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!