December 29, 2011

Olives + Mozz

1 cup Castelvetrano olives
3/4 lb mozzarella balls
2 tablespoons juice from the olives
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley

Toss all ingredients together. Serve at room temperature.

My thoughts:
This is a super easy yet tasty appetizer for NYE or whenever. Castelvetrano olives (under the name of Verdi) are available at Costco now and are seriously addictive. They might have big pits but the flavor of the olives make up for it. They are buttery and the perfect accompaniment for creamy mozzarella.

December 27, 2011

Winter Vegetable Beef Stew

group #1
1 1/2 lb beef top round or sirloin, cubed
1 large onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut into coins
2 parsnips, cut into coins
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 3/4 cups cubed golden acorn squash
1 cayenne pepper, minced

group #2
12 oz beer (I used this)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 (loose) tablespoon whole rosemary leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

group #3
1 1/14 cup frozen peas

Saute the ingredients from group #1 in a bit of canola oil until the vegetables are softened and the meat is lightly browned. Add to a 4 quart slow cooker. If the meat and vegetables gave off a lot of liquid and it isn't too oily, I add a little less than 1/4 cup of it into the slow cooker. Add the ingredients from group #2. Stir. Cover and cook for 7-8 hours. Stir in the ingredients from group #3. Cover and cook for an additional 1/2 hr. Stir and serve.

My thoughts:
I liked this stew a lot because while the beef added flavor and texture, it really wasn't a super meaty stew, it was mostly vegetables. Plus it is super easy to make, I did all of the prep the night before and just had to brown the meat in the morning.

December 21, 2011


1/4 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup Swedish light syrup or molasses
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon roasted ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups flour


In a small pot, melt the butter and the syrup together. Allow to cool. Pour into a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate 5 hours or up to overnight. Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with silipats or parchment paper. Roll out the dough onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Bake for 8 minutes or until brown and crisp. Cool on a wire rack.

My thoughts:
My interest in all things Swedish continues with these cookies. When we went to the St. Lucia festival they served these and as part of the performance, the children carried mock pig-shaped pepparkakor, danced and sang a song. I then knew I had to make them! Similar to gingerbread, these crisp cookies are very spicy and fragrant.

December 19, 2011

Oyster Wild Rice Casserole

16 oz shucked oysters, drained, liquor reserved
2 slices cooked thick cut bacon, crumbed
1/4 cup butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
1 cayenne pepper, minced
2 tablespoons flour
12 oz evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup defrosted frozen spinach (squeezed dried and packed tightly)
pinch nutmeg
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup bread crumbs


Grease a  1 1/2 quart casserole. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Saute the shallot and peppers until fragrant. Add the oysters and saute for 5 minutes. Melt the remaining butter in a small pot. Whisk in the flour. Add the evaporated milk and a few tablespoons of the oyster liquor. Whisk until the milk is near boiling and the mixture thickens. Stir in the cheese. After the cheese melts, stir in the bacon, rice, spices and spinach. Stir in the oyster/pepper mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Broil or bake at 350 until bubbly and browned.

Tips: Cook the bacon and make the rice the night before. While I like using evaporated milk because it is very creamy but low in fat, regular milk could be substituted.

My thoughts:
I don't have much of a casserole background. We just didn't eat them (save mac and cheese if that counts) growing up. However, I occasionally hear of one that intrigues me. I came across a mention of oyster casserole and it sounded good but 1. seemed too plain (mostly just oysters, sauce and cracker crumbs) or 2. included cream of whatever soup which I've never had and sounds slightly gross. So I thought I'd make one I'd enjoy. Adding the wild rice and extra veg turn it from a side dish to a main dish that can be a meal on its own.

December 14, 2011

Cranberry-Cranberry Bread

2 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup halved fresh cranberries
3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon roasted Saigon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour one large loaf pan. Beat together the eggs and sugar. Add the vanilla, butter and milk and stir. Slowly stir in the baking powder, salt, spices and flour. Mix until just combined. Fold in both types of cranberries and pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then invert and continue to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My thoughts:
It has been ages since I've made a quick bread or at least it seems that way. This summer so was hot then this fall seems to be going by in the wink of an eye. Happily, my return to the quick bread was a successful one. I was a little worried when I saw how much it peaked over the top of the pan but not a drop escaped and I think the height made it even prettier when sliced. I brought this to a family dinner and everyone raved about it. The contrast between the fresh and dried cherries is more pronounced then one might think, the fresh are tarter but the dried have a deeper, more concentrated flavor.

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December 12, 2011

Grapefruit Lemongrass Jam

8 cups supremed grapefruits segments (I used Duncan)
5 cups sugar
1/2 box liquid pectin (3 oz., one of the little packets in the box)
3 stalks lemongrass (thick bottom parts only)

Prep jars/lids for canning. Add the grapefruit segments and lemongrass into a large, heavy bottomed pan. Add the sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring carefully to avoid splashing, break up the segments, occasionally. Boil until it begins to reduce and thicken. Stir in the pectin. Continue cooking at a low (rolling) boil for 10 minutes or until it looks jammy. Fish out the lemongrass. Fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 6-7 8-oz jars.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
Grapefruit is not one of my favorite fruits. I mean, I like it but I find it a bit too much to eat regularly. But I can't resist buy fruit when they are in season, especially during the winter when nothing local is in season. So I bought a couple of truly huge bags of grapefruit, ate some and then boiled some up with lemongrass to create this sunshine-y jam. I like making jam with citrus fruits even though it is more unusual than jam made with berries and of course, citrus fruit is most often turned into marmalade. It is easier than marmalade (no pith removal/slicing the peel) but still has that strong citrus flavor. Plus I love having peels to toss in my compost bin during the winter, it really seems to help things along.

Anyway! This jam is the perfect match of sweet and tart and the lemongrass provides this lovely floral note that just pushes it to the next level. Perfect on scones or pretty much anything. It would make a wonderful holiday or hostess gift.

December 07, 2011

Chicken Farro Soup


group #1
2 medium turnips, diced
2 carrots, cut into coins
2 parsnips, cut into coins
2 stalks celery (with greens), diced
2 cups pearl onions
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon (dried) Valencia orange peel
2 bay leaves
freshly ground pepper

group #2
3 cups diced, cooked chicken breast
1 cup farro
4 cups chicken stock
.25 oz porcini mushrooms, re-hydrated in 1 cup water, liquid reserved.

Place the ingredients from group #1 in a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook for 6-8 hrs on low.

About 40 minutes before you would like to serve the soup, add the chicken, re-hydrated mushrooms (chop the mushrooms if needed) and the mushroom liquid.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups stock and farro to boil in medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Drain or add the liquid leftover to the soup. Stir the farro into the soup. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I think what I like the most about soup is that it is a great way to use up a bunch of ingredients without a lot of effort. I always end up with small amounts of ingredients from other recipe creations and I hate throwing them out but some times there just isn't enough of them make much of anything. Luckily with most soups, you don't need too much of any one ingredient to make a delicious soup.

I roasted a chicken yesterday and ended up with a ton of leftover meat. I also had a lot of odds and ends of vegetables that I figured I could use up. I also wanted to try the new Valencia orange peel I bought (McCormick).

I have a big bag of farro leftover from when I was writing my most recent cookbook that I thought might be a good addition to the soup. I'd never had farro in soup before but I like farro so it was worth a shot. Luckily it worked well! It had a lovely chewy texture and while it made the soup more filling that I think it would have been otherwise, it didn't make the soup seem "heavy".

Note: I made this in the slow cooker but you could make it on the stove top, just saute the vegetables until softened then add the chicken, stock and cooked farro. It is just slightly easier to make in the slow cooker and makes your house smell great all day.

December 05, 2011

Satsumas in Ginger-Mandarin Syrup

15 Satsuma mandarin oranges, peeled and sectioned*
6 cups water
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons ginger juice
peels from 3 mandarins

Prep your jars and lids. Evenly divide the segments between the jars. I found that each jar could hold 3 mandarins’ worth of segments. Bring the sugar, ginger juice, peel and water to a rolling boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Discard the peel. Ladle into cans, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 5 pints

*Remove any large bits of pith. My oranges were virtually pithless.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
This was a fast, fun recipe to make. I had a huge bag of Satsuma (the really small, flatish mandarins) that I just wasn't getting through quickly enough. I was trying to think of a recipe that would use a bunch when I remembered those little tins of mandarins I'd seen at the store. I've actually never had the store bought variety before (they always looked too sweet with all of that heavy syrup) but I was intrigued. I made a light syrup and added some of the nearly pithless peels and some fresh ginger juice for extra zing. The result is so good! The best part is that the membranes surrounding the slices is so thin, you don't have to supreme them prior to canning, it is super tender and soft. Plus satsumas are seedless and have a thin, loose, easy-to-peel skin so I was able to peel and section all 15 in just a few minutes.

Just imagine how great it will be to eat citrus when it is out of season?

December 02, 2011

Ärtsoppa (Swedish Yellow Pea Soup)

16 oz whole or split yellow peas*
1 onion, chopped
4 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
6 cups ham or chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon marjoram
white pepper
sea salt
grainy hot mustard

Place the peas, stock, onion and spices/herbs. in a 4 quart slow cooker. Cook on low 10-12 hrs or on high 6-8. Stir in the bacon. Cook for 15-30 additional minutes. Serve in bowls with a dollop of (Swedish) hot mustard ready for dipping or swirling.

*Whole yellow peas is more traditional but more difficult to locate. If you use split peas the soup will taste the same but be a bit thicker.

My thoughts:
I've been reading a lot about Swedish food lately and the pea soup that seems to be nationally consumed on Thursdays called to me. It has been unseasonably warm (and I am not complaining, this time last year we went to the Caribbean for two weeks to escape the cold) but it is slowly returning to the normal temperature for this time of year making it time for soup. Traditionally, I think the soup is made with salt pork but I made do with thick, thick chunks of bacon instead. It is easier to find and I think just as (or more) tasty.