I’ve got a growing group of friends who have straight up food allergies to corn, gluten, soy – and, Lord help me, all three! And that makes safe store-bought sauces that most think of as a single ingredient not nearly impossible but actually impossible.
Here’s my alternative to soy sauce when cooking for them – and now myself since I can control the sodium level so much more!
1/4 cup strong beef or mushroom broth (use homemade or Pacific brand)
1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar (make your own with this recipe)
1.5 cups water
2 T molasses – be sure to get organic and check the label for corn syrup or corn-derived additives – I get mine raw from a local farm
2 cloves finely minced garlic – I recommend using a garlic press
1/2-inch of fresh, finely minced ginger – I recommend using a cheese grater
1/4 t finely ground pepper
kosher or sea salt – add in 1/4 t amounts until you achieve the soy sauce saltiness you like
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Did you know that Teriyaki Sauce is nothing more than a sweeter soy sauce? Add 1/2 to 3/4 cups of this soy-free soy sauce to a sauce pan with 1/2 cup corn-free brown sugar, combine well and simmer for 20 minutes.
Recently, I found myself craving something beefy and comforting, so I put out a call for ideas on Facebook. Boy, did my girlies come through for me. Beef Stroganoff. It has a rich history as a classic Russian dish. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s got its own website! But essentially, this dish is beef cooked in a creamy mushroom sauce.
Having spent a delicious month in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1993, I know that, at least at that time, most Russians didn’t have regular access to good cuts of beef, and I learned that both of my Russian families made their beef stroganoff about the same way: cooking down wild, handpicked mushrooms and onions, adding some beef in to brown, deglazing with some water (making a bit of broth), and cooking this for several hours on low, then adding in some sour cream at the end to thicken up the sauce.
Sounds like the perfect crock pot recipe to me, but I wanted something a little more compact since I’d be at work all day and wanted my family to be able to put dinner together themselves. So I settled on a casserole that achieves the same purpose and delivers 4 healthy servings an no leftovers to junk up the fridge.
1 cup sour cream (or milk if you’re out of sour cream)
1/4 t kosher or coarse sea salt
1/2 t ground pepper
You can see I’ve gone with a little help from the pantry rather than a totally-from-scratch recipe.
So I start with cooking the noodles. When they are drained, pour them into a casserole dish, lightly sprayed with cooking spray if you’re worried about sticking, which is not usually a problem.
Next I move on to the veggies…on medium heat and with 1 t of your favorite cooking oil, sweat the water out of the mushrooms and then add the peppers and onions for a quick saute; I’ve stopped cooking veggies in oil. I do these separate because I want to make sure they keep their crunch. If I put them in with the meat and sauce, they would cook down and have no texture left to liven up the casserole when it’s heated. Before they start getting brown, dump them in with the noodles and give it all a quick stir.
The last part is just as quick. We had some venison stew meat already cut up, so I tossed that into a pan with a little olive oil. When it gets just barely cooked through, dump in the cream of mushroom soup and sour cream, stir, and simmer for maybe 10 minutes, mostly to make sure the sauce comes together. Then dump this in with the noodles, peppers and onions, stir, and viola! Beef Stroganoff Casserole.
Now, certainly, you can pop this in the oven to finish and serve it up in about half an hour.
But I needed this as a make-ahead. And here are the instructions I’ll leave for the family to follow tomorrow:
To have dinner ready to eat by 6:30 pm, start at 5:45 pm
Preheat oven to 350°
Take the casserole out of the fridge and stir slowly and carefully
Cover the casserole with aluminum foil
Put the casserole in the oven for 30 minutes
Take the foil cover off and put in for another 15 minutes
As I’ve got Harris Teeter brown and serve rolls to go with mine, I’ll add the rolls during the final cook since they take 12-15 minutes. My folks will also be cooking up some sauteed squash and onion to go with this casserole.
