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Comfort Food: Because Sometimes Bad Things Happen to Good People (Crock PotTurkey and Potato Cheese Soup Recipe)

My friend Ashley got some devastating news the week before Christmas.  Her 29 year old husband, Ryan, was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Today, I’m joining up with other bloggers to help her out.  Ashely, who blogs at CenterCutCook, and I have known each other since college, and she is a great friend.

Ashley is self-employed – and you know what that means.  No paid vacations, no sick leave, no flex-spending account.  (Sounds like a farmer, doesn’t it?) We have set up a GiveForward campaign to help her and Ryan with medical expenses and loss of income while Ryan fights his battle against cancer.

She lives a few hours from me, so I can’t be there to help her in real life, but I can help her out in this way.

In Ashley’s honor, I’m attempting to be a food blogger today, and sharing a slow-cooker recipe that will warm your body and your soul.  I used a recipe from the Iowa Turkey Federation’s cookbook and it was amazing.


Slow Cooker Turkey and Potato Cheese Soup
4 cups frozen potatoes, thawed OR peeled potatoes (julienne, sliced or cubed)
4 (14 1/2 ounce) cans chicken broth
2 teaspoons instant minced onion
1 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons margarine OR butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon parsley flakes

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cubed and softened
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups diced or shredded cooked turkey (breast or drumstick)

1.  Wash hands.
2.  In a 5-quart or larger slow cooker combine the first 10 ingredients.  (I left out the celery and red pepper because I didn’t have any.)  Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.
3.  Combine flour and water until smooth.  Stir into soup.
4.  Stir in cream cheese and cheddar cheese until blended.
5.  Add turkey.  (Use a turkey drumstick or breast previously cooked, or Thanksgiving leftovers.)
6.  Cover and cook on high for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Makes 12 servings

For more AMAZING recipes, be sure to check out Ashley’s website, Center Cut Cook.  Ashley’s recipes include everything from her famous Chocolate Lasagna and Edible Egg-less Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough to Bang Bang Shrimp and Bacon Parmesan Garlic Burgers.

And these other bloggers are sharing Comfort Food recipes in Ashley's honor, as well!

Kick Ass Chicken Lasagna - Sugar Dish Me
Meals to Deliver to Family and Friends - Barefeet in the Kitchen
Comfort Food Because Sometimes Bad Things Happen - On the Banks of Squaw Creek
Center Cut Cook - The Midnight Baker
Best Meals to Deliver to Friends - Slow Roasted Italian
Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole {Gluten Free} - My Gluten Free Kitchen

In my own (Christmas) corner…


I never participate in any blogger Christmas Tour of Homes because I can never seem to get my whole house clean and decorated in time.


But I did want to share this little corner with you.


This is my favorite corner of the house. 


I love my turquoise chairs.


I love the bulbs I planted a few weeks ago (paperwhites and amaryllis.)


I love this barstool end table.


And I love the view out the front porch.


I’m going to take a break from the blog over the holidays, and spend some time enjoying my family and relaxing in this corner.



(But before I go, I have to announce the winner of “An Intimate Christmas Eve with Jamie Kelley.”  Jeni, from An Herbalist Eats, is the lucky winner!  Congrats, Jeni!”)

I pray that your holidays will be relaxing and filled with the love of family as well.  Merry Christmas!

GIVEAWAY! (because I was a back-up dancer for Elvis)

True story.  And I’m sorry I haven’t shared it on my blog before.

Me, Becky, Jamie's Dad Larry, Lane, Amy all dressed up for Little Egypt.

In 1999, (or was it 2000?) I started my career as a backup dancer for an Elvis performer.

Amy, Lane, me, Becky and our bodyguard at the Minnesota State Fair (seriously!)

Jamie Aaron Kelley began performing Elvis at the age of 3 and was phenomenally successful.  During his late teens and early 20s, my cousin Lane, sister Becky, and friend Amy travelled the country with Jamie, his parents, and our parents, performing in places like Tupelo, MS, where Elvis was born and Memphis during Elvis Week.

In the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis for my first show: Amy, me, Becky, Lane

Our last performance as a group was in 2004, but we still get together from time to time.

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Me, Lane, Jamie & Ronda, Amy, Becky
Jamie doesn’t do Elvis anymore.  Instead, he’s writing and recording his own stuff, in the style of Elvis, Johnny Cash and Michael Buble.  His original songs are FANTASTIC, as is his voice. 

