Monday, April 27, 2020

Cooking from "Scratch"

Cooking from scratch is sometimes simple, sometimes complicated. It requires a mixture of experience and knowing what flavors work best with each dish. The down-home recipes on this blog are designed for the new cook as well as the very experienced. All it takes is a little time in understanding the ingredients and steps. I prepare these often.

The NOTE section of recipe will tell you in advance if it is one that requires a bit of thought as I sometimes do not measure exact ingredients. These you can experiment with easily and none of them are complicated. That's the best part of scratch cooking, you can claim the dish as your own.

To new cooks: from scratch means you start with basic ingredients where nothing is pre-mixed and you have to measure the quantities. It also means there are very frew processed foods used.

Of course, there are recipes from others that have proven just too good to not share. Like the Best Breadmachine White Bread. It would be wrong to keep that to myself. Then there are those that are simply links to articles I've written elsewhere but they take you directly to the recipe.

We discuss using fresh vegetables, making your own seasonings, growing your own herbs and how to use them. I hope you stay for a while and enjoy using the recipes and suggestions. Leave a comment or share something. I will post the recipe with full credit to you if you do.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Carbonating Mauby, an unbelievable refreshment

Chilled bottle of the Caribbean drink, Mauby

Mauby is a Caribbean drink made from the bark of the Snakewood tree but it can be called a dozen other ancient names. We choose Snakewood for simplicity.

I first tasted mauby on a visit to St. Croix and liked it very much. The first taste was bitter but the second and throughout it was the most refreshing drink I'd ever had. On the following Saturday we went to the island outdoor market and someone was selling the bark so I stocked up.

No, I didn't know how to make it but that is what the Internet is for. I found a great recipe at But before you make it read a little about what it is and what it does. It's right here so you don't have to run all over gathering bits and pieces of the information you need.

It has been found that Mauby lowers blood pressure and is purported to lower chlolestral, is high in vitamin and minerals, acts as an aphrodisiac and relieves arthritis. However, only the lowering blood pressure has been proven. And, as with fermented foods and drinks it is probiotic.

Since I've recently started fermenting foods and drinks I thought it would be interesting to carbonate it. What a great enhancement that turned out to be. Super fizz and all kinds of delicious. We're not talking forced carbonation but a simple, natural carbonation through the use of a ginger bug, which is ginger, spring water and sugar. A natural yeast forms from the ginger creating fermentation that will literally blow the top off of the bottle if care is not taken.

Mauby is considered to be one of the Bitters, like Angostura, which are liquid extractions of seeds, herbs, bark, roots, flowers, leaves and fruit of various plants. You do not consume them neat (on the rocks). This is especially true of this drink. It is extremely bitter before sweetening. Please do not taste it before you sweeten. If you prefer sweet drinks start with 1 1/4 cups of sucanat, cane sugar or brown sugar. And... if you go through all the trouble to make this from scratch make it as healthy as possible. Use organic ingredients wherever you can.

You can buy the syrup but making your own is far better as with most things. You can add or delete ingredients at will as long as you stay within the basics. I started with Chris' recipe and it was exactly like the one I'd had on the trip... I bought my bottles and Mauby bark on

Nicely chilled bottle of carbonated Mauby right out of the fridge

Fermented Mauby is extremely volatile. It will blow the bale off the bottle if you do not let it sit in the fridge after bottling.

The same bottle opened right after removing from fridge.

Note the two photos above. After bottling I immediately put them in the refrigerator and let them bubble away in there until I want to open one. The carbonation is so fierce I would advise setting the bottle in a bowl, covering loosely with a baggie but with a good grip. This will catch the part that gushes out, preventing waste.

If you let it sit out without refrigeration you will undoubtedly have to clean up glass and drink from the explosion. Take the precaution.

This is a room temperature nearly empty bottle of Mauby. The carbonation is still building.

The Recipe:

First, you must have a ginger bug ready to use so start the process three days before:

Ginger Bug:
Combine 1 Tbs. sugar with 1 Tbs. ginger (PEEL-ON!), and 2 cups room temperature water in a mason jar. Stir well, put the lid on, and let the wild bacteria and yeast do their work. The next day, give it a good shake and see the bubbles start to fizz. You can add a little more grated sugar and ginger to the mixture. Or not. In hot weather, it will become active without a lot of extra feeding. The next day, give it another good shake. See the bubbles foam! Unscrew it and look at the bubbles. Put it to your ear and try to HEAR the bubbles. If it’s not fizzing audibly, put the lid back on and give it another day or two.
How much you need to feed it with 1 Tbs. extra ginger and 1 Tbs. extra sugar every 1-2 days depends on how hot it is and how “mature” your culture it is. A young culture will take a little longer to get going than one you’ve been using for a few weeks. Always keep a little bit of the old ginger in the mason jar and reuse the same jar without rinsing it after you use the soda culture to make a soda. Re-start your ginger bug with 1 Tbs. sugar and 1 Tbs. ginger and 2 cups water at the same time you make your soda.
Use organic ginger because non-organic may be irradiated and will kill any yeast that builds. You need the yeast.

To make Mauby Base:
  • 4 cups water
  • 10 pieces Mauby bark
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (small)
  • 2 (4 inch) pieces of orange peel (dried)
  • 1/2 whole nutmeg 
  • 3-4 cloves
Put ingredients in a stainless steel pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cover. Allow to sit overnight. 
The next day strain and add:
  • 1 1/4 cups organic sugar of choice (sucanat, brown, pure cane)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon plus the peel
Stir well to incorporate the sugar.
Add the mixture to a 64 oz heavy glass jar, preferably a canning jar with a ring and lid.
Add 1 cup of ginger bug that has been stirred to mix in the yeast it has created. 
Add enough water so that the bug, the Mauby and other ingredients come within 2 inches of the top. Screw on the lid and ring, sit jar on counter. It will make foam right away. You can spoon it off if you like. Unlike ginger ale, Mauby will ferment within 24 hours or less. The pressure starts building right away. Burp the jar several times to keep the pressure down.
The next day, using a funnel, fill swing top bottles within 1 inch of top. Do not use any kind but swing tops. Buy Groslch beer if you have to. Immediately after filling put filled bottles in the refrigerator and keep them there until you want to drink.
It is so good. And healthy.

You can save the cinnamon, bark and nutmeg in a jar for a new batch....

Friday, August 21, 2015

Best Gluten-free Southern Cornbread

Organic gluten-free Southern Cornbread

This recipe was adapted from Since we very rarely eat gluten and always try to do organic it was changed to suit nutritional needs.

There is no sugar in this recipe. Sugar is a fairly recent addition to Southern Cornbread.

Instead of the usual equal amounts of cornmeal and flour notice that this recipe is mostly cornmeal.
Neither coconut oil or clarified butter will scorch.


  • 1/4 cup coconut oil or clarified butter (ghee)
  • 1 1/2 cups organic yellow cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons of Bob's Red Mill 1 for 1 Non-gluten Baking Mix*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk, kefir or whey (organic)
  • 1 large brown egg (free range, organic)

Heat oven to 450 degrees and add empty skillet.

In a medium bowl, add dry ingredients in the order given. With a whisk stir to mix well.

In a smaller container add milk, kefir or whey along with egg. Beat lightly to mix.

Add liquid to dry mixture and mix really well.

Remove skillet from oven and add fat to hot skillet. 

Then add the rest of the ingredients to the hot skillet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes but make sure it is firm in the middle and brown.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Crispy Oven Baked Wingettes

Crispy oven baked wingettes
There are 294 calories in 3 baked chicken wings ( 9 pieces of wingettes). You might want to know this to determine how many you want to eat. They are delicious.

For those you are unfamiliar with Knott's Berry Farm, it is an amusement park in Southern California that started out as a little farm stand where Mrs. Knotts sold berries, then pies and it grew from there. Today it is competitive with the major amusement parks and houses the Supreme Scream, the world's tallest descending thrill ride.

I mention this because the winged recipe is similar to the taste and crispness of the Farm's chicken. The secret is baking powder. No flour, just seasoning and baking powder.


-I don't measure my seasonings so there are no quantities listed.

-Regardless of what you see on cooking shows or videos, always wash your chicken. It may be extreme to some but, in all honesty, I wash all meats before cooking include ground meats.


  • Lawry's Seasoning Salt
  • Thyme
  • Ground garlic powder
  • Baking powder (I use Rumsford) (don't use a lot but enough to very lightly coat each wingette) (if you want a comparable measurement use about two teaspoons but no more than that)
  • Freshly ground black pepper but you can use already ground if that is what you have
  • Wingettes, washed and drained (leave them a little damp)

Turn the oven on and heat to 425 degrees.

Use cast iron skillet or shallow container that is oven proof. Put skillet or dish in oven to heat.

Put wingettes in a container that will hold them in one layer. You can leave them in the sink if you are comfortable with that.

Sprinkle only one side of the wingettes with all the seasonings including the baking powder. Using your hand mix the chicken pieces around so that all sides are coated.

Remove skillet or dish from oven and add the wingettes in one layer. Return to oven and bake until wingettes are browned. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook until done. 

You will love the flavor and texture of these.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Tasty Sweet Watermelon With Chili

Sweet, juicy and cold watermelon is enhanced with chili

Fresh watermelon is one of the best treats of summer. I don't buy it in the off-season. That is why I like to get my own, if I can, from Louisiana, Fresno, Bakersfield and other local farms. But no matter where it comes from if it is a GMO product I won't eat it. And, I'd rather it have seeds.

And here is what I've found to be the most reliable way to tell ripeness. You know that yellow spot on the bottom? The darker it is and the more beat up it looks tells you if it is ripe and sweet. Sometimes, however, that may also mean it is overripe. But I've had some really tasty ones this summer using that method.

But the reason for this post is to introduce you to three taste enhancers for sweet and juicy slices of watermelon.

  • On a trip to New Orleans ten years ago I bought a product called Slap Ya Mama. In the Black community something is over the top delicious if it makes you want to slap your momma. It's a mixture of chili, red pepper and other seasonings. Totally delicious on vegetables but way tasty on fruits. Especially sweet, juicy and cold watermelon.

  • Lucas is something the kids call candy but it is a mixture of chili powder, red pepper, sugar and lime or lemon. They sprinkle on everything especially street corn. So good on mangoes but, again, you won't regret sprinkling it on watermelon.

  • Tajin is new and while it may be good and popular it is still the new kid on the block. Apparently it goes well with Tejate too.

  • Last, with all except Lucas, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime sets it off. But be careful and start slowly. Too much and it can all become overpowering. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Bacon-wrapped Wild Trout

Organic and wild... bacon wrapped wild-caught trout inspired

One the best things about a trip to Louisiana is a trip to West Wego in New Orleans to get fresh fish and shrimp. All wild-caught. Of course, another fresh fish outlet is in Simmsport, Louisiana at Coco's ( But this trout was purchased whole, fresh and very clean in W. Wego. I did have to scale it...

This recipe was inspired by author John Hemingway and was found at this page: I didn't change much except to add a sprinkle of garlic powder. Everything on the plate is either wild or organic. The only oil came from the bacon.


  • 1 whole trout, wild-caught
  • 2 slices organic bacon
  • 1/4 cup organic cornmeal, yellow
  • salt (I use pink)
  • pepper
  • a sprinkle of garlic powder
  • 1/2 fresh lemon cut in quarters

Wash trout and remove scales. If the pan you will use is too small, remove the head from the fish and maybe the tail. Leave the rest whole. Dry but leave just a little moist.

Mix the cornmeal and seasonings in a bag and mix well. Add the trout, twist the tops of the bag closed and shake so that the fish ends up covered completely.

Wrap the bacon around the fish and make sure it is touching on all sides of the fish. Two slices should cover the entire surface.

Heat your skillet until it is very hot then add the fish. Secure the bacon so that the fish stays wrapped.

Fry on one side for five minutes and then add the lemon juice of one quarter.

Turn fish to other side and repeat.

If your bacon did not brown on fish in places just take some tongs and hold it down for a minute or less.

I served this dish with red potatoes: cut in half, rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled with pink salt and fresh ground pepper then steamed. And a fresh salad with organic tomatoes and half an avocado. No salad dressing, just a little lemon.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Gator Sausage Gumbo with Royal Brand Super Long Grain Rice

Gumbo with Bernard's alligator sausage, langoustine and Royal super long grain rice

Visiting my hometown, Alexandria, is usually a priceless shopping and dining experience. Two or three years ago my cousin and his wife introduced us to Bernard's where you can purchase super quality foods like alligator sausage or filets, live crawfish or dine at his restaurant. The Po'Boys are the best I've ever had. I think they make their own seasoning blend. They do not have a website but the products are all over Louisiana. The main restaurant is in Cottonport and if you are nearby you will not regret stopping in for a meal.

Locally, I get some of these items from Big Rick at City Foods Wholesale What a gem when you can't make the 2000-mile trip to the land of all good food... City Foods has other exotics like alligator filets and elk sausage so click on the link to get the .pdf price list. He also has Mary's organic chickens along with whole pigs and regular meats, spices and condiments. On Saturdays you can get samples because that's when he grills.

This is my quick version of Louisiana gumbo. You can sub any sausage except Italian which has the wrong seasoning for southern style. The langoustine (baby lobster) was purchased at Costco where you get a fairly large bag for a reasonable price. I get the whole thing but vacuum seal portions.

Honestly, if you are watching your cholesterol this gumbo is not for you. It is a nightmare actually, lol, with the processed meats and shellfish. But it is healthy in that these ingredients are real foods and are fresh and freshly made. Enjoy.

Make roux according to link and set aside.
Put equal amounts of water and chicken broth in suitable sized pot. 
Add the okra mixture and bring everything to a boil.
Add roux.
Add the tomatoes and sausage. Bring to a boil and cook until sausage is nearly done.
Add langoustine.
Add cayenne pepper and file to taste
Cook until thickened

Cooking rice

One of my favorite instructors was Maple Woo who taught our Chinese cooking class at the local college. She taught techniques that I still use thirty years later. For instance, how to de-fat a duck for roasting by hanging it suspended so the fat will drip out. But the most useful thing was how to cook perfect rice. I have the recipe on another page but will list the instructions here just for convenience.

  • Any amount of any type of rice (I use a jasmine, Royal super long grain mostly. It is an Indian brand)
  • Water to cover for washing
  • 1/2 inch water for cooking

Place rice in a bowl and cover with water. Scoop rice into to hands, rub together and let fall back into the water. Drain water and repeat until water is clear.

Leave rice in bowl and put in enough water to cover. Let soak for 1 hour.

Using a pot that will hold all the contents and cook without boiling over, place rice in. Add 1/2 inch of water (1/2 inch is half of a finger joint).

Bring to a boil and cook until only large bubbles are forming. Turn fire to lowest setting, cover and then steam rice until done. Please do not stir. It is not necessary to stir rice.

A Quicker Method:

Wash rice well. Place in proper sized pot and cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil and cook until only large bubbles are forming. Cover, turn heat to lowest setting and cook until done. This procedure eliminates the soaking which is why you need more water.