All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

sweet potato lunch

Yesterday the day stretched out before me, with no appointments, no work, and the joy of a whole day to do anything I wanted. The rainy mist softened the bones of the lonely tree branches, devoid of leaves; a morning walk was quiet and fresh.
I came back from my walk to a sparkling kitchen ( which I had cleaned at 6 am), pulled out a squash and gorgeous sweet potato, and peeled them. Roast or saute? Ginger or rosemary? I decided on a slow, long saute. The kitchen was heady with the earthy sweet smells of sweet root vegetables, olive oil, rosemary and garlic. I picked up Thich Nhat Hanh's book of essays, and started reading one called "Transforming Our Compost". I read:
"Traditional (Buddhist) texts describe consciousness as a field, a plot of land where every kind of seed can be plants - seeds of suffering, happiness, joy, sorrow, fear, anger, and hope. Store consciousness is also described as a storehouse filled with all our seeds. When a seed manifests in our mind consciousness, it always returns to the storehouse stronger. The quality of our life depends on the quality of the seeds in our store consciousness.
We may be in the habit of manifesting seeds of anger, sorrow, and fear; seeds of joy, happiness and peace may not sprout up so much. To practice mindfulness means to recognize each seed and to practice watering the most wholesome seeds whenever possible.
During each moment that we are aware of something peaceful and beautiful, we water seeds of peace and beauty in us.....
The length of time we water a seed determines the strength of that seed. If we stand in front of a tree, breathe consciously and enjoy it for five minutes, seeds of happiness will be watered in us for five minutes, and those seeds will grow stronger. During the same five minutes other seeds, like fear and pain, will not be watered."

The cubes of squash and sweet potato were caramelized perfectly. I heaped them onto a plate and ate a lovely lunch, looking out at the mist, thinking about the squash from Abenaki Farm I was eating. Abenaki is run by couple with four children, and they grow the tastiest vegetables I've ever had. I thought of the long, rainy summer we had, and the family nurturing this squash and smiled. Joy. It does indeed chase away the fear and sorrow that sometimes threatens to ruin our day.
To make:
2 cups sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
2 cups winter squash, peeled and cut into chunks
olive oil
garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a skillet, add squash, garlic, and sweet potato. Cook on medium high for about five minutes, turning the cubes so they are browned and caramelized evenly. After five minutes, turn heat to low and cover skillet. Check skillet a few times to stir the cubes. When they're tender, sprinkle fresh rosemary on top, and serve.
Have a wonderful day - and don't forget to water your seeds.
Top photo featured in photograzing!

Monday, October 27, 2008

zuni stew with squash and chiles

I was browsing through my cookbooks looking for just the right recipe to use some of the lovely squashes and pumpkins I got from the farmer's market. As I pulled out the Betty Crocker's Southwest Cooking, a flood of memories came back. Was it the Cub Scouts or the fifth graders I taught? Whoever it was, we basically explored history through cooking. And I suspect it was my son's passion for all things chile ( and chili) that directed us to this recipe. The minute he saw the jalapenos on the list, he nudged the votes. I like this recipe because it uses those lovely squashes and the last of the zucchini and corn - in addition to the chiles.
This is a satisfying vegetable stew, Southwestern style, with the zing of hot peppers, but the sweetness of those colorful vegetables. You can serve this with a nice cornbread, or the naan I made a while ago, and set out bowls of sour cream, shredded cheese, and bottles of hot sauce, and serve with some grilled steak or chicken.
The recipe lacked the bold tastes I think of when I make chili, so I added in more herbs and spices. But for a book published in 1989, I was surprised by both the great color photos and the recipes - which both hold up just fine.
You will need:
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. vegetable oil or olive oil
1 red pepper, seeded, cut into 2" strips
2 medium fresh poblano chiles, seeded and cut into 2" strips
2 T. (+ or -) nacho sliced Jalapenos ( I used Casa Fiesta)
2 cups cubed, peeled winter squash like acorn or butternut
1 can chicken broth plus water if needed
salt and pepper
1 can or 1/1/2 cups cooked pinto beans
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 cup zucchini, yellow or green, in medium chunks or large dice
2 t. (or more) ground cumin
1 t. basil ( or more)
1 t. oregano
2 T. butter ( stirred in at the end) (optional)
In a large pot, drizzle oil in and add garlic and onions. Cook on medium high for five minutes, then add the red pepper, poblano, and jalapeno. Cook another 15 minutes.
Stir in the winter squash and chicken broth, salt and pepper, and cumin. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the squash has softened.
Stir in the corn and pinto beans and zucchini and cook another 10 minutes. Add the basil and oregano, and taste for salt, pepper, and the right degree of hotness. Stir in the unsalted butter just before serving.
Serve with shredded cheese and/or sour cream if desired.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween Doughnuts