He did a Christmas show in his hometown on Saturday and I took Adam with to the concert.  He loved it and so did I.  It brought back so many good memories.  I haven’t stopped singing “On this Christmas Eve” and I’ve caught Adam (5) singing “That’s Why they Call him Santa Claus” more than once.

Autographs after the show!

And as a big ol’ THANK YOU to all my readers, I’m giving away Jamie’s Christmas CD!  It is a mix of traditional Christmas hymns, Jamie’s version of some holiday favorites, and several originals written by Jamie and his wife, Ronda.  It is a great addition to your holiday music collection, and would make a great gift, too! Check out the video below for a sample!

I am so thrilled to be able to do this giveaway.  Jamie and his family have been such a huge part of my lives, and I’m so excited to share his music with all of you, too!

Now, the important details…

follow to win

You can enter this contest in TWO ways.  If you do both, you get two entries!

1.  Subscribe via email and leave a comment below telling me so.
2.  Subscribe in an RSS reader and leave a comment below telling me so.

*Only comments left on the blog will be counted as entries.  Facebook comments will not count.

You have TWO DAYS to do this!  The contest ends Wed night (11:59 PM CST.)

I will announce the winner here on Thursday morning and the winner will have 24 hours to email me their address.  The CD will be shipped immediately after winner contacts me.

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

Behind the Scenes (of this photo)

I like this photo of my living room.  In fact, I like to pretend my living room looks like this all the time, but it doesn’t.
I took this picture last February, and as I was sorting pictures for our family album, I realized that I also took some “Behind the Scenes” pictures to go with it.

Scene #1:  I turned around, and snapped this quick picture.
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Scene #2:  This couch was a hand-me-down.  It’s been through 2 families with 2 boys each.  That’s 4 boys.  The arms are literally falling off because of all the little boy climbing that has occurred.
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Scene #3: This pillow is not a hand-me-down.  It wasn’t even that old.  But my boys destroyed it.
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Scene #4:  This pillow case is actually a real pillow case.  I just folded it in upon itself so it would fit my throw pillow.
IMG_4146-1014(rev 0)
And by the way, less than a year later, that ottoman only has 8 of it’s original 24 buttons.

Happy Monday!

5 From the Archives: Christmas Edition!

So far today, I have directed practice for the Sunday School Christmas program, survived 90 minutes in Target with both kids over the lunch hour, and am now getting ready to bake microwave a bunch of Christmas goodies!  Wish me luck, and while I’m slaving away over the microwave, check out these Christmas posts from my archives.


1.   Survivial Guide for Christmas with Kids

Christmas with Kids

2.  Easiest Sugar Cookies Ever



3.  Easy Scripture Advent Calendar


4. Microwaving and Metaphors


5.  Party Animals: 5 Tips for Surviving a Party with Youngsters


In Defense of Easy Cheese (and other deep thoughts about imperfect parents)


I’m not a perfect mom, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never met one before.  But still, we continue to judge each other online, saying things that I’m sure we would never say to each other face to face.

Recently, I was made fun of on Twitter because I mentioned I let my kid eat Easy Cheese.

My son is a picky eater and doesn’t like most meats.  Easy Cheese has 4 grams of protein per serving, almost 1/4 of his daily protein needs.  Adam is in the 10th percentile for weight, so the calories and fat content are not really an issue for him right now.  The top ingredients in Easy Cheese are whey, cheddar cheese, canola oil, milk protein concentrate, milk, whey protein concentrate.

Speaking of meat, Adam tried Little Smokies and LIKED them!  This was a huge victory for us.  It brought his “acceptable” meat total up to 5: bacon, turkey pepperoni, shrimp, chicken nuggets and Little Smokies.

I was over the moon excited.  I posted this photo with the caption "Little smokies, big success! He likes 5 kinds of meat now: bacon, smokies, chicken nuggets, shrimp and French fries. Oops. Guess that's only 4."  

One of the first comments was this:
chicken nuggets......not exactly "meat"  i would say the same for smokies. i cant even look at them because i remember eating them once at school for lunch, i took a bite and got gristle and bone. relationship: over.

Again, I was judged for the foods I feed my children. 

