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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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Friday, 25 January 2013
BIGOS- Polish Hunter Stew--
Topic: Recipes



The concept has been on my mind for the past few days.

It started back at the “Hunter Stew” entry. I was also thinking about the crazy Polish dish when I made the “Sweet and Sour Cabbage”. I guess it was “stewing” in my head all along when today...

I went hunting in my refrigerator and pantry only to find...

most of the ingredients for BIGOS itself.

I had to do it.

OK—it's not the 14th century so there was no venison.

And I didn't have any prunes.

Or cabbage (since you know I used it a couple of days ago.)

But I did have Polish kielbasa (who knew?) and sauerkraut (always! It's healthy), tomatoes, onion, bacon (still left over from a couple of days ago) and some golden raisins to sub in for prunes.

So –here's my version of Polish Hunter's Stew (or “Bigos” meaning “mixed up.”)

in the crockpot,too!


1 lb. Kielbasa (smoked sausage) cut into 1”pieces

1 lb sauerkraut (rinsed and drained)

1 can (14-16 oz) of diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, if you have a choice) and the juice

¼ cup ( a good handful) golden raisins

4 oz canned mushroom, drained or 1 oz. Dried mushrooms or equiv. fresh, cooked and drained.

1 medium onion chopped and cooked with 4 thick slices of bacon, also chopped

1 Tbsp brown sugar

ground pepper

bay leaf (usual precaution, float on top and remove before serving)

Combine above in an oiled crockpot and cook on “low” all day 8 hours.

Wiki shows this amazing stew in a cut-away bread bowl with a bottle of beer. Doesn't sound bad that way—but simply in a bowl with a big spoon and some mineral water with a slice of lemon would work just as well!

Posted by Karen at 14:23 CST
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Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Bacon
Topic: Recipes

Snow's falling and the temperature is dipping below zero...

and that calls for some home cooking. In particular, it's a great time to cook a roast and make a bunch of wonderful, earthy side dishes. Make a large batch of everything so you can microwave leftovers and have another great dinner within the next day or two! Even walking the dogs will increase the appetite, but I'm pretty sure snow-shoveling is going to be part of your upcoming days' activities.

There is a great casual restaurant in Chicago, serving Polish and Lithuanian styled food called, “Mabenka.” It's near Midway Airport so whenever my brother or mother come up from Florida on an early morning flight, we head there for breakfast. Apple or potato pancakes, sausage, eggs—hearty items with lots of coffee.

But, occasionally we've been there for dinner and then it would be—pork roast for me.

Now I know everyone knows how to make a pork roast so I want to remind you that the really good part of a Polish-inspired dinner are the side dishes. Since I've promised emphasis on lower carbs and healthy eating—I made a small portion of garlic mashed potatoes (remember you can control how much you cook and serve!) and buttered cooked carrots, creamed mushrooms and (my favorite) cooked cabbage.



Here's the recipe for

Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Bacon

1 head of Cabbage, coarsely chopped into 1” pieces

4 slices (thick) bacon

¼ cup Apple cider or wine vinegar

2 tsp sugar (or substitute Stevia!)

Ground pepper


Chop the bacon and fry in a skillet. Set aside.

Cook cabbage in boiling water until limp and drain, but don't press out excess water.

Return the drained cabbage to its pot and add the cooked bacon with a bit of the reserved bacon fat. Add vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

Adjust seasonings, add extra vinegar depending on how large the cabbage head was—then add a bit more sugar or Stevia, salt and pepper as needed.

Posted by Karen at 12:36 CST
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Saturday, 19 January 2013
Hunter Stew
Topic: Recipes

Hunter Stew

Take a peek at what's cooking...


“Hunter Stew” the name itself evokes a rustic, hearty and meaty meal, doesn't it? And it seems every culture has invented one version or another...from Native American versions using deer and root vegetables to the Polish version (called “Bigos”, it's considered a national dish) using smoked sausage, cabbage, prunes and mushrooms.

Just because it's called “Hunter” doesn't mean you have to “hunt” further than your freezer, pantry and cold storage (refrigerator and root cellar if you're lucky!). I actually don't know anyone who eats “hunted” wild game any more. (All you have to do is read about Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and elk—and that pretty much ends the adventure for me!). The “hunt” today is to find meats that have been raised humanely, free-range on natural forage and without hormones and antibiotics.

