Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles

I’ve made a lot of pickles over the past 25 years: garlic dills, sweet pickles, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, mustard pickles, and even dilly green beans. I’ve made tons of cucumber relish and salsa too, but everything I’ve done in the past has been vinegar based. That’s great if you have a huge garden and want to preserve your veggies for winter storage. However, after working for a Paleo diet expert, I’ve come to the realization that I’m not getting much nutrient value from these types of pickles.

The best way to preserve your veggies and get the most nutrition from them is to ferment them. It’s so simple to do, and fermenting has been around forever. And the best part is when you eat fermented foods, you’re adding good bacteria into your digestive system.

It doesn’t take much for special equipment to ferment your veggies. I already had a ton of canning jars (although other jars will work fine). All I needed to do was purchase some air locks (can find a variety of styles on Amazon), and I was all set.

I wanted to experiment with some cucumbers before gardening season arrived so I could decide 1) if I liked fermented pickles and 2) how much garden to plant. Wal-Mart actually had a small bag of pickling-sized cucumbers, so I snagged those and proceeded to start my experiment.

I had enough cucumbers to do 2 quart jars of fermented pickles. One I decided to do as close to my usual garlic dill pickles as possible, and the other quart jar I experimented with some pickling spice. The recipe that was closest to my usual dill pickles turned out terrific, and my youngest son told me I had to make crocks of them this summer when we’re overloaded with cucumbers. These pickles did not last long. The second jar – not so much a success. It fermented as it was supposed to. I just didn’t like the taste of the pickling spice, so the chickens got a fermented treat.

For my experiment, since it was March and fresh dill just isn’t available in Iowa, I used a combination of both dill seed and dill weed in my quart jar, but come summer, I’ll be using fresh, probably a big head of dill per jar. I like lots of dill and garlic in my pickles, but if you prefer less, feel free to adjust the amounts. The red pepper flakes are also optional. Sometimes I would make my usual garlic dills with a small piece of pepper to kick up the flavor, but the pickles will taste just fine if you don’t want the extra heat. I also didn’t have any grape leaves or horseradish leaves ready in the garden yet since it’s March, but I do add them when available. However, these pickles were perfectly crisp without them, so if you don’t have access to the leaves, don’t worry about it. Just be sure to keep the salt-to-water ratio the same so that you have enough salty brine for the fermentation to take place.

The spices and brine recipe are for 1 quart jar. Double as needed depending how many jars of pickles you want to make.


Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles

6 to 8 pickling size cucumbers (whole or slice into chunks as you prefer)

1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled

1-1/2 tablespoon dill seed

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Grape leaf or horseradish leaf (optional – this provides tannin to help keep pickles crisp)

For the Brine (per quart):

3 cups water (room temperature)

3 tablespoons fine sea salt (can use canning/pickling salt too)


To each quart jar, add the grape or horseradish leaf if using, the garlic, and the spices. Pack your cucumbers in tightly. Combine brine ingredients until the salt is dissolved, and pour the brine over the cucumbers.

Add a glass weight to the jar to keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine, and place an air lock to the top of the jar. Let the jar sit on the counter for 2 to 3 days out of the sun. How fast fermentation takes place will depend on how warm the room is. Ideal temperature would be around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, so if it’s wintertime, it will take longer, and fermentation will definitely speed up when it’s hot.

You’ll see the brine turn cloudy after a day or two. Don’t panic – that’s what you want to happen. It means things are fermenting as planned. After a couple of days, remove the air lock and the glass weight, and taste a pickle. It should be crunchy and full of dill and garlic flavor. If it isn’t, replace the glass weight and air lock, and let the jar sit for another day before re-tasting. When you’re happy with the pickles, remove the air lock and glass weight, place a different lid on the jar (I use a new canning lid and ring), and put the jar in the refrigerator. Enjoy!

Note: If you slice your cucumbers, the slices will ferment a bit quicker than if you leave the cucumbers whole in the jar. My whole cucumbers took about 4 days in mid-March before they were fermented all the way through, but my slices were ready in 2-1/2 days.


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Paleo Banana Blueberry Muffins

I’m always looking to modify favorite recipes to a more Paleo-friendly or at least gluten-free version. My kids love it when I bake, but I admit I haven’t baked as much since switching to a Paleo-type diet. I will still occasionally bake, as I did for Thanksgiving, but I either can’t partake in what I’ve made, or if I do I pay for it later with horrid GI symptoms.

I’ve save a ton of recipes on my Pinterest site, so if you’re looking for a starting place with gluten-free and/or Paleo recipes, be sure to check out the link at the end of this post. Let’s be honest. I collect recipes, and I’ve done so my entire life. Pinterest is a huge enabler for this hobby, and I love the fact that I can find gluten-free and Paleo recipes for just about anything on Pinterest. There are some talented cooks and bakers out there who have graciously shared their creations with the world, and I for one am extremely grateful for it. I found this delicious and easy recipe on the Bakerita blog, and it has tons of terrific Paleo and gluten-free recipes. Whenever I make a Paleo or gluten-free recipe, I usually don’t tell my sons that I’ve made a modified recipe until after they’ve eaten it, so when they kept going back for more of these muffins, I knew I’d found a keeper 🙂

You could make these into mini muffins, and the recipe says it will make 36, but I made regular-sized muffins and ended up with 15 yummy treats.




Paleo Banana Blueberry Muffins


4 ripe bananas, mashed

4 eggs

1/2 cup almond butter

4 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon real vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/2 cups blueberries


Line a muffin tin with muffin liners, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl or mixer, combine the mashed banana, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and nut butter until thoroughly combined.

Add the coconut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined. Fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, and fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full.

Bake in the preheated oven for 22 to 25 minutes (11 to 13 minutes if making mini muffins), or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Remove from the oven, and allow muffins to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove muffins from the pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

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German Chocolate Brownies

I’ve been swamped with work the past few weeks, and I’ve also moved, so I just haven’t had the time to do any real cooking or baking. That said, today I had a lull in work, and I had a really bad craving for chocolate, so I decided to make brownies.

Of course, when I was halfway through getting my ingredients dumped into the bowl, I discovered I didn’t have any cocoa powder in the cupboard. I could have sworn I packed that – darn it! But, when the chocolate fix is on, a girl finds a way to get her chocolate. I did have some German chocolate squares in the cupboard, so I simply modified my coconut oil brownie recipe using the German chocolate – crisis averted 🙂

This recipe does call for a cup of oil – it’s not a typo, I promise! I’ve used both canola oil and liquid coconut oil in this recipe, and it turns out great either way. I will mention that the baking time definitely depends on your oven. With my old oven, these brownies took about 45 minutes, but in my new one, it took closer to an hour. Just bake until they test done when checked with a toothpick or a knife. Enjoy!


german chocolate brownies


German Chocolate Brownies

2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup liquid coconut oil (can use vegetable or canola oil)
4 ounces German chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix all ingredients together until completely combined. Using coconut oil in place of vegetable oil will definitely make the texture thicker. Pour into an 8 x 10-inch greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes, or until they test done. Frost with your favorite frosting/icing when cooled if desired.


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Peanut Butter Banana Muffins and Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

When you have teenagers (and young adults) who have an endless stomach, you have to have snacks on hand. Trying to make them healthier snacks that are also tasty can sometimes be tough, but I found 2 recipes this weekend that everyone agreed were hits.

The first recipe I tried was Peanut Butter Banana Muffins. Really easy to make with ingredients I already had on hand. Doubling it was easy too, because I knew if they were a hit, I’d have to make more anyway!

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe bananas, mashed
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare 10 muffin tins with either muffin cup papers or lightly spraying with vegetable oil.

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Mix the banana, peanut butter, brown sugar, honey, vanilla, and egg together in another bowl.

Mix the wet mixture into the dry and stir until just combined.

Fill the muffin tins about 2/3 full. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes until golden brown.


Next on the snack list was trying my hand at homemade granola. We all love it, but it can get pricey to buy too often, so why not make it? I looked over lots of different recipes online and found one at honestcooking.com that sounded pretty good….and it was super easy and delicious.

Homemade Chewy Granola Bars

2 cups oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or other spices as desired (cardamom, nutmeg, etc.)
2-1/2 cups additions:  Dried fruit, seeds, nuts, flax meal, bran cereal, puffed rice cereal, crushed pretzels, chocolate chips…whatever you like. (I used chocolate chips, raisins, and black walnuts)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
6 tablespoons olive oil, canola oil, other oils….or melted butter (I used butter)
1/4 cup honey, maple syrup, or Agave syrup
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on desired thickness, line a square (8×8 or 9×9) or rectangular (9×13) baking dish with parchment paper (aluminum foil works too), then lightly grease the paper with a non-stick cooking spray, oil, or butter. Thicker bars are a little more decadent, if you’re planning on using this as a dessert.

Process 1/3 cup of the oats in a blender or food processor until finely ground.

If necessary, chop up dried fruit and nuts.

Stir together all dry ingredients (oats, ground oats, sugar, salt, cinnamon, fruits/seeds/nuts).

Whisk together wet ingredients (oil/butter, honey, peanut butter, and water).

Mix together wet and dry ingredients and then spread in the pan. Press firmly into the corners and edges so the top is even.

Bake for around 30 minutes or until the top starts to brown. Thicker bars will likely take longer, so you’ll need to watch them, depending on how much batter you’ve spread in what size pan. The edges will become deep golden, and they may feel underdone in the center, but that’s okay. They’ll firm quite nicely as they cool.

Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes, then take them out of the pan using the parchment paper/foil. Let cool completely before cutting.