Cooking

Bean and Barley Soup

Bean and Barley Soup

With cold weather I can’t seem to get enough soup. I have been known to have a bowl of soup for breakfast. Why not?

This soup is one I have been making for a long time. While the recipe calls for either smoked pork hocks or smoked turkey this would be a great place to use that ham bone leftover from the holidays. You know, the one you popped in the freezer to use later.

The combination of smoky flavor, pinto beans, barley and green beans works so well together. This is one of those soups that tastes even better the next day. It freezes well, too.

 Bean and Barley Soup

8 oz. dry pinto beans, rinsed
1 T. oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots chopped fine
2 ribs celery, chopped fine
1 lb. Spare ribs or 1 lb. turkey drumstick or thigh
1 lb. ham hock or 1 lb. smoked turkey drumstick or wing
1 qt. chicken stock
2 qts. Vegetable stock or water
1 c. barley
½ lb. green beans, cut
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. parsley

Place beans in saucepan with water and boil 5 minutes. Set aside to soak 1 hour. Drain. Meanwhile cook vegetables and garlic in oil in large kettle. Add meats and stocks and bring to a boil. Stir in pinto beans. Cover and simmer on top of the stove for 1 hour. Or, if pan is ovenproof place in 350-degree oven and cook 1 hour. Stir in barley and beans and cook 1 hour more. Remove from heat and remove meat. Remove any meat from bones, shred and return to soup. Stir in parsley and adjust seasonings. Serves 8-10.

Lemon and Sour Cream Cupcakes

Lemon and Sour Cream Cupcake

I love the lemon flavor in these cupcakes. They are rich, without being too heavy, and full of zest. Winter is citrus season, and lemons are a natural choice for dessert this time of year.

Lemon zest in both the batter and the frosting, really makes them special. Cupcakes are also such a nice, easy dessert. If you try these, I am sure you will be pleased, as will your family and friends.

It makes a big batch, so you can freeze some for later.

Even though I normally frost these, you can also just combine powdered sugar with a little lemon zest and dust them with it, instead of the frosting.

Lemon and Sour Cream Cupcakes

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3½ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon each baking powder and salt

2 cups sour cream

Frosting:

9 tablespoons butter, softened

6 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar

6 tablespoons lemon juice

1 T. vanilla extract

¾ teaspoon grated lemon peel

3 tablespoon milk

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add lemon peel and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream (batter will be thick). Fill 30 greased or paper-lined muffin cups with 1/4 cup of batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. For frosting, cream butter and sugar in a small mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, vanilla, lemon peel and milk; beat until smooth. Frost cupcakes. Makes 30.

Coconut Ginger Soup

Coconut Ginger Soup

This recipe is inspired by a favorite dish at a local Thai restaurant. The recipe is pretty simple. Coconut milk and chicken stock are the base. The soup has a few veggies added and a healthy dash of lime juice and ginger. Then it is just a matter of adding some additional seasoning and the cooked chicken.

If you are starting with raw chicken, you could add it with the initial ingredients and just simmer long enough to cook the chicken. Small slices of chicken would cook in a few minutes. Since I had cooked chicken, I added it  at the end. It was in the soup just long enough to warm it up. That way the chicken wouldn’t get tough from over-cooking.

The soup is meant to have a nice, citrus flavor from the lime juice. Adding the juice from three or four limes should be plenty, but all limes are not the same. If your limes are smallish, or not really juicy, feel free to add a little more.

For a soup thrown together so quickly, it really has a wonderful flavor. It is one of my favorite quick meals. So here is the recipe. Enjoy.

Coconut Ginger Soup

1 can, (13.5 oz.), coconut milk

2 c. chicken stock

1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 jar bamboo shoots, drained

2 T. fresh grated ginger

Juice of 3-4 limes

Hot sauce to taste

3 T. fresh chopped cilantro- or parsley

3 T. chopped green onions

salt to taste

8 oz. cooked chicken, sliced in bite-sized pieces

Heat first 7 ingredients in a saucepan until heated through. Simmer about 5 minutes.  Add cilantro and green onions and season to taste. My limes were pretty juicy. Feel free to add a little more lime juice, if you like. Add the chicken and simmer a few minutes longer. Serves 2-3.

Fried Brown Rice with Veggies

Fried Brown Rice with Veggies

This might not be what comes to mind when you think fried rice. I love fried rice from the local Chinese restaurant, but I like this recipe so much better.

For starters, it is made with brown rice, which I really prefer. It also has a lot more veggies in it than more traditional fried rice. The additional veggies add a lot of flavor and texture and also makes it a pretty dish. It also doesn’t use all that much oil for frying.

I make it often, swapping out veggies based on what I have, and what is in season.  This is the version we made in class last night. Everyone really loved it.

Be sure to use cold rice. I always cook the rice the day before, or earlier in the day. It fries up better that way.

Fried Brown Rice with Vegetables

3 T. oil
1 c. thinly sliced carrots
1 onion, sliced thin
1 clove minced garlic
1 large sweet pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1 c. thin sliced zucchini
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 T. water, optional
2 c. green beans, sliced or pea pods, washed and trimmed
1 c. cold cooked brown rice
4 T. soy sauce
chopped green onion, optional

Place wok over high heat. Add oil when wok is hot. Add carrots and stir-fry 1 minute. Add onion, garlic and pepper and stir-fry 1 minute more. Add zucchini, mushrooms and beans or peas, stir-frying until vegetables are tender crisp, about 2-3 minutes more, adding water if needed. If needed, add extra oil as well. Add rice and stir-fry until just heated through. Add soy sauce and top with onions if you like. Serves 6.

Asian Turnip Cakes

Turnip Cake

If you are planning a party for Chinese New Year, you might want to make turnip cakes.

I first had turnip cakes at a local Asian restaurant. I loved them, and was intrigued at how to make them. They were little squares, lightly crisped on the outside, smooth and creamy in the middle.

When I first heard turnip cake- I was thinking of the purple and white turnips I knew. That is not what these turnip cakes are made from.

It helped a lot when I realized the “turnip” cake was actually made from Daikon radish. Daikon radishes are also called Chinese turnips. They are really big, white radishes. They are available at Asian grocery stores and other grocery stores. Now that I knew the ingredient I needed, I had to find a recipe.

I searched the internet and found a lot of different variations for how to make them.

The first recipe I tried was more like a potato pancake. Shredded radish paired with eggs and bread crumbs. They were good, but not what I had at the restaurant. The turnip cake I had enjoyed was smooth and sort of starchy. Plus, it was a neat square shape.

I found several recipes that included the steaming step. This enabled the cakes to be set up with a starch, cooled and sliced before the final frying step. This was what I wanted!!

The most promising recipe included rice flour- but I was out of rice flour, so I improvised with cornstarch and a little wheat flour. It worked really well.

Many recipes included shrimp or Chinese sausage and sometimes green onions. I decided, this time, to make them vegetarian. That worked well, but you certainly could add meat or shrimp to yours.

I shredded the daikon pretty fine, but you could still discern the radish in the final dish. I liked that a lot. I did not grate them as some recipes suggested.

So here is my version of turnip cakes. They sound like a bit of work, but it really is worth the time. I also like that all the prep can be done a day or two ahead of time, then just slice and fry when you want them.

Turnip Cakes

1 large Daikon radish- about 1¼  lbs., give or take

1 c. water

½ c. minced onion

1 t. salt

½ t. white pepper

½ c. cornstarch

2 T. flour

Oil for frying

Oyster sauce for dipping, optional

Peel and shred radish. I used a fine shredding blade. Squeeze out some of the liquid from the radish. Place shredded radish in bowl with the water and onion and steam in microwave for 4-5 minutes- you can also place radish and onion in saucepan with water and simmer 4-5 minutes. Set aside to cool.  Combine the radish mixture with the cornstarch, flour salt and pepper. Oil an 8×4-inch loaf pan. Place the radish mixture in the prepared pan and steam for 50 minutes.* I placed plastic wrap over the pan to prevent water from dripping into the pan. Remove pan from steamer and cool down for at least 30 minutes. . At this point you can finish preparing the turnip cakes- or place in fridge until ready to make them. When ready to fry the turnip cakes, remove from the pan and cut into slices- about ¾ -inch thick. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook cakes in oil on both sides until golden brown and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Serve with oyster sauce- or whatever dipping sauce you prefer. Makes about 10.

* To steam the mixture- I just used a large stock pot with a cooling rack in it. I brought about 2 inches of water to a boil, placed the pan on the rack and covered the pan. You could also steam in the oven with a roasting pan, with an inch of boiling water in it and covered with foil.

Slicing the turnip cakes before frying

Ready to serve

Almond Cookies- Vegan

Almond Cookies

These are one of my favorite cookies. They are incredibly tender and crumbly. They make a great dessert for Chinese New Year.

The original recipe called for shortening. I used coconut oil instead, and was very happy with the results. You can use half butter, half coconut oil, if you prefer.

Here is the recipe.

Almond Cookies

2 c. flour

1 c. coconut oil- you can use half coconut oil, half butter

1 t. salt

¾  c. sugar, plus extra for topping the cookies

1 t. almond or vanilla extract

½ c. almonds

Place flour in medium bowl. Cut in coconut oil until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add the remaining ingredients, except the almonds and work with your hands until mixture holds together. Heat oven to 375. Form dough into small balls- about an inch. Press tops of cookies in sugar and place on ungreased baking sheet. Press an almond into the center of each cookie. Bake until cookies are a little golden around the edges, 8-10 minutes. Cool a few minutes before removing from the cookie sheet to finish cooling on a rack. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.  

Swiss Chard Gnudi

Swiss Chard Gnudi

I was lucky enough to get a couple of bunches of Swiss chard recently. Thanks, Dale. Swiss chard tastes like beet greens. I love chard. I steamed some of the greens and served them with salt and a drizzle of vinegar.

I still had more chard and decided to make little dumplings, or gnudi, with it. When done right, gnudi are tender and delicate. Kind of like gnocchi, but made without the potatoes.

I served mine tossed in butter and topped with fresh grated Parmesan cheese. If you are trying to get your family to eat more greens- try making these. You could also use spinach or other greens in place of the chard, if you prefer. When using greens like kale or collards, cook the greens a few minutes longer to be sure they will be tender.

Swiss Chard Gnudi

1 lb. Swiss chard, stem ends trimmed
1 c. whole milk ricotta
½ c. grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for sprinkling
¼ c. dried minced onion
1 egg
½ t. coarse salt
¼ t. fresh ground pepper
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
¾ c. flour, plus extra for rolling
Butter
Grated Parmesan cheese
Cut chard leaves from each side of center stem. Cook chard leaves in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain; cool. Squeeze chard leaves until very dry; place in processor. Using on/off turns, finely chop chard. Add ricotta, ½ cup Parmesan, onion, egg, coarse salt, pepper, and nutmeg; process to blend. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add ¾ cup flour; stir to blend. Cover and refrigerate dough overnight.
Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon some flour onto large plate. Working in batches, drop heaping teaspoonfuls dumpling dough (size of small walnuts) onto plate with flour to form about 36. Using floured hands, gently shape each into 1 1/2-inch-long, 1/2-inch-thick oval. Tap off excess flour; transfer to prepared baking sheet. They can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill. Bring large wide pot of salted water to boil. Slide dumplings into pot; cook until they float to the top, about 4-5 minutes. They are very tender so remove from water gently. Toss in butter and sprinkle with cheese. Serves 4.

How to Make Ghee

Homemade Ghee

Ghee, if you haven’t had it before, is a kind of clarified butter, often used in Indian cooking. You can buy it at stores that carry international foods, but it is easy to make. I had a lot of butter left over from holiday baking, so I used some to make ghee.

Ghee has a wonderful, toasted, nutty  flavor and it can be used in all sorts of dishes. You can add it to veggies or spread it on toast. I love to add ghee to rice or pasta.

A wonderful bonus when using ghee, because the milk solids have been removed, you can fry foods in it. It doesn’t burn quickly, like regular butter.

Because the solids have been removed, you can store ghee at room temperature. Although, it is recommended to use up home made ghee in a month or so. For longer storage, you can pop it in the fridge, but you don’t have to.

The difference between ghee and clarified butter is that ghee is cooked longer, to develop a darker color and wonderful toasted flavor. The longer cooking also removes any water in the butter, leaving just the fat behind.

There are several methods for making ghee. Some suggest long, slow cooking. Others a little more heat and less cooking time. I prefer the latter. I am not the most patient person.

Here is how I made my ghee.

Start with a pound of  unsalted butter. Place the butter in a heavy bottomed, medium sized saucepan. Melt the butter  over low heat. As soon as the butter is melted, turn the heat up a bit- to medium. It will start to form foam on the top at this point. After a few minutes, the foaming will stop. Turn up the heat a little more- not high heat, but a little higher medium, if that makes sense. Watch for the second foam to form on the top. This takes about 7-8 minutes. It will have turned a pretty, golden color. At this point, your ghee is done. You’ll have to strain it, to keep out the solids, which will have settled to the bottom of the pan. I strained my ghee twice, through several layers of cheesecloth. Be sure the container you are straining the ghee into is heat proof- it is pretty hot at this point. I used a stainless steel bowl, then transferred the ghee to a canning jar. You could also use a fine mesh strainer, if you don’t have cheesecloth. Store in a container with a tight fitting lid- you don’t want moisture to get to your ghee. It will get more solid as it cools down.

One last thing. I used a stainless steel pot and the brown bits took a bit of scrubbing to get out of the pot. Small price to pay for your own ghee.

That’s all there is to it. Use within a month. Trust me, it never lasts that long around here!!

first foam

second foam

strained, still warm

All cooled down

Hazelnut Biscotti

Hazelnut Biscotti

As part of my pantry challenge, I needed to defrost and inventory my freezer. I was so pleased to find a bag of hazelnuts I had forgotten about. I decided to use some of them to make biscotti.

These biscotti are the perfect treat to have with your morning cup of coffee or tea. Crisp, but not too hard, they are studded with crunchy hazelnuts and flavored with vanilla and orange peel. I like them just the way they are, but you could dress them up with a drizzle of powdered sugar glaze. You can also dip one end of each biscotti in melted chocolate.

I don’t know why more people don’t make their own biscotti. They are so easy to make, and you can flavor them to suit your own taste. Once baked, store them in an air tight container. They stay crisp for weeks. Assuming you don’t eat them first!

Biscotti get their distinctive, extra crunchy texture, from being baked not once, but twice. The batter is spread on a cookie sheet and baked until firm. Once cooled and little, the loaf is sliced and the slices are returned to the oven to get baked until crisp and toasted. I put the slices on a cooling rack, placed on the baking sheet, before the second bake. That way, the biscotti toast on both sides evenly. No need to turn them all over half-way through the second bake.

So here is the recipe. I hope if you haven’t made biscotti before, you give them a try.

Hazelnut Biscotti

3 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1/2 t. salt

3 eggs

1 c sugar

1/4 c. butter, melted

1/4 c. olive oil

1 1/2 t. vanilla

1 t. grated orange peel

1 c. hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and chopped

Combine dry ingredients and set aside. Mix together eggs, sugar, butter, oil, vanilla and peel. Beat until smooth and stir in flour mixture and nuts. Grease a large baking sheet, oil your hands,  and place dough on sheet, forming into a 16×4-inch log. Bake at 325-degrees until tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Loaf with spread a bit. Cool 15 minutes and leave oven on. Use serrated knife to cut into 1/2 -inch thick slices. Place cooling rack on a baking sheet. Place slices, cut side down, on cooling rack and return to oven for 20-22 minutes. Cool. Makes about 24.

Chocolate Coconut “Snowballs”

Chocolate Coconut Snowballs

I have wonderful memories of my Aunt Josie making these for every family gathering. Aunt Josie cut the cake into squares. They were all perfectly even. I asked her how she did that. She told me that she used her cooling racks to get the lines even. She would set the cooling racks on her cake and use the wires as guides. So clever.

I never could seem to get them even, so I bake my cake in cupcake tins and call then snowballs. Whatever the shape, these little cakes are a favorite treat in my family.

In bakeries, you’ll find them in squares or rectangles. She shared her recipe with me a long time ago, and I am sharing it with you.

You can bake the batter in mini muffin pans or standard muffin pans. It just depends on what size you want your snowballs to be. After the cupcakes  are baked, freeze them. The frozen cakes are dipped in a chocolate sauce and then rolled in desiccated coconut.

Desiccated coconut is dried and unsweetened. It looks like coarse, white bread crumbs. You can find it in stores that carry baking supplies and at Asian markets. It is the same kind of coconut used to make coconut shrimp.

Here is the recipe for making the “snowballs”. The recipe for the cupcakes is listed below, as well. I just doubled my classic white cupcake recipe, but you could use a box mix, if you prefer.

Aunt Josie’s Coconut Cake Squares aka “Snowballs”

1 white cake, prepared and frozen solid*
1 c. cocoa
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 c. water
1 t. vanilla
1 c. desiccated coconut (available at cake supply stores and some health food stores)

Cut frozen cake into small squares, or cake can be baked in regular or mini cupcake tins. Keep cake frozen until ready to use. Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients, except coconut, in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil then simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
Using toothpicks or fondue forks, dip frozen cake in sauce let drain a few seconds, then roll in the coconut. Can be enjoyed right away or frozen again for later use.

*If you make the cake in muffin tins you’ll get 24 cupcakes or about 60 mini cupcakes.

Classic White Cupcakes

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 12paper liners. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine flour and baking powder, add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Finally stir in the milk until batter is smooth. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cupcakes are done when they springs back to the touch. Makes 12.

RIP Aunt Josie. Will miss you forever.