I’m sure neither of my critics would claim to be perfect parents.  Maybe those moms don’t feed their kids Easy Cheese and almost-meats.  Maybe they let them play violent video games or watch too much TV instead.  Maybe they swear in front of their kids.  Maybe they are too permissive, or too strict, or too distracted.  I’m sure there’s something they haven’t done perfectly in their time as a parent.

But here’s the deal:

It’s OKAY to give your kids Easy Cheese occasionally.  
It’s okay to let your kids spend all day in front of the tv some days, every once in awhile. 
It’s okay to skip bedtime books from time-to-time.
It’s okay to be an imperfect parent in this imperfect world…

So quit pointing out other parents’ flaws online.  Quit assuming that you know the whole story.  Quit pretending that someone else’s parenting failures are worse than your own.

Just quit the judging.

Elsewhere on the Interwebs

If you only hang out with me here on my blog, you’re missing a lot.  I’m way cooler on Instagram and Facebook (and sometimes, even Twitter!)  So here’s a little summary of what I’ve been up to for the past week…

News and Notes


The last couple of weeks have been BUSY for me!

food dialogues iowa

On Nov. 19th, I was a panelist at Food Dialogues in Ames, IA.  “The panel discussion, “A Frank Discussion about Food” explored the varying opinions of farmers, ranchers and industry leaders to help answer questions consumers have about GMOs, local and organic foods, and everything in between. The discussion was moderated by award winning journalist John Bachman.”

If you follow Squaw Creek on facebook, you know that I was really nervous for this event.  I’m not afraid of public speaking, but I usually have a presentation I’m working from.  Food Dialogues was live and we took questions from the audience.  I didn’t really know what to expect.

So I focused on being “real” and talking about my farm.  I think it worked.  When I challenged one of the panelists’ definition of family farms, the audience burst into applause.  I never expected that, but I’m happy that my response had such an impact.


That portion of the event is available as an audio clip here.  The entire 90 minute discussion can be found here. 

Our farm was also featured on a couple of my favorite blogs.  Katie Pinke, from Pinke Post, wrote about me as part of her “30 Days of Women in Ag” series.  Click over to see my answers to her questions, like “When was the last time you tried something for the first time?” and “What children’s book describes your childhood/life?”


We were also featured on The Field Position.  Shannon did a great job rounding up some of my favorite blog posts for the holidays, and she included a turkey recipe, too.  Head on over and check it out!


Sara, another CommonGround volunteer, wrote a very nice blog post about our farm, as well.  She was thanking turkey farmers, but I’d like to thank her family as well- they raise beef cattle!Sara's House HD

Finally, I’m working with a great group of bloggers on a new facebook page.  Straight from the Corn State: Iowa Bloggers is a group of “Rural Women with a Passion for Everything Iowa.” Give us a “like,” please!

Corn State Bloggers - Page 006

This way, he’ll know we have a Bible: Advent Calendar

A couple of months ago, Adam asked, in his sweet, inquisitive, “I-want-to-understand-everything” way, if we had a Bible.

“We don’t have a Bible, do we?”

Uh, yes, son.  We do.  And how many times have you announced that in Sunday School?

I can see why he might be confused.  Instead of reading the actual book, I read The Bible on my phone.  I have the YouVersion app and I use it everywhere. Bible study, Sunday School, and even during church occasionally.

I think it’s pretty amazing, to be able to carry a Bible around everywhere with me like that, but I never thought about how it would seem to my son.

With that in mind, I came up with a simple Advent calendar idea for this year.  I saw a list of Bible Verses to read as a countdown to Christmas on Pinterest, and decided to make a simple paper chain with Adam.


Adam numbered the strips for me.  We worked on the ottoman because the dining room table looks like this.  Does anyone else’s house look like Santa’s workshop exploded while in the midst of Christmas decorating?

IMG_6994-3527(rev 0)

Anyway, I wrote the verses on the strips, and we taped them together in paper chain fashion.


And then hung the chain across the doorway.  Every night, we’ll tear off one strip (in order), look up the passage, read and discuss.

IMG_7001IMG_7006-3539(rev 0)

Keeping Christ in Christmas.  And showing my kid that we DO have a Bible, and I even know how to use it!

Mexican Turkey Lasagna

The only leftover turkey recipe you’ll ever need.  Trust me.

