June 2014
Your Next Meal From the Wildside

For Father’s Day

Pawpaw R.J. with artwork and gifts Rolley Len sent to decorate his hospital room  

Keep your family healthy and close

As a parent, you try to shield your children from as much pain and sadness as possible. In April, when I explained to Rolley Len that her Pawpaw R.J. was in the hospital, I saw the worry in her little 6-year-old eyes. I thought I was holding most of my worry inside and didn’t realize how much the kids really understood. It wasn’t until a few days later that I realized she could see how anxious I was. The night before Dad’s bypass surgery I was packing a bag to go to Huntsville.

Rolley Len followed me through the house into my bedroom and asked, "When are you going to stop crying?"

I had tried to hide the tears in my eyes from her and Cason, but she had already seen my face.

It has always been important to me that Rolley Len and Cason have as strong of a relationship as possible with their grandparents. It is hard to believe, but my Dad’s father was born in 1888 and died not long after my parents were married. My Mom’s daddy died when I was only 4 years old, so I only have vague memories of him. Because I didn’t have granddads growing up, I want my kids to spend as much time as possible with theirs. Rolley Len and Cason love all of their grandparents, and it has truly been a blessing that they have been able to grow up around them. Of course, being so close to them can be hard when health problems arise.

Jason and I try not to sugarcoat the truth about certain things such as health issues, but we also don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information too soon. We quickly realized that having your children grow up around animals means they are probably going to learn more details about life and death earlier than some kids do. Rolley Len and Cason have seen and experienced a lot and always have a million questions, so we have to be ready with answers.

The first time a sheep began to give birth in the pasture, Jason and I ran with the children and a camera down to the edge of the pond to watch "the miracle of life." Rolley Len and Cason sat patiently on the concrete bench watching. Every so often Rolley Len would jump up to peek at the progress. Little did we know that the mama would have trouble giving birth and the lamb would be stillborn. We had expected 100 questions about birth and instead found ourselves explaining what might have gone wrong.

We try to be as honest as possible when explaining life and death matters to them. Sometimes we must let them know where the "missing" sheep is, or we have to let them know what might happen to our cat after being bitten by a snake. When I tell Rolley Len and Cason the truth about what happens to our livestock or pets, I hope that translates into some kind of understanding of what can happen to people we know and love, and how we deal with it.

Having grandparents prevalent in your life means that eventually you will have to talk about things like health, hospitals and hope. The best way I felt I could explain to Rolley Len how I felt about possibly losing Pawpaw R.J. was to compare it to her not having her daddy any more. We talked about Pawpaw’s heart being fixed in surgery and his need to heal afterward. Rolley Len was still worried and there were tears from both of us, but she seemed to understand.

Now that he has made it through the bypass surgery and is recovering well, it won’t be long before Rolley Len and Cason can spend time with their Pawpaw again playing "bear and chickens." In honor of his recovery, I am sharing some recipes you might want to use for your own father on Father’s Day. If your loved ones can’t have red meat, then skip the steak and hamburgers and grill salmon instead. Salmon is not the least expensive fish, but it is one of the healthiest. Make your next meal delicious and heart healthy and help keep your family close for many more years.

  Rolley Len Kirk said she didn’t like it, she LOVED it!

Salmon with Dill Mustard Crust

1½ pounds center-cut salmon fillet

3½ Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

½ cup Panko bread crumbs (optional for more crunch)

1½ Tablespoons dried dill
¼ cup Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 375°. Rub salmon with olive oil. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. Mix bread crumbs with dill and cover fish with mixture. Spread mustard over top using a knife or rubber spatula. Bake about 15 minutes or until the salmon is no longer translucent. 

Dill Sauce for Grilled Salmon
(if your doctor allows these fats)

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon lemon juice

¾ teaspoon dill weed

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

Prepared horseradish, to taste

Pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together and serve with salmon.

Apple and pumpkin are both delicious on their own whether in pies, cakes or breads, but this recipe combines them with very little sugar and no white flour. I love it because it tastes good, but also because I never thought I would like a dessert that had whole wheat in the recipe.

Apple Streusel Pumpkin Cake

½ cup (1 stick) plus 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 Tablespoons white sugar, divided

1¼ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ cup canned pumpkin

1/3 cup sour cream
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9x3-inch springform pan. Dice ½ cup butter and soften.

In a saucepan, melt remaining butter over medium high heat. Sauté apples until softened and golden. Sprinkle cinnamon and 3 tablespoons white sugar over apples and cook until thick and bubbly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and salt. Add softened butter and mix with a hand mixer (or stand mixer) until pea-sized pieces form.

Take 2/3 cup of this mixture and put in a small bowl to make streusel. Stir in remaining white sugar and pumpkin pie spice.

To remaining mixture, add baking soda and blend with the mixer. Add pumpkin, sour cream and eggs, beating until smooth. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Spread sautéed apples over the batter and sprinkle streusel on top. Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Wilted Spinach

2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound washed spinach 

4 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste


Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add a handful of spinach to the skillet and allow to wilt, then add the rest in batches. Allow to wilt, sprinkle with salt and pepper, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Christy Kirk is a freelance writer who lives in Little Texas.