Reorganizing My Life in the Kitchen: Nightshade Free Taco Seasoning and Nightshade Free Barbecue Sauce


One of the issues I have been fighting for the last couple of years seems to have found its cause. I have an allergy to peppers. Not peppercorns, which are not the same thing at all, but peppers. Bell peppers, chili peppers, cayenne peppers, ancho peppers, Anaheims, poblanos, jalapenos, and much to my dismay, paprika. I have a sensitivity to tomatoes as well, but nowhere near as severe. Potatoes seem to be okay. So I’ve had to eliminate peppers and reduce the use of tomato products. This has, as you can imagine, turned my kitchen life upside down. And my garden planning as well, because my garden for the last couple years was built around tomatoes and peppers, and now it can’t be.

One of the things that made me wonder about this early on is the fact that my hands would hurt so much after simply dealing with tomato and pepper vines. Especially if I was pruning tomato vines and the juice leaking from the stalk got on my skin. The joints in my fingers would be painful and the skin would erupt anywhere the vines or the peppers touched. The outsides of the peppers. This had nothing to do with the seeds or membranes at all as I always wear gloves when dealing with those. Even bell peppers were a problem now.

I’ve been working to discover ways to try to eat some of my old favorites, using herbs, spices, and different peppercorns to try to come up with new recipes. I have had some successes and some failures, but I thought I’d share a couple of the successes with you today. The first is a nightshade free taco seasoning and the second is a nightshade free barbecue sauce. The taco seasoning is mild and if you want to kick it up a notch you can add 1/2 teaspoon of ground Szechuan peppercorns. I also cook my taco meat with 1 cup of diced yellow onions and I used to add in a pint of diced tomatoes with the juice, as the juice would be what would help the seasoning spread all around. Haven’t quite found a substitute for tomatoes there yet, but it is good without and I just use water instead for the liquid.

Taco Seasoning Ingredients:

1 Tbsp (or less) of salt
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
1 Rbsp oregano
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Optional: 1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns for heat (measure after grinding)

Barbecue Sauce Ingredients:

For sweet sauce–
1 cup honey
1 cup apricot jelly (or preserves)
1/2 cup coconut aminos or low sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper

For spicy:
Add 2 tsp Szechuan pepper to the above ingredients. Adjust to your heat tolerance from there.


Recipes from my Homestead Kitchen

When I first started raising rabbits, one of the hardest things for me was finding recipes I liked to cook them.  I mean, we couldn’t have Southern Fried Rabbit all the time, though my daughter might beg to differ.  Some recipes I found were so extraordinarily complicated that I knew I’d maybe make them once and never make them again.

Slowly over the last three years I have developed my own recipes to my family’s tastes.  A lot of them involve ground rabbit or canned rabbit, but I have been focusing on cut up pieces with the bone still in the last couple of months.  I have definitely hit on a few winners.  Here are two I have made this month and will be making again and again.  Both are very simple crockpot recipes and can easily be pre-assembled into a Ziploc bag and frozen for future meals.  This would come in very handy if my husband or my children needed to start something while I was out.  I don’t find it hard to pour and measure and put it all together, but I find when it comes to my family, the easier I can make it for them, the better.


Don’t raise rabbits?  This works great with chicken as well, especially home-raised.  Even with tougher, older birds, the slow cooking process will make them tender and falling off the bone delicious.  I hope you all enjoy and have a lovely day.

Peppers are Sprouting

I am so excited. I planted my pepper seeds last weekend and by yesterday I had sprouts in each cup. Not every single seed is up yet, but most of them are. Peppers can take up to 14 days to germinate, so I am thrilled to have them in a week. I have just been using my heating pad, though for next year I will buy an actual heat mat for seeds, since it means I’ve had to go without my heating pad myself.

I have moved 4 pepper cups under the light since they had germinated all 3 seeds in each cup and will move a few more tomorrow. The Traveler’s Strain of Jalapenos had every seed sprout. The other fully sprouted cup is Golden Treasure sweet peppers. The other varieties I planted were Ruby King Bell peppers and Feher Ozon Paprika. If everything germinates I will end up with nine plants of each variety.

So far I have had very little germination failure. One whole tomato cup and a couple other tomato seeds did not come up, but since I planted double what I wanted to plant I am happy with that. All of my lettuce and kale is coming up. I have one cup of chard that is coming up, but none of the others are. Those were only planted 3 or 4 days ago, though, so I think they’ll be along shortly.

