Millet Porridge


Prep and Cook time:  Approx. 20 mins.

This is gluten free with a vegan option

 Millet is supposed to be bitter.  In fact, a lot of recipes will instruct you to wash, pre-boil, toast or otherwise noodle with this grain before you cook it.  Well, in the recipe below, the millet goes straight into the sauce pan from the pantry.  No special treatment.  It turned out lovely.  Perhaps I’ll try making this porridge again and rinse the millet first.   Maybe I’ll notice a difference in flavor, maybe I’ll call the queen and invite her to breakfast.  In the meantime, here is a hearty, easy millet porridge recipe:

 1 cup millet

2 cups water

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 cup chopped dried fruit (I like pitted dates)


Combine the water and millet in a saucepan.  Cover and bring to boil (takes less than 10 minutes).   Lower heat to lowest setting, stir in the rest of the ingredients, simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 5 more minutes.  Serve warm.  Reheats nicely, so save the leftovers for a midday snack or breakfast again tomorrow.

 Vegan Option:  substitute milk with your favorite non-dairy milk.  Coconut milk is wonderful here, as is almond milk.

 Optional ingredients:  pinch of cinnamon, add shredded coconut (especially if using coconut milk), almonds.  Also if you prefer, try using fresh seasonal fruit instead of dried fruit:  add after cooking and before serving.



Celery and Leeks — the last hold out of Winter!

We are on the verge of Spring in Northern California, and that means fresh asparagus, the earliest strawberries and mesclun shoots pushing up in my kitchen garden.  Well, so much for Spring…I am currently watching a hailstorm from my office window.  A trip to the market will have to wait.  Instead, I see in my refrigerator some celery that I had planned to fill with peanut butter and raisins along with some old leeks that need to be eaten.   Here is a recipe I turn to at times like this when winter’s vegetables are still hanging on and Spring isn’t quite here.  Although the recipe calls for vegetable stock, water works just as well.  My favorite cheese in this dish is gruyere.  You may top with bread crumbs, if you wish, or just leave the cheese as the crowning touch.  Simple, nutritious and very tasty!

Braised Celery and Leek Gratin

1 package of celery, washed and greens removed

1 or 2 leeks, split in half (or an onion, sliced)

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1 ½ cup vegetable broth (or water)

Parsley or Tarragon (optional)

½ cup shredded flavorful cheese, blue cheese, gruyere or swiss

Slice celery lengthwise and cut into smaller pieces.  Place in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the leeks (or onion), butter, broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until tender, about 15 – 20 minutes.  Add the herbs, if using.

Remove from heat and pour into a baking dish.  Sprinkle the cheese over the vegetables and place under a broiler for a minute or so, until the cheese melts and is bubbly.

Matzo Crack

Well, it’s Passover and we love trying new ways to eat matzo!  This delicious candy Is highly addictive.  (it’s not called “crack” for nothing…don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

This recipe makes 30 pieces of candy, can easily be doubled or tripled.

4 – 5 matzo cracker (kosher for Passover)

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or use chocolate chips)

Optional toppings:

Sea salt

Crushed Almonds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or use a silicon mat

Place the matzo crackers in one layer on the baking sheet.  Break them as necessary to fill the sheet.  Fill up the pan completely.

In a large sauce pan, melt the buter and brown sugar over medium heat.  Stir constantly for about 7 minutes.  The sauce will thicken and pull away from the side of the pan.   Watch this closely, so as not to scorch the caramel.

Remove sauce from heat and pour over the matzo crackers.  Spread into an even layer, covering all of the crackers.

Put the pan in the oven, turn the heat down to 325.  Bake 15 minutes, watching to make sure it doesn’t burn.   (Resist the urge to scrape the pan to get the extra caramel…even I have burned my crusty old fingers on this dish!)

After cooking for about 15 minutes, when the toffee looks golden brown, remove from the oven.  Immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips over the pan.  When the chips have melted, spread the  chocolate evenly over the toffee.  Now add your favorite toppings…or not!

Let this cool before attempting to handle. Place in airtight container, it will keep for several days, long enough to make your Exodus!

Quinoa, Spinach and Potato Chowder

Easy to cook, nourishing and beautiful in it’s simplicity, quinoa has been a staple in the South American diet for hundreds of years.  It’s been turning up in North American grocery stores in the last few decades to the delight of vegans and omnivores, alike.  I enjoy it’s rich taste and high protein content…and, I can sneak it into a dish that my 7 year old will actually eat! 

Here is my favorite recipe for a chowder that is perfect for warming up on a cold day.  It is lovely to serve, if you are having company or for a special dinner.  It’s high in protein and iron (from the spinach) and is a meal unto itself.  Fresh bread and slice of apple pie for dessert!

Adapted from one of my favorite vegetarian chefs — Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  I’ve made some changes to her original recipe and I’ve added a vegan option.


Quinoa, Spinach and Potato Chowder

3/4 cups quinoa

8 cups water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 cloves chopped garlic

3 baking potatoes (such as russet), peeled and chopped

1 small onion, peeled and chopped

2 bunches of fresh spinach (not frozen)

7 oz of good quality feta cheese chopped into cubes (optional) 

1/2 package of silken tofu (optional)


Rinse the quinoa in a sieve and drain.  (This step is important because quinoa has a naturally occurring bitter oil coating the outside of the grain.)

In a large soup pot, add the rinsed quinoa and 8 cups water, bring to a boil over medium high heat.   Reduce heat to low and simmer the quinoa for 10 minutes.  

Drain the quinoa and reserve the liquid.  I use a sieve over a large 8-cup measuring cup.  The quinoa goes into the sieve and the water (which is now the broth for your chowder) is in the measuring cup. You should have about 8 cups of water/broth reserved.  Add more water to bring it to 8 cups, if some water has evaporated during cooking.

Without rinsing the soup pot, return the pot to the stove and raise the heat to medium.  Add the oil, cumin, garlic and potatoes.  Cook for 3 minutes stirring constantly.  Add the 8 cups of quinoa water.  Scrape any bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Bring the soup to a gentle boil and reduce heat.  Let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender.  

When the potatoes are cooked through, add the quinoa and stir to combine, cooking another 5 minutes.  Remove pot from heat, add spinach, feta cheese and silken tofu (if using).  Stir again, and let sit for several minutes or longer to let the flavors blend and the quinoa to thicken the soup.  


People often think vegan cooking is complicated with esoteric ingredients that no one has on hand.  Well, here is how to make this soup vegan without any extra ingredients or complications–Are you ready?  Omit the cheese.  There, now you’re a vegan.  Enjoy!


Ciabatta Bread

When I tried this recipe for the first time, I thought I really blew it.  The recipe claims the dough will be a firm, elastic  ball after mixing.  I followed all of the directions and I had a bubbling, yeasty-smelling, gooey mess.  A good ciabatta dough has only a handful of ingredients, where did I go wrong?  It turns out that counting is very important in bread baking.  In this case, the ability to count to 5 was crucial.  I needed 5 cups of flour, I only added 4.  Who knew that the phone call I took, the crying baby I comforted and the boo-boo that I kissed on my 6 year old’s arm would make me lose count and lead to bread dough meltdown.

It’s easy to get distracted while baking.  That 1 tablespoon of baking soda can easily be confused with 1 tablespoon of salt.  In this case, I counted out 4 cups of flour, got distracted and continued on with the recipe, omitting the 5th cup of flour.  Luckily, bread is very forgiving and it’s easy to add more of anything in the kneading process.  If the recipes calls for a firm, sticky dough, and you have a gluey mass–add more dough by 1/4 cupful.  Knead it into the dough mass and proceed as if nothing happened!

Here is the ciabatta recipe and it is quite good (or I wouldn’t be posting it!) and relatively easy, as you long as you can count to 5.

Ciabatta Bread

5 cups bread flour

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

2 cups cold water

1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or a stand mixer.  Mix together with a large spoon or use the stand mixer’s dough hook to combine.   About 5 minutes of mixing should do the trick.  The dough should be firm but a little sticky.  Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl (I use spray oil to spray a large bowl).  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise  in the refrigerator for at least six hours or overnight.

When you are ready to bake the loaves, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let stand for about an hour.  Oil two bread pans, such as a 9×4 loaf pans.  Cut the bread dough in half and shape half of the dough into a rectangle, roughly the size of the loaf pan.  Place gently in the oiled pan.  Repeat for the second half of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Bake the loaves for 25 minutes, rotating the pans about half way through.   Let cool completely on wire racks, remove from pans and enjoy.

New Year, New Posts and More Mistakes…

It’s the new year and like many people, I have the urge to clean out closets and organize  stuff.  My blog is one of the areas in my life that will be more orderly in the coming year.  More posts, more recipes and well, more mistakes.

Contrary to how my posts appear, not every recipe comes out right the first time.  Many times I’ve had to improvise or resort to (*gasp*) take-out items to cover dinner.  Part of cooking and creativity in general, is the willingess to try something new, take risks and eat take-out from time to time.   So, in 2012, you will see more about the process of my cooking adventures.  I’ll write about what goes wrong and what I did to fix it…like making a phone call to order pizza delivery.



We had a pantry in the house I grew up in.  It was a big room with a window, right above the cellar.  Two people could comfortably walk into it and have a conversation while reaching for flour, sugar, salt, the hidden pop-tarts.  I have always wanted a pantry.  In the apartments that I lived in, I’ve had to keep my food in the cupboards with my dishes.   When we moved into our current home, one of the selling points for me was the large pantry.  I keep all of my food on the shelves where I can see it.  (I still keep my pop-tarts hidden with my dishes.)

People often ask me what I keep on hand for the quick meals we all need in our feeding repetoire.  Here are a few key items that I find handy and a couple of suggestions on quick pantry meals.





Vegetable Oil

With these few items, you can make granola (combine the above and bake at 300 degrees for 8 minutes, yum).  You can add all of these to stir fry or a fish marinade.  Honey is awesome with peanut butter on toast.  Almonds toasted with vegetable oil make an awesome crust for flaky white fish, like halibut, or salmon.


Canned tomatoes

Black olives



The above ingredients make a wonderful puttenesca sauce.  Boil the pasta, per the instructions.  Combine the other ingredients in a sauce pan and cook about 20 mins.

Lentils (many varieties such as red, black, green)

Dried fruits such as apricot, cherries and dates

Beans (black and pinto are favorites)

Organic vegetable broth (I keep the homemade broth in my freezer in glass canning jars)

Tomato paste

We love black bean soup.  I make a basic recipe using black beans (fresh, not canned) and vegetable broth.  I add canned tomatoes and whatever vegetables I have on hand.  I’ve even used cabbage.   I use lentils to make confetti shrimp.  I cook several types of lentils in one pot, saute frozen shrimp while the lentils cook.  Combine the shrimp, lentils and feta cheese–yum!

A storage tip:  Keep  these bulk items in glass canning jars,  which can be purchased at OSH.  Use them in the pantry, freezer and the refrigerator.  They store nicely and are cheaper than the equivalant in tupperware.

I also keep grains, different types of flours (I’m experimenting with Spelt Flour as a substitute for white flour… more on that later) as well as various brands of chocolate, sweeteners and extracts.  Oh, and don’t forget the pop-tarts.