Sunday, January 18, 2015

LaVonne Levar passed away peacefully on Jan 18, 2015, surrounded by loving friends and family. During her 2 ½ day stay at Solvay Hospice House she had a continuous stream of visitors with many stories told and songs sung.  She positively impacted the lives of many. This blog was one of many ways she was able to share her strength, creativity, and love of life, and has served as a beautiful expression of her enjoyment in giving to others. The comments and emails that she received from her readers inspired her to continue fighting.  She expressed great comfort in knowing that through the results of her struggles she was able to benefit the lives of others.

We are celebrating her life with a service and lunch at 11am on Sunday January 25th at the Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth, MN.  All are welcome.

It is our wish that this blog remains available as a resource for people with unique dietary restrictions, as well as people simply looking for a tasty and healthy recipe.

With love,

                Kiara Levar (daughter-in-love) on behalf of the rest of LaVonne’s family- husband Tom, sons Caleb, Dan and Sam.

Tom and Von on their 30th wedding anniversary Aug 25, 2014.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Welcomes You

I am sorry I have been absent from this site for so long.   Hopefully, you were able to find useful recipes from the prior posts that met your needs through the holidays. My absence was due, in part,  to a four-day hospitalization, and I am slowly regaining my strength and vitality.  

Thanks to all of you who encouraged me in 2014 with your personalized emails or your comments on this site to continue to post recipes for tasty, nutritious pureed recipes.  Your encouragement was a source of great joy and purpose for me. I hope to start posting again soon.   

I invite you, and me, to embrace 2015 with this wisdom: 

May your choices reflect your hopes,
Not your fears. Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Red Cabbage and Tomato Soup

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  I hope yours was an abundance of all that you need most in your life.  I had meant to write a post about the dishes I had made other years for that grand celebration, but I simply didn't get to it.  So hopefully you found some recipes here or elsewhere that worked well for you.  

This is a soup I had made in mid-November, but never took the time to post. it is.   

Cabbage soup.  Again.  But this is new!  And remember, cabbage is part of the brassica family. You know, that awesome family of plants that are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidents making them the powerhouses of the vegetable kingdom. According to cabbage, one of the oldest of the brassica vegetables, and the ancestor of broccoli and cauliflower, has been used in cooking in Europe for more than 4,000 years, giving it an epic history. In fact, the Latin word brassica comes from the Celtic word bresic, meaning cabbage. The English word cabbage comes from the French caboche, meaning head.

And don't forget the benefits of onions (besides the benefit of using another onion being kept cool in an unused bedroom-turned root cellar).  Heap on top of that the benefit of cooked tomatoes with all of its lipocene, and the green pepper from our garden that I had frozen in small  bags. It's all a definite Pzazz for your good off-set the sweets in which you are likely to indulge in the next couple of months.   

This recipe originates from and it is a definite keeper!

Red cabbage and onion from Tom's garden

    1 Tablespoon coconut oil
    1/2 cup chopped onion 
    1 small Fuji apple, peeled, cored and seeded
    1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
    3 cups shredded red cabbage, core removed
    2 medium tomatoes, chopped 
    2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
    1/2 Tablespoon tamari (soy sauce)
    1 Tablespoon tomato paste
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    Garnish: goat cheese


Saute onion, apple, and green pepper in the oil. Add the cabbage and tomatoes and cook till tender. 

Mix the broth, tamari and tomato paste together in a bowl. Add to the soup. Add the salt and pepper. Simmer till all the vegetables are tender. 

When cooled slightly, puree with an immersion blender stick. 

Sit back and relax with a bowl of health!

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 4
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 109
Total Fat: 4 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 690 mg
Total Carbs: 19 g
Dietary Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 3 g

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Roasted Parsnip and Carrot Soup

Caleb mentioned how good parsnips and carrots are when roasted. So I roasted a portion of the abundant parsnips and white carrots still waiting for me to process.  Then I added vegetable broth to make soup. Very tasty and easy.  

To garnish the soup, I sauteed sage leaves that I had picked in October from my sage plant on the deck and then stored in the refrigerator.  The idea of sauteed sage leaves came from a friend who is a waitress at a "high-end" Italian restaurant where customers often comment on their enjoyment of this garnish on a variety of soups.  To give it a bit of Pzazz,  I added 1/8 teaspoon maple syrup to the sauteed sage leaves and loved the combination. The pairing of earthy and sweet was delightful.  Definite Pzazz!  

White and orange carrots and parsnips from the garden

One batch of scrubbed carrots

    1 pound parsnips, peeled and chopped into 1" slices
    1/2 pound carrots, peeled and chopped into 1" slices ( I used white carrots)
    1/2 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted 
    1/4 teaspoon sea salt
    1/4 teaspoon, freshly ground pepper
    3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
      Optional:  2 Tablespoons minced fresh herbs of sage, rosemary, dill, or parsley added to the puree

      Optional garnish:  Sage leaves (about 10 or so)  sauteed in coconut or olive oil with 1/8 teaspoon maple syrup 

Roasted parsnips and carrots
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 

If the parsnips and carrots are large, I suggest cutting them in half lengthwise before slicing them. Then they will all bake more evenly. Put them into a bowl. Drizzle with oil, sea salt, and pepper. Toss to coat all of the vegetables well. Place on a rimmed baking sheet. If you want clean-up to be really easy, line the pan with parchment paper. Roast 
the vegetables in a 425 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetables. They should be easily pierced with a fork when finished. 

Remove from the oven and when slightly cooled, place into a 6-cup glass measuring container.  Then add one cup of the the vegetable broth, warmed slightly, and the herbs if you are using them. Puree with an immersion blender stick.  Gradually add the remaining warmed vegetable broth, blending after each addition. Parsnip Pzazz!


Nutrition per serving:         

Servings per recipe: 4
Serving Size: 1 cup
Calories: 130
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol:  0 mg
Sodium: 288 mg
Total Carbs: 27 g
Dietary Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 2 g

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Beet and Red Cabbage Soup

Four heads of red cabbage, two heads of savoy cabbage, a pile of beets, a bucketful of carrots and parsnips, leeks, onions .....all waiting for me to make into soup and freeze.  In the midst of winter, I will be glad to take these savory delights out of the freezer. 

Red cabbage just planted in the garden last spring

When I was looking for photos to post for this soup, I found myself dreamily cherishing the photos of the red cabbage plants when Tom had just planted them early last spring.  Now as I look outdoors, not only are the garden bins empty, they are being covered with snow as it softly falls. 

Red cabbage, white and orange carrots and beets from the garden

I have heard of borscht, which is a soup made from beets and usually green cabbage. But I have far more red cabbage than green. (But why is it called red cabbage when it is really purple??) So....reinvention in the making.  Do you make borscht? Vegetarian borscht?  Pureed vegetarian borscht?  Either do I, but I wanted to try it. 

But I decided in the end that what I made is really not borscht, just a beet and red cabbage soup. I created it from a mixture of recipes I had seen on-line.  When it was finished, I thought it needed a bit more acidic taste, so added some liquid from a jar of capers. I got this idea from one recipe that used a garnish of capers, but I thought that would look ugly and wouldn't be easily digested either, so I just added some liquid from the jar of capers.  I liked that.   The nutritional analysis is for this version. The addition of a bit of soft goat cheese as a garnish also gave it a nice tangy flavor.  

Beet and Red Cabbage soup with goat cheese

For another portion of the soup, I put fresh dill in it and garnished it with a dollop of strained goat yogurt and a fresh dill sprig.  For both versions, I ate it with teff muffins that I made that were yummy, gluten and dairy free, as well as very soft.  The recipe is found at Gluten Free Shortcuts. I used almond milk rather than the coconut milk plus water suggested in that recipe.   

But now...for the soup. Pzazz for sure! 

Beet and Red Cabbage Soup with Goat Yogurt and Dill sprig

Red cabbage, carrots, potatoes, beets, shallots and garlic
    2 Tablespoons coconut oil
    1/2 Tablespoon chopped shallot
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 lb. peeled beets, cut into 1/2" dice (about 2 cups)
    1/2 cup chopped carrot
      1/2 of a Yukon Gold potato,peeled and cubed
          1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
          3 cups vegetable broth 
          (I used Pacific Organic Low Sodium Vegetable broth)
          1/2 tsp sea salt
          1/2 cup water
          one small bay leaf
          dash black pepper
          1 1/2 cups shredded red cabbage
          3/4 teaspoon honey
          1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
          About 1 tsp capers liquid 

Peeled raw beets

Diced beets
Heat the oil in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute 1-2 minutes. Add the beets, potatoes, carrots, and caraway seeds. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon. 

Sauteing shallots, garlic, beets, potatoes, carrots and caraway seed

Stir in the vegetable broth, water, bay leaf, salt and pepper; lower the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender - about 30-40 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Add the cabbage and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes. 

Cabbage added to the broth and seasoning

Add the honey and vinegar, and cook about 5 minutes more. Add the caper liquid.  Puree and thin if necessary with more broth or water. Serve warm, or chill.  Another potential garnish is goat cheese with scallions.

I gave one head of red cabbage to our son, Caleb, so I'm thinking how I will use the other two heads I have left in the fridge.  Any ideas?  

Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 4
Serving Size: Small 1 cup
Calories: 76
Total Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 424 mg
Total Carbs: 13 g
Dietary Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 2 g

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Savoy Cabbage and Root Vegetable Soup

It has been so long since I posted a new recipe that I bet you wondered if I had abandoned this blog.  No abandonment....just some set-backs with my own health (hepatic encephalopathy) and neck surgery for my husband.  But all seems to be getting back to normal.  For a few days after Tom's surgery, he was not able to eat solid foods without pain.  Ah....he discovered the joy of  my pureed soups in the freezer.  He particularly liked the sweet potato and kale soup, which is the same as the Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard soup except that it uses kale rather than Swiss Chard. He also appreciated the Super Soft Turkey Meatloaf, which I made with almond milk this time.

This soup is my own creation based on what I needed to use from the garden supply, which was an abundance of savoy cabbage, leeks, parsnips and a variety of carrots.  I used white, rather than orange, carrots so it wouldn't turn the soup brown when mixed with the green cabbage. 

When Tom pulled carrots from the garden, he discovered some pairs of white and orange carrots hugging around one another.  Carrot love.   

It was hard to know which photos to include on this post.  I think the green savoy cabbage is quite beautiful, with it's dimply green leaves.   I become as excited about taking photos of vegetables as others do of flowers.  

To create this soup, I simply sauteed the chopped leeks, carrots, and parsnips in coconut oil first, then added the savoy cabbage and vegetable broth.  I anticipated needing to add spice of some kind, but was captivated by the simple earthy taste of this soup that highlighted the goodness of each of the root vegetables.  Our son, Caleb, suggested that a small amount of celery seed might be a good addition, and I did, indeed, like it. Pzazz!

Savoy Cabbage growing in the garden

    1 Tablespoon coconut oil
    1 3/4 cup chopped leeks
    1 cup peeled & chopped white carrot
    1 cup peeled & chopped parsnips
    3 1/2 cups shredded savoy cabbage
    4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
      Celery seed (optional)

Abundant harvest of parsnips, leeks, carrots, savoy and red cabbage

Savoy cabbage, leeks, white carrots, and a big hefty parsnip

Heat oil in medium sized saucepan. Add leeks, carrots, and parsnips and saute about 10 minutes until just starting to get tender. Add the shredded cabbage and the broth ((I used Pacific Natural Foods Organic Low Sodium Vegetable broth), and simmer till the cabbage is tender. If using, add a dash of celery seed. Puree with an immersion blender in a 4-cup Pyrex glass container. Serve and eat with Pzazz!!

Cut Savoy and Red Cabbage
Nutrition per serving:
Servings per recipe: 3
Serving Size: 1 1/3  cup
Calories: 141
Total Fat:  2 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Sodium: 254 mg
Total Carbs:  29 g
Dietary Fiber: 8 g
Protein: 4 g

Monday, November 10, 2014

Worldwide NET Cancer Day

Monday, November 10 is worldwide NET Cancer Day.

NET cancers, caused from rare neuroendocrine tumors or NETS, are the “zebras” of the cancer world. When doctors are in medical school, they learn when diagnosing illnesses that they should be looking for “horses,” or common disease causes, rather than “zebras,” or rare causes. NETS are rare, occurring in approximately 35 in 100,000-cancer diagnosis annually. That is why NETS are zebras, their unique stripes being a symbol of the disease.

The type of NET cancer that I have is a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor, or commonly referred to as PNET.  

Although NET cancers tend to be slow growing, neuroendocrine tumors can turn into cancers including Carcinoid, MEN-1, Medullary carcinoma, Insulinoma, Gastrinoma, Glucagonoma and many others arising from various organs including the lungs, pancreas, thyroid, stomach and intestinal tract. NETS frequently masquerade as other more common illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s, Asthma and even other types of cancers. 

Dave Thomas of Wendy’s restaurant fame, and Steve Jobs of Apple both died from neuroendocrine cancers. Steve Jobs had the same type of pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer that I have. 

Many doctors are unaware of NET cancers or understand how to treat them. Frequently, they have never seen a NET cancer patient. As a result, patients can go years, sometimes decades, before a proper diagnosis, usually late in the disease. While NET cancers are not curable, with early detection and proper management, they are treated as a chronic condition. By bringing awareness to this rare cancer, we hope that both patients and medical professionals are able to “see stripes” earlier in the diagnosis process.

If you live in or near Minneapolis, MN, the 35W Bridge will show off its stripes today in support of NET Cancer Day.  Hopefully, it will be visible through the snow storm! 

For more information about neuroendocrine tumor cancers, the following two organizations have great websites. Both of these foundations support research for NETS and provide amazing patient support.  

Caring For Carcinoid Foundation:  

Carcinoid Cancer Foundation