Perfectly un-Preserved

I have a confession: I really like Marie Callender’s frozen Chicken Pot Pie.

It is a dirty secret I have carried in a deep, dark place for a long time. It was time to let it out, however, so the recovery could begin.

I know people who SWEAR they can taste preservatives and while I smile and nod outwardly, I am rolling my inner eyes and asking if they can also sing with the voices of the mountains and paint with the colors of the wind.

Clearly, I am not one of those people who can taste preservatives.

But I can, with a fair amount of accuracy, taste the difference between foods made with fresh ingredients and those made with canned or frozen ingredients and I think this is one of the big reasons I like the MC pot pies – definitely frozen vegetables but no cream of chicken soup. And, really, why would they use canned soup; they are owned by ConAgra foods which does not have a soup brand – and it would be a poor business model to buy someone else’s.

So . . . they make their base from scratch which I think is all the difference between delicious and crap-tastic. This in mind, I decided to put my apron in the ring and have a go at a homemade chicken pot pie as the weather has turned fall-mazing here in Indianapolis.

The result was . . . freaking unbelievable.

So good.

I would have eaten the. entire. thing. were there not a small person occupying a large amount of space in my abdominal cavity

Also, I had to share with husband.

The recipe I found is a great way to use leftover chicken from making chicken stock as well as any scraps from pie crusts which have been hanging about in your freezer. Furthermore, your veggies don’t have to be the freshest. The beautiful thing about chicken pot pie, I am discovering, is it is a gorgeous presentation of -and use for – foods which need a home in your belly the week before they are relegated to a home in the compost. This also makes a great freezer meal – just prepare but do not bake. Throw it in the freezer and pop out and bake when you crave a little amazing.

Note: this recipe is especially for my friend Mandy over at The Finstad Homestead who *claims* she doesn’t like chicken pot pie.

Amazing filled with fantastic topped with delicious.

Chicken Pot Pie

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups cream or milk
4 cups cooked chicken or turkey (this is approximate – use a whole small chicken or most of a large chicken and some of a turkey)
lemon juice, salt and pepper, poultry seasoning, and parsley – to taste
about 3 carrots, 2 celery ribs, and 1 medium onion
pie crust

Make a roux by melting the butter over medium-low heat in a large pan and whisking in the flour. Whisk continuously until the mixture turns a rich blonde color – right around “golden.” Remove from heat and mix in one cup of stock until well incorporated. Make sure your stock is cold or at least not hot as you want to arrest the browning of the roux. Return to heat and whisk in remaining cup of stock. Heat to simmering.

Add the milk about 1/2 cup at a time and continue whisking to make sure there are no clumps. Return the mixture to a simmer while you add your chicken or turkey pieces. Since I cook with cast iron which retains heat rather well, I turn off the heat once finished adding the meat and mix for about a minute to avoid clumping and burning. Season to taste with lemon juice, salt and pepper, poultry seasoning, parsley and other spices. (The Duck tasted the creamed chicken before the addition of “spices to taste” and declared it good but with “room for more awesome.” He declared “maximum awesomeness achieved” after the addition of spices to taste.) Then I ignore it while I prepare the vegetables.

Begin preheating your oven to 400. Dice the onions small and the celery and carrots however makes you happiest then saute them in whatever type of fat rocks your boat – I used more butter – until they are tender. Mix together with your creamed chicken or turkey and continue ignoring.

Before prepping your pie crust to receive this awesomeness, consider for a moment your baking dish. In my experience, using a clear dish to bake a double crust pie is usually the way to go. I find I achieve the most even baking of the top and bottom crust when I prepare it in this way. Now . . . I love Emile Henry but unless I am preparing a single- or lattice-crust, I find the bottom crust does not always come out as well done as in a run-of-the-mill Pyrex. This said, I elected to use a clear glass Pyrex bowl – actually a storage bowl – after checking online to make sure it was oven safe, of course, because it gave me the depth and shape I wanted.

Anyway, to finish – place bottom crust on, well, bottom, filling in the middle, and top crust on top. Seal. Vent. Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes or until your crust is golden and the inside is bubbling up through the vents.

VARIATION: Rather than a pie crust crust, you could make this like a chicken and biscuits sort of thing by plopping biscuit dough on top. You could also just make the filling and pour it over biscuits.



FAT! Fat fat fat fat . . . fat.

No, not me!



I’m talking about delicious, scrumptious lardy fatness.

Forget what you heard – real fat is back. And it’s good for you. Well, better for you. And it tastes better, too.

There are no better products with which to season a cast iron skillet than animal fats.

Be they beef, duck, or piggy – animal fats are easily recognized, digested, and discarded by your body. Plus, fat is what those silly little arteries and veins are made of so if you want to avoid a heart attack put down and step away from the canola oil (which is just a few chemists away from a plastic sack) and pick up some pig!

Rendering pig (or duck, or goose, or beef . . .) fat is really easy. While some people do it in a multi-step process which involves an oven and a spoon I am too lazy efficient to spend my afternoon rendering. Plus, I have a toddler who is fascinated by the oven so . . . stovetop it is!

Also, I render in two stages so we have pure white lard for baking and a slightly darker lard for cooking. The white has practically no meat flavor and is perfect for pie crusts and delectable shortbread. The darker lard really is not that much darker and tends to lend a slightly bacony flavor (we use pig fat) to food cooked without spices.


Heavy bottomed stock pot with lid
Long handled spoon
Quart size canning jars with lids
Mesh strainer
Large bowl
Animal fat of your choice
Cheesecloth (optional)

Put the (at least mostly) defrosted fat in the pan, cover, and set over heat – somewhere around 3 is where we start.

Hang out – check back in about 20-30 minutes. The fat should be melting and have tiny bubbles. It shouldn’t be boiling and it will smell rich but not overly meaty and should not look or sound like it is frying. Turn down the heat if you think it is too hot.

After 30-40 minutes or so you can strain off the fat you’ve collected so far into a bowl and then pour it into a canning jar. I do not recommend trying to go directly from the cooking pot through the strainer and into the jar – you are just asking to make a mess and waste your fat.

Return the contents of the strainer to the heat and continue rendering. If you have more than one quart of “white” lard you can add the extra back into the pot to turn a little dark.

After the second straining, spread the cooked bits left in the strainer out on a paper towel to drain. Add some salt and enjoy the snack – full of protein and QUITE delicious. They’re really good as a travel snack or trail mix mixed with dried cranberries and a little homemade granola.

Movin’ Out

I am lazy.


Most of the time.

I wish I had a better excuse for not publishing more frequently but the simple truth is – I am lazy. When naptime rolls around, I would rather kick back and play Clockwords than think. So . . . sorry about that.

In family news, we are getting packed up and ready to move out. The road trips to our soon-to-be homebase have made me an excellent travel food preparer, and I am delighted to make up for the long posting hiatus by sharing what might be my best recipes yet – fresh pesto with homemade pasta and East African pilau with kachumbali – all of which pack into Pyrex and travel like pros.

What is that? You are complaining because you could find a million fresh pesto and homemade pasta recipes? Yes, perhaps. But this is the only one on this blog and the only one you are likely to find paired with pilau (because, let us face it, pasta and rice in the same meal is a bit excessive). Enjoy!

Perfect summer evening meal

Fresh Pesto

1 whole live basil plant (all the leaves from at least 10 stems) – the more the merrier
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup garlic
1/2-3/4 cup pine nuts
olive oil

It is better to have your parmesan grated before adding it to the mix as the chunks tend to wreak havoc on food processor blades. Blend ingredients together in a food processor adding olive oil as necessary to keep it from sticking to the sides, about 1/3-1/2 cup. Mix together with:

Homemade Pasta

3 cups flour
4 eggs
1/2 cup water

Mix together flour and eggs (I use my stand mixer, but you can make these by hand if you have the elbow grease) and add water by the tablespoon until elastic and pliable. Knead for 5 minutes and let stand for 1 hour. Knead again for 5 minutes before pulling apart into 5 equal pieces. Roll out sheets of pasta, dust with flour, fold and roll out again. Repeat this process 3-4 times to develop glutens which will make your pasta chewy and, basically, awesome. Roll out the pasta one final time and cut into ribbons. Boil in salted water until the pasta begins to float – about 3-5 minutes.


Pine nuts are in short supply at the moment so use pumpkin seeds, cashews, almonds, or sunflower seeds instead.

Delicious East African fare - left to right - kachumbali, maharage, pilau


your choice of fat (butter, olive oil, lard, etc.)
2 cups dry rice
one onion
1 tablespoon garlic
3-4 cups chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoons cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons cardamom
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves

Mix all dry spices together and set aside. Saute onion and garlic in fat and add rice when onions are translucent. Continue to saute until rice turns translucent on ends, then add chicken stock and cook rice until it is the texture which makes your toes happy. Add the spices and coconut milk during the last stage and let cook until coconut milk is absorbed. Serve with:


equal amounts tomato and red cabbage
1/2 amount sweet onion (Mayan yellows work well)
fresh lemon/lime juice
1 teaspoon cilantro
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
crushed red peppers, to taste

Mix ingredients together and bash with something heavy. Eat with your hands and save the environment a few paper plates.

Secret Badass-ness

Apparently, it turns out my family is full of secret badasses.

First and foremost, I am proud to announce the Duck has affirmatively discerned the direction our family is heading after we are finished here in Hell – um, Nebraska: we are headed to Indianapolis, Indiana where he will start a private practice.

Which was the impetus for me re-discovering my long suppressed badass-ness as I designed this logo for his practice. (Mind you, I have absolutely no experience in graphic design, so I only want to hear kudos and atta-girls.)

I designed this while Noodle napped.

I am also doing all kinds of interior design on his office (in my mind – we’ll sign a lease on our next trip out) and generally feeling useful and productive once again.

All that to say I am sorry there haven’t been any posts. Also, sorry this one doesn’t have a recipe. I’ll try to sneak in something useful for everyone else in between my spurts of awesome.

DIY Month: Dryer Balls and NFP

So, a few new things have happened in the month (!?!) it has taken me to get back to posting.  Not foremost but first, anyway, Noodle had her six month check in with Dr. Wonderful (me saying anyone is Dr. Wonderful – aside from Dr. Duck, of course – is kind of a huge deal.  This guy is amazing.) and she hit the 8th percentile for weight, 22nd for height, and 99th for head circumference.

To me, percentiles are an interesting thing.  They simply indicate where, on a Bell Curve, your child falls and is often treated as the Good Lord’s gospel when it comes to child health.  We were attacked by a WHO Guideline-toting Pediatrician who threatened to call CPS when we refused to supplement with formula (calm down – we chose to supplement with the real deal instead).  Percentages simply indicate where the average child falls and do not include 10% (5% on top and 5% on bottom) of the entire baby population.  Bad form, I say.  All this to say, we are very pleased to see Miss Noodle knocking on the 15 pound door and are delighted she might not inherit my thighs – at least right away.

(A well meaning friend expressed concern about her head size, wondering about hydrocephaly.  While hydrocephaly is nothing to be glib about, we need not worry.  I have a huge head, her father has a huge head, and she has no other symptoms.)

Update completed, this post would like to address how to do a few awesome things which can save you money, make you feel like a secret (or not secret, your call) badass, and help you go a little green.  Also, the dryer balls are good projects for kids who like to “help” but maybe lack a little manual dexterity for the really complicated stuff.  Like detailing your car.

Felted Dryer Balls

100 yards pure wool – not washable/blended wool – per ball
Crochet hook (or any kind of slim hook – you can jimmy one out of a wire hanger if you don’t have a crochet hook)
Old nylons (or new ones, whatever rocks your boat)

The core is the size of a large raquet ball and the finished ball is the size of an overlarge baseball.

Dryer balls are fun because they add a soothing rhythm to your dry cycles (great for fussy babies!) but also cut down on dry time, soften laundry, and can be made with scrap yarn.  You can buy them from cloth diapering stores for about $10 each or make them brand new yourself for about $3 each.  Your call.

I didn’t have any scrap yarn so we bought a skein of Fisherman’s Wool by Lion Brand which had 465 yards.  Start by wrapping the end around your index and middle finger a few times.  Pull the little oval off your fingers and wrap away, trying to keep it as spherical as you can.  This can be set down and picked up as many times as it takes.  When you’ve got a golf ball sized ball, pull the end into the middle of the ball with the crochet hood, tuck the bad boy in your nylons and tie a knot in the nylon above the ball.  Repeat this step until you’ve got the number you want.  If you are using the same yarn I did, you will get about 4.5 complete balls.

Throw the nylon-wrapped wool golf balls in the wash and wash on hot and then dry on hot.  If you have clothes which can be washed and dried on this setting, by all means multi-task!  You might want to wash and dry twice as these wool golf balls will be the eventual cores of your dryer balls and the firmer they are, the firmer your finished product will be and firmness = longevity.

Once the cores are done felting, continue wrapping the wool around the cores until you have an overlarge baseball or small softball.  Stuff in nylon and felt again – you can wash/dry twice here, too.  When you’re done washing/drying them, pull them out of their nylons and leave in your dryer for fabric softening joy.


Love scented dryer sheets?  Put some dried lavender, thyme, marjoram, rose petals, etc. in a little fabric pouch and wrap the wool around this rather than your fingers to start.  You can also just roll the ball in leaves of whatever smell you like as you go and then wrap wool around it.  Keep in mind the smell will eventually go away and they cannot be “reloaded.”

Achieve/Avoid Pregnancy

The Duck and I went to a talk which was supposed to be about the different options for Natural Family Planning.  Turns out it was just the introductory talk for the Creighton Model, which we previously heard.  During the question and answer period afterwards, I decided I could do so much better generally covering and introducing NFP.  So . . . here goes!

There are three major programs of natural family planning (caveat:  I am sure there are more, but these are the major players):  the Creighton Method, Couple-to-Couple League, and the Billings Ovulation Method.  Having never learned the Billings Method, I can only say I believe it to be very similar to the Creighton Method after a cursory review of their website.  The Creighton Method and Couple-to-Couple League (CCL) were both founded in the US from a Catholic perspective (Billings was founded in Australia by Drs. John and Evelyn Billings – no word on whether they were Catholic or not).  CCL still utilises Catholic teachings in its classes and materials while Creighton tends to approach things from a more secular viewpoint.  Keep this in mind if you are especially sensitive to religious under (and overt [see what I did there?  I am so clever]) tones.

There are a couple of things NFP is and is not; first and foremost, if you are using NFP to avoid pregnancy, it is NOT the rhythm method, it is NOT withdrawal, and it is NOT the get-on-your-knees-and-pray-we-don’t-get-pregnant method.  In the lab, NFP is 99.5% effective; studies done on real-world usage show NFP to be at least as effective as the artificial birth control pill (here, as well) at avoiding pregnancy.

Natural Family Planning IS cost efficient, it IS easy to learn, it IS easy to use, it IS a good way to learn about your body, and it IS completely green.  Another time I will talk about all the reasons artificial birth control sucks.  If you want to use NFP to achieve pregnancy, you are in good company and most couples (studies done by Creighton model suggest 80% of couples with normal fertility will achieve pregnancy in six months).

The Creighton (and I believe Billings) methods work via a woman charting her cervical mucous and tracking for signs of fertility.  The CCL method is known as a sympto-thermal method and has a woman track her basal body temperature (not nearly as scary as it sounds – it is just her base body temperature as gauged by taking her temperature first thing in the morning) and tracking cervical mucous for signs of fertility.  The idea behind both is this:  the female body works in cycles, with her period being the “reset” of the cycle.  Elevated estrogen drops and is replaced by elevated progesterone when ovulation occurs.  This change can be tracked by a woman as a change in cervical mucous (from the outside) and a sudden spike in temperature.  If a couple is trying to avoid pregnancy, they don’t shag on the days she is fertile – i.e. the first day she shows signs of fertility +3 days (because the egg can live for a day in there and ovulation can occur any time during the first day you see signs) – and if they are trying to achieve pregnancy they shag like mad during those days.  I think the methods use nicer terms than “shag,” but I tend to like the word.

To learn more about any of the methods, check out their websites and get in touch with a teacher in your area.

The Fun in Being Ethnic

One of my favorite pasttimes is to make attempts at cooking ethnic food. I say attempts because, really, they usually turn out a facsimile version of the real thing. Essentially, the Spanglish of our culinary world.

The Duck recently discovered the joys of my attempts at ethnic cooking and when I say he “discovered the joys” I mean he discovered it is cheap and almost always makes leftovers for his lunch, which is joy as far as he is concerned.

One of those recipes is my version of chicken curry, but I have to back up and give you the background before the recipe. Why? Because it is more fun for me that way and, let’s face it, this blog is really about my self-indulgence anyway.

This recipe came about not because I went, “I want to make chicken curry!” one day. No, no, no, I am hardly ever that deliberately creative. I set about to make chicken paprikash one evening and was about halfway through when I realized I had no flour. No problem, I thought, I’ll just make rice.

So I put rice in the rice cooker and looked back at my pan of simmering chicken and onions and thought, Duck is not going to like this. He will be expecting the flavor of dumplings but getting rice. This is not going to work. (Now, I do not really know if Duck would have actively not liked it. More probably he would have just not preferred it, but at this point I was on a roll, so just go with me . . .)

Naturally, rather than making minor changes I decided a complete overhaul was necessary. Out came the cardamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, the whole gang. Spice after spice after spice went into the pot and finally I went, “Ding ding ding! Coconut milk makes everything better!” and in went the coconut milk. It was around this time when the Duck came home and, smelling the cumin and turmeric in the air, went “Oh, curry tonight?” And before my mouth could bely my mistake, my whole head nodded in the affirmative.

Tasting notes on that first attempt included “Different,” and “Interesting.” I have since modified the recipe to the more universally recognized “Good” and “We should have this more often” standards.

Here is hoping it inspires a happy mistake in your kitchen.

Oops Chicken Curry

Chicken of choice (we use bone-on thighs because they are harder to screw up and dry out)
4 tablespoons fresh garlic
2 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
Butter, olive oil, lard, ghee (you get the picture – some type of fat)
Rice vinegar
Fish sauce
2 cups chicken stock
1 can coconut milk

Add your fat and fresh garlic to the pan and brown the chicken. Meanwhile, put all the spices in a bag (including the fresh ginger) and beat it to second death with a rolling pin, hammer, book, head . . . whatever you have handy. (As an aside, if you happen to have some of the other spices whole, like cardamon or coriander, go ahead and substitute half the ground amount for the whole – i.e. 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds) After the chicken is done browning, throw that delicious spice mix on top, and add vinegar and fish sauce in turn until it smells really powerful to you.

Add the chicken stock and start cooking the rice once the chicken is happily simmering away. Once the rice and chicken are done, mix in the coconut milk and heat to desired temperature. Serve and enjoy.

A Long Week

Being married to a psychologist has unique benefits and drawbacks and sometimes the same scenario evidences both.

The best way to start to explain is to begin at the end.

Today, I feel crazy.

I am sure you, dear reader, have seen those refrigerator magnets with all the different emotions which you put the magnet box around.  “Today I feel . . . ” it says.  Well, today I feel crazy.

Noodle has, wait . . . we all have Noodle’s . . . cold this week.  She is also teething.  Oh, and she started stealing food off our plates when we were not looking so she is on solids now, as well.  She wakes up in the night because she can’t breathe or she is uncomfortable or she is just mean, I cannot decide which.  Anyway, the combination of sleep deprivation for both Mommy and Daddy and Baby made last night the perfect storm of suck.

I had one of those Mommy break-downs where I sat in my chair and cried and she cried and I had a waking dream where I just put her under our bed and went back to sleep.

I am saying this not because I want sympathy but because I want to express empathy with all the Mom’s out there suffering with PPD.  I had a home birth, touching skin-to-skin my daughter from the moment she was born.  We breastfeed, co-sleep, and practice babywearing.  Aside from which, she is five months old.  I am supposed to be past this . . . and YET . . . I am having hallucinations about just putting her in her baby swing and running away.  Supposedly I did everything right . . . yeah right.

I don’t have any great resources or any sage advice, I just felt like one of us home birth Mom’s ought to put it out there.

Right now, I feel . . . better.

Massive Milk Cookies

Ummmm . . . how did I let a whole November go by with no posts?!?  Oh, right, November was CRAZAY.  (Hello to all our DC friends joining us after our foray into civilization!)

Because it was important to saving our breastfeeding relationship, Noodle (f.k.a. Tadpole) and I follow very closely all the stories in the press recently regarding milk-sharing.  The news has picked up on the amazing resource which is Eats on Feets and the ways women bless each other through informal milk sharing (check them out herehere, here, and here).

Given what Mom’s and the international medical experts – not AS corrupted by monetary interests as the US medical establishment (look at me, being all anti-establishment!) - know about the benefits of human breast milk for babies, I am dismayed at the dire warnings from the government, but not entirely surprised.  These are the same people who tell us drinking raw milk is like Russian Roulette.

Much like drinking raw milk, milk sharing must be researched and done responsibly.  You don’t get cows milk from just any cow and you don’t get breast milk from just any breast.  Meet the donors!  Ask to see blood work!  Ask lifestyle questions!  And be not afraid!  Yes, your doctor might raise an eyebrow.  If they pitch a fit, ask yourself what kind of doctor would prefer your baby have an inorganic, partially undigestable (ever wonder why formula-fed and breast-fed baby poo is so different?  It’s because baby’s body cannot digest all of the ingredients in formula) pseudo-food rather than real breast milk.  For extra safety, you can always pasteurize the milk yourself:  144 degrees for 30 minutes.  Make sure the temperature never drops below 144 and you can be assured your milk is just as safe as any milk bank milk.

I recognize the devastation which comes with a failure to successfully breastfeed and I do not blame Mom’s who turn to formula.  I blame the people who tell them formula is “just as good,” or they have no other choices, or being able to breastfeed successfully would require A-Z along with a-z steps (52, for those of you counting).  It is unfortunate our bastions of medical expertise have failed us when it comes to something so critical.  An obscene number of women are set-up for failure and disappointment by institutions which tell them “breast is best” but fail to support them when breast does not come naturally.  This was our experience and we were fortunate to have people outside of those institutions to turn to for support and assistance.

Anyway, soap box away, I want to share a nummy recipe for some cookies which will feed your face, soothe your soul, and just might boost your milk production.

Massive Milk Cookies

3/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup maple sugar
1/3 cup coconut milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup flour
1/4 cup milled flax
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

Cream together coconut oil and sugars.  In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients (starting from flour down) except oats.  Add liquid ingredients (milk through almond extract) to the coconut oil and sugar.  Mix wet and dry ingredients together, add oats last.

Bake at 350 – 12 minutes for soft cookies, 15 for crispy.


Throw in some raisins or chocolate chips if you like either.

I am off dairy, but you do not have to be.  Substitute butter and regular milk for the coconut oil and coconut milk at 1:1.

Flax is a great way to get Omega-3 fatty acids into your diet and into your milk making it fattier and more filling.  You can also add fish liver oil if you are into that sort of thing.

Fennugreek and blessed thistle are well known herbal boobymilk boosters which can be added to this recipe in whatever quantity you’re comfortable with.  If you cannot find them in your grocers bulk section, capsules can be pulled apart and dumped in.

This recipe can be converted into a soaked grain recipe very easily:  soak your flour and oatmeal separately in buttermilk or yogurt and drain.  Cut the milk back to 1/4 cup and the butter/coconut oil down to 3/4 cup if you do.  They might require a little extra baking time.


I really love French toast.  Like, really love it.

I have made the poor Duck eat French toast three times in the last week.  Scratch that – four times.

I was so proud of myself for finding a potato bread (forget what you heard, French toast with potato bread kicks sourdough’s butt) with no HFCS and no dairy – not an easy feat.  What I compromised was soy lecithin.  I figured it would be OK since it was the second to last ingredient on the list.

What I failed to take into account is the sheer amount of bread I consume in a week and the amount of soy protein found in soy lecithin.

Poor Tadpole . . . her poo turned immediately green and mucousy.  Suck.

This means I have to find a new way to devour my French toast (already modified for dairy-free) which means . . . duh duh duh . . . homemade bread time!

This week (I am working toward one post a week which means I will hopefully hit one post every other week . . . what?  I am trying to be realistic!) I am going to include two recipes as the bread is amazing with homemade stew.  This stew recipe can be thrown together in a little over an hour for a great last-minute meal, too.

It is a good idea to always buy organic root vegetables.  Here is why – carrots, potatoes, etc. are like sponges.  More than above ground fruits and vegetables they absorb whatever is in the soil and hold on to it.  This means whatever they absorb, you absorb.  You do the math.

Aside from which, you will only rarely find a butt potato in your non-organic bag.  You know the ones – they look like booty and make you laugh.

The soup is chicken and chickpea and they made a perfect fall pair.

Potato Bread

4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
4 cups unbleached flour (all-purpose or bread)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tsp salt

Boil your potatoes to death in a saucepan with water to cover.  You want them very, very tender.  Reserving all the water you boiled the potatoes in, measure 1/2 cup and set aside to cool while you mash the potatoes in a big mixing bowl.

Once the water has cooled enough you can leave your finger in it for 10 seconds, mix in the yeast and 3 tablespoons of flour.  Set aside, again, until the mixture bubbles.

If your remaining water is no longer lukewarm, rewarm it, and add 1/2 cup along with the prepared yeast, oil, salt, and 3 cups of flour to the mashed potatoes.  Gently mix and add the remaining flour until you have a very soft dough.  Knead gently until smooth and no longer sticky.  It might be kind of weepy, which mine always is, so do not worry too much.

Oil up a bowl, throw in the dough, cover and let rise until doubled.  After it has doubled, pull it out and knead (fun aside – WordPress spell check recognizes “Knead” but not “knead”) some more.  If it was a little weepy before rising it might be very sticky so have some extra flour on your kneading board/counter and hands. Form it into a ball and roll the sides under and let rise until doubled again.  I like to dust the top with a little extra flour because it makes it pretty.

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes.  If the bottom sounds hollow when you tap, it is ready.  This loaf is chewy and soft on the inside with a medium textured crust.

I did not use carrots and celery this time because, well, I didn't have any!

Saute Pan Beef Stew

1 pound grass-fed rump roast, cut into strips
1/2 large onion
1 cup broth
2 tablespoons garlic
1 bay leaf
1 can coconut milk

Rump roast is great because you can get all the benefits of grass-fed beef on the cheap.  It does require more cooking time than other cuts in order to tenderize.  This cut makes really delicious Beef Stroganoff.

Brown your meat and slice onions meanwhile.  If you are adding carrots and celery, cut them up now, as well.  Add equal parts broth and water to the pan with onions, other vegetables, and spices (spices are to your taste preference).  Simmer for about an hour, or until the meat is the tenderness you like.  Add your favorite thickener (flour, cornstarch, arrowroot, etc.) to the coconut milk and mix in.


If you are eating dairy, you can use regular milk instead of coconut milk, or you can use no type of milk and have a straight juice gravy.

I made red potatoes to go with because they were what I had on hand.  If you wanted to be really trixie, you could make extra Yukon Golds when you make the bread and save some pan washing.

Hooray, Fall!

To add insult to breastfeeding injury, turns out in addition to the dairy, soy, HFCS (the last two I never eat, so NBD) intolerances the Tadpole and I suffer low supply.

So here we are, Miss Tadpole and I, pumped up on fenugreek, blessed thistle, and goats rue and pumping what seems like constantly. We are also supplementing her with donated breastmilk as I refuse to give her formula – a choice supported by her doctor if not the pediatrician/lactation “specialist” we saw.

I am committed to breastfeeding, no matter the effort required on my part. I was encouraged to give up by the lactation specialist I sought for support but found the encouragement and support I was needing in the natural family movement.  So . . . we are good!

All the drama aside, I have been working on fall favorite recipes, revamping them when necessary to be Tadpole-friendly.  A weekend with Mommy Head-head saw the resurrection of a childhood favorite – Grandma’s Chicken Noodle Soup – a recipe I am, unfortunately, not at liberty to share as this is the internet and those given the recipe outside the family must be immediately killed and I do not have the time to track you all down.  :o)

Back to topic at hand:  I acquired a few free-range, soy- and GMO-free chickens and begin to re-experiment with my chicken stock.  I really like this set by Kelly on the health benefits of bone broths and can personally attest to the joint reparative properties.

In my experience, chicken stock is most versatile while beef broth tastes best and fish broth is not substitutable in recipes.  My beef broth usually ends up being an aspic – essentially a beef gelatin – every time.  Kind of icky but at least I know I am getting a ton of glucosamine and chondroitin, and it makes it easier to get out of the jars.  If you use feet or hooves you will get extra gelatin but will have to skim more and it can change the flavor.  If you prefer the taste of store bought broths, adding feet is probably not for you.

A good rule of thumb for making sure you have enough ingredients in your pot when making chicken stock:  if your chicken touches the sides of your pot, you are good.  If not, consider adding a few split breasts or thighs to make sure you get a really full flavor.  Your vegetables, when cut, should cover the chicken (before adding water).

A trick for really excellent beef bone broth, in my experience, is to crack the bones with a hammer after browning but before boiling.  My experience also says one bone to every two quarts of water produces the best flavor.  Beef broth must be skimmed after boiling and occasionally while simmering or it will get a bitter flavor.  A slotted spoon covered with a piece of cheesecloth/muslin/old t-shirt works well for this purpose (indeed, for all your skimming needs).

When adding spices, you should use whole leaf spices and this is one instance in which fresh is not necessarily better than dried.  One bay leaf for every two quarts is a good place to start, and your other spices should be a healthy, large pinch each.  Put your spices in a muslin/cheesecloth/old t-shirt bag (I cut up the Duck’s old t-shirts for cooking and his worn out drawers for cleaning – to sanitize run the shorts through the dishwasher and t-shirts can be boiled) and wait to add the spices until the last hour of cooking.

I do not make fish stock as I cannot stand the smell of fish.  Asian markets have freeze-dried, pulverized fishies which can be mixed with boiling water and veggies.  This option is slightly less icky than having real fish in the house.

Slice your vegetables large so they will hold up during the cooking process.  Carrots and celery should be about the length of my thumb (ha, ha, ha) and onions about the width of your middle finger.  I like to add leeks, as well, because it adds a richer, earthier flavor but if you do not have them or do not prefer them, they’re not absolutely necessary.

Bone Broth

Whole chicken/beef bones with meat
Vinegar – apple cider or white wine
Bay leaves

If you are making beef broth, brown your bones in the oven for about an hour (or until they smell rich, like a roast) at 350.  Crack them.  You can brown your chicken in the oven for about 5 minutes under broil if you would like your broth to have a darker color.

Add chicken/beef bones, vegetables, and a teaspoon of vinegar per quart of water to the pot.  Bring to a full rolling boil for about 15 minutes and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer to taste – 3 hours for chicken broth and 5-6 hours for beef broth in our house.  Add your spices around the last hour/two hours.

For the chicken broth, your chicken meat can be used in soup immediately, kept for sandwiches, or frozen for later use.  Throw everything else out – the veggies are dead, I promise, so use new ones for soup.  Store your broth in the freezer (an ice cube tray works well for making little portions which can be added to sauces and gravies) or can in glass jars.  Having a quart in the fridge, ready to go, is always nice.

Helpful hint for making soups with pasta/beans/rice – basically anything which generally absorbs liquid to become edible – thicken your broth with a little cornstarch or roux after the pasta/beans/rice are cooked to keep them from absorbing all your broth.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.