Naturally Gourmet: Recipes for Global Ministry
Karen Houghton never dreamed that her personal interest in health would one day lead to a 224-page, full-color cookbook and a television ministry with a potential audience of millions. Today she co-hosts Naturally Gourmet, a cooking program on the Hope Channel, and is the author of a newly published plantbased cookbook by the same title. Karen’s ministry began forming when she learned that health has its own recipe. She decided everyone should know about it.
Karen’s interest in health began when, at age 16, she went away to academy. “I never really enjoyed eating meat,” Karen recalls. “So I decided to quit eating it, since they didn’t serve it anyway. I never missed it!”
That was the beginning of her journey toward a healthier life, but there were still more changes ahead. Though she had given up meat, she began to consume more cheese and dairy products in its place.
In college, she learned from one of her professors, Charlotte Hamlin, how to make good bread and other simple foods that help to prevent disease. Those nutrition classes at Andrews University made a lasting impression on her.
After graduating with a degree in nursing, Karen moved back to Wisconsin where she worked as a home health nurse. Around that time, her father developed Type 2 diabetes and attended the NEWSTART® program at Weimar Institute in California. The changes Karen saw in her dad were impressive. He lost weight, felt better, and was able to stop taking his medication. That experience further convinced Karen that diet and exercise are part of the recipe for good health.
Karen especially remembers the day she attended an ASI convention seminar by Mark Finley. It was called “Making Friends for God.” After the seminar, she felt compelled to share her knowledge with others. Her first step was to make a positive dietary change in her own life—to a plant-based, dairy-free diet. She immediately felt better physically.
Next, she held a health seminar in the fellowship hall at her church—and 90 people showed up, most of them from the community. It was at that point that Karen began stepping out of her comfort zone.
“I really didn’t feel I was a public speaker,” Karen says, “but I knew that, with God ‘all things are possible.’ ”
Karen vividly remembers one lady in particular who attended the seminar. A week after the first lecture on the importance of exercise and a healthy breakfast, the woman returned to class and asked if she could share her experience. Prior to the class, the woman’s family had never eaten breakfast and had formed the habit of sleeping in every day as long as possible. Then they would race off to school and to work. After hearing about the benefits of breakfast and exercise, the entire family began to get up early, take a walk, and then eat a big breakfast. After making these changes, they were amazed at how much better they felt and how much more energy they all had. She said her family members felt like they were actually living again!
Over the years, Karen has continued teaching others about healthful living, and has watched with satisfaction as people reap the benefits of their new lifestyles. She often encounters people who want to avoid taking medication to lower cholesterol. She shares with them the benefits of eating just two tablespoonfuls of ground flax seeds daily, enabling them to reduce their cholesterol levels by as much as 60-80 points.
Of course, when you’re teaching others about a healthful diet, the “proof is in the pudding.” It’s one thing to talk about change, but it’s another to actually get people to make those changes and stick to them. Karen’s philosophy is that food should taste good and be healthy at the same time.
“When you’re raising two sons, taste is everything,” she says emphatically. Through her cooking classes, Karen has had the opportunity to demonstrate her favorite recipes, many of which she has adapted from not-so-healthy versions of popular foods. It was only natural that she would one day publish a cookbook of her own—something she’d been planning for a long time.
When the Hope Channel invited Karen to create a cooking show, that invitation provided the stimulus she needed to fastforward the launch of her Naturally Gourmet cookbook. It came off the press in May, and she has been receiving positive responses ever since.
“One man bought the book and shared it with a co-worker,” says Karen. “Her husband made three recipes in one day and they loved them all—and these people are not even vegetarians!” Even kids are making the recipes and enjoying them.
Karen continues to hold local health seminars, generally attracting an audience of anywhere from 90 to 130 people each time. But in April, her ministry coverage expanded worldwide with the launch of Naturally Gourmet on the Hope Channel. During the show, Karen demonstrates how to prepare healthy foods, while guest host Dr. Wes Youngberg, director of the Wellness Program at the Rancho Family Medical Group in Temecula, Calif., describes their health benefits.
Although ministry success can’t be measured by size or numbers, it’s satisfying to know your efforts are impacting many people’s lives in positive ways. It all starts with a tablespoon of conviction and a cup of knowledge, mixed thoroughly with God’s blessing and clear guidance.
“Over the years I can say that the Lord has never let me down,” says Karen. “If you take that step in faith and trust Him, He will come through for you.” Visit www.NaturallyGourmet.com.