Tuesday, October 27, 2009


In herbalism, the practice of simpling is a learning technique. The student chooses one herb and learns it in as many possible applications and forms as possible. The learning, using, exploring, continues until the student practically OWNS the herb. And then, only then, do they consider learning another. This approach also applies to remedies ... for one who practices simpling, a single-herb tisane may be the first line of treating a condition.

I forget to simple.

I studied herbalism at home for years before my daughter was born, learning by simpling. When I became pregnant I became concerned about herbal safety during pregnancy and was too overwhelmed to seek out a trained herbalist to guide me. Unwilling to let go of my experiences, I translated them into homeopathy ... many homeopathic remedies are derived from the same substances I was already using.

But then I became a mom. When you are a first time mom to a sobbing underweight colicky babe with reflux, food sensitivities, and sensory issues, you need to be super human to not be tempted to throw everything possible at the problem.

I really tried simpling with homeopathy with her but we couldn't find the right remedy. So we tried homeopathic blends. And herbal teas. And mainstream meds. And more mainstream meds. And elaborate elimination diets.

I understand where I got lost and honestly, I don't fault myself at all. She was close to failure-to-thrive and not sleeping for more than 30m stretches.

Then one day I fell asleep next to her ... and she slept 2 hrs. For over a week I slept on the hard living room floor next to her, afraid to bring her into my bed ... but when I finally did, she slept four hours.

It was simple. It wasn't white noise, a swing, Daddy swinging the car seat, driving in the car, music, nightlights, NO light ... it was the simple answer.

I keep forgetting about simpling.

Today I was making apple cranberry sauce in my crockpot. When I broke out my mother's recipe a little while ago I was all cocky about The Best Cranberry Apple Sauce ever. Except that it didn't taste like moms. Maybe b/c hers is cooked stovetop? Regardless, I started letting go of the recipe and just enjoying the ingredients.

Hmmm ... lemon juice. Why lemon? Carrot-orange juice with some orange peel might work.

Macintosh apples were too tart. Let's try some gala and honeycrisp in there to.

Maybe go lighter on the cranberries so I don't need as much sugar?

Needs more texture. Try leaving skin on? Too much ... try leaving skin on one third of the apples. Perfect!

I began to connect with something I had let go of. Anyone who reads this knows I wing most recipes but for some reason this reminded me of that dusty section of knowledge I had patiently gathered. Blackberry leaf, raspberry leaf, catnip, plantain, oatstraw, passionflower, calendula, marshmallow root, slippery elm, red clover, alfalfa, stevia, peppermint, rose hips, garlic, onions, honey, lavender, chamomile, eucalyptus, ginger, cumin, cayenne ... and of course, my precious lemon balm.

What else have I misplaced? What other comforting homespun ways have I put aside? And how can I continue to stay in touch with the comforting, grounding practice of simpling, in all things?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My version of gluten free shepard's pie - YMMV

There are as many versions of shepard's pie as there are, well, tomato sauce. I'm not sure if my kids will like this but DH and I do so its a fun one to make once in a while. All seasoning/condiment measurements are to taste.

12-15 baby red bliss potatoes, quartered (I leave skin on)
2 tbl butter
Cream or milk

4 cloves garlic chopped, 3-4 cloves whole
1.5-2lbs ground beef
Emeril's essence seasoning blend or seasonings of your choice
1 onion chopped
1 small can or 1 cup GF tomato sauce
1/8-1/3c GF ketchup (optional)
1-2tbl soy sauce or tamari
Additional seasonings to taste - I use paprika, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder & parsley
1 can vaccum packed corn or 1/2-1c frozen corn kernels
1/2-1c frozen baby peas
Shredded cheese, italian bread crumbs

Put water on to boil for potatoes. When boiling, add potatoes and WHOLE GARLIC CLOVES to water & cook 15-20m until pierced easily w/a fork. Drain & set aside.
Season ground beef, then brown over med high heat
Drain then add onions & chopped garlic. Stir well. Cook until onions are slightly softened.
Add tomato sauce, ketchup & soy sauce. Stir in additional seasonings. Allow to cook on med to med high heat until sauce is a bit reduced. Turn to low.
Preheat oven to 325.
Mash potatoes to your preference - I like them lumpy with butter, cream & a bit of garlic salt & parsely.
Mix corn and peas into meat.

