Month: March 2014

It Might as Well Be Spring Soup — Lusty Vegan Fare

It Might as Well Be Spring Soup — Lusty Vegan Fare

IMG_5407

Disclaimer June, 2014 :  I  have used the term “lusty vegan” in my blogs without knowing a book by that name was going to be published; I naively thought it was my own phrase.  Just so you know.  Not a thief!

In Colorado, spring comes in fits and starts, swirling itself in and out through March, April, and sometimes May.  There are warm days where we heat up the grill at five pm followed by frozen hoarfrost mornings perfect for stew-making.  We, unlike most of the northern United States, have truly fine days long before the real start of spring; January and February can breed 55 or 60 degrees Fahrenheit afternoons when the windows are thrown open for the stagnant winter aromas to dissipate into sweet, albeit temporary, breezes floating down from the mountains.  A cook who lives within the seasons and responds accordingly often doesn’t know what to do but be exceedingly spontaneous and keep a daily eye on the weather channel.

photo-11

Despite snow still appearing on an at least weekly basis, I have for weeks been dreaming of spring vegetables and a new soup to celebrate them.  It’s not that we have any spring vegetables cropping up (good pun) in Colorado Springs; we have so little rain that locally-grown vegetables are like gold.  And where we live, up on the mesa, it’s bedrock, bobcats, coyotes, deer, and bears.  If you had the good luck to get anything to grow, you could be sure something not-so-human would be eating it.  I grow copious amounts of herbs in pots and often have cherry tomatoes in hanging baskets on the deck.  That’s about it; that’s all I can protect from the wildlife.

below:  one of our local young and scrawny bucks making his way through our back garden

IMG_5220

Still–the idea of spring food is dear to my heart and I have lovely memories of the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market and its bounty.  (In Saint Paul, the Farmer’s Market is still selling winter products, I’m sure.  Way too early to plant, though they’re all dreaming and many are starting seeds indoors.)  Happy spring vegetables like fennel, asparagus, and leeks deserve their very own dishes with luscious and copious amounts of fresh herbs to encourage them along.  While I love asparagus soup ( and who doesn’t), adore leek and potato soup (same thing), and will put sautéed spicy fennel on just about anything, I kept thinking of a soup that featured all of them. Together.

Continue reading “It Might as Well Be Spring Soup — Lusty Vegan Fare”

Mashed Potato Eggs — Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner

Mashed Potato Eggs — Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner

IMG_5386You perhaps look in the fridge on a regular basis and wonder how to use a certain leftover.  I mean, we try hard to be conservative with the food we buy or make  —  waste not, want not.  Some things are easy–pizza, for instance.  I like it just heated up, but I also like to take the toppings off a piece that has seen better days and use them with pasta or in an omelet.  Ham’s another.  Grind it for ham salad, make a sandwich, bean soup, or a chef salad.   But mashed potatoes sometimes get me.  I mean, I make gorgeous potato cakes, totally crispy in their hot butter.  But there weren’t enough for potato cakes for all of us.   If I had only thought of it, I could have thrown them in my potato soup last night.  But I didn’t. Think, that is.  There were just enough mashed potatoes for me.  (Actually it was colcannon — potatoes mashed with kale or cabbage-that I made with salmon the other day.) And I wanted them for breakfast. Why not?  You could be perfectly happy with these for lunch or dinner, too; after all, what are leftovers for?

Think of your eggs, desperate for you to try something new with them, next time you bring a scoop of mashed potatoes home from a too-big restaurant dinner:

IMG_5383

mashed potato eggs — breakfast, lunch, or dinner  serves 2

You’ll make one serving at a time.  Keep one warm in the oven while you make the other.

  • 2 teaspoons salted butter
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes or colcannon
  • 4 eggs
  • Kosher salt, fresh-ground pepper
  • Salsa or chopped parsley or scallions  for garnish, optional

Heat 1 teaspoon butter in an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 tablespoons milk and let warm.  Press 1 cup mashed potatoes into the pan and heat until hot and beginning to crisp underneath.

Push potatoes to the edges of the pan, leaving about a 4-inch diameter space at the center.  Crack two eggs, side by side, into the space and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover, lower heat a little, and cook until the eggs are done to your liking –about two minutes for runny, sunny side up.  Lift the whites a time or two to let the uncooked portions fall back into the pan.

Slide a large rubber spatula under the potatoes and eggs to loosen and slide the breakfast onto a plate.  Garnish with salsa or chopped parsley or scallions.  Serve hot.

Repeat for second serving.

Cook’s Notes:  If you like scrambled eggs, just beat your eggs together in a small bowl before pouring into the center of the pan. 

Just for fun, I thought I’d share a photo of my Irish Soda Bread from last night.  Instead of baking it in a heavy glass round dish, I baked it free-form and was much happier with the results.  It was scrumptious.  We invited our neighbor, Mary Pat, over for a serve-yourself potato soup and bread supper eaten in front of the tv so we could watch John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in “The Quiet Man” for a family-style Saint Patrick’s Day celebration.  We didn’t eat all of the bread, but almost.

IMG_5378KITCHEN CHANGES:

This may be the last time I look at my kitchen in exactly the same way.  Dave and I have finally decided to commit to a kitchen re-do, though we’re not sure what it will mean for us.  Our first choice is to move our kitchen entirely to the sunroom so that we have a room that is twice as big and has windows!  If that proves unfeasible, we’ll revert to updating  the footprint we currently have, albeit with a few changes.  What we have is a one-butt galley kitchen that also serves as the hallway to the deck and the garage — read that how everyone gets in and out, including all of the dogs.  You see what I’m talking about.

The designer arrives today and will take more pictures (she has some), look at my likes and dislikes notes on houzz.com, measure the two rooms, and give us a couple of design choices and price points.  I would love for this to be done in time for our 40th anniversary, which is 14 July.  What do you think?  It could happen!  As I write and wait for her, the wind whips between 50 and 60 miles per hour.  On my phone are dust storm warnings for today :  DO NOT TRAVEL!  it says.  We’ve also had bouts of swirling dervish snow squalls.  To the north are white-out conditions on the interstate.  Yesterday afternoon, I drank my tea out on the front porch in the 70 degree F sun.

IMG_5341Miss Gab and Tucker with Blue, one of our two grand dogs staying with us just now.  Though Blue often looks hangdog, she is loving, caring, sweet, and quite a watch dog.

Sing a new song,

Alyce

Colcannon and Salmon in the Little Skillet Pot

Colcannon and Salmon in the Little Skillet Pot

105-0600_IMG

(above:  Cliffs of Moher- A. Morgan, 2003)
 
    In 2012, I blogged daily in a Lenten journal.  You can go day by day or read as you like.  For instance, today is day 9 of the 40 days; read it here.
.
Most St. Patrick’s Day dinners, you’ll find a pot of potato soup and a grand loaf of Irish soda bread on my table.  I’ve been making it for as long as I’ve been responsible for the dinner. So if that’s what you fancy, you’re in for a treat; I’ve blogged it already here. One year, however, I also did a great Guinness Beef Pot Pie with Cheddar Biscuits. It’s not hard, but it takes a while to make. (Worth every minute of it.)
  
IMG_5364
This year I’ve a notion to create something — one meal — out of two favorite Irish dishes — colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale and milk) and salmon, a lovely, healthy fish that thrives along Ireland’s west coastline.  While I love both colcannon and salmon, I’ve never had them together and certainly never cooked them together in one skillet.  Today’s the day, but first listen to this sweet song (click on title for link) “Colcannon,” by the Black Family– sometimes known as “The Little Skillet Pot”.  Lyrics are below.
.

Continue reading “Colcannon and Salmon in the Little Skillet Pot”

Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions

Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions

IMG_5318

When the first day that truly feels like spring arrives — as it did yesterday —  I’m likely to wander around wondering what to cook that feels like spring.  If Dave’s in on the conversation, he’ll be talking grill while I’ll be dreaming salad.  And not only will Dave be talking grill, he’ll be thinking hamburgers.  As I rarely eat hamburgers unless he cooks them at home, I jumped in the car and ran to the store for low-fat ground beef and whole wheat buns.

Continue reading “Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions”

Ina Fridays — Desserts — Double Chocolate Pudding

Ina Fridays — Desserts — Double Chocolate Pudding

IMG_5293

The first Friday of every monthI blog INA FRIDAYS (all Ina Garten recipes) with a great group of cooks.  Scroll down nearly to the bottom to check out the list of blogs participating, then read up and cook some Ina this weekend!  ♥♥♥

This post is dedicated to my friend Chaya and all those she loves.

Chocolate pudding.  The words bring smiles to faces. Raised eyebrows.  We picture kids with big chocolate smiles or toddlers with their fingers in the bowl, going straight from the high chair to the bathtub when the last of the pudding is gone.  In the U.S. and maybe in quite a few other places, those words also bring to mind a box that looks something like this:

$(KGrHqEOKpwFIlRWkhVtBSLQI94He!~~60_3

(courtesy JELLO)

And I have no beef with that box, having opened it a time or two myself when my kids were little.  In fact, it took a few years of cooking for me to realize that our simple box pudding was basically a bit quicker and not-so-rich version of pastry cream--in the vanilla flavor, I mean.  Scratch, or homemade, pudding — pastry cream’s luscious, but spoonable poor relation — is worth the extra few minutes it takes to make; there’s no doubt.  The chocolate version is, if possible, even better.  (Click here for a bona fide Emeril chocolate pastry cream recipe. Scroll down for link to Ina’s pudding recipe.)  Instead of having the sugar, cornstarch, and flavoring (vanilla extract or real chocolate) dried up in the box how many eons ago, you add them yourself, fresh,  in two shakes of a stick.

IMG_5300

Continue reading “Ina Fridays — Desserts — Double Chocolate Pudding”

Marinated Sirloin with Asparagus-Fenced Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

Marinated Sirloin with Asparagus-Fenced Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

IMG_5209I admit it’s difficult or a bit embarrassing, maybe, to put up a grill recipe.  It was -12 in St. Paul, Minnesota today.  But it’s 60 here and while winter is only a day or two away from returning, I’ve been taking advantage of our brief spring respite for the past couple of days.

IMG_5214

(above:  first robin in our back yard this spring)

If I drive around the grocery store parking lot, there are still piles of gritty-gray and black snow several feet high.  I know it’s nothing like up north, but winter hasn’t disappeared totally and I know it’ll be back to bite us on the butt again.

(below:  the tiny woods between our house and our neighbors’ this week– complete with young doe who still runs around with her mom)

IMG_5197

Continue reading “Marinated Sirloin with Asparagus-Fenced Cheddar Mashed Potatoes”