AGRICULTURE AND VALENTINE’S DAY

Growing up around agriculture my entire life, getting recently engaged to a “farm boy,” and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I find it appropriate to talk about what I LOVE most about agriculture and how it actually relates to my Valentine’s Day plans.  My plans for this Valentine’s Day are probably similar to many others, and as I was thinking about my plans I quickly realized how everything is related back to agriculture, and that’s what I love most about it.  food, heart, bread, valentine

For Valentine’s Day, I will be buying my fiancé a box of his favorite chocolates, he will probably “surprise” me with flowers, and then we will go out for a nice romantic dinner where we will both enjoy our favorite restaurants dinner rolls, followed by a salad, and then onto the steak and potatoes, and then if we have room, we might splurge and get some dessert too. 

Did you realize it too?  From the chocolates to the dinner rolls to the steak and potatoes, all of my plans for the day can be traced back to agriculture. 

Valentine’s Day is a special day to some, but not just the things you do on Valentine’s Day can be related back to agriculture.  Everything you do everyday can be traced back to agriculture, and it’s really pretty interesting to think about. 

Everything you use in your life can be traced back to agriculture, and that fact is so often times over looked, but that’s what I love most about agriculture.  So, thank a farmer for not only being able to go out to dinner for Valentine’s Day with that special someone, but for being able to go out and live everyday! 

Kristen Wyman

Illinois State University student

TORTELLINI SOUP RECIPE

It’s almost the end of January, but we have one more soup recipe to share with you for National Soup Month.  Enjoy this one and if you have a great recipe for soup that you’d like to share, please comment below!

Today’s Fact:  Americans sip over 10 BILLION bowls of soup every single year!

Today’s Tip:  The best soups are made with a base of homemade stock and fresh ingredients. Obviously we all don’t have the time for this every day.  To save yourself some time but to maintain great flavor use canned or frozen broths or bouillon bases.

Today’s Recipe: Tortellini Soup 

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 whole onion, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 15 ounces, canned diced tomatoes (I like the italian seasoned variety)
  • 1 pound hot sausage
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 package tortellini (11 ounce)
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese

What You Do:

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion and saute about 5 minutes.

Add the oregano, broth, tomatoes and salt and pepper.

Bring soup to a boil and simmer.  While soup is simmering brown sausage and drain.

Add sausage to soup pot.  Bring back to a boil.

Add the tortellini and cook according to package directions.

One minute before tortellini is done, add the spinach and cream.

Remove pot from heat, season with additional salt and pepper.

Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

WHITE CHICKEN CHILI RECIPE

Brrrr … 70 percent of our nation  has seen snow this month!  I can’t think of a better time to celebrate National Soup Month with some warm and toasty, hearty soups.  Join us on Thursdays in January for more recipes! 

Today’s fact: Did you know that soup originated as the first “fast food”?  In ancient Greece, it was sold on the street using lentils, beans and peas as the chief ingredients. 

Today’s tip: For an easy treat when making stews, take a stack of tortillas and cut into long thin pieces.  Add to the stew during the last 15 minutes of cooking.  Corn tortillas are lower in fat that flour tortillas.

Today’s recipe: White Chicken Chili

soup chili chicken

This is a soup that works well both on the stovetop or in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.  A very hearty meal that will warm you up AND fill you up!     

Ingredients:

2 TBLS Vegetable Oil
6 6oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts – cut into bite size chunks
Salt and Pepper
1 medium yellow or white onion
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 TBLS ground coriander
2 TBLS ground cumin
1 cup of mild or hot tomatillo, green salsa
4 cups of chicken stock or broth
2 cans (15 oz) cannellini or Great Northern white beans
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of one lime
Shredded Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
White Rice (optional)
Chipotle Tabasco Sauce (optional)

Directions:

1. Heat medium soup pot over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil.
2. Add the chicken to the hot oil and season liberally with salt and pepper.
3. Cook 2 or 3 minutes, stirring frequently. 
4. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. 
5. Continue to stir. 
6. Add the tomatillo salsa, Tabasco sauce and the chicken stock. 
7. Bring the chili up to a simmer and add half of the beans. 
8. With a fork, thoroughly mash the other half and then add to the chili.  This will help thicken the chili. 
9. Add rice for added thickness if desired. 
10. Simmer the chili for 10 minutes, remove from heat and add the cilantro, parsley and lime juice. 

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

If you missed them:
Spicy Corn Chowder
Zuppa Toscana

ZUPPA TOSCANA RECIPE

For the month of January (National Soup Month), Thursdays are our days to feature yummy, hearty soup recipes!  Today you can plan to warm up with a bowl of Zuppa Toscana, almost exactly like the Olive Garden makes!

Today’s fact:  The most popular theory of where the word “soup” originated is that it stems from the word “sop”. People would pour broth over a slice of bread which would “sop” up the broth.

Today’s tip:  To make soups or stews thicker, try adding a tablespoon or more of instant potatoes or one-half cup rolled oats or wheat flakes.

Today’s recipeZuppa Toscana Soup

zuppa toscana, soup, potatoes, kale(This is a rip-off recipe from the Olive Garden’s delicious soup.) 

Ingredients:

1 lb Hot Italian Sausage, crumbled
4 strips bacon, crumbled
3 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
4 large potatoes, cubed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups kale, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage.  Drain and set aside.
2. In same skillet brown bacon.  Drain and set aside.
3. Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot.  Simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.
4. Add sausage and bacon to pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add kale and cream to pot, season with salt and pepper, heat through.
6. Add parmesan to individual servings.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

If you liked this recipe, check out my soup recipe from last week!
SPICY CORN CHOWDER RECIPE

SUZANNE SOMERS LATEST ROLE: ACTING AS AN EXPERT

I wouldn’t have been one single bit surprised to hear that Suzanne Somers was a plastic surgery expert.  But now, she’s acting as a nutritionist and an animal biologist and THAT surprises the heck out of me.

What exactly is she thinking?

Check out her interview on LIVE! with Regis & Kelly here (the interesting parts start just before 5 minutes in and get even better at 5:30 minutes) and then come on back so I can calm you down.

LIVE!, Somers, corn, grass-fed

Very obviously, she’s watched Food, Inc with their claims that cows get infections from eating corn.  Also just as obvious to me is that she has absolutely no biological education if she honestly thinks that eating corn causes e.coli in the gut.  I thought it was general knowledge that e.coli is spread in feces, but evidentally that’s one of those things that you learn by osmosis growing up on the farm.

Also, just as obviously, she doesn’t read our blog.  Why, just last week, I covered the fact that organic and conventionally produced foods have a lot of differences, but safety isn’t one of them!

The bottom line is, what will you do with this information?  All the housewives and stay at home moms in your town just got a dose of “corn is bad” this morning on their television sets.  Will you step out into your community with the facts?

Consider it a challenge.

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

SAGEBRUSH MEATBALLS

Please enjoy this new recipe from Beef on a Budget’s Anna-Lisa!

When Illinois Corn asked if I might like to contribute to their blog, I wanted to include corn in my recipe.  I thought about all of the ways that corn could be used and all the ways we use it most often.  I realized that there is one completely underused and underestimated corn product… corn flakes.  More than just a cereal they can be used in feed lot rations, desserts, potato casseroles, and most recently I discovered they are wonderful in meat balls! 

I thought why not grind them up and use them as bread crumbs in meat balls; they are the same consistency as bread crumbs right?  Well I tried it out and with a ranchy twist let me tell you they are the best meatballs I have ever fixed.  Give this non traditional use of corn a try and enjoy some delicious pasta too!

Sagebrush Meatballs

beef, pasta, corn
From the Ice Box:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 C Parmesan Cheese
3 Broccoli Crowns
From the Pantry:
2 C corn flakes
Equivalent of 1 Packet Ranch Seasoning
Spray Oil
Pasta
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
1 Can Tomato Sauce
 
Pour the corn flakes into a zip lock bag. Crush the corn flakes until they are as fine as bread crumbs.  An easy way to tell if they are fine enough is to pour them into a colander, if they can fit through those wholes keep crushing.
 
crush corn flakes

Combine the ground beef, milk, eggs, cheese, corn flake crumbs & ranch seasoning in a bowl.  Kneed until the mixture is blended.

beef, ranch, meatballs

Spray your baking stone with spray oil.  Roll the ground beef mixture into 1 inch balls.  Place on the cookie sheet and bake them at 350 for 30 minutes.

beef, meatballs

During this time boil the pasta water, and combine the chopped onion, garlic, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Let simmer the entire time the meatballs are baking.

 meatballs, beef, sauce, tomato

Once the pasta  water is boiling add a T olive oil.  This will keep the pasta from sticking together.  Next, break your favorite pasta into the boiling water.  Let me tell you a little secret about boiling pasta… it doesn’t take as long as you think and there is nothing worse than over cooked pasta. Boil just until it is tender then drain it.

I also served this with broccoli so I steamed the broccoli during this time as well.  If you have a broccoli steamer use that!  Other wise place the broccoli in a microwave safe bowl, add an inch of water, cover with saran wrap and put in the microwave for 6 minutes.

 broccoli, steamed

Once the meatballs are done, put them in a bowl and pour the tomato sauce over them.

meatballs, beef, budget

Let them sit for a few minutes and serve over pasta.

 meatballs, beef, budget meals

This meal is delicious, unique and a great way to use beef and corn together to make a wonderful meal.  I hope you enjoy!

beef, pasta, corn

Sagebrush Meatballs Cost

1 lb ground beef – $4.30
1/2 cup milk- $0.40
2 eggs- $0.30
1 C Parmesan Cheese- $0.30
2 C corn flakes – $0.40
Equivalent of 1 Packet Ranch Seasoning- $.100
Pasta- $1.00
1 Can Diced Tomatoes- $0.76
1 Can Tomato Sauce- $0.65
Broccoli- $1.20
Total Cost- $10.31 (Serves 5)
Cost Per Plate- $2.06

Anna-Lisa Giannini
Student

CELEBRATING CONVENTIONALLY PRODUCED BEEF

Tim Lenz and beef herd

The Illinois Corn Growers Association immediate past President, Tim Lenz, manages a beef herd in what we’d call a “conventional” way.  These cows eat grass and corn, among other things I’m sure, before they reach market weight and head off to become hamburger.

These cows do not produce organic beef – and its a good thing.  Organic products haven’t been fairing real well in terms of safety lately.  Read more about that in this LA Times article or in this article about the Jimmy John’s incident.

The point?  American’s need a little more realism in their purchasing life.  Conventional food and organic food might have their differences, but safety isn’t one of them.

If you enjoyed this Friday Farm Photo, you might also enjoy:

CELEBRATE MAPLE SYRUP DAY!
THANK A FARMER THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
ETHANOL PROVIDES ENERGY INDEPENDENCE

SPICY CORN CHOWDER RECIPE

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!

Don’t forget to check back here every Thursday this month for a soup fact, tip and a new recipe to add to your culinary repertoire!

Today’s fact: American’s sip over 10 billion bowls of soup every year.

Today’s tip: If you need to tone down a heavy garlic flavor when cooking, place a few parsley flakes in a tea bag to soak up all the excess garlic.

Today’s recipe: Spicy Corn Chowder

corn, soup

If you need to tame down this spicy soup some to suit your taste-buds, simply substitute regular sausage for the hot and leave out the green chilies.

Ingredients:

• 1 lb hot sausage
• Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 onion, diced
• 4 potatoes, diced
• 1 clove garlic, diced
• A few dashes of Chipotle Tabasco Sauce
• 4 cups fresh corn
• 1 can diced green chilies (optional)
• 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream
• salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Slice corn kernels off cob. Or, if you’re like me, open the freezer and pull out a bag of corn from the summer when you had way too much sweet corn on your hands and let thaw.
2. Brown sausage over medium heat and drain off grease.
3. In a large pot, over medium heat, drizzle a few tablespoons of EVOO. Throw in diced onion, garlic and potatoes.
4. Add butter and melt. Add chilies and corn.  Pour in chicken broth and cream. Add salt, pepper and sausage. Bring to a boil and reduce heat.
5. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve.

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

FARMERS ARE FEEDING A HUNGRY WORLD BY DOING MORE WITH LESS

Farmers have to be part agronimist, conservationist, meterologist, economist …

and all optimist!

Find out more about Illinois farmer’s best management practices at www.ilcorn.org.

If you liked this post, check out:
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION RECOMMENDS LESS STRINGENT…
ETHANOL EFFICIENCIES FUEL A GREEN REVOLUTION
ENTERTAINING AND INFORMATIVE: IS THIS THE WAY TO GO?