Kitchen Disasters: Pancakes

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Today I want to share with you my consistent kitchen disaster: Pancakes! I know, it is funny to imagine that anybody could have a pancake disaster, but I am here to confess that making pancakes has always brought disastrous results for me in the kitchen.

If I make them from a mix, things go pretty well, even if I soak that mix overnight. But if I try to make them from scratch using the same ingredients that are in the mix, things just get really screwy. Why? You tell me.

Recently I bought some buckwheat flour. Most of the Buckwheat Pancake mixes have some whole wheat flout in them, and even though I soak the mix overnight, I wanted to make a pancake that was truly wheat and rice free. I tried to make the recipe that was on the back of the package of flour, which called for whole wheat flour. Instead, I substituted coconut flour for the wheat. The recipe required overnight soaking, which I thought was great, since I do that anyway. It also used yeast, which I thought was weird…but I followed the directions, and then added some kefir (in the amount of water that was asked). I fear that is where I went wrong. I reckon that the yeast and bacteria in the kefir battled it out against each other all night and ended up killing each other off.

In the morning, the batter was really dry and had a funny almost fluffy consistency. So I added some water. The batter just kept soaking up the water, never reaching a thinner consistency. It was looking funky, so I added an egg, since most pancake recipes call for eggs – and I thought it might help the batter with the consistency and at least bind it all together, so I could cook them up.

I heated up my cast iron pan, added some butter to the pan, and tried to make a pancake. All it did was burn on the outside and remain raw inside. I tried again and again, but all I managed to do was smoke up the kitchen (setting off the fire alarms and everything), and allow frustration to set in.

I generally am not a pancake fan, preferring savory breakfasts, but sometimes I get a craving for them. Due to my problems digesting grains, I need to soak the flour, which means I have to wait until the next day to actually make the pancakes. So by the next morning, I really want them! So when I use all these ingredients to make the batter, and have to wait and it still doesn’t work out, it is upsetting and extremely frustrating!!!! It’s not like I can just whip up a new batch and try again…I would have to wait another day!

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So I wanted to turn this disaster into a positive experience. I poured all the leftover batter into the cast iron skillet and threw it in the oven, hoping to make a pan-cake out of it. It baked at 350 F for almost 2 hours before the middle was cooked through. I took it out, and tried a bite. It was so bad, I literally could not swallow it. I had to spit it out, and dump the whole mess into the compost bin (the nice little blue bin in the photo). Un-salvageable DISASTER.

So I am asking all of my faithful readers, especially those who are into traditional foods and gluten free cooking: Do you have a recipe for a non-wheat, non-rice pancake or crepe that can be soaked with kefir or yogurt over night, that tastes great and is easy to make the next morning?

Help! I am desperate!!! :)

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On another note, please remember that through the end of this month, all the proceeds of the sale of my e-book – The Secret Energy of Love Through Food will be going to Haiti Relief efforts. You only have a few days to take advantage of this sweet deal!

Ladies Supper Club: Dishing Up Vermont!

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(Sunshine with Toad Hollow Goat Milk Caramel and Mary Joy with none other than Ben & Jerry’s!)

As many of you know, I am part of a fabulous group of ladies, who love food, in Saint Augustine. Every month we hold an all out foodie event, that we call, Ladies Supper Club. Each month, on a rotating basis, one of us hosts and picks the theme or main dish for the month, then each of the women is assigned a dish – welcome cocktail, appetizer, soup or salad, veggie side, non-veggie side, dessert and wine. We let our creative juices flow, and come to the dinner with dishes based on our best interpretation of the theme. We have had some really memorable themes, like Blueberries, Cooking with Julia Child, Tamale Fiesta, etc. I really love spending time with these ladies each month and seeing what creations everyone comes up with. We all lead busy lives, and it is nice to have scheduled time to come together each month, and spend time finding out what has been going on in each others’ lives over the last month. I am really going to miss these ladies when we move to Vermont. Ladies Supper Club was a great way for me to meet some wonderful women in Saint Augustine. Who knows, maybe I will start one, in the Great White North.

In January, it was my turn to host. Last January, I hosted a Moroccan inspired meal, which I was happy to learn was memorable for the ladies. We had a great time feasting on spiced foods, and worked off some of the meal later by blasting the music, and having an impromptu bellydancing dance party!

This month, in honor of our upcoming move to Vermont, I decided to make the theme none other than Vermont. I have an awesome cookbook called Dishing Up Vermont 145 Authentic Recipes from Green Mountain State, by Tracey Medeiros. The book contains 145 authentic recipes from the Green Mountain State. Contributors are various restaurant proprietors, chefs, bed & breakfast owners and farmers who are all inspired by the bounty of food available in this beautiful state. This is a cookbook of local and seasonal foods. Something I am very passionate about. So I decided to choose a recipe from this book for Ladies Supper Club.

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(Brie Stuffed Chicken, with a Pear and Cider Sauce – and Apple Pie for dessert!!!)

The dish I choose to prepare was Brie-stuffed Chicken Breasts in Pear and Cider Sauce. This dish is from The Dorset Inn. I was really intrigued by the flavors, and you can never go wrong with Brie, especially in my Supper Club group! I sent my choice for a main dish around to all the girls a few weeks in advance, and looked forward to what everyone would bring to dinner!

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(Old Vermont Cocktail)

When the ladies got to my house, they were all carrying bags of food! For our welcome cocktail we had a maple syrup and bitters cocktail, which was reminiscent of curry (weird, but actually quite tasty). To eat along with the cocktails we had a yummy brie dip, the recipe from a Vermont B & B. The soup was a cheddar ale. We had delicious roasted root veggies and fresh baked rolls to accompany the chicken. For dessert, homemade apple pie with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream (3 flavors) and Toad Hollow Goat’s Milk Caramel ( This is to die for!).

It was another great evening! Thanks ladies!

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* Also, don’t forget to SPREAD THE LOVE THIS MONTH, purchase a copy of my e-book – The Secret Energy of Love Through Food! All proceeds during the month of February will go to Haiti Relief!

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Happy Valentine’s Day! : Roasted Chicken with Heather Ale & Herbs de Provence & A Delicious Way to Help Haiti

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This is a great dish to serve your loved one(s) for Valentine’s day. The flavors are unique, as are some of the ingredients which makes it a special kind of meal. Yet at the same time it is quite easy to prepare – the oven does most of the work. It is like fancied soul food.

Lately, I have been trying to familiarize myself with artisan brews. For years, like a lot of people, I thought I just didn’t like beer. But I have come to find that once in a while, I do enjoy a bit of the bubbly. I prefer unique brews, generally dark porters and stouts, and I love British style hard cider (which isn’t beer either…), but sometimes a lighter beer catches my fancy. I have always been fascinated with the Ancient world, especially in Northern Europe. The myths, stories and legends of Scotland, England, Ireland, Brittany in Northern France, and Scandinavia have always been my favorites. Of course due to my food obsession, I have also been curious about ancient feasts – the foods and cuisines.

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Years ago I found an amazing ale, the likes of which has been made in Scotland for over 4,000 years. This ale is brewed with heather flowers and Scottish malt and has a very floral flavor. It is quite refreshing and crisp, and goes really well with roasted chicken. It can also be enjoyed on it’s own, or with really earthy cheeses, like raw cow or sheep milk cheeses, which often have a grassy quality to them.

In light of recently finding out a bit more about my biological ancestry, I decided that it would be fun to start exploring more of the foods and dishes of Northern Europe (perhaps that explains my long held fascination with that area of the world, and its history). I also happened upon a pack of Fraoch, Scottish Heather Ale,and felt inspired to make roasted whole chicken legs and root veggies with a heather ale sauce. In honor of our upcoming move to Vermont, I also added some maple syrup to enhance the sweetness of the ale, and used Herbs de Provence to enhance the floral qualities. I can honestly say the result was one of the best dishes I have made in a while. If I had known how good this was going to be, I would have made it for Valentine’s Day. It is definitely special enough for that. Thank you kitchen muses for this wonderful meal! Sometimes, hobbies and interest outside of the kitchen, can really inspire us, IN the kitchen. This dish is certainly a testament to that.

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For dessert, be sure to try my Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate . It is a recipe from my e-book The Secret Energy of Love Through Food .

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Here is a sweet way that you can give a little this Valentine’s Day – I will be giving all the proceeds for the book, during the month of February, to blogger efforts on behalf of Haiti relief.

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Half will go to H2Ope for Haiti (a way to raise funds to supply water to Haiti by BloggerAid-CFF) and the other half will go to

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Stir It  28 for Haiti

So please buy a copy today!  And please spread the word! This is a perfect cookbook  for Valentine’s Day and any day to share a delicious meal with any loved one!

You can also send a donation directly to Stir It 28 by going to Bren’s blog There is a Paypal donation box on the upper right hand side and to H2ope for Haiti by going to this Justgiving Page .

Recipe under the cut…

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Recipe: Wholesome Lentil Loaf

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In my last post I talked about how you can eat organic and healthy on the cheap. If you missed that post, please check it out for some tips and links to some great recipes – that do not take a lot of effort in the kitchen, but will be much more nutritious, and less expensive for you than fast food or freezer meals!

Here is an awesome recipe for a lentil loaf – made with leftovers and pantry staples. This was a truly great meal, especially for this time of year, when we are yearning for comfort food, that “sticks to your ribs”. The flavors were really good in the loaf – bringing lentils to life with the addition of zing from sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers. Adding a delicious and savory sauce for on top, takes this meal from humble to fantastic! I served it w/ sautéed dinosaur kale with onions, garlic and a sprinkle of fresh meyer lemon juice.

This is a great vegetarian meal for those who don’t normally eat vegetarian – or for your veggie friends! It is also gluten-free. So I hope you enjoy it! Here’s to great health and great food!

For the next few weeks I am going to be focusing on some other real life things and projects. I am still around, and plan to keep posting, but maybe not as regularly as usual.

Lentil Loaf with Sweet Tomato Sauce

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups red lentils, sprouted and cooked until tender
(why do I soak/sprout? )
½ small yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS olive oil
salt & pepper
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dried thyme
½ cup, shredded cheddar and parmesan, tightly packed
1 egg, scrambled
¼ cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
2 TBS sun dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 TBS dijon or spicy mustard

For sauce:
½ can tomato paste
splash of red wine
1 TBS maple syrup or sugar
pinch of dried thyme
salt & pepper

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a skillet sauté onion, carrot and garlic in olive oil until tender. In a large bowl mix veggies with lentils and all the other loaf ingredients. Place in a lightly oiled (or buttered) loaf pan. Cook loaf for about 30-40 minutes, until heated through.
While the loaf is cooking, make the sauce. In a small saucepan, stir all ingredients together, and cook over medium heat until cooked through. Serve spooned over top of sliced pieces of the loaf. Serves 4 (large potions).

Eating Organic on the Cheap

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Someone told me recently that although the food on my blog looks good, they would never be able to afford the way I eat. I was shocked by that statement. But realized that unless you really break things down, it can look expensive and even daunting to cook with organic and local food. Here is a beautiful example – a root vegetable tart that my mom made for us when we were visiting a few weeks ago. It was delicious – roasted veggies, with goat cheese crumbles in pie crust. Quick, delicious and healthy – and lots of leftovers!

In my last post, I talked about how you can make an awesome Shepard’s or Cottage Pie (depending in the meat, I found out – thanks Donald! ) with all the best ingredients, like grassfed beef and organic vegetables for under $3 per hefty serving.

Food quality is a topic I am seriously passionate about. I believe it is important and a right for everyone to have healthy food available to them. But starting on this journey can be a challenge and like everyone, it was a process for me when I first started. I pride myself in being able to put good, wholesome and nourishing meals on the table while staying within a very conservative budget. It is one of the ways I like to challenge myself in the kitchen. This is something I have been passionate about for a long time, check out my post from 2 years ago, about the cost difference between shopping at the farmers market vs. the grocery store. I know that there are not farmer’s markets in every area, but even if you have to drive 30 minutes – it might be worth the time and extra gas money in the long run. If you can’t find one in your area – Start a Container Garden, it is easy, economical and fun, especially if you have kids!

I have been hearing a lot of conversations lately online, in real life and in the media about how it is hard to afford to eat good food in this economy. I agree, this is a hard time for a lot of us, and I don’t want to make light of people’s very real struggles. That said, I really do believe that you can eat good food for less than a meal at a fast food restaurant, and even cheaper and healthier than the frozen food section of your grocery store, especially over time.

What does that mean? Well say a fast food meal is $3/per person if you use the dollar menu – you can get a burger, fries and a drink for $3. That is still more than most of my meals because in your own kitchen you can stretch meat and veggies and make enough ahead for leftovers (making more of something like a casserole, takes the same time and effort as making enough for one meal – and it saves you time later). This is especially true if you are cooking for a family. Burgers and fries for 4 is about $12 a mealtime for the whole family. It is hard to stretch a fast food meal or have leftovers, so once you eat the $12 worth of food it is gone. Not so with cooking at home and having leftovers.

But the deal is, you have to be willing to cook. You have to make food from scratch. That is where you have to make your stand and your change and take better care of yourself and family. People seem to equate scratch with spending hours in the kitchen, just like equating organic with expensive.  However, this is not true. By making your own yogurt and cheese, which literally takes minutes, you can actually SAVE money by eating organic – as the cost to make your own, is significantly cheaper than buying it from the store. It doesn’t have to take over your life or mean hours in the kitchen everyday! All you need is some planning. Once you have done it a few times, it becomes second nature!

Here are several posts to help you with scheduling that into a busy lifestyle & some quick starter meal ideas:

Making Your Own Convenience Food

Making Your Own Bread

Making Your Own Dairy Products

Three Easy and Healthy Breakfast Options

2 for 1 Chicken

Beans and Rice -The Ultimate Leftover Meal

Eating on the Fly: Acorn Squash with Sausage Stuffing

Recently I was at the grocery store. I had just stocked up on frozen organic berries for smoothies and organic meat (they were on sale) and I was getting all my dairy to make cheese, yogurt and kefir for the week (not a farmers market week). The woman in front of me had her cart, which was not as full as mine, with frozen dinners, boxed lasagna, bags of frozen meals – where you add your own meat, soda and a few organic veggies (she was trying)– enough food for maybe a week of meals. I made sure to take note of her total. When my cart was rung up, my bill was only $2 more than hers. I had loads of fruits and veggies, grassfed beef, organic meats, frozen organic berries, eggs, dairy and pantry staples – things I would be using over the next several weeks. I make sure to stock up my pantry and freezer with good healthy staples during sales – especially on the highest ticket items, like meat. I also visit my health food store and do the same – especially grains, lentils and flours.

I really think there is something here. But you have to do your research and make a schedule. Yes, on the surface, it may seem like eating organic is expensive – and it is if you are going for pre-packaged organic foods. But that is not what I am advocating here. I am advocating you to have fun in the kitchen, prepare whole foods and feed your family healthy and nutritious meals for less than the cost of eating every meal out, or takeout, or from the frozen food section. Try it yourself and see what happens!

Nourishing and Comforting Shepard’s Pie

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Shepard’s pie has got to be one of the most comforting meals around. I love this dish, and this is THE BEST one I have ever made. The most rewarding thing for me, since I have started cooking exclusively with Happy Meat, and local and organic vegetables, is when I make simple dishes like this, that I have always loved and made a billion times before, and realize how much better it tastes when you are using the freshest and best ingredients you can find.

Ingredients really do matter – not just in terms of health, but also in terms of taste. It really does take it up to a whole new level. I can attest to this, because even Roberto, can taste the difference. He will marvel at how good it tastes, and wonder how it can be so, since I used the same ingredients – and then he will realize that it is because the quality of the ingredients have changed since the last time I have made this. Lately he has been saying that everything I cook is the best thing he has ever tasted! Now, I know I am a good cook, but I can’t take all the credit.

Making a dish like Shepard’s pie, doesn’t take much effort – and the cost is minimal – even when you use the best of ingredients. All it costs you is about 10 – 15 minutes of prep time. The rest of the work is done in the oven, or on the stovetop, where you don’t have to do anything, but smell how good it is!

This meal is less than $3 per person – and that is with a hefty man-sized portion. Less than a fast food meal, or something out of a box or a bag – way better for you too, and I guarantee a thousand times tastier. Even your kids will love this one! This meal can serve six, but Roberto and I ate half each – divided over 2 meals – and that was under $3 per serving. Seriously.

Treat yourself to something good and hearty tonight!

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INGREDIENTS:

5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks – I used Idahos
water
butter
cream

8 oz. of reserved potato water
1 tsp better than bouillon, beef
(or you can use 8 oz. Homemade beef stock)
splash of wine or stout beer
1 TBS non-GMO cornstarch

1 lb of grassfed ground beef
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 small onion peeled and cut into small chunks
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup of mixed leftover roasted potatoes (sweet and white)
handful of corn
handful of peas
sage
thyme
salt & pepper
Malt vinegar

METHOD:

Boil the potatoes until tender. Reserve 8 oz.of potato water. Hand mash potatoes with butter and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

If using better than bouillon instead of homemade, in a small saucepan, mix potato water and bouillon, and stir together. Heat over medium, and add a splash of red wine, or stout. Whisk in 1 TBS of corn starch, and keep whisking over heat until gravy thickens. Then set aside.

In a cast iron skillet place ground beef, carrots, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat until eat begins to brown, and veggies start to soften. Then add your leftover veggies, corn, peas, and spices. Mix together. Pour gravy over top, and stir. Then dollop the mashed potatoes on top and spread evenly over the top of the other ingredients. Sprinkle a hearty bit of malt vinegar over top for that real pub taste!

Enjoy!