All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

carrot cake with cream cheese frosting - and birthday flowers

We are still overwhelmed with snow - lots of snow, hip high as I walk to my car, but just a few days ago I saw the first sign of spring!  The trees across the way are showing melting around their trunks, a sure sign that the sap is rising.  Hooray for Spring!  Even better?  Birthday flowers gracing the table in the kitchen:  tulips and sunflowers, and the potted pale pink geraniums - all of which bring so much joy, even though it was minus 18 degrees that morning.  And a beautiful gold chain strung with the birthstones of my children and grandchildren, sparkling in the morning sun, cherished forever.




When I got a phone call asking for a dessert for the Community Supper in town, I had to celebrate this tiny celebration of Spring with my tried and true Carrot Cake - always delicious , moist, tender, and with the most wonderful frosting ever.  Creamy, lemony. tangy, and a perfect combination of cake and creamy icing - definitely a winning combination.  I used a 9x12 inch pan, and marked off 2x2 inch squares, then piped on the frosting, but you can also do a simple little two layer cake if you wish.



For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease a 9x12 inch baking pan.

4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
2 cups King Arthur flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups packed, finely grated carrots

Beat eggs, add sugar, oil, and dry ingredients.  Add carrots and stir.  Scoop batter into prepared baking pan .
Bake about 45 minutes or until the top of the cake is somewhat firm to the touch.
Remove to cooling rack.  Run a knife around the edges of the cake, and cool another 15 minutes before flipping onto another cooling rack.  Wait fifteen minutes, then flip cake out onto another cooling rack.  Let cool completely before frosting the cake.

The frosting;

1 large package (8 ounces) of cream cheese
1 stick (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
juice of one lemon
one box confectioner's sugar

Beat the ingredients until smooth and creamy.

Smooth onto cooled cake, or pipe ribbons of frosting onto sliced squares of cooled cake.

Welcome, Spring, wherever you are!





Friday, February 20, 2015

butter-braised brussels sprouts with lemon and dill





A sunny, windy day , 9 degrees above zero.  A little interlude between snowstorms, though another 8 inches are in the future .  The path from the house to the car is hip high, and drifts lean against the windows and doors.  But it is the end of February, so the end is in sight, though mud season should be quite an adventure once it all melts!

Bustling in the kitchen while the roof is being shoveled - again - I rediscovered the brussels sprouts I bought several days ago, hiding behind the chicken and kale soup (which I am already tired of) and the bowl of roasted chicken stock (which should go immediately into the already full freezer).  Joy, oh joy!  Finally a vegetable I can get excited about again!  I also found half a plump cucumber, which I peeled, seeded, and cut into half moons.

The sprouts were trimmed and braised in butter and olive oil and finished with a quick squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh dill, salt and pepper and polished off for lunch.


Braised Brussels Sprouts with lemon and dill

2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1 cup peeled, seeded cucumber, sliced into half moons (about 1/2 cucumber) optional
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
kosher or sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
two squeezes of fresh lemon juice
1 heaping teaspoon chopped fresh dill


Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium-low heat.  Add the olive oil, then the brussels sprouts and cucumber.  Cook ten minutes, stirring often, until the sprouts begin to sear. 
Turn heat to low and add the water.  Cover the pot and cook until the sprouts and cucumber are just tender when poked with a fork - it took me about 15 minutes.
Add salt, pepper, dill, and a few squeezes of lemon before serving.

Now, back to looking at sunny summer photos in Maine on Sass & Veracity - bliss!




 


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Corn chowder with baby potatoes and dill




Yet another snowy day!  As I look out my office window I'm amazed at the sheer amount of snow on the rooftops of the house next door.  My roof had to be shoveled yesterday- it is an old, old house, and heat escapes everywhere, which leads to ice dams, which leads to huge leaks inside the house, which leads to crumbling ceilings.  Safe and sound and the snow is light and lovely but there really is an awful lot of it:)

Meanwhile, downstairs, I made a pot of chunky corn chowder perfect for a snow day:  chunks of baby potatoes, onions, and corn, finished off with cream and herbs. A pretty scene, and I relax with my bowl of soup, knowing the shoveling can come later, after the snow stops.


Chunky Corn Chowder with baby potatoes and dill

2 cups quartered baby potatoes
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
water to cover the potatoes and onions

Simmer the potatoes and onion until just tender.
Do not drain the water off.

Add :
2 cups frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock 
More water if necessary to just cover the vegetables

Simmer until the corn is tender, then add:

1 cup heavy cream.  DO NOT BOIL.  If you boil the cream, it will curdle.

Taste the soup and add more herbs or salt and pepper as desired.  This serves 4 .

Happy February!






Monday, February 9, 2015

Tender Turkey Meatballs and the big snow





Do you remember that children's book called "Katy and the Big Snow"?  Well, we are having that kind of winter.  The path from the front door to my car has walls of snow up to my hip;  it seems like every week we have two more snowstorms, though I'm grateful the snow is fluffy and not wet, which would set us up for the dreaded ice storm.  I don't mind shoveling, but this is getting ridiculous.

