Friday, March 25, 2011

Irish Dinner

We had crock pot corned beef with potatoes, carrots and cabbage a few days before St. Patrick's Day because I knew we'd be too busy getting ready for the Pinewood Derby for such a big meal. But then I still wanted to make something green and Irish on Thursday, and I wanted to make some kind of soup with the leftover crock pot vegetables. I googled Irish soups and found a very yummy one called Fresh Vegetable Soup from a lady in Ireland.

I looked up Irish soda bread on allrecipes, and of course I had to choose the one called Brennan's Irish Soda bread. It's even spelled right:) It was the quickest, easiest, yummiest bread. Seriously, there is no yeast, no rising, very little kneading, and it only took 30 minutes to bake. It was so good.

The soup was fabulous, and I even had some fresh chives that survived the winter to put on top.

And every holiday is a good excuse to make Ethel's sugar cookies.
Fresh Vegetable Soup From the kitchen of Mary LydonDunsany, Co. Meath, Ireland
2 tablespoons butter (I doubled everything except the butter, oil and onion)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 leek (I used lots of extra cabbage instead)
1 carrot (I used more)
1 potato (I used more)
1 onion
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon frozen peas
3-3/4 cups chicken stock
1 bouquet garni *
salt and pepper to taste
Several of my soup recipes call for bouquet garni, which is a bundle of herbs tied with string that is removed before serving. I prefer to tie it up in cheesecloth so I have no stray herbs in my finished product.
Wash, peel and chop vegetables. Heat butter and oil on medium heat. Add vegetables and saute for 5 minutes (do not brown).
Add stock, seasonings and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer gently for 30 minutes until vegetables are soft.
Remove bouquet garni and puree with blender or electric mixer (don't overfill the blender, and hold the lid down tight. Mine exploded all over the kitchen). Serve in warmed soup bowls. Garnish with chopped chives or parsley if desired. Yield: 4 servings.
*Bouquet Garni: 1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs of thyme, 4 large sprigs of parsley (including stalks), one 4 inch piece of celery stalk with leaves, two 4 inch pieces of leek (green part) and 5 whole peppercorns.

Brennan's Irish Soda Bread
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Stir the milk and vinegar together, and allow to stand until curdled, about 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a baking sheet. In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
Gradually stir the soured milk into the flour mixture until the dough just comes together, and turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead a few times, and shape into a round. Place the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. With a sharp knife, cut an X shape into the top of the dough to release steam and help the bread keep its round shape.
Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown, about 30-45 minutes. (I baked it in a cast iron skillet with a lid. I preheated it in the oven and took off the lid for the last few minutes so it could brown on top. Yum!!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Strawberry Cake

With a surprise snowstorm in the middle of March, I needed a taste of summer. As a result, this cake just kind of came together. It was easy to make but took some time for refrigeration. I think it turned out very yummy. Everyone else seemed to like it, too.

Strawberry Cool Whip Cake

1 box strawberry jell-o
1 container cool whip, thawed
1 box strawberry cake mix
1 pint strawberries, washed & sliced

1. Frosting: Make the jell-o according to directions on the box. After adding the cold water, fold in the thawed cool whip. Refrigerate for a couple of hours.
2. Make cake according to directions on box. Allow to cool completely.
3. If layering the cake, then spread a bit of the frosting on top of the first cake, then place the second cake on top of it. Use the rest of the frosting on the entire cake; the frosting will get a bit runny as you work with it. Refrigerate finished cake.
4. Garnish the cake with the sliced strawberries.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sweet Potato Soup

The other day I somehow went over-board making Baked Chicken on Roasted Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes. I used the left-over chicken for chicken quesadillas (of course), but what to do with all that left-over potato/sweet potato? The sweet potatoes were cooked almost to the point of falling apart, which to my mind suggested "soup." So here's my on-the-fly recipe for potato/sweet potato soup.

First make Baked Chicken on Roasted Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes

--Peel and cut several baking potatoes and sweet potatoes in a 2" dice
--Rough chop one onion
--In a roasting pan, toss diced potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onion with 1/2 envelope of onion soup mix (no oil--the chicken will provide plenty of fat)
--Remove skin from chicken drumsticks and bone-in thighs (from all the pieces, or just some of them, depending on how much/little fat you want). Season chicken pieces with salt, pepper, garlic powder (don't over-do it), and "Herbs de Provence"--ie. basil, rosemary, marjoram, sage, savory, thyme, lavender (I didn't even know lavender was edible, but it's listed on this herb blend I used). Let sit about 20 minutes for seasonings to permeate the chicken.
--Arrange chicken parts on top of diced potatoes/sweet potatoes.
--Cook chicken and potatoes at 375 deg. F. for 45 minutes until chicken reaches at least 165 deg internal temperature and the vegetabels are soft.

I turn the chicken after 30 minutes so that it browns on both sides and sometimes even turn on the broiler for just a couple minutes at the end so that the chicken looks good and browned. People in this house seem to have a thing against pale chicken.

Also the sweet potatoes will be noticably softer than the baking potatoes, but other than adding the sweet potatoes after 10 minutes of baking--which would mean taking off the chicken, mixing in the sweet potatoes, and replacing the chicken--I don't see how to avoid that.

--Once your family has had its fill of the chicken and potatoes, season the left-over roasted vegetables with a little tarragon and thyme, and salt and pepper if needed.
--Add chicken broth and fat-free half-and-half (or other choice of cream/milk) in a ratio of 2 parts broth to one part cream. Actual amounts depend on how much vegetables you have and how thick or thin you want the soup to be (for 4 servings of fairly thick soup I used 1 cup broth and 1/2 cup half-and-half).
--Blend the vegetables with the liquids to a smooth, creamy consistency.
--In a sauce pan, gently heat through.

Uche said it was "okay"--maybe he was put off by the orange color--but I quite enjoyed it. I wonder how it would be with roasted apple or pears, maybe topped with toasted pecans.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I have recently discovered risotto and boy is it yummy! It takes a special kind of rice called arborio rice which is a little bit pricey but worth it. I haven't actually tried any other kinds of rice but when I was researching just what arborio rice is, I read that any other kind of rice will just get mushy.I'm going to start with the basic recipe (from the back of the package) and give a few ideas to tweak it.

Arborio Rice
1 cup uncooked rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper (optional)
grated parmesan cheese for excitement

Saute onion in oil and butter for three minutes, or until soft. Add rice and stir for about two minutes. Stir in one cup of broth and cook and stir until all of the liquid is absorbed. Add rest of the broth, a cup at a time, cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed before adding the next cup. When all of the liquid is absorbed, stir in parmesan cheese.

There are no times listed, probably because it depends on your pot. The last time I made it, I noticed how long it took. In a wider, shallower pot it took about 30 minutes from the time I added the rice. Basically you have to stir it regularly, not necessarily constantly, and pay attention to it. When I make it, I serve it with a simple main dish that doesn't take much work; chicken I can just put in the oven and leave it alone or even leftovers.

Mushroom Risotto: Add fresh, sliced mushrooms and saute with the onion.

Sweet Potato Risotto: Peel and dice two smallish sweet potatoes. Add them to the pot when the onion is sauteing. By the time the rice is cooked, the sweet potatoes will be soft. Mix in chopped pecans with the cheese at the end. (Jason has decided he likes risotto better with some crunch to it to break up the softness.)