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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Breakfast Sausage

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After posting our new Pumpkin Pancake recipe last week, I got several questions about what I served with them in the picture.  One plate has eggs;  the other has breakfast sausage.  Both are cooked with sauteed kale.  I find that sauteed greens go well with breakfast, and it squeezes in a few extra vitamins in the process.  It is easy to wilt the greens in a skillet and then scramble the eggs right into the mix.  However, two of us cannot have eggs, so I keep a supply of bulk browned breakfast sausage in the freezer and split the greens between the two applications.

Since peppers are on our combined list of allergies, I can’t simply buy breakfast sausage ready mixed from the store.  I mix my own.  I received this recipe as part of a wedding gift from the woman who is now my godmother.  Elisabeth gave me permission to share it with you all along with my modifications.  The original recipe had a bit of cayenne pepper (black pepper would be good if you want something less spicy) and left out the garlic and onion.  Use whatever combination strikes you fancy.

You can form these into patties and cook them in a skillet.  There’s no right or wrong there.  I personally cook it loose, freeze it, and take out just what I need each time.

If you choose turkey over pork, make sure you get at least the 85/15 choice in the tube.  The extra fat makes for a better sausage.  Just know if you choose a lower fat content, the sausage will be much drier than premixed options.  No judgement from me.  The choice is yours.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Breakfast Sausage

1/2 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons sage
1 Tablespoon dried minced onion
1 Tablespoon savory
2 tsp garlic powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 to 2  teaspoons salt (to taste)
5 Pounds ground turkey or pork

Mix the syrup and spices together in a measuring cup.

Add to the ground meat and mix thoroughly.

Cook as desired. Freeze the extra.


Spring Rolls

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Spring rolls, summer rolls, or rice paper rolls.  It does not matter what you call these, they are wonderful.  They make a nice light meal that can satisfy almost any palate.

They are easy and come in as many variations as you have imagination.  There are as many vegan possibilities as there are options with meat.  My family loves to eat spring rolls family style.  I put out all the ingredients and everyone builds their own.  Little Man generally ends up eating deconstructed spring rolls.  Snuggle Bunny’s generally turn into spring balls.  Buster thinks the whole process is an eating contest.  It is all good fun in the end.

Spring Roll Spread

In my mind spring rolls have five (or six) important parts:

Wrapper – The rice paper wrapper is softened in warm water and used to roll up everything that follows.

Protein –  My favorite meats are chicken, pork, and shrimp.  I’ve made spring rolls with adzuki beans as a vegan option.  Almonds, peanuts, and cashews are also good choices if you aren’t allergic.

Noodles or Greens –  These will form the bulk of your spring roll.  Either softened rice noodles or shredded lettuce can be chosen.  Actually you can easily try spinach, watercress, or another fun leafy green.

Vegetables – Choose a few other vegetables that provide color and flavor to the mix.  Blanched snow peas, grated carrot, grated zucchini, shaved cabbage, green onions, avocado, bean sprouts, and cucumber are just the tip of the iceberg.  Try adding fermented vegetables like sauerkraut or pickles if you are adventurous enough.  Snip some fresh basil, mint, and cilantro from your herb garden as well.

Fruit (optional) – Asian pears, mangoes, peaches, standard pears and more are worth trying.

Sauce – There are many options: sweet, sour, and spicy.  You can find many possibilities using an Internet search.

Some of my favorite combinations are:
peach, avocado, and spinach with almond sauce
pork, cabbage, and pears with Dijon sauce
chicken, snow peas, and carrots with almond sauce
mango, cashews, cucumbers and cilantro with a sweet vinaigrette
Asian pear, cashews, and mint with sweet vinaigrette

Here is a great link with pictures showing how to work with the rice paper wrappers and wrap the spring rolls.

Today I started with pork chops and then searched the fridge for the rest.  I consider this a great way to use up stray produce from the back of the fridge.  I had snow peas, green onion, and cucumber from the CSA, herbs from the garden, purple cabbage, a slightly bruised pear, lettuce, avocado, and one stray carrot.

