Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

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I love a cold, hearty salad for dinner in the summertime.  I’m always on the lookout for such recipes.  I went looking specifically for a lentil salad recipe because I wanted to up the fiber in my diet.  Lentils are quick-cooking and full of fiber and nutrition.  I found a recipe, and the flavors sounded good, but some of the method seemed odd to me.  For instance, if you cooked diced carrots and onions with the lentils long enough to get the lentils tender, as the recipe dictated, the vegetables would be mush.  Not very appetizing.  I prefer the texture and crunch of raw veggies anyway.  And there was no mint in the original recipe!  What, in a Mediterranean-flavored salad, no mint?  I had a small zucchini that needed using, so I diced it and put it in the salad also.   I made a number of alterations in the recipe I found, and I was pleased enough with my dish to share the recipe.

Mediterranean Lentil Salad

1 cup dry lentils (any color or variety, but use all one kind) *See Note

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon dried thyme

2 cloves garlic, minced

In a saucepan combine lentils, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on variety, or until lentils are tender but not mushy.  Drain lentils and remove bay leaf.  Allow to cool.


1 cup diced carrots

¼ cup diced red onion

1 cup diced zucchini or cucumber

¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

(I also added about 1/4 cup of chopped chives because I had some that needed using)

Mix vegetables, herbs, and lentils together and prepare salad dressing.


2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Whisk dressing ingredients together and stir into salad.   Allow to marinate and chill in fridge for a couple of hours.  Crumble in ¼ – ½ cup of feta cheese and toss before serving.

Note on cooking lentils:  Various colors/varieties of lentils require different cooking times.  I mistakenly mixed red and green lentils, and the red ones cooked to mush before the green ones were tender.  It didn’t ruin my salad, but I learned my lesson. Here’s a link to a handy guide for cooking times.

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!

Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes, Uncategorized

Mediterranean Farro Salad



Farro, also known as emmer wheat, is an ancient grain.  I bought some organic farro a while back, and have been developing the recipe for this salad through trial but not error—all iterations were delicious. Farro is high in fiber, protein, some minerals, and B vitamins. While it is lower in gluten than other types of wheat, it does still contain some gluten. (If you want to try a gluten-free version, I think quinoa would work nicely with the salad ingredients. Brown rice would probably also be delicious.)  Farro is nutty, with a firm, slightly chewy texture. For more about farro’s nutritional value, here’s a link:

I really like this salad for several reasons.  It’s one of those dishes that’s really versatile and can be served cold or at room temperature, so it’s perfect for potlucks and outdoor summer  suppers. The recipe below has Greek influences, but I’ve also made it with Italian flavors, and it’s equally delicious that way.  I also like the fact that it is can be a cold, main vegetarian dish or a side dish.  This variation is meatless, but it would be easy to add some cold roasted chicken or lamb, or even a bit of grilled flank steak to increase the protein (in which case you’d want to chill it and keep it cold until serving).  Add some baby spinach for more veggie content.  Or how about some grilled or roasted marinated eggplant?  Fresh zucchini cubes or slices?  Grilled zucchini planks, ribboned? So many possibilities!

And now, to the recipe/s!

Mediterranean Farro Salad

3-4 cups cooked farro (approximately)

1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced

1 red, yellow, or orange pepper, diced (or a combination of all three colors is pretty)

¼ cup red onion, diced

½ cup sliced Kalamata olives

½ cup diced sun-dried tomatoes (or fresh grape tomatoes, halved, or diced Romas)

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (optional)

1/3 cup Greek salad dressing (see link below)

First, cook the farro.  What follows are the package directions for the farro I bought.  There are different varieties of farro, so be sure to follow the directions on your package if they are different than these.

1 cup farro grains (makes 3-4 cups of cooked farro)

3 cups lightly salted water (1/2 teaspoon sea salt is what I used)

Bring water to a boil, add the farro, bring back to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and partially cover with a lid.  Cook farro, stirring frequently, for approximately 30 minutes, or until all water has been absorbed.  (At my altitude, it takes 40 minutes.) Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Stir occasionally while cooling.  While the farro is cooling, prepare salad dressing and salad vegetables.

I used this simple recipe for Greek salad dressing, and I really liked it: You’ll probably have all the ingredients you need already in your pantry.  A garlic clove, dried oregano, salt, pepper, lemon juice, olive oil.  Delicious!

