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Datura is doing great this spring!

May 10, 2022

Datura early morning blooming in the front garden bed.

Some kind of bug is eating the leaves. Datura is psychoactive and poisonous to mammals so we wonder if the bugs get high… or dead.

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Easy ways to get yer greens

November 12, 2020

It can be tough to follow Michael Pollen’s. prescription: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” As Lynell has battled cancer her tastes change dramatically and we tend to drift into a brown/white dominated diet. Here are some fast, tasty ways I’ve been adding greens to the menu.

Vegan Leafy Pancakes

Modified from

  • 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 c finely chopped greens – kale, collards, chard. Alternatively, parsley
  • 1 Tbsp oil


  1. Mix the ground flax seed with 3 Tbsp water in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes. This is your “vegan egg”.
  2. Microwave the chopped greens in a covered bowl for 1 1/2 minutes. Skip this if you are using parsley or just want a chewy breakfast.
  3. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder in a bowl.
  4. Start heating your skillet on medium low. Cast iron works really well.
  5. Add the greens and mix well, you don’t want clumps.
  6. Add the flax mixture. Add water and whisk with a fork until the batter is thick but pour-able. Hard to describe thickness… thinner than mayonnaise but thicker than soup. ūüôā
  7. Oil your skillet and start making pancakes!

Leafy Bowl Eggs

My own invention for busy mornings.

  • 1/2 c finely chopped greens
  • Oil to coat
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp water

Coat a microwave safe bowl with oil. Cover the bowl with a plate and microwave for 1 minute. Skip this if you are using parsley or just want a chewy breakfast. Whisk your egg and water in the bowl. Cover with a plate and microwave for 2 minutes.

It comes out sort of like a poached omelette. If there is any uncooked egg at the bottom, zap it for another minute.


Don’t bother searching, I made it up! Roasted mashed yams are so yummy, I thought they could handle a nutrient upgrade. This is a very loose recipe…

  • Yams or sweet potato
  • Kale, finely chopped
  • Optional: butter, maple syrup, fall/winter spices


  1. Bake the yams at 375¬į F. Time will vary, about 40 minutes. They are done when you can easily stick a fork deeply into them.
  2. Lightly steam the kale. Chop it finely. Use a food processor to speed things up.
  3. Whip/blend the yams in a food processor.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the yams with the chopped kale. Don’t blend them in the food processor or you’ll end up with a real nasty colored goop.
  5. Mix in salt, spices, butter to taste.

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Pickle ferment gear and tips

November 7, 2020

I’ve tried a lot of things and would love others to get started so here’s my best advice on pickling equipment. Just to be clear though…

You don’t have to have all this stuff!

You’ll get good results with any old jury rigged system you come up with so long as you use the right amount of salt and keep the food under the brine at all times. Once you get hooked and start doing this a lot (’cause you will!) upgrding your gear will save you time and irritation.

Airlock Lids

An airlock lid is the easiest way to keep mold and yeast out of your jars so lactobacilli can do their magic. Many are designs from brewing, others are fance, expensive things.

I like Pickle Pipes and similar products. They are cheap, simple, work really well, and last forever. It’s just a silicone rubber insert that works with the canning rings that come with your jars.

Submergence Devices

Hands down the best device to keep things down in the brine!

Sounds very technical! Most folks use weights like glass or ceramic, placed on top of the food in the jar. They suck. Things shift around and drop down the side of the jar. There are also spring or turnscrew contraptions but they are expensive so I haven’t tried ’em. I tried using a plastic bag with air in it, that’s a big mess.

The best things I’ve found are Occupare Vita “food retainer cups” from Quality Reliable Products. I simply can’t recommend these strongly enough, they work perfectly every time. Their website is clunky and I can’t get just the cups from them directly anymore, only kits. However, if you’re OK with Amazon you can get just the cups there for either wide mouth or regular mouth jars.


Their gear looks pretty good too… they have something they call a “brine bowl”.

All that really matters is using a salt without iodine. Iodine kills the helpful critters you are lovingly cultivating in your food. Any type will do.

That said, I like sea salt b/c it has minerals.

The most important thing is measure your salt by weight! This is very important for repeatable results and possibly food safety. Different types of salt have different grain sizes. So a tablespoon of kosher salt is not the same amount as a tablespoon of sea salt. If you measure by volume, you really don’t know how salty your brine is. Getting this right is important for finding the flavor you like and to ensure the ferment is safe… though it’s hard to screw that up.

Weigh the food and water you are fermenting in grams. Divide by 100. That’s how many grams of salt you need for 1% salinity. So easy.


Easily replaceable with spoons and such, but I like having this object around. It’s a lovely piece of wood with a pleasing shape. They make it much easier to press the gas out of during primary fermentation. Masontop is a good source but there are plenty of cheaper options.

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Learning to love turnips

November 7, 2020

I have never liked them. 10 years ago we joined a CSA for a weekly box of vegetables and for a while we got some every week. What do do with them? I tried sautéed, au graten, mashed with potatoes, quick vinegar pickles. Blech. Blech. Blech. Blech.

This year we started our CSA box again and sure enough we got some turnips. What to do?

Fortunately I’ve been upping my pickle game for a couple years now so let’s give it another go! Fermented this time.

Pickling fixes everything. Even turnips.
  • 1 1/3 qt beets cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • 2/3 qt turnips, cubed
  • 2T mustard seed
  • 12 cloves
  • 22g sea salt, no iodine
  • Non-chlorinated water

Put all the vedge in a 2qt jar. Leave about 2″ space at the top… top off with carrots or other veggies if needed. Fill with non-chlorinated water. Pour out the water into a bowl. Add the salt to the water and stir until dissolved… I like to use an electric mixer to speed things up.

The contents of my jar weighed 1500g so I used 22g salt for just under 1.5% salinity. Salt by weight is the only sane way to ferment.

Coarsely grind the spices in a coffee grinder. Grinding them is new for me, I want a strong spicy flavor this time. I did 6 seconds in an electric one. Pour this into a cotton tea bag and tie the top tightly shut. Put it in the jar and cover with some vedgetable.

Pout the saltwater in and close it up with your favorite airlock lid. Use pickle weights if you want… but nothing beats these pickle cups.

Put the jar in a dish on the counter because it is going to get bubbly! It will definitely leak some. After the first day, check it a couple times daily and press it down with a spoon or tamper if needed. If too much brine leaks out replace it with 1% saltwater.

Let it ferment for at least a week. Two if you can wait that long! The acids will help soften the food and smooth out the stronger flavors. Start tasting after a week and stop when you like it. Put it in the fridge for up to a month.

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Weaning myself off of Amazon

November 6, 2020

It’s the Walmart of the internet, grinding up small businesses and sucking up huge sectors of the economy. My small act of eschewing their marketplace won’t turn the tide… but I’ll feel a whole lot better about every purchase.

I’ll keep updating this post as I find new sources.

1st Option: The seller website

Sure OK, use Amazon to search but look at the seller name… often it’s the company that makes the product. Google up their website and buy direct. More of your money will go to them rather than the middleman. Sometimes this is cheaper! Amazon is like any large company/monopoly… once they have a captive customer base they selectively increase prices to squeeze more $$$ out of you.

Ebooks – Local Austin business, sells ebooks via Kobo for a portion of the sale.

Paper books

If you prefer paper, is a newly successful non-profit that has grown 10x during the pandemic and enables local book stores to survive and thrive.

Vitamin supplements or directly from preferred brands.

Share your tips

Anyone else have a great way to starve the behemoth? Create an account and comment!

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My favorite kvass recipe

July 16, 2020

I’ve tried a number of variations including traditional bread kvass. This one is my favorite! A tart, fizzy, probiotic beverage with lots of vitamins and minerals. Great over ice on a hot day.

First “press” bottled for carbonation. So pretty!
  • Clean water
  • 1/2 sweet potato, shredded
  • 1/2 beet, shredded
  • 1 c shredded carrot
  • 1 Tbsp dried orange peel
  • 1 Tbsp dried lemon peel
  • 2 Tbsp dried mint
  • 1 Tbsp dried ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar

Carrot is the base, it has good natural sugars for the lactobacilli to eat and priduces a bright, sharp taste. The beet is for color, but too much makes it too earthy IMHO. The sweet potato makes it creamy due to starches so you have a foamy head when you pour.

  • Put all ingredients in a clean 2qt mason jar.
  • Fill it up to two inches from the top with clean water.
  • Screw on an airlock lid. You can use other containers and cover with cloth, but check frequently for signs of mold.
  • Ferment for 2-3 days. Jiggle or stir frequently to release gas and help keep the ingredients submerged.
  • Strain into a clean bowl. Return the ingredients plus 1 cup of liquid back to the jar for a second batch.
  • Add 2 tsp sugar, this is to carbonate in the bottles. Don’t skip this unless you prefer a flat beverage.
  • Pour the liquid into sanitized bottles with enough space to dilute between 50-100%. In other words, you’ll have a about 6 cups so you need bottles that will hold between 9 and 12 cups total.
  • Add water to fill them up to 2 inches from the top.
  • Let the bottles sit for a few days. Each morning, take them to the sink and carefully “burp” them by quickly opening then closing them again. This keeps the gas from building up too much for an unpleasant surprise when you want to drink it.
  • When they “pop” and fizz at burping time they are ready! Put them in the fridge. They’ll keep there for a week, but mine never last that long.

Pour over ice and sweeten to taste. Lovely!

For a second “press”, add 2 Tbsp sugar to the jar and refill with water. It will be milder flavored so don’t dilute it when you bottle. Let this one ferment for longer to extract all the good stuff from the mash.

For bottling use the grolsch style flip tops or plastic soda bottles. Capped beer bottles if you like manual labor. Other bottles that aren’t made for pressure might burst.

If you are missing some ingredients just try it anyway! All you really need are root vegetables and flavor components. For me the mint is a must and I would increase the ginger if I had a surplus.

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Nopales and Hot Sauce

March 8, 2020

Paddle cactus strips (left) and chilis.

My first adventure in foraging!

The nopales are an experiment. It’s the same paddle cactus that you see everywhere that also makes prickly pear fruit aka tuna (spanish). I’ve also seen a local brand of moonshine made out of paddle pulp, sort of like tequila is made of agave. Projects for another day!

I also grilled a couple paddles, commonly known as green steak. The recipes I read said not to peel the waxy skin off… but ugh! That’s bullshit. They have a great tangy flavor, quite interesting, but the waxy skin leaves a woody mash in your mouth. I’m gonna try grilling again with peeled ones.

Because of this, I’m worried that the skin will be a problem for the fermented pickle strips. When I’ve bought them in a jar they didn’t seem to have that. Maybe the lactic acid will break it down?

Fingers crossed!

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Daikon Radish, Beets, Carrots

January 21, 2020

It’s spring, the time of rejuvenation and resolutions. I’m slowly rallying myself to restart various food related hobbies. Yogurt, cold brew, sauerkraut… spring pickles! Hopefully it’s not jinxing things to share the recipes before I see how they turn out.

Left to right: beet/carrot, diakon, daikon/beet

Tip: For spices, buy some re-usable tea bags. Cotton, nylon, whatever. This keeps your spices from floating to the top and getting moldy. Also much nicer when you fish out a pickle to chomp on. Remove the spice pack when you like the flavor balance.

Spicy Daikon

  • Daikon radish, enough to fill a 1 quart jar. 3/16″ slices
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T mustard seed
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 packets crushed red pepper from the last pizza you ordered
  • 1/2 t fennel seed
  • A couple slices of beet for color.

2.3% salinity. 858g water + vedge, 20g seasalt.

After jarring everything up I got worried that the lactobacilli wouldn’t have enough sugar to work with in this higher salt solution with low-carb daikon. So I splashed in a teaspoon or so of sugary pomegranite italian soda. I seriously doubt any of that flavor will come through, I just did it for the cane sugar.

Spicy Daikon and Beets

  • 1/2 daikon, red 1/2 beets to fill a quart jar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 T mustard seed
  • 12 cloves
  • 1 packet crushed red pepper from the last pizza you ordered

Started 1/20 1.7 saline. 838g water + vedge, 15g sea salt

Beets and Carrots

  • 1/2 red beets, 1/2 carrot to fill a quart jar

1% saline. 1038g water + vedge, 10g sea salt.

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Pickled Eggs

July 27, 2019

Eggs! Eggs! Eggs! Completely obsessed. Here are three clay ostrich eggs I made with the plaster mold from our last craft day:


Obviously, the next step is to bring together crafting and pickling!

I started with this recipe. It’s salt by volume (argh!) so I converted to metric and weight. 17g salt / 118 ml = 14%¬† Dang¬†that’s very salty! I don’t think lactobacilli can¬†thrive¬†in that, can they?¬†Another recipe said 1T¬† salt with 1c water, only 7% salinity. A third said 1T with 2c water! There doesn’t seem to be a standard amount.

Another mystery, all the recipes I found don’t have any sugar in them. Lactobacilli eat sugar, eggs have none, what do they¬†eat to produce the acid that¬†pickles the eggs?

Alrighty, I’m going to try my own recipe. Rather than add sugar, I’ll add sweet vegetables to provide food for the lactocritters. I have some leftover brine from a batch of beets, that’s going in too giving the brine a fermentation jump start and extra purple dying for the eggs. I’ll mix additional salt water at 3.5% saline, the lowest I found in recipes but higher than most vegetable ferments… this should still be salty enough to inhibit¬†bad bacteria.20190727_100258

  • 9 cloves
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 dozen eggs, boiled soft to medium¬†and peeled
  • diced beets
  • diced onion
  • canned jalape√Īo slices
  • 200ml beet brine,¬†completed fermentation with¬†2% saline
  • 500ml water, 3.5% saline

For the eggs, I put them in water, brought to a boil, turned it off and waited 7 minutes, then dunked in an ice bath before peeling. I’m shooting for softer yolks b/c I believe the acidic ferment will firm them up more and I don’t want them to come out dry.

Pack the jar starting with the garlic and cloves on the bottom. Add a couple eggs in and fill¬†the spaces around them with beets, onions, and jalape√Īos. Continue¬†this¬†way up to about 2 inches from the top of the jar. I used one of those fatter mason jars¬†to get more eggs in.

Pour in the beet brine. Pour in salt water up to the 2″ line. If using a pickling cup, fill just past the bottom of the cup. Screw on your airlock lid and set on the counter.


In the end I used 150ml of the beet brine and 100ml of the fresh saline.
((150 * .02) + (100 * .035)) / 250 = about 2.5% saline.
That’s lower salinity than recipes on the internet but I’m not worried. This¬†should be¬†enough to avoid spoilage and lactobacilli are really good at eating other microorganisms.

The recipes all say 3 days which again confuses me… vegetable brine pickles take a week to complete primary fermentation, lowering the pH to pickling strength. How could there be enough acid in the jar after only 3 days? I’m going to measure with a pH meter every day.

If push comes to shove, I’ll drain some of the brine and add vinegar to finish pickling the eggs in the refrigerator.

UPDATE Wednesday 7/31/2019

These came out great! I tasted an egg in Tuesday and it was tasty so I put them in the fridge. Surprisingly, the brine is tart so the lactocritters had enough time to do their job. Next time I think I’ll add a few cloves and use more jalepenos.



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Plaster Egg Mold

July 7, 2019

Way back in 2015 Kathy and Allan gave me a couple ostrich eggs. I’ve been semi-obsessed with them but slow to scratch my creative itch. A couple years ago I made a latex mold… and forgot to add keys so the two halves fit together properly! Har har.

Today K&A had us over for craft day so it was a perfect chance to play with eggs again. This time I made a plaster mold in three parts. I plan to use it to make slip cast clay eggs. The mold didn’t come out perfect, I forgot to use a releasing agent (soap) for the first section. Lost some texture and there are some tears in the surface b/c I was rushing. No worries,¬†I can always make another mold if I decide I need perfection.




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