Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ham, White Bean and Kale Soup




COMFORTING AND WARMING SOUPS have been the stars of our evenings. I actually dreamed this one. Do you dream about food? I do all the time. Sometimes my dreams are of a dish or recipe; other times, they are more obtuse.

Last night, I dreamed I was in a grocery store with our resident 5-year-old, searching for a package of cinnamon rolls. The dairy department was very under stocked and the shelves were garnished with kale, just like an old-time salad bar. I couldn't find any cinnamon rolls but eventually found  a tube hidden amongst some kale. When I picked it up, I saw someone had already opened it and eaten most of the raw dough.

Where did that come from? Perhaps from all the snow and blizzard scares? You know how people panic and rush to the store for bread and milk when dire weather is predicted.

A few nights ago, my dreams were more pleasant. I was peacefully stirring a big pot of soup, while standing in my sock feet. Next morning, over my cup of tea, I was thinking of this dream. As I recalled the details and ingredients, I knew this was a dream I would make true and we all loved it.






I made this soup with a ham steak but if you have some leftover ham, even better. I also soaked 1 1/2 cups of dried navy beans, overnight. Feel free to use canned navy, great northern, or cannelloni beans if you don't want to take that step.

Ham, White Bean, and Kale Soup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ham steak, cubed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups navy beans which have been soaked overnight
5 cups soup stock or water
4 cups chopped raw kale
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil. Saute the onion and ham until beginning to brown. Stir in garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the beans and soup stock. Bring to a boil; then reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if needed. (Mine took about 1 hour).

Stir in the kale and tomatoes and simmer for a few minutes longer. Add the parsley and salt and pepper to taste.





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cheesy Garlic Butter and Angel Biscuits




OUR RESIDENT FIVE-YEAR-OLD, loves helping me in the kitchen. She especially likes baking. Because she was out of school Monday, for Martin Luther King Day, I thought it would be a perfect day to make a batch of Angel Biscuits. We were having a Tomato Soup for dinner and I thought the biscuits would be delicious with it.

Especially with the Cheesy Garlic Butter we made. My blogging friend Melynda, from Our Sunday Cafe, recently posted a recipe which originated in a now closed but once popular restaurant in Portland, Oregon. I adapted the recipe to our tastes.

We have eaten all the biscuits, but we still have some of the cheesy garlic butter. Tonight, we will be having some on French Bread.






Cheesy Garlic Butter
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. (more to taste) cayenne pepper

Have cheese and butter at room temperature. Beat all ingredients with a mixer, beginning at low speed and increasing speed, until the mixture is light and fluffy.





Angel Biscuits
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 packet yeast, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup warm buttermilk

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add yeast mixture and buttermilk; stir to combine. Turn onto a floured surface and fold the dough over itself a few times until all is blended.

Roll out to 3/4 inch thickness, then cut into 2 1/2 inch biscuits. Place biscuits on a baking pan which has been spritzed with cooking spray. Cover and let rise for about 45 minutes.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until done.

Note: Some cooks skip the rising step and put the biscuits directly into the oven after placing them in the pan. My grandfather could have done it that way, I don't know. I do know from experience, if you let yeast dough have plenty of time to rest and rise, you will be richly rewarded.






Sunday, January 11, 2015

Stone Soup




WE HAVE BEEN EATING A LOT OF SOUP around here lately. It is warming against the frigid temperatures we are having.

We are hosting another family, including a 5-year-old, in our home while they are in a transitional period. Although we are happy to do it, it does put a strain on our physical space not to mention our food budget. Soups are an economical and nourishing way to feed a crowd.

I called this one Stone Soup after the folk tale in which some hungry travelers with an empty pot stopped in a village for the night. In the tale, the travelers filled the pot with water, dropped in a stone and set it over a fire. Soon a villager contributed some carrots to flavor the stone soup, then another contributed and so on until a delicious soup was enjoyed by all.

That is sort of the way this soup was built. We all contributed and helped make it based on what we could find in the kitchen, including some leftover black-eyed peas from our New Year dinner.





Stone Soup
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
2 (15 oz.) cans chopped tomatoes
3 cups homemade vegetable stock
1/2 head cabbage, sliced
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas
Salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste
Grated cheddar cheese

I started the soup by sauteing the onions, carrots, and celery in the olive oil, in a large soup pot. Then I added the potatoes. The next person came along and added the tomatoes and vegetable stock. Then the cabbage and peas were added. Pritchard Parker added the seasonings.

We let the soup simmer for a while, then topped with grated cheddar cheese, and served with cornbread. Soy sauce and hot sauce were available.

Delicious, healthful, warming, and satisfying.




Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gentle Lentil Soup





WHEN MY HUSBAND CAME INTO THE KITCHEN and saw my very old and well loved Moosewood Cookbook open on the table, he smiled. He told me that he had stood in the bookstore browsing endless cookbooks with the intention of buying me one for Christmas. He was not inspired by any of them. He thought them too showy, overly stylized, and unoriginal. Pretty, beautiful even, but not anything really useful.

Indeed, I have a few of those glossy cookbooks in my collection and after my initial enjoyment of reading/looking at them, they have sat unused, taking up space on my bookshelves. In fact, I have been thinking for a while of culling many of my books. If you are interested in any of them, let me know.





Meanwhile, I have turned to my favorite cookbooks over and over throughout the years. The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen is an unpretentious, old fashioned, classic and lovely vegetarian cookbook. Every recipe I have ever cooked (many, many) have been perfectly delicious. The book is printed on earthy paper, hand-letter and illustrated by the author--not a photograph in sight.

This lentil soup is not something you will zoom through the kitchen in less than 30 minutes to prepare. But if you really enjoy cooking, all the processes and aromas that go along with it, you will be rewarded with a surprisingly delicious, healthful, simple, and filling soup. Our resident 5-year-old gobbled it up!























Friday, December 19, 2014

Saltine Cracker Toffee Bark




SEVERAL YEARS AGO, A WOMAN AT MY OFFICE brought in a plate of these tasty treats to share. She called them "Mock Heath Bars". I loved them and was amazed when she told me how she made them. . .with saltine crackers.

Mention the words, Heath Bars, and I am transported to happy memories from childhood. My Mother and her best friend loved those things. So many summer afternoons were spent swimming at the lake with Mama and her friend with her two daughters. On the way home, we would stop by the country store for ice cream--fudgcycles, drumsticks, sherbert push-ups, little cups of ice cream eaten with a wooden spoons, eskimo pie, whatever we chose. Mama and her friend would get Heath ice cream bars and practically swoon while savoring them.

And isn't that part of what Christmas Baking is about? Recreating joyous memories while making new ones for the children?





Saltine Cracker Toffee Bark
35 saltine crackers (about 2 sleeves)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. (about 1 1/3 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a 15x10x1-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray.

Place crackers, salty side up, in prepared pan. In a saucepan, boil butter and sugar for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over crackers and bake for 4 - 6 minutes.

Remove from oven, and sprinkle chocolate chips all over the top. Spread evenly as chocolate begins to melt. Cool slightly and transfer to wax paper. Allow to cool completely before cutting or breaking into smaller pieces.