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Saturday, 23 April 2016
Savory Pureed Carrot Soup
Topic: Recipes
Savory Pureed Carrot Soup
 Earth Day 2016 was yesterday--it was overcast and slightly chilly so a soup seemed in order...
 Because it was Earth Day, root vegetables so directly connected to the Earth seemed a great inspiration.. 
This savory and highly fragrant soup  has the following ingredients to make 4 generous servings:
4 large carrots, chopped
1 sweet potato, diced
2 Tbsp. minced onion
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
Filtered water, about 1 and 1/2 cups
10-12 oz. chicken or vegetable broth 
Ginger root, about 1 tsp minced fresh
Olive oil 
And the following seasonings, your combination of the Indian Garam Masala spices:
Ground cloves
Ground coriander 
Also: salt, ground pepper and/or chili powder 
To make the soup:
First, start by sauteeing the  onion and celery in olive oil in a heavy soup pot.
Add the carrots and sweet potato, and all spices and ginger. Toss in extra olive oil if needed to prevent sticking. Heat the vegetables and spices through. This way of heating through the spices helps release their flavors, it kind of toasts the spices.  


Next, add enough filtered water to cover the vegetables.
Add 10-12 oz. chicken or vegetable broth.
Simmer with cover on for about 40 minutes until the vegetables are cooked.
After the vegetables are cooked, use the immersion blender in the pot to puree the soup.


Taste and adjust your seasonings, especially salt and pepper before serving,
Serve in bowls with a fresh parsley or cilantro garnish.
OR- this also makes a great "appetizer" soup as those little "shots" of soup for a clever first course buffet or dinner party. 
That list of ingredients for this recipe may seem onerous, but substitutions are easily made--no coriander, do you have cilantro fresh or dried flakes? No cardamom- ok to omit. No fresh ginger, OK to substitute ground ginger.
Of course, you already know the way to have ginger root always available is to store in the freezer--it's easier to shred when frozen too! 
Also--the issue of chili powder--here we have a whole spectrum of possibilities. Do you want flavor or heat? I am not a "heat" person so I usually sprinkle in standard mild-medium chili powder blend whereas true Indian red chili powder is extraordinarily hot so you must use caution in amounts until you know what amounts will satisfy the effect you are trying to achieve.
Which leads me to a final point--you can certainly make this carrot soup have a  completely different flavor profile, with still savory seasoning !
Instead of Inidan spices. how about trying herbs de Provence blend and thyme? It will also produce a beautiful and fragrant soup, also quite savory but completely different. 
Happy Earth Day 2016 (if belated)! But then, we should plan to celebrate our planet Earth everyday!

Posted by Karen at 09:48 CDT
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Saturday, 26 March 2016
Step-by-Step Quick and Savory Vegetable "Quiche"
Topic: Recipes

Who doesn't love a QUICKLY made, lower carb, SAVORY vegetable quiche? 


We often fail to make a quiche dish because we don't have time to prepare a pie crust base. So, we might choose a strata, but then resist because we don't want all that bread as the base.

We may be trying to save carbohydrate calories but just don't want to go with the crustless quiche.  

So, here's a suggestion. Make a quick quiche by using a minimal amount of bread base, using 2 "Sandwich Thins", the thin  convenience "bun" that is readily available (in your freezer right now, perhaps?).

And why emphasize SAVORY?

I once met a physician whose specialty was the first cranial nerve--seriously, the OLFACTORY nerve.  There are many conditions that affect the sense of smell and he was an authority on these, but one piece of his research was particularly interesting. It was a small study but with interesting initial findings. The research suggested that if you inhale intensely savory (or intensely sweet) odors while eating a food  for which savory would be appropriate--you are "sated" earlier--meaning you fill up faster. So eating foods that intensify the fragrances of the food, by choice of food, seasonings, herbs, etc--might theoretically fill you up more easily. Maybe that explains why you can get filled up on smaller portion sizes of "rich" French foods, known for their excellent savory and perfected sauces. 

In any case, you are more likely to ENJOY  well seasoned and savory foods than bland, one-dimensional food.  

Build your "Savory Vegetable Quiche".


