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The National Forest Foundation and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Celebrate Silver Anniversary - Plus Chef Sarah Stegner's Local Recipe!

Bill Curtis, Sarah Stegner, Prairie Grass Cafe, Midewin

Acclaimed journalist and prairie restoration advocate Bill Kurtis stands in tall grass on the prairie with local chef Sarah Stegner, of Prairie Grass Café, in Northbrook. Photo credit Cindy Kurman.

The National ForestFoundation will sponsor and host a Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Silver Anniversary celebration on February 10, featuring journalist Bill Kurtis and James Beard Award-winning executive chef Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Cafe, in Northbrook. In a keynote speech, Kurtis will address the importance of prairie restoration. Stegner, with special guest Kenya Vera-Sample, of DuSable City Botanical Farms, will highlight the importance of identifying local providers that can help bring healthful prairie ingredients into our life every day. The program is sponsored by the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and presented virtually at 6 p.m. To register for the program on February 10, visit

Stegner will share her recipe for wild rice cakes with local black beans, roasted garlic and mushrooms with drizzled honey and elderberry tincture, which she applies to the wild rice cake like a sauce. She wants people to learn the importance of sourcing healthy ingredients by identifying local providers. "I want people to understand where their food comes from," Stegner says. "Wherever you live, it is so important to build relationships with local producers of healthful ingredients. The more we can support local farms, the greater our access will be to locally grown food for future generations."

Special guest Kenya Vera-Sample will talk about the elderberries that she grows in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood and share her ideas for how to bring elderberries into our diet for greater health and wellness.

NFF President and Chief Executive Officer Mary Mitsos will emcee the culinary-focused program. The NFF has worked in partnership with Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie to restore tallgrass prairie since 2012.

Wild Rice- Beans- Squash Patties with Local Honey & Elderberry Tincture

Serves 4  to 6

2 cups cooked wild rice

2 cups cooked beans, drained well (pinto)

½ cup roasted squash

1 head roasted garlic

Sea salt

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp of honey

2½ -3 droppers of elderberry tincture


In a food processor, mix the rice until it becomes sticky and begins to form a ball. Remove from the food processor and add the beans. Roughly purée them. Combine all ingredients and form into a patty.

Sauté in a nonstick medium-sized pan with olive oil over medium heat or roast in the oven in a pan drizzled with olive oil at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Cook until a crisp crust forms on both sides of the outside of the patty.

Mix the honey and tincture together and drizzle over the patty. Garnish with microgreens.

The National Forest Foundation promotes the enhancement and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. The USDA Forest Service Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie covers 18,500 acres in Wilmington. Volunteers, partners and staff are working with more than 275 species of native Illinois prairie plants on land where the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was located during WWII.

 For more information, visit Recipe cortesy of Sarah Stegner, at Prairie GrassCafe.