Archive for the ‘Edibles’ Category

I have a new project for myself.   After searching through my freezer and finding quite a bit of food I had forgotten about, I’ve come to the decision that I am going to eat whatever is in my fridge, freezer, pantry and what I can scrounge from my garden until the end of the month, so I can clear out all the random foods hanging around – it’s like spring cleaning my meals!   I am allowing myself $20 a week for fresh produce and anything I can’t live without, like eggs and milk.  Already I have come up with some fun combos – I am trying to give you an idea of what I throw together for myself on a daily basis, so recipes will probably be a little informal.  But on the bright side, they will be easy, too!

Inspired to spring clean you pantry?  I’d love to know what you are making!

(Caveat – this is not my real pantry – I wish!  It’s the main student pantry at the Ballymaloe Cookery School)

Read Full Post »

Hot Cross Buns

I made a giant batch of 4 dozen buns this year – perhaps a few too many, but my friends and co-workers are happy to eat them!  Since I am experimenting with white whole wheat flour, I decided to try these out with a little of it added to the dough.  Maybe it will help offset the effects of all the Peeps and Cadbury Cream Eggs I’ve been eating! (Or not.) Don’t try to add in any more of the whole wheat flour or your buns will be heavy and not as nice…

Hot Cross Buns

  • 1 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) dried yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup dried currants or raisins
  • zest of one lemon or orange
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For Glaze:

In a small bowl, mix 1 Tablespoon of sugar with 2 Tablespoons warm water until dissolved, reserve.

For Icing:

  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2-2 Tablespoons milk
  • pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a large bowl if mixing by hand, combine milk, sugar and yeast.  Let mixture rest for 5 minutes, or until foamy.  Mix in salt, egg, butter and flour until a nice dough forms (use a dough hook if you are using the stand mixer)  Knead in (by hand or machine) the currants/raisins, zest and spices.  Knead dough until smooth and elastic – about 6-8 minutes with the mixer or 10-12 by hand.  Form dough into a ball and place back in bowl to rise, covering with plastic wrap or a non-terrycloth towel.  *Remember, this dough has raw egg in it, so make sure to thoroughly clean off your work surface and wash hands to prevent cross contamination.  Let rise in a warm spot for about and hour at room temperature, or overnight refrigerated, until doubled in bulk.  Punch dough down and knead a few times.   Cut dough into 24 pieces (I usually halve the dough, then quarter each half, then cut each quarter in thirds for more or less even pieces) and form into balls.  Divide buns between 2 large, parchment paper lined cookie sheets and lightly cover with non-terry cloth towels or a piece of plastic wrap lightly draped over.  *Do not tuck edges of towels or plastic wrap around the tray or the buns won’t rise as well and they will stick to the covering and deflate when you pull it off.  Let rise 45 minutes to an hour at warm room temperature, or until doubled.  Start preheating your oven to 375F about 30 minutes into the final rising.  Meanwhile make glaze and reserve.  When buns are doubled, slash a cross on top of each bun with a sharp knife (optional) and bake buns in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Remove from oven and brush quickly with glaze.  Return to the oven for a minute or two to dry the glaze.  Remove buns from oven and let cool on a wire rack.  Make the icing by combining the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt, if using.  Stir in just enough milk to make the icing just thin enough to pour from a spoon.  Using a spoon, pour icing in a cross pattern on top of the buns (this is where cutting the cross in the bun comes in handy – you can fill the slashes).  Makes 24 buns.  Best eaten the day they are made, but are still good the next day.  These can be frozen, well wrapped, up to 3 months.

Read Full Post »

Chicken & Dumplings

Lula McDaniel, (or Grannie Mac, as we called her) my maternal great-grandmother, was known throughout her county for making the best Chicken’n’Dumplings.  Now down in rural Alabama, this was a big deal!  When I was a child, she rarely cooked, (after a lifetime of farming and feeding a large family, she deserved the break!) so I only remember eating her version of this dish once, but it sure made an impression!  When I asked her about how she made it, she told me “Well, hon, I didn’t get to making the dumplin’s, and I’m sorry, but they’re just store bought biscuit dough.  The rest you just throw together!”  Pre-made dough or not, her Chicken and Dumplings were still the best I ever had.  This recipe is as close as I get.  Chicken and Dumplings were a delicious way for Grannie Mac to stretch one chicken to feed her family of 11 down on the old homestead.  Feel free to adapt it to whatever veggies and herbs you have on hand – Southern thrift at its finest…

Chicken and Dumplings

  • 1 whole chicken, or 8 individual pieces (bone-in makes for more flavor)
  • 2 small onions, chopped (approx. 1 ½ cups)
  • ¾ cup chopped celery, optional
  • 7 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup dried parsley, or ½ cup chopped fresh
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 ½ tsp fresh
  • 2 ¼ tsp granulated sea salt, or to taste
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste

In a stockpot, combine all ingredients and barely cover with cold water , about 8-10 cups.  Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer, covered, for one hour or chicken is fully cooked and falling off the bones (If using boneless pieces cook with some stock added for flavor and cook only half the time).  Remove chicken from pot and place on a plate to cool for a few minutes – until cool enough for you to remove meat from bones.  Discard bones and add meat back to pot.  Mix dumpling dough (you can use your favorite biscuit recipe instead) and drop 3/4in pieces on top of chicken mixture.  You can either let them steam on top for fluffy dumplings or stir them in for chewy dumplings. After all dumplings have been added, cover and allow to cook 15-20 minutes, or until dumplings no longer taste floury and raw.  All ingredients can be altered to whatever you have on hand- it’s real country cooking, have fun!  Serves 6-8, 12 if you double the dumpling recipe.  This freezes well for up to 6 months, tightly sealed.


  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup shortening or butter
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 7/8 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Stir dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Cut in shortening until there are pieces no larger than a pea.  Add milk, stirring until just blended.  Knead dough together lightly a few times, then form into dumplings.

Read Full Post »

My brother is an Irish Traditional musician (geeky enough to have studied in County Donegal) and also a fan of other Irish traditions – like soda bread.  Unfortunately, he has developed an allergy to gluten, but luckily, the Ballymaloe Cookery School has my back.  Enjoy making this un-traditionally traditional version of soda bread.  If you’ve never tried the real thing (and really most Americans haven’t!), try this or the original recipe (in an earlier post).  You won’t regret it – easy and tasty!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread

(Courtesy Darina Allen & Rosemary Kearney at The Ballymaloe Cookery School)

  • 10 oz rice flour
  • 4 oz tapioca flour
  • 2 oz dried milk
  • 1 level teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 heaped teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaped teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons sugar, optional
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 10-12 fluid oz buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Dust a work surface lightly with rice flour and also dust the center of a baking sheet with about a 12inch circle of rice flour, set aside.  Sift all the ingredients together into a large bowl and whisk to mix well.  (This ensures even mixing and no clumps) Make a well in the flour mixture.  Lightly whisk the egg and buttermilk together and pour most of the mixture into the well.  Mix immediately and thoroughly with your hand, fingers outstretched like a claw, or with a wooden spoon, in circular movements from the center to the outside of the bowl in ever increasing circles.  Add remaining buttermilk mixture if necessary; mixture should be softish, not too wet or sticky – there should be no dry bits at the bottom of the bowl.  The trick is to not over mix the dough – just enough to get the dough together.  Turn the dough onto work surface.  Quickly wash and dry your hands.  With rice floured fingers, pat dough together into a round about 2 inches thick- just enough to make it neat- and place on prepared baking sheet.  With a sharp knife, cut about 1/8 inch deep cross on the top and over the edges, so the bread will rise high.  Put into preheated oven and bake for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until golden and the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove from tray immediately, cover in a clean, non-terry cloth dish towel to soften the crust and let cool on a cooling rack.  Let cool most of the way before cutting, or it will be difficult to slice.  Traditionally, the bread is cut or broken along the pre-cut lines, then the quarters are each sliced.  Serve with salted butter, preferably Kerrygold.  Bread will be good for eating fresh only on the day it is made, but you can freeze it.  Slices can be toasted the next day, or you can make leftover bread into gluten-free breadcrumbs in a food processor.  By the third day it will be rock hard because of the lack of preserving agents.  You can add raisins, caraway seeds or herbs to the dry mixture, if desired.  You can also make this into smaller loaves or scones.

Read Full Post »

Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

Some very yummy looking local & organic fingerling potatoes were given to me the other day.  They are called “Fingerling” because they are long and cylindrical like a finger, and usually no longer than the average person’s finger.  Prized for their tastes and texture, there are many European varieties of fingerling potato, and they are easy to grow in the ground or deep pots.  My personal favorite way of making them is to roast them at a very high heat to caramelize and crisp the outside, while still having a fluffy and rich interior.  You can use these guidelines to roast most root vegetables. Here I used carrots, so I would have a more balanced side dish.  When you cut them up, remember the more evenly sized the pieces, the more evenly they cook.  You could leave the fingerling potatoes whole, but they will take about another 15-20 minutes to cook through.  When making simple dishes like this, it is very important to have really good quality ingredients – any not-so-great element will really stand out.  Leftovers are great for folding into fritattas or adding to breakfast burritos, or even added to pasta (well, maybe not potatoes, but the carrots for sure).

Roasted Potatoes and Carrots

  • 2 lbs fingerling potaoes, halved or 2 lbs any kind of  potato, cut into wedges
  • 1 lb Carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh or 2 teaspoons dried parsley

Preheat oven to 450F.  After cutting vegetables, toss them on to a large rimmed baking sheet.  The vegetables need to be spaced out a little to brown, so use 2 sheets if all you have are smaller baking sheets.  Drizzle on olive oil, about a Tablespoon to start, sprinkle generously with salt & pepper and the parsley, then toss mixture with your hands to coat evenly.  Vegetables should be glossy and quite slicked with oil.  Add more oil if needed.  Dry vegetables will stick to the pan and really oily ones will just leave a lot of oil on the pan – a waste, but at least they won’t stick.  Practice makes perfect.  Roast for about 30-40  minutes, or until potatoes are cooked and crispy golden brown.  I prefer quite brown potatoes, but as long as they are tender, you can serve them. (You will just have softer outside crusts on the potatoes).  If you are using the oven to make something else, you can roast the veggies  at lower temperatures (like 350F), it will just take twice as long.  Serves about 4.

Read Full Post »

Tagine refers to the style of dish, and also to the type of earthenware pots these dishes are traditionally cooked in.  A stew-like dish with olives, Tagines are great dishes for winter.  In this version,  the Moroccan spices are warming and the butternut squash is hearty but not heavy.   Inspired by a dish I saw in Cooking Light magazine –  I ran with the idea.  Their recipe looked too salty and way too heavy on cumin and turmeric, and I decided to skip the chicken in favor of more squash.  Real Picholine olives really make a difference – please do not use jarred Spanish olives in this one!  Moroccan, Greek, French or Lebanese Olive Oil would work best here – other oils would be too grassy, or in the case of Spanish oil, too bitter and fruity.  You want something with a nice creamy nuttiness about it.  If you were really pressed for time, you could get pre-cut squash in the produce section or the freezer section, but in my book fresh is always better!

Moroccan Butternut Squash Tagine

  • 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 3/4 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated sea salt (omit if stock has salt added)
  • 2 cups salt free vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup pitted and halved Picholine olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped prunes/dried plums or  1/3 cup dried currants
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 box Whole Wheat couscous
  • 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook, covered, until onions are soft – 6-8 minutes.  Add garlic and spices, cook for a minute to toast the spices, but do not brown the garlic or it will be bitter.  Mix in stock, squash, olives and dried fruit.  Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer about 15 minutes, or until squash is tender.  Meanwhile, follow package directions for the couscous, adding in 1 Tablespoon olive oil.  Stir in parsley to Tagine and taste for seasoning.  Fluff couscous.  Serve Tagine atop the couscous.  Serves 4-6.

Read Full Post »

As I stand here in my kitchen testing recipes for my next class, I get to thinking maybe I should at least give you something new to mull over…

I always associate Pecan Pie with my visits to Alabama as a child.  It was something I didn’t particularly like, but something my great-aunts liked to press upon me.  As a kid I didn’t appreciate pie crust, or pecans, very much.  I definitely didn’t like the corn-syrupy ooze sandwiched between those two layers.   I think maybe that’s why I’ve never been a big fan.  Until now.  This is a family recipe from my friend Kate Hodgin (thanks Kate!).  I taught a pie-making class for the Denver Public Library last year and we had a contest with the prize of a pie of choice made especially for the winner.  The winner wanted pecan pie, and this recipe was suggested to me.  I definitely appreciate pie crust and pecans as an adult, but I still don’t like the corn-syrup filling of most pecan pies.  This recipe is an old one form North Carolina – older than corn syrup!  What a difference brown sugar and butter make…for me, this is the best Pecan Pie.  Ever.  (It has converted many a pecan pie hater)  Make it and you will be loved!

Old Southern Pecan Pie

  • Pastry for one 9” crust
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1lb brown sugar (one box)
  • ¼ cup unsifted flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 325F.  Line 9”pie pan with pastry and crimp the edges.  Line the bottom of the pie with pecan halves.  Blend sugar, flour and salt.  Mix in milk and vanilla.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, using a wire whisk.  Gradually mix in melted butter.  Slowly pour filling over pecans. Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until filling is puffy and golden.  Let cool completely before serving and store at room temperature. (Recipe courtesy of Kate Hodgin)

Read Full Post »

Cranberry Apple Crisp

I admit it – I actually made this to eat for breakfast!  Well, it does have oats and fruit…and you can use a larger proportion of fruit if you’d like.   What I like in a fruit crisp:  1.  Oats for texture  2.  Decent amount of sweetness in the topping  3. Unsweetened & un-thickened fruit in the bottom – check, check & check! What is nice is that you can use frozen fruit if you want – the cranberries I used were frozen from my giant bag of organic heirloom cranberries I’ve been getting from Massachusetts.  As far as sweets go, this is pretty good for you! I almost always use apples, but pears and other fruits work just as well.  The topping is plenty sweet enough to counteract even the tartest apple.  This recipe is a great one to make with kids – have them make the crumble topping while you slice the fruit.  Heck, it’s just plain easy – and yummy!

And don’t worry,  this makes a great dessert too!

(Cranberry) Apple Crisp

  • 8 medium apples, peeled and sliced thinly (approx 8 cups)
  • 1 cup whole fresh cranberries, optional (can be frozen, no need to thaw)
  • 1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar (taste your fruit – if is is very sweet use the lesser quantity)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned preferably)
  • 2/3 cup butter or (non-hydrogenated) margarine, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom, optional

Preheat oven to 375F.  Place fruit in bottom of 9×13 inch baking pan (no need to grease)  In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon (if using).  Rub in butter until mixture is crumbly and scatter over fruit.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until topping is browned and fruit is bubbling & soft.  Serves 6-8.  Leftovers can be kept at room temperature or refrigerated, up to 3 days.

Read Full Post »

This kind of ended up being my kitchen sink dinner!  I had a pouch of semi-dried tomatoes a little past their best by date, so I figured they should be cooked, as well as the remains of a block of local feta from Haystack Mountain that desperately needed to be used.  Mushrooms sounded good, and I thought the spinach I had hanging out in the fridge would brighten up the dish.  The base of this dish is the classic Aglio Olio – garlic & olive oil sauce for pasta.  Frequently Aglio Olio has red pepper flakes added, which would be a nice addition, but I wasn’t feeling spicy!  Feel free to use this as approximations – pasta is very forgiving!  A nice sunny, but warm and comforting meal for a cold snowy day like today…

Pasta with Feta, Mushrooms, Sundried Tomatoes and Spinach

  • 1 lb dried pasta, such as penne, rigatoni or farfalle
  • 1/2 cup Feta crumbles
  • 8oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 8oz spinach (baby or roughly chopped)
  • 1 pouch O&Co Semi-dried tomatoes, or a small jar (drained) of sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or you can use the drained oil from sundried tomatoes)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley
  • Sea Salt and pepper, to taste

Fill a large pot (approx 4 quarts) with water, adding 2 teaspoons salt,  and bring to a boil over high heat.  Make sure to salt the water to add better flavor to the finished dish (and less salt in the finished dish – it takes more salt to make up for bland pasta than the pasta would absorb from the salted water).   While water is heating, gather remaining ingredients. When water is at a rolling boil, add pasta and stir to prevent clumping.  Stir again after one minute of cooking.  Cook pasta for 1-2 minutes less than the doneness you desire, as pasta will continue to cook when tossed with toppings.  While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium high heat (do not allow to get so hot it smokes – if it is smoking it is burning!) in a very large saute pan.  Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper,  and saute until all the liquid they have released has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to turn golden.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook one minute, or until garlic is lightly golden – do not brown garlic or it will taste bitter.  Add the tomatoes and parsley – cook another minute.  If pasta is not done, remove saute pan from heat until pasta is cooked.  When pasta is ready, drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.  Add pasta and reserved pasta water to saute pan and stir to mix well.  Toss in the spinach and the feta, stirring to combine, until the spinach is barely cooked.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  With the salty feta, you shouldn’t need much, if any, salt.  Serves 4-6.  This would also be good with pine nuts or tuna added.  Mangia bene!

Read Full Post »

Potato Leek Soup

The scent of this soup wafting about the house and the cold cloudiness of the day made me feel like I was back at Ballymaloe.  It is always amazing to me, the power that scents and tastes have of taking us back to a certain time and place.  Not that I never made potato leek soup before going to school in Ireland, but the smell of cooking leeks and potatoes really took me back to those cold winter mornings where we started cooking in silence, then started chattering along as the kitchens warmed up and we finished cooking for each other.  I hope this recipe warms you  and your memories too!

Potato Leek Soup

  • 2 medium leeks
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3 lbs potatoes
  • 1 1/2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock, unsalted or low sodium
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4″ rounds.  Place in a strainer and rinse thoroughly to get rid of any dirt and grit.  Drain, then place them in a stockpot (that has a lid) with the butter.   Heat the pot on medium until the butter melts, stirring the leeks so they are evenly coated.  Cover and let cook 6-7 minutes on medium low, stirring occasionally, until leeks are soft and cooked, but not brown.  Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes, set aside (remember, the more even they are in size, the more evenly they cook).  Mince the garlic, or press it through a garlic press and add to the cooking leeks for the last minute or so.  Once leeks are cooked and the garlic has been cooked a minute, add the potatoes and the stock.   Add black pepper to taste.  If using unsalted stock, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer until potatoes are thoroughly cooked – 15-20 minutes.  Once soup is cooked, remove from heat.  Using an immersion blender, or a regular blender, puree the soup (if using a regular blender, you will have to do this in batches).  Add the cream and stir well.  If it still seems too thick, you can add a little more stock, water or cream.  Taste and season, if needed.  Makes 2 1/2 quarts of soup – about 6 bowls.  This soup will freeze beautifully up to 6 months.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »