Food & Swine

the barns & amazing chocolate chip cookies

I found myself going through some photos yesterday and I ran across quite a few from our commercial finishing barns that I had taken a few years ago.  They are a flashback into the reason why my daughter is so comfortable around hogs as she was around them quite a bit.  (We still own the barns of course but my son is just in them less because he’s always with me and his sis.)

I wanted to share some of these photos because it is our interactions with these hogs that puts dinner on the table and a roof over our heads.  Our daughter is excellent at cleaning feeders, checking waterers and getting treats at any Casey’s store within 20 miles of any stop.  My husband has kept various locations open due to his fuel consumption and occasional chocolate chip cookie habit.  (*at the end of the post I’ll share my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe!)

Back to my flashback… I promise to take my camera to the barns next time I go! (I just hate doing that because I always misplace it!)

The first photos are of these barns in 2010 and our daughter who wasn’t quite 2 years old yet.  She loved the big hogs and the little pigs all the same.

They were/are always inquisitive of her.

Her ‘friends’ list usually included a pig or two.

A hard little worker bee too!

She was so little!

Next… the same barns just about 9 months later…

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We have a nifty tractor down at these barns for doing various odd jobs.  It is handy and a fun old tractor to drive!

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I miss her being this age… look at those curls!

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We have a shoe/boot hoarding problem.  Everyone has at least 1 or 2 pairs of Crocs/boots to wear to each of the different sites.  The Crocs are so easy to disinfect.  We have to be sure to use care in not cross contaminating any sets of pigs at all.  This means LOTS of showers, plenty of clothes changes and tons of disinfectant etc.  I’m merely scratching the surface here but keeping the shoes at each of the barns to stay is the best way to keep them all separate.  The kids wear their shoes there, take them off in the office area, put on their ‘barn shoes/boots’ and are off to go!

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Don’t step on a crack…

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Flash forward a year and one baby boy (my son) later… these are at a set of finisher barns we owned (but since have sold) in southern Iowa.

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I have no clue what she’s doing here… but I think it is funny!

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Her favorite thing to do was check the little ‘mailbox’ we had there for the feed slips and other miscellaneous mail.  Run, run, run.

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She sure enjoyed being at these barns.  There was a Casey’s nearby too… hmmmmm.

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My husband, always checkin’ and fixin’.

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They are pretty great partners.

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Now… on to the best part of the post.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Everyone has a recipe… most use the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip package, correct?  Sure!  Well I am here to say I’ve made hundreds of dozens of these things and my favorite (and my sister’s favorite) recipe is very close to that one on the back of the chocolate chip package.  The simple substitutions and additions (fleur de sel and molasses) make these cookies so delicious.  They are winners in my book!  Last month, we took a big batch to my sister while she was at work for her birthday.  She was glad to see us and loved her surprise.  She has to hide cookies from my brother in law, he is known to have a sweet tooth for these cookies (or any cookie) too!

On with the baking!

Here are a couple of helpful photos…

Fleur De Sel, looks like this:

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I buy mine at a specialty shop in the nearby BIG town: Allspice in Des Moines

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I love admiring eggs with brown shells, yes this recipe only calls for two eggs. (I think this day I was making a batch and a half.)

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Nice sticky, yet sturdy dough.  My husband would eat this entire bowl.  He is a cookie dough fiend.

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I like to make a nice sized cookie, this scoop is 1/4 C.

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I only put 6 dough balls on each silicon lined sheet pan.

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Sometimes I give the top a ‘tap’ to even them out… and sprinkle on a touch of sugar for extra awesomeness.

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Like that.

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After a visit to the oven… still hot and puffy:

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Cristen’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Cristen   www.foodandswine.com

2 sticks of room temperature butter (you can use unsalted or salted, I don’t care!)

1 C brown sugar

1/2 C white sugar

2 TBSP molasses

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 – 2 tsp fleur de sel (French gray sea salt) or 1/2-3/4 tsp table salt or kosher salt

*use less salt if you don’t want to notice the salt in the cookie.

2 1/3 C all purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1-2 C miniature semisweet chocolate chips

*use more chocolate chips if you like your cookies ‘chocolatey’.  I was always the kid that searched high and low for the CCC that had the least amount of chocolate in it… Weird!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars for 2 minutes until fluffy.  Add molasses, eggs, vanilla and salt.  Beat 30 seconds until combined.  Whisk flour and soda together.  Add to wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined.  Add chocolate chips.  Mix slowly until combined.  Scoop with 1/4 C ice cream scoop evenly onto a lined sheet pan (I love silicon liners, they are especially handy and beneficial for baking cookies).  Bake cookies in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 13-16 minutes until edges are golden and centers appear baked and not gooey/runny.  Remove, let cookies cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet.  Transfer to cooling rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes 18 large cookies. (*baking times will vary between oven units and actual size of cookies)

The sea salt makes these cookies irresistible to me. The salt is subtle and has enough texture to stand out in the cookie.  The molasses deepens the flavors and almost gives the cookie a ‘malt’-like flavor.  I can’t describe it… I promise, you’ll like it.  Oh, and don’t skimp and buy big chocolate chips, you must try the minis… just once!  Tanna and ‘Crissy’ approved!

*One thing I should also tell you… the way you measure out flour will greatly affect the outcome of this cookie recipe.  Use care to not pack the flour in.  Fluff it up to aerate it and spoon it gently into the measuring cup, level the top with the knife, you know the drill.  You want rich delicious cookies, not over-floured, dry cookies.  Also, use all purpose flour here.  Bread flour will absorb more of the wet ingredients and the cookies will be more dense.

To purchase the salt used in this recipe visit:

Allspice Des Moines: www.allspiceonline.com

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5 Comments

  • Reply Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids April 11, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    Great post! My kids love to help at our hog barns too. What else do you like to use fleur de sel in?

    • Reply Cristen April 12, 2014 at 8:38 pm

      Kids are so helpful at the barns, aren’t they? I love fleur de sel on my Ballpark Style Soft Pretzels and in my favorite cookies “World Peace Cookies” by Dorie Greenspan. Those are my top two! 🙂 See you soon Val!

  • Reply jantinawennerstrom April 11, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Fun photos! Isn’t it amazing just how quickly the little ones grow up? And yet, every stage is equally as awesome 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Cristen April 12, 2014 at 8:34 pm

      Thank you! It is amazing how fast it all goes. “Don’t blink” is my daily mantra!

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