Desserts, Fermenting, Leftovers, Recipes

Cheater Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

I call these rolls “cheater” because I use yeast in them.  They’re made with my sourdough discard, left from feeding my starters three times in a 12 hour period before I use the starter to make bread.  Each time you feed a starter, you’re supposed to discard half of the mixture from the previous feeding, so your starter can consume the flour easily and get happy and strong and bubbly.

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That’s how starter needs to be before making bread, but for these rolls, you can put your discard in a covered bowl and leave it overnight without feeding, if you wish, before you start the cinnamon roll dough.  That’s because of the addition of instant yeast, and that’s the cheat. I dump my white, whole wheat, and seven grain starter discard together, and that’s what I use to make my cinnamon rolls and other discard goodies.

Instant yeast is great.  I buy it in bulk at Winco.  For those like me who grew up with the little red-and-yellow packets of regular yeast that you were supposed to activate in warm water or milk with a little sugar, to make sure it was bubbly before you started making dough with it, instant yeast is like magic.  You don’t have to add it to warm liquid.  You don’t even have to add it to liquid first.  So this recipe is easy, fast, and still has the sourdough taste from the starter without the wait. (Sourdough typically takes 8-12 hours to double.)

The other nice thing about this recipe is that you can play not only fast with it, but loose.  I have used 3 cups of sourdough discard, pretty much the same amount of the other ingredients, and have just added enough flour to get a workable, kneadable dough, however much flour that turns out to be.  I ended up with about 30 cinnamon rolls that time.  But usually, I have about 2 cups of starter discard left, so these are the approximate amounts I use.  I’ve been winging it for several batches now, but the last two times, I thought I’d measure so I could write up a recipe. They always turn out tasty no matter what I do.

Cheater Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

2 cups of sourdough starter discard (it doesn’t have to be freshly fed)

2 teaspoons of instant yeast

½ cup milk (I use milk kefir because I’m lactose-intolerant)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup softened butter or butter substitute (I use MELT because I’m lactose intolerant)

1 teaspoon salt

Beat all these ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well combined. (I use my stand mixer with the dough hook.)

Add approximately 3 to 3 ½ cups flour, ½ cup at a time.  When you can’t use a hand mixer any more, use your hands to work in the flour, or use your stand mixer with the dough hook to work the flour in until you have a dough that just cleans the bowl.  I then use my stand mixer to knead the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  After that, I hand-knead on a lightly-floured board, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about another 5 minutes. If you’re doing it all by hand, you’ll be mixing and kneading for about 10 minutes.  (This is too much for my arthritic hands, so my stand mixer has been a Godsend.) Shape the dough into a round ball.

Now, just a little dough lesson here.  Press your fingertip into the dough ball.  (Use your knuckle if you have long fingernails.) Your finger should leave an indentation for a moment, but the dough should spring back and the dent should disappear.  That’s the quality of elasticity you want, and it tells you your dough has been kneaded sufficiently to develop the gluten that holds breads together. Take note of this for later, because you’ll want to see just the reverse after the first proof.

Lightly oil a bowl or lidded container with a bit of mild-flavored oil, and place dough ball inside, turning to coat the top with the oil. (I use a square, plastic container with an airtight lid.  I like the shape because when I turn the dough out to roll it, it’s closer to the rectangular shape I want.)

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Cover the dough with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap or shower cap and place in a warm spot to double. With instant yeast, the dough will double in size in about 1 ½ hours.

(See, cheater!  Regular sourdough would take at least 8 hours, maybe longer.  I’m willing to wait for bread, but I want the cinnamon rolls done before the grandkids get home from school!)

While the dough is rising, prepare ingredients for filling; prepare your pan/s.

Ingredients for filling:

Soften ¼-1/3 cup butter or butter substitute (how much butter you use is up to you, and also depends on how much dough you have.)

Mix approximately ½ cup sugar with 2-3 teaspoons cinnamon (again, it depends on personal taste and how much dough you have.  You might need more cinnamon sugar if you have a big batch of dough.)

Grease a 9×13 inch pan with butter, shortening, or cooking spray.  (I use the paper that was wrapped around my MELT butter substitute and a little baking oil if necessary.)

When the dough looks like it’s doubled, press your fingertip or knuckle lightly into the center of the dough mass.  Unlike the last time, your finger should leave an indentation in the dough.  The dough should not spring back into shape.

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That tells you the dough has risen enough to go on to shaping your rolls.  (If the dough is still springy, leave it to rise longer but check about every 15 minutes.)  If the dough is ready, press the dough back lightly into the container with your knuckles and turn/scrape out onto a floured board.  How much flour you need depends on how sticky your dough is. You’ll be able to tell when you press down the dough if it is sticky or not. Never use more flour on your board than necessary to keep the dough from sticking at this stage. (Sourdough doughs tend to be sticky.  How sticky your dough is depends largely on the qualities of your particular starter. )

Pull and stretch your dough into a roughly rectangular shape, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it smooth and straight.  I usually roll mine out to about ¼ inch thickness.  Spread the softened butter over the dough, keeping it at least ¼ inch away from the edges.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter, keeping it away from the edges.  Then it’s time to roll.

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I roll away from me.  Some people like to roll toward them.  Do what feels natural to you. Starting on one lengthwise edge, roll as tightly as you can toward the other edge.  When you get to the end of the roll, pinch the dough together tightly with your fingertips all along the length of the roll to seal it.  Sometimes it helps to moisten the edge of the dough slightly or moisten your fingertips, especially if you’ve put too much flour on your board!  Make sure there is flour on the board where the seam is going to land when you turn the roll onto the seam.  Push the ends of the dough into the tube you’ve made, and pinch them to seal, again with moistened fingers, if necessary. Now you’re ready to slice.

I always used to cut my cinnamon rolls with my sharpest knife, but I learned about string cutting on The Great British Baking Show, and it really does work better.  Cut a length of cotton string or dental floss long enough to wrap around the roll a couple of times.  Using a knife or bench scraper, mark your cuts by pressing lightly into the roll about 1 ½ inches apart. Slide the string under the roll to the first mark, bring the two ends up and cross them, and pull on the ends with equal pressure at the same time.

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The string cuts evenly all the way around and through without the distorting pressure of the knife, and your cinnamon rolls will be rounder.  As you cut each roll, place it in the prepared pan with sides just touching.  (You may need an extra pan if you made a lot of dough.  I sometimes use a small bread pan for just two or three extra rolls that won’t fit in the big pan.) Don’t overcrowd the pan.  The rolls won’t rise or bake well if they don’t have room to grow.  I can usually fit 18 at the most in the 13×9 inch cake pan.

Cover your pan of rolls with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double again.  This should only take about 30 minutes.  When rolls have doubled, preheat your oven to 375 F and bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove the pan from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

Mix vanilla glaze, if desired.  Drizzle over rolls when they are cooled but still slightly warm, so the glaze soaks in a little bit.

Vanilla glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 teaspoons milk

Add the milk one teaspoon at a time to the powdered sugar and vanilla, beating hard with a spoon, until you get a thick, but pourable glaze.  Drizzle with the spoon over the rolls until you’ve got the amount of glaze you like. Now, some people I know make double the glaze and really glop it on!  That’s okay, if you like them that way.  Other people make a cream cheese frosting.  I’m something of a purist.  A cinnamon roll is all about the sweet roll dough and the cinnamon for me, so I like a light, drizzled glaze best.  I want the cinnamon to be the star of the show, and in these rolls, it is.

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Note:  The last time I made these, I was out of powdered sugar, so I made a honey-caramel syrup with about ½ cup of water and ¾ cup of sugar, boiled together until just starting to thicken and take color, and then I added about ¼ cup of honey and a teaspoon of cinnamon.  (The honey keeps the caramel syrup from hardening.) I poured that shiny glaze over the cinnamon rolls, and it kept them really moist during the week it took Dennis to eat them all.  Later, I wished I’d used my vanilla sugar instead of plain sugar in the syrup.  Next time!

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Gluten-free, Leftovers, Main dishes, Recipes

Turkey Pot Pie

I love Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m perfectly happy to eat turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce for days afterwards. Days. But eventually, I start wanting to do something different with my leftovers.

On Day 3, I put two turkey dinner plates with the works in the freezer. I also made mashed potato cakes from the over-abundance of mashed potatoes for brunch on Sunday and still had some left over. What to do? Then the light bulb clicked on. Turkey pot pie.

The thing that clinched this dish, turkey pot pie, was the fact that I had a little bit of pie dough left over too. I also had some mushrooms that needed to be used before they became unusable. I have a lot of carrots in the fridge from my garden (and more in the garden), and I had some raw turnips already peeled and cut which were left over from the raw veggie plate.

I didn’t have a lot of cornbread stuffing left over, but I had the thought to use it for the bottom crust of the pot pie. I’ve never done this before, but I figured it could go one of two ways. Either the stuffing would crisp up and form a crunchy crust on the bottom, or it would absorb the juices of the other filling ingredients and become moist and succulent again. And either way would be fine. It turned out the second way, with the stuffing absorbing the juices of the rest of the filling, and it was delicious. So here’s how I did it, complete with pictures.

Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

(all measurements are approximate—use your judgement and your taste with the layers, add ingredients that you like, such as peas)

1 ½ cups leftover stuffing (link to my gluten-free cornbread stuffing)

2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

2 cups diced carrots

2 cups diced turnips (optional)

½ cup diced onions

½ cup diced celery

1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups leftover turkey meat, light or dark or both, chunked

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

½ cup leftover turkey gravy

1 unbaked pastry circle for top (I make a gluten-free crust that’s really good.  Recipe coming soon!)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter or heat oil in large skillet. Add carrots and turnips and sauté for 5-10 minutes, or until carrots start to caramelize.  Add onions, celery, and mushrooms. Salt and pepper lightly. (Remember, there will be salt in the stuffing, the gravy, and the mashed potatoes.) Sauté vegetables until mushrooms have released their liquid and the liquid has mostly been cooked away or absorbed. Stir frequently.



While vegetables are sautéing, butter or spray oil the bottom and sides of a nine-or-ten inch pie plate. Crumble stuffing between your fingers and press it onto the bottom of the pie plate, and up the sides if you have enough and want to. Dollop the mashed potatoes over the stuffing and press into a compact layer.





Spoon the sauted and softened vegetables evenly over the mashed potatoes. Layer the meat over the vegetables, and spoon the gravy (warmed if it has solidified) over the meat.





Roll out your pie crust, cut several vent slits in the top, and lay it over your filling. You can crimp the edges if you like. Place the pie on a cookie sheet to prevent it from bubbling over onto the bottom of your oven.



Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is browned and juices are bubbling inside the pie. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes to allow the pie to set. Don’t worry, it will still be hot when you cut into it!



I was able to remove cut pieces with a spatula, but it would have been easier to dish it up with a big spoon!



Absolutely delicious!



Leftovers, Main dishes, Recipes

Sublime Roasted Chicken Soup

I actually call this soup Everything But the Kitchen Sink Chicken Soup, or sometimes, it’s known in our house as Clean Out the Fridge Chicken Soup.  But that’s a pretty long title for a blog post.  So, to shorten it up, and to give credit to the technique that produces the delicious flavor of this soup, I went with Sublime Roasted Chicken Soup.  I had to throw in “sublime” because there are just way too many “the best chicken soup” posts out there in online foodie land.  I’m not saying I make the best chicken soup in the world.  I don’t have to.  My family says it for me!

My chicken soups are always made with the carcass from a roasted chicken, so let’s start there.  Roast chicken was one of the first things I taught my daughter-in-law to cook when she and my son were married, and it’s just about the easiest thing to put on a dinner table to feed a family.  What follows is more of a technique than a recipe, which allows you to use your own creativity (and eventually, your leftovers).

Roast Chicken

Season a fresh or thawed chicken, inside and out, with any of the following seasonings or get creative and make up your own:

1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning mix (this is a blend of peppers, salt, and spices you can buy in the grocery store, and I like it a lot for chicken) OR

1 tablespoon Montreal chicken seasoning mix OR

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt mixed with 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 1 teaspoon dried crumbled sage and 1 teaspoon dried crumbled thyme (or a teaspoon of ground poultry seasoning)

Whatever kind of seasoning you choose, sprinkle it inside the body cavity and rub it outside on the skin, then place the chicken into a roasting pan or Dutch oven with a lid. I always cook my chicken in a roasting pan with a lid (so technically, it’s baked or braised, I suppose, not roasted) because the meat is always moist and juicy, and I don’t have to worry about basting.  This is easy-peasy chicken dinner!

If you want to fancy it up, you can stuff the body cavity with any sort of stuffing you like (I have a recipe for cornbread stuffing in another post) or with sliced lemons, onions, garlic, and a sprig or two of rosemary, and you can also place root vegetables like carrots and parsnips and potatoes around the chicken, if there’s room in the pan, when you’ve got about an hour of cooking time left.

Cook the chicken at 325-350 degrees for 2-2 ½ hours  (depending on the size of the chicken) or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees in the thickest part of the leg.  You can also tell the chicken is done when the meat on the drumstick starts to pull away from the bone and the thigh joint jiggles easily when you move the leg.

Remove the chicken from the roasting pan to a carving board or platter and cover it loosely with foil.  Let it rest until it stops steaming, about 20 minutes.  Don’t carve your breast meat while there is still steam escaping from the bird.  It will dry out.  If you stuffed the bird, remove all the stuffing as soon as you remove the bird from the oven.  Don’t let stuffing cool inside the bird.

Pour off the cooled pan drippings and refrigerate.  You can make gravy with the drippings, but there tends to be a lot of fat in it, so if you have one of those fat separators, it’s helpful for making gravy.  Cooling the drippings allows the fat to be scraped off the top, so you can use just the flavorful and nutritious drippings in your soup and discard the fat.  If you do make gravy, save any leftovers for adding to your soup, just like you would the drippings.  Enjoy your roast chicken dinner!

Dennis and I get at least 4 or 5 meals from one chicken.  We eat several meals from the roasted meat itself, and then, I make soup from the carcass.  Here’s how to get all the goodness from that chicken carcass.

Sublime Roasted Chicken Soup

First, place the carcass on a cookie sheet.  Rub a little olive oil on the exposed shreds of white meat that are left on the carcass and sprinkle it lightly with salt and pepper or the same seasoning mix you used before roasting the chicken.  Turn the chicken carcass upside down! Place in 400-425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the carcass is a golden, toasty brown color.

The reason for roasting the carcass again is two-fold.  First, roasting creates flavor and color in your broth.  (If you want clear, pale chicken broth like the stuff that comes out of a can, don’t roast.  But you won’t have nearly as much flavor.)  The second reason to roast is that the high heat on the bones helps them release minerals and nutrients into the broth or stock.

While the carcass is roasting, peel and cut four large carrots into bite-sized chunks or cubes.  Chop or slice four ribs of celery.  Chop one onion.  (You can add more of any vegetable if you like.  I often add more carrots because I love carrots in soups and stews.)  When the carcass is golden brown, remove it from the oven and place it in a large soup pot.  Add just enough water to cover the carcass and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover with a tight-fitting lid.  You will immediately notice how rich the broth looks, much darker than broth from an unroasted carcass.  Color equals flavor!


The carcass will need to cook about an hour to loosen all the meat from the bones and to release the flavor.  Drain the fat from the cookie sheet, and place carrots, celery, and onions on it, stirring to coat them in the leftover chicken fat.  Spread the vegetables out on the cookie sheet, sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper or the seasoning mix you used on the chicken/carcass, and return to the oven, roasting the vegetables until they also begin to take on some color.  You’ll be amazed at how much more flavor you get out of your vegetables by roasting them.  (You can also sauté them in a little olive oil or butter on the stovetop, but why dirty up another pan, and the oven is already hot!)


When the vegetables are a little browned, remove them from the oven and scrape the cookie sheet to loosen any that have stuck to the pan.  Set them aside.  Do not add them to the soup pot until after you have removed the chicken carcass and bones from the pot.

When the carcass is falling apart in the broth, it’s time to remove it.  Use a spider or slotted spoons to remove the carcass from the broth, and set it aside to cool.  While the carcass is cooling, you can add your roasted vegetables to the broth.  (I also rinse the cookie sheet with the broth, holding it over the soup pot and ladling the broth over it, to get off any little stuck bits of brown goodness, which adds flavor.)  This is the time to add the pan drippings you saved when you roasted your chicken, or any leftover gravy.  If you saved pan drippings, before you add them, be sure to remove the fat that rose to the top of the drippings as they cooled.  Your drippings should be mostly gelatinized.  That means flavor!  Taste the broth and adjust for seasoning.  Remember to use the same seasoning mix you used when you roasted the chicken as you season your broth.  This keeps competing flavors at a minimum.  When the carcass is cooled enough to handle, pick the remaining meat from the bones and add it back into the broth.


At this point, your soup is essentially done, and you can serve it as is.  But there is much more you can do with it.  You can turn it into Everything But the Kitchen Sink or Clean Out the Fridge Roasted Chicken Soup.  Just start prospecting in your fridge and pantry.  To my last batch of soup, I added a couple of cubed potatoes, a cup or so of leftover green beans, about a cup and a half of leftover Seven Bean and Ham Soup (made with the leftover Christmas ham), and some Swiss chard I put in the freezer last year and rediscovered recently.  This produced a rich, hearty, soup-that-eats-like-a-meal.  One bowl of this contains all the meat and veggies you need for a complete meal, and if you are watching your weight, this soup is very figure-friendly.


