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.  

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Curried Beef Wontons

Curried Beef Wontons
1/2 pound cooked and shredded beef (I use a slow-cooked roast)
1 teaspoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sweet curry powder
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
2 green onions, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 to 2/3 package of wonton skins
Peanut oil for frying

Mix and marinate for 1/2 hour.  Place one tablespoon of mixture into the center of a wonton skin, moisten the edges of the skin with water or egg white, fold into a triangle and then bring two of the points together and moisten to attach.  Deep fry in hot peanut oil over medium-high heat.  Drain, and enjoy with Sweet and Sour Sauce.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pork Wontons

Pork Wontons

1 pound ground pork, cooked
3 green onions, chopped
4 water chestnuts, chopped
a pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry
4 mushrooms, chopped
a pinch of fresh pepper

1 package wonton skins
Peanut oil for frying

Mix the first nine ingredients together.  Cover the wonton skins with a damp towel when working with them so they do not dry out.  Assemble the wontons by placing a scant tablespoon of the mixture in the center of a wonton skin.  Seal the wonton skin edges with water or egg white, fold them into a triangle shape and then pull two of the points together and seal with water or egg white.  Deep fry in peanut oil over medium high heat until golden brown.  Serve with sweet and sour sauce.  These may be frozen and reheated in a 300 degree F. oven until hot, being careful not to brown them more. 

Sense of Home Recipes / Appetizers

Sweet and Sour Sauce

Sweet and Sour Sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons ketchup

In a 2 quart saucepan, mix sugar and cornstarch.  Add pineapple juice, water, vinegar and ketchup to the sugar and cornstarch, mix well.  Cook stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils.  Serve warm with pork or curried beef wontons.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oatmeal Fruit Cookies

Oatmeal Fruit Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Cream butter with brown sugar and honey in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.  Sift flour, soda and salt into egg mixture and stir well.  Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly. 

Drop walnut-size balls onto baking sheet and bake for approximately 12 minutes.  Cool on rack and store in airtight container.  If not using within a few days, freeze to keep them fresh.

Sense of Home recipes

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Potato and Corn Gratin

Potato and Corn Gratin
4 to 6 servings

2 pounds potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
1 cup of frozen corn
5 tablespoons of butter cut into small pieces
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or green onions for garnish

add bacon pieces that have been fried crisp

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Generously butter a 9 x 12-inch gratin or other baking dish.  Arrange half of the potato slices in a single layer in the bottom of the dish, overlapping slightly.  Season with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup corn, sprinkle 1/2 of the bacon if using, and dot with 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter.  Repeat layering.  Pour buttermilk over.  Bake until milk is absorbed and potatoes start to brown, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Sprinkle with minced chives or green onion and serve.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harvest Muffins

Harvest Muffins
Makes approximately 24 medium-sized muffins

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup chunky applesauce
1 1/4 cup honey
1 cup shredded carrots
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 cup raisins
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix butter, eggs, yogurt, applesauce, honey and carrots together.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger and stir into moist ingredients until just combined.  Add raisins and hazelnuts and stir briefly to distribute.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Chicken Wild Rice Soup
adapted from a recipe on

1/2 cup butter
1 finely diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 pound fresh sliced shitake mushrooms
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked wild rice
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sherry
1 cup slivered almonds
2 cups half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir in the onion, celery and carrots and saute for 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute for 2 more minutes.  Then add the flour and stir well.  Gradually pour in the chicken broth, stirring constantly, until all has been added.  Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low and add the rice, chicken, salt, thyme, parsley, black pepper, (curry and white pepper, if using), almonds, and sherry.  Allow to heat through, then pour in the half-and-half.  Let simmer for 1 to 2 hours.

Do not boil or your roux will break.

This soup may be frozen; reheat slowly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baked Buttercup Squash with Apples, Cranberries, and Maple Syrup

Baked Buttercup Squash with Apples, Cranberries, and Maple Syrup
12 servings

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds buttercup squash, peeled, quartered, seeded, and sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices (about 6 cups)
2 1/4 pounds medium-size tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup maple syrup, grade B
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine squash, apples, and cranberries in a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.  Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Combine maple syrup, butter and lemon juice in heavy small saucepan.  Whisk over low heat until butter melts.  Pour syrup over squash mixture and toss to coat evenly.

