Welcome, Spring! Garden Plans for 2018


It is Spring Equinox.  It is also the Persian New Year.  I thought about doing a Persian recipe, but lacked the time.  But on March 18th, I started indoor seeds for later outdoor transplantation.  Some of them could have been started sooner, but the atmosphere remains too “winterish” here to have gotten in the proper mood…

gardening, brassica, vegetables, seeds

Overjoyed about my brassica selection of seeds!!!

PS:  I’d planned on a St. Patrick’s Day recipe, but while it was okay, it wasn’t begging to be posted…  “Okay” means I’d rather optimize it.

This is one of my intermittent mostly-non-recipe Tuesday posts.  Sit back and enjoy, or pass it over.  If you live rural in Zone 5, any and all helpful hints are welcome!!!  PS, I do not get any reimbursements for mentioning any of the resources talked about below.  (I tried to get the Amazon link going back in Connecticut, but every time the phone rang to verify my Amazon, I was kicked off line… blam!)

March Lion

March came in like a lion, and it had better go out like a lamb. Interestingly, two towns to the east, they hardly got any snow. Or at least it was rationally distributed.  I picked the wrong town to build in. (This isn’t the deepest of the snows, just the best of the photos.)

I don’t really know why I am welcoming in spring, because we still have a ton of snow out there, and no promises that more won’t fall.  In fact, they promise more WILL, this very week.  Hey, I did CHOOSE to retire northwards.  It’s pretty, but it does cancel a bunch of my physical therapy appointments.  Minor grumbles.  I can do some of that work on my ownsome, here.

My new life is 30 minutes from any decent supermarket — well, there’s a convenience store about 15 minutes away, but as for fresh food, that one only carries onions, potatoes, and (sometimes) bananas.  Also milk and bread, but I don’t use those two items particularly often.  And I steer clear of the ample supply of sodas and bottled waters.  But if one wants “grape juice”, there are a few decent wine selections.

Back at my old place, I’d hit the supermarket about three times a week, usually because it was very convenient, (right off the road on the way home from work) and I had my choice of a couple of them  (ShopRite, Stew Leonard’s), plus there was Costco and BJ’s, about a quarter of a mile from each other.  (I’d be a member of one or the other, not both.)  When I had to work weekends, when the highway wouldn’t clog up so fast after weekday work, I’d stop at Trader Joes and Whole Foods, which were also right off the highway, but they were closer to work.

You could always get something, and with just a little more effort, you could roll through Danbury, CT and visit the Atlantic Market (Asian, with an emphasis on Indochinese) or the Indian Market.  Which got me a’ salivating!

And if I had to grab something super quick, if it wasn’t remotely obscure, I could always hit the Mom and Pop, about 3 minutes from home.

gardening, greens, nasturtiums, amaranth, calaloo, salads

Lettuce talk about greens… Also, two packs of nasturtiums, which are both colorful and peppery-edible. I love calaloo, and I’ve never tried red orach so no clue as to its taste.

Now, while I am taking physical therapy in Westfield, I do stop at the Stop and Shop across the way – a 45 minute one way trip.  Someday I hope to cease taking physical therapy, and I am not particularly impressed by this Stop and Shop anyway.  There’s another small shop in Huntington where I get my farm fresh eggs (20 minutes) and I can pass close to it on my way to Westfield.  They also have a limited selection of meats and fresh produce, but nothing to depend on when making a specific recipe for the blog or such.

Actually, the meats are easy.  I buy my beef and pork via farmers’ markets and going in on portions of local pastured animals with other like minded folk, and I freeze the stuff.  Chicken is harder, so I look for the better-raised (“free”-range or organic) chicken in supermarkets, when possible.  That, too, can be frozen.  I’ll be buying a free range lamb shortly, and that will end up in one or the other freezers, likely both.

Gardening, seed planting

Kale, tomatoes, cabbage and so forth. More is being planted; I simply ran out of potting soil (now rectified). There are to be more pots in front of those pots, and there will be a row or two down in the workshop window.

Because I eat semi-Paleo (yes, I lost 40 pounds doing that, and there were serious health issues that kicked me into doing this – weight is incidental), grains and beans don’t make a majority of my diet.  ( I think, actually, that both rice and quinoa in reasonable limits are healthy these days, and I never had a problem with most beans, if properly soaked.)     I do keep lots of packs of frozen spinach, turnip greens, and broccoli around; and winter squashes, potatoes and onions have a good lifespan if properly stored.  I still have one last autumn squash sitting here.

It’s the nice fresh green produce you don’t want turning into mush in the freezer, or brown and limp in the fridge.   It’s the “ethnic” rarities.  That’s what I’m actually missing shopping for once or twice during the week.  (Well, and quality seafood.)

But, there’s a solution or two, and I’ve planned on it.

gardening, vegetables, seeds

Two types of onion, radishes, black beans, okra, tomatoes. I tried growing okra in Connecticut – I got ONE okra. Not plant, one okra POD. More sun here.

From Baker Creek, I ordered a batch of seeds.  And gathered a few other packets from other sources.  Some I know I can grow easily here, a few are off-chances I will be hopeful for.  After all, now I have the sun I lacked back in CT, and the space.  I just need to make the raised beds (difficult with some of our current snowfalls – I am writing this on March 8th, and yesterday we got something like 18 inches of white powdery…).  And, editing on March 16th, noting we just got another oversized dollop, and may get more next week… Next year, I hope to get an interior herb/microgreen setup going, for those winter months.  I also need to plan out my greenhouse.  Plus I now have a root cellar.  So many of these vegetables can last even longer stored at the proper temperature.

My Russian kale did wonderfully last year, and the strawberries were prolific.  I transplanted the strawberries to their permanent locale, and I will add more this year.  Strawberries are one of the few fruits (along with tomatoes) I like when dried.  I put in garlic in the fall as well.

gardening, herbs, perilla, shiso

Herbs and perilla (shiso). I will also do a few varieties of basil from seedlings, as I’ve historically had better luck with them that way. I also threw in watercress, which may or may not work here. It likes swampy areas, but it is a bit boggy by the wild blueberries.

I plan to place at least three raised beds this year, so I can do crop rotation.  Herbs will simply go by the side of the house; I can go out and harvest them any time.  The three raised beds will (this first year) house nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes) and sweet potatoes; the second will have Brassica plants, and the third will hold everything else.  I’ll add in two more raised beds in future years.  One of the beds will share a place with perennial veggies which of course can’t get rotated — eventually it will become permanently perennial.

Last year I obtained four citrus trees (Australian finger lime, kefir/Thai lime, regular supermarket lime, blood orange).  They, along with a fig and an olive (which isn’t doing so well) are overwintering in the house.  Four apple saplings were planted out doors, one showed signs of death in the fall, but hopefully the other three will pull through the winter.  For this year, I ordered two more apples, a grapefruit, a lemon and a persimmon.  And some more figs.  They’ll arrive the end of April.  (I hope it thaws out there by then!)

There are also native high bush blueberries in the back forty.  As soon as I can get to them, they will require pruning. Those berries are tiny, but they still taste good.

I saved seeds from two of last years’ delicata squash – they’ll be direct-sowed.

And some things I’m planting are just for pretty.  Calla lilies and cannas for instance.  A good friend is bringing up some of his hybrid cannas to join the ones I already have this May.

gardening, calla lily

Every year I add to my calla lily bulb collection with another pack of 3 to 6. The bulbs overwinter indoors. I love both the flowers and the speckles on many of the leaves.

There will be chickens here, too.  More about those guys next time I post.


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Vegetarian Pizza-Like Cheese Melts with Indian or Mexican Influences

Inspired by both Indian and by Mexican thin flatbreads.

recipe, soft corn tortilla, mexican, cheese, pizza, mushroom, spinach, olive, artichoke

A white corn tortilla base for melted cheese and various veggies.

Okay, these lack tomato (though the recipe can be adapted easily, and although one of my favorite pizza slices at the pizzeria in Litchfield CT is a cheese/shrimp/broccoli one), no tomatoes on that, either.

recipe, methi paratha, indian, cheese, pizza, mushroom, spinach, olive, artichoke

A methi (fenugreek) paratha base for melty cheese and various veggies.

I made two types based on what I had to hand… one of these unfortunately does contain gluten but the other does not.  I came up with this concept when I went freezer diving for some good bakery bread that I thought was in there (but must have been eaten already) when I was in the mood for a good open faced melted cheese sandwich.  I found, instead, “methi paratha”, an Indian flat bread of about the same consistency as soft shell taco bread.  It worked.  Methi is Hindi for fenugreek, an earthy seasoning I’ve truly grown to love.  Additional spices in the bread are ginger, chili (yes, it has a little kick, but not overwhelming), and turmeric.  I’ll note that the original paratha was far past its “best by” date, but I bought another pack this past month down at my favorite Indian grocery in Danbury, CT, for the current photo shoot.  Fresh is decidedly better!  Methi flavor came through on both, but on the newer paratha, all the other seasonings came in fully happy and proud.

recipe, methi paratha

Took this photo from the first batch of this recipe I made. Note the old use by date. Today’s recipe was made with methi paratha which is best used by this month of March, ’18. There are a LOT more positive flavor nuances this time around!

The methi paratha does contain wheat (ie, gluten), so I decided to make a soft corn tortilla melt as well, for the gluten-free.  I chose white, as I find the heavy corn taste of the yellow ones a little too much for some (not all) purposes.

recipe, soft corn tortilla, mexican, indian, paratha, cheese, pizza, mushroom, spinach, olive, artichoke

First layer and the mise en place plate. From noon around the clock: cheddar (not enough, actually), mushrooms (a little too much, but great to gnosh on), artichoke heart, spinach, mozzarella, olives.

Consider my prep of this dish to be Italian/Indian/Mexican…  Fusion/confusion??? The one thing I regret was forgetting to buy scallions/green onions for the photos/write up meal (which worked great when I first tried my hand making this!)   I’ve not yet tried adding meat or seafood to this dish, but that’s an option should you wish.  I don’t find it necessary, and I am trying to avoid tasty but over processed stuff like pepperoni.  Seriously, add anything you like, these are just ideas that worked for me.

You can slice your cheeses up, or shred them.  I would not buy pre-shredded… marketers add what is essentially sawdust to them to keep them from clumping.  Plus, they cost more for the privilege of adding stuff indigestible for humans in the cheese.  No.  Just, no.

recipe, soft corn tortilla, mexican, indian, paratha, cheese, pizza, mushroom, spinach, olive, artichoke

A mushroom layer.

Because I was going for a semi-pizza ambiance, I added oregano to both choices.  One could very well add garlic, finely minced, to help add to that ambiance.  Or perhaps just garlic powder?  I put cilantro on the methi paratha selection, but one can also as easily add it to the corn soft tortilla selection.

recipe, soft corn tortilla, mexican, indian, paratha, cheese, pizza, mushroom, spinach, olive, artichoke

A spinach layer over the mushrooms. I could see watercress, or other savory leafy greens.  Over this would be the cheeses, and the spices, and then moist items like olives and artichoke hearts.  Oh, and those scallion slices I forgot to buy….

Please have fun with this!  Again, this recipe only covers what I did today, and I did do some testing with other ingredients earlier (most notably those scallions!)

Prep Time:  Will vary but mine maybe took 15 minutes.
Cook Time:  9-11 minutes depending on how thick you slice cheese.  
Rest Time: Not necessary.
Serves:  I found that I need 3 corn tortillas or two parathas of the size shown here.  One of each when I made this today.  
Leftovers: Um, not really.  Plan to eat what you make.  

Vegetarian Pizza-Like Cheese Melts with Indian or Mexican Influences

NOTE:  Play with this.  These are guidelines that have created food I’ve enjoyed.  There is no one right way.  Indeed, what is in your fridge right now?  

  • 3 small white-corn soft tortillas per person.  OR 2 Indian parathas per person.  OR combine as you wish.  Methi (fenugreek) paratha is optional, and may not be easily found.
  • 3-4 white button mushrooms, sliced thin.
  • a good handful of fresh spinach, watercress, or perhaps even nasturtium leaves (summer).  A good flavor kick is good here.
  • 1 or so ounces of mozzarella.  Slice or shred it yourself.
  • Around 3 ounces or maybe a little more of sharp cheddar cheese.  Slice or shred it yourself.
  • For the corn tortillas:  sprinkle on ground ancho pepper, or if adventurous, chipotle pepper.
  • For the paratha:  sprinkle on cumin.  If the paratha you’ve been able to find is without seasoning, consider dried methi/fenugreek leaf, perhaps some chili.
  • To all:  ground pepper, to taste.
  • To all:  garlic powder, to taste.
  • To all: dried oregano, to taste.
  • 1-2 green onions, diced.  I dice the white parts thin, and let the green parts go out to perhaps a half an inch.
  • Pitted olives, 3, sliced to 1/8 inch.  (I check out the variety at my supermarket olive display case.)
  • 1 or two pickled artichoke hearts, chopped coarsely.
  • Fresh cilantro (coriander leaf) for garnish.  I did forget to add it to the Mexican tortilla, but it works everywhere.

Lay out your paratha or your tortillas in your baking pan, and preheat the oven to 350 F / 177 C.

Add on mushrooms and any or all leafy greens.

Scatter the cheese around.  Home-shredded is probably the best way to go, but I didn’t this occasion.  In my case, since I am not crazy about pizza “bones”, I put the cheese out to the edge.  I try to carpet bomb this dish with cheese, your mileage may differ.  Cook accordingly.

Add the spices and seasonings.  I used Mexican spices on the corn tortilla, and Indian spices on the paratha.  If the paratha is unseasoned, add additional seasonings, including perhaps that methi!   Dried leaf methi is really good.  Ground pepper, garlic and oregano ended up on all.  There is no need to add salt… cheese typically has salt.

Slice up everything else and add it around (except the cilantro/coriander leaf).

Bake for 9-12 minutes, depending on how thick your cheese is.  I’d investigate at the 9 minute mark and go from there.

Serve, adding any cilantro as you or your guests desire.

Oh, PS… modify this to your heart’s content, but I do recommend you prep up everything before you start cooking.  Personally, while I like the “Mexican” version, I adore the “Indian” version.

This recipe is linked up at Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Abbey @ Three Cats and a Girl and Antonia @ Zoale.com






Posted in Cooking, Mushrooms, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Vegetarian Ethiopian Black-Eyed Pea Stew

I adapted a dish originally made by the chef Marcus Samuelsson, for Black History Month.  (I don’t know if this is a thing elsewhere in the world besides the US.)

My changes (in addition to downsizing a bit as 8-10 servings for one person would be overkill) were using a serrano pepper instead of habanaro (it’s what the supermarket had), and using veggie broth instead of chicken stock, because I wanted to go vegetarian with this dish, but chicken should also be good.  My hand slipped in decanting the coconut milk, and so there’s a bit more, but I decided what th’ hey.  (It is supposed to be the same amount of coconut milk as the broth.)  The recipe doesn’t call for pre-soaking the beans (black-eyed peas are actually technically beans) but I’ve been too indoctrinated, I guess, by Nourishing Traditions to do otherwise.   Pre-soaking may also reduce flatulence if you are prone.  The recipe’s simmering/draining step may well take care of both problems.

recipe, Ethiopian, black eyed peas, vegetarian, coconut milk

My lunch today. Enjoyable!

You will find the original recipe at:  Food and Wine

I ordered berbere seasoning online from Amazon; I’ll experiment with making my own another day.  Berbere is a peppery Ethiopian spice mixture containing paprika, cumin, onion, coriander, peppers, and other spices.

recipe, Ethiopian, black eyed peas, vegetarian, coconut milk

Cooking at an early stage of ingredients.

Prep Time:  Overnight soaking, with the rest of the prep taking while the peas simmer in the first stage.
Cook time:  35+2+5+20+10 = 72 minutes.  Approx 1.25 hours.
Rest Time: Eh.
Serves:  4-6.
Leftovers:  Yes.  The stew will thicken up when refrigerated.

Vegetarian Ethiopian Black-Eyed Pea Stew


  • 8 ounces black-eyed peas
  • Sea salt, a pinch.
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or ghee, or if vegan or not doing dairy, cooking oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 1/4 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced             
  • 1 serrano chile, seeded and diced  (you can sub in a small habanero – preferred, jalapeno, or other)
  • 1.5 teaspoons berbere seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped  (try to find flavorful ones, it is hard in the winter.)
  • 1 cup coconut milk  (I use canned Thai coconut milk; it is thicker and usually has less additives than many of the coconut milks intended for drinking, especially if you buy it in BPA-free cans – not sure what the original recipe intended.) 
  • 0.75 cup veggie broth (chicken would be fine for omnivores)        
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, stems and all – optional if you’ve forgotten to buy it, or can’t tolerate it
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced


Soak the black-eyed peas overnight and rinse.  This will largely remove anti-nutrients from the beans.  They will expand!

In a large pot, add the peas and add water to cover.  Bring to a boil on your cooktop, and reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer until soft or tender.  About 35 minutes.  (They will cook further later).

Add a pinch of salt, mix, and let stand 5 minutes before draining thoroughly.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter or ghee (if vegan, use a high heat oil; I’d recommend avocado). Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chile and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, which will be about 10 minutes.

Add the berbere and turmeric.  Stir for about 2 minutes, until you can appreciate fragrance.

Add those tomatoes and stir for about 5 minutes.

Add the liquids (coconut milk and stock), and boil.  Drop this back down to a mild simmer, and stir periodically.  You want to thicken the sauce some.  This will take approximately 20 minutes.

Add the peas to the sauce (or vice versa), and cook at medium low, stirring occasionally.  Do this for about 10 minutes, so that all the food is hot, and the peas are well-coated with their sauce.

If you know you and guests will likely eat the whole dish in one sitting, add the scallions and cilantro now.  If you are rather certain of leftovers, plate out the stew into bowls, and then add the scallions and cilantro to each individual bowl on top as served.  (Actually, I think it would look better this way to begin with.)

recipe, Ethiopian, black eyed peas, vegetarian, coconut milk

Beginning to simmer everything down prior to the addition of those peas.

VERDICT:  I liked this a lot.  One can add more heat to the dish, but the heat that is there will grow.   There is plenty of flavor nuance.  Definitely a keeper.

recipe, Ethiopian, black eyed peas, vegetarian, coconut milk, gluten free

Peas are in the pot.

A note about Marcus Samuelsson:  I just finished reading his autobiography, Yes Chef, and loved it.  He was born in Ethiopia, but he was adopted along with his sister to a Swedish family after his mother died of tuberculosis.   He dreamed of becoming a soccer player, but he was not large enough physically, so opted instead to delve into his love of food and become a chef.  He was professionally trained in fine French cooking, and brought a Swedish attitude to his cooking.  Later, when he was asked about recipes from his native Africa, he realized he needed to up his game, and start investigating African foods.  This dish is one of the results.

Samuelsson has at least one cookbook on African recipes, which I plan to order.  The Soul of a New Cuisine:  A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa.  He’s also written up a cookbook of Swedish fine dining (with French influences).  He also owns a restaurant in Harlem, New York City, that I’d love to get the opportunity to go visit.

recipe, Ethiopian, black eyed peas, vegetarian, coconut milk, gluten free

Definitely worth the creating!

This recipe is happy to be over at Fiesta Friday, where this week’s co-hosts are Antonia @ Zoale.com, and myself.  

Posted in Cooking, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Pyogo Jeon, Korean Stuffed Mushrooms, Lunar New Year

I started hunting around for a good Lunar New Year recipe from any appropriate Asian culture that celebrates this time of year.  I stopped dead in my tracks with this potentially gluten-free Korean recipe that incorporates… mushrooms!  And, you can pick the protein or proteins of your choice. Hence, adaptable to vegetarians, as desired.  

February 16th, Happy Lunar New Year!!  Welcome to the Year of the Dog.

Pyogo Jeon, Pyogo beoseot jeon, recipe, Korean, mushrooms, banchan

Korean stuffed mushroom morsels for the Asian Lunar New Year.

This was a highly-enjoyable banchan (although I’ll admit I made more of a lunch meal from it than would be typical.  Leftovers looked a bit wrinkly, but the taste was the same.

Pyogo Jeon, Pyogo beoseot jeon, recipe, Korean, mushrooms, banchan

Korean stuffed mushroom caps. Awesome Yum! (Dipping sauce with a strong bit o’ lemon to the right.)

This is more intended as an appetizer (or a small side, i.e. a banchan, as it might be termed in Korea) than a main, but I was sold.  I found two different recipes, and decided to combine the best of both (at least in my opinion).  Shiitake mushrooms (beoseot) are typically used in the recipe, and while I did eventually score shiitakes in my new home, the search wasn’t quick or easy.  So… I made this recipe with both shiitake and with baby bella mushrooms.

The proper name for the recipe, if you do use shiitake mushrooms, is Pyogo Beoseot Jeon, with Jeon roughly standing in for “pancake”, though this is relatively obviously not the best translation.

Pyogo Jeon, Pyogo beoseot jeon, recipe, Korean, mushrooms, banchan

Scored mushroom caps, (scoring these is optional), getting ready for the stuffing, which is about to be mixed.

I adapted from two recipes, one of which was a non-spicy rendition, and the other which sounds extremely spicy.   The level of desired heat will vary from cook to cook (and their intended audience/victims…); I add some to create a mild-moderate heat, and of course more is possible.

I’ll present the recipe in two parts:  a dipping sauce, and the Pyogo Jeon itself.

Pyogo Jeon, Pyogo beoseot jeon, recipe, Korean, mushrooms, banchan

They’re ready for the skillet, here.

Prep Time:  5 minutes.
Cook TIme:  None.
Rest Time:  It can hang out until the Pyogo Jeon is prepared.

Dipping Sauce for Pyogo Jeon

  • 2 tablespoons tamari/soy sauce (low sodium, gluten free)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 green onion/scallion, diced finely

Combine all.  Set aside until ready.

The oil will separate out from the rest, but when you are dipping, both layers will be part of the enjoyment.

Pyogo Jeon, Pyogo beoseot jeon, recipe, Korean, mushrooms, banchan

We’re cookin’ with gas. Ahem, with induction.. The aroma was great.

Prep Time:  45 minutes
Cook TIme:  7 minutes per batch of shiitake, 12 for button-style mushrooms
Rest Time:  5 minutes, so as not to burn oneself.
Serves:  Plan on 3-4 mushrooms per person if served as a banchan
Leftovers?:  Store in fridge, re-heat in 350 F / 175 C oven for 5-6 minutes.  Alas, they look rather like leftovers at this point.

Korean Pyogo Jeon (or Pyogo Beoseot Jeon)

  • about 20 fresh mushroom caps.  If shiitake, remove the stem.  Pick shiitakes which have lips, to hold stuffing.  If baby bella, crimini or white button, remove the stem and chop it up to use in this dish.  
  • 8 ounces/220 grams quality ground beef.  
  • 2 ounces/60 grams firm or extra firm tofu.  (NOTE:  you can change the protein sources around to your preference; various shellfish may also be an option.)
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced green onion/scallion – this worked out for me to be two green onions/scallions, so go with that.
  • 3/4 teaspoon hot Korean chili powder.  (Go less to experiment, go more if you want… carefully!)
  • 1.25 teaspoons of large granules of sea salt.  Cut back if you are using a finely granulated salt!  
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon ground black pepper.  
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons tamari/soy sauce (low sodium, gluten free preferred)

Score the caps of the mushrooms with an X or a cross, and save any bits of the mushroom you’ve removed for this purpose.  You will need a very sharp knife on the shiitake mushrooms, the baby bellas were much more forgiving.

Break up the ground beef and the tofu.

Combine all the above ingredients (not any shiitake stems… reserve those for a future mushroom stock, as they are great when dried for such a purpose…)  I found that using my hands was most effective.

  • 2 whole eggs, beaten
  • flour (I used rice flour, it is gluten-free), approximately 1/4 cup, but you won’t need that much.

Set up your stuffing station:  roll the mushroom cap in the flour, add the stuffing into the cap just to the level of the cap, dip the stuffed mushroom with the stuffing end into the flour, then dip that stuffing end into the beaten egg.

Do this to all the mushroom caps until done.

In a skillet, coat with a good quality high temp cooking oil (I used avocado oil).

Heat at medium / medium-high.

Add mushrooms, face down, stuffing to the heat.

Pan fry shiitake mushrooms 3-4 minutes on this side; the deeper button-style mushrooms should go 6-7 minutes depending on size.

Flip.  Shiitake mushrooms need about 3 more minutes, and the button-styles about five more minutes.

Plate with the tops of the caps facing up.

Serve at least warm.  Bring out that dipping sauce (room temp or from the fridge).

And, have a Happy Lunar New Year, and enjoy watching the Olympics!!!!  (Seriously, I’d forgotten about the Olympics, which are hosted in South Korea this winter, when I came across this recipe.  A factor, perhaps, of not being connected into television in my new home yet?)  

If you wish to learn more about how they determine Lunar New Year (it always falls on a new moon), check this out:  Chinese New Year.

Resources for my variant on this recipe:

Pyogo Jeon: Korean stuffed shiitake mushrooms (Follow the River North) 

Stuffed shiitake mushrooms (My Korean Kitchen)

For vegan or vegetarian:  Do all tofu (I’d marinate it for a few hours before making this, to provide the tofu with more flavor).

(Extra stuffing?  I made small slider-sized patties…)

Come visit Fiesta Friday, where your cohosts this week are Lily @ Little Sweet Baker and Alisa @ Livin’ Well





Posted in Appetizers, Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Meats, Mushrooms | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Mardi Gras Creole: Mussels, Andouille, Okra, Rice

For Mardi Gras (February 13, 2018).   

recipe, creole, mardi gras, gluten-free, okra, andoulle, mussels

On a bed of rice: Creole cooking, with Andouille sausage, mussels, onions, peppers, okra, celery, and paprika, in a tomato and wine sauce.

So many seasonal times up-and-coming!  And my computer being on the fritz hasn’t helped much… yesterday’s Valentine’s salad was supposed to be posted this past Tuesday, and today’s Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) post was supposed to have shrimp in it.  I’m dealing with just having moved (fairly much) as well as limited mobility (surgery on my knee to remove a tumor last December).  I am grateful that I’ve discovered how WordPress can let you pre-set dates before uploading posts automatically — the three posts prior to the Valentine’s Day salad post were happily at least nearly ready to go!

But I can’t find healthy-for-the-environment shrimp yet up this way in my new digs.  Nor is the factory-farmed over in Indochina shrimp healthy for those people raising it up.  (The shrimp I used in the Valentine’s Day salad was previously frozen by me last November).

recipe, creole, mardi gras, gluten-free, okra, andoulle, mussels

Zydeco CD I bought on my first visit to New Orleans, early 1990’s.  This was my playlist for cooking today’s meal.  I have a New Orleans blues/Dixieland jazz CD somewhere, but I believe it is still at my old home, as is most my music.

Mussels, however, are also quite tasty, and feel free to use either or both items.  I’m able to find mussels farmed in New England (or eastern Canada) around here, and this is satisfactory.  If you have crawfish available, add those as well.  While I do pre-cook and shell mussels and/or shrimp for the following dish, such is not practical for crawfish.  It will be messier to eat!

recipe, creole, mardi gras, gluten-free, okra, andoulle, mussels

This chicken Andouille was surprisingly and pleasantly spicy.

recipe, creole, mardi gras, gluten-free, okra, andoulle, mussels

A portion of the mis-en-place. The onions were already simmering. Mushrooms and okra were in process.

For those who are Paleo, sub in cauliflower rice for the regular rice.  This recipe is gluten-free.

recipe, creole, okra, mussels, andouille, mardi gras

Okra thawing… I’ve removed the top caps and sliced them longitudinally. No problem even when frozen.

BTW, this year is New Orleans’ 300th birthday!

Prep Time:  25 minutes
Cook Time:  up to 2 hours
Rest Time: None 
Serves:  4 

Mardi Gras Creole? Mussels, Andouille, Okra, Rice

  • 1 bag of mussels.  Around here this is about 3-5 pounds.  (Without shells, the weight was 7.5 ounces (200 grams).)  
  • 6 ounces (175 grams) Andouille sausage, pork or chicken.  Mine was pre-cooked chicken Andouille sausage, but your availability may vary, and may be better…
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced.
  • Cooking oil for the onions – I use avocado oil.  You can use butter, for the French influence.
  • 16 ounces (450 grams) marinara-style tomato sauce.  Either home-made, or choose a jar with the least amount of unwanted ingredients, and with no added sugars.
  • 3 regular stalks celery, coarsely chopped.
  • 6 ounces (175  grams) okra, see preparation below.
  • 1 bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped coarsely.  Any color you choose.
  • 4 ounces sliced button mushrooms.
  • 2/3rd cup wine (white or red, preferably dry), with extra reserved if needed.  Alternatively, use water.  
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic.
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (depending on taste).
  • Hot sauce (I used Chohula).  Add gradually, perhaps in 1/4 teaspoon increments, until you get the heat where you want it.  Taste!!
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cooked rice – I used Basmati and cooked it according to directions in a rice cooker. While not authentic, it was to hand, and I really like Basmati.   (1 cup rice + 1.5 cups water).  A rice cooker will keep the rice warm and ready if it is done before your Creole dish – the rice (Basmati, anyway) will take 30 or so minutes to cook.  Again, cauliflower rice is great, too.

Bring a pot of water to boil, sufficient to hold the mussels.  Add the mussels.  When the water comes back to a boil, watch them carefully.   The mussels will open up and soon the water will begin to foam and rise.  Remove from the cooktop, and drain.

Remove the mussels from the shells, discarding any that don’t open.   Remove any “beard” (basically a seaweed growth that sometimes hangs on to shells, and may attach to the meat inside).  Reserve the mussels (up to a day before preparing the actual dish, in the fridge).

Chop up everything that needs to be chopped up.

For the andouille: if you buy andouille sausage that has not been pre-cooked, pan fry it in advance.  Slice it or crumble it (whichever is appropriate), and cook it in a skillet with a touch of oil until it is hot all the way through.  You will be cooking it further in subsequent steps.

For the okra:  I used frozen okra.  You can use fresh or frozen, but at this time of the year it may be easier to find frozen, especially up here in New England.   Cut off the tops, and then slice them longitudinally from top to bottom.  You only need to remove the bottom tips if they’ve turned brown.

In the pot you plan to add everything into (well, other than the rice):  add a little cooking oil, then the onions.  Turn the cooktop heat to medium and sauté the onions until they are at least translucent, and a little bit brown, about 25 minutes.

Add in the marinara sauce.  Allow to simmer, lowering the heat as needed.  Add the sausage, okra, celery, mushrooms, wine (water).  Simmer another ten minutes.  Add the garlic and paprika, salt and ground pepper.  You can add the peppers now – I like mine more au dente than most folks, so I wait longer, but you don’t need to!  Add the garlic, salt and pepper.  Mix as you need.

Make sure the liquid remains as a thick stew; if you need to, add more wine or water, maybe an eighth of a cup.  Stir periodically, and let the flavors meld.  The full simmering time since adding the tomato marinara sauce should end up being about an hour; about 15-20 minutes before ending, add the peppers (if you haven’t already).  Add in, and adjust, the hot sauce to taste.  Lower the range temperature as you see fit… no frivolous boilings or anything, just a slow steady heat with an occasional bubble.

About 3 minutes before the dish is ready, add the mussels, and mix them in.  They are basically already cooked, and you don’t want to overcook them; but you do want them heated all the way through.

Serve out some rice in a bowl, and add a portion of the food from the saucepan to each bowl.  Sit back and enjoy.

recipe, creole, mardi gras, gluten-free, okra, andoulle, mussels

Enjoying at my Happy Place!

Interestingly, one can easily sex mussels.  We have one of each gender – you can tell them apart by color.  But they taste exactly the same.

recipe, creole, mussels, andouille, mardi gras, okra, gluten-free

A boy and a girl? Or is it a girl and a boy??

Next question.

What’s the difference between Cajun and Creole food?  Apparently, the major difference is the role of the tomato, at least when it comes to ingredients.  It is a little more complex than this, however.  Creole can be called “city food”, whereas Cajun is sometimes called “country food”.  And it is more complex even than that:  For some clarification and edification check this fascinating link:  Louisiana Travel: Difference Between Cajun and Creole.  Both are fascinating and tasty cuisines informed by a strong variety of world cultures, as French, west African, and Acadian people met Native traditions, and created sometimes-uneasy foodways.

(Regards the mussel photo:  It is a boy and a girl…  Yeah, I did have to look it up!)

This recipe is being shared at Fiesta Friday, where your fabulous hosts are Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook, and Laurena @ Life Diet HealthParty On!









Posted in Cooking, Seafood, Soups & Stews, Southern Hospitality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Heart’s Salad for Valentine’s Day

Reluctantly, I squelched the notion of making a salad with chicken hearts for the occasion.  I mean, I’d be overjoyed to eat such a dish, but others, perhaps not so much…

Instead, here’s a great Valentine’s Day salad using shrimp (they’re red, or at least reddiish), radish (ditto), artichoke hearts and hearts of palm, on a bed of lettuce.  Feel free to sub in grape tomatoes for the radish – I didn’t have any grape tomatoes, and I was only just about able to get around some on my own when I made this recipe.  (Recovering from knee surgery.)

recipe, paleo, salad, shrimp, valentine, artichoke, palm

Hearts are a lovely moment!

And for those of you who will eat fish but not other forms of meat on Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent  (which falls on the same day as Valentine’s Day this year), this recipe may be for you to consider.

The recipe is Paleo.  Just vet out your salad dressing…

Why 18 shrimp:  This results in 9 per plate, and in numerology, 9 is considered the number of completion.  You can of course ignore this and use as many shrimp as you like.

recipe, paleo, salad, shrimp, valentine, artichoke, palm

Full salad (prior to dressing)

Prep Time:  15 minutes.
Cook Time: 5 minutes for getting the water to boil (if that), 1.5 minutes max for the shrimp.
Rest Time:  It’s a salad.  Just make sure the shrimp are chilled…
Serves:  2 on Valentine’s Day 🙂

Valentine’s Day Heart’s Salad

  • A bed of mixed greens for each plate
  • About 10 inches or so of hearts of palm, sliced into 1/4 – 1/2 inch disks.
  • 3 ounces of artichoke hearts
  • 4 radishes, cleaned and cut in slices.  OR, add to this, or replace with, about 10 grape tomatoes, cut in half.
  • 18 shrimp, cooked, peeled and de-veined.  Choose shrimp with a decided curl to them, if possible.  After cooking, allow to cool.  (You can cook them a day in advance, but just refrigerate.)
  • Salad dressing of your choice.  Either a homemade vinaigrette, or something with minimal “garbage” ingredients.  It is, after all, a special occasion! I chose Annie’s Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Lay out the bed of lettuce on each plate, and then add the other salad ingredients however you wish… although for a nice appeal, pair up the shrimp in each corner of your plate (of course, round plates are fine!) into the shape of hearts.  (Hence, the request to find the curliest shrimp and use those…)  This uses 8 of the 9 shrimp per serving, simply slice the last one lengthwise and put it towards the center of the plate.

Drizzle with salad dressing, and enjoy with your partner!  I found this to be of sufficient size to be great as a lunch, no other food item necessary, although a light bowl of soup would not be amiss.

For dinner?  Serve aside a main that is something both of you adore!  (And, seriously, do you really want to go out to eat on Valentine’s Day, one of the most stressful, restaurant-wise, dates of the year?  Save that for a date that restaurants don’t get overwhelmed.)

shrimp, salad, Paleo, recipe, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts

Have a Happy V-Day!

This recipe is being shared at Fiesta Friday, where your hosts are Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook, and Laurena @ Life Diet Health.  Enjoy!




Posted in Cooking, Salads, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lamb and Winter Squash in Yogurt Marinate

Seasonal, lamb, squash, yogurt, Mediterranean, recipe

Marinated lamb, squash

Out in the world of nature, here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the beginning of the season for lambing and kidding – something I may be doing in future years once I get goats and Shetland sheep established here.  (However, being in western Massachusetts, I want to have them lambing and kidding around just a tad later on in the season…).  If one wants to make dairy products, this is the time to start thinking about it, too.  (Personally, I don’t — the idea of milking day in and day out and day in again crosses over my busy-ness tolerance threshold to unacceptable…   I KNOW this about myself!  There are just too many other things living is for!)

Happy Groundhog Day! (He won’t see his shadow in these here parts!)

I used two lamb chops, one per serving, but one should multiply towards family members or guests as needed.

The inspiration for this dish is the season, so I am making use of both lamb and dairy (yogurt) for the anticipation of spring, as well as the last of the crop of squash, stored from last autumn.  If you don’t have delicata (it actually doesn’t overwinter quite as well as, say, acorn) use another winter squash variety, although spaghetti squash would probably make this an entirely different meal.

Lamb, squash, Delicata, recipe

I’m considering this recipe to have a bit of Mediterranean feel to it.  Since it includes that dairy, it is Primal rather than Paleo.  But it is a good healthy celebratory meal.

Lamb, recipe, marinate, yogurt, squash, Mediterranean


Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Marinate Time: 6 hours to overnight
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Rest Time: 5 minutes.
Serves: 2 as written.

Lamb Chops and Squash in Yogurt

  • 1 lamb chop per person.  As written use 2 chops.  (Shoulder is good, those pricey loin chops have too little meat on them, and should be treated differently when cooked anyway).  For marinating purposes, you can cut them in half.   Alternatively, lamb steak cut into several pieces will also work, about 4-5 ounces in total per person, about 10 ounces for two.  Cut out excess fat, but you can leave a little on.
  • 1/2 cup yogurt.  I buy either goat yogurt or Stonyfield yogurt, either whole milk or low fat (NOT fat-free).  I’m not crazy about Greek yogurt; your mileage may differ.
  • 1/4 large lemon,the juice.
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon
  • 1/4 teaspoon savory
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced.
  • 1 small delicata squash, ends removed and de-seeded. Chop into rings, cut further in half.
  • Fresh dill as garnish.  More ground nutmeg as garnish for the squash.

Take everything except the meat, squash, and garnishes and mix with a spoon into a marinate.  Coat the meat with the marinate — I find using my hands efficient, but you can continue with the spoon.

Marinate in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight.

Set the oven on broil.  Chop and de-seed the squash.  Add water to a small pan sufficient to cover the squash.  Bring water to a boil.  Lay the meat and marinate in a pan, one layer of lamb.

Broil the lamb and simmer the squash for 12 minutes simultaneously.

Plate (serves two), garnish as desired.

Recipe, lamb, yogurt, squash, Mediterranean

Happily marinating

Have a happy Groundhog Day, and let’s hope we all get it right the first time…  (strains of “I Got You, Babe”, in the air…)

This blog post is being shared at Fiesta Friday.  Co-hosts are Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Laurena @ Life Diet Health



Posted in Cooking, Meats | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments