All my life I have loved cooking and baking; what I don’t like are flops or blah recipes.  I realized long ago that premium ingredients gave me better results, and that using whole grains gave me healthier results.  In January I will be offering a whole grains,  REAL-FOOD approach to a healthier diet, sharing some delicious and easy recipes and methods for healthier cooking and baking.

The class will be held at Little Red Hen in Dassel, Minnesota, and class participants are welcome to browse the shop for after-Christmas deals.

Class info:


Really Good Real Food

Scrumptious, easy-peasy recipes that will introduce more healthy whole grains, nuts, and seeds into your diet.  Cheryl will demonstrate some delicious recipes while explaining the health benefits of using wholesome and premium ingredients.  From what you learn here, you will be able to go home and modify any of your own favorite recipes into a healthier version.  Ever wonder what the difference is between pure cane sugar, raw cane sugar, and beet sugar?  Or canola oil, olive oil, or coconut oil?  Come and find out.

Come prepared for a delicious sampling of:

Almond Fruited Chicken Salad made with whole grain pasta
Fresh whole grain Quick Mix Bread Sticks
Fruit Smoothies
Hearty Oats & Honey Granola
Bogus Mrs. Fields Chocolate Chip cookies

Each participant will receive recipes, helpful handouts, and granola to take home.

January 10th, Monday        6:30 – 8:30 p.m.        Cost – $16.00

Register for this class at Little Red Hen during the December sale (December 9 – 11), or call Cheryl Niemela at 320-286-5384.

Email me with questions –

8 cups blended tomatoes
1 large red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup minced onion
4 stalks of celery, diced
1 tsp. salt
1 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons real butter
¼ cup water
¼ cup flour

Combine tomato, pepper, onion, celery and salt in large pot.  Bring to boil and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisply tender – about 30 minutes.  In a 5 cup blender container, blend 2 cups of mixture at a time (no more), until smooth; return to pan.  Combine water and flour, slowly add to soup.  Add sugar and butter, cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, boil 1 minute.  Milk or cream may be added right before serving, if desired.

For canning:  once soup is completely done and simmering, fill clean jars with hot soup and attach clean lids.  Process in boiling water bath:  35 minutes for quarts, 30 minutes for pints.  Time is counted when water is at a full boiling roll.  Do not add milk before canning.

Makes 8-9 cups of soup

Beth over at Kitchen 55 highly recommended the book, ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. I took her advice, requested the book from my local library, and proceeded to devour the book while in a trance.  It is the delightful story of a family that vows to eat only the food they have grown themselves or that was grown locally, for an entire year.

This book enthralled me with adventure – I had never heard of morel mushroom hunting before, and never read with quite such passionate, savory detail about the flavorful cuisine one can discover while vacationing in Italy; I might have drooled on a few pages in that chapter.

And what a fun way to learn – I swear I learned something new on every page in this book; it introduced me to fingerling potatoes, and explained the birds and the bees of the mating rituals of hormonal turkeys.  And to see in dollars and cents the cost of their venture – .50 cents per meal per person, for organic food (including the cost of purchasing livestock and feed, and seeds)!

What I really, really loved about the book is that it INSPIRED me!

Half way through the book (maybe earlier), I began to feel this compelling need to expand our gardens to grow more of our own food; so now the tiller is putting in extra time while gobbling up yards of grass at the edge of the garden.

I put in a late order forLa Ratte’ fingerling potatoes, even though I had promised myself I was done ordering for this year. (And German Butterball, and Blue potatoes.)  Anyway, Seed Savers is happy.

I jumped at the chance to go morel mushroom hunting with a friend up North, and though the pickings were slim that day, it tickled me pink to be out in the forest foraging for a mushroom that I had never even heard of until I read this book a few weeks ago.  They were yummy with scrambled eggs.

And though I had vowed a few years ago that we were done with laying hens, I found myself relenting when our 12 year old son kept begging to get some chicks for layers.  With thoughts of Lily and her egg business (from the book), I insisted that he research the business before getting started, and then watched from the sidelines with secret satisfaction while he proceeded to get totally engrossed in the traits and characteristics of different breeds of layers.  (He reminded me of me.)  His choices were Silver Lace Wyandotte, Barred Rock, Gold Star, and Buff Orpington.  Sixteen hens in all, four more than what we agreed on.  How.does.that.happen?

It looks like I’ll have some new subjects to blog about; chickens and fingerling potatoes for sure.  If I can find the time.

A new look at bad Cholestorel

February 23, 2010

I read an interesting article last week about cholesterol. According to this article and other linked articles, we can enjoy butter, eggs, lard, beef, and more, in moderation – with a new understanding of cholesterol.

‘Bad cholesterol’: It’s not what you think

It’s a relief to read information that supports my healthy cooking theory – if God gave it to us, it can’t be all that bad. I smiled when I read the recommendation about eating an omelet every morning for breakfast to lower your cholesterol; it supported the theory about eggs and cholesterol that I first heard from Cletus about ten years ago.

Cletus was an old timer who looked like a mountain man, we met him at an organic gardening class and he made quite an impression on us. Cletus’s most memorable contribution to the class was his advice for lowering cholesterol; eat more eggs! According to Cletus, his cholesterol level had been elevated and his doctor had suggested that he restrict eggs from his diet. According to Cletus, he KNEW that the home-grown, free-range eggs laid by his own chickens were not the culprit as his doctor suggested. So he ate more home-grown, free-range eggs – like to the tune of three to six eggs EVERY DAY. And his cholesterol went down.

It seems about every 20 years the health specialists change their mind about what is good and what is bad for us to eat. I think I’ll keep on doing what I’ve been doing; growing what I can, cooking from scratch, and eating food as close to what nature intended. My idea of prepackaged food is an egg in a shell, and convenience food is a quart jar of spaghetti sauce that I canned last summer. I’m not sure how to classify those Chocolate Seven Layer bars I blogged about VERY recently, but I know they were made with real butter and real chocolate, so they can’t be all that bad.

Antibiotic use in livestock

December 29, 2009

I read an article today on the web news about the overuse of antibiotics in livestock.  If you care about how your food is grown, or if you have ever experienced an infection that was resistant to antibiotics or know of someone else that has, read this article.

Pressure rises to stop antibiotics in agriculture

I am glad that our pasture grown pigs are antibiotic free.

Applesauce technology

October 15, 2009

apple mill

Why did I not hear about this invention 20 years ago?  Apparently this type of food mill has been around for some time, and I’m glad I finally found out about the handy, dandy applesauce maker that has taken the chore out of making applesauce.  Not even close to work.

This easy:  wash apples, cut in half, cook until soft, put in hopper and turn handle.  No peeling, no coring, no removing seeds or stems.  The applesauce comes out one side, and the peels, stems, and seeds come out the end.

We purchased this food mill from Lehman’s on the internet, but I’ve seen other brands out there that appear to do the same thing.  I really like the suction base that allows you to attach it on any solid surface.  The only downfall I can think of, is that it doesn’t wash itself.  Good thing I have teenage girls that love to wash dishes!

An interesting article about organic food by TIME, sharing the obvious and hidden benefits of food raised organically.  Take a moment to view this slide show about What The World Eats.

Article here.

Slideshow here.

I came across this interesting video highlighting a growing season at a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Richard Hoffman, a filmmaker,  compiled this video from 20,000 still photo images he took recording his journey from a passive observer to an active participant with his local CSA.  It is a beautiful story of Richard and his family reconnecting with the land, their food, and their community.

Watch Fridays at the Farm here.


I recently read a report in Mother Earth News about the healthy benefits of  eggs produced by pastured poultry.  Recent nutritional testing of eggs from pastured hens gave some remarkable results.  Compared to the official USDA data for factory-farm eggs (raised conventionally), free range eggs contained:

1/3 less cholesterol

1/4 less saturated fat

2/3 more vitamin A

2 times more omega-3 fatty acids

3 times more vitamin E

7 times more beta carotene

Now that’s a pretty healthy egg!

To follow Mother Earth News ongoing pastured egg research, go to

A few small changes in your baking can make those yummy, forbidden recipes a little healthier.  Here’s my top ten.

1.  Use organic eggs.  Organic eggs will have much higher vitamin and mineral levels and a more balanced healthier omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio than non-organic eggs.

2.  Switch from white sugar to organic raw cane sugar.  Health wise, sugar made from sugar cane is better than sugar made from sugar beets, and raw cane sugar is less processed and refined.

3.  Use brown sugar that is made from sugar cane.  Most brown sugar is white beet sugar with molasses added to it.  Real brown cane sugar is less refined and a higher quality brown sugar for baking.  C & H brown sugar is one brand that is pure cane brown sugar.

4.  If the recipe calls for shortening, use non hydrogenated shortening; it is available in the natural foods section of your grocery store (probably refrigerated).  Or substitute coconut oil for shortening.

5.  Skip the margarine, use REAL butter.  The taste of real butter can’t be beat, and believe it or not, butter does not have trans-fats, but margarine does.   Butter is a rich source of the essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E, which are not easily found elsewhere in the diet in a simple to digest form.

6.  Use gourmet chocolate chips like Guittard or Ghirardelli for baking insurance; these top brands provide top results for baking.  Premium chocolate chips such as these are made with sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and real vanilla; but no milk additives that can bother people sensitive to milk.

7.  Use unbleached flour instead of bleached flour, we all need a little less bleach in our diets!  White flour usually has the germ and bran removed, but I found at my local health food store a bread flour that still has the germ in.  Or look for freshly ground white wheat flour (available in health food stores in the refrigerated section) to get all the nutrients, germ, and bran not found in white processed flour.

8.  All natural sea salt has trace minerals in it that are not found in regular table salt.  Real Salt brand sea salt is available almost anywhere.

9.  Buy organic oatmeal.  Cookies, crumbles, bars, and breads; I have tons of recipes that call for oatmeal and using organic oatmeal makes all those recipes healthier for my family.

10.  If a recipe calls for a lot of oil, try substituting half applesauce and half oil for the amount required.  This might not work for every recipe, but it works for a lot of recipes.

What have you changed to bake healthier treats at your house?