More Sauerkraut Experiments

If you are interested, I already have a post on making sauerkraut here.

But still I have a hankering to try other ways to make it. There are so many options. The way I made it in the past was fine, but I noticed I did not have consistent results. That is not the cabbages fault. I tend to not measure much. Using the ‘seat of your pants’ method of assembling sauerkraut is my standard. But perhaps there is a better way?

Did you know, for example, that you can either beat the cabbage with a tool or your fist, or you can massage the salt into it?

Or, that you can skip that step and put the shredded cabbage into a mason jar with vinegar, salt and sugar, then just pour boiling water over it?

Were you aware that you can give the jar a water bath, canning it and sealing it, or just put the jar as is on your shelf while it ferments, sans bath?

Or that you can use mason jars or large crocks or even large plastic food grade containers?

Or how about adding flavorings? Like caraway seeds, dill, shredded beets or carrots or apples, ginger or juniper berries. (and where the heck do you get those, except from a juniper bush? I searched in 3 stores before giving up.)

Or that cabbage was so beautiful inside?

20150930_185528000_iOSEach cabbage is unique and beautiful, even though at first glance they may all look the same. Kind of poignant isn’t it? It gives us sauerkraut which has good probiotics in it and helps you to digest your food. Which is kind of strange when you think that many people have trouble digesting cabbage in its raw form, but it becomes just that much healthier when fermented!

Anyway, I tried a couple of new ways to make sauerkraut today and will use this post to keep track of the results in order that I keep a record and obtain more consistency. (Watch out Ms. Frizzle!)

So EXPERIMENT A: Cabbage in a Crock.

Here is me shredding and pounding the cabbage in a bowl. I added about a tablespoon of salt and using the end of a tapered rolling-pin, pounded the dickens out of  it. It made me feel like I was churning butter.

20150930_190749802_iOS20150930_192157944_iOS (2)That is me trying to break down them pesky cabbage fibers amongst the clutter of the counter. Surrounded by pickling salt, half a banana, sweet potatoes, olive oil and maybe a plum?

In this experiment I had to go back to the store and get another cabbage. The one did not make enough to put into the large jar I had in mind. I do not plan to fill it, but did want a bit more than 1″ along the bottom of the jar.

I sprinkled in  the 1 Tablespoon of pickling salt. The salt draws out the juices, which it needs to ferment, feeding the enzymes.

I drizzled in about 1 teaspoon of whey from yogurt that I tried to drain. I would have liked more, but I got impatient because it was draining out of the yogurt so slow. The whey has lactic acid in it and gives it a kick-start. Once in the jar, I used the bottom of a small mason jar to pound it down. The juiced from the cabbage started creeping up the sides. I still added a little bit of clean water to it. The fermenting of cabbage is ‘anaerobic’ and doesn’t like air. Air is the enemy. So you can do two things. One is to make sure all the cabbage is under water.

The other is to submerge it somehow. I chose to do it this way, by putting a bag of water into the jar, on top of the cabbage, which flattened out to fit the inside of the jar. It will, hopefully, keep  the air out.


You can see some of the liquid here:


Bag of water on top with a twisty. Now the lid goes on and I put it into a dark cupboard.


EXPERIMENT B: Green cabbage with water bath.

This time I shredded and pounded the green cabbage, (which takes about 10 minutes, so turn on a Pandora station and boogie!) stuffed it into a mason jar and added 1 teaspoon each of salt, sugar and vinegar. Over this I poured a little boiling water, although it did not need much. It took over an hour to get my canning pot up to the boiling point! (And all for 1 lousy jar of kraut?) But once it was bubbling away, I put in the green sauerkraut and boiled it for 15 minutes. The lid popped when it came out, so all is good. I left about 1/2″ of the top clear for expansion, but after looking at it, I wonder was it enough?  If the kraut needs more space to grow while it ferments, will the lid pop off? Or just bulge? Or go explodio? Both the mason jar and the crock went into a dark cupboard and I will keep an eye on them.

20150930_225358786_iOSYou can barely see the purple cabbage behind the littler green one. Within a couple of days the green one will loose most of its color. I wonder what the purple one will look like? I plan to leave them to ferment for 30 days instead of just the usual few few. That means they should be ready by Halloween! Or have exploded by then.

Last night we went to a friend’s house for a St.Michaelmas feast. Tradition says you have to eat a goose and have a dessert with blackberries. So the hostess roasted a goose, I brought two desserts, one with berries, including blackberries, and everyone else brought other delicious dishes. One dish brought by a sweet Hungarian woman (the same woman who gave me her recipe for Hungarian Potato Bread) was an exquisite dish made with pork, sauerkraut and sour cream. She says she will bring me the recipe on Sunday, and I can’t wait! While I may not be a huge fan of plain sauerkraut, I do love food cooked with it and plan to make this for my family.

One dish I remember as a child, one of my favorites, was spare ribs cooked in sauerkraut. Now, in later years, my mother would bake the ribs and then put sauerkraut over it to finish baking. But when I was little I distinctly remember her fishing out the ribs with tongs out of a big pot of sauerkraut! The meat was falling off the bones and I loved it.

