Thursday, November 29, 2012

Notes from GAPSlandia

Week 1-

- Waaahhh! Whu..? Why? How? Who? Huh?

Where's my brain? Why can't I think or string together words to form a ... word thing?

Why is my kitchen covered in grease? All the time?

When am I supposed to have time to do anything except food prep? Taking 1/2 an hour out to go pick up my farm eggs threw me into a panic. I don't have time for this! I need to be home peeling squash and starting broth cooking.

Soup. Endless soup. Hooray for the garlic that goes in every bowl. At least there's some flavor there.

How am I supposed to get everything done? And then do the schooling, the laundry, the shopping, the.... it's too much. I'm exhausted. I need to go lie down.

Boiled meat is gross.

I miss wine. And cheese. And chocolate.

Week 2-

Aaaaaah - who drove a spike through my head? Is this what die-off feels like? Because if I have to feel like this much longer, I'll pick the die option.

I worry that the nightly sauna my bathroom has with the detox bath for 4 people routine is damaging the finish on my cabinets.

We got to have stuffed bell peppers. Didn't realize they couldn't be green, so had to wait for them to ripen. It was a race between ripen or mold. Mold only won on one. I forgot to put water in the bottom of the pan, so the peppers came out a bit crisp. Oh, it feels so cheaty to eat food with crunch, but we relished the cheat.

My son now has the title of garlic boy. We go through so much garlic (and it only took me a week to figure this out) that it's much more convenient and tidier to peel at least 2 heads at a time and store them in a glass jar in the refrigerator. It's my son's job to cut the hard end off (practice those knife skills!) and peel them. He has to do this about every other day.

I'm so tired of thinking about food. I have to be constantly thinking at least 3 meals ahead to stay on top of shopping, defrosting, prepping, and cooking. Nothing is quick and easy. It might be easy to throw everything into a crock pot, but it's at least 4 hours from being done.

If one more person asks me a question that starts with "When can we have..", I'll smack them!

We talk about poop a lot.

Avocados are my new best friend.

Week 3-

More cheats. I'm sneaking in 1/2 bottle of Kombucha per day. I've let it ferment for almost a month, so I'm pretty sure there's not residual sugar in there. It tastes pretty much like drinking apple cider vinegar, but it's a change, so it's delicious.

Figured out that the cheap butternut squash from Trader Joe's is cheap because it's not organic. And I thought that was OK, but apparently it's not. So I've been carefully fixing all this squash soup and pancakes with pesticide squash. Crap. And what do I do with the rest of the squash that I've carefully stock-piled?

My inner 3 year old looked at a bowl of soup and had a tantrum. No soup, no soup!

My husband got asked at work if he had cancer. I bought him a new belt.

My son gets excited about carrot juice. My new juicer has a very high toy factor.

Week 4-

The flu hits. My daughter says, "I thought it would be impossible to get sick on this diet!" Apparently not. We're knocked on our butts for a week and regress to lots of soups. Many because I don't have the energy to make anything more ambitious. Plus chewing sound like too much effort.

My kitchen is always a disaster zone. I can barely make room on the counter to work.

I've taken to keeping a giant Tupperware bowl on the counter for all the kitchen scraps. It's lots easier than using the dainty bin we have. Giant squash shells and chunky beef bones fit in there more conveniently, plus I don't have to buy bags to go in it.

My farm box started up. Trying a new vendor was not a good plan. It's 85% fruit. Uh, yeah, can't have that. In my last box I got lots of apples, pears, and tangerines, parsnips (not GAPS legal), leeks, and kale. I'm giving away the tangerines and parsnips, making apple/pear sauce with the rest of the fruit, leaving me with a really pricey bunch of kale and 3 leeks.

I made a chicken salad with kimchi, sauerkraut, and avocado. People eating normal food probably think this sounds weird and/or repulsive. We loved it. My daughter was thrilled to have something to take to school that didn't involve a thermos.

Applesauce made it onto the menu this week. I served us each about 2 Tbsp. It was so sweet, it was like eating a candy bar. I'm almost afraid to put fruit back on the menu. Will we revert to being sugar fiends?

If you wonder where I've gone or what I'm up to these days, hopefully this answers your questions. Off to the store to buy more veggies!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Alternative to the Junk Food Apocolypse

I've been hearing from my fan base that I'm a lazy blogger. (Well, to be specific, from my fan. But it sounds better if I say fan base.) And the fan base is correct. I have been lazy. 39 days without writing anything is a long time. But  beside being lazy, I'm also uninspired.  I feel like I have nothing to blog about. When I pointed that out to the fan base, he told me that I should blog about the reason my yummy treats to make list is so thin. So I've been guilted into doing a post, and if it bores you to tears, I'll give you the email address for the fan base and you can complain to him.

I'll start out with a book review. The book that I've been working my way through for several months is The Gut And Psychology Syndrome book, commonly known as GAPS. The author, Dr. Natashya Campbell-McBride is a neurologist, specializing in the treatment of autism. In her practice she noticed that she did not see a single autistic patient who did not also have digestive disorders. Further investigation and research led her to the conclusion that the seat of many (if not almost all) psychiatric disorders spring from an unhealthy gut. And further research showed that a host of auto-immune conditions and other illnesses also had their roots in gut dysbiosis.

Our guts are inhabited by friendly, helpful, necessary bacteria. They are essential to the proper digestion of the food we eat. They also are warriors that keep the bad bacteria in check. When a gut is populated with the right amount of good bacteria (about 5 lbs in a healthy person), the bad bacteria doesn't have a chance to make us sick.

Trouble arises when that balance is upset. When we have a course of antibiotics, we can wipe out the helpful bacteria and the bad bacteria takes over. The gut is ravaged. Unchecked, they can damage the gut wall, allowing partially digested food (remember the good bacteria is essential for digesting) to leak into the bloodstream, where it can travel around the body, acting as a toxin, causing sickness.

If you have somehow, miraculously never had antibiotics, you still can't pat yourself on the back and think your guts are fine. The food that you eat affects your gut bacteria balance. Simple carbohydrates feed the bad bacteria. Eating lots of sugar, white flour, pasta, and potatoes sets up your guts for a wave of bad bacteria. Plus, processed foods are high in preservatives, nasty harmful fats, and toxic food colorings. Environmental toxins take their toll on our gut health as well. Exposure to toxic chemicals found in everyday life (new paint, carpet, air pollution) as well as antibacterial soaps wage war on your friendly bacteria.

As I read through the GAPS book, I found multiple members of my family in it's pages and I became convicted that we needed to do this diet. The purpose of the GAPS diet is to heal and seal the gut through a protocol of nourishing, easily digestible foods, that are low in carbohydrates. The bad bacteria are starved, the good bacteria are supplemented with probiotics, and the gut is soothed with bone broths and nutrient dense foods.

You need to be really convinced of the need for GAPS in your life to undertake it. It is not for the faint of heart or the dabbler. You need to commit. Depending on how damaged your gut is, the GAPS diet takes 1-1/2 to 2  years. That sounds daunting, doesn't it? But the funny thing is that the diet isn't that different from the Paleo-style of eating we've been doing. What's difficult is the Introduction Diet, which is where we are.

The Introduction Diet is in 6 stages. You start out at stage one having bone broth with every meal. You can have meats and a limited number of vegetables (squash, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, and carrots), but they all need to be boiled, preferably in broth. So, basically, it's soup for every meal. If you have places to go during the day, a thermos is your best friend.

You have to throw away the concept of breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and think of Meal 1, Meal 2, and Meal 3. If you mourn over the foods you can't have, you'll be miserable and hate life. Think instead of the healing that's taking place inside you and rent a good movie. Preferably one that doesn't have restaurant scenes.

At each level you get to add in new foods. That's exciting. My family got amazingly happy when avocados came back on the menu and scrambled eggs caused a hallelujah breakdown. Have you ever seen someone moan while eating scrambled eggs? I have. Several times.

The tricky thing about the intro diet is that it's not set in concrete. My family is comprised of a bunch of OCD planners who want to put dates on the calendar. I can't tell you the number of times my son has asked me what day we get to have apples again (no fruit yet because the sugar feeds the bad bacteria). My family now knows not to ask me questions that begin with "When can we.." They know I'll shriek at them, "I don't know!! We'll get there when we get there!!!"

The reason you can't plan is that each person's physiology is unique and the damage that needs to be healed is not necessarily the same for every family member. Foods need to be introduced gradually, a tsp on the first day, watching for reactions. (Not the 1/2 an avocado some family members ate on the first day - cough cough) If there is a reaction, the food needs to be removed, then reintroduced a week or so later, to see if there's still a reaction.

If there's minimal healing that needs to take place, a person could conceivably whip through the Intro Diet in a month, then move on to the full GAPS diet. But some people stay on a particular level of the Intro diet for weeks or even months.

We are finishing up our 4th week on the Intro Diet and we are moving into Stage 4. And what progress have we seen?

The most visible change is the weight my husband and I have lost. His pants are falling off him. He got asked at work if he had cancer. Not because he looks ill, but because of the dramatic weight loss.

My son, who has always been a picky eater, continues to surprise me. Where he would formerly turn up his nose at vegetables and would prefer to go hungry than eat certain foods, he now will happily eat squash, carrot and celery juice, and soups. He even asked me if we could still have the squash and nut pancakes once we were off the diet because he loves them so much. It's amazing what a motivator hunger is, especially when there's no alternative in the refrigerator.

We were driving in the car the other day and he commented on the proliferation of fast food joints along the road. He said that when he grew up he wanted to open up a restaurant. But not something nasty like McDonalds or Taco Bell, something where you could go and get good food. Like meat and soup. Or soup and meat. I had to smile at that.

My daughter? She's tired and crabby all the time. That doesn't sound like an endorsement, does it? But it's truth. And hopefully as she heals she'll start to find more energy and feel better about life. And if not, we'll have to send her to a boarding school. (Just kidding.)

And me? Well, besides the weight loss, I found out something that makes makes my stomach churn just to think about it. It's in the TMI department, so if you're squeamish, just skip this paragraph. Still with me? Ok. I found out I have intestinal parasites. Ugh. As the low carb diet starved them, they started showing up in the waste management bin. Ok, the toilet. I was trying to be delicate about it, but there's really not a delicate way to say it. It super creeps me out. Really. Full body shudder. Sources report that there is a 1 in 3 chance of having parasites so I'm not alone. OK, poor choice of words but I never would have found that out if I hadn't been on GAPS.

If you are curious about GAPS, I highly recommend reading the book. And if that makes you seriously consider doing the GAPS diet, here are a few resources that have been helpful for me.

The Gaps Guide - This is a practical, walk-through, how to do GAPS guide. Very helpful information that makes it seem less intimidating.

The Gaps Website - loaded with helpful information. Just reading through the FAQs page takes a ton of time.

The Gaps Diet - another cache of tremendous information, as well as resources

Cooking With Gaps - DVD with clear step by step demonstrations of how to make the food recommended on the GAPS diet

30 days on the Gaps Intro Diet menu plan - This menu plan saved my bacon! (even though we can't have bacon :-( ) It does all the thinking for you - that's crucial when you're having the first week brain fog. It's worth every penny!

And a few of my favorite GAPS-friendly websites are here - (If you have one I haven't mentioned, please put a link in the comments!)

The Mommypotamus

Nourished and Nurtured

Health, Home, and Happiness

Empowered Sustenance

Blessings on your food journey!

(and a big thank you to The Fan for the title of this post!)

Monday, October 8, 2012

What I Baked On My Summer Vacation

Often, the fist back-to-school assignment in grade school was an essay titled, "What I Did On My Summer Vacation." That was a stumper for me. My friends would busily start writing because they did cool things like travel around the country, spend a month on a houseboat on Lake Powell, or laze around at their lake cabin.

I wasn't that cool. My essays would have to risk falling into the realm of fiction or else be stunningly dull. My family didn't do cool things. We either went on death marches hikes, or stayed at home to do exciting things like mowing the lawn and harvesting tomatoes and beans from the garden.  My birthday was in the summer, but that doesn't mean it was the highlight of the summer. Remember the part about my friends off doing cool things? No one was ever around to come to my birthday parties. I'd plan a huge roller-skating party and get two people to show up, so my mother would kindly offer to take us to a movie.

Perhaps that's the reason I put so much importance on birthday cakes. You may have a lousy no-show birthday party, but if you've got a few presents and a  fabulous cake, it's still a good birthday.

You might think that giving up grains and sugar might mean giving up birthday cakes. Not as long as there is breath in my body! I'm also not willing to settle for some dense, dry, nasty brick pretending to be a cake. No, a birthday cake has to look special and taste amazing. That's the rule.

I made this cake for my son's birthday and we loved it so much I made it again for my birthday. We served it at the same time as a lovely triple-layer lemon cake (which was a birthday cake for someone else) and I even had one person comment that they liked the chocolate grain-free one better! (I'm giving you the recipe as I made it the second time, but the pictures are from the first time. It's just a matter of how it's garnished.)

I found this recipe on The Moveable Feasts and did a bit of modifying. I love it and wouldn't change a thing, but I give you permission to play with the recipe and do what you want to it in order for it to make your heart sing.

Can You Believe It's Grain-Free? Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 tsp baking soda
14 pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup honey
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, very soft
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp expresso powder
   (OR, you can substitute 1/4 cup drip coffee for the water and espresso powder)
Coconut milk
Chopped dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao), about 4 oz.
Whipped cream or coconut cream
Sliced strawberries

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  Butter and 8-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2- In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3- In a food processor, puree the dates until completely smooth, about 20-30 seconds. This should be about 3/4 cup of puree. Add the honey and applesauce and continue to puree until it creates a thoroughly combined and smooth mixture, about another 20-30 seconds.

4- Transfer the date-applesauce mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the softened butter and mix on low speed until combined. Continuing on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla and coffee. Mix until smooth and well combined. If the mixture looks a little curdled, don't freak out. It'll smooth out.

5- On low speed, sprinkle the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix, scraping down the sides, until the batter is smooth. The texture will be stiff, like a brownie batter.

6- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake may look moist and maybe even unfinished, but if the toothpick is clean, it's done. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.

7- When the cake is cooled, make the ganache. You'll need to be a bit free-form about this as I eyeballed my ingredients, rather than carefully measuring.  Warm about 1/2 cup of coconut milk in a saucepan over low heat. When the milk is very warm, but before it boils, pour it over the chopped chocolate. Pour only enough milk to barely cover the chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir till it's smooth.

8- Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake, smoothing it to the edges of the cake. It can be refrigerated at this point and pulled out at serving time.

9- To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan. Slice into 12 slices. Serve with a heaping blop of whipped cream or whipped coconut cream and sliced strawberries.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Help Others, Help Yourself

Sometimes you hear a sad story and say, "Oh, that's tragic." Then you shrug and move on because there's nothing you can do. Today is not that day. Today is a day you can make a difference.

Jenny is a homeschooling mother of 5 children. Almost a month ago she called 911 because her husband had become disoriented and incoherent. He was immediately taken to ICU with a brain infection and fell into a coma-like state. Over the 10 days that followed, there was continuous prayer for his healing, with family and friends by his side. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride as the doctors would become hopeful that they had a diagnosis or treatment and then things would worsen once again. Two weeks ago, he passed away, leaving behind his wife and five children between the ages of 9 months and 11 years old. 

Jenny's husband was a bit better prepared than my friend, Grace's husband was. There was some life insurance. But a 2 week ICU stay is expensive and the finances are a huge burden for Jenny. 

Here's the part where you can do more than shrug and move on.

A small group of bloggers have put together a pretty amazing benefit sale, which includes the 9 ebooks listed below plus the complete set of Life Your Way printables. The set is worth more than $50, but will be available for just $5 for two days only, Wednesday, 10/3 and Thursday, 10/4.

I do not make any money from this sale. 100% of the profits go to Jenny's family. 

You can get a great deal and and do something good for a hurting family at the same time. Do it now because the deal ends on Thursday!

I promise I'll be back with food next time. Right now I need to go order my ebooks.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

PSA - The Death File

Usually I try to make my blog a happy little corner of the web.  I put in stories that are (hopefully) amusing and thoughts and recipes that are (hopefully) inspiring and instructive. Today's post is breaking the mold. 

Recently I got a phone call informing me that a dear friend's husband had died. It was quite unexpected,  shocking in it's suddenness. My friend, who I'll call Grace, woke up in her normal life and went to sleep with an entirely different life. 

I talked to Grace for almost an hour. She told about the numb shock of the first few days. How for 10 days she threw up everything she ate. How she didn't sleep at all for three days until she realized it was the empty bed that kept her awake. When she had her helpers move it out to the shed and bring the guest bed into her bedroom, she could sleep a bit. With the aid of sleeping pills.

And she talked about the financial chaos her husband had left behind. Her husband, who I'll call Peter, was a big thinker, a planner, making fortunes on big deals, or sometimes losing them when the deal went bust. He was good at vision, at seeing the big picture. What he wasn't good at was details. 

In scouring the house, trying to find the financial records to assess where she stood, Grace found some interesting things. In one bin she found a month old bill. Unopened. In a seed catalog she found, being used as a bookmark, an uncashed check for $900. From 2004. The record keeping was spotty and the finances were in total disarray. She is working her way through stacks of papers she gleaned from around the house, trying to piece together an accurate picture of his business dealings and figure out how long she can stay in her house.

Many years ago on a radio program I heard a brilliant idea that my husband adopted. It's called The Death File. In it he keeps all the information I'll need in the unlikely even of his untimely demise. Bank account names, numbers, passwords, life insurance policies as well as contact information for the insurance agent, names and numbers of anyone pertinent plus any hidey holes in which he might have cash stored. Everything. This file should be updated once a year and hopefully never, ever needed. But if it is needed, what a lifesaver.

Nothing can ever replace a loved one, but if you are the one in charge of finances, you can make sure that the loved one left behind doesn't have to bear the added stress of financial turmoil in addition to their grief.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Principle of the Thing

School starting up again has made me a little bit nostalgic. All of the pictures friends are posting on Facebook of their cute kids with their backpacks and excited/terrified faces remind me of when I was in elementary school.

I wasn't one of the terrified kids. I loved back to school time. I got new clothes, but that wasn't the real draw. The true enticement was shopping for paper, pencils, and notebooks at Grand Central. To this day I still love filling up a cart with lined paper, packs of pens and pencils, erasers and crayons. My kids moan, "Mom, enough already! We have all that stuff at home!" But it's the newness of it that matters. A Pink Pearl eraser at the beginning of the school year is totally different from that same eraser at the end of the year. It's soft and pliable, clean and smooth. It hasn't yet been whittled down to a stump in stupid math class when you can't find the right answer to save your life, or had a galaxy created on it with your pencil stabbing it repeatedly during a boring lecture.

And I won't even go into the thing I have with boxes of crayons! Well, except to say, I never got more than 16 crayons and I had total crayon envy, so I buy my kids the BIG box with the sharpener in the back. They may have to go into therapy later in life (um, no, most likely they will have to go into therapy), but it won't be crayon-related!

For some reason the things you learn in elementary school stick with you life-long. I'm not talking about stupid stuff like the state capitals and major exports of countries, I mean truly important things like when you play on the monkey bars, you need to wrap your coat around the bar, then hitch your leg over the coat to spin, otherwise you're going take get blisters the size of jellyfish on your bare skin (because, of course, all girls wore skirts then).

I learned the importance of holding your breath when walking around a lake of barf, otherwise you'll contribute to the pile.

I learned that if you volunteer for stuff (helping in the cafeteria, taking the erasers outside to clap them together, releasing clouds of chalk dust) you get out of class early.

Also taking up space in my brain is the mnemonic for spelling Arithmetic. Not politically correct, but:
A Red Indian Thought He Might Eat Tabacco In Church. Now you will never be at a loss for the spelling on that one. If that's the winning word in a spelling bee you're in, I expect a thank you note.

And if you've ever wondered how to correctly spell principle vs. principal, and which is which - the Principal of the school is a Prince and he's your Pal. Which mine was. Mr DeVries. He's in the upper left in this picture. Doesn't he look totally nice? He was. Although, it was a bit weird when he followed us to Jr. High as assistant principal there. I guess there's a ladder to climb, even for principals. It just felt a wee bit like stalking.

(Bonus points if you can guess which nerdy kid was me.)

And as to the other one, there are always principles to remember.

You might be wondering what the point of this rambling post is, and what it's got to do with that creamy deliciousness in the tea cup, and just what is that creamy deliciousness?

The point of the post is to tell you about a principle (no, not Mr. DeVries, the other kind. Didn't you look at the spelling??). The simple principle is "Don't put anything on your skin that you wouldn't put in your mouth." Now, obviously, this applies to personal care products, not clothing.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body and it absorbs things it comes in contact with. Don't believe me? If not, why are there such things as nicotine patches? Because it's absorbed through the skin. Trans-dermally is the $5 word for that. Now if you read the labels on things like shampoo, face wash, body lotion, and cosmetics, you'll find a lot of things that you wouldn't want as garnishes on your dinner. And some of them, like laurel sulfate, are even known carcinogens!

So what is a girl or guy to do when it comes to personal care? Give up and go cave man? No, no. Hygiene does not need to go out the window just because you care about your health. Like so many things, you can make it yourself better and cheaper than what you buy in the store. And you can customize it so it's exactly how you like it.

Today's luscious, creamy recipe is for body butter. I put it in the tea cup for it's photo shoot because it looks so thick and rich, you'll be tempted to eat it with a spoon. And you could, because all of the ingredients are edible! But I recommend you save it for your skin and indulge yourself with silky smooth skin and a happy body!

Rich and Clean Body Butter

1 cup shea butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup almond oil
essential oil

1- In the top of a double boiler, melt the shea butter and coconut oil. Let this cool for at least 30 min. Chill in the fridge, if necessary.

2- Stir in almond oil and your choice of essential oil. (Lavendar or peppermint are nice choices. Be sure it's not something that will irritate your skin.)

3- Wait until oils start to partially solidify (if it's a hot day, pop it into the fridge to speed this up), then put the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip till butter-like.

4- Resist the temptation to put a spoonful in your mouth, and scoop the mixture into clean, glass containers, preferably not too deep.

Store in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Baking Birthday

27 years ago it was a very hot summer. I remember this because 27 years ago I was pregnant. Very pregnant. You could say I was great with child, but that would be an understatement. Enormous with hippopotomus might better convey the immensity of this pregnancy.

Because the summer was so very warm and humid and because I was shaped approximately like a garden shed, I bought a bathing suit. I wasn't willing to go to a trendy maternity boutique and buy something to show off a pregnant woman's curves because, a) I had zero monies and b) I didn't want to ever go through this again so I saw no point in "investing" in a cute suit. So I went to the thrift store.

Thrift stores are awesome. For a bargain price, you can find just about anything. I say just about, because a stylish maternity swimsuit is one of the few things you cannot find at a thrift store. What I found, and bought, was atrocious. It was big. It was black. If a bathing suit and a burkha mated, this is what their child would look like. But I wore it because it covered my grotesquely swollen belly and allowed a breeze to caress my legs. Not in public, though. There are laws about that kind of thing!

What I did next was cruel. I'll just be up front and admit that. I took my almost 2 year old son with me to the corner drugstore and bought an inflatable pool. Not a large, deluxe kind of pool with a slide or the kind you can actually swim in. Sadly, that was not to be because, a) no monies (see above) and b) I had to carry it home along with the 2 year old in hand and the hippo in the oven. I got a little two-ring job that was barely bigger than my circumference.

Once home, I inflated the pool, stopping frequently to gasp for air and grab for the stitch in my side (I say "grab for" because it was tough to locate what had formerly been my side. ) When it was as taut as it was going to get with my limited lung capacity, I put the hose in it to fill it up. My son, eyes shining with excitement had his swimmy shorts on, ready for the treat of a backyard pool.

Oh, poor boy! His hopes were dashed when I sat in the pool. Between me and my gestating watermelon, there was no room for him! Well, we took turns. But my turns were longer. And when I forced him to take a nap, I'd spend the time in the pool, like a majestically anchored sailing vessel. Or a beached whale.

Thank heavens for that pool! It allowed me to get through that pregnancy. And if I hadn't endured, I wouldn't have the beautiful daughter that I have now, and she wouldn't have the amazing daughter that she has!

My granddaughter just turned two. Time certainly flies. We celebrated with presents, balloons, and cake. I'll share with you the recipe for the delicious grain-free cake that my daughter made. You can share it with your favorite pregnant lady. And remind her that the time is short, she'll get through, and if all else fails, there's inflatable pools.

Happy birthday to my sweeties!

Raspberry Grain-Free Birthday Cake
 - adapted from Cooking With Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife, ND
 makes a 8 or 9-inch 2-layer cake

1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp coconut milk
12 eggs
1/3 cup coconut sugar
3 tsp liquid stevia
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sifted coconut flour
1 tsp baking powder
Frosting - recipe below

1- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Grease 2 8 or 9-inch round pans.

2- In a large bowl, blend together the butter, coconut milk, eggs, coconut sugar, liquid stevia, salt, and vanilla.

3- In a separate bowl, combine the coconut flour with the baking powder. Whisk this mixture into the batter until there are no lumps.

4- Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

5- Cool cakes in pans on cooling racks. When cooled, remove from the pans. Fill and frost.

Raspberry Frosting

1 cup cashew butter
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp coconut nectar
1 pint ripe raspberries

1- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butters and blend well.

2- Add the coconut nectar and beat till smooth.

3- Add the berries, reserving a few to garnish the cake. Beat till well blended.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gluten-Free Glut

My daughter and I were recently having a discussion about how the Paleo diet seemed to be the new, trendy thing. She commented that although Paleo is quite popular, she didn't think it would ever become huge. The reason? You can't market it.

If you look at food trends and fads of the past, they were almost always because someone was selling something. One day a study shows that salt will kill you and the next day there are a gazillion "low sodium" products on the grocery store shelves. The next week a headline reads that Fats Make You Fat, and by the following week, you can barely squeeze your grocery cart through the maze of low-fat packaged foods. I read that when the Adkins boom went bust, there were warehouses full of Adkins bars and shakes that didn't sell.

It's hard to market a way of eating that focuses on healthy meats and lots of fresh produce. If the whole point of the diet is to eschew processed foods, who's going to market it? Aside from cookbooks, blenders, and dehydrators, there's not a lot for corporations to sell.

Another reason that Paleo won't become mainstream is the laziness factor. It is time-consuming to make all your own food from scratch. For ... Every ... Meal. No frozen waffles in the morning. No drive-through burgers for lunch or on the way home from work. No Costco lasagna to pull from the freezer because you don't have a clue what else to feed the family. Plus, a lot of things need planning ahead. Nuts take at least a day to soak and dehydrate. You might have a hankering for lacto-fermented sauerkraut or lemonade, but that's three days away! And my amazing lacto-fermented bean dip is almost a week in the making.

A current food trend that's very marketable is Gluten-Free. As a lot more people have become aware that they either have coeliac disease or that they just do a lot better without gluten, and as they talk about what a difference being gluten-free has made to their health, gluten-free products have proliferated like bunnies on a honeymoon. They're popping up everywhere!

The label Gluten-Free has become associated with "healthy living", so you see it on all kinds of products, even products that have never had gluten. Gluten-free soda, yogurt, and lollipops. Seriously. But does slapping a GF label on food really mean it's healthy?

As a baker, I've learned something in my experiments with gluten-free baking. If you're trying to recreate a product that normally contains gluten, you usually use a fair amount of starch, primarily tapioca starch, potato flour, or rice flour. In the body starches are quickly converted to sugar, and consistently spiking your blood sugar levels is hard on your body and can lead to insulin resistance. Ie, Not Healthy.

Besides not being pancreas friendly, a lot of gluten-free packaged foods  don't actually nourish you. Tapioca starch doesn't come loaded up with proteins, vitamins, minerals, and friendly fats like an egg or a handful of nuts does. Plus they come with preservatives and weird chemicals a normal person doesn't stock in their pantry.

So what's a health-loving consumer to do? Push back from the table and say, "No more gluten-free jello for me, Ma." Again, I repeat my mantra, READ LABELS. Check out whether it's a nutrient dense food that will give your body fuel to grow and repair itself, or if it's just a waste of calories that will unduly burden your pancreas, bloat your body, and make you feel wretched. And when in doubt, make it yourself. Your body will thank you. And once your kids go through the withdrawal, they'll thank you, too!

Real Food Gluten-Free Crackers (to put some crunch into a Paleo life)
 - adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

3 cups almond meal
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup sesame seeds (preferably soaked and dehydrated)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 egg whites, whipped till frothy

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F with racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Cut 3 pieces of parchment paper to fit 2 large baking sheets.

2- In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, salt, and sesame seeds. In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and egg whites. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond meal mixture until thoroughly combined.

3- Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Place 1 piece of dough between 2 sheets of the parchment paper and roll to 1/16-inch thickness. (Getting it really thin is the key to crispy crackers.) Transfer the dough (still between the papers) onto a baking sheet. Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares with a knife or pizza cutter. Repeat with remaining dough.

4- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden. Let the crackers cool on the baking sheets for 30 minutes, then serve. Store any extras in an airtight container.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Doesn't Smell Like Teen Spirit

One of my favorite board games as a child was Monopoly. My sister and I would have marathon games that involved convoluted rules and hiding of assets (under the board or behind the back was our version of off-shore accounts).  We practically knew the board by heart, but it always made us snigger when we landed on the B&O railroad. BO...hehehe.....Body odor....hehehe.  Hey, we were kids, ok? Body odor, like any other bodily function that involved gas, liquid, or solids leaving the body, was hilarious.

I had my fair share of actual experiences with body odor over the years. There was a college roommate who's body stench was actually nauseating and eye-watering.  The smell permeated the room, infusing the bedding, lingering for 45 minutes after she'd gone to class. We slept with the windows open (even though it was winter) and I didn't spend a lot of time in my room that quarter.

My son had a crew of friends with whom he'd have overnight marathon sessions of video gaming, accompanied by mountains of pizza, junk food, and Mountain Dew (ughhh!!). I knew whenever they came over I'd have to fumigate the next day. Teen boy sweat - bleh!

I fortunately, was not one of those people. I sweat a bit, sure, but used deodorant and antiperspirant to keep things in check. Well, my feet smelled bad, that's true. Actually, fairly bad. And I'd pit out occasionally. And my shirts started having underarm stains. And then one day I realized that my deodorant/antiperspirant wasn't cutting it. I started using industrial strength shellack that you applied at night to clog up all the pores.

When I started to pay more attention to what I was putting in my body, I also realized that I'd been putting a big burden on my body by filling it up with crud, then not allowing my body a way to get rid of the crud. Body odor is a cry for help from your body. It's trying to detox, to sweat off all the nasty stuff inside. You need to sweat to detox, particularly if your body is full of nasty crap.

I'd been a hard-core Diet Coke drinker for years. When I weaned myself off that, as well as making other eating changes, my smell started to improve. I also realized that shellacking my pores closed wasn't healthy, either. I stopped that cold turkey and starting just using coconut oil. My perspiration seemed to increase for about two weeks as my body adjusted to not having the sweat glands blocked up, then it was fine. And that nasty smell was gone. Even on my feet!

Coconut oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, so it keeps the bacteria which cause the odor in check. But, it is an oil. Some people don't enjoy the feeling of straight oil on their armpits. My husband is one of those people. Seeing the success of my deodorant experiment, he asked me to try making a natural deodorant for both of us. After a bit of tweaking, I think I've got it down. I added baking soda as a deodorant, cornstarch as an absorbent, and tea tree oil as both an antimicrobial agent and as a scent. You can add a few drops of essential oil, if you prefer a different scent.

When I make his, I pour it into his empty stick deodorant container and he uses it just like a normal stick deodorant. For mine, I just pour it into a small container and use the back of my thumbnail to scrape out a rind to rub into my armpit. Either way works, it's just a matter of preference and convenience. EXCEPT - if you live in a hot climate, the stick deodorant container won't work. When it's warm, the oil melts and you have a liquify slurry. When we went to Hawaii last year, we just took my little tub of deodorant and would pull a small glob of the gloop out with the fingertip to rub on.

Homemade Healthy Deodorant

You can play around with the amounts, proportions, and scents to get it just the way you like it. This is a good starting point, though.

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup organic cornstarch (regular cornstarch most likely is made from GMO corn)
tea tree oil
essential oil (optional)

1- Gently liquify the coconut oil by placing it in a heatproof bowl set in a pan of hot water.

2- Remove the bowl from the water and stir in the baking soda and cornstarch. Stir till smooth.

3- Add several drops of tea tree oil and essential oil (if you're using any). Stir it in.

4- Pour the deodorant into your containers. This makes enough for 2 stick deodorant refills and some extra. If you have more than you can use right now, pour the extra into a small glass jar, label it, and store it in the refrigerator. When you want to use the extra, just gently reheat in hot water to liquify and pour into your container.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Choice

In the movie The Matrix there is an iconic scene where Neo is offered a choice. Take the red pill and learn the truth. The whole truth. With the drawback being that you can never go back.  Or take the blue pill, forget everything you've learned, and go back to life the way it was - comfortable, familiar, totally deluded, dying by inches.

I kind of feel that way about food. I don't remember anyone ever offering me a pill, but somewhere along the line I swallowed one. Now I can't go back. As tiring as it is to look in the refrigerator and sigh, "What can I eat?", as frustrating as it is to try to figure out how to get my family to eat that mystery green item that came in the farm box, as much as I miss the happy days in the kitchen whipping up delicious cookies,  breads, cakes, and marshmallows, I can't go back. You can't unknow knowledge.

I used to not think about the food I ate. If it looked good and tasted good, I ate it. It was not uncommon for a bag of Oreos to jump off the shelf into my cart at the grocery store. When they begged for it, I'd buy my kids sugary breakfast cereals, as a special treat. I also caved when they wanted Otter Pops and I'd have a whole Costco-sized box of them in my freezer all summer long. Some of my husband's favorite recipes feature Cool Whip as a key ingredient; we used to joke that he considered it one of the four basic food groups. And I lived on Diet Coke. Hey, I needed to balance out all those cookies, right?

Then I started a food blog. As I blogged my kitchen exploits, I started reading other blogs and learned from them. I learned recipes, tips, techniques, and I also started seeing a different way of thinking about food. Local, organic, sustainable? Pshaw! That was for weird hippies. Bring on the cookie recipes! Show me the chocolate! Let there be bread!

Then my daughter introduced me to Nourishing Traditions, a cookbook/textbook that fosters the radical notion that food is for nourishment. We should eat to sustain and strengthen our bodies, not for entertainment or  pleasure.

I read through the work of Dr. Westin Price, who traveled the world documenting that traditional people groups who ate their traditional diet had straight, strong, white teeth. Dental caries did not show up until western diets were introduced.

I started reading labels. So many of the foods I used to buy contained high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated fats, and chemical compounds I couldn't even pronounce. Foods marketed to kids had upwards of 30 grams of sugar a serving and a host of preservatives and artificial colors and flavors. I started to realize that couldn't be good for my family!

The more I learned, the more I realized that I was poisoning my family and the way we ate had to change.  Now I read labels obsessively and make most of my food from fresh ingredients, rather than mixes or cans. I've weaned myself off Diet Coke. I buy more greens in a week than we used to eat in a month. Or more.  It's not an easy way to eat. It's a lot more convenient to go through the drive-thru and grab a bag of burgers, rather than menu plan, carefully shop, and prepare a nourishing meal. But I don't have that option any more. (Have you seen the Happy Meal Project?)

Many people would say our diet is odd, unrealistic, or extreme. No grains? Come on! No processed sugar? Right, how's that supposed to work? But now that I know what I know, I can't go back. I can't feed my family food that will make them sick.

So what do I feed them? Horrible gruel that's nasty but "good for them?" No, I feed them food that's actually quite tasty. Once you get rid of additives, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors, your palate can appreciate how good God made food to taste naturally. Don't believe me? Whip up a batch of these super simple meatballs. Coconut curry meatballs. They're delicious as an appetizer or snack with dipping sauce, or, if you're feeling super adventurous, serve them over spaghetti squash or zucchini spaghetti (which I'm doing tonight) with sauce. Or, if you're not in the same place I am on your food journey, pair them up with noodles and a marinara sauce. (And to keep it all in perspective, I'll tell you a secret. My marinara sauce still comes from a jar. But I read the label before buying!)

Coconut Curry Meatballs
 - adapted from Primal Blueprint Quick & Easy Meals

1-1/2 lbs. ground turkey or chicken
1 carrot, grated
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 egg
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
handful of cilantro or parsley

1- Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until smooth.

2- Divide the mixture into 24 equal portions and shape them with your hands into meatballs.

3- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat several tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil. When it's hot enough so that a small piece of meat sizzles when dropped in the oil, put all the meatballs in.

4- Cook for two minutes, then roll the meatballs over and cook five minutes more. Put a lid on the pan and finish cooking for another 6-8 minutes.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Social Fail

When I started blogging, for some reason I had to hide who I was. Maybe it was the fear of internet stalkers (which hasn't happened; everyone I've met from my blog has been super nice), or identity theft (also not happened, although on days when the kids are constantly arguing, I'd be willing to give it a go), or judgement. Probably mostly the latter. Although you might not know it from reading my blog, I'm actually quite a shy person. Meeting new people is always awkward and painful. 

I often feel like I was in the wrong line when people were being given the rules of proper social behavior. I was probably in the line for "how to make really weird faces at yourself in the mirror" or "how to start 102 brilliant projects and never finish them." When I'm at a party it seems like everyone else studied the party handbook beforehand and magically knows smooth, witty, and appropriate things to say. I, not having the handbook, stand in a corner wishing there was a dog to pet until forced to talk to someone. Then my mind goes blank, my palms sweat, and I wish desperately for cue cards to tell me what to say.

Even though I'm terrible at meeting new people, Jesus keeps sending me people who are kind, tolerant of my lack of social skills, and willing to befriend me. And the great thing is that they aren't just like me. It would be comfortable, but very dull, if all of my friends were clones of me. Instead, I've met ladies who are great at organizing, wonderful at interior design, fabulous gardeners, amazing encouragers, wise teachers, and absolutely bedrock, steadfast, loyal friends.

The sad thing for me is that a lot of these friends live far away. Some in different time zones. One even lives on a different continent. Talk about not convenient for girls' night out!

I have a dream that all of my favorite people could live within 10 minutes of my house. Then I could have baking dates on a moment's notice, and there would always be someone able to come over and watch a movie and drink wine with me, plus I could have a party and not break out in hives.

If the party was a dinner party, this is what I'd make. Eggplant parmesan. It's amazing. My family was unsure about eggplant. It wasn't something I'd ever made with success before, but this recipe is fabulous. When I showed a friend recently how to make it, since it's her husband's favorite, the report came back that he loved it and said it was the best he'd ever had!

I think, since my friends are so spread out, this will have to be a virtual dinner party. You're invited! If you'd like to come to my party, let me know in the comments section. To go with the eggplant parmesan, we'll need some bread, salad, appetizers, beverages, and, of course, dessert. Tell me what you're bringing and give a link, please, if it's something you've blogged.

Eggplant Parmesan
 - adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

3 cups Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
1-1/2 lbs eggplant
1-1/2 cups almond meal
1 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp water
Olive oil
2 cups freshly grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1- Make Tomato sauce and set it aside. Pour 1 cup of sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, spreading it evenly.

2- Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. with a rack in the center of the oven.

3- Remove the skin from the eggplant. A paring knife or a vegetable peeler work equally well for this. If you don't have texture issues with the skin, you can skip this step.

4- Cut the eggplant into 1/4-inch thick slices. Making the slices the same thickness is important, so they will cook evenly.

5- In a broad, low bowl, combine the almond meal and salt.  In another bowl, combine whisk together the eggs and water. Place a large skillet (I used my cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat.

6- Dip the eggplant slices in the egg mixture, then into the almond meal mixture, coating it evenly.

7- Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in the pan. When it's hot enough that a little almond meal dropped in the oil makes bubbles, place the coated eggplant slices in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes  until the bottom is golden brown, then flip them over and cook another 3-5 minutes.

8- Remove the cooked slices from the pan and place them in a layer in the bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan.

9- Continue cooking batches of the eggplant slices, adding more olive oil as needed. When you have about half of the slices in the baking pan, cover that layer with 1 cup of the Tomato Sauce and sprinkle 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese over that.

10- Continue cooking the eggplant slices and placing them in the pan. When all of the remaining slices are in the pan, cover that with the remaining sauce and mozzarella.

11- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges are bubbling. Remove from the oven and top with grated Parmesan cheese before serving.

Tomato Sauce
  - makes 3 cups

14 oz tomato paste
2 cups water
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence (do not skip this ingredient! It makes the dish!)
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp minced garlic

1- Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thicker. (It will spatter a lot while it simmers, so if you have a spatter screen, now is the time to use it. Unless you enjoy having your kitchen look like a crime scene.)

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fittin' In

In high school the ultimate goal was to blend. Standing out for any reason was a social faux pas. We didn't have an official school uniform, but we might as well have. The accepted look was a turtleneck with Levi cords (corduroy pants). Wrangler cords were not OK. Sears cords were right out. The hair was worn long, straight, parted in the middle, with two wings pulled back on the sides and held in place with plastic barrettes.

Somewhere in about my junior year I realized this was lame.

Why obsess about conforming to the ideals of  other people, most of whom I either didn't know or didn't like? I started wearing wild things that made me happy (4" heels, sparkly sweaters, and straight-legged jeans) and doing crazy things to my hair. I figured if people shunned me for being different, they weren't any kind of friend to begin with. And I actually met some new friends who complimented me on my bold fashion choices.

What I realized is that fear of what other people thinks is stifling. It stifles creativity and smothers initiative. If all you ever strive to be is just like everyone else, you will never achieve or be more than any of the herd.

My daughters have recently become obsessed with amazing leggings. My granddaughter calls them "awesome pants" (pronounced pahnts). They love the creative designs, the wild patterns, the wonderful fit, and just how awesome they feel when they wear them. And it's just a bonus when they see the haters hatin' because, really, if someone can make their face look like a desiccated prune, would they want to be friends with them anyway?

The recipe I have for you today is kind of like Awesome Pahnts. It doesn't really fit in anywhere. It's kind of a pancake, but it's grain-free. It's got vegetables, so it's kind of a side dish. But you top it with sour cream and salsa and you can call it lunch. However you choose to eat it, it's terrific! Kind of crispy, spicy, and satisfying. Before you judge it and decide to hate it, try it. You just might like it.

Southwestern Zucchini Cakes
 - adapted from Eat Like a Dinosaur
     serves 3 to 4

1 medium zucchini, peeled and grated (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 egg
2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp coconut flour
3 Tbsp coconut oil, more if needed
Plain, whole milk, organic yogurt

1- Place the zucchini in a mesh strainer set over a bowl. Sprinkle the zucchini with salt and let drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini with your hands to get as much of the moisture out as you can. (This is a fun job for a child with clean hands to do.)

2- Place the squeezed (squoze? squozen?) zucchini on a paper towel and press to remove moisture.

3- Combine the zucchini, egg, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and coconut flour in a bowl. Mix till well combined. (Again, this is a fun job for little clean hands.)

4- Place the coconut oil in a frying pan set over medium heat.

5- Divide the mixture into either thirds or fourths (depending on how big you want the patties or how many people you're serving). Shape each portion into a patty, about 3-4 inches across and 1/2 inch thick.

6- Cook the cakes about 6-8 minutes per side until golden brown.

7- Serve topped with generous dollops of yogurt and salsa.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It's Not Easy Living With Someone Who's Green

A friend recently sent me this in an email and I had to laugh because it describes my father so well. He was green way before there was such a thing as an Earth Day. Back then we called it being cheap, or on kinder days, "thrifty."

It's amazing how much thrifty and being green have in common.

We had one car. But my parents didn't fight over who got to drive it. My dad walked, jogged, or rode his bike to work. My mother walked to her volunteer job at the hospital. The car was for grocery shopping and car trips.

We made our own lunches and took them to school, bringing back the lunch box, thermos, and plastic sandwich bags to be washed and reused.

Our home's thermostat was never set above 55 deg. F. When the winter winds blew, rattling the old windows, we'd pile on extra sweaters and my dad would put up his homemade double windows (plastic sheeting over a frame, inserted into the window frame - very classy). We'd get in trouble for huddling next to a heating vent, hogging up all the heat, but on the days when our breath was visible, it was worth it!

We had a push mower. Not one that's gas powered. One that's human powered. I know from lots of personal experience that it takes a lot of work to mow a lawn with a push mower. Pushing the mower was only part of the effort. There were also the frequent stops to empty the grass catcher onto the compost pile. Yes, we composted way before it was cool. It only makes sense to compost when you have a garden where you grow a lot of your own vegetables and have fruit trees that inundate you with apricots, cherries, and plums.

Since I was raised this way, I am still fairly thrifty. Thus, one of my favorite places to shop is the thrift store. It's like a treasure hunt, sifting through other people's cast-offs to find that one thing you've been looking for.

One of the things on my wish list was a cast-iron pan. I am weaning myself away from non-stick (toxic fumes and nastiness leaching into my food is not a bonus for me) and was delighted to acquire a rugged cast-iron pan at the thrift store for only $7. Usually something is discarded because there's something wrong with it. Such was the case here. The pan was wearing a rust coat. It looked like it had been someone's camping skillet and was left out in the rain.

Fortunately, I have a super fabulous husband who's handy with tools he sanded it with power tools, creating a silky smooth surface. Then I seasoned it with flaxseed oil, a time-consuming process, but one that gave it a nice start to being non-stick. Now it is our go-to pan for all things breakfast. Eggs, sausage, and even grain-free pancakes cook up beautifully in it. Grain-free?? Yes, you read correctly. Pancakes without grains are possible.

This lovely pancake was made with shredded apples, topped with yogurt and blueberries. Breakfast bliss! And the bonus with cast-iron is that you get extra iron in your food. And if you buy your pan from the thrift store or a garage sale, you're recycling! You can't get much greener (or healthier) than that.

Apple Pancakes
 - adapted from Gluten-Free Gourmet
makes 3-4 servings

2 apple, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
4 eggs
2 tsp ground cinnamon
Butter or coconut oil

1 - Using your hands, squeeze the grated to get most of the juice out. (Save the apple juice in the refrigerator for a tasty beverage.)

2- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Add the apple and cinnamon and stir to combine.

3- Place your skillet (cast iron rocks!) over medium heat. Grease it generously with either butter or coconut oil.

4- Pour about 2/3 cup of the mixture into the heated pan. Using a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, gently smooth the batter to the sides.

5- When the pancake is nicely browned on the bottom, but still wet on the top, flip it over to cook the other side. To flip, slide the pancake onto a plate with the wet side up. Place the plate over the skillet and quickly invert it.

6- Cook the second side until done and slide it onto a serving plate.

7- Top with your favorite toppings. I used yogurt and blueberries. Other choices include: warmed honey, jam, peanut butter, caramel sauce, or, for the purists, butter and maple syrup.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Of Spiders And Muffins

It's a well known fact in my family that I hate/fear/loathe spiders. I hate their legs, their webs, and the way they scuttle around, jump at you, or drop unexpectedly on your neck or head. (Excuse me a minute while I slap repeatedly at my head and neck because that creepy feeling I got just now might have been a spider.) I know they have their place in the grand design of the universe, but my place in that same design happens to be standing over them with a heavy shoe poised for the kill. But that's only if no one else is in the house. If my husband is home, then he's the one to gallantly spring to action when he hears my piteous shrieks of terror. He'll calmly take a piece of tissue and squish the spider (with his bare hands!) and toss it into the toilet, which I hurriedly flush, just in case that spider's planning a comeback.

It would surprise my family to know I have an uneasy relationship with a spider in my laundry room. This is not the kind of relationship where I name the spider an endearing name, become attached to it, and it weaves messages to me in it's web. No, we have an agreement. The agreement goes something like this: I promise to not hunt him down in his hidey hole next to the washing machine as long as he traps and consumes the other bugs that lurk in there, keeps the webbing to a minimum, and does not show his creepy legs during daylight hours.

When I stretch the terms of the agreement and go into the laundry room at 5:00 am, it is his responsibility to scuttle out of sight and it's my part of the bargain to pretend I don't see him. If he chooses to linger, a quick, squashy death brought about by my shoe or the nearest heavy, hurlable object is in his immediate future.

This might sound harsh, but I don't waste time being sentimental with spiders. I either shriek, throw, or stomp, all the while hyperventilating. I figure I'm showing great restraint in not asking my husband to introduce Mr. Spider to Death By ShopVac.

Oh, crud - I just named him! What's next? Allowing his webs to stay up, festooning the laundry room with cobwebs filled with dryer lint? Looking for cryptic messages in those webs? Opening the window to purposefully allow flies to come in so he won't starve? Spending my time in the laundry room talking to him??

No, this must stop right now. I'm going to march down there and put an end to this weird, permissively symbiotic relationship. With a shoe. Which is in my closet. Which I can't get to without waking up my husband. Hmmmm.

Mr. Spider is looking pretty big these days, approaching the size of a Smart car. Maybe I'll just wait for my husband to wake up and let him deal with Mr. Spider.

And while I'm waiting, I'll bake up a batch of attaboy treats. Muffins. A terrific way to start the day! Plus, since they're grain-free and contain no sugars, they won't spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling lethargic and groggy, which you absolutely shouldn't be if you're going to do battle with spiders!

Banana Blueberry Muffins
- adapted from The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook

3 cups almond meal
1/4 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large eggs
2 cups (4-5) mashed very ripe bananas
1 cup frozen blueberries

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. (Don't omit the paper liners. It makes a HUGE difference at clean up time.)

2-In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, salt, and baking soda.

3- In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and eggs. Stir the wet ingredients into the almond meal mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the bananas, then fold in the blueberries. Using a large spoon or scoop, divide the dough between the muffin cups.

4- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

5- Set the muffin tin on a wire cooling rack and let the muffins cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then serve. Preferably with lots of good butter!

Sunday, April 8, 2012


A few days ago the mail lady, who is very sweet, said to my son as he retrieved the mail, "Happy Egg Day!" He came in the house quite confused. "Mom," he said, with a crease between his brows, "what's Egg Day?"

Well, I tried to gently explain that for some non-Christians, Easter is about eggs and bunnies and candy and an excuse to buy new clothes. That's what I said on the outside. On the inside I hit the ceiling.

I'm so tired of having holy days co-opted for commercial purposes. Christmas is gone. It's all about Santa and presents. People around the world who are confirmed Buddhists, Hindus, atheists and pagans celebrate that day with ornamented trees, twinkling lights, lavish feasts, and a glut of presents. But taking the name of the holiest day on the Christian calendar, the whole reason for our faith, and using it as an excuse to feed your kids yet more sugar, buy them yet more clothes, and have their picture taken sitting on the lap of a giant, terrifying bunny, is not OK with me. Easter is about JESUS!

Just in case you've never heard why there is a day called Easter, or if you ever wondered why it's on a different day every year, here are a few things you should know.

Jesus is God. He came to earth in human form to live a sinless life and die a death he didn't deserve. All people everywhere sin, and the penalty for sin is to be forever separated from God. When we die, we go to a place of eternal torment without God. But, God loves us so much he doesn't want that to happen to us. He wants us to live with him forever, so he sent Jesus to be the sacrifice that pays the price for our sins.

In the Jewish tradition, Passover is celebrated right before Easter and a lamb is killed for the Passover feast. Jesus is our sacrifice, hence the name Lamb of God. Yes, that's where all the Easter lambs come in. Not Bunny of God. Lamb of God.

After Jesus died on the cross, he was buried in a tomb. But the amazing, exciting, wonderful news is that he didn't stay buried. He rose from the dead and was seen by hundreds of witnesses before he ascended to heaven! That means that when we die, we won't stay dead, either.

If you look at your life and can see the sin all over it and know that you've made a mess of things, Easter is for you. It's the chance to get to know Jesus and hear his offer. He says, "Come to me. Give me your sins, and I'll make you clean and give you a new life." Best. Deal. Ever!

I'll throw in a recipe to sweeten the deal. You can think about this post as you bake. And if you decide to take Jesus up on his offer, please let me know. I'd love to pray for you!


White Chocolate Brownies
- adapted from The Baking Bites Cookbook

1/4 cup butter
6 oz. white chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz. dark chocolate, cut into chunks

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F with rack in center of oven. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang (these are the handles to remove the brownies from the pan). Lightly grease the foil.

2- In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt together the butter and white chocolate. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

3- In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.

4- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt over the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined, with no streaks of flour remaining. Stir in the chocolate chunks, then pour the batter into the pan.

5- Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6- Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove the brownies front he pan, using the foil as handles. Cut into 25 squares.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Doghouse Gifts

Right before Christmas someone showed me a commercial, the premise of which was that men had to be very careful about the gifts they gave women because the wrong gift would land them in the doghouse. Apparently, demeaning, degrading gifts like household appliances or diet aids were the worst and the only foolproof gift a man could give was jewelry. This got me thinking about what kind of gift my husband could possibly give me that would merit that kind of reproof.

My husband is very sweet and thoughtful and tries to give me gifts that he knows will please me. So when he gave me a washer and dryer, I didn't feel that he was demeaning me, assuming that my only job in life was to wash his underwear. On the contrary, I was thrilled! It's a fact of life that I do the laundry in our home and to finally replace the machines that I've cursed for the last ten years was a huge blessing to me.

Likewise, when my son-in-law gave my daughter a treadmill for Valentine's Day, not only was he not in the doghouse, he was king of the day! His message was not "I'm skipping chocolates and giving you a treadmill because you really need to do something about your figure." Quite the contrary. He knew that she doesn't love chocolate and she really wanted to master treadmill dancing. His gift probably got him almost smothered in kisses.

So, what would get my husband sent to the doghouse? Hmmmm. A new lawnmower? I'm not about to start mowing the lawn. But if it made my husband happier, a happy husband is a good gift. And I could always balance it out by buying him a new sewing machine.

A gift that is always appreciated is pound cake. Especially when it's peppered with luscious, ripe blueberries. I know it's not blueberry season just yet (it snowed here yesterday!), so you'll have to tuck this recipe into a safe spot and bring it out again when fresh berries show up in the grocery store, the farmer's market, or better yet, your own bush!

Blueberry-Lime Poundcake
adapted from Fine Cooking

8 oz. (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
10-1/2 oz. (2-1/3 cups) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking power
1/4 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. salt
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2-1/2 cups room-temperature blueberries (about 13 oz.), washed and drained on paper towels
4 oz. (1 cup) confectioners’ sugar
2 Tbs. fresh lime juice; more as needed

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. with a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt cake pan.

2- Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

3- Place the sugar and lime zest into a food processor and pulse 20 times. If you don't have a food processor, you can omit this step and just work the zest into the sugar with your hands.

4- With an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.

5- Add the sugar mixture and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, an additional 1 to 2 minutes.

6- With the mixer running, add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides as necessary.

7- Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed for about 20 seconds.

8- With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the blueberries.

9- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Run a knife through the batter or gently tap the pan on the counter to eliminate any air pockets. Bake 50-55 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

10- Set the pan on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool on the rack to room temperature.

11- To glaze the cake, combine the confectioner's sugar and lime juice. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and runny, adding more lime juice if necessary. Pour the glaze over the cake and allow it to set before cutting.

Note: as you can see from the photos, I skipped the glaze and the cake was still wonderful!