All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

sweet cabbage and spinach sandwich salad

Downshifting from the holiday opulence and overload requires strong will power - I am halfway there, making my favorite veggie slaw, but now I'm about to run to the market for a little brie and crusty bread to make a nice little hot sandwich:)

This is a wonderful stuffing for pita sandwiches, with turkey or without, and I've even used it in boneless chicken rollups, but most of the time I eat it as is. Crunchy, fresh, and sweet with the flavor of fresh cabbage, it's a dandy lunch or light supper - or for breakfast, inside a fluffy omelet. What a terrific way to christen my new food processor!

This makes around 4 1/2 cups of salad.

To make:

2 cups shredded fresh cabbage
2 cups finely sliced fresh de-stemmed spinach
a handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 cup sliced scallion greens
2 T. minced parsley or celery
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. olive oil
1 t. oregano or basil, dried or fresh
1/2 t. kosher salt
lots of freshly ground pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and toss gently. Store in a tightly closed container in the fridge - it should keep fresh for four days.

Almost the end of 2012 - can you believe it?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas Eve! I usually publish Fra Giovanni's beautiful poem, Take Joy, which you can find here. But today I want to sing a farewell to my mother, who died in February of this year. She was not a religious person, but thrived in the joy of nature. I think this stanza from The Holly and the Ivy would please her very much.

The holly and the ivy,

When they are both full grown,

Of all the trees that are in the wood,

The holly bears the crown:

O, the rising of the sun,

And the running of the deer

The playing of the merry organ,

Sweet singing in the choir.

Joyful Christmas to you all!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

roasting chestnuts

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" , that lovely Christmas song goes, though now I tend to roast them in my toaster oven, which is far less romantic.

At one time, I did have a chestnut skillet, which had large holes polka dotted across the bottom of the pan, but it must have gotten lost in one of my moves, so I now use one of those antique pie tins with little holes on the bottom in a 500' oven, or just the toaster oven tray.

If you've never had them, they are a treat ! Slightly sweet and starchy, you eat them fresh out of the shell, while they're still hot. While it's tedious to prepare them, it really is worth it, and it's a lovely Christmas tradition, too.

Here's my foolproof recipe - I had about two cups of chestnuts, but you can adjust the recipe to any amount.

Place the chestnuts in a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, then drain.

While still warm, take a very, very sharp knife and cut an X at the pointy tip. You can lessen the threat of a cut by holding the chestnut in an oven mitt. Please be very careful.

Preheat oven to 500F. If you're using a toaster oven, no need to preheat.

Place all the cut chestnuts on a baking sheet or pie plate ( for the oven), or simply on the toaster oven tray. Roast at 500F for 15 minutes or until the chestnut shell curls away from the yellow meat of the nut. You still have to peel them, but it's much easier when they've been par-boiled.

May your day be merry and bright!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Silent Saturday: Christmas lights

What a chilly night! But, driving into town brought the lovely, welcome sight of sparkles. The bandstand has its usual colorful blanket of lights, and the Hancock Inn is sporting a very snazzy and calm twinkling of white lights. Sending good thoughts and affection to my two friends in the hospital today, and of course, to YOU!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

the mad dash: russian tea cookies and biscotti paradiso

Forgive the long silence, I hope - two friends are having medical challenges and I've been trying to help out as best I can. Tonight I am re-connecting with my pastry chef happy place: making Russian Tea cookies ( or, as a child, I simply called them snowballs), and the divine scent and taste of my Christmas biscotti, also known as biscotti paradiso. Tedious to make, but so delicious , I can't complain. I have been so busy I don't even have a tree up, but I'm loving the scent of orange peel and toasted almonds and milk chocolate for the biscotti, and the sweet snowfall of confectioner's sugar atop the roasted walnut crunch of those little tea cookies.

You can find the recipe for the Russian Tea cookies here, and the biscotti, here.

Today I sent off the first Christmas box to my son in California, but that was before I made these lovely treats, so a second one will be packed up tomorrow. It's a very odd feeling to have him so far away, but that is part of life, isn't it? I'm happy to have my daughter and granddaughter still close by, and hoping we get some time to celebrate, along with all the other grands.

I hope you are in the kitchen, loving this happy part of Christmas - making special treats for those folks so special to you. Blessed Christmas cheer to you all!

