couscous gf style, some mango salsa and halibut

I have been missing the quickness and versatility of couscous lately. So I decided to try a few things. First, I broke up some GF spaghetti noodles and put them in the spice mill. Not gonna work. Second, I did a search for GF couscous online. There was one recipe and it recommended grinding up some basmati rice. I went with that idea. Threw a 1/2 cup basmati into the spice mill and pulsed until it looked coarse enough. Repeat until you have as much “couscous” as you need. I then threw it in the pot with turmeric (or maybe I used a generic curry powder that has turmeric in it), a shake of red pepper, salt and pepper. Add water or broth and cook for a much shorter time. I didn’t pay attention to how long it took, sorry, but it didn’t take long. Have chopped scallions and cilantro ready to toss in when finished.

I couldn’t just eat couscous, nor was I planning to. I based the whole meal on my craving for some mango salsa and some organic mangoes I found. Yes, these were not grown in Michigan. But it was less fuel than if I went to Mexico for a vacation, although I would rather do that.

Mango salsa:

one peeled and pitted diced mango

minced mild white onion (1/4 of a med onion)

one or two serrano peppers – deseeded to tame the heat

chopped cilantro to taste

salt and lime juice

Of course I couldn’t just eat mango salsa. When I think of mango salsa I think of grilled fish. So we thawed some Trader Joe’s frozen halibut (this stuff is a bargain) and drizzled it with olive oil, salt pepper and I think I put a bit of coriander powder on it.

The rainbow swiss chard has been calling my name from the garden for a while. I was waiting for the leaves to get larger, but that seems unlikely at this point so I just went and picked what I thought to be two serving’s worth from the garden, chopped them up, heated up some olive oil, threw in some garlic and red pepper flakes and then the chard. Add some salt and you are done. All together, it looked like this:

halibut, gf couscous and mango salsa

and this:

halibut, gf couscous and mango salsa

It was delicious. Halibut is such a satisfying fish, especially topped with cool and spicy mango salsa on a bed of swiss chard and gf couscous. Now I am not sure why this text is suddenly now in blue and underlined, but it must be a sign that you should whip up this dinner asap.

i’m out

Ah…those little moments and some delish grilling

I know all three of my readers (if there are more, please feel free to comment for no reason at all!) are wondering why I haven’t been posting photos and blogging more often. I am sure I mentioned in an earlier post that we are putting my house on the market and we finally have. The sign is in the front yard and the house is looking spiffy. However, just because I don’t blog does not mean for a second that I don’t cook. I cook everyday (with the exception of the three days the kitchen cupboards were being painted) and I take photos most days. They are all on I just haven’t had/taken the time to write up some bloggity and cut and paste photos.

But first, before I do that, a little gushing moment. My significant other (boyfriend seems too trite, we are buying a house together after all) works in Ann Arbor now. This means he commutes an hour a day one way, plus a little bus time. One bonus to this is, he parks his car just a couple of miles from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Yesterday afternoon he asked if we needed anything from either store. Well, I had just driven though A2 for work last Friday (visiting a hog farm that had a complaint filed against it – a little idea as to what my day to day job can entail there). It had been a while since I had visited TJ’s, so I went there and stocked up. They have GF waffles and pancakes in their freezer by the way, and since I had to throw my Belgian waffle maker out for fear of it burning down the house, this is convenient, esp when I have house guests over because I don’t cook a lot of breakfast foods. But I digress. I was there on Friday, yet forgot to get the all so important mint shampoo we use from Whole Foods, so I said, we are low on shampoo and shower gel. Some how I have three giant bottles of conditioner. Therefore he made a trip over there after work.

I started cooking up some saag paneer, beef korma and aloo bhaji soup for dinner, because when I am in the mood for Indian, I want a variety, and always have to make one veg, one meat and one soup. So far, it seems that they don’t really combine veggies with meat in one dish, they are always separate – garlic, onion and tomatoes don’t count as veggies, those are seasonings. I have been studying Indian cuisine lately, as you probably could tell.

In walks my wonderful guy with two big brown bags from Whole Foods. He starts pulling items out and it is like Christmas to me. This guy knows how to get me. He unloads a pack of garlic and herb marinated lamb kabobs, chipotle marinated skirt steak kabobs, an herbed goat cheese, a rogue blue cheese that used penicillin vs bread mold to inoculate the culture, a new variety of frozen GF pizza crusts to try, a new variety of Gluten Free dark beer from England, and a Michigan made hard cider. I melted. Who wouldn’t? I looked at him and said, your bill was over $100 wasn’t it? He replied yep! We started laughing as we can’t seem to go to Whole Foods with out spending the paycheck. I should mention that he picked up several specialty beers for himself. And he remembered to get shampoo.

Ok, now for some cooking. I recently took the challenge given to me by a friend when I said I had too many cucumbers and they send me a recipe for barrel fermenting my pickles. I now have a 2 gallon container sitting on my counter for 4-6 weeks fermenting. It is actively fermenting, it sounds just like beer and has gone all cloudy. Very cool. We found these fermented pickles in the local grocery store next to the eggs and are trying to duplicate them. I hope it works!

We have been grilling a lot lately to keep the heat out of the kitchen. Grilled peaches with honey, black pepper and a creamy blue brie-ish cheese. Grillled asparagus and grilled polenta. Grilled corn and grilled salmon with a yummy garlicky glaze.

grilled peaches with blue cheese, honey and black pepper
grilled asparagus and grilled polenta
grilled filet of salmon with tacoma glaze

No recipes this go around, just yummy photos.

i’m out

Lettuce and lacey beans…garden lessons learned

Oh, to blog about the garden first or cooking or brewing?


It is now finished. The newspaper is down, the plants are in, the straw is on top. It is fertilized and watered. The slugs are really enjoying my pole beans, fenugreek (methi) and spinach – these all have a beautiful lacey appearance now. Not sure if the plants will recover and grow past the distance the slugs can slug along to, but I am hopeful. This happened last year too. I think when I was a kid and we had a garden with a full on enemy slug attack we put beer on pie tins and scattered them around the garden. I may have to resort to this tactic. Squishing all the slugs by hand is not my idea of fun, so I will let them live for now. Until I buy some cheap beer and pie tins.

We are now eating the garden lettuce for salads and tossing loads of fresh herbs in. The asparagus we planted has finally taken root and now we have lots of asparagus sprouts and will hopefully be able to eat it next year.

I started this post a while back. The garden is looking happy and healthy now. The beans have grown past the slug height and well, my greens have mostly bolted (this means starting to go to seed and get tall and bitter). Lots of tomatoes on the way.

I learned a lot about tomatoes this year, even though I have been growing them for years.

1. Do not over fertilize them esp do not let the fertilizer touch the plant. As my best friend would say (who is a master gardener) just use natural fertilizer and compost. I agree, although was desparate as my tomato plants turned yellow for lack of nitrogen as the wood chips that were rototilled in from the stump removal sucked up my nutrients. Blah. So, I killed a few plants. I finally confessed to her (my use of commercial fertilizer) as I couldn’t keep it in. This is when I learned my second nifty tip.

2. You can take cuttings from tomatos and put them directly in the ground and they will start rooting and become new healthy plants. Very handy when you killed 5 plants already. Trim the big low branches off the healthy ones and stick them in the ground.

3. When planting transplant tomatoes, remove the bottom stems and plant them very deep, not just to the root zone. All parts of the plant underground will sprout roots and make a stronger plant.

I am now harvesting green chiles, cucumbers, extremely hot radishes (it was too hot for too long), sugar snap peas, snow peas, zucchini (I swore I would only plant one hill and I did. I will be just enough), and broccoli will be here soon.

Tonight I am headed to a pre 4th party (since we all have tomorrow off) and am bringing a dilly cucumber salad. It is chilling in the fridge right now.

Dilly cucumber salad

  • 4 -5 cucumbers sliced evenly (I used a mandolin)
  • 3/4 medium vidalia onion (my mom is from Georgia) sliced wafer thin, so thin you can almost see through it
  • 1/3 cup or more minced fresh dill
  • 3/4 cup of mayo
  • 3 tbs of cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs of sugar
  • fresh chopped chives
  • salt
  • loads of fresh cracked pepper

Mix your mayo, cider vinegar, sugar, s and p and herbs up first and pour over the cucumbers and onion. Stir, chill, eat.

garden cucumber salad

Often I add sour cream instead of mayo, but the sour cream is reserved for some spinach dip for tomorrows gathering in my backyard.

What I have planned so far :

Wood grilled pork butt – not sure what rub I will use yet

Bourbon bacon baked beans – these are already in the crockpot getting gooey and melty for tomorrow

Spinach veg dip with tortilla chips

Fruit pizza – I need a better name for this one. GF sugar cookie on a pizza pan, brown sugar and cream cheese mixture, then blue berries and strawberries (these came from my uncle’s farm delivered via a friend) in the shape of the…US FLAG. Slightly cheesy I know (esp with the cream chz) but my mom always did it and it is a fun way to celebrate our country’s 231 birthday. We could all be speaking German you know.

fruit pizza for the 4th fruit pizza bourbon bacon baked beans

The rest is up to the guests.

i’m out

creamed spinach gooey goodness

I love spinach, almost every way you can make it. The one exception is the icky way they made it when I was in grade school in West Virginia. I think they opened cans of spinach, heated it up and added vinegar. Strangely enough, I liked it ok then, but now, the thought is horrible. I am sure that can be improved on. Adding vinegar to greens in the South is the thing to do.

Yesterday I tried my hand at creamed spinach. It was so good, that I proclaimed we must make it at least once a month (too rich to eat weekly – although I would), that and the chicken piccada (lemon, capers, white wine and garlic sauce) I made to go with it.

So here is the rough recipe. It was so good, I completely didn’t think to photograph it until I was eating the leftovers for lunch.

Start by browning some bread crumbs (or crackers, what ever you have on hand) (1/2 cup or so) in 1 tbs olive oil and 1 tbs butter. Add some pepper and salt. Set aside.

Thaw one 10 oz box chopped frozen spinach and squeeze it pretty dry.

chop one med/small onion

mince 2 cloves of garlic

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil.

In a bowl, add to the squeezed spinach,

3/4 cup of heavy cream (it must be so, half and half will not do)

2-3 large spoonfuls of sourcream (soup spoon size) (this was probably 1/4 cup or so)

1/2 cup or more of ground Parmesan (or finely grated) I didn’t really measure this, just kept adding it until it has a fairly thick consistency.

sauteed onions and garlic

salt (not too much since you have parm in there)

freshly ground pepper

and the item that makes it so delicious – freshed grated nutmeg, lots of it, at least probably a teaspoon. If you don’t have fresh, use the ground stuff, but likely more of it.

Put in an 9×9 pan sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Place in 350 F oven for 20 – 25 minutes – until the edges look just a bit browned.

Then, attempt not to eat the whole pan in one setting, as I am sure that that much spinach may have adverse effects – even with the cheese in there. Essentially I made a spinach alfredo casserole.

I will post that leftover photo when I return on Sunday night or Monday. Off to the great wilderness of Northern Michigan.

By the way, still no problem with spelt – so I made a batch of no knead bread with it and let it rise and ferment for 48 hours to get really tangy. Will be eating it this weekend with some fresh chopped tomatoes with salt, basil and a hint of fresh garlic and olive oil – my recipe for bruscetta! Oh and some Fromage de Am’bert from France – a creamy blue (GF of course). For those of you wondering – I am a confirmed, biopsied celiac for over a year. And just to be on the safe side, I have a doc appt next week and plan to get the antibody test done again, to make sure the spelt isn’t really reacting and I am not having any symptoms.

i’m out

Spelty moments this week

Ok, I tried the pretzels, no reaction. I had some of the spaghetti noodles for lunch and no reaction (they were nice and light). Before trying something else from the box of goodies sent to me, I decided that if I was going to react, I want it to be over a nice crusty loaf of bread. So I went and bought some Vita-Spelt flour (because i figured there would be less cross contamination issues as they mostly do spelt processing) and searched the “internets” (my fav Pres Bush quote) for a Spelty French Bread recipe. The search did not happen as quickly as I thought it might, but I did find one.

I loaded up the Kitchenaid and used my kneading attachment for the first time (glutenless breads don’t use this). I added fresh rosemary, cracked pepper and garlic – I wanted bread with flavor! I put it on parchment paper and baking sheets and let it rise. Cut some slits in it and sprinkled Fleur de sal on it and baked it. It was a really hot day – so putting my oven to 400 degrees for about 50 min (btwn warming up and baking) was a huge commitment to Spelt tasting.

I made up some tasty herby olive oil dipping sauce and waited for my partner in eating (ok, my cohabitating domestic partner boyfriend). I sliced it up and low and behold – there were lofty air bubbles in there. Each slice was light and not dense. Could this be bread heaven? Perhaps, or the opposite, depending on the friendliness of the bread to my innards.

I took a slice and dunked. I took a bit and swallowed. It has been more than a year since I had what I would call “normal” bread. It was a nice visit. I had a couple more slices (they were baguette size) and then had a slice with a little butter on it – just for memory’s sake. Delish. Then…..I waited. I waited and waited in fear of gluten retribution. I waited and then went to bed. I woke up in the night and waited. This morning, I waited.

NOTHING happened. No, whoops, excuse me, see you in a few minutes, I need to spend some private time with my square toilet (yes, I have a square green toilet seat). Nothing. So I ate another slice this midmorn.

So, while I was prepared to sacrifice my body to try something new that is actually really old, I didn’t need to. I suppose there is a chance that I will still react – it hasn’t been 24 hours. However for me, whenever I have reacted to gluten or cross contamination, I feel it very quickly, within an hour and within 4 or so, my body has said by to said gluten.

So, we are at 20 hours now. I will post some picks of the bread when the camera comes home.

Anyone have any spelt bread recipes? Feeling fairly confident, I just made a sourdough starter and it is sitting on the counter right now.

Tomorrow is Bratfest – our beer club’s annual brat gathering. I am making some sushi with GF crab and smoked salmon (with avocado). What about brat’s doesn’t sound better with some sushi? I suppose I could make a German style potato salad, but that is not what I am in the mood for.

coming soon….chickens from the farm or gluten free brewing plus plenty of garden updates – it was a busy work week….

i’m out