Oh-ooh wait! There was more. She would take canned rolls and put them over the bubbling sauerkraut, put a lid on and turn them into dumplings to go with the ribs! Oh gosh, I had almost forgotten about that. I would pick off the bits of sauerkraut off the dumpling/roll (because I was just that picky) but still loved the sour flavor. I have a birthday coming up. I think its time to bring this old dish back. Canned biscuits and all!

So here we are at the end of this post for now. As soon as I start see results, I will add pictures and notes. That means I will be checking the kraut for ‘scum’ or ‘bloom’ (which is the same thing but sounds nicer) that I will remove from the top of the cabbage. I will check for off smells or off colors and keep notes on this post for future usage.

Toodle-oo! Or should I say Auf Wiedersehen! (and go watch “The Sound of Music”)

Pecan Sticky Buns

(I am cleaning out my blog site and found one of my favorite recipes that needed a little updating. So here it is with enhanced sticky bun filling and extra gooeyness.)

Slurry. What a funny word. Slurry-slurry-slurry! Like a cross between hurry and sloppy. Or blurry and sloshy. But in this case it is a cross between ambrosia and delight.

I know I have posted about sticky buns before. But really, can we ever get enough of sweet and nutty sticky buns? It’s a Christmas tradition around here to have them for breakfast along with a savory dish. So needless to say, I have tried many a recipe and have lots of experience with these to speak from.

If you want homemade-from-scratch sticky buns you have 4 steps.

Make the dough.

Make the slurry and cinnamon sugar.

Form the buns.


If you want a large amount of sweet dough, I have the recipe here.

If you want quicky-sticky buns, go here.

But for now I will give you a reduced dough recipe and my favorite slurry, which is the sticky gooey stuff upon which the rolled up dough sits and bakes. Continue reading “Pecan Sticky Buns”

Homemade Yogurt


(It has been a couple of years since this post was first posted. I am making yogurt again today, so thought I would repost for those people interested in incorporating more fermented foods into their diets. Later this week I will be  trying out some new sauerkraut recipes. )

I could have sworn I made this post already! No? Are you sure?

I guess I haven’t. Now I cannot even find the pictures I took. The problem is both that I take pictures with the intention of blogging on it, then forget where I put them or what I was going to do with it, or worse yet, what it was.

Me:”Is that a picture of gluten-free bread or potato bread? Is that a bowl of sourdough or pancake batter?”

I guess I better start labeling. Or just admit defeat now and put myself in a home for  absentminded cooks.

I also have a tendency to write my blog posts (as well as entire conversations with friends and family)  in my head either while I am driving or showering or in the wee hours when I can’t sleep but don’t want to get up and write because then I will never get to sleep. It’s much easier than taking the time to actually write them. But now I have yogurt incubating which means I am hanging around the house anyway, more or less.

So let’s do this thing!

And the next time you or I want to make yogurt (like today) we won’t have to go surfing the net!

First let me go over the incubation thingy. Yogurt is basically just milk warmed up with  yogurt culture added to it and then kept warm to incubate for anywhere from 4-8 hours, depending on who’s website you are getting your information from. My friend Connie is the one who inspired me to start making this. She told me how easy it was, showed me how she made hers (in a bowl in a yogurt maker) and talked about other ways to keep it warm. Thats really the whole thing, keeping it warm. Babying it until the yogurt bacteria have married, multiplied and moved throughout the milk. You mustn’t let it get too hot nor too cold. Other ways people have come up with to keep it warm:

  • using a thermos’. (Pour hot water in to warm it up. Pour the water out, add the warmed milk. Wrap in towels and keep warm)
  • use the oven. Warm it to 110 degrees, turn it off. Keep pilot light on. Keep yogurt wrapped in towels to hold in warmth.
  • used crock pots
  • used rice cookers
  • used a yogurt maker
  • used a food dehydrator
  • used a heating pad

So you see there is no one way. More like ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’.

I use my canning pot. I fill it 2/3rds full of water and heat it to just over 100 degrees. Anything with that much water in it takes a very long time to cool off. I make the yogurt in a large glass canning type jar and set it in the pot of warm water. Every couple of hours I turn on the heat for 2 minutes. Of course I am using my instant read thermometer to tell me when it gets too cool. When the water gets to about 95, I heat it up again. When it gets to just over 100 degrees, it is good for another couple of hours. I don’t move it. I don’t open the  yogurt jar. I just leave it to do its thing.

Don’t think you can just leave it in there overnight. It crossed my mind. But what about when the water cooled off?

Let me also talk briefly about the milk to use. I use whole milk for a creamier yogurt, but you can use 2% too and I think skim milk works as well. You do not have to use organic milk. Any milk, will do. This is my personal preference is all. I use organic milk, but I have to be careful and not get Ultra-Pasteurized milk!

If you do, you will probably not get yogurt out of it. If I were you, I would not buy any organic milk that was ultra-pasteurized anyway. But now is not the place to get on my milk soapbox. That is on another post I actually did write. You can find organic, normally pasteurized milk at Trader Joes, Sprouts, Mothers Market and Whole Foods. There are some great brands out there too.

Here is the milk I use. Almost any milk will do. But not soy or almond or coconut. It has to be real milk.
Here is the milk I use. Almost any milk will do. But not soy or almond or coconut. It has to be real milk.

You will need a yogurt starter. This means either a couple of tablespoons of yogurt you have made previously, or store bought yogurt or a powdered form of yogurt culture.

I have used all three. The first time I made it, I bought what I consider to be the gold standard of dairy products, Strauss. I bought Strauss plain full fat yogurt and used this in my milk. I only needed a bit, so I got to eat the rest. Their milk is wonderful too, full of flavor. It comes in glass bottles too. (and I got a dollar and a half back last time I took the bottles back to the store, so whats not to love?). The second time I used a powdered yogurt culture I had picked up at Mothers Market. I had also bought some Brown Cow plain yogurt but someone around here decided to eat it first. So the powdered is my back up plan and I used it instead. It worked great. This time I am using what is left of the yogurt I made previously, the one with the powdered culture.

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The last thing I need to mention is the thickness of the finished yogurt. Your homemade yogurt may be thinner than store bought. There are ways to thicken it up. Some people stir in 1/4 cup of powdered milk when they add the yogurt culture. Others wait until the yogurt is done and strain it through a cheesecloth into a bowl for several hours (in the fridge) to thicken it. Since I had bought some gelatin to use in some gluten-free baking, I had it on hand. I stirred in one envelope with the  yogurt culture. It thickens it  up nicely, not too much, just the way I like it.

Here is what I add to thicken it up. Some people add powdered milk to make it richer. Others drain the yogurt with cheesecloth to thicken it. This is what I use.
Here is what I add to thicken it up. Some people add powdered milk to make it richer. Others drain the yogurt with cheesecloth to thicken it.
Here it is, just getting started.
Here it is, just getting started.

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So here is the way I make it. It works great for me and I hope you are pleasantly surprised as well after all the hours of waiting.

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Homemade Yogurt

  • Yield: 1 quart

Making your own yogurt is easy, with delicious results. It makes you feel like you have really accomplished something grand. Like when you make your own cheese. There is a kind of wonder when you can turn milk into other wonderful-to-eat things.



  1. Pour the milk into a saucepan and gently heat until you see small bubbles around edges, but it is not boiling. Using an instant read thermometer you want it to get between 180-190. If I understand correctly, his is to kill some of the bad enzymes that prohibit the  yogurt culturing, or perhaps compete with it.
  2. Set aside the milk cool to about 100 degrees. This is the magic number. 100.  In the meantime, fill a large pot with water and heat to 100 degrees. If it gets too hot, let it cool or take out some of the hot water and replace it with cool tap water. Put a lid on it.
  3. Let the milk cool to around 100 degrees. Pour some of it out into a bowl and to this add your yogurt culture. (either some yogurt you have bought or an envelope of powdered yogurt culture.) If you are adding gelatin, or powdered milk,  now is the time to add it.
  4. Mix this back into the warmed milk and put the whole thing into the glass jar. Put the lid on it and place it in the large pot of warm water. (recheck the temperature to make sure it is not over 110 degrees.)
  5. Now you just wait. Every couple of hours you must check the waters temperature and if necessary, heat it for a couple of minutes. If you are using a smaller pot, you will have to check it more frequently. Try to keep it at 100 degrees for 4-8-12 or even 16 hours. I generally let it go for at least 7-8, just to be safe. Last time it was 89just because I got busy and lost track of time. It gets thicker and tarter the longer it sits. One time I forgot about it entirely and went to bed! In the morning, there it sat, in its cooled water bath and it was fine, nice and tart.
  6. When you take it out of the water, dry it off and tilt it gently. See if it is thick and yogurty. If so, refrigerate overnight for several hours before eating. If it seems too thin still, put back in the water for a few more hours.
  7. (see above for alternate ways to keep your yogurt culture warm for several hours.)

Homemade English Muffins

Can you make your own english muffins? Why yes, you can!

Of course, why would you want to? It’s so easy to buy them, so why go through the effort?

Maybe because they, like so many other baked goods, taste fresher, more flavorful, dare I say-ethereal- when made at home. It also gives you a sense of “whoo-hoo!” to be able to make them from scratch. So while I have not tried my hand at making bagels, (still the fear factor there), I have conquered the English muffin! And it’s not so hard. This recipe is just the epitome of “slow food”.

Why “English” muffins? After all, they are not really muffins as we know them.

It would seem that the English brought over crumpets, which are very similar and are cooked in a skillet. So I guess the early colonists took to making these breads in a skillet, thought they cooked up similar to crumpets but said, “Prithee, these art not crumpets! Theye ayre muffins, English style.” Or something like that.