I was happy to come in to a wonderful lunch I made early morning  - turkey meatballs with herbs and Trader Joe's Harvest Grains mixture, which sadly is now all gone.  The meatballs are soft and tender, not especially photogenic, but oh so delicious - and I know kids love them!  Our Izzie and Frankie never got tired of them.  

You can make large meatballs or small - I like smallish ones a little smaller than the size of a ping pong ball - this recipe made about 20 meatballs.


Tender Turkey Meatballs with herbs

a one pound package of fresh ground turkey
Place ground turkey in a large bowl and set aside

Place in food processor bowl (or finely mince by hand):
1-2 tablespoons minced leek whites
1/2 piece of bread, torn up (I used Arnold bread, but you can use gluten-free bread)
1-2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
a few pinches of fresh rosemary from my kitchen rosemary plant
2 tablespoons chopped celery plus a few leaves

Pulse briefly and add herb mixture to the turkey.

Add to the turkey and herbs:

1 large egg
a tablespoon or two of mild salsa
kosher salt and pepper

Wash your hands and squeeze mixture together, or use a large spoon to mix very, very well.
Form the mixture into small meatballs.

Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil and a little butter into a large skillet and add the meatballs on medium heat for 10 minutes, then use a spoon to roll the meatballs over and cook another 5 minutes.  I always cut one open to make sure it isn't too pink, though they will continue to cook for a few minutes after you turn the heat off.

Serve with salad and rice, grains, or noodles.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Drop Buttermilk Scones with currants - and a fabulous caramel sauce





The snow just keeps coming here in New Hampshire.  Buckets and buckets, one foot of snow after another - and now I hear on the news, another foot expected.  What to do, what to do?  

As long as the power holds out, I am perfectly happy baking - cakes, breads - and these delicious scones.  I plump the currants with fresh orange juice for that zing of citrus, and fold them into a batter with butter, buttermilk, and orange zest.  

I use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop to form these - much easier than the original plopping of dough with a large tablespoon.

Preheat oven to 375F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment pater or foil.

6 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces
1/4 cup sifted King Arthur whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 T. sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup buttermilk
pinch of kosher salt

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup dried currants

Sparkling sugar for the tops of the scones, optional

Place flours, the tablespoon of sugar, and the cold butter in your mixer bowl and mix until butter is incorporated with the flour.  Add the baking powder, nutmeg, and orange zest and briefly mix.

Squeeze the 1 tablespoon of orange juice into a bowl, then add the currants.  Microwave for a minute, or warm in a little saucepan.  Set aside to plump for five minutes.

Add the buttermilk and the plumped currants and orange juice to the dry mixture and mix until the dough just comes together.  It should not be a dry dough - so add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, if you think it's too dry.  Do not overly beat the dough.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter onto baking sheet.  This should make 8 scones.

Sprinkle the tops of the scones with sparkling sugar, if desired.  Bake 25 to 28 minutes, or until they are slightly golden.  Remove scones to cooling rack, then serve.

I came across a small batch recipe for the most wonderful caramel sauce, which takes all of 15 minutes.  I am in heaven!  You can find it here.

Happy February!




The path to the birdfeeder gets deeper and deeper........

Friday, January 30, 2015

baby spinach with blistered tomatoes





The wind is howling over this snowy landscape - it sounds like a freight train as the wind swoops and tickles the corners of the hill beside my house, and my neighbor's house.  I am missing the farmer's market in the summer , so full of life and good vegetables, good people - and warm sunshine.

Above all, I miss the summer tomatoes, bursting with color and flavor.  I look at the plastic box of tiny tomatoes and wonder what to do.

Then this - gently seared with a hint of basil, mild olive oil and a little sweet butter, tossed with a package of baby spinach.  It isn't July or August, but it's a hint of what's to come.

To make:

1 cup baby grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon mild olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup water (or more, if needed)
4 cups packed baby spinach, washed (no need to dry)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Warm the olive oil and butter on medium heat.
Add the tomatoes and sear for 5 minutes.

Add the water, spinach, basil, salt, and pepper and cook uncovered on medium high heat until the liquid evaporates.

Serve with a smile and memories of summer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January snow and quick mushroom soup





Yesterday we had the most beautiful snowstorm all day, a foot of light, fluffy snow easy to shovel - but so much!  Had it been heavier snow, we might have lost power, but the lights stayed on, and the heat hummed and all was well.

Instead of hot chocolate or more coffee, I made one of my favorite winter soups - quick, earthy, and warming mushroom soup with thyme.  It's a soup I never tire of in the winter and it couldn't be easier to make.


Quick Mushroom Soup

This is for just one cup, but it is easily multiplied.  You can also make this vegetarian by using vegetable stock, but I prefer the chicken stock.

1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon thyme (I love thyme!)
1 cup hot chicken stock
1 tablespoon or so of sliced scallion greens
freshly ground pepper or a dash of hot sauce

Saute the mushrooms in the butter until golden and toasty.  Add the hot stock, the thyme, the scallions, and the pepper and stir.

Remove from heat and scrape into a blender and puree on high.
Pour into a cup and stir in a dash of hot sauce.  Enjoy !