Friday, November 20, 2015

Key Lime Pie - A Real Food Recipe

A few weeks ago, my dad took Mirin, along with a fellow entomologist enthusiast, for one of their crazy bug-hunting trips to Cedar Key.  Along the way they discovered a key lime tree, covered in limes and entirely ignored/unappreciated/forgotten at the edge of a school yard.  The limes were falling all over the ground, and Mirin, my best forager, insisted they pick up a huge bag full to bring home.  I didn't think we would ever use them all, but between squeezing them into bubbly water and key lime popsicles, we did.  There were only about eight left to make just one key lime pie.

If you look at key lime pie recipes online, you would think no one made key lime pie before the invention of Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk.  One no-bake recipe called for lime-flavored gelatin and cool whip.  I came up with this recipe with a date-sweetened coconut crust, real cream, and honey.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

Real-Food Key Lime Pie


2 cups of dried, shredded coconut

10 pitted dates (I used the smaller deglet dates, but if you are using the larger mejool dates, you probably only need 7-8)

3/4 cup of butter, melted and allowed to brown just the tiniest bit for flavor

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Place coconut in a food processor with dates and vanilla and process until dates are incorporated into the coconut.

2.  With the motor running, drizzle in the melted butter.

3.  Press into a pie pan and set aside.


3 tablespoons of arrowroot flour

3 egg yolks (save the whites for the meringue!)

2 cups of cream

1/2 - 3/4 cup honey (I use raw honey, but it gets cooked)

1/2 cup key lime juice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  In a sauce pan, mix the arrowroot flour with the egg yolks and vanilla into a yellow paste.  Slowly add the cream, whisking while you do.  Stir in the honey and lime juice.

2.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid lumps.  Cook until the mixture boils.  Boil about 1 minute, or until thickened.

3.  Pour into coconut crust.


3 reserved egg whites

a pinch of salt

2 T of honey

 1.  Put egg whites in a bowl with a pinch of salt.

2.  Beat egg whites until they make soft peaks.  Drizzle honey in slowly, while you still have the beaters running.

3.  Pour on top of pie, and using the back of a spoon, make peaks all over.

4.  Bake pie at 350F for 10-15 minutes, until the peaks of the meringue are golden.  Chill pie for a few hours before serving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Goats is Bad

Clothilde said the funniest thing to me the other day.  She said it right after she had handed me the tiny cob of stunted dent corn that she found in the garden, so she could bear-hug our great pyrenees farm dog, Belle.  Belle rolls in stinky stuff, loves frolicking in the rain, and usually smells bad, but Clothilde loves to rub herself all over her white fur.  Belle stands very quietly and still while Clothilde is around her, even when she is lifting up her ears to look inside them, or is petting her whiskers the wrong way.  So as she was petting Belle, Clothilde said, in a sing-song voice, like a chant, "Belle is nice, cows is mean.  Night Hawk good, goats is bad." 

We dug some more yuca in the garden.  It's huge.  I need to get it out of the way, because it's shading out my poor winter garden.  There were also some huge plants that just came up along the edge of where I planted radishes.  They are huge, maybe 12 feet tall.  We were wondering what they were, and then when they fruited we could tell - it's the millet from Mali I had planted two years ago.  It didn't grow that year, but somehow it grew now.

We've been eating so much sausage since we got the two pigs in the freezer.  My big kids, who would easily eat a whole package of store sausage at my mom's house every day if they could, are "sick" of sausage apparently.  They get sick of anything we have a lot of - we just have to figure out how to grow grilled cheese sandwiches.  Since I've been recovering, they have lived almost three meals a day on grilled cheese (Not that they haven't been offered other food - but they scorn it).  It can't be home made soft cheese, either.  Only cheddar is acceptable. 

Just the other day I was eating yet another sausage and wondered if maybe this was bad for me.  There's the cultural prejudice of a "balanced" diet.  I have hardly eaten any vegetables other than pumpkin, lacto-fermented roselle soda, cucumber pickles from the summer garden, and kimchee Ethan got me from the Chun Ching market for weeks.

But then I realized that's silly.  I was just talking with my mom about an anthropologist who was studying the diet of a very isolated, primitive group of people.  For some time during the year, they ate almost nothing but meat.  And during another time of the year, they ate almost nothing but honey.  I know exactly what that's like!  And really eating a lot of pork right now is just compensating for the summer, when we mostly eat vegetables and not much else (there isn't room for much else when they are piling up).

It's that kind of "gift from the earth" diet that I think is very good for us.  Everyone gets so confused now about what to eat.  Do we eat only raw vegan, lacto-vegetarian, Macrobiotic, gluten-free, WAPF, Primal?  What about food combinations, or blood type.  If I'm type B positive and I eat cashews, will I eventually get heart disease or something?  We have no reference point other than diet books because there's just too much choice in front of us all the time - the same choices mostly, all year long.  And the choices are geared towards what kind of advertising focus group you fit into, rather than what the earth is offering.

Take, for example, the "Paleolithic" diet.  At the only WAPF conference I've been to (years ago), I met a fellow with a name tag that said "Hunter-gatherer" and had New York under it.  I was impressed.  "Are you a hunter-gatherer IN New York City?" I asked him.  He looked embarrassed.  No, he admitted.  He just wrote about what he thought was a hunter-gatherer diet on a blog.  For breakfast he had an avocado, a pomegranate, and a boiled chicken egg.  Not that it wasn't a nice breakfast, but it wasn't exactly "Paleolithic."  All those things came from different continents, and were nicely selected cultivars or breeds for production and shipping.  While it's a nice idea - it's just that - a modern diet fantasy.  It might be great for some people, but there are all kinds of earth-based nuances of human diets from wild humans that we can't copy with the grocery store.

Ever since I discovered Masanuobu Fukuoka's book One Straw Revolution, I've loved his idea about how the foods that support your health during a particular season are the ones that are naturally available.  It's so true.  In the winter we get the nourishing roots and citrus.  It's the best time to slaughter animals in the cool weather, so you have broth on hand through the flu season.  In the spring there are fresh, wonderful greens, lots of them.  As the weather heats up and the greens get tough and bitter, the watery, cooling fruit vegetables of summer are ready.  The late summer (the season of Earth in Chinese medicine - associated with sweet and starchy foods), the pumpkins, the yuca, the sweet potatoes, and the corn are ready.  It's a beautiful dance that brings so much meaning to the cycle of the year, and to the table.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Chestnut's New Calf

 We've been expecting Chestnut to have her baby any day for about a month at least.  She had the "heavily pregnant lady waddle" and every day looked about to have her baby within the next few hours, but somehow managed to look even more pregnant and ready to calve the next day.

On Friday when we went out for the chores (I came along this time - luckily!), I was getting ready to work in my garden when I noticed her in the little woodland area at the top.  She was making the soft, low little mooing sounds they talk to their babies with (it's so sweet - just like we coo to our babies in certain voices, they also have a special tone of voice to talk to their babies).  I walked a little closer and saw she had the afterbirth hanging out.  I went back and told Mirin and Rose, who were helping in the garden.

Mirin's first response was to leap around and shout at the top of his lungs excitedly that we should all go see, until I shushed him.  It's not a sports match, it's a birth.  She was off by herself to be alone, not be shouted and jumped at.  I went ahead, and they followed (kind of) quietly.  I brought her a flake of hay, which she really appreciated, but it eventually brought the rest of the herd over to investigate, which was annoying to both her and us.

The calf was already on his feet and licked clean and dry.  He looks to be extra fluffy - against the cold weather, I suppose.  We got a cold front through the other day, and it's been (relatively) cool.  That same evening, as we piled into the truck to go home, Rose and Mirin were huddling up together and saying it was "freezing."  The thermometer on the truck said 64F, so it's not really that cold, just chilly if you are used to temperatures in the 80's.

The special thing about the calf was that he turned out with a white tip on his tail, and one white foot - the Jersey influence, I suppose.  Otherwise he has the Devon face, but the Jersey legs.  I guess we're getting weird hybrid types at this point.  But he's big and healthy, and seems to be finding his way around Chestnut's huge udder.

