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A Perfect Rainy Sunday


After breakfast this morning, we headed out for a Sunday morning walk, before the rain came, which turned into a long hike around our property. Zoey and I stopped to eat some ripe, red manzanita berries while Stephen was up ahead carrying Zane. All of our mud boots/rain boots earned their name today with all the mud we trudged through. I had to pull Stephen’s rain boot out of the mud on one hill because he had his hands full with Zane, and I could barely pull it out with two hands.

I made zucchini bread after lunch. Here’s the  zucchini bread recipe I found. I didn’t eat it because it has flour, and I didn’t put the chocolate chips in it, but the kids seemed to like it. We all took a nap except for Zoey, except she did lay down for about an hour reading and singing to Zane from the book Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Once Zane finally fell asleep, Zoey and I did yoga together in the living room while the boys slept.

I’m waiting for our beef stew to finish cooking for dinner. I made these biscuits. I haven’t been writing much on the blog or just in general perhaps because my work week is spent typing on the computer when I’m not seeing clients. Documentation for Medi-Cal can be brutal. I try to avoid spending time in front of the computer as much as possible at night and on the weekends. But today I felt like writing again. Yesterday the kids and I went to the children’s museum that is an hour away because I had to pick up my glasses from Costco. They played outside climbing the cedar tree (anyone good at tree identification?) while I ate my lunch.

I’m taking Friday off for my birthday, which is Saturday. I’ll be 39. Zoey keeps asking–“which is older? 65 or 39?” Maybe depends on how you feel? I’m not sure how 39 is supposed to feel, but I’m happy to be alive to enjoy Sundays like today.

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Blackberry Pie Take 2


Remember that blackberry pie I made last year when I omitted the sugar because I thought the berries were sweet enough on their own? Well, we went blackberry picking on our ranch this morning, and I thought I’d redeem myself by making a sweet blackberry pie today. The verdict? Zoey and Stephen liked it. Zane spit it out. If you know anything about the Cowan family, know that if a dessert is not sweet enough, they would be able to tell. So I count this as a success because my dear husband said it was sweet. And in case you’re wondering, I used Marilyn Batali’s Blackberry Pie recipe from Food & Wine. I didn’t have shortening so I used butter, but otherwise I didn’t make any other substitutions. Too bad I couldn’t eat any of it (gluten, dairy, white sugar!).


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The Oak and the Acorn


At my last herbal class we learned how to crack, pound, leach, and eat acorns. My teacher Donna made us acorn pate. Below is the recipe in case you live near any oak trees and want to go out to collect some acorns for food. All acorns are edible but you’ll need to leach them first to remove the tannins.  An easy way to leach is to first grind up the acorns in a blender (after you have cracked them open). A Vitamix works great. Then put the acorn meal in a quart size glass mason jar and cover with water. Put jar in refrigerator and every day for about a week, pour off the darkened water off the top and add fresh water. The acorn meal will settle to the bottom, but be careful not to pour this off, too. After the acorn meal is done leaching (water looks clear), then you can either add it to a food you will cook or you can simmer the acorn meal for about 15 minutes.

Donna d’Terra’s Acorn Pate

Mix 1 cup acorn (leached, cooked, strained, cooled) with mayonnaise until it is a “spreadable” consistency. Fold in some or all of these (chopped fine): scallions or red onion, celery, basil/cilantro/parsley, toasted sesame or toasted sunflower seeds
Add to taste: lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, tamari, salt, or pepper
Serve on crackers

I haven’t made this recipe yet. I just enjoyed it in class along with the acorn mush that Corine Pearce, a local Pomo teacher and speaker shared with my class. Now is the time to go out and collect acorns off the ground. Discard the ones with a black spot or hole.  According to Donna, acorns are high in protein, vitamin A and C, amino acids, and high quality fats. Also good to know, you can store acorns for years in a glass jar before you are ready to cook them. So if you’re looking for a cool new appetizer to bring to your next holiday party, this recipe might do the trick!

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Getting Distracted By Cats


As we were walking back to the house last night after watching the starling show, Zoey said, “I keep getting distracted by cats.” The cats Lester and Solo were following us back to the house and Zoey was focusing on walking down the hill so as not to slip.

