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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condiment, Dairy, Fermenting, Recipes, Side dishes

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch-Style Salad Dressing

My husband is addicted to ranch salad dressing. I like it too, but I don’t like all the extra junk they put in the stuff sold in stores: soybean oil, for instance. I stay away from soybeans because they are treated with glyphosate herbicides. So I’ve been working on a buttermilk ranch-style salad dressing that is made with the freshest, healthiest possible ingredients. These include homemade buttermilk, cultured at home and full of good probiotic organisims (make it from organic milk for best health), homemade mayonnaise (also made with healthier, higher grade oils than the commercially-produced mayos), and home-grown and dried herbs. Now, you can make this dressing with store-bought buttermilk, store-bought mayo, and store-bought herbs, and it’s still going to taste better and be better for you than any ranch dressing you buy in a store. I hope you’ll give this a try.

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch-Style Salad Dressing

3/4 cup homemade mayo *

¾ cup homemade buttermilk **

1 tablespoon homemade apple scrap vinegar ***

1 tablespoon dried tomato skin powder ****(optional—I’m always looking for new ways to use this)

¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (regular paprika may be used)

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1-2 tablespoons dehydrated onion bits (ground in clean coffee grinder or spice grinder) or onion powder

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

½ teaspoon dried hyssop (I like this herb, it adds a sharper greenness than parsley, but it isn’t common, and can be omitted)

Pinch (or more) of dried thyme

¼-1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)

¼-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (I like freshly ground)

Start with the lesser amount of seasonings. Mix well in jar with tight lid. (You can see I used an old ranch salad dressing jar to make it easier for my husband to find it in the fridge. He’s a bit challenged when it comes to seeing what he’s looking for!)

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Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. You may substitute other herbs, or use fresh herbs, but fresh herbs will lessen the storage life of your dressing. I use dried in the winter when we eat fewer salads, and fresh in the spring and summer when my herbs have greened up and my own lettuces are producing, and we go through the dressing in a week or two.  Fresh chives are delicious in this dressing when you have them.

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Store in fridge. Keeps about 2 weeks in fridge, or longer, depending on the freshness of your buttermilk and mayonnaise. I’ve had it last over a month. It might separate, but you just shake it back together. Discard if the dressing becomes moldy.  That’s when you know the dressing has exceeded its shelf life!

Notes: *If you have not yet tried the easiest homemade mayo ever, please click here for the recipe. It is so good, and it also contains some probiotics if you use active culture yogurt and raw vinegar in it. If you use store-bought mayo, the dressing will still taste great.

**Making your own buttermilk is so easy. I love making it at home because I can make it the amounts I am likely to use. I used to buy it a quart at a time, and half of it would always go bad before I used it up. I hate wasting anything and discovered that I could freeze leftover buttermilk to use as a chicken marinade or in baking, but if it’s been frozen very long, the active cultures in it die, and then it can’t be used to make sour cream or more buttermilk, although I believe it’s still good for baking. (When you use buttermilk in baking, you need to add baking soda, which reacts with the acids in the buttermilk to make light, fluffy, baked goods).

So now I make my own buttermilk, about a cup at a time, which is perfect for making a batch of gluten-free buttermilk pancakes (recipe coming soon—so good!) or a jar of buttermilk ranch salad dressing, or cakes, biscuits, and other baked goods. To see how to make your own cultured, probiotic buttermilk as you need it, please click here.

***Those of you who follow this blog know that I make my own apple scrap vinegar. It is probiotic and tasty. If you’d like to try it yourself, click here.  You can make it on a small scale, in a half-gallon jar, which is how I started out. Now I have enough organic apple scraps from my apples to make it in 5 gallon buckets! But you can buy Bragg’s vinegar raw, or you can use any apple cider vinegar in this recipe.

****Also if you follow this blog, you’ve seen me write about saving my tomato skins when I make charred salsa, tomato-apple chutney, and Italian Red Sauce. I’ve found various ways to use them; please click on the links if you’re interested in new ways to use your dried tomato skins: pulled pork rub, braised and barbecued pork ribs. The tomato skins can be omitted from the ranch dressing recipe if you choose, but I like it.

I hope you enjoy this ranch dressing recipe enough to ditch the store-bought dressings with all the added ingredients that nobody needs to be ingesting. The bonus with this recipe is that you get some probiotics to boot! You really can’t beat that deal.

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Beverages, condiment, Dairy, Desserts, Recipes, Side dishes

Making Buttermilk

Now, some of you might be asking, why would you want to do that? Well, buttermilk is probiotic. It’s a culture/ferment that uses lactobacilli to alter the chemistry of milk. I must confess, I do not drink the stuff, although my father loved it. One of his favorite snacks was a big glass of buttermilk poured over a bowl of cold, crumbled cornbread, with a couple of fresh green onions from the garden on the side. I never developed a taste for that dish, but I have learned that buttermilk in baked goods lends a lightness only rivaled by sourdough. And it is excellent in salad dressings, and as a marinade for chicken, so I’ve been told, though I’ve never done it. I’ve come to love the stuff, and I keep a small jar of it in my fridge at all times. I enjoy knowing I have something freshly probiotic to mix into a salad dressing, for instance. I’ll be sharing a couple of my favorite buttermilk recipes with you in future posts.

Making your own buttermilk is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is mix 1/3rd cup of cultured buttermilk from the store with 1 cup of fresh milk. Shake it up in jar with a good lid, let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, and you’ll have buttermilk. On the left is the old jar, with what’s left of the buttermilk I made a couple of days ago, and on the right is the fresh batch that will be ready in 24 hours.

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You’ll know it’s ready when you tilt the jar and the buttermilk pulls away from the side of the jar. It will be thick and viscous.

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At this point, it will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

I’ve learned through experimentation that the more often you culture buttermilk, the tangier and thicker your buttermilk will become. Also, you can make buttermilk from milk of any fat content, but the more fat, the thicker the buttermilk tends to be. Buttermilk mixed into half and half or heavy cream will produce sour cream that is similar to crème fraiche. For that recipe, click here.  You can use this cultured cream just as you would any sour cream or crème fraiche, in dips, in baking, as a topping for baked potatoes or cheesecake!

Always save 1/3 cup of cultured buttermilk to mix with 1 cup of fresh milk for a new batch. Of course, you can double or triple these amounts, keeping the same proportions, if you wish to make a larger volume of buttermilk.

Check back with me in a few days for a recipe using fresh, homemade buttermilk.

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Canning, Side dishes, Uncategorized

Dilly Beans and Pickled Beets

Update 8/5/15:  I had a question from Lisa recently about why her dilly beans might have turned out mushy.  It occurred to me that a word or three about the size of the beans might be appropriate to the post, and I have a picture to illustrate.  In the picture, the bean to the left is too big.  It will be tough if “dillied.”  A bean this size can be pressure-canned or cooked for a while with ham or bacon and onion or garlic, and it will taste great.  But I would not freeze it or “dilly” it.  The bean in the middle is too small.  You can dilly a bean this size if you wish, and I sometimes fill in the little spaces in the jar with beans this size, but they can over-process quickly.  I would not pressure-can a bean this size, because it will be mushy, but this size is perfect for freezing (you only blanch beans for 3 minutes when freezing).  The bean on the right is just right! (Sound familiar?)  This bean is about the thickness of a pencil (good old #2 like we used in school), and will not get mushy in the jar with a 10-15 minute processing time.  It’s also the perfect size for the tall, 12 oz. jelly jars I like to use for dilly beans.  I hope this is helpful.

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My green beans are coming on, and my first preservation priority with green beans is a pickle. My two favorite pickles are beets (which I canned a couple of weeks ago) and dilly beans, which I canned just a few days ago. My recipes for both are a bit different from most of the ones you see in canning books and online.

Most of the dilly bean recipes call for cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper. But a few years ago, a good friend of mine, Chris, let me taste her dilly beans with jalapeno peppers, and I was hooked. In a further modification of my own, I began to use serrano peppers instead of jalapenos. For one thing, they’re just a bit spicier, and for another, they take up a lot less room in the jar than jalapenos, therefore leaving more space for the beans.

I’ve also modified my pickled beet recipe, sort of merging two recipes to create a flavor I like better than either of the originals. So here you go—my two favorite pickles.

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Spicy Dilly Beans

2 lbs. washed, fresh green beans, trimmed on blossom end to fit jar size

4 Serrano peppers, washed, stems trimmed

4 cloves garlic

4 heads fresh green dill or 4 teaspoons dried dill seeds

2 ½ cups water

2 ½ cups vinegar (5% acidity)

¼ cup pickling/canning salt

Sterilize clean pint or 12 oz. jars in boiling water bath canner for 10 min. Pour boiling water over jar flats, keep hot. Trim stems on peppers back to bright green. With tip of sharp knife, cut two small slits in each pepper, making sure to get all the way into the inner cavity with the knife. Fill hot jars with green beans, making sure that beans fit all the way down inside jar and come up no higher than ¼ inch below lip of jar. Leave room for one garlic clove and one serrano pepper, and the dill, in each jar. If using dried dill seeds, use 1 teaspoon per jar. Bring water, vinegar, and salt to boil, pour boiling brine over beans to within ¼ inch of tops of jars. Wipe rims with clean, damp cloth or paper towel, position jar flats, close with rings, and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes (add processing time according to altitude chart, if needed). Remove from canner and let cool at least 12 hours before testing seals. Any jars which don’t seal may be stored in the refrigerator for a month, then eaten. This recipe makes about four pint jars or five 12 oz. jars.

Notes: Never let brine continue to boil while filling jars. This may affect acidity levels in the brine and could cause a spoilage problem. Fill jars, and when you’re almost done, turn the heat on your brine mix up high to bring it to the boil.

For canning, make sure the vinegar you are using is 5% acidity. I ran across some white vinegar not long ago that was 4% acidity, and it cannot be used for canning. You may use white or apple cider vinegar for this recipe, but be aware that most white vinegar is made from corn, and nearly all corn these days is both genetically-modified and sprayed with pesticides. I use apple cider vinegar because while apples are sprayed, at least I’m not using a GMO. Besides, I like the flavor.

If you have to trim your beans quite a bit to make them fit the jars, there are a couple of things you can do with the trimmings. Of course, you can cook those trimmings up for dinner (I like them with a little bacon and onion). Or, you can put the short pieces (minus the very blossom end tip), into a separate jar and treat them just like the long dilly beans. Then, those short pieces can be added to salads or chopped for tuna salad. There’s no need to throw them away!

I like to use the tall, 12 oz. jelly jars for dilly beans because I don’t have to trim quite as much off the beans to make them fit.

And a final note on peppers: Serranos are readily available, usually right alongside jalapenos, in your market. I can nearly always find them at Grocery Outlet even in the winter time, grown in California.  They are one of my favorite peppers to grow in our short growing season here, good in salsa and about anything else you’d want to use a hot pepper in.

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Pickled Beets

3 quarts peeled, cooked, small beets (see below for how to cook and peel beets for this recipe)

1 ¾ cups sugar

2 sticks cinnamon

1 tablespoon whole allspice berries

½ tablespoon whole black peppercorns

1 ½ teaspoons pickling/canning salt

3 ½ cups vinegar (5% acidity)

1 ½ cups water

How to cook and peel beets: Beets must be scrubbed free of any dirt or small stones that like to cling to the roots. (I’ve found that pulling my beets in the evening and letting them soak in cold water all night makes it easier to clean them). Leave the tap roots on, and trim leaves and stems, leaving two inches. (This prevents the beets from bleeding as much color into the water when they are cooking.) Place beets in large pot and cover with boiling water. Bring to boil and cover, reducing heat to medium. Cook beets until tender, and the only way to know they’re tender is to stab them with a fork, but try not to stab them until you’re pretty sure they’re tender, as this releases their color and juice into the water. Small beets take about 20 minutes to get tender, larger beets can take up to 45 minutes. Remove beets from cooking water to colander; let beets drain and cool to touch before trying to peel them. To peel beets: with a sharp paring knife, slice off the top, taking off stems, and then scrape knife down toward the root. If the beet is fully cooked, the skin will come right off. The skin of the beet is dull when cooked; the flesh of the beet will be shiny. It helps to have a damp paper towel handy to wipe off beets after peeling. Cut off tap roots. If using small beets, cut into quarters. If using large beets, cut into 1 ½ inch chunks or quarter and slice.

Pickling Directions:

In large saucepan, combine sugar, water, vinegar, cinnamon sticks, allspice berries, peppercorns, and salt, bring to simmer, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon. Bring liquid to boiling before pouring over beets in jars.

Pack cooked, peeled, cut beets into clean, hot pint or half-pint jars, leaving ¼ inch head space at top of jar. Cover beets with boiling brine (include allspice berries and peppercorns), leaving ¼ inch head space. Cap with hot flats and rings, and process in boiling water bath for 30 minutes (adjust processing time as needed for high altitudes). Cool for at least 12 hours before testing seals. Any jar which doesn’t seal may be stored in the refrigerator for a month, then eaten.

Notes: I use beets of all sizes, however they come out of my garden, but I like the smaller beets, up to about 2 inches in diameter, best for pickling. They only need to be cut into quarters. I often use larger beets for this if that’s what I have, but they have to be cut up into smaller pieces before putting them in the jar. I like them in chunks, but they can be sliced as well. Quarter and then slice large beets into ¼ inch slices. Just a warning, I find the slices tend to crumble a bit when being removed from the jar.

This recipe uses a bit less sugar than the original Ball Blue Book recipe does, and I’ve added the peppercorns, which are a feature of the recipe for pickled beets in Canning for A New Generation, a canning book I just love. The black peppercorns give a nice depth of flavor and just a bit more spice to the traditionally sweet-spiced beets. I love that little bit of heat with the sweet.

As with the dilly bean recipe above, you may use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. I prefer apple cider vinegar for the reasons mentioned earlier.

These two pickles are always on our Thanksgiving table. To me, a big holiday dinner isn’t complete without a pickle plate, and a pickle plate isn’t complete without dilly beans and pickled beets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dairy, Fermenting, Recipes, Side dishes

Coleslaw Dressing with Yogurt

As some of you know, I’m away from my garden for a few weeks because of a family emergency. I have had to entrust the garden and greenhouse to the care of family members and neighbors at a critical time, but I appreciate their efforts to keep everything alive for me. I have no idea what I’ll find when I get back home at the end of the month, but I’ll be grateful for whatever survives. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a recipe with you.

In a recent post about making homemade yogurt, I alluded to a recipe for coleslaw dressing that has become a family favorite. I made coleslaw for a picnic in the park yesterday here in Denver and received many compliments, even though I wasn’t able to make the dressing with my homemade yogurt, which I think makes it even better.

The ingredients for the dressing can be mixed up days in advance, but I like to mix the dressing into the shredded cabbage shortly before serving, so it doesn’t get too watery.  I will say, however, that this dressing won’t make your cabbage go limp if you mix it up the day before. I had to do that for this picnic, and while the dressing did pull some water out of the cabbage, it was still crisp and the coleslaw was tasty.

Very few people shred their own cabbage these days when packaged coleslaw mix is so readily available at the store. I rarely shred a whole cabbage any more, either (although I did for the picnic on Saturday), unless I have one fresh from the garden. The food processor makes this less of a chore, but slicing can also be done with a sharp knife. The key is to get the cabbage into thin shreds. You always want to slice (both with the knife and the processor), not chop. Chopping bruises the cabbage and will cause it to release more water, thus making your coleslaw more at risk for decreased flavor and limp texture.

This recipe makes enough to dress about half a medium-sized, shredded cabbage and about 3 medium carrots, also shredded, or one large bag of pre-shredded coleslaw mix from the store. I always add 2-4 tablespoons of minced white or red onion to the cabbage and carrot mix before dressing. Too much onion will overpower the slaw, so be careful with it, but it’s a necessary addition to colelsaw in my opinion.

Coleslaw Dressing

(makes about 1 cup)

½ cup mayonnaise

½ cup plain yogurt*

2-3 tablespoons of sugar**

2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (I use my homemade apple vinegar for more probiotics)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Mix thoroughly, until dressing is creamy and smooth. It should taste a little sweet but tangy. Toss with shredded cabbage, carrots, and minced onion until well mixed. Serve immediately or within 24 hrs. (It will get watery the longer it sits, but leftovers are good!)

Notes:

*I think homemade yogurt really is best, and my son agrees with me, but any good quality plain yogurt will do. Greek yogurt will make a thicker dressing because the whey has been strained out of it. Why is homemade yogurt better? It’s tangier, and it contains more probiotics, which incidentally, aid in the digestion of the cabbage.

**You can substitute a different sweetener if you like. Honey or agave syrup would be fine. I have used both powdered and liquid Stevia and Splenda. Start with small amounts and taste as you go. For liquid Stevia, I recommend starting with about ¼ teaspoon and adding drop by drop to reach desired sweetness.

I don’t have my camera with me, so I wasn’t able to take a picture of the coleslaw I made on Friday night, but hey, you know what coleslaw looks like. You also know how a good, traditional coleslaw should taste: tangy, a little sweet, a little bite from the onion, and some good crunch from the cabbage and carrots. It’s a favorite salad with our family (my son says he’d be in heaven if he had a lifetime supply of the stuff always in his fridge). I especially like it as a side dish with oven-fried chicken, barbecued spareribs, or pulled pork. Follow the links for my recipes for those dishes in the archives.

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Recipes, Side dishes

Spring Greens

We had our first taste of spring greens from the garden this week. Well, really, most of them were from the greenhouse. I let some spinach and romaine volunteer in there; thus, we have greens ready to pick when the lettuce I planted outside in the garden is still so tiny you can barely see it. I did have some fall spinach overwinter in the garden, but the leaves are tough and small compared to the tender young greens from the greenhouse.

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It’s sacrilege to cook these greens, so I prepared a salad with them. But what sort of dressing to use? In my husband’s mind, there is no salad dressing but ranch. However, I knew ranch dressing would smother these delicate greens. I needed something light and spring-like to honor spring greens. And then it came to me. I had raspberry-infused apple-scrap vinegar in the fridge which I had yet to use in anything. How about some version of a raspberry vinaigrette? It was so good, I have to share the combination and the dressing with you.

I used both baby spinach and baby romaine for my greens; you can use any mix you like, but if you’re buying packaged salad greens, I’d go for the spring mix. Toss them with this delicious raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing, and then arrange the greens on salad plates. To the greens, add thinly-sliced red bell peppers and peeled, thinly-sliced cucumbers. Drizzle a bit more dressing over the top, then sprinkle each plate with toasted, sliced almonds and grated cheese. I used a very low-fat Cabot white cheddar, which was delicious. Freshly grated parmesan or Romano, in big shreds, would also be delicious.

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I made the salad dressing with some raspberry-infused apple scrap vinegar I made last fall. Follow the link for instructions for making the infused vinegar. (Store-bought apple cider vinegar can be used to make raspberry- or blackberry-infused vinegar.) There are alternative ingredients (aren’t there always?) if you don’t happen to want to take the time or haven’t the ingredients to make an infused vinegar. (I can tell you, I’ll certainly be making more infused vinegar this fall if the robins leave me any raspberries.) The slightly-sweet and acidic raspberry vinaigrette was the perfect dressing to complement those tender, tangy new greens. I used chia seeds instead of the poppy seeds which are traditional in this kind of recipe, and they were wonderful.

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Raspberry Vinaigrette with Chia Seeds

(makes about ¾ cup)

2 tablespoons of minced onion

¼ cup raspberry-infused vinegar

2 tablespoons of honey

½ teaspoon dry mustard or prepared Dijon mustard

½ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons chia seeds

 

Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor (if using food processor, you can mince the onions with it) or with a whisk in a bowl. The mustard will help to emulsify the dressing, but it will separate slightly, so it should be shaken well before using. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more honey a teaspoon at a time until the sweetness level is right for your taste buds.

Now, if you don’t have any raspberry-infused vinegar, and don’t want to make it, for whatever reason, you can make this dressing without it. Simply substitute white wine vinegar or even rice vinegar for the raspberry-infused vinegar, and for the honey, substitute raspberry jam or preserves. Again, taste your dressing to see if you’d like it sweeter. My version isn’t very sweet, as I don’t happen to care for sweet salad dressings.

Why chia seeds instead of poppy seeds? Why, for the increased Omega 3 content, of course! They add the same slight crunch, and virtually no flavor, so feel free to leave them out, if you wish.

This antioxidant-rich salad dressing complimented the fresh spring greens beautifully. I can’t wait to pick more so that I can use the rest of the dressing.  And then, I’ve got some blackberry-infused vinegar to play with!

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Main dishes, Side dishes

Oven-fried Chicken

Recently, a Facebook friend asked this question in a group I belong to:  Does anybody have a good oven-fried chicken recipe?  My hand went up immediately.  I do, I do!  I have been asked to share this recipe on the blog, so that it can be pinned to Pinterest.  How cool is that?

I have been oven-frying chicken for decades, and it is crispy and tender and delicious.  Not too long ago, I watched an old Good Eats with Alton Brown, and he fried chicken on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet filled with hot shortening.  Boy, that looked good, and I have a big cast iron skillet I can hardly lift, and a can of shortening I hardly ever use.  I thought I’d give it a try.  What a mess!  Grease splatters everywhere!  And frankly, while the chicken was okay, I didn’t really think it was as good as my oven-fried chicken.  Back to doing it my way.

The basic coating recipe came from the Betty Crocker cookbook my mom gave me when I got married in 1981, but the method is my own.  At some point, after oven-frying chicken in oil and butter as the original recipe called for, I realized there sure was an awful lot of fat in the pan after the chicken came out, way more than I’d put in to start with.  Oh, yeah, Jeanie, chicken skin is full of fat!  Well, I thought, if chicken skin is full of fat, and it renders out during the cooking process, why am I adding all this other fat?  I tried cooking the chicken without adding fat, and glory be, it works every time.  There’s only one trick:  the chicken must have skin.  Skinless breasts or thighs will not work in this recipe.  I could call this recipe No Mess, Lower-fat Oven-fried Chicken because the only fat in the dish (other than a spritz of cooking spray or a thin swipe of shortening or oil) comes from the skin on the chicken, which renders as it cooks.  But let’s just go with Oven-fried Chicken.  I’m all for simpler when it works.

Oven-fried Chicken

2-3 lbs. cut up chicken pieces

Basic coating mix:

1/2 cup flour (I have substituted brown rice flour since I went gluten-free, and it works well in this recipe)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon pepper

You may also add any other herbs or spices you would normally add to your fried chicken breading. I sometimes use a blackened seasoning or Cajun seasoning mix instead of the salt above, and/or I’ll add poultry seasoning (ground sage, thyme, and parsley), or I’ll substitute hot smoked paprika for plain, or whatever takes my fancy at the moment.  You can also add a teaspoon of sugar to the coating mix.  I think this makes the coating brown a little darker as it oven-fries in its own fat (see last photo below).  You can also reduce the flour by two tablespoons and add two tablespoons of cornmeal for an even crunchier breading, although the flour produces a light, crispy coating.  Using plain flour cuts carbs as well; no need to use bread crumbs which add carbs.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put coating mix in a paper or plastic bag, shake it well to mix, and add no more than 2 pieces of chicken at a time, shaking to bread the chicken.  If you want a thicker breading on your chicken, dip it in milk first, shaking off excess before putting it in the bag.  If you like to marinate your chicken in buttermilk before frying, that works too; just drain off the excess buttermilk before you coat the chicken pieces.  I never do either one.  I just put the chicken straight from the package into the breading mix.  If I have any leftover breading mix, I seal up the bag and stash it in the freezer for next time.

Lightly spritz a 13X9 inch pan with cooking spray (or swipe a tiny bit of oil or shortening over it with a napkin or paper towel), and place your coated chicken pieces into the pan, skin side down. This allows the fat to render out of the skin, making it crispy and delicious.

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Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees; turn pieces over.  Don’t worry if the skin side of the chicken doesn’t look that brown or crisp at this point.  It will be after the next cooking period.

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Bake for another 30 minutes, and prepare to be amazed.  The chicken will be browned with a light, crispy breading on the skin.  Take it out of the pan, and drain skin side up on paper towels.

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This is how much fat rendered out of 3 chicken thighs.  It was about 2 tablespoons.

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You can use the pan drippings and browned breading bits to make gravy, if you wish. In our family, (oven) fried chicken gravy has always been made like this:

Scrape the chicken pan to get off the browned bits.  Drain two tablespoons of fat and the browned bits into a skillet or medium-sized sauté pan.  Heat on medium-high heat until sizzling.  Add two tablespoons of flour (I have used brown rice flour) and cook and stir for a minute or two until flour browns slightly.  Stir or whisk in 1 ½ – 2 cups of milk (depending on how thick you want your gravy) and bring to low boil, stirring constantly to prevent lumping or sticking.  You can thin the gravy down after it cooks a couple of minutes by adding more milk, if it’s too thick.  You can also cook it down if it’s too thin for your tastes.  Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and taste for seasoning, adding more if needed.  Serve over mashed potatoes.

Oh yeah, baby—no-mess, oven-fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy.  That’s comfort food made easy.

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