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Start with a lightly oiled 8x8 inch glass pan.
  3. Separate the 2 "thin" buns into a total of 4 slices and place in the bottom of the pan, overlapping if needed to fit in.
  4.  In a separate bowl, combine: 
5. In a 2 cup measuring cup, beat together 4 large eggs and then add enough milk to the eggs to make 1 and 1/2 cups of total volume and whisk together.
6. Add to the vegetable and cheese mixture, blend together.
7. Pour over the sandwich thins.
8. Bake for 50-55 minutes until eggs are completely set.
9. Cool about 5 minutes.
10. Cut into 4 slices and serve.
11.  Finally, you can drizzle a little more "savory" by using a       premade  blue cheese or Ranch or Thousand Island drizzzle       across the top, especially nice with the greens in the quiche.
I drizzled a little blue cheese dressing over my slice in the picture at the beginning of this post. Hopefully, you'll give this quick quiche a try, intensify the SAVORY and see what you think!


Posted by Karen at 16:12 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 March 2016 16:17 CDT
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Wednesday, 7 October 2015
Pub Grub: Bangers and Mash
Topic: Recipes

Pub Grub

I think I first heard the term when touring England and Scotland many years ago. “Pub Grub” is earthy, common man's food, served in a community, local pub. At least back in the day, families could go into a local village pub and expect to find a daily special of “bangers and mash” or “fish and chips” or “steak and kidney pie” or “Sheperd's pie” or “lamb or beef stew” --whatever specialty of the day--readily available.Pub grub might have been the forerunner of convenience food. Certainly, it's heritage could claim the food of the local inns of decades and centuries before.

Pub grub is still good stuff. And, it's easy, adaptable to any culture. Below I show you the traditional “Bangers and Mash” but made a bit healthier by adding sauerkraut to the plate. In St. Andrews, Scotland, you might have just gotten literally sausage and mashed potatoes. Adding sauerkraut is an adaptation from my cultural heritage. Another adaptation might be in the sausage you choose to use. I chose bratwurst. But really, couldn't it be any sausage? Even tofu sausage?



My recipe for Bangers and Mash is simple.


  • Rinse 1 lb of sauerkraut and drain.
  • Add sauerkraut to an oiled crockpot. Season with your favorite sauerkraut additions. For me, I chose simple, but you know sauerkraut is another one of those culturally personal things. I used simply garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper (this time!).
  • Next, cut 5 or 6 links of uncooked bratwurst in half and place on top of the sauerkraut.. Again, any of your favorite sausage is fine!
  • Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. Longer won't hurt anything.
  • In the last hour, make a batch of mashed potatoes and some fresh, cooked and buttered carrots.
  • Plate in large bowl as shown above. You'll see that the "mash" (potatoes) are not main stage but are supported by additional vegetables: healthy carrots and sauerkraut.  


Simple food, with a nod to your cultural heritage, is always deliciously satisfying!
And if you close your eyes, add a pint of lager, you can almost transport yourself to a distant land...a pub in St. Andrews or the Cotswolds, maybe? 

Posted by Karen at 20:35 CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 7 October 2015 20:38 CDT
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Monday, 24 August 2015
An African-Inspired Breakfast
Topic: Recipes

A Healthy African-Inspired Breakfast

In Uganda last month, my group was treated to beautiful tropical fruits, in the form of juices—a tart orange juice, a sweet passion fruit cocktail-- and also fresh fruits, such as mango, pineapple, and their wonderful mini varieties of bananas. We also often had a soft bread, rolled-up that was referred to as “Rollex” to us, but in actuality is a crepe-like bread from north African, called Injera Bread.

Traditional Injera Bread is made from millet flour or “Teff” which is allowed to ferment for 24 hours in the batter. Natural yeasts allow the fermentation of natural sugars in the flour, which will produce tiny bubbles in the batter and give it a spongy texture. The batter is thin and, when spooned into a saute pan or grill surface, spreads like a crepe. The bread is then rolled up OR placed open on a plate and other foods placed on it, then scooped up and eaten. The basic recipe for Injera Bread is 1 part Teff flour to 1 part water. No additional sugars or flavorings or spices are used..

Below is a picture of a recent breakfast I made at home in the United States I've taken the concept of Injera Bread, but modified the recipe to use ingredients I had available. The “mini” bananas I found at a local market, and the yogurt is plain yogurt (certainly common and readily available in northern Africa) with a drizzle of honey, a commodity also found readily throughout Africa. I could have drizzled mango puree over the yogurt!

My Version or Adaptation of Injera Bread is as follows, note that I avoid fermenting the batter, instead using seltzer water or club soda to provide the little “bubbles”. And you must add additional seltzer or club soda to thin the batter, depending upon the flour you are using—in order to create a thin, crepe-like batter, or it won't spread. You want a spongy crepe, but not a pancake!


Injera Bread (without the fermentation step) 

I also have to work on making this bread perfectly round without the squiggly edges--this batter may have been slightly too thin or I wiggled the pan too much in trying to get it spread out. In any case, better thinner than a pancake. And a good excuse to keep working at it!


Posted by Karen at 12:16 CDT
Updated: Monday, 24 August 2015 12:31 CDT
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Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Make a Meatloaf with fresh herbs!
Topic: Recipes

Try Meatloaf with Fresh Herbs




For a quick dinner idea, why not meatloaf ? It will give you a chance to use those fresh herbs that are happily growing in pots near your kitchen right now. And for a little effort, you can create a quick homemade dinner that will give you wonderful sandwiches for lunch the next day.


2 lb grassfed ground beef

1 packet dry onion soup mix

1 Tbsp. Worchesteshire sauce

1 egg

Add a good handful of freshly cut fresh herbs. I decided to grab basil and parsley.

But, it can easily be “Chef's choice” and fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano all make good choices too.  Remove extcess stems, thenchop the herbs in a mini-food precessor and add to above.

You may now add a filler* if desired. Then, shape into a loaf and place in a baking pan.

Bake at  350 degrees until internal temperature is 145 degrees or higher, about 1 hour.

*Comment about fillers: Virtually all classic meatloaf recipes add about ½ cup of bread, cracker, or cornflake crumbs to their meatloaf mixtures. A better filler might be uncooked, rolled oats. If you want to add a filler, with oats you'll avoid possible GMO corn and wheat allergens and get a bonus of fiber. Use one-minute oats, they're finer than old-fashioned oats and never use the long-cooking,steel cut oats.

Cooking with fresh herbs brings the fresh garden to your dinner table while waiting for those vegetables to grow.

Posted by Karen at 10:58 CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 June 2015 11:00 CDT
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Friday, 3 April 2015
Crockpot Meatloaf
Topic: Recipes

Crockpot Meatloaf

I've never made a meatloaf in the crockpot until recently. It seems difficult to imagine since I use the crockpot for slow cooking often. The main reason I use the crockpot is because I usually don't have time to watch an oven and, with the crockpot, there is virtually no chance of over-cooking something. You really can fix and forget while you run out of the house for other projects, then return to find dinner already made.

Here's a very quick preparation meat loaf that's sure to please on those chilly “early” Spring nights. And, you can keep it low carb, sneak in chopped vegetables like kale greens or spinach, maybe some chopped green or red pepper, and use a premade canned soup for the gravy!

Crockpot Meatloaf

Prep crockpot with spray-oil.

Combine in a large bowl:

2 lb. Grassfed ground beef

1 large egg

1 package of dried onion soup

¼ cup tomato sauce

1 cup finely chopped, raw mixed vegetables (spinach, kale, peppers, zucchini, squash combination of these)

Mix throughly, add ground pepper (there's enough salt in the onion soup mix).

Form into a loaf and place in the crockpot.

Add 1can of Beefy Mushroom Soup (do not dilute). Pour soup over loaf.

COVER and Cook on LOW for 8 hours--it'll be done! Remove to serving plate and slice. Serve with some mashed cauliflower, salad to round out your nutrients!

Refrigerate leftover meatloaf and slice when throughly chilled for sandwiches (on low carb bread, of course).

