Citrus and Fig Update – plus Protect Your Deck from Grill Ash

In the tropical, keep ’em winterized indoors department, I got a new grapefruit sapling, and three baby fig “trees” that are less than sapling in size.  I live in Zone 5b, so these definitely need at the very least, a greenhouse for winter.

citrus, grapefruit, growing

Grapefruit flowers and a couple little pollinators.

So, my citrus tree list is:

  • Australian Finger Lime:  Nothing seems to be fruiting on this one.  Last year it had many flowers, this year not so many.  I really want to eat more of this lovely fruit!  There are some new branches but things are happening slowly here.
  • Blood Orange:  Not much happening here.  Not much happened last year, either.  It’s green.  That’s good…
  • Grapefruit:  It came with a grapefruit trying to develop, but that dropped off.  On the positive side, it has LOADS of flowers!  The season is not too late (especially since these plants come indoors around mid-late October) for fruit to develop.
  • Thai / Kefir Lime:  Lots of flowers and lots of incipient fruit.  Never mind that it is the leaves that are the attraction, if this thing delivers on limes, I will find some use for them, bitter as they may be!

    growing, kefir lime, thai lime, citrus

    Thai (kefir) lime with lots of little fruit. The ones over to far left are ahead on development. Lots of new foliage growth, too.

  • Bearss Lime:  This is your general supermarket lime.  I have many flowers, and one developing fruit that is getting to a good size.  Limes will eventually go to yellow if allowed to ripen that far, so I think I’ll wait to judge it’s ripeness by seeing even just a tinge of yellow.  And, maybe some of the other flowers will develop fruits, too.
growing, bearss lime, citrus

Bearss lime tree, with lime and flower. Also, note the two lowest branches. I cut them off immediately after, these are from the rootstock the plant was grafted onto, and will suck energy from the parts of the plant you want. (Had to do that last year, too.)

As far as the figs go, my Chicago Hardy fig went dormant and dropped all its leaves last winter.  It’s a thing, I discovered, in researching this plant.  This spring it sent out two branches and put three leaves apiece on those branches… it looks gawky.  It told me that if I took a photo, it would disown me.  And like there will be a few more years before I can even anticipate fruit.  I will transplant it into a bigger pot come late autumn, when the leaves will drop again anyway.  PS, his name is Figgy Stardust (I am not in the habit of naming my plants, but in this case, I  just couldn’t resist…)

The two new figs are:

  • Celeste Fig: Still small.
  • Texas Everbearing Fig:  Also still small.

There was a third one, but it rapidly decided to move to the fig heaven in the sky.  They were part of a special deal.  The two survivors will get transplanted again this autumn, too.

Oh, that olive tree?  Didn’t make it through winter, even indoors.  May try one again in a few years.

At any rate, come the Zombie Apocalypse, I’m nowhere near ready to depend on my citrus crop for any necessary Vitamin C in my diet.

potted citrus, growing, citrus, zone 5

Back deck faces due south, which the citrus thrive on. From left to right: 2 little figs, Finger lime, blood orange, grapefruit. The other two citrus trees are down further on the deck. PS: this is Zone 5.

Final note for today:

My Weber grill is now set up.  And I made a way to deal with the charcoal chimney on the wooden deck.  It’s almost too pretty to use!

I’d been wondering how to handle my new grill on a brand new deck.  At my old home, the grill had been on the porch, and I set the charcoal chimney off the patio, on a flat 15″ x 15″ stone.  This wasn’t going to work here, as there’s a drop off.  (Lighter fluid instead?  P – U!  I don’t need to smell that stuff.)

homesteading, charcoal chimney, deck protection

Weber, ash mat, and charcoal chimney set-up

So, anyhow, a random find at Ocean State Job Lot (gotta love that store!) is a mat for under your charcoal grill to catch — ashes.  So they don’t turn your deck dingy.  This is fire-retardant but NOT fire proof, btw!!!  It was long enough for me to come up with a plan.

I hit Home Depot and collected some bricks and arranged them for cooking.  I didn’t want any of the 35 pound or heavier things, for ergonomic reasons – I can lift that, but I don’t want to have to do it as dead weight from floor level more than I need to.  So, I got the little bricks and topped that with a 17 pound pathway “stone”.

By the way, every home should have at least one fire extinguisher.  Right now I have two, one in the kitchen and one in the basement.  I will be picking up a third for the garage.  Learn how to use them (there are videos) before you need to use them.  (AND learn how to cut your losses and run if you have to.)

citrus, growing, Thai lime, Kefir lime

Again with the Thai lime.

And, another citrus photo…

FYI:  You can now follow me on Pinterest.  I now have several boards there, about food, poultry, house design and architecture, and homesteading.  Drop on in and explore!

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Avocado Sweet Potato Toast, Avocado Rice Cake Toast – Gluten-Free

Avocado toast has become a “thing”.

When at home, I seldom eat bread or toast, as I don’t need the simple carbs, but I do admit that toast makes a handy base for items such as melty cheese and so forth.  Including, I suppose, avocado, a fruit I truly enjoy in so many of its manifestations.

Avocado, breakfast, sweet potato, toast, gluten free, vegan, Paleo, Whole 30

Avocado / guacamole on roasted sweet potato slices.  Breakfast, August 1.

At any rate, without having to purchase bread to try out this new wonder, I decided to slice up and roast some sweet potatoes, and add avocado to it, and serve.  And then, while I was about it, but not so Paleo, I decided to do avocado rice cakes.

Consider the rice cake idea good for workday breakfasts, the sweet potato one for days off, since that one takes longer to prepare.

Note that I assume a whole avocado per serving; you can certainly adapt these two recipes to use half an avocado per serving, leaving the sweet potato or rice cake amounts as already stated.  (But seasonings in the first dish should be cut in half to reflect how it will season the avo portion of the dish).

A simple recipe, but I tried this on a lark.  These flavors turned out to work surprisingly well together,

Prep Time: 10 minutes.
Cook Time: 30-35 minutes.
Rest Time: Nope.
Serves: 1 person per two sweet potato slices.
Leftovers: Avo doesn’t hold its green very long.
Cuisine:  Weekend breakfast, California Dreaming…

Avocado Sweet Potato Toast (Vegan, Paleo, Whole 30)

  • 1 medium sweet potato about 5-6 inches (130 – 150 mm) long, bad spots removed (or peeled) and sliced about 1/4 inch (6 -7 mm) thick.
  • A drizzle or so of cooking oil.
  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil.
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • About 1/3 of a lime, juiced.
  • Sea salt and ground pepper to taste.

Preheat your oven to 450 F/ 230 C.

Rub all sides of the sweet potato slices with cooking oil, place in a pan, and cover with foil.  Roast for about 30 minutes.

Towards the end of the cooking time, peel and de-pit your avocado.  Mash the avo with the garlic powder, paprika, lime juice, salt and pepper.  Chunky or smooth, your choice.  Adjust taste to your own preference!

Remove the cooked sweet potatoes from the oven – they should be soft but not falling apart.  Drizzle just a touch of EVOO over the top sides, then spread the avocado mix over that.  Serve.

This was awesome.  I really didn’t expect that avocado and sweet potato would really work this well together.  Pays to experiment!  (Seriously, you don’t need to tell people about your failures in the kitchen,… but… I LOVE this dish!)  

AND, for the next one, a great quick breakfast, here is the avocado on  rice cakes.  In this case, we will cook the avocado on top of the toasting cakes.

gluten-free, avocado, breakfast, rice cakes, vegetarian, vegan option, toast

Here’s winkin’ at you! Breakfast, July 31. Yes, there was a little more avo, but I ate that while the cakes were toasting.  (I did not cook that portion.)

Prep Time:  5 minutes.
Cook Time:  5 minutes max.
Rest Time: No way.
Serves: 1.
Leftovers:  Not recommended and I certainly didn’t test.
Cuisine: Breakfast, Hip Modern.

Avocado Rice Cake Toast (Vegan or Vegetarian)

  • Two rice cakes, your favorite brand and flavor
  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • optional quail egg yolk or two.

Slice the avocado and put on each rice cake.  Reserve the extra avocado.  If you have the quail eggs, de-shell and separate out the yolk, which you can add atop the cake in between some avocado.

In your toaster oven, toast until the cakes start to turn golden brown, about 3-4 minutes.  Watch carefully as they go from golden to burnt fairly quickly.

Remove, plate, add the extra avocado to the plate.  Eat.  Just to note:  the quail egg yolk was partially softish, and partially very runny.  This is why I discard the white.  The yolk is much safer this way.

Avocado toast, rice cakes, gluten free, Lundberg

Lundberg rice cakes. I’m really partial to the tarmari seaweed one to the right, but I used the sesame tamari for the recipe here. Also good.

In any, or either case… enjoy!

Let’s go have a Fiesta at Fiesta Friday, hosted this week by Mara @ Put on Your Cake Pants and Hilda @ Along the Grapevine.  

And, we always want to know what’s for Breakfast at What’s For Dinner, Sunday Link Up 160.



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Kitchen Gadgets, Part I

I’ve run into useful gadgets for the kitchen over time.  I figure I’ll toss out about five of these items at a time into a post when I’m feeling like it, in no particular order (perhaps alphabetical, maybe or not), and in no particular level of usefulness.  Write… and Go.

  1. Measuring spoons, narrow for narrow containers. 
    Kitchen gadgets, kitchen tools

    To the right: Narrow spoon set for fitting into almost any jar or spice container you might have around. To the left: Dash, pinch, smidgeon… for fun, though I have used these.

    Ever run into the situation where you are getting a spice, but the jar is not wide enough to insert the measuring spoon?  Of course, you fluff it out into the waiting spoon, perhaps over the sink or perhaps over the target pot…. Suddenly, it’s all over the place, and too much is in that pot, or you’ve wasted a good bunch of it down the drain.  Enter narrow measuring spoons!    Purchased from Amazon.

    1. B:  extra.  This one is for giggles:  measuring spoons so you know just how much a Smidgen, a Pinch, or a Dash is.  Not that anyone has put these measurements in an official chart of weights and balances, mind you… but you can always pull these out in case anyone asks.  I believe I found these on Block Island (Rhode Island) a few years ago while on vacation.  Some people buy coffee mugs for souvenirs, but…
  2. Wine glass markers.
    kitchen gadgets, kitchen tools, wine glass

    Stemmed wine glass identifiers. You can get more brightly-colored ones, too. But I just liked the styles here.

    I started to go to gatherings where everyone was confusing their wine glass.  Yes, the Magic Marker on the paper or plastic cup works fine, but if one is drinking wine in the non-plastic crowd, here’s something for the next level of sophistication.  Just hook the things – they all differ from each other — around the stem of your wine or champagne glass.  You can find all styles, and quantities, and prices, on Amazon.    You don’t have to worry you’ve shared your drink with BackWash Barry any more.  Um, hopefully!  Of course, if you never drink beverages from stemmed glassware, this is not useful for you.  Both sets purchased from Amazon.

  3. Weigh pans/balances.  
    kitchen balance, kitchen weigh, kitchen

    My smaller weighing container.

    The electronic balance I bought to weigh my own body in the bathroom kept changing what it recorded for me, on a near-daily basis.  I mean, by 5 or more pounds either direction.  So, I moved back to the mechanical weigh balance, and when I bought some kitchen balances, I bought mechanical balances there as well.  YES, if you are working in a biological research lab as I used to do, the electronic ones are the way to go – but those you pay a hefty price for, for the precision and accuracy.  In the kitchen?  Feh.  Give me the mechanical spring loaded balances for home use, ANY day!  I have two,   One goes to 18 ounces/500 grams. The other goes to 7 pounds – and while precision is not exact, at least things aren’t wildly fluctuating day to day, and they are fine for cooking purposes.  And… no batteries required!  I picked both I have up from Bed, Bath & Beyond.
    My goal is to convince myself to go the more practical European route and measure ingredients by weight rather than volume – a hard habit to break the American recipe style, though.

  4. Lemon/Lime/Citrus Juicer.
    Recipe. lemon, lime, citrus

    Kitchen citrus squeezers. Left to right: Mom’s old glass citrus squeezer. Middle: plastic one that will catch seeds. Right: Very efficient for limes and lemons.

    I have my mother’s glass juicer, and it is good for juicing about any citrus fruit you have in mind, although it will be more efficient on certain sizes over others… but you can still juice grapefruit using it.  The downside is, you have to pick out seeds… yeah, First World Problems that never entered my mother’s mind (nor mine for many years after taking possession of this item).
    So, I picked up a cheap plastic citrus juicer that would let the juices flow into whatever bowl (yes you will need one for this!) is below it, and keep the seeds from falling in.  Not good for anything large like a grapefruit, but useful up to orange size.
    Watching an America’s Test Kitchen episode on YouTube one day, I discovered this next citrus juicer.  I ordered.  Again, you have to be over another container or bowl, but it’s pretty efficient in squeezing out Every Last Bit O Juice from a lemon or a lime.  None of that pesky seed worry, either.  It won’t handle orange-sized citrus, but there’s a model that will… but it didn’t get stellar reviews on Amazon, and I don’t really need oranges juiced enough that I would forego Mom’s old glass juicer.
    Oh, PS – Mom made us homemade squeezed orange juice when we were kids using that glass gadget.  This despite the fact she LOATHED orange juice:  when SHE was a kid my grandmother would add cod liver oil to orange juice every day and make her drink it.  The end result was that my mother couldn’t even stand the scent of oranges to her dying day — the fact that she made us kids home-made orange juice despite her loathing speaks to her desire to have us be eating/drinking healthy foods.  (No, she never did give us cod liver oil in any shape or form.)
    Sources:  Glass juicer:  from Mom, and probably a near-antique.  Second:  I seriously don’t recall the source, but it predated online shopping for me.  Third: Amazon.

  5. Mortar and Pestle.
    kitchen gadgets, kitchen tools, mortar and pestle

    My malachite green mortar and pestle. Possibly soapstone?

    Yes, you can plug in a min-grinder and grind spices, but sometimes if there is just a little you need… go ahead and use a mortar and pestle, as most grinders require a larger quantity to work efficiently.  Try to find one made from an inert substance… I have one made from wood, but that’s just for pretty since it is nicely carved on the outside.  There would be no way to remove the scents and tastes of anything savory ground by hand in that!  Soapstone is often used, but there are other ceramic and stone materials that your mortar and pestle can be made from, and still be able to be cleaned out efficiently after use.  Make sure it is deep enough to use… shallow ones will tend to have whatever you are trying to grind pop out and make more of a nuisance than they are worth.
    I really like my malachite-green one — I don’t think it is REALLY malachite, but it is stoneware, and it may well be soapstone.  I got it ages ago, so I don’t really know.  (PS, I also have a dedicated “coffee” grinder that I can plug in, but I only use this for savory spices and never coffee — it is nice to have a mortar and pestle back up, too.)  But at the least — have one or the other.
    Source for the manual grinding mortar & pestle:  I don’t recall.

More gadgets in a month or three…

Meanwhile, this post has joined the Homestead Blog Hop, where it should have a good time.  The wine charms aren’t essential, but the other items in this post I find useful on a day to day basis!  

And then, let’s go have a Fiesta at Fiesta Friday, hosted this week by Mara @ Put on Your Cake Pants and Hilda @ Along the Grapevine.  




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Beef Kidney Recipes (aka Got Kidneys?)

I was thawing out something from the freezer labeled Beef, but it didn’t say what cut of beef it was.  I figured it must be brisket, because it was about that shape and heft.  A very large brisket, but I could cook it up for multiple meals.

Nope.  Beef kidney.  Two of them, as a matter of fact.  From a grass fed local farmer back in Connecticut (whose business name, Blue Slope, was on the package).

Mind you, I’ve had and really like lamb kidney, but those puppies were small.  This particular mammalian filtration system is LARGE.

recipe, beef, kidney, steak and kidney pie, potato, breakfast, offal, dinner, mushroom

A steak and kidney pie, prior to placing the pastry crust over the top. One of four recipes here. (The other three are gluten-free.)

Since I’m not really certain how much my readership WANTS several posts on beef kidney recipes, I decided to combine them all into one big post of a few beef kidney recipes.  Feel free to move along… I’ll post something innocuous and less offal next week!

Yes, I could make the kidney into one big recipe and eat off it for several days, but I’m rather curious about different prep methods, so, why not explore that?

Kidney, and many other organ meats, are high in nutrients, vitamins and minerals, especially if you get your kidney from a responsible farmer.  After all, the kidney is a filtration unit, and I prefer to eat something that hasn’t been filtering out pesticides and other dreck.

One thing you will have to do is clean your kidney.  There’s this very thick, hard, white connective tissue that connects the various nobs of kidney to the rest of the kidney, and that has to go.  It is too tough and obnoxious to consider eating.  Use a SHARP paring knife.  Discard.  Even your dog won’t want this!  (Well, maybe he thinks he will…)  You may also sometimes find a membrane around the outer kidney itself… discard this, too. It pulls off very easily.

The Recipes:  (Color coded labels and photo text below)

A Paleo Potato Kidney Pie
Breakfast:  Kidney and Eggs
Kidney Stewed in Wine with Mushrooms and a Cream Sauce
Steak and Kidney Pie


For all the recipes, after you clean your kidney of that white hard stuff, rinse thoroughly until water runs clear, and then a bit more.  I did it by pouring it from a bowl using cold running water, and pouring it through a sieve, several times.

Just as a note, my kidneys came two in a pack.  One of mine weighed 850 grams before cleaning, 700 grams post cleaning.  I didn’t try to save every last speck of kidney, so in this case my loss was 150 grams.  Prep time for this stage (not included in the times below) is 5-10 minutes.  (My scale does read in both metric and the old British system, but it is much easier to read the metric.)

PS:  If you have gout, limit your servings of kidney (and of many other organ meats).

A Paleo Potato Kidney Pie

kidney, recipe, potato, paleo, pie, Whole 30

A serving of kidney potato pie


Prep Time: 15-20 minutes 
Cook Time:  1 hour
Rest Time:  5 minutes
Serves:  4

A Paleo Potato Kidney Pie

Source recipe: hvITajagfai.html

kidney, recipe, potato, paleo, pie, Whole 30

What’s left in the pan…

  • 500 grams / 1.1 pounds of beef kidney once cleaned up, see preparation method above.
  • 2  onions, chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, bad spots removed, and optionally peeled, cut into thin rounds.  I use, as nearly always, Yukon golds.
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning.  Save a little more for sprinkling over at the end.  
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1/2 cup / 120 mL of water (or broth).
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt is to taste, adjust at the end.

Pre-heat oven to 425 F / 218 C.

Take the beef kidney and clean out the white connective hard fatty stuff, discarding that part.  Chop up the remaining kidney.  (Reserve anything over the 500 grams for another recipe… yes, to follow…)

Rinse several times in water, draining through a sieve, until the water runs clear, and then once or twice more.

Line an oven-ready buttered, ghee-d,  or oiled pan with a layer of sliced potatoes.

Melt the butter or ghee in a large skillet, medium temperature.

Add the kidney, onions, salt, pepper and tomatoes and mix well.  If you have that elusive mint powder, add this at the same time.  (And report back to me!)

Add 1/2 cup of water and simmer on low heat for 30 to 35 minutes.

Line an oven proof dish that you’ve wiped down with melted butter or cooking oil, with a layer of the sliced potatoes.

Transfer the cooked kidneys and their skillet compatriots onto to this layer of potato slices, using a slotted spoon. Cover the top with the remaining potato slices.  Reserve the leftover liquid…

Using some more butter or ghee… add dabs of this around on top of the potato slices.

Add a dash more Italian seasonings and salt as you wish.  Optional!

Bake for 20 minutes or until the that visible potato layer goes golden brown.

Serve, and top with some of that leftover liquid.

Allegedly, this is the original kidney pie.  It turns out to be gluten-free, and Paleo besides, so I figured to make this. Use ghee instead of butter for that Whole 30 effect.  I don’t have mint powder, but if you do and you make this, do let me know how that turns out.

kidney, recipe, potato, paleo, pie, Whole 30



Breakfast:  Kidney and Eggs

Breakfast, beef kidney, kidney, onion, egg, omelet, recipe
The omelet is folded, with onion, broccolini, Gouda, and ground pepper inside. The kidney is chopped with onion, ground pepper, ancho chili pepper, and a little salt.
Breakfast, beef kidney, kidney, onion, egg, omelet, recipe

Kidney close-up.

Prep Time:  10 minutes.
Cook Time: 20, max.  
Rest Time: Not needed. 
Serves:  1

Breakfast:  Kidney and Eggs

Source:  I was thinking Steak and Eggs… why not Kidney and Eggs?

  • 100 grams / 0.45 pounds of beef kidney once cleaned up, see preparation method above.
  • 2 ounces / 57 grams of diced onion.  Add another ounce or 25 or so grams  if you plan to have onion in your omelet
  • 1/4 cup / 60 mL beef broth, low sodium.  
  • 2 eggs
  • Whatever else you want in your omelet:  I chose the aforementioned onion, some broccolini bits, chopped fine, and Gouda cheese, about half an ounce (not measured).
  • Avocado oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ancho chili pepper powder (or another mild/medium chili powder)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Chop up the kidney finely, aim for about 1/4 inch fragments.  This will cook faster for a breakfast.  I find a scissors works better than a knife for this.

Cook the onion in a little oil in the skillet until just beginning to brown around some edges, about 10 minutes or so.  Remove any that you plan to put inside your omelet and set aside.

Add the kidney to the skillet with the onion, along with the seasonings.  Add the broth.  Stir occasionally for ten more minutes.  Remove from the skillet (minus any liquid) and set aside.

Either clean that skillet or start a fresh one – with my broccolini, I pan fried that for about five minutes, then removed the veggie to the reserved onion ounce from earlier.

Cook your omelet as you normally do, adding your ingredients for the omelet as you normally would.  Add any seasoning — I only added ground pepper.

Fold the omelet over, and add the kidney/onion mixture to the other half of the skillet, to re-heat.

When the omelet is ready, plate all and serve.

This recipe is also Paleo and Whole 30 (if one omits the cheese).

Kidney Stewed in Wine with Mushrooms and Cream Sauce


Prep Time: 2 hours to soak, about 10 minutes actual activity, and another 5 or 10 at the end.
Cook Time:  30-40 minutes
Rest Time: Not required
Serves:  2 or 3.

Kidney Stewed in Wine with Mushrooms and a Cream Sauce

Source Recipe:  The Good Cook: Variety Meats (Time-Life Books, 1982).

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos.  I took a couple but they were worse photos than usual.  Well, let’s face it, kidneys aren’t exactly the most photogenic organs on the planet!

  • 1/2 pound / 225 grams prepared beef kidney (see top of post), in 1/2 inch chunks or slices.  Actually it weighed a bit more… 
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced button or crimini mushrooms (I used button)
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • 1/2 cup / 120 mL dry white wine
  • 1/3 cup / 80 mL beef stock or low sodium packaged broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup / 60 mL heavy cream

_Pre-heat the oven to 350 F / 177 C.

Melt butter in a skillet, and pan fry the kidney pieces for a minute or so, on medium high heat.

Add mushrooms, salt and pepper.

Pan fry briefly, add brandy, allow to cook another minute (you can flambé it here, but I omitted that part).

Add the wine.  Once it comes to a boil, add the stock/broth.

Pop everything into a small casserole dish, cover, and place in oven.

Bake 30-40 minutes.

When the kidneys are ready, gently boil the cream in a small pan, pouring off the the juice from the kidneys and add to the cream.    Stir to prevent scalding, cooking quickly over high heat until the sauce thickens.

At that point, pour this mixture back over the kidneys, and serve.   I chose to serve with roasted cauliflower.


Steak and Kidney Pie

recipe, beef kidney, kidney, steak and kidney pie

Steak and Kidney pie, with Puff Pastry atop. Could have removed from oven about three minutes sooner. This was 30 minutes in my oven.  Do check at 25.

Steak and Kidney Pie – contains gluten

Recipe Sources:  Yes, from YouTube.  I took notes from both, and did what I decided I needed to do.  But I really wanted something akin to a traditional British steak and kidney pie, and ended up sourcing more from the first of these videos (both videos are indeed from cooks who are British).  Interestingly, the two books I had that discussed offal as their primary focus – neither gave me a Steak and Kidney Pie recipe, which I would have thought could have been definitive!

If you want crust under as well as over your pie, buy two pastry puffs.  Trying to limit my wheat here, I opted just for the over-cover here.  It was more than fine this way!

Prep Time: 
Cook Time:
Rest Time:

  • 1.25 pounds / 5.67 grams stewing beef, in 1/2 inch (around 12.5 mm) chunks more or less.  (no bones.)  Or thereabouts in weight.
  • 2 tablespoons butter (3 if you are stuck with the packaged beef stock). Divided.
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard.
  • 200 grams / 0.44 pounds prepared kidney (see above), about 1/2 inch chunks.
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped.
  • 2 stalks celery, chunked.
  • 1 carrot, chunked.  (You can use more, or none, but this is what I had.)
  • 300 mL / 1.25 cups or so of ale.  (For veracity, find a British ale, or even a Guinness.  This would have meant a 40 minute drive for me, just one direction; so I opted for the 15 minute drive… and settled for a local ale.  Besides, I had no way of knowing until I made the journey if they had a British brew or not.  I had quite the adventure finding a Spanish riojo wine there once…)
  • 2.5 cups / 600 mL meat stock/bone broth.  In a pinch, buy low sodium beef stock.  If you do, use the 3 tablespoons of butter!  (This is what I had to do.)
  • 2 -3 teaspoons Worchestershire sauce.  
  • A little oil for the pie proper.  
  • Some flour for rolling the puff pastry.
  • 14 ounces / 397 grams puff pastry.  You won’t use all of it, but this is the size it appears to be sold in, hereabouts.  But you may well use most.  (EDIT:  I discovered that some brands are sold as two sheets, 17.3 ounces/490 grams total, but the one sheet from Dufour was fine.)
  • 1 beaten egg

Preheat your oven to 325 F / 163 C.

Use a LARGE skillet, one that is also oven-safe.  Sauté the onion in about a teaspoon of that butter for about 15 minutes in a skillet, until translucent.  Do not go to a browning stage.  Remove from the skillet.

Brown your stewing meat, in divided batches so everything browns effectively.  Turn occasionally so all sides are browned.

Add in the kidney, all of any stewing meat that you’d already browned and set aside, and the onion again.   Add the mustard powder, and the ale.  AND the beef stock/bone broth.  Toss in the Worcestershire sauce, too.  Bring the mixture up to a boil.

Cover the skillet and place in the 325 F oven for two or two and a half hours (or transfer to some oven-safe pan you can cook at that temperature…)

Remove from oven, and if the meat seems too watery, you can simmer it down further on your cooktop at medium heat, for say 20 minutes, uncovered.  Watch to verify.

Allow to cool, and put in fridge until the fat solidifies on the dish (say about 4 hours).  Or, overnight.

Remove most of the fat.  You can leave some for flavor.

Preheat oven to 450 F / 232 C.

Take your puff pastry (typically it is sold frozen, and you need to let it thaw for at least 30 minutes in the fridge, up to two hours) and roll it out, on a clean flat surface you’ve dusted with flour, using a rolling pin or whatever works as a substitute.  Using your fingers, pinch any “breaks” together and smooth them as much as possible  The flour keeps things from sticking to that smooth, flat surface.  Anyhow, your pastry will expand… roll it to your desired thickness.

Cut a circle in the pastry you’ve rolled out, around the dimensions of your pie pan… the upper part.

Put the meat and onion mixture into your large pie pan, and let rest for 30 minutes to approximate room temperature.

I forgot to do this, but oil or butter the exposed upper edge of your pie pan, so the pastry doesn’t burn and adhere to that area.

Using a LARGE spatula and careful finger action, lift the pastry circle up, and lay it gently over the contents of the pie pan.  If done correctly, it should layer over the entire top and have edges hanging out a little.  Remove any excess that extends beyond the pan, but anything on top of the pan’s edge is fine.

Crimp down, using either the tines of a fork or your fingers.  Hey, I’m a newbie at puff pastry, I used my fingers.

Bake for 25 minutes at 450 F / 232 C.    Check for a good browning but not blackening of the pastry.   Adjust cooking time if necessary.

recipe, steak and kidney pie, beef kidney

I don’t own a rolling pin. This is my very first time ever working with puff pastry, and I had no idea what to expect with it. I may be savory more than sweet, but this stuff is fun! Pinch and smooth the creases together so they don’t break in the oven.

recipe, steak and kidney pie, puff pastry, beef kidney

I didn’t really succeed in getting that one bit at about 2:45 clock-wise on the pic to meld together. It ended up not mattering. Cut a layer that will cover your pie, gently pick it up (a large spatula will help), and, well, cover your pie.

Scott Rea had fun using some of the extra puff pastry to cut cow shapes into his dough.  I dragged out Mom’s old Christmas decorations, couldn’t find the star, but decided to use the tree for the same purpose.  He placed his cut outs on the pie, and I did the same.  Mine are not visible in my photos… A bit of fun, for no real outcome.  Okay.

recipe, puff pastry, steak and kidney pie, kidney

My first serving. I admit: I cut myself a second as soon as that was downed. GOOD is not even the word.

Verdict:  Wonderful, considering I’d never ever worked with puff pastry before.  I don’t even think Mom did puff pastry, and she baked more than I ever considered to think about.   The Brits invented a great dish in this Steak and Kidney Pie!  The kidney and all the other ingredients play off each other very well.

I’m game to do this again!!


Thoughts on Beef (or Veal) Kidney:

There’s a texture reminiscent of liver here, but still different enough that I enjoy kidney far more than I appreciate liver.  (Yes, there’s a place for liver, too, but I have to work harder on the texture…)

It is a highly nutritious food source, especially if you consider your sources of meat.  And, since I am an omnivore, it is probably for the best that I consider eating more than just the “standard” cuts of animals.

beef, Kidney, recipe, steak and kidney pie, paleo potato kidney pie, kidney breakfast, Kidney and mushroom

These recipes are hanging out at Fiesta Friday, with this week’s co-hosts:
Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog and Deb @ Pantry Portfolio

And are also hanging out at What’s for Dinner, Sunday Link Up.






Posted in Breakfast, Cooking, Meats, Mushrooms, Offal | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Miso Soup, and (Tuesday Tour Day) South River Miso Company

A good miso soup, not essentially Japanese but it does owe a lot from that cultural cuisine, AND definitely tasty! 

South River Miso Company, miso soup, vegan, vegetarian, soup

I used the white miso from South River Miso Company. A couple dashes of sesame oil, and the ingredients mentioned in the recipe below.

Back mid-May, our Blue Zones study group took a field trip to the South River Miso Company, where the owners (on a drop-dead gorgeous site) produce around ten varieties of fermented miso, using old fashioned methods inspired by the traditional methods in Japan in making this east Asian staple.  It took me a while to post this as I got distracted by other things in life, and there are a LOT of photos here.


Vats in the warehouse holding various types of fermenting miso.

They ferment the miso for 3 weeks, 1 year, or three years in vats, depending on the type they wish to make.  Tamari is a by-product of this process., which South River Miso Company also sells.  (Gluten-free, as that is not part of this process.)

This is a small-scale operation, typically involving 15 people or less on premises.  (If you do want to take a tour, CALL to make arrangements — they’re not able to schedule you in at the drop of a hat.  It is a SMALL operation.)

Miso soup, vegan, vegetarian, recipe, mushroom, seaweed

An early shot once cooked, before I realized that, YEAH, I wanted sesame oil and red pepper flakes in there. Took just a few seconds to fix. Anyhow, shiitake slivers sink to the bottom in this broth — but they are there.

I’ll further discuss our tour after the recipe.

Miso:  paste made from fermented soybeans and barley or rice malt, used frequently in Japanese cooking.  As with the sample I bought, it may also be made with chickpeas instead of soybeans.  Typically, it is also salty, but you don’t use a lot at any get-go.  At least here, the longer it ferments, the more salty it gets, which is why I bought a one-year culture instead of a three-year one.  Koji cultures are typically used to bring on authentic fermentation.

For this recipe, use whatever quality or style of miso strikes your fancy.  Start at 1 tablespoon, but taste and add another if the soup seems to merit it.  Note also that some miso pastes are more full-bodied than others, so take this into account, as well.  To retain full nutritional value, do not boil your miso, but add it in at the end of the cooking, after you’ve turned off the heat.  Once the soup stops bubbling, add in the miso to your desired amount, tasting as appropriate.

For the dashi, should you use it, see this blog post, where I provide recipes for three different methods of making it (one of which is vegan).  I recommend dashi, but you can do this without it, and indeed, for this particular occasion, I decided to do without (I’m not sure where I put my kombu seaweed… moving does that!)  Hey, I also wanted to investigate flavors for the blog for those who just have miso and not the other arcane ingredients…  (Um, an excuse???)

For the seaweed, I like to use wakame flakes.  I’ll note not all wakame flakes are created equal, some are tough, depending on the brand.  An alternative is to use nori, obtained in the form of flattened sheets at most supermarkets.  (This is the stuff sushi rolls are rolled in, and is found in nearly all supermarkets these days.)  Using scissors, cut fine strips of about an inch or so in length, perhaps an eighth of an inch in width.  Experiment around.  Some seaweed is truly hard to love… I’m not at all fond of hijiki seaweed (fortunately not readily found), but I’ve loved most of the rest.  DO SEE A NOTE AFTER THIS RECIPE REGARDING POTENTIAL SEAWEED ISSUES.  

You can omit any of the veggies or tofu if you don’t have, although I like to have at the very least some seaweed and some scallions.

This is supposed to be a light soup, not a heavy winter soup.   It would seldom be served as a meal in itself, but I could see doing this for a stand-alone lunch if one has had a heavy brunch and it is a long way until dinner, especially if one includes more vegetables.

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: No.
Serves: 4-6.
Leftovers?:  Yes, re-heat in a stovetop pan until it reaches a very light simmer, but leave off green onions and cilantro leaves until re-serving.  Immediately remove and enjoy.

A Miso Soup with Veggies

  • 2 cups / 475 mL of water or dashi.  If you don’t have dashi, add an optional teaspoon of fish sauce (or soy sauce if you are vegetarian/vegan/just not doing fish) to the water.  See my dashi recipes, one of which is vegan…  For this recipe, I used water and fish sauce (Red Boat brand).   
  • 1 ounce / fresh shiitake mushrooms, weighed without stems.  Finely sliced.  OR use white button mushrooms, also finely sliced but you can leave the stems, 
  • 1 ounce mung bean sprouts.
  • 2 teaspoons, lightly packed, dried shredded wakame seaweed or 2 teaspoons shredded nori.  I find that wakame has more flavor, so if you can, go with this.  If you can get nori instead, this works well, too.  Some people will roast their nori.  Eh.
  • 1 Green onion/scallion, sliced very thin.
  • 2 tablespoons fermented miso paste.  The milder white miso paste works best for this recipe but feel free to experiment as your tastes may differ.  The chickpea miso contains no soy, but does contain rice and, well, chickpeas (which are also a legume).
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil.
  • A sprinkle of red pepper flakes, perhaps 1/8th teaspoon, as optional garnish.

Get everything prepped and chopped and ready to hand.

Bring the water or dashi broth to boiling, and reduce to a low boil.

Toss in the tofu, mushrooms, bok choy, and let simmer around 5 minutes.

Add in the mung bean sprouts, simmer another three minutes.  Add the wakame flakes.  (If your wakame is thicker, add that in when you add the mung bean sprouts.)

Remove from heat, and add in your miso,  and stir, about 30 seconds, and at least until the miso paste incorporates into the soup proper.  Taste, and adjust miso as needed.   (Don’t boil the soup once you’ve added the miso — and if you need to re-heat, bring it just to a simmer.)

One trick I saw on YouTube (don’t recall where) is that the cook put the miso paste in a sieve, and used chopsticks to mix it in the sieve while it was in the soup.   You aren’t sieving things out, just making it easy to dissolve the miso into the soup.

Add green onion/scallions, red pepper, a splash of sesame oil.

Ladle out and serve, adding cilantro as an optional garnish.


The Fukushima thing and seaweed and iodine:  I’m still working off of my stash of kombu and wakame seaweeds bought back in February or March of 2011, although I admit my nori is now much newer.  These both remain perfectly dry because I keep them sealed that way.  I don’t know what guided me to buy up as much as I did; at the time I thought it was because good seaweed seemed to be a barely-findable commodity in my neck of the woods, and so I went nutso in purchasing.

A positive benefit of seaweed is the high iodine concentrations therein, which helps make up for the fact I don’t cook with iodized salts (I use sea salt or Himalayan pink salt, which don’t have added iodine, an essential mineral nutrient welcomed by your thyroid).  BUT… radiation in the seas around Japan means that now one should source seaweed, especially considering iodine, from locales such as Iceland — Icelandic seaweed can duplicate the health and taste benefits once found in Japanese seaweed, and I believe some of the species of seaweed once entirely associated with Japan also now are grown there. (I now have Icelandic-grown Wakame, and I still have the remnants of my ancient stock of Kombu.)

Touring the South River Miso Company:

South River Miso Company, fermented miso

A Tribute to Miso

And, we step into the tour, although I don’t photograph every last stage:

South River Miso Company, soybeans

After the soybeans are shelled, roasted, and ground up, koji is added to kick start the fermentation process. The trays are put into a dark climate controlled room for a few days.

South river miso company

In boots wrapped for sanitation, an employee stomps the pre-fermented soy (reminiscent of grape-stomping) to break it down before it is put in the large buckets to the right.  (Whereupon it will be transported to those huge vats in the top photo to ferment and age.)

south river miso company

A sneak peak inside a fermentation vat…


south river miso company, koji

A welcome byproduct of the miso-making process: Tamari. This stuff is drawn off and is fermenting, too.  I did buy a small bottle of this.

The entire environs are beautiful, and the buildings are old with lots of positive charm.

south river miso company

The South River Miso Company has started up a rice paddy out back — no way will this be enough rice for their needs, but they’re interested in trying the growing of it.  I’d not been aware that rice would grow well in Massachusetts, but hey!

south river miso company, rice




south river miso company, miso, soybean
Two types of miso, recently made.

This post is happily touring Fiesta Friday, with this week’s co-hosts:
Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog and Deb @ Pantry Portfolio

It’s slurping down some good miso at What’s For Dinner? Sunday Link-Up, too.


Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Soups & Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Just Ducky, Part VI: Roasted Duck Legs, Cauliflower and Plum

Just got to love a duck.

Just got to love going back and looking at old drafts, and discovering posts that were completed but were never… posted.  This one is a few years old.  So, no summary above the recipe about timing or such.  And an older format for posting.  But if you enjoy duck… enjoy!

Roast Duck Legs and Cauliflower

Duck legs nestled on a bed of purple cauliflower

After trying with a kitchen knife to dismember this bird (neck removal for the future soup or stock — haven’t decided yet but am leaning towards soup…), and finally succeeding, I succumbed to kitchen tool lust, and bought myself kitchen shears.  I may be downsizing a lot of my belongings, but I’m not including the kitchen in on this.  Kitchen shears for poultry are SOOOOO worth it!  A good knife is fine for chicken, but duck seems to require the extra mile.

The neck, upper torso, wings and the heart are in the freezer awaiting said future soup or stock.  I used the shears to help me break off the lower part of the bird — and separate the two legs from that lower section of back that contains The Part That Went Over the Fence Last.  All three of these parts were used in the below recipe.  But they cook faster if separated.

I’m going to be diving into my Indian seasonings for this recipe, although I don’t think duck is really a part of Indian cuisine, at least naturally.  Fusion foods…   Gotta love ’em!

Cauliflower first:


THIS feller stayed purple. Unlike my kohlrabi from earlier that week.

Yep, I found a nice purple cauliflower.  For a change, the vibrantly-colored cauliflowers cost the same amount as the white, so I grabbed purple.  (I’ve seen orange and I’ve seen green.  I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain… oops….)

I’d normally roast veggies at 425 F, but 1) the duck is going to cook at a lower temp, and 2) it is already way way way too hot in here.  At 425, the cauliflower should take 40-45 minutes to roast.  It will take longer with the lower temp.

Cauliflower Portion:

1 cauliflower, de-stemmed, de-leafed, broken up.
1 tablespoon coconut oil (you can sub in extra virgin olive oil should you wish)
1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
optional rosemary sprigs (I wanted them, but discovered I was out.  Not worth a grocery run.  But I miss them.)
Salt and pepper to taste.  Pink Himalayan salt to match my cauliflower…

Mix all of the above together by hand, and set into a 325 degree F oven.  Roast for about an hour or 65 minutes.  Time in the duck, below, accordingly.

The Duck Portion:

One thing about duck is that the breast and the legs/back cook differently.  This is true of other poultry but in the duck I prefer to pander to those needs, and will cook them separately.  I am, however, sparing you the reading of separate recipes for each duck leg… it’s a time my life gets a move on.  I’m cooking them together, along with that bit of back.

2 Duck legs
1 Lower back (if you’ve gotten a whole duck and separated out parts.   Otherwise, don’t worry)
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon allspice
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 of the juice from a large lemon
2-3 ripe plums (depending on size), chopped and pitted

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Score the skin so that fat drips out as the meat cooks.  Place in baking pan (not the same one with the cauliflower — we are not interested in having the veggie soak in the fat,  thank you), skin side up.

Add all the spices and seasonings, and then the lemon juice over the top (which should help the skin to brown, as there are natural sugars in there).  Don’t add the plum…

Roast for 50 minutes.  At about the 40-45 minute mark, start simmering your plums in their own juice, in a small stovetop skillet. Add a little ground pepper, nothing else.  A lot of commercial outlets love adding sugar to things — plums are sweet enough on their own.  DON’T!!!

Plum Sauce

What’s good enough for the gander…

Remove duck from oven and let rest for five minutes (transfer pieces to a clean plate so they don’t soak in their own fat.  They will probably drizzle out more, here.  If your bird is a good quality free range bird, reserve the fat (you can freeze it).  If it is not, that’s where the pesticides lurk, in the fat).

Plate:  Put the cauliflower down and layer the duck over or next to the cauliflower, then drizzle the plum over the duck.  Enjoy.

I am doing this meal as three lunches for one person.  Eating the back section today (written Saturday) for lunch with some of the cauliflower, although the photo doesn’t depict the cauliflower there, and taking the legs to work for two separate lunches.  A general leafy-green salad would make a good side (in addition to the cauliflower, of course).  Actually. leftover cole slaw — see a neighboring recipe — is going to accompany the duck and cauliflower.

Roast Duck Back

I did eat this with some of the cauliflower. My immediate lunch that day.

If you are following along, this one duck, at 4 pounds something, has provided so far for meat for five meals plus one appetizer, for one person.  This isn’t counting the soup or stock, which I expect to go for two more meals, whenever it gets cool and dry enough to get about the work of making the soup.  Or the stock.

This post is hanging out at Fiesta Friday, where it will extend Friday into a week-long occurrence.  Drop on by!  Indeed, later this week you can vote for your fave recipes there.

Also hanging out at What’s for Dinner, #158, where yet more recipes are around to titillate your fancy, and kick your (duck) legs up over.  Drop on by!

Posted in Cooking, Poultry | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Clear Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Being a proper New Englander (by residence, not by birth), I’m not really a fan of Manhattan clam chowder… I guess in part because the only good tomato-based soup (to my taste buds) is a good chunky chilled gazpacho.

I’ll do the New England cream-based clam chowder instead, but I find it a bit heavy (yeah, that Alfredo sauce a couple posts back was good… but heavy for just having a soup on a hot summer’s evening, looking out over an ocean – not that I’m near an ocean, but when I am…), so give me that ole time Rhode Island clam chowder!  Done right, it hits the spot.

Rhode Island clam chowder, Paleo, Whole 30, clam chowder, clear clam chowder, clams, recipe

A clear Rhode Island clam chowder with potato, onion, celery, bacon and seasonings. Oh, and clams!

Done wrong, the base broth tastes like tepid bath water with a bit too much salt added.

Quahog clams are traditional, but I used the leftover clams from the Zoodle Seafood Alfredo recipe, plus some chopped quahog clams I picked up back on a trip to Rhode Island, and had frozen.  But actually, quahogs are just big cherrystones… so just keep it in the family!!

Salt pork is traditional, but I only had bacon – granted, it’s local pastured bacon, so I hope that counts…. but if you can, find some salt pork!

Prep Time: 15 minutes, make bacon while prepping the rest.
Cook Time:  Soup cooks for 20 min.
Rest:  Not necessary but will boost flavor melding.
Serves:  3-4.

Clear Rhode Island Clam Chowder

  • 175 grams / 6 ounces raw quahog (or cherrystone) clams, minced – this is how I bought them, you can cook the clams up yourself from within the shell… add more time…
  • 3 – 4 slices bacon, fried crispy, or 1/4 pound salt pork, diced.
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • skinny celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 large Yukon potato, diced about 1/4 inch segments.  (You can use other potatoes, peeled or not as you see fit, although I suspect Russets would be best peeled.)  
  • 16 ounces clam juice plus 1/4 cup water
  • ½ cup dry white wine (no alcohol?  Add that amount of water with a splash of white or cider vinegar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme 
  • Optional pinch to 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or serve a hot sauce on the side when presenting the soup)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional scattering of fresh chopped parsley (I didn’t have, so I used chopped scallion greens).
  • Optional oyster crackers, served on the side.  

I am going to assume you’ve already prepped your clams, or bought them diced and raw.

Separate them from the broth, you can buy bottled or jarred clam broth.  If it’s concentrated, you’ll need to dilute a little with water due to the salt being concentrated as well.  (I have also made my own shellfish broth using shrimp, lobster, and various bivalve shells, but you don’t need to do this; that will be a future recipe when I can get a hold of the desired ingredients again.)

Fry up 3-4 slices of bacon as per usual methods, you can let them get as crispy (not burnt) as you want.  Or, pan fry the salt pork, until corners just get a bit brown, stirring occasionally.   Remove from skillet, and pan fry the onion, stirring occasionally to get up any bacon/pork fond.

Put all the liquids (juice, water, wine) into a sauce pan.  Add the potato and onion.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Add the celery and bacon/salt pork, and all the seasonings except the parsley or scallion

Simmer 15 minutes.

Add the clams if raw.  Let return to a boil and simmer another five minutes.

If already cooked, let return to a boil and simmer no more than 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Adjust seasonings by taste.

Add the parsley or green onion just prior to serving — you may want to let the soup rest a bit so the flavors can meld further.  Nothing wrong with re-heating if necessary.

Rhode Island clam chowder, Paleo, Whole 30, clam chowder, clear clam chowder, clams, recipe

Enjoy a bowl!

AND  drop on over to the Fiesta Friday link party, where you can swim into all sorts of great meals!  This week co-hosted by:  Laurena @ Life Diet Health and Jenny @ Apply To Face Blog.

AND drop on in at What’s for Dinner? – another great link party where you can hook all sorts of foods and recipes.



Posted in Cooking, Seafood, Soups & Stews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments