Extraordinary Bread: Nan-e Barbari (and Creamy Vegetable Soup)

In Persian, Nan-e Barbari translates to “bread of the Barbars,” a group of people, now referred to as Hazaras, who traditionally lived near Iran’s eastern borders. One of the unique features of this flatbread is that its surface is spread with roomal, a flour and water paste, before baking, which puts a layer of moisture directly on the bread. Over the years, steam ovens have replaced the use of the ancient bread-baking technique. This recipe lets you create a bread with a crisp crust without the need to make steam in the oven.

The recipe can be found at King Arthur Baking Company.

For dinner tonight, this flatbread was paired with homemade Creamy Vegetable Soup. While many vegetable soups include cubed potatoes, when I make soup I opt to leave the cubes out and to use a different form of potatoes. For thickening my soup, I added potato flakes instead of heavy cream. This decreases the fat in the soup while still including the taste of potatoes to the mix.

Creamy Vegetable Soup (serves 4)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
2 Tablespoons Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen green beans
2 carrots, sliced (today I used some shredded carrots left over from making a carrot cake)
1/4 cup potato flakes
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon of each of these spices: dill seed, oregano, parsley, thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Over medium heat, cook the celery, onion and garlic in olive oil until softened but not browned. Add water and bouillon and bring to a slow simmer. Add the vegetables, potato flakes, milk and spices and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!



Tasty, interesting and nutritious.

Okay, so that is an acrostic, not really a definition. But, the word choices do describe this dish.

A Tian is actually a shallow French baking dish. It is also the name of the roasted vegetable dish often made in the dish and baked in an oven. The dish is native to Provence and can be constructed in beautifully arranged layers to provide a pleasing appearance as well as flavor.

A few weeks ago, a friend posted a photo on Facebook of a Tian she had made. Thanks Pat! It looked really good, so I looked up recipes to see if it was something I wanted to make.

Based upon the recipes I was seeing, the dish was somewhat of a cross between Ratatouille and au gratin potatoes. Since I already had an excellent au gratin potato recipe, I decided to adjust my existing recipe to make my own Tian.

The vegetables were sliced and chopped.
Then placed in the baking pan in rows of alternating vegetables.
The cheese mixture was poured over the top.
And, the dish was baked.

This turned out really well and will certainly be made again. If you want to try making it, here is the recipe I put together.

Tian (serves 4)
1 large carrot, sliced 1/8″
2 potatoes, sliced 1/8″
1 zucchini, sliced 1/8″
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/8″
1 white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/8″
1 white onion, chopped
4 ounces gruyere cheese, grated
2 ounces parmigiano reggianno cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

Grease a 6 x 8 baking pan. Place sliced carrots and potatoes in an 8 cup glass bowl, add 3 cups water. Heat on high in microwave for five minutes until vegetables are al dente. Meanwhile, saute the onions and garlic until tender and then transfer to the baking pan making a thin layer across the bottom of the pan. Drain water from the potatoes and carrots. Add cold water to cool vegetables slightly for better handling. Alternating vegetables, or creating a pattern, place the vegetables in the baking pan. Mix together dairy products and spices and pour over the vegetables. Bake at 350F for 45 minutes until vegetables are tender, and the sauce is bubbling and golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

Homemade French Yogurt – Oui!


I love French yogurt – it is thick and creamy, but not as tangy as Greek yogurt.  Sold in their distinctive glass jars, the Oui yogurts are a bit more expensive than some of the other yogurt on the market. But they taste great and at least the glass is recyclable.    Eating a jar of yogurt each day, however, meant a lot of glass going in our recycling container.

Thinking about the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” to limit our individual impact on the environment, I was as least doing the last step – recycling.  But after a few months, I realized that the jars  may be useful for other things.  So, I started saving the jars, cleaning them and using them for storage, candles, etc. I’ll post pictures and descriptions of some of the projects soon.

Last spring, after purchasing an Instant Pot, I discovered that one of the functions available was for making yogurt.  I thought this would be a great thing to try.  And, if it worked, I would reduce my purchasing glass jars. After reading some information about making yogurt in an instant pot, my first trial was with Greek yogurt since that was the only plain yogurt I could find.  The yogurt turned out well, just as tangy as the commercially available ones but not as thick.  Next, I wanted to try French yogurt, but I could not find any plain French yogurt.  Settling for the next best option, I purchased a jar of vanilla flavored Oui yogurt. After making the first batch, I was really pleased with the flavor but it wasn’t as creamy and thick as I had hoped for.  So, I set out to do some experimenting.

If you want to skip the descriptions of my testing, step-by-step instructions of my current recipe are at the end of this post.

Trial #1: The first few times that I made yogurt, I made batches of 4 cups each directly in the IP stainless steel pot.  Since the French yogurt is manufactured directly in the glass jars, I decided to try that next to see if the consistency would be better. Using  8 ounce jelly jars, I mixed the culture and milk together in individual jars. The resulting yogurt was a bit creamier, but even waiting until after the yogurt set while chilling in the refrigerator, it still not what I was hoping for. Using individual jars were nice however because I did not need to wash the pot before starting the next batch of yogurt.

Trial #2: All of the recipes for making yogurt mentioned the incubation time as a minimum of 8 hours and a maximum of 12 hours.  Since my original batches were each stopped at 8 hours, I decided to try 9, 10, 11 and 12 hours and see if that changed the consistency. Using my 3 quart IP, I could fit four jelly jars in a single batch.  After starting the yogurt and incubating, I removed and labeled one jar at 9 hours, then another at ten, then 11, and the final one was stopped at 12 hours of incubation.  The jars were each placed in the refrigerator and tasted the next day.  This initial test showed that the yogurt became thicker and creamier with longer incubation time.  A repeat of the trial showed similar results. Since these timing trials,  I have used 12 hours for my subsequent yogurt batches.

Trial #3: Do other brands of milk work? Most of the information about making yogurt mentioned using ultrafiltered milk.  I had selected Fairlife whole milk because it was readily available at the stores I shop at.  It is a bit more expensive than other milk, so I did a small trial with the regular 1% milk that we use for drinking and cereals.  I also purchased some whole milk of the same brand.  Don’t try this – the yogurt cultures did not multiply and the result was stale sour milk.  Fairlife whole milk was what I have used ever since.

Trial #4. Chocolate Yogurt? The Fairlife Milk that I used to make yogurt also comes in a chocolate flavor.  Following my set upon recipe, I tried making chocolate yogurt.  The result was okay, but the flavor was not very good.  The amount of chocolate in the milk was not enough to make the yogurt taste like chocolate.  To salvage the yogurt, I mixed in about a half teaspoon of cocoa and a half teaspoon of sugar.  But, I decided chocolate yogurt was really not something I enjoyed.

Trial #5: To add flavor to my yogurt, I was mixing the flavorings in after incubating.  To save that step, I tested whether the flavor and/or sweeteners could be added at the beginning.  I tested adding honey, sugar, Splenda and Stevia.  The results were not very good.  The yogurt tasted more like sweetened curdled milk rather than yogurt.  I would not recommend it.  Likewise, I tried fruit flavors and tested adding lemon juice, lemon curd, orange marmalade and strawberry fruit puree.  The lemon juice was definitely not good.  I did anticipate the the citric acid might make the milk curdle before the yogurt cultures could multiply and I was correct.  The other three were okay, but not great tasting.  I have since been making plain yogurt and adding the flavorings after the yogurt is complete.  This turned out to be a good idea because I can make the next batch of yogurt by taking some of the fresh culture and mixing with milk, rather than relying upon purchased yogurt starter.


Homemade French Yogurt in an Instant Pot

Ingredients and supplies
Instant Pot (mine was 3 quarts)
8 ounce jelly jars
Hand wisk
Fairlife Ultrafiltered Whole Milk
Yogurt Culture
Plastic Lids (Amazon has colored ones)
Flavorings (per personal preferences)


1. Place approximately 1 teaspoon of plain or vanilla flavored yogurt in a glass jar.

2. Add 2-3 Tablespoons of Fairlife milk and wisk to disperse into a slurry. 

3. Fill the glass jar with more milk and wisk slightly. 

4. Distribute the dilute yogurt culture into the other jars, keeping the amount in each jar approximately consistent. 

5. Fill each jar with milk and wisk lightly.  Place the jars in the IP directly touching the bottom of the stainless steel pan.  Add lid, select yogurt and set timer for 12 hours.  

6. Remove the jars, add flavorings as desired, cap and store refrigerated. 


Sweetener and flavor preferences are very personal.  But here are my favorites:

Orange – orange juice works well, True Orange crystallized fruit powder (Amazon) works better.  But, I prefer the flavor of homemade orange marmalade (2 teaspoons mixed in).

Lemon and Lime – True lemon (Amazon) or True lime (Amazon) crystallized fruit powder works better than juices. The crystallized fruit powder comes in individual packets.  One packet per jar gives a nice flavor.

Vanilla Honey – 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon honey.

Other Fruit Flavors – I originally used crushed berries for other fruits.  For better flavor, I have found that SmartFruit Smoothie Mix is much better.  There are a variety of flavors available (Amazon).  They are large jars, but they last a really long time.

You can sweeten the yogurt if desired.

A few pointers:

**  Even though the IP is set for 12 hours, you can stop the incubation earlier.  Just make sure the yogurt has been in the IP for at least 8 hours.

**  Refrigerate for a couple hours before eating because the yogurt will be warm when first removed from the IP and the yogurts sets further when cooled.

**  6The first time you make yogurt, you will be using a container of purchased yogurt as your starter culture.  But, you will only need a small amount.  The rest of the yogurt can be stored frozen to use at a later date (or you can just eat it!).  I found some small containers for carrying dressings in lunches at our local Target store.  They were only about $3 for a set of four.  These work really well to portion the culture and freeze.  I purchased two sets, distributed the excess culture into these containers and put them in the freezer.  Now when I go on vacation, I won’t need to purchase new starter to make yogurt after I return. 

**  10After each batch of yogurt is complete, but before adding any flavorings, remove about small amount (approx. 1 tsp) from each jar and place into a clean jar to use as culture for your next batch.  Then just continue with steps two through six above.  If you will not be making another batch right away, place a plastic lid on the jar and refrigerate until you are ready to make the next batch.  I have saved the yogurt this way for up to five days without any change in the yogurt outcome.  I have not gone any longer than five days, so I really do not know how long the cultures will last.

After a day or two in the refrigerator, you may notice some liquid separating from the culture.  This liquid does not affect the outcome, just proceed as described above. So far, I have only used a frozen starter once since starting yogurt making mid- summer.  My current yogurt is from starter that was first used mid September.  It appears that my frozen starter jars should last me a really long time.  

**  If you make a variety of flavors, different colored lids (as seen in the photo in step #6 above) will easily differentiate them.  I even made a small laminated flavor list and posted it inside my refrigerator so everyone knows what is in each jar.

It sure is nice to make homemade yogurt with no preservatives or other additives!

National Linguine Day

Fall in Minnesota is harvest time. With a day off from work, I needed to tend to my garden.  My garden is not the typical garden, it is rather unique. When my boys were younger, I wanted to keep space in the backyard for them to run and play soccer, badminton,  or other sports and yet still grow some produce. So, I created a garden in planters on my deck and in the retaining wall of my patio. This part of my garden is 1 foot wide and 40 feet long. Several trellises create a vertical garden with some of the plants growing 12 feet tall, reaching to my deck.

From my garden, I had a fresh cucumber salad for lunch.  For dinner, I had lots of fresh veggies to use – peas, peppers, onion, tomatoes, zucchini and carrots, and some freshly picked apples. It seemed to me that roasted veggies would be a good idea.


Later, while running errands, I heard that today was National Linguine Day.
Great idea to add to my roasted veggies!  When I returned home and looked in the cupboard – no linguine.  Oh well, spaghetti noodles work just as well.  So, dinner tonight was Spaghetti(Linguine) with Roasted Vegetables, Meatloaf and Sliced Zestar Apples.





Linguine with Roasted Vegetables Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1/2 cup snap peas in pods

1 green pepper, coarsely chopped

1 red pepper, coarsely chopped
1 small red onion, sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 zucchini, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup baby carrots, cut in fourth lengthwise

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

Salt, Pepper and Garlic salt, to taste
8 ounces dry Linguine
Shredded Parmesan
1. Spread chopped and sliced vegetables on a baking sheet.  Spritz with EVOO and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 quarts of water to boiling, add pasta and cook uncovered on high heat at a rolling boil until al dente (about 8-10 minutes).
3. Drain the pasta, toss with 2 Tbs EVOO and Roasted Vegetables.  Garnish with shredded Parmesan.