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.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Banananana… You won't know when to stop with this nut bread

Over the course of time, most of my old cravings for forbidden (trigger-laden) foods have disappeared. For example, I no longer pine for strawberries every time The Bat brings home a quart of fresh ones for herself and Pop. Grapes come in and go out without my feeling the desire to pope one in my mouth and stop breathing… but breads are a much harder habit to break. 

Worse still, I have desperately missed dessert-y quick breads, like the classic banana-nut loaf which usually happened at least once a month when I was younger – after my brugly other stopped inhaling the fruits, and the occasional banana was allowed to go a little overripe. During those years, The Bat would take out the extra-long loaf pan (the 5x16 incher) and load it up with batter, filling the house with that sweet, heady aroma. If we were lucky, there would also be a brick of cream cheese on the counter when the bread was finished baking, to add a little bite, a little extra richness to the treat. But once wheat was put on my list of things to be avoided, I would glance longingly at those fruits on the counter as they started to show brown spots.

No more, though!  I can have my cake, and eat it, too. 

Welllll… technically, no. I can have my banana bread, though, and make it lower in carbs at the same time I make it wheat-free. This makes it slightly more virtuous a feast, until I slather that cream cheese all over it and treat it as if it were cupcake frosting.

Granted, it's a fairly heavy version of banana bread – Pop likes his to be a little more on the lightly cakey side, whereas this comes out dense, like a pound cake. Still, it's banana-y, nutty, and moist. What's not to like? 

Rich, nutty, fruity, and good for you…like a bran muffin, only without the whole bran muffin attitude 

Banana Bread with Coconut Flour
7 large eggs at room temperature
3 Tablespoons honey
1/2 cup coconut oil or butter, melted
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 cup sifted coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease a standard glass loaf pan.

In a large bowl, and with Paddle attachment (not dough hook or whisk) combine eggs, honey, oil, and mashed bananas, beat until well blended.

In a separate bowl, sift together coconut flour, salt, baking powder and soda. Whisk in nuts, if you are including them. 

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet, in the mixer bowl. Mix until completely combined.
Pour into greased loaf pan, place on middle rack of oven. Bake 1 hour. 

Remove from oven, allow to cool 10 minutes in pan.  

Remove from pan,  allow to cool completely on rack.

This bread is better if allowed to stand overnight. Serve with cream cheese brought to room temperature to soften, for greater cake-like awesomeness.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Green Tomatoes, Not Fried

Jars! I relish them! Also, I just plain preserve what I can.

What does a person do when, as the growing season comes to an end, there are still piles of green tomatoes on the dying vines? 

Well, I'm told that most people allow those little marbles of acid to be added to the compost heap. I, on the other hand, like to savor every last bite of summer as long as I can (I love the foods, even though I hate the heat).

So, today, I started the process for making green tomato relish. It's the kind of thing you need to set aside two days for, because the vegetables need to brine themselves half to death before you can add the seasoning, the vinegar, and the cooking/canning.

So, to begin. gather supplies and ingredients. 

There was a gallon bucket of green 'maters.
Green Tomatoes. You know you want some.

And then there were these cute little baby sweet peppers in the fridge (instead of the recipe's recommended green and red bell peppers), and some sweet (Vidalia) onions...

Suh-WEET! peppers and onions…
 Plus, I had a very nice-looking recipe in one of my more recent additions to the kitchen library, the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving   The world was now my oyster. Or, at least, it was my pickle-jar. 

Oh, yes. Jars. You need five half-pint Ball or Kerr sturdy mason jars – sterilized in the dishwasher or in a boiling water bath –  for this recipe, plus a canning kettle and the standard accompanying tools (funnel, jar lifter, etc.). This calls for a hot bath process on day two.

You'll also want a large swatch of cheesecloth out of which to make a spice bag. By "large swatch", I mean something a couple of layers thick, and, if you don't have string to tie it off, about 8x8 inches, so you have enough to tie corners across, to make a "hobo bundle".

Time to begin.

After thoroughly sorting and washing the tomatoes, I cut the cores out and cut them into quarters, to make sure there were no bad spots or unnecessary protein sources (found a stink bug in the bucket. Didn't think that its inclusion would improve the flavor of the relish).

From there, it was just a matter of following the instructions as written in the Ball book on preserving foods. More or less. I'm lazy, so instead of finely chopping the 'maters by hand, I put them through the coarse grater on the food processor. The bits of fruit came out more consistent than I'd have gotten with my best knife. 

