By Lisa Nourse
Photos by Jamie Nourse

Living on the Pacific Coast, there are days during fall and winter when it really doesn’t get very cold. It is rare to have snow or freezing temperatures here — we are literally only a couple of miles from the ocean.

Some days it is not quite cold enough to justify turning on the furnace and, although we also have a woodstove, building a fire on these cool, but not cold days will run us right out of the house. These are the days made for baking. With 2×6 framing for our exterior walls and lots of insulation, early morning baking warms the house for the whole day. Using the oven for dinner will keep the house warm well into the evening.

Winter baking not only warms the house, you get treats as well. These pumpkin muffins are delicious warm from the oven.

When most people think about baking, they probably think about sweets — cinnamon rolls, cakes, pies, cookies, and the like. However, there are all kinds of recipes for savory baking. Meat pies come to mind, as do pasties, savory scones, herbed or cheesy bread, quiche, savory breakfast muffins, and so much more.

Since I eat gluten free, but my family does not, I have experimented with many recipes and prefer to use recipes that can go both ways. Most of the recipes in this article can be made with a one-for-one gluten-free flour blend. I have found however, that gluten-free flour blends do not work well for recipes that require yeast to make them rise without adding xanthan gum, ground psyllium husk, and beating the devil out of them when mixing.

Baking gluten-free yeast breads is a skill that is built with experience. I have gone through a lot of recipes and a lot of disasters before coming to the conclusion that one does not need yeast breads to eat well.

Savory breakfast baking

Since I prefer to bake in the morning to warm the house, I have quite a few breakfast baking recipes. Here are a few of my favorites.

Savory breakfast biscuits:

These biscuits are nice because they freeze well and you can make them ahead — just reheat in the microwave or a toaster oven. They are also quite good cold if you want a snack to take on a hike or long trip in the car. This recipe makes a large batch because I like to freeze them — halve the recipe if you don’t intend on freezing for later use.

  • 8 oz. pork sausage
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup green peppers, chopped (add in a couple of jalapeños for a spicy kick)
  • 1½ cups flour (For a healthier biscuit use almond flour. You can also substitute a 1 for 1 gluten-free blend.)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese, grated, divided

Preheat oven to 375° F. Sauté sausage, onion, and peppers until the sausage is browned and the vegetables are translucent. Take off heat and let cool. Normally I would drain off the fat, but since this recipe does not have oil or butter, I leave the fat in place of them (as long as it is not too much).

While waiting for the sausage to cool add flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder to a bowl and mix.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs, then add ½ cup of the cheese. Add to the flour mixture and mix well. Then add cooled sausage mixture and mix to combine.

Place a piece of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet.

Drop big spoonfuls of the mixture on the parchment paper like you would if you were making cookies.

Press down gently on each mound to flatten a little. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake for 8-10 minutes. Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Savory breakfast biscuits

Zucchini cheese scones:

Scones are generally an afternoon snack with tea, and I love sweet scones with a little clotted cream and jam. However, I think these savory scones are better for breakfast or as a bread to go with a meal.

I also make these with a gluten-free flour blend. They do not rise as much, but they still taste delicious.

  • 2½ cups flour plus 1 Tbsp. (can substitute a 1 for 1 gluten-free blend)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup zucchini, finely grated and pressed dry with paper towels
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced (or 1 tsp. rosemary, or whatever herbs you like)

Preheat oven to 400° F. Mix 2½ cups of the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Grate the cold butter over top and quickly work in. (When you want to work in cold butter, it is so much easier to grate it than to try to work it in with a fork or pastry cutter. You can even pop it in the freezer for a while before grating.)

In a smaller bowl, mix yogurt, egg, and honey until smooth and fold into dry ingredients just until combined.

In a separate bowl, toss the grated zucchini, most of the cheese saving a bit to sprinkle on top, and thyme with 1 tablespoon of flour until coated, then gently work into dough.

Place the dough on a clean work surface and work it into a circle that is about 8-10 inches. (You might have to add a little flour to your work surface.) Cut into wedges and place each on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Bake at 400° F for about 20 minutes until tops are golden brown.

Zucchini cheese scones are great for breakfast.

Easy basic quiche:

This is a basic quiche recipe that can be changed at a moment’s notice given the ingredients you have available. You can substitute cooked bacon or sausage for the ham, and you can substitute microgreens, little cubes of zucchini, or spinach for the green onions.

