Friday, December 31, 2010

Black Pepper Almonds

Black Pepper Almonds
~Makes 2 2/3 cups~

1 tablespoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
4 teaspoons water
2 2/3 cup whole almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with foil.  Lightly butter foil.  Mix pepper and salt in a small bowl.  Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat.  Add sugar and 4 teaspoons of water; stir until sugar dissolves.  Add almonds; toss to coat.  Cook over medium heat until syrup thickens and almonds are well coated, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle half of the pepper mixture over the almonds.  Transfer almonds to baking sheet.  Using a spatula and working quickly, separate almonds.  Sprinkle remaining pepper mixture over.  Bake until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Transfer sheet to rack; cool.  (Can be made 4 days ahead.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

Sense of Home / Recipes / Appetizers and Snacks

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Almond Pine Cones

Almond Pine Cones
1 1/4 cup whole almonds
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
5 crisply cooked bacon slices, crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/8 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground

Spread almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan.  Bake at 300 degrees F. for 15 minutes, stirring often, until almonds just begin to turn color.

Combine softened cream cheese and mayonnaise, mix well.  Add bacon, onion, dill and pepper; mix well.  Cover, chill overnight.  Form cheese mixture into shapes of two pine cones on a serving patter.  Beginning at narrow end press almonds at slight angle into cheese mixture in rows.  Continue until cheese is covered.  Garnish with sprigs of rosemary.  Serve with crackers.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups of dip.

Sense of Home / Recipes / Appetizers

Monday, December 27, 2010

Salmon Piccata

Salmon Piccata
(adapted from a Cooks' Illustrated recipe)

2 large lemons
4 salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons drained small capers
3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position, set large heatproof plate on rack, and heat oven to 200 degrees.

2. Halve 1 lemon pole to pole.  Trim ends from one half and cut crosswise into slices 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick; set aside.  Juice remaining half and whole lemon to obtain 1/4 cup juice; reserve.

3. Sprinkle both sides of fillets with salt and pepper.  Measure flour into pie tin or shallow baking dish.  Working 1 fillet at a time, coat with flour, and shake to remove excess.

4. Heat heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot, about 2 minutes; add 2 tablespoons oil and swirl pan to coat.  Lay half of the salmon fillets in the skillet.  Saute, without moving them, until lightly browned on first side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes.  Turn fillets and cook until second side is lightly browned, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes longer.  Remove pan from heat and transfer fillets to plate in oven.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to now-empty skillet and heat until shimmering.  Add remaining fillets and repeat.

5. Add onion to now-empty skillet and return skillet to medium heat.  Saute until translucent, add broth and lemon slices, increase heat to high, and scrape skillet bottom with wooden spoon or spatula to loosen browned bits.  Simmer until liquid reduces to about 1/3 cup, about 4 minutes.  Add lemon juice and capers and simmer until sauce reduces again to 1/3 cup, about 1 minute.  Remove pan from heat and swirl in butter until butter melts and thickens sauce; swirl in parsley.  Spoon sauce over fillets and serve immediately.

Sense of Home / Recipes / Main Dishes

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lemon Balm Leaf

I enjoy a good cup of tea year round, but especially in the winter months.  When it is cold outside a warm cup of tea feels cozy and comforting.  I drink a variety of teas; green, black, ginger, chamomile, mint, olive leaf, to name a few.  I usually start my day at work with a cup of green or black tea, after lunch and often again in the evening I enjoy a cup mint, chamomile, ginger or one of the many others I have on hand.  Lately I have been enjoying lemon balm leaf tea. 

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis L.) is a lemon scented member of the mint family.  It has a delicate fresh green flavor and makes a refreshing tea.  It has been used throughout history as a medicinal herb, lemon balm has mild sedative properties and has been used for digestive problems, to reduce fever, and to relieve headaches or menstrual cramps.  Both oil and hot water extracts of the leaves have strong antibacterial and antiviral qualities.  Lemon balm tea was used as far back as the Middle Ages to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, improve appetite, and ease pain and discomfort from indigestion.  Some say the tea improves memory and lemon balm oils have been used as aromatherapy for Alzheimer's patients.  It is also said to lower blood pressure.

Lemon balm is a perennial that grows well in zones 4 through 9, though in zone 4 it will need to be mulched to survive the winter.  It prefers full-sun, but is moderately shade tolerant and as with most herbs, prefers well-drained soil.  The plant will spread and in some areas is considered a noxious weed, so plant in an area where it can spread and not become a problem.

Young leaves can be harvested during the growing season. Harvesting is best done by cutting the leaves early in the morning following then evaporation of the dew on the leaves. The best lemon balm leaves are the ones that grow early in the season. The fragrance may deteriorate as the leaves age and this will effect the taste.  The plants should be pruned regularly so that fresh shoots will appear. A shady and airy location is ideal to hang the harvested plants to dry. Airtight jars must be used for storage once the leaves are crisply dry.

Lemon balm can be used in cooking, adding the leaves to marinades, sauces, soups and stews.  Fresh leaves make a good addition to salads.  The flavor pairs well with fish, chicken and vegetables.

Although lemon balm is considered a safe herb, if you plan to take large doses of the herb in capsule form the University of Maryland cautions that pregnant and nursing women should not take lemon balm and it also cautions that it may interact with sedatives and thyroid medications.

Lemon balm can be used topically on cold sores for both adults and children.  Steep 2 to 4 teaspoons of crushed leaf in 1 cup of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool.  Apply with cotton balls to the sores throughout the day.

Lemon Balm Tea for Cold Relief
½ cup dried basil
½ cup dried lemon balm
Whiskey or brandy, optional
Honey, for taste
Hot water

In a bowl, mix the dried basil leaves with the dried lemon balm leaves. Take a tea ball and place the mixed leaves inside as you would for brewing black tea. Boil water. Place the tea ball inside a pot filled with boiled water. Let the leaves steep for about 5 to 7 minutes. If you have a head cold, it's traditional to add a shot of whiskey or brandy in the tea. But if you have been prescribed or are taking over-the-counter cold medicine, then don't add whiskey or brandy to your tea. Add honey to the hot lemon balm tea and drink it immediately.

Lemon Balm Astringent
1 tablespoon fresh lemon balm
1 cup witch hazel

Combine the ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  Allow to steep for 1 week.  Strain.  Use 1 teaspoon per application with a cotton ball.  Refrigerate if you wish.

Sense of Home / Homemade Living / Healthy Living

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces tomato sauce (home canned, if available)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground tumeric

Combine onion, garlic and butter in a 2-quart pan and cook on medium-high heat until softened.  Stir in remaining ingredients and continue cooking until sauce is heated through.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Potato Frittata

Potato Frittata
(adapted from a December 2005 Gourmet recipe)
4 servings

8 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups shredded potatoes
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
3/4 cup shredded soft cheese, such as fontina or havarti
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 heaping teaspoon dried parsley, or 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, plus a little for garnish

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk together eggs, salt and pepper until just combined.
Heat oil in an ovenproof 9- to 10-inch heavy nonstick skillet over high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add potatoes and onions to oil, stirring once, then cover and cook until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Stir potato mixture once, then cover and cook 3 minutes more.
Pour beaten eggs evenly over potato mixture and sprinkle cheese, garlic and parsley over eggs. Transfer skillet to oven and bake frittata, uncovered, until set and just cooked through, about 15 minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and, holding them together with oven mitts, invert frittata onto plate, sprinkle with a little more parsley and serve immediately.

*This is very good served with smoked salmon and a garden salad.*

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best Ever Corn Bread

Best Ever Corn Bread
6 - 8 servings

1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup cornmeal
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons softened butter
1 tablespoon honey

1/3 cup fresh or frozen corn
3 tablespoons green chilies

Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.  Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-size bowl.  Stir in cornmeal.

Combine egg, sour cream, butter and honey, add to dry ingredients, mixing just until dry ingredients are moist.  Add corn and green chilies, if using.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until bread springs back when center is gently pressed.  Serve hot with butter.

Sense of Home / Recipes / Bread

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bean Soup

Bean Soup
(6 - 8 servings)

2 cups dry great northern beans
2 quarts chicken stock
1 medium onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 slices of bacon, crisply cooked and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and pick over the dry beans.  Soak the beans in water that covers them by a couple of inches for 8 hours; rinse.

In a soup pot, saute onion, celery and carrot until just tender.  Add garlic and saute for one minute more.  Add beans, chicken stock, bay leaf and thyme.  Simmer until beans are tender, about 2 hours, adding additional stock if needed.

Discard bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with bacon just before serving.

Sense of Home / Recipes / Soup

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lemon Cranberry Scones

Lemon Cranberry Scones
These scones are lighter than most, and will sread slightly during baking.

2 tablespoons freshly grated organic lemon zest
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar plus 3 tablespoons additional if using fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries, chopped coarse, or 1 1/4 cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. 
With a vegetable peeler remove the zest from lemons and chop fine, reserving lemons for another use.
  In a food processor pulse flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, butter and zest until mixture resembles coarse meal and trasfer to a large bowl.
  In a small bowl toss together fresh cranberries and 3 tablespoons sugar and stir into flour mixture.  If using dried fruit, add to flour misture.
  In another small bowl lightly beat egg and yolk and stir in cream.  Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until just combined.
  On a well-floured surface with floured hands pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round (about 8 inches in diameter) and with a 2-inch round cutter (or triangle cutter) or rim of a glass dipped in flour cut out as many rounds as possible, rerolling scraps as necessary.  Arrange rounds about 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in middle of oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until pale golden.
  Serve scones warm with creme fraiche or whipped cream.  Scones keep, individually wrapped in plastic wrap and foil, chilled, 1 day or frozen 1 week.  Makes about 16 scones.

Sense of Home / Recipes / Muffins and Scones

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Perfect Boiled Egg

Boiled eggs?  Everyone knows how to make hard-boiled eggs, right?  Well, now hold on, sometimes the simplest things are not so simple.  There are actually several different recipes for making boiled eggs and I could never remember how many minutes they were supposed to boil.  Then several years ago I came across this method for making boiled eggs and I have been using it ever since; it hasn't failed me yet.  

Boiled Eggs

Put the eggs in a large heavy pot and cover them with approximately 1 1/2 inches of cold tap water.  Partially cover the pot and bring to a rolling boil.  Reduce the heat to low and cook the eggs, covered completely, for 30 seconds.  Remove the pot from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water (still covered) for 15 minutes.  Then run the eggs under cold water for about 5 minutes; this prevents yolk discoloration due to overcooking and makes peeling easier, as does using eggs that are at least a few days old.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hot and Smoky Baked Beans

Hot and Smoky Baked Beans
(adapted from a 1999 Bon Appetit magazine recipe)
Serve these hot or at room temperature
8 to 10 servings

6 bacon slices
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/4 cups simple homemade barbecue sauce (recipe below) 
3/4 cup dark beer
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 to 6 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chilies
6 15- to 16-ounce cans Great Northern beans, drained

Chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.  Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. 
Transfer to paper towels and drain.  Transfer 2 1/2 tablespoons bacon drippings from skillet to large bowl.  Finely chop bacon; add to bowl.  Add onion and next 6 ingredients to bowl and whisk to blend.  Whisk in 4 to 6 teaspoons chipotle chilies, depending on spiciness desired.  Stir in beans.

Transfer bean mixture to 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.  Bake uncovered until liquid bubbles and thickens slightly, about 1 hour.  Cool 10 minutes.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Simple Barbecue Sauce

1 scant cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional)

Wisk together and you are ready to go.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Natural Medicine Cabinet

It would normally be considered rude to snoop through someone's medicine cabinet.  In movies peeking into another's medicine cabinet leads to a chain reaction of events, often comical, but rarely ending well for the relationship. 

Today, after cleaning and straightening the shelves, I invite you to peek into ours.  I have been trying to rid the medicine cabinet of old, formerly used, medicinal products; replacing them with natural products.

I have almost accomplished that goal, there are a few leftovers, but I put those away so we could see how we do this cold and flu season with natural medicinals.  We have an array of herbs and essential oils at our disposal.  There is olive leaf that I will use to make a tea when we feel the beginnings of a cold coming on, there are mustard seeds to remind me to make a garlic-mustard poultice (recipe below) should one of us develop a chest cold or deep cough.  I remember as a child my mother putting an onion and mustard poultice on my chest when I was terribly sick, I fell asleep on the couch and when I woke up maybe 20 or 30 minutes later my fever had broke and I was feeling much better, I was so amazed I still remember it clearly.  Feverfew for, well, fevers, and a thermometer standing right next to it.  The neti pot and solutions to go with it in case we have sinus issues.  Willow bark for headaches, and astragalus extract for nagging coughs.  Several different kinds of essential oils, such as, eucalyptus for dabbing under the nose or on the chest, rather than using Vicks.  Tea Tree oil for topical use with any occurance of athletes foot or yeast infection; this works very well.  Peppermint, for making toothpaste, lavender for its relaxing properties, and orange oil for its antioxidant properties.  On the bottom shelf there is emu oil for the small patches of eczema that show up in winter and hydrogen peroxide for cuts and scraps.  Finally a bottle of echinacea and goldenseal with eucalyptus bath salts that I picked up at my parents health food store, haven't tried it yet but it sounded so comforting when its cold out and you are feeling under the weather.  We also have cranberry concentrate in our refrigerator for Urinary Tract Infections and elderberry syrup for drinking at the first sign of a cold.  Hopefully  we will not need all these medicinals, but they are there in case we do.  

Garlic-Mustard Poultice
(helps to clear the lungs)

4 cloves garlic (onions works as well)
1/4 cup crushed mustard seeds (mustard powder would also work)

Peel, then crush or press the garlic and mix it with the mustard seed.  Place it in a clean cloth, and apply to the chest or back.  Wring out a steaming-hot towel, and wrap it around the mixture and cloth to secure in place.  Breathe deeply.  Remove when the poultice becomes cold or uncomfortable.  Be sure not to place the poultice directly on the skin as the garlic can burn the skin.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Medley

Spaghetti Squash Medley

1 spaghetti squash
1/2 a head of broccoli florets (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Poke several holes in the spaghetti squash with a sharp knife, place in a baking dish with about an inch of water in it, cover with aluminum foil, put into a preheated 350 degree F. oven for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender enough to cut through and shred the squash.

Steam the broccoli florets and carrots until just barely tender.  In a large pan, saute' the minced garlic in olive oil and butter for one minute, watching careful so that it does not burn, add squash, broccoli, and carrots and saute for 5 minutes stirring occasionally, add a little butter or water if it starts to stick.  Add tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper and heat through for one minute and serve.