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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Much Healthier Recipe: Breakfast Carrot Cake

I LOVE carrot cake. LOVE it.

But have you seriously looked at the ingredients and… gulp… calories and sugar?
Here's a pretty popular recipe, sized up for you (sans cream cheese frosting because that's even worse):

click for larger view
I've been seeing  a nutritionist to help with some nutritional deficiencies I keep having… not because I eat bad, I eat really, really well, but because it's a complication I have with the dual issues of celiac disease and a mitochondrial myopathy. PIA really.

I've been working on this recipe for a while, so when I told her about this recipe, she loved it, her one challenge for me was to try and get the protein up. Which I did, quite successfully, as well as the fiber…. check the stats out on my carrot cake:

2.25 g of that sugar is from the carrots, some is from the raisins. There's just no way around having some sugar in it, but on the sweetness scale, it is very low. The entire recipe uses just 3 T of honey and 1 T of molasses to sweeten it. Not bad at all.

I wouldn't eat it for breakfast every day, but it's a great treat that's not too shabby.

Breakfast Carrot Cake

by Christine Mercer-Vernon
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Keywords: bake bread breakfast dessert snack gluten-free carrots cinnamon coconut oil molasses

Ingredients (9 squares)
    Wet ingredients:
    • 1 pound finely grated carrots
    • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
    • 4 egg whites
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 Tablespoon molasses
    • 3 Tablespoons honey
    Dry ingredients:
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1-1/4 cup rolled oats (ground in food processor or blender to fine flour)
    • 1 Tablespoon coconut flour (or substitute 2 tbsps more of oat flour)
    • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped ( you want some larger pieces for texture)
    • 1/3 cup raisins
    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Mix dry ingredients well.

    In separate bowl, mix wet ingredients well.

    Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until well blended.

    Add walnuts and raisins. Mix to incorporate.

    Using a small bit of coconut oil, grease the bottom of a 8x8 inch glass baking dish.

    Pour batter into dish and spread out evenly.

    Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

    Serve warm or at room temperature.

    Store leftovers in refrigerator.

    Reheats nicely in microwave.

    If you do not have coconut oil, use whatever liquid oil you have on hand. If you do not have coconut flour, substitute two more tablespoons of ground oat flour in it's place.
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    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Walk in the woods

    The Mayapples are blooming. So I went for a walk in our woods.

    So strange to see trees full of leaves in April… and poison ivy, everywhere.

    Since days of rain were coming, we went hiking the trails at Lake Redman on Friday.

    And threw rocks in the water.

    Saturday, April 14, 2012

    2012 PA Herb and Garden Festival

    Last night, me and my girls headed into the 14th Annual Pennsylvania Herb and Garden Festival, like we do every year.

    We had a great time, but we felt it was a little subpar this year.  A LOT more food vendors were added, which is ok, I guess, since most of them all were somewhat related to herbs and gardening.

    There were a lot of spice and herb blenders there and I came home with some rubs to test out (and probably use to create some new one's myself this summer).

    But… the actual amount of herbs for sale seemed much, much less than last year.

    That was a bit disappointing.

    Having started all of my own this year there was really nothing I needed to purchase except rosemary, but I'm holding off for more consistent weather so I can just plant them outside. Still, I was in search of any unique or not-to-common herb starts.

    I did find a few Love-in-the-Mist plants but I've started my own.

    We visited Sweet Sally's Soaps, like last year, for some homemade soaps. I'm a big fan of homemade soap and have purchased from a lot of different individuals, Sally's soaps are my favorite. They last a really long time and her scents are a treat.

    I came home with some Vinaigrette as well. Not only was this stuff the bomb, but the guy who makes it was the most entertaining vendor hands down. When I couldn't sample his veggie & crouton samples, he quickly put together a GF sample for me.

    I would drink this stuff straight from the bottle
    if people wouldn't look at me funny, it's that good. 

    He makes a note even at his booth that it is GF and that he uses real foods, no preservatives or other junk. It was refreshing to read an ingredient list I recognized.

    I happened to luck out and stumble on a vendor selling healthy organic baked goods who just happened to have a few gluten free options. I scored some great gluten free carrot cake and felt pretty darn special.

    It's a rarity to find any GF food options at these events.

    The show runs today yet and there are workshops all day for a variety of topics.

    I briefly attended last nights Edible & Medicinal Wild Herbs of Ohio and Pa workshop but there were no actual plants and not much discussion on preparing them other than a brief talk by the presenter (who also had a stand selling her products) on how she prepares them for her products, but it was not in much detail.

