Category Archives: breakfast

thyme flappiejackieyum

Chocolate-thyme flapjacks

There are two thymes in the world. There’s the thyme that that carries on a warm summer breeze, flowers waving in the wind. It’s the thyme that hangs in bunches from rafters, and that scents chowders and stews. It’s the thyme that intoxicates you when you least expect it. The other thyme– thyme number two– sits in a bottle with a corked top on my shelf, surrounded by other bottles with corked tops, with masking tape labels that have lots of latin on them. This thymus. spp. bottle contains a pretty strong elixir, extracted in everclear and honey, and it sits around in all its potential, waiting for someone to start coughing.

For the record, they are *actually* the same thing. Thyme is good food, good smell and good medicine alike. Like all the aromatics, it has oils that kill bugs, stimulate digestion, and affect your nervous system in one way or another. Like all the culinary aromatics you buy at the grocery store, it has its roots in some other country’s food tradition (unless you’re reading this from France or England). And like all the culinary aromatics, it’s easy to get hold of and therefore great to know how to use as medicine. Because unless you’re like me, and actually enjoy traipsing mountain sides, pulling up roots, and building an apothecary, being able to pop to the grocery store and buy something useful is probably an important thing (amIrite?).

When someone is having lung grunge issues–racking cough, tons of gunk– I reach for the second thyme: the bottle on my shelf. I mix it with mullein and yerba santa and mallow or cherry bark. If they’re having clogged sinus issues, I mix it with horseradish or yerba manza, because its a medicine, and a potent one at that. For getting rid of grunge in general (let’s call it ‘spiritual grunge’) I’m likely to use the first thyme. The wild, fragrant, spirited thyme that hasn’t yet been bottled. Bunches of it are always hanging to dry in my kitchen, for good reason- just as the wind tickles its face and carries that scent upon the air outside, it does the same inside, and that scent contains the oils, and those oils get rid of stuck stuff, of stagnant stuff and of heavy, cold, wet stuff. A sprig in a cup of rose petal tea is as welcome for a grieving guest, and I am firmly convinced that absolution can be found in a mug of thyme tea or two.

Use it in tincture form for the lungs, or a steam for lungs and sinuses, or, if its the magic you’re after, drop the flowers in a bowl of water and leave that by a window on a moony night. Use that water, for drinking, for sprinkling, for dousing people as they come through your door*.

Or just keep a bunch of it hanging in your kitchen at all times, and do random things like adding it to crunchy crumbly oaty flapjacks.

The British flapjack is an oat bar that is at the same time crumbly, crunchy and gooey. Its perfection is in its simplicity, though I did get a bit crazy and throw thyme in and melt chocolate over the top. For the record, a flapjack is NOT a granola bar. Granola bars are crunchy; flapjacks are perfect. Granola bars are a substitute for breakfast or real meals; flapjacks are an actual breakfast or afternoon snack or post-dinner snack or a hiking snack. Flapjacks you can serve to people as they walk into your house on a rainy afternoon; if you serve granola bars to people as they walk into your house on a rainy afternoon they will think you’ve not been to the store all week. See, different!

That said, give them a try. They’re ridiculously easy, and most of us have the ingredients lying around already. From idea to eating in about an hour, 50 minutes of which is waiting time. You’ll go up a pant size from eating so many and then I’ll start receiving hate mail to which I’ll reply that I’m just the messenger and throw some thyme water in your direction. Worse things have happened…

Thyme-infused flapjacks

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is the following:

13tb butter

1tb thyme syrup

2/3 cup sugar

2 cups rolled oats (ground up a bit)

1tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp thyme

7 oz chocolate (optional, but recommended)

3 tb cream

Make the thyme syrup: take one cup sugar and one cup water, bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat and add a cup of fresh thyme (half cup of dried). Steep for an hour, until strongly flavoured. Strain out the thyme and bottle. You can use this for cooking or for adding to things or for coughs, or just bottle it prettily and give it away for the holidays.

Heat the oven to 350, meanwhile, in a pot on the stove, melt the butter. Add the syrup, sugar, vanilla, thyme and salt. Incorporate well, then remove from the heat and dump in the oats. Stir it all together, then pour into a 9×9 square dish. It’s buttery enough that you shouldn’t need to pre-grease it or anything.

Put this in the oven and cook for 23 minutes. It won’t be set when you pull it out, but it should be a golden brown colour.

Remove from heat and leave to sit at room temperature until completely cool. It should be quite firm. Now, melt the chocolate in a double boiler with the cream, and as soon as its all runny and melted, spread it over the top of the hardened flapjacks with a spatula. Refrigerate until its firm, then cut it into squares and serve.

*With regards to dumping water on people as they walk through your door, I do not exactly recommend this practice as it is often met with shock and/or anger and such people will be unlikely to cross your threshold again. If that is your intended result, however, then douse away!

acorn pancakes

And then the rains came

“And as he drove on, the rain clouds dragged down the sky after him for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God. All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him and to water him.”

-So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

There’s a funny thing about rain and perspective. Expose yourself to the stuff every day by, oh, say, growing up in Glasgow, and you start to resent it. Bitterly. Its constant drone permeates your skin and your dreams and pretty soon any glimpse of the sun is an excuse to put on a bikini and celebrate. In California, it’s a bit different. The sun gets taken for granted in a way that never happens on the British Isles. We take the sun for granted so much that we have a very small gradient of acceptable temperature ranges. You know, sixty degrees farenheit is too cold; ninety degrees farenheit is too hot. We talk about the weather like people who actually experience weather patterns, although our variations are minor.

Until the rain comes.

It did, the other day, when Emily and I were up in the mountains gathering fir. The heavens opened no sooner than we’d left the car, and, like southern Californian rain-deprived people (in our summer hiking gear with no waterproofs and nothing remotely warm) we grinned at each other and headed off up a trail. Thunder clamoured overhead. Lightning struck across the sky. The rain came down in big gobs of juicy wetness and we kept grinning, and kept walking.

And that’s how the day went. Surrounded by water, up high in the mountains, with a cool breeze and the dehydrated world around us sighing in relief. We gathered fir. We gathered Jeffrey pine. We even gathered some goldenrod. We trapsed through bushes and overturned mushrooms and (well Em did) took pictures of every single patch of moss along the way. It was a good day. A relief of a day. Punctuation in the dusty heat wave that drives on despite the change in seasons.

A note on this recipe:

Even if you don’t have acorn flour to try the pancakes, please try and make the syrup with whatever conifers you can find. Christmas trees planted in front yards work. Spruces, firs, pines and redwoods all work. If you’re unsure about whether you can use it, email me; I’m happy to help. You can also post a picture on the Cauldrons and Crockpots Facebook page and then other people can have a say too- we’ve got a good discussion going on what conifers grow where, and if you don’t know what grows around you, just ask. There is such a wonderful pleasure to be found in eating flavours that come from your area. I also used apricot jam that I had lying around (I made a bunch of it this spring), but use what you have. Plum would be really nice too, as would blackberry.

Rustic acorn pancakes with white fir and apricot syrup. 

Note: here’s the best article ever on gathering and processing acorns

For the pancakes: 

2/3 cup flour (I used gluten free)

2/3 cup acorn flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

4tb melted butter

Combine the wet ingredients, and combine the dry ingredients. Give them a good whisk each, then slowly add the wet to the dry, whisking to get out any lumps.

Conversely you can just put the whole lot in a blender and blend away. I do this method- less clean up.

Cook as you would any pancake- on a skillet or pan or griddle, oil it up nicely (I used coconut oil; you can use whatever you like but keep in mind that coconut oil is a. very safe to cook with and b. gives things a lovely crisp edge), then pour a good 7 inch round pancake onto the pan. Let it bubble, as pancakes do, until the whole thing is covered in bubbles. Then flip it. Cook until golden, transfer to a plate kept warm in the oven with the pilot on or on its lowest setting. Repeat for all pancakes. Serve with butter and syrup.

For the white fir and apricot syrup: 

1 cup white fir, loosely packed ends of branches, chopped. If you don’t have white fir, please see aforementioned paragraph about getting in touch- I can almost guarantee you’ll have something tasty nearby.

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

2 tb apricot jam

Bring the water and sugar to a boil, add the conifer bits, and then remove from heat. Allow to sit for an hour, then strain and bring back to boil. Reduce by 1/4, then stir in the apricot jam. Taste- if its too bitter (conifers can do that) add more jam.

White sage oatcakes 3

White Sage Oatcakes

(powerful and gentle: a trait shared by fantastic herbs and humans alike)

My favourite white sage patch is a long way away. A 40 minute drive from civilisation, and then a 2 hour hike through yerba santa, juniper and pinyon forests, a couple of stream crossings, through some scratchy bushes, until finally you emerge into a clearing with a big old grandmother plant, surrounded by her little babies. And their babies too. In the late spring their stalks mark their presence up and down the hillsides like little beacons beckoning you forwards.  I’ll spend the day visiting each plant, pruning off a few pieces of the fresh, thick-leaved growth, filling my bag as the day goes on. Later, I’ll pick a rock, or a tree to sit up on, and unpack my lunch and sit back and watch the world around me as I eat. Somewhere along the way, on my journey out and back, I find that I’ve become as affected by the plant I’m gathering as if I’d been taking it myself. My thoughts are clear, my circulation is strong, and I’m moving more efficiently. And I think, if I were to try and define what sage does in a few words, ‘efficiency’ would definitely be one of them. ‘Clarity’ might be another. And the last would likely be ‘deep water’, since that’s what it seems to act on, and it’s often good at getting you out of it…

I use white sage, because it’s native here, because it’s abundant, and because I have been tending the same couple of patches since I moved to LA (and the same few out in the desert for longer than that): spreading seeds, pinching off tips, and making sure they are growing more abundant not less. Also, I have a plant in my garden, just in case. But you can use any species of salvia- from garden sage (which most of the Western herbal literature is written about) to whatever your local species might be (if you have them). You can also pick up garden sage at the supermarket, if you can’t find any local species.

Every year I make big batches of oil, tincture and elixir, then dry a whole bunch more. The oil I use both in cooking and in salves (sage, yarrow and chapparal is my current best-seller for both wounds and fungal infections); the tincture and elixir I use for medicine, for myself and clients; and then the dried sage gets put in teas, food, and burned as incense or to disinfect a sick room.

While we’re on the topic of sick rooms and burning sage, I was aghast, the other day, to read an article on the subject by a woman claiming to have learned of salvia apiana’s ‘energy clearing’ properties from a Cherokee man, as it was his tribe’s sacred plant. Sorry, but no. Salvia apiana doesn’t grow in Cherokee country. It is a Southern California native with an extremely small growing range, and while it IS the sacred plant of the Chumash people, it isn’t sacred to all Native American tribes. White sage is toted as a new age panacea for any kind of ‘negative energy’ and while that’s a really nice idea, it’s stripping Southern California’s hillsides to supply the world with ‘negative ions’. If it’s bad energy you’re worried about, try salt- abundant in negative ions, and much better at ‘clearing the energy’ of a space than any plant. If its the medicinal effects you’re after (of which there are many) try either garden sage, or a sage species local to you. And if its a nice smelling smudge you’re after, try any number of the gorgeous aromatic smoking plants out there in the world. If you are desperate for white sage, and white sage alone (I don’t blame you, its a gorgeous plant and I find it to be the stronger in medicinal action than garden sage) then try growing it, or make friends with a friendly wildcrafter who lives within its growing range and do a trade. Just don’t buy it in big swollen smudge sticks from new age shops: the likelihood of it being an ethical harvest is pretty slim: there’s money involved, and people are just grabbing the entire plant and yanking it out of the ground to harvest it. Plus its incredibly wasteful to burn a big old stick when a leaf or two do quite nicely, either for incense or to disinfect the air.

And it’s fantastic at disinfecting the air- all salvia species are- it kills germs, bugs, bacteria and viruses leaving your respiratory tract happy and healthy. Wondering what else you can do with sage medicinally? Here’s a nifty list:

For a flu-ridden feverish sick person, make a hot sage, mint, yarrow, elderflower and bee balm tea. To be drunk hot. While wrapping up warm. Burn a sage leaf, to fill the air with that anti-bacterial smoke, and sweat it all out.

Slice yourself while out in the garden? Slap a sage leaf on it. I was out hiking once, years ago, and sliced my thumb up pretty badly. I’d been harvesting sage, so I wrapped the wound with a big sticky leaf, and by the time I got back to the car, it had formed a perfect little line of a scab, and was totally healed within a week.

For a wiry, frazzled, exhausted person with a strung out nervous system and a tendency towards the shakes, a few drops of sage elixir (maybe combined with oats and rose) can work wonders, grounding, calming, soothing and restoring a worn out fried system. Or drop a couple of sage leaves in a mug, with some rose petals and a peach twig, cover with hot water, and then add a dollop of cream and honey. Sip slowly.

After a big heavy fatty meal, brew a sage and mint tea. Stir in a dollop of honey and serve it to your guests before they fall asleep at the table: it’ll help them digest, and wake them up enough to drive home!

When in need of focus (which is quite a lot), combine it with basil in a strong tea, for a great concentration-aid (if you have gotu kola, add some of that too).

And for a hungry person, in the middle of the afternoon, who is looking for something to munch on with some fresh jam and a cup of tea, look no further than sagey oatcakes. The crumbly crispyness of the oatcakes combined with the bite of the sage is perfect for a combination of cheese and sweet things. Goat cheese and apricot jam is my current favourite, but I’m not too picky right now…


White Sage Oatcakes

1 cup steel cut oats

1 1/2 cup rolled oats

4 nice dry white sage (or whatever sage you have) leaves

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup sage infused olive oil*

1 egg yolk

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 350.

Put the oats in a blender, and blend until they’re smaller- the rolled oats will get mealy, and the steel cut oats will reduce in size. Probably about 15-20 seconds. Then mix all the ingredients in a big bowl. It might be a bit dry. Very slowly, start pouring in boiling water from the kettle, in teaspoon size increments, mixing it until it’s doughy but only slightly sticky.

Roll them out, and cut out individual little oateycakes. I use Jam’s favourite Stella glass, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Bake for 20 minutes. Eat when cool.

*No sage infused olive oil? Take a small handful of sage leaves, cover in a pan with olive oil and heat up gently for about 40 minutes. Don’t boil.

I’m sending this post into the Wild Things Roundup- this month’s topic is the mint family!


Banana-almond muffins

Some things are just meant to be eaten on top of a mountain. You know, picnic style. With the cold wind whipping around your face, and the ocean far away in front of you, and the sweat on your back starting to chill but not enough that you need to get moving again. Mountain top snacks. Like banana-almond muffins that aren’t too sweet and taste more like a breakfast muffin than an afternoon tea muffin. The kind of muffin that gives you energy to hike the 6 miles back to the car when the rain is starting to drop big ploppy raindrops onto your already wet back. Yes. These muffins are perfect as a fuel snack.

Though they ARE actually delicious with tea in the afternoon too, I mean, I’ve polished off quite a few. Today I had 2. Yesterday I had 4. The other day when I was hiking I had 3 on top of Sandstone peak. And then Carly had one, and Aaron had 4 (4!) and I’ve made 4 batches in one week, which means they’re received very well regardless.

Ok, and the best part: I didn’t tell anyone that they were kinda ‘healthy’ and they liked them anyway. I always find that if someone knows it’s healthy then they have a lower standard for tastiness. As in: “it’s great… for gluten free.” I try not to judge things in that way because I’d honestly rather go without than fool my tastebuds into accepting a substitute. And don’t worry, by ‘healthy’ I mean not laden with white flour and white sugar. They will still go straight to your ass, unless you’re eating them on top of a mountain. Just in case you thought I was bringing you diet food. No, dear reader, I will never stoop that low.

A note on almond flour: I use blanched almond flour. I use the one by Bob’s Red Mill. I had one packet that tasted stale and disgusting, and the whole batch of muffins had big crunchy almond chunks and that strange bitter almond flavour. They were not good. The rest of the batches were perfect– moist and full of flavour, with no weird bitter almond taste at all. The tester for me is tasting the batter. If the batter tastes good, then the muffins will too. In fact the batter tastes so good that I insist on tasting it about eight times just to be sure.

Banana almond muffins

adapted very slightly from Elana’s Pantry

makes 12

3 bananas with brown spots

1/2 cup melted butter

2 large eggs


1 1/2 cups almond flour

1 tb arrowroot powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup honey

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Mash the bananas in a bowl, and add the butter and eggs. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, and then combine the two. Spoon into individual cupcake tins. Cook at 350 for approximately 30 minutes– but check after 25 minutes. The top should be golden brown and they should not cave in under a gentle pressing.



Goat cheese cake: Tourteau de Chevre

This is my friend Leandra. It was her birthday last week, and, once again, I volunteered (read: bulldozed) my services to make a cake. Except making a cake for Leandra is slightly difficult as she is allergic to cow’s milk protein. It’s a relatively unknown allergy– most people hear ‘allergic to dairy’ and think that it’s the lactose, so most people in the natural health community would recommend drinking raw milk. Except for poeple with a milk protein allergy it doesn’t matter what kind of milk they drink, because it all contains casein.

Needless to say, Leandra didn’t want to eat a casein infested birthday cake because, well, I’m not going into it here. But I will say that I wish more people with allergies were more like this woman, who is, quite possibly, the easiest going person I’ve ever met. In fact, I’ve never once seen her kick up a fuss in public. I’ve never once seen her complain about anything. If there’s something she doesn’t want to eat, she just doesn’t eat it, and for the most part, nobody ever finds out why. Which, living in Los Angeles where everybody wants to tell you why they’re eating what they’re eating, and why they won’t or can’t eat what they can’t eat, is most refreshing. Not only THAT, but she can whip together a three course meal without breaking a sweat or having a headless-chicken-moment, and still look like a supermodel when it’s ready. Compare to my headless-chicken, need a drink at 530pm, emerge from kitchen hot and sweaty and smelling less than desirable and you can see why this easy-going attitude can be found admirable. Yes. Leandra is cool as shit.

I had just read about this TOURTEAU DE CHEVRE in Dorie Greenspan’s new book (I promise that one of these days I won’t go on and on about DG so much) and with a simple tweak to my favourite tart crust recipe, the entire thing was casein free.

Whether you make the crust with regular or goat butter (because I’ve now tried both), let me just say this:

15 people. Ten minutes. All completely gone.

It was that good.

Tourteau de Chevre

From Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table

Serves up to 15, as it turns out.

1 part SWEET TART CRUST, substituting goat butter for regular if you want it to be casein free.

5 eggs, separated, at room temp

1/4 tsp salt

2/3 cup sugar

9 oz goat cheese

3 tb cornstarch

1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400. Roll out the tart dough, and line the bottom of a 9″ springform pan, so that the pastry comes about halfway up the sides. Place the pastry-lined pan in the fridge.

Whisk up the egg whites until they form soft peaks, add 2 tb of the sugar and whisk another few seconds, then set aside. If using a mixer, switch to the paddle attachment (if not using a mixer, beat in a bowl) and throw in the goat cheese, the rest of the sugar, egg yolks, vanilla, salt and cornstarch. Beat until thick and creamy with no lumps– a couple of minutes. Slowly start to fold in the egg whites, a third at a time. Do not over fold. When mixed together (and after a taste because it’s basically like a goat cheese mousse, and who can resist a spoonful of that?) scrape the contents of the bowl into the pan with the pastry.

Bake for 15 minutes at 400, then turn the oven down to 350 and bake another 35 minutes or so, until the top cracks, and a knife inserted comes out clean.

I decorated it with strawberries, but it’s not at all necessary…

This post has been shared at Fight back Friday.


Buckwheat Beer Crepes

Buckwheat and beer crepes.

When I was five, I had a friend named Laura Penny. She lived on a little farm just outside London. To me, as a five-year-old, her house was the coolest house ever. There were 2 staircases for starters, so when you’d play hide and seek or tag, you could chase each other in circles for hours. Second, there were woods. Once, I went out into the woods and cut off a branch of a tree with a swiss army knife. I was playing ‘primal woman‘– a game that I still play as an adult, actually, though it evolved over the years a bit. Third, she had the biggest, nicest kitchen I’d ever seen. And in that kitchen was a little nook where we would crowd in after a day of running around outside, and Laura’s mum would make us crepes.

That’s the whole point of the story. The crepes. These light, delicious crepes that she’d put on the table, and we’d cover them in sugar, then drizzle them with lemon juice, and eat until we were completely, totally full. Crepes with lemon and sugar will always remind me of my childhood.

But now, this is my favourite crepe recipe. They have a little bit of buckwheat, and a little bit of beer. They are for grown ups because they don’t taste nearly as good with lemon and sugar as they do with a dollop of creme fraiche and some berries. They’re also crisp, and light, and have the most exquisite flavour. Try them for breakfast some time. Or for dinner, since you’re a grown-up and can have them whenever you want.

Buckwheat and beer crepes.

2 cups milk

1 tb sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

1/3 cup melted butter

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup flour

1/2 cup beer (any light beer– I used Jam’s last Pacifico ;) )

Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Combine all the wet ingredients in another bowl, except the beer, then slowly sift in the dry ingredients, while stirring rapidly to incorporate fully. If there are lumps, then you can strain it through a sieve, but I usually find that if I sift it well, and incorporate it all properly then it’s not necessary.

Add the beer, and stir it a few times to make sure it’s mixed through. Stir it as little as possible so as to keep all those bubbles in there.

Cover, and leave out overnight, or for 8 hours or so.

In the morning, get a frying pan really hot. Use a dollop of butter, and ladle in a scoop of the batter. Swirl the pan so that the batter thins out as quickly as possible. When the surface is covered in bubbles, using a spatula or some kind of utensil, flip over half of the crepe, so that it’s folded in half on the pan. Then fold it in half again– it’ll be a triangle shape. Now it’s easy to scoop off onto a plate.