Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sick Leave

When you have this for breakfast, it is time to take sick leave!

Hot and Sour Soup
from Uncle Chen's Wok

I'm taking myself and my cold and laryngitis off-line for a few days!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pound Cake, Plain and Simple

What do you do when you wake up to find snow on the ground and snow coming down on the fourth day of spring?  First, in full disclosure, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and didn't even notice the weather until well after 8 a.m.!!  The weekend had been quite nice before turning a bit cooler Sunday afternoon.  I don't want to bore you with the weather so will tell you what I did to entertain myself while staying inside by the hearth.  I baked a cake.  A trusty standby that I always have the ingredients for on hand. It always brings sweet memories of my mother and grandmother.

As you can see, the cake turned out perfectly.  It is delicious!  However, my sisters and I always liked it to be a little "sad"--that slight difference in texture around the top.  My grandmother said this "undesirable" occurrence came about with too much activity around the oven.  Her admonition to "tread softly" in the kitchen only spurred us to jump around in front of the stove when she left the room.

Nanny never quite figured out why her pound cakes were almost always sad.  With The Baker and Oliver around, I could not bring myself to jump up and down on the kitchen floor while the cake was in the oven.  If you choose to do so, you will be rewarded with an interesting texture.  Even if you don't, I think you'll find the cake delicious.

For obvious reasons, I photographed the cake on snowflake-festooned tea towels!

Just Plain Pound Cake

1/2 pound butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp each of vanilla and almond extract
5 large eggs

Heat oven to 350F.  

1.  Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
2.  Sift the flour once and add to the butter/sugar mixture.  Stir on low just enough to blend.
3.  Add the vanilla and almond extract and stir well.  Add eggs, once at a time, mixing well after each addition.
4.  Spoon into a well-greased and floured bundt pan.
5.  Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.  Watch well because oven temperatures differ.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cabbage Soup (The Baker Makes Soup on Winter's Last Day)

It was bound to happen!  The Baker took over my soup pot this week.  This came about when he was rummaging around the crisper drawer for a lime to put on an avocado we were going to share for lunch.  There wasn't one.  There was about a third of a large cabbage and a handful of mushrooms.  I cannot tell you how often I've stressed that one does not have to be a slave to a recipe to prepare soup.  And, I've stressed that soup is better prepared the day before--at least.  He paid absolutely no attention and placed this delicious bowl before me at dinner!!

Today is the last day of winter!  

Cabbage Soup 

4 cups beef broth
8 oz beer
14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
Bay leaf
Small head of cabbage, shredded
2 medium-sized potatoes, unpeeled and diced
Mushrooms (about 8), sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, sliced
8 oz kielbasa sausage (beef or turkey) sliced
1/2 tsp dried thyme

1.  Bring the beef broth, beer, tomatoes and bay leaf to a boil in a large Dutch oven.
2.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and return to the boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and partially cover the pot.  Simmer until the potato and carrot are tender, about 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Reuben Puffs Redux

Four more days of winter!  I have not seen any shade of green on lawns, shrubs or trees.  No daffodil has raised it's pretty head.  However, the "wearing of the green" is full speed ahead.  Tomorrow, the city square and main streets leading south out of the city will be closed down for St. Patrick's Day celebrations--the parade being the "biggie".

Unless you are having a large family gathering, you'll have leftover corned beef.  In the hope that is true, here again is one of our favorite ways to use up those leftovers.

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!!

Reuben Puffs from a long-ago Chicago Tribune
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 medium onion, minced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsps Dijon mustard plus additional for spreading on the bread
2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and patted very dry on paper towels
4 egg whites
4 large slices of deli rye bread
8 ounces thinly sliced corned beef

1.  Heat broiler.  Combine cheese, onion, mayonnaise and mustard in a medium bowl.  Stir in sauerkraut and egg whites (do not beat the egg whites) until well combined.
2.  Spread mustard on one side of bread.  Top each with 1/4 of the corned beef and top that with the cheese mixture spreading evenly over the corned beef to the edge of the bread.
3.  Broil about 10 inches from the heat until puffy and browned.  This will take 5 to 6 minutes.  Watch closely.


Friday, March 13, 2015

Colcannon With A Twist

Every March, I ask myself why I don't make this delicious dish more often.  It pairs well with most any meat and shines as the starch on the table.  While it isn't completely traditional, I don't think your diners will mind one bit/bite when you serve it with corned beef or Irish steak.


2 pounds of russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 cups Brussels sprouts, cut in half,  steamed until al dente and then sliced
2 green onions, minced
6 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 cup of whole milk, hot
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Cover the potatoes with water, add salt and bring to a boil, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Check for doneness after about 15 minutes.  When done, drain most of the water away and mash.
2.  To the still hot potatoes, immediately add the minced green onions and stir in.  Add the butter and the hot milk and stir occasionally as the butter melts.
3.  Stir in the Brussels sprouts.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Still Life With Fruit

The day was sunny and bright!  Only nine more days until spring!  I prepared this platter of fruit and put it on the table to encourage nibbling all morning.

Blood oranges, kiwis and strawberries.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Irish Steak for St. Patrick's Day

My favorite part about a corned beef dinner for St. Patrick's Day is the sandwiches that come a day or so later.  With just two of us to enjoy the feast this year, there would be a lot of sandwiches in our future.  So, when I found out the Presbyterian church up near the city square would be serving corned beef dinners and corned beef sandwiches for dine in or to go, I added New York strip steaks to the grocery list.  I'll send The Baker up for sandwiches to enjoy the next day and hope that he doesn't get caught up in the parade preparations.  We'll celebrate the wearing of the green with the Irish steaks and then, if the weather cooperates, watch part of the parade as it passes our house on the way to the fairgrounds.

If you're looking for something other than corned beef and cabbage, I highly recommend this entrée which pairs well with the traditional colcannon.

Irish Steak inspired by a recipe in the Chicago Tribune

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 NY strip steaks
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large shallot, minced
4 ounces mushrooms (crimini, shitake or a mixture), sliced
1 tsp honey
1 tsp whole-grain mustard
2 Tbsp Irish whiskey 
3/4 cup beef stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

1.  Heat butter and oil together in a large skillet over medium high heat.
2.  Add the steaks and saute 3-4 minutes on each side for rare to medium rare (or to taste).
Transfer to a warm plate and cover.  Place in warm oven while finishing the dish.
3.  Add the garlic, shallot and mushrooms to the pan and saute 2-3 minutes.
4.  Stir in the honey and mustard and cook for another minute.
5.  Add the whiskey and stock, raise the heat and and cook until reduced in half, about 5 minutes.
6.  Lower the heat a bit and stir in the cream.  Simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and leave on low heat while preparing the steaks.
7.  Slice the steaks, on the diagonal, about 1/4 inch thick.  Add back to the sauce until just heated through.