Recipes Stories

The Legacy of Baking

Baking has always been a passion of mine.  There’s something magical about combining wet and dry ingredients, all of which react with each other to create a beautiful structure of proteins and starches.  My first experiences with this reaction of molecules and heat was helping my mother bake pies.  Filling a pie with fruit or custards was amazing enough, but her natural and unstructured skills with flour, lard and water was, in retrospect, was almost miraculous!  For me as a four or five-year-old on a stool in the kitchen, was Thursday.  But as a now trained Culinarian, it was nothing short of amazing.  She measured out the flour with a melamine coffee cup.  The lard was cut with a knife, but she estimated how much she needed by how many pies were being made.  Then the hot water, apple cider vinegar, and pinch of salt were added, again only by sight and instinct.  Then she would mix with a wooden spoon to break up the lard, then dive in with her hands until she was happy with the consistency.  It felt like play dough.

Aunt Mary’s Toffee Squares

She poured the dough onto the counter, dusted with flour.  First, she mashed the dough with her hands, forming a disk, then more flour and the very ancient rolling pin would finish the job and the disk would become a flat piece of unbaked crust, the perfect size for a pie pan.  Then it was my turn to pinch the edges, because I had tiny fingers and she loved the way my edges looked.  For her apple pies she would then fill with her secret blend of apples, spices, sugar, dabbed with soft butter.  Then topped with another disk of perfect crust, cut vent holes, and back to me for that perfect edge.  Then into the oven to bake.  Other pies were filled with lemon custard and topped with meringue, or filled with pumpkin custard, again her secret blend.  Someday I might share her pumpkin filling.  I still use it!

I learned how to make a pie crust from her, and could replicate it every time.  And I did it for many years.

Now, far into the future, I could not have predicted how my methods have had to change.  The elusive pie crust of this time is difficult to create with the ingredients I now have learned to use.  Even touching all-purpose flour causes hives, swelling and itching on my hands.  It gives me an idea of what happens inside of my body when I eat wheat.

I’ve been undaunted by this challenge.  When it became evident that I could no longer tolerate wheat, I started researching flours and blends to replace the wheat flour.  It started with mixes, Schaar bread mix, Pamela’s Gluten free pancake mix, and Better Crocker cake mixes.  This was a good starting point.  Around this time, I was a home tester for America’s test kitchen, and I landed on the gluten free cooking panel.  This happened at exactly the right time.  God has a way, always.  I got a few recipes, but the basis was a gluten free flour blend.  And it’s a good blend.  However, it’s tedious to make and expensive.  I’m not a lazy cook, but I realized for my recipes to work for others, this blend may not work.  I tired a few blends available at my super market, and Whole Foods in Austin.  They were just okay, and the results were adequate.

Not My Dad’s White Bread

I was doing my once a month shopping at Costco, and saw the light.  Sitting on a pallet in the flour aisle was the best flour blend I have been able to find – Namaste.   The price was good, it was in a five-pound bag and I liked the blend of grains and roots.  I took it home and made a loaf of bread.  The results were amazing!  It was a delicious sandwich bread, and better than the ATK bread in texture and flavor.  I was converted to this beautiful blend from Idaho!  

The recipe testing began in a serious way.  I started with cookies.  Most were perfect, and a couple of recipes needed some tiny adjustments with the wet to dry ratios.  It was good enough, that when we opened the farmers market, I felt comfortable with the baked goodies to sell them to potential customers.

Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and Molassas Cookies

I’ve had to step back a bit from baking, but some recent changes at work (thank-you 2020!) the baking has begun again.  So far, I’ve updated my Banana Nut Muffin recipe, worked on a loaf of crusty bread, and started the process of taking the little in-home bakery to the next level and back to the markets, now that virtual sales for cottage food businesses are legal in Texas.  New videos are up or are in editing, plus more to record in the near future.

My sweet granddaughter is now four, the age I started really taking on the little tasks of creating pies. She does not have a wheat allergy, and I know her Mama is teaching so many of the things I learned as little kid on a stool watching and helping my Mom bake her famous pies. Although I can’t teach her the crust, I can pass on the secret fillings that were as important as the crust. But maybe, with a little coaching, I can also teach her the secrets of the crust. Flaky and golden brown. filled with sweet joy. And I am blessed to be part of the legacy.

Stories Uncategorized

Can Me Some Salmon

A brief search on the interwebs yielded a mix of recipes for salmon patties, cakes and croquet. About half include canned salmon and the other half fresh. And all of the fresh salmon recipes add the extra step of cooking the salmon, then flaking and breaking it down. I think canned salmon might ultimately win the battle.

There are a few reasons to use canned salmon

  • Canned salmon saves time
  • Everything in the can can be used
  • Canned salmon is significantly less expensive than fresh salmon
  • Canned salmon is wild caught, not farm raised
  • Canned salmon adds nutrition

I’m a little busy

Fried Salmon Patty with Lemon Caper Dill Sauce

Although it doesn’t take long to cook salmon, it’s just one more thing to deal with when cooking a simple meal. So, the main dish which only takes about 15 minutes to prep, now takes even longer. First, it’s prepping a pan, then baking or roasting. Then there is the time it takes to let it cool enough so the fish can be flaked. Just the basics of prepping, cooking cooling and flaking the salmon adds about an hour to a 30 minute recipe. I’m a little busy. I have a job and sometimes I get home a little later than expected. I have stuff to do after work and on my days off, like write recipes and take pretty food pictures. I’d rather let the cannery do all of that work.

All canned salmon is caught in the wild, which means no antibiotics or funky fish food. The wild salmon eat whatever wild salmon eat, plankton, small shrimp, and small fish, among other things. The most current count for Pacific salmon are above recommended populations, so this makes them a cheap food source. The fish are caught in nets and canned at canneries almost immediately, locking on nutrient values. The last can I used were packed with very little water, and I ended up using the drained liquid in my recipe. Win for the omegas!

You’ll become a convert

Fresh wild salmon are caught during the summer and fall months during spawning. The fish are then quick frozen, although some gets to the fish markets in a fresh state. But a fish can sit in refrigeration for a longer period, and all the while the flesh is breaking down and losing nutritional value and flavor. Farm raised salmon are the most likely to arrive fresh in your local fish market. The fish can be harvested at any time of the year, keeping our desire for the lovely pink fish in constant supply. This article will give you the low-down on the differences of farm versus wild. I’ll continue to buy fresh wild caught salmon seasonally. Try some wild caught Copper River salmon – you’ll become a convert.

Don’t like the smell of cooked fish in the house?

My original ‘outdoor’ kitchen

A few good recipes will change any purist’s mind about the use of canned salmon in recipes. Of course, if you want a light salmon mousse, canned won’t work. But for salads, patties, and burgers, canned salmon is an inexpensive and fast ingredient. And just add a tasty sauce and toppings and the quick meal is done. If you don’t like the odor of cooked fish in your house, put a heavy skillet on your grill and with lots of fat, you’ll have a beautiful pan fried salmon cake in a few minutes. Or you could use my method – a hot plate on a table on the patio!

When I decided to revisit this classic family recipe, it had been at least a year since I had last made the patties. And while making it, I couldn’t believe that I dropped this off of my monthly list of recipes. It’s too easy and too quick and very tasty. Kids love the crunch and the sauce, making a happier meal for everyone.


When Great Food Looks like Crap

When Great Food Looks Like Sh*t

I have been told so many times that we eat with our eyes.  In philosophic terms, we do.  Our eyes ‘drink’ in a view or admire an attractive person.  We do the same with a plate of food.  As a cook, food stylist, and photographer, making all of the food look appetizing is usually a simple process of accentuating the colors, balancing a plate, and a judicious use of garnish.  But sometimes the best tasting recipes can be the worst looking.

I have been working on some of my most delicious and popular plates.  Standardizing the recipes, making them as easy as possible and with the least amount of work and fewest ingredients is a process.  One of the most difficult recipes to work with is a simple balsamic reduction and glaze.  It’s black.  Really black.  I like to use it on a beef, lamb and turkey, meatloaf, which is gray.  There are little pops of green and orange, but it’s pretty gray and boring.  With a topping and sauce that’s black.

I love reading about food and cooking, and have practiced many techniques of food styling.  For a few years, and trend has been to use fewer cheats and enhancements, and let the food look like it really looks.  Sometimes it’s not very appetizing.  Tweaks can be made in the recipe or when the photos are edited, but sometimes little can be fixed without losing the realness of the food and the photo.  My goal is always to make recipes as easy as possible.  If I’m using a garnish, it’s a reflection of something that is in the recipe.

The best example I have of food that looks less than appetizing Is a balsamic vinegar glazed meatloaf.  I made the meatloaf and the glaze.  The glaze is added for the last fifteen minutes of cooking.  I could have under-cooked the meatloaf, but it would not have been safe to eat, and it would be deceiving when a reader makes the recipe and ends up with gray meat with a black glaze.  This photo shows the final outcome.  On a large screen, it didn’t look awful.  And it doesn’t look great.

When I work on new recipes, I take test photos to plan plating and how to make it look good.  This one is going to challenge me.  It’s a straightforward recipe, and if another herbal element is added, it could be used as a garnish. However, the addition would be to justify the garnish.

Lately, this seems to be more of the norm for my process.  I’m revamping some family recipes, and others done for various projects and events.  Some are just not going the way I hoped they would.  But just like anything else, things either work or don’t and if they don’t work either make some changes or give up.  Food is my metaphor for my life.  If it doesn’t work, change it or get rid of it.

Stories Uncategorized

An Open Letter to my Chef Friends – Make me food I can eat

An Open Request to my Chef Friends-

Celiac Disease is not a fake made up thing. And some good science has proven that gluten-intolerance is not a made up thing either.

Although there is a certain faddishness to gluten intolerance, those with the disorder know that it’s real, it’s painful, and as with people with Celiac disease, it causes inconvenience and challenges.
I have more than a couple of friends who are chefs, cook for living and more. And there are lots of people who are going gluten free for a million faddish reasons. This is where the two worlds collide. And why I get so pissed off about this story continuing with a headline that is misleading.

Over the last few years, a study out of Monash University in Australia has been touted as having disproved the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or NCGS. It’s been picked up by multiple reputable news outlets. However, a read of the overview shows that the results were inconclusive. A percentage of the participants had symptoms after a re-challenge, but medical tests did not provide anything quantifiable. The title, “No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates.” If I read that and didn’t continue on, I would ass-u-me that gluten intolerance is made up. Although I am not a professional journalist, a quick search for more studies, with many running as long as fifteen years prove that NCGS is real, it shows up in two forms with medical testing, but the cause is still unknown. A simple five minute internet search was all it took to learn it’s been proven to be real.

So here’s what the scientists who study this stuff have concluded.
1. NCGS seems to affect people who have other food allergies.
2. It can appear later in life, like any other allergy.
3. Many people with endocrine problems, like diabetes and thyroid disease are more prone to developing the sensitivity
4. The allergy form of NCGS seems to come from wheat and not gluten.
5. The older people get, the more opportunity to develop NCGS.

Four out of five of those conclusions fit me; number 4 is an unknown. However, I can drink beer that is not made with wheat and don’t experience ill effects.

I have NCGS. I would love to make it go away, head to an Italian restaurant and pig out on creamy Alfredo and crusty garlic bread. I would love to make pizza like I used to with a luscious homemade crust. I would love to go to a restaurant and not freak out because of cross-contact with my salad, no croutons, because it’s the only thing on the menu that looks safe. Because if I did any of those things, I would spend the next three days curled in a fetal position in excruciating pain.

NCGS has two scientific markers; one is something similar to Celiac Disease, but not celiac. Some people have a genetic predisposition to the disease, but don’t develop it to the extreme level. Next, are people more like me, a reaction more in line with an allergy. This includes abdominal pain, oral blisters, bloating, nausea, headaches, and in the extreme, vomiting, and anaphylaxis. If there has been cross-contact or some other exposure, I know within an hour or two, because the blisters will start to pop up in my mouth.

There are a few myths associated with going gluten free, and many more statements that are being studied, but lack enough conclusive evidence to prove one way or another that going gluten free is helpful. It may not help you lose weight. In fact the opposite may occur. There is no conclusive evidence that it helps with depression, anxiety, autism, irritable bowel syndrome (see the Monash study), or several other fill-in-the-blank diseases. The reality is that NCGS and Celiac Disease only affects a maximum of 6% of the population. And not everyone who has it knows it. The other 94% of the world is safe, and will probably never have another problem.

Not My Dad’s White Bread

I love that I can go to my favorite sub shop, order for a gluten free sandwich, and the sandwich maker immediately cleans the station, washes hands, gets a clean knife and cutting board. I can go to a couple of local burger restaurants and get gluten free French fries and my burger on a gluten free bun. I can call Dominoes and have a gluten free pizza delivered! One funny moment was when I ordered tacos off the gluten free menu, the server told me I would have to be served corn tortillas, AND NOT FLOUR. I and my millions of companions are not asking for a lot.

Okay, I’m not asking for a lot. Some of my chef friends own bakeries. I would not ask any of them to go out of their way to add gluten free to their repertoire. We who suffer, skip the baked goods, buy from safe sources, or make our own.

This next part is for my chef friends who have to deal with whiny me when I come to your restaurant. You know what a crazy food nerd I am. You know that I don’t like to whine, and I don’t like asking for special favors.

Until now.

I am asking for two things of my chef friends.
1. Please check sources of what you’re reading and verify the information. Just because doesn’t mean it’s true. Ask me; I have sources.
2. Think about adding something other than salad for those of us with food allergies. I don’t mind that my order takes a little longer because you made the effort to isolate a station to make my food. Make a sauce for the chicken with cream instead of flour. Ask me; I have recipes.

Gluten-free food has become a huge money-maker in the food processing industry. Grocery stores are filled with gluten free labels. The restaurant industry has an opportunity for the same growth. I know my friends are talented enough to do this. And I know they are smart enough to do it.  I’m just asking for food I can eat.

Recipes Uncategorized

The Evolution of Beef Stroganoff

Family and our food history are important to me

Beef stroganoff is a recipe that has been around since the mid-19th century, and is classically a beef dish served with a sour cream sauce.  And the evolution of beef stroganoff is well documented around the world.  For my family, it may very well have originated in Russia, and been brought over by my family in 1922.  My grandmother and her siblings were orphans of the revolution, and came to America, poor and alone.  I can imagine that beef may have been substituted for another ingredient, either mushrooms or additional vegetables, or it was a very special meal reserved for special occasions.  In either case, it’s a recipe that has stuck with my family for close to 100 years!

It was one of my favorite meals when I was a kid

My mother’s version of the recipe was a quick, cheap meal to feed her brood of five children.  And it wasn’t called stroganoff.  It was hamburger gravy.  In Iowa during the mid-sixties, ground beef was the go to meat.  It was cheap, easy to work with, and good protein for large families like ours.  My mother’s version didn’t include sour cream.  Mom’s hamburger gravy was very simple, very quick, and very hearty.  And  it was one of my favorite meals when I was a kid.  It  was, ground beef, in a milk gravy sauce, with onions, lots of black pepper and served over mashed potatoes.  Sort of like SOS, but with fresh beef instead of dried beef.

In 1968 Better Homes and Gardens released the Casserole Cookbook.  We got a copy of the ninth printing in 1973 and we started to use it frequently.  I still have that copy, and pages are stained, and the Hamburger Stroganoff recipe still has a torn piece of paper marking the page.  It was a very simple recipe with canned condensed soup, ground beef and sour cream.  Other Stroganoff recipes include canned mushrooms.  Let’s just say that the rubbery mushrooms were usually left out.  I didn’t like mushrooms and didn’t even bother to substitute them with anything else.

Beef Strognoff With Zucchini Noodle

Over many years, this tasty recipe morphed from the originals from the Casserole book to my personal version.  I put the mushrooms back in, added extra sour cream, and made a simple creamy sauce that’s gluten free.  Instead of noodles, I use sauteed zucchini or summer squash.  It’s still one of my favorite meals, and using the squash instead of noodles gives me the veggies lacking in the original recipes.  It’s a win-win for me and the family.

Family and our food history are important to me.  It was rare that we had any fancy meals, but everything was cooked with care and our health and happiness in mind.  I admit to having been a very picky eater, and I’m still picky about the food I cook.  We always do the best we can with our food and our time together.  I’ve been blessed to teach some things to the next generation, and hopefully, they will pass this amazing food legacy on to their kids.  My granddaughter is already enjoying helping in the kitchen and cooking her play food on imaginary stoves.  This apple has not fallen far from the family tree!  Someday, she can make her mark on this classic family recipe.

Meal Planning Stories Uncategorized

Meal prep and planning

Meal Planning revisited

A few years ago, when I started this website, one goal was to teach people how to plan meals and shop as  efficiently as possible.  Several new services and businesses have cropped up to reduce stress for the people eating the food.  While there is nothing wrong with any of these options, planning is important.

If you use a delivered meal service, everything is in a box, the recipes, and portioned food.  A friend of mine tried a meal kit service, and liked it, but realized that she still had to cook the food.  Although some of the packaging was recyclable, much of it went in the the trash, and the food had to be shipped cross country  before it spoiled.  These are not inexpensive options.  She ordered meals at the cost of about $10 per person per meal.  Recipes changed constantly, there wasn’t much consistency with the food.  If you loved a meal or recipe, it wasn’t always available again.  Again, if you love to cook and try new recipes, it’s a great plan, but most people need to get a good meal on the table quickly, with the least amount of stress.

I test products,

and received a meal kit from a large super market chain.. Yesterday afternoon, I made the kit, a meal designated for two people.  It contained appropriately portioned salmon, Basmati rice, a packet of blackening seasoning, green beans, a small onion, a large green bell pepper, seasoned butter, a lemon, chicken stock, and slivered almonds.  My job was to read and follow directions, (important to any recipe) and make the food.  I had to provide cooking oil, salt and pepper, the cookware and my stellar knife and cooking skills.  This was not a kit for beginners.  And it really wasn’t something I would make on a busy weeknight.  Since I was photographing along the way, it took a little longer than the anticipated 30-40 minutes.  So I poured myself a glass of wine, and got down to the business of making a meal from a kit.

This is like building with Legos

Everything is in the box, and I had no say in what ingredients I can use, no room for creativity or adapting.  So I got out my knife, cutting board, cooking oil, and put a little Kosher salt in a bowl, and grabbed the pepper grinder.  I opened the box and et voila! salmon, green beans, a giant pepper, etc., etc.  First step, wash the veggies, Check!, cut up the pepper and onion, Check! heat up a saucepan, Check! and so on.  The end result was just okay; I wouldn’t pay for this in a restaurant.  It was very convenient to have everything all in one box, but I missed picking out my vegetables and adapting the portions.  The green bean to rice ratio was unbalanced.  The kits provide excellent meal alternatives, but it removes us, culturally, one step more, away from the source of our food.

A lot of people don’t want to cook.

In the past, the only options were TV dinners or frozen pizzas.  However, food manufacturers (I kind of hate that term), expanded the choices, but most were still frozen or canned, and not very appealing.  Enter the pre-made and assembled fresh and never frozen meals.  Supermarket chains, like the one that gave me the kit, have developed one meal, one tray, for one person, products and it’s all fresh, pretty healthy, and tastes pretty good.  A meal consists of a protein like chicken, pork or seafood, plus one or two sides, maybe green beans or asparagus, and something starchy like potatoes or rice, and a sauce.  Again, it’s easy pop them in the oven, and thirty minutes later, FOOD!  It still removes us from the source of our food, but the general concept is sound.


Many retailers have hire- a- shopper services.  For a small additional charge, you can order your food and other items online and have the option of either picking them up or having them delivered to your home.  These are great options, and as a sometimes caterer, I see this as a huge win by reducing the time to shop for the food I’m serving my customers.  I can spend more time prepping and organizing the event. But the product ordered may not be the product delivered, especially if  uncommon ingredients are needed,

I love all these options, but with all of these options, you still have to plan and create a list.  This is where my original plan comes into play, the simple, list of repeatable meals that your family loves.  Easy out the door breakfasts and lunches.  Meals than can take as little as fifteen minutes to get on the table for church and soccer nights. And more time for special meals for the weekends.

All of this makes me miss the good old days.  We knew farmers, planted our gardens, ate meals socially with family and friends.  We created our own convenience meals by cooking on the weekends and having some leftovers during the week.  While it’s still my primary method of meal planning and cooking, boredom with eating the same thing all week becomes a struggle.


























Wine Workers

The “fun” wine job

There are so many wine workers who schlep around wine all day long. And beer and liquor. Most are underpaid and overworked. But we do it for the love of the product. A couple of times a week, a customer will comment that my “job must be a lot of fun!” Sometime I explain the backbreaking, bunion creating work that I do. But mostly I say, “it sure is!”

To be honest, selling wine in a grocery store was not on my list of dream jobs when I went into the culinary industry. But with the twists and turns God guided me through, I have found myself doing the very thing I did not want to do. That I landed here is a combination of choices and the stuff we all have to go through in life. I landed here because I had to step back from life for awhile to manage major changes. I took the job because I know wine and I needed money. It wasn’t a goal, but it is a job. Financially, it’s unsustainable to stay in the job without some side gigs. It doesn’t cover monthly expenses and because it’s part time, there are no benefits. In grocery, the full time gigs in beer and wine are rare, and if you find one you may want to keep it. So to the customers who think this is fun, I lie and agree that it’s a fun job. Why bother explaining it to them?
Here’s the real story of beer and wine sales.

I spend most of my day cold. It’s cold in grocery stores, but add on the need to keep all the wine at or below 65 degrees year round, Then there’s the beer coolers. The beer is kept at a chilly 34 degrees and if the cases are open, as ours are, then know that it will be between 55 and 58 degrees all day every day.

It’s a dirty job. Every day, we crawl around on the floor, loading shelves or pulling bottles forward. People walk on the floors in the shoes that they were wearing when they stepped in dog poop before they got in the car. They walked through the parking lot where some dude just hocked a luge. There are rats and roaches in the stores. I know you didn’t want to know that, but yeah. There are traps all over the store.

Bottles break, so there’s glass shards. We do the best we can to sweep them up, but a few get missed. Wine is sticky when it dries. It’s grape juice with loads of natural sugars.

The floors are concrete. It hurts to walk on them all day long, no matter how good your shoes are. I have multiple foot problems from the years spent standing and walking on concrete.
Tasting wine is not easy. It takes skill, practice, a good nose, and good palate, and a higher than normal tolerance for alcohol. Even if we swish and spit, a buzz can be had.

It’s easy to become addicted to alcohol, especially when you have to drink for a living, even if it’s not everyday. There is an unspoken requirement to drink and try new products. It keeps our mind and palette practiced.

It’s very physically demanding, see above. But there are also cases of wine to move, bottles to shift, beer to stock, pallets to move, carts that have to be moved, ladders to climb, and customers who need a hand.

Speaking of customers, some are really rude. Some blame me for problems I have no control over. I didn’t decide to stop carrying your favorite wine, so pick something else. Their kids are often unruly and feel the need to touch everything. They argue. And seriously, I’m sorry you’re having such a sucky day, but you really don’t have to take it out on me. They come into the store so sick that I get sick. Remember, no benefits, which means no sick days. I lose a day of pay.

Obviously, I am whining. I can make changes and I am looking for a better job. This just slowed the flow of money out of savings. I build websites and take photos. I write, I make food and cooking videos. But the cash flow for those activities is spotty at best. So tomorrow I will get out of bed, head to the supermarket, and schlep beer and wine. And I will keep doing it until a better opportunity comes along, or better, I become a famous blogger and my writing is in demand.

Sure, the job is fun, let me know when you can start.


Evolutionary Eats Projects

I had to get a job!

No worries, it’s one I like and my bosses seem to like me.  It’s a good fit.  But it’s taken me away from some of my projects, so there are some updates.

I will be teaching and catering a class for a group of women who love food and wine.  The focus is on Spanish Holiday foods, and it’s been fun researching and testing the recipes!  We will be making a saffron citrus salad, crispy skin chicken thighs with saffron and lemon sauce and red potatoes, leeks with mushrooms, and a lemon cheese cake.  I based the menu and recipes on a menu from Chef Jose Andres.  This is in December, and I’m looking forward to working with the ladies!

It’s October, so I decided to work on some pumpkin recipes.  This was a request for a friend who has a severe form of Celiac disease and wanted some treats for a wedding in November.  The pumpkin cookies are delicious, but look a little strange, so some minor tweaks are required.  Plus as always, there are seeds to be roasted and snacked on.  I like mine roasted with butter and Konrikos creole seasoning.  Love it when the seeds pop and fly all over the oven!

My new job is selling beer and wine, and believe it or not, I got a little rusty with my wine knowledge.  I have been drinking what I like, and it isn’t what most people like.  So there has been some consumption of cabernet sauvignon, qtq80-qpb7Lmcabernet franc, pinot grigio, sangiovese, garnache, and pineapple hard cider. Before the jop started, I was learning more about sauvignon blanc from different regions, and settled on the New Zealand grapes as a favorite.  With the gluten issues, beers and ales can be a serious challenge, so I have been doing loads of research on how specific beers are made, who filters who doesn’t and much more.  Sticking to my IPA’s and hard ciders and sodas for the time being.  And honestly, drinking for work is a lot harder than you would think.  Tasting wine for the subtle nuances takes concentration to learn, and retraining my taste buds to recognize them can be a challenge.  What’s harder though is learning the inventory!  It’s fun to be back in the store and seeing some of my old customers, plus I love the people I work with and for.  You can find my profile on  I will be adding more as I find more to love.  You will notice that I have included a box wine on the list.  This is a great red wine for the one or two glasses when I get home from work.  My cats haven’t developed a liking for wine, so this saves me from potentially throwing out a bottle.  It happens on occasion that the wine changes too much over a day, no matter how good the stopper is.

If you need to place an order for some bread, cookies or muffins, I am baking whenever I can!  With the upcoming holiday season, I will be baking cookies, and taking holiday orders.  It’s 100% gluten free, made in my 100% gluten free kitchen.


Stories Uncategorized

All About Family and Evolution

Evolutionary Eats is about family and the evolution of family.


And I decided that I wanted to learn more about my family and where we came from.  When I was little, I was sickly and spent a lot of time with my Grandma Rose.  She was German, born in Russia, and a Jew who had converted to Christianity as a new American immigrant.  These were all things she told me, and apparently no one else until she neared the end of her life.  Things were pretty rough for her in Russia, her parents died of unknown causes, her own sister was a widow at 18.  There was a major famine in Russia after WWI, Jews were being killed and driven out, along with millions of other ethnic Germans, most of them Christians, that the new Soviet government wanted out or dead.  But Grandma Rose was an eternal optimist for me, and told me stories about dancing, music, traveling on a ship to America, the clothes they wore, what they played with and what they ate.  The stories about her mother seemed to be blurred between the two women in her life who were her mothers. Amelia Herman was the woman who ‘adopted’ Rose, 12 and Walter, 9. And Katharina, her birth mother, who died before Rose was 11.

Kaldunis to Kreplach

When major events happen in families, we often reach for a story in our history.  In 2012, we lost the beloved T.D, and in 2016 we gained a new little soul. Clara has brightened our little Texas family and I’m happy to be the grandma now.  But it made me reach for my family history as well.  And I want to share the family recipes with Clara as well as anyone else who might be interested.  So I’ve spent some time reviewing some of the things we ate and cooked, and foods that helped us celebrate and congregate as a group.  My mom was usually the one who hosted the events, but Grandma Rose always brought something special as well.  She made the best dill pickles, pickled herring, and a pocket full of goodness called a kalduni.  For my senior project as culinary student, I created a menu based on Russian foods, and the Belorussian kalduni was a term used for a small ravioli.  But Grandma’s were huge and my research this year led me to kreplach.  Grandma’s were always filled with ground beef, onions and sometimes rice.  They were always boiled in salt water and she always used a tomato sauce, but her brother, Ed, made the best sauce. Her dough was the perfect combination of thin, but the edges still chewy.  And they were always triangles, while kalduni’s were described as round, like perogi and translated to little ears.  And they were only for special occasions.

She always wanted to go visit Russia

Thyroid Medications and Your Diet

Is Your Diet Undermining the Benefits of your Thyroid Medication?

