Friday, November 27, 2009

Cooking the heritage turkey

Like many other families around the country, we enjoyed quite a feast yesterday. It’s actually the first time Jim and I have cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner; we usually go to someone else’s house and take a dish or two. This year we puttered in the kitchen throughout the day, making stewed tomatoes, green bean casserole, beet risotto, cloverleaf rolls, cushaw pie and, of course, turkey. We prepared a Bourbon Red heritage breed turkey.

Rachel from St. Asaph farm was kind of enough to send us heritage turkey preparation information and a recipe she found at I started with the turkey by rubbing it with salt and pepper the day before and letting it sit in the refrigerator. Then yesterday, we did everything it suggested—rubbed it with a rosemary maple butter mixture between the skin and flesh and in the cavity, made a giblet broth to put in the bottom of the pan, stuffed the bird with apples then cooked for a couple of hours at 425F. The moist flesh fell from the bone and we enjoyed it immensely.

Check out the Local Harvest website for producers near you where you can purchase locally raised foods even through the winter months. Your taste buds will thank you for the effort.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The cost of eating locally

This is the week I pick up my locally-raised Bourbon Red Turkey for Thanksgiving from St. Asaph Farm in Stanford. I’m fully aware that I’ll be paying significantly more for this turkey than I would if I purchased one from the sale bin at the grocery store. To me, it’s worth the cost for a number of reasons.

Over the weekend I had conversations with friends on two different occasions about the cost of eating locally. It seems to me that it should be cheaper. Packaging and transportation costs are eliminated or limited. Yet, the cost for eating locally (if you measure cost solely according to what leaves your wallet) are generally higher.

I made the decision several years ago that my health, as well as the health of my family and friends (influenced not only by our food but by our environment) is worth the extra expense. It was relatively easy to begin purchasing the local and organic fruits and vegetables since I grow many of my own. I had a more difficult time with the meat, but I’ve slowly acclimated myself to its cost, also.

And what does it truly cost us to eat like this? My husband and I discussed it this weekend and realized we spend between $1.00 and $1.50 per meal for each one of us. It sure is a whole lot less than we would spend if we drove through at a fast food restaurant for a quick something to fill our stomachs. If we added in the cost of garden seed, which are minimal, it would increase our cost slightly, but still not to an unreasonable level.

When I go to pick up my turkey tomorrow, I’ll gladly open my wallet to pay for what I know is a healthy bird. I’ll also be thankful to the people who have decided to make raising healthy animals for local consumption their vocation.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Creamy potato soup

Yesterday I enjoyed an energizing lunch with fellow writer Patsi Trollinger. We both needed some encouragement and found it helps to speak aloud those writerly concerns and dreams that can bounce around in our heads like a pinball.

Even writers need good food so I prepared potato soup, apple salad with fresh garden greens and onion rosemary focaccia bread. In the spirit of fall soups, check out the recipe below.

Beth’s Creamy Potato Soup

A few nutrition specifics:

Miso provides manganese, zinc, phosphorus, copper, protein and fiber to a meal. It originated in Japan and is typically made from soybean paste.

Parsley is packed with Vitamin K; just two tablespoons of the fresh herb have more than 150% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin K. It also has properties that have been shown to inhibit tumor formation and further protect the body from carcinogens.

For more information on both, check out World’s Healthiest Foods.

red and white potatoes (enough for 3 cups cubed)
1 medium onion
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic
2 cups miso soup + 2 cups seaweed broth (or 4 cups chicken broth)
2 carrots
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup sour cream
1 ½ cups finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Make soup broth by putting 4 cups water on the stove to boil. When water boils, add the miso soup mix (comes in a packet) and 1 five inch strip of dried seaweed. You can find both of these in a health food store or you can use chicken broth, preferably low-sodium. Let the seaweed sit in the hot water for 20 minutes then discard it.

In the meantime, wash and cube potatoes to bite size. Chop onion. Melt butter in soup pot. Sauté onions 3 – 4 minutes. Peel and dice garlic cloves. Add to onions. Add potatoes to soup pot. Add broth, including the seaweed if it hasn’t been stewing in the hot water for about 20 minutes.

Peel and chop carrots. When the soup has cooked 20 minutes, add the carrots and a few sprinkles of salt and pepper. Continue to boil very gently for 20 minutes with lid on pot, just cracked open. You’ll have to turn down the temperature to remain at a gentle boil.

Test potatoes and carrots with a fork to see if they are soft. When they are, add the flour. Remove lid and turn heat to about medium to return to a boil for just about five minutes. Back off heat just a bit so no longer boiling and add parsley then sour cream. Stir in sour cream until melted. Stir in cheese and taste for seasoning. Add more salt or pepper if you need to. Total time: 1 ½ hours

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eating a healthy breakfast

I attend a church that is blessed by the presence of a number of caring nurses who have recently started a health ministry program. Like many churches, we typically follow our Sunday morning service with coffee and doughnuts. Of course, doughnuts aren’t the healthiest choice so this past Sunday, our health ministers offered us something different.

What was on that menu? We enjoyed plain and vanilla yogurt to which we could add blueberries, raspberries, bananas, raisins or granola; turkey sausage links; nutty pumpkin bread (with pumpkin from my garden); and two juices (one with pomegranate) that didn’t have sweetener added. Oh yes, we also had chocolate chips to put into the yogurt—an attempt to interest the children in actually trying it.

The positive reactions from those present demonstrated that sometimes it just takes a taste or two of something healthy to introduce someone to a new, more positive, habit.

Thank you Cindy, Theresa and Lu!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beth’s Easy Vegetable Soup

This past weekend I participated in the Garrard County Arts Council’s first “Autumn Affair with the Arts.” The room where we all exhibited our work (I took my two books) was filled with color, creativity and good energy on a beautifully sunny fall day.

I took a pot of vegetable soup to feed the exhibiting artists and received top ratings on it. Here is the recipe. It looks long, but that’s just because I included a little commentary about it.

I created this soup at the end of winter when I realized we still had a lot of frozen vegetables from our garden. It’s easy, fast, cheap and healthy!

If we have a good gardening season (or I buy food from farmer’s markets to preserve), I need to buy few vegetables during the winter. The only vegetables I bought for this soup were the celery and onion. We also used our home-canned tomatoes and tomato juice. Since we freeze a lot of our vegetables (much faster than canning) soup is a great way to use them because they need to be soft, rather than crispy. This combination of vegetables gives you the colors of the rainbow, attesting to its multi-faceted nutritional benefits.

A few nutrition specifics:

Garlic contains allicin, which is a powerful anti-bacterial agent, that are released only when you crush or slice it, so always be sure to take that extra step. Studies have also shown that garlic consumption has reduced the risk of various cancers.

Kombu is seaweed that is dried, sold in sheets and used in many Asian dishes. It includes a lot of trace minerals and is high in potassium, iodine, calcium and vitamins A and C.

Quinoa is a high-energy protein that can ease digestion. It has more calcium than milk and is rich in minerals.


½ cup quinoa
2 cups water
dash of salt

Combine and cook until quinoa is soft, about 15 minutes. You can also substitute another grain of your choice.

3 celeries
2 carrots
1 onion
2 TBSP olive oil

Chop into bite size pieces. Warm about olive oil in the soup pot. Add chopped veggies and saut̩ 5 Р7 minutes, until onions are nearly translucent.

½ cup chicken broth
1 pint tomato juice
2 cups water
1 small piece of dried kombu
Two cloves of garlic

Add liquids and kombu to pot. Smash and peel the garlic and throw them into the pot. Bring to boil then simmer lightly, covered, 10 minutes or so.

1 ½ cups frozen green beans
1 ½ cups frozen corn
2 cups frozen broccoli
1 ½ cups frozen greens
1 quart jar of tomatoes

If any of the vegetables are frozen together in a glob, put them in the microwave for a minute or two to separate. If any of them are not chopped, chop into bite-size pieces. Add vegetables to the pot. You can substitute whatever vegetables you have in the freezer or that you prefer. Depending on how much broth you like (I prefer a more stew-like consistency with less broth), you might find that you need to add more liquid.

1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp Italian seasonings – such as basil, parley, oregano

Season the pot and simmer, covered, until all vegetables are done. You can substitute your favorite seasonings. You might also need to add salt, depending on how much was in the liquids and tomatoes you used. The kombu does add some salt, so wait until that has been in the pot 30 minutes or so until tasting.

When vegetables are finished, remove the garlic cloves and kombu then add your grain. If the grain isn’t soft, continue cooking until it is. Enjoy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The multi-faceted sweet potato

Who knew the sweet potato could have so many personalities? I grew up eating sweet potatoes once, maybe twice a year. Mom always “candied” them with butter and brown sugar for Thanksgivine. I loved them. In the past few years, however, I’ve been learning that the sweet potato has many sides to its personality.

I like sweet potatoes as fries (especially with avocado dip), baked, in cake and now, as hash. I tried a sweet potato hash recipe this week that combined some savory spices with onions and sausage, plus homemade salsa, for a unique taste that was easy to pull together. To go with it, I made caramelized onions with garden-fresh kale topped with a drizzle of maple syrup and dried cranberries. The green next to the orange on my plate made a very eye-pleasing plate and if I hadn’t been so excited about tasting it, I would have taken a picture first!

We still have lots more sweet potatoes to play with. If you have suggestions for cooking sweet potatoes, send them my way!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Guest column: The Wonder of Life Farm

From time-to-time, I’ll publish guest columns on this blog. Today, meet Maria Turner, from whom I’ve been buying eggs for more than a year. Those eggs have definitely spoiled me!

This morning I got my horse out of my neighbor's pasture. Blue, a Saddlebred, had decided to visit the Stumps by knocking down a fence and walking on the road to their home. That began my day. There is always an adventure or a treat waiting on the farm.

We are a small farm. Our name, Wonder of Life farm, describes how we feel about animals and life itself. Our goal (dream) is to be sustainable in all sense of the word. We are far from that now but we are learning much about life along the way. We want our farm not only to sustain us, but be a place of joy, peace, and harmony for humans, animals and nature.

The ducks and geese have been laying tons of eggs. No mating from what I observe, so no babies but plenty of backing. The roosters are crowing, alpacas playing, chickens and horse visiting friends.

We had homeschoolers visited the farm last week. It was fun to see the children feed and love the animals. Our little store is doing well. We sell chicken eggs and local arts and crafts and "stuff". To be truly sustainable we must depend on each other to help and encourage each person's talents and dreams.

I write how I am "bouncing" from here to there. We encourage visitors, friends. Check us out at our website or give us a call at 859-792-8923. As the turkeys say, "Gobble, gobble."

If you would like to send in a guest column, contact me at

Monday, November 9, 2009

Basic eating tips

Last week I was reminded of what encouraged me to more deeply understand what healthy eating truly is. The impetus was cancer.

There’s an entire array of reasons people get cancer. There’s also a plethora of mystery that still surrounds the causes. However, scientific research tells us that a healthy diet and good exercise habits can help us build our defenses against cancer. The basics are easy to remember.

1) Eat foods from every color on the rainbow. This is an easy way to ensure you’re getting a wide range of nutrients.

2) Prepare meals using fresh fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods. Processing foods adds preservatives, like salt, that might not benefit you. The process of commercially packaging foods can also remove nutrients.

3) When possible, eat locally raised foods and organic foods. Foods grow and develop thanks to the soil that feeds them. Because organic soils are high in nutrients, their plants are, also.

4) Eat whole grains, like oats and whole wheat flour. When buying bread in the store, look to see if the package says, “Whole” wheat, not just “wheat.”

5) Diminish refined sugar in your diet. Studies have shown that eating refined sugar immediately diminishes the immune system’s abilities. Most recipes that call for a significant amount of sugar will still be good with a little less. And you can try substitutes, like organic grade B maple syrup, unrefined sugar, honey or blue agave nectar.

Of course, even if you do all of this, there’s no guarantee cancer or another devastating disease won’t hit, but you will be preparing your body to ward off harmful invaders.

My friend Carrie embraces these ideas, but she’s still been diagnosed with cancer a second time. If you are a person of prayer, please remember her.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Healthy meeting food

I had an assignment yesterday to cover a health care summit and as I drove to Lexington I wondered what kind of food they would feed us for lunch. No, I wasn’t particularly hungry as it was still morning; it was just a curiosity. I would like to think that when administrators, lobbyists and concerned citizens gather to discuss caring for the health of Americans, they would be concerned enough about their own wellness to eat nutritious food.

That can only happen when the meeting organizers consider that fact ahead of time. This time around, I have to give kudos to Karen Chambers at the Catholic Conference of Kentucky for looking out for our health and our taste buds.

The spread offered a beautiful array of sandwiches, some vegetarian and many on whole wheat bread. Instead of the typical bags of chips that often accompany deli sandwiches, we had herbed potato salad and fruit. And there were delicious desserts cut into perfect, small triangles to satisfy the sweet tooth without putting on the pounds. Plus, most people (at least at my table) were drinking water rather than soda pop.

We must think about the examples we set when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Thank you, Karen, for providing food that helped us do that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Leftover greens make for a quick quesadilla lunch

The crisp kiss of autumn welcomed me this morning when I went out to check the garden faithfuls. I found a handful of raspberries, a few tomatoes that didn’t get bitten by the frost and are trying their best to ripen on the vine, and the happy greens—arugula, kale and Swiss chard. There’s something so substantial and reliable about Swiss chard. The green leaves are sturdy without being tough. When you grow a variety, you can also discover beauty in the combination of orange, red and white stems with the green leaves. Once I brought it in, even storing it was a pleasure.

Greens can also provide a quick lunch. I had leftover kale and onions in the fridge, so I put a whole-wheat tortilla on the griddle to warm and crisp up while I heated the kale and leftover chicken in the microwave. I shredded cheese and put it on half of the tortilla, added the warmed food, folded half of the tortilla on top of all that goodness, and continued cooking until the outside was nicely crisped. It didn’t take more than five minutes, honest. I find quesadillas especially tasty when I eat them with salsa, guacamole or sour cream.