Inside a Spring Roll

Finished Spring Roll

Oh, wow!  I didn’t think that I had this much to say about spring rolls.  Just so you know, it took me longer to write this post than it did to make the meal.  Here is today’s recipe:

Marinaded Pork Chops for Spring Rolls
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp coconut aminos
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb pork chops (I would use this same marinade for chicken or shrimp)

In a zip-sealed bag mix all of the liquids with the salt.  Using tongs to place the pork chops in the bag.  Coat well with the marinade.  Seal the bag with as little air as possible.  Let the bag rest in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high.  Grill the pork chops until fully cooked.  Turn down the skillet if they are browning too quickly.  Cool and slice thinly.

Other Preparations

While the pork chops are marinading, slice and grate all the fruits and vegetables you will offer in your spread.

Start a pot of water to boil when you heat the skillet for the pork chops.  Make sure it is enough water to soften your rice noodles.

Blanch the snow peas for 2-3 minutes in the boiling water.  Strain them out into a serving bowl and pour the remaining water over the rice noodles in a large bowl.

Strain the noodles when soft.  Keep this still warm water to soften the rice paper wrappers.  Reusing this hot water saves on a lot of dishes and a lot of time.

Prepare your choice of sauces:

Almond Sauce
1 cup raw almonds, soaked 1-2 hours (or your favorite nut butter if you don’t have a high powered blender)
5 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp coconut aminos
Pinch of salt
a dash of garlic powder and/or ginger powder, to taste (fresh works, too)

Blend on a medium speed until well chopped (6 on my Vitamix for about 30 seconds).  Increase the speed to high for another 30 seconds or until smooth.  Use the tamper as necessary.  If you are using nut butter, then simply whisk these ingredients together in a bowl.

Dijon Sauce
1/4 cup safflower oil (or other mild flavored oil)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp coconut aminos
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of salt

Whisk together in a bowl.

Sweet Vinaigrette
1/4 cup of rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp garlic minced
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Optional:  Add a drop or two of sriracha paste or chili oil for a sweet-spicy sauce.

Whisk together in a bowl.

Now simply soften your rice paper wrappers, fill as desired, and serve with sauce.

Let me know what your favorite fillings are!

Bok Choy and Mung Bean Miso

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Today I had a lot of bok choy from our CSA.  While I love bok choy, I kept putting this round off until I received a second bunch yesterday.  It was time to buckle down and use it before it went bad.  Even after a week in my fridge, the “old” bunch of bok choy was still beautiful.  I guess that is the beauty of fresh local produce; it lasts longer than what you get at the store.  Nonetheless, I didn’t want to tempt fate, so I made a larger batch of soup for this rainy week.  Don’t worry, I’ll share the single recipe, not the double.

Often I will stir fry this same combination of vegetables and beans to serve over brown jasmine rice.  However, since today is only two days before my local friends can order miso from South River Miso Co.,  I decided to share one more miso recipe before you decided if you will indulge this year.  Read all about soy free and gluten free miso in my Adzuki and Kabocha Miso Stew post.

I had leftover millet from the stuffed squashes earlier this week, so I decided to serve it on the side with Gomasio.  The kids decided to stir the millet into the soup and declared it “better that way.”  Usually, I serve this soup over softened rice noodles.  I imagine that serving it over rice would be good as well.   I have to say that, after this little experiment, I prefer it over noodles too.  Try it several ways until you find your favorite.

Bok Choy and Mung Bean Miso
Also, sometimes I use adzuki beans instead of mung beans.  It really just depends on my mood.  Add ginger and garlic, too if it strikes your fancy.

Don’t forget to soak and cook your beans ahead of time.  I made an extra large batch to freeze for other meals.   The Nativity Fast is coming in just over two weeks, and I’m working up a good supply to save time later.

Bok Choy and Mung Bean Miso
2 quarts of water (add more if needed)
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 bunch bok choy, whites chopped like celery,  greens separated and sliced in ribbons
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
3 cups cooked mung beans or adzuki beans
1/2 cup adzuki or chickpea miso paste, or a little more if you like
salt to taste, only a little

Cooked rice, millet, or softened noodles.

In your soup pot pour in the water, onion, carrots, the white parts of the bok choy, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Once the onions and carrots are soft, add the mushrooms and beans to the pot.  Bring back to a simmer and cook another 8-10 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.   Add the greens to the pot and simmer until wilted but still bright green.

Remove from the heat, and allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes or so before you add the miso paste.

Adjust miso and salt to taste.  Serve over noodles or rice (or on the side) and enjoy.

Penne with Spinach and Artichokes

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I mentioned this meal last week when I made Penne with Garlic and Olive Oil.  It sounded so good, that I decided to make it this week.  It was fast and easy and doesn’t need a grand introduction.

This time I grilled the chicken in my cast iron pan with a little of the oil, garlic, and onion.  Then I sliced it to serve over the pasta.   After that I tossed a variety of summer squash from our CSA to the still hot pan with a little more oil and salt for a side dish.  We had yellow squash, green squash, and small colorful patty-pans.  Don’t be afraid to get a little color on the chicken and squash while they cook.  They taste so much better with that bit of color.

Normally, I just add a side salad, but the squash was there and needed to be used soon.  Either way, it is a nice meal.

Penne with Spinach and Artichokes

1. 5 lbs Gluten-Free Penne
1/2 cup olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small red onion, minced
1-2 tsp salt to taste
1 can quartered artichokes, drained
1 bunch spinach  washed and chopped
1 lb chicken breast, grilled and sliced

Start water boiling and cook pasta according to the package instructions.

While waiting for the water to boil, wash and prepare all the vegetables.

Heat the oil on medium high in your favorite deep skillet.  Add garlic, onion, and salt.  Saute until onion is translucent.

Add the artichokes, and saute for one minute.  Add the spinach to the pan and saute until wilted.

Toss the contents of the pan with the cooked pasta.  Add a little more olive oil and salt if desired.

Serve with a side salad and don’t forget to add copious amounts sliced cucumber from the CSA.

Persimmon and Millet Stuffed Winter Squash

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Tonight’s dinner is one that takes more effort to prepare than many of our other dinners.  Nevertheless, it is well worth the time.  It has been a resounding success two years in a row, but this year I tried something a little different.  Last year I used pears and mushrooms, but this year I tried persimmons in the stuffing mix.  The results were so good, I’m dreaming of planting a persimmon tree in my backyard now.  If you can’t find persimmons, you can simply use pears or apples instead.

I discovered persimmons last year when they came in my Bountiful Basket.  They were great in cookies and sweet bread in our first experiences with them.  Now they’re back again this year, and I wanted to see if we could use them differently.

If you are a persimmon novice, like I was, start with the fuyu persimmon.  They are sweeter when firm and much more forgiving for a first experience.  This is also the variety that is easier to eat fresh and make into jam.  Fuyus are good when firm and soft, so you have a lot more time to use them before they go bad.

Hachiya persimmons are best used for baking and aren’t sweet enough to eat raw until they are soft like an over ripe tomato.  Hachiyas are best when they are so mushy that their skins split when you gently handle them.  That can be a little “off-putting” for a first experience, unless you know what to expect.

Winter Squash
You can stuff any squash you like with this recipe.  Last year, I only used acorn squash and mini tiger pumpkins.  There is a larger variety in my pan this year since my harvest packs included new varieties.  I’ve got two white patty pan squashes, one white acorn squash, four mini tiger pumpkins, one small carnival squash, two white mini pumpkins, and one orange mini pumpkin.  All in all, I think my family will get two and a half meals out of this batch.  The kids had lots of fun over dinner sampling the different flavors and textures of the various selections.  Little Man was very proud of himself for eating a whole pumpkin.  What is your favorite winter squash?

Also, if you want a vegan stuffing, you could use mushrooms or pecans instead of the meat.  I actually missed the mushrooms I put into last year’s version.  On the other hand, I’m probably the only one that noticed the difference.

Don’t forget to save those squash seeds for roasting.  Put the kids on it.  The task is a great sensory experience and good for fine motor skills, too.

Stuffed Winter Squash

Stuffed Winter Squash
(Note:  This was enough to stuff my whole selection of squashes, so cut down on the filling if you are making a smaller batch.)

A selection of winter squash, washed, dried, cut in half,  and seeded.  Brush the insides and edges with olive oil.

Put in oven cut side up for 45-60 minutes at 400 degrees (F).  Some of the smaller ones may be ready earlier, so take them out as needed.  They should all be fork tender, but still retain their shape when you remove them from the oven.

4-5 cups of cooked millet (measured after cooked, this is a great thing to do with leftovers).  Start it cooking now if you don’t have any leftover.

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
4 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb ground pork or turkey
4 green onions, chopped
1 T fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
2 T fresh sage, minced (2 tsp dried)
Salt to taste  (I used about 2 tsp today)
1 1/2 cups diced persimmon, peeled if desired (5-6 fuyus)
4-6 mushrooms small diced (optional)
2 cups kale or swiss chard, cut into ribbons

In a deep skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add celery, garlic, fennel seeds, and salt.  Saute for 5 minutes.

