Farmers' Guest House blog
November 23rd, 2014

What’s that cooking?

What’s that cooking?

This is an often heard question around Farmers Guest House since I spend so much of my time cooking up something scrumptious in the FGH Kitchen.  This past week the scent of Beef Stew was in the air as I prepared a big pot of it for supper for Don and I.  One of my favorite new kitchen products is The Pampered Chef Rock Crock but a Dutch oven will do.  I hope you enjoy this Fall favorite.

Susan’s Beef Stew

2 lbs  lean beef roast cut in large chunks
4 large carrots cut in chunks
2 parsnips peeled and cut in chunks
½ a bunch of celery chopped with leaves
1 large onion diced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 T beef base
1 c water
1/3 c beef stew seasoning mix (see below)

In a large bowl or a plastic bag, coat the beef in the seasoning mix.   Warm the oil over medium heat in the Pampered Chef Rock Crock; add the beef and brown on all sides.  Add the onions about half way through the browning process.  Add the tomatoes and any seasoning mix left from coating the beef to the Rock Crock, bringing up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for  1 ½ – 2 hours or place in 350 oven.  Add more water if needed.  Stew is done when the beef is tender.




Beef Stew Seasoning Mix


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder


  1. Mix all ingredients together. When making stew, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of this mixture per pound of stew meat. Toss meat in the mixture before browning the meat.



November 19th, 2014

Best reasons to stay at Farmers Guest House

Yes, it is all about the bed and the breakfast.  But not all are created equal.  Guest room beds here at Farmers Guest House, are spotlessly clean, comfortable and equipped with 4 plush pillows and luxury sheets.  Our award-winning breakfasts are made fresh each morning with the finest available ingredients – many locally sourced.  Fresh eggs from Dykstra Farms, our special pork sausage made locally at Weber Meats, and a variety of produce when in season makes your breakfast tasty and healthy.

And, there’s nothing like WineTime to make you feel at home.  Stop in the dining for a glass of wine, visit with other guests, let us make dinner reservations for you, or choose a table for two and just relax with each other.  Local cheeses are specially selected to share each evening along with a selection of wines from around the world.

There’s no better way to relax than Farmers Guest House.  Book your getaway today!


November 8th, 2014

Holiday Getaway

holiday getawayChestnuts roasting over an open fire. Carolers singing a holiday tune. The romantic glow of a town illuminated with the gentle flicker of luminaria. And everyone is enjoying simple pleasures. Hot chocolate. Candy canes. Festively wrapped gifts.

Step back and enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays in Galena. Festivities begin just as soon as the ghosts and ghouls from the hallmarked Halloween Parade go back into hiding for another year. The temperature cools, often crystal-like snowflakes start to fall, and the charming shops transform into a magical wonderland.

Be sure to join the fun as Santa Claus comes to town—after Thanksgiving—on Saturday, November 29. During the celebrated tradition, Santa makes his way down Galena’s historic Main Street to the Old Market House (123 N. Commerce Street), where he meets and greets children of all ages. Youngsters can sign their names in Santa’s timeless book (and perhaps even find their parents’ names written within) and sit on his lap to whisper holiday wishes. Those who visit Santa leave with a bag filled with treats to tide them over until the big day arrives. Santa will be at the Old Market House, looking forward to seeing all of the good boys and girls, every weekend following Thanksgiving through December 21.

holiday getawayAnother Galena tradition comes the weekend of December 12 & 13, when the town becomes aglow with thousands of luminaria candles placed in bags flickering and lining the town’s sidewalks, steps, parks and  levee. “Living Windows”—storefronts that come to life with costumed locals—enchant shoppers and those out for late afternoon stroll before dinner. Musicians and choral groups perform to set the holiday mood for passersby.

For those of you who want a “little more” holiday fun, join the ugly sweater contest and luminaria pub crawl to “warm up” this holiday season and enjoy time with friends, also December 12.