Combine the cooled farro (it doesn’t have to be completely cool, just cool enough to avoid wilting or cooking the veggies), vegetables, feta, herbs, and salad dressing.  Mix thoroughly, cover, and cool completely in fridge.

Before serving, stir salad up from bottom to redistribute any dressing that might have drained to the bottom of the bowl and taste.  If you want, you can add more salad dressing, but you don’t want your salad to be oily, so don’t go overboard.

For an Italian variation:

*Omit cucumber.  Add a cup of roasted or grilled eggplant cubes.  (This can be marinated in Italian salad dressing after cooking for more flavor.)

*Omit feta cheese.  Substitute cubed fresh mozzarella.

*Omit mint.  Add a bit of fresh snipped basil instead.

*Omit Greek salad dressing.  Use Italian salad dressing instead.  My Italian dressing is essentially the same as the Greek dressing, except for acid I use red wine vinegar instead of lemon juice, and I use dried basil along with the oregano, and pinch of dried thyme.

*Omit sun-dried tomatoes and use fresh grape or cherry tomatoes, halved, or seeded and diced Roma or Italian tomatoes. Any fresh tomato would be fine.

*Omit Kalamata olives.  Substitute sliced or halved ripe black olives.

*Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for that quintessentially Italian flavor.

Happy summertime eating!  If you come up with any variations of your own, I would love to hear about them.



Main dishes, Recipes, Travel

Fresh Abalone

I usually like to write up my wild culinary adventures right away, but when you’re camping, you’re not likely to have an internet connection capable of handling a big upload (or is download?).  That was the case with our five days in Cleone, California, a tiny hamlet just a couple of miles north of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.

We go to Mendocino County (and camp in Cleone) at least once a year, twice if we can manage it, so Dennis can dive for abalone.  For those who don’t know, abalone is a shell fish, but not a fish.  It’s basically a big sea snail.  They look disgusting and taste divine when prepared properly.  So today’s post is about preparing abalone the way we like it best, and we’ve tried many different methods.





For the past couple of years, we’ve been camping in April with our dear friends, Karen and Louie Fortino, as a birthday celebration for Dennis and Karen, whose birthdays are only days apart.  It’s a good excuse to get together with friends we don’t get to see that often.  They live within two hours of the coast.  For us, it’s an eight-hour drive, but the haul is worth it.

Many years ago, Louie taught us a method for breading and cooking abalone.  It’s the best.  Louie’s a fabulous Italian cook, and this is the way he prepares squid for calamari.  It works equally well with abalone.  But before you get to the breading, there are some essential steps to take to make sure the abalone is tender enough to chew.

First, Dennis pries the abalone out of the shell, cleans away the gut (full of ground kelp), and trims off the black “lips” around the edge of the creature.  These lips are actually the abalone’s feet.  They help it move around on the rocks on which it lives under the surface of the sea.  The meat is pounded a few times with an ab iron (the tool used to pry the abalone off the rock) or a mallet, or even a two by four, if that’s all that’s handy.  This helps that incredibly strong muscle to relax.  Then the meat is rinsed clean, sliced thin into steaks, and pounded again, this time with a meat mallet, bumpy side down.  It’s necessary for the abalone steaks to be tenderized this way, and Dennis usually pounds them until he can see the muscle fibers breaking down.





Then it’s time for breading.  When we’re camping, we set up the breading station as follows:

*Put a cup of white flour in a paper plate and spread it out (for gluten-free abalone, I use brown rice flour here and homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs, seasoned the same way I season wheat flour breadcrumbs).

*Beat 3 eggs with a 3 tablespoons of water in a shallow bowl (or large paper plate) Mix with a half cup of chopped, fresh parsley if you have it.

*Pour a cup of Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs into another paper plate and spread them out (my recipe below).  If breadcrumbs are store-bought, add ¼ cup of grated Parmesean cheese and mix well.

This is enough breading for two medium abalone, which is enough abalone, with sides, for four hungry adults. The abalone steaks are dipped first in flour, then in the egg-parsley mixture, then in the seasoned bread crumbs.  After breading, they should be laid out in single layers on paper plates, waxed paper, plastic wrap, what-have-you, so that the breading doesn’t get soggy.