For 8 nutritional servings or for 6 fuller servings, double the noodle, beef, and soup quantities; I also fully double the veggies, but that can be too much for many. Do not double the sour cream; there’s no need.
My little family of four, we’ve never quite gotten over the old days when our families of 16 or so gathered and needed more than one turkey. So each year, even as we’ve grown smaller, we still cook two turkeys, which leaves us with a LOT of leftover turkey. We don’t seem to have a problem making smaller amounts of our sides.
This year – yesterday, to be precise – I volunteered to turn the remaining roasted turkey breast (the only whole one left) into Turkey Pot Pie. After all, we had nearly everything we’d need on hand; I only had to buy more carrots and another leek.
Notes: the two things most people do that mess up a good pot pie are
prepare too much filling
forget to or ignore instructions to cover the edge of the crust with foil for cooking to prevent it from burning
So let’s get to it:
Step 1: Make the pie dough
Today, I’m taking a shortcut and using store-bought pie crust, just Publix brand. But when I make pie dough for savory pies, I use the Savory Pie Crust recipe from Food to Live By. Typically I have some in the freezer made with rice flour to be gluten and corn free, but I’ve been slack.
Step 2: Prep the filling
1 whole turkey breast from a 15lb turkey, diced
1 large potato, diced medium
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and diced medium
1 leek, white only, halved and chopped
1 cup of peas, fresh preferably but canned or frozen will do
1-3 cloves of garlic
2T grapeseed oil (or olive or coconut oil, whatever oil you typically use for cooking)
salt and pepper
savory herbs you like (traditional are thyme and rosemary)
Put the diced potato on to boil; simmer for 5 minutes. You don’t need it cooked soft since it will finish cooking in the pie. Drain and put in large mixing bowl with diced turkey.
Heat your oil on medium in a large skillet. Drop in the carrots first; season with salt and pepper and stir gently for 5-6 minutes.
Add the onions and leeks and garlic; season with salt and pepper and any savory herbs and stir gently for 4-5 minutes. Since I brined and cooked my turkey in sage, rosemary, thyme, and sage, I added only some thyme; it’s my favorite!
Add mixture to large mixing bowl with the diced turkey and cooked potatoes. Mix gently.
Step 3: Whip up your sauce
2T flour (wheat or rice)
1/2 cup milk or cream (unsweetened, unflavored almond milk or soy milk works, but rice milk does not)
1.5 cups turkey or chicken stock (homemade or Pacific)
salt and pepper
Pot pie sauce or gravy is nothing more than a basic white sauce, the same as chicken gravy you’d make after frying chicken. I actually have some giblet gravy left over from Thanksgiving that I will use for my sauce this time, but here’s how to make it when you don’t have leftovers.
In the same pan you cooked the vegetables (don’t clean it!), add the butter, still on medium heat. If the skillet is large, keep the butter in one spot rather than moving it around the skillet. When the butter is completely melted, add the flour and whisk quickly for about 1 minute. This is a roux.
Add the milk and half of the turkey/chicken stock, whisking calmly to blend the roux into the liquid smoothly.
Now is a good time to salt and pepper your sauce, stir, and taste for balance, while you’re waiting for the sauce to come to a boil. That’s when you’ll also feel the sauce get thick quickly as you stir and blend; add the remaining stock and continue stirring. This makes about 2 cups of sauce.
Pour into the large mixing bowl on top of the turkey, potatoes, and veggies. Mix gently.
A semi-homemade alternative is to use 1 can of cream of chicken soup and add 1 cup of milk or stock to thin it out.
Step 4: Assemble your pie
Roll out your store-bought or homemade dough and place in the pie dish. There’s no need to grease or butter the dish; the dough has enough butter/fat in it already to prevent sticking.
Dump your turkey-vegetable-sauce filling in the dish and smooth/squish it all in. Don’t worry if it makes a bit of a mountain in the middle; that’s ALL GOOD!
Roll out the top crust and place it on top. Pinch the edges together, folding them over towards the middle if any dough overlaps the edge of the dish. Cut some 1/2-inch slits in the top crust, maybe 8-10 slits; there’s no magic to the number or design of these, just spread them out reasonably.
Some folks like to egg-wash their crust for a glossy top; it doesn’t affect the flavor, so I don’t bother. If you like this look, scramble 1 egg and use a pastry brush to “paint” the top crust with the egg wash.
Tear a couple of 2-inch strips of aluminum foil for wrapping the pie edges during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking; this will prevent the edges from burning before the rest of the crust is cooked through and crispy.
Bake at 475°F for 20 minutes for a standard 9-inch pie dish. If you’d like the pie edges a little less dark, add foil round the pie edges at the 15-minute mark. Since all of the inside ingredients are already cooked, you just need for the crust to cook all the way through.
My dad grew up country and military, so he learned how to make something delicious out of nothing early in the life and from both his momma and his daddy – my Grannie and Papa Joe.
Between camping and hunting, Boy Scouts, and military life all using campfire cooking, a favorite campfire skillet breakfast is born: Campstyle Eggs.
Here’s the proportions for a 4-serving batch, which I made this evening for my Vietnam Veteran dad – Ed Mikell.
1/2 lb breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean Hot, one of my dad’s favorites)
2 medium potatoes diced pretty small, or equivalent baby potatoes (we prefer yukon gold or red potatoes)
1 small onion diced (sweet for us)
1 small green bell pepper diced
1 clove garlic, minced (optional and not a traditional ingredient)
3 jumbo or 4 large eggs (subs: 1 cup Egg Beaters, tofu scramble)
1 T milk per egg
Brown up the sausage on medium high heat, using your wooden cooking spoon to break it up into a fine crumble. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage to a paper towel, leaving all of the pork fat grease in the pan.
Drop in the potatoes, stir to coat in the pork fat grease well, and smooth into a single layer. Now leave them alone for a good 2 minutes (if diced really small) or 3 minutes (if diced a little larger) to get a light crispy golden crust on that one side. Stir gently to unstick the potatoes and roll them onto their other sides to continue cooking. I like the really small dice for this dish because you can crisp up the potatoes pretty quickly and get the whole dish done in under 20 minutes.
Once the potatoes have softened but may still have some crunch or bite to them still, drop in the onion and pepper to begin cooking. If you wait until the potatoes are completely and perfectly done, you’ll end up with half hard crunchy over cooked potatoes and half smushed potatoes, neither of which are desireable in the final dish.
While the potatoes, onions, and peppers are finishing, scramble 3 eggs with about 2 T milk; be sure to salt and pepper your egg scramble or the eggs will be bland.
When the potatoes, onions, and peppers have reached your favorite level of doneness (takes about 5 minutes for my family), add back in the sausage and stir well. Gently pour the egg/milk scramble over the whole dish and stir gently to coat everything with the egg as it is cooking. It’ll take about 1 minute for the eggs to cook and the dish to be ready to serve.
As soon as the egg is done to your liking (some like wet eggs, some like rubbery eggs, to each his/her own), take the pan off of the heat. This is important: do not leave the pan on the burner to “keep it warm” or you’ll overcook the egg and begin to burn the rest of the ingredients.
When we have this as a breakfast, this is it. As our dinner tonight, we enjoyed it with some local tomatoes sliced and fresh biscuits with butter and preserves.
Sub veggie crumbles or seitan crumbles for the sausage (will need to use an oil for the potatoes, onion, and peppers)
Sub tofu scramble or The Vegg Scramble for the egg
Boiled stuff…all together…including boiled dough. Only the countriest of country kitchens in the American South have been able to render boiled dough a culinary delight.
Many younger and even some middle-aged (like me) Americans believe a dumpling is the original creation of the Asian cuisines: a little pocket of dough filled with something. They seem to focus on the filled part and ignore the boiled part.
You see, country people got stuff to do. They don’t have time to roll and cut the dough and fill it with the chicken and vegetables from the stock before boiling it. But at the very root of things, country American chicken and dumplings are arguably a deconstructed Wonton soup. Hmmm, so it really is all in the presentation.
For me, I’ll stick with ugly yummy classic American chicken and dumplings:
Step 1: boil chicken and make stock – these things happen simultaneously
It’s important any time you are making a chicken stock or chicken soup that you use skin-on and bone-in chicken and that you use both white and dark meat. Why? That’s where the flavor lives: in the fat and in the bone. I promise that leaving the skin on will not make your stock oily, only that using the most flavor-filled parts of the chicken will make it rich and dark stock. That’s what you want: not golden or yellow but a light to medium brown color!
1 whole split chicken (ask your grocery store butcher to do this for you or buy 2 split breasts and 4 split thighs with skin and bones)
4 large carrots, cut however you want (I like 1-inch barrels) or half a bag of baby carrots
1-2 onion family choices: white or sweet onion sliced, leek or green onion chopped to 1 inch pieces
3-10 cloves of garlic – depends on how many vampires you’ve got hanging around
salt and pepper
hot water to cover the chicken completely
Turn on the sink faucet to the hottest setting to let it get hot. In the largest stock pot you’ve got (at least 8 quarts), place your carrots and onions and garlic on the bottom. Place the chicken pieces on top of this; smush it all down well. Liberally salt and pepper the pot, roughly 2 tablespoons of each; yes, it really needs that much salt. Cover with hot water from the kitchen sink, probably to about 1 inch from the top of the pot.
Place the full stock pot on your large burner on high. It’ll take 20-30 minutes to come to a full boil; be patient. Let it roil for 3-5 minutes, and then turn it down to medium low to simmer for 2-3 hours. You want to see a tiny bit of movement on the water; it should not be completely still. Turn the burner off and get ready for step 2.
Once you remove the chicken for picking (step 1), you may find that your stock fills only half of your pot. If you’ve followed my flavor instructions and your stock is a rich medium or dark brown, add up to 4 cups of hot water to dilute the stock for direct eating. I often have 2-cup servings of frozen stock in the freezer and may add one of these as well; my freezer stock is actually broth with much more vegetables and already diluted for immediate eating.
Step 2: Cool and pick the chicken
Using a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the chicken from the pot. I usually place mine in a colander so that it gets good airflow for quicker cooling. Once cooled, pick the chicken.
What, you don’t know what that means? Truly I know a lot of people who don’t know how chicken gets from pieces to shredded. Before you get started, make sure you have a chicken plate and a discard plate; I use paper plates for this step. So here’s how it goes:
pick up a piece of chicken in your right hand (reverse the hands if you’re left handed)
use your left hand fingers to grasp the chicken skin and fat flabs and pull them off; place them in the discard plate or bowl. Generally breast pieces will have less skin and fat than thigh/leg pieces
switch the piece of chicken to your left hand
use your right hand fingers to pull the large chunks of chicken off of the bone and place them on the chicken plate; discard the empty bone to the trash plate
take up the large chunks in your left hand
using a pinching motion, use your right hand fingers to pinch and tear the large chunks into many smaller ones
continue until you have picked all of the chicken off of all of the pieces
Now some of you reading have already rolled your eyes and dubbed me patronizing to be so specific, but I’ve had the pleasure of teaching my same-aged friends and their children cooking basics, and you can’t even imaging how difficult it is to employ these basic motor skills for the first time as an adult.
NOTE: some folks also remove the vegetable flavorings, but I like them so I keep them. Other traditional vegetable additions include celery and peas (see side note at the bottom).
When you’re about 30 minutes from serving time, you’ll take step 3.
