Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

There’s a first time for everything in life. Today I am participating in my first virtual baby shower. A couple of my blogging friends got us all together to celebrate our friend Joanne from Fifteen Spatulas and her new baby. Be sure to take a look at all the fun recipes everyone shared for Joanne's shower; they're listed at the end of this post.

I first met Joanne when she visited our dairy farm for a tour organized by Land O’Lakes. I can clearly remember what a good sport Joanne was during the cow milking contest we had that day. Joanne milked Mango, one of our favorite cows, but Mango didn't want to let her milk down for Joanne. After spending a couple days with Joanne, it became clear why she is so well liked: Joanne has a cheerful, upbeat personality and a smile that beams sunshine.

I am positively delighted that Joanne and her husband Pete are the proud new parents of a baby boy. Little James, who was born earlier this month, is absolutely adorable. I know he will be loved and adored by Joanne and Pete.

When deciding on a baby shower gift for new parents, I always think back to what helped me most when I was a new mom. So I took the same approach to choosing a recipe to share for Joanne’s shower. When I was navigating those early months with a newborn, I relied heavily on quick, easy recipes that were both nourishing and tasty.

That’s exactly why I like this Creamy Sweet Potato Soup. It is super simple to make, especially if you cook, cube, and freeze the sweet potatoes ahead of time. Or you can have your friends and family prepare the potatoes for you while they’re in town to snuggle the baby – the method I use is very easy and the directions are below. As an added bonus, frozen sweet potato cubes can be used to make delicious smoothies and homemade baby food.

Plus, Creamy Sweet Potato Soup is loaded with all the superfood nutrition of sweet potatoes: Vitamin A, fiber, potassium, and more. The creamy texture comes mostly from the sweet potatoes. There’s just a touch of heavy cream added to mellow the flavor; you can easily add more or less cream to suit your taste.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup has a perfect balance of sweet and savory flavors; sweet from the potatoes and savory from the butter and chicken broth.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Yield: 6 cups soup
Time: 15 minutes*


4 cups chicken broth (I use water + bouillon.)

2 tablespoons salted butter

½ teaspoon onion powder

1½ pounds frozen sweet potato chunks* (4 - 5 cups, about 2 large potatoes)

¼ - ½ cup heavy cream

⅛ teaspoon black pepper


In a large, heavy pot, bring broth, butter, and onion powder to a boil.

Add sweet potato chunks and return to a boil. Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer for five minutes or until sweet potato chunks can be pierced with a fork.

Remove pot from stove and purée soup using an immersion blender.

Stir in heavy cream and pepper.

*You can use just-cooked sweet potato chunks, too. Follow the directions below for cooking and peeling. Allow more time for cooking the sweet potatoes.

Freezing Sweet Potatoes for Soups, Smoothies, and Baby Food

1. Place washed sweet potatoes in a single layer in a large, heavy pot.

2. Add enough water to cover potatoes by one inch.

3. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes for large potatoes. Potatoes are done when a thin skewer can easily pierce to center.

4. Drain sweet potatoes and allow to cool to room temperature. Or chill in fridge.

5. Once cool, slice ends off each sweet potato, score the skin from one end to the other with a sharp knife, then gently peel the skin off, removing the stringy, fibrous layer beneath the skin, as well. (It should just peel off with the skin.)

6. Cut peeled sweet potatoes into chunks. Place in single layer on parchment lined cookie sheet. Freeze for several hours. Remove frozen sweet potato chunks from tray and store in freezer safe container or bag.

Look at all these lovely recipes shared in celebration of Joanne, Pete, and Baby James!