Clothilde was very impressed by the afterbirth, which came out finally when we were there.  It can take a while, and it hangs out and drags around while the mama cow is busy getting her baby licked off and helping it nurse.  "Mama's meat coming out," she said about it.  We pointed out the baby's cord hanging down, and told her all about the placenta.  I thought it was funny she would call it "meat," because it is mostly membrane, with chunks of placenta hanging off of it.  But she is used to seeing animals field-dressed, with lots of membrane and organs.  Very different from what I thought of as "meat" when I was a little girl!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Some Days

My neighbor came over yesterday to check on us after Rose spent about half an hour screaming at the top of her lungs and drumming her feet on the floor.  I reassured her that we were mostly okay - we had been trying to finish the writing part of home school for the day, and Mirin would keep singing the first few verses of "Yellow Submarine" until it finally drove Rose insane.  I wonder how many other home schooling parents have that happen?

Mirin came out while I was explaining, his shoulders shrugged up sheepisly, and an unmistakable look of mischievous glee on his face.

The home schooling has been hard lately.  They had a two-week break while I was very, very sick, and it has been hard for us to get back into the rhythm.  I also have realized that it seems to be the factor that makes me so exhausted every day (well, that and nursing Clothilde at night - it is so much easier to put her to bed, but then she wakes me up....I just can't decide if I'm ready to wean or not.  There are serious draw-backs and benefits either way).  It is unbelievably draining to sit over Mirin while it takes him five and a half hours to finish about twenty math problems.

It's not that he isn't smart - he can figure out incredible mechanical things that I would never even hope to be able to do.  He can carve amazing things out of a block of wood.  I remember in second grade we read a story about the Eskimos, and as an activity we got to carve cakes of soap.  I decided to make a whale.  It turned out to look like a demented tadpole before the tail broke off. 

So I really respect how good he is at that.  Just about a month ago he almost blew his fingers off making "ammunition," which involved hand-sawing off pieces of metal bar, shaping it with files, drilling a hole in the back, and then (unbeknownst to us) filled with a few grains of gun powder he found rattling around in an antique powder horn someone had kindly given him for Christmas last year.  He hammered the back on, and added a cap from his cap gun, thus almost blowing his fingers off. 

As soon as Ethan found out about it, they were taken away and soaked in a bucket of water.  (Geez, I expect the crazy 3-year old to be the one to almost blow her fingers off...I thought by the time they were 11 they would be old enough to know better.  Of course I was right there while he was working on this, but I had no idea he had any gun powder.  He just seemed very busy on some project that involved sawing, a vice, and lots of hammering.  I hoped he would have better judgement.  Apparently not.  [sigh].  Only four and a half more years until he can get behind the wheel of a car.  It's terrifying.).

The problem is really his constitutional laziness, and I'm not sure how to deal effectively with that.  Since the problem at the Waldorf lecture, I've been torn between finishing what I've already planned, or scrapping it and doing something different.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Day Arrived....

For months now we had been planning a hoof-to-table pig processing class with our friend PJ.  This weekend we put the last of Star's first piglets in the freezer.  They were huge, but we had been saving them for November, when we thought it would be cold.  It wasn't.  It was downright hot (actually record temperatures for November).  We usually get the first frost in the beginning of November.

There were lots of things that went this way - we thought it would be a certain way, and it just wasn't.

We had a decent number of students.  They mostly stood around and watched us work, exclaiming about what hard work it was.  We thought they would want to dive in and help out.  Some of them did, but most of them didn't.

Slaughter days are a lot of work.  Everyone has to help out.  Clothilde quite put them to shame.

On Sunday we did the cooking.  LOTS of sausage was made.  French-style pork-liver pate.  Scrapple.  Mmmmmm....We didn't use the stomach and intestines (one of these days we will figure it out!), but everything else was salvaged.  Trotters for the stock pot.  Head cheese.  Fat for lard.

Bratwurst, polish sausage, sage breakfast sausage, fresh chorizo, Italian, blood sausage.  The blood sausage was the best yet.  After all these months of trying out different ways to make black pudding with the beef blood we saved, I've finally got the seasonings and meat/blood ration down right.

We even made liverwurst (it turned out so good!)

One thing I've heard from two people that really annoys me is this idea of "secret sausage recipes."  I think it's stupid.  Maybe a long time ago in Europe when there were entire families who supported their existence on a certain tasty sausage, I can understand the secrecy....but for a hobbyist sausage-maker?  It's idiotic.

I have a bunch of books on sausage making, but none of them seem very practical.  They are all for the leisurely hobbyist sausage-maker, not "we've got two entire hogs we've got to get in the freezer as fast as possible" type of sausage-maker, which is what we are.  I found this lovely site for inspiration.

It was five LONG days, between getting ready, the actual days of the class, and the clean-up.

As I said, there were lots of things that didn't go quite right, the biggest thing was my illness and recovery.  I still have four more weeks until I am supposed to feel okay again, so I was not 100%.  And Ethan needed me.  I'm kind of the boss of things.  I get things done.  We needed a task master with that particular hands-in-their-pockets class.

The pigs were not very cooperative, and because I had been so sick, I couldn't help Ethan move them to the pens where they would have been easier to manage.  Ethan was very nervous, and the first pig he didn't get a good shot on.  It squealed horribly, and took forever to finally die.  The next pig, he got a good shot on, but it was, as PJ said, "just plain stubborn."  The class was totally traumatized, and even though I tried telling them it usually isn't like that, I could tell no one believed me.

Another thing that was really the most upsetting part, was that a guy we had recently met was there.  He is a leisurely hobbyist sausage-maker with secret recipes.  He has his own sausage classes he teaches.  We had met with him beforehand, and he seemed very nice.  But at our class he talked incessantly about how we were doing everything wrong (in his opinion), and promoted his class and his friend's mobile slaughter business, and his friend's pigs to our students.  He did not speak to us about it.  He talked behind our backs to the other people.  And he really didn't get what we were doing.  He thought we should just take a huge gun and blow the things up (because Ethan didn't get a good shot.)  He even made the comment to me, "You'll do anything to get that head cheese."  He sat and went on and on about how gross organ meats are, and blood sausage is, while we were right in the middle of saving the precious organs.

I tried to counteract this by explaining why we do things the way we do.  We put a lot into our pigs.  A lot of time, a lot of skimmed milk, expensive non-GMO feed, a lot of garden and table scraps.  These pigs are precious to us.  They represent an enormous investment.  And we like to honor the life of the animal by using as much as possible, and not letting anything go to waste.  I really believe that thriftiness, and fully using and enjoying all the gifts from the earth, is the secret to a happy and satisfying life.  Not only that, but most of the nutrition from the animal is in the organs, the fat, and the bones.  Just eating muscle meat is like eating iceberg lettuce and feeling like you're eating well because you're consuming a lot of vegetables, while turning your nose up at the beets and carrots.

I only got halfway through before he interrupted me to tell everyone how much he hates eating organ meats and how disgusting they taste. It was extremely rude, and certainly colored us as extremist farmer/eater types to the class.  However, I know that energy like that brings it's own karma.  We might have been made to look bad, but it never pays to go and bad-mouth someone else to promote yourself.

Success isn't about everything going perfectly well always.  It's about learning from your mistakes.  We had some serious flaws about this first class.  One of them was to not charge a deposit to register.  Because money was not immediately involved, people didn't respect us, and cancelled very inconsiderately at the last minute.  Another thing was we needed to make it clear that this was a hands-on class, not a hands-in-your-pockets class.  And we really needed to explain our philosophy and why we do things the way we do.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Birthdays, All Around


We've had so much going on.... and all my children had birthdays in the past two months.

Clothilde, the "baby" is now 3!  She's talking so much now.  She helps out with everything.  She says she wants to be called Cinderella.  I think someone read her the story, or maybe Rose brought it up in a game.  It's fairly appropriate - the big kids do their best to be ugly step sisters every day with violent fights and bickering, and whining if they have to do the least little thing.  Clothilde, on the other hand, jumps right in and gets things done.

Her birthday was first.  She curled up and hid when everyone sang Happy Birthday.  It was too intense for her.  There were only a few presents, but all ones I knew she would love.

Rose is now 8 - really a big girl.  Girls grow up so fast.  By 12 it's hard to tell how old they actually are.  I had just gotten out of the hospital a couple of days before, but I still managed to wrap her presents and make her a birthday cake.  The cake didn't turn out as beautiful as I had hoped, but it tasted wonderful.  I know it seems silly to put in all that effort for a birthday cake, but my children talk about their birthday cakes ALL YEAR.  It's a big deal.

Mirin is 11.  I can't believe that!  He's huge.  He could be 13 or 14, because the boys tend to be short and immature.  It worries me a little, because he IS immature, he just doesn't look it.  He got scolded by some tree trimmers when he was trying to scavenge wood for carving because they thought he was skipping school to meet a girlfriend.  They wouldn't believe him that he is home schooled.  And he has no interest in girlfriends at all, just carving!

His birthday cake was really fun.  He let me make it a surprise.  Months ago he was lamenting that they had worms-in-dirt at a cub scout meeting, and he couldn't have any.  He said he wished he could eat junk food just so he could eat things like that.  So I made a healthy version of worms-in-dirt for him for his birthday.  I looked up some recipes - they were absolutely revolting as far as ingredients - and ended up using the Carob Bavarian Cream recipe from Nourishing Traditions and making the chocolate cookie crumbs with melted cocoa butter, almond flour, honey, vanilla and carob (it was tossed together in the moment, so I don't have the recipe to share without a lot of guesswork).  The worms were lemon juice, honey and gelatin.  I couldn't find a gummy worm mold anywhere, so I just poured it into a pan and sliced it into strips.  Mirin loved it.  I was pleased to be able to make a version without instant chocolate pudding, cool whip, Oreos, and candy for him.  Gods, I don't know how people can even eat that stuff!  Just reading the recipes made me feel nauseous.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Nature Finds: Autumn Bugs

A mama green lynx spider....

And on the other side you can see all her babies.

Furious fire ants.

A centipede...I see lots of milipedes of different sizes, but hardly ever a centipede.

Mating wheel bugs.  You can see the wheel on their backs.  These are predatory insects, so I am very happy to see them around.  Go eat some army worms! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Some Growing Things

It is a bumper year for the roselle.  Yes, this basket is entirely full of it.  I didn't show the gallon milking pail, also full-to-the-top.  And we only managed to pick half the bushes.  The ones we didn't get to were so laden, they were falling over.  Beats me what went right this year.  They were as neglected as always, but I had a less-than-usual mortality rate on the transplanted seedlings.  This means LOTS of lacto-fermented roselle soda (hmmm...perhaps I will post a recipe?), as well as the freezer stocked with it for mock-cranberry sauce for the holidays.

When I cleaned and dried the seeds in the malabar spinach berries, they left the most beautiful watercoloresque magenta swirls on the plate.  I think I might freeze some of the berries for coloring Easter eggs in the spring.  I wonder how the color might work on wool or fiber...

Ethan leaping over garden beds to avoid the sprinklers...

Part of garden in progress....can you even believe how tall the cassava is?  I've never had it get quite so big before.

My radishes are growing!  This was kind of a surprise, because Clothilde "helped" me plant them.

I went out to the farm with Ethan again yesterday (I'm feeling better and better.  Every morning when I wake up something is different and has healed.).  I finally got to work in my garden.  I planted my miserable, stunted pak choy, tatsoi, gunsho, and komatsuna starts.  I don't know what will become of them, but it was nice to put them in the ground finally, even if I had to fight hoards of fire ants to do it.

I've felt very sabotaged over the garden this year.  I worked SO HARD on the summer garden, and most of it died while we were travelling.  It's amazing how much can die in two weeks!  And the winter garden was one problem after another - violent thunderstorms every day, no cardboard, no manure, compost/manure/hay too far away, illness, near-death, Ethan got the wrong starting soil, insect cloth too wimpy to keep army worms out...not to kvetch, but it's been frustrating!  The garden is a major source of food for us, and not having a steady stream of vegetables seriously hurts our budget.

But they say that it is best to be thankful for what you have, and don't worry about what you don't have. And we have a LOT of roselle.