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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Happening Around Here

Hello friends, it’s been a while!

I thought it was about time to pop back here and give you some glimpses of what’s been happening around here!

There has been art! So much art I have made and sold and not even gotten chance to share here!

And purging ... much clearing and purging and unloading of the “stuff” to make room for the new and energizing!

I’ve also been busy reorganizing and redecorating many rooms. They  feel lighter now ... in color and in energy!

In the shuffle, there was also a chest of drawers make-over and a brand new picture wall, that is yet to be filled!

Also two peg boards, one still being in progress in my daughter’s room!

And so much more! But I think, for now, I will just give you a few glimpses!

My latest love is plaster sculpting! All of the above is work in progress right now - and then some! I’m totally loving the houses/niches!

The garden is thriving, despite the recent weeks of hard frost. But in true low dessert fashion, we’re quite warm again now!


Not even the arts/craft room/studio was spared the purging and organizing!



The revamped IKEA dresser and some of the yet to be filled empty frames on the picture wall!


The beginnings of some nourishing bone broth!

The cat is served!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Best Brownies - Ever! (GAPS, Paleo, Grain-free, Refined Sugar free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

A bold claim, I know! And I don’t just mean “the best brownies, considering they are GAPS/Paleo/Grain-free.” No, THE best brownies.

To quote my husband: “Whatever you had written down as the brownie recipe you were going to make for the rest of your life - scratch it and make these instead!”
Yep. And my husband does not follow a GAPS diet, or paleo or even grain-free, or gluten-free. He could eat any old brownie if he wanted to!

Somehow they manage to be fudgy and slightly cake-y at the same time! As far as I’m concerned - that’s pretty perfect!

This recipe started it’s life as one of Megan’s (a.k.a. Detoxinista) recipes for brownies made from almond pulp. Don’t know who that is? You are so missing out! She has a wonderful blog, full of awesome, healthy and oh so tasty recipes!

Anyway, after playing around with the recipe for a while, adjusting ingredients and amounts, I came up with a GAPSified version, that works really well, is packed with nutrition, doesn’t use a ton of almond flour, and, as mentioned above, is now our absolute favorite!

And they couldn’t be easier to make. Just dump everything in a bowl, whisk to combine, bake, done! And if you’ve done “specialty recipes” before, “quick and easy” is NOT a given!



1/3 cup organic unsweetened applesauce (I use homemade)

1/4 cup ghee (or coconut oil)
1/3 cup raw honey*

1/3 cup date sugar (I use this one)

1/2 cup almond flour (I use Honeyville Almond Flour)

1/2 cup organic cocoa powder (I use this one)
2 tsp. organic vanilla extract
2 large eggs, pastured
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch of sea salt

*I use our local raw hickory honey - it is fairly thick, pretty mild in flavor but strong in sweetening power, even when baked. You may have to adjust your honey accordingly, depending on how it comes through once baked and how liquid it is. The closest commercially available honey that compares to my local ones in both flavor and consistency, is this one, another favorite of mine!



Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease and line an 8”x8” dish or pan with parchment paper.
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl until an even and thick batter results.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the middle is no longer jiggley and the edges are pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Allow to cool before serving.


Note: For an extra decadent treat, frost with a little of this buttercream once completely cool. SO good!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Homemade Ketchup (GAPS, Paleo, Refined Sugar Free)



12 lbs. fresh tomatoes, quartered (for canned tomatoes, see note)
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium red pepper, diced
1/4 cup celery leaves or chopped celery stalks
1/4 cup of ghee (or butter - optional, but I would highly recommend it!)
1  1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice (if you are canning this is essential)
1 Ceylon cinnamon stick, broken up a bit
2 tsp whole cloves
about 7 whole allspice berries
2 garlic chive stems, with flower heads (or 1 clove of garlic - I can't use garlic due to husband's allergy)
1 cup pure honey (You may need more or less - somewhat depends on what kind of honey you have and how strongly it comes through)

1/2 cup date sugar

2-2  1/2 tbsp. herbamare (or sea salt)
1 small can of organic tomato paste



Combine tomatoes, onion, bell pepper,and celery in a large stockpot (mine is 9 quarts and it was just enough) Crush the tomatoes slightly with a potato masher to make enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tomatoes are soft and falling apart, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the vinegar to a small saucepan. Add the spices and garlic (chive flower heads) and bring to a boil over high heat.
Remove from heat and let stand for about 30 minutes or so. Pour vinegar through a strainer into the tomato mix. Discard spices. Simmer tomatoes, for another 30 minutes.

The lid is off from now on.

In batches, run the tomato mixture through a food mill (fine disk) to remove seeds & skins. Or press through a sieve, or puree in a food processor then sieve.

Return pulp to the stockpot, add tomato puree, lemon juice and ghee and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until the volume is reduced by about half, and the texture is about the thickness of a thick tomato sauce. Takes about 3 hours at a gentle simmer. You can turn the heat up higher to shorten the simmer time, but you will need to be close by to stir frequently.

Prepare canner, jars and lids.

Blend tomato pulp with an immersion blender or puree in a food processor/blender. Return to stockpot, add honey, date sugar & salt, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Simmer, stirring occasionally - I would really recommend using splatter guard if you have one, at this point!

Just keep simmering away until it is just a little thinner than you want the final product to be, (ketchup will further thicken when cold.)

If you're canning, fill hot jars to ½-inch headspace, wipe rims, affix lids and process in a boiling water bath for about 20 min.

Or you can freeze the ketchup.



1.) If using canned tomatoes, use 6 x 28 oz. cans and omit the food mill step, as skins have already been removed.
2.) If you're not canning the ketchup (or you are pressure canning it,) you can omit the lemon juice and replace with 1/4 c of ACV. The lemon juice is just to keep the home canning safe.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Homemade Ham (GAPS, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar free, preservative free)




6 lbs. or so of Pork loin (excess fat removed)

3/4  gallon water

3/4 - 1 cup Himalayan sea salt

1 cup raw honey 

1 tbsp. dried sage

1 tbsp. dried thyme

8 whole peppercorns
1 cup  fresh celery juice (optional)

1 l prepared water kefir (also optional, but does help to prepare pork properly) - or more water + 1 tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice



Place the water, salt, sage, thyme and peppercorns into a saucepan. Heat and  stir until salt is dissolved. Let it cool until just barely warm, then add 1 cup of raw honey. Stir until dissolved.
Let it cool all the way to room temperature, then add 1 bottle of homemade water kefir - this is less for flavor and more for the acid base to properly prepare pork, even though the flavor does contribute.  I love using homemade water kefir root beer in this!

Add the fresh celery juice  too. Stir to combine.

Note that celery juice does contain some natural nitrates, so if you are trying to avoid them, omit the celery juice. I am adding it for flavor, more than anything else.

I cut the loin into about 3 -4 pieces - they brine and smoke more evenly that way.

Place each piece in a gallon zip lock bag, divide brine amongst it.



I like to place my bags in a little box or basket, so they are pushed together a little more. The brine rises and  covers all the meat. That way you don't have to turn the meat.  If you don’t do it this way, turn the meat once a day, so all the sides get brined evenly.


Place in the fridge and let it brine for 3-4 days.

Remove meat from brine and rinse well. Pat it really dry.


{A double batch, just before smoking.}

I hickory smoke it for 3.5-4 hrs. at 200 F until the internal temp is 150F.



{All done! Now just cooling down before slicing and freezing!}

Let it cool and slice/shave it thinly (with a deli slicer!)




Store in the refrigerator. Unlike the commercial ham, this will not keep nearly as long, even when refrigerated, since we have no preservatives. Treat it like you would any other cooked meat.
I find that slicing one of the pieces and keeping it in the fridge, while freezing the others and then taking them out one by one as we slice and eat it, works well!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Salted Caramel Ice Cream (GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar Free)

This is not your run-of-the-mill caramel ice cream. It has a very satisfying honey flavor with a hint of salted caramel, enveloped in a rich and velvety ice cream texture.

And, this ice cream is scoop-able right out of the freezer!

My children have declared it “the best ice cream you ever made.” That is high praise, especially since they love all the other ice creams I have made before!



Salted Caramel Ice Cream



3/4 cup of pure honey

2 tbsp. water

1 can of  Coconut milk 

1/2 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt

4 egg yolks (fresh, preferably from pastured chickens) room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup of cultured cream (I make mine from raw milk, culturing it for 24 hrs. with some milk kefir grains)



Place the honey and the water in a pan. Let it cook to 240 F (soft boil stage) on your candy thermometer. This takes about 8-10 minutes.
Then, carefully, add 1 can of coconut milk and 1/2 tsp of sea salt and stir to combine.

Let it cook until the temperature goes back up to 190 - 200F.

It will look like sweetened condensed milk, but a bit more runny.
Remove from heat and let it cool down to room temp.

Then add 4 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 1/2 cups of cultured cream. Whisk together and process in the ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, that is fine. Whisk it a little longer to thoroughly incorporate the ingredients and whip in some air.  Then pour into a container and freeze over night.

If you are processing this in an ice cream maker, please note that this particular ice cream will stay really slushy and soft. It barely gets to soft serve stage, so just transfer it to your ice cream container and freeze at least over night.

Unlike other ice creams, this scoops right out of the freezer, so no need to set this ice cream out to thaw a bit before serving.


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Monday, September 15, 2014

CRUNCHY Butternut Squash Chips (GAPS, SCD, Paleo, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free)

This, my friends, is a bowl of truly crunchy heaven!

When you are on GAPS, or many other diets, you seriously lack the crunch factor. There is the odd crispy thing, but there is no real crunch crunch. There’s the kind of crunch you get from a cracker, or the crunch you get from dried zucchini chips (which is a little on the chewy/leathery side) and of course there is the crunch you get from a carrot - but there nothing close to the crunch you get from a potato chip or a tortilla chip.
Until you make these little babies!
They are truly crunchy. And delicious. And even though somewhat labor intensive, not hard to do!
My family really, REALLY likes these! Even the ones that aren’t doing GAPS! Who would have ever thought that my kids would beg me for butternut squash anything on a regular basis? Not me, but here we are!

So, let’s get started!
This recipe only has two ingredients. The recipe is not so much in the ingredients however, it is in the method.
It does help to have a dehydrator to make it easier to make these chips, but an oven works too.

Butternut Squash Chips


1 Butternut squash, preferably one with a long, straight neck
Ghee, or frying oil of choice

Equipment: Potato peeler, Mandoline or other slicer (you need something that produces thin, even slices,) a dehydrator (or oven,) and means to deep or pan fry, kitchen tongs.


Slice the butternut squash just where it begins to bulge outwards.
That is where the seeds usually start. We want to use the top part for chips.

You can also use the bottom part for chips, however, they will end up being thin-ish half moon shapes.  I generally hollow out the bottom part and place it in the freezer. Once I have collected a few, I defrost and stuff them with meat and veggies for dinner. Not only does it taste delicious, it also looks really cute, prepared in it’s own little butternut squash bowl!


Peel the top part of the squash. You generally have to go over the same spot a couple of times to get to the bright orange flesh, with no whitish skin left, or the green veins that sometimes run under the skin.

Slice on a mandoline. I have tried several different thicknesses and personally I prefer 1/8 of an inch. They don’t take too long to dry and they still make a pretty sturdy chip.
You can go a little thinner or a little thicker, but I really wouldn’t go thicker than 1/4 inch, as the puffing up later will be impeded if the chip is too thick.


Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and in batches, boil the squash slices. About 2 minutes per batch.
They should still be pretty firm when you pull them out and by no means cooked through. I use kitchen tongs to pull them out and they still stand up really well to that grabbing pressure. If they fall apart on you, you are cooking them for too long. We really just want to blanch them!
I usually blanch them in 4-5 batches. Make sure that you put them into the boiling water one by one, so none of them stick together going in!

Once blanched, layer them onto the trays of your dehydrator. I tend to wait until they have cooled down just enough for me to touch all the slices, then layer them in there. Process according to your dehydrator instructions until completely dry. Some will curl up, some won’t - it’s all good.

You can also lay them out in a single layer on cookie sheets and dry them on the lowest setting of your oven.

And this is what they will look like once done. Completely dry, somewhat hard, but in a leathery kind of way.
Now, the magic happens.
I have no photos of the actual frying process. There is a reason for that!
The reason is .... you need to be FAST. As in, split seconds fast, so there’s no way I could photograph and not have the chips burn.

I generally fry mine in a small pan with about an inch or so of ghee in it. You can use other oils or fats too. It all works.

Heat your fat to about 350-375 F.

Now, fry them, one by one. Yes, don’t be tempted to dump them all in, I guarantee you they will all burn as you can’t get them out fast enough.

So, one by one, using kitchen tongues again, place a dehydrated chip in the hot fat, almost instantly flip it around to the other side and them take it out. I am literally talking about a second on each side.
But in that second, magic happens. You will see the chip puff up, sometimes it will uncurl, and it will turn to a deep orange. Sometimes the color doesn’t look like it changed much, but it will continue cooking even after you pulled it out, so DO pull it out. They will turn into an orangey brown once they cool.

Place on a kitchen towel to drain the excess oil/fat.

Keep doing this, one by one.

If you leave them in to get really brown, they are still crispy, but the more “burnt” they become, the more bitter they will taste, and that’s not what we want. So, one second each side, remember?
See the difference in the photo below. The left one went too far, the right one is what you’re aiming for !

Below you can see how the chip changes from dehydrated state to fried state. See those lovely bubbles? That’s the crunch factor!

Dehydrated squash slice.                                     Fried chip from dehydrated slice.

And there you have it. I like to give a light shake of Herbamare over them and enjoy, either by themselves or with dips, salsa, as nachos, etc.

Yes,  these are a bit of work! But the good news is that because they are dehydrated, you don’t have to do ALL of the above every time you make them. You can make large batches of dehydrated slices and store them in an air tight container and fry them up pretty quickly whenever you want them!
And butternut squash season is coming, so they will be a lot cheaper too. Well worth stocking up on!

I generally store the dehydrated slices in an air-tight jar and then fry up as many as we will eat. However, if you are going to store the fried chips longer, make sure they're in an air-tight container or bag, otherwise they will lose some of their crunch!


Since this is a little labor intensive, I did of course experiment with seemingly simpler ways. None of them worked out.
Here is what I’ve tried:
  • I tried them fresh and fried, total flop. Literally. Nothing crispy about them at all!
  • I tried them fresh (without the dehydrating step) both blanched and not blanched. Also didn’t work out. Except for making them paper thin ... but those don't hold up to much and they were quite hard to get to the right crispness without completely burning them. And no puffing up either.
  • Tried them just soaked in water and then dehydrated and fried - got crispy and a little bit puffy but they also had an oddly bitter flavor, which I really didn’t care for!

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