Potager Americain 

I recently learned the French word “potager” – it means kitchen garden.  I love all the various words for gardens. I like the idea of victory gardens, of food not lawns, of your plain old veggie garden…but the simplicity and elegance of potager? That’s a word I can get behind. (I am an English teacher, ergo a word nerd). 

My birthday is in early March….and delightfully here in zone 7b, I can get started right around then!

This was after my birthday weekend. Little baby kale and strawberries and lots of seeds you can’t see. (Also: beehive)


After a few weeks and thrifting some roofing slates.

Then I realized I had way more seedlings than space, so I added a few more beds (this is April 15th). (And because I’m a seed hoarder, I might be adding another new bed…oops.)


First harvest! Kale and mustard greens!


First dinner! Gluten free Alfredo with crisped garden greens on top and some super dry homebrew cider. All the deliciousness.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup – My Fall Favorite

At a wedding may moons ago, I had a fantastic butternut squash and apple soup.  I’ve been trying to replicate and/or reinvent it since then.  This is one of my favorite attempts thus far:

You’ll Need:
3 Tablespoons of Butter
1 Medium Butternut Squash (peeled, seeded, chopped)
1 Large Granny Smith Apple (chopped, seeded)
4 Shallots (chopped)
3 Cloves of Garlic (diced)
3 Cups of Chicken Broth (gluten free, of course) (or rabbit broth, if you’re feeling frisky)
2 Cup of White Wine or Hard Apple Cider
1 Cup of Sour Cream
Fresh Tarragon
Salt & Pepper

Optional: Bacon! (cooked and then coarsely chopped)

Do this:

Melt butter in the pan, add garlic & shallots.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the squash and apples, cook for a further 5 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes (or until the squash is fork tender).  Add the wine/cider, tarragon leaves, some salt & pepper.  Stir together and then immersion blend (or run through your regular blender in stages).  Then stir in sour cream and chopped bacon!  (add more salt/pepper to taste) Garnish with a spoonful of sour cream and an apple slice.  Try not to eat the whole batch at once….it’s hard.


Gluten-Free Rosemary Potato Rolls

Alright – so here is the final piece of my three day recipe roundup.  I have to give about 95% of the credit for this to these guys over at gluten-free-bread.org, this is their recipe with a few tweaks I made to use up the whey we made in step 1…and a few other tweaks because I can’t leave well-enough alone.  My mother has always yelled at me for never trying a recipe as written the first time, I always change as I go.  So here you go:

You’ll need…

2 cups mashed potatoes (instant potatoes will work great also) <–here’s where my disagreement begins, NEVER WILL I MAKE instant potatoes – they’re not real food and besides they taste weird.

1 cup water (use the water from cooking the potatoes)

2 packages active dry yeast

3 Tbsp. sugar 2 tbsp of honey

1 ½ cup buttermilk, room temperature however much leftover whey you have + enough regular milk or buttermilk to equal 1.5 cups.  I had a half a cup of whey so added a cup of milk.

6 Tbsp. melted butter, cooled (I threw in the whole stick – it’s how I do)

3 tsp. salt

2 – 3 tsp. dried rosemary (crushed) 1 tbsp of fresh rosemary (chopped)

5 ½ to 6 ½ cups light gluten-free flour blend King Arthur Gluten Free Flour, this stuff is the bomb.

1 tsp. xanthan gum  xanthan gum is pricy and I don’t have any, so I skipped this and they came out just fine

** my addition here, an egg.  It might have made up for skipping the xanthan gum.


In a large bowl, mix sugar honey, yeast, water (make sure this is just slightly warmer than body temperature or it will kill the yeast), and mashed potato. Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam.


With the paddle (or dough hook) attachment on your stand mixer, and with the mixer set on low, add buttermilk/milk/whey, melted butter, salt and rosemary to the yeast/potato/water mixture.


Add in 5 ½ cups of the flour, a little at a time, until the dough starts to get sticky. With the mixer on high, mix the dough for 4 minutes.  Toward the end, toss in the egg.


(If you don’t have a mixer, you can still make these rolls. Just work the dough with your hands until the mixture is combined, for about 8 minutes or so.)