What I like about this recipe is not only did I get to use sourdough, which I do not use enough, but I did not need muffin rings. This bread is fried in a skillet and usually the batter is so loose as to need rings to pour them into. You flip them, rings and all and fry on the other side. You can buy rings, or clean a bunch of tuna cans to use as such.

Here are links to some english muffin recipes you might want to try that do not take 3 days.

One is a sourdough recipe from King Arthur Flour

Here is a recipe for baked English muffins from the King Arthur Flour website and…

here is the one I would try next…from the KA website “Flourish”. What can I say? I trust these people.

But the dough in this Tartine recipe was solid enough to support itself without rings and I like recipes that look challenging. The following is the process of making the muffins, not the actual recipe which you can find in their wonderful book.

I went to my baking book “Tartine Breads”. In it was a recipe for English muffins using their bagette dough of sourdough, flour, water, salt and a little yeast in the “poolish”. In a nutshell, the night before, you feed your sourdough and make a poolish of water, flour and yeast. These  then sit out over night.

The next morning, you mix up the starter, the poolish, more flour, more water and some salt. It only gets mixed until cohesive. Its not really kneaded as we know it.

Time to let it go through a ‘bulk fermentation’. You do not knead the dough, but give it ‘turns’ every half hour or so for the first couple of hours, letting it rise 3-4 hours. Turns are when you reach into the dough bowl, with damp hands, pick the dough up and let it kind of slide out of your hands, flipping it over on itself. Then you turn the bowl a quarter turn and do it again. You do this every half hour for the first 2 hours and the dough becomes satiny and cohesive, similar to results with kneading, but used with doughs that are ridiculously too wet to knead.

Once it has puffed up (does not need to double-3-4 hours) it is time to shape it.

The dough id divided in 2. You need to prepare 2 baking sheets.

The scary part was that the recipe called for you to put the dough onto a floured towel. Now that just sends shivers up my spine. Put this wet dough onto a floured towel? What if it never came off? But if I use something else, perhaps it wont work right?? What to do?? When in doubt, take a deep breath and just follow the directions.

Lay a lint free tea towel in the pan. Heavily flour this with a blend of 50% all purpose flour and 50% rice flour. Rice flour does not absorb moisture as readily and keeps dough from sticking. I use it a lot more for flouring pans or baskets since learning this. Pat out the first dough half into the pan, slowly patting and stretching it out. Then cover it with more of the flour blend and yet another towel.

Continue reading “Homemade English Muffins”

Soup Essentials, The Makings of a Great Broth

Hello my sweeties!

I would like to share with you some soup basics. Soup essentials.

It started when I went to make a pot of turkey soup for dinner. It was already 3:30 in the afternoon. (Well it certainly wasn’t in the morning!) While I could have put together a short cut soup with chicken broth, vegetables, tomatoes and diced turkey breast I had roasted the other day, once I got going, I kind of got carried away.

I quickly realized that I was not in fact making soup for dinner but was starting broth for tomorrow nights soup-for-dinner.

Lets set aside short cut soup for the moment. It can be wonderful. But lets just set it aside.

Soup has at least 2 components. The broth and everything else.

A good broth can turn soup from “meh” to “yummy”  to “outrageous!”

So lets look at broth basics first. We will use my turkey soup as an example.

I had purchased some turkey wings on-the-cheap at Sprouts just for this purpose. I also had some celery that was past its prime, so I bought new and set aside these old inner stalks for the soup. Grabbed an onion and rough chopped it and the celery.

Into a large pot I drizzled a bit of oil and heated it up. I chopped up the wings into its 3 pieces and browned them, good and crispy, a few at a time. But this could have been beef bones, such as knuckle bones. Or chicken. Or ?? Something with bones is best in that you are getting the minerals out of them that are oh-so good for you.

Once browned, I pulled the wings out and then added a smack of butter, the celery and onions. Oh look, some bacon ends! I added a handful of those too. Once they were browned I rummaged through the seasonings. How about  some Bouquet Garni? Yep and some 21 Season Salute from Trader Joes. I added some rosemary and thyme just for kicks. And a clove or two of garlic.

Taking the meat out of the stock to shred.

I added a splash of Rose wine I found open in the fridge. Had it been beef soup I would have added red wine. Do you have to add wine? No, of course not. You just add what suits your fancy. But the more flavor components you add, the deeper the flavor in your broth.

Veggies done, meat browned. Now I just put them all together in the pot, fill it up with water and add plenty of salt. A generous tablespoon in my case as well as a few grinds of pepper. Oh, and a splash of vinegar. That  and the wine help pull the minerals out of the bones. Put a lid on it. You can have it on full or tilt it just a bit to let out a little bit of steam. This will condense the broth faster, but keep an eye. Keep the heat on very low.

This cooked down quite a bit. I will add a box of broth to it to bulk it up.

Check on it once in a while. You will probably need to skim off grey foamy scum from the top of the soup. It looks about as good as it sounds.  Just spoon it out, put it into a bowl and throw it away, in the trash.

You could even pour in extra broth you might have open in your fridge. Beef or chicken or vegetable. Soup is a good way to clean out the fridge.

I want this to simmer and simmer and simmer. After a few hours I will take out the turkey to strip off the meat and put the bones back. If I want to, I could cook the bones and vegetables all day or all night on a very low heat or in a crock pot. Keep in mind, all these vegetables and so on are going to be strained out, You are just leaving behind flavor, minerals, vitamins.

It would be the same with beef bones. After a few hours, strip off the meat. Save it for the soup or feed it to the pets. Chicken does not need as much simmering before it is ready to strip off the bones. 1 hour is plenty of time. Strip off the meat and save it for soup, cats, dogs, chicken salad…

CAUTION: do not feed the cooked bones to your pets. Cooked bones can splinter in their little throats and cut them or damage their intestinal tract. So-don’t!

Once you are content with the broth, (taste it), you just strain it into another large pot through a colander or sieve, throw away the bones and vegetables and there is your broth! If you are not making soup right away you can let it cool, cover and store in the fridge. The next day or two, you can take it out and there should be a layer of fat on top. Skim it off or keep it on, suit yourself. This turkey broth did not have much fat so I just kept it in.

Now you have your stock. Or broth, whatever you want to call it.

Part 2 Time for soup!

Heat up the broth up when you are ready to make soup. I am adding diced turkey to mine. Do not be afraid if the stock has coagulated or congealed into a big ball of jello-y-ness. This is a good thing! It means the gelatin and collagen has been pulled from the bones and into the stock. This is what makes it special and homemade!

Here it is right out of the fridge. It will melt down into broth nirvana!
Here it is right out of the fridge. In all its gelatinous goodness. It will melt down into broth nirvana!

For the soup I will saute some leeks in the large pot in a bit of oil. Perhaps some thinly sliced carrots and some green beans.  I plan to add a can of diced tomatoes or some diced from the garden. (which I actually forgot to do when all was said and done.) Then I will add the meat, which in this case will be turkey and chicken sausages cut into little circles. Perhaps if I see any other leftover meat in the fridge…

I will add some shredded up cabbage and kale. More seasoning and the broth. Perhaps I will dice up some red potato or sweet potato or butternut squash. Or maybe I have some leftover rice to throw into the pot. Or a can of beans.

Oh and lets not forget the Turmeric. Good-for-you Turmeric. Which makes the whole thing gold tinted. Nothing stains quite like turmeric, so be careful.

I will let it simmer for just a little bit and it will be done. All the work was in the broth, now this is the easy part. 30 minutes and you are ready to serve. You can put some chopped herbs in each bowl as serving to add a bit of freshness. Chives perhaps or cilantro or basil. Perhaps a last minute splash of lemon or wine vinegar to the soup before serving.

Another tip. Some people add gelatin, plain unflavored gelatin to their soups and stews. It add minerals as well. Or if you have some beef marrow bones, usually bought as soup bones, which I like to buy for the dog. But this time, you can put it into the soup and let it cook away.

Perhaps you want a creamy soup? Add a can of coconut milk 10 minutes before its done. Or add some cream. You could add some lemon grass and fish sauce for an exotic touch.

While I am making my broth on the stove top, you could use the oven or your slow cooker.

The point is, that it is hard to go wrong with making soup. A good broth of your own making, vegetables of your choosing, meats and/or seafood and seasonings.

Have fun!


Caramelized Cauliflower with honey


That steamy, mushy, pale vegetable my mother would try to get me to eat.

She might smother it with cheese sauce, but more often than not it would be served up plain and icky.

I would pick at it, push it around the plate, try to make it look eaten. Or make lots of gaggy noises while I nibbled on it, until she would take it away in a huff. (Yes, I got off easy.)

In spite of my intense dislike of cauliflower and lots of other veggies, I grew up.

Then comes my own family. And they all love cauliflower. Dang it!

So I steam it and sometimes smother it with cheese sauce. I would just not eat it.

And then I really grew up. I discovered things like food channels and the internet. Now I could brave a peak outside the steamed vegetable box I had grown up in. (steamed broccoli-bleck! Steamed asparagus-shutter!)

I found roasted cauliflower and it was wonderful!

I riced the cauliflower and sauteed it with shallots and butter as a rice substitute and I was delirious!

Then someone shared a recipe with me from Williams-Sonoma for Caramelized Cauliflower with Honey and Smoked Paprika. Now I can claim vegetable victory as I share this with you.

And you too can learn to love cauliflower. Your cauliflower guilt will be lifted and you will no longer be shunned by vegetable lovers everywhere.

So except for the red pepper flakes, I pretty much followed the recipe on their site, so there is no need to copy all the instructions here.

But I will share the picture, just to peak your interest. Follow the link down the magic rabbit hole of delectable vegetables and see how delicious this evil,  beneficial, vegetable can be. Conquer it!

Caramelized and honey-fied all on the stove top in a non stick skillet.
Caramelized and honey-fied all on the stove top in a non stick skillet.

