All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Friday, January 30, 2015

baby spinach with blistered tomatoes

The wind is howling over this snowy landscape - it sounds like a freight train as the wind swoops and tickles the corners of the hill beside my house, and my neighbor's house.  I am missing the farmer's market in the summer , so full of life and good vegetables, good people - and warm sunshine.

Above all, I miss the summer tomatoes, bursting with color and flavor.  I look at the plastic box of tiny tomatoes and wonder what to do.

Then this - gently seared with a hint of basil, mild olive oil and a little sweet butter, tossed with a package of baby spinach.  It isn't July or August, but it's a hint of what's to come.

To make:

1 cup baby grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon mild olive oil
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup water (or more, if needed)
4 cups packed baby spinach, washed (no need to dry)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

Warm the olive oil and butter on medium heat.
Add the tomatoes and sear for 5 minutes.

Add the water, spinach, basil, salt, and pepper and cook uncovered on medium high heat until the liquid evaporates.

Serve with a smile and memories of summer.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January snow and quick mushroom soup

Yesterday we had the most beautiful snowstorm all day, a foot of light, fluffy snow easy to shovel - but so much!  Had it been heavier snow, we might have lost power, but the lights stayed on, and the heat hummed and all was well.

Instead of hot chocolate or more coffee, I made one of my favorite winter soups - quick, earthy, and warming mushroom soup with thyme.  It's a soup I never tire of in the winter and it couldn't be easier to make.

Quick Mushroom Soup

This is for just one cup, but it is easily multiplied.  You can also make this vegetarian by using vegetable stock, but I prefer the chicken stock.

1 cup sliced white mushrooms
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon thyme (I love thyme!)
1 cup hot chicken stock
1 tablespoon or so of sliced scallion greens
freshly ground pepper or a dash of hot sauce

Saute the mushrooms in the butter until golden and toasty.  Add the hot stock, the thyme, the scallions, and the pepper and stir.

Remove from heat and scrape into a blender and puree on high.
Pour into a cup and stir in a dash of hot sauce.  Enjoy !

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

a colorful January!

As I write this, a winter blizzard is moving into New England.  I am inland, so the snow reached here only four or five hours ago - and we have power!  When I measured the snow in the middle of the flat front yard, it was 8" - drifts were much more.

Thinking back over January, I realized I was changing my eating habits subtly - many more greens and vegetables, fewer sweets and, my downfall, tortilla chips with melted mozzarella, salsa, and sour cream.  I still have the chips and mozzarella, but the sour cream has disappeared.

And the colors !  Shining like a rainbow - which definitely puts a smile on my face and a spring in my step (as I go out to shovel:) From the top:  arugula with braised celery,warmed tomatoes with basil, mushrooms, and cubes of mozzarella;  smoked turkey sandwich with arugula and grated cheddar;  kale soup with orzo; asparagus with hardboiled eggs and parmesan;  green chard and shredded chicken soup;  homemade strawberry jam.   Hope you are all enjoying your winter!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

winter strawberry jam

I think it was 12 degrees this morning, but these January mornings blur together unless it's below zero.  Then we stand around at the post office and talk about who got the lowest reading, whose pipes burst, who is forwarding their mail to....Florida.

Wasn't that a sneaky way to slide to Plant City, Florida strawberries?  I am always overjoyed when the first Florida strawberries show up at the market in the dead of winter because Spring doesn't seem too, too far away.  And I have loved strawberries my whole life - once insisting on buying a dress when I was four years old that was printed with strawberries and strawberry leaves.  I was desolate when I outgrew that dress.  Throughout the year, I make my own strawberry jam, which takes all of half an hour for one winter jar, more if you're canning a big batch in the summer.

The easiest way to find the most fragrant berries is to turn the plastic cases over and sniff the bottom of the package .  It may sound (and look) odd, but it's the fastest way to pick out the best of the lot.  If I'm making jam that day, I leave the berries out on the counter so they can warm to room temperature.

This fills one large canning jar - I use the wide mouth ones.  Since you're only making one jar, just make sure the jar is clean, but no need to sterilize, since it lives in the fridge.

Winter Strawberry Jam

2 cups hulled and sliced strawberries
juice from two fresh lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar, warmed in a low oven or 1 minute in a microwave
a candy thermometer 

Place the berries in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, mash briefly, then add the lemon juice.  Simmer for about 15 minutes, making sure you keep stirring so it doesn't scorch.

Add the sugar and stir well, increase the heat a little bit and continue to cook until the candy thermometer registers  soft ball stage: around 240 degrees.  Take off heat and dip a spoon into the jam - it should coat the spoon well.

Pour the jam into your prepared jam jar, reserving a tablespoon of warm jam for that piece of buttered bread you have waiting.  Cap the jar and let sit at room temperature for half an hour, then place in fridge.  

Someone gave me a cutting from their enormous bay tree a few months ago which I keep beside the stove for inspiration, and that dream of a walk-in greenhouse:)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

orange and clementine muffins with greek yogurt

It's still bone-chilling cold here, and no matter how I try to get excited about salads, the bottom line is that they are not warming.  I crave muffins and French toast, macaroni and cheese, juicy hamburgers with hot sauce and salsa.  So much for my New Year's resolution to get back on a healthy (or, as my mother always said to me:  "It's HEALTHFUL, not healthy")  track.

Well, these muffins have two citruses , greek yogurt, some whole wheat flour, canola oil, and fresh nutmeg, which are all good, right?  Biting into a fresh hot muffin, there was a blossoming of oranges and clementine, which suddenly reminded me of Florida vacations and the scent of everyone's backyard orange and grapefruit trees.

The recipe comes from a little book I bought years and years ago, called "Muffins A to Z" by Marie Simmons.  I've tried a few recipes, and, though I often change the recipe as I go along, it's a dandy little book.  

Orange and Clementine muffins

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease your muffin tins well - this recipe made one large Texas muffin in one tin, and 7 small, normal size ones in another muffin tin.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour, sifted
1 and 1/2 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
a hefty pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed citrus juice from clementines and eating oranges

Optional:  rolled oats for sprinkling on tops

Place all the dry ingredients in your mixer bowl:  the whole wheat flour, the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and orange zest.  Briefly whisk.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the canola oil, Greek yogurt, citrus juice and eggs.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and briefly mix until incorporated.  My batter seemed thick, which I think was because my kitchen is cold in the morning - if that happens, add a little more juice or a little water, a tablespoon at most.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter into muffin tins.  I like to sprinkle a few rolled oats on top for contrast.

 Bake 25 minutes, a few minutes more for the Texas size muffins, then remove from oven to cool on a rack.  When muffins are cool, remove gently from tins and serve with sweet butter and freshly squeezed orange and clementine juice.

Warm hugs to you all, and to the beautiful city of Paris .....

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Joan's pancakes

Very chilly weather here, so weeding through my cookbook shelves has been a pleasure.  Instead of slipping and sliding on the icy, bumpy all-of-six inches of snow, I've been rediscovering recipes, and trying out others I never got to.  

Joan and Bud Stillman were good family friends when I was growing up, I think through their original friendship with my stepmother.  We knew their daughters, somewhat close in age to my sister and me.   In the 80's, when I was raising my two children in New Hampshire, I heard Bud had had a thrombosis and they were deeply involved in changing their cooking and eating habits. Then in 1985, I received a wonderful little cookbook from them called "Fast & Low" : easy recipes for low fat cuisine", which they had published with Little, Brown .

Reading it now, in 2015, it closely mirrors the eating habits we have today.  Joan's background in French cooking introduced fresh vegetables, simply prepared chicken and fish, lots of fresh herbs, and very simple recipes.  One of my favorites is her pancake mix, which I store in the fridge in a large Mason jar, ready for a winter morning like this. Her recipe calls for sifting all the dry ingredients - I used a sieve, since I don't have a sifter - which made the pancakes very tender and fluffy.

The Pancake Mix:

2 cups King Arthur all purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups King Arthur whole wheat flour

Measure ingredients into a large bowl, then , using a mesh strainer or flour sifter, sift the ingredients one cup at a time into another large bowl.  Stir dry mixture well.

For the pancakes:

2 large egg whites, beaten
1 cup pancake mix
1 cup buttermilk*

* Note:  her recipe called for 1 and a half cups buttermilk, but the mixture was perfect with one cup, so I did not add more buttermilk.

Mix together and stir gently in a bowl.  Drop 1/3 cup batter into a preheated, nonstick pan, cook 3 minutes, then turn and cook the other side.  Since I don't have a nonstick pan, I used a stainless steel skillet and added extra light olive oil to cook the pancakes.  They did stick a little, but I was just firm with the spatula and they turned out fine.  Excellent flavor!

Store pancake mix in the fridge in a large Mason jar.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Celebrating the New Year: Hoppin' John and a super smoothie

Happy New Year!  I had just gotten used to dating my checks 2014, and here we go again:)  Wishing you all a happy, healthy New Year with delicious food, long walks, and the good company of friends and family.  

Celebrated this morning with the traditional Hoppin' John, but this time I picked out all the Ro-tel chiles and tomatoes I had blithely added last night, after waking up in the middle of the night with that acidity garlic and hot, spicy foods seem to trigger.  I always forget. I always say I'll remember, and then promptly forget until it's too late.  I am very grateful for alka seltzer!

I also made one of my warm, green smoothies, perfect on this chilly morning in New Hampshire, before I had coffee, can you believe it?  Trying to cut back on coffee may not be as difficult as I thought it would be, if I stick with the smoothies.  Did you make any resolutions?  I would love to hear yours!

Warm Green New Year Smoothie:

2 scallions (green onions) chopped
about 3 tablespoons thinly sliced, peeled acorn squash
2 big leaves of kale, torn  (I trimmed off the thick stems and discarded)
pinch of hot pepper flakes
2 cups chicken, vegetable, or beef broth
2 sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped arugula
1/2 teaspoon butter or olive oil

Simmer all the above in a saucepan until the vegetables are soft.  Remove to a blender and puree, adding more water if it's too thick.

Wishing you the best year ever in this Year of the Sheep!