3 December 2017



Hand Cut Potato “Fries”

Super simple to make. Ingredients for two as a side dish: 3 russet potatoes scrubbed and cut lengthwise into sticks, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano, ketchup and a few drops of Naga Jolokia sauce or your favorite hot sauce. Method: Oven 400°. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and smear lightly with olive oil. Arrange cut potatoes in a single layer on the parchment, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. If you use parchment, they won’t stick.

Serve with ketchup mixed with a few drops of hot sauce, or as a side dish with any meal.


1 December 2017


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Ode to My Brother

It is with tremendous sadness that I make this blog post about my oldest brother, Rodney Olin Havens, who has passed away at the too young age of 67. We’ve learned his death is possibly due to a heart attack. I was very close to my brother, even given our great distance apart (he lived in north Texas and I in California) and even given the distances between our various personal beliefs. Rodney was always there for me, even as a kid. At 6’2″ he was a hard mountain of a man with big, strong hands that he used in his bricklaying business. He intimidated all the would-be suitors when I was a teenager. He had a great love of family, first and foremost. He also adored native American artifacts and lore; in fact in one of our more recent conversations he talked poetically about wanting to visit a tribe in Oregon. He wanted far more life experiences than he ever obtained; and I know all about the demons that held him back in life because he was always open and honest with me about his internal struggles.  I loved it when he rang me up – I would need to find a place to settle in because our phone conversations could last for hours, and we talked about everything under the sun. He would always say, “I love you baby sister,” and I think it’s the sound of his deep bass voice saying those words that I will miss the most.  I love you too, my big brother. I wish you eternal rest and peace at long last.

Fête d’automne – Recipes and Photos


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I promised I would add recipes and photos to my Autumn Feast post, so here we go. At least two recipes I used weren’t the best, and I blame the fact that some recipes simply don’t translate very well into “vegan.” But, the star of the entire “Thanksgiving Feast” was hands down the Gougeres, both traditional and vegan versions. Second place only by a very slim margin was the Filet Mignon with black pepper sauce. My garlic aioli was also vastly wonderful. The peas in lettuce cups recipe cried for real butter, so I wasn’t terribly pleased with the vegan version, even though it was amazingly imroved with a small blob of aioli (honestly, what isn’t?) I loved the Carrots Vichy although they weren’t a hit with Kaitlyn. I made two different potato gratins and both were quite good. (I think I’m not a big fan of gratins, preferring dairy-free mashed potatoes…) The French onion soup was super good — although a tad on the sweet side because I ended up using more wine and only a smidgen of beef stock (Kaitlyn doesn’t like beef). My pie crust came out pretty, although I have yet to taste the final dish as I didn’t get around to making it yesterday. It is presently in the oven, and if – ONLY IF – it comes out f__@#$ awesome will I bother with posting the recipe.  I just want to note for anyone beyond the borders of California that the weather here for the last several days has been unseasonably hot.  The end of November in most other parts of the Northern Hemisphere is autumn, but it was Australia here. 80’s-90’s with very low humidity. I’m surprised we didn’t have rolling blackouts! Cooking and baking when it’s that hot and you’ve got no A/C is just ..ugh. Fortunately, my kitchen and dining floors are tile and I ran a fan the entire day. Did I mention that the wine was fantastic?

I’ve decided to ONLY post my favorite components, and with these recipes you can make a spectacular meal any time you choose!


Ingredients: 4 cloves garlic peeled and chopped; 1 tsp. sea salt; 1 tsp. dijon; 1 egg yolk at room temp; 1/2 c. olive oil; 3 tsp. lemon juice; 1/8 tsp. cayenne (opt.); 1/2 tsp. ice water.  *Don’t skimp on the ingredients! Method: I used a mortar/pestle – and you will need a second person. Grind the garlic and salt until mostly smooth. Add dijon and grind until well blended. Add the egg yolk and grind until well blended. One tablespoon at a time, have your assistant add the olive oil while you blend continuously. As you near the end of the the 1/2 cup of oil, the volume of your aioli will have grown quite a bit. When all oil is blended, your aioli will be fluffy, add lemon juice and mix well, then the ice water. Continue mixing and taste to correct your seasonings. I added a bit more salt and a generous sprinkle of chopped thyme and parsley. Store in a ceramic crock covered with cling wrap.


GOUGERES (with dairy-free options)

Ingredients: 1/2 c. spring or filtered water; 3 tbs butter (vegan: coconut oil); 1/4 tsp. salt; 1/2 c. gluten free flour; 1/2 tsp. guar gum; 2 large eggs at room temp.; 3/4 c. grated cheese (I used gruyere, welsh cheddar and pecorino for the regular cheese, and Parmela Creamery’s Aged Nut Cheese in Mozzarella style for the vegan cheese); fresh cracked pepper to taste; at least 1 tbs. finely minced chives and parsley (opt.); and about 1/2 tsp. olive oil. You will also need a pastry bag. I don’t own one so I used a plastic ziplock bag and snipped off a corner. Method: preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment, smear with the olive oil. Mix flour, salt and guar in a bowl. Pour water into a sauce pan, add butter (or coconut oil) – bring to a boil, whisking periodically. When water is boiling add flour mixture all at once and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon, mixing well. If you are using butter the “dough” will come together in ball. If you’re using coconut oil, it will be more crumbly. That’s okay! Take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool. I put mine in the fridge for 5 minutes because my kitchen was really hot. When the mixture is cool/warmish, break one egg into the pan and mix very well, then add the second egg and mix very well. Fold in cheese setting aside a small amount for sprinkling later, add herbs if using, and season with fresh pepper.  Spoon the mixture into your pastry bag. Squeeze about 2 tsp. worth into a circular blob, making at least two dozen evenly spaced blobs. Using a tiny bowl of water, dab your fingertip into the water so that you can smooth the tops of each “puff.”  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of each puff. Bake on the top rack at 425 for 5 minutes then lower heat to 375 and bake 20-25 minutes until golden.  Neither version will stick to the paper, so you can scoop them up with a spatula and lay in a tea towel covered basket or serving bowl.