We usually have two people working the cooking process, one to bread and one to fry.  (Louie did the breading this time, and Dennis did the cooking, while I sat by the fire and drank wine with Karen!) As soon as breading starts, the cook should start heating some olive oil in a large skillet.  (Regular olive oil, not extra-virgin, is best for frying because it has a higher smoke point, but all I had this time was EV, and you just have to watch the temperature of the oil and clean the pan between batches.)  When the oil is hot but not smoking, it’s time to fry.

It only takes a few minutes to fry breaded abalone steaks.  By the time the breading is browned, the meat is tender and done.  It’s ideal to put the cooked abalone on a cooling rack and cover with paper towels to keep it warm, but when we’re camping, we just put it on paper towels in a paper plate and cover it loosely with foil to keep it warm.  If done right, the breading won’t become soggy while the rest is cooking.

Abalone is best fresh out of the ocean, but it can be removed from the shell, cleaned, and frozen in water (or a mixture of water and milk, Louie says) in freezer bags and eaten later.  We don’t bring it home any more.  It’s eaten on the spot!

We’ve tried other ways of preparing abalone.  It doesn’t have much flavor on its own, so it needs the seasoning in the breading, in my opinion, for best taste.  Dennis used to bread it in cracker crumbs, but the Italian bread crumbs are much better.  We’ve tried it sautéed in garlic and butter.  Blah.  We’ve tried it rolled in a flour and cornmeal mixture like fish.  Blah.  We’ve tried it in panko.  Blah.  We’ve tried it grilled.  Blah and yuck.  Basically, we’ve tried every way anybody who dives for abalone has said it’s good, and we’ve always come back to Louie’s calamari method.  It’s simply the best.

My apologies for the lack of photos with this post, but when you’re about to eat a once-or-twice-a-year delicacy, photos are the last thing on your mind!  I had to jump up and grab my camera just as we were ready to dive in, and I didn’t get pictures of the breading and cooking process because I was drinking wine with Karen.  🙂



Homemade Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs for Abalone Breading

*4 cups dry breadcrumbs

*1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I do use the fine stuff in the green container for this)

*1/4 cup crushed, dried oregano

2 tablespoons crushed, dried basil

2 tablespoons crushed, dried parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon paprika (optional)

Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Store in cool, dry place in airtight container.  Can be stored in fridge or freezer if tightly sealed.

I save heels, stale bread, hot dog and hamburger buns, dry ends of French bread—whatever I have—in the freezer until I have a gallon bag of it.  Then I dry it in the oven at 170-200 degrees.  I cool it, then run the pieces through the food processor with the blade in place.  I store this in ziplocs in the freezer and make up a batch of seasoned bread crumbs before we go to the coast.

For gluten free breadcrumbs, save the heels and stale pieces of bread and dry and grind them as above.  Then season away!

Earlier in the day, we stopped at Cowlick’s Ice Cream Parlor in Fort Bragg, and I had a scoop of Candy Cap Mushroom ice cream.  It sounds weird, but oh my, was it good!  It tasted like Butter Pecan or Butter Brickle ice cream.  I could have used another bowl of it for dessert!  (Not that we were lacking desserts, with homemade blueberry-topped cheesecake and homemade pineapple upside-down cake, neither of which were photographed!  We ate the evidence!)














Dairy, Gluten-free, Main dishes, Recipes

Buttermilk Pancakes

Until I started making buttermilk pancakes and sourdough pancakes from scratch, I really wasn’t all that fond of pancakes.  I’m sure I enjoyed them as a kid, because what kid doesn’t like pancakes?  But when my husband would make them for our kids, from pancake mix, they were always just so heavy and doughy, I didn’t really enjoy them.  I had to start making them from scratch to fall in love with pancakes again.

I love sourdough pancakes.  I like to make them on holidays when I’ve activated my sourdough starter to make sourdough rolls. But I don’t always have my sourdough batter activated and ready to go every time I want to make pancakes.  You either have to keep your sourdough always growing on the countertop (which I don’t), or you have to plan ahead and activate your refrigerated starter the night before so you can make pancakes the next morning (which I don’t).  And that’s why I love buttermilk pancakes, made with real buttermilk.  They are light and airy and tender, like sourdough pancakes, and they have a similar flavor.  And believe me, the flavor and texture of real buttermilk pancakes is nothing like the flavor and texture of a buttermilk pancake mix.

