Rodney’s Most Amazing Brownies

For Jenn and Joe


  • 10 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cups of sucanat or coconut sugar
    (we have reduced it to 1/2 cup, but start here)
  • 3/4 cup teaspoons of organic unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pink salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of almond meal
  • 2/3 cup of walnut or pecan pieces or chocolate chips (optional)


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Preheat the over to 325.

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with baking parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.

Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Scrape the vanilla bean and stir in the vanilla paste with a wooden spoon. Discard the vanilla shell or put it aside for making vanilla sugar.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.

When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the almond meal and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.

Stir in the nuts, if using.

Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Chocolate note:
Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it’s more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

22 September: Goodbye Vitamix

*Deep sigh* It’s almost time to declare my 53 year old Vitamix no longer viable. I can no longer get parts- they were discontinued a few years ago when we were struggling financially and unable to buy spares. And I can’t justify a new Vitamix at $500, either.  However the “action dome”, the part that keeps the fod inside is so cracked that I can only use half of the pitcher without losing a large part of the food to leaks.

Rod has been amazed at the symbolic meaning of this machine in my life. He has recognized it for years, but he didn’t really understand it. It is, after all, just a machine.  An old machine.  A very. very loud machine.  I discovered that this morning when I finally made my peace with giving it to my friend who has the same model. Linda, at least, will have spare parts for a while.

TJ and I at Citadelen in Landkrona

So…how can I love a machine?  It’s a long story, but I bought the Vitamix very used in 1983. It was a 20 year old machine that had been reconditioned and resold by the Vitamix folks.  We were very poor at the time, and I saved and paid it off over a couple of years with whatever spare change I could lay my hands on.

I had always been very interested in health and nutrition, but we were unable to afford the kinds of things I wanted to feed my family.  The Vitamix allowed me to take our health into our own hands – it allowed me to use raw, unprocessed foods in a way that was yummy and also convenient.  A handful of wheat berries, a few eggs, an apple and a piece of cinnamon stick and we had very fresh, very wholesome pancakes!  A couple of quarts of frozen fruit and a splash of milk and we had “no added sugar” ice cream. It was extremely empowering.

Over the years, through better times and harder times, I built a lifestyle around that stainless steel machine.  You know how wonderful home baked bread is?  Well home baked bread from fresh-ground flour is that much more amazing.  I could make hot applesauce from fresh apples – so much more flavour than cooked.  I could make baby food from whatever we were having. I could make coconut milk for pennies, rather than the dollar per can the stores charge.  I could make extra-special canned tomato sauce with the skins pulverized right into the sauce for more flavour, more colour, and more vitamins!

The message in my heart was always about having control over what went in to my “home processed” foods.  Scary ingredients didn’t have to scare me because I had a choice.

TJ and Rod walking in the Park in Landskrona

So losing the service of the Vitamix feels sort of like losing my freedom.

Except that, in looking at the situation , I am coming to realize that there are other choices that would work now.  We no longer eat grains or legumes, so grinding them ourselves is no longer an advantage.

In 1983, the Vitamix was, as far as I can tell, one of a kind.  Now there are many other options – the BlendTec seems capable of everything the Vitamix can do.  And with what we actually still use the Vitamix for – making coconut milk, smoothies, applesauce, tomato sauce, and other canning purees –  we might even get away with a Ninja blender. At 10% of the price that’s looking pretty good.  (I am having trouble with the idea of paying $500 for plastic.)

So…it’s been a week of losses.  Some more meaningful and some less.


Jack loves video.  He adores is. On one hand, I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of video as a primary educational resource.  On the other, it seems that Jack retains a lot MORE of the detail from video than from reading.  So, we do the reading which generally contains a lot more information, and then I try to use video to reinforce what he has learned.

Over the last few weeks, I have found several that  are worth mentioning: World History Crash Course is funny and concise.  I think it’s meant for much older children than Jack and the humour annoys me, but it’s worth a look if you are looking for a high level review of world history.  I watched enough to feel comfortable letting Jack watch it when the time comes.

Khan Academy, of course.  It’s got videos, but oddly enough Jack has been mostly ignoring those.  What he LOVES is that it is set up like a game.  You can earn “awards” for you work.  You can see the colour spreading in your progress grid.  And you get “credit” once you get five in a row correct!  I find Khan to be the “monkey method” of teaching math.  They show you HOW to solve the problems, but they don’t tell you why.  Not why you might want this skill, not why it works that way.  But he has Life of Fred for that – and I love that for Jack, math is FUN!  He wants to get through calculus before he turns 13.  I can go with that!  🙂  (And I have given myself the challenge to get through elementary arithmatic before I explore the “more interesting” parts of the Academy…like science and humanities!)

I am also exploring the Big History project.  It is right in line with the approach that we have been taking.  It explores history, starting with the big bang and moving through anthropology.  I don’t think it goes deep enough to be an entire history education – it is supposed to be a one-year course.  But it’s aimed at the high school level, too, so what an excellent review when we get to modern times!  And the information is likely to be way more up to date than the 19th century stories we’ve used as his childhood resources.

I think Big History is intended to be a part of the Core Curriculum movement, and I have found that to be the case with all of the Common Core State Standards.  There is nothing wrong with them, per se, but they don’t go very deep into anything.  They are a pretty decent review, but I can’t see them as curriculum materials.

Over the last few years, I have come across several stories like this and this.  It does, of course, start me thinking.  Beyond the first, most obvious, question (how does one decide that a 12 year old is “finished with high school”?) it got me to wondering how we would handle something like that if it did happen.  It crossed my mind again when my sweet little velcro boy used to cry at the very idea of growing up and going away.  He was much littler then and I think he is adjusting to the idea nicely, but it reinforced the idea that we won’t be sending him to University until he is socially and emotionally ready, regardless of the state of his current education.  That sent me hunting for resources for continuing his education at home.  We have found several resources.  Great Courses, of course, has audio and video courses on hundreds of subjects.  They aren’t cheap, but they are often available at the library or used. Then there are the  free college level courses available on-line at Coursera and  EdX. I’m not sure that they could all be built up into a real curriculum, but they could keep us busy in the time between whatever it is we decide is “the end” of high school.  (I am very interested in those for myself, too. I have  always wanted to earn a Ph.D.  That may never happen – but the Ph.D. represents for me “being really educated”, and *that* could happen!)

Oh, and on the subject of “college at 12”, Penelope Trunk thinks much like I do.

Have a great Hobbit day (today, September 22, is the shared birthday of Bilbo and Frodo baggins) and a great week!



October 2012

The absolute BIGGEST news this month is the birth of our youngest grandson Rhazel James Motto on Friday, October 5, in Adelaide. He’s the third son of Rod’s son, Joel, and Joel’s partner Makita Motto. Word has it that the birth was quick and smooth and mother and son were home to same day. Rhazel is gorgeous, but that will have to wait – we’ve been asked not to post photos of him publicly just yet.

This is one VERY happy grandma! I have also been seeing more photos of most of the grandchildren on Facebook! They don’t have to be babies to make me smile. That may be as a response to whinging there that I’d lost all my photos a few weeks ago, but that just makes it a bright side of the loss.

It fascinates me how happy my grandchildren make me. I have always been a sucker for photos of my children – but I am just as much a sucker of photos of our grandchildren. I expected to love them, but I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to love them as much as I love my own.

Continue reading October 2012

BIG pot of soup

Serves 12.

Cheyanne and Sereniti Havens - 2012 photo sitting

3 lbs. pork soup neck bones
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
8 c. water

1 medium chopped onion
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 small head coarsely chopped red cabbage
1/4 eggplant, chopped
4 stalks chard, chopped fine
1 zucchini, sliced
1 summer squash, sliced
1 jalapeno pepper
2 pint cans tomato sauce

3 tablespoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. parsley

Continue reading BIG pot of soup

Grain free, dairy free breakfast burrito

3 tablespoons un-hydrogenated lard
1/2 red onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced fine
2 cloves of crushed garlic
1 pound of ground pork or beef
1/2 red (or green) bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle pepper (or cayenne)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground oregano
5 large eggs
6 large lettuce leaves (leaf lettuce, romaine, or iceberg)

1. Saute the onion, celery, and garlic in the lard over low heat until the celery is soft.
2. Crumble the meat into the sauteed vegetables and saute until the meat is almost cooked.
3. Add the spices and the bell pepper, and stir to combine.
4. Stir in the eggs and cook until the eggs are the way you like them.
5. Serve the burrito filling in the lettuce leaves.

– you can add salsa if you like it and if dairy is in your work, it would be terrific with shredded cheddar, too.

Serves three — or six light eaters.

There is plenty to say … I hope to blog sometime today– but meanwhile, it would be good if I didn’t burn the burrito filling. :p

Chia seed “pudding”

1 can of full fat coconut milk
4 tablespoons chia seeds
a dash of cinnamon
a splash of vanilla

Tjamu (Grandfather) Rod with the boys
Tjamu (Grandfather) Rod with the boys

1. Put the seeds, vanilla, and cinnamon in a bowl and stir them up.

You want to make sure the cinnamon is mixed in so it doesn’t just float on the top when you add the liquid.

2. Stir in the coconut milk.

3. Let it sit on the counter for several hours to sprout the seeds, then refrigerate overnight.

4. Next morning, mix it with a cup of your favourite berries and eat. Yum

Serves 4.

Note: I used a lot of vanilla and quite a bit of cinnamon because Jack doesn’t like coconut milk–and next morning I used a tablespoon of honey in his share. He loves it.

Next time, I might try a tablespoon of lemon juice in the coconut milk to see if I can get a more sour, yogurty flavour.


Chia seeds are high in Omega3, high in fiber, low in carbohydrate, has a very good ratio of omega-3 oil to omega-6 oil, is 20-30% protein, 35% oil, 25% fiber. Gluten-free and very low-sodium. Contains the important mineral boron, a catalyst for the absorption of calcium, so it’s good for your bones,

Constituents: linolenic acid, linoleic acid; antioxidants: chlorogenic and caffeic acids, myricetin, quercitin, and kaempferol flavonol. chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid and flavonol glycosides; mucin, fibre; 8 essential amino acids (score 115.)

Vitamins: A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B15, B17, C, D, E, K, choline, folic acid, inositol, PABA.

Minerals: boron, calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorous, potassium, silicon, sodium, strontium, sulphur, zinc, amylose (a slow-burning starch helpful in treating hypoglycemia), and electrolytes.


Paleo Stuffed Cabbage Casserole

I adore stuffed cabbage, but I can’t tolerate the rice anymore.  I also rarely have the time to make a real stuffed cabbage meal (an hour and a half *after* it’s assembled?  Oh dear).

Anyway, I had a hankering for it tonight– and I went looking for a paleo stuffed cabbage recipe to adapt into a sort of “casserole”.  I found one!  Yay! Thanks to Jeff Nimoy for the head start recipe!

Technically, Rod and I shouldn’t be eating tomato sauce, but we’re compromising by not adding the tomato paste my recipe calls for.

8 leaves of cabbage
1 pound of grass-fed beef
1 head of cauliflower
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups of chicken or beef stock
2 stalks of celery
1 large onion
I pint of tomato sauce
Black pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Onion powder to taste
Lemon juice to taste

My beautiful Bella, looking more like her Mamma every day. What a sense of style she has!

Chop the cabbage into bite sized squares.

In a food processor add the cauliflower, celery, 1/2 onion, and chop until cauliflower is the consistency of rice.

Saute the “riced” cauliflower in 1/4 cup olive oil, then add about a cup of chicken stock. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Saute 1/2 onion and 3 cloves of fresh garlic in olive oil in a deep frying pan.  Add the ground beef, paprika, and black pepper and fry up until the beef is lightly cooked. (Optional, I like to extend the beef with a thick slice of eggplant chopped up.  Once it cooks down, it adds bulk without much flavour.)

Add the tomato sauce and garlic powder, onion powder, and lemon juice (until it’s sour enough for you.  (For a sweeter sauce, you could add in raw organic honey to taste).

Add the cabbage to the meat sauce mixture, a cook until the cabbage is limp.

Serve the cabbage and meat over the vegetable “rice”.

