Recipe Thursday: Best Ever Brownies

I kid you not. A magickal space between fudge and cake exists and it is in these brownies…when you are feeling sad or needy or have a deep chocolatey sweet tooth urging you to find the happy place, or even if you are in a lovely appreciative-of-all-the-worlds-gifts kind of mood – this will exalt you to a higher plane.

One of these, with a glass of deep red wine cures most ills. Hoard these from your children, relatives, and neighbors.

Best Brownies Ever

10 Tbsp butter (1 1/4 sticks) (plus a little for preparing the pan)
1 + 2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 + 2 Tbsp cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 Lg cold eggs
1/2 cup flour (can substitute GF flour here, but use a premix, not just rice or tapioca, etc)
2/3 cup nuts (optional, hazelnut or pecan work esp well)

Position a rack in the lower 3rd of the oven. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8″ square baking pan.

Melt butter in saucepan. When melted, take off heat and stir in sugar until sugar is dissolved. Use spatula and transfer to mixing bowl. Stir in cocoa and salt.

With a wooden spoon (yes, do it, just like I say) stir in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well-blended add the flour and cinnamon and stir until just barely blended (so you cannot see it any longer), then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon (yes, count, I swear it’s the secret – don’t mess with the secret).

Stir in the nuts, if using.

Spread evenly in pan. Bake until toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 min.

Cut right away but let cool in the pan, on a rack. Enjoy!




{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

It can’t all be wine and roses – or in the case of a 9 yr old, all milk and cookies…

What does a day look like when she wakes up on the wrong side (of our) bed? The sass is strong with this one. It demands things like tv and brownies, pickles and videogames and dramatizes everything she can think of that might have set her off (a lot of ‘you never’ seems to come out now). And when you don’t provide – it gets very belligerent and obstinate. And contemplates life without you – ha!

I think this cycles with growing pains and weather changes – and responses to our moods, as well. I find March, in general, pretty tough for everyone. It’s when you become ‘done’ with Winter – the land is so grey, the snow (if any, though sometimes in March there is too much) loses its shine, there’s a bit of cabin fever (though everyone is outside a lot in Winter, too, we don’t go far), and there’s likely been a little too much screen time.

One starts to itch for the Spring renewal – we’ll start seeds today to get that ‘feeling’ started, in just 2 weeks we’ll decorate eggs and the worms will wake in the earth, by Earth Day the snow will mostly melt and the air will start to warm…we wonder now if we can stand much more of Winter without selling our child to the gypsies (let’s ignore the fact right now that we are likely the gypsies we speak of) but we’ve come this far – I think we’ll make it.

self-portrait 2020


A lot of what we do is routine – especially with the Bread deliveries, right now. Setting up for bread is a daily process with sourdough, then there is cracker day, pizza dough day, and then the day before baking where all the bread loaves are shaped (all of that is a lot of arm and shoulder power!) and put into their baskets for cold fermentation for about 15-17 hours. And then baking and delivery day.

Other days are spent right now checking/emptying taps and refinements to the sugar shack (including building the chimney/evaporator), bringing in wood, pruning fruit trees, and the generalities of running a homestead  (paperwork, home improvement, meals and dishes and laundry!), and homeschooling (which involves integrating the child into all of these tasks). Smaller but no less important tasks include making yogurt weekly, making pasta/flatbreads/bread for meals, sharpening knives, treating the island wood top, making new rugs and dishcloths, and cleaning.

The home improvements come and go, right now the laundry room needs the electricity and plumbing to be moved and fixed, and then a floor and walls put up – and then we can add shelves and appliances. The wide-pine-flooring for the kitchen and the dining/front room still needs to be tea-stained and put in (but only after the kitchen subfloor is leveled). And the windows and doorframes in the kitchen need to be mud and taped and then everything repainted. And then we can consider buying more floor for the other downstairs rooms.

It is also time for seedlings to go in. One set of shelves have been put up and are ready to go. I will get those little magickal seeds into some yummy soil, set the lights and heating pad and grow, grow, grow!! I’ll do a batch of microgreens right now, herbs, and some strong brassica that can go into the cold frames early (cold frames that still have to be built).

All this happens around my PhD dissertation and teaching and tutoring. And new plans for the homestead and deliveries – we’re always trying to come up with new and exciting ideas. And soon it will be boiling time! Oh, sweet maple goodness. And then more seedlings, and then chickens, and the garden…I’m dreaming too far ahead now. Let’s get through the end of Winter first.

May your routine be invigorating to your soul!

Check-in with us, we might be boiling this weekend! This is what last year’s syrup boiling set-up looked like:

Monday’s Muse

)when what hugs stopping earth than silent is

)when what hugs stopping earth than silent is
more silent than more than much more is or
total sun oceaning than any this
tear jumping from each most least eye of star

and without was if minus and shall be
immeasurable happenless unnow
shuts more than open could that every tree
or than all life more death begins to grow

end’s ending then these dolls of joy and grief
these recent memories of future dream
these perhaps who have lost their shadows if
which did not do the losing spectres mime

until out of merely not nothing comes
only one snowflake(and we speak our names

                                                                     ~ e.e. cummings

Recipe: Indian Dinner

A few years ago (alright, more than a few years ago, as we were living in Boston), a friend in publishing gave us a copy of Sudha Koul’s Curries Without Worries. A slim little Intro to Indian Cuisine with no pictures – I thought, “I am never going to use this, there’s no food porn!” (which is funny, right? because I defy the recipe decadence of a picture for you here on this blog!) but the truth is, I love it. We’ve used it almost religiously for over 10 years now (and have yet to make more than 10 recipes in it, we have our favorites!). With it, I’ve learned to master some simple but sexy Indian dishes with some updates and additions (for our palates).

I haven’t tried the new place in Hallowell, but I was terribly disappointed in the new location of an old favorite from Portland. Though even in Portland we opted to make these dishes and then just order out for Naan (however, Josh makes a great flatbread that substitutes now so we are all set). This means we had to figure it out. In our old life in Burlington, The Shalimar Restaurant was almost home. But here, we are out of options.

My brilliant and amazing cook-friend Justin is more familiar with the regions of India and will correct me if I am wrong but I believe the bulk of these recipes (and what we know as generic ‘Indian’ food) are from the Punjab region – this particular author of the above book is Kashmiri to which if you read her memoir – which is really interesting – she speaks of influence and similarities but also of a simple authentic everyday cuisine that graces most of her friends and families tables so there are some other regional additions, as well. Justin has his own regional favorites which are divine.

When making an Indian Dinner, I generally take on too much. I like to have the whole experience and thus, a few dishes to share, all the little condiments (Quick Lemon Pickle, Cucumber Raita, Mango Pickle) but any of these can work as their own little meals with fluffy rice (I just make a pot of Jasmine rice on the side) and/or flatbreads. I’ve learned to pare down a bit (I have a master dish which combines 3 of our favorites into one glorious stew, a fish curry, and a super simple cabbage dish, and cashew/butter chicken, and pakorhas, and a potato/mushroom/pea curry but those are for another time) but it’s a juggling act for sure. For a better organizer (which is anyone but me), this isn’t a big deal but I like the adventure! Onto the food!

Indian Dinner:

Delicious Red Dal (Serves 4-6)

1 cup Red Lentils (they are a split, bright salmon/orangey lentil – no substitute)
4 cups water (add more if needed after cooking for awhile)
1 28oz can of Fire Roasted Tomatoes with juice (or 3-4 ripe Large tomatoes, chopped)
1 Lg Onion, finely chopped
2 tsp (or 2 cloves) Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Ginger, finely chopped
4 Tbsp cooking oil or ghee (I often use coconut oil)
2 tsp ground Turmeric
3 tsp whole Cumin seed
1 tsp Ajwan (ajwain, ajowan, depending) seed*
2 dry Red Hot Peppers (optional, can also add 1 tsp sweet chili powder for flavor but no heat)
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
1 14oz can of Coconut Milk (I use whole fat, but that is up to you) (also optional)
salt & pepper to taste

In a deep Medium pot, heat oil to Med-High, add onion, garlic, ginger, and seeds. Saute until fragrant and onions begin to soften. Add turmeric and lentils, stir for a full minute in oil, then add water and tomatoes. Bring to a soft boil, then cook on Med-Low until lentils are tender and desired consistency (I like mine soft but thick), adding more water if lentils need further cooking or loosening. Now is a good time to add hot peppers, add to taste. Let thicken a bit more being careful to stir often so the beans do not stick to the bottom of the pot (there is nothing worse than burned beans – for the pot and the flavor) then stir in coconut milk. Cook until thickened again, salt & pepper to taste. Toss in cilantro just before serving. Great with Quick Lemon Pickle (see below) and I love the addition of Pataki’s Green Mango Pickle, too.

*Ajwan seeds assist with ‘bean trouble’/indigestion, etc. Can substitute 1 tsp ground Asafoetida or 2 bay leaves for similar effect but Ajwan also imparts an ‘authentic’ flavor.

Saag Tofu (Serves 4-6)

For the tofu:
1 block tofu (I really like the local Heiwa, the texture is awesome, I’ve never needed to press and only if I truly desired a smooth softness for something blended, would I use anything else), cut into 3/4″ cubes and marinated in a bowl with
1/2 cup amino acids
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 minced garlic cloves –  for at least a half-hour stirring occasionally.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a separate bowl or bag, add
1 cup or so of Brown Rice Flour – tossing marinated cubes in the flour to coat.
Line up tiny floured tofu cubes on a lightly oiled sheetpan, drizzle with a little more oil and bake until bottoms are crispy about 10 min, turn over or stir gently with stiff spatula, bake 10 min more until they are happy and crispy all around. Set aside.

You can also substitute the breaded tofu for unbreaded crisped tofu, bits of cooked chicken and even just chunks of potato or paneer – homemade paneer is a treat, for sure! but if you get a chance to get Kennebec Cheesery’s paneer – that is best, found at the Portland Farmer’s Market (get it quick, it goes fast!)

For the Saag:
2 Tbsp cooking oil or ghee
1 Tbsp Panch Phora (panch phoron/phoran, depending)
1 tsp Yellow Mustard seed
1 tsp Cumin seed (yes, in addition to panch phora)
1 tsp ground Turmeric
1 tsp ground Ginger
1 lb Spinach or other greens, rinsed (I use whatever is on hand, but generally a mix – baby kale, dandelion, arugula, spinach, etc, just not too ‘mature’ of a leaf), frozen spinach/kale works great, too
1 fist-sized Turnip or 1 Lg Parsnip (a potato/carrot/Lg radish could work), chopped small
1 Md onion, chopped small
1 cup heavy cream, sour cream, or coconut milk (if desired)
salt to taste
1 -2 tsp garam masala (I use a 7 lucky spice blend of 4 Tbsp coriander/2 Tbsp cumin/1 Tbsp black pepper/2 tsp cardamom sans pods/4 sticks cinnamon/1 tsp (about 5) whole clove/ 1/2 tsp nutmeg – all ground together, store extra in glass jar with lid)
3 Tbsp lemon juice (or more to taste)

In deep saute pan, add oil, seeds, onion, and starchy veg. Stir and cook on Medium until onion is translucent and veg is softening. Add turmeric and ginger, stir for one minute, then add greens (if greens look too dry add a Tbsp of water) and put lid on, turn down to Simmer or Cook and let greens steam, stirring occasionally (add Tbsp of water at a time, if needed) for about 5-10 minutes. Add cream if using, stirring in and cook on low (without lid) until thick (this is a good time to add the breaded and baked tofu, if using). Salt to taste. Remove from heat and stir in garam masala and lemon to taste.

Vindaloo for You (Serves 4-6)

2 lbs boneless Pork or Goat (beef or lamb could work, too), cut into 2″ cubes
6 Tbsp vinegar (I use ACV but white would work just as well)
2 Lg Onions, sliced
2 Tbsp fresh Ginger, chopped
6 cloves Garlic, chopped
1 cup Cilantro, chopped
4 dry Hot Peppers (optional)
1 Tbsp Cumin seed
2″ Cinnamon stick, coarsely crushed
6 Tbsp cooking oil or ghee
1 Tbsp ground Turmeric
1 tsp ground Black Pepper
3 fresh Hot Green Peppers (optional, can substitute 1/2 bell pepper, chopped)
1 tsp Salt, and to taste
1 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp ground Cloves
2 cups Water

Marinate the meat in 2 Tbsp of vinegar for 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally. Blend the onions, ginger, garlic, cilantro, hot peppers (if using), cumin, and cinnamon with the remaining vinegar to make a paste (add a Tbsp or two of water if needed for blending). When ready to cook, heat the oil in a deep Medium pot. On Medium-High, add puree and fry briskly for 2 minutes. Add the turmeric, black pepper, meat, and the marinade. Fry well for 10 min taking care not to burn the meat. Stir briskly, constantly. Add the green peppers, salt, sugar, cloves, and water. Stir, cover, reduce heat to Medium, and cook for about 45 minutes, until the gravy thickens and the meat is completely tender. Serve with Cucumber Raita (see below).

Quick Lemon Pickle (makes 1 cup)

1 Lg onion, diced
2-3 Tbsp Lemon juice
1 tsp chili pepper (or Indian paprika, depending on taste)

Mix all well in small bowl. Let sit for at least 20 minutes. Use as a condiment to dishes (good to add zest to rich savory dishes like dal and saag).

Cucumber Raita (makes 2 cups)

1 Lg Cucumber, diced or grated
1 1/2 cups Plain Yogurt (consistency is optional, we prefer regular to Greek in this case)
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil to drizzle

Mix cucumber and yogurt together, add salt and pepper to taste (I like it pepper heavy). Add a generous drizzle of olive oil, mix in. Use as a condiment to dishes (good for cooling heated palates).




{a day to check in with 9 yr old’s doings}

This week’s “inventions” included a zipline-snack-delivery system…a strapped-in-swing for her stuffed dinosaur, a blanket-in-a-box pool, a drawn plan turned into miniature model of her play-area garden design, finger-knitted finger warmers, and some magickal cake designs for my birthday next month. She’s a big helper on ‘delivery day’ with Josh – delivering breads, crackers, and doughs to all the good little children (who aren’t on the naughty list). She also made some nifty paper pom-pom’s so she can be the Rock Bottom cheerleader. This gal can turn cardboard, string/yarn, and paper into all kinds of amazing things!

This morning she made pancakes (her specialty, and really – they are, I’m not a big pancake fan and these are delicious, she keeps her recipe tacked to the fridge). Today she will go out and check the maple taps with Josh (she was a big help putting them in), set up bread (and feed her starter), and later she is making dinner (my guess is something with chicken, that seems to be her forte – maybe it should be called ‘Chicken Wednesday’).

But that is all after she finishes watching her cat hospital show (she’s concerned about our cat, he has ear mites, poor thing), she’s already researched in our Natural Health for Dogs & Cats book how to treat it. We are off to the local health food store (Harvest Time) to pick up some Vitamin E capsules and Yellow Dock herb (I wish I would have saved some last summer, now I know…) – the cat is snuggled up in a deep blanket with a ‘hospital bracelet’ she made him though she says he can wander about the grounds if he wants to (the grounds being the house, he is not an outdoor cat). I’m sure later she will make him a grand cape or a crown to make him feel better (I can tell you, the look on his face will be priceless).

All of this in an ensemble of rainbow-leopard-spotted tights, a thermal flowered top, and outrageously bright striped socks! Don’t you wish you were 9?!

Happy Duendesday!



Tuesday: Happenings

Many of our projekts are long-term planning and/or big projekts that come to pass in this ‘slow’ season. They are not big and flashy plans or happenings right now – just the nice even keel of doing.

Like the bread – which I am sure you never tire of hearing about right now. And the sledding, and the trees, and the maple sugaring. It’s the latter we are excited about right now – the weather has indicated (despite rodent predictions, we thought for sure we’d have another week or two to get ready) that the sap is ready to flow. We have 62 taps in and are planning another 10-15 in the next week (unless we get more buckets/spiles, then maybe a little more). The silver maple always seems to run first, and as it is close to the house it becomes my ‘drinking sap’ – a little glass a day keeps the wolves at bay, I think. We like to ‘bubble it’, too – and have some sap soda (excellent in cocktails, too – mmmm, winter cocktails…). It was almost 50 degrees yesterday! Though later in the week we might get a big snowfall – you never know in March.

Agenda – events – happenings:

  •   Again, if you want to come and trial tap some trees, get your practice on or just see how it’s done, come around next weekend (RSVP) and Josh will put the rest of the taps in and trim some trees.
  •   The weekend of the 14th and 15th might be a good time to come around and see us boil sap into syrup. Josh has an updated backyard sugar shack – our method was pretty bare-bones the first year (cinder blocks in a snow bank with a little chimney), then last year Josh laid some rock to stabilize it (it was a 3 pan situation, out in the open in a sea of mud) and this year Josh set a concrete pad with rock around it, built a metal roof on posts, lined the walls with stacked wood for the boil and bought a divided-continuous flow-evaporator pan which allows for finishing at the sugar shack (not in the driveway or the kitchen, which is ‘as we were warned’ pretty horrendous). It’s a nice little set up that I am sure will only refine as we go. But the point is to have it all remain essentially maintainable by one person. We have no goals of becoming mass producers – just homestead and sharing capabilities! Come share!
  •   New baking ideas and flavors – maybe see some Sourdough Sesame or Lavender Crackers soon. Sourdough pastas. Baguettes. Local Beer-flavored pizza dough…suggestions always welcome!

Happy Day!!

Monday Thoughts

“As the Christians have their story of a Fall from a prehistoric Eden, the Hindus have a belief that the world travels through four different ages, or yugas. The age we are currently living in is the Kali yuga: a dark age characterised by degeneration and greed. Avarice and a general disrespect for life define the kali yuga: it is the age when humans have been telling themselves that they are equal to the gods for so long that they begin to believe it and act on it, with catastrophic consequences.

Only when this era is over, Hindu mythology tells us, will sanity begin to prevail again. But in the decline of one age, and one way of seeing, there is always contained the seed of another. If an unexamined yearning to reconnect with the wild world remains with us, then perhaps we will never quite allow ourselves to be tamed. It is a delicious thought that what might save  us, in the end, will not be a new economic arrangement or a new politics or another revolution or a series of wonder technologies, but our own inner wildness, pushed under so hard and for so long that it finally bursts to the surface again, hungry for what it has lost” ~ Paul Kingsnorth