Monday, December 17, 2012

Avocado Salad Dressing

My husband just made this a few weeks back and I understand it is pretty kick-ass, according to him and the kids. I'm looking forward to trying it!

Avocado Salad Dressing:
1/4 c lime juice
1 large avocado
1 small tomato
Chiles or chile powder

1. Combine ingredients in food processor and chop until creamy and thoroughly mixed.
2. Season with herbs to taste. Even 1 tablespoon portions of herbs works well.
3. Salt to taste.

Sounds nice and easy, especially if you grow your own herbs like we do! :-)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Homemade Date Candy

Homemade Candy, yum!

I just saw this recipe from LisaLise on the forum at Crunchy Betty and it looks like it would be pretty darn good!

Chocolate Date Candy
1. Pit a handful of medjool dates and roughly chop them.
2. Work cocoa powder into them until you have a mass that resembles dough. Wrapping it with wax paper before working the dough can prevent sticky fingers.
3. Break off bits of the "dough" and roll into balls.
4. Roll the balls in shredded coconut.

It sounds like it would taste pretty awesome, for those that can try it. I'm looking for dates I can eat, and chocolate and coconut are out for me, but it's just so awesome sounding I had to put this up, anyway!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

No heat, easy hair curling method

This young lady has such a clever way to create curls overnight. It looks easy, cheap, and comfortable to sleep in, as well. I have a feeling my daughter may be checking this out, although she will probably like the decorations in the room as much as she likes the curling method!

Sock-bun curling method:

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pseudo-pickled Veggies

When I have a heavier dish, like my potato pancakes or red meat, I really enjoy a little bright flavored 'something' to eat with it. If I have some homemade pickles, that works for me, but I often don't have any pickled veggies, so here's something that can be made quickly but still give a bit of a pickled taste to some veggies.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Keeping berries from molding

While keeping berries fresh is something we'd all like, keeping as many berries fresh as possible is even MORE important when you don't have a lot of food choices and those berries are essentially your sweet bastion against the boring food world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Allergen Free Hygiene

Finding a way to stay clean, fresh, and not-too-stinky is somewhat difficult when you react to common ingredients in our hygiene supplies.  So, this is what I do:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bell Pepper Seeds

So, all my life I've been chopping out the pith (the white part) and the seeds from my bell peppers before I eat or cook them.

Today, I'm looking at them and all of a sudden I'm thinking: why do I do that? I realize that this is simply habit rather than a knowledge of the inner workings of bell peppers. So I start to investigate.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Baked Apple Sorbet

I utterly love this stuff.

Baked Apple Sorbet

We cooked chopped gala apples (seeds removed but with peels still on) in a solar oven all day a few days ago. You could use a crock pot with a little added water, as well. They were nearly mush by the time they were done. We let them cool and then blended them all together until smooth, and then a little more. I blended until they looked almost a little frothy.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Okay, life is still good, in spite

It's funny how life can still be good even when weird, frustrating things keep happening.

My injured foot a few weeks ago turned out to be a broken bone. Two of them, actually. Which I managed to acquire by tripping over, I dunno, a microscopic piece of lint on my carpet. As opposed to valiantly rescuing a band of baby quails from a speeding car or something.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Spicy Eggplant - attempt I

I really miss a wonderful Thai dish I used to have, some spicy eggplant that was simply amazing.

I've been fiddling with various methods of recreating a flavor that might be comparable, or at least comparable based on what I remember, and yesterday I got closer than I ever had before.

It was fairly simple. I stir-fried sliced japanese eggplant, and then cooked it with this sauce:

Fake Spicy Thai Sauce (Work-in-Progress):
Apple juice (homemade, so I don't know if the taste changes)
roasted eggplant, peeled and blended up with a little of the apple juice
crushed tepin chiles
sea salt
a little fresh lemon juice

This was spicy, sweet, and a little sour. Not quite right, yet. There's something missing. But it was much closer than I've managed before. I need something for that umami taste, and the roasted eggplant was the best so far, as I can't use mushroom, soy sauce, or coconut aminos. I'm thinking perhaps I could add some roasted tomato, too, just a little bit, and see how that goes, next time. :-)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why what we say matters.

I constantly share information about Celiac Disease.

I know this annoys some people. My friends are likely nodding their heads and saying, 'yes, Shauna, please do shut up about this sometime soon, eh?' I can appreciate that. I know have a bit of an obsessive personality at times. It comes out with anything new in my life, like the three tiny goldfish that turned into a 10 gallon tank, a 20 gallon tank, a 60 gallon tank, and explorations into fish breeding, live plants, and attempts at mimicking a complete ecological environment.

Like I said, just a teensy bit obsessive. Although my fish tanks were awesome, if I do say so myself.

But with Celiac Disease, it's not always obsession driving me to talk about it. Deep down, this is grief and anger. I talk about cooking and the food industry because I have to think about it all the time. But Celiac Disease is more than that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Best meal EVER

I've been in such a rut, it's not even funny. I got hit with sulfites in that little injection and it knocked me down for a couple weeks. But we're all home today so I was motivated to try and make the meal a little special.

SO happy with it!

My meal today:
Falafel - the kind I normally make, with chickpeas, yellow squash, salt, and parsley

Roasted green chile hummus - the kind I normally make, with chickpeas, salt, and olive oil, and then with 2 roasted green chiles, skinned and seeded, added in with it. I added a little extra oil and made a smooth, very spicy, slightly green hued hummus. It was awesome!

Dairy free tzatziki - 2 small orange/yellow vine ripened tomatoes, 2 small persian cucumbers, both chopped. Then I added a teeny bit of fresh chopped dill, and about four times as much chopped cilantro. Then maybe 1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice

I got out these large, dark lettuce leaves, broke the falafel into pieces and put in first the falafel, then the hummus, then the tsatziki, then held the lettuce like a hot dog bun and ate it that way. It was AWESOME!

The hummus was spicy, the falafel were really sweet this time, and the sour and crunchiness of the tzatziki was great.

It's using foods I already had, but still, I'm so excited about it anyway because it's just new enough that I noticed, and I needed a good taste. My past few experiments have been utter failures. So nice when something works!

I'd have amazing pictures, but I was so hungry, I ate it all. When I went back for seconds (and food for pictures) it was all gone! :-D I just have these two little photos of the left over hummus and tzatziki, and that's it.

Sour and crunchy, just like I wanted

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No Shampoo

Shampoo has been a bit of a problem for a while - lots of allergies means more and more shampoos are making us react. My daughter has been having a lot of skin problems due to shampoo, so we've been a bit desperate lately.

Which leads me to here: cleaning my hair without shampoo. I know people do this. I hear about it; I read about it. So I decided to give it a try.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Grocery Budget - week whatever

You know what? I have NO idea this week. None.

I injured my foot so I can hardly walk, then got sick at the same time, overslept and missed the farmer's market, and I'm surviving on veggies that are all exploring new ways to exemplify 'limp.' I've been to the store just a few times to get veggies and fruit or GF pasta for the kids: our convenience food nowadays.

I think I'll be waiting until this Friday to get back on my game. And clean my house - this is definitely a week where I feel, ahem, house-cleaning challenged. And someone horizontally challenged as well, LOL.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Twelve Simple Snack Ideas

Snacks for people with allergies are crucial, don't you think? These are the things we can take with us, or enjoy quickly without a lot of cooking time involved. It means a lot when a typical meal may take a few hours to make.

I've been getting in a rut lately, often because I'm tired and can't use my brain well. Even simple snack ideas get forgotten and I'll stare at my fridge and cupboard with a vacant expression and an inability to remember what tastes good. So, I'm starting a Snack Idea section, now. Any time I remember a snack idea, I'm jotting it down. When I get twelve, I'll put 'em up. I imagine that at least a couple of them will work for most people with allergies or intolerances.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Socca - Grain Free chickpea-based flatbread

A really simple grain-free flatbread. I didn't even know these existed!

Salt, olive oil, chickpea flour, and water (and cumin, if you can have it). That's it for ingredients. I bet if you used another type of fat, that would work well too. I wonder if lard would be too much?  Hmmm.

If you can have chickpeas, I'm sure you could pretty easily make your own chickpea flour, too. This gentleman mentions that the chickpea flours used for this are rather coarse.

The recipe has a lot of pictures and technique to get this to work well. :-)

EDIT: 3/7/13
I forgot all about this for months and then recently rediscovered it. My fiddlings with recipes are now on the recipe page. :-)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grain Free Croutons

This is a great recipe:

Seriously great, even though the original recipe involves potatoes. If you are allergic to nightshades, though, don't despair, as there are nightshade-free versions of this. One of the reasons I love this recipe is because for folks who are trying to make better food with limited supplies, it's more of a method than an actual recipe. A way to make some crunchy goodness to add to salads and baked potatoes and so on, and it can work with tons of foods.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Yesterday, a friend mentioned that she'd been sick lately. A nasty flu going around. And she mentioned that it was a surprise how long she'd taken to recover, because she's never sick. She's healthy so much that she never expects to get sick.

I hadn't until that moment realized that I'm the complete opposite.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Judging Others

With all the food issues that my family has to deal with now, we've run into various reactions from others. Some people are curious, some are sympathetic, some are annoyed, and some are downright antagonistic, which truly, I just don't get. I've had people look at our food and start rolling their eyes, or making snide comments about us in a perfectly audible undertone. Seriously, why do they even care what we eat?

And besides, it's an instant judgement based on a mere sliver of information. When that type of judgement is enough to make someone say or do something negative to another person? Not cool.

While I'd love to sit on my high horse and say I would never, ever make this type of judgement about someone else, I can't. If I tried, my high horse would buck me off into the muck filled with times I have made a judgement like that, without even thinking. I've formed opinions about a person because they have the same religion as someone I know who is rude and thoughtless. Or made judgements about someone because they are in the same tax bracket as an ex-roommate of mine. I know I have done this.

I try not to, and I'm definitely not proud of it, but I know it's happened. However, I have one memory that keeps me from going too far down that road of judging precipitously and acting on it. This memory reminds me that you never know what's truly going on with someone else.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Celiac Humor

This is a wonderful tumblr collection of what it's like to be gluten free/celiac. Cracks me up!

This is a great one to start with:
When I heard Dominoes made gluten free pizza

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Melon sorbet...again

This week at the farmer's market I picked up something called a Galia melon, which is a Cantaloupe-honeydew cross, created in 1970. According to the All Powerful Internetz, the scent is how you tell this is ripe, as opposed to the melon becoming soft.

On the outside, it looks like this:

Looks like a Cantaloupe, right?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Figuring out protein

Chickpeas - protein of awesome

 If you have food limitations that include grains, beans, nuts, eggs, dairy, or soy, this can affect your protein intake, especially if you don't have a wide variety of meats you can eat.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A typical daily meal plan

This would be a typical day's meal plan for me in the early summer. Gluten Free, Grain free, sulfite free, dairy free, and soy free. It changes depending on the seasons.

Beverages - water, water with a little fresh squeezed citrus, tea made from herbs in the garden, some homemade pecan milk. Stevia leaves to sweeten or drink unsweetened. Kids can sometimes use agave syrup or honey.

Breakfast at my house

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Roasted Chickpeas - Gluten free

Another recipes from my buffalo blog.

Great on-the-go snack

After realizing that there was such a thing as roasted chickpeas, I had to hunt down how people made this. The result is this recipe. I messed around with different techniques based on a few different recipes and found what worked for me (thanks go to for the idea of cooking them before roasting). I also pared the ingredients down to the bone until they matched what we could eat.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Roasted Bell-pepper Sauce

Another recipe yoinked from my buffalo blog.