Add ground pork and saute until almost cooked, 8-10 minutes

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and saute until the greens are wilted and the mushrooms are fully cooked if you have included them.

Toss with fluffed millet and evenly distribute.

Stuff winter squashes and bake another 20 minutes.

Serve with a side salad and a simple oil and vinegar dressing.


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We made it to our family reunion this weekend.  There was beautiful weather and lots wonderful food. Cousins I’d never met; the young and the young at heart!  Cousins I hadn’t seen in decades with their families in tow.  Throw in a few aunts, uncles, and grandparents and we had a nice crowd.   Meet at a nice park with lots of shade and great play equipment.  It was exactly what a family reunion should be.  We are looking forward to next year and doing this more often.  Hopefully more of the out of state family can make it in future years, too.

Our branch of the family.

Our branch of the family.



Petting the wildlife.

Petting the wildlife.



Lola, my aunt, and my adorable youngest first cousin.

Lola, my aunt, and my adorable youngest first cousin.

That brings me to tonight’s recipe.  It is a family recipe.  My step-grandmother, Myrna, is from the Philippines.  Sometimes she is called Lola, other times Mamaw, but never Great-Grandma.  That means I grew up learning to cook some of her traditional dishes.  Boy is she a good cook, too!  Pancit is the one recipe I have been able to modify to fit our diet easily.  However, if you are ever fortunate enough to try Lumpia, don’t pass up that Filipino take on the egg roll.  You won’t be disappointed.

Pancit is Filipino fast food.  These fried rice noodles have as many variations as you have imagination.  The common thread is the stir fried vegetables mixed with quick fried rice noodles.  Chicken, pork, and shrimp are all acceptable meats to use together or separately as you wish.  You could make this vegan with only vegetables and you would still love the outcome, but you might get a funny look from Lola on that choice.
Yesterday, there were celery and green onions in the pancit.  Tonight I made mine with long beans, carrots, and mushrooms.   All of the vegetables in this dish are negotiable.  I even use about twice the vegetables that Lola uses.   The one vegetable I think you must use is cabbage.  White cabbage is normally what is used, but today I only had purple.  Cut it thin so it will blend into the texture of the noodles.  Make it fifty times and it will turn out differently each time.  Try to find your favorite combination, and enjoy it very bite of the way.

These are the noodles Lola uses.  Hers have corn in them, so I use simple rice sticks in mine for Little Man.  The noodles Lola uses hold together during cooking a little better than mine do, but they both taste great.  Add a pinch of salt with every addition to the wok to ensure a good distribution of flavor throughout the dish.


8 oz rice noodles, softened in hot water and drained well
safflower oil (or other mild flavored oil, I amend mine with a dash of sesame oil)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch knob ginger, minced (optional)
1 1/2 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
1 lb chicken breast, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
3 carrots, cut in matchsticks
8 oz long beans, cut in 2 inch pieces (cut on the bias if they are thicker standard green beans)
4 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup to 1 cup chicken broth, warmed before use
2-4 Tbsp coconut aminos or tamari (to taste, add additional salt if you leave this out)
Salt to taste

Heat water to soften the noodles.

Heat oil in wok over medium-high.  Add the onions, garlic, and ginger.  Add a pinch of salt.  Stir fry for 3 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the wok and another small pinch of salt.  Stir fry another 3 minutes.

Add the chicken, salt, and stir fry until cooked through.  Pour chicken and cabbage mixture into a bowl and reserve for later.

Pour hot water over the noodles, soak 5-8 minutes until soft, but still al dente.  You want them to finish cooking when fried in the wok.  Drain in a colander, and set aside for the last step.

Add a little more oil to the wok, heat, and stir fry the carrots, green beans, and a pinch of salt until the green beans are tender-crisp and bright green, 3-5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cover with the lid for a minute or two.  Just don’t walk away, or everything will overcook in an instant at this step.  There is nothing worse than soggy green beans at this stage.  Pour into the bowl with the chicken mixture and reserve for later.

With the wok empty once again, heat 2-3 Tbsp oil over the heat.  With tongs quickly fry the noodles continually moving them.  At this stage you want to fry the noodles, not burn them.  If the noodles start sticking, add a tablespoon or two of broth at a time to the wok to loosen those noodles from the bottom.  Keep tossing and add in the coconut aminos or tamari to taste.

Add the meat and vegetables back to the wok.  Toss to mix well, but don’t cook too long.  Keep adding broth a little at a time as needed.  It usually takes me 1/2 cup to a whole cup of broth depending on how long I soaked the noodles earlier.  Be careful not to add too much broth or your noodles will turn soggy.  Remove from heat.

Salt to taste and serve.

Adzuki and Kabocha Miso Stew

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Many years ago when I was first learning about my food allergies and occasionally making uninformed mistakes, my husband took me to a Japanese steak house for a birthday dinner.  First they served a lovely broth as an appetizer while we waited for our seat at the grill.  It was quite tasty, and I was told that it was miso soup.  At the grill, I asked that the chef to cook my food without the soy sauce, since I was allergic.  Little did I know that the odd stare, whispers, and watchful care I got for the next hour were because they were worried I would keel over any second.  You see, that day I learned that common miso paste is made from mostly soy beans and wheat!  Thankfully, I did not die from that encounter, but I was ill for several days.  Lesson learned.

Imagine my surprise when I came across Chickpea and Adzuki Miso somewhere along the way.  They contain no soy and use rice in the place of wheat.   I don’t remember where I learned about these specialty ingredients, but I have enjoyed them ever since.  I only have experience with The South River Miso Company, but there is another chickpea miso from Miso Master that is also on the market.  If you try Miso Master, leave a comment here to let me know your thoughts.

South River only ships to my neck of the woods after November 1st.  Miso is a naturally fermented product that doesn’t ship well in the heat.  That makes this product seasonal for my household.  The shelf life of good miso is long when kept in the refrigerator, so I still have a bit leftover from last year’s order.

I like miso, because it gives vegan soups a delicate flavored broth with natural probiotics included.  Nondairy probiotic sources are hard to come by without spending a pretty penny at the store.  Nevertheless, be careful if you can have soy and find a miso paste at the store.  If the miso has been pasteurized, the probiotics have been killed, but the flavor will remain.  That is also why you should add miso paste to your homemade soup only after it has cooled some.  If you don’t cool the soup, you will kill all those helpful little creatures.

Another interesting fact about miso is its tasty by-product, tamari.  Tamari is the liquid that accumulates while miso ferments.  You might be most familiar with the pasteurized tamari counterpart, soy sauce.  South River Miso sells limited quantities of the tamari from their vats of chickpea and adzuki miso.  Unfortunately it is out of stock right now.  If you can catch it in stock, you are in for a treat!

Traditionally miso is a thin soup with few additives served as a side dish or appetizer, but my family prefers it as a hearty meal.  The rule of thumb I use when creating a miso soup is about 2-3 Tsp of miso paste per bowl of soup you serve, but you can adjust for your tastes.

If you can’t find a kabocha squash, a butternut squash or a small pie pumpkin would work well.  Don’t forget to have the kids pick out all the seeds to roast for a snack.

Wakame is a sea vegetable that is traditionally used in miso soups.  One small package will last you for a long time.  It expands when hydrated, so a little goes a long way.  I learned that the hard way the first time when I made wakame with miso instead of miso with wakame.  If you can’t find wakame,  a little chopped spinach would work nicely.

I already had my adzuki beans cooked and frozen in my freezer, so don’t forget to soak and cook them first if you don’t have any in reserve.

Adzuki Miso

Adzuki and Kabocha Miso Stew

2 quarts of water (add more if needed)
1 inch chunk of ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion thinly sliced
3 carrots, sliced
1 kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 cups cooked adzuki beans
1 tsp wakame, soaked in cold water and drained
1/2 cup adzuki or chickpea miso paste, or a little more if you like
salt to taste, only a little

In your soup pot, pour the water, garlic, ginger, onion, carrots, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer while you cut up the kabocha squash.  I promise (unless you are a wizard with knife skills), once you get that done, it will be the perfect time to add the squash to the pot.  Just be sure that the onions are translucent and the soup smells great

Once the squash is in the pot, simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is fork tender.  Add the Adzuki beans when the squash is almost cooked through.

Add the wakame, remove from the heat, and allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes or so before you add the miso paste.  Otherwise you will kill off all those probiotics.

Adjust miso and salt to taste.  Serve and enjoy.