#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller
Winners and More

This week’s autographed book winners are: Gayle Larson and Carole Fiore.  Congratulations to both of you.  The new contest is underway now; to enter, simply comment, and you’re in.  Winners will be chosen at random, notified, and announced here next Monday, along with a new contest.

I’ve been working hard on NORTH OF EDEN, and I’m loving the story and the characters, as I hope you will, too.  Because I am equal parts Confederate and Union, at least by heritage, I have deep feelings for all my story people, whether Northern or Southern.  (The Laels are originally from North Carolina, and the Bleeckers, my mother’s people, hailing from Massachusetts, ran a Union hospital.)  I cry sometimes, and even find reasons to laugh, despite the horrible circumstances of this and all wars.  Recently, listening to a book called STRANGE AND OBSCURE STORIES OF THE CIVIL WAR, by a man named Rowland, I wept over the account of General Lee’s dignified surrender at App, ; when he rode in, in full regalia, on his wonderful stallion, Traveller, the Yankee boys doffed their hats and stood solemnly as he passed.  I cried because there wasn’t a single cat-call; these boys in blue, broken, battle-weary and homesick as they were, treated the defeated army with dignity and respect.  I was as proud as if I’d been there.  Later, a Confederate officer rode in, tears pouring down his face, and said (I’m paraphrasing), “Gentlemen, we are starving.”  On General Grant’s orders, food was sent to his troops immediately.  (I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that this same grub had actually been stolen from a Confederate supply train a few days before.)

While I am certainly opposed to slavery, so were many Confederate soldiers and Southern citizens.  I will never forget something I once heard the late Shelby Foote say; when captured and asked by a Yankee officer why he was fighting, a young rebel replied, “Because you’re down here.”  I know my Lael relatives were not slave holders; they, like most Southerners, were too poor.  They did, however, employ black workers to help with the farm work, and this was by no means uncommon.  

Lastly, no matter how busy I am, I always find time to read/listen to books.  This week’s hands down favorite was MY SOUTHERN JOURNEY, by the Pulitzer prize-winning author, Rick Bragg.  I laughed and cried and loved every word of that book.  Little wonder Mr. Bragg won the most prestigious prize in literature–he is gifted.  

And now it is time to bed down and get a good night’s sleep.  Lots of writing to do tomorrow! 


Mushroom Broth Ingredients and..What is Paleo, Anyway?

As I’ve mentioned, I like to cook free-style, so while I always use certain basic ingredients in my broths–I have a double-batch simmering away in my giant slow cooker at this very moment–I almost never follow exact measurements when making this kind of food.  

For mushroom broth, I use: several large onions, with the peels removed, chopped in quarters.  I add carrots, celery, a few bay leaves, fresh thyme, black peppercorns, and flavored salt–I love the alderwood-smoked variety.  Then I add three or four different varieties of mushroom–Marco Carnora’s “Brodo” cookbook calls for cremini, shiitake, and dried porcini, and his recipes are my favorites, hands down.  One of you kindly–and correctly–pointed out that cremini mushrooms are also known as ‘baby bellas’.  (If left to grow long enough, they turn into portobellos.)  Carnora recommends browning the onions in olive oil before putting them into the stock-pot or slow-cooker, and I’ve found this to be good advice.  The amount of mushrooms you would use would, of course, depend on how much broth you want to have at the end, and how rich you want it to be.  Add cold water to cover.  Boil for 40 minutes or so, with the lid off.  Use a skimmer to remove impurities–the foam that forms at the top of the broth.  Simmer for a couple of hours.    Finally, scoop out the mushrooms and vegetables and set them aside.  Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer, NOT a colander.  Let it cool for 20 minutes, then pour into containers.  I use wide-mouth jars and leave at least two inches of breathing room at the top of the jar.  I froze mine, though I added the overflow to last weekend’s medicinal chicken soup and it’s delicious.  According to Mr. Carnora, broth will keep for about five days in the fridge, and six months in the freezer.  I do the same with bone broth, which is such a staple in my kitchen that I never allow myself to run out of it.  Again, “Brodo: a bone broth cookbook”, by Marco Carnora, is the best I’ve found on the subject, and I highly recommend it.

