Asparagus Pickled and Asparagus Soup

Roadside stands and farm markets selling fresh asparagus is a sure sign of Spring in Michigan.  At our house we love asparagus roasted, in risotto, in quiche and, of course, pickled.  Anyway it’s served!  The pickled spears make perfect Bloody Mary swizzlers, make a relish tray look fancy and are just great for munching.  Several people were joking about asparagus and smelly pee so I decided to do a little research to see what causes the smell.  Asparagus, they say, contains asparagusic acid…not a very creative name…which breaks down into sulfur containing compounds when ingested.  Apparently everyone’s urine is pungent after eating asparagus however not everyone has the special gene that allows them to smell it.  Interesting.  In my research I came across a quote by French novelist Marcel Proust from the early 1900s.  He wrote  “asparagus transforms my chamber pot into a flask of perfume”.  I can tell you I do not have the “flask of perfume” gene.  In my reading I also learned that to cultivate white asparagus the shoots are covered with soil as they grow.  No exposure to sunlight causes them to remain white.  White or green, asparagus is very low in calories (about 3 calories a spear) and high in vitamins and fiber.  So enjoy guilt free!!

I bought about 25 pounds of asparagus and turned the majority of it into pickled spears…20 pint and a half jars.  I used taller jars allowing for longer spears but you still trim off several inches.  So as not to let that all go to waste I made asparagus soup.  Recipe follows.

Pickled Asparagus Ingredients:

7-8 pounds of asparagus trimmed to the appropriate length

2 quarts of water

1 quart of white vinegar

1 cup of granulated sugar

2 tsp mustard seed

1 T dill seed

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 T black pepper corns

1 T kosher salt

14 cloves of garlic peeled

1 onion sliced

Trim the spears to approximately 6″ and wash them thoroughly.  Sterilize the jars in a water bath.  In a heavy kettle combine the water, vinegar, sugar and spices and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and maintain the brine at a simmer.

In the meantime clean the garlic cloves and thin slice the onion.

Once the asparagus is trimmed, brine is simmering and onions and garlic are ready begin filling your jars.  I find it easiest to lay a sterilized jar on it’s side to fill it with spears adding some onion slices and a couple cloves of garlic to each jar.  Once the jar is filled top off with hot brine leaving 1/4 inch of head space.  Seal the jars.

Once all of the jars have been filled process them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars and allow them to cool completely.  As with all other canned goods I store them in a cool dry place,  Make sure the jars have sealed before stowing them away.  If a jar did not seal put it in the refrigerator and enjoy within a few weeks.  The quantities above made 7 pint and a half jars.

Allow the jars to sit for a couple of weeks prior to sampling.  That allows the brine to permeate the asparagus spears.

NOTE:  If you like your spears kicked up, add some sliced fresh jalapeño  to each jar or increase the red pepper flakes.

 

All of these yummy pieces of asparagus (and more) were left behind after my pickling and I did not want them to go to waste so they became soup.

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup Ingredients

2 pounds of asparagus pieces

1 medium onion rough diced

2-3 cloves of garlic

2 T butter

24 oz chicken broth

2 medium potatoes peeled and rough chopped

3 ribs of celery rough chopped

1 tsp of thyme

lemon juiced (approximately 1/4 cup)

12 oz half n half

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven heat the butter and saute the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the asparagus, potato and celery.  Saute for 2-3 more minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender.

Add the thyme and using an immersion blender blend until smooth.  Stir in the lemon juice.

Stir in the half n half and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring the soup back to a simmer.

While the soup is warming blanch some asparagus tips and pieces and set aside to add to the soup.

Ladle the soup into bowls.  Add some asparagus pieces and garnish with Parmesan cheese.  Serve with homemade croutons or crusty bread.

NOTE:  Discard the thick tough stalks and wash and cut the tender left over stalks into 1-2 inch pieces.  Blanch, bag and freeze.  They can be used in soup, quiche, or other recipes.

Steel Cut Oats with Chia Seeds

My dad is going to be 90 in a few months.  His conversations with same age and even younger cohorts frequently revolve around health issues.  Comparing blood pressure, cholesterol readings, everyday aches and pains, medications.  And, as the oldest child of that nearly 90 year old, I realize I’m getting older as I start thinking and talking more about things like colon health, good and bad cholesterol, heart health, etc.  when shopping for groceries and preparing our meals.

I have always liked hot cereals like cream of wheat, oatmeal, and remember malt-o-meal??  I was watching an episode of The Chew a few weeks ago where Michael Symon prepared what he called The Worlds Greatest Oatmeal.  I got online after the show and saved the recipe.  A “simple” breakfast which contained nearly 30 ingredients.  Michael Symon’s recipe uses steel cut oats, chia seeds, coconut oil and coconut milk.

Steel cut oats look more like rice than the rolled oats most of us are accustomed to.  They are less processed, take longer to cook, and have a chewier consistency and nuttier flavor.  Nutritionally they are not significantly different than rolled or instant oats.   Chia seeds are one of nature’s superfoods.  They come from a flowering plant in the mint family and date back to the Aztecs.  They are rich in antioxidants, fiber, iron, calcium and contain more omega 3 than salmon.  They also absorb as much as 10 x their weight in water so they help us feel full and satisfied.  All of that makes this a heart healthy, colon healthy breakfast.

My modified version of The World’s Greatest Oatmeal  uses some of the process and ingredients in Michael Symon’s recipe.  And, to be fair, his 30-ingredient recipe included a blueberry compote and a streusel topping which I omitted.

Ingredients:

1 T coconut oil

1 cup steel cut oats

3 cups water

1 cup full fat coconut milk

3 T brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 T chia seeds

Because steel cut oats take much longer to cook than even the old fashioned rolled oats it works best and is most efficient to start this before going to bed.

Heat 1 T of coconut oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and toast the oats for a couple minutes stirring constantly.

Add 3 cups of water and bring the oats to a boil.  Cover the pan and remove from the heat.  Let the pan sit overnight.

In the morning uncover the oats and stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and 1 cup of coconut milk.

Bring the oats up to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes.  About 8 minutes into the simmer stir in the chia seeds.

Ladle into bowls and top with fresh fruit and a little granola for extra crunch.  (My granola recipe is on my blog.).  I used blueberries but you can use your favorite berries, banana, or diced peaches.

Add a little milk at the table and you have a very satisfying, tasty, stick to your ribs breakfast.

NOTE:  If you prefer not to use coconut milk you can substitute an additional cup of water, milk, or half n half.  You may also want to stir in some coconut flakes or chopped walnuts or pecans.

And yes, the chia seeds in this recipe are the same chia seeds that sprout “hair” on the clay heads sold as Chia Pets.

 

Shrimp and Polenta

When we visited Charleston last spring we went to a little brewery for dinner and adult beverages on our first night in town.  Everyone said, if you visit Charleston you need to eat some shrimp and grits.  So…I ordered the shrimp and grits and enjoyed every bite.  This recipe is my take on that dinner but I substituted polenta for the grits.  I like grits but I like polenta a little better.  You can serve this with grits if you’d like.  It’s a really easy meal to prepare and very satisfying.  I tried to enjoy an IPA with my dinner when we were at the brewery but they were tapping a new keg and I had my IPA for dessert.  My timing was better at home.

Ingredients:

4 T olive oil

1/2 cup green onions diced

2-3 cloves of garlic sliced thin

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup fresh parsley chopped

1 lemon zested and juiced

2 T tomato paste

red pepper flakes to taste

3/4-1 pound of raw shrimp cleaned and deveined

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare your polenta (or grits) per package instructions. 

In a heavy skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat and saute about half of the onion, red peppers flakes to taste and all of the garlic for a minute or two.  Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook  a couple minutes on each side.

When they’re done the shrimp will be opaque and the shells will be pink.  Remove the shrimp to a platter and set aside.

You want to cook the shrimp with the shells on because the shells add a lot of flavor to the dish.  Add the tomato paste to the skillet and cook over medium heat stirring constantly for a couple minutes.  Stir in the white wine and a quarter cup of water or chicken broth.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 3-4 minutes to reduce slightly.

Stir in the remaining green onion, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Add the shrimp back to the skillet and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Dish up some polenta (or grits) into your bowl and ladle on the shrimp and sauce.

Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and a nice cold IPA and enjoy!

NOTE:  I buy white wine in little four packs.  We drink very little white wine and the little bottles are the perfect size for cooking. If you don’t have any wine on hand you can substitute chicken or seafood broth.

I did not do this but, if you prefer, before adding the shrimp back into the sauce you can remove all but the tails from the shrimp making them a little easier, less messy, to eat.

 

Troll Movie Headbands

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I’m kind of out of the loop on children’s movies but I saw some of these headbands on line a couple weeks ago and showed them to my great niece Chloe.  She knew immediately what they were about and she wanted one!  A pink one.  So I bought some tulle, some inexpensive headbands and some colorful hearts to use for embellishments.  They were fun to make.  Hoping the girls like them.

Black Rice

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On our way home last weekend after visiting friends we stopped at Horrocks in Lansing.  I’ve always loved that place!  Their website says they are a Farm Market but they are so much more.  A huge selection of beers and wine, all sorts of packaged products including a lot of organic items, meats, cheeses, and, of course, produce.  Many things that you might not find in your average grocery store.  We were with another couple and my friend Jane and I can both spend a LONG time reading labels and looking for new and unusual items to try.  We met a woman in the rice and pasta aisle who is apparently a kindred spirit.  She  was looking for Forbidden Black Rice.  She said she loves the taste and consistency.  We had never heard of it or seen it.  So naturally, each of us bought a bag.  On the way home we looked up recipes for preparing black rice and found instructions for the pressure cooker.

A little more research told me that black rice is a superfood.  It has more anatioxidants than blueberries.  Its always a bonus when something tastes good and is good for you.  Legend has it that it was grown only for the emperors of ancient China and was called “forbidden” because it was off limits to the general public.

Last Wednesday I cooked my bag of black rice.  I served it with chicken with a mushroom sauce and asparagus.  And we loved it.

Ingredients:

2 cups black rice

2 3/4 cups water

1 T olive oil

1 tsp salt

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The instructions are pretty straight forward.  Combine the rice, water, olive oil and salt in the pressure cooker.  Select high pressure for 22 minutes.

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Allow for 10 minutes of natural pressure release.  After the 10 minutes, release any remaining pressure.  Keep the rice warm until you’re ready to serve.

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Black rice is not as fluffy as white and it has a rich nutty taste and a chewy texture.  We liked it much better than brown rice.  I think it would be excellent in a stir fry or a cold rice salad.  I had quite a bit leftover and took the advice of the lady we met in Horrocks and froze it.  Maybe I’ll use it in soup next.

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The day after I had cooked my black rice I got a picture and a text message from my daughter.  Unbeknownst to me, they had cooked black rice as well.  Great minds apparently think alike.  And from the looks of their dish they liked it as well.

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Thank you Kate.  I’m glad we met you in Horrocks and love that you introduced us to forbidden black rice.

Navajo Tacos

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I hadn’t made these in a long time.  What makes these tacos so very good is the fry bread.  The dough is made from very basic ingredients…flour, shortening, baking powder and water.  No yeast.  The fry bread is rustic, flattened and shaped by hand and then fried in hot oil.  Fry bread dates back to the mid 1800s and originated in Arizona.  It reminds me of the sopaipillas we love in New Mexico.  My daughter went to a restaurant in Denver Colorado a few years ago that specialized in tacos served on fry bread.  And fry bread was named the official state bread of South Dakota in 2005.  The fry bread.  It’s what makes these tacos stand out.

Fry bread Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

2 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp salt

4 T lard or shortening

2/3 cup cold water

peanut oil for frying

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Whisk together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening until the mixture looks like fine meal.  I cheat and use my food processor…it works great!  With the food processor on low slowly add the water until the dough comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times until the dough is smooth.  Wrap the dough in Saran Wrap and set aside while you make the chili.

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Chili Ingredients:

1 medium onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

1 T chili powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp dried oregano

3 T canola oil

1 pound ground pork (or beef)

3 T minced chipotle in adobo sauce

1 T tomato paste

1 can pinto beans

salt and pepper to taste

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Measure out the spices and dice the onion and mince the garlic.

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Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and sweat the onions, garlic and spices together  for a few minutes until the onions are tender.

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Add the ground pork, chipotle and tomato paste.  Cook until the pork is no longer pink.

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Stir in the beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Cover and keep warm in the oven while you fry the bread rounds.

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Heat the oil to 375.  I use a wok for deep frying.  The oil maintains a more consistent temperature, it’s less likely the oil will splash and it’s fairly easy to lift things out.  This is a trick I learned reading “The Food Lab” by J. Kanji Lopez-Alt.  An awesome book I highly recommend.

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Cut your dough into six pieces.  On a lightly floured surface use you hand to flatten and shape the dough into a disc.  Keep the discs covered with a clean kitchen towel or Saran Wrap until you are ready to fry them.

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Drop the discs, one at a time, into the hot oil. Cook a couple minutes on each side until the fry bread is golden brown.

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I line a jelly roll pan with paper towel and put a rack on top of the  paper towel.  As the breads finish frying I put them on the rack and keep them in a warm oven until I am ready to assemble the tacos.

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Get your favorite toppings ready so that you can assemble and serve the tacos.  I used shredded sharp cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, black olives, jalapeño and sour cream.  Well, no jalapeños on mine.  You could also use diced onion and salsa.  Avocado is my favorite topping but I did not have any.

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Put a generous serving of the chili on a fry bread and choose your toppings.  Squeeze on some fresh lime juice.

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If you have fry bread left over you can warm it and enjoy it with a little honey, jam or powdered sugar.

NOTE:  You can increase or decrease the seasoning based on your personal taste.  Mine were a little spicy tonight.  Or use your own favorite recipe for tacos.  Like I said, what makes these so special is the fry bread.

I usually open a couple cans of chipotles in adobo sauce at a time and run them through my small food processor.  I put the purée in an ice cube tray and freeze it.  Once the chipotle cubes are frozen I put them in zip lock snack bags and keep them in the freezer.  Recipes typically call for one or two tablespoons and this ensures that the rest of the can doesn’t go to waste.

 

Risotto with Peas and Baby Spinach

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Risotto is a an Italian dish; a perfect comfort food.  Like macaroni and cheese.  In Italy it would be served as a first course.  When prepared properly it has a rich creamy consistency.  It makes a great side dish with shrimp or fish or chicken or you can add the protein to the risotto before serving. Tonight the risotto was the main course.  Risotto is fairly easy to make and it is a very versatile dish.  Almost anything in your refrigerator will work.  Tonight I used fresh spinach and broccoli and frozen peas.    I remember asking my Dad if he liked Chinese food.  His response was, “I don’t care much for rice.”  I don’t think this is a dish my Dad would appreciate.  As an entree or as a side dish.

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil

2 T butter

2/3 cup dry white wine

5 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

1/4 cup shallot diced

1 cup broccoli flowerettes and stems sliced

1 cup peas

2 cups baby spinach

1 T lemon zest

3 T fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 cup fresh grated asiago or Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

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Grate the cheese.  Zest and juice the lemon.

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Heat the oil and butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and saute the shallot and broccoli for a couple minutes.

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While you saute the vegetables put the chicken broth in a sauce pan and heat.  You will be adding hot broth to the rice.  The hot broth helps to release the starch from the rice so that the risotto cooks properly.

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Add the rice to the skillet and stir to coat the rice with the oil and butter.

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Add the white wine and simmer over low heat stirring constantly until almost all of the wine has been absorbed.

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Add  the chicken broth two ladles at a time stirring frequently.  Wait for the broth to be absorbed before adding more.  This entire process will take about 30 minutes.

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About half way through the cooking process add the peas and the lemon zest.

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When you add the last of the broth also add the spinach.  Continue cooking and stirring until the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender.

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Add the cheese and lemon juice stirring to combine.  Add salt and pepper.  Cover the skillet and remove the skillet from the heat for a few minutes.

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Serve the risotto hot and sprinkle with more cheese.

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Enjoy!  Mangia!

NOTE:  Feel free to use any combination of vegetables.  Leeks, asparagus, fennel, squash, mushrooms.  You can also substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.  Add vegetables that take longer to cook earlier in the cooking process.

Dry reds are the wines of choice at our house so I purchase white wine in the small, single serving bottles.  Perfect for cooking.

 

Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread

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This stuff is amazing!  Love!

We just returned from a family vacation to New Orleans.  The land of great food, really wonderful music everywhere, and a plentitude of adult beverages.  And people watching.  We enjoyed poboys, gumbo, oysters, shrimp, catfish and, of course, beignets.  As good as our food was, whenever I get home from a vacation I actually kind of enjoy eating my own cooking again.  Funny how that works.

I had some organic milk in the refrigerator that was going to go south in just a day or so and I wanted to put it to good use.  I decided to make us some bread with my remaining milk and came across this recipe that I had clipped from a Saveur magazine early last year but had not tried.  Until today.  The recipe says the bread is Swedish.  But since I’m Finnish, today it is Finnish Cinnamon Cardamom Bread.  Whatever your ethnicity I think you will enjoy!  The kitchen smelled wonderful while this was baking.

Ingredients for the Dough:

7 T unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups whole milk heated to 115

2 tsp active dry yeast

4 1/2 cups AP flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, lightly crushed

1/4 tsp kosher salt

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Ingredients for Filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

7 T unsalted butter softened

1 T ground cinnamon

1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, finely crushed

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To make the dough heat the milk to 115 degrees.  Use a thermometer unless you’re a lot better than I am at estimating temperatures and you don’t want to kill your yeast.  Melt the butter and add the butter and yeast to the warm milk.  Stir and let it sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.

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In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cardamom and salt.  Stir in the yeast mixture until dough forms.

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Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.  Or knead in your stand mixer.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean dish towel, and let sit in a warm place until the dough doubles in size.  About an hour.

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Prepare the filling stirring together the softened butter, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom seeds.

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On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into approximately a 11×17 rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.

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Spread the filling over the dough.

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Working from one of the long sides, roll dough into a tight cylinder and transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover with a dish towel and allow it to sit in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.  About 45-60 minutes.

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Heat the oven to 375.  Using kitchen shears and starting 1 inch from the ends of the dough, make crosswise cuts spaced 1 inch apart, three quarters of the way through the dough.  Now this is where it got tricky for me and my bread looks a little crude.  The recipe says to fan dough slices away from the center, alternating left to right.  Huh?  The center?  Maybe I was supposed to make this into a circle?  I don’t know for sure because I didn’t have a picture.  But it doesn’t really matter. The fanning does not affect the taste at all.

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Whisk an egg and brush the dough with the egg wash.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  Allow the bread to cool before serving.

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I made up a little icing with powdered sugar, heavy cream and lemon zest.  Because we like icing.

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Cut yourself a slice and enjoy.  Great with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

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NOTE:  The recipe suggests that you use the egg wash and sprinkle with pearl sugar before baking.  Since I was going to ice the bread I did not you the pearl sugar but you may prefer that.  If any of you bake a more attractive loaf please comment with a picture.

Corn Pudding

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Growing up we had very basic meals.  Meat and potatoes.  Fish.  Homemade bread.  Baked beans.  Simple food.  Most of the vegetables we grew up eating came out of a can.  Canned peas, green beans, corn.  Creamed corn.  This recipe is a little sophisticated creamed corn nostalgia.  I came across this recipe some time ago and recently bought the ingredients to give it a try.

Ingredients:

1 can creamed corn

1 can corn, drained

1 box jiffy cornbread mix

2 large eggs

1 stick of butter melted

3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup sour cream

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These ingredients reminded me a bit of making cheesy potatoes which everyone loves.  Cheese, butter, sour cream.  Sound familiar?  I also noticed when I took my Jiffy Mix out of the pantry that is was “vegetarian” corn muffin mix.  What’s in the non-vegetarian corn muffin mix I wonder??

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a large bowl whisk the eggs.  Stir in the two cans of corn and the melted butter.

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Stir in the sour cream and the Jiffy Mix.  Stir in 2 cups of the cheese.

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Grease a casserole dish and pour in the corn pudding.

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Bake for 40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the remaining cup of cheese. Return it to the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes.

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I served this as a side with marinated flank steak and haricot vert.  Haricot vert is a French name for slender, sweeter green beans with small seeds.

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Its a really good thing that my husband liked the corn pudding because the steak was flavorful but extremely “chewy” and, as far as he’s concern, a green bean by any other name is still a green bean.

I have another recipe, which I’ll also include here, that I got from an aquaintence over 40 years ago.  I have not made this recipe in years but I prefer it because it is less sweet, more savory.  But you can try both and judge for yourself.

Scalloped Corn

Ingredients:

1 can creamed corn

1 cup crushed saltine crackers

1/2 cup diced celery

1/4 cup diced onion

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1 tsp salt

2 beaten eggs

2 T melted butter

1 cup whole milk

Combine all ingredients, pour into a greased casserole dish and bake at 325 for 40 minutes.

You must admit, this recipe sounds marginally healthier.

This will probably be my one and only creamed corn post.  If any of your are feeling a little nostalgic try one of these recipes.

Paella In My Paella

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Paella is a Spanish dish made with rice, and a variety of meat (chicken or rabbit), seafood (shrimp, mussels or a firm fish like cod), and spicy sausage like andouille or chorizo.  It also includes vegetables like green beans or peas and spices like paprika and saffron.  This dish allows for countless variations.  The rice is supposed to be cooked in such a way that it crisps up on the bottom and edges.  It’s frequently prepared over an open fire or a very high burner.  Every summer we attend a music festival in northern lower Michigan where huge iron paella pans are set over an open flame and enough paella is being prepared to feed dozens and dozens.  It’s almost as much fun watching them make it as it is eating it.  They make a vegetarian Paella as well making them a very popular stop.  Paella cooked in this fashion allows for nicely crisped rice.  Personally, I prefer my rice without the crisp so that’s the way I prepare it.

This post, however, is as much about my new pan as it is about the paella.  Interestingly, the word “paella” derives from the Old French word paella for pan which in turn comes from the Latin word patella for pan.  (I didn’t happen to know that off the top of my head but I do know how to access all things Wikipedia.)  I frequently stop and browse in shops that sell  Le Creuset cookware.  Le Creuset is a French company that makes enameled cast iron cookware.  I have several knock-off enameled cast iron pieces which I use all the time but have never purchased a Le Creuset.  Until now.  I am still excited!  My husband gifted it to me so I promised to, appropriately, make paella my first dish in this beautiful 5 quart Braiser aka Paella or Patella.

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A thing of beauty, no?!

This recipe makes a generous amount.  Although the leftovers were great I probably will not  make this again until we have guests.

Ingredients:

Herb Blend

1 cup chopped fresh parsley and cilantro

2 or 3 large cloves of garlic minced

juice of one lemon

1 T olive oil

Paella

1 cup water

1 tsp saffron threads

5 cups chicken broth

1/2 pound unpeeled jumbo shrimp

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 links andouille sausage

3-4 slices of thick bacon cut into 1 inch pieces

2 cups finely chopped onion

1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 cup canned diced tomatoes undrained

1 tsp sweet paprika

3-4 cloves of garlic whole

3 cups Arborio rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 lemon juiced

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Combine the first 4 ingredients and set aside.  Combine the water, broth and saffron in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Do not boil.  Keep warm over low heat.

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Heat 1 T of olive oil in large heavy skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chicken pieces and saute 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove them from the skillet and set aside.  Add the sausage and bacon to the skillet and saute 3-4 minutes.  Remove them from the skillet.

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Reduce the heat to medium low and add the onion and bell pepper.  Saute for approximately 15 minutes stirring occasionally.

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Add the tomatoes, paprika and garlic and cook for 5 more minutes.

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Add the rice and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.  Stir in the herb blend and the peas.

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Add the broth mixture, chicken, and sausage mixture and bring to a low boil.  Cook 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

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Once the meat is added this 5 quart pan is VERY full.  Be careful.

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Add the shrimp and cook 5 more minutes.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed.  Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the juice from one lemon, cover, and allow the paella to sit for 10 minutes.  If your skillet doesn’t have a lid cover the paella with a clean dish towel.

Serve with lemon wedges.

NOTE:  Like I mentioned earlier, this recipe is perfect for modifying based on personal tastes.  I would love to use mussels but availability is an issue.  I may try this next with strictly seafood and substitute seafood broth for the chicken broth.  My husband likes foods kicked up and he added hot sauce to his.