Thai Soup: Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Galangal), for Asian Lunar New Year – Whole 30

Contains:  Fish sauce, coconut, optional nightshade.  Is:  Whole 30, Paleo, gluten-free.

tom kha gai, recipe, thai, soup, galangal, Paleo, whole30, coconut, chicken, mushroom, lunar new year

Tom Kha Gai – Thai coconut galangal chicken soup. With an abundance of shiitake.

Prepared for the start of the Asian Lunar Calendar, Year of the Rat.  I absolutely LOVE Tom Kha style soups.  I’ve finally made one that I’m happy to bring HOME with me!

I just discovered a great website filled with information about the Chinese lunar cycle and the meaning of each lunar year.  I’ll post all that and a synopsis at the end of the recipe, so you can get to cooking now.

I am adapting a recipe from Russ Crandall’s book, Paleo Take Out:  Restaurant Favorites without the Junk.  Because I seriously prefer the dark meat of chicken, that’s what I’m using here.  Bone-less, skinless, chicken thigh.  I’m sure that over in Thailand they don’t limit themselves to the breast, even if that is how most of the recipes that land in the West are written.  You are welcome to use whatever part of the chicken you prefer in this recipe.  Or, a combination.  I’ll note that supermarket American chicken breast seriously lacks much intrinsic flavor – so I have no quibbles about trying to make this dish taste appropriately better.  In a supermarket, I still try to buy organic or better yet, humanely raised, chicken.  More on principle there than actual taste.

recipe, tom kha gai, soup, Thai, chicken, whole30, paleo

Mushrooms are weighed.  Have to admit, nothing wrong with an overabundance.

Unfortunately for America’s Test Kitchen and their words o “wisdom”, in some instances you CAN overcook mushrooms, depending on their purpose.  I simmer these for 2 minutes – enough to make soft and cooked without mushing them.  This works for either the button, Portobello, or shiitake mushrooms.  Enoki, being so thin, cook faster.  I still need to work out optimal timing for oyster mushrooms.  I hereby proclaim that mushrooms for Asian soups can definitely be overcooked if one is not careful.

The bottom pepper is a home-grown Thai feller. Dried.

Home grown ingredients here:  My chicken stock came from home-grown cockerel chicken bones and feet.  The kefir lime leaves were from my own kefir lime tree.  Er, sapling.  The lone Thai pepper was the last of my personal crop, admittedly quite a small crop.

thai, soup, tom kha gai, chicken, galangal, coconut, recipe, paleo, whole30

Chopped peppers for the soup. A little does go a long way.

Prep Time:  25-30 minutes.
Cook Time:  About 30-35 minutes.
Rest Time: about 3-5 minutes, to keep from burning your mouth.
Serves:  3.
Cuisine:  Thai.
Leftovers:  YES!  The mushrooms may be a bit more mushy, but all is still good.  Add any garnishes (cilantro, mint) at time of serving.

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Galangal) Soup

  • 3 cups / mL of chicken broth, preferably home made but do as you do.  I recommend low sodium if you buy the boxed broth. 
  • 1.333 cups / 315 mL of water.  You can be flexible here, depending on how strong your stock is.  
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or dried.  Tear roughly into small bits.  In a pinch, use grated zest from one lime.
  • 1 and a half stalks of lemongrass (white parts), slice thin.  I used lemongrass powder, a heaping teaspoon.  Nowhere near as good, but it is what it is.
  • 1.5 inches of peeled galangal or ginger, minced.  Galangal is preferred.  Again, my galangal is here as a powder, so I added a heaping teaspoon of galangal, plus a half teaspoon ginger minced.

Combine all the soup base ingredients in your cooking pot, and boil with high heat.  Once boiling, reduce to a good simmer for 15, maybe 20 minutes.  Strain out solids.  Return stock to stockpot.

  • 11 ounces / 300 grams boneless, skinless chicken thigh, about 2 thighs.  Cut off any fat.  Slice into 1-2 inch / 1.5 – 3 cm long segments, about 0.3 – 0. 4 inches / 1 cm wide.  You can use boneless skinless breast if you prefer – perhaps a little less as you’ll be removing less fat.    
  • 1 can/14 ounces/  grams full fat coconut milk.  (I buy Taste of Thai or Thai Kitchen).
  • 5 ounces mushrooms.  You can use just about any type (no morels), but for this I prefer shiitake.  Remove stems if shiitake.  
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce.  I like the Vietnamese “Red Boat” sauce.
  • Chili pepper – I used finely diced Thai pepper (mostly de-seeded) and a small thinly-sliced jalapeno (also mostly de-seeded).  Adjust to your desire.  
  • Juice of 1/2 lime.  
  • Salt to taste.
  • Cilantro or mint leaves as garnish. 

To the stockpot with the soup base, add the chicken.  Return to a boil and reduce heat to a good simmer.  For the thigh meat, simmer for 7-8 minutes.  If you are using white breast meat, you only need to do this about 4 minutes.

Toss in the coconut milk,the fish sauce, and any chili pepper you like.  Allow that to cook until the coconut milk mixes in, you will need to stir periodically.  Perhaps five minutes.

Add the mushrooms, and simmer 2 minutes longer.

Add the lime juice, and mix.  Then remove from heat.  Taste and add salt as needed, perhaps about a half teaspoon.  Adjust lime and fish sauce as desired.

Serve.  Ideally, top individual servings with cilantro leaves.  Torn mint leaves worked as well.   This is indeed a highlight dish in my kitchen so far for 2020!!!

tom kha gai, recipe, thai, soup, galangal, Paleo, whole30, coconut, chicken, mushroom, lunar new year


Yes, we are taking this delicious (I mean I LOVE this thing) over to the following linky-style party sites, and I’ll be adding them here:

Fiesta Friday.  Co-hosted by Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau.

Full Plate Thursday.





About the Chinese cycle of years:  (NOTE some of the other regional cultures may see this a bit differently.)

The Chinese (and east Asian) year of the rat starts January 25th, 2020.  Despite the associations in much of the western world of rats being unsavory, unsanitary and disgusting, rats are really bright creatures.  I even have a friend who has had pet rats for over 20 years – she wanted pets and her husband was allergic to cats and dogs, but can tolerate rat dander.  I’ve worked with rats in my past career, and yes, they are intelligent and much more personable than, say, mice or guinea pigs.  Yes, they can’t apparently be trained to eliminate body functions in a litter box, but if you want one as a pet, simply cleaning their housing every two or three days suffices, and they do groom themselves.  Home-raised rats aren’t going to carry diseases any more than your home-raised dog or cat.

I don’t think it is a general thing for Asians to have pet Rats at home (they don’t tend to have pet Ox, Snakes or Dragons, either… )  Just noting that rats are not necessarily disgusting, if they’re not coming in from your sewers or such.   And thus, being born in the Year of the Rat isn’t a bad thing.

So, anyhow, the Year of the Rat, which is the first year of the lunar cycle:

Rat Year qualities for people born in a Rat Year:

“Rats are quick-witted, resourceful, and smart but lack courage. With rich imaginations and sharp observations, they can take advantage of various opportunities well.”

In Chinese culture, rats represent working diligently and thriftiness, so people born in a Rat year are thought to be wealthy and prosperous.”  Rats are least likely to get along with Horse or Rooster folk.

See, not so bad?  But beyond this, there is a further 60 year cycle, with different types of rats (and other zodiac critters).  There are Wood, Fire, Earth, Water and Gold rats – and so 2020 is a Gold Rat year.  (The previous one was 1960.)  A gold rat?  “Smart, talented, hot-tempered, jealous, with a strong sense of self-awareness“.

Recent rat years:  1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, and 2020.

PS, I’m a Snake.  Yeah, that’s me.  (House Slytherin???)  This sign also has good features (They all do).  TBH I’m not sure about any form of astrology, but I find the ideas interesting in a benevolently-amusing way.  AND I’m happy to celebrate the Asian Lunar New Year as far as I’m able, each year.  I’m apparently also a Water Snake – does this make me a water moccasin??




Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Poultry, Soups & Stews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sous Vide Beef Bottom Round Steak (& Tangy Gravy Sauce) – Whole30

Contains:  Apparently, no standard allergens.  Is:  Paleo, Whole30.

This is in some sense, an experiment.  I left the meat in the sous vide bath for varying amounts of time.

sous vide, Paleo, Whole30, bottom round, steak

The 42-hour steaks, served with sautéed cabbage and onion, and the horsey mustard sauce, recipe for which is also below.

For inspiration, though I didn’t follow this exactly (regards to cooking temperature), as I wanted some pink:

But, cook at 133 -134 F for medium rare, bordering more towards medium.  Some pink remains.

recipe, sous vide, bottom round, beef, steak, paleo, Whole30

The 22.5 hour (effectively, 24 hour) version of this steak. Yes, I drizzled some of the sauce on this, too.

The beef bottom round roast is a cut from a hard working muscle in the hind region of the cow/steer.  Eye of round is similar.   Being involved in a meat share where I got a quarter of a cow coming home with me – meant it was almost certain I’d be getting both those cuts. I did not get the opportunity to choose.  I’ve already eaten the eye (it wasn’t memorable), using some more conventional method of cookery.  Here, pulling out the sous vide device seemed like a reasonable response.   I mean, the round is here – while a very less-desirable cut, I should see if I can improve it somehow.  If not, Obi-Wan (the cat) is looking at his future dinners!  (Serenity won’t eat beef.  She’s a poultry connoisseur.)

sous vide, recipe, bottom round, beef, paleo, Whole30

Ready for bagging salt, pepper and garlic powder has been added to both sides.

I’ll note this is one case where the supermarket bottom round would probably be better in a culinary sense than grass-finished.  The animal here is still roaming around until the last day, exercising his / her hind quarters.  Even less fat, and less marbling, than the supermarket one.

The longer you cook something, the more you can keep that something at high enough temperature to break down tough tissues to something palatable.  And if you can keep, say steak, at low enough temperature, you should be able to get something approaching medium rare throughout.

This meant I needed to cook this cut of meat anywhere from 1 to 3 days.  I decided steaks would be more interesting than a roast (plus it would be easy enough to freeze up the extras afterwards).  This was three pounds of meat as a roast, anyway.  The steaks would be thick-cut, which is better when it comes to sous vide anyhow (with the reverse-searing step that is optional after the cooking process, thin steaks might as well be cooked entirely on a grill or in a skillet – well, except in this case (due to innate toughness) – not here).  But I wanted medium rare meat.  I cut my steaks around 1 inch or so thick.

You don’t want to hold meat for over 3 or 4 hours at anything less than 130 F (USDA guidelines) due to potential for bacterial growth.  Above that, the nasty little bacty buggers will croak, or at least not multiply.  I chose 133 F for this reason.  (Some will sous vide long term at 131 F, since there’s probably some wiggle room in the USDA number – but hey.  I wiggle in the other direction…)

For steaks, it is typical to reverse-sear after cooking.  You can use your grill (not with the level of snow out here), a torch (don’t have, and don’t want), or a skillet indoors.  I chose the latter.

I added salt, pepper and garlic powder to the steaks – all sides.  Adding fresh sprigs of thyme is also appropriate.  For this length of cooking, it is seriously recommended to use garlic powder instead of whole or minced fresh garlic.

sous vide, recipe, bottom round, beef, paleo, Whole30

Both bags are in there, the first one is simply a smaller bag. I placed a small mug on top to weigh these down (as there is a little air remaining. The air pocket moved to the seal area, and did not interfere with the meat itself.

Bagging your meat for sous vide:  I splurged on reusable silicon sous vide bags, they have a zip-lock style seal.  You have other options:  regular zip-lock style bags which are disposable plastic, and at high temperatures can fail, or specialized sous vide vaccuum bags that you seal with a vacuum/heat-sealer, and are made not to fail at high temperatures (that’s like around 160 F or so).  I opted for  the silicon bags because 1) they are far more inert than plastic and 2) I already add enough to the planetary waste stream as is, and 3) Ultimately, it’s not a splurge, but a savings in many regards.   If there’s a place where I can call a halt to disposables, especially plastics, I really SHOULD.  Oh, the zip-locks remove air by the water displacement method.

sous vide, recipe, bottom round, beef, paleo, Whole30

I used ghee for searing in a skillet, for Whole30 purposes. Butter is absolutely fine!

Accessories:  There are all sorts of gadgets a sous-vider can purchase – specialized tanks with lids, racks for standing your bags upright in (not usually necessary to stand them upright…), weights you can add to bags to make sure they sink below the waves – but all you really need is a sous vide immersion unit (preferably not ONLY operatable by your smart phone but also by hand, which for me rules out the Joule brand).  And an inventive eye as to what you have in your kitchen.  I sous vide in my stew pot (which also doubles as my lobster pot, my home water bath canner, and my, um, chicken dunker pot when I need to remove feathers to put a home-grown cockerel or so in the freezer).  I weigh bags down (where needed) by placing a cup or saucer over them, or adding something heavy and inert into the bag with the item being cooked.

My salt note:  I use a LOT less salt than the professional chefs tend to use, at least those with cooking shows.   My first hangar steak was ruined by following their advice, even though I was using the same type of salt as they (yes, types of salt make a difference).  But you do you – you can always add more salt at the table, although having some on the beef while cooking definitely adds depth to the meat not fully obtainable if it’s all added at the table.

Horseradish note:  It’s come to my attention that parts of the world don’t seem to use the term, “prepared horseradish”.  This is NOT to be confused with a horseradish sauce sold in the condiment section of your supermarket, that comes out creamy and is usually full of things not appropriate for Whole30 – and won’t impart the same flavor as the gravy sauce I make below.  Prepared horseradish is finely shredded horseradish root with a preservative like citric acid to keep it from discoloring – and is located in some refrigerated section of your supermarket.  (Location may vary from supermarket to supermarket.)  Store even the unopened bottle or jar in your fridge.  I have horseradish growing here – if it gets enough sun it’s near impossible to kill off in the garden, even if you want to – and plan to start some root harvesting of my own next summer.

sous vide, recipe, bottom round, beef, paleo, Whole30

At 24 hours – pulled from the bag, prior to searing. (I only seared two of them this day, and froze the rest).

Whole30 January:  I’d normally use soy sauce or Lea and Perrins, and I’d use butter.  But it’s Whole30 January, so this was prepared via Whole30 guidelines for the blog (despite my making this in December…)  Substitute back as you desire.

sous vide, recipe, bottom round, beef, paleo, Whole30

24 hour steaks, served with asparagus and the gravy sauce, sliced into for display of a little pink.

Prep Time:  15 minutes.
Sous Vide Time:  1 day, 2 days (two timings tested below)
Sear Time:  About 3 minutes.
Rest Time:  Not needed.
Cuisine:  Well, sous vide is a French phrase???

Serves:  As part of a meal, I’d say 3 pounds of the meat portion – about 6-8?

Sous Vide Beef Bottom Round Steaks

  • 3 pounds or thereabouts of bottom round beef roast, in this case grass-fed / finished.  
  • Salt, pepper, garlic POWDER.  
  • An optional sprig of fresh thyme for each steak.
  • Ghee (or butter).  For the whole cut, up to a quarter-pound.  

Set your sous vide immersion device to a desired temperature according to device instructions, attach it to your water bath whatever it may be, and let the water come to temperature.   For medium rare, mostly pink, I went with 133 F.  140 F will provide a solid medium.

Slice your bottom round roast into 1 inch or so steaks.  (2.5 cm or so.)  You can remove or keep the fat cap.  I left it on some slices, but removed it for ease of cutting on others – I’ll render (ahem) a verdict at the end of this post.

Salt, pepper and garlic-ify your steaks on all sides to your predilection.  Stuff into sous vide bags of choice (I prefer reusable silicon, see above).   Don’t double layer the steaks, but keep them as a single layer, and just pull out another bag for the rest of them.  Add a sprig of thyme if you remember, for each steak slice.

Seal bag(s) via water immersion method, or via a vacuum/heat sealer, depending on your bag type.

Place in the water bath (if the bath is not up to temperature yet, don’t worry, the meat can certainly go in now!)  Insure that no water is leaking in, and if you need to, weigh down the bags with a saucer or cup balanced atop, or something small yet heavy that can go into each bag before being sealed.  You want the water to surround your future meal!  Although for a long cook like this where it is not necessary, I find it a good practice to time the sous vide cooking time from when the water bath reaches the desired temperature.

Set, and go.  Since my roast / steaks ended up in two separate bags, I decided to experiment.  The smaller bag was removed at about 24 hours – actually about 22.5 hours for personal logistical reasons.  I left the other in for 48 hours. You can cover the water bath with foil, or you can monitor and add more water when needed so that the level doesn’t evaporate off.  (I’d still check even if you use foil.)

When ready, [approximately 24 Hours] remove the steak bag(s) from the water bath.  Open, and reserve the juices for the gravy/sauce.  (I ran the other bag for 42 hours, to see how that would work.)

While still warm, sear any steaks you plan to eat at this time.  I used my skillet on medium high with a bit of avocado oil, and turned on the range fan (smoke detectors going off in winter are unpleasant events).  Seared about a minute on both sides.  Serve with sides, and with whatever sauce or gravy you like.  I used the recipe below:


  • 2 heaping tablespoons mustard (Gulden’s Spicy Brown here)
  • 1.5 teaspoon prepared horseradish  (See my note just up above, before the start of recipes proper, as apparently parts of the world don’t use this terminology?)
  • 0.5 teaspoon sesame oil.
  • About a third of the total amount of juice from the beef sous vide cooking bags.  This would be about 3-4 tablespoons.  (I reserved the rest.  If you want to make this gravy without having to go through the process of doing sous vide, reserve drippings from however you and up cooking any cuts of beef – I do think pre-packaged beef stock won’t add much umami to this, however.)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos for Whole30 (or low sodium gluten-free tamari or soy sauce, or even Lea and Perrins, if you are using soy and don’t mind a little anchovy…)

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, and drizzle over the meat to whim.  Reserve leftover sauce for the rest of the steaks, if you plan to eat them within 4 days.

Leftover steak:  I froze most of the leftovers.  Whether you refrigerate or freeze your steaks, hold off on searing until when you plan to eat them.  thaw the latter in the fridge, then bring either type out of the fridge to room temperature for 45-60 minutes.  Sear, and carry on as before.  Since I don’t think horseradish freezes all that well, I’d make up a new batch of sauce rather than freezing it – (you can freeze the rest of the drippings from the bags to make the next batch).

Verdict: This is never going to be a favorite cut of beef, but you can make it taste good using sous vide.  Leave the fat cap on – that piece was decidedly more tender.  You can always remove it prior to serving, or at the table.  I pulled one pack of steaks out at 22.5 hours (served with asparagus), and the second at 42 hours (served with cabbage and onion).  Although I didn’t taste them side by side, there wasn’t any noticeable benefit to me in leaving the meat in for the extra time.  Indeed, the second set of steaks tasted subjectively a little bit mealy, but not enough to be annoying.  The meat in either case does have flavor, and is much more tender than if you’d used other methods of cooking it, plus you can retain some pink.  Well, Obi-Wan isn’t going to get more than a bite for his share!

The gravy/sauce is a true winner.  Indeed, the little that remained after eating the meat ended up being scooped up by a spoon and consumed directly!  (Okay, I’m a bit weird.)

recipe, bottom round, steak, sous vide, paleo, Whole30

Let’s hear it for Fiesta Friday, where this recipe is sous-viding away  Zeba @ Food For The Soul is your co-host.  And for Full Plate Thursday, where the sauce is simply making me happy – as well as the recipes you can find at both the above sites!






Posted in Cooking, Meats | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Massachusetts Winter Conference, Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association (NOFA MASS)

homesteading, nofa, winter conference, Massachusetts, 2020

The program guide, and surprisingly (if you know me) the only book I purchased at this conference.

Worchester State University is about an hour and forty minutes from here, and was the host on Saturday to the 2020 Winter Conference of the Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association (NOFA), Massachusetts’ chapter.  This is the first year I’ve attended this specific winter conference.  And the weather cooperated – no snow, no ice.  (Okay, I still had white ground cover, although it’s all gone in Worchester.  Which, for the phonetically-challenged, is pronounced “Wooster”, for some odd reason we’ll have to ask the Brits on the other side of the puddle about.  I do keep trying to type it the way it’s spoken, which is hard on the GPS, but the computer spell-check lets that go through…)

Event Date:  January 11, 2020

There were three very full workshop time slots, a keynote speaker, and a plethora of vendors.  Lunch was supplied gratis cafeteria style, and there were evening activities including an (extra-fee) dinner.  I skipped that last bit, and drove home.

My alarm went off at 5 a.m.  This gave me the opportunity for the first time to feed chickens in the dark crossing a snow/ice ground cover.  Yes, I’ve gone to them in the dark before, but not over slippery territory.   Crampons on, backpack on, hiking poles, flashlight secured so it could light my way…  I was out of the house, into the car, before 6:30 after a light repast of two of their eggs, hard-boiled.  Temps were a slightly balmy 39 F as I departed.  It revolves up and down right now around here.

Stop Landscaping, Start Life-Scaping. (Introductory, Intermediate). Speaker Monique Allen.  

As I couldn’t bi-locate, my first workshop was the above.  The presenter has written a soon-to-be-released landscaping book of the same name.  My goal in attending this one was to get pointers on improving my current landscaping possibilities – something my home certainly could use.  The class was pretty much geared towards helping landscape designers taking this workshop, but was also pertinent to someone such as myself – but it never really sprung beyond an intro to this (and an intro to her book).  There are a couple of valuable principles, but I feel she could have done more for us in her 1.5 hour time slot.  In short, she spent a bit of time noting that standard features/plans for landscape design don’t always work.  You want to work within the environment you are given, and dig into your personal experiences (well, this part being the client, or also being ME as right now I’m thinking about this for my own needs).  Don’t put in a pool or a gazebo or something just because it’s in.  Will you enjoy it?  If you are living with a spouse or partner, BOTH of you need to be on the same page in these discussions.  Don’t let one person make all the decisions and the other say, “whatever, I want to  make you happy”.  Adding features to add features it a no-go.  Consider the habitat as well.  Utilize your current nature on your lot to consider the potential you have.  If you want an outdoor space, set out chairs in various locations, move them around to find what really works for you.  (Or a client, if you are actually a landscape designer after all.)

We could in a way consider her a Marie Kondo for your yard, using the Kondo principles PRIOR to spending on and building your yard landscape.  I did find this workshop to be of some, but limited value, and I think the “intermediate” label was premature.  I typed all that up in about 20 minutes and really believe she had enough time for expansion, though I do have a few appetizers to enjoy and think about.

homesteading, nofa, massachusetts, winter conference, 2020

One veggie stand. I got all these for $6. Radish varieties, onion varieties, red cabbage.

After this, the keynote speaker talked.  I didn’t make the talk, but probably should have.  This guest was Carey Gillam, a guest who is a journalist specializing in researching environmental consequences of food production today, pros and cons.  His talk was titled Decades of Deception:  A Look Behind the Corporate Push for Pesticide-Dependent Agriculture.  I think in retrospect I would like to have gone, as there was plenty of time for vendor viewing allotted anyway.   (I think the turn-off to this keynote for me was the “promised/threatened” moments of “chapter business meeting” that would occur before he’d take the stage.  And about 7 people lined up for this prior to such said meeting.  That’s something sure to drive me to distraction.)   I’ll do some Googling on Carey Gillam and his writings.  It’s already subject matter to which I suspect he’s right about, but would be good to acquire more factual knowledge concerning.  He has published the book, Whitewash.  I shall look into that.

Revitalizing Old Apple Trees & Planning Orchards for the Future (Intermediate), Speaker Matt Kaminsky.

The second workshop I attended was the main draw getting me to this conference.  Matt Kaminsky operates out of Hadley, MA.  If he hadn’t run out of time, he would have discussed new or young orchards as well.  I attended because I have about 8 – 10 very old apple trees dotted around the edges of my field, and I’d love to rejuve them, or at least two or three of the best of them.  (I fear a couple are now dead, as signified by the amount of lichen on those.)  Even if more are viable, I’d simply be happy with the two or three, preferably within cross-pollinating distance.  When I’ve talked to locals around my town, the talk turns at some point to spraying and such – along with any pruning and so forth.  I’d prefer not to have pesticides wafting airborne around here into human or chicken lungs, and so I wanted to hear what he had to say.  Basically, he suggested the following plan of attack, providing a useful timing schedule for the things you might do:

  • Remove competing species, ie vines and saplings and overshadowing trees that want to hog the sunlight.
  • Remove deadwood.
  • Prune carefully.
  • Allow for air circulation.
  • Work for good lateral growth, and as possible, provide for a central leader.  Some of our old trees may not exactly have one.  Most old “rescue” trees weren’t grafted or developed to have an “automatic” central leader.
  • NOTE:  there really is more, but this does help to start.

I’ll be contacting him, as (other than the clearing away of any vines and root-hogging saplings) I cannot handle the needs here (physically) on my own.  I mean, with two bum knees, I cannot climb into these old trees, even with a ladder!  I hope I can save those few.  (Mine by the road had a load of apples this year, while some internal trees did mostly  nothing.  Other than look overtaken by lichens, which may mean they may be dead.)

An exceedingly worthwhile, useful, and wonderful presentation.

homesteading, NOFA, Massachusetts, winter conference, apple tree

A good plethora of apples from this one, last autumn.  Although the photo was taken yesterday.

The Wild, Wacky, Wonderful World of Winter Squash (Introductory, Intermediate), Speaker Jack Mastrianni.  

The third and final workshop turned out to be presented by a wonderfully dynamic presenter.  There’s a world of squash beyond delicata, acorn and butternut.  Well, I kinda knew that, but he took this to a new level.  And Mastrianni went step by step (with handouts) through his process of growing them.  Yes, I simply threw some Delicata seeds into my soil last year and got a small crop (small because of a late planting – which I knew would happen, but I was merely checking viability of home-harvested seeds…).  Mine were vibrant until I had to pick them prior to a killing frost.   but he starts his indoors in our New England climate in large containers, then plants by late May outdoors.  He has an organic regimen for the mean nasty buggy predators (I didn’t have any such last year, but I don’t think the word had yet gone out to the local cucumber beetles, squash vine borers, powdery mildew, or squash bugs:  that there were new squashes in town… such luck is not bound to hold in future years!   Also many of the squashes, if not too heavy, can be trellised, providing 1) more air ventilation for them, and 2) more space within a limited locale for more of them.   I learned about two squashes he considers tastier than my much-loved Delicata – so I’ll purchase seeds from at least one of those.

There are three species of winter squash – for seed-saving purposes, I plan to buy seeds from just one each of at least two of these.  (Unless you can plant your squash varieties FAR apart, cross-fertilization between varieties within a species will not breed true – which I already knew.)  I just have to research wisely.  I do want to save seeds from at least one variety that will represent its species, and Breed that one True .

Using cattle panels will provide a good structure to support your winter squashes – of course even these have limits – they won’t, say, support Hubbard squash.

Mastriannni also pinpointed some good for-your-kitchen preservation methods – while I do have a root cellar, some of these will still be best cooked and held in a freezer.

I will say, I don’t care what he talks about at future events – I’d attend. Engaging and seriously informative.

Vendors and booths:

homesteading, NOFA, Massachusetts, winter conference, seeds 2020

Seeds for swapping. This is what I picked up.

There was a seed swap.  Maybe next year I can donate seeds.  I’ve already tested my ability to save Delicata/winter squash seeds (which is why I planted them last summer even if too late to get a good or mature crop).

I never remember to bring my own bag to these events – but someone was selling hers, home made, very professional. Made from cotton.  AND it contains compartments!  And since it is cotton, veggies and fruit stored in such a bag will last longer (apparently) than otherwise.  The seller:  B-Organic.

homesteading, NOFA, Massachusetts, Winter Conference, cotton baghomesteading, cotton bag, NOFA, winter conference, Massachusetts

Wellscroft had a large selection of fencing solution brochures.  I took their main catalog and the information that pertains to my current and future needs/desires.  Every year there are likely new things to learn about!

There was also literature for the NOFA Organic Land Care Program – I grabbed this as well.  While this is somewhat introductory, it does provide a checklist for those of us who sometimes / perhaps often / miss things.

I already get seed catalogs from Baker’s Creek and from Johnny’s – but the latter was there with literature all tied into one place for microgreens.

I got into a good conversation with the representative from Pete and Gerry’s eggs – they do free range their hens.  (He was trying to get me interested in a contest for winning a year’s supply of eggs gratis – I told him I already raise my own.  We snowballed from there!)  He mentioned that before the hens really decide to cut back on laying, they may also be producing eggs with weaker shells that will more readily crack in transit.  For a small operation such as mine, this is not yet (apparently) a concern.  I forget what breeds they use, although one is indeed a Maran.  Having two or three varieties that lay differently-hued eggs makes it easier for them to separate eggs for market, too – for those markets where the breed might matter.  We also talked about predation – he estimated that 1-3% is a reasonable amount of loss due to free-ranging – yes, it’s mostly hawks – and if you are going to free range, this will happen.  I mentioned I’d only lost one cockerel to date.  BTW, I’d bought their brand at supermarkets prior to raising my own hens.  They are based out of New Hampshire, but sell eggs from a variety of farms at least through the northeast/east coast of the US.

Someone located close to the Hilltowns sold mildly sparkling beverages lightly sweetened with maple syrup:  raspberry lime, ginger lemon, vanilla bean, coffee.  I bought two varieties – surprisingly the ginger wasn’t overbearing as sometimes  (often?) it can be in beverages.  You can taste samples.  Or I’d not bought any of them!  The drinks are apparently available in at least some local Whole Wallet outlets.

homesteading, nofa, Massachusetts, winter conference

Maple Mama. You can select from four maple-sweetened sparkling beverages, that are just barely sweet.

One thing I am seriously interested in is chaga tea.  That particular booth sold tea made of a mix of green tea and chaga tea, but only to drink on site.  They use most of their chaga to make medicinals (which they were also selling, but I didn’t purchase – at least not until I do due diligence research on medicinal properties).  I picked up their calling card to find out when they’ll be ready to have the volume to sell this as a tea – the taste was wonderful!

I picked up updated literature on a variety of useful things for here at my homestead. Updated fencing thoughts, for instance.  I also learned some more and severe worries about building small scale green houses here in the Hilltowns of western Massachusetts – but I plan to see what I can do to circumvent those concerns.  (AKA heavy snow loads being a major one.)  I knew about it, but one large-scale greenhouse manufacturer/provider was not interested in finding me a solution for a small-scale operation.  This is simplifying our conversation, but there it stands.  I appreciate his honesty, though I hope to find a way around this.

In conclusion, I picked up a flyer for “Baby Goat Yoga”.  Goats that massage your back.  Their friendly goats walk on your back and cuddle with you (presumably when they’re not on your back).  I’ve had cats that do a lighter-weight sort of body work – so maybe this is something to consider?  I’m personally dubious but at least somewhat intrigued….


As an 8 pound cat (I am mostly fur), I’d be GLAD to massage your back!  Detail for me if “claws out” or “claws in”… 

Go to these conferences with a willingness to explore, but for two or three things – be personally wary despite a necessary inquisitiveness.  That being said… I just might try the goat thing… maybe.  It could be good… (IF I do try this, I’ll report back.)

A workshop I’d have loved to have seen:  The Science of Assessing and Improving the Health of Your Soil – but the (switched) presenter hails from Amherst, close enough for me to do my own follow-up.  It conflicted with another presentation I wanted to visit.

PS, for your curiosity, I am not getting any kickback or fees for anything I’ve mentioned in this post.  All comments are based on my own observations.   For whatever they’re worth.  But I do stand by what I observed as being what I observed.

Got home at 8:45 pm, and tucked myself into bed.  I am, alas, no longer a Night Owl.

Mid-February, barring a blizzard or ice storm, I plan to attend the Vermont version of their winter NOFA conference.  That one will be a two/three day event (but I’ll only attend the first two days).

Let’s link up to Fiesta Friday.  A fun place to surf some great recipes.
We can also drop by the week’s co-host,  Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau 









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Greek Bronzini Skillet Dish – Whole30

Contains:  Fish, nightshades.  Is: Paleo, Whole30, quick and easy.  


bronzini, greek, seafood, fish, recipe, skillet, whole30, paleo

Optionally, add a couple lemon wedges to this bronzini dish, and you are ready!

Another recipe for Whole30 month.  It’s also intended for Fish Friday Foodies, which has a theme of Mediterranean seafood dishes this month.  Since I’ve been wanting to do Greek (and indeed February will be Greek recipes all over the place), and I also didn’t want to do shrimp or octopus, both very prevalent in Greek recipes — I settled on this idea.  The links to the other participants this month are at the end of this blog post – yes, they will land out this way next week when the Fish Friday Foodies recipe links are truly to appear..  (PS, the list is up!)

bronzini, greek, seafood, fish, recipe, skillet, paleo, Whole30

Bronzini, prior to seasoning. Since it came with the backbone and the tail, I cut this in half after cooking.

bronzini, greek, seafood, fish, recipe, skillet, paleo, Whole30

Pan frying the veggies and such..

I adapted this recipe from Primally Inspired’s blog:  Easy Greek Fish Recipe.  Changes have been minimal.  I halved the recipe, for personal convenience.  I went grape tomatoes instead of cherry (they are easier to find at this time of the year).  I went a bit beyond duty – the “or so” – in my addition of oregano.  (There’s never enough oregano…) I picked my white fish by what looked good when I went shopping, but the preferred fish would be cod.

bronzini, greek, seafood, fish, recipe, skillet, whole30, paleo

Lightly wilted spinach cooks up within a minute and a half.

Feta cheese is optional – but it doesn’t fit in the Whole30 plan, so I omitted it.  I imagine that if you are eating dairy, goat cheese would also work nicely.

bronzini, greek, seafood, fish, recipe, skillet, whole30, paleo


Prep Time: 15 minutes.
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes.
Rest Time: Negligible.
Serves: 2.
Cuisine:  Greek.
Leftovers?  Sure.

Greek Fish Skillet Dish (Bronzini)

  • Approximately 0.75 pounds of bronzini (as two 6 ounce pieces).  Most any white fish will do, and cod is also a good idea. Regards my bronzini, since it came filleted with the backbone and tail still intact, I cooked it as one piece, to cut in half later.
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Sea salt and pepper – to taste.
  • 1/4 or so teaspoon dried oregano.
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil.  
  • 1 small white onion, halved and sliced. 
  • 2 small-ish cloves garlic, minced.  
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes.  If large cherry, slice them in half.
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives.  
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, rinsed.  Compact them a bit.  
  • Optionally provide extra lemon wedges for serving, and if you aren’t doing a Whole 30 (or aren’t lactose-intolerant) also provide feta cheese.  

Take that half a lemon, cut it into yet another half again, and squeeze the juice from that portion over the fish, laid out.  Afterwards, add salt, pepper and oregano over the top of the fish.  (I’m of the opinion that most salt water fish already comes salted, courtesy of the oceans or of the Mediterranean, so I did not use extra salt).

Set a skillet to medium heat, and add the olive oil.  Let this get to temp, then add the onion.  Cook until the onion is softened, up to five minutes.  Add the garlic, another 30 seconds.

Add the tomatoes and olives.  Add the juice from the rest of that lemon half. Cook for about another five minutes, or until the grape tomatoes begin to burst, or until the cherry tomato halves decidedly soften.

Add the fish into the skillet, so that the flesh makes contact with the skillet surface.   Cover and cook for  about 5 minutes (perhaps more if your fish fillet is thick).  When your fish is about a minute or two from being done, add in the spinach, re-cover and continue cooking.

Plate and serve, adding lemon wedges to the side, and proffering feta to those who want it.  Definitely worth my while!

bronzini, greek, seafood, fish, recipe, skillet, Whole30, paleo

The Foodie Shopping Spree wherein I acquired the fish (and some other items) used for this recipe  – and some other food.

bronzoni, recipe, greek, Whole30, Paleo

Kalamata olives, Feta cheese, pita bread, fresh baby spinach, fresh eel, crickets, bronzini, Aussie lamb chops (100% grass fed), grape tomatoes.  All obtained from ShopRite, except the olives (which I’d forgotten to grab at that shop) and the crickets (which are for the chickens, not me!)  

Sharing this recipe at Fiesta Friday:  I’m co-hosting this time around.  Drop on by and enjoy the fun – and some great recipes!

You should also drop by Full Plate Thursday for some additional wonderful recipes.


Fish Friday Foodies January 2020

Mediterranean Fish & Seafood

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Mushrooms with Cumin – A Cold Whole30 Vegan Salad

Contains:  Nightshade.  Is:  Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, Whole30.

recipe, cumin, silk road vegetarian, mushroom, lime, cilantro, coriander leaves, salad

Yes, I could have minced the cilantro more finely than I did here, but the dish also needs a lettuce bed, not called for in the original recipe.  I hadn’t planned on writing this one up here, so there’s a dearth of photos today.

A Whole30 month of recipes!  More info about Whole30 next week…

This is from Dahlia Abraham-Klein’s book, Silk Road Vegetarian:  Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook.  Page 89.  All recipes are vegetarian and apparently gluten-free – a few do contain dairy (which can probably be sourced animal-rennet-free for those vegetarians who look for such).  This recipe was created as a contribution to the CookingBites Cookbook Game, #7.   Yes, I made this back in November, but I play around with optimal posting times on my blog, via a set of logic which probably usually only makes sense to myself.

Prep Time: 15 minutes.
Cook Time: 20 minutes.
Rest Time:  Cool in the fridge.
Serves: 2 as a side. 
Leftovers?  Just refrigerate.

Mushroom Cumin Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil                                                                 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                
  • 8 oz (250 g) baby bella mushrooms, quartered.  (And yes, 250 grams is noticeably a larger amount than 8 ounces, so I cooked to the metric side of this ingredient!)
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin                                                         
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper                                               
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lime                                            
  • 1.5 tablespoons finely chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)    
  1.  Using a medium high heat, add the oil to your skillet.  When the oil comes to temperature (a drop of water splatters), add the garlic.  Sauté about a minute, stirring the skillet.  It is important that the garlic not burn:  either turn down the heat or remove the skillet from the cooktop if necessary.  (I had no issues with this.)
  2. Add mushrooms.  Stir constantly for five minutes.
  3. Now, add cumin, ground red pepper, salt, and the lime juice, reducing the heat to low as you do so.  occasionally.  Cook for about 10 minutes – allowing the mushrooms to release their liquids, and for most of this to evaporate.
  4. Let cool.  Place in the fridge to chill.
  5. When ready to serve, either plate individually over (optional) lettuce, or serve from a bowl.  Garnish with the cilantro (parsley if you don’t use cilantro).

Thoughts on the recipe:  Excellent and simple.  Flavors are awesome, but however, when I make this again, I’d place this once it is chilled on a bed of lettuce – perhaps Romaine, or mixed red and green leaf, or a bit of Boston (depending on mood).  Boston, ATM my first choice, would add some crunch without adding additional flavor – unless, of course, you’d love that.  This recipe is definitely a SIDE.  Those two servings actually became my lunch, since it ended up that I didn’t do this as a side…  I will be making this again, with the lettuce.  (Photo here is for how I actually created this dish this first time as requested.)

PS, my kitchen seriously smells wonderfully Cumin-Like!

Mushroom, salad, Whole30, Paleo, cumin, vegan, recipe

Thoughts on this book:  This is indeed one of my favorite vegetarian cooking resources, and got a shout-out in a recent post discussing the vegetarian cook books on my kitchen book shelf.  I have previously used a couple of the curries in here as a jumping off point for my own vegetarian cooking (although I never on my own keep to exact quantities).

I was drawn into buying this book because I really love good vegetarian and vegan cooking, especially when it comes from cultures that have a long-standing appreciation of cooking real foods of these types.  The Silk Road, as those who remember their history lessons, is the ancient trading route from areas of Asia through the Middle East, into parts of eastern/south-eastern Europe, and into northern Africa.  Indeed, a lot of the spices found their way into the medieval courts of the nobility of England and France.

Although the print is growing rather small for my old eyes (dunno how THAT happens!) this is a great book to keep to hand.  I’m considering what I might make from this next gathering here where I have several vegetarians and one omnivorous but lactose-intolerant individual on my guest list.  Being that the recipes are gluten-free also expands my horizons having this cook book to hand.

This recipe is shared with Fiesta Friday’s link party of recipes.  This week’s co–host is Antonia @

Also shared with Full Plate Thursday, another full plate of a party.


End Of Year Performance Review 2019

Having researched how this blog is performing as a year end review, I need to note that I’m getting most of my hits on Paleo recipes, past or present.  I’ll be returning to more of a Paleo approach (and I think my personal health will prefer this, anyway).  In the highest scoring recipes over the years, Tzatziki  was the main non-Paleo recipe to perform well with regards to the number of hits.  I also get a lot of visits from people seeking out offal recipes – this may well be due to a relative dearth of them on the Internet, however.  So, my recipes for those turn up in search engines faster…

I truly miss Chowstalker/Stalkerville, as a venue for sharing Paleo and Primal and Whole30 recipes.   Can’t be helped, however.  We move on.

I thought that including homesteading posts would increase visits, but while they’ve gained me new subscribers, overall visits have not increased.  However, since homesteading / DIY and related material is now part of my life here at my new home – I’m continuing these, and probably expanding on them.  Life is not entirely about viewing hits!

The most visited 2019 recipe here was:  Sous Vide Country-Style Pork Ribs.

homesteading, New Year's, 2020, ice storm

Late morning, New Year’s Day 2020. The trees are still filled with lovely and photogenic icy latticework, courtesy of the last days of 2019. The sun begins to break through.







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Scottish Skirlie Mash for Hogmanay

Contains:    Nightshades, grains, dairy.  Is:  Vegetarian, gluten-free, quick and easy.