Put the dough onto a well-floured work space. Roll the dough, with a floured rolling pin, until it is ¾ inch thick. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough into 2-inch squares or triangles (you can also roll these sections into balls for a true ‘roll shape’).

I skipped the above and just went with a muffin tin, it made the cooking time shorter and also was just less of a pain all around.

Place the rolls 1 inch apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Let the dough rise for 15 to 30 minutes. Fill muffin tin cavities 3/4 full with well-risen dough. Then, place into your preheated oven. Bake for about 18 to 20 12-15 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Et voila! 🙂






Homemade Cream Cheese Recipe! Pineapple Cream Cheese Dip!

So now that you’ve strained the whey out of your yogurt, mix in some salt and herbs or fruit and honey and you’ve got a super easy homemade cream cheese substitute that tastes great and happens to be the byproduct of something you were already making.  Go you!  You can experiment with any variety of seasoning or fresh herbs from the garden.

My family has a weird affinity for pineapple cream cheese dip, so I made a version of that with my strained yogurt.

You’ll Need:

  • 16 ounces of yogurt with the whey strained out.
  • 3 tablespoons of mayonaise
  • 8 ounce can of crushed pineapple (drained-ish)
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sugar

Do this:

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir to blend, cover and chill over night.

You can dip all sorts of things in this.  My father prefers to spread it on wheat thins (which I’m allergic to).  I dip potato chips in it.  Lots of people think it’s gross…until they try it and realize that it’s AWESOME.

Does your family have any food that outsiders think is weird but that you love?


FIRE CIDER – The People’s Medicine! (recipe always in flux)

A few years ago, a coworker of mine came in with a bottle of fire cider that her mother had sent her and dared all of us to give it a taste….we were nervous at first, especially me, I DO NOT LIKE spicy things…  But I tried it….it was spicy and sweet and complex and it got my blood moving. which is exactly what it’s designed to do!

As soon as I figured out just how easy it is to make, I set out to make my own.  I make it differently every time I do it, although there are some *must have* ingredients in there…I’ll get to that. 🙂

The recipe is based on a number of recipes handed down potentially since the days of the Black Plague, but it’s been perfected and titled by Rosemary Gladstar, a matriarch of the modern herbal community.

It’s an immune booster, a digestive aid, a blood stimulant, a winter warmer, a cold chaser.  It’s a great thing to have around and SUPER easy to make.  You can drink it straight, mix it into juice, put it on a salad, mix it with hot water and honey like a tea (you can also inhale the steam to get your sinuses moving).  It’s pretty magical stuff.

You can watch Rosemary make it and talk about it here:

There are tons of variations on this recipe, but the key ingredients are garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, cayenne, apple cider vinegar and honey.  You can add other varieties of pepper, peppercorns, turmeric, cinnamon, rose hip, other members of the allium family, citrus, fennel, thyme, lavender, echinacea, parsley…basically if it makes you think: immune boosting, full of vitamin c, warming, blood stirring, or digestive….you can throw it in there.

Today as I was repeatedly strolling the farmer’s market (it was a glorious day here…and anyone who follows me on Instagram saw my silly vintage cape ensemble that I was strolling in)….I kept noticing the brightly colored peppers on all the stalls.  I don’t like spicy food, so I only ever use peppers for fire cider.  I also knew I had ginger at home because of my recent ginger soda endeavors…so I decided to make my first batch of fire cider for the year.



Current Batch of Fire Cider Includes:

  • 2 small local vidalia onions
  • 1 heirloom cayenne pepper
  • 1 peach habanero pepper
  • a big chunk of horseradish (probably about a half a cup of chopped root)
  • about 6 little chunks of turmeric root (about 1/4 cup of root bits)
  • an orange
  • most of a lemon
  • a 6 inch piece of ginger root
  • about a quarter cup of scallion tops (I had them lying around)
  • two full heads of garlic (pressed)
  • a big chunk of rosemary from the garden
  • an entire bottle of Braggs apple cider vinegar

It’s all chopped up and chucked into a half gallon mason jar.  I’m actually using one of my super vintage ones because it has a glass lid – vinegar tends to corrode the metal ones, which isn’t so nice.  If you’re using one with a metal lid, everyone says to stick a piece of waxed or parchment paper between the lid and the jar.


Once it’s macerated for 4-6 weeks (and shake that baby occasionally, it does really help), I’ll strain out all the veggie matter and mix in honey to taste.  I actually have a rosebush in my yard that’s going to hip nicely…so I might make a honey/rosehip syrup and mix that in.  The fun part is that you don’t have to adhere to any recipe strictly.  You can make it differently every single time if you want to.

I keep the big bottle in the fridge, but I have a small bottle on my bathroom counter with an eyedropper and I take it if I’m feeling like I’m starting to get sick, if my stomach is upset, or if I’m really cold….or sometimes just for fun.  If I feel like I need a big dose, I mix it into OJ.  I also like to keep a small bottle in my travel bag and take it while I’m traveling…I think it’s better than Airborne.

If you want to read about the current (and really appalling) trademark controversy over fire cider (essentially a corporation has placed a trademark on a folk remedy that isn’t theirs to trademark and has been sending nasty letters to herbalists all over the country to have them change the name of their product), please go here: http://freefirecider.com/  – also consider signing the petition here to revoke this trademark.

Traditions not trademarks!

Natural Lactofermented Root Beer


Although I was raised predominantly by my mother, I’m a lot like my father – and that extends down to my tastebuds.  I had lunch with my father at his regular workday lunch spot recently and the waitress laughed when I ordered root beer.  My dad followed suit.  We both love it.

My quest for lactofermented soda actually started with a quest for root beer, but it’s a little more complicated than the apple/ginger guy I posted about yesterday, so I wanted to tackle it second.

I like to make it in small batches because I’m still tweaking the recipe, but this is the current incarnation:

Root Beer Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water (filtered preferred)
  • 3 tablespoons sassafras root bark (NOT POWDERED)
  • 3 tablespoons sarsaparilla root  (see above)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of wintergreen leaves (chopped)
  • cinnamon stick
  • about 2 inches of ginger root (grated)
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ginger bug (recipe here!)
  • 1-2 cups sweetener of your choice

Do this:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot: add the water, herbs, and extract.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat, add sweetener and stir to dissolve completely.
  4. Leave the pot covered for 30 minutes.
  5. My favorite part of all the recipes I found involved cooling the root beer to blood temperature!  Generally you want to cool it to somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees so as not to hurt your ginger bug. I found that I had to pop the pan into the fridge for about 20 minutes to get there.  I also found that none of my kitchen thermometers got cool enough and I had to use my under-the-tongue medical thermometer.  When your Root Beer has cooled, strain it to remove the herbs.  To get it all out, your might need a jelly bag.  Mine still has a small amount of plant material which will generally settle out.
  6. Strain off a cup of your ginger bug liquid and add to the root beer.
  7. Pour your soda into bottles (again, I’m a fan of swing tops like these). Allow it to sit in a warm or room temperature spot in your home for 3-5 days.
  8. After 3-5 days of fermentation (watch for bubbles rising!), you will have root beer unlike one you’ve ever tasted.  Sweet, herbal, and actually pretty good for you.  Toss in a scoop of ice cream and enjoy!IMG_6644

Floating sticks!


Beware when opening!  There will be foam!

Additional notes:

Generally speaking most, if not all, of the weirder things (sassafras, sarsparilla, wintergreen, cinnamon sticks, swing-top bottles) can be found at the home brew store.  Mine didn’t have sassafras and I’m really into wildcrafting/foraging…soooooo I went for a hike and went looking for sassafras trees.  The only ones I ended up finding were in a stand that had been planted about two years ago.  I picked up some downed branches and yanked up a couple of seedlings that had sprung up too close to the main trees (as joggers stared at me, ha!) and brought them home.  My first batch of root beer had chopped twigs (no leaves) and what little bits of root I could find grated into it.  It wasn’t as strongly flavored as subsequent batches that were made after the root I ordered arrived….but I rooted one of the saplings (hopefully it survives) and in a few years I’ll have as much root as I can dig – and no joggers staring at me.



 Not quite blood temperature!


