Meals on fast wheels

After the incredulous looks some people give me upon hearing that I feed the harvesting crew and that every meal has to be to-go, I get asked what exactly it is I feed them.
I’m pretty efficient about it nowadays after years of what we can call constructive criticism from my dad and brothers.
“Don’t write in marker on top of the paper plate, then everything inside tastes weird.”
“How did you think I was going to eat tuna casserole while I was driving?”
“Next time a little more meat, a little less bread, OK?”  
“Toast gets really soggy after a few minutes.”  
“Maybe you should take the burgers off the grill a little sooner, so they’re not hockey pucks.”
Well, I’ve gotten better on the first few counts, but as for that last comment, I sometimes forget how many things I have going at one time, so I make no promises.
The past few years I’ve started keeping a food journal of sorts to track what meals I make for what haying crop and for corn silage. It usually starts with a list of all the things I can think of to make organized by meal. For haying, it is lunch and supper, because we don’t generally start chopping too early in the morning. When corn silage time rolls around though, it’s a week-long affair of three to-go meals a day. I look back at past years’ recipe lists, what dates we chopped on, how many days it took, if we got rained out or not, and set about making a plan of attack.
A typical lunch is usually grapes, cucumber slices or carrots, an easy hot sandwich (I buy lots of tin foil) and homemade dessert. As I’m cooking, I am constantly trying to be a day ahead. My kitchen time is squashed tightly in between barn time, so I have to stay on the ball. In the afternoon while Cora is napping, I’m usually baking the next day’s desserts and assembling night meal sandwiches that can live in the oven until I’m done milking and ready to shove them out the door at hungry drivers. As with anything, a little thank you goes a long way, and that’s the kindness that fuels the fire.
I get sick of making the same things for the guys, so that has prompted some creative adjustments to make sit-down dishes able to travel to the fields. I know they probably wouldn’t complain if they ate roast beef or hamburgers two days in a row, but I wouldn’t want to. I took one of my brother’s favorite easy dishes, taco bake, and turned it into taco pockets, which can definitely be eaten with one hand while driving. I also tweaked an excellent chicken pot pie recipe so it can go to the field on those cool corn silage harvesting days. My arsenal of desserts that work includes about every flavor you can imagine, with notes on how easy it was to package and travel. Oatmeal chocolate Craisin raisin bars are a favorite; just the recipe on the lid of the Quaker oatmeal container with some additional fun ingredients. Desserts with frosting are generally a no-go; they are just plain too messy to travel. I’m not the only farm woman out there crazy enough to run a meals on fast wheels program during harvest season, so happy cooking to everyone else feeding their crews.

Taco pockets (feeds 8)
2 pounds browned hamburger
1 cup sour cream
Taco seasoning
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or more)
Crushed Doritos
Taco sauce (optional)
2 packages of crescent rolls
Mix the seasoning and sour cream into the browned burger. Open crescent rolls and, unrolling gently, seal the perforations to form four rectangle-shaped pieces. In the center of each, sprinkle a bit of crushed Doritos and shredded cheese. Then place a large spoonful of taco meat mixture. I add taco sauce on top. You will be able to tell if you are overloading your crescent. Bring the opposite corners up to meet and pinch them together to make a square pocket. Then, pinch sides together tightly. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 12-14 minutes until they are golden brown. Wrap in tin foil and send to the field. If you have a homemade crescent roll recipe that you like, I highly recommend using it. The homemade version is far stronger than store bought crescent roll dough.

Chicken pot pies to-go (feeds 8 plus)
I usually bake a whole chicken a day in advance, but boneless skinless chicken breasts would work just the same. If baking, not pan-frying the chicken the day of, then use butter as the base to sauté vegetables in.

1 broiler chicken or 1 bag of boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch slices
4 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 3/4 cups water, divided
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup flour
2 tubes of refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (8 each)
Cook vegetables in butter until onion is transparent. Add 3 cups of water and bouillon cubes, bay leaf, salt, pepper and shredded chicken. Increase heat to high until water is boiling, then turn to low and let simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove bay leaf. Whisk 3/4 cup water and the flour together, turn back up to medium-high and stir the flour mixture in thoroughly. You may need to repeat this step to make sure your filling is thick enough. In the meantime, on a lightly floured surface, place two biscuits on top of each other and use a rolling pin to roll out a 6-inch circle (or larger). Place a spoonful of chicken mixture on one half of the circle, careful not to get too close to the edges. Fold other half of biscuit over filling, seal edges by pushing down with a fork, and use fork to poke three sets of air holes in top of biscuit. You can also just use one biscuit rolled out to a circle to make smaller pot pies. Bake according to biscuit instructions. These hold up great and are a great night meal for corn silage as the days start to cool down. Homemade biscuit dough works great as well. Roll out dough and use a bowl, or a lid from a container, to cut your circles to fill.
Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.


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