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Friday, 1 March 2013
Quick Tomato Bisque
Topic: Recipes

March 1st--

We're well  into Lenten no-meat Fridays, but it never hurts to have another vegetarian option, does it?

And, it would be nice to find a quick tasty homemade soup to make from ingredients you have around the house--in pantry, refrigerator and freezer, wouldn't it?

So try this recipe for Tomato Bisque. It's flavorful, very healthy and works whether you've stock-piled your own vegetable broth and are making this in Summer with your own tomatoes--or are using the very acceptable canned, organic versions on a frozen March day. 

Since you want to make recipes like this "on the spur of the moment", why not make it a point to always:

There are many other items that fill a well-stocked kitchen but with these things, you can always get a soup or stew started.


Quick Tomato Bisque

4 servings

Process together in a mini chopper/food processor:

1 inch chunk of peeled Ginger Root

1 large clove of garlic

½ small onion, chopped

1 stalk of celery, chopped

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in the bottom of a small soup pot, and cook the above now-processed ingredients together for about 5 minutes.


2 cups of crushed organic tomatoes with juices (roughly ½ of a 28 oz. can or if you can find a 14.5 to16 oz.-sized can that'll work)

2 cups of organic vegetable broth (see note above if using canned broth)

Add: 1 tsp dried Italian herb blend and 1 tsp salt.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes.

Stir in ½ cup cream or ½ & ½ (can omit if vegan desired)

Adjust salt and add freshly ground pepper.

Posted by Karen at 16:35 CST
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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Say "thank you" with a Bourbon Pecan Pound Cake

Bourbon Pecan Pound Cake...

Sounds yummy doesn't it?

I made one today but the story starts two days ago.

On Tuesday, two days ago, I left Chicago in a snowstorm, car fully tanked with gas, loaded with four dogs, dog food and human pantry staples (like almond extract), a pile of music and my flute--for a treacherous ride through hypnotic blowing snow, howling wind, patches of ice alternating with slush on the expressways. It was light out and would be for the next three hours, my usual time on the road.

But then I hit Rockford and the snow packed the four lane highways while road crews kept basically two lanes open. Reduced visibility and lanes...the time to dusk hit.

And by the time I got through Freeport and onto the two lane road, it was dark and I still had 40 miles to go..

I will not take you on the rest of the trip because I don't want to relive it, even virtually, but let's just say my Guardian Angel was probably as exhausted as I was by the time I pulled into the garage.

The snow kept flying the next 24 hours, sometimes sleet, always blowing. When I went to sleep last night, I seriously wondered if I'd get down the driveway to run the errands I had to do today. I was on the list for plowing by our road crew. But I also knew they were working their plows off, and had been for at least 24 hours.

But then, I woke up this morning and –lo and behold!--my whole driveway was plowed and the barnyard area neatly dressed. I couldn't believe it—they had plowed sometime between 11PM and the crack of dawn (I'm an early-riser).

I was so amazed (and thankful) that I wanted to do something nice for the guys. So, I baked this great cake and took it to their office on the way to my errand-filled midday. I really appreciate the staff at Vincent Earthmoving!! And this isn't the first time they've helped me out either—that crew is just amazing.

In case you also have someone you need to thank—here's the recipe, which I received from one of my church-lady friends, Kaye.--who calls it Stonecypher Family Recipe Pecan Pound Cake.



Bourbon Pecan Pound Cake

½ lb. Butter

2 & ½ cups of sugar (only use “pure cane sugar”)

6 fresh eggs

3 cups of sifted cake flour

2 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. Ground nutmeg

1 cup sour cream

½ cup bourbon

1& ½ cups chopped pecans (toast in 325 degree oven for 8-10 minutes first, to bring out the flavors)


2 cups sifted powdered sugar (only use “pure cane sugar”)

1 tbsp. Bourbon

2 tbsp. Water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat butter and sugar together. Then add eggs, one at a time, beating in. Combine dry ingredients together, Combine bourbon and sour cream together. Mix into butter mixture, alternating wet and dry. Stir in the pecans.

Prep a pretty bundt pan or tube pan.

Pour in batter and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, check that the cake bounces back when touched. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes, then invert onto serving plate. When cooled down but still slightly warm to touch, drizzle the above glaze on the cake.

Now, write a little thank you note and deliver!

Posted by Karen at 18:15 CST
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Sunday, 24 February 2013
West African Peanut Soup--Healthy Vegetarian Anytime!
Topic: Education and Values

Today's blog is under "education" because I want to take the opportunity to promote alternative foods for breakfast time. You know we are heavily marketed on the concept of cereals and "allegedly" whole grains for breakfast--with fruits in various forms like juice, smoothies, fruited yogurts.

But why not consider vegetables for breakfast?

I was “virtually” paging through Pinterest and found a pretty picture for a West African Peanut Soup. When I drilled down to find the recipe, I saw that the authors had formed their recipe by modifying the recipe of yet another chef. So, I knew I'd be doing the same—modifying a recipe to accommodate my needs and resources.

I have never actually looked up a recipe for a West African food. I have made "Jolli rice" from the region, but I followed an actual recipe given to me from a nurse I work with who is from Africa. And, I'd eaten her rice before I had the recipe. (Had she given me the recipe before I tried the rice dish, I would have known exactly what it tasted like just from reading the recipe.)

So, when I looked over the Pinterest authors' ingredient list for West African Peanut Soup, I KNEW it would taste great. I also knew it was healthy and, as written, vegetarian—actually vegan. This was important because I have been wanting to make a soup for two physicians I work with who start their shifts earlier than I do. When I get in at 6AM, they've already been at work for a few hours. They are both vegetarian, one is also vegan. At 6 AM, it's meal time for them and soup is a much better idea than a bowl of cereal or a sweet roll!

So, after seeing the Pinterest recipes, I checked my pantry, refrigerator, and freezer stocks, looked at Wiki for a quick review of what made West African food what it is –and –modified the recipe to suit my resources! I also had to make a bigger batch than the 4 servings the Pinterest recipes yielded, was concerned about their higher carb count and wanted to pack in the nutrients.

Why NOT have a savory soup for breakfast?!!!

West African cuisine is a lot like American deep south and creole cooking. The flavor combinations reflect the access these countries had with trading partners from all over the world—so you see things like ginger and chilis along with tomatoes and the whole gamut of greens. And in this recipe--we have savory-spicy onion, garlic, ginger and protein from peanuts, with colorful, nutrient-dense tomatoes and kale with a base of organic vegetable broth.

Here's my version of :

West African Peanut Soup

2 quarts of certified organic vegetable broth

1 large red onion chopped

2 inch piece of peeled ginger root, pulsed in the food processor with 6 garlic cloves

(see picture below)

1 tsp. Salt


Combine above in a large soup pot, bring to boil, cut back heat to simmer about 15 minutes until the onions are cooked.


1 cup of creamy, natural peanut butter

14 oz. Crushed tomatoes (this is ½ of a 28 oz can, refrigerate the rest because you'll be making this soup again next week—or try to buy the smaller can in the first place)

Whisk the peanut butter-tomato mixture into the broth mixture on the stove and again bring to boil, then cut back to a simmer.

Finally add by stirring in

1 large bunch of kale, chopped into small strips. Should yield about 6-8 cups loosely packed greens. Any kind of kale- flat or curly is fine. You can also use fresh spinach, Swiss chard, or other greens—just be sure to use the tender part of the leaves, not stem or thick veins.

(But, do save all the discarded stems and coarse veins for your chickens-they LOVE greens of all kinds)

Continue to cook about 20 minutes more until the flavors have developed and the greens have cooked down in volume and are limp.

Adjust seasonings by adding more salt and a little cayenne pepper or other ground, hot chili pepper or even a few shakes of hot sauce—according to your taste preferences.



So--try this recipe and serve it--ANYTIME!


Posted by Karen at 14:28 CST
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Friday, 22 February 2013
Make a Quiche!
Topic: Recipes

The Humble Quiche


I'm sure I've posted recipes for Quiche before, but it's always worth a reminder in-service during Lent. We're looking for meatless dishes and this is a great plan for brunch, lunch or dinner.


A quiche, deconstructed—is basically:


Make sure you have high sides on the pie crust. If using a premade, frozen shell, then allow to defrost and crimp up the sides. Place pie crust on a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Then add into the pie crust:


Follow with the addition of:



Pour the eggs and milk mixture over the cheese and vegetables.


Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees until fully set and browned.


Serve with additional sides of vegetables, fruit for a great meatless, but very appealing plate!


PS- My quiche has 6 oz Swiss cheese and sauteed onions and  mixed mushrooms.


Posted by Karen at 14:19 CST
Updated: Friday, 22 February 2013 14:21 CST
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Friday, 15 February 2013
Dog Biscuits--Part Two
Now Playing: Quick Dog Biscuits with Salmon
Topic: Crafts

Dog Biscuits- Part 2—this one's really quick!

My four dogs were very happy with their liver biscotti treats for Valentine's Day, but they were a little labor-intensive for the chef.

I decided I would try a quick drop biscuit in order to experiment with what was left of the Bisquick Gluten Free Baking Mix I bought the other day. I can tell you that this recipe also is "4 tails up"--meaning my two Yorkies and two Shepherds approve.

This is another recipe for a dog treat that is geared toward the allergy-prone dog. I mentioned that my dogs seemed to react to wheat flour and gluten with terrible skin itching. The baking mix I used contains rice flour and potato starch, baking soda and salt—so do not add any extra salt or seasoning. Now, I admit, I chose this product for convenience and because the rural store I stopped at that day didn't have any other options for gluten free flours. I plan to re-do this recipe with my own non-wheat and gluten-free flours and aluminum-free baking soda (and anyone who is reading this can easily adapt this recipe, too!)

NOTE: I used salmon in this recipe because I had a can of salmon available in my pantry, but you can easily substitute tuna or any leftover cooked fish you might have had for dinner. Or-- you can use canned pumpkin or cooked, mashed sweet potatoes—though you will need to add some milk or water to have the correct consistency.


QUICK Dog Biscuits with Salmon

1 can (7 oz) Salmon, with the juice

2 beaten eggs

2 tbsp. Olive (vegetable) oil

1 cup Bisquick Gluten Free Baking Mix (note- this has leavening and salt in it so don't add any more)

Mix above ingredients together.

Drop by tablespoon-full onto parchment paper lined baking pans.

This should yield 2 dozen biscuits.

Bake 20 minutes in 400 degree oven.


Posted by Karen at 10:35 CST
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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Doggie Biscotti
Topic: Crafts

Happy Valentine's Day

How about baking some treats for your “best” friends, your everyday Valentines?

I mean your really “best” friends...the ones who are there through thick and thin, good times and bad, happy to greet you when you are filled with joy, yet still there to lick the wounds of emotional trauma.

.the friends who will get you out of the house for a daily walk twice a day in rain, snow, and sleet!



You've already guessed that I am talking about our dog “best friends”.

So why not make their Valentine's Day special by baking a batch of “Doggie Biscotti”?

I think my dogs are allergic to wheat gluten. At least when I stopped using products with wheat flour and gluten, they stopped having itchy skin. So I made this recipe with wheat- and gluten- free baking mix.

I plan to try out oat flour (which you can make by processing quick cook organic oats in your food processor). But I was curious about this Bisquick Gluten free product which has rice flour and potato starch, both of which I know are in other dog biscuits I have purchased and my dogs didn't react to them.

So, long story, now here's the recipe.




Doggie Biscotti

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cook about 1 lb. chicken or beef liver in 2 tbsp butter until no pink is present.

Allow to cool and then puree in a small food processor to yield 1 cup of pureed cooked liver.*

Place in a bowl and mix in the following:

2 beaten eggs

1/3 cup olive (vegetable) oil

1/3 cup water

2 &1/2 cups of Gluten free Bisquick Baking Mix (this has leavening and salt in it so don't add any more)

Additional mix or water may be added, if needed for consistency.

Divide dough into halves and form each half into a log about 1” high and 3-4 inches wide.

Place on parchment lined pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool about 15-20 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 300 degrees.

Slice each log into ¾ inch thick biscotti slices.

Place biscotti slices on parchment lined baking pans and return to the 300 degree oven.

Bake 30 minutes, then turn and bake an additional 15 minutes until the cookies are crispy.

Cool and serve! Store extras in a covered container.

Now, remember, if you don't have time for Biscotti, you can always cook them a nice soup bone. Or—wait until the weekend to bake their cookies and tell them “Happy Valentine's Day” then. They won't know the day until you tell them anyway!


You may want to try 1 cup of canned pumpkin or pureed cooked sweet potatoes. You can also use other cooked, ground meats that you puree to 1 cup volume –or—you can even use jarred, pureed baby food meat.

Posted by Karen at 17:26 CST
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Sunday, 10 February 2013
Dinner in Tuscany???
Topic: Recipes

Tuscany-Inspired Beef Roast with Kale and Cannellini Beans


Pretty healthy-looking dinner, isn't it?

I learned how to make this lovely dinner, Roast Beef with Kale and Cannellini Beans, in Tuscany, the town of Cortona to be specific. That same visit to Italy many years ago introduced me to the international Slow Food movement as well.

If you'll recall... the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” based upon the book of the same name, had scenes that were shot in Cortona and the neighboring countryside where the author's house Bramasole is located. Now the scene where the aging actress is found in the fountain was filmed on an actual side street of Cortona, but...the fountain was a faux addition for the scene. When we were there, the talk of the town concerned the false fountain and how it didn't fit the truly ancient structures that did exist. (Remember, this is an area which houses Etruscan art) . And the people of Cortona are opinionated about tradition and truth.

We were in Italy on an educational and pleasure tour with a college alumnus travel group. So, daily lectures were part of the schedule—one discussion was about the international slow food movement which started in Italy and another morning, we had a cooking class. I will always appreciate the value and timing of that trip. It really turned my thinking around and grounded me in pure flavors with natural ingredients and products, and simple (although not always easy and certainly not quick) cooking techniques.

Here is a beautiful beef roast that is made savory and tender by “stewing” the meat with garlic and tomatoes, carrots, celery and onion, and Italian seasonings, slow-cooked in a covered roasting pan or Dutch oven.

Start by browning the meat on all sides, in olive oil with minced garlic-in a pan on top of the stove.



Then, remove the roast to the roasting pan (or Dutch oven) & preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Return to the stove and add extra olive oil to the pan, then add: 2 stalks of celery, 2 carrots, and a small onion, chopped small. Cook until softened.

Add 1-14.5 oz can of petite diced or crushed tomatoes (Roma preferred) with the juice to the vegetable mixture. Add about 2 tsp of dried Italian seasoning blend, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through.


Now take the whole pan of tomato-vegetable mixture and spoon it over the roast and fill in around the roast.

Put the top on--whether the Dutch oven or tent the roast with Aluminum foil and crimp the edges around the pan-- then roast for about 2-3 hours, depending upon the size of your roast So, you see it will get tender regardless of what cut of beef you used.

To make the Kale:

Chop rinsed, clean kale leaves into rough small pieces, yielding about 8 cups. In a large cook pot, put a couple tablespoons of olive oil, then the chopped kale greens and a couple more tablespoons of olive oil and toss to distribute. Add 1 can (1 pint) of chicken broth and cook the kale in the chicken broth until limp. The huge pot of fresh kale leaves will shrink down and become soft.

After the greens are cooked, add 1 can of rinsed and drained cannellini beans,

Add salt and pepper to taste.(Some like to shake a little nutmeg on greens, instead of pepper).




When the roast is done, remove to a large serving plate. Spoon the kale and beans around the roast. Then finally spoon additional vegetables and reduction from the roasting pan over the roast and kale.

Posted by Karen at 08:05 CST
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Friday, 8 February 2013
Check out my Rooster!
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

It's February, right? And we've just had a "wintry mix" yesterday and a frozen path today--except...a bit of sun and a reminder to us that Spring is lurking out there in the future.

The other reminder of that reality is the curiosity of my barnyard flock when they get enough sun and calmness in the weather to go exploring for a little while.

I thought I'd post a couple snapshots of my beautiful rooster who was snooping around the horse barn when I walked outside to toss some scratch out and pick up eggs from the nesting boxes.


I hadn't intended to keep a rooster--but then, my flock is not typical either.


I have some Sussex, Ameracauna, and Rhode Island red hens mixed with Guinea hens--and this Ameracauna rooster gets along and keeps the peace--so he's staying.


And--you've got to admit...he does look like he's in control!

