Any Kitchen Will Do

Give me a kitchen and I will cook.

300th Sausage Herb Frittata

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One or two days a week I do Grain Free Haven baking and roasting marathons to prepare special order and market products. Markets and special orders usually need delivery or pick up on weekend days, so the marathons tend to land on Thursday or Friday. These are also days when the week’s groceries are dwindling, with bits and pieces littering the refrigerator shelves and drawers. On marathon days I like to have family cooking done early for the whole day. Busy baking days and using bits and pieces make dishes like soups and frittatas so appealing. Meats and vegetables go together so well in so many combinations, it is easy to combine them and bind with eggs or broth. They are honorable, filling dishes that help me significantly reduce possible food waste, the thought of which makes me very sad.

In the past I have made versions with salmon and a meaty version. This week Big D made some spicy breakfast sausage that had lovely flavors, but was a skidge salty. We also had some standards in the pantry, like eggs, onions and turnips, so here is what I came up with. It filled up the family all day, both hot right out of the oven in the morning and cold right out of the fridge later in the day. The skillet was empty and bellies were full. Just the way I like it.

I also just realized that this is my 300th post to this blog! It has taken me over 3 1/2 years to get here. I look back in wonder on where I started and where I am now – personally, professionally, nutritionally and emotionally it has been quite a ride. It started out as a way to record recipes so that friends, family and I could find them easily, and also record the antics of my little family. It became a journey about nutrition and food sensitivities, and helped launch a cottage food business that is helping me support said little family. I may not post as frequently now as I did when I started, but I plan on continuing to create and share our journey. Thanks for joining me and thanks to all the people that lent me their kitchens!

300th Sausage Herb Frittata

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound spicy breakfast sausage
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large turnip, chopped
1 tsp sea salt (you may need more, depending on saltiness of sausage)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
1 Tbsp dried basil leaves
1 Tbsp dried oregano leaves
6 large or 7 medium eggs
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 cup shredded co-jack cheese

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a 10″ iron skillet* heat the oil over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic and turnip. Sauté about four minutes until onions are translucent and garlic is browning. Add sausage, stir and cook for about five minutes until sausage is heated through. While sausage is heating up break eggs into a medium bowl, along with salt, pepper, parsley, basil, oregano and cream. Whisk together until egg whites and yolks are well mixed.

Remove skillet from heat.

Pour egg mixture over contents of skillet and stir until egg mixture and sausage/vegetable mixture are well combined. Sprinkle cheese on top of the egg, sprinkling a little more parsley, basil and oregano if you like (I do).

Place skillet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Move skillet to top rack and bake for ten more minutes. Remove from oven. The center of the frittata should be a little puffy. Let sit for about five minutes before serving – the puffiness will settle while it cools. Serve immediately.

*This frittata can be made in a oven proof baking dish if you don’t have the noted iron skillet size, just make sure it is no larger than 10″x10″ to ensure the mixture is thick enough to prevent drying out when it is baked thoroughly enough. If an iron skillet is not used, additional baking time may be needed (about 5-8 minutes), since iron skillets speed up cooking time.

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

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Although the ingredients are not seasonally limited, I always consider cabbage rolls to be an autumn dish. They are a baked, one dish meal that freezes and reheats well. The other day I had a craving for thema, as the outside temperatures are gradually dropping, but I did not have as much time as needed to do them up right – blanching the cabbage leaves enough to roll them was more demanding on time than I had, so I embraced the concept of deconstructing them.

Yes, I have recently watched a few episodes of Chopped on the Food Network. I don’t watch many food shows or competition shows, but that one intrigues me. I don’t now if it is the frantic desperation of some contestants, or the odd combination of ingredients that have to use, but I get a kick out of it. If you have ever seen the show you will be familiar with the requirement that specific, typically unrelated ingredients have to be used to create an appetizer, entrée or dessert in a limited amount of time. “Deconstructed” versions of dishes are often presented on the show typically because of time restraints. It was very fitting for my brain to wander to the show concept when a rather rigid time limit was presented to me.

I think the key to this dish is the well shredded cabbage. It cooked faster than larger pieces or fully rolled cabbage rolls. Also, the small cabbage pieces helped soak up all the wonderful flavor of the fresh garden herbs I harvested before they went to seed, as well as the joyful combination of beef and tomatoes in the alternating layers. I ate too much because it was so good, Big D already asked when it will be made again, and Little B’s plate was empty when she asked for more. I hope you enjoy it too!

Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls

1 small head cabbage, shredded
1 medium carrot
1 small yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
20 fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup fresh thyme leaves
1 cup fresh parsley sprigs
2 pounds ground beef
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup grated parmesan/asiago/romano cheese
Sour cream (optional for serving)

Chop onion, carrot and garlic into small pieces. Roll the basil, oregano, thyme and parsley leaves into a small roll. With a sharp knife slice the herb roll. Cross chop the herbs again until the oils are released. In a large iron skillet over medium high heat add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the carrot, onion and garlic. Cook for about two minutes, until the onions begin to turn transparent and brown. Add the chopped herbs and stir, cooking for another two to three minutes.

Clear the vegetable mixture from the center of the skillet. Add the ground beef and break it up, folding in the vegetables as the beef pieces get smaller. When the meat is broken up into small pieces and beginning to brown add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir and turn temperature under the skillet to high. Let bubble and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the liquid reduces by half, about five to eight minutes. Turn heat down to medium and simmer for another five minutes. Salt and pepper generously to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a 9×13 baking dish place half of the shredded cabbage into an even layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg. Add a layer of the meat mixture, making sure half of it is left for another layer. Add a second and final layer of cabbage, again sprinkling with salt, pepper and the rest of the nutmeg. Add the second and final layer of meet, covering all the cabbage.

Sprinkle the cheese mixture on top of the meat layer. Place in preheated oven on the top shelf. Bake for 30 minutes. Check the top of the casserole, making sure it is not browning too quickly – if it is, place it on the middle or lower shelf. If is is barely brown or not at all, leave it on the top shelf.

Bake for 30 more minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Apple Herb Pork Loin

applestuffedporkloin I made this roast for my mom’s birthday. She is on the verge of a milestone birthday and generously came to us instead of us travelling to her, since I am so busy on weekends with Grain Free Haven. I knew she loved apples with her pork, but wanted to do something other than apple sauce to serve with it. The garden is still bursting with herbs so I poked around in it for inspiration. The finished roast ended up being a beautiful, seasonally stuffed centerpiece to a celebratory dinner, surrounded by steamed veggies, hollandaise sauce and wine, of course.

As you can see from the picture my rolled roast did not stay fully rolled – a trimmed roast may have stayed in place better, but I love how moist pork is when fat is still attached. The unrolling of the roll did not seem to detract from the ability of the flavors to spread through the pork and the stuffing complimenting it in a wonderful way. The final product may have ended up even better with the stuffing having spilled out, mixing with the roast juices. We just used a spoon to drizzle the stuffing and juices over the top of each served slice. Of course, when I make this again the stuffing will stay put and dribble out the ends. I will let you know!
Apple Herb Stuffed Pork Loin
1  4 1/2 – 5 pound pork loin, fat on
1 Tbsp butter
3 small Granny Smith apples
1/2 large carrot
1 celery heart with leaves (or 2 stalks)
1 medium white onion
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
Seasoning salt or salt and pepper to taste
Roughly chop apples, carrot, celery and onion. In medium sauce pan over medium high heat melt the butter. Add garlic, onion, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes. Add apples, basil, oregano and parsley, cooking for three more minutes. Drop in goat cheese and stir until melted. Let mixture simmer until bubbly. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a fillet knife gently cut into the loin about 1/2 inch below the fat layer, curving around to continue the 1/2 inch thickness until the loin lies flat. Generously sprinkle all sides of the loin with seasoning salt or salt and pepper. Place the loin with fat face down. Using kitchen twine place a length under the loin every inch, making sure there is sufficient length to tie knots.
Place the apple mixture on the end opposite the face down fat. Carefully roll the loin over the filling, ending with the fat side facing up. Tie each length of twine to secure the roll. Place in shallow 9×13 baking dish.
Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for about ten minutes before serving.


Ham and Egg Salad Tomatoes

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After a long day of baking and roasting products for Grain Free Haven, and helping hubby publish his latest book, The Secret:  A Thriller (free for a couple more days!) it was time to actually eat a meal. Not interested in turning on the oven again, I sought out a quick, oven-free meal for us to have. Spying the ever-present boiled eggs, ham and tomatoes in the fridge I came up with a fun idea. Stuffed tomatoes! The same staple foods we often eat, but in a fun little package! I won’t be selling them from my booth next weekend, but they were fun to make and eat. I have done something similar with tuna and cherry tomatoes, for a dainty tea party dish, but never used egg salad or larger roma tomatoes. These would go great as make ahead for a luncheon or pot luck. Let’s see if my mom is inspired to do them for one of her many monthly lunches next month!

Ham and Egg Salad Tomatoes

4 boiled eggs, roughly chopped (drop raw eggs in boiling water, boil for ten minutes, rinse with cold water, then peel)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp yellow or other mustard
1 tsp dill leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices ham, diced
5-6 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise and seeds removed

In a medium bowl add mayonnaise, mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, dill leaves and a dash of salt and pepper. Whisk together until well combined. Add eggs and ham. Stir until ham and egg is coated. Fill each tomato half with salad, mounding it on top and gently pressing it into the hollow of the tomato. Place on platter and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.


Garden Chicken

2015-08-29 17.59.51Since I began my new business, Grain Free Haven, I have spent a ton of time in the kitchen, but not so much on new stuff. I have been making large quantities of the reliable recipes we love, to share with all my new customers. In my continued effort to contribute to the healthy eating of my family, I share with you now ANOTHER chicken recipe. I swear it is different enough from this chicken recipe, and this one and this one and this one to warrant sharing…. Even with all the bulk baking for the business I still want to spend time in the kitchen making new stuff, so I am making a concerted effort to still come up with new stuff.

Much of what you need for it comes from your garden, or your neighbor’s garden, or even your local farmers’ market vendor gardens…in my case it came from my brother’s garden. The dish is full of summer and the sauce, which can be made in advance of baking the chicken, is addictive. I warned you.

Garden Chicken

2 pounds fresh tomatoes (or 2-14 1/2 ounce cans diced tomatoes)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
4  cups fresh, raw spinach
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
8 – 10 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
Salt and pepper, to season chicken
1 cup finely grated Parmesean cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (optional)

Roughly chop tomatoes and place in large sauce pan uncovered over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic, basil, oregano and parsley. When mixture is bubbly reduce heat to medium and continue cooking uncovered for 30 – 45 minutes, until liquid from tomatoes is released and reduced by about half. Add the spinach, salt and pepper, stirring until the spinach wilts and mixes with the tomatoes. Let simmer for ten more minutes. Remove pan from heat. With an immersion blender (or carefully pour the hot stuff into a stand blender) purée the sauce until tomatoes, spinach and herbs are blended into a smooth sauce. Simmer for five more minutes to reheat sauce, then thoroughly stir in heavy whipping cream. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then place them in large baking dish. Sprinkle half the Parmesean cheese over the chicken thighs. Pour tomato sauce over chicken, making sure it is covered and there is a layer on the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and optional chopped herbs over chicken, followed by the rest of the Parmesean cheese. Place in oven for 30  minutes. Cheeses should begin to brown. Cover dish loosely with aluminum foil (to prevent cheese from getting too brown) and bake for 15 more minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. When serving gently lift the chicken out of the dish, trying not to disturb the sauce and cheese that has moulded on top of each thigh – as the dish cooked the tomato solids settled on top of the chicken with the cheeses and the juices ran down, so serving with the ‘topping’ intact makes for a pretty presentation.


Bright Bok Choy

bokchoysauteWhen we made lobster recently I wanted to serve something bright next to it, but not something that would overpower the sweet crustacean meat. I landed on bok choy, for it is easy to make and met the requirement for bright contrast. I was also influenced by the fact it was in the produce department of the store where we bought the lobster. They were small, very green and very fresh looking. I love wokking (is that a word?) bok choy. I love wokking greens in general – dropping some into the well to sear, then tossing them on the edges to rest, then dropping them right back into the well.

The bok choy keeps with the trend in our house of often eating green, leafy vegetables as often as possible. I like mustard greens and turnip greens and collard greens and spinach, but some variety is always welcome in my world. I have never served bok choy with lobster, but I probably will again, especially with an extra drizzle of lemon, to connect it with the lobster butter. Also, it is fun to say – bok choy, bok choy, bok choy, bok choy….

Bright Bok Choy

2 – 4 bunches bok choy, well rinsed (to equal to approximately 8 cups raw chopped)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp ginger, peeled and finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Thoroughly rinse sand and soil from bok choy. Chop green leaves off from white stems. Loosely chop green tops. Chop white stems to bite-sized pieces. Add oil to wok or large frying pan over medium high heat. When oil is hot add ginger and garlic. Cook until it begins to brown. Add chopped white stems. Cook stems for about five minutes, tossing regularly. Add green tops and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss mixture until greens are wilted, 3-5 minutes. Season with additional salt to taste. Remove to serving bowl and serve immediately.

Herby Dressing


I make a lot of salad dressing. My goal is typically to find vegetables that will bring the dressing to my mouth. I like vegetables, but it is hard to keep them interesting and add variety to ensure they make up a majority of my diet. I have been surrounded by herbs and summer lately, so decided to try and capture it all in a jar. I trundled through the jungle of herbs in my brother’s back yard and grabbed handfuls of garlic, cilantro and parsley. I rush back into the kitchen, to reduce my exposure to the triple digit temperatures. I filled the food processor with other basics of a dressing and come up with a bright, crisp, green concoction. We have used it so far to flavor salad, cauliflower fried ‘rice’, cottage cheese and dip. The word dressing may be deceiving, for it is not just for salad. It can brighten up all kinds of foods, so go for it!

Herby Dressing

1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 ground black pepper
Place all ingredients except for olive oil into a food processor. Pulse the ingredients until herbs are of a uniform size. Continue processing steadily while incorporating oil with a continuous, steady stream into the processor. Store dressing in an airtight container, drizzling it with abandon on raw veggies or incorporating it into vegetable dishes.

Boiled Lobster with Clarified Butter

lobster in shell

A most hated dish to me is overcooked, dried out lobster. It is sad that such a delicious creature gets so abused for our sake. Not the eating of lobster; I am fine with doing that, but the overcooking of it. For that reason I do not often order it in restaurants. Maybe it is unfair to assume they will screw it up, but it is what I do. My parents were the same way. They would not get them at restaurants, but buy them alive the afternoon they planned on cooking, and leave the suckers in the sink to wait. When I was young and short I would peek over the edge of the counter and see them moving around, with their claws bound in rubber bands. According to my mom, once one of those claws came towards me and I freaked out. Apparently it was hilarious. I am not sure if I thought so at the time.

If you have never prepared fresh, live lobster, from crawling to consuming, you are missing out. The meat cannot be compared to previously frozen tails or disguising of it in a lobster roll or dip. It is pure, sweet, meaty heaven. The reason for keeping them alive until right before cooking is to preserve them as long as possible. Like all shellfish, they begin to break down (organs and all) immediately upon death, so delaying it as long as possible is the healthiest, safest way to prepare them.

If you have never used clarified butter you may wonder why is it important to us it, instead of just melting butter right out of the fridge. It is my opinion, and that of many others, that if the butter is not clarified, with a hint of lemon, the butter will take over the flavor of the lobster instead of enhancing it, and leave a greasy film in the mouth. Leftover clarified butter is a great fat for cooking other things. It is the foundation of butter without the milk solids and water, so it has a high smoking point for cooking other foods and contributes a wonderful butteriness to whatever you cook.

Sadly, Brigit did not sample the lobster. After helping me buy them, watching them move around on the counter, then watching them lowered live into a pot of boiling water, I think she was squeamish about eating them. She might have been influenced by watching me tear it apart, claw by claw, tail by tail, then use kitchen scissors to open up the stubborn pieces. Maybe next time she will try it, for there will be a next time. The rest of our gang inhaled ever morsel, and sucked out the meat from the legs, like little lobster straws.

If you want more information about how to utilize as much of the lobster as possible, and dismantle it like I do, I recommend this video.

Boiled Lobster with Clarified Butter

1 pound unsalted butter
2 lemons
2 lobsters, 1 1/2 -2 pounds each
2-3 gallons water
2 bay leaves

In a medium saute pan over medium low heat add butter and zest from one lemon. Heat until butter is melted and steaming. Remove from heat and pour butter through a sieve to remove zest. Let butter sit for 20 minutes. Skim off fat layer that forms on top. Pour the rest of butter into a measuring cup or clear glass bowl. Place in refrigerator and let chill for at least four hours.

In a large stock pot add enough water to cover both lobsters and squeeze in lemon juice from one lemon. Drop in lemon rinds and bay leaves. Bring water to a rolling boil. Remove rubber bands from lobster claws. Drop lobsters into the boiling water, head and claws first. Cover and boil for 15 minutes, until shells are red.

While lobster cooks complete the clarified butter. Remove butter from refrigerator and scoop out the yellow, clarified portion from the top, leaving separate the white, watery portion (water and milk solids). Heat butter over medium heat until melted and steamy. Remove lobsters from water and set on tray to cool. Serve whole or remove edible meat from shells and serve on a platter. Serve by dipping bites into the butter.

Roasted Radishes

roasted radishesAs a kid I did not pay much attention to radishes. They were occasionally included in my green salad, but were a bit spicy for me, along with the raw onion. When older I realized that the spicy and peppery of onions and radishes were wonderful, and I added them in droves. I also found out that the heat of raw radishes and onions changed dramatically when cooked. I often cook up onions to compliment other vegetables and dishes, like in my French onion dip, which is the same for radishes. As you can see from the picture, they can easily be mistaken for roasted new potatoes or turnips. These guys are like vegetable candy. The radishes remind me of turnips, but much more tender and sweet from the start.

Texas is bursting with vegetables during the summer. Farmers markets are full of root vegetables, including radishes and I totally went for it. The radishes were ecstatic raw with a peppery bite to them. The great thing about radishes is that they are tender from the beginning, and only get more tender if cooked. They can be lightly roasted until just heated through, or if they are roasted a bit more, you allow for a bit of caramelizing. I did the longer cooking time to maximize the caramelizing. They go great with the pile of smoked meats that came out of the smoker when the radishes came out of the oven. Between the radishes, smoked meats my brother made and a big batch of coleslaw, we had a summer feast to end all feasts.

Roasted Radishes

4 cups small red radishes, chopped in halves
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp granulated garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley leaves
2 tsp dried oregano leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl combine the oil, salt, garlic, parsley and oregano. Add the radishes and toss until coated. Spread radishes evenly on foil lined shallow baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and toss, then return to oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven again and serve immediately.

Face Moisturizer

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For about 20 years I used basic over the counter face moisturizer. In recent years my laugh lines have become more prominent, though not of any real concern to me. If I am going to have some crows feet I am good with that. Over the past year or so I noticed that the moisturizer did not seem to ‘take care’ of my skin the way it did when I was 18. I guess I am just lucky the same product was available for so long. Instead of spending a fortune trying to figure out a new commercial product to use I decided to turn to the kitchen. I know how well coconut oil moisturizes the rest of my skin, and the anti-inflammatory properties of olive oil never hurts the skin.

I do not promise that this mixture will miraculously make your wrinkles disappear or magically lift your face. I am sure if you are seeking out such results there is a skin care regimen available at your local department store you can invest in. What I can do is promise you soft, supple and glowing skin. It balances out my combination skin, helps get rid of blemishes quickly and is a natural sunblock (although I still use extra block when I will be out in the sun all day). Another advantage to using it is the massaging you do with your fingers to get it absorbed. Very relaxing and cheaper than a facial!

Face Moisturizer

2 Tbsp avocado oil
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp extra virgin coconut oil
5-6 drops essential oil

Heat coconut oil slightly to liquefy. Add avocado and olive oil and combine. Pour oil mixture into glass serum jar. Add essential oil drops and gently stir until combined. To apply, use a dropper to put a few drops on your finger tip. Spread among three or four fingers and gently rub evenly over face, gently massaging it into the skin until absorbed.

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