Tuesday, September 3, 2013

So Much To Do At The Zoo

I went to the zoo this week with my kids and granddaughter. I am blessed to live a short drive from the fabulous Woodland Park Zoo. I've taken my kids there since they were tiny tots and they've loved seeing all the changes that have happened at the zoo.

Since we started going to the zoo, they've made a beautiful African savanna exhibit where the giraffes can wander and nibble on the trees, hippos can wallow in pools, and zebras can strike a pose for the cameras.

The penguin pool has been revamped so that you can see the penguins climb the rocks, dive into the water, swim underwater, and receive their ration of something that smells suspiciously like fish. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's fish. If not, they might want to get their refrigerator checked, because something definitely smells fishy there.

A Northwest trail has been built to showcase wolves, eagles, and other critters from around my neck of the woods. Gorillas now have a large area where they can swing, rolls, play, cuddle, and hang out to groom each other, French braiding their back hair. Otters have their own slip and slide stream. And there is an awesome space for little kids to get in touch with farm animals, seeing how chickens lay eggs, pretend milking a cow, and petting goats and sheep.

The animal exhibits aren't the only thing that's changed at the zoo, though. My daughter pointed out something fascinating. Kids at the zoo have changed.

When my kids were vey little I'd bring along an umbrella stroller (the kind that's lightweight and folds easily), just for them to rest in. But as soon as they were walking, they didn't spend much time in the stroller. They were too eager to run and explore. There were places to climb, things to touch, and, oh yes, animals to see. Why sit still in a stroller when there was all that to experience?

What we saw a ton of at the zoo this week was kids in strollers as big as an SUV. And these kids were strapped in. And they always had snacks in front of them. Once it was pointed out to me, I was shocked. Kids are ALWAYS EATING. Even when they are too big to put in a stroller, they walk with food in their hands.

What are we teaching our children if we take them to the zoo, strapped into what's basically a couch, and put food in front of them? Honestly, you might as well stay at home, put the kids on a real couch, turn on the Discovery channel, let them eat cereal and candy, and save on the gas.

Doing the zoo this way does two things:

1- The kids never engage with the environment. Sure, it's a pain to constantly make sure your kids aren't getting into trouble, but the seemingly easy trade-off for not training your children to obey you is that you get passive, couch potato children. They are not going to be curious, eager learners.

2- They will get fat. No exercise plus food they're not hungry for is a recipe for obese kids. Didn't I hear somewhere that kids these days are getting fatter? Yeah. There might be a reason for that. Parent's are strapping their kids into mobile restraining devices and feeding them unneeded junk. (In my book, even "healthy" whole wheat Cheerios are junk.)

So stroller + snacks = passive and massive. Ugh.

"But," I hear those mothers saying, "my cherub gets so hungry! If I don't bring snacks she whines the whole trip."

Easy solution. Feed that child a nourishing, satisfying, nutrient dense breakfast. Then let them run and play at the zoo. They'll be too busy to even notice that they don't have their snacks in front of them!

Most mornings at my house breakfast is either eggs (fried or scrambled, sometimes with cheese and salsa on top), or smoothies made with bananas, farm eggs (raw), spirulina powder, cacao powder, grass-fed gelatin, homemade raw yogurt and homemade raw milk kefir. On Saturdays, though, I tend to put a little more effort into it.

This is a wonderful coffee cake that I made with freshly picked strawberries. My husband and daughter both asked for scrambled eggs to go with it, as they feared the carb crash that usually follows a coffee cake. Not to worry! Since it has coconut flour and a ton of eggs, it's hearty and satisfying and won't leave you feeling lethargic in a carb coma. Try it and see how much more energy you have for the day!

Strawberry Breakfast Cake

6 eggs
1/4 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
2 Tbsp raw honey (or maple syrup, if you're not on GAPS)
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk of choice (coconut, almond, raw dairy)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1-1/2 cups strawberries, diced and divided


1 cup nuts/seeds of choice (I used soaked and dehydrated almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
2 Tbsp raw honey
2 Tbsp butter or coconut oil
1 Tbsp cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Lightly grease an 8x8-inch baking pan with coconut oil.

2- In a large bowl mix together the eggs, oil or butter, honey, milk, and vanilla.

3- Add the coconut flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir until combined.

4- Fold in 1 cup of the diced strawberries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

5- Combine all of the topping ingredients in a small bowl.

6- Spoon the mixture over the top of the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup strawberries over the top.

7- Bake for 45 minutes, or until the a cake tester poked in the center of the cake comes out clean. If you need to bake longer than 45 minutes and the top is looking browned, cover it with a piece of foil so that the topping doesn't burn.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

You Might Be A Hippie If...

Sometimes I get so entrenched in my routines that I forget that what I do and how I live is not average or "normal." Then a visitor comes to my house and I see my life through their (wide) eyes and I realize, "Oh, this is kind of different." So, if you're not sure where you fall on the scale of Normal to Weirdo, this post might be helpful to you.

You might be a hippie if-

1- You schedule your week around the Farmers' Markets and picking up your Farm Box.

2- An essential kitchen tool is the roll of painter's tape and the sharpie for marking all of the mystery mason jars in the refrigerator. Otherwise, how do you know what's raw milk, what's kefired milk, what's homemade yogurt, what's homemade sour cream, or whey?

3- You walk outside barefoot as part of your health care regimen.

4- You blacken your teeth with activated charcoal. To get them white.

5- You make your own lotion, deodorant, and toothpaste.

6- Your most used kitchen appliance is your dehydrator. Or your juicer.

7- You spend a half an hour each morning swishing a mouthful of oil.

8- When you're pregnant, the big question is whether or not you'll have a water birth. It's a given that you will birth at home with a midwife.

9- You participate at nurse-ins.

10- You get excited to find a new recipe that uses beets. Or kohlrabi. Or fennel.

11- You plant food plants in the front yard instead of ornamentals.

12- You consider moving to a different neighborhood so you can keep chickens. Or you already have chickens, but want more.

13 - You consider moving to a different neighborhood so you can keep a goat.

14- Your kids are the only ones in their play group that aren't vaccinated.

15- Your dining room has a corner devoted to a collection of 2 gallon jars brewing Kombucha.

16- Your kitchen counters are full of jars bubbling with fermenting foods.

17- You not only know that the head of the FDA used to work for Monsanto, you care. Deeply.

18- You examine the label on every bar of chocolate at Whole Foods for one without the dreaded "soy lecithin."

19- Your toddler doesn't understand how to play with the plastic drive-though toy at the play center. Or orders "broccoli" at the window.

20 - You pack your lunch in glass and stainless steel.

And the top, most telling sign that you might be a hippie? Rinsing and reusing your plastic vegetable bags. Although, if you were really, truly a hippie, you'd bring your own homemade cloth vegetable bags.

Now that you've cleared up your standing on the normal to weirdo scale, let me introduce you to a new favorite dish in our home. As you might know, we used to have pizza every week. And that was one of the saddest parts of giving up grains. No more pizza!  But happily, we have found workarounds. Cauliflower crust pizza is a keeper. We also love making mini pizzas with rounds of squash (maybe lazy me will get around to blogging that someday). But this recipe incorporates pizza flavors with the ease of a quiche. My family gets so excited when it's on the menu!

The top three reasons for making pizza quiche are:

1- It makes two, so there's some for tomorrow's lunch.

2- It's delicious. Everyone will love it.

3- It's real, whole food, so you can enjoy it and not regret it later.

GAPS Pizza Quiche
 - adapted from Spunky Coconut

1 small butternut squash
Olive oil
1 lb Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
2 handfuls spinach or kale
1/4 cup sliced olives
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup tomato paste
8 eggs
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried Italian Seasoning
1/4 lb. grated GAPS legal cheese

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. with rack in the middle of the oven.

2- Peel the butternut squash and slice the neck into 1/4" thick slices. Cut the bulbous part in half and scoop out the seeds.

3- Brush 2 pie dishes with olive oil and lay the squash slices into them, covering as much as possible. Cut the bulbous part of the squash into pieces, fitting them into gaps for better coverage.

4- Brush the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.

5- Place the pie plates in the oven for 15 minutes.

6- While the squash slices are baking, cook the sausage in a skillet over medium heat.

7- When the sausage is cooked through, remove it to a bowl and set it aside. Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into the skillet and cook the onions until they are softened.

8- When the timer rings, remove the squash from the oven and heat the oven to 375 deg.

9- Divide the onions between the two pie pans.

10- Place the spinach or kale into the skillet over med-low heat. Place a lid on the skillet and cook just to wilt the greens. Remove the lid and let the steam rise off the greens. If they're sweaty, roll them into a kitchen towel or paper towels and squeeze to remove excess moisture. Divide the greens between the two pie plates.

11- Divide the cooked sausage between the two pie plates.

12- In a blender puree the coconut milk and the tomato paste.

13- Add the eggs, salt, garlic powder, Italian seasoning and puree again till frothy.

14- Pour the egg mixture evenly over the sausage. Quickly sprinkle with the cheese and place in the oven right away so they won't lose their loft.

15- Bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Zen of Grocery Shopping

Most people I know find grocery shopping annoying. I think it's annoying to try to get out the door to go grocery shopping, but once I'm there, I enjoy the calm zen of shopping. How do I achieve that inner peace, you ask? I am happy to share my secrets of zen procurement with you.

Step One- This one is crucial and non-negotiable. Leave the kids at home. But it's a good teaching time, you say. No. There are other teaching opportunities. But I don't have anyone to watch them, you say. Let them watch television, I say. They'll never even know you're gone. (Bad parenting? Perhaps, perhaps.) The only exception to this iron-clad rule is if you have an infant. They will know. Especially if you're breast-feeding. And if your baby wakes up hungry and you're not there, you will be strolling down the aisles trying to cover your shirt with large collard greens to hide the leaking breast milk. Strap your baby to you to go shopping. Although, really, if you have a nursing baby, you should send your husband out to do the shopping. After all, you're already getting food for one member of the family.

Step Two - Don't rush it. Take you time. Go down each and every aisle. Stop to admire the artful produce pyramids. Take a few moments to read the labels. Chat with the butcher about the best way to cook a particular cut of meat.

Step Three - Enjoy the music. If they are playing hits from your high school years, you have my permission to hum along.

Step Four - If they are giving out samples, don't take one and rush along. Stop and chat with the sample lady. Ask questions about the product. They are happy to have people interested and it makes them feel less like a hog farmer at feeding time.

Step Five - If there is a wine section, find the wine guy and ask advice on what to serve with a vegetable medley casserole. Even if you don't drink wine. Wine guys are passionate about their wine and one question can keep them talking for upwards of 20 minutes.

Step Six - Chat with the person at the checkout counter. Ask about their plans for the weekend, whether they've tried the frozen shrimp and if they liked them, what the medical and dental benefits are of the grocery store. Talking slows them down.

Step Seven - If the store offers help getting your bags out to the car, by all means accept that offer. A nice chatty bag boy can extend the shopping excursion another 5-10 minutes. After all, he's happy to get out of the store and delay getting back in as along as possible.

Step Eight - You've been gone a long time now. When you arrive home, honk the car horn, indicating that you require assistance with the copious amounts of food you've brought home. And obviously, since you've had such an exhausting time getting the food (fighting traffic, fighting crowds, lugging the bags, etc), you can't be expected to put away all the groceries. That task should be done by other family members while you rest your feet and possibly sample that wine the wine guy recommended.

See how relaxing that sounds?

One of the things that annoys me deeply is having the zen of my grocery shopping time shattered by whining children. Some times I have to bite my lip hard to keep from going up to the parent and offering to smack their child for them. What terrible parenting to allow their child to whine relentlessly until they get their way! Why didn't they leave them at home parked in front of a cartoon?