Spoon meat mixture into a large deep dish pie pan or a large pyrex baking dish (you may need more potatoes to cover this). Top with potatoes, spreading to make a top 'crust'. Sprinkle liberally with shredded cheese - we used mild cheddar, sharp cheddar & mozzarella tonite b/c that was what I had. Sprinkle more parsley, onion powder, paprika and a small amt of crushed black pepper on top of cheese. Top with italian bread crumbs.

If you can't find GF breadcrumbs, just crush your favorite crackers finely in a blender and add parsley, basil, oregano, garlic powder & paprika.

Bake for 20m, serve warm :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Swooooooon .... TDF chicken salad

Sometime I'll post my usual recipe for chicken salad (I only make it every few months) but today I had to modify it. My usual recipe is fairly heavily seasoned and I was concerned with the rich flavors of last night's Lemon Garlic Chicken wouldn't work with it. As usual, my quantities are fairly vague - mix each in and taste as you go.

I always debone the entire chicken (except legs and wings) as soon as it is cook to the touch. Its exausting for me but if I don't do it ASAP I won't do it at all, and some of it ends up going to waste.

Lemon Garlic Chicken Salad
Left over deboned Lemon Garlic chicken
Dijon mustard (I like Grey Poupon Country b/c it has some whole seeds)
Onion powder
Sea Salt
Fresh ground pepper

Depending on my mood I either chop the chicken into chunks or mash it tuna-sandwich-like.

If chopping into chunks, mix all dressing ingredients in a separate bowl or mug and and then gently stir into chicken. This chicken is so tender that too much stirring will destroy the chunks.

If mashing it, just add, stir, taste, repeat.

I like this on soft honey oatmeal or honey wheat bread with baby spinach and maybe some halved grape tomatoes. The Lemon Garlic chicken has such a great flavor that adding any strong flavors - fresh onion, celery, apple - just don't do it justice. Its a nice easy comfort food that still tastes grown up.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lemon Garlic Chicken num num num

There are three ways to cook this recipe - roasted in the oven, pot-roasted in a dutch oven and in a slowcooker.

Roasted in the oven will give you your traditional, firm, carvable chicken with crispy skin. Pot roasting gives you the opportunity to crisp the skin and create lovely golden flavor bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan. This gives the chicken a slightly more dynamic flavor. Slowcooking has the benefits of being able to leave the house but also (from my point of view) requires less standing time. It won't be your pretty Martha Stewart carvable bird but it will be fragrant, well flavored and moist :)

I can't tell ya what temperature or time to use on the roast or pot roasted recipes, but base your cooking of any standard roast chicken recipes.

Lemon Garlic Chicken
Whole chicken (thawed if from frozen)
2 lemons
1 head of garlic
2 -4 ribs of celery
rosemary, salt, pepper (and sage or ground sumac berries if you have)* note on spices/herbs below

Get your slowcooker preheating on the temp you desire. Place 1/3 of the lemon chunks and 1-2 ribs in bottom of slowcooker and replace lid while preparing rest of ingredients.

Cut one lemon into chunks, the other into thin slices. Peel ALL the cloves of garlic.
Salt & pepper the inside and out of the chicken well.

Inside the cavity:
If using fresh rosemary & sage, line the cavity of the chicken with rosemary. If using powdered or crushed rosemary & sage, sprinkle lightly in the cavity. If using sumac berries, sprinkle 2-3 pinches in the cavity.

Insert half the garlic cloves and 2/3 of the lemon chunks into the cavity of the chicken.
Insert 1-2 ribs of celery into the cavity. This is a great place to use celery greens or the tiny hearts of celery - the flavor is amazing in chicken.

Under the skin:
Slip your fingers between the skin on the breast and the breast meat, carefully separating it to create another cavity. You can also do this on the legs if you are so inclined.

If using fresh rosemary and sage slip under the skin first. If using powdered or crushed herbs & spices, sprinkle the lemon slices generously with rosemary and sage. If using sumac, sprinkle about 2 pinches of ground berries over ALL the lemon slices - too much sumac is very intense. Slip the lemon slices and remaining garlic cloves under the skin.

