Try Pork Like Never Before with Recipes from Picnic Life Foodie

IMG_1297cFood connects people, so it’s probably only natural that Iowans would connect around pork. There are six pigs for every person living in our state, and Iowa is the top pork producing state.

One of my Bucket List items is attending the Taste of Elegance. When I heard Anita McVey won tickets to the 2017 tasting event, I had to learn more! So I went up and introduced myself to her at the start of a bus tour to Southeast Iowa farms sponsored by the Iowa Food & Family Project.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than touring farms and meeting farmers, but I quickly learned this road trip was going to become infinitely more enjoyable from the company I was in. (Click here for Anita’s wonderful recap of that two-day event.)

Anita is warm and welcoming, and when you read her blog, it’s like she invites you right into her kitchen. In the intro to her blog, Anita writes:

“My mom was one of those power-house-wives who cooked three complete meals a day, plus snacks, fed whomever pulled on the yard, had a massive garden, and did whatever was needed whenever she was asked. She never complained. EVER. The lady makes THE best apple fritters, but that was a treat saved for hay-baling day!”

FullSizeRender (2)It seems Anita’s family had a way of turning ordinary, every day experiences into wonderful memories.

She writes, “Picnics were special times but they were not glamorous. My dad’s idea of the perfect picnic was to have sandwiches, fruit and a cold drink on the tailgate of his truck out in the field during or after a long day of planting or harvesting. What made it perfect was the fact that my mom made it, delivered it and ate with him, often watching the sun set.”

Anita is not alone in her appreciation of wide open spaces, as well as spectacular sunsets and sun rises. Just follow farmers on social media and your news feed will be filled with posts like, “My reward for harvesting tonight was this sunset.” You’re also bound to see a few moon rises, as well as sun rises, too.

Like many farm kids, Anita says she had to leave home to realize how “spoiled” she was. She went away to college. She graduated from Iowa State University with B.S. degree in Statistics and a Math minor. She also earned a master’s degree in Statistics, and her thesis involved heritability errors in corn research. She met her husband, Marty, in Stat class. He holds a Ph.D. from ISU in Economics with an Ag emphasis.

IMG_1989 (3)While Marty completed his degree, Anita worked in the Survey Section of the Statistics department as a Research Analyst where she says she helped with many amazing survey projects. When the couple moved to the Des Moines area, Anita found a part time job at Pioneer Hi-Bred International. After a few years, Anita and Marty saw the value of her being home with their boys full-time.

Anita says her priorities shifted quickly. “Within a few years, I found myself at home full-time with my kids and back in the kitchen … and the garden … and addicted to ‘Food Network’.”

Staying home with her boys allowed Anita to return to her roots.

“I was raised on a steady diet of faith, family and farming. We had pork and chicken directly from the farm, to the butcher, back to the farm and into the oven. We ate eggs from the hens in the coop and drank milk from my uncle’s dairy cows. The garden we planted and harvested was enormous and we didn’t waste a thing. Canning and freezing were core classes.”

To preserve these family memories, Anita says she wanted to put together a cookbook.

“When I would make a recipe, it seemed there was almost always a memory or story behind it. I knew I wanted to combine the recipe with the story for my boys, and a blog seemed to be the IMG_1466platform. But I knew NOTHING about starting a blog. Our oldest son was home from his internship and interviewing for jobs, so he sat down with his laptop one day and dug in. (Isn’t that the greatest part about that generation? They just watch videos, read articles, try this, try that, and figure it out.) It has been a massive learning experience ever since. I have discovered that I enjoy the writing process much more than I expected and have found a creative outlet that just keeps expanding.”

One of the things I enjoy most about Anita’s blog is the beautiful food photography. (Getting food to look beautiful in a photo is art!) I was looking for some tips, and Anita responded with this, “I upgraded my cell phone to an iPhone 7+ and have had lots of lessons, instruction and advice from my boys. The oldest works for a Social Media/PR firm in Minneapolis and the youngest is finishing his degree in graphic design at ISU. How lucky am I?!”

Yes, she is lucky! And her readers are lucky she shares tips, tricks and stories with them. In honor of October Pork Month, today we’re featuring a few of Anita’s pork recipes with you. Click on the blog posts below:

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies



2 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup quick or Old Fashioned oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup margarine, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pumpkin

1 cup chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and margarine; gradually add sugars until batter is light and fluffy.

Add egg and vanilla; mix well.

Alternate adding dry ingredients and pumpkin, mixing well after each.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter onto cookie sheet leaving 2 inches between cookies.

Bake 12-15 minutes (more if making larger cookies) until evenly brown on top and bottom. Cookies should still be soft in the middle.

Kid Option: You can shape the batter with your fingers or a spoon into pumpkin shapes (a little more wide than tall) and let kids decorate them like jack-o-lanterns with frosting, candy corn, M&M's, peanuts, and/or sprinkles!