Savory Porridge

This is a no shopping, no reading recipe. All it requires is rooting around on your shelves for items you already have – things that will thicken – and an approximation for the correct amount of water.

Examples of thickening grains; rice, quinoa, oats, bulger, and couscous

For the water to grain ratio, it’s about 2 to 1. Two cups of water for every cup of solids.

When I make this, I place the dry items in a pot, then eyeball the water to cover it.

Here’s what I included with this batch.

Quinoa blend. This thickening grain comprised the bulk of the mixture.

Since lentils are thicker than the quinoa, the cooking time was based on these.

If using a bouillon base, calculate the amount to coincide with the amount of water used.

Heat on medium, stirring occasionally.

Taste test for doneness.

*Tip: If the grains still need more cooking time as the water begins to evaportate – add more.


Nineteenth-Century Creole Snacks & Jennie Carter

The first public screening of a local historical short documentary was an occasion to serve Creole finger foods from a cookbook published in 1885.

Actress Katrina Thompson who portrays Jennie in the film read a book excerpt and spoke about the timeliness of the reappearance of Carters’work.

Jennie Carter was a free black woman who moved to Nevada County, California from New Orleans at the outbreak of the American Civil War.  Her essays, published in the book Jennie Carter: A Black Journalist of the Early West, edited by Eric Gardner, were the basis for a seventeen-minute video shown to Nevada County neighbors.

To add to the learning experience, recipes were chosen from a cookbook that originated in New Orleans, La Cuisine Creole. It was food Jennie Carter may have prepared or eaten. While some of the recipes (squirrel or pigeon pie, or suet pudding) were not ones we were willing to attempt, many sound delicious!

For this setting, we chose simple, finger fare and modified ingredients as necessary. (See notes below.)

pickled scallops

*Frozen scallops were substituted for oysters. Ground mace was used instead of ‘blades.’ Scallops were sliced thin and placed on slices of buttered baguette, topped with a very small amount of ground mace.

*To French’s mustard, salt, garlic granules, tarragon leaves, and white wine vinegar were added – to taste.

*A specialty squash from one of the neighborhood gardens was substituted for pumpkin. Stop cooking soon after a fork or knife is easily inserted. Let cool overnight. Eat at room temperature.


Published in 1885. Click on the book cover for a PDF of the entire cookbook. Courtesy of Michigan State University | Feeding America: Historic American cookbook collection

Click here to watch the video and read related articles.

Additional Jennie Carter Articles

Jennie Carter’s Nevada County Setting 1860s, 2nd Marriage & Obituary
Jennie Carter’s Pre-Civil War, Civil War & Reconstruction-era 1846-1870
Jennie Carter Book Review
Jennie Carter – Filming Behind-the-Scenes & Creative Partners

Miners Shovel Bread & Watercress, Potato & Tomato Salad

Fast food for miners.

After a long, hard day in the creek bed shoveling and sifting gravel, the last thing a 49’er miner wanted to do was prepare a meal. This simple fare offered a quick fix as well as a host of health problems.

Shovel Bread

Start a fire. Let the wood burn down to coals.

2 tbsp butter
1 ½ cup flour
onion powder
1 egg

Stir until smooth. *The batter should be thick.

Using a clean shovel, rest it in coals until hot.

A deep fire pit is NOT necessary for this recipe.

Support shovel firmly over coals. Pour batter over the blade. Use a long-handled spatula or spoon to keep it in place until the base sets.

Lightly press against batter to determine doneness.

It’s done when it feels spongy.


Click on the photo to watch a video about malnutrition during the California Gold Rush.

Learn about Scurvy in California’s Food Capital.

Watercress, Potato & Tomato Salad

Finely chop potatoes.
Fry in oil till done.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Set aside to cool.
Chop or tear watercress into bite-sized pieces.
Add fresh or sun-dried tomatoes (in oil).
Dress with red wine vinegar and oil.
Top with grated cheese.




Huffington Post – Recipes That Show You How Watercress Is Supposed To Be Eaten

Sauteed Potato and Watercress – Quick Vegan Side

Candied Walnuts – JaJa

1/4 cup canned milk
2 tblsp. water
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tblsp. white Karo syrup
4 cups nuts
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix together all but nuts and vanilla.

Boil until a soft ball is formed in water, about 7 to 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla and nuts.

Stir until you can’t stir any longer.
Separate quickly on waxed paper.



Jeanette (3rd Daughter, child#5):
Candied walnuts were always one of our Thanksgiving and Christmas time treats, because of course, we picked them up in the fall. I think people today miss out on some of the richness of life by being deprived of the seasonality of some foods. Waiting. . . the anticipation of special foods during a coming season, makes for wonderful memories of the tastes and the good times.

Lisa (first grandchild):
I remember Jaja sitting at a table for hours cracking walnuts with his hammer. For Christmas, he would give us bags of perfect walnut meats.  Years later when I attempted to do the same…I fully appreciated the skill it took to crack the shells without damaging the meat!

jajajajas shed


Chocolate Tasting

A Chocolate Tasting is a fun activity for group entertaining.

At a family gathering (Grandma’s 90th birthday party!), our Jen conducted a chocolate tasting and provided instructions.jen teaching

She started out with lighter chocolates with lower percentages of cacao and worked up to darker chocolates with different flavors.

The image to the right is Jen showing a
bacon flavored chocolate—->
After the chocolate bars were tasted, we progressed to dipped fruits – bananas, oranges and mangoes; then on to chocolate dipped potato chips.

Also on the list was white chocolate stuffed raspberries.

It goes without saying that the Chocolate Tasting was a huge hit!

stuffed raspberries

Other Resources for Chocolate Tastings
All Chocolate – Chocolate is the new Wine – Introduction to Chocolate Tasting
Savor Chocolate – Hosting a Chocolate Tasting – How to Taste Chocolate
The Nibble – Chocolate and Drink Pairings
Hershey – History & Techniques



Cherry Almond Cordial

dipping technique needs improvement - but the taste is excellent!

dipping technique needs improvement – but the taste is excellent!

This recipe is super easy and tastes GREAT!

In a double boiler – gently melt as many bars of chocolate as desired.

Roll Marachino cherries in almond paste then dip into melted chocolate.

Place on waxed paper to harden (put them in the freezer will speed the hardening process).

marachino cherries
Maraschino cherries
Almond cake and pastry filling
Chocolate Baking Bar

almond fillingchocolate bar