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Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

A note to all my subscribers,
I truly apologize for any confusion about my last posted recipe.  I prepared Irish Soda bread as a morning snack for a women’s retreat at my church last weekend.  So many ladies asked me for the recipe, I decided it would be best to post it to my website…but since Irish Soda bread is one of the recipes I teach in my Soda Bread and Scones class, I felt it would not be fair to those who have paid for the class (and the related recipes) if I merely posted the recipe on my website for the public.  Thus, the only way I could share the recipe with the ladies who attended the retreat was to “password protect” the recipe for two days.  This would allow them to access the recipe for the bread they ate at the retreat…without offering a “class specific recipe” to the public.  I thought that  a “password protected” recipe would not be posted publicly…but it was and thus, became very confusing to my wonderful subscribers.  Perhaps there was a better way to share the recipe to a limited audience…but with my “limited technical skills”, this was the only way I knew.  I have received many questions about the unusual posting of the Soda Bread recipe, so I have decided that the best way to address the confusion is to re-post the recipe to my blog, making it available to all.
Once again, I apologize for the confusion…and hope you enjoy the Irish Soda Bread.
Irish Soda Bread
adapted from Bread, ©2014, Publications International, Ltd., p.134
Ingredients
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
4 teaspoons (1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ – 1  teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
1 cup currants
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 ½ – 2 cups buttermilk
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet or a line a 9 x 12 inch baking pan with parchment paper.
Combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, caraway seeds (if desired) and currants.  Using a pastry blender or two knives cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the buttermilk to the mixture and use a spatula or wooded spoon to blend ingredients into a slightly sticky dough.  Transfer the dough to the your choice of pan and use a spatula to shape the dough.  If using a parchment-covered flat baking sheet, the dough can be shaped into a 10 – 12 inch round; in the rectangular baking pan, spread the dough evenly, reaching all corners of the pan.
Bake the soda bread 50 – 60 minutes or until golden brown and crust is firm.  Cool on the baking sheet or pan for 10 minutes.  Use the parchment paper to lift the bread from the pan and place the bread on a cutting board to slice.  Transfer any remaining bread to a wire rack to cool completely.
Servings:  In the rounded form, the soda bread can be cut into 12 – 15 pie-shaped servings.  When baked in the rectangular pan, the bread can be cut into approximately 18 – 20 servings.
Note:  Warm soda bread cuts best with a “light hand” using a sharp, serrated knife in a gentle, sawing motion.  Cooled soda bread can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.  Reheat the bread by wrapping a serving in waxed paper and pacing in microwave for approximately 10 – 15 seconds.

Monday, February 27th, 2017

Last summer, my husband and I became pilgrims along the Camino, hiking the trail from Baiona, Spain, near the Portuguese border, northward to reach the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  After attending a service in the Cathedral to give thanks for the safe completion of our 75-mile hike, we joined fellow pilgrims in a nearby restaurant for a celebratory lunch.  Even though we were quite full after a wonderful meal of baked fish and fresh vegetables, we noticed a unique cake that seemed to be popular among others in the dining room, and asked what it was.  Upon learning that the cake was a Santiago Torte, it seemed only appropriate to end our time in this historic city with cake that shared its name.  The distinct flavor and texture of the Santiago Torte were captivating and became a “food memory” of our time in Spain.
Back at home, I began my search for a recipe for Santiago Torte.  An internet search yielded several variations with a variety of different ingredients…one used 2 types of citrus, another only oranges, one used 6 eggs, another only 4…but the absence of flour was the one common factor in all the recipes.  The main ingredient of each recipe was finely ground almonds.  After meticulously reading approximately 10 recipes, I selected two and because there were distinctive differences in not only the ingredients but also the in the techniques for mixing the cakes, I decided to make both of the cakes on the same afternoon…the only way to fairly compare flavors and textures.
The reviews of the two tortes were somewhat varied.  We preferred the texture of the cake made by folding the beaten egg whites into the remaining ingredients, but the flavor of the cake made with the zest of one orange was judged to be better than the cake made with two types of citrus.  One aspect shared by both recipes was the level of “sweetness”.  It seemed to me that the flavor of each cake was somewhat masked due to the amount of sugar used in the recipes.
In an effort to create a Santiago Torte that reflected the best parts of each recipe, I made the Torte several times, each time changing one aspect of the recipe, taking notes about flavor and texture.  The one consistent factor was with each Torte, I slightly decreased the amount of sugar used in a previous attempt, until I reached an amount that maintained the needed proportion of dry ingredients to liquids, but complimented the flavor instead of masking the citrus with “sweetness”.  Two weeks ago, I incorporated all my changes into one last “try-this” attempt.  I took the Torte as my contribution to a dinner at a friend’s house.  After a wonderful meal, I placed a slice of the cake in front of my friend, asking her to try let one more attempt. Then, I watched her face…and waited.  Her smile said it all…the recipe was finally complete!
As you enjoy my version of Torte de Santiago, please share your thoughts and possible suggestions for further revisions.  I look forward to reading your comments.