Place chicken in the slowcooker on top of the lemon chunks and celery ribs. Cook until done.

You could also bake chicken breasts in these seasonings in the oven. I think it would be a lovely fast variation. I hesitate to suggest trying the breasts in the crockpot as I think the flavors would be too intense.

* Note on spices/herbs
I have very specific tastes when it comes to herbs & spices ... feel free to substitute with abandon unless I put in a specific note about why I use a particular type or brand.

Salt - I prefer to use sea salt in all my recipes - I like the taste, texture and lower sodium. Please note that it does not contain iodine like traditional table salt. Iodine was added to table salt to decrease the occurance of iodine deficiency which can cause thyroid problems.

Pepper - I use fresh ground. It's a completely different taste than traditional ground pepper.

Rosemary - I love using fresh but my cat eats all my herb plants and I don't use it often enough to justify purchasing it fresh. A nice alternative is powdered rosemary - I use Frontier, available at most natural food stores. I've always hated dried whole and crushed rosemary ... powdered has the wonderful flavor without the crunchy bits :

Sage - Fresh, whole dried or powdered ... all work equally well in this recipe. I do like the flexibility of the powdered. I couldn't find my sage today however :

Sumac Berries - Well dang this stuff is AMAZING. I use Penzy's Turkish Ground Sumac Berries. You only need a tiny pinch. The flavor is intense and can easily over power your dish but is an amazing compliment to chicken. Definitely a fun one to experiment with.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Goodies in the crockpots on a drizzly fall day...

I ADORE drizzly fall days. They make me want to bake and cook and snuggle in my favorite couch corner. Sadly I have only 2 hrs to do that today so I decided to fill my crockpots. With a long morning and a wake in the evening, I need to be careful with my energy so I can get through the day.

Today was my co-op morning at Maddie's preschool. Considering that she has been having a very very difficult time separating, I went through crazy contortions to make sure she didn't know I was there. Until... I was taking two little girls to the bathroom and who do I hear coming through the door? To quote Miss Donna Maddie's teacher, "Oh NUTS". We did some fast talking - I expressed my excitement about Maddie's class making applesauce, we can make some at home tonight and GEE she should hurry up and wash hands so she doesn't miss out!

Sooooo... in crockpot #1 we have:

My version of Jane Baker's Apple Cranberry Sauce (GLUTEN Free)
6 med apples, peeled, cored & sliced
1c fresh rinsed cranberries (frozen ok)
1/2c brown sugar (she uses 2/3c white sugar, my mom uses 1/2c white sugar)
1 tbl lemon juice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2c brown sugar

Cook until tender - can be done on stove or in crockpot. Excellent served warm or chilled.
(total standing in kitchen time, 15m - can be shorter if you do not have two year old help)

And in crockpot #2 we have

Honey Teriyaki Chicken Breasts
2 whole boneless chicken breasts or 4-6 cutlets
half a bottle of KC Masterpiece Honey Teryaki marinade (substitute GF teryaki sauce)
3 chopped scallions
1/2c beef or chicken broth
2 cloves garlic
1/2tsp of cumin seeds or 1/4tsp-1/2tsp cumin powder
2 shakes of powdered ginger

Cook until chicken is done (I have set it on low with plans to eat it in about 6hrs)

Would you rather experiment with homemade teriyaki sauces? They are simple to make. Play around with the following ingredients:
Tamari or soy sauce
fresh garlic
preferably fresh ginger but if all you have is powdered, go for it
cumin - go lightly or it will overpower the sauce
honey or dark brown sugar
white vinegar
lemon juice
crushed pinapple w/juice

Mix your marinade in a bowl or large measuring cup and add ingredients TO TASTE. If you just dump everything on the chicken you can't taste it.

And if you like a little zing, add a hint of cayenne pepper or chili sauce. Remember that in a crock pot spices get a bit concentrated so you are better off going low on those and adding more to the finished dish if needed.

I love knowing how to make teriyaki from scratch ... doing it for years has helped me figure out how to doctor store-bought marinades when I just can't stand or think long enough to do one from scratch.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hoooo Baby Chocolate Chip Pie

I have a friend on Facebook and The Babywearer who occasionally posts amaaaaaaazing recipe links. Generally I can find an excuse for not making them but this time... well just check out this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie on Bakerella.com.



