Sunday, December 10, 2023

This Fall I was gifted with a gorgeous pie pumpkin that produced 6 cups of puree. As a single gal who doesn't have a sweet tooth, I was wracking my brains on what to do with all of that pumpkin! Then photos of chocolate swirl pumpkin cheesecake popped up on the web and my problem was solved!

I won't lie, this is a long, multi-step recipe. But it is not hard, it just needs to be made in advance, which makes life easier if you plan on making this for Thanksgiving - dessert will be done at least a day in advance!

I made my basic, go-to gluten free crust that in the end mimics a graham cracker crust without having to buy or purchase gluten free graham crackers: Dates and walnuts blitzed in a food processor with a little coconut oil to hold it all together. I only like crust on the bottom of my cheese cake, so if you want it up the sides, see the note in the recipe regarding increasing the crust ingredient quantities. 


Read the recipe first before starting. There are several items that need to be at room temperature before starting, as well as some caveats I note.

The recipe I used was very light on the pumpkin pie spices; next time I will probably use a teaspoon more of each of them. But if you want your cake more cheesecake than pumpkin pie, stick with the recipe below. Also, I cooked my cheesecake in two separate pans since I only had a small springform pan, and only one of them got the water bath (see recipe). It didn't seem to make a difference either way. If you split it between two pans, it won't rise as high and you need to start checking that it is done at 50 minutes, and then every 5 minutes after so you don't overcook it

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Steamed Garlic Broccoli Pasta

This is a brilliant recipe from Deb Perlman of Smitten Kitchen. Brilliant in its simplicity and its utter contrariness. Who would have thought that STEAMING pasta along with broccoli could produce such a fantastic dish!

The broccoli gets silky soft but not over cooked. The garlic is mellow, almost like it has been roasted. Using water and oil to steam it all together is the stroke of genius! It is my new favorite comfort food, and a one pot meal to boot! Can't beat that!

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Shepherd's Pie with Italian Sausage

I didn't grow up with Shepherd's pie, but that's not my mom's fault. Ketchup and I had some sort of falling out early in my life, and she knew it could never be on my plate, ever.

Decades later someone must have served it to me and unknowingly I loved something with ketchup in it! This is one of two exceptions of when I will eat the dreaded red stuff (cocktail sauce being the other). This is stupendously delicious!

Shepherd's Pie with Italian Sausage
(serves 6-8)

2/3 lb Italian sausage, casings removed if using links
1/2 yellow onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
8 oz frozen peas
4 oz corn, canned is fine
2 large russet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon milk or half and half
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon gojujang sauce
cheddar cheese to top (about 1/2 cup)

Make mashed potatoes, however you make them. I use butter and half and half. It seems like a lot, but everyone loves a deep layer of mashed potatoes on Shepherd's pie.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, saute Italian sauce, broken up into bite size pieces, along with the garlic and onion for 5 minutes. Add the carrot and cook another 10 minutes, adding salt to taste. Add the corn and peas once the sausage is nearly cooked, and break up the sausage a little more with a fork. Add the contents of the pan to a bowl and mix in the ketchup and gojujang sauce to taste. Season with salt and pepper and pour into a 9" by 12" baking dish (glass is preferred) and top with the mashed potatoes, and then the cheese. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the cheese is browned. Allow to cool 5 minutes and then serve.


Sunday, April 23, 2023

Soy Honey Glazed Shrimp Stir Fry

Shrimp and broccoli stir fry has been a dinner staple for me for several decades, and yet I just discovered a way to make it even better: honey.

Yup, just adding honey and some red pepper flakes to my basic stir fry sauce takes this meal to a whole other level of deliciousness, and who doesn't love that!

Not being a huge fan of sweetness, I was skeptical about this much honey in the sauce, but boy did it surprise me! The soy sauce mellows the honey, keeps the sweetness and brings the complex minerality to the dish. Wow!

Trust me when I say to double this, you really want leftovers, and they are just as good the second day!

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Broccoli, Wild Rice and Cheese Casserole

Underneath all of that cheesy richness is loads of broccoli and wild rice, nestled in a cheese sauce! Not diet food, for sure, but 100% grade A, comfort food when you are tired of the rain and long for some sunshine!

Here in Northern California, we are not quite underwater - thankfully my house is on a hill - but our winter precipitation level is atmospheric, like the rain we have been receiving. Yup, we no longer are in drought conditions, and hopefully that will help when wildfire season arrives, but for now, let's fight the wet and cold with this delicious dish!

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Gluten Free "Rye" Bread

Rye bread has been my favorite bread since I first discovered it as a seven year old child. Toasted with bread and butter has been my go to breakfast for most of life. But when I realized I had to go gluten free, it was goodbye to my love!

But maybe not! After making Jeffrey Larsen's basic bread recipe, I adapted it to make this version that is pretty darn close to my favorite no knead rye bread recipe. Ahh, "rye" bread and butter for breakfast again!

Gluten Free Baking at Home by Larsen is a fantastic GF cookbook, with so many helpful hints that have taken my baking to a whole new level. He is clearly more interested in sweet baking than savory, but his bread recipe (which is adaptable to rolls as well) is brilliant and very versatile. 

Although the recipe appears long, that is because it is filled with tips to ensure your first attempt is successful. I now make this regularly, and just keep the list of ingredients amounts handy to make preparing the loaf faster.

There are two key tools that you must have. One is a kitchen digital scale so you can measure your ingredients by grams. They are usually about $20, easy to find online or in stores such as Target; mine is a Taylor. Secondly, you need a smaller loaf pan than the average bread pan; 8 1/2 inch by 4 1/2 inch pans. This is because the density of the loaves will cook unevenly in a larger size pan. I happen to find a glass pan at the thrift store, but they also should be less than $20. 

In mixing the dough, he requires a dough blade on a food processor or kitchen aid machine; I do not have one and have been just as successful mixing by hand. 

Potato puree is one of his ingenious ingredients. It adds both starch, heft and moisture in a way that creates a better crumb and prevents the loaf from being too dry. I boil one peeled russet potato, and when super soft, pour off all but 1/2 cup of the cooking water. I mash the potato and add water slowly until it is the consistency of very mashed potatoes. Then I puree it in a blender - if you don't already know this trick of how to use a small mouth mason jar to puree the potato, click on the link. You can then refrigerate or freeze the leftovers for another loaf.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Salmon Cakes

There are so many reasons why living in Humboldt is such a delight, but getting local and fresh caught salmon is near the top of my list. It was the first meal I ate in Humboldt, cooked over a wood fire at the campsite I stayed at on my first night here and it continues to be one of my favorite meals. 

Too often the salmon burgers or cakes found in restaurants are breadcrumb heavy to hold the patty together. Not this version! It uses the salmon itself as the means to meld the patty together, ingenious! Incidentally, this works for crab cakes as well, only I would suggest using a few shrimp as the binder rather than the expensive lump crab. 

My favorite accompaniment is remoulade - a Cajun spicy mayonnaise - but use whatever pleases you!

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Garlic Broccoli Flatbread

If anyone were to ask me what my favorite food is, Pizza would be my instant reply. But variations on it are also way up there on the list, along with things like broccoli sauteed in loads of garlic with Pecorino Romano cheese grated on top. So it isn't surprising that combining the two is highly appealing to me. Maybe you too!

I often add a thin base of mozzarella so that the flatbread isn't too dry, as is pictured here. Other times sour cream or cream cheese (whipped in a food processor) is another option. I suppose that would technically make this a white pizza. Whatever you call it, I call it delicious!

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Baguette - Gluten Free

Ahh the baguette, one of the most delicious breads, to my taste. And once realizing I had to eat wheat free, which essentially means gluten-free, it was pretty out of reach. Until now!

If you haven't already discovered Gluten Free on a Shoestring by Nicole Hunn, leave this page now and check her out! Following her detailed and specific instructions, and you too will (re)discover the utter joy of baking! Yes, buy a food scale (about $20, so worth it!) Do make your own blends - she makes it so easy. And you will be amazed at the deliciousness you will again be able to create. Taste, texture, all the great stuff you remember and thought were gone for good! 

Now, her baguette is a regular in my kitchen, and it makes me so happy!


In this post, I provide the basic ingredients, and include my additional comments on how to ensure your baguettes turn out like the picture. Nicole provides lots of extra information about ingredients and substitutions, as well as detailed info about creating your own flour blends (which I highly recommend). Please visit her site for all that info. She recommends two flour bends, Better Batter (a brand I can't get, but she tells you how to make it, and Cup4Cup (which she also tells you how to make at home, even how to alter her mock Better Batter to make mock Cup4Cup.) I have had success with both of her mock blends.

Make sure your butter and egg white are at room temperature. The key to gluten free baking is hydration and having these items at room temperature ensures that they will mix in evenly to help hydrate the dough properly. Without it, your efforts will be a complete waste, which is a shame with these pricey ingredients!

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Yogurt Cheese Pie with Raspberry Coulis

When I was in graduate school eons ago, I threw dinner parties. The first party I made homemade lasagna noodles with a spinach bolognese sauce, thinking it was pretty fancy. My diners loved it but wondered where dessert was. Dessert didn't even cross my mind, not for the entire nine hours of food preparation! But realizing that it was expected, I developed this goodie for my future meals.

Dessert is not my forte, not a strong desire. Chocolate is fine, but give me bread and butter or cheese and crackers. Mine is a very savory palate! So this dessert isn't very sweet, but it seemed to satisfy those who ate it.

Before Greek yogurt was available everywhere, this pie was made of "yogurt cheese," strained yogurt, mixed with sugar and vanilla. Poured into a graham cracker crust (or something akin to it) with a raspberry coulis on top. I loved it! 

Now, you can buy greek yogurt, which is strained regular yogurt, which makes this pie that much easier. My pie is generally more tart than those who like their desserts sweet, so taste as you go. In the past, I rarely strained the raspberry coulis, since it was simpler and I was often more preoccupied with finishing dinner preparations. Here I did, and it was divine. If you have the time and the inclination, strain it!

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Chocolate Cream Pie - Your Way

When I was a child my favorite pie was Chocolate Cream Pie. Maybe it was because it was my dad’s favorite pie, maybe it was because my mom made it often. Whatever the reason, it always made me so happy. It’s been years since I have had any, let alone made it, so I figured it was time to try out this classic once again.

My mom always made a cookie crust or a graham cracker crust, but I present an alternative, because I happened to have some hazelnut flour to use up. You could easily use almond flour, or even actual almonds or hazelnuts, although you should process the whole nuts first before adding in the dates since it will be harder to grind them fine. Of course, you could go the easy route and buy a crust, making the whole endeavor quicker and easier. Make it your way!

I wanted to find a vegan pudding that worked just as well as a dairy based on, and this one is a winner! It firms up beautifully, and doesn’t really require too many odd ingredients. While the original vegan recipe I found online (from used almond milk, I have found that Ripple heats well and has that thickness that other vegan milks lack. It did not disappoint!

Of course you can get fancy and shave chocolate on top of your topping; personally, I prefer straight whipped cream!

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Tarte de Soleil with Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade

Deep into a Humboldt winter, the sun is a shy one, so try and coax it out with this baked deliciousness! While some of us are happily noticing the lengthening of the days, others get a little preoccupied by the tossing of a pigskin ball and its culmination in a big bowl. Whatever your pleasure, here is a fun and beautiful way to celebrate both of these events.

Puff pastry sandwiches a homemade sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade, baked until golden and then served with a dipping sauce. Perfect when you want to indulge or impress. My inspiration was from Smitten Kitchen, and while I strayed a bit, her suggestions were still pretty spot on. Incidentally, buying puff pastry is the easy way to go, but I did make mine - gluten free! - and my current GF cooking goddess is Nicole Hunn of Gluten Free on a Shoestring, check her out!

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Roasted Kabocha Squash and Tofu with Ginger and Lime


Winter squash was never my thing; I was definitely very late to the kabocha squash party. But once I discovered this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, I cannot get enough of the stuff!

This recipe is pretty straight forward, marinate squash and tofu and then bake. But what is key are the garnishes, but really, without them the dish falls flat, so don’t skimp on them! Make sure that you get plenty of lime and green onions and use them both liberally. If you can’t bring yourself to buy sesame seeds (I love them and always have them in the pantry) it won’t suffer too much. But the lime is essential!

You can use other winter squash besides kabocha, but then you need to peel it either before or after it cooks. Fortunately, you can eat cooked kabocha peel, so much easier!