Thursday, December 24, 2009

Relocating and Reculturing Myself

I have been in the process of relocating my life for the past few months. Living in Minnesota for the past 22 years with its winters was very hard on me physically, and therefore psychologically. I have been looking for somewhere else to be for years. This hasn’t been an easy task, but the primary focus has been to get somewhere significantly warmer with more sunshine so that I can gain another level of health. My aim is always to increase my capabilities and quality of life, to overcome my disabilities by addressing what causes or exacerbates my diseases.

Ironically enough, I had to get well enough to leave MN before I could get to a place that would increase my health and well-being. For the longest time, it seemed like I would never be able to leave MN because I was in a feedback loop; I was not well enough to relocate, but not ever going to get well enough to relocate due to the current location’s deleterious effects of my health. For years, I felt like I was on a mouse wheel, going around and around but getting nowhere different. In hindsight, I guess I was developing some “muscle strength” to run on something other than a wheel! At least I was perseverant in my efforts to get well despite the feelings and outward appearances of no progress for long periods of time.

Almost unbelievably, I am finally out of MN and living in Tennessee, where it gets hot and humid in the summer. This is a marked accomplishment for me. And, it is a testament to how well I am actually doing in the present due to my prior hard work. My determination has been rewarded! The winter is not white with temperatures constantly below freezing. Below freezing temperatures are infrequent here. As I watch the blizzards hit Minnesota one after another this year, comparing their negative degree temperatures with some days getting up to 60 here, I feel relieved that I am no longer living in the land of ice and snow.

It’s much easier to move around without constant frozen precipitation. I don’t have to wear as many layers of clothing. I don’t have to worry if part of my body will be exposed long enough to get frostbite in a matter of seconds. I don’t feel frigidly cold all the time. It doesn’t take as long to drive on roads that have exposed concrete and asphalt, without the help of salt and sand. No more slip and slide everywhere I go. No more fear of potentially falling down with every step. (At least once a winter in MN I fell. There were maybe a handful in the last few years when I managed to avoid it, but it is a common experience.) Life is less threatening in TN for the winter because there are fewer climate hazards to deal with here.

Since I grew up in the South, it isn’t a total culture shock for me to be in Tennessee, even after a couple of decades as a Northerner. And, America is America despite regional differences. It’s not as though I moved to a place in the world where wheat and starch products aren’t the major staple of “everyone’s” diet. My basic food challenges will still have to be met. I am hunting for a new meat farmer to call my own! I miss my Farmer Bob, and many other things about MN. After all, if it hadn’t been for the winter and it’s lengthy duration, I would not have chosen to leave that cultural milieu. But, the winters were enough of a burden for me to carry that I felt an absolute need to get out as soon as possible, despite the risks involved in relocating. My need for better health and well-being trumped all else.

It is hard to make “sacrifices” for my health- even though facing the fear of the unknown has become routine for me. I am constantly giving up things that I know for new things that I don’t know so intimately, if at all, as I create my new life. It is hard to give up known cons for the potential of worse unknown cons that come with taking any new risk for the potential pros involved. Sometimes, risk pans out and success is achieved. Sometimes, risk results in a failure, or a learning experience, otherwise known as an opportunity disguised as a challenge.

It is hard to embrace change, again and again- especially when I think that I have just “landed” somewhere “secure.” Sometimes, I just want to rest for a while instead of always being on guard. It would be nice and easy to live in a world of stable and consistent “facts” instead of change and ambiguity, which requires constant attention, effort, and learning. When I exchanged wheat flour for almond flour, I thought that I had found something permanent and safe to live by. As it turns out, I was incorrect. It was only temporary. Something even more different was waiting around the corner for me to discover and to embrace- a new way of being in the world, my very own special subculture within a subculture.

Learning different and new ways of doing things in the world, ways of being, ways of interacting with others around me, this all has to happen regularly for me to get well. My world view has to be ever evolving. I have to bend (and bend- this way, then that way, then yet another direction, blowing in the wind) or I will break. I have to choose to change my culture in order to live. It is not only the culture in which other people surround me socially as part of a location, but also the culture within my body that I am changing.

