Category Archives: Kitchen notes

Sunshine & Home Cooking

Today was filled with sunshine.  Despite all the negatives that fills the TV news and social media, nothing can soothe one as much as sunshine.

Actually sunshine does not soothe as much as it energizes.  I would suggest that if all of us remembered the rule of thumb of 30 minutes out doors, we would be much healthier–physically and mentally.

Of course there is no doubt that home cooking versus fast food or even restaurant cuisine has additional value.  Tonight’s craving for fresh salmon lead to one of those comfort food meals:  baked salmon, wilted spinach, and homemade mac & cheese.

Fixing wilted spinach is almost magical.  Creating a dressing with chopped bacon, basaltic vinegar, olive oil, and a little sugar is not difficult, but figuring out how much spinach to use is a challenge.  I dumped all but about a cup of baby spinach into the skillet and started tossing. . .

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I could hardly keep it in the skillet so steamed it a tiny bit before finishing.  The final meal looked like this:

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So tonight we feasted; first on sunshine and then on the home cooked supper.  The meal took only 30 minutes from start to finish to prepare, but it certainly is full of the comfort foods we all need to battle the winter blahs.

I trust that in the midst of all the insanity of our world, that we remember that sunshine and home cooked meals may serve as some of the best medicine we all need.  Take a few minutes outside whenever you can, and take a few minutes in the kitchen.  Your life can fend off some of the worst illnesses.

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Tweaking a recipe: Cranberry-Pistachio Cookie/Biscotti

Well, there is nothing like taking a recipe and trying out something new.  Sometimes tweaking a recipe does not work, but I thought this would be yummy and risked the tweak.  I found this last year on http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com when she posted Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies.  But, I followed the recipe and then added a twist–cook them as biscotti.  Here is what I have done:

Cran-Pistachio Cookies

Recipe base for Christmas biscotti taken from www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com

 

Special note: Biscotti are twice-baked cookies, basically. This recipe is tasty, but turning them into biscotti makes them even better, I think. I am pretty sure that you could begin with any basic sugar cookie base, just add the extra ingredients and follow the biscotti baking method.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

 

The basic cookie recipe:

 

1 pouch of sugar cookie mix (the original blogger credits this to Betty Crocker)

1 box of instant pistachio pudding

¼ cup flour

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

½ cup chopped dried cranberries (I added chopped pistachios too)

 

The cookie recipe goes on . . .

 

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and slightly flatten with fingertips. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not bake them too long as you will lose the soft texture and they won’t be as green. They will not look done, but take them out and let them sit on the pan for about 2 minutes.

 

Mix everything up, but now comes the biscotti twist . . .

 

Instead of dropping the cookie dough into individual cookies, put into a greased rectangle baking dish. You will have to shape it as the dough is stiff, but think how biscotti is shaped and that will guide you. Then bake the “bar” of cookie dough for 10-15 minutes, maybe a little longer because you will have to slice it.

 

Reduce the heat in the oven to 300 degrees.

 

After it cools enough to slice, do so. Place the cut slices onto a cookie sheet. Then re-bake the cookies for about 7-8 minutes in the cooler oven. Take out, turn the slices and bake another 7-8 minutes. (You may have to adjust your timing. It could be as little as 5 minutes; what you are doing is just drying them enough to hold together for dunking.)

 

After they cooled, I iced, but you can also opt to coat powdered sugar but it is just a bit messy for eating.

 

 

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New Year tradition simmering on the stove

The pot is simmering on the stove and the all-important ingredient this New Years Day is black-eyed peas.  Even though I do have a tendency to follow a menu filled with “seasonal” favorites, today I have to admit that I add in black-eyed peas to accommodate my husband’s superstitious request.

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He believes that to have a good year, one must eat black-eyed peas on New Years Day.  In the past, I have tried to make sure I had a ham bone to use, but this year I am stepping it up with a twist.  I am using a pork shoulder bone-in roast.  Part of the reason is the ham seems to have so much salt anymore, and I prefer the richness of pork that is not cured.

Using a cookbook is usually not necessary as the base is pretty typical.  Oh I have a few twists that I add.  For instance I use a non-MSG chicken powder bullion to add a little flavor, then I chop up the veggies (celery, carrots, onion) so fine that they are not identifiable–another personal request from my family.  And then I let it simmer all day.

As the meat cooks, it becomes tender and pulls apart.  Many would say that is just pulled pork, but this is not barbecue in any sense of the word.  This is more like a stew or soup.  Rich and meaty, but today it is accompanied by black-eyed peas.

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The only addition to a bowl of this will be cornbread.  My favorite is Jiffy mix, but I do add a bit to it, too.  I add an extra egg and I also add vanilla.  That may be a bit of a surprise, but it smells so good as it bakes that it just draws you into the kitchen.

After tonight’s meal, the stew has the potential to serve up in new ways.  A jambalaya is one possibility especially if I add in shrimp and/or sausage. Another option would be to add various beans and even turn it into red/black beans and rice.  Who knows what it will become next, but it will certainly make the week’s menu a bit simpler.

Cooking is a comforting process for me.  In these days with the unbelievable frigid temperatures, cooking fills me with a unique form of warmth.  The process is calming.  The smell warms me up, too.  Of course the heat in the kitchen provides even more comfort.  As I begin a new year, I look for more opportunities to warm up in my kitchen.

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