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: In the French Court of Louis XI, the ladies’ meals were mostly soup. They were afraid that chewing would give them wrinkles.

Today’s tip: Soup freezes brilliantly. To make life simpler, make a note of how many portions you’re putting away. Also label all packaging with the date and precisely what
it is.

Today’s recipe: Crockpot Corn Chowder



  • 2 cans (16 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
  • 3 medium potatoes, chopped to bite-sized pieces
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced ham or bacon
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ cup butter/margarine

Combine corn, potatoes, onion, meat, and chicken broth in CrockPot.

Cook on low for about 8 hours.

Stir in milk and butter and continue to cook about 1 more hour.

mitchell_lindsayLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director


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

rfs lowers costs at the pump

The EPA has issued a proposed rule that would lower the amount of ethanol fuel retailers must sell in 2014.  This is a detriment to consumers who want lower priced fuel and better air quality for their environment.

Would you like to tell the EPA to back off?  Click here!


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?

Checkout her blog post!  And learn more about Illinois farmers and how they raise your food with care at!


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?

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Check out this fellow blogger’s article about the new regulations for family farmers … It’s a great read!


Obama’s regulation nation now includes the family farm.

The family farm has typically been defined as one “with ten or fewer employees.”  The Wall Street Journal notes that OSHA has been prohibited from setting foot on farms with less than ten people…until now.  This administration’s modus operandi has been to make up the rules as they go: Obamacare is one example of that.  Now this also applies to the family farm:

But OSHA officials have found a novel way to circumvent this statutory restraint. The regulators have simply claimed the authority to rewrite the definition of farming. A remarkable 2011 memo from OSHA’s enforcement chief to regional administrators at first acknowledges that the law prevents the agency from regulating small farms engaged in growing and harvesting crops and any “related activities.” But then the memo proceeds to instruct employees on how to re-categorize small farms as commercial grain handlers. So OSHA inspectors have recently begun to descend on family farms, claiming the authority to regulate their grain storage bins.

This has inspired the normally mild-mannered Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) to take to the Senate floor recently to condemn OSHA’s “absolutely incredible” and “absurd” position, which he called “a blatant overreach in violation of the law.”

Mr. Johanns grew up on a farm and pointed out that “every farm has grain storage.” That’s because it’s not practical and at times nearly impossible to sell all of a crop the moment it is harvested. Without grain storage, farmers would be forced to immediately unload everything they grow and therefore have to accept lower prices.

Senator Johanns cited as an example a farm with just one employee that was fined $130,000 by OSHA for, among other things, failing to have a plan to address dust.  The senator spoke about this case recently on the Senate floor:

During a speech on the Senate floor this week, the Nebraska Republican said the agency has levied $132,000 in fines against a small Nebraska farm despite a prohibition against doing so with farming operations that have 10 or fewer employees.

Johanns said OSHA inspectors said the farm willfully violated OSHA regulations associated with atmospheric tests in a grain bin, failure to wear OSHA-approved gear when entering a grain bin and other issues.

Senator Johanns thinks OSHA “is using the fines as a testing ground for future regulation of family farm operations and their grain systems.”

Clearly there is little that this administration doesn’t desire to regulate and if it can’t be done under current policy then policy just must be rewritten.

Regulation nation.


You might also enjoy a video from the Wall Street Journal on the same topic.  Is it ok for the President and his staff to rewrite rules at their own discretion?  Discuss.