Barbeque brine with no sugar!

We’re doing a barbeque for 20 or so today — and none of our barbeque sauces or brines we going to work for us, because we’re on the zero sugar, almost zero carb detox until October.  Never a pair to let a little thing like that stop us, we did some research and found Lou and his sugarfree brine recipe.  (A barbeque sauce without any sugar at all – no molasses?!?!? — just doesn’t sound that appealing.)  Thanks for sharing, Lou!!!

Lou’s Most Excellent Chicken Brine


Audrey, from her summer 2012 photoshoot.

Many brines call for the addition of sugar, the theory being the sugar helps crisp the skin. I say that’s bullshit and hence no sugar.

½ cup kosher salt
1 TBS coarse ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, crushed (skins on are OK too)
½ medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf, crushed
5 whole parsley sprigs, coarsely chopped
1 TSP dried oregano
1 TSP dried or fresh chives
1 TSP dried thyme
1 TSP dried rosemary

In a 4 quart bowl or pot fill with 2 quarts of cold water. Add the pepper and salt and stir until dissolved (this will take a bit of time)., then the onion and garlic. Take all the herbs – fresh and dried – and coarsely chop together. Add chicken and place in fridge according to times below. Try not to exceed these times as the chicken may become too salty.

Boneless chicken breasts: 30 minutes
Bone in chicken parts: 40 minutes
Whole chicken: 60 minutes

Rinse chicken under cold water prior to doing anything.


Morrocan Style Pork Balls

1 lb ground pork
1/8 cup starch potato, arrowroot, etc)
1 large or 3 small eggs
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 tablespoon cumin
1/4 cup chives
1 cup spinach
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup stock (chicken or beef)

Mix the eggs, half of the starch,  and spices well, then add the meat and chives.  Mix thoroughly.

Form small meatballs – – about 1 tablespoon each.

Fry them up in coconut oil until they’re browned but not cooked through.

Pour off the excess oil.

Add the lemon juice and stock, then the spinach and simmer until the meat is cooked.

When you’re ready to serve, add the tomato paste and a little more starch to thicken.

Serve over steamed, shredded cabbage.


YUM!  🙂

Salmon Cakes recipe

Salmon Cakes from Every day Paleo

18 oz of canned wild caught Alaskan Salmon

3 pastured eggs (I used duck)

4 diced scallions

3 tbsp dried dill

4 tsp ground ginger

a few shakes of red pepper flakes

about 2 tsp fresh ground pepper

sea salt to taste

about 1/4 cup coconut oil

3 tbsps of lemon juice

Drain the water from the canned salmon and dump it into a large mixing bowl.

Add the eggs, scallions, dill, ginger, red pepper flakes, black pepper, lemon juice, and salt and mix well.

In a large skillet heat the coconut oil over medium to medium high heat – make sure there is more than enough to cover the bottom of the pan. You’ll know the oil is hot enough when it crackles after flicking some water into the pan – but do not get the oil so hot that is smokes.

Form the salmon mixture one at a time into patties or “cakes” and place gently into the oil.

Fry for 3 minutes on each side.

IMPORTANT – do not mess with the patties once they are in the pan. Let them go for the full 3 minutes before you touch them or flip them or they will stick or fall apart.

March 23 Faux Pork Giniling

1 pound of ground pork
2 small carrots, diced
1 thick slice of rutebaga, diced
1/2 cup chicken stock (or more)
1/4 cup coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
3 or 4 small pieces of dried mango, cut small
4 cloves garlic minced
1 large onion chopped
garlic powder, onion powder, and curry to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the lard in a frying pan pan and saute the onion and garlic until they’re soft and fragrant.

Add the ground pork and saute until it’s cooked through.

Add the stock and tomato sauce. Stir and bring to a boil.

Add the coconut aminos, salt, and pepper. Stir until combined. Cover and simmer for a few minutes.

Add vegetables and fruit. Stir, cover and simmer for a few minutes until liquid is reduced by half and the vegetables are tender. Turn off heat.

It looked pretty plain when I finished making the original recipe, so I embroidered it considerably. I expect no one who knows gniling would recognize this. :p It tastes good, though.