  Santiago Torte, A Spanish Almond Cake

serves 12

 

Ingredients
2 cups (250 grams) blanched, slivered almonds
¾ cup caster or superfine sugar, divided use
finely grated zest of 1 orange
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract (Vanilla paste contains flecks of ground vanilla beans and is thicker, with a slightly richer flavor than vanilla extract.  It is available at larger grocery stores.)
5 eggs, separated
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Whipped cream for serving, if desired

 

Directions
Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.  Coat an 8-inch springform pan with cooking spray and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
Place almonds and 2 tablespoons of the ¾ cup of caster sugar in the bowl of a food processor.  (The caster sugar will prevent the almonds from “clumping” as they are ground)
Grind the almonds until they reach the consistency of fine corn meal.
Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and use an electric mixer on high speed to blend into a smooth, creamy mixture.  With the mixer on medium speed, beat in the orange zest, cardamom, cinnamon, and vanilla paste.  Add the ground almonds and combine all ingredients with mixer on low speed. (Mixture will be very thick.)
Place egg whites in medium bowl.  Using the whisk beaters of the mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Add the beaten egg whites to the almond mixture and use a large spatula to blend.  (Do not use the mixer to blend the egg whites with the almond mixture.  Due to the thickness of the almond mixture, it will be necessary to use the spatula to cut through the mixture several times to completely incorporate the egg whites.)
Pour the cake batter into the prepared springform pan.  Bake in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes or until the cake is golden and firm to the touch.  (The center should be slightly set and not as dark in color as the remainder of the cake.)
Allow cake to cool in the pan on wire rack.  As the cake cools, it will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  At this point, loosen the sides of the pan and remove to allow the cake to continue cooling.  (The cake will remain on the bottom of the spring form pan.)
Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with confectioner’s sugar.
Note:  If you wish to truly make this like the cake served in Santiago, Spain, make a stencil by cutting the image of a St. James cross from paper.  Place the stencil in the center of the cake and then dust with confectioner’s sugar.  Remove the stencil, dust off the sugar and place in a plastic bag to use again.

Monday, January 30th, 2017

When I was a child, I hated beets.  Beets were deep red circles that came from a can and they were always pickled, which in my child-like mind meant that they smelled “funny”, so I certainly did not want to eat them.  Then one day in my adult life, I ordered a salad with roasted vegetables.  I was eating my salad and talking with friends at my table when suddenly, I tasted something I didn’t immediately recognize.  Parting the lettuce with my fork, I was shocked to realize that there were beets in my salad and even more surprised to admit that these beets actually tasted good!  A few “waiter-questions” later, it was revealed that these beets were roasted, not pickled…and thus began my new relationship with beets.
In this recipe, slices of red and golden beets were combined with slices of fennel in a marinade of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and za’atar, a spice blend available in most grocery stores.  After roasting in the oven, they were placed in the bowl of a food processor with blood orange infused extra virgin olive oil and cranberry-pear infused white balsamic vinegar, which are available at specialty oil and vinegar stores.  A few quick pulses of the food processor yielded a texture that was coarsely chopped, but not pureed, giving the spread more body and versatility in its use.  Be sure to read the serving suggestions at the end of the recipe.
Who knows?  This spread might actually be a healthy option you could serve as a snack at a Super Bowl party!

 Roasted Fennel-Beet Spread

 Ingredients
1 large red beet, washed and peeled
1 large golden beet, washed and peeled
1 fennel bulb, green fronds removed
Marinade:
2 Tablespoons extra virgin oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Za’atar seasoning
To make the spread:
2 Tablespoons blood orange infused extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons cranberry-pear infused white balsamic vinegar
Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the beets into ¼ inch slices.  Trim the bottom and remove the outer layer of the fennel bulb.  Slice the fennel bulb into ¼ inch pieces.
Make the marinade by blending the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, coarse ground black pepper and Za’atar seasoning in a large bowl.  Add the sliced fennel and beets and use a spatula to turn the slices to cover with the marinade.
Arrange the beets and fennel slices in a single layer on the parchment-covered baking sheet.  Roast the vegetables in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the slices can be easily pierced with a fork.
Place roasted vegetables in bowl of food processor.  With motor running add blood orange infused olive oil and cranberry-pear infused balsamic vinegar, pulsing until the vegetable mixture is chopped into small pieces, but not pureed.
Transfer mixture into a small bowl if serving immediately.  If you plan to serve the spread later, transfer the mixture into a storage container and allow it to cool before covering the container and placing in the refrigerator.  The spread can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Serving suggestions:
1)  combine with plain hummus and used as a spread on bread for sandwiches or wraps
2)  add 2 to 3 Tablespoons, per serving, to a salad, such as the Almond, Farro and Black Bean Salad and stir to
blend
3)  use it as a topping over goat cheese on your favorite crackers

 

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Each of us have dishes we consider to be “comfort food”.  When I know I need to prepare foods ahead of time for an upcoming event, I assemble ingredients to make a big pot of soup for family meals and a large container of Almond, Farro and Black Bean Salad… just for me.  I first saw the original recipe in our local newspaper about a year ago and was intrigued when I read it but knew that some changes were needed to make it workable for me.  My first modification was to omit the use of the juice and zest of a large lemon which would have made the salad far too acidic for me.  Instead, I used 2 tablespoons of Serrano honey vinegar to add a bit of “tang” to the dressing without as much acidity.  Instead of draining the cooked farro, I added the small amount of remaining liquid to prevent the salad from becoming too dry.  Another change was in the amount of farro in the salad. The original recipe only called for 1/3 cup of farro, but I felt that increasing the amount of farro would make the salad more filling, while also adding additional protein.  I first made the recipe with 1/2 cup farro, but found that 1 cup of farro expands the salad’s body and texture.  My final revision was in the addition of small amounts of vadouvan, cumin and za’atar.  These savory spices join with the vinegar and oil to lend a unique flavor not achieved by merely using salt and pepper.  I strongly encourage you to add them to your spice collection and promise that once you experience their aroma and flavor, these spices will begin to appear in many of your existing recipes!
I hope you will enjoy this salad, and please share your ingredient variations with me.  Bon appetite!
Almond, Farro and Black Bean Salad
(adapted from a recipe developed by the California Almond Board)
makes 8 servings

Ingredients
2 ounces slivered almonds
1 cup farro, rinsed and drained, and prepared according to package directions
(Gluten-free grains such as brown rice, millet or buckwheat can be substituted for the farro.
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen, shelled edamame or Lima beans, thawed
⅓ cup diced red onion or 2 to 3 tablespoons dried chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2  tablespoons Serrano Honey vinegar
2 teaspoons coarse-grain Dijon mustard
½  teaspoon vadouvan
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon za’atar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped (from approximately 25 stems of cilantro) Can substitute an equal amount of fresh parsley.

Directions
Put the slivered almonds in a medium sauce pan and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, approximately 3 – 4 minutes, stirring often.  Remove almonds from pan to cool.

Using the now empty sauce pan, add the amount of water specified on the package for the farro or other grain being used.  Bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Stir in the farro or chosen grain, cover, and reduce heat to allow the grain to simmer until most of the water is absorbed, approximately 15 to 18 minutes for farro.  (It should be noted that at this point, the original recipe recommended draining the cooked farro to remove excess liquid.  I have found that this makes the left-over salad somewhat dry after being refrigerated.  I prefer including the small amount of remaining cooking liquid to the other ingredients along with the farro.)

While the farro is cooking, blend the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, vadouvan, cumin, za’atar, sea salt and crushed red pepper in a medium bowl.  Add the toasted almonds, drained black beans, thawed edamame, onion and garlic.  Then, add the cooked farro and combine with the other ingredients.  Stir in the chopped cilantro and toss gently to blend all ingredients with the dressing.
This salad can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold.  I often eat it as a main dish by pairing it with 2 – 3 tablespoons of my favorite hummus and freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.
DSC01576

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

It’s not often that I  get a newly created recipe “right” the first time I make it.  As I described in a previous post, new recipes are usually created…tweaked..and tried by my family several times before the product of my efforts is deemed “worthy of sharing”.  Not so this time, as my combination of pantry staples and ingredients on hand, paired with just the right amount of cumin and ancho chili powder produced a hearty chicken chili on my first attempt.  However, I discovered that the most important step in achieving the richness of flavor was the willingness to wait for the blend of ingredients to “mature” before eating the soup.  You see, when I tasted the chili after its allotted “simmer time”, it was good…but I felt it needed just a “little something extra”.  Luckily, a little voice inside my head encouraged me to let the soup cool, refrigerate it overnight, and taste it again after reheating to determine if adjustments were needed.  What a difference a day made!  After a 24-hour “nap”, the blended flavors transitioned from “good” to “just right”.  When I asked for my husband’s opinion, he smiled and said, “You got it right and I wouldn’t change a thing!”
From my kitchen to yours….enjoy!

 

Got-it-Right Chicken Chili

makes 6 servings
(prepare a day in advance of serving to greatly enhance flavor)
Ingredients
6 ounces Italian style chicken sausage (approximately 2 links), casings removed
1 tablespoon + 1 ½ teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
1 medium onion (approximately 6 ounces) peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
small, fresh jalapeno (approximately ⅝ ounces) washed and dried with membranes and seeds removed and then coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups shoe-peg corn, thawed and drained
15.5 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
15.5 ounce can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
5 cups no salt added chicken cooking stock, divided use
¾ pound herb-roasted chicken breast, coarsely chopped to make approximately 2 cups
1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground ancho chili powder
1 cup cilantro leaves (from approximately 46 stems of cilantro) washed, drained and coarsely chopped
Manchego cheese for garnish
 
Directions
Break the sausage into pieces and brown in 1 ½ teaspoons of olive oil in a large stock pot. Remove browned sausage and wrap in paper towels to drain.  Leave remaining drippings in pan.
Add additional 1 tablespoon olive oil to drippings in pan.  Sauté the chopped onion, garlic and jalapeno until the onion is translucent, but not browned.  Add the corn, cannellini beans and Great Northern beans and stir to blend with the onion mixture.  Coarsely chop the browned sausage and add to the sautéed vegetables.  Stir in 2 cups of chicken cooking stock.  Sauté until cooking liquid is reduced by half.
Stir in the coarsely chopped chicken breast.  Gradually add the remaining chicken cooking stock until desired consistency is achieved. Add the Worcestershire sauce, cumin and chili powder, stirring to blend with other ingredients.  Sprinkle the chopped cilantro over the chili mixture and then stir gently to incorporate the cilantro throughout the chili.
Cover the stock pot and allow the chili to simmer approximately 20 minutes.  Remove the stock pot from heat and allow the chili to cool to room temperature in the covered pot.  Transfer the chili to a covered storage container and refrigerate the chili over night before reheating to serve.
Serve warm, topped with 1 – 2 tablespoons of grated Manchego cheese per bowl as a garnish.
Note:  Please observe that salt is not listed as an ingredient to be added to this recipe.  The sodium contained in the sausage and the canned beans is sufficient.  Do not add additional salt.

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

One of my favorite “Thanksgiving food memories” is my mother’s fresh cranberry sauce.  As a child, I was allowed to stir the berries as they bubbled on the stove and readily accepted the challenge of pressing the berries against the side of the pan until they popped.  It was so hard to wait until this ruby-hued mixture cooled and thickened prior to our big meal and my mother quickly learned not to place the cranberry sauce too close to my seat or there would be little left for others at the table!
As the years passed, my mother’s cranberry sauce was the one constant at our meal and even when we began to embrace the convenience of roasted turkey prepared in advance, the cranberry sauce was always made in Mama’s kitchen.  Finally, the time came when maintaining the house became too much for my mom and she made plans to move to an apartment in a graduated-care community located in a neighboring town. There would be one more family Thanksgiving dinner in Mom’s small kitchen, and I felt an urgency to learn the special technique that made her cranberry sauce so special.  “Please tell me how you make this”,  I asked my mom while reaching for a piece of paper, “And I will write down your recipe”.  With a chuckle, Mom picked up the plastic bag that had most recently held the fresh cranberries.  “The recipe is on the back of the bag”, she said.  “It’s the one I have always used.” And so it was…the cranberry sauce recipe that I had thought was a “family secret” was described in 3 ingredients on the back of every bag of cranberries.  But to me and my family, it will always be “Mama’s cranberry sauce”.
Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Mama’s Easy Cranberry Sauce

 

Ingredients
12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
1 cup of sugar
1 cup water

 

Directions
Place cranberries in a colander. Carefully look through the cranberries and discard those that are discolored or shriveled. Rinse thoroughly and drain.
Pour the rinsed cranberries in a large sauce pan. Sprinkle the sugar over the cranberries, and then use a wooden spoon to mix the sugar with the cranberries. Pour the water over the cranberry/sugar mixture. Bring cranberries and water to a boil and then reduce the heat to allow a gentle boil. When you hear the berries begin to “pop”, use the wooden spoon to stir the cranberry mixture frequently, pressing the berries against the wall of the saucepan to help them pop, as this releases the juice from the cranberries and helps the sauce to begin to thicken.
When all berries have “popped”, remove the cranberry mixture from the stove and allow it to cool in the pan, uncovered.  The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
Transfer the cranberry sauce to a serving bowl.  (I prefer a glass bowl to display the beauty of the cranberries suspended in the sauce)  The sauce can be served at room temperature, or made a day ahead and refrigerated to serve later.
Serving variations…
1) Of course, there’s the traditional method of pairing cranberry sauce with slices of turkey. (Sometimes, I suspect there’s more cranberry sauce than turkey on my plate)
2) Cranberry sauce makes a great spread to add to turkey sandwiches. (Yes, it might be a bit messy, but it’s oh, so good)
3) And my favorite variation…spoon cranberry sauce over a serving of vanilla ice cream. (Try it…I guarantee it will become one of your favorite quick desserts)

 

 

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

Most of my recipes are created based on “what-if ideas”, when I experiment with new herbs or spices…or modifications to “old standards” to improve quality and flavor by introducing new ingredients that allow me to reduce previous levels of sugar or salt.  But my greatest inspiration arises when friends or family face situations that require dietary changes. Often, I listen as they describe the many foods they have been told to avoid and the few foods they used to enjoy that must now be prepared in a more “subdued” (as in bland) manner.  My “what-if” thoughts go into hyper-drive and I find myself alternating between the pantry and the spice cabinet, imagining combinations and experimenting with amounts until I am ready for my very brave family to try my latest dish.  Out comes a pencil with a fresh eraser to scribble lists of ingredients and sequential descriptions of preparations in a small notebook that always resides on my kitchen counter…because I don’t trust my memory with exact amounts of ingredients.
Only after a new recipe has been made and “family-tried” several times, do I consider it ready to share with a friend.
Such was the case with this split pea and red lentil soup.  A dear friend needed protein, but had difficulty digesting meat.  After reading the nutrition facts on several pantry items, I discovered that split peas and lentils “pack a lot of protein-power”, and are easily digestible.  Problem is, when properly cooked, these two items can become “mushy” and have little specific flavor.  With a bit of experimentation, I found that adding chopped celery, carrots and a small bit of chopped onion, not only improved the flavor, but  the texture also began to seem more like “real food”, as well.  After addressing these two basic food characteristics, “spice cabinet exploration” was my next adventure.  Extending beyond the salt and pepper, I added not-so-common spices like cumin, nutmeg and vadouvan and a small bit of coconut palm sugar because of its low glycemic index.  Adding chopped parsley or cilantro and chopped, fresh spinach as the last step in my “soup creation”, added color and greatly enhanced the nutritional value of the soup.
The day came when I decided the soup was ready to be eaten by someone outside my house.  I divided the soup into two containers so my friend could enjoy some for dinner and freeze the remaining portion for later.  I delivered the soup to my friend, but she was not readily available, so I left the containers on the kitchen counter with a note.  Later I learned that by the time my friend saw the soup, she was so hungry that she grabbed some crackers, opened one container, and began to scoop the thick, cool soup onto her crackers for a quick, “don’t-bother-to-heat-it-up” snack.  When she called to tell me that she ate all the soup in one day…and described her discovery that the mixture was not only good for soup, but also made a wonderful dip or spread for crackers or chips, I could only laugh…and compliment her creativity!  Thus was born “Lynette’s Presto Change-o Soup or Spread”.  Enjoy!

 

Split Pea and Red Lentil Soup
(also known as Lynette’s Presto Change-o Soup or Spread)
Ingredients
¾ cup dried split green peas
¾ cup dried red lentils
4 ½ cups vegetable cooking stock
¼ of medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (or omit butter and use 2 tablespoons olive oil)
1 stalk celery, washed and dried
3 medium carrots, washed, dried and peeled
(optional) 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, washed and dried, seeds and membrane removed (I recommend the wearing of gloves when working with jalapeno peppers to avoid skin irritation)
½ to 1 cup cooking stock
½ to ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided use
¼ coarse ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
1 teaspoon organic coconut palm sugar
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon vadouvan
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 cups water or cooking stock, as needed, to achieve desired consistency
1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (obtained from the leaves of approximately 10 – 12 stems cilantro or parsley, washed and drained)
6 ounces fresh spinach, de-stemmed, washed, drained, and wrapped in kitchen towel to remove excess moisture and then coarsely chopped

Directions

1) Add the split peas and lentils to 4 ½ cups cooking stock in a large stock pot or Dutch oven.  Bring this mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer, covered, for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the cooking liquid has not evaporated.
2) While this mixture is simmering, finely chop the onion, celery, carrots and jalapeno pepper, if desired.  Melt  1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet. Blend in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the chopped onion to the oil/butter mixture and sauté until the onions are translucent, but not browned.  Stir the chopped celery, carrots and jalapeno pepper into the onions.  Slowly blend in ½ cup cooking stock to allow the chopped vegetables to simmer with the onions, adding the remaining ½ cup cooking stock as needed.  Add ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground cumin, dried oregano, coconut palm sugar, nutmeg, and vadouvan, stirring to blend with the vegetables.
3) Add the cooked vegetables to the split pea/lentil mixture.  Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and 1 cup water or cooking stock.  Additional water or stock can be added in ¼ cup increments, as needed, to achieve desired consistency.
4) Stir in chopped cilantro or parsley and chopped, fresh spinach.  Add ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt, stirring to blend.  Simmer mixture for 10 to 15 minutes.  Taste to determine the need for ¼ teaspoon additional salt (and additional 1/8  to 1/4 teaspoon black pepper if jalapeno pepper is not used). Remove covered pan from heat to allow flavors to “mature”.
Note:  The flavor of this soup improves when made at least one day in advance. It can also be prepared early in the day, allowed to rest, and then served for dinner.
Now for the magic…my friend discovered that the consistency of this soup thickens considerably as the soup cools to room temperature.  When paired with corn chip or crackers, the room-temperature soup “shows its stuff” to become a quite flavorful dip or spread…hence, Lynette’s presto change-o soup or spread!

Monday, August 15th, 2016

Yes, I realize the temperature outside is 90 degrees…and yes, this is a recipe for warm, creamy soup…but I started this day thinking I was going to have a root canal procedure that would dictate soft food to accommodate a swollen mouth.  As I sat in the endodontist’s office, awaiting my turn in “the chair”, I kept thinking about soup…but didn’t want to simply open a can for readily available soup.  Knowing that a partially numb face makes eating difficult, I estimated that I would have plenty of time to create something special by the time my “numbed mouth” was ready to eat.  Then, after studying an x-ray of my tooth, the endodontist smiled and informed me that I did not need the root canal procedure after all.  I left the office with a smile on my face, and a craving for a really good bowl of soup…despite the warm weather!

Arriving home, an inventory of ingredients yielded red potatoes, a medium-sized onion, an ear of fresh corn,  fresh herbs from my garden and a bit of heavy cream in the ‘frig.  Creating the recipe as I cooked, exciting discoveries emerged with each step of the preparation process.  I decided to add small amounts of salt and pepper at each stage instead of waiting until the final blending of ingredients.  After boiling the potatoes, I allowed time for the potatoes to “rest” in the pan.  As the potatoes sat in their “cooking water”, the potato skins began to separate from the potato, making it easy to “skin” some of the potatoes while leaving a few of the skins to add bits of color and texture to the soup.  Another discovery was the thick, fragrant liquid that remained when the potatoes were removed from the pot, and something told me to wait a few minutes before pouring it out…just in case it could be used in the soup.  I soon found a use for the “potato water” by adding it to the potato-herb mixture as it was pureed in the blender.  Mixed with the potatoes, herbs and sautéed onions and corn, the water brought a smoothness to the mixture that allowed me to use less cream to achieve the richness of flavor I desired.  The resulting soup is healthy, with reduced fat and no gluten…but please don’t let that stop you from enjoying the flavor, because it’s really, really good!

 

Creamy Potato-Corn Soup


Ingredients
½ of a small onion (approximately 2 ounces), finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
kernels from one ear of fresh corn
 teaspoon fine sea salt
⅛ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1  tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

1 pound small red potatoes, washed, drained and cut into ½ inch slices
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
enough water to cover the potatoes in the pot (I estimate the amount needed to be approximately 1 ½ cups water to provide 1 ¼ cups of “potato water” remaining after potatoes are boiled)

5 fresh sage leaves, washed, dried and finely chopped (1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage)
leaves from 3 sprigs of fresh tarragon, washed, dried and finely chopped  (½ teaspoon dried tarragon)
leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, washed, dried and finely chopped (1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves)          DSC01599

¼ cup heavy cream

Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)

 

Directions
1) Heat the butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven.  Add the diced onion and garlic and the kernels of corn to the melted butter/oil mixture.  Sprinkle ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt and ⅛ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper over the onion/corn mixture. Sauté until onions are soft and corn is slightly browned.  Spoon the sautéed mixture into a bowl and set aside.  Leave the residue from the cooked onions in the Dutch oven.
2) Put the sliced potatoes in the Dutch oven.  Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt and ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper.  Add enough water to the pan to cover the sliced potatoes, approximately 1 ½ cups.  Bring the potatoes and water to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to simmer the potatoes.  Cook the potatoes until they can be pierced easily with a fork.  Turn off the heat under the pan and allow the potatoes and cooking water to remain in the pan, covered, to “rest” approximately 10 – 15 minutes.  After the “resting period”, remove the lid and discard the loosened potato skins from the cooking liquid.
3) To puree the mixture, use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes from the cooking liquid, reserving the liquid in the pan.  Put the potatoes in the bottom of a blender.  Next, sprinkle the chopped sage, tarragon and thyme over the cooked potatoes in the blender.  Top the soup ingredients with the sautéed vegetable mixture.  Pour ½ cup of the potato cooking liquid over the ingredients in the blender. Place the top on the blender and puree the mixture for approximately 30 seconds until smooth.  Remove the plug cap from the blender lid and with the blender on the puree setting, gradually pour the remaining potato cooking liquid in a thin stream into the potato soup mixture.
4) Taste the soup mixture to determine if additional salt is needed.  With the blender on the puree setting, add the heavy cream and pulse briefly until blended.
5) Pour the soup from blender into soup bowls. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.  Serve immediately.  Makes 3 to 4 meal-sized servings.

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Sunday, August 7th, 2016

The recent warm, humid weather has prompted me to spend more time indoors…and more time indoors has resulted in the creation of new recipes and new sewing projects… and all this creativity has inspired new classes for my teaching studio.  For “Foodies”, there are two new cooking classes to whet your appetite,  yielding more than 10 different classes, all designed to sharpen your culinary skills.  In the area of sewing, the existing Sewing III class has been expanded.  Now, instead of teaching you to create only one type of skirt, the expanded class offers you the opportunity to choose your skirt type.  For example, do you want an elastic waist or a one with a zipper…a straight skirt or flared…knit fabric or woven?

