Apropos of nothing


Honesty is good, right?

Truth be told, I’m in a bit of a pickle. For over four years now, I’ve had a finely-tuned, complex regimen in place in order to write content for this space: cook something, and write about it. Variations on that theme might include eat out and write about it, or perhaps read something, get mad, and write about it. But the gist, by far, was writing about the goings on in my own kitchen.

So with this whole new wacky diet thing, that’s going to be hard for a while. Unless you guys are salivating to hear more about the “bread” I eat in the form of an unsweetened almond-egg pancake.

I was procrastinating writing a post, doing a good job forgetting that I ever decided to start a blog at all, when I was running errands this morning, listening to Terry Gross (I know, her voice, but she does interview really interesting people). She was interviewing Tom Waits (but, his voice, and how weirdly cool it is), and he was (I think) talking about (I turned on the radio halfway through the interview) times in his life when he just wasn’t writing music. How you can’t just make that happen. He said that he used to take an old trash can, one on wheels, and put a tape recorder in the bottom of it. He’d go roll it around outside, all around different places, and then play back the recordings to see if he could find interesting rhythms for inspiration.

My point being, of course, that I would like to put this entire diet thing, along with every almond in the world, into a trash can, roll it around outside, and see if it all turns into something I want to eat.

I mean, no, of course not. I simply related to a need to rethink & relearn, to hear something new.

As of now, my plan is to stick with the GAPS diet as much as possible for the foreseeable future. This means I have a lot of cooking to do — cooking that isn’t really fun, or satisfying (though some of it is, a new post on stock-making is forthcoming!). Until I wrap my head around thinking grain-free, I might not run across much that is inspiring enough to share.

This doesn’t mean I’m going away. It just means I’m struggling, and trying to figure out how much of that should be bestowed upon innocents. I don’t want to bore, don’t want to write a special diet blog. But I also don’t want to lie, or stop writing altogether.

Apropos of nothing?

The photograph was of my daughter’s birthday cake — she turned 8 last week. I kind of wanted to assure everyone (ahem… grandparents) that I’m not forcing my children down this path with me. We made a yellow cake with chocolate icing — I even used cake flour (unbleached, but still, I bought cake flour). I would’ve blogged it — it was a recipe from Smitten Kitchen — but it wasn’t a huge hit. The cake was delicious, but all of us took issue with the chocolate sour-cream frosting — something was off-putting about it (though, really, if you want a yellow cake, this is your recipe).

Oh, and Happy Halloween! While we will be trick-or-treating tonight, I’ve put a 10-piece candy limit on my children (commence with the eye-rolling, grandparents). They each get to choose 10 pieces each to keep, and then the rest we are boxing up to send to U.S. troops overseas (because what better way to support our troops than send them loads of sugar and chocolate provided by child slavery?). Last year they got to eat a piece a day until it was gone (it was never gone — that’s how much candy they got), which I’m convinced led to the infamous Collective Carter Immune System Meltdown of January, February, and March of 2011. This year, I’m going Nazi, and hoping for a better spring.

Long story short: bear with me?


I’ll just be here, eating something made from almonds.


Everybody does weird diets sometimes, right?

I’ve chronicled past fascinations with them, and most of the time, if it’s totally out-there, un-sustainable (i.e., you live off avocados & chia seeds until the day you die, hopefully soon), it’s easy for me to turn away.

But over the past six or so months, I’ve become more and more convinced that there is a connection between what I’m eating and how I’m feeling. Which is overall, fine, as in, if I went to a doctor and had a physical she would likely tell me I am “the picture of health” or something equally encouraging. And if I complained to her about the little things that bother me (brain fog, minor anxiety, minor aches & pains) she would likely tell me that I’m just a mother to three young children, or that I’m nearing 40, or that she can write me a script that will make it all go away.

For a few years now, following various “real-food” blogs, I had heard about people doing the GAPS (Gut & Psychology Syndrome) diet. I connected it mainly with parents using it to alleviate symptoms of autism in their children, and it seemed extreme, so I saw no reason to investigate further. But a couple months ago my naturopath convinced me to read the book. And when I did, it was so logical in its description of how the health of your gut is directly related to everything from depression to chronic pain — I decided it was worth giving a try.

But aren’t those decisions always so much easier said than done?

I didn’t really mean to start it last week. I meant to have a plan. The diet is designed to be temporary (2 months to 2 or more years), but during that time you eat no grains whatsoever. Also, no starchy fruits and vegetables (i.e., potatoes, yams, etc.). No refined sugar. In some cases (ahem… mine), no dairy.

Lots of eggs, bone broths, soups, ferments, and fats from coconuts and animals. And nuts. As long as they are soaked overnight, you can eat just about any nut or seed.

So last week, I had all this bone broth in my freezer. I had gotten to a point where I wasn’t eating much grain anyway, it just didn’t taste good to me. Dairy was also something I had been avoiding. I figured, why not go ahead and do this?

It began innocently enough, by having a hot cup of chicken broth one morning for breakfast. At lunch, a plate of leafy greens with leftover chicken. For dinner, coconut lamb curry. By bedtime, the diet was on.

But then the next day, mid-morning, after my brothy breakfast, I was hungry. And couldn’t find a single thing to eat. I wanted cheese & crackers, but those are both off-limits. I scrounged through my GAPS cookbook and found a recipe for grain-free “flatbreads:” eggs, almond flour, almond milk, salt. I cooked them up, and gnawed unsatisfactorily — a spongy, eggy pancake topped with almond butter wasn’t what my brain had in mind.

So I washed it all down with more bone broth.

Really, now. Don’t all of you jump on this bandwagon with me at once, it might get tippy.

The thing is, it’s not bad to have to re-think what I eat, how I snack, what I rely on that might not be the best thing for my body. And it is usually interesting to me, having to cook with ingredient restrictions (i.e., gluten or grain-free, dairy-free, vegan, etc.) But right now my options feel suffocatingly limited. It’s been less than a week, but if I never saw another nut-based food item again I’d die a happy woman.

I had a dream the other night, that I was sitting in the kitchen of one of my favorite real-food bloggers, surrounded by all these other like-minded bloggers, and I was asking them, over and over: But did any of you see any improvement in your health after being on the GAPS diet? Over and over I asked, all night long, and never got an answer (darned sub-conscious, with its inability to work through problems to which I don’t already have a solution).

As of this morning I’m still on it, trying to find new ways to make snack foods, easy dinner modifications, and the like. But I’ll be honest — right about now, January is seeming like a much better time to start a wacky diet. What else will there be to do? Everyone else will be doing there detoxes and cleanses, I could at least have some company in the land of the deprived.

Stick with it? Postpone until the New Year? You’ll know the answer in coming weeks, as you notice whether all my posts become variations of things containing almonds.

* This is not my photo, stunning as it may be. When I went to shoot something this morning, I found I was ironically out of almonds.


This post is linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.


Don’t Knock ’em ’till you Try ’em Mini Beet Cakes


Like so many things in life these days, I was introduced to a new-to-me cake variety, beet, via twitter:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/AngieSix/status/123814612192862208″%5D

As much as I love beets, I’ll admit it, my first gut reaction was one of recoil. Beet cake? What in the world? Sounds like something Jessica Seinfeld would whip up, though she’d likely call it something different, to be stealth around all those unknowingly-healthy children who think they live on dessert (ha! joke’s on them!).*

I don’t know the history of this confection, and a lazy first-page skimming of google results gave me nothing. But I was intrigued enough to continue thinking about it, when yet another tweet appeared in my stream (I really do close my computer every now and again — just think of all the beet-related tweets I’m missing when that happens — perish the thought!):

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/racheltayse/status/126010005521563649″%5D

And you know when that happens? When you hear about a previously unheard-of thing from multiple unrelated sources? You realize, well, beet cake must be all the rage. I must hop on this bandwagon.

So I found a recipe — this one included dark chocolate, which seemed a pleasurable match. I’ve recently been experimenting with grain-free baking (that is the subject of another, very long, post), and since this cake seemed the perfect vehicle for unrefined sugars, I went that route. Mini-cakes also seemed appropriate, since it allowed me to make a smaller portion in case the whole thing was a bust.


It wasn’t a bust. Quite lovely, actually, in that subtly-flavored-and-textured-dessert sort of way. My kids loved them, and even knew they included beets. I loved having access to a rich and decadent treat that didn’t cause my blood sugar to crash.


These cakes are very moist in the middle, even after baking for almost 40 minutes — not in a molten cake sort of way, but more a flourless cake sort of way. The beet flavor is vaguely present, but you might be hard-pressed to find a guest who could name it correctly in a guessing game, as the overbearing flavor is dark chocolate. Stored in an airtight container these were just as delicious the second day, making them ideal for make-ahead desserts for company, served simply dusted with powdered sugar.

* Truth be told: I’ve never laid eyes on Mrs. Seinfeld’s cookbook. I’m only taking a stance against the general concept of hiding good-for-you food in brownies and cookies. Not that you can’t do that (and I do — today’s post as case-in-point) — but I’d rather just put zucchini on my kids’ plates and make them take the requisite one bite until the day they like it. And then, they’ll like zucchini, and know what it tastes like.

This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.


Recipe: Mini Beet Cakes (grain-free, dairy-free, refined-sweetener-free)

: adapted from this recipe at Tiger in a Jar
makes 10-12 mini cakes


  • 8 Tbsp refined coconut oil, divided (can sub butter)
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 cup sucanat (can sub dark-brown sugar)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup puree from cooked beets
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • powdered sugar for dusting


  1. Have a 12-cup muffin tin ready, lined with paper cups or parchment. Preheat oven to 375º.
  2. In a heat-proof bowl set over a saucepan of barely-simmering water, melt together the chocolate and 2 Tbsp of the coconut oil, stirring until very smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream together the sucanat and remaining 6 Tbsp coconut oil. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Add melted chocolate, beet puree, and vanilla, and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the almond flour, baking soda and salt. Add to batter and mix until combined.
  5. Pour batter into prepared cups, filling about 2/3 full. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a center cup comes out clean (the cakes will sink a bit in the middle).
  6. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the cakes from the tin to cool completely. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.



Tea strainer **giveaway**

I’ve hosted a grand total of 2 giveaways on this little blog.

The first was eons ago, I fell in love with a milk frother, so much so, that I bought one on Amazon to give away (how’re you liking it, Rebecca?). This was long before I had a single PR pitch in my inbox, before anyone offered me anything at all to review, ever. It was simply an obsession that I wanted to share, and it felt good to do it.

And it’s not like I’m getting showered in freebies now — but occasionally I do get an offer for a product or book to review, and such is the situation that led to my second giveaway. I wrote an honest review about a book I was really excited about, and a lucky reader got a copy.

But — I’ll admit it — the whole process just felt a little weird to me. I felt pressure to write a positive review — and even though no one asked me or directly influenced me to do that, I felt it just the same.*

So I’ve decided that, for the time being, I’m no longer doing those. But what I can & will do is find random cheap stuff that I can buy, and give it away to whomever might be interested.

Case in point: today’s tea strainer. The source? My favorite Fall-Off-The-Truck Store, Angelo’s. I paid $4 for it. No, I am not PioneerWoman (but how I love her in all her unmatched hilarity), and will not be giving away Kitchenaid mixers or trips to my ranch (you did know I had a ranch, didn’t you? I just like to keep it all to my lonesome is all). But, on the bright side, you probably have a 1-in-15-ish chance of winning my $4 discount tea strainer, versus a chance somewhat equal to getting struck by lightening whilst finding a needle in The World’s Largest Haystack (I believe that’s somewhere in rural Ohio, by the way).

Come on. You know you want to win, even if it’s just a little tiny something. Don’t you.

I love this strainer. How completely adorable is it? (though, admittedly, not this adorable). And, true to its word, the tea leaves stay in the stainless basket. It even comes with a little stand to catch the drippings after steeping. It likely cost way more than $4 on its original shelf. Probably even, like, $10. And it kind of looks like a witch’s hat, which is seasonally appropriate.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll start giving away items I dig out of the bin at Goodwill. That’s the underwhelming reach of my generosity. And pocketbook.

To Enter this Mind-Boggling Giveaway:

1) leave a comment, telling me what you would buy if you had $4 burning a hole in your pocket.

2) for a second entry, follow me on twitter, and tweet the following: “I just entered an amazing FOUR DOLLAR GIVEAWAY from @katyshecooks [insert link to this post]!!!!” If you want the tweet to count as an entry, you must leave a comment here w/ a link, or else I’ll never know. I’m just not that organized.

3) can’t think of another way to self-promote at the expense of your energy. So, just review numbers 1 & 2.

A winner will be selected, at random, via random.org, randomly, at 9pm (or maybe 10? whenever I remember to do it) on Sunday, October 16. Winner will be notified by email sometime in the early days of next week.

Also, no choice on color. All they had was yellow.


* This is totally my issue. Many, many bloggers do giveaways with honesty and generosity and without having to spend their own money at junk stores. You should definitely be reading their blogs, not mine.

** Congrats to OrdinarySarah, who’s lifelong dream was realized the day I told her she won the strainer. Ok, maybe not lifelong dream… but apparently she did dream that she was at my house, asking about the strainer, the day before she won it. This did not in any way influence the contest, unless random.org is able to be controlled by the dreams of pregnant women. Thanks to all of you who confessed your love of $4 coffee drinks, I’m right there with ya.

Kale & Grapefruit Salad


A friend told me about this salad early in the summer: I had a garden-full of beautiful kale, and was looking for new & interesting ways to eat it (my favorite way is to quickly pan-saute and drizzle with good balsamic vinegar). She mentioned that her mother had a raw kale salad with grapefruit at a restaurant, and that it was refreshing and delightful. I was a bit skeptical, as I’d never eaten a bowl full of raw kale leaves.

I lightening-fast found a recipe for exactly what she described (what? I wasn’t the first to know about this newfangled salad? what a shock to my kitchen ego). It was so simple, and while the heartiness of kale leaves might not appeal to the staunchly salad-wary, the grapefruit performs a wonderful balancing act of lending needed acidity and fruity texture.

As a bonus, it’s a salad that is coming into its season. Cooler weather brings citrus, and kale flourishes in the crisp fall air (I am told that I will be cutting kale out of the snow, come December).

This makes a perfect side to something heavy — I served it with a rich breakfast strata, and it was exactly what I craved next to a thick slice of eggs, cheese, cream, and bread. I even ate leftovers, straight from the container, for lunch the next day. Because leftover-lunch-from-the-fridge is how I roll.

The salad is made to eyeball, so that’s how I’m re-writing the original recipe.


Recipe: Raw Kale & Grapefruit Salad

from this recipe at Elana’s Pantry


  • one bunch of kale (any variety)
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • fresh-squeezed juice of 1 lime
  • good balsamic vinegar
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled & cut into bite-sized wedges


  1. Tear the leaves from the kale, and discard stems. Cut leaves into thin strips and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Drizzle leaves with olive oil. Using your hands, massage the oil into the leaves to help soften.
  3. Add the juice of half a lime, and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.
  4. Add grapefruit to kale & toss.
  5. Let stand for 15 minutes or so before serving to allow kale to soften.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.



Homemade pumpkin puree


A forgettable number of years ago, I tried to make a pumpkin pie by roasting my own pumpkin, and was not pleased with the result.

From that point on, I touted my “only-canned-pumpkin” policy, meaning that while in most conceivable kitchen scenarios, homemade is better than canned, this was a case where that was simply not true. With the rise of industrialized food and Libby’s, I was firmly convinced that Thanksgiving dessert tables all over the country were better suited in these processed times (drawing a hard & fast line at the invention of Cool Whip).

But then last year? Let’s just say I can’t teach a sleeping dog new tricks. Or let an old dog lie. Whatever, I just couldn’t let it go.

So I roasted a “pumpkin.” Translation: I roasted a butternut squash, and used it to make a pumpkin pie. And it was delightful, the best pumpkin pie I’d ever made.


Before you gasp in the horror of my farce, the intentional misleading of pie-adoring innocents, just hear me out.

The problem with roasting pumpkins is that many varieties have too much water, so you end up with a runny mess when it comes pie time. Wanna know the secret to those cans of thick, condensed pumpkin purée?

They use butternut squash.

That’s right. I can’t even remember who told me this. But the dirty truth is that most canned pumpkin purée is made up of other varieties of winter squash. Technically the FDA allows everyone to label it “pumpkin” because they are of similar plant varieties. And who can blame them? Butternut, along with other winter squashes, are dryer than pumpkins. When it comes to roasting puree for use in pies, breads, and the lot, dryer equals thicker.



Since now is the time when I can get organic butternut squash at my farmer’s market for around 85¢/pound, I decided to get ahead of the game and start roasting some for the upcoming pumpkin-love season. Checking a can in the pantry, I found they hold 425g by weight, which ends up being about 1 3/4 cups by volume — easy to measure and freeze in ready-to-use canned-size portions.


So if, like me, you have been long-wed to the can, pick up a butternut squash and give this method a try in your next pumpkin recipe. As far as whether or not you are morally bound to reveal the source of the best pumpkin pie you will ever make, well, I leave that up to you.

I’m certainly not telling anyone.

This recipe was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.


Recipe: Homemade pumpkin puree


  • butternut squash (one 2-pound squash will give you about the equivalent of a 15-oz can of pumpkin)


  1. Preheat oven to 350º, and line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.
  2. Cut the tough stem off the squash, then cut in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds from inside and discard.
  3. Place squash halves cut-side down on sheets.
  4. Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until very soft.
  5. Let squash cool completely. Scrape flesh from the skins, and puree in a food processor until smooth.
  6. Measure out in 1 3/4 cup portions, and freeze until ready to use (use as exact replacement for one 15-oz can of pumpkin puree).

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.