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Magpie Ima
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  • Portland, OR
  • United States
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I am a lifelong fan of macaroni and cheese, by which I do mean the real stuff, with cream and butter and shocking amounts of shredded cheese of all kinds. I am particularly fond of macaroni and cheese with a kick so smoky hot paprika and chopped pickled jalapeños often make their way into my beautiful old Pyrex casserole dishes.

Unfortunately, as I get older and my body adjusts to no longer being in a raging hyperthyroid state due to Graves' Disease I am no longer able to eat endless amounts of creamy, cheesy deliciousness. Suddenly those recipes calling for pounds of different cheeses just aren't looking so good or sitting so well. In recent months I've been drawn to versions of my favorite meal that, while still comforting and substantial, are likelier to be a bit lighter and contain more vegetables to offset the richness and up the nutrition. And of course thee days I use gluten free pasta. My favorite is a corn-quinoa blend made by Ancient Harvest which is an improvement over wheat-based pasta in terms of protein, fiber, and vitamins.

I'll be sharing a few of my new favorites with you in upcoming posts but I'm starting with this recipe for Pasta with Cauliflower in a Spicy Pink Sauce which I found on the Saveur website. The only changes I made were to use gluten free pasta (and next time I would use larger tubes rather than the tiny shells I had on hand) and to substitute half and half for heavy cream. As you can see from the ingredients, this hardly qualifies as spa cuisine, but it does sit more easily in my system than a flour thickened, super cheesy macaroni and the addition of the cauliflower, tomatoes, and chilies bring a good dose of vitamins to the dish. Plus this stuff is great! While the kids weren't sold on it, the adults in the house couldn't get enough. Add a fresh salad and you've got yourself a nice, easy meal full of flavor. I haven't tried it yet but I am guessing this dish would freeze and reheat well and, as the authors recommend baking the pasta in smaller dishes, you could certainly tuck a couple away, well wrapped, in your freezer for a dinner emergency or a friend who could use a meal.

What about you? Are you a mac and cheese lover? Do you have a favorite variation? Do tell!


School's Out and I'm back

 I am delighted to report that I  just finished a very intense 13 months in a graduate program during which my time was at a premium. A lot of things had to go, including food blogging. To be honest, I didn't do a whole lot of cooking and most of what I made wasn't all that remarkable. The whole purpose of my shiny new M. Ed. is to pick up more teaching hours but my hope is that even with additional work I will once again have time for things like reading for pleasure, taking photos, and blogging (not to mention spending time with family and friends-imagine that!). After months hunched over my desk alone in our chilly basement, it sounds like heaven.

We were invited to brunch this morning and I decided it was time to remake one of my old favorites in gluten free form. I got the recipe for blintz soufflé from an old Internet friend and there are many versions to be found on various Jewish food sites.  The only change I made initially I was to replace the cottage cheese with fresh ricotta which I find a lot easier on my stomach. There's only a cup of flour in the recipe so replacing with gf options seemed safe enough. My usual homemade blend uses corn starch but our host is sensitive to corn, too, so used equal parts brown rice flour, sweet rice flour, and tapioca starch which worked perfectly. 

This dish has all the lovely sweet, creamy flavors of traditional blitzes with a fraction of the fuss. It's a great brunch dish because it bakes for 50 minutes, leaving you plenty of time for other last minute preparations. Served with sour cream and fresh fruit or a lightly sweetened berry sauce, you couldn't ask for a better option on your brunch table.

You'll find the recipe here.


Yikes! It's been a while, hasn't it? Things have changed quite a bit since I last wrote and the thing I miss most is time. Time to peruse cookbooks and wander the market and play around in the kitchen. Rather suddenly I've found myself in grad school and the pace is hectic. My wonderful husband has taken over nearly all the food-related tasks and has been doing a fine job of stocking the cupboards and keeping us fed while I study. Love that man, I really do. I have two papers to write today but I decided that surely there was time to play in the kitchen and tell you all about it. So here we go:

I first started making clafoutis many years ago, inspired, as I recall, by a John Thorne essay. Clafoutis is a slightly sweet fruit filled custard which is equally delightful as breakfast or dessert.

I have tried a couple of times to convert my old recipes to gluten free versions but haven't been happy until today when I started with a recipe from Gluten Free Girl and then fiddled around to make the very delicious sour cherry clafoutis you see here.

Because it's February, I used sour cherries from a jar. These are easily and affordably found at any store with an Eastern European clientele but I believe Trader Joe's also sells jars of sour cherries.

I was delighted with how this came out. Still not quite as light as my previous versions using wheat flour, but the almond flour gave it a nice texture.

Oh, and it's all gone. It didn't last long at all. Try it--you'll see why.

The recipe is here. Enjoy!

The Great Meal

A Turkey.
The other morning I woke up laughing at myself after having my first ever Thanksgiving dinner anxiety dream.  I have those dreams all the time:  the ones where I am at the beach when I am supposed to be at work or the ones where I realize it's finals week and I've forgotten to go to class all term.  In this particular dream it was three in the afternoon and my kitchen was in its everyday state of chaos when the doorbell rang and it suddenly occurred to me that there should be a nearly-done turkey in the oven and a fridge stuffed with food and where were the pies?

There are plenty of things going on in my life right now to stress me out but you know what?  Thanksgiving dinner simply isn't one of them.  And that's why I was able to wake up laughing.

It feels pretty calm this year.  We will be spending the holiday with good friends. I am much more relaxed about cooking without gluten.  There will be no family drama, no need to measure up to the checkout line magazines' hyperbolic BEST THANKSGIVING EVER.  With wine and good food and a crackling fire I predict a very fine holiday indeed.

Of course my menu isn't 100% set in stone just yet but I can pretty much plan on the following:

  • spiced nuts, good cheese, and maybe a light Campari-based cocktail, something like Nigella's Seasonal Breeze but cut with fizzy water
  • A simple roast turkey (I fussed around with brining last year and was not impressed)
  • Some variation on this stuffing. I'll pick up my GF bread from Happy Campers tomorrow.
  • Cranberry sauce  
  • Cranberry Orange Relish
  • Mashed potatoes.  With lots of butter and cream.  
  • Tzimmes
  • Some kind of green salad with dark red lettuces, pears, hazelnuts, and a nice vinaigrette
  • Crustless pecan pie (but I'll sub maple syrup for some of the sugar)
  • chocolate meringues
  • maybe one more dessert (hey, it's a holiday!)  with fruit
I hope all of you reading this will enjoy a lovely, relaxing holiday with good food and lots of loved ones.

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Meal Plan Monday

A busy week but we have lots of autumnal goodness in this week's meal plan:  squash and sweet potatoes and cranberry gingerbread.  Lots of slow cooking and more meat than I'd like but it will do.

Uppma Update

One of the many things I've given up since going gluten free was uppma, a delicious savory combination of wheat semolina, veggies, spices, and just all around goodness.  It's a hard one too describe....savory breakfast cereal with veggies?  I didn't get it until I tried it at which point I was hooked and made many versions of it, preferably topped with thick yogurt and a dollop of crazy-hot cranberry chutney which I realize sounds weird but it is as close to heaven as things get for me.

I've missed uppma so much.  I make a lot of poha which is kind of similar but doesn't quite hit the same note for me.  The last time we visited a local Indian restaurant for a buffet lunch I excitedly loaded my plate with their tasty uppma.  My husband looked at me like I was crazy.  I think I was, just for a minute there.  I slowly scraped my gluten-laden uppma onto his plate but nothing on the buffet was all that exciting to me (until I hit the chili pakoras anyway).

I've been sick all week and have spent way too much time sitting on my butt and not being able to taste anything.  Today it occurred to me that I had everything I needed for an uppma fest including....rice farina.  Well, why not?

There were cranberries in the freezer so I started up some of that chutney while I toasted the farina.  Then I proceeded as usual: frying cashews in coconut oil, sizzling curry leaves*, dal, and mustard seed, sauteing  a chunky red bell pepper and a pile of onions (and only one little hot chili so my husband could partake-the heat is in the chutney!).  I tossed the toasted farina back in and gradually added boiling water risotto-style until the cereal could take no more without getting gummy, added a handful of peas from the freezer, and topped the whole thing with cilantro and the fried cashews.  I served it, as I love it, with Greek yogurt and a hefty dollop of cranberry chutney and I am one happy girl today.

My slightly revised uppma recipe can be found here in all its gluten-free glory.  It's another step, but don't forget the chutney!

Bergera koenigii L. Image by adaduitokla via Flickr* Curry leaves, the only truly unusual ingredient here, can be found fresh at any Indian market. I have also found them in the occasional Vietnamese/SE Asian market. They don't taste like "curry" at all.  They have a mysterious, slightly medicinal flavor that is impossible to reproduce otherwise so do try to find them as they add something quite special to South Indian dishes.  When I locate them I buy a big bunch, rinse and shake them well, strip off the leaves, and tuck them into a freezer-bound ziplock bag.  Press the air out of the bag and they will keep for quite some time.  They are generally tossed into hot oil with mustard seeds so they can go straight from freezer to skillet. 
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Meal Plan Monday

I do not for the life of me understand why it is that the simple practice of meal planning is such a difficult habit for me to adopt.  When I plan my week's meals I save time and money and avoid a fair amount of stress and even so I can't always make myself sit down and do it.

But this week I did so instead of beating myself up about all the times I didn't get to it I will try to focus on what I did manage:  a well balanced, healthy, economical set of meals that might actually go ever well with every member of this extremely picky family.

You can take a peek right here.

One way I am saving money these days is by not buying organic.  I know, I know, but right now it makes sense.  Highly sprayed crops like conventionally grown  strawberries, celery, and potatoes don't make it in to my shopping bags ever but I feel pretty safe buying non-organic melon, citrus, and onions.  I make my decisions using the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.  Someday (soon, I hope!) things will turn around and I can buy all organic all the time but for now, this is good information that's helping me stretch our food dollars just a bit further.

Has this stinking economy hit your home?  How are you eating well for less?  

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A fine pickle (or two)

I'm kind of new to pickles.

Of course I've had my share of kosher dills but I don't generally love them so I haven't explored the pickle world in great detail.Until this year.

It started with too many zucchini.

Of course.

Who knew zucchini made such fantastic pickles?

Now you do.  Every recipe I found online appeared to be some version of the zucchini pickles from San Franciso's Zuni Cafe.  I figured it must be pretty good so I tried this recipe and was absolutely hooked.  A warning, though.  Let them sit a week or so.  If you try them right away you will be disappointed but a little rest takes away the harshness of the turmeric and brings everything together beautifully.  I am pretty sure that anyone who tries these will find them absolutely delightful.

 I've also been making pickled jalapenos which I know not everyone finds delightful.  But that's ok.  I am the only chile-head in my house so I keep things like this tucked away in the 'fridge just to make things interesting. I made two quarts last month and could not stop eating them and then my dad came over and between the two of us we went through all of them in no time.  Then I made a big batch for friends in California.  And then I finally made more for myself today, tweaking the recipe just a bit. I think I've done enough tweaking to call this recipe my own.  Just please, please, please, wear gloves when you slice up the jalapenos or you will have a mighty chile burn that might just turn you against these fiery, fantastic pickles. And I don't want that.  Also, if your jalapenos are the super-hot, rip-your-head-off version I recently discovered in San Jose you might just want to scrape out those seeds with your gloved hands and discard them.

I had never made refrigerator pickles before this summer. I think I thought they were a short-cut, cheater version of pickles but keeping them out of the canning kettle means they stay bright and crisp and are a snap to make.  You can buy jalapenos pretty much year round though they aren't likely to be as cheap  or fresh as they are now.  You might want to hop to it with the zucchini pickles, though.  I don't know about where you live but here in Portland autumn is most definitely on its way.


I'm all set up there now and I have a circle for food loving people. Let me know if you want me to add you!


This was both my first time making and eating paella, the classic Spanish rice dish. What's kept me away? Shellfish. Apart from the convenient fact that shellfish is forbidden to me both by Jewish law and doctor's order, the real truth is that I can't eat anything the looks like giant bugs. Absolutely. No. Way.

It's always looked to me like that beautiful saffron-colored rice might be pretty delicious were it not festooned with those giant bugs in every photo I've ever seen. I've been wondering for years what paella might taste like and I actually thought I could maybe imagine its flavor but I was not even close.

I made paella today because I found an utterly fabulous sounding recipe in Plenty, the new vegetable-focused cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi. I imagine you'll be reading more about this book here as I am quite taken with it. While vegetables are the focus of the book, they are presented in a wide variety of styles and in recipes that are a little more complex and interesting than I normally see. I quite like the way the recipes are grouped and the photography is gorgeous. This recipe in particular caught my eye as there we no bugs. In fact, though I made my version with long simmered home made chicken stock, the original calls for vegetable broth making it suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Of course I did not follow the original recipe exactly. With this many ingredients, one's bound to make a substitution or two, right? As mentioned earlier, I used chicken broth rather than vegetable because that's what I had on hand. I didn't feel like hunting (or paying) for Calasparra rice. This more authentic rice very likely makes an even better dish but I was perfectly happy with plain old US grown short grain rice. My cooking time was about 15 minutes longer than in the original recipe and I'm guessing that's because I used cheapo supermarket rice but remember--I had nothing to compare my paella to. If you have more experience, you might want to spring for a fancy Spanish rice.

If I can't be bothered to hunt down proper Spanish rice do you think I went searching for a jar of oil-packed grilled artichoke hearts?? Nope. Do we even have such a thing here? I used plain old canned artichoke hearts and I admit they did not bring much to the dish at all so maybe I'll try and figure out just what Ottolenghi was talking about the next time I make this paella.

You can see from my photos that my result was absolutely gorgeous. I'd say it was one of the prettiest dishes I've ever made. But it tasted even better. The combination of spices (saffron, turmeric, and smoky Spanish paprika) was fantastic. The artichoke hearts, fava beans, olives, and tomatoes provided something special in each bite, and the warmth of the cayenne pepper lingered gently. It's the kind of dish I love: complex but not excessively so, hearty but not heavy, and full of bold flavors.

I did use fresh saffron, smoked paprika, and fava beans. I've started buying my saffron from this guy on ebay and have been very happy with the quality of his very affordable product. I can't imagine cooking without smoked paprika but since my favorite local spice shop closed down I don't know who has the best product and price. Fava beans were new to me but I really liked the meaty, slightly chewy texture they brought to the paella.

The original recipe was published in Ottolenghi's column in The Guardian. It was then changed slightly for the book. I doubled the quantity for my version (believe me, you'll want more than 2 servings). I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
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Magpie Ima's Page

Profile Information

What kind of HOMEGROWN are you?
Earth Mama, Dirt Under My Fingernails City Slicker
A bit about me:
A mother of 3 and a maker of things just trying to keep all the balls in the air
Latest greatest meal cooked at home:
Curry chicken salad with home made bell pepper and apricot chutney, cumin scented basmati rice, fresh fruit salad, and cheater's mango kulfi
Currently reading:
Depletion and Abundance, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner
Currently listening to:
Joe Strummer, Manu Chao, DJ Rekha, Bollywood soundtracks,
My latest DIY project:
Cheese! Fresh cheese from local, raw goat's milk. Yum.
Web site I recommend:

Magpie Ima's Blog

Elderberry Syrup--no H1N1 for this family!

I wanted to let you know about my recent experience making my own anti-flu medicine because I am just so thrilled to be able to make a proven antiviral flu remedy for a mere fraction of the cost of the commercially prepared variety.

Elderberries grow on tall, spindly bushes and the tiny dark blue-black berries develop in clusters after the feathery flower fade. Elderberry bushes are apparently quite easy to grow so I will be looking to add one to… Continue

Posted on September 4, 2009 at 2:04pm — 8 Comments


I have been reading about slow roasted tomatoes for years and I don't know why it took me so long to jump on the train with all the cool kids, but I am here now! Let me tell you, these things are a revelation. Everything good about tomatoes is magnified in the slow roasting approach, turning a perfectly serviceable Roma into a thing of brilliance. Think of the depth of flavor in a good quality tomato paste, but sweeter, and with the added fragrance of… Continue

Posted on August 22, 2009 at 2:00pm — 6 Comments

Funny Carrots

Our recent CSA box provided new potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, berries, cauliflower, and carrots.

I've seen carrots with legs before....

but never carrots that had to pee!…


Posted on August 18, 2009 at 3:48pm — 2 Comments

Easiest Tomato Sauce Ever

I originally posted this last year on my food blog Magpie Eats but I thought I'd re-post it here in the hope that some of you would find it useful. This is still a brilliant way to capture summer goodness and I have a batch bubbling away right now!

Is your garden overflowing with tomatoes? Mine is. Plus I was lucky enough to get a vacationing friend's CSA delivery for two weeks--more tomatoes! Though tomato sauce is… Continue

Posted on August 14, 2009 at 3:00pm

Comment Wall (2 comments)

At 4:39pm on August 6, 2009, Cornelia said…
Hi there! Looks like you're off to a fabulous start here - welcome! What a lovely, yummy blog you've got!!
At 4:40pm on August 17, 2009, Aliza Ess said…
Thanks for your comment and links! Glad to see you joined the Urban Gardening group :)

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