A Cook’s Confession

Hello again friends! Happy New Year, Happy Valentine’s Day, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Happy Easter and merriment wishes to any other holiday and celebration that I may have missed. 2013 started with many changes and many firsts like Lua’s first day of school, moving into a new flat, and starting to train for a marathon. As the dust has settled, there are more gluten and dairy-free recipes and updates on our lives in London to share with you.

First Day of School

After being away for one month on our trip home in December, we returned to a flat that demanded scrubbing attention (somehow an avocado was left on the kitchen table, for 1 month rotting away, and some mysterious vegetable was left in the garbage can even though I could have sworn we took out every piece of rottable parcel).

After all of the general cleaning and airing-out was completed I decided to venture into the kitchen and take on the grease-filled oven. This is my greatest kitchen confession, I have never cleaned an oven! But this year, 2013, was the year I was going to start “grease-free.” A clean oven seemed necessary, it helped concretize the need for a fresh start to a year I knew would begin with a few unknowns and shifts.
Dirty Oven

The toxic chemical cleaners would not do, gross. The magical potion I used to de-grease this oven contained only 2 ingredients, which I am sure you have in your kitchen right now, baking soda and water.
Baking Soda paste
I used 1/2 cup of baking soda and added enough water to make a thickish paste, then smeared it all over the oven. After letting it sit for 30 minutes, I scrubbed with a wool pad and transformed the oven into a sparkling gem.

Clean Oven

This sparkling oven created an inviting welcome to a new year of cooking. Never underestimate the power of a few small changes. It is good to be back!

A Gluten-Free Inspiration

One of my friends from Southwestern College, Leslie Thompson, opened Momo & Co. a vegan (mostly) and gluten-free cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico about a month ago. We were lucky to visit during our recent stay in Santa Fe.

MoMo & Co

Leslie discovered a need in the Santa Fe community for a provider of vegan and gluten-free foods. She started by creating beautiful cakes, pies, cookies and cupcakes. I was unfortunately not in Santa Fe while she started to develop her recipes, though I enjoyed the pictures of her amazing creations on FaceBook.

Leslie, Laurie and Lua

With help from her staff her cafe offers breakfast, lunch and dinner options including pizzas, soups, and sandwiches. And of course, dessert includes a variety of cupcakes, cakes, and sweet roll options.


Momo & Co. located at 229A Johnson Street in Santa Fe, NM. It is beautifully decorated with vibrant, lively colors and furnished with a designated play area for children which includes a dolls house and kitchen set. Brilliant for those with children. Lua loved it! It has an open lay-out so you can see the staff cooking and baking throughout the day.

Play Area

We were hungry after hiking when we visited Momo & Co. so I ordered a sandwich which came with a large colorful salad. But let’s back up, I GOT TO ORDER A SANDWICH in a restaurant! This was so thrilling, to eat bread that was both gluten and dairy free! And it was delicious.

Gluten-Free Bread

Lua gobbled up the black bean soup and Gabe loved his Egg McMoMo.

Black Bean Chili Soup

After our meal we treated ourselves to the cupcake window. Gabe and Lua got the chocolate, chocolate cupcake and I got the chocolate cupcake with coconut frosting. They were amazing, seriously delicious. Gabe was bewildered that they were gluten-free and even compared them to the famous Sprinkles Cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes

Lua was still talking about “Leslie’s Cupcakes” on the plane ride back to Minnesota a couple of days later. To sum it up, Momo & Co. was a hit! We look forward to return on our next visit to Santa Fe. Your work is an inspiration, Leslie!

Let the Holidays Begin!

Upon the request of myself and my brother, who also did not get to feast the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner because he was in Cabo, Mexico this year, I am making the big dinner for my family to celebrate my Mom’s birthday! Of course this year will require a few changes, eliminating one of the stars of the meal, butter – but I think I can pull it off.

Minnesota Winter

I like to make list upon list to help me stay organized for this huge undertaking. The menu will include: a salt-roasted turkey with lemon and thyme, regular and gluten-free stuffing with sausage, apples and water chestnuts, green bean casserole, candied sweet potatoes, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries, chocolate cake and pecan pie. Yes, for two days I live in the kitchen prepping and cooking and sautéing and baking. This year, my Dad has so graciously volunteered to be my Sous-Chef! Thanks Dad!

Me and My Sous Chef

One of my tips is preparing as many dishes that I can before the big feast day. So two days before eating, I make the cranberries. As a child, I always shied away from the cranberries as they were always unpredictable. There are so many ways they can show up on the table – in a jello mold, from a can, in a salad, however my favorite is my Mom’s recipe listed here.

Rinsed Cranberries

Now, they are one of my most beloved sides to this meal adding beautiful color and vibrance and a sharp, tart and sweet counter piece to the dense and rich food surrounding it on the plate.

Finished Cranberries

So, here is to the start of the holidays for our family! Feast away!

1 bag of cranberries
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup brown sugar
rind of 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in a large pan set over high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves and mixture starts to boil. Then turn heat to low and let sit, stirring every now and then for 1-2 hours until desired thickness. You can serve warm, or let cool completely and refrigerate.

Simmering Cranberry Sauce Rinsed Cranberries Cooking Cranberries Finished Cranberries

I Did the Unimaginable…

I threw away my cast iron skillet! Yes, it is true, two years ago I threw away my cast iron skillet. For many chefs it’s a travesty, as there were no chips or cracks; merely rust. I have lived with this guilt for two years.

Let me explain, weeks before our first child was born we purchased a cast iron skillet. Gabe did much of the research on caring for the pan, finding out how to season it, cook with it, care for it, and clean it. This pan really took on a life of its own. Then after Lua was born, me tending to this skillet was out of the question – I had a baby to take care of, not a cast iron skillet.

So Gabe took over and did a good job of keeping that bad boy going, however after a year of not keeping up with proper seasoning or washing and infrequent usage rust began to form at the bottom of the pan. Still being sleep deprived, there was no way I was going to research how to bring our beloved pan back to life in the kitchen. It sat and it sat and it sat, rusted and all.

Then came moving day where we packed up our things and were headed for England. Gabe pleaded to save the pan, promising me that the rust problem could be taken care of, but in a moment of being overwhelmed with moving I refused and did the unimaginable. I tossed it in the trash! I can hear all of the “No’s” now. I know, I know.


So here we are 2 years later and my friend Jenna seeks out advice from me about how to season her brand new cast iron pizza pan. Funny she should ask, so here I try to redeem myself and clear away all of that cast iron skillet guilt. Now I actually have time to research. Here is what I found.

The very first words of advice I read are:
NEVER THROW AWAY A CAST IRON SKILLET! (unless it has cracks or chips) Ouch!

To season a cast iron skillet preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease pan with an oil that can reach a high smoking point. Coconut oil works great, If you don’t have coconut oil you can use a vegetable oil like canola or sunflower or lard. Wipe off any excess oil that may still be in the pan with a paper towel.

Then place the pan UPSIDE DOWN on a piece of aluminum foil in the oven for 30 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the pan cool to room temperature inside the oven. You can repeat this process until seasoned to your liking. Some do this 3 to 4 more times.

This “seasoning” process fills the cavities of the pan with oil, creating a natural non-stick surface.


To clean your cast iron skillet, first let the pan cool. Then use warm water to wash thoroughly and dry immediately. *Note: here is where a debate ensues – whether or not to use dishwashing soap? There are some who are thoroughly against the idea due to chemicals seeping into the pan. And at the other end of the spectrum those that use just a little soap do so to wash away any rancid oil left on the pan. No matter what you decide, it is important to thoroughly dry the pan after washing. First wipe off with a towel, then place on a hot burner for a couple of minutes to make sure the pan is completely dry, then add a small amount of oil. Remove pan from hot burner and wipe off excess oil with a paper towel. And you are done. Another note: NEVER PUT YOUR CAST IRON INTO THE DISHWASHER

What if, no matter how much time and seasoning you put into your pan, it starts to rust? DON’T THROW IT AWAY! Instead, scour it with steel wool until all rust is removed. Then wash, dry and season again.

One other common issue is if your food starts having a metallic taste. This happened to us and it made me feel ill, another reason why my, albeit poor, solution was to toss the thing. There seems to be a couple of causes to this problem. The first is that the pan is not properly seasoned. So start back to square one, wash, dry, then season in the oven. And another cause is leaving food in the cast iron skillet. We never stored food in the skillet, but food would sit in it for a while. This causes the acid from the food to breakdown the seasoning of the pan and creates a metallic flavor. So immediately after cooking food, remove food from pan. Let the pan cool, then wash, dry, and season.

Wow, that was so useful – thanks for your inquiry, Jenna! I now feel so confident in keeping my next cast iron skillet alive and well seasoned. When we get back to London, there is a cast iron skillet calling my name.


Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

This started as an attempt to make lemon poppy seed pancakes from Joy the Baker. After I added the dry ingredients the batter was much to thick to make into pancakes. So I went to plan B and instead created muffins. After the batter was evenly distributed amongst the cupcake pans I realized that I had forgotten the sugar. So while they were baking, I made a simple lemon syrup. After the muffins were finished baking and while they were still hot, I drizzled the muffins with the sugar syrup. Alas, here are the lemon poppy seed muffins.

4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons of fresh lemon zest
1 1/2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
2 cups coconut milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled
juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease or line a muffin tin, set aside.

First make lemon sugar by combining only 2 tablespoons of sugar and fresh lemon zest. Using your fingers message zest into sugar to release lemon oil into sugar, then set aside. Whisk together all dry ingredients, set aside. Whisk together all milk, eggs, vanilla and oil. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir to combine. Place batter into muffin tins and bake for 25-35 minutes depending on your oven. While muffins are baking, make lemon syrup. First heat a pan on medium high heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves and thickens into a syrup. Once muffins are done, remove from oven and immediately pour 1 teaspoon of lemon syrup over muffins and let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove muffins and place on a cooling rack until cool.

Breakfast Chicken Sausage Patties

We were hosting friends for Brunch and I was looking for pork-free sausages that were also gluten-free and could not find one in the store. Then I found this recipe from Martha Stewart to make breakfast sausages from scratch using chicken.

Ready to eat

These are delicious! A tip is to add the chicken stock after you flip the sausages, it helped add flavor and helped to prevent them from drying out.

2 lbs ground chicken
1 medium garlic clove
1/4 cup carrot, shredded
1/4 cup onion, shredded
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons course sea salt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate for 8-24 hours. The mixture is very wet and sticky making it very difficult to roll into a ball for frying, so I just grabbed a glob using a tablespoon then shaped them in a pan with olive oil. Fry for 3 minutes each side and serve immediately.

Banana Bread

One of the greatest aromas at this time of year is freshly baked banana bread. We have been enjoying this treat after a cold autumn day outside or to bring as gifts on play dates to share with friends.

Let's Eat!
I found this recipe from Gluten-Free Goddess. We have made a few changes using cornstarch instead of tapioca starch and reducing the amount of sugar by one half and substituting with almond flour. It still has a wonderfully sweet flavor and the cornstarch has been a great substitute since I still have not been able to find tapioca starch or potato starch in the grocery stores in London.

1 cup of mashed bananas, about 3 medium bananas
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup light olive oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rice flour
3/4 cup almond flour, plus 1 tablespoon
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons xanthum gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lighly grease 2 9-inch bread pans, set aside.

Whisk eggs, then add mashed bananas, oil, vanilla and sugar. Mix well to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together remaining dry ingredients. Add banana mixture to dry ingredients and mix well to combine. Pour batter into greased pans and bake for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. Enjoy!

November 2012

November offered much excitement and rest as we had the privilege of hosting friends from home and conquering a month of seasonal colds. The first weekend we celebrated Guy Fawkes Night, which we have come to learn has many different reasons for the celebration. In the very early 1600’s Guy Fawkes attempted to assassinate King James I, he did not succeed and the King lived.

Guy Fawkes Bonfire

To celebrate the life of the King, “Guy Fawkes Night” was invented and communities of people gather at night and enjoy a bonfire and fire works.

Light Stick

A couple of weeks later we were thrilled to host our friends Sarah and her daughter, Baye who stayed with us for a couple of nights during their English tour. Baye is Lua’s age and they had not seen each other in over a year.

Catching Up

They quickly connected and started off just where they left off, except of course now they can carry on a conversation and verbally communicate their needs. It was such a joy to witness them greeting each other in this new, grown-up way of showing up in the world.

Girls Night Out

And for me it was such a blessing to have Sarah stay with us. It is an incredibly special occurrence when you can connect with old friends whom you haven’t seen in over a year and start right where you left off. I cherish these friendships and connections. Life is always changing, but to know and feel the constancy of the love of friends and family helps create a sense of home where ever we live. We are so blessed to have a worldwide connection of loved ones, we think of you and we love you.

Book Shopping

There were so many things that we wanted to show them about London, this amazing city that we love. However, when traveling with 3 year olds it is best to keep it to about one activity a day. We were lucky with beautiful sunny weather, so we took them to see a couple of Lua’s favorite London hotspots.

Iconic London Phone Booth

We started at Big Ben and then walked to Buckingham Palace to watch Changing the Guard’s ceremony. The following day we explored our neighborhood and let the girls play at one of our favorite play grounds in Clapham Common.

Fun in the Park

On their way back after visiting other friends in England we took the girls to The London Eye in the late afternoon so they could see the city at night.

The London Eye Pod

It is a stunning site, while Sarah and I excitedly pointed out the lit-up landmarks, the girls were more interested in the little i-pod screen in each pod!

Westminster at night

Then we took them to Lua’s favorite restaurant and our Friday night dinners with Gabe hotspot, Masala Zone. We enjoyed delicious Indian fare and then to our surprise we got to see the amazing Holiday Lights display at Oxford Circus!

Oxford Circus

It was so much fun having them stay with us, we look forward to a return visit so that we can continue our tour of London!

Peek a boo

We also had a lovely surprise visit with our friends Mora and her daughter, Mallika from California. I became friends with Mora after volunteering at Blossom Birth in Palo Alto while I was still pregnant with Lua. Mora is the Executive Director of the organization and has a gift of bringing people together in a warm and welcoming community. Blossom Birth provided me with support, information, and resources about everything to do with having a baby. At the time Mallika, her daughter, was only 2 so it was so fun to see her now as her 5 year old self! We met up at the Natural History Museum and explored for a couple of hours.

And at last we finally made it to that highly anticipated day, our return to The States! The 9 hour flight went very well, Lua was entertained the whole time with the video screen in her seat. The jet lag has been an intense experience with Lua waking up in the middle of the night, although each morning she has been able to sleep one extra hour. By tomorrow we might be at 5:30am if we are lucky! We are so grateful for all of the help from my parents as the three of us adjust to the extreme time change.

And next we fly to California, then New Mexico to visit more friends and family! We are so excited to see you!!

5 Cold Prevention Tips

At the beginning of the month, London fell ill! So many people caught a nasty bug kicking off the flu season. It occurred right when the nights became cold, the days became shorter and we were exposed to the night air. Lua woke one morning with a barking cough and saying that it was hard to breathe so we sat in the bathroom with hot water running in the shower creating steam which helped subside her coughing. She was able to calm down and her breathing went back to normal. This kicked off a two week bought of illness that affected each member of our family. And just weeks before our big trip home to The States.

I was so sick of being sick and sick of Lua being sick, so I looked for some help to boost our immune system. We drank loads of liquids, got plenty of rest and had homemade chicken soup coming out of our ears! Then we started taking vitamin C, cod liver oil, Manuka honey, and Elderberry syrup. After talking to a friend in Santa Fe I was inspired to finally order that homeopathic kit that I had been meaning to get for years.

This was working swell and after spending $75 at Whole Foods on these healthful remedies I was confident that the coast was clear and that we would be able to make it to Minnesota in full health. I mean, this was a serious regimen of wellness. Well, to my utter surprise just 24 hours before boarding a plane for the 9 hour plane ride home I was hit with a violent 24 hour flu bug! What? Universe, seriously? I have not been that ill in years, I could not leave the bed. Gabe worked all day getting all three of us packed and ready for the trip, although I was unsure if we’d still be leaving the next day. After a day in bed and a decent nights sleep I woke on Monday feeling much better, thank goodness, and we were able to resume the travel plans.

1. Plant-based Vitamin C capsules
2. Cod liver oil capsules
3. Manuka Honey
4. Elderberry Flower Syrup
5. Homeopathic Kit

1. Vitamin C is water-soluble. Many of the Emeren-Cy or other industrially processes vitamin C products that we buy and consume are eliminated just hours after we use them. The best way to get your vitamin C is through fresh fruits and vegetables such as: grapefruit, guava, kiwi, mango, strawberries and papayas, and broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peppers, chili peppers, kale and swiss chard. For an extra boost during cold season or pre-travel I have been taking vitamin-C capsules that are naturally derived from organic fruits and vegetables allowing the body high levels of absorption and remains in the blood for up to 12 hours.

2. Cod liver oil contains high levels of DHA, EPA, vitamin A and vitamin D which our bodies need for a healthy digestive tract, a healthy cardiovascular system, healthy joints, a healthy nervous system, healthy skin, and healthy bones. Due to mercury levels in fish, be mindful of which brand you purchase. I use Green Pastures.

3. Mankua Honey comes from the nectar of the manuka or tea tree grown throughout New Zealand and in southeastern Australia. It has long been thought of as a healing honey in these cultures and has just approved USFDA approval in 2007.

For thousands of years honey has been a sacred food both for its delicious taste and for medicinal purposes. When shopping for honey intended for health benefits be sure that it is RAW, this means that heat was not used to process the honey, keeping all of its natural composition in tact. When honey is heated it looses all of the wonderful antibacterial and antiviral benefits.

So what is this Manuka Honey? While most raw honey contains special active ingredients with health benefits, Manuka Honey has a special Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) active ingredient that remains stable even after exposure to heat and light. Each container of Manuka honey will have a UMF rating classifying how “active” the honey is and it is considered that any rating of 10 or high is considered “active.” So if you want to reap the health benefits of this food, look for a 10 or above UMF rating.

We have been taking 1 teaspoon full 2 to 3 times a day, it is absolutely the most incredible food I have ever tasted. It is very thick, sticky and dark, Lua calls it the “hard” honey it is so thick. Whether or not you believe in the health benefits of this honey, believe me your mental health will improve with just the experience of eating this divine food.

4. Elderberries have been used for centuries as a folk remedy in North America, Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa. The elderberry contains flavonoids which help boost the immune system, help to improve cold, coughs, flu, bacterial and viral infections, and contain antioxidants that help protect cells against damage. This is a great option for upper respiratory infections. Elderberry syrup can be purchased or if you have access to elderberries you can make your own!

5. Homeopathic kits are wonderful resources to have year round to help support health and well-being. We have been using it to help reduce Lua’s cough, my nausea and to help with jet lag. It is small and compact making it very easy to travel.

Good luck with your winter wellness, please let me know your tricks and helpful tips!

A Day of Thanks

The eve of Thanksgiving is my all time favorite day to grocery shop. It is clear that the holidays have begun as you wait for a parking spot and manage the busy aisles and check-out lines. Yes, there are moments of pure madness – but what a wonderful madness it is. I miss that day back home.

And today is our day of giving Thanks for all that this amazing life has offered us. We are thankful for our family and friends both near and far, for the opportunity to be coming home very soon for a holiday visit, for our health and wellbeing, for the breath we receive every moment, for our connection to Spirit and Goddess that is alive inside of us and all around us, for all the living creatures on this planet, and for this life given to us to behold, cherish, and enjoy. On this day we remember to say, Thank You.

As I am far from home, feeling a bit homesick on this special day, I remember the special foods we prepare create a ceremony. Our day of feasting is postponed a couple of weeks until we return to Minnesota, but we are remembering and giving many thanks on this day.

I remember my first attempt at preparing the Thanksgiving Dinner in 2007 while living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We returned home to Minnesota only for Christmas, so we would be spending Thanksgiving with friends in Santa Fe. Seven of us gathered on that day, all contributing to the Holiday Table. In the role of host, I made the turkey. After much research I determined to try the water and salt brine method of preparing the turkey wherein you mix gallons of water with the salt and herb mixture and pour into a large turkey bag with the turkey and refrigerate for a couple of days. I vividly remember while pouring in the final drops of water into the bag, wondering how on earth I was going to drain out all of this water without flooding our kitchen floor. It must have been intuition.

On that Thanksgiving morning I woke at 5am to get all of the preparations for the meal started. The first job on the list was getting that 16 pound turkey out of that bag of salty, briny water. I started to open the bag while it was still on the counter, not in the sink and the inevitable happened.

The next thing I remember I am shrieking and standing in raw turkey brining water and a bewildered Gabe shouting from the bedroom, “What happened?!” He jumped out of bed at the sound of a tidal wave hitting our kitchen. Yes, it is true, salt water everywhere. In all of the kitchen drawers and cupboards and the kitchen floor. So with all of the jobs I had on my to-do list that morning, cleaning every nook and cranny in my kitchen was suddenly at the top! It was a good thing I woke up at 5am. Together, Gabe and I cleaned up the mess, including every single utensil, pot and pan. It required great mental strength to not have a total and complete melt down. But you know what, to this day, that was the best turkey I have ever made. And now, I do a much easier, dry brining method for my turkey.

May your day be blessed with family, friends, and joyous feasting.