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Saturday, 1 March 2014
Thanksgiving Dinner
Topic: Education and Values

I'm BACK! Time for a Thanksgiving dinner...

 Thanksgiving Dinner

when you realize you're thankful for everything in your life

I just returned from 16 days out of the country, on a humanitarian mission to northern Uganda. Sometimes it takes leaving one place to recognize what you've left behind. You see things better from a distance. I can tell you the trip was life changing for me and I sincerely hope I was helpful to the people I had the privilege of serving. 

I functioned for the first week as a physician, working alongside the Medical Director of St. Luke's Angal Hospital in Nebbi District,northern Uganda.  My work involved seeing patients in their OPD (outpatient department, the emergency and walk-in clinic), the isolation ward and cholera tent and serving as a physician-mentor.

The second week I functioned in my farmer role, teaching nutrition, crop diversification to provide nutrient dense foods, food safety and HACCP methodology. My final lecture to community women addressed their greatest and immediate health threats and nutrition.

I kept a detailed journal and will share stories in future posts. But for today, I simply want to share a reminder that we all need to periodically express thanksgiving for the many blessings we have. I made a Thanksgiving dinner last night and invited friends over to do just that.

The Alur tribe, the group of people we served in this mission, is geographically located about 20% in Uganda and 80% in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They were converted to Catholicism by Italian missionaries in the late 1800s, and who have stayed with the community, building their church, school, and hospital. (Interestingly, the tribe since its historical beginning in 850 AD has always been monotheist). Christianity has grounded their ethics and the basic concept of responsibility for one another. This made it easy for me to teach farmers the need for them to be the nutritionists and educate their market to the need for new crops to provide needed nutrients.

The British occupied Uganda and had taught them European farming techniques, so they all knew how to save seeds, amortize soil, do no-till gardening, etc. What they lacked, and I hope was able to provide, was the concept of a nutritionally complete diet from produce, grains, legumes-- (I'll leave the discussion about livestock to future posts.) We also addressed nutritionally vulnerable groups and food safety in detail. They “got it” and I feel confident will implement the suggestions. I was fortunate to have the minister of Agriculture and a NGO official involved in setting up community gardens send 20 trainers to my seminars. The minister of Agriculture has also taken the 120 packets of heirloom seeds and materials to start 600 new nutrient dense plants of various types and will distribute the seedlings to these farmers for the upcoming growing season to try. If they like the products, they know how to save seeds to keep them going.

My point about the Thanksgiving dinner—see how we have diverse food groups in a typical dinner? Good protein source, colorful sides. Especially note those sweet potatoes at the top. The Alur grow sweet potatoes and yams but in a sad, ironic twist, they are white and devoid of beta carotene. Consequently, the population suffers from “preventable blindness” because they have no access to orange produce. Another problem associated with vitamin A deficiency is loss of immune function due to T cell dysfunction—in a population burdened by HIV/AIDS. Needless to say, I concentrated on this nutrient, but also provided information on all essential vitamins and nutrients and what to grow for your community's health.


 For today, let me share this quick recipe for glazed sweet potatoes (though a quick microwave bake with butter, salt and pepper sounds good too!).


Clean and place about 4 lbs. of sweet potatoes in a pot to boil about 15 minutes, tender but still firm.

Discard the water, and peel the skins from the flesh of the potato. The skins should come off easily.

Cut the potatoes into quarters or wedges.

In a large skillet, melt one stick of butter. Add ½ cup of orange juice and ½ cup brown sugar.

Bring to a simmer and add the cut up sweet potatoes, turning to coat and heat through.

Posted by Karen at 10:20 CST
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Thursday, 6 February 2014
Beef Stroganoff- hearty simplicity!
Topic: Recipes

 Beef Stroganoff...

Here's yet another deceptively easy crockpot recipe that you can start before work, then come home to the beautiful fragrance of a home-cooked dinner. And you likely have all the ingredients in the house right now.



Beef Stroganoff (in the crockpot)

Prep crockpot liner with a light spray-oil.

Mix together: 

2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized cubes

1 can of Golden Mushroom soup, undiluted 

1 can drained sliced mushrooms

1/2 small onion, chopped (optional)

salt, pepper,dried thyme

Cook together on "Low" at least 8 hours.

About 15 minutes before serving, stir in:

2 Tbso, flour, stirred into 1/2 cup of sour cream.

Stir the sour cream-flour blend into the stroganoff in the crockpot. Allow to cook together until sides are ready. 

Beef Stroganoff is usually served over cooked egg noodles. However, I decided to do this dinner over brown rice. Plated in a large dinner bowl, my side green vegetable is steamed Russian red kale (had it in the freezer, blanched, from the garden last Summer!) over which I drizzled a little vinegar and oil.

 Hmm...Beef Stroganoff with Russian Red Kale...

inspired by Sochi 2014??? 


Posted by Karen at 09:09 CST
Updated: Thursday, 6 February 2014 09:13 CST
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Tuesday, 4 February 2014
Broccoli Cheese Soup
Topic: Recipes

Apparently the gopher saw his shadow, thus 6 more weeks of Winter.

Oh, that we could be so lucky and only have 6 more weeks and not 3 more months, which is what I suspect will turn out to be the fact...

So, I think we need to be reminded of an easy recipe for a hearty soup, Broccoli Cheese Soup. Note that you can substitute frozen Cauliflower for the Broccoli or even choose a Broccoli-Cauliflower blend! 


 Broccoli-Cheese Soup

6 servings

Saute together in a soup pot in 2-3 tbsp. Olive oil:

½ onion, chopped fine

1 stalk of celery, chopped fine

1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine


32 oz chicken broth

16 oz. frozen, chopped broccoli

2 carrots, chopped into smaller pieces

Salt, pepper and parsley

Simmer with lid on until the broccoli and carrots are throughly cooked and soft about 30 minutes.

Stir in:

2 Tbsp. Flour mixed in 1 cup of milk

Simmer additional 5 minutes, while stirring.

Then, stir in:

8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

Pulse with the immersion blender, directly in the pot,a few times to puree some of the soup, especially the larger pieces, leaving smaller pieces intact.



Posted by Karen at 10:03 CST
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Sunday, 2 February 2014
Superbowl Roast Beef Sandwiches
Topic: Recipes

I know it's last minute...

But, here's a quick idea for tonight's game menu. (Remember, you have to work tomorrow so you don't want everyone just eating snacks for dinner!) 

 Crockpot Roast Beef

Lightly spray-oil the crockpot. 

Place a 2-3 lb. round or sirloin tip roast in the crockpot.

Add 1 can of undiluted Golden Mushroom Soup (if you want a thicker gravy)

OR--Add 1 can of undiluted French Onion soup (if you want an "au Jus" type gravy)

Cover the crockpot, cook on low until game time (about 8-10 hours-you can't overcook). Do NOT be tempted to dilute the soup or peek or add any water!

When ready to serve, take the roast out to a platter, allow to rest about 10 minutes, then slice thinly for sandwiches.  Return slices to the crockpot and gravy to keep warm until your side dishes are ready.

IF you want a thicker gravy, when the meat is on the platter, whisk in a rounded tablespoon of flour directly into the crockpot juices, until thickened.




For sides--

how about a vinegar-and -oil or creamy cole slaw (mayonnaise, cider vinegar, salt, pepper, onion powder, dillweed) 

maybe some "doctored up" smokey baked beans?

and "cheesy potato casserole" (those boxed potato casseroles are not a bad idea and when you sneak in some kale or spinach, they'll never know) 

 Have a great Game Night!


Posted by Karen at 09:30 CST
Updated: Tuesday, 4 February 2014 10:09 CST
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Saturday, 25 January 2014
Salmon Patties
Topic: Recipes

One more delicious way to use canned salmon (and increase your intake of protein, omega 3 fatty acids, B and D vitamins, calcium and selenium)...

Even "non-fisheaters" will love these patties which crisp up very nicely with their super light coating of cornflake crumbs, pan-fried in olive oil. 

Keep the last 3 posts in mind when you are looking for those family favorites during meatless Fridays in Lent. 


Salmon Patties

makes 6 patties

Saute ½ small onion and one stalk of celery, chopped finely, in 2 tbsp olive oil. Allow to cool.

Place 2 cans (7.5 oz or one 15 oz) of Red Sockeye or Pink Salmon in a bowl, draining excess water off first.

Add to the bowl with salmon:

Onion and celery, prepped as above

2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise

1/3 cup of corn flake crumbs

1 egg

1 Tsp. Dried Dillweed

Ground black pepper

Combine these ingredients, breaking up the larger, soft bones, with your fingers or spoon. Form into 6 patties, and then lightly dredge each patty into an additional small amount of cornflake crumbs, to coat both sides of each patty. Note this is really lightly done with only about a Tbsp of crumbs used in total on the 6 patties.

Cook immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready for use.

Fry patties in a skillet with 2-3 tbsp olive oil, turning once, about 5 minutes on each side over medium high heat to cook to an interior temperature of 155 degrees (until inside is light pink and fully cooked.)

Serve with a dipping sauce of mayonnaise, lemon juice and dillweed, or a prepared sauce such as tartar sauce or other dipping sauce of your choice. Round out the meal with a great salad or coleslaw (I have a slaw with shredded red cabbage, broccoli and carrots) and maybe some greens like the steamed, chopped spinach which I've sprinkled with a little cider vinegar.



Posted by Karen at 08:59 CST
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Thursday, 23 January 2014
Salmon Loaf
Topic: Recipes

Sticking with the salmon theme from last post...maybe you didn't have a salmon filet in the freezer, but you have this instead:


If so, then why not try this recipe for salmon loaf, made like a meat loaf but with canned salmon instead-- still packed with omega 3 fatty acids, protein, B vitamins and selenium!


 Salmon Loaf

(serves 2-3, easily doubled)

Prep a pyrex or glass pan with oil, Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the following:

2 small (7.5 oz) cans of Red Salmon, with the juice, break up the chunks into pieces

1 egg

½ cup each, finely chopped onion and sweet pepper (green, yellow, red or combination)

½ cup breadcrumbs (or corn flake crumbs, if wheat sensitive)

Seasonings: dried dillweed, ground black pepper or lemon pepper.

Mix together and form into a loaf.

Bake at 350 degrees about 45-50 minutes (if doubling, then allow 1 hour.)

Let sit about 5 minutes before cutting and serve with a dipping sauce—your own blend of mayonnaise, lemon juice and dillweed-- (or bottled Ranch or Green Goddess dressing or tartar sauce?)

Posted by Karen at 07:49 CST
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Tuesday, 21 January 2014
Easy Poached Salmon
Topic: Education and Values

The Arctic Blast is back!  And I'm sure by looking at the weather maps, that wherever you are reading this, .you may be affected too.

This awful weather is a huge burden on your body  through direct physical effects of being outside and exposure to the risks of cold temperatures and an icy, accident-promoting landscape, and physical activity that is necessary to perform in the cold weather. But it is also hazardous to you indirectly because of the psychologic stress that unpredictable weather produces, not knowing if you can get to work, wondering about your elderly relatives' safety, concern for your family and pets--and importantly, not being able to predict or control any of it! Every aspect of your body is affected from your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection and lowering your response to fighting cancer, to your heart and circulatory system, making you more susceptible to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. 

So, how about an easy dinner filled with protein, omega 3 fatty acids and a bonus of B vitamins and  selenium?

Easy Poached Salmon

(in the microwave)

Select a salmon filet, allowing 6 oz. per serving.

 Place in a shallow pyrex or glass pan.

Mix 1/2 lemon juice and 1/2 water, sufficient to fill pan to1/2 height of the thickest part of the salmon.

