Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Candied Lemon Peels

My newfound frugalness is coming out with this recipe.  I recently made some major menu changes that include making a green drink & doing lemon water everyday, so I go through quite a few lemons.  I hate to throw out food, any part of it.  We didn't want to put the peels in the compost because we've heard that citrus isn't really great to compost depending on what you read or hear from others.  I had never heard of candied lemon peels, so I was surprised to see that it's actually a thing.

Well, if you've followed our journey for awhile, you know that we don't have any safe store-bought treats or candies.  Tripping into this out of frugality has grown into full-blown love.  Both kids & Al absolutely love it.  They raved about it SO much that I had to break my sugar ban (also part of the drastic menu change) and try a piece.  Gotta say, it's taking every bit of restraint I can muster not to sit down and polish off every last piece.  And for Al, the timing couldn't have been more perfect as he's been battling a nasty sore throat.  He's taken it to work the last couple days to suck on so he can keep talking.  Just a teensy bit needed as a teacher.

Naturally, we're breaking the mold by making this our own using a simple syrup with honey instead of sugar and somehow calling it candied lemon just doesn't do it justice.

Top 8 allergen free


  • 6 organic lemons 
  • 1 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups raw honey 
  • Sugar (optional)

Peel lemons in big pieces. Fill a medium sauce pan 3/4 full and add the lemon peels.  Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then drain.  Bring to a boil a second time.  The double boil is needed to take away the bitterness of the pith & soften the peel. 

Drain the peels & set aside. Add water and two cups honey to the saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until well blended, about 10 minutes.  Add the lemon peels and simmer on low for 50-60 minutes, stirring occasionally

Immediately lift out the peels with a fork and let them cool on a piece of oiled parchment paper.  Set aside the syrup to cool.  If choosing to use sugar, sprinkle over peels while still warm & wet.  Slide parchment paper onto a cookie sheet & place in oven while it warms up to 170°F.  Once the oven comes to temperature, leave it on for about 15 minutes.  Turn off oven & leave peels in with the door closed for around 45 minutes.  Take out of oven & let cool.  When cooled put in a sealed container in the fridge. Be sure to hold on to that yummy lemon syrup.  It can also be kept in fridge and is amazing added to hot teas to sooth sore throats or as a sweetener to treats.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Fennel Fig Rice Porridge

Autumn is a great season for soul warming foods.  All the rainy weather lately has me searching for ways to add comfort to our home & hearth so we can embrace all of our togetherness.  'This dish is a delectable way to spruce up breakfast and start the day off on a sweet note.

Top 8 allergen free with modifications, coconut free, refined sugar free

  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • 4-5 dried figs, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup chestnuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (or alternative)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked rice


Chop up figs & set aside in a bowl covered with water to rehydrate for about 5 minutes.  Chop fennel, chestnuts & grate ginger.

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the milk, rice and salt to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add remaining ingredients to the saucepan with rice & milk and stir, on low heat, for 5 to 10 minutes, until thickened. Be careful not to have the mixture come to a boil at this point or it will curdle.

Serve warm or cold and enjoy!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

2 Minute Chocolate "Lava" Mug Cake

Need a sweet tooth fix & don't want to wait for a cake to bake?  Or need to balance special requests for the kids?  Mug cakes are awesome & quick to make.  And just the right size!


6 tablespoons flour mix*
4 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder (corn-free)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg – beaten or alternative
3 tablespoons milk or water
1 tablespoon oil


Mix all ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour into regular size coffee mug for dramatic lava lift or large mug to contain cake.

Microwave on high for 1 minute 30 seconds.  If still gooey, nuke for about 30 more seconds.


*Flour mix - this is my favorite & so far most versatile:
  • 1 part sorghum flour
  • 1/2 part white rice flour
  • 1/2 part brown rice flour
  • 2/3 part arrowroot flour
  • 1/2 part tapioca flour

Monday, August 17, 2015

Our Trashed Kitchen

Yes, I'm talking about it.  It's trashed pretty much all the time.  I really wish my kitchen fairy wasn't on an extended vacation.  She may just get the book thrown at her.

