Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wild Mushroom Barley Wild Rice and Beef Soup

Yup, the name is a mouthful, but this is a thick and hearty soup. Something I do a lot of in the days leading up to the holidays to save room for the BIG feasts and treats.  The soup is full of woodsy mushrooms, whole grains and veggies in a very tasty beefy broth.

This is one of those rare situations where I won't reconstitute a dried mushroom.  No need as it imparts its woodsy deep flavor right into the broth while absorbing the herbs and other flavors.  Makes a lot more sense then just rehydrating and adding a lot of water to the 'shroom when it should be all about adding flavor.

I use pearled barley.  Tried the unpearled, or barley with its husk on once.  The texture was too crunchy and it took forever to cook up.  What you loose in the lack of the bran coating you more than make up for with texture and ease of cooking.  Even pearled barley does take a while to cook up.  45-60 minutes depending on the age and dryness so it needs to go in before the wild rice.

Wild Mushroom Barley Wild Rice and Beef Soup

  • 1 lb beef roast - 1/2" cubes
  • 1 onion - diced
  • 3 ribs celery with tops - sliced
  • 3 carrots - sliced
  • 1 c dried porcini mushroom pieces
  • 2 t Thyme
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1 c pearled barley
  • 1/3 c wild rice
  • 1 large (48oz-ish) can beef broth (I use swansons)
  • 1 small can beef broth


In large stock pot add enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan.  Add onion, carrot, celery, salt and pepper, cook over low heat until onion is translucent.  Add barley and cook 2 minutes longer.

Add large can beef broth, thyme and dried mushrooms.  Raise heat to medium and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer 20  minutes. 

Add wild rice and cook another 30-45 minutes until barley and wild rice are cooked through.  Add additional broth from the small can as needed to keep it at a thick soup consistency.  Check for seasoning and add salt if needed.  Serve hot with crusty buttered bread.
Monitor liquid levels as the soup simmers dryness of barley and wild rice determines how much additional borth needs to be added during the cooking process to keep it at a thick soup consistency.



Monday, December 23, 2013

Peanut Butter Kiss cookies

We love these cookies at my house.  Whats not to like, peanut butter and chocolate.  Can it get any better?

This recipe has been in our family since as long as I can remember.  Not sure where my Ma got it, but its a keeper, with a few tweaks.

My Aunt Anna Mae was quite the baker and turned me on to using Crisco instead of margarine or butter.  It bakes better as it doesn't have a lot of water in it to muck up the crumb and crispy outside.  I took it a step further and used butter flavor Crisco and wow...it makes a big difference in the cookie.

The other tweak I gave it was to roll the unbaked cookie in turbinado or raw sugar.  It adds a nice crackly crunch to the cookie as well as a deeper, richer dark sugar flavor.

There are two schools of thought as to when you put in  your chocolate kiss.  I learned doing them before baking but that yielded a funky texture at times to the kiss itself.  My daughter, par-bakes the cookie then plops the kiss in place and finishes baking them that way...the end result is a kiss that holds its shape and has a nice smooth texture still.  I go that route now.

Even with all the Crisco and fat from the peanut butter you do need to bake these cookies on a silpat or a parchment lined baking sheet.  The turbinado sugar will  stick to the pan if you don't use a silpat or parchment paper.  Using either of these prevents sticking cookies that are mangled when you take them off the sheet.

The last trick I have up my sleeve is I use a small #30 scoop to ensure uniform sizes and even baking of all the cookies. A #30 scoop is just about 2 tablespoons of dough.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

  • 60 chocolate kisses, unwrapped
  • 2 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 c milk
  • 2 T vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • Turbinado Sugar


Preheat oven to 375F.  Line cookie sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

Cream together Crisco, peanut butter, milk, brown sugar and salt.  When light and fluffy beat in eggs and vanilla.  

Sift together flour and baking soda.  With mixer on low slowly spoon in flour a quarter cup at a time until all incorporated.  Do not over beat as you will have a tough cookie.

Scoop dough and form into balls.  Roll into a ball and toss lightly in turbinado sugar.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Place balls about 3 inches apart to allow for spreading. 

Bake cookies 8 minutes then remove from oven.  Take one chocolate kiss and place in center of cookie pressing it in nearly to the cookie sheet.  Repeat with all the cookies until the sheet is complete.  Return to oven and bake 3-4 minutes longer until the cookie is a light brown.

Cool 3-4 minutes before removing from sheet pan to wire racks to compete cooling.  When cooled store in airtight container, separating layers of cookie with wax paper.
Cookie dough rolled in sugar on a silpat sheet ready for their first baking.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Seafood Stew

I can't believe I haven't already posted this recipe for seafood stew.  Its not a major hit in my house, but is well received by those that do like shrimp and seafood.  Its loosely based on a recipe from Barefoot Contessa that I've adapted to fit the seafood I can get fresh here on the west coast.

You do need 3-4 lbs of fresh or frozen/thawed seafood. What I used is what I found fresh in my local grocs, you can substitute what you can find fresh in your stores.  You can also use precooked items just add them the last minute before serving to warm them up without overcooking.  Add your seafood in order of size, largest pieces first as they will take the longest to cook, to the smallest which just need a brief bath in the hot broth.

Heres a cheap swap...langostines have a taste and texture similar to lobster.  Lobster here on the West Coast is a bit of a luxury item and can be pricey especially off season.  These little gems are a good swap out and still get the flavor of lobster. Having it for guests and really want to impress?  Break down and get a lobster tail slightly more than a pound and cube the meat so you end up with about a pound of lobster meat.

 Shrimp stock is stupid easy to make and I usually have some on hand.  Store bought seafood stock would work fine in a pinch, but seriously, try making your own stock the flavor is much better AND you get to control the salt levels.

I'm usually not a fan of specialty items, but I do use two in this stew that without them it just lacks the big punch of flavor they bring to the table.  Neither you meed much of so buy as small a quantity as you can find.

First up is Pernod.  I search high and low before I got smart and hit my local liquor store up to special order it.  Pernod is a wonderful anise/fennel liquor that really brings the fennel flavor up in this dish. Its fresh and herbaceous with a nice punch of flavor.  Its very similar in flavor to absinthe, so that could be substituted.

Second on the specialty ingredient list is saffron.  Its billed as the worlds most expensive spice, I know a few threads at the groc will cost an appendage.  I found my supply, reasonable at about 1/3 the cost compared to my local groc, at Cost Plus World Markets.  You only need a few threads, but it brings the intense color and a rich spiciness, subtle heat even, that can be duplicated with something else.  A little goes a very long way, and too much, well it taks on a metallic taste so use it sparingly.

Seafood Stew
  • 1 lb cod -cut into generous 1 inch cubes
  • 1 lb scallops
  • 1 lb shrimp - pealed and deviened
  • 1 lb langostinos
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onoin - thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c diced red bell pepper
  • fronds from the fennel bulb
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2t black pepper
  • 1 c diced tomatoes
  • 4 T Pernod
  • pinch, 6-7 threads, saffron
  • 1 quart shrimp stock
  • 1/2 c chopped fresh parsley


In large stock pot over medium heat add olive oil and heat to shimmering.  Thinly slice onion and fennel with mandolin.  Add to pot along with the diced red bell pepper.  Cook 5-8 minutes until union is translucent but not browning.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute while stirring constantly.

Add 2 T Pernod and stir in to deglaze the pan.  Add can of diced tomatoes with juices and shrimp stock.  Add saffron.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer and simmer 10 minutes.

Add cubed cod pieces, cook 3 minutes
Add prepared shrimp pieces, cook 2 minutes
Add langostino, cook 2 minutes.
Add scallops, cook 2 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons Pernod and parsley.  Serve hot in bowls garnished with a fennel frond and with a thick cut crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Cook the vegetables over medium heat until onion is translucent, but not browned.
Add your largest pieces of seafood first and time your additions so they are fully cooked by the time the smallest pieces are cooked.
Stirring in the parsley and final bit of Pernod at the end off the heat preserves their fresh crisp flavor.

Wild Mushroom Fritata

Or should I call this breakfast for two?  That's exactly how many are served with this, could be 4 folks if you happened to have a slab of ham or some bacon next to it, but today I didn't so it served just the lovely Mrs and I did today.

A Fritatta is really nothing more than an Italian version of a omelet that is finished in an oven.  For that reason its imperative you use a non-stick pan with oven safe handles.  Guarantees you get a clean release and easy clean up.  Might I suggest the calphalon contemporary non-stick, that is 8" of hard anodized aluminum perfection and is dishwasher safe AND an has an oven proof handle? I ABSOLUTELY  couldn't survive in the kitchen with this handy little pan.

I used dried morel mushrooms in this recipe.  Do save the liquid used to reconstitute the mushrooms for another use such as a gravy or soup stock as it has a ton of flavor.  Reconstituting is stupid easy, simply cover them with boiling water and let them soak for 20 minutes.  Strain reserving the broth and voila mushrooms ready for a recipe.

Wild Mushroom Frittata

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 c dried morel mushrooms
  • boiling water
  • 1 shallot - minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 T butter
  • 2 t  herbs de Provence
  • 1/4 c shredded asiago cheese
  • 1/4 t salt


Put mushrooms in a large heat proof bowl.  Pour in just enough boiling water to cover.  Cover with plastic wrap (cling film to my pals in the UK) and let it steep 20 minutes.  When done pour through a strainer and set onto a paper towel.  Slice the reconstituted mushrooms into 1/4" thick pieces.

Preheat oven to 350F

In an 8" non-stick skillet add 1 T butter, salt,  shallot and mushroom.  Cook 3-4 minutes over medium heat until the shallots are translucent.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.

Whisk together eggs and herbs de Provence.  Add remaining tablespoon of butter to the skillet and swirl to melt and evenly cover pan.  Pour eggs over the mushroom mixture.  Over medium-low heat slowly stir and left egg at edges so liquids move under the forming frittata.  Cook 3-5 minutes like this until mixture is mostly set but still wet on top.  Sprinkle with cheese and put in preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Serve hot.







Saturday, December 21, 2013

Moose Track Candy

What's Christmas without candy and sweets?  I'm telling ya...I come from a long, LONG line of sweet tooths and this confection sure satiates that craving.  The actual recipe is sorta lost in space, as its its origins.  My daughter got the recipe from my Mom, but deleted most of the stuff that goes in as she didn't like it...sadly she doesn't remember what is omitted.

This recipe falls into the stupid easy category.  Popping Popcorn is the only skill needed.  The other is stirring and using a microwave.  How easy is that?

The popcorn isn't dauting at all.  Its better to do it in a couple of small batches than one large for better popping and fewer "bullets", or unpopped kernals at the end.  Also using a large mesh kitchen spider to fish the popped corn out of the pan ensures that any bullets are left behind and all you have is good fresh popped corn for the rest of this sweet treet.

My daughters version doesn't include dried cranberries.  I added it to my recipe as, well, the tart of the cranberry is a nice counterpoint to the sweet of the white chocolate coating.  I also add a pinch of salt...something all that popcorn needs as well as a nice foil for the sweet.  Tart, sweet and salty can it get any better?

An absolute must to success with this recipe is using a silpat sheet on your baking sheet.  Without it the confection sticks to much to the baking sheet and makes it hard to pull off and break apart for storage.

Moose Track Candy

  • 1 1-lb package Candy Quick
  • 1 bag Reese's pieces
  • 2 C reduced sugar dried cranberries
  • 1/4 t sea salt
  • 3/4 c unpopped popcorn
  • 6 T vegetable oil


Heat 2T oil in a heavy pot with a lid.  Add 1/4 c popcorn kernels.  Cook over medium-high heat until popping slows and comes to a stop.  Remove popped corn with a spider and toss out the unpopped kernels. Repeat with remaining popcorn and oil until its all popped.

Put popped corn into a very large bowl.  Sprinkle Reeses Pieces and dried cranberry over the popped corn and fold lightly. 

Melt Candy Quick according to package directions in microwave.  Sprinkle salt over the candy quick and stir until smooth.  Pour the candy quick over the popcorn mixture.  Fold until all ingredients are evenly coated with the candy quick.  While still warm spread out over a large silpat covered baking sheet.  Put in refrigerator for 1-2 hours to set.

Remove from refrigerator and break into small chunks.  Put into gift jars or large container with a lid and store at room temperature.  Enjoy with a big cup of creamy hot cocoa or Mexican Hot Cocoa with peppermint schnapps added.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Peppermint Fudge

Here it is in all its glory.  Peppermint Fudge.  No its not stupid easy, but it is uber tasty.  A few steps are involved but worth it.  This fudge has it all, creamy, crunchy and melt in your mouth with a blast of peppermint.

Finding marshmallows are a challenge.  I gave up on finding the mini-peppermint and went with the chocloate mint.  They weren't minis nor were they normal jet puffed sized. To make them the right size I cut them in half. I actually like these marshamallows as they have just a hing of chocolate to offset all the mint flavors.

Peppermint Fudge

  • 3/4 c cream
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  •  pinch of salt
  • 1 7oz jar marshmallow creme
  • 1 12 oz bag Andes baking mints
  • 1 12 oz bag white chocolate baking chips
  • 1 lb Candy Quick
  • 1 bag chocolate mint marshmallows (minis if you can find)
  • 1/4 t peppermint flavoring
  • 6 crushed minature candy canes


Prepare 13X9 baking dish with wax paper.

In a stand mixer put in marshmallow creme, Andes baking mints and white chocolate baking chips.

In non-reactive heavy sauce pot melt together butter, sugar, cream and salt over medium low heat.  Stir until dissolved.  Bring to boil and boil exactly 5 minutes, whisking to prevent boil over.  

Immediately remove from heat at end of the 5 minutes.  Turn mixer to low and pour the hot syrup into the mixing bowl.  When all of syrup has been poured in increase speed to medium.  Beat 2-3 minutes until it is all melted and combined.  Pour into prepared pan. Smooth and spread into the corners. Chill in fridge at least an hour.

Melt Candy Quick according to package directions.  Stir in peppermint flavor until smooth.  Put marshmallows into a large bowl.  Pour melted candy quick over the marshmallows and fold to evenly coat.  Spread in even layer over the cooled fudge base.  Sprinkle with crushed mini candy canes.  Return to fridge and chill at least an hour.  Cut into squares and serve with a steaming cup of hot cocoa!
Wax paper is a must to prepare the pan, without it you'll never get the fudge out of the pan.
Slowly pour in syrup while on low to prevent splashing the hot syrup.
Spread the base evenly while still warm.  Using a silicone spatula makes it easier as the fudge base won't stick to it.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Baked and Breaded Cod

I have loved those silly frozen fish sticks for as long as I can remember. Ditto going out for "fish & chips".  Its a nice thick piece of cod. The problem with frozen is that it was previously deep fried and has a lot of added fat calories.  How to avoid without loosing any taste or texture?  Bake it.

I bought whole cod fillets and trimmed off the thinner pieces from the back of the fish, cubed it and froze it for future use in a fish stew.  That left me with perfect fillets for dinner last night.  Trimming so they are all uniform in size ensure that they are all cooked through at the same time.

Baked Cod Filets

  • 4 filets trimmed into approx 8oz portions
  • 1 c flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T milk 
  • 1 1/2 c seasoned bread crumbs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cooking spray (I use Pam)


Preheat oven to 400F-use convect feature for best browning.
Spray baking sheet lightly with cooking spray.
Season each filet well with salt and pepper.  Set aside
Season flour with salt and pepper, about 1 teaspoon each in a large bowl.  Set aside.
Combine egg and milk in a bowl.  set aside
Add bread crumbs to a bowl.  Set aside. 

Dredge filet in flour. Immediately move to egg mixture, turn to coat well in egg.  Put filet in bread crumbs, turning and press light to ensure they stick well to the  filet.  Transfer filet to prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining filets.  Spritz each filet with cooking spray to help with browning.

Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with favorite tartar sauce.