If you are smart, you stashed your root cellar with some squash, onions, garlic, potatoes—that you grew by yourself in your own garden. These can go into your version of Hunter Stew. The Polish and Hungarian versions of Hunter Stew use cabbage with smoked meats and dried fruit which would have been set aside and thus available in the non-growing seasons in those parts of the world. Brilliant housewives! I am anxious to try those recipes as the winter progresses.

Today, however, my post will reflect my personal forage through the freezer, refrigerator and produce section of my grocery. The mushrooms were plentiful so—here's what I'm making.

Hunter Stew

2 lb. Beef stew meat in cubes

12 oz sliced mushrooms

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves, chopped garlic

Put above into an oiled crockpot. Season with ground black pepper, about 1 tsp dried thyme leaves.

Separately mix together, 1 can undiluted Golden Mushroom soup, 2 tbsp. Steak sauce, 1 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Stir into the meat mixture. Cover and cook for 8-10 hours on “LOW” setting.

Low carbing? Serve stew in a bowl just as it is--with a side vegetable salad for your other nutrients. This is my plan for tonight. Or serve over cooked, seasoned chopped cabbage or greens.

You can also serve the stew over mashed root veggies but then watch your carb counts and portion sizes!

Posted by Karen at 11:32 CST
Updated: Saturday, 19 January 2013 11:43 CST
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Saturday, 12 January 2013
Marinara Sauce into Pork Ragout
Topic: Recipes

There is something redeeming about the bleak Winter days.

And the main redemption is being able to finally use that frozen or canned marinara sauce you made from the great Summer harvest of tomatoes and fresh basil and oregano.

You remember that Summer day, don't you? When you scalded the tips of your fingers peeling the skins off the tomatoes, then pushed dozens of them through the seeder???

Then added your fresh herbs, seasonings, and maybe some red wine and olive oil???

Then watched pounds and pounds cook away into that final concentrated savory (and healthy!) sauce--


It's TIME to open a can (or, in my case, defrost a pint):



I had a half of a pork tenderloin already cooked, so chop/shredded it (about 2 cups) You can also substitute leftover cooked chicken or turkey in the same way.

Then I  stirred the 2 cups of pork into the pint of  marinara sauce--creating a "PORK RAGOUT."



Now I know we are all trying to get back into the low-carb eating after the holidays (and I promise to be aware of that in my recipes). But this really calls for a little pasta. So, I decided to add a high quality, organic brown rice rotini--but portion control it by cooking the amount needed for 2 servings and then put it in this recipe which will make 4 servings!

Heat the sauce and pork, add the cooked pasta, top with shredded parmesan cheese and serve immediately.



OR--if your husband calls you and says he's now running late AFTER you already made the dish,

then simply top with shredded mozzarella cheese, toss in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese is melted and pretend it was supposed to be a baked dish all along!






Posted by Karen at 14:04 CST
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Friday, 11 January 2013
Redecorating while you clean!
Topic: Entertaining/Party

It's hard to imagine that we're solidly into January already. The days already seem to be getting longer. The chickens want to hang around the backyard and horse pen until after 5 PM when they were tucked in for the night by 4 PM just a couple of weeks ago.

So, also our interior environments must evolve. It's time to take down all the interior Christmas decorations and clean. It was nice not to dust the mantels for a month--just wait until you see what's accumulated!

Then,  once the decorations are removed--oh how lifeless the house seems...

So, my proposal to avoid the shock of non-glitzy mantels and bare tabletops is...just push into the next season and keep the lights going!

Just swap out your evergreen garland for some floral or vine-y silks and your faux plants with live ones!

Here's an example of my living room fireplace, now re-done post Christmas. The little white lights (from the Christmas clearance racks) replaced colored lights, floral garland replaced pine garland.





And here's an example of the centerpiece on the porch's breakfast table...from faux holly to a potted floral plant. See the before and after below. The flowering house plant, Kalanchoe, was a gift from a friend in October. I moved it to the side of the soaking tub in the bathroom during the holiday season. And now it's back as a centerpiece--African violets or cyclamen would also be a pretty choice.



So, while the house may initially seem barren when the Christmas decorations get put away, quickly dust and replace with a new season of fresh-and-home-y.




Posted by Karen at 11:51 CST
Updated: Friday, 11 January 2013 12:30 CST
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