Recipes Stories

The Legacy of Baking

Baking has always been a passion of mine.  There’s something magical about combining wet and dry ingredients, all of which react with each other to create a beautiful structure of proteins and starches.  My first experiences with this reaction of molecules and heat was helping my mother bake pies.  Filling a pie with fruit or custards was amazing enough, but her natural and unstructured skills with flour, lard and water was, in retrospect, was almost miraculous!  For me as a four or five-year-old on a stool in the kitchen, was Thursday.  But as a now trained Culinarian, it was nothing short of amazing.  She measured out the flour with a melamine coffee cup.  The lard was cut with a knife, but she estimated how much she needed by how many pies were being made.  Then the hot water, apple cider vinegar, and pinch of salt were added, again only by sight and instinct.  Then she would mix with a wooden spoon to break up the lard, then dive in with her hands until she was happy with the consistency.  It felt like play dough.

Aunt Mary’s Toffee Squares

She poured the dough onto the counter, dusted with flour.  First, she mashed the dough with her hands, forming a disk, then more flour and the very ancient rolling pin would finish the job and the disk would become a flat piece of unbaked crust, the perfect size for a pie pan.  Then it was my turn to pinch the edges, because I had tiny fingers and she loved the way my edges looked.  For her apple pies she would then fill with her secret blend of apples, spices, sugar, dabbed with soft butter.  Then topped with another disk of perfect crust, cut vent holes, and back to me for that perfect edge.  Then into the oven to bake.  Other pies were filled with lemon custard and topped with meringue, or filled with pumpkin custard, again her secret blend.  Someday I might share her pumpkin filling.  I still use it!

I learned how to make a pie crust from her, and could replicate it every time.  And I did it for many years.

Now, far into the future, I could not have predicted how my methods have had to change.  The elusive pie crust of this time is difficult to create with the ingredients I now have learned to use.  Even touching all-purpose flour causes hives, swelling and itching on my hands.  It gives me an idea of what happens inside of my body when I eat wheat.

I’ve been undaunted by this challenge.  When it became evident that I could no longer tolerate wheat, I started researching flours and blends to replace the wheat flour.  It started with mixes, Schaar bread mix, Pamela’s Gluten free pancake mix, and Better Crocker cake mixes.  This was a good starting point.  Around this time, I was a home tester for America’s test kitchen, and I landed on the gluten free cooking panel.  This happened at exactly the right time.  God has a way, always.  I got a few recipes, but the basis was a gluten free flour blend.  And it’s a good blend.  However, it’s tedious to make and expensive.  I’m not a lazy cook, but I realized for my recipes to work for others, this blend may not work.  I tired a few blends available at my super market, and Whole Foods in Austin.  They were just okay, and the results were adequate.

Not My Dad’s White Bread

I was doing my once a month shopping at Costco, and saw the light.  Sitting on a pallet in the flour aisle was the best flour blend I have been able to find – Namaste.   The price was good, it was in a five-pound bag and I liked the blend of grains and roots.  I took it home and made a loaf of bread.  The results were amazing!  It was a delicious sandwich bread, and better than the ATK bread in texture and flavor.  I was converted to this beautiful blend from Idaho!  

The recipe testing began in a serious way.  I started with cookies.  Most were perfect, and a couple of recipes needed some tiny adjustments with the wet to dry ratios.  It was good enough, that when we opened the farmers market, I felt comfortable with the baked goodies to sell them to potential customers.

Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and Molassas Cookies

I’ve had to step back a bit from baking, but some recent changes at work (thank-you 2020!) the baking has begun again.  So far, I’ve updated my Banana Nut Muffin recipe, worked on a loaf of crusty bread, and started the process of taking the little in-home bakery to the next level and back to the markets, now that virtual sales for cottage food businesses are legal in Texas.  New videos are up or are in editing, plus more to record in the near future.

My sweet granddaughter is now four, the age I started really taking on the little tasks of creating pies. She does not have a wheat allergy, and I know her Mama is teaching so many of the things I learned as little kid on a stool watching and helping my Mom bake her famous pies. Although I can’t teach her the crust, I can pass on the secret fillings that were as important as the crust. But maybe, with a little coaching, I can also teach her the secrets of the crust. Flaky and golden brown. filled with sweet joy. And I am blessed to be part of the legacy.

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Can Me Some Salmon

A brief search on the interwebs yielded a mix of recipes for salmon patties, cakes and croquet. About half include canned salmon and the other half fresh. And all of the fresh salmon recipes add the extra step of cooking the salmon, then flaking and breaking it down. I think canned salmon might ultimately win the battle.

There are a few reasons to use canned salmon

  • Canned salmon saves time
  • Everything in the can can be used
  • Canned salmon is significantly less expensive than fresh salmon
  • Canned salmon is wild caught, not farm raised
  • Canned salmon adds nutrition

I’m a little busy

Fried Salmon Patty with Lemon Caper Dill Sauce

Although it doesn’t take long to cook salmon, it’s just one more thing to deal with when cooking a simple meal. So, the main dish which only takes about 15 minutes to prep, now takes even longer. First, it’s prepping a pan, then baking or roasting. Then there is the time it takes to let it cool enough so the fish can be flaked. Just the basics of prepping, cooking cooling and flaking the salmon adds about an hour to a 30 minute recipe. I’m a little busy. I have a job and sometimes I get home a little later than expected. I have stuff to do after work and on my days off, like write recipes and take pretty food pictures. I’d rather let the cannery do all of that work.

All canned salmon is caught in the wild, which means no antibiotics or funky fish food. The wild salmon eat whatever wild salmon eat, plankton, small shrimp, and small fish, among other things. The most current count for Pacific salmon are above recommended populations, so this makes them a cheap food source. The fish are caught in nets and canned at canneries almost immediately, locking on nutrient values. The last can I used were packed with very little water, and I ended up using the drained liquid in my recipe. Win for the omegas!

You’ll become a convert

Fresh wild salmon are caught during the summer and fall months during spawning. The fish are then quick frozen, although some gets to the fish markets in a fresh state. But a fish can sit in refrigeration for a longer period, and all the while the flesh is breaking down and losing nutritional value and flavor. Farm raised salmon are the most likely to arrive fresh in your local fish market. The fish can be harvested at any time of the year, keeping our desire for the lovely pink fish in constant supply. This article will give you the low-down on the differences of farm versus wild. I’ll continue to buy fresh wild caught salmon seasonally. Try some wild caught Copper River salmon – you’ll become a convert.

Don’t like the smell of cooked fish in the house?

My original ‘outdoor’ kitchen

A few good recipes will change any purist’s mind about the use of canned salmon in recipes. Of course, if you want a light salmon mousse, canned won’t work. But for salads, patties, and burgers, canned salmon is an inexpensive and fast ingredient. And just add a tasty sauce and toppings and the quick meal is done. If you don’t like the odor of cooked fish in your house, put a heavy skillet on your grill and with lots of fat, you’ll have a beautiful pan fried salmon cake in a few minutes. Or you could use my method – a hot plate on a table on the patio!

When I decided to revisit this classic family recipe, it had been at least a year since I had last made the patties. And while making it, I couldn’t believe that I dropped this off of my monthly list of recipes. It’s too easy and too quick and very tasty. Kids love the crunch and the sauce, making a happier meal for everyone.

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An Open Letter to my Chef Friends – Make me food I can eat

An Open Request to my Chef Friends-

Celiac Disease is not a fake made up thing. And some good science has proven that gluten-intolerance is not a made up thing either.

Although there is a certain faddishness to gluten intolerance, those with the disorder know that it’s real, it’s painful, and as with people with Celiac disease, it causes inconvenience and challenges.
I have more than a couple of friends who are chefs, cook for living and more. And there are lots of people who are going gluten free for a million faddish reasons. This is where the two worlds collide. And why I get so pissed off about this story continuing with a headline that is misleading.

Over the last few years, a study out of Monash University in Australia has been touted as having disproved the existence of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or NCGS. It’s been picked up by multiple reputable news outlets. However, a read of the overview shows that the results were inconclusive. A percentage of the participants had symptoms after a re-challenge, but medical tests did not provide anything quantifiable. The title, “No effects of gluten in patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity after dietary reduction of fermentable, poorly absorbed, short-chain carbohydrates.” If I read that and didn’t continue on, I would ass-u-me that gluten intolerance is made up. Although I am not a professional journalist, a quick search for more studies, with many running as long as fifteen years prove that NCGS is real, it shows up in two forms with medical testing, but the cause is still unknown. A simple five minute internet search was all it took to learn it’s been proven to be real.

So here’s what the scientists who study this stuff have concluded.
1. NCGS seems to affect people who have other food allergies.
2. It can appear later in life, like any other allergy.
3. Many people with endocrine problems, like diabetes and thyroid disease are more prone to developing the sensitivity
4. The allergy form of NCGS seems to come from wheat and not gluten.
5. The older people get, the more opportunity to develop NCGS.

Four out of five of those conclusions fit me; number 4 is an unknown. However, I can drink beer that is not made with wheat and don’t experience ill effects.

I have NCGS. I would love to make it go away, head to an Italian restaurant and pig out on creamy Alfredo and crusty garlic bread. I would love to make pizza like I used to with a luscious homemade crust. I would love to go to a restaurant and not freak out because of cross-contact with my salad, no croutons, because it’s the only thing on the menu that looks safe. Because if I did any of those things, I would spend the next three days curled in a fetal position in excruciating pain.

NCGS has two scientific markers; one is something similar to Celiac Disease, but not celiac. Some people have a genetic predisposition to the disease, but don’t develop it to the extreme level. Next, are people more like me, a reaction more in line with an allergy. This includes abdominal pain, oral blisters, bloating, nausea, headaches, and in the extreme, vomiting, and anaphylaxis. If there has been cross-contact or some other exposure, I know within an hour or two, because the blisters will start to pop up in my mouth.

There are a few myths associated with going gluten free, and many more statements that are being studied, but lack enough conclusive evidence to prove one way or another that going gluten free is helpful. It may not help you lose weight. In fact the opposite may occur. There is no conclusive evidence that it helps with depression, anxiety, autism, irritable bowel syndrome (see the Monash study), or several other fill-in-the-blank diseases. The reality is that NCGS and Celiac Disease only affects a maximum of 6% of the population. And not everyone who has it knows it. The other 94% of the world is safe, and will probably never have another problem.

Not My Dad’s White Bread

I love that I can go to my favorite sub shop, order for a gluten free sandwich, and the sandwich maker immediately cleans the station, washes hands, gets a clean knife and cutting board. I can go to a couple of local burger restaurants and get gluten free French fries and my burger on a gluten free bun. I can call Dominoes and have a gluten free pizza delivered! One funny moment was when I ordered tacos off the gluten free menu, the server told me I would have to be served corn tortillas, AND NOT FLOUR. I and my millions of companions are not asking for a lot.

Okay, I’m not asking for a lot. Some of my chef friends own bakeries. I would not ask any of them to go out of their way to add gluten free to their repertoire. We who suffer, skip the baked goods, buy from safe sources, or make our own.

This next part is for my chef friends who have to deal with whiny me when I come to your restaurant. You know what a crazy food nerd I am. You know that I don’t like to whine, and I don’t like asking for special favors.

Until now.

I am asking for two things of my chef friends.
1. Please check sources of what you’re reading and verify the information. Just because doesn’t mean it’s true. Ask me; I have sources.
2. Think about adding something other than salad for those of us with food allergies. I don’t mind that my order takes a little longer because you made the effort to isolate a station to make my food. Make a sauce for the chicken with cream instead of flour. Ask me; I have recipes.

Gluten-free food has become a huge money-maker in the food processing industry. Grocery stores are filled with gluten free labels. The restaurant industry has an opportunity for the same growth. I know my friends are talented enough to do this. And I know they are smart enough to do it.  I’m just asking for food I can eat.

Meal Planning Stories Uncategorized

Meal prep and planning

Meal Planning revisited

A few years ago, when I started this website, one goal was to teach people how to plan meals and shop as  efficiently as possible.  Several new services and businesses have cropped up to reduce stress for the people eating the food.  While there is nothing wrong with any of these options, planning is important.

If you use a delivered meal service, everything is in a box, the recipes, and portioned food.  A friend of mine tried a meal kit service, and liked it, but realized that she still had to cook the food.  Although some of the packaging was recyclable, much of it went in the the trash, and the food had to be shipped cross country  before it spoiled.  These are not inexpensive options.  She ordered meals at the cost of about $10 per person per meal.  Recipes changed constantly, there wasn’t much consistency with the food.  If you loved a meal or recipe, it wasn’t always available again.  Again, if you love to cook and try new recipes, it’s a great plan, but most people need to get a good meal on the table quickly, with the least amount of stress.

I test products,

and received a meal kit from a large super market chain.. Yesterday afternoon, I made the kit, a meal designated for two people.  It contained appropriately portioned salmon, Basmati rice, a packet of blackening seasoning, green beans, a small onion, a large green bell pepper, seasoned butter, a lemon, chicken stock, and slivered almonds.  My job was to read and follow directions, (important to any recipe) and make the food.  I had to provide cooking oil, salt and pepper, the cookware and my stellar knife and cooking skills.  This was not a kit for beginners.  And it really wasn’t something I would make on a busy weeknight.  Since I was photographing along the way, it took a little longer than the anticipated 30-40 minutes.  So I poured myself a glass of wine, and got down to the business of making a meal from a kit.

This is like building with Legos

Everything is in the box, and I had no say in what ingredients I can use, no room for creativity or adapting.  So I got out my knife, cutting board, cooking oil, and put a little Kosher salt in a bowl, and grabbed the pepper grinder.  I opened the box and et voila! salmon, green beans, a giant pepper, etc., etc.  First step, wash the veggies, Check!, cut up the pepper and onion, Check! heat up a saucepan, Check! and so on.  The end result was just okay; I wouldn’t pay for this in a restaurant.  It was very convenient to have everything all in one box, but I missed picking out my vegetables and adapting the portions.  The green bean to rice ratio was unbalanced.  The kits provide excellent meal alternatives, but it removes us, culturally, one step more, away from the source of our food.

A lot of people don’t want to cook.

In the past, the only options were TV dinners or frozen pizzas.  However, food manufacturers (I kind of hate that term), expanded the choices, but most were still frozen or canned, and not very appealing.  Enter the pre-made and assembled fresh and never frozen meals.  Supermarket chains, like the one that gave me the kit, have developed one meal, one tray, for one person, products and it’s all fresh, pretty healthy, and tastes pretty good.  A meal consists of a protein like chicken, pork or seafood, plus one or two sides, maybe green beans or asparagus, and something starchy like potatoes or rice, and a sauce.  Again, it’s easy pop them in the oven, and thirty minutes later, FOOD!  It still removes us from the source of our food, but the general concept is sound.


Many retailers have hire- a- shopper services.  For a small additional charge, you can order your food and other items online and have the option of either picking them up or having them delivered to your home.  These are great options, and as a sometimes caterer, I see this as a huge win by reducing the time to shop for the food I’m serving my customers.  I can spend more time prepping and organizing the event. But the product ordered may not be the product delivered, especially if  uncommon ingredients are needed,

I love all these options, but with all of these options, you still have to plan and create a list.  This is where my original plan comes into play, the simple, list of repeatable meals that your family loves.  Easy out the door breakfasts and lunches.  Meals than can take as little as fifteen minutes to get on the table for church and soccer nights. And more time for special meals for the weekends.

All of this makes me miss the good old days.  We knew farmers, planted our gardens, ate meals socially with family and friends.  We created our own convenience meals by cooking on the weekends and having some leftovers during the week.  While it’s still my primary method of meal planning and cooking, boredom with eating the same thing all week becomes a struggle.

























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All About Family and Evolution

Evolutionary Eats is about family and the evolution of family.


And I decided that I wanted to learn more about my family and where we came from.  When I was little, I was sickly and spent a lot of time with my Grandma Rose.  She was German, born in Russia, and a Jew who had converted to Christianity as a new American immigrant.  These were all things she told me, and apparently no one else until she neared the end of her life.  Things were pretty rough for her in Russia, her parents died of unknown causes, her own sister was a widow at 18.  There was a major famine in Russia after WWI, Jews were being killed and driven out, along with millions of other ethnic Germans, most of them Christians, that the new Soviet government wanted out or dead.  But Grandma Rose was an eternal optimist for me, and told me stories about dancing, music, traveling on a ship to America, the clothes they wore, what they played with and what they ate.  The stories about her mother seemed to be blurred between the two women in her life who were her mothers. Amelia Herman was the woman who ‘adopted’ Rose, 12 and Walter, 9. And Katharina, her birth mother, who died before Rose was 11.

Kaldunis to Kreplach

When major events happen in families, we often reach for a story in our history.  In 2012, we lost the beloved T.D, and in 2016 we gained a new little soul. Clara has brightened our little Texas family and I’m happy to be the grandma now.  But it made me reach for my family history as well.  And I want to share the family recipes with Clara as well as anyone else who might be interested.  So I’ve spent some time reviewing some of the things we ate and cooked, and foods that helped us celebrate and congregate as a group.  My mom was usually the one who hosted the events, but Grandma Rose always brought something special as well.  She made the best dill pickles, pickled herring, and a pocket full of goodness called a kalduni.  For my senior project as culinary student, I created a menu based on Russian foods, and the Belorussian kalduni was a term used for a small ravioli.  But Grandma’s were huge and my research this year led me to kreplach.  Grandma’s were always filled with ground beef, onions and sometimes rice.  They were always boiled in salt water and she always used a tomato sauce, but her brother, Ed, made the best sauce. Her dough was the perfect combination of thin, but the edges still chewy.  And they were always triangles, while kalduni’s were described as round, like perogi and translated to little ears.  And they were only for special occasions.

She always wanted to go visit Russia
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More about Evolutionary Eats

Something came across my line of sight today.  A company with a very similar name is now providing a service that was never in my list of tasks; however I think the concept is interesting.  It prompted me and really gave a kick in the backside to better define the goals.

Evolutionary Eats is for people who want to learn how to be personally responsible for what they eat. My goal is to teach you how to shop for your food, or how to hire someone to do it for you. It’s to teach you how to plan meals, teach your kids to eat better food, and make good choices when they are out of sight. It is not about judgement, accountability or anything else. We are personally responsible for what we consume, in all aspects of our lives, and how we choose to view ourselves, in every situation.

On Facebook, many of my friends post photos and links to recipes.   That is part of the beauty of social media.  As a food person, I am constantly working on recipes, concepts for recipes, photo shoots, and then putting it all together in a consumable form. To be honest, most of the time I glance at the recipes and photos, and then move on. And to be very honest, I do all of it myself.  On occasion, a friend will check out something I am doing, but really it’s all me.  One person with some basic technical knowledge, slapping together something that is almost cohesive and coherent.

I listen to podcasts by  Srinivas Rao, instigator of Unmistakable Creative.  Recently, I got a big nudge.  I realized my readers need some drama, a great back story of how this came about, and why I feel so compelled to continue. The interview was with Donald Miller, author and business man.  There is a long back story, and why I know  that I am on the path God intended.  There are probably only a few people who know the whole story.   For a long time, I was a victim, and I played the role, even after I had the power to be free of it.

All of this ties to food.  Food has made me evolve, transform, so much of myself. It was always the background for what was going on in my life and in my small, limited view of the world.  Food is healing, not only for our bodies but for our souls as well.  God showed us this early on in Judeo-Christian history.  This morning for my daily reading was Leviticus 6:1-6, regarding the daily burnt offering.  It reminded me to “to keep the fires burning”; never let it go out. And to make that daily communion with God.

When I tell snippets of my story to people, they are amazed.  I believe it’s the rea-20150219_115404son it has taken so long for me to get to this point.  At one point I resovled to not tell this, because it didn’t seem to have any bearing on the goals, and I didn’t want to hurt those involved.  But now, it seems the story is important to tell.

More to come; it is about the food.