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.

Add:

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.

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.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/lentils-common-varieties-and-how-to-cook-and-use-them/2014/01/07/6cf88616-74cc-11e3-8def-a33011492df2_story.html?utm_term=.4341c608503b

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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.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/soft-sourdough-cookies

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.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/sourdough-pizza-crust

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.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/rustic-sourdough-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!

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Recipes, Side dishes

Sourdough Rolls

Just in time for Thanksgiving, a no-muss, no-fuss sourdough roll recipe!  I’ve posted sourdough biscuit or roll recipes previously, and I liked them, but this one is my own, and I like it best, because of the no-muss, no-fuss part.  What I mean by that is there’s no prep to do for the night before, and no rising time before baking, which makes it much easier to coordinate for Thanksgiving dinner.

The previous sourdough biscuit recipes I used came from a friend who gave me some of her husband’s family’s heirloom sourdough starter.  This was back in the ‘80s.  I kept that starter alive for many, many years, but when my mom passed away, I went through a period of depression and inactivity, and I let the starter die in the fridge.  I didn’t mean to, it just happened.  Sadly, the rest of my friend’s family also let the starter die, so it is gone from this world.  And that’s a shame, because it was a good one.

I tried starting new batches of sourdough starter using baker’s yeast, but they were less than successful long-term.  They just couldn’t survive the periods of inactivity in the fridge the way that strong, old heirloom starter did.  However, some years ago, I learned that sourdough could be started with just flour and water.  That was how the old-timers did it, and that was surely the origin of the heirloom starter I let die.  So I finally got around to trying that method, starting with 3 tablespoons of flour and 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of water.  You just mix that up in a glass bowl or jar, cover loosely, and set it in a warm place to let the yeasts in the flour start feeding.  Every day, twice a day, you feed the starter the same amount of flour and water, stir, and watch for bubbles.  On the third or fourth day, you have to start feeding a little more flour and increasing the water.  A quarter cup of flour to a quarter cup of water, still twice a day.  It really couldn’t be easier.

On about the fifth to the seventh day, you have to discard half of the starter to keep it to a manageable size that won’t consume massive amounts of flour. It takes a while for the starter to develop enough yeasts to leaven a loaf of bread, and in the meantime, feeding the starter will create prodigious amounts of discard, as in several cups a week.  Some people throw it away, but I am using rather expensive flour, and I didn’t want to waste it. (I am using Guisto’s Organic Bread Flour that I bought at our local health foods store.)  When the starter is a few weeks old, you can start feeding it ½ cup of flour and water once a day.  And when it is over a month old, you can stash it in the fridge for a week or so, with a tight lid, and only take it out the day before baking to feed and reactivate.

Because my starter is young and producing lots of discard, I’ve been testing recipes and have found some I liked and some I didn’t.  I tried a sourdough cookie that was very similar to Snickerdoodles.  Joel and Kaedynce really liked those. I’ve also been making a lot of sourdough pancakes, and I adapted my sourdough pancake recipe for waffles. I made sourdough pizza crust that turned out great, and I even made extra and froze it for later.  (If anyone is interested, let me know in a comment and I’ll provide those recipes and links in a separate post.)

When I tried my old sourdough biscuit recipe with my new starter, I had not exactly a total failure, but what I ended up with was not something I’d serve at Thanksgiving. My sourdough biscuits are a tradition at Thanksgiving, so I wanted to get the recipe right.  And goodness knows, I had plenty of discard to experiment with!

It took two more batches of biscuits to get the adjusted recipe right, but wow!  When I got it, I was really happy.  My starter isn’t very sour yet because it is still young, only six weeks old, but I’ve been assured that typical sourdough flavor will come in time.  For now, these rolls are perfect to continue the Thanksgiving tradition, and I figured out a short cut to save prep time the night before.  This recipe uses fresh discard, that is, sourdough starter that has been fed within 12 hours.  I’m calling them rolls, because they tasted more like a yeast dinner roll than a sourdough biscuit.  (Again, that’s because my starter is young.  If yours is mature, you’re going to get more of that classic sourdough flavor.)

Sourdough Rolls

(makes one dozen rolls)

2 cups sourdough starter/discard

1 cup dry powdered milk (see notes)

2 cups flour (I used organic pastry flour—see notes)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons sugar (see notes)

1 teaspoon salt

Additional ¼ – ½ cup flour for kneading

2 tablespoons butter, melted in 9×12” pan (see notes)

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix starter and powdered milk together in a large bowl until smooth.  Mix baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt into 2 cups of flour in separate bowl.  Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until flour is moistened.  Dough will be wet.

Sprinkle ¼ cup of flour onto board.  Turn out soft dough onto board and knead until smooth, adding more flour as necessary (up to ½ cup total) to keep dough from sticking to board.  When dough is stiff enough to cut, pat down to about ¾ inch thickness and shape rolls as desired. (I use a biscuit cutter or a small glass, dipped in flour after each cut.)  Dip one side of the roll into melted butter in pan and turn over so butter-coated top is up.  Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  The rolls will rise during baking.

Notes:

Why powdered milk?  Sourdough starter is wet and runny.  It’s half flour, half water. Rolls and biscuits need milk, but sourdough discard recipes typically don’t need more liquid.  My old sourdough pancake recipe used powdered milk, so I thought why not try it in the rolls?  It worked beautifully. I can only find non-fat powdered milk, and I get it in bulk at Winco, so it is inexpensive.

I used organic pastry flour for my rolls.  All-purpose flour will work fine—I used it for years in sourdough biscuits.  I would not use bread flour for the rolls because there’s no long rising and working periods to develop the gluten.

I used organic cane sugar. If you object to sugar, don’t use it, but sugar gives the rolls that old-timey, yeast bread flavor that I love.  There’s no reason you couldn’t use honey or any other sweetener of your choice, adjusting as necessary for your taste.  If you use honey or any liquid sweetener, add it to the sourdough starter and powdered milk before adding the flour mixture.

As for baking the rolls in butter, you can substitute any oil you like to use for baking, but you will lose flavor.  These rolls contain no other fat (unless you use powdered milk that contains fat), and the butter helps them brown on top and bottom and gives them delicious flavor.  Melt the butter in the pan and then allow the pan to cool down before you put the rolls in.  You don’t want the bottom of the rolls to start cooking right away in a hot pan.  You want them to rise before they start to brown.

One last note.  The baking powder and baking soda react with the acids in the sourdough starter to make these rolls rise as they bake.  My old recipe (also using baking powder and baking soda) called for allowing the biscuits to rise for 30 minutes before baking, but I found that with my young starter, I had better results baking as soon as the rolls were in the pan.  They rose higher and were lighter with better texture.

I only have one picture of my recent batch of rolls in the pan, and it is a bit blurry.  I took it in a hurry on my phone because I was getting ready to leave on a trip.  It’s not the best picture, but trust me, the rolls tasted so much better than this picture might indicate.  There’s one missing from the pan because it was snitched as soon as they came out of the oven for a taste test!  Mmmmm.

 

 

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Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes, Uncategorized

Mediterranean Farro Salad

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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:  https://draxe.com/farro.

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:  http://www.simplyscratch.com/2010/11/my-big-fat-greek-dressing.html. 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.

 

 

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Recipes, Side dishes

Wheat-free Cornbread, Improved!

8/14/2016:  I just discovered the unpublished draft below in my posts folder.  This is the recipe I have used for the past couple of years, and I like it very much better than the previous one, which included coconut flour.

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I’ve been tweaking my wheat-free cornbread recipe. Corn contains gluten, and if you have celiac disease, you may be sensitive to corn gluten. That’s why I’m no longer calling this cornbread gluten-free. I am not sensitive to gluten; I simply have cut way, way back on the amount of wheat in my diet. I am still not completely wheat-free, but I’m getting closer all the time. When I decided to cut out wheat, there were many family-favorites I was afraid would fall by the wayside. Cornbread was one of them. Cornbread is woven deep into the food history of my family, so it was not something I was willing to give up. I just had to learn how to make it without wheat flour.

In a previous post, I shared my wheat-free cornbread and cornbread stuffing recipes in a Thanksgiving dishes post. Here’s an updated version of the cornbread recipe. I’ll be using this version of wheat-free cornbread in my cornbread stuffing this year, along with cubes from a new bread recipe I’ve been using and will share after Thanksgiving. For now, wheat-free cornbread.

Wheat-free Cornbread

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (I use Bob’s Red Mill in bulk from Winco)

1 cup yellow cornmeal

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1/3 cup sugar (I’ve been using organic coconut palm sugar)

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

4 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup oil (any oil you would use for baking is fine)

1/3 cup milk or buttermilk

 

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients; mix into dry. Grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet, pour in batter, and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Or grease 12 muffin cups, fill half-full, and bake for 13-15 minutes at 425 degrees. Remove from oven and cool five minutes, remove from muffin pan to rack (or from the skillet to a plate on a rack) to finish cooling. May be served warm.

I’ll be making a double batch of cornbread so we can have some with a bean soup for dinner on Wednesday night. The leftovers will be set out to dry overnight and then will go in my cornbread stuffing. And yes, the stuffing goes right inside the turkey, despite what the Food Network people say! It’s my family’s favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.

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Recipes, Side dishes

Crab and Ricotta Jalapeno Poppers

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We just had a big weekend with old friends and family. In honor of the October hunting season, I made Bear and Mushroom Fricassee for Saturday’s meal, but on Sunday, it was football and snacks and then pulled pork and coleslaw sandwiches, which my son brought. Among the snack food on the table was a plate of bear liver pate, some homemade charred salsa, and a new one for me, jalapeno poppers. Jalapeno poppers with crab and ricotta cheese.

I make my own ricotta from milk either soured or on the edge, and have for some years. I freeze it in Ziploc bags, so I have it whenever I need ricotta, usually for my Eggplant Lasagna with meat sauce and lots of cheese. However, yesterday morning, when I needed to get two half cartons of milk out of the fridge (somehow when we were camping we ended up with two cartons that were now past expiration) to make room for the leftovers I knew we’d have, I decided to use the cheese right out of the strainer.

I had planned to make crab cakes as well, but I was talked out of it the night before by my son, who didn’t know what time the hunters would be getting back from the hill. But then I remembered that Cristy, a Facebook friend, had said that crab was good in jalapeno poppers. So instead of going with another recipe I’d found, my friend, Karen, and I came up with our own.  And they were great!

Crab and Ricotta Jalapeno Poppers

12 medium jalapeno peppers, either red or green

½ cup ricotta cheese

½ cup crab meat (fresh, frozen, or canned)

¼ teaspoon of Cajun or Creole seasoning, more if you prefer

2-4 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese

Hot smoked paprika for sprinkling

2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onion tops

I got a small package of crab out of the freezer and thawed it in cold water in the sink. This is Dungeness crab my husband and brother pulled out of the Pacific Ocean last November, and we picked it and froze it in food saver bags. It is still great! Of course, you could use any kind of crab, fresh, frozen, or even canned.

I went out to the garden and picked about a dozen medium-sized, red and green jalapeno peppers. I left the stems on them when I rinsed and dried them, and I cut them in half through the stems so that each pepper (or almost) had a little stem attached for a handle. Then I used a small, sharp knife to clean out the seeds and ribs in each pepper half. I placed them on a foil-lined cookie sheet, and cranked the oven up to 425 degrees.

I mixed about a half cup of freshly-made ricotta with about a half cup of thawed crabmeat. I added about a ¼ teaspoon of Cajun seasoning. Ricotta is cooked with some salt, and crab is cooked in salty water, so you don’t need to add much salt to this mixture. I like the Cajun or Creole seasoning because it has some herbs and a little spice in it, but crab is so delicate, you don’t want to overwhelm it with too much seasoning.

While I ran back out to the garden to grab some fresh chives and green tops from my winter onions, Karen filled the jalapeno pepper halves with the crab and ricotta mixture. As each half was filled, I sprinkled them with a little grated Parmesan cheese, and then a tiny bit of hot smoked paprika.

Into the oven they went for about 15 minutes, and then I turned on the broiler for about 3 minutes for a little extra browning on top. When they came out of the oven, I sprinkled the tops with chopped chives and green onion.

They turned out beautifully, and I learned why they are called jalapeno poppers. It’s because you can just pop them in your mouth in one delicious bite! It sounds kind of crazy, but they went really well with our champagne cocktails made with prosecco and sparkling moscato and my homemade fruit beverage syrups.

Our food made up for the fact that our team lost miserably! Well, maybe, kinda, sorta. It was such a miserable game, we all ended up outside around the patio table with our food and drink, and I don’t think anybody watched the end of the game! We were having such a good time, I forgot to take a picture of the jalapeno poppers when they came out of the oven.  These are actually the leftovers.

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Garden and Greenhouse, Gluten-free, Recipes, Side dishes

Zucchini Latkes

Subtitle:  The One That Got Away

It’s that time of year when everybody who has a garden has a zucchini that’s too big for its britches. I call squashes like this “the ones that got away (from me)”.  What do you do with them?

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Some people make relish. I don’t care for it, myself. Too sweet. (If anyone has a sour, dilled zucchini relish recipe, please pass it along!) Some people make pickles. I haven’t tried that because I’ve tried making pickles with Armenian cucumbers, and they were mushy. I can only imagine what zucchini pickles would be like. Yuck. Some people, including me, shred the monster squashes and freeze the shreds for zucchini breads and soups. And I use the shreds for another dish, my favorite way to eat zucchini: zucchini latkes. These are paleo, gluten-free, low carb. What’s not to like?

Now, there’s been a recipe floating around Facebook for Zucchini Fritters.  They look a lot like these, and the recipe is similar, except for one thing.  There is no flour in these.  And because there is no flour, they are not doughy.  They are nicely browned on the outside and tender on the inside, but with no doughy texture.  And I have to give credit where credit is due:  I would never have come up with these if my friend, DeAnna Beachley, had not taught me to make potato latkes exactly the same way.  And I thought, if it works for potatoes, why wouldn’t it work for zucchini?  It does.

 

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And try them with the dill sauce. Yum.

 

Zucchini Latkes

About 3 cups shredded/grated zucchini

¼ cup shredded/grated onion

1 egg, beaten

Salt and pepper

Olive oil or other oil of your choice for frying

 

After grating or shredding the zucchini and onion (either by hand or in the food processor), put it in a strainer for a little while to drain. Then dump the contents of the strainer into several paper towels or a clean tea towel you don’t mind staining green, and squeeze it like you mean it. Squeeze as much water as possible out of the zucchini and onion.

 

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Dump the squeezed zucchini and onion into a bowl, fluff it with a fork, and add as much egg as you need to make the mixture hold together. Don’t add too much egg, or the latke will not hold together when you fry it.  In the photo below, I have about a cup of zucchini and yellow squash shreds, and into that I mixed one of my little chicken eggs (very small), and it was just perfect.  For 3 cups of shreds, one large egg should be just right, but mix it in a little at a time until all the shreds are moistened in the egg, but no egg is pooling in the bottom of the bowl.

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Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil. Flatten with back of spoon. Fry until golden brown and latke is holding together, then flip. I find using both a pancake turner and a silicone spatula makes turning the latkes easier.

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After the second side is brown, remove from hot oil and place on rack; sprinkle with salt and pepper. (If you put your rack over a cookie sheet in a warm oven, your latkes will stay crisper and warm.)

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Do not salt the latkes before frying or as they are frying. Salt causes zucchini to release more moisture. You can add the pepper whenever you like, but always salt them right after they come out of the frying pan.  These lovely little patties are scrumptious served with the dill sauce below, made with either plain Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Yogurt or Sour Cream Dill Sauce

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Mix 1 teaspoon fresh chopped dill weed or 1 teaspoon dried dill weed into ½ cup dairy sour cream or plain Greek yogurt. (You can make your own yogurt and sour cream.) A little minced red onion, up to a tablespoon, is good too. I also like to grate a little lemon peel into the sauce sometimes, and if you use commercial sour cream, some fresh squeezed lemon juice will loosen it to sauce consistency.

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If you have monster zucchini in your garden, consider freezing some for zucchini latkes this winter. To use frozen zucchini, simply thaw, drain, squeeze, and proceed as above.

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