I make my own buttermilk now, so I always have it in the fridge. I usually only make 2 cups at a time, so I can use it up and keep making it fresh.  (Click the link to see how easy it is to make your own buttermilk.)  Also, my fridge is kind of small, so it helps with the space issue to keep just a pint jar going, and that’s enough for a big batch of pancakes, or a small batch of pancakes and a batch of biscuits.  (Yeah, real buttermilk biscuits are the bomb, too.) Because I always have buttermilk on hand, I don’t have to plan ahead to make delicious pancakes.

I have also used milk kefir in place of buttermilk with the same results.  I tried this because I had some kefir go a little alcoholic in the fridge when I was ill with the flu and unable to eat dairy.  I didn’t care to drink it when I got better, but I didn’t want to waste it.  The kefir made wonderful, light, fluffy pancakes, just like buttermilk, with no adjustments to the recipe.

I often make pancakes on the weekends.  I use a gluten-free, bean-based flour, and Dennis loves them.  He usually pours maple syrup on his.



I like to change it up.  Sometimes I like maple syrup, but I often will open a jar of my blackberry syrup or another fruit syrup I’ve made, or I’ll spread my pancakes with my old-fashioned, low-sugar, strawberry jam made with whole berries. (You can tell this picture was taken recently during the kitchen renovation, because of the paper plate and plastic fork!)



Or maybe I’ll pile them with apple butter or pumpkin butter and then drizzle them with maple syrup. Here’s a pic of one spread with apple butter and then rolled up like a blintz.  Then I coated it with maple syrup.





I like them in the summer with sliced fresh strawberries, or fresh raspberries or blueberries, or fresh peaches or nectarines, and whipped cream.  And if you add an extra egg and thin the batter out a bit with more buttermilk, you can use this batter for crepes as well.  Then you can fill them with sweetened cream cheese and fruit for blintzes.  Oh, my.  If you omit the sugar, you can use the crepes for a savory dish.  I’ll have to dig out my old recipe for chicken or turkey main dish crepes!

Here’s my gluten-free buttermilk pancake recipe for two (double the recipe for a family), and after that, I’ll share an old buttermilk pancake recipe that uses wheat flour.

Gluten-free Buttermilk Pancakes

Wet ingredients:

1 large egg

2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil (I use grapeseed, olive, or avocado oil)

1 cup buttermilk or milk kefir (Regular milk can be used, but the flavor will be different. Omit baking soda if using milk, and increase baking powder to ¾ teaspoon.)

½ tsp. vanilla extract

Dry ingredients:

1 cup gluten-free baking flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill from bulk bins at Winco.)

1 Tbs. sugar (any kind, or can be omitted; I use coconut palm sugar)

½ tsp. baking powder

¼ tsp. baking soda

¼ + pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (can be omitted; I’ve forgotten it, and the pancakes still held together)

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients in separate bowl; mix wet ingredients into dry. Let batter rest and get bubbly for a few minutes before baking on a hot, greased griddle or skillet.



I spread the batter out a little bit with the spoon to get a neater circle and a thinner pancake, although obviously they are not always the same size!



I cook at just hotter than medium in a little butter (and I really do mean a little) so they brown nicely and don’t have to be buttered after cooking, which can make pancakes soggy.   Allow bubbles to form and break before trying to flip, and make sure the pancakes are fully set and browned on the bottom before you flip them.  Don’t crowd the pan or griddle like I always try to do at least once.

You can make about a dozen small pancakes or 6-8 medium sized ones from this amount of batter.  We usually have a couple left over that I save and reheat for a weekday breakfast.

Buttermilk Pancakes (with wheat flour)

Wet ingredients:

1 egg

1 ¼ cups buttermilk or soured milk* (or milk kefir)

2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil

Dry ingredients:

1 ¼ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

Beat egg.  Beat in buttermilk and melted butter.  Combine dry ingredients and beat into wet ingredients until batter is smooth.  Bake on hot, buttered griddle or skillet.  Flip when bubbles have formed but before they break.

*If you don’t have buttermilk or milk kefir, you can approximate the flavor and acidic action of these by souring milk.  To one cup of sweet milk, add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice.  Stir and let stand a few minutes to curdle.

Notice a few differences in techniques between these two recipes.  With gluten-free flours, you almost always mix the wet ingredients into the dry.  The gluten-free pancakes also need to cook a little longer before you flip them.  With wheat flour, it’s nearly always a case of mixing dry ingredients into wet.

