mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

lentils to begin the New Year! . . .

IMG_0297I saw this recipe online and wanted to make lentils. The only steps I changed is that instead of 4 cups of water, I used 2 cups chicken broth and 2 cups of water. In addition, I used only a teaspoon of dried thyme, not a tablespoon of fresh thyme.

The lentils cooked for exactly 28 minutes and then I shut off the heat. When it cools, I’ll add soy sauce, mustard and salt as instructed in the recipe. Can’t wait to taste it tonight for supper! Will also make some cornbread to go with it, and a green salad.

Happy New Year, everybody! And thanks for reading my blog!

stuffed mushrooms galore! . . .

IMG_0213(These photos are of the stuffed mushrooms ready for the freezer.)IMG_0217

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I’m having two different sets of guests – and wanted to make stuffed mushrooms as one of the side dishes for each meal. For many years, I’ve made them, sometimes using fresh crabmeat and sometimes not. Our local seafood market has been increasing the cost of fresh Maine crabmeat from $14.99, gradually now to $20.99. It’s the same stuff. But they hike it up especially for the holidays, something I think is both unkind and unnecessarily pushy to take advantage of customers.

So, this year, I decided to forego it. I was in Wegman’s this morning and they had large boxes of Bella mushrooms for sale – so I bought two of them, not knowing how many I would need for the two meals. When I got home, I emptied them out into a large pan and de-stemmed them all, wiping them if they needed it. I ended up with two bins of mushrooms, sorted by size. I did some research online to see what the best way would be to prepare them so that they tasted best four days from now. All advice pointed to freezing them stuffed ahead of time, and without cooking the mushrooms.

All right then, as Freddy Mercury used to say! For the stuffing, I peeled and finely chopped a fresh shallot instead of using garlic. I melted half a stick of unsalted butter and put in the shallots. I then chopped up some fresh Italian parsley and added that to the pan – it became aromatic pretty quickly with some Bell’s seasoning powder sprinkled on top. I noticed that I had two squares of leftover homemade cornbread from the other night, so I crumbled them by hand into the pan. Then, I added my good old stand-by – Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing crumbs – added a little chicken broth just to meld the stuffing together, but not for it to stick together. A little more Bell’s seasoning (it smells and tastes so good!) and I left the crumbly mixture to cool.

When it had cooled, I cut up some Philadelphia cream cheese (which was sitting out at room temperature) and with two small knives, I cut the cream cheese into the stuffing until it was pretty well incorporated. Then, according to some online advice, I put a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and with a spoon and my fingers, I filled the largest mushrooms first – pressing the filling into the mushrooms and placing them on the parchment paper. I created a level space in my freezer (this might have been the hardest part of the whole exercise!) and placed the sheet of stuffed mushrooms to freeze. Most instructions said 3 hours should be enough time for them to freeze solid.

When frozen, the stuffed mushrooms can then be put into freezer bags or lined up in serving course containers until ready to cook. For that, preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the frozen mushrooms directly on into baking dishes sprayed with Pam. Bake for about 30 minutes or so until browned on top and cooked through. I won’t know for a few days how these will taste but I’ll add a footnote and photos when we have them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fingers crossed!~ and happy holidays, everyone~!

 

 

beef vegetable soup on a rainy Sunday. . .

It’s been raining hard all day – and it looks like it’s going to keep raining during the late afternoon kickoff for the Patriots vs. Cowboys football game. So, I put together a robust beef vegetable soup for our dinner tonight:IMG_0144

1. Browned a chopped Vidalia onion in olive oil

2. Added four large beef rib soup bones to brown

3. Added spring water to cover, frozen mixed vegetables, a can of stewed diced tomatoes and stirred the soup together, letting it simmer with the top on.

4. Cut up small yellow potatoes into fourths with the skins on; after a couple of hours, removed the soup bones, separated the beef pieces from the cartilage and bones, added meat back into the soup.

5. Sliced cabbage and added to soup. Tasted for flavor and added 2 spoonfuls of  beef flavor “Better than Bouillion” to deepen the beef taste. Simmered soup, covered for another hour or so.

Will serve for supper with sliced Pannetonne bread on the side. YUM

 

maple-oatmeal scones! . . .

IMG_0098I’ve made this recipe for maple-oatmeal scones before. I used a fancy round cutter and they were pretty and pretty tasty too. This time, I halved Ina Garten’s recipe and used my Cuisinart to process the very cold unsalted butter with the dry ingredients. Took only a couple of pulses (because I cut the hard butter into small pieces before putting them into the processor.

The dough was sticky and I didn’t handle it much – just added a few pats of flour where it was really moist. Patted it into a rectangle and cut the scones with a serrated knife into triangles, transferring them to a baking sheet with parchment paper on it. I forgot to brush egg wash and sprinkle oats on them before baking. But almost baked to the end but still light colored, I opened the oven, swished them with egg wash and sprinkled oats on the top. Then, back in the oven for another 8 minutes or so.

Tonight, we’re having grilled chicken thighs, yellow squash with bacon and these maple oatmeal scones. They look much lighter, puffier and more delicious than the first time around. Yum!~

 

baked apples! . . .

DSCN9394A friend gave me some freshly picked baked apples a few weeks ago. I cored them and stuffed the apples with a mixture of butter, brown sugar, golden raisins and walnuts. Baked in an oven for about an hour at 350 degrees, the apples ballooned up and looked luscious when cooked.

They tasted even better than they looked – with a little cream in the bowl alongside the warm apple. I think I like these even better than when they’re baked in a pie!

 

 

cream scones for tea! . . .

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A friend is visiting tomorrow and we’re going to enjoy a lunch with tea sandwiches and a cream tea with scones. I made the scones today so as to be free to make the sandwiches tomorrow. The scones keep at room temperature, lightly covered.

I used the cream scone recipe from Bon Appetit because it called for mixing chilled butter with the flour mixture by hand. It also allowed for patting out the dough and cutting it into triangles with a knife, or cutting them out with cutters. I used a scalloped cutter and a square one.

Before baking them in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes, I brushed the tops with cream and sprinkled demerera sugar on them  (which I used in the recipe too.)

Tomorrow, I’ll heat them up briefly in the oven, split them and fill with warm raspberry jam and creme fraiche. Lapsang Souchang tea alongside. Yum Yum!

 

 

homemade split green pea soup! . . .

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On a misty, grey, wet Saturday in October, it seems like a good day to make homemade split pea soup for supper. I like to use Oscar Meyer Maple Bacon (about 4 strips cut up) sauteed with chopped Vidalia onion, 2 carrots and 2 stalks of celery. Add to the aromatic mixture 2 bags of split green peas (might as well make a lot and freeze some if there’s leftovers, right?) 2 College Inn cans of chicken broth and 2 cans of filtered water. Stir and cover.
Cook on medium low heat all afternoon, checking for stock and adding more if needed. I ended up doubling the amount of stock and water due to two packets of dried peas and not one. I also transferred the soup to a larger pot so that the vegetables could circulate while cooking. The stock can be salty so I don’t add any salt until the end when the vegetables have softened and pureed into a soup. With it, we’ll have toasted Everything bagels and smoked salmon with cream cheese, capers and tomatoes.
Vive October and homemade vegetable soups!

gravlax made at home! . . .

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I’ve made gravlax a few times during the past few years. Sometimes it’s been a little salty and dry – due, I think to the pieces of salmon being two small and thin. This time, my daughter and her husband were visiting and I purchased two large fillets of fresh salmon, cut from the thick end of 2 large pieces – 2.5 pounds total! I left the skin on because it provides a firm base upon which to slice the cured salmon when serving.

Here’s what I did which produced spectacular gravlax as you can see from the photograph above:

1. Using a paper towel wet with cold water, wipe the salmon clean on both sides. Pat dry.

2. In a bowl, mix together 1/3 cup of Maldon salt and 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar. Mix well.

3. Lined a glass pie plate with plastic wrap, 1 long strip going sideways and 1 long strip lengthwise. Lay down a double thickness of parchment paper. Then lay the larger piece of salmon, skin side down on the paper. Sprinkle the salt and sugar mixture evenly over the surface of the salmon.

4. Rinse and dry long fronds of fresh dill. Lay it generously on the salmon with the salt/sugar mixture on it.

5. Take the other piece of salmon and sprinkle it all over with salt/sugar mixture. Place gently skin side up on top of the fresh dill.

6. Wrap the plastic wrap both ways so that the salmon is airtight. Wrap a sheet of aluminum foil around the pie plate and place in refrigerator with heavy cans on top of it (baked beans do nicely) to weight down the fish while it is curing.

7. Check it after 24 hours and spoon any liquid back onto the salmon. Otherwise leave it along and let it cure in the fridge for about 36 hours total.

8. Take out the salmon about an hour before serving. Scrape off the dill/salt/sugar and brush the surface clean with a barely wet paper towel. With a sharp knife, slice at an angle, placing thin slices onto a serving plate – laying them crosswise as in the photo above works well.

9. Make a mustard dill sauce with chopped fresh dill, Poupon coarse mustard, a little champagne or sherry vinegar, half a spoon of sugar to taste.

10. Serve the sliced gravlax with sliced red onion, capers, sliced tomato and the mustard dill sauce. Toasted pumpernickel bread is a good option for eating the gravalax – Russian rye or toasted Everything bagels works well too. Bon Appetit!

Note: The four of us partook of the smaller piece for supper. I split the larger piece in two and we each had a nice repast the second night. So, if it were to serve at one meal, I’d estimate that the 2.5 pounds of salmon would serve six to eight adults easily.

honey crisp apple crisp! . . .

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I remembered there were four small honey crisp apples in the refrigerator bin that needed a purpose in life. So, this morning, I peeled and cored them, dressed them with a mixture of flour, sugar and cinnamon and placed them into a fluted white porcelain baking dish, one of my favorites. Dotted the top with unsalted butter bits.

For the topping, I used a food processor and whizzed about a cup and a half of steel cut oats, some flour and brown sugar, cinnamon and a stick of cold butter cut into pats. What resulted was a crumbly topping that looked like too much for the dish, but I managed to pat it all onto the top. I remembered that these oatmeal crisp toppings sometimes needed some extra oomph to do their best.

I took it out after about fifty minutes in a 400 degree oven. Looked good and smelled even better. Tonight, we’ll heat it up in the microwave so it’s just warm and add a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream for dessert. My husband, G. likes to call any of these crisps “Apple Pan Dandy” – I don’t know where he remembered that from, but I’m good with it!

 

 

cream of (fresh) corn soup! . . .

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It’s almost the end of the fresh corn season – sometimes it goes into October if you’re lucky. I had three ears of corn in the fridge and decided to make a cream of corn soup to go along with our supper tonight. The fresh corn is important, no matter how long it’s been around – and is perfect to use up in this delicious soup.

So here goes – melt about a third of a stick of unsalted butter, shuck the corn, rinse the silk off and dry. Then, using a sharp paring knife with a serrated edge, hold the corn by the end and slice the kernels off the cob into the melting butter. Repeat until all of the kernels are simmering in the butter.

For three ears, I added a half gelatin pack of Knorr’s chicken stock. About a cup of filtered water was added to make a light stock. Stir and cook gently for about twenty minutes or so. The corn mixture will be cooked down a bit. When cool, put it all into a food processor and pulse until creamy.

Place the pureed corn back into the pot and add one can of Goya coconut milk. Yep, that’s what I said. It will lighten and make the corn creamy (other times, people add cream.) Taste for seasoning and add salt (a healthy pinch.) This will enrich the flavor of the soup so don’t omit. Stir until the coconut milk is well blended into the soup and the salt has had a chance to do its magic.

I think this cream of fresh corn soup may be my favorite right now – superceding cream of cucumber soup – a family favorite. I hope you’ll enjoy it too!