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Karen Danielson, RN

Good morning, Bess!  It's a beautiful day here in Pennsylvania.  After reading your bio, seeing the pics and reading your philosophy on healthy and nutritious cooking, I've finally decided that we must be at least "soul-sisters", if not clones of each other. 

Let me give you my history.  I'm 57 years old, wife of 36 years with four sons and three 3 grandsons, and I'm a registered nurse. 

My maiden name was originally Brooks.  My real mother died when I was two, so my father found it necessary to give me to my maternal great-aunt and uncle, Catherine (Cass) and Bill Kerr to be raised.  From now on, when I refer to my mother, I will mean Cass, as she's the only mother I've ever known.  She and Bill had also raised my real mother, Nadine, from age 12, as well as her brother, Carl, as their parents (my grandparents) had been killed in a car accident.  At first I called Bill and Cass "grandma and grandpa", but when I went to first grade I became aware that all the other kids had "moms and dads", so I went home and asked if I could call them Mom and Dad.  Of course the answer was yes!  In later years, my Mom told me that was one of the happiest days in her life.  When I was 18 they adopted me and I changed my name from Karen Lee Brooks to Karen Lee Kerr. 

I went to school in Jamestown, NY, and attended S.U.N.Y. off-campus in Jamestown for the 1st year of nursing school.  Then I went to W.C.A. Hospital School of Nursing, graduating in 1963.

As a registered nurse, I have studied biology, chemistry, psychology, sociology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology and all other related subjects.  I'm the mother of 4 grown, married men, and yes, they were all my willing "victims" when they were growing up, with at least 3 meals a day plus snacks.  We were on a limited budget, so I had to be very creative to come up with healthy meals that were inexpensive and had a big yield.  Some of my favorite recipes today, and theirs, too, are those budget-stretcher meals from the lean years.  When we were first married we lived in Washington, D.C., then moved to suburban Maryland, and finally settled here in a small college town north of Pittsburgh. 

My husband Denny retired 3 years ago at age 55 from Bell Atlantic after 36 years as a Communications Serviceman (Installer).  I worked part-time in the operating room and emergency room (2 midnights a week) until my youngest son was 10, when I went to work full time in the Emergency Room, becoming board-certified in Emergency Nursing.  In 1987 I became Director of Student Health Services at a small liberal arts college, population 2,500, located in a small town in Western Pennsylvania.  The college is right across the street from my house, so I get to walk to work.

I've taught water aerobics for about 8 years and love it.  I also love animals.  I have had 4 dogs (RIP), and 4 cats (3 of them RIP).  At present I have a Burmese cat named Wheeters.  He's 15 years old and rules the roost!  I had to laugh when you said you poached chicken for the dogs and cats. 

Wheeters has been having gourmet meals forever.   His favorite is venison, which we are lucky to have access to every November, as my men get a deer every year.  They hunt " up home", where we came from originally, in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest.  My son Christopher processes the deer, even making Jerky, (he's now perfected his recipe after much trial and error).

I enjoy Hispanic cuisine but I don't have a large repertoire of recipes.  My  favorite cuisine is Italian, and I certainly didn't get that from my mother.  Her idea of spaghetti was browned hamburger mixed with Campbell's tomato soup and stirred into cooked pasta.  Of course back in my Mom's day (1920's) the Italians were just beginning to immigrate to the USA, so she didn't have the benefit of any real Italian cooking until much later.

I've loved cooking ever since I was old enough to make mud pies.  Some people would probably say I'm obsessed about it, but no one complains when it's time to sit down "at table".  I'm so pleased that you liked my recipe for Chicken a la King.   I've been making it for years.

It's just an old family favorite, as most of my recipes are.  I love to cook, and one of things I enjoy very much is to eat something in a restaurant, and then come home and try to re-create it.  I must say that this usually turn out pretty successfully!!   I've had 3 recipes published in Bon Appetit' Magazine-- in July, 1987-- so you could say that I've had my 15 minutes of fame.  

I use Mrs. Dash Extra-Spicy all the time.  I love most everything with a little "bite" to it.  I've created a lot of heart-healthy recipes, and Mrs. Dash Extra-Spicy features in most of them.  I've discovered that when you reduce the fat content, it's rarely missed if you add flavor and spice to the recipe.  I love to grow my own herbs for better seasoning, too.  

We enjoy fresh basil and garlic (pictured above), as well as rosemary, lemon thyme, curly and flat leaf parsley, dill, cilantro and mint.  I make pesto and freeze it, and freeze all the other herbs to use all winter.  I have a food dehydrator and dry tomatoes, they are so great that way.

Let me mention the cookbook I am writing.   I originally thought I was just producing it for my four married sons and their families, as I am afraid the art of home cooking is a dying art with everyone working and so many fine frozen  products on the market.  My grandsons, Brian and Ian, have a friend who thought that mashed potatoes only came from a box!   But now I have decided to publish the  cookbook.  I hope to have it ready for the printer early in October.

I'm so impressed by your home page and all the links you have, and I feel very strongly about "our" mission.  The American diet is so sad, and seems to be getting worse.  Maybe with concerned people like us we can at least reach a few people who will then reach a few more people, and slowly we can spread the word.  In a way I feel like you and I (and I'm sure many concerned others) are trying to resurrect the "dying art" of cooking good  and nutritious meals, and trying to encourage those who are trying to fulfill the role of loving care-givers to their families.  But I'll get off my soap box now (I do have a tendency to ramble-- especially if it concerns a subject I'm passionate about).  I'll be happy to contribute regularly, and let me know if anyone is looking for anything in particular. 

This is a new venture for me, and one that sounds very exciting.  I sent the link to Chicken a la King to my son and his family in Las Vegas.  They called last night and were very excited.  My grandsons thought it was so neat to see "Mimi's" recipe on the web.  Daisy said they were dancing around the kitchen.  Imagine what they'll do when they see my picture (probably throw darts!).

Best, Karen

Note: Karen already has one cookbook out, "Collections and Creations from KD's Kitchen", and is working on another, "Soups and Stews for the Heart and Soul", due this summer. 


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