All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Martha's Tuscan Tomato soup - with one (big) change

My sister gave me Martha's first book "Entertaining" back in the 80's, and it was a revelation. I still cook from it, and bake her cookies, but I often make some changes to her original recipes, which, by the way, are flawless.

Her Tuscan Tomato soup is a splendid soup, bright and pretty in the dead of winter, but over time I added more and more herbs,  resulting in a very tangy soup that matched its lovely colors.  And for those of you that dislike tarragon, just add a little more basil, oregano and thyme, though I think you're missing something:)   The other change I made was to cut the celery into chunks ( instead of finely chopped), and not to mince the carrots, making for a heartier soup.  It's perfect for today, when the temperature has plunged to -2 degrees. Brrrrr.

This makes about 4 medium bowls of soup, which I serve with crusty bread and a bowl of shredded parmesan to pass around.

I grate the carrots using a Cuisinart attachment, but you can use a box grater just as well - just watch your fingers!

Tuscan Tomato soup

1 T. plain olive oil 
1 T. unsalted butter
2 stalks of celery, washed and sliced into even pieces (about 1 cup)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 carrots, peeled and grated (about 2 cups)
One 28 oz can of Italian plum tomatoes
1- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock as needed
1/2 t. dry basil
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. dried oregano
2 t. dried tarragon
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

Heat the butter and olive oil in a soup pot on low heat.
Add the onions and celery and braise, covered, on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring often.
Add the carrots and the tomatoes, which have been sliced into chunky piece, the juice from the tomatoes, and the chicken or vegetable stock.
Add the herbs, cover the pot, and simmer for 25 minutes.
Taste before serving, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with a bowl of shredded parmesan and crusty, warm bread.

Hope you're staying warm - but getting out for a quick walk on these pretty, sunny days!

Monday, January 20, 2014

toasty gluten-free granola with maple syrup, cranberries and bananas

I was browsing through the Cannelle et Vanille site last night , looking for recipes for our Izzie, who is again on a gluten-free diet.  When I saw this recipe, I was so excited I had to make it instantly, even though it was 9 pm.  I know Izzie loves cranberries, spices, nuts, and granola - unlike me, who still prefers warm oatmeal with apples.  

But once the granola came out of the oven, it smelled so good I had to taste it.  

I heated some milk, added a few slices of banana and a spoonful of that beautiful local honey over the granola, and let it soak for a few minutes - perfect on a chilly night or morning.

I did follow the recipe, but used less maple syrup and vanilla and no seeds at all.  Check out her link above to see many other suggestions for ingredients.  I'm already thinking of adding coconut for the next batch - or maybe mango!  This is so fun:)

Here is my version:

Preheat oven to 325F.
You will need a baking sheet, ungreased

3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup pecan pieces

Place the oats and nuts in a large bowl.

In a small pan heat :

1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut oil (mine was firm, so I packed the measuring cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat until the coconut oil has dissolved and the mixture is warm.

Pour the mixture over the oats and nuts and toss well, until the oats and nuts are coated evenly.

Spread on the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes, turning the pan and stirring the granola 3 times so it bakes evenly.

Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding:

1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Mix the cranberries in well and store in a large jar, making sure it is completely cooled.

30 degrees today and a nice day for a little walk .  Coming back to the house I saw my pale pink geraniums waving from the living room window, very cheery on this overcast day.  And some little critter has been out and about.  Hope your day is wonderful!

Monday, January 13, 2014

maple glazed acorn squash wedges

January weather!  Rain, snow, sleet and the foot or so of snow we have is frozen solid, but at least there is a snow cover so the garden plants are protected.  As long as you keep up with the freeze and thaw cycle, sanding sometimes twice a day, it is walkable, even with a 3 year old.  

With the bitter cold some days (-15), I lean more toward roasted chicken, roasted vegetables, and perhaps a fish chowder - sturdy winter food that warms me up more than a lighter soup.  One of my new favorites is this roasted acorn squash, tinged with just a very slight sweetness from our local maple syrup.  I make a marinade with ordinary olive oil and a little maple syrup to brush on the wedges that turns them a lovely golden brown, and adds a little more excitement to the somewhat plain but juicy squash;  acorn squash is my very favorite of all the squashes.

To make:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Scrub your squash under cold water - this will get rid of any residue or dirt on the surface.  No need to peel the squash, as it gets very tender during the roasting.

Carefully slice an acorn squash into wedges, then scoop the seeds out.  I like thinner wedges, rather than the larger quarters, and they roast more quickly.

Place the wedges one side down on a parchment covered baking sheet.

Mix equal parts plain olive oil (not virgin olive oil, which can be bitter) and pure maple syrup in a small bowl and mix with a fork.  I used 3 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons maple syrup for one small acorn squash.  The mixture will emulsify and thicken.

Spoon or brush a small amount of marinade over each wedge, flip, then do the other side.

Bake for 25 minutes, then, using a spatula, turn over the wedges, brush with marinade, and bake another 15 minutes.

Remove to a platter and serve immediately.  If you want a little more maple flavor, you can drizzle a teaspoon of pure maple syrup over the squash just before serving.

Hope you're enjoying winter, wherever you are!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

drop scones with currants and buttermilk

Holy moly is it freezing!  I know the entire Eastern seaboard is basically in the same boat, but  boy, it is chilly.  Hard to believe yesterday was 40 degrees and raining, and wherever I went, the snow fog made driving pretty, but difficult.  Of course, we knew what would happen today as the arctic air moved in:  everything would turn to ice, and it did.

Blessedly, our plow people came early and sanded, but parts of it are still gleaming with slick spots, wherever you are, be careful.

When the windchill is -12,  the kitchen is my haven ( and warm, too).  As long as the power is on, I could putter there all day, and often do.

This morning I made those Irish scones I like so much, using currants instead of raisins and orange zest and juice instead of lemons, and savoring every bite as I looked out at the fields of snow , dipping the scones into our lovely local honey, or spreading on the Dundee's marmalade .  

Drop Scones with currants and buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375F
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

6 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces or grated on a cheese grater
1/4 cup King Arthur whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 T. sugar
2 t. baking powder
good pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup buttermilk
1 T. fresh orange juice (to plump the currants)
1/2 cup dried currants
pinch kosher salt
sparkling sugar for the tops

Place the currants in a small microwave safe bowl with the orange juice - warming very briefly in the microwave and setting aside to plump.

Place flours, the tablespoon of sugar, and cold butter in your mixer bowl and mix briefly.  Add the baking powder, nutmeg, and orange zest and mix again.

Add the buttermilk and the plumped currants and orange juice to the mixture and mix until the dough just comes together.  It should not be a dry dough - add a little water, a tablespoon at a time, if you think it's too dry.  Do not overbeat !

Using a standard ice cream scoop, scoop batter onto baking sheet - this made 8 scones this morning.  Sprinkle with sparkling sugar or regular sugar and bake for between 20-25  minutes.  They should be very slightly golden and craggy looking.

Serve warm with butter, honey and marmalade - or your homemade preserves from summer! Remember summer?  Take care, all....

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome, 2014!

What a year, what a year!  Highs and lows, ups and downs, two new babies in the family, illnesses, an accident with a hatchet,  puzzling over the explosion of food blogs, food magazines, food photography that made me pull away from that for a long time.  I'm one of those people who turns inward when life is troubling.  Waking up this morning to a whole new year, clean slate, was truly joyful, and I watched the sun come over the sparkling snow with great happiness.   

Today may or may not be a taking-down-the-tree day;  I am thinking just a few more days with the scent of Christmas, the ornaments with such memories, the morning I got up at 4:30 am to plug in the lights, just to watch the tree, just as I did when I was five.

And the last batch of the gingerbread star cookies - with a reminder of our next holiday in February.

The first cup of warm smoothie soup, finally admitting it is much more delicious than a cold glass of raw vegetable and fruit juice.  

And keeping my little flock of sheep on the mantle over the fireplace as I go into my New Year's Day cleaning marathon.

Happy New Year to you all - and let new beginnings commence.