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Pumpkin Spice Latte

October 26, 2011

This is a blissful drink for cool fall mornings and evenings.  *Real* pumpkin, chai, creamy, frothy goodness – what’s not to love?  


(Yes, it’s a railroad museum mug.  It happens to be my favorite!)


Pumpkin Spice Latte

 2 cups of milk (see note below for vegan option!)
4 generous tbsp pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
2+ tsp maple syrup (to taste)
2 spiced chai tea bags (for a caffiene free option, Trader Joes Ruby Red Chai, made with rooibos instead of tea, is perfect)
1 1/2 cups boiling water

Boil the water and add tea bags.  You want to brew the tea pretty strong – 5 minutes or so for “real” tea, a little longer for rooibos.  While the tea is brewing, add all the other ingredients to a saucepan and warm gently.  You don’t want to boil it – just hot enough to drink is fine.  Add the brewed tea, and let it all steep together for a couple more minutes.  Remove tea bags and cinnamon stick if you used one. 

Blend very carefully (it’s hot!) with a hand mixer or pour carefully into a blender and blend on low.  To get a nice froth, tilt the stick blender very slowly away from your body until it pulls a little air into the blades along with the milk.  Do this while blending – if you stop and start it while it is tilted like this, you will spray hot latte all over.  Makes 2 very generous lattes. 

Blending will give you a perfect froth on top, and will puree the pumpkin a little more, so that the drink will be as smooth as silk.  If you are using homebaked pumpkin, you definately want to blend.  We have had it unblended when camping with canned pumpkin puree, and there was a little more “texture” from the pumpkin, and no froth, but it was still very good. 

Vegan Option:  We usually make this with local raw milk, but we have friends who are vegan.  Soy milk works quite well in this recipe.  If you avoid soy, a mix of Almond Milk and Coconut Milk (or even straight coconut milk) can also be used.  It won’t froth quite as much when blended.  My personal preference is 1 1/2 cups of almond milk, and 1/2 cup coconut milk.

Different versions of this recipe have been floating around the interwebz for a while.  This is just my take on those.


Crispy Lemon Kale Chips

January 24, 2011

Up until about 3 years ago, I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t think that kale was actually edible. I thought it was simply used as a buffet table garnish. And perhaps added to juice concoctions by those Jack LaLane types. Now it is a staple food at our house, and, surprisingly enough, one that everyone seems to agree about – it’s really good!

I love kale sauteed with garlic, but for my kids and my husband, roasted until perfectly crisp is the winner.

Crispy Lemon Kale Chips

2 small bunches or 1 large bunch of kale (and variety works!)
2 Tbsp coconut oil or butter (when we use butter for this, we use pastured butter for the higher vitamin content, and, you know, happier cows)
Lots of minced garlic – 3-4 cloves at least.
Juice of one lemon (meyer lemons are my favorite!)
Salt to taste (go easy on the sale – these are thin)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash the kale really, really well. It is often sandy, and that is not fun! Break the kale leaves off of the tougher spines. Discard the spines.
Place the kale leaves into a large lasagna pan or on a large sheet pan. You don’t want them layered too deep, or they won’t get crispy.
Melt the butter or coconut oil, and add the remaining ingredients to the melted butter or oil, except for the salt. Mix well.
Pour the seasoned butter/oil mixture over the kale, and toss to coat all the leaves well.
Place the pan in the preheated oven and roast for 15-20 minutes. Midway through cooking, mix well, to ensure even cooking, otherwise some of your kale chips will be burnt and others will not be crispy.
Salt lightly, and enjoy.

Two Ugly Little Words

January 23, 2011

Cross Contamination.

A few months ago someone asked me “What’s the big deal with the bulk bins at the co-op?” How can I explain that when I walk anywhere near the bulk bin area (which is, in general, tidy and well organized) I cringe. I pull my son away from that side of the aisle. There is a fine white dust that covers everything.

