Archive for January, 2012

My dear friends…

Posted in gfcf diet, primal cooking on January 17, 2012 by askthesky

Yes.  Your eyes do not deceive you.  This here is a pot of proper comfort chicken ‘n dumplings, totally primal-friendly.  Even Granny would be proud of this one.

Here is the un-recipe (I’m so sorry, I rarely stop to write anything down while I’m cooking, so consider un-recipes more of a guideline than a true recipe):

Chicken Stew with Dumplings That’s So Good Everyone Will Gobble It Up

serves approx 4, with leftovers for lunch the next day.

Ingredients:

For the stew:

cooked chicken (I used five boneless, skinless thighs, baked in the oven with a little salt and cayenne for about 40 minutes), diced

cut up vegetables of your choosing- for this, I used 2 carrots, 4 parsnips, 1 sweet potato, 3 onions, and 4 ribs of celery

4 cloves garlic

arrowroot powder (about three tablespoons)

coconut flour (about a tablespoon)

1 quart mason jar of homemade chicken stock, plus extra water if needed

salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, all to taste

For the dumplings (or, if you prefer, as I do, dumplin’s):

2 cups almond flour (I used almond meal from Trader Joe’s, cause that’s all I have at the moment)

1/4 cup arrowroot powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

2 TBS grassfed butter, or solid fat of choice, cold, cut into small pieces

2 eggs

a glug (maybe 1/4 cup, probably a little less) almond milk

Step one: Make the stew.  Stew it up right.

Turn the oven on to 425 degrees.  In a large dutch oven, saute your onions and celery until translucent.  Add the rest of the veg and the garlic and cook a few minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Do not, under any circumstances, let your garlic brown.  Keep stirring!  You can do it!  Next, add in your spices.  Then, sprinkle the arrowroot powder and the coconut flour over the vegetables, and stir to coat.  Quickly stir in your chicken stock, and extra water if it all seems too gloopy.  Let this yum cook for another 5 minutes or so, at a gentle bubble- medium heat, stirring all the while.  Add in your chicken.  Make your dumplings in between stirs.  Bring the stew pot up to a boil.

Step two: Make the dumplings.  Dump the dump(get it?)lings in.

Mix the flours, salt, and baking powder.  Cut in the butter with a fancy schmancy pastry cutter, or your hands.  Add in your eggs and milk, and beat gently with a fork until uniform.  Once your stew is really serious about its boil, drop the dumpling batter on top in tablespoonfulls.  I used a one tablespoon measure cookie scoop, which worked best.  This batter is very soft- you can’t mold it with your hands before dropping it in, but have faith.  It will all be fine in the end.

Step three: Bake it all up for baby and me!

I don’t have a baby, but if I did, I would feed this to it.  Just sayin.

Pop the be-dumpled pot, uncovered, into that piping hot oven.  Let it bake and firm up those dumplings for about 20 minutes.  Let it stand outside the oven for at least 10 minutes to avoid giving your family third degree burns in their mouths.  If you skip this last step, I’m afraid they will still be able to sass you.  Ask me how I know.

Step four: FEAST LIKE IT’S 1999!

Or, uh… 2099?

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I am cavewoman, hear me cook

Posted in musings on January 13, 2012 by askthesky

Another one of the major changes I’ve slowly been implementing over the past year is in our eating plan.  For those of you just recently joining us, since my son Zander’s diagnosis with autism several years ago, we’ve not eaten gluten, dairy, soy, artificial colors and flavors, nitrates/nitrites, and preservatives.  So, already, our diet was limited far more than the Standard American (crap) Diet.

More recently, I had the opportunity to read Mark Sisson’s book, The Primal Blueprint. To say it changed my thinking would be like saying I wouldn’t kick Orlando Bloom out of my bed- the understatement of the century, if you will.  (Just kidding, husband!  I’d totally kick him out!)

One of the things I love about Mark’s book is that while it talks a great deal about what we eat, and what our body does after we eat it, he takes a holistic approach to lifestyle, rather than focusing only on food.  I encourage everyone to read this book, even if you’re not willing to change your diet.  Read it for the movement information, the stress information, and the sleep information.

The eating plan outlined in the book is a lot like the paleo diet, and while I’m not going to get into detail here, I will say that it’s done wonders for our family.  Cutting out grains, sugars, and basically all processed foods has helped my husband and I lose extra weight, given us all more energy, helped with the ‘brain fog’ that sometimes followed meals, and helped make my family even more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies, which is a very high priority of mine.  In fact, at a New Year’s Day party we had at our house this year, my 7-year old son said to a friend, “if it’s not homemade, you might as well not eat it.”  When I heard that, my chest exploded with pride and I immediately baked that child some pumpkin muffins.

When I was a classroom teacher, I was appalled at how little my students knew about their food.  Not nutrition, mind you, they knew about the food pyramid and what the government says they should eat, but some of them didn’t know that fruits grew on trees, or that meat comes from animals.  It was shocking.  I want my kids to know as much as possible about where their food comes from, how it is grown/raised, and why we eat what we eat.

This new plan requires me to do a lot of cooking, which I love, so no worries there.  It also requires a lot of planning, which is what I want to write a little bit about today, because I know for someone entering into this adventure having never really cooked from scratch before, information like what’s about to follow can be the difference between sticking with it and giving up.

I have several cookbooks.  The one I use most often is Paleo Comfort Foods (by the way, none of these links are affiliates, just regular joe links).  I also love The Primal Blueprint Cookbook, and my new favorite, Well Fed.  I also subscribe to lots of paleo and primal cookery blogs, including Elana’s Pantry, Wellness Mama, and Life as a Plate. Every week, as I go through the new posts in my feed reader, I star the recipes I want to make later.  Then, I sit down with some of my very best friends,

Laptop, coffee, blank legal pad, and pencil.  *Full disclosure: this is pretty much the exact same thing that Melissa suggests in Well Fed, I’m not claiming to have invented it or anything.  Kthnx.  I write in my categories first: Vegetables, Protein, Sauces, Recipes, and Fruits.  Fruits is last because that’s the toughest thing for us to limit at our house, but we’re working on it.  Next, I write in all of the food I already have that needs to be used, as well as any recipes I already had in mind for those foods:

Then, I head to my books and starred blog posts to see what other recipes I’d like to make this week.  I list those, then add the ingredients to my shopping list and my legal pad list.  This list is mostly for dinners, so if I need eggs (which we always do), I’ll add that to my shopping list, but not to my legal pad.  Lunches in our house are usually dinner leftovers with added veggies, fruit, and nuts as sides.  Most recipes that I make, I double or triple.  I have really good eaters at my house!

So, at the end of the planning session, my legal pad looks a lot more like this:

…and I have a lot of work to do!   Now, it’s time to head to the store and get all the ingredients I didn’t already have (most of the meat is in the deep freezer, as I go up to the meat farm once a month or so and stock up).  On my cooking day, which is usually Sunday, I prep all my veg (peeling, slicing, chopping, and blanching, if needed) and my meat (browning ground meats, defrosting, baking the chicken, etc), so that when it’s time to make dinner, it’s really just a matter of mixing and finishing the cooking, rather that starting from scratch.  I also prep a bunch of things for lunch boxes, like boiling eggs, washing and cutting up raw veg, washing fruits, and making trail mix.  I also usually bake some muffins or bread (with almond and coconut flour!) for lunches or breakfasts, and I always make a soup each week that we sometimes have for breakfasts when we get tired of eggs.

I hope that’s helpful to someone out there, but for now, it’s my cooking day today because of the holiday weekend, so I’m off to the store!

New Wife, New Life

Posted in life in general, musings on January 9, 2012 by askthesky

So, I was writing on Facebook yesterday, thinking about whether I should explain my year-long absence from this here bloggity blog, or just plod forward, leaving you all (anyone?  Bueller?) to catch up as you could along the way. I decided to do the latter, but I think I might be changin’ me mind, at least a little bit. You see, dear reader, the year that has just passed has been the most awe-inspiring of my life.  Many wondrous things have happened that have altered the course of everything, for the best.  I don’t feel as though I can just walk past those things here and not mention them at all, so here’s an explanatory post for ye.

+><+:+:+   Cue tinkly jingle jangle dream sequence music  :+_+:{:”>:”

FLASHBACK!  When I last posted to the blog, we were seeing some Christmasy sights around our house in the year 2010.  I wasn’t saying much more at the time, because I didn’t want to jinx anything, but now, apparently I’m all about tempting the fates.  Just kidding, fates!  I love you guys, for realz.

FLASHFURTHERBACK!  Right before that post, I went to a wedding with my good friend Danny.  Danny and I had attended another wedding together, as friends, so that was no big thing.  This all went down the first weekend of November.  But wait!

FLASHEVENFURTHERBACK!  (Isn’t this fun?) I first met Danny at church circa 2005.  Danny was a student at Towson, studying music education.  He was hired to sing as one of the soloists in the choir that I sing with.  Danny was… a goofball (spoiler: he still is.).  He looked a lot like this at that time:

I’d apologize for the small size of this photo, but I think it’s actually a blessing.  So, we have established a few things:

1. Danny and I worked together at church (and still do).

2. Danny had very interesting hair.

3. Danny was a college student in 2005 (this part becomes more important later*).

We became good friends over the years.  Our choir soloists used to always head out for drinks after Thursday night rehearsals, which was really fantastic for this single mom who didn’t get a lot of social time.  Danny was (and is) the guy who is always holding the door open, getting the drinks from the bar, listening to you yammer on about the latest jerk you had the misfortune of ending up on a date with, picking up the tab, and driving you home even though you live only three blocks from the bar.  He’s just good people.

He also was very flirtatious with me, in a sort of sweet way. *For years, I wrote him off as way too young to be seriously interested in me (see college student in 2005, and do some mental math).  What a mistake THAT was, my friends.

Back to the wedding in November 2010.  We go to the wedding, the wedding is lovely, Danny asks the DJ to play Journey’s Faithfully for me, I had lots of wine.  Danny took this amazingly unflattering, jaundiced photo of me:

Everyone there is pulling me aside to ask if I’m Danny’s girlfriend.  After the eleventy billionth time of explaining that no, we’re just friends who look like we’re together, seem like we should be, but we’re not… I started to think that my explanation wasn’t making as much sense as it had before.  That, in actuality, it wasn’t making any sense at all. We drove home from that wedding and had a nice long talk about things.  There was a shooting star, right across Orion, which if you know me, you know there’s no way I could ignore a sign as clear as that.  We decided to start dating, BUT!  I wasn’t going to let him get some sort of free pass, just because we’d been friends for so long. I told him he’d have to court me, properly.  Not in a colonial way, on wagons, but he was going to need to work to impress me (in hindsight, though, wagons would have proven quite impressive, indeed).

The Tuesday following, Danny called me as I was leaving a meeting at church to find out when I would be home.  He was waiting for me when I got there, with a large paper bag and two soy lattes.  Once inside, he explained that there was going to be a hot (lattes) and cold theme to this, our surprise first date, and pulled from the bag with a flourish a pint of Hagen Daas.  My heart sank.  I haven’t eaten dairy in years, and he was being so cute, I didn’t want to burst his bubble.  It must have shown on my face, so he stuck his hand back in the bag and back out again, grasping the greatest dessert known to man, a pint of Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet from Ciao Bella.  Friends, this is my absolute favorite thing.  I mean, I love it with a firey passion.

The date was going very well.

Our second (or maybe third) date was Thanksgiving at my brother Jason’s house.  My family is HUGE and REDONKS, so I was a little nervous for Danny.  He’s never a wallflower, but meeting 35 or so immediate family members of a girl you’ve gone on two dates with has got to be daunting for any man.  Here’s how he fit in:

That’s my sister Laurie, Danny, and a bunch of my nieces.  It was the party table.  Needless to say, he fit in just fine, and set a new record for learning everyone’s name on the first try.  He’s got a gift for that.

FLASHONLYSLIGHTLYFORWARD!  (You thought I was finished with that, didn’t you?) Christmas Day, 2010.  Roughly one month has passed since our first date.  Now, Danny has known my kids since they were little (see: mental math, 2005, above), and he’s an elementary school music teacher, but he had never been alone with them for any extended period of time.  My dear friend MA was in labor, and I was her doula.  Christmas morning, the kids were up at 7, opening presents.  By 7:30, I was out the door on my way to the laboring mama, and Danny was left alone with the kids for the first time ever, ON CHRISTMAS DAY.  This little angel man:

…was born that evening.  Danny had to give my kids a happy Christmas day, then deliver them to their dad, all while I was away.  Looking back on it, he could have turned and ran after that. He could have said, you know what, this just isn’t what I’m looking for, so thanks for the fun times, but I’m out.

After all, we’d only been dating for one month.

Instead, he stayed.  He stayed because he wanted all of me- he wanted me, the kids, the responsibility, the weight that is us.  He needed us, and we sure as hell needed him.

He asked me to marry him in February.

I did so in June.

I have never been so happy, and I have this man to thank for it.  Every single thing in my life is now in clear focus, because we are an unstoppable team.

I love you so much, babe.  You’ve made me me again.

THE END!   …or, THE BEGINNING!

new rule

Posted in musings on January 8, 2012 by askthesky

If you intend to read a load of blog posts on google reader, you must first post to your own sad and neglected blog.  It’s really the least you could do.

Some Christmas-y things i made, post-Christmas…

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a lovely granny baby blanket, commissioned by a friend for his niece.

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convertible mittens for Sage, with smart little buttons for keeping the flaps down.

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s sweet little ripple cowl, just for me, shamelessly.

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cooler-than-thou mitts made for me by ms julia, out of some outgrown and much-loved Sage pajamas.

I also made a rather plain hat, too small for Danny and re-given to my mom, several baby hats, and a bunch of non-yarn ornaments with the kiddos.  Over the weekend, I was able to get a lot of work finished on a freeform sweater that I’ve had in the works for years, thanks to teaching a freeform workshop class on Saturday.  Very excited to begin on a rainbow blanket for my bed as well, after the sweater.  onward!!