Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

The weather was a perfect Autumn day, sun shining and a slight chill in the air. There was magick was in the air at our house too as I prepared the dishes for the evening Thanksgiving feast. Butternut Squash soup was a new addition this year based on a recipe from a co-worker with my own little tweaks of course. The sautéing of brussel sprouts with bacon and onion filled the kitchen as did the aroma of the cherry wood smoked turkey heating in the oven.
Through-out the day I kept reflecting on Thanksgivings past and present and thinking how excited I was to have my family all gathered together in one place. Our family is small but when we get together we can sure fill the entire house with love and laughter and that is just what we did. Taking time to be grateful for our loved ones, our homes and even the food on the table that takes much longer to prepare than it does to eat!


Easy Butternut Squash Soup

2 Tbl Butter
1 Onion, chopped fine
2 - 20 oz bags butternut squash (frozen)
5 cups chicken broth
½ tsp dried Thyme
Pinch nutmeg
1 cup fat free half and half
Salt & pepper

1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, broth, thyme, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, approx 10 minutes.
2. Puree the soup in batches if using a blender or food processor (let it cool first before doing this)
or use a hand blender right in the pot (I used my hand blender for this and worked great!)
3. Return the pureed soup to the pot. Stir in the cream. Bring to a brief simmer, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg or cracked pepper on top. Top with a few croutons if desired.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Chill in the air…



There is a chill in the air and it’s time to open up my collection of soup recipes once again. I love soup. Soup is one of those comforting meals that warms you from the inside out. It brings back fond childhood memories of chilly Autumn days, playing outside, kicking around the piles of dried crunchy brown and orange leaves or riding bicycles with the wind hitting your face. On those days my mom would make creamy tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. On the table there would still be evidence of Halloween candy collected the week before and we’d start to decorate the windows for Thanksgiving with Pilgrims, turkeys and Indian corn cardboard cut-outs. 

One of my favorite soups in recent years is Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice soup, a taste of Autumn in a bowl. Here is the recipe, I hope you enjoy it.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Ingredients
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 large carrot, shredded
• 1 celery rib, chopped
• 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 8 cups chicken broth
• 3 cups cooked wild rice (quick cooking wild rice works great)
• 1 1/2 cups cubed or shredded leftover cooked chicken or turkey
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon pepper
• 1 cup evaporated milk
• 1/4 cup minced chives 

Directions
In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms in butter until tender.
Stir in flour until well blended and cook for a minute to take out the flour taste.
Gradually add in the chicken broth. Stir in the rice, chicken, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes or until thickened.
Stir in milk and heat through.
Serve with a side of crusty sour-dough bread.
Serves 6-8 hearty appetites




Sunday, October 2, 2011

Welcome October!

Fall is officially here and so is the month of October. Apples and pumpkins everywhere, my favorite season. Friday a dear friend gave me two small loaves of bread from a restaurnt she frequents. I was thinking what I should do with them, there was already plenty of bread in the house. I could make bread crumb or croutons but that didn't interest me. So I decided to make bread pudding. A dessert my mother made while I was growing up and I have made from time to time over the years but it had been a while.

So here is official scoop on bread pudding...

"Food historians trace the history of bread pudding to the early 11th and 12th centuries, as frugal cooks looked for ways to use stale, leftover bread instead of letting it go to waste. While bread pudding is still a way to use up leftover bread, it has gained a reputation as a comfort food and is a featured dessert item in trendy establishments, having shed its humble roots...."



Bread Pudding

6-8 slices day-old bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Break bread into pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins.
3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.
Note - The dish I made yesterday (photo) was 1 1/2 times the recipe to use up all the bread she gave me. Doubling the recipe would have been too much.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Autumn is Here!

Welcome Autumn – Magickal Mabon 

I know I didn’t post all summer. I wanted to but somehow just couldn’t make the time and also had a bit of writer’s block, just didn’t have much to  say or share. Autumn is now here and I know as the cooler days come along I will be more inspired.
Mabon was magickal, by husband was blessed with finding a new job after over a year of being unemployed. It couldn’t have come at a better time.
Right now the days are somewhat cooler but very humid with on again off again rain just like a good part of the summer here on the east coast. I don’t handle muggy weather very well. So, I decided to kick off the season with a fall comfort food meal, Autumn Shepherd’s Pie. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Autumn Shepherd’s Pie

Meat Filling:
 2 lbs lean ground beef or ground turkey
 1 large onion finely chopped
 1 16 oz frozen mixed vegetables (peas, corn, carrots & grean beans)
 3 cloves garlic minced
 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
 1 cup beef broth
 1 15 oz can stewed tomatoes
 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
 2 tsp dried Italian Seasoning (Increase the amount if you are using chopped fresh herbs)
 1 tsp dried parsley  
Potato Topping:
 5-6 large potatoes (or sweet potato if you prefer) peeled and cut into chunks
 2 (or to taste) tablespoons butter
 1/4 - 1/2 cup whole milk or half and half (more if potatoes are too thick)
 1 egg, beaten
 1 tablespoon dried parsley
 Salt and pepper to taste
 1-1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (optional) 

In a large pot, boil the potatoes until tender. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Place beef in a large skillet. Cook, stirring until meat has browned and is cooked though.
Add the onions, and garlic. Continue cooking about 10 minutes or until onions have softened.
Stir in flour, beef broth, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and herbs. Simmer about 25- 30 minutes until thickened.
Drain the potatoes, mash then add butter, milk, beaten egg, parsley salt and pepper. Continue mashing until potatoes are creamy and smooth, add more milk as necessary. Set aside.
When the meat mixture is done cooking, transfer to an oven safe 9 x 13 baking dish or lasagna size pan. Spoon the mashed potatoes on top of the meat mixture and spread the potatoes so that no meat mixture is visible. Top with shredded cheddar cheese (as much as you like, this is optional).
Place in the oven and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hooray, Spring finally arrived!!


