appetizers, Desserts, Fermenting, Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Sourdough Fun

Update 12/6/16:  I baked the sourdough sugar cookies again yesterday, and when I got out my paper copy of the recipe I’d printed off from Cultures for Health, I realized I had made a number of rather important changes to get the good result I had from my first batch.  I thought I’d better post an update, so here’s the amended sugar cookie recipe.  The link to the original recipe on Cultures for Health appears in the original post below.

Sourdough Snickerdoodles

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar in the cone)*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Gently mix in the sourdough starter. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonful onto a PARCHMENT PAPER–COVERED cookie sheet. (If you do not have parchment paper, spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.  I used a bare pan in one trial, and the cookies stuck a bit.) Sprinkle the cookies with cinnamon and sugar if desired. (I did, it was good and made them taste like Snickerdoodles.)

Bake 12 minutes. (I baked 14-15 min. at my altitude, depending on the size of my spoonfuls.)

Notes:  Because of recent experiences with sourdough starter recipes being too wet, I reduced the amount of starter the original recipe called for and omitted the water.  My starter is 100% hydration, so it is wet and fairly thin.  I used whole wheat pastry flour in the dough. The original recipe called for types of unprocessed sugar I’d never even heard of before.  I did have some piloncillo in the house, which is an unrefined, Mexican brown sugar. It comes pressed into cones of varying size and weight.  It was a pain to break up (I had to pull out the food processor), but it made a delicious cookie.  I see no reason why subbing white sugar, organic or not, wouldn’t work.  Regular brown sugar will work. I have made one version with regular brown sugar, spices, and nuts, but I still need to tweak it a bit before I post the recipe.


In my last post, I said I would share links to other sourdough discard recipes if anyone wanted them, and my faithful reader and friend, Kelly, said yes!  So here are my favorite discard recipes so far.  I’m sure there will be others as I explore the sourdough websites, in particular, Cultures for Health.

First, the sourdough cookies.  I really liked these cookies, and my son and granddaughter did too.  I used piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) instead of the sucanat called for (raw sugar), which I will not use again because it is a pain to deal with that cone of hard sugar.  Next time, I’ll use organic white sugar and reduce the amount by 1/4 cup, and I think that will make them taste even more like Snickerdoodles, my son’s favorite cookie. I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the tops of the cookies and called them Sourdough Snickerdoodles.  I have ideas about other incarnations of this recipe too, which I’ll be exploring shortly.

Another favorite recipe for using sourdough discard (remember, this is just sourdough starter batter that you have to use up before your starter becomes too big to be manageable) is the pizza dough.  I really, really liked this dough, so much so that after I tried it the first time, I made two batches of fresh dough the next day and froze them for future fuss-free pizzas.  The dough should be thawed overnight in the fridge, and I would take it out several hours before rolling to let it come up to room temperature.

The third recipe I liked for sourdough discard is an onion ring batter.  This recipe came from Cultures for Health also, but the recipe was for onion fritters.  I decided to add a little sugar and use the batter for apple fritters, which I love. I was very disappointed with the result.  The fritters would not hold together, and I finally figured out one reason was the lack of egg in the recipe.  A batter needs eggs, people!  Also, the batter wasn’t thick enough, and I ended up adding a lot of additional flour before I got something resembling a fritter.

However, I decided to try the batter, with the addition of an egg, for onion rings.  (Mostly, I wanted to use up my discard, and I had a lot of fat leftover from the apple fritter experiment that I wanted to use up.) I wasn’t terribly surprised when my altered batter created yummy onion rings.  So here’s that recipe, for those of you who aren’t afraid to fry.  (I really don’t like frying myself, but onion rings are about the easiest thing to fry, so don’t be timid.)

Fried Sourdough-battered Onion Rings

(serves 4-6)

  • 1½ cups sourdough starter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne (optional)
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • ½ cup brown rice flour (or any flour you prefer)
  • Preferred fat for frying (I used a mix of refined coconut oil–not unrefined because it will burn at the temp needed for frying—and avocado oil.  I don’t feel guilty about frying when I use “healthy” fats.  You can use vegetable oil or peanut oil, also.)

Turn your oven to warm, and set cooling racks over paper towel-lined cookie sheets inside the oven.  You will probably need two racks.

Start fat heating in a deep, 2-quart saucepan. You’ll need several cups of fat, and this is why I prefer using a deep saucepan with a small bottom rather than a cast iron skillet.  You can get a deep fryer effect with less fat.  The fat should be at least 4 inches deep in the pan when melted/heated.  If you happen to have a deep fryer, follow manufacturer’s instructions for using.

It’s wise to have a candy thermometer or digital thermometer to monitor the heat of the fat.  The fat should come up to between 350 and 360 degrees.  (Hotter than that, and this delicate batter coating will burn immediately.  Cooler than that, and they will absorb too much fat and will not be crispy.)

Separate onion slices into individual rings.  In a medium bowl, combine sourdough starter, beaten egg, sugar, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne with a whisk. Combine baking soda and baking powder and sprinkle over batter; whisk until just combined.  Batter will foam and increase in volume.

Working in small batches, toss a few onion rings in flour to coat (a Ziploc bag works well for this).  Dip flour-coated rings in batter with a fork or tongs, and place immediately into hot fat. Don’t try to fry too many at a time; cook three or four at time, maximum.  If you crowd the pan, you’ll lower the temperature of the oil, with the results noted above, and it’s also harder to flip a bunch at the right time than a few. Fry until bottom is golden brown, turn, and fry for about a minute longer.  These onion rings cook very quickly.  They are done in just about 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove from fat and place on racks in oven to drain.  You can salt them now if you wish, but they don’t really need additional salt.  These onion rings are light and crispy. Enjoy!

The last recipe for sourdough discard also comes from Cultures for Health.  I like the recipes on this site, obviously.  This one is for Sourdough Egg Noodles.

I made these for my Thanksgiving turkey carcass soup because, yeah, I needed to get rid of some discard, and I love homemade pastas!  This recipe calls for incubating the dough for 8 hours, so starting it early in the morning for dinner that night, or the night before for a lunch dish, is key.  However, when I was planning to test this recipe, I forgot that the dough was supposed to sit for 8 hours, and I didn’t get it started until 11 o’clock in the morning.  I figured I’d cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put the dough by the heating stove and see what happened in the time I had.  I was very surprised that in just 4 hours, the dough had more than doubled in size.

I took half of it out of the bowl (and I had only made half a recipe anyway because I didn’t want to sacrifice 6 eggs on an experiment) and rolled it for noodles for the turkey soup. I covered the rest of the dough and left it sitting on the counter, thinking I’d roll the other half when I got home from my granddaughter’s basketball game, if I felt like it. I could tell I’d have plenty from the one half for my pot of turkey soup.

I rolled the dough out on a floured board and cut it with a pasta cutter (which is old and dull, so I think I’d have been better off with a sharp knife), then spread the noodles on racks to dry for a couple of hours before being added to the soup.  Then I went off to my granddaughter’s game.


An hour and a half later, I got home and decided I was too tired to finish the soup and roll the rest of the noodles.  I cooled the soup and put it in a bowl to chill in the fridge so I could skim the fat (that wasn’t done when the carcass and pan drippings were put in the bags by SOMEBODY at my daughter’s house and frozen—wasn’t me!). I wanted to skim the fat off the soup before I added starch in the form of noodles.  The leftover noodle dough had risen again, even in the cool kitchen, so I stashed it in the fridge to deal with the next day. The rest of the noodles were left on the drying rack overnight. (Sometimes my ambition is too big for my energy’s britches.)

When I got up the next morning, I decided to finish drying the noodles in a warm oven, so they’d last for a few days before I had to use them up.  I decided to roll out the rest of the noodle dough that afternoon, dry it for just a bit, and then add it to my soup.  I love fresh pasta, and I didn’t want to pass up that fresh, tender pasta texture.  I’ll use the dried noodles in venison or bear stroganoff later in the week.

