About Maria Hodkins

Itinerant chef; gourmet-natural foods cooking; food writer; artist; food devotee; locavore




Western Colorado

Favorite Foods

ethnic foods, organic foods, pestos, chutneys, breads, curries

Favorite Food Writers

Mollie Katzen, Deborah Madison, Martha Stewart, Beth Hensperger

I call myself a…

itinerant chef, personal chef, food writer, Culinarian, cooking instructor, food historian, food aficionado

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The January Kitchen

From Maria’s Place by
January 25, 2012

Grey, white, and muted browns on the landscape. Crunchy snow and mud everywhere, not at all enticing to draw me outside. The life-giving sun makes its seemingly interminable journey back to warming the earth during January. Those of us in the Northern climes contend with a certain ennui during the long haul toward spring. It’ll be a long time yet before we can plant seed and eat our own garden-fresh food. Meanwhile, however, life is burgeoning in the corners of the kitchen in microbial colonies, inspiring me with the joy of growing good things to eat inside. The yogurt is culturing in the oven by the warmth of the pilot light; the kefir grains, consisting of a symbiosis between yeast and bacteria, is sitting on the counter making a cell-building probiotic drink for my mornings; I’m swooning with the smell of the sourdough starter, bubbling with new flour in a crockery bowl, ready for biscuits, bread, pancakes,and English muffins; and, the cabbage and carrots are fermenting with whey and salt in a Mason jar, soon to be pickled and lively as a condiment for a meal. January is the month of creation, of new beginnings, and good food grown from the tiniest of organisms--revealing a miraculous world at our fingertips. Nothing drab about that. And I’ve always believed a truly “organic” kitchen is one that’s alive with a creation in every corner.


1 quart milk (preferably raw milk)
1-3 Tbsp. fresh yogurt starter
A frothing/beverage thermometer, a digital meat thermometer, or a candy thermometer
A quart Mason jar with lid

Heat milk in a stainless steel or porcelain pot to 180 degrees. Do not let it boil. (You can tell it’s getting close because it starts to “froth” a bit). Turn off the heat immediately and allow the milk to cool to 110-115 degrees. You can “quick cool” it by setting it in a pan of cold water and stirring.

Scald your Mason jar while the milk is cooling. When milk is cool enough, add about 1 cup to your jar, then stir in your yogurt starter with a wire whisk, until smooth. Pour in remaining milk and blend well. Cover with lid and quickly put your jar in a warm place, 85-115 degrees. Do not move, shake, or jiggle the yogurt. Check after 5 hours. It should be thick and firm. If it is not set, check every hour for up to 12 hours. Refrigerate it when it is set.

If your incubation is not warm enough, the yogurt will not set at all. If the environment is too warm, the yogurt will sour before it sets.

Ways to incubate Yogurt
(should stay between 80-100 at least 8 hours or overnight)
* In the oven of a gas stove
* In an electric oven with the light turned on
* On top of a pilot light on a gas stove
* In a microwave oven (turned off) with a bottle of boiling water
* In an insulated cooler with bottles of hot water, or fill chest with warm water
* On top of an electric heating pad
* On top of a water heater
* In a warm oven (heat to 150 degrees, turn off)
* In a large pot (covered) of warm water on top of the stove
* Set jar in a tea cozy or wrapped in a blanket near a radiator or heater
* In a yogurt-maker

Serve Yogurt:
--with honey, molasses, fresh fruit, granola, wheat germ, and or flax seed meal
--use as a substitute for sour cream in salads, dressings, baked goods, or on baked potatoes
--accompanying hot, spicy dishes, especially curries
--stir into cooked sauces and soups
--make into frozen yogurt with different flavors

Delectable Soft Taco Recipe

From Maria’s Place by
June 22, 2009

Just discovered a new taco recipe that I absolutely adore--it’s delicious, quick, simple, and healthy. It’s an adaptation from a dish served at the B & B where I cook. I made it for my weekend guests and it got rave reviews. People are always asking me, “How do you cook greens?” and don’t seem to know what you can do with them to make them tasty and appealing. This recipe is a great way to do just that!


8 corn tortillas
2 T olive oil or ghee
1 onion, minced
2 large cloves garlic
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 or 3 bunches of chard, kale, broccoli raab or other braising greens, Cut off the stems and slice the greens into narrow strips of about 1”.

1 pkg. plain Chevre (soft goat cheese)
¼ cup of your favorite fresh or jarred Salsa

Heat up a large, deep skillet or dutch oven and add your oil or ghee. Add onion and let cook a few minutes. Next add garlic and jalapeno, and cook until onions are soft.. Add braising greens and let cook, tossing, until they are soft (you can cover with a lid to wilt greens faster). Season with Salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat up another skillet or griddle and start warming your tortillas. (Put a little butter amd olive oil in the pan, for flavor), but you can also use a dry pan.) After you have turned the tortilla one time, sprinkle Chevre on the cooked side. When tortilla is soft and hot and cheese is starting to melt,(you can use a butter knife or spatula to spread it around) transfer to a plate, spoon on greens and top with Salsa. Serve open face or fold in half. Delicious!

Serves 4. Great with a side of black beans and salad.

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