Potato Celery Root Leek Soup

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Creamy Potato Celery Root Leek Soup

Creamy Potato Celery Root Leek Soup

Really, the title of this recipe should be “Gotta Get Rid of Veggies in the Refrigerator Soup.”  Tomorrow I leave for three weeks and my mission the past few days has been to live from what remains in my fridge and pantry, especially fruits and vegetables.

Last week I bought a large, handsome celery root. And Yukon Gold potatoes, and some leeks.  I planned to make a mash of sorts but got busy and my lovely vegetables sat around, ignored.

Then the weather turned very fallish and coolish, the days shortened and I felt like soup would fit the bill.  Hence the soup you see: made up using only what was on hand.  Normally I’d have chicken stock in my freezer but I was too lazy to defrost it, and wanted to see if Better Than Bouillon paste would work.  It did, and this soup takes no time from stovetop to table.  Perfect and filling on a cool, fall day.

I might also mention that you can eat this chilled if you feel like a cold soup.  It’s really good, although I am usually partial to hot soup.

Potato Celery Root Leek Soup

Serves 6-8

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Ingredients
  • 3 large leeks
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cubed into ½ inch pieces
  • 1 fist-size celery root, peeled and cubed the same size as the potatoes
  • 8 cups chicken stock (I used Better Than Bouillon according to the directions on the jar)
  • 4-6 Tbsp or more 2% milk or cream  if desired, or more stock
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • Fresh chopped chives, dill, parsley or tarragon to serve
Instructions

Prepare the leeks by cutting off the stem and root end, slice in half the long way, clean out any mud in the flesh and slice the light green and white part into 1/8 inch half circles.

In a 3-4 quart sauce pan, saute leeks with butter for five minutes, add potatoes and stock and simmer 30 minutes or until very, very soft.  Since you are going to puree this, it can be mushy.

I use a hand blender and just stick the blade end into the soup pot.  Blend until smooth.  Add milk (or cream if you want to be decadent) to thin the soup to your liking, salt and pepper and serve.  Garnish with fresh herbs.   Or add more cream, salt and serve cold.

If you want this to be vegetarian, use vegetable broth and thin it with additional broth.

Make a huge green salad, slice some fruit and call this a fantastic dinner!

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Carrot Miso Dressing

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Chicken Salad with Veggies and Carrot Miso Dressing

Chicken Salad with Veggies and Carrot Miso Dressing

I can’t help myself… I’m providing you with yet another salad dressing concoction.  That said – this one is a bit different from the majority of the dressing recipes I’ve posted here.  Carrot miso salad dressing…made with carrot juice, ginger and white miso.  Sounds pretty hippy dippy – right? It harks back the era I recall  from the 1970s.  I must reveal I did participate in  bread baking and natural foods back then – but I didn’t go overboard with the hippy thing.  Nonetheless, I laugh every time I make this dressing, remembering how everyone my age, when they were in college, ordered carrot juice, wore bell bottoms and cooked their hearts out.

Salad dressing is one of those things where I just scratch my head when I see folks buying a bottle of commercial dressing.  I make literally hundreds of salad toppings  but mostly I just drizzle olive oil or walnut oil , add citrus or vinegar of some type, herbs or seasonings or shallots and voila!  Generally this takes me about five minutes at best.

This salad dressing is a little more involved but completely worth it. When I prepare it there is enough to last us a couple of weeks – plus it’s healthful and has a vivid orange color to entice your taste buds!

Colorful Carrot Miso Dressing

Colorful Carrot Miso Dressing

Carrot Miso Dressing

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Ingredients
  • ½ cup fresh carrot juice
  • 1 inch medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • ¾ inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. soy or tamari sauce
  • 1 tsp white miso paste
  • ½ cup canola or olive oil
Instructions

In a small sauce pan, heat and boil the carrot juice, stirring or swirling the pan occasionally until it is reduced to three tablespoons. This takes me around 10 to 15 minutes.  Pour it into a measuring cup and refrigerate for ten minutes to cool.  Add the reduced juice and everything else but the oil to a food processor or blender.  Whirl it, and slowly drizzle in the oil.  Process until smooth and there are no remaining chunks of ginger or carrots.  Put it in a jar and refrigerate!

