Category Archives: Vegan

Things around my home (NOT baby-related — mostly) this last week.

  • When I roast beets, I don’t trim them quite as much as the linked-to instructions. I trim the roots just a bit, and leave 1/2″ of the tops on. I put about 1/2″ water in the dish, and cover tightly with aluminum foil, then roast at 425 degrees for 30-45 minutes, and leave in the oven for about another hour. Then, I cool them at room temperature, and slip the skins off under running tap water.

    When I make a dish for the family to eat, it’s always my hope that EVERYONE will like it.  Something that all seven people at the dinner table will adore has proven rather elusive, however.  I now see this as a good thing, mostly.  For instance:  I made sauerkraut earlier this week, and it is done fermenting today.  My 13-year-old son has been highly anticipating its readiness, and is already preparing his sandwich in his mind.  He mentioned that he wishes we had ham, but we don’t.  So, he’ll have turkey, mustard, and sauerkraut.  Not everyone else is so excited.  🙂 But, other family members are expectant of different foods.  I am roasting six bunches of small beets right now.  My three youngest children are REALLY excited about that.  I have received beets a number of times these last few months from our CSA and only ONCE have the beets actually made it into a dish.  The rest of the time, after I roast the beets, peeling them becomes somewhat of a party, with everyone popping cooled, newly-peeled baby beets into their mouths, just like candy.  I can’t say that I’m disappointed that not everyone feels this way about beets.  My husband can’t stand them.  My older two boys are rather ambivalent.  The rest of us ADORE beets.

  • Martin in the insulation suitOur new home is an older one, and it is an endless project.  We knew it needed more insulation, as some of it was missing in wide swaths, some was thin and compacted, and some of it had shrunk away from ceiling joists and the outer walls.  When we got our electricity bill for the time spanning from mid-April to mid-May, and the stinkin’ thing was north of $350 (and that is with our air conditioner thermostat set at 80-81°), that was a wake-up call.  Last weekend, my husband Martin, after quite a bit of research (wet-blown cellulose?  dry-blown fiberglass?  fiberglass batts?  do-it-yourself?  or hire it out??) he decided to do dry-blown fiberglass, which requires a big machine.  The blowing machine is rentable from Home Depot, or free with the purchase of enough packages of insulation.  It was quite an undertaking.  He purchased a head-to-toe coverall, and with goggles, mask, and gloves, ventured up into the attic.  Actually, we have two attics, as part of our home is single-level, and part of it has two stories.  It was hours of work.  Our oldest son, Ethan, stayed at the ladder and fed the tube up into the attic as needed, and relayed hollered messages to our next-oldest son, Grant, who was feeding the batts into the blowing machine and turning it off and on as needed.  At Home Depot, they supplied a cardboard measurement stick, telling us how deeply the insulation needed to be to supply a certain R-value.  “How deep does it need to be again to reach R-38?” he asked Grant.  “Thirteen inches,” Grant replied.  “Good.  We have about R-100 in most places,” Martin announced with satisfaction.
  • The one we have is the 2011 model of this same washer — very similar. We purchased it in July 2012 at a place which sells “new-old stock” and I’m *REALLY* pleased that we decided to purchase from there, as it came with the manufacturer’s warranty, rather than the scratch-and-dent place we’d been considering, which was less expensive, but with no warranty.

    In the above pic, you can see a bit of the washing machine, with which I have a love-hate relationship.  It is an LG, and when it works, it works WONDERFULLY.  However, yesterday, we had the LG repairman out for the SEVENTH TIME in less than a year.  Seven times.  Granted, his visit on Friday was a follow-up from Tuesday’s assessment, and he was installing the parts that he had ordered on Tuesday.  And two of the previous visits were — umm… — due to user error, as a quarter coin had slipped into the wash undetected, and had lodged in such a way that it was keeping the drum from agitating.  BUT, this washing machine was the most expensive purchase my husband and I had ever made, barring cars and houses, in our 18 years of marriage, and frankly, I didn’t expect the thing to be a lemon.  Or, I don’t know if it’s a lemon, exactly, but it just doesn’t seem that such a high-tech and expensive item should continually require repairs.  So now, we are considering purchasing an extended warranty.  I have kind of a moral objection to extended warranties.  My thoughts are, “BUILD IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND AN EXTENDED WARRANTY ISN’T NECESSARY!!!”  And yes, this is said while shouting.  I’m also kind of upset, because, before purchasing this unit, I did a lot of research to find the right product for our lots-o’-laundry family.  This washer had glowing reviews and was universally touted as a heavy-duty, GIANT-capacity washer with few problems, certainly less problematic than a front-loader.  However, the LG guy has been refreshingly honest with some information that I wish I had access to before I purchased.  He has mentioned that, while the unit is power- and water-efficient, it actually runs better on the cycles which use more water (mostly the “Bulky/Bedding” setting).  Also, the heating element in the washing machine, which allows the water to heat up super-hot (in the “Sanitary” cycle) especially for whites and cloth diapers, isn’t particularly powerful, and it takes a LONG time to actually heat the water.  In the meantime, as I had observed, the washer just slowly spins, waiting and waiting and waiting for the water to heat, automatically adding MORE time to a cycle that is already THREE HOURS long.  I guess I’m not the only LG customer who feels rather crabby about this, because just last night, I saw an ad for a new LG washer that heats up super-hot, but has an incredibly short cycle time.  Hmph.

  • Another thing I had wanted to add to our home is a clothesline.  In our last home, the HOA forbade them.  Even in the back yard.  This house has no HOA and plenty of space.  However, my husband wants to do the clothesline “right”, on its own separate poles, sunk in concrete, on the side of the yard, out of sight.  But… that has been added to the very long list of to-dos, here in the house, and we have now been here ten months with no clothesline.  So, last weekend, I procured four eye bolts and screwed them right into two trees in our back yard, and strung up some perfect nylon rope, handily left in the shed by the previous occupants.  Voila!  Clothesline.  So, for a little more than a week now, I have been hanging up about 95% of our family’s laundry — everything except my husband’s clothes and the bath towels.  Our handy new LG dryer (with which we have had no problems) has a great moisture sensor, and the few items from each load that go into the dryer are completed in about 20-25 minutes, instead of the 50-60 minutes each load was previously taking.  A friend on Facebook (well, she’s a friend in real life, but she mentioned this on Facebook) said that she finds hanging clothes to be “meditative.”  I didn’t quite understand her at the time, but now I do.  I bring out a glass of ice water, put my basket of wet clothes on a chair, and actually enjoy the quiet efficiency of hanging clothes.  I’m outside (which I love anyway); the sun is shining on me; it’s a gentle form of manual labor; I feel like I’m…. benefiting our family by saving money on power that would otherwise be spent on the electric dryer; it feels satisfying to provide my family with freshly sun-warmed and sanitized laundry; and it just feels RIGHT to be using the plentiful solar energy here in the desert to dry my clothes.  Even when the day is hot (though I typically hang the clothes in the morning or evening), I have my ice water, and when I stand between the lines of damp clothes, the breeze cools and refreshes me…  It is, indeed, a meditative activity.

    My clothesline


  • This week's produce.  We had a selection of summer squash, Armenian cucumber, red potatoes, Swiss chard, arugula, baby sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes, and beets!

    This week’s produce. We had a selection of summer squash, Armenian cucumber, red potatoes, Swiss chard, arugula, baby sweet onions, heirloom tomatoes, and beets!

    With the Crooked Sky Farms CSA I host, I feel like we have a good plan for what’s going to happen when the baby comes.  The sixth week of the summer season is on Wednesday, June 26, and the baby is due on the 27th.  And… the baby could come at any time, really.  I’ve been anywhere from 11 days early (twice!) to eight days past my estimated due date.  While there have been a number of people offer to help, the most promising person is, ironically, a woman with seven kids.  She hosts a raw milk pick-up (where I am a customer), so she is rather familiar with the ordeal of people coming to her house over the course of an afternoon and picking stuff up.  🙂  Also, she’s a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom whose oldest is 16.  Just like me!  She said that she would be happy to either come to my home and host the CSA for a day, or to even have it at her house.  So, the plan is that, if I have the baby on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, she will have the CSA in her home.  If I have the baby Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I’ll probably just tuck myself upstairs with the baby and she will stay here for the afternoon, with my kids helping her.  If I have the baby on a Sunday, it could go either way.  That’s at least the plan.  Another woman, who participated in the spring CSA season, sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that she would like to help around the time the baby comes, if need be.  I was quite touched by her thoughtfulness.  She isn’t participating during the summer because she has her own garden which is being very productive right now — no need to pay $20 for organic veggies if you grow an abundance of your own!  I sent her a reply sketching out the basic plan, and asked if she’d like to be back-up, or perhaps be the host (as her home is much closer to mine, and would be less of a deviation from the regular plan for the other CSA members).  Anyway.  It just feels nice to know that things are taken care of, and that people are kindly offering to help out.  🙂  I feel surrounded by wonderful folks.

  • We’re almost done with school.  Kind of.  Three of my kids will be finished on June 7th, in less than a week!  My oldest, who is a sophomore, won’t be done.  He got himself behind and will likely be playing catch-up until the end of June.  I’m rather displeased with that because, as a homeschooling mom, if he isn’t done, that means that I am not done!  But, as he is a sophomore, we can’t just say, “Ah, well.  We’ll come back ’round to it in the fall.”  There aren’t really any do-overs once you’re in high school.  So, he’ll keep working until he’s finished with the year’s curriculum…  I will admit that I am very ready for summertime, and I’m very ready to focus on the baby.  Two weeks ago, I told my middle boys (8th grade and 6th grade) that they will finish the last three weeks of school primarily on their own.  Normally, I do about 60% of their work with them — reading to them, discussing assignments in depth, having conversations about the topics at hand, reviewing their work, etc.  But, in order to help me be able to have time to prep for the baby, I was straight-up with them:  “Listen, I know and you know that you learn better when we do school together.  Having an actual teacher helps you glean so much more out of the material than if you just cover it yourself.  However, you will be doing virtually all your remaining work for the year on your own, reading to yourself or reading to each other, because it’s either that or nothing.”  That is one of the benefits of homeschooling:  You can make it be flexible when you need to.  They would learn more if I was more highly involved, so I feel kind of badly.  But, three weeks of independent work within a 35-week school year won’t kill ’em, I guess.  It’s better than just stopping school.  That sounds like I’m setting the bar rather low.  Perhaps I am…  But, that’s what is necessary for these last few weeks of school.  🙂

Do you live in the north Glendale area of Arizona?  Are you looking for some weekly, inexpensive, naturally-grown produce to add to your health and palate???

The Crooked Sky Farms CSA is ON!!!!!   The cost is $20 per week for 12 weeks. We will start on February 13.  Pick up is at my house from 3:00 – 5:00 every Wednesday. Produce is Certified Naturally Grown, which has higher standards than USDA Organic and is more appropriate for small, direct-to-consumer farms. Pay in full in advance or half up-front (on or before February 13) and the other half midway through. Send me an e-mail at if you are interested and I will send you a contract and an info sheet later this week.  If you decide it is right for you and your family, let me know soon and I will add you to the list!!

Tomato Confit Sauce (GFCF, vegan)


This is my favorite sauce.  Truly, I could just ladle it into my mouth with rude slurping sounds, but I usually restrain myself and put it ON something.  It works as a pasta sauce or a topping for steamed veggies, baked fish or chicken, or just about any meat.  Or tofu.  It would make tofu taste good, I’d bet, which is an admirable feat for any sauce!

You can serve it straight up, but since it is concentrated and PACKED with flavor, I will sometimes sauté chopped veggies on the side — zucchini or other summer squash, mushrooms, and red bell peppers are good choices — and stir it into the confit, with perhaps some canned (or fresh) diced tomatoes, to extend the sauce.  The result of this recipe is somewhere between a sauce and a condiment.  I think it would make a fabulous topping for bruschetta, and the other night, when I served this, my husband (who is much more keen on presentation than I am) said, “You could just make a schmear of this across a clean plate, and serve the fish on top of it.”  Good idea, especially as this highly-rated flounder recipe didn’t turn out quite as flavorful as I had imagined.

The ingredients are fairly flexible, depending on how much you have on hand, but here are the non-negotiables:  Tomatoes, onion, garlic cloves, fresh herbs, olive oil, and sea salt.  What transforms these usual suspects of the culinary arts is ROASTING them.

A reader, who is also a Facebook fan, suggested — oh, about a year ago, I think — that I try making “confit” from my tomatoes.  I had not enough to make paste from, but too many to just use in salads and sandwiches.  She said she got the idea from Martha Stewart, who does indeed have a Tomato Confit recipe.  However, I have tinkered and perfected, and now what I do hardly resembles the original, so I think it is transformed into something NEW, and even better.  Although I might hesitate to label this as a true confit — that is, I really do not know how long this would last, as a preserve — it still bears its confit roots.

The best part is:  IT IS SO EASY, and it makes your home smell like a pizzeria, without the actual pizza.  🙂  Speaking of, this sauce doubles as pizza sauce that is to die for!

So, here we go!

Tomato Confit Sauce

click here for printable PDF

makes about 3½ cups

  • 1½ – 2 lbs of fresh, ripe, small tomatoes.  Halve and remove the area around the stem, but no need to seed, peel, or core
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh, finely-chopped herbs (I like rosemary and basil), divided
  • ½ large onion, cut in slivers (a regular brown or yellow onion would work best — something with some zip to it)
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, halved
  • ¼ cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • a generous pinch raw sugar
  1. As you prepare the ingredients, preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Into a 11″ x 7.5″ (or similarly-sized) glass or glazed stoneware baking dish, drizzle about 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the fresh herbs.
  3. Place tomatoes, cut side down, shoulder to shoulder in the baking dish.  They can overlap somewhat, but it’s best if they are all skin-side up, cut-side-down.
  4. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the rest of the herbs, the slivered onion, and garlic.  Drizzle with the rest of the olive oil, then sprinkle on the sea salt and very lightly sprinkle all with a pinch of sugar.
  5. Bake, covered with foil, in a 325°F oven for 45 minutes on a mid-to-low oven rack.  Then, remove the foil and continue to roast, uncovered, until everything is soft, and about half of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. It should look like this:
  7. Cool to room temperature (or until at least not-hot), and transfer all to a food processor or blender.  I use a Cuisinart Mini-Prep, and pulse back and forth on chop and grind (I have to do it in two batches, as the bowl doesn’t hold the whole recipe).  Process until the sauce is mostly-smooth, but not uniformly so.  You want to be able to see the flecks and small bits.
  8. Taste, and decide if it needs more salt or even some pepper (I’m not a big fan of black pepper), then restrain yourself from eating all that concentrated deliciousness, right there.
  9. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving family, friends & food; drooling over a seed catalog; a good/bad movie

  • So, Thanksgiving was awesome.  At one point, we had 21 people here —  some watching football, some snoozing, some chatting over coffee and pie, kids running around and playing,  spilling out into our courtyard, friends and family.  Perfect.
  • I made this recipe — Roasted Squash with Almonds and Cranberries — and it turned out so good.  I’m definitely making it again, and I probably won’t wait until Thanksgiving;  I LOVE root veggies.  I used parsnips, carrots, and butternut squash.  I baked it a little longer than recommended, and at 325°F because that’s just how it worked out with the other stuff that was in the oven at the time.  I made it about 1/3 bigger than suggested, and wished I had MORE.  Double recipe next time.  I also chose not to add the lemon zest at the end.  I guess I can’t make a recipe without messing with it.
  • On Thanksgiving, my mom gave me a seed catalog that she said would be right up my alley.  She was right.  Pinetree Garden Seeds is located in Maine, so many of their selections are for much cooler, wetter, more northerly climates than here in the sunny desert.  But, I can’t resist.  I’m making a list and hoping for the best.  They have all sorts of heirloom veggies, plus herbs for medicinal use and even plants for dying cloth.  Lots of other stuff, too…  I’ve been savoring the catalog, reading each description.  The seeds are really inexpensive, too.  So far, I have eight packets on my list, and the total is $10.30.  And their shipping is reasonable, too:  $3.95 for up to $19.99 in charges.  I have this book on companion planting, too:  Carrots Love Tomatoes.  ~sigh~  Makes me want to plant stuff.
  • The ones at Home Depot are the identical brand, but MUCH cheaper -- about half the price.

    I’ve been making my own cheapie windowsill seed starters for months:  You need a paper egg carton and a foam one.  Cut out the paper “egg cups” one at a time and place them in the tray of the foam one.  Fill each paper egg cup with seed starting soil, and place in your windowsill.  Absolutely free (except for the eggs!), but it’s easy to over-water (and thereby have water all over your windowsill), and they dry out really fast — no lid and all, and only 1-2 Tbsp of soil in each cup.  So… at Home Depot, I bit the bullet and purchased a ready-made flimsy, plastic, effective 24-plant windowsill “greenhouse” seed starter, complete with peat pellets that expand like crazy.  I now have lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower sprouts happily growing on my windowsill.  Bugs and birds seem to like lettuce and broccoli;  I haven’t had great success directly sowing them into the garden.  I haven’t tried cauli yet, but I figured if the birds like broccoli sprouts, they probably like cauli, as they’re in the same family…

  • Only (maybe) tangentially related to the above — just because we had wine at Thanksgiving — I wanted to mention that if anyone saw my little post on Facebook that said I was going to watch the documentary Blood into Wine and were interested, you may want to reconsider.  On one hand, the movie was REALLY interesting:  lots of wry humor, the fascinating process of growing and making wine in Arizona, and the relationship between the major characters (Tool’s Maynard James Keenan and Arizona winemaker and ecologist Eric Glomski).  I’m always interested in the… intersection of relationships.  Meaning, the events that conspire to bring two people of really diverse paths together.  I LOVE THAT.  I think of it all the time, and if you meet me in real life, one of the first things I will likely ask you is what brought you, here.  However, the movie was also full of f-bombs, sexual references, and way more all-out earth-worshiping religion than my husband was comfortable with.  I could have hung with the movie, compelled by the good parts and filtering out the other… but after an hour, my hubby asked that we turn it off.  And we did.

Super-Simple GFCF Wholegrain Sandwich Bread (vegan, rice-free, potato-free)

In nearly nine years of almost daily gluten-free baking — both my recipes and countless others’ — this is the closest to bread perfection I’ve ever achieved.

  • This recipe consistently produces a slicing bread that is fabulous right out of the oven.  Go ahead and slather butter (or your spread of choice) onto a fresh, steaming slice;  the bread does not gum up when trying to slice it when it’s still hot.  (For honest disclosure, if you want VERY THIN slices, like ¼” thick, it is best to wait until the bread cools.)
  • No more collapsed loaves!!  The bread rises great and only falls/shrinks a VERY SMALL bit during baking.
  • No more brick-like loaves:  The top is actually ROUNDED!
  • This recipe produces a nicely-browned, crusty, chewy crust.
  • The taste is excellent — no overwhelming, odd taste.  It’s subtle enough to use for both sweet and savory.  Yet, it’s complex enough to not taste bland or dull.
  • The texture is both sturdy and elastic:  It stands up to spreading, but does not readily fall apart whilst eating the sandwich.
  • The interior of the bread is moist (but never gummy), and not crumbly.
  • The bread is also great for toasting (though unlike many other g.f. loaves, does not require toasting).
  • It is 2/3 wholegrain, high in fiber, but is light in color.
  • This recipe also produces a bread that is higher in protein than most gluten-free breads, more equivalent to wheat-based bread.  The only starch used in this bread is mung bean starch (see the simple flour mixture recipe here), which is remarkably low-glycemic, due to its very high amylose content (32% amylose in mung bean starch, compared to 0.5% in corn starch).

Does this sound too good to be true??  Fair reader, it is not.  I have churned out dozens of these loaves in the last couple of weeks, and have yet to be disappointed (unless I veered from the recipe in order to tinker with it, unsuccessfully).

Rising dough. This is actually a large loaf; it rises even BETTER in a small loaf pan.

Finished loaf.

Sliced bread. I like the top a bit more rustic, like this. If you smooth your loaf out more thoroughly, prior to rising, the top of your loaf won't be quite as irregular.

I have not tried to freeze it;  we eat it too fast.  I’ve only eaten it when the bread is up to two days old, so I really don’t know how long it lasts, long-term.  If you make the bread and have any comments about preserving it, do let me know.

Another note:  This bread works best in a smaller loaf size.

Super-Simple GFCF Wholegrain Sandwich Bread

(click here for a simplified comment-free PDF of the recipe;  the following recipe is notated with suggestions)
Requires about 90 minutes’ time from start to finish.

  • 3¼ cups Simple Sandwich Bread Flour Mix
  • 1 tsp sea salt — not any less
  • 1¾ cup water, heated to 95° – 110° F
  • 1½ Tbsp granulated sugar (that is, 1 Tbsp + 1½ tsp)
  • scant Tbsp active dry yeast (that is, about 2¾ tsp)
  • 1½ Tbsp olive oil (that is, 1 Tbsp + 1½ tsp)
  • Spray olive oil, or about an additional ½ tsp
  1. In a glass or glazed pottery container, add sugar and yeast to the warm water.  Stir gently to moisten the yeast.  Set aside to proof for ten minutes.  At the end of 10 minutes, the mixture should have a fairly thick layer of small bubbles on top.
  2. Put the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.  Turn the oven on to preheat to 350°F for ONLY TWO MINUTES.  Turn off oven.
  3. Line a small loaf pan (4½” x 8½”) with nonstick foil.
  4. With a whisk, combine flour mix with salt.
  5. To the proofed yeast mixture, gently mix in 1½ Tbsp olive oil.  Add to flour and salt mixture.
  6. With a whisk, very quickly mix liquid mixture with flour mixture.  Whisk briskly until well-combined and mixture thickens.  You may still see some very small clumps.
  7. Set the bowl aside to rest for five minutes.  After five minutes, whisk again until smooth.  (Without the resting period and additional whisking, you will likely end up with small clumps of garbanzo flour in your finished loaf.)
  8. With a silicone spatula, turn batter into the lined loaf pan.  Tap the pan on countertop to help it settle.  Spray top of loaf with olive oil (alternately, lightly drizzle the loaf with oil).  Using a clean silicone spatula, pat and form the loaf until the batter is evenly distributed and slightly rounded.
  9. Set the pan in the (pre-warmed) oven, uncovered, and close the door.
  10. Let rise for 20 minutes, remove loaf.  Set aside, uncovered.  (If your home is really cold, place the rising loaf in a protected area, like inside the microwave.)  Turn oven up to 400°F and preheat for ten minutes.  Place loaf into heated oven, on a rack in the bottom third of the oven, bake at 400°F for 30 minutes until nicely browned.  (For an extra-brown, crusty crust, bake an additional 5 minutes.)
  11. After baking, immediately remove the loaf from the baking pan — place it on a cooling rack or a wooden cutting board.
  12. Enjoy!
  13. Store lightly covered on the countertop for up to two days.  Beyond 48 hours, refrigeration or freezing is recommended.


  • Using the prescribed Flour Mixture, which includes mung bean starch, is an absolute MUST for the bread’s success.  I have tried nearly countless variations of potato, tapioca, and/or corn starch, in addition to numerous other flours — two kinds of millet, sorghum, three kinds of rice flours, potato flour — and NOTHING works like the combination of mung bean starch, oat flour, and garbanzo flour to allow the loaf to rise, and to produce the finished texture of both the crust and the interior of the loaf.
  • Due to variances in humidity in both the air and in your flours, you may find that you need to increase or decrease the water used in the recipe.  If the loaf does not rise well, increase water by 1 Tbsp.  If it rises so much that it spills out of the pan and doesn’t hold a rounded shape well and/or if it caves in or flattens out a little either during or after baking, decrease water by 1 Tbsp.
  • I have tried this recipe using raw milk (both cow and goat) in lieu of water, and it just works best with water.  If you want to try milk, decrease the liquid by at least 1 Tbsp.  The milk will make the loaf brown even more;  keep a closer eye on the time.  It also lends to a more yellowish color in the interior of the loaf, the color of potato bread.)
  • If you want to use a large loaf pan, the bread simply won’t keep its loft as well while baking.  However, it still is a serviceable, tasty loaf.  Use 4¼ cups flour mix, 1½ tsp sea salt, 2¼ cups water, 2 Tbsp sugar, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 T yeast.  Let rise and bake for an additional five minutes each.  All other instructions are identical.

If you try this loaf and have questions or comments — positive or negative — PLEASE comment below or e-mail me at  I truly love feedback.

Karen the Farm Lady tantalizes you…

I have been Farm Lady the last few days, barefoot in the kitchen, and I really love it. I’ve decided that I would gladly do a swap with someone: They can come daily and clean my home, and I will do all their healthy grocery shopping and cooking and baking, accommodating all their dietary needs or restrictions. I’m sort of joking, because I think in order for it to REALLY work, that person would have to live very close to me. Still. One can dream, right?? If interested, apply below in the comments. 🙂

It tastes as good as it looks!

I’m finally 100% happy with my bread.  Yes, it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, rice-free, potato-free, vegan, made with this homemade flour blend.  Now, I just need to post the recipe.  But that takes a while.  Saturday, maybe??  Monday??  Stay tuned.  My friend Kim (of Gluten Free Real Food) sampled the bread yesterday, and she said it was really good.  🙂

Yesterday, I turned all this basil (about ¼ of what I could have harvested from my garden) into little ice cubes, made by chopping washed leaves with a bit of olive oil in a food processor (a delightful, free hand-me-down from the afore-mentioned Kim), putting 1 Tbsp of the mixture into ice cube trays, and topping it with filtered water.  It made 40 “ice” cubes, which I will happily add to soups, stews, sauces, etc., in the dead of winter, and think happy thoughts about my garden.  I’m going to make some more this afternoon.

I look like an aging goober with really yellow teeth. Oh, well. At least I can grow some good basil.

I worked this morning in my garden, staking my tomatoes, weeding, and making a general assessment of overall garden health…  I was going to plant more carrots, but Fiala, my almost-three-year-old “planted” the seeds in the family room carpet yesterday.  I have determined that all — or at least most — of my garden problems were simply from the intense heat.  The days are still hot — usually hitting 105° daily — but the nights are relatively cooler — in the 70s or at least the low 80s.  Now,

  • my Mexican Grey Squash are growing very nicely.  I still haven’t harvested any mature fruit, but there are about six squash growing healthy and strong…  At least 2-3 of them should be ready to eat in another week or so.
  • My pole green beans have recovered from serious heat stress and are growing fresh green leaves and blossoms.
  • There are a total six green tomatoes on my eleven plants — don’t laugh!  Up until now, I have harvested ONE tomato, and it was really small.  So, I’m really delighted about my tomato plants — growing more robustly in the last few weeks than they have all summer.
  • I also have 7-8 volunteer tomato plants sprouting up… I’m not sure if I’m going to have room for all those tomatoes!  We’ll see.
  • My green chile plant is blooming nicely.
  • My Hopi Pumpkin plant is absolutely taking over the world — it’s about 10′ x 10′, and now it is finally producing some green pumpkins which are NOT dying, but actually growing bigger.  I hope I get to reap some before I grow terribly annoyed by the prolific/invasive grower and root it out.
  • I have carrots that are growing nicely.
  • Red chard growing nicely, too, though it seems like the bugs REALLY like it, so I’m going to have to spray it with some organic pesticide…  (I bought Raid Earth Options chrysanthemum-pyrethrin-based pesticide because I had a buy-on-get-one-free coupon.  For the record, it discourages bugs for about three days, and you can’t let any overspray hit bees, or it’ll kill them.  And, a garden needs its bees!!)

I’ve put up ten quarts of pickles in the last week or so, using cucumbers from the CSA/farm share to which I belong.  Four in the first batch, six in the second batch, which I canned this morning.  The first batch was WAY TOO SALTY, because of some vague wording in the recipe I was following coupled with me not being sharp enough to figure out the error.  The best part of the too-salty pickles is the cloves of fresh garlic I threw in.  YUM.  I’m going to have to pickle me some garlic!!  In the new batch, in each jar, I used ½ tsp dill weed, ¼ tsp each brown mustard seed, coriander seed, and black peppercorns.  No garlic this time — not enough to spare!  I look forward to eating my not-too-salty farm pickles.

This last bit isn’t really farm-y or even food-y.  BUT, I’m pleased with myself, because it is a cheap way to make my home more pleasant.  🙂  My sister, who teases me unmercifully on topics ranging from my horse teeth to my hairy toes to my crunchiness and everything in between (I love her dearly and she keeps me humble), bewailed my sadly scentless laundry.  I explained that we couldn’t do scented detergents or fabric softener because of Fiala’s skin issues.  When she mourned for me, it really got me thinking about ways I could make my laundry smell pleasant and fresh without hurting Fiala.  A few weeks ago, I was at Trader Joe’s and noticed their filter-paper enclosed lavender dryer sachets.  Voila!  Perfect.  The $3.99 price tag made me grumble, but four packets which each last 6-10 loads… I figured the package would last me a month.  Well, my local natural foods market (Sprouts, which is taking over the West — you may see one near you soon!  It’s a good thing.) is running a 25% off their bulk products this week.  They have a lovely wall of half-gallon jars full of spices and herbs, and I thought, “I wonder if they have dried lavender flowers?  I could make my own dryer sachets!”  Turns out, they DO carry lavender!  Even on sale, it was $13-something per pound, so I tentatively filled up my little plastic ziploc baggie with what I figured was more than enough to make four sachets to do a little price comparison.  The total cost???  FIFTY TWO CENTS.  That’s it.  And when buying lavender as an herb, it was taxed at the grocery rate (1.8%) instead of the general merchandise rate (≈9.8%, depending on the municipality).  And, I already have a little cotton drawstring bag that I’m planning on using.  So, I’ll have my gently lavender-scented laundry now, at 1/8 the cost.  Ha!  I feel pretty good about that one.  Because I get excited about weird stuff like that.

And now, this post is so long, I guess I could have used the time it took creating it to have done the bread recipe.  :\

Simple Sandwich Bread Flour Mix (gluten-free, rice-free, potato-free)

Mung beans.

I know, you’ve always wanted to try them.  You have a deep-seated curiosity about them.


Well, let me pique your interest.

Have you ever made gluten-free bread that looked like a brownish brick?  If you’ve done any g.f. baking and you answer, “No” to that, I’ll know you’re lying.  😀

I accidentally discovered the secret to lofty, round-topped, well-rising gluten-free bread, and it arose (ha!) from me trying to make a bread for my nearly three-year-old daughter, Fiala, who is still highly allergic to just about everything on the planet.  The only grain she can tolerate is oats.  I’ve known for a couple of years that she can handle most legumes, and I’ve long been making farinata and other quick breads from garbanzo bean flour.

Recently, though, on one of my frequent forays into a local large Asian market, I noticed a package of mung bean starch.  I’d seen mung beans elsewhere in the store.  You can buy them in their tiny, green-skinned natural state:

Mung bean, Vigna radiata

Or shelled and split:

They look like smaller, oval, split yellow peas.

Have you ever bought bean sprouts?  They were probably from a mung bean.  Have you ever eaten cellophane noodles (also known as bean threads or saifun)?  Those are made from mung bean starch.

Mung beans are used a LOT in Asian cooking.  The Wikipedia article is quite interesting, noting the many cultures who use mung beans, and the wide variety of foods made from mung bean — whole, husked and split, flour, starch — from savory to sweet.

So, anyway.  I picked some up, and with fairly low expectations, crafted a Fiala-safe bread using little more than oat flour, garbanzo bean flour, and mung bean starch.


It rose very well, browned amazingly, sliced PERFECTLY — even right out of the oven, and tasted great.

I haven’t quite abandoned the idea of making bread from my other all-purpose flour mix, but for now, I’m very satisfied with the tasty bread made with this simple mix.  And the bonus is that EVERYONE in my family — all seven of us — can eat this bread.

Since this is already so long, I’ll have to post the actual bread recipe sometime in the near future.  In preparation for the recipe, though, whydontchya make the flour mix?

Mung bean starch (also known as green bean starch) can be a bit hard to find online…  I buy it for about $2.10 at a local Asian market for a 1 lb package.  Here it is on a site called Grocery Thai for $5.95 for a 500 gram (17.64 oz) package, almost triple the price of my local store.  If you find a better supplier at a better price, PLEASE leave the URL in a comment.

So, the only bummer about this mix is that, as one of the ingredients is a bit obscure, if you don’t live somewhere close to an Asian grocery, it may prove to be cost-prohibitive.  😦

Without further ado, here is the flour mix recipe:

Simple Sandwich Bread Flour Mix
makes approximately 12 cups

4 cups mung bean starch
4 cups garbanzo flour
4 cups oat flour
2 Tbsp xanthan gum

Whisk to combine all ingredients thoroughly.  Store in an airtight container in the pantry (no need to refrigerate).

One more note about ingredients:  I can find ALL of my flours at the Asian market:  Garbanzo flour is also known as besan or chana dal and is widely used in Indian cooking.  Oat flour can be found in the African foods section, called oat fufu (don’t laugh!).  Both area also produced by Bob’s Red Mill, which probably has better standards regarding cross-contamination for gluten concerns, and are produced in the States.  Inexplicably, the mung bean starch (made in China) is found in the Middle East aisle in my local store, but you may find it in the Korean section.  If your local Asian grocery has English-language-challenged employees, you may want to print out what you’re looking for in several different languages, so you can ask for help.  🙂  Bob’s Red Mill also makes xanthan gum, though I buy mine in bulk at a natural foods grocery for about half the price of Bob’s.

OK.  A second “one more note”:  This flour would be considered corn-free, if it wasn’t for xanthan gum, which is usually made from a specific bacteria that is cultured on corn sugar.  So, if you’re corn-allergic, depending on your sensitivity, you may be able to use this flour mix and the bread.  I haven’t tried the mix with guar gum (made from a legume/seed).  If you do, let me know!

Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Apricot Oatmeal — Review

Simpli Gluten-Free Apricot Oatmeal

First, the good news: 

  • Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal is delicious. I loved it, as did my 9 year old son, Wesley, and my 4 year old daughter, Audrey.  All of us have to be on a gluten-free diet, due to celiac disease.  Some gluten-free products can run on the odd/nasty side, unfortunately.  Not so with this one!  For taste, it gets a hearty thumbs up from all who sampled it.
  • I am in full support of the company’s aims to produce completely gluten-free oats, from seed to packaged product (more on that, later).
  • And, with only four ingredients DONE RIGHT, Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal is CLEAN food, which is important to me.  
  • The product is stellar.

However, I’m not sure I’m the best person to review it.  Here’s why:

  • I’m too cheap, and I want to buy locally. Currently, Simpli products are available online, through their website —  Perhaps the ONLY good thing about living in a large city is the ready, local availability of just about anything I could want or need, gluten-free items included.  I virtually NEVER purchase food items online, especially ones that are $4.95 plus $3.95 shipping ($8.90 total) for one 8.4 oz package of five packets of oatmeal.  No matter how stellar a product, I absolutely cannot afford — even for a special occasion — to spend $1.78 for a small bowl of oatmeal.  Although I rarely eat instant oatmeal, my children, when they eat it, use two packs at a time.  So, realistically, you’re looking at a $3.56 bowl of oatmeal.  Buying a bulk pack of nine boxes is slightly more economical — it works out to $5.70 per box, including shipping, or $1.14 per serving ($2.28 per double serving).  Still.  I would just never pay that. If Simpli was carried it locally, at my local natural-foods store, Sprouts, had their biannual 25% off of all gluten-free items, which would make it about $3.70 per box… I might consider that for a special occasion, like packing food for a trip whose destination may not have g.f. foods readily available.
  • I like thick-cut oats. I’m just not a fan of the gooey consistency of any instant oatmeals.  I like some chew and heft to my oats, which is why I love Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats, a pantry staple of mine.  However, those take (according to the way I make it, not according to package specifications) eight minutes to cook, after the water has boiled, so a good 12 minutes cooking time, plus about five minutes of sitting time… so, 17 minutes or so, from start to finish, versus about four with Simpli Apricot Instant Oatmeal.  In other words, I understand that, given the nature of instant oats (thinner cut), they’re just not going to turn out the way  I like them… so it’s not a flaw in the product;  it’s just a difference of opinion, values, and texture.  Also, returning to the “I’m too cheap” mantra, I buy Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Rolled Oats locally for about $5.50 per 2 lb bag.  That works out to $0.34/oz for Bob’s vs. $1.06 per ounce for Simpli — THREE TIMES THE COST — when Simpli is purchased online.  And Bob’s Gluten-Free Oats aren’t cheap!!!

With those caveats, let me reiterate that Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal is delicious.  As stated above, I like my oats with a little more heft, so I don’t prefer the texture of any instant oats, and don’t regularly eat instant.  However, that’s not Simpli’s fault.  Judging by taste — it’s perfect.  “Bright” is the adjective that comes to mind.  The apricot flavor REALLY shines through beautifully.  With only four ingredients — Oats, apricots, sugar, and salt — I was wondering how they would be able to make the apricots tender enough.  Simpli’s solution?  Mince them.  Mince them teeny, teeny, tiny.  That way, they rehydrate perfectly, and the apricot flavor is broadcast through each bite.

Also, Simpli Gluten-Free Instant Oatmeal is not too sweet.  I think it’s perfect.  There are only 10 grams of sugar per 48 gram packet, and much of that, I’m sure, comes from the apricots themselves.

The instructions on the box call for 2/3 cup boiling water, stir, and let sit for one minute.  I knew I was reviewing the product, so when I made a bowl for myself, I made sure I followed the instructions to a “T”, including using a measuring cup for the boiling water (something I would never normally do), and setting the timer for that one minute.  Based upon that, I would suggest that, unless you want some soupy oatmeal, you should EITHER use less water (say, 1/2 cup), OR you should let your bowl sit for a good 4+ minutes, to let it thicken.

About the gluten-free aspect:  Simpli takes it seriously.  I’m slightly bummed that this oatmeal is a product of Finland, but perhaps that’s the only place where they could ensure that the oats would grow and be processed according to their exacting specifications.  Although I can occasionally be somewhat lax about cross contamination, I’m a stickler for g.f. oats.  I get asked frequently about why, if oats are technically gluten-free, does one need to buy GLUTEN-FREE OATS.  I explain that there are so many chances for cross contamination in the grain-growing, harvesting, storing, and processing process that unless a producer is intentional about maintaining the gluten-free aspect of his oats, you, as the gluten-free consumer, are almost guaranteed to consume gluten if your oats, if they’re not certified gluten-free.  This graphic, from Simpli, illustrates it so well:


All of that to say that Simpli Gluten Free Instant Apricot Oatmeal is a fabulous product.  But, I hope it’s coming to a store near me, because I will almost certainly not be buying it, otherwise.

Maybe this is the opposite effect of what Simpli anticipated, sending me a free package to review, but this product has inspired me:  I think I’m going to purchase a package of Bob’s Red Mill Quick Cooking Gluten-Free Oats, and make up my own packets of instant oatmeal, and just place them in Ziploc sandwich bags.  If Simpli can create a simple instant packaged oatmeal, so can I!!

Vegan Reduced-Sugar Maple Pumpkin Pie (GFCF)

I was inspired by this recipe, on Affairs of Living.  However, the author sweetens her pie almost exclusively with stevia.  I enjoy stevia in moderation, but I don’t particularly enjoy the flavor of an item — especially a dessert — which relies heavily on stevia.  I am making an increasing effort, though, to minimize our family’s consumption of refined sugar.  Accordingly, my recipe below calls for very little sugar, but it does call for some.  I also modified a number of other ingredients from the original recipe.  The results obtained a thumbs-up review from all of my children and my husband, who is quite the pumpkin pie aficionado.  Everyone said that the coconut flavor was undetectable, and that the texture and flavor is perfect.  I was particularly pleased that this pie stays “rigidly” custard-like when cut.  In other words, the slices of pie retain their shape, and do not collapse on the plate.

A few ingredient notes:

  • Agar-agar powder: Invaluable for egg-free “creamy” goods like custards and pies, and vegan “gelatin” desserts, this inexpensive ingredient is readily available in Asian markets.  I typically buy Telephone brand, which is around a dollar for a 0.88 oz packet.
  • Coconut cream: Much thicker than coconut milk, and much higher in fat content,  it resembles softly whipped cream upon refrigeration.  Coconut cream makes this vegan pumpkin pie both lighter in texture and lighter in color than many dark, dense vegan pumpkin pies I have tried in the past.  I was tickled to find a brand — again, in the Asian market — called Kara, which is in a tetra-pack (unrefrigerated carton), and has NO PRESERVATIVES.  It’s inexpensive, too — $1.99 for 500ml, or $2.99 for a full liter.
  • Stevia: I use powdered, concentrated extract (purchased from Trader Joe’s — $9.99 for a 622-serving, 1 oz container).
  • Mace: If you do not use mace regularly, please start now!!  It is a spice similar to nutmeg, but lighter and more complex.  I adore mace.
  • Pumpkin: I made this recipe with home-cooked squash purée.  The pumpkin I used, though supposedly good for cooking, was disappointingly watery and fibrous.  Many home-cooked squashes are much more watery than canned pumpkin.  If, indeed, you start with fresh pumpkin, make sure you use a food mill or something similar, to yield smooth puree.  If it is watery, do like I did — place it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer, and let the water drip out, which will result in thick, no-liquid purée.

A note about crusts: There are a blessedly increasing number of commercially available frozen gluten-free crusts.  I am too cheap to buy them, however, and always struggle with uncooperative homemade g.f. pastry.  Use an unbaked crust for this recipe.  Since it cooks at a high temperature, if you are using a “normal” wheat-based crust, you will almost certainly have to use a pie shield to protect your crust from burning (g.f. crusts are typically less-prone to burning).  You may want to try Affairs of Living’s Gluten-Free Crunchy Pie Crust.  I’m going to be trying it myself, when I make pie again in a couple of days, as well as “standard” gluten-free pastry crust.

So!  With no further ado…

Vegan Reduced-Sugar Maple Pumpkin Pie (click for printable pdf)
makes one 9″ pie

  • 3 cups pumpkin purée
  • ¾ cup coconut cream
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 2 level 45mg scoops stevia extract (or 4-6 drops of liquid stevia)
  • 1 tsp agar agar powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp gluten-free vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 – ¼ tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Prepare an unbaked 9″ pie shell.

Beat together all ingredients until light, smooth, and well-incorporated.  Spoon into the prepared pie shell, using a silicone spatula to level and smooth the filling.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, using a foil pie crust shield (or a purchased silicone or aluminum shield), if necessary, to keep from over-browing.

Cool completely at room temperature before cutting.



Fresh Ginger-Roasted Yams

I love yams.  Not the goopy, syrupy yam sludge that is an unfortunate mainstay of American Thanksgiving meals.  But real yams, cooked in a healthy and appealing way.

Red Garnet Yams (sweet potatoes)Well, what makes a “real” is a subject of much debate.  Is it a yam?  Or a sweet potato?  My favorite is a Red Garnet, which I guess is technically a sweet potato.

We eat yams year-round, and I have cooked them in just about every way imaginable.  Often, I cube them and toss with LOTS of ground allspice, a teensy bit of brown sugar, salt and Earth Balance Soy-Free (which is the most buttery non-dairy “margarine” on the market, in my opinion).  This is my 9 year old son Wesley’s favorite dish of all time.  Recently, though, I made a dish that was a bit of an experiment.  I was so tickled with the results that we will surely be seeing it on the Thanksgiving table, if not sooner.

One note about cooking temperatures: You can roast yams at just about ANY temperature.  One reason I bake them so often is, no matter what the temperature at which my main dish is cooking, I can throw a casserole dish of yams right alongside of it, and the yams turn out fabulous.  They are nigh impossible to burn or overcook, particularly if you’re using very little (or no) sugar.  They can sit for hours in a warm oven and stay wonderful.  If you are baking them (or warming them), don’t stir frequently, unless you want mashed yams!  When I made the recipe below, I was roasting a turkey (another “holiday” dish we eat year-round) at 325°F, and cooking time for the yams ended up being about 90 minutes.  However, you can roast yams at up to 450°F, which will likely decrease the baking time to about 40 minutes.

Fresh Ginger-Roasted Yams (click for printable pdf)

Generously serves 6-8

  • 3 medium-large yams (about 4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2 – 3/4″ cubes —
  • 1/4 cup butter, butter substitute, or olive oil
  • 2″ section of fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 325°F (or hotter — see note above).

Place cubed yams in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

In a microwave-safe small bowl, melt the butter.  Drizzle the melted butter over the yams, and toss (or stir with a silicone spatula).  Add the finely grated ginger root, brown sugar and sea salt and toss until the ginger is evenly distributed.

Place the yams in a 2-3 quart covered casserole dish and bake until tender, testing with a fork after one hour.  Depending on the size of your casserole dish, the yams will be completely cooked in 60-90 minutes.

NOTE: After you have placed the yams into the casserole dish, resist the urge to stir.  This dish produces roasted cubed yams, and if you stir, they will mash easily, especially after they are done or nearly done baking.  When they are completely cooked, the yams will loose their cloudy appearance, and turn a deeper, more saturated color.


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