Friday, April 29, 2016

Pea Pasta Salad with Chipotle Chili Pepper

     The key flavor ingredients are the chipotle chili powder which you can find in the spice section of your grocery store and honey mustard.  If you can't find honey mustard, then add a bit of honey to Dijon mustard until it begins to have a sweet quality to it.  Chipotle chiles are smoke dried jalapeños.  They give the salad a bit of a smoky heat which rounds out the flavors of the dish and makes you want to dig in for another helping.  The honey mustard gives the dish a sharp yet sweet taste at the same time.  Also contributing to the dish are the shallots with natural garlic and onion flavors.  And finally there is the freshly chopped dill.  The fernlike leaves of this gentle herb is unique unto itself.  On its own it seems gentle in flavor, yet has a powerful impact when added to a dish.  Feel free to double this recipe to feed a crowd.

Pea Pasta Salad with Chipotle Chili Pepper

(Serves 6)

12 oz. Tricolor Rotini Pasta
12 oz. Frozen Peas
1 Shallot Bulb peeled and finely diced
2 T. Freshly Chopped Dill
1 1/4 c. Canola Mayonaise (Non GMO)
1/2 c. Plain Goat Yogurt (may use cow yogurt if preferred)
1/4 tsp. Chipotle Chili Powder
1 tsp. Onion Powder
3 T. Honey Mustard
Salt to taste

Cook Pasta according to directions until al dente.  Drain and set aside in a large bowl.  Cook peas in a sauce pan with water half way up the peas until just tender.  Drain and add to the pasta, then let cool.  Mix in the shallot and dill.  In a separate bowl, combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, chipotle chili powder, onion powder, and honey mustard.  Whisk until smooth and add to the cooled pasta.  Gently combine.  Salt to taste.  Adjust chipotle chili powder to taste.  Transfer to a serving dish, cover and store in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Creative Ways to Add Greens to Your Diet - Cooking Tip

     One way to get healthy leafy greens into your diet is to add them to something else you are already making.  I don't always want to make a separate dish with my greens, but I usually do want them cooked.  Adding greens such as green Swiss chard or rainbow chard, bok choy, etc. can add beautiful color to your meat sauces.  They usually don't take over or alter the flavor of the dish either.  I like adding them to spaghetti and chili.  That way I instantly get an added boost of vitamins with every serving!
     Another way to incorporate them is to put them in a casserole.  I have also added baby bok choy to shepherd's pie, and Swiss chard to lamb paté, curry, and chutney.
     I always add roughly chopped greens near the end of the cooking time if it is simmering in a pot  on the stove.  In the case of the shepherd's pie, I cooked the meat filling on the stove, adding the greens right before transferring to the baking dish.  For lamb paté, I put the uncooked greens on the flattened meat before rolling it up.  Try out the recipe for the Lamb Paté with Swiss Chard, Goat Cheese, and Garlic or Lamb Paté with Sweet Potato, Chèvre, and Swiss Chard.  They cook up quickly; we don't want them cooked to extinction.  In a few minutes you have a beautiful, healthy addition to your dish.

Lamb Paté with Swiss Chard, Goat Cheese, and Garlic

Lamb Paté with Swiss Chard, Goat Cheese, and Garlic

Cranberry Chard Chutney with Maple Sausage

Pumpkin Lamb Curry with Swiss Chard

Lamb Paté with Sweet Potato, Chèvre, and Swiss Chard

Lamb Paté with Sweet Potato, Chèvre, and Swiss Chard

Green Swiss Chard Added to a Thrown Together Chili

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Pudding Mold- Recipe

My earliest memories of Boston Brown Bread are from childhood.  I remember my father steaming the bread in a can and watching it slide out.  It had a dark molasses flavor and a moist, yet slightly chewy texture with raisins.  For some reason I have been craving that special deep flavor from the rye, corn meal, and whole wheat bread.  I don't have any large cans to use, but I do have steamed pudding molds with lids.  Perfect!  Here is my brown bread recipe steamed in a pudding mold.  I did a few trials to find just the right amount of molasses.  I prefer using goat yogurt, but cow yogurt is fine.  The results are fantastic!  I have completely satisfied my brown bread yearnings.

Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Pudding Mold.

Boston Brown Bread looks beautiful in the shape of a pudding mold.

Boston Brown Bread Steamed in a Pudding Mold

( One 1 1/2 Quart Mold Serves 8)

1 c. Cornmeal
1 c. Whole Wheat Flour
1 c. Rye Flour
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
2/3 c. Molasses
3/4 c. Goat Yogurt
1 1/4 c. Water
1 c. Raisins

     Start by filling water in a pasta pot with a holed insert on the stove.  The insert will lift the mold so it does not sit directly on the bottom of the pot.  Measure the water by putting in the empty pudding mold.  It should go up 3/4 of the way.  Adjust the water level if necessary.  When you have the water level set, start heating it up to a simmer.  In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, whole wheat, rye flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a measuring cup, combine the molasses, yogurt, and water.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Finally, mix in the raisins. and pour into a greased 1 1/2 qt. tin pudding mold until the batter reaches about 2/3 of the way.  It will need room to rise.  You may have some batter left over, but don't force it in.  Grease the lid and securely place on the mold.  Carefully place the mold into the water and simmer for 1 hour and 10 minutes, without covering the pasta pot.  Add hot water without pouring directly onto the lid to maintain the water level.  To check for doneness, take the mold out and open the lid.  Insert a cake tester in the center, and if done, it should come out clean.  Also the bread should not look wet.  If you need to steam some more, cover mold and put back into the water for another 10 minutes and check again.  When done, take the mold out of the water and let it cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a cooling rack.

My 1 1/2 qt. steamed pudding mold.  Same one I use for the Christmas plum pudding.

Boston Brown Bread with butter.

Monday, March 7, 2016

My Downton Abbey Goodbye

     Spoiler Alert*******
     Last night I was ready for the finale of Downton Abbey along with millions of other American fans.  I had my teapot ready.  Out of the freezer came the leftover Christmas Plum Pudding and Christmas cookies.  I thought the traditional British Christmas pudding would be perfect for the last Christmas special.  Besides the story line, fabulous costumes, and architecture I loved the show for it's historical view into a time not so long ago, yet very different from now.  Practices that seemed strange to us were revealed to have explanations that made sense at the time.  Women had such few choices and the way the inheritance rules were discriminatory, finding a good match was their only option.  The competition between sisters was probably brutal in most aristocratic families.

     Since they had lives of leisure and servants dressing and drawing their baths, cooks making their meals, nannies raising their children, and agents looking after their estate, what was keeping them from flying off the handle and going completely bonkers?  Those rigid ritualistic rules of course.  Ever wonder why they had such rules at the dining table?  The manners of how they stood, sat, spoke, and ate with one another ruled every moment.  The gloves on the lap at dinner.  Talking to one person on one side of you then turning to the other at the cue of the hostess to give everyone a fair amount of chat time.  Zillions of spoons for all kinds of special foods.  Dinner parties were very important for the reputation of Edwardian families.  Chefs could earn up to ten times that of the butler.  However, women were merely cooks.  They referred to Mrs. Patmore as a cook rather than chef.  I somehow doubt that she earned more than Carson.

     Am I sad that it has ended?  Yes, but not quite as distraught as some.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the last season, I admit I am a bit disappointed in the story line of Mary.  Firstly, she completely lost her mind and gave in to everyone's urging to marry the race car driver, what's his name, -oh Henry.  Yes, she barely knows the guy, and I wonder if she can remember his name as well.  Mary of season 1, 2, 3, 4,  and 5 would not have been spam-for-brains and put herself in a post traumatic stress hell living with a race car driver.  Granted, although he decided it wasn't fun to race anymore with his buddy gone, she had no indication he would stop before she married him.  Secondly, Julian Fellowes allowed her to sink to an all time low when she outed Edith's illegitimate daughter and ruined her engagement to yet another love.  This was more evil than she had ever done before.  So now as the dark lordess of the manor, what happens next?  Granny says one word, and she does an about face and fixes the whole thing.  After a lifetime of Edith bashing, now we have compassion and want to change.  Same with Barrow, who was the evil trouble maker for 5 seasons.  His nature turned around after his suicide attempt.  While I am happy for both complex characters (both were not all evil), and glad they had happy endings, I feel their endings were unrealistic for the time period and the story line, and the show had been realistic dealing with those characters up until this last episode.

     Carson and the Countess seem to have sadder endings that people don't reflect on in all the hoopla.  Both are facing the health troubles of old age and forced to step aside, halting their lives as they had lived them for so long.  I find it very sad for them.  Now that is real, and Julian Fellowes did not mess with that.  At least he gave them the dignity of keeping their stories real, and did not throw frosting all over it in an attempt to sugar coat it.

     I am grateful to have been able to enjoy this wonderful series and look forward to seeing them all over again.  Come Sunday I will bring out the teapot, pop in a DVD, and start with episode 1, season 1, and enjoy it all over again.

Me dressed for a Downton Abbey Tea Party.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Salt Pork and Sharp Cheddar Cheese - Recipe

     How does one get their kids or husband, for that matter, to eat broccoli and be happy about it?  Asking too much?  I think not.  Try this creamy, cheesy soup loaded with salt pork and flavor!  Yes, the secret weapon is first and foremost salt pork, an often underused powerhouse of flavor that can make a fabulous base for so many  dishes.  I use lean salt pork that has about 1/3 fat and 2/3 meat, so I render enough fat and flavor to sauté my vegetables and also get the wonderful chunks of pork.  Next up are organic vegetables which are more flavorful that conventional and a good chicken broth (preferably not from a can).  Make your own or buy an organic broth.  A sharp cheddar cheese that is very sharp and heavy cream that is preferably grass fed are the final touches that make all the difference.  Don't feel too guilty about the cream, we only are adding 1/2 cup to the whole pot.  Each serving gets only 1/12 of a cup, yet it makes a huge difference in the final product.  Nothing does it better than cream.

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Salt Pork and Sharp Cheddar Cheese

(Serves 6)

3/4 lb. Salt Pork cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
1 Onion chopped
3 Ribs Celery chopped
3 Carrots peeled and chopped
2 Potatoes peeled, and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
4 c. Chicken Broth
1 lb. Broccoli cut into soup spoon size pieces
8 oz. Sharp Cheddar Cheese grated with the larger wholes of a cheese grater
3 T. Regular All Purpose Flour
1/2 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
Salt to taste (usually not necessary!)

     Fry the salt pork in a large Dutch oven or stock pot on medium heat until it begins to turn golden.  Add the onion, celery, and carrots and sauté until the onion is translucent.  Add the potatoes and sauté for two minutes.  Add the chicken broth and broccoli.  Cover and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes just until the potatoes and broccoli are al dente.  Mix the flour and cheese in a bowl, then add to the soup stirring on low until the cheese melts and lightly simmer for a minute stirring constantly.  Add the cream and stir until creamy and smooth.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Serve immediately.

Browning the salt pork.

Sautéing the vegetables.

Adding the broccoli.

Stirring in the cheese.

Adding the cream.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ham Salad with Fried Julienned Ginger and Dandelion Greens - Recipe

     I bought the most lovely bunch of Dandelion Greens at the store, and while thinking what I was to do with them, I kept envisioning ginger flavoring them in a salad.  I decided I was going to sauté the ginger so it was not too strong when biting into a piece, then next thing you know, I tossed the greens in too just for a minute.  I sautéed them right with the ginger and they were infused with flavor.  I took them out, then placed them on a plate right away.  I sprinkled the greens with some salt, added a quick ham salad, and garnished with some sprouted pumpkin seeds.  I love accenting with these nutritious beauties.  It gives some crunch and nuttiness to the dish, without the nuts.

Ham Salad with Fried Julienned Ginger and Dandelion Greens

(Serves 2)

1 T. Palm Oil
2 T. Fresh Ginger peeled and julienned (cut into matchsticks)
4 c. Dandelion Greens rinsed and dried
Salt to taste
2 c. Ground Ham
1/2 c. Mayonaise
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp. Onion Powder
1 T. Sprouted Organic Pumpkin Seeds

     Sauté ginger in palm oil on low heat in a stock pot just until it begins to become golden.  Add the greens carefully and sauté until just wilted.  Remove from heat and divide greens between plates.  Sprinkle with salt.  Mix the ham, mayonnaise, garlic powder, and onion powder in a bowl, then place on top of greens.  Garnish with pumpkin seeds.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Birthday Cake Bread Pudding - Recipe - National Bread Pudding Week

     This week is National Bread Pudding Week.  It is quite right to have a whole week dedicated to bread pudding because of the endless variations there are.  Some are sweet, some savory.  This one is a special creation and actually uses a day old birthday cake, frosting and all.  Use a classic yellow or white cake with a chocolate frosting and you are set!  The frosting forms little chocolate rivulets in the nooks and crannies while the cake is moistened with the eggy custard.  Perfection!

Birthday Cake Bread Pudding

(6 Servings)

1 (8-inch diameter, 1 1/2-inch high)  round Yellow or White Birthday Cake with Chocolate Frosting one day old
4 Eggs beaten
2 c. Milk
1/4 tsp. Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cut the cake into 1 1/2-inch cubes, and place in a bowl.  Whisk the eggs, milk, and salt together and pour over the cubes.  Let them soak 5 minutes and transfer to an 8x11-inch greased baking pan.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Make sure the internal temperature in the center is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut into cubes.

Place into a large measuring cup or bowl.

Whisk eggs, milk, and salt.

Pour over and soak cubes.

Transfer to a greased baking pan.

Baking in the oven.

Lovely rivulets of chocolate frosting.

Birthday Cake Bread Pudding