To read about these changes, click on the class information tabs at the top of this webpage.  If you want to explore new skills, contact me at makethisyoursnc@gmail.com for further information or to schedule a class.

Friday, July 29th, 2016

    Recently, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Spain with a group from our church to hike a portion of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrim walking route.  Our pilgrimage extended from Baiona, near the Portuguese border, to Santiago de Compostelo, a hiking distance of approximately 75 miles, or a little more than 100 kilometers, which we hiked in 5 1/2 days.
    In preparing for the pilgrimage, I knew that a good breakfast would almost be as important as the right hiking shoes…but I also knew that often, an inn’s continental breakfast would likely consist of pastries and coffee, which would not provide the energy needed for our journey on foot.  I made the decision to carry my own muesli for a more substantial breakfast during the pilgrimage, but recognized that the bulk of six servings of muesli would add weight to the backpack I carried each day.  To put my muesli on a “weight-reduction-plan”, I took out the steel-cut oats and some of the seeds, but left in the nuts and the sunflower and pumpkin seeds for the protein they provided.  Even though fruit was often not available at the inns along the pilgrimage, I found warm milk that was usually used for coffee and small servings of yogurt, which combined with my muesli, gave me a “happy tummy” start to the day…and looks of envy from my fellow pilgrims!
Buen Camino!

Murray’s Muesli – Travel Version

Ingredients
4 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
1 cup dried, unsweetened coconut (sold in bulk as coconut chips)
¼ cup flax seed (flax seed…not ground as meal)
¼ cup unsalted sunflower seeds
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
¼ cup sliced almonds, coarsely broken
¼ cup walnuts, coarsely broken
¼ cup pecans, coarsely broken
¾ cup raisins
5 organic, pitted dates, chopped (I use Medjool dates)
5 organic dried plums, chopped (otherwise known as prunes)
¼ cup toasted wheat germ or oat bran (I sprinkle wheat germ over the dates and dried plums on a cutting board before chopping.  This reduces the tendency for the dates and dried plums to stick together as they are being chopped. Oat bran can be used instead of wheat germ to make the recipe gluten free.)
Add all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon or your hands until blended. Store the muesli in an airtight container.
This combination of ingredients makes approximately 13 one-half cup servings.
To Serve
Place ingredients in cereal or soup bowl in the following order:
  1. ½ cup Murray’s Muesli
  2. 3 heaping spoonfuls of yogurt (approximately ¼ cup)
    I use plain, 2% Greek yogurt which I sweeten with 2 teaspoons of organic honey per 17.6 ounce container, but feel free to use your favorite yogurt.
  3. ½ – cup chopped fruit
    I try to use a combination of whatever fruit is in season, and start with a firmer fruit, such as apples and/or pears. Softer fruits such as peaches, plums, nectarines, bananas, blackberries, strawberries, kiwi and/or blueberries are all wonderful additions. I usually chop a large quantity of fruit in the food processor, and then store it in a container to use for several days so I do not have to cut up fruit each morning.  My favorite fall and winter combination is 2 Fuji apples, 2 Bosc pears, 1 kiwi and ¾ cup fresh or frozen blue berries or blackberries. In summer, when fresh peaches are available, I add 2 peaches to my fruit mixture but frozen peaches, softened, can be used when fresh peaches are not in season.  Dice the fruit into small pieces. Refrigerate the chopped fruit in an air-tight storage container.  This amount of fruit should provide enough for your muesli for at least a week.
  4. Kefir (or milk), as desired.
    I add approximately ⅓ cup of kefir (or milk), poured around the other ingredients at the edge of the bowl, leaving the yogurt in the center. Almond or coconut milk can also be used.
Alternate serving methods include:
(a) Add yogurt, fruit and kefir (or milk) to the dry muesli mixture in a bowl. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the muesli mixture overnight; or
(b) Blend ½ cup muesli with ½ cup warm milk.  Top with a small amount of yogurt and/or fruit, if desired.