Step 3: Make the dumplings
There are lots of styles of dumplings, but the dough is about the same. If your people have memories of fluffy round dumplings, you’ll want to keep the following dough pretty wet and sticky; these are biscuit dumplings. If your people have memories of long flat dumplings, you’ll want to add a little more flour to form a solid ball of dough to work with; these are pie crust dumplings. The basic recipe is the same:
2 cups all purpose flour (make this gluten-free by replacing standard flour with Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour)
1 t baking powder
1 cup chicken stock
Drop them all in a bowl together and use a fork to blend them; do not use a whisk or you’ll end up with a blob of unblended dough inside the tines of the whisk and it’ll be a pain to get it all out.
If you want the puffy biscuit dough dumplings, stop mixing as soon as everything is combined. Drop the dough into the boiling stock. Since dumplings cook through in about a minute, this is a fast process.
If you want the flat pie crust dumplings, keep dusting the mixture with flour (probably 2 T at a time) and mixing until the dough comes together into a ball that does not sag or flatten and the sides stay smooth when you tough them, not sticky or tacky. Sprinkle a handful of flour on your clean kitchen counter and coat both of your hands with flour. Pinch off a generous handful of the dough and, on the floured counter, use your fingers to press it into a long flat lasagna noodle shaped dough. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1 inch strips on the short edges (1-inch x 2-inch). Peel the dough strips off of the counter one by one and drop them into the boiling stock. Repeat until all of the dumplings have been dropped.
Add the picked and shredded chicken back into the stock and dumplings to warm for about 20 minutes. Serve piping hot!
Side Note: One of the most beautiful things about this recipe/technique is that it’s almost a chicken pot pie. Yep, use the same stock making, the same dumpling making, and use the stock to make the pot pie sauce. Really couldn’t be simpler.
My mom is diabetic. And even though her dad was diabetic her whole life, and she was raised essentially on a diabetic diet (as it existed in the 60s and 70s), she’s got very diabetic-unfriendly eating habits.
But one good choice she craves and sticks to is granola. The oats are a great carb choice for diabetics, a slow digesting carbohydrate whether eaten cooked or raw. She loves oatmeal during the winter months, but really needs to have the sweet bite to it. She loves yogurt, but really needs to have a sweet bite to it. She really (psychologically) needs the sweet or she feels like she’s deprived.
But she won’t buy granola from the store because it’s saturated in various sugars: brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, and more.
Thus is born our experiment, beginning with what I consider Basic Granola.
And like so many “recipes,” this is a system, not a by-the-numbers or it’s wrong kind of food.
So here’s my system – which tracks pretty closely with the vast majority of granola “recipes”:
1.5 cups oats
1 cup nuts – mix as many as you like into the blend, but only 1 cup total
1 cup dried fruit – mix as many as you like into the blend, but only 1 cup total
Yep, it’s that simple.
Now, for the recipe people, here’s exactly what’s in my Basic Granola pictured here:
1.5 cups rolled oats (Publix brand, no need to go fancy)
1T dried ground cinnamon (Publix brand)
1t dried ground nutmeg (Publix brand)
1t salt (Morton’s)
1 cup water
Mix these five items together in a bowl, cover and let sit in the refrigerator overnight.
Prep your nuts; I used what I already had in the cupboard:
1/3 cup sunflower seeds (Publix organic unsalted from the produce section)
1/3 cup hemp seeds (Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts)
1.3 cup slivered almonds (Mariana from the Publix produce section)
Prep your binding; because my granola places emphasis on being diabetic friendly, I have limited sugar to a functional role and eliminated all granular sweeteners – natural or artificial:
1/3 cup honey (from a local farm near me)
1/4 cup oil or melted butter (Pompeiian Grapeseed Oil)
When you’re ready to bake, mix the nuts and the binding into the softened oat mixture. Spray or grease a medium or large cookie sheet with at least a little lip, spread the mixture in a thin layer in the sheet. Bake at 250° for 1 hour and 15 minutes; increase heat to 300° for 20-40 minutes more. The longer time is especially useful in high-humidity climates or times of year.
As your mixture sits to cool, it will harden into the crunchy texture most people are looking for, so don’t get frustrated if it doesn’t harden while still in the oven. It won’t, and you’ll risk overcooking or burning your granola.
Serving Ideas: the standard serving is 1/4 cup
cooked oatmeal topper (tip: prepare half of an oatmeal serving and add 1/2 cup granola to finish out the meal)
ice cream topper
fruit pie topping (instead of crust)
blend into smoothie for an oatmeal smoothie
sweet potato casserole topping
roasted root veggies topping
My mom is really happy with this batch and can’t wait for my Christmas blend using pistachios and dried cherries.
This weekend, my friend Sarah offered me her entire crop of butternut squash…because she didn’t know what to do with them. Sarah, you don’t know what you’re missing! This delicious squash has a simple, light, nutty butter flavor of its own but also provides a wonderful base for sweet or savory additions.
As we are on the cusp of Fall and the morning and evening temperatures are cooling, I’m ready to start on soups, and butternut squash soup is hands-down my favorite! Luckily it’s also the one I can’t seem to screw up despite the fact that I don’t measure…ever!
Here’s what you’ll need for my savory version of the soup:
Butternut squash: peeled, seeded, and diced
Sweet onion: peeled and quartered
Carrots: cleaned and chopped
Garlic: one whole pod peeled (not one clove, but the whole pod of 10-12 cloves)
Stock or Cream: up to 8 cups, depending on your preference
Spices: Salt, Black Pepper, Ginger, Cumin, Coriander Seeds
Get all the veggies cleaned and cut. I usually do this while watching a movie, a method I “developed” from my days living in a tiny Brooklyn flat with no kitchen counters. If you’re using fresh ginger, peel, dice, and add that to the roasting mix.
Spread them all out on cookie sheets, making sure everything is in just one layer. Dust with salt, pepper, and spices; use as much or as little as you like. Roast at 400°F for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and let them sit for another 15 minutes.
Dump all the veggies carefully into a large stock pot. Here’s where I’ve got to talk you through some options.
Option 1: Stock or Cream
The difference between a soup or a bisque is the use of stock or cream as your thinning or thickening agent. There are a few other options besides cream for a bisque, but that’s the traditional one. Vegans can choose vegetable stock or soy or rice milk. For the least flavor interference, use homemade vegetable or chicken stock. For a richer, velvety flavor, use beef stock. For the sweeter version of this soup, use ham or veal stock. And you can always use just plain water, especially if you are looking for a thicker consistency and not worried about having to use too much.
Option 2: Blending Method
If you’ve watched chefs on cooking shows make soup, you’ve seen the two methods: blender or immersion wand. Both can achieve the same level of smoothness, but the traditional blender will get you there faster; just make sure the veggies have cooled to room temperature before using the traditional blender. Me, I like the convenience of the immersion wand because I can pretty much put all of the veggies in at one time and both see and feel the consistency as I’m blending; it offers a level of control that you don’t get with the traditional blender.
I like my soups with a strong “mouth feel,” which usually translates into thick or stew-like. I know it makes the blended soups look like baby food and/or baby poo, which, by the way, reminds me to tell you that this is exactly how to make your own baby food; studies show that children who eat the same food and same seasonings in their baby food as their parents have on their plates aren’t as picky during their formative years, making meal time much easier to deal with.
When my Mom insists on the sweeter version of this soup, it goes something like this:
Ginger, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Brown Sugar (during blending)
This version comes out similar to sweet potato soufflé (aka sweet potato casserole) with Thanksgiving spices and sweetness. I just don’t happen to like that very much.
Note for Sarah: other ways I use butternut squash:
Oven or deep fried fries…similar to sweet potato fries
Winter Veggie Salad with b. squash, zucchini, carrots, onions (or mix with orzo or rice or risotto)