"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Technically, I should be really happy that essential oils are becoming more widely used.  That people feel empowered to replace pharmaceuticals with natural remedies- super!  But I'm not happy about it at all.  I'm NOT.


Here's the rub- essential oils are SERIOUS SUBSTANCES.  I mean, they are the Holy Grail of herbs.  I've always considered lavender essential oil to be a near MAGICAL liquid, good for everything from pain to anger to sleeplessness.  It is on of the safest oils, and I use it frequently. 

By frequently, let me tell you that I go through ONE OUNCE of oil about every 8 months.  That means for dozens of baths, headache remedies, bee stings, pimples, and cranky kids, I still only use 1/8 ounce of its loveliness every month. 

(For reference, as you read, I also use peppermint, orange, geranium, tea tree, and eucalyptus oils.  I use about 1/4 ounce of each of these oils PER YEAR.)

"I’ve always regarded nature as the clothing of God." ~Alan Hovhaness

Did you know it takes 22 pounds of lavender to create 1 ounce of lavender essential oil? 

Essential oils are precious substances.  They require HUGE amounts of plant matter to produce.  They shouldn't be used like other herbal remedies.  That is, they shouldn't be used as a tonic (daily) unless you are combating a deep-seated condition. 

Which brings me to the other  rub.  Essential oils are NOT the proper way to get herbs through your digestive tract.  They are not designed for internal use.  They are designed to be INHALANTS.  In fact, very few essential oils should even touch your SKIN undiluted, let alone be ingested. 

Here is a very important paragraph from The International Federation of Aromatherapists Code of Ethics -
"No aromatherapist shall use essential oils for internal ingestion or internal application nor shall any aromatherapist advocate or promote such use of essential oils unless the practicing aromatherapist has medical, naturopathic, herbalist, or similar qualifications and holds an insurance policy which specifically covers the internal application of essential oils. (IFA code of ethics. Simply Essential, No. 11 December 1993)."

One of my favorite herbalists, Susun Weed, is very much against the use of essential oils.  I was quite surprised when I learned this a few years ago.  I was downright indignant!  And I'll never give up my Lavender Oil Addiction....  Anyway, she has this to say about it:

"When extracted from the plants, volatile oils are called essential oils. An essential oil is a highly concentrated, drug-like substance which can cause severe side effects if used incorrectly....  Out of respect for the plants and the many tons of them it takes to produce a little essential oil, I rarely use essential oils. Also, I prefer the safety and pleasure of using the plants themselves with their effective and amazing volatile oils."

Here are some things to think about:

Essential oils are lazy herbalism.  The herbalist's training tells her she should consult THREE published sources before using an herb or oil for any given condition.  Sure, it's easy to listen to an MLM consultant's directions about which oils to use for what, but it's a poor substitute for educating oneself on herbs and their many actions.

Many herbs are used in many forms.  Surprisingly, some herbs are more effective when used in tincture or tea or homeopathic form.  Not stronger, that is, but more effective.  This is just another way that essential oils are lazy herbalism.  You actually have to study actual, real books to find this information.  So not cool in the digital age, right?  Sorry.  But you'll never get the results of a tincture or tea with an essential oil.

Essential oils shouldn't be used "neat."  With a very few exceptions, essential oils shouldn't be used "neat."  "Neat" means undiluted.  If your source is telling you to apply undiluted oils to your skin, you are listening to the wrong person.  NO reputable source of information on essential oils should be telling you to apply them neat.  Essential oils should ALWAYS be diluted in another oil, or in water before applying to skin.  A few oils like lavender and tea tree are safe, for certain purposes, to apply neat.  In emergency situations a few other oils might be applied neat. 

I'd like to talk your ear off and shove my beliefs down your throat on this subject, so if you are interested to hear more, check back tomorrow.  (And no, I won't disappear for 10  months as I have lately been prone to do in the blog world!)

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."
~Albert Einstein


Thursday, September 11, 2014

September Cooking Class Recipes

Here are the recipes from this month's CHAO cooking class!  Kids can make these yummy, nutritious snacks with minimal adult supervision.  Always helpful for the busy homeschooling mom....

No-Bake Chocolate Cookies
 1 bag chocolate chips
1c peanut butter or almond butter
2c rolled oats
2/3c raw, unsweetened coconut shreds
optional, 1/4c sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or chopped walnuts

Line a plate or cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Place chocolate chips and nut butter in glass bowl.  Melt in microwave about 45 seconds, or in a pan of hot water on the stove.  When melted, stir thoroughly and add all other ingredients.  Drop onto parchment paper by the spoonful.  Freeze or refrigerate until set.  ENJOY!
Sneak licks at home... but not at cooking class!!!!!

Chia Gel Drink

2T chia seeds
1c juice
optional, 1/8t stevia extract powder

Place chia seeds in a bottle with tight-fitting lid.  Pour juice on top and cap.  Shake vigorously for 2 minutes.  Place in refrigerator till ready to drink.  Before drinking, give it a good shake to disperse the seeds evenly.  Add the stevia if your juice is too tart.

About chia seeds:
Chia seeds are tiny black seeds, smaller than millet and typically contain 20% protein, 34% oil, 25% dietary fiber, and significant levels of antioxidants. The oil from chia seeds contains a very high concentration of omega-3 fatty acid - about 64%.  When soaked in water, they release a gel that is highly nutritious.  They do not need to be ground (or even chewed) in order for the omega-3's to be utilized by the body.

Ants on a Log 
Ivy made her own snack today!
1 bunch celery
1/2c peanut butter, almond butter, or cashew butter
1/4c raisins or cranberries

The ultimate easy-to-make kid snack!!!

Cut your celery into lengths and wash.  Spread with nut butter; top with raisins or cranberries.  Yum!

Coming in November: Banana Boats and Crazy-Pop Popcorn 
(No classes in October due to Archbishop's Mass and Luncheon) 
"Above all, the child must be well fed!" ~Charlotte Mason

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's Not Easy Being Green

"Be careful about reading health books.  You may die of a misprint."  
 ~Mark Twain

 Sometimes at night I lie awake and think about my blog- about how much I enjoy writing and how much I miss working on it.  But I'm a perfectionist.  I don't come back because I don't have time to post everyday, or to post lots of lavish photographs and amazing recipes.

Having my 4th child, going wheat-free on top of dairy-free, and moving 2 times in 1 year really KICKED MY BUTT.  I have to prioritize.  I can't attachment parent, night nurse, and make 90% of our food, plus homeschool and volunteer, AND record it all on an amazing blog.  No siree.  Superwoman has left the building.

But today I had an idea to get myself blogging again with a little regularity. 

I love food; I love organics; I love all things green.

But you know what I hate?  

Spending money on nifty 'green' or 'organic' items only to hate, hate, hate them.  I can only assume, dear reader, that you, too, lust and obsess over x item you LOVE and DESIRE, only once you possess it, you are disgusted no one told you X, Y, and Z.  And had you known said xyz, never would you have parted with your own "green" for it.

 It's the same line of reasoning that I go for when I read only the 1 and 2 star reviews when I'm shopping- anybody can "love" something, but I'd rather know what people hate and decide if I can live with the drawbacks.

So once or twice a week I'm going to review green things I hate.

Water bottles, supplements, organic baby items, cloth diapers, etc.

If it's green and I hate it, you're gonna hear about it.   

"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing."  
~Redd Foxx

Monday, June 10, 2013

Soaked Muesli

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. "

No big deal.  It only took 3 hours of trial and failure on the bedtime routine to buy myself 30 minutes for a post here... compliments of
See the tear on her little cheek?

Anyway, sorry for the no-explanation-of-where-I've-been-for-six-months, but food is much more interesting than my 2013 has been, so here's the skinny on Soaked Muesli instead.

I've noticed the 'Refrigerator Oatmeal' trend in foodie cyberspace and I'm here to set the record straight: 

1) Eating raw grains for breakfast is called muesliNot oatmeal.

2) Rolled oats are not  raw.  They've been steam rolled. 

3) Refrigerating uncooked oatmeal is convenient and delicious but it could be so much *more* if folks would do it *right.*

Soaking grains for the neophyte healthy eater seems odd, daunting, and downright frustrating.  I know when I had freshly weaned my husband off white flour that the addition of soaking our whole grains was enough to make me hyperventilate so I just hit my mental *delete* button and went on with life.

 However, the concept and the 'why' behind it kept popping up every now and then.  Over the course of several years, I wrapped my mind around the why, then the how, and slowly incorporated soaking into my preparation of grains (and nuts), while refusing to let myself become a perfectionist or paranoid crazy person over it.

Enough for a couple breakfasts and snacks for us- but for my friend with 11 kids, this
countertop full of oats will be a single meal!!!
Long story short: soaking grains properly before cooking or consuming them raw makes them more digestible, increases their nutrition, and *may* prevent or mitigate allergic reactions, depending on the person.
Husband-friendly Muesli: add raw coconut sugar and mini chocolate chips, plus (shudder) a dash of organic half-and-half
To soak oatmeal is simple, since it is partly cooked.  But it must be done at room temperature.  Refrigerating the oats after mixing cuts short the process.  So *try* to make this up in the morning.  Then let it sit till bedtime and pop your jars or covered bowls in the fridge then. 
 Soaked Muesli
per serving:
1/2 c oats
1-2 t chia seeds (or ground flaxseed, or both)
1-2T almond flour (for protein, or sub any combo of nuts and other seeds)
1/2 sliced banana
1-2T raisins (or mini chocolate chips)
1/4t cinnamon (skip this if you go chocolate-y)
1T yogurt or water kefir
8- 12 oz. milk of your choice (I use half milk/ half water if I'm low)
1-2t extra sugar, if you must
ch-ch-ch-chia! (Remember?)
Place oats in bottom of a 16 oz jar or bowl.  (This makes a lot but we eat big breakfasts.)  Dump everything on top and stir with a chopstick.  If you need more milk, go ahead.  The ingredients really gel up, so make this pretty watery.  If you really want to increase the enzyme activity going on during the soak, you can warm up your milk/ water-and-milk before adding it.
Almond flour (just finely ground almonds): protein you don't need to chew!  Great for 3-year-olds.

Top with a lid and let sit at room temperature for about 12 hours.  Then refrigerate and enjoy cold on a hot summer morning.

You can technically let this sit out for 24 hours, but if the room is warm-ish, and you've added fruit or sugar, your muesli might get pretty sour and ZING-y.  I like to let it sit out during cold weather and then warm the muesli really gently before eating it.
 So, other than being delish, what's the best thing about Soaked Muesli?  It uses up extra kefir:
A jar of the home-made probiotic 'water kefir' that is taking over my life kitchen.
 I've been making water kefir, which is a non-dairy version of the liquid-y yogurt-y probiotic drink that more and more people are drinking and more and more regular stores are carrying.  Unfortunately, like yogurt, most of the kefir you get commercially is straight-up junk.  You can add small amounts to soaking grains to break down the phytase. 

More than you wanted to know:

Phytase is an anti-nutrient that is, traditionally, broken down before grains are consumed.  Before modern man invented commercial yeast, quick-cooking rice, and other strange things, grains could only be consumed after breaking them down, a la sourdough bread (for wheat) or traditional Mexican nixtamal (for corn) or traditional Middle Eastern salt-soaking (for rice). 

 Really picky foodies will probably balk at the way I soak rolled oats, but since rolled oats are not truly raw, it breaks down faster than most other grains (i.e. it does not need to soak a full 24 hours like rice or several days like wheat or spelt). 

I've heard internet rumors that you can do this muesli with steel-cut oats and simply increase both soaking times, but I probably won't try that till my rolled oats run out and I feel too cheap to replace them before using up my steel-cut.
Ridiculously delicious coconut kefir makes this recipe out-of-this-world scrumptious.
You can learn more about kefir and how to make it at www.culturesforlife.com, if your interest has been piqued.

And, to close, an unedited version of my 8 pm kitchen, to prove that I am absolutely no super-mom:

"Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty." 
~Sicilian Proverb

"But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end."
~William Shakespeare

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. "

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

"New Year's Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." 
 ~Mark Twain
                        "May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions." 
                                                                       ~Joey Adams

He who breaks a resolution is a weakling;
He who makes one is a fool.
~F.M. Knowles
                    “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

you-can't-be-allergic-to-this-PUMPKIN PIE

OK, well, someone could be, I'm sure.  You can always try to use an egg replacer like ener-G if that's the issue.

I'm feeling really smug about this pumpkin pie recipe, as no one hasd been able to tell the difference between it and 'real' pumpkin pie. 

Start with your crust.  You can use whatever.  Ground almonds make a really yummy 'graham cracker' style crust which is a nice change from a regular crust.  And most any cookbook will have an 'easy oil crust' type recipe which you can use with coconut or spelt flour and coconut oil or sunflower oil or whatever.  Our tester pies were spelt with coconut oil, but our Christmas pie is a gluten-free pie crust mix from Whole Paycheck Foods.

Then, the pumpkin!

you-can't-be-allergic-to-this-PUMPKIN PIE
1 can pumpkin
1 can coconut milk, full fat NOT lite
2 eggs
3/4c coconut sugar, 1/2c maple sugar, or 2/3c agave
1/2t salt
1t cinnamon
1/2t ginger
1/4t cloves

Toss all this in the blender and pour into your crust.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Turn down the oven to 350 and bake 35 more minutes.  That's it.  I'll add some pictures when ours is done!

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen. " ~Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies! gluten-free, dairy-free

I'd like to say I've used my blogging break in some uberprofitable or at least ubercool way, but I haven't.  Nope.  Just life and Advent as usual, but a little more unplugged.  I love blogging but I'm not really that fond of the internet.  Go figure.

I have, at least, come up with some smashingly delicious holiday treats, though probably putting them up 3 days before Christmas is not overly helpful.

Ah, well, happy new year!

My first recipe is these utterly perfect, allergen-free peanut butter cookies.  If you happen to be allergic to peanuts?  Hold on till tomorrow for the perfect pumpkin pie.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1c natural peanut butter
1c coconut oil, softened but not totally melted
3/4c maple sugar or coconut sugar (you can sub any sweetener you like)
2 eggs
2t vanilla
3/4c coconut flour (or sub 2c spelt flour)
1/4t salt
2t baking soda
1c peanuts, if desired

Cream first three ingredients.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Add flour, salt, soda, and peanuts and mix well.
  Form tablespoon-sized balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet or cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.  You may need to add another Tablespoon or two of flour if dough is sticky.  You may need to do some extra forming of the balls if they are crumbling.  Smash with a fork in a criss-cross and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
Now, COOL COOKIES COMPLETELY ON THE SHEETS.  Do NOT move these cookies till they are good and cool, or they will be very crumbly.  They firm up as they sit.

So good with hot tea or hot chocolate.  Our tester batches were inhaled in minutes.

                                                               And my amazing helper:
I couldn't get anything accomplished without my wonderful babysitter.

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."  ~Peg Bracken

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Treasures: Good King Wenceslas

I'm to the point where I hesitate.   Majorly.   Before any given homeschool purchase.  Even if said purchase is something as innocuous and non-space-guzzling as a book.  And the longer I homeschool the more wary I become of recommending "things"- any  "things"- to any one.  I'm a minimalist, to be sure.  Plus there are only so many slots in any homeschooler's library!  And I think we all hold our wallets just a little tighter these days. 

So when I call something a treasure, I don't do it lightly.  Let alone a book!  Books.  Books.  Books.  There are so many.  Good ones.  Bad ones.  Sometimes I think I'll write one but then every time I go to Barnes and Noble I get sort of sick looking at the sea of books... only a small fraction of which are worth anybody's time.  Too many books.

We have a treasury of Tomie de Paola'sw Christmas books which we lovingly display and read each Advent.  We don't need any more Christmas books!  But I couldn't walk by this one.  I had to stop and look.  Then I had to read it.  Then, well, I had to have it for our collection; despite all my misgivings, I just couldn't pass this beauty up.

The book tells the story of St. Wenceslas with exquisite illustrations.  And his story couldn'y be more apropo  for the children of our time.  I don't want to tell you the story in case you've never heard it.  But King Wenceslas embodies the spirit of giving in a concrete way that really sinks in for children.  So if you only buy one Christmas book this year, may I be so bold as to say, this should be it! 

God bless, and happy reading.

Good King Wenceslas

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers.  My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.  There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." 
~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, November 12, 2012

NOT-So-Ordinary Pork and Beans

"Worries go down better with soup." 
~Jewish Proverb

Soup weather at last!  I made this soup in honor of an organic, free-range pork roast we're trying out from a local farm, but any old pork roast will do.  It's a great way to stretch the meat for a hungry crowd.  Or substitute extra seasoning and 2T extra virgin olive oil for the roast for a yummy and vegan- but still very rich- bowl of soup.

3 lb pork roast
2c black beans
1c brown rice
2c chopped carrots
1c chopped onion (or leave it in a solid half for flavor if your family hates onions- I do this then John Paul and I eat the onion whole)
2 t sea salt
2 t salt-free seasoning mix of your choice (mine is just the cheap stuff from ALDI)cajun seasoning is a good choice, too
2 4" strips of kombu
2 Tablespoons seaweed flakes (wakame, dulse, etc.), optional
10c boiling water
Start with the beans and rinse well.  Pork is usually paired with white beans or split peas but I prefer black beans with pork.  Well, with everything, really.  Black beans are delicious!

Adding kombu to the soup means you can use plain water and it turns into soup stock while the soup cooks.  Way easy for the lazy cook like myself who doesn't plan ahead.  (Actually, I had 6 cups of good chicken stock in the fridge when I made this but I had forgotten about it.  Sheesh.)

 Now, follow along closely: dump everything into a crockpot and walk away.  See my half onion floating?  It enriches the soup, but no one has to eat it.  Fine with me!  I love to eat an onion like this, and so does Johnny.
"This is every cook's opinion -
no savory dish without an onion,
but lest your kissing should be spoiled
your onions must be fully boiled."
~Jonathan Swift
 Come back 8 hours later:
 Voila!  Really yummy soup. 
This recipe  approved by my pickiest eater

Lots of crock pot recipes actually do better on the stove where you can brown or saute ingredients separately.  This recipe doesn't really need it, though.  Why?  Well, truth be told, it's the pork fat.  In case you haven't noticed, pork fat tastes good.  Really, really good.  It's hard to screw up recipes involving pork fat. 

"I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o'clock in the morning."
  ~John Barrymore