I have planted one garden bed almost fully. I put in six red leaf lettuce, 6 kale, two rows of yellow Cobra keeping onions, and 4 feet of snow peas. I plan to plant 4 feet of Cascadia snap pea seeds tomorrow. I also have planted some leeks in window boxes. They probably won’t stay in there permanently, I’ll see how they do, but I wanted to get them separated and out of their starting pots. I planted green bunching onions in one full length of guttering on the turkey coop.

I’ve planted two kinds of parsley and cilantro in one big pot and hyssop, lavender, and chamomile for tea in another big pot. I put marjoram in one window box and sorrel in another. All of the herbs can be brought in the house if we get a last minute frost and I can throw a sheet or blanket over the one garden bed that is planted.

I still haven’t got to the radish seeds yet or the carrots. I hope to do that tomorrow. I think my hesitance has just been that I really hate fussing with itty bitty seeds that can’t be transplanted. But it needs to get done. Once I get the radishes in, I’ll have to break everyone of putting eggs in the gutter while they do other things.

The plum trees are in full bloom and the apples are about halfway there. They are beautiful and the yard smells wonderful. I really hope there is not a frost, because if the blossoms are any indication the trees will be loaded with fruit this year. A frost now would kill any fruit set.

The raspberries have been thinned and some of the thinnings transplanted away from the ducks, who are really harsh on them as they eat as much as they can reach of both foliage and berries. They have some lovely leaves on them. The blackberries are also leafing out nicely. My strawberries are coming along and leafing out. It’ll probably be a few more weeks before they really start to grow, but at least now I am pretty sure most of them at least survived the shipping process. The blueberries are gorgeous right now with all the red and green. It looks to be an incredible year for all of the fruit if nothing bad happens.

The animals are all doing really well. I will try to get some current photos of them to post tomorrow. The rabbit kits are adorable and Ruby has finally tamed down to the point where she is begging for petting. Ruby is Sienna’s daughter, the one who we kept after Sienna died, but weren’t sure would be a keeper after she had her first set of kits, because she was so wild. We didn’t work with that litter as much as we would have if we’d known we were going to keep one. But I’ve been working with her every day and now she is definitely going to be a keeper.

She is actually more friendly now than Firefly is or Sienna was. Probably more friendly than Cinnabun, too, because while Cinna is nice most of the time, she can still be a grump and charge you, though she stops short of making contact.

I need to get my new cages ordered or I won’t have more than one grow out cage when I need them in 3 to 4 weeks. And I want to time them so they arrive while the husband is home to put them together. I will be getting 4 cages, 3 for grow outs and one to replace a really rusted out cage. I need to remember to buy feeders, too, when I go to the farm store next. And I need to round up and wash my extra water bottles.

The turkeys are doing well, but after the first 3 eggs I haven’t gotten any more from Gina. Maybe it was a false start? I don’t know. I wish I could let them out into the yard to wander around, but I am just so afraid they would fly away, and I am not capable of climbing a tree to go after them.

The ducks are a merry band of goofballs. You would never know they were originally three separate groups. They seem so happy. Ducks often seem to be smiling. They are really a joy to have around.

Kyri, Mom’s oldest chicken, finally died. She’s been dragging around for about 6 months, not able to go up on the perch so sleeping in one of the nest boxes instead, walking slow, hunching a lot. So we knew it was coming. So that puts us down to 9 laying hens, my four Barnevelders, and then Mom’s, which are one silver laced wing wyandotte, one white leghorn, 2 Auracanas, and one black Australorp.

We have talked about maybe getting 4 pullet chicks, but I think we are going to pass on it this year. With nine hens, 6 female ducks, and one female turkey, we will have plenty of eggs. I am not sure about raising meat birds, either.

I’ve got access to non-GMO, organic chicken parts at the food co-op, so I can buy reasonably priced thighs, legs, and wings and not be stuck with white meat that no one really likes and I always end up having to eat when we roast a whole chicken. It is good to know how to raise them and butcher them, but we do, so last year’s experience was good for that. When we move to our own farm and have more space and can have a rooster (with an anti-crow collar) and have our hens raise chicks, then it’ll be something to do. Until then, the rabbits are just easier.

I would still really like to raise more turkeys for the freezer, but I don’t think that will likely happen this year. If Mom was going to raise some pullets than I would, but I don’t want to raise poults without chicks. They are too stupid without chicks or a Mama turkey to show them how to eat and drink constantly for the first couple weeks. So I will likely get them from a local farmer instead. The same guy I will get some Pekins from. He grows them on pasture. He also does lamb, so we might get a lamb as well this year. I’d also like to get half a beef. Ah, we’ll see. What I want, and what will actually happen, doesn’t always match up.