And there’s so much more. From a festival of trees to holiday tours of historic bed and breakfasts and progressive dinners, you’ll find holiday spirit here. Galena, Illinois. The quiet escape into a time and a place where you find the peace, romance and love shared in the season abounds and you can relax and create memories that will last a lifetime—one of the greatest gifts of all.


November 2014

29                          “Deck the Halls” Festival of Trees at DeSoto House Hotel

21 – 22                    Nouveau Wine Weekend

29                          Santa at the Old Market House

29                          Arrival of Santa Parade & Lighting of Tree

December 2014

5, 12, 19              A Goldmoor Christmas Carol Dinner at Goldmoor Inn

6                           A Taste of Christmas Progressive Dinner sponsored by BBIG

8, 15 & 22            Santa at the Old Market House

12                          Luminaria Pub Crawl & Ugly Sweater Contest

13                          Living Windows & Luminaria

14                          Mistletoe Stroll: Holiday House Tour sponsored by BBIG

For more information on lodging, dining, or additional activities, visit

October 17th, 2014

Do Something Nouveau this November

It’s that time of year again in Galena and, if you’ve never been, we are inviting you to do something Nouveau this November. If you are a Galena Nouveau regular, you already know what a great weekend and kick-off to the holiday season it is. Each year, thousands of revelers line Galena’s historic Main Street on the Friday before Thanksgiving to welcome the latest annual release of Galena Cellars’ Nouveau. Celebrate the new vintage with wine-inspired lunches, dinners and tastings in Galena, Illinois November 21-22 and plan to spend the weekend with us at Farmers Guest House where you can also enjoy a very special WineTime™ each night at 5:30 pm.

do something nouveau this november do something nouveau this november

do something nouveau this novemberThe 30th Annual Galena Nouveau Weekend starts at noon on Friday with the official release of the wine. Many area restaurants offer traditional French peasant stew made with Nouveau wine. At 2:30 pm, Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery delivers their Nouveau wine via horse-drawn wagon delivery to downtown businesses and are joined by a parade of revelers. Galena comes alive with a multitude of offerings: vineyard tours, wine dinners, wine tasting, lodging, shopping and spa specials throughout the beautiful, relaxing corner of northwestern Illinois.

Nouveau Weekend happenings continually updated at:

To learn more about Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery, visit:


October 15th, 2014

Everything is Better with Bacon

Below is an article from Global Writes on the recent Galena Food and Wine Festival. It just goes to show that everything is better with bacon…

Savoring the Flavors of Fall at Galena’s Food and Wine Festival

Near U.S. Grant’s house and down the street from the Piggly Wiggly, there was a distinct scent of bacon in the air. It was here on a recent Friday night in September that Galena, a historic river town in northwest Illinois, welcomed me to its second annual food and wine festival.

As I walked into the L-shaped exhibit hall at the Galena Convention Center, I couldn’t help overhearing two attendees discussing the intricacies of toasting wine barrels. Yes, foodies and oenophiles united to bring together more than 150 varieties of wine and a plethora of samples from a dozen culinary establishments, all to benefit the Galena Art and Recreation Center, a local YMCA-like nonprofit organization.

Ralph Kluseman, a guitarist and singer from nearby Dubuque, entertained the crowd with covers ranging from James Taylor to the Beatles, as two middle aged women pondered the merits of bidding on a “dammit doll” at the silent auction table.

French toast

The Caramel Apple Bacon French Toast was awarded first runner-up in the Best Breakfast in North America competition.

As I strolled to the right, I discovered the source of the pervasive pork smell: caramel apple bacon French toast from the Farmers Guest House, a nearly 150-year-old bed and breakfast in Galena. I almost choked while scarfing down the sweet and salty mixture because I saw a young woman wrinkling her nose and heard her say, “Oh, I don’t really like bacon.” Doesn’t she know everything tastes better with bacon?

Wines from near and far were represented, including a New Zealand Pinot Grigio and a Blackhawk Red by Massbach Ridge Winery, located approximately 20 miles away in Elizabeth. I decided to pass up shots of gin, vodka and “lead mine moonshine” (a tribute to Galena’s history as a mining town) as I set my plate and wine glass next to one of the silver candelabras on an oak wine barrel doubling as a table.