Italian Sub Sandwich Roll-ups from Michael of Inspired by Charm
Smoky Roasted Red Pepper Sun Dried Tomato Hummus from Jeanette of Jeanette's Healthy Living
Whipped Goat Cheese & Blueberry Balsamic Crostini from Meseidy of The Noshery
Rosemary Flatbread with Baked Goat Cheese from Heidi of FoodieCrush
Spring Herb Cream Cheese Appetizer Cups from Rachel of Rachel Cooks
Crostini with Almond Ricotta and spicy olive tapenade from Heather of HeatherChristo

Fruit Freeze from Deborah of Taste and Tell
Mint Lemonade from Trish of Mom On Timeout
Ginger Lemonade from Kathy of Panini Happy

Chocolate-Covered Rice Krispies Treats from Julie of The Little Kitchen
Orange Fluff from Jamie of My Baking Addiction
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies from Susannah of Feast + West
Mini Ombre Heart Cookies from Bridget of Bake at 350
Mini Coconut Pound Cakes from Mary of Barefeet In The Kitchen
Yellow Sheet Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting from Jennifer of Savory Simple
Unicorn Shaped Cookies from Jessie of CakeSpy
Oreo Cheesecake Bites from Brenda of a farmgirl's dabbles
Lemon Blueberry Bread from Glory of Glorious Treats
Blintz with Blackberry Sauce from Sommer of A Spicy Perspective
Pastel Rainbow Cake from Bree of Baked Bree
Individual Chocolate Souffles from Andie of Andie Mitchell

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A fire in the barn [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

Electrical fire serves as wake-up call.


There might not be another word so capable of quickly igniting fear in the hearts of farmers.

I’m sure you can imagine the level of panic we felt after smelling smoke during milking one night last week. Our cows are housed in a tie stall barn during the winter and our baby calves are housed in an auto-feeder pen in the front section of our barn . . . so a fire in the barn would put a lot of animals in danger.

Although it first smelled like the smoke was coming from our hayloft, an electrical transformer in our utility room was quickly identified as the source. The transformer’s steel box had confined the flames, but the fire left a mess of smoldering and melted wires inside the box.

The fire also left us without a way to finish milking the cows...

[Read the rest of A fire in the barn here.]

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Our first roll and toggle [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

Turning adversity into opportunity.

Like other dairy farmers who enjoy showing cows, we develop special relationships with our show cows. They’re the ones who always want their heads scratched or come find us in the pen or the pasture. We give all of our cows the same love and attention, but show cows get a little more affection.

So I didn’t take it well when Glen told me that Wiggle had pinged with a displaced abomasum. Wiggle has done better in the showring than any other cow we’ve bred. She also comes from one of the top production families in our herd.

“Oh no,” I said out loud, as my heart sank.

“No, this is OK,” Glen replied.

For a second, I thought my hubby wasn’t thinking straight. “When is a DA ever OK?” I thought to myself.

Before I could question his soundness of mind, he explained:

“I’ve been wanting to try a roll and toggle, so we’re going to turn this into an opportunity.”

[Read the rest of Our first roll and toggle here.]

Monday, March 21, 2016

A tune-up for relationships [Dairy Star Column]

Last week’s unseasonably warm weather has a lot of farmers I know thinking about spring fieldwork. Equipment is getting looked over to make sure everything is in working order. We just brought our tractor into the shop for a tune-up.

Likewise, we recently put our budget through a tune-up, too. When we ran the numbers for our cash flow report, we confirmed what we already suspected: 2016 will require very careful financial decisions and, even then, it will be a challenge.

As dairy farmers, we spend a lot of time and energy making sure everything from equipment to budgets to herd health is performing the best it possibly can.

But when was the last time you tuned up your relationships? Engines aren’t the only things that need small changes every now and then to make them work better.

I always thought that Glen and I had a good, solid relationship. But then a friend of mine was telling me about a book she and her husband read. Then another friend recommended the same book and I thought maybe I should look into it. It’s not a new book, but it was new to me.

Glen and I each read the book; and we’ve been discussing it ever since. We realized that in every relationship, there is always room for improvement. No matter how strong our relationship, we can always do a better job communicating our feelings and showing appreciation for each other.

The book we read is called The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Gary Chapman is the author. [Read the rest of A tune-up for relationships here.]

Monday, March 14, 2016

Q & A with The Farmer's Wifee

My friend Krista, who blogs over at The Farmer's Wifee, recently asked me to do a Q & A for a feature on her blog.

Here's how it went down:

Krista: What is the name of your farm?

Me: Blue Diamond Dairy is the name of our farm. Glen grew up on Blue Roof Dairy and I grew up on Diamond Willow Dairy; from those two names, Blue Diamond Dairy was born. The name also holds additional meaning: Blue diamonds are purported to be one of the toughest substances on earth; dairy farming requires a certain amount of inherent toughness. Blue diamonds are also very beautiful and I consider our dairy farm a very beautiful place.

I dreamed up the name for our farm long before we started farming. During my first summer internship in college, I spent my idle time daydreaming about our future dairy farm, not knowing if we would ever farm together or not.

Krista: When was your farm established and by whom?

Me: My husband, Glen, and I started dairy farming together in 2005 on my father’s farm on a trial basis. In 2006, after purchasing my dad’s cows, we moved ourselves and our cows 140 miles to our friends’ farm in central Minnesota. We were hired as herds people, so we cared for our cows and our friends’ cows. In 2007, we bought our farm and moved here.

Krista: What generation are you on the farm?

Me: Every generation in both my family and Glen’s has milked cows for as far back as anyone can trace, but Glen and I are the first generation of our family to milk cows on this farm. Interestingly, we bought our farm from non-family members, but the farm we bought was once owned by Glen’s great uncle and aunt.

Krista: What is your favorite aspect of dairy farming?

Me: This is such a hard question! I’m not very good at picking just one favorite. There is so much about dairy farming that I love. At the top of the list, though, is the fact that every day includes working with my husband, our kids, our cows, and nature. Next on the list is the fact that the work we do provides nutritious food for people. After that, I like dairy farming because the different dimensions of this business require me to use lots of different skills – communication, creativity, problem-solving, patience, time management – so it never gets boring.

Krista: What is one memory you have of farm life that you will never forget?

Me: These are really hard questions, Krista! There are so many moments I want to remember. That’s a big reason why I blog and post photos to Instagram – so that I have a place to record these moments as they happen. Here’s one memory that still has many chapters to come: Four years ago, we had to sell our son’s favorite cow, a big, old teddy bear of a cow who let the kids play on her whenever she was in the barn. In an attempt to comfort him, I told him he could pick out a calf in the spring and we would tame it. Then, once the calf was his friend, he could take her to the fair. Our daughter ended up picking out a calf, too. That’s how we got started showing. Now, showing cattle is something our whole family does together. I love watching Glen study the sire catalogues, looking for the bulls that will make cows who do well in our herd and in the show ring. I love watching the kids develop responsibility and relationships with their calves that last long after the shows are over. Our showing experience is still in its early years, so I can only imagine that hundreds more memories are yet to be made.

Krista: What do you think might be the biggest threat to handing the farm over to the next generation?

Me: The biggest threat to the sustainability of our farm, both for our generation and for future generations, is land security. We own the 20 acres on which our house, barn and other buildings sit; we also own a couple of acres of pasture and a couple of acres of cropland. That means our farm relies almost entirely on rented pasture and rented cropland. Long-term planning on a dairy farm requires long-term access to land. Whether or not we will be able to attain the land we need for long-term success is yet to be determined. We live in a county with hundreds of dairy, livestock, and crop farms; there is considerable demand for productive farmland.

Krista: If you could tell consumers one thing about dairy farming, what would it be?

Me: To be a dairy farmer is to live in a paradox. We give our cows names. We love them like they’re our children and our friends. They mean everything to us. But our cows are also business assets and they will one day be sold. Sometimes they are sold to other farms and sometimes they are sold for beef, so that their bodies can be used to nourish ours. It can be overwhelming to live and work in a world where all of this is true. Life and death happen. We are responsible for each new life and, most of the time, each death. It is a responsibility we don’t take lightly and one that pulls on our emotions constantly. One moment I’m anguished over the hard decision to sell a cow; the next I’m overcome with gratitude as I watch a newborn calf take her first breath.

Thanks for asking, Krista!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Dairy's new leaders [Hoard's Dairyman Post]

This is my latest post for the Hoard's Dairyman blog – HD Notebook.

We all know that dairy farmers wear many hats. I spent the last several days wearing my leader hat.

First, while finishing Phase III of the Young Dairy Leaders Institute.

Then as a voting delegate at my cooperative’s annual meeting.

One of the topics that came up at the co-op's annual meeting was finding new leaders within the Gen X and Millennial generations.

It's a topic that has a complex answer. [Read the rest of Dairy's new leaders here.]