Pie and Peanuts

Seeing that today is March 14 it has been dubbed as Pi Day, pi like 3.14159265359 or to you mathematicians, the distance around a perfect circle, or the circumference, divided by the distance across it, or the diameter. Nerds everywhere have celebrated this day today, I decided to celebrate by making a pie, a peanut butter pie to be exact because it is National Peanut Month.

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Peanuts are grown in numerous states across the United States, but seven states account for 99% of the peanuts produced. Georgia, Texas and Alabama are the top three producing states. 50% of peanuts grown in the United States are grown within a 100 mile radius of Dothan, Alabama! There are four kinds of peanuts grown in the United States and you can learn about them here.

ImagePeanuts are different than most plants, the peanut plant flowers above the ground, but fruits below ground. It takes 4 to 5 months for the peanut to reach maturity. Planting usually happens in April or May and harvest is typically in September or October.

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About 10 days after planting a green leafy plant will grow on top of the ground, but interestingly the fruit (peanut) is below ground. Peanuts like water and need 1 1/2-2 inches of water a week when the pods are filling out. When the peanuts have reached maturity. the farmer will drive a digger through the green rows of peanut. The digger has long blades that run four to six inches under the ground. The plant is loosened and the main root is cut. Just behind the blade, a shaker lifts the plant from the soil, shakes the dirt from the peanuts, rotates the plant and lays the plant back down in a “windrow”—with peanuts up and leaves down. The peanuts will then lay exposed in the field for several days in order to dry out moisture. Here is a great video showing the inverting process.

After the peanuts dry they are combined where the plant is separated from the nut portion. The peanuts are put in trailers and air is blasted into the trailers to further dry the nuts. There can be no more than 10% moisture in order to store them. There are enough peanuts harvested from each acre so that you could make 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches!

Peanuts are good for you! They contain protein, mostly good fats, fiber and more than 30 essential vitamins and nutrients. Peanuts are used for products like roasted peanuts,peanut butter and oils for cooking and the hulls are often used in chicken houses instead of wood shavings. George Washington Carver came up with over 300 uses for peanuts including shampoos, laxatives, dyes, etc.

My favorite use for peanuts is for cooking purposes. Peanut butter fudge and pie being my two favorites. Since it was Pi day I whipped up a simple peanut butter pie that is quite tasty and so simple.

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Peanut Butter Pie

  • 1 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 package (8 Ounce) Softened Cream Cheese
  • 1-1/4 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 package (8 Ounce) Cool Whip, Thawed
  • 1 prepared graham cracker crust (or if you are feeling froggy you can make one)

To Make:
Beat the peanut butter with the cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add in the thawed Cool Whip and beat mixture until smooth, scraping the sides as needed.

Pour filling into crust, evening out the top with a knife or spatula. Chill for at least an hour before serving.

Hungry for more peanut info? Check out some fun facts from the National Peanut Board.

Why So Many Kinds of Eggs ?

This last weekend I was planning to do some baking so I stopped at my local Kroger to pick up an extra dozen eggs. I buy a lot of eggs, I cook them and use them in baking, and not to mention they are cheap and full of protein and vitamins. But have you ever really noticed all the different kinds of eggs in the grocery store?

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You may have noticed there are different sizes of eggs. The size is dependent upon the mass of the egg.

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Jumbo- Greater than 2.5 oz. or 71 g
Very Large or Extra-Large (XL)- Greater than 2.25 oz. or 64 g
Large (L)- Greater than 2 oz. or 57 g
Medium (M)- Greater than 1.75 oz. or 50 g
Small (S)- Greater than 1.5 oz. or 43 g
Peewee- Greater than 1.25 oz. or 35 g

Aside from different sizes there are other different kinds of eggs. Does it matter which ones you buy? Are some better than others? I took the time to look at the different types of eggs this particular day, there may be more in your grocery store than you might think!

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Pasteurized Eggs: $4.95 a dozen

Due to USDA rules all eggs are pasteurized! The reason you would consider buying pasteurized eggs is for cooking purposes when needing to use raw eggs in dishes like merges and ice cream. They have been heated a little more than your typical egg. The reason all eggs are pasteurized on the outside so salmonella found on the shells Is killed.

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Cage Free/Free Range Eggs: $4.49 a dozen

Cage Free/Free-range eggs are laid by hens who have access to nesting boxes, open floor space, perches and outdoor runs. Those called “free run eggs” allow hens to roam freely in a barn. These eggs are higher because the farmer has much more work. Collecting eggs is more of a challenge as is safety and quality of the egg. Eggs raised in this way can come in contact with droppings and dirt. The nutrient content of these eggs is NO different than the nutrient content of eggs of hens raised in conventional cage housing systems.

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Omega-3 Eggs

Eggs naturally contain omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids may potentially help lower blood triglyceride levels which equals out to a healthy heart. These eggs come from hens that are given significantly more flax seed in their diet. If you are looking for a way to get more omega-3′ this may be a good choice for you.

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Brown Eggs: $2.89 a dozen

White Eggs: $1.99 a dozen

What is the difference between these two eggs besides $0.90 in price? Nothing but the chicken that laid the egg. There is ABSOLUTELY NO difference between white and brown eggs except for they are laid by two different breeds. If you forget the breeds you can look at a chicken’s earlobe to tell what color of egg it will lay. (Red ear lobe=brown egg, white ear lobe=white egg)

Is your mind blown or what?

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Brown eggs are laid by Rhode Island Reds

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White eggs are laid by White Leghorns .

All eggs are white inside the hen until the last few hours before it is laid.  This is why the insides of brown eggs are white – the egg starts out white, and gradually becomes more colorful. In the last 90 minutes, the egg is all but ready and the cuticle, fluid (also called the bloom) is added. (The cuticle is protects the egg from infection on the inside) This is also when the hen secretes most of the pigments into the shell.

My freshman year I sold eggs at our farmer’s market on campus and each week I would have people come up and say that our brown eggs were healthier, tasted better, baked better etc. In reality they are exactly the same, they just have a more expensive price tag.

Next time you are in the grocery store be sure to take a look at the egg section and see what other kinds of eggs may exist on your shelves.

Soybeans: What are they used for?

This year after harvesting my wheat crop in July I planted soybeans behind it.

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One of my soybean fields in late August in North Alabama.

Soybeans are quite common in the United States, especially in the corn belt, but in recent years many farmers in the Southeast have began to put a large percentage of their acreage in soybeans.

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Soybeans are typically harvested October-November

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Soybeans are harvested by a machine called a combine

Soybeans originated in eastern Asia and is still part of the food in many cultures. Have you ever had edamane? You were eating soybeans.

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A record soybean crop was planted this year in the United States totaling 77.728 million acres, keep in mind an acre is about the size of a football field. All these soybeans do not go to Asian restaurants, in fact few do. Soybeans are mainly grown for their oil.

I don’t know if you have every paid much attention at the grocery store, but there are a lot of different kinds of oil you can buy to cook with.

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Some of the most popular are vegetable, canola, and olive. Depending upon the grocery store you visit you may find others like sunflower, safflower, peanut, corn, and even walnut oils. Each type of oil has its on flash point. The “flash point” is the temperature at which the oil ignites. The smoke point is the temperature at which the oil begins to smoke. It begins to burn at this point and it can be a fire hazard.

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Vegetable oil is from soybeans. Soybean oil  was re-labeled when “all vegetable” shortenings in the 1960s which replaced lard and beef tallow-based shortenings. This continued when certain oils were perceived as healthy in the 1970s, and were promoted in advertisements and labeling. According to the US Soybean Board soybean oil is by far the most predominant oil of the food industry due to its versatility in foods.  More than 80% of cooking oil in commercial applications is soybean oil.

Other food products soybeans are used in are:

Baked Goods

Baked Goods

Non-dairy creamers

Non-dairy creamers

Salad Dressings

Salad Dressings

Soy Milk

Soy Milk

Whipped Toppings

Whipped Toppings

Margarines

Margarines

BBQ Sauces

BBQ Sauces

Other products that soybeans are used for that do not involve food are:

Cosmetics

Cosmetics

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Diesel Fuel

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Animal Feeds- Especially poultry feed here in Alabama

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Inks- both in ink pens and ink used in magazines and newspapers

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Anti-biotics and other pharmaceuticals

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Paints

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Plywood

These little beans may not seem like much, but they are the second largest crop in the United States behind corn and are found in many products we use everyday.

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It’s An Alabama Thing: Greenbrier BBQ: Best Hushpuppies in Alabama

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When I say that Greenbrier BBQ has the best hushpuppies in the state I am not exaggerating. In fact I may be under selling them, they may be the best in the nation. I have never taken anyone there and they not agreed when we left. They are THAT GOOD.

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For those of you who are not from the South you may be wondering what in the world are Hushpuppies?

Hushpuppies are basically a corn meal batter that is deep fried. They can come in different shapes, but they are mostly seen in round/ball shapes and in oblong shapes like Greenbriers. They are not the most healthy thing to eat, but they sure are delicious!

They are great with ketchup, ranch dressing, and especially white sauce. White sauce is a vinegary sauce pretty much only found in North Alabama, if you have never had it you are missing out.

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At Greenbrier the hushpuppies come out as soon as you sit down and they keep them coming. The food is also great at Greenbrier, it is greasy, but very good. You can even wash it all down with a 25 cent up of soft serve ice cream when you are finished.  It is not a fancy place, but has great service. Greenbrier has character, pictures of musicians and celebrities who have stopped by hang up in the restaurant. This establishment is on the list of 100 Places to Eat in Alabama Before You Die and is only a short distance off I-65 if you are ever traveling north/south through Alabama.

Trust me you have never had hushpuppies like these. If you are ever in North Alabama you have to give them a try.

Arsenic in Your Chicken?

Arsenic is harmful and has been known to cause cancer. Arsenic is an element in the environment that can be found naturally in rocks and soil, water, air, and in plants and animals. When I had seen several articles floating around this week saying that it was in chicken I had to do a little digging. Many times when stories like these surface there is a good explanation behind it or a misunderstanding. I called on Dr. Wallace Berry one of our poultry science professors here at Auburn and asked him for his expertise.

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced it will remove three arsenic-containing drug types used to treat food animals, including chickens. Altogether, the three drugs were used in formulations as feed additives, the most common being Roxarsone. Many think of Roxarsone as a way to “pump up chicken”, but according to Dr. Berry that is not the case.

Berry says that Roxarsone is made from an arsenic compound and some companies do use it as an anti-coccidial drug in chickens ( not to “plump up” chicken as the media portrays). When I researched coccidia I found that it is an internal parasite that if coccidiosis occurs that it causes diarrhea with weight loss, dehydration, and (rarely) hemorrhaging  Animals who have bad cases may have problems with  anorexia, vomiting, and depression. Death is a potential outcome. It was used to keep animals healthy, farmers go to great lengths to care for their animals and this is why the additive was used.

ImageCoccidia magnified at 400X

According to Berry we use similar arsenical drugs are used in far higher doses to treat heart worms in pets. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element so traces can be found in all living things. Chickens who are given Roxarsone go through a withdrawal period before they are harvested just like with any other drug or antibiotic the animal might have been given. Arsenic is cleared from body tissues rapidly so only very low levels, about like normal background levels can be found in chicken. Berry pointed out that even when people are intentionally poisoned with arsenic, it takes a high continuous dose to kill and arsenic traces are usually only found in hair and nails because so little accumulates.

When it gets down to the “meat” of the matter Berry stated that Roxarsone is being withdrawn, not because it is dangerous, but mostly because it is an old drug that is not very profitable and because of poor public opinion. There are newer anti-parasitic  drugs without arsenic that the public is more comfortable with and that keeps our animals healthy. Do not be alarmed not every poultry company uses Roxarsone, and the ones that do use it don’t use it all the time. It is rotated with other anti-coccidial drugs to prevent the coccidia from developing resistance. Since the three will be no longer used in food thankfully we will not have to worry bout animals suffering from coccidia because a vaccine for it was actually developed at Auburn by Dr. Allen Edgar in 1952! The anti-coccidial drugs are not related to any human antibiotics so there are no worries about antibiotic resistance transferred to human.

So as I get ready to decide on dinner tonight, I am not going to shy away from chicken in the cooler at the grocery. I’m very thankful Dr. Berry was able to answer my questions and I hope if you hear about arsenic you will now feel more informed. Eat More Chicken!

Chipotle You Are Serving More Than Burritos

Oh Chipotle,

I thought you had topped it with your 2011 Super Bowl advertisement featuring Willie Nelson’s “Back to the Start” song, but I was wrong. This morning between classes I watched your new Scarecrow Video.

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After painfully watching your three minute video I felt a range of emotions. The feeling that hit me the most wasn’t anger, but sadness.  Erica who must work doing social media for @ChipotleTweets didn’t get it. It appears that she assumed I was sad because of the “bad food” found in the barren grassless, cropless, treeless land the video portrayed, I was sad because this is not at all the way we treat and raise our animals and produce our nation’s food supply. I was also sad because people out there will watch this video and assume that is the way things are.

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The ways food production was portrayed in the video is what made me sad, sad because myself and 2.2 million other Americans work so hard grow food for our families and yours and it looks NOTHING like what Chiptole says farming today looks like. I have NEVER seen anyone raise cattle in a metal box with flashing lights.

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All the dairy farms I have ever been to do not use such housing for their cattle. I always enjoy seeing Will Gilmer (@GilmerDairy on Twitter) of Sulligent, Alabama’s pictures on Twitter, Instagram, Vine etc. of his Holsteins enjoying green fields and sunshine. Chiptole if you have visited a dairy farm where cows are raised in such a container please share with me, I’d like to see it.

dairy cow Holstein Alabama pastures

Gilmer Dairy: Follow Will on Twitter to see what he does on a daily basis on his farm in North Alabama

I’m also not sure why you show chickens being “pumped” with hormones.

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Don’t you know that giving chickens hormones is illegal? It doesn’t happen. According to my poultry science professor Dr. Wallace Berry hormones do not even benefit chickens not to mention it would be too labor intensive. Don’t believe me? The University of Georgia has a great article on 7 Reasons Why Chickens are not Fed Hormones https://www.poultryventilation.com/tips/vol24/n4.

Chiptole if you believe in “honesty” and “integrity” why on earth would you make a video and a game filled with such false and misleading information. To be honest if I didn’t know any better I would probably jump on the band wagon with you. However, I am smarter than that, I am not going to fall for a marketing stunt and I would hope the American public wouldn’t, but in today’s society that would be very wishful thinking.

I have never and will NEVER eat at one of your restaurants. What a wonderful opportunity as a seller of food  you could have to give people a glimpse of how their food is raised, people are curious, more and more people are living off the farm today than ever before. You could make advertising campaign into a positive one instead of one using fear. Considering you sell food I would hope you have been to a farm, but from your video I would guess you haven’t. Myself and many others would love for you to visit a farm (I can find you one anywhere in the country to visit you just let me know). If you were to see what REAL agriculture is like, I think you would agree it looks nothing like your video or your app.

Tailgate Treats: Week #2 “Zesty Pizza Casserole”

It is week 2 of the college football season and my Auburn Tigers are taking on Arkansas State this Saturday  This week we have another night game which are my favorites because it allows more time for tailgating. Last year our first 3 games were at 11am, which was rough, because students have to be at the gate typically 2 1/2 -3 hours before the game and who wants to tailgate that early?

This week’s tailgate treat is a great go-to dish when you need something fast and are possibly limited on kitchen facilities. This recipe can easily be made in a dorm room, or anywhere you have a microwave. I recently made it when I had friends over for dinner, when I made it again a day or two later I gave some to my brother Brady and told him to put it in the microwave to cook it. He asked “can’t I just put it in the over” I told him he could, but I always made it in the microwave, and he couldn’t believe it!

First thing you do is bring 6 ounces of elbow macaroni to a boil.

pizza casserole recipe tailgating macaroni

While your macaroni is cooking, be cutting into halves or fourths 4 oz of pepperoni slices, or if you would rather you can buy the mini pepperoni from Hormel.

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After you chop up the pepperoni into pieces combine the pepperoni with 8 oz. of pizza sauce, 8 oz. of cottage cheese, 4 oz. of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup onion chopped, and 1/2 t. dried basil.

pizza casserole recipe tailgating

Then after you noodles are done cooking combine them with your cheese/ tomato mixture.

pizza casserole recipe tailgating

pizza casserole recipe tailgating

After you combine the noodles and sauce, pour into a 2 quart casserole dish, cover and microwave for 7-9 minutes and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Then it is time to enjoy!

Zesty Pizza Casserole

Ingredients:

6 oz. shell macaroni cooked (I typically do it on the stove top but I am sure you can do it in the microwave as well)

8 oz. jar pizza sauce

8 oz. cottage cheese

4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

4 oz. pepperoni’s halved or quartered (I usually use my kitchen scissors to cut them, much easier)

1/2 cup onion chopped

1/2 t. dried basil (you can also use Italian seasoning, pizza seasoning, garlic etc)

Parmesan Cheese

Steps: In a 2 quart microwave safe dish, combine all ingredients except parmesan cheese. Mix well and cover and cook in microwave for 7-9 minutes. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top. This serves 4-6 people, I usually double the recipe. No one will ever know it was cooked in the microwave!

Tailgate Treats – Week #1 “Crazy Good Dip”

It is finally here! In less than 24 hours my friends and I will be in Jordan Hare stadium cheering on the Auburn Tigers. Each home game weekend this fall I  plan to share one of my favorite tailgate recipes. This week has been a hectic one, the first full week of classes and we were having a nightly gospel meeting at church so this week’s recipe is one of the quickest and simplest ones I have. I discovered the recipe a few years ago on an online blog (I do not even remember which one it was) it is popular on Pinterest and popular in my kitchen. It is great if you need a quick tailgate food or even if company is on the way. So regardless of whether you are watching the game from home or traveling to your school to tailgate this recipe is always a crowd favorite.

All you need are 4 simple ingredients.

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1 Packet of Ranch Dressing Mix

1 Cup Cheddar Cheese (I prefer finely shredded)

1 3 oz. pack of bacon pieces (if you are feeling fancy you can cook your own and crumble it)

16 oz. of sour cream

First mix your sour cream and ranch seasoning, then add the bacon, and cheese. It tastes better if you let it sit in the fridge overnight. Even if you don’t it still tastes good!  You can make this  “healthier” if you choose to use  low-fat or fat-free cheese and sour cream.

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It is VERY simple, quick and does not require many ingredients. I like to buy a aluminum loaf pan that I can pour the dip in and that way instead of having to deal with a dish when it is time to go to the game I can just throw the pan away.

It tastes great with chips, crackers or even vegetables!

I Found a Gem in Rothsay, Minnesota

In the two weeks I have been in South Dakota I have put 2,250 miles on my truck and eaten my fair share of local eateries. The only problem with local places is you can never tell if it is a dump or if is a awesome place. Thankfully I have been riding around with my trainer Carrie and she has eaten at most of the local places in the 6 counties she covers and she usually warns me which ones to stay away from and which ones are good. (Thank you Carrie)
On Friday however I was out on my own over in Minnesota and I had been on the road for 4 hours and it was time for lunch and I did not have Carrie along to seek her counsel. I had just picked up 16 bags of seed from a dealer in Rothsay, Minnesota and was going to deliver them to a farmer over in North Dakota. According to my sometimes trusty Tom-Tom (see previous post Tom-Tom Knows Best if You Listen the First Time)  there was one restaurant in the town. I was a little worried that there might not be anything else so I decided to give it a try.
The town was absolutely dead, but I found the place with little problems. Ole and Lena’s was the name of the place, it seemed like a strange name for a restaurant in a small town. I pulled up and thought they were closed because there was no one there (not usually a good sign). Went in and I was the only one there, but it was a very tastefully decorated place, full of local memorabilia.
The menus were made to look like newspapers. The menu had a wide variety of choices. They even had some lunch specials like a hot pork sandwich, beef sandwich, salad etc. I was quickly taken care of by a waitress. She of course suggested a pizza.
The pizza choices were very interesting. I was kinda in a hurry so I just played it safe and ordered the Uffda pizza which is basically a meats pizza and some bread sticks. The bread sticks were amazing, in my opinion better than the pizza.
None of it tasted like frozen pizza neither the bread sticks nor the pizza.  The marinara sauce tasted like it was made out of freshly chopped tomatoes. Overall it was very good. It was a little pricier than I usually pay for lunch, but it was definitely worth it. If I am ever back in the area I will be stopping again. Not long after I got there the place filled up with customers and you can tell they have a lot of local clientele. I would have never guessed that I would have found this good of a pizza place in a tiny town like Rothsay (pop. 494) but you just never know!