Snow

My farmer and I have this fun game we like to play where I tell him that living in Missouri is basically the same as living in Mississippi and then he tells me that living in Iowa is the same as living in the tundra, and then we both laugh like we really didn't mean it but we actually do. 

I'm pretty sure I'm right on this one. Case in point: They have sweet tea in this state. That means it's the deep South. 

Common knowledge.



What Missouri doesn't seem to have much of is good old-fashioned snowstorms.  The first winter I lived in St. Louis it snowed several inches. I headed out to church on Sunday morning only to find there was legit no one else on the road, which made me wonder if I was the crazy one or if it was just that everyone else was. 

Don't answer that. 


Growing up in Iowa meant learning to play and work and drive and live in and with a lot of snow. Snow days were the best -- although somewhat rare because snowplow drivers in Iowa don't mess around -- and I distinctly remember one day where the school bus stopped to pick me up, headed to the next house, and then got the call that school was cancelled, turned right around and dropped me back off again. 

It was like Christmas! Except that it was probably, you know, like October or maybe May.



There was also the Halloween blizzard of 1991 (now I sound like an old timer) where trick-or-treating was basically cancelled because feet, not inches, of snow were piling up. (Those of us hardcore enough to go out were rewarded handsomely because we were the few, the proud, the . . . ok, too far.)

But still, some candy AND snow days? Do you see now why Iowa is a child's paradise?


Then there's the infamous story of my sister who, in a rush to get to the bus, lost one of her snow boots in a snow drift on our lane, but didn't want to take the time to go back for it, and ran ahead to the bus anyway in one sock and one boot. I've never asked if she found the other boot. Maybe when the snow finally melted and the ice eventually thawed . . . so basically mid-July. 

My sisters and I spent our childhood winters playing in massive piles of snow, pushed up in mounds by our dad's tractor; sledding down those mountains after diving into a precariously perched sled and shooting out across the driveway; tromping through our grove where the snow was covered in rabbit and raccoon and deer tracks. 



I'm hopeful my kids can have the same experience here in Missouri at least once every ten years, even if the one-year-old is currently at a stage where he can barely move when bundled up and basically just wants to sit in the snow and cry. It'll come. 

Or we'll just have to visit Iowa in the winter more. 

Either way. 




All I Want for Christmas Is . . . Dairy

Anyone else meal planning for the week of Christmas in a semi-frantic state because you just realized that it's Thursday and Christmas is Wednesday and WHAT ARE WE FEEDING ALL THE PEOPLE?

My family always ate chili and oyster stew on Christmas Eve. 

And by "my family," I mean that my mom made oyster stew and my grandparents ate it and thankfully no one asked me to take a bite because there FOR SURE would have been coal in my stocking when I gagged it right back up. 

Oyster stew. Pffff.

Thankfully, Lauren Lane did not serve oyster stew when we gathered at her home a few nights ago. I mean, she probably could have made it and it probably would have even tasted good but let's not take chances, people. I can live dangerously but not like that.  

 

Instead, she set a beautiful table, kept our wine and water glasses filled, and welcomed us into her home and kitchen with kindness and grace. 

She stirred, and we ate. She plated things, and we dug right in. She cooked, and we felt cared for.


We were quite the crew -- from food bloggers and chefs to dietitians and TV show hosts (and me . . . the farmer . . . except for the part where I just keep the real farmer fed, caffeinated and never lacking for clean work jeans) -- and Lauren kept us all fed, laughing, and oohing and ahhing over her menu, which featured dairy in every course.

 
Yes. You read that correctly. 

Every. 

Course. 

From a gorgonzola souffle . . . 

 

to ricotta gnocchi with tomato butter sauce and milk-braised pork with herbs . . . 


to a vanilla bean panna cotta with berries, which, to be fair, I would have eaten for every course.


Speaking of meal plans, I've added that panna cotta to our Christmas Day dessert menu because I'm not Scrooge and you won't catch me withholding that deliciousness from anybody.

 

It was such a treat to meet people who not only eat dairy, but who create recipes that include it, cook with it, encourage others to benefit from its nutritional value, and love it as much as we do.

Look at all that joy right there. It's all from dairy!

Ok, it's really from Lauren's cooking but it included dairy so it's basically the same.

(Good job, cows!)

Frantically meal planning? Take a breath. Our cows have you covered. Step away from the oven. Put down the baking mitts. Lauren's taken care of you for at least one meal with a post on how to host a wine and cheese party perfect for any night of the upcoming 12 days of Christmas.

And while you're pouring that glass of wine and slicing up some delicious cheese, know how grateful we are that you love to drink milk, lick the bottom of your ice cream bowl, and spoon granola over your yogurt.

You're the best.

(Well, actually Lauren's panna cotta is the best, but you're a really close second.)


 
Merry Christmas! 

My Spirit Season: Christmas

 

I love Christmas. 

Christmas is my spirit season.

Is that a thing? If we have spirit animals, can we have spirit holidays too?

(Sorry, Tax Day. You're nobody's spirit ANYTHING.)

I love the trees and the food and the decorations and the music and the snow (as long as it's only an inch in accumulation and melts the next day, but other than that, I'm not at all particular).

I love traditions and memories and family and taking all morning to open presents and giant Cracker Barrel-esque brunches and trash bags of wrapping paper and the clinking of wine bottles against glasses and how it used to take us roughly 11 weeks to handwash all of the Spode Christmas dishes after every meal (I'm looking at you, MOM!!)

(JK I love you)

(PS Can I have all that Spode when you don't want it anymore?)

(K Thanks)

(Sorry, sisters. You snooze you lose.).

I love it all.

(Side note: I hope that you all know this by now, but of course the thing I love most about Christmas is the remembrance and celebration of our Lord's birth.)

But, guys, it's December 5, and we don't have a tree.

I'm not saying that -- as Alicia Hutchinson called it -- "mama's lost her merry." I'm just learning that Advent teaches us to pace ourselves in all sorts of (immensely) humbling ways.



In reality, I'd love to have all sorts of people over for supper during the holidays. I'd like to make antipasto platters and cheeseballs in the shape in pinecones. But instead, I'm making a handful of freezer meals for friends who have their own stuff they're dealing with in life right now and dropping it off on their doorstep with reheating directions and the hope they enjoy just one night off from cooking.

I'd like to have my tree planted firmly in front of the window with the perfect tree topper situated just right and white lights glimmering in the snowy darkness outside. But instead, I'm trying to teach my one-year-old that he can't muscle the Christmas village around the house in his giant man hands.

I'd like to host a wrapping party and a soup swap and a cookie exchange. But instead, I'm taking my presents to my mom's house for her to help me wrap them, and making my own dang chili, and forgoing cookies this year because my husband introduced me to the deliciousness that is a pomegranate five years ago and those have just seemed so much more festive and exotic instead.

I'd like to go wander through the Christmas aisles at Target with my sisters, sucking down a mango smoothie from Panera and laughing so hard people start to look at us like we're weird. But instead, I Marco Polo them and they give me tours of their houses all decked out with beautiful decorations and then we all laugh and pretend we don't live on different continents. (Well, technically we don't but it basically feels that way if you want to get nosey about it.)

I'd like to pack the kids in the van and make them eat cheese sandwiches and carrot sticks like we had to do when we were kids while on our way to go Christmas shopping or caroling or to see the Christmas lights. But as it turns out, they're asleep by 7, so I turn on my own twinkly lights and eat a slice of American and call it a day.

Mama's not losing her merry this Advent. Mama's not even turning into Krampus.

I'm just being realistic about what's possible when little people are, well, little, and I don't think that's so bad.

Then again, compared to hearing Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is YoUUuuUUUUuuUU" for the 37th time today, nothing is bad. Nothing at all.

So here's to enjoying the holiday season -- its smells and tastes and sounds or complete lack thereof -- Spode dishes, soup swaps, cheese sandwiches and all!

How are you keeping it real this Advent and Christmas?







Fall


I call this one, "Dear Winter, Please Stay Away and Leave Us Alone. We Prefer Sun and Warmth and Fall Leaves, and In That Regard, You're Basically Nothing But a Killjoy," (2018).

Paperless Post: Keeping Card Writers and Card Receivers Happy Since Forever

 

I am all about the hand-written thank you card . . . mostly because my mom would give my sisters and me the kind of stink eye only moms can give if we didn't write them. 

Birthdays. Christmas. Confirmation. Sometimes for no reason at all other than to say, "Thanks for being just plain great."

But I also know some people don't NEED to receive thank yous. Mom may demand you write them, but others are content getting a phone call or a text of acknowledgement -- no thank you required. 

The happy medium in all this is Paperless Post. Mail sending addicts still get to indulge in card writing, and the people who would rather not have to throw paper in their trash . . . don't have to throw paper in their trash. 

From holiday cards to thank you notes, invitations to save the dates, housewarmings to cocktail parties, Paperless Post has a card for prettttty much any occasion. And their designs are adorable!

You can upload your own picture or choose one of their well-crafted images. Plain or busy, simple or glamorous -- you name it, they've got it. Use their template or create one of your own. Pick from unique fonts, choose an envelope color, sort through postal markings, and even add a reply card. 

It's legit like getting a beautiful, cherished, hand-written card or invitation -- envelope, stamp and all -- that's delivered Paperless Post style to your inbox instead of your  mailbox!

Mom, don't you worry. Handwritten notes and invitations aren't going anywhere. They've just -- somehow -- gotten a whole lot cuter, a whole lot faster, and a whole lot more colorful and fun (and more affordable too!). 

So now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to send you one. 






*Although this post was written at the invitation of Paperless Post, all opinions are my own. 


 

National Farmers' Day: To My Favorite Farmers

I don't know what most people envision when they imagine farmers today, but if it involves bib overalls and American Gothic, they maaaaaaay be a little offbase. 

 

The two guys on the right -- they're farmers. Pigs and cows, seasoned and younger, Redwing boots and cowboy boots. 

And neither of them chews on straw or wears bibs.

 

Today is National Farmers' Day. And while I'm blessed to be the daughter of a farmer and married to a farmer, not everyone else gets to see farming up close and personal like I do.


But today, even though this life -- your life -- is mine too, I simply want to tell my favorite farmers thank you . . .


for getting up early and staying up late,


for studying the way the land lays and the water flows,


for taking care of animals, their health, their well being,


for loving the outdoors, the smell of the soil, the way the air feels before it rains,


for the freedom farming allows and the pride that comes with being your own boss,

 

for the steadiness that comes with tilling up and planting and harvesting the same ground your families did for generations before you,


for the humor that's needed when things break at the worst possible time and the way that you always find an answer and a solution because there's no one else there to discover one for you,

 

 for being able to operate machinery and help cows calve and listen to employees,



for knowing how much risk is the right amount of risk to take and reminding yourself that if farming was easy, everyone would be doing it,


for knowing where you've been but never giving up on the dream of where you might go,


for being food producers in a country that has one of the safest food systems out there, for knowing that your farm will feed thousands of people you've never even met,

for being you.


To all the farmers -- and especially to my two favorites -- thank you.








Iowa Corn Chowder

as featured on Cheeserank's 50 Best Cheese Recipes from the 50 Best United States
 
Because the weather can't decide if it wants to be fall or summer or neither or both, I'm officially calling it: It's fall, and we are eating soup, darn it. 

Even if it WAS 93 degrees only a couple days go. 

EVEN. IF.  
 

Enter Iowa Corn Chowder. 

I am a pig farmer's daughter. I'm married to a dairy farmer. So if we're all going peacefully to co-exist here, it's clear we need both bacon AND cheese in this recipe. 


Maybe every recipe. Can you name me one dish that wouldn't be better with either one of those? 

Exactly. 

Me neither. 


Is it 90 degrees at your house? Or 30 maybe? Raining? Sunny? Are you sweating? Freezing?

It doesn't matter because -- say it with me -- BACON AND CHEESE. 


Break out the corn muffins, slather on some butter, serve yourself up a heaping bowl of chowder, and revel in all that bacony and cheesy goodness. 

Take your time. 

Shed a little tear. 

We know it's a beautiful sight.




Iowa Corn Chowder


3 cups H20
2 cups cubed potatoes (skin on)
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cans creamed corn (Remind me to tell you about the time I learned that creamed corn came in cans. Pretty sure I was about 25 years old.)

Combine the first seven ingredients in a large pot. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are tender.

Let that concoction simmer while you melt 1/4 cup butter over medium heat and stir in 1/4 cup flour. Slowly add the milk and stir until it thickens up. 

Then add 2 cups of cheese and stir until it's nice and melty.

Then, when you're good and ready, add two cans of creamed corn and stir until it's heated through. 
 
Frankly, I could just eat this mixture right here, but that's not how the recipe goes. 
Sadly.

Add the mixture to the vegetables and stir until the chowder is warmed through. 

Sprinkle with bacon bits. (The hog farmers among us thank you.)


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