The noodles were wonderful, tender as only homemade fresh pasta can be. That half-recipe of dough made enough noodles for a big pot of turkey soup and one other dish for two.  If you are an empty nester, like I am, I’d definitely cut the linked recipe in half, or even quarter it, so you don’t end up making more noodles than you can easily use.  If you have a large family, by all means, make the recipe as it is in the link.

That’s it for this round of sourdough fun.  I’ve found a bread recipe I’m testing, and I’ll report on it soon.  The recipe was posted on a Facebook group by a guy who’s a doer, not a writer, and as is usual in such things, it’s a bit confusing as written.  As soon as I get the kinks worked out, I’ll share that.  It looks promising. The grandkids ate half a loaf when they came over after school to make dog biscuits. My grandson wanted to take the rest of it home, and that’s quite an endorsement from the food critic in the family!

appetizers, Recipes

Cream Cheese, Crab, and Avocado Won-ton Bites

Now, I know you’re not supposed to try new recipes when you’re having guests over.  But since my guests are almost always family, I feel perfectly comfortable trying out new ideas on them.  They like the food or they don’t, but either way, it’s a chance for me to use people who love me as guinea pigs!  So I tried out a new recipe of my own devising on them yesterday for our Super Bowl gathering: Cream Cheese, Crab, and Avocado Won-ton Bites.  It was a hit with those who like and eat seafood.  (We have some family members who don’t, so they don’t even try things like this.)  It was an easy and fun appetizer, and really pretty too.



Cream Cheese, Crab, and Avocado Won-ton Bites

(makes 24)

For the won-ton cups:

24 won-ton skins

Canola or vegetable oil for brushing

Mini-muffin tins

Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the top and cups of the mini-muffin tins with oil. Gently press the won-ton wrappers into the bottom and sides of the cups.  Pleat the sides and press as needed to keep the cups open.



Bake until lightly golden, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Gently lift the won-ton cups out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack, about 10 minutes. (I only have one mini-muffin tin, so I did them in batches.)



For the filling:

½ lb. frozen or fresh crab meat

1 eight oz. pkg. of cream cheese, softened

2 scallions, sliced

1 avocado, diced

2 tablespoons lime juice (fresh is best, but bottled is okay, too)

½-1 teaspoon sriracha sauce (optional)

Hot smoked paprika (optional)

Thaw frozen crab or use fresh. Drain liquid from frozen crab. Soften cream cheese at room temperature. Beat until creamy. Slice two fresh scallions. Add crab and scallions to cream cheese (and sriracha, if using) and mix together gently. (I did this in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment, on stir.) Chill mixture in fridge for an hour to firm up the filling.



Dice avocado, toss in lime juice to prevent browning. Fill wonton cups with small spoonfuls of cream cheese/crab mixture, and sprinkle a few avocado pieces on top. Dust with hot smoked paprika. Serve. (I had to serve on paper plates yesterday because most of my serving dishes and platters are packed in boxes while we remodel the kitchen.)



My darling granddaughter couldn’t stop eating these yesterday!


appetizers, Canning, condiment, Recipes

Red Hot Sauce


I could have titled this post “What To Do With Box-Ripened Tomatoes.”  Fall presents gardeners with something of a quandary:  what to do with all the green fruit that had to be gathered before the first frost.  By this time, most of us in the parts of the country that experience winter have picked our green tomatoes.  We’ve boxed them, and we’ve probably mostly dealt with them.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what I did with my green tomatoes this year.  But there are always some we let ripen in the box.

The first few box-ripened tomatoes are good.  They were the ones so close to ripening on the plants that only a few days or a week or so in the box with other tomatoes, and maybe an apple or banana or two, have brought them good flavor and juice.  They’re fine for eating fresh, in salads, on sandwiches and hamburgers.  But as the days go by, and as the tomatoes that were truly green when picked start to ripen under the influence of the ethylene they (and the banana and/or apple) produce, the flavor starts to decline.  After a few weeks, the tomatoes that ripen don’t have much more flavor or juice than supermarket tomatoes.  And we all know what those taste like.  So what do we do with these tomatoes we saved and cared for and now don’t really want to eat?


I make sauce.  I make two sauces, and the recipe I choose depends on how many tomatoes I have, which of my two sauces I have left from last year, and what I think I’ll need in the year ahead.  One of the sauces is an all-around pasta/pizza sauce, and I usually freeze it because it doesn’t make much (tomatoes really cook down), and I’m tired of canning by November.  The other is red hot sauce, which could be frozen, I suppose, but is designed to be canned.

I discovered red hot sauce a couple of years ago when my husband was given a whole, uprooted bush of habaneros to bring home to me.  This was a dubious gift—something the giver really just wanted off his hands so he didn’t have to deal with them.  What in the heck was I going to do with approximately 40 habaneros?  I started paging through my trusty Ball Blue Book and found red hot sauce.  It didn’t call for habaneros, but it called for hot peppers and tomatoes, both of which I had in abundance.  Never mind that the peppers were supposed to be “long, hot red peppers” and the tomatoes were supposed to be “red-ripe.”  Mine were red.  Sort of.  They’d been in the box long enough to ripen.  Sort of.  Good enough.

I made the hot sauce with habaneros and my box-ripened tomatoes.  I learned a little something about working with hot peppers along the way.  Yes, I knew that habaneros were about the hottest pepper I would likely ever encounter.  I knew to wear gloves and keep my hands away from my face.  What I didn’t know was that chopping the peppers in the food processor was a no-no.  What I didn’t know was that as soon as I took off the lid, the capsaicin that had been released from chopping the habaneros would rise up and hit me in the face like pepper spray out of a can.  Since I’d never been hit in the face with pepper spray, I didn’t know that it made you cough, and cough, and wheeze for breath, fruitlessly.  I’d heard about the tears, the outpouring of snot from abused mucus membranes, but I’d never experienced them.  It was an hour before I could go back in the kitchen and continue my little experiment.

But I am nothing if not dogged.  It was still pretty fumey in there, and for the rest of the time I worked with the sauce, I coughed and wheezed and hacked and went through a box of tissues.  But I learned that vinegar neutralizes capsaicin, and as soon as I got the vinegar, tomatoes, and peppers all cooking together, the peppers stopped releasing capsaicin, and I started feeling a whole lot better.  I got the food processor and all the tools I’d used on the peppers rinsed out with COLD water, and then washed with dish soap, and the atmosphere in the kitchen improved considerably.

Why am I telling you about my pepper fiasco?  Because I learned some things from that first experience of working with really hot peppers that I’m going to share with you so that you don’t have to learn what it’s like to get hit in the face with pepper spray. (I’m assuming that as a law-abiding citizen, you haven’t already experienced this.)

The red hot sauce turned out beautifully.  I was afraid to taste it, at first.  But having made it, I had to see if it was edible.  There was still heat, but no burn.  The vinegar tames the burn.  It was slightly sweet and the spices made it somewhat reminiscent of ketchup.  But it was nothing like ketchup.  I ended up with 3 half-pint jars.  I gave two of these to my son, who loves spicy.  He was the one who discovered that a better dipping  sauce for a shrimp platter has yet to be found.  And that’s why this year, I once again made red hot sauce with my box-ripened tomatoes.  I’m envisioning shrimp platters at football parties.  For the timid tasters among us, I’ll also make a lemon-basil mayonnaise.  But back to the red hot sauce.

Like pizza/pasta sauce that gets a lot of flavor from wine, herbs, onions, and garlic, red hot sauce is a perfect way of using up those box-ripened, less-than-tasty tomatoes because you’ll add a lot of flavor with the peppers, vinegar, salt, sugar, and spices.

This year, with red hot sauce in mind, I actually planted habaneros in my greenhouse.  I started them from seed in April.  I should have started them in early March.  They are very slow to sprout and then to grow.  They didn’t even start blooming until August, so I knew that it was unlikely I would get ripe peppers.  When my boxed green tomatoes started to get ripe, I checked my habaneros.  There were some small green peppers just starting to turn yellowish.


Good enough, I decided.  I gathered them.  I also had some jalapenos that I’d gathered from the garden when I picked all the green tomatoes.  And I had a few store-bought Serrano peppers, smaller but hotter than jalapenos.  I needed 1 ½ cups of peppers, chopped.  But wait a minute.  It was the chopping that got me into trouble before.  And it was the vinegar that came to my rescue.  So I devised a plan to keep that capsaicin under control.  What follows is the recipe I used, unaltered from its 1981 Ball Blue Book roots, except for the preparation of the peppers and the cooking time.

Red Hot Sauce

2 quarts cored, quartered tomatoes

1 ½ cups hot peppers

2 cups vinegar

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons mixed pickling spices

1 tablespoon salt

2 additional cups vinegar

Combine the tomatoes and 1 ½ cups of vinegar in large pot and get them started cooking.  Wearing gloves, and using a knife, cut peppers into chunks and measure.  If you want less heat, seed them before cutting in chunks.  Depending on the variety of pepper you use and the level of heat you’re comfortable with, seeding might not be necessary.  Put the peppers into a smaller pot for which you have a tight-fitting lid.  Pour in ½ cup of vinegar.  Put on the lid, bring just to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the peppers are tender.  (Stand back as you lift the lid to test tenderness with a fork.  Some capsaicin will be released into the air, but it won’t be much and shouldn’t be enough to cause any problems.  Although you might have a runny nose.  If you can schedule this on a day when you need some sinus relief, you’ll be a champion multi-tasker.)

Add the peppers and vinegar to the tomatoes and vinegar and cook until tomatoes are soft.  Wearing gloves, run the mixture through a food mill, fine-mesh strainer, or chinois to remove skins and seeds.  Put the resulting juice and pulp back into the pot and add the sugar and salt.  Put the pickling spices in a spice bag or tie in a square of cheesecloth or nylon tulle and immerse in tomato mixture.  Cook, stirring frequently, until thick.  Add remaining 2 cups of vinegar.  This will thin down the sauce again.  Continue cooking until as thick as desired.  (For shrimp dipping sauce, the right consistency is like a thin, pourable ketchup.  It should be thick enough to adhere to the shrimp when dipped, but not so thick that it all comes away on the first shrimp dipped.)  Remove spice bag.

Pour into sterilized, half-pint jars, leaving ¼ inch head space.  Process for 15 minutes in boiling water bath, adjusting for altitude as necessary.  Yield is about 4 half-pints, but it depends on how much you reduce the sauce before putting it in the jars.

Some notes:  It takes a while thicken the tomato sauce.  You can’t turn it up high or it sticks, so it has to be simmered on low, and it can take a couple of hours.  Have something else to do in the kitchen while you’re making this sauce.  You need to be available to stir it so it doesn’t stick, but other than that, it doesn’t require any attention.  And then as soon as you get it thick, you add more vinegar and thin it down again, and you have to cook it down again.  But, NEVER skimp on the vinegar.  I know it’s a lot of vinegar, but the peppers need it, and the sauce needs it to have enough acid to make it water-bath safe.  Also, do add it as directed at two different times in the cooking process.  There’s a reason for this.  Boiling a vinegar solution can evaporate the vinegar’s acetic acid.  And its acid is the reason we use the vinegar.  Adding vinegar at the beginning of the cooking time tames the peppers, but some of the acid cooks out.  Adding more vinegar  closer to the end of the cooking time ensures the sauce’s acidity.  Trust me, the sauce isn’t vinegary.  It’s actually perfectly balanced between heat, sweet, acid, and spice.

Also never increase the amount of peppers in the recipe to get more heat.  That affects the acid balance and can create opportunities for botulism to grow.  Habaneros are plenty hot enough in this sauce, believe me.  And if you want less heat, seed your peppers.  Or use jalapenos.  Or use Serranos for slightly more heat.  Or mix the two.  Or mix it up with a variety of peppers, like I did.  Just don’t exceed the AMOUNT called for in the recipe.

That’s it.  That’s a good way of using up your box-ripened tomatoes.  That’s perfect dipping sauce for a shrimp platter at your Super Bowl party.  That’s red hot sauce.


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