Bake until squash and apples are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.  Cool 5 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead.  Cover with foil; chill.  Rewarm covered in 350 degree F. oven about 30 minutes. If it seems dry before rewarming, add a few small dollops of butter.) 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apple-Cranberry Pecan Crisp

Apple-Cranberry Pecan Crisp
Adapted slightly from Kim Rizk's recipe in Hay Day Country Market Cookbook .

8 cups thinly sliced, peeled tart apples
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar

Crumb Topping
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (firmly packed) light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, chilled, cut into large chunks
1 cup pecans, preferably toasted, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Prepare the fruit:  Toss the apples and cranberries in a large bowl with the orange juice and brown sugar and spread evenly in a 9 x 11-inch baking dish.

Prepare the topping:  Combine the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a food processor and pulse once or twice to mix.  Add the butter and pulse to form a crumbly meal, with the bits of butter no larger than small grains of rice.  Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the pecans.

Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over the fruit, and bake until the topping is nicely browned and the fruit juices have begun to bubble up and caramelize around the edges, 40 to 45 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Clam Chowder

Clam Chowder
8 servings

1/4 pound bacon, chopped
2 cups finely chopped onion
2 cups raw potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
2 carrots, shredded
2 cups water
5 6-ounce cans minced clams
4 cups milk
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thyme
freshly ground pepper to taste

Saute bacon and onion.  Add potatoes, thyme and water.  Cook about 15 minutes or until potatoes are almost tender.  Add flour, remaining ingredients and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes.

Reheat slowly.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup
4 servings

2 cups chopped or shredded chicken
2 quarts chicken stock
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced (seeded if you want less heat)
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 cup corn kernels, fresh if available

Tortilla chips
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 ripe avocado, roughly chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges

Place the first six ingredients in a pot and simmer for 20 minutes. 

To serve:  Place a small handful of tortilla chips in a soup bowl, add soup and garnish with cilantro and avocado, squeeze lime over the top and enjoy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pecan Cookies

Pecan Cookies
Makes approximately 4 dozen small cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup regular oatmeal
2 cups chopped pecans

Optional (use one or more of the following if you like, cutting the amount of chips in half if you use both):
2 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
12 ounces chocolate chips
12 ounces butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Using a mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffly.  Add the sugars, salt and vanilla, mix well.  Stir in the eggs.  Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and gradually add to the mixture, stirring to incorporate with the moist ingredients.  Stir in the oatmeal, pecans, and any of the optional ingredients you are using.

Drop the dough by the spoonful onto a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 9 minutes.  Allow them to cool and firm up on the pan for a couple minutes before transferring them to a baking rack to cool.  Store in airtight container.  They will stay fresh on the shelf for a few days or in the freezer for a few weeks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Brioche

Pumpkin Brioche
(adapted from Susan Spicer's "Crescent City Cooking" cookbook)

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey, plus 2 tablespoons honey
1 cup pumpkin puree
5 eggs, plus 1 beaten egg
1/4 cup whole milk
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon honey in 2 tablespoons warm water.  Place the pumpkin puree in the bowl of a mixer.  Using the paddle attachment, beat 1 minute at medium speed, then add the 5 eggs, milk, and yeast mixture and beat for 1 minute.  Add the flour, the remaining 2 tablespoons honey, and salt and mix for about 5 minutes at medium speed.  Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, then beat in the cold butter, a third at a time.  Remove the bowl, cover it lightly with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled in size. 
Close your hands into fists and gently punch down the dough to release air pockets and reduce its size.  Cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator to rise overnight, or at least 6 hours.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and scoop it into a buttered 6-cup brioche mold, two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans, or individual molds (such as buttered muffin tins).  Allow the dough to rise at room temperature until doubled.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Brush the surface of the dough with the beaten egg and prick it in several places with a toothpick.  Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees F.  and continue baking until golden brown, about 20 more minutes for a large mold, or about 10 minutes for individual rolls.  Cool for 10 minutes in the molds, then invert and cool completely on a wire rack.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Sense of Home

~adapted from Tyler Florence's "The Ultimate Paella"~

2 cups chopped or shredded chicken
2 chorizo sausages, thickly sliced
1 onion, diced
1 sweet red bell pepper, sliced, save a few slices for a garnish
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
15 ounces whole tomatoes, drained and crushed
4 cups short grain Spanish rice
6 cups water, warm
generous pinch saffron threads
1/4 cup clam juice
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 cup sweet peas, frozen and thawed
Lemon wedges, for serving

Toss the chicken and spice mix* until evenly coated. 

Heat a small amount of oil in paella pan (or a wide shallow skillet) and heat over medium-high heat.  Saute the chorizo until browned, remove and reserve.

In the same pan, saute the onion, pepper, and parsley.  Cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, add garlic and cook for another minute.  Then, add tomatoes and cook until the mixture caramelizes a bit and the flavors meld.  Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains.  Pour in water and add a little salt, simmer for 10 minutes, gently moving the pan around so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid.  Add the clam juice, chicken, chorizo, and saffron.  Give the paella a good shake and let it simmer, without stirring, until the rice is al dente, for about 10 minutes.  Add shrimp, tucking them into the rice and continue cooking until shrimp are pink and form the shape of the letter C.  When the paella is cooked and the rice looks fluffy and moist, turn the heat up for 40 seconds until you can smell the rice toast at the bottom.

Sprinkle thawed peas around the outside of the dish and add sliced lemons and peppers as a garnish.  Lemons slices can be squeezed over individual servings just before eating.

*Spice Mix for chicken
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine ingredients in a small bowl.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Baked Apples with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

Baked Apples with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries
2 large apples
1/3 cup brown sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon whole cloves
walnuts, chopped
dried cranberries

Slice off the very top of each apple and core it, place them in a baking dish.  Fill cored center with walnuts, cranberries and one teaspoon of brown sugar each, sprinkle the top  with cinnamon.

Mix apple cider and 1/3 cup brown sugar and pour around the apples.  Sprinkle the whole cloves in the cider around the apples.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, until apples are soft.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Shiitake Mushrooms

Sense of Home

Spaghetti Squash with Shiitake Mushrooms

1 spaghetti squash
3.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 fresh sage leaves, left whole
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds.  Add a little water to a baking pan and place squash cut-side down and bake for 30 minutes, or until fork-test tender.

Saute mushrooms and whole sage leaves in butter until mushrooms are almost tender, add garlic and saute for 1 minute more adding a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Shred squash with a fork and place in a bowl.  Pick out the sage leaves from the butter and mushroom sauce and pour it over the squash, add the pine nuts.  Sprinkle the dish with salt and fresh pepper.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Boost Your Immune System

It is that time of year again, cold and flu season, the germs really seem to spread once school starts.  Working in the children's department of the public library I see my share of sniffles.  Both cold and flu germs have been making their way around the staff, and I was no exception. I have spent the last couple of weeks battling a sinus infection, so that has got me thinking about how we can boost our immune systems.

I avoid taking over-the-counter medicine if I can.  "Today's Herbal Health" by Louise Tenney states "If drugs are used to suppress flu or cold symptoms, the elimination process is inhibited and toxins remain in the body...the toxic material begins to settle in the organs of the body and can eventually create what we call chronic disease, such as arthritis, diabetes, or asthma, among others."  There are times though that a prescription antibiotic is necessary, that was the position I found myself in.  Antibiotics, however, kill both the good and bad bacteria so when taking an antibiotic it is a good idea to eat yogurt, kefir, or other fermented foods since they have probiotics in them.  With that in mind, I have been drinking a lot of Spinach Blueberry Smoothies.

While most of us will end up with a cold or perhaps even the flu this winter, a strong immune system can help protect against serious symptoms.  I realized I needed to give my immune system a boost.  Below is a list of herbs and supplements that I have used and had success with in the past.
  • Echinacea will help strengthen the immune system and fight infection.  Echinacea activates white blood cells, stimulates immune function, and neutralizes harmful enzymes.  Useful for the prevention and treatment of colds and flu.
  • Astragalus boosts the immune system and fights viruses, bacteria and inflammation.  I take astragalus extract whenever I get a deep cough, it has eliminated a nasty cough within a few days.
  • Elderberry tea or syrup will help fight infections, heal and help eliminate symptoms.
  • Garlic is a natural antibiotic.  I will be using lots of garlic in my cooking.
  • Licorice Root  contains glycyrrhizin, which inhibits the growth of viruses, germs, and bacteria.  It also activates white blood cells.
  • Feverfew is used for fevers, inflammation, and pain.
  • Ginger is beneficial for colds and flu.  It helps relieve pain and nausea.  I usually have a cup of hot ginger tea every afternoon at work; it is also good for digestion.
  • Vitamin A helps heal infections.
  • Vitamin C with bioflavonoids fights infection, increases resistance, and heals capillaries.

