For the love of Levin

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Coffee and Karenina

I started reading Anna Karenina in my mid twenties, and at one point I put it down and never picked it back up. (I can’t exactly remember why, but I think it’s safe to assume that I was too busy enjoying a blurry nightlife and hunting for a proper boyfriend.)

A year or so ago, I found myself up against a pretty annoying case of panic disorder. It seemed to come out of nowhere, as these things often do, and my recovery has been slow and steady, with the occasional setback. I still have to mentally prepare myself for social gatherings, as well as spend adequate quiet time recovering from them after. Regular exercise keeps my emotions in check as well. All these things contribute to a healthy state of mind for me, but there’s always room for improvement.

Skip ahead to this week, where I discovered something called Bibliotherapy, Continue reading

Adventures in Sketchbook

Happy Saturday! Today is my rest day so I thought I’d take some time to finish my quilt. But first, I wanted to share some recent illustrations and doodles. I wish somebody would make a Disney version of Marie Antoinette, but I guess they’d have to rewrite the ending. 😦

Marie Antoinette
marieantoinette Continue reading

Bara Brith: Gluten Free, Paleo, Vegan


Do you like fruit cake? Yeah, me neither. Growing up, the only fruitcake I ever tried was store-bought and filled with corn syrup solids (aka, “fruit”), and it was usually so hard that you could lose a tooth in it. But then I came across a photo of bara brith.

Bara brith (“speckled bread” in Welsh) is usually either a yeast bread filled with dried fruit or a fruitcake made with self rising flour. Traditionally, the fruit is soaked overnight in warm tea before baking.
The fact that bara brith is a dense, moist loaf is what inspired me to leave my corn-syrupy fruitcake nightmares behind and attempt to make a paleo friendly version. This is because most paleo loaf cakes I’ve made are moist and dense, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to bake one that was actually meant to be that way.
If you don’t want a very moist bara brith, there are ways around it. I’d recommend splitting the batter into individual muffins and baking for a shorter amount of time. You could also strain the soaked fruit after soaking overnight and not use the reserve tea in the recipe. I choose to keep the tea for flavor, and so my bara brith is very moist and feels like a cross between a loaf cake and a bread pudding. You can also slice and toast individual pieces in the oven if you prefer.
I made my bara brith with pasture butter, but I believe coconut oil would work as well if you are vegan or avoid dairy. (See notes in recipe)
The spices in this recipe make it perfect for the holiday season. I believe this little guy agrees with me! Yum!
Bara Brith: Paleo, Gluten Free, Vegan
2 cups dried fruit (I used currants, raisins, chopped apricots and chopped prunes)
300 ml of warm black tea
1 cup puree (I used 3/4 cup very ripe plantains and 1/4 cup pumpkin because that’s what I had in my pantry. Any combination of plantain, pumpkin or very ripe banana should work.)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup melted butter (or coconut oil)
4 eggs
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of tapioca flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of coconut flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2-3 tablespoons marmalade or jam (I used an orange champagne marmalade that I found at the British Emporium.)
1. Combine dried fruit and warm tea. Cover and allow to soak overnight, or for at least 8 hours.
2. Preheat your oven to 350 F.
3. In a large bowl, mix together the mashed fruit, coconut sugar, eggs (or chia egg replacement) melted butter (or coconut oil), and orange zest.
4. In another bowl, mix together the tapioca flour, coconut flour, baking powder and mixed spice.
5. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix well.
6. Add the soaked fruit mixture.
7. Pour into a parchment paper lined load tin or muffin tin and smooth the top using a spatula.
8. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. I covered mine with foil one hour in to prevent over browning.
9. The bara brith is done once it is golden and firm on top.
10. (optional) Heat the marmalade on the stove, then brush onto the top of the bread.
Feel free to cut a slice and toast it in the oven. Enjoy with a smear of pasture butter or as is! Keep at room temperature for a few days or freeze individual slices/muffins to reheat in the oven.

Welsh Chicken, Leek & Prune Pie (primal & gluten free, paleo option)

Overhead Pie

I’ve been doing all things Cymraeg (Welsh) lately, and personally, I blame Gavin and Stacey. For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to when I say “Oh! What’s occuring?”, please go join Amazon Prime and watch this cozy and hilarious program. It’s only three seasons long, which in my opinion, isn’t long enough.

My favorite episode, hands down, is the one with the barn dance, because they do a “Texas style” line dance. And by “Texas style” I mean that I’ve never seen anyone in Texas do a line dance like this:
I suppose that you could then refer to the following recipe as a “Welsh Style” pie, because I’m sure anyone in Wales could take one look at it and have a good laugh. However, until I find a nice Welsh individual to cook me a proper gluten free pie (I’ll be coming to visit next year!), this will have to do. Which is fine, because it’s delicious and doesn’t give me a rash.
This particular “Welsh pie” has all the basics: chicken, leeks and prunes. If you don’t want to eat prunes, feel free to leave them out, but they really do add a nice sweetness to the dish which pairs perfectly with the savory flavor of the cream sauce.
Tarragon is the star of this dish. It’s basically the bacon of herbs, in my opinion.
Topping off the dish is a lovely biscuit instead of the traditional pastry shell. I haven’t found a gluten free pie crust that I love yet, but that’s okay because I think I’d prefer a biscuit topping anyway.
This is both a primal and gluten free recipe, but there are ways to make it paleo and dairy free, which I’ll mention in a bit.
(Primal/Gluten Free) Welsh Chicken, Leek & Prune Pie
Makes 4 -6 personal size servings, or one large pie
For the filling:
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock*
1 tbs fat (I used bacon fat)
3 tbs butter
1 large leek, ends trimmed and thinly sliced (save the darker parts to use in a chicken stock sometime)
1 large sweet onion, chopped (white or red will work as well)
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 heaping tablespoons tapioca flour/starch
1 1/2 tbs fresh tarragon, chopped
1 tbs fresh thyme
1/2 cup milk (grassfed is best)
1 cup cream (grassfed is best)
1/2 cup pitted prunes, chopped
salt and pepper
*For a really nice chicken stock, cook your chicken in a crockpot along with a few stalks of celery, chopped onion and fresh thyme. You can use that chicken and its broth in this dish and still have enough reserve leftover for other recipes!
Make it paleo/dairy free: replace the butter with extra fat/oil and the cream with extra chicken stock. You might want to add an extra tablespoon or so of tapioca flour to thicken the dish.
Biscuit topping:
2 cups tapioca flour
2/3 cup coconut flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup of cold butter (grassfed is best)
2/3 cup ice cold water (I like to put a cup of cold water in the freezer before I begin)
2 eggs
Make it paleo/dairy free: replace the biscuit topping with paleo pie crust of choice, or use a potato or cauliflower mash on top instead. If you aren’t gluten or dairy free, a regular pie crust recipe would work just as well.
For the filling:
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. I like to have all my ingredients measured and ready to go, so chop and prep everything first.
2. Melt your butter and fat of choice on medium-low heat, add the onion and leek, and cook for about 5 minutes or until soft.
3. Add the dijon and tapioca flour and stir for one minute.
4. Add the tarragon, thyme, chicken stock, milk and cream (or extra stock if you aren’t using any dairy) and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. After a minute or two, the mixture will thicken, and when it does, remove it from the heat. Cream sauces can burn easily if they cook too long, so keep an eye on it!
5. Stir in the chopped chicken and chopped prunes, and season with salt and pepper. Allow the mixture to cool while you make the biscuit topping.
For the topping:
1. Combine tapioca flour, coconut flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Cut the butter into small pieces, and then cut it into the flour mixture. You want to do this quickly, while the butter is still very cold. Even frozen butter will work. You can use a pastry blender or use your fingers. If you don’t know how to cut in butter, take a quick moment and Google it. You basically want to do this until the mixture has a nice grainy texture.
3. Mix in the egg and ice cold water until you have a sticky dough.
Now you are ready to put it all together!
1. Scoop the chicken mixture into either individual bowls or a large baking dish or pie dish. Be sure not to fill it up all the way! You want about an inch of room for the topping so that the mixture doesn’t spill out over the sides in the oven (like mine did. Oops!)
2. Take small handfuls of dough and flatten them with your fingers until they are about 1/4″-1/2″ thick, and place on top of the chicken mixture. It took me about three little balls of dough to cover one individual dish. I find that it’s easier to work with smaller pieces rather than trying to make the whole large topping piece at once. The great thing about this dough is that once it’s on top of the mixture, you can use your fingers to smooth out and fill any gaps you may have missed. You may have some dough leftover. Feel free to flatten the leftover pieces into disks and bake them in the oven for extra biscuits!
3. Bake the pie/s in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. If you have leftover dough, bake it in the oven for the same amount of time. You can save them for later to have with a little jam, honey or with your eggs in the morning!
Done and dusted, kippers and custard!