Turkey en Croute (Baked Turkey Dumplings)

December 13, 2009 in recipe


In a fit of poorly guided frugality, I bought some ground turkey recently.

I have to mention that turkey is not my favorite food for one serious reason – if I eat roasted turkey two days in a row I become violently ill, an eruptive experience that is accompanied by unforgiving and deeply disturbing hallucinations.

Trust me that I am not exaggerating, I promise.

Early in our marriage, I warned my husband of my failing. He heard me, understood it on some vague level, promptly forgot.

One thanksgiving we celebrated at home with a turkey and then traveled the next day to relatives where we had more turkey. What followed put the fear of god into all my poor new relatives and made for an interesting story for all, except for me of course.

Ok, back to present day. The ground turkey lured me in with its low price and pink color.

It seduced me.

It lurked in my refrigerator for a day and then I threw myself at it, determined to do something to it that was:

  • different
  • not so turkey-ish
  • not dry as such fatless flesh is bound to be
  • frugal

What follows is what I came up with. It passed the taste testing of the family. It is certainly not haute cuisine and its only marginally good for you. It is filling and relatively inexpensive and also different (should you family be both adventurous and bored).

When a gravy is added, the outer “croute” (biscuit) softens and becomes very much like a dumpling layer – making this more like baked turkey dumplings, if you like.

If you make it, let me know how it came out!

Turkey en Croute (Baked Turkey Dumplings)


  • Meatballs
  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 eggs (we use homegrown)
  • 1/2 sleeve whole wheat saltines, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon Bell’s Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon Montreal Steak seasoning (salt & pepper & red peppers)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme)
  • 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
  • Prepared biscuit mix (like biscuick), enough to cover
  • milk, enough for biscuit milk plus extra to loosen mix
  • Sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream


Turkey en Croute

Mix all the meatball ingredients well. Form golf ball sized balls. Saute in a small amount of oil.

Turkey en Croute

Take meatballs out of pan when browned (but not fully cooked) and put aside to cool.

Turn on oven to 450 F (the temperature requested by biscuit directions)

Make up enough biscuit mix, made extra thin to allow coating of meat balls.

Coat each meatball with a layer of biscuit mix.

Turkey en Croute

Bake the turkey dumplings until the outer biscuit layer is golden brown.

Turkey en Croute

While the meat balls are baking make your sauce.

In the pan that you browned your meatballs is a layer of brown bits called “fond” which you will now use as the delicious base to your sauce.

Over medium heat, add the water and scrub up the brown bits. Add the butter, allow to melt. Add the milk. Bring to a light simmer. Pull from the heat and allow to cool a bit. Add sour cream to taste, enough to make it a thick rich sauce. Do not add the sour cream until the sauce has cooled a bit.

When you pour this sauce over the meatballs, as I mentioned before, the biscuit softens and becomes much more like a dumpling layer over the meat ball, quite moist.

Turkey en Croute

If you want to add extra fat and flavor, put dollops of sour cream directly on the balls.


Turkey en Croute

Simplicity – homemade egg pasta

December 7, 2009 in cooking, Food Porn, How-2, recipe


Some foods, like homemade bread, are more than just “cooking” and can be more like therapy.

Pasta is like this.

I was raised in a family where pasta was considered junk food, needless carbohydrates (obviously, we are not Italian or Asian!).

In Colombia, the starch of choice is rice and various tropical starch crops like the ever delicious yuca (cassava root to Americans).

To shake things up and also to get some of that food therapy, I make homemade pasta on occasion.

If you are interested in truly wholesome and healthy pasta, consider the sprouted whole wheat pasta I made in this post – Homemade Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta.

That recipes takes days so its for the organized cook!

Sometimes you just want some delicious fresh pasta with little hassle and thats not hard.

You can choose to do it all by hand or you can use a food processor. I show the use of a processor here.

You can add additional nutrition (quickly) by using spinach puree, carrot puree, or other amendments to change the color and flavor.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Homemade Egg Pasta


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs (we used eggs from our chickens)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons water (depends on dryness of your flour and size of your eggs)


Put all ingredients (except water) into your food processor.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Turn it on and let it go until you get smallish pea like dough.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Homemade White Flour Pasta

You want it to have some body and for it to stick together when you pinch it.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

I didnt add water until after I had dumped this mix out. I didnt want the water to overly activate the gluten formation in the dough (that leads to toughness!).

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Bring the dough together and add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water. Knead dough for some 10 minutes to get it as smooth as you can. Mine was still a bit on the rough side but I went ahead to the next step.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Put this dough into a baggie or wrap in plastic and let sit at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Once the dough has rested, cut into 4 pieces and roll out each piece while the rest is still under wraps. Roll it out as thin as you possibly can. You can also use a pasta machine!

I cant use mine because it has polymer clay stuck in it :-(.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Once rolled out, cut it as you like. I cut ours into a fettuccine sort of noodle. I am sure an Italian grandma would beat me about the head and shoulders and throw me out of the kitchen if she saw this but, hey, she never met my grandma nor made arepas either.

I use a pizza cutter to make my pasta strips. My 6 yo and my 3 yo helped me cut it all up. They loved helping out.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Hang up these dough strips while you roll out and cut the other balls.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Next its into salted boiling water.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Boil it until it has the texture YOU like.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Have your sauce and meat (we chose sausages) warming and ready to serve.

Homemade White Flour Pasta

Serve and add some Parmesan if you like.

Homemade White Flour Pasta


The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw: A Review

December 6, 2009 in cookbook, Food Porn, raw, recipe, review, vegetable


[This was cross posted at my raw food blog Raw+Simple]

I had an opportunity to dive into the book, written by by Mark Reinfeld, Bo Rinaldi, and Jennifer Murray, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Eating Raw.

I had not previously read one of these Idiot’s Guides but I found that they use uncomplicated first person language that feels quite direct and the layout is actually a great one because there are useful summaries as you move through the content which leads to great knowledge pick-up and retention. There are little call out boxes with nice tips relevant to the recipe or topic on that page.

There is a VERY useful chart showing you times and temperatures for dehydrating a range of foods. As recommended by many raw food chefs, this book suggests starting the dehydrating run at 145 F and then turning it down to 105 F some 2 hours later. This might seem contrary to what you have heard, which is likely that you should NEVER raise the temperature on living foods above 115 F. What is happening in those first 2 hours at 145 F is that the rate of evaporation is higher because there is the most water at the beginning of the cycle. This evaporation COOLS the food so the food is not actually at 145 F, just the air blowing over it. This 2 step process is recommended to ensure that the food you have put so much work into does not begin to mold before it dries sufficiently.

There is so much fundamentally useful information in the first several parts that its hard to cover. I think there really is very little if anything they have failed to cover for the beginner and the experienced.

The chapters are well organized and include:


  • Part 1: Raw Foods Illuminated
  • Raw Benefits
  • Myth Busters
  • Going Green with Raw Cuisine
  • Ancient Foods, Superfoods, and the Future of Food
  • The Perfect Pantry
  • Tools of the Trade
  • Part 2: Raw Techniques
  • Preparation Basics
  • Soaking and Sprouting
  • Advanced Techiques
  • Part 3: Recipes on the light side
  • Appetizers and Spreads
  • Salads and Dressings
  • Sublime Sauces and Toppings
  • Sumptuous Soups
  • Nut Milks and Cheeses
  • Bountiful Beverages
  • Part 4: Hearty Fare
  • Unbeatable Breakfasts
  • Filling Wraps and Sandwiches
  • Pizzas, Crackers, and Breads
  • Delicious Main Dishes
  • Puddings, Pies, and Parfaits
  • Cakes, Cookies, and Energy Bars
  • Part 5: Raw Transitions
  • A Day in the Life
  • Fasts and Cleanses
  • Four Week Raw Success Program
  • Glossary
  • Further Resources

As usual in these reviews, I choose a recipe and test it as well as photograph it.

I chose the following mushroom recipe and I can tell you, I was quite happy I did. This is an explosively flavorful dish with a lovely contrast between the intense meaty mushroom and the fresh tartly marinated asparagus. It was a huge thumbs up from everyone in my family from the 2.5 yo to the old adults.

I also found the marinade so beguiling that I used it on other vegetables, loved it all.

Portobello Mushroom Steaks with Balsamic Asparagus (Page 226)


  • 4 portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 teaspoons nama shoyu (raw soy sauce)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • pinch salt
  • pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon stone ground mustard
  • 1 bunch asparagus (or enough for 4 servings
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 medium yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • undisclosed amount of maple syrup (try 1/4 cup) – book left this out of the ingredients!


Must caps in quarters and place in a baking pan with gills facing down. Add the water and 1/4 cup nama shoyu and put into 145 F dehydrator for 30 minutes. Remove from dehydrator and pour off the marinade (save 1/2 cup).

In a separate bowl mix basil, garlic, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 teaspoons nama shoyu, salt, black pepper. Push mushrooms into this marinade, coat evenly.

In a bowl, mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, balsamic vinegar, stone ground mustard, maple syrup, 1 teaspoon nama shoyu.

Clean and trim asparagus, put into pan, add this balsamic marinade.

Put asparagus in pan into 145 F dehydrator for 1 hour, stir every 15 minutes.

After this hour, add remaining 1/2 cup balsamic marinade to bottom of mushroom pan and put it into the 145 F dehydrator with the asparagus for 45 to 60 minutes.

Remove from dehydrator and serve warm, if desired (its not bad at all cool). Recipe suggests sprinkling with the bell peppers but I didn’t for my photos.

Again, this recipe was amazing and I would recommend it completely, lots of amazing flavor.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Eating Raw: A Review

Product Details

Fermented Colombian Sausages: Salchichas

October 10, 2009 in Colombian Food, latino, recipe


When I went to see Sandor Ellix Katz speak about Wild Fermentation (Sandor Ellix Katz and the Wild among us) I heard him mention that he was getting into wild fermented meats.

This reminded me of my childhood when we would make Colombian fermented sausages called salchichas or chorizos. I wrote to Sandor about this recipe, I think he will enjoy it as he is quite an intrepid culinary explorer! Besides, these sausages are just amazing!

At first, the idea of fermented meat might seem revolting or alien to Americans – we are constantly bombarded by Big Ag, USDA, and FDA message about cooking meat until charred (but not to on the other FDA hand because char = carcinogens).

We hear about the woman, in the New York Times, who was poisoned and then paralyzed by the E coli in her cheap and utterly crap hamburgers from a big box store (E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection). She got a strain of E coli that is a product of CAFOs that Industrial Big Ag, the USDA and the FDA works so hard to protect.

Had she eaten free range grass fed beef from a small producer she would still be teaching dance to little kids. Its not a philosophical or economic thing – its a biological thing. The profoundly unhealthy diet of a CAFO steer encourages the human-toxic E coli while grass fed steers do not (its a matter of rumen health, bacterial ecology, and proper pH).

Thats all about bacterial issues that arise in the living animal.

There are also issues that can arise in foods that have been contaminated after butchering from bacteria in the ambient environment. As I just mentioned, our modern CAFO environments contaminate our meats with super bugs that we have not evolved to manage. There are also bacterial species that will colonize your food (raw or cooked) that come from your local environment.

In environments where such foolishness are not the standard, like Colombia, the meat is not pre-tainted with these toxic bacteria (also, obviously, meat you source from ethical farmers who feed their steers the correct diet of grass, 100% of the time).

Remember that Colombia is a tropical country, it is also considered 3rd world. When we lived there, back in the 1960s, it was certainly quite different from the US. My mom, who is American – a Illinois farmer’s daughter, tells of how the meats in the market would be hung out in the heat, without refrigeration, with insects buzzing about it. If you watch No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, you will often see shots of meat markets just like this. Meat isnt left out like this for long. They butcher enough for that market day. Needless to say the meat was already beginning to ferment before you bought it.

Fermenting is the same as aging. When you buy expensive aged beef, its beef that has begun to ferment.

This fermentation is essentially the same as that you find in pickles, cheese, sourdough bread, etc. The main bacterial species is the lactobacillus. This bacteria begins to digest the food and a waste product (we in science call it a metabolic product) is lactic acid. This lactic acid acidifies the food and then inhibits other human-pathogenic bacteria.

Lactobacilli have been our friends from the beginning (pre-modern human to be certain) and it continues to help us when we make our traditional foods.

The sausages I am writing about today have an enhanced flavor BECAUSE they are fermented or partially digested by lactobacilli.

If you would like to try this recipe without the fermentation step, it will still be delicious but it will not have the characteristic tangy flavor that the lactic acid brings.

I remember my mom and my grandma making this when I was a child. I remember watching them string the sausages up high in the kitchen. I can see in my minds eye the sausages hanging there and how I felt so fascinated by it all. I also remember how delicious they were.

When I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to make these, she surprised me by sending me a meat grinder and then pork casings!

The sweetest part of this all was having my three kids at my side, peering over the edge of the counter in the case of my 3 year old son, watching me use the grinder and watching the meat filling up the casings. They were not grossed out, they were fascinated and they all wanted to give it a try!

It melted my heart, it was a perfect moment for me.

This is the recipe as I got it from my mom. I thought I would share the way she wrote it because it sounded great!

In her voice ….

As I remember, in Colombia, the meat in the chorizos were very finely minced by hand…however, I think you can do this with the food grinder attachment. Even when I grind the meat in the grinder machine, I used the coarse blade so that it would mimic this “hand-minced” meat.

Colombian Sausages: served

Colombian Chorizos (Salchichas) (Antioquia)

(The kind we used to hang in the kitchen! :-)


  • 2 lbs of pork, lean, minced
  • 2 lbs of beef, lean, minced
  • 1/2 lb of pork fat, minced
  • 1/2 lb of mild chile peppers, minced ( Poblanos are good)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp of hot cayenne pepper (ground)
  • 1 tblsp of oregano and cilantro, finely minced
  • 1 tsp of ground cominos (cumin)
  • Salt and pepper to your taste
  • Pork casings

Mix everything together, except the casings. Put it in the refrigerator for a couple of days. (I like longer for the tangy taste…but if you’re weirded out with aging meat, don’t do this). Then comes the tricky part, filling the casings. If you have the sausage making attachment to the machine, this is a piece of cake..if not, you have to do it by hand..I’ve done both.

Colombian Sausages: grinder

Grinder, in use.

Colombian Sausages: casings

Casings, soaking.

Colombian Sausages: meat to grind

Chunks of meat, just before being fed into the grinder.

Fill the casings with the mixture, giving it a couple of twists with every 4 or 5 inches. When done filling, stab each link with a toothpick to let it release air.

To do this, you need to slip a length of casing onto the sausage tube attachment on your grinder.

Colombian Sausages: loading casings onto sausage tube

Colombian Sausages: tying off the end of the casing

Colombian Sausages: grinding and stuffing the casings

When you come to the end of the sausage casing, tie it off (string or with casing) and then make links by twisting.

Colombian Sausages: ready to age

At this point you can make them or you can age them. To cook them, put them in a pan, cover with water, bring to a simmer, simmer until the water is gone (might want to flip them at some point) and then allow them to continue to cook/fry to caramelize the outside.

Colombian Sausages: add water to simmer

They brown up perfectly!

Colombian Sausages: Ready to serve!

If you are ready to go to the next level to get that unique tangy flavor, you do not cook them but you hang them up.

Hang the links on a clean twine in a nice cool airy place for a day or so.

Colombian Sausages: strung up to age

Colombian Sausages: strung up to age

Colombian Sausages: strung up to age

After a day mine really had no odor at all. They were drier, perhaps shrunk a bit, concentrating flavor for sure.

Colombian Sausages: aged but still raw

Like before, you cook them up like any other sausage…first with a little water in a fry pan with a lid, then let them brown.

Colombian Sausages: on to simmer

We also made arepas and yucas fritas (fried yucas) as well as rice to go with this.


Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

Arepa masa

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

Shaped arepas

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

Cooking arepas in the pan.

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

They then go into a 400 F oven.

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas

Yucas Fritas

Colombian Sausages: sides - boiling yucas

Boil frozen yucas 20 minutes (MUST DO THIS).

Colombian Sausages: sides - yucas fritas

Remove yucas from water, cool and allow to dry a bit, then break chunks up into bite sized spears.

Colombian Sausages: sides - yucas fritas

Deep fry until golden.

Colombian Sausages: sides - arepas y yucas fritas

Delicious arepas and yucas fritas are our sides!

Colombian Sausages: served

Colombian Sausages: served

It would have been more correct to also serve this with lots of cilantro, avocados, lime, etc but I didnt have those things!

¡Buen Aprovecho!

As an aside, after I posted the photos of these sausages on flickr I got an email from someone asking to order 200 of them! I guess thats the ultimate compliment!

I do not sell these although I understand the request – its hard to get these in the US, ones that taste authentic. This is the first time I have ever made sausages – very easy – but certainly not something I can do as a business proposition! (that is, unless someone wants to get met set up in a rent-free commercial kitchen!)