    After that we just followed along a handout where she noted the benefits of various wild edibles. Nothing that I didn't already know.  I had hoped for there to be actual plants there for us to see and demonstrations on preparing them for use, but sadly no.

    My ADD got the best of me and I had to step out.

    There's a few more shows coming up that we usually hit, so I'm looking forward to them.

    Saturday, April 7, 2012


    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Enjoy your time with family and friends.
    I'm taking the weekend off, see you Tuesday.

    Thursday, April 5, 2012

    What's Growing?

    sage seedlings

    This year, since we still have not found our little dream homestead, I am stuck, yet again, trying to grow things in the woods.

    This year I decided to grow primarily herbs, with just a few veggies in pots that did well last year and one or two more experiments.

    oregano seedlings
    I despise these little peat pod thingies, but I had some from who knows where, and since I'm still reducing and de-cluttering in anticipation of a forever-in-the-future move, I decided to use them.
    anise hyssop seedlings
    Last year, a very good, long-time blogosphere friend, whom happens to also be one of my favorite gardening people, sent me a surprise package full of seeds from her gardens (thanks tlc).

    I carefully stored them since we were having a wet and terrible growing season, and this year I'm going full force to grow some herb varieties I only dreamed of attaining seeds for.

    marjoram seedlings
    So far I've got my first round of starts for my standard five of six herbs I can't live without:

    • oregano
    • sweet marjoram
    • thyme
    • sage
    • parsley
    The sixth would be rosemary, which I will probably purchase plants for since it is so slow growing.

    bronze fennel seedlings
    In addition, I've started some special herbs from my friend:

    • bronze fennel
    • love-in-a-mist
    • anise hyssop (i saved some of my own seed from last year, so i'm starting both hers and mine to see if there are any differences) This is a FAV herb and last year I created this Strawberry Anise Hyssop jam recipe which is to die for.
    • sweet cicely (This one is currently in the refrigerator for a dormant cold period needed for germination. My fingers are crossed for this one, my readings find that it can be troublesome to start from seed.)

    I've also started some:

    Once the first wave of starts are growing strong, and I've got those annoying little pods all transplanted to pots, I'll start a second wave of seeds of:

    • Dill
    • Basil
    • Feverfew (new herb from my friend)
    • Chervil (new herb from my friend, similar to parsley)
    • Buttercrunch lettuce
    • Arugula (another donation from my friend)
    • Butterbush Butternut squash
    • Delicata Squash
    Yet to arrive, I ordered seeds for:

    With the warmer weather a few weeks ago, I took full advantage to get some containers going as well...

     Spinach is growing strong.

    Snow peas are in and growing now for a few weeks. These did fabulous in a container last year.

    This year I'm trying Red Norland potatoes in a bag.  Last years bagged potatoes didn't fare well due to the constantly wet weather. While they grew like champs, I couldn't get them to dry out and the potatoes rotted before they could grow. Red Norlands are an earlier maturing variety, so I hope to harvest them much sooner than the later maturing variety I grew last year.

    This year I've gone with a fully soil-less mixture to keep it light and well drained. I'm going to mix each addition of 'soil' with a little straw as it grows to really keep things airy and better draining.

    My black peppermint is already on a rampage, taking over areas I didn't even know it was in. I'm ok with that as this weekend I'll pull up all this new growth to make peppermint extract.  Early spring mint is the sweetest and best for extract making.

    My lemon balm is doing well as usual too.

    … and we already have strawberry flowers in our tiny, pathetic, barely surviving due-to-being grown-in-the-woods strawberry patch.

    Maybe if I can keep the skunks and raccoons out we may get one strawberry.


    What are you growing?

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    Beautifully Simple Violet Syrup

    Last year I went all out and made Violet Syrup.

    I also learned a few questionable things about canning it.

    Which leaves me this year with a little freedom to have fun, since, well, I could care less about putting it up for later.

    So it got me thinking, why go through the long process of boiling things down to make syrup when I could just go as simple as possible and make ...simple…syrup!

    I mean seriously, look at that glittering jar of wickedly awesome purpleness up there.

    Now, I will say, this is without a doubt a pure sugar syrup, which in our house, falls into the treat category. But it's spring, and after a boring, bleak winter, some color and treats are in order.

    First, you need a shit-ton of violets. <--This is not a joke.

    I actually gathered FOUR full cups, because I am also experimenting with making violet candy. It's a work in progress, but I think I may have nailed down a successful process, I just need to wait a few days for more violets to bloom.

    If you just want to make the simple syrup you only need TWO full cups.

    You'll also want to used pure white sugar to retain the flavor (which is very lightly floral and very sugary sweet), but also for color reasons, the more 'molasses-like' turbinado sugars are going to brown your syrup down some.

    Violet Simple Syrup

    by Christine Mercer-Vernon
    Prep Time: 12-18 hours
    Cook Time: 5-10 minutes
    Keywords: beverage gluten-free soy-free Violet Flowers violet syrup sugar lemon Easter spring

    Ingredients (1 full Pint)
    • 2 cups fresh picked Violet blossoms
    • 1 cup boiling water
    • 1 cup regular white sugar (not any brown sugars such as natural cane or turbinado, the flavor will overpower the violets and discolor your syrup)
    • 1/4 tsp lemon juice
    Gently rinse your Violet flowers (no stems) by submerging them in a small bowl of cool water. 

    Remove carefully and drain in a colander or sieve, shaking gently to remove excess water. (blossoms will compact some, this is ok)

    Put in a heat proof, non-reactive bowl and pour boiling water over blossoms. Using spoon, gently submerge the blossom, then cover and set aside on the counter overnight or for 12-18 hours.

    Pour through a fine sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth to strain.

    Gently squeeze flowers a few times by removing them from the cheesecloth and squeezing the liquid back through the sieve/cheesecloth to catch any last debris. Do not squeeze them completely dry. Just a few gently squeezes to remove some of the liquid.

    Check your liquid, if there is a lot of debris floating in it, pour through the fine sieve again, lined with new cheesecloth.

    Measure liquid, you should have 1 cup, if not add water to equal 1 cup, or adjust sugar down to equal same amount as liquid. You want to use equal parts of liquid and sugar.

    Pour liquid into small non-reactive pot and add sugar. Heat over medium high heat until stirring until all sugar is dissolved.

    Do not freak out, your liquid will turn a very unattractive, greenish blue color.

    Remove from heat and 1/4 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice, your syrup will return to a beautiful violet color. (I did not test this with bottled lemon juice, so I'm not sure if the preservatives used would discolor the syrup)

    Pour into clean, sterile jar and refrigerate up to one month.

    VIOLETS: Though tempting, never ever pick flowers from the roadside or treated lawns and meadows as the chemicals in these areas are not to be digested. Choose areas away from streets and areas that are treated with any sort of chemical or exposed to road or farm field run-off.

    Violet Simple Syrup can be used to Violet Lemon Seltzers or to sweeten lemonades, iced teas and any assortment of beverages you wish to make. Adding more lemon juice will increase the color towards fuschia.
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    How Gorgeous is this?

    Tuesday, April 3, 2012

    Getting it together for Easter

    Everyone is in scramble mode for sure to get ready for family gatherings and big meals this weekend… so here's a few posts to help you out:

    Dessert fun for the kiddos:

    Make some ice cream in a bag!

    How about a few recipe ideas to use up all that leftover ham:

    Great way to use up leftover ham and veggies
    (sub regular pasta if you don't need this GF)

    We love to top our pizza with sliced ham and the
    HE's favorite sandwich is a hot ham and cheese.
    Make a batch of my GF Pizza or Roll dough and you are good to go!

    Sorry I can't get you through the whole cleaning the crap out of the house before everyone gets here marathon.
    I would resort to chocolate for that. :]

    Monday, April 2, 2012


    turmeric and blueberries

    It's that time again. The annual egg coloring bonanza hit our house this weekend.


    Since food colorings are something we try to avoid we went the natural route, and since I did not feel like making a special trip to the store, we made use of what we had.

    I gathered up some spices and food-stuffs, boiled them a bit, added a glug or two of vinegar, then dropped our hard-boiled eggs into the jars, let them cool, then stuck them into the refrigerator overnight.


    We were really pleased with our pretty earthtone colored eggs.

    Brown chicken eggs were used.

    • A = 2 cups frozen blueberries in 2-3 cups water, boiled for 20 minutes, strained, then added 2T white vinegar
    • B = 2 heaping tsp Turmeric boiled in 2-3 cups of water for about 5 minutes, then added 2 T white vinegar
    • C = mixed portions of the blueberry and turmeric liquids, more turmeric than blueberry
    • D = boiled 2 heaping handfuls of spinach, chopped and 2 heaping tsp dill seed in 2 cups of water for 20 minutes, added 1 T white vinegar (weakest color and didn't produce more than a dirty stain on our brown eggs)

    After they cooled, we refrigerated them.

    These were drained and briefly rinsed the next morning. Then laid on a metal rack to dry for several hours.

    Once dry, i rubbed them lightly with oil.

    The blueberry eggs were very delicate when removed and the color would easily rub off, but once the egg had dried completely it was very permanent.

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