I don’t eat yogurt for breakfast anymore. And I can’t have a smoothie with kale and whey protein either. And those awesome shakes for weight loss are out too. No lattes, no cocoa, not even a bowl of cereal with milk and bananas.
I have a thyroid disease. I take a medication to keep my disease under control. Over 12 years of managing the disease, I had to learn how diet effects the thyroid and the hormones used to treat thyroid disease. Whether synthetic or natural, these medications are effected by certain foods and supplements. Thyroid disease is one of the most common autoimmune disorders and is very treatable with the use thyroid hormone replacement therapies. The medications most commonly used are synthetics and are generally completely safe and highly effective. A small percentage of people need to use a natural replacement or add in a T-3 replacement as well.
One of the most important aspects for successfully using these medications is following rules to allow them to do the most good they can. And thyroid meds have rules like many other long-term therapies.
Synthetic thyroid medications are measured in micrograms. This means that the human body can be very sensitive to the amount of medicine in the tablets. Even tiny variations in the levels can have adverse effects for the patients. Following the rules means that the medication is at its most available to the body once it reaches the bloodstream. These medications are available over a longer period of time. If a dose is skipped, the patient is unlikely notice as long as the next dose is taken. If more than one dose is skipped, then symptoms of the disease will be noticed in about two days, and it can take several days for the patient to return to feeling more normal again. And with thyroid medications a patient can’t catch up by taking more of the tablets without the risk of severe adverse reactions. The good news is that if the rules are followed and medication is taken daily, this is a rare occurrence, and most people return to a very normal life.
I have a great doctor who took the time to explain some of the requirements to me and recommended I review the patient information and do some research on my own to get the most out of the medications. I started taking the drug in 2004 after surgery to remove my right thyroid gland, and by following the rules I have dropped my daily dosage from 88 mcg to 50 mcg per day. But it was not without several adjustments in my diet, learning about drug interactions, and becoming highly aware of how I feel on a day to day basis.
The first rule of taking thyroid medications is that they have to be taken on an empty stomach, and my doctor told me to take it as soon I got out of bed. This was really hard for me. I don’t like to drink water as soon as I get out of bed, I want a cup of coffee! But I had to make the change immediately. For the first year, I experienced a tiny bit of nausea every morning after taking the pill. I don’t know if I adapted to the nausea or it went away, but it was annoying to feel sick every morning. The medication was supposed to make me feel better, not worse! The next rule was that I was not allowed to eat for at least thirty minutes after taking the pill. To get even better results, the doctor recommended not eating anything for an hour. This was to allow the optimum absorption into the bloodstream. Considering that I already had lost my appetite, an hour was an easy achievement. By the time the hour was up, the nausea was gone, and my appetite had returned.
Then I was given more information about the interactions thyroid medications have with food and supplements. On the bottle of my synthetic thyroid hormone is a label in bright yellow that says, “DO NOT TAKE ANTIACIDS OR PRODUCTS CONTAINING CALCIUM OR IRON WITHIN 4 HOURS OF TAKING THIS MEDICATION.” I had to dig into this more deeply.

The thyroid produces a hormone called calcitonin which helps regulate calcium levels in the blood. After having thyroid surgery, doctors monitor the calcium levels and may recommend supplements. Although it is unclear why or how calcium affects the medication, doctors and drug manufacturers recommend taking the calcium supplements and thyroid meds between 6 and 12 hours apart. My solution has been to take my calcium supplement before going to bed. Because magnesium helps with absorption of calcium I take a chelated supplement that includes both minerals. And the positive of taking it at night is that magnesium has some muscle relaxing properties and can actually help with a better night’s sleep. But over the years, I have also found that eating foods high in calcium within four hours of taking the pill has some adverse effects as well. I have been trying to lose some weight and get healthier, and was following a high protein regimen that included dairy based smoothies. The premise was to keep protein levels higher to stave off hunger, regulate blood sugar, etc. But the smoothie recipe was very high in calcium, and included Greek style yogurt, whey powder, and kale. Within a week I had a complication commonly found in people with hypothyroidism called frozen shoulder. For some reason the muscles seize up and spasm, and make motion difficult and painful. A little research and I discovered that I was consuming over 380 milligrams within two hours of taking the thyroid hormone. A standard single calcium tablet is 500 milligrams. This was creating what could have been a serious situation, had my body not reacted in the way that it had. This was a valuable lesson about the side effects of calcium and thyroid hormones. And after locating the drug inserts online for both synthetic and natural thyroid hormone replacement I discovered even more potential problems with foods and the drugs. For some of my friends who are taking the natural hormones there is no difference in the interactions. But the foods were very surprising! They include*
 Calcium supplements
 Dairy products
 Iron supplements
 Multivitamins containing iron
 Cottonseed meal
 Some cholesterol-lowering drugs that contain cholestyramine (Questran) and colestipol (Colestid)
 Soybean flour
 Walnuts
 Antacids
 Estrogens and Oral Contraceptives
 Medications used to treat diabetes
 Anti-coagulants
My research has extended into other drug interactions for people taking medications that treat many different diseases. Many drugs used to treat depression can have adverse reactions with grapefruit juice, diabetes drugs and gingko biloba, and more!
Before jumping on to a new diet or grabbing a prepackaged diet shake, or an herbal supplement, be sure to read and understand the label. Although most companies making supplements are ethical and honest, there are some, who may have little understanding of the dangers presented by using herbs and various foods in their products. This is truly a ”buyer beware” situation, especially for those of us with long-standing autoimmune or other health issues. We are ultimately the best at knowing what our bodies can manage and process.

Resources for more information:

The Mayo Clinic

Endocrine Web

NIH Medline Plus