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Saturday, 14 February 2015
More Heart Healthy Food
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

In keeping with February's Heart Month, I am posting another recipe that is a family-pleaser yet is very low in saturated fat: Ground Turkey Meatloaf!

You know that we raise grassfed beef cattle and that ground beef is also lower in saturated fats and  higher in "heart-healthy" fats, but it's not readily available in all markets. This week, ground turkey seems to be on sale everywhere! Look for the 95% Lean ground Turkey and organic if possible.

I've also tried to make this recipe lower in sodium by omitting worchestershire sauce and adding herbs for flavor enhancement, lower in carbohydrates by using plain tomato sauce instead of a traditional processed catsup or BBQ sauce addition, higher in natural sources of vitamins by sneaking in finely chopped vegetables. All of these things may seem small but if you are on any restriction, they add up in the course of a day. I encourage you to look at your traditional recipes and you'll find there are often ways to improve the "healthiness", without sacrificing the convenience in preps. 

Ground Turkey Meatloaf

1 pkg. (20 0z.) lean ground turkey (95% lean, if possible)

1/4 cup bread crumbs

4 oz. plain tomato sauce 

1 large egg

1/2 red, yellow or green pepper, diced (smart you- you keep frozen strips already in the freezer, saved from last Summer!)

1/2 cup finely chopped spinach or kale leaves

1/2 small onion, finely chopped 

finely chopped fresh parsley, dried or fresh thyme leaves, freshly ground black pepper, salt

Here's a photo of the deconstructed meatloaf before mixing together. Mix these ingredients and form into a meatloaf.

Then ready to go in the oven--note: I decided to drizzle a little more tomato here, it's really a small amount of catsup when "drizzled"! And you can omit it too, but don't put any on the table when you serve--that's where people tend to overuse.  Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

And finally, plated for serving. This will make 4 servings of 5 oz ground turkey each, perfect for any diet. 

Lots more colorful veggies included--a small serving of scalloped potatoes, large serving of steamed Kale with cooked carrots and cannellini beans. I put about 4-6 oz water and about 1 Tbsp. lemon juice in a large skillet, brought to simmer, then added a 1/2 bag of triple washed kale greens, cooking down until wilted (add more lemon water, if needed). Toss in some chopped garlic with the cooked greens. I cooked the carrots separately, then added them to the kale after greens were wilted and tender, and finally stirred in one can of rinsed and drained cannellini beans. Extra lemon juice and ground pepper to taste.




Posted by Karen at 08:40 CST
Updated: Saturday, 14 February 2015 18:27 CST
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Saturday, 7 February 2015
The "Heart Healthy" Label
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

A Quick Recipe can be made healthier by taking a closer look at the labels of the foods you buy.

Today I would like you to focus on a new label placed on some processed foods—this one is from the American Heart Association, is called "Heart Healthy" and is intended to point out foods that promote their healthy diets.

“Risky foods” for people include high sodium (high salt) processed foods and those containing high cholesterol, any trans fats and high saturated fats. So, a new label you may see is the “Heart Healthy” label to promote those foods lower in sodium and saturated fat.

The Crockpot Chicken Stew I am making has this label on the skinless chicken thighs, pointing out it is a food low in saturated fats and has no trans fats.

And the American Heart Association Heart Healthy label is also on the can of lower sodium Cream of Chicken soup that I am using.This time it's because of lower sodium content.

The regular Cream of Chicken soup by the same company has twice the sodium of the can shown. People with hypertension and heart failure certainly need to be aware of the sodium content in their diet. But it's important to note that most processed foods still contain higher sodium than what people without blood pressure or heart problems need, too!

Salt is often added for flavor, but we can easily improve the flavor of our homemade foods with the addition of herbs, not more salt! So, if you are making a crockpot stew using a processed soup, consider looking for low sodium options, never add more salt, instead making sure you add dried or fresh herbs. In this chicken stew—the addition of thyme and/or rosemary would be a great choice, along with ground pepper.



Quick Crockpot Chicken Stew

4 servings

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs- cut up into 1” pieces

2 large carrots, cut into 1” chunks

2 large stalks of celery, diced

1 potato, diced 

½ small onion, diced

Place above into a lightly oiled crockpot.

Add 1 can of undiluted “Heart Healthy” Cream of Chicken Soup and stir in.

Add 1/2 cup of frozen chopped spinach or kale.

Add freshly ground pepper and extra dried or fresh thyme leaves or chopped fresh rosemary leaves.

Cook on “low” setting for 8 hours.

Last hour, stir in 3/4 cup of frozen peas and –if you want, and carb counting allows—place 4 small frozen potato dumplings on top. Cover, put on “high” setting until the dumplings are cooked. 



Posted by Karen at 08:28 CST
Updated: Saturday, 7 February 2015 09:48 CST
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Sunday, 1 February 2015
Quiche !
Topic: Recipes

Busy, busy, busy...right?

It's time to do an annual review of a classic dish, with a spin. I am reminding you about both the simplicity and elegance of a quiche. This versatile dish can be served as breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or appetizer.

It can be as complicated as making a homemade crust in a specialized quiche pan, with imported cheses and multi-prep of additional fillings. 

Or--you can use a premade, frozen 9" deep dish pie crust and scrounge the refrigerator and freezer and find great additions with minimal prep time.

My quiche today is the latter. I wanted a quiche available in the refrigerator, from which I could take slices and microwave as a substantive breakfast/brunch in between shoveling snow! And, all the ingredients were right in my refrigerator and freezer!

Spinach- Spicy Sausage-Cheddar Quiche 

Defrost a 9" deep dish piecrust. Crimp up the pastry lip around the edge of the pan. (see photo). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 2 cup measuring cup, crack 4 eggs and measure milk to make 1 and 1/2 cup total volume. Put this into a mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly. ( you'll remember that this is basic quiche and you can now add any additions you'd like to)

Put the picresut on a baking pan with a layer of aluminum foil underneath, just in case it cooks over (it shouldn't, but "just in case") 

 Add 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach to the egg mixture. 

Cook 3 Spicy sausage patties in the microwave as directed. Cool and dice them up  Add to the mixture.

Add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese to the egg mixture.

Add 1 Tbsp. minced onion.

Add freshly ground pepper or dash of nutmeg to taste. 

Pour this mixture into the piecrust.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, until eggs are fully set.









Posted by Karen at 10:01 CST
Updated: Sunday, 1 February 2015 10:03 CST
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Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Topic: Entertaining/Party
I had to go into the recipe collection for this re-post from January 2013-- because I want to make Hoppin'John for tomorrow's Brunch.
It just isn't New Year's Day without blackeyed peas and ham somewhere on the menu. For years, I'd make a crockpot-full for the Emergency Department while we worked the day shift on New Year's Day. But then I was introduced to blackeyed peas and ham in the wonderful recipe for Hoppin' John and I was a convert.
And Joe Spake's recipe for Hoppin' John is the best one to repeat!
Of course, eating blackeyed peas-and-ham is a southern tradition...and I've seen recipes for this without ham for vegetarians...same seasonings but add liquid smoke. And I've done this recipe with lentils and basmati rice and Indian seasonings, so traditions can be bent! Seasonings can be adjusted, new traditions made--after all, it's a New Year! 
Here's the re-post from January 2013: 

My good buddy, Joe Spake “the finest realtor in Memphis”-- has always been very liberal about sharing his wonderful recipes. I am including his very Southern recipe for “Hoppin' John” below. This is a “must do” for January—start the new year off right!Joe will tell you to serve over rice with cornbread!

Joe’s Hoppin’ John

1 pound dry black eyed peas
1 medium onion
1 green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1 can minced tomatoes and peppers (like Rotel®)
2 tsp Dry Italian seasoning
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Tbs minced Garlic
2 tsp (or more) powdered Cajun seasoning (I like Konriko)
Tabasco Sauce to taste
4-6 cups cooked rice.

Wash and sort peas and soak in 8 cups of water for 8 hours, and pour off soaking water. Boil hamhock for 20 minutes. In a stock pot add all ingredients, except rice; stir, and add enough water to cover the mixture. Bring to a slow boil and cook 45 minutes, then simmer for another 30 minutes. [Note: I was taught as a child to cook until the peas literally fell apart- if you like the texture of refried beans, cook it longer than instructed.] When peas are tender, check seasons for your taste. Serve over rice, or mix in rice just before serving.


Now,of course I had to make Hoppin' John after reading his recipe and reading the accolades on his blog and FB page.


But—as usually happens—I had to modify to accommodate what I had in my pantry—and adapt a tad to my taste profile. So, here's what I ACTUALLY used.

Karen' s Hoppin' John

½ lb. Black-eyed peas, soaked overnight—Rinse, drain and then simmer in 1 quart of chicken broth with 1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilis and the juice. Simmer with the lid on for a total of 2 hours. Add the ingredients below as you get them prepped.

2 tsp dried Italian seasoning blend, 1/4 (or more!) tsp cayenne pepper

½ onion, chopped, 4 cloves of garlic, minced, 1 bell green pepper, chopped, 3 stalks of celery and the leaves, chopped fine: Cook together in olive oil until soft Add to the pot.

Chop about 1 lb of precooked or leftover ham, add to pot.

When all this has simmered together, then serve over cooked, brown rice.




Posted by Karen at 10:34 CST
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Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Salute! To your Health!
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

This is what we're looking at this Holiday Season:

 Widespread Influenza Activity 

throughout most of the US. 

It's up to you to protect yourself and your family.Likely everyone has gotten their flu shot, but it doesn't appear to be completely protective this year. So, don't let your guard down. Continue to practice good health habits and keep your immunity at peak performance. Simple things help!

There are other commonsense things to keep you healthy:

I am stressing eating a balanced diet because we often neglect home food preparation when we are rushing around with holiday-related activities and shopping. We cheat ourselves by making easy choices for dinner, over-eating carbohydrates usually and missing balanced nutrtion.

Here's a couple of good ideas to stay on track between the holidays.

Some photos of “quick” dinners. These require no prep time, just heat, bake or microwave--or open the deli container:

Your Hot dog dinner has 3 different salads:

Your Veggie Burger (find in frozen food section)--add deli salads  or frozen mixed vegetables and baked beans:



Your Ham slices and quick sides:

Your Baked chicken, stuffed mushrooms and salad from the deli:






Posted by Karen at 12:42 CST
Updated: Tuesday, 23 December 2014 12:43 CST
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Friday, 21 November 2014
Perfect Soup for a Wintry Day
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity

Once upon a wintery Autumn... 

Unseasonably early, bitter, winter-style weather has hit most of the country. Jo Daviess County is no exception. Many autumnal plans and expectations have gone undone. We're feeding hay to the sheep, cattle and horses since the grass is frozen and under a snow cover. We might get a reprieve in the next week or two but, for the most part, Autumn is gone for the year.

The kale froze, I hoped for fresh kale from the garden for Thanksgiving, as well as other greens—that would have been a plan in the usual year. Thankfully, all the winter squash and pumpkins were pulled in before the deep freezing began. And I potted up a couple of Rosemary plants to keep going indoors for fresh cuttings, one of the few herbs that don't work as well when dried.

I'm happy that I chose to prep and freeze so many peppers when they were abundant. And that my sister decided one Summer afternoon to pick and prep, bread and fry, then freeze, some of our eggplant to make a future “eggplant parmesan,” with our homemade canned marinara sauce, along with some dried herbs from the garden.

We have two types of “refrigerator pickles” in the refrigerator from a couple of Summer afternoon quick and fun projects. Apple filling was made from our apples and frozen during one of those late Summer afternoons, too! Thinking about all of the food projects we accomplished during the Summer, you might think we anticipated this weather!

Now, this dismal, chilling weather calls for cooking. And a homey, humble --but protein- and vitamin-packed-- soup should be on the stove.

Why not plan a pot of Beef and Vegetable Soup that's quick and hearty?




Beef and Vegetable Soup

1 lb. Chuck, cut into bite sized pieces

(I had a 3 lb chuck pot roast, used 1 lb for the soup and rest as a pot roast)

Saute in 1-2 Tbsp olive oil with ½ tsp chopped garlic until browned.

Add: 1 large stalk celery, diced

3 medium carrots, sliced

1 cup deveined and chopped kale leaves

28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes and the juice

(you can also substitute a 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes and 16 oz. beef broth, if you prefer)

1 quart of water

Season with;

1 tsp. each: salt, onion powder, dried basil (or Italian blend herbs), dried parsley, dried thyme

Several grinds of black pepper

Add: 1 bay leaf, but remember to remove from soup before serving.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to low simmer and cover. Simmer at least an hour until meat and vegetables are tender. Add additional water as needed. Adjust seasonings as desired. 



Posted by Karen at 13:26 CST
Updated: Friday, 21 November 2014 13:30 CST
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Saturday, 8 November 2014
Lower Carb Baked Apple Pancakes
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

I want, I want, I want...

Go ahead--there are less than 25 grams of carbohydrates (and no faux sweeteners !)  in this plate of Baked Apple Pancakes, your serving size. And if you add a couple of sausage links or bacon strips, you won't add any more carbohydrates. 

How difficult it is to face cold weather and hard work and crave those carbohydrates! But, it's also the time of the year when we have to really work to FORCE ourselves to minimize weight gain and temptations.

That means it's time to remind ourselves of the need to minimize carbohydrates as much as possible. 

What happens when you eat carbohydrates (which are sugars and starches)? They are quickly absorbed and immediately stimulate insulin release in order to reduce the high blood sugars and osmotic load in your blood stream. Insulin then causes the carbohydrates you are not immediately using for energy to be converted to fat for future use. And those fat stores can be used for energy in the future, if you ever decide you want to spend your extra time on a treadmill to burn those new fat stores up. Otherwise, if you do not break the cycle of eating more carbohydrates than you need, you continue to gain fat.

It gets worse, of course, the body becomes resistant to converting excess carbohydrates and storing giant amounts of fat, your body becomes "insulin resistant" over time and you are then at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, a national problem.

How to reverse? Stop the carbohydrate overload!  Look seriously into the foods you eat. There's really no reason to consume more than 25 grams of carbohydrate at a meal and you probably don't need more than 40-50 grams of carbohydrate all day. You DO need fats and protein, fiber (non-absorbed is not counted as a carbohydrate), natural sources of vitamins and minerals, that can readily be supplied by eating non-sugar and starch-laden foods. These would be supplied in meats, fish, poultry, and plants, predominantly vegetables.

So, are you craving those Baked Apple Pancakes?

Try this recipe. If you notice, there is very little sugar and flour, yet it's nutritious and protein-rich because each serving has 2 eggs in it! It's a good way to start to cut out carbs. And, I promise to post more of our low carb favorite recipes this holiday season.

Baked Apple  Pancakes  

serves 2

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and prep a 6- muffin tin with spray oil.

Beat 4 eggs intil fluffy. Add 1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup flour, a dash of salt and a couple drops of vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, combine 1 apple, diced with 1 teaspoon butter or butter and canola blend. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Allow a couple minutes to cool.

Stir into the apples: 1 tablespoon pure cane sugar and cinnamon to taste (1/4 tsp?).

Meanwhile, divide egg mixture into the 6 muffin tin. Then divide the apple mixture into the 6  Put it in the oven.

It will puff up like souffles do and separate from the edges. Also, like souffles, note that they will shrink upon cooling, so expect it.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Then remove and plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar (this plate about 1 tsp. of powdered sugar)--add a mug of coffee or tea, maybe a couple of sausage links or bacon and this is one great Sunday breakfast!

And a great start for your LOWER CARB plan coming in at about 25 grams of carbohydrates in the 3 "puffcakes" that constitute 1 serving size, with the powdered sugar on. If it's your "big carb" meal of the day, you won't be disappointed. 











Posted by Karen at 09:12 CST
Updated: Saturday, 8 November 2014 09:18 CST
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Saturday, 11 October 2014
Frosty Mornings and Hoppin' John
Topic: Recipes

Frosty Mornings

Did you wake up to a scene like this?




There's frost covering the grass, trees, lawn chairs and table. While this will be melted off in a couple of hours, the rest of the day will still be brisk. And you likely will be filling it with fall chores like raking leaves, chopping wood, cleaning gutters...Or maybe you'll be lucky and take a wonderful hike in the woods or just take an extended walk with the dog? You won't want to be inside with this brisk, clean and fresh day facing you.

But you'll likely have a big appetite for something hearty by the end of the day. This is soup and stew weather! And if you don't want to sit indoors all day cooking, then let your crockpot work while you play outside.

You might want to try my variation on “Hoppin' John”. The traditional Hoppin' John, which I've posted on for the last two years, is a dish made for January 1st, with ham and black-eyed peas and cajun-styled seasonings, cooked in a stew pot on the stove, and is served over long-grain rice.Today's equally hearty and spicy variation uses common lentils, and is served over brown Basmati rice. Better yet, it's made in the crockpot.

Crockpot Hoppin' John with Lentils

4-6 servings

Saute together in olive oil, until softened:

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ Spanish onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 carrot, thinly sliced (optional)

In the crockpot, add:

1 (14.5 oz) can of Rotello diced tomatoes with chilis, and the juice

1 (14.5-16 oz) can of chicken broth

1- 1.5 lb ham steak chopped (or equiv. leftover ham) chop in larger pieces, not diced.

