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Friday Favorite: Chutneys, Sauces and Toppings

April 1st, 2011

I have a friend that always jokes that my table looks like a French table because I put out so many jars of sauces, chutneys, mustards and other toppings for meals. I must admit, I’m a lover of a good topping. With a variety of toppings you can take a burger from “everyday” to “extraordinary”. Not to mention you can make the same thing taste completely differently depending on which topping you add. I have a collection of mustards in my pantry, I buy them when I spot an interesting one while traveling.

This past fall I got a delicious jar of Ipswich Ale Mustard at Plum Cove Grind a small coffee shop in Gloucester, MA. I also have small pots of mustard from around the world purchased from specialty grocery stores.

The chutneys and sauces we use are made in my kitchen. I try just about every chutney recipe I stumble upon. Making chutney is a really great way to use up small quantities of fruit. My most favorite variety is Roasted Pear Chutney, although I have a peach chutney that comes in a close second.

adapted from Epicurious

2 ripe pears, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon organic sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 small red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons currants
3 tablespoons golden raisins
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Toss the pears with the lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the cinnamon, and cloves. Coat a sheet pan with half the vegetable oil. Set the pears cut side down on the pan. Brush the pears with the remaining oil. Roast until caramelized and tender, 40 to 50 minutes, depending on the degree of ripeness. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
3. While the pears are roasting, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil in a nonreactive saucepan. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
4. Using a small spoon or a melon baller, scoop out the cores of the cooked pears. Cut the pears into 1/2-inch slices.
5. Combine the pears and the onion mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 day before serving.

I make a big batch of this and can it. I fill sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace, add rings & lids, process in waterbath canner for 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.

The sauce, chutney, topping section of my pantry is starting to look a little sparse. I typically make my chutneys every two years. This year I’ll definitely be restocking my collection as I’d hate to run out. My burgers would be very boring without them!

Do you make any sauces, chutneys or toppings? What’s your favorite way to eat chutney?

Whole Grain Olive Oil Crackers

February 23rd, 2011

As part of our No Buy February Challenge, I’m going to be posting Make Your Own how-to’s on Wednesdays. Learning to make things yourself from scratch is a great way to save money.

I’ve been making my own crackers and flatbreads for quite a while. Healthy crackers can be very expensive, and it’s very difficult to find them without all kinds of hard to pronounce ingredients that you probably don’t want to eat. For our Super Bowl party I made whole grain olive oil crackers, they’re kind of like wheat thins, only much better. I used freshly ground wheat flour and super tasty olive oil from Chaffin Family Orchards.

I used the recipe from Chocolate & Zucchini, making mine with sourdough starter, but you can make them without. I also make mine with freshly ground 100% whole wheat flour.


2 1/2 cups whole grain flour
(I used 2 cups flour and 100 grams of sourdough, slightly less than 1/2 cup)
5 Tablespoons of coarsely ground wheat or other flour (cornmeal, millet, etc)
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If you have a baking stone put that in the oven and you can slide the crackers on that to bake them, if you don’t have a stone you can bake them on a cookie sheet.

Place the flours and salt in bowl, add the olive oil and stir it in with a fork until mixture resembles find crumbs (it’s like making pastry). Add the water and sourdough mix is making the sourdough version and mix it in. When the water is absorbed, turn the dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead gently to form a ball. Add a few drops of water if the dough feels too dry to gather into a ball, but you don’t want the dough to be sticky in the least or it will stick to the pastry roller.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces equal size, and cover with a towel. Take a piece of dough and flatten it into an oval with hands, dust lightly with flour. Set a pasta roller on the widest setting, and slip the disk of dough in the roller to thin it out. Fold the dough in half so the two short sides meet, and put the dough through at the thickest setting again, repeat a few times until dough feels soft. Since I made mine with 100% whole grain flour it cracked a bit on the edges, but it still worked well. If you don’t have a pasta roller, you can use a rolling pin.

Switch the pasta roller to the next smaller setting and feed the dough through. Repeat reducing the setting on your pasta rollers, making the dough thinner each time. Stop when you reach the #5 setting. Your dough should look like a long oval. Place it on one of the prepared baking sheets, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Continue this process for each piece of dough.

Slide crackers on parchment onto the baking stone, or put baking sheet in the oven and bake for 7-12 minutes, turning once to ensure even browning. If you’re using whole grain flour you might need to bake them for 15 minutes so they’re dry enough when you pull them out of the oven. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

If you find you didn’t bake them long enough i.e. they’re soft after cooling, simply put them back in the oven on 300 for a few minutes to dry them out more. Store crackers in a container and enjoy, you’ll have these eaten up LONG before they go stale believe me!
If you have a large family, or consume a lot of crackers I’d highly recommend making a few batches of these at once. You can change the flavor by subbing in different kinds of flours and different kinds of oils or fat. They’re perfect paired with cheese, and equally delicious with dips. I bet if you made them with half corn meal they could taste a lot like tortilla chips. I have a few other recipes I like to make for store-bought cracker alternatives, see links below for some of my faves.

Do you ever make crackers at home?

Sesame Semolina Flatbread from Wild Yeast
Crisp Rosemary Flatbread from Smitten Kitchen
Parmesan Cheese Crackers from Smitten Kitchen
Soaked Spelt and Yogurt Crackers from Nourished Kitchen

Meyer Lemon Pound Cake

February 21st, 2011

As promised last week, I’m giving you the recipe for that Meyer Lemon Pound Cake I made for our Super Bowl party. I used Ina Garten‘s recipe, as she never lets me down. I love that her recipes always uses real ingredients: butter, cream, eggs, olive oil, fresh lemon zest, freshly squeezed juice and fresh vegetables. I always love leafing through her many cookbooks; The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients are two of my favorites.

Traditionally pound cake was made with a pound of: butter, flour, eggs and sugar. Since leavening wasn’t used in a traditional pound cake all ingredients had to be mixed by hand until light and fluffy, this provided the texture of the cake. Of course now days we have mixers and baking soda and baking powder, so we don’t have to worry about spending an hour mixing all the ingredients until they’re light and fluffy.

This lemon juicer was my grandma’s, my mom’s mom. My mom saved this and gave this to me for Christmas this year. I was happy to pull it out and use it when making this cake. Of course these Meyer lemons are the ones I ordered from the Lemon Ladies Orchard.

This recipe can easily be halved, which I needed for our Super Bowl party because I only had 2 eggs lef. A lot of pound cake recipes use 5 eggs, which makes it difficult to halve the recipe. I baked it in one of my cast iron bread pans, which I’d highly recommend as it does a fabulous job of baking the cake and I didn’t have to use parchment because the cast iron is well seasoned.

adapted from Ina Garten’s Lemon Pound Cake recipe

For the cake:
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted room temperature butter
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large room temperature eggs
1/3 cup grated Meyer lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour (I used freshly ground white wheat with some of the bran sifted out)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
3/4 cup room temperature buttermilk (you can sub a mix of half yogurt half whole milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

For the glaze:
2 cups sifter confectioners’ sugar
3 1/2 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 1/2-by-4 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper or use a bundt pan of a 9 x 13 pan.

2. Cream butter and 2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mixing at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, and lemon zest.

3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between pans, smooth tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

4. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.

5. When cakes are done, let them cool 10 minutes. Invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon lemon syrup over cakes. Let cakes cool completely.

6. For glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cakes, and allow glaze to drizzle down the sides.

The first time I baked this cake in 2 cast iron bread pans, I’ve also baked it in a bundt pan and a glass 9 x 13 pan. I use freshly ground white winter wheat for my loaves, I sifted out some of the bran. If you don’t sift out the bran you’ll have to add a little bit more flour to get the right texture of batter.

This cake is really delicious, perfect for pairing with coffee. It has the perfect lemon flavor since it’s layered into every part of the recipe, from the zest and lemon juice in the cake batter, to the lemon juice in the syrup and the glaze. If you love lemon, this is the cake for you! And I LOVE lemon, so this is probably my most favorite cake. I think it would be even better studded with some fresh blueberries or black raspberries, which I’m going to have to remember next time I bake one. Another thing I love about this recipe is that there’s no icing, I’m not an icing person, the glaze is just right (although I often skip it and just do the syrup when making it for us at home).

What’s your favorite flavor of cake? Are you an icing lover?

Spicy Gingerbread Cookies

December 21st, 2010

After many of you asked for the recipe yesterday I figured I’d do a new post with my gingerbread recipe (I have it on my blog from a few years ago). These cookies aren’t you typical gingerbread men/women. If you don’t like spicy things, you will not like this version. This recipe has as least double the spices of most recipes and I always use blackstrap molasses to make the flavor even stronger. If you’re a fan of spicy gingerbread you will really appreciate the flavor in this version.

One of my favorite things about these gingerbread cookies is that they’re not too sweet. If you like your cookies sweeter you can ice them, but I think they’re perfect as is. As with most spicy baked items, they’re twice as good the next day and seem to get better with age. They also keep well compared to a lot of cookies so they make a great option for mailing (I just sent some to a family member in Afghanistan). Bake up some of these and some snickerdoodles and send them to a service member you know, they’ll appreciate the holiday cheer!


1 1/2 (or 12 ounces) cups dark molasses *I use blackstrap
1 cup packed dark brown sugar (I use regular sugar)
1/2 cup cold water
1/3 cup butter
1 egg
6 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons allspice (freshly ground is best)
4 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Mix molasses, brown sugar, egg, water and butter. Mix in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on floured* board. Cut with floured cookie cutter. Place about 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake until no indentation remains when touched, 10 to 12 minutes; cool. *TIP* If you like chewy cookies use confectioners sugar instead of flour when rolling out your dough

Note: Can roll dough 1/2 inch thick and cut with 2 1/2 inch round cookie cutter. Place about 1 1/2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes.

I use all organic ingredients when I make this, since we’re organic eaters. All of my organic spices come from Mountain Rose Herbs, and I get my flour/sugar from a local co-op in big 25 lb bags. This recipe is pretty good for you as far as cookies go, the blackstrap molasses will give you a healthy dose of iron, manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, magnesium, B6 and many more nutrients.

All of the various spices added to the cookies are also super healthy and contain all kinds of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Here are links for the health benefits of the various spices: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and allspice. A lot of these spices actually help your body fight off the colds and flu, what a wonderfully tasty way to do so. If you want to make the recipe even healthier try swapping out some of the flour for white whole wheat flour. I’ve successfully swapped out half of of the flour for freshly ground soft wheat flour.

I was going to do gingerbread cookies as my Friday Favorite this week since they’re my favorite cookie, but I decided to write about them today. I will willingly pass over any other kind of cookie out there for a spicy gingerbread man. Second in line for my favorite cookie is the Date Pinwheel cookie, after that spritz or cookie press cookies, and most things after that I don’t eat because I’m not a big fan. My least favorite cookie has to be butter cookies, perhaps it’s the icing, I’ve never been a fan of them even when I was a kid.

What’s your favorite holiday cookie? second favorite? third?

A Delicious Mistake

December 7th, 2010

On Saturday I decided to bake up a batch of cranberry rolls just for Mr Chiots’ arrival home from his week of hunting. He loves these and would be thrilled to have some when he got home. These are a delicious way to use up some of that extra cranberry apple relish you have sitting in the fridge from Thanksgiving. I made a batch of dough, rolled it out, filled it with cranberry relish, put them in a pan and whacked them in the oven. They smelled fantastic while baking.

Then it all went south (no offense to those of you who live in the South). I always use a thermometer to determine when my bread is finished, especially rolls. I like to bake them to about 185, when they’ll be slightly doughy, but not too much. I like them this way and I find that they stay fresh longer. I pulled out my thermometer to test the dough and it only registered 85. “Weird!” I thought, “they’ve been in long enough” (note to self, always trust instincts). I put them back in the oven for 10 more minutes then checked them again, still not much warmer. It was then I noticed that the thermometer had been switched to Celsius. I switched it quickly back and it registered over 210 – too high for soft rolls.

I let them cool hoping for the best, but they were too dry and the edges were extremely crispy. They were OK, still edible if we wanted to eat them, but not the culinary delight I was hoping for. I suddenly remembered a recipe for plum bread pudding in The River Cottage Cookbook (fabulous book BTW, if you want a great read about growing/raising your own quality food with cheeky UK humor read this book, I’m thoroughly enjoying it).

These rolls would make the best bread pudding ever, with their rich sweet dough, the cranberries and ginger already inside. I followed the recipe for the most part, steeping the milk & cream with a vanilla bean and some cinnamon sticks, I added a few more spoonfuls of cranberries in with the torn bread. I reduced the sugar by half, since I was using sweet bread and I don’t like my food to be too sweet. I doubled the recipe below to use up the entire batch of rolls.

Cranberry Bread Pudding
(adapted from The River Cottage Cookbook)

1 small loaf of stale bread (or in this case a half a batch of rolls)
2 cups of whole milk
3/4 cup cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 sticks of cinnamon
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
Cranberry relish left over from Thanksgiving (about 1 cup or more to taste)
1/2 cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

Split vanilla bean lengthwise and place it in pan with milk and cream along with cinnamon sticks. Bring them almost to a boil, turn off heat, allow to steep for 20-30 minutes.

In large bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks and sugar together until thoroughly blended. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks from milk (you can rinse and use again for mulling cider, flavoring sugar, etc). Pour the cream and milk slowly into the egg mixture stirring with whisk to combine into a well-blended custard.

Cut bread into slices or tear into large chunks. Layer in buttered tall casserole dish, occasionally adding small spoonfuls of cranberry relish and sprinkling in crystallized ginger as you fill dish.

Pour the custard slowly over the bread moving around the dish, work slowly so it is absorbed. Let dish rest for 30 minutes while preheating oven to 350.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the custard is just set but still slightly wobbly (you can test with knife to see if it’s done). Serve while warm. It’s also delicious cold the next day.

It baked up into the most wonderfully delicious breakfast. Crispy on the outside and on top, rich and gooey on the inside, like good custardy french toast *only better*. It could be topped with some vanilla sauce if desired, but that would make it sweeter and much closer to a dessert than a good hearty breakfast.

My over baked rolls turned into the most delicious mistake, better than the intended recipe – here’s to making most of a bad thing!

Have you ever made the most of a cooking mistake and ended up with something far better with a little creativity?


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.