Relocating is part of reculturing myself. I am reordering my microbial balance, my intestinal flora and fauna, in the same way that I am changing my external surroundings. I am promoting what I want and neglecting to develop that which I don’t want in my environments. And, I went to the extreme of changing my larger environment to promote my own development. Support is positively correlated with success, so it makes sense to get as much of it as possible in all ways. I happen to need a lot of warmth and sunshine! (I often like to think of myself as a tropical shade plant. That kind of thing really can’t grow naturally in MN.)

I am reculturing myself daily with intention, even when it seems as though I am getting nowhere. It is only a space that translates nowhere into now here. I have a new opportunity to be in a more supportive environment for my health and well-being in Tennessee. I will not be spending so much energy fighting what hurts me, the cold of Minnesota. I can get on with more joyful experiences! I am beginning to relax from some of the tension that I have been carrying with me from always being on high alert.

The only thing constant is change, so the saying goes. What’s next, then? Now what?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pause in my blog activity

I am in transition from Minnesota to Tennessee for my health. I will post again soon, including my last cooking video from MN on meatballs and sauce...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ode to Farmer Bob Otis

Three years ago I found Farmer Bob and his exquisite meats. It didn't take me long to figure out his meats were not only better in taste but also in quality. I had been consuming organic, free roaming and ranging meats from Whole Foods. Little did I understand back then about the differences! 

I have since learned that certified organic meat isn't necessarily what I am looking for in my quest for health. What matters more is how the animal has lived, what it has eaten, all the medications it is given, and so on. In short, everything matters, not just the qualifications for organic certification from the FDA. 

Most industrial meats are finished with corn. This also includes most industrial organic meats such as those from Whole Foods. Cows and steers are not meant to eat corn. It is not a natural part of their diet. When they are fed corn, it causes them massive indigestion and gas. The gas build up is so great that they would suffocate to death if they weren't given medicine to reduce the bloat. The corn fattens them up so that they weigh more for slaughter bringing in more money. It is a capitalistic approach that completely disregards the natural order. It is a condition forced on the animals in the name of profit. 

Unfortunately for us humans, as well as the poor cows and steers, this is terrible for our health. All pollutants that the animal comes into contact with are stored in its fats. So, any and all toxins are passed on to you and I as the eaters. Antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, fertilizers, and all sorts of chemical residues from industrial farming still reside in the fat. If the animal has been fed grasses, or grains that it shouldn't be eating to begin with, that have been treated industrially then all of those chemicals are effecting the animal. That means they are all effecting the health of consumers. 

A sustainable farm, such as the Otis Family Farm, grows the grasses that the cows eat. It doesn't contain the animals with an "option" for them to go outside in the name of free roaming and ranging. The animals really do live outside wandering around. Farmer Bob actually has to catch the turkeys for Thanksgiving! 

I like to order a quarter of a steer at a time from Farmer Bob. That way I can talk to him about how I want the meat processed. I have the option to have parts like the tongue and liver put into the ground beef or as whole parts. The animal is slaughtered just for me and the cuts of meat come labeled with my name. I can either pick it up at the St. Paul Farmer's Market or arrange for him to drop it off at my house for a small gas fee. I keep a small freezer in my basement to house all of the meat. 

Along with beef, Otis Family Farms also raises chicken, lamb, turkey, and pork. They even have their own bees to pollinate the plants grown for the animals. You can also buy processed meats such as sausages and flavored chicken, but they are made using typical preservatives that I cannot consume. His eggs are so yummy, and the yolks trend orange instead of yellow. 

I would strongly urge you to try real free roaming and ranging, organic (even if not certified) meats from a local farmer. I can't even begin to tell you how satisfying it is to develop a relationship with the person who raises your food. For me, it has meant all the difference in my health. I feel as though Farmer Bob has given me life, and a much higher quality of life, by taking such good care of his farm and animals. I have depended on him for pure food on my table at every meal. He has been one of the most important people in my recovery process. I owe him a lot!  

Knowing the person that raises my food really connects me to my community. I love hearing the updates about what has been happening on the farm each week when I visit Farmer Bob at the market. He will tell me about the antics the animals have been up to. I am not detached from how my food made it to my table. I am very grateful for this fine food, and for Farmer Bob Otis. 

Otis Family Farms
Year round at the St. Paul Farmer's Market
290 E. 5th St. 
Lowertown St. Paul, MN 55101
Corner of Wall and 5th Streets

or give Farmer Bob a call at 715-338-0237

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Some Mistakes I've Made with SCDiet

1) Only paying attention to WHAT food is allowed and not including the WHEN, HOW, WHY. Yes, it is important to know what is "legal" and "illegal" to eat, but that is not the only consideration. There is a reason for the introductory part of the diet- it soothes the gut on top of eliminating foods that cannot be digested properly. Chicken soup, made from the whole chicken, skin and bones, has healing properties. Gelatin works wonders for upset tummies. Food has now become medicine for me, so I decide what to eat based on how I am feeling and performing. Whenever my stomach revolts, it is time to have chicken stock.

2) Eating too much product made from nuts- especially almond flour. Eating the same thing all the time because it is "legal" on SCDiet is a good way to attain a new food intolerance issue. Because I was trying to eat American and replace bread products with similar substances made out of almond flour, I now cannot tolerate any almond flour or almond products. Nuts are hard for any person to digest, and many people on SCDiet cannot tolerate them. I finally had to give up on trying to make replacement foods for the SAD (Standard American Diet) foods that are considered ever so important in our culture. Why on earth was I trying to mimic the diet that got me and so many other Americans sick? Duh, that's not a good idea.

3) Cheating every now and again because I "needed a treat" for being so "good" the rest of the time. Cheating is just a form of cruelty. It isn't being nice at all, not even for just a moment. That moment will produce many more moments of hurt. Limits and discipline can actually set a person free. When I feel good, there's less need for something to soothe me; so, keeping the machine in good working order with routine maintenance is better than fixing it after it breaks from neglect. Cheating just means more mess to clean up, and it departs from pursuing the goal of wellness. The times when I think that I want to cheat the most are the times when it would be the worst to do so. Those are weak moments in need of more support, not justification for self-abuse.

4) Going off the diet too early because I was "better." I started adding in "illegal" food as soon as I thought I could handle it. Because I had been so sick for so long, it didn't take a ton of improvement for me to call it success. If only I had comprehended just how far I had yet to go, and how much set back this behavior caused me, then I would not have strayed. If an injured player is put back on the field before the injury is healed, then the likelihood of that player incurring further injury that could end his/her playing career forever is high. Why risk it for one game or one season when I have my WHOLE LIFE ahead of me? Is it more important to live and live well, or to eat a particular food for 30 seconds in my mouth?

These are not the only mistakes I have made.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

10 Practices for Best Nutrition

1) Eat the widest variety of foods you can tolerate. Every food has different nutritional content, so eating the widest variety of food that you can tolerate means you will get the most nutrients. Some sources of nutrients are easier to access in some foods than in others, and some require a combination in order to maximize nutritional value.

2) Eat food in a variety of formats from raw to well done and every point in between. Food releases different nutrients based on how it is prepared. Some nutrients can only be gleaned from eating a food raw, while others are only accessible through cooking. You will get the most every food has to offer if you can eat it prepared in many different ways. This helps to keep food interesting, too!

3) Eat as many colors in the rainbow as you can daily. Every color of food has different nutrients. Mixing and matching food colors means you get the widest array of nutrients on top of having something visually enticing to eat.

4) Eat whole foods as often as possible. Whole foods are much more nutritious for the body than partial foods. For instance, eating a whole apple will not spike your blood sugar level while drinking apple juice will. Nature put everything in there for a reason. (Seeds and stems don't count.)

5) Eat organically as often as possible. Organic foods tend to have more nutritional value than industrial foods, on top of NOT having the pesticides and other nasty chemicals grown into their skin. NOT getting poisoned on top of more nutrition is good.

6) Eat seasonal food from local, sustainable farms. Food that is picked ripe and has traveled little is way more nutritious than food that has been picked unripe and travelled half way around the world. You actually create a kind of carbon footprint, or ecological debt, when you buy food from around the world because of what it really costs to ship it. Sustainable farming means that the farm will not be void of nutrients in the soil within a few years. It means that the land and animals are cared for in a way that promotes ongoing life instead of sacrificing tomorrow in the name of today. You are helping to save the planet on top of yourself with this practice!

7) Eat fat, protein, and carbohydrates at every meal. Fat, protein, and carbohydrates are all critical for body functions. Depriving your body of what it needs routinely will result in nutritional deficiency, bodily breakdowns, and disease. Find the balance that is right for you.

8) Chew thoroughly before swallowing. Digestion starts with the eyes and nose, but the mouth is very important. Chewing thoroughly means that your tummy and gut have an easier time breaking the food down further. All of the digestive juices get flowing with a good chew.

9) Eat foods in rotation. Eating a food for 24 hours then not for 96 hours keeps you in good variety and reduces any likelihood of developing an intolerance or allergy to any particular food. When you can't just eat anything that other people can and your grocery list is limited, this also becomes important for maintaining interest in the foods you can eat.

10) Eat foods that promote the health desired. Eating foods that contain the nutrients needed to address illness is the best way to support the body towards health and well-being. I continue to be amazed at the power of food, the fuel of our very lives. You are what you eat!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tomato Soup Recipe & How-To Video

Tomato Soup by Arden Durham



12 medium/large ripe tomatoes (my favorite are beefsteak)

1 tablespoon course Celtic sea salt

Season with basil, oregano, thyme, hot peppers, you choose!


Large glass pot

Medium glass pot


Heat resistant spatula

Spoon rest

Electric hand held immersion blender

Mesh strainer



Serrated knife

Cutting board



* Wash tomatoes and core out where the stem was connected.
* Cut tomatoes in the large glass pot so as not to lose any juices and give them a good squeeze.
* Add course Celtic sea salt.
* Heat on high until they come to a boil, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.
* Reduce heat to a simmer, mash then stir making sure nothing is stuck to the bottom.
* Repeat mashing and stirring every few minutes until you feel there is no longer any resistance left in the tomatoes, about 8-10 minutes.

* Use the electric immersion hand blender to liquefy the remaining pulp.
* Ladle into the mesh strainer in the medium pot.
* Push everything you can through, at first by stirring then by using the back of the spoon- you should only have a spoonful of waste (seeds and skin) left to discard.
* Scrape the outside of the strainer between rounds of ladling to make it easier and keep the soup thick.
* Season to taste.
* You can use this as a base for vegetable soup, the beginnings of ketchup, or reduce it for paste, etc.

Tip: Let the heat do most of the work for you, and if you cover as often as possible this will help.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Insensitive Ignorant

Whenever it comes up that I cannot eat wheat products, someone will inevitably exclaim something like, "Oh, I just couldn't live without bread!" 

I have two well rehearsed responses to this kind of declaration. 

One is more polite and diplomatic and it goes like this, 
"It's amazing what you can live without if it means you will live." 

Another is not so polite and confronts the premise directly and goes like this, 
"Then if you were me, you would be dead." 

Over a decade of this same scenario has played out. I'm using the second phrase more frequently. Meeting me may be the first time someone has ever been confronted with such a notion, but I have had to deal with hundreds of such ignorant interactions. Forgive me if my patience is wearing thin when I did not ask to be this kind of educator. I try to be kind, but I would like some of that compassion directed back my way!

This is not just because the person is insensitive due to ignorance. I mean, not many people feel free to walk up to a person in a wheel chair and say, "Oh, I just couldn't live without walking." Most people have become sensitive to certain kinds of differently abled people being in their midst and appreciate what they can do. But, people do not see my disease and disabilities in the same way- mostly because they are not visible in the same ways and I became a master of covering what has been visible. Most folks simply don't understand that food can be deadly, especially if they eat it and are "fine." 

I also say these things to remind myself. It is challenging to deal with constant peer pressure, put downs, disbelief, dismissal, and all sorts of other negative emotional influences people throw out there. "You can't possibly be right!" "That doesn't make any sense!" "One taste can't be that big of a deal." "I would be so depressed if I had to live the way you do." Those are exactly the thoughts and premises that will get me into trouble, and they illuminate how American culture embraces justifications, rationalizations, and excuses. It's really not too hard to be in control over what goes in my mouth. Just a taste will hurt. I really don't need people encouraging me to hurt myself for a 30 second experience in my mouth. That's not very nice. I wish folks would stop doing that- and then my life would be less depressing! 

I am breaking the food addiction of American culture. 

Where there is a will, there is a way. 

Monday, September 7, 2009

Part 2: Childhood Food Clues

Fortunately for me, my mother did cook daily when I was a child, and she did it well. She used real, whole foods and it was rare that anything came out of a can. Mostly, we ate beef roasts and two vegetables for dinner. Rarely did a dinner include wheat as an intricate ingredient, but sometimes slices of white bread were available on a plate. This is one of the blessings of my childhood that probably kept my symptoms from being even worse. I was having one meal a day that was relatively gluten, starch, and sugar free.

My mother cooked as long as my father was home for dinner. When he was not, we ate microwaveable meals, pizza or fast food as a treat. Unfortunately for me, my father lived separately from me and my mother for the first time when I was 13 and my mother ceased to cook. My sister was already long gone out of the household as she has almost a decade on me. I was content to eat Lean Cuisine and Stouffer’s microwavable meals. If my mother wanted to be liberated from the kitchen, then I wanted her to be free. After all, food is food, no matter what it is or where it comes from- or so I thought.

My lunches were the same as they had always been in school, a sandwich (white bread, processed deli meat, pre-sliced processed cheese) with corn chips and juice. They started to include Little Debbie snacks, too. I had discontinued breakfast as any kind of routine in junior high because it caused me to feel ill. I settled for a glass of orange juice. In elementary school breakfast was usually milk and cereal and it never really sat well. I would often feel nauseous if I smelled cooking fat smoke in the morning. I would snack on corn chips or cake snacks after school. I had a real sweet tooth, otherwise known as an addiction to sugar, as well. I consumed candy whenever I could. So, once my mother quit cooking, I was eating almost all processed, industrial food. My symptoms gradually got worse the more of these foods I ate, but I did not make the association. Food as the source of illness wasn’t even close to a thought in my mind.

My mother and I lived with my father again for my freshman year of high school, and most of the time she cooked again. He left again at the beginning of my sophomore year and I expanded my range of microwavable foods. Every year I was missing more school because I was ill with one thing or another, acutely and chronically, labeled and treated or not. I occasionally tried my own hand at cooking, a lot of times vegetarian, but I wasn’t very good at it and the lack of reward meant I could count on both hands how often this happened. I also began to eat out with friends once I had my driver’s license. I would get a home cooked meal every now and again at my friend’s house. Late in high school, I was tested for allergies, received shots for a year or so, but never followed the direction not to eat citric acid. This was the first food clue. I ignored it completely. I mean, citric acid seemed to be in everything, and it couldn’t be making that much of a difference- so I persisted in denial of even trying to eliminate a source of conflict for my body. I chose to stay ignorant to feeling good.  

Sunday, August 30, 2009

yogourmet multi

I use the yogourmet multi electric yogurt maker.

I also have an additional insert so that I can start making more yogurt or french cream before I've finished my last batch. 

I use only one kind of their starters.

I have altered my yogourmet multi with a dimmer switch in order to control the temperature.

French Cream (thick yogurt or Creme Bulgare) Recipe & How-To Video

French Cream (Thick Yogurt)by Arden Durham

2 quarts 1/2 & 1/2
4 packets yogourmet Freeze-dried yogurt starter & Crème Bulgare starter

2 small glass-measuring cups
2 soupspoons
yogourmet multi yogurt maker and insert
Glass pot large enough to hold 1/2 gallon of liquid
Heat safe spatula
Plastic wrap (optional if your pot has a lid, preferably seal tight)

* Repasturize the 1/2 & 1/2 by slowly bringing it up to a simmer (180 degrees Fahrenheit) over medium low heat, stir frequently to prevent scorching. This will take about 35 minutes Do not boil (182 degrees.)
* Remove from heat, cover and let cool to room temperature (80 degrees F or less, you can use the fridge to accelerate the process to about 4-5 hours.)
* Skim the film that has congealed on the surface off with a spoon. Otherwise, your end result will be lumpy.
* Introduce the desired microbes by emptying the 4 packets of starter into the yogourmet insert and add 2 spoonfuls of 1/2 & 1/2.
* Mix slowly and gently into a paste using the spatula, then you may add more liquid liberally using a glass-measuring cup.
* Cover the insert and place in the yogourmet multi with water up to the second or top line on the inside.
* Ferment for 24-30 hours at 100-110 degrees F.
* Refrigerate until well chilled, about 6-8 hours.

Tip: You will need to alter the yogourmet multi to achieve the correct temperature for fermentation. I attached a dimmer switch to mine and ran test batch after test batch until I secured 100-110 degrees F over a long time. This does mean that you need to plan on at least your first batch being inedible. It is worth it to make sure that every batch from there on is perfect!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Good Books

Here are some of my favorite reads that have helped me to heal.

Breaking the Vicious Cycle by Elaine Gottschall is a bit chewy. Bless this woman for doing what she did, but I do have criticisms. One of which is that she plagiarized Dr. Haas. Another is that her writing is poorly organized. A third is that she gave permission to cheat, which is counterproductive to the diet. However, if she hadn't continued in the footsteps of Haas, who knows if any of us would have a clue about carbohydrate specific diets and their healing benefits.

Hunger: An Unnatural History by Sharman Apt Russell is absolutely fascinating, but digestive disorders are left out. Still fascinating, informative and helpful. This book turned me on to Ancel Keys in general through his human starvation tests. Keys was highly influential on our current American diet, for better and for worse.

real food: what to eat and why by Nina Planck is the book I would like to give every person I know who eats the Standard American Diet, aka, SAD. Fat is good for you.

Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price should be given to every health care practitioner. Admittedly, I am still reading this one. The Weston A. Price foundation is a wonderful resource that I think everyone with digestive disorders would benefit from checking out, and support them if you can.

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan at least starts to get some of my food values into the mainstream, and it is a delightful read. It really is too bad that we are destroying our environment, our economy, and our bodies in the name and game of industrialized food.

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride is much easier to comprehend than BTVC. The brain and body are not separate.

Management of Celiac Disease by Sidney Valentine Haas is one that I checked out from the biomedical library at my local university. If you don't have the disposition towards medical texts, probably best to leave this alone. If you do have the scientific mind, don't pass this one up. If you don't have the money, go on an expedition once you have the energy to undertake such an adventure! He is the one who figured this whole mess out, and there are secrets inside that seem to have been forgotten along the way. Bless this man for all his observations, but don't forget he worked with children and that adults have different nutritional needs and do not heal as quickly.

Probiotics: Nature’s Internal Healers by Natasha Trenev is the best way to understand internal culture.

Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski is a good overview with lots of options for treatments.

Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson helped me to convert many aspects of my lifestyle.

The Yeast Connection by William G. Crook is where it all began for me back in 1991.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Part One: Love and Hate

Cooking is almost a dirty word in my world. Yeah, ouch! But, it’s honest. I have to cook in order to live, which also makes it sacred. There is no other way around my situation under my present circumstances with my current resources. However, my disregard for, fear from ignorance, and distaste (pun intended) of cooking has been under constant revision as I have struggled to embrace it as the way of my life. My journey has not been pretty or easy. I’ve experienced a lot of resistance to my truths from other people. I don’t fit in anywhere and have bungled in making my own path. At times I have given in to peer and societal pressures to be like them, to be “normal,” and this has always led to my further demise, doom, and gloom. I am far from finished; I have not arrived, and will surely discover more of my erroneous notions in the future. Perhaps one day I will adore cooking, and I do have faith that that is possible. For now, I see myself as the court jester, the clown, the trickster, and the canary of American culture.

Many of my inculcated values have served me ill. It’s not feminist for me to be a “slave to the kitchen.” It’s un-American not to eat as much premade, packaged, processed, prepared at the hands of others food. It’s anti-capitalist to “waste time” in real cooking. That “time should be spent” pursuing more meaningful engagements that stretch the fabric of my intellect. How “uncivilized” it is to cook; cooking is such “primitive” behavior. These are just a few, but aren’t they enough to keep an industrious gal out of the kitchen? Cooking does look awful bad under these labels that carry so much cultural weight over who I’m supposed to be as a modern, American woman. Certainly I should not be expected to carry the preposterous burden of cooking every meal from scratch with sourced out ingredients here in this day and age. And, most people I encounter like to remind me of this “fact.”

My mother was never really fond of cooking in her own right as a person. If she didn’t perceive that she had to, she didn’t. I think she was trying to save my older sister and me from the duties of cooking because she wanted to be liberated from them herself. Neither of us grew up in the kitchen. Making stained glass candy for Christmas presents was a rare exception of fun together in the kitchen. Both my sister and I learned to cook from reading cookbooks, asking friends, etc. as adults. My mother would never deny that.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Peanut Butter Brownies Recipe & How-To Video

Watch my how-to cook this recipe video:

Peanut Butter Brownies by Arden Durham



2 cups peanut butter with only salt added

1/2 cup honey (you can add more or less to taste)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup of dried fruit (with no additives or preservatives)

1/2 tablespoon butter with only salt added (no flow agent)


24x8” baking pan (I prefer glass)
Set of 3 mixing bowls (small, medium, and large)
Dry measuring cup
Dry measuring half cup



* Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

* Grease baking dish with butter.

* In a large mixing bowl, empty contents of peanut butter jar and stir in the oils, as they are most likely separated and riding on top of the jar.

* Add honey and stir until mixed.

* In a small bowl, beat eggs until the whites have mixed with the yokes.

* Add eggs to peanut butter and honey and stir well.

* Add baking soda and stir until no white clumps are visible, the batter should be sticking to itself now and turning glossy.

* Add in dried fruit stirring minimally as too much mixing now will result in dry brownies.

* Dump batter into baking dish and gently push it into corners, do not slide it around or you will disturb the butter and they will stick.

* Place in the middle of oven on the rack second from the bottom for about 18 minutes- the edges should be browned slightly and the center should not wiggle.

* Cool for about half and hour, cover to keep moist.


Tip: Use the medium size bowl as your tabletop trash bin. 

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Kopplin's Coffee

I am sitting outside of Kopplin's Coffee in St. Paul, sipping a most delicious Americano.  This is my favorite coffee house in the Twin Cities.  The coffee always rules in taste, the atmosphere is open and inviting, and the people are nice and intriguing.  

Kopplin's uses a Clover machine to make their coffee by the cup, so there is no paper filter to take the digestive enzymes out of the coffee.  No gut rot, no upset tummy!!!  Andrew, the owner, is serious, and I mean serious, about coffee.  There is no messing around here as even the shape of the coffee mugs are chosen for flavor- no square corners for the fine particles to get stuck in.  

I appreciate that it isn't just about the coffee, but also how it is treated along the way, how it is made at the end of the line, and how it is presented.  I highly recommend giving the place a visit.  This is the only place I haunt, the only place I feel safe consuming any kind of food product that I have not made personally or supervised the preparation.  How much more endorsement could I give the place?