I keep getting distracted by the dirty dishes that need cleaning, the dirty clothes in the hamper that need washing, the bathroom sink that needs cleaning, and the dirty floor that needs vacuuming. A distraction, yet not enough to motivate me to actually do anything about it. Let me explain. A few weeks ago as I was folding the clean clothes to put away, I realized I haven’t had stain remover in over a year. There is usually a stain on at least one family member’s clothing at least once a wash. I see the stain and regret that I did nothing about it. And then I remember–I have no stain remover. After that light bulb went off, I finally wrote stain remover on my grocery list so I would stop wondering why other people don’t have stains on their clothes like we do. What is that? I think I am a hard worker most days, but the simplest things like cleaning a bathroom sink or buying stain remover seem like mountains I have to move.

Instead of cleaning up today, I made pickled green tomatoes and left an overripe cantaloupe on the counter only to see a swarm of fruit flies attacking it about 30 minutes later. Here’s the recipe for the pickled green tomatoes from Martha Stewart’s Living Magazine. It was a recent issue–maybe September.  Don’t make these if you don’t like vinegar because they are very vinegary, but tasty in a salad or probably in a sandwich though I wouldn’t know about that firsthand.

Pickled Green Tomatoes from Living Magazine

1.5 c. apple-cider vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
3 whole allspice berries
2 dried bay leaves

4 small green tomatoes (1 pound), cut into 1/4 inch slices (I then cut slices in half), plus 6 thin slices white onion

Combine vinegar, 3/4 c. water, sugar, spices, and 2 Tbsp salt (I did teaspoons) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Fill clean containers tightly with vegetables. Add boiling brine to cover completely. Let cool completely. Cover, label, and refrigerate at least 1 week before serving, or up to 3 months.

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The Beginnings of a Garden and a Recipe

DSC_0070In the past few weeks since my first herbal class at the Motherland Botanical Sanctuary, I find myself walking around the ranch slowly taking in all the plants, weeds, and flowers–really seeing them as if for the first time. Mostly I just recognize dandelions and yellow dock. The other plants growing wildly here are still a mystery to me. After each class session I’ll be bringing home some herbs to plant. This past month I brought home feverfew, day lily, and lemon balm which hopefully will get planted this week.

DSC_0072Here’s a close-up of the 4′ x 8′ raised garden beds Stephen made out of redwood. Six of the 15 are made so far.


Here’s a close-up of the 6′ garden fence with chicken coop wire on the bottom and larger wire on the top to keep the wild pigs, deer, and hopefully other wildlife out. Unfortunately I think Lester our barn cat will be able to jump on the fence and into the garden.


As I mentioned last year when we had our backyard garden, Stephen and I are beginning gardeners, so who knows how this first real adventure in gardening will turn out. I’ll try to remember to show you how our garden is progressing through the spring and summer months. The good, bad, and ugly but hopefully not too much of the latter two.


Be Calm Herbal Tea

3 tsp. Lemon Balm
1 tsp. Hibiscus
2 tsp. Chamomile

Bring a quart of water to boil. Pour over herbs and cover to brew 10-20 minutes. Strain out herbs and enjoy!

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Chicken Apricot Curry and Indian Spices and Me

On my 21st birthday my friends took me out for dinner to an Indian restaurant in New Haven. I didn’t grow up eating Indian food. Growing up through the years I’ve had people who don’t know me tell me that I look Indian, which is ironic that all these years I’ve had a strong distaste for Indian food. That birthday dinner was the first time I ate Indian spices like turmeric. I don’t recall what I actually ate that night, but I do remember walking away telling my friends I enjoyed the food while really thinking the smell and the taste of Indian food made me sick. I’m pretty sure there may be some friends I haven’t seen in a while that think I really like Indian food. Since that time, I have tried Indian food again and again at various restaurants hoping maybe this time will be different. But it never was until recently when I learned how turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory spice. So as many of you know that I am a bit obsessed right now about healing inflammation in my colon, I’ve found that I suddenly can tolerate the smell and taste of curry.

Tonight I made Christina Feindel’s Chicken Apricot Curry which is an AIP (Auto-Immune Protocol) dish, but one that anyone can enjoy with rice if you eat rice. I ate it with Melissa Joulwan’s broccoli salad from her e-book Well Fed 2. Stephen and the kids, (or I should say “the kid” because Zane obviously did not partake) ate Sloppy Joes and then went for a walk while I was left to enjoy my own dinner. Thank you Stephen for a quiet dinner to myself. If anyone doubts that this little 5’1” gal can put away food in her belly, just take a look at the photos below.