Filet Mignon au Poivre

Earlier in the week, I made a beef stock using store-bought beef bones, celery, onion, carrots and garlic, cooked down and strained through cheese cloth. You can use your favorite broth. Ingredients: 1 tbs cracked pepper, 3 tbs of olive oil or butter, salt, 1/4 c. broth, 1/4 c. red wine, 1/4 cup of coconut cream (or regular cream), 1 tbs. finely chopped shallot, and 1 tbs. chopped parsley or chives. I am also blessed to have a Le Creucet skillet. I bought two filets that were actually quite large (roughly 6″x4″x2.5″) and brought them to room temp. I did not season them, except for a sprinkle of salt after cooking. Method: Heat the skillet (dry) until very hot (water drops will vaporize) and place the steaks in the skillet and cover/cook for 4-6 minutes depending on how thick the meat is. In the famous words of my father, only turn meat once! The meat will stick a little, but fear not. A spatula will loosen them just fine. Turn the meat and cook at least 4-6 more minutes for rare. I don’t cook medium rare, or medium, or well done so if you want your meat that way, you will have to figure out the time. Remove the steaks to a serving platter and sprinkle with salt. Turn the heat down and add up to 3 tbs. olive oil (or butter), pepper and shallots. Stir cook for a minute or so. Add the wine and cook another few minutes. Add the broth and the cream and cook until bubbly, stirring constantly. Season with salt and sprinkle in chopped herbs. Pour into serving dish (i.e. gravy boat.)  Apologies for the poor quality picture!

Potato Gratin Dauphinois

I’m including this as an optional item. As mentioned above, I am personally a much bigger fan of my mashed potatoes. If you would prefer to go on the lighter side, I recommend a butter lettuce salad (red butter lettuce is in the picture above).  Ingredients: 1/2 tsp. olive oil, 2 large russet potatoes, washed and peeled. 2/3 c. coconut cream, 1/3 c. coconut milk, 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped; 1/4 onion, sliced thin; 1 tbs chopped thyme, 1 tbs chopped chives, and approx. 3/4 c. shredded cheese (or vegan cheese); 1 tsp. guar gum; fresh black pepper and salt to taste.  Method: Preheat oven to 350 and grease a small square gratin pan with olive oil. Slice the potatoes into thin rounds and layer onto paper towels to dry. In a small sauce pan, heat the cream and milk with guar until warm. Layer your gratin in this order: single layer of potatoes, sprinkle with salt, garlic, pepper, herbs and cheese. Continue the layers until you have run out of potatoes. Pour warm milk over the potatoes and top with a last sprinkle of cheese, salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes then leave to stand until ready to serve. Add fresh thyme as garnish.  Two are pictured below, vegan cheese on the left, regular cheese on the right.

Carrots Vichy

I love this recipe! I will make it again and again, no doubt. I bought a pound of whole organic carrots from Whole Foods, but as there was so much other food, I decided to only use 3 of the largest carrots. The secret to this recipe is mineral water. I used S. Pellogrino. Ingredients: 1 bottle of mineral water, 1 pound fresh carrots, 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tbs. port (I used a California dessert port called Evenus), 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 lemon wedge (de-seeded), 1 tbs. chopped thyme and parsley, or more to taste. Method: Peel your carrots with a potato peeler and slice on the diagonal. Place carrots into a sauce pan with a lid and just cover them with the mineral water, bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Pour carrots into a strainer, discarding the water. Return pan to heat and add oil. When hot, add carrots and toss to coat, add salt and port. Stir/cook until carrots are golden. Transfer to serving dish, spritz with lemon and garish with fresh herbs.

And there you have it! If you want the French Onion Soup recipe, let me know. It really was lovely. I served it without the baked bread and cheese because there was already too much starch and cheese on our plates!

Bon appetit!

Fete d’automne


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November always brings quintessential food items to the shops as American families across the country gear up for Thanksgiving. I grew up on this tradition and assisted my mom as she baked pies, roasted a turkey and made cornbread stuffing from scratch. And so it continued throughout the years until I had my first child in 1994. For two or three years, Cara was little more than a passive observer of the feast and probably only ate tiny samples of whatever was on offer. But within a couple more years, she and I were in California on our own and thus began a slow exodus from “tradition.” My second daughter, Kaitlyn (now 16) has no love of turkey or stuffing (although I remain one of the finest creators of mashed potatoes and Southern cornbread stuffing on the west coast.) This year, at the request of Kaitlyn, our menu will be French influenced. Keep in mind that we are a gluten-free household and sans dairy, with only minor exceptions for Kaitlyn in terms of cheese. I will use vegan cheese, plus a little real cheese for Kaitlyn. Everything will be made from scratch. Recipes and pictures will follow in a later post.



  • Gougeres

Le cours de la soupe:

  • French Onion Soup

Le plat principal:

  • Croque Monsieur
  • Filet Mignon au Poivre Sauce

Plat d’accompagnement:

  • Potato Gratin Dauphinois
  • French peas with butter lettuce
  • Carrots Vichy


  • Garlic Aoili


  • French apple tart