Monday, April 11, 2016

Wild Rice Salad

Last week was one of nasty weather around here.  Several days ran the gamut from rain to sleet to snow to hail to high winds to....!  The temperatures remained well above freezing so nothing gathered to deter being out and about--well, if one wanted to be out and about.  It was a good time to snuggle under a warm blanket in my reading chair and read.  So I did.  It was a good time to dress warmly and head out to have lunch with a friend.  So I did.  It was a good time to meet friends for dinner at Roxana's in Merrillville so we did.  Oh my, that dinner was delicious.  Roxana's is an Afghani restaurant that has been around for several years now.  Enticing aromas greeted us as soon as we stepped from the car.  Saturday they offer a buffet and we all opted for that opportunity so as to sample a number of dishes.  We were unanimous in declaring each dish a success.  If you haven't been, go!  We'll be going back.

Sunday, we awoke to rain pelting the windows.  It was the day for our neighborhood Soup and Salad extravaganza so I got started on a salad to share.  This recipe has been in my salad file for years and since I am truly trying to try all those clipped recipes, I decided to make this one.  I can tell you that it will be transferred to my permanent file.  Each bite brought a delicious pop of flavor and texture.  It paired well with the soups that were lined up in crockpots.  If my count is correct, there were seven soups.  While I wanted to try each one, I settled on a delicious melange of many beans with ham soup followed by a tasty sauerkraut soup.  The rain settled into an all-day affair but we were happily warmed by delicious food and the company of good friends.

The salad got very good reviews.  I hope you'll give it a try.

Wild Rice Salad

1 cup uncooked wild rice (not long grain and wild rice)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cup pecan pieces (toasted)
1 cup currants
Rind of one orange, grated
10 ounces of frozen petit peas, thawed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Rinse the rice is a strainer under cold water.  Combine the chicken stock and water in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat and simmer the rice, uncovered, for about 45 minutes.  It should not be too soft but rather have a "bite".  Drain and place in a large bowl.

2.  Combine the rice with the remaining ingredients except for the pecans.  Mix well and let stand, at room temperature, for two hours.  Stir in the pecans and serve.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Post Easter Musings

Once again we shared Easter with our dear friends.  The same loving group that started gathering over two decades ago to share holiday meals.  It has been a few years since there were baskets to fill and eggs to be hidden.  All of our children live in different parts of the country now.  We enjoyed talking about them around the table--catching up on what was going on in their lives.

This year, instead of driving twenty miles over hill and dale, we simply walked down the street.  It is still hard to believe that we are neighbors with one of the couples!!  Last Easter, The Baker and I hadn't given much thought to a move and, now, here we are!!

We sat down to a beautiful table.

The centerpiece, an elegant glass swan, was filled with
fresh blossoms in pink and white.

My first helping!

The recipe for the corn pudding/corn soufflé
came from a good friend to all of us.  We miss dear Judith 
and still enjoy her recipes (this one in her own hand).

The Easter bunny dropped off boxes of chocolate.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Happy Second Day of Spring!

The Baker, the bunny and I
hosted a spring brunch

It was sunny, bright and a bit on the cold side.
I think I'll wait a while longer before putting away winter clothing.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Irish Soda Bread

Very early this morning, the Chicago River was dyed kelly green.  This tradition has been going on since 1962.  This means that in my kitchen, the time has come to pull out a few Irish recipes to enjoy leading up to St. Patrick's Day.  My grandmother made soda bread year around.  As far as I know, she never wrote down the recipe.  I've tried many different recipes to duplicate her loaf and this one comes the closest.  She baked hers in two loaf pans.  I opt for the more traditional round loaf since it is a rather sticky batter that I feel would stick to loaf pans no matter how well greased.  Sliced and slathered with sweet butter and orange marmalade, it is an early spring treat.

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups flour, plus extra for raisins and candied orange peel
5 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
1 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup candied orange peel
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper

1.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Combine on low speed for 30 seconds.  Scatter the butter in and mix, on low speed, until the butter is crumbled into the flour.
2.  In another bowl, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg and orange zest together.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture for about 1 minute or until flour is incorporated.  Combine the raisins and candied orange peel with one tablespoon of flour and then mix into the dough.  The dough will be very wet and sticky.
3.  Liberally flour a wooden board and scrape the dough out onto the board.  Using well-floured hands (I used a dough scraper too), knead the dough a few times and form into a rough, round loaf.  Place the loaf onto the prepared sheet pan and cut an X into the top (not easy with the soft dough--I ended up cutting a rough X with kitchen scissors).  Bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  The loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
4.  Cool on a rack.  Delicious served warm or at room temperature.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Welcome Home Pumpkin Muffins

It has been many years since I used a cake mix.  To me, they all had an odd taste and I didn't care much for the texture.  I've heard they've greatly improved.  I'm still not tempted.  However, that doesn't include the Williams-Sonoma Spiced Pumpkin Quick Bread.  To be honest, I had passed this up as well until one day my friend Sheila came down for a visit and brought me the mix.  She declared it delicious!  Knowing her prowess in the kitchen, I had no doubt that it would be delicious.  It was and is.

This leads me to share with you my foiled plan to prepare a nice treat for our friends who were returning from vacation last week.  I knew they'd appreciate finding something for a late arrival treat  or for breakfast the next morning.  When gathering what was needed to make a coffee cake, I realized that both my baking powder and baking soda was out of date.  It was cold outside.  I wasn't in the mood to make a trip to the grocery store.  I spied the cheerful bag of quick bread mix in the pantry and decided it was my solution.  I followed the directions on the package for muffins.  I dressed them up with a half cup each of diced orange peel and diced dates.  Just before popping them into the oven, I sprinkled the tops with sparkling sugar.



Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hippity Hoppity Easter's On It's Way

It's a little over two weeks until spring.
Never one to rush the seasons, I realized how early Easter is this year.
I want time to enjoy the bunnies, 
fuzzy little chicks,
over-sized colorful eggs


I brought out the newest addition to our Easter menagerie.

I know, I know!
When packing up for our move last summer,
I said "no more decorative pieces".

It wasn't my fault that this adorable fellow
followed me home from a recent trip to

He's sitting on the dining room table 
waiting for me to fill his basket 
with fresh flowers
and bring out the rest of 
Easter to keep him company.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Roasted Duck (The "Emergency" Duck)

Some of you had quite a weekend!  Facebook and cell phone photos from family and friends showed an unbelievable snow situation in the eastern part of the country.  Folks strolling down the middle of Broadway in NYC.  One of you crawling out of a window to get to a place to shovel your way out of the front door.  Another showing snow two-thirds of the way up your bedroom window--the bedroom being on the second floor!!  I do hope all of you are safe today.

Here, where we have known major blizzards and record snowfalls, we had sunshine and warmer (high 20s) temperatures over the weekend.  I decided it was time to defrost the "emergency" duck in the freezer.  The one that had been tucked away since early November.  The recipe is quite simple and always delicious.  It served the two of us well (with a few bites for Oliver, of course) and enough left over for a warm duck salad later in the week.

Crisp Roasted Duck as inspired by Epicurious

1 (5-6 lb) duck
3 cups boiling water
1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1.  Position oven rack in the middle and preheat to 425 degrees
2.  Remove the giblets from the duck cavity.  Remove the excess fat from the cavity and around the neck.  Prick the skin all over with a fork.  Fold the neck skin under the body and place the duck, breast side up on the roasting rack in a deep roasting pan.  Slowly pour the boiling water over the duck.  Cool the duck (this takes only a few minutes).  Pour any water out of the cavity into the pan then dry the duck well, inside and out.  Rub inside and out with the salt and pepper.
3.  Roast duck, breast side up, 45 minutes.  Turn the duck over and roast 45 minutes more.  Turn duck again (breast side up), tilting the duck to drain any liquid from the cavity into the pan.  Continue to roast until the skin is brown and crisp, about another 45 minutes (total roasting time is about 2 to 2 1/4 hours).  Tilt duck to drain any more liquid from the cavity.  Transfer to a cutting board and let stand 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Apricot Sauce

1 Tbsp butter
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup apricot jam
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp brandy
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1.  In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the shallot for one minute.  Add garlic and saute one minute more.
2.  Stir in the apricot jam and chicken stock.  Heat, stirring frequently, for about five minutes.  When smooth, stir in the brandy and balsamic vinegar
3.  Spoon over the duck and serve.