New Year’s Resolutions & Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs

9 Mar

grandma and pa for new years blog post

2016.  One hundred years ago my grandparents were little kids running around their hometown of Westerville, located in south central Ohio.  My grandfather’s family farm which fed mulitudes of people in the community and raised at least seven children, is now a strip mall.  Today Westerville is essentially a suburb of Columbus, Ohio.  My grandmother, Pauline Steck Norris, told me how they would wait for the mail carrier to arrive in order to receive the weather reports.  Later, as a couple, Fred and Pauline moved to Knoxville, Tennessee with their young child (my mother, Catherine Elizabeth) in tow.  Fred had received a teaching position in the Botany Department at UT.  My uncle, Frank Norris, was born there three or four years later. My grandparents’ families wanted them to have choices beyond the farm and small town.  Their rural upbringing instilled in them not only a strong work ethic but a gratitude ethic as well.  They were also Depression era people.  Raising their own family with the recent memory of those times.  They taught their children and their grandchildren what is ‘just enough’.  As a kid visiting them, I would be frustrated at times that I had to watch so closely, how much butter went on the bread and how much hot water to use in the bathtub.  But I also respected them very much in how they practiced restraint with so much gratitude and still appreciated life in a very rich way.  They were both naturalists, so that might have something to do with it.  Blissing out on the intricacies of flowering plants and fruits is something I know I can spend a lot of time doing!  When we would talk about New Year’s resolutions my grandfather would say “keeping it good and happy and healthy.  Whatever details you need to do to make that happen, do it.”

So, what is happening at The Pepper Forrest, you ask?  In order to “keep it good and happy and healthy”?

We’ve looked deeply at what is really working on our farm to produce and share with the world.

Climate change, the drought and one-hundred years of fire suppression in our mountain range is keeping us on our toes with water management and fire-ready brushing for structure protection.

Our kids are growing quickly and are in school but we still wear all the hats on our farm and for our business.  And it is important for us to be involved in our small community too.

Feedback from customers and friends has let us know that we should be in more stores for easy access and hopefully a wider customer base.  You’d like to see more photos and hear more stories of our farm, how we do it and how we are doing.  You’d like to see more recipes to build upon the recipe library.  We are excited about creating a recipe series on different cultural foods using our spices.

Well!  So all of this means changes and letting go of a few things that we make.  As of now we will be letting go of:  Chipotle, Ginger-Garlic-Nori and the Tea.  So get them now while they are still in stock!  We are already out of GGN!  This will leave us more time to diversify options for our customers with the remaining blends and powders.  Check our website and blog in the coming weeks and months for a variety of Gift Collections, Sample Collections, Spice Canisters, and Recipes.  Look forward to a series of recipes featuring the various blends!

Here is a recipe inspired by my grandparents, my childhood and winter.  It is super simple and super delicious!  It’s “good and happy and healthy”!



>chicken thighs (boneless or not, skinless or not)

>cooking oil (I prefer sunflower)

>coating ingredients: 1 cup of flour (gluten free works too).  1 TBSP of each; Spicy Garlic Blend, Sweet Paprika, thyme and a pinch of salt.


>Mix coating ingredients in a shallow wide bowl.

>Lightly oil a shallow baking pan or sheet.

>Rinse chicken thighs in cold water and shake off excess water.

>Place chicken thighs in coating mix and turn until well covered and lay on baking pan.

>Bake at 375 degrees for 1/2 hour or more depending on size of chicken thighs.  Turn once or twice.

Variations as desired:

~Add more of any of the spices in the coating mix.   ~Add a tsp. of cayenne for some heat.  ~Substitute Smoked Paprika for Sweet Paprika.  ~Add a tsp. of basic curry powder.  ~Add a tsp. of powdered ginger.

Serve with Cornbread and Green Salad.  Enjoy!



1 Mar

I live off-the-grid, on the remote and wild Salmon River which is sandwiched between  the Marble Mountain Wilderness and the Trinity Alps Wilderness in northern California.   I manage 38 acres with…

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Coconut Macaroon Crusted Pumpkin Pie

7 Dec

Coconut Macaroon Crusted Pumpkin Pie.

Coconut Macaroon Crusted Pumpkin Pie

7 Dec

I went in search of a gluten-free,dairy free pumpkin pie to add to our Thanksgiving Dinner.  For me Mum.  The following is my adaptation to the recipe I found.  It was a hit!

The coconut macaroon crust adds a whole new character to the traditional pie!  It is chewy and super favorful.  I feel, it gives this pie experience the flexibility of potentially becoming a layered cookie!  It is also inspiring in that you can imagine filling it with all sorts of other things as well as the pumpkin pie custard filling. Things like chocolate chips, chopped nuts, vanilla pudding, caramel come to mind…….

Here is the recipe:  Macaroon Crust

preheat oven to 325 degrees.  One  nine inch pie crust.

2 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut

1/2 c. sugar

1 1/2 Tablespoon potato or corn starch.  (I am certain arrowroot would work here as well)

1/4 t. salt

4 egg whites, plus one additional

1 tsp. Vanilla

Whisk egg white and vanilla until frothy.  Mix Coconut, Sugar, Starch, Salt.  Add to the whites.  Let sit 20- 30 minutes.  Grease pan and press mixture in a nine inch pie plate.  Cover edges with foil.  Bake 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.  Whisk remaining egg and white.  Brush on crust.  Bake another 10 minutes.

There is your crust!

If you want to fill it in with a dairy free pumpkin filling or whatever filling you want proceed here.  I am going to share with you the dairy free pumpkin pie filling I used AND my standard which has been a big hit and tried and true for many years now.

#1, Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 cups cooked pumpkin, mashed and smooth

1 cup coconut milk

2 eggs, plus 4 yolks from the macaroon crust recipe.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 t. vanilla

1 1/2 t. Cinnamon

1/4 t. Ginger

1/4 t. Nutmeg

1/4 t. salt

pinch cloves

Blend all ingredients.  Cook over medium flame in a sauce pan for 10 minutes until just starting to thicken.  Pour in crust.  Tent the pie with foil for 15 minutes at 425.  Remove tent.  Cook approx. 30 minutes at 325 -350 until done.  You might want to keep foil on the edges.

#2, My old tried and true Pumpkin Pie Filling since 1995!

1 1/2 cups generous cooked, mashed pumpkin

1 1/2 cups Evaporated Milk

1/2 Cup Milk

3 eggs

3/4 Sugar or Brown Sugar (or 1/2 c. Honey)

1/2 t. ground ginger

1/2 t. cloves

1/2 t. cinnamon.

nutmeg, if you like

Blend until smooth.

Pour into crusted pan.  Bake 10 minutes at 425.  reduce to 325-350 for 45 more minutes.  Until set.  An insert knife comes clean.

Next time, I will share Marlene Worl’s Pastry recipe.  This has been my tried and true since 1986!

Sorry no pictures…..We ate the Pie……..Enjoy!

Wishing for Wishbone Russian dressing

23 Jul

Our good friend Rebecca Kuder, and her family, love to cook and experiment in the kitchen. She posted the following, which I’d like to share here and expand on! Thanks Rebecca for getting this going! This is the season for salad dressing!

Wishing for Wishbone Russian dressing, by Rebecca Kuder. She used our Smoked Paprika, an excellent start! I looked up a few other red russian salad dressing recipes, to see what else she is thinking might complete it and found a few things that could be used. They are as follows:

Add Celery Seeds
Ketchup (a thick tomato puree i’ll bet would work nicely)
Worchestshire Sauce
minced onion

Give it a go! Now, I’ll have to go give it a go as well!

Touch of Genie-US! And a Riot of Lusty Spices!!!!!!

Being the Blog of Rebecca Kuder

The other day, for some reason I remembered Wishbone Russian dressing, which was my favorite when I was a child.  Trying to recreate it, it occurred to me to use my friend Meui’s heavenly smoked paprika.  What resulted is not quite Wishbone Russian, but much better in some ways, and I’m still experimenting.

I used a regular teaspoon, not a teaspoon measure.  And you can make extra–it keeps well in the refrigerator.
(All measurements approximate.)
1 spoonful of smoked paprika from Pepper Forrest Spice Company
1/2 spoonful of honey
3 spoonfuls of rice vinegar
6 spoonfuls of olive oil
salt (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
With a fork, mix smoked paprika and honey and rice vinegar.  Add olive oil slowly, whirring with a fork until it emulsifies.  Add salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad greens and toss.
 (To go for the Wishbone Russian flavor, I keep thinking it…

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Nadine Stella Stars’ Studded Blackberry Upside Down Cake

1 Sep

Nadine Stella Star, my youngest daughter, turned two on Aug. 24th, 2012.  What a time of year to be born — the peak of Blackberry season!  She took some of her first steps last year with a blackberry tightly grasped in her little fist.  Its a wonder it even made it to her mouth.   A year later,  she’s running, talking, out of diapers, picking the berries herself and putting them in the basket.  So, when I was thinking of what kind of sweet treat to make her for her birthday this year, something with the dark, rich and delicious berries came to mind.

This cake came out so tasty and beautiful,  I wanted to share it here.  I think we have started a tradition in our family for our Star too….

I adapted it as follows from my favorite pineapple upside down cake recipe and served it with ice cream at Nadine Stella Star’s river swim party and BBQ.    Layering the berries on the bottom extra thick resulted in a spectacular Star-Studded Blackberry night sky of a cake!  (the picture doesn’t really do it the justice it deserves..)

The cake batter is super simple.  Initially it will seem thinner than desired, but don’t worry, it will expand beautifully and fill in all the crevices just right.  Allowing it to cool and set a little before flipping out will make a difference.  But if you can’t wait (like we did with the first two pans at the picnic, plus the logistics of transport), you can serve it cobbler style with ice cream.  Everyone was in love with it just the same and the starry appearance was still apparent too.  Perfect for the name sake it was made for.  Enjoy!! 

Nadine Stella Stars’ Studded Blackberry Upside Down Cake

1/2 cup butter (one stick)

1 cup brown sugar

several cups of fresh blackberries

Melt butter in a large baking pan (9 x 12 will do or close).   Spread the brown sugar evenly over the pan. (you can cut back a little on the amount of sugar).   Spread the the blackberries making a very thick layer. You do not want to see the bottom of the pan.  Cover this arrangement with the following cake batter.  Note:  the picture in this post is of an 8×8 cake.  I 2  1/2 this recipe to accomodate our crowd.

3 eggs, separated

1 cup sugar (you can cut back on this too if you want)

5 TBSP. apple cider or some kind of juice

1 cup ww pastry flour, sifted (or 1/2 unbleached white 1/2 ww)

1 tsp. baking powder

1 pinch salt

Beat the egg yolks until light and cream in the sugar.  Add the juice and the flour.  Blend until smooth.  Mix in the baking powder and salt.  Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter.  Pour this over the berries.  Bake at 375 for about 1/2 hour.  Turn out  onto plate after a few minutes and serve with ice cream or whipped cream or on its own.  Enjoy!

Lemonade Baked Salmon

6 Jul

Leftover lemonade anybody?  Is there such a thing, I ask?  Let me tell you how it happened.  We, as in the Forks of Salmon Playgroup, had a lemonade stand at the 4th of July celebration ‘downtown’, Forks of Salmon.  It was a hit and tons of fun.  The lemonade was homemade and the kids helped make and sell it too!  Special Bonus was the Rose Petal & Lavender water used for roughly half of it made.  A person could get original or floral, each cup came with a slice of lemon.  The floral sold out pretty quickly, so was not used here, but I have a sneaking suspicion it would work well with this dish and maybe even poultry too……..

     We sold about 8 gallons of lemonade by the 16 oz. cup.  Thats a lot for our little town.  It was hot.  I sent some home with a few parents who helped (Thank you Jess and Jamie!), dumped the last few cups of lemon slices in the remaining quart and took it home.  You’d think we’ve drank it up, but it sat all night into the next day on our kitchen counter until dinner time when I was needing to make space to cook and poking around for ideas to embellish on our last piece of salmon from last year I’d pulled out of the freezer.   By this time, the lemonade was super strong too!  I was a little concerned it might be watery, but it baked up perfectly tender and the liquid sauced up beautifully.  We served this with vegetable Nori and Ghost (plain rice) Rolls, Steamed Vegetables and Seaweed Salad.  Here is the recipe, try it sometime & enjoy!


  • One large piece of Fresh Salmon
  • 3 cups strong lemonade, medium sweet
  • 1 oz. soy sauce
  • 1/3-1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
  • Several TBSP.  Sweet Paprika (PF)

Place fish, skin side down, in a large casseraole dish.  Blend rest of the ingredients except the paprika.  Pour this over the fish.  Sprinkle paprika liberally over fish.  Cover dish.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.  Take cover off last 15 minutes.  Super Tasty!!

ps.  If you like the branded Forks of Salmon board and would like one, let us know and our Post Office will send you one for $7.00.

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