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Giant chocolate chip cookies and the lessons kids learn on the farm

Cristen Clark1 / 2
Giant chocolate chip cookies. Cristen Clark / Special to Forum News Service2 / 2

There's no doubt that kids who are raised on a ranch or a farm with livestock have a unique upbringing. From the accidental use of colorful language in preschool to an early education of "the birds and the bees," livestock kids have many things in common.

As a mom, I have to remind myself sometimes that I am raising special little creatures. I made a list of "excuses" as to why they behave out of the ordinary sometimes to help me cope. Maybe you can relate?

1. Occasionally, though our children are clean, they still smell like a farm animal. Often, on the way out of the house to attend an activity, our kids decide to look things over one more time, despite the fact they are clean. They go out to the barn to see if their favorite sow is farrowing or to double check that the waterer isn't frozen over in the cattle lot. It happens — bear with us. They often decide that their chore coat or favorite chore boots are most comfortable to wear, and throw them on in the haste of getting out to the car.

2. They may use some colorful language on occasion. If you have grown up on a farm, there's no secret that colorful language can pop up in stressful farm situations, i.e., waterers breaking, cows are out, etc. Kids hear this and typically use it in the same situations down the road, but it is not uncommon for those words or phrases to show up in other places, too, (like with my kids, at preschool).

3. Birds and the bees? They may learn it here. There's no doubt about it, on any farm where there's livestock, there's a potential to have questions arise about anything that looks unfamiliar to kids who happen to be visiting. This is especially true if visits occur during breeding times or birthing times on the farm. If this discussion comes up, we'll do our best to avoid revealing too much, but our children may speak up and let their friends know what's really going on (as both of my kids have done, in great amounts of detail, starting in their preschool years).

4. Sometimes my kids are sad, because no matter how hard they worked, an animal died. For various reasons, most of which are out of our control and despite our greatest efforts as farmers, animals die. Personally, this life lesson is the hardest for me to help my kids through.

In most facets of their life, we teach our children that if they try hard, they will become more successful or be rewarded in some capacity. The lesson of "no matter how hard you try, nothing will work" is the most difficult one for most kids to understand. Consequently, it is the most complex life lesson to teach. On the other side of the pain, these experiences make our children better, and make them appreciate the hard work, dedication and sacrifice of others, farmers or not, even more.

5. They find joy in the small moments. Because our kids experience the circle of life from an early age, they tend to seek out the good in things, experiences and people. Farm life is admittedly tough, but along with the hard experiences come beautiful ones, too. In any 24-hour stretch on our farm, our kids are exposed to a roller coaster of emotions. Parenting through that is challenging some days, but worth it. When we experience tougher-than-usual days on the farm, a freshly baked giant chocolate chip cookie always helps soothe any heartaches.

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies

By: Cristen Clark    www.foodandswine.com

Makes 12 XXL cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon molasses

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoon Kosher Salt

*(or 1 teaspoon regular table salt)

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon baking powder

2 ¼ cups all purpose flour

¾ bag of mini chocolate chips

*(use full bag if you like plenty of chocolate)

Granulated sugar for rolling cookies in

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream butter and sugars together until fluffy (1-2 minutes). Add molasses, eggs, vanilla and salt. Beat 30 seconds. In a separate bowl, whisk baking soda, baking powder and flour together. Add to wet mixture. Slowly beat to combine.  Add chips, mix until combined. Scoop into 12 portions (I have an XL cookie scoop that is 6 oz.).  Roll into balls, roll balls in granulated sugar.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheet (bake four at a time), press to 1-inch thickness (so cookie looks like a disc), add 2 teaspoons more sugar on top of cookie for a 'snowy' look.

Bake cookies for 15-17 minutes. Remove, let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm if desired. Store leftovers in an airtight container for three to four days at room temperature.

Cristen Clark lives on an Iowa farm where her family raises corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle. She loves cooking and writing, and sharing contest winning recipes with people she knows. She can be reached at cristen@foodandswine.com or at foodandswine.com.

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