This is fantastic served on romaine lettuce with lots of veggies and some chicken or leftover sliced meat or fish. Or use it as a dip for shrimp, veggies, steamed broccoli, salmon, or chicken breast.  This keeps up to two weeks refrigerated but you will need to shake it. Yummy,  no joke!

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Brown Butter Cherry Almond Breakfast Loaf – An Accidental Recipe

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Brown Butter Cherry Breakfast Loaf - Right Out of the Oven!

Brown Butter Cherry Almond Breakfast Loaf – Right Out of the Oven!

Fall arrived in Seattle, bringing clouds and rain. I immediately felt like baking and couldn’t be bothered to go to the supermarket.  Dried tart cherries caught my eye on the countertop, and suddenly I craved a warm slice of cherry bread slathered with butter.  I found three saved recipes in my files and settled on a combination that pleased me.   I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

Many of you probably assume that I cook in an organized, neat fashion.  I hate to break it to you…but that’s not exactly the case.  I am clean, I am organized…but when I cook I don’t necessarily use “mise en place” where everything is measured and laid out ahead of time.  Nooooo.  Often I make a recipe between writing emails, talking on the phone, knitting… and it can be distracting.  I do put out the ingredients on my counter, and I read the recipe before I start and at the end of my cooking to be sure I didn’t forget anything.  In a perfect world, that is.

That is how this particular recipe evolved…  I did line up the ingredients: the milk carton, sugar, flour, cherries, bowls, bread pan…but I forgot to check everything when I thought I was finished.  OOOO, I left out an egg.

As I was melting the butter, I instantly decided to brown it as I did with the coconut bread.  And I cut the sugar down – which I often prefer.  I added extra cherries because I wanted to finish my container.

So here you have it, a flavorful, dense and truly-original-My-Global-Kitchens-not-icky-sweet breakfast bread.  It’s a keeper, and I will definitely make it again.  In fact, I’m thinking this would be a good make-ahead Thanksgiving weekend breakfast item along with spinach frittata.  Oh yea!

Brown Butter Cherry Almond Breakfast Loaf

Yield: one loaf

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Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Slightly rounded 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. non aluminum baking powder
  • ½ tsp. fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup dried tart cherries
  • ¾ cup of 2% milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 stick  unsalted butter, melted, browned and cooled (see coconut bread for instructions)
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • ½ Tbsp granulated sugar for the topping
Instructions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with a rectangle of parchment. Spray the parchment-lined bottom.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the cherries and toss to coat them  evenly. This helps distribute the dried fruit throughout the bread.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, cooled butter and almond extract. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until barely combined. Do not overmix.

Pour this batter into the prepared pan. Even out the top with a spatula and sprinkle the top with a half tablespoon of granulated sugar.

Bake in the middle rack of your oven until the top of the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50-55 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool for ten minutes. Turn the loaf out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely before serving (although I love it a bit warmed).

When it is no longer warm,  cut the loaf  in half and freeze part for later in the week so it will be uber fresh.

 

 

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Chicken & Turkey Larb

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Larb & Lettuce

Larb & Lettuce

If you have mint growing in your garden – you may have the same challenge I do … delicious as it is – it grows like a weed! I trim mine often and am always looking for ways to integrate mint into my meals. Thankfully, my daughter visited this summer and made a massive amount of Larb for our family. So we finally had the perfect dish for all my fresh mint.

Rachel Preparing Larb

Rachel Preparing Larb

“What the heck is Larb?” you might ask … Well, let me tell you … it is one of my favorite Asian dishes – common in Vietnam, Laos and parts of Thailand. It’s a room-temperature, minced meat salad (some call it an appetizer) that is jazzed up with mint, cilantro, lemongrass, chilies, fish sauce, and lime. My daughter’s version is definitely Americanized and a far cry from traditional recipes you’ll discover – but it’s still a delightful balance of traditional Thai flavors – sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy.

This is a wonderful dish to serve for groups – you can set it up almost like a taco bar.  A plate of lettuce leaves, cabbage slaw, meat mixture, and toppings.  Everyone can make their own finger food.  I like to put half slaw and half meat mixture in my lettuce cup then top with the condiments.  I make a lot of extra cabbage salad for later use just with leftover dressing too.

Chicken & Turkey Larb

Serves 8 – 10

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Dressing Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 Thai chilis,  finely chopped
Meat Mixture Ingredients
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • ¾ lbs (12 oz) ground turkey
  • ⅓ cup fish sauce
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and light green parts only
  • 1 Tbsp peeled and grated ginger
  • 3/4 cup peeled and thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced Thai or serrano chilies
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Slaw Ingredients
  • ½ head purple cabbage
  • 6 carrots, peeled
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (or basil leaves if it’s summer)
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
Additional Ingredients for serving
  • 2 small heads of butter lettuce or green leaf lettuce, washed and separated into leaves
  • ½ cup chopped roasted peanuts
  • ⅓ cup roasted, ground brown rice (I used my small coffee grinde to make it powder-liker)
  • Hot sauce of your choice
Instructions

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl – set aside.

Prepare the toppings by chopping the peanuts and placing the peanuts in one bowl and the mint and cilantro leaves in small, separate bowl. For the rice – toast brown rice in a pan over medium heat until it is aromatic, then grind into a sandy powder consistency in a coffee grinder.

To prepare the slaw – grate the cabbage and the carrots  in your food processor.  Empty into a bowl and add cilantro and mint and cover with a towel or plastic to keep it fresh.

Using the same Cuisinart bowl, switch to the regular chopping blade and  add the cilantro, mint, lemongrass (cut into 2-3 pieces), ginger, garlic and peppers for your meat mixture. Puree for a minute or so, scraping down the sides.  Set this mixture of aromatics aside in a bowl.

Grind the de-boned chicken and turkey with the fish sauce, grated ginger  & green onion in the Cuisinart – this brines the meat if you grind the poultry with the fish sauce.

Heat a large, straight-sided frying pan, add oil until hot.  Add chicken and turkey, breaking it up with a spoon and wait until it is no longer pink, about eight minutes.

Add the aromatics mixture from the Cuisinart and stir until the vegetables are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated, about four minutes. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve – arrange individual lettuce leaves on a large platter, scoop the meat mixture into another bowl and place all the toppings in individual bowls alongside and invite your guests to put together their own plates of delicious larb!

This is a great do ahead recipe – you can make almost everything up to a day or two in advance! We’ve done it with friends and all you have to do is cook the meat at the last minute. Any fresh soft lettuce works for wrapping. This simply a great meal or appetizer – delicious, healthful and a little something different to boot!

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A View From The Main Cabin

I wrote this post in April of 2014 from row 31, Seat B of a six hour flight from New York City back home to Seattle:

Yes, 31 B is without a doubt a middle seat in the coach cabin of my flight.  I am just five feet five inches tall and my knees nearly touch the seat in front of me.  It’s so cramped that when I dropped my crochet hook I edged into the personal space of my row-mate – a Pakistani gentleman who is sitting to my right.  He is a lovely man – he even offered me part of the sandwich he brought onboard.

I have probably knit eight inches of a paprika orange scarf.  I read the New York Times from cover to cover and saved a couple of the articles for later perusal.   I tried to doze since I was up until 1:30am this morning, talking with my sisters.  I couldn’t fall asleep. The steward – I think that’s the PC name for a male version of flight attendant – passed through the cabin and ignored me when offering cups of water.  After a light breakfast this morning,  I didn’t have time to make a decent bag of food for the plane, so I ordered a wrap from the airline menu.  I hate wraps.  I really do.  And I’m thirsty.  Forget getting up to go to the restroom.

So why do I put myself through long flights, bus trips, subway rides, train rides, boat rides on a pretty frequent basis?  Because I really love to travel.  I want to see as many places in the world as possible.  I want to visit my children and grandchildren when they’ll have me.  I long to  be in the same room with my sisters.  I wish to be with my extended family and friends who live far away to keep our connection.  I hope to climb mountains, swim in oceans, ride my bicycle without gears, walk through jungles and cities, go to foreign movies, see theater productions … I’m game for pretty much anything.

Some day, and I don’t know when that day will come, I won’t be able to take a red eye flight.  I won’t have the strength to lift my carry on suitcase into the overhead compartment of a train.  I won’t be able to figure out the subway stops or the exchange rates.  I won’t care to stay for three weeks in a recreational vehicle or tent.   I will no longer want to pack three weeks of clothing into a 20-inch bag.

But that some day is not today.  And it is so worth it to me to see as much of the world as I can.  It really is.  For me, travel is a perfect vehicle to learn history, geography, language, culture and  anthropology.  Most of all, I know that my travels throughout the United States and the other continents have given me a real appreciation of people and their differences, a birdseye view of culture that makes stereotypes and judgments explode.  People are people; we are individuals who have more similarities than differences.  And there is beauty everywhere.

And so, for now, I will keep traveling.  Many of my views have been transformed through travel.   Through travel I believe I understand better, make fewer assumptions, and form my opinions and intentions based on lessons from people I’ve met and places I’ve visited.

Here are some of my pictures that I make me smile, make me cry, and make me who I am.

Sausage Tree Camp - Botswana, Africa

Sausage Tree Camp – Botswana, Africa

Cape of Good Hope, near Cape Town, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope – near Cape Town, South Africa

Cuzco, Peru

Cuzco, Peru

Making Fresh Salsa, Oaxaca, Mexico

Making Fresh Salsa – Oaxaca, Mexico

Native Vendor - Oaxaca, Mexico

Native Vendor – Oaxaca, Mexico

With Sister Kay and Nephew Elliot - Dodger Stadium, New York

With Sister Kay and Nephew Elliot – Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

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Sumptuous Chicken Shallot Stew

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Chicken Shallot Stew

Chicken Shallot Stew

I am in love with this chicken stew!   I started with Sam Sifton’s New York Times recipe which had been adapted from Andrew and Rishia Zimmern by way of Martha Stewart.  Just goes to show there is nothing new on the face of the planet recipe wise!  If you pass this on, you can add my name to the growing list!

When I stumbled upon the original New York Times recipe, I was immediately smitten.  ALL my favorite things – shallots, chicken thighs, tarragon, vermouth… easy instructions and simple to find ingredients. My tarragon growing outside needed culling too. Bingo!!

Fresh Tarragon From My Garden

Fresh Tarragon From My Garden

Of course, me being me, I made many changes along the way to streamline the cooking and preparation and ingredients.  I ultimately ended up doing this in my pressure cooker – I mean, a 12-minute cooking time just speaks to me.  I will include regular, or stovetop instructions for those of you tempted to stop reading when you see the words PRESSURE COOKER and who are not yet convinced that you absolutely must invest in one of these.  Sometimes I feel like I should be a representative for the pressure cooker industry… And hey, if you live in Seattle drop on by for a free demo!

This makes a really juicy, saucy stew.  I recently served it with a scoop of cooked, toasted barley seasoned with sauteed garlic scapes and yellow pepper.  It’s also great with brown rice, quinoa or any other whole grain or mashed vegetable you love to soak up the juices.  Oh, and a simple slice of hearty bread goes very nicely with this dish…


Chicken Shallot Stew

Makes 4 servings

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Ingredients
  • 6 large chicken thighs (bone in and skin on)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 whole very large shallots, peeled  (about one pound)
  • 1 cup extra dry vermouth or leftover white wine.  I always have vermouth in my fridge for cooking purposes (see note if you are not making this in a pressure cooker)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard (see note if making stovetop)
  • 3 whole sprigs fresh tarragon
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Instructions for pressure cooker preparation

Trim off the excess fat that hangs off the the chicken thighs but leave skin on the thigh. Pat the pieces dry and lay them on a clean dish towel. Combine  the flour, salt and pepper  on waxed paper and dip the skin side of the thighs into this mix so it is coated. Shake off the excess flour mix.

Heat a large (12-inch) sauté pan on medium high.  Once hot, pour the oil in until it is heated through.  Add the chicken thighs skin side down and cook until they becomes a little browned; turn them over with a tongs and brown the other side too.  All of this will take you around ten minutes.  Remove the thighs with tongs to a rimmed plate and set aside.

Add the peeled shallots directly to the sauté pan  (I did cut the huge ones in half so they weren’t the size of a small onion but they can be big since they basically smoosh anyway) and sauté them in the remaining chicken fat and until they begin to soften a titch, approximately five minutes. Put the shallots into the pressure cooker. Mix the wine and mustard together and pour in, followed by the tarragon sprigs and the chicken thighs. Cover the pressure cooker, bring to high pressure and cook for 12 minutes.  Manually bring the pressure down by putting the pressure cooker in the sink and running cold water over the lid. Remove the lid, fish out the tarragon pieces, and simmer to allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, 5-10 minutes.

Right before serving, add the cherry tomatoes to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve immediately.

 

Instructions for traditional stovetop cooking

First, you will need two cups of vermouth and two tablespoons of Dijon.  Follow instructions above. But instead of using a pressure cooker, place everything into a heavy dutch oven and bring to a simmer.  Cover and braise for 30 minutes or until the meat is very tender.  Continue with the cooking methods.

* * * * *

Note: I had two thighs and lots of juice left over that I poured over brown rice in a container and put into my freezer.  A month later it was defrosted and reheated and was better than ever – so next time I’m purposefully making a double batch of this recipe: one for the freezer and one to eat.

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Gigantic Frosted Sugar Cookies: The Experiment

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Sugary & Sparkley Cookies

Sugary & Sparkley Cookies

I am a chocolate girl all the way.  With the exception of fruit pies or crisps, I don’t care about sweets unless they contain dark chocolate.  So it was very out of character for me to find myself obsessed with the frosted sugar cookies I sampled at a coffee shop in West Liberty, Iowa.  In fact, whenever I visited Iowa I would drive the 17 or so miles for one of these cookies. The huge, soft, frosted discs tapped into the butter-sugar-sweet alter-ego of mine.  I asked for the recipe, and was told the owner made these and that the recipe was not to be shared with the patrons!

Determined to figure out how to create these sugary treats, I bought three of them – each frosted with pale blue buttercream and sprinkled with orange, granular sugar crystals. The first I immediately shared with my daughter.  I stashed the second one for dessert (to divide among the four of us).  As for the almighty third cookie… this one I carefully wrapped in a paper bag and brought to Rachel’s friend Amy, a former lawyer-turned-pastry chef.  She tasted the masterpiece and we discussed what ingredients should be included to replicate the flavor and texture.  We both agreed that the cookie contained both butter and shortening, vanilla (no almond flavoring) and all purpose flour.  The women surrounding us were astounded that we could be so involved with dissecting a mere cookie!  I surprised myself too — after all, sugar cookies aren’t usually something I crave.  Yet I became consumed with the desire to replicate them.  Luckily I had noted that the coffee shop kept these cookies pre-formed into flat disks and frozen.  And I spotted them being baked on a per need basis for 17 minutes.  I would have made a great spy.

The "Secret" Ingredients

The “Secret” Ingredients

Once home, I perused my sugar cookie recipes and immediately went to my favorite Cooks Illustrated recipe for chewy sugar cookies, made with a combination of melted butter and oil.  Because I didn’t want this cookie to be dense or crackly on top, I read about what makes cookies too flat.  I reduced the fat a bit and used soft butter and Crisco vegetable shortening.  I felt like homemaker June in “Leave it to Beaver.”   My inner pastry chef self knew that they should be baked at a low temperature, say 325 degrees, for optimum puffiness and less browning.

I mentally tweaked and tweaked the recipe, sent an email to Amy the baker and she told me, “Go for it and report back to me.”  The next day, I took out the ingredients and my trusty stand mixer and put on an apron just to feel like an honest-to-goodness kitchen goddess.   Rachel’s friend’s nine year old son Owen was over and he helped me bake.  I think he learned three things:

1)  How to “tare” a kitchen scale to measure ingredients

2)  How inventive the scraping blade for the mixer is for cookies

3)  Not to ever overmix the dough because it gets tough

4)  This I am adding, not one of the three… but he now knows how many ounces are in a cup.  “Eight is Great!”

Owen helped me mix the flour with the leavening, he turned the mixer on to the correct speed and licked the beater with both the frosting and the cookie dough.  After the dough chilled, he helped me weigh each ball of dough.  I patiently formed the 2 ½ ounce balls into flat disks and froze them, then baked four of them for 17 minutes.  Fresh out of the oven, I felt like I was a champion.  The cookies were domed, smooth and perfect.  Three minutes later they fell flat.  Urggggg!

Don't Forget to Freeze!

Don’t Forget to Freeze!

I still cooled and frosted them and took one to Baker Amy.  I am now happy enough with the buttery flavor, the sweet frosting and the huge chewy cookies that I feel like I don’t need to keep tweaking and baking batch after batch.  I’d rather concentrate on breads, salads and soups – my all time favorite things to cook.

My Sugar Cookie Experiment

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Ingredients
  • 2 ¼ cups flour  (11 ¼ oz*)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • ¼ tsp table salt
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar  (10 ½ oz*)
  • 1 stick of salted butter
  • ½ cup Crisco
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

*Note: I did weigh the flour and the sugar but am including the amounts in case you don’t have a kitchen scale or feel the need to be uber precise.

Instructions:

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Cream butter, Crisco and sugar really well – until creamed.  Add egg, milk and vanilla.  Finally add dry ingredients and don’t over mix.  Immediately refrigerate the dough until firm enough to form into smooth balls ( 1-2 hours).

Place the balls of dough onto a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet and  cover them with another sheet of waxed paper .   Flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass into disks that are 2 ½ ounces each – for a total of twelve.  My disks were about 2 ½ -3 inches in diameter and even thickness.  After they are solidly frozen on the cookie sheet, remove the frozen unbaked cookie discs and freeze them between sheets of waxed paper in a tupperware type pan.

To bake: Put four frozen cookie discs onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  I decided to only fit four per sheet to give them space to spread.

Place in a preheated 325 degree oven for 17 minutes or so on the middle rack.  Bake only one sheet at a time.  Finished cookies are five inch rounds and barely, barely brown.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet, then remove from sheet to rack after five minutes. Cool completely and frost.

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Frosting Ingredients
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. soft butter
  • Less than ¼ c milk
  • A few drops food coloring
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • Coarse colored sugar sprinkles
Instructions

Cream butter, add powdered sugar, then drizzle in milk and vanilla until spreading consistency.  I always remove some of this white colored frosting, then divide the remaining frosting into half and make two separate colors.  The extra frosting, by the way, freezes well! Just bring to room temperature before frosting the cookies.

Use a heaping tablespoon of frosting for each large cookie, and top the frosting with colored sugar.

Let’s be honest: any homemade cookie with buttercream icing and colorful sprinkles tastes great.  Store in sealed container and devour — they are so sweet you will definitely want some coffee, tea or a glass of milk.  I love baking them as needed rather than making an entire recipe worth of these huge cookies.

 

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Homemade Pancake & Waffle Mix

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Perfect Pancakes

Perfect Pancakes

My sister in law is always quick to tell you she doesn’t cook, but she doesn’t need to.  Her husband, my brother, is masterful in the kitchen and bakes cookies, cakes and desserts even more often than yours truly.  We all laugh because his wife does all the shopping and is the sous chef, but he gets the credit for the final product.

Shelli invited a few women to visit their mountain house for the weekend.  Everyone knows she doesn’t cook so she decided to surprise her friends with breakfast and wanted to know if I had a basic pancake recipe.

Of course I did!  She wowed everyone by making a batch of these pancakes, adding a lot of fresh blueberries to the batter and serving them with a side of chicken sausage.

Of course she can cook!!  And so can you… This is a beginner recipe that will delight just about anyone. And it’s a lovely waffle mix as well!

Homemade Pancake & Waffle Mix

Serves 4-6

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Dry Ingredients (can make ahead)-serves 6
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 2 pinches salt

When ready to make them, add the following to the dry ingredients:

Additional ingredients
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2/3 cup skim or 2% milk
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • Fresh berries (optional)
Instructions

Whisk together dry ingredients. If you want – you can keep this mixture in an airtight container or Ziploc bag which you can save for up to six months!

Add milk, oil and eggs to the dry mix and add more milk if you desire a thinner pancake. Add 3 cups blueberries or blackberries if they are in season and you are a berry lover.

Heat a skillet or griddle until hot, wipe with some oil and let that heat then ladle large or small pancakes onto the skillet.  Once a lot of bubbles form, flip the pancakes gently and let them continue cooking on the second side for two minutes or until finished.

Once cooked, I usually keep there on a plate covered with foil or in a 300 degree oven for a few minutes.

Serve with fresh pure maple syrup, berries and yogurt or homemade jam and butter.

If you have a small household, you can make half this recipe-around 12- 3 inch wide pancakes.

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My Global Travel – My Favorite Travel Must Haves

One Of My Favorite Travel Photos - Wayne & I at Machu Pichu - December 2004

One Of My Favorite Travel Photos – Wayne & I At Machu Pichu – December 2004

I’ve been on the move and traveling even more than I usually do – which, you might imagine – is insane.  Sometimes I wake up and have no clue where I am — and it takes me a few minutes to get oriented.  In my Seattle bedroom?  In Belize? (Both bedrooms have ceiling fans and windows in the same place)  In Iowa? San Francisco?  In the last four weeks, I have returned from Belize, gone to San Francisco to see my two grandkids, flown to see my daughter and her family and help move them  to their new Denver digs, and now I’m headed to Palm Springs next week (where it’s 100 plus degrees!) to help my elderly mother-in-law.  It’s a bit much, and way too many planes and subsequent flight delays and airport aggravation.

I have my carry-on roller suitcase and backpack standing in the corner of my bedroom, and I keep packing and unpacking in these same containers.  The backpack is always preloaded with my noise canceling headphones, a warm scarf or knitted cowl neck warmer, and my back cushion.  My travel outfit is the same and therefore requires no thought on my part: a comfy and loose pair of pants with a pocket for my driver’s license and phone, a short sleeved tee shirt and a warm, soft sweatshirt-type-but-nicer-looking-than-a-sweatshirt outer layer because I am always cold on the plane.  And Birkenstock-like, not very attractive sandals that slip on and off easily.  (Ahem, Birkenstock footwear is now in fashion!)  Simple jewelry and I’m good to hit the runway…the airplane one that is.

A couple of things came to mind this last trip that I know I couldn’t be without – so I thought I’d share a few of my tips with you:

Can't Be Without my Packing Cubes

Can’t Be Without My Packing Cubes

1)  Packing Cubes

I’ve had these packing cubes you see from eBags for years.  They have a two-way zipper are now available at Ikea and most outdoor gear (think REI) or luggage stores.  I end up using the large one you see for jeans and pants and even t-shirts.  The medium one, if needed, holds workout clothing, the small one is for underwear and sox, and the one with the drawstring top?  It came in a pair to hold shoes, but I have my knitting in there for the plane.  I really enjoy the zen of knitting, and usually have a small project or two that keeps me from overthinking take off, landing and times in between.  And if you are a friend of mine, know that you probably will be getting fingerless gloves for your next birthday!

Fingerless Gloves - What I Create When I'm Traveling

Fingerless Gloves – What I Create When I’m Traveling

I got off track here with the knitting thoughts though.  The three packing cubes are wonderful to pop in a drawer of a hotel room or guest room!  All of your clothing will stay compartmentalized and there is no need to unpack and repack.  They are great gifts for friends or family who travel a bit!   I do also take a kitchen garbage liner for my dirty clothes too.

Knit Kit!

Knit Kit!

2)  Knitting

Back to knitting, this little gadget called “The Knit Kit” is ingenious!  Read about it here.There are nine knitting essentials in this small compact plastic disk – things I use every trip like a folding scissors that can be taken aboard, a knitting counter, crochet hook, and a tape measure.  I haven’t been able to find it in the knit shops here lately, but again I have gifted this to the knitting relatives and friends in my life.  As an aside, I lost the crochet hook part of this, and called the company.  Believe it or not they sent me a replacement FOR FREE!  You gottta love that.  I sure do and it has made me a life long loyal customer and advocate!

3)  Food

I wrote about food for travel almost three years ago, and still follow my take on the plane or in the car suggestions.  I’m adding to this list string cheese: it’s not just for kids but tastes so good and salty and proteiny during the travel day.  And if I have a particularly long travel day I often pack hard boiled, shelled eggs, cut in half, to keep me happy and to avoid the need to buy one of those less-than-optimal plane “snack boxes.”

Let me know if I am missing something travel-wise or food-wise that you find necessary or just plain fun!

 

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Smoked Salmon Chowduh

Click here to view recipe.

Sumptuous Smoked Salmon Chowder

This August, I made a “pilgrimage” to Los Angeles to visit various relatives and to see Paul McCartney in concert at Dodger stadium. I flew from Seattle and my younger sister flew from the East Coast; as soon as we met at the airport we were off – and we proceeded to walk, talk, eat, visit and survive on five hours or less sleep per night.

My other sister Susan reluctantly opted out as she was involved with the Sustainable Seafood Chowder Taste Off, benefitting the Seymour Marine Discovery Center in her home town of Santa Cruz. She sent a note about the event and one recipe in particular – smoked salmon chowder. Susan wrote, “This was an item auctioned off at our online auction. Three board members made chowder (one a professional chef and restaurant owner), other board members provided appetizers, salad, dessert and wines throughout the evening.” As a board member and cook extraordinaire, she was one of the three contestants and cooked batches of smoked salmon chowder totalling 60 servings. I was her consultant … the one who she asked, “how much do I need?” and “Can I make it the day before?” I have become a resource for my family when it comes to feeding a crowd.

I phoned after the contest, which took place in a private coastal California home on the evening of a super moon. She reported that there was a 3-way tie! Anyway, I started to get a hankering for what sounded like a super chowder and she sent on her recipe.

She changed the original Fine Cooking recipe quite a bit and I went even further, swapping out her fennel addition with celery root and frozen roasted corn with fresh corn from my local farmer’s market. Last night, when my daughter and boys arrived from Colorado, we ate my version of the chowder with a giant salad, fresh fruit and seeded crackers. My group gave this chowder high rankings and there was barely a spoonful of it remaining.

So here is my version of her version of the original version. You’ll like this if you enjoy smoked salmon and want a chowder without shellfish.

Chowder Cooking Away

Chowder Cooking Away

Smoked Salmon Chowder

(Serves 4 hefty eaters)

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Ingredients:
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup sliced leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced and rinsed well.  My leeks were huge and I only needed one.
  • ½ cup peeled celery root, diced ¼ inch
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cup whole milk
  • 2 cup mushroom broth (or vegetable broth is you can’t find mushroom)
  • Red potatoes peeled and cut into small dice (about 2-1/2 cups): I used two potatoes
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • ¾ cup fresh corn kernels, cut off the cob
  • 8-10 oz. hot-smoked salmon (as opposed to lox), skin off, visible bones removed  and flaked into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped celery leaves to garnish (from the inside of a bunch of celery)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 10 grinds of white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp liquid smoke
Instructions

Melt the butter in a 4 qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, corn and celery root and cook, stirring until tender, about six minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for one minute.

Slowly whisk in the milk and mushroom broth, bring to a simmer. Once it is thickened, add the potatoes and bay leaf, simmer gently until potatoes are tender, about 12 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Add the salmon, cream, chopped celery leaves, lemon juice, and cook until heated through, about one minute. I actually took it off the heat and just let it sit for five minutes. If you like a thinner chowder, add more mushroom broth or milk. Season with salt and pepper, liquid smoke and taste again.

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