Vietnamese Pho Stir Fry

We made a most amazing Vietnamese Pho Soup last weekend.  Having obtained most of the ingredients from a Vietnamese grocer in the Strip District of Pittsburgh (a wonderful place to visit when in ‘The ‘Burgh’), I had no idea of what to do with all the left over Thai Basil (which tastes like fennel). Pho beef broth filled with the strange and delightful scents of coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and I’m not sure what all else, the overarching impression one of sassafras; I needed to make something or I’d lose that New Years resolution to keep my fridge science experiment free.  I kept thinking about risotto, but risotto, an Italian dish, has nothing at all to do with a kitchen full of Asian ingredients. Then the idea of preparing a stir fry using the risotto method of slowly adding hot liquid to the rice came to mind. Wonderful cilantro, limes, ginger, scallions, thai basil, napa cabbage and garlic chopped and ready to saute, I was excited to enter uncharted territory. Asian vegetables and herbs are not only healthy, but beautiful.

Pho Soup broth becomes the hot liquid that the rice absorbs.

A large stainless steel saute pan has enough room for the vegetables and rice. Start by sauteing garlic and ginger until golden, then add in the rest of the vegetables

Once the vegetables begin to wilt a little, add the rice all at once and stir for about 2 minutes, or until combined.

Once it has been thoroughly tossed together, including the meat or shrimp, add the hot pho soup 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly at a low simmer till absorbed before adding more. Repeat this process until the rice is plump, tender and cannot absorb any more liquid.  It will take about 20 minutes or so and you might have to add hot water for more liquid.

There you have it.  Simple and delish.  Top with extra chopped scallions and cilantro with a wedge of lime and it’s good to go.  I confess I used some of the leftover peanut satay sauce and some of the plum sauce to add flavor.  Did it to taste – maybe 1/4 cup of satay sauce and a few tablespoons of plum sauce.

Look at this pretty Napa Cabbage!

Scramble 2 eggs with a little salt and pepper, slice up and toss into the stirfry for extra protein. These eggs  happen to have been produced by our hens Edith, Agnes and Margo. 🙂

Vietnamese Pho Stir Fry (Risotto Method)

2 cups long grain white rice *might try arborio rice next time, or brown (but that would take a lot longer to cook)

5 cups pho soup base – chicken or beef broth works, but without the unique Pho spices

2 cups bean sprouts

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped fine

6 scallions, sliced on the bias. Reserve 2 for garnish

1 head Napa Cabbage, sliced thin

1 cup thin sliced beef, chicken or shrimp

1/4 cup Thai basil, chopped

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped.  Save 2 Tablespoons for garnish

2 limes, sliced into wedges

1 Tablespoon peanut oil

2 eggs, lightly scrambled in a bit of oil with salt and pepper, sliced thin

2 Tablespoons Braggs Liquid Amino’s or Soy Sauce

1/4 cup peanut satay sauce (if desired)

1 teaspoon hot sauce (if desired)

1/4 cup Asian Plum Sauce

Heat oil to sizzling.  Toss in and stir fry garlic and ginger till golden.  Add vegetables and stir until starting to soften a little.  Add rice all at once and stir to blend.  Add meat. Cook until rice begins to turn whiter.  Reduce heat to simmer (medium low).  Add hot liquid 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until absorbed, then adding more, 1/2 cup by 1/2 cup until all is absorbed and rice is tender.  You may not need all of the soup or you may need to add a little extra hot water.  This is the same way as preparing risotto – never stop stirring.  When finished stir in the Bragg’s Liquid Amino’s, peanut sauce and plum sauce to taste. Serve in bowls with a garnish of cilantro and scallions and a wedge of lime.  Pass the hot sauce.

Edith would appreciate a little recognition for the eggs.


Breakfast-Style Brown Rice Pudding with Buttermilk and Apples

I’ve never been a huge fan of rice pudding, but when I found myself with some excess buttermilk in my fridge, I thought I’d modify a recipe my mom sent me. 

Rice pudding is simple, inexpensive, and comforting. It’s perfect for a cold winter morning or as an after-dinner sweet with some ice cream. A breakfast dish that doubles as dessert? It doesn’t get any better than that.

This specific recipe, though, is more appropriate for breakfast. It uses less sugar than a traditional rice pudding, calls for brown rice instead of white rice, and replaces cream with buttermilk. If you are making it for dessert, use white rice and a combo of cream and milk instead. That’ll definitely yield a richer pudding.

Like a cheesecake, rice pudding benefits from baking in a water bath. Since you will use a casserole pan to bake the pudding, you do not need to wrap it in tin foil (unlike a spring form pan, no water will seep into a casserole pan).

The casserole pan sits within a larger pan filled with water.

I’m still not in love with rice pudding, but I think that’s because I have this awful sweet tooth. I topped mine not only with more brown sugar and cinnamon, but with some maple syrup and steamed milk. So basically I had dessert for breakfast. Oh well. I tried.

Breakfast-Style Brown Rice Pudding with Buttermilk and Apples

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice, made without salt
1 Tblsp butter
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tblsp. butter
Cinnamon to taste
Cardamom to taste
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped almonds
Plain greek yogurt for topping

Pre-heat over to 350 degrees. Prepare rice and set aside.

Heat buttermilk and butter until hot and steaming, but not boiling.

Beat eggs until light and creamy and add in brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat thoroughly.

Add rice to egg mixture and stir slowly, adding hot milk mixture gradually so that the hot milk does not cook the eggs.

Pour mixture into a buttered casserole dish, sprinkle with cinnamon and cardamom.

Place casserole dish in water bath of boiling water.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees until the edges begin to brown, but the center is still giggly.

Be careful not to over cook. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Raspberry Cordial~A Good Reason To Plant Berries

Imagine you are sitting in front of a cozy fire, warm and snuggled in with the cold of winter howling at the door.  In your hand is a tiny crystal glass filled with ruby red liquid, sweet and thick.  You lift it to your lips, close your eyes and are transported to a soft summer day, picking berries from a fully ripened patch that no one else has yet discovered.  That, dear reader, is what Raspberry Cordial tastes like. Really.

When my daughters were little they loved watching Anne of Green Gables.  We still laugh about the guilty Anne Shirley offering raspberry cordial to her best friend, who became “drunk” on it.  I wanted a piece of that action and went on a little discovery of how to make it.  There are as many recipes out there as types of raspberry bushes, but I wanted to go for  one that would be simple and require old fashioned labor to create. This one includes vodka so that it can be sipped or poured over vanilla icecream, but there are recipes that are alcohol free.   I started it on our anniversary, September 21, because that was when  there was a “glut” in the raspberry crop along with reason to celebrate a long happy marriage.  Everyone should experience that kind of generosity of nature at least once in a life time.  I mean the raspberries of course…. if you’re fortunate enough to have a happy marriage that’s a generosity of nature to be enjoyed as well.

This is so simple.  The harder part is getting your hands on a quart of fresh raspberries..although I suppose frozen could be used.

Raspberry Cordial

1 pound fresh red raspberries

3 cups vodka (a mid- price range)

1 1/2 cups sugar

Find a large glass or ceramic jar that will hold all of the ingredients.  Place raspberries in jar, cover with sugar, then pour vodka over the top.  Gently mix together with a spoon, cover it and set it on the counter where you won’t forget it.  Every day stir it and return cover.  Do this for a month or even two.  Strain the berries from the liquid and put the beautiful red cordial in a pretty bottle.  It will keep like any other liquor. But more about the berries:

In this part of the country it’s time to prepare the soil to plant raspberries.  Past experiences with raspberries, for me, amounted to watching my father dig manure into the sides of  raspberry rows in late winter, followed by thinning out the thorny brambles, then trying to beat the birds to the berries on a sweltering summer day, completely covered against the thorns and potentially unhappy bees.  But the ruby red juicy berries were worth the risk.  There are some things helpful to know about raspberries to succeed.  Wild brambles can interfere with your berry bush production, so you want to give them some distance. This is particularly true of blackberries.  Planting in early spring is better than in the fall. A spring feeding of manure is important and once established raspberries will be difficult to ruin. And if you have a sunny corner of the house in the suburbs or the terrace of an apartment you can grow a few of these plants. But the most valuable thing I learned is that there are berries out there that will produce amazing berries and are thorn free.  Are you smiling?   I’m about to give away the farm here, but Joan J Primocane Raspberry bushes start producing in mid June and continues all the way into late October or a hard frost.

Raspberries and roses are close relatives.  Isn’t that cool?  The next time you smell a rose think about raspberries.  They are members of the Rosa family.

Flaky Gluten Free Pate Brisee Pastry Dough

Pate brisee is a very light, flaky pastry dough. If you’re only going to learn one pastry dough, pate brisee should be it, because this dough is incredibly versatile, and it can be used in everything from quiche to  tarts. It is also extremely easy to make, belying the myth that making pie dough is difficult.

To a gluten free (Celiac in my case) person who knows consuming gluten is the kiss of death, reading what I’m about to say is like food porn.  We all sort of laugh about it, but really~give me a break~I have tried feeding some of the gf breads to ducks on lakes who’ve turned their beaks up at it.  I’m heading into my fourth year of being gluten free and, trust me, most recipes either lied or I had a huge learning curve about the flaky, light, beautiful crumb.  What I created worked as door stops. So here’s what I’m going to say:  This recipe really does produce a light, flaky, tender, beautifully colored and textured pate brisee.  If you haven’t tried to make pastry dough before, or have failed in the past, keep referring back to my last post where I took a close up of the fig pop tarts and press (or roll) on, my friend. Oh heck, here it is..but keep in mind drooling over the keyboard isn’t good for the computer!

The flour you choose is everything with gluten free baking.  I remember when I was a newbie and someone suggested a certain brand and I bought ten pounds of it and my family swore I was trying to feed them chicken grit…not that my family knows what chicken grit tastes like, but you get my point.  I’ve enjoyed several blends in particular: Domata Living Flour is good and very very reasonably priced, and my current favorite is made by Jules.  It costs more but the flavor is dramatically improved and the flour seems to respond by giving me a more reliable end product.

2 1/2 Cups gluten free flour blend (should contain  xanthan  for leavening)

14 Tablespoons butter (cold or room temp)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar (if desired)

2 whole eggs whisked with 1/4 cup cold water

Blend flour with salt and sugar(if desired).  Cut butter into small chunks and add to flour mix.  With pastry blender or two forks blend butter into mixture until resembles tiny peas or is very coarse but blended where you don’t see lumps of butter.  Whisk eggs and water together and add a little at a time to flour mix.  Using a fork toss this lightly about until it starts to resemble pastry that holds together.  What you don’t want is a lot of unaccounted for piles of dry flour at the bottom of the bowl, but you also don’t want a mixture that becomes too wet.  So as you add that liquid in, keep pulling into it the dry areas and toss about gently.  Flour, no matter what kind, doesn’t like to be man handled.  If you have to add a little more water, do so with caution just to make sure you’ve dampened all the flour.  You can use your hands to help it form into a big ball, then divide the ball in half. Now what you have is potential.  Two pie shells, a quiche, pot pie, or the lovely pop tarts in my last recipe.  To your health!

Home made Pop Tarts~Gluten Free

Making pop tarts was never a goal of mine.  I don’t even like them.  However, when you live a  gluten free life it’s easy to drool over even the most mundane foods.  Here’s how my love affair with pop tarts went down.  We have a relative who is planning to get married at sunrise in a fairly remote destination and,  although no one has asked me to make anything, by nature I start dreaming up tables set with delicious foods fit for royalty…which I shouldn’t do since no one asked me to.  Now let’s demystify pop tarts!

The pastry’s everything.  Not all pastry is created equal and gluten free should be almost impossible to make flaky and light.  Brittany Angell  has experimented with all things gluten free so that the rest of us don’t have to fail. I  appreciate how she is taking away the NO, one recipe at a time.  Her flaky pate brisee  turns out light and flaky, is easy and doesn’t have to be chilled. Of course you can use any recipe for Pate Brisee to make this.  I used a premixed blend of flour and tweaked a few other things in Brittany’s recipe because I don’t like to keep different kinds of flour on hand and the results were excellent. I’ll share this in my next post so there’s no guessing game.  Here’s my first attempt for Valentine’s Day. They looked like the Play-Do version but tasted wonderful.!

Fillings are easy.  What ever your heart desires.  Nutella, jams, thinly sliced apple with cinnamon sugar, or this pretty sophisticated fig and bacon filling with maple bourbon glaze.   Have fun with the fillings.  The art is in how you put it together.

Okay, so now you have Brittany’s recipe for flaky pastry and one recipe for the fig and bacon filling which, by the way, I would reserve for very sophisticated palates. Here is my 2nd attempt to make pop tarts.  These turned out so pretty and the texture~only a truly gluten free person will appreciate this~was what I remember from back  when I could the finest pastries from the bakery.  Everyone loved them.

These are lovely with a paste of figs soaked in orange juice, bacon, walnuts and spices tucked between flaky layers and baked. But you’ll notice that the glaze doesn’t show up.  What ever they tell you in recipes you need to make sure the pastry is cool and that the glaze is thick enough to not end up all over the counter.  I’d say that you can start with a cup of powdered sugar and then add just enough liquid flavoring like milk and vanilla or orange or lemon juice, etc to make it just wet enough to slowly slide off the spoon.

To assemble once you’ve rolled out the two rectangles of pastry.  Whisk together 1 egg white and a tablespoon of water. Brush the surface of the pastry with this mixture and then cut the pastry into 3X4 inch rectangles.  Place 2 tablespoons of filling on one rectangle and cover with the other rectangle.  Pinch the edges together with your fingers, then using the tines of a fork press all the edges in a pretty pattern.  Brush more egg white over the tops, prick the tops with the fork to let steam out.  Place on nonstick cookie tray and bake at 350 for 25-35 minutes until golden around the edges.  Once the pop tarts are cool to the touch you can glaze them.  And then serve them. To anyone.  Because they taste incredible.

Photos Add Spice to the Recipe Called Life

It's February. You needed this

There are moments and events in life that are pivotal for us. A friend once described life as a tapestry of individual threads woven through it that are difficult to identify, yet together make a beautiful pattern. Those moments are like the  threads in the tapestry, which are like spices in a recipe….which is what I’m permitted to blog about…but I wanted to share a photo I took last summer.

When we cook we season the dish with salt, pepper, cinnamon, thyme and so forth.  Scents, the feel of the air, music, design and the textures of nature are the spices in this recipe called life. February in this part of the country is bland, but full of promise that spring is  around the corner.  For me taking pictures  is much like harvesting herbs from the summer garden for the winter pot.  I know I need to preserve those moments to spice up those less than brilliant days of the year. Fairy Roses    are beautiful! 

Favorite Cheesecake with Lemon Zest

In honor of major sweetness, the first dessert I want to talk about is the classic cheesecake.
My favorite cheesecake is a recipe that combines elements of my family recipe with a really good and completely random one found on the allrecipes website. Seriously, the internet is the best. The family addition is the lemon zest, which not only intensifies the flavor, but makes for some pretty pictures.
So, making a cheesecake is simple in theory. I, however, have messed them up many times because I’m a spaz and often forget to make a water bath. Let’s talk about water baths, because they’re really easy and fun, and they’re the best way to ensure that the cheesecake doesn’t crack.
All you do is wrap your springform pan with tin foil. Since the cheesecake literally sits in a bath of water while it bakes, the foil prevents water from leaking into the cake.
Then, find a pan or bowl or something that is oven safe, deep enough for an inch or two of water, and bigger than your cheesecake springform pan. Put the springform pan in the bigger pan, and fill the bigger pan with a few inches of water. That’s a water bath, and that’s all you need to do before baking.
  • 15 graham crackers, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  •  zest from one lemon


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press onto bottom of springform pan.
  3. Make a water bath by placing tin foil around the springform pan. Place springform in a larger pan and fill with two inches of water.
  4. In a large bowl, mix cream cheese with sugar until smooth. Blend in milk, and then mix in the eggs one at a time, mixing just enough to incorporate. Mix in sour cream, vanilla and flour until smooth. Grate in the zest of one lemon and stir until combined. Pour filling into prepared crust.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Turn the oven off, and let cake cool in oven with the door closed for 5 to 6 hours; this prevents cracking. Chill in refrigerator until serving.
You should probably have a piece for breakfast. Supposedly if you eat dessert for breakfast, you will burn it off by lunchtime.