Everyone knows what gifting a red rose means, but many other flowers, herbs, and trees have special meaning. Here’s a peak into the age-old language of nature: https://botanicalalchemyandapothecary.com/the-language-of-nature
Updated Easy Gluten-Free Peasant Bread
It’s the time of year to start baking bread to go with autumn soups.
The most visited post on my site is the Easiest Gluten-Free Peasant Bread Ever post which is understandable, because it truly is easy and it’s different than anything you can buy. I’ve worked with this recipe so many times now that I finally feel I can update the recipe which is not only gluten-free, but also dairy and egg-free, and now, xanthan gum free too. Of course, feel free to use butter instead of olive oil, and if xanthan gum doesn’t bother you, go ahead and add it if you wish. I’m using ground psyllium husks instead which helps with the smoothness because I’m just not convinced xanthan gum is a good choice for our family with multiple food intolerances. Also, I make up a big batch of the flour and store it in my pantry for ease of use, and I make up extra once-risen dough to store in…
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Cold and Flu Season
What to do when you feel a cold or flu coming on or it has already knocked you down. Adding thieve’s oil daily to your essential oil diffuser also helps keep you healthy, and essential oils in general are health promoting so if you don’t have thieve’s oil, use whatever you do have.
School is in session, the weather is changing from warm and sunny to chilly and cloudy, and the local drug stores are advertising flu shots. It’s that time of year, and it sure hit fast and hard this time around, at least in my little corner of the Pacific Northwest. This is week two of a nasty cold that lodged itself somewhere between my sinuses and chest, and it’s thrown me because I don’t get sick often. Usually at the first sign that some stealthy little virus has invaded my body I can knock it out with extra vitamin C, preferably in the form of Emergenc-C, sucking on Zand zinc and elderberry lozenges, and if those don’t work alone, I’ll take Oscillococcinum. This time around I was lazy. It was late at night when I first realized I was getting sick so I just went to bed…
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The passing of Maya Angelou is on everyone’s mind today~ many have been thinking of their favorite books of hers, or poems, or quotes, all of which inspire. Her biography alone is a testament to someone who used her time, her gifts and opportunities to bring forth beauty instead of someone who complained, though she had endured much. I remember finishing a book of hers on an airplane back when I was in college, and since there wasn’t much else to do I read through her enclosed biography and was completely astonished that one person could accomplish so much in a lifetime. I remember thinking she probably didn’t watch much t.v.~ no time! I guess that is why I have that connection in my head even to this day, people who live a life full of, well, life, aren’t big t.v. watchers. It scares me how we have become such an entertainment-crazed world, even more than when I was young, and it just keeps increasing. When I lived in Prague my flat-mate went home to Canada during that year and was so excited to see her multitude of friends to share what living in Prague was like. When she got back, she said she’d had fun at home but I could tell something was wrong. It didn’t take long before she admitted she had been disappointed by the lack of curiosity her various groups of friends showed about her life abroad. She had imagined questions about where she lived, what her work was like, what she ate, what had she learned of the language, and instead all anyone wanted to talk about was Survivor. It was a new show then and the whole reality show concept was fairly new so it’s understandable, kind of, that people were excited about it, but the disconnect that here my roommate was actually living something out, daring and unique (she turned 21 the year we lived in Prague together so we’re talking about quite young people) who could have told interesting stories about her real life, the real life of someone they love, but instead they chose to discuss a t.v. show just to me says it all. They weren’t trying to be rude~ and that’s the sad part. T.V. was just on the forefront of their brains. I’m not saying t.v. is awful and everyone should boycott it, but I am saying we could all use reminders to be mindful of how we spend our time. Maya Angelou’s writings and even more so, her life, is just the thing to remind us of that. We only have a limited amount of time, how do you want to spend it? Thank you, Dr. Angelou, for your gifts, your inspiration and accomplishments, which even on your day of passing, you still give, and will no doubt keep giving for generations to come.