Posted by Karen at 13:51 CST
Updated: Friday, 8 February 2013 13:52 CST
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Sunday, 3 February 2013
Veggie sides--think outside the box
Topic: Education and Values


A "camera photo" of dinner 2 nights ago. I roasted a free range chicken quite simply--olive oil to the outside skin, sprinkling of seasoned salt and then stuffed some sage leaves in the carcass--though in retrospect I could have snipped some rosemary sprigs from my indoor plants, too.-- I made a simple gravy with pan drippings. Roast chicken is always a great entree.


The creative part is--the veggie side dishes. So, let me take you on a tour of the rest of the plate.

To the left we have "not your average" mixed vegetables. I sauteed 1 chopped red onion, 4 cloves of garlic and 2 small sliced zucchini together in olive oil, until soft. Then I added a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes with the juice and a handful of yellow lentils (about 1/3 cup). Seasoning included 1 tsp. chili powder, a shake of cayenne pepper, about 1 tsp cumin, salt and dried cilantro. Cook together until the lentils are soft, they will absorb a lot of the liquids.


Just above the chicken is a "doctored up" traditional bread stuffing--to which I added 3 stalks of finely chopped celery, 1 small onion and a chopped Granny Smith apple. Cook the celery and onion in butter until limp, then add the apple until cooked and then combine with a box stuffing mix--add extra sage-- it's ready. 


See the green rings that look like apples on the top right??? Those are Armenian cucumber slices that I made into Freezer cucumber salad last Summer and just defrosted. It's basically apple cider vinegar and dillweed with a pinch of sugar--What a super side dish and reminder to myself to make sure I grow those Armenian cukes this Summer.  (The full recipe is in the blog log from last Summer.)


Finally we have the diced sweet potatoes. I boiled cleaned, whole potatoes until they were cooked, but still firm about 20 minutes. Then, peeled them (kept the peelings for the chickens!), sliced them as seen. Meanwhile, I melted some butter, added a bit of orange juice and a couple tablespoons of brown sugar, then Hickory-smoked salt and pepper. Then, added the potatoes  into the pot with the sauce and blended, heating thoroughly.


It really took little time and the variety of colors, textures, and flavors were perfect with  the simple roasted chicken...and the veggie leftovers will be great with today's pork roast, too!




Posted by Karen at 16:28 CST
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Wednesday, 30 January 2013
An Everything Oatmeal Cookie
Topic: Recipes

An “Everything” Cookie

You may not be snowed in yet...

...but you will be soon!

And why not take the opportunity of being snowed in to bake a batch of cookies! Your house will smell great—And, you can easily divide up one batch of cookies and freeze them in batches to bring out for future snow days. That way, you can have your treat today and not over”treat”.

Here's my idea of a great drop cookie—the easiest thing to do. It's based on a traditional oatmeal cookie, but with half the sugar of usual recipes. And it won't be missed because you toss in “extras” like raisins, dried cranberries or blueberries or other chopped dried fruit and some chocolate chips and chopped walnuts or other nut or seeds of your liking.


In my picture above, you can see I had chocolate chips, golden raisins and chopped walnuts. By the way--that mixing bowl is HUGE in real-life. I bought it at Sam's Club and use it constantly to mix up huge batches of foods without worry.

Oatmeal Cookie with “Everything”

1 c. shortening

½ c sugar (or equiv. Splenda blend)

½ c. brown sugar (or equiv. Splenda blend)--you can also omit white sugar and use all as brown sugar

Cream together in a large mixing bowl.

Add and mix in:

2 eggs

1 tsp. Vanilla

then add:

½ tsp cinnamon, ½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1&1/2 cups flour (if wheat free-can substitute oat flour)

And then mix in:

4 cups of Quick cooking variety Oats

Finally, mix in your choices: ¾ c. chocolate chips, ½ c raisins (or dried cranberries), ½ c chopped walnuts (or other nuts or seeds like sunflower or pepitos)

Bake at 375 degrees, use parchment paper-lined cookie pans. Bake until golden tops about 14-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for about 5 minutes then remove to plates or racks to cool. Divide up and freeze extras once cooled because this recipe should yield 4 dozen cookies.

Posted by Karen at 18:44 CST
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