Spinach salad

A spinach salad! Yes, it is possible to eat something healthy at a food and wine expo!

The space lends itself well to an event like this; with a healthy crowd of approximately 200 attendees, there was a festive air without feeling overcrowded or straining to hear others. Toward the end of the evening, I spied a woman standing behind one of the tables popping a hummus-topped corn chip into her mouth – always a good sign when vendors are eating their own food.

To begin the evening, I had stopped by “Cheers! The Art of the Drink”, a new exhibit at the Galena Center for the Arts, highlighting the work of regional artists. Housed in an old medical clinic, the space is being reborn by using physician’s offices as private studio spaces and renovated to include a performance facility. Named by Fodor’s as one of the ten best small towns in the United States, Galena provided a charming slice of Americana on a rainy fall evening.

© 2014,  – Posted October 13, 2014 at 12:27 pm

October 6th, 2014

Caramel Apple Bacon French Toast Recipe

Farmers Guest House Caramel Apple Bacon French Toast

Voted 1st runner-up 2014 Best Breakfast in North America by

caramel apple bacon french toast recipe


Serves 4, easily doubled


½ loaf French bread sliced into 12 1” slices

6 eggs

1 ¼ c whole milk

2 tsp vanilla

¾ c maple syrup, divided

1c  + 1 tsp butter, divided

4 slices thick cut, lean bacon, cut in ½ inch pieces

2 c brown sugar lightly packed, divided

2 gala apples cored and sliced thin

  1. Slice French Bread into 12 1” slices.  Place French bread slices in a 9 x 13 baking dish. In a large bowl whisk eggs.  Add milk, vanilla and ¼ c maple syrup and whisk until well blended.  Pour over French bread slices and let set for 10 minutes, then turn the slices over and let set for an additional 10 minutes or until egg mixture is absorbed into the bread.
  2. While the bread is setting, make the Caramel Apple Sauce.  In a medium saucepan add the remaining butter and maple syrup, and all but 1 T of the brown sugar.  Over medium heat stir until the butter and sugar melts and the mixture comes to a boil.  Reduce heat.  Steam the apples in the microwave until tender, drain and then add apple slices to the sauce.  Cover with a tight fitting lid and remove from heat. ( If you cook the apples in the sauce it gets watered down.)
  3. Melt 1 tsp butter on a griddle set to 350˚, spreading the butter with the back of a spatula.  Brown the bread slices on the griddle for just a few minutes on each side.  Transfer to a jelly roll pan.  Bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes at 350˚ to cook the eggs in the center of the bread.  The bread will puff up when done.
  4. While the French toast is baking, cook the bacon on the griddle.  When the bacon is cooked about halfway, sprinkle with the reserved brown sugar and continue cooking, being careful not to burn the sugar.  Remove to a plate covered with a paper towel to drain the bacon of excess grease.

When French toast is done, plate three pieces per person, add the bacon to the sauce, stir and, using a slotted spoon so as not to “drown” the plate, layer over the French toast.

September 30th, 2014

Apple Pot Pie


Apple Pot Pie

Fall is in the air and it’s time for some new fall recipes!

Apple Pot Pie was inspired by a Facebook post my sister sent me.  This is a simple but lovely dish.  Use your favorite apple pie recipe.  Divide the filling among the ramekins.  Use a biscuit cutter and a small cookie cutter to cut the top crusts which can be made from your own pie crust recipe. I use a leaf cutter from a pie crust decorator set I purchased at The Grateful Gourmet, one of the many specialty stores a short walk from the inn on Main Street.

Apple Pot Pie Tools

Brush the crust with beaten egg and sprinkle with decorators sugar.  Bake for about 35 minutes or until the filling is bubbling. Serve warm.  This is a great starter for a savory fall breakfast or can be served as a dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

September 26th, 2014

Welcome Back Project Linus!

Project Linus Retreat

welcome back project linus welcome back project linus welcome back project linus

For the third year in a row, Farmers Guest House welcomed the Project Linus executive staff from their national headquarters, located in Bloomington, IL for their annual executive retreat to Galena, IL.  Pictured are Vice President, Mary Balagna, and President Carol Babbitt.

“We are humbled and just love saying ‘Welcome back Project Linus’,” says Farmers Guest House innkeeper Susan Steffan.

The group meets over 3-days to process the results of their yearly conference and plan future events.  The group of engaged executives also lives their mission of providing each child in need a handmade blanket when they need it most. The group brings their sewing equipment to Farmers Guest House and creates new template projects and amazing artwork that will be shared with children  who are confined to hospitals or experiencing a crisis in their lives.

welcome back project linusFarmers Guest House is the perfect location to plan your corporate or executive retreat. Scenic downtown Galena makes the perfect backdrop for your executive planning sessions at Farmers Guest House; the only boutique inn in downtown Galena. The Farmers Guest House community room, living room, cottage and unique collection of private rooms and suites are beyond compare for hosting executive and corporate retreats.

With chapters in all 50 states, Project Linus provides thousands of blankets each year to children in crisis.  On Christmas Eve, 1995, an article titled “Joy to the World” appeared in Parade Magazine. It was written by Pulitzer Prize winning photo-journalist, Eddie Adams. Part of the article featured a petite, downy haired child named Laura:

““Laura has unusual compassion for others,” Charlotte Barry-Williams of Oceanside, California, says of her daughter, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 1993. “I guess part of the reason is that she has experienced so much pain herself.”

A special “blankie” has helped Laura, 3, get through more than two years of intensive chemotherapy. She takes it to the hospital with her when she goes for treatment. When she was first diagnosed, 97 percent of her bone marrow contained cancerous cells. Although chemotherapy has helped eradicate the cancer, she has had to endure nausea, high fevers and the loss of her hair. An allergic reaction at one point caused her to lose vital signs.

“She doesn’t understand what cancer means,” her mother says. “She’s a very joyous and happy person, very curious.” Her mother hopes Laura can start preschool next spring.”


After reading the article, Karen Loucks, the original founder of Project Linus, decided to provide homemade security blankets to Denver’s Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Center, and Project Linus was born. Learn more and get engaged with Project Linus at 

September 24th, 2014

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

On Sweet Tooth Wednesday, we want to help you satisfy your sweet tooth with these images from Susan’s collection of irresistible sweets.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, just click an image, choose your room and make your reservation. Yup, it’s just as simple as that:

satisfy your sweet tooth satisfy your sweet tooth satisfy your sweet tooth

September 23rd, 2014

Fall in Love with Cycling: Visit Galena

fall in love with cycling visit galenaWith it’s dramatic scenic vistas and tens-of-thousands of trees, Galena Illinois is naturally a draw for leaf-peepers from around the region. Visitors to Galena typically walk our historic streets, or drive through our scenic roadways to marvel at the changing colors, but touring Galena on a bicycle and having the opportunity to get some exercise at the same time is becoming more irresistable to many of our guests at Farmers Guest House.

We recommend, and many of our guests have experienced, riding a bicycle along the 4 mile Galena River Trail.

Visitors to Farmers Guest House can bring their own bikes, or rent a bike from Fever River Outfitters – right around the corner on Main Street.

On a bicycle, you can experience more of Galena in a smaller amount of time while having the advantage of being out in the open air.

It’s hard to tell how the 2014 fall color show will turn out, or when Galena will be at its peak. Certain vines are starting to change now and we expect the dogwoods to turn a dark purple soon. They will be followed by every other imaginable variety. We love when the sugar maples staret to change color. They will usually display a vibrant red, but may be orange or even yellow in some years. One thing we can be sure of is that you won’t be disappointed when you choose to spend your fall getaway with us at Farmers Guest House.

We look forward to seeing you this fall.