Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Klippy's Pappy Picked a Peck of Pickling Peppers: a learning process (no recipe)

Pop has a modest garden in the back yard, in which, this year, he planted about ten pepper plants, most of which turned out to be hotter varieties. And, as is often the case, he wasn't sure what to do with the bumper crop. Now, you might not think that, by the picture above, we had jalapeños, since most people think of the hot little green things, but Pop likes to wait until things are VERY ripe before he picks them, and I don't get in his way. 

When these little peppers turned red, they did the same thing sweet peppers do when they go from green to red: they sweetened up. The interesting thing, though, was that they lost precisely none of their heat. The "green-ness" of the flavor was abated, but the crisp, fresh heat was present, as ever, and the extra sugar in the fruit elevated and helped retain the heat on tongue (and cheek, and eyes, and wherever else one is affected by hot peppers).

Because they were so pretty, I couldn't see fit to dehydrating them, and since they were still sweet, my choice for the first batch of jalapeños was to amplify the sugar still more by putting them into a nice sweet pickle batch, so that people might use them on sammiches ;) or in spreads, or for just showing off how tough their tongues and intestines might be. 

And, since this was an experimental batch, I cheated a little: I used a seasoning mix, following its instructions with slight variation. I added some lime juice and cilantro – both fresh – to the peppers as I chopped them, used rice vinegar instead of either regular or cider vinegar in the brine, and maltitol for sweetening, all so I could use these for myself as well as for gifts. If you use artificial sweeteners, though, you will need to "bump up" the amount of vinegar you use, because you will have less bulk for your brine, and it will have a shorter shelf life, as non-sugar sweeteners usually are not stable and may begin to turn bitter within about 6-10 months.  

From a peck – literally – of peppers, I managed to get 6 pints and 7 half-pints of pickled peppers. 

The question Pop asked me about them was one I've heard from others, as well (actually, sort of a complaint): why is there always so much liquid at the bottom of the jar when you finish? It's not like that in the pickles you buy from the store, after all. So I looked things up, and – surprise, surprise! – the factory doesn't always pickle in the jars. The process is started in vats, and the liquid is drained as the pickles are finally put into jars. When we, at home, pickle, we need the extra brine to "top off" the contents, making sure the veggies are totally covered before we put them into the hot bath, so that every last bit of food gets the flavor of the brine, and so there is less likelihood of bacterial growth in the jar.   

One can do with a little less brine, if one is pressure canning, but this having extra liquid is still the simplest, safest pickling process. I'm sticking with it. If it's good enough for government work, it's probably not going to explode in our cupboards. And, besides, it worked last year on the pickled green beans.

In Case I Get Thirsty…(not a recipe, but a link)

For years, I'd been suffering from crippling migraines and aching joints, plus a host of other problems, and only recently we narrowed down the problem to things for which I'm not technically allergic (those I cut out years ago - grapes and their byproducts, and strawberries, and raspberries, and a handful of other things normal mortals eat daily), but still have intolerances toward. Two of the culprits are aged cheeses and…

wait for it…


Needless to say, I am gravely disappointed, since some of my favorite foods are pasta dishes buried in parmesan, breads slathered with sharp cheese crumbles, and so on. Plus, there is the beer with which one must necessarily wash down the day.  

I'm learning the heartbreak of trying to go gluten-free. 

Being allergic to grapes for most of my adult life meant I had to be certain there was pretty much no wine in my diet, other than the cute and cloying or the extremely expensive niche wines. I didn't really miss that, though, because, in recipes, you can find reasonable substitutions, most of the time. When you can't, you just don't make Boeuf Bourguignon. It's a little bit disappointing, but that's just the way life goes. To quote some obscure musicians of my youth, "You can't always get what you want."

But if you try sometimes, you get what you need:

Gluten-free beers .  Rated for taste. And some are even good and beery. Yes, it is possible!

The gods do love us.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Make it Snappy – Ginger Snappy!

Pop expressed disappointment when he discovered that the Bat and I returned from the grocery store, yesterday, with only one small package of cookies (and cheap ones, at that!). They weren't bottom-of-the-line dollar store imitation-food cookies, though. They were from Aldi.

Nevertheless, to a cookie junkie, it's tough to see bags devoid of classic recipes.

So, in order to satisfy the growling beast within him, I set to, in the kitchen, today.

Besides, there's a chance a few people might stop by, after the parade today (our harvest-time fair is in town, and it opens with a nice, big parade, and we live within the safe parking zone).

So, to the kitchen!

This particular recipe is a combination of three different recipes, aspects of each we like, in this house, but each one was not quite what we wanted. This one seems to suit all three of us.

Indeed, Pop was so happy, he absconded with three before I could get this shot (please note the not-quite-so-tidy rows, trying to hide the evidence).

Ginger Snaps


1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) salted butter (no substitution), softened at room temperature
2 Tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2/3 cups molasses
4 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking soda
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh-grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons hot Mexican chili powder
sugar for rolling dough in


Preheat oven to 350º F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, fresh ginger, and sugar until light and lemon-colored. Add in egg and molasses, beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground ginger, salt, nutmeg, ground cloves, and chili powder. Add to creamed butter, mix well.*

Scoop by teaspoon and shape into balls, roll in sugar, and place on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 350º F for 15 minutes. Cool on rack.

Makes 90+ cookies.

*If you find the dough is too soft to work easily, place in the refrigerator for about a half hour, until it stiffens up a little. At this time, you might also want to roll portions of the dough into "sausage" rolls, about 1 1/2 inch to 2 inches in diameter, wrapped in plastic, to be put away in the freezer for later use.

Update: I've made a batch of these using gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Bob's Red Mill). There had to be a couple of adjustments, in order to keep the crispness and not lose the heat, though. Instead of using 4 cups of the gluten-free AP flour, I used 1 1/2 cups of sweet rice flour and 2 1/2 cups AP flour, plus 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum. I also allowed the dough to chill overnight in the refrigerator, and then still used the 1 teaspoon cookie scoop to form the balls before rolling in sugar & baking on ungreased pans. Because of the change in flour/starch composition they didn't need to bake the full 15 minutes, but were done after only 12 minutes – plus about a minute of cooling down on the cookie sheet before removing them to the cooling rack. They're a little lighter in texture than the standard ginger snap, but they keep the flavor and the crispness a person wants in a snap cookie.

Update update: almost forgot to mention, I used some of the leftover sugar from having made candied ginger, in the bowl of sugar I rolled the GF cookie dough in, for that extra bit of zing. If you do this, you will not regret it.

These are my gluten-free version

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Curd Your Enthusiasm: Citrus Meringues Filled with Citrus Curd

Since I've joined the gluten-free club recently, I've had a divvil of a time trying to find recipes for things which won't cost an arm and a leg to prepare (have you seen the price of gf all-purpose flour?), especially if I want to share with friends, and not put out what people will assume are poison because I refuse to  sample my own… well, anyway. 

I've also discovered that something I had always assumed had been on my list of severe allergens could be prepared sans the grape (I have had nasty asthma attacks from just a bite of meringue with cream of tartar in it. I usually have to take extra allergy meds before eating out, as a result).

Naturally, I was nearly ecstatic when I learned that the real reason one puts cream of tartar into a meringue is to break down the coil in the egg white protein, so that it will whip up better, and so that it will hold its whippy form once it's set to baking, and that other acids may be used in its stead. Indeed, one source recommended I might use Fruit Fresh, for its ascorbic acid and minimal flavor impact.

But I rather like a little citrus. 

Actually, I can eat lemons the way other people eat tangerines, peeled, sectioned, and then popped into my mouth like candy. But I know most people can't handle that sort of thing, so I try not to do it to them, in anything I prepare.

I try, anyway. 

I went a little agley with this particular batch… I forgot how very tart Dickinson's lime curd is, and I used in in plentiful amounts. I recommend, for others, a little greater discretion.

Meanwhile, the meringue is light, delicate, a little crispy…dangerous!

Citrus Meringues Filled with Citrus Curd


2 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup extra fine sugar
zest of one medium lemon or lime (about 1 teaspoon), finely grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup of your preferred lemon or lime curd*


Preheat oven to 400º F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Set aside.

In a clean, chilled, small bowl, combine salt and egg whites. Whip until foamy, then continue to beat  on high speed, gradually adding sugar, until stiff peaks form (at least 8 minutes, often more than 10 minutes). Gently fold in vanilla and citrus zest.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon of meringue onto parchment on cookie sheet. With spoon, make a slight indentation in the dollop (or, if you wish, use a frosting bag to squeeze out a little bowl-shaped base.

Gently set about a half-teaspoonful (or less, depending upon the strength of flavor) of curd in the center. Top with enough meringue to completely cover & seal in the citrus curd, then leave a little swirl on top, if you like.

Continue to repeat this until all the meringue is used.

When you have all the cookies assembled, place in middle of that preheated oven, close oven door, and turn off the heat.

Allow to stay in oven at least two hours (overnight is just dandy. Just don't forget you have them in there, and try to bake a breakfast the next morning without having removed them, first).

Makes about 15.

*You can do a batch of pie filling, instead of curd, but if you do this, you'l want it to be slightly thicker than the one the Bat taught me for Pop's birthday pie, here. One can use a variation on it, adding extra starch to the recipe in its beginnings, until it thickens dramatically.

One down side to overstuffing these meringues is, the lime curd settles downward a little too much, causing it to occasionally compromise the integrity of the cookie in this manner–>>>

The tragedy here is, you can't very well pack these up and give them away as your best, prettiest treatsies. You'll have to eat them all on your own (the horror!). The other down side is, the filling can easily overpower the meringue's taste, so you can have a whole lot of curd flavor in a little comparatively bland pouch.  Check first to see how strongly tart your curd is, and be discreet in your usage. Unless you're like me, and you love to peel the enamel off your teeth. Then, go wild! 

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Relish the Thought: Tomatillo Relish/Salsa

Its a salsa – it's a relish – it's… a relsa? Salish?

Well, whatever it is, I like noshing on it on a hot afternoon, on tortilla chips, on chicken tacos, on bratwurst, or in a salad. It's a little labor-intensive if you don't have a food processor, but it's worth the effort.

And it's a swell way to do something with the spare tomatillos you have in your garden…unless you don't have a kind and obliging gardener like my pop. Under those circumstances, you want to go buy fresh tomatillos from the store. You want to get them while they're firm – if you're unfamiliar with tomatillos, they're also referred to as "husk cherries" or "husk tomatoes".   On the vine, they look a little like a tomato wrapped in a papery leaf envelope, but they're actually closer to the gooseberry than to the tomato, and their flavor really shows it. Most tomatillos are strongly citrusy, but not overly juicy, and, when fresh, are on the crisp side.

I'm told they make awesome pickles, but I never seem to be able to make them last long enough to get to the point of pickling. I keep tossing them into my chili, or into this relish.

There are variations to be made, such as leaving the seeds & white pulpy ribs in the peppers to raise the heat, or substituting vinegar for the lime juice and raising the amount of salt, to make it a little more pickly, but, somehow, I came to really appreciate the combination of flavors as they are here.

I suppose this could be canned, as well, if I didn't keep eating it as I chop…

Anyway, as I said, it's simple enough:

Tomatillo Relish (or is it a Salsa?)


8-10 medium tomatillos (about 4 cups), husks removed, washed*, and finely chopped
2 medium jalapeño peppers, white ribs & seeds removed & fruit very finely minced
1/2 medium onion (about 2/3 cups) sweet onion, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro (or 3 Tablespoons high-quality dried cilantro)
juice from 1 medium lime (about 2 Tablespoons)
1 teaspoon salt


In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients, mix well. With a spoon or a small bowl, press down to lightly crush. Stir again. Store in refrigerator. Chill well before serving.

*Tomatillos have a very sticky surface beneath their papery husks. It may take several tries rinsing them, because you want all the stickiness gone.

Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Pizza Crust

I have a little trouble with some allergies and sensitivities. They're not always the usual ones people get, either (yes, I'm violently allergic to anything containing grape origins – including cream of tartar and many of those unidentified "natural sweeteners" and "natural flavors" you find in so many sweet/diet snack foods. I dare you to match that).

Nevertheless, one of the foods I've recently learned is a problem for me is wheat. I haven't been tested for celiac, or other such, because my insurance doesn't cover…well, anything, since I have none. But I have discovered that, when I skipped eating wheat for more than a few days, I failed to have my regular morning migraine the next day, my digestive problems lessened, and my breathing issues around the cats were not so severe. So, at least I can say that I've marked something in my life which I can change in order to make my life just a little less sucky. (Here is where I do a little happy dance.)

Needless to say, this has left me searching for recipes I can fix for everybody in the household, which will satisfy their old fogey taste buds without causing me undue discomfort. This is why I got excited when one of my social media connections brought to my attention a simple, no-flour pizza crust recipe.

It was touted as low-carb, as well, piling on the pepperoni and sausage, but I have a bad habit of tossing peppers, onions, olives, and the like onto my own, instead of lots of meat. Tonight, it was broccoli, olives, and onions, with grilled peppers and mushrooms added into the sauce. But, hey, it's a pizza crust, and you can top it any way you want. 

The one thing I can say about this crust is, it's a very tender thing, and will likely stick to (a) the pan, if it's not greased very well, and (b) to the spatula if it's not a good non-stick silicone one. That's because the crust is, essentially, a crustless savory cheesecake. And, in my humble opinion, it kicks hindquarters.

this is a double-recipe, cooked in a standard 13x18" jelly-roll pan

Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Pizza Crust

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese (you can use the low-fat, but not the nonfat)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper


Preheat oven to 350º F. 

Grease 12-inch circular pizza pan or 9x13-inch cookie sheet.

Have cream cheese brought to room temperature, either by letting stand for a half hour in advance, or by warming slightly to soften in microwave oven.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and egg until thoroughly smooth. Beat in garlic powder, parmesan, and pepper.  Use spatula to pour batter into pan. 

Bake on middle rack about 10-12 minutes, until beginning to turn golden-brown in spots (like a flour tortilla or lefse, depending upon your own cultural references). Remove from oven, allow to cool at least 12-15 minutes. 

Meanwhile, raise temperature of oven to 375º F.

Apply your favorite sauce, cheeses, and toppings, and bake again until cheese begins to bubble up and lightly brown. 

Allow to cool about 5 minutes before serving.

Also great served cold for breakfast.