I tweak everything, so here is my version of it, based on what I had handy. I'm allergic to nuts so I did some fancy footwork to substitute for the pecans. I would also like try this with a Nilla wafer crust and crushed graham crackers subbing for the nuts.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie (original version on Bakerella.com, from Nestle Classic Recipes, 2003

1 unbaked 9-inch graham cracker pie shell
2 large eggs
1/4c all-purpose flour
1/8c whole wheat flour
1/8c Quaker rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1/2c granulated sugar (I used turbinado sugar b/c its all I had)
1/2c packed brown sugar
3/4c (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1c (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/2c crushed vanilla sandwich cookies
1/4c shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 F.
Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high until foamy.
Beat in flours, oats, sugars. Beat in butter.
Stir in morsels, cookies and coconut. Spoon into pie shell.
Bake for 55-60 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm.

This took 10m standing time in the kitchen.

I haven't tasted it yet but I'll post when I have a review ;)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's pudding, guys, I swear...

My kids had a weird day and ended up eating at totally different times. Drives me crazy because someone is ALWAYS hungry in the middle of the night but its mainly due to their conflicting school schedules ... not much I can do about that.

Last night my older goober woke me up starving at 4am. I vaguely remember something about a box of wheat crackers and "Yeah sure, as much as you want". Not by best mothering moment.

Anywho I decided to give them something filling as a bedtime snack. And I lied and called it pudding :D Yeah baby.

Faux Grapenut Pudding (two small servings)

1/2c Grapenuts cereal
2/3c milk
1Tbp brown sugar (or a roughly equivalent amount of maple syrup, brown rice syrup etc)

Put all ingredients in a small saucepan. DO NOT WALK AWAY. Heat to a boil, stirring well. Stir/cook until milk is almost all aborbed and cereal is thick (only a few minutes). Let cool - this stuff is blisteringly hot.

Ta Da!


WHEEEEEEEEE! I have finished my first knit sock! Considering I have never ever ever finished a long craft project, this is a big deal. I am extremely grateful to Amy and Jenn who recommended I cast on the 2nd sock at the same time as the first, so that I am not left alone with one orphan sock.

So here it is ... the very reason I learned to knit...
Are you on ravelry.com? You can see the pattern for this and other projects I've completed in my notebook.
Some things about this project. I used Crystal Palace Puffin yarn. It is fleece yarn - not remotely ideal for socks, but ideal for me for the initial time I try a project. Why? Because it doesn't split, is easy to see and easy to handle.
Some websites that I used in this particular project (other than the ravelry pattern):

Fast & Yummy Homemade Mac & Cheese

My littlest girl differentiates between boxed mac & cheese (macawoni and theese) and homemade mac & cheese (pathta thee-thee-theese) and has definite preferences depending on the day. Today she asked for homemade mac & cheese and the result was so good that I had a bowl myself :)

Enough elbow mac for two servings (I used Ronzoni Smart Taste today - it has a great texture to me)
One sandwich size slice of sharp cheddar (or enough sliced cheddar to cover a slice of bread)
1/8-1/4c preshredded mild cheddar
1/8-1/4c preshredded mozzarella
1tsp-1tbl butter
1 tsp dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon Harvest Dijon b/c I like whole mustard seeds)
Milk, cream or water as needed

Boil pasta as directed - I did 7m for firm pasta.
Drain well and return to the hot pot. Add cheese and butter and stir until well blended (will be stiff).
Add mustard and splashes of liquid (milk, cream or water) ... stir well. Continue to add more liquid until it reaches desired consistancy.

Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum. Its a good thing I didn't make more of this ... I totally would have eaten enough to regret it :D

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mmmmmm ... baked ziti!

Baked zitis vary as much as pizzas do. I have a basic recipe that a play around with but the framework is always the same. This makes one large glass pan full. If you want more, don't overload the pan ... just make a 2nd pan or an extra smaller pan full.

1 lb penne
12 blocks of mozzarella (or 2-4c pre-shredded*)
3-5 cups tomato sauce

preshredded cheddar, mozzarella & parmagian - can also add in asagio, romano
your favorite italian seasonings - I use basil, parsely & black pepper

Cut the mozarella into 1inch cubes - smaller if you prefer. *Shredded mozarella is ok but doesn't bake the same.

Cook the penne for 2min less than instructed on package while preheating the oven to 375. Strain well and pour into pan.

Mix chopped mozarella into penne. Mix in 3-5 cups of sauce. 3 cups will produce a drier dish, more saucey. I actually prefer to use 4 but never remember to save or warm up extra sauce so I just use 5 cups initially. Stir well to coat all the pasta. Top with additional shredded cheese to create a layer of cheese on top. Sprinkle seasonings lightly over shredded cheese.

Bake 20min minimum ... until cheese is well melted and bubbly. If you like your cheese browned on top either cook longer at 375, turn up heat to 450 or (if you have an in-oven broiler) turn on broiler and watch closely.

Friday, October 2, 2009

How to fix acidic tomato sauce. And then ruin it. And then fix it again.

I'm half italian so making a good tomato sauce (or at least, good to me and my husband) is just something you work at until you get it right. No one ever makes a sauce just like their mother, grandmother, sister or aunt ... and that's ok.

My sister in law taught me a terrific trick for fixing sauce when its just too acidic. You add 1-2 pinches of baking soda... it neutralizes the extra acid.

Here is a fun experiment next time you are making sauce. Get two mugs or bowls and add a cup of sauce to each. Then add a pinch of baking soda to one, a teaspoon full to the other. Mix well, let sit for 5m, stir again and then taste (comparing to your own sauce w/no baking soda). The one with a pinch is slightly less acidic.

The one with too much?


Valuable lesson.

Without acid, you basically have warm herbed tomato juice. Horrific. Unless you have vodka and you like that kind of thing...

When attempting this on a real pot of sauce for repair purposes, add a pinch or two, stir well and THEN COOK MORE ... like another 20 minutes. Cooking reduces the acidity as well. If you over-neutralize initially then it's just going to get worse.

And that brings us to tonite.

I haven't been able to stand at the stove long enough to make sauce in almost a year, and frankly, I can't now. But fall means warm snuggly stews and pasta dishes for me. I just HAD to do it. I decided (aahahaha ... my first mistake) to make a big pot of my serious meat sauce and freeze alot. 2lbs of top of the round, 5 chicken sausages, an onion, 4 cloves of garlic, 3-28oz cans of tomatoes ... and all the seasonings etc.

Rule #1. When you haven't made a red sauce in a year MAKE A SMALL BATCH.

I was using Pastene tomatos which I keep buying b/c my mom and grandmother do but they are just too acidic for me. So ... I added a bit of baking soda. Still acidic. Added some more cooked a while. Still acidic. So I decided to add some more...

Rule #2. If a little voice says, Wow, I don't usually need THIS much X ... listen.

Rule #3. Never shake an ingredient from its container DIRECTLY into your pot. You're just asking for someone to be standing by waiting for a youtube moment.

Needless to say I was now faced with a GINORMOUS crockpot filled with ... warm tomato juice.


I tried adding a wee bit of apple cider vinegar. Warm vinegary tomato juice.

I tried adding a small can of Hunts tomato sauce, kept on hand for chili emergencies. Slightly better but still scary.

I tried adding a can of petite diced tomatoes, also kept on hand for chili emergencies. Chunky warm vinegary tomato juice.

I tried adding a bit soysauce (Cooks Illustrated recommends adding just a little of this to meat sauces to enhance the meaty flavor - works great) and a bit of shredded parmagian. Its ok but not my sauce.

At this point I gave up. I knew the only salvation for this was to add another big honking 28 oz can of tomatos. Tooooooooooo the filled completely up to the lid crockpot. Sigh. So I decanted 4 cups worth of warm chunky vinegary tomato juice into another container and added another can of tomatoes ... which I should have done in the first place. Then I added proportional amounts of all my little add-ins and seasonings. Except the meat ... good grief that pot didn't need more meat. And...


I walked away. 20 minutes later it is dang near perfect... except for that odd bite of something...

Which I am going to studiously ignore :)