Food Matters
All about fresh, flavorful food

The Secret to Golden Campfire Marshmallows

Everyone has a preference on how they like their marshmallows roasted. Some folks are charcoal, burnt confection lovers, while others strive for golden perfection.

Marshmallows aren't just delicious goo, they have historic beginnings as the luscious sap of the Mallow Plant that grows four to six feet tall in saltwater marshes near large bodies of water. As early as 2000 B.C., the ancient Egyptians reserved the candies for their pharaohs and gods. Even back then, they knew a stand-by confection like the Marshmallow would be timeless.

Whether you prefer vegan marshmallows, fancy ones infused with herbs, or the old-school ones that you find in the general store outside of a national park, we all agree that roasting is the classic way to eat them. Roasting has its challenges but with the right tools and tips, a truly tanned outside and creamy inside is one puffy confection away.

roasting marshmallow over fire
Photo by Sidney Pearce on Unsplash

First, find that perfect stick. A roasting stick should be long enough to reach the fire without your hand getting hot, about a yard or so long. Make sure it is at least semi-straight. If it is too curved, when roasting the opposite side, it’s likely to slide off into the flames. A roasting stick can have one, two or as many prongs at the end as you prefer, or can find! Just make sure the prongs are the no wider than a pencil, as too big of a prong will damage your marshmallow.

Prep your stick next. Make sure all of its prongs are free of dirt and debris. If you have a knife, go ahead and whittle it to a point so the marshmallows can be pushed through with ease. Finally, stick it in the fire to “season” it, or at least burn off any bits of splintering wood or bark.

Next, prep your marshmallow! This is the step that most golden roasters miss. Whenever I teach it to a child, they are delighted to do it. Adults often grimace.

You need a wet marshmallow to ensure it doesn't burn. The handiest method to wet your marshmallow is by giving it a thorough lick. Whatever you do, don’t lick it ON the stick, as it might be hot from already being exposed to flames. Instead, give it a good once around lick (or a suck, if you are so inclined.)

Put one, two or as many marshmallows as you’d like on your prong. As you roast it over, and in the flames (it won’t burn because it’s wet,) keep rotating it so all sides get toasty. Once you’ve sufficiently made it crispy and achieved the illusive not-too-dark taupe, you are ready for the next step.

Gentle as a breeze, pull off the outer layer from the top of the marshmallow. Your crispy exterior should pull away, leaving a layer of creamy goodness on your stick.

Once cooled, pop that candy in your mouth and make a hard decision. Do you eat the interior goo, or go for a second roasting?

If you crave another crispy roasting, follow the initial steps again, except this time you won't have to lick the marshmallow as its already moist and melted prohibiting scorch. With over-sized marshmallows, the process can be done three or four times!

Kids who have limited sweets especially love this trick. After all, it gives them three roasted marshmallows for the sugar in just one. Not to mention, the joy that comes with acceptable licking and playing with food!

All roasting methods are as different as the sticks foraged for roasting tools. Whether you like them charred or slightly tanned, this method with certainly delight long-time and new roasters alike.

Check Your Bread Recipe

Once you perfect a bread-baking method for traditional yeast bread (the bread machine technique I use), it’s likely you’ll want to expand your bread recipe options. 

Online recipe resources can be a great place to find new bread recipes. However, use some caution in recipe selection. Not every online recipe is valid.

Photo by Loretta Sorensen

Some tips for finding valuable, genuine bread recipes online include:

  • Rely on well-known brand name sites, i.e. Mother Earth Living, Grit Magazine, Mother Earth News, etc.
  • To determine whether or not a bread recipe is truly tried and tested, look for these basic elements: flour, liquid (water, milk, etc.), yeast, sweetener to feed the yeast, salt, oil/butter.
  • Additional bread ingredients may include molasses, buttermilk, potatoes, nuts, seeds, etc.
  • For bread machines, check your machine manual to verify the largest loaf your machine is able to produce. If your recipe calls for more than 6 cups of flour, you may want to use a stand mixer or food processor as this much flour will produce a sizable volume of dough.
  • To validate yeast amounts, rely on using as little as 1 teaspoon or up to 2-1/4 teaspoons per 4 cups of flour (King Arthur Flour). 

If your recipe calls for any of these methods, you may want to reconsider using it:

  • Adding salt to the yeast mixture. This will immediately kill your yeast. Salt should always be blended with the flour called for in the recipe before it’s mixed with the rest of the recipe ingredients.
  • Omitting sweetener. Your yeast must feed on something like sugar – syrup, honey, brown sugar, etc. – in order to grow and produce a rise.
  • Most bread recipes call for three parts flour to one-part liquid (i.e. three cups of flour for 1 cup of water/liquid). Overdoing flour in relation to the recipe’s liquid amount will result in a dry, dense and disappointing loaf.
  • Cold temperatures for recipe liquids. Yeast will not begin to grow unless temperature ranges are at least 100 degrees (Fahrenheit). Ideal temperature range is 105 to 110 degrees (Fahrenheit).
  • Hot temperatures for recipe liquids. Liquid temperatures over 115 degrees (Fahrenheit) will kill the yeast.
  • Minimal kneading. In traditional yeast breads, kneading activates gluten in the flour, which greatly contributes to the rise and soft texture of a satisfactory loaf.
  • Use of an unusually large or small loaf pan. A too-large pan can cause your bread dough to spread out rather than rising up. If your loaf pan is too small, you may be peeling bread dough off the bottom of your oven after it flows over the side of the pan. 

If you’ve identified a recipe that seems to be legitimate, don’t hesitate to do a test run before you rely on producing a beautiful loaf of bread.

Ideally, check all your bread-making supplies the day before you plan to bake to ensure you’re not lacking a key ingredient.

Read ALL the instructions, from the beginning of the recipe to the end. This will make you aware of any out-of-the-ordinary rising/baking times or steps you may not otherwise anticipate. Speaking from experience here!

If you modify any portion of the recipe, make a note of it right in your recipe book or on the recipe copy, ensuring you recall the steps that gave you the bread of your dreams!

It can be helpful to maintain all your favorite bread recipes in one book, folder or file. This saves time and allows you to quickly compare a new recipe to tried and tested ones.

Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site at, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT MagazineOur Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest, and Facebook.

5-Ingredient Sourdough Crackers

If you keep a sourdough starter going, you may accumulate a lot of unfed starter in your refrigerator. I am always looking for easy ways to use mine up. These crackers provide one delicious option.

One batch of crackers uses up 2/3 of a cup of unfed starter. The microbes in the starter transform a handful of ordinary ingredients into dough that renders thin, crisp crackers that taste—believe it or not—cheesy. They taste taste so delicious in fact, that you may want to double or triple the recipe.

le parfait sourdough starter
You need only flour and water to make and nurture a sourdough starter

If you don’t have a sourdough starter, go here to learn how to make one. You need only flour and water and if you take care of your starter, it can last for years. Some starters in the sourdough museum (yes, that’s a thing) are over 100 years old! Mine—I named her Eleanor—turned five this year. She makes fantastic bread.

MEL sourdough bread
Sourdough bread

Some notes

1. I make a double or triple batch of the dough and after it has fermented on the counter for several hours, bake some of it and store the rest in the refrigerator. When I want more crackers later in the week, I can just grab a hunk of dough and whip them up. It’s like having convenience refrigerator dough on hand without the over-packaging and nasty chemicals.

2. Refrigeration halts the fermentation. I find that when I let the dough ferment at room temperature for too long (let’s say over 6 or 8 hours), it starts to break down, making a big mess when I attempt to roll it out. But in the refrigerator, the microbes go dormant. Now I can make a pile of this dough at once—and use up even more starter! No more baking dough bleary-eyed at night and cursing myself for having started it in the morning. If I’m too exhausted to bake, I simply put the dough in the refrigerator.

3. If desired, top the crackers with sesame seeds, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, flax seeds—the possibilities are endless! I roll out the dough on a floured work surface but as I get a couple of rolls away from finishing, I sprinkle the surface with toppings and roll them into the dough. If you sprinkle them on the finished dough, they tend to fall off.

4. To speed up the process, transfer the intact piece of rolled dough to the cookie sheet and use a pastry cutter or knife to cut the dough into squares. Cutting the crackers out and then transferring them to your cookie sheet will take a lot longer. The crackers shrink in the oven and so will not stick to each other while baking.

MEL sourdough crackers
Sourdough crackers and bean dip


  • 2/3 cup unfed starter from the refrigerator
  • 3 heaping tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt plus extra for topping
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda


1. Combine starter and oil in a non-metallic bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.

2. Add dry ingredients to bowl with wet ingredients. Combine. If necessary, knead the dough a few times to incorporate the last bit of flour. Cover bowl with a plate or towel and let rest for six hours at room temperature. Store in the fridge after this if you won’t bake right away. The dough will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. Let it warm at room temperature for 15 minutes to half an hour to making rolling easier.

3. When you’re ready to bake, divide the dough into two halves on a generously floured surface.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

5. Roll the dough out about two millimeters thick. If necessary, sprinkle with flour between rollings to prevent dough from sticking to your work surface.

6. Transfer the dough to ungreased cookie sheets.

7. Cut into rectangles with a pizza cutter, pastry cutter or a knife. Sprinkle with salt.

8. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, turn trays and bake 6 to 8 minutes longer. Crackers are done when crispy and slightly browned.

9. Transfer crackers to a rack to cool. Store in a glass jar. These also freeze well.

New Gluten-Free Bread Method

If you prefer gluten free breads, you can make home-made tasty loaves that are healthy and cost less than what you find in stores.

I rarely make gluten-free bread. However, my experience has been that using gluten-free boxed bread mix or purchasing gluten-free flour mix is an economic and easy way to produce a quality gluten-free loaf.


The advantages of using a commercial mix to make gluten-free bread include:

  1. You don’t have to purchase multiple types of flour typically used in gluten-free loaves.
  2. There’s no worry about using the proper ratio of flours in your recipe.
  3. No need to search for a recipe you can count on. Your box mix or gluten-free flour mix should produce a satisfactory loaf (check out my recommended baking method here).
  4. There are multiple brand-name gluten-free mixes that are wonderful quality and readily available.

If you’ve had an unsuccessful experience baking gluten-free bread – either with a mix or from scratch – no need to give up. Gluten-free recipes are far different from wheat and other whole grain bread recipes. Learning how to manage them may take a bit.

One thing that both traditional bread and gluten-free bread have in common is yeast. The same method you can use to ensure you produce a high-rising, light traditional loaf of bread works equally well with the gluten-free: activate your yeast in recipe liquid that’s warmed to a specific temperature range and keep the dough warm throughout the mix/rising process.

The method:

  • Warm your recipe liquid (water, milk, etc.) to a temperature range between 105- and 110-degrees (Fahrenheit). This is the temperature at which yeast thrives. Use a digital thermometer to verify that your liquid temperature is within that range. Instant-read thermometers are convenient, but any type of thermometer will register the liquid temperature.
  • Thoroughly dissolve the yeast and give it time to develop a foamy top, which means it’s started working.
  • Once you add the yeast mixture to your flours, keep the dough warm so the yeast continues to work.

So far, I’ve baked my gluten-free bread in my bread machine because it’s an easy way to handle the dough once it has risen. Late model bread machines will have a gluten-free setting and should provide details about using it in their manual.

The other thing that both traditional and gluten-free bread dough have in common: they thrive in a consistently warm environment.

To achieve that consistency, I recommend that you:

  • Warm your bread machine canister with hot water before placing your bread ingredients into it.
  • Warm the measuring cup/bowl you use to activate your yeast so the utensil doesn’t take heat away from your liquid.
  • Use the bread machine to raise and bake your gluten-free bread. It’s an easy, hands-off way to make the bread and the dough will stay at a consistent temperature in the canister.

Be aware that gluten-free bread spoils faster than a traditional loaf. If you wish to freeze the bread, slice it, place plastic wrap between each slice, put all in a bag and place in your freezer.

Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site at, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT MagazineOur Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

I'm still on my cheese kick. I've been making easy cheeses and with those successes under my belt I feel I have a right to graduate to something more challenging. Fresh homemade mozzarella cheese is not the easiest cheese to make. Cottage cheese, panir (or paneer), chevre are a lot easier to make at home. However, the flavor of homemade mozzarella cannot be surpassed and, therefore, it is well worth the trouble. I scoured the internet for a good recipe and made all the mistakes so you don't have to. If you follow my suggestions I think you'll be successful.


The difficulty in making homemade mozzarella is not so much in the process itself for the process is quite simple and does not take a lot of special ingredients or supplies. It can be done in a day and you'll be eating mozzarella in a few hours. You don't have to age it for a few months. The difficulty lies in the care that must be taken in adhering to and performing the instructions. Mozzarella is not forgiving like other homemade cheeses. You have to do what you have to do it when you need to do it in the way it needs to be done. As long as you know what you're getting into and are willing to submit to the discipline you will be rewarded. Have I scared you away? Don't be! Let me break it down for you.

Get your supplies all lined up and clean and your ingredients measured out. When you've done that we're ready to proceed.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese Recipe


• 1-1/2 teaspoons citric acid, dissolved in 1/2 cup cool water
• 1 gallon pasteurized whole milk — not ultra pasteurized
• 1/4 rennet tablet, or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet, dissolved in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
• 1/4 cup cheese salt (sea salt is fine; no additives)


• Stainless steel stock pot
• Dairy thermometer
• Perforated ladle
• Stainless steel potato masher
• Wire whip
• Really sharp knife
• Clean rubber gloves for kneading curd
• Pyrex custard cups or some small clean container
• A smooth surface for kneading


1. Start off by putting a little non-chlorinated water in 2 custard cups or small containers. Add the citric acid to one and the rennet to the other. Stir them both until they're dissolved and set aside.

2. Now add the citric acid to milk that is at 55 degrees. (Fifty five degrees is a little warmer than your average fridge. Use your milk thermometer to find out what temperature your milk is.) 

3. While stirring briskly, add the citric acid  slowly to the milk. Whisk it all in. It’s important to distribute the citric acid evenly and quickly, to avoid curdling the milk.

4. Now heat the milk to 90 degrees. It probably won't burn but stir it gently and constantly anyway. Remove the pot from the heat and slowly stir in the diluted rennet with an up-and-down motion for about 30 seconds. This is where I found that a potato masher works well. The rennet will start acting on the milk pretty quickly. Just make sure you incorporate the rennet well. The up and down works but for some reason circular stirring does not.

5. Cover the pot and leave it undisturbed for 5 minutes. Set your timer. 

curds whey

6. After 5 minutes check the curd. There should be a clear separation between the curds and whey. If the curd is too soft, or the whey is too milky, let it stand for a few more minutes.

If the curd is granular, and not forming a custard-like consistency, don’t freak! It may be that the milk was been ultra-pasteurized even if it wasn't labeled that way. Granular curds can still be used to make the cheese. The stretch may not be as elastic and the final texture might be softer. This is what happened to me but it turned out all right so forge ahead if this happens to you.

7. Cut the curd into approximately 3/8 inch cubes. Make sure your knife is sharp so it pulls as little as possible on the curd. Don't worry if the size is not exact.

8. Place the pot back on the stove and heat the curd to 110 degrees F.

9. Now remove from the heat and using your slotted spoon stir slowly for 5 minutes. Stirring for 5 minutes will produce a firmer cheese.

10. After 5 minutes scoop out the curd with a slotted spoon. Put it in the bowl. If it falls apart a little don't worry. You see my curd fell part quite a bit. Keep going if this happens. It will form into balls once you start handling it. Reserve the whey.


11. Now squish the curds gently with your hands forming the size units you want. Squish out as much whey as possible. Pour what you get into the whey pot.

12. Add 1/4 cup cheese salt to the reserved whey in the pot and heat it to 175 degrees F.

13. While the salted whey is heating up shape the curd into one or more balls. I wanted bite size so that's what I did.  Once the whey has reached 175 take the pot off the heat so it doesn't get hotter. Then scoop your round units with a slotted spoon and float them in the hot whey for several minutes. My recipe said "seconds" but it wasn't enough. I found that letting them sit for 2-3 minutes worked better. I think the hot water kinds of melts the curd which makes it easier to "knead".

hot water bath

14. Knead the curd by hand between each dip, and repeat this process several times until the curd is smooth and pliable. This is how you "knead": you knead by folding the curds over and over on themselves. It's not kneading like bread dough. The kneading helps to distribute the heat through the curds. Fold and press. Fold and press. Your curd will become smooth, shiny, almost melted looking. THIS IS IMPORTANT: Keep an eye on the whey temperature. If it gets too cool the curds will not warm sufficiently. If it gets too hot the curd will dissolve. It's OK if your curds have to sit on the counter while the whey heats back up. Remember: once it's heated to 175 take it off the heat. My whey hovered around 175 plus or minus a few degrees. It doesn't have to be 100 exactly but it can't vary widely.

15. Continue to knead and float the curd units back into the hot salted whey, until the curds have melded into a single, glossy mass, and will stretch like taffy. As you fold and press try to shape the balls as round as possible. Do not expect your balls to look like store bought! Manufacturers have machines for precision. Homemade should look homemade! This is what it's all about! You can eat it while it's still warm or you can put it in ice water. The ice water helps make the texture smoother.

cheese balls

I put what balls I haven't eaten (they're hard to resist!) in a jar and cover them with oil and herbs, to marinate. This cheese is best eaten fresh, within 2 days of making.

Easy Lunch Meat Frittata Recipe

Recently I have been intrigued by the idea of frittatas. They just seem so healthy and are a great way to use up some of my extra eggs. I like how they can be paleo or keto friendly as well. Another great thing is the variety. You can choose your meat, veggies, etc. I just recently bought a cast iron skillet and the main thing that I wanted to try in it was a frittata. 

When I decided that I was ready to make the frittata, I just looked around the web for some basic recipes that I could use to customize my own. I had recently eaten a turkey migas and it got me thinking that it could be easy to just try to use some turkey lunch meat in the recipe. I like to use Organic Valley lunch meat since it doesn’t have a lot of added ingredients and it is nitrate and carrageen free. 

I knew I wanted to use zucchini and I had a bell pepper that I needed to use up soon. I had some leftover shredded Parmesan cheese. I know that goes so well with zucchini. Since I am working toward more of a keto lifestyle, I added the cheese. If I was more with the straight up paleo, I would have skipped it. 

Now that I had my ingredients figure out, I was ready to get cooking. While I was preheating the oven to 400, I sautéed the zucchini and bell pepper in olive oil. I added some Himalayan pink salt, paprika and garlic. I was aiming for six regular eggs, but with my little bantam eggs, I used a full dozen. I added the eggs to a bowl and beat them. Then I added a little more salt and garlic powder to the egg mixture. Next I cut up the turkey into small pieces and added it to the eggs. 

I cooked the vegetables for about 10 minutes and then added the eggs and meat. I let that cook for around four minutes to set the edges of the eggs a little. Right before I placed everything in the oven, I sprinkled on the Parmesan cheese. I then placed the cast iron skillet into the oven and cooked it for about 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, it was not quite set so I cooked it for another five minutes. 

It smelled so good while it was cooking. My husband and I were eager to partake of it. It actually turned out quite yummy and I felt good for making a tasty and healthy dish. I will definitely be making more of these.

MEL frittata
Photo by Faithful Homesteader

Lunch Meat Frittata

I don’t generally measure herbs and spices


• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 large zucchini, chopped
• 1 bell pepper, chopped
• 6 large eggs or 12 bantam eggs
• 8 slices of turkey lunch meat chopped
• Enough shredded Parmesan cheese to cover the pan
• Himalayan pink salt, to taste
• Paprika, to taste
• Garlic powder, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. Sauté chopped zucchini and bell pepper in olive oil with seasonings for about ten minutes. Beat eggs into a separate bowl. Add additional garlic powder and salt. Add lunch meat to the eggs. 

3. Pour egg and meat mixture into the skillet with vegetables and let cook for around two to four minutes to let the edges set. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Place frittata into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the eggs have set.

Why Sift Flour?

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever sifted flour. In modern, everyday kitchens, it’s not such a common practice. However, flour sifters have garnered my attention since I started grinding my own whole grains for bread baking. That’s because this simple practice easily separates chunky bits of grain from the finer flour.

Don’t get me wrong, I look for those chunky bits in my whole grain breads. However, not everyone in my household has the same appreciation for them.

That conflict has led me to search out a means for producing a finer flour with the equipment I already have in my kitchen. So far, I haven’t been successful. 

Photo by Loretta Sorensen

My food processor may not have the proper attachments for grinding grain. Although my research brought up information about using a food processor to produce flour, it didn’t work for me at all. 

For several years I’ve relied on my Vitamix high speed blender to produce whole grain flour – using the dry container. It works better than any other appliance I have, but I still have to sift out the chunks, or spring for a flour mill.

If you’ve researched grain mills at all, you probably know that it will cost you between $300 and $500 for a quality flour mill. You could spend less, but some reviews of less costly equipment are not complimentary.

It will be a while before I’m ready to purchase the grain mill I really want, so what do I do in the meantime? Sift the flour.

Fortunately, I’ve cached two flour sifters in my cupboards: one vintage and one just a few years old. So, I will learn to use the newer one, knowing my flour prep will take a bit more time, for now.

If you opt to stick with a sifter (and who knows, maybe I will, too), you’ll find a range of options well beyond the iconic cylindrical, handheld sifters our mothers used.

One reasonably priced sifter option is the mesh sifter, which looks like a round cake pan, just with a fine mesh for a bottom. There is an electric flour sifter, and of course many handheld versions, including “The Original Bromwell Flour Sifter,” the first patented flour sifter first made some 200 years ago.

My approach to refining my flour will be to grind it in my Vitamix (one cup at a time, max), then sift out the unground bits, return them to the mixer and finish grinding. Generally, there’s only a tablespoon of bits that need more attention, so that doesn’t take long.

If I just ground the flour and used it as it is, it takes just moments to grind 3-1/2 cups for one loaf of bread, so adding a few minutes of sifting isn’t huge. Since this will be my process for a while, I’ll plan to grind 4 or 5 batches at a time. Doing that may reveal to me that I really don’t need a flour mill any time soon.

Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on her blog site at, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook.

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