All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

coffeecake muffins with cinnamon topping

10 degrees again, and the snowmelt has refrozen into slick ice as I try to shuffle my way to the car.  The calendar says it's almost April and time to start walking outside, but right now?  Ice skates would be more appropriate.

It's been a long, cold, snowy winter, and my frustration with the weather showed in too many tortilla chips, leading to tighter pants and sweaters.  The diet I started was going well, but yesterday I'd had enough.  Muffins for Sunday breakfast?  Absolutely!

Instead of those buttery lemon poppyseed muffins I usually make, I opted to make light-as-a-feather, spongy, lemony coffeecake muffins again with that crunchy, sugary topping.  I ate two, and hid the rest in the freezer for my next sugar craving.

Coffeecake Muffins

This makes 5 large Texas size muffins.

Preheat oven to 375F.
Grease your muffin tin or use parchment muffin liners.

First, make the topping in your mixer bowl:

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup King Arthur flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of kosher salt

Mix until you have a crumbly mix. If the sugar mix clumps, just chill briefly in the fridge and mix again briefly.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

In the same mixer bowl, mix the dry ingredients:

1 cup King Arthur all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of kosher salt
zest from half a lemon

Then add the wet ingredients:

3/4 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix until smooth, then, using a spring-loaded ice cream scoop, scoop one large scoop into each muffin cup, and sprinkle a heaping tablespoon (or more) of the topping on top.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until muffins are firm to the touch when gently pressed , then set on a cooling rack to cool.  When cool, use a dull knife to carefully remove from muffin tin.

Can you believe it's almost Easter?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Crunchy romaine salad with garlicky buttermilk, goat cheese and fresh dill dressing

I am trying - oh, am I trying!  I joined a dieting group in January, and making every effort to watch what I'm eating.  Today it was sleeting outside, sheets of ice and snow, and every inch of me wanted to slide over to making mashed potatoes, with lots of butter- after all, it's almost St. Patrick's Day, right?  But my commitment to my fellow sufferers held true, so I made this wonderful, fresh and crunchy salad instead.

The recipe is super simple - throw 11 ingredients in a blender, slice up some really fresh romaine, and there you go.

Here's how to make it:

1/2 clove peeled garlic, sliced 
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
4 tablespoons mayonnaise - I used Hellmann's olive oil mayo
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, stems removed
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons sliced scallions

Puree the above ingredients, pour into a small pitcher.

Scoop handfuls of sliced romaine lettuce into a big salad bowl, sprinkle with a little more goat cheese, then drizzle with the dressing.  I like to serve this with a nice hunk of rosemary bread or a roll, but this time held back, thinking of my fellow dieters.  But honestly, I wouldn't mind cheating today, thanks to Mother Nature's winter weather - yet again!

Monday, March 9, 2015

how Finnish fruit soup saved my winter

At last, at last - the sun is out and the snow is melting - not that we'd notice a few inches less in these drifts and snow corridors carved out from the house to the car, but that bone-chilling cold has lifted today all the way to 45 degrees.  I can't tell you the relief I felt when I suddenly thought winter is on the way out.  Now, I know we'll probably get a few more snowstorms - but the worst of winter, cross fingers, is over.

And I looked down at my almost daily bowl of Finnish Fruit soup and smiled.  Last night I made up a new pot of it, and thankfully wrote down the recipe, which has been slowly modified through this long winter: more spices (including those spicy green cardamom pods, which I split to flavor the fruits), lemon and orange peel, whole cinnamon sticks, a slice of fresh ginger root.

My fruit choices expanded to adding dried currants for the tang, and the usual pitted prunes and dried apricots and raisins.  Sometimes a few slices of fresh apples found their way into the pot as well.

I don't know why I abandoned the oatmeal with apples, but when winter moved in, in a serious way, I switched to fruit soup, using a recipe I got from a Finnish cook and baker on the Cape.  And every time I ate it , I noticed each spice, each fruit, in a different way - and in the process, forgot about the latest blizzard.

The recipe :

1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup dried apricots
2 tablespoons dried raisins
1 tablespoon dried currants
3 dried green cardamom pods, split 
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons thinly sliced lemon and orange peel
a thin slice of fresh ginger root

Add the above to a cooking pot and cover with cold water - just enough to cover.
Bring to a simmer, simmer for 6 minutes.
Turn off the heat and cover the pot for an hour before eating - by then, the spices and the fruits are well infused, and very delicious.  If you prefer a heavier, more syrupy juice, just simmer it a little longer - I prefer the lighter version.

Happy Monday!

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.