Monday, November 21, 2011

Split Pea Soup with Celeriac

     The excesses of Thanksgiving are behind me (literally as well as figuratively, I'm afraid), and now simple hearty fare like this split pea soup is what I'm craving. It's a great way to use up the leftovers from your holiday ham or you could opt for a vegetarian version. I love the humble celery root in this recipe. It won't win any beauty contests, but it imparts a subtle celery flavor and adds body and texture to the soup. Some pumpernickel croutons or a nice slice of crusty bread make a perfect accompaniment. Make some for now and freeze some for later- it'll come in handy when you need a quick meal on a cold evening!

Split Pea Soup with Celeriac and Ham
1 ham bone with the fat trimmed off OR 1 Tablespoon Better Than Boullion Ham Base  OR a smoked ham hock. For a vegetarian/vegan option, use water or vegetable broth instead.
1 lb. dried split peas
1 small/medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery root, peeled and finely diced
1 leek, thoroughly washed and finely sliced (optional- if you don't use it though, add a bit more onion)
1/2 lb. cubed cooked ham -or however much you like in your soup (optional)
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
  •  Rinse split peas in a colander, and go through them to make sure there are no rocks. (Yes, I've found them before in bags of beans!)
  • Put all ingredients except cubed ham, salt and pepper in large soup pot with 1 1/2-2 qts. water.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 1-2 hours, or until peas and vegetables are very tender.
  • Remove ham bone. If you prefer your soup smooth, use a stick blender to puree it. Add cubed ham (and any ham remaining on soup bone) and season to taste. Simmer for about 10 minutes more to warm the ham through. 
  • Serve with pumpernickel croutons if desired. This soup will thicken more as it cools. To reheat, you may need to add water.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

     Happy National Bundt Day! This Gingerbread Bundt Cake, made with stout beer and fresh ginger, is a great way to kick off your holiday baking season. The smell of molasses and ginger always makes me feel all warm and cozy, especially when the air is crisp and cool outside. Wouldn't this beautiful bundt would be a lovely addition to your Thanksgiving table? It's spicy, moist with the complex flavors of molasses and stout, and covered with a gingery glaze made with my favorite ginger ale of all time.

     Bottled in the Northern Neck since 1926,  Northern Neck Ginger Ale is a taste of home for me. I appreciate its crisp, peppery bite that sets it apart from others. It's only sold in cans and plastic bottles now, but I remember the signature green glass bottles with the bubbles on the front!

     And if a gingerbread bundt doesn't suit your fancy, head over to The Food Librarian. For the past three years, Mary has celebrated National Bundt Day by baking thirty bundts for each of the thirty days leading up to it! You can find her bevy of beautiful bundts here, and I bet you can find one that you'll want to bake. It's O.K. to celebrate the occasion a little late, especially if it involves eating  cake. :)

Stout Gingerbread Bundt Cake
from All-Time Best Holiday Recipes,  America's Test Kitchen
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 oz.) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz.) sugar
4 teaspoons grated or minced fresh ginger
3/4 cup robust or dark molasses
3/4 cup stout beer (I used Guinness)
1 3/4 cups (7 oz.) confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons ginger ale
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Cake Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan.
  •  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  • Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in ground spices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk eggs, sugar, and fresh ginger in large bowl until light and frothy. Stir in melted butter mixture, molasses, and stout until incorporated. Whisk flour mixture into egg mixture until no lumps remain.
  • Pour batter into prepared pan and gently tap pan on counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until skewer inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.Let cake cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack; let cool completely.
  • Prepare glaze: Whisk all ingredients in bowl until smooth. Pour glaze over cooled cake.
  • Enjoy! 

Broccoli Ramen Salad

     Colorful and crunchy, with a tangy yet sweet dressing, this easy salad is great with anything from fried chicken to hot dogs. It's perfect for potlucks, tailgates, fall picnics or to accompany a quick sandwich at home for lunch. It's even still delicious the day after it's prepared, when all of the flavors have melded together and the dressing has soaked into the ramen noodles.

     The hardest (ha!) part of the preparation is chopping the onion and smashing the dry noodles into bits (fun!) which makes this ideal for those times when you need something in a hurry. And who doesn't need fast food now and then?

Broccoli Ramen Salad
1 bag Broccoli Slaw Mix (12 oz.) If you can't find this already bagged, it's just a mixture of julienne broccoli stems, julienne carrots and shredded red cabbage
1 pkg. Ramen Noodles (Beef, Chicken or Oriental flavor)
1/2-1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup oil (Canola or light flavored olive)
1/3 cup sugar (up to 1/2 cup if you prefer a sweeter taste)
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced

Break up the ramen noodles (in the bag) and place them in a large bowl with the broccoli slaw mix, almonds, cranberries and onion.
Mix together oil, vinegar, sugar and seasoning packet (optional) from the ramen noodle soup. Pour over the slaw mixture and toss together. If you prefer not to use the seasoning packet, you may want to add some salt. Serve immediately (ultimate crunch!) or refrigerate to serve later.

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Brown Sugar Maple Walnut Cut-Outs

     Call me a sentimentalist. I love getting letters. The real ones, I mean, written on paper with a pencil or pen. Some of my favorite notes of recent have been painstakingly drawn with crayons on scraps of crumpled notebook paper. In these days of email and texts, a handwritten note carries with it an air of warmth and care.

     Handwritten recipes are like that too. I have a box full of recipes that my friends and family have shared with me, most of them handwritten on recipe cards, notebook paper, index cards- whatever was handy at the time. Going through my recipe box is like a trip down memory lane, recalling special people and special times.

     When this handwritten recipe card fluttered to the floor out of a book I was shelving at the thrift store where I volunteer, I knew at once that it had also been special to someone. Lovingly handwritten (by a Grandma, no less),worn and stained, it had all of the earmarks of a well loved  recipe- one that would feel right at home in my recipe box.

     I changed very little of the recipe, adding some maple flavoring and topping it off with a walnut half and a divine maple glaze. (I had to resist the temptation to eat it by the spoonful.) These brown sugar beauties were perfectly chewy with crisp edges and a rich, buttery maple flavor.  I'm pretty sure Stephanie's Grandma would approve.

Brown Sugar Maple Walnut Cut-Outs
"Receipt" adapted from Stephanie's Grandma
2 2/3 cups brown sugar, lightly packed (sift to prevent lumps)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb. soft butter or oleo
2 eggs, not too small
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour 
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Walnut halves or pieces (Toasting the walnuts slightly brings out their flavor.)

Maple Frosting ingredients
1/2 stick butter
2 cups confectioners sugar (sifted, to prevent lumps)
1/2 tsp. maple flavoring
1-2 Tblsp. brewed coffee, hot

Directions for making cookies:
  • Cream together sugar, salt and butter. 
  • Beat eggs, maple flavor and vanilla extract together. Add to sugar and butter mixture.
  • Sift dry ingredients together and gradually blend into above mixture.
  • Chill well. Roll out on floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.
  • Cut with cookie cutters (I used leaf shapes, but a circle would be just as nice) and bake on parchment for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are brown around edges. (Actual baking time will depend on the thickness and diameter of your cookies.)
  • Cool on wire rack. Yield depends on thickness of dough and size of your cookie cutters.
  • Use frosting (recipe follows) to attach a walnut half to each cookie. Drizzle frosting over cookie and walnut. (Or frost cookies and scatter chopped walnuts on top.)
Maple frosting:
  • Melt butter in skillet. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk in flavoring and confectioners sugar.
  • Thin with hot coffee. Whisk until smooth and of drizzling consistency. (Thin with more coffee if needed.)

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