All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Sunday, March 31, 2013

easter day

Unwinding with a plate of rosemary bread and butter, looking out at the twilight across the snow;  I hope your Easter Day was a delight!   We had ham and whipped potatoes, bok choy salad, above mentioned rosemary bread, far too many sweets ( chocolates, jelly beans and that wicked carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and marzipan carrots, which may or may not have contributed to the gently manic energy level of the grands, but then again, they are little, and prone to sudden bursts of looney hilarity).    A quick departure, as my daughter-in-law started having contractions, which we hope was simply too much good food and much laughter.

Friday, March 29, 2013

the Easter carrot cake

This is a post from 2009 that I never got around to updating.  The 2 year old is now 7, and we have a new 2 year old at the table this year, but the Easter cake is always this one.  Hope to finally update on Easter Day this year:)  Happy Easter to you all!

This has become our traditional Easter cake - an old fashioned southern carrot cake with a cream cheese and butter icing, decorated with marizpan vegetables. This year, we had a two year old assisting, so our decorating wasn't as elaborate as it usually is. But the crowd was delightful , the dinner was grand, and for a few magical moments, we forgot about the four foot high hardpacked snow and ice outside and welcomed Spring!
to make:
2 or 3 cake pans, greased and floured
Preheat oven to 350.
the cake:
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
2 cups flour ( I use King Arthur)
2 t. baking powder
2 t. (scant) baking soda
2 t. cinnamon
3 cups finely grated carrots, organic
Beat eggs; add sugar, oil, and dry ingredients. Add carrots and stir. Scoop batter into pans, about halfway full.
Bake about 35-45 minutes - sometimes it takes longer depending on the moisture content of the carrots. Done when the cake pulls away from the sides of the cake pan, and the middle is somewhat firm to the touch.
Remove to cooling rack. Run a knife around the edges of the cake, and cool 15 minutes. Take a spatula and gently loosen the underside of the cake. Flip onto another rack and cool completely before frosting.
the frosting:
1 large package cream cheese
1 stick softened unsalted butter
juice of a lemon
one box confectioner's sugar
Beat til creamy and pipe or spread on cake.
Mix food coloring into store bought marzipan ( I get it in tubes) - we just made green and orange, but you can get more eleborate.
Form into carrots and stick into frosting. Tradition is - the youngest child goes first pulling the carrots out of the cake.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

turkey leg soup with kale

A cold, gray day again, but right in the middle of the day, an hour of fat snowflakes lazily floating down - against the gray sky it looked like a children's book illustration - for Christmas.   But I'll take a few moments of pretty anywhere I can find them.

I was seized by a new book by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas ( who lives in the town next to me), so instead of baking today, I made a lovely turkey soup with a fat fresh leg the meat man had saved for me.  Turkey legs are hard to find this time of year, so I had a standing order with two butchers around here - and one came through for me a few days ago.  I like to do a long simmer for stock and then make up a hearty, colorful soup with carrots and kale and the shredded dark turkey meat.  

Somewhere on Pinterest I saw that turkey topped the chart for lowest in fat and highest in protein - if I find it, I'll pass it along.  I like it better than chicken because the flavor is heartier and less bland , somehow having more substance than chicken.  This is a good soup to make on a lazy at-home day, which today happily was for me.

For the stock:

One large turkey leg & thigh
water to cover
4 peeled carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled but whole
1 t. thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf

Place all ingredients in a stockpot and barely cover with water.  Simmer, uncovered, for about an hour.

When cooled a little, remove turkey to a plate to cool further, then use two forks to pull the meat off the bone.  It's up to you, but I like bite size chunks of about two inches.  Discard any skin or little bones.  Strain the stock through a colander into a large pot, discarding the vegetables.  Taste the stock, and if it seems watery in flavor, simply simmer it a little longer before adding the soup makings.  Rinse out the stockpot you used for making the stock,  add the ingredients, then pour the stock to cover plus a few inches.  If you have stock left over, let it cool and then freeze.

For the soup:

3 cups shredded or cut up turkey meat
4 large peeled carrots, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced in fairly large pieces
kosher salt and pepper to taste
pinch hot pepper flakes (optional)
4 cups kale, torn into medium sized pieces, stalks discarded
Optional:  pasta or rice can be cooked along with the soup if wished.  I don't wish.

Simmer all until the carrots are tender.  Taste for seasoning and enjoy!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

hot cross buns

The problem with this everlasting snow and ice is the longing to walk, skip, run up a hill or across a green field, sun shining, little green plants inching up every day.  In my gardener's heart I am feeling Spring, but the terrain is treacherous.  Having had one knee surgery, I am cautious on the slicks of ice, which keeps me inside more than I'd like.

But when I saw this recipe from King Arthur Flour for hot cross buns yesterday, my heart gave a little handspring.  Easter!  Spring!  Ample, plump buns studded with candied fruit nuggets and raisins, and that X of white, sugary frosting on top that always seems to be the first to go.

I made them last night , then packed and delivered them this morning to Izzie and Frankie ( and their Moms), and even snuck half of one to Kitchee the nanny-dog.  Even with the forecast of snow again, the day is feeling a whole lot sunnier.

The recipe is here, and it couldn't be easier.  I was surprised the buns didn't rise very much, even with yeast AND baking powder - I would probably give them an extra half hour to see if that would plump them up a little.  They have a very tender crumb and just enough spice.  Even though the icing was thick, it liquified and drizzled once piped onto the buns, but it still tasted as delicious as I remember.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, March 11, 2013

two handfuls of berries

The chicken I bought today has vanished - it never made it home from the supermarket.  I searched the car, the bags, and my all-purpose canvas bag:  not to be found.  While mourning over my loss of dinner ( poulet with tomatoes and olives) and sorting through the fridge just in case I had missed the package of chicken , I found the half-empty containers of strawberries and blackberries in the fridge .  Hmmm, I thought, two handfuls of berries?

Two handfuls of berries equals winter jam, perfect for breakfast on toast or stirred into yogurt.

And here it is, not dinner, but it will do,  scented with vanilla and fresh lemon juice.  It will have to do, I think, as I eat a sandwich for dinner :)

To make:

2 handfuls of berries ( about 1/1/2 - 2 cups berries)
1 drop of vanilla
1 cup warmed sugar ( the microwave is fine - 1 minute will do)
3 T. fresh lemon juice

Trim the strawberries and cut in half.  Place berries in a heavy bottomed saucepan, along with the lemon juice and vanilla.  Bring to a simmer, then add the warmed sugar.  Simmer for fifteen minutes or so, then pour into glasses or jars.  Let cool, then cover and place in fridge.

And now, back to another biography of  Winston Churchill, which doesn't look promising.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

the gingerbread cake

We have had enormous amounts of snow lately.  I spent Friday shoveling snow from early morning to the afternoon, and I tell you, I am weary of snow.  It seems to me we have had storms every other day, and especially on weekends, sorry to say.  But one morning, I woke up and went straight into the kitchen, fully aware it was a gingerbread day.


Ginger, cloves,  and cinnamon.  The spicy scent made me smile, and it was only when the cake was cooling that I realized I was making this cake for my son, now in California.  It was a favorite of his, and I was missing him .  When the cake had cooled, I pulled out the waxed paper and red and white twine, and packaged it up, and sent it off.  

Besides the sheer joy of cooking and baking, I'm reminded how the recipes are full of memories and history.  This is the recipe for my daughter's first birthday cake.  This is the first cookbook I bought with my paycheck.  This is the cookbook that fascinated me, heady with herbs and spices I had so little knowledge of.  And this particular cake reminds me of my children, sticking their fingers into the batter, crowding my tiny kitchen, inhaling this delicious spice-scented and very old fashioned cake.  Thanks always to Craig Claiborne,  editor of the New York Times food section and many, many cookbooks, who opened my eyes (and nose), to the world of cloves and cinnamon, thyme and curry, fresh basil and tarragon, before Julia swooped into our world, and long before I knew my way around the kitchen.

Gingerbread Cake

Grease an 8x8 pan, or an 8 or 9x2 inch round cake pan
Preheat oven to 350F.

1 T. vinegar ( I used my hot chili vinegar, but any kind is fine)
3/4 c. milk
2 cups King Arthur flour, sifted
2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/3 cup canola or other light oil
1/2 c. sugar
1 large egg
3/4 c. molasses

Add the vinegar to the milk and set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices into a large bowl.

In mixer bowl, add the canola oil and sugar, then the egg, and finally, the molasses.

Add the dry ingredients to the oil, egg, molasses mixture along with the by now curdled milk.  Stir only until mixed, do not overbeat.  

Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until cake springs back when gently pressed in the center.  

Remove cake to cooling rack until cool, then run a dull knife around the pan and unmold cake to cool further on cooling rack. 

Serve alone or with sweetened whipped cream, vanilla bean ice cream, or a dusting of confectioners sugar or sliced strawberries.  This cake travels well, as long as you wrap it in plastic wrap or waxed paper after cooling completely.

Monday, March 4, 2013

spring soup and a fresh chicken salad

It's coming.  Outside may be frozen into icy snowdrifts, and trying to take a walk?  You take your chances on the slip- n- slide paths.  But the temperature is slowly climbing, starting out at 20 degrees, and up to 40 a few hours later. I know you're out there, Mother Nature - and you're bringing Spring!

It's astonishing what a change it makes, knowing we are only a few weeks away from the official start of gardening.  The sun peeks out first thing in the morning, then disappears behind gloomy gray clouds, but still.  We know you're there.  

A morning walk is out of the question right now, but my menu has made a radical turn.  A perfect salad with chicken, goat cheese, and cranberries, and lots of greens, and a daily soup made of handfuls of lettuces, turnip greens, and kale or spinach, with a few baby bella mushrooms sliced up, simmered quickly in stock and pureed.  Only a few weeks ago I was making mashed potatoes with lots of butter, a few too many times a week.  Desperate times, then.

For the soup:

4 or 5 mushrooms, sliced
2 T. olive oil
1/4 cup scallions, sliced
a small bag of spinach, or two handfuls
2 cups other mixed greens from your vegetable drawer: kale, turnip greens, rapini, celery leaves -whatever is fresh.
2 or 3 cups stock, chicken, beef, or vegetable
1/2 t. thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the mushrooms in the olive oil briefly, then add the greens and stock, thyme and salt and pepper.  Turn heat to low and cover.  Cook for 8-10 minutes, then take off heat and let sit before pureeing with an immersion blender.  Serves 2.

For the salad:

3-4 cups assorted greens, cut to bite size or not
1 large chicken breast, cooked, skinless and boneless, or use leftover chicken.  Dice the chicken in fairly large pieces.
1  1/2 cups dried cranberries
about 5 inches of goat cheese from a log, flaked into large chunks with a fork


Makes 1/4 of a cup dressing.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
1 teaspoon poppyseeds
salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle on the dressing and enjoy!
Serves 3, depending on your appetite.

Happy almost-Spring!