Roasted Bell-Pepper Sauce

Simple sauce, relatively cheap, and easy to make. Also involves food items that are frequently in season at the same time, so that’s a plus!  This sauce is GF, CF…a lot of F’s, really. It’s not nightshade free, however, and a lot of sulfite sensitive folks can't tolerate garlic, so leave that out if it's a problem. Still tastes great!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Beet Hummus

Buffalo recipe!
I'm shifting around some of my blogs a bit, so that I can keep all my recipes here. As a result, I'm moving the recipes I have from my other buffalo blog over.

Beet Hummus from 9/20/11 (no, really, take a look)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How to succeed in your diet

When our reactions are life-threatening, it's very motivating to stay on the diet. But what about reactions that aren't life threatening? The ones where you feel like crap, but only for a day or two. Or those reactions that build up over a week or two, where your RA gets worse, your FM gets worse, you get more tired and feel terrible until you finally go back to eating like your should.

In the beginning, those can be much harder to stick to, especially when we're tossed in the deep end of allergen-free cooking and it's drowning us. We have to rely on our support and our own will, and sometimes that's just barely enough. 

Or it isn't enough. I still drown periodically, eating something I shouldn't, getting sick, and smacking myself in the head that I let myself be such an idiot. But, when I'm completely on track, here's some of the things that have helped me stay on track.

Honeydew Melon Sorbet

So, we tried yet another sorbet - they had honedew at the Farmer's market this week, woo hoo!

I looked at a lot of recipes for this on-line, and the most common addition for honeydew seems to be lime or lemon, so we went that route.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Groceries - week 5

I'm posting this early because I'm done shopping for the week, I've done the math, and it's been a bitter pill to swallow. But at least it's done. 

Let's just say, it's a good thing I planted an almond tree

Monday, June 11, 2012

Plantains with black beans

These were great, and turned out so wonderfully I hope we can have them again. They'd work great as snacks or as an appetizer. They have a kind of Cuban feel to them, so they'd probably go well with Mojitos, if you can drink those.

Plantains, guacamole, refried beans, and roasted bell peppers

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cooking without Tasting

If you come to visit my house, something you will hear almost daily is "Here, taste this. How is it? What does it need?"

More chiles? Of course it needs more chiles!

Now, this could be seen as some attempt at creating child chef prodigies, but in reality, it's because I can't eat many of the foods that my family can. If the meal has meats from the regular store, beans if I'm close to my sulfite load, veggies and fruits from the store, eggs, garlic - there is a whole host of foods I can't eat that one or both of my kids can. There's even more that my hubby can, not having gluten issues like the rest of us.


I love falafel. It's a Middle Eastern, chickpea(garbanzo bean)-based, fried, crispy little pseudo-hush-puppy. These are awesome. They're usually made with onion, though, which is a no-no for sulfite folks, usually.

If you can tolerate beans, though, these should be fine for you, I believe. But if beans are an issue, or only to be eaten when you have a low sulfite load for the day, this should be eaten with caution. Falafel is typically eaten with more Greek or Mediterranean sides, like hummus, but I've varied the herbs on numerous combinations to go with a variety of different cuisines - or in other words, I was desperate and bored and fiddled until I found something that worked.

A Mexican version of my falafel, with tomato and green chile

Friday, June 8, 2012

Groceries - Week 4

Some of the Farmer's Market Produce

Week 4

Took me a couple extra days to get this out, but at least it was simple this week:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Homemade bouillon

There are a lot of foods that I can't eat, obviously, but I come across so MANY awesome looking recipes that I hate to just leave them to languish in the depths of my bookmark folders. Who knows, maybe someday I could even eat these!

So I'm going to start listing some here, for my potential later use, and for the use of anyone who may be able to enjoy these today.

First off, homemade bouillon, from 101cookbooks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rice-milk frozen deserts

So after making rice milk for my son, and the one day every couple weeks that my daughter can have it, my children almost immediately decided that they didn't want to drink it ever again. Or at least not until it went bad and I'd have to make it again. So I've been trying to think of ways I can use this, and we came up with two a couple days ago: frozen strawberry rice-milk and Cantaloupe rice-milk smoothies, yeaaaa!

Strawberry pastel prettiness

Monday, June 4, 2012

Food success and failure, all in one

Today I decided to try to make veggie burgers for the first time.

I've been making Pecan Milk for my son, where you soak pecans for a day or two in about 4 times as much water, then blend it until smooth in a blender.

Soaking pecans look rather nasty, don't they?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Watermelon-mint sorbet

Yes, I serve my sorbet on plants. Doesn't everyone?

This turned out just awesome. It was sweet, a teeny bit tart, and with an extra cool punch lingering just after you swallow a bite. I enjoyed the heck out of it. Could have eaten it all myself!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Easy Refried Beans

If you've never made refried beans before, no worries. They are so easy, you'll wonder why you never made them before.

Groceries - week 3

Groceries for this week, where I think I got it all, but honestly? The family came down with the flu by the end and so this is going to be a kind of 'eh, hopefully?' kind of week on the budget front. And I do realize how lucky I am that I can HAVE a lazy budget front sometimes. I can't stop cooking every day - which takes on a sort of half-stoned feel with the flu -but at least I can relax a little about the money sometimes.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Garden doom

I'm pretty bummed today. Came back from our trip to visit hubby and a packrat had destroyed my squash and sunflowers. I mean, totally destroyed. It ate all but one squash in the entire garden patch down to the ground.

All this dirt used to be squash. :-(

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rice Milk

My son can have rice milk periodically, so today I'm making up a batch. Lundberg rice, so it's as gluten free as I can get it. I'm using a recipe from the Vegan Reader. It's worked well in the past, and I like the simplicity of the recipe.

Isn't it so pretty and white?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Artichoke Dipping Sauce

I was lucky enough to have a friend donate some artichokes from her garden to my table the recently, and was trying to figure out what in the world I had that could go with it.

