chestnut applesauce cake (tree cake 2.0)

you may remember last year i made damian tree cake for his birthday. this year i discovered chestnut flour. have you ever had chestnut flour? it’s so yummy! so sweet and mild! it’s a gluten-free baker’s dream. i got super excited about chestnuts after reading mark shepherd’s book, restoration agriculture. chestnuts will save the world! don’t worry, mesquite will save the world too. think of mesquite as desert chestnut… i don’t hear paleo and gluten free folks raving about chestnuts, but i’m pretty sure it won’t be long until they do. we just need a celebrity chef to make a chestnut bacon doughnut or something and next thing you know it’ll be chestnut everything in all the health food stores. right now it’s still a bit hard to find. i found some chestnut flour at whole foods, and found super affordable bags of organic peeled chestnuts at the korean market. i also found acorn flour at the korean market, which was quite the thrill, let me tell you.

so, the cake. it was so good! so so good. it was very easy to assemble, it held together well, rose nicely, had a moist crumb and great flavor. and the whole double recipe was devoured in minutes. with such wholesome ingredients, i’m thinking of making another just for snacking. sorry i didn’t take any pictures. we ate outside and the sun went down so it was too dark for my crappy phone camera.

chestnut acorn applesauce cake

adapted from fanny farmer’s applesauce cake

1/4 cup melted butter of coconut oil

1/2 cup coconut or date sugar, or honey

1 cup apple sauce

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups chestnut flour

1/2 cup acorn flour (available at asian markets)

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

mix it all up, pour into a greased 9in pan and bake at 350 (in the sun oven, of course) for 40 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean. top with whipped cream if desired.

Allergy Healing Diet

damian suffers from pretty intense pollen allergies. they were the worst when we lived in oregon in the “grass seed capital of the world” (there’s really a sign that says that), but they’ve got worse and worse every year here in joshua tree. the allergy “season” lasted all year for damian 2 years ago as he got one sinus infection after another. the allergy meds barely even made a dent. last spring, after watching damian suffer all year, we decided to take some kind of action to change the situation. i sifted through internet claims of miracle cures and expensive treatments, and read a few books about allergies. we decided to try the program outlined in the book “allergies, disease in disguise” for a few reasons;

  1. the book did not make me want to throw the kindle at the wall by making grand, un-sourced declarations such as all allergies are caused by chem trails or repressed emotions or whatever.
  2. the program lasts 4-6 weeks. after that (she claims) you are all fixed and you can go back to your normal lifestyle without symptoms. obviously, this is a lot more appealing than being on a rotating elimination diet for the rest of your life.
  3. the supplements and lifestyle recommendations are affordable and not overwhelming. i spent about $40 on supplements and an extra $100 on groceries for the month.
  4. the program is complementary to gut-flora regeneration programs such as GAPS, which i’ve watched heal my friends, but are too extreme for me.

the program is meant to treat candida overgrowth, parasites, and inflammation while replenishing gut flora, improving digestion with enzymes, and nourishing the body. i won’t get in to the specifics of why and how the author thinks these conditions contribute to allergies (i’m not even sure i agree). but we decided to just do the program as prescribed to give it a chance. the results? it really seemed to work. we are both hesitant to declare that something is a cure, but damian’s symptoms improved within a week on the program and he was symptom free for nearly a year.  he started feeling allergic again this month when the pollen count hit double digits, so we are back on the program and again, he’s feeling good despite the pollen count remaining high.

what it looks like for us:

  1. supplements: a nasty-tasting anti-fungal blend with garlic and some other stuff (for candida), a wormwood-clove tincture (for alleged parasites), digestive enzymes, and probiotics.
  2. elimination of potential food triggers (and foods that feed candida) -no milk, cheese, wheat, yeast, sugar, processed crap…
  3. addition of nutrient dense foods: bone broth and mountains of greens with every meal, fresh vegetable juice, grass fed beef, beets, sprouted rye “bread,” salmon…
  4. fermented foods: homemade kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha… the book doesn’t emphasize the nutrient dense stuff and the ferments, but i’ve been brainwashed by my friends to think this is really important for gut health, which is really important for everything, so i’m going for it.

that’s about it. it’s more work, and i have a hard time staying ahead of the game with broth and juice so we aren’t consuming as much as i would like, but i enjoy making sweet potato latkes for breakfast and find drinking a hot cup of miso bone broth almost as enjoyable in the morning as my usual coffee & cream. it’s also nice to know we’ll be done in two weeks, and be healthier for it.


