Sunday, January 26, 2014

Foodie Reading List

Check out the new link (on the sidebar) to some of my favorite books about food!

For Love of Mushrooms

I loved canned mushrooms as a little girl. We put them on pizza, and in beef stroganoff. (You can read more about that here.) I loved to nibble pieces straight out of the can. As an adult, I wasn't really sure what to do with mushrooms, but I loved to order them in restaurant dishes.

Recently I've been revisiting mushrooms. This dish was inspired by a mushroom omelette my late grandmother prepared for me when I visited her years ago. Grammie used white Cracker Barrel® cheese, and it always reminds me of her kitchen. A frittata is a natural choice for weekend brunch, but I also enjoy this meal as a filling lunch or quick late-night supper.

When I make this meal for myself, it is so much more than good-tasting fuel. This particular food combination represents warmth, care, and a sense of well-being. What delicious foods are comforting to you?

Mushroom-Cheddar Frittata

  • 1 cup sliced raw mushrooms
  • 1/4 of a large onion, sliced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • salt & pepper
  • sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced thin

In a medium skillet, saute vegetables in a teaspoon of butter. When they begin to caramelize, pour in the eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper. Let set over medium-low heat, sliding spatula under the edges to let the egg run beneath. Flip frittata if necessary to thoroughly cook the eggs. Top with cheese slices and serve with buttered toast.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Simple Supper Beans

I spent most of yesterday on the couch with a raging sinus infection. I knew everyone would be hungry when they got home from school, so I needed an easy menu. (The pizza we'd ordered earlier in the week was gone, and we'd had sandwiches the night before.)

So when my daughter got home at 3:30, I had her throw dinner in the oven:

She opened 3 cans of great northern beans and 1 can of Ro-Tel tomatoes. I had her mix them in a casserole dish with 1 tsp. ground cumin. She put on the lid and set the beans in the oven to bake at 325 F.

When my son got home, I asked him to set the table with bowls and spoons.

Two hours later, I walked into the kitchen and served up the beans. We garnished them with colby-jack cheese (shredded by my helpful husband), sour cream, and tortilla chips. Avocado would have been nice, but I haven't been shopping in a while. For a nice touch, I mixed up an apple-passion-mango juice blend from frozen concentrate.

We had a nice family dinner, and I didn't even have to cook!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Chicken-Noodle Soup

There have been sore throats and sniffles around our house this week, so it was a great time for a pot of chicken-noodle soup.

I don't actually use a recipe when I throw this soup together, but below are my basic ingredients. The can of condensed soup stretches the broth and gives it body, but you can certainly leave it out if you want to stick to less-processed ingredients.

I don't think I ever use the same kind of noodles twice in a row. The kids love it when I make them from scratch; frozen thick Reames egg noodles are second-best. Last month, I skipped the noodles altogether and cooked dumplings in the broth instead. This time I had whole wheat yolk-free egg noodles in the pantry, so I used those.

Chicken-Noodle Soup

  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • 3-4 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 bay leaves
  • black pepper
  • chicken broth
  • can of cream of chicken soup (optional)
  • salt, to taste
  • noodles
  • cooked chicken or turkey

I usually simmer the veggies in the broth till they're tender. Then I add the noodles and let them cook before adding the chicken last of all.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sausage-Lentil Soup

The kids really ate this up last week. Missy even took it to school for lunch!

If I don't have fresh bell peppers, I just use chopped peppers from the freezer. And I usually use turkey smoked sausage.

Sausage-Lentil Soup
My stand-by for soups.

1 cup lentils, rinsed & drained
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup diced onion
5 cups water
2 tsp. chicken bouillon or soup base
1/2 tsp. dried sage
2-4 dashes red cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
6-8 oz. smoked sausage, quartered lengthwise & sliced 

Toss everything in a stockpot and bring to boiling. Simmer 30 minutes or till lentils are tender. Serve with biscuits or corn muffins.

Note: If you make this soup in the crockpot, add the sausage at the end of the cooking time.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sweet Summer Sunshine in January

The snow may be crunchy outside, but we'll be enjoying summer's bounty at dinner tonight. Good to remember why I go to the trouble to store all that sweet sunshine in my freezer every year!

Tonight's menu: sweet corn, baked BBQ chicken, baked potatoes, and a creamy Gorgonzola broccoli casserole I've never tried before.

What are YOU cooking this week?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Almond-Citrus Biscotti

Absolutely heavenly! The flavor of this biscotti is reminiscent of my Mom's orange cookies, only this version is thick and crunchy and not as rich.

For the topping, I buy sliced almonds in the baking aisle, and then chop them up roughly. If you like a stronger almond flavor, I'm sure the biscotti would be just as delicious with a little almond extract in place of, or in addition to, the vanilla.

It's become our tradition to reserve this annual treat for after the holidays. On cold, dark January mornings after Christmas has been packed away and school has resumed, this cheerful pick-me-up is magical with a cup of coffee. Especially if my dear husband delivers it with a kiss when I first wake up!

Almond Citrus Biscotti
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs (3 for the dough, 1 for the top)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • dash salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped almonds

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add THREE of the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in lemon peel, orange peel and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add gradually to creamed mixture.

Divide dough into three portions; on ungreased baking sheets, shape each into a rectangular loaf (approximately 8-in. x 3-in.). In a small bowl, lightly beat remaining egg; brush generously over dough. Sprinkle immediately with almonds.

Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes. Transfer loaves to a cutting board; cut diagonally with a serrated knife into 3/4-in. slices.

Place slices back on the baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 7 minutes more. Remove from oven and turn each piece over. Bake another 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks. Store biscotti in an airtight container.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Orange-Date-Walnut Muffins

And continuing the theme of oranges...

One of my favorite winter muffin recipes! It's easier to find chopped dates around the holidays; I stock up now so I can keep baking these bad boys till spring.

Orange-Date-Walnut Muffins

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 canola oil
  • 2/3 cup chopped dates
  • 2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • (optional garnish: coarse cane sugar crystals)

Short Version:

15 min. @ 400 F. Makes 1 dozen.

Long Version:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 12 muffin tins with non-stick vegetable oil spray or line with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, and orange zest.

In a separate bowl, mix together the orange juice, buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract, and melted and cooled butter.

Add the milk and egg mixture to the flour mixture. Stir just until combined. Fold in the dates and walnuts. Do not overmix the batter or the muffins will be tough.

Evenly divide the mixture among the 12 muffins cups and sprinkle each muffin with sugar crystals, if desired. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Split Pea Soup

Some years I have a ham bone left after Christmas. And that means split pea soup!

My childhood exposure to split pea soup was largely limited to the delightful George and Martha story by James Marshall, where George pours his soup into his loafers to avoid telling Martha that her soup is awful. Maybe Martha didn't use a ham bone!

When even my kids appreciated this soup, I knew I had a winner. I would post a picture, but, unfortunately, split pea soup is not photogenic, no matter how delicious it may be.

Sometimes I don't use enough liquid and end up with thick soup; this week I didn't actually measure the liquid and ended up with thin soup. But, hey, the kids like the broth, too, so it was all good! We garnished the soup with broken crackers and no one complained. One day I served fresh buttermilk biscuits alongside the soup; tonight's accompaniment was Better Jiffy Cornbread.

Split Pea Soup

ham bone, trimmed of excess fat
water to cover bone (about 2 to 3 quarts)
1 lb. split peas, rinsed
1 large onion, diced
2 cups carrots, sliced
2 cups celery, sliced
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. minced garlic or 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 cups ham, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat water to a simmer (with the bone). Skim off any foam or floating bits.

Add the peas, bay leaves, and diced vegetables. Simmer, covered, about an hour.

Remove bone with sturdy tongs. Using a stationary or an immersion blender, gently puree the cooked veggies to make the soup as smooth as you want it. (Pro tip: remove the bay leaves first. It's better that way.) Add seasonings to taste and return to a simmer.

Before serving, add chopped ham to the soup and heat thoroughly.