No mayo dips, no vinegar, what was I going to use? Yup, lemons it is

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Stevia sweet water

 I've mentioned before that sweet and sour tastes are a bit tricky for me to get. Sweet tastes are the most challenging, at least if I don't want to get sick.

I have two sweet things I can eat that are completely safe: stevia leaves and fruit. The fruit, I have to grow myself or get it from the safe farmer of mine, who doesn't grow much fruit. The stevia I grow myself. So stevia is usually my one choice - thank goodness I'm not allergic to anything in the Sunflower family or I'd lose that too, eek!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Groceries - week 2

Week 2 

Seriously, I look at our budget and I feel so decadent. This is so much money. I feel very lucky that my husband has a job that makes enough moulah that we can afford it!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Salmon Skin Garnish

So pretty, but so tasteless...

I attempted a salmon-tomato-squash sauce today, served over julienned yellow squash noodles. It was a complete bomb, so tasteless that I am not even putting the recipe up. Bad squash, tomatoes not ripe enough, squash over-cooked, so very 'blech.' Even though it looked quite pretty, didn't it? That almost made it more upsetting for it to be so nasty.

However, one thing worked awesome and was the only good thing about this recipe - the little black and gray topping on the sauce there. See it? Nice contrasting color, kind of weird looking?

A day in the life

I want to remember what this is like, right now, this one point in my life.

Today, my husband has to study for school and I need to write. He needs to get away from the distractions at home and as for me...I need to stay safe.

Recipe #: Tomato Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin and Tomato plant that will provide for this soup later!

Time: 1 - 2 hours total (including time to cook pumpkin)
(45-60 min. pumpkin cooking time)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Groceries week 1 recap

That's right.
I'm so proud of this picture, I used it twice.

 This has been a crazy week! Discovered that my husband's work is sending him on a trip later this month, so if we wanted to get a chance to see him, we had to move our plans up. Packed up and left for the trip in two days, flat!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Adding Sour to a recipe

There are two flavors I have a hard time acquiring: sweet and sour. Today, I'm just going to list what I've found for sour, for others in that situation.

Vinegar and citrus are what most folks use for sour. Vinegar is out for me right now, and citrus only in very small amounts, as I have a limited supply from a couple farmers. So, here's a few other things I've come across that may work.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Watermelon Rind

I've heard of pickled watermelon rind, that Southern specialty, but I never realized how many different ways you could use watermelon rind, or even what it actually is.

I suppose I always thought it was the part of the watermelon that was left over, but I was wrong. It's the pale green part of the watermelon, in-between the outer skin and the pink inner flesh. One has to cut off the outer, dark-green skin, after you've eaten the pink skin, and that will leave you with the rind to use in recipes.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Herb garden

A tiny slice out of my herb garden.

Messy, isn't it?
I show this because a lot of people have much tidier herb gardens and I thought I'd share the other kind. This is the kind where things are planted next to and among each other, sometimes due to space constraints and sometimes deliberately to help each other. It's got mulch that's made from the wild grasses and non-toxic weeds in my yard. Some of the herbs are deliberately left to go to seed to grow next year. But it's doing great, so far.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Groceries - week 1

So, inspired by the 100 days of Real food family, I'm attempting to track what groceries I buy for the next 8 weeks - a little over 100 days, but a convenient number.  The goal is $150 per week for 3 people. I would love to do less, and I hope that eventually I can, but I have one fisherman I can get fish from, possibly 2 ranchers I get meat from, and one farmer I get veggies and/or fruit from. The kids can get a few things at places like Whole Foods, but as my farmer is often cheaper, it's not that helpful.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Days of Real Food

I just found a blog called 100 days of real food. It was a lovely idea - a family was going to try to eat only whole foods, nothing processed, for 100 days. Then they tried it again on a budget.

It was a really neat idea, but I wasn't sure how much it would relate to us, mostly because our own diet has become so extreme. Their criteria for what made up unprocessed food was broader than I'm allowed in my own diet, so the question was, would they have foods I could eat, on their diet?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Home again, home again

About a year ago, my Super Geek (aka hubby) got a new job that was in another state. We had a long discussion about it, but in the end, we decided that he should take it. It's a good job, great people to work with, and the pay is good. But we're still a state away from him.

However, we're also homeschooling, so we can be a bit more flexible until we have the house all fixed up and ready to try and rent it...or something. So every few weeks, I pack up the kids and the car and we head out to spend a week or two with Daddy.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Learning to Wait

There's something to be said for learning to wait for things.

Not that I'm not as impatient as the next person sometimes, but I've been gaining an even greater appreciation of waiting. Gardening has played a big part in that.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stuffed Poblano Chiles

I want to be ordered about my recipes, but I've realized that if I want to have the best chance at success, I'd better go with my strengths. Order is not one of them. I throw things together, and even when I'm researching, I do best when I have a pile of things and tumble them about.

So, new format for the recipes. These are mostly for me anyway, right?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Herbs: Cilantro or Coriander

I'd love to make this a huge, informative post that has everything, but frankly, I'm too tired and it would take too long. So, the short and dirty version!

My cilantro, flowering

Cilantro or Coriander: same thing. Cilantro is more often the leaves, coriander the the seeds, but they are the same plant.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Monday, April 2, 2012

Reality TV: what is cooking really like, these days?

I'm still learning to cook with the  foods I have available, and I'm not a natural, which means I don't instinctively understand how to cook something or what flavors will blend well. So when I am trying to create a recipe, or trying to tweak an existing one? The end is not always a pretty sight. I'd say it works out about as often as it fails spectacularly.

