National Forest Foundation and Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie To Celebrate Silver Anniversary, featuring journalist Bill Kurtis and Chef Sarah Stegner

On February 10, learn more about the prairie, and the importance of identifying local providers of ingredients to bring more wellness into your life every day.


WILMINGTON, Ill., Jan. 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie's Silver Anniversary celebrations on February 10 will feature journalist Bill Kurtis and James Beard Award-winning Executive Chef Sarah Stegner. In a keynote speech, Kurtis will address the importance of prairie restoration. Chef Stegner, with special guest Kenya Vera-Sample, DuSable City Botanical Farms, will highlight the importance of identifying local providers that can help you bring healthful prairie ingredients into your life every day. The program will be sponsored by the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and presented virtually at 6 p.m. central time.

Chef 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. Stegner wants people to understand the importance of sourcing healthy ingredients by identifying local providers.    

"I want people to understand where their food comes from," Stegner said. "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. She will share her ideas for how you can bring elderberries into your diet for greater health and wellness.    

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

REGISTER: To register for the program on February 10, click here:

Prepare a prairie-inspired plate of wellness to enjoy during the program. Chef Stegner's recipe for the Wild Rice, Beans, and Squash Patties with Local Honey and Elderberry Tincture is attached.

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


Prairie Grass Cafe

Sarah Stegner

Serves 4 - 6 people



2 cups cooked wild rice

2 cups cooked beans, drained well (pinto)

1/2 cup roasted squash

1 head roasted garlic

Sea salt

1 tablespoon Olive oil

1 tablespoon of honey

2.5 - 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 size 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.



About the National Forest Foundation

The National Forest Foundation promotes the enhancement and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the NFF improves forest health and Americans' outdoor experiences. The NFF's programs inform millions of Americans about the importance of these treasured landscapes. Each year, the NFF restores fish and wildlife habitat, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects, and disease, improve recreational opportunities, and enables communities to steward their National Forests and Grasslands. Learn more at

About Bill Kurtis

An acclaimed documentary host and producer, network and major market news anchor, and founder of his own multimedia production company, Bill Kurtis has been earning his peers and viewers' respect for more than fifty years.  Bill traveled the world for the Peabody Award-winning PBS series The New Explorers and documentaries that have taken on our time's most pressing environmental issues. Kurtis Productions has created programs for the A&E Network, including the long-running, award-winning Investigative Reports and Cold Case Files and American Greed seen on CNBC.  He can currently be heard on NPR Radio as the co-host of the celebrated weekly news quiz, Wait, Wait… Don't Tell Me.  And as the host of the daily news magazine, Through the Decades, taking a look back at each day through the lens of history.  Bill is a dedicated conservationist, having purchased and maintained tallgrass prairie lands in Kansas and restoring land to its native state on his 65-acre home in Mettawa, Illinois, where he has partnered with the Land Institute to establish test plots for a new agricultural paradigm using deep-rooted perennial wheat. Bill is the recipient of numerous humanitarian, journalism, and broadcasting awards. He is a member of the board of directors of several prominent organizations, including The Nature Conservancy of Illinois, the Chicago Botanic Garden, and the Field Museum of Chicago.

About Sarah Stegner

Two-time James Beard Foundation award-winner Sarah Stegner's culinary talent and commitment to supporting sustainable, locally produced ingredients are evident in the passion she brings to the food served at Prairie Grass Cafe. She is a founding board member and past president of the nationally renowned Green City Market. The Market now represents more than 50 certified farmers. Sarah has been one of Chicago's most influential chefs bringing the organic, sustainable food movement into the mainstream. She is the co-executive chef and Prairie Grass Cafe owner in Northbrook, Illinois, and partner chef George Bumbaris and husband, Rohit Nambiar. Sarah also is a founding member of The Abundance Setting, supporting the advancement of working mothers in the culinary and hospitality industries to have a sustainable career while maintaining a quality life at home. After graduating from the Dumas Pere Cooking School, Sarah joined the Ritz-Carlton Hotel's culinary team in Chicago. Within a few years, she had ascended to Executive Chef of the famed, four-star Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton. In 1994 she was named Rising Star Chef of the Year by the James Beard Foundation; in 1995, she earned the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence; and she was named Best Chef: Midwest by the James Beard Foundation in 1998.  In 2004, Sarah left the Ritz-Carlton Hotel with her colleague, Chef George Bumbaris, to open Prairie Grass Cafe.

About Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

The USDA Forest Service's Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie is 18,500 acres located in Wilmington, Illinois. Volunteers, partners, and staff are working with over 275 species of native Illinois prairie plants on land where the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant was instrumental during WWII, the Korean War, and more. At one time, tallgrass prairies dominated over 60 percent of Illinois' landscape – over 21 million acres. Now, less than one-hundredth of one percent of Illinois is native tallgrass prairie. Restored prairie at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie has added twice as much of all of the remnant prairies that remain in the State of Illinois combined. Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established on February 10, 1996, by the Illinois Land Conservation Act. The legislation identified 4 objectives, including (1) restoration, (2) agriculture, (3) recreation; and (4) research and education. 



Acclaimed journalist and prairie restoration advocate Bill Kurtis stands in tall grass on the prairie; local chef Sarah Stegner of Prairie Grass Cafe in Northbrook, Illinois. On February 10, the National Forest Foundation will sponsor Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie silver anniversary celebrations featuring Kurtis and Stegner. Wild Rice- Beans- Squash Patties
 with Local Honey & Elderberry Tincture  Photo credit: Cindy Kurman

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