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We celebrated National Women's Health Week - a week-long health observance led by the U.S. Department of Health – from May 10th to May 17th.  It’s an important reminder that women’s health hasn’t always been valued or even considered in the past, and it’s a reminder to make your health a priority today. Especially now.   

We care and give so much of ourselves in the interest of caring for others, but please remember to take care of yourself as well. Your health is a lifelong journey - It's personal, it's unique, it's yours. I know that current circumstances have added additional stressors to many of our lives, which can make it even tougher to make ourselves a priority. That is why I’m writing to you about your health, specifically, today – to remind you that the Planned Parenthood family cares about you. 

Taking care of yourself now will not only help to reduce the impact of the pandemic; It’s important because you’re important. In addition to keeping up on your physical health (don’t forget preventative care!), it’s equally crucial to tend to your mental health.   

One of the things many of our staff, supporters and patients are doing to bolster their morale and help them through the uncertainty of current times is cooking and baking. Many of the crafts, artforms and skills (which were devalued as “women’s work” often in the past, and still often are today) have become the glue holding families, communities and ourselves together. 

“Kitchen magic” is one such example – the art of cooking can be used to care for many others, or just oneself. Cooking and baking are great forms of self-care. 

I’d like to share a few recipes with you in the interest of care. The first comes from Laura Cole, a professional chef in Alaska who has been nominated for several awards and has appeared on Top Chef. Cole is a supporter of Planned Parenthood and was one of the featured chefs for Sustenance for the Resistance – a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in Alaska which raised over $80,000. I’m pleased to share her Dill Soup with Halibut and Prosciutto recipe, which features unique, seasonal flavors of the Pacific Northwest. 

The next recipe I will share was a mid-20th century classic in many parts of the Midwest – Spice Cake with Sea Foam Icing. I chose this recipe for you because it reminds me of happy memories and family stories told generation to generation – and it’s delicious! I hope this sweet treat will take you to a place of delight. 

I’m also including a simple Microwave Mugcake recipe for those days when you might not have a lot of energy or time. It’s a quick and simple way to get something warm and comforting to eat. Sometimes a little cooked food can make all the difference. 

Dill Soup with Halibut and Prosciutto  
¼ pound fresh dill (about 2 large bunches) 
 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
 Ground cayenne pepper, to taste 
 2 medium leeks, trimmed, sliced, and cleaned 
 Fresh ground nutmeg, to taste 
 2 medium white-fleshed potatoes, peeled and cubed (about 1½ pounds) 
 3 vegetable bouillon cubes 
 2 cups whole milk 
 4 to 6 tbsp salted butter 
 4 (4-ounce) fresh halibut fillets 
 Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste 
 Garnish: 8 slices Crisped Prosciutto 

Soup and Halibut instructions 
Bring a small pot of water to boil. Add fresh dill and let boil for 1 minute, then shock dill in a bowl of ice water. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Add leeks and sauté about 3 minutes, then add potatoes, cayenne, ground nutmeg, and stir. Pour in 8 cups of water, or enough to fully cover vegetables. Next, add bouillon, stir, and let simmer over medium heat about 18 minutes until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour into a blender and blend on high in batches until smooth. Add milk to thin soup, and salt and pepper if desired. 

In a clean blender jar, blend the dill with a small amount of water in a blender until completely broken down and vibrant green, then stir into soup. Keep soup warm over low heat while preparing halibut. 

Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat butter in two large, ovenproof sauté pans or one very large one over medium-high heat. Place fillets neatly in pan, and cook until golden brown on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip, and let fillets cook another few minutes. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the fish; test halibut by gently pressing the tip of a knife into the center of the fish and pull back slightly.  

Divide halibut evenly among 4 bowls. Gently ladle soup around halibut and top with crisped prosciutto. Grate fresh nutmeg over, and garnish with dill. 

Crisped Prosciutto Instructions

– 8 to 10 thin slices prosciutto

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay prosciutto flat on a parchment-lined sheet tray; top with an additional piece of parchment paper and a second sheet tray to weigh it down. Cook for 15 minutes or until prosciutto is crisp. 

Note: This can be done ahead of time, cooled, and stored in the freezer. Gently reheat before serving.

Spice Cake with Sea Foam Frosting

2¼ cups cake flour, sifted before measuring 
 1 teaspoon baking powder 
 ¾  teaspoon baking soda 
 1 teaspoon salt 
 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
 ¼ teaspoon cloves   
 ½ teaspoon ginger 
 ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper 
 ¾ cup butter-flavored shortening  
 1 cup granulated sugar 
 ¾ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar 
 3 large room temperature eggs 
 1 cup room temperature buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla  

Sea Foam Frosting 
 2 egg whites 
 1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar 
 ⅓ cup water 
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and spray two 9-inch round (see note) cake pans with flour-added cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, sift together pre-sifted flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in the salt and spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger, black pepper). Set aside. 

In another large bowl, using a medium speed electric mixer, beat the shortening, brown and white sugars until mixed. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each egg. Using a mixing spoon (or on the lowest speed of blender), add in the flour, buttermilk and vanilla mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour. 

Divide the batter evenly between the two cake pans and bake for 28 minutes, or until the cake tests done with a skewer or toothpick. Remove from oven and cool in pans for at least 10 minutes, then invert onto wire cooling racks. 

To prepare the sea foam frosting, set a deep metal bowl over a large pan of boiling water (if you have a double boiler, you can use this). Then, reduce the heat to a simmer. Combine the egg whites, light brown sugar, and water. Beat over boiling water for about five minutes until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and beat until thick enough to spread. 

 Microwave Mugcakes 
 ⅓ cup pancake mix 
 ⅓ cup dairy or nondairy milk 
 1 handful blueberries, banana slices, chocolate chips, walnuts, etc. 

Stir pancake mix, milk, and any desired additions together in a mug and microwave on high setting for approximately 1 minute and 45 seconds. Remove from microwave and allow to cool for one minute before eating.

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