Thursday, December 11

Preparing for GAPS

Stock!  Lots of stock!
Last weekend was quite a weekend!  The last several weekends have been so busy.  In the midst of the holiday prepping and planning, I'm also trying to prepare for our upcoming foray into the GAPS diet to help me overcome my recently-developed intolerance to all dairy great and small.  Part of prepping has been to try my hand at making bone broth.  It's quite easy--just takes time.  It seems like everything takes time...but I'm believing more and more that good things truly are worth the wait.  I'm gaining more appreciation for making things like this!  I've always liked to make things from scratch, but I don't always have time to do so.  However, I know that much of the diet relies on homemade broth, and I imagine that it will go quickly, so the more I can make, the better!  I now have accumulated 14 quarts of chicken broth and 8 quarts of beef broth, which should get us going.  One things I'm having trouble with is getting the gel consistency in my broth, but it has a good flavor.  I'm thinking that I need to boil it down more to get the gel.

I was able to buy some grass-fed beef bones from a local farm,
along with some grass-fed chicken feet (never thought I'd say that!) to add to the chicken broth.  I have to admit, I felt like I was buying my first voodoo kit when I ordered two pounds of chicken feet over the phone.  I'm told they add a lot of gelatin to the broth, which is great for the intestinal lining.  The look a little ghoulish floating around in the pan, though!

As well as preparing for the diet, we've also been trying to eat all of the food in the house not allowed on the diet, so I took the opportunity to create a chicken soup using a quart of homemade broth (not a GAPS-friendly recipe, but pretty tasty):
  • Two potatoes, cubed and boiled to fork-tender and drained
  • Two cups frozen peas
  • Two cups cubed cooked chicken, dark and white meat
  • One quart (4 C) chicken broth
  • Two tablespoons corn starch dissolved in two tablespoons cold water
  • Oregano, basil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, chicken base, and other seasonings, to taste

Add all ingredients except corn starch slurry into a 5 quart pot and heat to simmering.  Add corn starch slurry to pot and allow to simmer until desired thickness is reached.

While I was at it, I also decided to try a bag of einkorn flour that I purchased online from Jovial Foods.  It's made from unaltered, non-GMO, non-hybridized wheat that is easy to digest and does not seem to affect people with gluten intolerance (not to be confused with Celiac).  I used it to make some dinner rolls to go with my soup, and they turned out very nice--they browned well, had a good texture, and had a really nice, light flavor.  Hubby liked it, too!  Once we're done with GAPS, I'll be purchasing a larger quantity of this flour and using it as a regular flour staple in my pantry.  It seems to corroborate the suggestion that the altered wheats available today to make our flour really is harder for our bodies to digest.  I thought it was interesting.  (P.S.--this isn't a sales pitch, and I wasn't compensated for mentioning this flour.  I was just pleasantly surprised with the product!)

While I was at it, I came up with this fun Christmas decoration:

I found a gallon Ball jar at Wal-Mart for $14, found the glittery balls at Hobby Lobby, three bags at half price for $10, and I had purchased the fun Christmas twigs on clearance last Christmas.  The silver picks have battery-powered lights wrapped on them.  I tried to make each color of the balls in the jar as individual layers, but as you can see, when I was arranging the picks, some of the different colors mixed layers.  I still think it looks good!  I might just shake it all up and mix them together.

I'm not sure if I'll be back on here before the New Year.  It's just so busy this time of year.  So I'll wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, and hopefully be back at it at the beginning of 2015!

Image from Little Birdie Blessings

Thursday, November 20

November Noms

This flock of turkeys crossed the road in front of me on the way to work this week.  Seems appropriate, with Thanksgiving so close!
I can't believe how quickly time is moving!  It seems like just last weekend that we were in our cabin in the woods, but it wasn't.  We've had a steady stream of visitors during the weekends, and the weeks have been busy as well.  It doesn't look like it's slowing down, either.  Despite all of the activity, I thought I'd share a few dairy-free recipes that I plan to make for Thanksgiving this year.

I've dreaded the approach of the holidays because of my food issues.  I know that they will have to be worked around, and it's frustrating to need food specially prepared to avoid getting sick.  Because of this, I've decided that I'll start the GAPS diet protocol at the beginning of the year, and see if I can get this dairy allergy or intolerance cleared up and my body healed.  I know others who have done it, and they have seen great improvement over the course of the diet.  Best of all, it's not a long-term diet, per se: you do it for up to two years, but then can go back to normal life with a healthy, rebooted digestive system.  Sounds exactly like what I need.

And now, the recipes!

Dairy-Free Pumpkin Pie (original recipe from see the recipe click here):
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/4 Cup White Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg or Allspice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1 15-ounce Can Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Cup Regular Canned Coconut Milk
  • 1 Unbaked Pie Shell

Preheat your oven to 425ºF.
Combine the sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or allspice, cloves and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the sugar mixture, pumpkin, and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the coconut milk.
Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350ºF and continue to bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for 2 hours (be patient--this is important).  Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

I added a much larger amount of spices than are listed above, so feel free to adjust the spices to your taste.  I also think I might bake this without a crust and see what happens!

Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes:
  • 2-3 lb potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled to tender
  • 1 stick Earth Balance dairy-free margarine
  • 1 small can vegetable broth
  • Salt & pepper

Mash the cooked potatoes.  Add the margarine and mix.  Add enough vegetable stock to achieve the desired consistency of mashed potatoes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cloverleaf Dairy-Free Dinner Rolls (not gluten-free):

1 package quick-acting active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp. or 7 grams)
1 1/3 cup milk (105º to 115ºF degrees)
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour or whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
coarse salt (optional, I don't use it)

Dissolve yeast in warm milk in electric mixer bowl.  Stir in 1 cup flour. Beat until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour, oil, sugar and salt.  Mix on low electric speed until soft dough forms.  Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven 400ºF degrees.  

Prep a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Punch down dough in center and fold over a few times.  Pinch off 1 inch balls of dough and quickly roll in palm of hands.  Put 3 balls to one muffin cup; brush with melted butter; sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until crust is light golden brown.

Immediately remove from pan.  Store loosely covered. - See more at:
1 package quick-acting active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp. or 7 grams)
1 1/3 cup milk (105º to 115ºF degrees)
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour or whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon melted butter
coarse salt (optional, I don't use it)

Dissolve yeast in warm milk in electric mixer bowl.  Stir in 1 cup flour. Beat until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour, oil, sugar and salt.  Mix on low electric speed until soft dough forms.  Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 45 minutes.

Heat oven 400ºF degrees.  

Prep a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Punch down dough in center and fold over a few times.  Pinch off 1 inch balls of dough and quickly roll in palm of hands.  Put 3 balls to one muffin cup; brush with melted butter; sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until crust is light golden brown.

Immediately remove from pan.  Store loosely covered. - See more at:
  • 1 package quick-acting active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp. or 7 grams)
  • 1 1/3 cup dairy-free milk (105º to 115ºF degrees)--I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon melted dairy-free margarine (optional)--I used Earth Balance Soy Free
  • coarse salt (optional, I don't use it)

Dissolve yeast in warm milk in a stand mixer bowl.  Mix in 1 cup flour using dough hook. Mix until smooth.  Mix in two cups of remaining flour, the oil, the sugar and the salt.  Mix on low electric speed until soft dough forms.  Add up to 1/2 cup of flour if necessary to make a soft dough.  Cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 45 minutes.  Heat oven 400ºF degrees.  Prep a 12 cup muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Punch down dough in center and fold over a few times.  Pinch off 1 inch balls of dough and quickly roll in palm of hands.  Put 3 balls to one muffin cup; brush with melted butter; sprinkle with coarse salt.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until crust is light golden brown.  Immediately remove from pan.  Store loosely covered.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 17

Soothing Sore Throat Drink

It's that time of the year again...cold, ice, snow, and, well, colds!  
 The hubs has been dealing with a sore throat for the past few days--a combination of the change of weather, dry air, and sinus drainage.  Happens every year.  I'd seen several different recipes for soothing throat drinks online, and I thought I'd take a stab at making my own concoction.  The best part?  The hubs liked it, and it really helped to sooth his raw throat!  I thought I'd share it with you.

For one mug:
8-10 oz. hot water
4-5 teaspoons of raw honey, to taste (and by teaspoon, I mean the kind you eat with at the dinner table, not the measuring teaspoon)
1 1/2 measuring teaspoons lemon juice
1 measuring teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar (I used Bragg's)
1 measuring teaspoon ground cinnamon (again, to taste)
1/2 measuring teaspoon ground ginger

Mix everything together well.  Heat in the microwave or use the hottest tap water.  Continue to mix as you drink, or the ingredients will settle to the bottom of the mug.  Drink every few hours as needed.
Raw honey, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and cinnamon all have antibacterial properties, and can help not only sooth, but also could aid in shortening a cold by giving your body a bit of an immunity boost.  The honey also coats the throat, helping to alleviate the annoying sore throat.  Ginger adds a little extra spice, and also relieves inflammation and irritation.  Pretty sure that's a win-win-win-win-win!  And the best part is that you don't need to be sick to drink it--have a warm mug on a cold mornings to start your day!

By the way, I'm no doctor.  This is not medical advice.  This is just what worked for us.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28

The Cabin in the Woods

In the woods, off of a narrow country road on the south side of Wooster, Ohio, sits a fully-restored 1820s two story log cabin with a large front porch and an incredible view of the wooded landscape.  I know this because we stayed there this weekend.


I don't think it's possible to give you a completely accurate picture of how it feels to stay in a restored, yet still primitive, antique log cabin, but I'll attempt it.  I will say that the cabin is updated with modern amenities, but the cabin keepers are history lovers, and they devoted years of time and money to preserve this structure as accurately as possible while still making it a very pleasant stay for guests.

From the moment we arrived, I was in awe.  A sweet little family of stone carved owls greeted us as we approached the cabin's covered front porch.  Once on the front porch, I took in the sweeping view of the acres of woods and a creek bed below. 
When we walked through the front door painted in a German style and into the cabin, the smell of nearly two hundred years of age greeted me, sending me into a state of euphoria. 
I was grinning like an idiot!  There is something about the smell of "old" in regards to a house...I instantly think of the people who have lived there across the ages.  It smelled of lingering wood smoke and aged timber, mingled with the various scents of all of the dry herbs that were hanging from the ceiling.  To me, it was heavenly.  We were given a tour of the cabin, including instructions on how to use the large Rumford fireplace (the fireplace was rebuilt with the cabin reconstruction, but the mantle and stone surrounds were around the same age as the cabin, purchased from other properties that were being torn down in the area, along with the winder staircase that wrapped around the back of the fireplace).  Sadly, it was just a little too warm while we were there to use the fireplace, much to my dismay.
The owners spent several years rebuilding and restoring the cabin.  All around the first and second floor, small detail plaques were located to indicate what had changed, what had been, or what had been found.  It was a great touch to be able to see the history and have it explained at the same time!

The main floor floorboards were original to the 1870s, when much about the cabin style was changed.  Narrow floorboards were much more fashionable, and the current owners decided to keep them when doing the restoration.  However, older wide floorboards were found in the upstairs, in what is now the bathroom.  The floorboards in both bedrooms upstairs and the upstairs hallway were replaced with a lighter wood in narrow strips to mimic the floors below, but gave the rooms a little bit lighter feel.  The cabin itself was somewhat dark, with small windows typical of log homes, and it was wonderful to see how the light affected the cabin's feel throughout the day--it seemed to constantly change.  The owners were able to use original hardware on the doors, which was nice to see. 

The windows, trim around the windows, and some other trim found in the house had been reproduced, delightfully remade to match almost perfectly the original trim in the structure.  The windows were made with a special process that mimicked old period glass, with waves and imperfections.  I loved the owners' attention to detail--it was quite apparent that they truly loved restoring the cabin to its original state.
The floors on the second floor of the house are wonderfully crooked and sloped.  It added greatly to the character of the house, and when not used to walking on them, will throw one slightly off-balance until used to the feeling.  In some places, the floor below can be seen (or at least, light beams) through the small gaps between floor boards.  Laying in bed at night, looking up at the ceiling into the attic, tiny dots and lines of light could be seen, almost giving the illusion of sleeping under the stars.  During the night, the house creaked as it settled in the cool night air.
All of the exterior walls are the logs and plaster chinking, but interior walls are either wood planks running vertically or whitewashed plaster.  The paint colors are perfect for the time period, and vary from deep red, sage green, beige, dark brown, and a medium blue, which was my favorite.  Period antique furniture is found throughout the cabin, as well as antique fireplace equipment.  Both beds upstairs are antique rope bed frames, but have modern mattresses on top of the ropes.  Where antique furniture could not be found or antique lighting could not give enough light, modern furniture and electric lighting was used, but was still fitting to the feel of the history.  It all works well together.

This was my dream come true!

We were able to get away and have the relaxing, peaceful weekend that we'd been wanting for a long time now.  Being away from the traffic and noise associated with living in the city was exactly what I needed, and this setting fit the bill perfectly.  We got up late, took our time, and I even cooked us a big breakfast on Saturday morning before we headed out to find what Wooster had to offer.  We ate dinner at a lovely upscale restaurant that used to be the city's jail in the old days, and we were seated in the basement where the old jail cells used to be located. 
The food was superb and worth every penny, and our waiter was so very helpful in answering questions about the menu (it's not always easy to navigate eating out with a food allergy).  My chicken Marsala was so good...I wanted to keep eating it long after I was too full to have another bite.  I was very close to needing to be rolled out of the restaurant, and I thought for sure I was going to have a food baby.  My husband couldn't stop raving about his surf and turf dish, with lobster, tenderloin steak, shrimp, broccoli florets, risotto, and a rich Bearnaise sauce.  There was also salad and fresh bread served with the meal, so there was no way anyone could leave hungry.  It was a wonderful and much-needed time of relaxation for both of us, and I always love to get away with my husband.

We didn't get to talk to the cabin keepers until we were ready to check out, but I would have loved to be able to talk to them more.  Perhaps next time we stay, we'll be able to talk to these fellow history lovers!  They seemed to have a great knowledge and love of what they have and what they do.  Owner Paul talked about how their property and the surrounding area was the only spot in Ohio to see a Civil War skirmish, and mentioned that they found several musket balls embedded in trees on the property as they were making room for the house they built and the historic buildings they acquired and moved to their property.  He and his wife, Anne, also talked about the area being a settlement of a local Indian tribe before the Civil War, and have found Indian artifacts on the property as well.  They have much knowledge of the county and are active in teaching the history of the area.  They were very kind and gracious to us while we stayed there.

I can't wait to go back again!

Monday, October 20

Scriptural Simplicity

Life is interesting, isn't it?

Sometimes it's great, other times it's so hard.  

Hills and valleys.

Yet, one thing is always constant: God's love for us.  It doesn't change, it doesn't waver, it is a constant in an ever-changing world.

Each day I read a passage of the day on Bible Gateway, and this morning's passage really struck me as appropriate for where I am: 
"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit." (Psalm 51:12).  

I have been feeling really worn down lately.  Life's not quite as I had hoped it would be at this point; it's not necessarily bad, just different, and this little passage seemed like an apt prayer.  

It's easy to lose the joy of the Lord in the midst of things that bring us down.  Maybe God's plan and our plan don't line up together.  Maybe something promising fell through.  Maybe this, or that, or something else...the enemy loves to distract us from what's important and tries very hard to get us focused on things that aren't important, doubt our path, confuse us.
  Not only that, but if we lose the joy that we should have, we are less willing to listen to God and do what He asks us to do.  It's a domino effect--when one piece falls, so go the rest of them.  But God loves us, and doesn't want us to fall into these traps.  He wants us to keep our eyes focused on Him, ready and willing to do His will.

I know I'm not the only person who goes through this.  If you're feeling down, I hope that this simple little passage will resonate with you as it did with me!

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation!

Sustain me with a willing spirit!

Tuesday, September 30

Happy October!

Well, just like that, September is gone and October is here.  The trees are starting to turn their beautiful colors and the farmers are harvesting the fields.  Oh, to be a farmer, reaping the fruits of a summer full of labor!  The harvested corn fields look like a carnage has taken place--jagged stalks sticking up at all angles, random ears of corn strewn here and there, yellow leaves laying everywhere...and the animals have feed for another year. 
The beans are turning their beautiful shades of yellow and brown, and will soon be ready to harvest and sell. 
The trees are exploding into vibrant shades of yellows, golds, reds, oranges, and purples, seemingly overnight. 
The world, always beautiful in its own respective season, is changing once again.  And once again, the Lord has reminded us to take notice of His creation, and marvel in awe at the world that He created for us.  How can anyone look around and deny that we were made--created?  Every leaf, every blade of grass, every flake of frost...all were created by the One who loves us more than anything else He made (and He made everything!).
Happy October!

Monday, September 22

Historic Barns of Northwest Ohio, Pt. 2: Second Annual Barn Tour

Last year, our local historical society arranged for six barns to be open to the public for tours.  Hard to believe that a year has passed since then!  Hubby and I had so much fun touring the countryside and exploring the old farms that when another tour was announced for this year, we bought tickets right away.  This year, we headed to the eastern half of our county to tour six more barns.

It was a beautiful day again, just like last year.  The sun was shining, there was a great breeze (it actually got windier as the day progressed), and we got to see some great farms!

The first barn we went to was built in 1865, and is now a reception venue available to the public:
The owners of the barn fixed it up so that they could have their wedding reception here, and have since opened the barn for others to use, too!
Their Facebook page:
The Athen Ry band, they were really good!


The next barn was a working cattle farm that used to be a dairy farm:
Best friends, bovine-style.

I love the rhythm of the framing.  The ceiling is 55' tall.  It had a cathedral feeling to it!

1877 farm house.  The owner said that the walls were composed of a thickness of two bricks, then an air layer, then another two bricks.

Fall is coming!
One of the largest barns in the county--80' across this side, and 120' deep.
Great combine!  'Merica.

The third barn we visited was set up a little like a museum, with farming implements and artifacts displayed in the bays and on the walls:

Commode!  More comfy than an outhouse...?

I loved the texture of the wood floor with the antique nails.
While we were there, this group of historic cars drove up and parked.  Visitors were allowed to look in the cars and ask questions of the owners.  They were pretty neat!
The next barn was a quick tractor ride across the field, to the farm next door.  This barn housed a quilt display from the local quilting club:

Wasn't sure what this was...used for hauling something!
This next barn was made using a new type of construction, that was more stable than older barns.  It was also quite large, with additions through the years:

In comparing the framing of this barn to the others, there is definitely less wood used on the sides, yet is supposedly more sturdy and secure, not to mention cost-effective.
Original sign from the dairy operation
A great old planter.
I loved the hardware on the door--the stars are great!
The last barn that we visited was also the oldest, dating back to 1854.  It has a heavy German influence, and was the most decorative, with oval louvers.  The barn has been fixed up and is available for parties and receptions:

This little guy was resting after a hard day of greeting people at the barn door!
A great "chandelier" hanging from the rafters of the barn.

Not sure what the purpose of this stuffed bird was, but he was keeping a "birds-eye" view on the situation! 
The barn from the front--I love the deeper red color with the yellow, black and green accents.
I've always thought old barns were interesting.  As a city girl, I always thought the grass was greener on the other side of the fence--the side where cows mooed, goats baaahed, chickens clucked, and corn grew.  I always thought that it would be fun to live on a farm, but alas, we knew no one who owned a farm, so I was never able to experience farm life.  I think I would have enjoyed it, though.  In a way, touring these historic barns brings together so many things I enjoy: historic architecture, rural living, adorable animals, nice fall weather, and last but certainly not least, just spending time with my best friend.  I'm so glad that the Historical Society has arranged these tours over the last two years--we haven't been disappointed.  We're definitely looking forward to next year's tour!