Every time I make these doughnuts I think of my late mother-in-law, who I adored. This is her mother's recipe - who knows how far back the origins really are.
Why Halloween, you ask? I've always like the idea of traditions, and when she first gave me the recipe, it was close to Halloween. I was a young chef in Cambridge, before children, and I wanted to make an old fashioned treat for the trick or treaters, instead of the standard Mounds or Snickers bars. Great hit! I made doughnuts until 10 pm, as word of mouth spread ("there's a lady making real doughnuts on Upland Road"), when I shut off the outside light, firmly.
This is a nice cake doughnut, not too sweet, and I make them tiny - mainly because I don't have a fryer, using a heavy bottomed pot full of vegetable oil instead. I use a large shot glass to stamp out the circles, then a large pastry tip to cut out the center hole.
You will need:
a fryer or a heavy bottomed saucepan 3/4 filled with vegetable oil
a colander
brown paper bags or paper towels for sugaring
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t. mace
4 T. melted unsalted butter
1 cup buttermilk
4-5 cups King Arthur flour ( or more, for rolling)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
Cinnamon sugar or confectioners sugar for shaking on finished doughnuts
Mix the ingredients together. The dough is fairly sticky. Sprinkle flour on the counter surface and scoop out a handful of dough. Gently roll out, using more flour as needed if it's too sticky.
Using a shotglass, stamp out small circles of dough. Dip a plain circle pastry tip into flour and stamp out the center hole. Continue to roll dough and cut out doughnuts until dough is used up.
Heat oil to hot, then turn down. If you have the oil too hot, not only will your doughnuts burn, but it's a fire hazard, so be careful.
Drop doughnuts in hot oil - they should float to the surface quickly. Turn doughnuts when lightly browned and let cook a little more. Using a slotted spoon, scoop doughnuts into the colander to drain. Set the doughnuts on a brown paper bag and sprinkle with sugar.
Upper photo featured in TasteSpotting

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

garlicky lamb burgers with parsley

Oh, did I wake up hungry today! And fresh in my mind was a post I had read from Susan of Farmgirl Fare ( which you can read here : - describing a lamb burger she had made bursting with parsley, garlic, red pepper, and black pepper. On top she made a relish composed of olives, more parsley, and roasted red peppers.
All ideas of following her recipe flew to the winds - the market had no ground lamb, only a small piece of nearly fatfree lamb I would have to chop in the processor. And I only had a few olives - well, you understand. So wing it I did, and it was incredibly good, even if I didn't follow her recipe!
To make 2 burgers:
3/4 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup finely minced parsley, done in the food processor, along with
2 cloves garlic, and a few kalamata olives
fresh cracked pepper
several dashes of hot sauce or red pepper flakes
salt to taste
1 or 2 large pieces of jarred roasted red peppers
If you're chopping your own piece of lamb, do the garlic and parsley before you do the lamb.
Place parsley and garlic in food processor and pulse. Scrape into a bowl.
Cut lamb into small cubes ( if you don't have already ground) and pulse BRIEFLY until chopped.
Mix the lamb, garlic, parsley, and salt and peppers together. Pour some olive oil in a skillet and place burgers in the skillet, along with the pieces of red pepper.
Cook until done ( I like mine rare), serve burger with sliced red pepper on top.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

morning glory muffins on a chilly morning

A chilly, but beautiful late fall walk had me longing for a nice hot muffin loaded with sweet carrots, bouncy coconut flakes, and bursting with juicy apples and plump raisins - which could only mean it was time to make these morning glory muffins.
Not as sweet as a carrot cake, but a little more interesting than a whole wheat raisin, these muffins are great to take along to soccer games or autumn hikes - or just hanging out on the sofa reading the Sunday papers. They freeze well - so , even though this recipe makes 10 Texas size muffins, you can just wrap up the leftovers and stash them in the freezer.
To make:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease two Texas size muffin tins.
In mixer bowl place:
2 cups finely grated carrots
1 1/2 cups unsweetened or sweetened coconut
3/4 cup raisins, dark or golden
1/2 cup fresh applesauce ( I used my rosy applesauce)
zest from one lemon, grated
2 t. vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil or canola oil
4 eggs
1 large fresh apple, grated
2 t. cinnamon
Mix well. Then add:
1 t. baking powder
3 t. baking soda
3 1/2 cups King Arthur flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
Mix well again.
Using an ice cream scoop, scoop two scoops per muffin into greased muffin tins. There should be 10 Texas size muffins - 20 if you use the smaller muffin tins.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until tops of muffins are firm to a gentle touch.
Remove to cooling rack for 5 minutes, then unmold onto rack to cool another 5 minutes.
These are especially good with a nice hot cup of tea.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

pasta with pumpkin, parsnip & rosemary

I picked up the first parsnips of the season yesterday, and if you've never eaten them, you're in for a treat. When you tear open the cello bag, the smell is unlike any other - earthy, autumn, fragrant. Our family loved parsnips, and we most often served them cooked and mashed with white potatoes. Roasted with chicken or turkey brings out their sweetness, and I often roast them along with sweet potatoes. But looking around the kitchen, I looked at all the sugar pumpkins lined up on the counter and wondered.....pumpkins AND parsnips?
It turned out beautifully. I shaved ribbons off the peeled pumpkins and parsnips and briefly cooked them in with the almost done pasta, then drained and topped them with fresh rosemary and virgin olive oil.
To make:
Peel a small sugar pumpkin and a few parsnips. Continue to shave off ribbons of the pumpkin and parsnips, avoiding the soft, pithy inner core of the parsnips. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Throw in a rosemary sprig. Add however much vermicelli or other pasta you wish to use.
Boil until the pasta is nearly done. Add the parsnip and pumpkin ribbons to the pasta still cooking; cook for five minutes.
Drain and drizzle virgin olive oil over the pasta and vegetables. Pile on plates or a serving bowl gently so as not to break up the ribbons. Top with fresh pepper and a few rosemary leaves.
Thyme sprigs and chopped parsley would also do well with this combination.
Note: If you prefer, you can make a brown butter sauce instead of the olive oil. Simply melt unsalted butter until toasty brown, then drizzle over pasta.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

rosy applesauce for happy children

I first made this applesauce last year . It's pretty, tart, and a great way to use up all those apples from the pick-your-own farm. I froze A LOT of it last year, after my toddler granddaughter requested it for every lunch. It's also wonderful with any kind of pork or turkey.
To make:
6 fresh apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
2 T. good honey
about 1/2 cup water, depending on moisture in apples
Simply simmer apples, cranberries, and honey with water until the apples cook down. You need to stir this often, and try to evaporate most of the water and juice from the apples.
Cool and freeze ( and eat!).

Monday, October 13, 2008

3 minute microwave chocolate cake-in-a-cup

Oh my gosh - I haven't had as much fun as this since I blew up marshmallows in a microwave last year with a 12 year old!

I got this in an email - and tossed it - and then went right back to my trash and rescued it.