And usually the stuff the kids whine for is garbage. Truly putrid stuff filled with artificial food coloring, HFCS, sulfites, and about a wheelbarrowfull of sugar. No wonder those kids are whiny if their parents let them eat that.

Instead, they should offer them treats like these brownies. Something that doesn't spike their blood sugar and make them behave like monkeys on cocaine. These are a decadent treat for those of us in GAPSlandia. Full of dark chocolatey flavor, sweetened only with honey, and grain-free. Whoo hoo! The berries were a delicious complement to the brownies. A dollop ice cream would not have gone amiss, but, sadly, I didn't have any on hand. But no one whined because, after all, not only did I bring home the groceries, I baked the brownies!

Real Food Grain-free Fudgey Brownies
(adapted from The Freckled Foodie)

1 large, ripe avocado
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 of a small banana
1/4 c. honey
4 oz unsweetened, 100% dark chocolate
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened dutch process cocoa powder
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp coconut flour (sifted)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  Prepare a 9x9 pan - either grease with coconut oil or line with foil.

2- Cut avocado in half, peel and seed, and place in food processor. Process until VERY smooth.

3- In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, melt the dark chocolate and coconut oil together, stirring frequently.

4- Transfer avocado to a large bowl and add the melted chocolate mixture and the remaining ingredients.

5- Using a hand mixer, whip until very well combined and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.

6- Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 28-30 min. Remove when a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool before cutting.

7- If you have the willpower, allow these to chill in the refrigerator for up to 3 days for optimum flavor. Or, break down and serve immediately with berries and whipped cream or ice cream.

* * * * *

Note: for those who are humor impaired, this was a humorous post. Let me reassure you that I am not actually advocating leaving your children home unsupervised. Nor do I actually smack other people's children. But sometimes I am tempted.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More Notes From Gapslandia

When I work out I'm a terrible clock watcher. I know you're not supposed to do that; you're supposed to focus on your workout and be mentally present. Well, some days being physically present is the best I can do. And I look to the clock to help me get through the workout. I break things into fractions.

My mental conversation for the cardio portion of my workout goes something like this:
  " It's only 5 minutes in. I can't quit yet! I know my calves hurt, but they always hurt 5 minutes in. It'll get better. Keep going."
  " Oh boy, 10 minutes in. I'm a third of the way through!"
  " That particular move (bang, bang) means we're halfway through. Hooray!"
  " I'm tired, but there's only 10 minutes left. I know I can do 10 more minutes."
And then, I'm done. Sweaty and weary, but I made it all the way through!

It was something of a shock when I counted it out on my fingers to realize that we're already 6 months into GAPS. If we go the full 2 years, that means we're 1/4 of the way through. Hooray! I think we can do this thing!

Here are a few thoughts for those who are interested in GAPS, contemplating doing GAPS, or know someone who is on GAPS.

1- GAPS is not a "gosh I need to lose 10 lbs for swimsuit season" diet. It's a tough life-style change and not to be undertaken capriciously. Read up. Get all the information. If possible, talk to others who've done it. That might need to be online, as not a lot of people have heard of GAPS. My naturopath hadn't. (I'm no longer seeing that naturopath.)

And if you know someone who's on GAPS, please don't say things like, "Oh, you're so skinny, you don't need a diet!" "You can eat anything you want and not gain a pound." "Go ahead and live a little. You know you want it....." That's not helpful.

The decision to go on GAPS is motivated by serious health issues. Unless you want to hear a whole rundown on how that seemingly healthy person isn't, don't ask. It's a big decision that they've made for big reasons. Respect that.

2- If you've been convinced that you or your family would really benefit from doing the GAPS diet, look at where you are now and be realistic. If you're eating the Standard American Diet (aka, crap), then it will be brutal to jump to go right into the Intro Diet. Take some baby steps. Work towards it. Start reading labels and eliminating all the junk from your food. Clean out your pantry. Make the choice to stop buying soda, candy, chips, and junk. You know, if it's not there, you can't eat it.

After you've purged the pantry, start cooking. For some folks, this is no big deal. They already cook everything. But for some people, this is huge. There are families that never cook. Never. They either eat out, go get fast food, or pull something out of the freezer. The oven and stove are not used, other than for reheating. For that kind family, the intro diet would make their heads explode.

If you are that kind of family, start by making chicken broth. Broth is the backbone of the GAPS diet and you'll be making LOTS of it. And it's not hard at all, but if you've never made it it might seem daunting. I'll break it down for you below. Try it! Once you see how easy it is, you'll be motivated to try making other things.

3- Keep your reasons in front of you. It's easy to have a pity party about all the things you can't have, but you can change your attitude and be grateful for all the positive changes you are seeing. When the pounds come off on the Intro Diet, rejoice in that. When your picky eater husband tries green vegetables and likes them, get excited about that. When your picky eater child says, "I love this! Can you make it again?" to a dish he previously wouldn't have touched, throw a party! And when your skin clears up, your hair stops falling out, and your chronic stomach ache disappears, shout it from the rooftops!

Chicken Bone Broth

1 organic whole chicken
1-2 onions
4 (or so) organic carrots
4 (or so) organic celery stalks
4-6 peppercorns
Filtered water
Organic apple cider vinegar

What goes into a bone broth is really subject to what you have on hand. The only non-negotiable items are the organic chicken and the filtered water. The chicken needs to be organic as arsenic is routinely added to chicken feed to keep parasites away. That arsenic ends up in the non-organic chickens. Ick. And the water needs to be filtered so you don't make broth that tastes like a swimming pool.

Prior to making the broth, you can keep a scraps bag in the freezer. Bits and bobs of vegetables can go in there to save for broth - carrot shavings, the last 1/4 of an onion, etc. Then when you get around to making broth, you can dump it all in. If you don't have that bag in your freezer, no worries. You can still make great broth.

1- Pull the chicken out of the packaging, removing the giblets (the neck and organs, usually stuffed into the cavity of the chicken) and any non-chicken bits (the little chicken Pampers that soak up blood). If this sounds too icky to you, recruit a child to help. They'll think it's cool in a gross kind of way. Set the giblets aside.

2- Place the chicken in a stock pot. At least 4 quarts in size. Roughly chop up the vegetables and throw them in with the chicken. Cover the chicken with water (cold or room temperature) and set the pot over medium heat.

3- Bring the water to a boil, then place a lid on the pot and turn off the heat. Let the residual heat continue to cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes. Turn the chicken over, replace the lid, and let it sit for another 15-20 min.

4- Take the chicken out of the water (carefully, so you don't burn or scald yourself!) and remove it to a cutting board. If you poke it with a knife, the juice should run clear. Pat yourself on the back. You just poached a chicken!  Remove the meat from the bones and toss the bones back into the pot. Save the meat for other meals (chicken salad, chef salad, enchiladas, etc).

5- Add the giblets to the pot. Add more water, if necessary to bring up the water level.

6- Pour in 1/4 cup (or so) of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. You need to ad an acid to draw the minerals out of the bones. Bring the broth to a boil over medium heat and turn it down to just simmering. Simmer for 24 hours. (This part can be done in a crock pot for safety and convenience)

7- Strain your lovely broth. It should be a dark, golden brown now and smell amazing. The bones should be soft and the cartilage dissolved. Toss all of the chunky bits your strained out and put your lovely broth into quart containers to freeze. Be sure to label the contents and put the date on it. It will keep in your freezer for at least 6 months, but if you're on GAPS, it won't last that long!

Monday, March 25, 2013

You Think I'm Nuts? You Might Be Right

Insomnia sucks. I've been battling it for over two years. In that time I've had maybe a handful of nights when I slept through the night. I have no trouble getting to sleep (because I'm so exhausted), but at 2 or 3 am my brain goes into hyper-drive and the weirdest thoughts come out to play, pinging around in my brain like quarks in a particle accelerator.

This morning what I woke to was my brain having a conversation with itself. "What if, " it postulated, "you did a mash-up of The Hunger Games and The Dating Game?" "Yes," it answered, " you could have a group of teenagers fighting to the death for a chance to go out with..... Justin Bieber!"

So while weary me is just wanting to go back to sleep, my brain is planning out what The Hungry Dating Game would look like.

The volunteers (I'm unsure on the number - one from each state? an even dozen? ) would stand on their platforms around the cornucopia, eyeing the loot and eyeing each other. Would it be smarter to run, or should they dash in to get the goodies. And which to choose? The hair dryer? The eyeshadow palette? The curling iron (a lethal weapon, if you can find an outlet)? A safe bet would be the Prada backpack. It's bound to have some mascara that can be used to stab someone in the eye.

I'm unsure how the actual games would play out. There would doubtless be some horrific scenes of broken nails and hair pulling. But when the final cannon sounded, there would be one victor. And poor Justin Bieber would have to go out with a mass murderer. But, that's why his bodyguards make the big bucks, right?

Eventually I fell back to sleep, waking groggy and disoriented several hours later. At which point I'm bored with bed and get up to go do the Sudoku on the computer. And think about breakfast.

All week long we have eggs for breakfast. If you're a fat-o-phobe, it might give you heart palpitations to learn that I have 2-3 eggs fried in coconut oil every day, topped with butter. My son, when he's hungry will have 4, sometimes making them into an omelette with cheese. But he gets bored with eggs. So on the weekends I try to do something different. Today I'm going to make waffles. Lovely waffles with coconut flour and lots of eggs, so they're high in protein and won't give a blood sugar spike, followed by a carb coma. I'm going to make an extra big batch so that we can have leftovers (hopefully). Left-overs in waffle land mean (gasp!) sandwiches for lunch! My husband, the sandwich-o-phile, will be so happy.

Coconut Flour Waffles
 - adapted from Health, Home, and Happiness

1/2 cup melted coconut oil, butter, or ghee
1/2 cup coconut flour, sifted or sieved
12 eggs
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract (read the label to make sure there's no added sugar)
1/2 salt
1 Tbsp gelatin

1- Preheat waffle iron. Grease it generously with coconut oil.

2- Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes. It will thicken as it rests.

3- Pour batter onto the iron, using a spoon or small cup appropriate to the size of your waffle iron. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown.

4- Serve with lots of butter and whatever else you choose. If you want to save some for lunchtime sandwiches, allow them to cool draped over the handle of a wooden spoon so they don't get soggy.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Taco Rack Winner!

And the winner of the Taco Rack giveaway is.......Kelly!

Please get back to me by Monday with your contact information so we can get your Taco Rack shipped out to you.

Congratulations, Kelly, and happy tacoing!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taco Bliss Giveaway

It blows my mind that someone invented the folding chair. I mean, I can barely get the things opened, and someone, looking at a regular chair one day said, "Hmm, if I could fold this up, it would take up way less storage space." And then they made it happen.

Inventors are amazing. When I'm irked by something, I whine and complain about it. If I do think up a solution, it's so impractical it's laughable. Case in point: getting stuck behind a semi going 35 mph on a freeway onramp. Frustration! Solution? Transporters. Like in Star Trek. Why don't we have them??

Clearly I do not have an inventor's brain. And inventor is someone who looks at a problem and then thinks through the steps to a solution. And then takes those steps to improve their life and the lives of countless others.

A friend of mine, Nicolas, is a fanatic about Mexican food. His deep and abiding passion in life is tacos. And Elvis. But that's another post. Back to the tacos. He loves tacos, but was always frustrated with them. Taco shells that shatter when you bite into them? Lame. It's eating taco salad with your hands. 

And really, what is the heart of Mexican food? The reason we love to go to Mexican restaurants? I mean, besides the margaritas. The cheese, of course! Melted, gooey cheese. The more the better!  Where in a typical homemade taco is that ooey gooey delight? You don't get it. By the time you sprinkle your cheese over your cooked meat, the meat is too cold to melt the cheese. Fail!

Such were the ruminations of Nicolas as he worked on a job at a factory that used a laser to cut steel. The light bulb moment hit. Aha! Cut steel into a shape that would hold a taco and then you could bake the taco, melt the cheese, and have peace on earth in our time! Well, maybe not that last one, but you could definitely have a happier dinner table.

Nicolas send me a Taco Rack, his invention, to try and I was super impressed with the craftsmanship (made in America!). It's sturdy stainless steel, so it's good for a lifetime. It's dishwasher safe, which makes it a win in my house. And, bonus, it comes apart to store flat in a drawer! I love that!

I took my Taco Rack to my sister's house to make tacos. (She eats grains, plus her house is way cleaner than mine.) We tried both corn and flour shells, prebaking to crisp, filling with cooked, grass-fed ground beef and cheese, and then baking to make the cheese melt and the heart sing. OMG, what a difference a baking makes. When I packed up to head home my niece was happily chomping one one of them.

At home, I made the GAPS version. My daughter helped me to dream these up and I named them. They're like little canoes of food. Made from zucchinis. Zucanoes. What do you think?

Zucanoes (GAPS-friendly)

Italian sausage
sour cream

Start with smaller zucchinis. You can't use the end of season baseball bats here because they need to fit on the Taco Rack. Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Cut a V-shaped wedge out of the top of the zucchini, leaving the ends alone. If you cut all the way through, they'll leak. Save your wedges for soup, stir-fries, or to eat with dip. With a spoon, scrape out the seeds. Discard the seeds.

Put the Taco Rack on the cookie sheet and place the zucchinis on the taco rack. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 min. (The bake time depends on the size of the zucchinis. You want them crisp/tender)

Cook Italian sausage and stuff the zucchinis 2/3 full with sausage. Sprinkle generously with grated GAPS-legal cheese. Return to the oven and bake till the cheese is nicely melted.

Remove from the oven, top with your choice of fresh toppings. I used chopped tomatoes and drizzled sour cream over them. They were amazingly good! 

Now, to reward you for making it to the bottom of the post, a giveaway!

Because he is kind and generous, Nicolas offered to share the joy of oven-baked tacos with one of my US readers. Leave a comment below to be entered in the giveaway drawing. If you mention the Taco Rack giveaway with a link on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, come back and leave another comment letting me know that for extra entries. I'll do a drawing on Friday and let you know who the lucky winner is!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Bit O' The Green

When I was in 8th grade my Jr. High announced a contest in March. The first person to bring a 4 leaf clover into the office would win a bag of gold. When I heard this, I smiled, knowing the gold was mine. Am I unusually lucky? Not really. But what I did have was a front lawn full of 4 leaf clovers.

As a child, when I'd first learned that finding a 4 leaf clover was supposed to be very lucky, I'd started the habit of looking through the clover whenever I was sitting in the grass. And I found that a particular patch in my front yard always had an abundance of 4 leaf clovers. Finding one for the contest should be a snap.

So, it looked like that bag of gold had my name written all over it. Except for one minor detail. Me. Remember one of my major character flaws is procrastination? Yeah. They announced the contest on March 1st, winner to be announced on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day. Did I race home that day and scour the lawn for the winning clover? No. I forgot. Hey, I had homework and stuff! It's not like I'm a total loser and just watched Gilligan's Island or something.

An announcement 2 days before the event reminded me and I groaned, knowing that most likely someone else had already stepped into the winner's circle. But, I had to at least participate. So that afternoon I found my clover and the next morning I turned it into the school office.

There was a stomp scheduled for St. Patrick's Day. I don't know how prevalent that term was, so let me clarify. A stomp was an informal dance, held in the school gym, with records played. No one invited a date or anything. All the students just came and danced. Or, like me, stood against the wall and watched others dance.

So there I was, in the traditional wallflower stance, checking out the cute guys dancing with the cute girls, when the principal took the microphone to announce the winner of the contest. He said that there had been several entries (dejected sigh, shoulders sagging), but most were dried and pressed, only one had been fresh (perking up), and the winner was (eager look).....ME!

I was thrilled to win, but super embarrassed to have the whole student body looking at me. I wormed my way through the crowd to receive my sack of gold and found that the school district's budget did not run to 14 karat giveaways, but did include milk chocolate coins wrapped in gold-toned foil. As I tried to edge back to my wall spot, it seemed like the whole student body wanted a coin. So, embracing my inner lady of largess, I flung handfuls of coins up into the air and had the fun of watching everyone scramble to get a coin.

Now here is the point where I would normally segue to a St. Patrick's day recipe, preferably one that had the tie-in of chocolate. And I did have that. Really. I made cookies that turned green. Without food coloring. They were amazing. I was using a recipe that called for almond butter, which I did not have. But I did have sunflower seed butter, so I used that. And the funky thing about sunflower seed butter is that when you put it into a batter, it starts to get a greenish tinge. And the longer it's exposed to air, the greener it gets. The first tray of cookies was not nearly as green as the last tray. And as the baked cookies sat in a container on the counter, they ripened into an almost emerald green.

I was amazed at the color and knew I had to blog them for St. Patrick's Day. There was just one problem. Remember that character flaw? Yeah, procrastination. We ate all the cookies before I got around to taking pictures. Sorry!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Snack Time

There are a lot of things that I did with my older kids that I shudder about now, particularly what I fed them. Besides always (and I mean ALWAYS) having the cookie jar full, and making plenty of homemade cakes, pies, and breads, I also succumbed to the pleas for snack food from the grocery store.  I bought Otter Pops, Twinkies, and Frosted Flakes. Particular favorites were chips, gummy candies, and granola bars. (I felt pretty righteous about the granola bars. Until I read the labels.)

Now that we're doing the gut-healing GAPS diet, all of those snack choices are out the window. My cookie jar is in storage, as is the bread machine, and I'd  gnaw my left hand off at the wrist rather than buy candy to feed my son. So, what do I do when my child is in a growth spurt and haunts the kitchen, cheeks sucked in to indicate imminent starvation? The question asked daily is "What can I eat?"

Fruit, while a fresh, whole food, isn't a snacking option right now. My son is still not able to handle sugars well. Adding just a bit to his diet negatively affects his behavior and cognitive abilities. We won't even talk about what happened when he ate his sister's homemade brown sugar/ honey facial scrub that was sitting on the counter. That was not a good day.

So when he asked for something besides eggs the other day, I asked if he'd like squash. A year ago if you'd asked him that, he would have screwed up his face to indicate repulsion, possibly feigning retching. This time he said in a cheerful voice, "Yes, please!"

I had on hand a Kabucha squash. I'm very fond of them. They are sweet (unless you're comparing them to a Snicker's bar) and are great baked and in stir fries and soups.  You might need to go to an Asian market to find one; they are used in a lot of Asian dishes.

I cut it in half, vertically, scooped out the guts, cut it into slices, peeled the slices (this is optional. You can eat the skin, but if you have a family member with texture issues, I recommend not skipping this step.). Then I cut the slices into chunks.

I heated my large cast iron skilled over medium heat and added a generous amount of coconut oil. Truly generous, like a politician with taxpayers' money, about 3 Tbsp or more.  When a small piece of squash tossed in the pan made small bubbles come up around it (and if you you don't have enough oil to see bubbles, you don't have enough oil!), I added the rest of the squash and stirred it, coating all the pieces with oil. Then I took my cinnamon shaker and coated them so they looked like they'd taken a dirt bath in cinnamon. If you like sweet/ salty as a combination, toss some salt in there, too.

Stir the chunks every couple of minutes, adding more cinnamon and oil as necessary.

When the squash is fork tender, scoop it into a bowl and add a BIG pat of butter. Not just any butter. Beautiful butter from grass-fed cows. Which is now available at Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Costco under the Kerrygold label. Woo hoo! Butter is amazing stuff and makes everything taste better. Besides all it's other healthy properties, it provides satiety, that feeling of fullness. Just what a hungry boy needs!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

These Are Not The Pancakes You're Looking For

In our house we have a giant, green Tupperware bowl. It goes by various names. It's been called The Popcorn Bowl. Also The Puke Bowl. (Think about that the next time you're tempted to feel sorry for me because I no longer eat popcorn). Currently, it's the compost bowl.

When I was a youngster, my dad thought that composting was the answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything. (Thanks to Douglas Adams, we now know the answer to be 42, but my dad was without that knowledge.) We could never just throw away waste, be it kitchen or yard waste. It needed to go back into the soil! In our back yard he built himself a two-stall compost producer. And being of the "do it right, or don't do it all" school of thought, he built it out of concrete. He made forms and poured concrete so that he had two concrete bins, open on the top,  resembling stalls for small Shetland ponies, so that he could fork the rotting humus from one bin to the other.

In his quest for the optimum composter, he'd forgotten one itsy bitsy, teensy weensie factor. Oxygen is kind of important for composting to happen. And 6 cubic feet of compressed leaves, grass, and dead tomato plants does not breathe well. My dad ended up getting rid of that compost bunker (I'm not sure but I think he might have had to use dynamite) and replacing it with something less sturdy and more breathable.

That whole attitude left an indelible stamp on me. The 11th commandment subliminally implanted in my brain is Thou Shalt Compost! And for many years I did. I dutifully heaped, forked, turned, sifted, and lovingly applied my beautiful dark, worm-ridden soil to the garden. But when we landscaped the yard to turn it into a wedding venue, sadly there was no room for a compost heap. So I've resigned myself to tossing my kitchen scraps into the yard waste bin provided by the city and letting them do the composting.

With our new diet, though, we produce a LOT of kitchen scraps. We fill the compost bowl at least once a day with quality, organic leavings. It pains me to consign them to the green bin. Surely there must be some way to reuse!

I was thinking this the other day, as I looked at the juice leavings. We juice carrots, kale, celery, spinach, and apples (and whatever else we think to toss in) and produce about 4 cups of dry waste from that daily. I had the leaving on the counter as I was preparing to make GAPS pancakes, whose ingredients are squash, eggs, and nuts. And then I had an AHA! moment. I used the juice waste in place of the squash to make the pancakes, adding a little coconut milk for moisture.

(These are King Arthur Flour Pancakes. They are prettier than mine. Plus I was too lazy to take pictures of mine.)

Were these the light, fluffy pancakes like those I used to make with white flour and sugar? No, no they were not. But they were a lot like the squash pancakes and since my family is used to those, they didn't complain. Did they squeal in joy, asking how soon we could have them again? No, they did not. But these days, any meal which they will eat without gagging or complaining is a victory.

And I got to have the pleased glow all day of having rescued some perfectly good kitchen waste from the bin.

Aprés Juice Pancakes

Dry leavings from juicing - about 4 cups worth
2 cups soaked and dehydrated walnuts
6 farm eggs
about 1/4 cup coconut milk
Coconut oil or tallow

1- Into a food processor or blender, add all the ingredients (the dry leavings last - unless you want to burn out the motor on your blender. Don't ask how I know. Just trust me on this one.)

2- Process until you have a smooth, creamy batter. Add more coconut milk if it seems to thick.

3- Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add coconut oil or tallow to coat it. You want a lot of grease in there!

4- Drop the batter by tablespoonfuls onto the hot pan, spreading with the back of a spoon to an even thickness.

5- When the underside is done, flip carefully with a spatula and cook the other side. If the consistency is off, the pancakes may break up. No worries. Go with it and call them scrambled pancakes and hope to do better next time.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Piece of Advice

I'm considering a career change. Sure, being a homeschooling mother and part time lazy blogger is glamorous, but the pay stinks and the hours are horrible. I was thinking about becoming a relationship counselor instead. This would combine two of my favorite things - telling people what to do and listening to other people's problems so that my own problems seem not nearly so bad by comparison.

As a relationship counselor, I could hang out my shingle and people would pay me to listen to them complain about their girlfriend/boyfriend/parent/child/teacher/co-worker/or whoever. This is pretty much what I already do for free. I'm good at it, too. People who paid for my services would get top quality head nodding, concerned and sympathetic smiles, and lots of "tell me more."

Then, when the relationship has been thoroughly examined, the problem extrapolated, and the dynamic explained, I would swing into action and give extraordinary advice. Some people feel that you need letters behind your name before you're qualified to give advice. I disagree. I've got an Mrs. in front of my name and an MOM after it, so I feel supremely qualified to wade into the murky waters of troubled relationships. Plus, I watched a soap opera back in college, so I know exactly what NOT to say.

The easiest clients would involve work relationships. Employee making you nuts? Fire them. Boss making you crazy? Put a laxative in his or her coffee and get a new job. Co-worker driving you round the bend? Watch a few episodes of The Office. I'm sure you'll get some ideas.

I think I might have to go into practice with a partner. Then I would pass off all the parent/child/teacher problems to that person. It's not the I'm not qualified. More like overqualified. I've been there, done that, and have the wrinkles to prove it.

I think my favorite group of clients would be the love-lorn. So easy.

* How do I get a girlfriend (or boyfriend)?
~ You don't. Go make friends, both with boys and girls. Hang out with people whose company you enjoy. Talk to them. Listen to them. Have fun together. Maybe something will come from it. Maybe not. But at least you'll have friends that you can hang out with.

* My boyfriend (or girlfriend) doesn't call me every day. If they really loved me, wouldn't they call every day?
~ Maybe. But more likely not. Unless you're on your honeymoon, you can't expect that other person's thoughts to be on you 24/7. If it's a healthy relationship, that other person has other things going on besides waiting by the phone to talk to you. If they are waiting 24/7, taking the phone in the potty so they don't miss your call (not just to play Angry Birds like normal people do), that's obsessive, unhealthy, and they should get a hobby.

* Where can I find the love of my life?
~ See the first question. When you find a really good friend, you might have found the love of your life. Potentially. So, make friends. Who knows what could come of that great conversation you had on Tumblr when you found out that you weren't the only one who thought a cross-over between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Anne of Green Gables would be the best thing ever? But if you go to a bar looking for the love of your life, you're guaranteed to come home smelling like cigarette smoke and most likely without the love of your life. Unless you've always wanted to be hitched to a drunk.

* My girlfriend (or boyfriend) is super whiny. How do I change her (or him)?
~ You don't. You upgrade to the non-whiny version.

* I want to break up with my boyfriend (or girlfriend). How do I do it without hurting their feelings?
~ Go with the classics. The tried and true "let's just be friends" has stood the test of time. And if you say it nicely enough, it might take him (or her) till you get a new boyfriend (or girlfriend) to figure out that he (or she) has been dumped.

That's just a sampling of the superior advice you'd get when you come to Cookie Baker Counseling services. Interested? Call or email to make an appointment.

Not convinced? Here's a freebie - a solid piece of advice is to try these shakes. They are like everything a GAPS girl or guy wants in a mate: rich, sweet, and satisfying.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Milkshakes
 - adapted from Eat Like A Dinosaur
 serves 4

(Because this recipe calls for chilled and frozen ingredients, you need to plan ahead)

2 dried dates
1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk, chilled (to be GAPS legal, it can't have added thickeners)
1 cup ice
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1 ripe banana, frozen
1/4 cup cocoa powder (preferably raw)

1- Place dates in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for 15 minutes.

2- Remove the dates from the water and pat them dry. Remove the pit and place them in a blender.

3- Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender. Purée until smooth.

4- Serve in small glasses with straws.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

All Done Whining

I love watching my daughter parent. She's an awesome mother, much better than I was at her age. She sets clear boundaries and is consistent in not allowing the flopping of a toddler shoe across the line. One of the things she does not allow is whining. I have to bite my lip not to laugh when my granddaughter says, tears streaming down her face, "All done whining! I be happy girl!"

I take this toddler lesson to heart with GAPS. It's easy to be sad when grocery shopping, wandering the aisles of forbidden foods. It was especially difficult at Christmas, when Trader Joe's had tempting chocolate treats and peppermint hot cocoa right by the check out aisle. There were times that I came close to tears, but then I'd put on a brave smile and say to my kids, "All done whining. I be a happy girl."

Being a happy girl is a choice. And a big part of making that choice is looking for things to celebrate, things about which you can genuinely be happy. I could have ruined our Christmas with whimpering and whining about all the treats we couldn't have (and don't think it would have taken the rest of the family more than 5 seconds to follow my lead), but instead I looked for ways to make our Christmas wonderful, even without the forbidden foods.

Instead of baking cookies for the neighbors, we used the time to do some much needed cleaning and decluttering.

Our stockings were hung with care (on the windowsill, because we don't have a fireplace in our living room), but they were not filled with chocolates or hard candies. I had to get a little creative and dig through the dollar bins at Target to find sparkly nail polish, a Rubik's cube, earrings, erasers, and other small, inexpensive but fun items. The kids didn't miss the candy and I didn't miss the sugar-induced melt-downs.

The biggest concern was our Christmas Eve dinner. Since the early days of our marriage I've refused to do a big Christmas dinner. It just didn't seem fair to have everyone else in their pajamas, reading books, and playing games, while I had to go into the kitchen and work for hours to produce a feast. Instead, our special Christmas meal is on Christmas Eve. And the tradition is crab and clam chowder. The french bread on the side we could live without, but the crab and the clam chowder are non-negotiable.

Crab is no problem, as far as our diet goes. We were even far enough along on GAPS that we could have butter with our crab. Yeah! Another reason to celebrate!

But clam chowder... how do you make clam chowder without flour or milk? A daunting task, yes, but not impossible. I turned to my go-to friend, the internet, and found an almost paleo recipe for clam chowder. One minor tweak and I made GAPS-friendly clam chowder that was amazing.

We served up the feast and I took a tentative first sip. Christmas would still be Christmas, even if the chowder was kind of yucky. But it was good. Really good. I think I even like it better than my old reliable Joy of Cooking recipe. The coconut milk made it creamier without the heavy floury taste that a roux can give clam chowder.

I can't promise that I'm all done whining for good. You know me. I love a good glass of whine. But for our Christmas, I was a very happy girl.

GAPS-friendly, Paleo Clam Chowder
  serves 8

6 Tbsp butter (from grass-fed cows)
6 slices bacon (from clean, pastured piggie), chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 ribs celery with greens, chopped
8 sprigs thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme, if that's all you've got)
salt and pepper to taste
4 tsp. hot sauce, optional
1/4 cup blanched almond flour
2 pints coconut milk
4 cups chicken broth
1 celeriac root, peeled and shredded
4 cans whole or chopped clams and their juice

1- Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the bacon, onion, celery, and thyme. Season with salt, pepper, and optional hot sauce and cook for 5 minutes, or until onion is soft.

2- Add almond flour and stir to combine. Cook 1 minute.

3- Add coconut milk, broth, celeriac, and clams. Raise heat and bring to a boil, then lower and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and remove thyme.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Random Neuron Firings

I was discussing writing with a writer friend of mine who was frustrated with the concept of writing a book. I pointed out that not all writers shine at producing a work the size of a book. Many writers excel at writing short stories or magazine articles. I've found that I best express myself in something the size of a blog post. Short and sweet.

Recently, though, I've had trouble putting together my thoughts. It's been really difficult to compile my ideas in an organized and hopefully entertaining fashion, long enough to complete a

So, my first post for the new year (since one of my New Year's goals is to not let my blog completely die) is going to be random neuron firings.

* One of the hardest things in my life right now is doing the remembering for 4 people. I have to remember and remind the family to start the day off with a glass of water and probiotics. One person has to be reminded to take a heavy metal detox liquid 10 minutes before every meal. That same person also has to be reminded to get out and rinse off the ingredients for morning juicing. And to empty the dishwasher. And to brush his teeth.

I have to remember parasite cleanse pills 3 times a day and remind 3 people. And to thaw meat and broth for the next three meals. And to have soup once a day. And to put olive oil or butter over everything. And to order and take (and remind everyone else to take) the fermented cod liver oil supplements.

(If you need to order any of those, or other pills, food, cleaners or whatever from iHerb, use the code RUC080 and save some $$ on your first order. It helps me too!)

I guess I have job security. Because there's no way they'd survive longer than two days without me. Especially after they figured out the laundry doesn't wash, sort, and fold itself.

* I hate washing dishes in the winter. Because our house is always cold, I always have long sleeves on. And when I wash dishes, the water splashes on my sleeves. I hate having cold, wet, cuffs. I'd rather go change my shirt than walk around with cold, clammy cuffs. Or let the dishes pile up beside the sink. Which is what I usually do.

* I love it when people randomly say and do nice things.

* Pinterest is a huge time suck. It makes me feel productive, pinning pictures of clever crafts and helpful household tips. But it's deceitful. I won't refinish those cupboards or turn old Scrabble tiles into charming decorations. But I suppose I can pretend. And maybe somewhere along the way I'll get super motivated and actually finish one of those projects. Or at least click through on the link and read the how-to post before deciding it's too much effort. (And if your life doesn't have enough random stuff in it, you can follow me on Pinterest - Lynn Craig.)
* Parenting involves a certain amount of schizophrenia. During December I found myself wanting to shout at my children, "Go away and leave me alone. I'm stressed out from having so much shopping and wrapping to do because I'm buying so many presents for you because I love you so much. So go away!"

Perhaps the answer is to buy less and spend more time with the kids. That's the Good Parenting Magazine answer. The real answer, of course, is that I love to give my kids gifts that will make their eyes sparkle as they say, "Thank you!!!" My favorite part of Christmas is watching them open the gifts I've been sooooo excited to give.

This year's gifting involved sewing, which is a major "Go away!" activity. It's hard to keep gifts a secret when they watch you making them. But wasn't it worth it?

I found some fabulous red, sparkly material and made a dress, and matching mommy and daughter leggings. How cute are they? (They being daughter who is auntie to granddaughter.)

* Wine is proof that God loves me.

* Sometimes pain brings you gain. And sometimes it's just pain.

* Christmas without cookies is fundamentally wrong.

(These are from 2010. Nothing like this showed up in my house this Christmas.)

* Stealing is mean and mean people suck. My daughter had Christmas packages stolen off her porch. Several times. Really? How low do you have to be to take Christmas presents???

* It's amazing how my sweet tooth has diminished. We've been craving chocolate, but in order to be GAPS legal, it can't contain added sugar or soy. I challenge you to try finding that! And when you do, send it to me. They all have sugar and soy lecithin. So we've been reduced to gnawing on unsweetened chocolate. It's just a tad too bitter for me, but it's better than no chocolate!

* If you go through the holidays with GAPS, there's no need to go to diet purgatory in January.

* Why did anyone freak out about the Mayan end of the world? Why would you trust people that ripped people's hearts out?

* I don't have control over the debt ceiling, which politician is currently trying to steal my children's futures, or whatever crisis is currently in the headlines, but I can make sure my family eats well, that the toilet is scrubbed, and the laundry gets washed and folded.

Next time I'll post food. I promise! Till then, stay warm, safe, and count your blessings.