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust (or if you are full of energy first thing in the morning, you can make your own)
  • 6 large eggs
  • ¾ cup milk or cream
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup cooked ham, chopped
  • 1½ cups shredded cheese, divided
  • 3 Tbsp. green onions

Preheat oven to 375° F. Unroll pie crust and press into a 9-inch pie plate, crimping the top edges.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper.

Sprinkle the ham, 1 cup of the cheese, and green onions into the pie crust and pour the egg mixture over top. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until the center is completely set. Let cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Easy basic quiche

Zucchini cheddar quick bread:

Not the usual zucchini bread — this recipe is savory rather than sweet. This bread is very nice toasted and topped with a little cream cheese and home-canned smoked steelhead or other fish.

This bread goes together quickly and is another way to use up an excess of zucchini when your garden is really producing. I also grate and freeze zucchini to use during the winter months. I freeze it in 1, 1½, and 2 cup measures to fit my favorite zucchini recipes.

  • 2 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini)
  • 1½ tsp. salt, divided
  • 2½ cups flour (this can be all-purpose flour, a blend of whole wheat and white, or a gluten-free blend)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. black pepper (freshly ground is best)
  • 2 tsp. dried Italian herb blend (I buy a blend, but you can make your own by combining, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and parsley)
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated or cut into little cubes (about a cup)

Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

Grate the zucchini into a colander set over another bowl to catch drips. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and give it a little toss to mix. Let sit to allow the salt to draw out some of the liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, black pepper, Italian herb blend, and the remaining ½ teaspoon of the salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, yogurt (or sour cream), and milk until combined.

Then squeeze the zucchini to extract any excess liquid. The zucchini should be moist but not wet. Add it to the egg mixture. Add the green onions and olives and stir well.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Too much mixing will ruin the bread. Fold in the grated cheese, being careful not to overmix.

Scoop the dough into the loaf pan and use a spoon to smooth the top a bit.

Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top is a nice golden color.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes. Then slide a knife around the edge of the bread, and tip it out onto a cooling rack. If you can, allow it to cool for at least 30 minutes before digging in.

Zucchini cheddar quick bread

Savory lunch and dinner baking

While baking in the morning to warm the house is great, sometimes I want the house a little warmer in the evening too. Here are some of our favorite lunch and dinner baking recipes.

Homemade ham and cheese hot pockets:

These are great for a quick meal with a side salad. They are also easy as take-a-longs for hikes, fishing and hunting, or long trips in the car.

You can make the hot pockets and freeze leftovers for later use. After they are cool, wrap each one in aluminum foil and freeze. To reheat, microwave for 2-3 minutes or bake at 350° F for about 20 minutes — no need to thaw.

You can vary the filling — steak and swiss cheese; chicken, broccoli, and cheese; pizza ingredients, etc.

Bread:

  • 1⅓ cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour (I have not tried to make these with a gluten-free blend.)
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • 2¼ tsp. yeast
  • egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. milk)

Filling:

  • 8 slices cheddar cheese
  • 16 slices deli ham or 2 cups cubed ham

I use my bread machine to make the dough. If you have a bread machine, place the bread ingredients in the machine in the order given, put it on the “dough” setting and let it do the work for you. If you do not have a bread machine, make the dough in the usual manner by combining the yeast and warm water. Let sit until foamy, then add the flour, sugar, olive oil, and salt. Mix by hand, then knead for 7-10 minutes until the dough is nice and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl turning to coat all sides. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise until double.

Preheat oven to 400° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half. Then cut each half into quarters. Roll each piece into a rectangle or circle. They don’t have to be perfect. Transfer flattened dough to the baking sheets. Place the cheese and ham on one side of each dough piece and fold the other side over it. Use a fork to crimp the edges. Brush the tops and sides of each pocket with egg wash, then cut 2-3 slits in the tops for steam to escape.

Bake the pockets for 20-25 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown.

Homemade ham and cheese hot pockets

Classic shepherd’s pie:

While this recipe is normally made with ground lamb, I don’t much care for lamb, so I usually make it with ground beef or ground venison.

This is a great recipe to double because it tastes even better reheated the next day.

Filling:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef, venison, or lamb
  • 2 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour (or gluten-free 1 to 1 blend)
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 pint mixed peas and carrots
  • ½ pint corn kernels

Potato topping:

  • 1½-2 lb. Yukon Gold (or Russet) potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

To make the meat filling:

Add the oil to a large skillet and place it over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes.

Add the ground beef (or ground lamb or venison) to the skillet and break it apart to start browning. Add the herbs, salt, and pepper. Stir well. Cook until the meat is browned, stirring occasionally.

Add the Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Stir to combine. Then add the flour and tomato paste. Stir well.

Add the broth, peas and carrots, and corn. Bring the liquid to a boil then turn off heat.

Set the meat mixture aside. Preheat oven to 400° F.

To make the potato topping:

Before starting meat mixture, place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are tender.

Drain the potatoes and add butter, sour cream, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mash the potatoes and stir until all the ingredients are mixed together. Add the Parmesan cheese to mix and stir until combined.

Assembling the casserole:

Pour the meat mixture into a 9×9-inch baking dish. Spread it out into an even layer. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes (use a baking sheet under the dish if you think it might bubble over). Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Note: If you don’t have home-canned mixed peas and carrots, you could use frozen peas and carrots. You can also use frozen corn kernels for this recipe.

Classic shepherd’s pie — for a different presentation, bake the potatoes to mash, scoop out the potato skins, place the filling in the empty skin, and top with mashed potatoes. (Top photo)

Pasties:

Traditional pasties usually include cubed rump steak, potatoes, rutabagas, and onions. My husband is not a fan of rutabagas, so our pasty recipe is a little different.

Pasties also make great take-alongs for hiking, fishing, or hunting trips. They can be frozen easily for later use. To reheat, microwave for 2-3 minutes or bake at 350° F for about 20 minutes — no need to thaw.

  • 2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups cubed potatoes
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • ½ cup chopped bell pepper
  • 4 cups cubed rump steak
  • 4 9-inch pie crusts

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Put olive oil in a large frying pan and sauté all ingredients except the crusts on high heat for just a few minutes.

Roll out pie crusts and cut them in half. Place some filling on each half and fold dough over filling. Crimp edges to seal and prick top with a fork to release steam. (When making these for a dinner, rather than a take-along, you can just use the whole pie crust rather than cutting them in smaller pieces to make hand pies.) Continue until all crusts are filled. Bake at 375° F for 45 minutes to an hour.

When making pasties for a dinner rather than as a hand pie, I use the whole pie crust instead of cutting it into quarters.

Brazilian cheese bread:

I am always looking for new gluten-free bread recipes that are quick and easy. I found this recipe on the back of a bag of Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour. These remind me a bit of English popovers. Although not the same flavor, they puff up and come out hollow like popovers, which makes them great to serve with a thick stew or bean soup since they are perfect for scooping beans or gravy.

  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 1½ cups Bob’s Red Mill tapioca flour
  • ½ cup grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400° F. Grease standard-size muffin tin with butter or non-stick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until ingredients are completely combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender as necessary. (Being in a hurry one day and not wanting to drag out the blender, I whisked the ingredients together with a whisk and the buns came out just fine.) Pour batter into muffin tins, filling each one a little over halfway. Bake for about 20 minutes until the tops of the buns are lightly browned. Cool for two minutes before removing from pan.

Brazilian cheese bread goes great with bean soup.

Of course, we must bake sweets too

I love to bake and experiment with recipes, but I also love tried and true recipes from friends and family. Here are a few of my favorite sweet baking recipes.

Hazel’s carrot cake:

This recipe is handed down from my daughter-in-law Jamie’s grandmother. Hazel made this cake every year for Jamie’s birthday. Jamie altered the recipe one year when she baked me a birthday cake. She used Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten-free blend rather than regular flour. It instantly became my new favorite cake.

Cake ingredients:

  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 3 cups 1 to 1 gluten-free blend)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. powdered cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup vegetable oil

Frosting ingredients:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened (remove cream cheese and butter from refrigerator and set on counter when you begin the cake batter)
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract OR 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • ¾ cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans

Cake batter directions:

Wash and peel carrots. Using a cheese grater, shred carrots until you get approximately 3 cups.

Wipe cake pan(s) with a thin layer of butter then dust the pan with a layer of flour providing an even coat along all sides, corners, and bottom of pan(s).

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, crack all 4 eggs and stir lightly, then mix sugar and oil in with eggs.

Slowly add and stir dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Once fully mixed, add shredded carrots and stir until they are evenly spread throughout batter.

Pour batter into a 9×13-inch baking pan or two 8×8-inch baking pans.

Bake at 350 for 35-50 minutes; I recommend you check at 25 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter. Stick a toothpick in the middle of the cake, if batter clings to the toothpick it’s not done baking. The cake is fully baked once the toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting directions:

Mix butter and cream cheese in a bowl and slowly add sugar. Once mixture is clump free and smooth, add either the lemon juice or vanilla extract. (I’ve never added both.)

When the cake has cooled, spread on an even coat of frosting, sprinkle with chopped nuts, and enjoy!

Hazel’s carrot cake — my favorite

Eli’s black and blue pie:

My son Eli made this pie for us during one of our visits to his home in Central Oregon.

Since Himalayan blackberries grow wild here in Oregon, we harvest a lot of them during the summer and freeze them to use throughout the rest of the year. We also only have about a half hour’s drive to a wonderful U-pick farm to get blueberries, and we usually harvest 20-30 pounds which we freeze to use throughout the year.

Having both types of berries on hand makes it easy to whip up this pie at a moment’s notice.

  • ½ to ¾ cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 2½ cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2½ cups blueberries (fresh or frozen
  • Pie crust for a lattice-top pie (gluten-free recipe to follow)

In a large bowl stir together sugar and cornstarch. Add blackberries and blueberries. Gently toss until berries are coated with sugar/cornstarch mixture. (If using frozen berries let them thaw until the berries are still icy, but mostly thawed.)

Preheat oven to 375° F. Prepare crust and roll out a circle using half of the dough. Line 9-inch pie plate with the bottom crust, leaving at least ½-inch overhang.

Stir berry mixture and pour it into the bottom crust.

Trim bottom crust to ½ inch beyond edge of pie plate. Create lattice for top crust by rolling out remaining pastry and cut into ½-inch wide strips. Place half of the pastry strips on the filling one inch apart. Arrange remaining strips perpendicular to the first half of strips on the filling. Press strip ends into bottom pastry on the rim of the pie plate. Fold bottom pastry over the strip ends. Seal and crimp the edge.

Bake for 30 minutes for fresh fruit, for as long as 50 minutes for partially frozen fruit, or until filling is bubbly. Cover edge of crust with foil if it is browning too much. Cool on a wire rack.

Eli’s black and blue pie

Gluten-free pie crust recipe:

Gluten-free pie crusts are notoriously difficult to work with — this is the best one I have found so far.

This recipe is for a single crust — double the recipe if you are making a two-crust pie.

  • 1¼ cups gluten-free 1 for 1 flour blend
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbsp. cold butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice
  • cold water as needed

Mix together the flour blend, sugar, xanthan gum, and salt.

Grate the cold butter over the flour mixture and mix in until it’s crumbly. (I find that grating the butter makes it much easier to mix in rather than cutting in chunks.)

Whisk the egg and vinegar or lemon juice together until frothy, then mix into dry ingredients. Stir until the dough holds together adding water if necessary.

Shape into a ball and refrigerate for an hour. Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before rolling out.

Gluten-free pie crust does not always hold together very well so the trick to rolling it out is to use parchment paper.

Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter and sprinkle with gluten-free flour. Flatten the ball of dough and sprinkle a little more flour over the top. Roll out, then carefully invert the crust into the pie pan.

Jamie’s pumpkin pecan chocolate chip muffins:

This is my daughter-in-law Jamie’s recipe. These muffins are so delicious warm from the oven.

  • 1⅓ cup pumpkin purée
  • ⅛ tsp. nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 3½ Tbsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1¼ cups gluten free flour
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup finely chopped pecans
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

To get the pumpkin purée I use Winter Luxury pumpkins that we grow in our garden.

I cut the pumpkins in half and scoop out the “guts” and seeds. Nutmeg is sprinkled on the cut side (not included in the ingredients list), then the pumpkin halves are placed face down on a cookie sheet with a lip so the outer shell is on top. (The pumpkins weep as they bake so a lipped baking sheet is necessary.) Bake the pumpkins at 350° F for approximately 45 minutes to one hour depending on the size of the pumpkins. When I remove the pan from the oven, I flip the pumpkin halves over and sprinkle cinnamon on them (again not from the amount listed in the ingredients list).

When the pumpkin halves are cool, I scoop the pumpkin meat into a bowl and stir well until it acquires a smooth consistency.

If you don’t grow pumpkins, you can use canned pumpkin purée for this recipe.

Measure purée amount for recipe into a bowl. Thoroughly mix in nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir in melted butter and mixed eggs. Add cornstarch, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, and once mixed, stir in gluten free flour until consistency is thick and smooth. Pour in honey, mix well, then add nuts and chocolate chips.

Grease muffin pan or use paper liners.

Pour batter until liners are nearly full, leave ¼ inch space.

Bake at 350° F for 16-18 minutes.

Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

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