All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2017

Friday, April 28, 2017

eat your veggies soup ( and using up your veggies)

Spring is here, but a little too cold to put out new herb plants - though I found my fresh parsley and dill in a very overcrowded vegetable drawer, eureka!  My New England background scolded me to "use it up",  - and so this soup was born.  I had kale, parsley, baby potatoes, broccoli, celery, and onions, which always seem to get soft too fast in the dark cupboard.  All of the veggies were nice and fresh.

To my great surprise, it was really delicious, so this off-the-cuff recipe stays in my files - it's definitely a keeper!

This is a beautiful rhubarb plant - but did you know the leaves are poisonous? Trim the leaves off from the red stems and throw the leaves in the trash - I never even put them in the compost bin.  I caught Izzie about to pick some because she thought it was kale!

Eat your veggies soup

2-3 baby potatoes. halved
1 cup firmly packed kale, leaves only, torn
1/4 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup chopped broccoli, no stems
1/2 cup sliced celery
a few sprigs of dill
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon roasted chicken base or bouillon cube.  

Place the vegetables, thyme, dill, and bouillon paste in a large saucepan.  Add water halfway up the pot.  Bring water to a boil, turn down, and cook for 15-20 minutes on medium.

Remove from heat and blend in blender, adding small amounts of water if needed.
Taste and add salt and pepper before serving.  

Let me know about your veggie drawer clean out recipes!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

orange avocado breakfast salad

Isn't this the prettiest breakfast?  Avocado, fresh oranges, a few sprinkles of dill and scallions - and a few sugar snap peas for the delightful crunch.  

I was sorting through the newspapers for recycle, and it caught my eye, even though the picture was black and white.  I've been thinking much more about what I eat, and it should include far more fruits and vegetables.  I also think I crave chicken, bacon, and ham when I'm feeling any stress or when I'm worried, so back to my normal eating pattern I go.  The original recipe credited to Deborah Madison had a lime-cumin sauce, quite a bit of shredded radicchio, or napa cabbage, garlic, a chile, cilantro (you know how I feel about cilantro!) paprika, mustard.  I went with a very simple lemon-olive oil, sea salt flake and pepper dressing, a little sprinkle of fresh dill and sliced scallions.

Orange Avocado Breakfast salad

For two servings:

2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced into rounds
1 ripe avocado, cut in half lengthwise and peeled, sliced thickly and cut in two
1 or 2 sliced scallions
a few springs of fresh dill
a small handful of sugar snap peas, raw


2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (next time I'm trying orange juice)
3 tablespoons olive oil
a few pinches of sea salt
freshly ground pepper
a pinch of dried dill

I'm digging a little garden for my soon to be bought herbs !  I use a lot of herbs, and they often seem to wilt in the fridge, even in packaging, so it's been frustrating. Much better to have them close by (and I hope the wild rabbits leave them alone!).

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

the last of the brussels sprouts

I'm always a little sad when the brussels sprout season is over - I do love them!  But on that sunny, warm day, I blanched them for barely 10 minutes (they were very small), drained them, and made a summery marinade:

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
oregano - a pinch or two
a pinch of so of caraway seed
a generous sprinkling of crisp bacon

Makes two servings.

Happy Spring!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

lemon shortbread cookies

Inspired by the first wildflowers of spring, I headed to the kitchen to make these intensely lemony , flaky shortbread cookies.  I know most people crave chocolate, but lemon is my very favorite flavor of all .  I never use lemon extract, because it doesn't have the same tang that freshly squeezed lemon juice has, though I do add vanilla to balance these cookies.  A little sweet, a little puckery.

You make the dough ahead of time and stick in the fridge or freezer.  It thaws fairly quickly if you freeze it, thanks to the unsalted butter, then just roll it out fairly thickly, cut out the cookies and bake.  I tend to use my round fluted cookie cutters  - perfect for a sturdy cookie that shows just the tiniest amount of toasty edges.  Yummers!

This made about 40 cookies for me today - I forgot to count!

Lemon Shortbread cookies

2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top, if you'd like)
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 and 3/4's cups King Arthur flour
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt

Cream the butter in the mixer bowl, add the sugar and mix.
Add the lemon zest and juice and mix.
Add the flour and mix.
Add the vanilla and pinch of salt and mix.
Gather the dough into a ball, pat it down into an oval, and wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer.  I left it in the freezer for two days before I was ready to make the cookies.

Later:  take the dough out of the freezer to thaw a bit.
Preheat oven to 325F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
As soon as the dough is pliable, mold into an oval with your hands, roll, and proceed to cut out your cookies.  If you'd like, sprinkle a little granulated sugar on top of the cookies.
Bake one cookie sheet at a time for 20 minutes .  I like a little toasty browning on the edge, but that's up to you.  Remove cookies to a cooling rack and continue rolling and cutting out cookies - but make sure the cookie sheet has cooled in between batches.

That's it!

Happy Easter to you all!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

spring is spronging!

A long delay in posts, my apologies.  My ankle is slowly getting better, making it a little easier to get to the supermarket - but often I get there and realize I forgot my shopping list.  I do make a list and email it to myself on the cellphone, but just as often "forget" my cellphone, which I have a love/don't love relationship with - I had a landline in NH all those years because of the mountains, and definitely prefer it.   My camera is acting up (I love, love those Canon PowerShot cameras, lightweight and small enough to stick in my pocket) but a trip to Target turned up empty - the only Canon on the shelf was the the Rebel, much too big to cart around, and much more expensive.

Spring comes earlier here in Minnesota, and I discovered these pretty wildflowers suddenly blooming all along the back yards in my neighborhood - it gives a lift to the soul!

I think cookies are in my future, a request from the almost 4-year old, so stay tuned!

Happy Spring!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pantry cannellini bean and tomato salad with artichokes

Once again, I've been sidelined by that ankle injury several months ago.  Which meant no long walks to the supermarket, but on the happy side, reading and re-reading books from my library, everything from Buddhist philosophy to cookbooks to mysteries.  It's been lovely, but I'm impatient for the ankle to heal a little faster.

I've also browsed more on Pinterest, which is where I found this salad-from-the-pantry, made very simply with cans of diced tomatoes, beans, and artichoke hearts from my pantry shelves. I had green olives, but no black olives - I think I would prefer the black olives next time. And I did drain the diced tomatoes, but they were still juicy, next time I'll drain them a little longer. I also cut the artichoke hearts in half, instead of quarters.  But still, it was a wonderful filling salad for lunch.

Do check out the link for full directions  - her salad is lovely!

What I used:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 fat garlic cloves, pressed
2 tablespoons bottled capers
a handful of olives
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
2 cans dried tomatoes, drained
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2-3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
My parmesan cheese was very dry and hard, so I skipped the 1/4 cup parmesan shavings.

Friday, March 24, 2017

ginger and strawberry jam

A chilly, damp day today.  When I opened the fridge, I could smell those Florida strawberries, fragrant and sweet.  So, of course , I made a fresh little pot of jam.  And just for fun, I added a spicy slice of fresh ginger root -  mmmmm, smells wonderful!

The directions are here:

Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, March 20, 2017

stove top chicken thighs in spicy tomato sauce

What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been - mostly political, which often sends me instantly to my bed for a nap.  I tinkered with the Paleo diet after noticing the poundage was creeping up, but I missed too many foods .  Sensible eating seems to be the best way for me to go. I was delighted , however, with the thumbs up for chicken thighs , which I have always preferred over the chicken breasts.

This is one of the Paleo-friendly recipes I came up with and have now made 3 times in the last month:

Stove top chicken thighs :

3 or 4 good sized chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 sliced onion
1 sliced red or yellow sweet pepper
1 cup diced canned tomatoes (I used the one with basil and oregano)
1 cup pitted black kalamata olives
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon thyme
kosher salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a large skillet on medium.
Add the chicken thighs.
Add the sliced onion, peppers, tomatoes, olives, water, and thyme and salt and pepper.

Cook on medium heat for 20 minutes, then turn the chicken over and cook another 20 minutes, covered.  Cut into the chicken to make sure there is no pink - if it is, cook another 15 minutes, covered.  I served with very fresh skinny asparagus topped with lemon juice and olive oil.


This is a Paleo treat I nibbled on whenever I wanted something sweet - homemade Paleo peanut butter cups.  I found it on Pinterest:

Be well - and carry on:)

Friday, March 10, 2017

poached eggs with asparagus

I woke up at 5 am, hungry and as always, happy to see a new day.  There's always a thrill to rummage through the fridge, wondering just what might be perfect for this beautiful new day.  A fresh bunch of new skinny asparagus winked at me through the thin plastic bag. And?   Gently simmered in a little water until it was just tender.  Drained and set aside.      And what else?

Those marvelous eggs from Locally Laid, somewhere in Minnesota.  Ah, here it is - PO Box, Wrenshall, MN, also gently poached until the whites were opaque and the yolks a little firm when I pressed a fingertip to them after draining off the water, and set them on a plate.  A little cheese sauce, I think.

Add a little cheese, as always, here a half cup shredded sharp cheddar and mozzarella, salt and pepper, a little cream, in a small saucepan and set on very low heat until melty, and DONE.  Even though it melted, there was a milky residue in the saucepan, which I drained off.  It was too early to forage through the cookbooks for a proper creamy sauce.  A sprinkle of Italian parsley topped it off.

Note:  I tested a proper white cheese sauce later :
  3 T. butter
1.5 T. flour
Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and whisk in the flour on low heat.
Add 1/4 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup cheddar, and 1/2 cup milk, salt and pepper.
Whisk until the sauce is smooth.  Drizzle over the eggs and asparagus.

All in all, a perfect breakfast on a very cold morning (8 degrees) . Here's to a beautiful new day!

Monday, March 6, 2017

quick chicken soup with greens and rosemary

A few days ago I started a vaguely paleo/keto low carb diet, after a unfortunate side view in the mirror and trying on pants that were a little too tight.  Lots of protein sits well with me, and so do vegetables, and if I have a sudden desire for sugar or pastry, I eat a demitasse spoon full of my homemade marmalade or strawberry jam.  I even bought an old scale at my favorite Goodwill, just to show I'm serious.

I do use a lot of eggs on this diet, so when I emptied the egg carton last night, that meant no frittata this morning.  I had leftover chicken, and loads of greens, so a quick chicken soup was in order.  I'd bought thinly sliced skinless, boneless chicken that had very little flavor, so I bumped it up with lots of herbs and sweet butter.  Here and now, I vow never to buy them again - the bone-in with a jacket of skin and fat has a lot more flavor.

And I have news!  In eleven days heading back to New Hampshire (from Minnesota) for a week to visit family, and finally meet my new grandaughter!  I'm over the moon with excitement!

Here's this morning's soup:

Quick Chicken soup with greens and rosemary
Serves 2.

1 leek white, washed and sliced
1 - 2 sliced carrots, peeled
1 clove garlic
3 cups light chicken stock
1 heaping cup leftover chicken, diced
1/2 teaspoon thyme (I use dried)
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
nice sprig of fresh rosemary

Simmer until the carrots are soft, then add:

1 heaping cup broccoli rabe, sliced or 1 heaping cup torn kale
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
salt and fresh pepper to taste

If you want to sneak in some leftover pasta, that would work, too.

Here's a quick peek at my favorite birds - crows!  They sit on the flat rooftops of the apartment building, and swoop down to snack on the seeds and bread a neighbor puts out, then sit in the high trees and converse in their crow-talk, which can sound like a creaky door, to a ha-ha-ha, and I think I heard one whistling the other day.  It's hard to get a picture because they fly away if I get too close. This is snuck through the window screen 30 feet away.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

kale, bacon, and boursin frittata

Ah, February.  While it does bring snow, and not as many of those subzero nights, it also seems to be the month I notice my clothes are a little tighter - which brings the inevitable diet.   I usually go on a modified South Beach/Keto/Paleo diet -high protein with low carbs, and try to step up exercise.  This time I have even more motivation:  a trip back to New Hampshire in two weeks to visit my son and family, and finally get to meet my new granddaughter!  Yay!!

This frittata is somewhat flat - not fluffy and high as many quiches are, but incredibly easy to throw together.  I try to keep a few pieces in the fridge at all times, so I don't have a snack attack while I'm standing by the warm pastries at my nearest convenience 
store.  I don't add a lot of cheese, but you're welcome to add more if you want.  Note that you need to prep the kale and bacon ahead of time.

Bacon,Kale, and Boursin frittata

Preheat oven to 340F.
Butter a glass pie dish, set aside.

In a large bowl combine:

4 extra large eggs
1/2 cup light cream or half and half
a handful of cooked bacon, crumbled or torn into small pieces
a heaping handful of tiny multi-colored tomatoes
1 cup blanched kale
fresh rosemary, stripped from stem
salt and pepper
1/2 cup crumbled boursin cheese (you can also make your own boursin with this recipe)

Pour into prepared pie dish, add the boursin on top, and bake for 35 minutes, or until the egg mixture is firm and fully cooked.

Let cool before cutting into slices.

That's it - easy as can be!  Hope you all have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

skinny fresh strawberry muffins (with a lemon glaze)

A week or so ago I had to fess up to the fact that I had gained a little weight. I don't have a scale, but I could tell by the fit of my clothes that it was time to be a little more careful about my eating.  I wasn't really eating more, but getting less exercise because of an ankle injury.  

I've been eating mostly fish, chicken, and all sorts of salads, but today longed for a nice sweet muffin ,  Most of my muffins have a lot of sweet butter, but I do make a lemon low fat muffin, that would go nicely with the last of the strawberries I got a few days ago.

It was just perfect with a last minute lemon glaze.  And they passed the "give the leftovers to the carpenters" installing a new outside door.  They were thrilled (and hungry).

Fresh strawberry muffins

Makes a dozen medium sized muffins.
Preheat oven to 350F
Grease or butter regular size muffin tins (I also did a few minis)

1 heaping cup strawberries, cut into slices or diced
2 cups King Arthur flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
zest from a lemon (about a teaspoon)
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Chobani)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 extra large egg
1 t. vanilla
1 t. fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons water ( my batter was a little stiffer than usual, so I just added a little water)

Place the dry ingredients in your mixer bowl and mix briefly.
Add the lemon zest, yogurt, canola, egg, vanilla, and lemon juice in mixer bowl and mix slowly. Fold in strawberries.  Add the water if your batter is too stiff.
Use an ice cream scoop to fill muffin cups 3/4's full.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until muffin tops bounce back when touched.
Remove to a cooling rack.

While still warm, you can brush them with a quick glaze:

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

I'm loving making up salad bowls - this is my latest after a trip to Whole Foods where I finally found large arugula leaves!  Tossed in some water canned sardines, 1/2 piece of good bread , diced, and a strong garlic-lemon salad dressing. 

Happy February!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

poached salmon and noodle salad bowl

If you're a fish lover like me, you always make sure you have a stash of tinned sardines and mackerel in the pantry, and at least one of those packages (found at Target, of all places) of frozen salmon.  If you have leftover baked salmon, all the better. 

And so it was today, waking up with my fish craving.  I'm catching up to the bowl craze because it's so much fun to assemble from leftovers: the fettuccine was from two nights ago, the salad dressing mixed up for today's lunch (I thought I was having a romaine salad so I made it up last night).

Poached salmon and noodle salad

The dressing:
2 tablespoons mild olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 medium garlic, peeled and pressed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
1 teaspoon capers
scant teaspoon dry tarragon
Fresh dill if you have it (I didn't)

Mix together and set aside.

I-2 cup leftover noodles or fettuccine
1 cup or more flaked leftover salmon, or thawed and poached or cooked in a skillet 
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce

Drizzle the salmon, greens, and noodles with the dressing and toss before serving.

No politics today, just a reminder to Keep Calm and Carry On.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

soft vanilla pudding with nutmeg

When I woke up early this morning, I did the usual - make coffee, brush teeth, do my back exercises, do my knee exercises.  It was only when I poured my coffee and took a sip that I realized my stomach was in a grumpy mood.  I set aside the coffee, and stared at Mr. Rabbit, who, being made of cast iron, never has indigestion. 

I was all set up to make a vegetable chowder of sorts but even thinking about it made me feel a little green, so I gave up on that idea instantly.

I wanted something besides peppermint tea, but the only thing I thought of was a lovely vanilla flavored pudding.  Searching for a recipe, I saw a lot of recipes that used eggs, but I've never used eggs in the puddings I've made in the past.  So, ok, eggless vanilla pudding. Eggless soft vanilla pudding, with a little shower of nutmeg and cinnamon, the way I always made it , when I was in a pudding mood.  Googling, I found a perfect recipe from the New York Times, which you can find here.  I made a half a recipe, because I was low on milk, but will certainly make the full recipe once I get to the store.  

It's as I said, a soft pudding, and I only let it sit in the fridge for half an hour, to chill - not long enough to firm up much, but I couldn't wait.  I'll be making this again - it's light but creamy and the vanilla adds a richness, along with the cinnamon and nutmeg I grated over it.

Be well!

PS/  How about those Patriots!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

red chard and lentil soup with lemon

It has been super chilly the last few days in Minnesota - and perfect soup or stew weather - and a good time to look through the vegetable crisper drawer, which was stuffed to the brim.  Right on top, there was that beautiful bunch of red chard that I kept meaning to cook up, but there was so much of it!

My plan was to make a soup or stew, and use the leftover chard perhaps for a quiche or tart, and I wanted something new.  I googled chard and scrolled, and found this recipe from Martha Stewart.  I almost always follow a new recipe exactly, and then change it up the second time I make it - but this one was perfect just as it was written, though I did substitute salsa for tomato paste. I was a little dubious that it would use the whole bundle of chard, to be honest - but I used every bit of it.  You do have to do a little prep with the chard, dividing the stems (which are chopped into 1 inch pieces), from the leaves (which are simply sliced, also in 1 inch ribbons).

And it was delicious, with plenty left over to freeze for later.  

Red Chard and Lentil Soup

1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter (for sauteing)
2 tablespoons good salsa (I use Green Mountain Gringo)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
kosher salt to taste, fresh pepper to taste
pinch of hot pepper flakes
1 cup lentils
5 cups water
one bunch fresh red chard, divided into stems and leaves and chopped into 1 inch pices
1/2 large lemon, squeezed in just before serving

Saute the onion and olive oil until soft.
Add the salsa, oregano, thyme, and hot pepper flakes and stir.
Add the lentils, diced tomatoes, and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, covered.  Taste ( and make sure lentils aren't crunchy and undercooked) and add a few pinches of salt and pepper.
Add the chopped chard stems and cook for 5 minutes, then add the chopped leaves and cook for 20 minutes more.  I added the leaves in three batches - they cooked down very quickly.
Remove from heat and squeeze the lemon juice into the soup before serving.
This freezes very well.

I visited that beautiful greenhouse at Como Park again - deliciously warm and steamy in the jungle room (so steamy my camera fogged up), and this pretty 10" tree in the bonsai room.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

cheesy potato stacks

It is a gloomy, overcast day today in Minnesota - matching my mood lately.  But remembering this recipe from RecipeTin Eats got me into the tiny kitchen I have, and an hour later, eating these buttery potato stacks with a smile on my face.  

I decided to try using both the small red potatoes and the sweet potatoes I had in the cupboard - the last time I made them I think I used yellow Finns, I believe - and also to oil each cup with olive oil, the last time I made them they stuck to the tin.  On re-reading the recipe just now, I also missed the advice to put the topping cheese on after the stacks had baked, then briefly melting cheese on top, which would certainly be a little tidier:)  But it tasted as wonderful as the first time, if not quite photo-ready.

These are made in a metal muffin tin - regular size, not the Texas size I usually use.

Cheesy potato stacks:

A 12 hole metal muffin tin
olive oil for oiling

Several potatoes, not too large, no more than 2 inches in diameter, sliced fairly thin

The topping:
1/2 cup cream or half and half
4 tablespoons melted butter
kosher salt - about 1/2 teaspoon
freshly cracked pepper
1 + cup shredded cheddar or other melting cheese
fresh thyme leaves, stripped from stem

Oil the muffin tin.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Slice the potatoes, not too thin, not too thick
Mix together the melted butter, salt, and pepper.

Stack the potato slices halfway up the muffin hole, add a hefty pinch of cheese, then stack the rest of the way up to the top. Drizzle with the cream/butter mixture.

Continue until the muffin tin is full.
Slide potato stacks into hot oven, and bake 35 minutes, or until stacks are soft when poked with a fork.
Remove stacks from oven, sprinkle with cheese and the thyme leaves, and slide back into the oven to melt the cheese - about five or so minutes.

Remove to cool, then carefully remove each stack to a platter or plate- I found a fork to work very well for this.

These are great for anytime - breakfast, snack, lunch, dinner side, or party food.

Hope you have a terrific day!

Friday, January 13, 2017

seared brussels sprouts with red onion, rosemary, and lemon

Another chilly, chilly day in Minnesota.  After a quick (very quick!) walk, I decided to clean the overloaded fridge.  Jams, jellies, soups, and a bag of brussels sprouts I had completely forgotten about.

Like Julia Child, I like my vegetables gently cooked until tender, rather than nearly raw.  After preparing them by trimming the stem and peeling off discolored leaves, I quartered them and added some slices of pretty red onion and a sprig of rosemary to the pot.  When they were just barely tender when poked with a fork, I drained them and did a quick sear in a little butter and oil - followed by a good squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt.  Oh so good!

Seared Brussels Sprouts:

2 cups cleaned and quartered brussels sprouts (mine were quite large, if yours are smaller, you can cut them in half instead of quarters)
a large sprig of rosemary
several slices of red onion
water to just cover the sprouts

For the saute:
2 tablespoons olive oil
a pinch of thyme
2 pinches kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
several squeezes of fresh lemon juice - about a tablespoon

Cook the sprouts in the water until just barely fork tender, then drain. 

Add the olive oil, thyme, and butter to a frying pan, then add the drained brussels sprouts and onion. Try to let them sear a little before gently stirring them with a large spoon and continuing to sear.  Just before you turn off the burner, add the squeezes of lemon juice and salt and stir gently.

Mound on a platter and serve immediately.