The last thing I want to write about right now is the coronavirus. Like all of you, I wish this pandemic was over. But the coronavirus is touching every part of our lives, so there aren’t many stories to tell without some mention of this wretched virus.
    In the beginning of the pandemic, the virus seemed very far away and was hard to fathom. For the past couple months, though, we’ve watched the virus get closer and closer. We now have parents, friends and neighbors who have been infected, all with drastically different symptoms and severities. The full impact of COVID-19 hit hard earlier this month when our neighbor lost his battle with the disease after a six-week fight.
    As the virus has come closer, we talk more and more, as a family, about the inevitability of us contracting the virus. We’ve explained to the kids that pandemic viruses continue to spread until they can’t anymore. Without vaccination, most people get infected.
    We’ve also explained that while we might not be able to prevent infection, we can take steps to make our immune systems as strong as possible, with the hope that our infections are on the milder end of the range. Eating well, getting enough movement, and getting adequate sleep are the best ways to ensure strong immune system function. We’re taking extra Vitamin D, too, because we drink unfortified milk.
    We can also increase our chances of having a mild case by taking steps to reduce the amount of virus we’re infected with. Wearing masks around non-family members and avoiding crowds are the best proven ways to reduce viral load.
    While I tend to think that, as farmers, we have robust immune systems, I am not naïve enough to think we aren’t vulnerable. The neighbor who lost his life was an active, healthy farmer too.
    As I mentioned above, COVID-19 is touching every part of our lives. Even the food magazines I read are laced with mentions of the disease. While reading a recent article about foods that support our immune systems, I came across an ingredient I never expected: cardamom.
    The article stated that, while more research is needed, some studies show cardamom helps activate natural killer cells, the white blood cells that kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.
    I don’t need to wait for more research to convince me to consume more cardamom. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices, likely due to my early exposure to the cardamom bread made by all the Finnish grandmothers in our community. After reading the article, I tried adding cardamom to my nightly cup of hot milk. It was delicious.
    The taste reminded me of a chai tea latte, which makes sense because cardamom is one of the spices in traditional chai tea. When it comes to spices, I follow the more is better philosophy, so I tried adding a few more chai spices to my mug of hot milk.
    My new favorite blend, which includes cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric and black pepper, is even more delicious than the original. It tastes like a chai tea latte or a pumpkin spice latte but without the tea or coffee. It also reminds me a bit of the homemade, not-super-sweet eggnog my dad used to make when I was a kid.
    And, the additional spices add even more nutritional power. Ginger helps digestion. Cinnamon stabilizes blood sugar. Turmeric reduces inflammation, especially when combined with black pepper.
    In addition to the warming spices, I also add unflavored gelatin for an extra boost of protein. Most folks think gelatin contributes to strong hair, nails and connective tissue, which it does, but gelatin also helps maintain gut health, which is important for a strong immune system.
    Plus, don’t forget about the milk. A full cup of whole milk provides protein, healthy fat, and low-glycemic-load carbohydrates. When combined with gelatin, the protein and fat in milk improve absorption of the gelatin.
    All in all, this hot spiced milk is one of those win-win recipes – tastes good and good for you – that become everyday staples. I’ll keep sipping a mug long after the pandemic is over.

Hot spiced milk
1 cup whole milk, divided
1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Pinch of ground black pepper
Optional: a bit of honey
    Pour 1/4 cup of the milk into a mug. Stir in gelatin and spices until gelatin absorbs milk. Heat remaining 3/4 cup milk (in microwave or on the stove). Pour hot milk into gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin is dissolved.
    I like this drink without any honey, but some palates might prefer a bit of additional sweetness.
    Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 100 cows near Melrose, Minnesota. They have three children – Dan, 13, Monika, 11, and Daphne, 7. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at sadiefrericks@gmail.com.