The photos are from the lecture series Rod and I participated in last weekend. We had a lot of fun and I think it went pretty well.

Gingersnaps recipe

Rod found an amazing recipe for ginger snaps that don’t contain any of the foods we need to avoid. Even better? They’re utterly fantastic! Hot from the oven, they also “snap” perfectly. They become softer as they sit because the honey is hygroscopic but they still taste really good.  Being us, we had to play with it, of course.

the lonely remainder of the batch -- now gone

Paleo/GAPS ginger snaps recipe
– notes: requires a food processor
– makes about a dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups of almond flour
1 1/2 ounces of dried dates (pitted and chopped)
1/4 cup of honey
large thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, chopped
3 tsp ground dried ginger
a pinch of sea salt

Put everything except the honey into the food processor and process it until the dates and ginger are well incorporated, but stop before the nut meal gets oily.

Add the honey and pulse until the dough forms a rough ball.

Scrape the dough onto a piece of baking parchment and flatten it into a disk with your palm. Cover with more parchment and freeze for 1 hour (we consider this optional — it’s entirely for ease of handling.)

If you froze the dough, roll the dough out as thin as you can and stamp out shapes with a cookie cutter, rinsing th cutter periodically to remove the sticky dough.

If you skipped the freezing step, like we so, make small balls of dough and flatten them onto the cookie sheet as thin as you can get them without tearing.  You can make a pattern on the cookie’s face with a fork.  It’s pretty but optional.

Bake for 10 minutes at 285F, then reduce the heat to 250F for another 20-30 minutes or until the cookies are crisp and have a light nut colour.

Cool on a rack, and if any manage to get cool before they “disappear”, you can keep them crisp longer by storing them in an airtight cookie jar.

Rod has adapted this further by increasing the ginger and reducing the sweetener, but we like a hot, spicy, not really sweet gingersnap.  This is the recipe Jack likes.

Tonight’s dinner: Pork and Egg ‘Muffins’

In a deep bowl whip together:

8 large pastured eggs
1/2 c. stock
sea salt and ground pepper to taste*
a dollop of olive oil
a dollop of coconut aminos or soy sauce
rosemary, sage, and oregano to taste*
onion powder and garlic powder to taste*
1/2 cup of almond flour

Saute in coconut oil in a deep frying pan:

1 slice of bacon
1/2 pound ground pork
1 onion
1 stalk of celery
5 cloves of garlic
1 medium mushroom

Line a muffin tin with paper cup.  Fill with the meat mixture, and then ladle the egg mixture into muffin tins over the filling.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes, or until firm.

* I leave this to you because by most people’s standards, I use way too much.  Start with a teaspoon herbs and a 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper and adapt to your taste if you’re not sure.

We’ll serve them with roasted vegetables and  kombuch beer — and maybe we’ll try that cake recipe from last weekend, if we have time.

Adapted from:

Yum! Single serving cake!

Jack has a sleepover with Connor tonight, leaving Rod and I at loose ends.

Rod spent half of the evening  designing some new shelving for my redesigned craft room ad then make a fabulous dinner while I finished up some of the (way too many) condolance cards I need to get out on Monday.  Roasted salmon over salad, with a lovely glass of wine.

I had discovered this recipe earlier in the week, and we decided that it was a good idea to try it tonight.

Single serving cake adapted from Paleo Baby

1 egg
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp almond butter
1 Tbsp coconut flour
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp of chocolate chips
1 Tbsp  coconut oil for greasing the ramekin


In a measuring cup, stir the egg, sugar, nut butter, coconut flour, cocoa and baking powder with a fork. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into the greased ramekin. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Serve on a plate or eat it right from the baking dish.

Serves 1.

Perpetual soup …

Rod has had to cut many of his favorite snack foods and quick meals from his diet — dried fruit, peanut butter, and eggs are now off the menu leaving us with the need for a way to have a quick snack or an easy meal available at a moment’s notice.

After several weeks of experiments that were either not terribly easy or not terribly appetizing, we tried soup.  I vaguely remembered reading stories about the pot of soup perpetually on the back of the old wood stove and we decided to give it a try.

Two weeks in, we are finding that not only is it low-effort, it’s also delicious and because it changes every day, it never gets boring.  I figured that I’d share our solution.  Everyone needs easy, quick, nourishing options, after all.  I don’t think it will work for vegetarians, though you might be able to get the right culinary effect using dried kelp instead of bones..

So, this is how we make perpetual soup:

Roast one pound or two of meaty soup bones until they’re cooked.

While they’re roasting, slowly saute an onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some celery in a few tablespoons of clean fat (I like olive oil) in a soup pot.  When they are soft and translucent, fill the soup pot half full of *cold* water.  Add the marrow bones and a tablespoon of lemon juice.  When the soup bones are ready, add them as well.  Bring the water temperature up slowly to a boil then reduce the temperature and simmer the stock for a couple of hours.  If you want to add any dried vegetables, this would be the time to do it. (I like dried mushrooms and sea vegetables.)

Next, chop a little of every non-cruciferous vegetable you have in the house into bite sized pieces.  We like onion, garlic, carrots, beets, jicama, winter squash, celery root, lambs quarters, fennel, spinach, leeks, and parsnips.  (And I sometimes cheat and use rutebega, daikon, and turnip — but you *must* keep the temperature low if you do that.  Overcooked brassica lets loose an awful sulphery smell that no one will want to eat.)

Toss the vegetables into the soup and let them cook very slowly.  If you want to add more meat, that’s yummy, too.  When the vegetables are soft to your taste, you’re ready to have your first taste.  About five minutes before you serve it, toss in some dried herbs in to the pot. If you like onion and garlic powder, you can add them now, too.

OK, so far that’s just soup.

What makes it perpetual soup is that you leave it covered on the stove at about 170 degrees. Help yourself all day. After serving the soup, add enough water to replace what you’ve taken out.  Leave it covered on the stove over night.

Next morning, you’ll find that the vegetables have just about disintegrated. Bring the soup stock up to a boil for a couple of minutes, while you raid the vegetable bin.  Chop the vegetables up into bite sized pieces, then lower the temperature under the stock back to a simmer and put in the vegetables and another tablespoon of lemon juice.  If you use a different variety of vegetables every morning, the soup will be a new feast every day.  (This is a good time to wander through the produce section picking up vegetables you’re not in the habit of preparing.)

When the vegetables are soft, your soup is ready to face the day.  Bon apetit!

We have been keeping our soup going for a week at a time, and on the last day, the cruciferous vegetables and tomatoes go in for a totally different effect.  We finish that up, and start it all over again.



Saturday (again)

I started out to scribe the longevity exercises that Rod and I do most mornings, and decided that it was not a good morning for that. Way too much to tackle when my attention span is that of a gnat. Rod is working on it, too, so I hope we’ll get something up one of these days soon.

Smiffy and me, December 10, 2011
Me and my honey, December 10, 2011

My dairy free experiment lasted all of a week.  I know I will eventually cut it out completely, because the dark circles under my eyes are a message from my body.  Milk is not doing good things for me. (And new symptoms have cropped up since I started with milk again — classic lactose intolerance tummy issues.  Yuck.)  However I found it very, very hard to  stay with dairy free this time.

I need to find better solutions than I currently have for my dairy replacements.  Basically, I use milk in my coffee,  the occasional bite of cheese with an apple, and as butter on steamed vegetables.  I can do without all but the milky coffee.  Rod uses coconut milk and that’s almost enough.  The problem is the lactose, I think.  I miss that very mild sweetness in my morning brew.  Rod uses maple syrup, but I don’t want to add any more stress to my poor pancreas.  I’d like to find a way to make the coconut satisfying without any actual sugar.

So far, coco nibs and cinnamon in the grinder with the coffee beans has been the best solution.  The cinnamon tastes a bit sweet, but it actually supports my pancreas rather than stressing it. I’ll be working on solutions for the next couple of weeks and in the new year I will try dairy free for a month again.  (I am tricking myself.  I really hope the month will extend to forever, but that seems like such a LONG time.)