Spring has finally arrived after what seemed to be the longest winter ever. The snow started on December 26th and lasted all winter long. We never saw the ground again until the rain finally came and then still some more hints of snow but nothing unbearable. We aren't having too many Spring like days yet. Mother Nature is still teasing us with a warm day here and there and then more gray cloudy days and rain. But I was busy in the kitchen and busy with my needlework. So here is a peek of a few things and some recipes to share.



French Onion Soup



I can eat this soup any season of the year. Here is the recipe for the one I made.

French Onion Soup

4 large yellow or Vidalia onions, sliced

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon sugar

2 quarts beef broth

1/2 cup brandy (optional)

1 French baguette, sliced and toasted

Gruyere and Emmenthal cheese as desired

Instructions

Slice 4 large yellow onions, using a tight thin slice. In a large Dutch add enough olive oil to coat the pan and then add the onions. Cook over medium heat for 12 minutes, until they're tender and golden. Stir often.

Add the brandy if desired and let the alcohol burn off.

Add sugar and beef broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 12 minutes.

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl. Place a slice of baguette on top. Cover with shredded Gruyere and place slices of Emmenthal over that.

Place the bowls on a baking pan and broil until the cheese is melted.



Beef Pasties



These wonderful pocket sandwiches were so yummy on a cold night.

Beef Potpie Pasties

This is a great dish to use up left over vegetables or sliced cooked potato.

Ingredients:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 lb lean ground beef

• 2 tablespoons butter

• 1 4 oz can sliced mushrooms

• 1 small onion, finely chopped

• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped

• 1 tablespoon flour

• 1/2 cup beef stock

• 1/2 cup frozen peas or mixed vegetables like peas & carrots

• 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

• Salt and pepper

• 1 package (2 pieces) prepared piecrust

• 1 egg, lightly beaten

Serve this dish with a green salad.

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Transfer to a plate.

2. Add the butter to the skillet to melt, then add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the beef stock, peas and Worcestershire sauce. Return the meat to the pan and cook until the sauce thickens and the peas heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; remove from the heat. Cool the meat.

3. Unroll the piecrusts and halve them. Divide the cooled meat among the 4 piecrust pieces, placing a mound on 1 side of each piece and leaving a small border. Brush the edges of each piecrust piece with some of the egg. Fold the pastry over to enclose the filling, pressing down on the edges; crimp with a fork. Brush the tops of the dough with more of the egg and transfer the pies to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden-brown, about 10 minutes.



Irish Soda Bread



Finally found a recipe that is fantastic! Moist and delicious not dry and crumbly.

Wild Irish Rose’s Irish Soda Bread

•Prep Time: 20 mins

•Total Time: 1 1/4 hr

•Serves: 16, Yield: 1 9 inch bread

Ingredients

•3 1/2 cups flour

•1/2 cup sugar

•1/2 teaspoon baking soda

•2 teaspoons baking powder

•1 teaspoon salt

•1 pint sour cream

•2 eggs

•2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)

•3/4 cup raisins

Directions

1. Combine dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

2. In a small bowl beat eggs and stir in sour cream.

3. Add the egg and sour cream mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon.

4. Batter will be very thick.

5. Add the raisins and caraway seeds and stir well with wooden spoon or knead in with your hands.

6. Place batter in a greased 9 inch spring form pan.

7. Dust the top with enough flour so that you can pat the batter like a bread dough evenly in the pan without it sticking to your hands.

8. With a knife make a shallow crisscross on the top.

9. Bake for 50 minutes in a preheated 350ºF oven.



Needlework

A peek at my knit and crochet projects over the past season and into the next. Some completed and given as gifts and a few still in the works.

Lip Balm holders

Mug Rugs

Spa cloths - one knitted with scented soap for a gift the other in crochet

Afghan project – work in progress

Fingerless glove wrist warmers, no photo

Crochet Town & Country Capelet – nearly finished, photo when it's done.

Knitted Shawl - in progress, it may take a while because I only work on it during my lunch break at work.









I am getting started making some charity pet blankets for the Snuggles Project. I my be slow but I’ll get a few done this Spring. Thank you Ravelry for having this information. If you want more information here is the website.

The Snuggles Project
Have a great Spring and I hope to getting back to posting again. I’ve paired down a lot of things in my life as best I could and trying to make better use of my time. I’ve taken on major decluttering at home. When you have lived in a house for over 25 years you accumulate more than you realize. It’s really a great feeling once an area is cleaned and the excess gotten rid of. I have a long way to go but made great progress in many spaces of piles and stacks.