxation — Put a few drops on your pillow at night to help you sleep. (I’m usually not awake long enough to smell it ... I guess that means it works!) Or you could put a few drops on your feet, temples, or wrists for a calming effect. If work is stressful, use a diffuser in your office with lavender oil. I’ve got mine running right now!

2. Skin — It reduces swelling and itching, is good for bee stings, and is good for burns and cuts. Lavender keeps bacteria down and reduces pain. If you have eczema, try mixing it with an oil to reduce symptoms. Honestly, any kind of skin problem, put some lavender on it!

3. Nausea — Lavender helps to calm the stomach; place on the tip of your tongue or behind ears.

Now that I have convinced you that life without lavender is impossible, let’s talk about growing it! What color is your thumb? Never mind, lavender is a great plant for folks that tend to ... Well, have a black thumb (gasp!). Once established, a lavender plant is low-maintenance and drought tolerant, so don’t worry about forgetting to water it every day. Lavender likes hot, sunny locations with well-drained soil. This is a great mounding plant, so make sure you build up the soil around it for good drainage. There are several different varieties of lavender that have different colors from dark purple to blue. So pick some up from your local nursery, and put it in the ground!

Once your lavender is growing well, you may want to harvest some to use around the house. The best time to harvest the flowers and stems is in the spring right after it has bloomed. Take a handful and use a sharp knife to cut the green stems at the bottom of the plant. Do not cut the woody part of the plant; this can damage the plant. The best time of day to harvest your lavender is in the morning after the dew has dried. If you harvest early enough, the plant will most likely produce enough for a second cutting before autumn. After harvesting, take the lavender inside and hang it upside down in bunches to dry for using in soap making, candle making, and cooking.

Now that you have harvested your lavender, let’s try it out in the kitchen. When first using lavender in your recipes, start with a small amount and gradually increase, because too much lavender will make the food bitter. A little goes a long way! Another good tip is that you need about one-third less of dried versus fresh lavender, since the dried form is much more potent. If you would like to try a new variation to an old recipe, try substituting lavender for rosemary. If you find that lavender has an overwhelming flavor, try using it as a garnish on cakes and ice cream. Again, there are so many uses; keep trying it out to see what fits your style the best.

May your day be peaceful and serene!

Lavender field
Photo by Adobe Stock/Laszlo

Passing It On Down

Lyssa McKenry

Three generations
Three generations checking out cows on the Gator.

Did you know that 60 percent of farmers are 58 years old and older? Research is showing a continuous increase of the average age of the American farmer. The increasing age is causing remaining farms to expand in size and smaller farms to leave the business. No worries though — there is much confidence that the US farm sector will be able to handle the demand for agricultural products, in part due to new technologies being produced to improve farm efficiency. While this can be considered good news, there are some drawbacks to having large farms, such as a lack of relationship between producers and buyers, not supporting local economies through purchase of in-town products, and less families being raised on the farm.

It seems as though we are losing that personal touch that the small farmer provides. Have you ever picked strawberries on the farm and watched the producer beam with pride when you mentioned, ”Those were the best berries I have ever tasted”? Have you ever purchased beef off the farm and received the whole health and genetic history of the animal giving the meat? That is not something you can get from the grocery store. The average American is becoming more and more disconnected to those producing their food, and in turn, the land. This causes us to not appreciate the smaller things in life, like picking your own berries and having friendships with those responsible for producing fresh foods.

When you buy local products, you are supporting your neighbor — the lady you wave to every morning as she waters her garden. When you purchase from a major chain, you take money out of your community. Of course, you cannot buy everything local, but every little bit helps. Support your neighbors and friends; you might need a hand up one day.

It seems to me that one of the most precious commodities in America should be our farms. This means we should be making sure they continue to thrive. They provide food, fuel, clothing, medicine, and many products we use on a daily basis. Yet so many folks are selling out, and future generations are no longer being raised on the farm. Children do not have the privilege of slinging square bales in the barn loft or feeding newborn calves. Yet, I cannot blame families for leaving the farm. Farming is a 53-week-per-year job — it never ends! There are always chores to be done; if you do not have to feed the cattle, then there is hay, and do not forget the machinery upkeep and the odd jobs. This never-ending pace can make it hard on families to thrive. But what can we do to keep passing our agricultural heritage to our children? Here are some suggestions:

1. Start involving them at a young age. They may be two, but get them a little bucket to carry around to “help” during feeding time.

2. Pass on your knowledge. Are you a good mechanic? Or can you grow the best tomatoes this side of the Mississippi? Teach your children and grandchildren those skills. Do not take them to the grave with you.

3. As children get older, allow them to make decisions that impact the farm. I am not talking about expensive decisions, but allow them to decide what breed of chickens to purchase and give a reason for why they picked that breed.

4. Allow them to make mistakes. If they are making decisions, sometimes things do not work out according to plan. Those chickens they wanted to purchase for egg layers turned out to be better meat birds, and there are no eggs to sell. Make them work with what they have and make those mistakes a teaching moment.

5. Communicate about passing the farm down to future generations. Be open and honest about how the transition will take place between parents and children. This is certainly not easy, but necessary to prevent future misunderstandings.

There are probably many ways to keep the family farm up and running. What suggestions do you have?

Cow with an attitude
Cow giving me her best, “Leave me alone” look!