And be grateful, all you young things, for having instant access to billions of recipes at your fingertips, night or day, at your whim. Had my mother had that resource when her children where growing up, how much sooner might we all have learned to step out of our steamed vegetable box and breath the fresh air of creatively cooked, tender, crunchy, tasty vegetables.

Pot Roast with Gravy, 2.0

Well, it has been a while since you heard from me, yes?

If you are reading this and it is still summer, and it is getting hot, like it is now, you are probably more concerned with finding cool things to eat, cool meals to cook and cool places to hide, instead of slaving in a hot kitchen to make a hearty batch of pot roast. But then again…if you have AC, or if it is cooling off for you at night, you might just be in the mood for some beef, gravy and potatoes, like my hubby is. Meat and gravy-always sounds good to him.

Yes, there are a million pot roast recipes out there on the web. But if my family wants to make the dish that I serve, this is the only place to find it.

Sadly, I did not get a picture of the finished dish, sorry. We were too busy serving and eating it up. (slurp, slop, burp!)

You need some raw chunks of beef. I cut up a Chuck roast into several smaller pieces.
These are my liquids of choice
There are several things you can include in a recipe that gives it a little something, a mysterious, earthy yumminess. Like mushrooms. Or soy sauce. Or wine. A bit of tomato paste is one of those things. I love the stuff in the tube, dont you? You dont have to deal with leftovers in the can that you put into a little dish, which gets shoved into the back of the fridge and then gets all fuzzy.
Some herbs from the garden if you have it. Tied up with a string, just to be fancy. But usually by the time I pull the string out, there is perhaps a few little twings clinging to it, sometimes not even that. Then you get to find “the lucky sticks” in your pot roast of beef stew.

Old Fashioned Pot Roast with Homemade  Gravy

  • 1 -3 1/2 pounds or so of Boneless Chuck Roast, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 1 or 2 onions (depending on the size. The Costco onions-the-size-of-a-soccer-ball or the 99 cent store tiny ones)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • herbs of choice (I use garden rosemary and thyme)
  • wine
  • tomato paste
  • beef AND chicken broth, about 1 1/2 cups each, give or take
  • salt and pepper
  • vegetable, coconut or olive oil
  • carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes or other root vegetable of choice

You will need a large sturdy dutch oven pot, preferably an iron one that holds heat in well and is not as likely to burn on the bottom. If you end up baking this, the burning is not as much an issue. I am cooking this stove top this time around, because it is hot out, like I think one of Gods angels in charge of baking heavenly bread went and left the global oven door open! Hello, close the door thank you!

Heat up some oil in your wonderful sturdy Le Creuset , le kirkland or other dutch oven. Salt the meat. When the dutch oven is good and hot, (if you put your hand over it and it shrivels up black, then its hot enough), add the oil and after about 30 seconds, add the meat. It should sizzle and pop. “spizzzz!”

Leave it a good few minutes to brown. Dont crowd the meat. If you are making a lot, brown a couple of pieces and when done, brown the rest. Too much meat in a pan gives you a gray simmered meat instead of a crisp brown meat. When one side is browned, turn it over and brown the other side. I use tongs. When done, remove to a plate and brown any other pieces you might need.

I do not flour the meat before browning. So don’t. It doesn’t need it.

Take the meat out and you will see nice brown bits on the bottom. Its aaaallllll good. Now I add in the onions that are rough chopped. Not diced. Not tiny.Rough, largish pieces. Stir these up a bit. Add in the diced garlic cloves. Now the tomato paste, about a tablespoon. Stir it around and inhale the wonderful magic.

Now some wine. I do not measure but just pour some in. If I were to guess, I’d say about 1/3 of a cup. I use a red, but a white would work too. Whatever you have on hand or in the fridge left over from that great dinner the other night. If you dont use wine, then just dont.

Stir it up again. The wine will reduce a bit and loosen up some of those brown bits.

Broth. This is the time to add the broth. I think all beef is a bit strong so I combine them. Not to mention that I usually have a box of both open in the fridge at any given time. I really should put dates on those things when I open them.I won’t. But I should. How much broth? I don’t cover the meat, but I make sure it is at least half way up the sides of the meat.

Add in the herbs. If not fresh ones, dried ones will do just fine. A bit more salt and pepper. Now…

If you are stove topping it, just set the flame to low, making sure it reaches a simmer, then leave it alone for a couple of hours.

If you are letting the oven do the work, set the oven temperature depending on how much time you have. 325 for 3-4 hours is good. It allows a more all surrounding  heat. You could even set it for 300 degrees. If you are in a hurry, 350 for 2 1/2 to 3. But stove top is fastest.

Now go work in the garden, check your email, do laundry, watch a bread video. (What? You don’t watch bread made videos? Whassup?) Or do something else while your meat relaxes and tenderizes. The wine helps to tenderize the meat. If you are not using wine, add a tablespoon of vinegar of some kind to it. This will have the same effect.