I had planned to make mushroom risotto with my mushroom broth, but now that I’m eating Paleo, I won’t be having rice for a while.  That’s okay, because this stuff is marvelous when added to other dishes, or used as a soup base.  Because at least one of you asked what Paleo is, here’s my understanding.  (Remember, I’m a novice.)  Paleo is short for ‘paleolithic’, and it is also known as the Caveman diet (I hate the word ‘diet’, except when it refers to a way of eating, and not a way to get back into your skinny jeans), which means that if the hunter-gatherers of yore couldn’t hunt or forage for the food in question, you shouldn’t eat it.  Now, I’ve been hearing about Paleo for years, and, frankly, I thought it sounded pretty darn stupid.  Discovering bone broth, a staple with Paleo, made me curious, so I investigated.  As so often happens when I pooh-pooh something I know little or nothing about, I was in for some big surprises.  Essentially, Paleo is about eating real food, rather than the heavily processed concoctions that are doing so much harm to so many of us.  Fats and proteins were vilified for many years, as many of you know, and that’s a pity, because the body (and especially the brain) needs healthy fats.  Basically, there is a lot of strong scientific evidence that highly-refined grains, like refined sugar, are actually quite harmful.  On Paleo, I eat lots of meat, chicken and wild-caught fish, along with root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, carrots, etc.  (I love to add rutabagas and parsnips to my bone broth).  I avoid white flour, refined white sugar, and anything with gluten.  

I have a good friend who is has celiac disease; gluten makes her VERY ill.  (It’s found in virtually all flours, even whole wheat.)  Turns out, gluten can cause a whole slew of problems for anyone, whether they’ve been diagnosed as gluten-intolerant or not.  For the real nitty-gritty, read “Grain Brain”, by David Purlmutter, M.D.  By the time I finished that book–long before, actually–I had made the decision to stay away from gluten for the rest of my life.  It can wreak havoc in the human brain, and since there are no obvious symptoms, the damage is done before the patient even knows there’s a problem.  Dr. Purlmutter is a neurologist, and he’s had patients come to him after being diagnosed with ultra-serious diseases like ALS and MS and Alzheimer’s, to name a few.  When gluten was removed from their diets, a great many of these people recovered completely.  Gluten can cause brain fog, forgetfulness, behavior problems in children and adults, migraines, muscle pain–I could go on and on.  You’ve probably noticed how many gluten-free products are showing up on supermarket shelves these days–it’s wicked stuff, and it hides in unexpected places, like ketchup, for heavens sake.  Read those labels, and if you want to stay sharp, stay away from anything that contains gluten.  This is doable, my friends.  There are numerous excellent books and blogs on the subjects of Paleo and gluten-free food, and Pinterest is positively popping with wonderful recipes.  

All that said, I would remind you that no one way of eating is right for everyone.  I have always loved meat and vegetables of all sorts, and after just a few days, I’ve noticed a big improvement in my energy levels, my ability to concentrate, and the way I feel in general.  I can deal with gluten-free bread, etc.   I always feel better if I get plenty of protein and not so many carbohydrates, but you may be different.  My cousin, for instance, LOVES bread, and probably couldn’t give it up or swap it out for gluten-free.  She lives on carbs and has trouble digesting meat.  The bottom line, I suppose, is that we all have to do our homework and figure out what works best for us.  

And, as I have said before, I have no intention of leaving Weight Watchers.  I need the accountability and the wonderful people I meet there.

Finally, there seems to be some confusion about who is moving to San Diego.  :)  My daughter, Wendy, and her partner, Jeremy, are headed for sunny California.  Jen, aka Super Jen, is my niece and assistant.  I’m glad to say, she isn’t going anywhere.

“Keep your ear to the ground” referred to the practice of plainsmen listening to the ground to hear hoof beats. It became the westerner’s warning to stay alert.