Adjusting to a Gluten-Free Diet
There are many guides to help newly diagnosed celiacs and gluten intolerant people but I know when you are first figuring it all out it feels like you are the only person in the world changing your diet and lifestyle. There will most likely be favorite meals you are giving up, familiar restaurants, and things like weekly meet-ups and dinner parties need to be rethought. Things you never had to think about before suddenly need attention, everyday habits, social rituals, and even the chores of shopping and cooking scream for a revamp. It’s a lot, and it can be overwhelming, but hopefully it will help to know that many people have been there, with their miner’s lamps on before you, walking through the dark and leaving notes. First of all, make a list of all the things you can eat. It’s so easy to focus on the food/foods that need to be eliminated and feel like everything is off-limits, but in reality there will always be a lot more food on the OK list than on the ‘must avoid’ list. It is important to figure out where the hidden gluten might be, like soy sauce, fake meat products like soy hotdogs, and oat products, but it is equally important to understand there are things like wheat free tamari,
and safe oat products . (Unless you react to the similar protein that is found in oats the same way you react to gluten. Some people can eat certified gluten-free oat products just fine, while others cannot.) Beyond the products that are made to be gluten-free, of which you will find just about anything you can think of, there are foods that are naturally gluten-free and they are still there for you, so go ahead and eat all the French fries and corn tortillas you want. Most natural foods stores, like Whole Foods, would be happy to have a knowledgeable employee walk around with you to show you the gluten-free items and they will also know which are the best sellers, so if you don’t know which bread to try first just ask what the most popular brand is and start with that one. Calling ahead to find out when the best time to come in for some personal attention would be advised and you might even be able to do that at a regular grocery store~ depends on the place. A local Co-op here has monthly(?) food tours around their stores to highlight gluten-free things, or sometimes there are other themes, but the point is you might find something similar in your own local store. Speaking of that local co-op, it is called PCC and they have a webpage dedicated to gluten-free info and so does Whole Foods. Both of those places have many recipes that are labeled gluten-free and are a great place to find healthy foods in general. Trader Joe’s also has a gluten free list and other special diet lists and I recommend you look at your local favorite store’s website to see what they have available. Also check out Urban Spoon for information on restaurants and bakeries that are gluten-free friendly and find some places to visit sooner rather than later so when the inevitable time arrives when someone asks to meet for lunch you will have a place to suggest. Delicious living, a magazine you may have at some point seen in a natural foods store, has a guide for gluten-free living and there are several magazines dedicated to food allergies, but Living Without is the most popular one. There are blogs, social media groups, and online gluten-free stores to also offer assistance and advice, recipes and in some cases, coupons. In short, you aren’t alone and once you get into a gluten-free groove, it’s really not all that hard and you will find the amount you feel better outweighs any missing of old foods by so much that you truly don’t miss them.
Gluten-Free Blueberry Cinnamon Scones, Ginger Cookies, and Soup
These blueberry cinnamon scones are, more or less, from the Flying Apron’s cookbook. I used different flours (gluten-free oats, sorghum, and brown rice) and added cinnamon sugar to the tops. My youngest and pickiest child who normally only likes scones with a hearty dose of icing really loves these. They have a nice texture and density~ lighter than you might expect considering how thick they are. I did see this recipe on another site but cannot tell if that site has permission to share it, so I am not going to provide the link, though if you really want to make these scones and don’t have the book, you can find the recipe online. The Ginger Wheels from the same book on the other hand, might be a bit harder to find, but the book is worth the money just for these cookies, if you ask my children anyway. They are like molasses cookies with a zing of ginger, can be used for gingerbread men or nade just as wheels for easy, year round use. I’d post a photo but my kids scarf them down way too quickly for a photo op. If you really want the recipe, comment with your email address and I’ll send it to you. Here’s a gluten-free soup recipe which I can link to from here and it is a weeknight wonder. My husband is not a big chicken fan, but he loves this Tortilla Soup from PCC’s recipe page. I’ve only recently started eating chicken broth and tiny bits of chicken in soup and have to say this is the only recipe with chicken I like at all. (I’ve just never liked chicken~ I’ve tried, but it’s not my thing.) Since you add tortillas on top when serving, I just might get a spoonful or two into my youngest! No guarantees, but I’m going to try. I did add a leek to this soup because soup is just always better with leeks, and really it could handle more veggies in it (a chopped carrot or a chopped celery stalk, or both would make it even healthier.) It isn’t that spicy so you can dial-up the heat with more of that jalapeno it calls for, and I imagine black beans instead of chicken in a veggie broth would make a tasty vegan version. Keep the recipe in mind for your next taco night at home~ it’s sure to please.
Gluten Free Trials: To Xanthan Gum or Not to Xanthan Gum
It’s holiday time which means baking time and I’ve tried two new recipes in as many days. Neither are a raging success, but the good and the bad are both share-worthy, right? First, I made this recipe from the Whole Foods website, substituting the all-purpose flour with Bob’s gluten-free baking flour, and then instead of whole wheat I used Bob’s gluten-free oat flour. The other change I made was to leave out the walnuts because I only had whole ones and I did not feel like spending the time to make them “chopped”. This was where I contemplated xanthan gum, and decided against it, because no matter now safe it it supposed to be, I can’t get over the fact I don’t know exactly what it is, other than it is made in a lab. Alas, the bread came out delicious, but crumbly. So crumbly I can’t even cut it and retain the slice. Maybe a teaspoon of xanthan gum would have done the trick~ I don’t know for sure, but if you are planning on trying this bread gluten-free style, I’d recommend adding a bit in there, unless you like eating your loaf of bread with a fork.
My second experiment was to make chocolate chip almond oatmeal cookies. I got the recipe on the back of Bob’s quick oats where the recipe was actually for coconut almond oatmeal cookies. I have no affiliation with Bob’s Red Mill by the way, they just happen to make gluten-free products that are definitely gluten-free~ no cross-contamination possible. Anyway, I don’t know why but when I had followed the directions on the bag I ended up with overly dry mix. There is no way I could have smashed that stuff together into a cookie shape, so I added an egg and a couple of tablespoons of canned pumpkin, which turned out to be too much in the way of liquid. Sigh. They turned out edible, but not anything truly special, though they did make the house smell awfully good. Incidentally, that recipe does call for xanthan gum so I stuck it in there, though a bit on the lesser side of the teaspoon it suggests.
Rain, Pistachios, and the Essence of Laziness
If you want to know what the weather in the greater Seattle area is like this time of year just go stand under your shower with the lights off. I know there is no point in complaining, this happens every year and every year we live through it and in fact start to ignore it and then one day it is sunny and warm and lush and everyone is all smiles and hugs and it’s like the rain never even existed expect to unobtrusively water all the wonderful greenery around. It’s like all that greenery gives off some sort of “forgetting” spell and everyone says it’s so worth it and it wasn’t really that bad anyway. Kind of like giving birth actually. Except I remember giving birth and I remember the dark, dreary rain, though I wish I didn’t care. I wish I were the type of person who did not look outside when deciding if I want to take a walk or run or to stay indoors, but I am, unfortunately, a lover of dry warmth. Not that I would complain to the natives here, as they are completely incredulous that one would alter plans because of some piddling rain. It’s just rain they’d say under REI gortex as they biked on over to the nearest trail to hike. Before moving here I really considered myself an outdoors person, but now I know better, there are real outdoors poeple here, ones that actually look forward to camping and don’t mind not-warm not-dry weather and wear clothes that at any moment will facilitate a jaunt of a nearby mountain. I’m more of the really-like-to-be-outside-when-it-is-nice kind of outdoor person, which doesn’t count for much here. I can’t help it though, the rain makes me feel like staying home, being cozy, doing warm things like baking or else just being lazy. If you have had a lazy day I’m about to make you feel like a champion of productivity, because I do believe I summit-ed some kind of lazy peak today. After making it the grocery store this morning, I was moving food around the kitchen and filled up our ever disappearing pistachio jar with fresh ones when I spent a good five minutes moving the nuts around to find pistachios that had fallen out of their shell. It feels like such a bonus to find those that I just couldn’t stop~ so much salty goodness and I don’t even have to open the shells, awesome! Even if it isn’t the rain making me this lazy, the drastic difference in sunlight between now and one month ago is enough to have me lying in bed in the mornings until the last possible moment. I finally got some St.John’s Wort this past week~ it has seen me through about a decade of winters now. I have also been splashing myself with oragne essential oil which is a ‘happy’ scent and it reminds me that good things do come in winter too~ like satsumas. I’m ready for something orange, round and bright, and though I’d prefer the sun, I’ll settle for a satsuma. If only there weren’t that cumbersome peel…
Easy Croutons (Can Be Gluten Free or Not…)
The other day I made a garlic soup following, more or less this recipe from The Splendid Table. I went the potato route with it and it turned out pretty good, though pureeing soup is one of my all time least favorite kitchen tasks. If I make it again I’ll add more garlic than the recipe suggests because it was actually quite mild and I won’t make the same mistake of letting people try the soup without the croutons, because the croutons are by far the best part of the whole meal. First of all, the recipe calls for drizzling warm butter on the finished soup before serving but that seemed over the top so I ignored that suggestion. Then you add the croutons which changes the soup from a porridge consistency (that wasn’t well received in my house) with a more soup with crunch taste~ much better! Plus the way the recipe calls for making the croutons is far easier than I had ever seen. In the past I’ve always made them by coating cut up stale bread in oil, then stirring in herbs and salt and pepper, then sticking them in the oven with occassional stirring. This recipe just says to cut up the bread, any bread, into crouton size chunks, put some olive oil in a pan and cook them up on the stove for a couple of minutes. So easy and so good! I used fresh gluten free bread~ Maninis to be exact which is sliced nice and thick, and added only Mediterranean salts while they sizzled in the olive oil . It took five minutes tops and the soup will never be the same. I also used stale sourdough bread (not gluten free) for my husband’s croutons and he loved them. In fact he ate the croutons like a main dish and ignored the bowl of soup they were supposed to support. That’s what I get for serving it plain the first time. I have a feeling I’ll be adding these croutons to a lot more soups and salads now.
Falling into the Schoolyear
So many things happen as soon as that first school bell rings at the beginning of September. It has taken me about this long to get a grip on some time to write. Though it was a non-school day (teachers got to plan. They must be collectively sitting down and wiping their foreheads, grateful the moment to plan instead of react) the day is not free from school activities. My friend picked up my youngest while dropping off her oldest about an hour ago so our oldests could play while the younger ones attend a party of some school friends. It seems there is always something to do, and even in the quiet between moments there are reading logs to fill, homework to check, and playdates to arrange. It all goes by so fast, I’ve heard it over and over, and I’ve experienced the crazy blinks of years that disappear into camera phone videos alongside pictures involving forgotten teeth, stained favorite tshirts and long lost toys. The kids are actually agonizing to look at old pictures with because it is one long whine of “where did that truck go? I remember that lego set! Let’s build it again! We actually had a fire station like that? Where is it?” In this craziness we get distant reminders to stop and soak it in, and I do try, although I must admit that soaking it in makes me feel kind of creatively nostalgic so I end up taking black and white photos, viewing the world through my camera phone which is not exactly how I want to remember these young years of my boys. We all have our phones up to our faces these days~ either texting or tweeting or photographing…I actually want to make a movie with the camera phone in the middle of the screen the whole time, and on the phone’s screen you see the little darlings of someone doing all the average things we all do daily, then all around the phone there are all kinds of crazy, beautiful, strange things going on. So like there will be the kids at a park and on the phone’s screen, but on the big screen you see like a quiet but gruesome fight take place. Then the next scene will be the kids walking on a street and the phone’s screen just shows the kids and the sidewalk and all around on the big movie screen you see intense beauty~ Fall colors, amazing architecture, meteor showers. Anyway, I’m rambling. It just feels so good to be thinking about something other than the immediate. Oh, I need to cook dinner. So much for the revery, back to the immediate.