An hour before you calculate the meat to be done (2 1/2-3 1/2 hours, depending on the way you are making it, stove top is fastest, and how large your meat is to begin with), you need to peel the potatoes and carrots. Any other vegetables you want to add? Go ahead and prep it. Celery root? Turnips? Whatever makes you happy.

Lift the lid carefully! Lots of steam will be poofing up. HOT stem. (Is there such a thing as cold steam?) Check the liquids. There may be more of it, coming from the meat. Or less, if the lid allows steam out. If it is dry, add more broth to it, enough to steam the vegetables nicely, about an inch deep or more. But not enough to cover the meat or anything that drastic.

Put the vegetables in and put the lid back on. Let is simmer gently, steaming the vegetables. Check them with a fork after about 1/2 an hour. It may take more depending on how large the pieces are, if they were chilled, and what kind of veggies you added.

When the vegetables are fork tender and the meat is so tender it tears apart as you pull it out to put on a platter, then it is time to make the gravy. Remove all meat and vegetables with a slotted spoon. Put the pot on the stove with a medium heat to bring the broth left in the pot to a simmer. In a small bowl or a measuring cup, put about 2 tablespoons of flour (or cornstarch or tapioca flour or arrowroot powder) and whisk it with enough water to make a paste. Put this paste into the simmering broth and stir it in to make the gravy. If it does not thicken up enough, make some more paste and add that too. It should only take a couple of minutes to thicken.

Perhaps you have a large serving platter Aunt Martha gave you and you want to show it off, not is the time to get it out. Place the pieces of beef in the center, vegetables around the edges. a little gravy drizzled over the meat with a gravy boat on the side. (Or a measuring cup).

And since I did not get a picture of the finished product, here is breakfast….

Figgies for breakfast...
Figgies for breakfast…

What?? Dried beet greens?

(It’s spring, time to plant those beets. Or time to hit up the farmers markets and let them do all the work. Here was my moms garden 2 years ago, bless her. That is where I discovered wonderful beet green chips. So this is a re-post to remind you how to do it.)

I have to admit, I am not much of a fan of greens. I like wilted spinach salad. And give me any greens in a nice tossed salad.

But cook up a mess of greens and my upper lip starts to twitch.

Older son introduced us to dried seaweed. Now its all the rage, even to having big lighter-than-air boxes of the stuff at Costco! It is very dark green salty, crispy and gives the impression of being good for you. Works for me.

Now my mother is growing an amazing wonderful, nuclear powered garden this year full of beets, tomatoes and corn among other things. It looks kind of like this:

Gadzooks!  Small back plot in a raised bed. It must be soil from another planet.

My mom loves beets. Yee-um! She even made a jar of Harvard beets and no one makes those anymore. These were fresh from her garden and there ain’t nothing as good as any vegy right out of the garden, even a beet. Well I don’t know what made her think to do it, I guess she didn’t want to waste the beet greens. She didn’t really like them just cooked up in the “mess o’ greens” fashion.

Well, she did it. Turned them into seaweed squares, almost. She dried them in the oven, just sprinkled with a little salt. She said all she did was spray non-stick on the pan, lay the cleaned greens on it, sprinkle table salt and bake on a low heat until crispy. Then she brought some over and ya know what?

They were great!

Salty, crispy and light. And good for you! I could feel vitamins and iron coursing through my veins as I ate them. And I got #2 son to eat them too! He didn’t dive in with enthusiasm of course. He was suspicious at first, but admitted that they weren’t bad. For his being almost 15, I’ll take that as a compliment.

Before drying
After drying. Not too pretty, but great to eat.

Now we have a new weapon tool in our arsenal to get the little rugrats (and us big ones too) to eat their greens!

Lazy Mans Lasagne (Or Sam Spade Lasagne)

(Here is an old post I thought worth regurgitating to you. I want to make this again and needed a refresher. But it all brings back “The Maltese Falcon”. Do you ever associate movies with foods?)

I told my son that I was making Lazy Mans lasagna.

Hey!” He was offended.

“No, the one making it is lazy, not the ones eating it.” Although I could make a case…nevermind.

notice the browned cheesy part on top and strings of cheese around the plate

Lets get a closer look, shall we?


So much easier than lasagna and just as delish, well in my humble opinion. Not that I’m never making lasagna again. (gasp!)  It’d be like giving up an old faithful dog for a cute new puppy. Sort of. Anyway sweetheart, its like this see…

(I should mention that we just finished watching “The Maltese Falcon” with Sam Spade, Private Eye playing the “I’m not going to play the sap” lead, so it may have colored my vocabulary tonight.)

I don’t even have a recipe for this and you won’t need one either. You see, you have to be too lazy to even have a recipe. Thats how lazy you feel tonight. So you line up your cast of characters…

(Fat Man: Well, sir, what do you suggest? We stand here and shed tears and call each other names… or shall we go to the…” kitchen.)

Pasta. I used some kind of penne, but egg noodles or another fun shape would do. Not spaghetti types though. Sorry Angel.