Friday, December 9, 2011

parsnip chowder with bacon and parsley

The meeting house is bedecked with the most lovely wreaths and the cold temperatures are here to stay, though we've had a wonderful lingering Fall ( aside from those two freak snowstorms on Halloween and the day before Thanksgiving). Fall brings some very special seasonal vegetables from the garden, and when I saw a small bunch of parsnips at the winter farmers market, I snatched them up.

Parsnips look a little like hairy, white carrots, and they go very well with carrots, whether roasting or simmering. In New England, they are often mashed together as a wonderful side dish, both sweet-tasting, but the parsnip has an earthier, mellow flavor that is absolutely unique and delicious. Since parsnips are harvested after the frosts have arrived, they're probably not available to you if you live in a warmer climate.

One of my favorite chowders is this one - a handful of cubed potatoes, two handfuls of cubed parsnips, smoky bacon, and lots of Italian parsley. It cooks up quickly, so the flavor of the parsnip is preserved.

To make 2 or 3 servings:

1 cup diced, peeled parsnip
1/2 cup diced potato
1 T. chopped onion
pinch of thyme
1 1/2 cups water or thin broth
four or five strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup medium or heavy cream
1 t. unsalted butter
freshly cracked pepper and kosher salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

Place the parsnip, onion, thyme and potato in a saucepan , along with the water or broth, and bring to a boil. Immediately turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the parsnips and potatoes are just soft.

Add the cream and butter, bacon, and parsley and bring barely to a simmer, taste, and add fresh pepper and kosher salt as you wish.

Happy December!

* what I'm reading:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Christmas cookie countdown: Maida Heatter's dark, rich brownies and crackly spice cookies

Maida Heatter's brownies are legendary, and with good reason - they are delicious. Because they're so rich, you can cut them smaller, I often do 2x2 inch squares. If I had some gold flakes, I think they would be even prettier.

And the crackly spice cookies are addictive, and sturdy, if you need to ship them.

You can find the recipes by clicking on the purple highlighted links - enjoy, and happy baking!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas cookie countdown: christmas biscotti and chocolate chunk-pecan cookies

The Christmas biscotti is sprinkled with fresh orange peel, toasted almonds, and milk chocolate chips, while the chocolate chunk cookies are chock full of toasted pecans and (what else?) - chocolate powder and hand-chopped bittersweet chocolate.

Just click on the highlighted links to get the recipes - and happy baking!

christmas cookie countdown: gingerbread stars and lemon candy cane cookies

I'm stockpiling gold ribbons, cellophane bags, and hunting for those big gold foil stars in anticipation of the wild weeks just before Christmas, when the oven always seems to be on, and the stacks of cookies pile up, then dwindle as I pack up the bags.

Gingerbread Stars and Lemon Candy Cane cookies are some of the prettiest - just click on their highlighted names to get the recipes. Happy Baking!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

little nutmeg doughnuts

Are these not the cutest little doughnuts in the world? Scented with a wee bit of rum and fresh nutmeg, they are the cutest little breakfast doughnuts I've made in years.

I used to love doughnuts, swinging by our local Dunkin' Donuts sneakily as I drove back from food shopping and school drop offs and buying one Boston Creme doughnut to savor in the car. Somewhere along the line I stopped buying them, as I snipped the carbs from my daily diet. But when I recently came across a ripped out recipe from a magazine in my files, ( no doubt from a waiting room at my doctor's office), I steamed ahead with no regard whatsoever. Carbs, hurumpf. I make these little one inch doughnuts with a shower of confectioner's sugar or a bath of cinnamon sugar - both tasty and delicious. These would be perfect for a Christmas or New Year's brunch, or a little Christmas party, or simply to celebrate the weekend.

To make about 2 dozen tiny doughnuts:

1 T. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 extra large egg
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg
pinch kosher salt
1/4 t. rum
1/4 cup milk plus 2 T. ( any kind of milk)

In mixer bowl, beat sugar and butter til crumbly. Add egg and mix. Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and rum, and mix well. Add milk and mix again, then cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour or so at room temperature.

Turn dough onto heavily floured board or counter and cut out tiny circles - I used a pastry tube and a 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter to cut out doughnuts. Flour cutters well as you use.

Bring canola oil to medium heat in a saucepan or skillet.
Fry doughnuts, a few at a time, until golden brown on both sides.
Drain on brown paper or paper towels.
Sprinkle doughnuts with cinnamon sugar or confectioner's sugar and serve with a saucy smile:)

A year ago on she's in the kitchen:

Have a beautiful day!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

wordless wednesday: here comes the sun

A quick hike this morning to greet the sun - the snow has finally melted! And yesterday I made these muffins for snacking on my wanderings, nice to have a little chocolate for breakfast:)

Hope you have a beautiful day!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the annual Thanksgiving meltdown and a few last minute recipes

Sigh. Here it comes, that holiday meltdown, when I begin with a brilliantly conceived menu, and slowly descend into the mania of menu anxiety. I start here, and end up THERE, I worry. I shop, but while I remember the turkey and the extra toilet paper, I forget the rapini, that was carefully written in as the extra veg, I am suddenly seized with worry that our gluten-free, dairy-free recipe plan this year will not be enough – that everyone will surely starve. I fiddle with vegetable dishes, desserts, and sides and soups, moving them around on paper until ( hopefully) they re-assemble into a calm, Martha Stewart-like celebration I'm hoping for. And just as I heave a sigh after the feast has been presented, the children and guests have dug in with enthusiasm, just as the last glass of seltzer, the last cup of coffee is emptied – everyone leaves. And I do the dishes.

I am delighted tonight to talk with a new guest arriving tomorrow with her toddler - she laughed when she heard me say we would be having homemade cranberry sauce - and Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, which I have always loved. "You mean the cranberry sauce that looks like the can?" And of course, that IS what it looks like as you decant it.

Here are a few of the recipes that might come in handy during your last minute frenzy:

Apple cobbler

Gluten-free, dairy free chocolate coconut pudding pots

Fresh strawberries dipped in chocolate

Butternut Squash soup with Indian spices

Mushroom Soup


Fluffy Green Salad

Brussels Sprouts Chiffonnade

It may take some time to hook up the links, but you can also check the blog, if you're impatient.

Live, laugh, and love your Thanksgiving ! Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

wordless wednesday: sweet potato lunch

Glorious day for a little hike - overcast, gray, but still 60 degrees , for which I am endlessly grateful, and came back hungry as a bear. ( Nope, no bears lately - another thing I'm grateful for)

I had an enormous sweet potato, which I peeled, cut into chunks, and tossed with olive oil, thyme ( lots of thyme!) kosher salt and pepper, and half a sliced onion. Roasted at 425F for 40 minutes and swooned over every delicious forkful. ( oh, and pssst: they make a great Thanksgiving side, too!)

Hope your day is just as delightful, and take care of your sweet selves!

Friday, November 11, 2011

pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting

The snow has finally melted from our freakish Halloween snowstorm that left us with 26 inches of way too early white stuff, so now I can breathe. I had visions of seeing snow on the ground from October to April, which was not a happy thought. Yesterday I took a lovely long walk, smiling at the still-bright leaves on the trees and the not-too-chilly temps. And then I headed straight to my stash of canned pumpkin.

Pumpkin is to me what chocolate is to my children - addictive, rich, the essence of Fall. I love it roasted, baked, sauteed - and in the most delicious cakes, cookies, and bars you can imagine. I did once try a pumpkin mousse, but didn't like the texture. Give me a lovely pumpkin bar, juicy with raisins and smooth with a handful of milk chocolate chips, then topped with my favorite cream cheese frosting. Heaven - and the heck with the diet today!

I recently found a recipe for pumpkin pie spice in bulk - something I would never buy, but it does come up in recipes, so I made up a few tablespoons of the mix. It called for:
4 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. cloves
Mix well and store in a bottle.

Pumpkin Bars with cream cheese frosting:
(recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod, adapted)

1 1/2 cups flour
pinch of kosher salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree, canned
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg, extra large
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 t. pumpkin pie spice mixture
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease an 8"x8" square baking pan with Crisco. Cut to fit a strip of waxed paper that covers the bottom and ends of the baking pan, with a few inches to spare, so you can lift it out easily when it's done. Grease the waxed paper as well.
Mix together the pumpkin, canola oil, egg, and buttermilk. Add the sugars and stir, then add the pumpkin pie spice and stir.

Add the flour and baking soda to the mix and briefly mix. Add the raisins and chocolate chips and stir briefly until combined. Spread into pan and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the batter is firm to the touch. Remove and cool for ten minutes, then lift the cake out, firmly holding onto the wax paper ends. Set on a cooling rack.

Set a cooling rack on top of the pumpkin cake, then flip the cake. Peel off the waxed paper, and flip back to cool on the rack.

Making the cream cheese frosting:

1 8 oz. package of softened cream cheese
1 stick of room temp unsalted butter (4 oz)
juice of half a fresh lemon
3/4ths box confectioners sugar

Mix all well until creamy and set aside.

The finish:

Trim the edges off the cooled pumpkin cake.
Using a dull knife, swirl the cream cheese frosting all over the cake.
Cut the cake into 6 pieces ( more or less, as you wish)
Remove bars to a plate and tidy up the frosting.

More pumpkin recipes!

Enjoy every bite :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

warm green breakfast smoothies

The last thing I want to start my day in the winter is a cold glass of green smoothie. Never mind that kelp, spirolina, soymilk, and protein powder are touted as a wonder breakfast, I long for something warm and soothing, but loaded, of course, with all those vitamins I'm supposed to drink for a happy, healthy life.

Wait a minute. What if I simmered up all those lovely veg I love: spinach, arugula, and my new discovery of turnip greens ( which turns out to be THE super green) and well, why not add a big handful of parsley? Yum, yum, yum! Add a spoonful or two of that leftover rice and some good-for-you herbs and a dash of hot sauce? That would do, wouldn't it?

Such a lovely way to start the day, don't you think?

Makes two big smoothies.

1/2 a peeled onion, cut up
1 T. olive oil
2 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
1/4 t. thyme
pinch of nutmeg
a small sprig of rosemary, de-stemmed
two drops of hot sauce (optional)
2 1/2 cups packed greens ( I sliced up turnip greens, arugula, and spinach today)
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley
1-2 T. leftover rice (optional)
freshly ground pepper to taste

Gently saute the onion in the olive oil in a medium saucepan for 5 minutes.
Add the broth, herbs and nutmeg, greens, and rice and cook until the greens wilt down completely. Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes, then puree in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree completely.(Note: I'm not sure the rice is necessary to thicken the smoothie, so you can skip it if you want)
Serve in glasses or mugs.

Enjoy your beautiful day!

PS/ I didn't notice any bitterness with the turnip greens, perhaps because they were very fresh and barely cooked for this recipe ( as read in the Whole Foods comment section on turnip greens).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

rosemary bread

Happy November! I hope all your goblins, witches, and hobbits enjoyed their loot - I had not a one trick or treater, but then again, the roads are still icy and slippery after the snowstorm, so it didn't surprise me.

It's been a long time since I made our favorite rosemary bread. The last time I made it there was something tough about the bread, so I decided to reduce the amount of milk in this traditional Italian bread - success. It came out beautifully! This is a soft white bread, which I think you could tinker with if you prefer a mix of grains, just don't forget the fresh rosemary! The extra virgin olive oil adds a nice flavor to the bread, so try not to substitute.

To make one 8 or 9 inch round:

1 1/2 t. rapid rise yeast (I use Fleischmann's)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup warm water, mixed together
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 really heaping tablespoon of roughly chopped fresh rosemary
1 t. kosher salt
3 1/4 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
oats for sprinkling on the baking sheet
coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top of the bread - or you can use flaked salt if you have it.

Stir the yeast into the 1/2 cup lukewarm water in mixer bowl and let sit 15 minutes.
Stir in the half water/half milk, the salt, the rosemary, and the olive oil and mix.
Add the flour and mix until combined. It shouldn't be dry, but it shouldn't be too wet either.
Remove ball of dough and briefly knead, adding a little flour if it's too sticky.
Drizzle mixer bowl with olive oil, then roll the ball in the oil, covering all sides.

Turn your oven on briefly, then turn off, just so the oven is barely warm.
Make sure the oven is off!
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and place in oven until the dough has doubles - usually around 40 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the oven and knead bread, then form into a round.
Sprinkle a handful of oats on the baking sheet, then set the bread onto the baking sheet.
Place in a warm place ( or the still barely warm oven that is OFF) and let rise until almost doubled in size.

Remove dough, preheat oven to 400F.
Gently slash an X on top of the loaf, then spritz with water and scatter a few tablespoons of coarse salt on top.
Bake for about 30-34 minutes, or until top is golden and the bread feels light and hollow.
Let cool on a rack before cutting - if you can wait!

Enjoy the first day of November - can you believe it's already here?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

snowoverload sunday

I knew I was in trouble when I couldn't get the door open.
At least two feet of snow fell Saturday into Sunday in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, but , thankfully, we still have power.
I hope all of you are safe and warm!