Thinking spring with picnic favorites

Well, we all thought spring was around the corner but Mother Nature certainly hasn’t been ready to let go of winter.

Perhaps we will have some more luck with the April showers that will bring along the May flowers. My great grandmother used to say, “Whether it’s cold or whether it’s hot, we shall have weather, whether or not!”

With all the snow, we’ve stayed home quite a bit. One of those cold blustery evenings, my sister and I watched American Idol. As two of the judges started to squabble, my sister made a comment about one of them being a “Diva.”

That stuck with me for a few days and as our animals started to give birth around the farm; I began thinking about how dairy cows are divas too. Not that they can sing (although they sure sound like some of my family members singing in the shower) but they have a high expectation. Let me explain.

First, the dairy farmer has to properly mix the exact rations and make sure they are delivered to our diva in the barn in a timely fashion. Let me tell you, if someone is late by even a few minutes, they will let it be known. And if the rations don’t agree with the cows, they won’t make milk.

Next, they require deluxe accommodations. Plain old straw won’t do for these pampered prima donnas.

They have soft sand with clean bedding over it. And if the housekeeping isn’t done daily, the girls will let you know their displeasure by smacking you with a dirty tail.

It’s not the cow’s fault they are divas. We, as farmers, teach them from a young age that they are to expect this fine treatment.

First, we separate the calf and it has its own home. We tend to the calves twice a day, feeding them a gourmet diet, giving them only the finest water to drink, cleaning their homes and protecting them from disease.

As they grow older and produce milk, it’s just as important for them to have those twice daily visits. We collect the nutritious, wholesome milk they produce but it also gives us an opportunity to check them for any problems that may arise.

And like all divas, they are scheduled for regular pedicures by a skilled hoof trimmer. Because dairy animals don’t spend a lot of time walking, their hooves don’t wear down like other breeds of livestock.

The overgrowth can cause a cow to become lame, when an animal is unable to walk normally because of something affecting the foot. And if you’ve ever had a hang nail or blister, you know how uncomfortable it can be.

The hoof trimmer isn’t the only person that pampers the dairy cow. The mobile veterinarian also comes to visit every couple of weeks for a herd check.

This highly trained specialist checks the cows for lameness, body and udder condition, overall health and pregnancy. He or she can usually tell if the cow is bred by palpation as early as 36 days.

So, while the girls aren’t the singing cows as you enter Chocolate World in Hershey, they are none the less, divas. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I dream of warmer weather, I am thinking of all the picnics, family reunions and graduation parties that come with summer. That has me yearning for the tasty treats that come with the guests as well.

I always have been a fan of peanut butter pie and my gram makes a really good one not too sweet with just the right amount of peanut butter.

This is a variation I found that incorporates chocolate into the recipe.

Peanut butter fudge ripple pie


1 1/2 cups creme filled chocolate cookie crumbs

1/4 cup butter

For the filling

8 ounce package cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a 9-inch pan, combine all crust ingredients and mix well. Press mixture firmly in the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate while preparing filling. In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, peanut butter and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until smooth and well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in whipped cream then spoon into the crust. Spoon melted chocolate randomly over the filling. Gently pull a knife through chocolate to marble. Freeze at least 2 hours or until firm. If frozen overnight, let stand at room temperature almost 15 minutes before serving.

As I was trying to decide what recipes to share this month, I must be having some cravings for chocolate and peanut butter as that is what the next recipe is too. The recipe came from Heidi Criswell who has been the longtime editor of the Mifflinburg Telegraph.

Ever since I was 10 and became the news reporter for the Good Time 4-H club, she and John Stamm have let me write articles to submit to the paper. For several years it was as the club news reporter then again after I became the Dairy Princess. Mr. Stamm passed away January 9. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and support they both have given me throughout the years.

Peanut butter brownies

1 1/2 cup butter, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup baking cocoa, divided

1 18 ounce jar of peanut butter

4 eggs

1/3 cup milk

2 cups sugar

10 large marshmallows

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

In a saucepan, melt 1 cup butter; stir in 1/2 cup cocoa until smooth. Remove from the heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute. Combine flour and salt. Gradually add to egg mixture. Beat in cocoa mixture; mix well. Transfer to a greased baking pan.

Bake at 350 F for 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack.

Meanwhile, place peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, at 50 percent power for 2 minutes, stirring once. Stir until peanut butter is blended and spread over the warm brownies.

Refrigerate for 45 minutes or until peanut butter is set.

Place the remaining cocoa in a heavy saucepan. Stir in milk until smooth; add the marshmallows and remaining butter.

Cook and stir over medium heat until butter and marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in confectioner’s sugar. Spread over peanut butter layer. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Cut into squares.

I’m not sure where the last recipe came from but it was written by me in an awkward handwriting similar to that of a child in elementary school. It obviously made an impression on me and we use this recipe often. Who knew mashed potatoes could taste so good!

Smashed potatoes with chive

8 large russet potatoes

1 tablespoon butter

8 ounces cream cheese, softened (sour cream can be substituted for cream cheese)

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons fresh chive, chopped

Pinch of salt

Cook potatoes until a fork can be put through them easily. Drain water and add cream cheese, salt, butter, milk and chive. With a potato masher, stomp the potatoes until all the ingredients are mixed together. It’s okay if they are lumpy but you can stomp them until they are the way your family likes them. You also can make potatoes with bacon, garlic or whatever you want in them.