Fairy house that Holly built
Scratch cooking/crafting/creating 98% of our menu takes an enormous amount of time, so much so that we feel like we predominantly live in our kitchen.  We constantly have a pile (or mountain) of dirty & clean dishes.  It’s not unheard of for us to run the dishwasher 2-3 times a day, although you wouldn’t know it.  It’s a well hidden secret!  My recovering type A self, dreams of going to bed with a sparkly, clean kitchen & being able to walk into breakfast prep without having to wash dishes first or empty & reload the dishwasher so we can sit at the table to eat like civilized people.  But alas, my magic wand is MIA with that damn fairy.  What's one to do?

Having that sparkly kitchen is actually attainable, but I’ve also come to realize that there is only so much time & energy in a day.  And my family needs me, too.  So on the day that I planned to try catching up on dishes & laundry muttering not-so pleasant things to that good for nothing fairy, it didn’t happen.  Ivan wanted to play Philadelphia in a Box.  Constantly striving for balance, I did work on the kitchen & laundry for a couple hours and then we played.  In the past, a game would usually take around 30 minutes.  So, I thought it’d be a great break for my aching body & double as some quality time.  Then back to chores.  At least, that’s how I thought it would go.

Yeah, not so much.  Holly decided she wanted to “play”, which shocked me because it’s a pretty mellow & sedentary activity for her liking.  A recipe for disaster.  She was the designated money handler for Ivan and go between for the bank & me.  Our game lasted for 5 hours… 

That’s right, 5 - count ‘em 5 hours, with only a break for lunch & pit stops.  I sense a mischievous fairy at work here!  And I had to put my foot down about eating lunch because I know the hell that skipping meals causes for all of us.  Wasn’t about to deal with that.  After the first hour of play, I felt impatient & debated doing things to “help” the game come to an end.  I mean, I had to.  Didn’t I?  If there was any hope of that sparkly kitchen… that wouldn’t last 10 minutes…. wait til I get my hands on that fairy.

As the impatience washed over me, I took a deep breath and refocused.  The kids were working together… peacefully for over an hour.  That’s no small feat.  Ivan was plotting, planning, doing math & practicing uber patience with Holly’s slower than he liked pace with the money handling.  Holly found the perfect niche to participate and kept at it for an eternity (in a 4 year old’s eyes).  Absolutely, positively no way was I going to mess this up for a clean kitchen.  Fairy sabotage, I'm tellin' ya.

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering what all of this has to do with the kitchen.  I’m getting to it.  Promise…

Maintaining balance is a complex, moving target every day.  We routinely feel like we have at least 3 days worth of stuff to get through every day.  When one of us is feeling under the weather, we get even more behind, but to our amazement it all gets done.  Ok, well that’s a stretch.  It never ALL gets done.  Lazy fairy.  But somehow, what absolutely needs to get done, does.  Part of it is letting go.  Part is refocusing and part is constantly reprioritizing.  And viola - it gets done.  So, that day turned out perfect, the way it needed to… nurturing our familial bonds.  And now, today is the day for nurturing our bodies.

Crafting our menu by scratch was born out of necessity to work around a boatload of allergies and now is so engrained, I actually look forward to the ability to create something new.  Well… new to us or reinvented.  <Insert pixie dust>  Something as simple as vanilla extract is a luxurious treat.  While it’s incredibly easy to make, we’ve needed to focus on basic staples for years.  Because let’s face it, vanilla extract, spices, herbs and the such, while awesome flavor enhancers to menus, they just aren’t necessary to sustain life.  I’m thrilled that we’ve reached a point that we can be decadent, sprinkling pixie dust where we please.  And the kids love to help from picking out herbs & medicinals to add to our garden that they helped design to menu planning for the week using what we have available.


When the mood strikes.  Some days I kinda wish it didn’t hit because it really slows things down.  Some days we just can’t be slowed down & still function.  At least, that’s how I used to think.  Then, it dawned on me that the kids attitude towards food is directly mirrored by the vibe that Al and I exude.  If we approach it like a chore, which on some days let’s face it, it really is, the kids just aren’t content.  Whenever we feel like we’re in a rut, it shows.  And on the flip side, if we approach food prep with gusto, the kids pick up on that vibe & can’t wait to join us no matter how mundane it seems.  I know you're singing it - Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go (whistling all the way).

Today’s list wasn’t a fun one, exactly.  I had pounds of pears to go through that sat in a bag on the floor for a week because I just couldn’t get to them.  And that damn fairy was nowhere to be found.  I was dreading what would be lurking in the depths.  I also needed to process several ferments so that Holly will eat more than her hot quinoa cereal.  With help, not from any fairy mind you, we filled our ferment counter with half a gallon of cauliflower/turnip/carrots, 3 pints of garlicky radishes, a quart of purple sauerkraut and half a gallon of pear scraps for vinegar.  We cooked down around 5 quarts of pear sauce, straining off 3 cups of cider.  And the decadence here was being able to add cinnamon.  It smells divine after not using it for 8 years.  It's what I imagine pixie dust smells like.  As soon as the kids smelled it, they were salivating.  And guess who had clean plates for dinner so they could have dessert, also a rare occurrence!

We cooked 2 cups each of quinoa & rice for eating and in preparation of making more things tomorrow.  I’ve also got cucumbers, okra & watermelon to process… tomorrow.  And the kids are anxious to help me make banana muffins and coffee cake for the week.  Even though having little helpers slows the process down, it’s so worth it.  And here’s why…

They are learning the importance of healthy eating; allergy awareness & avoidance; appreciation for where food comes (mostly local), including the treasures from our own yard; math, science, language arts, and so much more.  Being involved in their food makes them more invested and that is absolutely priceless.

And just in case you’re wondering - yes, my kitchen is a disaster zone as I sit here typing with an aching body from head to toe at nearly midnight.  There’s more work to do & clean up.  But, I’m gonna focus on the facts that Al made dinner tonight after spending most of the day working on our schoolhouse, my kids pitched in without being asked and I’m actually mostly okay with my kitchen being trashed simply because it shows me just how much love goes into feeding our family.  And maybe... just maybe that damn fairy will find her way back while we're sleeping.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Egg Geodes - Dino Egg Week

When I was surfing for ideas to tie together a theme with Ivan's inquiry about whether dinosaurs or eggs came first, I was stoked to find egg geodes.  This is such a beautiful way to wrap up the unit and had great potential.  Ivan loves gemstones, patterns, mixing colors and doing experiments.

We started by prepping the eggs; gently tapping loose an end to empty the shell & rinse it out.  We ended up getting some really stubborn eggs.  It took us over half an hour to scrape the membranes loose from the shell with many breaking up too much to use.

While I finished up prepping the shells, Ivan got busy concocting the colors he wanted to use.  We happened to have regular food dye and neon colors so he came up with some cool combos; apricot & mint green, raspberry & orange sunset and dusty rose & turquoise.  He mixed the colors in separate bowls so we could then add in the water and salt mediums.  We used sea salt, rock salt and borax.  With the 3 color/salt combos, we poured 2 shells of each type.

We watched the shells morph over 7 days.  As the days passed, the crystallization progressed with all shells.  Water evaporation went much slower with the borax shells.  As the salt passed through the shells to crystallize on the outside, the colors also passed through.  We were surprised to see that the color combos actually separated.  By the third day, the sea salt & rock salt shells water was pretty much gone.  The borax shell had water in it until day 6.  Even though the water seemed to be gone, the crystallization continued on the sea salt & rock salt.  At first, we were bummed to not see much happening with the borax shells.

This is our beginning picture of the shells filled with dyed salt waters.

We checked on the shells after a couple hours and were really surprised to see some crystallization already happening with the sea salt ones.  You can see the colors separating already.

After 2 hours, the rock salt & borax eggs hadn't changed.

Look at all those crystals on day 6!

More awesome crystals mostly around the edge and in different spots.

Hardly any crystals - ho hum...

Geodes cracked open for better look.  Striped colors amazed us!

More beauty with colors morphing.  Very little apricot showing & where'd that purple come from?

While seemingly ho-hum from the outside, cracking open the borax proved to be worth the wait.  So gorgeous and most like a real geode.

As Ivan so aptly noted, just goes to prove that you can't judge a book by it's cover.  And first impressions can be wrong.  And the best - there can be more to the "story" than what we can see or understand unless we take the time to dig deeper.  I know, right!  How freaking awesome is it that he's tied all this life stuff together.   I couldn't have dreamed how beautifully this unit would pull together or the scope of learning that would happen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Walking on Eggs... Not Shells!

We've all heard the cliché of walking on eggshells.  But, have you ever actually walked on eggs?  We did during our Dino Egg Week.  The kids were a bit apprehensive thinking that surely the eggs would break under their weight.  I mean, we frequently tell them to be careful with eggs in the kitchen... almost daily.  And yes, we tried this outside.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  I wasn't taking any chances with an ill-placed foot.

Ready to walk...

Focused on the feet to see if there's any breakage.  So far, so good!

Holly was determined and a wee bit frustrated that her eggs wouldn't break.

Ivan was just confounded, even though he understood the why behind it.

Ivan decided that I needed to have a turn because with more weight there'd be more pressure and hopefully some breakage.  I was so ready to show him the weight wouldn't matter.

And it shouldn't have, but dangit... one of my eggs wasn't positioned right.  Ivan was thrilled that I broke an egg.  He called Holly back over to see & they laughed hysterically.

So, why is it that we must be so careful with raw eggs when handling them yet we can walk on them if placed on end?  Do you know?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lemon Curd Poke Cake

This is a rich, decadent cake.  I've got a major sweet tooth and a small piece is very satisfying!  Bonus points - it's deceptively nutritious with the quinoa.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we are.

Free of; coconut, corn, dairy, gluten, nuts, refined sugar

Cake Ingredients

2 1/3 cups flour mix*
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (corn free)
1/2 teaspoon salt
7/8 cup (7 ounces) raw honey
2/3 cup Light EVOO (or oil of choice)
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup (or vanilla)
1/2 cup water


Preheat oven to 350°F.  Oil bottom & sides of a baking dish and line with parchment paper.  I used a 7”x9” glass pan.  If using a larger pan or splitting batter between cake pans, adjust down bake time.

Mix together flour, quinoa, baking powder and salt; set aside.  Blend together honey & oil until it’s an even consistency (not separating).  I used an immersion blender for this.  Add eggs & maple syrup to blended mixture and stir until thoroughly mixed. 

Add flour mixture to blended mixture alternately with water, stirring well after each addition.  I did about 1/3 of flour & water each time.  Continue stirring for another minute.

Pour batter in prepared pan. The batter is thick & runny.  Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes.  Poke holes into the top of cake.  I used the butt end of a chopstick.

While the cake’s cooling make up the curd.  You can prep it while the cake bakes, but wait to heat until the cake’s out of the oven.

Lemon Curd Topping

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 heavy ounce raw honey (need a splash more than 1 oz.)
4 egg yolks
3 Tablespoons Light EVOO (or oil of choice)


Combine all ingredients in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water (or a double boiler if you’ve got one).  Heat on medium, while stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens.

If it starts frothing, turn the heat down a bit.  It's done when it’s thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Granted with the honey, it’s tricky to tell.  You want a thick layer, not a film.  Remove from heat & pour over cake.  Spread with spatula over top so that it fills holes.  Let cool while eating dinner & then dig in!

Cover & keep in fridge until your tribe polishes it off.

*Flour Mix

  • 1 part Sorghum flour
  • 1/2 part White Rice flour
  • 1/2 part Brown Rice flour
  • 1/2 part Tapioca flour
  • 2/3 part Arrowroot flour