Oasis Naan

Please raise your hand if you have a passion for collecting cookbooks.
Oh yes! I am a longtime cookbook collector ~ though I've slowed on my collecting for two reasons: I've exhausted places to properly store the books, plus with the internet we have instant access to almost any recipe one might want.

But still, I love to page through cookbooks and I actually do still cook from them. I find it relaxing to read from my cookbook collection for inspiration. I came across this recipe for Scallion and Caraway (or Cumin) flat bread from "Baking with Julia" written by Dorie Greenspan, it made the perfect vehicle for egg salad lunch on a leisurely weekend.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, using stone ground whole wheat flour for the all-purpose white flour (keeping our healthier diet in mind.)

It is fragrant and irresistible fresh from the oven ~ fabulous eaten warm, and best enjoyed the same day ~ which is exactly what I did. ;)

Delicious plain and hand torn into wedges, or slathered with a favorite spread; Hummus, Baba Ganoush (Baba Ghannouj/Baba Ghannoug), or in this case egg salad with chives from the garden.

Like my mom, I'm pretty particular about my egg salad (or Deviled Egg salad as Mom called it.) The big chunks of hard-cooked eggs in typical egg salads just don't do it for me.

I prefer my egg salad finely textured.
A quickie tip... Use a waffle-type potato masher to make quick work of the task. I still have my original (one similar to the one below) since I was first married (almost 40 years ago!) I've tried all different tools to make egg salad the texture I like, but this remains my favorite. (Of course it is a top-notch potato masher, and is my favorite tool for guacamole, too.)

I couldn't help but share at least one blossom ~ the fragrant peonies put on an incredible show in the garden this year ~ but their season here is short so we treasure them while we can.
If you would like the recipe for Oasis Naan, and the accompanying recipe for Persian Naan are available on my Once Upon a Plate Recipe blog. (Click to link.)

If you try either of the bread recipes I hope you enjoy them.
Thank you for stopping by!


Homemade Ketchup (Lacto-Fermented)

"Support bacteria - they're the only culture some people have."
-Stephen Wright

Every six months or so we try to get back on track with more healthful eating habits after sliding off-track a bit. This means getting back to R
EAL food, and less of the uber-refined, and packaged stuff. Made mostly from scratch using good, whole foods, wholesome ingredients, organically grown, and in season whenever possible.

In that vein, recently I have been reading about lacto-fermented foods (click), and I'm convinced this method which nurtures beneficial bacteria are something I want to incorporate into our diet, to encourage good intestinal flora and digestion.

These are no drastic changes, but ones we can live with. I'll be posting about some of these foods and I hope you enjoy coming along with me, and hopefully you'll find some things you can incorporate into your own menus for healthier eating.

This recipe for tomato ketchup is but one ex
ample of how to tuck some lacto-fermentation goodness into your diet.

The recipe calls for whey* ~ I used whey collected from yogurt while draining the yogurt to make yogurt "cream cheese", but you can skip this step and use water instead.

Draining the whey from natural, plain yogurt while making Yogurt "Cream Cheese". (I'll be sharing some ways of how to use the yummy Yogurt Cream Cheese in a future post.)

Although we don't eat a lot of ketchup I do use it as a condiment, in sauces/dressings/dips, and it's fabulous in my homemade BBQ/Grilling sauce, too.

The recipe is from a wonderful blog, GNOWFGLINS, created and hosted by Wardeh Harmon. Wardeh and her husband and children live here in Oregon and embraces the organic, whole, made from-scratch way of life. Recently she blogged this recipe, from her friend Erin who lives in Anchorage, Alaska and was featured on "Real Food Wednesdays" hosted by
Kelly the Kitchen Kop. I hope you'll stop by and say hello to these two very creative bloggers.

This is a quick and easy version of ketchup as it starts with canned tomato paste ~ I use organic, unsalted.
I tweaked the recipe, just a little bit to suit our tastes ~ it's absolutely delicious and the great thing is that you can play with it to adjust the ingredients to your own taste.

Here's the recipe ~ and if you would like a PRINTABLE copy, please scroll down for the link to my recipe blog.

Homemade Tomato Ketchup (Lacto-Fermented)
Yield: About 1 1/2 cups

12 ounces organic tomato paste (no salt added)
1/4 cup water
1/8 cup whey* (or an additional 1/8 cup water)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar; I prefer natural raw, organic for this recipe (i.e. Bragg's)
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard (dry mustard)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
big pinch garlic powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sea salt (to taste)
1/4-1/3 cup sweetener of your choice (agave syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, barley malt, or a combination of any of those.)

Note: This recipe is a basic guideline, so start with 1 Tablespoon vinegar, and add more to your taste. (I use the full 2 Tablespoons.) You may prefer to add more sweetener if you like a sweeter ketchup, and be sure to taste after you mix it, adjusting seasonings to your liking... the ketchup mellows as it ages.


Place all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl (glass or enamel), and whisk together until completed blended. Pour or ladle sauce into clean, dry containers (I prefer glass). Cover and leave at room temperature for two days (to encourage fermentation.) After two days store in refrigerator.

Whey is the residual liquid left during the cheesemaking process~ I use the whey (liquid) that separates from natural, unflavored yogurt. I collect it when I make healthy and delicious yogurt cheese (great substitute for sour cream or cream cheese). For directions click

If you would like a printable copy of the recipe, please check Once Upon a Plate Recipes ~ click HERE.

Kitchen Tip:

Although there was no leftover tomato paste from this recipe, often I find a recipe which calls for only 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. The stuff in the tube is fairly expensive compared to the cans, so I buy the cans and package the unused portions in 1 tablespoon-sized scoops.
I twist each tablespoon of tomato paste in plastic wrap or waxed paper squares, (not aluminum foil---the acid in tomatoes eats through the metal). Then freeze until firm and place them into an airtight container, such as a plastic zip bag and freeze. It's so easy to just reach into the freezer, remove one or two, unwrap and add to a pot of simmering soup or sauce.
Frozen, and ready to store in airtight container (zip bag) in the freezer.

Thanks for stopping by today, friends!


Hen House Update

Hi friends, it's been a while since I've posted ~ and it's good to be back!
I've missed your company, and hope you are all well.
Spring and Summer are always a busy time here on our little homestead in the woods ~
the usual maintenance, caring for the pets, plus gardening to keep the forest from taking over the tamed sections of the property is nearly a full-time job. And this year especially busy with our new flock of chickens.
One of the things we have been busy with is the hen house which we designed and he, (Mr. OUaP) built. I'm heart-skippy happy with the results, one of the most fun gifts I've ever received and I want to share it with you.

With the exception of the exterior communal nest box and decorative finishing touches, it is nearly complete. Thankfully the hens will not begin laying until they are about 5 months old (late July, early August) so we have a few weeks to finish the nests.
I chose wood shingle siding for its rustic look which I think fits so well in the wooded forest.

Under Construction :
(The house is 6' x 8' -not including the exterior mounted nest box- and the pen is 15' x 16'.)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we built the house and pen on the site of the old playground area, to the side of the back of the main house. The playset consisted of swings, a slide and "fort" structure; it was massive ~ constructed from utility poles, with the heavy duty metal slide bought at auction from a local school some 20 years ago.
Over time the structure had become compromised, and it was time to disassemble it. In the following picture, to the back of the pen, you can see the cross bar (utility pole) from which the swings were suspended to give you an idea of its' scale.
Our rural area is host to many predators who would do most anything for a chicken "dinner", so making the house and pen secure was a number one priority. All windows and openings, with the exception of the human door and the chicken door are screened with hardware cloth (19 gauge, sturdy metal 1/2" mesh screen.) The pen is also enclosed (top and sides) with the same hardware cloth.
Why not chicken wire for the enclosure?
I like the rustic and country look of chicken wire, but after doing some research I learned that is it NOT a secure method of keeping predators out ~ unless it is reinforced or used with live electrical wire/fencing.
After reading of some other's tragic experiences I learned traditional chicken wire is for keeping chicken fenced in, but not predators out.

The perimeter of the playground area was built from 10" x 10" redwood timbers and filled with pea gravel (which we left in place.)
Mr. OUaP excavated a portion of the pea gravel to build the hen house foundation and pen area, so the pea gravel became a walk way around the pen.
The perimeter of the pen foundation is made of 2"x 12" pressure treated wood and buried deeply beneath the pea gravel, but that is not deep enough to keep a determined predator from digging under. To keep critters from burrowing the pen edges hardware cloth was laid flat around the entire perimeter of the pen, and is buried beneath the pea gravel.
For the pen floor we had 2 truckloads of decomposed granite delivered which Mr. O
spread and compacted. It provides good drainage, and is easily raked clean each day.
Details of the exterior~

The doors and shutters are constructed of cedar ~ and I can't wait to see the wood shingle siding begin to age and darken for a nice contrast to the cedar.
I have a few ideas for container plantings near the the doors, and along the pen to add interest and color.

I wanted to carry out the rustic look so I chose hand forged iron hardware from Restorers (on line), with the exception of the human door. For reasons of practicality we went with these heavy duty self-closing gate hinges from Stanley, purchased locally.
I've had the rooster bell for years, and just moved it from one of the garden gates.
A peek inside:

One of the crucial factors to keep in mind when housing chickens is that they MUST have plenty of ventilation, but without drafts. We incorporated as much ventilation as possible while attempting to maintain the style of the structure.
What we thought would be a good idea for easy clean up ~a slide-out droppings board on the floor~ was not practical for a couple of reasons:
"We" ended up with substantially MORE chickens than the 5 we originally planned for (I couldn't resist adding a few more different breeds.) :D
This changed our plan as we realized we needed to free up as much floor space as possible, so we mounted a slide out droppings board a few inches beneath the roosts ~ a much better arrangement and easy to clean each day.
We're using the deep pine shaving method* on the floor of the hen house---I was skeptical at first, but it has been working out beautifully.
*(Fragrant pine shavings are layered approximately 4-inches deep, and simply fluffed up each day with a rake, then cleaned out and replaced as necessary.) Some find they only need to replace the shavings each 6 months or so ~ but I anticipate changing it out every 3 months due to the number of chickens and size of the house.
Out of view here, to each side of the human door are a hanging waterer and a hanging feeder.
Incidentally, we mounted hardware wire, attached to the rafters as a ceiling to prevent the chickens from roosting there~ chickens like to roost at the highest place they can find... which would be a nightmare when it comes the the "droppings" issue.
Still, we have one little renegade, Olive, who insists upon roosting in the sill of one of the eaves every night, so we eventually added a wider ledge up there for her.
(Her spot is the eave sill directly above the roost in the corner in the picture below.)

I have plans for livening up those walls to add some additional color ~
I'll update as things progress.
Currently this is the largest ventilation opening:
It provides a good cross draft when open, it also functions as a small awning when propped open ~ I leave it open every day, rain or shine.
(Eventually Mr. O will construct a hardware cloth screen door to fit inside the human door.)

If you know chickens, you know they are creatures of habit~

This little sweetie (a Silver Laced Wyandotte) jumps up on the sill every single morning to greet me when I open the window.
Of all the chickens she is the only one who does this, as if it is her assigned duty.
She and her Silver Laced sister are the youngest and most friendly of the flock.

And THIS is what follows when I open the chicken door/ramp:


A blur of chickens!
Hurrying out to get their morning treats.
There is Olive (the renegade who sleeps up high) leading the girls.

We kept the shutters simple~ one on the opposite end of the house from the human door, and one on the side, opposite the large window.
Mr. O wired the electricity~ which allows for a fan to keep the air moving on hot days, and a light to encourage them to continuing laying into the winter months, and an outlet for a heat lamp in cold weather.
So far everything has been working out very well. They have been in their new home for several weeks and I'm really pleased that the usual "aroma" (aka stinky, noxious fumes) associated with chicken coops hasn't been a problem, and the chickens seem happy and healthy.
Next time I'll share some shots of the girls, almost all grown up ~

Thank you SO much for stopping by ~ it's always a pleasure to hear from you.

Please note: If you have sent me an email in the past couple of weeks to which I have not responded ~ please bear with me, I'm getting to each one as time permits.
Thanks for your understanding.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!
xoxo ~m.

A Sampling of my food . . .


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