Deanna Caswell's Blog

November 21, 2015

‘Tis the season to pick delicious things up off the ground.


So far this fall I’ve picked up about 35 pounds of pecans (pre-shelled weight unfortunately), and enough persimmons to make 10 cups of persimmon puree.

Today I looked at them and decided they looked like muffins.


I adapted a few of the persimmon recipes I found into one, if I say so myself, moist and spicy baked good.

It was one of those things you take one bite of and immediately regret not having doubled the recipe, or alternately, not having baked them when no one else was home.

Here are the ingredients in front of the gorgeous mill I’m so in love with.


All but the dried cranberries and the coconut oil, which got squeezed out of the picture. If you don’t have persimmons, you can use pumpkin or other winter squash puree. If you do substitute, you might need to add some honey to compensate for the lack of sweetness compared to persimmons.

Persimmon-Pecan-Cranberry Muffins

makes 12 big muffins

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, preferably fresh-milled

1/3 cup sugar, I used organic cane sugar

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, or the equivalent


1 cup yogurt

1 cup persimmon puree

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted

1 T. grated fresh ginger

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 eggs

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup pecans, toasted and broken or chopped coarsely


Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. (If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, you can make your own or just wing it with some cinnamon, etc., you know, the usual suspects).

In a separate bowl, combine your wet ingredients; the yogurt, persimmon puree, eggs, grated ginger and vanilla. Then add the coconut oil– if your mixture of yogurt/puree/eggs is much colder than room temperature at this point, let it set out for a few minutes to warm up, or briefly warm it before adding in the coconut oil to keep the oil from seizing up into lumps. If you don’t want to bother with all that, you can substitute another oil like olive that doesn’t lump up when it gets a little chilly.

Combine the wet and the dry. I prefer to add the dry to the wet because I don’t end up with two sticky bowls to wash, but that’s just my preference. Cook’s Illustrated seems to agree with me.

I also dump in my pecans and cranberries at about the same time. If I wait to put them in later, once the wet and dry are completely combined, it means too much stirring for my liking. Overblending starts to develop the gluten and makes the dough chewy rather than tender.

Divide the batter into twelve oiled regular muffin tins, heaping it up a bit. It cooks just fine this way, and you get big, hearty muffins.

Bake at 350 degrees F. until when you press on one in the middle it springs back. I’m thinking it was between 14-18 minutes, but do your own due diligence and keep checking on them. I also sometimes peel back a flake of the top and see what’s going on inside. If I see wet doughy-ness, I smush it back on and let it go a few more minutes.

Enjoy hot, slathered with butter.





Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on November 21, 2015 09:53 • 4 views

November 12, 2015


Quite by accident I discovered a persimmon tree Tuesday afternoon.

I was in a hurry and could only pick up a handful of the soft, ripe “sugar plums” to take home. It’s been years since I tasted a persimmon, and when I did I was transported back to my youth–my childhood yard was filled with persimmon trees.

It was a treacherous way to grow up, and I mean that in the most whimsical and Southern way possible; our autumns were spent tiptoeing our way through a sweet minefield of squishy fruit and the accompanying wasps. Yes, we’d eat them, and yes, we’d trick our Colorado cousins with offers of the green, mouth-puckering unripe ‘simmons. It was an overall win, in spite of the mess they made.

My parents selected a particularly perilous spot to build a house. As I’ve said, there was a persimmon grove on one side. On the other side, right by the clothesline (maybe even as one anchor for the clothesline) was a honey locust tree.

Here is a photo of a honey locust tree trunk I borrowed from Wikipedia:


These thorns are up to 7 inches long and regularly fall to the ground.

My siblings and I grew up to be cautious people who never run around barefoot in unknown territory.

Back to the persimmons.

This morning I went prepared to collect fruit. I knew the winds of the previous day would work in my favor, and I wasn’t wrong. I picked up 5 pounds of persimmons in just a few minutes.

If you’ve never tasted a persimmon, they’re the fruit of a native southern American tree. Each one is about the size of a walnut. They taste sort of like a juicy date with caramel overtones–very delicious. You have to wait until they’re completely ripe to eat them or they are terrifically astringent. One taste of an unripe persimmon and you will think your mouth is going to be in a permanent state of pucker. If there is any firmness about the fruit, leave it be.

Most of the ones that have fallen to the ground are going to be ripe, unless it was dislodged prematurely by a storm or a critter. Birds love them, as do many other wild creatures.

Persimmons have large, shiny, brown seeds. I’ve read they can be roasted and used as a coffee substitute, but I’ve never tried that. I’ve also heard they were used during the Civil War as buttons. Never tried that, either, but I’m intrigued.

IMG_4317My next knitting project might have to have persimmon buttons.

I’ll report later on what I make with my persimmon haul. I have a friend with a family persimmon pudding recipe I want to try.

Suggestions welcome.



Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on November 12, 2015 07:51 • 3 views

October 29, 2015


My favorite recent project is seen here, lounging on an old family rocking chair, memories on top of memories.


And I didn’t plan this, but I see a painting of the old family homeplace this chair came from leaning on the wall in the background of this shot.

Memories on memories in front of memories.

It may be one of my favorite projects ever, and it was very easy and very fast.

I took a bunch of my children’s old dresses they had outgrown, outworn, and outloved. They were too far gone for donation, with a hole here and there, a bleach stain, a stain stain, but I couldn’t bear to throw them out.  Too many photos of them wearing these fabrics. Too soft with washing and playing.

Too many memories ached into the weave.

For a pattern, I cut out a square of cardboard the size of the biggest pieces of the fronts and backs of the dresses below the yokes, which allowed me to salvage two squares from each little dress.

I spread them out so no matching squares touched and it looked right, sewed them together in rows, and sewed the rows together.

After that, I cut a piece of flannel the size of the big rectangle of patchwork and sewed them wrong sides together all around the edges, leaving several inches for turning.

After turning right side out, I sewed all around close to the edge and again across the seams to “quilt” it.

It’s rather wabi-sabi, but I love it every time I see it, and the kids like it, too. They especially like that I included a couple of pockets.

Pockets are a love that starts in early childhood and continues life long, I think.

Can I hear it for pockets?


and soft, worn, dresses?

Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 29, 2015 09:18 • 6 views

October 22, 2015


I wanted a smoothie this morning that would give me a kickstart, so I gathered up spicy, tingly, hot, and tangy ingredients, along with a banana and yogurt to balance it all out. I also topped it off with a passionfruit, because I’m crazy for passionfruit and they’re ripe in the yard this time of year.


Micronutrient-rich, zesty, and pretty delicious, too.

Click the links if you would like to read more nutrition facts.

Osaka purple mustard greens

French sorrel–high in vitamin C (watch out if prone to kidney disorders because of high oxalic acid levels)

Spilanthes (“antiinflammatory, antipyretic, analgesic, antiplatelet aggregation, antidiabetic, hypotensive, neuroprotective, cardiovascular, antiviral, anticancer and chemoprotective effects.”)




Lemon (vitamin C and alkalizing effect)

Whole Milk Yogurt

I added enough orange juice to allow the blender to blend.

It definitely packed a wallop, especially the ginger.

I had an egg on the side for protein and hopefully this will get me through the rest of the morning.

Do you like green smoothies? What are your favorite add-ins?



Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 22, 2015 08:04 • 3 views

October 17, 2015

Any muffin with this amount of blueberries in it is bound to be at least good. Add tender, sweet, freshly milled kamut flour, vanilla and almond extract, freshly laid eggs, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of organic cane sugar, and well, you’ve got the picture.

Here’s the lineup:


Combine the lovely, fluffy, kamut flour with baking powder and salt.


Blend sugar and coconut oil.


A couple of eggs. The smaller, paler egg is from our spring chickens. The larger, orange one is from one of our older hens.


Vanilla and almond extract.


IMG_6872Add flour mixture to the oil/sugar/eggs alternately with the milk.



Scoop into lined muffin tins.


Sprinkle with a dusting of sugar.


Et voila.


And like that, they’re gone.


Perfect weekend breakfast treat.

I’m loving my grain mill so much. I’m so happy to have a way to use the “other” wheats, like kamut and spelt, plus organic hard red wheat.

I’ve got a grain mill attachment for KitchenAid mixers to show you soon, from the same maker as the Ko-Mo grain mill I have. It’s a bit more affordable if you already own a KitchenAid, and if it’s half as well-built as the Ko-Mo, it’s going to be a work-horse.


Makes 12

Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 deg. F.

2 cups whole grain kamut flour (or other flour)

2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup organic cane sugar, plus more for sprinkling

2 eggs

1-2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

a generous 2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

Combine flour, baking powder and salt.

Combine coconut oil and sugar. Mix well.

Add eggs and extracts. Blend.

Add flour to sugar mixture, alternating with the milk.

Fold in blueberries.

Scoop into lined muffin tin. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 350 deg. F for 25-30 minutes.


Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 17, 2015 14:51 • 6 views

October 12, 2015

Up until this year, the usual lineup of flutterers has included the tiger swallowtail, the black swallowtail, and the occasional monarch butterfly. But this year, all of a sudden it seemed, I had a new butterfly in the garden I’d never noticed before.


This new one, it was everywhere I went. I did wonder what was up, but these things happen; new insects come and go and I seldom find out why. I was just glad to have a new beauty in the garden.

IMG_6794_2And it was like having two butterflies, the underside of the wings being such a contrast to the upper. I love the feline eye image.


Then, my neighbor the curb whisperer and I started seeing a menacing-looking caterpillar on the passion flower vines we have on our shared fence. I have a stop before I stomp policy, so I image-googled orange caterpillar with black spikes and found it right away: the larval stage of the gulf fritillary butterfly, the exact butterfly I had been swimming in clouds of all summer. The gulf fritillary is also known as the passion butterfly, because the larvae feed on the leaves of the passion vine.

The new butterfly had a name, and now I knew why it had made my garden its home this year– my new passion for passionflower.

Yes, they were munching on my beloved passion flower vines, but they were only taking just enough. There were plenty of leaves to go around.

An interesting fact about the gulf fritillary is that it’s a Batesian mimic. What this means is that some of its ancestors accidentally produced offspring that looked somewhat similar to another, toxic species. Since the predators associated this “look” with poison, they avoided those oddly-colored kids more than others that looked like their tastier relations. These oddities thrived and produced more kids like them, and soon their species all looked similar to the toxic species. This explains the beautiful orange color of the gulf fritillary which mimics the many toxic insects of that color.


Besides the delicious fruit, a helpful tincture, and the beautiful flower, the passion flower has given me another gift.

Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 12, 2015 09:30 • 4 views

October 5, 2015

I grew up eating cornbread at least once a week.

That would be six times a week fewer than my grandmother made cornbread for my father’s family. The drill back then was biscuits for breakfast and cornbread for lunch, every day. With plenty of pinto beans, turnip greens, and cold buttermilk to go along with it. And don’t forget the big slice of raw onion on the side.

Cornbread has taken a beating since those days. Corn is genetically tweaked and grown on depleted, chemically-fertilized, herbicided, pesticided soil.

It has depressed me to look at corn, cornmeal, and yes, cornbread, despite its having been a staple of my ancestors’ diets for several generations.

Since the Ko-Mo came into my life, my relationship with corn, particularly cornbread, is undergoing a renaissance.

IMG_6823_2This is “dent” corn. Most of the corn grown is dent corn. It’s also known as field corn. It may be easier to say what it is not–it isn’t sweet corn or popcorn. This is the kind of corn used to make cornmeal, and the only kind you can grind in most mills. I got this in bulk from Azure Farms. Since it’s organic, you also know it’s non-GMO.

I put it in the hopper of the Ko-Mo:

IMG_6819_2And put on the lid. Wow, pretty wood.

I need to stop trying to wear nail polish.

IMG_6820_2Then watch the meal emerge, adjusting the fineness of the grind as it grinds.


I make cornbread without a recipe, a little of this, a little of that. Eggs, milk or buttermilk, salt, baking powder, a little baking soda, sometimes a little onion or sage.

IMG_6828Put an iron skillet in the oven, melt up a little butter or heat up a little olive oil . . .

IMG_6829Swirl the butter around to coat the pan, pour the excess into the batter and stir it up, then pour the batter into the sizzling pan.

IMG_6832The edges are already starting to crisp.

IMG_6834Pure, simple cornbread.

IMG_6836_2My husband’s grandmother crumbled the leftover cornbread from lunch into a glass of buttermilk every evening for a nightly snack.

It sounds weird to most people, especially my kids, who start saying things like “that would be the grossest thing for anybody to do,” and “that is disgusting,” but I know they don’t know what’s good.

Kids never do.


Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 05, 2015 19:39 • 7 views

October 3, 2015


I don’t usually assemble it on a plate like this, but I did it today to be able to see it all at once. Typically, this sort of forage food is eaten while walking around the yard, a fig here, a leaf of mizuna there.

This “meal” is never the same; it changes with the seasons, with the crops I choose to grow, with new plants reaching maturity and starting to fruit for the first time, with a flush of mushrooms after a good soaking rain. If you’ve never eaten a freshly plucked shiitake right there in the woods, you’ve never tasted the real deal.

It makes the growing and harvesting season that much more precious, to be able to graze like this in my own suburban yard. From the first fresh greens and little snow peas of spring to the last passionfruit drop of fall, with the blackberries and strawberries and herbs and sun-warmed tomatoes in between, it’s the best.

The perennials are the backbone of foraging in my yard. The reliability and relatively low-maintenance of fruit trees and vines and perennial herbs are such a joy. Choosing varieties native or easy to grow in the local climate makes it even that much simpler, such as (in my case) muscadines over grapes, Asian pears over European pears, and blackberries over raspberries.

As far as nutrition goes, this has got to be the most fun “diet” in the world: walk outside, see what’s ripe and tasty, eat it standing there, juice running down your wrists, wipe hands on pants, move on to the next thing.

What’s your favorite forage?



Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on October 03, 2015 07:55 • 8 views

September 25, 2015

A friend’s furchild was going through cancer treatment and it wasn’t looking hopeful.

She wanted to walk a labyrinth.

I’d heard of one so we agreed that I would meet her at her house and we would go together and find it.

When I walked in the door I could see in her face, in her shoulders, it wasn’t good. He was already gone. She had made the decision that morning; it had been time.

We still went.

We loaded into my bedraggled station wagon, one of her supportive neighbors in tow, and we headed to the labyrinth, located in a cancer survivor’s park in the center of the eastern part of town.

The labyrinth was the medieval, Chartres-type, with eleven concentric paths around a central, six-petaled “goal.”

Wordlessly the three of us stepped onto the path in delayed sequence and began slowly looping around the folding trail. I walked softly and timidly, wondering what to expect, what to do and think.

It was, objectively, odd? Nonsensical?

As I followed the curves, the labyrinthine rhythm erased my self-consciousness.

We were walking.

We had a goal. We could see it. It was feet away.

The only real boundary was in our mind, in our obedience to the path.

One by one, we reached the goal.

Then we unwound, following the path again, leaving the goal behind.

One by one, we stepped out of the labyrinth.

This was good, my friend said.

It was good.

It was fall. The park itself was drained of color and the air was still, the sky overcast. We wandered around the park gardens, taking in the dried husk of a fertile summer. The beds were filled with flowers gone to seed. Spikes of coneflowers bristled a warning. Milkweed pods were bursting open and their flossy seeds were caught among the browning bindweed vines. Broken-necked zinnia blossoms nodded, haggard.

At the foot of the fence at the back border of the garden, I spotted what looked like a partial eggshell.  I stepped off the path, took a few tiptoed steps across the mulched bed, and collected my prize, a forsaken passionfruit. Its seeds were mostly dried but still had the hint of a tropical-sweet smell. I put it in the car, tucked under the driver’s seat in a Subway napkin.

Months passed and the winter was harsh. My friend moved, south.

In early spring, I found the remains of the passionfruit, now in crumbles of pith mixed with silky black seeds. I collected the bits and pieces and planted them along the fence, with Hail Mary expectations.

They grew.






They taste like magic.


It’s fall again.

I don’t understand the labyrinth, but I want to walk it again, with my friend and her new puppy.







Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 25, 2015 15:55 • 10 views

September 17, 2015


Remember back in the day when we just ate food?

Any food.

Didn’t really think about it that much.

To me, there were two basic types of food:

A) Food I Liked

B) Food I Didn’t Like

It wasn’t about organic or conventional, raw or cooked, paleo or low carb, gluten-y or gluten-free. Food was either yummy or blech. Food was food.

Of course I was eight years old.

The older I’ve gotten, and the more I’ve read and learned, the more complicated it’s become.

It’s overwhelming.

Being me, not a big rule person, not much of a joiner, kind of scatterbrained, I’ve never followed one school of thought, one particular dietary style.

Over the years as popular dietary fads have come and gone, I’ve sometimes wondered if I should be following one or the other, but by the time I’d had a good think on them, they were already being debunked and unfollowed so I can’t say I’ve ever been in any one camp.

It mostly makes sense to me to eat a balance of fresh, homegrown, home-cooked . . . stuff.

See how scientific I am?

One of the things I’ve debated for a long time is flour. Grains. Bread.

I even tried giving up flour for a while.

It didn’t last very long. Sandwiches weren’t the same wrapped in lettuce. Pancakes. Biscuits. Homemade bread. Muffins. Pizza. Pasta. Food for kids. I missed it.

But I’ve read modern grains are unsuited for our bodies, and how wheat as we know it today isn’t the same species our ancestors consumed. I’ve read how refined flour contains additives and has its nutritive value removed.  As for whole wheat, it oxidizes and quickly becomes rancid once it’s milled. And there’s so much that is unknown about GMOs, herbicides and pesticides.

This led me to look into milling my own organic wheat, corn, and heritage grain.

If I was overwhelmed before, researching grain mills sucked me into another black hole of uncertainty.




Burr-ground or impact.

Heat build-up.

Warranties, country of manufacture, types of grains milled, cost.

Noise level.



Adjustable grind.

After a few (several) hours of research, I wrote a quick note to a company in Nebraska which imports and sells a German grain mill called KoMo. I confessed the trouble I was having sorting through the choices, and the company, Pleasant Hill Grain, agreed to send me one of their mills to try it out.


In two days, I had this thing, the KoMo Classic, and it was the prettiest appliance I’ve ever seen, with all due respect to my 65 year-old mixer. Built like a brick chicken house, it weighs 16 1/2 pounds but only takes up an 8-inch square space on the counter. Much quieter than I expected, I leave it sitting out on the counter ready to go whenever I want to mix up some pancakes for breakfast, grind some corn for cornbread, bake a couple of loaves of bread, make biscuits or muffins, whatever.


I don’t have to worry about when I add the grain; I can start the motor before, during, or after I add in the grain. I can adjust the fine-ness of the grind while it’s grinding simply by turning the hopper. I don’t have to clean it out, don’t have to do anything really but mill with it.


More about the noise level: I’ve heard people say they have to take their mills (other manufacturers) outside on the porch because they’re so loud. This is nothing like that. This is about the same noise level (or less) than my food processor or blender.

As for speed, I haven’t timed it exactly, but it takes very little time to grind enough flour for two loaves of bread.


Taste. The other day when I made my first loaves of yeast bread it was brought home to me how different freshly-milled wheat is even before I baked it; as I was kneading the bread, the smell of the raw dough was making my mouth water. I can’t remember that happening before. The raw dough smelled good enough to eat.

The cornbread is off the chain good. Naturally sweeter, moister, more flavorful. Awesome mouthfeel, albeit a bit crumblier. Who cares about crumbs when the crumbs are so good?

I’m going to shut up about the KoMo for now. I’m planning to grind some kamut soon and I’ll let you know how that goes. I’m so excited to be able to bake and cook with organic heritage grain I don’t know what to do with myself.

This doesn’t provide THE answer to all the questions I have about what to feed my family and myself, but it helps. It helps a lot. Instead of the mystery powder in a bag from the supermarket, the slightly rancid-smelling whole wheat, or the equally mysterious supermarket loaf, I have another level of control over what I feed my family.




Like  •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 17, 2015 13:56 • 8 views