Saturday, December 31, 2011

Scottish Bannocks

Okay...you may have noticed a Scotch theme to recent recipes...blame once again my reading choices.  I have been on a HIGHLAND kick of late. I read the whole Outlander series in a little over 2 months. Then I ventured into several other Scottish themed books and short stories. Many of the foods and meals mentioned in these stories made me curious...so off I went on a recipe hunt!
Gaelic bread (both Scottish and Irish) is most often an unleavened flat cake cooked on the hearth stone and later on a griddle.  The most common bread was called a bannock (which comes from the Gaelic bonnach which means cake.)  Over the years there have been a wide variety of Bannocks but this tea  bannock is from the Breton area of Scotland.  Serve with strong hot tea and enjoy.

Tea Bannocks

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tbl baking powder
1/2 tea baking soda
3/4 tea salt
1 stick butter cold and cubed
1 large egg
2/3 cup buttermilk

preheat oven to 400
lightly flour a baking sheet

In the bowl of a food processor pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with the cold butter until crumbly. dump in a large bowl and stir in oats. In a small bowl whisk egg and buttermilk. Add to dry ingrediants slowly. until well blended....you need a soft moist ball (add additional buttermilk if needed.)   with floured hands shape into 10" round about 1/2 inch thick on the prepared baking sheet. bake 18 minutes or until browned and toothpick comes out clean. While warm, cut into wedges.  Serve with lots of butter, marmalade and jam.

Friday, December 30, 2011

So I went to the giant Wegmans grocery store and...

Well to be brutally honest I have these mini nirvana experiences when I am in Ithaca, NY and I get to stop at Wegmans for groceries.  We have nothing close to this magical place in our town. Half the time I could cry that we don't and the other half of the time I am so thankful that I can't easily blow the kids braces money or college tuition on exotic fruits, veggies, spices and cheeses. 

Seriously...its a sickness. I walk through the doors and I want EVERYTHING.....no...not kidding... I mean everything!

 Produce...sigh...fruits and veggies galore...odd ball or exotic items that our small town stores have never heard of let alone stock. Don't even get me started on the cheese! I swear I buy things that I have no clue what to DO with just because I have never heard of or seen it before.
Then there are those Food Network shows like Chopped for example that has crazy ingredients that are so bizarre or that don't go together in a basket and contestants have a limited time to create a dish using them all....that show is great! However you watch it and hear and see these strange ingredients and your brain stores them away...until you walk into Wegmans and actually SEE that strange item and you MUST buy it!  I have discovered some delicious things this way...Have you ever eaten Torbot? Its a fish (yes it was in a Chopped basket...shut up) Wow is it super good! Who knew?

Everything is so fresh there that it makes me want to try things that I may have shied away from from a preconceived notion that it would be hard to make or taste yucky. It was at Wegmans I bought my first brussel sprouts, my first sunchokes, my first celery root.  As you know I am a big believer in NO FEAR in the kitchen...but even I look at some ingredients and think it looks too odd or I believe the hype and am afraid to try it and see. So this is why I love this store...it breaks down the fear barrier and the curiosity barrier and lets me experience new and joyful things in my cooking life!

Bean and Ham Soup

Okay so the upstate NY winter this year has been seriously wierd.  We had a green Christmas for goodness sakes!  But the freezing temperatures have arrived and with it the need...yes need...for hearty soup!  Try this yummy soup and banish that deep down chill that seems to settle in your bones this time of year.



Bean And Ham Soup

1 meaty ham bone
3 cups water
3 cups chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced fennel
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh or freeze-dried parsley
generous pinch of thyme
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup frozen chopped baby spinach
2 cans (15 ounces each) Great Northern and 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) tomatoes, diced
1 cup diced ham, optional

Combine ham bone, water, and chicken broth in a large saucepan. Add the garlic, onion, carrots, celery, fennel, pepper, parsley, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add the corn, spinach, beans, and tomatoes. Remove ham bone and cut meat from the bone and dice. Skim fat off the top of the soup and add the ham, along with the extra ham, if using. Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer for about 30 minutes longer

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

This soup is a very traditional Scottish dish (and is very popular in Ireland too!)...the ultimate comfort food (if you don't count the mornin' Parritch). Basically a  chicken soup that features leeks and barley, this is a perfect rainy day or Get Well meal.  When you make a long cooking chicken soup like this, it is prefered to use an old hen, capon or pullet. They have a stronger taste that is ideal for a soup. The only 'new' addition to this traditional soup is the lemon grass...I added it because I love a hit of lemon in my chicken soup. Serve with warm buttered scones or biscuits.


Cock-a Leekie Soup

8 cups of water
1 stewing chicken (3-4 pounds) giblets removed
4 - 6 large leeks washed and sliced  discarding the tough upper green leaves
1 bay leaf
1 stalk lemon grass (cut away lower bulb and tough outer leaves retaining the yellow main stalk)
3/4 cup pearled barley
1/4 cup fresh parsley  chopped  (or you can use baby spinach chopped)
1/2 tea salt and cracked black pepper

In a large 6 qt soup pot add water, chicken, 1/2 the leeks, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Prepare your lemon grass by cutting the yellow stalk into 2-3 inch lengths. Then “bruise” these sections by bending them several times. Make superficial cuts along these sections with a knife, which will help release the lemon flavor. Add these bruised stalks to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off foam .  Reduce heat and simmer covered. Skim as needed. Simmer for 2 hours or until chicken falls away from the bone.
Carefully using a slotted spoon transfer chicken to a plate and cool.  When it is cool remove skin and pick meat from the bones and return the meat to the pot. Add the barley and the rest of the leeks to the pot and return to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer covered for 20 minutes or until barley is tender. Remove bay leaf and lemon grass.  Stir in parsley and serve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Orange Glazed Carrots

Here is an easy side dish...and you can do much of the prep ahead of time so it is great for the holidays when life is so very busy.


Orange Glazed Carrots

2 1/2 pound of carrots - sliced thick or use baby carrots
2 tbl butter
1/2 orange - juice and zest
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400.  Blanch carrots in a pot of boiling salted water for 4 minutes, drain and immerse in very cold water.(you can blanch the carrots up to one day ahead)  Melt butter and pour over drained carrots...toss to coat season with salt and pepper and toss again. Arrange carrots in a roasting pan and squeeze the orange over carrots and sprinkle with the orange zest. cover with foil and bake 30 minutes until tender.  remove cover and cook 10 more minutes..

Enjoy!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Vodka Sauce

This is a super easy and very tasty sauce.  Don't be afraid of the vodka...it is vital to the recipe. Did you know that  vodka reacts to the acid in the tomatoes and creates compounds called esters (I KNOW I sound so stinkin' smart don't I???) Anyway, these esters make the sauce lighter and brighter AND fear not the alcohol cooks out almost completely!
You don't have to buy the super good vodka either, just something drinkable and cheap.
You will definately get in touch with your inner Italian Mama when you have this simmering on the stove.
Your family will be very pleased...Mangia!!
Serve this over a nice penne pasta and top with some parmesan cheese, or some pecorino romano.

Vodka Sauce

1 tbl butter
1 tbl olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
1 1/4 cup vodka
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz can)
1 can diced tomatoes with fennel and red pepper (14.5 oz)
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

heat a large skillet...heat butter and oil over medium heat, add garlic cook 1-2 minutes until fragrent but do not brown. pour in vodka. bring mixture to a boil and cook over medium heat until reduced by half. About 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes return to boil.  reduce and simmer about 10 minutes. season to taste with salt and pepper.  remove from heat add cream and basil. stir gently and toss with pasta of your choice.



Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roasted Mushrooms and Asparagus

Basic and so simple....I love roasted veggies! I have roasted about every kind of veggie possible and they are all so very lovely....slightly carmelized and so very tasty and comforting.  This combo is one I enjoy..but I am a huge asparagus fan!


Roasted Mushrooms and Asparagus

1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed
1/2 pound fresh portabella mushrooms thickly sliced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees ...Lightly spray a cookie sheet with vegetable cooking spray.
Place the asparagus and mushrooms in a bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil, then season with rosemary, salt, and pepper; toss well. Lay the asparagus and mushrooms out on the prepared pan in an even layer. Roast in the preheated oven until the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cranberry Mandarin coffee cake

I came across a recipe for this delicious tart/sweet coffee cake on The Brown Eyed Baker 's website..and tried it and loved it....so of course I began to play with the recipe and incorporated some flavor combinations that I love into it and came up with my own version of this coffee cake.  I always put manadrin oranges into my whole berry cranberry sauce so I thought why not add it to this cake?  As an option you can also add some finely chopped pecans (which I did not do with the cake in the photo) to add yet another layer of flavor and texture.







Cranberry Mandarin Coffee Cake

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/2 tea ground cinnamon
1/4 tea ground allspice
1/8 tea ground cloves
1¾ cup fresh cranberries  (pick nice red ones!)
2/3 cups canned mandarin oranges chopped and drained VERY well
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
1 egg
1 tea vanilla extract
1/4 tea almond extract
1/2 cup milk

preheat the oven to 350
in a bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cloves.

 Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch cake pan with 2 tablespoons of the unsalted butter creating a nice thick layer. In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Arrange  mandarin oranges over the sugar layer then do the same with the pecans (if using) then repeat with the cranberries in a single layer.

Cream  together the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and almond extracts; beat until well combined.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined. Spread over cranberries.
Bake until a thin knife or tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. cool for 5 minutes...run a knife around the edge to loosen cake from pan and then CAREFULLY  invert onto a platter.

serve as is, with sweetend whipped cream, or with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream

Monday, December 5, 2011

Kale Chips

Yes people....I said Kale Chips....no wait don't run away! Step away from the mouse! I was sceptical too when my college kids came home with these mystical tales of students inhaling these 'chips' by the bowl-full.  I was highly suspcious of this amazing tale. I mean really...honestly...were they kidding?   So I decided to try this dish..the only problem being that our small town grocery store did not carry any Kale!!  Then, yesterday, I found a bag of 'Kale salad'...and thought...why not?  The kale was already cut into small pieces and tiny bits of carrot and red cabbage were mixed in...but hey, it was 90% kale so I decided to give it a go.
I made this for a movie day with our good friends...and the kids (and adults) really did LOVE it.  How bizarre.
So don't be scared...just try it...if you or the kids like it, it is sooooooooooooo much better for you then bagged potato chips.


Kale Chips

kale leaves - whole or in large pieces (washed and trimmed of stems and large veins)
1 tbl olive oil
1/4 tea garlic powder
sea salt

yup....that is it.
preheat oven to 300.
toss leaves with the oil. Spread out in single layer on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake 20 minutes or so until very crunchy.  Immediately sprinkle with seasonings to taste. Cool and serve.  Thats it!
Now don't be scared...go forth and enjoy this yummy crunchy HEALTHY snack.  You can even break these chips up and sprinkle over a salad or pizza...or crush and sprinkle on your popcorn!