Month: April 2014

Snow Cap Bean and Ham Soup — Bye-Bye Easter Ham Bone

Snow Cap Bean and Ham Soup — Bye-Bye Easter Ham Bone

IMG_5604If you’ve read More Time at the Table for long –and we’re just about to celebrate our fifth birthday — you’ll know I adore beans and particularly love bean soup.  I feel overwhelmingly rich when there’s a ham bone in the refrigerator just waiting for me to throw it in the pot one morning.  While I’ve made bean soup for many years, it rarely comes out exactly the same as it did the time before and while I’m not always sure why that is, I’m happy for it.  Of course the taste is dependent upon which dried bean you use and there’s the rare occasion I’ve used a few different cans of beans when there was no time for the long indulgent soup pot.  Or it might taste differently because of the seasonings or the type or amount of ham.  In this case, I pulled out the Easter ham bone (originally a 7-pound ham that now had been nearly, but not quite, picked clean for sandwiches) and looked in the pantry for a bean just a bit different the typical white, navy, black, split pea, black-eyed pea (actually a legume), etc.

Last time I was at Williams-Sonoma, they had, as they often do, a basket of marked down food products.  I’m willing to pay their price for several items I can’t get elsewhere and that are worth it.  Great vanilla extract, for instance. California olive oil.  But there are other items I’ll spring for only when they’ve made it to the mark down rack.  This is where I’ll buy really expensive Italian or Spanish olive oil that I wouldn’t pay the original $50.00 for.  I’ll pick up unusual cocoa or coffee at half-price.  And this is where I bought Snow Cap Beans, which are heirlooms, for $5.99 (15 ounces) instead of $11.95. Continue reading “Snow Cap Bean and Ham Soup — Bye-Bye Easter Ham Bone”

Egg and Ham Sandwich with Greek Goddess Dip and Radish Salad or Using What You Have on Earth Day

Egg and Ham Sandwich with Greek Goddess Dip and Radish Salad or Using What You Have on Earth Day

IMG_5582After Easter there is a plethora of goodies in the refrigerator.  The blessings of not only having enough to eat, but more than enough (witness my weight problem and perhaps yours, too)… are beautiful if sometimes embarrassing.  “An embarrassment of riches” is what it’s called, I think.   Others might use the pejorative meme, “First world problems.”   I choose to be grateful, but careful.  Full of breath, but conservative in the best sense of the word.  In a country where 30- 40% of our food is discarded, but

48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year.

(No Kid Hungry dot org)

you can see why a food blogger would think twice before cooking, eating, or posting anything at all.  There are moments I’m shifty-eyed and clench-jawed just thinking of recipes that discuss things like the quality of certain cheeses or chocolates that easily set one back $25 a pound.  Add in to this mix the concepts revolving around our fascination with being thin (witness the folks in magazines or on tv) and a faithful, earth-loving person begins to be more than confused. Continue reading “Egg and Ham Sandwich with Greek Goddess Dip and Radish Salad or Using What You Have on Earth Day”

Carrot Cake Cupcakes or Bunny Cake

Carrot Cake Cupcakes or Bunny Cake

 
 
Carrot Cake Cupcakes
 
What better for Easter dessert than carrot cake?  I’ll freely admit I love carrot cake and am happy for an excuse to make it; Easter’s one of those rare times when I whip up a big fattening dessert and don’t worry about it.   There are usually some other folks willing to eat most of it and I can send leftovers home  with children.  All right, I do keep a bite or two for Dave and I to share on Monday.  There’s a link about making the bunny cake, though it’s fairly obvious, and if you make the cupcakes, let the kids decorate them with the cream cheese icing and jelly beans.  They’re pretty on a big tray filled with Easter “grass.”
 
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Disclaimer: I decorate about one cake a year, so forgive my cake. I do always have fun doing it, whether for adults, kids, or a mix.  This old-school bunny method has been around for decades and is simple and easy for children or for anyone who doesn’t have cake decorating skills or equipment.  Icing, jelly beans, licorice whips, and food coloring-dyed sweetened coconut are all you need..
 
(below:  Miss Gab and Tucker all ready for Easter.  Miss Gab wanted a bonnet I refused to buy.)
 
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Note: This recipe has shown up on the blog before, but it bears repeating. It comes from our housekeeper at Woodlawn Plantation –where I worked years ago — Grace Herson.  If we had someone special coming for dinner at Woodlawn, Grace made carrot cake.  When I left, the women in the house wrote a cookbook for me.  Grace’s addition was this cake.
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Grace’s Carrot Cake

Warnings: This cake, while totally delicious, is prone to a sink hole at its center for the 9×13 or 2 9″ layer versions. Fill it with icing and no one’s the wiser. After years, I still can’t fix the problem.

UPDATE:  The hole in the center problem can be helped by either grating the carrots by  hand and pressing out extra moisture with paper towels or grating them with the food processor and letting them dry for 30 minutes on sheet pans and then pressing out extra moisture with towels. (See photo at bottom of post.)  The problem evidently comes from the weight of the extra water in the carrots.

The cupcakes easily run over and sometimes have a hole, too.  Don’t overfill the cupcake tins and, if they still over run, scrape them each back off the tin carefully and remove to cool on rack. Trim, cool completely, then cover with icing!

makes 1 9×13 cake,  2 9″ layers for one bunny cake+, or about 24 cupcakes      
 
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs (I use extra large at altitude or add an extra egg.)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil (I use Canola now)
3 cups grated carrots (blotted dry w/ towel if you use food processor or the extra liquid will make the cake sink-which it may do anyway.)
1 cup chopped walnuts
 
 
Icing:  8 ounces cream cheese, 4 Tablespoons softened butter, 3 1/2  cups powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
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Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  (If you make cupcakes, use 350 F.)

 
Cake: mix dry ingredients together and add eggs, oil and mix well. Add carrots and nuts and mix well again. Turn into greased 9x13x2″ pan  or scoop into cupcake tins* and bake 45-55 minutes for cake, 25-30 for the 9-inch pans, and about 20 minutes for cupcakes or until a toothpick stuck in middle comes out clean. Cool well in pan, if making the 9×13. Remove cupcakes from the pans and cool on racks.  For 9-inch round pans –used for bunny cake — let them cool in the pans about 10 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely.  Bang pans soundly on the counter before tipping out.
 
Ice all cakes when completely cooled, piping icing  onto cupcakes and topping with a bit of tinted coconut and 3 or 4 jelly beans, if desired.
 
Refrigerate if not eating that day. Cake freezes very well for up to one month.
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*I like muffins and cupcakes baked right in the greased tins so that the cake batter hits the hot metal directly for a nice crust instead of steaming in the paper liners.  If you’d like to use paper liners, which many bakers do, please feel free.
 
+The two nine-inch layers form the bunny:  one layer is her body and the other layer is cut into three pieces that form the two ears and the bow tie.  See Bunny Cake directions below.
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Icing: Beat cream cheese and butter together very well for 2 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar (or you’ll have a big mess). Beat in vanilla and whip icing until very smooth.
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bunny cake:   If you’d like to make this into a bunny cake, follow these directions.

 

{printable recipe for cupcakes or 9×13 cake}

 
Here’s what my 9×13 cake looks like with my oh-so-artsy carrot at center.  (Just draw a carrot with greens freehand with a toothpick and fill with orange frosting for carrot and green for the greens.)
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Sing a new song,
Alyce
 
 
below:  drying out the shredded carrots.
 
 
One-Pot Pasta with Salmon and Vegetables or Good Friday Supper in a Bowl

One-Pot Pasta with Salmon and Vegetables or Good Friday Supper in a Bowl

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There’s something down-to-earth, cozy, and comfortable about one-pot meals.  Particularly one-pot meals that include pasta, vegetables, and protein.  The Mexican cooks have it all with their sopas secas, which include the ubiquitous  “Mexican Rice,” but also include pots of pasta or even lentils and occasionally beans.  Sopa seca means dry soup and, to our ears and cooking hearts, just means you only put enough liquid in the dry rice, pasta, lentils, or beans, to cook the ingredients–no more.  In other words, if you cooked pasta in the traditional way, you’d cook it in a large pot of boiling water and drain it.  Here, you use just enough liquid (broth or water) to get everything tender and creamy without the addition of cream.  Though a scoop of sour cream often wouldn’t go amiss.

For Good Friday — or any night when time is of the essence and meat isn’t on the menu — try this quick and easy one-pot dinner I made using leftover salmon the other night.  If you have no leftover protein, you can, while the pasta simmers, quickly cook up a small piece of salmon or even a couple of chicken thighs if you’re indulging in “meat.” Alternately, you could put small fresh pieces of salmon into the pot for the last few minutes.  (I haven’t tried this, but I’m guessing it would work.)

I’ll give directions rather than a recipe because you absolutely make this with what you have on hand.  Basically you’ll cook about four cups chopped vegetables in oil with garlic, add a pound of broken pasta and a quart of broth, and cook it all until it’s done, stirring in already-cooked salmon right at the end.   If you have no salmon, or don’t eat fish, skip it; it’ll be a lovely vegetarian meal.  Season the whole pot with lots of fresh chopped parsley or basil or whatever fresh soft herb you have.  Leftovers are epic.  Here’s a clearer idea as long as you remember the vegetables can be switched out for your own choices:

Continue reading “One-Pot Pasta with Salmon and Vegetables or Good Friday Supper in a Bowl”

Asparagus-Parmesan Salad with Garlic Croutons

Asparagus-Parmesan Salad with Garlic Croutons


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I rarely think about asparagus without remembering living in Germany and seeing the piles of white asparagus or spargel that the Germans prized so highly in the shops in Rinteln.  A special spring treat grown under odd (to my eye) hills of dirt to keep it from greening up, this asparagus was thick, sturdy, slower to cook than ours, and sometimes very happily heavily sauced.  Our Russian housecleaner, an asparagus afficionado herself, enjoyed horrifying me with stories of her country’s custom of letting farm stock eat asparagus — green asparagus, that is — that grew wild in the field.  Not fit for human consumption, it was just animal food to her.  Great for cattle or pigs.  Eeeeecchhh.   (Read here for a recipe for spargel.)  Knowing how many years we Americans spend developing our asparagus gardens, this made for teeth-clenching mental pictures.

Here and now in the U.S., we often can find asparagus all year round if we eat Fed Ex vegetables, but it is most precious and thrilling in the spring when it is the quintessential harbinger of all the tasty freshness still to come.  I adore cooking the thicker asparagus — I think it’s a bit more flavorful and even more tender as long as you peel the bottom third — but the tall, slim stalks are many shopper’s favorites and that’s what was in the story yesterday. Continue reading “Asparagus-Parmesan Salad with Garlic Croutons”

Cocoa-Chickpea Chili — Lusty Vegan Fare

Cocoa-Chickpea Chili — Lusty Vegan Fare


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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!

I’m on the road, and don’t have much time for a post.  Thought I’d share a lovely, spicy, perky, round and warm chili I made right before I left Colorado for Louisville and St. Paul where we saw our daughter Emily and are now packing up the last of our hundred-year-old Minnesota house, respectively.

This chili is made to fit into Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before Six, which is not new, but is still a solidly healthy eating program.  This sweet, simple life enables me to eat a carnivorous dinner (with wine), but keeps me on all plant foods until I begin to cook the evening meal each day.  I won’t say I’m religious about it –it’s harder when traveling, but not impossible — but I’ve stuck to it more often than not.  You might also think of it as an easy way to eat more vegetables and fruit…and you can change the meals around when you need to.  For instance, if you’re out for breakfast with friends and splurge on an omelet, you have a sumptuous salad for dinner that night.  Flexibility is the key; feeling great is the goal. Continue reading “Cocoa-Chickpea Chili — Lusty Vegan Fare”

Ina Fridays — Appetizers and Drinks — Whiskey Sours

Ina Fridays — Appetizers and Drinks — Whiskey Sours

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 The first Friday of every month, I 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!  ♥♥♥

To say that I’m not a cocktail drinker would be almost totally true.  Sweet drinks and I are not fond nor permanent partners.  That said, I’m sitting here drinking the above cocktail while I type.  (Was I supposed to throw it away?)

It wouldn’t be exactly a lie.  I’m not a big drinker of spirits, though I lived through enough Minnesota summers to fall in love with very icy vodka tonics with extra lime, please.  If there’s a twofer on a cruise, Dave and I will each have a vodka tonic and since we’re on the subject, we once watched an old geezer down four in a row right in front of us as we sailed away from Quebec City.  (Walked into the dining room for dinner straight up sober an hour later, too, though he got sent home for no tie.  Returned in five with a bolo.)  Then there’s the once-a-summer margarita when someone fixes them before a Mexican feast. You can’t say no, right?  Face it, if you read this blog, you’ll know I’m a wino born and bred to the 750 ml bottle.  I’m a progressive Christian who believes that if it was good enough for Jesus — and it was — it’s good enough for me.   I’ll have a beer if the bar has wine I wouldn’t serve my dog or if my son’s been brewing.  Now that you know my drinking habits, I’ll look forward to an invitation. Continue reading “Ina Fridays — Appetizers and Drinks — Whiskey Sours”

Hot Beet Green and Kale Salad with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Pecans

Hot Beet Green and Kale Salad with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Pecans

IMG_5466There are moments in cooking life when I’m making not exactly what I’m dying for, but what needs to be made.  Maybe what needs to be eaten.  That might be what’s in the fridge that’s about to expire.  It also could be what a body needs.  Mine or someone else’s.

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My tall, gorgeous son Sean –himself a phenomenal cook — occasionally mentions something about not ever having eaten much kale.  Maybe not even knowing much about it.  I’ll tell him and you this.  Kale recipes, which are a huge hit on my blogs, seem to be something folks were looking for a lot over the last couple of years, but just exactly why is somewhat of a mystery.  Kale was the millstone around most CSA participants’ necks in Minnesota and elsewhere.  There was kale and there was kale and there was… you get the picture.  I remember blogs and fb posts about apartment building residents who took turns cooking dinner one night a week.  During the loooong kale season, some apartments would offer kale soup over and over, much to the chagrin of families whose small children didn’t know from kale. (Where was the chicken?)  But to introduce Sean to a bit of superfood kale, I thought I’d make a lentil soup with kale and beet greens (don’t throw them away for God’s sake), as well as a hot salad with the same greens and cooked beets plus the ubiquitous goat cheese and pecans.   (Below: Here’s the soup.)

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I posted the soup on Dinnerplace and here’s the salad, which is done in about a half an hour and is lovely hot or leftover for lunch. Did I say this was cheap? Add a little whole whatever bread–or some whole wheat crackers–to complete this meal.  I’ve included a vegan option, which simply eliminates the cheese and replaces the honey with sugar.  (If you’re uninitiated to beets, be prepared for a not-a-problem red surprise in the toilet next day. Perhaps this is TMI, but it’s frightening to some.)  Try this:

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hot beet greens and kale salad with beets, goat cheese, and pecans

Continue reading “Hot Beet Green and Kale Salad with Beets, Goat Cheese, and Pecans”