If you’ve been eating pancakes made from a commercial mix, I hope you’ll try making buttermilk pancakes from scratch.  It really takes only a couple of minutes more to measure out the extra dry ingredients, and the taste and texture of the real thing is worth the tiny bit of extra time.


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!



Main dishes, Recipes

Dried Mushrooms

I can be lazy. I admit it. I wait for sliced mushrooms to go on sale, and then I buy lots of them, rinse the residual compost (or whatever—I don’t want to think about it) off them, drain them, and shake them onto the dehydrator trays. Easy peasy.



It only takes about 20 hrs. to dry them. I put some in yesterday afternoon, and by this morning, they were done.  I don’t have to slice them, and I’ll always have mushrooms on hand for my gluten-free Eggplant Lasagna.  And if you haven’t tried that dish, you should when fresh eggplant is available again.  (I just planted the ones I started from seed in March into the greenhouse planting beds!)


You can make the lasagna without mushrooms, but they do add a texture and earthiness that I think enhances the flavor of the whole dish. Dried mushrooms are also great in soups or stews or dishes like Creamy Polenta with Mushroom (and Meat) Fricassee.  (Don’t be afraid to try various meats in this dish.  Beef stew meat will work perfectly well, as will any red meat.  I just happened to use bear meat.) This is a hearty dish for fall and winter that will reward you for taking the time to dry mushrooms when they’re on sale.


You can substitute dried mushrooms in any cooked dish that calls for fresh mushrooms.  I always rehydrate the mushrooms for about 5 minutes in a bowl with enough warm water to cover them, then add both mushrooms and liquid to the dish.

The beauty part about drying mushrooms? The dehydration process intensifies the flavor of white button mushrooms. You know how the chefs on the food channels always say something like: don’t buy white button mushrooms because they have no flavor? (Yeah, they always want you to buy the expensive mushrooms, don’t they?) Well, dried white mushrooms have lots of earthy, mushroom flavor. And while they’re drying, your kitchen (or wherever you park your dehydrator) smells like you’re making the most incredible mushroom sauce.

Dried mushrooms last practically forever. Well, for two years, at least. Look at the label on the jar on the left. Those were dried almost two years ago, and they’re still perfectly good.



Time to fill up another jar.



Canning, Main dishes, Recipes

Spicy Braised Chicken Thighs with Coconut Milk and Tomato Apple Chutney

Sometimes, I just like to play in the kitchen.  This dish is a result of some play after long abstinence following shoulder surgery.  It turned out so well, I just had to share it.

Spicy Braised Chicken Thighs with Coconut Milk and Tomato Apple Chutney

1 can light coconut milk

6-8 chicken thighs

1 tablespoon refined coconut oil*

Spice Mixture

Blend together the following:

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon hot smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon curry powder**

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon celery salt

1/8 teaspoon African pepper*** (cayenne is fine)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon of refined (so it won’t burn) coconut oil in a Dutch oven. Rinse chicken thighs and pat dry. Sprinkle and rub the spice mixture liberally over both sides of the chicken (you may have some left over). Place chicken skin side down in Dutch oven and brown skin until very crisp, but don’t burn the spices. Turn thighs and brown other side. Quite a bit of fat will render from the skin.


Remove chicken from pan, pour off fat. (Lower fat version: remove skin from chicken thighs before browning in coconut oil. There should be no need then to pour off fat from pan, since the coconut oil is healthy.) Pour 1 can of light coconut milk into Dutch oven, heat to boiling, stirring up the spices from the bottom of the pan. Place chicken back into pan, cover with lid, and braise in 375 degree oven for 75-90 minutes, or until chicken is tender enough to pull away from the bone with a fork.


Remove chicken from pan. Stir 1-2 tablespoons of flour (I use brown rice flour) into pan juices. Whisk over medium heat until boiling. Boil and stir one minute to thicken sauce. Serve sauce over chicken thighs.


As you can see from the pictures, I only had 3 chicken thighs, and there was enough sauce for several more thighs.  I wish I’d had more!  I served this with red quinoa instead of the traditional rice, with a good dollop of the tomato-apple chutney I made last fall on the side.


We also had kale with Canadian bacon and onion, one of Dennis’s favorite vegetable dishes.  Dennis was over the moon! He’s been getting pretty tired of his own cooking since my shoulder surgery in early December.

Notes: *Use refined coconut oil to brown the chicken because you’ll use a relatively high heat, and unrefined coconut oil burns too easily.  You can of course use vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil, or any other fat you like.  I just like the health benefits of cooking with coconut oil whenever I can.  **If you have a good curry powder or paste, you probably don’t need all the extra ingredients I added to the spice mix, but boy, it sure was good! I just used an inexpensive, all-purpose curry powder from the supermarket. ***My African pepper was given to me by my Nigerian co-mother-in-law, Theresa. She buys the hot red peppers in the market in Kaduna, cooks them, dries them in the sun, and then grinds them to powder. It is hot, but with great flavor. I love it, and I use it in everything. Cayenne is an acceptable alternative. It adds just a little heat, and of course, you can add more of any flavor you particularly like.





Main dishes, Recipes, Uncategorized

Meatloaf, Meatballs, and Variations

As some of you know, I’m recovering from shoulder surgery and don’t have much use of my right hand and arm for the next few weeks. I’m planning to do some reblogging during that time, highlighting previous recipes appropriate for the season. But a discussion on a friend’s page last week prompted me to jot down quickly my meatloaf recipe for you. Why? Because it’s different from any other meatloaf recipe I’ve ever seen in one key ingredient, and I want to share that with you so that you can make delicious, moist, fiber-rich and lower carb meatloaf and meatballs. For the rationale behind the use of this key ingredient, I’ve included the link to a previous post about sausage-stuffed acorn squash, which uses a variation on meatloaf. Rather than beef or turkey burger, this recipe uses ground breakfast sausage, and it is a delicious, easy, and attractive main dish. This previous post explains why I use oat bran rather than bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, or oatmeal as the binder in my meatloaf and meatballs. Here is my regular meatloaf recipe. If you want to make meatballs, this mixture works beautifully in that application; directions are at the end of this post.

Moist Meat Loaf

Serves 4

1 lb. ground meat  (beef, turkey, bison, venison—all are good)

½ cup chopped onions

1 seeded, chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large or extra-large egg, lightly beaten

¼ cup milk

½ cup oat bran (secret ingredient!)

2 tablespoons dehydrated veggie flakes (optional)

¼ teaspoon salt (or more to your taste)

¼ teaspoon black pepper (or more to your taste)

1-3 teaspoons crushed dried oregano (I like lots of herbage)

1-3 teaspoons crushed dried parsley

Olive oil

Saute onions, peppers, and garlic in a tablespoon or two of olive oil until tender.  Set aside to cool.  In a medium sized bowl, gently mix ground meat, egg, milk, oat bran, herbs, and seasonings.  Mix in sautéed vegetables. Press gently into bottom of bowl.

If I am using a fatty meat, I like to cook my meatloaf on a rack so that the fat drains off the meat as it roasts. If you are using a ground beef with 10% or less fat content, you don’t need to use a rack. But for 80/20 or 70/30 grinds (ratio of lean meat to fat), a rack should be used. Line a 13 X 9 inch cake pan or a cookie sheet with foil for easier clean-up later and place rack over top. Spray with cooking spray or grease with vegetable shortening or oil to prevent meatloaf from sticking to rack or foil. If you are using a lean meat, you can place the meatloaf directly on the foil-lined pan. Do not ever cook a meatloaf in a loaf pan. The meat does not roast when confined in a loaf pan and both texture and flavor will be affected negatively.

Turn bowl upside down over rack or pan and unmold meatloaf. If you are using a rack, leave the meatloaf in this mound shape. If you try to form it into a loaf on the rack, you will have sticking issues when you try to serve it. The mound shape produces a variety of lengths when sliced, which works out fine for families with small children or those with smaller appetites. If you unmound the meatloaf onto a greased, foil-lined pan, you can mold it into the traditional loaf shape.

Some people like to add a sauce to the top of the meatloaf at this point, traditionally, ketchup. I prefer not to add a sauce until the top of the meatloaf has browned. I think this produces better flavor, so I add my sauce or glaze in the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. And I’ve come up with a delicious glaze that is way better than plain ketchup. See below.

Bake uncovered for 60 to 75 minutes at 375 degrees, or until meat juices run clear.


¼ cup ketchup

¼ cup spicy brown mustard

2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Mix together.  Brush on meat in last 15-20 minutes of cooking time.

For meat balls:

Form meat mixture into 1 ½ inch balls. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet and roast at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until browned. Remove from oven and finish cooking in a pot of Italian Red Sauce. Meatballs in sauce can be served alone or tossed with cooked pasta of your choice.


Main dishes, Recipes

Green Turkey Burritos

Last year, I used my leftover Thanksgiving turkey in Green Turkey Enchiladas.  (For that recipe, follow the link to my post from last Thanksgiving, and as a bonus, there’s a delicious way in this previous post to use up leftover pumpkin pie.)


This year, I decided to make Green Turkey Burritos.  Burritos are easier to freeze individually, and that was important this year.  I’m putting up meals in the freezer in preparation for shoulder surgery that’s going to put me out of commission for several weeks.

I’m using up my leftover turkey breast meat in these Green Turkey Burritos.  Green turkey anything might sound a little weird but these things are oh, so good.  If you made any green tomato salsa, this is an excellent way to use it and take care of your Thanksgiving leftovers.  You can also use a store-bought salsa verde in this recipe.

I make gluten-free tortillas for myself, and use store-bought flour tortillas for Dennis, and I make up a bag for each of us.  The burritos are wrapped in waxed paper, which doesn’t stick to the tortillas when frozen like plastic wrap sometimes does, but which must be removed before heating.  I write a note on the bag to this effect, because I don’t trust Dennis to remember if I just tell him!


Here’s the gluten-free tortilla recipe I use, followed by the Green Turkey filling recipe which can be used for individual burritos or a pan of enchiladas.  Follow the directions here, if you wish to make enchiladas.

Gluten Free Tortillas

(makes 6)

2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour blend of choice (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons vegetable shortening (or lard, if you have it)
½–1 cup warm water (about 100°F)

Place flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt in a food processor and mix well. Add 4 teaspoons shortening and pulse to combine. Pour in warm water a little at a time in a slow, steady stream, pulsing to combine until dough comes together in a ball.  I usually use about 1/2 cup of water.

With wet hands, divide dough into 6 pieces and roll into ball.  With rolling pin, roll each piece separately between two sheets of rice-flour dusted plastic wrap until about 1/8-inch thick and 8 inches wide.

Heat a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet. Peel plastic wrap off one side of tortilla, then flip the tortilla over your hand and peel off the other piece of plastic wrap. (You can reuse these for the rest of the tortillas.)  When the skillet is hot, place a raw tortilla flat in the skillet, one at a time. Cook until bubbles appear (about 30 seconds), then flip and cook another 30 seconds or until very lightly browned.  (Under-cooking a little is better than over-cooking, especially if you intend to roll them for burritos or enchiladas.)  Remove from pan and place on a plate, layering sheets of waxed paper between each tortilla. Continue until all tortillas are cooked.

For Green Turkey Burritos:

If using the gluten-free tortillas above, fill and roll while still warm and pliable.  If you wish, you may use 1 pkg. of store bought flour tortillas.  The recipe below fills 10-12 medium-sized tortillas, so I always make some burritos or enchiladas for me with the gluten-free tortillas and use the rest of the filling in flour tortillas for Dennis.

Green Turkey Burrito or Enchilada Filling

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 (l like a mix of Monterey jack and pepper jack)

Mix all ingredients together.  Place a tortilla on a square of waxed paper.  Fill each tortilla with 3-4 tablespoons of meat/cheese filling.  Roll up like a burrito. (I don’t fold in the ends on the gluten-free tortillas because they just aren’t large enough or flexible enough).  Roll waxed paper around burrito, tucking in ends.  Place burritos in freezer bag and freeze.

To heat and serve, take burrito out of bag, unwrap waxed paper, and if microwaving, place on plate and heat in microwave under cover (you can use the waxed paper) for 2-3 minutes or until hot.  Sprinkle with a little more shredded cheese, if desired, and serve with sour cream, guacamole, or more salsa verde.

I prefer these heated in the oven.  Heat oven to 375, unwrap burrito, and place on heat-proof pie plate.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese and bake until burrito is hot through, and cheese is melted.  Serve with accompaniments as above.

One of these burritos alone makes a good lunch.  For dinner, serve with black beans squeezed with a lime wedge and a salad.