Monday, December 17, 2018

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

For a protein smoothie that tastes more like dessert than health food, check out my Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie!

Like most of my recipes, it starts with experimenting. A little of this. A little of that. I love when recipes are flexible and customizable since everyone has different tastes.

The start of a new year brings added motivation to reach new goals, but why does it only have to be on January 1? I started listening to a podcast by Rachel Hollis earlier this fall and she talks about living the last quarter of the year like we do the first 30 daysof a new year. The concept is called 'Last 90 days.' It's inspiring and while most days did not go according to plan with my fitness and nutrition goals (hello real life!), I made more progress than I would otherwise. Why give up on yourself and stuff yourself full of cookies just to start over in a month? Be kind to yourself. Yes, sometimes this means going for a run and not eating those cookies; sometimes it means taking a nap after work.

Moving your body is a necessary part of the fitness equation. However, don't overlook the nutrition aspect since it accounts for about 80 percent of your progress. Treats are okay, but cannot happen every hour on the hour.

Finding the time to eat healthy is hard, especially with a demanding career. It's essential to make it simple (otherwise it does not happen in my world). I love starting the day with a protein smoothie. It's easy and portable, and I can drink it while getting ready.

Pack healthy snacks to avoid mid-day temptations in the break room. Apples, cheese sticks, chocolate milk (single serves are fanastic), crackers, and beef jerky are a few options.

Like most of my recipes, this one is customizable to your preferences. I love to sneak extra protein in wherever I can, so I choose Fairlife milk for my smoothies (almost double the protein!). Regular milk is also a great option since both have the same nutrients. You can also use whichever milk chocolate protein powder you prefer.

To make this into a dessert, just add a scoop of chocolate ice cream for a protein milk shake.

Cheers to a great day!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

1 cup               Chocolate Milk (I use Fairlife chocolate milk)
1 scoop           Milk chocolate protein powder (I use 1st Phorm Level 1 Milk Chocolate)
1/2                  Banana
1 tablespoon   Peanut butter
1 teaspoon      Vanilla extract
Ice for texture


  1. Add all ingredients to the blender with ice
  2. Blend (I use the milk shake setting on my blender)

Easy, nutritious and delicious way to start the day.

PS - If you love chocolate peanut butter, check out these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Farm that Built Me

I can remember where I was when I heard Miranda Lambert's song 'The House that Built Me' a decade ago. I was in New Mexico for a six-week dairy program between my sophomore and junior years of college. I vividly remember one of my classmates saying how the song is so relatable to many people because we all have that house we grew up in that helped shape us into who we are today. At 20, I didn't think too much of it. At 30, I do.

For me, that house was a two-story white farm house with a kitchen overlooking one of the cow pastures. It was full of cow decorations, Mary Moos and so many family photos. If you didn't know better, you might think the dairy farm had moved indoors. Today, you'd think that of my place. It was where my brother and I grew up. It was where we learned about hard work. Actually, a lot of that also took place in the barn, on the tractor, and in the driveway where we would lead our show cows around.

That house. That barn. It was home. It always will be.

However, that wasn't our parents house. As the kids of very busy parents who both worked in the airline/aviation business, we were lucky to have dairy farmers for grandparents. Although the milk cows have been gone and the stantion barn empty for years, you couldn't convince me that Grandpa wasn't overjoyed the day two Holstein heifers arrived back on the farm as our first 4-H projects.

This house. This farm. This is the farm that built me.

The hardest thing I ever did was leave. It gets easier every time, but I'll never forget that nervous feeling the summer I jetted off to New Mexico to a small town I had to find on a map because I didn't know where it was. 'What was I doing?! They could use my help at home. I only know one person in this program. What did I get myself into?' All of these thoughts passed through my mind while boarding the plane in Salt Lake City on the second of three flights to Clovis. Leaving that summer opened many doors into the dairy industry for me. It reassured me that I could stand on my own two feet in a place where I knew no one; that sure came in handy later when I moved to Indiana. And Grandpa? He was always sad to see me leave. It broke my heart everytime. And everytime he would say, "I'll be waiting for you. Good bye!'

It's hard to describe exactly what growing up on a farm does to you. Between the new show calves that have yet to grasp the concept of walking on a halter and the frustration caused by equipment breaking as you are trying to beat the rain because you've got hay down in the field, something happens. Something special. And it definitely doesn't feel special at the time. At the end of the day, it's building perserverance. It's building grit. And it's building character.

It's also building tight-knit families and communities.

I never could imagine what life would be like without the farm or without my grandparents. Then Grandpa passed away at 93 and I fell apart. And in February, we lost Granny. I haven't really talked about it. I haven't known how. Even as a writer, I couldn't find the right words. They were the backbone of our farm and of our family. They shaped us into the people we are today and gave us the best gift of all: a love of farming.

As farmers, we talk about the number of generations involved on the farm. It's something to take pride in. Passing it to the next generation can create challenges, but it's the perserverance, grit and character that keeps each generation going. Milk prices are terrible. Many farms are struggling. And yet, they can't quit. I hear ya. Once it's in your blood, it feels like losing yourself to lose the farm. Fortunately, we didn't.

Before I was old enough to remember any memories, I was riding on the tractor with Grandpa, grocery shopping with Granny and tagging along on random adventures. Before long, it was ingrained in me. I'm beyond thankful to be involved in the dairy industry.

June is National Dairy Month. It's a time to celebrate the dairy community, our cows and the amazing product produced by an industry that creates so many jobs on and off the farm and impacts the community in a big way.

For me, June Dairy Month is a time to reflect back on what brought me to where I am today. It was my Grandpa. My 4-H leaders. My family. Our dairy community. Our farm. It truly takes a village, especially to raise a 4-H kid. And for that, I'm truly grateful.

My Grandpa's legacy is something I strive to carry on each day. It drives my work, my passion for dairy and the kind of person I am. So many families in the dairy industry could say the exact same thing. And that's also part of what makes this community more of a family.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Almond Crusted Tilapia

If you are looking for a dinner option that is light, filling and delicious, you'll want to add this Almond Crusted Tilapia to your menu rotation.

Many people create New Years Resolutions each year and many of those go out the window before January is over. Especially those weight loss and fitness goals. If losing a few pounds is on your 'To Do' list this year, check out my weight loss series here. Losing weight is HARD. There is no short cut and no quick fix. It takes time, patience and a lot of perseverance. Last year, I lost 30 pounds. I wanted to increase my energy and more importantly, my confidence. I'd struggled with my weight on and off since I was 8 years old and it took more than 20 years to find the real secret to losing weight. Now I'm down to the last few pounds and onto the lifelong journey of maintaining it. Like I said, no quick fix.

While exercise is a necessary component of a healthy lifestyle, about 80 percent of the battle is nutrition. Planning meals ahead of time gives you more control of what you are eating and also saves you money at the grocery store since you are only buying ingredients you actually need.

If you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender or similar device to chop the almonds.

Almond Crusted Tilapia


  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Tilapia filet
  • Coating (use for multiple filets): 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, 2 ounces almonds, thyme, rosemary, pepper


  1. Add almonds, garlic powder, grated parmesan cheese, thyme, rosemary and pepper to food processor. Grind until finely chopped
  2. Coat tilapia filets evenly with Greek yogurt and then with almond mixture
  3. Broil fish on high until crust is crispy and a golden brown. Check on it regularly to prevent it from burning or drying out. After 5-7 minutes, I start checking on it every two minutes. 

How to make blackberry jam

Homemade jam. There's really nothing like it. Just the idea brings back memories of Mom and Granny canning at the end of each summer. It wasn't until a few years ago that I decided to try my hand at it and turns out I'm not too bad at it. You'll love this Blackberry Jam recipe!

Blackberries grow like weeds in our pastures, and while our cows love their treats from the garden, they seem to leave the wild blackberries alone. It may be the thistles. Smart cows.

Jam is easy to make and you can make it year round. I love to use extra fruit from canning to make jam, but have also been known to use frozen fruit. Frozen fruit is readily available in the freezer aisle and tastes just as good in jam. This is actually what I usually give to people as Christmas gifts.

Blackberry jam is perfect as ice cream topping, on toast, in PBJ sandwiches and anywhere else you need something sweet. I made a marinade with blackberry jam and barbecue sauce last week for chicken and we loved it. Very versatile.

Mom's secret is to add a small amount of butter to the berry and sugar mixture while it is on the stove to reduce foaming.

This makes about 8 cups of jam.

Blackberry Jam


  •  4 cups crushed blackberries or 8 cups of whole berries (frozen or fresh)
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pouch Certo Premium Liquid Fruit Pectin
  • 1 tablespoon butter


To prepare jam:

  1. Start with about 8 cups of blackberries
  2. Crush berries
  3. Use a dry measuring cup to measure crushed berries (you should have about 4 cups of crushed berries) and sugar and place in a large pan or stockpot
  4. Mix sugar and berries together
  5. Add 1 tablespoon butter (This reduces foaming)
  6. Cook on medium to high heat until it comes to a rolling boil
  7. Set a timer for 60 seconds
  8. Add the pectin 
  9. Stir continuously for 60 seconds 
  10. Promptly remove from heat
  12. When jam is done cooking, remove jars from the baking tray and place rightside up on a towel on the counter
  13. Use a funnel on the jars and a ladle to add jam to the jars
  14. Wipe the rims of all jars
  15. Place lids on jars (always use new lids; you can reuse jars and bands after cleaning and sanitizing them, but not lids)
  16. Tighten bands on jars
  17. Turn jars upside down for about 10 minutes
  18. Turn jars rightside up
  19. You should hear the lids "pop" (seal)
  20. Let jars cool on a towel on the counter

To prepare jars: (Do this as the same time as jam is cooking)

  1. Place a baking tray over 2 burners on the stove
  2. Add jars upside down
  3. Add enough water to cover the rims of the jars (ensure that there is enough water throughout the process; you may need to add more)
  4. Turn the heat on high for both burners
  5. Periodically move the jars around so they heat evenly (be careful, they will be hot)

Enjoy the jam!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Weekly Meal Plan #52


 Happy New Year, friends! We're back at it with another Keeping It Easy Weekly Meal Plan Week 52 - the last plan of 2017!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Weekly Meal Plan #51

Weekly Meal Plan #51

Weekly Meal Plan #51 is going to bring you lots of comfort which is just what we all need as we end 2017.  Simply click on the recipe names and, voila, you will be directed to the page that holds the magic list of ingredients for Weekly Meal Plan #51. Happy cooking and baking!

  Weekly Meal Plan #51 is filled with delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Save room for Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies, too!
We are starting this week with dessert. Why? Because we can!! People may look at you funny when you tell then you made Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies but they are going to FLIP once they taste them!

  Fall in love with Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies but be forewarned - it's very hard not to eat all of these baked goodies when they come out of the oven!
Begin your day with Desserts Required's Berry Brioche Bread Pudding. This may not be your typical breakfast but it sure does make everyone happy!

  Desserts Required's Berry Brioche Bread Pudding with its raspberries and blueberries is perfect for July 4th. The raspberry liqueur sauce is a delicious and easy recipe, too. 
 Kimmi's Dairyland has a meal that is perfect for the chilly night. Kimmi is sharing her friend's BBQ Chicken Chili. It was a winner at her office and is sure to be one in your home.
Marybeth at My Fearless Kitchen has a terrific option for those of us with crazy schedules. Her Stay-or Go Burritos are ready in the freezer when you want them or you simply 'grab' one as you are heading out the door.

Chicken Bacon Gouda Pasta from Raquel at Organized Island is a flavorful dish filled with ingredients that mesh perfectly together. I mean, seriously, don't you see the BACON?!?  

The Shirley Journey is sharing her Tomato & Mozzarella Steak Sandwich with Homemade Basil Mayo which is an ideal choice when you are looking for an easy dinner menu. Best of all, it is very versatile and can be changed to suit your needs. 
The Crumby Kitchen has a decadent idea with her Chorizo Beef Wellington with Cilantro Pesto. This special occasion meal is a fabulous option for New Year's Eve!


Have a terrific week and feel free to swap the meals around to fit your schedule!  

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Family Memories at the Sale Barn

Holidays are a time when families near and far come together to create timeless memories. Many of our timeless memories, however, were not created during the holidays.

One of my favorites involves our Saturday tradition of going to the nearby livestock auction, or the sale as we call it. This was part of Grandpa's Saturday routine for as far back as I can remember.  He would meet some other farmers for lunch and then watch the sale for an hour or so. My brother tagged along from a young age and always wanted to be just like Grandpa. I started attending on a more regular basis in high school.

The sale was more than just the auctioning of cattle and other livestock. It was a time to come together as an agricultural community. Our cows like routine and so do we, and this was a weekend staple. It was a fun way to share our love of cattle and farming, as well as catch up with others at the sale.

Over the last few years, Grandpa's visits to the sale became more and more infrequent, except when I was home and would take him. The last time we went together he was hesitant to go. He said nobody would know him or care that he was there. He was nearing his 93rd birthday and had been part of this community for his entire life. As we were leaving the sale, the auctioneer said, "Goodbye Mr. Johnson!" over the loud speaker. This simple gesture meant the world to a 92-year-old farmer who felt like he was too old to be remembered or involved in anything anymore. It also meant the world to me.

The sale barn created memories for many people in our community, and this was ever so evident when the auctioneer passed away in November of this year. The outpouring of support is what I love about small towns. I am still so thankful for Ron's (the auctioneer) kindness toward Grandpa that day and for our town.

Without realizing it, Grandpa set quite the example for my brother and me and he is the reason we are both involved in farming today. Whether we were helping with hay, feeding cows, walking show cows and getting ready for the next show or anything else, he was always willing to help. 

These days, I'm creating my own memories at the sale barn in Indiana. It's 2,000 miles and a world away from the sale barn back home, but I know Grandpa is still there with me.

What are your favorite family memories?