Getting Eggsxcited

I am honored to be co-hosting this week’s Fiesta Friday #55 (click to join) party with my dear friend and talented cook Suzanne@apuginthekitchen. Read More

Scrappy Kitchen: Using Ends, Peels, & Stems (Strawberry Top and Herb Stem Soda & Kombucha; Buttermilk Lemon Rind Scones)

Recently I was slicing off the tops of our precious (price and flavor wise!) Harry’s Barry’s Gaviota Strawberries, and lamented throwing away even the tops with .000005 oz. of fruit attached.   I thought to myself, “there must be a way to use even this tiny bit of flavor.”  So I tossed them in the blender with a bit of water and added the puree to my homemade soda (unstrained) and kombucha (strained).  I had some herbs in the crisper that were mostly stem, too, so I put them to use in a similar manner.  The resulting drinks were so unique, fresh and flavorful that I had to share!


You may recall my post on carrot tops, another kitchen scrap that probably gets tossed in the majority of kitchens.  They make an earthy pesto that I discovered can be made with other veggie tops:  beet greens, celery leaf, fennel frond . . . you get the idea.  You can change up the nuts, oils, acid, and cheeses to your liking.  You’ll empower your creative cooking muscle and feel as resourceful as your pioneer/homesteading great grandmother.

With baking goods, you can use fruit scraps and herb stems to create a glaze for scones, donuts, or as a life-extender for your dreary marmalade.  It won’t be your mother’s marmalade, but it will be jazzy and fun.

If you want to make kombucha, roll your sleeves up and try this recipe, then at the flavoring stage add your strained strawberry tops and proceed as normal with the recipe.  For homemade soda, do the same.

For a nice change to your glazed scones, try this recipe below which I created with buttermilk (another thrifty creation . . . another recipe for another day), lemon rind, yuzu powder and herbs:


2/3 cup sugar or honey

1 – 2 tablespoons zest (grapefruit, lemon, or orange)
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 cup cold butter
2 large eggs, plus an extra for the egg wash
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup citrus juice (grapefruit, lemon, or orange)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

small handful of rosemary or lavender


1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup water

1/2 cup yuzu powder, sifted (Note:  I substituted yuzu for 2 cups of powdered sugar)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 lemon rind


In a small bowl, combine the sugar and zest. Rub the zest and sugar together with your fingers to release the oils.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, zest, and poppy seeds. Cut the butter into the flour mixture. Set aside.
In a smaller bowl, combine the 2 eggs, buttermilk, citrus juice, and vanilla. Whisk until well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, pour in the egg mixture and stir until it comes together. Whisk the additional egg in a small bowl combined with 1 tablespoon water. Set aside.
Turn out on a lightly floured counter and knead a few times until it holds it’s shape. Divide into two equal portions (a kitchen scale helps with this) and roll into an 8 or 9 inch circle. Dust the bottom of the circles with flour.
Cut each circle into 6 or 8 triangles. Place the triangles on a parchment lined baking sheet. Lightly brush with the egg wash, then bake for 15-25 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until golden and cooked through.  Cool on a wire rack and glaze.  Top with herbs.

Make the lemon glaze in a double boiler, or for a simpler alternative, you can zap it in the microwave. First puree the lemon rind with the water and honey.  Mix in lemon juice with the yuzu until dissolved in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water for the double-boiler method, or in a microwave-safe bowl. Whisk in the butter and lemon zest. Either nuke the glaze for 30 seconds or continue whisking in the double boiler. Whisk the glaze to smooth out any lumps, then drizzle the glaze over the top of the scones. Let it set a minute before serving.




Ginger Bug DIY Soda Pop: Pluot and Coconut-Creamsicle with Bay Leaf

Bug After 2 Days

Bug After 2 Days

Last week I started a Ginger Bug.  It’s now one of my kitchen children, along with my sourdough starter, beet kvass and kombucha that I feed, monitor and nurture regularly to keep our flow of fermented and probiotic rich foods going in our household.  Sometimes I feel like I run a lab instead of a kitchen!  Nontheless, I thought a nice bubbly, yeast-powered DIY soda flavored with bay leaf and fruit would be a good second submission for Fiesta Friday Challenge #1!  I’m also cross-pollinating and bringing it to the FF#16.  By the way, Angie at the Novice Gardener and her wonderfully creative blog and all of our Friday partyers have made Fridays my favorite day.  Many thanks to the co-hosts each week for putting together this fun blogging event!

What is a Ginger Bug?

A blend of fermented yeast (“wild” yeast, not purchased or powdered yeast) and sugar water, Ginger Bug captures beneficial microorganisms like wild yeasts and bacteria in the same way sourdough starter does. The wild microorganisms “digest” or eat away at the sugar in the Ginger Bug, and produce CO2.  When mixed with your chosen base, such as fruit juice, pureed fruit, or sweet tea, the microorganisms in the bug begin to consume the sugar in the base, and, as they do, they reproduce and emit carbon dioxide. The result is a bubbly and wildly delicious naturally fermented soda rich in probiotics – great for gut health (which, maybe unbeknownst to you, can the gateway to the improved health of so many of the body’s other systems — skin, immunity, hormones, neurological/brain wellness, even fat metabolism and muscle/lean tissue maintenance.

How to Make the Bug:

To make Ginger Bug, you need fresh ginger, a sweetener (but not a non-caloric one like Stevia or Splenda) to feed the microorganisms, and filtered water. To make sodas, choose flavorings – it could be fruit juice, pureed fruit, cocktail “syrup”, herbs, flowers, or even roots and bark for a root beer. While the Bug itself benefits from a loosely lidded container, the sodas benefit from a tightly capped environment which prevents the escape of CO2 produced during the fermentation process. This gas helps to ensure that the resulting homemade soda is fizzy just like you want it, when opened.

I used whole, unrefined cane sugar, but you can also use Jaggery or Palm Sugar.  If you are concerned about Sugar, realize it’s not for you but for the fermentation process.  In other words, its gets “digested” and transformed into something else, rather than remaining “sugar.”  Sugar feeds beneficial bacteria and wild yeasts. Without it, the bacteria and yeast have nothing to eat, and cannot reproduce. Much of the sugar in fermented tonics is consumed by beneficial microorganisms who then transform it.  This is similar to what the wild yeasts do to gluten during the making and baking of natural sourdough bread, which is why it’s so much more easily digested than commercially yeasted breads.

Bug After 4 Days

Bug After 4 Days

Bugs After 5 Days

Bugs Divided and Lightly Flavored After 5 Days


Yield: about 1 pint


Fresh Ginger

Whole Unrefined Cane Sugar or jaggery


Break off a knob from your hand of ginger, peel away its papery skin and grate it until you have 2 heaping tablespoons. Place the grated ginger in a small jar, whisk in 2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar and 2 tablespoons filtered water. Cover the jar loosely and allow it to ferment in a warm spot in your kitchen.

Every day for at least 5 days, mix 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water into the jar. The ginger will begin to foam and bubble at its top, and will smell yeasty like beer. After 5 days you can use it for soda, or store it in the refrigerator, and feed it 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons water once a week.

To use your ginger bug in preparing homemade sodas, simply strain off 1/4 cup of the liquid and add it to 1 quart of a sweetened herbal infusion, to fruit juice, or to a combination of the two. At this stage, I mixed in 1/2 quart pureed pluots (4 pluots with enough water to make 1/2 quart) and 1/2 quart of coconut cream and water mixed together.  I also added 4 fresh bay leaves to each flavor.  Mix it well, and transfer it to a flip-top bottle where you can allow it to ferment about 3 days. Next, transfer it to the refrigerator, and allow it chill before opening.  To create the coconut creamsicle, after I opened both bottles I poured a large amount of the coconut cream/water mixture into a glass, then topped it with a small amount of the pluot mixture.

After 5 days, straining

After 5 days, straining


"Flavor Rosa" Pluots for Flavoring

“Flavor Rosa” Pluots for Flavoring

Bottled for the Final 3 Days of Fermenting

Bottled for the Final 3 Days of Fermenting

Coconut Creamsicle Version After 3 Days of Fermenting, Bottled

Coconut Creamsicle Version After 3 Days of Fermenting, Bottled

On a Hot Day, These Sodas Hit the Spot!

On a Hot Day, These Sodas Hit the Spot!