Get a large pot of water to boiling and cook the pasta. In the meantime…

A favorite spaghetti sauce. I had half a jar of one in the fridge and a Trader Joes can of marinara I mixed with it and of course added “a little bit of this…a little bit of that…a pot, a pan, a broom, a hat” (oops, wrong movie.) I added some seasoning, but not much, ’cause I’m too lazy. I really don’t need to add any. Just heat it up.

Hamburger. I just happened to have some thawed out.  So I fried it up, dicing it and adding it to the sauce. Could have added diced onions. Could have. Didn’t though.

mozzarella cheese. Grated. Some and be ready to grate more. But if you run out, just use what you have ’cause you’re too lazy to run to the store for more. (Your even too lazy to write out the whole word “because”.)

Cottage cheese. I use this instead of the ricotta.

Parmesan, grated. Now this can be fresh grated or the green can for all I care. (“People lose teeth talking like that. If you want to hang around, you’ll be polite”) Sorry Sam. I’ve loved the name Sam ever since my hero, Samwise Gamgee from LOTR.

Lets see, I think that’s it. Get a pot of any size that will fit whatever amount you are making. I used a small round La Cruset baking pan, but almost used the glass Pyrex. But I wanted it to be a little deeper than that to put layers in.

To make it easier on myself (of course) I mixed the pasta with the meat sauce. Then I spooned in a layer of pasta into the pot.

Now a layer of cottage cheese, a layer of parmesan and some mozzarella. More pasta with meat sauce, and the 3 cheeses. Do this as many layers as you have ingredients. I think I ended with 3 layers of saucy-meat-pasta, topping with mozzarella.

Now, under normal circumstances, you would now bake this for, oh, say 30 minutes on 375 oven. But since it was in the high 80’s the day I made it (It was high 90’s today, 90’s!…okay so I’m whining) I decided I had 2 choices.

(“You getting this all right, son, or am I goin’ too fast for ya? )

Get out  my holiday roaster and plug it in on the patio to bake it. But that was too much work for a lazy lady like me. So I put on the broiler, figuring the casserole was all pretty hot to begin with anyway and wouldn’t need much help warming up. A broiler was quicker and I had every fan on.  Then I walked away for a leedle too long, it cooked faster than a woman can think up a lie. I thought I burnt it! (“You… you imbecile. You bloated idiot. You stupid fat-head you”)

As luck would have it, the cheese got nicely browned and crunchy, just the way we like it around here on top of the “lasagna”. In fact that’s the part we usually fight over. We spooned some out into our pasta plate with some salad (and  I pretended not to notice Paul didn’t eat that.) Now Paul had some the next night, since dad and I were having something he didn’t like. And some the next day for lunch. There is one portion left. With narrow eyes we watch to see who is going to try to eat it first.

“You don’t have to trust me as long as you can persuade me to trust you.”

This was lazy, easy, rich and creamy. Enjoy.

“By gad, sir, you are a character”

Maybe I should have called it “Sam Spade Lasagna”. Or “Fat Mans Lasagna.” or even “Effies lasagna”. I bet she was tired at the end of the day and would have made this. (Effie is Sams trusty secretary and all around good Joe.)

Good eating.

“Look at me, Sam. You worry me. You always think you know what you’re doing, but you’re too slick for your own good. Some day you’re going to find it out.”

“Don’t be too sure I’m as crooked as I’m supposed to be.”

“Don’t worry about the story’s goofiness. A sensible one would have had us all in the cooler.”

Simmered Chinese Chicken

And here I thought I had already added all our old family favorite recipes to my blog and would stop now. Tsk, tsk. We cannot forget this one! I have had it for years. It is easy and goes perfectly with perfect brown rice. Since it is a stove top recipe, it is handy to have when the oven is otherwise occupied. (I am trying another stab at gluten free bread).

So here is the Simmered Chinese Chicken


  • 1 whole chicken cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1/3 cup soy or tamari sauce
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (or coconut sugar)
  • 1 Tablespoon catsup
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons of corn starch
  • 1 Tablespoon of water
  • 2 teaspoons of toasted sesame seeds

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Brown chicken on all sides.

In a bowl, mix together next 8 ingredients (not the corn starch, water or sesame seeds) and pour over the chicken pieces in the skillet. Cover and simmer 35-45 minutes, turning the pieces after about 20 minutes.

Remove chicken to platter. Skim any fat from the juices in the pan and set it to simmering. Blend together the cornstarch and water. Add to the pan, whisking and cooking until thick. Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve extra sauce on the side.

Thats it! A side of rice, some broccoli salad and you are good to go!

Wouldn’t it have been nice if I had gotten a picture before  we gobbled it all down?

Just picture brown chicken covered in sweet brown sauce poured over brown rice. Hmm. Maybe you better picture some bright green broccoli florets around the edges. Thats just so much brown. But it tastes great!

Here is the gluten free bread picture though, if its any consolation:

IMG_4650 (765x1024)It’s delicious. We put some honey on a toasted piece and it tasted almost like eating waffles.