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Fresh from the garden, prairie

By Staff | Nov 4, 2011

Kim Wills, of rural Sibley, displays her bacon, rosemary pheasant breast.

SIBLEY – With a family who enjoys hunting and the outdoors, this week’s farm cook has learned to add personal touches to the game she fixes in her rural Sibley kitchen.

Kim Wills and her husband, Kevin Wills, live on acreage near the Iowa-Minnesota border.

Along with a large garden, the couple raise meat and dairy goats, feeder calves, heritage blue slate turkeys, chickens and ducks – all while working regular 9-5 jobs in town.

Kevin is active in the local Pheasants Forever chapter and an avid hunter. Kim is also active in youth activities in her church as well as being a co-leader of two, 4-H clubs.

They have three children, Kayla, Kody and Katie, two of whom are still living at home.

When Kim gets home after a day as an associate in the Sibley- Ocheyedan Middle School, she is ready to tackle her livestock chores and make a satisfying meal for her family.

In the fall these meals will often start with what Kevin and Kody have brought home from their recent hunting excursion.

To make her meals exceptional, Wills often looks to her herb garden to enhance the taste of any meal she prepares.

“I love using my own herbs,” she said. “The flavor is just so much more intense, plus its satisfying to know that I grew them.”

Basil is a favorite and easy to grow, according to Wills.Some of her favorite uses for basil are in pesto, sauces and homemade pasta.

Rosemary is another favorite for poultry dishes. Her herb garden also consists of oregano, chives, sage, cilantro and parsley.

All are easily grown in Zone 4, she said, but chives are the only perennial.

Wills starts most of the herbs in her green house in early spring and transplants after the danger of frost is past. “Herbs are easy to dry and store,” she said, explaining one can branches from the plants. Rinse with water and dry a bit with paper towels. Bundle and tie a few branches together, using string or a rubber band.

Label a brown sandwich bag with the name of the herb being dried and cut a few small holes in the bag. Place the herb bundle upside down into the bag. Gather the ends of the bag around the bundle and tie closed. Make sure the herbs are not crowded inside the bag. Hang the bag upside down until herbs are dry and ready to use or store.

Wills has learned to be creative in the kitchen.

“I am the queen of substitution,” she said with a smile.”I stay pretty busy and when I’m out of something I have learned not to be afraid to try something else in its place.

“Healthy is also important to me. I try to use less salt and sugar in my meal preparation. Herbs help in that respect.” Wills encourages others not to be afraid to try new recipes, or think that recipes have to be followed exactly.

“I use a recipe as a guide,” she said.”One week, I was being ambitious and tried three new recipes. My people aren’t always as adventurous as I am and Kevin asked if we could just have plain hamburgers.”

Pheasant (or chicken)

basil noodle soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

3 celery stalks, sliced

5 1/2 cups chicken broth

3 cups chopped cooked chicken, or pheasant

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Basil noodles (recipe below)

2 cups baby spinach

Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add onions and saute for five to eight minutes. Add carrots and celery and saute another three minutes.

Add chicken broth, chicken, thyme, rosemary and sage. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes.

Add noodles to soup mixture. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook five minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into individual soup bowls.

Basil noodles

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley

1 large egg, beaten

2 to 3 tablespoons milk or cold water

Combine flour, salt and basil in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add egg and milk; stir together until dough forms a ball.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead. Roll dough into a large 9-by-12-inch rectangle.

Cut into 1/2-inch strips, cut the strips into 2- to 3-inch pieces to form noodles.

Kim’s stuffed mushrooms

2 portobello mushroom caps

Organic baby spinach

Havarti cheese, grated

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped lemon thyme

Preheat oven to 350.

Rinse mushroom caps under cold water and pat dry.

Brush mushroom caps lightly with olive oil, and place on a baking sheet cap side down.

Place a handful of baby spinach on each mushroom cap.

Top with grated cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted, and the spinach is wilted.

Jalapeno dove peppers

De-boned dove breasts

1 can jalapeno peppers

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

Bacon

Toothpicks

Pre-heat grill.

Rinse and dry dove breasts.

Slice jalapeno peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds.

Slather cream cheese in the open cavity of each jalapeno. Top with a dove breast, wrap in half a piece of bacon, and secure with a toothpick.

Grill poppers over medium-high heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until bacon is crisp, turning once.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Contact Robyn Kruger at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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