This dish includes potatoes, onions, and oatmeal.  One serving, below.

recipe, hogmanay, scottish, potato, oatmeal, vegetarian, butter, cream

For a full out Hogmanay, you can also make the Cock-a-Leekie soup I posted back for St. Andrew’s Day.   For a good Scottish dessert, there’s also shortcake.

Last year, I went Soul Food & deep South for my New Year’s recipes.  This year, we celebrate Hogmanay, a long-term Scottish tradition.  Oats, potatoes, and onion are important in Scottish cuisine.  And I thought for sure I had parsley left from another recent dish, but alas – so for a fleck of color for photography in this dish, I ended up chopping up a little spinach – parsley would be more appropriate.  (Hey, I could have used cilantro!  NO!)

recipe, vegetarian, scottish, hogmanay, oatmeal, potato, onion, butter, cream

The complete amount of skirlie mash made.

Prep Time:  15 minutes.
Cook Time: 20 minutes.
Rest Time:  A couple minutes. 
Serves: 3 – 4.
uisine:  Scottish.
Leftovers:  Sure, although best served immediately.

Scottish Skirlie Mash

  • 17 ounces / 0.5 kg potato, chopped into large 1-2 inch / 2.5 – 5 cm chunks.  
  • 3 ounces / 85 g butter
  • 1 finely chopped onion.
  • 0.9 – 1 ounce / 25 g regular oatmeal.
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Salt and ground white pepper, to taste.
  • Optional sprinkles of fresh chopped parsley. 

Boil the potatoes until tender, which will be in about 20 minutes.

During that process, heat the butter in a skillet medium high; add onion and saute for about 10 minutes, until soft and perhaps beginning to brown.

Add oatmeal flakes, and stir until the oatmeal absorbs the butter and the mixture looks dry.  Continue cooking (and stirring) until this gets toasted, about five more minutes.  DO NOT let it BURN.  Remove from cooktop and keep warm.  (BTW, this is the “skirlie”.)

Drain potatoes, and return to the hot skillet.  Mash.  Add the cream, parsley and the “skirlie” (the oatmeal preparation).  Season with salt and the white pepper.  Mix again, taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately.  Works best as a side.  If you do have leftovers, as I did, I’d recommend the microwave.  You may wish to mix in a bit more cream to return it to the original moisture level, when re-heating.

recipe, hogmanay, scottish, skirlie mash, potato, onion, oatmeal, butter, dairy

Shared with Farm Fresh Tuesdays.

And, a bit belated, with Full Plate Thursday and with Fiesta Friday.

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Scottish Shortbread, for Hogmanay

recipe, scottish, shortbread, dessert, butter

A large Scottish shortbread “cookie”,

Contains:  Wheat, gluten, added sugars.  Is: A dessert, nut free.  

This is also one of the few desserts in the category of cakes or cookies or pastries that I can eat upon being sourced from a commercial resource (although professional bakeries are usually fine for other items).  Just about all the others one finds in supermarkets have me experiencing belly pain.  But perhaps the answer is in the simplicity – The Walker brand of these things list just THREE ingredients:  Flour.  Sugar.  Butter.  Which right here puts to the test any gluten-intolerance I had thought to be a personal problem once ago.  For me, that is not my case.  (I do choose to limit gluten because I think that the protein can be slowly insidious for some.)  Apparently my issue with supermarket “goodies” of that nature is either a preservative, or perhaps types of faux butter.

Well.  At any rate, January’s recipes will be a month of no gluten, no grains, no dairy, no added sugars with regards to this blog.  (I am not going to be doing a true Whole30, as I have a couple pre-planned outings involving food at other people’s homes during that time, although I’ve done this plan twice in the past.)  But let’s get back to the Scottish shortbread cookies, to see in the Scottish New Year!

recipe, scottish, shortbread, cookie, dessert

Butter and sugar (and vanilla).

Do use real butter – its cooking properties in a dish like this are important, quite apart from potential “lead on the belly” sensations a few of us have.  I will be adding a little real vanilla extract to this recipe.  That will make it a fourth ingredient, but consider it optional.   It’s not a totally traditional addition.

recipe, scottish, shortbread, cookie, dessert

Mixture of the butter, sugar and flour (and vanilla), prior to chilling and cooking.

The celebration of Hogmanay is a traditional Scottish event, and it focuses in on the welcoming of the New Year.   I’ll discuss this a bit more in my next Scottish food post, which will appear within a day or two.

Inspirations.  I also added a bit of vanilla, as some other recipes suggested this.

Prep Time:  1 hour, 15 minutes.
Cook  Time:  45-55 minutes.
Rest Time: Until cool. 
Serves:  30 plus cookies.
Cuisine:  Scottish.
Leftovers?:  Yes, store at room temp in a enclosed container/cookie tin.

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

  • 1 cup / 225 g room temperature salted butter 
  • 1 cup  / 235 mL granulated sugar 
  • 3  cups /  710 mL all-purpose flour, divided.
  • Optional:  0.25 – 0.5 teaspoon real vanilla extract.  

Add the softened salted butter into a large mixing bowl and whisk to spread it out. .

Then add the sugar and optional vanilla, and mix until the mixture is homogeneously combined.  (I got impatient and nuked this for 30 seconds…)

Add in 2.5 cups / 590 mL of the flour,  and fold to combine. When the mixture looks mixed, transfer to a clean working surface and knead briefly. Knead as little as possible to make tender shortbread. Then form a ball and flatten a little. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour to relax the flour in the dough.

Lay out the rest of the flour on a clean surface, and work the chilled dough into it.   Roll dough until 1/2 inch / 1.25 cm thick or a little less.  You can cut the dough now, or put it in an ungreased pan as a whole item.  I chose the latter (using two glass pie pans).  Pierce with a fork hither and yon, as this will help this bake evenly.

Bake at 275 F / 135 C for 50-55 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Remove, and allow to cool completely before cutting. into individual cookies or slices.  Otherwise, as I discovered, they’ll crumble!

This turned out sweeter than I’d prefer, but most folk will be satisfied.

recipe, scottish, shortbread, cookie, dessert


SHARED WITH:  The local community center, as while I like this recipe, I am seriously NOT a sweet tooth!

Fiesta Friday (co-host Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau).

Farm Fresh Tuesdays




Posted in Baked Goods, Cooking, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments