Thursday, July 21, 2016

Excitement on Linden Avenue - streets blocked!!

When I got home, with $100 worth of groceries for this week's baking plus stuff for soap room and for a few good suppers, I couldn't get to Linden. All of the turns off Lincoln Way were blocked. I had to overshoot by about four blocks to be able to get down to Linden. There were guys at the blockades on Linden, not allowing me to turn east onto my street to get to my house.

There was a lightning strike that struck a gas line. Fire! It was a mess. I parked as close to my house as they would let me and headed to the house with the bag of cream, butter and frozen shrimp.

I stopped to take some pictures. It's pretty impressive. The guy who moved the baracade for me told me that the lightning struck the ground and went right through the plastic pipe that carries the gas thoughout this neighborhood. They were in the process of shutting down the gas lines so that no gas was fed to the spot where the fire was burning. The fire trucks were very close to my drive and water hoses were in the street there. I couldn't get home.

I snapped a few pictures, got my perishables into the fridge and freezer and headed back to my car. One of the workers told me that they would be moving the hoses out of the way shortly. The fire was contained and all gas lines were shut off. I made it home about ten minutes later.

This all happened almost directly across the street from me. Phew! Glad it wasn't me. My neighbor has a mess - a tree that will be hard put to survive, and grass that is no more.

Nature's power is a marvelous thing.

Fire on north side of street - gas lines not completely shut down yet.
Mishawaka fire department on the job

Dousing the fire - again!
Still going!

Monday, July 18, 2016

The yard is getting a make-over

I am so happy. I finally found someone to do yard work. This is the year of "The Outside of the House," and it was sorely overdue. Foundation is painted, deck is stained, window ledges are covered in vinyl, front door is trimmed out, exterior lights are installed and the dog tunnel that leads into the basement has been sided and roofed.

Look to the left for dog run pre-makeover
All done! Hal did a great job of siding and roofing for the kids.
Now for the yard!

Down both sides of the foundation, tree stumps are disappearing, weeds and rocks are going, and Antonette's overgrowth of lily-of-the-valley will find a new home! The two old flower beds are going, will be seeded over with grass, low spots in the yard will be filled, and the only things remaining will be the apple tree and two flowering quince bushes. It will be much easier to mow, and my stacks of wood for bonfires, already laid for Lughnasadh and Mabon, are growing.

Nick and Jake working on west side of foundation
East side of foundation, where lily-of-the-valley will go
Old flower bed - it's gotta go!
Lily bed doesn't bloom much, this will be grass, but the flowering quince will stay.

The Rose Garden remains for me to work in. There is one rose bush in the mess that is worth saving. I'll buy new ones, and they must smell divine. Some of my favorites are Mr. Lincoln, Tiffany and Princess Di. I hear that Double Delight and Honey Perfume are intensely scented. I will be looking for them, have never grown either of them. The Rose Garden is my special place. Ayn Chee is buried there. She will be surrounded by tea roses. Miss you, AynChee. Not a day goes by that I don't think of you.

Where Ayn Chee was laid to rest. She will be surrounded by tea roses.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Are you ready for a new recipe?

I had two large chicken breasts in my freezer. I bought them for the skin! Did you know that NOBODY sells chicken skin? And I wanted to make this great recipe for crisp chicken skin with goat cheese and pomegranite seeds. So I bought four whole chicken breasts just to get the skin. LOL I'll give you that recipe later, with my adaptations. But for today, let's use up those chicken breasts! Low carb and delicious. There are a lot of details in this recipe. Those details are the difference between a nice chicken salad and a truly spectacular one. Serves 6.

So if you want, you can grab a roast chicken by the checkout at Meijers, shred it, mix some curry powder into some Miracle Whip and throw it onto the chicken. It's adequate, but if you want to wow yourself and your guests, try this.

First I thawed the chicken breasts, about 2-1/2 lbs. total weight, then put them in a foil lined pan with sides, just large enough for them to fit. (If the pan is too big, they are more apt to dry out. Just another detail to make this recipe so good.) I drizzled some organic vegetable oil over them, about a tablespoon on each, then salted well. This is the only chance to get the salt into the chicken meat, so don't be shy! I used about a fourth tsp. on each breast.

A very necessary kitchen tool for me is an instant read thermometer. You can get them at Meijer or Target for around $8. Here's why you need that thermometer. I baked the breasts at 400º for 30 minutes, then checked the temp. One was done ("done" is 160º), the other, larger one, wasn't even close. I removed the breast that was done and put on plate, continued cooking the other breast until it too reached 160º, which took nearly 10 more minutes. Be sure to check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast, and make sure the tip of the thermometer is not hitting bone. This is so important! Overcook and the meat is dry. Undercook and you are risking salmonella! Neither option is acceptable.

The chicken breasts need to cool until you can handle them. Pour any pan juices over them so they can be reabsorbed. This makes for juicier chicken. Even if you are coating it with mayo, veggies and spices, you still want each individual bite of chicken to be tender and juicy. I know, I'm going on and on, but these little differences are the things that will make a memorable dish.

By the time you are done making the dressing, the chicken will be cool enough to handle. And if it is still a little warm, I think it absorbs the dressing better. If you want to refrigerate the cooled chicken until later, though, you can delay making the final salad for up to two days.

Here are the ingredients for the dressing:

  • 2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 very thin slices of red onion from a medium onion, finely chopped (Onions have carbs, but finely chopping them will give you a nice burst of flavor from a minimal amount of onion.)
  • 3 tbsp. roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1 C. real mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. raisins (They are full of carbs, even more than the onions have, but if you chop them, you can get a surprising amount of flavor out of just one tablespoon.)
  • 2-1/2 tsp. good curry powder
  • 1 tsp. honey (leaving out the honey will save you 1 g. carbs per serving, but . . .)
  • 3 tbsp. roughly copped walnuts
Throw all of the dressing ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine. Then shred or chop the chicken and add to the dressing. If there are accumulated juices on the plate from the chicken, by all means add them to the bowl as well. That is pure flavor!

Chill for at least an hour, and serve on a chilled plate with a few cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime for squeezing. The second picture shows the salad with half of a low carb roll. Recipe later for the rolls.

Update: Here are the nutritional values for this recipe, first line for serving 6, second line for heartier servings, serving 4. For only two more carbs, you can stuff the "serves 6" amount into a low carb roll, for a total of only 6.5 carbs. It's a meal. You will be full if you eat this on the roll. The recipe for the rolls is coming. I'm still working on it. I am not getting the texture shown in the pictures, so there is something in the recipe that they are not telling us. When I figure it out, I will post the original recipe with my updates so that you are happy with the end result.

                         Carbs/ Fat/ Protein/ Calories
Six servings:     4.5    36.0     22.5     438.5
Four servings:   6.7    53.9     33.8     657.8

Bon appetit.

Recipe by Susan Siemers, from Devonshire House Dishes.

Curried Chicken Salad

Curried Chicken Salad with half a low carb roll

Thursday, July 14, 2016

What is ketosis?

In a previous blog, SUGAR AND YOU (click on link to read blog), I maligned sugar and spoke about ketosis. I provided few details about ketosis in that blog, so here is a little more to chew on, including why a ketogenic diet might be just what you need to improve your waistline as well as your mental attitude.

Those following a ketogenic diet are doing so for a variety of reasons. For most people, it is to lose a few pounds, especially belly fat. For others it is a medical necessity. Children with epilepsy who are non-responsive to drugs to prevent seizures can be helped by a ketogenic diet - in fact it is successful in lowering the number of seizures in more than a third of such cases. In addition, some of them are cured - yes, I said cured - of ever having another seizure by staying in ketosis for two years or so. Of course, these children are under medical supervision.

When I had my farm, we had a raw milk association. In Indiana, you may not sell raw milk for human consumption, but if a person owns a share of a cow, then they can legally consume their own raw milk. One of our shareholders, when she learned of my ketogenic diet, told me that both of her sons had been plagued with epileptic seizures. They were both hospitalized to get into ketosis, and from that time forward, neither had another seizure. After two years, they were able to eat anything they wanted. It was as if their brains had been retrained during the two years of ketosis. Like I said, some are cured.

She showed me little cards she still carried in her wallet to warn well-meaning mothers that her boys couldn't have so much as a bite of cake or a spoonful of ice cream at the birthday party. She always brought their own "legal" treats, so they could participate without fear of a seizure.

Think of that, a diet to cure epilepsy! Some children are subjected to brain surgery. Wouldn't you want to try a diet first? So what is a ketogenic diet? Here goes, my explanation of keto diets.

We burn carbohydrates for quick energy. Our body pretty much doesn't have to do anything with the sugar - it goes right to our brain and sets to work. (If you are interested in the details, there is a good book called Life Without Bread. Chapter 3 explains how the body utilizes carbohydrates, and it is quite different from how it works with protein and fat. You will enjoy it if you are a wonk like me who likes to look at the mechanics of things.)

I hear many people say, "You have to have carbohydrates for energy!" And yet I have a friend, George, who is on a keto diet, has been for years, and he runs marathons. He went through an adjustment period, but now he has no lack of energy when running on bacon and eggs. No pasta for him!

So how is it that George can run marathons without carb loading prior to running? Our body is a wondrous thing! If we don't eat carbs, our body manufactures a replacement, something called ketones, derived from the bacon and eggs (fat and protein). Our body is more than happy to use these ketones for energy. Yes, you can cross the finish line on ketones.

Those of us on a ketogenic diet usually check our urine daily. If we are utilizing ketones for energy, there will be evidence of it because we throw excess ketones into our urine. The Ketostix (the brand I use) will turn color, and it will tell me that I ate right yesterday. And depending on the color, it will tell me just how right I ate.

I am on a ketogenic diet for mood control, and I usually know before I get out of bed what color the stick will be. If I'm in ketosis, I am not so restless, definitely NOT depressed, and feel focused. The stick rarely tells me something I hadn't already figured out. While some will argue that they are not very useful, I kept careful records of my keto readings for six months, which included a diary of my thoughts and feelings each day. I stand by the Ketostix.

Now on to ketoacidosis. When I tell people I have been in ketosis for over six years, I often hear, from people with some knowledge of ketones and/or diabetes, that I can ruin my kidneys by going too far and going into ketoacidosis. They are right, of course, but it is hard enough for me to stay at a reading of 5, 15 or 40, so I cannot imagine eating a diet that would get me all the way to ketoacidosis. What would I have to eat? Maybe a pound of Crisco? With a pound of hamburger? Not going to happen!

Stay tuned to this blog for more about low carb eating and how it impacts our health.

Bon appetit.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sugar and you

Energy from our food comes from three sources - protein, fat and carbohydrates. Most foods are a combination of at least two of them. Our bodies and our brains handle them differently. While fats and proteins follow one path, carbohydrates take a different one, a path that will influence your ability to think and how much weight you carry around your waist, to name a couple.

Why should you care? Remember that the carbohydrates in the food you eat has to be metabolized differently, you know, the "different path." What many people miss is that many supposedly innocent foods are loaded with carbohydrates - a.k.a.sugar! As a low carber, of course I avoid the obvious things like sugar, bread and pasta. But did you know that fruit is full of carbohydrates? Even fresh fruit, even organic fruit. I just don't eat it. Did you know that all root vegetables have a lot of carbs? We all might think about potatoes, but what about turnips and carrots? Full of carbs. If it grows beneath ground level, I just avoid it. And how about a glass of wine or beer with dinner? Nope. Both are full of carbs!

If your breakfast is a bowl of cereal, even without any added sugar, and maybe a piece of toast, washed down with a glass of orange juice, you are setting up your brain to tell you to eat more in just a couple of hours. You are whetting your appetite for carbohydrate laden food for the rest of the day. If you don't believe me, try this breakfast and tell me how long it takes for you to be hungry again.
  • Scramble three eggs in a tablespoon of butter.
  • Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Top with a little more soft butter
  • Eat and enjoy.
  • Have a glass of water and some coffee, black
  • STOP
I can almost guarantee you that you will not even think about food for four or five hours. Try it! Just for one day. Please!! And if you do, let me know how it works for you. (I hear how low carb diets are so expensive, but eggs are very cheap. Deviled eggs - yum! Egg salad, also yum. Mayo is pretty inexpensive as well.) While I'm not a fan of soy, black organic soy beans do make a great salad. (Don't use black turtle beans - they are FULL OF CARBS.) Drain and rinse, then add homemade vinegar and oil dressing (or check the label on the stuff from store to find some without carbs), crumbled feta cheese, cilantro or mint and a tablespoon of very finely chopped red onion for a little seasoning. Not too many onions though. They fall into the "root vegetable" category. Then salt and pepper to taste. It's an occasional treat for me.

Your will see references to "ketosis" and "ketogenic diet" in this blog. There will be more about that in my next blog. For now, it's enough to know that a ketogenic diet is one very low in carbohydrates and very high in fats. Details later.

Here are some good reasons to start cutting sugar and carbohydrates out of your diet - obviously not all of them, but virtually everyone should be able to happily live on 100 grams of carbohydrates a day. (You can record your consumption at - no cost to join for an eye-opening view of just how many carbs you are eating.) 
  1. Your brain will thank you. You will think more clearly. I know people who have been able to cut out antidepressants when eating a low carb diet. About 35% of epileptics will experience reduced seizures, and in many cases a complete cure, with a very low carb diet (under 50 grams per day). Although the study was very small, two women with bi-polar disorder were able to cease taking any medication with a very low carb diet. Children with autism are known to function better with a very high fat, very low carbohydrate diet. Don't take my word for it - start googling!
  2. Your waistline will thank you. Nothing will get rid of belly fat better than the good old-fashioned Atkins diet. You really don't have to pack the pounds around your waistline. Really! Go to the Atkins site for a lot of support and good recipes. It's free.
  3. Your heart will thank you. Your triglyceride level is a more effective measurement of heart health (or lack thereof) than your cholesterol reading. Speaking for myself only, when I went into ketosis with a very low carb diet, my reading fell from 105 to 53. Not too shabby! Yup, my total cholesterol reading went up, but my ratio of HDL to LDL is very good. 
  4. Your blood sugar will thank you. Google "the use of a ketogenic diet in controlling type 2 diabetes" and read all about it. Sadly, the average age of the onset of Type 2 diabetes is getting lower and lower. Soda isn't the only culprit. The hamburger bun isn't good, either, and French fries, and cereal, and pancakes with syrup, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Eating too many carbs increases insulin resistance, which of course leads to Type 2 diabetes, but also is a part of metabolic syndrome associated with heart disease. Can you imagine how much less this country would spend on medical care if we cut back on the carbs in our diet? It's going to be hard to do with the push for vegetarianism, the malignment of meat, and nutritionist encouraging the consumption of whole grains. There really are no "good" carbs, just foods with carbs that have offsetting advantages, such as kale, cauliflower and nuts, to name a few.
So with increasing publicity for paleo and low carb diets, why do people still eat all of the carbs? Because sugar a.k.a. carbohydrates make us feel good - at least temporarily. Short term pleasure vs. long term health? I know what most people choose. A friend of mine was on statins, knew how bad they were, but she loved her sweets, and she said she could eat more sweets if she took statins. Really? 

So if you want to try a low carb diet, here are some tips.
  1. Go to Atkins (or another is and record your food for a couple of days just to see where you are with your current diet. If you are doing this for weight loss, record your weight.
  2. Strive for a menu that is 10% to 15% carbohydrates, 65% fat and 20% to 25% protein. Don't make the mistake of replacing carbohydrates with protein. Replace them with fat, really.  And stay away from polyunsaturated and trans fats. Best are saturated fat and monounsaturated fat. If you want to fry something, using lard or clarified butter is better than olive oil because they can be heated to a higher temperature without damaging them. But by all means use olive oil for salad dressing or a light sautéof vegetables.
  3. Try eating this way for just one day. Don't decide about what you are going to do tomorrow until you get up tomorrow. One day at a time - it works. Really.
  4. Have some good foods on hand. Get eggs! You can buy a pack of 24 eggs at Meijers for less than $2.00. Cauliflower can be used for everything you would do with potatoes, including really good mashed "potatoes" and "potato" salad.
  5. Read the labels when you shop. Take your smart phone with you and look up carb count of fresh vegetables that don't carry nutritional labels. Don't bother to look up the fruit. Just stay away from it for the time being. When checking for carb count, you can deduct the fiber from it - so if something has 10 carbs per serving but 2 grams of fiber, your net carb count would be 8.
  6. I don't have to tell you not to eat between meals because you won't want to. But should you get the urge, have a BIG glass of water. If you still want something, eat a few nuts, walnuts being the best choice, or maybe a couple of Brazil nuts. You will be fine. Really.
  7. My biggest challenge is the desire to nosh in the evening. If you ate a "proper" dinner, e.g. a hamburger with no bun, mustard and/or mayo instead of ketchup, and a side of mashed cauliflower with plenty of butter, at least your stomach and your brain will not be telling you to eat. But the evening munchies is kind of a bad habit. Not sure what to tell you. Just bite the bullet, and eventually it will be time for bed. And BTW, you will sleep better on this regimen.
  8. Focus on what you CAN eat, not on what you can't eat. Steak on the grill topped with blue cheese and a side of greens swimming in olive oil? No problem! Here is another site with great recipes, one I use a lot. Linda's Low Carb Recipes
I would like very much to get a group together to hold each other up and give encouragement to stay on a low carb way of eating. If you are interested, be sure to send me a comment on this blog. And now, here is a picture of your brain on cocaine, and your brain on sugar. Really!

There are nice red spots in the middle of those green blobs in a healthy brain! I don't see any here. Do you?

Monday, July 11, 2016



I found the wasp nest. I thought I had checked out the grill and sprayed it well enough, but yesterday when I grabbed my spatula off the hook to flip my lamb burger, several wasps came flying out of a hole near the hook. I ran in the house. Couldn't spray while meat was cooking, but I sneaked out and got the burger off the grill and then sprayed the critters. Another little house since I took care of the last one a couple of weeks ago. They have been busy as bees -- or wasps. Sigh . . .


This Roomba is so much better than my old one! She is in the dining room now. Company coming for dinner tonight, so she is going to be busy all day. It takes her about an hour to do dining room and kitchen, then another hour to do living room. She has to go back to the charger between jobs. Last but not least, I will haul her upstairs. It will take her about an hour and a half to do my bedroom, bathroom and upper hall landing. Love her!!!!


I do at least one load a day. It will be two today because I'm about to go downstairs and make soap. I cannot imagine life without a good dishwasher. Bosch - they make the best. Quiet, and the dishes only need a quick rinse to get any loose bits off. Then it does what is supposed to do - wash the dishes. :)

Washing machine:

Only one load to do today. It's working on it. When I was a new bride in my 12-room farmhouse, I used a wringer washer, no dryer. Nope, I don't want to "make America great again." Men have no concept of what women contributed to the running of a household in the last century.

Soap Room:

There is plenty to do in the soap room today, but it is good to have it so well organized here. At the farm, not so much. Here, everything is close at hand. Even my soap molds are well organized now. Here is a pic of my new setup.

Soap molds - easy to find which ones I want!

So good to have my machines. Allen reminded me that I called my old Roomba Hazel, which will be appreciated by those old enough to remember the TV show that featured a maid named Hazel. My machines are my Hazel. So very thankful for them.

I'm watching the morning sun creep across the yards as I write. So beautiful!

Have a good day. I will.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Lamb burger hot from the grill!

Here is my recipe for Lamb Burgers. I sold lamb for a local farmer for a while, so wanted to develop some recipes, and IMHO this was my best. In the pic, it is served with black soybean salad and some organic cucumber slices. If served with no bun, this recipe is very low carb.

Lamb Burgers with Moroccan spices

Makes two large lamb burgers

12 oz. ground lamb
One fourth medium onion, sliced thin and finely diced
One small egg
2 tbsp. panko bread crumbs
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp. Ras el Hanout – purchase at Ceres & Co. Booth 50
¼ tsp. toasted and ground cumin seeds
¾ tsp. ground black pepper
¾ tsp. sea salt

2 tbsp. sour cream
2 tbsp. real mayonnaise
1 medium garlic clove, grated
¼ tsp. dried dill weed
Pinch coriander
Pinch toasted and ground cumin
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Mix together with hands all of the burger ingredients and form into two large patties.  Pat them out so that the centers are a little thinner than the edges so that they cook evenly.  They will flatten out as they cook.

Heat a heavy iron skillet and put a thin film of oil in it.  I use bacon fat, or you can use olive oil.  Heat the pan to medium hot and add the burgers.  Fry five minutes on each side, then remove to a large plate and let sit for about five minutes while you make the topping.

Mix all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Put one burger on each plate and top with half of the sauce.  Sprinkle with cilantro, if you like. 

These are very low carb if you eat them with no bun.

Bon appetit.

Recipe by Susan Siemers 

Hot off the grill!