Friday, March 29, 2013

Hot Cross Buns -- One a Penny, Two a Penny...

 It is a tradition amongst many Christian bakers to produce a batch of Hot Cross Buns (Click to sing the nursery rhyme!) for Good Friday.  And, if not, we stop at the local bakery and see if THEY made any.  These barely sweet firm rolls, served on a day when no meat is eaten,  are hearty tea treats of the first order--complete with a light buttery hum that is almost topped by the spice notes.  The pretty "X" snipped into the top (and often emphasized with a bit of icing painted into the grooves) lets the world--and you, too-- know what kind of bread this is.  An "X"  on bread can also be assumed to keep evil away.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I'd Just Like a Little Chicken and Salad, Please

More than once, I've heard Ina Garten say (about roast chicken), "That's all that anyone really ever wants for dinner anyway, isn't it?"  If you're like me, you love roast chicken, but it definitely isn't the only thing I ever want for dinner.  Hello?  I love pizza, lamb chops, Vietnamese soup, beef stew, salmon...   But there maybe are a few nights in the year when you really do just want  a little chicken.  If you're not in the mood to roast a whole bird tonight, this meal is for you.  Especially if you keep frozen chicken thighs (boneless and bone-in) in the freezer at all times--a great treasure trove for very fast meals.

I happened to have made a huge vat of potatoes and vegetables to go with some fried trout for breakfast last Friday.  Saturday night, all I had to do was cook the chicken and I was about ready to eat.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Frosted Brownies for You

On the rare occasion, you'll eat a brownie somewhere that, while you're unsure why, just doesn't measure down to the brownies sitting around most kitchens, potluck tables, or bakeries for that matter.  You are unsure why.  Maybe it's fresh.  Frosted? Tender?  Tastes of chocolate rather than cocoa and flour?  Not dry?  Not wet? Firm enough as in done, but definitely not gooey?

I make those brownies, she said... though I can't make them often.  Because I'd eat them, you see.  You can make them, too.  The differences between what are soon to be your brownies and the regular, old garden variety brownies are basic, but not always obvious.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Irish Fruit Scones

I borrowed a little bit of one of the More Time at the Table St. Pat's posts and hope you enjoy making an easy small quick bread.  Conquer it, make it yours!  Here's how:

Patted out dough waiting to be cut with a floured cutter or knife.
irish fruit scones     makes about 10  2-inch scones
Adapted for American kitchens-   original recipe by Edmund Cronin, THATCH COTTAGE, County Kerry 

  •  8 ounces all purpose, unbleached flour (1 3/4 cups approx.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 50 g (2 ounces or 4 tablespoons) butter
  • 50 g (2 ounces or 1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 75 g (3 ounces or 1/2 cup) sultanas (raisins)--I used currants
  • 1/4 pint/ 125 ml (1/2 cup approx) milk       
Cut-out scones waiting to be baked.
  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C (425 F/ gas mark 7)
  2. Lightly grease a small baking sheet.
  3. Mix together flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl.  Cut in butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Stir in sugar and raisins or currants.
  4. Add milk and mix to produce a soft dough.
  5. Turn the dough onto a floured board or counter and knead about a minute until well-combined and holding together.
  6. Roll out dough to about 3/4-inch thick.  Using a floured 2-inch cutter, cut scones into rounds and place on baking tray.
  7. Brush with milk to glaze.
  8. Bake 12 minutes or until done to your liking; I like them a bit crisp on the outside.
  9. Remove scones to a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature with soft Irish butter. (The Irish and many others might serve these with whipped cream rather than butter.)
Baker's notes:  I used a food processor fitted with a steel blade for steps 1-4, but I turned the mixture out and did the rest by hand, including working in the last of the milk.  The dried fruit would be chopped finely if you continued in the food processor much longer.  To do the whole thing by hand or with a pastry cutter would be fairly quick and simple, as well.  Some cooks would just use their hands to get the butter into the flour; I find it melts too much from the heat of my hands and prefer a metal cutting force of some sort--either the pastry cutter or the food processor blade.

Scone Song...listen here. 

Just out of the oven.  Best the day they're made.
 Here's the little booklet with the recipe I bought in Ireland right at the Thatch Cottage:

Ready for their close-up on my piano in the afternoon light.

People always talk about the green in Ireland; I loved the oh-so-blue sky:

Favorite Irish movie:  The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,
Happy Saint Patrick's Day,

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lentil-Wild Rice Soup with Kale and Sausage or Cleaning Out for Spring

There are moments when the seasons are about to begin changing that I start looking in the pantry, frig, and freezer and know it's time to use up a few things.   Today, this is what I saw:

  •  A cup of green lentils.
  •  4 frozen chicken sausages.
  •  A bag of  frozen ham from Christmas.
  • Lots of wild rice.
  • Frozen small bag of tomato paste.  1/4 bottle white wine.
  • Wilting parsley.
  •   Lots of fresh kale.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Black Pepper-Green Onion Cornbread

I love beans and cornbread.  Plain old pinto beans with onions and maybe some ground beef--a bit of ham if you're flush.  I make them when life is fine and when life is low. I crumble cornbread into the beans or I butter it up and have it leftover with my coffee of a morning.  It is comfort food par excellence.  And, oh, by the way, it's simple and filling.  Honey?  Yes.  But not required.

If you're tired of your sweet cornbread, or wish for one of the grittier experiences of dining life, try this: