Seasoning for Cordell

My oldest son loved this seasoning powder we got at Costco, Johnny’s Garlic Spread. You sprinkle it on buttered toast and voila, garlic bread! It’s salty with a bit of a bite, loaded with umami, and comes in a giant bottle. What’s not to like?

Well, turns out there IS something not to like. My son Cordell is a vegetarian, and he found out that the cheese powder in Johnny’s is made from Parmesan, which must be made with animal rennet… the lining from the stomach of cattle. We tried to contact Johnny’s to confirm that the “enzymes” listed on their ingredients were indeed animal-based. One receptionist said she spoke to the development people and found that the enzymes were lab-grown; another representative said they were animal-based. Cord isn’t going to take any chances, and so he’s quit using his favorite seasoning.

I decided I wanted to try to make him some kind of replacement, and so the next time I was near The Spice House in Oldtown Chicago, I stopped in for supplies. Once I got home, I pulled out my trusty giant mortar and pestle and went to work. The replacement powder, while not exactly the same, is a darned good copy if I say so myself.

Cordell is leaving for California soon (to work on his PhD in physics at UC Davis, /proudmamabrag), and he asked if I’d give him the recipe so he could make more once this batch runs out. Here you go, Cordell! Enjoy!

Cordell’s Seasoning Salt
1/4 c. granulated garlic
1/4 c. brewers yeast flakes
1 T. salt (I used sea salt, but any kind would work)
1 T. dried basil
1 T. dried parsley

Put all ingredients into a large mortar and grind with a pestle (or use a spice grinder or blender). Once the contents seem evenly mixed and pulverized, store in an airtight jar or bag. Sprinkle onto popcorn, rice, pasta, veggies, toast, anywhere you’d like a pop of garlic flavor!

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Gluten-Free Happy Muffins


I was invited to sit in on an aromatherapy class many years ago. Not much stuck with me, I’m afraid, but one piece of information sank in and has proven to be useful for me over and over: many people associate the scent of oranges with the emotion of happiness. Since then, I’ve put in a few drops of orange oil in a candle diffuser to cheer myself up, or a bit of zest in cookies to perk them up, or just eaten pounds of Satsuma mandarins during the cold dark winter days. Besides holding scurvy at bay, oranges really do seem to facilitate a better mood.

Not that I was feeling bad yesterday… a beloved baby had arrived, we had a lead on an awesome new apartment, one of my writing pieces had been published, and I had suddenly been gifted a whirlwind trip to California. I was feeling really great, and I wanted to celebrate with something sweet and zesty. These little treats did the trick so well, I’m making them again today and sharing them with you!

Note about the chocolate: I’m certain these would work fine with dark or milk chocolate chips, but the white ones add a subtle richness that enhances the delicate orange scent rather than overpowering it. I say this as someone who honestly does not like white chocolate.


Happy Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened in the microwave for a minute

1/2 – 2/3 cup white sugar (depending on how strong your sweet tooth is today)

2 eggs

Zest and juice of one large orange (I used Cara Cara oranges, which have a pretty pinkish tinge and unique flavor, but you could use any orange you have on hand)

1/3 – 1/2 cup fine cornmeal (I ground some of my Glass Gem corn in a coffee grinder I reserve for spices and such)

1 1/2 cups Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour 

Big pinch of xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt (a little less if you had to use salted butter)

1/2 cup white chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-muffin tin with muffin papers, or spritz with your favorite spray oil, or just grease ‘em up.

Add sugar to softened butter. Beat in eggs one at a time (I have no idea why you do this; I just see it in so many recipes that I figured I needed to say it too so I have Kitchen Cred). 

In another bowl, whisk together cornmeal, gf flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift through a medium-meshed strainer into the egg mixture; if a lot of your cornmeal is still in the strainer, run it back through your grinder for a moment (but there will always be a few teaspoons that are too big; toss ‘em out for the birds). Stir together, mix in white chocolate bits. Mixture should be thick and gloopy, more of a quickbread consistency than pancake batter. If too thick, add a bit of milk or water to thin. If too thin, add the flour mix by tablespoons until you are happy.

Spoon into muffin tin and bake for 18 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out clean.


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Practically a salad

My friend Carl asked me for the recipe for this family dip, and I realized that there really wasn’t a recipe… it’s more of a super quick friends-are-here-and-the-fridge-is-empty throw-it-together thing. It’s a very forgiving dish; I never measure any of it. Use what you have on hand — you can do it with just the beans/corn/salsa/cumin/salt and it’s fine. Still, I can definitely give a rough guideline for how to pull it off yourself, and so here it is.

Knock yourself out, Carl!


Katje’s Party Dip
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup prepared salsa (we often use the jarred Costco stuff, but there’s some spicy chipotle salsa we use sometimes to great effect. If you’re out, just throw in a can of diced tomatoes or a few chopped fresh tomatoes and call it good)
Half a red onion, chopped fine
Half a red bell pepper, diced
A ripe but not mushy avocado, diced
A clove or two of garlic, minced very fine or crushed (or garlic granules if you’re in a hurry)
One jalapeno pepper, chopped fine (remove the pith and seeds if you don’t like heat)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
Shot of your favorite hot sauce (like Frank’s or Tabasco)
Juice of a lime (no lime? Add a splash of white vinegar instead)
Big handful of cilantro, chopped
Sour cream

Toss the beans and corn together. If it’s cool out, run it in the microwave for 30 seconds to get the chill off, but the frozen bits can be yummy when it hot. Add all the rest except the sour cream and mix well. If you can keep your mitts off this for a few hours, it will be even more delicious once the flavors meld a bit. Top with a scoop of sour cream and a few artful leaves of cilantro, and devour with your favorite tortilla chips. It’s all veggies, so it’s practically a salad… that means it’s good for you and you can eat as much as you want!

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Published pieces

I need an online public space to keep track of my publicly published writing, so for now… it’s going to be here.

LTH Forum
In a Pickle: What’s Up with the Green Relish
Jewels from the Garden: Glass Gem Corn
The Garden in Winter

Nature Nurtured

Sacramento News & Review
Drugs & Death

Book Editing
Killer Comedy, by Jonathan Root

Cat Scan

Strange Pregnancy Symptoms
The Byways of Davis

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Crispy Tofu with Sweet & Sour Sauce

Wow, this was SO GOOD! The little tofu bits were twins for chicken nuggets. Everyone in the house loved them, including the avowed carnivores.

Crispy Tofu
1 block extra-firm tofu, frozen and thawed
2 T. cornmeal
Salt and pepper
Peanut oil

Drain the tofu and lightly squeeze out the water. Slice the tofu into flat triangles or rectangles… the more surface area, the crispier they will be. You don’t want them any thicker than 1/2″, though. Put them in a bowl and cover with boiling salted water and let stand for 15 minutes. (I used this time to make the sauce, below.)

In a heavy cast iron pan, start heating your oil. I covered the bottom of the pan with a good thick layer, about half as thick as my tofu bits. Make sure you give the pan enough time to get to about 350 degrees (if you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer, you can toss a popcorn kernel in there… when it pops, your oil is ready).

Drain and scatter the tofu on an absorbent kitchen towel, then cover with another towel and gently press to remove as much water as you can. You don’t want to obliterate your little tofu bits, though, just get them dried off as best you can. In a medium sized mixing bowl, toss the cornmeal, salt and pepper together, then dump in the tofu pieces and toss to coat (I had some leftover, so don’t worry if it doesn’t all stick).

Here’s the fun part! Make sure everyone else in the house is occupied, because you can’t walk away from a pan of hot oil. Carefully drop the tofu bits into the oil (use tongs if you’re hinky about this step) and let them sizzle. Despite your curiosity and urge to fiddle, don’t mess around with them. You’ll be able to see when they are starting to brown on the bottom (it’s actually more of a yellowing; if you wait until a full-blown toasty brown, they’ll be closer to burnt). Use the tongs or a spatula to carefully flip them and let them cook on the other side the same way (they’ll go faster on the second side; your vigilance will be well rewarded!). When they are done, place them on a couple of folded paper towels to drain. That’s it!

Sweet & Sour Sauce

4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 T. fresh ginger, grated
2 T. rice vinegar
1/2 c. ketchup
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 – 3/4 c. water
2 T. cornstarch

Mix everything but the water and cornstarch in a small pan, and heat to bubbling. Mix the water and cornstarch together, then add to the pan and stir over medium heat until thickened. Add a big ol’ squirt of Sriracha (or other chili sauce) if desired.

We served this with some rice and a salad, and it went over great. Enjoy!

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Widening the focus

This blog started as a collection of my food-based writing exported from LiveJournal, because LJ had become unstable and the rumors were flying. Now I’m finding myself with more to say, and feeling less inclined to chisel my thoughts down to fit into Facebook- or Twitter-sized chunklets. So I’m going to work on writing more consistently, and spread my range a bit further than my kitchen counter.

Spreading my wings!

Some of the topics I’d like to explore and document here:

Self Love (including Happiness, The Hair & Nail Chronicles, Being Fat, Yoga, Meditation, The Saga of the Ear, Menopause, and NIA)
Family (including Yay Bob, Marriage, Sex, Polyamory, The Ex & Divorce, Homebirth, Attachment Parenting, Teen/Adult Children, Homeschooling/Unschooling, Eldercare, and Long-Distance Family)
Home (including Chatelaine, Cooking, the Studio, Holidays, Pets, Gardening, Stewardship, and Tightwaddery)
Community (including Friendship, Volunteer Work, NextDoor, Midwifery Advocacy, Grief & Loss, NUG, MISS, LTH, NPL, SCA, IJA, Facebook, Norwood Park, and Chicago)
Maker (including Braiding, Calligraphy & Illumination, Editing & Writing, Sewing, Kumihimo, Victorian Hairwork, Beadwork, and Knitting)
Play (including Boardgames, Crosswords, Books, Juggling, Geocaching, Acapella, Exploring, Road Trips, Kites, Music, Movies, TV, Rainbows, Otters, Video Games, and Glitch)

Wow, that was actually a lot of fun! I sometimes feel like a lump, that I never do anything worthwhile… but my beautiful friend Nancy passed on a quote that resonated strongly: “You are a living mockery of your own ideals. If not, you have set your ideals too low.” — Charles Ludlam

With that, I shall move along and get on with my day. Thank you for visiting!

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Gluten-free cornbread

Bill’s been smoking amazing things lately with his Christmas Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker, and the coals always last longer than what he needs for the ribs or whatever the viande du jour is. So in addition to roasting a couple of marshmallows, we’ve been throwing on a chicken or two to finish up the “burn” (cue Breaking Bad smoke). Then we have smoked meat to play with for the rest of the week.

Smoked chicken green enchiladas were excellent, smoked chicken salad was wonderful, cold smoked chicken with mujedrah and lentil and chickpea salad was terrific. Tonight I did a big pot of smoked chicken and white bean chili. I started the chicken stock last night and let it simmer until this morning, while a few pounds of dry navy beans were soaking, then I put them together and let them converse the entire day (aided by some onions, a few serrano chilis, lots of spices and, of course, the chicken). 

I realized that this concoction really needed some accompaniments. I had a few limes, a lovely ripe avocado, sour cream, a green onion to slice up, and some white cheddar I could shred. But there was still something missing… aha! Cornbread!

Fortunately, cornbread is one of those things like muffins and biscuits that are pretty easy to convert to gluten-free… you basically use your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour mix in place of the wheat flour, and don’t forget to toss in a bit of xanthan gum. I’m still working through the incredibly generous gift of several boxes of King Arthur GF multi-purpose flour that my mother-in-law gave us at Christmas (lots of food-related gifts in our family!), so that’s what I’m using in this, but the Bob’s Red Mill or any other mix you’ve had good luck with would work well too.

GF Cornbread

  • 1 1/4 c. cornmeal (any grind, but I prefer the finer to the coarser)
  • 3/4 c. gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (if your blend doesn’t already include it; the KAF doesn’t)
  • 1/4 c. (scant) sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt (I used kosher)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 T. white vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick, or 8 T.) butter, softened (I popped a cold stick into the microwave for 30 seconds)

Heat your oven to 425F and place your 9″ cast-iron skillet in to warm up.

Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Whisk eggs together with milk, and add to dries, stirring gently. Add 6T of the melty butter and mix again. Carefully pull the pan out of the hot oven and swirl the remaining 2T of butter in it… don’t let it get too brown, just let it melt and bubble, then use a spatula to quickly scrape in the batter and return the skillet to the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 375F, and bake for 20 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean). 

Serve with butter and honey. 

Variations might include throwing in a handful of fresh or frozen corn, a chopped jalapeno pepper, some bacon bits… use your imagination!


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