All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2017

Thursday, November 30, 2017

moving troubles, and happy December!

Boy, it's been a while!  Apologies, and just as frustrating for me as it is for you.  

The 3rd move in two and a half years has been wonderful in some ways (I have a full size electric stove!) but huge troubles with Photo and iphone pictures which refuse to transfer from Photos to Blogger with my new Internet provider, and I think something called pix may have complicated things even more.  The neighbor I had hoped would fix it is away, so I wait and wait and this post will probably naked of pictures.  (Amazing - Stuart Little showed up on a old, random photo file!)

But I've been happily baking again - a birthday cake for my neighbor today, and one a week ago for my daughter in law, both lemon cakes with the cream cheese frosting from the carrot cake everyone likes so much - those were hard to give away!  

A few rounds of Spice cookies, especially nice when the weather turns chilly.  Today and yesterday was sweater weather, can you believe it?  Lots of soups - leek and potato, Tuscan tomato, and my favorite Spinach soup. Omelets oozing with brie, melons with a splash of lemon or lime, all good.

And now unpacking the Christmas ornaments - Stuart Little in his canoe was the first out of the box!  I thought I'd lost him in the last move, but there he was -  Happy December!  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

golden beet salad with zucchini and cider dressing

Oh, how I love golden beets !  I like them much more than red beets - the flavor is sweet (but not too sweet), and has an earthy mineral flavor, at least to my tastebuds.  

Since I also had bought a slim medium sized zucchini at the market, the two came together in my thinking as a nice little individual salad or side, with an apple cider and olive oil dressing, then sprinkled with fresh sage and Italian parsley - perfect autumn pairings!

As it was coming together in my mind, I also remembered that both vegetables should be very briefly cooked, which really brings out the flavor, so I set a saucepan of water simmering on the stove, while I grated the beets and sliced the zucchini almost paper thin.  A very quick dip into the simmering water, then quickly into a sieve to drain.  The dressing was equally quick and true to the season:  apple cider (or apple cider vinegar), olive oil, and fresh sage from the garden.

The recipe :

a saucepan of simmering water

1 medium golden beet per person, peeled and grated
1 small, slim zucchini per person, sliced thinly on a mandoline (watch your fingers!)

Very briefly place sliced zucchini in boiling water - I counted to ten and then removed the zucchini with a slotted spoon to a small bowl.

Quickly place the shredded beets in the simmering water, count to ten, and scoop out to cool and drain.

Arrange zucchini slices and beets on individual plates, drizzle a teaspoon or two of dressing over, sprinkle with the sage and parsley and serve.

The dressing:

Equal parts apple cider and olive oil
kosher salt to taste
ground pepper
slivered fresh sage
chopped Italian parsley, optional

You can serve this warm or at room temperature.

The geese have been honking and flying overhead for the last few weeks, I always wave to them and wish them a good journey:)  The wild turkeys are back, walking up and down the city sidewalks, which never fails to make me laugh - quite a change from the wild country turkeys in New Hampshire!  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

pastry cream pudding

Well, THAT was exhausting!  Between using both my iphone and my camera (and figuring out how to edit the pictures) and puzzling over the change to edit and insert the photos, many, many days have flown by.  I'm not complaining over having to make (and eat) these delicious, creamy puddings, no indeed!  As I'm not really a chocolate lover, I usually prefer lemon or vanilla flavors - and puddings are right at the top when I want a sweet dessert.  My sister always called them "nursery food" - and I wonder which of my parents and stepparents made them for us.

The recipe comes from The Silver Palate cookbook, which must be their first one, and it's intended to be used in a flaky puff pastry tart.  Who needs puff pastry when you can just dive into this creamy, nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon "pudding"?

Sweet Pastry Cream pudding

You will need one large heavy saucepan, and one medium saucepan for this - and one large stainless steel mixing bowl.

Add water about halfway up the medium saucepan and heat til almost boiling, then set aside.

2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons King Arthur unbleached flour
2 extra large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  I grated a tiny bit of whole nutmeg right into the bowl.

Scald the milk in a heavy saucepan (do not boil).
While milk is heating, whisk the sugar and flour in the large mixing bowl.
Add the hot milk slowly, whisking constantly.

Put the hot water back on a burner and set to a simmer.  Place stainless steel bowl on top of the simmering water, and stir or whisk for about ten minutes, or until the back of a spoon is lightly coated.  Then add the egg yolks and , using a whisk, stir until the mixture thickens even more - about ten minutes - until a spoon is thickly coated when dipped into the mixture.

Remove from heat, and add butter, vanilla, and spices and stir well.  Pour into small dessert dishes or pots and chill - though I admit, I eat it while it's still warm , often straight from the bowl.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Goodbye, summer!

