January is National Soup Month! Makes sense; there couldn’t be a better time to come in out of the cold and warm up with a tantalizing bowl of comfort food!

We will be celebrating soup month all week long, so check back here every day for a new recipe, soup fact, and tip to add to your culinary repertoire!

Today’s fact: The earliest evidence of making soup was in 6000 BC…And guess what kind of soup it was? Hippopotamus!

Today’s tip: Want to remove excess fat from your soup? Simply take a lettuce leaf and draw it across the surface of the soup. The excess fat sticks to the leaf. You can also skim the excess fat off with a large spoon.

Today’s recipe: Taco Chili

Taco chili


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jar salsa (homemade or store bought)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups sweet corn
  • 1 bag instant rice


  • Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Green onions, chopped
  • Sour cream
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Fritos

In a skillet cook ground beef until brown.  Add onions, taco seasoning mix and water to beef.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

In a large pot, add chicken broth, beef mixture and salsa.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add corn and continue to simmer on low.

10 minutes before serving, add instant rice.  NOT THE BAG.  Empty the bag into the pot.

Serve and garnish each bowl individually to liking.

Becky FinfrockBecky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant


Betsie interviewed Holly Spanger to find out because she was dying to know … what do farmers do when the wind chill is -45 and the cattle are still out in the pasture, needing care?

With a good chunk of the Midwest experiencing a cold snap unlike anything most of us have ever felt in our lifetime, I’m seeing reminders all over the place that in some lines of work, folks don’t get the day off because it’s chilly. Farming is certainly no exception! I chatted with Illinois farmer Holly Spangler yesterday to find out how her family is dealing with the severe weather.

I asked Holly what they did to get ready for the freezing temperatures:

“We were fortunate in that we knew this cold blast was coming, which means we could prepare. For the cows, we can put out large wagons filled with chopped feed (chopped grass, called ryelage) with several days’ worth of feed. We feed them a little more when it’s this cold so they have more energy, plus it minimizes the feeding we have to do on the cold days. That frees us up to deal with other problems, like frozen waterers or sick cows or whatever else may come up.”

Holly went on to tell me about the various tasks they performed to try to avoid potential problems that might occur with the frigid cold. Before the storm hit, her husband John double checked all of their automatic cattle waterers (their farm has five different wells with pumps that supply water), putting in light bulbs to keep them from freezing and checking that the electric heaters in each waterer were operating.

Prior to a big storm like this, the Spanglers try to make sure every animal has some kind of shelter from the cold – whether it’s the barn or a windbreak if the cattle are out on pasture. They also have to prep their equipment. According to Holly, diesel fuel will quickly gel up in freezing temperatures, so they make sure to park the equipment they’ll be needing– including something they can use to move snow out of the way – in their heated shop, or plug the machinery in to keep it warm enough that it will start in the morning.

Despite all the precautions farmers take, things don’t always go smoothly. When you’re outdoors dealing with the elements you’re bound to have a few curveballs thrown at you. Holly told me about a few curveballs her husband dealt with yesterday:

“When John went to check on one group of cows and their waterers, he discovered that the cover on the well pit – a 6×6 pit that’s about 8 feet deep and houses the water pump – had blown off in the crazy wind last night. Which meant the pump was frozen and in turn, the waterer (where the cattle actually drink) had frozen. He had to get an electric heater and put it in the well pit, then poured six gallons of hot water into the waterer and covered it with a couple blankets. In the course of doing all this, he’d parked the tractor they’d used to plow snow (in order to get to the cows) and feed, and left it running. At -13 degrees and with bitter cold wind, the tractor had begun to freeze up in a matter of minutes – even while it was idling.”

I know I personally didn’t even leave my house yesterday, so I can’t imagine what it was like to be working outside dealing with the unexpected in those temperatures! Unfortunately not leaving the house really isn’t an option for John or any other farmer, no matter how cold it gets. I asked Holly what would happen if they decided to take a day off from caring for their animals. She said that, like people, the cattle would survive if they went a day without food – they’d be unhappy about it, but they’d make it:

“The average human could go a day or so without eating; they’ll be cranky but they’ll make it. The average child or pregnant woman: they require more care, and going without food or water is a more critical situation. Livestock are similar. If we didn’t feed one day, they’d be mooing but they’d make it. Calves or cows about to calve would need more care. However, we just don’t ever take a day off, especially in weather like this. The cattle need monitoring and water and feed, and eating a little extra gives them more energy to deal with extreme cold temperatures.”

Holly’s family is thankful that their animals aren’t calving right now – in the dairy industry, calves are born year-round, so there are dairy farmers having to deal with newborn calves this week. Holly elaborated on the issue of calving in temperatures like what we’ve been experiencing:

“Having to get a new, wet baby calf warm and dry in these temps would be perilous. And really, really, work intensive. It’s not uncommon to bring a baby calf into the house or basement or garage to warm him up – we’ve done it before!

This comment really made me think about farmers – and their families – and exactly how dedicated to their jobs they have to be. If I really don’t feel like going to work one day, it’s not the end of the world – I can call in. Farmers can’t, ever, no matter if it’s 80 degrees out or below zero. And sometimes their work literally comes home with them, in the form of a baby calf warming up in their basement. So today, as I write this from my toasty house looking out the window at the frozen landscape outside, I’m thinking of all the farmers out braving the elements today, thankful for their never-ending commitment to the land and the animals in their care.

And many thanks to Holly Spangler (and John!) for taking the time out of what I’m sure was not the most relaxing day of the year to answer my questions.  🙂


Momma Mina gives Illinois farmers a pat on the back with her blog post, 365 Day Farming.  Just because it’s cold out there, doesn’t mean farmers get a day off!

Well “Hello” 2014!

Now a few days ago we welcomed the fresh snow blanketing our little city with hats, gloves, boots and holiday cheer. Let it Snow…Let it Snow…Let it Snow!

It gave us the perfect excuse to bundle up and head out for some seriously fun family time!

Heading out for some Family Fun!

We frolicked and played…

Sledding with Papa Nevels!

…and when our fun turned into pure discomfort…we headed back in the house…

Jada's no longer impressed with the family fun shenanigans!

…but now that the weather has taken a drastic turn, our family time is staying behind closed doors!

Today in Chicago we’re experiencing record lows of -15 with incredible wind chills of up to 35 miles per hour, the equivalent of what might feel like -45 degrees! According to Gary Schenkel, Executive Director of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications, “Everyday activities may not be feasible. If you can stay indoors, please do so.”

And it seems as though folks are taking heed. Schools, museums and other government institutions have closed their doors today because “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” Planes have been grounded and even Interstates closed due to frigid, icy conditions. You can’t even rent a Divvy Bike today to cruise down the slushy Chicago streets (because there’s always somebody taking a chance)!

But despite the freezing temps, there are some folks that don’t have the luxury of closing their doors on a day like today….FARMERS!


For Farmers it’s still business as usual. The cows still need to be milked, the hogs still need to be fed and there’s a whole host of responsibilities that can’t just wait until tomorrow when the weather is more agreeable. In fact, local Illinois Farmer Holly Spangler shared that her Husband, John, left out the house to start his morning chores and returned shortly thereafter “for more of everything. More gloves, a second hat, another face mask. Another jug of hot water.” She went on to say that “-14 is actually painfully cold.”

…And I believe you, Holly…and there’s no need for me to confirm it!

So the next time you bow your head to pray and bless the hands that prepared your pot pie, remember Farmer John Spangler who braved this dangerous and blustery cold day to get the ingredients for your pot pie from farm- to- table!

Auntie Sharon's Delectable Pot Pie!

What are you doing on this insanely cold day?