Tomatoes grated and ready for the salt, peppers, and onions to be added before steeping overnight.
And, after all that work, I have one jar to give away to somebody special, this Christmas, and four for myself.

Oh, all right. I'll give away two of them. But only because I'm feeling saintly. And because I also put by six pints of whole green tomatoes for use in chili, later this year.

Green Tomato Relish, plus the bonus round of canned tomatoes
Green Tomato Hot Dog Relish


Day 1
6 cups finely chopped, cored green tomatoes (unpeeled)
2 medium onions, finely chopped (minced) (about 3 cups)
2 green bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup pickling or canning salt

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine green tomatoes, onions, green and red bell peppers and pickling salt. Cover and allow to stand in a cool place (70 to 75º F/ 21 to 23º C) for 12 hours or overnight. 
Just mincing my peppers. A couple of pieces fell out before they could be made teensy, so I had to eat them.

Day 2
Green tomato mixture in salt
1/2 to 1 full teaspoon whole cloves (since our household is not fans of the taste of cloves, I prefer the lower quantity)
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 (4-inch / 10 cm) cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 cups white vinegar (I used rice vinegar – it's an allergy thing)
1 1/2 cups lightly packed light brown sugar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (about 1/2 teaspoon)
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt (I prefer kosher salt)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
a few drops of food coloring (optional)


Remove cover from bowl of green tomatoes, onions, peppers, and salt. Transfer to a colander placed over a sink and allow to drain. Rinse thoroughly with cool water and drain. Using your hands, squeeze out excess liquid. Set aside. 

Lather, rinse, repeat…erm, no, just thoroughly rinse, drain, and squish out liquids

Tie cloves, celery seeds, and cinnamon stick in a square of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, mustard, salt, ginger, and spice bag. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.

Add drained tomato mixture, stir well, and return to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to boil gently, stirring often, until tomatoes are transparent (about 1 hour). Remove and discard spice bag. Add a few drops of green and yellow food coloring, to your preferred shade of green (I used about 4 drops of green, 2 of yellow).

Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars, and lids according to manufacturer's recommendations. (Canner should be filled with water sufficient to cover the jars to at least 1/2 inch above the tops of the jars.)

Ladle hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch (1 cm) headspace (some of the newer jars actually have a "fill to" line beneath the screwtop ridge. It's very helpful.) Wipe rim with clean damp cloth or paper towel. Center lid on jar, screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger-tight.

Place jars in canner, being sure they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil, process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool on a dry towel.

Once they are cooled, remove the screw band, and store*.     

*If you have relatively hard water, or an older canner, you may have some mineral deposits on your jars and lids. It's best to deal with that stuff right away as soon as they're cool, before you try to label your jars. Washing them with vinegar water will get them sparkling and sticky-label or marker ready.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Salmon Jammin' Evening: A Summery Seafood Salad

A nice fresh fish salad with refrigerator pickles…just right on a hot summer day.

It's hot. It's not quite summer by the calendar, and the air outside has reached 92° F (33°C), with a high dew point (and, yes, you Texans and Floridians, etc. can scoff if you will). Our house does not have central air conditioning. This means, nobody wants to spend a second longer than necessary over a hot stove...or even a hot grill.

Since my local weather experts have been fairly reliable in their forecasts, though, I was able to prepare for this eventuality.

Our Friday Night Plates (our regular get-together with our extended, volunteer family) got chillin'. The Bat brewed up and then refrigerated some peppermint tea in advance of the evening, and I prepped a batch of gluten-free key lime tarts (more on that, maybe, in another post), a bowl of fruit compote (I cheat. Canned fruits are very useful when you're between seasons), and, most importantly, a nice big bowl of salmon salad.

In searching the web for ideas, I noticed that the most popular salmon salads are leafy greens piled with hot, freshly grilled fish and a few other must-slave-in-the-heat items. This would not do for me. I was looking for something kind of chill-out-y and picnic-y. 

What I offered the family was easily prepared in advance, can be made with canned, pouched, smoked, steamed, or even grilled salmon, and is relatively low in carbs. 

And it tastes only moderately decadent.

Salad. We like it like that.

Chilled Salmon Salad

1 lb fresh or frozen boneless, skinless salmon filets, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1/2- to 3/4 cup diced celery
3 ounces capers, rinsed and drained

4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3  cup lemon or lime juice (or more to taste)

At least 3 hours before serving, steam salmon chunks (or bake in a nonstick covered dish at low heat -- about 300-325° F) until just opaque and easily flaked with a fork. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes, either way.