Mexican Turkey Lasagna

This is one of my all time favorite turkey recipes.  I know I should have posted it before Thanksgiving, so you’d have time to make it with your leftovers, but you still have a couple of days, according to the 4daythrowaway website.

This is the Mexican Turkey Lasagna I make every Black Friday:

Adapted from Food Network.

Cooking spray
3 cups cooked turkey, shredded or cubed
1 small container sour cream
1/2 cup salsa
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles
2 cups shredded cheese, divided (I use cheddar or Monterey Jack or a mixture)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 extra large flour tortilla (or a few smaller ones)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Coat an 8x8-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
Combine turkey, sour cream, most of the cheese, salsa, chiles, and cayenne pepper in a large bowl.
(At this point, you may be tempted to simply eat this mixture right out of the bowl, cold, with tortilla chips or your fingers.  Go ahead.  I won’t judge.)
Tear tortilla into pieces and arrange in the bottom of the pan.
Layer half the turkey mixture on top of the tortillas.  Repeat another layer of tortillas and filling.  Top with remaining cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for another 30, or until heated through.
Let sit for 5 minutes and serve.

Use corn tortillas for more texture.
Heat turkey mixture through and use to fill tortillas.
Heat turkey mixture through and eat as a dip.
Eat turkey mixture cold from the bowl.

The Best Way to Serve Oranges to Kids

I wrote a really philosophical, deep post about blogging, and then cut up an orange for my two year old and decided to blog about that instead.

Isaac is not a great chew-er, and giving him a traditionally peeled orange segment can be a problem.  He doesn’t chew it all the way, it slides partway down his throat, and he gags it back up.  To accommodate, I’ve started serving oranges like this, instead, which is quick, easy, and does not require peeling.


oranges for kids


Step 1: Break out a John Deere cutting board, because that’s the way we do things at the Creek

Step 2: Slice orange like this.


Step 3: Stack slices and cut stack in half.

IMG_6824-3357(rev 0)

Step 4: “Open” the slices.

IMG_6825-3358(rev 0)

Step 5: Remind your child not to eat the peels, and serve.


Five from the Archives: Everything you wanted to know about Turkeys

just in time for Thanksgiving!  If you have questions about the way turkeys are raised, feel free to ask!


1.  The Scoop on Turkey Poop


2.  Can Turkeys Walk?


3.  Getting Ready for the Big Storm:  How turkey farmers prepare for winter weather


4.  Wash Your Hands (Turkeys and Disease Prevention)


5.  Responsible Antibiotic Use:  How we Decide when to Give Antibiotics to our Birds



Happy Thanksgiving!

Teaching Obedience through Consistency…or Not


Disobedient children can be enough to make a momma crazy.  Trust me, I know.  In my quest for cooperation and obedience from my kids, I’ve heard one piece of advice over and over…

“Be consistent.  Make rules and enforce them, if you want your children to obey.”



But what if obedience isn’t actually my goal?

What if there’s more than that?

What if my efforts to teach my children to obey actually teach them something else?


When I think about my real purpose as a parent, my long-term goals and values, obedience is never one of my goals.  Of course I want my boys to be respectful and obey laws, but I also want them to be independent thinkers who can solve problems and make decisions on their own.  I want them to be kind.  And patient.  I want them to be flexible and open to others’ ideas.

IMG_20130607_164634_349(rev 0a)

Demanding, without reprieve, that my children do what I say, just because I said it, doesn’t serve that purpose. Rigidity, often termed “consistency,” doesn’t serve that purpose.  It doesn’t teach my boys what I truly want to teach them.  Instead, I’m modeling the exact rigid, inflexible, “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude that I don’t want them to have.


I’ve been trying to catch myself and change my response to my childrens’ requests.  Tonight, Adam asked for a snack after supper and I said no.  When he asked again, I said no again. But when he explained that he had a really yucky taste in his mouth and wanted a granola bar to get that taste out, I changed my mind and changed my response.  I gave him a granola bar. 

What did that teach my child?  Did it teach him that Mom’s a softy who will give in after enough whining?  Maybe.  Did it teach him that whining will get him what he wants?  Maybe. 

But it also taught him that logical, rational arguments, presented in a respectful tone can change peoples’ minds.  It taught him that perseverance pays off.  And it taught him that it’s okay to change your mind. 

Good lessons, I think.  Better than simple obedience.