Slice of Slovenia

A Slice of Slovenia

Slovenia was not a country I expected to visit, but thanks to a grant from Mary’s Pence I attended the international educators’ conference “To Teach is to Build” at the Biotechnical Center in Naklo, Slovenia in October. Educators participated from Austria, Italy, Germany, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and the United States.

My paper entitled “Curriculum Development: Political, Subversive, Dangerous,” explored the social justice implications of designing school curricula. It also included fast, easy classroom exercises to help students develop more compassion and empathy. After submitting my paper, the conference organizer Professor Sandra Žvagen, invited me to be a plenary speaker and conduct a workshop. Meeting with other educators and attending their workshops taught me so much!

The Biotechnical Center is a holistic school that fosters curiosity and a safe space for over 600 students from various backgrounds – both rural and urban. Students can learn how to run a dairy farm in a way that is organic and cares for the environment. Other students focus on forest, wildlife and wild animal management. Many of the products students make such as cheeses, dairy products, produce, juices, local teas, floral arrangements and more, are for sale in their store and used in the school’s cafeteria.

Andreja Ah?in, principal of the Biotechnical Center with twenty years of education experience at the school, explained that she and her staff worked to design a curriculum that fosters a holistic integration of the student. This means integrating students’ values with their education and life work while understanding its impact on the environment and the community. This is the same reason I teach theology – to help students explore these fundamental questions; Who am I? What is my purpose? How will I make the world a better place?

My experience also included meeting with instructors and with students in the classroom. English class students were designing their own crossword puzzles, art students were using refurbished typewriters to create amazing pictures with meaningful words and other students were baking cakes and breads to use at school events.

Demonstrating their reputation for hospitality, school faculty drove us to the Lake Bled area in northern Slovenia near the Alps. We toured a green hotel, Garden Village, where all the landscaping was beautiful, edible and used in the hotel! Teachers Sandra Žvagen and Simona Zabukovec took me hiking in scenic southern Slovenia by the Adriatic Sea. Tina Križnar, who oversees adult education at the school, gave me a tour of the capital city of Ljubljana, existing since Roman times. Prior to working at the Biotechnical Center Tina was a tour guide for Russian and English speaking tourists so she knew well the city and its history.

The conference was an unexpected and amazing experience of another people, country and culture. Thank you, “hvala” in Slovenian, to the Biotechnical Center, conference participants and to Mary’s Pence for making it possible.

My Health Insurance Makes Me Sick

HellmannsOliveOilMayoWow. Unbelievable. Today I received coupons in the mail from my health insurance provider –  Blue Cross Blue Shield. The coupons were for fat-loaded, sweetener-filled junk foods that should not be part of anyone’s healthy diet: Sweet Freedom Ice Cream Bars, Fudge Lites and Ice Cream, Weight Watchers Ice Cream Sandwiches,  C&H and Domino Sugar Blends and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise Dressing with Olive Oil. Really?? I should be loading up my diet with sugary snacks, processed food and olive-oil-fat-filled mayo?

Why isn’t Blue Cross promoting healthy hummus instead of mayo? Or frozen vegie-fruit smoothies instead of ice cream junk food?

Because Blue Cross is in bed with big food corporations and the $$$ that mailing coupons for these corporations produces. Further, as a healthy person I don’t generate much income for health insurance companies (healthy people have lower premiums), health care services, or the drug industry. To increase their profit margins it is much better for me to be chronically sick, taking diabetes, blood pressure or cholesterol medications – ideally for the rest of my life.

How best to do this? Promote bad health, of course! Junk food coupons – here we come! Worse, I’m paying the cost for this unethical marketing with my insurance premiums.

Don’t assume your health insurance or health care providers are even remotely interested in maintaining your good health. Always ask, “Who benefits?”

You may also like Lunch To Go and Mango Delight.

Lunch To Go

Photo: AptTherapy Grab and Go

Photo: AptTherapy Grab and Go

Maybe you’re looking for ways to make lunch more interesting. Or maybe you’d like to be able to pack a quick picnic in the evening. If so, here’s a post from Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchen – Grab and Go lunch using canning jars.

Canning jars don’t leak, clean up in the dishwasher and they allow you to cook or bake safely in a microwave – without the lid of course.

The article lists five fun and unexpected ideas for lunch: layered salad, miso soup, chili with cornbread that bakes in the jar, vegie sticks in hummus and a crustless quiche – 3 ways from the blog Krista and Jess. Check it out, then try it out!

You may also like Picnic in a Jar, Walking Chicken BBQ and Salad in a Jar.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Photo ForTheLoveOfFoodBlog

Today I tried something new in the smoothie arena. If you’ve been reading this blog you know that I have been experimenting with smoothies for awhile now as a way to eat healthier and tastier.

Now that we are in the season of squashes – particularly pumpkins – why not try a smoothie that tastes like a pumpkin pie? I did. It was fast and easy.

  • 1 14 oz. can of cooked pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh, cooked pumpkin)
  • 2 cups kefir (creamy plain yogurt or silken tofu could be substitutes)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup (honey could be a substitute)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pumpkin pie spices to taste: ground cinnamon, ginger & cloves

Combine all ingredients in blender and puree. Makes 2-3 servings. That’s it. Drink up.

The kefir adds a whipped-creamy taste to the pumpkin. The spices make it taste like a slice of pumpkin pie in a glass – but without the fat, carbs and salt.

The smoothie will look identical to the photo above – even though that is a different recipe – “pumpkin spice smoothie” that also looks like it would be good to try. You can find it at For the Love of Food Blog here.

You may also like Vegie Smoothies and Grand Marais.