Even though our farming area around Starke County is known for planting large peppermint and spearmint crops, this growing season, corn covers most of the fields far and wide.
Wet weather, including the two inches of rain over Memorial Day weekend, have slowed the planting process. Even my dad is delayed with planting our garden sweet corn patches, for both early and late picking.
According to Tuesday's latest numbers from Farm Journal, 64 percent of Indiana's corn crop is now planted. And in Illinois, it's 74 percent. Today, it's a much quicker process for planting corn, since farm equipment is so much larger. Planters are now so large, they have the ability to plant as many as 24, 32 or 36 rows of corn at a time.
Of course, corn production has climbed because of government demand and increased U.S. production of grain-based ethanol in the U.S.
But most of today's corn grown is also used as feed for livestock.
The latest government agriculture reports shows for every 10 ears of corn grown in the United States today, only two are consumed directly by humans as food, while the remaining eight are used in almost equal shares for animal feed and for ethanol. U.S. farmers use more than a billion bushels of corn a year just for animal feed.
But today's recipe is for feeding those who dine around the kitchen table. Steve Foster and his twin David are from a big Irish family of 10 children who grew up in the cornfields of rural Kinsman, Ill. in Grundy County, not far from Morris, Ill. near Joliet. In September 2013, the communities of Grundy County will celebrate the 65th Annual Corn Festival.
Steve, who has been a teacher for 20 years, has just been named to an assistant principal position for his Troy School District near Shorewood, Ill. He learned early on from his parents Norman and Anne Foster, who still live in the family's 100-year-old two-story farmhouse in Kinsman, how to make hearty meals that "stretch the dollar." His recipe for stuffed pasta shells is perfect summer menu fare, with enough for delicious leftovers or to share.
Steve's Easy Stuffed Pasta Shells
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
2 cups fat-free small curd cottage cheese
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 egg white
1 (.7 ounce) envelope dry Italian dressing mix
Black pepper to taste
Sprinkle of dry onion powder
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided use
20 jumbo macaroni shells for stuffing
1 (14 ounce) jar of any red spaghetti sauce of choice
DIRECTIONS: Cook pasta shells following instructions on box and drain and cool. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine the first 7 ingredients in medium bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Spoon filling into shells. Spread half the spaghetti sauce onto the bottom of a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish. Place stuffed shells in the dish, top with remaining sauce and cheese. Cover and bake 40 minutes or until heated through, uncovering after 30 minutes so the cheese on top gets golden during the remaining 10 minutes. Makes 6 servings.