Homegrown Lunch

thanks to a merciful spring and a lot of effort, this year’s garden has been our most bountiful ever. we’ve been harvesting pounds and pounds of tomatoes (the ‘mexican midget’ plum tomato appears to be a winner for our climate.) and cucumbers. the okra is producing well, we have plenty of carrots and beets when ever we want, and even the sweet corn got pollinated. i’ve been making pesto out of all the basil, and we’ve got a bunch cantaloupes ripening. the peppers and eggplants are taking their time, but i think we’ll get a harvest yet.

i love cooking food that i grew, but what i love best is when i can make a whole meal out of ingredients that came from our property. today’s lunch was inspired by smitten kitchen’s entry on ina garten’s scalloped tomatoes i used bread crumbs instead of croutons since that’s what i had available from damian’s spelt bread. so good!

of the ingredients i used, those from our homestead were: garlic, bread crumbs, tomatoes, butternut squash, eggs, and basil. that left only olive oil and parmesan as imports. i can live with that.

food goals

if you ever want to piss me off, all you have to do is start talking diet dogma. if you spend any time in alternative/activist/health nut/hippie communities, you’ve heard it before. having spent many years working in a health food store, i think i’ve heard pretty much every wing-nut diet theory out there:

“eating meat is murder and ruins your karma”

“cooked food is poison”

“white death” (that’s sugar, in case you didn’t know)

“grains, nuts, and legumes must be soaked for a minimum of 24 hours in order for you to get any nutrition out of them at all”

“dairy creates mucus, soy causes cancer, soy prevents cancer, beef causes alzheimer’s…”

“never eat protein and carbs at the same sitting, always eat fruit alone, don’t eat past 6pm…”

i could go on, but you get the idea. as you might imagine, in the world of those trying to conceive (TTC, they call it on the message boards) there are many oppinions about optimum nutrition for maximum chances of pregnancy. as you also might imagine, the “expert” opinions vary vastly. vastly enough to directly contradict each other. but that’s the world of nutrition science for you.

although sometimes comical, this abundance of advice can be pretty frustrating when you just want somebody to tell you what to eat. at this point i’m pretty sure nobody knows what i should eat, and i wish they’d all stop pretending they do. luckily, with a bit of critical thinking and lots of experimenting, i think i’ve come pretty darn close to figuring out what sort of eating feels best to me. i’ve come up with some guidelines for myself that i can follow with less or more dedication depending on what inspires me. for instance, ice cream is not on my list of fertility friendly-optimum-food items. however, feeling left-out and deprived isn’t on my list either, so depending on context, ice cream may be the perfect choice for optimum health and fertility.

so without further ado, maya’s food guidelines for maximum fertility and health:

favor: very bright or dark colored foods- dark leafy greens, beets, black rice, black beans, cherries, blueberries, red quinoa, etc.

avoid: white foods- refined flour, sugar, most dairy.

choose: yams over potatoes, buffalo, lamb, and salmon over chicken or white fish, wild rice over brown rice.

favor: fresh warm meals that have been minimally processed

avoid: cold food straight from the fridge, packaged foods.

choose: soups like pho and miso vegetable over chilli, pasta tossed with green things instead of lasagna. have a nice bowl of steamed veggies with whatever i’m eating.

favor: eating slowly and calmly with gratitude.

avoid: getting too hungry, eating on the run, listing to the news while eating.

think about my next meal before i’m starving, make a nice plate, sit at the table, pray with my sweetie before digging in. chew.

favor: fermented  and enzyme rich foods like miso, saurkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefier.

choose: raw (goat) milk, fresh cheese like paneer, chevre, & cottage over aged stuff like cheddar.

also favor locally grown food in season. eat as wide an array as possible of food species. grains: quinoa, rice, sorghum, buckwheat, millet, barley… all the vegetables and fruit i can find. diversity! color! yum! eat piles and piles of vegetables.

feel free to ask me for my reasoning on any specific items. i’m hoping to post some recipes soon.


when i was a kid my dad used to make onion and tomato sandwiches. he probably still does. now, my dad may not be renowned for his cooking ability, but in the summer when the tomatoes were red and the sweet walla walla onions were in season, a simple sandwich on honey-wheatberry bread with plenty of mayo and thick slices of onion and tomato… i’m telling you, they were good!
today one of the vendors at my farmers market was proudly displaying his first crop of tomatoes for the season, and my friend, farmer doug, has his sweet maui onions fresh out of the ground, so you know what i was thinking. the only trouble was there were also beautiful, big, ripe avocados for $1 a piece and i had some organic bacon and sharp cheddar in the fridge. my garden lettuce was waving it’s crisp green leaves at me when i walked by, so i had no choice but to make an avocado-sweet onion BLT with cheese. but boy, what a sandwich!
i don’t eat that many sandwiches. i think i was traumatized by my last few sandwich experiences. the most traumatizing being a few weeks ago when i was stuck at the palm springs airport waiting for a delayed flight to vancouver. usually i come prepared for that kind of thing, but this trip was sudden, to say the least (i bought my ticket and left 30 minutes later) so i didn’t have my usual supply of luna bars and rice chips. so i headed to the “cafe” to see what i could find. what i could find turned out to be a packaged turkey sandwich that cost me no less than $9.97. and it wasn’t even good! i don’t mind paying $9.97 for a sandwich, if it is a good sandwich, but this, unfortunately, was a bad sandwich. the bread was dry around the edges but soggy in the middle, the lettuce was translucent and the textures were all wrong. you know the kind of sandwich i’m talking about. on closer inspection of the label i discovered part of the problem: my sandwich came from maryland. is there nobody who can assemble a crappy sandwich in california? sheesh.

on eating

last week i flew to vancouver to visit oma in the hospital. i’m still planning on posting about her life and what she means to me, but i’m not quite ready yet. in the mean time i’ve been trying to stay open to everything that’s going on, support my family and be good to myself. since i got back to jt, being good to myself seems to mean cooking and eating. it’s interesting, since i was a teenager my tendency has been to *not* eat during emotional times. these days i feel really hungry despite some lack in physical activity. it doesn’t feel like i’m eating to stuff emotions so i’m rolling with it. yesterday i cooked a big pot of curried red lentil soup (which i shared with grandpa bob) and a full meal of lamb shanks with potatoes, veggies and gravy. so good. banana smoothies, toast with almond butter and orange blossom honey, egg drop soup, meat loaf, ginger bread… it all tastes so good to me. maybe watching oma be so turned off by food and trying to convince her to take another bite of gray soup jolted me into this deeper appreciation for eating. maybe i have finally cleared out the last of my anorexic leanings by seeing the link between food and life so clearly laid out in front of me on a hospital bed. or maybe i’m just replenishing after an exhausting week with hospital cafeteria food as my main sustenance.
i think there is something to this food thing. how are we supposed to feel vibrantly healthy if the food we eat is dead and processed beyond recognition? i look forward to the day when the food served in hospitals actually looks appetizing. to be fair, vancouver general hospital has come a long way. the mashed potatoes with gravy was quite tasty and the pasta with ‘cream’ sauce was well seasoned. but what i want to see is real food made out of real ingredients with real colors that come from real nutrients. would it be that hard for a hospital to get a contract with a local farm and alter it’s menu choices seasonally? wouldn’t it be great if the cream of spinach soup was actually made from fresh spinach and fresh cream? what if the mashed potatoes were made out of real potatoes that came from a BC farm? that would be so great!

cooking marathon/thanksgiving menu

wednesday was heavenly. for one, it was a rainy day. rainy days in joshua tree are rare commodities, and as a northwestern girl, i cannot tell you how soothed i am by percipitation. as far as i’m concerned, the only thing better than a rainy day, is a rainy day filled with baking pie! it was a good day. i like pie…
my thanksgiving cooking marathon actually started on sunday, when i decided we needed pumpkin pie before thanksgiving as well as on thanksgiving. i figured as long as i was making one, i may aswell make the dough and filling for thanksgiving also. so i made enough pastry for five crusts and enough filling for three pumpkin pies. actually, they were squash pies, i find pumkin to be somewhat watery and stringy so i use winter squash such as acorn or kabocha for my pies. these squashes are sweeter and creamier. i sweetened them with maple syrup and boy, were they good!
on wednesday i rolled out the dough and baked the squash pies along with an apple pie, the latter also turning out quite well. i baked yams and made cranberry sauce (with orange and honey).
i started in on the stuffing but realized the bread i was planning to use was not going to work out. there was some kind of mysterious smell that i wasn’t going to take any chances with. so at the last minute i decided to switch to a cornbread stuffing instead. i made corn bread.
then i decided i should make lasagna for dinner. i made a nice meat sauce, let it simmer for a couple hours, boiled up some noodles and assembled and baked my lasagna. it was gooood.
i made some miso gravy for the vegetarians and called it a night.

on thursday i peeled potatoes, cooked ’em up, then ran them through the food mill instead of mashing them with a masher. -really good plan. they were way better. fluffy and melt in your mouth. i’m sure the butter and cream i put in there didn’t hurt either.
darlene helped me get the turkey in the oven. we used martha stewart’s method which involves soaking a cheese cloth in warm butter and wine and draping it over the breast. it worked really well to keep things moist yet very nicely browned. i mashed the yams and topped them with more butter and maple syrup.
then i prepped green beans. they got blanched and topped with yet more butter, cheese and lemon.
the main dish for the vegetarians was an ‘autumn millet bake’ (from how to cook everything vegetarian) with squash, cranberries and pumpkin seeds. it turned out all right, but i liked it better when i made it before with dried cranberries and chicken broth instead of fresh cranberries and vegetable broth.
darlene made a salad and dressed the table for 9 beautifully. steve carved the turkey. i made gravy.
two days and three pounds of butter later, we had a mighty fine meal.
damian did the dishes.