I have now made it three times, and it isn't bad at all. You could even get away with it at your next dinner party, especially if you make some whipped cream on the side. Can you see it now - a prep line of beautifully dressed adults stirring their cake batter in mugs and microwaving it? What a hoot!

Care package for college students, or funny Christmas package with a cool mug and all the ingredients ( except the milk and egg, of course) - I'm sure you'll think of lots of ideas.

Take a mug or large microwavable cup.


4 T. flour

4 T. sugar

2 T. good, unsweetened cocoa powder

Mix dry ingredients well.


1 egg

3 T. milk

2 T. vegetable oil

3 T. semi-sweet chocolate chips ( or broken up good chocolate)

1/2 t. vanilla

Mix really, really well in cup. Microwave for 3 minutes on high. Remove and enjoy!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

cranberry-oatmeal scones

One night I was re-reading my son's "Martin the Warrior" book, one of the thumpingly good adventure tales written by Brian Jacques. On page 127, we hear a conversation between Rose ( a mousemaid), and Grumm ( a mole), on the run from pirates:
"Grumm massaged his ample stomach as it gurgled plaintively. "Hurr,"scuse oi, moi tummy's a-thicken moi mouth 'as forgotted 'ow to eat."
Rose propped herself up on two paws. "What I wouldn't give for a plain ordinary oatmeal scone spread with honey right now."
After reading that, my stomach gurgled and sent me straight to the kitchen to come up with these oatmeal scones with dried cranberries and drizzled with honey. The oatmeal flour makes them amazingly tender.
*to make oatmeal flour, simply whiz rolled oats in a blender until finely ground

Preheat oven to 350F.
1 1/2 cups King Arthur flour
1/2 cup oatmeal flour
1/4 cup sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted, cold butter, cut in pieces
2 t. baking powder
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup dried cranberries
honey for drizzling
egg wash (optional)
Mix flours, sugar, butter and baking powder in mixer bowl until mixture resembles cornmeal and butter is incorporated.
Add buttermilk and cranberries and mix again until dough comes together.
Pat dough into a ball and roll out into an 8" or 9" circle.
Cut circle in half, then cut each half two more times, giving you 3 scones for each half.
Arrange the scone triangles on a baking sheet fitted with foil or parchment. Brush with beaten egg if desired.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.
Drizzle honey on the scones while still warm.
Serve with warm cider and a cinnamon stick.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

making naan bread

For a while last year, I seemed to see articles about naan all the time - even my local supermarket ( now closed) offered it, misshapen and rustic, in plastic bags near the checkout. When I started feeling that too-full feeling from my usual sandwich bread, I decided to try naan. While naan does use yeast, it's more like a soft pita bread - and thicker than pita. It's also fast - probably 1 1/2-2 hours in all, depending on rising time. There is only one rising, then you shape the dough into a "teardrop " shape, and bake quickly in a hot oven. Many recipes call for an additional quick broil, but I skipped that.
What I like about this bread is that you can mix in spices and herbs as you make the dough - I've been leaning heavily toward coriander powder and cracked pepper, but I might start trying minced fresh herbs as well.
This recipe makes four large naan ( as big, at least, as your hand).
To make:
4 T. milk, lukewarm
1 small packet yeast, 1/4 oz, softened in the warm milk
1 T. vegetable oil
1 egg
2 T. plain yogurt
2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1-2 t. coriander and freshly cracked pepper
about 1/4 t. salt
Melted butter to brush on naan.
Soften yeast in the milk and let blend for 15 minutes.
Mix all the ingredients, including the milk/yeast mixture, in mixer bowl. If dough seems dry, add 1-2T. warm water. Switch to a dough hook, or just massage dough until silky.
Let rise in a covered, oiled bowl for about an hour, or til doubled
Form dough into a ball, and cut into four pieces.
Preheat oven to 400F. Place unoiled baking sheet in oven to heat up.
Shape each piece into a teardrop shape with a rolling pin, about hand size.
When oven is at 400, remove baking pan ( remember- it's HOT!)
Place naan on baking sheet, brush with melted butter, and quickly place in oven.
Bake naan 5 minutes on each side.
They will be done in ten minutes. Let cool before packaging.
These are thick enough to cut in half for sandwiches.

Monday, October 6, 2008

gently poached wild pears in a lemon verbena simple syrup

You might remember a few weeks ago I was gifted some semi-wild pears , which, at the time, were grainy and hard, and I was clueless what to do with them. So they faded away in the fruit bowl, and then, again, I was gifted with the more mature and juicy pears last week. Just a week or two made a huge difference - when peeled, these darlings were juicy and plump. Having had my bedside reading a glorious, full color herbery book, I decided to try poaching these with lemon verbena leaves. My lemon verbena is counting her days til frost and death, so I clipped a few twigs with long leaves, and infused them in a light simple syrup. A few squeezes of lemon juice, and a sprinkling of sugar made for a light infusion. And how did it go? Beautiful. And so delicate, even my two and a half year old granddaughter ( a true foodie in training), came back again and again to finish off her four half pears, submerged in lemon verbena syrup. I also tried them with mint, (thumbs down, surprisingly), and the last of the fresh basil ( not half bad), but I loved the verbena the best. Just try not to overdo - the lemon verbena is strong!
How to:
It depends on how many pears you have. I had three pears to play with - I peeled them, and cored them, giving me six halves.
I brought to a simmer about 1 1/2 cups water - enough to cover the halves.
I then added 2 tablespoons of sugar, and about 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to hold off the browning.
I then added a small branch of lemon verbena leaves.
I turned off the heat, and slipped the 6 pear halves into the infusion for about 15 minutes.
I pulled the pear halves, covered with the infusion juice minus the lemon verbena leaves, and placed in a covered plastic container for the trip to visit my granddaughter. Of course, I had to try them - so there went 2 halves!
As I set out Izzie's lunch, she went immediately for the pears - which doesn't surprise me, since she's a fruit freak. I had brought along a fresh pear, which I peeled and cored, and quartered - just in case the lemon verbena was too strong. She tasted, she questioned, she finished every single one of the poached pears.
I think this might be lovely with a little Greek yogurt and some strong honey drizzled on top with a little pinch of lemon verbena leaves on top........

Friday, October 3, 2008

chicken marengo with orzo

Last night I made this classic chicken stew - plump chicken pieces simmered in broth with tomatoes, wine or vinegar, mushrooms, and tarragon. Oh my, it is delicious on a chilly night! It's also easy when you have company, or need to get dinner together quickly. The simmering part takes an hour to an hour and a half - but it takes just a few minutes to pull it together and stick it in the oven. I served it with orzo and a salad, but you may want to also have some chunks of rustic bread to mop up the broth.
You will need:
Preheat oven to 350F.
6 pieces of chicken ( I used legs and thighs) skin removed
2 T. olive oil
2 T. unsalted butter (optional)
Rinse and pat the chicken pieces dry.
Heat the butter and oil in a skillet, and when it is hot, sear the chicken pieces until they are slightly browned.
Remove chicken pieces to an oven proof casserole dish.
1 cup white wine ( or 1/2 cup water, 1/2 c rice vinegar)
1 heaping t. tarragon ( dried)
salt and pepper
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, with some of the juice
10 sliced mushrooms
2 cloves minced garlic
Pour the wine or vinegar/water into the skillet, scraping up the bits left in the pan. Add the tarragon and garlic, salt and pepper, and then the tomatoes and mushrooms. Stir together, then pour over chicken.
Put a lid on the dish, or cover with foil. Place in oven for approximately an hour and a half, or until chicken is very tender.
Enjoy with chunks of good bread and a salad!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

the vegetables of october

The month of pies, cobblers, tarts, and thick and tasty soups................ and a brief glimpse of an occasional dragon.