But right now, with my extreme food limitations, ruining my food isn't a minor, if frustrating, experience. It hurts to screw up on a recipe these days, because the loss has a lot more of an impact.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Herbs: My Herb Garden

Here's a list of what herbs I'm actually growing, which is, well, pretty much any herb I find and can manage not to kill in gruesome ways. Eventually, I'll try to have a list of foods that have blended well with various herbs, but right now, I'm still starting out in the realm of fresh herbs and food. I tend to throw everything together and see how it all falls out. :-)

Herbs and edible flowers in my herb garden:

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How-to: Making Herbal Tea

Growing an herb garden is, IMO, one of the best things you can do for yourself in terms of adding a little flavor to your food and drink that you know is safe and allergen free. An unexpected benefit of having numerous fresh herbs is the ability to make some lovely herbal teas.

Now I'll be honest, I'm an herbal tea newbie. This is just not something I've drunk much of, so I don't have any particular expectations. However, I was surprised at not only how easy it is to make herbal tea, but how many herbs can be used in it, including many herbs typically found in even the smallest herb garden.

I'll mention specific herbs to use at the end of this post, but for right now, here's the basics of herbal tea making.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Time: 2-10 min, depending on amount

Fresh citrus - lemons, limes, oranges. Grapefruit might work, but it'd be iffier
A sweetener of some sort - I've used sugar in the past, when I could have it, but honey, date sugar, rice syrup, coconut sugar, maple syrup or sugar, yacon syrup - they'd all work, with slightly different flavors. Just remember that most of these have processing, which can introduce cc from certain allergens.For the those who haven't found a safe sweetener yet, you might want to try and grow your own stevia. Take the leaves, dry and crumble them up, and they work great! Or steep fresh leaves in hot water, let it cool, and then use that water for this recipe.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Faux Mexican Baked Beans

Time: 1-2 hours (plus overnight soaking time)
(5 min prep/1-2 hours hands-free cooking) (Add 8 hours for soaking, if needed)

1/2-1 pound dried beans - I tried Sangre de Toro beans (yeah, woo hoo, pretentious me), but black beans, kidney beans, or pinto beans would probably do great, too.
1-3 sweet potato
a fat of some kind - lard, oil, whatever you got. Optional, if you really can't have any.
sea salt to taste
seasonings to taste (I used crushed chile peppers, just a bit)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Snack: Apples

Time: 5-30 min, depending on which snack

Main Ingredient:
Apples, any variety

Snack Ideas:
1. Eat the apple. ;-)

2. Slice up apple, arrange on a plate, and serve with various dips like homemade nut butters, honey or other liquid sweetener, cooked and sweetened fruit that's tart, cream. Additions like cinnamon, nutmeg, and fresh, grated ginger work well, if tolerated.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Learning about my food: Sweet Potatoes

Today, Sweet Potatoes.
First, let's take care of all that naming mix-up.
The Yam vs. the Sweet Potato.

In most of the world outside the USA, 'yam' and 'sweet potato' are used in reference to two completely different plants. The yam, or 'true yam,' is an African/Asian native from the monocot family Dioscoreaceae. The sweet potato is a dicotyledon from the family Convolvulaceae. Both are root veggies, though. Both are edible. The true yam is typically bigger and sweeter, and may be found in African specialty grocery stores, sometimes, in the USA.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How-to: Roasted peppers

Time: 1 hour...maybe. It takes me a few hours, but it's greatly dependent on amounts.

bell peppers or chile peppers (allergic folks, check on waxes and coatings)
(optional) oil with a flavor that won't clash with the peppers

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pecan milk

Time: 8 hours 10 min
(8 hours soaking/ 10 min prep) Or, if you're like me, 40 hours, since I forgot I was doing this for over a day. Oops.

1 1/4 cup raw pecans, chopped
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. sea salt
agave syrup to taste (optional)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Attempted Sweet Potater Tots - FAIL

My attempt to make sweet potater tots based on the potater tot recipe. Uh, yeah, that didn't do so great.

So let's review the failure, shall I?

For ingredients, I used a japanese sweet potato (I like these better for frying than regular garnet jewell yams or pink sweet potatoes.). Then I grated about a 1 inch peeled piece of fresh ginger and added that, along with a teeny bit of salt. The flavor of this was FREAKING AWESOME. Very sweet with a little flowery smell to it from the ginger. No real heat added. I loved the small pieces that weren't burnt beyond recognition.

To make it, I grated the sweet potato, squeezed out the water, mixed it with the other ingredients and then cooked it at the same temp and for the same times as the Potater Tots recipe.

And here's how that FAILED.
1. Squeezing the water out - Without the extra moisture and no added starch or binders, these did not in any way stay together like the potatoes. With the potatoes, once a tot has been cooked on one side, they stay together. Sweet potato shreds stayed in shreds completely separated so that turning them over was like flipping hashbrowns. On a second attempt, I didn't squeeze the water out, and that worked better.

2. The temperature -  Hooo baby, not a good idea. Pan on high? Burned the sweet potatoes. Oven at 425F for 8-10 minutes? Holy crud did that burn the sweet potatoes. I had little blacked pucks with a little sweet potato in the middle. Ouch. One thing that helped - turned stove down a little and put the tots on with a lid for 1 minute, to help steam the middle a little. That did have them cooked by the end. Turned down the oven heat to 400 for the second batch, and that worked better, but still burned. We'll have to see the next time I get these. Or I'll try it with regular sweet potatoes and see if it's different.

My Conclusion:
I think this recipe could become something really tasty and great, but it still needs some playing with (or rather, I need to learn how to treat the ingredients so I don't destroy them like Godzilla stomping on a Sweet Potato city). I think I'll have to research how to fry sweet potatoes and see if there are any suggestions from other cooks for temperatures and types of cooking that work best with these root veggies.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Potater Tots 2

Potater Tots part 2. They look much better now, eh?

After making Potater Tots a few more times, some words of potater wisdom for an improved recipe.

Ingredients Changes:
1. Using garlic as seasoning, not such a good idea. If it's on the inside of the potatoes, it's fine, but any that happens to be the outside and comes into contact with the pan burns like mad and is very bitter. Which, uh, is kind of a 'duh' moment, when I think about how garlic usually reacts to high heat. I'm going to try and make some of these with chopped garlic or homemade garlic paste in the middle and see if it works.

2. Less olive oil results in slightly burnt potato on the stove setting needed to crisp the potatoes up while on the stove-top. A little more oil than 4 Tb and the potato tends to be more browned and crispy.

Directions Changes:
1. Squeezing out the water with towels or paper towels is annoying. Towels get stained and I have to wash them - yes, I'm lazy, so less work is better, as far as I'm concerned. Paper towels can sometimes be a corn hazard, if the paper towel company adds corn starch to the paper towels. Or at least, I hear this happens to both paper towels and paper plates, to help prevent sticking, but haven't checked it out myself. However, getting a handful of grated potato and squeezing out the water by hand, over the sink or a bowl, works great. It gets the moisture out, but leaves enough to help it stick together a little bit, which I need since I'm not using anything else to help it stick.

And that concludes revamping this recipe, woo hoo!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Homemade Nut butters

Time: 15 min. total

nuts (I've tried this with pecans and peanuts. Check nut processing if you have peanut allergy concerns)
(optional, for pecans only) Coconut oil, check processing for allergen concerns
salt to taste

A food processor, grain/nut grinder, or lots more time and a big mortar and pestle

1. Get some nuts, add a little salt to taste, and grind those puppies up in the food processor or whatever you've got, until they are mash. Ta-da - Nut butter! My food processor can only handle a small amount of nuts at a time, much less than other, less binding foods, so you may want to check with your processor recommendations. Also, blenders typically don't do too great with this (although I understand a Vitamix does all right).

2. If you are making peanut butter, you need to use roasted or steamed peanuts for it (tastes rather nasty with raw peanuts, IMO). I hear that spanish peanuts do fairly well for this, as they have a high oil content. The most commonly used peanut for commercial peanutbutter is something called the florunner, but as I have yet to see something with that name for sale, I'm thinking the spanish peanut is a better bet. I just used a regular ole peanut which I shelled myself, and it did all right. I added a couple pinches of salt. It was a bit drier than the peanutbutter I'm used to, but we didn't really care.

3. If you are making pecan butter, my attempts came up with a fairly dry nut butter. It never gets that creamy for me. In fact, in the processor, it just made fluffy little cous-cous-like balls of mashed pecan. I had to mush it myself to make it come together. However, when I didn't add salt to the pecan butter, I was able to add some coconut oil after it was scooped out of the processor, and that added both a nice texture and a pleasant scent, too.

4. Serve this as a dip for fruit or veggies, like apples or celery.

Feeds: Completely dependent on how many nuts you use. About 1/3 pound of pecans made maybe a pint of nut butter. Didn't measure the peanuts though, sorry!

What worked: Both of these nut butters did well as dips for apples, which is really about all we used them for. Might do well added to some kind of peanutbutter soup, too. Might do better as a thickener for that than standard nut butters

What didn't work: Rather plain, as I added nothing but the nuts, salt, or that coconut oil for pecans. I forgot that I roasted the peanuts for this butter, so I used raw pecans rather than roasted. Wondering if roasted pecans would have a more robust taste...whatever that is, LOL. Both of these nut butters would have to have a much higher oil content, or outside oil added, to work as a good spread for something. A neutral or flavored oil would probably work, but I only had olive and coconut, so I figured coconut was less nasty with nuts.

What would improve it: I'm thinking that a little investigation on some herbs and flavorings might really help this out some. Maybe a maple pecan butter or a cocoa peanut butter might be awesome...if I could have maple or cocoa, sigh. But if you can, you should totally go for it! Also, I'm reading a couple places that the fluffy ball stage comes before the smooth, buttery stage, so perhaps I have not been processing my nuts enough, here. We'll have to mess around for a bit to check on it.

And lastly, I know, I know, coconut oil is not usually a staple for a lot of us, nor is it cheap. But this totally works without that oil, I just shoved it on there because I sometimes add it.

LOW HISTAMINE - For lists that accept nuts, this should be low histamine compliant. However, some lists don't allow nuts, or only allow certain ones, so treat with caution.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Spicy Tomato Soup

Time: 35 min. total (add 3 hours if letting veggie noodles sit. Add 30-60 min. more if you need to make the tomato sauce, too)
(10 min. prep/ 3 hours veggie setting time (can be skipped)/ 25 min. cook)

Plain tomato sauce, as long as it's thin rather than thick (add water to thin, if too thick)
browned ground beef
zucchini, peeled and cubed
zucchini, peeled with a julienne peeler to form noodles (ideally, let sit 3 hours uncovered in fridge)
jalapeño peppers, to taste (I use 1-2 per serving)
Fresh italian oregano, German thyme, marjoram, and golden sage, chopped fine
sea salt to taste

1. Put all ingredients except the zucchini noodles into a pot. Adjust amounts to taste.

2. Heat to a simmer and keep it there for about 15 minutes. Add the zucchini noodles and cook until desired texture, usually 3-5 minutes. Can be served immediately, but I liked it better the next day after the flavors blended a bit more.

Feeds: Depends on the amounts used. I used 1/4 lb ground beef, 1-2 cups sauce, 1/2 small zucchini plus 1 small julienned zucchini, 2 peppers, and a handful of herbs. That amount made 2 servings.

Shauna's Notes:
Inspired by: The lovely Nicole for showing me an easy way to make plain tomato sauce, plus a hungry belly and a limited pantry before market day

What worked: The taste was great, spicy and tangy. Texture was good for a soup, maybe even a bit thicker than expected. Quite pretty, too.

What didn't work: Nothing, really. It was nice.

What could be done to improve it: A garnish might be rather pretty, which I didn't have time or energy to do this time. The zucchini noodles might look prettier if I got a larger zucchini, as my small one ended up with very short noodles.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Easy Tomato Sauce

Time: 35-90 min. total - greatly dependent on quantity
(15-30 min. prep/ 20-60 min cook)

Cooking tomatoes and fresh herbs for the sauce

Easy Tomato Sauce

Lots and lots of ripe tomatoes, chopped coarsely
sea salt to taste
fresh herbs (I used a handful of italian or greek oregano plus a little marjoram and a sprig of sage, this time. Basil is good too.)

1. Put the chopped tomatoes and sea salt into a pot and cook at a simmer or low boil. I usually use a low boil.

2. Keep cooking until the skins begin to peel away from the tomatoes a little. The tomatoes will look mushy at this point. Not a big deal if you cook it a bit too long, though. This usually takes me about, oh, 15-25 minutes, maybe? I don't keep track really well, honestly.

3. Turn off the heat and put the tomatoes into a blender to purée them until smooth. Put them back into the pot and continue to simmer. Too high a heat will burn the tomato sauce, but too low and it takes WAY too long for it to thicken up. Kind of a judgement call on the temp, here.

4. Add chopped, fresh herbs to taste. Basil and oregano go well, usually, for a first try. Continue to simmer until the sauce reaches desired thickness and sweetness. The longer it boils, the sweeter it gets. I understand if you want tomato paste, just keep boiling until it's extra-thick (haven't tried that yet, though).

Feeds: How much you make is affected by how many tomatoes you use, obviously. About 8 vine ripened tomatoes plus 3-4 larger heirloom tomatoes made 3-4 pints of sauce by the time it boiled down to the thickness I wanted.

Shauna's Notes:
Inspired by: My friend Nicole, who took pity on my sad lack of cooking skills and showed me how to make a quick, GF tomato sauce.

What worked and didn't work: It's a nice sauce as long as you have enough time to cook it. If you cook it for too short a time, the tomato flavor is less sweet and more of that tart, raw-ish tomato taste, which my son hates. Also, as the cooking time affects the thickness, this can take a while to get it as thick as you may desire. So far, haven't had a bad herb combination, but more is almost always better. My sauce does contain seeds as I don't leave those out.

What would improve it: This is a really basic sauce, which I typically spruce up when I actually use it in a recipe. For the most basic sauce, I don't even add the herbs. I like to make a big batch like this because then I can add whatever type of flavor-style I want, like for Italian dishes or Mexican ones.

Herb combinations:

  1. Marjoram, winter savory, and greek oregano
  2. Marjoram, winter savory, and rosemary
  3.  For Italian spaghetti-style sauce, I usually add chopped zucchini, bell peppers, hot peppers, garlic, sometimes chopped kale or swiss chard, and meat. I've also used chopped carrots, as well.
  4.  For Mexican sauces, I often add onion, garlic, mexican sage, greek oregano. I'll frequently add chopped cilantro and sliced avocado on top, after it's done cooking.

3/7/13 - Since first making this, I have had the best success using suggestions from some lovely folks at my farmer's market. Now, instead of regular ripe tomatoes, I get some over-ripe and some under-ripe tomatoes - heirloom ones worked awesome, but mixing them with regular tomatoes is probably more affordable. Then, I cooked them until the tomatoes were mush, then blended them up and then kept cooking.  This made a much sweeter tomatoes sauce, both the over-ripe tomatoes and the longer cooking time. Really quite lovely.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Potater Tots

My first attempts - not half as nice looking as my later attempts, post-tweaking.

Time: Approx. 30 min. total
(15 min. prep/11-12 min. cook)

2 russet potatoes
1-2 finally chopped green onions, green and white parts
1-2 cloves of garlic
3-4 Tb. olive oil
salt to taste
Note - any herbs you like with potatoes could be substituted here, as long as you use a large enough amount. Garlic alone is great, and so is green onion alone.

Equipment needed
couple of glass plates
Iron skillet (or something else that can be used both on the stove top and in the oven)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2.Grate the potato, skin and all, using two different sizes on the grater. The teeny, tiny grater size and the regular grater size (medium? Large? Not sure what it's called). You want about a 1:2 ratio of tiny gratings to regular gratings. Mix these together until the tiny shreddings are mixed evenly through the grated potato pieces.

3. Put these in a big pile of paper towels or a non-fuzzy tea towel and squeeze out most of the water. You want to leave a little bit, though. Just squeeze until no more water is coming out after one pass through.

4. Put the iron skillet on the stove top and set the temperature to medium high to heat as you form your potater tots. If you think the forming will take longer, you may want to wait on heating it up, though.

5. Place grated potato in a bowl and mix with the green onions, garlic, and salt, or whatever seasonings you are using. Get out a plate or two. Taking a small amount of potato shreds at a time, on the plate form them into small cakes about 2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. Basisally, squish the potato in your hand, drop it on the plate, and then press hard against the plate until it is the right size and shape. The won't hold together great; that's expected.

3. Add 3-4 Tb. of oil to the skillet to heat. This can be done with about 2 Tb of oil, but a little more oil makes a crispier outside, the few times I've done it. Or rather, the few times the kids helped and we got more oil than intended. :-D

4. To move the tots to the skillet, get the plate over the skillet, as close as you can to it, and just slide them off onto the skillet. When we've done it this way, we've managed to keep the tots keep their shape as long as the plate was very close to the skillet while sliding them in.

5. Fry them on the skillet for 1-2 minutes, until it's nice and crispy brown on the bottom. If there is more oil, the entire bottom with be nicely brown. If there's less oil used, the browning will be more spotty. Flip them over and cook for another minute or so, just browning a little bit. Then take the entire skillet and move it to the oven. Cook for 8 minutes or until done.

Makes about 24-27 'tots'

Shauna's Notes:
Inspired by: The idea of using the iron skillet is all Gluten Free Girl, from her Potato Pancakes recipe, as well as the idea for using green onions rather than regular onions (Yeah, don't try to use those. Not so great). Using different sized shreds is actually from a complete mis-reading of her recipe the second time I tried it when attempting her potato pancakes, which has turned out to be a great mistake.

What worked: The taste is awesome, a bit greasy (that's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned), and totally makes me think of the Ore-Ida Tater Tots that I can't eat any more. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. I like it better with both garlic and onion, but onion is fine on its own. I can't use any starches, which was a problem when I was first fiddling with this, but the different sized gratings seem to help keep the tots together somewhat. As long as the smaller size is very small, that is.

What didn't work: The kids liked the little potater tots all right, but have expressed a preference for the larger ones, more like the size used in the Gluten Free Gal's potato pancake recipe. They enjoy more soft potatoes. I actually preferred the little ones, but that could be nostalgia talking as well as the fact that this is my 'allergy challenge' and I might not have the chance to eat these again any time soon if it doesn't work out. I tried 2 potatoes this time simply because that's as many as I had today, but more would be better. The tots were eaten very fast and the kids were hungry for more.

What could be done to improve it: If there is a pepper you can use, that would be tasty, I think. Something added to help the grated potato hold together would likely make the entire tot easier to handle, but I don't know how it affects the texture and taste. Probably not by too much, considering this is what the Gluten Free Gal does and she has tasty looking stuff.

Overall, this recipe gets a thumbs up.

Changes and suggestions to this recipe can be found: here.

SULFITE FREE  - Many folks with sulfite sensitivity can't have onions or garlic, so just omit it. I like to add chile peppers or other herbs, instead.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spicy Acorn Squash and Apple Soup

Time: Approx. 40 min. total (1 hour 40 min. if need to make veggie broth)
(10 min. prep/ 30 min. cook) (1 hour to make broth, if not pre-made)

1 small apple, peeled and cut into slices
1 small acorn squash, cut in half and seeds scooped out
1-2 green onions, the white parts only
1/2-1 cup broth (I used a veggie broth leftover from boiling yellow squash, that I cooked down)
3 dried tepin chile peppers
1-3 leaves dried golden sage
salt to taste
1-3 Tb of apple cider vinegar (mine is homemade, without added yeast, and it is HARSH. Lemon juice would work)

1. Get a microwave safe dish, fill 1/4 inch with water, and place squash cut-side down in the dish. Nuke that puppy. It took me 8 minutes for this squash, but it was exceptionally small. The outside rind should be very soft and depress easily to the finger when done. Remove and let cool a smidge.
2. Put the apples in a glass bowl, add a couple teaspoons water, and nuke this too. Maybe 30-60 seconds.
3. Scoop out the acorn squash flesh, then put the flesh, the apple, the onion, the broth, and the salt into a blender and blend that puppy until it's a nice consistency.
4. Put on the stove in a saucepan and heat to a simmer. Add the chile peppers and sage. Cook until you like the smell and the texture, about 15 minutes for mine. When you turn off the heat, add the vinegar to taste. Give it a minute to blend before you taste. I don't know why, but it always seems to get just a touch more sour after it's been sitting in the soup for a while, so it's good to be cautious, at first, if you don't want to end up with Vinegar Soup (it's not pretty).

Shauna's Notes:
Inspired by: Having an acorn squash about to bite the dust and remembering that there are an awful lot of recipes with apples, onions, and butternut squash that I've seen around. Then remembering that something sour is often added at the end of a vegetable purée soup. Otherwise, it was just being hungry and not having a lot of food on hand until market day.

What worked: The color was really nice - a bright yellow (this acorn squash had yellow flesh) with flecks of bright red from the chiles. I like the sour tang afterward. It also worked really nice when I added cooked, ground bison meat (with garlic) to it for leftovers the next day. The chile gave it a nice kick, and I liked the small hint of sage, as well.

What didn't work: I didn't blend it well enough so I ended up with watery-with-pulpy-bits rather than a nice purée. The squash being older probably didn't help. The flavor wasn't amazing or anything, just edible without making a face at the thing. The squash was also rather bland, so I think the flavor might have been better with a more flavorful squash. No real flavor difference from the apple, that I could tell.

What could be done to improve it: Something a bit creamy or bitter might have gone nicely with it, or a stronger broth. Maybe. I'm still trying to figure out what goes well together, and can't say that it comes naturally to me at all. If I could have dairy, I think I would have added a strong, plain yogurt rather than the vinegar at the end, or when it was being served, perhaps. Roasting the squash instead of nuking it might have added more depth to the squash taste, too (I think.).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Starting from Scratch - literally

The me of 10 years ago: mom of one and a self-taught mediocre cook of traditional American fair with a Mexican, Asian, or Indian meal thrown in here and there.

The me of 9 years ago: mom of two, still a mediocre cook, but one who had to find brand new recipes for all my traditional American, Mexican, Asian, or Indian meals so that they didn't include anything with dairy, for baby #2. Asian food became much more of a staple.

The me of now: mom of two, still working on that cooking, but now have a number of new foods to avoid, so it's back to the drawing board for the recipes again. Or in other words...I'm really, really tired. ;-D

Which brings me to this blog. I hope to keep track of what recipes I've come up with, at this point. Some may be good, some may be really bad (Trust, some will be. I have no doubts on this score), but I'm learning as I go.

The challenge is avoiding all the foods I or my children can't have. We only have a few food issues, but they're with ingredients that are in nearly all processed food, and we're sensitive enough to have trouble with ingredients derived from these foods or contaminated from these foods, too. Gluten, corn, dairy, eggs, soy, sugarcane - all on the No list. Plus a few others.

I used to think cooking from scratch meant I didn't use a mix. I've adjusted that waaaay down. I've got an olive oil and a sea salt as my two processed foods. Anything else? Well, for the moment I get to make it, whether it's vinegar or tomato paste.

So this blog is the blog of cooking from scratch, from the perspective of someone who is having to learn how to cook, for the third time in a row. A bit nerve wracking, honestly. I didn't learn it all that well the first two times!

But, well, third time's the charm, right?