Monday, December 26, 2011

Gluten Free, Low Sugar Date Nut Balls

Here's a recipe from my childhood that I updated to my new health standards.  The recipe was always gluten free, but by using coconut sugar with its lower glycemic index (35 compared to table sugar at 80), I was able to make it a refined-sugar-free treat.  (Note that it still contains natural sugars in the dates, coconut sugar, and coconut.)

As a child, my mother and I made these every year as a special Christmas gift for my Great-Aunt Sophie, who loved them.  After she died, we went several years without making them at all.  I recently began shopping at a new Mid-East store where I can get dates quite cheap, so decided to try this recipe again and update it.

My kids LOVED it!  The first batch got gobbled up so quickly.  And I was able to share them in Christmas goody bags as well.  I think even Aunt Sophie would approve.

I hope you enjoy!

  • 8 oz dates, pitted and chopped
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 - 1 cup coconut (palm) sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • If you opt for less sugar, you may want to supplement with 4 tiny scoops stevia (using the scooper inside, or whatever 4 servings is of your choice of stevia)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup nuts (I used walnuts, but use your favorite)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups puffed rice (preferably brown rice w/ no added sugar!)
  • plus about 2 tablespoons each of the coconut and coconut sugar mixed together to roll balls in


Combine the dates, butter, coconut sugar, and stevia (optional) in a pot and cook on medium until the butter melts and the mixture begins to boil.  Stirring constantly, cook the mixture 4 minutes more.  Remove from heat.

In the pot, add the vanilla, chopped nuts, and coconut and stir to combine.  Cool for a few minutes.  Add the puffed rice and stir.

While the mixture is warm enough to work with, but not so hot to the touch, form the mixture into small balls and roll in the coconut/coco sugar mixture.  You may want to coat your hands with a bit of butter for the rolling.

Makes about 3 dozen, depending on the size of your balls.  Store these in an airtight container...if they make it that long!

Also, for any writer or Harry Potter fans among you, I'm offering a free book on Kindle through Dec. 28 -- The Boy Who Lived Comes to Die, a literary analysis of the final chapters of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for writers and fans.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pickled Jerusalem Artichokes

If there's one thing Southerners and Turks can agree on, it's a love of a variety of pickles, or tursu as they are called in Turkey.

Here's an unusual but delicious recipe for pickled Jerusalem artichokes that I think would satisfy both Western and Mid-Eastern palates.  It's from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee; Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-Be Southerners.

Makes 2 pints
Time: 4 hours soaking, 45 minutes preparation

2 pint-sized, wide-mouth Ball jars, with rims and lids

1 3/4 pounds Jerusalem artichokes, washed and patted dry
1 quart water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 cups cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
3 whole allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole red peppercorns (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 dried red hot chiles (Thai or chiles de arbol)

1) Bring a 3-quart pot, three quarters full of water, to a boil. Carefully set the jars on their sides, along with their lids and a slotted metal spoon, in the boiling water to sterilize. Allow to boil for 15 minutes then remove from the water carefully with a pair of tongs or a jar lifter and set aside.

2) Peel and trim the artichokes, separating them into smaller lobes. Cut them further down into chunks that are sized about halfway between a chestnut and a grape (you should end up with about 4 cups of artichoke chunks).

3) In a bowl, combine the artichokes with the quart of water and one tablespoon of the salt, stir to dissolve, and soak for 4 hours on a shady countertop or overnight in the refrigerator. Then drain and rinse the artichokes and pat them dry with paper towels or a clean dishcloth.

4) Bring the vinegar and the cup of water to a boil in a 3-quart stockpot with the remaining salt, the sugar, and all the spices except the red chiles, and boil for 4 minutes. The steaming-hot vinegar brine will become fragrant as it steeps the spices, but its viscosity will still be quite thin.

5) Using the slotted spoon, place one pepper in each of the jars, then carefully pack the jars with the artichokes and carefully pour the hot vinegar brine over the artichokes up to 1/2 inch below the neck. Divide any spices that remain in the pan between the jars. Seal the jars, allow to cool, and store in the refrigerator. Pickled artichokes will keep for about 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Soup with Yogurt

With Autumn and cold weather here, I love making soups.  And as Thanksgiving approaches, I'm already making plans for creative ways to put leftover pumpkin to good use.

Here's a delightful Turkish recipe from The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking by Ghillie Basan where you can introduce a new spin to your old pumpkin recipes.

This simple pureed soup -- Bal Kabagi Corbasi -- is a great winter treat. Pumpkin seller set up their stalls in the streets and deftly peel and seed huge wedges of pumpkin for passers-by... Traditionally, a melted butter is drizzled over the top.  -- Gillie Basan

Serves three to four.


  • 1 kg / 2 1/4 lb prepared pumpkin flesh, cut into cubes
  • 1 litre / 1 3/4 pint / 4 cups chicken stock
  • 10 ml / 2 tsp sugar
  • 25g / 1 oz / 2 tbsp butter, or ghee
  • 60-75 ml / 4-5 tbsp thick and creamy natural (plain) yogurt
  • salt and ground black pepper

Cook's Tip:
If pumpkins are not in season, you can use butternut squash instead.


1) Put the pumpkin cubes into a pan with the stock and bring the liquid to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.

2) Liquidize (blend) the soup in a blender, or use a potato masher to mash the flesh.  Return the soup to the pan and bring it to a boil again.  (I love using my hand blender for this, keeping the soup in the pot as I do so.)

3) Add the sugar to the pan and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Keep the pan over a low heat while you gently melt the butter or ghee in a small pan over a low heat.

4) Pour the soup into a tureen, or ladle it into individual serving bowls.  Swirl a little yogurt on to the surface of the soup and drizzle the melted butter over the top.

5) Serve immediately, offering extra yogurt so that you can enjoy the contrasting burst of sweet and tart in each mouthful.

Nutritional Info:
Per portion:
Energy: 97 kcal / 406 kJ
Protein: 2.6 g
Carbohydrates: 9.3 g, of which sugars 8g
Fat: 5.8 g, of which saturates 3.6 g
Cholesterol: 14 mg
Calcium: 104 mg
Fibre: 2.5 g
Sodium: 51 mg

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Squash & Carrot Tarator

My it's been forever since I updated this blog! I got busy with writing, work, and other projects and sort of let this slide.

But recently I've been very into fermenting.  Uh, not me...milk.  I had access to fresh milk and started making cheese for the first time as well as revisiting other milk ferments I used to do frequently, like kefir and yogurt.  So, I decided it was about time that I start sharing again.

Today, however, I'm not starting with a cheese but with a Turkish meze dish my husband made the other night for the first time, and I've been so in love with it that I've made it three times since.  And it's easy!  All it is is sauteed vegetables with yogurt-garlic sauce.

I'm sure there's lots of variations, but here's how he did it:


onion - 2 small or 1 large, minced
garlic - about 6 cloves, pressed or finely chopped
carrot - 4-5, finely grated
zucchini - 3-4, finely shredded
olive oil - 1/3 - 1/2 cup
salt - couple of teaspoons
plain yogurt - about 2 cups (or more)


Basically, you just saute the vegetables until soft, let them cook, then mix them with an abundance of yogurt-garlic sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, then add the onion and let cook a few mins.  Add garlic and cook another minute more, then add chopped/shredded carrots and the zucchini.  Let them all cook together until soft, about 20 - 25 mins.

Remove from heat and let cool.  In the meanwhile you can mix up a batch of yogurt-garlic sauce which is a few minced garlic cloves and about a teaspoon of salt mixed in 2-3 cups of plain yogurt (the best you can get! or make!)

When the veges are cool, mix with the sauce, let sit a bit or cook in the fridge.  This is a meze which is typically served before meals, but I love it so much that I've been making it as a side-dish and a snack to have any time.

Here's a picture of a tarator someone else made just with carrots to give you and idea of the mix of veges to yogurt: Havuc Tarator

Friday, December 05, 2008

Two Cheese Risotto

I love rich rice dishes in the winter, and this is hearty enough to serve as a light meal.

This undeniably rich and creamy risotto is just the thing to serve on cold winter evenings when everyone needs warming up.

Serves 3-4

1 litre / 3/4 pints / 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
7.5 ml / 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
50 g / 2 oz / 1/4 cup butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
275 g / 10 oz / 1 1/2 cups risotto rice, preferably Vialone Nano
175 ml / 6 fl oz / 3/4 cup dry white wine
75 g / 3 oz / 3/4 cup Fontina cheese, cubed
50 g / 2 oz / 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra, to serve
sea salt and ground black pepper

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fresh Fig, Apple & Date Dessert

This dessert is totally out of season now, but with such a low sugar content, only in the marzipan, I just couldn't resist posting it.

Sweet Mediterranean figs and dates combine especially well with crisp dessert apples to create this appetizing dessert. A hint of almond serves to unite the flavours.

Serves 4


6 large apples
juice of 1/2 lemon
175g / 6 oz fresh dates
25g / 1 oz white marzipan
5 ml / 1 tsp orange flower water
60 ml / 4 tbsp natural yogurt
4 ripe green or purple fresh figs
4 whole almonds, toasted


1) Core the apples. Slice them thinly, then cut into thin matchsticks. Put into a bowl, sprinkle with lemon juice to keep them white and set aside.

2) Remove and discard the stones from the dates and cut the flesh into thin strips, then combine with the apple slices. Toss to mix.

3) In a small bowl, soften the marzipan with the orange flower water and combine this with the yogurt. Mix well.

4) Pile the mixed apples and dates into the centre of four plates. Remove and discard the stem from each of the figs and cut the fruit into quarters without cutting right through the base. Squeeze the base with the thumb and forefinger of each hand to open up the fruit.

5) Place a fig in the centre of each apple and date salad, spoon in some yogurt filling and decorate each portion with a toasted almond. Serve.

Cook's Tip:
When choosing fresh dates, select those that are fat and shiny, with skins that are golden and smooth. You may wish to remove the skin by squeezing the stem end, but the figs, however, have thin skins that are edible.

This recipe is from Italy's 500 Best-Ever Recipes edited by Jeni Wright.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Heaven and Earth

or Himmel und Erde in German.

I love traditional foods. I enjoy learning about other cultures. And I'm fascinated with history. All these interests are satisfied in a fabulous cookbook my sister gave me years ago -- Elisabeth Luard's The Old World Kitchen. Actually, I don't think my sister so much as gave it to me as that I borrowed it and never returned it! :-) Then, much later, she said I could keep it. Thanks, sis!

Here's a very simple, traditional German recipe that combines three distinctive flavors, potatoes, apples, and bacon. For the bacon, I recommend if at all possible that you get some locally raised, pastured, without the nitrates and nitrites.

The German kitchen has some particularly good potato recipes, inluding delicious pancakes made with raw grated potatoes and served with apples or stewed fruit; and an excellent dish known as "Heaven and Earth" which mixes boiled potatoes with apples and crisp fried bacon. This mixture of fruit and vegetables, sweet and sour, is characteristic of northern country cooking -- Holland, Belgium, Alsace, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Scandinavia all have similar mixtures. Immigrants to America, particularly the German and Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania, took their sweet-salt dishes with them and adapted the recipes to local ingredients. The resident Indians already used sweet maple syrup to dress their meat. Thence developed those peculiarly American dishes such as pumpkin-and-marshmallow pie to eat with the Thanksgiving turkey. Waffles with maple syrup and bacon, even the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich, belong to the same tradition.

This makes an excellent supper or light luncheon dish.

Serves 4

Time: 40 minutes


2 pounds (6 medium-sized) potatoes
2 pounds apples
one 8-ounce slab of bacon in thick (1/4 inch) slices


You will need a large saucepan and a small frying pan. If the potatoes are new and small, you merely need to wash them. If they are old, peel them closely and quarter them. Put them to boil in plenty of salted water. Peel and cut the apples into chunks the size of the potato pieces. Add them to the potatoes after 10 minutes. Finish cooking both together. By the time the potatoes are cooked, the apples will be soft but still holding their shape.

Meanwhile, dice the bacon and fry it in its own fat. Drain the cooked apples and potatoes. Pile them into a hot dish and scatter the crisp bacon, with its cooking juices, over the top. Serve immediately.


Cook 1 pound of fresh sausage (bratwurst would be most appropriate) with the bacon. Serve all together.

Fry a handful of fresh bread crumbs in the bacon fat until crisp and golden. Scatter of the potatoes.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rhonda's Apple Butter

(Image from

Fall! Apple Season!! ! Make your own healthier version of apple butter. With a slow cooker, it's easy.

Makes about 2 pints apple butter.

4 lbs. apples
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1) Peel, core, and slice apples. Place in slow cooker.
2) Cover. Cook on high 2-3 hours. Reduce to low and cook 8 hours. Apples should be a rich brown and be cooked down by half.
3) Stir in spices. Cook on high 2-3 hours with lid off. Stir until smooth.
4) Pour into freezer containers and freeze, or into sterilized jars and seal.

This recipe is from Rhonda Burgoon in the Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Rice with Lamb, Carrots, Onions and Spices

Lamb, rice, and yogurt go awesomely wonderful together. Here's an ancient dish that is as nutritious as it is delicious. It's also fairly easy to prepare. And alternate method to that described below -- instead of precooking the lamb, saute the cubed lamb along with the onions, garlic and oil before adding the rice and the other ingredients. This will allow the lambs' natural juices to add flavor to the rest of the rice.

The recipe below is from Ghillie Basan's The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking All the Ingredients, Techniques and Traditions of an Ancient Cuisine.

An ancient Mongolian dish and a great Anatolian favourite, this pilaff -- Kasgar Pilav -- is cooked in a large pan and eaten communally with yogurt as a meal on its own. As you travel further east in Turkey, variations of this dish appear under different names, identifying it with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan.

Serves four


30 ml / 2 Tbsp ghee, or olive oil with a knob (pat) butter
2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
about 450 g / 1 lb cooked lamb, cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
350 g / 12 oz / 1 3/4 cups long grain (brown) rice, rinsed and thoroughly drained
5 ml / 1 tsp ground cinnamon
10 ml / 2 tsp ground allspice
1 litre / 1 3/4 pints / 4 cups lamb or chicken stock
sea salt and ground black pepper
a few parsley sprigs, to garnish
thick and creamy natural (plain) yogurt, to serve


1) Heat the ghee, or olive oil and butter, in a heavy pan and stir in the onions and garlic. Cook until they begin to colour. Toss in the cubed lamb and cook for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the carrots.

2) Toss in the rice with the spices and pour in the stock.

3) Stir the rice and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and boil for 1-2 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes (for brown rice this will be around 30 minutes), or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

4) Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a clean dish towel and place the lid on top. Leave to steam for 10-15 minutes.

5) Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with the parsley sprigs and serve with dollops of creamy natural yogurt.

Per Portion:
energy 621 kcal / 2590 kJ
protein 30 g
carbohydrate 77.1g, of which sugars 4.2g
fat 21.2g, of which saturates 9.5g
cholesterol 86 mg
calcium 51 mg
fibre 1.1g
sodium 100 mg

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ancient Quince Wine

Image from

I have a new cookbook which delights both my love of healthy foods and history. It's Roman Cookery: Ancient Recipes for Modern Kitchens by Mark Grant. I see Amazon has a new revised version listed with a different cover than mine, but I'm assuming the recipes will be the same.

I love fermented beverages, both for their health and their nutrition. This one is from Bassus in the tenth century AD, in Geoponica (Country Matters), which refers to sources from more ancient writers. This fruit wine is quite easy to prepare even today.

Oinos Dia Melon

"Put the sweetest smelling quinces into an earthenware jar and pour over some wine. Then, having poured over the wine, leave for three days, and use on the fourth."
-- from Bassus in Country Matters

Quinces have a most attractive scent when ripening on the tree. For this drink you really need freshly picked quinces, as those bought in shops have already lost that heady aroma. This capturing of the perfume of a fruit recalls an Italian dessert described by Elizabeth David which consists merely of placing a peeled and sliced peach in a glass of wine. Quinces, however, have too much tannin in them for this, and I think they impart a finer flavour if left whole in the wine.


1 bottle sweet white wine
3 fresh quinces


Wash the quinces in cold water. Decant the wine into a glass jar with a lid. Place the quinces in the wine, seal the jar and leave for three days. The wine will have a strong bouquet of quinces for serving with a dessert.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...