The photo is one that Austin’s Mom, Christy, took for us.  We had her take some informal “holiday” shots at the community center last weekend so that we have some to use in our New Year’s letter.  I like this one, but we won’t be using it for the letter because Jack was sprawled across my lap.  We have others that show all of us better — Rod smiling and Jack visible, even!  But I do like this couple shot.  We don’t have many of those.

Rod figures that my huge glasses age me because they haven been out of style so long.  I think his glasses hide his beautiful eyes.  We’re probably both right — but he isn’t worried about showing off his beautiful eyes and I have no problem with looking old.  Ha!

Wonderful news!  Sara, age 10 months, is crawling!  Not just belly wriggling, but fast, efficient crawling.  I saw a video this morning.   They grow so fast!

Speaking of the holiday letter — I have been seeing a lot of hate for the custom broadcast holiday letter.  I don’t really get why.  Of course some are full of bragging and and others are full of moaning.  So are the conversations of those folks.  Yes, they are impersonal.  But someone who care s a lot probably has heard it all in regular letter (or e-mail, or Facebook) exchanges.

I like holiday letters.  I get a few letters from friends and relatives I don’t get to see enough of, and while they’re not the same as a “personal” letter I enjoy them very much.  I see those broadcast letters as a way to get a peek into the lives of people I care about.  If we were close, I would know all that and more, but we can’t be close to everyone we care about — there isn’t time.  I see my own New Year letter the same way — a way to give people I care about a glimpse into our world. I hope they enjoy knowing  a little more about what’s up with us. Some people know most of the news, but many don’t.  The ones who know what we’re up to get a new photo for their trouble.  I always hope that my note will inspire someone to write back, and sometimes that even happens.

What do you think about broadcast holiday letters?

OK, off to finish the roasted vegetable stew — an experiment.  So far it smells pretty good.

Almond Meal “Graham” Crackers

Almond Meal “Graham” Crackers
(Adapted from

1/2 cup butter softened or grape-seed oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp ground vanilla bean
3 cups almond meal
dash sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup water

1) With a whisk, beat the liquid ingredients until they are well blended.
2) Add the dry ingredients and continue mixing..
3) Add water.
4) Put the dough in refrigerator for 1 hour.
5) Butter or grease a baking sheet then dust with almond flour.
6) Spread out dough in a square. Sprinkle top with almond flour.
7) Use a marzipan or fondant roller to roll the dough out to ¼” thick.
8) Score the flattened dough with a pizza cutter to about 1.5 inch by 4 inch rectangles
9) Bake at 325 for about 15 min.

Mabon Stew

The garden is now in full production, with another large bowl of tomatoes and a zucchini about every other day. We also have peppers and eggplants coming in, though not as quickly. You know what that means, don’t you? It’s ratatouille season! Of course, being me, I can never do it exactly by a recipe, so I call mine Mabon Stew.

3 large carrots, roll cut
2 1/2 lb multi-coloured heirloom tomatoes (I used red, black, orange, pink, and yellow)
10 large garlic cloves, minced
20 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1/4 cup of fresh oregano, chiffonade
1 1/2 lb onions quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 1/2 lb assorted bell peppers (green, red, yellow), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 lb zucchini assorted colours, quartered lengthwise and crosscut (I used green and golden)
2 eggplant, 1 white, one Japanese, cut into 1-inch cubes
black pepper
sea salt
extra-virgin olive oil
garlic powder
rosemary powder

Optional: stock and sausages

Put the roll-cut carrots into a little cooking water in a small sauce pan and cook them until they’re soft. Set them aside.

Blanch the tomatoes and peel them.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes and put them into a wide, heavy bottomed soup pot with the garlic, herbs, and enough oil to keep them from sticking. Simmer the tomato herb mixture gently, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened.

While sauce is simmering, toss the eggplant with some salt and put it in a large colander over a bowl and let them stand until you’re ready for them.  At least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, salt the onions and cook them in oil over moderate heat  in a large heavy skillet  until the onions are soft and starting to become translucent. Transfer the onions into a large heat safe bowl.

Add more oil to the skillet and cook the zucchini with a little salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender. Transfer the zucchini into the large heat safe bowl with the onions.

When the zucchini are finished cooking, add remaining oil to the skillet and cook the eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until soft.

Add the vegetables, salt and pepper, garlic powder, and rosemary powder to the hot tomato sauce.  If you’re using them, now would be the time to add stock and the sausages.

Simmer the stew, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender.

Cool, uncovered, and serve warm or at room temperature.

While the stew is cooking, sauté the mixed bell peppers with a little salt and oil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are soft. When the stew is almost done, add the peppers.

This turned out so well (in the vegan version) that everyone had two servings — even Jack!

Dijon Mustard recipe I want to try…

Home made Dijon Mustard Recipe

6 oz brown mustard seed
1 cup white wine
3 cloves, ground in a spice grinder
15 peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 garlic cloves, chopped
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sea salt

Soak the mustard seed in the wine, mixing in the herbs thoroughly. Leave for 36-48 hours, topping up with a little extra liquid if necessary – the seeds should be just covered. Cover the jar or bowl but don’t seal tightly.

Place in the food processor and puree for 3 minutes, then leave to stand for 3 hours. Reprocess for 5 minutes. Pour into a conical strainer (mesh size approximately 15 per inch/6 per cm) and with a plastic spatula work the paste through the strainer. Transfer the paste to a finer trainer (mesh size approximately 30 per inch/12 per cm), and repeat the process.

Spoon the mustard into small jars and store, out of direct light, for at least 2 weeks before using, preferably a month. We have found the flavour good for up to 4-5 months, but without the colour-reserving sulphur dioxide it goes dark quite quickly. Small jars help to reduce the oxidation. Makes 300-450 ml / ½-¾ pint, depending on the swelling powers of the seed, and the fineness of the sieve.

With thanks to The Guardian.

Socca Recipes

Basic socca

1 cup chickpea flour
1 Cup room temperature water
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
fresh or dried warm herbs (rosemary, sage, cumin, etc)

  1. Sift the chickpea flour into a large mixing bowl.
    (You really do want to sift it.)
  2. Add salt, pepper.
  3. Pour in the water, whisking to eliminate lumps.
  4. Stir in the olive oil and whisk the batter for a minute or two until a runny dough has formed.
  5. Add the herbs and any other ingredients
  6. Cover and set aside overnight.
  7. Preheat oven to very hot (220C-240C or 430F-470F),
  8. Heat a dry pizza stone or clay baking tray for about 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the pizza stone from the oven and spread the remaining oil evenly over it.
  10. Pour in the batter, spread it thin.
  11. Bake it for 8-10 minutes, until bread is firm and starting to brown.
  12. Remove the socca from the oven, lightly brush the top with olive oil and put it under a hot broiler for about a minute, until the top turns a golden color and there are a few slightly burnt tips.
  13. Slice and serve hot.

Socca Not a Pizza recipe

Crust Ingredients
1 cup of chickpea flour (besan or gram flour in the South Asian/Middle Eastern shops)
1 cup tepid water
1/4 cup of olive oil
3 eggs
a pinch of salt
garlic powder to taste

  1. Whisk the chickpea flour, water, and olive oil together and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
  2. After soaking, add the salt and garlic powder.

* If you’re making flat bread, continue.
* If you’re making the not a pizza, stop here and prepare the toppings.

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat a cast iron griddle in a 500 degree (super hot) oven.
  2. Whisk the eggs in another bowl until they’re well mixed, then add them to the batter.
  3. When the griddle and the oven are HOT, add a dollop of oil to the griddle and then pour the batter into the griddle getting it as even and round as you can.
  4. Cook at 500 degrees for 7 minutes to eat this as a bread side, then brush the socca with olive oil and broil it for the last minute or so broil it.


You can pretty much use any toppings you’d like on pizza here, but I’ll tell you where we started.
1/2 cup of seeded, finally diced fresh tomatoes (roma work really well).
1/4 cup finely diced sweet onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped olives
2 teaspoons fresh, crushed rosemary
  1. Put everything into a single bowl and mix it up so you get an even topping.
  2. After the crust has been cooking for 4 minutes, spread the topping evenly over it.
  3. Switch the oven to broil and broil for another 3 minutes.
  4. Done. Serve hot.