Posted by Karen at 13:40 CDT
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Sunday, 22 February 2015
Apocolyptic Winter?
Topic: Recipes

Apocolyptic Winter

Well, if not actually apocolyptic, at least it has been momentous for most of the country. Rarely have we seen a Winter where people couldn't escape South or West to find some relief. Yet this year, every part of the country seems to have been affected by miserably cold, and often dangerous, weather.

It strikes me that maybe people in some areas of the country, who would never think of making a hardcore beef stew, just might, this year!

So, I am facing subzero weather tonight (again) and here's what's cooking: Beer Beef Stew. Caution-this is rich and intense!

Beer Beef Stew

Saute 4 slices of bacon, sliced into 1/2” strips, in a Dutch Oven, until cooked through.

Add 4 carrots, cut up, 2 stalks of celery diced, 4 small red potatoes, cut up.

Add additional olive oil to saute these vegetables with the bacon, if needed.

Add 1 packet of Lipton's (or equivalent) Beefy Onion or Onion Soup.

Thoroughly mix, heat through, then remove all ingredients to a large bowl.

Next: Toss ¼ cup flour, salt and freshly ground black pepper, with 2 lbs. beef stew meat.(grassfed beef is always preferred!)

Add the stew meat to the Dutch Oven with extra olive oil, if needed and brown the beef cubes on all sides.

Season with 1 tsp. dried Italian Herb blend.

Stir in 1 bottle of beer (your choice, dark or light—I had a bottle of Blue Moon in the refrigerator so that's what went into mine)

Add 1 can (14.5-16 oz) Petite diced tomatoes with the juice.

Add 1 tsp. Gravy Master.

Bring to a boil, stirring everything together, making sure to stir up any crusting on the bottom of your Dutch oven, then reduce heat to simmer. You should be seeing a nice rich gravy.

Add back your bowl of seasoned vegetables and bacon, toss in a couple of fresh Rosemary sprigs, or fresh parsley, if available--cover and simmer about 90 minutes until beef is thoroughly tender. Stir periodically to prevent sticking and make sure that you are cooking on lowest setting with the cover on.

In the last 20 minutes of cooking, add additional green vegetables—I've used ½ cup chopped frozen spinach and 10 oz. frozen green beans, but green peas or other greens are also good ideas.

This is a very rich beef stew so be prepared for a lot of flavors—it might be the one time you think a fresh baguette to accompany dinner sounds like a good idea—and you are burning those carbs and calories with all the snow shoveling, aren't you?

Posted by Karen at 13:49 CST
Updated: Sunday, 22 February 2015 13:56 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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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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Thursday, 11 September 2014
Hungarian Mushroom Soup
Topic: Recipes

Fall Is Showing Up Early

At least in northwestern Illinois, that is. It's brisk, cloudy, and chilly. Of course, the 46 degree morning temperature provides a great excuse to put the first fire in the fireplace.

And it's also an excuse to make a pot of soup, made all the better by including some Super-Foods. Mushrooms are a favorite because they are great sources of B vitamins and one of the highest natural sources of selenium and have that unique flavor property referred to as Unami.

This time I chose to make a pot of Hungarian Mushroom Soup. It has unexpected paprika and dillweed in its creamy broth, and is sure to be a favorite lunch on the chilly days we can all expect in the coming Fall season.


Hungarian Mushroom Soup

4 servings

2 Tbsp olive oil

½ large onion, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

Saute together in a heavy soup pot until cooked and tender.

Then add 1 LB. Sliced fresh mushrooms and saute with above until cooked.

Add the following seasonings:

1 tsp. Spanish paprika

2 tsp. dried dillweed (or equiv. fresh)

1 tsp dried parsley (or equiv. fresh)

½ tsp dried thyme (or equiv. Fresh )

1 Tbsp. Soy sauce

several grinds of black pepper

Then add 2 & ½ cups chicken broth and heat through.

Whisk separately, 2 Tbsp. Flour in 1 cup of milk, then stir into soup.

Cook until thickened about 10 more minutes.

Add more chicken broth, if desired, for a thinner soup.

Taste and adjust seasonings, including adding salt if desired.

Finally, add 1 Tbsp. Lemon juice and stir in.

Ladle into soup bowls and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream.



Posted by Karen at 12:19 CDT
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