Also, rinsing the sinus' is helpful when dealing with a cold or sinus problems, my doctor even recommended this.

This list is by no means complete, it is just what I have used and found a measure of success.  What have you used that I should add to my list?

Excerpts from "Today's Herbal Health" by Louise Tenney, M.H.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Popcorn with Browned Butter, Sage and Parmesan

Start by making popcorn the old-fashioned way, on the stove.  Set the flame to medium-high, then place a good sized pot on the burner and pour in just enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan, then just enough popcorn to make a single layer, cover and let cook.  Resist the urge to shake the pot too much, just a few gentle side-to-side shakes when the popcorn is popping is sufficient.  Once it has completed popping, pour out into a large bowl and place 3 tablespoons of butter in the pot, melt and brown the butter, then pour over the popcorn, sprinkle the popcorn with powdered sage and Parmesan cheese.  No salt is needed, there is enough in the Parmesan.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Green Tomato Jam

Green Tomato Jam

4 pounds green tomatoes
4 1/3 cups sugar
Juice and zest of two medium sized lemons

Rinse and dry tomatoes.  Quarter the tomatoes, removing the juice, seeds, and the white center part.  Dice the tomatoes.

In a bowl, combine tomato pieces, sugar and lemon juice and zest.  Cover and let macerate overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, pour this mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil, turn heat down to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour back into the bowl, cool and cover and refrigerate overnight.

The third day, bring the mixture to a boil, skim if necessary and continue cooking on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Check the set (jam is ready when it begins to hold shape in the spoon), cooking longer if needed.  If canning, have sterilized jars and lids ready, fill with hot jam leaving 1/4 inch of headroom in 1/2 pint jars; wipe the rim carefully with the edge of a clean towel dipped in your boiling water, cap and process in boiling-water bath for 10 minutes (remember to adjust for altitude).
This recipe can also be made and stored in the refrigerator or freezer rather than canning.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Spinach and Blueberry Smoothie

Spinach and Blueberry Smoothie

2 cups spinach (approximately 2 good handfuls)
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup whey
1/2 cup kefir
1 Tablespoon honey

Blend together, if the mixture is too thick add a little more kefir or whey, not thick enough, add a banana.  Pour a tall glass and enjoy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pressure Canning Tomato Soup

This past weekend we had a large amount of heirloom Persimmon and Beaver Lodge Plum tomatoes sitting on the table begging to be used before spoiling.  I decided it was time to can tomato soup.  On a cold winters day nothing is better than to come home to a warm bowl of soup.  Even better, after working all day and coming home to shoveling snow we will enjoy having quarts of tomato soup on the pantry shelves just waiting to be heated and served with a Jarlsberg grilled cheese sandwich and maybe even a glass of red wine to warm the heart.

Tomato Soup

1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart whole tomatoes (or 28 oz. can, if store bought)
14 oz. chicken stock
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Saute' onion and celery in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and saute' for another minute or two, watch close garlic burns quickly. Add tomatoes, crushing with spoon, then chicken stock and herbs. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Finish soup by blending with a hand blender until partially smooth, leaving a few chunks of tomato.

This is the recipe I made up on the fly last winter and we loved the small chunks of tomato and the light garlic flavor.  The color is not bright red because the Persimmon tomatoes are yellow, there are carrots in the soup to add sweetness, and of course, the chicken stock.  This weekend I used my large stock pot and made five times this recipe.  Since I knew I wanted this soup ready to heat and serve and the recipe has several vegetables and chicken stock in it, I needed to use the pressure canner.

Pressure canning is no problem, in fact I prefer it because it takes less time and doesn't put as much steam into the air.  I pressure canned this soup for the same about of pressure and time as I did for the chicken soup and chicken stock I canned: 11 pounds pressure for 25 minutes.

Every time I pressure can I take a look at the instructions again, never taking for granted that I remember all the steps.  I have highlighted the ones I need to review and so it only takes a few seconds to look them over before starting.  The instruction booklet also has the pounds of pressure and time needed for each type of food.

When I first started pressure canning, I was hesitant, I had heard the horror stories my grandma told of her mother's cooker exploding.  Pressure canners have come a long way since then and I have found that it is not a process to be intimidated by at all, there are built in safety features.  Just follow the directions, keep an eye on the pressure, turning the heat up or down to keep it as constant as possible, and enjoy the shorter processing time.