Almost Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

Earlier in the week, I brought you one of my homemade meatball recipes. This is the sauce I make whenever I make spaghetti or lasagna or ravioli and it is the sauce I simmered the meatballs in. It’s not fully homemade because I don’t make my own tomato sauce or paste. I have never grown enough tomatoes to be able to afford the luxury of making all of my own sauce and certainly not enough to make my own paste. I have made sauce once, and until I can grow dozens of tomato plants in a summer, I won’t be doing it again. Not when even organic tomato sauce and paste is relatively inexpensive. I’d much rather just can the tomatoes I grow when I’m limited to eight fairly mediocre producing plants like I was this past summer. Other than that, though, it’s homemade.

2 pints of tomato sauce (or 14.5 oz cans from the store)
1 8 oz can tomato paste
1 pint of canned tomatoes or 1 pound of fresh roma tomatoes (or a 14.5 oz can from the store)
1 large yellow onion, diced (not a sweet onion)
6 garlic cloves, crushed (yes, you can cheat and use minced out of a jar. I recommend Christopher Ranch if you are going to)
Extra virgin olive oil (adds to the sauce flavor, so do not substitute)

Cover the bottom of a 4 quart pot with just enough oil to coat. Add diced onions and minced garlic and saute over medium high heat for 2 minutes.

Add your pint of tomatoes and stir together. After 1 minute add your tomato sauce and then your paste. Mix the paste well into the sauce. I have found that smooshing it down against the bottom of the pot with a large spoon helps break the paste apart and incorporate better into the sauce.

Turn the heat down to medium and keep an eye on it, stirring it when it bubbles up for about ten minutes.

Add a handful of dried basil, a handful of dried oregano, and a palmful of dried thyme. Add twenty grinds of pepper and then add salt to your taste preferences. It will depend on whether or not your tomato sauce has salt in it already or not. Stir.

Turn to as low as the heat goes. Cover. Simmer for ten minutes (with or without meatballs). Serve over hearty spaghetti noodles. This will overpower angel hair or other tiny stranded pasta.

This sauce recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of spaghetti, with enough left over for a homemade pizza and meatball sandwiches. It also freezes well.

In other news, today is my 45th birthday. It was a nice day, nothing spectacular, but the flowering cherry trees at the high school are blooming and spring is in the air. The dogwoods and forsythia, the crocus, tulips, and daffodils, are not far behind. My fingers yearn for the dirt. About two months to go until the last frost and it will be safe to plant outdoors.

flowering cherry tree 2

flowering cherry tree 3

flowering cherry tree 1

In other, other news, I got 3 duck eggs today. It won’t be long now until I start getting 6 a day and we’ll be up to our eyeballs again.

Rabbit, Beef, and Pork Meatballs

So I made up a new recipe today for meatballs. It was based off a recipe that used beef, pork, and lamb, but a whole lot of bread. I didn’t like the idea of using an entire loaf of bread in a meatball recipe, but I definitely wanted to try something other than my old meatball recipe which works with beef, but leaves rabbit a little dry. This is what I did.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

1 pound ground rabbit
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup of Italian style panko bread crumbs (I use Ian’s because it doesn’t have a ton of junk in it)
2 duck eggs
1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese

In a large mixing bowl pull apart the rabbit, beef, and pork. Add the eggs and mix with your hands. Then add the bread crumbs and mix in. Then add the cheese. (You could add minced garlic if you want to, but the sauce I was making was heavy on the garlic so I did not).

Form into 16 3 oz meatballs. Place into a large baking pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Simmer for 10 minutes in spaghetti sauce. Serve over spaghetti, 2 to 3 meatballs per person. They were very tasty. I ate 2 and my two teenagers had three each.

I saved half the meatballs to use in meatball sandwiches for tomorrow’s dinner. Those ones I did not simmer in the sauce.

On the rabbit front, things are going well. Firefly has taken all four urine guards off her cage and stacked them neatly in the center two days running, so today we zip-tied them onto her cage. She wasn’t happy, but those need to stay in place, since there is no baby-saver wire on the cage walls. I want her to be used to them being there before she gives birth. Luna hasn’t messed with hers at all. Some of the does don’t seem to mind them. Others constantly try to take them off. The bucks have never messed with them at all. I need to get 4 more washed up and put into Persephone’s cage before too much longer.