Ah, summer was grand, and no sooner was I back from visiting my son and family near the ocean in New Hampshire,  it was off to visit some of the lakes in the Minneapolis area.

After days of rain in August, Lake Nokomis overflowed onto the broad swaths of brilliantly green grass - which attracted at least a hundred wild ducks, all shoveling up mud and weeds, worms and grass.

And a visit to the beautiful Lake Harriet on Frankie's birthday was simply stunning.  The water sparkled and rippled on a very mild September afternoon , and a charming regatta silently circled the center of the lake .  The grandkids leaped gleefully into the water .  

October has been wonderful walking weather, and my light fleece jacket has only finally come out of the closet in the last week - bliss!  Finally unpacked, I'm itching to get back to baking and cooking.  Moving always leaves me discombobulated for at least a month !

             I moved back to Minneapolis at the end of July - and I have a real kitchen!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

smashed avocado & fresh pea sandwiches

Eureka!  We have a post!  Not quite up to normal after iphoto disappeared suddenly, but I'll take it.  

There is a very good food writer  (Beth Dooley) in one of the Twin Cities newspapers ( the Star Tribune), and I've been delighted to find such delightful, fresh, recipes. This open faced sandwich was inspired by her post on Thursday, though her recipe involves vinaigrette, chevre, radishes, and olive oil, which mine does not.  I thought mashed avocado would be a perfect addition ( I'm on an avocado kick these days, so my fruit bowl still had three avocados, just ripe).

Bursting with fresh flavors, this made a wonderful lunch - the peas, though frozen, were quickly dipped in simmering water, until they were just about to pop, and the mashed avocado was silky and mild.  The fresh sugar snaps a crunchy delight, and I loved the breeze of slivered mint.  I think this is the first sandwich I ever made with peas, and it was wonderful.

To make:

2 slices rye bread
two tablespoons homemade boursin
1/2 an avocado, peeled and mashed
1/2 cup frozen peas, quickly cooked for a minute in simmering water and drained 
3/4 cup fresh sugar snap peas, washed and sliced in 1 inch pieces
several mint leaves, washed and sliced into slivers
1 tablespoon or so of fresh lemon juice over all
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
hot sauce if you wish

Spread the bread with the boursin.  Add the peas and sugar snaps gently, sprinkle with mint leaves, lemon juice, and salt and pepper and the optional hot sauce.  A few flakes of good parmesan would also be a treat.

Serves two.

I hope your summer is blossoming and full of joy !

Saturday, June 10, 2017


I've been on vacation visiting family on the New Hampshire seacoast .  First meeting with my 10 month old granddaughter and my grandson is almost two years older than when I last saw him.  Bliss, bliss, bliss.

A friend came to visit on a rainy day and whisked me off to a beautiful garden center that specializes in roses, (among many other varieties) - I took this video, if you want a breath of sea air!  

And sad to say, many things changed on my computer while I was away - no more iphoto means getting pictures onto the blog is very complicated, so I doubt I will be posting in the future.  Such a shame - I really enjoyed it.

Wishing you a happy summer!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

parmesan flans with tomatoes and basil

Last night I was looking through my old recipe notebooks - large black sketching books where I pasted recipes from Gourmet and other food magazines.  I put this in my notebook in July 2008 from Cooking Light, and always wanted to make it, and somehow never got to it until this morning.

The first batch was a flop - I oiled the ramekins, made the egg and parmesan mixture, poached gently, cooled - and tried to unmold them. Disaster, as the bottom stuck and the tops broke into pieces.  I wasn't giving up, so I whipped up a quick batch of quiche batter, oiled the ramekins again, and cooked in a hot water bath for 45 minutes.  This time it worked.  The flans are prone to breaking up, so use a small spatula to move them after you unmold them.

 Oil 3 or 4 ramekins with mild olive oil.  Set oven temperature to 340F.  Fill a pan halfway with hot water - it should be big enough for your ramekins to fit easily.

The egg-cheese mixture:

2 extra large eggs
1/2 cup medium cream
1/2 cup milk
a scraping of nutmeg
black pepper 
1 or 2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
3/4 cup good grated Parmesan cheese

Mix well and divide between your four ramekins.  Place in hot oven and bake for 35 minutes (they should be soft but firm).
Using a potholder or kitchen towel, remove ramekins from hot water to cool.

Make the tomato mixture:

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved, then quartered (more if you need)
3/4 cup peeled, diced cucumbers
two small yellow mini peppers, seeded and diced
salt and pepper
1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves

Run a knife around the flans and carefully unmold about an inch from your platter.
Space the flans a few inches apart, then sprinkle the tomato and cucumber mixture over each one, then top with the slivered basil.

These are pretty mild tasting, so feel free to jazz them up, if you want.

My thyme plant has been attacked by birds, with a tiny few inches left.  I was puzzled, until I found this article.

Enjoy this beautiful day!