Sassafras tree.  In the Spring, I’ll find a good spot for her.



Polenta Pie! Another gluten-free kitchen experiment.

I make a lot of other peoples’ gluten free recipes, but every now and then I take something into my head and it won’t leave until I make it.

I’m not the hugest fan of polenta, like cream of wheat, the texture bugs me out a little bit…and even fried it’s just never done anything for me. But this week, I had a polenta epiphany!!

I was out checking on the garden, and noticed that my basil plant was starting to go a little crazy. Crazy basil= pesto.

I had a bunch of pasta last week, so I decided to try something different….and polenta came to mind. Without even googling to see what anyone else had done, I set to work on my polenta pie.

The first step is making the pesto. I used this pesto recipe without the pine nuts (I just didn’t have any, and it’s fine without). My only change was an extra clove of garlic and a splash of milk because I like my pesto creamy.

Once the pesto was done, I browned a diced chicken breast in garlic and oil.

I covered that pan to keep the heat in, set the oven to 350, and put water to boil for the polenta.

I made a single portion of polenta to package instructions, and as soon as it had thickened, scooped it into a pie plate I had waiting.

Using a rubber spatula, I smoothed it into a layer about an inch thick, then I “iced” the polenta cake with a generous pesto layer. After that, I sprinkled on the chicken, placed two fistfuls of baby spinach on top of that, layered on some slices of fresh mozzarella, sprinkled on my diced Roma tomato and then spritzed the whole creation with balsamic vinegar.

When I was done, it looked like this:


Then I popped it into the oven for just long enough to melt the cheese, which took about 12 minutes. Just long enough to clean up the kitchen!


This little guy should serve 4! 🙂

Pickles are best made at midnight….

Pickles are best made at midnight after the thunder has rushed out the heat of the day. You can sneak into the yard barefoot to pick the grape leaves you’ll need, feel the grass between your toes cold with rain, the night air still breathing the conversations of far away strangers. Everything else you’ll need is inside wrapped in the quiet of the house where soon the rumble of the jars in their water bath will sound like an approaching storm.




Gluten-Free Coconut Chicken with Mustard-Lime Sauce

I’m super obsessed with coconut and always jealous when I’m at a restaurant where there’s coconut shrimp and not coconut chicken.  I’m working on seafood as a concept, but generally struggle with it.


So that’s coconut chicken, sweet mustard-lime sauce, fried yucca, and some raw spinach (pre-balsamic coating).  I’m really loving yucca right now – I always, however, love coconut and lime.

Coconut Chicken
Package of Chicken Tenders (or breasts, cut up)
2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 cup cornflake breadcrumbs
1 egg lightly beaten
lime juice
salt and pepper
olive oil

Combine 1 cup coconut, a half cup of breadcrumbs and a few pinches of salt & pepper on a large plate – the crumbs will sort of coat the coconut as you mix and that’s ok. Put lightly beaten egg into a shallow bowl or onto a plate. Squeeze a little lime juice on both sides of the chicken, dip into the egg and then dredge in the coco/crumb mixture. Repeat this until all pieces are covered. When you run out of coating, mix the remaining coconut and breadcrumbs into a second batch – I like doing it in two stages because I think the mix is more even and it provides better coverage.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and put a cookie sheet with some olive oil in it. Heat some olive oil in a skillet and brown the chicken on both sides. As the chicken is browned (becomes white) put it into the oven for about 15-20 minutes to cook through. The smaller the chicken pieces and the longer they were in the pan, the less time it will take – so check them periodically.

Sweet Mustard-Lime Sauce
Yellow Mustard
Dijon Mustard
Lime Juice
sugar, honey, or stevia

Mix one part yellow mustard with one part dijon mustard – squeeze in enough lime juice to thin the texture down quite a bit – add a little sprinkling of sweetener. You could probably add a little mayo in there to make it creamier, if you’d like – but then I’d half or leave out the sweetener.

Also, for a good yucca prep method – peel it, boil it for about 20 minutes, cut it into pieces and then fry it in a little olive oil and a LOT of garlic. I need to work on my yucca as a whole, maybe a nice sauce or something…and I know you can mash it like potatoes…I’ll add that to my to-do list.