I am consistently getting 2 duck eggs a day. I sold one dozen duck eggs to a new customer on Friday and I have my regular customer coming by for 2 dozen on Monday. The Barnevelders are laying every day. Gina has not started laying yet. George has shown more interest in the new nesting box than Gina has, though he is so big he can barely fit in it.

We had another big wind storm this week and both the new turkey coop roof and the repaired duck coop roof stayed in place. Also the turkey pen roof that was also repaired stayed in place. I was very pleased because all kinds of things were flying around from people’s yards.

I treated Leo with Ivermectin paste for fur mites on the 4th. A rabbit gets a pea sized lump of it. I got the apple flavored stuff and he gobbled it right down. Within 24 hours I saw an improvement. He has perked up so much. He is a happy bunny again. He is no longer rolling in his poop and he has cleaned his fur very well. Each day since treatment he looks cleaner than the day before. He is coming out of his cage and running around on the shed floor which he has had no interest in doing for a long time.

I will have to treat him again on the 18th and then again on March 4th. The first dose kills the mites, but not the eggs. The second dose kills those that hatch out of those eggs and should kill them before they can lay eggs, but just in case some get through, the third dose ends the problem. He is also getting daily coat brushes. He is shedding so I am getting a lot of fur when I do it, but he loves to be brushed and always has. None of the other rabbits have any signs of mites. I don’t know how he got it without anyone else getting it, but I am glad.

I bought layer crumbles for the ducks and chickens this week, a couple of rabbit chew toys, and an egg pail for collecting eggs. Once the girls kick into gear again, I won’t be able to hold all the eggs in my pockets and hands, so figured a cute pail would be worth the investment.

It’s been a busy week here outside the farm stuff. I had a doctor’s appointment and physical therapy and my son had a dentist appointment. Tomorrow I go in for a blood draw and I also have a dentist appointment. I’ve scheduled my yearly mammogram. I have to get them young and yearly since my mother had breast cancer at 30. Although yearly sometimes turns into 1.5 years, but I do try to stay on it. My doctor’s appointment went well. He’s happy with my weight loss and my cholesterol numbers have improved so much he’s halved the dosage on that medication. After 6 months at half dose if they continue to improve based on my blood work, I’ll get to go off the cholesterol drug entirely, though we will monitor with blood work. I don’t know if it will, since high cholesterol runs in my family, but he seems hopeful that if I continue to eat how I am eating now, I can get off it.

The house sale continues to chug along. Their bank has gone out to see it on Friday. I haven’t heard how it went, but they may not even know yet. As far as I know we are still on track to close on or before the 26th of February. I am still a little afraid to believe it is entirely true, but I so hope this sale goes through. I really don’t want to be disappointed again.

Cast Iron Mastery!

I am now the master of my cast iron. Today I cooked an omelet in my small skillet and it came out perfectly, no sticking at all. It was the last thing I had to master and now I feel like I can make absolutely anything in cast iron. Well, except for acid foods, but that’s the pan, not me.

2 egg Omelet

2 fresh chicken or duck eggs
1 tbsp of diced yellow bell pepper
1 tbsp of diced green bell pepper
1 tbsp of diced red bell pepper
1 diced green onion, both white and green parts
1/2 oz of cheddar cheese
1 oz diced low-sodium ham
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt some butter in a cast iron pan heated to medium and mix your eggs, adding a couple grinds of salt and pepper.

Add vegetables and low-sodium ham to the pan and saute for 2 minutes.

Add more butter to the pan and turn heat down to halfway between medium and medium low. When butter has melted pour in your eggs. Let eggs cook for one minute and then make a few holes in your omelet, letting the uncooked portion drain through to the pan. Place a lid over your pan, checking every 30 seconds until egg looks cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add cheese. Fold omelet in half and remove from pan.

I’ve lost 5 pounds since starting my new diet on December 31st. I’m very happy with that. I already feel better and can see the changes. My flu is really starting to retreat as well. I finally feel like I am really on the mend. Some tiredness and a runny nose is pretty much what is left.

I’ve been only getting 1 duck egg for the past week or so, but today and yesterday there were 2, so I think the girls are starting to swing back into production as the days lengthen. I am having to use more chicken eggs, of which there are a lot, so that I have enough duck eggs for my one duck egg customer.