It is on the floor, it is on the flat surfaces of evey bin. And I *know* that it gets on all the scoops, that then go into the bins, and it covers the food inside. That white dust, I can all but guarantee, is largely from the flours that are stored and bagged with only reasonable care (and sometimes spilled, I am sure) in that same bulk bin area. Spelt, barley, red wheat, white wheat, unbleached white, rye – it’s a laundry list of what may as well be poison to our son. And the dust is everywhere.

We have the same problem at the houses of friends and family. They try to clean, and often to an absolutely awesome job. But they aren’t superheros, and we can only ask for so much. It is decidedly rude to show up at your friend’s house and scrub down their tables and countertops, rewash their dishes, and supervise their food prep. And even if you do manage everything to control every possible variable (you think), something may escape you.

After one visit to my parents, where my son at pizza that I had prepared and sliced at home, one a paper plate, sitting at a triple washed table, when he still got sick, we finally traced back in our minds what had happened. He was interested in what was happening in the room behind him. He kept spinning in his chair, and setting his pizza on the chair next to him. It was a generally clean wooden chair…but it sat near the toaster. I didn’t even think to wash the chair.

I wonder:

If you went to a neighbor’s house, and as you walked in you noticed boxes of rat poison in their dining room, you asked your neighbor “So, what’s the deal with the rat poison, anyway?”

“Oh”, replied your neighbor. “Yeah, so we had a little rat problem. For some reason they were all over the dining room table, day and night. So we decided to fight fire with fire, and we put the poison where the rats were. It worked great!”

She then notices you eyeing the table with uncertainty. You don’t want to ask, because you don’t want to be rude, but you are pretty sure you see some granules in the cracks. And are those smudges of powder that you see on the finish, or are they just streaks?

“Oh, don’t worry! I washed it off really well!”

So the question of the day is:

Do you eat your dinner at that table? Would you worry?

Lentil Soup

January 21, 2011

We use our HUGE crock pot – 6 or 7 quart size, or our even bigger stock pot for this. If you are using a smaller pot, you will need to adjust the amounts of ingredients accordingly. In general, and depending on how thick and “lentily” you want your soup, you want your pot *at the most* around 1/6 full of lentils and maybe just over halfway full of water when you start out. The lentils will expand to about double their volume…and you want room for all the veggies! This soup freezes well.

Lentil Soup

3 cups mixed lentils – I like a mix of the “regular” yellowish lentils, green lentils and orange lentils.

1 cup black lentils – you have to go to an indian food store to get these usually, although I’ve found them randomly at WalMart in some areas. They are important – they have a really lovely, rich, earthy flavor that you don’t get with the other lentils. If you can’t find them, make it without, but it’s worth it to look.

1/2 cup brown rice
4 potatos, diced
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 medium sized carrots, diced
4 sticks of celery, diced
1 jar/can of tomato sauce or diced stewed tomatos
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper

Other Veggies – I add a mix of vegetables, depending on what I happen to have available at the time:
1 lb green beans, chopped (can use frozen)
3 small zuchinni, chopped into small pieces
2 medium sized leeks, white & light green parts diced
1/4 head of cabbage, diced
1 cup spinich leaves, chopped coarsely
2 cups crimini mushrooms, chopped
…or whatever you have in your kitchen that sounds yummy!

Rinse lentils well (like 3-4 times or until no more sand is in your rinse bowl), and soak if shorter cooking time is desired. When I am camping, I soak the lentils all day, and then they cook in about 30 min.

Add lentils, rice, and fill pot about half full of water. This is probably about 3 quarts of water in my crock pot. Add potatos, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, tomato sauce, smoked paprika and salt and pepper, and cook until lentils are almost done. In a crock pot with unsoaked lentils this will take about 4 hours, on the stove top with unsoaked lentils it will take about 1 hour.

Add remaining vegetables and cook until tender.

Almond Meal Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Coconut Cookies *or* Oatmeal Coconut Raisin Cookies

January 17, 2011

A gluten free healthy(er) version of one of my old favorites! These cookies are chewy and teriffically low carb (for a cookie without artificial sweetners, anyway) due to the almond meal. And, best of all, unlike many gluten free baked goods, these are neither dry or gummy, and they store fairly well.

One of these days I promise I will add a picture. I promise. I just have to get to them with the camera…before they are all gone!

Almond Meal Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Coconut Cookies *or* Oatmeal Coconut Raisin Cookies

2 cups Almond Meal, packed firmly (we find ours at Trader Joes)
1/2 cup gluten free oats
1/3 cup unsweetened cocount, anything but the huge flakes will work
1/2 tsp baking soda
10 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

3/4 cup gluten free chocolate chips – the darker the better
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.
2. Stir together melted butter, vanilla and honey in a smaller bowl. If you honey is crysalized you may need to heat this mixture to mix well.
3. Combine wet ingredients with dry. Mix well.
4. Add chocolate chips or raisins.
5. Mix until combined. Mixture will be a little wetter than traditional cookie dough.
6. Drop from spoon onto cookie sheet lined with parchment to form 1 – 1 1/2 inch balls, and press slightly flat with the back of the spoon or with the greased bottom of a cup – they should be about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. They don’t spread much while cooking, so this step is important.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-12 min. Cookies are done when they are lightly brown on the bottom. You’ll be leaving them on the pan for a few minutes, so they will cook a bit more even after you remove from the oven.
8. Cool for about 10 min on the pan before transferring to a plate or wire rack to cool.

This is my daughter

January 17, 2011


She is not-quite-two, and in this picture she had chosen her own outfit. She is a girl with strong opinions on clothing and hair accessories, and she decided that this to-big shirt was one of the prettiest desses she’d ever worn, and refused to change. So…we went with it!

People wonder (including us) if she has celiac disease like our son. The short answer is that we probably won’t know until she is an older teen or an adult. Our house is gluten free, and when we eat out we all eat gluten free as well – too many chances for error when half the table is covered in crumbs and kids are being kids. So until she is old enough to go out somewhere and order food for herself, or until she has her own kitchen, she will probably not eat gluten foods in any real quantity.

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake/Cupcake Recipe

January 15, 2011


One of the most important things to me, is that I want my son, who gets told “no” so often with foods, to not feel left out of the party on special occasions. I want him to be able to sit and eat cake with all the other kids and have his be just as good. Maybe better.  Definately at least good enough that no one would ever suspect that it was gluten gluten free…and egg free…and made with whole grain and high protein flours.


This recipe is best if you make it the day before. Bean flours tend to be gummy right out of the oven. If I am making it the day of, I replace half of the Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour (which is mostly bean flour) with a mix of Millet, Sorghum and Coconut flours. The resulting cake is a little richer and denser, not quite as light and fluffy, but decidedly non-gummy.

One of my favorite survival tips is to freeze a couple cupcakes when you make a batch – frosted and ready to go.  Yogurt, cottage cheese or margerine tubs are good containers to freeze in.  Then if you make last minute party plans, you can grab a frozen treat and go. 

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake/Cupcakes

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
1 cup Brown Rice Flour
1 1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp salt

10 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350, line muffin tins with cupcake liners if desired. Spray with nonstick spray (yes, the muffin liners).

Sift together dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

Make 1 large well in the dry mixture (for the oil) and 2 smaller wells (for vinegar and vanilla). Pour water over the top of it all, and mix until it is mostly smooth, but don’t overmix.

Fill 24 muffin tins or 2 8 inch round or square cake pans and place in oven. Bake at 350 for 20 min for muffins, 30 min for cake. Knife inserted in center should come out clean or with just crumbs when done.

Remove from pan and cool on a rack as soon as they are cool enough to handle. They are sometimes a little overly moist the day they are made, but the texture improves significantly if you make the day ahead.

Recipe makes 24 cupcakes or two 8 inch cakes.

Frost with your favorite frosting. Cream cheese frosting is my favorite with these, and the cake is delicious with fresh raspberries.