Banana Walnut Ice Cream

Ingredients

2 cups half-and-half (divided)

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Dash of salt

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1 banana

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Directions

1. Heat 1 1/2 cups of the half-and-half in a large saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles begin to form around the edges. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a large bowl until smooth. While stirring, slowly pour the half-and-half into the egg mixture.

3. Transfer the mixture to the saucepan and heat again over medium heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges (about 150º F), stirring constantly.

4. Remove from heat and return to the bowl. Stir in the heavy whipping cream.

5. Puree the banana and 1/2 cup half-and-half in a blender until smooth.

6. Add puree to bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until cold, 3-4 hours.

7. Pour mixture into counter-top electric ice cream freezer. Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream is almost done, add the walnuts.

8. Transfer finished ice cream to a freezer container and freeze overnight before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Are farmers using our drinking water supply?

We had another great question come in to the blog from a reader:

Q:  “I hear it’s supposed to be dry this summer – possibly a drought. When farmers irrigate, aren’t they using up all of our drinking water?”

A:  After the hot, dry, dusty month we’ve had, that’s a perfectly understandable question. Farmers have been firing up pivots to irrigate crops for several weeks now, and on our farm we started irrigating earlier than at any point in my memory (though this past weekend’s rains have temporarily alleviated that need). However, even though our irrigation water and drinking water generally come from the same sources, there is more than enough to keep our crops healthy and our bodies hydrated.

Much of Nebraska sits over the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest known underground source of freshwater on the planet. Because of this abundance of water, Nebraska leads the nation in irrigated acres and is home to the the biggest pivot manufacturing companies, including Valmont, T&L, Reinke, and Lindsay. The increase in yields results in increased land values and property tax revenues, higher farm incomes, and more jobs for Nebraskans. (Jefferson County member David Endorf has a great explanation of the local economic benefits of irrigation here.) So intrinsic is the value of irrigation to the state that it is commonly referred to as the “lifeblood of Nebraska”.

But none of this matters if we’re not going to have any water to drink, right? Well, that’s the really exciting thing about the innovation we’re seeing with irrigation. While Nebraska has surpassed California to lead the nation in irrigated acres, we are only fourth in volume of water applied. In 2008, Nebraska averaged less than 10 inches of irrigation water applied per acre, compared to California’s 34 inches, Arkansas’ 23 inches, and Texas’ 16 inches. (Check out this irrigation fact sheet from the University of Nebraska’s Ag Econ department for more in-depth information.) The expansion of center pivot irrigation at the expense of gravity (pipe) irrigation has greatly increased the efficiency of water use. In the Natural Resource District our farm is in, the Upper Big Blue, groundwater levels are higher than they were 50 years ago and have rebounded well from the prolonged drought of last decade. And we continue to improve at what we’re doing. On our farm, we utilize various soil moisture sensors to monitor crop water use so we can optimize irrigation timing and volume, the result of which has been substantial reductions in the amount of irrigating we do, as well as increased crop yields (particularly in soybeans). Just like we’ve done with fertilizer, chemicals, and cropland, we’re doing more with less.

So as you’re trying to keep cool during this hot summer, raise a glass of cold Nebraska groundwater and know that your local farmers are making sure that there’s plenty to go around.

– Zach and Anna Hunnicutt, Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee members and Hamilton County Farm Bureau members

Keep asking great questions! Our Nebraska farmers and ranchers look forward to explaining what they do every day to produce safe food for you and your family.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy

Ingredients

1 pound white candy coating coarsely chopped

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

Directions

1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt candy coating; stir until smooth.

2. In a separate bowl, repeat with chocolate chips.

3. Stir peanut butter into candy coating.

4. Thinly spread peanut butter mixture onto a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. (I used a Silpat sheet instead of waxed paper.)

5. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips. Cut through mixture with a knife to swirl the chocolate.

6. Chill until firm.

7. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Yield: 2 1/2 pounds

Contributor’s note: This is a very quick and easy recipe. You can also easily cut the recipe in half without affecting the results.

Do animals go to the doctor?

We had another great question come in to the blog from a reader:

Q:  “Do animal doctors visit farms or do the farmers try to guess if the animal is sick?”

A:  Raising livestock is much like raising kids. If your child gets sick, you try and figure out what is wrong with them. If you are unsure, you visit the doctor. As farmers, we care for each animal and check them frequently for any signs of illness.  f they appear to be sick, we call the veterinarian. We then take the animal to the clinic or the veterinarian come to the farm, whichever is best for the animal.

- Ryan and Beth Sonderup, Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmer & Rancher Committee members and Nance County Farm Bureau members

Keep asking great questions! Our Nebraska farmers and ranchers look forward to explaining what they do every day to produce safe food for you and your family.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Get to know your Nebraska farmers: Rebecca and Dallas Graham

Even for some native Nebraskans, there are some small towns they’ve never heard of, and Belden — population 115 — may just be one of those. But for Cedar County Farm Bureau members Rebecca and Dallas Graham, that’s where the postman delivers their mail and where they call home. Becky grew up west of Coleridge on a dairy farm and Dallas grew up nearby, also on a dairy farm. They knew each other from 4-H involvement and as the years passed, that friendship blossomed into a marriage in 1975.

Because none of their family wanted to take over the dairy, and with aging facilities and no hired help, the Grahams sold the dairy five years ago to a neighbor who wanted to expand. The current farming operation consists of corn, beans, alfalfa, CRP acres and pasture ground where they run 100 Angus and Angus/Hereford cross cow/calf pairs.

Becky helps right alongside Dallas with on-farm duties but the couple’s real passion lies in educating today’s youth about the farm and where their food comes from. Through the years, they’ve hosted 2nd graders and Kindergarten classes on farm tours, and participated in the Nebraska Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom and Ag Pen Pal programs. Becky says our youth are the future decision and policymakers and their education about farming is vital to our economy and future for agriculture. Listen more here.


The couple has five children:  Joshua, Jeffrey, Jonathan, Amanda and Matthew, and six grandchildren.

Continue to check back to the blog each Thursday to get to know more farmers and ranchers from across Nebraska as they share their everyday stories. And to read past farmer and rancher profiles, click here.

Learn more about ag families in Nebraska by visiting www.nefb.org. And while there, be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Taco Roll-Ups

Ingredients

1 pound lean ground beef

1/2 to 1 (1.25 oz.) package taco seasoning mix

1/2 cup water

1 (16-ounce) can refried beans

6 (10-inch) flour tortillas

1/2 cup salsa

3/4 cup shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mexican cheese blend

Instructions

1. Crumble the ground beef into a large skillet and brown over medium-high heat. When the meat is cooked (about 10 minutes), drain the fat. Add the taco seasoning and water, then stir and simmer the mixture for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the refried beans.

2. To give the filling a smooth consistency, pour the beef mixture into a blender. With 4 or 5 short pulses, eliminate any large chunks from the mix.

3. For each roll-up, heat a tortilla in the microwave for 10 seconds. Spread about 1/2 cup of the beef mixture evenly over it, then top with a layer of salsa and cheese. Roll it up and tuck in the ends.

4. Tightly cover each sandwich in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Cut in half at serving time.

Yield: 6 roll-ups