Yep, I ate half the pan of chicken curry and half the bowl of broccoli salad all by myself.

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Bacon Sweet Potato Salad

Last year my mother-in-law gave me Madge Baird’s cookbook “101 Things To Do With Apples.” I am only now getting around to trying out some of the recipes in there.  Tonight we had the slow cooker apple-cider pot roast.  I made the apple cider yesterday from our orchard apples. Today though I wanted to share another recipe from the cookbook which I adapted to be Autoimmune Protocol friendly.  I’ll share the original recipe and then my adapted version in italics.  I really liked my version, but I imagine the original tastes just as good.  I’m not one to remember to photograph food I’ve made–so you’ll just have to use your imagination as to what it looked like.

Madge Baird’s Bacon Potato Salad

1/2 pound bacon, diced
5 medium-size red potatoes (sweet potatoes)
3 large crisp apples, peeled and cored
1/3 cup chopped red onion
2 ribs celery, chopped
1/3 cup chopped yellow bell pepper (omitted)
salt and pepper to taste


1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 oil (coconut oil)
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (omitted)
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey mustard (omitted mustard, just used honey)

In a large frying pan, cook bacon until crisp; set aside.

Boil whole potatoes about 30-40 minutes, until fork-tender then drain and let cool. (Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Cook in water on medium heat until fork-tender.) Peel and cube potatoes. Place in large bowl.

Cut apples into chunks and add to potatoes.  Add onion, celery, and bell pepper.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together until emulsified.  Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.  Makes 8-10 servings.

This is Day 7 of the Write 31 Days series.  You can find my other posts in the series here.

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Coconut Manna, Plantains, and a One-Pot-Chicken Dish

Have I mentioned before how much I love eating delicious, yummy food? I amuse Stephen by the inordinate amount of time I spend thinking about food, searching for recipes, and planning our meals.  For those of you who know me, I’ve gone through a number of dietary restrictions in the past two years due to an ulcerative colitis diagnosis.  As I am weaning off one medication and decreasing my dosage of another, I’ve now jumped on the “AIP” diet, also known as the “Auto-Immune Protocol” diet, to heal my gut.  If you want to learn more about it, you can read about it at Sarah Ballantyne’s blog The Paleo Mom.  It’s an elimination diet (no grains, no gluten, no dairy, no legumes, no processed vegetable oils, no processed food chemicals and ingredients, no added sugars or nonnutritive sweeteners, no seeds or seed oils, no nightshades, no spices derived from seeds, no eggs, alcohol, or coffee).  But the upside is that I’m eating beef, pork, and lamb again in abundance with lots of vegetables.  And so far I think it’s helping me.

And in the process of looking for AIP-friendly recipes, I’ve discovered coconut manna and plantains–my two new favorite foods.  I’m just going to link to the recipes in today’s post, so if any of these sound appealing to you and you’re reading this in your email, you’ll need to open this post in your browser in order to open the links.  First up–coconut manna.  I no longer can eat oatmeal (or at least for the time being until I start to reintroduce foods into my diet), and so I found this “fake oatmeal” recipe, bananas and cream oatmeal, that has coconut manna.  I tend to eat it as my dessert instead of breakfast.

Next up are plantain tortillas.  I can no longer eat corn tortillas and of course flour tortillas are out.  I’ve had my fair share of meats wrapped up in cabbage leaves, which I’m really enjoying, but today I made plantain tortillas, and boy are they satisfying for someone who can’t eat bread. I haven’t quite perfected the recipe yet, but they were still really good.  Zoey ate two of them with her dinner.  You’ll find it here at the fresh tart blog.

And the final recipe is a simple one-pot chicken dinner–roasted chicken thighs with capers and olives.  I used bone-in chicken thighs but didn’t need to change the cooking time.  The recipe calls for squash, but I added carrots so I could puree them and give them to Zane. On a side note, I gave him the pureed carrots with applesauce I canned from our ranch apples last year along with a bit of coconut oil–he smiled and seemed to like it.

I am gently reminding Stephen that we need a house update.  So if we’re lucky, some photos of our house will appear in the next few weeks.

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Cauliflower Salad

For weeks now I’ve been meaning to post a chili recipe.  I know, I know it’s hot and most people are already thinking about summer.  It seemed less ridiculous at the end of last month, but now with the temperature in the 100s where we are, I’m thinking I’ll save the chili recipe for autumn or winter and share with you this recipe instead.  You’ll have to click on the link to see a photograph of this salad because I’ve never actually made it myself.  (I probably should mention here that if you are reading this in your email, you may have to click over to read the blog in your browser in order to open the link.)  I attempted to make it for a Mother’s Day picnic, but the organic cauliflower I bought turned out to have aphids underneath the plastic it was wrapped in (and somehow I didn’t notice that when I bought it? I’ll blame it on sleep deprivation).  And although I tried to wash away the aphids, it was just a lost cause so I never made it.  But my mama has made it twice now–one time for me when I was down visiting recently and it was delicious.  And I forgot to take a photograph.  If I can find someone other than myself who likes cauliflower, then I’ll try to make it again soon.

Black Pepper Cauliflower Salad

2 pound head of cauliflower, cut into tiny florets (think dime size)
3/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed
1 cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (my mom omitted the feta for me and it was still yummy)
3 apples, diced*              
1/3 cup chopped black olives                                                                                                                                                                                    

* To keep apples from browning after slicing, place them in a bowl of water with a big squeeze of lemon juice until ready to use.


Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt well and cook the cauliflower for a minute, until just tender. Drain, run under cold water to stop cooking, drain well, and set aside.

You may notice that the recipe at 101 cookbooks says the following “Combine the red onion, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and black pepper in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the onions have turned pink and infused the oil and vinegar mixture, remove from heat and set aside.” But my mom just marinated the onions in the vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper without cooking them, and that was delicious, too.

When ready to serve, place cauliflower florets into a large bowl. Add the pistachios, feta, apples, olives, and 2/3 of the red onion vinaigrette. Toss everything together gently and give it a taste–depending on the saltiness of your feta, you might wish to add a little more salt. You might want to add the remaining vinaigrette as well.

Serves 6.

I know the ingredients of this salad sound a little weird together, but if you’re not opposed to vinegar and cauliflower as my husband is, then you may be pleasantly surprised by this salad.  And it tastes really good cold, too.




My Favorite Granola Recipe

My love for recipes is like my love for books.  I walk into a library or bookstore and I imagine myself reading all the books on the shelves, although realistically I know I won’t like all the books on the shelves–just the idea that it could be possible makes me happy.  I feel the same way about recipes.  I get excited about reading through a recipe and am eager to try new ones.  Sometimes I get lucky and find one I like, but there are just as many times when I try a new recipe and it’s awful.  So I thought it would be fun to add a food section to this blog and share recipes I’ve enjoyed and that I think are delicious in case you want to try them, too.

First up is the granola I’ve been talking about for several weeks now.  I made a few additions and subtractions to the recipe, but it’s basically this granola I found at the Wednesday Chef blog.  Here’s the recipe below with my changes in italics.

French Chocolate Granola
Makes approximately 10 cups

6 cups rolled oats (gluten free rolled oats)
1 cup raw almonds, chopped (raw cashews)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons granulated sugar (I left this out and thought it was plenty sweet without it)
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp of ground cardamom
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
12 tablespoons mild honey
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (Organic extra virgin coconut oil)
½ cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (currants)

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, coconut, sugar, and salt.  Stir well to blend.

  3. In a small saucepan, warm the honey and oil over low heat, stirring gently, until the honey is loose. Pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to combine well.

  4. Spread the mixture evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden. Set a timer to go off halfway through the baking time, so that you can give the granola a good stir; this helps it to cook evenly. When it’s ready, remove the pan from the oven, stir well – this will keep it from cooling into a hard, solid sheet – and cool completely.

  5. When cool, transfer the granola to a large bowl, storage jar, or zipper-lock plastic bag. Add the chocolate (this is where I added the currants or any dried fruit), and stir (or shake, if using a jar or bag) to mix. Store in an airtight container.

I like to eat this with plain yogurt and berries on top for breakfast or with almond milk for my late night snack.  If you have a favorite granola recipe you like, post it in the comments.