It’s warmed up enough again that the turkeys are willing to come outside. They were staying in their coop up on the perches during the really cold weather. They didn’t seem to want to put their feet on the ground, even with straw down for them. The chickens would cluster around the dryer vent or the bathroom fan vents. The ducks didn’t care at all. They don’t seem to notice the cold. Now that it is 40 and rainy again everyone is happy to be outside. I am also happy that George and Gina are hanging out more together now. There has been a lot of one turkey in the coop while the other turkey is in the pen when it wasn’t cold. I don’t want my breeding pair to ignore each other, but then again, I don’t want Gina to get hurt by overbreeding either. Though I haven’t seen any breeding behavior between them yet. They are still young and I’m not sure when George will hit breeding age. Some toms don’t until their second year and they won’t be one until April 9th.

I need to have DH make a nesting box for Gina the next time he comes home. She should start laying in February or March as the days lengthen. These will be her first eggs. Does anyone who reads this blog raise turkeys? What have you done for nesting boxes for them?

On the rabbit front, Luna Blue really wants to be bred. She is crazy for it. Firefly will be bred at the same time. She is also ready, though not as crazy about it. She lifts her tail a lot, but not like Luna who seems to perpetually have her tail up when she’s not running in crazy circles around her cage. I am trying to hold off until January 29th, which will give me a delivery date of February 28 or March 1st, which are both on a weekend. We should be past the danger of the super cold months by then. I may give in though. With the heater set on low in there I can control the temps better. We’ll see.

The Antibiotics Seem to Be Working and Rabbit Stew

Or at least the antibiotics seem to have started to work. I’m still pretty sick, but it’s just not as bad as I was before I started them on Thursday. The underside of my nose would still rival a certain red-nosed reindeer and it hurts, but I’m not having to blow it as much, thank goodness. I’m also a little more with it. I was able to do all 8 minutes of my time pedaling for physical therapy without getting winded. And I made dinner tonight, rabbit stew. My husband has been making dinner for the last few days, so we’ve had a lot of burgers and toasted ham and cheese sandwiches with fries. My husband can make a great burger and I swear his toasted cheese sandwiches are the best, but it was nice to have something different.

I made the rabbit stew much like I make beef stew, but didn’t include the carrot water this time. I used 1 quart of canned carrots, 1 quart of canned rabbit plus it’s juice, 1 quart of canned potatoes plus their juice, 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of flour and 20 grinds of pepper. I mixed the rabbit juices with the flour until it made a roux, then turned on the heat to medium and when it came to a boil, added the potato water stirred it in and added the water. Then when it boiled I dumped in the potatoes, carrots, and rabbit meat that I’d taken off the bone. I added the pepper and let it cook until it no longer tasted floury, about 20 minutes stirring every 5.

I don’t like not using the carrot water, as I don’t like to waste things, but my kids insist that it makes the stew a little too sweet. It definitely wasn’t as sweet and I think they are right, it is better savory, so I will live. I do like that everything but the flour is something I grew and canned myself. The carrots are from last year.

The husband and the father-in-law got the duck coop raised. It took the ducks a couple of minutes to learn to use the stairs. Addy and Wade, who have used stairs before got it right away. The gold girls took a little bit longer, but figured it out after a little bit. Flock harmony continues to be good with all six ducks hanging out in a group. I really don’t miss Tucker being gone, though he was a very pretty boy, he was a bully drake.

I’ve got all but two of the kits separated from their mothers and they will be moved tomorrow. I could not believe it tonight when I went in the rabbit shed and Serenity was nursing those last two small kits. They are 10 weeks old for Pete’s sake! And she was letting them. One of them was the bunny whose eye we were having such trouble with because it had ingrown eyelashes. Well, she finally has gotten it straightened out and the eye is staying open and no longer crusting up. She is blind in that eye, like I feared she would be, since it just wouldn’t stay open for long, even with twice daily treatments, but at least the eye is well and the infection is cleared. I call her my David Bowie bunny since her eyes are two different colors, one eye is ruby and the blind eye is blue.

One of the red kits has a little white spot the size of a pea on her cheek. It is very cute. I am hoping it does not make me grow attached to her. She’s a super friendly kit. I am trying to steel myself against falling in love with her. We can’t keep another rabbit right now and certainly not one that isn’t pure red.

Of the 18 kits, 4 of the reds are boys, 2 of the reds are girls, 7 of the whites are girls, 1 of the whites is a boy, and 2 of the whites are undetermined. It is not always easy to tell, but I’m leaning towards the undetermined ones being boys. I’ll check again in a week. Not that it really matters as they will all be butchered in 3 to 4 weeks. It will be nice to just have to deal with the adults after that for a few months.