Of course, you can add noodles or rice, if you wish, but since I have been trying to eliminate grains from my diet, I usually add a can of rinsed, dark red kidney beans, or a can of black beans to my chicken soups in lieu of pasta.  This keeps the soup low-carb but hearty and full of protein.  I sometimes cook noodles or rice separately so that Dennis can put some in the bottom of his bowl and pour the soup over it.  That way, we both have what we want.  We will have several meals from a big pot of soup, and I’ve been known to freeze a quart for a snowy day.  I’ve found that soup is one of the best ways to stretch my food dollars and use leftovers that would otherwise be wasted.

Is soup-making work?  Yes.  Is it time-consuming?  Yes.  Is it worth it?  Yes, yes, yes.  Flavorful and nourishing:  it’s no wonder chicken soup has been known for years not just as comfort food, but as food for the soul.

Desserts, Leftovers, Main dishes, Recipes

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Green Turkey Enchiladas and Pumpkin Pie Milkshakes

Most of us have a favorite way to use up Thanksgiving leftovers.  I’m freezing my leftover stuffing to use later this winter with the Cornish game hens I have in the freezer.  I usually make turkey soup, but yesterday, it occurred to me that I have all that green tomato salsa verde that I made earlier this fall, and why not use up the leftover carved turkey in some green enchiladas?   I hadn’t tried the sauce yet, and since I just picked another box of green tomatoes out of the greenhouse, I might want to make more of it.


I made two pans of enchiladas, one with gluten-free tortillas for me, and one with flour tortillas for the rest of the family.   And they liked it quite a bit, so I might be making more salsa verde this week.


I chopped three or four cups of leftover turkey, both white and dark meat, into bite-sized pieces.  This made six gluten-free enchiladas for me, and ten regular enchiladas for the family.  I had cheese already shredded in the freezer, so I used what I had, which was white cheddar.  My favorite cheese for green enchiladas is pepper jack, but Monterey jack is also good.  I lined my pans with foil because I plan to put any leftovers into the freezer for a quick, heat-up meal on rushed days.  The foil will allow me to lift the cooled enchiladas out of the pan, so I can wrap them with more foil and plastic for a tight seal.

Green Turkey Enchiladas

(makes 8-12 enchiladas)

1 pkg. medium-sized flour tortillas (12)

3 cups chopped turkey, light or dark meat or mixed

2 cups blended salsa verde (1 pint jar)

1 cup chopped onions

1 small can sliced black olives

2 cups shredded cheese

1 cup chunky salsa verde

Spray the bottom of a 13X9 inch pan with cooking spray (or oil it with a pastry brush) and spread a generous spoonful of sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Reserve a quarter cup of sauce for spreading on top.  Mix the rest of the sauce in a large bowl with the turkey, onions, chunky salsa verde, and olives.  It’s easiest to mix the cheese in at this point as well, reserving a quarter cup for the top.  What you end up with doesn’t look that tasty, but it will be, I promise.

Starting at one edge, place 3-4 tablespoons of the turkey filling mixture along the edge of the tortilla.  Roll it up and place it seam side down in the pan.  Continue until you have used all the filling mixture (you may have leftover tortillas).  Paint the tops of the enchiladas with the reserved sauce and sprinkle with reserved cheese.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until enchiladas are bubbly and cheese is melted and golden brown.


Serving suggestions:  Top with sour cream, more of the chunky salsa verde, chopped avocado, pico de gallo.  Black beans with garlic and lime make a nice side dish.  With a green salad, you have a complete meal.

This dish was a hit with the family.  We finished the meal with a recipe of my daughter’s, a pumpkin pie milk shake.  The first time she made this, she included the pie crust from the leftover pie, but we have since decided it’s better without the crust, so we make extra custard now specifically for this dessert.  We first used homestyle vanilla ice cream, but last year, we discovered that Dulce de Leche ice cream adds depth.  You can turn this into an adult drink with the addition of a shot per serving of the alcohol of your choice.  Rum, bourbon, or brandy are all good choices.  Of course, you can always just eat the pumpkin pie as is!

Amy’s Pumpkin Pie Milk Shake


(makes about 4 one cup servings)

1 quart  of Dulce de Leche ice cream

1 cup milk

1 cup leftover pumpkin pie custard

whipped cream (optional)

Blend all ingredients together and pour into glasses.  Garnish with whipped cream.

Later this week, I will make turkey soup out of the pan drippings in the fridge and the two carcasses in the freezer.  If you’ve got a good recipe for using up Thanksgiving leftovers, I’d love to hear it.