All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

A joyful Merry Christmas to you all!  My beloved Stuart Little, the mouse, is paddling down the lanes and rough waters of life, always somehow popping up well dressed and cheerful.  I wish you the same.

My father used to read this to me in his marvelous, deep voice:  a good start to the new year, and a thoughtful message from the old year:

Joyful day to all! Near the top of our tree sits Stuart Little, paddling his canoe down the boughs, and reminding us each year to keep love close in our hearts as we navigate the rivers and waves of life. Blessed Day to each and every one!
I salute you. I am your friend and my love for you goes deep. There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!
No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant - Take peace!
The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see - and to see we have only to look.
Take joy!
And so I greet you, with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.
Fra Giovanni, 1513

Blessings to you and yours, with much love.....


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Swedish Meatballs for Christmas

Ahhhh, Swedish meatballs.  I had always heard about them, but it was only this year I suddenly had the urgent desire to make them. 

Freshly ground pork and beef, spiked with spices, lovingly rolled into balls and cooked, then served with a meltingly lovely sauce with a side of lingonberry jam ( or homemade cranberry sauce).  Can you blame me for my romantic passion?

They were as delicious as I thought they would be.  

I first thought I would serve them with noodles, but after one taste, opted for simply presented meatballs in a little bowl, with excellent bread and butter on the side , and a glorious salad- but if you prefer simple buttered noodles, that would work just as well.  They really are delicious!

To make:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 large onion, minced
4 slices soft bread, crusts removed and cubed 
2 large eggs
2/3 cup milk
1 pound freshly ground pork
1 1/2 pounds fresh ground beef
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons cardamom spice, ground
1 teaspoon thyme
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup flour
1 cup beef broth (Noted 12/26/14 - I needed 2 and a half cups of beef broth when I made these today for a party, not sure why, but the sauce should be smooth and creamy enough to spoon over the meatballs.  I would advise adding more broth 1/2 cup at a time and whisking.  If it's still too thick, add more broth until desired consistency.)

In a small skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.  Add onion and saute for a few minutes until soft.  Remove to a large bowl.  

In a separate bowl, soak bread cubes in 2/3 cup milk until very soft.

Beat bread cubes and milk until thickened, add to onions. then add the pork, beef, eggs. spices and thyme.  Gently mix with hands (which I hope you have washed very well!) until combined, then pinch off teaspoon sized bits and roll into balls - this makes about 70 medium to small meatballs.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.   Sear meatballs until meatballs are browned, then use a slotted spoon to remove balls to a large bowl.  Continue to cook until all the meatballs are seared.

Pour remaining oil out of the skillet, then melt 6 tablespoons butter in the skillet.  Whisk in the flour and whisk until thickened.  Add the beef broth and whisk until thickened. Add the meatballs to the sauce and cook 10 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and serve with sauce alone, or with hot buttered noodles.

Serve with a side of fresh cranberry sauce, or lingonberry jam.

SO good!

Blessings of the season to you all, may you have a happy, delicious Christmas Day!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cookie time: Swedish snowballs

A sudden flurry of cookie making, some off to my grandchildren in Minnesota (spice cookies for Frankie and roasted sugared walnuts, for Izzie, who is still on a gluten-free diet most of the time), more cookies for a few friends who look forward to them (Italian Christmas biscotti, gingerbread stars) - and these always popular nut and confectioner's sugar snowballs, also know as Russian Tea cookies, Mexican Wedding cookies, and a zillion other nicknames.  I call them Swedish snowballs now, because the recipe comes from a Swedish woman I knew.  My newest grandson is too little for cookies, but next will be a few batches for his parents on Christmas Day.  Hope you are all enjoying December and the Christmas (or Hanukkah) season!

This makes about two cookie sheets full of snowballs.

To make:
Preheat oven to 375F.
2 ungreased cookie sheets.

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 and 1/4 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
3/4 cup shelled walnuts, finely chopped (I use a food processor)
More confectioners sugar for rolling and sprinkling

Cream butter and sugar.
Add vanilla, nutmeg, flour, salt, and nuts.
Cream well, then pinch of pieces of dough and roll between your palms into dime or quarter sized balls.
Place on baking sheet and bake for 14 minutes.
Cool balls, then roll in confectioner's sugar.
Place on platter and shake an avalanche of more confectioner's sugar on top just before serving.

Happy day to you all!

What I'm reading:  Catching Fire:  How Cooking Made Us Human, by primatologist Richard Wrangham.  Fascinating!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Poulet Marengo (chicken with herbs and tomatoes)

The weather has certainly been seasonal lately with snow, sleet and freezing rain making the driveway a skating rink.  Definitely time to stay in and simmer a fragrant casserole with chicken, tomatoes, mushrooms, dry white wine, and herbs.

I've made this so often I had to search a while through my cookbooks to see where I originally found it.  It is always listed as "Poulet Marengo", in both the NY Times cookbook and From Julia Child's Kitchen . The Times cookbook seems to be the original one I used, as he uses tarragon (which I love, but many people loathe), Julia suggests thyme and oregano and bay for seasoning.  The original dish was made by Napoleon's chef in the field after the battle of Marengo, and originally contained crawfish, eggs, and olives, as well as the chicken, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  Wherever it came from, it is delicious on a chilly day with a basket of warm French bread.

Lately, I've preferred using chicken thighs in this, bone-in, but you can use a cut up whole chicken if you prefer. I also remove the skin before sauteing if the skin looks fatty - it is tedious to have to spoon off the chicken fat just before serving.

Preheat oven to 350F.

4-6 pieces of chicken thighs (I usually leave the skin on )
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil

Rinse and pat the chicken pieces dry.  Heat the butter and oil in a large skillet and sear both sides of the chicken, then remove chicken pieces to an oven proof casserole dish.
Add to the butter and oil left in the skillet:

1 cup dry white wine
1 heaping teaspoon tarragon OR basil, or oregano and thyme
10 sliced white mushrooms
2 cups canned plum tomatoes, with the juice (I cut the whole tomatoes into 3 pieces before adding)
1 medium sliced onion
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
2 cloves peeled garlic, mashed with the side of a knife

Stir the ingredients in the saute pan until hot, then pour over the chicken pieces, and place in oven, covered with foil, for an hour to an hour and a half.  Larger pieces take a little longer.  Serve with a nice loaf of bread and unsalted butter, or a side of rice or noodles.