Sprinkle liberally with dried dillweed. 

Microwave on high for 4 minutes, then check the fish. The exact time will depend on the size and thickness of your filet. It is done when the fish is completely pink and easily separates with a fork (flakes). Notice the color difference between uncooked and cooked.

Now serve with some colorful vegetables (salmon with spinach is always a winning combination!) to round out this appealing dinner. 



Posted by Karen at 10:31 CST
Updated: Thursday, 23 January 2014 07:49 CST
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Saturday, 18 January 2014
Topic: Recipes

No...not a misspelling. We're making ...FLAMMKUCHEN.

Today I'm sharing a very easy recipe for what may look like pizza, but isn't.

This is a casual dish served in the region between France and Germany and yes, I know it looks like a white pizza, but it's not.

I was introduced to this casual fare while my son was studying philosophy as a grad student at the University of Freiburg (specifically, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) and I got to make sure he was eating well, of course.   

It's usually made and served as an entree for one and people order singly in restaurants, choosing the toppings they want individually. But, for efficiency's sake, I made one large one.  It can also be prepared on a grill surface, including your outdoor grill, but it is January in northwestern Illinois, so the oven is today's plan.




So, we have a crispy bread dough (OK, you can use frozen pizza dough here, readily available in any market...rolled thin, then brushed with olive oil and baked for 5 minutes at 425 degrees to crisp it).

On top of the browned crust--I have a 16 inch crust here--add about 4 tbsp.  of sour cream and spread thinly over the crust.

Then add cheese--I used 8 oz of shredded Italian blend.

Then add toppings.

Here's where the German/ French connection shows. They will add bits of ham and onion or other vegetables and the seasonings are more traditional French rather than Italian.

I used 2 onions, chopped and sauteed until translucent in olive oil, seasoned lightly with salt, and generously with herbs de Provence.

Then sauteed some red pepper strips (remember, we have packets of these in the freezer from last Summer's harvest, already blanched and kitchen-prepped).

Finally added some sliced green olives. The choices of toppings are your own.

Now return this Flammkuchen to the oven and bake another 12-15 minutes at 425 degrees until the cheese is melted and browned.

This is a perfect choice for a  casual, but continental, dinner with your choice of beverage and a great movie! 

Posted by Karen at 15:55 CST
Updated: Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:18 CST
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Friday, 10 January 2014
Herbed Ground Beef Stew over Polenta
Topic: Recipes

It all started with a phone call from my friend and fellow flutist, Mary. 

I was browning some ground beef, thinking about making some crockpot beef recipe and waiting for inspiration, when the phone rang.

"Karen, have you ever heard of making pot roast with rosemary?" Mary asked, explaining her indoor rosemary plant was quite healthy and she'd defrosted some beef, and she was in a cooking frenzy.

"Well, I usually think of rosemary with chicken...or in my rosemary pound cake or rosemary shortbread," I said, walking through the door from the kitchen to the "man treehouse" where my own indoor rosemary plant resides. 

And, before I knew it, I'd snipped a couple of sprigs of rosemary and inhaled deeply from the fragrant cut edge.

"I'm sure you can use rosemary in your pot roast recipe,because you've just inspired me to use it in my beef stew!" 

And, below you have the recipe for Herbed Beef Stew over Polenta

because one thing I do know about beef and rosemary is that it reminded me of Tuscan inspired roast beef--so, it just had to be served over polenta. 




 Herbed Ground Beef Stew

(in the crockpot, 6 hearty servings over Polenta)

Prep crockpot with spray oil.

Brown 2 lbs. of ground beef , add to crockpot.

Add the following fresh, chopped vegetables:

2 potatoes

2 large carrots

2 stalks of celery

Then add and stir in :

1 can of diced tomatoes with the juice

1-8 oz can of tomato sauce

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Then add:

1 tsp.dried thyme

2 tsp. dried parsley

½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp. Garlic powder

1 tsp salt

Place 2 freshly cut Rosemary sprigs on top.

Cook on “low” 8 hours. Remove Rosemary before serving.

Serve this fragrant, healthy stew aside a dollop of Polenta.

I used Giada De Laurentis' recipe for “Basic Polenta” for 6 servings:

6 cups of water, bring to boil in a heavy saucepan. Add 2 tsp. Salt and 1&3/4 cups yellow cornmeal. Reduce heat to low and cook, while stirring until thick and tender.

Remove from heat and stir in 3 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces.

Posted by Karen at 09:46 CST
Updated: Friday, 10 January 2014 10:49 CST
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Tuesday, 7 January 2014
The Arctic Blast 2014
Topic: Education and Values

The worst is over for this Arctic Blast and its minus 50 degree wind chills. But it's still sub-zero today (though without the wind, it does feel like a mini-heat wave).

Winter still continues for another two-and-a-half-months and – what do you think the chances are that we'll have an “early Spring”. (We've all seen snow on Mother's Day.) I'd advise everyone to keep your pantries stocked with the staples and the gas tanks full at all times. And, I doubt I'll be abandoning the mega-layers of clothing for some time.

How're the animals doing, you may wonder? Especially the cattle who live "free range"?

Well, here's a photo of the some of the cattle early this morning, after 48 hours of windchills between minus 30 and minus 50 degrees. (My phone camera “failed to initialize” after two photos in the still bitter cold, before I could photograph more. No problem, I shouldn't have left my hand out of my gloves for any longer either.)



They have the three things that cattle need to survive arctic cold: wind shelter, plenty of hay, water.

On our farm, we have several pastures that link together so that we rotate them easily between the pastures. During the time the grasses are growing, usually we move the herd of 60 plus cattle between each 20-30 acre pasture, allowing them to graze it, then move to the next in a process known as “rotational grazing.” Depending upon grass growth, they could be in a pasture one week or three weeks. During dormancy, this might be sometimes only a few days. We round on the animals and pastures twice a day to determine when to move.

But in the Winter, there is no pasture grass to graze, it's under ice and snow. Instead, the hundreds of hay bales that were made from our designated hay fields are served to the cattle, horses, and sheep. “Make hay while the sun shines” is a critical piece of advice that we quote often. We were lucky to get 4 cuttings of hay from some fields last Summer. And, as this Winter is showing, you can never say you have “too much hay.”

Hay (a dry combination of different cut and baled grasses and legumes) is the only feed allowed for Animal Welfare Approved and American Grassfed Association cattle and sheep. It is their natural diet and life-saving in bitter cold, because the digestion process of hay actually creates heat (as opposed to grain which consumes heat and can produce acidosis).

So, in the Winter, we move our cattle to a central pasture and lowlands area. They are still “free range” in this 30+ acre area, but they have natural shelter in a basin area with hills and with plenty of tall trees to provide additional wind protection. And there is a long stretch of clean, free-flowing creek. Even after the last 48 hours of arctic blast, here's a picture of one pool in the creek. The surface may be frozen, but there's flowing water available at the bank, that they are keeping open.



Our cattle eat free choice, not at specified times like in a feedlot, so there are always bales of hay available. They have “group-designated” a particularly wind-sheltered, woody area for ruminating. Incidentally, the herd has a favorite ruminating spot in each pasture, which is always under the trees, winter or summer. Lucky animals—and smart husband—each pasture is delineated to have large stands of trees, so they have the shade protection of trees in the summer.

I'm happy to report no ill-effects observed from this Arctic blast, but I caution everyone to remember, it's still sub-zero and a long time until the grass is green again! The chickens still need to be fed and watered inside their coops, they wisely refuse to freeze their feet. And, every animal that eats hay needs extra hay and water. Every animal needs wind (and rain and sleet!) protection.

And we still need every one of those extra layers of clothing!

Posted by Karen at 12:48 CST
Updated: Tuesday, 7 January 2014 13:12 CST
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