When the salmon is cooked, place in covered dish in refrigerator until completely chilled.

Cut celery into small cubes, rinse and drain capers, setting aside a dozen or so for garnish. Lightly mix the rest into the cold salmon.

For the dressing: in a small mixer bowl, whip softened cream cheese until fluffy, gradually add in olive oil and mix thoroughly. Finally, mix in lemon or lime juice until the dressing has the consistency of mayonnaise. If you want, you can add a little more juice to boost the flavor, but don't get carried away.

Gently stir the dressing into the salmon mixture.

Serve chilled on your favorite bread or a bed of tender leaf lettuce. Garnish with sliced cucumbers or fresh pickles.

Serves 6

Saturday, April 30, 2016

In the Name of Science

Our deep freezer was in desperate need of defrosting. I know these things should be done at least quarterly, so that foods don't get lost far in the back and become bricks of history, but we'd let it go for about 9 months. This meant that the appliance was no longer freezing hard, the way it's supposed to. The ice cream was getting soft. 

Needless to say, the job had to be done.

Now, when you have slightly more than a quart of mostly-melted ice cream, and only two people in the house for the afternoon, you may have a problem disposing of it. It would have been practically a crime to send it down the drain. And thus, the search for the recipe...

The popular "super genius kitchen hack" this past year was the so-called two-ingredient bread, using ice cream and self-rising flour, had come across my screen more than a few times. I decided to give it a try. After looking over quite possibly a hundred variations on the theme, I settled on this one for my trial.

Let me put it this way: I didn't hate it.

It comes out as something along the lines of a loose quick bread, sort of a muffin loaf. Well, actually, since I'd baked mine in a 4-inch round springform pan, it was sort of like a monster muffin.

Reminder to those who want to do the same thing: baking a deep round instead of a small loaf, you're going to need to pretty much double the oven time, which also suggests you may want to put a foil cover over it for part of the time, so it doesn't get too browned. I gave mine an extra 12 minutes (roughly 50% more time than the recipe called for) and it was still a little underdone in the core. I'm not complaining, though. It tasted fine, for an experimental muffin.

As bread or cake, though…I've had better.

Woman's World Book of Unusual Cookery part 3

Woman's World Book of Unusual Cookery part 1

This booklet – another one picked up in a bunch of ephemera at an auction, 'way back in 2010 – had suffered some serious water damage. I did what I could to restore the images, once scanned, but some of the text was just too blurred, and a few of the pages so badly stuck together that it would have given a restoration/conservation expert fits. It was pretty enough, and entertaining enough, though, that I struggled through some dense clouds of mildew to scan what I could (the pages were bigger than my old scanner bed, so each page was scanned in two parts, for as much data as I could rescue), then spent some time in Photoshop, cleaning up and reassembling the images.

As a project, it has a bit to be desired, but I hope you like what I managed to salvage. I'll post it in several segments, because it's a lot to load all at once.

Woman's World Book of Unusual Cookery, part 2 (menus, July-December)

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Lemon Meringue Bites (gluten-free)

I split this one with Pop before dinner. It didn't spoil our appetites at all.

This time of year is the big birthday season, in our family (we have a LOT of Aries' babies, if you're into astrology). As such, the first thing on the agenda is always the birthday cake (for which I have already produced a couple, and will have another constructed, this coming Saturday) …or, in Pop's case, as you may recall, the birthday pie.

I used to enjoy the Bat's divine lemon meringue pie, myself. And then I found out I had that little problem with wheat. So Pop's favorite dessert – and mine – was no longer on my menu. Seriously. Even with the many varieties of GF flours on the market, it just didn't work, because one of us would be left unhappy.

Or so I thought.

This week, I stumbled across a recipe for gluten-free lemon squares in a King Arthur Flour's email, and realized that I could very easily adapt the nut flour shortbread crust to our "ancient family secret" pie recipe. And, since this was an experiment, and I really can't eat a whole pie by myself, I had to spend some time re-figuring the structure and time on this project.

As luck would have it, our kitchen is stocked with several different types of baking pans, among them a mini-cheesecake tin I bought for myself a couple of years ago and had thus far only used for brownie bites. It really makes removing treats from those little wells so easy!

A few things for me to consider, the next time I make these (and I will be doing so fairly frequently, now) :

1. The wells in the mini-cheesecake tin are a little over 4 centimeters deep, and this dough, while tender, is fairly sturdy. I could make the reservoir in the cookie even deeper than I did (they ended up being halfway up, or roughly 2 cm). I like the flavor of the cookie, though, and, with a strong citrus curd, it's not a bad idea to keep it almost effectively a "thumbprint tart". If I do decide to press them to accommodate more curd, I'll break out the wooden tart/tassies press instead of letting my thumbnails interfere in the process. That way, I'll easily produce 12 tartlets, instead of the nine I got this time.

2. In making the meringue, I'll add about 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, and a little zest, too. I accidentally spilled at least a full teaspoon of juice into my egg whites (Captain Coordination strikes again!), and, rather than waste them, I gave it a whirl. The meringue tasted amazing, but, unsurprisingly, fell almost immediately after it came out of the oven, becoming gooier and a spot tougher. However, I've used a small amount of citrus juice before, in making meringue cookies, and, for three egg whites, a hint (1/4 tsp, added in near the end of beating the egg whites & before adding the sugar) is all I need as a substitute for the cream of tartar (to which I am very allergic).

3. Use a wire cheese cutter to slice butter into half-centimeter cubes before tossing them into the freezer for a really good chill.

4. It is possible to make these little bite-sized treats using only the mini-cheesecake pan, but I found that the cookie cups held up very nicely outside the pan, and took on a more attractive hue when browning the meringue. Plus, it's easier to hand-clean the pan elements if there's no meringue baked on.

5. Always make more lemon curd than you think you're going to need. Not that you'll actually need it, but who doesn't want a little custard cup of lemony heaven once in a while?

That pretty curd is Meyer lemon, this time.

Here is the recipe, as I attempted to work it today:

Lemon Meringue Bites (gluten-free)


cookie shell:
6 Tablespoons butter, diced and hard-chilled
2 cups blanched almond flour (or fine-ground almond meal)
6 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon

3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
grated zest of 1 small lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons corn starch
pinch salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water


3 egg whites
6 Tablespoons sugar
zest of 1 small lemon
pinch salt


Preheat oven to 350º F.

Lightly butter the wells of your baking tin.

Make the shortbread cookie shells: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the cookie shell except the butter. When your dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add in the mostly-frozen butter cubes and work into dough using a pastry blender or your fingers. Don't overwork it, but be sure that there are no large clumps of butter in the mixture. It will resemble coarse, moist sand when it is ready.

Fill each cup in the baking tin with the loose mixture, then proceed to press it against the sides and bottom of the cup (yay! building sand castles in the kitchen!).

Place in oven, bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, allow to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack.

When the cups are cooled, remove them carefully from the pan, place on a cookie sheet or another baking dish.

While the cookies are cooling, make the filling and the meringue.

Make the lemon curd: Prepare a double boiler (or, if you don't have one, improvise one by resting a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan with about an inch of room for the water beneath it). In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg yolks thoroughly by hand. Add in all other ingredients except the water. Mix completely.

Add in the boiling water, pour the mixture into the top of the double boiler, and stir over simmering water until it begins to thicken. Allow to cook another 10 minutes, until completely thick.

Fill each cookie cup with curd. If there is any left over, pour (or scoop, as the case may be) into a custard cup, and save that for later misconduct.

Prepare the meringue: If you were energy-conscious and turned your oven off while the cookies were cooling, re-heat the oven to 350º F.

In a small mixing bowl which has been cleaned thoroughly to make sure there is no residual oil in it, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form. Add in lemon juice while the mixer is still running, then gradually add in the sugar. When the eggs become glossy and medium-soft peaks can be formed, fold in the lemon zest. At this point, you can scoop the meringue into a pastry bag and form pretty designs on top of your cups, or you can go random with a spoon, the way I prefer.
Meringue in dollops. Lots of dollops.

Waste not, want not. Leftover lemon curd is fine alone, or with a pretty leftover meringue topping.

Bake at 350º F for 15 minutes, or until golden-browned.

Remove from oven, allow to cool completely (cover & chill overnight if you think you can leave them alone that long).

Ain't misbehavin'. Savin' my curd for lunch.

Sorry about the color. Kitchen table lighting doesn't do the warm golden meringue tips justice, especially on a green dish. But it was what was at hand as the crowd started arriving.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Sourdough, from the Seventies

 From 1971, weekend food magazine section of the Chicago Tribune. The Bat clipped this article & it's been in her scrapbook for a while.

Last week, she… started... the starter… as instructed. Her final result, following this recipe, was a long loaf plus a nice little round loaf, the latter of which was halfway eaten by the time I got downstairs with my camera (okay, it's a smart phone with a decent camera app.), so this is what I got.

 As always, click any image for an embiggened version.