1/3 lb. dried lentils

1 cup frozen, fresh or canned corn (I had a frozen corn, black bean,chil blend that I used)

Add the above sauteed vegetables to the crockpot.

Stir in the following seasonings:

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning blend ( or equiv basil, oregano, thyme)

1 tsp. ground Cumin

Few to several shakes of Cayenne pepper. (This is essential but your taste preferences will have to determine how much heat you like)

1 bay leaf (place at the end so you know where to find it and pull out before serving)

Don't add salt until it's cooked and you can then decide if you need more.

Let this cook for at least 6 hours on “low” , or more if you're still out of the house.

Serve “as is” or make some basmati rice and ladle the stew over it.

I used Lundgren's brown basmati rice in my rice cooker. Note that this rice has both the USDA Organic label and, in the lower right corner, a separate “verified non-GMO” label. Since so much of our rice is now GMO, it's worth looking for these labels if you are concerned about the status of the rice you're buying.

Now, curl up in front of the fire with a bowl of this unconventional stew. (I think this may become my new “traditional” Hoppin' John.)

Posted by Karen at 10:58 CDT
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Saturday, 4 October 2014
Autumn "To Do" List
Topic: Home Environment

It's Autumn and that means it's time to change our home environment and coordinate with the season. It's also time to harvest our gardens and enjoy the next several weeks between harvest time and the next seasonal holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 Make a pot of chili--this "chili mac" is a variation of Cincinnati chili and has a topping of Greek yogurt for extra probiotic nutrition!

Next, bring in those pumpkins and winter squash, you might even find a really cute baby pumpkin, like I did!


Now, dig up a few herbs and re-pot as houseplants for the winter.I'll be taking some cuttings of this rosemary for roast chicken Tuscan beef during the winter!

So, let's conclude the day of Autumn "to dos" by re-decorating our homes with flowers and plantings that can tolerate the cold temperatures. 

No time?--then just place potted mums in the birdbath and make a statement. 


And re-decorate that front door with a new fall wreath. That's an easy switch!  

Posted by Karen at 14:46 CDT
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Monday, 29 September 2014
Dinner in a Bowl
Topic: Nutrition and food safety

Do you agree that the "Dinner-in-a-Bowl" picture looks yummy?

And that it would appeal to a number of picky eaters, too--whether a fussy child or temperamental senior!

Yet this simple "dinner-in-a-bowl" contains all sorts of protein and nutrients--five different vegetables!-- and it's even lower in carbs than you might think at first glance. 

Allow me to deconstruct the photo:

First we have a beautiful, over-sized bowl with a raised edge. This allows you to put ingredients that have sauces that can move around the bowl without spilling. You can slide foods into each other and co-mingle the flavors. (I know some people don't like their foods touching, so might not like this idea, but most kids and gourmands love it!).

BTW- I found 4 of these great bowls on a clearance rack at Target!

Then we have a base of mashed "potatoes", but look closely--they are NOT typical because these mashed "potatoes" are really half mashed cauliflower, and then we have baby greens added besides. So, even your picky eaters will never object to eating this combination, presented this way. I cook equal portions of cut-up potatoes with fresh cauliflower florets together in the same pot until done, then drain and mash together with butter, salt and pepper. Extra milk isn't necessary because of the retained liquid in the cauliflower. Finally add a good handful or two of tender, fresh baby greens and stir in to blend. If using larger leaves, simply chop them into smaller pieces so the heat from the potatoes and cauliflower will wilt them and soften.

Next, we have a slow-cooked, grassfed beef roast--simply prepared in the crockpot, covered with 1 can of French onion soup or beef consomme (undiluted). Remove the roast to a serving dish, slice or rough cut into chunks, depending on the type of roast used. I have a pot roast above. Whisk about 1 rounded Tbsp of flour to thicken the reamining juices,using the High setting of the crockpot, cooking until just barely thickened. 

Finally take the opportunity to add one more vegetable blend, maybe something simple like the peas and carrots shown in the picture.

You have now served your family meat and potatoes--but with such a nutritious twist that they have 5 different vegetables in that bowl with their delicious beef.

And I'll bet everyone's plates are empty when the table is cleared.

Posted by Karen at 12:04 CDT
Updated: Monday, 29 September 2014 12:30 CDT
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