Coconut Creamsicle and Pluot Soda Pops with Fresh Bay Leaf

Coconut Creamsicle and Pluot Soda Pops with Fresh Bay Leaf

Not Your Mother’s Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast



This recipe is dedicated to my Mom, who loves that old and often maligned dish Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast.  I would have made her absolute favorite, which is Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie (not the baked kind you’re thinking of with a top crust, but a sort of soup with homemade thick square noodles) but it’s more of a cold weather thing.

Back to Chipped Beef on Toast — you may have also heard it called “Something on a Shingle,” and worse.  And it is often associated with military cuisine, if you can put those two words together in your mind in the same sentence.  I don’t mean to offend, I just don’t often hear “cuisine” or “gourmet” and “military” used together.

My Mom did not grow up in a military family, rather her Dad was a doctor and Mom a nurse, and they lived in small town, semi-rural (at least by my standards!) Eastern Pennsylvania.  They had a summer place where I think they grew a ton of vegetables and other edibles, plus chickens, horses and probably some other animals I don’t remember.  They had access to farm fresh food and that’s primarily what she was raised on.  I don’t know how Creamed Chipped Beef came to the table, but I’ve met lots of ladies and gentlemen her age who say “Oh, I was raised on that stuff.”  It’s basically air dried beef (or could be sausage in some circles) cooked in a white gravy and spooned over toast.  The air dried beef is just not sold out here in California, and so when Mom gets a craving she goes for Stouffers, which even though almost against her religion, she says is a good version.

For this Mother’s Day I’ve created my own take on Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast, using the fine Italian Dried Beef Bresaola, a homemade béchamel, and Artisan, Wild-Yeasted Rye from my favorite bakery.  Make no mistake, it’s not the real thing, but it is truly delicious.  Serve with a little stone fruit or something sweet, as the dish is very salty.

Botvinia: Russian Chilled Sorrel Soup with Salmon

I am so excited to offer this recipe for Botvinia (BOHT-veen-yaw), a traditional Russian cold green vegetable soup with fish. I was hesitant about how it would turn out because the base for the soup, kvas, tasted awfully sour and malty. My husband and I loved it, but I worried it might make the soup taste “funny.” But it turned out beyond delicious. If you make this recipe, you will have 3 goodies: a “non alcoholic” (1%) sipping treat for the dog days of summer; the drained bread “mush” which I used to make poor man’s muffins and pancakes (simply add an egg and some flour and baking soda to the mush and fry up or bake up); and, the most unusual, tangy, bracing soup.

Spinach and sorrel are the greens of choice for the soup and, normally, salmon or crab meat is used. But the kicker, and what is always present in Botvinia, is kvas, beloved by Eastern Europeans, who drink it cold as an elixir, or use it in recipes. The kvas takes about 5 days to ferment properly, so plan accordingly. We sampled the kvas as it was fermenting, sipping it (it is definitely not to be gulped!) with little pub-type food bites.

Yield: 4 servings Cold Fish Soup


1.5 quarts water or vegetable or chicken stock. I used homemade bone broth but you can easily use store bought.

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)

6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 Tbps mustard

1 Tbsp capers

1/4 cup yoghurt

1 pound fresh spinach leaves, stems removed, thoroughly washed

1 pound fresh sorrel leaves, stems removed, thoroughly washed

2 Tbsp cup grated fresh horseradish (optional)

1 tablespoon salt

1/2 teaspoon honey

3 cups kvas (see below)

1 cup finely sliced green onions, including the green part

2 small japanese cucumber, diced 1/4 inch

1 pound cooked salmon (cut into 4 pieces). I like to brush salmon pieces with a bit of olive oil, mustard, salt and lemon juice, pan fry on medium heat for 3 minutes skin side down, without moving, then transfer to a 375 degree oven for about 3-5 minutes to finish cooking, skin side up.
2 sprigs fresh dill

Kvas: (makes 6 cups)
1 pound day-old black bread or pumpernickel

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup sugar, honey or agave. Sugar works best but you may easily substitute.

1/4 cup lukewarm water (110 to 115 degrees)

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves or 1 tablespoon crumbled dried mint

2 tablespoons raisins


First we make the kvas: Heat oven to 200 degrees. Toast bread until it is thoroughly dry and crisp, darkly toasted but not burnt. Chop the cooled bread coarsely. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in an 8-quart casserole and drop in the bread. Remove from the heat, cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and set it aside for at least 8 hours. Strain the contents of the casserole through a fine sieve set over another large pot or bowl, pressing down hard on the soaked bread with the back of a large spoon before discarding it.

Sprinkle the yeast and 1/4 teaspoon of the sugar over the 1/4 cup of lukewarm water and stir to dissolve the yeast completely. Set aside in a warm, draft-free spot for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture almost doubles in volume. Stir the yeast mixture, the remaining sugar and the mint into the strained bread water, cover with a towel, and set aside for at least 8 hours.

Strain the mixture again through a fine sieve set over a large bowl or casserole, then prepare to bottle it. You will need 2 to 3 quart-sized bottles, or a gallon jug. Pour the liquid through a funnel 2/3 of the way up the sides of the bottle. Then divide the raisins among the bottles and cover the top of each bottle with plastic wrap, secured with a rubber band. Place in a cool, but not cold, spot for 3 to 5 days, or until the raisins have risen to the top and the sediment has sunk to the bottom. Carefully pour off the clear amber liquid and rebottle it in the washed bottles. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Next we make the soup: In a large pot, combine water, chives, mint leaves, caraway seeds and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and add spinach and sorrel. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove spinach and sorrel and purée in a blender or food processor with 1 cup of the cooking liquid (pour the rest of the liquid into a soup tureen or serving dish and let come to room temperature). Transfer puréed to a separate bowl to cool. Mix the cooled greens with the cooled cooking stock and add the horseradish, salt, honey, and kvas, a cup at a time. Alternatively, you can puree all the greens and most of the liquid together, which is what I did. Add the green onions, cucumber, salmon. Adjust seasonings. Chill at least 2 hours.

Stir in the mustard, capers, honey and 1/4 cup yoghurt, mixing well. Set aside.

Add cucumbers, , green onions, and 2 tablespoons chopped dill to the liquid. Mix well. Adjust the seasonings. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Place a spoonful of the yoghurt mixture into each bowl. Ladle soup into bowl. Top with salmon. Serve garnished with remaining dill, scallion and cucumber.


This delicious soup is my offering for Fiesta Friday #15 and Fiesta Friday May Challenge.

Booze Files: Blackberry Mint Julep Muddle & Russian Black Bread Kvas

This past week I had 2 occasions to make booze drinks:

1.     The Kentucky Derby last Saturday.

2.     Warm-up round for my Fiesta Friday’s challenge feature, the Russian Chilled Sorrel Soup Botvinia, which begins with Black Bread Kvas (fermented, yeasted drink).

As you may recall, I don’t drink  . . . .  so I also don’t make drinks all that often, if ever.  But my husband loves the Derby and I wanted to create something in the Derby spirit . . . something I wouldn’t have to cook.  Something with a nod to tradition (The Mint Julep — I used mint and bourbon), but simple (no boiling up a “simple syrup”), seasonal (Harry’s Berries at Samo Farmer’s Market right now), and earthy (muddling:  partially smashing the fruits & herbs together to release the essential oils and flavor while leaving parts of the fruits and herbs intact).  So I made a blackberry mint julep muddle.  It was apparently so delicious it flew out of the pitcher.  It was gone fast.

Then, in contemplation of my Fiesta Friday challenge maiden voyage recipe, which would need to include yeast and herbs together in one recipe, I went Balkan with Botvinia, and made Step 1 of the 2 part recipe, the Black Bread Kvas.  You may have heard of Beet Kvass, a delicious, tart, jewel-toned fermented elixir that has roots in Russia and the Ukraine.  Bread Kvas is similar in that it is fermented, but it uses bread, yeast, water and raisins.  Many of the recipes I found included mint, too.  All of the recipes I found stated that the Kvas is “non alcoholic,” but let me tell you, if you put yeast, raisins, soaked rye bread and water together, you will get in a few days what distinctly smells like the strongest beer you have ever . . . . smelled.  Here it is in step by step gallery form and on Friday I will publish the recipe for both the Kvas and the Botvinia.

Served with Blistered Shishitos, Kraut, & Pickles

Served with Blistered Shishitos, Kraut, & Pickles